Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just One To a Customer

My co-conspirator here at the Hall of Fame's research center, Freddy Berowski, came up with a terrific challenge last week. The basic idea is to fashion a 25-man roster of current players, plus a 5-man management team, using exactly one person from each major league franchise. Here's his explanation of how he got the idea:

"I was sitting watching Game 5 on two different nights without a rooting interest and I just got to thinking about who the single best players were on the Rays and Phillies. Then I started thinking about the best players on other teams and how it was just too hard to pick one player. I then started wondering about players and how valuable they were in their role to their team and whose role was most valuable (Santana-Mets, Linebrink-White Sox, Ramirez-Marlins, etc.) and I thought, what if I put togther a 25-man roster using no more than one player from each team. So the list grew just out of daydreaming. Within the first hour I had 10--Santana, Soto, Martin, V. Martinez, Utley, H. Ramirez, Hunter, Lincecum, Linebrink and Sherrill and I figured what the heck, let's spend some time putting it to paper, taking into account all facets of the game and see what happens. Fun little exercise."

I agree. I suggested that instead of leaving out five teams, we include an owner, GM, manager, pitching coach, and batting/bench coach. That made it a little tougher, and led to the irony that both of us picked Billy Beane of Oakland to be our GM, essentially because he has assembled a roster of players we don't want on our teams. Players were chosen from the rosters at the end of the 2008 season, and rosters were chosen with balance in mind, based on who we'd want playing for us next year. Freddy put one restriction on the bullpen: only one reliever who has spent the last two seasons as a closer could be chosen. He picked his team first, so we'll start there:

Starting batting order:
Ramirez, SS (Marlins)
Ichiro, RF (Mariners)
Cabrera, 3B (Tigers)
Morneau, 1B (Twins)
Holliday, LF (Rockies)
Utley, 2B (Phillies)
Soto, C (Cubs)
Hunter, CF (Angels)

Martin, C/3B (Dodgers)
V.Martinez, C/1B (Indians)
Berkman, 1B/OF (Astros)
Pedroia, IF (Red Sox)
Phillips, IF (Reds)
McLouth, OF (Pirates)

Starting pitchers:
J. Santana (Mets)
Lincecum (Giants)
Sabathia (Brewers)
Webb (Diamondbacks)
Peavy (Padres)

Soria (Closer) (Royals)
Linebrink (White Sox)
Downs (Blue Jays)
Wheeler (Rays)
Franklin (Cardinals)
Sherrill (Orioles)

Owner: Steinbrenner (Yankees)
GM: Beane (A's)
Manager: Acta (Nationals)
Pitching Coach: McDowell (Braves)
Hitting Coach: Jaramillo (Rangers)

Here is Freddy's commentary on his roster:
"My taking of Hanley Ramirez--best offensive shorstop in bb, might be the worst defensive and clearly the best player on the Marlins. Took Steinbrenner as the owner simply because of his unlimited pocketbook and his desire to win at all costs (plus I was able to justify not taking A-Rod). In taking Morneau at first instead of Pujols it really came down to a few things--firstly, for me, Mauer was not an option--simply not a fan and I've never really thought he was that good--and then it came down to Morenau or Nathan. The problem is based on the way we set this up I could only take one closer, which removed Nathan from the table because if I didn't take Soria from the Royals, who else would I take? Almost took Okajima, actually I originally had, but in an effort to have a deeper, more balanced bench I took Pedroia and thus replaced him with Wheeler from TB, which I really don't look at as a down grade. I took Acta by default, although I know for a time he was a top managerial prospect and he really doesn't have much to work with in DC. I've read some scuttlebut that the Mets really wanted him back. Texas has a monster offense, and Rudy Jaramillo is one of the most respected batting coaches in the game. The Mets tried to woo him away from Texas a few seasons ago. I wonder how much of an influence Rudy had on Hamilton's first half surge. It seems they get monster numbers out of every position. I'm certain he has an influence on that. I like Roger McDowell. He's done alot with so little to work with (3 aging brittle starters, 4 if you count Hampton) and the eggshell bullpen committee. I like my catchers--very strong for every aspect--defense, offense, some speed, multiple position eligibility (3b and 1b). And the rotation, arguably the best 5 starters in baseball today including THE BEST. I took Torii Hunter because he really has the total package and has been doing it for some time--all the tools--speed, power, ability to hit for average, defense, I really like him--the only centerfielder in the bigs that I think is better than him is Beltran, but going with Santana, that wasn't an option. I like the balance in my line-up, bullpen and rotation as far as mixing up righties and lefties. That was important to me."

Looking at Freddy's roster, I couldn't see much room for improvement. Dynamite lineup, strong bench, powerful rotation, and a solid bullpen. I liked the notion of getting Steinbrenner to pay for them, and agreed that Manny Acta would manage to win with them. But I tried to meet the challenge of coming up with a better team. There were a few different players I wanted for my roster, and I wound up choosing 12 of the 30 people Freddy did. The trick was finding the best people from the weaker franchises and choosing from the multiple options on the stronger teams. As Mets fans, Freddy and I both wrestled with which Met to choose. It was tough not to take David Wright, their most productive hitter the last four seasons, but Freddy went with Santana and I decided to put Jose Reyes on my team. That meant not taking Hanley Ramirez, and I quickly learned that each choice could set in motion a chain-reaction. If not Ramirez from the Marlins, who then? Who would take Santana's spot in the rotation? And so on. Here's how my roster turned out:

Starting batting order:
Reyes, SS (Mets)
Ichiro, RF (Mariners)
Pujols, 1B (Cardinals)
Hamilton, CF (Rangers)
M. Ramirez, LF (Dodgers)
Utley, 2B (Phillies)
Cabrera, 3B (Tigers)
Mauer, C (Twins)

C. Jones, 3B (Braves)
Phillips, IF (Reds)
Berkman, 1B/OF (Astros)
Quentin, OF (White Sox)
Doumit, C/OF (Pirates)
Iannetta, C (Rockies)

Starting pitchers:
Halladay (Blue Jays)
Lincecum (Giants)
Webb (Diamondbacks)
Sabathia (Brewers)
C. Lee (Indians)

Soria (Closer) (Royals)
Chamberlain (Yankees)
Marmol (Cubs)
Balfour (Rays)
Okajima (Red Sox)
Sherrill (Orioles)

Owner: Moreno (Angels)
GM: Beane (A's)
Manager: Acta (Nationals)
Pitching coach: Balsley (Padres)
Hitting coach: Presley (Marlins)

Overall, I think my team has a stronger starting lineup. Starting Pujols is a big boost. Freddy doesn't like Mauer, but I do. He's only 25, has two batting titles, a .400 on-base percentage, and has thrown out more than 40% of runners trying to steal. Freddy is skeptical about Hamilton because he's only had one full season, but I feel the same way about his catcher, Geovany Soto. I like Hamilton's chances of continuing to put up big numbers in Texas. We both molded our batting orders to alternate righty and lefty hitters. Otherwise, I'd say that Manny Ramirez should bat cleanup, Hamilton 5th, Cabrera 6th, and Utley 7th.

I like Freddy's bench better, with his versatile catchers plus Pedroia. His starting rotation has a slight edge, too, thanks to Santana, though Halladay isn't far behind. He doesn't think Cliff Lee will be very strong next year, but I think 2007 was the aberration for Lee, not 2008. From 2004-2006, Lee was 46-24, then dropped to 5 wins during an injury-riddled 2007 before emerging with his ridiculous 22-3 record this season. I'll take him. My bullpen is stronger, too. A year from now, five of my six guys could be closers. As for the front office, I think Artie Moreno would be just as willing as Steinbrenner to pay for this team. Beane and Acta are on both teams. My pitching coach, Darren Balsley, has been with the Padres for five years, and even though the big ballpark there contributes to their pitching success, he has developed a number of good young pitchers, notably Chris Young. As for Jim Presley in Florida, his hitters are a lot like he was as a player. They strike out too much, but they hit a lot of homers (2nd in the NL this season) and produce a lot of runs (5th in the NL despite a so-so team batting average) in a pitcher-friendly park.

There they are--two damn good teams. We might find a computer simulation game this winter and pit the two squads against each for a few hundred games and see who prevails. Even better, we hope that enough readers of this blog will respond with their own rosters that we'll be able to compete in a full league. So here's your invitation to take the challenge. Do you think an infield of A-Rod, Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, and Mark Texeira would outperform our infields? Maybe you're right, but you'll have to deal with the chain reaction caused by having nobody else from those teams available. If you want Joe Nathan as your closer, you'll have to pick someone else from the Royals. I wanted Dave Duncan as my pitching coach, then decided Pujols was a must and had to look elsewhere for a coach. Give it a try--we promise it'll be fun.


Anonymous said...

I dance around the closer rule by picking Lidge and Soria who have each been closers for only 1.5 of the past two seasons.

C Mauer, MIN
1B Pujols, STL
2B Pedroia, BOS
3B Wright, NYM
SS Ramirez, FLA
LF Ramirez, LAD
CF Sizemore, CLE
RF Holliday, COL

C Soto, CHC
1B/3B Cabrera, DET
1B/OF Berkman, HOU
OF Upton, TBR
OF Markakis, BAL
OF Ichiro, SEA
UTIL Kinsler, TEX

P Sabathia, MIL
P Lincecum, SFG
P Webb, ARZ
P Halladay, TOR
P Peavy, SD

P Jenks, CWS
P Chamberlain, NYY
P Volquez, CIN
P Soria, KC
P Lidge, PHI

HITTING Pendleton, ATL
GM Beane, OAK

Robin said...

I guess it is safe to say that Gabe won this one, based on how 2009 turned out. The addition of Pujols and Mauer put 1 Cy Young and 2 MVPs on the team, compared to Freddy's 1 Cy Young and 0 MVPs. Of course Gabe didn't have Steinbrenner to pay for the team, so maybe Gabe still lost since the whole team would quit when the first pay checks bounced...

BB. said...

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