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In the first installment of the grading process, we’ll look at the gold stars, the players that exceeded expectations.  As always, in the comments, feel free to beat your chest about who you were high on relative to the rest of fantasy baseball players!

Anibal Sanchez – I pegged Sanchez to be a sub-4.00 ERA guy with 170 Ks, and liked him over several guys (Happ, Holland, Niese, Hudson and Lackey) that were going well before him. I projected him to be the 52nd best starting pitcher, but with considerable upside. Well, Sanchez has eclipsed my K projection, has a 3.64 era and is the 49th SP. Not bad, eh?

Ian Kennedy – There isn’t anything more enjoyable than an ex-Yankee doing dirty things for another team…other than maybe a game winning bloop single off the best closer ever in game 7 of the World Series. I ranked Kennedy as the 43rd best starting pitcher, roughly 20 spots higher than most projections. I had him posting an ERA around 3.70 with 175+ Ks and liked him over: Niese, Garcia, Jurrjens, Jorge de la Rosa, Phil Hughes, and Brian Matusz. Well, Kennedy is currently the 10th best pitcher in fantasy with a dazzling 2.99 ERA and 182 Ks. For all kinds of reasons this one makes me happy.

Hunter Pence – I was all over Hunter Pence, touting him as the #11 outfielder going into the year with a .280+ average, 25 HRs and 15-20 SBs. While Pence has the under on homers and SBs, he has batted quite well: .312. Even though my projections were slightly off, he is the 11th best outfielder in the game, 10 spots better than where most had him.

Justin Upton – Obviously JUp’s talent makes it difficult to label him a “sleeper.” However I ranked him about 20 spots higher than consensus. I thought 2009 would be his floor for the next decade and that he would hit .285+ with 25 HRs and 18 steals. Well Upton, who I had at 20, is a top 12 player, and has put up a .294 average with 31 homers and 21 steals. I got him in a lot of leagues and I’m winning a lot of leagues.

JJ Hardy – I said Hardy would push 20 HRs and bat .270. Well, Hardy is pushing 30 HRs and batting .265. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Joe Mauer – I ranked Mauer as the top catcher, but had him 2+ rounds after most preseason analysts. I continue to think 2009 was the outlier of his career, given his BABIP and HR/FB rate that season. I said “Mauer is not a .360 hitter with 20 HRs. He is a .330-.340 hitter with 10 – 15 HRs – and that might be generous. Furthermore, it’s incredibly unlikely that he’ll be more than an 85 run scored or producer given he’ll play at least 20 games less than regulars.” I suggested waiting and drafting Mike Napoli over Mauer – Napoli has outpaced Mauer in every 5×5 category.

Trevor Cahill – Calling Cahill a potential bust was like looking outside the window, noticing it’s raining, and saying the ground will likely be wet later. I had him as the 111th pitcher when he was comfortably going among the top 100 players in drafts. Well, Cahill is currently the 936th ranked player. In fact, he has performed so badly, that players who didn’t pitch at all this year are ranked ahead of him. I had Cahill at 130 Ks and a 3.67 ERA. Well, he has 140 Ks and a 4.31 ERA. I wasn’t pessimistic enough!

Mark Teixeira – The preseason Teixeira hate was obviously based on nuances. I ranked him as the 27th best player while most people had him in the top 15 or so. I thought Teixeira would be a .280 hitter with 35 HRs, 100 runs and 120 RBIs. Well, Tex is the 48th ranked hitter, has 87 runs, 37 HRs, 104 RBIs and has continued his downward average trend. He sits at .245 now. I told you not to spend a top 15 pick on him!

Drew Stubbs – I have been a huge fan of Stubbs for an incredibly long time now. I thought a 20-50 season was possible, with the floor being 20-30. Well, Stubbs is the 80th ranked player to date with 15 HRs and 37 steals. Looks like I was a little high on the HRs but otherwise, I’m pretty comfortable calling this a success. Stubbs is going to come in around the 25th best outfielder. I had him 17th; general consensus had him at 42. I’m closer!

Bud Norris – I’ve always liked Bud Norris because he brings it. I had him as the 114th ranked pitcher compared to consensus around 317. I own Norris and clearly undersold him, projecting 180 Ks, a 4.30 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Well, he sits at 176 Ks with a tasty 3.77 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. There have been some ups and downs along the way, but no one is arguing with his results to date.

Jhoulys Chacin – At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted Chacin over Derek Holland, Kevin Slowey, Jonathan Niese, Jaime Garcia, Jair Jurrjens and Tim Hudson. I said he was a lock for 160 Ks, a 3.75 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He has a 3.64 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 142 Ks. I was right to tout him over Holland, Slowey (obviously), Niese, and Garcia, but not the hurlers from Atlanta. I’m very happy with Chacin though!

Seth Smith – I thought Smith would be a .280 hitter with 15-20 homers. In 2011, Smith has batted .282 with 15 HRs – not bad, remember always bet on black…jerseyed Rockies…or something to that effect.

Pedro Alvarez – While Alvarez was a consensus top 100 player and top 7 guy at 3b, I had him as the 21st 3b. Alvarez has been nothing short of a total bust. He is batting well below .200 and has just three HRs to his name. My advocacy for Aramis Ramirez over him makes me smile…and the whole world stops and stares for awhile.

Erick Aybar – I thought Aybar would be a very serviceable SB option, capable of stealing 20+ bags easy. Well, Aybar has batted .281 with 29 steals – not bad for a late round flier.

Danny Espinosa – In a perfect world, Espinosa was a 20+ HR guy with a .250 average and some steals. While the average hasn’t quite been there (he is hitting .236), he does have 21 HRs and 14 SBs. I’d be wary of him in the future – he just can’t seem to grasp what a strike is, but for now, 2011 was pretty nice.

Clay Buchholz – I didn’t predict doom and gloom for Buchholz, but I did say he had no business being in the draft day neighborhood of guys like Greinke, Scherzer, Haren, Billingsley and Marcum. I saw Buchholz landing squarely in the mid-3.00s for ERA with an unimpressive K-rate (maybe 7 per nine).  While he has been injured, Buchholz has an ERA in the mid-3.00 (3.48), and he has 6.53 K/9.

Aaron Harang – I can’t go a year without promoting Harang. Entering 2011, I saw him as a low 4.00 – 4.25 ERA candidate with 150 Ks or so. He is going to fall short in the K category (he has just 124), but his ERA (3.64) has been tasty.

Derek Holland – I called Holland a sneaky strike-out source who could have an ERA under 4.00. Well, he has a 3.92 ERA and 155 Ks. The Ks fall a little short of expectations, but otherwise, he was a damn good value pick!

Brandon McCarthy – I thought McCarthy could easily log 150 innings as the A’s fifth starter and post a sub-4.00 ERA. I didn’t think he’d wow you with the Ks, but as a late choice, he would pay big dividends. Well, McCarthy has a 3.26 ERA, 117 Ks and a 1.14 WHIP – I’d say he was well worth the price of admission.

Jordan Zimmerman – Before the season began, I wrote: I think you can expect a sub-4.00 ERA about 130 Ks and a WHIP in the 1.20 – 1.35 range for Zimmerman. Well Zimmerman has a 3.18 ERA, 124 Ks and a 1.15 WHIP.

  1. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    So who did you hit on? Who impressed you? Who will you double down on next year?

    Let’s commiserate on another fine season!

  2. Brizzle says:
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    Why wouldn’t you use the term “greyding” scale here… Seems obvious with tons of off color reference options…

  3. CL says:
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    For pitchers, I got a ton of bang for yer buck out of Shields, Fister & Putz. For bats, I’d add Freeman to the list. I picked him up off the wire. Speaking of… I posted this for Grey, but maybe you have an opinion (especially what you say about Mauer):

    Just got sent a last minute trade for my 10 team dynasty league. We keep our entire rosters year to year… it’s year 4 now.

    I give Freeman & Rasmus and get Mauer & Jemile Weeks. The trade fits our depth charts better, and I have Votto at 1B and Napoli at C. I have OF depth with CarGo at CF.

  4. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @CL:

    Yeah Fister was huge – a definite under the radar guy given how promising his original team was — but who would have expected this finish – amazing!

    Shields is someone I always draft and never write about — seems like folks either hate or appreciate him – but he was my #1 this year.

    Wow – that is an intriguing trade. I dont like Mauer at all. However, I’m not a huge fan in Freeman (good guy, but nothing special) and while Rasmus has all the talent in the world, he hasnt done anything.

    Weeks addresses a slightly shallow position and if Mauer is healthy you have a top 40 player and the top catcher. So, yeah, I do the deal.

  5. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @Brizzle:

    I think Grey has enough of an ego — no need to encourage him by couching my column as a play of his pseudonym.

    A very good idea though….

  6. PBastille says:
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    I think Daniel Hudson did a little better than expected, but I think I got him in the right spot in the 9th round. Gio Gonzalez was a steal until 3/4s of the way through the year, especially since I got him in the 17th. Alex Gordon was well worth a late round pickup as well, though I didn’t see a year THIS good coming — 7th highest scoring OF in CBS.

  7. OaktownSteve says:
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    Loved Ben Zobrist all year. Position eligibility. Speed/power. Midround pick. Saw him play in person multiple times in 09 and 10. Was sold. Figured it was the bad back that hamperd 2010 and circled his name on all my cheat sheets. Actually rates 10th among 1st basemen! Just ahead of Howard and Teixeira.

    Ian Kinsler was another guy I was all over. I have some injury theories I won’t expound on and might just be lucky and now experiencing confirmation bias but feel the theory proved out nonetheless. A full season and huge production Got Kinsler as late as round 5. Won’t get him there next year.

    Justin Verlander: Listened to a lot of pre-season games on satalite radio. There’s nothing like the hometown broadcasts and newspapers for the best and (interestingly least biased) information. The one name that came up over and over in different contexts as being primed for a big year: Justin Verlander. Recall an interview with him on Tigers radio in March and basically had a psychic moment right there. Was the #1 starter on my board.

    Aramis Ramirez: Never lost faith in the guy. Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them is maybe the toughest part of FBB. Feels good when the patience pays off. Had him as as a value pick relative to Zimm, AROD, Wright, Beltre based on the general overreact to position scarcity at 3b. He flew below the radar pre-season and generated a nice ROI.

  8. El Famous Burrito says:
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    I feel a lot better about sticking with Dan Uggla now than I did a month or two ago.

    Adam Dunn however….

  9. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @El Famous Burrito:

    Yeah — there will be more on Uggla next week. It was nice to reap the rewards of sticking with the pain.

    Dunn….good lord. Season ruiner extraordinaire

  10. Jake says:
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    @Albert:

    Grey has enough of an ego? He’s not the only one…

    This post was really really nauseating to read.

  11. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @Jake:

    Sorry you found it that way.

    I think you’ll be much happier next week when I look at players who met expectations but not for the reasons you’d expect. Then, in two weeks, I go into all of the players I whiffed on.

    Originally it was going to be one post, but it grew leaps and bounds once I realized I wrote about 40 sleeper picks and had to analyze them all.

    It’s really more of a conversation piece and certainly a report card of the advice I’ve given…

    Hey one of the books I like is a certain Sartre novel…

  12. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @PBastille:

    Yeah Gordon was huge for people – and i believe he was my first article for this site: http://razzball.com/dont-look-back-in-anger-alex-gordon/.

    Baseball is funny, guys can look like huge gets (Cahill early in the year) then turn to busts or busts (Uggla) and turn to huge gets. Yet Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn just suck

  13. Lucc says:
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    Where’s the Melky love? In 5×5 leagues he’ll end up # 8 OF, right above Gordon and Cargo…Oh my.

  14. Anthony says:
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    Hey what is the best draft strategy? What do you guys think ?

    Is there any order that is really good to get the most value forboht a lineup and pitching ???

  15. T-Bone says:
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    Clearly Asdrubal Cabrera saved my season in my 18 teamer. I was able to snag him at pick 244. Why people don’t consider Paul Konerko (84 overall) to be an elite 1b confuses me, dude is money. Honorable mention goes to Madison Bumgarner (192) who will probably be too expensive next year, and Brandon League (277). 37 saves at pick 277! Who are these people who still spend big money on elite closers?

  16. @Anthony:

    Well there are no hard and fast guaranteed strategies in fantasy baseball. I tend to mae the majority of my top picks hitters as they are more trustworthy (although dont tell that to Crawford/Dunn owners). Then i try to get one of my pitchers in my top tier. This year that turned out to be Dan Haren.

  17. @T-Bone:

    Very nice snags….and i was dead wrong on BUmgarner this year. He’ll be highlighted in my failures column….

    But you’re right on Konerko, since his back issues have been resolved, money in the bank top 10 performer at the position who goes far too late.

  18. Tony says:
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    @Albert Lang: Konerko’s a Ryan Howard minus a few rbi’s plus alot of batting avg pts.

    This year was ugly for a guy who hasn’t finished out of the top 2 for the past 4 years. Howard and Wright were my first two picks, enough said there, then i followed with Lester and Heyward, WOW…. Liriano was a POS, Tabata? wow, huge miss…. I did snag Avila early on in the season he was a very nice catcher all year 19HR 81 rbi and a .298 avg….. The clown of my league dropped uggla and just to rub it in his face i burnt my priority on him, held on, and that was a good feeling amongst all the pain of finishing outta the playoffs.

    I did deal Adam Jones and Broxton for Cargo early on in the season when cargo was slumping, that was money…. overall tho the wright back injury, the pitching disasters, and just terrible luck this year were too much for my team too overcome….

    Next year I’ll get back on track.

  19. Thor says:
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    @Albert
    You were dead on back in April about where Zobrist’s stats would end up now! ^^

  20. kangaroo hops says:
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    I 100% agree with Jake. This was truly an awful read. You’re so great! In everything! Wow! Lookit me! Childish grandstanding. Get some humility. If you do have some, and it just didn’t come out in this piece, maybe a better writing strategy would be to alternate a few good apples with a few bad apples. As it is, I don’t care to ever read anything by you again.

  21. @Tony:

    At least you kept plugging along and having fun — you learn from your mistakes — not that you made any big ones. DWright is just befuddling…

    I always like to look back at my drafts and see how bad/good they were. But that is what separates baseball from football, you can recover in baseball and it’s a long long long season

  22. @Thor:

    Thanks! You’ll see some bad prognostications next week though — no one is 100% right.

    I also thought Rios would bounce back – whoops!

  23. @kangaroo hops:

    As I wrote to Jake — we just split it up this way….originally the column was 50% success, 50% misses give or take…those will come.

    I wanted this to be a nice way for people to look back on their seasons and talk about their successes and their misses.

    Sorry it didnt work for you. At no point do I think i’m the be all, end all. But if i’m going to write about fantasy, i better be confident in my assessments. What would i be worth if i equivocated?

  24. Wake Up says:
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    I drafted Dunn and still managed to win my Razzy league.

  25. eltoo says:
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    I’ll admit I had some what of the same negative feelings about the write up initially as some of the other commenters (although probably not as harsh) until I saw the update that you’ll be posting your downfalls from this year. Might have helped to work that in just to set up the series and deter some of the negative nancies….that said here are my good/bad:

    Good:
    Ellsbury/Granderson: I drafted 12th overall and got Ellsbury with my 5th(60) and Granderson with my 7th(84!). It could be argued that I could’ve taken them with my 1st/2nd. Also, I live in boston and the grandyman was the 1st yankee i’ve ever had on my fantasy team, glad that worked out.

    McCann: I needed pitching bad, but when he was there in the 6th round I had to do what you need to do in RCL, be anti-grey. I don’t know how he isn’t the 1st catcher off the board, but with agon and prince already on as my 1st & 2nd picks, i welcomed mccann as my third guy that was going to put up 1B stats, albeit from my catcher spot.

    Putz/Kimbrel: I didn’t draft closers until the 14th/15th round, but struck gold (unexpectedly) with these two. Unfortunately, zero of the many handcuff guys I had ever registered a save, but these two, almost alone, kept me in the middle of the pack for saves.

    Jordan Zimmermann (204): this is my turning point, loved him and he loved me back until the second half. my only regret is not cutting bait/trading him when i could have, but will still target him next year for sure.

    D Ortiz: I grabbed him 2 rounds ahead of grey’s projections and the large father (my very irish cousin’s translation of “big papi”) continued to produce.

    Bad:
    Marcum: Pains me to right this, Marcum has been on my keeper team for years, but I reached for him in a redraft at 108 overall. He made me look brilliant for most of the year, but injury or not, he definitely hurt me down the stretch

    Pence: I know he was one of your hits, but i took him 37th overall, on the 3rd/4th turn, right after cliff lee. I couldnt have predicted the production of Ells/grandy, but relative to the rest of my outfield this was a bad expenditure on a guy that really only puts up just above average stats. i wouldve been better off pairing another top pitcher.

    Overall: kimbrel was the latest drafted player (round 15) that made it through the whole season on my team. Everyone beyond that round i kind of struck out on except for stauffer and jennings, who were solid during their playing time. i should win the money league RCL tomorrow and i think i owe it to conservative drafting and not catching any bad injuries, but outside of ells/grandy i dont think i hit any home runs drafting

  26. eltoo says:
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    eh, write* this, and yeah, sorry, that was way longer than planned. did it in multiple sittings, totally not my fault

  27. chris says:
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    welp, it all comes down to tomorrow and clearly, mike scosiapath has completely boned me by not starting jered weaver…do i roll with miguel batista vs cincy or the sausage hating alfredo simon vs boston? i vomit as i ask this question seeing how the possibility of my league championship rides on the arms of these two

  28. @wakeup nice work! You can always fight, especially if you make judicious picks. Dunn wasn’t a bad pick per se, just turned out that way

  29. @chris

    Hope this isn’t too late. I go Simon, easy…..miguel bautista hasn’t been an effective starter in several years. I assume you just need a chance at wins and some Ks?

    As always go Orioles

  30. @eltoo

    Yeah, clearly made an error in implying I’ll go throug the misses at a later date.

    Your post was exactly what I was hoping for in responses. Wanted to get people away from football and the chance to tout their good ideas and commiserate on some of the pitfalls

  31. VinWins

    VinWins says:
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    @eltoo: Nice recap. Nice draft, too. I don’t think you should be disappointed with Pence’s numbers from the 37th slot just because your other picks did way better than expected, though. Look at some of the OFs that went before him in that league:

    Pence 4: 83/22/96/8/.312

    Round 1: 65/11/56/18/.255
    Round 2: 92/26/92/20/.295
    Round 2: 83/22/75/2/.296
    Round 2: 80/25/94/8/.300
    Round 2: 105/31/88/21/.290
    Round 3: 64/29/87/9/.263
    Round 3: 87/23/89/23/.260
    Round 3: 50/14/42/9/.226
    Round 3: 69/20/58/19/.233

    And then right after you took Pence:

    Round 4: 37/8/36/12/.259
    Round 4: 64/13/44/11/.227

    I think you did pretty good. Anyways, congratulations on a great season.

  32. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @chris:

    In case you didnt see my response via blackberry – i go Simon!

  33. Race to the Gold says:
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    Anyone else end the year with more waiver pick ups then original draft picks?

    Of the 23 players I drafted the only ones that have stayed on my roster are:

    Longoria (5)
    Ubaldo (44)
    Haren (77)
    Sandoval (92)
    Axford (129)
    Valverde (149)
    Kuroda (173)
    Chacin (197)

    ** And I am currently fighting for the championship!! This site has been amazing and proves that FBB is won on the waiver wire.

    – Thanks for another great season RAZZBALL

  34. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @Race to the Gold:

    I think that is the dirty secret to fantasy baseball – the draft doesnt mean a whole lot — which speaks for taking more chances and going on upside. Also, the season is so long that injuries occur and, at the end, you need to drop starters or struggling guys for anyone hot.

    I know, even in my “tougher leagues,” the good teams are nimble enough to replace most of the players at the right time with guys who are proving themselves.

    Out of 30 picks in one of my leagues, i ended up with (less than half):

    Fielder
    Tex
    Uggla
    Dempster
    Axford
    Shields
    Gavin Floyd
    Baker
    Bud Norris
    Hanrahan
    Zobrist
    McCutchen
    Wade Davis (although I dropped and picked hiim up like 8,000 times)
    Joe Nathan

    Traded: Haren, Soto, Pierre, Jhoulys Chacin, Neftali Feliz, Randy Wolf,

    Dropped: Thornton, Chris Young, Abreu, Drew (although injury), Gregg, Dice-K, Jason Hammel, Chase Headley, Blanton and Farnsworth

  35. Wake Up says:
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    @albert lang: I also drafted: Broxton, Liriano and Arod who were all disappointing. I drafted Cano in the first round, against popular opinion, who paid off with 1st round value. Morse really helped as a plug in for Dunn. Oh, I also drafted McCutchen and Tabata, who were also underwhelming. Getting Shields and Kennedy pretty late helped. Most people were asking whether to start Kennedy at home earlier this year, which I found amusing. I rode Maybin and Bonifacio during their ridiculous runs and made 100+ moves over the course of the season. Oh, and I’m awesome! Did I mention that I was great? jk, lol, omg. Seriously though, I get what you were trying to get at. But it kinda came off, off.

  36. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @Wake Up:

    Man I had some sort of post eaten by the internet devils — damn!

    I was totally with you on Cano (http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/h2h-corner-2011-second-basemen-fantasy-baseball-head-2-head-rankings/) had him #4 overall. I was also weary of AROD (http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/h2h-corner-2011-third-base-fantasy-baseball-head-2-head-rankings/) but really in favor of Youkilis — whoops.

    I wanted to be more in on Morse, but was terrified by his swinging strike percentage. Of course, I came around quick or Razzball: http://razzball.com/dont-look-back-in-anger-michael-morse-ryan-vogelsong-jacoby-ellsbury-ian-kennedy/.

    Tabata was a great early pick — i did flip him in an NL-only keeper for a deal that got me Coughlin back, so that was a waste of e-mails, eh?

    I totally get what you and the others have said about how this column came off. I had written up an 8-page piece on all my predictions, but we didnt think people would slog through the whole thing in one sitting so we split it up in just sections — should have lead with the bad, then gotten to the pretty — oh well. You learn something new with every piece you write. At least it generated the comments and discussion i was looking for!!!

    I appreciate you and all the Razzball readers coming by and helping me improve. I hope you and the others tune in next week for a less flattering piece….

  37. eltoo says:
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    @VinWins: Very nice OF breakdown. I was thinking that when you calculate what stats you want your players to put up on average that the line would look something like Pence’s. Looking over the lines that you posted I think I have taken for granted that 5 category OF (or any position) players have become much more of a rarity than in past years.

  38. Albert Lang

    Albert says:
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    @eltoo:

    I think you hit it perfectly — the amount of players who really pitch in in every category are growing smaller. That’s why I love guys like Pence (and had him ranked so high), when you can get all around value everywhere, it makes it easier to get those one-category wonders (Michael Bourn) productive for your team.

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