The September stretch

Labour Day finds my Irrational League fantasy baseball team glancing alone in first. I took over first place this past week with some timely hitting by Ty “Babe Ruth” Wigginton (five home runs on the week) and some wins that have finally started to fall into the laps of my good starting pitching.

We just completed our last monthly draft of leftovers. I had a choice of some low-batting average speedsters (Emmanuel Burriss), risky hitters (Felipe Lopez), steady batting average (David Eckstein), low-risk and unspectacular relievers (Aaron Heilman, Doug Brocail, Russ Springer), or high-risk starters (Mike Hampton, Tom Gorzelanny, Cha Seung Baek,etc.).

My team roster is oddly constructed, in a good way. All my hitters are active and starting for their teams, with the exception of one utility slot occupied by an injured player (either Rafael Furcal or Russ Branyan at my whim). For the last half of August, I’ve had holes in my pitching staff. Chris Young was out with a stiff arm, leaving a useless starter slot. John Lieber was out with a foot problem and Cla Meredith was in the minors for a few weeks, leaving an empty reliever spot.

But Meredith was promoted back to the majors last week and today both Lieber and Young have been activated off the disabled list.

My team thus had only one hole to fill, and any hitter would do. The thing is, I have good leads in all the hitting categories except steals, and if I’d drafted a base-stealer, I wouldn’t gain points, but only keep one point I have – and I may keep that point anyway because that team picked up noted brick Matt Stairs. The wins category is another story.

I am at 60 wins, one win up from last, one win behind eighth, and three wins behind seventh. The team with 61 is in fifth place and picked up Josh Johnson, a starter. The team with 63 wins chose a hitter. Before my draft pick, all of us had six starters, the maximum allowable. (The team behind me has only four starters and isn’t a factor.)

If I chose a starter, I would only catch up in wins by rotating starters in and out every week so that I maximize my roster with pitchers who start twice in a week. That’s a good long-term strategy, but might not help much in a single month of four weeks. I would best help my chances with a starter who qualified as a reliever.

I found one: Yusmeiro Petit. He has great stats this year and has long had a reputation as a great prospect, but I’ve never been a believer. Still, it’s a gamble worth taking. If I’m right, he can sit in my reserves and do no harm. If I’m wrong, he gives me an additional two-plus wins, which will make a difference.

This week, Petit takes the ball for my team against the Cardinals. Stellar reliever Chris Sampson rides the pine as his Astros visit Chicago and Colorado, two dangerous parks. Lieber also sits in his first week back from injury. Chris Young is active, for two starts.

Frank added Fernando Tatis to his second-place team. Tatis has hit a ton of homers, but is now a part-timer and was over his head. I’m not too concerned about that. Without Tatis, I’ve outslammed Frank 60 HRs to 33 and 202 RBIs to 144 over the last four weeks. Tatis at his finest won’t make up that difference. And Frank will lose points in saves, although he could gain in WHIP. It’s going to be a heck of a month.

.283 batting average (1st by .0043 over second-place Frank, which is a nice gap for a month to go)
243 HR (1st by seven over Frank and another team)
888 RBI (1st by 25 on Frank)
120 SB (4th, up by three)
3.94 ERA (2nd, up by 0.05)
1.27 WHIP (2nd, down by 0.04)
60 wins (9th)
22 saves (8th)

First overall by 1.5 pts.

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