Well here we are, past the All-Star Break. We can finally evaluate teams and players without somebody screaming, "Small Sample Size!" at us as if it should end an argument. I speak of course, of Fantasy Baseball, not the real thing. I'd like to take a moment to peek at how the Crawfish Boxes leagues are doing. The most competitive of the three leagues, by far, is the TCB Auction league (http://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/b1/38369). I have never participated in a league like this, where it is literally impossible to find quality free agents. Part of that is due to the draft, which was an epic four-hour marathon of bidding warfare, but mostly it's due to the participation of the managers. Whereas I typically lead all of my leagues in the number of moves made on my roster (I have 32 in this league), some of the managers have shamed me into thinking I need to try harder. Six managers have made more moves than I have. Super Shredder III (Apparently there are three Super Shredders, a fact which I had not been aware) and Butte Invaders are tied with 47 moves. MOJO has 50. And third-place team Winners By Default has made...ready for this?...NINETY FOUR MOVES. Astounding. Anyway, it's a really good, competitive league.
Right now, Boomsticks is in first place by 1.5 games over Stros and Hoes. This is partially due to paying an exorbitant amount for Miguel Cabrera, but mostly because he struck gold with Jean Segura, Starling Marte, Francisco Liriano, and Evan Gattis. Stros and Hoes has made a series of good trades, including one that landed him David Wright for a pittance, and also grabbing Domonic Brown for cheap as free. Winners By Default sits in third place, and that trio is above all other contenders by more than ten games. Playoff spots should be hotly contested as the 7th through 13th places are right now separated by only seven games
For an Astros fan, pulling for your fantasy team may be your only chance for bragging rights this year (might?), so let the smack talking begin! It sounds like the TCB Auction League (I was initially a part of it, but had to pull out because of a draft conflict), has really turned out to be a fun and competitive league this year. Bravo to our readers. There is nothing in fantasy baseball worse than getting in a league and watching the activity dwindle as the season goes on, to where there is little or no interest down the stretch. Kudos to all of you playing on this site for staying involved!
Let me take a moment then to talk about the Astros Blogger League. This 12 team mixed league is made up of we, your humble writers and editors of The Crawfish Boxes. And, FORTUNATELY for the members of this page site that write a fantasy column, you and I are at or near the top. We wouldn't have much credibility writing this column if we weren't at least NEAR the top.
As the week began, I held a slim 3.5 game lead over Saber Mario Bros., and a 4 game lead over you. I credit my success this year to the breakout season of Adam Jones, along with solid contributions from Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Kipnis. Truly though, the Forearm Shivs (my team)'s success has been my pitching staff. Sure, Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez were expected to carry the load, but how about the contributions I have received from Clay Buchholz (before injury), John Lackey, Hideki Kuroda and Jason Grilli? All have been much better than could be expected, and I have won most pitching categories week in and week out.
Saber Mario Brothers has been making a serious run towards the top as of late. He has mostly been bolstered by his hitting attack, starting with contributions from Robbie Cano, don't you know, and David (if loving you is wrong, I don't want to be ) Wright. The unexpected MVP season of Yadier Molina and the explosion of Sterling Marte has turned his club into a juggernaut. PLUS, he has added Jarred Cosart to his pitching staff! (More on that later). I'm afraid, very afraid.
Your team , Chris, has been at or near the top all year. Riding the unbelievable Miggy Cabrera and the awesomeness that is Andrew McCutchen, your numbers have been solid all year. But the contributions of local legend Paul Goldschmidt and soon to be AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, have been tremendous. And in a lesson everyone should learn, you have gotten great mileage out of your closers, Casey Janssen and Bobby Parnell. Not big names, but they do the job as well as any!
Finally, the 4th place team, clack's Armadillos, seem a lock for the last playoff spot. He's 12 games out of 3rd and 13 games ahead of 5th, and is primed for a 1st round upset on the backs of Chris Davis, Joe Mauer and Dustin Pedroia, along with Colon, Holland and Homer Bailey in the rotation.
As I turn it back to you to discuss the other TCB league, we should not ignore the fantasy contributions of recent additions Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Villar. I recently added Villar in my big money AL only league as I needed some steals. I know Bo Porter plans on playing Villar everyday, out of the leadoff position. I am hoping for a .250 BA and 15 steals down the stretch. Realistic? Cosart, of course, is off to a great start and should be added in AL only leagues looking for a little lightening in the bottle. I think a 3.60 ERA, 4-5 wins and 60 K's in the last 2 months is roster-able in "only" leagues.
The blogger league hasn't had nearly enough trash talk for my taste, but it has been a fun, competitive league. I think your projection for Cosart's ERA and Villar's steals are spot on, but that the Batting Average and strikeout hopes are a bit ambitious. Villar's never been a batting average guy, and though I think he could reach .250 on a regular occurrence during his career, his game is more speed and defense. For Cosart, I don't know if he'll get enough innings this season to rack up 60 K's. For him to do that, he'd need to pitch between 8 to 10 starts with a pretty high K/9, and he hasn't exactly been blowing batters away in the majors during his first two starts.
ANYway...the third TCB league isn't quite as active as the other two. About a third of the teams seem to be participating on a regular basis, another third seems halfhearted, and the final third has barely touched their teams. There's almost no chatter in the message board. I've been able to take advantage of the inactivity, as I sit in 2nd place, behind Bidge Binge (great name), despite having a fairly mediocre team, in my opinion. Matt Harvey, Chris Davis, and Carlos Gomez are the only guys I drafted that have had a bang-up season so far, but I've supplemented them with a bunch of guys who are doing okay. I expect to struggle in the playoffs. Likewise, I think Bidge's seat atop the heap has more to do with attentive participation than it does an avalanche of talent. He's done well with Allen Craig and Evan Longoria, but his pitching staff is headlined by Greinke and Verlander, both of whom have had down years (Verlander has a 4.00 ERA!), but is being carried entirely by Patrick Corbin. A lot of the MVP-caliber players reside on teams in the middle of the standings. We Like Some Beers (yes, we do!) sits in third place, due to Segura and Ian Desmond, a couple of shortstops, though like the top two teams, his starting pitching is fairly average, with Anibal Sanchez anchoring his rotation. The playoffs should be a crap shoot in that league.
As far as how Astros players are faring, it seems like everything's taken a turn for the worse. In late June, it looked like Chris Carter was going to work his way into the Top 100, but after hitting .183 over the past 30 days with only 3 home runs, he's dropped well into the 200's. Jose Altuve has still been a useful but not exceptional Fantasy 2B. If he hit some more doubles to raise his OPS above .675, that would help his value a lot. He is stealing bases at a decent clip though, but no other stat category should make a manager giddy. Even Jason Castro is hitting .224/.666 over the past month after it started to look like he'd be a Top-15 catcher in June.
I hate to end on a down note, but them's the breaks. If you're in long-term keeper leagues, invest in George Springer and the Double-A rotation. That's probably when the Astros will have some Fantasy-relevant players again.