SportsProf

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Friday, March 25, 2005

John Smoltz Released

From my fantasy team, that is.

Basically, here's the story. We have a league that is NL only that tracks 4 hitting categories (hits, average, homers and stolen bases -- the anti-Moneyball league, I call it) and 4 pitching categories (wins, ERA, saves and WHIP, again, somewhat anti-Moneyball). We draft players every year in the auction-style format. Each team as $260 in play money, and you need to take 23 players -- 14 position players, 9 pitchers (of whom five must be starters). Follow so far? There are 11 teams in the league, which means that you don't have to try to show joy in taking the 25th player on the Rockies, because he'll always be a free agent (actually, no Rockies starter gets drafted). If you get, say, Shawn Green for $20, you'll have him for two years at that number, and for each subsequent year you'll have to raise his price (or his "basis" for you equity markets guys) by $5 per year. Which means that two years from now he'll cost you $25, three years from now $30 and so on.

Our league's been in existence now for 18 years (each year at the draft everyone sits in the same spot, although I won't be able to make it this year; my partner will, though, and we haven't won anything in about 16 years and we only started contending again once our kids hit the age where they weren't waking us up in the middle of the night). During the past couple of years we contended. Two years ago we were in a three-way race during the last week (and came in third) and last year we led for a bit before fading to sixth (or was it seventh, I can't remember?). Every year we have dilemmas about players.

This year's dilemma was John Smoltz.

As a reliever, a closer that is, the decision would have been a no brainer. We got him in a trade several years ago when his price was $7, low only because he was coming back from arm surgery. Two years ago he cost us $12, and last year $17, and those are great prices for one of the top two or three relievers in the NL. Heck, some people will pay into the low forties for a top-drawer closer.

This John Smoltz would have cost us $22.

And therein lay the problem. At $22 he would still have been worth it as a closer. Except he's being converted into a starter, again, and the reason he was converted into a closer in the first place is that he and the powers that be in Atlanta thought that there would be less wear on his arm. They were right, and the added bonus was that he turned out to be an outstanding closer, probably even better than they could have imagined. But for some reason, they decided to mess with success, move him into the rotation, and acquire Dan Kolb (he also being someone who recovered from an arm injury) from Milwaukee to fill the closer's role (they are hoping that the adjustment to closing for a perennial contender versus a perennial candidate to endorse caskets won't be traumatizing for Kolb).

So Smoltz is a starter, and for our money he was too richly priced at $22. Why? Because there are few starters who command that much money, especially in the NL. Oh, sure, there will be some in the mid-to-high twenties, such as Jason Schmidt, but Smoltz hasn't started in years. If you spend $22 on him, you're hoping for 15 plus wins, an ERA around 3 and a walks and hits to innings pitched ratio of about 1.1 or lower.

You're also hoping that he stays healthy. In the end, we decided to pass, visions of an oft-injured Kerry Wood haunting us. Besides, we have Ben Sheets, so we already have our ace.

Even if he pitches for the Brewers.

Sorry, John, while we loved you as a reliever, remember that it's business and not personal. We wish you well in the majors and in our league, but hopefully, with respect to the latter, you're playing for a cellar dwellar.

(I would be remiss, by the way, if I didn't send you to the Breakaway Beach site, where they've had outstanding fantasy coverage as well as terrific coverage on the NFL combine and draft-related stuff.)

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