Jenni Kirk Sorrow, one of the most successful general managers in the history of the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League, has left Los Coches Bomba and she’s being replaced by Jen Valdivia. Valdivia has no experience managing a fantasy baseball team and will face a big decision on one of the team’s top players in the keeper draft.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera, second baseman Robinson Cano and outfielder Andrew McCutchen are the core of the franchise. All three were chosen by the team in the league’s inaugural 2010 draft.
Unlike other stars in the league, The Big Three have delivered championship rings. Bomba won its first title in 2012, a season that saw the Big Three ranked in the Top 20 in the race for league MVP. Another championship was won in 2013.
But age may be catching up to the trio. The team hasn’t made the playoffs in three years and McCutchen finished the 2016 season as the league’s 206th-ranked player. The Pittsburgh outfielder certainly didn’t look like a keeper-level player by the end of the season.
Cabrera, McCutchen and Cano are aging, but are they past their prime? Do they have one more run in them and can a rookie general manager guide this aging team into the playoffs? It’s certainly possible, but a championship won’t come as easy as it did four years ago. During the title runs of 2012-13, Bomba averaged just six player transactions per year. As general manager, Jenni made just one trade in the first six seasons. If the Big Three is going to win, management is going to need to surround them with talent.
The evolution of Bomba began with this draft. Cabrera came in the first round, Cano in the fourth, and McCutchen in the sixth. The Big Three was formed and they continue to be the engine that powers the team. In 2010, Cabrera blasted 38 homers and drove in 126 runs and finished third in the league MVP race. Cano was the league’s highest-rated second baseman, knocking in 109 runs and scoring 103.
Bomba finished the regular season with a league-best 149-105-22 record and won their division by a whopping 20 games. They entered the playoffs as the top seed but failed to win a playoff series, finishing fourth overall.
While Bomba has thump in the lineup, starting pitching has always been an afterthought. That was certainly the case in 2011 when the team did not have a starting pitcher ranked in the Top 100 player rankings at the end of the season. Ryan Vogelsong (179.2 IP, 19 QS, 139 Ks, 2.71 ERA , 1.25 WHIP) was the team’s ace and he was a free agent acquisition. In fact, of the seven starting pitchers on the final roster at season’s end, Mat Latos was the only one drafted.
The lack of starting pitching was a culprit in the team’s 128-129-19 record. Bomba finished 15.5 games behind HUMA in the South Division pennant race. Despite another season that saw Cabrera finish as the league’s top-rated first baseman and a Top 10 player overall, Bomba lost three of their first four series and never recovered.
Entering the season, Jenni kept The Big Three, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and starting pitcher Brandon Beachy. On draft day, the focus again turned to offense, as Matt Garza and Derek Holland were the only starting pitchers added in the team’s first 10 picks. But unlike 2011, this team was able to bash its way to the top of the standings.
They opened the season with three straight series victories and won seven of their first 10. They finished with the league’s best record at 145-108-23. Cabrera finished second in the league MVP race, slugging 44 homers and driving in 139 runs. McCutchen scored 107 runs and knocked in 96, finishing the season ranked ninth overall and third among outfielders. Veterans Yadier Molina and Jimmy Rollins also played key roles.
For the second time in three seasons, Bomba entered the playoffs as the top seed. This time, they avoided upsets with narrow victories over the Bulls and Scully’s Slammers to win their first championship.
Bomba won their third South Division title in four years and finished with the league’s second best record at 161-115-23. From late June through early August, the team won eight of 10 series and finished 10.5 games ahead of High Cheese in the South Division pennant race.
Cabrera (103 Runs, 44 HR, 137 RBI, .442 OBP, 3 NSB, 94 Ks, 19 GIDP) continued to play at an elite level, finishing as the season’s third-ranked player but this time he had help on the mound. Young Matt Harvey pitched 178.1 innings, earned 20 quality starts, and finished with a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 9.64 strikeouts per nine innings. Harvey was the league’s fourth-rated starting pitcher and sixth-rated player overall. Hisashi Iwakuma was also a Top 15 player and led the team with 219.2 innings, 23 quality starts, and a 2.66 ERA.
With a combination of hitting and pitching, Bomba had no trouble beating Bacon at Mile 11 in the semifinals and the Lower Haighters in the finals to win their second straight championship.
For two seasons, Jenni set Bomba on cruise control and watched the team win two championships. In 2012, she made just seven transactions. The next year, she made just six. In 2014, the team blew up and management was MIA.
It started with the pitching staff. Matt Harvey, the team’s young star, underwent elbow surgery and didn’t pitch an inning. Veteran C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were the only starters drafted in the team’s first 10 picks. Sabathia made just eight starts before his season ended with knee surgery while Kuroda pitched 199 innings and led the team with 21 quality starts but was far from overwhelming, striking out just 6.6 batters per nine innings. Scott Feldman, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy were forced to carry the staff as Jenni made just six player transactions the entire season.
And the Big Three weren’t as big as they had been in the past. Cabrera and Cano fell out of the Top 50 in player rankings. They were good, but they weren’t great.
Without their stars hitting on all cylinders, their pitching staff in tatters, and management asleep at the wheel, Bomba finished last in the standings and earned their first Wooden Spoon. They lost eight of their last 11 series and ended the season 44 games behind High Cheese in the division race with a 114-157-15 record.
Despite the 2014 collapse, Bomba not only stuck to the same game plan during the draft, they took it to a whole another level. Gio Gonzalez and Mike Minor were the only starting pitchers drafted. Management scrambled, adding five free agent starters in April but Minor didn’t pitch an inning during the year due shoulder surgery and Gonzalez pitched 175.2 innings with a 3.79 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.
Once again, the season went down in flames sparked by a combustible pitching staff. Not surprisingly, the team dropped three of their first four series as they cobbled together starters but they eventually righted the ship and by midseason were contending for a playoff berth. But, for the second straight season, the team wilted in the late summer heat, winning just two series in the second half. Bomba limped home to a 101-152-11 record and a second straight last place finish in the South Division.
McCutchen, Cabrera and relievers Cody Allen and David Robertson were the team’s only players to finish ranked in the Top 100. The Big Three slowly continued their descent down the player rankings and it appears their window of opportunity may be closing.
A new leader emerged for Bomba in 2016 and his name was Thor. New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard was the team’s highest-rated player. Syndergaard (183.2 IP, 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10.68 K/9, 20 QS, and 1 N/SH) was the league’s 20th rated player at the end of 2016. He led the team in quality starts and WHIP and had the lowest ERA and K/9 of any starter on the team.
Despite his brilliance, Syndergaard couldn’t carry the team over the last two months of the season. Bomba won just two series to close out 2016 and finished under .500 for the third straight year with a 121-124-19 record. Management continued its “hands-off” approach to the team, adding just four players to the roster over the course of the season.
While McCutchen struggled, Cano and Cabrera had resurgent seasons. Cano (715 PA, 107 Runs, 103 RBI, 100 Ks, .883 OPS, -1 NSB) led the team in plate appearances and runs scored and finished 2016 as the league’s 28th-ranked player. Cabrera (679 PA, 92 Runs, 108 RBI, 116 Ks, .956 OPS, 0 NSB) led the team in OPS and was the league’s 29th-ranked player. Veteran first baseman Hanley Ramirez (620 PA, 81 Runs, 111 RBI, 120 Ks, .866 OPS, 6 NSB) thrived in Boston and led the team in RBI.
The starting pitching hurt Bomba. Jorge De La Rosa, Gio Gonzalez, Luis Perdomo, Scott Kazmir and Edinson Volquez all had ERA’s above 4.50. If Bomba is going to make another championship run, they’ll need better pitching.