The Lower Haighters Seek a Fourth Trip to the Championship Series

The Lower Haighters made their third appearance in the league championship series in 2016 but fell short when they were defeated by their West Division rivals, the Marin Menehunes. But that road to the championship series was anything but easy.

A cornerstone to the team’s starting rotation, Matt Harvey, injured a shoulder early in the season. He threw just 92.2 innings and finished the season ranked 893rd. The team’s 2014 MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, was injured again and finished 398th. By September 3, the team had used its allotted 40 player transactions to patch up the roster.

Despite the issues, the Haighters won seven of their last nine series and squeaked by Buster Hugs in the playoff quarterfinals. They went on to pound Land Shark 9-3 in the semifinals before they were upset 8-3-1 by the Menehunes in the championship series.

This is a team with a rich history of winning. They hold the record for most wins and highest regular season winning percentage in league history. They’ve won the West Division pennant in five of the league’s seven seasons. They are the only team to have a Fantasy MVP and Fantasy Cy Young winner in the same season. The team has never missed the playoffs and hasn’t finished lower than fifth in the final standings.

The team’s 2011 draft was the best in league history with an average player ranking of 253.92. It resulted in a 169-93-14 record, also a league best.

Expect the Haighters to remain competitive in 2017.

2010 SEASON

Albert  Pujols

Albert Pujos was the league MVP in 2010

Albert Pujols was the league MVP and Felix Hernandez earned the Fantasy Cy Young but the Lower Haighters were upset in the league championship by Twinkle Toes. The Haighters won the East-West Challenge Division by 18 games over A-Rod’s Mirrors, finishing with a 153-111-12 record. The team’s .576 winning percentage was second only to Las Bolas Buenas.

Ironically, the team won just one series in the first five weeks. What followed was a 17-week stretch that saw the team go undefeated before losing the final series of the season to the Jersey Boys. The Haighters destroyed Bacon at Mile 11 in the semifinal before losing to the Toes in a tight final series.

Pujols (.414 OBP, 42 HR, 115 Runs, 118 RBI, 14 Stolen Bases, and 76 Ks) was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Haighters and was at the peak of his career. Hernandez (249.2 IP, 30 QS, 232 Ks, 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) was picked in the third round. Billy Wagner (69.1 IP, 37 Saves, 104 Ks, 1.43 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) finished the season as the league’s top-rated closer.

2011 SEASON

Ryan  Braun

Ryan Braun has been one of the league’s most controversial players

2010 showed that the championship window was open for the Haighters. They protected Pujols, outfielder Ryan Braun (who they obtained in a 2010 trade with True Blue for outfielder Jason Heyward and veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes), Hernandez, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, and catcher Brian McCann in the first keeper draft.

The team then steamrolled the competition. They started the season with 14 consecutive series victories and lost just three times in 23 weeks. The Haighters finished with a 169-93-14 record and .638 winning percentage. Both remain league records. They were 34.5 games ahead of the Mirrors in the West Division at season’s end. There would be no playoff upsets as they beat The Machine in the semifinals and won a close championship series over HUMA. It capped off the best season in league history.

Braun (.397 OBP, 33 HR, 109 Runs, 111 RBI, 33 SB, 93 Ks) finished as the team’s MVP and was the third rated player in the league, trailing league MVP Justin Verlander and Matt Kemp. A strong bullpen led by David Robertson and Eric O’Flaherty masked flaws in the starting rotation. Fernandez was the team ace but he failed to earn a Top 50 player ranking.

2012 SEASON

Pujols, shortstop Jose Reyes, young slugger Giancarlo Stanton (who was drafted in 2011), Braun and Hernandez were protected in the 2012 keeper draft. The wins didn’t come as easily as they did in the previous season, but the Haighters finished with a 143-120-13 record, third best, and won their third straight West Division crown. In late July, they traded ace Felix Hernandez to Bacon at Mile 11, for outfielder Jason Heyward and starter Cliff Lee. The move was made to bolster a struggling offense. The Haighters entered the playoffs as the second seed but were upset by Scully’s Slammers in the first round. They rebounded to beat the Bulls in the third place game.

Braun (.391 OBP, 41 HR, 108 Runs, 112 RBI, 30 SB, 128 Ks) was again the team MVP and again finished as the league’s third rated player. While pitchers dominated the player rankings the past two season, hitters took the top three spots and four of the top five in 2012. Lee (211 IP, 21 QS, 207 Ks, 3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) was the ace the Haighters expected and finished as the league’s 40th rated player, six spots behind Hernandez. Ernesto Frieri was the team’s shutdown reliever.

2013 SEASON

Cliff  Lee

Cliff Lee was the team MVP in 2013

The Haighters protected their entire outfield in the keeper draft. Braun, Stanton, and Heyward provided a combination of speed and power. Pujols remained at first base while Lee was the ace. It was a winning combination as they finished 168-118-13, the league’s best record for the third time in four years, and the fourth straight West Division title.

The Haighters were challenged by the Eephus Monkeys in the first round the playoffs. They prevailed on a late strikeout to win by percentage points. The team’s luck didn’t hold out in the championship series, as they were bombed by Los Coches Bomba’s Big Three of Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano, and Miguel Cabrera.

Cliff Lee (222.2 IP, 24 QS, 8.97 K/9, 2.87 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) was the team MVP and ended the season as the league’s 12th ranked player. Reliever Joe Nathan was the team’s closer and earned a Top 25 ranking. Braun was suspended for PED use in July and missed the second half of the season. Pujols missed the final month and a half with a knee injury and Heyward had his jaw fractured by a pitch. Outfielder Domonic Brown (.324 OBP, 65 Runs, 27 HR, 83 RBI, 97 Ks, 5 GIDPs and 5 NSB) emerged as the team’s top hitter.

2014 SEASON

Giancarlo  Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton is the new face of the Lower Haighters

With the team’s 2013 MVP, Cliff Lee, sidelined by a strained elbow, a new leader emerged, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Braun, Pujols, veteran slugger David Ortiz, Stanton and Lee were protected in the 2014 keeper draft. Lee threw just 81 innings before his season ended, leaving the Haighters with a hole at the top of the rotation.

Lee’s injury didn’t stop the team from posting the best regular season record in the league for the fourth time in five years. The Lower Haighters finished 160-113-13 and won their fifth consecutive West Division pennant, finishing 22.5 games ahead of A-Rod’s Mirrors. The Haighters won 13 of their first 16 series before stumbling down the stretch and the slump continue into the playoffs where they lost their quarterfinal series to Give it a Yankee. They went on to defeat Home Run 101 and Bacon at Mile 11 in the consolation bracket to finish fifth.

Stanton (.395 OBP, 37 HR, 89 Runs, 105 RBI, 12 NSB, 170 Ks, 16 GIDPs) was the only Haighter to finish in the Top 20 of the final player rankings and earned team MVP honors. In Lee’s absence, Jake Arrieta stepped up as team ace. Arrieta (156.2 IP, 18 QS, 9.59 K/9, 2.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) was added to the roster on June 1 as a free agent and finished as the league’s 21st ranked player. Sean Doolittle finished as the bullpen closer and ranked 51st.

2015 SEASON

For the first time in league history, the Lower Haighters didn’t win the West Division title. The five-year run was broken by A-Rod’s Mirrors and Bryce Harper, who went on to win their first league title. The Haighters finished 2.5 games behind the Mirrors with the league’s third best record at 147-108-9.

Stanton, Braun, and Pujols were joined by starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Jake Arrieta as players protected by the Haighters in the keeper draft. Arrieta (229 IP, 29 QS, 9.28 K/9, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) was sensational and anchored the starting staff. He lost the Fantasy Cy Young to Clayton Kershaw but was the league’s second-ranked player. Four of the top five players in the league were starting pitchers in 2015.

Arrieta led the team into the playoffs where they defeated Home Run 101 11-1 in the quarterfinals. The Mirrors edged the Haighters in the semifinals before the team bounced back for a victory over the JetSetters to finish third.

2014 MVP Giancarlo Stanton had just 279 at-bats after being hit in the face by a pitch midway through the season. Pujols began showing his age as his OPS dipped under .800 but the team saw the emergence of an exciting youngster, shortstop Carlos Correa.

Is this the end of a golden era for the Haighters? After five years, their streak of West Division pennants was halted by the Mirrors. It appears that Bryce Harper and the Mirrors may have dethroned the Mirrors as the team to beat in 2016.

2016 SEASON

The Lower Haighters didn’t have a single star in the 2016 season but did have eight players finish in the Top 80 in the league’s player rankings at season end. First baseman Carlos Santana (688 PA, .864 OPS, 89 Runs, 87 RBI, 3 NSB, 99 Ks) earned team MVP honors by finishing the season ranked 47th overall. He was chosen in the 12th round of the draft.

The team protected shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielders Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton, and starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Matt Harvey. Braun and Arrieta were the only ones who earned a Top 80 ranking by season’s end.

Infielder Ben Zobrist (631 PA, .832 OPS, 94 Runs, 76 RBI, 2 NSB, 86 Ks) led the team in runs scored and finished the season ranked 53rd. Zobrist was chosen in the ninth round of the draft.

The ability to beat their West Division rivals helped pad the team’s record in 2016. The Haighters went 7-2-1 against their three top rivals and scored 9-3 victories against each one.

A key to the team’s success was the ability to identify productive bullpen arms and add them as free agents. The Haighters added reliever Will Harris on May 7 and he finished the season ranked 79th. Edwin Diaz was added on July 3 and he ended 2016 ranked 86th. Hector Neris joined the team on July 6 and he finished the season 77th.

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