Brilliant pitching by Jon Lester, a solid bullpen, and clutch hits by Freddie Freeman and Ian Desmond led High Cheese to its second South Division pennant in three years in 2016. But general managers Matt and Zach Patchell are looking for more after watching their team get upset in the first round and finish a disappointing sixth overall.
The 149-106-9 record was the team’s best since 2014, when the team finished 157-122-17. The 2016 team was also markedly better than the 2015 version, that went 131-127-6. When you consider that just one of Patchell’s five protected players in 2016 reached keeper status, 2016 was indeed a remarkable season.
Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Kyle Schwarber, and Lorenzo Cain were all keepers for High Cheese and all failed to finish in the Top 80 in the league’s final player rankings. The team’s production came from Lester (6th round pick), relievers Aroldis Chapman (9th round), Roberto Osuna (16th round), Dellin Betances (12th round) and Desmond (10th round).
High Cheese won six of their first seven series, including a 10-2 win over Home Run 101 and a 10-1 win over division rival Let’s Play 2. Winning in the division was the key to the team’s success. High Cheese went 8-1-1 against South Division opponents.
Despite the team’s regular success, the 9-3 upset loss to Land Shark in the first round of the playoffs and an 8-4 loss to their South Division rivals, the JetSetters, in the fifth-place game was a disappointing finish to the 2016 season for High Cheese.
That first team struggled to a 119-135-22 finish. They were last in the Dodgers Slugfest Division, 30 games behind Las Bolas Buenas. The team didn’t win a series through the first two months of the season and eventually finished 11th, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the general manager. Patchell made 25 player transactions during the losing streak in an attempt to stop the bleeding. That included a five-player deal with the Homerun Newbies that saw the Muckrakers ship J.D. Drew and Brian Duensing to the Newbies for Aubrey Huff, Chone Figgins and Miguel Tejada. The deal bit the Muckrakers as Huff finished the season ranked in the Top 25.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.381 OBP, 89 Runs, 27 HR, 95 RBI, 11 SB, 78 Ks) earned team MVP honors. He ranked 18th overall in the final player rankings and second to Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. Chris Carpenter (235 IP, 25 QS, 179 Ks, 3.22 ERA and 1.18 WHIP) was the team ace while Jonathan Papelbon (67 IP, 37 Saves, 76 Ks, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) was the closer.
Patchell changed the name of his team to High Cheese and kept Tulowitzki, Howard, Uggla, Carpenter and Gio Gonzalez in the first Keeper Draft. But it didn’t take long for the wheeling-and-dealing Patchell to go to work on his roster.
On April 2, Patchell and Eric Brown made a four-player swap that saw High Cheese send Uggla and Wade Davis to Bacon at Mile 11 for Chone Figgins and starting pitcher Jered Weaver. Weaver (235.2 IP, 28 QS, 198 Ks, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) finished as the team MVP, ranking 10th overall and fourth among starting pitchers.
On May 21 Patchell dealt starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to Carolyn Greene and the Bulls for third baseman Casey McGehee. Patchell then turned to his earlier trading partner, Brown, for two more player swaps. On July 29, High Cheese sent third baseman David Freese to Bacon for outfielder Jose Tabata. Two days later, in one of the biggest trades in league history, Patchell dealt all-star shortstop Tulowitzki and relievers Mark Melancon and Nick Massett to Bacon for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and relievers Alexi Ogando and Jordan Walden.
By the time the dust settled, Patchell had made maxed out his 40 player transactions not counting the unlimited trades allowable.
High Cheese improved on the field, finishing 143-115-18, and was involved in one of the closest pennant races in league history. A 9-1 loss to HUMA in Week 22 doomed High Cheese, who ended the season one game behind Los Coches Bomba for the South Division pennant. The teams met in the first consolation semifinal series where Los Coches Bomba prevailed again, 7-4. High Cheese rallied in the seventh place game to defeat A-Rod’s Mirrors.
Victor Martinez (.380 OBP, 76 Runs, 12 HR, 103 RBI, 1 SB, 51 Ks) was the team’s top hitter, finishing 49th in the final player rankings while John Axford (73.2 IP, 46 Saves, 86 Ks, 1.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) was the closer.
After the wheeling and dealing the year before, Patchell protected Ramirez, outfielder Jay Bruce, Weaver, Axford and Gonzalez in the 2012 Keeper Draft. High Cheese added Adam Wainwright, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and outfielder Adam Jones in the Regular Season Draft.
Patchell’s squad didn’t lose a series in the season’s first five weeks but followed that up by winning just one of the next seven. High Cheese was doomed when they lost four of their final six. They finished 122-130-24, third in the South Division and 22.5 games behind pennant-winning Los Coches Bomba, failing to make the playoffs.
Weaver (188.2 IP, 21 QS, 142 Ks, 2.81 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) again earned team MVP honors while Jones (.334 OBP, 103 Runs, 32 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, 126 Ks) emerged as the team’s top hitter. Ryan Cook (73.1 IP, 34 Saves/Holds, 80 Ks, 2.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) became the team stopper in the bullpen.
Patchell couldn’t find a dance partner when it came to trades in 2012 but he was still active on the free agent market, making the maximum 40 player transactions.
High Cheese finished 154-129-16, 10.5 games behind Los Coches Bomba in the South Division pennant race. They lost three of their first five series but put together a seven-week unbeaten streak from Weeks 12-18. They defeated Give it a Yankee 11-2 in the consolation semifinals before losing to A-Rod’s Mirrors 10-3 in the fifth place series.
Patchell protected Ramirez, Weaver, Jones, Gonzalez and Bruce in the Keeper Draft and added young first baseman Freddie Freeman with their seventh pick. As soon as the draft was finished, Patchell began his annual horse trading.
On April 2, he dealt the team’s ace and two-time MVP, Weaver, to Brian Benzing and Give it a Yankee for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. On June 24, he sent second baseman Rickie Weeks to Carla Baughman and the Cys for infielder Josh Rutledge and on Aug. 2 he traded starting pitcher Jarrod Parker and reliever Trevor Rosenthal to Twinkle Toes for utility Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter (.392 OBP, 126 Runs, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 0 NSB, 4 GIDP, 98 Ks) earned team MVP honors. He finished ranked 22nd overall and was the top-rated second baseman. Gonzalez was the team’s top starter but the rotation was a weak spot for High Cheese. Gonzalez (195.2 IP, 21 QS, 8.83 K/9, 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) finished the season ranked 140th in the final player rankings. Luke Gregerson (66.1 IP, 24 NSH, 8.68 K/9, 2.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) was the team’s top reliever and finished the season ranked 109th.
After four seasons, High Cheese finally broke through in 2014 and won the South Division pennant. They opened the season with a three-week winning streak, followed by a three-week losing streak, and followed again by a three-week winning streak. But beginning in Week 10, High Cheese took off, losing just two times in the next 13 weeks.
High Cheese finished the regular season 157-112-17, the third best mark in the league. In the newly expanded eight-team playoff format, High Cheese defeated the JetSetters in the quarterfinals and then beat the A-Rod’s Mirrors in the semifinals. They lost a very close championship series to Twinkle Toes to finish second.
Jones, Ellsbury, Carpenter, Freeman, and Ramirez were protected in the Keeper Draft while pitchers Mike Minor and Tehran were added with the first two picks of the Regular Season Draft. Patchell made two trades early in the season. On March 27, he sent starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Cys in exchange for relievers, Jim Henderson and Huston Street. Kluber would finish fourth the final player rankings. On April 15 he swapped starting pitchers with A-Rod’s Mirrors, receiving Tyler Skaggs in exchange for Henderson Alvarez. He released Skaggs on Aug. 30. Predictably, Patchell maxed out on the 40 allowable free agent acquisitions.
Ellsbury (.328 OBP, 71 Runs, 16 HR, 70 RBI, 34 NSB, 9 GIDP, 93 Ks) earned team MVP honors, ranking 38th overall in the final player rankings. Teheran (221 IP, 25 QS, 7.57 K/9, 2.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) finished as the top starter for High Cheese, ranked 56th overall. Street (59.1 IP, 38 NSVH, 8.65 K/9, 1.37 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) ranked 53rd overall
After their record-setting 2014 season, High Cheese failed to make the playoffs in 2015. They were in championship form to open the season, winning their first five series, but they collapsed down the stretch, winning just one time in the last eight weeks. They ended 2015 with a 131-127-6 record, 11 games behind South Division pennant winners, the JetSetters.
Jones, Ramirez, Ellsbury, Freeman and catcher Devin Mesoraco were protected in the Keeper Draft while young talent like Jorge Soler, Manny Machado and Rusney Castillo were added in the Regular Season Draft. Machado will forever epitomize the 2015 season for High Cheese.
On June 13, as Machado was in the midst of a breakout campaign, Patchell traded him to A-Rod’s Mirrors for journeyman starter Wei-Yin Chen. It will do down as one of the worst trades in league history. Machado finished the season ranked 16th overall and second to Josh Donaldson at third base. Chen finished 222nd. Machado was ranked higher than all but one High Cheese player at season’s end – team MVP Lorenzo Cain.
Cain (604 PA, .838 OPS, 101 Runs, 72 RBI, 22 NSB, 98 Ks) was the third ranked outfielder in the league at season’s end. In many ways, you can’t blame Patchell for trying to swing a deal for another starter, as his pitching staff was leaking oil all summer. Tyson Ross (196 IP, 21 QS, 9.73 K/9, 3.26 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) was the team ace and he finished 2015 ranked 127th overall and 55th at his position. The ever-reliable Sergio Romo and Kevin Jepsen led the bullpen with 34 Net Saves/Holds apiece.
Lester (202.2 IP, 26 QS, 8.75 K/9 , 2.44 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) was the team’s star. Lester led High Cheese in quality starts and ERA and WHIP for starters. He finished the season as the league’s 6th-ranked player.
Chapman (58 IP, 33 NSVH, 13.97 K/9, 1.55 ERA, 0.86 WHIP) led a dominating bullpen that saw three pitchers earn 30 or more net saves/holds. Four members of the ‘pen had K/9’s over 10. Chapman, Osuna, and Shawn Kelley all had WHIP’s less than 1.00.
Desmond (677 PA, .781 OPS, 107 Runs, 86 RBI, 15 NSB, 160 Ks) led the team in runs scored and finished the season ranked 64th in the final player rankings. Freeman (693 PA, .969 OPS, 102 Runs, 91 RBI, 5 NSB, 171 Ks) led the team in plate appearances and OPS and ranked 46th at season’s end.
High Cheese is annually one of the league’s most active on the waiver wire but in 2016, the team added just 19 free agents. Relatively good health and production mitigated the need to add players. Adding outfielder Angel Pagan on April 10 was an excellent move, as Pagan ended 2016 ranked 148th overall.