Mark down the date of Monday, April 10, 2017. That was the date Andy Berlind dropped journeyman first baseman Tommy Joseph, added outfielder Aaron Judge as a free agent, and won the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League.
Oh, sure, there were other key moments, but adding Judge, a player that ultimately ended up leading the American League with 52 home runs, as a free-agent gave the team a fourth power hitter at no cost.
Judge wasn’t even the highest ranked free-agent at the end of the season. That honor belonged to reliever Corey Knebel, who was added by the Lower Haighters on April 15 and finished the season ranked 19th overall, one spot ahead of Judge.
While Knebel and Judge were the two highest-rated free agents by the end of the season, the similarities end there. Finding a top-notch relief pitcher in the free-agent market isn’t that difficult. It happens every year. Finding a hitter that can smash 50 homers is nearly impossible and it can lead to championships.
Besides, Andy designated Kenley Jansen a keeper and he more than returned his value. The Dodger closer finished 2017 ranked 13th overall in the final player rankings and he was the second-highest rated closer in the league behind Craig Kimbrel. Jansen’s 39 net saves/holds trailed only Knebel and Alex Colome.
While Judge propelled Everybody Hurts into the playoffs, it was a quality start on the final Sunday of the season by Daniel Mengden, a player that finished the season ranked 343rd, that ultimately sealed the championship. Had either Ross Stripling or Robbie Ray earned a quality start on the final day of the season for Louie Bottaro and Let’s Play 2, the championship trophy would have headed to Corvallis, Oregon for the first time in league history. Instead, Stripling and Ray were relieved after a combined 3.2 innings and Let’s Play 2 finished runner-up.
That brings us to the one major format change for next season. The fantasy regular season is going to end two weeks earlier than it did this year so that we can avoid the final two weeks of the Major League regular season during our playoffs. Too many key players are rested or shutdown altogether by their Major League teams.
While they didn’t win the championship, Let’s Play 2 will enter 2018 with the reigning league MVP, Corey Kluber. Kluber finished as the top-ranked player after posting 22 quality starts with a 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 11.7 K/9. Louie’s team will also feature one of the best young hitters in outfielder Mookie Betts, who finished ranked 11th overall.
The Lower Haighters defeated the JetSetters to finish third overall. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton played in 159 games after years of injuries and led the majors with 132 RBI and 59 homers. Stanton’s 162 strikeouts dropped him to 10th in the final player rankings.
Jose Ramirez and Joey Votto powered the JetSetters to the league’s best regular season record but the team struggled in the playoffs, losing to both Let’s Play 2 and the Lower Haighters before finishing fourth. While the final results were disappointing, David Kahn’s team did earn the designation as the best regular season team for the first time under his leadership.
A tip of the cap goes to Sean McKenna and A-Rod’s Mirrors for taking home fifth place despite the loss of star outfielder Bryce Harper down the stretch. The same goes for Robert Kirkbride and Hapamon, who finished sixth. The team was without star pitcher Clayton Kershaw for much of the stretch run.
Outfielder Mike Trout returned from his injury in time to help Eric Brown and Bacon at Mile 11 take seventh over Chris Furgiuele and Stadium Mustard. Third baseman Nolan Arenado finished as team MVP for Bacon while reliever Brad Hand earned MVP honors for Stadium Mustard.
As always, it was a joy to act as commissioner for this league, which just wrapped up its eighth season. Thanks to everyone for playing and I look forward to late January when we all being pouring over projections for Cactus/Grapefruit leagues.