Lessons to remember for 2020 and the All-Schultz awards highlight the final fantasy baseball Week That Was for 2019

Lesson – Do NOT Pay Full Value for Injury Prone Players:  Despite all our preaching, pleading, begging, wheedling, etc. designed to avoid having readers, listeners and most importantly, ourselves, we spent big bucks (or a high draft pick) on Giancarlo Stanton .  TWICE!  Shame on us.  Injury prone players are more likely to get hurt.  One must reduce the price one is willing to pay for such players.  Will all of them get hurt?  No.  But many will.  We will not repeat that mistake in 2020 and you should not either!

Lesson – Study of the Advanced Metrics Can Lead to Cheap Valuable Pitching:  Take a look at 2019.  Names such as Domingo Germán , Lance Lynn and Frankie Montas (pre-suspension) came out of nowhere to produce big.  Finding these diamonds in the rough allows you to spend more on consistent and predictable offensive players to dominate those categories.  As to German, this is what we wrote in March: “German struck out 102 in 85 innings and he has a proven his mid-90’s fastball, plus change and plus cutter get results.  Do not be alarmed by the 5.57 ERA as that is inflated by bad luck (62-percent strand rate) as the sub-4.00 xFIP attests.”   As to Lynn, we wrote in March: “We get it – Texas is not a great place to pitch.  However, neither was Yankee Stadium and Lynn posted a solid 3.34 xFIP and 25-percent K-rate in the second half.  With Lynn, I put a lot of stock in those second half numbers as he missed all of 2016 with TJS and it is often the second year post-TJS that shows true colors.  More reason for optimism:  Lynn posted a 50-percent ground ball rate in 2018 (key to keeping the ball in the park in Texas) and had the highest infield fly ball rate of his career (meaning that when he elevated, he often did so at a proper plane).  Finally, he cut his walks in half after the break, meaning the season-long 1.53 WHIP should not chase you away.”  Watch this space in the winter for more diamonds in the rough.   

Lesson – Speed is Scarce:  Yeah, that is no real secret.  The real lesson is to get players who will run and put up other valuable statistics.  Feel free to overpay a little for the guys who run and produce.  It will be worth it!  

Lesson – Do Not Overreact to a Slow Start:  Our LABR AL team was in 10th place at the break and by the time the final pitch was thrown, we were taking a Yoo Hoo shower with our fifth LABR AL title.  I tell you this not to brag but to encourage you to keep fighting, keep managing, make deals, etc.  As Yogi says, “It ain’t over till it’s over”.

And now, the moment you likely have not been waiting for -- Schultz says: “As Ken Burns has made abundantly clear, baseball is a game that thrives on tradition with its myriad of official customs and rites dwarfed in number by the sport’s unofficial rituals and conventions. Way down on that list, deep on the roster, is the annual The Week That Was year-ending tradition known as the All-Schultz Teams. So, if the prelude didn’t give it away, The Week That Was proudly presents the 2019 ALL-SCHULTZ TEAMS.

Everyone spends the days leading up to their draft/auction agonizing over whether they should invest in the sleeper all the pundits are buzzing about, keep the faith with a player who underperformed last year or buy the hype with a rookie getting the call to the big show. Ultimately though, championships end up being won by the team with the overproducing afterthoughts. In honor of the tweet that started an idiotic Twitter war, here is the 2019 ALL-SCHULTZ BAKER MAYFIELD TEAM of overachievers.

C   Mitch Garver (MIN): Overlooked due to the fact that the Twins kept insisting that Jason Castro would be the starter and the bewildering collective fascination with Williams Astudillo, Garver was one of the 800 Twins to hit more than 30 home runs in 2019. With the dearth of productive catchers (for roto-purposes), the 31 home runs roto-owners garnered (or perhaps correctly garvered) off the waiver wire definitely moved the needle.

1B  Trey Mancini (BAL): An old western maxim asks that if something good happens to the Orioles, does anyone notice? With no one paying attention, especially because the prevailing wisdom was that Mancini’s 2018 was a fluke, his .291 35 HR 97 RBIs 106 runs equaled or surpassed Paul Goldschmidt in each and every category.

2B  D.J. LeMahieu (NYY): Even with a NL batting title on his resume, it was difficult to see where LeMahieu was going to play in the Gleyber/Gregorius/Andujar infield that the Yankees had etched in stone. Injuries opened the door and a .327, 26 HR 102 RBIs, 109 run stat line kept it open. Definitely not a Colorado creation.

SS: Kevin Newman (PIT): Did anyone else notice that the Pirates’ shortstop hit .308 in 2019? Odds are, unless he was one your team you did not. Schultz assures you – it happened.

3B  Gio Urshella (NYY): LeMahieu wasn’t the only Yankee to benefit from the injury bugs that infested the Bronx. The former Cleveland backup and Blue Jay cast off had a career year, finishing with .314 21 HR 74 RBI, laying a claim to the AL Most Improved Player award.

OF Danny Santana (TEX): Arlington seemed to be the 2019 locale for the Fountain of Youth . . . or at least the home for unforeseen seasons (e.g. Mike Minor ). Perpetually a light-hitting middle infielder that could never crack the Twins or Braves starting 9, Santana blossomed in Texas with a .283 28 HR 81 RBI 21 SB outburst.

OF Yordan Alvarez (HOU): Stolen from the Dodgers for Josh Fields , the Cuban rookie detonated in the major leagues like a nuclear bomb. As if the Astros didn’t have enough firepower, Alvarez’ .314 27 HR 78 RBI made roto-owners forgive the fact that he may not have qualified anywhere but the utility spot.

OF Jorge Soler (KC): The only member of two All-Schultz teams. Simply emblematic of what a startling and ridiculously unexpected season Soler put together, completely rewriting the narrative that he was the next Alex Guerrero, Hector Olivera or Rusney Castillo .

SP  Sonny Gray (CIN): In 2018, Gray put up a 4.90 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 123 K season and got himself shipped out of the Bronx in a state of disgrace. In a season that saw ERAs and WHIPs skyrocket leaguewide, Gray posted a wholly improbable 2.87 ERA, 1.08 WHIP 205 Ks, a $1, last round pick putting up ace numbers.

SP: Hyun-Jin Ryu (LA): Injuries? Check. Underproduction? Check. Julio Urías lurking in the wings? Always steady, Ryu had the NL Cy Young in his grasp until he became human as the season wound down. Nonetheless, Ryu’s MLB leading 2.32 ERA, 1.01 WHIP 163 K season exceeded roto-expectations.

RP Ian Kennedy (KC): Every year there’s a closer on no one’s radar that threatens to lead the league in saves. Kennedy didn’t quite pose a threat to Kirby Yates or Aroldis Chapman but his 30 saves were 30 more than he had in his career.

It’s one thing to meet expectations. It’s another to fall so far short of them that one’s reputation is tarred and feathered forever. In that vein, here is the ALL-SCHULTZ WOODSTOCK 2019 TEAM.

C   Buster Posey (SF): The former NL MVP was a subtle sleeper in 2019 with the prevailing theory being that his declining production was due to a wonky hip, that’s now repaired. Perhaps age has finally caught up to the 32-year-old catcher but his power was completely absent and his .257 7 HR 38 RBI 43 R wasn’t even close to anyone’s modest expectations.

1B  Joey Votto (CIN): Yet another NL MVP showing signs of decline, Votto’s .261 15 HR 47 RBI wasn’t even bright enough to be a shadow of his former self. Two years removed from a .320 36 HR 100 RBI season, 2019 was a repeat of last year’s first non-injury plagued season where he failed to hit .300.

2B  Scooter Gennett (N/A): A trendy pick after a solid 2018 proved his 2017 breakout wasn’t a fluke, Gennett had a tremendously t catastrophic 2019. As Spring Training wound down, a hip injury put him on the sidelines for three months. After hitting .217 with no power whatsoever, the Reds shipped him to the Giants, who released him at the end of summer.

SS  Carlos Correa (HOU): It seems like ancient history when all the talk concerned the shortstop revolution that would change baseball, both real and fantasy. When healthy, Correa has been every bit as good as advertised. That a big WHEN, though? For the high cost, his 21 HR 59 RBI .279 wasn’t fair value.

3B Manny Machado (SD): After signing for $850 million, everyone had gigantic expectations for the Padres’ shiny new third baseman. While 32 HRs and 85 RBIs aren’t exactly disappointing, his .256 was. To put in perspective, both Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe hit more home runs than Machado.

OF Giancarlo Stanton (NYY): Remember how excited every Yankee fan was when the Marlins shipped Stanton to the Bronx? Remember how excited every roto-owner was to get him for a full-season this past March? Remember when Stanton once again practically missed an entire season? His 2019 numbers: 3 HR 13 RBI and 100% angry, disappointed roto-owners.

OF Lorenzo Cain (MIL): Seemingly reborn as a roto-stud in the National League, whatever faerie dust sprinkled on Christian Yelich didn’t land on Cain. While his 18 SB were useful, his .260 11 HR 48 RBI proved a horrendous disappointment.

OF Byron Buxton (MIN): Schultz should have “yet again, Byron Buxton disappoints” on Autotype as it happens so often. In a year where nearly every Twin exceeded expectations, Buxton went backward, yet again. In what was predicted to be a breakout year, Buxton put up only 10 HR 46 RBI 14 SB, hit .262 and then injured his shoulder, possibly putting him on the shelf for 2020.

SP  Blake Snell (TB): There was no reason to expect that the reigning Cy Young winner wouldn’t remain a dominant force, especially given the Rays kid-glove treatment of their pitchers. Sadly, Snell regressed to the tune of a 4.29 ERA 1.27 WHIP 147 K 6 wins and a shoulder injury.

RP: Wade Davis (COL): While Craig Kimbrel ’s holdout and pedestrian numbers could qualify him here, the total implosion of the Rockies’ closer in 2019 made this a runaway. Not even 15 saves make up for a 8.65 ERA, 1.88 WHIP and 42 Ks. Once again, the sun sets on another once-mighty closer.

Charles Dickens once wrote about the best of time and the worst of times. For roto-purposes the members of the 2019 ALL-SCHULTZ CHARLES DICKENS TEAM had one dreadful half and one productive one – truly a tale of two fifty-fifties.

C   James McCann (CHW): Always a painless stopgap when the catcher you really want becomes unavailable, the former Tigers mainstay put up a remarkable .315 in the first half. Only to remember that he’s not that great a hitter and hit .225 in the second half.

1B Anthony Rizzo (CHC): Rizzo’s 2019 season was a seesaw regardless of which way you turned it. After hitting a solid but pedestrian .272 in the first half, Rizzo rebounded to post a .327 in the second half. Did it come with a cost? The Cubby’s poster boy went from 19 first half homers to only 8 on the bounce back.

2B  Jose Altuve (HOU): Hampered by injuries, Altuve limped out to a .262 10 HR 25 RBI first half. The speed that once thrust Altuve to the top of the roto-rankings may be gone but his .325 21 HR 49 RBI second half, more than compensated.

SS  Bo Bichette (TOR): Despite the youth movement going on north of the border, the Blue Jays seemed to keep Bichette in the minors out of spite, essentially depriving him of what might have been a rookie of the year season. Once getting the call, Bichette unleashed a .311 11 HR 21 RBI 4 SB 32 R stat line and may have swung some roto-leagues.

3B  José Ramírez (CLE): By Schultz’ count, 21 of the 26 Schultz Says columns in 2019 concerned Ramirez’s puzzling season. The near-consensus #3 pick plodded to a horrifically dreadful .218 7 HR 35 RBI in the first half. Once the Ides of July arrived, JRam woke up, his  .327 16 HR 48 RBI only marred by a fractured hamate bone that ended his (and The Tribe’s) season.

OF Aristedes Aquino (CIN): If anyone tells you that they were all over Aquino in the first half of the season or even postures that they knew who he was, feel free to verbally smack them down. Virtually unknown in the first half, his historic second half run finished with 18 HR 46 RBIs.

OF Hunter Renfroe (SD): On a surprisingly frisky Padres unit, Renfroe had everyone remembering the days when he was a heavily hyped prospect, slugging 27 homers in the first half while hitting .252. At least Greg Vaughn’s deal with the devil lasted a whole season. Renfroe’s .161 with 6 homers in the second half makes it seems like someone reneged.

OF Austin Riley (ATL): The Braves slugger continued a minor league power binge into the majors, busting everyone’s free agent budget with 16 HRs, 41 RBIs and a workable .257. Once the All-Star break ended, so did Riley, his 2 HR 8 RBI .161 second half saw him mostly bench-bound and the season wound down.

SP  John Flaherty (STL): After a breakout rookie season, Flaherty’s sophomore slump couldn’t have been more pronounced. Prior to All-Star break, he meandered to a 4.64 ERA 1.22 WHIP start. Anyone that didn’t look away in disgust or sorrow saw the emergence of star and were rewarded with a .97 ERA .73 WHIP in the second half

RP Brad Hand (CLE): Anyone wondering what happened to the Indians down the stretch need look no further than the bad Hand they were dealt in the second half. After posting 23 saves with a 2.17 ERA .99 WHIP, Hand wavered, only notching 11 second half saves while fumbling to a 5.40 ERA and 1.70 WHIP.

There’s a certain subset of players who always remain roto-rostered due to their ever-burgeoning potential. They generally end up a different roto-team each year, having worn out their welcome on the old one. The 2019 ALL-SCHULTZ GODOT TEAM truly were worth waiting for – mainly because they showed up.

Christian Vázquez (BOS): Always a complementary part of an uninspiring platoon, Vazquez finally became the low-end number 1 catcher everyone always wanted him to be with his .276 23 HR 72 RBIs, placing him amidst the top backstops.

1B  Josh Bell (PIT): Ever since the Pirates’ slugger came to the bigs, stories have abounded about his sweet swing, plate discipline and burgeoning power. Stories were all there were though as neither was in existence, until this year. He faded down the stretch but his .277 37 HR 116 RBI served notice that there’s a new first base stud on the block.

2B Yoán Moncada (CWS): Only 24 but it seems like he’s been around forever, mainly because he has. The centerpiece of the Chris Sale deal, Moncada finally looked like he belonged in the majors this year, his .315 25 HR 79 RBI 10 SB possibly being the tip of the iceberg.

SS  Marcus Semien (OAK): Injuries have always been the handicap for the multi-tooled shortstop that always gets ignored when discussing roto-ball’s best shortstops. Well, no one puts Semien in a corner, definitely not after his .285 33 HR 92 RBI .285 123 runs 10 SBs led the A’s into the post-season.

3B Anthony Rendon (WSH): With Bryce Harper , Juan Soto , Trea Turner , Victor Robles and more playing the role of shiny new prospect, Rendon’s days in that spotlight are almost forgotten. Taking the throne with Harper in Philadelphia, he hit .319, slugged 34 HR, drove in a league leading 126 RBI, scored 117 runs and even stole 5 bases, making him your potential NL MVP.

OF Ketel Marte (ARZ): Victimized by the Mariners bringing him up when he barely old enough the drink, Marte’s last four years have been resoundingly disappointing. Moving to the outfield, Marte finally lived up to the hype, putting up a spectacular .329 32 HR 92 RBI 10 SB.

OF Joc Pederson (LA): Lost in the perennial hubbub over the shiny new Dodgers outfield prospect, the one that lost the shine finally turned in a productive season. While his .249 doesn’t qualify as exciting, his 36 HRs 74 RBIs were the power numbers that had been promised.

OF Jorge Soler (KC): It would be wrong to say that anyone was still waiting for Jorge Soler because everyone had clearly given up. Anyone who took the flyer on the former Cub washout benefitted to the tune of .265 48 HR 117 RBI 95 R and likely found themselves a nice keeper to boot.

SP  Lucas Giolito (CHW): The main get in the Adam Eaton deal didn’t quite come out of the gate as the ace all wanted him to be. After a shaky start, it all came together and where once there were walks and untimely homers, there were strikeouts and then more strikeouts. Grading on the 2019 curve, his 3.41 ERA 1.06 WHIP with 228 Ks were in the top percentile.

RP  No One: Relievers don’t get to hang around long enough to continually disappoint and still be employed.

Schultz is always grateful to the those who take the time to read The Week That Was, especially those that read to the bottom of the page. My thanks to all of you as well as The Overlord who patiently indulges these little digressions at the bottom of the column.

For now, Schultz has said enough. Until 2020.

Final Thoughts:  Great work by Schultz all year!  Thank you to all the loyal readers.  I hope you keep on reading the football week that was.  As for baseball, Go Yankees.  See ya in the spring!