Last year the Gamblers struggled to a lack luster season. I for one was frustrated with their performance especially early, although the rest of the league enjoyed it. What made the team go from a feared team to an also-ran in the second season? Was it hitting? Was it pitching? A combination? Was the trade of Tucker at the beginning of the season a mistake? Was the FA signing of Huff not such a great idea? Why wasn't the team hitting? Did I give up on players too soon? I think I can answer those questions now.
To start off the reason for the Tucker exodus was three fold. The first was his salary, although a very good pitcher in most peoples estimation and probably worth every penny. He was sort of an aging vet with somewhat of a health risk. The year before he struggled in the dog days. The third reason was his GB/FB ratio. The biggest reason was his salary though. The biggest mistake was trading Doc Buhner as he was the best pitcher on my staff but I doubt seriously that he could have saved the day.
I signed FA Abdullah Huff to play 1B in the off season. I was looking for a left handed slap hitter that could hit right handed pitchers or walk and his abilities matched what I was looking for.
I had everything in place that I wanted, so all of a sudden everything went wrong. The team struggled even at the beginning and that maintained throughout the season. No one was hitting and the pitching was even worse. Thompson was seasons 1 FOY and his pitching was abysmal and adventuresome to say the least (as one reporter put it). Nothing I tried worked. What was wrong I couldn't put my finger on. I shuffled Huff off to AAA, Harding off to AA and brought up Lee and Mercado. Then Denny Moss was put on the DL. That is when the team started winning. They made it to within .500 three or four times, just enough to make me think they were gonna make a run and then go on a slide. And the slide coincided with Moss coming back from the DL and Moss leaving. What was I to think, he wasn't hitting, he wasn't fielding, a health risk and the team was doing better without him in the lineup. So I traded him. I juggled the lineups trying to find a good fit and that didn't work. Worked on the pitching, nothing worked.
Basically I was scratching my head thinking the other teams had actually gotten so much better after season 1 that my team wasn't any good at all and needed to retool. The problem was actually keeping me up at night trying to figure out what went wrong and what to do to fix the problem. In the off season I delved through the reports looking for any answers or clues at all and believe it or not, couldn't find one that I hadn't tried correcting to some extent. It was almost to the point I was blaming the coaching staff for the dismal season.
The answer didn't hit me till I was about to click on an offer to the first FA find this off season. It was like out of the blue I needed to check on a couple things and it was a life saver. First I needed to bolster my pen foremost. I did that with two long relievers/starters, Rehfield and Delaney and I got them cheap. If you look at them their abilities aren't all that great. But they have a couple things in common. The have good control, splits and decent pitches but above all GB. So now I have the pen fixed I hope.
Now it is off to find the fix for the offense. That is one of the reasons I had initially tried to trade Hartman was to fix the offense and pen. I was really going to except the second offer that I got and decided not to as I found the answer to the problem and had it the whole time. I had brought F.P. Saipe up last year to play SS after Moss went bye bye and did a decent job although his hitting isn't the greatest. I found Ronnie Brown just hanging out in AA, I really doubt he would have thought to find his way to a ML roster. What was so great about these two? They both can play SS and CF, matter of fact they can play anywhere a big plus.
So what was the problem in the end? Moss for one, although a plate monster he wasn't hitting well. Was that a WIS sign that he was hurting, do they play 10 to 12 games hurt before they get injured? That I don't know, but have seen it a few times after paying close attention, but how would you know for sure until it happens? Another thing about Moss is his fielding, mfoster and I have discussed it at length and neither one of us have figured out why he commits so many errors. Could it be his age? Still the numbers are there to be more proficient than he is. So Moss is gone and two players that can field are on the team that actually hold their own hitting wise as expected and the defensive problem is solved and team chemistry looks good. Another problem was using Hartman for a catcher when I had a better one in AAA. Pitchers that had more of a FB tendency for another instead of using GB as a strength. And had to cut down on the error problem.
As for Huff and Harding I have that problem solved also. Neither one of them performed as I had expected or so I thought. Upon close examination it was a mistake to give up on them. It wasn't that they are bad players, just the opposite. It was how I was trying to use them, some times my logic and their abilities don't match and this was the case. You have to put them into a situation where they will succeed. For Huff, he can't be used at his home park for where I wanted to use him and that limits him to away games in certain parks. He is actually better suited for a different team. The same can also be said of Harding. But I have plans for Harding this season so I am not going to trade him. Huff on the other hand is available.