ALTERNATIVE GAMING: 2011 Strat-O-Matic Card Ratings Analysis

Each year at BaseballHQ.com we bring you a thorough analysis of the new Strat-O-Matic card ratings. With the release of the 2011 Card Set, we help you concentrate on your simulation assets to help you win consistently. 

Pitching

Nearly every year, you can build a championship pitching staff less expensively by focusing on great bullpen cards rather than starting pitchers. Because small sample sizes cause inconsistencies, building a long-term team around a bullpen remains harder to accomplish.  For this reason, each year you can find excellent cards from rebuilding teams via trade or in the draft for less talent. 

In 2012, however, the top starting pitching cards have even more value because there are more good relievers, but fewer great ones. Justin Verlander (SP, DET) leads the set with Mike Adams (RP, TEX) the only equivalent reliever card. Ironically, both struggle with the longball against right-handed pitchers.  

Clayton Kershaw (LHP, LA) keeps the ball in the park to dominate from the left side, with seven relievers able to match his 15 average on-base chances per side. Johnny Venters (LHP, ATL) and Scott Downs (LHP, LAA) represent equivalent relievers.

Two important points with elite pitchers result. The top tier pitchers seem more valuable in the 2012 card set than in the past. In 2011, 20 relievers were as good as the top starter.  Second, you can still acquire one of these equivalent relievers for much less talent. Remember that in the playoffs, your relievers can often pitch nearly every game depending on your league’s rest requirements.

Jered Weaver (RHP, LAA) and Doug Fister (RHP, DET) reflect the remaining two elite starters that seem far better than the rest. The other elite relievers include Sergio Romo (RHP, SF), Greg Holland (RHP, KC), Jonathan Papelbon (RHP, PHI), Daniel Bard (RHP, BOS), and Mariano Rivera (RHP, NYY).

Because ballpark home run chances can ruin a pitcher’s card in a bandbox stadium, the second tier of starters with less than 21 on-base chances per side with no more than four ballpark homers each way include the following:  Tim Lincecum (RHP, SF), Matt Cain (RHP, SF), Cole Hamels (LHP, PHI), Ian Kennedy (RHP, ARI), Johnny Cueto (RHP, CIN), Alexi Ogando (RHP, TEX), Dan Haren (RHP, LAA), and Cliff Lee (LHP, PHI). 

 If you cannot roster one of these pitchers, acquire a replacement-level starter and spend on a great bullpen, because so little difference exists between the remaining starters. There are about 60 relievers as good as the last hurlers listed and many can be rostered with late draft picks.

Infielders

For the first time in years, good catchers go eight deep. Mike Napoli (C, TEX) and Alex Avila (C, DET) far outshine the pack. Carlos Ruiz (C, PHI) has improved his on base ability tremendously and represents a late bargain as a C-1. Be careful with young studs Carlos Santana (C, CLE) and Matt Wieters (C, BAL). Winning with them will challenge you as Santana only has six hit chances against right-handers and Wieters has only 22 on-base chances against the same. They both add eight ballpark homer chances, but you can’t count on these two guys to consistently drive in runs.

With many first base options, note that a shortage of lefty killers exist here and throughout the card set. In 2011, it seems fewer guys exploited the small sample size that normally yields more platoon goons.

Second base features Dustin Pedroia (2B, BOS), Ian Kinsler (2B, TEX), Robinson Cano (2B, NYY) and the rest of the pack. You may ask why Cano doesn't top this list.  With his low 6% walk rate and the game's adjustment for Yankee Stadium's short right field porch, Cano has fewer home run and on-base chances than you would expect—his 32 on-base barely make him average in this category.

Some would argue Ben Zobrist (2B, TAM) and Brandon Phillips (2B, CIN) belong in the conversation with their top fielding rating and some power. They certainly make up the second tier but it seems you can always put together a decent second baseman out of middle round draft picks. Macier Izturis (2B, LAA) or Freddy Sanchez (2B, SF) can always help you inexpensively as would a tandem of Alexi Casilla (2B, MIN)/Angel Sanchez (2B, HOU).

Similarly, plenty of depth exists at shortstop after Troy Tulowitzki (SS, COL) and Jose Reyes (SS, MIA).   Marco Scutaro (2B, COL) represents a less expensive option with 41 on base chances against right-handers and 38 against southpaws.

Third base features depth as you can roster an Alberto Callaspo (3B, LAA) late with his 40 on-base chances each way.  At the top, however, each option has shortcomings. Pablo Sandoval (3B, SF) doesn’t hit lefties, Evan Longoria (3B, TAM) only has 14 straight hit chances against righties, and Aramis Ramirez (3B, MIL) received a poor fielding rating, as usual.

Outfielders

Since fielding matters so much in Strat, we must look at each outfield position individually.  Matt Kemp (OF, LA) and Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, BOS) both dominate with Gold Glove fielding to match their offensive prowess. Be careful with Curtis Granderson (OF, NYY), though, as he only has 14 straight hit chances against right-handers. After Andrew McCutchen (OF, PIT), your dominant performers disappear.  Few decent options remain after Shane Victorino (OF, PHI), BJ Upton (OF, TAM),  Peter Bourjos (OF, LAA) Dexter Fowler (OF, COL) and Austin Jackson (OF, DET). The rest should be platooned.  

In right, you have a big six of Jose Bautista (OF, TOR), Lance Berkman (OF, STL), Carlos Beltran (OF, STL), Justin Upton (OF, ARI), Hunter Pence (OF, PHI), and Mike Stanton (OF, MIA). The next tier includes Corey Hart (OF, MIL), Nick Markakis (OF, BAL), and Nick Swisher (OF, NYY) before you get to platooners and replacement level.

Left field features five true stud performers in Ryan Braun (OF, MIL), Matt Holliday (OF, STL) Alex Gordon (LF, KC), Carlos Gonzalez (OF, COL), and Josh Hamilton (OF, TEX). If your league does not have strict usage limits,   Allen Craig (OF, STL) has an incredible card with about 33 hit chances each way and only one less than the maximum ballpark home run chances.

 For a complete assessment of the 2012 Draft Pool, check out this article we posted in December.

Editor's Note:  Matt Beagle is one of two official video bloggers sanctioned by the Strat-O-Matic Game Co. His video blogs can be viewed here


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.