5.5 points in 0 days? Problem.

Yesterday’s carefully-constructed, category-by-category analysis turned out to be completely moot. All categories that I thought were safe were undone by a massive offensive outburst on the season’s final day. Of course, the big bats belonged to Lawr (8 HRs? Really?) and all against my stud pitchers. I still got 2 wins and 20-something strikeouts but got caught in HRs, runs and stolen bases. Net = nothing.

We still have one game left, and with Lawr holding a half point lead over Mike… it ain’t over yet. For them, anyway. Stick a fork in me.

On a completely unrelated side note, I witnessed one of the most bush, unsportsmanlike moves – though completely within the rules – in one of my local leagues. AL-only contest and I wake up to find myself one point behind first place. Jumped in to see if I could grab a Twin or Tiger or two for the final game, but the first place team had already gone in and cleaned the pool. The eight remaining DET/MIN names of any value — all claimed by him. Unlimited daily free agent access — fastest mouse wins — is a bogus way to play.

5 points in 1 day? No problem.

I thought it might be interesting, for posterity’s sake, to document exactly where things stand on the final day of the season. It’s almost anyone’s title to take…

Mike Siano, MLB.com: 92 points
Lawr Michaels, CREATiVESPORTS: 92 points
Ron Shandler, BaseballHQ.com: 87 points

Let’s review each category…

Seven HRs separate Mike from me and me from Lawr, and Mike and Lawr are about 10 away from the next team in the standings. Unless someone has a monster power day, this category is set. [NO MOVEMENT]

Mike has a 32 RBI lead over Lawr, who is ahead of Jeff Erickson by another 25. I am one RBI behind Steve Moyer. [SHANDLER +1]

Lawr has a 58 run lead over me and I am 9 ahead of Jeff. Mike would need 12 runs to catch Jason Grey. [NO MOVEMENT]

Mike has a 1 SB lead over Steve; Lawr is tied with Jeff. I have a 1 SB lead over Jason Colette and two over Matthew Berry. [SIANO -1, MICHAELS +.5/-.5, SHANDLER -2]

Nobody is moving anywhere here. [NO MOVEMENT]

Mike has a .01 lead over Sam Walker, but Mike’s starters are all done and Sam has John Danks going today. Lawr is not moving. I have a .05 lead over Jeff which should be safe unless my four starters blow up today (in which case my season would be over). [SIANO -1]

Mike is safe. Lawr has a slight 1-2 point downside and has Scott Feldman and Joe Saunders pitching today. I have a slight 1-point upside. [MICHAELS -1, SHANDLER +1]

Here is where it gets interesting. Mike has a 2-K lead over Dean Peterson and is only 1-W behind Jason, but does not have any starts left. Lawr is 15 Ks behind me and tied with Dean in wins; a “W” from Feldman or Saunders nets him half a point.

I am 5 strikeouts away from gaining a point and 28 Ks away from gaining 3 pts. 4 wins gives me three more points. And this is what I have going today:

Justin Verlander is pitching for his team’s playoff spot. He has hurled two gems against the White Sox this year, both complete game victories, allowing only 1 run in each.

Felix Hernandez is pitching to help his Cy Young cause. He is 3-1 against the Rangers this year with a 2.31 ERA and 29 strikeouts.

Clay Buchholz needs to rebound from Tuesday’s poor outing to help his chances for a rotation spot next year. Before Tuesday, he had allowed only two runs in his prior four starts. This is the first time he is facing Cleveland, a team that has lost 4 in a row.

Wade Davis is likely playing to ensure a 2010 rotation spot as well, and has perhaps the toughest task against the Yankees. He’s never faced them, but the Bombers have lost three in a row and are coasting into the post-season.

The opposition could rest many regulars on the final day, except likely the White Sox. All four pitchers are at home.

Two weeks ago, this quartet got me 3 wins and 30 strikeouts. Last week, 3 wins and 20 strikeouts. Even if they just replicate the latter performance, I am back in the thick of this.

To recap:

Mike 92.0 93.5 90.0
Lawr 92.0 93.0 90.5
Me 87.0 ~92.0 85.0

There’s little question about how I am going to be spending the day….

5 points in 2 days? No problem.

This is what I need to have happen today and tomorrow…

1. Detroit and Minesota need to maintain their respective momentum. That is the only way to ensure that Justin Verlander will pitch tomorrow.

2. Five RBIs. Currently one behind Steve Moyer, I figure 5 will be enough to sneak by and gain a point.

3. Need to maintain my slim leads in stolen bases and ERA (no problem).

4. That will leave my All-Star mound quartet to work their mastery on Sunday. Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Wade Davis and Clay Buchholz. Three wins and 30 strikeouts will mean potentially 4-5 points.

This is exactly why we call it fantasy baseball.

Good luck to my fellow nail-biters, and thank goodness Lawr is going to keep his clothes on.

On life support…

Four starters, three wins, 20 strikeouts. Most days, I would have been thrilled to pick up enough points to move within 3.5 of first place. But it’s not likely going to be enough.

The problem was the one starter who didn’t get a win. Three batters into Clay Buchholz’s start, I was reaching for the oxygen. Thanks to his 7 ER gopheritis attack, I could not pick up a needed point in ERA.

So what’s left to hope for? This same quartet of pitchers (Verlander, Felix, Wade Davis and Buchholz) are all scheduled to go out on the season’s final day. Verlander will only pitch if the Tigers need the game to get into the post-season, so I’ll be rooting for the Twins the rest of the week. Any of the remaining trio might also sit since none will be in meaningful games. So winning this thing on my own is going to be tough.

As for help from others, Mike could lose a half point in wins, but would need massive meltdowns in his remaining three starts — Halladay, Jackson and Santana — to lose ground anywhere else. I do trail him by only 4 HRs, but my bats have recently gone silent. Lawr could still lose a point in stolen bases, and maybe WHIP. I can’t see how today’s standings are going to change much by Sunday night.

In 25 years of playing this game, I have seen a few miracles. I have seen a team come back from a 30 point deficit in September. I have seen a team pick up 10 points in the final week alone. I have seen a team run the board, wire to wire, only to lose it in the final weekend. But I just don’t see it happening for me in these final five days.

But I’ll still be rooting for the Twins, because, if there is even the tiniest molecule of a chance, I am going to need Verlander to pitch on Sunday.

Black Tuesday

Seven points out this morning, and my brief cameo appearance as a contender hinges on today’s games.

I came into the week with my pitchers potentially making 8 starts. But Tillman has been shut down (in atonement for Sunday’s debacle, I suppose) and Verlander might not pitch next Sunday, so I might be looking at only a 6-start week.

Four of those starts are today. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz and Wade Davis. If I managed a 3-win, 30 strikeout performance from three starters last week, can I hope for any less from four starters today? But that’s what it will take to keep me in the race. If this quartet performs to their abilities (and only Verlander is facing an opponent of any consequence), five points potentially hang in the balance. Of course, none of those five would come from Lawr or Mike, but 5 points is 5 points. That would put me two points out, potentially, and would still give me a shot.

Oh, and I could use a bunch of home runs too because there’s a point I could steal from Mike in that category. But given that Mike’s had all the momentum there, and Russ Branyan looks like he’s done, I’m probably going to have to stick a fork in hopes of any HR gains.

So, this could be the last day of my season. It’s all on today and four ballgames… Verlander at 7:05, Davis at 7:08, Buchholz at 7:10 and Felix at 10:10. Nice of them to at least stagger the schedule for me.

What the heck am I doing here?

A week ago, I was content to watch Mike and Lawr battle it out for this year’s title, and ink in my 3rd place finish. Then suddenly, my arms post a 3-win, 30 K night on Thursday and I am counting my points deficit on the fingers of one hand. Can I actually sneak in and pull this thing out?

It’s possible, but I am in the unenviable position of having to rely on everyone else to do my work for me. Except for the one point in strikeouts that I stole from Lawr on Thursday, none of my gains have been at the expense of the duo at the top. It should be an interesting week.

Should I actually pull this out — and even if I don’t — this season will be a testament to the power of dumb luck. It will be all about how I FAABed Andrew Bailey for $1 on April 12 just to replace the injured Scott Lewis, how Rajai Davis became a regular when Matt Holliday was traded, how I spent half the season sitting on Clay Buchholz, Chris Tillman and Wade Davis. How I sat in 7th place, 20 points out, at the season’s midpoint.

It is also a reminder that the season is six months long, and those who threw in the towel back in July because football season was coming may have sacrificed the reason we play this game in the first place. It’s to win, and sometimes it takes 6 months to achieve that goal.

Just by virtue of the fact that I’m still glued to the boxscores this late in the season must mean that I’ve done something right. I think.