I can't remember if it was Confucius or Peter Gammons who once said you get lucky with pitching, but you get good with offense.
Regardless of who gets or deserves the credit for them, the words ring true, especially when it comes to Fantasy Baseball.
Allow me to serve as exhibit A.
I've lost with Cy Young Award winners Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay, and I've won with Jose Jimenez and Armando Benitez. Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera cost me a title while Octavio Dotel helped deliver two in one year. Josh Beckett dropped a 5.01-ERA, 74-walk anvil on me like Wile E. Coyote in 2006, then had the nerve to go 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA and a measly 40 walks last year.
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Lately, the best defense is having a good offense because pitchers simply can't be trusted (see previous graph) as far as they can toss a rosin bag.
That hasn't always been the case. There was a time when the number of tried and true aces could be counted on two hands with fingers left over, which compelled me to tuck one away early in every draft. That was until Pedro Martinez, followed by Jason Schmidt, then Halladay discovered the disabled list and how to place the ball on the bat, which prompted a strategic audible.
Now, however, there are so many good, young arms available that there's no need to strike early in order to secure one.
No crime would be committed in spending a first-round pick on Johan Santana or Jake Peavy, the best pitchers on the market, but why allow others to fatten up on offense early when they'll still have access to Brandon Webb, C.C. Sabathia or Erik Bedard in Round 3; Justin Verlander, Dan Haren or John Lackey in Round 4; and their pick of either Roy Oswalt or Halladay as late as Round 6?
Those who draft pitchers inside the first two rounds wave goodbye to the best bats and base thieves in the process. Owners can load up on bats in the first few rounds and still be able to build a dynamite staff around mid- to late-round hurlers like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Joe Blanton, John Maine, Brad Penny and Aaron Harang, just to name a few.
In short, you have options, which is why we advise you to come out swinging on draft day, placing a premium on players who can dominate in the five major categories: average, homers, runs batted in, stolen bases and runs scored.
No offense to Ryan Howard, who could easily top 50 HRs and 130 RBIs, but getting from first to second base often takes him an entire weekend, plus his average figures to fall somewhere between last year's .268 and the .313 mark he posted in 2006. In other words, Howard is already a liability in one category and could become one in another. On the other hand, fellow first-round locks David Wright (my go-ahead-and-write-it-in-now No. 2 overall draft pick in two weeks), Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley and Matt Holliday -- each of whom will quickly follow consensus No. 1 pick Alex Rodriguez -- offer power, run production, speed and average in one package.
Opening your draft with one of those multi-skilled stars, then adding a five-tool talent in Round 2 in the form of a Carlos Beltran, Grady Sizemore or Brandon Phillips, would have you off and running. And hitting. And scoring.
You could continue the trend by coming back in Round 3 with a Curtis Granderson or B.J. Upton, and possibly even have access to a Bobby Abreu or Alex Rios in Round 4, which would give you a solid offensive foundation and leave plenty of time and choices to fill out a respectable pitching staff.
That's not to say my plan is the best or the only one that can work.
You could monopolize power by opening with Prince Fielder, Vladimir Guerrero, Victor Martinez and Aramis Ramirez, which would form an enviable fantasy murderer's row covering four positions.
Or you could hone in on speed and use your first three picks on rabbits like Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford and Chone Figgins and be the early favorite to win the steals and runs categories, be a contender in average and add a few homers for good measure -- a strategy that definitely takes into consideration the fact that 20-HR bats can still be had in the final rounds.
No matter what we do, or how good our teams might look on paper, luck has the final say in all matters.
I've played against people whose first seven picks were pitchers and they were able to find enough bats by draft's end to finish in the top third of the standings. I've also seen folks draft 14 offensive players before even considering a pitcher, then I'd watch helplessly as their staffs, littered with "projects" and afterthoughts, beat the rest of us to a pulp.
Whatever you do, have a plan because winging it (which is my preference in all other realms to micro-managing and planning things to the point of suffocation and comical ineffectiveness) won't fly, especially if the competition is at all familiar with the names Jacoby Ellsbury, Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus and Cameron Maybin.
Now take this, my fantasy brothers and sisters, and may it serve you well.
Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.