Season Preview: Chicken On The Hill

By Ryan A. Gold
Wahoo! Sports
12 minutes ago

Matt “Ezra” Standish and his renegade Shadowmasters came into the league with a who gives a shit, mock ’em and shock ’em attitude. Amid rumors of skull violation and other subterranean, nefarious goings on, the Shadowmasters settled in as FBB’s most entertaining and least successful franchise. The team slogan, “In the cellar…and loving it!”, was emblazoned on slacker tee-shirts and tattooed on necks in prisons across the country. It was a hell of a ride.

When the makeover came, everybody sat up and couldn’t help but take notice. In a FBB equivalent of a shave, haircut and new suit, the Masters showed up all business and ready to compete. The change culminated last year with a season long place at the head of the table and a deep playoff run last year. Had it not been for an untimely collapse on semi-final Sunday, Standish would have found himself playing for the title.

But Standish is nothing if not mercurial, and where you might have expected that he build on last year’s success, this season finds yet another name change and yet another style. This year’s squad, dubbed Chicken on the Hill, a reference to Standish childhood hero Willie Stargell, seems like an exorcise in nostalgia in more ways than just the name. However, where in years gone by the overt homerism was just a fuck you in the face of convention, this year’s draft seems filled with genuine hope and goodwill for a beloved city left behind long ago.

Andrew McCutchen is the real deal and will only get better. Garrett Jones is a giant figure at first base. Ohlendorf has the makings of a future ace. Third baseman of the future Pedro Alvarez will start the season in the minors but will be back this year and I’d expect The Chicken Hillers to snap him up. Octavio Dotel, picked up this week, is an excellent sleeper at the closer position. McCutchen, Ohlendorf and Alvarez are probably all a year or two away from being real contributors, but that hardly seems the point. Oh, and if that’s not enough nostalgia for you, Jason Bay is back.

The team around this core of ‘Burgers presents a mixed bag. Standish emphasized starting pitching and landed two of the best in Greinke and Sabbathia. Most everybody thinks Matt Cain will inevitably become one of the league’s elite. The Hill also dealt Cole Hamels for high upside pitcher Rick Porcello and closer in waiting Matt Thornton in a move that bolsters the bullpen, though with Hamels under the tutledge of Doc Halliday this year, this one has some potential to backfire, particularly if Porcello regresses. Francisco’s squared will anchor the pen. Bionic pitcher Stephen Strasburg is a wild card, though he’ll have to be carried for some time in a DL slot and will face pitch counts when he comes up. The pitching should help keep these birds close week in and week out.

Offensively things look a little less settled. Mauer is usually an early round reach for me base on scarcity alone, but last year’s numbers, if duplicated, will justify the pick. Healthy seasons from Ricky Weeks and BJ Upton, who battled a bad shoulder all year, would go a long way, but even in the best case scenarios, there just doesn’t look like there will be enough offense here. Cantu, Inge, Peralta and Jones all feel like second options that will be counted on as starters here. Only Bay reached 30 homers last year and he moves to pitcher friendly Citi field. Batting average and OPS will be problem spots all year.

I generally favor those teams who put a premium on offense and look for value among starting pitchers, so it’s going to be tough for me to put the Chicken Hill Gang in the playoffs. There will be some dominating weeks on the mound though, and it’s a team that will be entertaining and maybe on the rise as the year moves on.

Prediction: Out of the cellar…probably somewhere on the front porch drinking lemonade…and enjoying it!

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