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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fantasy Baseball Insiders League: Strategy

Have you ever been in a situation like a business conference or a big school function, or even something like what you thought was a costume party, where you thought you had to get all dressed up... but when you get to the event everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts?  You get dressed to the nines in your Italian suit and perfect tie, or if it's October, maybe you absolutely crush it on your zombie Homer Simpson costume.  Either way, you're feeling pretty good.

All decked out, walking into the event... Then you see the sea of denim.  Your over-inflated opinion of yourself springs a leak and withers to the ground.

It's kind of like after one of those 'experts' drafts that take place five weeks before the season.  You (and by that I mean "me") add up the projected stats from all of your picks and it turns out that if you had this team last year, you would have finished in first place in nine categories!  Amazing!  Yeah, over-inflated.

Nevertheless, let's take a look and I'll explain my rationale and how I got all Larry Schechter on these fools.

I had the 3rd pick and hoped for McCutchen since Scott White (@CBSScottWhite) ranked Miggy #2.  Unfortunately
he went with Cutch and put me to a decision:  the bold move with Clayton Kershaw or everyone's favorite Marlin, Giancarlo Stanton.  I'm a sucker for a good Giancarlo, so I took him.  I think that decision flavored my next couple of picks, though.

At the turn I looked and there were a lot of guys on the board I liked, but they all got taken before my #22 pick came up:  Altuve at #16, Joey Bats at #18, Adam Jones #19, and Tulo at #21 (horror!).  Well, I do love a stud strikeout pitcher in his prime, in a contract year, in a pitcher's park, and on a good team... so I took David Price.  I hoped that I could get Ian Desmond on the comeback.

Nope.  Joel Henard swooped in at #24 on Desmond.  I really want a middle infielder at #27, but do I stretch a bit for HanRam knowing he won't make it back in the 4th?  What would Schechter do?  Okay, I don't know what Schechter would do.  Well, I do know he would take what he considered the best value.

Max Scherzer?  You mean to tell me, Dave, that Scherzer was the best value at #27?  Well, yeah.  It was either him or Ryan Braun and Scherzer could win 30 games in that division this year.

Two starters in three picks?  Am I crazy?  Maybe.  It was a bit of a theme for me as I took two MI's close together, took my two catchers pretty early, grabbed two solid closers, and even took two 3B's kinda close.

And, yes, it's a two catcher league... with a middle infield slot, corner infield, and five outfielders.  No "SP" and "RP" designations, too.  That last bit played into my end-game strategy.

So, at this point in the draft I'm thinking that I need to invest in a shortstop, a second baseman, a top-flight closer, and a top-shelf catcher pretty soon... plus I really need to stock up on outfielders because they dry up.  First base and third base can wait because they are loaded.

Funny thing about that.  I did take what I thought was really good value with Justin Upton at 4.10 (which is shorthand for "tenth pick of the fourth round) but I went with Todd Frazier at 5.3.  What happened to waiting on corner infield?  What about investing in scarcity?  What can I say, I took the best player available.  I hoped that Jason Kipnis (or Dee Gordon, I guess) would fall to me at 6.10.

They did not.

So, I started investing elsewhere.  Greg Holland at 6.10 and Devin Mesoraco at 7.3.  I wanted to spend a premium pick on Posey or even Gattis (catcher eligible + playing every day at another position = awesome) but settled for Mesoraco.  Incidentally, Gattis went one pick earlier and I consider both guys to be great value in a two catcher league.  Mesoraco is the better player but he's likely to sit more often than Gattis.

Feeling good at this point, even though my hitting inventory is low.  Stanton, Frazier, Upton, and Mesoraco are a start.  We've got two-fifths of our OF's plus half our catchers.  Not too bad.  Still need MI's though.  But, look, we've got two uber-stud SP's and one uber-stud RP.  Okay, okay... doing well.

This is where I need to start telling myself to avoid reliance on guys that will destroy any one category or who represent a big injury risk...  Steady producers that help everywhere.  These all-around players make a roster much more slump-tolerant and injury-tolerant so if you pop one or two big waiver wire gems you've got a strong foundation on which to build.

So, fast-forward all the way to 8.10 and Mr. Steady is there waiting for me: Matt Holliday.  Look, he's not as amazing as he used to be but he did lead the league in home run distance last year and cranked 14 after the break.  He'll be an above-average contributor in four categories and will even pitch in a few steals.  (Okay, like maybe three.  But that's a few, right?)  The hidden value is in a bounceback in BA.  He's a career .308 hitter and even though he hit .272 last year he was at .296 or higher for nine consecutive years prior.  At 35 he's on the downside, but a 35-year-old is not ancient.

Okay, so 3/5's of my OF's.  But... I... Need MI's... Must have MI's...  I'm like a zombie Homer Simpson looking for day-old donuts.  It's just that, most of these MI's are looking like day-old donuts.  Andrus, Wong, Segura, Kendrick, Walker, Castro...  Man.

I need SB's and I need a SS.  Elvis enters the building.  I hated the Andrus pick at the time, but in retrospect (and same-time-spect) I needed the steals.  I shall assume that he remains an everyday player all year and swipes 30+ bags.  Plus, he's not an anchor on BA which is a narrative I'm trying to write.

At 10.10 I pulled the trigger on Howie Kendrick.  A handful of HR's and SB's, but he should really help with BA and might score a decent number of runs.  Pretty good for the 10th round even though it isn't all that great as a starting 2B.  *shrug*  What are ya gonna do?

Still thinking that I need to invest in another RP and my second catcher...  Plus, those two stud SP's are starting to age a bit.  What I mean is that Max Scherzer is an exceptional #2 SP but if I pass on all of the legit #3's and #4's any advantage I had there will dry up.

So, I turn to... Ian Kennedy?!?  Yes, yes I did.  Do you have any idea how good he was last year?  Do you have any idea how great it is to own NL West pitchers, especially the ones in San Diego?  Do you know how many strikeouts he's going to get me?  Wins?  While crushing the ratios?  Well, we'll see.  It's a bit of a gamble but I view him as a legit #3.  So, two #1's and a #3 is an edge and I don't think I've scrimped too much elsewhere.

I do need a 1B at some point, though.  Or another 3B and slide Frazier over.  Hmm.  And a second catcher, and another closer, and more outfielders, and middle infield... So many needs!  At this point I was feeling a bit squished.  Am I really going with Andrus and Kendrick at SS and 2B?  Ian Kennedy??  How high did I take Holland?!?  SP's in the 2nd and 3rd round?  It's like I'm looking at a sea of denim.  Sometimes I don't recognize myself.

Okay, calming down.... Remember we're taking all-around players that don't kill the ratios.  Keep marching.

Round 12 and Steve Cishek is still there.  He might be the last bona fide closer with a firm grasp on the job, so I take him.  He and Holland give me a nice base of saves.

And in round 13?  Wilin Rosario is sitting there for me, ready for his bounceback.  Can he lead all catchers in home runs without killing me at BA?  Why yes he can.  I think this is pretty great value for a two-catcher league.

But seriously, folks, corner infield?  All I got is Todd Frazier?  That's pretty neglectful.  And reckless.  Looking at the list of options, there's no way Josh Harrison slides all the way to 14.10, is there?  Yep.  Nice grab.  Strong BA, good SB's, and decent everywhere else.  He'll have below-average power but I'm getting HR's from everywhere and I should be getting bonus dingers in the outfield and my two catchers.

It's time for pick 15.3.  Hello, beautiful.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is my superhero.  I loves him.  Round 15 is insane.  You'll see.  I'm looking at my staff now and I've got two real-life aces and two strong #3's.  That small edge is getting bigger, folks.  I'm probably over 1,000 K's at this point with probably 80 wins and nearly 80 saves, all with great ratios and supported by guys in their prime (Kennedy is debatable, but only 30 years old) who pitch in pitcher's parks on good teams.  I'm liking the staff and I've still got my end-game strategy to unleash.

But gosh, first base.  I mean, really.  Really.  16th round and no pure-play 1B yet?  That's, just, wow.  But who's there for me at 16.10?  None other than post-season hero Eric Hosmer.  I know that he doesn't hit a ton of HR's, but he could be solid enough plus he hits for a good average at bats in the heart of the order for a good team.  And, technically he's my CI.  I'll take it.  Though I'd like to add another option.

Is it really possible to get Brett Gardner in round 17?  Yes, dreams do come true.  I need the SB's and he should really help with runs and be fairly average elsewhere.  Round 18 brought my fifth OF, Steve Pearce.  And he qualifies at 1B, too.  Plus he might pick up 3B this year.

I love the flexibility so much that I double down and take Martin Prado in the 19th.  He qualifies at 2B and 3B (and consequently, both CI and MI) and he was his normal self last year after being traded.  He should hit around .300 and fill in a ton of gaps for me.  I love guys like that.  Here's hoping he manages to hit most of his 12-ish home runs on the days I start him.

I'm in pretty good shape at this point.  I'm feeling like I need a good fifth SP and I really need to supplement my RP's.  I really need a strong sixth OF plus I could use another SS if I can find a gem late.  Here's where the end-game strategy starts to unfold.

Remember how I said there was no designation for "SP" or "RP"?  Well, that gives me a lot of flexibility running a ton of RP's so I can load up on setup men and hope to vulture a few saves and wins while getting elite ratios (including K/9).  Plus I'll have a head start on the inevitable next-man-up in certain bullpens.  (I'm looking at you Joe Nathan and LaTroy Hawkins.)

Andrew Miller was the pick in the 20th, Joakim Soria in the 22nd, Kevin Quackenbush in the 26th, Rex Brothers in the 27th.  So even though I didn't get a real third closer, I've got to think that that crew picks up another 20 or so saves even if none of them get the job.  But at least one will get the job.  Maybe two.  I mean, LaTroy Hawkins?  Joe Nathan?  Joaquin Benoit?  (Miller is there for the K/9, by the way.  I fully anticipate that Betances will have and keep the role.)

At SP, I picked up Chris Tillman in the 21st round.  His track record is pretty strong at this point, even though he park and those in the division aren't so great for pitchers.  But, for my fifth SP in the 21st round it looks like great value to me.  I took Wei-Yin Chen in the last round.  He's better than you think and he's in a contract year, too.  Plus he and Tillman pitch on a good team with a great defense, which help.

Combined with my relievers I'm feeling like I'll crush the ratios.  Not a single one of my pitchers will hurt me anywhere and wins and saves should be plentiful.  And strikeouts?  A runaway.

So, I'm dressed to the nines in pitching.  Looking good.

I got my backup SS in the 23rd round, Jed Lowrie.  Nice bounceback candidate.

The following round I took my 6th outfielder, Carlos Beltran.  Another nice bounceback candidate, despite his age.

Billy Butler in the 25th and Joe Panik in the 28th round out the roster.  I like Butler a bit and he is another 1B option, but I'll be ready to cut bait.  Not a big fan of him in Oakland, but he's not a big time slugger anyway.  We'll see.

Panik has upside, especially if he keeps the #2 spot in the batting order.  Big upside there, I think.  Worthy of a late round flyer.

At this point I certainly have an over-inflated opinion of myself.  Time will how much is just hot air.