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I don’t particularly like the term ‘beginner’s luck’.  If we won the LABR NL-Only Expert League (sponsored/hosted by Steve Gardner at USA Today), I imagine this dismissive term would be tagged on us.  Those smart-ass bloggers won LABR – such beginner’s luck!

Unfortunately, we’ll never know because we finished in a tie for 7th place and ‘Beginner’s average performance’ doesn’t have the same colloquial attractiveness.

(Congratulations to Doug Dennis who managed 41 pitching points (out of 65) after investing just $30 on pitching in the draft.  That’s what can happen with a little luck, a couple of good $1 picks (F. Salas, D. Gee), and an April trade for Ian Kennedy)

2011 NL LABR Standings (13 Team)
Place  Team/Blog  Owner  Points
1st Baseball HQ Doug Dennis 99
2nd Rotoworld Wolf/ Colton 86.5
3rd NFBC Greg Ambrosius/ Shawn Childs 75
4th Baseball Prospectus Clay Davenport 71
5th USA TODAY Steve Gardner 70.5
6th Baseball Prospectus Derek Carty 69
T-7th Razzball Rudy Gamble 65
T-7th RotoWire Dalton Del Don 65
9th ESPN – EK Eric Karabell 64.5
10th Baseball Info Solutions Steve Moyer 64.5
11th Sandlot Shrink Bob Radomski 61.5
12th ESPN.com – Cockcroft Tristan H. Cockcroft 60.5
13th Yahoo – Brandon Brandon Funston 58

Coming out of our draft, we were feeling pretty good about our offense (which we spent about $180 of our $260) where we placed three big bets (Albert Pujols – $40, Ryan Braun – $37, Jose Reyes – $29) and three medium-sized bets (Todd Neil Walker – $18, Logan Morrison – $18, Danny Espinosa – $13).  While none of our ‘cheap’ picks played particularly well or stayed particularly healthy (Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa), these guys helped carry us to 51 points which was the 3rd best offense.  (Our in-season pickups had a modest impact – our three notable ones were Juan Rivera, Paul Goldschmidt, and Brandon Wood).

If our pitching – which we thought might be average – could only overperform a bit, we had a chance to compete for the title.  Those of you with 8th grade math skills can surmise that it performed awfully (14 points).  And that’s AFTER trading Pujols in an August trade for Cliff Lee who gave us a sick line of 60.2 IP, 1.19 ERA, 0.857 WHIP, 61 Ks.

Here’s a Spaghetti Western breakdown of our pitching:

The Good:
Yovani Gallardo ($21) – Can’t complain too much about 207.1 IP / 17 W / 3.52 / 1.215 / 207 Ks

Randy Wolf ($3) – 212.1 IP / 13 W / 3.69 / 1.319 / 134

Carlos Marmol ($20) – Yeah, wish we spent $15 for Kimbrel or Marmol blew less saves but 33 saves and 99 Ks (!!!) from a closer is solid.

Chris Capuano ($4) – The 4.55 ERA was ugly but 11 Wins and 168 Ks with an okay WHIP (1.349) was good value.

The Bad:

Clayton Richard ($5) – Ugh, why’d we draft this Hodgepadre instead of Harang or Stauffer?  The fact he only made it through 99 IP didn’t help.

Tom Gorzelanny ($2) – He pitched great (1.235 WHIP, nearly a K an inning) but he only pitched 100 innings as the Nationals preferred to give Chien-Mien Wang starts down the stretch and only managed 4 wins.

Matt Lindstrom ($2) – We were hoping for more than 2 saves and he was injured when Huston Street inevitably got hurt.  Hurts more when you think what gambling on a SP like Brandon Beachy ($1) or Dillon Gee ($1) might’ve netted.

Clay Hensley ($5) – We hoped he might steal the job from the pitcher formerly known as Leo Nunez.  He then switched to SP where he was sub-average.

The Ugly:

Hong-Chih Kuo ($6) – We really liked three middle relievers with some Saves potential – Kuo, Madson, and Venters.  If Kuo has a Madson-like year of 25 saves, it would’ve netted us 7 more points in Saves.  Yip!

Javier Vazquez ($11) – This really couldn’t have worked out worse.  Grey has covered this numerous times in daily roundups but here’s the painful story.  LABR rules dictate that anyone on a 25-man roster HAS to be started.  So we couldn’t bench Vazquez during his atrocious April/May.  It was either start him or drop him.  We prayed he’d go on the Disgraceful List or show some sign of a turnaround but all we got was one bad start after another.

Vazquez has always been one of those guys who Ks a lot but gives up too many HRs and underperforms on his ratios (career xFIP of 3.75 and ERA of 4.22).  There is no way Vazquez can be effective if he isn’t K-ing in the 8-10 K/9 range.  He started the season at about half that rate  so there was little hope for the K mojo (and any level of effectiveness) to return.  I dropped him sometime in May – after lobbying hard against a hesitant Grey – when Vazquez had a  line of 39.1 IP / 2 Wins / 7.55 ERA / 1.907 WHIP / 20 Ks.

So what did he do the rest of the way?  Only 146. 1 IP / 10 Wins / 2.83 ERA / 1.011 WHIP / 135 Ks.  My guess is just holding onto Vazquez – which we would’ve done had he not had a historically bad first 8 or so starts – would’ve netted us 10 pitching points (in Wins, Ks, and ERA) and put us close to the top 3.

Oh well…hopefully if they let us in next year, we’ll learn from these pitching mistakes and make a run for the pennant.  Or at least make new mistakes so we don’t look stupid when writing the end of season post.

  1. My company tied with my favorite blog site. And both were middle-of-the-pack. Not sure whether I should be happy or disappointed. But you know what they say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, settle for average.”

  2. TheLoadedOne says:
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    $18 for Todd Walker might be a good value if he didn’t retire in 2007. Todd’s much younger twin Neil has more upside IMHO.

  3. Tony says:
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    @Asdrubal Bastardo: as good as everyone thinks they are, as much research as one can do, it still comes down to having things go your way…. you can definitely have a bad draft, you can mismanage your team, but you can’t account for injuries, prospects that dont pan out, guys who have the historically worst year of their career (im looking at you adam dunn)….. in the end ya gotta have alot of LUCK to go along with all your “skills”.

  4. @Asdrubal Bastardo: We were neck and neck with Dalton @ Rotowire for the last month or two. He was the one we made the Pujols for Cliff Lee trade with (he threw in Izzy and a prospect that netted us 1 save). We enjoyed meeting him and Jeff at the draft – I did Jeff’s radio show after the draft. I should check in w/ him for a post-season recap…

    @TheLoadedOne: Ha! I made the fix. Good catch. At least I didn’t write Lloyd Braun and Alvaro Espinosa.

    @Tony: Definitely need breaks to win a league – especially a league that’s 1) single league vs. mixed, 2) weekly changes, and 3) expert. Hopefully the post showed a little bit on how we got lucky (e.g., Reyes stayed healthy) and how we didn’t (Kuo, Vazquez). It’s crazy to think that two fairly small moves (dropping a slumping Vazquez and picking Kuo over Madson) cost us 17 points. And that we’d still be another 17 points out of 1st place…

  5. chata says:
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    always though labr was one of those elite-type leagues .
    but you’re telling me it’s a weekly (weakly) change league ?

    yeah , i’d guess there’s a lot more luck involved .

  6. chata says:
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    edit * though = thought

  7. @chata: LABR is definitely an elite league. it’s the original ‘expert’ league and i’d say its on par with Tout Wars. the expert leagues are almost all ‘weekly change’ leagues. While I like daily changes for mixed leagues, I find weekly changes for single-league works better. The impact of a pickup can be so huge (e.g., a reliever might net 6 points) that you don’t want the standings to rest on whomever is closest to the computer when a player is added to the FA pool.

    The two wrinkles in this league that hurt Grey and I most were:
    1) Can’t bench anyone who is on the MLB teams 25-man roster. Killed us with Vazquez whom we would’ve benched.

    2) Can’t pick up a player until they are on the major league roster. So there were a bunch of minor leaguers that we picked up for cheap in our other NL league (Alex Presley comes to mind) that cost a lot more in FAAB when they were promoted to the majors in LABR.

    In the end, can’t blame the rules if everyone plays by them :)

  8. OaktownSteve says:
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    @Rudy: Nice to see you around. Guys didn’t win, but at least not an embarrassing finish.

    Wondering what you might do differently from a strategic standpoint next time around. That is not the obvious “well I would have picked this guy and not that guy.” More like a change to the general approach based to LABR based on this experience.

  9. @OaktownSteve: Hey OS – thanks. I don’t want to share all the strategies we’d use next year but we need to do better in drafting pitchers. With 13 teams, 10 pitching slots, and only $100 FAAB, it’s brutal acquiring SPs during the season. I thought we did a good job in reserves but Aneury Rodriguez and Yunieksy Maya sucked when they got opportunities. So i’d spend less on relievers and draft more SPs. I did that in AL-only this year and it worked out really well (that’s for another post…)

  10. chata says:
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    @Rudy Gamble:

    yeah .
    i understand what you’re saying … “you don’t want the standings to rest on whomever is closest to the computer when a player is added to the FA pool.”

    since you have played multiple teams/leagues for multiple years ,
    let me ask you this ==> do you ever get tired of drafting the same guys ?

    i’m going to drastically cut down on the # of teams for next year , (where
    have i heard that before ?) , not only because of the time involved , but
    also because the more teams that i have going , the more their rosters
    tend to be so similar .
    even my free agent pick-ups during the year tend to be acquired across
    the board whenever possible .

  11. OaktownSteve says:
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    @Rudy: I appreciate the discretion of not letting your future strategy out of the bag. Let’s leave it to say that what jumped out at me is the impact to risk management and resource allocation in a league where you can’t sit a guy on the bench.

    Also, if you find yourself with nothing to do in the offseason, I the offseason…last year I floated the idea of a draft or auction of last years players just as a contest/thought experiment. Maybe razzball would be interested in sponsoring or getting something together?

  12. Steve says:
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    Might I be so bold as to suggest you finished ahead of the people you most wanted to finish ahead of? ;-)

  13. @chata: It’s a double-edged sword that we’re in so many leagues yet generally draft off the same rankings (i adjust based on league format) and biases (certain guys Grey and I like/dislike). Sometimes we get guys on multiple teams and he does great, sometimes they kill us (Morneau). But there’s an extra variable at play for us – we do the expert leagues for fun but our main priority is the blog. So we feel the need to diversify so we’re not talking about the same schmohawks over and over (Morneau).

    @OaktownSteve: I’ve got a baby on the way but maybe sometime in Jan/Feb when we’re struggling for content :)

    @Steve: Why would you presume that we’d prefer to finish ahead of the big sports site representatives and not the smaller sites? (just kidding, of course we do!) I just wish we had bragging rights over Rotoworld since I’m offline friends with Glenn.

  14. OaktownSteve says:
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    @Rudy: Solid. Mrs. Oaktown Steve and I are expecting in a couple of weeks (really could be any time now). Our second. Mazel tov to ya!

  15. Ian says:
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    I dropped Vasquez around the same time as you and had the pleasure of watching him bring a title to the guy who missed half of our auction and was waiver wire scraping all year.

    His line against me in the second round of the playoffs W, CG, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP.

    Ah, fake sports, how I loathe thee sometimes.

  16. @Steve: Ha…nah, Grey and I are equally competitive in that regard.

    @OaktownSteve: Awesome. Congrats back at ya! This will be our first.

    @Ian: Frigin’ Vazquez. We drafted him in both NL-only leagues…the other league allowed us to bench him and we benefited from the 2nd half streak. Still hate him.

  17. Voidoid says:
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    There’s Cockcroft bringing up the rear.

  18. chata says:
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    @Rudy Gamble:

    hey Rudy ….
    do you have any of those wild boars running around your part of texas ?

  19. @chata: Wild boars in Austin? Haven’t run into one outside of a ragu. They are scary-looking mofos.

  20. @chata: Wow, just saw the news regarding wild hogs. I luckily dodged them and the fires. Cool video. I like alt-country but hadn’t gotten around to listen to Waylon Jennings.

    @Steve: I read the Economist article on pitch framing. Interesting stuff. Good to know Jose Molina is good at something.

  21. nmdunkel says:
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    I don’t know why Funston and Cockcroft haven’t created the FunCock superteam yet. Maybe next year.

  22. zk says:
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    Why does anyone consider Funston an “expert” at anything other than looking a lot like every small town cop I’ve ever had a run in with?

  23. chata says:
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    @Rudy Gamble:

    not aware of your hog news , but assume it’s something recent .

    have been following the issue for the past year.
    there have been tv shows dedicated to the problem , but most of them
    revolve around capturing and relocating the invaders .

    your state is the 1st one in the nation that has taken a seek and
    destroy approach .
    in fact , in texas , the most recent development is that you can now
    hunt the beasts from helicopters .
    out-of-staters must 1st pass a three month hunter’s safety course
    before texas will issue them a license to “‘copter shoot” .

    san diego county is just beginning to re-consider their decision to
    “stock” wild boars for their fish and game program .
    apparently , they failed to adequately assess the population explosion
    that had other areas of this country had experienced .

    so , you said something about wild fires flushing out some critters ?
    do tell .
    i love a good pig story .

  24. chata says:
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    @chata:

    delete* one ‘had’ .

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