So much of life comes down to perspective. There are super successful people that are filled with bitterness and anger while others scrape by and are happy. I constantly have to remind myself how lucky I am – great wife & kids, healthy, have money in bank, love where I live – to avoid getting sucked into the craphole of the daily grind.
It is easy for people that do not play fantasy sports to dismiss our joy or anger at our fantasy baseball teams by saying ‘it is just a game.’ You can reduce just about everything people get passionate about with ‘it is just _____’. But that isn’t productive. Reveling in your successes and dismissing your failures only means you ensure less success because you do not fully learn from your failures. And it takes a healthy perspective to isolate the ‘fault’ from the ‘bad luck’ in one’s failures.
I write all this because my first year in Tout Wars was an excrutiating test to keep perspective. Let’s see how good a job I can do….
I finished in 2nd place with 106 points, 2 points behind Adam Ronis of DraftValue/RotoExperts/SiriusXM. In third, Grey finished 2 points behind me, and Perry Van Hook of Mastersball finished 4th with 98 points (but was in contention for 2nd/3rd place on the last day).
A lot of the categories were tightly contested – both to my benefit and detriment – but the key one was Saves. The 4th through 11th place teams in Saves landed between 70 and 77 and I ended up tied for 10th with 72. Two more Saves and I tie. Three more Saves and I win the league.
Taking all the below into consideration, I had enough go right for me that I could have won this league if I made better decisions. With a little more good luck (or a little less bad luck), I win as well but that would have been true for the other contending teams. I think the below analysis was quite helpful in uncovering a few areas I can improve on for next year as well as uncovering a few WTF things that spare me some second guessing.
- The Draft (Here is my post-draft writeup. Here is the draft board.) – In a weekly league with $100 FAAB, it is critical to have a great draft if you want to compete. I have been investing a lot of time/thought into my 15-team mixed draft strategies the past 2 years and it is rewarding to see it pay off. The three keys to my draft were:
- First 2 picks were Edwin Encarnacion (#12) and Josh Donaldson (#19). Hard to take too much (if any) credit here. EE was definitely the consensus choice at #12 though I would have taken Votto there if Paul Sporer took EE instead of Votto at #11 (note: this is 5×5 OBP but, despite that, most people thought Votto that early was bonkers). I had Scherzer as a better value over Donaldson at pick #19 but wanted a hitter. This would have been a much tougher choice if the guys at the turn chose Donaldson and Scherzer over Cano and Felix Hernandez.
- Shin Soo-Choo in the 6th round and Kris Bryant in the 9th round. Both these picks were driven by this being an OBP league vs AVG. I chose Choo over Soler and there were only two other OFs taken in the next 90 picks after Choo that delivered similar/better value (Betts and JD Martinez). I saw Kris Bryant as tremendous value at this spot and paired him with a SAGNOF (Billy Hamilton #5) just as I had on my NFBC team (Revere). (You can also throw in stashing Lindor in round #26 though I got lucky there – and also could have had Correa)
- SP Depth – Kluber, Shields, and Kennedy were an unspectactular top 3 (aside from K’s) and I got 3 starts out of my 4th SP (McCarthy). But Hammel (17th), Burnett (20th), Nelson (21st), Chen (22nd), and Anderson (28th) provided a lot of quality innings given their draft slots.
- Cheap Free Agents – I went volume over a few big acquisitions in FAAB. Key 1st half pickups were: Steve Tolleson ($1), Justin Turner ($1), Gerardo Parra ($1). Key stretch run pickups were: Jayson Werth ($1), JA Happ ($1). All of these guys delivered way more than I expected (see here for my team stats) – call it 2 parts luck, 1 part skill.
- Opponent Injuries – Adam Ronis drafted Stanton, Ellsbury, Harper, Pollock, and Gerrit Cole. This league is a rout if Stanton and Ellsbury don’t get hurt. Grey drafted Strasburg, Arrieta, Salazar, Carlos Martinez. While he ended up leaving only 6 points on the board in W/ERA/WHIP/K, his offense was unhinged by the Soler/Souza/K Davis injuries (Souza in 8th round – ha!). Perry had Goldschmidt (a STELLAR choice at #3), Betts, and Carpenter but lost significant time w/ Springer & Freeman (though, to be a tad critical, he could have had Bryce Harper instead of these guys).
- Hitter Injuries – The Corey Dickerson plantar fascitis drama and Matt Holliday’s quad issues were tough blows that were mostly mitigated by my FAAB good fortune. I have no doubt that a healthy Dickerson would have delivered solid value for his late 3rd round draft slot and won me a couple extra points in HR and possibly OBP (his replacement was, effectively, Paulsen). Holliday performed quite poor in counting stats for the 62 games I had him active (23/4/31/2) but his .409 OBP was stellar. The Nick Hundley injury in September – preceding a long homestand – cost me a point in RBIs for sure as Dustin Garneau quickly got overtaken by Tom Murphy. (Billy Hamilton’s injuries were almost a non-factor as I got my 50 SBs from him and probably would have benched him a few weeks for better bats).
- Starting Brett Anderson the week of September 20th – While the next two bullet points will add some color behind this IDIOTIC decision, I started Anderson in a 2 start week pitching home against ARI and at Colorado. My logic was that the first start had a good chance at a win (facing Chacin) and that the Rockies were somewhat neutralized by LHP. Holy crapsticks was this a bad choice. Clearly this had a huge downside but I clearly underestimated my ERA/WHIP vulnerability in the standings. His stats for the week (8.7 IP, 11 ER, 20 Hits(?!), 2 BB, 3 HR, .435 BABIP, 11.37 ERA, 2.52 WHIP) cost me 2 ERA and 2 WHIP standing points. Starting an injured pitcher would’ve won me the pennant. Even worse, JA Happ (on my bench) got a Win with 8 Ks that week (@COL start) and Rich Hill had a monster stream off FA for Ronis.
- September SP Bad Luck – As you can imagine with a team headed by Kluber/Shields/Kennedy, it was going to be a dogfight in all the non-K pitching categories. My staff was overperforming through August (11.5 in Wins / 14.0 ERA / 13.0 WHIP / 15.0 K) but it is still kind of shocking that I lost 15 points in these categories in the final month. How? Kluber had a nightmarish September with a hamstring injury while everyone else’s aces (Ronis’s Cole, Grey’s Arrieta) were lights out. I have no idea what the hell was wrong with Shields and his only solid week was one on my bench when he had a disgusting @ARI/@COL 2-start week (which likely tilted me to starting Anderson the next week w/ ARI/@COL). There was a ridiculous stretch of 10 games where I had 5 of my pitchers at Coors (Happ, Burnett, Shields, Kennedy, Anderson) while my competitors’ pitchers on those teams missed it (Ronis’ Cole, Van Hook’s Ross).
- HR/9 – One plus with OnRoto.com is that you can see your active vs bench performance. I took that data to create the side-by-side stats (calculating the K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and backing into BABIP) as a way to look at Start vs Sit pitching decisions. Note: A=Active, B=Bench
Team ERA WHIP K9 BB9 HR9 BABIP A B A B A B A B A B A B Me 3.655 3.613 1.2379 1.2117 8.5 7.5 2.4 2.8 1.16 0.99 0.3o4 0.277 Ronis 3.624 4.930 1.1954 1.4582 7.9 7.2 2.4 3.0 0.94 1.21 0.302 0.322 Grey 3.427 3.646 1.2006 1.2883 8.9 7.4 2.9 3.0 0.82 1.04 0.291 0.288
- Takeaway #1: I had the worst starter ERA/WHIP and best bench ERA/WHIP of the group. I noticed this during the year and alternated between blaming myself and the baseball gods. But after looking at the component stats, my bench starters were just luckier (.277 BABIP vs .304, worse K/BB). No doubt I wasn’t perfect – see above Brett Anderson comment – but the fundamentals point to me making mostly optimal decisions. I think Ronis and Grey made comparable decisions with start/sit with Ronis’s bench having severe bad luck in HR/BABIP.
- Takeaway #2: I had the 2nd best K/9 and tied for best BB/9 of this group. That is good.
- Takeaway #3: I had the worst BABIP. While there may be a little bit of bad luck in there, my SP’s team defenses were projected to be bad and were bad – especially the Padres (29th in MLB). I do wonder if Steamer’s projections for Shields fully took into account how massively his defense was downgrading vs his Royals’ and Rays’ defenses. Ronis’s slightly better BABIP was the difference in our WHIP. Grey likely had a little BABIP luck mixed in with the fact that his K/9 and HR/9 point to a more dominant staff than mine or Ronis’s which could have elicited weaker contact.
- Takeaway #4: WTF with my HR/9! Easy answer – no one gave the memo to James Shields and Ian Kennedy that the ball was carrying this year in Petco (8th highest HR factor for 2015). The average home HR/9 for qualified starters was 0.98. Kennedy had a 2.00 HR/9 at Petco in 2015 (after a 0.89 in 2014) and Shields had a 1.74 HR/9. Here are the top 10 highest home HR/9 amongst the 143 pitchers with 50+ home IP: K. Kendrick, Lohse, Kennedy, Guthrie, Tanaka, Shields). Shields and Kennedy managed a worse home HR/9 than 4 Rockie SPs (and 138 other SPs). Given historical performance at Petco, I’ve got to chalk these HR/9 results as bad luck that, unfortunately, cost me at least 2 points in ERA.
- Opponent SP In-Season Moves – This is a shout-out to Adam Ronis for his in-season SP moves. While the above analysis showed that his start/sit moves were comparable to Grey/myself, here are the SP’s drafted by myself, Ronis, and Grey. For Ronis to finish 6th in ERA and 2nd in WHIP is pretty amazing given he drafted 3 useful SP (and no useful RP given Cishek/Mejia/Parnell). Key in-season pickups were Bartolo Colon, Kyle Hendricks, and Patrick Corbin.
- Me: Kluber/Shields/Kennedy/McCarthy/Hammel/Burnett/Nelson/Chen/B. Anderson
- Ronis: Cole/Wacha/Latos/Bailey/Odorizzi/House/Duffy/Heaney/Minor/Elias
- Grey: Strasburg/Arrieta/Salazar/Cingrani/Carlos Martinez/Eovaldi/Petit/Peavy/D Norris
- Bad RP Luck (especially in September) – While Glen Perkins had a wonderful April-August and Steve Tolleson delivered insane value for a $1 May pickup (5 Wins, 35 Saves, 55 IP, 52 Ks, 2.782 ERA, 1.145 WHIP), it is infuriating to finish 10th in Saves when…1) I draft a very competent closer in Benoit who loses his job because the Padres GM only gets paid on trade commissions, 2) I draft Jake McGee – who was AMAZEBALLS in 2014 – and he does not get the job back, 3) I delve into free agency twice in August/early Sept for insurance only to get almost nothing from Drew Pomeranz and Alex Wilson – the top two choices for those weeks – when they were quickly usurped by Doolittle and Rondon’t Give A Shit), 4) I chose Pomeranz over Jepsen in FAAB because Perkins appeared healthy only for him to succumb to back spasms a few days later, and 5) I load up the final week with Robbie Ross Jr and Feliz only to get a combined 1 save (Feliz, who also blew a save).
- Bad RP Persistence – This is a corollary to the above where I failed to bid on other potential closers in other 2nd half weeks. Skimming through the FAAB, I see Vizcaino went for $1 on 7/17 and Rondon went for $2 on 8/3. But the most painful one was Wilhelmsen going to Ronis for $1 (on a $9 bid) on 8/24.
- Bad RP April/May FAAB – Benoit was out of the closer role from the get-go so, w/ McGee on the DL, I should’ve been aggressive from day 1. I got Tolleson on 5/18 so here are the closer acquisitions prior to that date: Grilli ($17), Axford ($7), Miguel Castro ($22), Ziegler ($1), Caminero ($1), Hatcher ($3), Mujica ($1), Jim Johnson ($2), Yimi Garcia ($1), Familia ($23), Ramos ($2). Five worthwhile closers were selected (Grilli, Axford, Ziegler, Familia, Ramos – note that Castro lost job only to reclaim it weeks later). See below for the blow-by-blow, but my final takeaway is that I made only one mistake in not going to $4 for AJ Ramos. And, if I won that one, I probably would not have bid on Tolleson (or Ronis might have outbid me). So it ends up being a double takeaway: 1) Be more aggressive bidding on prospective closers if you like their stuff and need a closer and 2) Make bids on prospective closer even if you have 2 on your roster just in case you can nab one on the cheap unless there are no Save standing points to gain (losing a couple GS along the way doesn’t matter much).
- On 4/6, I bid $11 on Grilli but several bid higher ($27, $16, $13…$27 taken down to $17 based on the FAAB rules being $1+2nd bid). Given Grilli’s risk (he didn’t pitch in 2H), I could see going a little higher than my $11 but not the $28 it would have required.
- On 4/13, I did not bid on Familia while several teams bid hard with the highest being Ronis at $23 (who had drafted Mejia and Parnell). That ended up being a steal. I did not bid anything. Not sure why. Bidding $24+ feels like a hindsight 20/20 move. I could see doing that only if I thought a guy had top 10-closer stuff (think Jansen before he became closer) and I do not think anyone put Familia in that category.
- On 4/20, Ziegler is grabbed for $2. There was certainly smoke with Addison Reed but Ziegler did not gain the job until mid-May. The rules require you to start all pickups the first week and an 8th inning guy makes for a substandard week unless your SPs are in bad matchups. I had plenty of solid SP matchups and Benoit – not kicking myself on this one.
- On 4/27, Axford goes for $7 with a $9 bid beating $6. Given the price, this proved to be a solid get though I am not kicking myself for not bidding $10+ on a prospective Rockies closer who proved shaky in previous years (note: he did end the year with a 1.58 WHIP).
- On 5/4, Ramos goes for $2 to Ronis (who had Cishek) on a $3 bid. I had bid $1. Ramos was not the closer yet but it seemed imminent with Cishek being a mess. Wow did this have a major impact! This one stings the most as I could have had him the week before for a $1. Is it worth going to $4-$5 for a prospective closer? Tough call but I’d say yes if the guy has stuff like Ramos. I screwed up twice here – not bidding $1 the week before and not bidding $4+ the next week. Smart handcuff by Ronis.
Note: On the surface, it would seem like Kluber’s 9 Wins was a bad luck factor (for instance, Salazar and Carrasco had 14 Wins each despite similar ERAs and 40 less IP). Given I finished 7th in ERA and 8th in WHIP, my 7th place finish in Wins seems earned. I think I had higher IP than most teams so my Win/Quality Start total is probably a little lower than most. But this had a minor impact as I was 5 Wins away from a standings point and would’ve needed 8 more Wins to win the league.