This week, I’ll review the performance of my core teams – in part to pluck lessons learned from the desiccated ruins of those rosters. The other purpose of this annual series is to prove my qualification as an advice giver vis-à-vis this fantasy baseball thing.
This year, I won two leagues – a simulation league using Diamond Mind Baseball set in 2008 and the an ottoneu league titled FanGraphs Staff Two. This marks my first victory in the sim league. I’m a four-time winner in Staff Two.
Simulating to Plan
Perhaps in the nether bowels of the winter, I’ll describe this league and my decision making in more detail. For now, let’s stick to the high level. The introduction, after all, makes reference to “lessons learned.” Few, if any, will be applicable from this ancient past.
This 20-team league – titled Albumball by founder and erstwhile participant Kevin Goldstein – is populated by a select group of fantasy veterans (translation: most of them are much older than me). When I took over a defunct roster in 2005 featuring CC Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano, Johnny Damon, and Troy Glaus, I immediately spied an opportunity to build for the 2008 season.
The next three seasons were spent acquiring some of the best players 2008 had to offer – Ryan Ludwick, Milton Bradley, Brian Roberts, Jayson Werth, and Ervin Santana were among the many blasts from the past to carry my roster. Player/manager Gabe Kapler was on hand to mash lefties and keep Bradley in check. Shortstop was a clumsy-but-effective hodgepodge of Nomar Garciaparra, Ramon Santiago, and Aaron Miles. My bullpen was anchored by one-hit wonder Joey Devine along with a plethora of long term studs like Jonathan Papelbon, David Robertson, and Huston Street. Brian Wilson doesn’t quite fit either category.
My team nearly blew it in the Championship Series when they lost the first three games. An unlikely four game rally capped by (if memory serves) a walkoff wild pitch opened the door to a World Series berth and ultimate victory.
Historical simulations lend themselves to targeted strikes like these. However, I find multi-year rebuilds far too tedious, so I’ve compiled a stout roster of every-year performers. They’ll never reach the heights of their 2008 ceiling, but I’ll have a lot more fun along the way with perennially good-not-great talents like Werth, James Shields, and Ricky Nolasco.
I’ve made frequent reference to FanGraphs Staff Two in my time writing for this site. It was my first non-standard industry league and has gifted unto me countless opportunities for thoughtful exposition during those frigid and baseball-less winter months. More to the point, I’ve tallied an impressive run of dominance ever since taking over Summer Anne Burton’s abandoned roster in 2013. I’ve raised the imaginary Champions Chalice in four of the last five campaigns. Cue gloating.
In 2018, I suffered ignominious defeat en route to a second place finish (that’s… sort of gloating). I blame that on 1. a correct refusal to trade $4 Juan Soto or $4 Gleyber Torres and 2. the winning team’s decision to leave the league after the season and thus burn ALL of his keeper capital. I ultimately lost by a scant margin of 161 points. Had I acquired a not-terrible catcher, I would have won.
My 2019 roster was similarly vulnerable to any rapacious rivals. When the dust cleared, I won by only 110 points. Fortunately, nobody was quite as willing this time to sell their souls for a flag. On the last day of the season, I scored 106.2 points. My main rival, Al Melchoir, was out of starts and received just 1.6 points. It was a photo finish.
Ottoneu lends itself to a stars and scrubs approach. I’ve managed, through incredible luck, to spike cheap investments on Soto, Torres, and Hiura in addition to a core of Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Michael Conforto, Justin Verlander, and Aaron Nola. Having cheap versions of Soto et al is essential to my multi-year success. Most of my roster is extremely expensive but still underpriced. They serve to shield these mega-values from getting dunked in arbitration. Everything glues together because I consistently hit on and keep one to two cheap studs per season. Incidentally, as players like Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber became too expensive to keep, I’ve traded them for prospects – namely Torres and Hiura.
And it’s not as if I completely eschewed trading future assets for present value. In fact, given the outcome, I’d hazard to say I made just the right number of trades. During the season, I added $35 Kershaw (for $4 Ramon Laureano and $1 Nick Madrigal) and $20 Madison Bumgarner (for $4 Sixto Sanchez) to help keep the points per IP at acceptable levels.
Lest I seem entirely not-humble, my other in-season trades were… less successful- a $2 Keibert Ruiz for warm body Brian Dozier and a $2 Dylan Cease/$5 Forrest Whitley double-whammy for Lorenzo Cain and Adam Eaton (what? I didn’t have enough outfielders at the time!). Dozier was Mr. Irrelevant, posting a mere 45.4 points and 2.84 pts/G for my club. Cain too was nearly useless (104.1 points, 3.59 pts/G). Eaton, on the other hand, was a uncelebrated hero. He amassed 437.1 points and 6.24 pts/G.
Today, I served a not-so-humble helping of savory victory pie. As we’ll discuss in the days to come, my 2019 fantasy campaign left much to be desired. And as noted famous people have uh… noted, failure offers the best opportunities for learning.
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