Author Archive

2019 Performance Review: The Fails

Physicists agree momentum exists, but it’s unclear if it applies to fantasy writing. In any case, you find yourself standing in the midst of a series. Today, I’ll be talking about failure. Specifically, my failures. If you missed it, I already checked in on my two lonely victories and a trio of acceptable performances. I also revisited my successful DFS season earlier in October.

I will not be touching upon Tout Wars Draft and Hold (I’m semi-required to dedicate an entire article), Top Tout Beta (another league in need of a full post) or TGFBI (a pair of co-managers did at least 90 percent of the work). That leaves us with four distinct leagues to discuss.

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2019 Performance Review: The Not-Losses

Let’s continue right along with my personal performance review. Today we’ll look at my rosters which fell short of winning the champions jock strap (get it? it’s a cup!) without qualifying as entirely negative. If you missed it, I reviewed my two lonely victories yesterday. I also checked in on my successful DFS season earlier in October.

This year, three of my teams fit the “not-loss” criteria. The formats and circumstances were very different so let’s just dig right in…

Old School Head-to-Head

This is a 12-team H2H Yahoo league with my old college teammates. It’s 6×6 scoring using OPS and K/BB as the added categories. I typically spend most of my budget – upwards of 80 percent – on pitchers since it’s easy to dominate the pitching categories every week while scraping together a few points on offense. The K/BB category in particular rewards ace-heavy clubs. This year, I was not available for the draft. My surrogate mostly executed my plan and even nabbed a not-yet-trendy Matt Boyd for me which I later traded for Jose Altuve and Freddie Freeman (it’s a keeper format, Boyd was $7-to-keep, the others were expensive).

Ultimately, my pitching didn’t live up to my usual standards. Luis Severino never showed up while Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Carrasco, and Boyd simply weren’t enough ace-power to pull off my vision. The roster finished a comfortable third place during the regular season (money back). Unfortunately, losing Adalberto Mondesi and Byron Buxton ruined my path to easy stolen base dominance when the games mattered most. The offense turned out to be the strength of this club although they didn’t show up to a first-week playoff loss.

Fantasy baseball is nine-tenths effort. While that’s a completely fabricated hyperbole, I’m sure we all agree about the importance of trying. While I consistently set my daily lineups with active players, I made almost no attempt to improve my team via waivers or trade. My 33 moves and two trades represent career lows in this long-running league. Since I finished only four points behind second place, I have to imagine a more active approach would have rewarded me with a better result. Or maybe I would have made dumb cuts. I’m not immune to mistakes. In any case, the broad strokes were fine, but the devil is in the details. And I ignored them.

Lack of effort/attention is a running theme throughout my failures this year. It stems from simply managing too many leagues. In addition to the 10 teams which were solely mine, I was an active adviser for another 10+ rosters. That’s in addition to DFS. I’ll need to trim back on both numbers next year.

Staff League Déjà Vu

FanGraphs Staff is a Head-to-Head FGpts ottoneu league (not to be confused with FanGraphs Staff Two, a standard FGpts league which I won). For a second straight season, I waltzed to the best regular season record. In my opinion, winning the regular season is the same as winning the league. The playoffs are just there to give the losers a reason to stick around.

In 2018, Nick Pollack narrowly edged past me in the final. This time, I flamed out in the semi-finals versus a club co-managed by, uh, “The Embassy” and David Gagnon. Can’t say I’ve met either of them.

In any case, I strongly recommend that you don’t lose Mike Trout (and Fernando Tatis) when it matters most. Especially if your backup outfielders are David Fletcher and Josh VanMeter. That’s not the only reason I lost my playoff matchup – my pitching matchups simply weren’t staggered in an optimal way. Still, I only fell short of a second finals trip by 25 points. And at the rate Trout was launching dingers, I’m pretty comfortable saying he would have made things a LOT closer.

Admittedly, I squeezed my roster for every spare point. Effort was not the issue here. I simply failed to overcome a small taste of adversity.

Dynastic Mediocrity

When Chad Young asked me to join him in The Devil’s Rejects, a 20-team, weekly, 5×5-OBP industry dynasty league, I walked in on a half-finished roster. Basically, it was Charlie Blackmon, J.D. Martinez, a very young Nomar Mazara, and scraps. Since then, we’ve finished sixth, fifth, third, third, and fourth. The top five spots pay. Chad’s since walked away. Walter McMichael is currently serving in an advisory role.

This team deserves an article of it’s own of the merits of retooling over rebuilding. For the second time in three seasons, I opted to re-tool at the trade deadline after falling out of the race for a paid spot. And for the second time, my new acquisitions helped pave the way to a small payday. Part of my decision to sell my bulk of older stars like Jose Altuve, Blackmon, Anthony Rizzo, Martinez, Pat Corbin, James Paxton, Sean Doolittle, DJ LeMahieu, and Yuli Gurriel was driven by circumstance. There were five teams in an obvious position to push for first place. All but one had lovely long term building block talents. Meanwhile, precisely zero teams were selling the kind of talent I had available.

In this particular dynasty league, players like Gurriel and LeMahieu are generally disdained as low-value assets (never mind their excellent performance). Owners prefer the next big thing like future first round pick Robert Hassell. Pitchers can also see their asset value spontaneously implode without warning. Thus, this represented an obvious opportunity to escape aging talent while extracting the most possible. The alternative option was to ride them all into the ground. In retrospect, I probably would have finished third if I had done so.

In the end, I traded one spot back in the standings and a bunch of truly excellent players for Bryce Harper, Joey Gallo, Cavan Biggio, Giancarlo Stanton, Trey Mancini, VanMeter, Josh Rojas, Christin Stewart, Nick Solak, and Jonathan Ornelas. It’s a top heavy group and a stark bet on a return to a saner sort of baseball. The pitching side of the roster is, admittedly, a disaster.

I’ve been beating this drum for a long time. So long as you’re not overly concerned about outright winning your deep dynasty league, you can make a lot of money by just fielding a full roster every week.

2019 Performance Review: The Wins

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.

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Ottoneu Arbitration Omnibus VI

Ottoneu arbitration began on October 15 and runs through November 15. This omnibus is a one stop shop for all the strategy and tactics you need to get through the process. The following omnibus is a recreation of the one I published the last four years. We’ve mostly said everything there is to say over the course of more than 10,000 words. But first, some background.

Ottoneu is the award-eligible fantasy platform hosted by FanGraphs. Think of it as dynasty-lite. You get a 40-man roster, a $400 payroll, and way too much freedom to manage your team your way. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the platform is named after former St. Louis Browns player Otto Neu who compiled a whopping zero plate appearances over his “career.”

Over the offseason, the price of every major league player increases by $2. Minor leaguers increase by $1. Then there is an arbitration process that can be done one of two ways. Most leagues use the allocation process which ultimately adds an additional $11 to $33 per team. This omnibus is intended for both forms of arbitration, but the allocation process does open more possibilities for strategery and thus has more words dedicated to it.

As I mentioned, there are two systems of arbitration: voting and allocation. An asterisk indicates that the article is intending for voting leagues. I’ve organized the omnibus into sections: intro, intermediate, and advanced. Read the rest of this entry »

Peripheral Prospects 2019: Brad’s Review

In case you missed it, Peripheral Prospects was the fanboy spawn of Carson Cistulli’s erstwhile Fringe Five column. I worked on PP in conjunction with Alex Chamberlain (his review), although I must admit we never actually discussed our picks. Basically, we both like finding value on the fringes of the fantasy scene. To that end, we brought our own processes for discovering these often free gems.

Anyway, let’s move on to reviewing my favorite/best picks. Read Alex’s review (above) if you’re desirous of further introduction.

Week 1: Spencer Turnbull

Turnbull broke camp with the pitiful Tigers. In a different run environment, I’m convinced he would have been a useful fantasy asset. He actually held opponents to 0.85 HR/9 – which ranks seventh-best among pitchers with 100 or more innings. He also recorded a hair under a strikeout per inning with a non-lethal 4.61 ERA. Don’t mind the 1.44 WHIP or 3-17 record. I’ll have my eye on him next season.

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Brad Johnson’s 10 Bold Predictions – A Review

To me, the purpose of bold predictions is twofold – to say “bold” (i.e. crazy) things and to signal some unexpected outcomes I believe are more possible than others might credit. This season, I performed strongly on the signal portion of this challenge even if I didn’t get many right. I aim for a success rate of about 20-30 percent although it’s fair to say that some of these predictions were always likelier to come true than others.

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The Daily Grind: 2019 Wrap And My Strategy

Thanks again to everybody who participated in The Daily Grind this season – either by reading or playing in our contests. Thanks also to my partners at FantasyDraft for supplying those contests. Today we’re here to accomplish two things (besides the thanking): praise the winningest winners and discuss my personal strategy this season.

The Winners

First thing’s first. Congrats to GOFF0547 for taking home the final contest of the season. It was a deeply weird day of baseball. GOFF’s was the only roster in the contest to exceed 121 points (133.20). Keston Hiura and Tommy Edman led the way.

The overall Leaderboard winner was roc-pile with $441 and an even 100 points*. I’m in the awkward position of offering some self kudos for the most top five appearances. I only won the Invitational on two occasions. By comparison, roc-pile took home the cake a whopping 11 times. Of all the users who placed in at least 10 contests, I had the lowest ratio of dollars per win. In other words, I was very good at finishing fifth place.

*Points were assigned in descending order to the top five teams in each contest, i.e. first place gets five points, second gets four, etc.

FantasyDraft Top 5 Leaderboard
User dollars points wins
roc-pile 441 100 29
mmddyyyy 401 98.5 29
brewday 365 89.5 29
yisman 364 87 30
BradGraphs 338 85 32

The others in the Top 5 were also frequent winners of the Invitational. mmddyyyy took home eight victories. Brewday snatched the crown six times. Yisman, who joined us partway through the season, managed five victories. Djil131 deserves a shoutout for efficiency and the highest point total of the season – 225.35 points set on August 9. Of participants who placed 10 times, only top-placed roc-pile earned more money per win. Djil finished first (4), second (3), or third (5) in all but one of the times they placed. Perhaps these are the users whose strategies we should examine. Instead…

My Approach To 2019

I began playing DFS back in 2014, an age in which chasing multi-hit games from straight value-based lineups was a viable approach. I recall Anthony Rendon was a favorite of mine. One of my better days was built around a four-single game by Lonnie Chisenhall. My best day though was fueled by an early-season double-dong off the bat of Brad Miller; perhaps an early foreshadowing of things to come.

Changes in the game quickly increased the importance of home runs over virtually all other outcomes. The main DFS vendors – FanDuel and DraftKings – achieved a scale that turned a moderately talent-based lottery into pure gambling (or deep spreadsheeting). Playing for value (i.e. using underpriced players) was no longer a successful strategy. Instead, the main path to victory became about finding multi-homer performances from low-owned players. Contrarianism was the name of the game.

Our switch to FantasyDraft was in part an escape from the tyranny of the oversized and oversophisticated giants of the industry. Mostly though, FantasyDraft was simply the most eager to accommodate my desired contest parameters. That it was possible to return to value-based lineups was a happy side effect.

Through early-May, I used my standby approach which, truthfully, hasn’t been working for years. Namely, pick a lineup that should score some runs, stack it. Pick a couple pitchers. Shove in whatever hitters best fit the remaining gaps. Typically, I would focus on offenses at hitter friendly parks and pitchers at pitcher friendly parks. My performance was brutal as homertastic performances elsewhere sank my stacks. Power sapping venues no longer sapped, making pitcher choices more (or perhaps less) complicated.

Around the second week of May, I privately unveiled new tactics. No more stacks unless they came about naturally. I stopped trying to maximize projected points and started focusing on rostering the highest home run projections. I would then use common value plays rather than deep values – think Josh VanMeter instead of Lewis Brinson. In some slates, a certain pitcher would stand out as must-play. Often an Astro. Usually, I’d simply use whatever fit.

To this end, I used SaberSim to help inform my choices. In the past, I’ve resisted using the machine gods for lineup construction. I’m mostly playing DFS for fun, and I’ve always been a one or two lineups per day player. Running and tinkering with a lineup simulator isn’t any fun to me.

Even this year, my use of SaberSim was simplistic – I’d sort all hitters by projected home runs then try to roster as many of the big names as possible. If some were cheaper than others (often Franmil Reyes), I’d prioritize them. Closer to game time, I’d sort by the “value” tab (just a straight count of projected points per thousand dollars) to make sure I didn’t miss an unexpected bargain.

The result was surprisingly consistent cashings despite rarely spiking a big win. My best day was on May 31 when I scored 214.6 points. As is always the case on my best days, it was on just $1 of GPP entries. Grumble. Overall, from the start of May until mid-September, I earned close to a 100 percent ROI on roughly $10 of daily entries. In other words, I doubled my money.

Of course, no gambler’s story comes with a happy ending. In mid-September, I decided to take my house money to the big stage (aka high-priced GPPs). I don’t know if it was a small sample curse, reliance on the wrong value plays, or just something to do with the way those late-season games are played, but I fell apart just when I needed that precious consistency. But fear not folks, I walked away with a tidy $14.33 of winnings. Along the way, I found a strategy that really truly worked for the unique environment of 2019. It was the most fun I’ve had playing DFS since those halcyon days of 2014.

The Daily Grind: Finals Week Pt. 5: The Final Final

Finally, the final final.


  1. TDG Invitational
  2. Weather Reports
  3. Pitchers to Use and Abuse
  4. SaberSim Says…
  5. Spazzy

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The Daily Grind: Finals Week Pt. 4: Split-Action Thin Thursday

Eleven games are on the docket, but only five are a part of the Thin Thursday evening slate. Who can come out on top?


  1. TDG Invitational
  2. Pitchers to Use and Abuse
  3. SaberSim Says…
  4. Bad Advices

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The Daily Grind: Finals Week Pt. 3: Homeritis

Today’s final features a slew of pitchers with homeritis. You must answer who is suffering the worst case. And if you missed yesterday’s final on aces, you can make it up tonight.


  1. TDG Invitational
  2. Pitchers to Use and Abuse
  3. SaberSim Says…
  4. Welcome Back

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