The fantasy baseball season has closed, but the game of Ottoneu continues long into the off-season (one of the hallmarks of its year-round appeal). Following Justin’s take on what happened with some of the best teams in Ottoneu this year, I’ll focus today on how one team mastered this game, presenting you with an interview from the of the 2016 Ottoneu Champions League winner, Brent Daily.
Brent: “My uncle got me into my first league in 1987 (I was 11). It was a four-team NL-only rotisserie league. Four times over the course of the year I bought the Tuesday and Wednesday USA Today so I could update the standings. I remember calculating WHIP (we still called it walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) and thinking we were so incredibly advanced. If I remember right, there were no trades or waiver claims because of how difficult it was to communicate with one another. Times have changed.”
TB: How long have you been playing Ottoneu? How did you get started?
Brent: “I’ve been playing Ottoneu for five years, and currently play in three different leagues (195, 303, 530). Two guys I worked with – who we called “The Podcast” because of their daily, incessant baseball/analytics chatter had found the league part way through 2011. We all agreed that the ESPN riff raff league we were in together was no fun at all so we wanted to raise the level of complexity and do more prospect hunting. Having access to prospects and leveraging budgets also makes the game more realistic (as in putting you in the seat of a MLB GM).”
TB: This was actually your first season in the Ottoneu Champions League, and yet you pretty much ran away with the title this year. What was your auction strategy entering the 2016 season?
Brent: “Looking at my auction now, I didn’t do well. Yikes. But I did have a strategy. I felt really good about the foundation of my team and I was looking for old but historically good guys ($14 Dustin Pedroia, $6 Jayson Werth, $7 Carlos Beltran) and lottery tickets ($6 Jose Reyes, $1 Travis Shaw, $2 Steven Souza, $1 Michael Taylor). The old guy approach worked out well this year, but that’s mainly due to luck, health, and platooning. Most owners, especially in the Champions League, have a real aversion to old guys. I like sinking money into them because you typically know what you’re going to get, even if they don’t play everyday.”
“Prior to the auction I unloaded all of my 5MiLB guys to get rosterable pieces. My feeling was that everyone was leaning almost exclusively on the surplus value calculator which meant that there would be a lot of money to spend at the auction. I wanted to lock guys in who were fairly priced, even if there wasn’t much ‘surplus’ value because I feared the inflation was going to be out of control. For example, I traded for a $19 Dellin Betances (who may have had a few surplus dollars) prior to the auction where Brad Boxberger wound up going for $17.”
TB: Talk about navigating the Ottoneu Champions League during the season. What was your biggest challenge? What strategies worked best for you?
Brent: “Best Strategy – If you love your prospects, set them free. I wanted to win so I traded as many prospects as I could. The buzz around Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell prior to the Super Two deadline was ridiculous. So much so that I bought into it and wouldn’t let go without a King’s ransom in return. I’d convinced myself that they were going to be back-end beasts with upside for me down the stretch (I was short on IP), but the longer I held the more others wanted them. I wound up trading Glasnow and Snell for approximately 800 scored points in 2016.”
“Biggest Challenge – Trading was more challenging in the Champions League. Everyone knows that the other players know what they’re doing so there is a natural risk aversion because nobody wants to be seen as the easy mark. Trey was the only one with an obvious ‘next year’ strategy while everyone else was trying to play for this year and the future simultaneously. Some leagues have one or two guys who are real-life friends which makes it much easier for the two of them to get deals done. If one of those guys is playing for next year then the win-now friend has a major advantage compared to the rest of the league. In Champs, there may be real-life friends, but everyone is communicative on Slack and not willing to take a haircut on a deal because they know someone. It makes it much more competitive and a hell of a lot more fun. In Champs everyone has a plan. You may not agree with it, but they are good at executing on the plan.”
Brent: “Focus on filling your games played. The easiest way to find an extra 300-500 points is just to play all of your games. That’s like getting Mike Trout’s points above replacement for free. Filling all the games is really difficult. Don’t leave a position open until at least mid-August because you never know when someone will sit or get hurt.”
“Guys who play multiple positions are critical. As mentioned above, it’s really difficult to fill all of your allotted games. Brock Holt was terrible this year (he only averaged 4.10 Points Per Game for me as a starter in 35 games) but those are 35 games I would have had trouble filling otherwise. If I hadn’t filled half of those games I’d have lost 68 points. Well worth the $3 or so you’ll spend on him.”
“You also never know what’s going to happen in a dynasty league so try to win this year. Prospects are really valuable as trade chips or lottery tickets and you need one or two to hit to win. But you’ll be better off this year grabbing that ninth outfielder or eighth starting pitcher than you will the 75th rated prospect.”
“Don’t give up too early. In league 195 I was in dead last during the second week of June. I only made four trades from June 11th onward (basically held firm with the team I had) and wound up winning by 750 points. It’s far more fun and gratifying to work your way up the ladder than to throw in the towel, especially in June.”
“The Ottoneu community has built out a ton of calculators that are invaluable. Use them, but don’t treat them like gospel. Let them get you 80% of the way there and use your own model (mental or otherwise) to adjust the final 20%.”
“Take risks. Aim for more volatile guys. If your team isn’t great then you want volatility rather than stability. These guys will usually be less expensive so you can acquire a few more of them which gives you another lottery ticket. If a couple hit you’ve just jumped a few places in the standings. Pitching is riskier so it’s an obvious place to invest. However, it’s a bit different with prospects. It’s counter-intuitive to rebuilding but I view $1 of surplus value today as more valuable than a chance of $10-20 of surplus in two or three years.”
TB: Which player would you name as your 2016 Ottoneu “MVP” (the player that helped you the most in winning your leagues)?
Brent: “A $19 Jason Kipnis, who averaged 6.50 P/G in 102 games started for me, which was probably a ~225 point improvement over my alternative, Brandon Phillips. A $1 Aaron Sanchez was probably my “Cy Young” for the year.”
TB: Name one player you will definitely target, and definitely avoid in 2017.
Brent: “Target – Alex Cobb. I’m a sucker for the post-injury guys who didn’t look like themselves. He’s historically been a 4.9 P/IP guy and he was so bad in 2016 that he should come at a massive discount. If he still can’t find his changeup you’re out $5 of cap penalty. If he does, you’re banking some solid innings on the cheap.”
“Avoid – Giancarlo Stanton. Forget the math on the P/G of Stanton plus his replacement for the 30 games he misses; I personally don’t like having 1/8th of my net Ottoneu roster salary worth tied up in a Faberge egg.”
TB: Who will win the World Series?
Brent: “The Cubs are my favorite team, so I’ll say the Dodgers.”
Feel free to ask Brent your own questions in the comments.
Trey is a 20 year fantasy veteran and a five time Ottoneu champion, including the 2015 winner of the Ottoneu Champions League. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,000 fantasy baseball and football fans. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com