League Retrospectives: Draft & Hold Breakdown Procedure

I enjoy participating in some early season draft-and-holds because they allow me to dive deep into the player pool before FAAB drafts start. Also, the extra time between picks allows my partners and me to work out our differences before any timed drafts. This past season, my results varied from winning the league to not even being competitive. I’m going to go through my process for dissecting leagues to find any possible future improvements (full drafts at end of the article).

I’m going to focus on the procedure of breaking down a league after the carnage. I know people don’t want to read about my leagues, hell I don’t even care about them as I get ready for 2021 but I need to stop making the same mistakes. Here are the four steps I use to investigate and improve my leagues.

1. Start with the final standings

The pitcher-hitter mix can be an issue to fix. Here are the results from the four leagues (full draft results at the end of the article)

Final Standings
Good Leagues Hitting Pitching Total Rank
Fantrax 74.0 49.5 123.5 1st
NFBC 68.0 73.0 141.0 1st
Average 71.0 61.3 132.3
Bad Leagues Hitting Pitching Total Rank
Fantrax 23.5 37.5 61.0 11th
NFBC 37.0 24.0 61.0 11th
Average 30.3 30.8 61.0

I’m not surprised at all seeing the slightly higher hitting totals. It was a theme among all my leagues since I found more values from hitting as suspect pitchers got pushed up.

The truth is that I didn’t have a major split between the two. When I sucked, it was consistent.

2. Hitter-Pitcher draft balance

In previous season’s draft-and-holds, I seemed to always run out of pitching so I drafted more this past season. My general approach was to take one pitcher for each hitter drafted. While I didn’t always follow it, it worked for a couple of the leagues. And not for two others. Here the draft splits with a focus on pitching.

Pitcher Mix
Good Fantrax Good NFBC Bad Fantrax Bad NFBC
Pitchers 23 24 25 25
Pitchers in Top-25 10 9 9 9
Total Relievers 8 6 8 7
Legit Closers 2 2 2 0

In the two winning leagues, I took fewer pitchers and focused a bit more on closers. While I will consider taking fewer overall pitchers (more on that later), I should refine my approach to closers. In the leagues where I took two safe closers, I stayed away from throwing darts at Saves in the middle rounds. While some of the early picks missed (Kennedy, Osuna, Robles), I focused my later resources on known bankable quantities. While I hate paying for early Saves and did hit on Britton in one league, I think I should have two “safe” options rostered and maybe draft a couple of talented non-closers to stream. If it means drafting two closers in the first eight rounds, it’s a reasonable option based on these results.

3. Landmines

Besides the complete lack of closers in one league (already addressed), the biggest issue I had was taking on too much early risk. I should have been more focused on eliminating any risk with no available waiver wire.

The two normal major downside risks are injury and sucking. In the early draft-and-holds, I need to include not being signed to the mix (e.g. Kimbrel and Puig). I went through the first 10 rounds and found the instances where I added known downside risks (orange in draft lists). In the leagues I won, I only added one risk and they were in the 8th round or later. In the other two, it was three to four risks with the earliest being taken in the third round (Sale).

Normally I’m not the most risk-averse owner, but when building a base for my non-FAAB teams, I need safe reliable production from my early picks.

4. Late-round strategy

I drafted almost not late-round contributor, especially on the hitting front. From 28 pick and on, the only two contributing hitters were Isiah Kiner Falefa (who I drafted in both winning leagues) and Wilmer Flores. Maybe Cedric Mullins was the next best. Alex Gordon? Lewis Brinson? Of the 37 hitters taken, three picks contributed.

The pitchers weren’t a ton better, but better. At least there were usable like Turnbull, Mahle, Gant, Cobb, Webb, Smyly, Drake, and Valdez. It seems like if anything, I should use late darts on pitchers instead of hitters.

I could see the late-round strategy change depending on who is drafting. While I seem to find late pitcher values, someone might be able to value hitters better. Maybe their results are more mixed. It’s a barren landscape so try to get any value possible.

5. Combining the observations

A simple improvement is for me to take fewer early risks. Another one should be based on how I target my hitter-pitcher mix. The points collected are

  • Not over 24 pitchers.
  • At least two earlier closers.
  • No more than 6 relievers including closers and they must be talented/streamable.
  • Take as many hitters before round-30 as possible.

To meet all the criteria, here are the rules I ended up with:

  • Two high-end starters
  • Two high-end closers
  • 24 hitters before round 30
  • Two pitcher deals before round 30
  • 18 pitchers after round 30
  • A late catcher (hand-cuff) and outfielder

I might be going too far with the late pitchers. I wonder if I need more like 22 early hitters and I would end up with eight pitching anchors and then stream the other spot. I really need to nail the early pitching.

I feel I’m deviating too much but I can’t wait to give the approach a try.

Draft Results
Round Good Fantrax Good NFBC Bad Fantrax Bad NFBC
1 Mookie Betts OF Jacob deGrom P Gerrit Cole P Francisco Lindor SS
2 Shane Bieber P Bryce Harper OF Bryce Harper OF J.D. Martinez OF
3 Xander Bogaerts SS Manny Machado 3B Chris Sale P Patrick Corbin P
4 Patrick Corbin P Josh Hader P Jonathan Villar 2B Clayton Kershaw P
5 Jose Abreu 1B Luis Robert OF Kris Bryant 3B DJ LeMahieu 1B
6 Tim Anderson SS Marcell Ozuna OF Ramon Laureano OF James Paxton P
7 Roberto Osuna P Liam Hendriks P Yasmani Grandal C Yasiel Puig OF
8 Yasiel Puig OF Danny Santana 1B Kenley Jansen P Marcell Ozuna OF
9 Max Fried P Yuli Gurriel CI Yasiel Puig OF Michael Brantley OF
10 Dinelson Lamet P Robbie Ray P Carlos Carrasco P Scott Kingery 3B
11 Jean Segura SS Kenta Maeda P Edwin Encarnacion 1B Emilio Pagan P
12 J.D. Davis 3B Jean Segura MI Jean Segura SS Kevin Newman 2B
13 Hansel Robles P Bryan Reynolds OF Ian Kennedy P Christian Vazquez C
14 Christian Vazquez C Travis d’Arnaud CI Avisail Garcia OF Mike Minor P
15 AJ Pollock OF Joe Musgrove P Sandy Alcantara P David Peralta OF
16 Renato Nunez UT Starlin Castro CI Randal Grichuk OF Adrian Houser P
17 Kole Calhoun OF Dylan Bundy P Daniel Murphy UT Cesar Hernandez MI
18 Niko Goodrum 2B Niko Goodrum OF Cesar Hernandez 2B Gio Urshela CI
19 Aaron Civale P Roberto Perez C Aaron Civale P Matt Magill P
20 Matt Magill P Kwang Hyun Kim 김광현 P Kurt Suzuki C Kurt Suzuki C
21 Tucker Barnhart C Teoscar Hernandez UT Domingo German P Kevin Kiermaier UT
22 Asdrubal Cabrera MI Mauricio Dubon MI Kevin Kiermaier OF Pablo Lopez P
23 Adrian Houser P Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 P Ross Stripling P Nico Hoerner SS
24 Mike Yastrzemski OF Jesus Aguilar 1B Travis Shaw 3B Domingo German P
25 Pablo Lopez P Ryne Stanek P Matt Magill P Mike Zunino C
26 Maikel Franco 3B Jason Heyward OF Jordan Lyles P Jordan Lyles P
27 Victor Reyes OF Randy Dobnak P Jacob Stallings C Jesus Aguilar 1B
28 Matt Shoemaker P Matt Shoemaker P Kwang Hyun Kim P Nick Markakis OF
29 Freddy Peralta P Drew Smyly P Eric Sogard 2B Matt Shoemaker P
30 Yan Gomes C Spencer Turnbull P Alex Gordon OF Jordan Montgomery P
31 Alex Gordon OF Pedro Severino C JaCoby Jones OF Trevor Richards P
32 Tyler Mahle P Ian Desmond OF Jaylin Davis OF Seranthony Dominguez P
33 Drew Smyly P Alex Gordon OF Franklin Barreto 2B Logan Webb P
34 Seranthony Dominguez P Orlando Arcia SS Wilmer Flores 2B Ian Desmond OF
35 Zack Britton P Logan Webb P Drew Smyly P Tyler Anderson P
36 Jorge Mateo SS Lewis Brinson OF Wade Davis P Matt Strahm P
37 Jordan Luplow OF Jaylin Davis OF Alex Young P Bobby Dalbec 3B
38 Alex Young P Tyler Anderson P Daniel Norris P Justin Dunn P
39 Ronald Guzman 1B Alex Young P Tyler Anderson P Joe Ross P
40 Tyler Anderson P Alex Cobb P Joe Kelly P Framber Valdez P
41 Logan Allen P Seranthony Dominguez P Jordan Luplow OF Ronald Guzman 1B
42 Jose Alvarado P Matt Andriese P Logan Allen P Mike Montgomery P
43 Jake Marisnick OF Logan Allen P John Gant P Jaylin Davis OF
44 Ryan Zimmerman 1B Yolmer Sanchez 2B Martin Perez P Jake Marisnick OF
45 Mike Montgomery P Isiah Kiner-Falefa C Lewis Brinson OF Joe Kelly P
46 Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B Adam Plutko P Welington Castillo C Jason Kipnis 2B
47 Cedric Mullins OF John Gant P Oliver Drake P Kevin Plawecki C
48 Matt Andriese P Jake Rogers C Jose Castillo P Matt Andriese P
49 Matt Thaiss CI Robel Garcia 2B Jalen Beeks P Carl Edwards Jr. P
50 Sterling Sharp P Jalen Beeks P Sterling Sharp P Jalen Beeks P

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Hi, sorry this might be a daft question, but what do you mean by ‘two pitcher deals by round 30’? Cheers