Fantasy Baseball: Tumbling Dice

by Lawr Michaels, on April 5, 2011 @ 09:17:14 PDT


Prisoner's Dilemma

During this year's LABR draft, one of the interesting paths taken was that of Bloomberg's Tom Trudeau, who found himself holding tight with his dollar projections, and as a result had more of a cash surplus than he wanted during the crucial middle draft.

Undaunted, Tom did pretty well picking up the likes of Peter Bourjos, Kila Ka'aihue, and J.P. Arencibia on the young side. Unfortunately, he also bagged Corey Patterson, Grady Sizemore, and Carlos Guillen on the injured side.

Tom was pretty fearless, though, and did two things that I really love in the draft. First, Tom stuck to his guns, living - and possibly dying - by his projection sword.

Second, drafts and auctions are about adjustments, just like baseball is, and Tom adjusted, nabbing five closers in Brandon League, Joe Nathan, Chris Perez, Matt Thornton, and Fernando Rodney. And, he adjusted while still sticking to those messy projections, no easy task.

Minnesota Twins RP Joe Nathan
Nathan: projected to win

Now, stacking closers is a strange and risky business, but, it does portend some possibilities.

One is creating both scarcity and a subsequent market for saves to distribute for needs after a cushy save lead has been garnered. (The antithesis is you can create too much scarcity, and leave four or five teams duking it out for four or five points with a bunch of set-up men and 12 conversions.)

But, along with saves, closers tend to have good ratios and ERAs so one can get a solid foothold in pitching categories by hoarding closers. Closers also tend to get strikeouts.

In talking with Tom this past week, for he started shopping closers early, he said was not really trying to hoard. More like within those stubborn projections, all the relievers he got fell within an acceptable price range. And, he was loathe to let a bargain get past him.

Tom and I did talk trade, though it is early. Not to mention I am one of the few with a stopper, but his name is Andrew Bailey, and thus I am not totally comfy with what my guy will produce this year.

Rodney for Mark Buehrle, and Nathan for Erik Bedard - at least I proposed both of these - were the swaps proposed, but Tom again was looking at his projections and not safe with such a swap yet.

So, while he agreed with my assessments, he countered with " there are 14 AL team and 12 owners, so while everyone could continue to low ball me all season long, a guy who is a good bet to get 20+ saves could really tip the scales in the standings. People always say "don't pay for saves," but that does not apply (in my opinion) as much in a league where 95-100% of guys who could even theoretically get saves are already owned."

In specifically discussing Bedard for Nathan, which I noted had a nice injury symmetry/gamble aspect, Tom responded, noting those sticky projections, that "I have Nathan as over 300% more valuable than Bedard this year. It's too early for me to sell low when I believe he has a very productive season ahead of him that will be comparable to Joakim Soria and Mo Rivera who went for $22 each, I believe."

True enough, however, if 65 saves is enough to win the category, and Tom's gaggle of closers earn 97 conversions, that is at least 32 saves that could have been swapped for another commodity: in his case some hitting, or perhaps even innings (or both).

For, as Tom noted, "Another interesting angle is the 'prisoner's dilemma' type scenario developing where if everyone low balls me I am stuck with a horribly inefficient use of saves."

The thing is, none of us will know till the season has played itself out. I have to think Tom will drop most of his closers for other stats. For as I suggested, dollar values really mean nothing: It is the stats that matter and that is really what you are buying or drafting, and the stats are what need to be exploited in one of many ways.

As noted a dearth of saves in the league could play as much to my advantage even with only 20 saves out of Bailey, for if there are 14 American League stoppers, and Tom has five, and there are 12 teams, several teams will be without. And, that means whatever I get from Bailey should be enough for those four or five points I suggested earlier.

The other thing is, one cannot win without being bold, and trying things. And, it might fail, but if Tom's plan was to stick to his projections, no matter what, that is the way to go. For, though it is true one must be flexible in this game, if one has a plan, and then does not see it through, there will never be a chance to see if the theory worked. And well, winning LABR or Tout is prestigious, but both leagues are also ostensibly exhibitions of skills, conventional and not.

Truth is, I like the unconventional, and Tom is certainly going there. Naturally, I want to win LABR. I want to win all my leagues, but, if I don't, I think it would be kind of fun for an upstart rookie to tip us all on our cans with some logic as improbable as Elvis Andrus hitting a game winning tater.

So, while I am not really rooting for Tom, I sure am not rooting against him.

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About Lawr Michaels,

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for as a statistician. Fantasy Baseball

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