Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Then the wheels came off

by Lawr Michaels, on September 13, 2011 @ 09:43:22 PDT


For the most part my League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) and Tout Wars seasons are disastrously over, and my Experts Fantasy League (XFL) and FSTA seasons never really got started.

Oh, in my SIM Leagues - The MidWest Strat-O-Matic League and the Scoresheet format Murphy League - both teams are still in the thick of things, but in the straight ahead world of rotisserie baseball things have gone from bad to worse.

In LABR there is some redemption as my squad will probably at least hang with the top four teams, although I have to admit finishing fourth is never a target of mine.

But, what is worth a look out of the ashes of my roto teams is what failed.

Minnesota Twins SP Scott Baker
A half-Baker roto season

Since I really believe in drafting to balance, in all my leagues I tried to straddle the potential of extra good hitting or pitching by making sure I had some of both, and for a large part of the year it worked.

I held first place in LABR for four months, and pulled up to fourth place in Tout Wars just before the break, and though my FSTA team was struggling, as was my XFL team, it was because my hitting was derelict, not my pitching.

However, in the FSTA my top two arms belonged to a couple of real hurlers in Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, and while in the XFL Justin Masterson and Erik Bedard emerged to help my totals, getting Josh Beckett on the cheap coming off a down year had a lot to do with that team's success.

It was investments in guys like Justin Morneau and Kendrys Morales that pointed to the failure of those two squads.

But, in LABR and Tout Wars I had both Bedard, and A.J. Burnett, augmented in Tout by Alexi Ogando and Scott Baker, and in LABR by Gio Gonzalez and CC Sabathia.

And, while all these guys had terrific first halves, their post All-Star totals are all-in-all terrible, such that if you view the chart below, you will see where the breakdown occurred.

Pitcher First Half Second Half
CC Sabathia 14-3, 2.72 6-4, 3.32
A.J. Burnett 8-7, 4.15 1-4, 7.81
Erik Bedard 4-6, 3.00 1-3, 4.86
Scott Baker 7-5, 3.01 1-1, 4.29 (and injured)
Gio Gonzalez 8-6, 2.47 4-6, 5.25
Alexi Ogando 9-3, 2.92 3-5, 5.20

Scary how simply revealing those totals are, and they make it so clear why my teams did well the first half and, well, as noted, terrible the second.

The problem is pitching is such a delicate matter. For, surely I can take this into next season, but the question is always one of how many starts before you drop or bench - or better dump on some poor unsuspecting league mate - a starter who has performed well for four months?

But, I do think back to my most successful years in fantasy, and they always involved a risky trade usually one that involved swapping solid pitching for hitting. In fact in Tout Wars a couple of years back I swapped the same Sabathia for Howard Kendrick and Curtis Granderson in a move that won a title.

So, I guess if there is a lesson in all of this it is that it is hard to win a title without taking some serious risks, be it with hitters or pitchers. And, similarly, one must risk letting go of the very players that helped put you in the position to win, and that is no easy task.

For, as easy as it is to say or think, we all develop these attachments with the likes of Baker and Ogando, thinking just one more start will turn them around.

At least that is what I was thinking last Tuesday night when Mr. Gonzalez took the hill in a favorable match-up against the out-of-town Royals in Oakland.

By the fifth inning, however, after 10 hits, three walks, and six earned runs I hope that lesson was learned, if not for 2011, at least for 2012.

See more of Lawr's work, including the Hotpage (published each Monday) and Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down (each Saturday), along with the work of Todd Zola, Brian Walton, and the Mastersball team at

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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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