Changing direction in midseason: a case study

by BaseballHQ.com on June 2, 2009 @ 11:01:01 PDT

 


Editor's Note: Written by Matt Carter

Rotisserie baseball derives from many different disciplines. They include baseball, statistics, forecasting, and economic theory. These are vital on draft day. Once the season starts, however, winning rotisserie baseball is simply about recognition and timing. Recognize your prospects for winning. Time your strategy of adjustment.

While it is important to be staid and focused in the draft, it is even more important to be flexible during the season. There is no rule that says a draft strategy must be carried through the season. The competitive progression of the season will create the one combination of categorical points that will win the league. If that combination does not match the draft day strategy, sticking with it is foolish.

It is critical to consider a change of strategy mid-stream. The most important change of strategy, and the one least performed, is the fire sale. Many owners fail to see that their fate is established by July 1. It makes no sense to wreck next year on a 60-length-come-from-behind run. Look closely at the standings. If you can't win, begin fire-selling. Constructing trades takes time, and getting the contenders to complete their championship picture requires persuasion.

But for those still in the running, you must focus on adjustments that can me made to set yourself up for the second half. A case study provides a helpful illustration.

In this case study, I'll use the NL Tout Wars team I owned with Mike Vogel in 1999.

The team is USA Stats, named after our sponsor. In mid-June, we made our final decision on how to play out the season. Hopefully our experience provides a bit of guidance on how to make in-season adjustments.

We had two significant developments that season that forced us to address our strategy in mid-June. The first was a string of eight wins in eight starts. This belied our draft-day strategy to punt wins and focus our pitching money on 1) middle relievers with the potential for save opportunities, and 2) a core of three very solid starters. Our hitting dollars were spread more or less evenly among the bats, not to exceed $25 for any one of them. This kept us competitive in all four hitting categories, as well as relatively injury-proof. For lack of a better term, we called this "playing it straight".

Our surge in wins also helped our ERA and ratio. We drafted players with good batting eyes. Any draft day strategy can include excellence in the variable categories. Therefore, any mid-season adjustment must not come at the expense of ERA, ratio, and BA.

The second development of our season was this:

Team
SB
Pts
USA Stats
116
13.0
Rotisserie HOF
75
11.5
Baron's
75
11.5
FB Central
73
10.0

That sore thumb was both a blessing and a curse. The primary benefactor/perpetrator was Roger Cedeno. The combination of Cedeno, Eric Young, Carl Everett, and Luis Castillo put us so far in front in stolen bases that every day we didn't trade one or more of them brought humiliation. On the flip side, we were not as competitive in HR and RBI as we hoped. We dealt Castillo for Bret Boone, and we tried for 30 days to unload Cedeno. All we wanted was a power bat.

That brings us to the first realization in changing strategies. People over-value power. Owners are remiss to deal power bats. It makes no sense, other than 1) power is more enticing to watch on television, and 2) owners perceive power bats as helping in more categories than speedsters. The irony is that Roger Cedeno can do with his feet what Mark McGwire does with his bat. Change the game in one at bat. Cedeno is a two-category player (BA and SB), as is Mark McGwire (HR and RBI). Survey owners you know and ask them who they'd rather have. You'll learn that power is premium, and that's just wrong.

The second key of adjusting in mid-season is to consider the Sweeney Plan. In the Sweeney, an owner punts HR and RBI in attempt to corner the other six categories. That percentage of points is often sufficient to win competitive leagues. A Sweeney is an easy plan to slip into because you can exchange your balance for specific categories, and those categories often come cheaply. A Sweeney is the most natural route for USA Stats. We have a cache of power bats that we could deal off for Sweeney needs. Mike and I were in the unusual situation of not needing much. A #1 starter and a reliever who notches 15 ­ 20 saves from then on out would probably get us to 77 points. Since we already owned Cedeno, we could deal virtually any of our other players. Expendables included Ryan Klesko, Dave Nilsson, Everett, and Young. The combination of these four could hatch our Sweeney plan. The question became, was 77 points enough?

On June 22, the overall standings looked like this,

Team
Points
Wise Guy Baseball
77.0
Baseball HQ
68.5
USA Stats
66.5
Sandlot Shrink
66.5

Because we would ostensibly pass Gene McCaffrey (Wise Guy Baseball) in wins, ERA, and saves if we Sweeneyed, 77 points would be enough to win Tout Wars NL. Unfortunately, four days later the standings were...

Team
Points
Wise Guy Baseball
79.5
Baseball HQ
70.0
USA Stats
69.0
Sandlot Shrink
66.0

... and Gene still had some upside. Although a Sweeney could get us to 77 points, it could guarantee no more. By playing it straight, we'd have more of an upside, but it would be much riskier to get those 77 points.

Jeff Erickson of RotoNews accepted our trade of Cedeno for Sheffield, and we decided to play it straight. Although we didn't deviate from our draft day strategy, we did address the possibility of changing courses. Time would challenge or ratify our decision, but at least it wouldn't reveal regret.

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