Showing posts with label How to Win. Show all posts
Showing posts with label How to Win. Show all posts

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beware the Conventional Wisdom!

You might think that a guy like me who has written for a bunch of fantasy sports sites and keeps this sporadically updated blog active would recommend you read a lot of fantasy articles. You would be wrong. I read a ton of stuff but only a relatively small portion of it is actually about playing fantasy sports. Why not?

Fantasy articles as a whole (including this one) are about telling you who or what is good for your fantasy success and who or what is not. There is nothing wrong with that but as an owner you reach a level of knowledge and experience eventually where these articles (most of them) just start to confirm what you already think you know. The problem is most so-called experts (or analysts) are not spending a hell of a lot more time than the reader of a blog like this would spend researching and comparing and contrasting information to reach a conclusion. There are absolutely exceptions and those should be the relatively small percentage of fantasy articles you spend your precious time reading.

Instead you should spend a greater portion of your time studying the actual players and the skills they possess relative to other players and the context within which those skills are employed. You will want a passing familiarity with ADP and mass market values but no need to obsess or memorize them. The tougher your league the less these things will matter in your draft or auction. This is because the true experts when playing among other experts are not going to follow trends they will set new trends that their fans will then follow (even if the fans are just the other guys in your league).

Web sites such as,,,,, are mostly free sites that you can draw a tremendous amount of data from in your study of players. Most of these also have a blog or publish articles about what their writers find in the data. When you get familiar with sites like this you are way ahead of the guys reading "Sleeper Starters By ADP". Baseball, (John Sickels) and are my favorite sites for minor league info and scouting reports.

You also can win by having a greater understanding of the context in which players play than the other people in your leagues. I try to be in the heads of the major league GMs and the directors of player operations around MLB. I want to be the first one to understand what a move means not just for the player acquired or sent away but for all the players that will be impacted by that move. I know, I am a little crazy. Who has the time right? Technology is your friend.

Set-up an RSS reader for your baseball reading. I use Feedly - it has free and paid versions (the free version is great I promise). An RSS reader is great when you have limited time and lots of articles to potentially read. I use the reader to subscribe to one newspaper blog or writer that updates frequently and then a fan blog (I like to find the obsessive but high-functioning ones) and a minor league blog for each of the MLB teams. This is easier for some teams than others - the Mariners have a dozen great bloggers, the Rockies not so many. Reading this way I'm able to read through most of the stuff on my commute back and forth to work (most experts have day jobs) and at various moments throughout the day.

Which actual fantasy stuff do I read?

I glance at stuff on but I spend more time in the subscriber forums than on the articles. - these guys are putting their money on the line and you know they aren't just feeding stuff for google rankings. has Shawn Childs and Adam Ronis and I read most of their stuff. I'll read whatever Ron Shandler and Todd Zola publish just because they are really smart guys with a logic to what they write that I really appreciate. And I buy Rotoman's Fantasy Magazine every year just because.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Win: The LIMA Plan

The LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) Plan became extremely popular for a while. However, it soon became a less effective strategy for some because the most recommended LIMA pitchers were so hotly desired that they quickly became too expensive to fit within the plan. We zig when they zag, so many of us dropped the strategy. Now, with a few years separating us from the height of the strategy's popularity, it may become a viable strategy again, with a few tweaks.
  1. Go extreme LIMA - Avoid the future closer types and the popular future starter candidates such as Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman. These guys are too popular to get at a discount. You need to be way ahead of the game to effectively use the LIMA Plan now. The middle relievers you draft should cost you no more than 2-3 bucks each. Here are a few guys to look into that should be pretty cheap: Wilton Lopez, Astros; Joe Thatcher, Padres; Matt Belisle, Rockies; Takashi Saito, Brewers; and James Russell, Cubs.
  2. Screw the Closer - Unless you can get one for dirt cheap, forget about drafting a closer and spend even more on offense. You can trade for a closer later if you don't get lucky on the waiver wire. With offense you should be able to put together, you should have plenty to entice potential trade partners.
  3. Pick Up Young Starters - When you troll the waiver wire look for young starters getting call ups, especially ones being called up after brief demotions. They're usually a lot better the second time around.
You can still win with the LIMA Plan, it just takes a little imagination and stepping away from the guys that everyone else is clamoring after.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Win: The Stars and Scrubs Strategy

Stars and Scrubs is a strategy that a lot of owners use. Essentially an owner will use his available budget to acquire as many star level players as possible. It make s some sense, these arew the players that can often carry a fantasy team for long stretches. The remaining players are the scrubs, very low cost players, the idea is to embrace risk and draft a lot of high upside scubs.

It is a strategy that will often help a team place in the money but not always bring a victory. This is not a weakness of the strategy it is a weakness in the owner's use of it. Here are some tips to make it a more effective strategy.
  1. Scarce Positions - If you're willing to pay top dollar for stars, do it at the positions that will bring you the biggest advantage. This year grabbing the top shortstops is a great strategy. Typically, catcher, and third base are going to be good spots to spend your money as well. I would also grab the top outfielders if you can manage it. Outfield thins out very quickly when 12-13 teams (only leagues) or 15-20 teams (deeper mixed leagues) are grabbing five each.
  2. The Pitchers - I would avoid buying pitchers with my stud money. You should have a pitching budget and a pitching plan that is independent of your offensive plan. Spending 25-plus on pitchers even the best ones is not something I am often willing to do. I personally prefer to have a deep group of $8-15 guys with maybe a $20 "ace" to front things. I always have 2-3 one dollar relief pitchers - even in deep leagues you can manage to grab a few relievers with high strikeout ability for very cheap, you should have a long list of possibilities with you at the draft.
  3. The Scrubs - You also need to have a plan for your scrubs. You don't want to just buy the guys that go cheap. You want specific groups of scrubs. Identify players that will not cost big money that have the potential for career-high at-bat totals, young players with upside and playing time potential. Older veterans with starting roles that fantasy owners are bored with owning. And players returning from long-term disabled list stints. Platoon Players with at least one dominate ability, such as hitting for power or stealing bases. Some ideas: 2B Josh Barfield, Phillies; 3B/OF Alex Gordon, Royals; OF Julio Borbon, Rangers; C Brayan Pena, Royals; OF Jordan Schafer, Braves; 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays; OF Marcus Thames, Dodgers; 2B/OF Ryan Raburn; and SS Jed Lowrie, Red Sox.
Stars and Scrubs is a legit strategy for use in any auction league. Just remember to consider your scrubs just as important as your stars and you can have a championship level auction.

Coming This Week:

Monday Night: How to Win - Still Using the LIMA Plan?

Wednesday Morning: The 2011 All Sleeper League Teams

Friday Night: 2011 Breakout Pitchers

And all sorts of goodness in-between! Don't miss it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Looking for Wins? IP, GB%, and Strikeouts are Key

Starting pitching is often the bane of fantasy teams. Owners can't stand most of their starters and they wish their league didn't have an innings floor so they could draft all relievers (especially in K9 leagues). They usually fail to do well in the wins category anyway...

If the paragragh above describes your thinking or even comes close I've got some questions and answers for you.

How does a pitcher get a win?
  1. He pitches at least five innings.
  2. He is the pitcher of record, when his team takes the lead for the final time.
  3. The bullpen doesn't blow it.
When you put together your pitching staff are you actually looking for wins?
  1. Many of the owners I speak to are looking for pitchers on teams that score lots of runs.
  2. They avoid pitchers on teams like the Royals and Indians (teams that lose a lot) and on teams like the Rangers and Rockies (play in offensive ballparks).
  3. They usually find themselves in the middle of the pack in most pitching categories. They are avoiding risk but not grabbing skills.
Do the last two questions correlate in any way?
  1. No.
  2. Seriously, no.
So, what should you look for in a starting pitcher?
  1. First, acknowledge that wins are a weak statistical category and have only a little relation to a pitcher's skill. Now, you're saying "a little? I thought it was no relation. " Think of it like this. If you or I went out to face the Yankees' lineup, we would have to get extremely lucky to get even one win with the world's greatest defense and pitching in the world's greatest pitcher's park. As a pitcher's skill level increases the chance of getting wins increases. So, yes, there is at least a little skill involved in gaining wins.
  2. Innings. The more innings the better the chance of gaining wins. An innings horse is most likely to pitch at least five innings. An innings horse will pitch through the innings covered by the weakest park of his team's bullpen. An innings horse just might pitch a complete game and leave just the final score out of his hands.
  3. I have a league mate that HATES adding innings to his staff. He believes that with innings come bad innings, and a poor pitcher with lots of innings will just drag his team down. That's kinda true. This is why you have to make certain that the pitchers you draft or buy at auction have certain skills. The ability to strikeout batters and the ability to induce weak groundballs.
  4. Strikeouts are the key. As you may realize, strikeouts measure a pitchers ability to keep the batter from putting the ball in play. When the ball is in play, the outcome is very difficult to control. Some would say impossible, but that isn't true. Some pitchers are very good at inducing infield fly balls, which are usually as good as outs. I do my best to avoid pitchers with less than a 7.5 K9.
  5. Groundballs are a good things. Especially the weakly hit ones. Even more so when they come from a pitcher with a high strikeout rate. This means that there are even fewer well hit balls in play than from a pitcher that does just one or the other. I do my best to draft a staff with a collective groundball rate of 45 percent or better.
Here is a list of the 31 starting pitchers with at least 190 innings pitched in 2010 and at least a 7.5 K9 rate. Look for young pitchers who finished the 2010 season with 140-160 innings that fit this criterion and you're looking at future aces you may get at a slight discount. But that's another article.

Tim Lincecum Giants 16 10 33 212.1 9.79 0.31 48.90% 3.43 3.15
Jon Lester Red Sox 19 9 32 208 9.74 0.289 53.60% 3.25 3.13
Jonathan Sanchez Giants 13 9 33 193.1 9.54 0.252 41.50% 3.07 4
Francisco Liriano Twins 14 10 31 191.2 9.44 0.331 53.60% 3.62 2.66
Jered Weaver Angels 13 12 34 224.1 9.35 0.276 36.00% 3.01 3.06
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 13 10 32 204.1 9.34 0.275 40.10% 2.91 3.12
Cole Hamels Phillies 12 11 33 208.2 9.1 0.289 45.40% 3.06 3.67
Justin Verlander Tigers 18 9 33 224.1 8.79 0.286 41.00% 3.37 2.97
Colby Lewis Rangers 12 13 32 201 8.78 0.275 37.90% 3.72 3.55
Ryan Dempster Cubs 15 12 34 215.1 8.69 0.294 47.40% 3.85 3.99
Ubaldo Jimenez Rockies 19 8 33 221.2 8.69 0.271 48.80% 2.88 3.1
Max Scherzer Tigers 12 11 31 195.2 8.46 0.297 40.30% 3.5 3.71
Felix Hernandez Mariners 13 12 34 249.2 8.36 0.263 53.90% 2.27 3.04
Adam Wainwright Cardinals 20 11 33 230.1 8.32 0.275 51.60% 2.42 2.86
James Shields Rays 13 15 33 203.1 8.28 0.341 41.30% 5.18 4.24
Dan Haren - - - 12 12 35 235 8.27 0.311 40.50% 3.91 3.71
Wandy Rodriguez Astros 11 12 32 195 8.22 0.303 47.90% 3.6 3.5
Roy Oswalt - - - 13 13 32 211.2 8.21 0.253 45.70% 2.76 3.27
David Price Rays 19 6 31 208.2 8.11 0.27 43.70% 2.72 3.42
Chad Billingsley Dodgers 12 11 31 191.2 8.03 0.301 49.60% 3.57 3.07
Roy Halladay Phillies 21 10 33 250.2 7.86 0.29 51.20% 2.44 3.01
Cliff Lee - - - 12 9 28 212.1 7.84 0.287 41.90% 3.18 2.58
Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks 9 10 32 194 7.79 0.256 37.10% 3.8 4.33
Edwin Jackson - - - 10 12 32 209.1 7.78 0.313 49.40% 4.47 3.86
Ted Lilly - - - 10 12 30 193.2 7.71 0.247 29.50% 3.62 4.27
Tommy Hanson Braves 10 11 34 202.2 7.68 0.286 41.80% 3.33 3.31
Gio Gonzalez Athletics 15 9 33 200.2 7.67 0.274 49.30% 3.23 3.78
Shaun Marcum Blue Jays 13 8 31 195.1 7.6 0.279 38.40% 3.64 3.74
C.J. Wilson Rangers 15 8 33 204 7.5 0.266 49.20% 3.35 3.56

Friday, July 03, 2009

Making a Winner of the Jackson Buzz: Part One

A few weeks back I boasted that with half the season still available any team could still make a run at first place. It would require being aggressive and taking some chances but it could be done. Steve, who owns the Jackson Buzz is willing to let me guide him in this experiment. I've broken done this process into a few steps so that they make for an interesting mini-series of articles.

Step One: Evaluating the Buzz and their situation

Step Two: Evaluating the other rosters for trade possibilities

Step Three: Scanning the Waiver Wire for Free Talent

The Jackson Buzz are part of a 14 team mixed league with 5x5 scoring. This is a fairly deep league but not so deep that we can't find the occasional gem on the free-agent list. Here is what Steve had to say about his own team:

All right Jon, you're on.

I've attached Excel spreadsheets with the rosters for the whole league, and the current standings. We've got weekly lineups, unlimited FAAB and free roster moves. So I can troll the waiver wire for whatever help I need. I've got a lot of faith in the guys I have (I just recently acquired Morneau for pretty cheap) and people in the league will deal when it makes sense.

So here's my thinking. I'd like to see if I can't craft a deal for a decent 2B. I was offered Aaron Hill in a classic sell-high deal but he wanted far too much for my taste. The offer was Hill and Micah Owings for Gavin Floyd and Matt Garza. I think that an SP for a decent 2B wouldn't be a bad idea at all. I'm also thinking that it might not be a bad idea to pick up some solid middle relief and try to cheat my WHIP and ERA down with guys like Belisario, Troncoso, Darren O'Day, Okajima, etc.

My roster is the last one on the spreadsheet. If you need these in another format just let me know. I look forward to hearing what you think. And one other thought: this is my league to experiment, so I'm down with any idea, no matter how off the wall it may seem.

- Steve
Here is the Buzz roster with salaries

C Joe Mauer 13
C John Baker 2

I expected better from John Baker this season but Joe Mauer has been pretty awesome since returning from the disabled list. I think Baker will bounce back a bit in the second half. Overall this is a solid couple of catchers.

1B Justin Morneau 27
3B Garrett Atkins 13
CI Billy Butler 6

You can immediately see a problem at the corner positions. There just isn't close to the power you need from these spots, especially in a mixed league. This is an area we will work to upgrade. Justin Morneau is great but he may help us more if he can be moved for two more boring but productive corners. Garrett Atkins has been better lately but he could also be traded and wind up on a contender's bench.

2B Ian Stewart 5
SS Christian Guzman 1
MI Willie Bloomquist 0

You have to love Ian Stewart at $5, he looks like he just might be an above-average third baseman. Christian Guzman is a very solid shortstop who hits for average and steals a few bases.

OF Fernando Martinez 0
OF Juan Rivera 1
OF B.J. Upton 29
OF Justin Upton 5
OF Shane Victorino 17

This outfield will be better in the second half than it was in the first. B.J. Upton should provide the Buzz with a large upgrade in production. Juan Rivera has been solid and is gaining the respect of the Angels coaching staff. Fernando Martinez is a weakness right now.

U1 Nate Schierholtz 0
U2 Jim Thome 3

Nate Schierholtz is moving up the rankings quickly and should be huge for us in the second half of the season. Jim Thome also seems to be heating up a bit.

SP1 Gavin Floyd 2
SP2 Matt Garza 5
SP3 Zack Greinke 9
SP4 Gil Meche 7
SP5 Rick Porcello 2
SP6 Kevin Slowey

This is a fairly good pitching staff made even stronger by Zack Greinke's hot start. Rick Porcello has been pretty good but may be even better trade bait as a hot youngster. Kevin Slowey came to the Buzz with Matt Capps in a recent trade of Dustin Pedroia.

RP1 Brad Lidge 20
RP2 LaTroy Hawkins 0
RP3 Brian Wilson 13
RP4 Dan Meyer 0

There is plenty of potential for saves here and we'll probably trade some of it for our other needs.

The Buzz Bench

1B Ryan Garko 1
OF David Dejesus 1
OF/1B Daniel Murphy 1
OF Ryan Spilborghs 1
OF Marcus Thames 1
OF Carlos Gomez 5

SP David Price 3
SP Jordan Zimmerman 1
RP Matt Capps

The Buzz Injured List

Akinori Iwamura
Connor Jackson 9
The next step is to look at the standings and identify categories where we can make progress relatively quickly. Overall the Buzz is 48points out of first place. Not ideal but with half the season left and Steve willing to take chances we can make a strong effort. It should be more fun than sucking anyway.

Batting Average is a difficult category to predict. But the Buzz is batting .275 in seventh place, just .008 out of first place. With a little luck we can gain points in this category without making radical changes.

Home Runs is the worst category for the Buzz. Steve is in last place in the category with 61 homers between the Buzz and first place. But two points are just four homers away and we'll be sure to get those points at least. Sixth place in the category is just 23 homers away and we'll make that a long term goal.

Runs is a decent category for the Buzz. Steve's team is fifth in runs and just 46 runs out of first place. The next three teams in the standings are just 20 or so runs ahead. We'll make this category a priority.

RBI is another weak category. Our team is in ninth place and 130 RBI out of first place. This will be tough. But there are a couple of teams just 30 or so RBI ahead so we'll just target those points for now.

Stolen Bases is another strong category for the Buzz. The team is in sixth place but just six stolen bases out of first and just 13 stolen bases out of first in the category. This will be another priority for the Buzz.

Offensively the Buzz is a .300 hitting, 61 homers, 46 Run, 130 RBI, 13 stolen base player out of first in every category. If we are to hit our more modest goals we need to hit around .290 and gain 23 homers, 46 runs, 40 RBI, and 13 stolen bases which is definitely doable. That alone would gain us about 23 points.

ERA is okay for the Buzz. The squad is in fifth with a 3.99 ERA, just 0.45 out of first. This is a difficult category to gain in without gaining a ton of quality innings. But we'll do our best.

is not a good category for us. The Buzz is in ninth place, 100 K's out of first place. This isn't undo-able but it would require gaining a lot of innings which might work against us a bit. We can hit sixth in the category by gaining 45 strikeouts so we'll try to do that.

Saves the Buzz is okay with. Steve's team is in third with 45 saves, seven out of second and 16 out of first place. We probably won't try to gain in this category, in fact we might make it worse by trading a closer.

Wins is a tightly packed category in this league. From worst to first in the category the teams have 38, 39, 39, 40 (the Buzz), 40, 40, 44, 46, 48, 49, 50, and 54 wins. We can probably make some gains in this category without too much effort.

WHIP is pretty tightly packed as well. The best team has a 1.24 WHIP, the Buzz in tenth have a 1.39 WHIP but are just 0.09 from third place. This can be done with a little luck.

Pitching is not as serious a problem as the offense. If we could make all of our net gains in just one player he would need to pitch well over 100 innings over the balance of the season with 10-12 wins, an ERA around 3.00 or better, a WHIP of 1.15 and at least a strikeout per inning. If it happened we would gain close to 30 points which would put us way over our goal.

In Part Two we will look at the other rosters and see if we can find trades to make that will move us towards our goals.