Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Learning is Fundamental

To kick off the fantasy moneymaking season for 2008, I wanted to look back at last year's big keeper-league draft, to try to point out places where I could perhaps make an improvement going into this year, and just generally giving retrospective opinions on the entire deal. Also, since this was technically my worst fantasy finish since Teapot Dome, my little ass probably should hit the books, since even the goofiest bastards have 24/7 access to (usually shitty, but still existent) fantasy advice.

My original interpretation of the draft is located here, with some piss-poor analysis that I probably did while slightly hung over at work. I finished fourth in the regular season, then lost a quarterfinal game and punted the rest of the playoffs for draft position (unsuccessfully, I might add - 6th overall). It sucked.

The first five picks were my 5 "keepers" - which, clearly, became an unmitigated disaster after the unfortunate death of Jason Bay's talent (and knee cartilage), Joe Mauer thankfully donating some of his knee to try to help Mr. Bay (which was an unmitigated failure, on par with "Operation: Nail Freshman Girls" at my Bay State brownstone in 2000) and collapsing like Tacoma Narrows in the process, and BJ Ryan's elbow exploding just four short months too early.

The lesson here is pretty clear - sometimes, players will just slip, like Bay. Mauer's injury was moderately predictable, and he might have been a reach in the 4th round anyway, while for all of Ryan's superb stats and peripherals, he's still a closer, and we know the rule: never draft a closer high.

Luckily, I was able to resurrect the draft by pseudo-keeping Adam Dunn with my 6th round pick (making this the 7th consecutive season of watching Big Donkey be my most valuable terrible outfielder - he is sick in this league because it uses OBP instead of BA), so we'll count that as a keeper, which still gives me a C- overall. I must improve this year - luckily, I have four no-brainers for keepers (Wright, Howard, Fielder and Dunn), along with the potential to either keep Granderson or pick up the best player not kept by the remaining teams with my 5th-rounder (which will usually yield a 3rd-round talent, as dudes keep man-crushes instead of the best players).

The most striking problem with my draft was almost certainly my high-risk strategy for pitching, which relied on old guys with breakdown potential (Schilling, Wagner) and young guys with high-risk projections (Bush, Reyes). These guys ate me up, while the more-intelligent risks of buying low on Penny and Escobar worked masterfully and carried my team through most of the season (along with Randy Wolf's first half).

The lesson is easy: work harder to diversify, and keep a solid selection of pitching around. There's no reason to overpay for a mid-range guy (even Dan Haren counts here this year), but while there's no need to be a risk-adverse pussy, it is important to keep some reliable guys on hand and dodge an entirely youth-oriented team because of the dangers of pitching projection in general.

The "closing off the closers" strategy worked exceptionally poorly, as most teams were unwilling to trade even bottom-end starters for closers, and the point in which such trades make the most sense (at the first half of the season) for you are the times when people are most adverse to trades (because of waiver-wire enticement). It's kind of like dominating the Golden Tee machine at the bar - it's a great idea for what it's worth, but you can't parlay it into getting laid, so you have to make sure your priorities are actually aligning with your strategy. As it ended, I wound up with a great closer system (with 4 guys), including exactly one of the closers (Wagner) that I started with, and missed a LOT of potential value guys at the bottom of the draft (FUCK YOU BRANDON PHILLIPS-SLASH-FRANCHISE). I will likely avoid this strategy, even if I get as much cooperation as I did in that draft.

One other quick point: while it's easy to play for guys moving positions to try to capitalize on hard-to-fill positional eligibility, these guys often have an adjustment period. Hall killed me here, even being SS-eligible. BJ Upton appears to be the exception here, but it's worth noting going forward.

Essentially, I completely mismanaged risk in this draft, and left myself open to exactly what happened: injuries decimating my team in places where I could not handle them. I thought I had a nice balance of risk and upside, but that could not have been further from the truth in hindsight. Boo fucking hoo.

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