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October 19, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Interview with Tout Wars AL Champ Larry Schechter

by Jason Collette

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Our last Tout Wars interview is with AL Champion Larry Schechter, who represents The Sandlot Shrink (.com). Schechter led the league nearly the entire season in just his first season in Tout Wars AL. High-skill leagues are nothing new to Schechter as he also participates in NFBC leagues during the season. We sat down at the keyboard with Larry to pick his brains on his success this season.

BP: Not only did you win the hypothetical standings running away, you won the league running away as well. How confident were you in your team after the draft in March that the season would play out this well?
LS: Since I’m buying my team based on my own player values, I always think I have the best team after a draft or auction. And frankly, I think everyone should think their team is the best, since everyone is buying based on their own opinion of values.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out well, but leaving the auction I feel good about my team. After this year’s Tout auction, I felt a little better than normal because, according to a competitor—I think it was Todd Zola—his projected standings had me in the lead as well.

BP: I remember thinking at the draft that your team may have one of the worst team batting averages by the end of the season, and you ended up finishing 9th in average while finishing in the top three in each of the other four offensive categories. Was this a matter of seeing bargains where others were being risk-adverse or was this by design?
LS: It was not by design. I did bid on some high average hitters, but when the price got to my limit, and someone else bid even higher, I kept missing out. After a while, I could see my batting average was a problem, and I even went an extra $1 or $2 on a few high average guys and still didn’t get them.

BP: Do you believe in having a hard framework for that part of your draft plan at the auction table or should owners be willing to be flexible as the dynamics of an auction play out?
LS: Flexibility is best. Be ready to take advantage of a good buy when it appears.

BP: Your $1 purchase of Doug Fister may have been one of the best draft day buys given how huge he was down the stretch for the Tigers and fantasy owners. What was the process behind spending $1 on a pitcher coming off a season with a sub 5.0 K/9 and a 4+ ERA?
LS: Based on his track record, and at age 27, I thought he’d do roughly the same in 2011 as he had done in 2010. He spent some time on the DL in 2010, so I bumped up his IP from 170 to 190 in my projections and his wins from 6 to 8. I also projected a 4.10 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 105 K’s. Based on my formula, that’s worth $7. Therefore, getting him for $1 was a good deal.

He actually pitched very well in Seattle, except for not getting wins. When he was traded to Detroit, I expected more wins, but I feared the ERA and WHIP would rise out of Safeco. I’m glad I never traded him, because I had excess starting pitching and would have considered moving him, among a few others.

Jeff Francoeur for $6 and Ellsbury for $29 were my two other really good buys.

BP: You finished 3rd in saves despite leaving the draft with just Chris Perez and David Aardsma. Do you typically chase saves within the season as you did in 2011 or do you prefer leaving an AL draft with 2 closers?
LS: Typically I like to buy one fairly reliable closer, which I did with Chris Perez. When Aardsma was available for $5, I thought that was a good deal and took a shot, expecting he’d be back by May 1-15.

As the season unfolded, my hitting (except average) was exceptional, and I had a glut of starting pitchers. So I was looking to trade excess. I would have been happy to get a high average hitter and a really good starter, but those were unavailable, so I took what I could get, which was closers.

When I traded for Neftali Feliz on August 21st, giving me four closers—Perez, Feliz, Nathan and Francisco. I had six points in the saves category and thought with four closers I could chase down and pass four teams ahead of me in the final 5½ weeks. It took until the final week, but I did it; I got to 10 points in saves. Those last few days, even though it had become obvious I was going to win the league, I was still rooting for those saves; I wanted to get to 10 points just because that was my goal when I made the last trades. It was like having a game within a game for 5½ weeks; I kept tracking my saves versus the guys ahead of me. Mariano Rivera (owned by Mike Siano) was really annoying me. There were many weeks where it seemed like Rivera personally had as many saves as my four guys, and I couldn’t catch Siano…but finally I did.

By the way, my $5 on Aardsma was a total waste, which just shows you can win without everything going well. My $7 for Dallas Braden was also a bust.

BP: There are varying schools of thought surrounding dollar days. Are you a believer in never letting others control your draft action by avoiding dollar days as long as possible or do you have enough confidence in your end game skills to run the risk of ending up with 5 $1 players on your team?
LS: There are usually some decent players available for $1, so I don’t try to avoid it….except possibly for catchers. You can get stuck with a catcher who has a negative value for $1. But if you overpay too much to get a catcher who has a positive value, you’re no better off than getting the $1 catcher.

BP: What is your strategy when it comes to the reserve rounds in drafts?
LS: Usually a few players slip through to the reserve round that I think actually are worth $1 (or more), so I try to grab them. If I have a spot in my starting lineup that’s very weak or has an injury prone player, I’ll try to get a back-up if there’s a halfway decent player available.

BP: FAAB: Spend it early or hold it until the trade deadline?
LS: Totally depends. If I have a need or someone really good comes along as a free agent, I’ll spend it. This year, I didn’t need to spend much the first few months, so then I did try to hold off spending because I could see I had a good shot to have the most (or at least second most) money left at the trade deadline.

BP: What was your best FAAB move of the season?
LS: This is pretty pathetic, but I’d have to say the best was getting Darnell McDonald the first week of April. Due to one injury after another, he stayed in my lineup most of the year. In 143 at-bats for my team, he hit .252 23-6-22-2. That’s only a $1 player. So, as I said, pretty pathetic.

My purchase of Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline should have been my big move of the year, but in 11 games he had four wins, 62 Ks, a 5.10 ERA, and a 1.45 WHIP. Actually, pro-rated for a full season, thanks to the wins and Ks, that would be a $9 value (according to my value formula)...but I can’t bring myself to think that getting a guy with a 5.10 ERA and 1.45 WHIP was my best move of the year. I probably would have done just as well using one of the guys I had on the bench all those weeks Jimenez was pitching for me.

Just goes to show that you don’t need to do anything special with FAAB and you can still win.

BP: You have a reputation as a wheeler and dealer and that you are willing to trade at any point in the season, including five minutes after a draft. What was the best deal you made within the season, and what was the best deal you didn’t make either because you declined it or the other owner did?
LS: In terms of value received for value given up, my best deal was getting Frank Francisco for Nick Blackburn. For me, Francisco pitched 22 innings with a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and seven saves. For Dean Peterson, Blackburn pitched 43 innings with a 5.65 ERA, 2.07 WHIP, and one win.

But I also like my trades of Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee (on the DL at the time) for Feliz and J.P. Arencibia for Robert Andino and Brayan Pena. At the time, I was first in home runs by something like 25-30 and first in RBI’s by a ton. So by giving up Reynolds, Lee (who I thought might not even play again this year), and Arencibia, I was trading power I wouldn’t ever need for a closer, Feliz, and a chance at improving my batting average. Average was a close category where I could have gained or lost a few points, so getting rid of the horrendous averages of Reynolds and Arencibia was “addition by subtraction.”

As mentioned before, not trading Fister turned out to be a good move.

BP: Auction Day: last three things you do before leaving your house or hotel?
LS: Check the latest player news, gather up my draft lists, and go to the bathroom. It’s amazing how sometimes a player will be bought at an auction when it was disclosed a few hours, or more, before the auction that the player was hurt, lost his job, etc.

BP: Auction table: Do you break out the laptop or the paper notes? Advantage to either?
LS: Paper notes. No advantage, just personal preference.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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