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You are a worthless scumbag if you talk about your fantasy team. While these words have (probably) never been uttered, the sentiment certainly exists. Talking at length about your fantasy team is a combination of egotistical and boring, and nobody cares but you and the 11 other nerds who are in your league.

The naysayers do have a point. The story of how you overcame that six-point deficit in the last three weeks is captivating if it is your league, and especially riveting if it happened to you. If it is someone else’s league, the tale loses its luster quickly. I love fantasy baseball, and even I don’t want to hear more than a 60-second recap of what happened in your league.

Expert-league recaps are usually no better. Most fantasy experts only write them after they win, so the vast majority of these reviews are the equivalent of a self-serving, smug victory lap. Fantasy analysts need to be better about owning their mistakes as much as they own their successes. We all love to pat ourselves on the back when Tyson Ross or Ben Revere work out; we’re far less likely to remind you that we were also high on Will Venable and Jed Lowrie.

I do one or two expert recaps every year for this very reason. I make mistakes every year—particularly in leagues against top-notch competitors—and want to learn from those mistakes. Hopefully, you can learn from these mistakes as well.

I was in four expert leagues this year, but am only going to write in detail about two of them: Tout Wars NL and CBS NL. I co-owned a LABR Mixed team with Bret Sayre and a KFFL Mixed team with Paul Sporer. I might revisit these leagues later this winter with Bret or Paul’s help. The short version is that nearly every pitcher on our LABR staff got hurt (this is hardly an exaggeration) and we finished 14th out of 15 teams despite what was actually a good draft. KFFL was a little better, but after flirting with second place most of the season, Paul and I finished in third place out of 15 teams.

Tout Wars NL-Only: 5th (out of 12 teams)
My strategy and background for Tout Wars can be found in my recap from late March. The team I came out of the auction with ($260 salary cap, 23 active players, four-man reserve list) looked like this:

Position

Player

Salary

C

Travis d’Arnaud

9

C

Wilson Ramos

15

1B

Gaby Sanchez

7

2B

Anthony Rendon

17

SS

Zack Cozart

8

3B

David Wright

29

CO

Casey McGehee

3

MI

Chris Owings

7

OF

Billy Hamilton

22

OF

Matt Kemp

21

OF

Michael Morse

6

OF

Justin Upton

28

UT

Peter Bourjos

6

SW

Cameron Maybin

7

P

Archie Bradley

3

P

Rex Brothers

6

P

A.J. Burnett

10

P

Andrew Cashner

15

P

Jim Henderson

11

P

Josh Johnson

7

P

Jon Niese

4

P

Tyson Ross

11

P

Jose Veras

8

R

Maikel Franco

R

Santiago Casilla

R

John Mayberry

R

A.J. Ramos

I didn’t come in with a category dumping strategy or a specific idea of how to allocate my money. My general auction guidelines back in March from my original recap were as follows:

  1. I would not own a player at $30 or more
  2. I would not buy an ace starting pitcher
  3. Go where the market takes me with saves
  4. Go after “my guys"
  5. Buy a balanced team

Goals one and five sort of tied together, but the idea behind no. 1 was not to put all of my eggs in one basket with a player like Paul Goldschmidt while the idea behind no. 5 was not to dump a category unless the prices in the category were prohibitively bad. As a reminder, the players I purchased who were “my guys” were Hamilton, Henderson, Rendon, Cashner, Ross, and Burnett.

The short version of what happened is that my hitting was above average while my pitching completely tanked. Using the hypothetical draft standings (constructed using auction rosters and no transactions), I had 45 out of a possible 65 hitting points. That wasn’t great, but I figured I would fix my weakest category—on-base percentage—by weeding out the weaker players, and this is exactly what happened. With the exception of David Wright, my bigger investments worked out, and there was a healthy amount of profit on Rendon.

The big problem on offense was that with the exception of McGehee and Morse, I didn’t get a significant boost from my back end players. Bourjos, Maybin, and Cozart were terrible; if I had received even a pedestrian season from all three of those players, it would have probably given me another 5-10 points on offense. More importantly, it would have given me a position of strength to trade for pitching.

I knew I would need pitching hours after the auction ended when I found out Johnson was hurt. My plan all along was five starting pitchers while I waited for Bradley’s midseason call up. In the early going, I stuck with four starters, preferring to dig a hole in strikeouts rather than sabotage my ERA/WHIP. But with few promising starting pitchers coming across the free agent pool and speculative FAAB minor league plays like Jimmy Nelson and Matt Wisler not getting early call-ups, I knew I’d need to make a move. Unfortunately, the pitcher I initially acquired was Marco Estrada right before he started giving up home runs at an historic pace. Fortunately, I barely lost anything on the hitting side in the deal, giving up Wilson Ramos and Cameron Maybin for Russell Martin. Getting Kyle Lohse for Michael Morse a little later was better, as most of Morse’s production came before I traded him, but this still wasn’t enough. I needed more pitching and it wasn’t out there in the market.

Since I didn’t have enough offense to simply keep trading for starting pitching, my last gasp was to hope that a big-time pitcher came in to the NL via trade. I traded Kris Bryant for $50 worth of FAAB in mid-June. Bryant was never called up, so the trade was a win in that it allowed me to get the first and third best players coming over from the AL. Unfortunately, the players who came over were John Lackey and Justin Masterson. Lackey was so-so at best while Masterson didn’t get any better upon switching leagues and didn’t last long in the St. Louis rotation.

In this context, the disaster in my bullpen became a secondary concern. For a combined $19, Henderson and Veras gave me a grand total of one save. Casilla and early FAAB acquisition Hector Rondon assured that I wouldn’t finish last in the category, but while I finished with 47 saves, three teams below me dumped the category midseason, leaving me with a mere 4.5 points out of 12.

I did pick up some pitching points during the season, but it wasn’t nearly enough to dig myself out of the awful hole I had created. In retrospect, while I was hopeful up until the trade deadline that I could make some noise if both David Price and Jon Lester came into the NL, even if I had acquired both of those pitchers it wouldn’t have helped.

CBS NL-Only: 3rd (out of 12 teams)
I didn’t do a recap for CBS this year. My roster in that league looked like this after the auction:

Position

Player

Salary

C

Russell Martin

8

C

Michael McKenry

1

1B

Justin Morneau

19

2B

Chase Utley

17

SS

Jimmy Rollins

10

3B

Juan Uribe

4

CO

Yonder Alonso

11

MI

Aaron Hill

19

OF

Matt Holliday

24

OF

Chris Young

9

OF

Will Venable

19

OF

Angel Pagan

14

OF

Ben Revere

15

SW

Carlos Quentin

11

P

Andrew Cashner

14

P

A.J. Burnett

10

P

Matt Garza

9

P

Tim Hudson

4

P

Yovani Gallardo

9

P

Tyson Ross

10

P

Josh Johnson

7

P

Kyle Lohse

4

P

Wade Miley

5

R

Didi Gregorius

R

Josh Satin

R

A.J. Ramos

R

Rafael Montero

R

Jeff Baker

R

Yusmeiro Petit

R

Kyle Crick

CBS holds their auctions much earlier than Tout Wars, so my approach is usually far more valuation-oriented. I eschew taking risks on players who might be overhyped during the winter but out of a job in April after a poor spring training.

The result of this exercise this year was a balanced, boring team that wasn’t going to overwhelm anyone but was rolling a potential starter out at every offensive position except one of the catching slots and nine starting pitchers without one big-time ace. I knew that there were a few players on offense (Quentin, Alonso, Young) with the potential to fail, but figured I would get enough production across the board that it wouldn’t matter much. The plan on the pitching side was to stream starters like you would in a deeper mixed league. I would dominate in strikeouts and hopefully wins while finishing middle-of-the-pack in ERA and WHIP. I had not intended to dump saves, but all 11 other teams pushed hard for closers across the board and I didn’t want to pay $17-18 for a closer. My plan throughout the season was to dump saves and not even bother trying to trade for a closer.

The team played out like a pale version of what I was expecting, especially on offense. Quentin, Alonso, and Young all were bad. Some of my hitters modestly outperformed their expectations, but Morneau and Rollins weren’t enough to make up for the holes.

Despite all of the deficiencies, at the end of July I was in first place by three points. It was a tight race, so I wanted to take my pitching excess and turn it into offense. I made one strong move and one irrelevant one.

Strong: Traded Kyle Lohse for Adam LaRoche.
Lohse peaked around the time I made this trade, while LaRoche put together his usual second half magic, with 13 HR and 37 RBI in a mere 185 at bats. The batting average wasn’t good, but I acquired him for the power.

Irrelevant: Traded Wade Miley for Seth Smith.
Miley was my weakest link, so I was willing to take a modest gain with Smith figuring that I was getting something for nothing. But Smith completely disappeared, hitting one lousy home run and driving in 15 runs in 123 at bats. It didn’t matter, as Miley was even worse after the trade, posting a horrific 4.97 ERA and 1.697 WHIP across 50 2/3 innings. Keeping him away from my rotation was a win.

As it turned out, LaRoche’s output by itself was enough to push my team as high as I was going to get in the power categories. The problem was that the combination of moving Lohse and a few key injuries moved me from a position of depth to a position of shallowness by the end of the season. Instead of running the best starters out there, I had to push whomever was on my roster onto the board so that I wouldn’t lose ground in wins and strikeouts.

We all know how this story ends. Bad pitchers hurt your ERA/WHIP while not doing enough to help you in wins and strikeouts. By the end of the season I had moved from first in wins for fourth and first in strikeouts to second all while losing 2-3 points each in ERA and WHIP. LaRoche had helped, but in the end it was more than a wash.

In the end, I was competitive in both leagues but didn’t walk away with a victory. I will probably spend additional time this winter reviewing what happened, analyzing my approach, and looking for specific ways to improve my performance at next year’s auctions. For now it is best not to obsess over individual moves and what might have been but rather to take a brief break, enjoy the postseason, and synthesize all of this over the winter when the wounds still aren’t as fresh.

Thank you for reading

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iorg34
9/29
Enjoyed this.
swarmee
9/29
Good article; despite starting the season with 4 Padres hitters and 2.5 closers who were all deposed a week into the season, I clawed my way into a tie for 2nd after being 9th after Week 10. Won the 2nd place tiebreak by one at bat, after getting three wins yesterday. Had to trade almost all usable assets during the season, so 2015 will a a full-on rebuild.