Friday, October 5, 2012

How I won my fantasy baseball league

Yes, I'm emerging from my six month blogging hiatus to talk about my fantasy baseball team, even though I expressed immense distaste for those who talk about their fantasy teams. Why? Because I felt that my expert knowledge should be shared with those who will be playing fantasy baseball in the future. As for me, I'm retiring on top. This has been the year of unpleasant baseball activities for me, more on that in future blog posts perhaps. Playing fantasy baseball was one of them. I hated the whole experience.

Why did I hate it so much? For the same reason I won. Luck.

Perhaps other formats than the one we used rely less on luck. Ours, though.....

Each week you went up against a different opponent and competed in 12 categories over seven days of the baseball schedule. Anything can happen in seven days. And that's really how I won. There was a clear cut superior team in the league (not mine) followed by five teams that were pretty good (I was in that group). Thanks to the abomination known as wild card playoff spots, I made the playoffs with the fourth-best record in the league.

In the first round of the playoffs I beat the fifth-place team despite my pitchers posting a 6.01 ERA for the week. That put me up against the top-seeded team in the semi-finals. I literally eked out a victory by the slimmest of margins. My season came down to Joey Votto's last at bat of the week. If he had tripled or homered, my season would have ended. Votto walked. I moved on.

Then in the finals, I faced the team with the third best record and won despite a lackluster week.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh, you're just being modest. We all know that you have superior knowledge of the sport of baseball. You're just awesome". Thanks for thinking that. But again, it's luck and has been from the start of the season.

First off, the draft. What a waste of time. Of the 25 guys I drafted at the start of the season, do you know how many were on my team at the end of the season? Seven.

1st round - Miguel Cabrera
3rd round - Felix Hernandez
5th round - Buster Posey
6th round - Drew Storen
15th round - Matt Joyce
20th round - Mike Trout
25th round - Tim Collins

Granted, that's not a bad seven. But let's look at luck again. I ended up with the second pick of the draft (pretty fortuitous) and ended up with the guy most people had as the consensus top pick in fantasy at the start of the season because the guy with the first pick went with a favorite player. I ended up with the guy who should be AL MVP in the 20th ROUND!!!! A gentleman who started the season in the minors and whose season was very much unexpected.

So while I ended up with three of the best four offensive players in the majors (add Posey to Cabrera and Trout) and also had a Cy Young contender (Hernandez), I still think it was a bit of a fluke.

But surely there must be some sort of advice I can give so that others who wish to pursue this activity can have the same level of success I did.....

I can only think of a couple of things that I consciously did that might have had an impact on my results. I took pitchers with high K/BB ratios. I had the fourth most strikeouts and the 4th lowest WHIP and would have probably had the best had I not stuck with Tim Lincecum for so freaking long.

The other thing I did that seemed to help me was to eliminate my choices. For a while I was trying to look like a real baseball team. I had five outfielders, a reserve catcher, a utility guy. I was forever trying to figure out which three of the outfielders I should play. Eventually I ended up with a pretty straight starting ten, a fair bullpen, a solid core of starters and then I cycled in other starting pitchers so as not to waste the spots each day (I used over fifty pitchers over the course of the season).

I think the stats reflect my early season uncertainty:

First 13 matchups - 6-7 head-to-head (.462), 67-73-16 in categories (.481)
Final 12 matchups - 11-0-1 head-to-head (.958), 91-41-12 in categories ( .674)

Wow. I had no idea I finished so strongly. Again, though, I feel like it was a lot of luck. If you took my stats in some of those weeks and inserted them against a different opponent, I lose. Just looking back over the final 12 weeks, the only time I lost the stolen base category was in the championship series. This, even though my totals were all over the map. And for all my talk above about WHIP, that was my worst category over the final 12 weeks (I went 6-6 and actually got beaten by .0009 in the championships, or 1 baserunner).

This summary is actually the most fun I had with the league. I never did make a trade and league communication was pretty minimal. And my hope that this would make me follow the game more closely was a flop. The only thing I was more aware of was starting pitchers and even then, I used my usual bias of going with younger guys who I tend to follow anyway so I don't feel like I really followed the game all that much more.

I'll wrap up this excruciating (for you) post with a look back at my most played team (the guys who took the field most frequently for me).

C - Posey
1B - Cabrera
2B - Dustin Ackley
3B - Alex Rodriguez
SS - Jed Lowrie
LF - Joyce
CF - Colby Rasmus
RF - Trout
Util - Logan Morrison/Carlos Gomez/Norichika Aoki

SP Hernandez/Jeff Samardzija/Trevor Cahill/Lincecum/Shaun Marcum
RP Collins/Sean Marshall/Addison Reed/Kenley Jansen/Jason Grilli

Look for me to complain about more baseball things in the near future!