Sunday, March 30, 2008

NL Only Auction League - Part II

For all of us who’ve gone from having one fantasy team to someone who is in more leagues than we can keep track of, our first experience in fantasy sports will always be something memorable. Whether you were one of the trendsetters who were doing this when the commissioner had to tally up stats by hand every Sunday or you came to the party a bit later, one thing is for sure……. you are now hooked. My first fantasy league was an 8 team, NL only auction league. That league is still going strong with the same basic core of 8 owners that have made fantasy sports more than just a passing hobby. While the league has lost a few owners, we’ve added some passionate ones that have kept the competition at a nice level. Our draft was last Friday, and as expected with any auction draft, there were a few surprises.

Here are the basic rules – it’s a head to head points league with an extra OF, MI & CI slot. There’s a $330 salary cap that gets you 24 players. Included in this is 1 keeper from the prior year at the price you paid to acquire them ($1 for pickups and carry-over price in trades). We start 5 SPs, 1 RP & 1 P. The scoring structure is as follows:

Scoring for Batting Categories
1B – Singles 1 point
2B – Doubles 2 points
3B – Triples 3 points
BB - Walks (Batters) 1 point
CYC - Hitting for the Cycle 10 points
GSHR - Grand Slam Home Runs 4 points
HP - Hit by Pitch 1 point
HR - Home Runs 4 points
KO - Strikeouts (Batter) -1 point
R – Runs 1 point
RBI - Runs Batted In 1 point
SB - Stolen Bases 1.25 points

Scoring for Pitching Categories
BBI - Walks Issued (Pitchers) -0.5 points
BS - Blown Saves -2 points
CG - Complete Games 5 points
ER - Earned Runs -1 point
HA - Hits Allowed -0.25 points
HB - Hit Batsmen -0.25 points
INN – Innings 1 point
K - Strikeouts (Pitcher) 1.25 points
L – Losses -5 points
NH - No-Hitters 10 points
PG - Perfect Games 15 points
QS - Quality Starts 2 points
S – Saves 5 points
SO – Shutouts 10 points
W – Wins 10 points

As Chris mentioned in his post-draft analysis, a hot pitcher can easily win a week for you with this point structure. The holy grail in this league is a CGSO, which can get you 40 or more points in a league where 280 is typically enough to win a week.

Going into an auction draft, the best strategy to have is to not have a strict strategy at all and to be flexible. Anything can happen & you have to make sure to adjust your budgets based on what’s taken place. It’s hard to let an opponent get someone you want, but there comes a time when you have to just let it go and move on to the next player. There’s so much psychology in an auction draft and reading your opponents can be just as important as knowing your stats.

On to the analysis. We all know the stats by now, so I’ll tackle this analysis from a salary cap perspective. To start, I had a tough choice with my keeper decision. I narrowed my choices to James Loney for $1 or Brandon Phillips for $25. I figured Phillips would go in the mid $30s while Loney would be had for something in the low $20s. Based on these projected inflation numbers, I decided to go with Loney. $1 down....$329 to go.

The first player to go in the draft was Prince Fielder for $45. People in this league tend to call out the big names first, so the dollar amounts for these players is sometimes skewed higher because people will spend a bit recklessly when they have their entire cap in front of them. However, just 3 players deep, someone called out Bengie Molina. I hate spending money on catchers. Especially this year in an NL only league. While everyone was saving their cash for the impact guys, I was happy to swoop in and grab Molina for $6. I would not have gone a dollar higher though.

The names you’d expect all went next and their prices were scary to me. I’m always reluctant to spend big early and it got me in trouble this year. 22 picks in and the only money I’d spent was $6 for Bengie Molina. There were only a few big names left – David Wright, Ryan Howard, Matt Holliday & Brandon Webb. I knew Wright would be too much for my budget (there are a few Met fans in the league) so at that point, I decided that I would not let all of those guys get past me and come out with at least one. Howard was called next & I ponied up $49 to get him. While I’m not a huge fan of him in this league, he should be a top 10 offensive player. His Ks are certainly a detriment, but his power numbers will more than make up for it. In his MVP year of 2006, he was the 5th best offensive player in the league. Last year, in his down year, he was 18th.

The next player I grabbed was Aramis Ramirez for $37. Again, I wasn’t necessarily targeting him, but when the bidding seemed to slow down around $35, I couldn’t resist. His production (should be 300-25-100) in a dangerous Cubs lineup makes him a $40 player. Having kept Loney, I had my 1B, 3B & CI slot already occupied with some big names.

As Chris pointed out in his analysis, there is a common misconception in this league that big power, big strikeout guys are not valuable because of the negative points for striking out. Simply put, that’s a narrow view on the stats and that logic will get you in trouble. I grabbed Adam Dunn next for $27 and was pretty happy about it. You can pretty much guarantee 40 HRs from Dunn and a ton of Ks. But, his 100+ walks a year balance out his high K rate. Dunn is about as low-risk as it gets in this league. He’s not going to be much better than last year (if he’s even better at all), but you know he’s not going to be much worse.

I tend to spend a lot on pitching in this league. Whether or not this works is still up for debate. But, I came in 2nd 2 years ago and won the league last year with this strategy, so I’m sticking with it. I had 5 big guys targeted that I was willing to spend on. They were Webb, Hamels, Chris Young, Brett Myers & John Smoltz. I knew Santana would go for over $50, & I wanted no part of that. Not that he won’t be worth it, but I just didn’t want to tie that much up in 1 pitcher. Webb went for $50, which was higher than I thought he’d go for. I assumed mid $40s would be where he’d go, but the owner who wanted him sort of tipped his hand that he was willing to break the bank and another astute league member seized the opportunity to bid him up. So that left me with the next 4 pitchers on my list. I set a budget of $100 to get 3 of them. Chris Young was the first of the group called, & I grabbed him for $30. Young can’t finish his own games, but his high K/9 rate combined with his home in a great pitcher’s park will provide me with an excellent start to my pitching staff. And for only $30.

Hamels was the next player called and I was willing to go up in the $40s to get him. Luckily, it didn’t get that far and he was mine for $39. I love how Hamels improved last year and built himself into a bona fide stud. He gets a lot of Ks and pitches on a team that will win a lot of games for him, even when he’s not on. Citizens Bank Park is somewhat of a detriment, but that he plays on one of the league’s best teams easily washes out that concern for me.

Continuing the spending spree, I dropped $10 on the next player called, Brad Lidge. You can’t win in this league without 2 reliable closers to run out there every week. There just isn’t enough depth at starting pitching to be able to get consistent production from 6 guys every week. Utilizing that flex pitching spot with a second closer gives you a much better chance to win. Lidge might not be the definition of “reliable,” but a new start in Philadelphia and a healthy year should set him up for a nice year. His spring training knee surgery does not seem to be an issue. Unfortunately, I have to bench him in week 1 since Philly seems to be cautious in handling his return.

I took a bit of a break, and waited to spend until John Smoltz was called out 15 picks after Lidge. I was already $69 into my budget of $100 for my top 3 pitchers, so with Myers still available, I wouldn’t have gone past $30 to get Smoltz. That’s exactly what it took to get him & I had my top 3 with $1 to spare. Not too long after I dropped money on Smoltz, news broke that he was experiencing arm troubles. With any 40 year old pitcher, this is definitely cause for concern. It sounds like he is fine & that the Braves are just taking it easy with him, but it’s another pitcher that I can’t start in week one. Myers was actually called next and went for the same $30.

Who doesn’t love Cory Hart? I guess the rest of the people in my league because I was able to get the darling of fantasy baseball for just $22. Granted, his numbers are better suited for a roto league, but I couldn’t pass this one up at that price. An improving player on an improving team should provide me with some stability as my 2nd outfielder.

Along with my pitching strategy that was successful the past couple of years, I’ve always been a big believer in spending money on quality middle infielders in this league. I was not alone as all of the top middle infielders went early, and they went for a lot. There’s no doubt I made a huge error in calculating this. Looking back, it might have been better to lock in Brandon Phillips at $25 since he ended up going for $40. Because of this, I was forced to spend money on one player who I never thought I’d draft – Kaz Matsui (and that was before his anal fissure). I had to pay $8 for him, & I was not happy about it. But at this point, I pretty much had no choice as there were no quality 2Bs left. Also, he’s another player I won’t be able to start in week 1.

I was able to get Yuniel Escobar for $11 a bit later. I really like his potential based on the numbers he put up toward the end of last year and the fact that he should hit 2nd in a nice Braves lineup. This is definitely not the potent MI that I was looking for so far though.

The rest of my draft rounded out as follows: The other Chris Young for $20; Hiroki Kuroda for $8; Saito for $7; Mark Reynolds for $3; Chad Tracy for $2; Nick Johnson for $2 (a bargain here, but this was before it was announced that he’d be the every day 1B in Washington); Kyle Kendrick for $1; Willy Tavares for $6; Chris Duncan for $8; Shawn Hill for $1; Carlos Villanueva for $1; & Ian Stewart for $1.

I am pretty set up at the corner spots with Howard, A-Ram, Loney, Nick Johnson, & Chad Tracy/Mark Reynolds. I am definitely weak up the middle, but I know there are other teams that have needs at CI. Although I never like to rely on the needs of others, hopefully I can fill my MI needs with a trade. Knowing now that I could have gotten Hanley Ramirez for the same price as Ryan Howard and still put together a good corner infield rotation frustrates me quite a bit.

My lineup (after some pickups to fill my MI needs) projects as follows:

C – Molina ($6)
1B – Howard ($49)
2B – Matsui (Picked up Loretta to fill in) ($8)
SS – Yuniel Escobar ($11)
3B – Aramis Ramirez ($37)
MI – Eugenio Velez (pickup)
CI – Loney ($1 Keeper)
OF – Dunn ($27)
OF – Hart ($22)
OF – Chris Young ($20)
OF – Chris Duncan/Willy Tavares ($8/$6)

SP – Hamels ($39)
SP – Chris Young ($30)
SP – Smoltz ($30)
SP – Kuroda ($8)
SP – Shawn Hill/Paul Maholm/Carlos Villanueva
RP – Lidge ($10)
RP – Saito ($7)


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