Last week I participated in the inaugural draft for the CardRunners expert league. I received an e-mail a couple months ago with an invitation and was immediately intrigued. The league is being hosted by the poker instruction website CardRunners.com and will include both poker pros and fantasy baseball experts. Here was the explanation from the original e-mail:
The league will consist of half of these gambler and wall street trader types, and half of established fantasy industry baseball experts like yourself. This should create an interesting confrontation between the experienced experts and the sharp newcomers used to beating various games.
This sounded like a very novel (and terrific) idea, and I think this should make for some very interesting league dynamics.
The fantasy experts participating are (in alphabetical order) Tout Wars vets Jeff Erickson, David Gonos, Peter Kreutzer, Chris Liss, and Joe Sheehan (sharing a team with Erickson). The poker pros are WSOP bracelet winner Eric Kesselman, former world class backgammon player Bill Phipps, and Brian Hastings, who holds the online record for a single night’s cash game at $4.1 million, among others. Combined, this side of the league has won tens of millions of dollars playing poker and hundreds of thousands playing fantasy baseball, so they should make for very tough competition.
CardRunners Expert League: Team Carty
The league is a 10-team, 5×5 AL-only league with the traditional 23 starting spots and 5 bench spots. The one twist, as far as the auction goes, is that you can use your auction dollars to fill your bench spots.
C: John Buck – $5
C: Gerald Laird – $3
1B: Chris Davis – $14
2B: Brian Roberts – $18
3B: Brandon Inge – $6
SS: Yuniesky Betancourt – $1
CI: Russell Branyan – $8
MI: Scott Sizemore – $8
OF: Nelson Cruz – $24
OF: Adam Lind – $23
OF: Juan Pierre – $16
OF: Julio Borbon – $14
OF: David DeJesus – $6
DH: David Ortiz – $11
Simply put, I really like my team. It certainly has some risk, but I’m pretty optimistic about it.
It took a while for me to start buying players (I was the last team left with all $260), but I think patience paid off. While players were going in the high $30s and low $40s (too high for a 10-team league, in my opinion), I waited and got bargains on a couple of my highest ranked OFs in Cruz and Borbon. When I nominated Borbon at $14, I was expecting at least some bidding. I was plenty happy to hear crickets, though, for a leadoff man who could steal 40 bases. Lind and Roberts came at pretty even value, but I was thrilled to get Ortiz so low.
Davis and Branyan should give me monster power, and Pierre should help on the speed side. I like the upside in Snider and Sizemore, although SS is certainly a weakness. My batting average doesn’t look so hot, but I hope to be competitive in the other four categories.
As for pitching, I should be in terrific shape in terms of saves. I got one top-notch and one good closer for solid prices and lots of top setup men with potential to step into the 9th inning. Howell has the injury-prone Rafael Soriano, Lowe and League have a shaky David Aardsma, and Thornton has trade candidate Bobby Jenks. As far as starting pitching, I got an ace in Javy and a solid Scott Baker followed by some good upside guys.
I like this strategy a lot because most of the top tier catchers, in AL and NL-only leagues, tend to go for at or above their true value (e.x. Joe Mauer for $40 and Victor Martinez for $35 in this league). As such, you can decide to buy them and receive even value, but because the position is inherently more risky than other offensive positions, I’ve felt that it’s better for your even value purchases to come at other positions. In LABR, this meant guys like Prince Fielder, Adam LaRoche, and Ian Stewart. In CardRunners, it meant guys like Adam Lind, Brian Roberts, and (to some extent) Nelson Cruz.
While I haven’t run the numbers yet, I believe that these kinds of guys are less likely to get injured than the top catchers are. Of course, because most AL and NL-only leagues start more catchers than their MLB counterparts do (i.e. 20 in CardRunners AL, 14 in MLB AL), some teams will end up with $1 catchers like Brayan Pena or George Kottaras (and sometimes you end up having to pony up more than $1 for these guys). That’s obviously not very appealing either.
My strategy dictated taking whatever catcher bargains came in the middle rounds in that $2-$5 range. You’ll end up with two catchers who will start 100 games and avoid the scrambling that takes place at the end of the draft. For an extra couple bucks, you should receive a lot of marginal value (maybe as much as $10) over the catchers who will only tally 150 or 200 ABs that you’ll be stuck with if you wait until you can get a pair of $1 catchers.
Feel free to let me know what you think about my team in the comments. And if you’re into poker, definitely check out CardRunners.com.