CardRunners Expert League 2010: Team Carty

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

P: Javier Vazquez – $21
P: Scott Baker – $15
P: Rich Harden – $11
P: Dallas Braden – $3
P: Colby Lewis – $1
P: Joakim Soria – $17
P: Frank Francisco – $11
P: Brandon League – $4
P: J.P. Howell – $3

BN: Travis Snider – $7
BN: Erik Bedard – $5
BN: Mike Wuertz – $2
BN: Matt Thornton – $2
BN: Mark Lowe – $1

Team thoughts

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.

Catcher strategy

Some of you may have noticed that between LABR NL and this CardRunners league, I bought four $3-$5 catchers (Gregg Zaun and Nick Hundley being the other two).

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.

Concluding thoughts

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.

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Comments

  1. Jason B said...

    Your outfield appears very solid, particularly with the luxury of a backup/fill-in as capable as Snider. Your infield isn’t glamorous, but may be serviceable enough. Really like the $1 Colby Lewis pickup also.

    I’ve got an upcoming NL draft with a similar set-up, filling our five bench slots at auction also. Since we were drafting 28 at auction rather than 23, I raised the budgets from 260 to 270.

  2. RS said...

    Looks like a winner to me, without even looking at the other team rosters. I love the speed/power offense and your awesome bullpen and bench. Very well balanced.  I continue to look forward to reading your “stuff”.  (You should give your buddy McQuown a quick course in auction budgeting!)  Good luck.

  3. DonCoburleone said...

    If you can get 120-140 games out of Branyan and Inge and Davis doesn’t implode again I think you’re offense will be excellent. Best of all to me is your outfield. Tons of steals there and probably enough power with Lind and Cruz hitting 30+ each. 

    My biggest beef with your team is Starting Pitching.  I’m high on Vazquez and I’ve always loved Baker, but after that you’ve got 3 potential disasters in Harden, Braden and Lewis. I just can’t see Harden even coming close to topping what he did for the Cubs in 2009. Moving to the AL and pitching in that Oven in Arlington half the year will not make him more effective or more likely to stay healthy.  Then there is Braden, who I don’t believe has ever topped 180 innings in his career and wouldn’t survive pitching outside of Oakland. Colby Lewis for a buck is hard to fault, but I just have a feeling that come June you’ll be auditioning starters for the 3-5 spots…

  4. DonCoburleone said...

    So thats my take, the one question I have is what pitchers could you have gotten at $16-$17?

    I would have gone with Vazquez and Baker at their prices, then instead of Harden/Braden/Bedard for $19 how about a $17 pitcher (Weaver, Danks, Floyd, Burnett maybe?) and two $1 guys.  I’d like your starting pitching alot more with one more dependable, proven starter behind Vazquez & Baker.

  5. Derek Carty said...

    Thanks for the input, guys.  Nice to see other people like my team too.

    Chris Liss posted everyone’s roster here (http://rotosynthesis.rotowire.com/High-Stakes-CardRunners-Poker-League-BBD1820.htm) and there will be a league site within a few days.

    Guys like Lackey, Peavy, Weaver, Shields, Burnett, Garza, and Brett Anderson went in that $16/$17 area, although I probably like what I ended up with better.  Perhaps Lackey would have been better, but I’m still not sweating it too much.  I also have Bedard who should be coming back within a month or two.

  6. MS said...

    Hi.  I really enjoy you’re writing and have a question.  You say above that “players . . . going in the high $30s and low $40s” was “too high for a 10-team league, in [your] opinion.”  Can you explain that?  Would the same logic apply in a similar NL draft – where the talent is supposedly less?  If prices do start that high in a draft, how do you know whether to save your money and wait, or whether to pay the inflated prices to ensure you get talent and don’t end up with a lot of extra money?  Finally, what about an 11 or 12 team draft – does your observation still hold, or should prices be higher since the total amount of money in play is greater?  Thanks.

  7. Jonathan Sher said...

    Derek,

    A few thoughts and questions:

    (1) As you noted, you will do poorly in batting average and I’d be surprised if you aren’t in the bottom two or three with Buck, Laird, Inge, etc. Did you plan on punting batting average and get guys who will get at-bats to do better in counting categories? Did you settle on that approach after getting a few low average high-at-bat guys? Or were you simply seeking value and that’s what turned up?

    (2) If you are going to target low-cost high at-bat catchers, that essentially leaves you with low batting average guys, so perhaps at that point it doesn’t make sense to swim upstream and try to compensate with your other picks. 

    (3) Your season may turn on Branyan’s back and Davis’s ability to make contact. In general, I am impressed with your offense (batting average aside). I like Sizemore to produce as well as middle infielders who may go for twice his price, think Snider has a great upside, think Ortiz early-season woes last year were largely due to his wrist. But if Branyan can’t play or can’t play effectively and if Davis repeats last years strikeout woes and Smoak takes his spot,  that could leave you to too few mid-rotation at-bats. To a lesser extent you need Roberts to stay healthy too—he has a great health track record but his back looks a bit wonky this spring.

    (4) You have the saves market cornered with two closers and four or five heir-apparents. This should also help with ERA and WHIP as closers and set-up en usually have better numbers in these areas than starters available for less than $5. You may struggle, though, with wins and strikeouts because of the lack of a sixth starter and because you took some (inevitable) risks with starters 3,4 and 5. Harden is obviously an injury risk. Braden is probably safe in the rotation but not entirely and won’t rack up a lot of strikeouts in any case. And Lewis’s job security and performance is also a question mark though he will clearly start the year in the rotation.

    (5)  I think Braden, Lewis and Harden were good picks for the money, and I look for such picks in my 12-team A.L. auction league because I typically spend about $70 of my $260 budget on pitching. But my league has a deep 17-man reserve so I can typically take more value-price starters in the auction and load up on set-up men on my reserve. I think of low-priced starters as throwing darts blindfolded: The more you throw, the more will hit the dart board. Because you loaded up on closers and potential closers, you’ve left little margin for error. So while you have a nice speed-power balance among your hitters, you are skewed in your pitching toward closers and near-closers. I would have been more comfortable picking up one more low-priced starter. The extra starter affords you the luxury of playing match-ups, benching starters for games in tough parks against tough teams.

    (6) All-in-all I think you did a great job. I’ve yet to have had a perfect auction and know one always makes trade-offs, and on-balance, I think you did so quite effectively. Hopefully one of your near-closers assumes the role and you then have excess saves to trade. Good luck in your league!

  8. Derek Carty said...

    MS,
    It really depends on the exact setup of your league and how the player pool shakes out in any particular year.  In general, though, I would say that, yes, in a 10-team NL-only league, high $30’s is too much to pay.  Once you get into a 12-team league, though, Albert Pujols is probably worth $40.  He went for $41 in a 13-team LABR NL league and I’m a little upset I didn’t get him.

    As quantitative as I like to be about things, for things like deciding when to overspend and when to save your money, it’s sort of a ‘feel’ thing.  I like to have a few contingency plans for drafts that will give me a basic idea of what I’ll do if faced with a certain situation and leave room in them for flexibility.  In a league where players are going for much more than you value them at in the beginning stages of a draft, I will usually be one of the least active spenders.  If too much money is being spent early, that means there won’t be enough money later on to meet your values, so there will be bargains.

    Still, I don’t like to rely entirely on bargains.  Building a team of all players valued at $12 probably isn’t the best strategy, so I usually like to get at least a couple first or second-tier, consistent players guys, no matter the cost (unless they’re completely ridiculous).  Here, it becomes a matter of overspending as little as you can and jumping on the rare bargains that do appear on the higher-priced guys.  In situations like this, simply getting a player for even value should be counted as a success (especially since for the top players that everyone knows is good, bargains are hard to come by anyway).  As part of your contingency plan for this scenario, plan out how many high-priced guys you want and how much you want to spend on them.  Flexibility is important (you can’t be too rigid with your plan or you’ll get yourself into some awful trouble), but it’s also important to know what you want and be flexible in a smart, calculated way.

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