Roster Doctor

Matt Smith writes in:

Dearest Doctor Roster,

Going into the draft, I was assuming that my leaguemates were undervaluing OFers and overvaluing starting pitching. Almost everyone kept a closer. (Backup closers were going for $6.) Which led to my massively hitting-heavy roster and an incredibly mediocre, single-closer pitching staff. I might lead the league in K, but end up with a whip over 1.500.

My league is a NL-only, 10 team, 5×5 H2H ESPN keeper league with a twice weekly FAAB and daily roster moves. The categories are R/HR/RBI/netSB/OBP & K/W/SV/ERA/WHIP.

So:

1. Is my hitting really so good that I can afford to trade away a Pujols or a Holliday, or am I being blinded to the suck coming from the Hawpes and Coghlans and the inevitable DL time for the Chippers
and Berkmans?

2. If so, what big bat do I trade, and should I target the big arms, or go for more, but lesser, pitchers? Starters and/or closers? The league is full of willing but conservative traders.

3. If not, do I just sit pat?

C Buster Posey, SF
1B Albert Pujols, StL
2B Kelly Johnson, Ari
3B Chipper Jones, Atl
SS Hanley Ramirez, Fla
IF Brandon Belt, SF
OF Ryan Braun, Mil
OF Matt Holliday, StL
OF Colby Rasmus, StL
OF Chris Coghlan, Fla
OF Brad Hawpe, SD
UT Lance Berkman, StL

Bench Willie Bloomquist, Ari

P Mat Latos, SD
P Ryan Dempster, ChC
P Jason Hammel, Col
P Chris Young, NYM
P Javier Vazquez, Fla
P Joe Blanton, Phi
P Randy Wolf, Mil
P Joel Hanrahan, Pit
P Miguel Batista, StL

Bench Johnny Cueto, Cin SP
Bench Dustin Moseley, SD SP
Bench Jason Marquis, Was SP
DL Andrew Cashner, ChC RP

Matt,

NL-only, head-to-head leagues with FAAB pose some interesting novelties. You should have four of the five offensive categories locked up each week. You’re a little vulnerable to a team with speed, though having net stolen bases as the scoring statistic mitigates your poverty there a bit.

So you need to be competitive in at least two of the pitching categories to have a good shot at winning each week. With few closers or even solid set-up men (Batista doesn’t really count here), you’re going to lose Saves and struggle with WHIP and ERA. So that really leaves you with three options.

1) Trade for another closer. This is going to be pricey in an NL-only league and still a fairly risky strategy. Saves are volatile on a weekly basis and closers can lose their jobs. Plus, this only gets you one category.

2) Make sure you come out ahead in Strikeouts and Wins by playing as many starting pitchers as possible. Emphasize two-start pitchers and work your FAAB and daily transactions as well as possible. This won’t be easy in an NL-only league as probably most starters are already owned. Wins are volatile, so this is a pretty risky strategy, but maybe you sneak out an ERA victory as well some weeks when someone’s closers blow up.

3) Dump saves but go for set-up men who aren’t likely to become closers (so that they’re not valued by your leaguemates for their save potential). I’m thinking of guys like Jonny Venters, Kameron Loe and half the San Diego bullpen. Then you can get rid of the likes of Vazquez. This should help make you competitive in ERA and WHIP, and possibly also Strikeouts.

Whom should you trade? The great thing about having such a stacked offensive team is that you sacrifice some of your lesser cogs that other teams will still value highly. An NL-only team should leap at the chance to land a Rasmus or a Coglan or a Berkman (and if you can find someone who really likes Bloomquist, even better), so you should be able to get better than spare change for them. A Rasmus for Venters trade in a league like this would be viewed as highly one-sided under most circumstances—for the team getting Rasmus.

Ask for a lot, but also be open to what your leaguemates are willing to do. If you can trade one of your big bats for Roy Halladay, and then trade a Rasmus for a Roy Oswalt, go for it. That’ll give you enough strikeouts and wins to be competitive.

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