It takes a special talent to be so bad that you’re somewhat good. I’m proud that for the second year running I’ve found enough stinkers to win my blogger’s division of Razzball.com’s razzball competition (sadly finishing a bit short of winning the overall title among 15 divisions; the winner gets a jacuzzi). If you’re not familiar with the razzball competition, it is a points league where teams get points for a player’s poor performance but loses points when a player performs well.
My roster at the start of season was:
Jeff Clement – C
Ramon Hernandez – 1B
Luis Castillo – 2B
Chase Headley – 3B
Adam Everett -SS
Garrett Atkins – CI
Alcides Escobar – MI
Michael Bourn – OF
Tony Gwynn Jr – OF
Will Venable – OF
Coco Crisp – OF
Michael Brantley – OF
Yorvit Torrealba – Util
John Lannan – P
Ross Ohlendorf – P
John Maine – P
Jeremy Sowers – P
Jeremy Bonderman – P
Scott Feldman – P
Brandon McCarthy – P
Dallas Braden – P
Matt Harrison – P
It is easy to see three of my strategies:
– Play as many catchers as possible by using multi-position eligibility; that Ramon Hernandez was eligible at the most dangerous position, first base, only sweetened his value to me.
– Play as many Padres as possible. I had high hopes for some offensive futility on the California border.
– Play as many Texas pitchers as possible. Here I was clearly off. Though the Rangers pitchers that I drafted did poorly, Texas had enough good pitchers to quickly deprive Harrison and McCarthy of any starting role.
This season, the commissioners rejiggered the point structure so that most players were projected to post positive points, so letting roster spots remain fallow was no longer a good strategy. Still, home runs were penalized heavily so speedsters were at a premium. The commishs also imposed a 1250 innings pitched limit, so streaming two-start pitchers was also out.
As it turned out, the most important characteristic for batters was playing time. High strikeout, low power players like Josh Wilson were among the most valuable. But finding players that stayed regularly in the lineup was key. Players that could flash the leather, being more likely to keep their jobs even if they struggled at the plate, were great – think Franklin Guttierrez and Brandon Inge.
The most valuable pitchers were starters that put in few quality starts. Flyball pitchers (since giving up home runs was valuable) with few strikeouts and few innings pitched were prized. Fifth starters were fine – if their start was skipped it wasn’t a big deal given the low innings limit. Brian Bannister and David Hernandez were prime examples. But, given that these types of pitchers are in short supply, “aces” like Kevin Millwood, who every five days would go out, give up a few home runs and lose, were also valuable.
Why do I bother retelling this tale of purposeful woe? Partly to give the folks over at Razzball their props for hosting a really fun format. There are lots of readers’ leagues there too, so you should play in one next year if you’re looking for a different challenge.
But I also learned a lesson this year that is broadly applicable: Format changes can radically alter strategies for winning. Last season’s winning strategy of finding a few cash cow batters and then playing it safe at other positions was still a decent strategy for this year but it was not a winning strategy. Same goes for drafting lots of dependably mediocre pitchers: Randy Wolf, Joe Saunders and Mark Buerle simply pitched too much to be supremely valuable.