Knuckleheads 2015 Chronicle

Postby knuckleheads » Wed Apr 08, 2015 3:39 pm

I don’t think anybody celebrates when landing the 10th pick in the main event. It’s on the verge of disheartening to land the 10th pick when you have a clear Top-9 on your draft board. You expect things will work out, but you just aren’t guaranteed that they will.

The Knuckleheads’ first four picks went EXACTLY according to plan in the New York League 4 Main Event draft on Saturday. Yet, by the end of the fourth round, my strategy was completely shot.

Pre-Draft Expectations:

1. Low-average power should be available late in the draft.
2. Starting pitching is a deep position.
3. After top-4 closers, there should be no rush.
4. Position scarcity not an early-draft issue.

Round 1 Pick #10 – Jose Altuve – There is no one else like him in this draft. (.341) is a gaudy number, especially coming off a season in which only 19 players with 500+ AB hit better than .290. To get .341 in 660 AB can raise a team's batting average 7 points. Will he hit it again? Let’s just say I think Altuve will be a top-5 pick for the next 5 years. Atluve went higher than pick 10 in 10% of ME leagues. I wouldn’t have cried if he had been taken ahead of me, but it would have been very disappointing. The plan is to pair him with the expected low-average, big-power bats that should be available later in the draft, namely, Chris Carter.

Round 2 (#21) – Michael Brantley – Actually had him ranked higher than Altuve for much of the off-season. I came into the draft with Atluve and Brantley ranked #8 & #9. If I could draft only one of the two, I might have chosen Brantley in round 1, but I was reasonably confident Brantley would be available in round 2, and Altuve would not be. Stephen Strasburg was also available, but I was confident there would be Ace pitching available in rounds 3 & 4.

Round 3 (40) – Matt Harvey – Corey Kluber made it back in round 3, but it turns out I have more confidence in Harvey pitching a full season coming off TJ surgery than I do Corey Kluber coming off 235 IP. Then again, I think Harvey might be the best pitcher in baseball for the next decade. Easy decision.

Round 4 (#51) – Cole Hamels – I was very tempted to take Jose Reyes in round 4, but there were only 3 Aces left (Greinke, Cueto and Hamels), and a long list of hitters I’d be glad to have in round 5 (Reyes, Pujols, Chris Davis, & Cespedes), before jumping the ADP to get Chris Carter in round 6. Hamels was my pre-draft target at this spot, who would allow me to start selecting meatheads to make up for my early-draft lack of attention to power.

Aside – So how do you “nail” your first four picks and have your strategy completely hosed after the first four rounds? Answer: Kinsler – Cespedes – Chris Carter – Reyes – Pujols, were all drafted in the last nine picks of the 4th round. Chris Davis was also taken before my 5th round pick, which left Longoria as the only remaining slugger in round 5.

Chris Carter Draft Stats – He went 16 picks higher in ME NY4 draft than any other ME draft, at pick #58. Prior to the ME, he had an ADP of 105. In the ME drafts, he had an ADP of 96. I was planning to take him 24 spots ahead of his pre-ME ADP. As it turns out, I would have missed him in 25% leagues waiting until round 6. I would have missed him only in my league waiting until round 5. Conclusion – It only takes one enamored owner to foil your plans.

Round 5 (#70) – Evan Longoria – While not a target, Longoria was the one remaining slugger who now felt like a must-pick once Chris Davis was select at #66. Joey Votto was considered, but dismissed due to his perceived uncertainty this year. Had Carter still been available, I bet I would have taken Votto in the 5th with the idea of getting Carter in the 6th.

Round 6 (#81) – Jeff Samardzija – It’s funny in a draft, how one player going much higher than you expect can shake you. My re-group strategy was going to fall back to JD Martinez, but he was scooped two picks before my next chance. I considered three pitchers and had a tough time choosing. I let the clock expire while deciding. Alex Wood was selected while I considered Jay Bruce, which resulted in a vomitus feeling that convinced me Bruce was not the man for this team. I warmed to the idea of 600+ Ks from my top-3 starters and selected Samardzija.

Round 7 (#100) – Yan Gomes – The PDP (pre-draft plan) was position scarcity would not be an issue. Given that plan, my behavior in the next six rounds was peculiar. There was now a group of about 20 OFs who I felt were fairly equal. The miss on “big power” led me to think that the way to catch up was incrementally with 5-10 HR bumps at scarcer positions.

Round 8 (#111) – Salvador Perez - The choice in round 7 was between Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez, Matt Holliday and Kole Calhoun. The latter two were drafted in between my picks, so I decided to go with strength at a lesser position and drafted my second catcher.

Round 9 (#130) – Steve Cishek – With 18 players coming off the board between picks, my round-9 Wish List of (Alex Gordon – Manny Machado – Neil Walker – Lance Lynn – Hunter Pence) were all gone, with Pence going 1 pick before my selection. Cischek sat out there as the last of the Big Ks Closers. I felt in no rush, but thought it was good value. As it turned out, #130 was the latest Cishek was taken in any ME Draft.

Round 10 (#141) – Jimmy Rollins – I was growing concerned about counting stats, and continued the in-draft strategy of picking up HRs at unconventional positions. Will the aging Rollins continue to produce?

I spent the first draft break in the bathroom. While some may take that to mean the first 10 rounds caused stomach pains, I am claiming the metaphorical position that I did not shit my pants in the first 10 rounds. I guess we’ll see.

I found time during the break to reset. Still wounded by the miss on Chris Carter, I discarded tracking the ADP list. (I am not sure how helpful it ever is.) But from round 11 on, I needed to address needs and wants instead of “where they should go.”

Round 11 (#160) – Jose Quintana – I made a short list coming out of the break (Jason Werth – Brett Gardner – Jose Quintana – Wil Myers & Huston Street). Gardner was drafted, and I got cold feet on Werth. Drafting two 36-year-olds in consecutive rounds seemed to be begging for trouble. Meanwhile, after three consecutive years of progression, I feel Quintana, at age 26, is one of the safest SP bets to do as well or better than he did last year.

Round 12 (#171) – Huston Street – Eight picks later, I still had a list of eight outfielders I liked nearly as much as Myers. Huston Street was the last reliable closer on the board. I hadn't planned on drafting another closer till much later, but the value seemed to be there. Again with the closer, as it turned out, #171 was the latest Street was drafted in any ME Draft by 21 spots. While getting Street late helps me justify the pick after the draft, it was still my sixth pitcher in 12 rounds.

Round 13 (#190) – Wil Myers – Of the eight OFs that I thought were comparable to Myers, not one of them made it back in round 13. But Myers did…It felt like I was playing with fire and I decided to get more serious about finding guys with 20+ HR potential.

Round 14 (#201) – Billy Butler – I don’t know what happened to Butler’s power last year, but I felt it worth a shot that it would come back.

And by, “getting more serious finding guys with HR potential,” I guess I meant another starting pitcher.
At this point in the draft, it became apparent to me that I valued pitching more than my league mates.

Research after the draft shows that the last 3 overall winners have relied more-heavily on hitting than pitching by a 54/46 split in total points. Is that a thing? Or, just a coincidence. With my next pick I cast my fate with pitching as the bedrock to the Knucklehead’s hopes.

Round 15 (#220) – Dallas Keuchel – I had Keuchel ranked between Andrew Cashner and Garrett Richards, who were drafted in rounds 10 & 11. I was considering taking Kuechel in round 12 instead of Street. I refused to let him pass by again. In 2014, Keuchhel gave up more than 4 ER in a game just twice in 29 starts. He may not have another sub-3.00 ERA, but I doubt it climbs above 3.50.

Round 16 (#231) – Kennys Vargas – I considered Carl Crawford and Denard Span, but I am a believer in Vargas. He didn’t miss a beat last year jumping from AA to the majors. Has never hit below .267 at any level. At that point in the draft, I needed more power.

Round 17 (#250) – RA Dickey – There were three pitchers available who have the potential to be difference-makers, (Jose Fernandez, Clay Buchholtz, and Dickey). Dickey’s second-half last year was very good, and he seemed to keep it going this spring.

Round 18 (#261) – Ryan Howard – After veering towards pitching once again in round 17, I had a panicked feeling about power. Any power left in the outfield would be coming from young, unproven players. Ryan Howard has proven that he can drive in runs and hit balls over fences, if nothing else. Not the late power I was hoping for, but at that point in the draft, he seemed like a necessity.

Round 19 (#280) – Trevor Plouffe – Jose Fernandez did not make it back, and I had doubts about relying on Butler and Howard for power, and drafted Plouffe without a clear position to play him. Power was so light on my team that I took to playing the odds that one meathead or the other would work out.

Round 20 (#291) – Ryan Rua – With only two OFs on my roster through 19 rounds, I decided to reach for a second-year player who might provide pop. He may even hit for average.

During break #2 I ate two sandwiches. There’s no metaphorical message I can take from eating sandwiches, but I did take time to analyze my needs. In my last four offensive positions, I needed to average 15 HR, 15 SB, 45 RBI and 60 Runs. On the pitching side, I wanted more Ks, but not at the expense of ratios.

I decided to chase upside guys, and potential breakout/sleepers. The short list for the last 10 rounds was (Buchholtz – Shane Greene – Jordy Mercer – Mike Moustakas – Nick Ahmed – JJ Hardy – Justin Masterson – Michael Taylor)

Round 21 (#310) – Michael Taylor – Buchholtz went with the 2nd pick after the break. By the 10th pick of the round, I was once again nervous about lacking power. I continued to show a lack of confidence in Jason Werth’s ability to stay healthy by drafting Taylor.

Round 22 (#321) – Justin Masterson – I let Shane Greene get away and decided to at least complete my starting pitching before returning my attention to guys who might have a lucky homer week that saves my season. My notes on Masterson from the beginning of spring was to draft him if his velocity returned to the 92 MPH range. The last notes Rotowire had on Masterson was that he was touching 92 on the gun in his last start of the spring. Touching 92 can be quite different than velocity “returning” to 92.

Round 23 (#340) – Mike Moustakas – Again, I drafted a player with no clear position to play him. My logic at this point was there seemed a pretty good chance that two of the four (Vargas, Howard, Plouffe, and Moustakas) should be able to combine for 45 HR.

Round 24 (#351) – Jordy Mercer – Middle Infield was still an open position and JJ Hardy was recently drafted. I went with the good-aged, full-time player with double-digit HR potential.

Round 25 (#370) – Nori Aoki – Two San Francisco outfielders were available and I chose Aoki over Pagan.

Round 26 (#381) – Everth Cabrera – I bet something nobody has ever said about a Shortstop is, “he might earn OF eligibility." Well, now it’s been said.

Round 27 (#400) – Billy Burns – A personal favorite. May never play.

Round 28 (#411) – Angel Pagan – Two rounds later, Pagan was still available. It’s one of those things where you ask yourself, “why is he still available?” I could find no good reason, so he’ll be starting for a while with the Knuckleheads, at least while he’s batting 3rd for the Giants.

Round 29 (#430) – Miguel Gonzalez – Took him over David Peralta. Dropped him for David Peralta on Sunday’s first FAAB.

Round 30 (#353) – Nick Ahmed – Two spots away from playing, was dropped on Sunday for “power hitting outfielder” Mark Canha.
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Re: Knuckleheads 2015 Chronicle

Postby knuckleheads » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:04 am

Draft Analysis

I guess I should be surprised that I was surprised by the personality of this year’s draft.

The pitching pool was deep for both starters and relievers. There were plenty of power hitters with poor average who were likely to be available late in the draft, and there was no glaring position scarcity.

This was the year that I would’ve been content to take my first starter in Round 7. However, I also had stop-loss positions for several starters. I would not pass on Felix or Scherzer at 2.6, and I would not pass on Sale, Baumgarner, or Harvey at 3.10, or Hamels or Greinke at 4.6.

After taking Harvey and Hamels in rounds 3&4, what I did not expect to find was Jeff Samardzija available at 6.6 (Pick #81). Each drafter has early draft bench marks to aim for. I like to get 600 strikeouts out of my top-3 starters. I also like a chance at 80+ saves out of 2 closers. In the past three years, there have been just 12 starters per year with 200+ Ks and just 6 relievers per year with 40+ saves.

Instead of taking pitchers, my league mates were taking power hitting OFs. 37 of the first 117 pick were OFs. Given the depth in the pitching pool, and lack of positon scarcity, maybe I should have identified this possible trend. Instead, I was surprised by it.

Rostering 3 hitters who might hit 50 HR combined, and 3 starters through six rounds, I proceed to draft in rounds 7-12:

Catcher – J. Gomes
Catcher – S. Perez
Closer – S. Cishek
Shortstop – J. Rollins
Starter – J. Quintana
Closer – H. Street

So 12 rounds into the draft, I was pot-committed to a strategy in complete contradiction to what I expected. Rather than fight it, I embraced a pitching-heavy strategy that I really had not researched. In theory, pitching and hitting are 50/50 partners in this game. In practice, it just doesn’t seem to work that way.

The draft was still brimming with starters I liked. If I could land 5-6 more starters, I’d have a shot at a dominant pitching staff, perhaps using just two closers. Every save from the mid-30s to the low-90s is worth about 6 points each in the overall standings. A team fortunate enough to draft and start two, and only two, closers who can muster 40+ saves would have a tremendous advantage in all 5 pitching categories.

Ideally with this strategy I’d like to have 2-4 spare starters to help avoid bad-matchups, and to gain a few extra double-start opportunities. By the end of the draft I had one spare starter and I dropped him before the season started. This left the Knuckleheads with only 9 pitchers going into the season:


I like them all. But I’ll be needing to pick up a couple of spares once my hitting picture becomes clearer. But for now, this should keep me out of the early-season FAAB frenzy.

It turned out that power was available late. However, it was at corner infield and utility rather than OF.

I drafted:

Evan Longoria (Rnd – 5)
Billy Butler (14)
Kennys Vargas (16)
Ryan Howard (18)
Trevor Plouffe (19)
Mike Moustakas (23)

That makes 6 potential power hitters for 4 starting roster spots. Poor planning to say the least. The silver lining is that I lack real confidence in 5 of the 6, so I guess I’ve created depth at the meat- head positions. Lovely.

I was able to drop two players preseason to pick up David Peralta and Mark Canha who each show power potential in the outfield to go with:

Micheal Brantley (Rnd- 2)
Wil Myers (13)
Ryan Rua (20)
Michael Tayler (21)
Nori Aoki (25)
Angel Pagan (28)

With such odd roster construction on offense, I believe I can count on meeting At Bat goals while sustaining a good batting average and SB totals. Hopefully, the plentiful AT BAT totals can make up for the lacking talent when it comes to the counting stats.
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Re: Knuckleheads 2015 Chronicle

Postby knuckleheads » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:24 am

There is pre-draft strategy, draft strategy, draft reality, and then playing the season.

I don't like to subscribe to the 80% bench-mark numbers so frequently quoted for pre-draft strategy when it takes 82-87% to win the main event. My personal preference is to set the bar (too high) at 90%.

Draft strategy works until it stops working. Then reality sets in and reaction is required. Reality for the Knuckleheads was that we liked pitchers way earlier than other teams in our league. Investing in one commodity means lacking in others. The Knuckleheads lacked power coming out of the draft which lead to another adjustment before we played the season.

Rather than stay locked to a 90% plan across the board, team management changed the target numbers post-draft to a cumulative 87% goal, but achieved disproportionately. So the goals we are working toward early in the year are:

Avg. - .271 (90%)
Runs - 1015 (91 %)
HR - 235 (78%)
RBI - 960 (82%)
SB - 175 (92 %)

ERA - 3.22 (90%)
Whip - 1.168 (90%)
Wins - 105 (90%)
Ks - 1455 (90%)
Saves - 86 (78%)

This adjustment of target numbers allows us to take the first 4-6 weeks with a saner approach. (Hopefully with less FAAB insanity.) We may be able to close the gap on power during the season, but we can't force those opportunities. By lowering the saves expectations, we can play half the season (or as long as our two closers keep their jobs and health) before needing to make a decision as to whether to make a push in the saves category. Should we be fortunate enough to have two busy closers, it could allow us to roll with 7 starters all season. That, in turn, should help with the other four pitching categories. Wins and Ks will be helped by the extra start each week, and ERA and Whip should be helped by not needing to take risks with less-than-desirable two-start pitchers. I'm optimistic about this plan.

On the hitting side, the Knuckleheads were drafting average and speed when others were drafting power. By maximizing At Bats, perhaps the lag will come mostly in the HR category, with RBIs and Runs holding steady . The 78% mark for HR should be about 15-20 HR less than the 90% mark. I'm less optimistic with this side of the plan, but when you draft 6 pitchers in the first 12 rounds, and 8 pitchers in the first 17 rounds, you are committed to a pitching-heavy strategy.
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