Let’s Try This Again: AL-LABR, Year Two

I stunk up the joint last year in AL LABR, one of the longest-going super leagues in the business. I combined terrible draft choices with terrible free agent auction decisions and even a bad trade in order to end up tenth of twelve. I showed poor restraint and discipline at the draft, I lacked the context necessary for making good decisions, and I panicked a bit late in the season. I’m not so proud of that season.

At least this year I feel a lot better about the draft. As Razzball’s Grey Albright said at the after-party, there’s a long way from feeling good to doing good in the final tally. Admitted. But since I actually didn’t even feel great about my draft results last year, I’ll take this as a positive sign.

Let’s take a look at the team and the better decision-making process that went into it.

AL LABR has a $260 cap for the first 23 players, and then goes to a snake draft for the reserve rounds. Players in your starting lineup can only be pushed to the bench if they are demoted to the minors or injured. Waiver wire pickups must go straight into the lineup. If a player stays injured all year, at some point you can recover their auction value as FAAB money. You start with $100 FAAB. Here’s the full draft board.

POS Name $ POS Name $
C Derek Norris 6 SP Alex Cobb 18
C Hank Conger 4 SP Sonny Gray 17
1B Eric Hosmer 26 SP Tyler Skaggs 5
2B Jason Kipnis 33 SP Kevin Gausman 6
SS Brad Miller 17 SP Dallas Keuchel 2
3B Matt Dominguez 11 P Derek Holland 2
MI Brian Dozier 14 RP Ernesto Frieri 14
CI Justin Smoak 7 RP Chad Qualls 6
OF Wil Myers 24 RP Bud Norris 4
OF Kole Calhoun 15
OF Josh Reddick 14 RSP Alex Meyer
OF David Murphy 5 RSP Kyle Drabek
OF Robbie Grossman 3 RSP Shaun Marcum
UT Matt Davidson 7 RRP Josh Zeid
RSH Dean Anna
RSH Nolan Reimold

The main thing I did was not ever go over my auction values. Well, okay, I did once: Matt Davidson was only four bucks in my sheet, which used the Standard Points Gained system with projections averaged between Steamer and Zips (with a little mucking about by me). (Thanks very much to Jeff Zimmerman for help on that sheet.) But I didn’t love Justin Smoak as my CI, I wanted my Utility bat to be a CI, and Davidson was the last guy I really wanted to roster. And I had the money late in the game, so there you have it.

I’ll admit Jason Kipnis, Sonny Gray and Alex Cobb were right at my values, but that’s life. Sometimes you get pushed to your number and you still take them. You have to spend your money after all. It’s much better than last year’s frivolity of pushing Brett Anderson all the way to $17. At least it feels that way now.

I liked what I saw at the catcher position on Ray Flowers’ team last year — cheap catchers gave him money elsewhere. I thought Hank Conger and Derek Norris had some upside and high-ish floors in that they should both approach 350-400 plate appearances at worst. $10! Instead of spending too much time throwing guys I didn’t want, I made sure that Norris and Conger were out there in the middle of the draft. I needed to know if I could get them or if I would need to move money to the catcher spot in my planning sheet.

I love my lineup, I’ll admit to being giddy about several buys. Brad Miller and Brian Dozier for $31 feels great to me. Some question Brad Miller, but Nick Franklin is no shortstop and the projection systems love him. Because I got speed with my power, there’s no spot that’s devoid of power. My batting average might be bad — Matt Dominguez, Brian Dozier, Justin Smoak, Josh Reddick and Matt Davidson will drag it down even if they have good seasons — but a .253 team batting average would have been worth five points last year. That does not seem unattainable with at least half of my lineup projected for better than that.

After considering pushing my pitching staff values higher after some reason conversations, I didn’t spend a ton on my staff. 28% means I even spent *less* than last year.

There’s obviously some risk. Most of my team is young, the track records are not long. But Alex Cobb and Sonny Gray each threw at least 1000 pitches last year and those pitches graded out excellently by the peripherals. As much as I have denigrated Tyler Skaggs in the past, his change-up and curve both have excellent whiff rates, and he’s now in a pitcher’s park. Kevin Gausman‘s per-pitch numbers are off the chart, and he’s the only pitcher on the Baltimore staff with ace-like upside. I know he could end up on the outside looking in, though, so I basically handcuffed him with Bud Norris. I figure between the two I will get an good starter and reliever combination, either way. Dallas Keuchel scrapped his curve for a good slider, so I took a shot at him. Derek Holland was free, so I pounced. With Jesse Crain hurting, I figure Chad Qualls at least starts the season closing, and once I push Holland to the bench, I have the waiver wire to comb through.

The reserve rounds were about upside with an asterisk, that asterisk being that the upside had to be close to the bigs. Obviously I fell in love with Meyer at the fall league, and they were building up his innings total for a reason. Dean Anna and Nolan Reimold are fringe major leaguers, but they’re part of two groups (the Baltimore outfield and the New York infield) which are in flux and could use some talent. Kyle Drabek and Shaun Marcum could be fifth starters for their teams. Josh Zeid‘s per pitch numbers are better than Josh Fields‘.

Anyway, if I fail to spend $42 on my first FAAB pickup — last year I spent that on Brandon Maurer because I had Erasmo Ramirez and thought I was handcuffing a Seattle rotation spot — and if I don’t make a bad trade again — I panicked at sent Felix Doubront for Johnny Giavotella because I didn’t have a middle infielder — I’ll be ahead of the game this year.

And where I left last year’s draft playing the “If this guy gets that job and this guy gets that job” game, I feel like almost everyone on my team has a starting role. If Matt Davidson doesn’t, he won’t stick around for a plate appearance a week, he’ll be sent down, I can demote him, and look for a waiver wire utility bat. The platoon guys on my roster are left-handed. Gausman and Norris have semi-intertwined fates. The Angels need pitching enough to let Skaggs run with it. I’ve got upside on my bench in the few places that I need it, and I avoided the one dollar player. One dollar players in this league are usually part-time players with ugly projections.

So yeah, I *feel* great about this team, and at least that’s a step better than last year. What are your thoughts about the team?

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

31 Responses to “Let’s Try This Again: AL-LABR, Year Two”

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  1. quinceleather says:

    I like dozier and haven’t heard many people talking about him–nice pick. congrats on a nice team.

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  2. Nick Peper says:

    Who’s the elder statesmen on this team? Seems to be lacking leadership. JK LOL!

    My league tends to overemphasize youth and perceived potential over proven unsexy veteran talent. With an average age of what 25? I’d worry you fell into the same trap, but I like a lot of the but lows and don’t know the deets on the league.

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  3. Cuck City says:

    I foresee another skunky season for you

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  4. Miketron says:

    Interesting work Eno. Not sure I like Miller and Calhoun that much, but I guess they can build on some things from last year. Just worry about their inexperience. Also why Dallas Keuchel over other cheapies like Peacock($1) or Paxton($2) who seem to have more K potential?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I bought Keuchel early for two because I thought Paxton would go for much more, plus his first outing velocity was no good. Peacock? Yeah, coulda had him or Keuchel. But I think the projection systems are missing on Keuchel because he has that new pitch.

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  5. wjylaw says:

    Eno, I love you man but this team looks like it was drafted by a 16 year old. You do know you were allowed to draft good players over the age of 27, right?

    I would say in no particular order the problems I see are:

    1. You look to be middle of the pack in every offensive category. Don’t really see you finishing in the top half of more than 3 offensive cats;

    2. You spent so much on your middle infield that if they don’t out perform, you’re toast;

    3. If you’re going to go cheapo at catcher and know you’re giving up at bats there, you can’t give up a lot of at bats to guys like Murphy and Grossman. You really need Reimold to get plate appearances early in the season; and

    4. While I like Gray, Cobb and Frieri, you better hope you win all the pitching FAAB battles.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I did not go into the draft hoping for youth. My projections for my middle infielders aren’t really that rosy, I just think they valuable. I don’t believe that scarcity is a big deal in all leagues, but in these leagues, there are absolutely problems getting the worst MI and SS in the league. As for Murphy and Grossman, I know they are probably 2/3 players, but I went into last year with Fernando Martinez and JD Martinez in similar spots. And there are teams hoping and wishing in those spots this year.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I’m surprised to see so many comments about the roster being young. I do try to diversify around certainty in performance, which correlates with age (but not perfectly!). That’s what I don’t like about the roster it’s that only Hosmer, Cobb, Gray, and maybe Kipnis come with a tight projection. The rest of the roster has a ton of upside and a ton of downside. Since downside hits more often than upside, the odds are a bit loaded against Eno.

      That said, in the AL LABR format, every team is going to have warts. Uncertainty is probably preferable to other problems.

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  6. 46 and Choo says:

    Gotta tell ya Eno, though it pains me, I looked at this team and decided it was my favorite of all them. Kiss of death time!

    Forget old guys, better to be wrong on young upside guys than vice versa. Good work Eno

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  7. potcircle says:

    my guess is you will spend most of the season wishing keuchel injury… and you’ll be lucky to get to the middle of the pack…

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I’m not too worried about Keuchel. I like his new slider, and I should be able to find one starter on FAAB. As bad as the Maurer problem was last year, I did find a starter or two by the end of the year.

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  8. KB says:

    To me, it seems like there is too much youth with almost every player either being very inexperienced or having had questionable seasons in either one of ’12 or ’13 that are still fresh in the mind.

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    • KB says:

      I think I like Flowers, Cockrofts, Ambrosius and Adlers teams the most. Funston and Liss the least.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Absolutely saw that my team was young. I was happy about it. The two pitchers I spent money on threw 4000 pitches and their per-pitch metrics are great. Dozier and Miller were supposed to do what they did for a long time now. I didn’t faithcast them any further than what they’ve done in the past, but by getting pre-peak guys, I necessarily bought upside with my money.

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  9. Tony says:

    What excel formula did you use to index the player names on both projection systems when you pulled them together to average?

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  10. tylersnotes says:

    Browsing the other teams, one strength for you that I see is that you were willing to pay more for guaranteed playing time. Dozier and Miller may not be the sexiest ss/mi combo but given the rules of the LABR format you’re one of maybe 5 teams here who look to have your MI set for the season barring injury. There’s going to be a lot of competition for MI spots in FA auctions in June when 7-10 of the 2b/ss/mi guys bought at auction are injured or in the minors.

    Not buying any $1 players is a little bit of a silly claim to me, though. The only reason guys like Dallas Keuchel and Derrek Holland aren’t $1 players is because you bid them up to $2. If you had nominated Milone or Peacock you would have gotten the same quality/risk for cheaper. There are good $1 players and bad $1 players, and the only difference between a $1 and $2 player is whether anyone else has the same hole in their roster when you nominate the guy.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Playing time was huge for me, and that’s what I saw in the $1 players: inconsistent playing time projections.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Also! I really meant it about position players. I see a lot of $1 pitchers that I like. And none of my hitters are $1 hitters IMO, Grossman close, but he has a job for now at least.

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  11. GilaMonster says:

    This is a prefect example of a risk and reward team. If things swing your way, you’ll win a championship. If they don’t, you are going to lose. Not middle of the pack nonsense.

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  12. Chris Warren says:

    Not bad, as far as I can see…Eno, would you explain two things to me?

    First, $24 for Wil Myers?

    Second, it seems like this whole roster lacks any truly elite players. Tons of upside with players like Miller, Gray, and Gausman, but Kipnis and Hosmer (and, I guess, Cobb) are the only “proven” above average players. Is this somehow by design, or a result of bad luck?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I contemplated going to 43 for Miggie, so it’s not completely design. But I do like shopping in the middle. I like Myers even with batting average regression, and he was cheaper than a lot of other #1 OFs.

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  13. Jonathan Sher says:

    First thought: You will certainly do better than Steve Gardner of USA Today trying? Zunino for $6? (Norris and Conger are both better values)Keppinger, Konerko, Valencia and Dirks? Spending big bucks on two one-dimensional speedsters? Axford for $14? Soria for $6?

    Second thought: What was Chris Liss doing? Singleton, Jeter, Dyson, Ianetta, Buxton? Almost $100 on pitching but no closer and only one potential closer-in-waiting? Not a fan of punting a pitching category when the offense looks anemic.

    Third thought: L like the strategy if not entirely the execution by Larry Schechter. He went cheap with his starting pitcher, picked up two closers, including one who is among the most solid (Holland)and may have assembled the best overall lineup. Where his execution seems off was his choice of low-cost starters. His starters have no real upside for strikeouts; he would have been better off targeting at least one low-cost starter with that upside (someone like Gausman or Paxton.

    Fourth Thought: In addition to concerns about batting average, I think you may be below average for stolen bases if Grossman doesn’t hold his starting position long, a distinct possibility. Overall, though, I think your lineup is better than average for your league.

    Thanks for posting and linking the full results. My A.L. league auction comes up in a couple of weeks and it is always helpful to see how players are valued. Quite a few of the guys you selected I have as keepers (Miller, Calhoun, Grey and Kipnis).

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    • Jonathan Sher says:

      One other comment: In your strikeout league Felipe Paulino went undrafted. He reportedly was throwing between 92 and 94 MPH in his spring debut. He may be a better reserve pick that someone like Drabek, who faces a steep challenge even securing a spot in the rotation and who does not have Paulino’s strikeout upside.

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  14. Jeff says:

    I might be missing something, but is this not a great trade in my 5×5 OBP league: I send Wil Myers and Adrian Gonzalez and I get Giancarlo Stanton and Freddie Freeman.

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  15. Double J says:

    Has anyone entered AL LABR in ZiPS or Steamer for full league projections?

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  16. TeveTorbes says:

    Where can I get a copy of your auction values?

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  17. NittanyChris says:

    I like your offense a lot. I also love Gray and Cobb. My question for you is are you concerned that your starting pitching drops off so suddenly after Gray and Cobb? Skaggs is speculative. Glausman’s spot in the rotation is no guarantee. Holland is hurt. Keuchel is high risk. Norris is, well, Norris.
    Any concerns on the SPs?

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