Reviewing My LABR Mixed League Season

For the second year of its existence, I participated in the LABR mixed draft league. The draft took place in mid-February, way before I would ever normally draft a serious team. At that point, I was still adjusting my player projections and adding players I hadn’t developed a projection for, so it was no surprise that I felt much more confident in my Tout Wars team after drafting it a month later. Although I didn’t fare as well (winning both leagues would have been pretty cool!), I still finished second. Of course, that sounds slightly more impressive than it was, as the gap between second place and seventh place was a mere six points!

Like Tout Wars, LABR includes 15 teams with the standard 23-man active roster. The bench, however, is larger at six players, rather than the four required in Tout. The other difference is that the standard five categories are counted, keeping batting average instead of switching to on base percentage. For a refresher, my full team analysis is here.

This is the team I drafted:

C: Victor Martinez (5)
C: Mike Napoli (9)
1B: Anthony Rizzo (6)
3B: Brett Lawrie (4)
CI: Adam LaRoche (10)
2B: Robinson Cano (1)
SS: Starlin Castro (3)
MI: Andrelton Simmons (17)
OF: Jason Heyward (2)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki (11)
OF: Alejandro De Aza (13)
OF: Starling Marte (14)
OF: Justin Ruggiano (18)
U: Chris Parmelee (25)
P: James Shields (7)
P: Tim Lincecum (8)
P: Homer Bailey (12)
P: Rafael Betancourt (15)
P: Steve Cishek (16)
P: Andrew Cashner (19)
P: Shelby Miller (20)
P: Trevor Bauer (23)
P: Frank Francisco (24)
BN: Jedd Gyorko (21)
BN: Darin Mastroianni (22)
BN: Mark Rogers (26)
BN: Chris Archer (27)
BN: Carlos Villanueva (28)
BN: Carlos Carrasco (29)

For the majority of the season, I wondered how the heck my team was performing well. I was basically in the mix with the top three all year, though not sure I spent even a day as the leader.

What Went Right

My offense as a whole. I finished with the third highest hitting points total. I honestly have no idea how this happened given the names you see that I drafted, but it was a strength!

My catcher tandem of V-Mart and Napoli was superb. After a slow start that had me question why on Earth I would draft a catcher who missed all of last season with a knee injury in the fifth round, Martinez’s power finally came around and his batting average skyrocketed thanks to a .361 second half. In fact, I essentially nailed his projection, so he definitely earned fifth round value. Napoli, of course, was the best fantasy catcher this season and a bargain in the ninth.

Without a whole lot of help from his surrounding cast, Robinson Cano continued doing what Robby C does. Alejandro de Aza traded some speed for power, but the overall package was worth similar fantasy value as he flirted with a 20/20 season. With 41 steals, some power and a solid batting average, Starling Marte probably produced the highest profit on offense. He would have delivered even greater value if not for the hand injury he suffered that hampered his September.

The only bench player who earned positive value for my team was Jedd Gyorko. I should remind everyone that Gyorko was actually an autopick for me. I ran out of time due to an error on who was available, but decided that I wanted him and did not ask to pause the draft so I could select someone else. Not every mistake turns out bad!

I did quite well with a bunch of my FAAB additions, as you would imagine given how many busts I had drafted on the offensive side. Brett Lawrie‘s injury allowed me to pick up Josh Donaldson, while both Wil Venable and Darin Ruf provided solid value as free agent acquisitions.

On the pitching side of the ledger, James Shields was as good as can be expected, though a little more run support early on would have been appreciated. Homer Bailey built on his 2012 breakout with even better skills, though also suffered from poor run support. Andrew Cashner was good for as long as he lasted on my team (I made the brilliant decision to trade he and Chris Archer for CC Sabathia in early August). Shelby Miller. Remember, this draft was in mid-February when Miller didn’t even have a rotation spot locked up. I was crossing my fingers he would win out, but gambling with just a 20th round pick was well worth it, in my opinion. It obviously turned out well.

Just like in Tout Wars, I picked up Hector Santiago and timed his good starts well, enjoying a 3.07 ERA from him over 91 innings. Indians rookie phenom Danny Salazar was another two-league pickup, and he fit in quite well with my run support starved pitching staff, winning just one game over eight starts, despite a 3.05 ERA. I got good performances from David Phelps, Erasmo Ramirez and Alex Wood. Furthermore, Edward Mujica kept my saves total in decent shape since Rafael Betancourt missed lots of time due to injury.

What Went Wrong

Seems like a lot more than what went right! My pitching staff only ranked eighth in total points, so they were a big reason why I didn’t challenge for the title.

On the offensive side, I had disappointment after disappointment. In the infield corners, Anthony Rizzo struggled with a low BABIP and his HR/FB rate took a larger step back than I anticipated. Brett Lawrie battled injuries, but wasn’t much better than his disappointing 2012 season. And now are you ready for a laugh? Only two weeks into the season, I had more middle infielders than I needed after Gyorko won the Padres second base job. So I traded Adam LaRoche and Starlin Castro for Albert Pujols. All three of those players ended up being massive disappointments.

Jason Heyward battled through an appendectomy and getting hit in the face with a pitch, but did not have anywhere near the season I was hoping for. He also stole just two bases all year. Ichiro Suzuki failed to reach 620 at-bats for the first time in his career, finishing with just 520 as he lost playing time against left-handed pitchers. Justin Ruggiano‘s BABIP remained low all year and he was a victim of the Marlins youth movement, while Chris Parmelee was a cheap gamble that didn’t pay off.

Tim Lincecum completed another poor season from an ERA perspective, Trevor Bauer spent the majority of the season flashing his wildness in the minors and Frank Francisco, a guy I thought I was going to get some cheap saves from, didn’t pitch until September. Oh yeah, and I traded for CC Sabathia who gracefully provided me with a 4.78 ERA over 58.1 innings. That was actually better than I thought. I put too much faith in SIERA once again, trotting Edwin Jackson out there for nine starts. He rewarded my blind faith by posting a 5.85 ERA.

There were no obvious lessons from this season in LABR. Actually, they would relate to drafting in a league a month and a half before the season starts. Research and preparation may be even more important because you need to be aware of which high upside players are competing for jobs. They will come cheap and have the potential to deliver exceptional profit. I hit the jackpot on both Shelby Miller and Jedd Gyorko, who I drafted in the 20th and 21st rounds, respectively. It’s not always going to work out that well of course. But there is no doubt their draft costs jumped as opening day got closer and closer.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Will you guys do more podcasts this offseason?