Will a non-fantasy writer win THT’s fantasy league?

My experience is limited, I didn’t go in with any concrete plan, and I didn’t really have any specific players in mind to target. So why in the world do I feel like I came out of The Hardball Times fantasy league’s auction with the best team?

For this entry to make any sense, you may need to glance at THT’s fantasy auction results found here. Fantasy guru, beer aficionado, and pestering trade-proposer Jeffrey Gross laid out the results of our auction in that article. Unfortunately, his recap didn’t contain any predictions on who would win the league.

That’s where this entry comes in.

There are months of the unknown ahead. This team must dodge injuries to key players (which I’ve already suffered a few). It must also avoid historic flameouts like Adam Dunn‘s 2011 season. But, if it can do that, it should post some of the best offensive totals in the league.

Here are the players in all their splendor and magnificence-

C: Chris Iannetta
1B: Adam Lind
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Kevin Youkilis
3B: Elvis Andrus
CI: Alex Rodriguez
MI: Daniel Murphy
OF: Matt Kemp
OF: Ryan Braun
OF: Melky Cabrera
OF: Mike Trout
UT: Jesus Montero
UT: Justin Smoak
SP: Jered Weaver
SP: Brandon McCarthy
SP: Ryan Dempster
RP: Drew Storen
RP: Jonathan Papelbon
P: Ted Lilly
P: Kyle Farnsworth
P: Gavin Floyd
P: Tim Stauffer
BN: Gaby Sanchez
BN: Drew Pomeranz
BN: R.A. Dickey
BN: Josh Collmenter
BN: Mike Leake

Leake, Collmenter and Dickey are already gone, and Trevor Cahill has taken their place, as well as have a few other set-up men with good K/9 ratios. Trout is on the bench until the Angels find out they simply can no longer tolerate Vernon Wells. But, that’s beside the point. Going with that group, after the auction, is what I want you to judge, if you’re so inclined.

The draft opened, after a lengthy delay waiting for, I believe, one of the guys who writes code for this site to figure out how to log in to Yahoo. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw were nominated first and fetched $30 and $29 respectively. Once I saw the price for a Cy Young caliber pitcher, I quickly decided I’d be best served spending a large portion of my budget on offense.

Of course, that’s not radical at all. It seems most fantasy players in an auction format budget the bulk of their money on hitters and those in snake drafts generally leave the pitchers for later rounds. But the bidding for those two was so fiesty, and I felt like I detected a vibe. Something else factored in as well.

The chat room, which was full of all types of witty one-liners and barbs—mostly from me—was a lot of fun. It was also informative. The first sign of my relative lack of experience, which I referenced above, came when I asked whether our limit of 1,500 innings pitched was an upper or lower limit. The league I’ve played in has a minimum of 1,400 innings so no one can buy six closers and run away with three categories (saves, ERA, and WHIP).

Mr. Gross explained that the 1,500 in this league was a maximum to prevent an owner from streaming pitchers. With that simple declaration, my fate was sealed. Any effort to hide my lack of experience vanished when I asked what the hell “streaming pitchers” meant. Gross said people could potentially keep rolling starting pitchers out in daily transaction leagues to guarantee loads of points in wins and strikeouts.

I didn’t have time to look it up that night, given that it was 20 feet from the computer to the refrigerator that housed the Bud Lites, that it was another 10 feet to the bathroom, and that the auction clock was incessant, but I was intrigued and later found through research that this is a very controversial strategy. Some fantasy baseball players feel they should be rewarded for working the waiver wire like mad and making constant adjustments to their lineup. However, others believe streaming pitchers is akin to taking the colored stickers of a Rubik’s cube and rearranging them to solve the puzzle. To them, it’s cheating and transforms a game of skill into a joke.

Anyway, back to the topic. Even though the cat was out of the bag as far as my ignorance of certain types of fantasy baseball lingo, my confidence was, as it always is, unshaken. I quickly jumped in the early bidding, when people are sometimes a little slow to let loose with their money, and won Kemp for $46, Braun for $43, and Kinsler for $37—all in short order. Once that happened, I felt pretty good about my chances since I owned three of the best five-category players in fantasy baseball.

Now, there were repercussions. I had spent almost half of my budget on those three. As a result, Andrus was my only addition over the course of the next hour or so of bids. Then, with most of us already through a heavy-spending spree, bidding started to swing to the point where value could be found. I was able to get Weaver ($18) for half of what Cliff Lee ($36) went for 45 minutes earlier.

I also started looking for rebound players like A-Rod and Youkilis, whom I was able to get for markedly less than what Ryan Zimmerman had gone for not long before.

By that point, I was pretty low on cash and bought a couple of closers. Then I spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and waiting for guys I could get for a dollar. It turns out that I could have punted the rest of the draft and got similar talent to what I scraped up at the end, but that would have meant the utter shame of leaving money on the table and the jerk move of letting my time slowly run down before autodraft kicked in.

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Now, I had no intentions of spending as much as I did, as early as I did. But, as much as I love Miguel Cabrera, guys like Braun and Kemp will steal a ton of bases and the fact that I was getting them for less than Miggy (albeit not much less) made me keep hitting the bid button.

With no plans going in to follow a modified LIMA plan, I ended up doing just about exactly what Jeff Gross wrote about here, pointing out that there is a surplus of decent pitching in recent seasons and grabbing one great starter to anchor a bunch of waiver fodder and late-inning specialists can reap rewards. It’s akin to Ron Shandler’s modification of the LIMA plan, which he calls the SANTANA plan.

Whatever you call it, it looks a little like what I did, except I did pay a little for closers Farnsworth and Storen, who have both started the year on the disabled list.

Whether it will pay off remains to be seen. I think the offense has a chance to be really good, given the balance from top to bottom, which should translate into high totals in all five categories. Another great year from Weaver and a few lucky waiver wire adds should be enough to take Dave’s Diamonds to internet baseball glory.

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