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Tuesday 20th Feb 2018

As you likely know by now, DraftStreet.com is promoting a bi-monthly FreeRoll contest for Mastersball.com readers, the second of which is scheduled for tonight, Friday April 27. If you want to participate and try to win your share of the $350 up for grabs, CLICK HERE, but hurry as lineups lock at 7:05 PM ET/4:05 PM PT.

The format is a salary cap game where you fit fourteen players under a cap and accumulate points based on their Friday night performance. A couple of weeks ago, in a FreeRoll set up exclusively for Mastersball.com, our own Ryan Carey took home the big prize of $100 while I finished a respectable third, adding $50 to my account.  Look out Ryan; I’m out to get you this week!

As I discussed when I shared my strategy for the initial FreeRoll, I plan on sticking to some basic principles when selecting my players. They are as follows:

  • Favor players at home
  • Favor pitchers in pitcher’s parks and hitters in hitter’s parks
  • Deploy as many L-R and R-L hitting matchups as possible
  • Start pitchers against lesser teams
  • Ignore specific hitter versus pitcher stats as they are not significant, no matter how enticing, in such a small sample
  • Thinking about the contest in the two weeks between promotions, I have three more rules of thumb I am going to heed:

  • Pay attention to the weather reports to assure all roster spots will be occupied by an active player
  • Choose the cheapest closer that pairs with one of your starting pitchers
  • Fill the fourth pitcher spot with a starting pitcher
  • In the inaugural contest, I went with two starters and their associated closers. It did not take me long to learn that it is starting pitching that will rack up the points most nights and it is not guaranteed your closer gets into the game. Having three starting pitchers assures you of getting points in a roster spot that could be occupied by a closer that does not even warm up. The downside is starting pitchers are the highest priced entities in the game so you really need to hit on your pitching as well as find the bargain bats so you can stay under the cap.

    An idea that I want to investigate for future promotions is finding a starting pitcher edge using umpire tendencies. In depth data is kept with respect to how an umpire calls a game. Now, before you think this is the holy grail of this sort of competition, please realize each umpire is behind the plate for only 30-40 games a season and for every pitcher friendly  arbiter, there will be one not so kind. Then consider that there are some pitchers you are not going to start regardless of the man in blue calling balls and strikes. The point is, the opportunities to deploy this tactic will be limited, but when they in fact exist, you can save some significant salary cap space. For those playing more than just the promotional FreeRolls, you may want to do a Internet search on umpire data to find a day you can gain this competitive advantage. My intention is to elaborate on this topic in my column accompanying the next promotional FreeRoll.

    Here is the squad I selected for tonight’s contest. If I make any last minute changes, I will post them in the comments below. The name of my entry is ToddZ. I will discuss it in terms of how I put the team together then at the end, the players by position and salary will be listed.

    My first step was deciding on three starters and the closer. At first blush, three arms piqued my interest, all with home tilts: Ricky Romero (TOR) versus Blake Beavan (SEA), Clayton Kershaw (LAD) versus Ross Detwiler (WAS) and Tommy Hanson (ATL) versus A.J. Burnett (PIT). All the home teams should be favored, playing rather suspect offenses. As I proceeded to fill out my hitters, I didn’t think there would be ample salary to fill each spot with a player I was comfortable using, so I looked for another hurler. I opted to go against one of my rules of thumb and am using Drew Pomeranz (COL) versus Chris Schwinden (NYM).  The obvious hope is the potent Rockie attack is able to get to the Mets’ rookie, making his 2012 debut, giving Pomeranz the win. For the closer, I am counting on Francisco Cordero to save the victory for Romero.

    The next step was going through each position, starting at the bottom of the salaries in an effort to find a lower priced gem fitting the above criteria (L-R/R-L , at home in a hitter’s park). My goal was to find batter’s under $5000 or so. If I was unable to find someone at a position, I left it empty until the next pass, when I had a better idea of how much salary I had to play with. I added John Buck (MIA), Gaby Sanchez (MIA) and Eric Thames (TOR). The Marlins’ Buck and Sanchez are both righties scheduled to face southpaw Joe Saunders. Lefty Thames has a date with righty Beavan.

    I then raised the limit to around $6000 and added Brandon Phillips (CIN) and Giancarlo Stanton (MIA). Righty Phillips has lefty Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) on the docket while the right-handed Stanton hopes to get off the snide against Saunders.

    At this point, I decide to go back through the lowest salaries and see if there were some starters that did not meet all of the desired criteria, but still made sense to play. Welcome to the fold, Marlon Byrd (BOS). The new Red Sox centerfielder is on the road, facing fellow right-hander John Danks, but the salary was dirt cheap and US Cellular is favorable, plus Byrd should have chances to score and knock in teammates as the Boston attack is warming up.

    Now the fun begins as I get to fill in with some upper echelon sticks. When it comes to the elite, I am not as concerned about L/R and R/L. I’ll take guys in good hitting parks, facing weaker pitching or in a strong lineup. David Wright (NYM), Troy Tulowitzki (COL) and Ben Zobrist (TAM) added some star power to the squad. Wright is facing Pomeranz, who I am starting, but I still like the righty third-sackers chances of having a strong night against the raw southpaw. In an effort to counter that, Tulowitzki will hopefully do some damage against fellow righty Schwinden, but he is at home and home is Coors Field. Zobrist is a switch hitter but he is on the road with Matt Harrison (TEX) on the bump. Texas is a great hitter’s park so Zobrist should be fine.

    I was left with one utility spot, so the obvious step is going to the amount left and choosing the best player left that can fit under the cap. It is important to note that the selection does not have to be the highest priced player left, just the best player. Though, if you leave a significant amount of salary unspent, you should take the time to make sure you can’t upgrade another spot. The final roster spot went to the switch hitting Jed Lowrie (HOU) as he will dig in against Mike Leake (CIN) on the road, but the Great American Ballpark is a hitter’s paradise and I am not a Leake fan.

    C: John Buck ($3768)
    1B: Gaby Sanchez ($5187)
    2B: Brandon Phillips ($5974)
    3B: David Wright ($8057)
    SS:  Troy Tulowitzki ($9148)
    OF Eric Thames ($4347)
    OF: Giancarlo Stanton ($6024)
    OF Marlon Byrd ($2543)
    U: Ben Zobrist ($6561)
    U: Jed Lowrie ($6030)
    SP: Clayton Kershaw ($16,531)
    SP: Ricky Romero ($14306)
    RP: Francisco Cordero ($1956)
    P: Drew Pomeranz ($9409)
    TOTAL SALARY: $99,841


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