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Friday 19th Jan 2018

Finally - five weekends, nine cities, seven hotels, five seminars, ten drafts, ten airports, three bus stations and an absolute bitch of a head cold and it's OVER!

It’s been a hectic stretch, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Well, maybe the head cold part but at least that had the courtesy of waiting until the very end. Though technically what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas. Obviously, germs didn’t get the message. Finally home to sleep in the comfort of my own bed and I can't breathe. Freaking germs.

But that has not stopped my mind from pondering.

One of the more interesting dynamics of doing what I do is balancing information provider with fantasy player. It’s been suggested by fellow analysts as well as candid competitors that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to game play. I’ve been told not only does everyone know how I feel about every player but they also know my strategy.

Here’s my rebuttal: "My feelings about players are largely dictated by the numbers and I can’t recall a single player where I was the only one feeling a certain way." Sure, we all have our guys but we also share guys. Maybe I’m naïve but your knowing how I feel about a player doesn’t bother me. If you want to keep me from getting the player by overpaying, either in terms of auction dollars or draft rounds, more power to you. If my winning or losing solely revolves around getting my guy, either I need more guys or a different strategy.

Speaking of strategy, I get a kick out of those that claim they know my strategy because I’m never sure what it will end up being in any given draft or auction. Well, that is, other than wanting to amass as many potential stats as possible. If you think you know how I’m going to go about assembling my team before the draft or auction, you know more than me.

Maybe that’s a fault with my game play as I don’t have a specific strategy that I map out and execute, instead prefering to have a greater understanding of the landscape and hence go with the flow. But again, if you take a player because you feel it impedes my strategy, kudos. That’s what adjusting on the fly is all about.

I admit, while we all share feelings on players, there are different manners to interpret numbers and we all add our own seasoning. Ergo, while we may share opinions, each one of us has a unique assessment of the available inventory and each one of us believes ours to be best.

And while I may not have a specific strategy I plan to deploy, I most certainly have a defined objective with respect to my desired team construct both in terms of hitting and pitching. My perceived edge is within the greater understanding of the landscape mentioned above. That is, there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat just as there are many pathways to attain my preferred team composition.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this perceived edge and whether it’s real or imagined. I believe it to be real, but sometimes question if I am doing what I often accuse others of doing and that is unnecessarily trying to be the smartest person in the room. Be it in industry showcase leagues, the private sector or in the high-stakes arena, I see efforts that I categorize more as gimmick than I do strategy.

I’m sorry, but taking nine pitchers with your first nine picks or spending $9 for your entire pitching staff is more gimmick than strategy. Can it work? Sure, at the end of the day, it’s not why you pick but who you pick. I don’t know, I just think that a strategy should be based on cogent analysis and not a whim or even a perception.

In my view, a couple of common misconceptions about the present player pool pertain to the notion of scarcity and the depth of pitching. I won’t bore you with the details as these are both topics I have addressed ad nauseam the past couple of years. I believe scarcity is a myth and it’s not worth leaving stats on the table early in the name of securing a perceived scarce player. And while pitching may be better than previous seasons, everything is relative. It’s more difficult to acquire impact pitching later thus to make sure you roster impact pitching, you need to pay the price.

I will admit, this season I am seeing more of my industry brethren change their tune and not preach scarcity or to wait on pitching. In my not so humble opinion, they’re a couple of years behind.

The current fallacious stream of misinformation involves closers. Never pay for saves, right? I say wrong. I say not all saves are created equal. It’s not the actual saves that are my focus but that which comes along for the ride. Proponents of not waiting for saves because they are so easy to acquire in season are already claiming victory since there are five scenarios that are already different than anticipated. But think about it. While Jose Valverde, Matt Lindstrom, Francisco Rodriguez, Sergio Santos and either J.J. Hoover or Sam LeCure will rack up some saves, you ratios are in jeopardy. My contention is the edge you get from Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, David Robertson, Koji Uehara, Ernesto Frieri, Trevor Rosenthal and a healthy Aroldis Chapman is worth the price.

Pencil in 35-40 saves for all these guys as well as for any full-time closer. That’s not the issue. I’ve done the math. The issue is one of the elite stopper being worth, on the average, anywhere between four and six more roto points in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP than an average closer and even more than a below average closer. Saves is saves is a misnomer. Some saves come with baggage.

When I claim I have a better feel for the big picture than others, this is an example. As discussed earlier, I have a desired goal with respect to my pitching staff in terms of whiffs and ratios with multiple means to get there at my fingertips. One which I have discussed is eschewing taking an elite starting pitcher and instead doubling up on elite closers and waiting for a couple of lower tier starters. When you add up the numbers of the two closers and two starters and compare that to the numbers of a couple of better starters and a pair of middle to lower tier closers, the end result is a wash.

In my mind, this is better stated a tactic than a strategy but in this case the difference is semantics. The point is there’s some analysis behind the ploy; it’s not an attempt to be cute or make a statement. It’s a designed effort to assemble the best team.

Did the person taking nine pitchers with their first nine picks really do the math and conclude they can accrue ample offense to contend?

Did the person buying nine $1 pitchers (as Larry Labadini famously did in LABR’s early years) really think he could identify sufficient gems in today’s landscape and compete in pitching, even with trades? Maybe they did, I don’t know.

If you can’t tell, I am having my own version of buyer’s remorse but it has nothing to do with the players I have put on my rosters over the past few months. I never question who; I question why. And I realize this contradicts an earlier statement that it’s not why but who you pick and choosing better players should supersede any strategy, no matter how well formulated and grounded in logic it may be.

It’s just the way I am.

Or maybe it’s the cold medicine talking.

Freaking germs.

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