I don’t care what anyone says about the inherent benefits of being the underdog, the ignored or chronically overlooked. I don’t care if it is July 21 or October 1; I want to be in first place.
There is one key reason why I am not there in either of my National League-only industry leagues – LABR and Tout Wars. Derek Carty of ESPN leads in both competitions, each consisting of 12 teams and 5x5 scoring.
In NL LABR, with 98 points, Carty holds a seven-point lead over my second-place roster. In Tout, Carty’s squad has amassed 94 points, again with a seven-point edge over the next-closest squad, managed by Mastersball’s own Lord Zola. I reside in a tie for third, 10 more points down in the scoring.
I am a big believer in looking at the past to learn for the future, whether it be in free agent bidding, trades, waivers and the like. Look for patterns, good moves, and mistakes alike. Consider not only my behavior, but that of my peers, some of the better players around.
Of course, that includes draft day.
To that end, let’s look at Carty’s teams and see what we can glean about his success.
Balance: In Tout, Derek leads in two hitting categories and is second in another. On the pitching side, he is in first place in two categories and is second in two others. Only in on-base percentage (three points) and saves (1.5 points) is Carty not either leading or very close to being on top. He has amassed 47 offensive points and 47 pitching points.
The LABR standings indicate almost as balanced of a performance by Carty’s squad, with 47 hitting and 51 pitching points. Though he has the most points in no offensive categories, he is second in one and third in two others with his “worst” standing still worth eight points. His pitchers are dominant, with the maximum 12 points in four categories. Again, Carty lags the pack in saves only.
Health: Though Carty has eight players on the DL in Tout, one less than my nine, only three are significant contributors – hitters Joe Panik and Dexter Fowler, plus some pitcher from the Dodgers named Kershaw. Obviously, the longer the three-time Cy Young Award winner is out, the less dominant Carty’s staff will be.
In LABR, Derek’s DL is tiny. Of the two injured players, only Kershaw’s absence is painful.
Pitching: With the LABR draft held first, in early March, the Dodgers ace cost Carty just $38. Three weeks later at Tout, the price was $3 higher.
Yet, Carty’s success is driven by more than just the best pitcher in the game. There are other common success threads across Carty’s two first-place squads, both of which include the same four hurlers among the nine total. Dodgers pitching is one commonality, as Derek owns two other L.A. starters in Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. His fourth common pitcher across the two rosters is Junior Guerra of Milwaukee.
While the capabilities of Kershaw and Kazmir were well understood coming into the season, it is clear that Carty was willing to take risk – going all in on rookies Maeda and Guerra. All except Guerra were draft-day additions.
Hitting: Most of the commonality in offense across the two teams is in the outfield, where Nick Markakis, Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall are on both squads, along with corner infielder Mark Reynolds.
Note that two of the flychasers are members of the Cincinnati Reds, showing us that good fantasy players can be sourced from bad real life teams. Duvall, acquired at just $7 (LABR) and $3 (Tout), was a huge acquisition, leading both of Carty’s teams in home runs and RBI.
Hamilton, who coming into the season looked to many of us as a potential one-category contributor, was Carty’s most expensive hitter owned on both squads at $20 (LABR) and $22 (Tout). But Hamilton was not the highest-priced hitter on either team. In fact, in LABR, he is fourth in price, behind Charlie Blackmon, Freddie Freeman and Maikel Franco. Hamilton’s 27 steals are on target compared to expectations coming in.
The final two common hitters on Carty’s league-leading NL squads are veteran hitters overlooked by many of us here in 2016 in Reynolds and Markakis. With regular at-bats, the two have combined for 14 home runs, 87 RBI and have an on-base percentage of .340. All that for $17 in Tout and $18 in LABR.
My conclusion is simply that Carty did a fine job drafting core players who delivered value beyond their draft day price. As a result, even losing the best pitcher in the game in Kershaw hasn’t eroded his chances significantly.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.