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Saturday 17th Feb 2018

With less than two months remaining in the 2017 MLB season, we are at the point where we know which of our full-year fantasy teams have a realistic chance at a title and which do not. For those teams that have fallen short of expectations, it is never too early to try to determine why, so it can hopefully be avoided in the future.

I play in two high-visibility re-draft industry leagues, both National League-only formats. While the drafts were three weeks apart, I went into them with the same basic preparation and came out with what I thought were solid rosters.

Yet, here we are on August 10 and one of the two, my NL Tout Wars team, is in third place and performing well, while the other, in NL LABR, is floundering, fourth from the cellar.

As you might expect, only a few players were common to both rosters, so I cannot blame them. Sure, there have been disappointments and injuries on each team, as everyone faces during a six-month season.

In my self-analysis of what has happened, I point to the difference being my terrible record with waiver wire additions in LABR this season. I have called out eight pitchers and eight hitters below, all of whom I purchased of my own free will during the season. They represent $30 wasted.

In fact, it is likely even worse than wasted.

On the offensive side, you can see that a collective .188 batting average was probably more harmful than the small benefit of two steals, 11 runs, four homers and 16 RBI achieved from this collective group. (Note that I added and dropped Cincinnati outfielder Patrick Kivlehan twice.)

Hitter Tm Pos  AB R H HR RBI SB AVG $ Replaced by
Eibner, Brett LAD OF 3 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 $1 Ryan Raburn
Kivlehan, Patrick CIN OF 17 2 2 1 3 1 0.118 $1 Michael Morse
                    $1 Luke Voit
Hill, Aaron SF OF 25 2 3 1 2 0 0.120 $3 Matt Bowman
Morse, Michael SF OF 26 0 5 0 0 0 0.192 $1 Moved to DL
Ruggiano, Justin SF OF 39 1 8 1 2 1 0.205 $3 Brett Eibner
Parker, Jarrett SF OF 29 1 6 0 2 0 0.207 $3 Moved to DL
Stassi, Brock PHI 1B 45 2 10 1 5 0 0.222 $2 Patrick Kivlehan
La Stella, Tommy CHC 3B 18 3 4 0 2 0 0.222 $1 Player off DL
      202 11 38 4 16 2 0.188 $16  

The league standings bear this out as my team batting average of .261 is ninth. Had I taken zero stats instead of rostering these hitters, I would have three more points in batting average. These players’ runs, home runs and steals made no difference in the standings. I would have lost two points in RBI, but still the next benefit of never acquiring these players would have been a net positive of one point.

Among the pitchers, not all of these guys are as bad overall as they were during their stint on my roster. In fact, even if I tried, it would be hard to come up with any combination of hurlers who could deliver a collective ERA of 11 and a WHIP right at 2.00 over almost 50 innings. Yet, that is what I managed to accomplish with these terrible choices.

Pitcher Tm Pos W L ERA IP H ER BB K WHIP $ Replaced by
Stripling, Ross LAD RP 0 1 18.00 2 6 4 0 $1 3.00 $1 Patrick Kivlehan
Bowman, Matt STL RP 1 0 16.88 2.7 5 5 1 $3 2.25 $1 Hansel Robles
Robles, Hansel NYM RP 0 1 15.43 7 14 12 5 $6 2.71 $1 J.T. Riddle
Gomez, Jeanmar PHI RP 1 0 15.00 3 5 5 1 $4 2.00 $2 Kyle Freeland
Freeland, Kyle COL SP 0 1 11.57 4.7 8 6 3 $2 2.36 $2 Ross Stripling
Williams, Trevor PIT SP 0 0 11.25 4 6 5 0 $3 1.50 $3 George Kontos
Torres, Carlos MIL RP 0 1 10.12 5.3 8 6 2 $5 1.88 $1 Trevor Williams
Anderson, Tyler COL SP 1 3 7.32 19.7 24 16 7 $17 1.58 $3 Wandy Peralta
      3 7 10.98 48.3 76 59 19 $41 1.97 $14  

In terms of the standings, the additional saves and strikeouts from the eight made no difference. I would have lost 1.5 points without the three wins, however. Without these eight pitchers, my team ERA would be 4.41 instead of 4.71. Believe it or not, because the rest of my staff is so bad, I would still not pick up even one point in ERA.

However, there is one more category remaining. Do you know that they call high blood pressure “The Silent Killer?” (At least that is what my doctor recently told me!) In fantasy baseball, the silent killer is WHIP, a stat we rarely track carefully.

Believe it or not, without these eight pitchers, my team WHIP would have improved from the league-worst 1.385 to second-best at 1.270. That’s right, it would have given me TEN more points in the standings.

So to sum it up, I would have gained just one point in offense by avoiding these players, but would have added 8.5 points in pitching for total benefit of 9.5 points!

Hitting plus/minus   Pitching plus/minus
Runs, HR, steals 0   Saves, Ks, ERA 0
RBI -2   Wins -1.5
Batting average 3   WHIP 10
subtotal 1   subtotal 8.5
Total 9.5      

If you noticed the far right column in the above player tables, those are the players who I added when dumping each of the group of 16. They should look familiar.

Though the tables are listed from worst to best in batting average and ERA, respectively, I thought about re-ordering them by the connection between being added and dropped. You can see that I burned through $1 bids repeatedly, tossing one disappointing player overboard just to add another. Rinse and repeat.

Given this, I am going to re-think my general only-league guideline to maximize counting stats and try to avoid roster openings, even when there are no good options on the waiver wire. This data tends to suggest that a week of no stats now and then will be far better than taking a 10.98 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP.

This may especially be the case in LABR, where zero dollar bids are not allowed. That $30 flipped away a buck or two at a time on bad stats and more bad stats could have been better used collectively on one or two potential impact players.

Take from this what you can, but at least get the point that churning roster spots on the wrong pickups can have devastating consequences for your fantasy roster – and keep a special eye on the silent killer!

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-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. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.

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