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Charging the Mound: Erickson and Liss Talk Baseball

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2012 9:22 pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging

Welcome back to another season of Charging the Mound, Chris. Before we get started, congratulations are in order. I'm sure that there was a lot of anxiety for you as the big event neared, worrying if everything would come out all right, but in the end it worked out perfectly. So congrats on your AL LABR title, which you'll begin the defense of this weekend in Arizona. Oh, yeah, and on the birth of your daughter.

To that end, what was the secret to your success? How did you pull away with the victory? Would you attribute a greater portion of your win to what you did on draft day, or on how you managed your team?

My theory is that the deeper your league, the more important the draft becomes. There's obviously less room to maneuver on the waiver wire, especially in LABR, where you can't reserve guys that you bought in the auction so long as they are active for their big league club. Then again, each decision you make carries greater heft, especially with regard to trades.

I think the better question is what format do you prefer best? Would you rather be in a league where greater emphasis is placed upon the draft, or one in which there's more day-to-day or week-to-week management? I used to dread mixed leagues with daily moves as a grind, but some of that was because I was out of my element. I think I have a better handle on the rhythms of those leagues, so long as I don't have too many of them.

What have you found so far as you've been doing the research to get ready for the draft on Saturday? Are you noticing any trends about the AL pool? Do you have anything in store to top the likes of Steve Gardner, Glenn Colton and Brad Evans?

Good luck getting ready for the draft while adjusting to life with a daughter. When will you start teaching her about fantasy baseball? Before or after you indoctrinate her as a Yankees and New York Giants fan?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 12:57am
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging


When you said "big event" I thought you meant the Giants winning the Super Bowl, but yes, I did win AL LABR and also had a daughter who of course will be a Giants and Yankees fan, barring parenting malpractice on my part. Seriously, if I heard a friend of mine were raising his daughters to be Jets or Mets fans, I'd call social services.

As for LABR, I drafted a decent team, and made a couple profitable trades. At first it's odd to think I won it by a fair margin without any of the breakout stars (no Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury or Justin Verlander) and also while carrying a $26 Adam Dunn, a $27 Jon Lester and $16 Clay Buchholz, but when you get Michael Pineda for $11 and deal him in July for Ricky Romero, the combination is probably a $30 pitcher. Same thing happened with Justin Masterson for $5 who I dealt in June or so for Edwin Encarnacion, Peter Bourjos and Matt Thornton. The total value of that $5 spent was probably more than $30. How did I know to make those deals? Part of it is having psychic powers (which some would call luck) and part is knowing when to buy at rock bottom prices (Encarnacion didn't really have a job, and Bourjos, too, was shaky). I also got huge contributions from some middle relievers I picked up off of waivers whose names I can't remember. Vinnie Pestano was one, I think.

As for format, I don't think I'm wedded to any single one. I love the LABR/Tout only-league one where anyone with a pulse has value, and I also love the 14 or 15-team mixed NFBC style leagues where it's a little shallower, but it's still hard to be strong across the board. And the YF&F daily moves league is a bear, but comes with its own strategic considerations, especially as Funston tweaks the settings so much every year. I like all of it as long as the competition is strong, and the game is well designed.

What do I have in store for Evans, Colton and Gardner? More of the same, I hope. The real question is what they have in store for me - I would hope they (Evans in particular) made some *major* strategic adjustments this year for their sake.

Seriously though, I'm halfway through my AL research (alphabetically, by team city), and I'm having trouble ranking mid-tier pitchers and outfielders. For example, the Angels have Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout. Also Bobby Abreu is still hanging around. I'd rank Bourjos ahead of the rest, but Wells, Hunter and Trout are pretty close (even though Trout is reportedly likely to start at Triple-A), and they're all in that middle tier along with Nolan Reimold, Brennan Boesch, Michael Brantley, Delmon Young and a couple others. And pitchers like Chris Sale, Dan Bard and Jonathan Sanchez are hard to evaluate. Right now I have them Sale, Bard, Sanchez, but I might change my mind before I print out my final cheat sheet. Maybe it'll be clearer after I get to Tampa, Texas and Toronto.

Whatever I do, I don't want to consult anyone else's rankings or any kind of ADP data - at least before I finalize my list. I'm simply looking at RotoWire's latest news, player outlooks and past stats. With some players I'll list them roughly according to their three-year averages, and others, I'll list higher speculatively even if they've never performed at that level. I'll make those calls based on the research, my past knowledge of the player and my mental database of players generally over the years. But those calls simply give them a spot on the list which I sometimes override during the auction.

I'll just add one last thing - having a kid is a piece of cake. Sasha sleeps most of the time, wakes up twice at night (which her mom deals with) to feed and almost never cries. I don't know why everyone tried to stress me out about it.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 5:41 pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging

I suspect Texas and Toronto will muddle the picture further, rather than give you clarity. Take a look at the Blue Jays' outfield, for instance. Colby Rasmus tanked after getting traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays and then got hurt. That they went and dealt for him suggests that they'll be patient, but they do have Rajai Davis still if things don't work out. In left field, who gets more playing time, Eric Thames or Travis Snider? Edwin Encarnacion is going to be the DH most of the time there, though I suspect he'll play some first base when the team faces a lefty and sits Adam Lind. And they also added Ben Francisco, who is the only right-handed batter between the three LF candidates.

The Rangers have amassed a ton of pitching talent, but I don't know yet what to do with Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando. I think that Ogando would be the better starting pitcher than Harrison, but Ogando wilted down the stretch as a starter and could also be better suited as a reliever than Harrison. But given that they traded for Mike Adams during the season and then signed Joe Nathan in the offseason, just what sort of value would Ogando have as a reliever? He could end up being worth $1 or $15. Plus there's the whole conversion of Neftali Feliz from closing to starting.

I share your philosophy about playing multiple formats. In a way, I relish the challenge of trying to learn new ways to play - the gaming aspect of this is just as important as the player evaluation side. It's like trying to learn various types of poker games in addition to just playing No-Limit-Hold'em. And now I'm psyched, because I was able to seamlessly work in our first poker analogy of the season.

The two relatively new formats for me that I'm trying to get up to speed on this year are points leagues and Strat-o-Matic leagues. I still have a decently sized learning curve in both formats.

You're lucky that Sasha is such a good sleeper, so far. Allison was as well, at least for the first eight days. Then the colic kicked in, and she morphed into BatBaby, and we measured her cries in terms of DefCon levels (though I think we got the progressions backward, but I digress further) rather than decibels. I sure hope that doesn't happen to you. At least when we have to co-host the show together the next morning.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 9:36 pm
To: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging


I don't know how I feel about Rasmus. On the one hand, he's a good last year's bum *and* post-hype sleeper - my two favorite categories of player. But on the other, I've heard he isn't the brightest guy on the planet, and you wonder what happened in St. Louis that they wanted to get rid of him. In other words, I'm concerned about his "makeup." I admit that's pretty speculative - I don't know the guy, and there's no scientific basis for judging "makeup" - so I'm not exactly avoiding him. I just don't have him on my target list like I would. I got him at the right price in this year's FSTA Draft (in the 15th round), but I have a feeling someone will outbid me Saturday in LABR.

I'm down with different kinds of rotisserie baseball, but I can't deal with Scoresheet, Stratomatic or points leagues right now. Not that I have anything against them (except for points leagues which I find boring), but I'm in AL LABR, NL Tout, YF&F, the RW Staff league, the FSTA league and my home league. That makes six, and for me to learn not merely some new parameters but a whole new game, and then devote the time to mastering it, it's too much. Maybe if we got an entry into some big payout strat league, I'd kill myself to figure it out, but barring that I need to get outside once in a while. Plus, Sasha has been acting up ever since I jinxed myself by boasting about how easy she is.

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