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Charging the Mound: Liss and Erickson Talk AL LABR

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: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 6:27pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging - LABR Edition


Like you, I just got back from Arizona yesterday. Unlike you, I stayed out until 2 am Sunday night sampling every kind of scotch at Seamus McCaffrey's, and that was before Rick Wolf insisted we do shots, which looked to me like doubles, but at that point who knows? In any event, except for the challenge of making it to the airport without yakking (and the argument I got into with security about how the new x-ray machines are going to give everyone cancer), it was as usual a highly enjoyable weekend.

My strategy going into AL LABR was to get a couple of high priced middle infielders as it gets awfully thin there, two catchers with full-time at-bats and then to skimp on pitching and outfield, as there was quite a bit of uncertainty in both places, and I figured I could let the room decide which gamble I'd end up taking. The other idea I had was to gamble on Justin Morneau for cheap, and because I got to make the first throw, I thought I could catch people off guard by nominating him at $7 and get crickets. Which is exactly what happened. Like everyone else, I have no idea whether he'll ever make it all the way back from his concussion, but so far he's doing okay, and at $7, it seemed to be well worth the risk - especially when you consider how many $7 players wind up being busts anyway.

Overall, I felt I executed the plan pretty well. I got "stuck" with a $29 Curtis Ganderson - a price enforce, but the more I think about it, I love that value, so it doesn't bother me that it wasn't by design. My feeling about auctions is you must be very disciplined about letting players you like go when the bidding gets higher than you thought it would. And so you might end up having lots of money as the pool is dwindling and feel pressure to get it in lest you leave it on the table, but even so, if there are still good players to target, you have to be patient and let other people overspend. It's very much an exercise in restraint, something in my normal gluttonous life I rarely show. The one time I lapsed was in going after Chone Figgins, a player I like to bounce back. I thought I'd get him around $9 or $10, but when Nick Minnix went to $11, I should have resisted. At that point, I had a lot of money left, but I'd have been better off getting Chris Davis at $8 for my corner spot and channelling the extra dollars toward pitching. I also probably should have gotten Wade Davis for $1 with my last throw rather than Tyson Ross. I had Davis ahead of him, but wanted someone on the A's staff (other than Brett Anderson who's out for a couple months). Otherwise, I did almost exactly what I set out to, and barring undue bad injury luck, I think I'll be in it at least. Here are the results of the entire auction incidentally.

One factor for which I did not plan was having you in the league. [Jeff was supposed to be broadcasting it, but subbed in at the last minute for an owner who got sick.] I think it cost me $4 or $5 over the course of the auction. It's not that I thought you were trying purposely to bid up my players, but from doing the Sirius XM show together, you happen to know who I like and also probably like a lot of the same players. The other day, Dalton Del Don asked me if there's anyone in the industry whose recommendations I care about, and the answer is basically no, but there are plenty of people who help me become aware of facts about players I didn't realize and cause my opinion to sway for that reason. In the course of discussing players on air together, there's no doubt we've sold each other on numerous guys, so I was pretty sure that would happen. The same thing happened last year with Perry Van Hook and Jason Grey, where Perry was driving Grey crazy by bidding up all his players. (That was much worse, incidentally). But the bottom line, it's a disadvantage in my opinion to have another owner in the league with whom you work closely. Because that person not only knows who you like, but nearly the exact extent to which you like them.

Of course, everyone in the industry has his work published and accessible somewhere, so we could conceivably get reads on everyone in the room. It's like playing poker against someone after looking up their hand history. But I almost never do that because (1) I spend enough time doing research as it is; (2) I don't want to screw up my strategy by trying to mess with someone else - after all, just because owner x liked player y in February doesn't mean he'll still go the extra buck on him in March; and (3) it seems a bit unsporting to take advantage of someone for doing his job, i.e., creating projections and values for public consumption. But it's a fine line. People know I typically like to buy Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and that Brad Evans likes Nelson Cruz. You don't have to go too far out of your way to learn these things, so why wouldn't you drive up the price another $1? But that's not the same as going to everyone's dollar values and making notes on who's likely going to pay more for given players. If you do that you incentivize people to keep quiet about their real intentions, something that's not good for their audience. So you're faced with shortchanging your audience to get an advantage in your leagues, or more likely - certainly in your case - giving away the store and having a disadvantage. I don't think it applies much in expert leagues (except in odd situations like LABR this year and last), but in leagues like CardRunners with high stakes and sharks trying to get any advantage they can, it's definitely a drawback that everyone can see your cards.

Any thoughts on LABR in general? Did I snake or bid up players you were targeting? Are you actually going to keep the team you drafted or give it back to its original owner?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 12:57pm
To: "Chris Liss"
Subject: Charging - LABR Edition


Don't lie, you enjoyed the argument with the security guard, too. It's in your nature. It's just too bad that you had to argue with the poor working stiff at the bottom level, who had nothing to do with the design of the x-ray machines or even their implementation. Instead he probably had to argue with a probably still-inebriated guy to start his morning. Scotch-breath for the win!

Anyhow, I liked most of what you did with your squad. You've got at-bats out of basically every spot, with solid producers like Kinsler, A-Rod, Jeter and Granderson at the core, and guys with profit potential in Austin Jackson, Travis Snider and Morneau. I think that those that mentioned you're lack of a 1B-eligible guy behind Morneau have a point. You obviously sought Morneau out, and that opening bid was well-crafted. But your corner spot would have been better filled with a 1B-eligible guy - and you mentioned that Davis would have been better for you than Figgins already. But you have a chance to have more at-bats than anyone in this league, and you can't be unhappy with that.

I knew you wouldn't be thrilled about me being in the league with you, but the good news for you is that I rarely if ever purposefully try to bid up another owner in the league. If there's a guy that you and I were going head-to-head in the bidding on, it's because I liked him at that price. Given my lack of prep time for this specific draft, I couldn't afford to waste time and potentially my budget getting stuck on a player I didn't like that much. In home leagues you'll frequently see more of that type of price-enforcement against each other, but rarely in these industry leagues. It's not that I won't price enforce, but rather that I don't care who is the owner with the high bid at the time. But there's no doubt that we influenced each other in the lead-up, convincing each other on a handful of players. It only seems as if I was up against you more frequently - I think Larry Schecter and I bid against each other a lot too.

As far as the keeping secrets question, for better or worse, I'm an open book. Between the magazine and the site, and then talking about the player pool on-air three hours a day, there's no real way for me to camouflage my intentions about a particular player. Fortunately, I don't have a trademark draft style, and player evaluation in itself is just one aspect of our game. So while my guys do get bid up from time-to-time (see also Van Hook spending $28 to get Brett Lawrie!), there are other fish in the sea. Your genius/agnostic dichotomy applies well here - there are enough players out there that if people want to bid up my guys, I'll find other guys I like. And if my opponents want to spend so much time trying to prevent me from getting my known guys, they'll hurt themselves in the end. Either they'll spend too much to prevent me from getting certain guys, or they'll ignore doing the research in finding their own guys.

But this discussion does bring up a favorite memory of mine. A RotoWire staffer who we'll leave unnamed at this point always used to hold off posting news updates until he'd act accordingly on the waiver wire in our staff leagues. I think at least twice he ended up getting a newly minted closer due to this tactic. Now that information like that is such a commodity, it's harder to get an edge doing so.

I'm keeping this team. I'm pretty happy with it, actually. And the other owner gave me his blessing to keep rolling with it. So when you're ready to get a few saves points, Andrew Bailey will be there, waiting for you. You didn't necessarily stymie me on Saturday - there's a lot of guys that you grabbed that I like, but because I was trying to be as agnostic as possible, I wasn't really counting on one particular player. But I do wish I had Holland and Buchholz at the prices you paid, and I was hoping to end up with Matt Wieters. In fact, he might have been one of those players where I cost you $2 for you to get him, and that I didn't get him or Mike Napoli might have pushed me into going super-cheap at the position. I forget, were you in on Alex Gordon or Ricky Romero? You might have cost me $2 to get them there. It looked like you and I were in on a couple of endgame guys too, like Hisashi Iwakuma and Fautino De Los Santos.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 1:14pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging - LABR Edition


First off, it was a female security guard, and the argument started when someone went through the old-style x-ray machine, and when it was my turn, they pointed me to the new one. The old-style one has been around forever, and frequent flyers aren't dropping dead of cancer, so I'd rather go through that. I said as much, and the woman started lecturing me that they both have radiation, and I didn't get to choose - unless I wanted a pat-down. (Which I might have opted for, except that I was so hungover I might have vomited). So I told her she really didn't know about the new ones as the bad results are usually delayed 20 years or so, but when frequent flyers and TSA employees start getting cancer, they'll quietly phase them out and pretend like it never happened. Or something to that effect. One thing I guarantee - the TSA and the makers of those machines don't give a **** about me, and they certainly don't give a **** about the low-level employees who do what they're told.

As for backing up Morneau, you can't be serious. Last year, I had Brandon Inge, Chris Davis and Adam Dunn at the corners, and I won the league. It's a 12-team AL-only league - if your guy goes down, that's how it goes. You don't get to worry about backups. Moreover if I had Davis as my corner, and Morneau went down, then Davis goes from CI to 1B, and I have a hole at CI. What's the difference whether my hole is at 1B or at CI? In a league like this, you hope for average injury luck or better and get enough at-bats to see you through. Davis would have been better only because he was cheaper, and I think he's probably just as valuable as Figgins.

And again, I really didn't think you'd be in against me on a player I liked and you didn't. Only that because I've made my case for my players to you many times, I had to figure at least some of those times you were persuaded. And maybe you already liked some of those guys, and the new angles I argued might have caused you to like them more. The Iwakuma and De Los Santos bids were odd because you and I have never mentioned those guys once, and coincidentally we were both on them, though you have more money than I at time.

Do you also have Mark Melancon? Because Bailey will be hurt before I start dealing for saves, I'm pretty sure.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 6:47pm
To: "Chris Liss"
Subject: Charging - LABR Edition


Regarding Morneau, the reason it's more relevant is that he already has a pre-existing issue. Everybody is an injury risk - I acknowledge that. But some players are greater risks. I don't think it's approaching an egregious error to not have a backup for him, especially because your investment in him was fairly low.

But then again, I didn't back Bailey up with Melancon, so I'm vulnerable to the same criticism. He went for $4 and I might not have had the budget to top that anyhow. I don't always handcuff my closers (or my running backs for that matter). While it's great when you have Jordan Walden when his ship comes in, how often is it more like investing in Hong-Chih Kuo behind Jonathan Broxton, only to see the unheralded Javy Guerra get the job? So I'm reluctant to spend more than the minimum or two on an established closer's backup.

I actually drafted Iwakuma in a dynasty league last year before he signed, and that he landed in Seattle is only gravy. I hope to grab him in another similarly deep league or two.

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