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Charging the Mound: Regrets and Ranks

Chris Liss

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

Jeff Erickson

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

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:26pm
To: "Chris Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging

Traditionally this is our final "Charging" of the year, with the football season starting up next week. It's time for us to take stock in what's gone right and what's gone wrong, and take a quick look at next season. Though that sounds really strange with a full month in the season remaining. In fact, it's more than strange, it's annoying. We've spent some time in this space lamenting how early football takes over on the show, but at least now it's appropriate. But this last month of the season is still incredibly important, from pickups to the endgame strategy in roto leagues to the playoffs in head-to-head leagues.

But at the same time, I have to be realistic. There's just not enough hours in the day, especially with the NFL Value Meter getting added to my weekly plate. It's a shame, too - but something has to give.

So to that end, let's talk about regrets. It's been a good season - I'm contending in a lot of my leagues, from Tout Wars, to my NFBC league, to my local leagues and the RotoWire Staff Keeper League. But there still have been plenty of mistakes along the way, including one big fundamental mistake.

That fundamental mistake is that I've finally reached critical mass in my leagues - this year, between my roto leagues, my Scoresheet leagues and one Strat league, I have 17 teams. I've been able to handle 12-15 before, with varying success, but this year it's finally been too much. And I feel bad, because one of the teams that's been adversely affected is the Scoresheet League that you and I co-run. I've missed out on trade chances and haven't managed it ideally. This is your first foray into Scoresheet, and I've sort of ruined it for you, so I apologize. Next year, I absolutely must scale back.

Another regret is how I didn't follow my instincts with a couple of Last Year's Bums, with Adam Dunn being the most glaring example. I thought that his power would return, but gave him just a lukewarm projection. Even after I bumped him up in spring training, the projection wasn't bold enough - I took too much of last Year's ghoulish season into account.

That also affected my leagues. I let myself get talked out of both keeping him in one Scoresheet league, then drafting him later after tossing him back. Part of that is partner dynamics, part of it is the fruit of a dreadful trade I made to get him in the first place. But it's mostly a case of not following my instincts. I've done this for too long to know better.

In the next e-mail I can talk about a few things I got right and then lay out my top 15-30 for next year, but I want to hear from you. What regrets, if any, do you have? What mistakes did you make? Or if the answer is "none", commence bragging. Or bring your first two rounds for next year.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:54pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Re: Charging

Overall, I'm doing pretty well with most of my teams surging except the Staff Keeper where we sold everything off that wasn't bolted down. I've climbed from 11th out of 15 in my home league to fourth (and pushing third for decent money), from last in AL LABR to 5th, from a distant second in FSTA to tied for first, looking to go nearly wire-to-wire in NFBC, and stalking Andy Behrens in YF&F in second (though he has a decent lead). In AL Tout I'm wavering between fourth and sixth, thanks to dealing Adam Dunn and Alex Cobb for C.J. Wilson and Michael Brantley a couple months ago. If I don't do that trade, I'm easily in third, though probably with no shot at second or first.

My biggest regret is not owning Mike Trout anywhere. I'm always the guy that buys the mega prospects, especially in expert leagues where everyone's way too savvy to spend decent money on a 20-year old. But I really thought there was no way he'd be up before June with all the bodies they had in Anaheim, so I was only willing to take him dirt cheap - or at least cheaper than one owner in every one of my leagues. One other regret is in my home league, I was up in the later rounds, and I needed a pitcher. The highest guy on my custom-built cheat sheet, i.e, one for which I had painstakingly researched every player and typed in manually, was R.A. Dickey. For God knows what reason, I decided to go rogue at the last second and took Mike Leake - a few players down the list - instead. I might be pushing first instead of third had I not done that.

Of course, I had a few things go my way - I had wanted Tim Lincecum, but in three or four leagues, he just didn't fall where I was drafting, so I got "stuck" with King Felix. In four leagues. And I picked up Dickey in YF&F just because he had starts against the Padres and Pirates. I had planned to drop him after that, but it coincided with his historic run. Now he's one of Yahoo's undroppables.

And yes, you really were a bum partner in our scoresheet league, something exacerbated by the fact that everyone in the league sees every email, so I had to read (not exaggerating) 200 emails this year regarding everyone else's trades while our non-contending team did nothing. And this after I helped us draft Jake Peavy and Jeff Samardzija on the cheap.

I'm in a manageable number of leagues - seven, two of which are managed by partners. (Eight if you count scoresheet with you, but I didn't do anything for it). That's about the right number, though ideally I'd have one or two less. For football I have eight, which is the most I've ever had and probably 2-3 too many. My biggest problem is always remembering deadlines, especially in baseball where there's an early Monday game. In a few leagues, I don't find out the free agents until late Sunday night/early Monday, and we have the SXM show from 8-11 am PT. If the game starts at 10 PT, I usually forget to set the lineup during the show.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 2:27am
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging

I only have Trout in two leagues, one a keeper, so I wasn't exactly prescient about him getting the call either. Then again, I guess the takeaway here is to not let the Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells types of the world stand in the way when the player in question is so talented. Even though there are counter-examples to investing in the big-time prospects (and I'll leave to the reader to decide whether Wil Myers qualifies as such), it's worth the marginal dollar to gamble on the earlier call-up. Sure, in a league such as Tout Wars or LABR when the replacement value is low, there's more of a real cost. But how often are you going to get a massive payoff from a "safe" player that has a similar cost? Like you said, you usually invest in those types of players, so it's not really a new lesson for you.

What might happen next year is that instead of the next big prospects to come down the line being undervalued, the opposite might happen, for fear of missing out on the "next Trout." There's really not a next Trout, though - what he's doing is so unprecedented, maybe even more of an outlier than what Cam Newton did for rookie quarterbacks. That said, who is the next mega-prospect in baseball? Who will we be pining away for a call-up next season? And how early/expensive does he go in your drafts and auctions?

On an aside, I really thought that Wil Myers had a chance to be that guy this year, and acted on that feeling at the LABR draft in March in the reserve rounds. I was feeling pretty good about that pick and the team in general, but when we were doing the post-mortem at the bar, Nate Ravitz of thought that Myers was essentially a wasted pick - that he wouldn't be up before September. Nate's a smart guy, and was right here - and in the league generally. He's in second place in AL LABR, behind the Mike Trout-led team of Shawn Childs and Greg Ambrosius of the NFBC.

Speaking of LABR, that's the toughest deadline for me - Monday morning free agents, during our show, with a number of Mondays where there's a day game on Monday - I'm looking at you Boston - and not just with Patriots Day.

That's enough reviewing of missteps. Let's look forward. Here's my back-of-the-envelope top 15 for next year. Mistakes will be made - tell me where I'm wrong, who I forgot, and how you'd rank your top 15.

1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Ryan Braun
3. Mike Trout
4. Matt Kemp
5. Robinson Cano
6. Carlos Gonzalez
7. Andrew McCutchen
8. Joey Votto
9. Albert Pujols
10. Josh Hamilton
11. Jose Bautista
12. Giancarlo Stanton
13. Adrian Gonzalez
14. Justin Verlander
15. Matt Holliday

This is a very rough draft, by no means etched in stone. A few of the players that came close for me include Hanley Ramirez, Felix Hernandez, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Beltre, David Wright and Curtis Granderson.

But what about a couple of other big breakout guys this year, like Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera? What do you do with them? I didn't consider putting Aroldis Chapman anywhere close to the top 15, but just how early are you willing to go on him next year? Finally, what about some of this year's bums, like Jacoby Ellsbury, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Upton? Where do they end up?

This was a fun season doing this with you again, Chris - I wish we had more bandwidth to keep it going in September. Send it home in style.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2012 3:34am
Subject: Re: Charging

There's not much style here, but my top-15 are as follows:

1. Ryan Braun
2. Mike Trout
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Matt Kemp
5. Robinson Cano
6. Giancarlo Stanton
7. Carlos Gonzalez
8. Andrew McCutchen
9. Jose Bautista
10. Albert Pujols
11. Joey Votto
12. Prince Fielder
13. Adrian Gonzalez
14. Hanley Ramirez
15. Jason Heyward

I can't fault your list, but take a look at Stanton's numbers this year despite missing a month - he's on pace for about 35 HR, and he's hitting .290 with five steals. If he plays 155 games, he'll hit 40-plus next year, and maybe even 50. He's Bautista without hurting your batting average. Prince Fielder plays 160 games a year. That's got to be worth extra in the first or early second round. Hanley Ramirez was miserable in Florida, and it's hard to play well in those circumstances. If Carl Crawford's healthy, I'll be targeting him for the same reason. I left off Holliday who's getting older, and Hamilton who could be playing somewhere less hitter friendly and obviously has added risk. I also would rather get my ace in the third or fourth round - hard to say whether Felix, Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg or even Halladay will be the best pitcher. I also threw Heyward in there as he's got the pedigree to take it to a superstar level next year, too, and if 2012 is his floor, you'll be fine.

In low innings cap leagues like YF&F, Chapman is gold, but in a standard format, closers are worth far less. A couple interesting names that you left out: Bryce Harper - much better at 19 than Trout was - Strasburg without the possible innings cap, Ian Kinsler, Kershaw, Evan Longoria (this era's Eric Chavez) and of course, Billy Hamilton. Wonder where he goes if he had a great AFL, great spring and won the left field job. Might even qualify at SS.

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