MASTER NOTES: The Week-19 Assessment

Back in June, at roughly the one-third mark of the season, I presented my first standings assessment of 2017. At the time, I was 12th and last, and considering retiring to join a fantasy shuffleboard league.

Speaking of fantasies, in that one-third assessment, I went on to create a world in which I frolicked in a shower of magic moonbeams and rode a rainbow-colored unicorn to the top of the standings. But all I climbed was Doom Mountain, and instead of feeling like Frodo, I felt like Fredo. (“I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart!”)

Anyway, out here in reality, I have repeated the forecasting and guesstimating exercise, and in the process greatly reduced my expectations. I will not make the money without a divine intervention, but I could get as high as fourth, which would be extraordinary, though seventh or even sixth is more feasible. More importantly, I have a really good shot at climbing above 60 points, which is important because Tout owners are penalized $10 of next-year FAAB for every point we finish short of 60.

Assessment

At this writing, I have 55.5 points, good—if “good” is the right term—for ninth place. I’m 1.5 points back of eighth and three points ahead of tenth. I realistically think tenth is as low as I can sink, but if Marco Estrada, Sean Manaea, Danny Duffy J.A. Happ and the rest of my rotation keep allowing homers at their current paces, I might rethink even that.

My projected final standings show the league being more “spread,” and therefore having fewer teams jockeying within more tiers:

  • At the one-third mark, the top tier had four teams, led by Mike Podhorzer and including last year’s champ, Seth Trachtman. Now, it looks like a two-unicorn race between those two.
  • Then Jason Collette, who was in that top group, stands alone in third.
  • Then comes a three-team race for fourth through sixth, with Steve Moyer, Larry Schechter and Rob Leibowitz.
  • Then comes a transitional slot at seventh, where Chris Liss could move up into what would be a 4-7 tier or down into a 7-9 tier.
  • Then Jeff Erickson and I, currently elbowing each other for eighth and ninth.
  • Then Lawr Michaels and Nando DiFino, grinding for 10th and 11th.
  • And finally the Wolf-Colton partnership, well off the pace.

As before, my first question was how wide the gaps were overall. I’m 4.5 behind Liss for seventh. That feels doable, at least until we get into the categories. To catch sixth, a first-division finish, would mean picking up 7.5. But we always have to keep in mind whether the guys we’re chasing could fall, and especially if we can pass them ourselves.

So off I go to the categories, and projected outcomes, where some tactical considerations start to take shape.

Hitting

HR: Clearly I can get points here, especially if Lonnie Chisenhall returns soonish and resumes some useful bashing. I can put him into my offense without benching anyone by using our league’s interesting “Swingman” rule, which lets each owners designate his 23rd player as either a second UT or a 10th pitcher (we use only four OFs). I’m currently running 10 pitchers, but since they’re killing me, I could make that change to add the extra bat. If Chisenhall can get back in mid-August, which is what I’ve been reading, and picks up at his previous pace, I could add 6-7 HR. So I’m giving myself one point for sure. Leibowitz gets Evan Gattis back from the concussion 7-day DL soon, so he’s a little more out of reach. And Trachtman might be catchable, but when I get Chisenhall back, Trachtman will be getting Sal Perez and Starlin Castro back. If I get the Potential Gain: +2.0, both points will be at the expense of guys I’m chasing, which is like a four-point gain for me. And if you buy that math, perhaps I could interest you in a mortgage plan I just invented.

RBI: I’m one back of Collette and four behind Leibowitz with Chisenhall due at some point. I don’t feel a ton of pressure from Liss, 19 behind me. Potential Gain: +2.0, one coming from Leibowitz, who could also lose a further point to Collette.

SB: I was really languishing in this category at the one-third mark, in last place and already 10 bags behind the 11th-place team. How times change. In that earlier assessment, the guys I was counting on for speed—Jose Ramirez, Tim Anderson, Marwin Gonzalez, Ian Kinsler, Ezequiel Carrera and Alex Gordon—had combined to average 5.9 bags per 100 AB. Since then, they’ve upped that average to 9.6 SB/100. If they’d all been running at that pace from the start, I’d already be in a higher tier in the category. Plus I added Ben Revere when he was dropped, and he has nine bags, while Eduardo Nunez, my deadline FAAB grab, has two so far, and should get a few more. As it is, I’m 13 SB behind the next guy, so there looks like a Potential Gain +0.0, and while I’d like to deal Revere for, well, something, I don’t dare because I have those two other teams, including my overall competitors Erickson and Leibowitz, breathing down my neck in the category. Trachtman could help by sneaking past Schechter.

Runs: A big disappointment. I was fourth at first check, and thought I had a shot at third. Instead, I lost Chisenhall and Kinsler to injury and have fallen to eighth. I suppose I could pick up 19 runs in the remaining eight weeks, but I also had to DL my rainbow unicorn because of horn-and-mouth disease, so ... Potential Gain: +0.0. Collette once again could help by passing Leibowitz.

OBP: At first check, I was 11th at .3097 and wrote, “Barring some sudden outstanding resurgence... Potential Gain: +0.0.” Fast-forward to this week and I’m sixth at .3261! The projection also has me at sixth, but Moyer is just .0005 ahead, so there’s a real shot at a Potential Gain: +1.0, again at the expense of a guy I’m trying to catch in the overall.

When I add up my potential hitting gains, I see a potential +5.0 points, with four of those points, interestingly enough, coming from Moyer and Leibowitz, both in that third tier that looked at first glance like it would be totally out of reach. If I get all these projected points, that race looks like this:

  • SCHE 67.5
  • MOYR 67.0
  • LEIB 64.0
  • ME 63.5
  • LISS 63.0

The game is joined! Tally ho! As always, it comes down to pitching.

Pitching

Wins: How the mighty have fallen. Back in June, I projected at nine points, and thought I was within grabbing distance of the 10th and 11th points. I didn’t get Drew Smyly back (memo to self: don’t draft hurt pitchers, especially oft-injured types). Rick Porcello had great wins luck last year (0/11 bequeathed runners scored, run support of 6.8 runs per 27 outs) and is paying for it this year (5/11 bequeathed scored, run support 3.9). J.A. Happ’s 20-win 2016 is also being repaid in 2017 (run support 6.1 last year, 2.6 this). Marco Estrada simply blew up, and lit the fuse the day I refused a trade for him that would have been very helpful. Still, wins are fickle, and I can easily see a Potential Gain: +2.0

Saves: That Estrada deal I refused would have gained me a closer and 5 combined points in Saves, ERA and WHIP, and even added a win. As it is, my hoped-for KC trade of Kelvin Herrera didn’t happen, so my Joakim Soria (and, later Mike Minor) didn’t do much. Still, I have Alex Claudio and longshot Trevor Hildenberger, so there’s obviously a Potential Gain: +0.5.

ERA: What a disaster. I feel like I have a shot at snabbing the Wolf-Colton point here, and could get five if my starters stop throwing home runs. Importantly, I would get the second point off Leibowitz, and the fourth off Moyer. I considered dumping starters for LIMA relievers, but when I did the math, the likely gains in the decimals were offset by losses in wins (see above) and Ks (see below). Split the diff and call it Potential Gain: +4.0.

WHIP: I think this category is locked. I can root for Michaels to stay ahead of Moyer and Leibowitz. Potential Gain: +0.0.

K: In June, I projected to win this category pretty easily. Now things are tight enough that I can’t afford to trade a starter—not that anyone would want one of my starters—for fear of losing a K point or even two or three. I can also hope that Moyer and Leibowitz stay in those 11-12 slots. Potential Gain: +0.0.

That’s a potential gain in pitching of +6.5 points points, again with the added benefits of passing some overall competitors in some of the categories. I would get by Moyer twice and Leibowitz once if I can get that ERA gain.

If everything goes according to Hoyle in both hitting and pitching, the final tally is:

  • ME 70.0
  • SCHE 67.5
  • MOYR 65.0
  • LEIB 63.0
  • LISS 63.0

That’s me! Up there in fourth! Of course, back in June, that was me up there in first. Looks like my unicorn got off the DL sooner than expected. I’d consider fourth a terrific finish, but since that requires a lot of ducks to line up in a lot of rows, I’ll be happy to just stick my nose above 60 points. And yes, I did notice that my animal clichés somehow combined unicorns and ducks. I’ve been a busy bee with its head in the sand.

Conclusion

Of course this analysis has some pretty wide error bars, although they are narrower now with so much of the season already in the books, especially in the decimals.

I argue about this with my friend Todd Zola, and defer to him for the sound reason that he’s smarter than me. But as I said above, I’ve done the math and I just don’t see too much movement in the decimals beyond what I’ve taken, unless one of the teams I’m chasing helps me out by posting an Estrada-like ERA the rest of the way. As well, I have done a lot of what-if tests on various feasible trades, and the problem is that any deal I make to shore up over here ends up costing me the same points (or more) over there.

But hope springs infernal where there's a favorable projections spreadsheet, so I’m going to keep plugging. As I’ve said before, my goal here is to get to 60 points to avoid the FAAB penalty, and I like my chances there. Even if I don’t get all the way to fourth, and my reward is merely to finish seventh instead of ninth, that’s a win of a kind. It’s all valuable training for some future year when I ride my rested and healthy unicorn into second and I’m trying for the (real) win.


Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.