FOX Sports Expert League recap and strategy discussion (Part 3)

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here, so let’s jump right into the final part.

Late season points in droves

I gained nearly 15 points from the middle of August to the end of September. It went from a heated battle for first to a run-away in just six weeks. Jose Reyes, Brandon Phillips, and a Denard Span pickup netted me a bunch of steals and runs points, but I also grabbed quite a few in the pitching categories.

Thanks to some excellent (and lucky) pitching by Tim Lincecum and starting six or seven closers with great stats every day, I had a huge lead in ERA. Losing Lincecum and Daisuke Matsuzaka (who I wasn’t starting anyway because of his control) was no big deal at all because they had already done what I wanted them to; I had my ERA lead and was doing well in WHIP. Going forward, they could only provide marginal value in wins and strikeouts.

They were actually near replacement level in the context of my team, because all I cared about for the final month-and-a-half were wins and strikeouts. Any additional stats a starting pitcher provided was meaningless. Jorge de la Rosa and Bronson Arroyo were nearly equivalent options, plus I got Javier Vazquez and John Danks to make sure I had at least some quality innings getting logged. Essentially, I leveraged Lincecum and Dice-K’s excellent value for offensive points and lost nothing in the way of pitching points.

Up until now, I had sat tight with my starters. I didn’t engage in spot starting and just rode the wave. After the deadline, though, I slowly but surely began to spot start. By the middle of September, I managed to keep my big ERA lead and was picking up at least one starter almost every single day (some days as many as three or four) to spot start and accumulate strikeout and wins points. By John Halpin’s calculations, I was making “937 transactions per week.”

This is a highly volatile strategy under most conditions, but I was in a somewhat rare situation where I could afford to do it with no risk attached. The WHIP point or two I put at risk were made up for by the strikeout and wins points I could gain without any risk at all. Start a lot of pitchers, and those two things will come.

Final standings

I ended up getting 12 points in both HRs and RBIs, as I intended with my draft day plan. I finished with 11 in runs and six in steals (gaining several points over the last few weeks). I also managed 11 in batting average, more than I expected (but I would have been fine without them).

I got 12 points for saves, which was huge considering I paid almost nothing for them. I got 12 points in ERA and 11 in WHIP, and finished with 8 in both wins and strikeouts (again, gaining several over the last few weeks).

Keys to success

  • One of the big keys to my success was avoiding injuries. One of my teams this year had some 15 or 20 injuries, while this one had relatively few.

    My injured players were Phillips, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Lee, Evan Longoria, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Cueto, Dustin McGowan, Pedro Martinez, Ty Wigginton, Frank Thomas, and Mike Napoli. Seems like a pretty long list, but most of the the big ones came late in the year and had minimal impact. Tulo and Matsui were the only two that really hurt me.

    I made no concerted effort to avoid injuries, as this really is a field that has yet to be properly researched, and I simply had some good fortune. Can’t bank on that next year.

  • Hitting on some of my late round picks really helped. Evan Longoria was huge, and Joakim Soria, Kevin Gregg, Jose Guillen, and Edwin Encarnacion also all came past round 16 and were important. I got great value on Jermaine Dye, who did about what I expected.

  • That my big three (David Wright, Lee, and Mark Teixeira) delivered as expected was also huge.

  • Some good fortune with my starting pitchers (Lincecum, James Shields, and Matsuzaka all had lucky ERAs) helped immensely as it enabled me to pursue my late-season pitching strategy.

  • Some indirect good fortune came in my drafting Brian McCann. If Victor Martinez was sitting there (maybe even in round four)… oh boy. And if I remember correctly, I had intentions to draft Jorge Posada in round nine as my second catcher, but he was taken a little before then. Mike Napoli didn’t do much, but using a high pick on Posada would have hurt.

  • Some good free agent pickups (Dustin Pedroia, Christian Guzman, Span, David Murphy, Adam Lind, all the closers) helped a lot as well.

    A Hardball Times Update
    Goodbye for now.

  • And, of course, my mid-season trades and subsequent spot-starting were critical.

Concluding thoughts

That wraps it up. Hopefully this gives you a clearer idea how to go about evaluating your own seasons.

I’d like to say thanks to everyone in the league for making this such a pleasant season, and a big thanks goes out to Roger Rotter, John Halpin, and the other guys at FOX for extending the invitation.

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