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Roundtable: Unconventional Strategies

This week, I get to host the roundtable.  My question:

Do you have any fantasy baseball strategies that buck the conventional wisdom? 

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Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms: My pitching strategy bucks conventional wisdom.  It is conservatively managed.  Damage control wins when it comes to pitching.  I go an entire season without starting any pitchers when they are in Coors or Philadelphia or when they play the Mets, Red Sox or Yankees.  I had the Tigers in that grouping earlier this year but since have abandoned them as a part of that elite group.  I will preface this odd strategy by noting that I draft six SP with the highest K/9 ratios possible and four closers.  Since most leagues start nine, I go with four closers and whichever five of the six top starters have the best matchups each week.

By eliminating the potential to get destroyed by some of the best and deepest hitting offenses or get shafted by pitching in an extremely small ball park, my team's ERA and WHIP remain the lowest in the league.  Add four closers to the mix and that trend holds even truer.  By starting five high strikeout pitchers, despite lower inning totals due to benching my stud pitchers in the aforementioned conditions, and starting less pitchers per week than other teams because I start four closers, I still remain atop the league in strikeouts.

Adding to the strategy, I usually wait until May to find some extremely poor offenses in very good pitcher's parks.  This year, San Diego and San Francisco are the two I've chosen.   I'll basically have no qualms about starting any pitcher in one of those parks.  Those two teams' offenses are so awful and their parks so big, that it is a rare feat to get shelled in those parks against those lineups.

When a pitcher tosses seven innings, gives up two runs and strikes out six batters against the Red Sox, Mets or Yankees or in Philadelphia or Colorado, and they are not in my lineup, I know I haven't missed out.  No one start can make your season.  And starts like that in those conditions are a rarity.  Since several bad starts CAN break your season (ERA and WHIP), I laugh when other owners start  pitchers in places that I don't and then get shelled and see their ERA and WHIP skyrocket.

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Patrick DiCaprio, Fantasy Baseball Generals: In auction leagues I think the whole concept of "value" is completely subjective and do not use it at either the top or the bottom of the player pyramid. I simply target a player or group of players that I want and go get them, almost regardless of price. When we have a "value" of $20, for example, what we are really saying is that based on a particular projection system, the player is likely to produce a range of values, probably somewhere between $15-$25, and even then the actual production will be within that range probably 70% of the time at most.  As a result sticking to the figure of $20 is foolish. It is a balancing act of the subjective probabilities that I assign to the various possible values. I will be happy to go higher than $20 depending on what probability I think the player has of producing higher or far higher than that.

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Jason Collette, RotoJunkie: I continue to draft more young players than any one team should. I know older players are typically more stable but the odds are against older players (32+ yrs old) having better seasons than the year prior while young players can often exceed projections while in that 26-31 yrs old range.

When I put together my own draft charts, I red flag anyone over 32 years of age and use those names only during dollar days or to spend someone else's cash who will take the risk. There are inherent risks by relying upon so many young players who have yet to establish a stable baseline of skills, but the upside outweighs the risks in my book. I employed the strategy to the extreme in my local NL and AL leagues (no players above age 31 on either team) and I am in first place in both competitive leagues.

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Rudy Gamble, Razzball.com: I tend to be a counter-puncher who takes whatever the opponents give him.  I stick to my player valuations and see how each league plays out.  Here are some areas I tend to break out from the pack:
 
1) I tend to value top starters higher and will draft them earlier than most.  That worked out well in two leagues where Santana and Haren have paid off as 1st and 5th round picks and hurt me in a league where I took Peavy and Harang.
2) I like having at least 3 closers on my team through the end of July.  If I can snag some off waivers, great.  You can always trade closers.
3) I place less value than most on middle infielders.  Utley and Hanley are worthy of 1st round picks wherever they play.  Looking at this year, I can't think of a middle infielder drafted in the first 8 rounds - short of Hanley, Utley, Kinsler, and maybe Phillips - has paid off.  Jeter, Tulo, Rollins, Reyes, Upton etc.   My luck has been mixed though in finding bargains.  Kelly Johnson, Jhonny Peralta, and Orlando Hudson have been solid.  Khalil Greene has just khalilled one of my teams.
4) I place less value on the speed aspect of guys who aren't locks for 30+ SBs.  I'm talking about Granderson, Braun, Wright, Rios, etc.  I've seen too many guys go from 25 to 10 SB to place much value on potential (see Jason Bay last year).

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Zach Piso, Rotonomics: My conventional bucking would be to ignore all advocates of "wait to trade" strategies. Every year some analysts will argue that it takes a solid two months of feeling before you can reasonably move a struggler. This makes little sense to me, if only because player liquidity (how easily a player can be moved/how highly a player is valued by your leaguem ates) should influence his ADP. Often I will draft a player who I don't truly want, planning on flipping him quickly and plugging a sleeper into his then-empty slot. Until I make that move, that sleeper on my bench has no value to me, while the starting "name brand" player has only marginal value to myself but inflated value to my league mates. And that value will deflate if only because of any relative surplus, so it's best to make trades early, with a bonus of establishing trade partners for later in the season.

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Rob Reed, BaseballGeeks.com: Not really.  Simple, conventional wisdom of relying on past statistics as the best evidence of future success and doing my best to avoid trying to look smart by drafting the "sleeper du jour" has generally made me successful.  Perhaps my opinion of avoiding the top tier catchers in serpentine drafts might seem by some to be unconventional, but I look like a genius with this philosophy this year.

Also, it seems that conventional wisdom in fantasy baseball is becoming very "sabermetric." And, I guess it could be said that I am mostly against THIS conventional wisdom (if we are to call it "conventional" just yet) mainly because of selfish reasons.

I mean, sabermetrics reminds me a lot of piano lessons when I was 8 years old.  I wanted to play piano.  But, I wanted it to be fun.

So, when piano lessons evolved away from numbers next to the note telling me what finger to use and now, some 30 years later, when my fantasy analysis required that I break out the calculator, it just got less fun for me.  In the case of the piano, I outright quit after six weeks.

This being said, I am a curious proponent of the Contact Rate and the BABIP (thanks to some wise calculator crunchers like Patrick DiCaprio) in sorting out the lucky from the unlucky.  As a result, I included these sabermetrics in my player ranking system at PlayerTrack so that a computer does all the number crunching for me, and I can leave the pocket protector at home and my delusion of "coolness" somewhat intact.

Still, I resolve to leave the ground-ball-percent, fly-ball-propensity, coefficient-of-jockstrap-friction factors to folks like my evil piano teacher.

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Tim Dierkes, RotoAuthority.com:  I am comfortable drafting a player well before his Average Draft Position indicates he will go.  Often that means two to four rounds before the player's ADP.  Value is value - go back and look at how many players don't justify their ADP.  If you have a talented player like Tim Lincecum and you think he's worth much more than his ADP, make sure not to miss out on him.  If that meant taking him in the 5th or 6th round last March, that's fine.  On the same token, feel free to pass on a player even if ADP tells you he's a bargain but you don't agree.


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