Trade: Beach Bum | Rocky Mtn Oysters

Beach Bum send: 1B Mark Teixeira ($17)
Rocky Mtn Oysters send: UT David Ortiz ($30)

Andrew’s thoughts: This is a perfectly fair swap for both sides that I like a tad more for the Beach Bums, a team that already looked to be over budget next year who now gets a superior hitter for 2016 and an easy cut in the off-season. With Albert Pujols, Adam Lind, and Joe Mauer already rostered, Beach Bums didn’t really need a fourth 1B. Granted, Big Papi is going to block off one of his two starting UT spots, but so what? Papi’s a better hitter. He looked cooked early in 2015 and still finished as the 18th highest scoring hitter.

For the Oysters, I understand not wanting to have to start Yonder Alonso at 1B. But ironically, if his roster remains unchanged, Alonso may just end up occupying one of the two UT spots Papi had cinched up more often than not, in which case Alonso/Ortiz was flipped for Alonso/Teixeira, a likely marginal (probably negligible) downgrade. If Teixeira’s healthy, he’s good. Very good even. And he’s not planning on retiring any time soon, so he may give you something beyond this year where Papi will not. Again, even trade, I just tilt in favor of Ortiz a little.

Jordan’s thoughts: Its really easy to come out and say, hey just draft Teix and leave Papi alone. But, I know as well as anyone, sometimes drafts don’t go as planned. I think Dusty makes his team more flexible at a reasonable cost. Everyone probably would rather have Papi on their team then Teixeira, but moving Alonso to the utility/bench slot is worthy of making this deal.

A couple of “greed” allocation strategies…

Before I start spewing ideas, I should probably reiterate what “greed” is in our league.

Greed is kind of a surrogate for arbitration. It’s a way of letting the market — our stable of owners — adjust the value of players league wide. Every offseason, each owner is given $1 to blindly add to a player from every other roster. (This is in addition to a natural raise of $2 every major leaguer will receive.) The only players protected from this allocation process are minor league players who have cost control status and major leaguers whose salaries place them in the top-30 of the league ledger. (Read the official rules here.)

Now that that’s out of the way, how might greed be applied?

The first, most obvious way to apply greed, is to slap it onto each opposing roster’s most underpaid player. Take AJ Pollock, for example. Coming into 2015, Pollock’s statistics suggested a break out may have been imminent, but he dealt with injuries and had no previous track record of sustained success. The Diamondbacks’ outfield appeared crowded. Hypothetically speaking, he may have been rostered for $5 as a reserve outfielder.

Obviously, he outplayed that number in a big way in 2015.

Based on our league settings and taking into account his monster 2015 campaign, the FanGraphs auction calculator projects him for $28 of value next season. Frankly, that’s conservative. The calculator doesn’t account for marketplace or the dynasty aspect of our league. But we’re dealing in examples here, so it’s fine.

Now, if Pollock cost $5 heading into 2015, he would by default cost $7 heading into 2016. He gets that $2 raise, y’know. At this point, he’s still projected to provide $21 of surplus value.

You fundamentally do not want your competing owners to have surplus value. So it makes sense that when applying your greed, you slap $1 on Pollock. Maybe other teams follow. For the sake of argument, let’s say nine other owners see what a bargain Pollock is and hit him with their dollar as well. Suddenly, Pollock’s contract is $17.

He’s still a bargain at this price and you’re definitely keeping him, but let’s say he replicates his 2015 in 2016 and is again projected to produce $28 of value heading into 2017. A two dollar raise puts him at $19, and let’s say this year 12 total owners slap greed on him. Now he’s contracted at $31. Suddenly, the tide has shifted. If the projections hit exactly (and they pretty much never do, of course), in two offseasons your AJ Pollock has gone from a surplus boon to a -$3 valuation. He’s still a great player, so maybe that $3 isn’t a big deal and you hang onto him*, but you have a decision on your hands at this point.

* I’ve never played in an Ottoneu league but I’ve read up on it and one strategy I see a lot is this: if a player is not providing surplus, he’s a cut. It seems simple enough, but I’m not sure how hard and fast a rule it should be. If you’re paying Clayton Kershaw $100 and he’s only providing you $95 of value, is he not still Clayton Kershaw? I understand cutting him and hoping to win him back at auction for less, but I can’t imagine every time the surplus scale tips even the teeniest bit dumping players is always the right answer.

I think in terms of options for placing greed, the Pollock scenario is the easiest to arrive at. But how about another example?

Let’s say first base was a black hole for you in 2015. Heading into 2016, you’d probably like to avoid navigating the same problem, but you’ve exhausted the trade market. You either need to hit on a free agent pick-up in-season, or you need your opponents to cut players that you can bid on at auction. That last part, you can sort of help.

Let’s say you scour the league and find three guys on different teams — let’s just go with Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Lind, and Mark Teixeira — who after their $2 raises are teetering between providing surplus value and being a cut. Well, you can tip that scale. You can add your dollar to each of these guys and while, sure, a dollar isn’t a lot, it could be enough to make another owner’s decision for them. Maybe they were torn between a $12 Zimmerman and a — I don’t know — $7 Yonder Alonso or something as their reserve 1B, and Zimmerman suddenly jumping to $13 seals the deal. If you force even one of these guys into the free agent pool, you’ve given yourself an additional option at a position of need.

If you really hated your 1B situation from a year prior, you could put your $1 towards a 1B on every team and hope it pushes more than one guy out.

There are all kinds of ways you could go with your greed allocations. We touched on them in one of our podcasts and I’m sure we’ll go down that road again, particularly 10-11 months from now when greed allocation is upon us. But you may want to start churning those gears in your head now.

Platooning pitchers can be fun, but definitely isn’t easy

One of the things that makes Dynasty Grinders unique — and challenging — is our seven start per week limit on pitchers.

There are a couple key reasons this rule is in place to begin with. First, it prevents teams in our head-to-head format from having clear volume advantages. If my team happens to have 15 starters going this week and yours only has seven, you’re at a distinct competitive disadvantage and in deep leagues, you can’t simply pick up good — or even adequate — talent* and hope to keep up.

* This isn’t a universal truth. You’ll probably be able to find serviceable guys in free agency. But if you find yourself in a week where your seventh start depends on it, good luck.

The second reason is to prevent that last thing from being an option in the first place. In a deep dynasty league, streaming just doesn’t make sense. It’s a perfectly valid strategy in 10- or 12-team leagues where the free agent pool is plentiful. But fundamentally, dynasty leagues work to put owners in a position to mimic real life general managers. And real life general managers don’t pluck guys off the street, start them, and dump them the next day only to rinse and repeat as necessary.

Anyway, because of the seven start limit, you’re going to want to carry at least that many starting pitchers*, though probably more (2-3,  maybe). Pitchers are notoriously prone to injuries and you’ll encounter weeks where all your guys’ spots in the rotation happens to fall on a Wednesday or Thursday, meaning they only get one outing that week.

* A game theory note here: one thing the seven start limit also does is make it so that hoarding SPs loses profitability at a certain point. You may think, logically, the best way to tackle pitching is to just buy up a bunch of arms. But how much do you really want to invest in that sixth, seventh, eighth starter who won’t often be in your starting lineup, especially because doing so likely means skimping on offense? At some point you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul’s sitting on your bench because Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Carrasco are taking the bump twice each this week.

So due to the depth of the league and the start limit, you’ll find yourself over the course of a season deploying players you wouldn’t even imagine — but you still want to do so while giving yourself the best odds of success.

Sometimes it will end horribly. Sometimes you’ll get lucky. Either way, there’s a certain amount of fun to be had from finding pitchers who can sufficiently fill in gaps. The challenge is earmarking roster spots for these seldom used arms. Roster spots and flexibility, you’ll find, are pretty valuable commodities, especially as the season wears on and attrition impacts your squad.

My favorite example of a guy like this is the Miami MarlinsTom Koehler. Due to spacious Marlins Park and the NL’s lack of a designated hitter, Koehler pitched to a 3.80 FIP and 0.70 HR/9 at home in 2015. On the road, he got pummeled. His road FIP was 5.21 and HR/9 rate was 1.39.* Particularly in a points league like Dynasty Grinders, where allowing a home run goes for -12.5 points, combustible HR rates like that will sting. And because of the start limit, you can’t simply absorb a bad start by culling a couple extras from whatever scraps are on the free agent pile. You just have to hope your other six guys do work.

* To translate out of linear stats and into our scoring: Koehler averaged 28.23 points per start at home but just 16.56 on the road, including all four of his negative point duds.

Between 2014 and 2015, Koehler averaged 31.5 starts a year. But since you can only start him when he pitches at home, he’s only a usable option for you roughly half the time (he pitched 90.1 innings at home and 97 on the road in 2015), meaning that only 15 or 16 times per year will he be at his most optimal.

Also, just because he’s lined up to start a home game doesn’t mean he’s a sure-fire start for you that week. You’ve surely got better pitchers. Several of them, hopefully. What if your top three guys have two start weeks? Being a startable option 15-16 times a year does not necessarily mean you’ll crack the lineup at each of those opportunities.

Of course, the same kind of platoon splits are true of hitters. The list of guys who can only hit righties or exclusively get in the lineup against lefties is long. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ 1B/OF Scott Van Slyke, for instance, had a .345 wOBA in 2015 and .447 wOBA (!!) in 2014 against left-handed pitching. But he averaged 97 games and 249.5 plate appearances a season over those two years. You can get mileage out of that.

Granted, many of those games and PAs logged came as a late-game situational hitter (so he likely wouldn’t have been in your fantasy lineup that day), but the fact remains: you’ll have many, many more opportunities to utilize a platoon hitter than you will a pitcher.

The other thing that makes having a platoon bat easier than a platoon arm: if half your team has off days, that platoon bat can fill in whether he’s in the lineup or not. If he’s not, fine. You know that if he does enter the game though, he’ll do so in a favorable spot. It’s the little things.

And this says nothing of platooning pitchers based on opponent handedness (i.e. doing a quick search of your lefty’s opposing team that day to see how they stack up when facing LHPs). Depending on the pitcher, that can whittle down his usefulness even more.

So, how much do you want to budget and pay for this occasionally useful, mostly bench-warming pitcher?

The point here is that, when assembling a team, each owner will have different strategies but most will be doing one shared thing, be it subconsciously or intentionally, and that’s trying to maximize every roster spot. It’s really hard to maximize roster spots when the guys you’ve got in them need the stars to align perfectly to be useful and may be lucky to get double digit starts for you in a given season.

But then, that’s part of the fun.