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As many of you know, Glenn Colton and I have been playing as a team in expert leagues since 2002.  The difficulty here is figuring out how to get along in all situations.  Our style is to mind-meld.  We study everything baseball on our own and then we debate every player in both leagues and put a dollar range on them.  Debating with the trial lawyer of Glenn’s caliber is like bringing a butter knife to a gunfight. 

Last Friday night, we boarded the plane for our best weekend of the year.  Friends.  Baseball.  Poker.  Beer.  Good times.  However, the quest seems to get harder every year.  Feel like Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo fighting to beat the Evil Empire.  On Saturday, we were joined by another a leader in the Rebel Alliance, Stacie Stern, who had special knowledge given to her by a special computer.  No you dope, not R2D2. H2H.  Sound familiar?  Our Princess Leia made sure that we didn’t fight and that we stayed with the plan. 

Glenn will recap the drafts from a players’ perspective as many in the industry have.  You can go to Twitter and search #labr to find them all.  We will instead use this space to discuss the LABR AL strategy and how to execute SMART.  Next week, I will break down LABR NL strategy and show you how to adjust when the draft requires it.

See the LABR American League Draft Board

American League: Having a plan and sticking to it is critical

So, here we go.  We went through every player in the American League.  An hour before the draft, the three freedom fighters made their plan on how to destroy the death star and free the world from the evil Darth Vader.  Every plan using the SMART System and the Rules of Engagement has to have contingencies.  The great thing about LABR is that we have been playing with many of the same characters for years.  Many of these characters are true to who they are.  We took that into account.  Analyzing the player pool thoroughly, we recognized first that we would need to spend slightly more than usual on pitching, so we split the budget into $185 for hitting and $75 for pitching.  Our pitching was easy to figure out as the system has two starting pitchers at $43 and a premium closer at $20, leaving only $12 for the rest of the staff.  We would focus on high K relief pitchers and high upside starting pitchers to fill out the staff.

On the hitting side, there were more scarce positions than usual: third base, second base, shortstop and catcher.  This makes planning difficult.  We tried to find serviceable players at those positions that we could live with.  Third base and second base proved to be next to impossible.  Because the “S” in SMART stands for Scarcity, and there were two super scarce positions, we needed to have three potential plans.

  1. Plan A: Miguel Cabrera at $42 - Since finding cheap second baseman who steal some bases is easier than a good cheap third baseman, we made a plan surrounding Miguel Cabrera.  We would buy steady players at second base, shortstop and catcher.  We could get a couple of good outfielders but would need speed since Cabrera and some other scarce position targets didn’t steal bases.
  2. Plan B: Robinson Cano or Jason Kipnis at $32 – These two players are the elite at the position and would set us up there.  We would buy steady players at third base, shortstop and catcher.  If we got Cano, we needed speed but with Kipnis we would have more flexibility.
  3. Plan C: Neither player – We have seen many players win by getting strength across the board in their hitting.  We would likely move more from pitching if this happened to make sure that we could go an extra $1 on some important middle tier targets. 

See the LABR American League Draft Board

Assembling the team

So like Luke and Obi-Wan finding the team to beat the Evil Empire, we went about assembling our team.

When we arrive at the draft, it is important to get a good seat.  We like to sit to the left of the winner so that we get a call out as early as possible.  This time, there are these name plates on the table, UGH!  We arrived a bit late, so we sit in our spot.  Now, there is a flow to a draft and being constantly involved in the bidding to make sure you are ready to steal.  We are seated to the far left of the auctioneer so Glenn who does all the bidding has to be loud to make sure he is heard.  On the other side of that Eno Sarris who is sitting directly in front of the auctioneer doesn’t have to say a word all night.  A simple lift of his right hand raises the bid.  So positioning is important.  Next, auctioneer’s cadence is important.  In those first bids, get a rhythm to the cadence of the auctioneer so you can figure out how to use some tricks:

  1. Early action: Get in the bidding early just to keep the auctioneer hearing your voice and practicing being the next bid.  We will be in on every third or fourth player at least so that we can be heard for that critical $2 raise at the end of the draft.
  2. Jump bids: Important to know when the correct number for the player is $1 away.  On the very first call out of the draft, Larry Schecter called on Cabrera at $40.  We knew our number was $42 and that was likely everyone’s number.  So, if you want him, go to the number.  Same is true in the end game.  Don’t be an idiot and bid $1 on a pitcher that you know others will want at $2 and you don’t want at $3.  You are just giving him to someone else.
  3. Big Jump Bids: Go to the number.  It confuses people and sometimes lands the player.  Chris Liss is an expert at this in the AL league and Steve Moyer is great in the NL.
  4. Patience Play: Let others slug it out and then when it stalls, jump in for a quick steal.
  5. Frustrate Play: Wait for going going and then bid the extra $1 or better $2.  This sometimes gets an owner to impulsively go another $1 or think too much and you steal.

There are many more tricks that are easier played with a partner.  For instance, Brad Peacock got shelled hours before the draft.  We wanted him at $1 as our last pitcher.  Glenn called him out and I announced that he got shelled with dismay and the other owners allowed us to have him.

See the LABR American League Draft Board

The end game

The X-wings are released from the hangars and we are approaching the Death Star.  We know in the end game we need to check our “targets” and make sure that we fill in power, speed, saves or strikeouts.  We set out to grab steals and strikeouts.  For me, this is the best part of the draft.  It moves so fast.  Everyone is so knowledgeable that the good $1 bids become $2 quickly and the bad ones are left to crickets.  For this draft, we were able to execute the plan perfectly.  Really feel like it was a great draft…and when we executed the Brad Peacock for $1 play, I thought…

“Great shot, kid, that was one in a million.” 

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