TDG Roundtable: “What We Learned in 2023” Edition
The inevitable changing of the seasons is upon us, not only here at the offices at TDG but in this vast hellscape that is the world at the moment. As such, it can be a time for contemplative reflection on seasons gone by, scorned lovers, or more to the point of this article, a look back at what we’ve learned as dynasty baseball managers over the course of the spring and summer.
In the medical field, we sometimes must attend and present at M&M`s, no, not the delicious candy, but a Morbidity and Mortality debrief where we go over what went wrong with a patient. The patient for this exercise is my ’23 home dynasty team, where I had had high hopes of contending for the championship at the beginning of the year and made some huge moves in-season to solidify that thought. To set the scene, it’s a 14-team 6×6 OBP roto league where OPS and Holds are the extra categories.
To put it kindly, most of my trades this year did not turn out the way I wanted, and by the beginning of August, the writing was on the wall for my fake baseball squad. There was no bigger trade regret than acquiring Mike Trout, even at the time I had the Larry David meme reaction to it you know which meme I`m talking about. On April 23rd, I hit the accept trade button on Fantrax, receiving Mike Trout, Jordan Westburg, and Mason Miller for George Kirby, Josh Lowe, Chase Silseth, and Jackson Holliday.
This trade was discussed pretty heavily beforehand in the office’s Slack channel, and everyone agreed that if this was the year I thought I could make the push for the title it was a good move. I had already ranked Holliday in the top 20 of prospects at this point but if you’re going to go out and get Mike Trout that’s the type of player you need to include. I believed I had the pitching depth to make up for Kirby’s absence even without Mason Miller coming back in the trade and wasn’t comfortable with Lowe’s platoon splits and how the Rays manage their players.
In the end, Trout went on to be injured or largely ineffective for most of the year along with Mason Miller. Maybe I was a year too late on the Trout train, and it`s always better to be out on a player a year too early than a year too late. I knew that of course, but this season really reinforced it as my season collapsed all around me shortly thereafter, with a series of trades to try to shore up my crumbling walls of a winning season that really didn’t pan out as well. I think there is an article rattling around in my brain on all the mistakes I made and hopefully will learn from this year, but I don’t want to ramble on too much here.
It is always better to let go of a player a year too early, than a year too late.
The pitch clock did not impact fielding. Back when I was in college, my statistics professor was also a member of the Society of Baseball Research and he taught a short course on Baseball Research and Statistics. A buddy of mine hypothesized that pitchers who worked faster kept their infielders on their toes and there were fewer errors made behind them. This was pre-internet, and although there was a field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame Library (it’s downstairs and, frankly, fantastic), he couldn’t find a way to compile the data without taking months to scour box scores for game times, etc. Long story short, it’s lived on as an unanswered question in our minds until now.
Thanks to sites like teamrankings.com I could compare 2023 errors/game with 2022 errors/game by team, and aggregate and compute the statistical mean, and the answer is, in 2022, when pitchers could take their sweet time, MLB teams made 0.528 errors per game. In the first year with the pitcher’s clock, teams made 0.515 errors per game, a reduction of only 0.013 errors per game. I was so sure that the clock would have been much more impactful than that, but there you go. I love the clock and the increased tempo of the game, but I guess a poor fielder will always be a poor fielder. (Which by the way is reflective of the conclusion of the paper I wrote for that class comparing relative batting and pitching statistics before and after the “lively ball” was introduced in 1920. Good hitters and pitchers remained so, same for the poor ones, and the hitters in the middle got a bit better, and pitchers in the middle got a bit worse. Nerd alert.)
I still haven’t learned when to stop riding a hot start. For instance, this year I found myself with Christian Bethancourt as my second catcher on a couple of two-catcher rosters. Through the end of May, he had a .248/276/.496 line with seven home runs. Rather than keep a close eye and look for him to begin his regression to his career numbers (.231/.261/.358), I told myself this is his year and looked elsewhere to improve my rosters. As of today, his 2023 line is .224/.253/.372 and he’s only hit three more home runs since May 31. I would have been better off churning guys like Rogers and Jeffers through that roster spot most of the year.
Oh my goodness, what a difference it made in developing my own rankings! I’ve always had my own shortlists, ranked my top ten or so at each position, and plenty of resources like the TDG rankings, and of course my favorite sleepers. Until I joined The Dynasty Guru staff I had never done my own rankings up to fifty or so players at each position, much more for pitchers and outfielders. It’s a lot of work and fun (see the Nerd alert in item 1), and more importantly, it lets me find guys like Ryan Noda and Zach Gelof. Ryan Noda isn’t going to win any leagues for me, but in OBP leagues, he’s a nice player to have. That man can walk. Last week I heard someone I trust tell people to go get the Brewer’s Carlos Rodriguez before he shoots up everyone’s list. Forgive the humble brag, but last off-season I rostered him and Robert Gasser wherever I could after spending some time with minor league spreadsheets.
Now, my advice is not to go whole hog with that if it doesn’t fit your interest or lifestyle (one advantage to having grown children is all the found time), but pick a position and do a deep dive on leader boards, such as Fangraphs. Sort for different categories or different levels and see if some new names float up the charts for you. Is there any third baseman in the Dominican Summer Leagues with a surprising slugging average worth watching? Derlin who? We’ll be here to share our work with you of course, but you never know. I know I’m a better dynasty manager for it, and like I said, it was fun.
OK, before posting this, I read ahead. I, for one, like H2H leagues, can have a bad stretch, scramble into 4th place, and get hot in the playoffs to win the league. But I agree playoffs should be earlier when everyone is still playing.
Not necessarily new information, but I love baseball and I love beer. Especially the malty goodness that starts flowing as we approach the month of October. So with a delicious marzen on the desk next to me, I am in a reflective mood. And maybe a bit feisty. One glaring item that I did learn this year is that I am officially of the opinion that single-week, head-to-head fantasy baseball playoff matchups are the worst. THE. WORST.
To be fully forthcoming, I’ve never been a H2H fan in the first place. I am of the full belief that roto is the goat-o. Baseball is a marathon whose beauty is in the collective outcome of the team and individual. Not in weekly spurts. The dynasty fantasy format is even more reflective of that marathon analogy. You are (or should be at least) looking to your team’s future with every move made.
There is some fun to be had in H2H leagues. Different strategies can be utilized in creating your team. And yes the variability week to week can also add intrigue. But that shit needs to stop once the playoff start. Day-to-day injuries, singular bad pitching performances, resting players, these are all way too impactful when games are counted on a weekly scale.
The end-of-season roster management really throws off our fantasy matchups too. The slight roster expansions in September allow teams to rotate players in and out of games and their active rosters. Additionally, real teams that have clinched real playoff spots tend to rest their starters more and more as the seasons end. And starters are what make up our fantasy rosters.
I’m only in two H2H leagues that I care about – a dynasty league and a keeper league. And in both, I’ll be proposing a change to our playoff schedule. I want the regular season to end sooner and then each playoff matchup to last two weeks. I think this will really help stymie all aspects of the randomness one-week-only matchups create. In a way, this also mimics the real MLB playoffs. Regular season series (though not of any actual consequence outside of overall record) last 3 or 4 games. Outside of the Wildcards, each playoff series is almost twice as long, lasting 5 or 7 games.
We’ll see how my league feels about this though. Until then, I need another beer.
Oh man. Another year down.
And what a stupid year it was.
The rules are different, teams are more than ever run by transparently obnoxious dorks, and it just gets more and more expensive (I’m talking about games themselves, not just the price of bananas, as I furiously shake my fists at the clouds). And yet here I sit, 155 odd games in, ever the more glued to my phone, maximizing my screen time to the point I kinda felt like Siri was going to sarcastically suggest touching some grass this morning.
You wanna know the lesson I learned this year? Not just the ones I thought I learned last year, the ones that went in one nostril and out the other – no, the one that’s going to land for 2024?
Only play in leagues you enjoy.
Yep, it’s that simple. But it’s more far-reaching than it sounds. Fact is, there are infinite opportunities to join leagues in this sphere – work, friends, family, twitter, etc. – everyone out there loves the thought of a new league. A fresh opportunity to kick some ass. I would know, as just a few years ago I was in one (1), count ’em, ONE, 8-team redraft points league.
Now, I took all the new leagues in stride [humblebrag]. I’ve conquered 30-teamers, 10-teamers, and in-betweamers [patent pending]. I’ve played in as many as 14 leagues in one season (too many), whittled it down to 12 (still too many), then 10 (which, you bet, is very much too many). At least for me!
But I don’t regret taking them on, to be honest. The only thing I started to regret, this year in particular, is how succeeding in some of my leagues took away from more important things happening in my life. There’s just no room for that.
All this to say – play in the leagues where you find some joy. If it’s not fun, dump it. If it’s taking up too much time, trust me, that dynasty league will be okay. Say your goodbyes, thank the commissioner, and find joy elsewhere.
Trust me, you deserve it.