Fantasy411 Podcast: Adapting to new format

Fantasy411 Podcast: Adapting to new format

The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie with guest Scott Pianowski. To hear the rest of their discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.

Fred Zinkie: Now let's talk about the specific kind of setup for the Yahoo! standard settings for our league. You rose up the standings through the season, and you have a lot of experience in this format, and I think that really showed with your team.

We have a lot of listeners who play in Yahoo! leagues, so I want to talk a little bit about your general theories with this. This was the first time I played in a Yahoo! league, and I don't think I navigated it perfectly. I think I did fine, but I think there were some things I could have done differently.

Like, for example, in that Yahoo! league, the benches aren't really deep, and with the daily lineup changes, do you have a plan for your bench? Or are you just stockpiling talent on your bench like you would in any other league?

Scott Pianowski: There's a couple of things I look to do in this league. One thing that this league requires -- and that the standard Yahoo! format requires that would maybe be different from some other leagues, although some leagues do something similar -- this league has a maximum of how many innings your team can pitch, and has a maximum of how many games your team can play at every position. At first, second, third, short, middle, corner ... all the different positions.

So what my goal is, and what I think the goal is for most people who've played in this format before, is to come as close to those maximums, or to push over those maximums if possible. What I looked to do, my idea, was that I was going to take a mostly offensive-based team before the season, and I was going to try to make sure that I was really attentive with the Mondays and the Thursdays [off-days], making sure I had my lineup where I wanted it. If a player wasn't playing, I wanted to make sure he was on my bench, because I didn't want him to get one late at-bat in the game and have it count against my team count. I was pretty careful with that.

And then with my pitching staff -- and I think this is a strategy that's become a lot more en vogue in the last five or 10 years; I'm thinking 10 years ago people really weren't doing this all that much in a mixed roto league -- I focused on getting knockout relievers, because we have a limited amount of innings. That means that the strikeout category is closer to K/9. It's not a true K/9, because not every team is going to get to 1,400 innings -- in fact, this year I think less teams are gonna pass it than usual. Usually you see, like, two-thirds of the league will get there, but this year it may not be as many.

Still, when you have a limited amount of innings, it's no longer a straight strikeout league. It's more of a K/9 league. So I wanted Andrew Miller on my team. When Josh Hader came up for the Brewers in the middle of the season, he was attractive to me. I got Brad Peacock as a reliever who was striking out a bunch of guys -- and then I really got lucky when he got put in the rotation and he could help me even more. Even though it's a lot easier to have the knockout ratios in relief, he's actually been a really good starter, too. So that's worked out with Peacock. I got lucky with some of the starting pitchers I picked up.

Chad Green, by the way, another guy I want to mention. A relief pitcher, 1.86 ERA, 0.74 WHIP -- I knew almost nothing about Chad Green before the season. I don't feel bad about that. I think Keith Law, the ESPN analyst who's excellent, who knows every prospect inside and out, said he didn't know much about Green either. So if that's what Keith's gonna say, I'm gonna say the same thing, because he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do as far as prospects go.

But with the pitching, I really focused on relievers who could help my ratios, and with starting pitching, just guys who could get strikeouts. Luis Severino was a pitcher with a prospect pedigree, he had some injuries, he had some ineffectiveness, he was really off the radar before the season. I think any time you see a pitcher strike out nine or 10 guys, I'll almost reflexively add him, just thinking that he may be a high-upside strikeout pitcher. Generally you think about, "Oh, New York, it's a tricky place to pitch," but I very early got on the Luis Severino train. Jimmy Nelson, who's hurt now, was another pitcher -- I knew he was kind of so-so for a few years, he's at an age where pitchers sometimes try to figure it out, I saw some big strikeout potential, and a starter too, and he was somebody who helped me for a decent chunk of the season.

Zinkie: You're right about the maxing out the innings. I'm going to max out my innings, and maybe a couple of other teams will, but at least 10, if not 11, of the 14 teams aren't going to max out their innings.

Saves is interesting, because you either intentionally or unintentionally punted saves. Rudy, who's likely going to win the league, is first in saves, and pretty far ahead of pretty much everyone else. So two totally different approaches to that really unique category, that led both of you to the top of the standings. Were you punting saves from the get-go?

Pianowski: No, I wasn't. I think in a competitive league, while you can punt a category, I think it's a mistake to do it, and I would never intentionally do it.

When I drafted, I didn't think I had the greatest base in saves, but I thought I had something that would compete in saves, and a couple of my closers didn't work out. And what I decided -- another thing this league has is a transaction cap of 125. This used to be an unlimited-cap league, and people would complain, "Oh, well some people are online more often than others, we should cap it." So we went with a 125 cap. And with my bullpen, even though I had some great relievers -- I had Andrew Miller, for one example, who wasn't gonna close for Cleveland; I never had delusions that he was going to close, I just wanted the quality innings he would give me -- but when my ninth-inning guys weren't pitching the way I wanted them to, and a couple of them lost their jobs, I decided that it wasn't worth it.

This is a 14-team league with highly engaged owners. Pretty much, if something breaks, and I'm not available to capitalize on it right away, I feel like somebody else is gonna be on it. This is a league that has transactions any time you want to make them. So I decided, we only have 125 pickups, I have a bullpen that may need multiple pickups to be fixed. Rather than chase that all season, I'm just gonna accept that it's not gonna be worth the time and the pickup capital I'm gonna have to spend on it, I might be better off just going away from it.

And as it turns out, I had a chance to maybe win the league. It's funny. I'm the top team in strikeouts -- I didn't draft any starting pitchers, and I have the most strikeouts in the league now, because my relievers have been so good and I picked up the right starting pitchers. But I didn't want to punt saves. I think the way my bullpen went early on with the ninth-inning guys at least opened up the idea of it. And I just decided that I didn't want to have to spend a major chunk of my pickups on chasing saves.

In some less competitive leagues, you can wait until a pitcher gets anointed as a closer and see a save or two. This is the type of league where people will speculatively pick up relievers, and if anybody ever gets a save, he's gonna get grabbed immediately. I just felt like once I got behind the eight-ball on that, it wasn't worth it to keep following it the rest of the season.