MASTER NOTES: Planning (and Hoping)

INTRO

After I left the newspaper business, I worked for a while in executive communications for a Fortune 100 company. Supporting executives sometimes meant sitting in with them during their strategic meetings with their senior managers. In one such meeting, my executive asked the senior manager responsible for a retail expansion how that project was proceeding.

“We’re solidly on track with about 85% of the scheduled store openings,” the manager said. “And we hope to have the rest done without unreasonable delays.”

The executive fixed the manager with a baleful dead-eye stare that made me uncomfortable, even though it wasn’t aimed at me. I imagine it didn’t make the manager feel all warm and fuzzy, either.

Then the executive said, “Hope is not a plan.”

But in fantasy baseball, hope has to be part of the plan, because so much of it is out of our control—we have to hope our players don’t get hurt and don’t underperform, and at the same time we hope that our opponents run into problems they can’t solve.

With all that in mind, I went through my Tout-AL team’s position in the league and in the categories, to see how much I can help by planning, and how much I have to rely on hoping. I know that no amount of either hoping or planning is going to move me in HR, RBI, and Runs, where I am in last place by 29 HR, 105 RBI, and 91 Runs. I could pick up the entire offense of the 1976 Big Red Machine, have them all perform at career peaks, and I probably wouldn’t gain ground.

OBP

So I start with OBP. Here’s where I stood after Tuesday’s games:

Last, but on the verge of picking up one point. I have a small plan to help myself here, dropping Jefry Marte (BUM, LAA) for reservist Aledmys Diaz. Marte has a .259 OBP this season, and while he has soared to .272 the last 10 games, this is a case of addition by subtraction. Diaz is a smidge over .305. Also, as we’ll soon see, my other category for gains is SBs, and Marte is zero help in that department, while Diaz at least tries occasionally and has 3 bags YTD. Plan 25%, Hope 75%

SB

I mentioned SBs, and here’s that situation through Tuesday:

This is part of a plan I built back before the All-Star break. I had a decent SB foundation from Rajai Davis, Yoan Moncada, and Jacoby Jones, with Jorge Polanco coming back. Since I was dealing from weakness in power, I felt free to chase bags by trading every low-SB power hitter I had—I dealt Justin Smoak, Adam Jones, and Avisail Garcia and got back Mallex Smith, who has provided 12 SB (and a .434 OBP); Dee Gordon, who has 9 SB (but a killer .278 OBP, as he has stopped walking almost entirely); and Brett Gardner (2 SB and a .305 OBP, but the OBP should improve). Polanco has 4 SB since his return. I also had the FAAB hammer, which got me Jonathan Villar and his 3 SB, but also with a sub-.300 OBP.

With the added wheels, I don’t see how I can miss picking up three points in the SB category, barring injury. In fact, both the BHQ and Davenport projections at OnRoto.com show me winning the category, which would mean a gain of six points. Plan 85%, Hope 15%

All that said, however, I have higher hopes of gaining points in the pitching categories, but these are based a lot more on hope than on planning.

First, wins:

WINS

I hate wins, as you probably know. And this season hasn’t disposed me any more favorably.

My four starters are Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, Mike Clevinger, and Marco Estrada. They have combined this year to throw 30 PQS-Dom starts (PQS scores of 4 or 5). The overall AL percentage of wins in PQS-Dom starts this season is right around 60%, so by rights I should have 18 wins from those PQS-Dom starts. Instead, I have 13. Those four pitchers have won just 43% of their PQS-Doms, and since that's five short of what there should have been, I feel like the fantasy gods owe me five wins.

I also have to hope that some of the guys I’m chasing start running into a little offsetting misfortune. Lawr Michaels’ starters are converting PQS-Doms into wins at a 76% clip. They have just four more PQS-Dom starts than mine—but eleven more wins in those starts!

Here is an example of hope, or perhaps even faith: I have to hope/believe that things will even out and my starters will get wins in at least 60% of their PQS-Doms the rest of the way. If there’s any justice, maybe 70%. And again, if there’s any justice in the fantasy universe, Lawr’s starters should get 40% conversion the rest of the way. It would also help if TOR traded Marco Estrada to OAK or some other good club with a gigantic field to contain all of his fly balls. Plan 10%, Hope 90%

SAVES

Conversely, saves was a very aggressively planned effort. I had eight points in the category at the break, and I’ve already gained one:

Some bad mojo did afflict Vlad Sedler when he lost closers Joakim Soria and Brad Brach to deadline trades. And I just heard that Aroldis Chapman, Vlad’s last closer, is on the DL with left knee tendinitis.

I lost Fernando Rodney to trade, but I had started picking up setup guys back around the break as well, seeing the potential for stealing saves when the AL’s also-rans started dealing away closers. I wrote about this last week, but at one point right at the break, I had five closers, although a little while later I had two—Ken Giles and Mychal Givens.

I also have Jace Fry and Taylor Rogers, both of whom have logged saves for me this week and might chip in a few more down the stretch, especially with CHW having shipped Luis Avilan to setup in PHI. I’m pretty confident of one more point in this category, and maybe two, although Seth Trachtman has Edwin Diaz on a record pace, and Kelvin Herrera looking like he’ll be closing games in WAS with Sean Doolittle ailing (unless the Nats fire-sale Herrera out before Aug. 31). Plan 95%, Hope 5%

ERA

I wrote a while back about the possibilities in the pitching decimals. Here’s me in ERA:

I won’t bore you with all the arithmetic, as I clearly have lots of other stuff to bore you with. Suffice to say that I could steal a point here if Jason throws a 4.20 the rest of the way and I can sling up a 3.70. That kind of thinking is clearly more hope than planning. I thought about dropping Marco Estrada for a LIMA reliever, but I’m pretty sure the loss in wins and Ks would offset the gains in decimals. And just my luck, within seconds of me waiving him, TOR would trade him to OAK and he’d have a 2.90/1.05 with 8 wins. Plan 10%, Hope 90%

WHIP

I don’t see much chance of gaining in WHIP:

There’s not a lot I can do beyond expecting some of my relievers to pick up the pace a little, so I have to rely on Lawr’s staff to suddenly balloon from a 1.20-ish WHIP to 1.30-ish, and since he has David Price, the reborn Kevin Gausman, and Blake Snell (not to mention Craig Kimbrel), I don’t see it. It looks like I’ll be stuck at 9, and I have a threat from Mike Podhorzer. Plan 0%, Hope 100%

STRIKEOUTS

Finally, Ks:

I’m taking some “planning” credit for this, as partway through my horrendous draft, when I realized I was going to end up with 245 unspent dollars, I targeted strikeouts, and while Estrada has been a disappointment in that regard (and others), Cole, Clevinger, and Tanaka have a combined 10.3 K/9.

I think I can get Larry Schechter’s half-point (UPDATE: As of Thursday, I had lost 1.5 points as Wolf/Colton and Larry have had more starts than me. At that, I think the race with Larry is pretty much a coin flip. We both have four starters, and while I have the better ace in Cole, he has Carlos Carrasco, whose Dom is 10.1 K/9, which matches Clevinger. My hope is that Cole should be enough to swing it, you should forgive the expression. I’ll be looking over my shoulder at Rob Leibowitz, but I think my SPs are better than his (Berrios, Bundy, Cashner, Borucki). Wolf-Colton have five starters, but two of them— James Shields and Marco Gonzales—are under 8.0 Dom, and two more—Kyle Gibson and Matt Boyd—are under 8.5. Plan 50%, Hope 50%

OVERALL

So where does all this end up? On July 22, 31 days ago as I write this, I was last in the league with 37.5 points. Now I’m out of the cellar and 11 points to the good:

(UPDATE: Back to 47.0 thanks to those Ks) Some of this is planning, some of it is hoping. I have reasonable shots at a total of adding six-and-a-half more points, as discussed above, with a ceiling of adding 12-and-a-half. If I can get 11-and-a-half , I’ll reach 60 and avoid the 2019 FAAB penalty.

Hope springs eternal, even if it’s no substitute for planning. But we all need a little (or a lot) of both.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.