Embrace volatility.

That’s the mantra for Xtreme Regression Drafting (XRD), as espoused by Ron Shandler in the 2012 Baseball Forecaster and in an essay from earlier this year.  As he pointed out, “regression and gravity are the two strongest forces known to man.” In theory, that’s straightforward—but how hard is it to do in practice? It's not always as easy as coveting high reliability scores and avoiding those messy consistency grades of C or lower.

I decided to take XRD for a test spin at last weekend’s AL-LABR auction. It was time to see if I could dance with the devil.

XRD is not a pedal-to-the-metal thrill ride on the dark side of consistency; as described in the Forecaster, you still need to draft a core of solid, reliable veterans. In other words, the Tier-1 Portfolio 3 players we’ve all come to know and love. But after that, it’s time to throw convention out the door. Inconsistency—normally something frowned upon—is a plus, as long as the skills are there. In Mayberry terms, that meant looking for players with an A or B in health (first letter of the reliability score) and experience (second letter), while consistency scores (third letter) of C-F would be fine.

"Target skills," I told myself. In the end game, when there weren’t many options left, I focused on playing time. While XRD says speculating on players with injury risk or uncertain roles is good, a player who would see regular ABs was given priority.

Standard P3 has a top hitting tier with an 80% ct% along with PX or Spd over 100. To expand this pool, I used the advice given in the Forecaster – a second Tier-1 level with a 77% ct% and a PX or Spd over 110, and a third level with a 73% ct% and PX or Spd of 120 or greater. In the spirit of XRD, I also lowered the Consistency score to C while leaving the health and experience grades at B or above. The result was 32 hitters and 20 pitchers in Tier 1.

With those thoughts in mind, here’s the squad, with Mayberry scores included.

Pos      Name           Team    Sal      Mayberry/P3
===  =============      ====    ===   ================
C    Arencibia, J.P.     TOR     13   3205 50  ACB
C    Iannetta, Chris     ANA      7   4115 55  ADB
1B   Teixeira, Mark      NYY     30   4135 65  AAB  T1
CI   Barton, Daric       OAK      1   2103 18  BCF
3B   Chisenhall, Lonnie  CLE      8   2215 50  ADB
2B   Johnson, Kelly      TOR     15   4325 70  ABF
MI   Ryan, Brendan       SEA      3   1415 55  BBC  T1
SS   Andrus, Elvis       TEX     26   1335 60  AAB  T1
OF   Bourjos, Peter      ANA     17   3525 75  ABC  T1
OF   Boesch, Brennan     DET     17   3225 60  ABB  T1
OF   Rasmus, Colby       TOR     16   4305 60  ABF 
OF   Ibanez, Raul        NYY      8   4135 65  AAC  T1
OF   Ross, Cody          BOS      9   4133 55  BBA  T1
UT   Butler, Billy        KC     22   3035 55  AAA  T1

Pos      Name           Team    Sal      Mayberry/P3
===  =============      ====    ===   ================
P   Danks, John          CWS     12   3305 70  AAA  T1
P   Slowey, Kevin        CLE      2   2203 27  FCB
P   Lewis, Colby         TEX     11   3405 75  AAA  T1
P   Floyd, Gavin         CWS     11   3305 70  AAA  T1
P   Alvarez, Henderson   TOR      5   3103 50  ADF
P   Perkins, Glen        MIN      1   4410 13  ACF
P   McGee, Jake           TB      1   3400  0  ADC
P   Thornton, Matt       CWS     10   5530 54  ACA
P   League, Brandon      SEA     15   5330 48  ABA  T1

RES  Davis, Wade          TB          1103 18  AAA
RES  Benson, Joe         MIN          3321  9  ADA
RES  Carmona, Fausto     CLE          2103 24  BAB  
RES  Herrera, Kelvin      KC          5401 10  AFF
RES  Jackson, Conor      TEX          1211  5  FFC
RES  Hendriks, Liam      MIN          3100  0  ADF

Here's how the team stacks up compared to the Mayberry goals:

Batting     PX  Spd  xBA  PA   MM
======      ==  ===  ===  ==  ===
Actual      42   29   24  66  793  
Target      37   23   32  54  600

Pitching   ERA   K  Sv  IP   MM
=======    ===  ==  ==  ==  ===
Actual      31  29   7  21  407
Target      17  27   5  25  320

Let’s take a closer look at the team:

How’s the Tier-1 core? Spread out and overflowing. Twelve players (marked above) qualify under the modified ranking system, totaling $181. Typically, you want 5-8 players totaling up to $160 in Tier 1.

It's clear that if there are players who qualify for both P3 Tier-1 and XRD, it's possible to end up with a lot of Tier 1 players (since their prices tend to be lower). With so much money spent on Tier-1 players, this team is short on the Tier-3 players that provide low-cost speculative upside in P3. Here, the upside is taken by the XRD players that should regress to their mean. Also, the approach clearly follows Spread-the-Risk rather than Stars-and-Scrubs.

Were the target MM goals met? For the most part, yes. This team comes up woefully short in BA; that will have to be addressed. It’s also a little shy in IP; that can be addressed either by swapping a reserve starter for a reliever, or picking someone up from the waiver wire. But power, speed, AB, ERA, K, and Sv are all above the targets.

Does the team “embrace volatility?” On offense, the picks didn't speculate on roles; 12 of the 14 hitters have a grade of 5 for playing time. But four hitters met the criteria of having an A/B grade in health/experience and a C or lower in consistency (Rasmus,  Ibanez, Kelly Johnson, Bourjos).

The pitching side was a bit more adventurous. Danks, Floyd, Lewis, and Thornton meet the XRD criterion. Expensive top-tier pitchers were shunned to concentrate on more affordable options. With $68 spent on pitching, it’s not quite a LIMA team, but it was less than I typically spend on a staff.

Is it a team of high-skilled players who are experienced, healthy, and erratic? Between the high Tier-1 content of this team and the number of players who meet the XRD criteria, this team is well matched to the concept of Xtreme drafting.

How does this team stack up against the competition? I like this team, and Rotolab agrees. Using the March 3 HQ projections,it's a few points out of first place; four teams are stacked at the top of the standings separated from the rest of the field. It’s projected to have 400 more AB than the next highest competitor, which explains the best-in-category totals for runs, HR, and RBI. It’s a competitive team, which is what you want before the season.

A closing thought: During the auction, it didn't feel like it was going well. Only after checking the projected standings at the end of the draft did it look like a good team. It’s a side effect of drafting players who had down years in 2011—our brains subconsciously tell us that the players are going to continue that trend. If you believe in regression to the mean—and history says you should—ignore that creeping sense of doom.

Embrace volatility.

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