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Fantasy Baseball: The Marmol Strategy

Mar 17, 2016

If you live for winning, you are going to love this. If you don’t like winning when it is so easy that it feels like cheating, this might not be for you. You see, the Marmol Strategy, which I named after the guy the Cubs refused to give the closer role to until mid-2009, nearly ruined fantasy baseball for me. Part of what makes fantasy baseball so great is that it is an immense challenge, and challenges are fun. That is unless you were the type of kid who would quit a video game in the 9th inning before the Playstation would save your stats and record your loss. I know about that type of kid all to well because I was him. This is what led to me developing the Marmol strategy. I was in peak testosterone years, trying to declare to the world that I was the alpha male. So naturally, I had to not only win my college fantasy baseball league, but had to wipe the floor with the competition. It only made sense to stupid 19-year-olds that the girls in our dorm hallway would flock to the winner of our fantasy baseball league. Things, of course, didn’t work that way. I know because I won my 5×5 roto league by a margin so great each of the next four seasons, that fantasy baseball felt like playing basketball with fifth graders.

I just used Draft Wizards’ draft simulator tool to blaze through a draft in 10 minutes using the Marmol Strategy. In a 12-team league with 5×5 roto settings (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, ERA, WHIP, W, SV, K), there is a maximum of 120 points (12 points for first place in each category). If you can run a mock draft on Draft Wizard and beat my Marmol Strategy score of 102 without employing the Marmol Strategy, please e-mail me at bobby@fantasypros.com because I want to pick your brain next year on FantasyPros’ new podcast that I am going to be hosting (It is worth noting: as projection models update their projections, historically kept DraftWizard scores fluctuate, so it now says my score is just 100, but when I ran the draft two days ago it was a 102). I can tell you now, though, that you aren’t going to beat the 102, but have fun trying. Here is a clip of the draft. You may notice, that if you select “Fantasy Points Scoring” instead of “Roto/H2H Scoring” that I drop from a dominant first-place to a very distant last place. That is because league settings make all the difference.

If you click on the Final Draft Board tab, you will see how I built my roster. Notice, I didn’t draft my first pitcher until the 10th round. The goal is to punt wins and strikeouts, while dominating the other eight categories. ERA, WHIP and saves are easy to finish first in because the types of players that are strong in these three categories go so late in the draft. Being able to wait 10 rounds to grab my first pitcher, enables me to fill my lineup with hitters that will carry me to top-two finishes in all five categories. What’s more, pitchers are much more volatile, so drafting them early is risky. Pitchers see more season-ending injuries and unexpected implosions than hitters. This also means that the best free-agent hitter pickups won’t help your fantasy team much, while there will always be two or three pitchers who explode onto the scene and can help carry you to a championship. If you draft with this concept in mind, knowing that you are often stuck with your lineup, crummy or great, but can more easily upgrade your pitching staff during the year, you will benefit.

A key to succeeding with this strategy is finding those few starting pitchers who aren’t valued high because they hardly ever strike batters out, but will not weigh your ERA or WHIP down. This season, those guys are Wei-Yin Chen, Jaime Garcia (until his inevitable shoulder injury), Kenta Maeda, Drew Smyly, Hisashi Iwakuma and relievers with starter eligibility, like Adam Warren. Another aspect to key in on is finding the top non-closing relievers to fill in your flex-pitcher roster spots. This is where Carlos Marmol circa 2008 fit the bill. This year’s version is Dellin Betances. I just posted this nugget for his expert piece:

Over the last two seasons, Aroldis Chapman has 222 K’s, which is 20 better than the next best, but during that time, Betances leads all relievers with 266 strikeouts! His 1.45 ERA is 2nd, behind only Wade Davis, and his WHIP 4th. Saves or not, he will help your club immensely. 

If you do the Marmol strategy, it might help to think of it as the Betances strategy, because if you don’t draft him, the entire scheme falls apart. Beyond Betances, you’ve got a handful of guys who fit the mold perfectly; his teammate, Andrew Miller, division rivals, Carson Smith and Koji Uehara, Giants’ relievers, Hunter Strickland and Sergio Romo, and my favorite little secret, 22-year-old, Keone Kela, who in the second-half last season, was the best reliever in baseball with a 1.19 ERA, 12.3 K/9 and 0.89 WHIP.

Two additional bonuses, as if you needed more, are that a few of these Marmol-guys will end up stealing the closer job, enabling you to trade off one or two of your six closers to upgrade your lineup even further. The other bonus, and this might be the best part beyond winning, is that you don’t have to log in every day to set your starting pitchers, since you only have the league minimum (three) to just get you to that innings threshold.

I hope you give this H2H/Roto strategy a try this season, if nothing more, so you can say “I told you so” after your league mates transition from mocking your roster (which will look terrible on paper) to have their heads spin later in the season when you carry a .760 winning percentage and finish 30 games ahead in the standings before blowing everyone out in the playoffs. It is virtually impossible to screw this up, so if you somehow finish second, you are the only one to blame. Enjoy winning.

More Advice: View Bounce-Back Candidates for 2016

Draft Prep, Featured, MLB