User Interview: Sford

Q&A with noted SimLeague Baseball user Sford

We recently contacted SimLeague Baseball veteran and standout, Sford, to discuss drafting, managing pitching staffs, post season strategies, Mark Fidrych, batting lineups, Petco Park, Dave Palmer and NAIA baseball.

WIS

Who is sford?

Sford

I am a 41 year old tax partner with an international accounting firm. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, but have made Houston my home since 2001. In between Detroit and Houston, I spent 15 years in Nashville.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Sford

A good friend of mine sent me a link back in the fall of 2000. I joined a free spring training league. Back then spring training leagues were 30 games. My first team featured a rotation of Jack Morris, Mario Soto and Ron Guidry. We lost 20 games and finished in last place.

WIS

What was your initial reaction to our site and our games?

Sford

Back in the day it was fun to sim your favorite teams against each other. Growing up in Detroit, I was a huge Tigers fan, so I had fun seeing how the 1984 Detroit Tigers fared against some of the great teams from different eras. I learned that the 84 Tigers, in terms of World Series champions, were a mediocre champion.

WIS

Which SimLeagues or Dynasty games have you played?

Sford

I've been almost exclusively a sim league baseball fanatic. I tried a pre-season basketball squad back when the basketball engine was first rolled out-putting together a team that went 8-2 and was led by Larry Bird and Kareem. Also tried HBD, but bailed out after one season.

WIS

What is your favorite sports moment?

Sford

Sticking to those I've personally witnessed from the stands:

1. Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych's first CG shutout against the Orioles in July 1976.

2. Dave Palmer's five inning perfect game in Busch stadium in April 1984. My parents and I were on our way back to Detroit from a recruiting trip to Missouri and I begged my parents to spend the night in St. Louis so we could watch Pete Rose play-he was a member of the Expos to start the 1984 season.

3. Steve Carlton's first American League start in 1986.

4. Cecil Fielder hitting a home run over the left field roof in Tiger Stadium in 1991 against Oakland's Dave Stewart. McGwire and Canseco HR'd for Oakland.

5. Nolan Ryan's first win in 1992. Also, free bat day-a bat I still own to this day.

WIS

What is your favorite WIS moment?

Sford

Being part of the first theme league in WiS history. Back when I first joined the only players available were from 1918 to present. In the summer of 2001 the site unveiled the players from 1885 to 1917, and a group of us in an open league decided to start a league and only use players from that era: we called it the Stove Top League. As that season was winding down we decided to try a Franchise League. A league that is still going 6 and a half years later-we're in the World Series of season 33.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams of all-time?

Sford

Detroit Tigers, though living in Houston, I've adopted the Astros as my favorite National League team.

WIS

Did you play any baseball (or other sports) growing up?

Sford

I went to college on a baseball scholarship (pitcher). We were an NAIA school at the time - mid 80's (we have since gone NCAA)--but I did manage to score two wins against NCAA schools my senior year, including a one-hitter against the local SEC school. We were a Top 20 NAIA program, and managed to get within 2 games of the NAIA World Series my junior year. In fact those of you following March Madness will recognize the name of our conference rival-Belmont.

WIS

What players did you admire most as a kid?

Sford

Being an aspiring pitcher, Mark Fidrych was my first hero. I was 9 the summer he was the biggest name in the game, and I remember copying his antics on the mound in little league -patting the mound, pointing at the catcher, the windmill arms swings,etc.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Sford

Living in Houston, I've enjoyed watching Roy Oswalt develop. He reminds me a lot of Jack Morris - whom I watched a ton growing up. They are both fierce competitors, with similar approaches to the game. Great tailing fastballs and killer punch out number two's: Morris the splitter; and Roy the overhand curve.

WIS

If you could be commissioner of any league, which sport would it be and what would you do to change the game?

Sford

Baseball. Shorten spring training, so the regular season starts March 20th and ends September 20th, returning the World Series to mid-October where it belongs.

WIS

In SimLeague baseball, what is your general strategy for building teams?

Sford

I currently build my teams using one of two basic models. 1. Stud hitting/bargain pitching, or 2. Stud pitching/gimmick hitting. Here's what I try to accomplish with each of the strategies. For an $80M league, option 1 means spending around $30M to $35M on pitching. That should put you in the bottom 5 in terms of salary spent on pitching. The trick is to locate the bargains, so that even though you spent in the bottom 5 on pitching, you finish with a Top 5 pitching staff. For example: In a recent $80M theme league, I spent $30M on pitching, which was last in the league in terms of dollars spent. However, as a team we finished sixth in ERA, and first in lowest slugging percentage allowed, despite spending the least amount of dollars on pitching. It gives you a competitive advantage on offense when your $30M staff performs like a $38M to $42M staff.

The stud pitching/gimmick hitting works something like this: spend around $48M on a pitching staff that is built around low normalized oav and low normalized hr/9. Then build your offense around range superstars with an offense gimmick suited for your pitcher friendly home park. Put a HR team in Tiger Stadium, a Doubles team at the Polo Grounds, or a Triples team in Petco.

Personally, I've had more regular season success with strategy 1, but more post season success with the dominant staff approach.

I've always been better at picking out the pitching bargains, and haven't been able to consistently produce a stud pitching/bargain hitting team. And as a result I had to modify that approach from bargain hitting to gimmick hitting.

For higher cap leagues, I tend to go dominant pitching, for lower caps I tend to go with the bargain pitching option.

WIS

How do you go about setting your lineups?

Sford

I'm inherently lazy, so I put the high PA/162 guys at the top and work down from there. That prevents me from having to over-monitor fatigue. Come playoff time I reset the lineup based upon their regular season performance and ignore PA/162. This means the traditional high OBP guys are at the top, the good slugging buys in the middle, and the leftovers at the 7th and 8th slot.

WIS

How do you go about setting your pitching staffs?

Sford

For pitching staff, I like to draft a bullpen of similar statistical pitchers and put them all on Setup B and let the engine decide who it thinks should be in the game. Right or wrong: the sim engine applies its own logic to determine outcomes, so why wouldn't I want that same logic being applied to determine which relief pitcher needs to be brought in to give me the best shot at a favorable pitching outcome?

WIS

Do you make transactions during the season to try and separate yourself from others?

Sford

95 percent of the time I don't hit the waiver wire. However, if I notice a fundamental flaw in my team, particularly when using the gimmick offense approach, I look to the waiver wire to readjust my team. I've won titles both ways, so I have no problem hitting the waiver wire if my team isn't going to win the title as presently constructed. I figure if they're not going to win the title as presently constructed, what have you got to lose? Why not take a shot with and reconfigure using the wire?

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams?

Sford

On offense I tend to look for hitters that walk more than they strikeout, with 120+ normalized slugging pct. For pitching I look for low normalized oav and hr/9 and low normalized ERA.

WIS

Do you spend much time in the forums?

Sford

Not as much as I used to, but I do scan the Simleague thread a couple times a week to see what other players are saying about the engine and different strategies that are being used.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

Sford

Shaybee is/was my partner for all 10 or so seasons of Doc's tag team leagues. He has been a great resource to share ideas and strategies with as well as being one of the top 2 or 3 toughest owners to beat in the post season.

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