Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Adjusting LIMA?

I was going to continue tonight by talking about the disadvantages of category optimization, but I always like to respond directly to reader comments when they are provided. So I'll get back to that later.

Tom asked in a comment

AB and IP minimums in our 4X4 league make some category dumps impossible (ie. no Sweeney). I have had some success with the LIMA plan in recent years. Since LIMA is a partial dump for wins, does it make any sense to employ this with another category dump (steals or saves)? Or should you maximize every other category besides the chosen dumpee?

It's worth starting by discussing what the LIMA plan is. LIMA stands for Low Investment Mound Aces, and this article from Fantasy Info Central.com provides a nice detailed description.

The basic role of LIMA is to find pitchers who have superior interior numbers. ERA/WHIP fluctuate greatly without changing the core skills of a pitcher. So Ron Shandler of
Baseball HQ came up with a system where you would target pitchers who put up 6 strikeouts per 9 IP or better, had a 2:1 K/BB ratio and a HR/9 IP ratio of one or less (I've also seen a variation where walks also most be 3 per 9 IP or lower as well). The idea is to find pitchers cheap whose trends in these categories will lead to improvement across the board.

According to the article from Fantasy Info Central, the goal is to be in the "upper 1/3rd" in saves, ERA and WHIP. "Ideally, you should be in the bottom 3rd in wins."

So, looking at this from a category dump standpoint, the lowest number of points you would be shooting for in pitching would be 28 points (9 in ERA, WHIP, Saves and 1 in Wins) in a 12-team league. Of course, the maximum number of points would be 40 (12 in ERA, WHIP, Saves and 4 in Wins). So, depending on how well you executed your LIMA plan, you might very well be able to also dump saves and spend even less on pitching.

Based on my understanding of LIMA, I'd recommend not dumping any additional categories. Since 28 points is the theoretical low of a successfully excuted LIMA plan, that would leave Tom with 76 points maximum. Dumping saves, for example, would move Tom down from 76 points to 68 points, which probably won't win in most leagues.

Of the two options Tom presents, I'd dump saves and go with a $230/$30 LIMA strategy if I was going to stick with LIMA. Since LIMA lets you target relievers as well as starters, the goal would be to buy a few cheap relievers and hope at least one turns into a closer by season's end. The $230 on offense would hopefully allow Tom to build up some excess on offense and trade it for pitching later.

I would like to know if there are any articles in circulation discussing the success or failure of LIMA. I've never tried it, primarily because I came upon my own $200/$60 spending plan that has worked better than LIMA. I've also never seen another owner use LIMA, so I don't have any experience with it myself. If any of my readers can point me in the right direction regarding LIMA and studies of how it works, I'd appreciate it.


badgermaniac said...

The problem with LIMA in some respects is that everyone under the sun knows it and tries to use it.

In our l2 team league, probably 9 or 10 were trying to use a LIMA type plan last year.

The first result was that hitters were way overvalued. Paying a bit over value for a great hitter is fine, but marginal hitters got caught in a feeding frenzy.

Secondly, the typical star LIMA relievers were going for way over value as well. There were many cases in which the "backup closers", who typically are LIMA targets, went for $10-$15 each. If you are dishing out that kind of dough for LIMA speculations, your LIMA plan is shot.

I have been in my league for 20 years and I was one of the pioneers of the "buy tons of hitting and figure out your pitching on the fly" strategies. I didn't have a formal name for it but it was essentially a precursor to the LIMA plan.

The last few years, I have found myself having to jump on the way undervalued second tier starting pitchers, simply because the value is so right. The top tier guys like Oswalt and Carpenter are still drawing top dollar, but the $10-$20 guys are typically going for $5-$10 in our league.

It raises some difficult choices. Do you go for the most value, even if it means putting your money into the highest risk player?

If you are in a league where you can run a pure LIMA plan, consider yourself lucky. Advanced leagues just won't let you do it.

Tom said...

It my league it's cyclical. It tends to depend on what teams' freeze lists look like and whether or not a particular owner got burned using it the previous year. I agree that if there are more than a few owners trying to pull it off then everything goes to pot.