Project GOAT: A new top team

Barry Bonds' 2001 season with the Giants remains a staple on almost all of the top Project GOAT teams. John G. Mabanglo/AFP via Getty Images

The beauty of the rotisserie scoring system is that it isn't a source of infinite points, but rather a way to distribute a finite number of points in a nearly infinite number of ways.

In a 12-team, 5x5 category league such as the one used in Project GOAT, that means there are 780 points available, 78 per category. The most any one team can get in one category is 12, the least is 1, so the range of outcomes is between 10 and 120 possible points; but introduce multiway ties into the equation and, well, it's not infinity but it might as well be.

How these points are distributed among the teams is the reason Project GOAT is a living project. When a new team is introduced to the equation, replacing the one currently lowest in the standings, there is a butterfly effect. Every additional point earned by the new team must be taken away from someone else. Every point given up in a category is given to someone new. The order will change but the points will always equal 780. It's what happened when AJ Mass leaped from 36 points in the original standings to 89 in the "Twist," while also reducing original leader Andy Behren's 94 points to 88, and thus taking the lead. In roto, it matters not only how many points you can earn for your team, but also how you can limit your opponent as well. Earning a point is great. Earning a point at the expense of your competition is better.

That's exactly how Andrew DeStefano, 22, from Antioch, California, became the newest leader in our living Project GOAT standings. He, too, managed 89 points, but he was able to do so at the expense of 4.5 of Mass' points, bringing AJ's total to 84.5. You can see the new standings and DeStefano's "Smokey's Sluggers," named after a beloved family pet, April PROJECT Goat Update PDF.

Just like AJ had the advantage of using the standings to take his team from worst-to-first, the public challenge issued was to take Eno Sarris' now last-place squad and to take over first place. Several of you were able to accomplish this, but DeStefano was the first to reach 89 points, still short of Behren's original 94, but the new standard for the league as constructed. I asked DeStefano how he set about the task.

Taking Down the Dread 'Scotts II

"Given that the goal was to beat Mass' team and keeping in mind that he stopped tinkering with his roster as soon as he bested Behrens' squad, my initial strategy was to start with the "Dread 'Scotts' II" roster and make incremental improvements because Mass probably left points on the board," he explained. "I started by attempting singular switches such as Pujols for McGwire, Bonds for Sosa, A-Rod at short, etc. However none were able to get past Mass' point total."

"This led me to attack pitching where, after scouring the other 12 rosters, I found Jake Arrieta's 2015 season. Swapping in Arrieta for Zack Greinke allowed me to slot in Kershaw's 2014 season and, after checking every pitching season on my roster, remove Blake Snell. As a conditional move I had to replace Sosa, which I did quickly with Bonds."

Bonds, of course, had been nearly universally rostered in the original contest, but had been cycled out of Mass' second roster through a series of moves that ran through Jeff Kent and George Bell that eventually left the MLB career home run hitter off of Mass' roster. This brings Bonds back into the fold on 11 of the 12 teams in the April edition of Project GOAT.

"These three moves got me over the top but unlike Mass I needed to keep going on the quest to more points. Looking at Mass' roster construction, there was a glaring lack of steals from the middle infield so I decided to target that. I considered Raines, Alomar, Soriano, Kinsler, and both Hanley and Jose Ramirez and in the end, adding Soriano and Alomar to Yount proved to be the best combo. The last step was replacing George Bell [because I used Alomar from the Blue Jays], which I did easily with Eric Davis."

DeStefano's approach led to 12 points each in Wins and WHIP while also surpassing Mass' totals in K's and ERA, each of which cost Mass a point. He was able to do so by embracing the "no closers" strategy that has dominated the top of the standings, creating a new, four-way tie worth 2.5 points to each of the four "never-savers, a .5 gain for Mass that was then further offset by DeStefano's staking claim to the HR category lead, 603-600. Barry Bonds' record-setting 73 in '01 will do that for you.'

All other points DeStefano earned by leaping over other members of the league, but let's be very clear about stolen bases: While this is how he gained the last few points he needed, he actually has fewer steals (368 for 6 points) than Sarris' original squad had (491 for 11 points). Trading away stats in one specific category to gain in others need not be only from surplus. When considering a trade, always look at what you stand to gain versus what you are losing in the standings, even if you're in a close race in that category. A 1-for-1 trade in points can be to your advantage if it means that those you're gaining are at the expense of the squads you're chasing or holding off.

The saves factor

Lest you be left with the impression that there was only one way to get to 89 points, let's give an honorary mention to another squad that managed the feat, though days later than DeStefano. Horacio Garcia, 38, who hails from London, England, by way of Venezuela, managed to find an interesting efficiency with his pitching staff in his roster manipulations. He used a dominant Yankees reliever from the mid-2010s, but it doesn't turn out to be the one you think of right away.

"I knew I wanted at least one save because that was an easy way to get 4 points (with 3 other teams having zero saves)," he said. "Ideally, I would have used Gagne's 2004 season (not because of his saves total but the overall numbers), but that would have meant no Kershaw and I needed him after choosing Sosa over Arrieta."

"Initially, I had settled for Aroldis Chapman's 2012 season (with the Reds), but after I finished assembling my team, I ended up just matching the GOAT team totals in both hitting and pitching. Looking at the standings, I knew I could squeeze a few extra points if I managed to improve my ERA and WHIP even just a little bit and I supposed the easiest pitcher to replace on my team was going to be Chapman. I proceeded to sort all pitching seasons from the '80s and 2010s with at least one save by K's and that was when I saw Betances' 2014 season near the top. His ERA, WHIP and K's totals were even better than Chapman's. I knew right away that he could push me to the top but I was certain I would have had another 2014 season on my team already (I knew I didn't have another Yankee as I was using A-Rod as a Mariner). Miraculously, when I plugged Betances into my team, no indicator went red in the spreadsheet and my pitching total jumped from 42 to 45 points. Betances was indeed my difference-maker."

As we open up May's challenge, will saves indeed be the key to the top of the standings? A single save would now be worth five points with the current standings, including four teams without one. Or will more steals be the key to unlocking the new Greatest Fantasy Team of All Time? Download the May edition of the worksheet in which your team will replace Eric Karabell's squad. The rules of the game can all be found here, but please make sure to use the May worksheet.

To submit your work

Send your completed worksheet to ProjectRotoGoat@gmail.com. The subject line must read like this: "GOAT Worksheet: X Points" with X being the number of points you achieved in the standings. Submissions that do not follow this format might be ignored/passed over.

After the first day of each month during the baseball season and concluding on Nov. 1, the entry with the highest achieved points total will be the new GOAT and the standings will be updated. The team that drops to last place will then be relegated, and a new challenge will open. In case of a tie, the submission with the earliest time stamp as per the ProjectRotoGoat inbox will be deemed the eligible entry.

Good luck!

Any entry submitted becomes part of Project GOAT and may be used as such with no compensation or promise of publicity. Completed entry will be published, including team name, at the author's discretion. No attempt to circumvent the rules or the spirit of the rules of this game will be tolerated, and the author reserves the right to ignore or disqualify any entry, to amend the rules or otherwise terminate the project at any time.