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THT's Fantasy Archives
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
The baseball statistics available freely online have advanced greatly over the past few years. As fantasy players, it is important to keep up with the research going on in the "real" aspect of baseball and continually try to apply it to fantasy baseball.
One of the leaders of the movement, FanGraphs, now has Pitch Type Linear Weights that show the pitches individual pitchers are better at throwing, and which pitches individual batters are better at hitting. (Click here for the accompanying explanation article by Dave Allen.) Taking at quick glance at Mark Teixeira's FanGraphs player page shows the following information:
The numbers on the left of the divide show in total how many runs Teixeira has earned hitting fastballs, which for 2009 has been 24.3 runs. On the right side, where the column headers have a "/C" after them, the numbers show how many runs a player earns on a certain pitch per 100 pitches. For Mark Teixeira in 2009, that number is 2.5 runs per 100 fastballs.
For these stats I believe 0 is average, positive means a player is good at hitting that pitch, and negative means the batter struggles with the pitch. Messing around with the leaderboards will help give you a relative context of how good a 2.5 wFB/C is.
Although extremely interesting, keep in mind the numbers are not perfect. The pitch classifications FanGraphs uses are not manually adjusted and no tests have been done to my knowledge on the stability of the pitch value numbers. Also the methodology behind the values is still somewhat of a work in progress, but nevertheless they can still used for fantasy purposes.
Most simply, when deciding which batter to start of two, besides looking just at the skill and handedness of the opposing pitchers, you can also check out the pitches they are better at throwing and the pitches your batters hit better.
For example, let's say you own Cody Ross who has pretty consistently hit change-ups well throughout his career. Some nights he starts for your team and other nights he sits one out. Let's say tonight the Marlins are playing the Astros and Wandy Rodriguez is pitching. Taking a look at his Pitch Value numbers, he historically has a below-average change-up and still throws it somewhat often at 10 percent of the time.
Tonight, then, would be a time to make sure Ross is in your starting lineup because of the increased possibility of him pounding one of Wandy's change-ups out of the yard, or at least what FanGraphs—as provided by BIS—is classifying as a change-up.
In terms of importance, I would rank this below matching up handedness and skill of the opposing pitcher, simply because I do not really know how effective mixing and matching batters to pitchers by individual pitch is. Unfortunately, I did not invest the time yet to find out, so for today that question will be left unanswered.
Instead I'll leave you with what is possibly new idea and if it's not new, feel free to tell me in the comments how you have been using it.
Posted by Paul Singman at 2:03am
A 162-game baseball season is a marathon. Unfortunately, among the millions who participate in fantasy baseball, a good portion are sprinters who run out of steam at midseason and tend to limp toward the finish line.
Can we blame them? By August, fantasy leagues are populated with team owners who have no hope of finishing first. Meanwhile, there’s more important things to attend to—like watching crazy YouTube videos or the start of the football season.
Unfortunately, orphaned fantasy teams create havoc. In Head-to-Head leagues, some teams may get into the playoffs and others may miss out on the basis of scheduling luck. In rotisserie leagues, a non-competitive team is liable to give away free points and influence the final standings.
The advent of keeper leagues was supposed to offer some salvation to the sin of negligence by promoting ongoing attention to one’s team. Sleep in September and potentially miss out on a call-up who might help a team rebound the following season. But most keeper leagues tend to exacerbate the problem with so-called “dump deals,” whereby out-of-competition teams trade their superstars for better keeper prospects. Once a team has forfeited their best players, they become even more unlikely to pay attention during the final weeks of the season.
Last week on THT Fantasy, Jonathan Halket covered the controversies surrounding dump trades, but for all the acrimony these trades inspire, I believe the larger issue was missed. Dealing with issues like fairness and free markets is all good and fine, but are we sure that fantasy baseball has set up the right kinds of incentives to drive market participants toward the finish line?
In the last couple of years, I’ve advocated change in the leagues in which I participate. My goal has been to minimize the controversies entailing the fairness of trades, to create a system that isn’t too rulebook onerous, and most importantly, to approach the problem as any good economist would—by focusing squarely on incentives.
Right now, in most leagues, there’s no incentive to compete for many teams. Right now, in many keeper leagues, there’s no incentive for those who find themselves out of competition to hold onto star athletes. That’s the target for improvement.
Here are examples of changes we’ve made in my leagues.
I participate in a 20-team H2H keeper league. Each team has a 30-man roster and an additional reserve list of minor league players. With approximately 760 players on rosters, you wouldn’t expect to find any singular team in this league fielding All-Stars at every position, but thanks to the emergence of “dump deals,” that’s exactly what’s happened in past years.
So we decided to change things this past offseason by instituting a new incentive system. Every team that misses out on the playoffs competes in a consolation tournament. The winner of this tournament gets an extra keeper. In addition, similar to real-life Major League Baseball’s Elias Rankings on free agents, teams in my fantasy league are allowed to cash in superstars at the end of the season for picks in the league’s minor league draft. Of course, in order to have a good shot in the consolation tournament and in order to take advantage of consolation draft picks, teams need to hold onto superstars—not dump them in any trade.
I also participate in a 16-team roto keeper auction league. Similarly, dump deals used to bedevil this league and many teams lost interest.
So we decided to offer any “out of money” team that improves its standing after the All-Star break a discount on a player’s keeper price. For example, Team X buys Albert Pujols for $33. Team X is in last place at the All-Star break. Instead of trading Pujols for Jason Heyward, Team X keeps Pujols and has better luck in the second half, improving his points total by 33 percent. As a result, Team X gets to take 33 percent off the price of any of his keepers. So if Team X wants to keep Pujols, the salary is only $22, making the Cardinals All-Star a phenomenally attractive keeper. This also mirrors real-life baseball, as many free agents become more likely to sign contracts with teams showing competitive fight.
So far, the discount keeper rule has been a wild success. The consolation tournament and draft pick exchange rules have only had moderate impact. We’re still tinkering around the edges to get things right.
If there’s a takeaway here, it’s this: If a dispute comes up in your league, make sure you examine the root causes of the dispute. There are too many legislators and lawyers in leagues, but not enough economists. Considering fantasy baseball is a stats-obsessed endeavor, that’s ironic.
On another note, I’m holding the first mock draft of the 2010 season. I’m doing this in order to help teams sort through prospective values as they look to trade this year with next year in mind. I’m even giving away a prize. If you are interested in participating, find details on my Website.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 1:59am
Twelve-team, head-to-head, non-auction, five-keepers-per-season league with the following offensive categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS.
My questions center around Mark Reynolds. Almost every single one of his peripherals suggest that his numbers are due for a significant drop-off, most notably homers, average, and, consequently, OPS. I'm currently in fifth place and, while I could certainly make a late-season run, the chances of winning my league outright are not great at this point. With the trade deadline looming and Reynolds' value at an all-time high, should I ship him off for a more consistent, top-notch keeper, or stash him away until next season in the hopes that his talent is actually as good as his fantasy stats currently indicate?
If this question isn't appropriate for the Roster Doctor column, please feel free to send it to one of your esteemed colleagues who might be interested in providing his/her opinion.
C Russell Martin
1B Ryan Howard
2B Brian Roberts
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Miguel Tejada
OF Adam Dunn
OF Nelson Cruz
OF Juan Rivera
UT Jimmy Rollins
UT Russell Branyan
BN Ian Stewart
BN Josh Willingham
BN Seth Smith
(Pitching categories are W, SV, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP.)
SP Javier Vazquez
SP Johan Santana
SP Jered Weaver
SP James Shields
RP Huston Street
RP Brian Fuentes
RP Leo Nunez
RP Kiko Calero
P Octavio Dotel
P Daniel Bard
BN Joe Blanton
BN Jorge de la Rosa
DL Jordan Zimmermann
DL LaTroy Hawkins
If you think that your chances of winning are slim or none, then, given that your league lets you keep five players at no cost (in terms of salary or draft picks), you should try and get the best five players that you can possibly trade for. Package players. Empty your roster of all non-keeper but valuable players. Do anything to get the best five that you can.
As it presently stands, your roster has many borderline keeper candidates. Certainly Howard and probably Santana are two to keep. I'd throw Rollins in as a keeper. Then, unless your particularly high on either Martin or Roberts, you'd probably keep two of Cruz, Dunn and Reynolds. Of the three, Reynolds is the one that is probably most overachieving this year.
As you rightly noted, his home run to fly ball rate at 25 percent is high enough to make you cry. But even if he regresses to Adam Dunn's 21 percent level, he'd still match Dunn in home runs. Both Reynolds and Cruz give you stolen bases. Reynolds runs more often than Cruz, but gets caught more often as well. So Reynolds' green light may turn pinkish. Surprisingly, each of them has batted for a relatively high average this year. In the end, I'd probably keep Reynolds or Cruz over Dunn (depending on health).
I would certainly see what you can get in the trade market for each of those three players. At this point in the season, owners in a position to win should be willing to trade overall value for help in particular categories. So, look for owners that need help in certain categories and pitch your offer accordingly. Perhaps one team needs power and is willing to give up an Ichiro Suzuki or even a Carl Crawford to get it. This doesn't just apply to those three players either. Vazquez could really help a team in need of strikeouts and might give you a Joe Nathan in exchange.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 1:55am
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