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THT's Fantasy Archives
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
During the preseason, in a fantasy baseball roundtable, THT’s Derek Carty asked this question:
What do you think has a greater impact on one’s ability to win a fantasy baseball league: player evaluation or strategy?
Most of the responders seemed to believe that evaluation was the more crucial skill. However, if the question was adjusted to consider just the final two weeks of the season in a tight, competitive fantasy league, would the responders adjust their answers?
I hope so.
Most competitors in most leagues are out of competition by now. With only a dozen or so games to go, player evaluation is mostly directed at recapping the season or discussing the next one. Football has started, and many fantasy enthusiasts have directed their efforts in that direction.
But if one is lucky enough to be involved in a close, thrilling finish, there can be an enormous amount of strategic gamesmanship involved.
In some leagues, we witness variants of old game theory problems including “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Chicken:” What’s the other person thinking I’m thinking? If your team and your closest competitor are locked in a tight struggle for both ERA and strikeouts, for example, it helps to know if you’re competitor is going to aggressively make a lot of starts to chase strikeouts or conservatively protect ERA. Otherwise, making a lot of starts without your competitor doing the same could put ERA at risk.
In other leagues, we might see competitors unwittingly measure the economic advantages and disadvantages of hoarding. If you hold a dominant position in steals, for instance, and nobody else in your league can come close to touching you in that category, does it make sense to hold onto a speedster like Michael Bourn or release him for needed help in other categories? What if your main competitor has room for points growth in steals and is No. 3 on waiver wire priority? Do you take the risk of letting him have your player?
The final few weeks of the season can be the time of the year when competitors pursue wild strategies. For example, a team focused on maintaining a small lead in a ratio category like AVG, ERA, or WHIP above all else may pare down their active roster to the bare minimum.
Conversely, a team desperate for a few wins as the maximum innings limit approaches may attempt to grab as many spot starters as they can on that final day they reach—and surpass—the innings limit. (Most fantasy service providers will allow a fantasy team to go above the maximum amount of innings that final day.)
Let’s not forget pleading and nudging as an appropriate strategy. In Tout Wars AL this year, Mike Siano of MLB and Lawr Michaels of Creativesports.com are in a tight battle and Siano is browbeating other owners in the league to put their best foot forward.
Almost everything is fair when a title is on the line. But pay attention to the strategy involved.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 3:56am
After putting up a .363/.453/.451 line in his junior year at Texas A&M, Cliff Pennington became the 21st overall pick of the 2005 draft. Equipped with speed and good on-base ability, Pennington was a perfect fit for his drafting team, the Oakland A's, who were in need of an insurance policy on the still unproven Bobby Crosby.
Pennington proceeded to rise up the rungs of the metaphorical minor league ladder, despite producing middling numbers in Single- and Double-A ball. Coming into 2008, expectations had been severely lowered for the former first rounder, and the question now became whether he would ever make the major leagues and become, at most, a utility infielder instead of "is he the next star A's shortstop?"
Pennington did nothing to improve upon those low expectations in the first third of 2008 in Double-A, batting .260 with 0 home runs. The silver lining was total of 20 steals and a 1.08 K:BB ratio, apparently enough of a lining for the A's to promote Cliff to Triple-A.
In Triple-A Pennington played what could be described as well for the first time in his professional career, as he batted .300 with an impressive .430 on-base percentage—the result of him walking in nearly one-fifth of his plate appearances. The power was still non-existent, but nobody complains about a .300 hitting shortstop with speed and decent fielding ability.
For his efforts, the A's promoted Cliff to the majors for the final month of the season. He was replacing the injured Mark Ellis at second and, true to his role, played at replacement level.
Pennington started 2009 at Triple-A knowing the A's did not see him as their shortstop of the future. In the 2008 amateur draft they selected shortstops Jason Christian in the fifth round, high-schooler Nino Leyja in the 15th round, and gave 28th-round pick Dusty Coleman over-slot money. Plus, over the offseason the A's opted to give Orlando Cabrera four million dollars to play short for them instead of Pennington.
Had he known the A's would also go on to draft Grant Green, a shortstop, with the 13th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, he might have given up hope of ever starting in the major leagues again. But things were meant to be.
At the 2009 deadline, the A's traded Orlando Cabrera to the Twins (for a shortstop prospect, of course) and called up Pennington. He was coming up after a sleep-inducing second run at Triple-A in which he batted .265/.345/.367. The 27 steals were there, but Cliff was looking like he was the next definition of replacement level.
Surprisingly, Pennington has played above replacement level in his 46 major league games this year—1.2 wins above to be more specific. He has batted .290 with seven steals and four home runs, which is a lot by his standards.
With his solid production, it is becoming more and more likely Pennington will enter the 2010 season as the A's starting shortstop. It is nice to think that he could possibly maintain this level of production over a full season—which would equate to a .290 average, 14 home runs, and 24 steals—but that is unlikely.
More likely, based on his 1,562 minor league at-bats, is a .260-.270 average with four to eight homers and 20 steals. Also keep in mind batting late and in the A's lineup will lead to few run and RBI opportunities.
Overall Pennington can be decent AL-only shortstop next year if drafted late, but should be looked as only a stopgap for one or two years before the A's find somebody else to fill the role.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:26am
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