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Friday, September 25, 2009
Last week, we described a new method for deriving fantasy values. First, some loose ends:
Readers will note that we spoke of “the last drafted player” and “the pool of draft-worthy players” without saying how we knew who these players were. The approach we favor is running thousands of Monte Carlo simulations of fantasy leagues—simply casting players onto rosters with no care for balance or value. Our base metric is something that we call Weight on Winners (WOW)—the frequency with which a player appears on the winning club. The higher the frequency, the greater the value. Note that, because our simulated leagues do not enforce a budget, we cannot turn these frequencies into dollar values; however, the frequencies should reveal the rankings of our players, so that we can pluck out the top 108 players or the 10th-best player or whomever.
Here were the steps for this study. We simulated a 12-team, standard-5x5, mixed-league contest. There are 108 total pitching slots. The average price of a slot (given a $260 budget and 23 slots on both sides of the roster) is $11.30.
1. Find the pool of potentially valuable pitchers.
For best results, the competition between our simulated teams should approximate the true level. We don’t want to consider every player who threw at least one pitch. On the other hand, we also do not want to unfairly exclude someone who, even in limited play, can have an impact.
We resolve this dilemma by tossing every pitcher into a simulation of a couple thousand leagues and finding the lowest IP total among the top 108 players. Every pitcher below this threshold is essentially given a grade of “Incomplete” and ignored in later steps. It is not fair—either to the player or to owners—to treat ultra-short seasons as if they are on the table. Nobody is weighing Chris Carpenter versus Andrew Carpenter.
At this point in the season, the threshold is 30 IP. Pitchers with slightly higher workloads who look to have a crack at the top 108 include Claudio Vargas (1.93 ERA in 37 IP), Randy Choate (3.62 ERA in 32 IP, 5 Saves), and Sergio Romo (3.94 ERA in 32 IP but 2 Saves and 5 Wins). A notable miss is Neftali Feliz, who has only 28.1 IP, but he is bound to top 30 IP by season’s end.
You can see from the above trio that our method appreciates value in a variety of configurations: low ERA; moderate ERA but Saves; unremarkable ERA but Saves plus Wins. These choices fall out of the simulation naturally; we didn’t have to “do” anything other than set up the parameters.
2. Find the top 108 pitchers.
We take all pitchers who survived the cut in Step 1 and simulate another couple thousand leagues to get the true top 108. Recall that our $11 slot is one that can freely float among any of these players.
Not surprisingly, Zach Greinke took the top spot; simulated teams with Greinke won 35% of their leagues. Tied for second place at 30% were Dan Haren and Tim Lincecum. Chris Carpenter, Felix Hernandez, and Javier Vazquez formed a 3rd tier at 27.5%, followed at 26% by the first closer on the list, Jonathan Broxton.
3. Identify the $1 pitchers.
Recall that we are going to be introducing $1 players onto our rosters. Now, we don’t want to put too much weight on the particular player in the 108th position—he might happen to be a beast in one area, which would bias our findings. Moreover, we may need to swap in multiple $1 players, and it would be better not to re-use one guy.
So we’ll draw our $1 players from a pool of 12—the last six draftable (#103-108), plus the first six non-draftable (#109-114). In alphabetical order, here are the $1 players for this study:
IP W Sv ERA WHIP K Bergesen 123 7 0 3.43 1.28 65 Breslow 65 7 0 3.46 1.09 50 Condrey 39 6 1 3.20 1.17 23 Johnson Ji 67 4 8 4.05 1.32 49 Kawakami 152 7 1 3.92 1.33 102 Masset 70 5 0 2.56 1.04 65 Morales F 38 3 7 3.05 1.30 40 O’Day 55 2 2 1.80 1.00 53 Palmer 114 10 0 4.03 1.34 65 Peavy 87 7 0 4.05 1.18 97 Troncoso 79 4 5 2.75 1.39 52 Zambrano 154 8 0 3.91 1.43 138
Again, there’s a good mix of players there.
So we’ve defined our $11 slot (the pool of the top 108 pitchers) and our $1 slot (the pool of 12 end-rounders). All that’s left is to run the experiment that we outlined last week. We’ll start with a straight version of Roster #1 (Halladay plus eight free-floating slots) and then replace one, two, and three of the floating slots with $1 players. Roster #2 is fixed with nine free-floating slots.
We submitted each two-team league (four versions) through 2,000 runs of our program and tracked the winning percentage of Halladay’s team at each stage.
Did we obtain Halladay’s value? No. Or, we don’t think so. Here’s the graph:
Nice curve, but you can see that it crosses the 50% mark well before we would expect it to. Based on this graph, Halladay’s roster would meet Roster #2 after replacing only 1-3/4 of Halladay’s $11 slots with $1 slots. This equality puts Halladay’s projected value at about $18. For a guy with 15 Wins, 193 K, and a 3.01 ERA in 221 IP.
We can get a slightly more customary valuation for Halladay if we extrapolate from only the first two points on the graph—that is, from a state with zero forced $1 slots to a state with one. Doing so raises Halladay’s estimated value by $3, to $21. Still probably $6-$10 below his real value, if standard valuation methods are to be believed.
What gives? We glean a clue from the line’s curved nature. By our hypothesis, each substitution of an $11 slot with a $1 slot should have led to the same $10 drop in Halladay’s value. But the slide here is not linear but exponential. Each added end-rounder degrades Halladay’s roster ever faster.
The notion of synergy among roster picks is not new. We know, for example, that once you get one super-speedster, additional super-speedsters have declining worth to you because you need only so many SB to seal the category. Ditto for anything that you’ve already bought enough of.
This study suggests that you can also have too much of nothing. Recall that the price of a player is $1 + the marginal price of his marginal worth. A pure $1 player, then, has no marginal worth. When you add a $1 player, you are giving up a chance to gain ground on the leader.
That wouldn’t be such a bad thing—if you had an infinite number of slots. But slots are precious. In fact, a case can be made that not all slots are created equal. For example, if you had a roster of Roy Halladay by himself, there would be a tremendous amount of value in simply adding a second slot. On the other hand, if you had a roster with 19 slots, the 20th would barely raise your interest.
Have we mislabeled our slots? For Halladay to merit a higher price, either the $11 slot needs to be re-priced upward or the $1 slot needs to be re-priced downward, so that the wage gap between the two slots is more than its current $10. Can we justify that? We'll keep you posted.
Posted by John Burnson at 5:00am
Michael Aubrey | Baltimore | 1B
True Talent: .247/.298/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .247 BA, 0.0 SB
We hopped into our Wayback Machine to dig up the goods on Michael Aubrey. Back to the days when he was considered a “can't miss” prospect ... back to the days when he was healthy! He was the 11th pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of notables such as Aaron Hill, Carlos Quentin, and Chad Billingsley. He started his pro career in full-season Single-A ball the same year, making such a mockery of the Sally League that he started his first full season of pro ball in High-A in 2004. He also destroyed that level, earning a quick promotion to Double-A. That's when the injuries began. He missed about 360 games between the second half of 2004 and 2007. He missed time again in 2008 but finally made it to Triple-A. In 2009, he was hitting .290/.323/.436 before his call-up, and he even managed to play in 101 games. Though slow, he's a good defender and Trembley likes him. He's going to play the rest of this year and might be a good deep sleeper pick in AL-only leagues for next year—there's no telling when “hidden” talent will re-emerge on a guy who's missed so much time.
Fausto Carmona | Cleveland | SP
YTD: 5.5 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 6.89 ERA
True Talent: 5.4 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 4.82 ERA
Time for another round of, “How Desperate Are YOU?” The Indians expected to contend but quickly saw their season fall apart, and expected No. 2 starter Fausto Carmona's a big part of the reason why. He's not throwing 95 mph any more, but his fastball still averages about 93 mph this year. And he's inducing 54.2% grounders. But that's about it for any good news ... his control has deserted him entirely, and there's no reason to think it will come back this season, if ever. He's walked 5.4 batters/9 IP, and when he's thrown strikes, he's allowed a career-high 18.6% LD%, and just a 2.8% infield fly%, indicating that batters are teeing off. Anyway, TT projects him to have a sub-5.00 ERA, and getting to pitch at home against the O's could help him tonight. But, really, picking him up is a last-ditch effort to get someone who was once good, and is assured of getting his starts.
Brett Gardner | New York | OF
True Talent: .261/.340/.361
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 0 RBI, .264 BA, 0.4 SB
Two months ago, we anticipated that Gardner's OBP would stay above the TT level (which was .341 at the time), and it has. Expect him to see a LOT of playing time as the Yankees make sure that their starting outfielders are as healthy and rested as possible for the playoffs. The Yankees will face some good catchers (KC and TB), but Gardner is fast enough to steal anyway, and could make a difference in that category.
Alex Gonzalez | Boston | SS
True Talent: .248/.300/.391
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, .255 BA, 0.1 SB
Gonzalez has hit .321/.333/.607 in 60 PA at Fenway this year, and Boston plays 6 of 9 at home, with the other three being at New York. For his career, he's shown no preference for facing LH or RH pitching, but everyone's shown a preference for Cleveland's pitching this season, and the Indians and Blue Jays are the two home series. Don't expect miracles, but he'll play every day, and could hit a couple more HR.
Mark Hendrickson | Baltimore | SP/RP
YTD: 5.3 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.37 ERA
True Talent: 5.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.60 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 7 K, 4.92 ERA
Moved into the rotation to replace Matusz, Hendrickson can be expected to start for the rest of this year, as the team faces Cleveland, TB, and Toronto. His True Talent projection looks promising, but only pick him up in a pinch (and hope for the best!), as he's been much better in relief due to his L/R splits (.268/.311/.397 against as RP, .317/.378/.596 as an SP; tOPS+ splits of 75/113 vsL/R).
Daniel Hudson | Chicago | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.38 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.5 Wins
Daniel Hudson “blew up” the True Talent projections, his minor-league stats were so awesome this year (147.1 IP, 105 H, 166:34 K:BB, just five HR at four levels). Entering the 2008 college season, Hudson was all the buzz, expected to be a high-round pick, but he had an off year, and slipped to the White Sox in the fifth round. You could say he's rebounded nicely in '09. He reaches 94 pretty effortlessly now, and his slider should become devastating, as it was in the minors. He's typical in terms of GB% and FB%, and should be considered a prime Rookie of the Year candidate for 2010, even if the Sox delay his call-up two months to avoid arbitration, which is a possibility.
Ryan Raburn | Detroit | OF
True Talent: .264/.331/.456
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .266 BA, 0.2 SB
Lost in the shuffle of the Detroit outfield has been former utilityman Ryan Raburn, who has blasted 14 HR and stolen five bases in about half a season's worth of PA. He's used in a pinch sometimes but has appeared in all but three Tigers games in September. A nice source of homers in AL-only leagues, and he's good enough to play against LHP in any format, if you have daily moves.
Matt Thornton | Chicago | RP
YTD: 10.7 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, 2.65 ERA
True Talent: 9.5 K/9, 3.2 K/BB, 3.19 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a Saves, 3.25 ERA
Matt Thornton is the White Sox closer, and he should be great at it. There's even some talk that Jenks won't be brought back in 2010, though it's premature for that. Thornton is arguably the best lefty reliever in the game now and one of the hardest-throwing—clocking in with an average fastball velocity well over 95 mph. He should be immediately considered a top closer down the stretch, even with the typical caveats about the last three outs being harder to get. Trading Joe Borchard for this guy was highway robbery by Kenny Williams.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Juan Francisco | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Francisco succeeds with a hack-and-slash approach, like Vlad Guerrero or Pablo Sandoval, but without their mad contact skills (he's got a 75% rate in the minors, vs. 86-87% for Vlad and Kung Fu Panda). When Francisco does make contact, however, the ball goes a long, long way. The Reds want to see if the 22-year-old can maintain the momentum he started when he hit .359/.384/.598 with five 2B, one 3B and five HR in 99 ABs for Triple-A Louisville. NL keeper league owners will want to watch him carefully in the last few weeks, and he makes the perfect power gamble for non-keeper owners. At this point in the season, those ratios are awfully hard to budge, so his BA won't hurt you much, but those extra HRs and RBIs could be the thing to put you over the top. If nothing else, you can watch him knock some tape-measure shots like the 423-foot jack he launched in his second career AB.
J.D. Martin | Washington | SP
YTD: 4.5 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.21 ERA
True Talent: 6.6 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.48 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.1 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.27 ERA
Martin's given up two ER in each of four September starts, winning three of them, no small feat given the team that's behind him (he won the three games by a total of four runs). He's also given up at least one home run in all but one 2009 start of more than 4.0 IP, giving him an ugly 1.7 HR/9 on the season. That plus his low K and K/BB ratios shows you that Martin's been walking a tightrope and could plunge off at any moment. His start last night against the Dodgers may be those stats catching up with him: five ER in three IP. It's the 26-year-old's first season in the bigs, despite a good minor league career (61-31, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), a testament to his problems with durability and health. You've got to be pretty hard up to want to start him, so we'd advise a healthy dose of caution, even if his last start should come against the hapless Mets.
Mike Fontenot | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .267/.341/.423
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .271 BA, 0.1 SB
Fontenot's True Talent line would have made him the No. 8 2B in the NL, but he's clearly not getting there this season. Since Jeff Baker supplanted him as the starting 2B, he's gotten a handful of September starts, hitting .440/.483/.560 for the month. It's likely too little, too late to get the keystone spot back from Baker this year, just as it won't be enough to reach those TT levels. But those in NL-only leagues 14 teams and deeper can take the chance on him picking up a few more starts, or perhaps a pinch hit or two, in the next week. Most of us, however, can just leave him out on the wire.
Chris Narveson | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 8.8 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.85 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 9 K, 4.98 ERA
Technically a rookie, Narveson has been a pro for 10 seasons, and in his last start, he put up one strikeout for each of those seasons, becoming the first Brewer rookie to do that in ten years. He struggled in the beginning of 2009, was demoted to Triple-A, and has looked good since returning, with a 2.00 ERA in 27 IP, though only three of his 10 appearances have been starts. He could get two more starts down the stretch as Milwaukee wants to look at him for 2010, and True Talent tells you he's got the stuff to succeed. The Brewers' rotation isn't set, but he's most likely to see his next start in Coors Field, which may be a good reason to steer clear of him. He's a good gamble for Ks and a possible win, but a gamble that's better in an NL-only league 10 teams or deeper.
Oscar Salazar | San Diego | UT
True Talent: .269/.321/.437
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .256 BA, 0.1 SB
In spite of those glowing 2009 numbers, Salazar's done it mostly off the bench since being traded from the Orioles. Now that Kouzmanoff is battling back and calf injuries, and with Edgar Gonzalez done for the year, Salazar's gotten more PT in September. He's responded by hitting .256/.396/.512 for the month, a pace he's largely sustained, so he might be for real. He sports a 84% contact rate this year, consistent with his career MLB numbers, as is his .77 BB/K ratio. While he's probably not a late bloomer, he's been hot enough thus far that there's no reason he can't sustain this for another week. Worth a shot in nearly all leagues, especially those where he's got multi-position eligibility, since he's played at least one game at every position but CF and C.
Hong-Chih Kuo | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 10.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 2.28 ERA
True Talent: 9.9 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.19 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.08 ERA
What's that? You're all out of starts in your leagues, or up against the IP cap? Might I suggest the Hong-Chih Kuo? It's excellent this season. Actually, Kuo has been excellent whenever he's been healthy, and 2009 is no exception. The "healthy" part, as ever, is the problem. He's right where True Talent says he should be, and is sure to bring you some Ks without much damage to your ratios. He's got an outside chance at a save, if LA decides to rest Broxton for the playoffs, but he's got value regardless. Good for NL leagues of any size, as well as most mixed leagues.
John Maine | New York | SP
YTD: 5.8 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.13 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.16 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.4 Wins, 5 K, 3.70 ERA
Since coming off the DL with a weak shoulder, Maine has pitched fairly well, most recently putting up five shutout innings against Washington on Sunday. His strikeouts are down, and his walk rates have climbed each of the past four seasons, making him a fringy pitcher even when he's healthy, as True Talent shows you. Given the team behind him and the restrictive pitch count he's on, don't expect much from Maine. But he's scheduled to face the Marlins on Saturday, and their roster hits .187 against him, so he's not a bad gamble as far as spot starts go. He's a worthy gamble in NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams, or anyone who's desperate for one more win.
Tyler Colvin | Chicago | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Cubbies have said they'll take a long look at Colvin, once one of their top CF prospects, in the last week of the season. A first-round pick in 2006, he's developed slower than hoped, and getting Tommy John surgery last November didn't help. But he bounced back strong in 2009, hitting .300/.334/.524 in Double-A—his third season at Double-A. Hence the "slow development" label. He's a good hitter but needs to work on his batting eye—he slipped to .36 BB/K his season after .44 last year, neither of which is that great, but his 80% contact rate shows he knows how to put the barrel on the ball. Chicago's had trouble with a certain cantankerous RF of late, and Colvin projects as a possible lefty-hitting corner OF, which explains why he'll be getting so much PT down the stretch. He's someone to watch for keeper leagues, but not likely to bring much value, given that he skipped a level and doesn't possess any one dominant, "must-have" skill.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
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