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THT's Fantasy Archives
Monday, October 05, 2009
The 2009 fantasy baseball season officially came to a close in many formats last night, leaving a select few owners dousing themselves in coolers of Gatorade (I swear, I'm actually going to do this one of these years) and leaving many others to simply wait for next year. For THT Fantasy, there's a good deal of celebrating in our virtual office today.
LABR NL — 1st place — Derek Carty (13 teams)
Along with Tout Wars, LABR is one of the top two expert fantasy competitions in the world. In 2009, yours truly is bringing home the trophy (or ring, actually... I bought myself a championship ring to most effectively gloat each time I see one of my fellow participants). In addition to simply winning, this championship makes me the youngest person to ever win a major expert league competition.
I'm especially proud because most have called this one of the toughest LABR fields ever with the likes of Baseball HQ's Ron Shandler, ESPN's Nate Ravitz and Tristan Cockcroft, Rotoworld's Rick Wolf and Glenn Colton, Baseball Prospectus' Clay Davenport, USA Today's Steve Gardner, Yahoo!'s Brandon Funston, and several other top competitors. It truly was an All-Star field. Back in March, there were 11 LABR and Tout championships sitting in the draft room with me. They should all still be there next year, but the funny thing is, the target will now be on my back.
Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge (FSIC) — 2nd place — Derek Carty and Paul Singman (12 teams)
We were in 1st just 10 or 12 days ago, but our team fell flat in the final week. Still, a quality finish against some good competition from FantasyBaseball.com, Fanball, SportingNews, and several others. Perhaps the saying "You can't win a league in the early rounds, but you can lose it" is true. Paul and I were unlucky enough to pick Jose Reyes and Garrett Atkins 1-2. Considering, I think a finish likes ours is pretty good.
Razzball League — 2nd place — Jonathan Halket (90 teams)
This league wasn't strictly for experts but, rather, followed the NFBC style of massive amounts of teams, including representatives from ESPN, FanGraphs, Fanball, FantasyPros911, Beyond the Boxscore, MVN, and Razzball (of course), among others. Terrific showing in a huge field, Jonathan.
KFFL Expert League — 3rd place — Derek Carty and Eriq Gardner (12 teams)
Really competitive league that came down to the wire. We were in first entering the week, but this team also fell flat in the final days. No shortage of competition, though, as participants included LABR commish Steve Gardner, KFFL's own Nick Minnix and Tim Heaney, and reps from Baseball HQ, Baseball Prospectus, CREATiVESPORTS, RotoExperts, and FantasyPros911, among others. Eriq and I actually ended up making 204 transactions throughout the course of the season.
Yahoo! Friends & Family League — 4th place — Paul Singman (14 teams)
Our own Paul Singman was tied for second on Saturday, but just barely got edged out at the last minute. There are some big names here, including Yahoo!'s big four of Funston, Behrens, Evans, and Pianowski as well as Tout Wars vets Jeff Erickson (Rotowire), Chris Liss (Rotowire), Mike Salfino (SNY), and several other industry guys.
Overall, I think it was a very good showing for THTF in expert leagues this season. As you know, we've expanded very quickly, going from just one full-time writer (me) at the end of last season to a staff of 12 terrific guys today. For me, to see our guys have the opportunity to participate against such tough competition — and what's more, to see these kind of results — in what really is the early going of the site, is something I'm very proud of.
Thanks to all of the great writers I now have the privilege of working with and even more thanks to all of the readers who have helped make THTF what it is today — and who will help it continue to grow. Hopefully we were able to help you win your own fantasy leagues this year and will be able to help you again in 2010. If you have any stories you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them. Any suggestions for what you'd like to see from us going forward, I'd love to hear those too.
Unrelated — Where have I been?
For those wondering where I've been lately, worry not, I'll be back soon. I'm currently in Arizona participating in the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program (aka Scout School). I'll be back and ready to write in another week or so.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:59pm
When I was offered this writing job, I told myself that I would try to stay away from posting self-indulgent anecdotes about experiences in my own leagues. Ah, the best laid plans… In actuality, I had a revelation on the second-to-last day of the season in my head-to-head league that I found interesting and also touches on some of the larger debates in the fantasy baseball world. So, I’m going to share it here, for purposes of establishing the context for the larger point.
I’m in the finals of a head-to-head (non-keeper) league and facing the league's most hyperactive manager. Naturally, at season’s end there is even more motivation than normal to spot start and manipulate your roster for short-term gain. Thus his managerial style has become a caricature of itself, but strategically so.
I knew how he was going to manage the finals, and I tried to take the advice I always give. Be flexible and opportunistic; force him to commit to a paradigm before I do. So, for the first week I picked up a fair amount of attractive spot-starting match-ups, but did not overindulge. The idea was to keep myself in contention in the counting stats and control the rate stats. I accomplished that goal, and did so well enough to put me in a difficult position.
Not surprisingly, as I write this on Saturday morning, I am ahead in the rate stats and trailing in wins (and saves). However, there is one dynamic I did not expect. I actually enjoy a small lead in Ks (thank you, Ricky Nolasco) but have fallen behind in K/BB. My opponent had a full slate of starters for Saturday and Sunday. Even though I am losing the overall match-up, I’ve chosen not to protect the K lead, as I think he is goading me to risk my rate stats. Instead, I’m hoping his cadre of bottom-of-the-barrel starters causes him to give back the K/BB category. Ostensibly, I’m hoping to trade the K point for the K/BB point, which would leave the pitching match-up at 3-3 and put the overall battle in the hands of the offenses, neither of which have really shown up by the way.
The most questionable element of my strategy is that I am voluntarily relinquishing control of a category, in favor of betting on my opponent’s self destruction. He just has too many innings coming to him for me to match, so I don’t think I can win playing his game, at least not without severely risking two other categories in the process. Will it work? I guess I’ll know by the time this column runs.
The revelation I referred to earlier is really not some foreign concept. It’s simply the idea that he with less to lose is more dangerous. Whoever was losing the rate stats in this battle actually controlled the dynamic of the whole match-up because rates are the only categories you ever have to “protect.” You don’t protect leads in counting categories so much as you keep up with, or outpace your opponent. With games, innings or at-bats, counting stats will come; they can never be less than they were before, they can only grow at an insufficient rate. My opponent does not have to think as much as I do, his strategy is simple - pick up as many pitchers as he can and try to make the best choices available.
Over the long term, he can’t act this way to this degree. However, the end of the season removes the opportunity cost from dropping quality players for immediate stats. I can’t keep up with his level of activity if I am concerned about protecting the rates, which is why even though I happen to be leading in Ks, I’ve identified a category I’m currently losing as a more viable category to actually win.
This particular experience has drawn me toward the conclusion that while it is preferable to invest in quality pitching throughout the season (with an eye toward opportunism); it is wise to invest in counting stats down the stretch in head-to-head leagues. The tenets underlying this theory are manifold.
The first important point is that over weekly scoring periods quality often takes care of quantity without trying. Better pitchers will amass more wins and more Ks. It takes fewer good pitchers to amass the same number of strikeouts as several poor pitchers. The opportunity cost of committing too heavily to the revolving-door roster strategy is enough of a stick to prevent an opponent from jumping over the edge. In the playoffs, it’s win or go home, so a manager has more incentive to ramp up the hyperactivity to the point that it is hard to compete against without his opponent adopting that strategy, at least to some degree.
A second factor is that small sample size enables the possibility of a manager not being heavily penalized for running out a parade of subpar pitchers. While over the course of the season a manager who does this will suffer horribly in the rate stats, in one playoff series it’s entirely possible to get a good run of performances from inferior players. Or, conversely, it’s quite possible that a series of good pitchers perform poorly over one playoff week.
The conclusion of my not-so-novel revelation seems to be that when you eliminate long-term security from the equation, chasing counting stats is the wiser strategy, and it allows you to dictate the dynamic of a head-to-head series.
The larger question this situation brings forth is that of regulation in fantasy baseball. Namely, should moves be limited?
Normally, I’m a libertarian on these matters (highly ironic for those who know me personally). I’m against limiting moves. I’m against distinguishing pitching roster spots between starters and relievers, and so forth. But, it does appear that full deregulation of transactions skews the incentive to invest in what are otherwise equally valuable categories during the most important time of the season. Is that a problem? I’m not sure.
During the offseason, I plan to write several pieces dealing with overarching strategy and models of league construction. To limit moves or not will certainly be one issue I explore.
But, for now, I ask the readership two questions. What say you about investing in counting stats versus rate stats down the stretch in head-to-head leagues? And, if the conclusion in this piece is true, is that a viable argument for limiting moves in head-to-head leagues?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:02am
Javier Vazqeuz has been one of the most interesting studies in sabermetrics throughout his career. He breaks all the ERA predictors by consistently having a higher ERA than his FIP, xFIP, tRA or DIPS expect. His ERA has been higher than his FIP in eight of 12 major league seasons, posting a career FIP of 3.83 and ERA of 4.19. On the other end is Matt Cain who consistently beats expectations by maintaining a very low HR/FB% year after year. This year was his highest at 8%, yet he had his best full season yet.
Name W-L ERA K/9 BB/9 K/BB BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB% Javier Vazquez 15-10 2.87 9.77 1.81 5.41 .297 76.6% 41.7% 10.1% Matt Cain 14-8 2.89 7.07 3.02 2.34 .268 81.6% 38.9% 8.4%
I have looked into Vazquez before as his numbers always draw attention. He has continually drawn bad luck against his FIP especially once he went to the AL. The last time I looked at him was back in April and found he had a large change in K/BB while pitching from the stretch. In 2008 his K/BB went from 3.94 with the bases empty to a 2.43 with runners in scoring position. In his career it went from 4.10 with the bases empty to a 2.07 with runners in scoring position.
He also played for some poor defenses recently and had BABIP numbers of .284, .311, .321, .297, .328 while with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and White Sox from 2004-08. His career BABIP still stands at .309. This all helps explain why he has struggled against his FIP, but what has happened this year?
Well he still has a significant split in his work from the stretch. His K/BB with the bases empty is 6.21, but with runners in scoring position he has a 4.25. That is much better from the stretch than any season and surely has something to do with playing in the National League and facing the opposing pitcher. This has led his numbers to match up much better as his ERA stands only 0.1 higher than his FIP.
For years Cain has been listed as a potential pitcher to fall as his xFIP was consistently higher than his ERA. His HR/FB rate has been 7.1% or lower for 3 years and has only crept up to 8.4% this year. This has to do with playing in the NL West. Pitching in San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles for a large number of your games will do that.
His strikeout rate has taken a hit this year with his K/9 down to 7.07. Offsetting that is his walk rate falling to a career low of 3.02, and his K/BB is a career best 2.34. This is still not that great for a pitcher with a 38.9% groundball rate. His career BABIP is .278 and down to .268 this season. This is partly due to a team defense that has ranked in the top 10 in MLB for the past four years.
While his overall numbers don't match that of a great pitcher, he has the ability to maintain solid numbers as long as he stays in the NL West. He has another year left on his contract with the Giants and a 2011 option for $6.25 million. This could be an issue next year as his value to trade will start to decrease, but the Giants could just as well keep him through the end of his deal. If he was moved, he stands to suffer an increase in homers against and an increase in BABIP.
Both of these pitchers are staring at the reality of regression to the mean next year, but they both have history of being solid pitchers. They will be overvalued for sure, but Javier Vazquez is definately the better and safer pitcher to choose. There has been talk he could be expendable to the Braves if they bring back Tim Hudson next year. I find it extremely unlikely that the Braves will let a pitcher with a K/BB over 5 go, but he is entering the last year of a contract that guarantees him $11.5 million. His biggest downside would be a return to the AL, but Cain would be a downgrade going to any team outside the NL West.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:01am
Maybe it's fate, maybe it's just an accident, but, in case you're living under a rock, you should know that the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers are playing on Tuesday for the AL Central Title and ... your fantasy title?
Yes, it's true - at least for ESPN.com fantasy players: the final game of the season will count for fantasy points, giving you the opportunity to capture that single or half-point to snatch your fantasy title from the jaws of defeat, or tie.
The probables for the game are Detroit's Rick Porcello and Minnesota's Scott Baker. If you're in a deep league, they're probably already gone. But, should that not be the case, pick them up immediately at the expense of your non-keepers, as they won't be kept for next season anyway. Think about it: if you're down in ERA or WHIP, you can make the decision on game day whether you want to play them. Should you be up in the standings by merely a strikeout or two, don't let your adversary get that single point to drop you in the standings.
Do the same with any other position players out on the wire, as long as it doesn't affect your keepers. After all, it's happening in more leagues than you think. Two of my leagues have ties at first after 162 games. Though, sadly, I'm not leading in either one.
Hurry, there's no time to waste. Why are you still reading this article?
Posted by Mike Silver at 12:33am
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