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Thursday, March 31, 2011
On Sunday, draft season came to an end for me as I completed my fifth and final fantasy baseball draft of the year, the Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge (FSIC) NL. It's a 12-team, 5x5, NL-only league with 22-man rosters (one catcher). It uses a snake draft format to select rosters. The past two seasons I've partnered with Paul Singman for this league, and we finished in second in 2009. This year, however, my partner will be new THTF writer Ben Pritchett. Here's our roster.
FSIC NL roster
+-----+---------------------+-------+ | POS | PLAYER | ROUND | +-----+---------------------+-------+ | C | Wilson Ramos | R25 | | 1B | Joey Votto | R1 | | 2B | Juan Uribe | R9 | | 3B | Jose Lopez | R16 | | SS | Stephen Drew | R4 | | CI | Brandon Belt | R14 | | MI | Jonathan Herrera | R21 | | OF | Shane Victorino | R2 | | OF | Jay Bruce | R3 | | OF | Michael Bourn | R5 | | OF | Marlon Byrd | R9 | | OF | Mike Morse | R10 | | UT | Jay Gibbons | R19 | +-----+---------------------+-------+ | SP | Zack Greinke | R6 | | SP | Ted Lilly | R8 | | SP | Tim Stauffer | R12 | | SP | Clayton Richard | R13 | | SP | Brandon Beachy | R15 | | SP | Kyle McClellan | R17 | | CL | Jonathan Broxton | R7 | | CL | Sean Burnett | R18 | | RP | Rafael Betancourt | R23 | +-----+---------------------+-------+ | BN | Andrew Cashner (SP) | R20 | | BN | Mike Leake (SP) | R22 | | BN | Alex Sanabia (SP) | R26 | | BN | Yonder Alonso (1B) | R24 | | BN | Dee Gordon (SS) | R27 | +-----+---------------------+-------+
Overall, I think we drafted a very good team. I do think we have a couple holes, like UT now that Gibbons is headed to the DL and Tony Gwynn Jr. is starting in LF. Lopez and Herrera are also both question marks in terms of how much playing time they'll get. Ramos and Belt should start for the majority of the year, but just how large a majority is still in question.
Greinke will be out for most of April, but I think we ended up with a lot of quality pitchers late to help out until he comes back. Sean Burnett is only sharing save opportunities for the time being, but we drafted him late enough where he could be a real bargain.
Aside from all that, though, we're looking quite rosy . In all honesty, I think we landed some very good players early to anchor our team in Votto, Victorino, and Bruce, and some very good supporting players with the likes of Morse, Uribe, and Stauffer, among others. I think we have enough security wrapped up in certain players, and I think we picked our spots well in terms of taking risks to complement those players.
We'd love to hear your thoughts, so let us know what you think of our team in the comments.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:10am
Imagine you’re a doctor, and a patient comes in and just lies down but doesn’t say anything. If you are interested in sending me questions, please send me actual questions—not just rosters plus, “What do you think?”
On the flip side, some folks sent in quite interesting questions but coupled it with rosters full of “A-Gonz” and “Jason.” Here is Scott’s question: I’ve not changed a thing from it—it has nice question and a well-formatted roster.
“My league does an auction draft and then each manager can lock up their players for up the 3 years at the price they paid at the auction. There are 10 teams and we draft players from both leagues, our lineups are: 2C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI, CI, RF, CF, LF, OF, Utility, Bench, 8SP, 3RP. $260 team budget for 25 players. The points system tries to mimic actual value on the field but probably rewards power from hitters and strikeouts and innings from pitchers more than in real life.
My keepers from past years:
Russell Martin $20
Alex Rios $15
Adrian Gonzalez $12
Kevin Slowey $5
Joe Mauer $10
Hunter Pence $7
Justin Upton $3
Neftali Feliz $3
Daniel Bard $1
Cole Hamels $29
newly drafted players:
Albert Pujols $43
CC Sabathia $28
Dan Haren $17
Javier Vazquez $3
Aramis Ramirez $6
Paul Konerko $12
Kelly Johnson $9
Max Scherzer $20
Josh Beckett $10
Jose Lopez $1
Manny Ramirez $1
Rafael Soriano $1
Jake Peavy $1
Yunel Escobar $1
Jed Lowrie $1
I feel like I got Pujols pretty cheap and part of me wants to lock him up for 3 years, but at the same time its risky to commit so much of my payroll to only one player. Do you think there is enough value at $43 to make him worth the risk? Also what would you do with with Scherzer at $20? I feel like he has a pretty high ceiling but he pitched so bad in spring training that I'm a little nervous.”
I would not lock up Pujols. Scherzer is a close call, but I’m tempted to say that you shouldn’t lock him up either. Here’s why:
These auction values are a good indicator of how your league-mates value these players, so no one in your league thought Pujols was worth more than $43. Barring something Herculean on his part this season or a massive change of heart on the part of one of your competitors, I doubt Pujols will go for much more than $43 next year.
However, if something should happen to him injury-wise this year or beyond, you would lose a large chunk of your future budgets, putting you at a major disadvantage. Moreover, he’s getting to an age, 31, where performance starts to decline. Nothing much to worry about yet, but he’ll probably be worth $38 rather than $45 in three years' time.
Scherzer has more growing to do, unlike Pujols. So by keeping him, you could leverage the difference in expectations that you and your competitors have over him—apparently you have higher ones since you were willing to pay more. Locking him in gives you a chance to put some more money where your beliefs are.
But I’m not sure how dearly you want to hold onto those beliefs. If Haren is going for $17 and Sabathia for $28 in your league, then what is the realistic upside for Scherzer in two years? $25? You’d be making a bit of profit, potentially, but at some risk. Scherzer hasn’t yet proven he can be the consistent horse that Haren and Sabathia are. Not that he's going to be another Russell Martin, but Scherzer is a good example of the costs of locking in.
What would I do?
Your roster already has good examples of whom I’d target for lock-in. Upton, Bard and Feliz are great lock-ins. They are cheap and so pose little risk to your overall budget. (Note, I’m assuming that you can always cut a locked-in player so that he’ll just cost you dollars in the future and not roster spots. If you have to keep him on your roster for the next three years as well, then keeping low dollar players may not be as good a strategy.)
Of course, you have other great keepers as well in Mauer, Gonzalez and others, but I’m not sure why they went so cheaply initially.
So I’d lock in maybe Soriano and Peavy. Peavy is a cheap risk—I’m sceptical it will pay off—but I still think it is a good value. Soriano is borderline. In a ten-team league, he’s not that valuable. Actually, given that you need to play eight starting pitchers, Beckett at $10 is also interesting, but you’ll be able to find his ilk in the auction pool again next season.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:11am
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I was prepared to pen one of my patented musings on the sociology of fantasy baseball this week—you know, one of my columns that reek of pretension and fail to offer any useful advice to our readership. Then, lo and behold, in the comments section of Paul Singman’s post running down his and Derek Carty’s teams in the Yahoo Friends and Family league, I made a point that I realized could actually be valuable for those of you getting in your last minute drafts and auctions.
Here’s the general axiom I’m going to preach:
In relation to the other teams in your league, one of the greatest comparative advantages you can give yourself with a single draft pick or auction purchase is the acquisition of a closer that puts you one closer above your league’s “fair share.”
For this article and for illustrative purposes, I’m going to make some overarching generalizations that assuredly are not always true. The first and probably most important one of these assumptions is that teams will draft or buy closers in a way that distributes them relatively evenly throughout the league. If you’re in a 10-team league, each team’s fair share of closers is 3, a 12-team league, 2.5, etc.
The other assumption that I’m going to make is that the closers I’m speaking of have some level of job security. They don’t have to be elite pitchers, but there’s reason for you to hold a strong expectation that they will acquire a typical closer’s bounty of save opportunities over the course of the season. This is certainly not the case with every closer, but it’s a useful assumption to simplify the discussion of the axiom.
Moving on, let me just briefly state the obvious. The value of a closer is tightly attached to the limited supply of saves. The capability of accruing a save is a rare human resource among the fantasy baseball player pool. At any given time, 30 guys are accruing well upwards of 90 percent of the saves being produced throughout the sport. Therefore, simply having one more player on your team with the ability to produce saves than most of your competitors is a huge advantage; it’s relatively easy to swing the balance of power in the category by merely stockpiling bodies.
Now, let’s get back to the idea of your league’s fair share of closers. Depending on the number of teams in your league, that number will obviously change. In some situations, the comparative advantage of owning more than your fair share of closers is actually more profound than others.
Paul and Derek are competing in a 14-team league. If all closers were distributed evenly, 12 teams would have two closers and two teams would have three closers. This means that if you already have two closers, and you see a third on the board, by adding a third closer, you’d immediately solidify a strong comparative advantage over almost your entire competition. That third closer gives you a 50 percent greater human resource capability of generating stats in a category than 92 percent of your competition (A three closers to two advantage over 12 of 13 competing teams). Again, were assuming an even distribution of closers here, which will likely be untrue, but even with a bit of variation, your comparative advantage stays strong.
Hypothetically, say you take closers in rounds nine and 11. If there’s another closer on the board in round 12, 13, 14, wouldn’t it seem that the comparative advantage of picking that third closer would be greater than the relative value gain you’d get from picking any other position in that round versus whoever is left to replace that player as the next best pick in the following round, especially if you are not in one of the bookend positions of a snake draft? In a roto league, that single pick would probably increase you categorical point projection by four-to-six points. Could any other pick at that point have a similarly profound influence on your team’s overall projected performance?
This dynamic varies with league size though. Now, let’s think about a 12-team league. The fair share for this league would dictate that 6 teams wind up with three closers and six teams wind up with two closers. By exercising the same strategy, you still give yourself a meaningful comparative advantage, but it’s not a profound as in the 14-team league, because now you have now you have the same 50 percent advantage in capacity, but it’s now only over 55 percent of the rest of the league six of 11 competing teams).
In a 10-team league, if you take a fourth closer you’d force on team to wind up with only two closers, giving yourself a 33 percent advantage over eight teams, and 50 percent advantage over the last team.
Another salient variable relating to the dynamics of this strategy is how close a team’s fair share of closers is to one. The raw expected share is what drives the degree of advantage you gain by being on the “over” side of the fair share number.
The fewer closers to go around per team, the greater the likelihood that your supply side advantage plays out in the standings. In a 14-team league, you could have three closers, none of whom are spectacular, and then fail to compile more saves than another team who has two closers who post expectedly or unexpectedly high saves totals. However, in AL- or NL-only league, or a 20-team mixed league, where the likely outcomes are winding up with one or two closers, the second closer is a 100 percent advantage over all teams with a single closer.
As a parallel, if you’re of the philosophy that in an AL-only league, reaching for Joe Mauer is strategically imperative, then reaching for Joakim Soria or Mariano Rivera and pairing that player with an entrenched but unspectacular Jose Valverde type should also be high on your list of strategic priorities.
Before wrapping up, let me make one further disclaimer and one recommendation. First, not all closers are equal. Some will have more saves than others. However, predicting saves totals is an inexact science, much like predicting wins for starting pitchers.
Every year, some random middle to low tier closer will place among the league leaders in save totals, perhaps without even pitching particularly well. One of my most vivid memories of this phenomenon was Danny Graves in 2004. So, I understand it is a bit of a reduction to just talk about how many closers each team has as the definitive barometer of their save potential, but at the same time it means that you don’t guarantee yourself more saves by selecting Joakim Soria as opposed to Chris Perez; the most reliable way to increase your team’s saves expectation is, wait for it, to add more closers to your roster!
Finally, I’d like to offer one recommendation that relates to the second of the assumptions I laid out at the top of this piece. A question that sounds simple, but isn’t so, is that of how we count our closers. Since not all closers can be expected to have job security and sometimes closer roles aren’t even fully defined heading into the season, we can’t—for the purposes of this strategy—simply count every player you draft with an opening day closing gig as a closer. In contrast, we can’t count every player without a closing job as having no saves potential. So, here are two ways you can think about counting your closers.
The first way is to think about each team having one closer job over the course of the season and think about your relievers in terms of the percentage of expected save situations your player will be given the opportunity to convert. If your player is the clear-cut best option, but is starting the season on the DL, maybe you consider him .8 of a closer. If you think you have a live underdog—a set-up man likely to inherit a job due to either trade or teammate implosion, then you could try to express those expectations as a portion of a singular whole.
A second way of thinking about this count is to consider that on any given day, there are basically 30 closers in baseball and that over the course of the season you want to average having a specific number of them per day. So, if you want to have three closers to get your comparative advantage, you may draft two healthy closers, one closer who begins the season on the DL and ends up closing for half a season, and one player who inherits a job midway and also compiles a half season’s worth of save chances. You might wind up owning two closers for half of the season and four closers for the other half, but that would mean that you are averaging three closers on your roster.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:48am
As long time fantasy players know, the stolen base is one of the toughest of all categories to predict over a season. Needless to say, this task gets even more difficult when you try to predict who's going to swipe a bag from day-to-day in the world of daily fantasy baseball.
What follows is a compilation of stats that I feel can be a big help in predicting when guys have a good chance of being on the move, as well as circumstances that should show us that its not worth taking the chance.
But before we get into that, it is important to emphasize the point-scoring significance of the SB. On your typical daily fantasy site, the stolen bag is worth two points or roughly the equivalent of a double. And at the infrequent rate at which the SB occurs, this high value of scoring for that stat is most certainly worthwhile and warranted. So therefore it is something we would love to see happen on our daily team on a regular basis.
So how can we as the player, figure out when a guy is going to steal? Well we have to review what are the FIVE most significant stats relating to prediction of the stolen base, as chosen by yours truly. They are as follows:
Here are the eight MLB teams that averaged more than .70 steals per game in 2010
Tampa Bay Rays - 1.06
Chicago White Sox - .99
Oakland A's - .96
Seattle Mariners - .88
New York Mets - .80
Texas Rangers - .79
San Diego Padres - .77
Kansas City Royals - .71
Why this is important: It's all about philosophy. Some teams don't want to steal, while others need to if they want to have any chance at scoring runs. These 10 teams had running as a part of their offense in 2010 and, as you will see, these teams heavily correlate with some of the to top individual base stealers in the league. This is the first consideration I would like you to make when you are searching for the base stealer for your success. Is the team he plays on a team that runs?
Here are the nine MLB pitchers who allowed more than 25 SB against in 2010
A.J. Burnett - 37
Ervin Santana - 36
Fausto Carmona - 33
Tommy Hanson - 33
Carl Pavano - 31
Chris Volstad - 29
Jered Weaver - 27
Tim Lincecum - 27
John Lackey - 26
Why this is important: Some pitchers have absolutely devastating pickoff moves. Some do not. These are those guys. If the player you are considering is playing one of these pitchers who pays little attention to holding runners, there is a good chance he will take a shot at stealing a bag. Notice that all these guys are right-handed. Also notice that many of them have big strikeout numbers. These K masters often do not need to worry much about watching the runners. This is element two. How much attention will the night's pitcher be giving to the basepaths?
Here are the eight MLB players who had 40+ SBs in 2010
Juan Pierre - 68
Michael Bourn - 52
Rajai Davis - 50
Carl Crawford - 47
Brett Gardner - 47
Chone Figgins - 42
Ichiro Suzuki - 42
B.J. Upton - 42
Why this is important: These are the guys who run. You would think this would be the most important thing, and essentially it is. But the point I am trying to make is that when evaluating the stolen base prospects of your daily fantasy team, it is important to consider other factors first. I would love for my readers to get in the habit of identifying conditions first, rather than just picking a fast guy. Your opponents will be the ones doing this. And they will be the ones running into a brick wall on the bases, simply because they didn't evaluate all the factors related to stealing. Get a step ahead here, guys.
Four MLB catchers had a caught stealing percentage better than 30 percent in 2010
Yadier Molina - 49 percent
Miguel Olivo - 42 percent
Matt Wieters - 31 percent
Brian McCann - 30 percent
Why this is important: Guys do not run when they think they are going to get thrown out. These four catchers have shown over the long haul that they have the cannon needed to bust the speedsters. If a coach shuts down the basepaths because of a fabulous throwing catcher, than your guy has no shot of earning the bonus points the steals provide. So ask yourself, who's behind the dish for the opposing squad?
Five MLB catchers had a caught stealing percentage worse than 27 percent in 2010
Victor Martinez - 21 percent
Kurt Suzuki - 22 percent
Bengie Molina - 23 percent
Joe Mauer - 26 percent
A.J. Pierzynski - 26 percent
Why this is important: By the same token you need to know who can be run on. I've nicknamed this statistic the 'Mike Piazza' factor. Everybody knew they could run on the Pizza Boy and teams would take off at will against him. This list identifies those modern catchers who can be run on. Learn them. Monitor them. Utilize them. The speedsters are gonna be moving when they know they have the advantage. You as a player, need to know when it exists.
So now you have what you need. Hopefully this will help you predict as accurately as possible when the stolen base is most likely to come into play on any given night. Use it wisely. Please do realize though, that in order to steal a base, the player must first get on base. There is simply no way around this. So picking B.J. Upton when he is mired in one of his seemingly endless slumps is probably NOT a good idea. But picking B.J. during one of his hotter streaks when he's in a good 'stolen base scenario' probably is a good idea. A 2010 example isn't difficult to identify. Say it's one of the 18 divisional tilts against the Boston Red Sox. Combine the aforementioned battery of Victor Martinez and John Lackey with Upton's base stealing ability and you have what shapes up to be a base stealer's nearly ideal situation.
Keep these things in mind. Identify factors like the ones above that work in your favor. Don't look for a reason to take a base stealer. Instead, identify a series of players you are interested in. Then review the statistics relevant to base stealing and see if there is something there that can help make up your mind on a certain player. Base stealers should not be counted on as your cornerstones of daily success. But they can help shift the score in your favor on many nights. And if you can use the guys that are apt to steal on the nights that they choose to run, you will be well on your way to stealing some wins from the stiff competition that exists in the world of daily fantasy.
See you all in two weeks, for our first in-season edition of the column.
(It just makes me excited to say that)
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:46am
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
At this point in the fantasy baseball cycle—in between your draft and the start of the regular season—it is easy to be confident. You know exactly how much you value your players because you know exactly what you expect from them in the upcoming season. A few players, like Chase Utley, might have more questions than certainty around them, but for the most part if you were to receive a trade offer today, you would know fairly easily whether you would accept or reject this offer.
Only in rare moments of immense humbleness and self-honesty will I accept a preseason trade offer in which the players I receive were drafted later the players I am giving. Otherwise, the other 95 percent of time, I simply reply to the sending owner, "If I wanted those players I would have drafted them first." And usually do so in some manner of disgust.
As confident as you might be right now, in a very short time—two days to be specific—all that confidence will be eroded by the tidal wave that is the start of the regular season and all that you thought you knew will be washed away. All of a sudden new stats are being generated every day, and every day your opinions of players must be adjusted.
Now, a month into the season you receive a trade offer; not as easy to evaluate it now, is it? Before the season you thought Player A was better than Player B, but so far Player B has outproduced Player A and shows no signs of slowing down. Objectively speaking, you have Tom Tango shouting "Regress to the mean!" in one ear.
Midseason this means weighting the player's current performance by the number of plate appearances he's had (as a fraction of the total number of plate appearances you project him to receive over the whole year), then weighting your preseason expectations of that player by his projected plate appearances for the rest of the season (again as a fraction) and then adding the products together. So for example, if you pegged Nick Swisher for a .260 average in 600 PAs this season and through 100 PAs he's batting .200, you would project him for a [(.260*(500/600)) + (.200*(100/600))] = .250 batting average the rest of the way. It might not be the most statistically sound method of simulating regression to the mean (it is probably smart to over-weight the player's actual statistics a little compared to your true talent estimate) but I understand it and it works well enough.
Sometimes though, the specific circumstances surrounding a player overwhelm what the objective numbers tell you. Some people take this as an excuse to ignore doing even a rough mental estimate of the exercise I performed above, or ignore what a ZiPS or Oliver rest-of-season projection tells you. Even though a player is now playing through an injury or is facing the possibility of losing playing time, you can simply reflect these changes quantitatively by adjusting your "true talent" or plate appearance estimation of this player.
Used correctly, regressing to the mean works most of the time. Most of the time does mean, however, that a number of players will defy the rules. Every year there are Trevor Cahills who continue pitching shutouts, James Shieldses who continue to get shelled, and Jose Bautistas who continue to blast home runs. Plenty of players also obey the regression rule, but you tend not to hear about them as much.
The unfortunate truth is that because of the small samples we work with in partial seasons, our lack of perfect information, and the small number of roster decisions we make midseason, the edge gained by staying faithful to correctly calculated rest-of-season stats is slight over the person who over-indulges in hot streaks. And that is the overall point to take away here.
Although you should follow what a statistically sound rest-of-season projection tells you when deciding on a trade or roster addition, if the numbers are close enough and you have a gut feeling for one player, go with what your intuition tells you. And on the other hand, if you have no idea what to do, go with what the numbers tell you.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:20am
On Saturday, six months of hard work and preparation culminated as my co-managers and I arrived at Arlington Park in Chicago for the 2011 NFBC main event. This day in all honesty, really does feel like being a kid on Christmas morning. All the excitement and anticipation builds up the entire year waiting for this glorious moment. To sit down at that draft table with 14 other competitors who love and respect this game as much as I do is an awesome feeling. Though I had a bit of panic in the days leading up to the draft, I felt extremely calm once I settled into my seat. I knew that I was ready.
If you have been reading my articles this offseason, you know already that I had a well thought out plan in place with contingencies based on any possible scenario that we could foresee happening. My main goals heading into the draft were to make sure I acquired one of the top seven players at first base and also shortstop, as I believe there is a significant drop-off after those groups at each position. I wanted to grab one of the top tier pitchers as my ace in round three. I wanted to get one of the top closers, and then supplement him with another solid guy who had job security, grabbing both before round 11.
Here’s an in-depth breakdown on how the draft turned out, with analysis and thought process along the way. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Round 1, Pick 12 (12): The plan we developed before the draft had us starting with two corner infielders in the first two rounds. Alex Rodriguez was the top choice on our board here, with hopefully Prince Fielder or more likely Ryan Howard falling back to us in round two. This would give us a tremendous power base while covering both corner positions which are a bit shallow this year. The top five picks off the board seemed like it would be a normal first round with Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. The guy sitting in the sixth chair was wearing a Joey Votto jersey to the draft, so I assumed his pick would be an easy one. He shocked everyone though when he selected Alex Rodriguez.
With A-Rod off the board, our target now shifted to one of the top first basemen or possibly David Wright. Picks seven through nine quickly followed taking the top three in order Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira. This means that at pick 10, Carl Crawford, Ryan Braun and Carlos Gonzalez are still on the board. In our preparation, we really didn’t think that any of these players would fall to us, but now we were assured to get one if that’s the route we wanted to take. Braun went off the board at 10, followed by CarGo at 11.
We’re now on the clock at pick 12. In our discussions leading up to the draft, the one player who intrigued us if he did fall was Crawford. The original plan called for two power corner infield bats, then hoping to fill speed with Jacoby Ellsbury in round three, or Elvis Andrus in five. Crawford would certainly fill that void for us, but with all of the top first basemen off the board already, would Prince or Howard make it back to us in two? Should we even go as far to take Prince here to assure that we get one of those top players at his position that we so desperately covet? David Wright would certainly be a solid pick here as well, but can we really pass on Crawford here? The answer to that last question, is no. Carl Crawford becomes the face of our 2011 franchise.
Round 2, Pick 4 (19): With Crawford in tow, we now pray that either Fielder or Howard make it back around. If they both go, Kevin Youkilis could also get some consideration. Robinson Cano, David Wright and Josh Hamilton round out round one. Prince goes off the board with the first pick in round two, and at this point we don’t like the chances of Howard making it back. Then Matt Kemp and lastly Kevin Youkilis are taken before we are up again. This pick is the easiest one we make in the draft, Ryan Howard.
Round 3, Pick 12 (42): Our plan heading into the draft was to take Jacoby Ellsbury if he fell, or one of the top-tier starting pitchers in round three, preferably Jon Lester, Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander. The way the first two rounds played out, we now also considered another stud corner infielder should Jose Bautista or Adam Dunn fall back to us, and then we’d just grab our ace in four. Bautista goes off the board at 3.2, and Dunn makes it all the way to 3.11 before he’s snaked right out from under us. With Lester and Kershaw off the board, Justin Verlander becomes the ace of our staff.
Round 4, Pick 4 (49): After taking Verlander, there are a lot of interesting names still on the board that would merit consideration should they make it back to us in round four. Most of them go off the board in the six picks between ours, leaving us with a couple of options. All along we wanted to assure ourselves of a top seven shortstop, and Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter and Andrus are still on the board here. Another favorite of ours, Justin Morneau is still here, and he was an absolute monster the first half of last season, but is he really healthy and worth the risk this early? Brandon Phillips is another intriguing option that could help our team across the board. In the end, since we missed out on our corner/corner start, and because we believe in his tremendous upside when healthy, Justin Morneau becomes the pick.
Round 5, Pick 12 (72): At the 5-6 turn our original plan called for us to take our shortstop (preferably Elvis Andrus) and then either a third basemen depending on who was still available, another outfielder, or the top tier closer that we coveted. Hunter Pence is another guy who I loved if he fell back to us, but he went earlier in the round. We were more than delighted to see Elvis Andrus on the board, especially after Derek Jeter went with the first pick in the round.
Round 6, Pick 4 (79): Again, our original plan gave us some flexibility here depending on what was on the board. Carlos Marmol was the first closer off the board at 6.01, and had another one gone before it got back to us we may have looked in that direction. The top outfield options remaining were Drew Stubbs, Corey Hart, Colby Rasmus, Brett Gardner, Delmon Young and Rajai Davis. Though we liked some of these players to varying degrees, we felt like at least one of them would surely make it back to us in round seven or eight. This turned our attention towards third base, where Michael Young, Pablo Sandoval and Pedro Alvarez were on the board. We valued Young and Sandoval pretty similarly, but Young had the more proven track record and was the better bet to finish with a higher average. This would help offset the potential average drain from Andrus the round previous. Welcome to the team, Michael Young.
Round 7, Pick 12 (102): Our main focus here is to grab that top-tier closer should one be available, and then follow it up with either our second outfielder or second starting pitcher. Brian Wilson went the pick after us in round six, quickly followed by the rest of our top tier in Neftali Feliz, Joakim Soria, Mariano Rivera and Heath Bell. As the snake moved back towards us in round seven, several of those outfield options we briefly considered in round six were still there. There are also a couple of starting pitchers, namely Chad Billingsley and Chris Carpenter who stand out among the rest. Billingsley gets taken two picks before us, which leaves us a difficult choice. Colby Rasmus, Corey Hart and Delmon Young are all on the board, and all players who we value pretty similarly. Chris Carpenter is also there and would make a fantastic second starter, but would he make it back to us in round eight? Looking at the three teams between us, two of them had two starters and only one outfielder, so it seemed likely that they could each go with one in the next pair. Now the debate turned to which outfielder we liked the best. Corey Hart was the top guy on our board, but came with a small injury concern and may even miss the first week of the season. If healthy, he could be a 25/25 player though. I also really like Delmon Young and his .300+ bat in the middle of the Twins lineup. As time winds down, we come to an agreement that Corey Hart fits our team the best here.
Round 8, Pick 4 (109): Whether or not we made the right decision on Hart is debatable, but at least it appears that we played the snake correctly. In the six picks in between, Delmon Young and Colby Rasmus both are selected, while no starting pitchers leave the draft board. We now grab our number two starter, Chris Carpenter.
Round 9, Pick 12 (132): As we’re winding down before the break, we try to figure out what exactly we need out of our next two picks. Though we missed out on the top tier of closers, our plan all along was to grab two who had job security before round 11. If we don’t grab one in the next two picks, then this can’t be accomplished. Our team could also use another high power/high average bat, but how many of those are readily available in round nine? By the time we are called, another closer run has seriously depleted the inventory at the position. It’s extremely hard to differentiate the remaining options and assuredly one of them will be there for us in round 10. As far as the high power/average bats available, Kendrys Morales and Vladimir Guerrero are still on the board, yet I don’t think either one still should be. Morales is ruled out simply because we can’t afford any more unnecessary injury risk. Vladimir Guerrero is the pick.
Round 10, Pick 4 (139): Well, we know exactly what we need to do here. Though it may not be the sexiest pick, if we don’t grab one of these closers here then we’re basically punting the position which I can’t allow myself to do. We like Ryan Franklin a little bit better than Joel Hanrahan and Leo Nunez simply due to job security. Ryan Franklin becomes our first closer.
At the first break we are fairly pleased with the team we have assembled. We have our first baseman, third baseman, corner infielder and shortstop covered. We also have two outfielders, two starters and a closer. Vlad fills our utility position, but will cause us to lose a lot of flexibility for the rest of the draft, but we felt that he was worth that risk in the ninth round. I know that drafting to targets isn’t always the best idea, but I like to keep track of our power/speed ratio with a goal of 270 homeruns and 175 steals for the draft. Through 10 rounds, we have roughly 160/110 which is right around where we want to be at this point in the draft.
Our predraft plan for rounds 11-20 have us taking our second closer in round 11, hopefully our second basemen in round 15, then mixing in the outfielders and starting pitchers that we like in between. Our plan at catcher is to grab a solid guy in rounds 12 to 15 then wait until later for the second option.
Round 11, Pick 12 (162): We are obviously looking to still grab our second closer here, and to our surprise the other guy we strongly considered in round 10 is still on the board. We will happily select Joel Hanrahan here.
Round 12, Pick 4 (169): We are looking for our third starting pitcher here, with two names very closely bunched on our board to consider, Matt Garza and Wandy Rodriguez. I am leaning in the direction of Wandy simply due to the higher strikeout potential. My co-managers like Garza more for his youth and move to the NL central. They are so close on my board that I digress to them, and Matt Garza becomes our third starter. Chase Utley is still on the board here, but we just can’t convince ourselves he’s worth the risk.
Round 13, Pick 12 (192): Our plan all along for rounds 13 and 14 is to grab our third and fourth outfielders as this is a point in the draft where we identified considerable value in the outfield rankings. Specifically, Travis Snider, Will Venable, Ryan Raburn and Mike Morse are all players that we planned to look at with these two selections. Snider was taken earlier in the round at 13.05, but the other three were still available when it came to our pick. Venable differs from the other two in that I think he has a higher ceiling and has 40+ stolen base potential. We did also debate taking James Shields here, but decided that the value in the outfield was too much to pass up and that Shields might make it back to us later. It may seem like a reach to some, but Will Venable was a very easy choice here.
Round 14, Pick 4 (199): James Shields was taken in the six picks between, so he no longer required consideration here. Both Raburn and Morse are still available and either one would slot in nicely as our fourth outfielder. Another intriguing name on the board is Drew Storen. After missing on the first couple of closer runs and having to settle for Franklin/Hanrahan, I think that Storen would really help to solidify our bullpen, but I can’t seem to justify taking three closers in five picks. Jordan Zimmerman is another name we tossed around, but again thought the value in the outfield was too great to pass up. The Raburn/Morse debate came down to the last couple of seconds, but in the end we decided to welcome Ryan Raburn to the squad.
Round 15, Pick 12 (222): The predraft plan for the 15-16 picks was to take my top sleeper and second base in Danny Espinosa and then grab either our 4th starting pitcher or 4th outfielder depending on how the earlier rounds shook out. Jordan Zimmerman and one of our favorite sleepers, Erik Bedard were both selected before our pick in round 15. Surprisingly, two players we considered in round fourteen, Drew Storen and Mike Morse are also still available. Not wanting to take our fifth outfielder already, we decide pass on Morse. The teams on the snake have two, two and three closers respectively so we figure there’s a decent chance that Storen could make it back to us in round 16. We opt instead to stick to our original plan and take their Nationals teammate, Danny Espinosa.
Round 16, Pick 4 (229): As we had hoped, Storen made it back around and was available here. While a bullpen of Franklin/Hanrahan may seem like a weakness, adding Storen could help to really solidify them as a group. Morse and Peter Bourjos are still available as options here as well, but the value on Drew Storen is too much to pass up.
Round 17, Pick 12 (252): Well, sometimes you wait just a little bit too long on a position and pay the price for it. Hoping that either Morse or Bourjos would make it back to us in round 17 proved to be futile, and left us with a lot of very questionable options. We could look into grabbing our first catcher here, but shockingly only 13 have been selected so far, and that includes Jesus Montero who was taken earlier in the round. With many serviceable options still there, we decide to take a gamble. I know that I preach not to take players with injury concerns, yet still have done so at earlier points in this draft. In round 17 though, and as a fifth outfielder, we decide that the potential profit to be made on far outweighs the risk and select Carlos Beltran.
Round 18, Pick 4 (259): Still nothing standing out at the catcher position as there are numerous quality options that have fallen still available. We do however need to shore up our starting pitching. The debate comes down to the trio of Scott Baker, Wade Davis and Michael Pineda. With the risks that we have already taken in the draft, we settle on the most consistent and proven performer of the bunch in Scott Baker.
Round 19, Pick 12 (282): As we have to sit through the 22 picks before it makes it back around to us, we decide that the best idea would be to again focus on a starting pitcher in round 19. Hopefully one of the guys we considered in round 18 would fall, but if not we still needed to build up our depth at the position. Other than starting pitchers, we also had needs at catcher and middle infield that need to be filled. When it rolls back around, we are thrilled to see Michael Pineda still on the board. I banter with my co-managers a bit about Kyle McClellan who’s a guy that I desperately want on our roster, but we agree he can probably be had later and go with the extreme upside of Michael Pineda.
Round 20, Pick 4 (289): Of course, three picks after ours McClellan goes off the board which infuriates me, but still I don’t think we would’ve grabbed him in round 20. Of the catching options on the board, the debate came down to Russell Martin, Miguel Olivo and JP Arencibia. As time wound down, we came to the consensus that Russell Martin was the best fit for our team.
Through 20 rounds we now have all of our positions filled except for second catcher, middle infield and sixth starting pitcher. I think we’ve hit our goal for stolen bases and are just under in homeruns. Very pleased with how the draft has played out thus far. In rounds 21-30 we’re looking to build depth at starting pitcher, as well as grab a couple of outfielders who are getting close to full-time at bats. This will help to offset Hart and Beltran possibly missing the first couple weeks of the season.
Round 21, Pick 12 (312): Logan Morrison was the guy I hoped would fall to us here, but he was snached up earlier in the round. None of the other outfield options jumped out above the rest, and I definitely felt like we could use another starter with high strikeout potential. James McDonald fits in very nicely here.
Round 22, Pick 4 (319): Bill Hall was an option that we were planning to look at as our middle infielder here, but he went two picks before ours. JD Drew and Jonny Gomes received some consideration here as well, but we decided again to look for pitchers who could bolster our strikeouts. Though health is a major concern, it’s hard to ignore the potential upside of Jake Peavy. Brandon Beachy, JA Happ and Chris Young are other names that we debated in this spot, and looking back objectively were probably better choices, but we decided to go with Jake Peavy.
Round 23, Pick 12 (342): Heading into our 23-24 picks we wanted to fill that void at middle infielder with someone that has a bit of pop, and also snag our 2nd catcher. Ty Wigginton seems to be the perfect fit for us at this point. He has eligibility at first, second and third. He should also get 400+ at-bats and hit 20 or more home runs. Welcome aboard Ty Wigginton.
Round 24, Pick 4 (349): There are still several decent options at catcher available, to where we decide that we can still wait at least another round before securing our second one. Also, we desperately need an outfielder that’s getting close to full time at-bats to fill in at the start of the season. Brad Hawpe and Melky Cabrera are the two best options available, and it’s clear to me who the obvious choice here is. Brad Hawpe is the pick.
Round 25, Pick 12 (372): There are still several decent options at catcher available, to where we decide that we can still wait at least another round before securing our second one. Also, there’s a starting pitcher available whose name we mentioned back in round 22 that could give some nice depth to the back end of our staff. JA Happ becomes the selection here.
Round 26, Pick 4 (379): Eventually we have to take our second catcher. I’m definitely surprised that Nick Hundley has fallen this far and is still available; he’s an easy selection here.
Round 27, Pick 12 (402): Everyone likes to take shots at their favorite closers in waiting in the reserve rounds of these drafts, and I’m no different. I think that this guy might even be the favorite to close at the beginning of the season with the injury to Brad Lidge. We gladly select Jose Contreras here.
Round 28, Pick 4 (409): We still need another outfielder to cover for the Hart/Beltran, but to say the remaining options are underwhelming would be an understatement. As far as late round starting pitchers, I would much rather gamble on a young guy with upside than a boring veteran fifth starter type that you know will be dropped in the first couple of weeks. In this mold, we select Andrew Cashner to round out our rotation.
Round 29, Pick 12 (432): Outfielder with a starting job at the beginning of the season? With the Nyjer Morgan trade, Rick Ankiel at least appears primed to be the starting centerfielder in Washington.
Round 30, Pick 4 (439): Just looking for anybody who has fallen through the cracks that might be a potential draft and hold player. He might crack the 25 man roster, and I believe is only a fragile Scott Rolen injury away from becoming an impact bat. Welcome, Juan Francisco.
There you have it, the draft is complete! Here’s an easier look broken down by position.
C: Martin, Hundley
3B: Young (Francisco)
OF: Crawford, Hart, Venable, Raburn, Beltran (Hawpe, Ankiel)
SP: Verlander, Carpenter, Garza, Baker, Pineda, McDonald (Peavy, Happ, Cashner)
RP: Franklin, Hanrahan, Storen (Contreras)
Again any comments or feedback are greatly appreciated!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:09am
With fantasy baseball draft season winding down, I wanted to dedicate this edition of “The Verdict” to the league commissioners who organize and administer the thousands upon thousands of fantasy baseball leagues. Whether your league is on CBS, ESPN, Yahoo, MyFantasyLeague, or any other website, most likely there is an individual in your league that takes the time and energy to put everything together.
From organizing the draft, inputting the league rules and settings, creating a schedule, approving trades, keeping the peace between league members, dealing with technological issues with the host site, the commissioner is responsible for quite a bit. Unfortunately, when things go wrong or issues arise, the commissioner is usually the first to be blamed. Anyone who is or has been a league commissioner will probably agree that it is a thankless job. But hey, someone has to do it.
Often a commissioner’s contributions to a fantasy league are taken for granted, minimized, and overlooked. When the commissioner has to do less, it means he is doing a good job. This is because the rules that he created and implemented are likely being adhered to without conflict or controversy. If the commissioner is not rejecting proposed trades, it possibly means he is surrounded by league members who understand the concepts of fairness and equity without the specter of collusion. But when the commissioner does have to get involved, he exposes himself to criticism and judgment because usually there will be one person not satisfied with the decision that has been rendered.
Once a commissioner makes a decision either based on the rules of the league or his own interpretation of what is in the league’s best interests, he must then remain consistent when dealing with the same issue down the road. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances that justify deviating from precedent. But generally speaking, once the commissioner has utilized his discretion in making a decision, he should abide by that ruling for all future scenarios of the same ilk.
A commissioner gets into real trouble when he contradicts himself. Not only does his inconsistency anger and frustrate paying league members, it also opens the door to questions and skepticism about potential improprieties and favoritism. This is not a road that the commissioner wants to travel down. Once your integrity and trust is questioned, then everything you do is viewed under a microscope.
So what can a commissioner do to effectively govern his fantasy baseball league? The first step is to author a league constitution that delineates every rule and guideline in the league, including scoring system, trades/transactions policy, roster submission requirements, etc. Of course there is the possibility that something will arise that has never happened before, so the commissioner should provide some safeguards and procedures for dealing with issues of first impression. If these procedures are explicitly written in the constitution, then the commissioner can make rulings on issues that do not appear in the governing document.
The second step is to invite people into your league that you trust or at least have a foundation for some sort of relationship. You may not know everyone in your league (especially if it is a public league). But the commissioner should try and establish a rapport with everyone in the league to help break down any possible barriers of communication. Also, the character of every league member should be scrutinized because you don’t want to invite someone into the league who has a history or reputation for colluding with other teams.
Finally, the commissioner should make his decisions with the utmost of confidence. These decisions may not always be popular, but if you feel it is the right decision and the best decision for the league, then defend it with vigor. On the same note, it is not wise to leave an issue open for interpretation. If people are left still scratching their heads as to what decision you have made, the ramifications could be far worse. That is not to say that you shouldn't listen to opposing arguments and keep an open mind. It simply means that once you have made a decision based on all of the objective and subjective criteria available, then stand by it.
These recommendations come from over 15 years of experience being the commissioner of various fantasy baseball and fantasy football league. Specifically, my fantasy baseball league that has existed since 1999 has helped me grow as a person and as a commissioner. I wasn’t always keen on taking suggestions from my league members, but I have grown to learn that everyone else’s input is good knowledge to have and analyze. For example, my 18-team, H2H mixed league has had a fresh draft every year since 1999 without keepers. I heard from several of my league members that they really enjoy doing some keepers. So I broached the topic with my league and we may look into this starting in the 2012-2013 seasons. I have also learned from just being a participant in a league and watching how those commissioners operate. Some are very hands on and some are very hands off. It all depends on the individual
In the end, someone has to organize the league(s) you are in. While it may not seem like much of a big deal to you, I can assure you that your commissioner cares very deeply for that league and spends a lot of time in that capacity. The role of commissioner is not one that many people clamor to take. For those that do, they should be appreciated for their efforts in trying to make your fantasy baseball experience a little more fun and a lot less stressful. The verdict is that fantasy league commissioners deserve some love and their efforts should be appreciated as we embark on the 2011 fantasy baseball season. Play ball!
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:08am
Monday, March 28, 2011
There may be no more frustrating task in fantasy baseball than trying to predict how many wins a pitcher will accumulate. Fantasy writers constantly talk about how fickle wins are and how chasing wins is a fool's errand. This may be true, but I found myself wanting to know more about predicting wins when I joined the Yahoo! Friends & Family expert league this year. Not just any wins, mind you, but the trickiest of all: reliever wins. I wanted to know which relievers had the greatest chance of vulturing wins. Could we have predicted Tyler Clippard's 11 reliever wins last year, or were they a complete fluke?
Predicting reliever wins
In an effort to see which relievers were more likely to win games than others, I put together a data set with a 14 stats that I thought might be relevant. I then ran a correlation test between each variable and the number of wins a reliever accumulated in a given year. I also ran them against the number of wins per game played for each reliever because for those in daily leagues where you can simply pick up a new reliever every day, a reliever's seasonal total doesn't matter—only whether he might get one that day.
Here are the variables I choose:
Using all relievers since 2004, we get more than 2,700 pitcher seasons to work with. Here are the results:
+-----+------+------+------+-------------+ | | IP | G | gmLI | HIGHER_gmLI | +-----+------+------+------+-------------+ | W | 0.75 | 0.73 | 0.47 | -0.43 | | W/G | 0.31 | 0.27 | 0.31 | -0.23 | +-----+------+------+------+-------------+ +-----+-------+-------+-------+--------+------+ | | xFIP | ERA | RA | HAND_T | SV | +-----+-------+-------+-------+--------+------+ | W | -0.29 | -0.22 | -0.13 | 0.08 | 0.26 | | W/G | -0.18 | -0.16 | -0.10 | 0.09 | 0.07 | +-----+-------+-------+-------+--------+------+ +-----+----------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+ | | RUN_DIFF | IP_G | SP_RA | TEAM_RUNS | SP_IP | +-----+----------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+ | W | 0.05 | -0.07 | -0.06 | 0.04 | 0.03 | | W/G | 0.04 | 0.03 | -0.03 | 0.02 | 0.01 | +-----+----------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+
What we see is that the most important factor is the number of innings a guy throws. Even when we're looking at W/G, if a guy is trusted to throw a lot of innings in general, he's going to be trusted to win games.
Just as important in terms of W/G is gmLI. This makes complete sense as a high gmLI means that the game is close, late, or in question. If a pitcher is trusted in these situations, he's going to be in position to pick up the win frequently. Similarly, if a team has more than one reliever who is trusted in these types of situations (think San Diego with Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams), each one's win total will be cut into by the other. After that, we see that how the reliever actually performs is most important, with (surprisingly) xFIP beating out RA and ERA.
At this point, our results start bordering on irrelevant with r-squared of 0.01 or below and high p-values. Then a pitcher's handedness comes into play (right-handed is better), followed by whether he's a closer, and then the rest of our stats that don't mean very much. Of note is that the reliever's starting pitchers and his team's offense have almost no bearing on whether he picks up a win. So when deciding between Rafael Soriano and Tyler Clippard, it's not going to matter much that one plays for the Bronx Bombers and the other plays for the lowly Nats.
Strategic implications for Yahoo! Friends & Family
The whole point of this exercise in the first place was to aid my team in the Yahoo! Friends & Family expert league, so I might as well explain why that was the case. In Yahoo! F&F, there is a 1,250 innings cap. This means that, essentially, if your team reaches that maximum, every pitcher's W/IP effectively contributes the same amount towards total wins.
That is, what you essentially must do is maximize your W/IP. Because if everyone reaches 1,250 IP and can't accumulate any more, everyone's win total is going to be equal to 1,250 x team W/IP. So if Cliff Lee posts an 0.75 W/IP (15 wins in 200 IP) and you're able to put together a collection of four relievers who post an 0.8 W/IP (4 W in 50 IP each), they are effectively worth the same.
Given this, you can see how important it is to target the relievers who are in the best position to pick up wins.
2010 xW/G% Leaders
If I create a regression equation using the most important variables, I can come up with a formula that will give us a reliever's expected wins per game played. Based on that formula, here are 2010's top 20 relievers in terms of expected wins per game.
+------------+---------+-------+--------+ | LAST | FIRST | W/G | xW/G | +------------+---------+-------+--------+ | Bard | Daniel | 1.4% | 10.7% | | Belisle | Matt | 9.2% | 9.8% | | Gregerson | Luke | 5.0% | 9.8% | | Clippard | Tyler | 14.1% | 9.7% | | Adams | Mike | 5.7% | 9.6% | | Berken | Jason | 7.3% | 9.0% | | Betancourt | Rafael | 6.9% | 9.0% | | League | Brandon | 12.9% | 9.0% | | Masset | Nick | 4.9% | 9.0% | | Guerrier | Matt | 6.8% | 8.9% | | Romo | Sergio | 7.3% | 8.9% | | Camp | Shawn | 5.7% | 8.9% | | Moylan | Peter | 7.0% | 8.8% | | Loe | Kameron | 5.7% | 8.7% | | Jepsen | Kevin | 2.9% | 8.7% | | O'Day | Darren | 8.3% | 8.7% | | Crain | Jesse | 1.4% | 8.6% | | Benoit | Joaquin | 1.6% | 8.6% | | Hensley | Clay | 4.4% | 8.6% | | Perry | Ryan | 5.0% | 8.6% | +------------+---------+-------+--------+
Naturally, this will change for 2011, but it will give you a decent idea of which relievers are worth targeting. Some potential changes to the list include Jason Berken, who will surely drop with Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez back in the mix in Baltimore. Rafael Betancourt could drop a little with the addition of Matt Lindstrom (but should still stay very strong). Kameron Loe will drop with the addition of Takashi Saito. Joaquin Benoit could improve going to Detroit (and Ryan Perry could drop). Nick Massett could drop with Aroldis Chapman now in the majors.
Also of note is that it is possible for two relievers from the same team to rank highly as long as both are highly skilled, pitch a lot of innings, and pitch very high leverage innings, as evidenced Gregerson and Adams both making the top five.
If anyone has questions or would like thoughts on a specific reliever you're considering, feel free to comment or e-mail me. I've also joined Facebook, so now you can add me as a friend and catch up with me there too!
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:32am
The countdown has begun, and my fridge is stocked. Opening Day is less than 96 hours away. Unless you count all the Thursday games as the real Opening Day, then simply subtract 12 hours. I will forgive baseball for confusing us simpler baseball folk with multiple opening days, mainly because I’m aching to get this party started. I have compiled five simple tips to help jump-start 2011 and guide the newer fantasy baseball enthusiast. Enjoy.
Know the difference between "want" and "need."
The No. 1 mistake I find myself making both in the draft and in season is that I tend to favor my favorite players. Favoring your guys is good in a sense, but you must always treat you fantasy team like it’s a business.
Holding grudges is silly, but a very real element to fantasy management. For example, it’s tough for me to see past the problems Matt Kemp created for me last year when I selected him in the first round. He seems to be a new player this spring, one more similar to 2009 than last season. My dislike was well documented earlier in a 2011 analysis, but I feel like my personal feelings were distracting from a more fair assessment of his long-term value.
Another example: I want Roy Halladay on all my fantasy teams. He is a legitimate ace and will be a top five pitcher by season’s end. I won’t have him on my team because I believe I can find pitching value much later. So it’s pretty basic. My want for Halladay doesn’t equate with my need for quality pitching.
Now, concerning the waiver wire. I know my tendencies, and I know that I will always gravitate to risk on the free agent list. In fact, the riskier, the better is the motto I live and die by. The riskiest guys on the free agent list are the injured, the rookies, and post-hypers, and I am in love with all of them. Granted there is a much lesser degree of actual risk to a fantasy team found in the free agent pick-up, but proper FAAB budgeting/waiver priority is still very important.
Sometimes, I have to approach the "want" or "need" dilemma like I am dieting. I’m a pizza lover. I genuinely could eat pizza every day and be perfectly content with my eating choices. I have to limit my pizza intake to not only avoid being the size of a bus, but also to promote good health in my rapidly aging body. You may be one who loves power guys. I don’t blame you; we all love the long ball, but when building a fantasy champion, you can’t load up on one category. There must always be balance, and I will be able to eat pizza only once (or twice) a week.
Playing time is as underrated as any analytical tool for evaluating future player performance.
As some of you may know, our own fantasy hall-of-famer Derek Carty and I will be drafting our FSIC NL Only Expert team on the Sunday prior to this going live. We have exchanged notes, and I have studied his strategies used in prior drafts (LABR, Tout Wars, Yahoo F&F). The shallower the league is, the more importance Derek has placed on playing time. It’s a novel idea to monitor at-bats with such ferocity, but after long examining his teams, he has labored to let playing time set the table of his roster. It’s a great strategy in super deep leagues, and it can even be a serviceable one in all other league types.
Monitor the preseason ins and outs. Make sure to note all health issues, both present and possible future. I like to always evaluate the player’s role with the team. Take a guy like Brandon Belt. He went from a top prospect to the probable starting first baseman for the Giants in a few weeks. Conversely, a closer like Francisco Rodriguez is most likely going to be traded before his bonus kicks in so there’s no real way you can pencil in a season of closeresque numbers for him.
Another reason to monitor playing time is the advantage it will always offer by way of accumulating stats. Victor Martinez’s value is greater as a catcher because he won’t actually have to deal with the rigors of the position, and the same goes for Jorge Posada. The potential for 500-plus at-bats is greater for these guys than a Geovany Soto or Brian McCann, and thus they have an easier chance of accruing the bulk stats. This strategy can be used for all positions. Batting order is another good indicator for increased at-bats.
You must always take into account your team's depth, both categorically and positionally.
Drafting Hanley Ramirez within the first three picks has as much to do with his position as it does with his skill set. Derek was just showing me the lack of speed guys in the National League. Well, what does that mean? Well, that means that you NL-only leaguers must strategize a plan to secure speed. Positional scarcity is a fun term thrown around by us all, but the understanding of positional scarcity at shortstop, second base and third base lets you perfect your roster without blowing all your money or early round picks on first basemen.
As we move onto applying this principle to the waiver wire, it’s imperative to your roster to always, always, always be searching to add depth, both categorically and positionally. The baseball season is long, and there will always be freak injuries (::cough:: Adam Wainwright). Building depth allows you to maneuver through the rough times.
For example, on all my teams I have been able grab a guy like Danny Espinosa to back up my second base starters (Gordon Beckham and Neil Walker). I like having Espinosa not because I am sold on his skill set but because I’m not sold on Beckham or Walker just yet. Loading my hand with several options affords me the opportunity to watch the cream rise and increases the odds of that cream being mine, whatever that means.
I can’t preach categorical depth enough. If you have already drafted a catcher like Joe Mauer, don’t draft a Brian McCann. It will do you little good to add a skill set like McCann's on the hopes of trade bait. If you intend to use him as a DH until the trade, that logic is flawed as well because his skill set can be found much cheaper and trades can be difficult. Furthermore, I don’t understand why people draft speed like it’s going out of style. Inevitably, there will be one guy in your draft who will nab four or more steals-only guys. My advice to you: Don’t be that guy.
Ensure stability by knowing your player(s).
I can’t stress the importance of knowing every thing you can possibly know about your players. There will be guys on my team that by the end of the year I will know better than my own wife. It’s so important to know how they react to adversity or respond to success. Do they like to play at home? Or are they road warriors?
A friend and I the other day began discussing the need for in-depth, to-the-minute information tailored to your particular fantasy team. Even more than that, we were discussing the need for TMZ-like information about the players. Off-field distractions can be a fantasy season killer for owners. Some 2010 examples are Matt Kemp vs. Rihanna, Pablo Sandoval divorce, and K-Rod assaults.
If only we could follow our players around like an episode of the Real Housewives of Wherever. I’m only kidding, but it is important to know the way your players are in certain circles. Even more so, it is vital to know the game of your players, especially in daily leagues. Platooning correctly can have extreme payoffs for the fantasy manager. It’s not as important for the weekly, roto guys, but understanding the streakiness of certain players like Ryan Howard can be beneficial come trade time. I will always target Howard and Adam LaRoche post-trade deadline.
Most important of all these tips: Date the waiver wire, but don’t marry the waiver wire.
Alternately, you can love your team, but don’t fall in love with your team. I say this because I see a significant amount of you fantasy gamers out there who over/under manage good teams.
I was in a league with a guy who had one of the best drafts I’ve ever seen. His team was stacked top to bottom. He had elite pitching and phenomenal hitting. After the draft, I walked away so defeated that I contemplated my own skills. Afterward, I had several conversations with said drafter, and he had already convinced himself that his team was invincible. To make a long story short, this manager neglected the waiver wire for fear of breaking his “masterpiece” of a roster, and needless to say, he lost that league. It remains one of my favorite championships.
Every week there will be a guy who is “the next big thing.” He’s young and streaking, or he’s out of his slump, or, my personal favorite, he’s just been called up. It’s really quite easy to hype the players in the free agent pool, but there's a lot of smoke-and-mirrors saturating the waiver wire. You must always be careful. A fantasy player who marries himself to the free agent list is either admitting the ineptitude of his team, becoming overwhelmed by the hype, taking advantage of league settings, or in rare circumstances, showing sheer ingenuity. I have yet to see that last example, and all the other example are poor excuses for getting hitched to this strategy.
Maybe I’m pushing this analogy to the edge, but it’s important to recognize the line in the sand. Walking the waiver wire can be a treacherous feat, but if accomplished can be a very rewarding experience. Good luck in your adventures.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 2:47am
Friday, March 25, 2011
On Tuesday Derek and I traveled to our respective computers to participate in the Yahoo Friends and Family League draft. For me, it's my third year in the league and Derek is the newbie in the crowd, which consists of the seven main Yahoo experts, three Rotowire senior writers, one dynamic Razzball duo, and one Wall Street Journal contributor. Add Derek and me and you get the 14 members that comprise this mixed, rotisserie scoring league.
The past two years I've finished in the respectable but unsatisfying position of fourth, so I'm looking forward to finishing above that this year. Below you will find my and Derek's rosters and after you will see a poll where you can pick whose team you like more.
Derek had the seventh pick and took Joey Votto in the first and I had the 10th pick and landed David Wright. The link containing the full draft results can be found here, to give you some added perspective beyond just our teams.
Don't forget to vote in the poll and share your thoughts on why Derek's team is so bad in the comments.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:33am
It took a flurry of emails, a slight change in participating personnel, and plenty of draft day rescheduling, but the inaugural THT Fantasy fantasy baseball league is drafted and ready for opening day!
The league is composed of 12 participants—11 THT writers (including Oliver's creator, Brian Cartwright) and Dave Chenok, the winner of the THT Fantasy "Compete Against The Experts" competition. We are playing in a 5x5 standard (HR, SB, R, RBI, AVG, K, ERA, WHIP, W, SV) rotisserie league. Each team has a 27-man roster composed of C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, CI, MI, 4 OF, 2 UTIL, 3 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 5 BN (2 DL). There is a 165 games-played cap and a 1,550 innings pitched limit.
After the trade deadline (Aug. 14), a weekly transaction limit will be installed to deter streaming (I trust the integrity of all, but am a skeptic of systematic incentives inherent in Yahoo's soft innings pitched cap). The auction draft took place on the evening of March 14, each player with $260 to his name. It took a little over four hours, but what follows is the result of overspending by all. Seriously, look at some of the prices on the top talent!
But first, before we get into the murky roster details, let's present the current League Constitution. League constitutions are an important and overlooked contract among league members that can easily avert in-season disputes through a little preseason diligence. If you establish rules early, especially in controversial areas such as trading and trade vetoes, you can avoid the flame wars of May-September. My league constitution addresses only two key issues, but other issues such as collusion and its consequences should be addressed as well. Suggest additions (or changes, I suppose) in the comments below by writing your own rules for review.
As you can probably tell, we are a very pro-market, low-micromanagement league. On to the rosters:
Name: Jeffrey Gross (aka The King of Dollar Days)
Team Name: Jeters Never Prosper
Number of years playing fantasy: Five
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Six
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Either Michael Pineda or Edwin Encarnacion
C: Joe Mauer ($27)
1B: Adam Dunn ($21)
2B: Gordon Beckham ($10)
SS: Hanley Ramirez ($55)
3B: Aramis Ramirez ($10)
CI: Edwin Encarnacion ($1)
MI: Derek Jeter ($19)
OF: Alex Rios ($22)
OF: Hunter Pence ($17)
OF: Ben Zobrist ($11)
OF: Omar Infante ($1)
UTIL: Brian McCann ($17)
UTIL: Franklin Gutierrez ($1)
SP: Tommy Hanson ($16)
SP: Dan Haren ($13)
SP: Francisco Liriano ($11)
RP: Brandon League ($2)
RP: Alexei Ogando ($1)
P: Mike Adams ($2)
P: Michael Pineda ($1)
P: Scott Baker ($1)
P: Kyle Drabek ($1)
BN: Jesus Montero ($1)
BN: Grant Balfour ($1)
BN: Tim Stauffer ($1)
BN: Dallas Braden ($1)
BN: Domonic Brown ($1)
Name: Paul Singman
Team Name: The Jalopys
Number of years playing fantasy: Five
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Six
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Ike Davis
C: Mike Napoli ($4)
1B: Miguel Cabrera ($45)
2B: Rickie Weeks ($20)
SS: Ian Desmond ($7)
3B: Casey McGehee ($8)
CI: Ike Davis ($1)
MI: Aaron Hill ($10)
OF: Matt Kemp ($30)
OF: Andrew McCutchen ($31)
OF: Mike Stanton ($21)
OF: Drew Stubbs ($15)
UTIL: Jose Tabata ($8)
UTIL: Travis Snider ($7)
SP: Shaun Marcum ($9)
SP: C.J. Wilson ($3)
SP: Ricky Nolasco ($4)
RP: Leo Nunez ($6)
RP: Ryan Franklin ($3)
P: James Shields ($3)
P: Trevor Cahill ($6)
P: Frank Francisco ($4)
P: Kyle Farnsworth ($2)
BN: Coco Crisp ($4)
BN: Jason Bay ($4)
BN: Andrew Torres ($2)
BN: Koji Uehara ($1)
BN: Ricky Romero ($2)
Name: Dave Chenok
Team Name: Schilling and Pence
Number of years playing fantasy: Seven
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Five
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $12
Best $1 pick: I guess that would be Soriano handcuffing Mo. As Leona Helmsley famously said, $1 picks are for the Little People.
C: Carlos Ruiz ($1)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($48)
2B: Ian Kinsler ($28)
SS: Jose Reyes ($27)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman ($38)
CI: Adam Lind ($4)
MI: Yunel Escobar ($3)
OF: Shin Shoo Choo ($28)
OF: Nick Markakis ($6)
OF: Rajai Davis ($4)
OF: Vernon Wells ($4)
UTIL: David Ortiz ($5)
UTIL: Magglio Ordonez ($5)
SP: Chris Carpenter ($8)
SP: Tim Hudson ($3)
SP: Brett Myers ($2)
RP: Jonathan Papelbon ($4)
RP: Mariano Rivera ($12)
P: John Danks ($2)
P: Francisco Rodriguez ($5)
P: Chris Perez ($4)
P: Kevin Gregg ($2)
BN: Luke Scott ($2)
BN: Jason Bartlett ($1)
BN: A.J. Burnett ($2)
BN: Rafael Soriano ($1)
BN: Daniel Bard ($2)
Name: Brad "I told everyone my strategy in advance" Johnson
Team Name: Tagg Bozied Spray
Number of years playing fantasy: Six
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Four
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Erik Bedard
C: Victor Martinez ($17)
1B: Billy Butler ($15)
2B: Kelly Johnson ($8)
SS: Alexei Ramirez ($21)
3B: Chipper Jones ($3)
CI: Kendrys Morales ($23)
MI: Howie Kendrick ($3)
OF: Torii Hunter ($4)
OF: Bobby Abreu ($4)
OF: Aubrey Huff ($5)
OF: Colby Rasmus ($11)
UTIL: Chris Coghlan ($4)
UTIL: Logan Morrison ($3)
SP: Felix Hernandez ($31)
SP: Jon Lester ($28)
SP: Zack Greinke ($17)
RP: Heath Bell ($17)
RP: Joakim Soria ($12)
P: Jhoulys Chacin ($7)
P: Erik Bedard ($1)
P: Huston Street ($4)
P: Jonathan Broxton ($6)
BN: Joel Hanrahan ($3)
BN: Chris Sale ($1)
BN: Andrew Bailey ($4)
BN: Geovany Soto ($5)
BN: Freddie Freeman ($2)
Name: Kevin Cearnal
Team Name: hoagies-N-grinders
Number of years playing fantasy: Eight
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Five
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $1
Best $1 pick: Brian Matusz
C: Kurt Suzuki ($2)
1B: Ryan Howard ($40)
2B: Robinson Cano ($40)
SS: Jimmy Rollins ($24)
3B: Mary Reynolds ($13)
CI: Martin Prado ($8)
MI: Chone Figgins ($4)
OF: Justin Upton ($21)
OF: Michael Bourn ($4)
OF: Corey Hart ($8)
OF: Carlos Quentin ($2)
UTIL: Adam LaRoche ($2)
UTIL: Brian Roberts ($4)
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez ($18)
SP: David Price ($19)
SP: Matt Cain ($9)
RP: Carlos Marmol ($15)
RP: Evan Meek ($1)
P: Josh Beckett ($4)
P: Carlos Zambrano ($2)
P: Tyler Clippard ($1)
P: Jake Peavy ($5)
BN: Nate McLouth ($3)
BN: MIguel Tejada ($2)
BN: Peter Bourjos ($2)
BN: Manny Ramirez ($5)
BN: Brian Matusz ($1)
Name: "Lord Voldemort" (aka someone from THT whose name we cannot legally reveal and henceforth shall be known as "he who shall not be named")
Team Name: Jimmy Kabimi (editors note: his team name should be "As Good As It Getz")
Number of years playing fantasy: Eight
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Two
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Well, I’ve only got five choices, which cuts the options down a little bit, but I loved getting Chris Getz for $1. I think he’s got a legitimate shot to become a league average second baseman who can provide lots of cheap steals. The RBI and homers won’t be there—and batting low in the lineup on the Royals won’t help that runs total—but he should have a playable batting average and a ton of speed. I’m targeting Getz as a high-priority backup option in all my leagues where I don’t get my top target at middle infielder.
Sure, getting him for $1 is to be expected, but I think he’s going to turn some heads this season. His double-play mate, Alcides Escobar, comes in a very close second. He’s another cheap backup that I’m keeping tucked under the rug in all my leagues. However, I do not plan to play either Getz or Polanco at UTIL once the season starts.
C: JP Arencibia $2
1B: Albert Pujols $65
2B: Chase Utley $17
3B: Michael Young $12
SS: Alcides Escobar $1
CI: Carlos Lee $8
MI: Sean Rodriguez $3
OF: Matt Holliday $32
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury $20
OF: Josh Willingham $2
OF: Garrett Jones $1
UTIL: Placido Polanco $1
UTIL: Chris Getz $1
SP: Josh Johnson $25
SP: Roy Oswalt $7
SP: Jered Weaver $15
RP: Joe Nathan $8
RP: Matt Thornton $6
P: Edinson Volquez $7
P: Jaime Garcia $2
P: Jeremy Hellickson $6
P: Craig Kimbrel $6
BN: Jose Valverde $4
BN: Jonny Venters $3
BN: David Aardsma $2
BN: Octavio Dotel $3
BN: (DL) Stephen Strasburg $1
Name: David Wade (aka D-Wade)
Team Name: The Gashouse Goons
Number of years playing fantasy: Six
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Two
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Clayton Richard
C: Jorge Posada ($4)
1B: Joey Votto ($44)
2B: Dan Uggla ($21)
SS: Elvis Andrus ($17)
3B: Evan Longoria ($46)
CI: Mark Teixeira ($36)
MI: Brandon Phillips ($16)
OF: Jayson Werth ($26)
OF: Nick Swisher ($4)
OF: Curtis Granderson ($7)
OF: Alfonso Soriano ($2)
UTIL: Ian Stewart ($3)
UTIL: Michael Cuddyer ($2)
SP: Ryan Dempster ($5)
SP: Ted Lilly ($3)
SP: Jonathan Sanchez ($6)
RP: Francisco Cordero ($3)
RP: Brandon Lyon ($2)
P: Jorge De La Rosa (3)
P: Clayton Richard ($1)
P: Derek Lowe ($1)
P: Johnny Cueto ($2)
BN: Sean Marshall ($2)
BN: Brett Cecil ($1)
BN: Homer Bailey ($1)
BN: John Jaso ($1)
BN: Lance Berkman ($1)
Name: Josh "Steal All Of Jeff's Players" Shepardson
Team Name: Josh Shepardson
Number of years playing fantasy: Eleven
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Eight
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Gavin Floyd
C: Carlos Santana ($23)
1B: Prince Fielder ($36)
2B: Ryan Raburn ($6)
SS: Stephen Drew ($17)
3B: Adrian Beltre ($27)
CI: Kevin Youkilis ($34)
MI: Asdrubal Cabrera ($1)
OF: Nelson Cruz ($29)
OF: B.J. Upton ($12)
OF: Chris Young ($10)
OF: Denard Span ($2)
UTIL: Pablo Sandoval ($15)
UTIL: Johnny Damon ($1)
SP: Cole Hamels ($18)
SP: Brandon Morrow ($7)
SP: Madison Bumgarner ($3)
RP: John Axford ($5)
RP: Aroldis Chapman ($3)
P: Gavin Floyd ($1)
P: Jake McGee ($1)
P: Ian Kennedy ($2)
P: Mike Minor ($1)
BN: Johan Santana ($1)
BN: Joel Peralta ($1)
BN: Mike Moustakas ($1)
BN: Desmond Jennings ($2)
BN: Dustin Ackley ($1)
Name: Vince Caramela
Team Name: Free Eric Duncan
Number of years playing fantasy: Six
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Two
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: Justin Smoak (I hope)
C: Buster Posey ($25)
1B: Justin Smoak ($1)
2B: Juan Uribe ($2)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki ($52)
3B: Alex Rodriguez ($37)
CI: Pedro Alvarez ($8)
MI: Reid Brignac ($1)
OF: Carlos Gonzalez ($45)
OF: Jay Bruce ($26)
OF: Grady Sizemore ($6)
OF: Dexter Fowler ($1)
UTIL: Julio Borbon ($1)
UTIL: Matt Joyce ($1)
SP: Ervin Santana ($2)
SP: Wandy Rodriguez ($5)
RP: J.J. Putz ($4)
RP: Brian Fuentes ($1)
P: Yovani Gallardo ($16)
P: Phil Hughes ($7)
P: Brett Anderson ($6)
P: Clay Buchholz ($6)
BN: Russell Martin ($1)
BN: Eric Hosmer ($1)
BN: Russell Branyan ($1)
BN: Derek Holland ($1)
BN: Kevin Jepsen ($1)
BN: Hiroki Kuroda ($2)
Name: Joe Dimino
Team Name: Vive Les Expos
Number of years playing fantasy: Seventeen
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Four
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: I had 13 of them, so a lot to choose from. Probably Raul Ibanez, Bronson Arroyo or Alexi Casilla.
C: John Buck ($1)
1B: Derrek Lee ($3)
2B: Tsuyoshi Nishioka ($7)
SS: Rafael Furcal ($7)
3B: Scott Rolen ($1)
CI: James Loney ($1)
MI: Alexi Casilla ($1)
OF: Carl Crawford ($47)
OF: Ryan Braun ($46)
OF: Ichiro Suzuki ($19)
OF: Shane Victorino ($13)
UTIL: Brett Gardner ($12)
UTIL: Juan Pierre ($7)
SP: Cliff Lee ($28)
SP: Tim Lincecum ($31)
SP: C.C. Sabathia ($22)
RP: Matt Capps ($1)
RP: Jason Motte ($1)
P: Travis Wood ($1)
P: Jeff Niemann ($1)
P: Jonathon Niese ($1)
P: Bronson Arroyo ($1)
BN: Carlos Beltran ($3)
BN: Austin Jackson ($2)
BN: Yadier Molina ($1)
BN: Kenley Jansen ($1)
BN: Raúl Ibañez ($1)
Name: Brian Cartwright
Team Name: Ollie’s Northmen
Number of years playing fantasy: Zero (fantasy virgin)
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: One (this league)
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $0
Best $1 pick: David DeJesus
C: Matt Wieters ($10)
1B: Lyle Overbay ($1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($34)
SS: Alex Gonzalez ($1)
3B: David Wright ($43)
CI: Danny Valencia ($2)
MI: Mike Aviles ($1)
OF: Jason Heyward ($29)
OF: Delmon Young ($13)
OF: David DeJesus ($1)
OF: Nyjer Morgan ($1)
UTIL: Will Venable ($2)
UTIL: Tyler Colvin ($1)
SP: Mat Latos ($21)
SP: Clayton Kershaw ($26)
SP: Roy Halladay ($33)
RP: Brian Wilson ($13)
RP: Luke Gregerson ($3)
P: Matt Garza ($5)
P: Chad Billingsley ($8)
P: Hong-Chih Kuo ($2)
P: Edwin Jackson ($1)
BN: Kila Ka’aihue ($5)
BN: Cameron Maybin ($1)
BN: Wade Davis ($1)
BN: Jair Jurrjens ($1)
BN: Anibal Sanchez ($1)
Name: Ben "Too Good To Fill Out His Own Survey" Pritchett
Team Name: Natural Born Slugger
Number of years playing fantasy: Twelve
Number of fantasy leagues for 2011: Five
Amount Of Cash Left On Table: $3
Best $1 pick: John Lackey (unless, of course, Alex Gordon quits Delwyn Younging it and starts Delmon Younging it)
C: Miguel Montero ($4)
1B: Justin Morneau ($26)
2B: Danny Espinosa ($10)
SS: Starlin Castro ($9)
3B: Jose Bautista ($30)
CI: Carlos Pena ($3)
MI: Neil Walker ($6)
OF: Josh Hamilton ($37)
OF: Andre Ethier ($21)
OF: Angel Pagan ($5)
OF: Adam Jones ($3)
UTIL: Paul Konerko ($13)
UTIL: Vladimir Guerrero ($3)
SP: Justin Verlander ($24)
SP: Max Scherzer ($12)
SP: Jordan Zimmerman ($5)
RP: Fernando Rodney ($3)
RP: Neftali Feliz ($12)
P: Brad Lidge ($4)
P: Daniel Hudson ($6)
P: Gio Gonzalez ($6)
P: Colby Lewis ($4)
BN: Marlon Byrd ($1)
BN: John Lackey ($1)
BN: Drew Storen ($6)
BN: Javier Vazquez ($1)
BN: Alex Gordon ($1)
The rosters noted, here are a few of the more substantial moves made in the league thus far (trades and preseason free agency moves of consequence):
Now that you have the information, give us some feedback. Who drafted the best/worst teams? What were the best/worst picks in your opinion? What trades and free agency picks were the best for who and why? Shouldn't Josh Shepardson just finally trade me B.J. Upton already or whatever?
As always, sound off the love/hate in the comments below!
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 12:22am
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Last weekend, I traveled to MLBAM's offices in New York to participate in Tout Wars. This is my second year in the Tout Wars mixed league, and I think I came away with a pretty good team. The setup is a 15-team, 5x5, roto-based mixed league with a $260 budget.
Tout Wars Mixed Roster
+-----+--------------------+-------+ | Pos | Player | Price | +-----+--------------------+-------+ | C | Mike Napoli | $20 | | C | Ryan Doumit | $2 | | 1B | Luke Scott | $3 | | 2B | Aaron Hill | $13 | | 3B | Jose Bautista | $27 | | SS | Tsuyoshi Nishioka | $9 | | CI | Juan Uribe | $9 | | MI | Ryan Theriot | $9 | | OF | Mike Stanton | $20 | | OF | Juan Pierre | $16 | | OF | Vladimir Guerrero | $16 | | OF | Adam Lind | $13 | | OF | Bobby Abreu | $10 | | UT | Denard Span | $11 | +-----+--------------------+-------+ | SP | Colby Lewis | $9 | | SP | Ted Lilly | $9 | | SP | James Shields | $7 | | SP | John Danks | $6 | | SP | Ricky Nolasco | $5 | | CL | Joe Nathan | $11 | | CL | Jose Valverde | $10 | | CL | Joel Hanrahan | $13 | | CL | Frank Francisco | $4 | +-----+--------------------+-------+ | BN | J.D. Drew | -- | | BN | Phil Coke | -- | | BN | Chris Capuano | -- | | BN | Justin Duchscherer | -- | +-----+--------------------+-------+
I think I did a pretty good job accomplishing what I wanted. I found last year that the top stars all went for a lot of money. Yes, they're supposed to, but I feel like most cost $10 more than fair value. And since I don't like paying fair value to begin with —I try to fill 80-90% of roster with players I consider bargains —these kinds of players just weren't appealing to me.
Sure, you can get away with a stars and scrubs approach in a mixed league (Andy Behrens basically did stars and scrubs last year when he won the league), but I don't think it's necessary in order to win and think it's actually sub-optimal.
I did end up leaving $9 on the table and, in retrospect, could have gotten another hitter in the $20s or a better second catcher. It's always hard to judge an auction like this, though, especially when you see so much inflation early. You don't want to overpsend too much in the early going, but you also don't want to end up having money left over.
Facing inflation, my plan was to wait a while before buying too many players and eventually buying the guys I did get at big bargains, and I ended up doing that. Some came at much bigger bargains than expected, though, which left me with extra cash.
Juan Pierre, for example, went for $16 when other speedsters like Ichiro Suzuki ($25), Jacoby Ellsbury ($25), and Rajai Davis ($20) went for a lot more. I also saved on my closers, who I thought would be in the $12-$13 range, and on Colby Lewis and Ted Lilly, who I thought would be around $15 and $12. And my final pick, Frank Francisco, went for $4 when most closers went for double digits (even Brandon Lyon went for $13 just 20 minutes prior).
That wraps things up for now. Let me know what you think of my team in the comments. Tomorrow, be on the lookout for an article comparing my team to Paul Singman's team in the Yahoo! Friends & Family expert league, and be sure to vote for who's team you think is better (hint: mine).
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:14am
My home league is a 6x6 Roto league with holds as the extra pitching category and walk-to-strikout ratio as the extra batting category. We’re allowed up to four keepers at the cost of up to the first four picks. This year I elected to keep no one, but there were a few teams that had maneuvered last season with trades to get a nice selection of keepers.
With holds counted, pitching is deeper since set-up men also have value. With BB/SO counted, players like Kevin Youkilis get a boost in value at the expense of guys like Ryan Howard. Adam Dunn goes from rather solid and predictable to somewhat risky. He used to post a solid BB/SO rate, but last season his rate sunk. Since he strikes out so often, even small changes in his ratio can have big changes in a team’s overall numbers.
With that in mind, here’s my draft from this year, with the round in which each player was selected shown after his name. I had the sixth pick in a 12-team league. We drafted on Sunday, March 13, so Kendrys Morales' setbacks hadn’t occurred yet. I’ve listed the lineup I would set it if Opening Day was today.
C Geovany Soto - 12
1B Ryan Howard - 3
2B Rickie Weeks - 9
3B David Wright - 1
SS Jose Reyes - 2
CI Edwin Encarnacion - 22
OF Matt Kemp - 4
OF Coco Crisp - 14
OF Rajai Davis - 10
OF Manny Ramirez - 17
DH J.D. Drew - 25
P Jered Weaver -5
P Tommy Hanson - 6
P Colby Lewis - 11
P Jonathan Broxton - 13
P Jonny Venters - 15
P Kyle Farnsworth - 16
P Drew Storen - 18
P Gavin Floyd - 20
P Jon Rauch - 24
Zack Greinke - 7
Kendry Morales - 8
Dexter Fowler - 19
Bobby Jenks - 21
Joel Peralta - 23
Mike Aviles - 26
J.J. Hardy - 27
Bud Norris - 28
Top offense players were scarce in the draft as many of them were kept. Because of this, for instance, Alex Rodriguez was chosen as the last pick in the first round. This scarcity forced me to reach a bit with Reyes. Also, most of the top first basemen were kept. By my first-round pick, the best remaining first base boppers were Howard and Justin Morneau. So I went with Howard, but that forced me to be especially cognizant of batting average and BB/SO for the rest of the draft (neither Reyes nor Wright help with the latter, either).
I think I’ve setup my starting pitching with three great strikeout pitchers. Obviously, Greinke will miss some time, but I was willing to take that hit in the seventh round. Bud Norris is the kind of upside player that is worth a late-round flyer: he already has shown some elite skills and is going to get plenty of time to figure out the rest.
All my closers have tenuous grips on their positions, but many of my setup men (Venters, Jenks) may see some save opportunities, too, so I should get some scoring out of all them throughout.
I’m particularly happy with Encarnacion in the 22nd round. I wanted a corner infielder to back up Morales, and I can move him to DH when Morales gets healthy. As I see it, the most important thing about Encarnacion is that he’ll be batting in the heart of the order, which will help his RBI and Runs totals.
Actually, lineup positions were a point of emphasis for me throughout the draft. Brett Gardner went ridiculously high (fourth round). In Davis, I got a player much later who has the same speed and is going to get at least 10 percent more at-bats as long as he bats leadoff. Same with Coco Crisp. In fact, the only players I have that will probably bat lower than fifth are Drew and Soto. Even Aviles as my backup second baseman bats should bat leadoff.
Please, let the comments fly.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:12am
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Excitement, nervousness and maybe even a bit of panic have begun to set in. Sunday was the first official day of spring and as of today my official draft day countdown sits at four. I have literally prepared for this draft for the past five months, yet still sit here wondering what else is there that I could do to feel at ease?
I’ve gone over every team’s 40-man roster and depth charts extensively, countless times. Still, maybe there is a sleeper hidden someplace that I haven’t looked yet.
I’ve looked and relooked at the career stats and profiles of over 700 players. Yet somehow, I still have that feeling that there are things I haven’t noticed. Maybe if I had paid more attention last year, I would’ve noticed what a monster Jose Bautista was in September 2009. I may have combined that with the knowledge that he had a full-time job coming out of the spring and even was going to lead off for the Jays to begin the season. Still, with all of these factors pointing in his direction, he wasn’t even on my radar last year. Every mammoth homerun that Bautista swatted last season was a constant reminder that I needed to improve my research before 2011. While no one could have predicted that he would hit 54 home runs last year, the indicators were there that he had solid power potential and the path to a full-time job for the first time in his career.
I’ve developed an inordinate amount of draft plans, yet still am not entirely sure on which direction to go when my name is called at pick 12, let alone in round two at pick 19. I’ve tried to look at every possible angle and develop contingency plans depending on every possibility that could happen in the first 10 rounds. I know in which tier I am looking for players at each position, how I want to build my rotation, where my closers will be drafted and what kind of power/speed combo that I need to roster. Having the ability to stick to this plan during the draft, yet still being somewhat flexible is a delicate balance.
From the 12th spot, this will mean finessing players at the short end of the snake. With only six picks between my selections on the short end, I need to pay extremely close attention to how the teams in slots 13-15 are building their roster. Can I start a run on closers in round five and then grab one of the outfielders that I'm looking at in round six? Or if these teams appear to be short on outfielders and speed themselves, I have to take the outfielder first and the closer on the way back around. You have to think of every possible scenario and strive to plan your moves numerous rounds ahead of time.
I’ve studied four main event drafts from this past weekend in Las Vegas and averaged them together to get a way more realistic ADP showing current trends and where players are actually being selected. I know who my sleepers are and what round I need to take them in to assure that they end up on my roster. The other people in my league aren't guppies though, and will undoubtedly be armed with the same data. I have to make sure not to let my emotions get the best of me if one of my targeted sleepers gets drafted the pick before mine. I need to maintain my composure and stick to the contingency plans that I have so carefully crafted and laid out beforehand.
I learned last year that drafting too many players with injury concerns can derail your season before it even gets going. I have spent countless hours researching injuries and player durability. Players with serious injury concerns are in red on my draft board and under no circumstances will I be taking them. I understand that there is a luck factor associated with this, but avoiding these players will give me an added advantage over the field. Albeit a small one, I will gladly capitalize on any advantages that I can find.
To the naked eye of the observer, it seems like I would be ready for this draft. However, even as I sit here writing this article the pressure continues to mount. Maybe I take this hobby too seriously, but I don’t want it to just be a casual hobby. I aspire to be the best, and my extreme competitive nature only fuels this desire. I compete in the NFBC because I want to play against the best players in the world. To measure my skills in drafting and team construction against 389 other people who love and respect this game as much as I do.
Next week, I will do an in depth breakdown on how my draft turned out for you fine folks. Until then, I need every waking second to squeeze in as much information as I possibly can and too look under every rock to find the next Jose Bautista.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:07am
Monday, March 21, 2011
My favorite part about writing fantasy articles is that I get a chance to examine players on several different levels. I get to look over guys that I have almost forgotten about. Nothing is more satisfying in this game we play than discovering diamonds in the rough, and there’s no greater place to find these “diamonds in the rough” than in the category of post-hype sleeper.
We all have to be careful in handing the keys over to post-hype sleepers because, by definition, they hold an incredible amount of risk. There’s always a definite chance for a post-hype sleeper to disappear and become a quadruple-A player or utility man with no serviceable quality to offer your team, and yes, Alex Gordon is on this list.
Alex Gordon: Gordon still wanders the grounds in Kansas City with a George Brett-shaped cloud hanging over his head. At one time, many, including myself, were heralding Gordon as the great hope for a desperate Royals franchise. He had all the offensive tools of a No. 1 overall pick and appeared to be a future star. He parlayed his collegiate success into a 2006 Double-A season that saw him smack 29 homers, steal 22 bases, and rake in a .325 batting average.
That’s really where the fantasy hype machine began to billow out Rookie of the Year projections for the 2007 season. Heck, our own Hardball Times' writers touted him as the best rookie hitter in the game.
Instead, Ryan Braun fulfilled the prophecy meant for Gordon. Braun is being crowned the future of Major League Baseball, and Gordon is not really being “proclaimed” at all.
The main reason for Gordon’s struggles in 2007 circled around his diminishing walk rate, his skyrocketing strikeout rate, and his vanishing power. Oftentimes in 2007-08, he looked overmatched at the plate, a shell of the 2005 Golden Spikes winner. Sure, he hit double-digit home runs and steals, but he always left us wanting more. Every year since 2006, some expert has jumped on the back of Gordon to explain this is the year he finally shows us what he’s made of.
Now Gordon has made a new name for himself and carved out a new position in left field. Gone are the experts, gone are the expectations, and most of all, gone is the Royals’ patience. With Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer knocking on the major league door, the pressure is on for Gordon to succeed immediately.
I’m rooting for you, Alex. My faith in your talent is still there, and I know the stats you are amassing in meaningless spring training games truly lie within your skill set (spring stat line: .349 ave. / 3 HR/ 13 RBI in 43 AB).
Chris Davis: I don’t think any player in all the years I have been playing fantasy baseball had as much hype around him as Davis did in 2009. He was on everybody’s cheat sheet as a power monger with potential for a .300-plus average from the hot corner.
He is scarily similar to Mike Stanton for all you Stanton fans out there. He flashed incredible power in his cup of coffee in 2008 (17 HR in 295 AB), but people dismissed his 88/20 strikeout-to-walk ratio as an acceptable part of his prodigious power profile. They were wrong.
In 2009, Davis struck out 150 times in 391 AB. I don’t even have to research any other players to know that was the highest K/AB ratio in the majors. He hit .238 but still bopped 23 home runs. The power is real, but the hype was proving to be premature.
Now it’s 2011, and the Rangers have already pronounced Mitch Moreland their starting first baseman and Michael Young the designated hitter. Without a home, the trade rumors have begun to flutter about in the desert, and most believe Davis will be moved sometime during the season.
Is Davis a quadruple-A player? His 2010 stats suggest just that, but if given the right opportunity, 2011 could be the year Davis recognizes some of that potential (spring stats: .409 ave./ 4 HR/ 14 RBI and a better strikeout rate of 20%, which is good for him).
I think he should be a definite speculative add in AL-only leagues, and with a trade could actually bring loads of power to a fantasy team looking to use a bench spot on a sleeper. Just remember that you can’t accumulate stats if you’re not playing in the game.
Justin Smoak: Smoak and Davis are somewhat intertwined. As Davis’ star was fading, the hype surrounding Smoak was really just beginning. Out of the University of South Carolina, Smoak was seen by many scouts as a future Gold Glover at first base. He was a switch-hitter that showed advanced patience and maturity.
Many scouts thought he was major league ready right out of college. While his glove appears more than capable, his bat has been lacking over his past two big league seasons. Without a playing time excuse, Smoak has had every chance in Texas and Seattle to show his patient, mature approach; however, the batting eye many had prognosticated about was missing in action. He’s striking out too often and can find himself pressing way too much to generate power.
When it all comes together for Smoak, he is going to be a dangerously good baseball player. I still think there lies a .300-plus average hitter with 25-plus HR power. It might be time to invest in Brandon Belt over Smoak, but for those desperate enough, Smoak could be a serious contributor as soon as this year. For one buck, I would buy just about anything, and I’m buying Smoak—but only for a dollar.
Homer Bailey: Everyone knows Bailey. His name alone has drawn loads of attention around the game. About the time of the Alex Gordon love fest, Bailey saw his popularity peaking as well. Most baseball scouts were salivating over his mechanics and potential front-end-of-the-rotation skill set.
Armed with a dancing fastball that sits in the low 90s, Bailey had become a fantasy darling come draft day 2008. Too bad for his owners, he would struggle through the 2008 and 2009 seasons, plus the first part of 2010. With young guns like Travis Wood and Mike Leake, 2010 saw the Reds now in a position to give up hope on Bailey, but Dusty Baker wasn’t ready yet.
Bailey rewarded that confidence with a 2010 mid-August recall that yielded a 3.55 ERA and a tremendous reversal in his walks. He gave us a glimpse of what he is capable of. Bailey seems to be realizing his potential as a 150-plus strikeout pitcher. In 2011, he seems to be set as either the fourth or fifth starter for the Reds and could be a game changer if he puts it all together and continues to control the strike zone.
Chase Headley: Headley was always seen as a brainy, intense ballplayer that could hold his own on the diamond. In 2008, his stock soared. The prior season Chase was able to blast 20 homers, hit .357, and post a remarkable .249 isolated powr (ISOP) for Double-A San Antonio. Most believed he would become a mid-teens power hitter that profiled as a possible batting champion.
Well, from 2008-2010 Headley has yet to bring that profile to the major league level. After struggling to hit above .260 over the past three years, most experts and fans alike have written Headley off as more of a better real-life player than a fantasy one.
The winds of change are now swirling in San Diego, as well as here at THT, as even Jeff Gross gave him a waiver wire shout out this past week. But the most interesting part for me is that I differ with Gross in that I don’t see Headley as a double-digit home run/steals guy that hits .260-plus. I see him as a future .300-plus batting average guy with double-digit home run/steals potential.
That change in projection completely alters his value. After a hot spring that has seen him post a .433 batting average (in a very small sample size, of course), I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to start expecting that .300-plus average in 2011.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:12am
"Pitching backwards" works in fantasy, too
It's now 9:20 AM on Monday, March 14. In a little under 12 hours, the 12-team THT Fantasy auction draft will begin, a draft that will surely be the most difficult in which I have ever participated. What follows is my preliminary plan of attack. My sincere hope is that, by outlining my thought process, I can help our readers improve their own pre-draft preparations.
Part two, which will cover the results of the draft, may provide an object lesson in how to alter your strategy mid-draft. Hopefully it will not be a "What not to do" type of affair. One thing to remember, for all my planning below, it is of paramount importance that you be willing to throw everything aside at a moment's notice. Flexibility is crucial in executing an auction draft.
I have competed against "experts" before, but rarely more than a handful at a time and never from a group of guys that know so much about my approach to fantasy baseball. Jeff Gross will probably be the most difficult to draft against, since we have talked strategy on countless occasions, and he knows nearly all the guys on my "Gotta Have It" list.
Of course that runs two ways, as Jeff's going to have a hell of a time snatching his favorite players with me hanging around. The best part about this challenge is that it gives me an opportunity to innovate.
First, let's identify the idiosyncrasies of the league's settings. The stat categories are standard roto, which makes player valuation a straightforward affair.
The first wrinkle to be noticed is the auction budget relative to the number of players kept. The standard auction draft on Yahoo! is 23 players deep with a $260 budget. Our league is 27 players deep with the same $260 budget. Owners who apply a heavy stars and scrubs approach are going to find themselves woefully understaffed. I will be searching for value in the middle of tiers rather than paying premiums for the guys at the top or bottom.
The second wrinkle worth discussing is the position player categories. We are to employ one catcher, the normal array of infielders along with a generic middle infielder and corner infielder, four outfielders, and two utility men. Often these sorts of deep roster leagues use two catchers, which can make acquiring a couple elite options very valuable. I love to stockpile scarce positions, but in this sort of league, catcher is much easier to ignore.
The double utility slot really gives us a wide variety of options. We can go heavy on top-of-the-order, high-average, stolen-base, and runs-scored threats, we can load heavy on middle-of-the-order first basemen (up to four first basemen can be started at once), or we can opt for a more balanced approach. My preliminary plan is to combine a speedy, high-average outfield with as many as four mashing first basemen.
The last non-standard setting is the 1550 innings pitched limit, which is higher than the typical 1400-1450 limit. This does help decide how the bench slots should be used. To compete in wins and strikeouts will require at least five-and-a-half starting pitchers, or about 1150 innings pitched. That number of starters also requires five-and-a-half relievers.
We have nine roster spots for pitching and five bench slots. It appears as though I will target five of each type of pitcher while cycling through the waiver wire options for the eleventh pitcher. That will leave three bench slots for position players.
Now is the point where I consider my opponents. I know they will employ a wide range of strategies and techniques, but I also suspect they will all be fairly orthodox. They will be focused on acquiring scarce positions and filling out their categories, especially batting average, power, and speed.
While my fellows are singularly focused on building a solid lineup, I will focus on elite pitching with the goal of acquiring two starting pitchers who will provide close to 480 innings of low ERA and WHIP with a high strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio.
Hopefully a mid-tier bounce-back candidate like Dan Haren will prove to be a bargain, and, if I'm lucky, I will have plenty of money left to add my favorite breakout targets, Jhoulys Chacin and Gio Gonzalez. They are both pretty popular these days, so I am fully prepared to miss out on both of them. I am expecting myself to spend about $80 on my five starting pitchers.
Elite starting pitching is not the end of this strategy. Elite relievers are required to complement this approach. My goal is to acquire three, preferably Heath Bell, Joakim Soria, and Andrew Bailey, although I am under no illusions that my league mates will allow that to happen.
Next I would target a more part-time closer who will save some games but is not likely to hurt my ratios like Brandon League or Jake McGee. My last reliever will be the best $1 Mike Adams type that comes my way. Final expected cost for relievers is around $45.
Typically, pitching takes about 30 percent of an owner's budget. I am planning to use just shy of half of mine. For this plan to work, it is essential that I take down at least 55 of the 60 possible points in pitching categories. In a competitive league like this, 90 points has a good chance of winning the league, which means that I am still aiming at fielding a slightly-above-average offense with a fraction of the budget.
Offensively, my plan is to price enforce early. I tend to find that one or two high-level players wind up on my team via this method. My hope is to generally allow my opponents to bruise their budgets on the top tier of fielders and then swoop in for some mid-round bargains. With luck, that will lower the cost of elite pitching, too.
My final strategy is to accept defeat when it comes to my sleepers. Too many people in our league are in love with the Danny Espinosas and Ryan Raburns of the world. My plan is to nominate those guys early and often rather than sitting on them. With luck, a few bidding wars will price them out over $10. I will also be throwing out an assortment of elite, non-closer relievers, hoping to bloat one or more rosters in the process.
This is an extremely risky strategy, a real boom-or-bust plan of attack. We'll see how things look later tonight.
The problem with a strong plan is that sometimes you become too attached to it. As much as I preach flexibility, I squandered a few prime opportunities by sticking to my original plan. I spent $131 on pitching and $129 on position players.
Ultimately, I am fairly pleased with the results, even if the roster is a little ugly. I was one of the kings of dollar days, which allowed me the veritable pick of the litter near the end. Still, some more interesting players left the draft board after my roster was full, like Michael Pineda.
You can find the results here in this google spreadsheet. My team, Tagg Bozied Spray, is listed first for convenience. A quick perusal through the league results will show that there was more than a little irrational exuberance at the top of the draft, leaving huge value in the middle and end rounds.
As you can see, I stuck closely to my draft plan, selecting Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester in the early stages, although I went a little over budget by paying $59 for the pair. Thankfully, I was able to add a $17 Zack Greinke to the mix along with two of my favorite cheap starting pitchers, Chacin and Erik Bedard.
Greinke was the first guy who went puzzlingly cheap, and for a moment I was worried that his rib injury had worsened when nobody overbid my $17 price enforcement. I will remain on the look out for a sixth starting pitcher via the waiver wire or trade. I only need about 100 innings pitched out of whomever I find.
I combined that potentially devastating rotation with seven relievers. I paid entirely too much for Heath Bell, but all things considered, I can accept the outlay for such a stable relief ace. Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, Joel Hanrahan, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey, and Chris Sale round out my pen.
We can only actually play six relievers at a time, which makes Bailey's impending trip to the DL acceptable. I did not have anything better to do with my dollars at the time, so if Bailey bounces back from his injury quickly, it will have been a great investment. I see it as a no-risk, high-reward situation.
Broxton and Hanrahan are risky given my stated desire to score at least 55 of 60 possible pitching points. That pair could really mess with my ratios even as they buff my strikeouts per nine. I am inclined to sit the pair while I evaluate them. With Broxton in particular, I should be able to learn a lot from just a few PITCHf/x charts.
I think my pitching unit has the potential to do exactly what I set out to do. Wins will be the hardest category to compete in given that I only feature five starting pitchers with only one guy expected to win 20 games. For now, I will have to hope that the Mariners offense can provide timely support for Hernandez and Bedard. Even with a rash of injuries, saves are in the bag, and I should have an early advantage in Ks, ERA, and WHIP. I think I could honestly win all four categories.
On the hitting side of the ledger, my unit is pretty boring. Price enforcement won me Kendrys Morales, Alexei Ramirez, Billy Butler, Colby Rasmus, Freddie Freeman and Geovany Soto. In retrospect, I would have preferred to spend the money I used for Ramirez, Rasmus, and Huff on Prince Fielder and a pair of cheaper guys.
The group is really lacking in stolen bases, such that the category is almost a straight punt right now. But I think batting average could prove to be a strength, and home runs, RBI, and runs have middle-of-the-pack upside. With a well-placed free agent addition or trade, I could probably scrape up the 35 points I expect will be needed to win the league.
I learned two lessons from this little endeavor. First, when I identify a peculiarity in the league's settings that I can leverage, I must follow through. Specifically, I knew owners would run out of money early, leaving huge values behind. I should have left Bell and Hernandez behind and instead targeted some cheaper values later while pumping the excess into my position players. A third high-quality first baseman or a steals-oriented outfielder would have made wise targets.
The second lesson, which is related to the first, is to look past the position rushes. I should have been able to identify that Jered Weaver would be available for under $20, a more attractive option than Hernandez at $31. Doing so would have enabled me to overpay at one of the more scarce positions, where I should have noticed that similarly respectable alternatives would dry up much sooner.
By way of conclusion, I hope my journey from the planning stages through the end of the draft has been helpful. My goal is not to recommend an unconventional strategy or to tout my own team, but to share a glimpse into the kinds of processes a successful auction drafter should be following. Questions, comments, concerns, critiques, and more are all welcome.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:11am
Friday, March 18, 2011
Welcome back to The Waiver Wire everyone. Those who read these weekly columns last year may have noticed that I am now covering the American League, and my counterpart, Jeffrey Gross, will be covering the National League. We hope that by switching league coverage we can offer fresh insight on players. In this special preseason edition, the focus will be on undervalued draft day assets. To qualify, a player has to fall outside the top 200 in Mock Draft Central's most recent ADP index. (Thus I'll be referencing a player's index, not his ADP, i.e. Albert Pujols index is 1 while his ADP is 1.05).
MDC Index as of March 8.
Matt Thornton | Chicago (AL) | RP | 90 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 209
2010 Stats:8 SV, 2.67 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 12.02 K/9, 4.05 K/BB, 39.6 GB
OLIVER:36 SV, 3.04 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.62 K/BB
The favorite to close games for the Pale Hose, Thornton, is a solid value at his current average draft slot. Many may be shying away from him for fear that manager Ozzie Guillen opts to use Chris Sale in the ninth inning, but with a solid record and the ability to eat up both lefties and righties Thornton should get the first crack at the closer gig. With his three consecutive seasons of ERAs and xFIP south of 3.00, I see no reason to doubt his ability to hold onto the role.
Using a blazing fastball that averaged 96.1 mph (his best velocity dating back as far as FanGraphs tracks, 2004), Thornton made hitters look silly last year, racking up strikeouts by the boatload. His high strikeout rate was firmly supported by a career best 14.9 percent swinging strike rate (8.5 percent league average) and a contact rate against his pitches of just 71.4 percent (80.7 percent league average). Toss in the fact that hitters were fishing out of the zone at 34.1 percent of his pitches (29.3 percent league average) and coming up empty often with just a 61.4 percent o-contact rate (66.5 percent league average) and it's easy to see how he was able to accumulate so many punchouts. Take advantage of others' hesitance to take an "unsecure," closer and draft a reliever capable of posting elite numbers outside the top 200.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all formats.
Travis Snider | Toronto | OF | 72 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 247
2010 Stats: .255/.304/.463, 319 PA
OLIVER: .253/.315/.461, 623 PA
At just 23, Snider's swing already packs punch. In 319 plate appearances last season he ripped 14 homers. It appears the only thing he needs to accumulate 20-plus home runs is playing time. Little appears to be in his way this season, so regular at bats are on the horizon if he remains healthy.
Like most young sluggers, Snider has a propensity to strikeout frequently—26.5 percent strikeout rate in 2010. However, his strikeout rate took a step in the right direction last year; it was 32.4 percent in 2009. Last year's healthy line drive rate of 24.3 percent coupled with his growth in making contact (75.0 percent in 2010 as opposed to 70.8 percent in 2009) lead hope to him being more than a low-average slugger type. Those hoping to see him eclipse 30 home runs this season should be rooting for Snider to turn some of his ground balls (or his ridiculous 10.5 percent pop-outs) into fly balls.
Since he's playing in a home ballpark that amplifies home run production, more flyballs are Snider's ticket to being an elite power source, as the raw pop is already evident with 18.4 percent HR/FB rate. Likely opening the season in the bottom third of the Blue Jays order, he may leave a bit to be desired in the run and RBI categories until he's able to move up the order, so draft him as a source of power for the time being and anything extra will be gravy.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all league formats.
Frank Francisco | Toronto | RP | 54 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 248
2010 Stats: 2 SV, 3.76 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 10.25 K/9, 3.33 K/BB, 39.4 GB
OLIVER: 28 SV, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.23 K/BB
With three consecutive seasons of strikeouts per nine innings over 10.0 (10.25 2010) and reasonable walk rates each season ('10: 3.08 BB/9; '09: 2.74 BB/9; '08: 3.69 BB/9), Francisco is the leader in the clubhouse for Blue Jays closing duties. Octavio Dotel should offer zero competition for the role; he's worthless against left-handed batters and better suited to be used only situationally against righthanders. Jason Frasor has a skill set that would make him a passable closer, but the fact that he strikes out fewer hitters and walks more than Francisco also make him more likely to see seventh and eighth inning duty.
Francisco's batted ball profile slants heavily toward allowing flyballs, so he's likely to yield a few more homers than his groundball inducing contemporaries, but that's little reason to shy away from him at his current going rate in drafts. Those who like to wait on their closers should scoop up Francisco; his talent should allow him to post respectable ratios and strikeout numbers while compiling saves, unlike the typical late closers drafted just for saves (see: Fernando Rodney).
Recommendation: Should be owned in all league formats.
Carlos Carrasco | Cleveland | SP | 2 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 252
2010 Stats: 2 W, 3.83 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 7.66 K/9, 2.71 K/BB, 56.8 GB
OLIVER: 7 W, 4.82 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.09 K/BB
After a solid finish to his 2010 season, Carrasco (one of the pieces in the thoroughly underwhelming Cliff Lee package of 2009), is poised to start the season in the Indians rotation. Ranking as the top prospect in the Phillies farm system according to Baseball America in both 2007 and 2008 and the No. 2 prospect there in 2009, he certainly has the tools scouts look for in a successful major league hurler.
To date, consistency has been Carrasco's undoing, but last season saw him string together a full season of solid performance spent in both Triple-A and the majors. In 44.2 major league innings last year, Carrasco demonstrated all the controllable skills necessary for a potential breakout this season, posting a solid 7.66 K/9, a 2.82 BB/9 and a superb 56.8 percent groundball rate. Armed with a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball that averaged 92.9 mph, a slider, curveball and change-up, he has the goods to face a lineup multiple times through and get hitters of each handedness out.
If he has a little more BABIP and HR/FB luck, Carrasco is capable of posting an ERA in the vicinity of his 3.55 xFIP last year, which coupled with his stellar strikeout rate makes him intriguing and a prime candidate to outperform his current draft slot, in 2010 Gio Gonzalez fashion.
Ryan Raburn | Detroit | 2B/OF | 75 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 265
2010 Stats: .280/.340/.474, 410 PA
OLIVER:.274/.335/.472, 554 PA
After a torrid finish to the 2010 season (.315/.366/.534 with 13 home runs in 251 at-bats post-All-Star break), Raburn is slated to see full time a- bats starting in left field for the Tigers. Thanks to playing 18 games at second base, Raburn makes for a sneaky solid play there or at middle infield. With a strikeout rate of 24.8 percent last year and a .333 BABIP, he may see his average drop a bit below last year's .280 mark, unless he can cut back a bit on the strikeouts or continue to post a higher than average BABIP (his career mark is .330 in 1,079 plate appearances, so certainly possible). Regardless, he shouldn't be an anchor on average and offers 20-plus home run power potential at a power-devoid position.
With the return of a healthy Magglio Ordonez and the addition of Victor Martinez, Raburn looks primed to slot second in the Tigers order. Hitting second should allow him to accumulate a ton of plate appearances and with it a healthy number of counting stats. While I'd be a bit uneasy with Raburn as my starting second baseman without a solid backup plan, he is a well above-average target as a middle infielder. He's a good gamble for those not looking to pay a position-scarcity draft tax on the upper echelon second base options but looking for a potential big payoff a la Kelly Johnson of last season.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all league formats.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka | Minnesota | 2B/SS | 67 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 280
2010 Stats: .346/.423/.482, 692 PA (Japan's Pacific League)
OLIVER: .285/.343/.400, 623 PA
A bit of an unknown, but eligible at both second base and shortstop in Yahoo!, Nishioka (who shall affectionately be referred to as Yoshi going forward in honor of this character), presents a rock-solid gamble at his current draft position. The Japan Pacific League 2010 batting champ with a .346 average also possesses a solid eye with 79 walks in his 692 plate appearances helping him reach base at a .423 OBP. It remains to be seen how his average and on-base skills translate to the majors, but if he's able to get on at a healthy clip, he looks to be a decent speed and runs scored source, He stole 22 bases last year and 26 in 2009 (though also caught stealing 21 times over the same time frame, so he'll have to shore up the success rate if he expects to be given the green light regularly).
Playing at Target Field, and having a career high of 14 home runs in a season in Japan, means his modest power is likely to be muted for the most part. Those looking for insurance at either second base or shortstop, or the truly
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of league formats given the dearth of talent at second base and shortstop.
Jake Peavy | Chicago (AL) | SP | 72 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 314
2010 Stats: 7 W, 4.63 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.82 K/9, 2.74 K/BB, 40.6 GB
OLIVER: 9 W, 3.79 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.84 K/BB
With each hurdle Peavy clears in his recovery from surgery to reattach the latissimus dorsi muscle, one should expect to see his draft stock rise. With a chance to break camp on the major league squad, and thus not open the year on the disabled list, and reported velocity readings in his first spring training action hovering in the low 90s, he presents a calculated risk with significant upside.
There is, however, significant downside as well. The surgery he had is unprecedented for a starting pitcher, so how he holds up remains to be seen. Also, before the injury last year, Peavy wasn't his typical brilliant self, posting a 7.82 K/9 (still solid but more than a full strikeout down from his career mark) with a rather grotesque 4.63 ERA (4.08 xFIP so he wasn't that bad, but still not vintage Senior Circuit Peavy). Keep tabs on him as your draft approaches, and if he continues to suffer from no setbacks, consider him a solid upside pick for a team with solid rotation depth.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all AL-only leagues.
Erik Bedard | Seattle | SP | 16 percent Yahoo! ownership| MDC Index Outside the top 386 players indexed
OLIVER: 6 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.23 K/BB
Bedard missed all of the 2010 season, and hasn't topped 100 innings pitched since his last year in Baltimore in 2007. To say he's been a monumental bust in a blockbuster deal made under Bill Bavasi's helm would be an understatement. All that said, none of that affects his potential fantasy impact in the 2011 season, and I remain intrigued. Signed to an incentive-laden contract this offseason to remain in Seattle, Bedard should be aided by pitching his home games in a ballpark, SAFECO Field, that suppresses home runs significantly.
Owning an 8.77 K/9 and a 3.88 xFIP for his career, Bedard presents a worthwhile $1 gamble in auctions or a late-round stab in the dark in snake drafts. For comparisons sake, I'd rather select Bedard than fellow American League West injury rebound candidate Brandon Webb.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and most larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all AL-only leagues.
Jake McGee | Tampa Bay | RP | 17 percent Yahoo! ownership | MDC Index 345
2010:1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.80 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 54.5 GB
OLIVER: 4.41 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 1.93 K/BB
Armed with a hellacious fastball and what FanGraphs identifies as a slider, and The 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook describes instead as a power curve, McGee looks ready to claim the closer role in Tampa Bay. Also in competition for ninth inning duties are Kyle Farnsworth, he of the wilting in high leverage situations mold, Joel Peralta, and perhaps J.P. Howell when he is healthy enough to pitch. None of them has the upside and talent of McGee, who ranks as the No. 4 prospect in the Rays' loaded farm system, according Baseball America.
In 621 minor league innings pitched, much of which came as a starter (129 games started of 140 games pitched) he has embarrassed hitters with a 10.44 K/9. His lack of a developed third pitch should be a non-issue in the bullpen, but if he's able to further develop his change-up to even an average offering, consider that one more bullet to toss into his arsenal.
With the Rays' pipeline of starting pitching prospects rather deep, it appears McGee's future lies in the pen. With that in mind, now is as good a time as any to let the closer of the future earn the job now. Even if he opens the season in a closer-by-committee, or in a setup role, his juicy strikeout rate and helpful ratios make him rosterable until he is slamming the door in ninth innings.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all league formats.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:20am
With the calendar flipping to March, baseball season is go. Say your favorite football player's name out loud. Did you do it? Good. You are not allowed to mention his name or the name of any other football player, let alone the word "football," for the next six months. This isn't ESPN. This is the Hardball Times and we eat, drink and sleep baseball. It's our time to shine.
First things first. Before you start doing draft day diligence, make sure to stretch. Just ask Adam Wainwright's trainer: don't throw a curveball just yet. You don't want to tear a draft muscle. What does this mean? It means before you start tallying your sleepers, figuring out who you are going to buy, who is over/underrated, etc., you need to hop on to Mock Draft Central, Yahoo, ESPN or whatever service you prefer and do a few mock drafts/auctions. Chances are your sleeper is a popular sleeper, and that you've overlooked a strong pick or two.
More importantly, by becoming familiar with the preseason market, you can understand which known commodities are getting overlooked ("de facto sleepers," like Cole Hamels last year), and which young players and other "sleepers" are getting entirely too much hype to justify the rookie risk (e.g., Chris Davis, vintage 2009). I can promise you that none of those popular young players you like so much—Mike Stanton, Jason Heyward, or Jeremy Hellickson to name a few—are going to go cheap this season. The same can probably be said of last year's group of guys who "the peripherals said they underperformed their potential!" like James Shields, Jay Bruce or even Carlos Pena.
Same goes with Jose Bautista, whom we fantasy and real-life baseball writers have been touting as some blend of "the real deal" and "Brady Anderson." No, these guys are known, and they will cost at least the value of the risk. To find the real sleepers, you need to dig deeper. You need to find this year's Colby Lewises, Gio Gonzalezes and Drew Stubbses.
Before we get to the analysis, you may want to review the results from The Hardball Times pre-preseason mock draft from late January. Everyone who participated in the draft, which featured fantasy writers from around the internet, spent an incredible amount of time participating in a post-draft write-up explaining why they picked who they did where and why (I say why twice, because there is a lot of good analysis in these articles). You can find the write-up analysis in eight parts: Rounds 1-3 || Rounds 4-6 || Rounds 7-9 || Rounds 10-12 || Rounds 13-16 || Rounds 17-19 || Rounds 20-22 || Rounds 23-25
The Waiver Wire series will kick into full gear in April, but Josh Shepardson and I felt it appropriate to do at least one preseason Waiver Wire article addressing some real sleepers and strong cheap buys. This article focuses exclusively on names outside the top 200 index, per Mock Draft Central's most up-to-date average draft position ("ADP") report (the report extensively covers all draft data from MDC from Feb. 10-24). These are the players most likely to turn a profit in 2011. If a player goes any sooner than pick No. 200, he's not a true sleeper, even if he is relatively undervalued, no matter how small a record of success he has in the majors.
Below, you will find data relating to both MDC index (indexed draft ranking, or IDR) and the earliest position the player went over the sample period (EDP). You can find a comparison of MDC rankings to those of Yahoo and ESPN over at RotoAuthority (I compiled the data to the best of my ability, but there are a few missing rankings for ESPN players). The players' 2010 stats and 2011 Oliver projections are also listed. If I missed a sleeper listed in my rankings comparison chart (again, see RotoAuthority for that information), feel free to sound off in the comments below! All data are current through March 16.
Freddie Freeman | Atlanta | 1B | 44 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 283 | MDC EDP: 213
2010 Stats: .167/.167/.333
Oliver 2011: .272/.329/.438
Oliver has a reputation for being one of the best systems at projecting young players based on minor league data, but I think the system is a bit too bearish on Freddie Freeman's immediate potential. Freeman's 24-plate appearance cup of coffee in 2010 was quite dull, but but he absolutely raked in last season, hitting .320/.378/.522 over 517 PA. Freeman is not a super-powerful or super-walking first basemen of the early 2000s mold, but he is everything James Loney owners could have ever wished for and an entirely underrated corner infield option for mixed leagues and fringe first base option for stars-and-scrubs auctioneers.
Oliver projects the 22-year old Freeman as capable of a .290-plus batting average with 20-plus home run capability in the next few seasons, but it seems odd that Freeman, who has little left to prove in Triple-A and will open the season as the Braves' starting first baseman, would be projected to underwhelm in the immediate future. I know I said this about Justin Smoak last year, but I expect a 2008 Derrek Lee like campaign out of Freeman this year. I have Freeman pegged for a .285-plus batting average, about 20 home runs, and 80 or more runs/RBI if batting out of the middle of Atlanta's lackluster offense.
Atlanta's going to win with pitching and defense this year, but Freeman could still do some worthwhile damage batting around Heyward (the J-Hey kid) and Brian McCann. Think of him as the consolation prize for losing out on Ike Davis
Ike Davis | Mets | 1B | 69 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 201 | MDC EDP: 166
2010 Stats: .277/.365/.477
Oliver 2011: .255/.329/.423
Speaking of Ike Davis, baseball's latest bat in the not evil part of New York is brilliantly under-appreciated. Though he may not be as young as Freeman or possess the batting average upside (Davis is more of a mid-to-high .270s-type hitter), Davis projects to be a more powerful, more short-term polished hitter who is more certain to bat behind a deeper pool of hitting talent out of the sixth spot of the Mets' meshugana lineup. I expect a .277 batting average with 24 or more home runs and 100 RBI potential. Bill James thinks he will perform likewise, albeit with a slightly higher batting average (.283).
Now, Citi Field is not a preferable place in fantasy for your hitters to call home, but it is no Petco Park or Busch Stadium. The Mets have lowered the home run walls' height in the past year or so and David Wright was able to effectively rekindle his power stroke in 2010. Do not necessarily discount Mets talent for the park (that includes Jason Bay, whom I have pegged for a nice bounce back campaign). Davis, like Freeman, should make a strong late-game corner infield option and fringe starting fantasy first baseman.
Danny Espinosa | Nationals | 2B | 5 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 376 | MDC EDP: 221
2010 Stats: .214/.27/.447.
Oliver 2011: .231/.294/.389
Don't let Oliver's rate stat projections fool you with respect to Espinosa. They do not tell the story of his tantalizing power/speed combination. Despite a high strikeout rate (his career strikeout rate between both the minors and majors is upwards of 22 percent) that will surely keep his batting average in Adam Dunn territory, Espinosa has accrued 46 career home runs and 56 career stolen bases in only 1,317 plate appearances between the major and minor leagues. Over the course of a 600-plate appearance season (approximately 150 games played), that prorates to a 21/25 season.
Oliver has Espinosa projected for a 17/15 campaign over 599 plate appearances. Second base is not necessarily a shallow position, especially considering I have Kelly Johnson, whom I like, ranked just outside the top 10, but Espinosa offers, if you can anchor his batting average, the kind of 20/20 production which is rare amongst big league players, let alone middle infielders. As a bonus, Espinosa may get some playing time throughout the season at shortstop (such as when Ian Desmond gets days off, , in which case Espinosa becomes that much more enticing. Mark my words, Espinosa will make a top 15 second basemen this year, with top 10 upside. In a world where batting average risks like Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena get $10-15 bids, you should absolutely consider filling your middle infield position by taking a cheap flier on Espinosa.
Chase Headley | Padres | 3B | 19 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 266 | MDC EDP: 191
2010 Stats: .264/.327/.375
Oliver 2011: .253/.324/.378
Headley is underrated. He's not going to light the world on fire, with a batting average that is likely to sit between .260 and .275, but has 15/15 potential that makes him an effective late round $1-2 flier to fill out the corner infield. Heck, if a 12/12 shortstop like Mike Aviles is valuable, there is no reason to disregard Chase Headley.
Neil Walker | Pirates | 2B, 3B | 84 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 251 | MDC EDP: 153
2010 Stats: .296/.349/.462
Oliver 2011: .257/.305/.424
Is this former top pick a late bloomer or extended flash-in-the-pan? Walker's combined 18 home runs and 12 stolen bases between Triple-A and the major leagues last season (659 PA) was solid, especially for a middle-infield eligible player, as was his combined .303 batting average (.296 batting average in the majors). Underlying this all, however, is a .340 major league batting average on balls in play that is well above his expected .315 mark. If we adjust Walker's 2010 triple slash line to reflect his expected BABIP, graciously assuming that all subtracted hits would have been singles, we get a .276/.331/.443 (.774 OPS) production line that is well below his actual .811 OPS last season. That's above average for the major leagues, but below average for fantasy.
Even assuming that Walker is 15/10 capable (Oliver pegs him for a 13/7 campaign) over a full season of play, a .270s batting average is hardly inspiring for a middle infielder when you consider that Johnson, my No. 12 rated second basemen, is projected to outperform that in his sleep. Factor the Pirates' relatively anemic offense into the equation, and you can understand why I was hesitant to barely rank Walker (No. 15) as a top 15 second basemen. Still, for NL-only leagues, Walker could make a solid late-round second base filler if you can allocate that money to upgrade elsewhere. I suppose you could do worse at middle infield as well. Let someone else pay for him (Yahoo has him ranked No. 149 overall); Walker's an anti-sleeper.
Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF | 43 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 224 | MDC EDP: 178
2010 Stats: .260/.347/.410
Oliver 2011: .272/.353/.420
Free Dexter Fowler! Free Dexter Fowler! That's the chant you heard repeatedly in 2009 and 2010, and in 2011, it seems that manager Jim Tracy is finally going to give in. Dexter Fowler is currently projected to bat leadoff for the Rockies on Opening Day (and the whole season, if all goes well), and his blend of strong on-base skills (career .351 OBP, 11.8 percent walk rate) and speed (career 7.2 speed score) should lead to a 30-stolen base, 100 runs scored campaign if he's given a full season's worth of playing time.
If a little BABIP-luck falls Fowler's way as well, he could also post a solid batting average. Though Fowler strikes out about a quarter of the time, a bit high for a hitter with average power, he drives the ball very well, averaging a 21.1 percent line drive clip for his career. Speaking of power, 25-year-old Fowler's career isolated power mark of .141, trending up every every season, could yield 10-15 home runs in 2011 as he enters his peak growth years (age 25-26) when you further consider that half of his games are played at Coors Field. Fowler has always been a trendy breakout pick who has never gotten the chance, but 2011 seems to be his year. Forget Eric Young Jr.'s tantalizing, but empty stolen base potential. It's Fowler's time to shine, baby!
Jhoulys Chacin | Colorado | SP, RP | 74 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 235 | MDC EDP: 168
2010 Stats: 3.28 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.04 K/9, 2.26 K/BB
Oliver 2011: 3.98 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 1.95 K/BB
In terms of talent, Chacin is today what Ubaldo Jimenez was just a few year ago—a heavy groundball pitcher (46.6 percent last season) with high strikeout tendencies (career 11.0 percent swinging strike rate over 148.1 major league innings) and a propensity for liberally issuing hall passes to the players he's teaching to revere his sick slider/curveball combo. Oliver's 2011 projection for Chacin seems a bit strange, as its 2012 projection for him is a 3.62 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and a 7.8 K/9 -- a talent level Oliver projects to improve upon through 2016 (3.51 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.9 K/9).
Pair together Chacin's strong swinging strike rate and resulting major league strikeouts (138 over 137.1 innings pitched) with the above information, and you have a breakout candidate. Others have taken notice, as evidenced by the 74 percent ownership rate, but Chacin is still going way too low given his tantalizing upside. I have Chacin ranked as the No. 32 overall pitcher for fantasy this season, but could see him ending up as a solid No. 2 starting pitcher by season's end. Just to give you some idea of value, Madison Bumgarner, whom I rank as the No. 30 pitcher overall, is going almost 100 picks earlier (144 IDR, 113 EDP).
Mike Minor | Atlanta | SP | 12 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 250 | MDC EDP: 209
2010 Stats: 5.98 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 9.52 K/9, 3.91 K/BB
Oliver 2011: 3.98 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.11 K/BB
Despite Minor's 40-inning results in the majors last season (5.98 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), he struck out 23.2 percent of the batters he faced, while walking fewer than 6 percent. At 34.9 percent, Minor's groundball rate is on par with such flyball percentage leaders such as Javier Vazquez, Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes and Daniel Hudson). That groundball rate is a bit low for my preference, but Minor does not pitch in Yankee Stadium, Chase Field, or even my beloved Wrigley and yet (most of) these pitchers get plenty of love on draft day, despite Minor possessing better strikeout stuff and having better command.
Minor's FIP (3.77) and xFIP (3.86) were pretty similar last season and are better indicators of what he's more likely capable of in 2011 compared to 2010. Minor's 2010 Double-A MLE comes out to a 3.93 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. I own Minor in basically all of my leagues, shallow and deep alike, and Minor, having a solid spring, looks poised to edge Brandon Beechy (another pitcher I like) for the Braves' fifth starter spot. Acquire accordingly.
Note: Beachy's been elected the fifth starter in place of Mike Minor. Though an inferior pitcher in talent, Beachy should post equally strong numbers out of the Braves rotation, notching a mid-to-high 3's ERA, a mid-to-high 1.2-something WHIP, and a K/9 around or just below 8.0. Make sure you are #GoingToTheBeach this summer or you'll surely regret it.
Carlos Zambrano | Atlanta | SP, RP | 73 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 261 | MDC EDP: 200
2010 Stats: 3.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 8.12 K/9, 1.70 K/BB
Oliver 2011: 4.04 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 1.85 K/BB
Say what you will about his temper, his love of Red Bull, and his unfliching hatred of Gatorade, bananas, his teammates, etc., but Big Z has never posted an ERA of even 4.00 in his entire career. Zambrano's WHIPs have been ugly over the past two years (1.38 in 2009, 1.45 in 2010), but his WHIPs routinely ranged between 1.15 and 1.33 between 2003 and 2008 and could return to that form in 2011.
Why? For starters, Big Z's strikeout rate has returned above the 8.0 mark over the past two seasons after dipping to 7.4 and 6.2 between 2007 and 2008. Furthermore, his FIP has tumbled down considerably in recent years (3.61 in 2009, 3.71 in 2010) after routinely sitting in the low-mid 4's between 2006 and 2008. On the flip side, his xFIPs have not been particularly pretty since 2005, but Zambrano's nonetheless outperformed his xFIP for his career. If you love Matt Cain and believe that certain pitchers can consistently outperform their peripherals, then Big Z is your sleeper. Little known fact: Carlos Zambrano was the best pitcher after Aug. 9 last year, closing the season with a 1.41 ERA, a 60:26 K/BB and 1.00 WHIP over his final 11 starts (70.1 innings pitched). If you can stomach the WHIP risk, consider saving a few dollars and grabbing Big Z late.
Tim Stauffer | Atlanta | SP, RP | 47 percent Yahoo ownership
MDC IDR: 318 | MDC EDP: 214
2010 Stats: 1.85 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 6.64 K/9, 2.54 K/BB
Oliver 2011: 3.58, 1.27 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 1.97 K/BB
I have a friend who has a theory that you can win pitching by exclusively drafting NL West pitchers, particularly those who play for the Padres. I do not know how much I buy in to that theory, though there is some credence to it, but Tim Stauffer certainly fits the bill of an underrated arm whose home park and infield defense bolster strong groundball tendencies, solid walk rates, and poor strikeout stuff.
Stauffer is far from an ace, but he's the NL's answer to Dallas Braden. With an offense that was already anemic before they traded Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres did little to hgelp it in the offseason. Hence, wins, like strikeouts, may be a bit of an issue for Stauffer. However, as a spot starter or ratio stabilizer, Stauffer could provide much value for owners in 2011, especially if you pair him with quality relief arms who can offset the strikeout rate concern with innings-pitched caps like Luke Gregerson and Hong-Chih Kuo.
Other entirely underrated starters that just missed out on the "outside the top 200 list" include Ted Lilly (192 IDR, 132 EDP, will he ever get the elite WHIP props he deserves?), Jordan Zimmerman (199 IDR, 171 EDP, the post-surgery velocity checks out, the K's are there, the walk rate is solid, and it's been 18-plus months since he underwent Tommy John surgery), and Jorge de la Rosa (188 IDR, 166 EDP, if the walks stay in check, his blend of heavy K's and worm-burners will play well even in Coors Field—think De La Rosa's pre-injury numbers in 2010 or second half of 2009). Also keep an eye on Travis Wood (282 IDR, 231 EDP, set to open the year as the Reds' fifth starter, but health has never been a staple of the Reds' rotation since Dusty Baker took over) and Mike Leake (309 IDR, 318 EDP (no, that's not a typo; ADPs just cluster in the high 200s), Leake is set to finally take a ride through the Reds' minor league system after 138.1 solid innings of major league experience last season).
In addition to the above starters, here are some undervalued relievers who could get you solid ratios and a chance at some saves. Quality relievers are an underrated asset in fantasy:
You can follow me on Twitter this season by clicking here. You can also follow THT Fantasy via Twitter. As always, leave the love/hate in the comments.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:39am
Thursday, March 17, 2011
As you know, I'll be playing daily fantasy baseball leagues this season and writing about them at FanDuel. Now, you'll have the chance to compete against me in my first ever daily league on April 1 for the chance to win cash. And the best part is, entrance is 100% free!
We'll be competing in a FanDuel MLB Salary Cap 35k contest where you have $35k to spend on any nine players you want at the following positions:
P, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF
The scoring system is points based:
Hitters: 1B = 1pt, 2B = 2pts, 3B = pts, HR = 4pts, RBI = 1pt, R = 1pt, BB = 1pt, SB = 2pts, Out = -.25pt
Pitchers: W = 7pts, ER = -1pt, SO=1pt, IP = 1pt
Prizes are structured as such:
1st $100 2nd $75 3rd $30 4th $20 5th $15 6th $10 Additionally, anyone who beats me, whether they finish in the top six or not, will receive $5.
So if you're like me and have always wanted to try a daily league, now's your chance to do so, completely free, and with the added bonus of getting to compete against me and win cash! And if you need extra incentive, you will be helping THT make a little money just by playing. All you have to do is click here, sign up (takes less than a minute), and pick your team!
I'm very excited to be playing in daily leagues this year, and I hope some of you will join me!
Posted by Derek Carty at 8:55am
I have put together top-tier pitching staffs in previous years without even drafting a single pitcher among my first ten picks. It can happen. Breakout candidates are ripe for the picking every year in the middle to late rounds, and this year is no different.
The only rookie who fits into that category is Jeremy Hellickson, and really he is the only draft-worthy rookie around. He has big upside and was able to put it on display late last year. But he has an injury history to think about and, with all young pitchers, he could wear out toward the end of the year as he approaches 180 innings or more.
Mike Minor heads up the next tier of rookie pitchers. He looks like the frontrunner for Atlanta's No. 5 job and has a great minor league pedigree. I'm not sold on his strikeout numbers sticking around, but he's definitely worth a look if gets off to a hot start.
Kyle Drabek looks like a safe bet to open the year in Toronto's rotation. He has good stuff but questionable control, and his minor league numbers haven't been as dominant as you would like. He could take off, but I will wait and see.
Jordan Lyles and Michael Pineda are two potential aces who play for ball clubs in desperate need of their services. But we won't see these guys in the majors until at least June. Either one could explode in the minor leagues and face a promotion that rivals the likes of Tommy Hanson or Stephen Strasburg of previous years.
In order of upside potential, Mark Rogers, Zach Britton, Andrew Oliver and Dillon Gee are among a group of advanced pitchers who have a good shot at some major league rotation time if an injury strikes.
And that leaves Jarrod Parker, who is hoping to put Tommy John surgery behind him. His upside is still immense, so he's a lottery ticket worth keeping an eye on.
This crop of relief pitchers has the potential to make a bigger impact than any other position.
Craig Kimbrel is the closest rookie to a closer job at this point. The only concern I have are his past command issues, but I'll be all over him in the late rounds. He has to iron out his control, but Kimbrel has the talent and the job opening to finish the year as a top-5 closer. For real.
Jake McGee doesn't have Tampa Bay's closer job yet, but he has the potential to not only nail down the job early on this season, but put up some great numbers across the board.
Like Tampa Bay, the White Sox have a closer-by-committee setup at the moment, but Chris Sale is the most talented option and, like McGee, a high upside late-round addition.
Aroldis Chapman might be the most talented pitcher among this group of extremely talented relievers, but he doesn't have the opportunity of the others thanks to Francisco Cordero. Where he's being drafted, I'm letting him go this year.
Jordan Walden and Tanner Scheppers are two more talented relievers worth mentioning. Both have a shot at closing if injuries hit.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:11am (6) Comments
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This past weekend, I got married. Fantasy trades were made between guests at the wedding. I’ve now written about said trades at said wedding. So, here’s my question, can I write the whole shindig off as a business expense now?
One of the many marriages that must take place on the baseball diamond is that of a team’s starting rotation and its bullpen. Or, in another marital analogy, drafting a starter is like marrying him, and his bullpen makes up the in-laws. The dynamics of a team’s relative strengths in its pen and rotation, along with its offensive prowess don’t just go a long way to determine how many games that team wins, but it also help to determine to whom those wins are credited.
When considering starting pitchers, of course the ideal intersection of these dynamics is a strong starter who is bolstered by a solid pen and flanked by a powerful offense. Jon Lester is basically the poster child for this dream scenario. But, when everything isn’t lined up so neatly, there are other trends we may expect to see. So here are a couple of fantasy-oriented observations about the intersection of starters, relievers, and offenses in 2011.
A reliever on the Yankees will flirt with double-digit wins
This point was brought up on Josh Shepardson and Jeffrey Gross’ auction strategy podcast, which I highly recommend, by the way. The podcast briefly mentions the strategy of building an ace starter out of multiple elite (and cheap) middle relievers (a strategy I love and reference often). During this conversation, it was noted that it’s a good bet that either Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain will win a bunch of games in 2011. I wholeheartedly agree. Relief wins can be difficult to predict, but the anatomy of a double-digit win reliever situation is present in the Bronx. In place are is a weak back end of a rotation and a highly potent offense. This means there are likely to be a lot of Yankee games decided in innings six to eight.
Chamberlain may be the more likely of the two to pitch more than one inning in an outing and therefore may have a greater vulture win potential than Soriano, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Soriano racked up his share of wins too. We also began seeing the Yankees giving Mariano Rivera a handful of nights off last season, and I would expect Soriano to get those opportunities as well. I think Soriano is very worth owning, even as a middle reliever. It seems reasonable for him to notch a half dozen each of wins and saves while posting his usually sterling rates stats, including K/IP.
Good starting pitching efforts on the South side will be rewarded
I’m not totally enamored with any of the starters for the White Sox, but they do have a few things going for them, namely a solid offense and a quite strong bullpen core. Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain should equal 250-300 solid bullpen innings. Ozzie Guillen’s tendency to let his pitchers go deep is a fickle fantasy mistress; on the one hand he gives his starters every chance to get their decisions, but on the other it seems like no manager is more willing to let his starters really take a beating than Ozzie. Of course, Chicago’s starters also have to contend with a homer-friendly home park, but in terms of upside in the wins category, John Danks probably has a much of it as any pitcher in his tier.
Oakland is a nice place to pitch
I think the A’s are going to be one of those teams that performs pretty well in 2011 and surprises a few people. They quietly were a .500 team last year (underperforming their pyth by four games) and the young team should continue to improve in 2011. While the Rangers remain the front-runner in the AL West, Seattle projects to be fairly awful again this year, and I actually expect another sub .500 season from the Angels, especially if Kendry Morales starts the season on the DL and misses significant time again. This leaves Oakland with a fairly weak division, a favorable home park, a very good defense, and— especially with the news that Andrew Bailey should be okay—a very strong bullpen. Yes, they are offensively challenged, but all the other ingredients are there.
Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden don’t strike out enough batters to interest me as anything more than stronger shallower league streaming options, but Brett Anderson should be solid and Gio Gonzalez could be a stud in the making. If you’re looking for a young pitcher with the potential to make a huge leap into truly elite status, a la Ubaldo Jimenez, I’d consider Gio as one of the better bets. It helps to have advantages beyond the things you can control.
Arizona will be where quality starts go to die… again
Last year, Arizona’s bullpen was especially bad. At around the All Star break, I remember reading that they were on pace to break the record for worst bullpen ERA of all time, or something. To be blunt, they’re going to stink again. J.J. Putz provides them with a legitimate closer type, but ironically, on a bad team, that may be the worst way to use him; you’re basically giving your best reliever the fewest innings of any core member of your bullpen. Oh, and he’s an injury risk too. Combine this bullpen situation with a launching pad of a home park and a just generally bad team, and you just have multiple forces conspiring against Arizona’s pitchers. With Gio Gonzalez fetching similar prices to Daniel Hudson, I’d much rather bet on Gio, and when it comes to $3-$4 pitchers, I can think of a dozen I’d rather try my luck with than Ian Kennedy.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:28am
Many of us involved in the fantasy baseball world picked up our love of the sport through our humble beginnings in youth baseball. And while many of us probably don't remember many outcomes, hits or web gems from this time, it still is a time that for many of us had a great deal of influence on the person that we have become today. The one thing that I'm pretty sure we all DO remember from this magical time is one simple philosophy. The KISS philosophy.
When you began as a youngster this probably stood for "Keep it simple, silly." Then as you evolved into grade school ball and lower level Select, the phrasing may have been altered slightly to "Keep it simple, stupid." And alas as you graduated to what you now know was the highest level of competition you would ever play, the motto was drilled into your head as "Keep it simple, s---head." And while the final emphasis of the phrase may have changed, the meaning behind it was resoundingly similar and memorable. Don't overthink things. Do what feels natural. Go with the flow. This is a lesson that we have all benefited greatly from in our adult lives. Well at least I have (for the sake of the article let's pretend you have as well).
Well I have taken this philosophy to live by, and I have applied it to the game of Daily Fantasy Baseball. Last week's article provided you with some basic principles of the game. I've taken these principles a step further this week for you. But don't worry, I've made it as simplistic as I can for you knuckleheads. I've even used the acronym K-I-S-S to emphasis my key points. If you can comprehend these four points, then you should be well on your way to the success I've been promising to deliver in this brand new world I play in. Also included are some easy-to-read lists, making the knowledge absorption a breeze. So let the all-important lesson begin...
K Ks (strikeouts): The almighty strikeout is of the utmost importantance both for pitchers and hitters. It is one of the essential scoring elements for both sides. The top-tier of Daily Fantasy players can probably tell you the K/9 ratio of the top 12-15 starting pitchers in the game. They can also probably tell you who the 12-15 hitters are with the most Ks. That's how important this is. Let me break down the true importance of the statistic for both hitters and pitchers:
HITTERS - The main difference between the daily game and the season-long league relating to strikeouts? Well, they are simply much more devastating in the daily game. In season-long fantasy baseball it makes no difference how a player records an out (at least in typical leagues). Daily fantasy on the other hand it makes a huge difference. Let's take Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder for example. They hit .261 and .260 respectively for the 2010 season. So in a season-long league the batting average component for these two is almost identical. Their strikeout numbers, however, are not so similar. Dunn struck out an astounding 199 times during the season while Fielder amassed only 138. And Fielder had 20 more at-bats than Dunn did. Why so important, you ask? Because in the daily y game many sites actually give negative points for strikeouts. So that's the lesson to be learned here. If the site you choose to play on is one that does, you may want to think long and hard before picking players that are whiff prone.
(Top 10 strikeout leaders in 2010)
(3B) Mark Reynolds 211
(1B) Adam Dunn 199
(2B) Rickie Weeks 184
(1B) Adam LaRoche 172
(OF) Matt Kemp 170
(OF) Austin Jackson 170
(OF) Drew Stubbs 168
(OF) B.J. Upton 164
(3B) David Wright 161
(1B) Carlos Pena 158
The strikeouts these guys pile up are dangerous and, if they don't hit a HR or at least get an extra base hit, they my wind up putting up an ugly score for you. Try your best to avoid these strikeout-prone guys, except on days where they have very favorable match-ups. More will follow on that.
PITCHERS: You love the K more than life itself when it comes to the starting pitcher in Daily Fantasy Baseball. In typical league formats you only get to pick one or two pitchers to represent you on any given day. You need to make the pick(s) count. Every single league rewards fantasy pitchers for strikeouts. In this way, it is much like the season-long game. But the importance is all the more magnified when it's all on the line every, single day. You want to go with the guys that are going to score you points by making batters swing and miss. These strikeouts, coupled with a good outing as far as runs allowed, are the kick-start you need to being successful on that day. The most relevant stat to tracking the guys who are going to score big in Ks from outing-to-outing is K/9 ratio. So let's take a look at the pitchers that helped with this the most over the course of 2010.
(top 10 K/9 ratio in 2010)
Tim Lincecum 9.79
Jon Lester 9.74
Yovani Gallardo 9.73
Jonathan Sanchez 9.54
Francisco Liriano 9.44
Jered Weaver 9.35
Clayton Kershaw 9.34
Mat Latos 9.21
Josh Johnson 9.11
Cole Hamels 9.10
These guys are the kings of the K. They will rack up huge point totals for you on days they pitch. As a daily fantasy player you are also going to want to target these guys on good match-up days. Track the teams who are struggling and that strikeout frequently. Match them with these lights out pitchers and you will be on your way to striking fantasy gold. Or you can probably win some cash if thats the monetary device you prefer.
I Investment return: As I described in my initial article "A Whole New World" the standard game-type for daily fantasy is salary cap. Every player comes with a price tag. The job of the player is to determine whether the conditions of the day, such as match-ups, home/away, splits and other such stats are ideal and will maximize the return for this price.
Some players believe in the hot streaks. Others are all about the past performance in certain places, or against certain teams or pitchers. There is no exact formula for determining the optimum player for that day. But with that being said, the top players in the game will do the research and give themselves the best chance for success.
This is where projections can be helpful. A daily player who succeeds doesn't just look at a guy and some random stats and plug him in, thinking he will play well. A successful player comes up with a number that he thinks that player can obtain based on the statistics and daily factors he finds to be the most relevant. Tough decisions are going to have to be made on a daily basis. Maximizing your money is smart in any aspect of human life, but it takes work to do it successfully.
Let me end this portion of the article with an example. Albert Pujols. He is an absolute stud. But certain factors will justify paying his extremely high price tag some days, while other days he may not be such an attractive option. Here is his stat line over the past three seasons at PNC Park in Pittsburgh: 99 games, .404 AVG, 16 extra base hits, 23 RBI. That is a stat line that justifies taking him against the Pirates. Now at Dodger Stadium over that same time period his line is 31 games, .161 AVG, 3 XBH, 3 RBI. This is a small sample size, yes, but it shows that the chances of success can differ greatly for the same player based on different situations. Monitor these situations. Get a feel for what variables seem relevant and which ones seem coincidental. Once you can get a good grasp on this you will have a firm understanding of how to get the most out your investment in the salary cap format. Do some smart spending.
S Starting lineups: What? Starting lineups. Oh yeah you better believe it. If you don't have some free time for about a half hour before the first games of each day begin, DO NOT start playing Daily Fantasy Baseball. This is when the lineups are released. The two most popular, easiest (not to mention free) sites to find the announced starting lineups for the day are Rotoinfo.com and Rotoworld.com. This is a stop you have to make every day. This is where you can find the cheap fill-ins. It is also where you can figure out that Derek Jeter has strep throat and is out. It is the key to giving yourself a chance for the day. A guy also might get a surprise move up in the lineup, giving him a better chance at success.
An example that could happen this year would be if Peter Bourjos of the Angels got a nod at leadoff, since he usually bats ninth. Extra at-bats equal extra chances, and especially if it's a stolen base threat, an extra chance at points. In this world it is key to be one step ahead of the guy in front of you. And if you want to win you can never, and I mean NEVER, be behind him. Knowing the starting lineups is so simple, yet I cannot emphasize enough the essential nature of verification.
S Small stadiums: Some stadiums give up dingers and are easy to hit in. In others, you and I could go out there and throw a quality start. With the difference in dimension, climate, and quality of stadiums these days, one must know where the favorable and terrible places for a ball player to get stats are. What are the pitchers parks? What are the hitters parks? Well there are links to find this stuff out (crazy, huh?)
MLB park factors (courtesy of ESPN)
You can find many more stats involving ballparks at other websites such as THT favorites Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
And the 'X' Factor - You didn't think I would end this after just the standard KISS did you? You all will come to learn that I'm much more classy than that. I'm the guy every woman and weak fantasy player dreams of. So, to go along with what I'm sure was the just the best KISS you've ever had, you also get the universal symbol for kiss the good old X. You know like XOXO. And the X in this particular scenario is the X-Factor. The most important thing that sets daily fantasy apart from standard season-long. That X-Factor is... the weather. That's right good, ol' Mother Nature. When you're playing for such high stakes on such a short time-frame this is the one element of fantasy that becomes magnified a thousand times every day.
You know how people bring up the weather to start a light conversation with someone they meet? Not in our world. In our world we discuss rain percentage chances, hour-by-hour forecasts and other such meteorology more than some people discuss who to put in their will. A variable such as weather has never, and probably will never be, included in season long fantasy strategy. But when the daily fantasy world becomes really big, which current players are convinced it will, you may see some very odd weather related fantasy strategy pop up. Things like best draining fields, most talented grounds crews and rainouts by month will all be calculated and monitored. I'm telling you, this is how serious the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball really is.
So watch the weather, consider the four K-I-S-S principles, and soak up all this knowledge. More to come next week.
Thanks for reading. Or should I say. Smooches?
Kevin "KC" Cearnal
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:19am
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Like many of you, my countdown to draft day is in full effect. Only 11 days from today I will sit down with some of the best in the industry and draft my NFBC main event team. I’m literally like a child awaiting Christmas morning. If draft day doesn’t get you completely pumped up, maybe you should consider another hobby. Months of hard work, research and preparation are all culminating in four hours of raw emotions. You’ll experience joy, excitement, heartbreak, anger, anticipation and hopefully—if you’ve prepared well enough—satisfaction and pride. This truly is one of my favorite days of the entire year.
While most of the fluff and hoopla of spring training should be taken with a grain of salt, there are a few important things to take note of. Injuries, no matter how small, should at least be given some of your attention, especially from players who are perennially facing some sort of ailment. Minor spring injuries can often linger or lead to bigger problems throughout the season. The impact this has on your draft board depends on how risk averse you may be.
Another thing that I focus on during these spring games is open position battles. Again, one of the most important keys to success is to maximize your potential at-bats during the season. If you can choose the player on the right side of a platoon or time share, or one who could blossom into a full-time role, then you are ahead of the game.
From what I have observed thus far in spring training, here are a few players whose draft stock has risen or fallen on my personal draft board.
Brian Roberts: I may be harboring some personal resentment here due to the fact that his back injury helped derail my season last year, but this spring feels eerily similar to last. Reports out of Baltimore have Roberts going for another MRI this morning to determine just how serious the injury is and how long he may be sidelined. Last year, it seemed like every week there was a new report out that the injury wasn’t as serious, and that he would soon resume baseball activities, yet that never seemed to materialize until the end of the season. This is one situation that I would avoid completely on draft day, regardless of how far he falls.
Dan Johnson: Many had Johnson pegged as a sleeper heading into 2011, basically being handed the starting first base job in Tampa. However, he’s hit just .160 this spring and looks lost at the plate. With Ben Zobrist having the ability to play first base as well, the Rays could conceivably play Matt Joyce full time in right field and send Johnson back to Triple-A for more seasoning. I would look elsewhere for corner infield options.
Justin Duchscherer: Another often-injured player who’s heading for yet another MRI later this week. Pass.
Lance Berkman: I like the Big Puma as much as the next guy, and even thought that he could be a decent value hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in that Cardinals lineup. The problem is that he hasn’t played the outfield since 2007 and has yet to play there this spring because a sore elbow won’t allow him to throw the ball. I still think he could be a good value late in drafts, but until he shows me he can play the field, he’s moving down the board.
Johan Santana: Whether he says the reports are true or not, any report saying that he may miss the entire season can’t be considered good news. For those who planned on taking Santana with a late-round pick in the hopes that he would give you a half-season’s worth of his normal studly numbers: with the way the Mets organization has handled injury situations in the past, I would be very wary of gambling on him returning and being effective this season.
Chipper Jones: Just when you thought Larry Wayne was going to hang it up, he worked out rigorously during the offseason to recover from his injury and looks like the Chipper of old swinging the bat this spring. There is no way that you can count on him for more than 130 games this year, but at his current ADP he still has a lot of value in mixed-league drafts. Personally, I have moved him up my board at least a round or two.
Mike Morse: I know that there are four outfielders (Morse, Roger Bernadina, Nyjer Morgan and Rick Ankiel) competing for two spots in the Nats outfield, but Morse is running away with the job in left field. He has flat-out raked since day one this spring, hitting nearly .500 with five home runs already. If he can manage to keep the job all season, 20-plus home runs seems within reach, which is tremendous value for a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Joe Nathan: I know that he got roughed up a bit in his last outing, but he was perfect in his first three. The most important thing to observe here is that he appears to be healthy and his velocity is back. This was one of the elite closers in the game for several years before the injury, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he regained that form in 2011.
Erik Bedard: Another guy with injury history, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Draft cautiously, but he has extreme upside for a late-round starting pitcher gamble.
Jordan Zimmermann: He was already higher on my draft board than most places I’d seen. Then he went out and showed he’s fully healthy and recovered, has improved velocity, and has gone out and thrown 11 scoreless innings to start the spring season. Yeah, he’s going to be on a few of my teams this year.
These are just a few of the players who have moved up or down on my board in the last couple of weeks due to spring performances or injury concerns. If you have any questions at all that you want answered before your draft, leave them here and I would be happy to offer my insight and advice!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:05am
One of the most important aspects of playing fantasy baseball is a team owner’s ability and skill at making transactions and adding free agents before and during the season. In most cases, the team you draft is not the team with which you will ultimately end up. Undoubtedly, regardless of how many teams are in your league or how many roster spots are required, there will always be players that go undrafted and emerge as viable fantasy options later on. The key to success in a fantasy baseball league is the ability of teams to make those moves at the right time. But the analysis of whether a transaction is good or not will be left for another day. Instead, this edition of "The Verdict" takes a deeper look into the various procedures for how transactions are processed.
For some background, I have been the commissioner of an 18-team, head-to-head, points league since 1999. For the first 10 years of the league, team owners would submit their add/drops to me and I would process them. All transactions had to be submitted to me by a certain time, and then I would manually go through the lists and figure out who got who. In the event two teams claimed the same player, the team with a worse win-loss record or on the short end of a tiebreaker would have the rights to that free agent. Upon moving my league to CBS in 2008, the free agent process was handled automatically with a waiver priority order based on overall record. Generally speaking, the process of handling transactions this way worked.
The reason for handling transactions in this manner was obvious: to help the less successful teams get better and make the league more competitive since they had a better chance of obtaining the best free agents. However, this also had the detrimental effect of penalizing the more successful teams and preventing them from bettering their team as well.
In 2010, I decided to even the playing field and change the way transactions were handled by implementing a free agent auction bidding process (“FAAB”). I assigned an arbitrary budget for everyone ($250) where each team could bid on available free agents. The team that bid the most money on a player was awarded him, regardless of where that team stood in the standings. This afforded the best teams and the worst teams the same opportunity to make improvements while not handicapping or penalizing anyone else. It also required people to make strategic decisions on how they wanted to spend their fake money. Despite being met with some skepticism and trepidation, my league members enjoyed this new process and have embraced it.
As the commissioner of the league, FAAB made my life infinitely easier since I no longer had to manually handle any aspect of doing add/drops. The bidding process is completely blind, so no one will know what you have bid on a player. This means, in theory, that you could spend $25 on a free agent when no one else even bid $2 on that same player. But that is the nature of the process, and I personally approve of the fact that the process is entirely blind. It really adds another element of strategy and competition when pondering what the appropriate value of a free agent is in the context of your league and fellow league members. Since the bidding process is completely blind, I didn’t have to worry about any improprieties when I made my own transactions. As a word of advice for you fellow commissioners: anything you can do to remove ANY semblance of impropriety is beneficial. This means relinquishing control over certain things that can be handled automatically.
Another positive aspect of FAAB is the fact that it does provide checks and balances to prevent teams from dominating the entire process. Once a team wins a bid on a free agent, that team is then moved to the bottom of the waiver order. This means that they would essentially lose a tiebreaker to another team bidding the same amount on another free agent. Of course, if a team chooses to bid enormously high on multiple free agents in the same week, then they would win all of those players. But that is a conscious choice by a team to spend their money in such a way.
No matter what format or style your league uses, transactions are going to be an important factor. How you choose to handle transactions is also one of the most critical decisions a commissioner can make because it has a significant effect on all league members and the way they play the game. The verdict is that implementing an auction process to bid on free agents is the fairest, most efficient, and most thought-provoking manner in which to handle transactions. If your league has never tried it before, it is something you should seriously consider.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:04am
Monday, March 14, 2011
It's Monday, March 14, 2011. The trees in my back yard have full bloomed. The smell of pollen is filling my nostrils as we speak. It's 70 degrees outside, and there's a crisp wind pushing my receeding hairline to the forefront of my head. My wife is whispering sweet nothings in my ear, and the little ones are frolicking like little ones do.
What, you may ask, am I thinking about? Well, I'm thinking whether I should use Jeremy Hellickson as my relief pitcher in a points-based league where saves don't seem to have enough importance to trump the value of a starting pitcher. Pretty pathetic, huh?
This is that time of year. Every tree, every perfect day outside, and every time I see my kids playing, I think about fantasy baseball. The drafting season is the best time of the year for me, and I hope it finds you all happy and ready to draft. Let's get to the projections for numbers 101-150 in the top 300 head-to-head rankings.
101. Neftali Feliz 4 87 38 2.68 1.24 102. Brian Wilson 5 92 45 2.84 1.24 103. Elvis Andrus 81 3 40 29 0.258 104. Heath Bell 6 80 36 2.31 1.18 105. Adam Lind 65 27 82 0 0.265 106. Drew Stubbs 76 25 71 31 0.249 107. Jonathan Papelbon 5 74 36 3.12 1.23 108. Gordon Beckham 75 17 80 7 0.281 109. Brett Anderson 13 178 0 3.69 1.19 110. Jose Tabata 83 9 57 33 0.285 111. Jeremy Hellickson 15 189 0 3.75 1.21 112. Brett Gardner 90 2 40 49 0.279 113. Andrew Bailey 3 61 31 1.97 1.09 114. Brian Roberts* 80 9 51 24 0.276 115. Roy Oswalt 12 171 0 3.84 1.2 116. Jason Bay 84 26 84 10 0.275 117. Aaron Hill 75 25 82 3 0.263 118. Mariano Rivera 3 45 33 2.71 1.04 119. Nick Swisher 85 27 93 0 0.278 120. Madison Bumgarner 13 176 0 3.29 1.16 121. Vernon Wells 79 27 83 10 0.270 122. Chad Billingsley 16 178 0 3.45 1.27 123. Starlin Castro 88 10 66 17 0.300 124. Ike Davis 80 22 80 6 0.280 125. Colby Lewis 15 199 0 3.61 1.2 126. Martin Prado 91 12 60 3 0.298 127. Matt Wieters 61 14 67 0 0.280 128. Joe Nathan 4 81 40 1.98 1.08 129. Chone Figgins 82 1 39 40 0.273 130. Ryan Dempster 15 201 0 3.89 1.27 131. Ricky Nolasco 13 189 0 3.98 1.27 132. Ian Desmond 86 14 70 21 0.281 133. Kelly Johnson 83 20 78 9 0.276 134. Michael Bourn 85 2 38 53 0.268 135. Geovany Soto 59 18 75 0 0.276 136. Carlos Beltran 79 25 79 10 0.278 137. David Ortiz 85 27 93 1 0.261 138. Derrek Lee 80 19 69 2 0.282 139. Carlos Quentin 78 29 88 5 0.273 140. Ian Stewart 78 28 70 7 0.264 141. Juan Pierre 81 0 41 48 0.275 142. Chris Perez 6 69 33 2.83 1.17 143. Jonathan Broxton 5 89 31 3.19 1.26 144. Huston Street 4 74 36 3.51 1.25 145. Ryan Franklin 7 69 29 3.77 1.28 146. Neil Walker 86 14 72 10 0.294 147. Tim Hudson 16 121 0 3.02 1.19 148. Travis Snider 64 28 66 7 0.262 149. Casey McGehee 74 24 77 2 0.279 150. Angel Pagan 88 18 71 26 0.289
Due to popular demand—or rather a few eager souls' requests—I am releasing the entire Top 300 Head-to-Head rankings excel spreadsheet:
In it you will find that the Top 150 players will have projections. The remaining 150 should have projections up in the next two weeks. Sorry for the delay, but as you all know this time of year is extremely busy. Hopefully, the list will suffice the early drafters as we commence drafting season. I would also point your attention to Jeffrey Gross' postional rankings.
Points of Interest (Discord):
Neftali Feliz: Notice the lack of starting pitching stats. Much to my own disappointment, the Rangers announced this past Friday that Feliz would remain in his role as a closer, and apparently, he was in favor of the decision. So dreams of his fastball stretched over seven consecutive innings of work have been dashed for the moment.
Maybe next year we'll get to see Aroldis Chapman's fastball as a starter. Feliz adapted well to closing in 2010, so another year of service should only bolster one's confidence in him as a top-tier fantasy closer. His delivery is as effortless as it gets, and he has shown the ability to thrive in high-pressure situations in Arlington.
Brett Gardner: He can run extremely well, and the Yankees finally gave him a chance to show that to the world. He had some trouble in the second half, seeing his overall line plummet.
I like to have one big-time steals guy on my roster, especially if I did a poor job balancing my stat categories. I don't think Gardner translates as well to a points-based or roto league quite as well as the standard H2H league. His ability to swipe multiple bases in a week without hurting your batting average as bad as say a Chone Figgins or Michael Bourn gives him a decent value. He can also rack up the runs in a potent offense.
I'm not sure if I would draft him unless I needed his specific talents. Personally, I'd rather have a guy like Angel Pagan, who is much further down this list.
Joe Nathan: I know my projections are lofty for a guy fresh off as serious an injury as Nathan had in 2010, but I don't see his risks as great as some. Before Sunday's collapse, he hadn't surrendered a run all spring. He hasn't ever had issues like this before. All reports that I've read on his velocity and movement are saying that he's coming along fine.
This is the year you can take advantage of Nathan's injury and get a top-tier closer at a middle-tier price. Some will be scared off, but you would look like a fool if you didn't at least give him a glance come draft day. I will.
Angel Pagan: I made this list before I really started to develop my man-crush on Pagan. Prior to 2010, he was always seen as a gap-filling fourth outfielder. I have had trouble breaking that same feeling from my own psyche.
Recently, I got the chance to sit down and watch a Washington Nationals/New York Mets spring training game, and I walked away thoroughly impressed with Mike Morse and Pagan. Pagan was fluid around the outfield and even smacked an opposite-field home run. I was so impressed with his demeanor that I've seen his stock rise meteorically on my own lists. If I were to redo my 300 rankings today, you may have seen Pagan closer to the 100 range rather than the 150s where I have him currently.
Matt Wieters: I still believe in Weiters, just like I still believe in Alex Gordon. He's had enough time to figure things out on the pro level. If he stumbles out of the gate in 2011, you will find my opinion of him grow tired, and you may hear a different tone in my writing. As of now, I still think he has all the talent and tools to really flourish in 2011. Feel free to return to these pages and let me know how I fell victim to the lure of the top prospect that alway tantalizes but never delivers.
Good luck drafting, everyone. If anyone has questions, please feel free to comment or send me an email. I want the people that visit my pages, and The Hardball Times in general, to be the most knowledgable, successful group of fantasy players in the game. We'll all win our leagues and brag that it was this discussion that fostered the championships. Here is the Top 300 excel spreadsheet in case you missed it earlier in the article:
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:10am
Friday, March 11, 2011
Josh Shepardson and I just wrapped up a 42-minute podcast covering various auction strategies, their logic, their weaknesses, and when they work best and worst. We also explore ways to disrupt the drafting strategies of others. For those looking for an auction strategy primer, this podcast should be a useful tool. Click here to download the auction strategies podcast (it is currently hosted for free on MediaFire).
Here is a rundown of the topics addressed in our podcast:
Auction draft strategies
Quick addendum note to the podcast: Whenever playing "stars and scrubs," you generally have to avoid injury risks.
In an auction, no matter what strategy you employ, it is important that you, above all, remain flexible and adapt to the market at all times.
What are some of your favorite auction strategies and why? Sound off in the comments below!
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 4:06am
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Third base is full of veteran options, and there aren't a lot of rookie options, either.
Brent Morel looks to be the only rookie third baseman with a good shot at a starting job right out of the gate, but there isn't any home run upside here, leaving his value as an injury replacement at best.
Mike Moustakas is the hot corner rookie to watch. Just like fellow Kansas City farmhand Eric Hosmer, Moustakas is capable of tearing up Triple-A pitching and has only Mike Aviles to contend with in the majors. It wouldn't surprise me to see him in the running for American League Rookie of the Year. Anyone with a need at third base when June hits should not be shy about grabbing this bat.
Lonnie Chisenhall has a lot to prove still, but has the talent to make his mark on Cleveland's lineup by midseason. He has more upside than Morel.
Matt Dominguez is the only other third baseman I could see turning heads. I'm not a fan, but his defense is an asset, and his bat still has potential. He has more upside than Morel, too, and only has Wes Helms and his lack of development holding him back.
Looking at some young non-rookies, Pedro Alvarez has a chance to lay waste to his average draft position. He has special power potential. David Freese and Danny Valencia aren't being counted on to start, but both could be fine injury replacements if the time comes.
Outfield is usually a position where rookies can make an impact across the league, but there isn't a lot of advanced talent with an obvious window of opportunity this year. Guys like Eric Hosmer, Chris Carter, and Yonder Alonso might successfully transition from first base, but they were talked about in part one of this series.
Domonic Brown is the hot rookie that everyone wanted to take a shot on, but his hand surgery should temper expectations. Don't reach for him in the middle rounds. If he's there late in the game, take your shot.
Desmond Jennings is next in the rookie outfield pecking order, but will likely start the year in Triple-A. Just like any top-50 prospect who is one step from the majors, keep your eye on him. A hot start that leads to a midseason promotion could land you a key piece to a championship run.
That doesn't leave much else. Michael Taylor, Andrew Lambo, and Josh Reddick are part of a group that seem to be age- and experience-appropriate for this list but are long shots to get any extended big league playing time. Nick Weglarz could push his way to the majors, where he should prove to be a better real-life player than fantasy asset, but his power could surprise.
Turning to some young non-rookies, I have a good feeling about Colby Rasmus this year and have him ranked higher than everyone I have talked to. You're out of your mind if you're ranking the likes of Shane Victorino, Corey Hart, and even Andre Ethier ahead of Rasmus.
I am buying into a Jay Bruce breakout season. Mike Stanton seems to be ranked about right. The home run power could be huge, but he is still very young and could suffer prolonged cold streaks.
Adam Jones isn't getting the attention he deserves. His prime is near, and he has the talent to rake. I am finding myself to be a big Jones investor in my early drafts.
On a side note, Baltimore is my surprise pick to make some noise in the American League, yet their division is so tough I have them finishing fourth with 83 wins. By the way, I reserve the right to change that win total a bit as the season approaches.
How about a couple other guys not getting enough love: Dexter Fowler and Logan Morrison. There are second- and third-year former top prospect outfielders every year who break out. Jones, Fowler, and Morrison are prime candidates this year.
Add a tier-one stud to those three, or even tier-two if the value isn't there, and I would feel very comfortable with that outfield heading into the season. Plus, you allow yourself to invest in sure things at shallower positions by taking Jones, Fowler, and Morrison late.
You should keep Cameron Maybin on speed dial as well, if he goes undrafted, to give yourself another breakout candidate if an injury hits your current crop.
Listen to me, here I am giving away all my draft strategies. Pitchers are next week.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:10am (5) Comments
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
This past weekend, I flew to Arizona to participate in the 18th annual League of Alternate Baseball Reality (LABR), the longest running expert league in existence. If you recall, I won this league two years ago, becoming the youngest champion in history, and am looking for another title in 2011. My draft didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I still think I should be a contender. Take a look at my roster and see what you think. Keep in mind that this is a 13-team, 5x5, NL-only league with a $260 budget.
LABR NL roster
Pos Player Price C Chris Iannetta $10 C Chris Snyder $6 1B Brett Wallace $8 2B Clint Barmes $6 3B Juan Uribe $15 SS Ryan Theriot $14 CI Miguel Cairo $1 MI Skip Schumaker $9 OF Mike Stanton $27 OF Seth Smith $16 OF Carlos Gomez $16 OF Marlon Byrd $14 OF Gerardo Parra $5 UT Juan Miranda $4
Pos Player Price SP Tim Lincecum $27 SP Clayton Kershaw $25 SP Chad Billingsley $19 CL Jonathan Broxton $14 CL Joel Hanrahan $15 RP Mike Adams $3 RP Sergio Romo $3 RP Nick Masset $1 RP Matt Belisle $1 SP Vicente Padilla (DL) $1 BN Wade LeBlanc -- BN Alex Sanabia -- BN Jason Marquis -- BN Aaron Cook -- BN Chien-Ming Wang -- BN Ramon Ramirez --
View the full results of the auction here.
This was my second expert draft of the year (Cardrunners AL was the first), and I'll be participating in three more in the coming weeks. Let me know what you think of my roster in the comments.
Also, for those who haven't heard yet, I'll be resuming writing a (more or less) weekly article here at THT shortly, but I'll also be doing some work for a few other places this season. Because of this, I've introduced my own website, DerekCarty.com, so that you can keep track of everything I'll be doing, learn more about me, and see some of my most prominent work compiled in one place (I'd highly recommend reading through some of it if you're new to THTF). It won't have much in the way of original content, but it will link to all of my work around the web, radio interviews I do, and I will be posting my expert league rosters there one day before I put them up here at THT. Be sure to check out the blog section to keep track of everything I'm doing.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:31am
Since cruising up through the minor leagues from '02 to '05, Brandon McCarthy's major league career hasn't been the storybook picture of success many envisioned. For the past six years McCarthy has battled numerous injuries and frustrating ineffectiveness even when healthy, and this offseason found himself (by choice) on the free agent market where he scooped up an incentive-laden one-million dollar deal. Despite his turbulent career to date, here are a few reasons why McCarthy might finally settle down this season and be productive.
The new environment
The team that signed him this offseason was the Oakland A's, who I'm sure you know, are a great organization for any pitcher to pitch for. For starters they play in a spacious ballpark that will be a stark contrast to the homer-happy White Sox, Rangers, and various PCL-League stadiums to which he is accustomed. It also should help that Billy Beane's newly-targeted "market inefficiency" is defense, which one might call a pitcher's best friend. Then, throw in the fact that the A's seem to be able to churn out successful pitchers as if factory-manufactured, and I think it is apparent McCarthy is situated nicely in Oakland.
The one caveat here is his feeble grasp on the fifth spot in the A's rotation. Common opinion is that McCarthy is the frontrunner for the job, though Rich Harden, Josh Outman, and Bobby Cramer are all talented pitchers with degrees of success in their past. My opinion? With his recent injury, Harden is simply too laughably-unendurable to warrant any sort of starting gig, and, lthough a nice story, Cramer is a longshot to outperform the others this spring. The aptly named Outman is, I feel, the biggest threat to win the rotation spot over McCarthy.
After making his way through the Phillies farm system, Outman was flipped to Oakland in the Joe Blanton deal and proved his worth in 67 major league innings, going 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA, a 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 2009. His elbow subsequently succumbed to Tommy John surgery; it is reported he is finally healthy and throwing well. So competition exists for McCarthy, though the his inside track to the final rotation spot, combined with the likelihood that one of the A's other starters will suffer an injury, makes me confident he will have opportunities to start this season.
His recent performance
McCarthy's career picture is not pretty, but recent performances offer encouraging signs. In a mere 56 innings in Triple-A last year he impressively limited his walks to 1.8 batters per nine. Granted, it is a small sample and he was 26 years old, I felt it was a good showing for a guy just trying to reappear on the map. McCarthy proceeded to make four starts in winter league ball and all reports indicate he looked and felt great there. Now in spring training McCarthy is off to a quick start, pitching three solid innings against the Rangers last Friday. There is a lot more baseball to be played before any decisions are made, though McCarthy has to be feeling confident at the moment.
Understandably OLIVER is not overly-confident in McCarthy, projecting a modest 4.30 ERA and 6.0 K/9 rate in 110 innings. For what it's worth, the Bill James forecasts are more optimistic with a 3.65 ERA and slightly elevated 6.7 K/9 projection. Mean projections are not supposed to be bold though, so I was not expecting any sort of confirmation from either of those sources.
The major factor I've left out so far is McCarthy's injury history. Although never having surgery performed on his shoulder, he has missed a lot of action with what is called "micro stress fractures in the back of his shoulder blade." There is no determining whether McCarthy will be able to overcome his injury-ridden past, but at least his draft day price accounts for the risk.
McCarthy is not one of the first 393 players picked in Mock Draft Central drafts thus far. In my 12-team mixed home league I grabbed him in the 24th round, so he certainly is a last-round flier in mixed leagues. In the Card Runners League (12 team, AL-Only, auction) Derek participates in McCarthy sold for a final price of $3, which indicates there was some added interest in him from some very smart people (ooh la la). And for one last data point, he was not nominated in a 12-team mixed auction that Jeff Gross recently participated in.
Not everyone may share my optimism for McCarthy, and I certainly agree with the projection systems that a fairly boring season is what's most likely for him. However, I do feel he has a better chance of realizing his upside than most of the other pitchers picked (or not) around him.
What is that upside exactly, you may be asking? Personally I don't think it is overly important to put specific numbers to it, but if it makes you happy: 135 IP, 11 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 105 K.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:30am
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Hello and welcome back to another exciting edition of developing a draft plan! I’m your host, Dave Shovein, and I am about to break down exactly what I’m looking to do in each round of my next draft.
Now you may be asking, “But Dave, what if other competitors in your league frequent this web site, and you basically spell out your entire draft plan to them?” And while that is an honest concern, I’m more or less identifying tiers of players that I’ll be selecting from and not specific players I truly value.
If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series( Part 1, Part 2 ) I suggest that you do so before reading on to get some necessary background on how this plan has progressed.
This is an NFBC league, which means that it’s a 15-team, 30-round snake draft. We roster 30 total players, 23 starters (two catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, five outfielders, a utility man, a corner infielder, a middle infielder, nine pitchers) and seven bench slots. The first thing I have done is finalize my KDS settings to determine where I would like to draft. Right now, my preference is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 11, 10, 9, 8, and 7. Since the draft order has yet to be selected, for the sake of this exercise I’m going to plan as if I’m drafting from the top of the draft at pick one.
Now again, I’m going to identify specific players, but at the same time remember that I’m more or less planning on when a tier is going and not the specific guy. It’s nearly impossible to plan ahead for specific players due to the variability of each draft.
Round 1. pick 1: (1B) Albert Pujols: As I stated previously, one of my main goals in this draft is to roster one of the top seven first basemen, since there is a significant dropoff and much more uncertainty after that. Hanley Ramirez did merit consideration here, as another of my goals is to draft a top eight shortstop, but I know that drafting from the top of the first round means none of those other first sackers will make it back around at the two-three turn.
2.15: (SS) Jose Reyes: Given how early drafts have shaped up, there’s a 50/50 chance that Reyes lasts until this pick. I have him as by far the third best shortstop, and will gladly take him here. If he’s off the board, I look for value at the third base or outfield positions rather than taking my next best shortstop.
3.01: (SP) Felix Hernandez: Another goal of mine this year is to own a top six starting pitcher, and King Felix surely fits that bill. While he may not win 20 games, his sparkling ratios and impressive strikeout potential provide a solid anchor to my staff.
4.15: (OF) Hunter Pence: At this point, as long as I already have my first base/shortstop combo rostered, I’m looking for a solid outfielder or third baseman who can contribute across the board, and Pence provides just that. He’s a model of consistency and still has plenty of room for growth and upside.
5.01: (C) Carlos Santana: Sometimes if you really want a player, you have to reach above where his ADP has him going, especially drafting from either end of the snake. Santana is a player I love this year and I know that he won’t make it back at 6.15 so I’ll pull the trigger early here.
6.15: (RP) Joakim Soria: Another of my goals is to draft a top six closer. This is the one position that will have the most variance come draft day, as they usually go in runs. In some drafts, this could be one of the first closers off the board; in other,s all six in my top tier may be gone at this point. Odds are that at least one from that group will be on the board still, and Soria becomes the anchor of my bullpen.
7.01: (3B) Aramis Ramirez: This is the last in a tier of third basemen I’m targeting. I think that A-Ram bounces back in a big way and provides the solid power that he displayed in the second half last season.
8.15: (SP) Brandon Morrow: I’m a sucker for tremendous strikeout potential, and Morrow was the best in the business at punching hitters out last year. Provided he can stay healthy, he’s an excellent No. 2.
9.01: (OF) Nick Markakis: A solid second outfielder who won’t hurt you in any category. His numbers should improve across the board hitting third in a much-improved Orioles lineup.
10.15 (SP): Jonathan Sanchez: Again, make sure you target pitchers with high strikeout potential. He's always had the stuff, and finally started to harness it last season.
11.01 (OF): Brett Gardner: As I look at the way my team is currently constructed, I am slightly lacking in speed. Gardner fills that need nicely, as well as solid average and runs scored.
12.15 (RP): Drew Storen: My plan on closers is to draft one of the top six early, then focus on a solid No. 2 who has job security. Storen fits that description perfectly, and also has nice upside.
13.01 (CI): Derrek Lee: Best of the remaining corner infield options, and I think there is potential for a nice bounce-back year if he can remain healthy.
14.15 (SP): Jordan Zimmermann Solid live arm with oodles of upside. Has big time strikeout potential as well.
15.01 (OF) Travis Snider: Post-hype sleeper? Snider has awesome power potential and should be hitting sixth in the Jays lineup. Twenty-five home runs aren’t out of the question, and that returns solid value in the 15th round.
16.15 (SP): Carlos Zambrano: Big Z is another guy I’m really high on this year. Though he’s a head case, he was tremendous in the second half last year and fits in nicely as my fifth starter here.
17.01 (C): Carlos Ruiz: With my second catcher, I’m a huge fan of taking someone who will contribute a bit in my counting stats, but more importantly won’t kill my batting average.
18.15 (RP): Kevin Gregg: Depending on how each specific draft unfolds, there could be a closer with a job still on the board at this point in the draft. Over the course of the season, you need roughly 90-100 saves, which amounts to 2.5 closers. If I can get 10 out of Gregg here, he has value to my team and saves my FAAB dollars.
19.01 (2B): Tsuyoshi Nishioka: I think the pool of players at second base is extremely deep, which allows me to wait and take a guy in the 19th round who could hit .300 with 25-plus steals.
20.15 (SP): James McDonald: One of my favorite late round starters this year. I hope he can build off his late-season surge with the Pirates.
21.01 (UTIL): Mike Moustakas: He should get called up after his Super-2 deadline, and could be impact rookie the way Ryan Braun was a few years ago. As draft day gets closer, his ADP will most certainly rise.
22.15 (MI): Danny Espinosa: Possible 20/20 second baseman, another reason I wait on that position this year.
23.01 (OF): Peter Bourjos: I generally don’t wait this long to select my fifth outfielder, but as of now there are a couple of guys I like who remain on the board this long. I think he’ll stick in the lineup with his amazing defense in center field, and although the average may be suspect, he should provide 25-plus steals with a bit of pop as well.
24.15: (RP): Koji Uehara: I’m a big fan of gambling on closers-in-waiting late, especially when they’re backing up one that you already have.
25.01: (OF): Lorenzo Cain: It shouldn’t be long before he pushes Melky Cabrera out of the way. Nice speed potential.
26.15: (SP): Aaron Harang: Perhaps the move to PETCO will be good for him. He was one of the more solid pitchers in the game for several years before Dusty Baker overused him.
27.01: (1B) Juan Miranda: Good roster filler here to fill the utility spot until Moustakas is called up.
28.15 (SP): Daisuke Matsuzaka: His whip may be a train wreck, but as a late-round starting pitcher, he has K potential and should win a decent number of games.
29.01 (SP): Scott Kazmir: Another decent late-round gamble. If he can regain his velocity, could be a sleeper play this late.
30.15 (SP/RP): Alexi Ogando: I think that as spring closes, he will move much higher up draft boards once he gets a clearly defined role.
Now obviously, the specific players here may not end up on my team, but I have a good idea on where I want to fill each position, and what tiers I am targeting. In the reserve rounds, what I'm really looking for are healthy starting pitchers with strikeout upside, closers-in-waiting, and although I didn't really fit one into the plan here, someone with multi-positional availability with a starting job somewhere.
Trust me; going through this exercise with your own team will pay tremendous dividends come draft day. As always, questions, comments and concerns are welcomed and appreciated.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 12:33am
Monday, March 07, 2011
There was a saying in my household growing up that if you make your bed hard then you are the one that’s going to have to lie in it. Saturday, I completed my first expert draft of the year, and the results weren’t pretty.
First of all, the league consisted of bloggers and writers from several reputable sites like Fantasy Pros 911, Fantasy Baseball Sherpas, MLB.com Fantasy 411 and more. It was an NL-Only, roto, auction draft—the classic "expert" settings.
During this draft, I found myself getting way too cheap and forced to confront the ever-present danger of inflation late in the draft. My pitching is good, but I left myself without a closer, an elite bat and speed. Here is my roster:
C B.Posey 1B C. Pena 2B N. Walker 3B C. Jones SS I. Desmond MI D. Espinosa CI J. Lopez OF A. Ethier OF A. Soriano OF W. Venable OF C. Ross DH M. Morse B Y. Alonso B B. Belt B W. Ramos B A. Craig P R. Halladay P D. Hudson P Y. Gallardo P J. Chacin P J. Zimmermann P J. Jurrjens P A. Chapman P H. Bailey P Y. Maya
I had trouble following my own advice: always spend to get the players you like. Rankings are important, but you must always be true to your strategies. Understanding the player pool is one thing, but as I learned this weekend, you must be a risk taker and push your drafting agenda on others, not the other way around. Finding the way to combine these rankings with your league settings and your own personal flair is the way to fantasy stardom.
Furthermore, here’s the 51-100 Head-to-Head rankings:
Name R HR RBI SB AVG W K SV ERA WHIP 51. Ian Kinsler 95 22 71 26 0.280 52. David Price 17 190 0 3.02 1.19 53. Clayton Kershaw 13 204 0 2.94 1.21 54. Justin Verlander 16 220 0 3.41 1.24 55. Ichiro Suzuki 82 8 45 37 0.321 56. Jimmy Rollins 88 16 68 30 0.270 57. CC Sabathia 18 200 0 3.26 1.21 58. Carlos Santana 75 24 78 9 0.280 59. Alex Rios 80 20 80 25 0.277 60. Ubaldo Jimenez 17 198 0 3.50 1.26 61. B.J. Upton 81 25 71 27 0.269 62. Francisco Liriano 16 195 0 2.85 1.16 63. Max Scherzer 15 201 0 3.23 1.20 64. Yovani Gallardo 19 211 0 3.59 1.27 65. Brandon Phillips 82 20 79 20 0.279 66. Adrian Beltre 78 23 82 6 0.286 67. Mike Stanton 75 34 84 9 0.267 68. Stephen Drew 77 23 80 10 0.281 69. Mat Latos 12 193 0 3.02 1.24 70. Alexei Ramirez 82 18 70 21 0.280 71. Hunter Pence 76 27 76 22 0.281 72. Jered Weaver 14 210 0 3.10 1.25 73. Matt Cain 14 178 0 3.21 1.23 74. Pedro Alvarez 69 30 75 3 0.262 75. Rickie Weeks 90 24 64 12 0.270 76. Delmon Young 77 20 86 6 0.291 77. Paul Konerko 73 32 83 2 0.279 78. Mark Reynolds 71 31 81 10 0.254 79. Derek Jeter 95 16 60 14 0.289 80. Colby Rasmus 87 21 66 15 0.275 81. Curtis Granderson 84 26 65 18 0.267 82. Dan Haren 15 215 0 3.61 1.29 83. Cole Hamels 13 195 0 3.36 1.29 84. Rafael Furcal 80 9 59 29 0.296 86. Wandy Rodriguez 13 194 0 3.47 1.22 87. Michael Young 85 19 88 7 0.285 88. Nick Markakis 90 19 85 8 0.297 89. Vladimir Guerrero 83 24 91 4 0.275 90. Corey Hart 82 25 87 8 0.272 91. Chris B. Young 85 27 85 5 0.259 92. Aramis Ramirez 69 25 85 1 0.274 93. Shane Victorino 94 11 64 32 0.280 94. Carlos Pena 72 38 100 3 0.240 95. Chris Carpenter 14 169 0 3.08 1.18 96. Joakim Soria 4 78 42 2.10 1.05 97. Ben Zobrist 79 13 80 20 0.264 98. Adam Jones 80 19 70 13 0.287 99. Carlos Marmol 6 104 40 2.54 1.27 100. Dan Hudson 14 189 0 2.98 1.17
Points of Interest (Discord):
Ian Kinsler: My apologies to Kinsler. When I made this list I hadn’t given him the credit he deserves. Brought to my attention in last week’s run of 1-50, I realized that I owed more to Kinsler than a 51 player ranking. He is absolutely pounding the fastball-laced pitching in Arizona, as he already has four spring training home runs.
Reader Dan brought to my attention that, when healthy, Kinsler provides a lot of value. I have agreed he should be bumped from this bottom tier. In a revised ranking, he should fit somewhere in the Justin Morneau range of upper 30s to low 40s. Again, I am sorry, Ian, but you must stay healthy to achieve anything.
Stephen Drew: His second half has captured my imagination of what could happen if he has really regained his '08 form. I believe he has every chance to put up 20-plus home runs and near a .300 batting average.
He has speed that no one other than the Baseball Forecasters knows exists. He’s got all the tools to step into the company of the Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins tier.
Daniel Hudson: Hudson is one pitcher that all the writers at THT are in love with, and for good reason. Coming over in the Edwin Jackson deal, the trade afforded Hudson the chance to show the world what he could do with an opportunity.
Looking back, I’m quite sure the White Sox would not have let this future ace go for the immediate impact of Jackson. Hudson was able to keep the ball in the park at Chase Field, something few other pitchers are able to do. He could have been a little lucky, but he has all the tools to be the best pitcher in the desert.
Colby Rasmus over Corey Hart: We all love the commentaries that spring up in spring training of newfound health, weight loss/gain, or revamped approaches. It’s regurgitated and spewed about over every player. In Rasmus’ case, I will take exception.
Rasmus has had trouble recognizing his role, not only as a player, but also as a Cardinal in general. Some have even questioned his dedication to St. Louis. This offseason has seemingly been a time of reflection for Rasmus. He will have to discover his drive to compete for the Cardinals if he is to be of any relevance in 2011. I believe he does. I think Rasmus even has a better chance of equaling Hart’s 2010 numbers than Hart does.
Mark Reynolds: Every baseball expert—fantasy or not—will tell you that power, rather than speed, is becoming more of a premium, and Reynolds will offer power. He’s only 27 years old, so the deteriorating batting average and record-breaking strikeout numbers could correct themselves a little. I imagine he’ll continue his free-swinging ways, but the scenery in Baltimore might be more conducive to an increase in runs and RBI.
In order for this ranking to hold merit, Reynolds must show an ability to make contact. I believe he will improve to somewhere between 2009 and 2010, which would be a decent stat line for the depleted third base player pool. Naturally, avoid him in strikeout leagues.
Chris Carpenter: His rotation mate is lost, and the Cardinals' season is in jeopardy. Is Carpenter going to be healthy the entire year? For Pujols’ future as a Cardinal’s sake, let’s hope so.
Carpenter is a great “real-life” pitcher. As for fantasy, he no longer strikes out a lot of batters. He’s good for around a 3.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, but how many wins can he gather in 2011? Will he even be healthy enough to post another 200-plus inning season? Chances are solid this 35 year old will be a good pitcher, but is he good enough to still be considered a top 10 pitcher? I say no.
Joakim Soria: So Soria is my top closer going into 2011. His ability to succeed on a team that has lacked success is rather remarkable. He locates his low-90s fastball with ease, and he couples that with a biting slider. His FIP is sub 3.00, and his groundball percentage rose to the elite levels of 48 percent.
He’s not going to be a 100-strikeout closer, but he'll hold his own in the 70-80 whiff range. His only weakness is the Royals, who will even be improving as the injection of youth begins. Oh, let’s also not forget about his second half line of 21 saves, 1.06 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Plus, he’s just 26.
Since draft days are approaching faster and faster, next week’s installment of the Top 300 will be numbers 101-200. As always, I enjoy rankings fodder as much I enjoy making the rankings, so feel free to bring your opinions to the comments section.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 10:00am
Last week, I participated in my first draft of the year, the Cardrunners expert league. If you recall from last year, Cardrunners was started under the premise of pitting gambler and Wall Street-trader types against fantasy industry baseball experts, creating "an interesting confrontation between the experienced experts and the sharp newcomers used to beating various games."
As I'm sure regular THT readers will remember, there was a lot of interesting discussion both at the Cardrunners league site and here at THT. With another talented crop of participants, this year is sure to be the same.
In addition to me, we have Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman) and Jason Grey (ESPN) returning on the fantasy expert side. Joining us are Tout Wars and LABR vets Dalton Del Don (Rotowire), Larry Schechter (Sandlot Shrink), and Shawn Childs (VuFantasyBaseball, and the most successful player in NFBC history).
Returning on the other side are World Series of Poker bracelet winner Eric Kesselman and a newly-formed team of Cardrunners founder Andrew Wiggins and Brian Hastings, who holds the record for most money won during a single day of online poker ($4.18 million).
Other additions to the league include financial analyst Scott Schaffran, NFBC vet and one-time LABR "regular guy" champ Trevor Braunig, and wildly successful fantasy amateur Clark Olson, who's won two ESPN Uber Challenges and three NFBC leagues. (Oh, and he's a rocket scientist who's worked on the Mars rover.)
Rounding on the lineup is Chris Hill of PokerStars and his partner, Hollywood director Nick Cassavetes, who you may recognize from Face/Off, his cameo on Entourage last year, or from his directing of The Notebook, John Q or any number of other projects.
Here's my roster. Keep in mind this is an incredibly deep 5x5 AL-only league with a $260 cap.
Pos Player Price C Mike Napoli $20 C Jeff Mathis $2 1B Adam Lind $19 2B Aaron Hill $19 3B Mark Reynolds $19 SS Jason Donald $1 CI Kevin Kouzmanoff $9 MI Maicer Izturis $5 OF Curtis Granderson $23 OF Travis Snider $15 OF Alex Gordon $15 OF Luke Scott $14 OF Gregor Blanco $0 UT Dan Johnson $10 BN (C) Robinson Chirinos $0
Pos Player Price SP Dan Haren $25 SP Colby Lewis $17 SP Michael Pineda $8 SP Phil Coke $6 SP Sergio Mitre $1 SP Jeff Francis $4 CL Matt Thornto $12 CL Frank Francisco $13 RP Octavio Dotel $2 BN (SP) Luke Hochevar $1 BN (RP) Arthur Rhodes $0 BN (RP) Darren O'Day $0
Full results of the auction can be viewed here.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Also, by the time you're reading this, I also will have completed the LABR NL auction. I'll be posting the results of that here at THT Fantasy on Wednesday.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:10am
Friday, March 04, 2011
With draft dates quickly approaching as fantasy preseason gets into full swing, now feels like an apt time for this year's list of my favorite research resources.
Resources at a price
In terms of for-pay resources, I recommend only two tools: THT Forecasts and in-auction software. Beyond this, most of the best fantasy information on the net is either free or can substantially be gotten for free.
In terms of projection systems, there is a lot of helpful, free stuff out there for free on the Internet. Fangraphs has fantasy forecasts by Bill James, RotoChamp, and "The Fans" (crowdsourced projections) available on player pages. Fangraphs also tends to feature ZiPS projections once they are released in their entirety. Right now, Fangraphs does not have a sortable 2011 projections page on-line, but will likely add one in the coming weeks. CHONE, which has won most accuracy comparisons, no longer exists.
Tom Tango recently tested the accuracies of the most popular projection systems on the market (CHONE, Oliver, ZiPS, PECOTA, Marcel) and found that for players with higher sample sizes of major league production, the projection systems tend to be pretty fungible overall. Where the real challenge comes, however, is in forecasting younger players with little or no minor league records. That is where the systems vary most and this is where Oliver and THT Forecasts have a comparative advantage.
According to Tango's evaluation of the forecasts from 2007-2010, Oliver does the best at forecasting young players based on minor league production. This is why I recommend Oliver and THT Forecasts so highly. Everyone and their mothers know what Bobby Abreu is capable of, but what about young players like Jason Heyward or Brian Matusz last year? Or how about Mike Stanton or Freddie Freeman this year? Especially for keeper leagues, Oliver and THT Forecasts act as a great resource to evaluate young player's prospective value to help you determine whether they are a multi-dollar investments at the auction table, or $1 spec picks at best.
In addition to being fantastic at projecting young players via Oliver, THT Forecast also offers three other great resources for fantasy players. First, THT Forecasts has a customizable fantasy pricing guide that lets you accurately forecast players' fantasy values, a true burden for auction leagues. For batting stat categories, you can choose among AVG, R, RBI, HR, SB, 2B,3B, BB, K, OBP, SLG, OPS, TB, SB-CS, TB+BB, Runs Produced, and 2B+3B. For pitching stat categories, you can choose among W, SV, ERA, WHIP, K, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, IP, TB, K/BB, and Net Wins (Quality Starts and Holds are not yet available). These highly customizable fantasy pricing permutations make calculating values for diverse leagues as easy as clicking the right buttons.
Free sites offer similar pricing systems, but a pricing guide is only as strong as its forecasts and THT Forecast is the only system that uses Oliver (rated second only to CHONE, now defunct, amongst the various forecasts Tango evaluated from 2007-2010).
In addition to being a fantastic preseason draft-day resource, Oliver shines in its continuous usefulness through its "rest of season" projections. Like most fantasy system, Oliver "learns" as more data become available, but rather than wait until the offseason to tell you what it's learned, Oliver incorporates its new knowledge into the form of "rest of season" (ROS) projections. ZiPS offers a similar service for free, but crucially THT Forecasts adjusts its numbers using weekly updated playing time projections.
Finally, THT Forecasts offers exportable spreadsheets of Oliver forecasts so that you can rank your Oliver's in-season and rest-of-season expectations to mine for value throughout the season.
Each of THT Forecast's features make it a true bargain. Full disclosure: I work for the Hardball Times (duh) and contribute to THT Forecasts. Nonetheless, I can honestly attest to its value and utility, having used it for almost a year now. If you do not believe me, just read Tom Tango's full evaluation of the forecasting systems. Customer service for THT Forecasts is also incredibly responsive. You can purchase access to Oliver via THT Forecasts for $14.95 for the entire 2011 season.
The only other for-pay software that I can legitimately recommend are in-draft tools. Though I do not use in-draft software, the two that my colleague Joe Dimino most recommends are the offerings of RotoLab and John Benson (link broken?). I have little to no experiences with this on draft day, but here is what Joe had to say in the comment section of Brad Johnson's Feb. 7 article A Beginner's Guide To Auction Draft Nominations:
I’ve used Benson’s software and RotoLab. One of the nice things about both of these is that they will calculate inflation during your auction and adjust player prices accordingly. It’s also nice to visually be able to see that there is one really good player at a position left, with a huge dropoff after, things like that.
Take the information at face value, as it clearly was not written for this post. The concept of what these in-draft software programs do is pretty nice and powerful, but my view is that I can do what they do for free, albeit with more work on draft day. Perhaps a reader has used a better in-draft management tool (or even RotoLab/Benson) and can identify it and elaborate about it in the comments below?
The first free resource that I can offer is a spreadsheet of 2010's hitters with a minimum of 300 plate appearances broken down by BABIP and xBABIP. The article gives you all the information you will need to understand the information presented, but in a nutshell, it took each player's batting line and adjusted it to reflect xBABIP rather than actual BABIP. In other words, the article presents what each player should have hit last season, in theory, if we strip batted ball luck from the results.
The second free resource that I can recommend is my own xWHIP 2.0 calculator. xWHIP is similar to xBABIP, but for pitchers. xWHIP takes a pitcher's batted ball data, normalizes his LD rate (19 percent) and home runs per fly ball (11.5 percent), and determines his expected hit rate based on the new batted ball distribution. I am working on a new version of xWHIP. The beta, using 2008 values, can be found in the bottom of my original (and now outdated) Top 50 Fantasy Reliever rankings article.
The third resource I can offer is my extensive, long toiled, and up-to-date fantasy baseball rankings by position. I've ranked the top 20 infielders at each position (including middle and corner infielders), the top 60 outfielders, the top 100 starting pitchers (you can read my thoughts on each of those 100 pitchers by clicking here, though the list has since been updated), and the top 50 relievers. I also included Oliver's top 20 by position and compared them to my own for good measure, though to access the up-to-date value stats that each player is expected to contribute, you will have to purchase THT Forecasts.
The updated rankings indicate changes that have been made from my original preseason rankings (and why I made the changes), so to see my thoughts on the various players I ranked, you can access the original (out of date) rankings by position: Catcher || First Base || Second Base || Shortstop || Third Base || Corner and middle infield || Outfield || Starting pitchers
If you want rankings from other resources, Fantasy Rundown has an excellent collection of fantasy rankings from the various sources around the net. Just don't be a rankings slave.
The fourth resource I recommend is a recent and extensive article I wrote on how to value players for auction drafts. In addition to my methodology, there is a link in my article to how Tom Tango recommends calculating auction values.
Also check out my amazing list of the most humorous fantasy baseball team names. Because that is what owning a team is really all about!
Want to stay on top of various teams' precarious closer situations? Follow CloserNews on twitter, where MLBTradeRumors creator Tim Dierkes and crew bring you the most up-to-date facts and rumors regarding closers as soon as it hits the wire.
I am also currently working on the most up-to-date comparison chart of fantasy rankings by drafting system for CBS, Yahoo, ESPN and Mock Draft Central. Readers of Roto Authority may recall I did this last year. I should have this chart up by March 15, so check back to this post around then. I will use THT Fantasy's twitter to tweet about when I add the ranking comparison chart completed and online, so I suggest following THTFantasy and my twitter account in the interim. UPDATE: You can download my comparison spreadsheet by clicking here.
Other great free resources include RotoAuthority's "What It Takes To Win," Fantasy Rundown's catalog of prospect rankings from around the net (including that of THT's Matt Hagen), and the Fantasy Outlook section of Game Of Inches (my own blog, to which I contribute under the moniker David "MVP" Eckstein).
What other fantasy resources do you use? Which do you like/dislike and why? Sound off in the comment section below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 1:39am
Last week, Chad Millman of ESPN devoted his Behind the Bets podcast to what I think to be a quite self-evident question: is fantasy sports (when played for stakes) gambling? Millman discussed this issue with two college professors, Bo Bernard, who specializes in sociology and Steven Weiss, who teaches psychology. Both Bernard and Weiss have studied gambling and fantasy sports fairly extensively.
At this point, let me be absolutely clear, I love pedantic debate that intellectualizes the most seemingly obvious questions and scrutinizes our most basic assumptions. I’m also fairly contrarian as a general rule… often specifically because of my habit of distilling presumed self-evident questions to their philosophical roots. All of this is basically to say that even though I was fairly certain in my opinion on this matter before hearing the podcast, I was fully open and eager to hear compelling intellectual arguments to change my mind. It didn’t happen though.
To be fair, though both professors concede that this is a debatable issue, they seemed to lean toward fantasy sports being a form of gambling, Bernard leaning harder than Weiss. I don’t really see this issue as particularly debatable at all, but I think it’s probably worth going through a few of the points that were raised to cast fantasy sports as a form of gambling because I’d like to take my shot a refuting them.
First, let’s start with the most basic definition of what gambling is in its most fundamental and broad sense. Bernard offered the following definition: the wagering of something of value on an outcome that is unknown.
Beautiful. I don’t think there’s need to geek out further into this. I will only attempt to delve a bit deeper to clarify the term “something of value.” I take this to mean either raw, absolute value or value to the owner. Therefore, if you are playing for money, the stakes automatically have value. It does not matter if you are Oprah Winfrey and playing in a $25 per team league, the fact that a relatively small sum of money may not practically matter to you does not mean that the stakes are not valuable; their objective value trumps any absence of value it may have to you. My ironclad example here is that nobody would make the argument that nickel slots are not gambling simply because the stakes are so low. On the flip side, if something is valuable to you, even if not particularly valuable to the rest of the world, and you wager it, you are gambling. …Playing poker for pretzel sticks isn’t really gambling… unless the game is being played among the cast of Survivor.
Honestly, I think the debate basically ends right here. If you are playing fantasy baseball for money, you are gambling. But, not everybody is ready to pack up their tents and go home here, so let’s look way too extensively at some of the other arguments.
The preponderance theory
This argument, originally asserted in this discussion by Weiss, states that fantasy baseball is more of a game of skill than a game of chance. Weiss references a study he helped conduct among fantasy players and non-players that studied the perception of skill versus luck in fantasy sports outcomes. Both groups concluded that skill was more important than luck. While seemingly simple and straightforward, this is problematic on many levels.
First of all, I’m not sure what the correct way to splice the luck versus skill component of any game is, but I’m quite certain that simply asking folks what skills are required and how much they perceive luck to be a factor is far from sufficient, regardless of whether there is a “control” in this study (non-fantasy players).
Further, why is skill necessary? To perform well, presumably, but what does that mean? To win a league? To finish above average, in the top half of the standings? There are many possible outcomes in fantasy sports league, so let me digress for a moment to make some additional points about the overlap and conflation of skill and luck in games that are a combination thereof.
Let’s talk about sports betting for a moment. Sports betting, like fantasy baseball, and like poker for that matter, is a game of chance through which one can considerably improve his or her odds through the acquisition of skill. (Of course, this is the fundamental flaw in the preponderance theory, even if you do grant it is applicable; you can gamble on a game of skill just as easily as you can gamble on a game of chance.) So, how much of sports betting is luck and how much is skill? Well, if you ask a professional gambler, he or she will tell you that only a select few can make a living by gambling, so therefore skill must prominently factor in.
I don’t know about that. I mean, I agree, but I also think it depends on how you look at things. In sports betting, there are two potential outcomes, three if you include the push. If you were to randomly wager on a side of any sports bet (with a spread), there would be a 50-50 chance of you winning and losing, if the line is set correctly. (It’s probably more like 48.5/48.5/3 if you include the push, but I’ll leave that out of the equation for simplicity’s sake.) The skill in sports betting comes in being able to set a better line than the house, so you get your edge because you’re able to identify that the line is really not set at 50-50 odds, but maybe 55/45 odds. Essentially, this is the same kind of edge one can find in fantasy, setting more accurate values to potential plays (players).
This achievement, however, does not fundamentally contradict the notion that you are playing a game of chance. You’re now simply playing a game of chance in which the odds have been mispriced. Note that to be a successful professional gambler, you’re "only" expected to win at approximately a 54 percent clip. So, what did all your hours and hours of work and the possession of elite skill actually earn you? I’d say you earned a 5–10 percent increased likelihood of winning over the square public bettor.
Now, I don’t mean to demean that accomplishment at all, practically speaking, that’s the tipping point. By exerting your skill, you’ve tilted the odds enough to make this game of chance sufficiently likely to play out in your favor over an extended period of time. But, getting back to the question of whether this is a game of skill or chance, is an endeavor in which the absolute best and most skilled in the business are able to swing the odds less than 10 percent in their favor something that can be classified as being defined by a preponderance of skill? That is, even if somebody needs skill to succeed in something in the long term, does that mean that the game itself, or each trial, not fundamentally characterized by luck? I’m trying to distinguish the nature of the game from the nature of one’s performance at that game here, and I think it’s fair to characterize the role of skill in fantasy baseball as generally similar to the role of skill in sports betting or poker.
Just to harp on this point a bit longer (you don’t have anywhere you’d rather be, right?), let’s take an extreme example, even though I don’t like arguing from the margins in philosophical debate. Let’s take a game that is clearly defined by skill; we’ll use basketball. In my absolute luckiest performance would it be possible for me to beat any pro basketball player in a game of basketball, no matter how small the sample size?
…Well, okay you got me. But, what if I excluded Eddy Curry? There we go, of course not, and that is because basketball is defined almost exclusively by skill. Now, I don’t gamble at sports books, but would it be possible for me to have a better weekly run than a top sports bettor, or even a better month, or maybe even a better year? Absolutely. If we grant the same overall dynamic to poker, we can look at the history of the World Series of Poker to prove that point.
Finally (and this may look like I’m taking a shot at professional sports bettors, but I’m not because I respect them greatly), isn’t it actually possible to profit over the long term in sports betting strictly on the strength of having good luck? Now, I understand that a lot of the skill in being a sharp is managing a bankroll, getting more money in on better bets, etc., so one’s rate of return is not necessarily identical to his/her win percentage over 50 percent. However, when I listen to pro bettors speak about their analytics, I’m usually not all that impressed. Somebody like Nassim Taleb (get ‘em Jon Halket) might be inclined to accuse successful pro bettors of being “fooled by randomness.” Maybe some of them are luckier than they are good, and essentially justifying their luck with pseudo-intellectualism? I don’t necessarily think this is the case, but it does cross my mind often when I hear pro gamblers explain their reasoning. They seem to understand strategy and how odds work and when to act—that’s their strength, in my opinion—but I’ve yet to hear somebody who makes me say, “Wow, this guy sounds like he really has it figured out,” the way I do when I read, say, Tom Tango’s work.
So, just to recap, I just spent like 750 words discussing sports betting to make the point that fantasy baseball is not, by a preponderance of its nature, necessarily a game of skill. I chose to focus on sports betting because defining successful performance in fantasy sports is a lot more ambiguous than the binary outcomes of sports gambling, and that definition of success was never offered for fantasy baseball.
Game of skill argument B
In this podcast, the professors also reference a study done two German researchers, Ingo Fielder and Jan-Phillip Rock, which proves poker is a game of skill by displaying that over 50,000 hands the best poker players emerge as most successful. As with the preponderance theory, I actually interpret this finding contrary to the way it is used in the professors’ arguments.
I don’t doubt the fantasy baseball possesses a similar dynamic in terms of meritocracy over truly extended sample size, but practically speaking, you are not gambling on 50,000 poker hands or hundreds of fantasy seasons. The number of trials needed to establish the meritocratic dynamic of this game ironically underscores the importance of luck as it relates to the practical application of the fantasy baseball experience. Once again, there needn’t be equal odds on either side of a proposition for an activity to be defined as gambling, in a social sense… a distinction we’ll get to shortly.
Relative skill vs. absolute skill
Fielder and Rock also raised the point that the role skill plays in poker or fantasy sports relates to the relative skill of the players in the league. The closer the level of skill among the competitors, the more luck is likely to matter. I feel this effect is more profound in fantasy sports than in poker or sports betting. In sports betting, you are simply competing against the oddsmaker, but doing so through the team on which you wager. There’s significant uncertainty in this equation because you adopt all the risk that comes with the performance of the team, but the essence of the challenge is outsmarting the oddsmaker, one on one.
In poker, there’s plenty of luck in regard to picking up hands, but in the skill side of the game, you are competing directly against your opponents at the tables. In fantasy sports, there are very few opportunities for a direct battle of wits between two owners; if performed at a high level, everybody makes pretty sound decisions and while each owner would likely be able to claim several successful attempts to outsmart the market, some will also benefit more from random variance, and some will be hurt more by unforeseeable injuries. Basically, correctly identifying which player will have the better season between Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira is exponentially less valuable than not being the guy who made a wise value investment in this season’s Kendry Morales or Justin Morneau.
The way I view the competition in fantasy sports, and to a large degree the whole endeavor, is that it's a competition to assemble the best risk equation of all the participants. You're building a portfolio. The skill lies in putting yourself in the best position to benefit from the random variation of performance curves and outlying events.
Any game with the tiniest skill component can become largely meritocratic if the chasm in that area is overwhelming, but when played among those who are generally your peers, fantasy sports is an activity of chance that is affected by skill, not a game of skill affected by chance. As a thought experiment, consider an auto-drafted team to represent a team of average skill in the most influential part of the game, the draft. Are we to assume that in an “expert league,” an auto-drafted would be the worst team or finish last anything approaching all the time?
Professor Bernard offered an argument the gist of which was that that social norms and definitions, as well as the real world ramifications of specific actions, play a role in defining them. In the abstract, I agree… but, again, only in the social sense. The lottery is gambling regardless of the public perception thereof; ditto for investing in the stock market. The essential nature of fantasy sports, specifically it fitting the definition of gambling offered at the top of this piece to a T, trumps any circumstantial concerns.
Bernard goes on to talk about the “real world consequences” (or benefits) of failing (or succeeding) at fantasy sports, which are similar to success in any other gambling activity. He even notes that the problem fantasy behavior qualify under the criteria of problem gambling.
Meanwhile, Weiss feels that the applied setting of the fantasy baseball experience is atypical of gambling, often repeating that he knows what gambling is and, as an avid fantasy player and a former gambler, fantasy sports simply don’t feel like gambling. His offering of the old Potter Stewart defense, frankly reads as a classic case of cognitive dissonance to me.
Opinion of sports leagues
It should also be noted that the NCAA does not allow its athletes to participate in fantasy sports for stakes. The NFL had previously banned its players from competing in fantasy sports, but no longer does so, though it’s not clear to me whether the “for stakes” caveat is in effect in the NFL too.
Legal definitions vs. social definitions
Often times, those who are in favor of further enabling forms of gambling rely on studies that prove the skill based component of a game to advocate for change of legal considerations regarding such a game. For example, the movement to define poker as a game of skill does not have only its academic face. Many who advocate poker’s standing as a game of skill seek special treatment of the game under the laws that govern gambling.
This is not the definition of “gambling” or “game of skill” that we should be concerned about. Legality is not an argument about the nature of an activity (drinking alcohol vs. smoking marijuana), but simply a cultural judgment of that activity. When we play fantasy sports for stakes, we are engaging in an activity that is defined by the risking of items of value on outcomes unknown, the fact that skill plays a role, and sometimes an important role, in determining the outcomes of this activity does not negate that. Fantasy sports is not a bowling competition where we each place down some cash and try to get the highest score; the outcomes are much more varied, the inputs infinite, and the intersection of strategy and random variance too complex to reduce as such. It’s way more like sports betting or poker; it’s gambling!
Taking it a step further
Not only have I made it clear that I think fantasy sports are unequivocally forms of sports gambling (and we haven’t even discussed daily fantasy games, which are much closer to traditional sports betting), but I’d even argue that it is impossible to play fantasy sports as they are intended without gambling.
Any games that are predicated on managing risk must be played for meaningful stakes to retain their integrity. An extreme example of this is the idea that if there was no money on the line in a poker game, it would be impossible to ever bluff successfully. To keep a game on the up and up, participants have to have something to lose when taking on additional risk; there must be real, meaningful consequences for strategic failure. If a player doesn’t fear losing, that player will not always act in accordance with his most objective rationality.
In previous columns, I’ve written fairly extensively about promoting integrity within your leagues, but this is the most fundamental foundation of all incentives for owners to maintain the league’s integrity. For some folks, honor and their individual values and commitment are enough, but for others the absence of a true penalty for losing empowers them to sully the league by doing things like making trades just for the sake of trading. Once these dynamics infiltrate your league, you are no longer playing rotisserie sports in a pure form.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 1:24am
Thursday, March 03, 2011
There are enough veteran second base options around, so rookies won't need to be relied upon. But if you're looking for upside, there are some rookies that should have your attention.
Danny Espinosa is intriguing and appears to be Washington's top option at second base. I don't think he will ever get there, but he has legitimate 20-20 potential. His batting average will never win your league, either, but his upside is enough to take a late-round flier on and plug him in during his hot streaks.
Dustin Ackley doesn't do much for me, but others consider him to be a future all-star. With a hot two months in Triple-A, Seattle will find it difficult to keep him from the big leagues. And that means all of you looking for a spark at second base should take notice.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is getting some "shiny new toy" buzz, but his upside is limited. He should produce a good batting average and 10-20 steals, but little else. He is a good injury replacement for your No. 1 option.
Brett Lawrie is the only other rookie I could see making an impact at second base, even though it seems that he will end up at third base full-time before long. His bat speed could spell a .300-30 future, which could come sooner rather than later with a great showing at Triple-A to start the season.
On the non-rookie front, Gordon Beckham is someone I am investing heavily in as a classic post-hype sleeper, although I would prefer to have a proven No. 1 option to rely on if things don't work out. I'm not a Sean Rodriguez supporter, but judging by some of his minor league seasons, there is upside to be had. He's worth a plug and play if your options are limited and you can ride a hot streak. Staying in Tampa, I like Reid Brignac more than Rodriguez due to his dual eligibility and proven major league power.
There really isn't much to speak of in terms of rookie shortstops ready to make an impact, given that Espinosa and Nishioka should be shortstop eligible but have already been written about. So it might be best to talk about some of the young guys ready to make a name for themselves.
Ian Desmond is getting a lot of love from a lot of fantasy experts, but I'm thinking we've already seen a career year out of him. The .269 average and 17 steals seems doable again, but I honestly don't see double-digit homers out of his bat ever again. I see him as a solid No. 2 option or injury replacement.
I would take Elvis Andrus over Desmond every time. His batting average is going to get better, and his stolen base production is the real separator. And I think he will end up with more home runs than Desmond, too, despite giving us a goose egg in 2010, making him a solid fantasy starter.
I have Starlin Castro ahead of Desmond, too. I see a better batting average, a bit more power, and similar stolen base production. He is a great No. 2 option for those rainy days.
Asdrubal Cabrera is a strong injury replacement option, but he lacks the overall upside of Castro and the speed upside of Andrus.
And that leaves Alcides Escobar, who I have rated a slight notch below Castro and Desmond. Despite his rookie showing, he has similar upside to Andrus, but I need to see the numbers to believe it.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:10am (2) Comments
Dan writes in:
I'm in a 12-team 5x5 keeper with the typical categories. League rules on keepers are that each team keeps five plus a minors spot, with the cost being the pick it took to get a guy (free agents are a last-round pick) moving one pick closer to round one each offseason. Finally, any player chosen in the first five rounds cannot be kept.
I have some easy choices: Hanley Ramirez costing me a 21, Clay Buchholz costing me a 22, Josh Johnson costing me a 7, and Matt Cain costing me a 12. I have Michael Pineda as my minors keeper. (We started the league in 2006 and not everyone figured out the importance of keepers right away, so Hanley was a free agent to begin '06.)
Here's my dilemma: I took Colby Rasmus in round 10, so I can keep him for my tenth rounder this year, and I have Brian Matusz who was my minors keeper from the end of 2009, so he'll be a last/very-late-round pick sacrifice. I like the idea of having four good SPs, allowing me to build my offense through the draft, but I'm high on Rasmus' potential to take off this season.
You certainly have some great deals in Ramirez and Buchholz. Cain is worth giving up a 12th-round pick for, and Johnson is just barely worth a seventh-round selection. Johnson’s going around that round because of his late-season shoulder concerns so, if you want to keep him, you’re assuming some extra injury risk, but at least being paid to do so.
For what it is worth, Rasmus’ average draft position (ADP) at Mock Draft Central is 94 (which makes him the 89th-best player), and that was also his draft spot (89) in THT Fantasy Focus’ own expert mock draft. There seem to be quite a few folks that share your high opinion of Rasmus.
I am not one of them.
Rasmus suffers from twin risks: playing time and ability. In order for Rasmus to be worth an 89th pick, he has to perform better in all scoring categories than he did last season. Most projections have him instead regressing or flat-lining in these categories—not surprising given his .354 BABIP last season and perennial high strikeout rate.
Rasmus also isn’t in his manager’s good graces, and if he starts the season poorly, he could easily lose some playing time to Jon Jay. Of course, if Lance Berkman gets injured again, there should be enough room in the Cardinals outfield to accommodate Rasmus on a full-time basis no matter what.
Given that Rasmus is only going to cost you a tenth-round pick, he may still be a decent value for you even if he isn’t worth an 89th pick. I’d personally prefer Shane Victorino or Carlos Lee, both of whom have worse ADPs.
Alas, Matusz is no great shakes, even in the last round. Depending on whether that’s a reserve round or not, Matusz is probably exactly worth the round he’d cost you. He has some upside, but, given that he pitches in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and in the slugger-loaded AL East, he poses a lot of risk to your stats nearly any week that you’d start him.
Depending on when your draft is, Matusz may not even be worth the risk of prematurely locking him onto your roster. But he does have upside potential, too, in that if he did somehow shine this year, it would be quite cheap to keep him again the next year. Rasmus isn't as likely to keep offering you keeper value.
An incredibly important caveat to this advice is that your league may be so out of whack that typical ADPs do not apply. If many other teams have great keepers in ridiculously low rounds, a tenth-round pick is not like any other league’s tenth-round pick, but is actually worth much less. Thus, the keepers that you could keep for that pick are worth more.
Lastly, I definitely wouldn’t worry about having too few or too many of a certain kind of keeper. Keep the players that give you the best value, and there will be plenty of picks in the draft to repair any imbalance.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:12am
The countdown is on! There are only 26 days remaining until the Tigers and Yankees take the field to begin another glorious baseball season. If you haven’t done so already, you’re drafting your team(s) in the next three weeks.
Those drafting in the first weekend of National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) drafts, you only have 17 days to update your rankings, finalize your cheat sheets, and develop a solid draft plan and strategy. What this means is, if you aren’t completely finished with your draft preparation, you have to get on the ball and do so quickly.
Last week I started to delve into how I was going about developing my draft strategy. If you haven’t done so already, please check out that piece before reading this one so you can follow along with my entire thought process as I develop this plan.
Last time, I touched briefly on how my rankings are split into tiers of value, which I’ll expand on a bit here. The spreadsheet that I’m using, which will be the list I use to cross out players during the draft, has every position listed horizontally across the top, and it then lists players in order going downward. These players are ranked at their specific position, as well as grouped in tiers based on players of equal value at other positions. This does two things for me.
First, it allows me to visually see where the drop-offs—or, conversely, pools of value—are at each position. Right now, I can see that second base is one of the deeper positions in this year’s draft. The lower tiers are full of quality players that I wouldn’t mind as a starter in my 15-team league, and I’m confident that I can grab one of these players in the seconnd half of my draft.
What this means is that I will almost assuredly pass over Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia and the rest of the top twelve second baseman.
Secondly, this list allows me to compare players against each other at their same position, and also against players from every other position. For example, let’s say it’s the 14th round and my team is severely lacking speed. In my original strategy, I plan on taking my shortstop around this time. However, there are no shortstops who steal enough to help me out in that category.
However, there are two outfielders in the same tier who could easily steal 30-plus bases. I would then take my fourth outfielder a little earlier than anticipated, and draft my shortstop where I would’ve normally taken the outfielder.
The next piece of advice that I have for you is in regards to average draft position (ADP). While this can be a very useful tool and provide solid data leading up to your draft, don’t rely on it as a crutch when actually at the draft table. After the top four or five rounds, the reliability of ADP has a much higher variance.
A lot of people think that they can look at ADP, find the players they want, and then just select them a round before they’re “expected” to go. The problem is that everyone else at the table will be armed with the same data.
Here’s another very important thing to note about ADP. Many players will see a player fall during the draft and select him purely based on “value.” He or she will think, “Obviously, this player was supposed to go a round or two before this and is still there, so I have to take him!”
This line of thinking is extremely flawed, and here’s why. If a player is falling that far, 14 other teams have passed on him at least once. Maybe there are injury concerns or other information that you aren’t aware of. Also, selecting a player like this usually won’t fit into the plan that you have laid out going into the draft. While you want to be flexible at the draft table, you don’t want to be Peyton Manning calling an audible every pick.
If you’ve prepared properly, you’ve put months of hard work into your draft plan. Do you really want to trust a decision that you’re making in one minute while you’re on the clock instead of the carefully crafted plan that you dedicated so much time to?
One final aspect that I want to explore today involves setting your Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) settings. While this may not apply to some leagues, it is an important feature of the NFBC and one that I have been spending a lot of time analyzing this week. The KDS settings allow you to have some say over your draft position, rather than just drawing names out of a hat. You rank each position in the order you like, and as each name is chosen, they get the top spot on their list that is still available.
I think it’s important to look over the inventory as thoroughly as possible and decide what players you want to build your team around. I try to look at each draft position and plan out the first 4-6 rounds to see what kind of team I would end up with.
Personally, as of now I see a clear-cut top four players that are an advantage over the rest of the field. There is a chance that one of those top four players falls to pick No. 5, so I’d factor that into my KDS as well, worst-case scenario being I get to choose the best of the rest at No. 5.
After that, the next 10-15 guys could go anywhere from fifth to 20th, depending on your personal preference. A few of those guys I like better than consensus and current ADP, which means I wouldn’t need to take them until the back end of round one. So, for now, I’m looking something like 1-5, 11-15, 10-6, but that will probably change numerous times before draft day.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series next week, where I basically spell out exactly what I’m looking to do in each round on draft day! As always, questions and comments are appreciated.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 5:11am
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Every new fantasy baseball season is filled with promise, intrigue and possibility for the player. Some of us may be coming off a dreadful 2010 and looking to rebound this year. Other's fantasy skills may have flourished last season and the prospects for 2011 look bright. Regardless of your past performance, the 2011 Fantasy Season can be one unlike any season-long league you've ever competed in. I'm talking about the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball.
This game type is very different from the traditional season—which begins with the draft, after which any and all decisions revolve around the roster you created for yourself. No my friends, in this world you will be drafting a new team every single day. That's right, you will never have to experience the long-term frustrations of being bitten by the injury bug, plagued by platoons or infuriated with off-days in the world of daily fantasy.
For intense gamers this is the ultimate in competition. The ability to play in head-to-head, multi-player and even huge tournaments on a daily basis is something that may be difficult for the season-long player to even comprehend. And the best part is you can win cash every single day if you so choose. Daily Fantasy sites feature games ranging from FREE all the way up to stakes in the hundreds of dollars. It is a cut-throat world where mistakes are punished and good decisions can be highly profitable.
In this article I will provide you with the three basic principles of this game that can and will get you started on the path to success.
You know the countless number of hours that are spent preparing for one's draft day in the season long format? Imagine doing that, on a slightly smaller scale, every single day of the 2011 season. It is a time-consuming, and unrelenting process that consumes as much time as the player's life can allow him. Whereas a season-long player may have to choose between Neil Walker and Chone Figgins once a week when games are plentiful, a daily player is allotted the opportunity to pick ANY second baseman that's playing EVERY day of the week, among 10-15 realistic options.
So where does one begin to figure out who to select? For a 'newbie,' as we like to call rookies in the industry, the first step should be identifying statistical websites that you can use to your advantage. THT has many resources on its pages that a daily player would most certainly find very useful. Things such as generic split stats, right/lefty matchup ratings and home field batting improvement are all things that the daily fantasy player delves into for minutes to hours a day.
Your knowledge of statistical significance as it relates to individual performance is going to have to be refined and sharpened as you progress through the daily fantasy world and I hate to tell you that there is no perfect formula. But what I can tell you is that the names of daily players at the top of the earnings leaderboards across the industry are the same, and appear consistently month after month. The initial step for monetary success for these and all other profitable players in the industry is preparing long and hard on a daily basis. Every position must be scrutinized and this is where the next step begins...
The most popular game format for daily fantasy, and the one that these principles highlight, is the Salary Cap. This is a fairly straight forward competition type in which each player is presented with a set amount of money from which they select the day's players. There are two main methods of thinking when it comes to selection, which I like to call 'The Balanced Approach' and the 'Studs and Duds' Methodology.
The Balanced Approach sounds exactly like what it is. It involves putting together a lineup of players that have consistently performed well as regular starters for their prospective teams. In the salary cap format, players such as these will carry moderate-to-high price tags and should (if selected properly) put up a fairly high total point score for the day. There is very little risk in this type of lineup selection and keeps the blood pressure at a moderate level.
On the other hand, the risk takers in the industry primarily deploy the Studs and Duds Methodology. This is for the daily fantasy players with stones, as they say. This selection process involves more dedication, but can also reap bigger rewards. First, the player utilizing this process must identify two or three bench players that are getting a spot start on that day. They plug these players into their lineup, who carry very low price tags because they do not play regularly. By doing so, the player can also afford to play the cream of the crop. Albert Pujols, Carlos Gonzalez and Evan Longoria are examples of guys that come to mind who carry such high price tags that you need to make space for them by saving money somewhere.
Both methods of selection have merit, and I will debate which implementation carries with it a better long-term outlook in a later article, but for now it is just important that you all realize that these are the decisions that must be made for a fantasy player's lineup day in and day out.
So now that you've chosen your team and the games have begun you may think that all the work is left to the MLB players themselves. Not so fast...
This is the final, and most often overlooked, portion to daily fantasy baseball success. Watch the games, people! By this I mean, both your matchups for the day, and the competition itself so that you can see things progress. You wouldn't make an investment and then just trust that it is growing over time would you? It's the same concept here. In order to learn and grow as a player you need to identify both the good and bad decisions you made and how to correct them.
Let's say for example that Ryan Howard may have gone 0-4 with a strikeout. And you may be very upset with him. But if you realize that two of his outs were line drives right at the 2B playing short right field and his strikeout was off of a devastating left-handed reliever. Knowing these things can make a big difference when it comes to your future selection of Mr. Howard.
Its things like this that make the long term difference in our game. Daily fantasy owners would agree when I say that the game reflects on every other aspect of life. Those who put in the work reap the benefits. If you outwork the others you will get ahead. And if you slack off you will get left behind.
It's a fun endeavor to undertake, but I implore you not to do so with a lack of knowledge. The established players, including myself, will be more than happy to wipe the floor with you.
In the coming weeks and months I will do my best to enlighten you to this new and evolving world. It is an ever-changing and expanding segment of the fantasy baseball industry and I myself am learning new things everyday. I'll do my best to keep you informed of happenings in this world and how you can use certain strategies to your advantage. I'll also do my best to help you exploit the weaknesses of others who are not so informed.
For now please take a look at some of the sites that will be offering Daily Fantasy Baseball in the near future:
Fantasy Sports Live
See you soon!
Kevin 'KC' Cearnal
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:46am
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
If you play fantasy baseball, you know that there are a myriad of different types of leagues that you can participate in depending on your tastes and preferences. Some examples of customizable leagues include rotisserie, head-to-head, points, auction, salary cap, AL only, NL only, mixed league, and others. But one of the most important choices you can make when deciding what type of league you want to join is whether it is a keeper or non-keeper league. In a keeper league, each team owner is allowed to retain a set number of players on their roster for a pre-determined number of consecutive seasons. In a non-keeper league, rosters are refreshed every year and team owners have no long-term rights to a player from season to season.
In order to determine what the general consensus is in terms of preferring keeper or non-keeper leagues, I recently polled 100 people on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail lists, friends and personal acquaintances to gauge the growing trends. The results of the poll showed that 68 percent of fantasy baseball players preferred keeper leagues, 30 percent preferred non-keeper leagues, and 2 percent were either undecided or liked both equally. This did not come as a surprise to me given the trends over the last decade where fantasy baseball players have become more sophisticated and leagues have better replicated real baseball team management. It cannot be denied that people do enjoy drafting players and then having the ability to sign them to long-term contracts and retain them over the course of a set number of years. This was the most common reason given why people prefer keeper leagues. The strategy that goes into deciding who to retain as part of a fantasy team's long-term planning is a decent simulation of a real baseball general manager. That aspect is something that people clearly enjoy.
A keeper league configuration requires a tremendous amount of strategy, foresight, instinct, long-term planning, intuition, knowledge of minor league players, and guts. Depending on how many players you are allowed to retain, team owners endure much angst in making these crucial decisions. People also need to be conscious of injuries (my condolences to those who already declared retention of Adam Wainwright), injury-plagued players, and players returning from injury. People must also take into account a player's age, future potential, position on a team's depth chart, and supporting cast when deciding whether to retain that player going forward.
Depending on which style you choose to play, the actual fantasy baseball draft takes on a different meaning. In a keeper league, younger players who do not have lengthy resumes and are unproven have higher values assigned to them because of their long-term prospects. Signing these young players gives team owners a sense of creating their own dynasty and building for success going forward. This has almost as much intrinsic value as trying to win the league now. In a non-keeper league, the objective of team owners is to select the best players possible for the current season. This comparison applies to both auction and straight draft leagues. Obviously in an auction league, the heightened value of younger players is reflected in the dollar amount spent on those players, whereas in a straight draft, the value is represented by an early round selection. One aspect that is common between keeper and non-keeper leagues is the evaluation of potential "sleepers." Every year, there are certain unknown commodities that are deemed "sleepers" because of their potential for a breakout season. The criteria used to determine whether someone is a sleeper is completely subjective and arguably arbitrary. But regardless, sleepers are usually a late-round pick in a straight draft or a cheaper purchase in an auction depending on how badly someone buys into the hype. Either way, the evaluation of a sleeper is usually based on the present and not the future.
While there are obvious logistical and pragmatic differences between keeper and non-keeper leagues, the biggest distinction is arguably the evaluation of trades made. In a non-keeper league, there are certain objective criteria that can be used to evaluate a trade and determine whether it is fair or not (note that I said fair—not intelligent). You can look at the players involved in the trade and tell whether it passes the sniff test or not. You can look at the players' statistics and tell whether the trade has equal value. You can look at the rosters of each team involved in the trade and determine what the motivation might be to make the trade, as well as ascertain whether any collusion may be taking place.
But all bets are off when looking at trades in a keeper league. In keeper leagues, trading away current high-priced talent in exchange for young, up-and-coming players is a perfectly acceptable and common strategy to employ. This is most typical when a team competing for a playoff berth needs a player to produce for him this year, so he would trade away unproven talent to a team looking to rebuild for the future. Does this sound familiar? It happens in real baseball all the time. So when evaluating whether a trade like this should be approved, you cannot use objective criteria like statistics, team rosters, or auction values.
For example, Team A is in second place and needs to bolster its pitching staff to make a run at the league championship this year. Team B is in second to last place in the league and has no chance of earning a playoff berth this season. Team A possesses several younger players who are projected to be stars down the road and under contract for multiple seasons, but they cannot be relied upon at the present time to contribute from a fantasy perspective. Team B possesses current star pitchers who are under the final year of their contract in the keeper league. So Team A offers a package including Aroldis Chapman, Jeremy Hellickson, Mike Moustakas and Freddie Freeman to Team B in exchange for Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter.
In a non-keeper league, this trade would never be allowed because the current values of these players is so lopsided. For 2011, Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter are light years more valuable than the package of young players. However, in a keeper league format, this trade would be considered fair and equal based on what each team's needs are. Team A would be acquiring two top pitchers to help his run at a championship this season. He doesn't care that these players are essentially rentals and do not have as much long-term value. Team B would be acquiring four young players with great upside to build for next season and beyond. This dynamic is exactly what MLB general managers do when deciding whether to trade veteran players for prospects.
When it comes to deciding whether to play in a keeper or non-keeper league, it all depends on your own personal taste and preferences. But beware, keeper leagues are premised on the fact that they will be running continuously year-to-year while retaining most if not all of its league members. There ideally needs to be a commitment in place amongst all league members that they are in it for the long-haul since they are investing in their team not just this year, but for years down the road.
That is why the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment advises you that the best way to ensure stability is probably to be involved in a non-keeper league for a few years and establish a continuous rapport with the other league members before transitioning the league into a keeper format. This will demonstrate a commitment amongst your league members that they are dependable and consistent with their status in the league, and it also presumes that you have open lines of communication with other league members to discuss those difficult trade scnearios (like the one referenced above). Stability is key to having a successful keeper league because when a team has to be replaced, the new person coming into the league is likely stuck inheriting that team and must make decisions he or she doesn't necessarily want to make.
The verdict is that keeper leagues are unquestionably more popular and provide unique challenges and opportunities as compared to non-keeper leagues. But if you decide to do a keeper league, beware of the distinctions and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you are in a league that will sustain itself down the road.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:03am
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