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Monday, December 01, 2008
December is here and the rumor mill is churning. It's getting to be that time when the moves start to come at a faster pace, and with it, we're bound to see players switching leagues. C.C. Sabathia to the Yankees? Bobby Abreu to the Cubs? Manny Ramirez to the Royals?
Okay... just kidding. We probably won't be seeing Manny don Royals-blue in 2009, but we are certain to see a number of players jumping from the AL to NL (or visa-versa). When this happens, these players will be facing a different level of competition, which will inevitably affect their performance.
Given this information, does it make sense to project a player without accounting for this new competition level? Fantasy players always seem to be interested in increasing the accuracy of projections, and accounting for league switches is one way we can do this.
How large of an impact does switching leagues have, though, and is the impact larger in some categories than others? I sought to answer these questions, and here's what I found.
I examined all players who played in one league in 2007 and the other league in 2008. The results I'll present are the aggregate of all players included in the sample. Each player's contribution to these results were weighted based on the lower of his 2007 and 2008 at-bat, plate appearance, or other such denominator total. Pitchers were excluded from the batting study. The 2007 numbers were age-adjusted to put them on par with 2008, and both the 2007 and 2008 numbers were park-neutralized. Finally, 2007 numbers were also adjusted for differences in league average.
In the tables presented, the first column gives the total weighted denominator, as explained above. The second column gives the aggregate change simply from switching leagues. These numbers are to be read as if an AL hitter moves to the NL, and you would simply take the inverse for an NL player moving to the AL.
Overall, the general notion that a hitter will perform better in the NL than the AL seems to be true. Most importantly for fantasy owners, a batter gains a full point-and-a-quarter in contact rate, .005 points in BABIP, and 1.5 points in HR/FB simply by playing in the National League.
On the downside, a batter loses two points in stolen base success rate (though it should be noted the sample size for SB% is quite small in relation to every other stat tested) as well as half-a-point in outfield fly rate. Even given the outfield fly loss, though, a move to the NL would still allow a batter to hit an additional two-plus home runs given the big HR/FB spike and the contact rate increase.
Interestingly—though not particularly noteworthy for fantasy owners—is that aside from outfield fly rate (and stolen base rate), the only stat that hitters worsen in is triples.
Keep an eye out later this week or next as I look at how league changes affect pitchers. This could have important ramifications for guys like Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Jake Peavy, and many others.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:13am (0) Comments
Manny Delcarmen had fairly high expectations coming into the 2008 season. After putting up a sparkling 2.05 ERA in 2007, Delcarmen looked like a guy with closer potential and entered the year as Boston's top setup man. However, Delcarmen struggled out of the gate, putting up a 4.54 ERA in the first half. Many began to write him off, but, mostly due to a change in luck, Delcarmen excelled in the second half. At the end of the year, he had a very good 3.27 ERA while pitching 74.3 innings. What does 2009 hold for Delcarmen?
YEAR AGE TEAM IP ERA xFIP TRA* K/G BB/G GB% BABIPHR/FB% 2006 24BOS 53.3 5.06 4.04 3.77 7.1 2.7 44.60.373 4.3 2007 25BOS 44 2.05 4.07 4.06 9 3.7 44.60.214 11.1 2008 26BOS 74.3 3.27 3.82 3.33 9 3.5 51.80.253 8.4
Delcarmen has put up very good numbers in his last two years, while showing excellent skill in his past three years. Delcarmen is a strikeout pitcher, using his mid-90s fastball to overpower opposing hitters. He gives up his fair share of walks but nothing too excessive. A great sign last year was that Delcarmen upped his groundball percentage.
Delcarmen has excellent skills and this is reflected with his strong xFIP and TRA*. Delcarmen has gotten a little lucky with his BABIP the last two years but even when that regresses, his skills will allow him to keep putting up very good numbers. And if he manages to make some small improvements with his walk rate, he could really take off.
Overall, Delcarmen would make for a solid late round draft pick in standard leagues. He'll be a good candidate for vulture wins initially pitching in middle relief and if anything happens to Jonathan Papelbon, Delcarmen would be a candidate to fill in as closer. Given this, relief pitchers as a whole are generally volatile from one year to the next. Let's look at what kind of risk Manny Delcarmen has.
Experience: Medium risk. While Delcarmen has pitched about three years in the majors, he only has about 180 career major league innings, leaving some room for error.
Playing time: High risk. Delcarmen will start out as a middle reliever but the leverage he will get is a big question. We do not know yet what Boston will do with Justin Masterson and last year Terry Francona displayed a tendency to go to Masterson over Delcarmen despite Delcarmen having much better skills. Also, Boston just traded for Ramon Ramirez, who is a talented reliever in his own right. Part of what makes Delcarmen an attractive pick is that he has closer potential if Papelbon were to get hurt. However, Delcarmen could also find himself third in line for closer.
Skill Risk: Low risk. The only real area of concern with Delcarmen is his walks. A decent jump in walks would be harmful, but the rest of Delcarmen's skills are strong.
Age: Low risk. Delcarmen will be 27 next year and should be entering his peak as a pitcher.
Burnout: Very high risk. Delcarmen has had a history of injuries in the major and minor leagues. He'll be attempting to bounce back from his biggest major league workload.
Overall risk: Medium to high risk. Delcarmen's role is a big concern along with his health risk. While he brings a lot of good skills, Delcarmen also brings some risk, though you likely won't have to invest a very high draft pick to get him.
Manny Delcarmen shows great stuff along with a very good skill set. He's an attractive target for someone who doesn't want to use high draft picks or auction dollars on closers and is an ideal LIMA plan target. He is a potential source of wins and saves, depending on what his ultimate role is. However, he does bring a lot of risk. This makes him an interesting sleeper pick but not someone you want to invest a lot in.
Posted by Victor Wang at 2:14am (0) Comments
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I want to address a topic that lies in a similar realm as the gambler’s fallacy: the idea of streaks and, more importantly, our perceptions of them.
Even the most casual sports fan has heard, at some point, of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak during the summer of 1941. This feat is so prominent, that Stephen Jay Gould referred to it as “the most extraordinary thing that ever happened in American sports”.
Intuitively, this record may seem like one of myth and fairy tale, since in my lifetime (starting in 1981), various records in various sports have been shattered. But during this time, the closest any player has been to DiMaggio’s streak has been a relatively meager 39 games by Paul Molitor in 1987—and I have absolutely no recollection of this ever happening. In fact, no one in the history of Major League Baseball has come that close to matching the record of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games (the closest was 45 games by Willie Keeler in 1896/1897). So I suppose I can understand why this particular record has been held on such a high pedestal. But is this record really so “mythical” and “extraordinary”?
Samuel Arbesman and Steven Strogatz of Cornell University published a paper that showed that while DiMaggio’s streak is amazing, it was not entirely unlikely. In fact, their analyses showed that upon simulating the history of baseball 10,000 times over, 42 percent of these baseball universes included streaks of DiMaggio’s length or longer. Taking it one step further, their analyses showed that a 56-game streak should have occurred long before 1941.
What about other streaks, ones we hear about on a day-to-day basis? Consider the game of basketball. We constantly hear announcers refer to a player as being “on fire” or “in the zone”. And I’m sure many of you have heard someone say that a team needs to get the ball to the “hot hand”. What do you think? Are players really “on fire” and do they really have a “hot hand”?
These phrases and descriptions all imply that if a player’s performance is subject to hot and cold shooting, it should be more likely that the player will make a shot after making his previous shot than after missing his previous shot. The further implication of such phrases is that a player’s makes and misses will cluster together far more than what chance would dictate.
Let’s run a quick experiment. Take a look at this player’s shot sequence (the X’s represent makes and the O’s represent misses):
O X X X O X X X O X X O O O X O O X X O O
Do you think this sequence constitutes streak shooting?
If you answered “yes”, well, you're wrong but you’re not alone. In his book, How We Know What Isn’t So, Thomas Gilovich posed this exact same sequence to a group of basketball fans, and a majority of them (62 percent) thought it represented streak shooting. However, this sequence is perfectly random in that the number of adjacent shots with the same outcome (i.e. XX or OO) is equal to the number of adjacent shots with different outcomes (i.e. XO or OX). Now, this doesn’t mean that streaks don’t occur; it just means that our interpretation of what we see tends to be flawed.
A player like Carlos Beltran has a reputation of being a streaky hitter, and he seems to be chastised by fans for his so-called "streakiness". Living in the New England area, I’ve heard many complaints about how he only hit .248 last July and can’t come up with clutch hits (though that is an entirely different topic). But is such a reputation really warranted? After all, a month is simply an arbitrary split of time. And Beltran also carries a career .281 average, so a .248 average in any given month really isn’t that far off from what is expected.
Meanwhile, on the other end of this spectrum is Justin Morneau, who is slowly building a reputation as being a consistent hitter. But despite being so "consistent", he only hit .243 this past September. In four full seasons at the major league level, Morneau boasts a .284 average, similar to Beltran, but you never quite hear complaints of inconsistency or streakiness.
I bring up these two players in particular because in one of my leagues last year, a manager purposely avoided Beltran in the second round, claiming that Beltran “was too inconsistent”. In another league, a manager drafted Morneau ahead of Berkman because he liked the “consistency” that Morneau brought to his team.
There are other variables and issues involved with these particular decisions, but I think it is very clear that there is a problem with this line of thinking. The basketball dilemma posed by Gilovich showed that, theoretically, the outcome of a shot is independent of the outcome of the shot that occurred before it. That same idea can be applied to baseball—the outcome of any given at-bat for a player is independent of the outcome of his last at-bat. Obviously there are other variables involved (e.g. player’s psyche, pitcher’s adaptation and changes in pitch type, etc.), but the real point is that we, as observers, tend to misidentify streaks and incorrectly interpret them. Whether it be by coaxing a fellow manager into trading a "streaky" Beltran or by simply not falling into the trap ourselves, we, as managers, can exploit those who fail to recognize their faulty perceptions and misinterpretations of these events that are merely random.
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 12:29am (0) Comments
In the past two Consistency Meters, the players we have looked at have been relatively good. Today, the player we are going to examine is a little different: He has had playing time issues over the past few years and was even mentioned as a possible platoon player because of his struggles against righties. Still, he has managed to put up similar numbers the past three years.
The player I'm talking about is Brad Hawpe and his numbers over the past three seasons look like this:
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 499 | 0.293 | 22 | 84 | 67 | 5 | | 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 516 | 0.291 | 29 | 116 | 80 | 0 | | 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 488 | 0.283 | 25 | 85 | 69 | 2 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
Hawpe has been a write-in for a .290 batting average and 25 home runs for the past three years. In fact, the most alarming question mark surrounding him—the possible platoon because of his abominable lefty/righty split—has been alleviated with the Holliday trade and his improving numbers against right handers. So off the bat, 2009 appears to be another predictable season for Hawpe. Let's take a deeper look into his numbers to find out.
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF_FB% | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 499 | 22 | 15 | 17 | 12 | 11 | 3.9 | 34 | | 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 516 | 29 | 18 | 19 | 12 | 12 | 3.9 | 40 | | 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 488 | 25 | 24 | 18 | 18 | 18 | 0.0 | 38 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
(If you're new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I'm using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player's talent, so it's worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.)
Hawpe's stable home run numbers have been backed by an even more stable home run per fly ball percentage (HR/FB). His slight uptick in home runs in 2007 can be traced to simply hitting more outfield flies.
What is interesting are the True Home Run (tHR) numbers. Hawpe significantly outperformed what tHR expected from him in both 2006 and 2007, but then in 2008 his actual home runs reconciled with his true home runs. This suggests that Hawpe had the skills of a 15-20 home run hitter in 2006 and 2007, but got lucky and hit about 10 more than he should have. Then, in 2008, Hawpe's power skills improved to that of a 25 home run hitter and his luck was neutral, so he hit 25 home runs.
I do not expect Hawpe's home run totals to suddenly jump above or below what they have been. The 29-year-old season is a peak power year for most hitters, so if Hawpe's skills improve a little more, I would not be surprised. My prediction is that they will stay relatively the same, though, and Hawpe will hit 26 home runs in 2009.
If you are thinking that 2008 Raw Power (RAW) score of 0.0 in 2008 is a typo, it is not. RAW is simply the number of balls hit at least 420 feet per 100 fly balls. So Hawpe hit zero balls over the 420 mark in 2008. There is not enough RAW data to determine predictive value, so I am not going to draw any conclusions; I would not even call the drop concerning.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 499 | 0.293 | 0.269 | 75 | 0.350 | 0.337 | 22 | 17 | 25 | | 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 516 | 0.291 | 0.266 | 73 | 0.346 | 0.340 | 21 | 13 | 21 | | 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 488 | 0.283 | 0.276 | 73 | 0.343 | 0.337 | 23 | 14 | 15 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
Hawpe has consistently been able to outperform his True Batting Average (tBA) numbers. I can attribute this partially in 2006 and 2007 to the lucky home run totals mentioned before. He also always finds a way to outperform his Marcel BABIP numbers (mBABIP), which I can attribute to the last few points of discrepancy between his True Batting Average and actual average.
Even if his BABIP drops a few points to what Marcel projects for him, just know it would negatively affect his batting average only about .005 points.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 499 | 75 | 106 | 0.40 | 82 | 48 | | 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 516 | 73 | 111 | 0.39 | 76 | 50 | | 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 488 | 73 | 107 | 0.47 | 79 | 52 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
Looking at Hawpe's plate discipline stats, we see he has above-average judgment of pitches (Judgment X). However, when he does make a mistake in judgment, more often than not the mistake comes from being too passive (or not swinging). While he would most likely benefit from being more aggressive, there is no evidence to suggest he will be in the future.
Hawpe is not particularly adept at identifying and making contact with pitches, whether they are inside (Bat Control) or outside (Bad Ball) the strike zone. For this reason—because he strikes out too often— Hawpe will never become a .300 hitter. However he is good at making solid contact with the ball, evident by his high line drive percentages (LD%). As long as he can keep that nice line drive rate going, his BABIPs should remain inflated, thereby keeping his batting average afloat in the .280 range.
Based on the numbers, it seems that Brad Hawpe will continue to produce at the same level as in years past. A .275 average with 22 home runs would be my low end projection and a .285/30 season would be my high end one. The most important thing to notice from those projections, besides the actual numbers, is how similar they are to each other. Barring injury, those numbers can be written down in the books ladies and gents, with pen.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:01am (0) Comments
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
There was an article yesterday by Chris Mulligan of the Fantasy Baseball Generals that dealt with an interesting topic. I started to type up a comment to it, but I realized that there is a lot to say on the matter and that I'd be better able to organize my thoughts as a full post.
In the article, Chris contemplates the concept of "pitcher tiering." He notes that guys like Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, and Jake Peavy (among a few others) are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pitching crowd and deserve early round treatment.
He then wonders, though, why "second-tier" starters like Roy Oswalt, James Shields, and Jon Lester are taken in the early-middle rounds (rounds seven through ten) when they often post stats similar to guys like Zack Greinke, Derek Lowe, and John Danks — guys who will be taken after round 12. I'm not big on the cherry-picking of stats he uses (I could just as easily pick out a "second-tier" and "third-tier" pitcher whose stats are significantly different), but this leads into an interesting line of thought that I haven't discussed here very much.
My answer to the question
The simplest answer I can give to Chris's question is "opinion." Opinions about pitchers vary wildly (yes, the same is true of batters, but this is true to a greater extent for pitchers). Last year, Lincecum would have been considered one of those "second-tier" pitchers that Chris says he will avoid in 2009.
Whether or not that is the right or wrong decision is a discussion for another time. What I'm saying is that a lot of the people who took Lincecum in, say, round eight, took him there because they thought he was a good value. They thought he was closer in value to a round two Jake Peavy than to a round 12 or 13 John Maine. They thought he could outperform the average round eight pitcher.
That those owners ended up being correct (or were incorrect in the case of a "second-tier" guy like Aaron Harang or Francisco Liriano) doesn't matter. People will always have opinions on players and will act based on those opinions. A player's market value (read: where he ultimately gets taken) is, simply put, the most favorable of these opinions.
All it takes is one owner to like Marco Scutaro enough to draft him in round five. As ridiculous as it sounds, Scutaro's market value would be round five in that scenario.
This is a bit simplified (that owner would consider everyone else's opinion of Scutaro when deciding where to take him), but the basic point remains: a player's market value is determined by whoever is highest on him. And because opinions of pitchers vary more than for hitters, the situation Chris discusses exists.
The thing with pitchers is, people come to their decisions on them based on very different criteria. It's hard for someone to credibly say that Ryan Theriot has a lot of 'raw power' and will hit 40 HRs in 2009; the guy is 5'11, 175 pounds and has seven career home runs. I'd bet, though, that we could find someone who thinks Andrew Miller's 'stuff' could allow him to post a 3.50 ERA in 2009. Just as easily, we could find someone to point to Miller's 5.87 ERA or 4.94 LIPS ERA and say "no thank you."
In addition to stuff, which we actually can quantify (in a way) with PITCHf/x data now, there are a number of other factors people use that are more abstract and subjective. Some people might say that Zach Duke — a soft-tosser who does not possess the traditional definition of 'stuff' — has great 'poise' or 'command' and is a breakout candidate in his age 26 season. Still someone else will argue, pointing to his three year streak of 5.00+ LIPS ERAs.
And oftentimes — this is where things start to get heavy, but very interesting — two owners can come to two very different decisions on the same player and both be considered correct. To illustrate this point, take a look at this line:
+---------+-------+------+------+---------+------+------+------+----------+------+ | LAST | FIRST | ERA | FIP | DIPS v2 | xERA | tRA* | xFIP | LIPS ERA | QERA | +---------+-------+------+------+---------+------+------+------+----------+------+ | Pelfrey | Mike | 3.72 | 4.02 | 4.09 | 4.29 | 4.58 | 4.70 | 4.74 | 4.91 | +---------+-------+------+------+---------+------+------+------+----------+------+
This is Mike Pelfrey's 2008 line with a slew of different ERA estimators. Let's simplify things and pretend we are looking at a league of complete statheads, and the numbers are the only things they will look at. The question is, though, what numbers? FIP thinks Pelfrey's ERA should have been 4.02 last year. Baseball Prospectus's QERA thinks it should have been 4.91. That's an 0.89 point difference — the difference between a twelfth round pick and not getting drafted.
Yet, if the person making either decision gives me the basis for their decision, I wouldn't tell either one they were wrong. I would go as far as to say they were right.
On this point of either decision being correct, the fact is that there isn't much difference between the top ERA estimators. I use LIPS ERA for two reasons: 1) because my tests have shown it is one of (i.e. tied for) if not the best of the predictors and 2) because I like the methodology of it better than any of the others.
While this individual decision on Pelfrey might be wildly different, the results on the whole are similar. In the long-term, someone using LIPS ERA (a complex ERA estimator) will do better than someone using FIP (a very simple ERA estimator), but the difference might not be as large as you might think.
I believe using LIPS ERA would be slightly beneficial in the long-term, but using FIP (or any of the other estimators for that matter) wouldn't necessarily be incorrect. One might be preferrable to another, but they are similar enough where I won't begrudge anyone who uses something different, and I'm sure you could poll some of the top analysts and get a couple of different answers on which they prefer.
(As a side-note, I don't recommend using just one year of any of these stats to project future performance. It's far better to look at multiple years as well as other factors in a complete projection system.)
So back to the matter of that second-tier/third-tier distinction, hopefully we now understand why we see these distinctions and why, inevitably, people will disagree. Even using something quantifiable, like stats, we can come to drastically different—but not incorrect—conclusions. Add in things that aren't quantifiable (some of which are complete non-sense), and the gap in those conclusions gets even larger.
An owner in one of my leagues hates Carlos Marmol, and I have no idea why. His numbers are great, and his stuff is great. Yet this owner doesn't like him. Perplexing, but a perfect illustration of my point.
I know that some of the concepts I've discussed are a little abstract, so if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me or comment. This is a topic that will be debated for a long time to come, but hopefully this has gotten you thinking and provided a little insight.
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:55am (0) Comments
Thursday, December 04, 2008
These past weeks, I’ve been writing about the trade-offs that a league should consider as it (re)designs its rules. Last time, I wrote about how reverse draft orders distorted incentives to compete at the end of the season and should not be used in most draft leagues. This week, I’m tackling trade-offs of luck versus skill and specifically about using keepers in your league. Keepers, if you’re not familiar with the term, are used in your fantasy league if not all players are available for draft or auction after the first year—some players are kept by owners (perhaps at a cost) and not released to the general pool.
Randomness is inherent in fantasy baseball, as it is in life. In a competitive league, it is hard to win without getting a little lucky—the winner will likely have rather more players exceeding expectations than under-performing. This is not to say that skill isn’t important. Indeed, they are substitutes: The more skillful you are relative to your opponents, the less luck you should need to win (on average).
As a commissioner of your league, you should seek to limit the role luck plays in determining the winner. You’ll never be able to remove it entirely, but a league where luck plays a large role is a league where your players can be inattentive or outright buffoons and still win. Plus, a ridiculously lucky winner leads to bitterness among the other owners.
Keeper rules increase the scope for both luck and skill in leagues, so I cannot offer a clear "thou shalt not." But I offer a warning: Be careful how you design your keeper rules and know your owners before you decide that keepers might be a sensible addition.
The upside of keepers is that they offer a richer set of components to a player’s value. Not only do projections of performance for this season matter, but you have to forecast future seasons as well. Keepers increase the value of younger players as their abilities are likely to increase by the most in the future. Keepers, therefore, reward owners with skills in forecasting ability.
Keepers also expand the possibility for end-of-season trades. Some way out-of-the-money owners can trade their "talent now" for players with "talent later." A third place team can mortgage its future a bit by selling a Matt Wieters for an A.J. Pierzynski upgrade at catcher this season. Furthermore, without keepers, there’s hardly any reason to look at minor league players in most leagues, so keepers add an element of "realism," too.
However, adding keepers means adding more luck to your league. To see this, consider a league with a deep minor league bench, one where you can keep through the off-season, say, 10 players who still have minor league eligibility—but where you don’t have a bunch of owners that follow the latest news from the fall and winter-ball leagues. In this case, each team will mostly have 8 or 9 players that the owner has no idea about. These unknowns may pay off big time or they may flame out. The flame-outs the owner can cut practically painlessly once the season starts but the superstar rookies may yield a ton of value that the owner received entirely due to luck.
More generally, most leagues with keepers require an owner to pay a cost in order to keep a player—in auction leagues, you have to pay a set (perhaps complicated) amount; in draft leagues, you’d have to give up a certain draft pick. So keeping a player is only smart if the cost of keeping him is lower than the player’s perceived value next year. Indeed such a system is nearly necessary if a league wants to have keepers.
As an example, an auction league may let you keep any free agent acquisition the following year for a price of $1 and any drafted player for $5 more than the price that you drafted him at this year.
I think these types of rules are incredibly dangerous. In essence, keepers end up being players that vastly outperform expectations (and are expected to go on outperforming in the subsequent year). For instance, a kept drafted player in the above auction league would have to outperform his value by $5.
I would propose that, in most leagues, owners obtain huge out-performers due to luck and not skill for two reasons. Firstly, it is hard to forecast such out-performance. I don’t have data to offer for this, though. Secondly, moreover, if everyone in the league forecasts that this player would outperform his value, than his price would obviously rise in an auction (or he would be drafter soon in a draft league), which would remove the player’s excess value. So, not only does an owner have to be able to forecast this out-performance, but he has to out-forecast (through skill and not through luck) his fellow owners.
So, if you’re in a league with a bunch of keen-eyed, skilled forecasters with sharply differing opinions and forecasting tools (see Derek Carty’s article yesterday for a possible example), then you may want to include keepers. Otherwise, you’re mostly rewarding luck with possibly huge windfalls.
A final, personal reason why I dislike keepers—I like the draft/auction part of fantasy. Why diminish it by removing a bunch of players from the table?
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 3:17am (0) Comments
Friday, December 05, 2008
Without question, Carlos Quentin was either the biggest draft day steal or the most shrewd free agent/waiver pickup of the 2008 fantasy baseball season. Owners who had Quentin on their roster almost certainly were competing for the league title at season’s end. My friend Ray added him in our 12-team league, and the combination of him, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Geovany Soto was simply too much to handle. He went on to win the league in just his second season of playing fantasy baseball! Great stuff.
Unfortunately, Quentin suffered a season-ending injury that cut his breakout campaign short. He was among the league leaders in many offensive categories at the time of his self-inflicted hand injury. Quentin was a legitimate candidate for AL MVP at the time of his injury.
He is expected to be back for spring training; there should be no residual effects from his injury that would limit him from a physical standpoint. While Quentin will surely be selected somewhere before the fourth or fifth rounds, fantasy owners are faced with a daunting question: Was his 2008 season a fluke, or is he for real?
We’ll take a look at his numbers from a sabermetric view, and also peek at his earlier record at Arizona and in the minors. After that, we should have a better understanding of where he should be selected and what to anticipate production-wise. All statistics used here are thanks to the guys over at Fangraphs.
Carlos Quentin’s player card can be seen here.
In the minors
He was picked 29th overall in the 2003 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks after a hugely successful college career at Stanford (one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award). Quentin spent parts of 2006 and 2007 at the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate, the Tucson Sidewinders.
Here are his minor league totals:
118 GP, 132 H in 433 AB (.305), 13 HR, 79 RBI, 42 doubles, 54 BB, 60 K, 5 SB
2006 (AAA): .377 OBP, .487 SLG, .865 OPS, .198 ISO, .316 BABIP
2007 (AAA): .395 OBP, .574 SLG, .969 OPS, .226 ISO, .371 BABIP
I placed his doubles total in italics because I am a believer in “gap power often turns into greater home run power” with younger players. He amassed 42 doubles in just 433 at-bats, while his SLG, OPS and ISO all continued to escalate. While his high BABIP (especially in ’07) indicates luck is involved, I still see his ISO numbers and doubles totals as indicators that Quentin was beginning to lock himself in as a legit power threat.
In the desert
Called up in 2006, Quentin seemed overmatched at times, with a 20.5 strikeout percentage (34 K in 57 GP). He struggled to find the consistency he had at Tucson, hitting .253. He did, however, make his hits count. In 166 at-bats, he tagged 13 doubles and nine homers, and racked up 32 RBI. Certainly, the Diamondbacks had to be pleased with this. Extrapolated over a 500-AB season, that would be approximately 27 HR and 96 RBI. Not bad at all.
But 2007 was a lost cause for Quentin, as he struggled to produce following offseason shoulder surgery on the Glenoid labrum (cartilage) of his left shoulder. It is possible that this is what caused him to struggle late in the 2006 season as well.
With a torn labrum, the shoulder becomes less stable, uncomfortable, or even painful. It may also lead to apprehension with certain movements. With right-handed batters, the follow-through of the swing will rotate the left shoulder rapidly outward (external rotation), placing stress on the anterior aspect of the shoulder, as well as the labrum. With the tear in his left shoulder, it is possible that he had discomfort or apprehension on the follow-through of his swing. This would not only decrease his ability to drive the ball with force, but also hinder his bat control.
He scuffled to a .214 average, and struck out at a 23.5 percent rate. With an OBP of .298 and an OPS of .647, the D-Backs made the decision to demote him to Triple-A. He was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. The Diamondbacks' unwillingness to be patient with Quentin following shoulder surgery would prove quite a mistake.
White Sox steal a star
The White Sox, looking to get some youthful right-handed power in their outfield, were able to steal Quentin from the Diamondbacks for a song (first baseman Christopher Carter). Another year past shoulder surgery and apparently healthy, Quentin produced one of the best out-of-the-blue performances in recent fantasy baseball history.
April and May were torrid months for Quentin: 14 homers and 48 RBI. He slugged over .600 in April, July and August, and finished the year with a .288/.394/.571 line, with 36 homers and 100 RBI. He actually performed better after the All-Star break: He hit .277/.375/.525 before, and .312/.436/.681 after.
On Sept. 5, Quentin injured his wrist after hitting it with his bat out of frustration after fouling off a pitch. He missed the remainder of the season, and took with him a major chunk of production from each fantasy team that had him. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had a somewhat entertaining take on the injury, saying, "That's up to him, (whether or not to stop hitting the knob with his fist.) He's not my child. My job is winning games. My job is putting guys out there. I'm not going to tell the players what to do, what not to do. The only thing I tell them is don't go drink and drive. That's it." I outlined his injury at my DL Informer site.
After his Herculean effort in 2008, it would be easy to take Quentin in the upper echelon of players. Is he first-round worthy? No. Second or third round? Absolutely. I have no worries in regard to his injury history, and he is going to be hitting in a prime spot in the White Sox batting order (likely third) with plenty of protection from Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye. A resurgence from Paul Konerko would be an added bonus.
Based on his undeniable power, low BABIP in 2008 (.280), and ability to draw walks at a decent rate, I foresee another outstanding season. He is yet another season past shoulder surgery, so this should be a non-issue at this point.
2009 Projections: .287/.379/.521/.900, 30 HR, 105 RBI
Posted by Chris Neault at 1:03am (0) Comments
+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | 2008 | 32 | Tigers | 503 | 0.270 | 10 | 55 | 69 | 6 | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
I have a feeling a number of people will point to Renteria's varying performance level between the American League and the National League and call for a resurgence. Check out these stats:
+------+--------+------+ | YEAR | LEAGUE | wOBA | +------+--------+------+ | 2002 | NL | .353 | | 2003 | NL | .384 | | 2004 | NL | .314 | | 2005 | AL | .321 | | 2006 | NL | .354 | | 2007 | NL | .382 | | 2008 | AL | .308 | +------+--------+------+
In the past seven years, Renteria has had three down seasons. Two of these occurred during the only years he played in the American League. Is Renteria somehow a different hitter in the National League? Does he know the pitchers better, or the ballparks better? Regardless of whether he does, some fantasy owners will see this trend and be willing to draft Renteria in 2009. Let's see if this would be well-advised.
+------+-----+--------+-----+----+-------+--------+-----------+--------+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | SF tHR/FB | nHR/FB | OF FB% | +------+-----+--------+-----+----+-------+--------+-----------+--------+--------+ | 2006 | 30 | Braves | 598 | 14 | 10 | 9 | 11 | 9 | 28 | | 2007 | 31 | Braves | 494 | 12 | 10 | 9 | 9 | 9 | 29 | | 2008 | 32 | Tigers | 503 | 10 | 8 | 0 | 1 | 0 | 29 | +------+-----+--------+-----+----+-------+--------+-----------+--------+--------+(If you're new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I'm using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player's talent, so it's well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.)
Renteria has never been a big power hitter, and True Home Runs sees a huge drop-off in his future. He managed double-digit tHR figures in both 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 his power fell off completely. In a park with league average dimensions, 70-degree weather, and no wind, he wouldn't have been able to hit a single ball out of the park. You can't say that about too many hitters who have Renteria's name recognition.
If we alter the home ballpark side of the equation to put Renteria in AT&T Park (with average weather conditions for the park), Renteria would have been able to muster up two, maybe three homers, in 2008.
Here are the problems with Renteria:
This makes Renteria look like an awful bet for power next season. I'd wager he'll be able to hit five homers as a result of the move to the NL and natural regression, but I wouldn't expect many more than that.
+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-------------+-----+-------+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA/SF tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-------------+-----+-------+--------+ | 2006 | 30 | Braves | 598 | 0.293 | 0.286/0.333 | 85 | 0.325 | 0.319 | | 2007 | 31 | Braves | 494 | 0.332 | 0.298/0.313 | 84 | 0.375 | 0.336 | | 2008 | 32 | Tigers | 503 | 0.270 | 0.272/0.300 | 87 | 0.294 | 0.319 | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-------------+-----+-------+--------+
While Renteria's power has withered away, he does still have good contact skills. He actually posted the third best contact rate of his career in 2008. This still gave him only a .272 True Batting Average—right in line with his .270 actual batting average—but if we translate his line to San Francisco, he would have been expected to hit .300. That's a huge difference—about 0.012 attributable to the league switch and 0.016 to park effects.
While Renteria wouldn't be near a .300 hitter in Detroit, it looks as though the move to the NL and AT&T Park will allow him to hit close to there (and that's with the expected power decline).
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | 2004 | 28 | Cards | 586 | 17 | 28 | 0.243 | 18 | 61 | 71 | 14 | | 2005 | 29 | Red Sox | 623 | 9 | 13 | 0.263 | 7 | 69 | 63 | 124 | | 2006 | 30 | Braves | 598 | 17 | 23 | 0.273 | 12 | 74 | 52 | 18 | | 2007 | 31 | Braves | 494 | 11 | 13 | 0.309 | 8 | 85 | 53 | 27 | | 2008 | 32 | Tigers | 503 | 6 | 9 | 0.252 | 7 | 67 | 33 | 61 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
According to Tango's Fan Scouting Report, Renteria's speed is in rapid decline. He's attempted fewer steals over the past two years, and his success rate dipped to the point where he actually cost the Tigers runs by trying to steal in 2008. Luckily for him, Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't seem to care too much about this, as his teams have averaged 155 attempted steals since 1995. Still, if Renteria truly is a "33" speed, I don't see him stealing more than a dozen bags in 2009 unless he manages to get to 600 at-bats.
I could see the Giants batting Renteria second (Jose Castillo and Ray Durham split time there last season). That probably would be the best spot for his fantasy owners. There, he might be able to score 80-85 runs and grab 50 or 60 RBI.
Fallout: indirectly affected
This bodes well for the value of Rafael Furcal. The Giants were supposedly in on Furcal. Joining them would have hurt his value, since he'd have to bat in one of the worst lineups in baseball. Oakland looks like the favorite now, a more preferable landing spot, even if it means switching leagues. The Mets might be a darkhorse; that probably would be the best spot of all for him. The Dodgers might also still be a possibility, which would be perfectly fine.
With Renteria playing short for the Giants, Emmanuel Burriss is left without a starting spot. He'll compete with Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen at second base. Burriss has great stolen base upside, could post a good batting average, and makes a nice sleeper if it looks like he'll get the job during spring training. Velez also has great speed upside but probably isn't a good enough hitter to warrant the starting spot (or to help fantasy owners). Frandsen is "blah"—not much speed, not much power, may or may not be able to hit for a high average.
At this point I'd draft Burriss because if he does win the job he could have nice value. The other two could struggle to keep the job all year and might not provide much value if they did (aside from Velez's steals).
Overall, Renteria looks like he will be able to help with batting average but not much else. If given a favorable place in the order, he could have positive value in runs, and he might be able to steal a few bags, but he won't blow you away in either of those categories and doesn't figure to display much power.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:04am (0) Comments
Monday, December 08, 2008
It was announced on Wednesday that the Red Sox had re-signed reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia to a $40.5 million extension through 2014. While Pedroia, in my opinion, had no business actually winning the MVP award, this deal looks like a steal for the Red Sox. Those who drafted Pedroia or picked him up off waivers got some monster value out of him in 2008:
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+ | 2008 | 24 | Red Sox | 653 | 0.326 | 17 | 83 | 118 | 20 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
While this kind of year wasn't expected by very many people, it actually looks quite sustainable. In fact, I'd go as far as to say Pedroia will improve in 2009. I've been looking forward to writing about Pedroia, so let's dig into some of the numbers and see why I think improvement might be in order.
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | 2006 | 22 | Red Sox | 89 | 2 | 3 | 10 | 14 | 14 | 0.0 | 26 | | 2007 | 23 | Red Sox | 520 | 8 | 15 | 5 | 9 | 7 | 0.0 | 33 | | 2008 | 24 | Red Sox | 653 | 17 | 20 | 9 | 10 | 7 | 0.0 | 32 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
As you can see, True Home Runs looks very favorably at Pedroia. In 2007, tHR thought Pedroia's five percent HR/FB should have been nine percent. In 2008, his HR/FB increased to 9 percent, and tHR now thinks it should have been higher than that at 10 percent.
If you look at Pedroia's HitTracker chart, you can clearly see that he doesn't have much raw power. In fact, the farthest ball Pedroia would have hit in 70 degree weather with no wind this season would have gone just 386 feet. This probably doesn't surprise you given his size (take a look at the picture at the top of this article; Papi dwarfs Pedroia!), but I'm sure the tHR numbers do.
It seems that, while Pedroia doesn't hit the ball very far, the park he plays in is perfectly suited for him. Look at the nHR/FB column. It was significantly lower than his tHR/FB in both years because in most other parks (or in a neutral park), much of his power would go away. But if he were allowed to play every game in Fenway, he would have been expected to hit 27 homers in 2008. Despite this, just 7 of his 17 homers (41 percent) came at home this year. That number doesn't match up to what True Home Runs sees (66 percent), and it should adjust itself in 2009 in the way of more Fenway dingers.
Further validating a potential future increase is his doubles rate. While Pedroia hits 43 percent of balls in play on the ground, just 13 percent of his 56 (!) doubles and triples were hit on the ground. As the link to his HitTracker chart shows, his power is exclusively to left field where he can belt flies and line drives off the monster like nobody's business. In 2009, expect a few more to make it over the fence.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | 2006 | 22 | Red Sox | 89 | 0.191 | 0.281 | 92 | 0.188 | 0.275 | 22 | 41 | 27 | | 2007 | 23 | Red Sox | 520 | 0.317 | 0.321 | 92 | 0.334 | 0.323 | 18 | 60 | 32 | | 2008 | 24 | Red Sox | 653 | 0.326 | 0.325 | 92 | 0.336 | 0.329 | 21 | 35 | 30 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
Pedroia's batting average is about as legit as they come. He has posted a 92 percent contact rate and a BABIP above .330 in each of the past two seasons.
Looking at his plate discipline stats, he has tremendous Judgment (121), Bat Control (96), and Bad Ball Hitting (83), all of which have been consistent over the past two years. It would take a drastic change in approach or skill for Pedroia's contact rate to take a noticeable hit, which is very unlikely at this point in his career. He also hits a good amount of line drives, and his BABIP success over the past two seasons means his Marcels BABIP is right in line with his actual BABIPs.
I have no statistics to back this up, so please take it for what it's worth, but it makes logical sense to me that Pedroia's BABIP will be a little less prone to negative random fluctuations than would most other players'. Because he has the privilege of working with the Green Monster, he has quite a few guaranteed doubles off the big guy. He hit 28 of his 35 Fenway doubles to left field last year, and I think hitting balls at the Monster makes his BABIP a little more stable than players who have to hit all of their balls at fielders.
Overall, we should continue to expect Pedroia to hit over .320, maybe even making it to .330.
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | 2006 | 22 | Red Sox | 89 | 0 | 1 | 0.194 | 5 | 0 | -- | 0 | | 2007 | 23 | Red Sox | 520 | 7 | 8 | 0.293 | 5 | 87 | 44 | 277 | | 2008 | 24 | Red Sox | 653 | 20 | 21 | 0.270 | 11 | 95 | 49 | 131 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
While Tango's Fan Scouting Report shows that Pedroia's speed really isn't anything special, he seems particularly adept at stealing bases, getting caught just once all year. Instincts would be my best guess, although I don't have any stats to quantify that right now (I'm hoping to work with some baserunning numbers later in the off-season, so hopefully they will be able to shed some light on situations like Pedroia's).
While Pedroia only attempted a steal in 5 percent of his opportunities in 2007, that number jumped to 11 percent in 2008. I'm not sure if it will stay that high, but given the fact that he's been caught just three times in his pro career, the Red Sox would be smart to let him continue running at that rate if they think he truly is a 90 percent base-stealer (or even a 75 percent or so base-stealer).
I believe Pedroia's modest speed will limit his stolen base upside, but another 20 steals really wouldn't surprise me in 2009. Of course, he's only done it once, so 10 steals really wouldn't surprise me either (though it would surprise me more than 20).
As you've no doubt noticed by now, I'm pretty high on Pedroia. His batting average is good and should remain so, his power is solid and will probably improve, and while it's the biggest risk of the three, he should still provide positive value with his speed. He should continue batting second for the Sox and scoring tons of runs. Plus, he hit a quiet 83 RBIs this past year, and with the expected power increase, 90+ RBIs really isn't out of the question.
Some analysts will say that taking Pedroia in the second round of a traditional 12-team mixed league is risky. Personally, I think he makes a very good pick in the late second round and is one of the least risky picks since he'll be surrounded by the likes of B.J. Upton, Carlos Quentin, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, and Tim Lincecum. We'll have to see where his market value ultimately ends up, but any later than round two looks like a steal.
If this were a "Smoke and mirrors" article, the verdict would have to be a resounding no.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:14am (0) Comments
In this article I'm going to look at prospects who will be good value picks for 2009. This isn't going to include guys like David Price who will likely be valued properly or too high in most leagues. Instead, these prospects will be guys who you can pick up for cheap at the end of your draft that could provide good value. Remember that there is a risk for many of these players that they won't be active for parts of the season.
Adam Miller, RP?, Cleveland: Cleveland still has yet to resolve their closer problem and ESPN lists Jensen Lewis as their closer right now. Miller has some of the nastiest stuff in the minors but has had problems staying healthy. He's a candidate to move to the bullpen where he could dominate hitters for one or two innings with his two plus-plus pitches.
Chris Perez, RP, St. Louis: Like Miller, Perez also has two nasty pitches. He is currently slated as the Cardinal's closer after picking up seven saves for them last year. Perez may be a guy who gets overrated as we approach draft time, as he still struggles throwing strikes at times (his 4.40 FIP serves as evidence of that). For now he has the potential to be a cheap saves option but that could change.
Dusty Ryan, C, Detroit: With Ivan Rodriguez out of Detroit and Brandon Inge staying at third, Ryan has a shot to be Detroit's opening day catcher. Ryan struggles to make consistent contact, but he has good pop and would be a solid option as a second catcher for leagues that use two catchers. Do make sure you have someone who can soften the batting average hit you'd likely take with Ryan.
James McDonald, SP, Los Angeles: Despite an average fastball, McDonald has been able to succeed at every level with the help of two plus off-speed pitches. McDonald has a shot to get the fourth or fifth starter spot out of spring training and wouldn't be a bad player to fill out a pitching rotation with.
Samuel Gervacio, RP, Houston: While Jose Valverde is coming off an excellent season closing with Houston, his delivery and workload make him a possible injury risk. Gervacio has put up excellent strikeout numbers in the minor leagues. Some scouts are skeptical of him continuing his success in the majors but if you're looking for next year's Brad Ziegler, Gervacio is your guy, especially if you can stash him away on a reserve list.
Drew Stubbs, OF, Cincinnati: Stubbs has a skill set that reminds scouts of Mike Cameron: lots of speed, lots of power, lots of strikeouts. With the Reds lacking a real center fielder, Stubbs could see some legitimate playing time in 2009. While he's not going to help you with batting average, Stubbs could help you out with steals and home runs.
Jason Donald, SS/2B, Philadelphia: With Chase Utley missing the first part of the 2009 season, Donald is a candidate to be the Phillies' second baseman until Utley returns. He's got solid batting average skills and a little pop. Depending on where he hits, he could also help with runs. And who knows, if Donald starts off well, the Phillies might move him to third base or trade him to a team that will play him everyday.