June 20, 2013
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Monday, January 05, 2009
When players hit home runs, they not only help your fantasy team in the home runs category but also with runs and RBIs too. The following are some lower-rated players who can help you with home runs. Many of these players have a noticeable weakness or two, but you may want to consider putting up with it if you are looking for some cheap power.
Scott Hairston, OF, San Diego: Hairston put up some impressive power numbers last year, hitting 17 home runs in 326 at-bats with a .230 isolated power while playing in PECTO. The biggest question with Hairston is his playing time as he struggles against righties and has had a few injury problems. While his platoon issues mean he's a batting average risk, he does hit for some serious pop when he plays.
Marcus Thames, OF, Detroit: Thames' skill set is very similar to Hairston's. Both are slugging right handers who strike out a lot and have been platooned. Thames also has some serious power as well as he hit 25 home runs last year in 316 at-bats. Thames is backing up injury risks in Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and Gary Sheffield so he could see that at-bat total rise next year. If that happens, there is a good chance his homers will rise as well.
Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City: Gordon has been a bit of a disappointment when you consider the hype he brought as the number two overall pick in 2005. However, Gordon improved in almost every meaningful statistical indicator last year. Also, he increased his fly ball percentage by four percent. Remember, Gordon was projected to hit for at least plus power when he was a prospect. It looks like it's taken a little longer than expected for Gordon to adjust to the majors, but if he keeps hitting fly balls at the rate he's shown the last two years, 2009 could be the year Gordon starts tapping into his power.
Ben Francisco, OF, Cleveland: With the trade of Franklin Gutierrez, Francisco looks like he'll be the opening day starter in one of Cleveland's corner outfield spots. Francisco was never known as a big time slugger coming up through the minor, but he put up an intriguing 47.5 percent fly ball rate. Francisco could very well see a playing time increase next year, and he is entering his prime years. Francisco is probably the biggest power gamble on this list, but you won't likely need to commit very much to get him.
Miguel Olivo, C, Kansas City: Olivo wouldn't be a terrible second catcher. He has shown pretty good pop in the past and his fly ball rates have been increasing the past four years. Playing time is a big question with him as Kansas City still appears to be committed to John Buck. However, Olivo's playing time situation also means that his mediocre batting average won't hurt you too much.
Cody Ross, OF, Florida: Ross had a solid season last year, putting up 22 home runs and 73 RBIs in 461 at-bats. Projected to be a starter in either left or center for the Marlins, Ross should see more at bats next year provided he stays healthy. Ross' power output last year wasn't that big a surprise as he's shown his power skills in the past in the minors and in short major league stints. Look for this to continue in 2009.
Posted by Victor Wang at 1:06am (3) Comments
A few weeks ago, I discussed how we need to adjust stats based on players switching leagues. I didn't explicitly say it at the time, but when analyzing baseball players, it is of the utmost importance to understand the context under which stats are accumulated.
As I'm sure anyone reading this knows, it is far from enough to simply look at ERA. What some of you may not fully realize is that it isn't even enough to analyze peripheral stats within a vacuum, anymore.
Lots of fantasy players (and websites, for that matter) are starting to realize that stats like K/9 and BB/9 are better indicators of a pitcher's true skill than ERA or WHIP, so we—as fantasy owners—need to take things a step further to keep our advantage over them. The context in which pitchers post these stats is something I've yet to see any other website address (aside from Baseball Prospectus, although all they provide is BA/OBP/SLG—not of much use to fantasy owners).
Are they accumulated in the American League or the National League? A "pitcher's" ballpark or a "hitter's" ballpark? Against good batters or poor batters? That last one is the one that I'll discuss today. If a pitcher faces a disproportionate number of Adam Dunn-type hitters, he is going to strike out and walk more batters than he should be. Because a pitcher has no ability to control the batters he faces, we can't consider this a repeatable skill and must, therefore, neutralize a pitcher's stat line based on the opposition he faces.
To calculate the quality of opposition faced, I took the aggregrate year-end Marcels projection of every batter the pitcher faced in a given year. I then compared this to league average to arrive at a 'quality of opposition index' for each pitcher. I repeated this process for every stat that we care about for pitchers.
I considered using Sal Baxamusa's daily Marcels method to estimate true talent, but eventually landed on using year-end values. I think fellow THTer Colin Wyers put it best when he said, "In the vast majority of cases, on the size of a single season, you're not going to have a lot of cases where a player's true-talent level drastically changes midseason. And you'd get better results for rookies—a day-by-day Marcels of, say, Evan Longoria is going to be very inaccurate to begin the season."
That's really all there is to this method. If you have any questions you think I didn't address, feel free to let me know and I'd be happy to answer them.
Now let's check out our quality of opposition adjustments in action.
+------+---------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+ | | | | | Actual | Adj. | Adj. | | YEAR | LAST | FIRST | IP | HR/FB | HR/FB | Index | +------+---------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+ | 2004 | Santana | Johan | 228.0 | 11.9 | 11.8 | 1.01 | | 2005 | Santana | Johan | 231.7 | 9.9 | 9.6 | 1.03 | | 2006 | Santana | Johan | 233.7 | 11.4 | 11.0 | 1.03 | | 2007 | Santana | Johan | 219.0 | 14.5 | 12.9 | 1.11 | | 2008 | Santana | Johan | 234.3 | 10.9 | 10.3 | 1.06 | +------+---------+-------+-------+--------+-------+-------+
One of the concerns some Mets fan had coming into 2008 was that Santana was very prone to the long-ball in 2007. Luckily he bounced back in 2008, as we should have expected based on the unstable nature of HR/FB, but if we had these stats back then, we could have nearly wrote 2007's HR/FB off completely as bad luck.
Santana was one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball in 2007 in terms of opposition HR/FB, seeing inflation of 11 percent. If we neutralize his HR/FB, it's still a little high at 12.9% but that is much closer to his career line and much easier to chalk up to random variation.
+------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+--------+------+-------+ | | | | | | Actual | Adj. | Adj. | | YEAR | LAST | FIRST | TEAM | IP | K/9 | K/9 | Index | +------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+--------+------+-------+ | 2005 | Haren | Dan | Athletics | 217.0 | 6.8 | 7.0 | 0.97 | | 2006 | Haren | Dan | Athletics | 223.0 | 7.1 | 7.5 | 0.94 | | 2007 | Haren | Dan | Athletics | 222.7 | 7.8 | 8.3 | 0.93 | | 2008 | Haren | Dan | D'Backs | 216.0 | 8.6 | 8.8 | 0.97 | +------+-------+-------+-----------+-------+--------+------+-------+
Haren is an incredible example of why it's important to consider context. Looking solely at his K/9, we would have thought he experienced a huge jump in 2008, and in projecting 2009, would expect a sizable regression. Bill James has him at 7.5, Marcels at 8.1, and Ron Shandler at 8.2.
If we look at his adjusted numbers, though, we see that he's actually been steadily increasing over the past four years, culminating in an 8.8 adjusted K/9 in his age 27 season. And if we were to apply the 0.57 AL to NL adjustment, his 2007 figure would have exactly matched his 2008 one, and he'd have been over 8.0 three years in a row. A simple three-year weighted average would put his K/9 at 8.6—much more optimistic and accurate than the three projections listed above.
+------+-------+------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+ | YEAR | IP | QERA | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | HR/FB | +------+-------+------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+ | 2006 | 202.7 | 3.84 | 8.2 | 2.5 | 0.59 | 40 | 0.311 | 10.7 | | 2006 | 202.7 | 3.35 | 9.5 | 2.4 | 0.96 | 40 | 0.301 | 8.0 | +------+-------+------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+ | 2007 | 216.7 | 3.34 | 8.8 | 2.1 | 0.84 | 38 | 0.294 | 12.1 | | 2007 | 216.7 | 2.86 | 10.4 | 2.0 | 1.25 | 38 | 0.286 | 8.8 | +------+-------+------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+ | 2008 | 208.3 | 3.76 | 8.6 | 2.6 | 0.62 | 39 | 0.320 | 11.3 | | 2008 | 208.3 | 3.25 | 9.9 | 2.5 | 0.99 | 39 | 0.310 | 8.4 | +------+-------+------+------+------+---------+------+-------+-------+
Note: To read this table, the first line for each year is Vazquez's actual numbers. The second line is his adjusted line based on quality of opposition, ballpark factors, and the league change.
Vazquez is often talked about as an unlucky pitcher, but very few analysts notice that Vazquez has also been unlucky in the batters he's faced. His strikeout numbers have been depressed by four, five and three percent, respectively, from 2006 to 2008.
Those numbers aren't huge in-and-of themselves, but when you consider the five percent swing from U.S. Cellular to Turner Field and the 0.57 K/9 increase from switching leagues, Vazquez's adjusted numbers are monstrous.
No matter how much bad luck he faces in terms of HR/FB (which will greatly improve moving away from Chicago), BABIP, or LOB%, I can't see Vazquez's ERA being held above 4.00 as it has four out of the last five years. In fact, his QERA hasn't been higher than 3.35 over the past three years, and there's a good chance his actual ERA ends up there in 2009. Plus, with the strikeout adjustments, he could strike out over 230 batters if he reaches his usual innings total. Huge fantasy value to be had here.
As of right now, the quality of opposition indexes are based on overall MLB average. I've yet to break it down by league (AL/NL) or division, though I may do that sometime in the future. There's a few logistical hurdles I need to jump over first, and I'm unsure if division quality is too unstable from year-to-year for use as a predictive stat.
Since we're working with so many adjustments now, and since not all of them will apply to every player, I'm simply going to call our new stat Context Adjusted Pitching Statistics (CAPS). When you see me refer to, say, Context Adjusted K/9 (or CAPS K/9), it means that I've included all adjustments that apply. For some pitchers, that might only be the quality of opposition adjustment. For others, it might mean the opposition adjustment and a ballpark adjustment. For others, like Vazquez, it could mean all three.
To present the results of these adjustments, I'm really leaning towards the format I used for Vazquez above. I think it allows me to include all of the important stats in an easy-to-understand format. I'd really appreciate feedback on this, though, so if you guys don't agree, please let me know. Furthermore, while I've still got some cool stuff in the works behind-the-scenes, if you guys have any ideas for future adjustments you'd like me to tackle, don't hesitate to contact me.
If you have any other questions regarding these new adjustments, please feel free to contact me.
References and resources
The listing of batters each pitcher faced was generated from files from the incomparable Retrosheet.
I also received help from fellow THT-writers Sal Baxamusa, David Gassko, and, in-particular, Colin Wyers. Colin's willingness to help was incredible for a guy new on the THT scene, so many, many thank you's Colin.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:08am (27) Comments
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
The catcher position is probably the hardest to draft in fantasy leagues. Your choices: Either take an elite specimen in rounds three to four or accept mediocre production from a later pick. A few catchers go in the middle rounds and every few years you will catch lightning in a bottle with a late pick; but primarily you either reach or wait for catchers.
Problem is, in recent years the elite catchers have not been the most consistent bunch. Victor Martinez, Jorge Posada, Kenji Johjima, Ramon Hernandez, Jason Varitek and Michael Barrett are some catchers considered elite in recent years who fell off badly in either 2007 or 2008 due to injuries or simply poor play.
Joe Mauer, however, is one catcher who has lived up to his elite status over the past several years.
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | 2005 | 21 | Twins | 489 | 0.294 | 9 | 55 | 61 | 13 | | 2006 | 22 | Twins | 521 | 0.347 | 13 | 84 | 86 | 8 | | 2007 | 23 | Twins | 406 | 0.293 | 7 | 60 | 62 | 7 | | 2008 | 24 | Twins | 536 | 0.328 | 9 | 85 | 98 | 1 | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
Mauer's biggest asset is his ability to hit for a great average. Ranging from just below .300 to almost .350, his average makes up for his slight shortcoming in home runs. Like his batting average, Mauer's power totals have varied somewhat in past years, from seven to 13. Surely a Mauer who hits close to 15 home runs is more valuable to one who will hit a little more than five, and may make the difference on whether you should draft him in the fourth round.
You'll also notice his steady decline in stolen bases in recent years. What's up with that? We will look at Mauer's speed stats to see if we can expect a resurgence in stolen base totals from Mauer in 2009. Getting steals from your catcher is like getting a "piece of the game" baseball card from a cheap pack—it rarely happens, but when it does it's awesome.
Keeping in mind that Mauer was just 24 last year, meaning he certainly has the potential to further develop his power skills, let's look at his True Home Run numbers.
+------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF/FB% | +------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | 2006 | 22 | Twins | 521 | 13 | 9 | 11 | 8 | 6 | 0.8 | 25 | | 2007 | 23 | Twins | 406 | 7 | 9 | 7 | 9 | 8 | 0.0 | 27 | | 2008 | 24 | Twins | 536 | 9 | 14 | 7 | 11 | 8 | 0.0 | 27 | +------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
First thing to notice is that according to tHR, Mauer was expected to hit about 10 home runs or more in past years. So I certainly would not expect Mauer to hit closer to his low-end projections of five to seven home runs in 2009. Also promising is the slight rise in tHR/FB percentage, up to league average 11 percent in 2008. I cannot say if that upward trend will continue, but a Mauer hitting home runs at the rate of 11 percent per fly ball would hit 15 home runs in a season, and any owner of Mauer should be satisfied with that total.
The one limiting factor is his low outfield flyball percentage, the result of Mauer's contact-driven approach. Mauer could start hitting more fly balls in the future, but I highly doubt he will change his approach at the plate considering the success he has enjoyed squaring up and hitting line drives. Either way, Mauer's low end projection would be a healthy 12 home runs, and his ceiling seems to be about 18.
We know Mauer will have a batting average of at least .300, but we also know he has the potential to hit close to .350. Let's look at his contact numbers to see which end of the spectrum we can expect Mauer's batting average to inhabit.
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | 2006 | 22 | Twins | 521 | 0.347 | 0.327 | 90 | 0.370 | 0.355 | 25 | 36 | 52 | | 2007 | 23 | Twins | 406 | 0.293 | 0.320 | 87 | 0.322 | 0.348 | 18 | 51 | 39 | | 2008 | 24 | Twins | 536 | 0.328 | 0.334 | 91 | 0.350 | 0.346 | 23 | 54 | 35 | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
Mauer has a tremendous ability to make solid contact with the baseball. Before I comment further, let's peek at his plate discipline numbers.
+------+-----+-------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+-------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2006 | 22 | Twins | 521 | 90 | 103 | 0.09 | 94 | 74 | | 2007 | 23 | Twins | 406 | 87 | 104 | 0.08 | 94 | 74 | | 2008 | 24 | Twins | 536 | 91 | 114 | 0.06 | 95 | 80 | +------+-----+-------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
As expected, Mauer has great judgment and the ability to hit balls well both inside and out of the strike zone. In both 2006 and 2007, his discipline numbers were great and then, impressively, in 2008 he improved upon those numbers.
It would not surprise me to see Mauer's batting average in the .330s next year, pushing .340.
Earlier in his career, Mauer would reach about 10 steals year, and his total peaked in 2005 when he stole 13. Last year he stole just one base.
+------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS | +------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | 2005 | 21 | Twins | 489 | 13 | 14 | 0.283 | 9 | 93 | 59 | 22 | | 2006 | 22 | Twins | 521 | 8 | 11 | 0.308 | 6 | 73 | 64 | 39 | | 2007 | 23 | Twins | 406 | 7 | 8 | 0.280 | 6 | 87 | 56 | 21 | | 2008 | 24 | Twins | 536 | 1 | 2 | 0.330 | 1 | 50 | 54 | 27 | +------+-----+-------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
Mauer gets into position to steal often (SBO%). Problem is, in recent years he has not been given the green light (SBA%). I do not believe Mauer's speed has declined so much, but that this is a manager protecting his player from unnecessary risk of injury.
Mauer most likely has the potential to steal 10 bases, but I doubt the Twins will give him the chance to do that. Expect about three to six steals in 2009 from Mauer.
Overall, Mauer is a really, really good hitter and barring injury he should at least put up the numbers of 2008. He will hit for a high average and should hit around 15 home runs. Just do not expect that meteoric rise in home run totals people once expected from him.
Still, nobody should complaining about a .335 average, 15 home runs, 80 runs, 85 RBI and four stolen bases from their catcher. You may complain, though, about how early you will have to draft Mauer to get him. Last season Mauer was a relative steal at the end of the fifth round. I'd expect his stock to rise slightly with another solid season under his belt and the continued thinning of the catcher position. We will see later in the offseason what it will take to get him on your team.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:01am (1) Comments
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
It's January and mock draft season is really starting to kick in. Football season is just about over, baseball season starts in less than two months, and it's time to really start preparing for your fantasy draft.
Last offseason, I discussed why I like taking "safe" and "consistent" players in the first two or three rounds of a draft at the expense of player's whose average projected profit is a bit higher. Instead of rehashing what I said then, I'll just quote myself:
In nearly all of my drafts this year, I try to make it a point to get players with stable skill sets in the first two rounds, at the very least.
The league I mention in the last paragraph was the FOX Sports Expert League that I ended up winning. Regardless of whether or not I won, though, I would still believe that this is a sound strategy. In the long-run you would do slightly better simply taking the top player on the board, but if you'd like to be competitive in an important league, sacrificing that tiny bit of value is the way to go. You can't win your draft with your first few picks, but you can sure lose it.
Pick from the available choices
The problem this year, however, lies in the available players at the end of the first round. So many of them are simply not consistent producers. The first five players off the board will likely be Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, and David Wright. After that, we tend to see Miguel Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, and Jimmy Rollins go. But what if you're picking in the nine, 10, 11, or 12 spots? Here are the players currently drafted there along with their average draft position (courtesy of Mock Draft Central):
09. Josh Hamilton 10. Ian Kinsler 11. Ryan Howard 12. Ryan Braun 13. Matt Holliday 14. Mark Teixeira 15. Lance Berkman 16. Johan Santana
For one reason or another, almost every player on this list is unappealing to me. Hamilton and Kinsler's skills have been all over the place and both have injury issues, I am down on Howard this year for reasons I'll discuss in the coming weeks, Holliday I think could be in for a fall-off, and I would never take a pitcher that high in a mixed league.
After all that, we're left with Braun, Teixeira, and Berkman.
1) Ryan Braun has displayed pretty consistent skills for two years in a row. Not ideal, but not awful. I think his power could fall off into the 25-30 home run range (which would make him roughly the 13th or 14 most valuable player on my board), but he is still someone to consider.
2) I touted Mark Teixeira as a consistent guy last season, and I don't see too much to change my mind this year. He might see a bit of a drop-off in batting average in Yankee Stadium, but he would still fall under the consistent umbrella.
3) Berkman's contact skills have been very consistent, but his speed has been all over the place and his power numbers have fallen off for three consecutive years (and his tHR numbers have followed the same trend). He'll also be 33 next year, which isn't really ideal. Berkman could be considered, but he isn't the surefire guy I like to take in this spot.
So we have a pretty solid "yes" in Tex, a maybe in Braun, and a kind-of-but-not-really in Berkman. So what do we do now? Is it too crazy to reach for a guy who we might otherwise be able to get at the end of the second or beginning of the third round if only we had a different pick? I don't think it is that crazy.
Add to the list...
In addition to Teixeira and Braun, I would consider Alfonso Soriano (ADP: 22), Carlos Lee (ADP: 24), Chase Utley (ADP: 26), and Dustin Pedroia (ADP: 27).
1) I'm not sure if you're the same as me, but personally, there's still a negative connotation attached to Soriano. The fact is, though, he's a great fantasy talent with a nice power/speed combo and has been very consistent for years. The turn-offs here are his age (33) and his hand injury from last year. Still, I'd be relatively comfortable putting Soriano down for .275/28 home runs/20 stolen bases/100 runs/80 RBIs. Nothing jumps out at you, but that's the line of a top 20 player. The decision to draft him probably depends on where you're picking. With the nine pick, I'd consider taking Soriano on the way back. With the 11 and 12 picks, probably not.
2) Like Teixeira, Lee is a guy who was on my "consistent" list last year. The problem is that he was a second/third round guy then, and now he is a year older (32), suffered a finger injury at the end of last season, saw his speed numbers decrease, and is probably only a top 20 or so player. He's in the same boat as Soriano for me.
3) Utley has been incredibly consistent for three years, will be 30 next year, and is arguably a top five talent when healthy. The only problem here is that he suffered a fractured hand in the second-half of 2007 and had hip surgery in November. If he misses a month or more of 2009, he would lose a lot of value and probably wouldn't be worth a pick here. With 500 at-bats, he'd probably be ranked around No. 20.
The thing is, though, with so few other options available (as we've been discussing), Utley with your second pick might be a good selection, especially if you have a nice second base sleeper to start for your team in April.
4) For my feelings on Pedroia, click here. He's only shown consistency for two years, but he's been very consistent over those two years, accumulated over 1300 plate appearances, is at a good age (25), and doesn't really have an injury history. Plus, a .320/20 HR/12 SB/110 R/75 RBI year would make him a top ten player, anyway. While I would prefer to pick third or fourth overall and then take Pedroia on the way back, if I'm stuck picking at the end of round one, he's a serious consideration anyway.
So who am I taking?
So where does this leave us? Well, I have my first draft of the year coming up soon, and I have the 12 and 13 picks. As crazy as it might sound to some, I'm considering taking Teixeira and Pedroia with these picks (with Braun and Utley considerations as well). While they might seem like a stretch, they are two guys who I pretty much know what I'm getting from. They are less likely to underproduce or get injured than other players and are good enough where you aren't sacrificing much value (if any).
How do you guys feel about this? Would you come to different conclusions than me?
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:10am (38) Comments
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Rotohog Baseball is a fantasy baseball game with free entry, large prizes, and a unique 'stock exchange' trading mechanism. Thousands of players compete in a global contest to see who can accumulate the most points. Like some 'salary cap' baseball games, Rotohog gives you the opportunity to turn over your entire roster every day, greatly increasing the importance of taking factors such as opponent and park into account when determining your lineup.
It’s never too early to start preparing for next season, especially if you’re hoping to defeat the thousands of other players who will enter the Rotohog Fantasy Baseball global competition. In a contest with this many opponents, you’re going to need to be both lucky and good to win. But like any activity that involves some skill, the more prepared you are, the better your chances will be.
Here are three things you can do between now and the start of the 2009 baseball season to help your chances in Rotohog.
1. Learn the rules
No matter how well you think you know the rules, there’s always something more to learn that may give you an edge. Both this year and last year, I made a point of making sure I fully understood how Rotohog’s innings pitched limits would be applied, and how best to squeeze a few extra innings out of my last pitcher. I read and re-read the rules. I emailed customer service to get clarifications and make sure I understood everything perfectly. When I didn’t think customer service was giving me a correct answer, I asked them to go back and confirm their answer. It turned out their initial answer had been wrong. And yet, after all that, I was still unaware of a very exploitable loophole until the day after the 2008 season ended, when someone wrote about it on the Rotohog forum.
On the day that you pass the 1100 innings pitched limit, Rotohog’s scoring system evaluates your pitchers in the order they’re listed on your roster. For the pitcher that brings you over 1100 innings, ALL of his innings count. So if you play your cards right, you can end up with as many as 1107 or 1108 innings. In 2007, a player close to me in the standings was unaware of that, and let himself hit the limit exactly with a relief pitcher. That mistake probably cost him $1,000, as he finished only 14 points behind me. But it turns I missed something too. Let’s say you’ve got 1099 innings. Put two pitchers in your lineup…one with an early game, and one with a late game. Add the one with the late game in the first pitching slot on your roster. Wait to see how the early pitcher does in his game. If he pitches well, remove the late pitcher from your lineup before your lineup locks in. If he doesn’t pitch well, leave the late pitcher in your lineup, effectively removing the poor game from the scoring. Luckily, I was far enough ahead the last day of the season, that there was no way to blow my lead, but it’s scary thinking that not being aware of this loophole in the rules could have cost me a car if things were closer.
Like I said…learn the rules. All of them. Read and re-read them until you know them by heart. The 2009 rules for Rotohog should come out in January or February, but they’re likely to be similar to the 2008 rules (which are still up on the website). If you’re new to the game, study the 2008 rules. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, think about what might change. The one universal complaint this year was the noon Eastern opening for the "trading floor." Expect that to change … maybe to earlier in the morning, maybe to late at night, after the games all end. Another area that might be tweaked is the size of the transaction fees. Think about how that might affect your strategy, particularly whether or not you’ll need to concentrate on building roster value. Overall though, changes in the basic game format have been less and less in all sports as Rotohog’s format matures.
2. Plan your strategy
Know your goals, and plan out a strategy that will achieve them. After finishing eighth in Rotohog Baseball in 2007, I thought winning the entire competition was an achievable goal for this year. In 2007 I finished about 700 points out of first place, so I figured I need to come up with a plan to make up that gap. There were some rules changes that reduced the emphasis on having access to the computer during the evening, and increased the importance of playing daily match-ups effectively. I thought those would be worth about 200 points to me, relative to other top players. During the course of 2007, I changed my approach to selecting relief pitchers, and felt that could be worth another 100 points or so. I also figured that if I was more careful about avoiding players who were not in the day’s starting lineup I could gain about another 50 points.
That would still leave me 350 points short of my target, so I needed to do something drastic. That’s where my spreadsheet came from. It seemed reasonable that if I actually calculated expected daily points for each player, rather than just guessing, I’d be able to gain roughly two points per day (less then .2 points per player per day). Doing things in my head I wasn’t able to factor in many of the more subtle factors that impact performance, and there were oversights like the three months where I forgot about the existence of Alfonso Soriano.
In addition to my spreadsheet, a key strategy I settled on prior to the start of the season was that I wasn’t going to worry about roster value at all. This was a pretty significant leap of faith because under 2007 rules, it was critical to maintain a high roster value to be competitive. But I felt that with Rotohog’s new transaction fees which sharply escalated starting at a $350 roster value, nobody would be able to play daily match-ups (a key to success in my opinion) and still accumulate much above $350. It turned out I was right, and I probably benefited by recognizing the importance of match-ups over roster value early on.
3. Gather your tools
I’m using the term tools loosely here. Almost everyone uses some sort of projections. Those are a tool, whether you prepare them yourself, or use something created by others. One of the keys to success in Rotohog is maximizing the innings you get out of closers. In order to do that, you should avoid using closers at risk of getting rained out. So a good source of weather reports is another tool. My daily picks are based on a pretty extensive set of calculations. The spreadsheet that does those calculations is probably my most important Rotohog tool. I’ll be working on improving it during the offseason. If you’re going to consider what park a game is taking place in, then accurate park factors are another tool. And like many tools, you may need to modify them to fit your needs. Are you going to consider one year park factors or multi-year park factors? Are you just going to look at impact on runs, or will you need park factors that are broken down into components such as hits and home runs? The more you think about what information you’ll need during the season, and how you’re going to use that information, the better prepared you’ll be for success once the season starts.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 12:36am (3) Comments
If the Sports Guy can release his playoff gambling manifesto and not worry about it being used against him, perhaps I can do the same with my fantasy baseball draft manifesto. Here goes.
1) Don't draft a Utility guy like Travis Hafner or David Ortiz. Not only do these guys tend to be older and have ever-worsening contact skills and playing time, but they also keep you from taking advantage of some draft bargains. How many times have you been in a draft where a player is hanging around for 20 or 30 picks longer than you anticipated? I'm not talking the consensus 10th pick still around in the 4th round, but maybe a guy around 90 falling to 120 or 125. And you pass him by because you already have his position slot and your Utility slot is full? The Utility slot should be reserved for this type of occasion. In addition, if you're not attached to your Utility player, you can keep churning through free agents and waiver wire pickups until someone drops a player they really shouldn't have. Then, no matter the position he plays, you have a spot on your starting lineup for him.
2) Don't draft a catcher in the top 100. These elite catchers just never seem to perform to their level. If Brian McCann is ranked 33rd preseason, he could have a solid season and still only be the 66th best player by the end of the year. Picking him 33rd is a terribly inefficient pick. It's a brutal position on a player's knees, and I'd bet catchers break down at almost the same rate as starting pitchers. I tend to go for catchers ranked somewhere between 100 and 200. Take a gamble on a catcher, don't go for an established star. Let someone pick McCann, Joe Mauer, Russell Martin, and Victor Martinez 30 spots higher than their eventual end of season rank.
3) Don't pick Carl Crawford. In the preseason, he always seems to be ranked in the top 10 or 12, and always seems to end up ranked 20th by the end of the year. I have no proof of this, it just seems like it.
4) Spread out your steals. Don't count on a guy like Eric Byrnes or Brian Roberts for 50-plus, because a slight injury or change in philosophy could cut that number in half. Instead, find a bunch of guys that get 10 or 12 steals. A lot of times, opposing drafters won't consider those steals as part of the value of a player, but having them will reduce the variance in your team's output, and they can certainly add up.
5) Don't worry so much about batting average and ERA in head-to-head leagues. As I showed in a previous column, being good in those categories doesn't give you much of an advantage each week. On the other hand, if your team is truly excellent in runs, you'll be rewarded with consistent head-to-head wins.
6) Use two basic principles to your advantage: regression to the mean, and aging. Almost every fantasy owner who mis-values a player will do so due to forgetting about those two concepts. Young players tend to get better, old players tend to get worse. Sounds simple when you say it, but how many people are going to draft Manny Ramirez as though his 2008 age 36 season is exactly what they should expect for 2009? And along a similar vein ... don't forget about regression to the mean. You have the tools on the stats section of this site to take a closer look at fantasy statistics. Be a critic, be skeptical, and stick to the null hypothesis: a career season from a player in his late 20s or anywhere in his 30s does not indicate a new true talent level, unless you have peripheral stats to back it up.
Posted by Michael Lerra at 2:51am (23) Comments
Friday, January 09, 2009
The Red Sox recently signed Brad Penny to a one-year deal, while the Yankees have finally washed their hands of Carl Pavano's hideous contract (the Indians signed him to a one-year deal). Meanwhile, the Cubs strapped themselves with what seems to be a questionable three-year deal with the oft-injured Milton Bradley . What makes this deal look worse is that the Rays were able to snag Pat Burrell for two years and $16 million.
In the case of Penny, the deal makes sense for both sides. Penny gets to play for a contender, while the Red Sox receive insurance in case Tim Wakefield's shoulder acts up again, or if Clay Buchholz doesn't pan out the way they hope he will. There are also lingering questions about the durability of Josh Beckett following last season's struggles with numerous injuries.
The only downside here is that Penny dealt with an ailing shoulder through a great portion of the '08 season, and his numbers are going to slide regardless with a move to Fenway. His road numbers historically have been worse than his home splits.
Penny is a risk due to his lengthy history of biceps injuries, as well as shoulder, forearm and back strains. In 2008, he was diagnosed with tendinitis, bursitis, inflammation and scar tissue formation (though the latter two are not actually diagnoses). I am not sold on his shoulder problems being past him. When healthy, he usually strikes out six to seven batters per game, but the past two seasons this has dropped to four or five. His walk rates and home run rates also have increased.
Steer clear. I would add him only in the late rounds of your mixed league drafts. If he ends up on your waiver wire and he lands a spot in the rotation during spring training, add him and hope for the best. Remember, he will not be pitching in a friendly home stadium any longer. He probably will end up in the 4.25-4.50 ERA range, and he will be detrimental in the WHIP department—likely in the 1.35-1.45 area.
The Indians plan to slot Pavano in the rotation behind Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona and Anthony Reyes, though Reyes and Pavano could swap places. He could make his season debut at the new Yankee Stadium against his former team. Though his stats in 2008 were certainly not eye-popping (4-2, 5.77 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 34.1 innings), he had impressed enough teams with his physical attributes to draw some attention in the offseason. At least three other teams were interested in adding him, including Boston.
He has never been a big strikeout guy, and his record has been extremely volatile, even going back to his early days in Montreal. His ceiling is probably as a decent, if not erratic, fourth or fifth starter. A good projection for Pavano is an ERA somewhere in the mid-to-high 4s with five or six strikeouts per nine innings. Due to his injury history, you can't expect much more than about 15 starts, with anything additional being a bonus.
I am avoiding him in in drafts of all but the deepest mixed leagues. AL-only owners might target him late in their drafts with the expectations of him being a boom or complete bust, and should have several solid options before even considering him.
Bradley always has been a player who, if healthy, can take over games and carry a team. This was evident last season when he was able to produce sweet numbers in the Rangers lineup. He also plays plus defense. Of course, the downside is his inability to stay healthy for extended periods. He has played more than 100 games only three times in his career (more than 120 only twice). Expect more of the same from Bradley—.300/.390/.540, 15-20 homers and 65-70 RBI— assuming he stays healthy.
As always, Bradley should be drafted in the middle rounds of mixed leagues, preferably as a third or fourth outfielder. In weekly head-to-head leagues, he is capable of carrying teams to wins single-handedly when he's on a hot streak.
Posted by Chris Neault at 1:01am (0) Comments
After Brian Fuentes signed with the Angels last week, Trevor Hoffman signing with the Brewers made a lot of sense. His 2008 was a mixed bag:
+------+------+---+------+------+----+ | YEAR | IP | W | ERA | WHIP | SV | +------+------+---+------+------+----+ | 2008 | 45.3 | 3 | 3.77 | 1.04 | 30 | +------+------+---+------+------+----+
Some would call this a down year due to his higher than expected ERA and a low saves total, plus the fact that the Padres used him very sparingly. He actually was quite unlucky, though, and should have been a fine fantasy option. Let's take a quick look at how his numbers and value will be affected by the move, and whether we should count on him in 2009.
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.
+------+-----+----+------+------+------+-----+------+---------+------+-------+------+-------+ | YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | QERA | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | LOB% | HR/FB | +------+-----+----+------+------+------+-----+------+---------+------+-------+------+-------+ | 2006 | 38 | 65 | 63.0 | 2.14 | 3.98 | 7.1 | 1.9 | 0.44 | 33 | 0.236 | 86 | 8.4 | | 2006 | 38 | 65 | 63.0 | 2.14 | 3.97 | 7.2 | 1.9 | 0.44 | 33 | 0.233 | -- | 10.1 | +------+-----+----+------+------+------+-----+------+---------+------+-------+------+-------+ | 2007 | 39 | 61 | 57.3 | 2.98 | 4.41 | 6.9 | 2.4 | 0.27 | 30 | 0.278 | 70 | 2.8 | | 2007 | 39 | 61 | 57.3 | 2.98 | 4.39 | 7.1 | 2.4 | 0.31 | 29 | 0.278 | -- | 3.1 | +------+-----+----+------+------+------+-----+------+---------+------+-------+------+-------+ | 2008 | 40 | 48 | 45.3 | 3.77 | 3.09 | 9.1 | 1.8 | 0.92 | 37 | 0.259 | 78 | 15.4 | | 2008 | 40 | 48 | 45.3 | 3.77 | 3.15 | 9.2 | 1.8 | 0.93 | 36 | 0.253 | -- | 18.0 | +------+-----+----+------+------+------+-----+------+---------+------+-------+------+-------+
Above, we see Hoffman's Context Adjusted Pitching Stats (CAPS) that I introduced earlier this week. The first line shows his actual numbers and the second line shows his context adjusted numbers for ballpark and quality of opponent.
While Hoffman turned 40 this past year, he still has been a solid pitcher over the past few years. He hasn't been great, but his peripheral stats have been good and, as some relievers are capable of, he's maintained better than average BABIPs, left on base percentages, and homer/fly ball rates for many years.
In 2008, his strikeout rate jumped while he maintained his BABIP and LOB percentage dominance. We did, however, see his HR/FB skyrocket, which caused his ERA to be higher than his QERA and LIPS ERA for the first time in a while. Plus, the move away from PETCO and into Miller isn't going to help things. We must note, though, that Hoffman pitched just 45 innings and that this is likely just bad luck.
Looking at the CAPS lines, Hoffman's numbers change very little (aside from HR/FB). All told, for 2009, I wouldn't expect a repeat of his 2008 peripherals, but despite his advanced age, Hoffman still seems capable of being a quality reliever. Combining his good peripherals with his abilities in the "luck categories" means Hoffman should be able to post an ERA in the low 3.00s. This is plenty good enough for him to hold down the closing job, although because he's older and doesn't pitch many innings, the little value closers derive from their ERA and WHIP is even smaller for Hoffman.
While some analysts might look at his elevated ERA and low saves total (30) in 2008 and say that he's this year's Eric Gagne for the Brew Crew, Hoffman should be plenty capable of holding down the job and could make an excellent fantasy pick. He had been going late in drafts, based partially on the uncertainty of him not yet having a job, so it will be interesting to see where he starts going now. If we can still manage to pick him up after round 18, he would likely be an absolute steal.
Fallout: Brewers' relievers
Back when Salomon Torres retired, we looked at the Brewers' relievers in the closing mix. While none really looked very appealing, the value of each now plummets. Carlos Villanueva, Seth McClung and David Riske are no longer draftable in mixed leagues and are speculative picks at best in NL-only leagues.
My favorite, Mark DiFelice, falls further down the depth chart. Continue to keep an eye on him, though, as he could be a sleeper in the second half if he pitches well and Hoffman gets injured or falls apart due to his age.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:02am (0) Comments
Monday, January 12, 2009
Because of different formatting and roster rules, trades are a little different in fantasy baseball than in the majors. Due to this, there are a few things one should keep in mind when trading in fantasy. While trading is certainly part art and part science, I think these guidelines should be able to help you out the next time you try and make a trade.
1. How is your risk distributed
Let's say that you trade three $10 players for one $30 player. A few things stick out about a trade like this. Just because 10+10+10=30, it doesn't necessarily mean a trade like this is perfectly equal. For one thing, it is much easier to find a $10 player than a $30 player. However, this also means a $30 player is harder to replace. In other words, if a $30 player gets hurt, it will be much harder to replace that production than if one of the $10 players gets hurt. This means it is important to think of the makeup of your team, where you are in the standings, and where you could possibly move up in the standings while making a trade like this. There is another important point to make for a trade like this.
2. Who is replacing the players you trade away?
Using our example above, say you are the one trading away three $10 players. A big factor to consider when trading is who will be inserted into the two extra roster slots you have gained. Will it be players on your bench? Or are you going to pick up a free agent or two? Free agents are generally a lot more easier to pick up in fantasy than in the majors. Either way, it may be that your replacement players don't have a drop off from the traded players. If this is the case, then it's probably a little easier to trade three guys for one. Also, if you are the one acquiring the three players, think of which players you will be replacing.
3. Regression to the Mean
Remember, you should be trading for a player based on what he is going to do, not what he has done for one half of the season. Keep this in mind when you try to trade for the player who's off to the hot start but has shown shaky skills. This is equivalent to the saying "buy low, sell high." Don't pay for what a player has done but what he is going to do. Sal Baxamusa's updated marcels projection system can be especially helpful for this.
4. Think of the other teams
Sometimes weakening another team is just as good as improving your own team, especially in roto. For example, say you're in second place and you see that the first place team is only a few steals away from dropping a few spots in that category. Trading a few stolen bases to one of the opposing team could cause the first place team to fall in steals and allow you to pick up a few points and rise to first. Make sure you know the makeup of the other teams in your leagues and what the spread is for each category.
5. Flags fly forever
This is where your league set up is particularly crucial. If you're in a keeper league, you'll potentially have a difficult decision to make during the trade deadline, just like major league teams. You may have to decide if trading a prized prospect for the last piece of the puzzle will be worth it. In general, I would say that trading pitching prospects are generally worth the risk. Of course, a lot depends on the parameters of the trade and the contracts that are involved.
6. Endowment effect
The endowment effect is a cognitive bias where people place a higher price on things they own versus things they do not own. In fantasy baseball, this means that if you're trading for a player that view as being worth $20, the opposing team's owner could likely be valuing that player at say $25. Also remember that you yourself could be falling for this bias and viewing a $20 player you own as being worth $25. My advice for this would be to try and stay as objective as possible. Don't look for evidence that simply supports your conclusion, which is a bias of its own, but look at all the quality information you have available. And if you feel that the other owner is overrating his player, there is a pretty good chance he actually is.
Posted by Victor Wang at 1:02am (3) Comments
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Part of most everybody's method of hitter evaluation includes a look at the player's BABIP. "Were they lucky or unlucky?" is the typical question trying to be answered. Is the BABIP above or below league-average, their career BABIP, or some expected BABIP?
That's good and all, but today I want to discuss a new idea to consider when looking at BABIP. Here's my hypothesis:
Some hitters are more reliant on their BABIP than others. Remembering that BABIP stand for Batting Average on Balls In Play, reminds us that BABIP only accounts for balls put into play—balls between the foul lines and in front of the fence. Some hitters, like Adam Dunn for example, rarely put the ball in play and therefore are not as reliant on their BABIP's as hitters who make their living punching the ball in play, such as Juan Pierre.
As you would expect, the Adam Dunn's of baseball have lower values in the denominator of their BABIP equation because, well, the bottom half of the BABIP ratio is balls in play and we established before that these hitters do not hit a lot of them. Lower values in the denominator means more fluctuation; think about it.
Let's say two hitters both have 100 hits and get their one-hundred and first hit in the same game (none of the hits are home runs). Hitter A is primarily a ball in play hitter and has 800 balls in play, while Hitter B is more of a true outcome hitter (because his plate appearances often result in what are known as the three true outcomes: walks, strikeouts, and home runs) and only has 400 balls in play. If you calculate the effect the added hit has on each player's BABIP, you will realize that it has a larger effect on Hitter B's BABIP, by .0007 to be more specific.
In this example the difference in BABIP appears statistically insignificant, but with real numbers perhaps a meaningful difference will be realized. Let's see if this theory—and remember it is still just a theory—hold true when tested by the numbers.
With thanks to Derek, I was able to calculate the three true outcome percentage (3TO%) of all hitters in the major leagues who reached 250 plate appearances in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Taking the 2006 three true outcome percentage numbers, I compared it to the absolute value of the average difference in BABIP over the three years. My expectation is that high 3TO percentage hitters will have higher average differences in their yearly BABIP's than the low 3TO percentage hitters. The results: