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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As with my previous articles, I’d like to start off by running a very quick and simple experiment. This experiment may work better if you administer it on another individual, but if no one else is available, that’s perfectly fine as the purpose will become very clear. And I’m sure you have come across these concepts at one point or another.
Very simply, I am going to present you with two lists, and ask that you try to remember the items on each list as best as you can. After each list is presented, try recalling as many of the items as you can remember, in any order.
List 1 List 2 shark shark wall rain herring catfish rain salmon floor hail hail floor catfish ceiling roof snow salmon hail storm hail ceiling storm snow roof hail hail herring wall
For List 1, you were probably able to recall words such as “shark”, “wall”, “herring”, “storm”, “ceiling” and “snow” but may have encountered some difficulty in recalling “rain”, “floor”, “hail”, “catfish”, “roof” and “salmon”. This demonstrates two very basic concepts that hold true for any list. When asked to recall a list of items, people tend to recall those items listed at the beginning (primacy effect) and end (recency effect) of the list.
For List 2, I’m sure the word “hail” appeared very early on in your recall list, and it may have even been the first word you recited or wrote down. Another common concept is at play here, and is called repetition bias. Very simply put, repetition bias is an effect in which people tend to favor those pieces of information that have been repeated the most.
The primacy and recency effects are not limited to lists of words or numbers presented formally in a laboratory setting. These cognitive biases can help explain other aspects in life, things that are more day-to-day. For example, lawyers tend to keep their key witnesses on the end of their lists so that the jury is more likely to remember them during deliberation. Another example can be found in a classroom setting, where teacher evaluations, often done at the end of the year or semester, can be skewed by recency effects. More weight may be placed on activities or projects that are closer to the time of appraisal, and so the professor may not receive a fair evaluation, one that represents their true teaching ability or their performance in its entirety.
What’s the point of all this? And how on earth does this apply to fantasy baseball? I’ll begin by saying, that as sort of a disclaimer, it is very difficult to explain certain phenomena without empirical evidence. And I’m sure there are many other biases and mechanisms involved in explaining many patterns. But I do believe these concepts can help explain some of the things we see from season to season.
For starters, what is one of the arguments that people always seem to raise in their support for Ryan Howard as MVP? That he had a hot September, right? I suppose that holds some water, as an end of the season surge can help a team immensely. But an easy and valid counter-argument is, “where was he the rest of the season?” People seem to place an unnecessary amount of weight on the end of a season, and those players who seem to step-up towards the end appear to be remembered, or at least covered by the media, more. But the topic here isn’t whether or not these arguments are justified. The question is why these arguments arise, and studies have shown that people are more likely to recall events that happened more recently than remotely.
I’m sure David Price will be one of the top sleepers of 2009. I’m sure most people don’t doubt his talents, and probably think he will eventually become a very good major league pitcher. But I know that some of us here at THT may not be drafting him in 2009 as his value may be a little too high. In the comments section of this article, Derek explains exactly why he wouldn’t draft Price at all this year. All valid points, yet people seem to expect great things from him. So why then would he be overvalued?
Maybe this is confirmation bias and I just included David Price because he fits the topic of my article, but I have to think that some of the reasons why he would be overvalued in 2009 drafts is because of repetition bias, in that the media really blew his name up, and a recency effect due to Price’s performance in last year’s playoffs. Price made a huge splash year, as he was called up in the middle of September as the Rays were holding off the Red Sox and bidding to become the first team to go from worst to first. And to his credit, he pitched very well and soon enough, it appeared as if his name and face could be seen and heard everywhere. I believe ESPN Magazine featured him in their series Next, and in fact, the day after the Rays’ great run ended, Price even introduced Barack Obama at a political rally in Tampa.
We obviously won’t know how Price will do in 2009 unless we actually tune in, and again, it’s awfully difficult to properly explain various types of phenomena without actual experimentation. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having him on your sleeper list since, after all, the high-risk, high-reward nature is inherent to these lists and essentially the definition of a sleeper. I suppose, then, that the real point here is that you should be aware of why David Price’s name is on your list. Be aware of the various kinds of biases that exist and that could be at play, and be conscious of the fact that they can often affect your opinions and beliefs in a negative manner.
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 1:23am (6) Comments
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Recently, I've been thinking a little about what the responsibilities are for a fantasy baseball analyst in a publicized, expert mock draft. They start popping up every year around this time. Rotoworld just held its annual mock for its magazine, Mock Draft Central does three each off-season (I'll be participating in one on Monday, by the way, for those who'd like to stop by and listen in), CBS has done two so far, and there are numerous others that I'm sure you could find with a quick Googling.
While this information is readily available to readers and can be a great help as you guys prepare for your drafts, how much weight should you put into the results? Can you guys take them at face value, or is it possible that there are things going on that you're not aware of that could skew the results? I'm sure you'd like to think they perfectly represent each expert's views, but is this really the case?
Honestly, up until a few days ago, I couldn't have answered this question for you in regard to anyone but myself. As I think the answer is something a lot of readers would be very interested in hearing, I reached out to a few of my friends around the fantasy baseball world and got their (hopefully honest) opinions. Here is the exact question I posed:
As professional analysts, do we owe our readers a duty to treat every mock draft as if it were a real draft, even though we'll often be playing against these same experts in real leagues, or is it okay to use these drafts for strategic purposes, such as sending out false signals?
Note: As we have 13 respondents, this article is running pretty long. Take breaks if you need to, but there's lots of good stuff in here, so I wouldn't recommend skipping much of it.
Geoff Stein—Mock Draft Central
When Mock Draft Central puts together our expert drafts, we do so in hopes of giving the public a snapshot of what drafts should look like—and there are no better people to paint that picture than those in the industry who work with Fantasy Baseball on a day-to-day basis.
In my opinion, most treat expert mocks as a real draft. After all, nobody wants their name and site listed next to a stinker of a team.
Using false signals and misinformation isn't worth it when your team in open to judgment from the public. Nobody wants to see their team ripped apart on a message board.
The public cares about teams drafted in February and March; they could care less about the actual results in October. As nice as winning an expert league is, it's the public that makes the ultimate decision—and the champion is crowned before the season even starts.
To me, not getting blasted by the public for a team I drafted in the winter is much more important than actually winning an expert league.
In my four-plus years in the industry, I can't name a single champion of an expert league that I participated in. Yet, I can remember many mock teams—some belonging to me, unfortunately—getting torn apart on message boards.
To answer the question: No, I don't think we owe it to readers to treat every mock as if it were a real draft ... I think we owe it to ourselves.
Well, I'd be lying if I said that I'd never treated a mock draft as reconnaissance. I've never deliberately assembled a weak team, but I've certainly found myself in situations where a mock was loaded with people I'll eventually face in semi-meaningful leagues. In those circumstances, I suppose I might end up with a few more brand-name players than I would in a normal draft. That's as much as I'm willing to admit to.
There's definitely an observer effect at work in industry mock drafts. You'll always find participants who are looking to make statements about specific players, and, since you're not playing out the league, there's no risk associated with any pick. If you take Matt Wieters in Round 3, it's just a nice discussion topic in a draft preview. There's no downside. So lots of odd things happen. I've always thought that experts should just have assigned roles in mocks. Two people should draft as if they intend to stream, one guy should draft like a saves punter, one dude should overdraft Yankees, etc.
If you're looking at a mock in a fantasy preview magazine, then you need to keep in mind that the draft actually happened in mid- or late-December. Free agents are still unsigned, trades haven't yet happened, pitchers and catchers haven't reported, bullpen situations haven't been resolved...it's a terrible time to assemble a fantasy team. Mocks should have expiration dates. We'd all make different decisions in February and March.
Patrick DiCaprio—Fantasy Pros 911
1. I have no problem with an expert that purposely stretches for a player that he would not otherwise draft so early as long as he has a good reason for doing so and plans to write about the pick. It is the process that goes into a pick that should be valuable, not the actual pick itself.
2. The second aspect of mock drafts is that the expert can and should use mock drafts for the exploration of new strategies. When this occurs the expert must be up front about what he is doing and why, at least after the fact. In a mock draft a few weeks ago I tried to draft mostly starting pitchers in the early rounds, a strategy that I do not generally pursue, because I wanted to play around and examine it in more detail. After the draft I wrote about it. How can anyone have a problem with an expert doing so?
3. What about purposefully misleading picks? If an expert is doing a mock draft with other experts that he plays against for real then he may purposefully make questionable picks to mislead his opponents. If an expert then writes about the pick to readers and tells a lie to them about his thought process now we have a breach of whatever duty exists to readers. Here is where the line is crossed in my view.
Scott White—CBS Sports
Personally, I don’t understand why you’d bother to do a mock draft without taking it seriously. The readers always come first.
That is an interesting question. If I had to choose an answer, I'd say we owe it to our readers to mock draft faithfully.
But that begs the question: why do mock drafts? I stopped participating a few years ago. I just find it a waste of time to invest an hour or more drafting a team for a fake league. It's like playing poker for no money—you probably won't act rationally or be fully invested. Your other reason is a good one too - why telegraph all your sleepers? Like me you've probably been in dozens of leagues and do three to five per year. We don't need practice. And the data from a single draft doesn't have value to me because of the possibility for outliers (plus, experts will reach on their sleepers to show off). I am a huge Mock Draft Central fan and I get all my data from them in preparation for March.
Tony Cincotta — Fantasy Pros 911
Great question and I want to thank Derek Carty of the Hardball Times for including me in this esteemed group of fantasy baseball assassins. It is a shame that this question even has to be asked! I cannot speak for everyone in the fantasy baseball industry, but I have fun and enjoy handing out fantasy baseball advice. Yet I am humbled by the amount of people that listen to my podcasts and even now read my columns. There are so many more talented people in this industry that they could seek for advice. So do I owe an honest effort to my listeners and readers? The answer is an emphatic, hell yea! The internet has lead to a glutton of self-described fantasy experts and every single one of them has a unique motive. I won’t even try to get into my colleagues heads, as I have trouble with my own.
If I am in a league of experts, I am just happy to be included. Do I go all out and enjoy the taste of victory? Yes, of course we are some of the most competitive people walking around east of Balco Laboratories. If a so-called guru attempts to set up experts at the expense of his listeners, call Dr. Phil immediately. Every single one of us that have developed a following should be thankful and accountable to his listeners or readers. The problem I have with this question is many experts do not share my views. Let’s face it; there are people that are in the business for self gratification. The thing is if you win an expert league, what next? Do I get on my podcast and state you are listening to the greatest fantasy mind on Earth? Don’t go and listen to Cory Schwartz, The Fantasy Man, Elliot Spitzer, Matthew Berry, or Lenny Melnick because they are inferior to me the one time champion. The thought process is appalling and insulting to your listeners or readers. Here is the answer every time you go to work, in any field give it your maximum effort. This is the key to success for you and your readers.
John Halpin—FOX Sports
While I've never really thought about this issue, I'd say that for mock purposes we should play it straight and try to build teams based on the best players available. When drafting to play in a so-called experts league, trying unconventional strategies is fine as long as we're transparent about the fact that we're experimenting to see what the results will be.
Perhaps it's a blind assumption, but fantasy baseball players expect (or should expect) reliability when they review the results of a mock draft that involved experts.
The goal of a fantasy expert is to provide advice, analysis and direction to the millions of fantasy players who look to them for it. Mock drafts are one of many tools developed by experts for consumers; therefore, legitimacy is a requirement.
Mock drafts can serve as grounds for experimentation with new strategies because, obviously, it's unwise to take a weapon to battle before you test it. However, to compete in a mock draft with the purpose of deceiving other experts, against whom you will compete in future expert leagues, isn't doing the reader justice.
It's a little idealistic, but that has always been KFFL's philosophy.
Mike Podhorzer—Fantasy Pros 911
Very interesting question. Personally, I don't think I've ever done a mock draft just to experiment. But then again, I was never in an expert mock until this off-season, and that one I drafted for real. I think it depends on what the mock is used for. If it's just for fun, even if it might be publicized then I think it's ok to do what you want. Sure, you'll get some message boarders who find the draft questioning picks, asking the typical "how is so and so an expert???", but whatever. If the draft is published in a magazine though, I'd expect it to be real because it's supposed to be used to help readers.
I could understand trying different strategies, sending out false signals, etc, but do people really pay attention to how every expert drafts in various mocks and remember that if you draft with that person for real in the future? I doubt it. I think it's very hard to make it known you really like a player, unless you draft the guy like five rounds before his ADP. And I think a straight draft is different anyway. If I know you like James Loney, what the heck am I going to do about it? You'll take him before I value him if you like him more, so whether I know your interest or not, it won't make a difference. Unlike an auction league where I could feign interest in Loney and bid you up, straight drafts you can't do anything like that. Which is why auction drafts rule!
I think our role in these mock drafts is to be able to make picks/drafts that we have no qualms in explaining. In this one, I've spent time justifying my picks on a few podcasts and message boards and I have no problem doing that. I like using mock drafts to try out different strategies or player combinations as I plan for my high stakes league drafts in March and will try things out against other websites, friends, or complete random strangers by signing up in any open mock draft on sites like mockdraftcentral or couchmanagers.com.
When people are following "experts" in mock drafts, they're looking for strategy and/or wisdom. This is what made LIMA from Shandler, spread the risk from Melnick and Zwilling, and the $9 pitching staff (Moyer or Labadini the first to do this?) famous. I remember in the past when Baseball Weekly (R.I.P.) would come out, I didn't care so much about how the rosters for LABR and Tout looked, rather, I was more interested in reading the responses from the drafters about why they did what they did. Once you get to a certain experience level in this game, you are not looking for one sole source of dollar values or projections as much as you are looking for bits and pieces of information to help you come up with your own informed decision as you finalize your draft day plans. As experts, we owe it to those who those who read us to explain our thought processes behind the draft plan and the upside and downside to the strategy.
Our responsibility is to create a team like it is a real draft. The main thing is to take players at their proper values. That's what readers are looking for. They are trying to determine in what range players are drafted.
I do think we can try different strategies. Part of doing a plethora of mocks is to try different things. It's like a football team in practice. They might be a team that will rely heavy on the run and be a conservative team based on personnel. Still, they have to try and insert a few trick plays just to see how it will go even though they may have no plans to use them. In a similar way, an expert might try and see how a draft evolves by stacking up on pitching in one draft, going with all middle relievers or go strictly by position scarcity in another just to see how it works. They might try an experiment that works.
I don't believe in sending out false signals. With so much publicity and web sites now, I think it is extremely difficult to do that unless you do it in every single draft and if you do that, you lose credibility with the readers.
Brian Joura—FanGraphs & Fantasy Pros 911
I think there is a big difference between mock drafts and real drafts. A quick check over at dictionary.com shows the definition of the word mock includes “to mimic, imitate, or counterfeit” as well as “to deceive, delude or disappoint.” Nowhere does it say to give an exact replica.
Personally, I think it’s kind of shady to use mock drafts with the strict intention of sending out false signals. For example, if I think Josh Hamilton is going to falter in 2009, it would be pathetic for me to take him at the bottom of the first round in a mock draft. But I have no problems if others act differently.
But, I think mock drafts are the ideal times to try out potential strategies to see what kind of team one could assemble. I’ve been pretty vocal that I don’t think taking Ryan Howard as a first-round pick is a good idea. Yet if I do enough mock drafts, in at least one of them I’ll take Howard and see how a team with him as my top pick shakes out.
Some may be confused as to the difference between the Hamilton and Howard examples I gave above. Hamilton is an individual pick; that’s not part of a strategy. If I take Howard on the first round, it’s going to affect virtually every pick I take afterwards. To me that is a big difference although others may disagree.
Ultimately, the reader should be at least a little suspicious of any mock draft done by analysts/experts. That does not mean they are not worthwhile. Rather, one should not treat the results like gospel. Clearly, the analyst/expert is trying to gain something by participating in the mock. It’s then up to the reader to look at his picks to see if they are consistent with opinions and strategies previously espoused by the analyst/expert and then determine how much weight to put on the individual picks.
Derek Carty—The Hardball Times
My opinion on the matter is kind of a mish-mosh of what everyone else has said. The reader needs to come first, without a doubt. Without you guys, where would we be? However, I don't think that treating every mock like it's a real draft is necessarily best for the reader.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, readers, but I believe that you guys are looking for guidance, insight, and creativity, all in the sake of gaining an edge on your opponents. You don't necessarily want to be told exactly what to do (most of you, anyway), but you're open to gaining knowledge from those who spend a considerable portion of their lives around fantasy baseball. You're open to fresh ideas and discourse from these minds, and then possibly expanding on, altering, and experimenting with them yourselves.
If I participate in a mock draft and try a new strategy, it may not work out, but if it does, that's something I'd hope you guys are interested in. If I find a new strategy that I like and then I explain it you, I think that's more valuable than treating every single mock draft exactly the same.
In this vein, I think it is OK for experts to experiment with mock drafts as long as they are straight-forward about it with the readers. For example, I tried out a new strategy in Rotoworld's annual mock draft a few weeks ago. A few readers really weren't fans of my first few picks. When it was all said and done, it hadn't gone exactly as I'd hoped, but I was trying something new, took players about where you'll see them in your own drafts, and could have landed on something really interesting.
In addition, I was straight-forward about it afterwards, telling you guys that I won't be taking Matt Holliday in the first round anymore and things of that nature. I'll probably expand upon my thoughts about this draft in the coming days, explaining exactly what I was going for.
I think false signals and misinformation have their place in fantasy baseball, but I don't believe that place is in mock drafts, if you're an expert anyway (if you're not an expert, by all means).
It's a lot to read, but there's also a lot of really great information in these answers. Once again, a big thank you to everyone who participated in this roundtable. Hopefully this will prove very useful for our readers.
Overall, as I expected (and certainly hoped), no one's aim is to flat out deceive their opponents at the expense of the readers. Some are very regimented about playing it completely straight, while others are more willing to experiment as long as they explain themselves afterward.
When looking at a mock draft, I wouldn't recommend taking it at face value, but rather reading the thoughts of the participants and trying to see the larger picture for each. Don't look at each pick in isolation, but rather as a part of a larger plan. In isolation, most picks should give you an idea where players will go, but considering context will enhance this for you.
I do need to note that there could be some selection bias in here since not everyone I reached out to responded, although that could just as easily be because it was on somewhat short notice and people are busy. Furthermore, I really doubt very many experts actively engage in deception, so there's probably not much to worry about. I would have a very hard time seeing that.
If you are looking at the results of a mock draft and aren't going to read each expert's thoughts afterward, or if you are looking for results that are representative of an actual draft, I would recommend looking at the results of an actual expert draft.
Many aren't held until the end of March, after you've already drafted, but some come early in the month and can be a great resource. LABR (which I'll be playing in this year, by the way) should have their results out in the second week of March, the FOX Sports Experts League that I'll be defending my crown in should have their magazine out by the end of February, and I'm sure there are others that will prove helpful, but these are the ones I'm most familiar with since I'll be participating.
Now it's your turn!
Now, readers, it's your turn. I imagine most of you will answer "completely honestly"—as you probably should—but what's your take on how an expert should approach a public mock draft?
And, perhaps a question that will have a little more disagreement, what do you look for in expert mock draft results? What are you most paying attention to? Do you like it when experts try different strategies so you can see how they might turn out, or do you prefer them to simply draft as if it were a real league? Or are you just trying to see how your own draft might play out? Any other thoughts you may have on this subject are welcome as well.
Also, as there were so many of us that we couldn't all get on a conference call and talk this out, if any of the experts who participated (or didn't, for that matter) would like to respond to any of the other responses, feel free. (Oh, and if you're still wondering, yes, the title of this section is a reference to our friend, Mock Draft Central Man.)
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:06am (15) Comments
Thursday, January 15, 2009
For centuries, economists (or, actually, thinkers and writers who later historians would come to label economists, since there wasn’t really such a profession 300 years ago) struggled with the notion of value. Like the alchemists that searched in vain for the chemical means to synthesize gold, economists searched for the fundamental way to measure value – the object or thing against which all other things’ values could be measured. They were looking for a good – a bundle of wheat, an hour of work, something – whose value never changed.
One problem was that these thinkers couldn’t agree on what kind of value they were talking about. For example, there is Adam Smith’s famous diamond and water conundrum. On the one hand, water is essential for life and is therefore highly valuable for use. On the other, a diamond can be traded for lots of other things whereas a bottle of water cannot – Smith said that a diamond had a high value of exchange while water had no value in exchange. Smith and others tied themselves in knots trying to undo this incongruity; if there were two different values for a good then it would be impossible to find one fundamental good that worked for both values.
Believe it or not, the same sort of discussion can be found in fantasy baseball. For example, in Victor Wang’s nice article on trading, he wrote (to paraphrase): “Three $10 players may not have the same value as one $30 player.” I interpret this as: “Each of the $10 players gives a certain amount of value in use that when put together, in a sense, equals the value in use of a $30 player, but you may be able to get more or only get less in a trade.” That is, players or groups of players may have different values in use and values in exchange.
Economists eventually figured out that there really was only one kind of value which was value in exchange and that there was no one fundamental good. Each good (say Corn) could be valued against any other good (say Beer) for each person. The value of corn to a person in terms of beer would be the amount of beer he would give up to get one additional piece of corn. If beer and corn could be traded amongst people in a marketplace, then each person would trade with each other until all of them agreed on the relative value of corn and beer. Relative supply and demand mattered: if diamonds or beer was relatively rare, then they would only be traded for lots of water or corn in market.
What about those $10 players? Let’s take a pre-auction thought process. If you wouldn’t rather buy three players that you valued at $10 each than one player that you valued at $30, then that means at least one of these $10 players is worth more or the $30 player is worth less. And it means you would be better off valuing and spending more on those $10 players and spending less on the “$30” player. Nothing is wrong with your math – 10 + 10 + 10 = 30, something is wrong with your values. The most likely problem is that you’re using the wrong value system. The lesson from beer and corn is that value is always dependent on situation – there are no fundamentals. The value of a bottle of beer to you changes depending on how much beer and corn you already possess. Values change with the situation.
This discussion is more than just academic: good value systems should already have taken in to account the fact that players get injured or play rare positions and so on. So, just as you wouldn’t use an expert’s value guide for a 12 team league if you’re in a 10 team league, don’t use old, stale values that you calculated for an auction when you’re valuing a trade after the auction (even if the season hasn’t started yet).
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 4:38am (6) Comments
Friday, January 16, 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.
In 2008, Rotohog used an 1100 innings pitched limit. Saves were worth fifteen points. The top starting pitchers in Rotohog will average around six points per inning. If you play match-ups very well, you may be able to squeeze around the same six points per inning out of your entire staff of starting pitchers. Good closers on the other hand, are going to average over 15 points per inning. Even mediocre closers are going to average well over 10 points per inning! Every inning pitched by a starter in place of a reliever is costing you a substantial number of points.
There are a few techniques you can use to ensure you’re getting the maximizing the innings you get from your closers.
1. Always put relievers in your reliever slots.
This seems pretty obvious, but last season there were plenty of people using starters with reliever eligibility (guys like Johnny Cueto and Zach Greinke) in their reliever roster slots. Don’t do this. It may be tempting when a good starting pitcher has a favorable match-up, but there are no circumstances where this is a good move.
2. Use closers with starter eligibility.
This was more of a factor in 2007, when there were often four closers available with starter eligibility: Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Brett Myers, and Brad Hennessey. The top teams all made extensive use of these players, generally having at least one, and often two in their lineups. There was a lot of complaining from players about the fact that position eligibility for these pitchers wasn’t updated by Rotohog during the season, and they promised to do so in 2008. This was never really put to the test, as the only potential closers with starter eligibility (John Smoltz and Chris Carpenter) were quickly shut down with injuries before it became an issue. That said, position eligibility for hitters was adjusted very slowly, so there may still be opportunities in this area.
3. Use relievers who have doubleheaders.
Unless a closer is extremely bad and there is another reliever with a very favorable match-up, relievers with doubleheaders are going to be worth using. When there’s a doubleheader on the schedule, I almost always use the closers for both teams. Even if you think the manager wouldn’t use their closer in both games, the added chance of them using them in a save opportunity in at least one game makes this a good move. And closers get the save in both ends of a doubleheader surprisingly often.
4. Make sure your relievers have games.
It’s a minor disaster if a reliever with a day off stays on your active roster. In addition, the one time that rainouts are really going to kill you is if one of your closers’ team doesn’t play. I generally check the weather report for all games (there are several sites that provide a consolidated version of this information) and avoid any closers pitching in cities with more than a 30 or 40 percent chance of rain.
5. Make sure your relievers are available.
This can be a little tedious, but I’ve certainly regretted it when I didn’t take the time to check whether my relievers had pitched three or four days in a row. I generally assume that managers won’t hesitate to use their closer two days in a row, but avoid putting closers on my roster who would be facing a third straight day of usage. Aside from the benefit of avoiding an unannounced day off, you’ll avoid using fatigued pitchers who may not be as effective. While the research on this topic that I’ve seen has been relatively limited, it does appear that relievers lose a substantial amount of effectiveness when they’re overused.
Keep in mind that Rotohog hasn't yet announced their rules for 2009, so we can't be 100 percent sure that all of these strategies will be effective. However, they've indicated that they'd prefer not to make major changes to the format going forward, so I think it's extremely likely that there will still be some sort of innings pitched limit.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 4:23am (0) Comments
Monday, January 19, 2009
I had an interesting dilemma a few days ago. The sports analytics club that I run on my college campus was having its first meeting of the quarter. However, that night wind chills were projected to be between -25 to -30 degrees. The weather next week was projected to be a little bit warmer. Obviously a club wants to maximize the number of participants that attend. If nothing else was being considered, I probably would have canceled and rescheduled for next week. However, I had other variables to consider including a speaker coming in the next week and the need to gather information from club members for bringing in a potential speaker.
Ideally, I would be able to know the probability of each person coming to the meeting in the cold weather versus coming to a rescheduled meeting. I would also be able to know the probability of getting the first meeting rescheduled in time before our first speaker was scheduled. However, I did not have these probabilities and had about one hour to make a decision.
Why am I bringing up this situation? It reminded me that when we're dealing with decision making in the real world, we don't have nice textbook-style probabilities in front of us. This brings to mind what Nassim Taleb calls the ludic fallacy. The ludic fallacy is defined simply as the use of games and textbook examples to model real-life situations incorrectly.
Relating this to my situation, we can see that there were no probabilities given to me. In fact, even if I'd had the time, it would have been rather difficult to acquire the exact probabilities I needed. And who knows how long that would have taken. Real-world decision making often involves a number of complex variables that are difficult to model. This is not to say that I disagree with attempting to use analytics in decision making. If a company has the resources to model its situation, by all means I think it should ago ahead and do so.
Another example of the difficulties of using probability in real life is given by Taleb, which we will apply to baseball. You often hear the expression that a player is essentially a "lottery ticket." What is meant by this is that he has a very low chance of succeeding, but if he does succeed, his impact will be very large. However, with lottery tickets we know the exact probabilities. We can calculate our expected value of buying the ticket. While progress is being made, we can't calculate exact probabilities of how a player could perform. If a player truly were a lottery ticket, we would be able to calculate these probabilities and we could figure out that player's value for every team.
In fantasy, we face a similar situation. We aren't given basic probabilities for any players. A few systems give percentiles, including THT's projection system which will soon include these, but these have yet to be empirically tested. And even if we could project a range of outcomes, this doesn't account for the number of additional things that can occur in real life. For example, we don't know the odds of a player having a freak injury. We also don't know if a player is suddenly going through personal struggles. There are many more examples of such events that could occur.
In conclusion, I think it's very important to remember that we'll never have probabilities in the clear-cut way a casino has them. There will always be some degree of subjective belief we'll need to incorporate, at least for the near future. So keep in mind that while our projection systems and statistical analysis continue to improve and become more accurate, there will always be an element we can't model.
Posted by Victor Wang at 1:04am (0) Comments
At this time last year, Robinson Cano was being discussed as a top-five second baseman and was being selected in the fourth round of traditional mixed-league drafts, sometimes even earlier. After all, how can you go wrong with a .300+, 20 home run hitter batting in the most potent lineup in baseball, entering the prime of his career, at a scarce position? Well, here's how:
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+ | 2008 | 25 | Yankees | 597 | 0.271 | 14 | 72 | 70 | 2 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
A very disappointing season, to say the least. So what happened? Were we overrating Cano to begin with? Is this a legitimate step back? Or was it bad luck? Let's take a look.
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 | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+ | 2006 | 23 | Yankees | 482 | 15 | 19 | 14 | 18 | 16 | 6.6 | 25 | | 2007 | 24 | Yankees | 617 | 19 | 21 | 12 | 13 | 13 | 1.9 | 29 | | 2008 | 25 | Yankees | 597 | 14 | 24 | 9 | 15 | 15 | 0.6 | 31 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
While Cano's HR/FB is on a three-year decline and fell into the single-digits in 2008, this decline looks mostly like bad luck. His tHR/FB was strong this year at 15 percent, right around his three-year average and above his 2007 level.
In addition, his outfield fly rate seems to have established a new level of about 30 percent or so, up from 26 and 25 percent in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Put this all together—and the fact that he'll be a year closer to his prime at 26 years old—and Cano looks like a threat to hit 25 home runs in 2009.
We need to be aware that he won't be playing in the same stadium in 2009, but as we've discussed before, the only real concern is the wind.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+ | 2006 | 23 | Yankees | 482 | 0.342 | 0.336 | 89 | 0.363 | 0.346 | 20 | 29 | 23 | | 2007 | 24 | Yankees | 617 | 0.306 | 0.318 | 86 | 0.331 | 0.342 | 17 | 28 | 25 | | 2008 | 25 | Yankees | 597 | 0.271 | 0.315 | 89 | 0.286 | 0.317 | 19 | 38 | 22 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
While Cano hit .271 this year, his True Batting Average has been quite stable and was a very healthy .315. His low average this year was a combination of a lower-than-normal BABIP and the aformentioned decreased power.
We've already discussed the power, and Marcels projects his BABIP at .317 (0.031 above his 2008 BABIP). Bill James comes in at .313 and CHONE at .318. Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton's system is slightly less optimistic at .301 but still well ahead of Cano's 2008 figure. If he ends up that low again, I will be quite surprised.
It's also worth noting that his contact rate fell three points in 2007 but bounced back in 2008. Let's also take a quick look at his plate discipline numbers to see if we can find an explanation:
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2005 | 22 | Yankees | 522 | 87 | 103 | 0.32 | 95 | 61 | | 2006 | 23 | Yankees | 482 | 89 | 103 | 0.47 | 95 | 63 | | 2007 | 24 | Yankees | 617 | 86 | 101 | 0.44 | 95 | 69 | | 2008 | 25 | Yankees | 597 | 89 | 116 | 0.31 | 94 | 75 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
From 2005 to 2008, Cano's numbers look pretty stable, and he seemed to establish a contact rate of around 88 percent. 2007 looks like a bit of an outlier, and we actually see his numbers jump in 2008. His Judgment increased by 15 points and his Bad Ball Hitting increased by six points. I can't say for certain that his contact rate should have been higher than 89 percent, but it certainly looks like there could be some upside in 2009.
Overall, a batting average over .310 should be expected, with plenty of room for growth.
RBI and runs
Cano has batted mostly 6th, 7th, and 8th over the past few years, but he still managed 97 RBIs and 93 runs in 2007. In 2008, those numbers dropped because of his decreased power output and his 0.048 point OBP drop (most of which can be attributed to his batting average drop, though he did walk a little less). When those bounce back in 2009, I'd expect Cano to go maybe 85/85. If he's really lucky, he'll move into the second spot in the order at some point in the year and go 100/100, though I'm not sure how likely that is.
We're starting to get a little more to look at, and for Cano, they all seem to be saying the same thing, so I'm just about ready to stop including the usual disclaimer about small-ish sample sizes and year-end data. That being said, here's what Cano's market value is shaping up as:
CBS Sportsline Expert Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (76th Overall/R7)
CBS Sportsline Mock Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (83rd Overall/R7)
Mock Draft No. 1: 8th 2B (93rd Overall/R8)
CBS Sportsline Expert Draft No. 2: 8th 2B (96th Overall/R8)
CBS Sportsline: 8th 2B (97th Overall)
FOX Sports: 8th 2B
Rotoworld Expert Mock Draft: 9th 2B (87th Overall/R8 — I selected him)
ProTrade Value: 14th 2B
The consensus seems to be that Cano is the eighth second baseman that should be taken in 2009, and he might have fallen even farther in the Rotoworld draft had I not selected him. I completely disagree with this assessment and think Cano makes for a great value in the eighth round. If you agree with my evaluation of him, I'd wait until the beginning of round seven and then pull the trigger.
All-in-all, I think Cano should be good for a line of .310/20/80/80/5 at the very least. A line like that would make Cano worthy of a fifth round pick, and he could be worthy of a third or fourth rounder if he puts up a line closer to .320/25/85/85/5. Either way, Cano is a guy I figure I'll own in a lot of leagues this year, selecting him in the seventh round (or the sixth if my seventh-round pick doesn't come until the end of the round).
Smoke and mirrors? Absolutely.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:05am (16) Comments
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
In past years our 12-team, mixed, 5x5, H2H fantasy league has for the most part followed the Yahoo! default roster setup. That is, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, Util and SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P with five bench spots. This year I am considering the addition of a couple more pitchers and a change in specifics along the lines of SP, SP, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, RP, P. My intent is to more closely emulate a starting rotation and place more value on setup men and relievers in general. This would also even out the number of hitters and pitchers on each team at nine.
However, nearly every fantasy league setup seems to have fewer pitchers than hitters. Do you know whether there is a particular reason for this? I can see where a head-to-head format with these nine pitchers could allow one to line up even more two-starters and saves may become overvalued. That being said, since there are no innings or transaction limits in this format, setting up one's roster to take advantage of it seems to be a part of the game. Do you think this change would create too many loopholes to exploit or does it seem reasonable?
I'm waffling on the importance of two-start pitchers in your proposed league versus the typical leagues. On the one hand, more starters on each team lessens the impact of high strikeout guys like Peavy or Burnett. So you can't as easily rely on a few aces to get you through a week against a bunch of double-starters. On the other hand, more starter slots allows the random luck of having an ace get a double start to be reduced. So if you assume all players will take advantage of transactions and rotate in free-agent pitchers, there actually may be less variance from week to week due to double starters. If this is the case, I'd advise a drafting strategy in which you don't take a starter until you're filled up on position players and relievers. Constantly rotating pitchers is a pretty good tactic for winning, despite how annoying it is.
What I'd suggest instead is putting a transactions cap on the league. In my mind, two free agent pickups per week is a good limit. With unlimited transactions, the winners are often the folks who are willing to stay up until 1 a.m. and get first crack at picking up whoever is starting against the Royals the next day. Limiting free agent pickups to two per week makes players stick with a pretty consistent lineup. And, worst case, if you end up with three catastrophic injuries during a week, your transaction allowance is reset the following week—while you may have one bad week, it won't cripple you for the season.
I've got a keeper question for you today. I'm in a 10-team roto league that allows five keepers per offseason. I have already traded Cliff Lee and Justin Duchscherer for Nick Markakis. I am left with a list of possible keepers that looks like this:
C Joe Mauer
1B Prince Fielder
1B Lance Berkman
2B Brian Roberts
OF Matt Holliday
OF Nick Markakis
SP Johan Santana
SP Cole Hamels
A lot of solid guys (I took second place in the league this year), but no top-flight first-rounder, which I am concerned about. I am 95 percent certain I am not keeping Hamels, and just keeping either Fielder or Berkman. I have already proposed different trades to the owners of Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, and both sound amenable to a Hamels/1B deal. The question I have is this: Which player would you rather have over the short term (this season) and the long term (keeper eligibility down the road), Berkman or Fielder? Berkman seems better in the short term, but is also eight years older than Fielder (although 32 isn't that old, relatively).
I think you are right to be worried about not having a clear-cut first-rounder. Depending on the format of your league, what you expect other teams to be doing, and your expected draft position, I would contemplate not keeping anyone. However, assuming that keeping five players is optimal, I would keep both first basemen if you can start both in your lineup. If you just want one, though, I would go with Berkman. Indeed, he is likely to be better in the short term—I think he was actually a bit unlucky last year in terms of power. He also seems to be running a bit more than Fielder and will likely hit for a higher average. As for the long term, I would urge you not to think about it. With only 10 teams in your league, you're likely to get a shot at another first baseman in the not-too-distant future if you wish.
I'd keep Berkman. Although he had a career year in fantasy, and he's assured of some regression in 2009, I don't trust Fielder's career path.
In 2008, he walked less and struck out more than he did in 2007. Obviously he hit fewer homers, but equally troubling is that his doubles total went down as well. His fly ball rate dropped from around 46 percent to 40 percent in 2008, too; in their place are ground balls.
True, Fielder has age on his side against Berkman. But Berkman has nearly everything else in his favor.
For what it's worth, I'd look to trade Holliday. I don't like his fantasy value in Oakland at all, so perhaps you could get some kind of Holliday/Prince for A-Rod deal, figuring you'll just drop whoever gets packaged with A-Rod anyway. Even Holliday/Berkman for A-Rod, I'd do in a heartbeat.
I am in an 11-team standard 5x5 league in which we keep five hitters and five pitchers each year. (Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, IF, OF, OF, OF, UTIL.) Our keepers—regardless of where they were drafted last year—count as our first 10 picks, so our snake draft essentially starts in round 11.
I am set on four hitter keepers: Jose Reyes, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Braun and Justin Morneau. My question concerns my fifth hitter: Nick Markakis or Joey Votto? At the end of last season, I assumed that Markakis would be the pick, but now I am not so sure. Markakis seems to have benefited from a good deal of luck last year: his .309 average was aided by a .351 BABIP, the highest of his career, and according to Hittracker (http://www.hittrackeronline.com/index.php), five of his 20 homers were "lucky." Meanwhile, with a full season under his belt, Votto is a prime breakout candidate, and like Markakis, will contribute in all five categories.
It seems to me that Votto should be able to top Markakis in homers and at least match him in average, RBI and steals. Am I crazy to be considering keeping Votto over Markakis?
My immediate inclination would be to go for Markakis. BABIP is a concern, but less so for a guy with speed (and he kind of deserved it, ripping a bunch more line drives last year as well). I can see the appeal of Votto—he crushed the ball last year, and hittrackeronline is pretty happy with the distance of his homers. Actually, any big leaguer would be.
Still, we know for certain that Markakis is going to be in a prime spot in his lineup. And they're both about the same age, so it's not like Markakis is in the decline phase of his career. He got a lot more patient last year, and I think he'll see a few more strikes this year because of that. I see them about even in batting average, Markakis having a huge advantage in runs due to his newfound walk rate, a disadvantage in homers, pretty even in RBI, and ahead slightly in steals.
I say keep Markakis, and try to trade for Votto if you find your homer numbers lacking, or if he gets off to a cold start and you think you can get him at a discount.
Posted by THT Fantasy Mailbag at 1:02am (2) Comments
Last week Derek Carty questioned a variety of fantasy baseball experts, asking them how seriously they should take mock drafts, considering the responsibility they have to their readers to draft players they would actually want to own in a real league. While that article was interesting and I recommend reading through the responses, most fantasy players are not responsible to a community of readers. So today we are going to discuss something more applicable to the masses: how seriously you should take mock drafts.
Almost every fantasy baseball expert recommends mock drafting, and while I am a fan of the exercise, I am not as crazy about it as some. For me, one or two mock drafts in the preseason satisfies my needs because I do not feel that people can improve their drafting skills much by practice. With good rankings one can be confident in, anyone can assemble a winning team.
But that is a discussion for another day. Today we are discussing how you should handle the mock drafts you participate in. My answer: It depends on who else is mock drafting. Similar to this article—in which I mentioned some differences in leagues where you know the people and those in which you do not—the question is whether you are pulling off the equivalent of a one-night stand in terms of drafting, or if you are mock drafting with the same people who will be in your "real" draft.
If you are entering a mock draft with people you don't expect to deal with again, then try to draft the best team possible. Do not hesitate to draft some of your sleepers, and make it worthwhile by practicing some simple draft skills, like predicting when position runs will happen, or experimenting with a new strategy. You will not learn any more from this draft about when certain players will be taken than you could from simply perusing an ADP table, so do not overvalue the results of your one draft over those of the averages of thousands.
If you are using, for example, Mock Draft Central for your mock draft and plan on using Yahoo for your real draft, understand that the ADP of some players will be skewed because of the inevitable bias that results when drafting on sites that list available players in their rudimentary ranking system and not in some random order. While I do not know exactly how much effect the order of the players has on ADP numbers (something I plan on calculating after 2009 numbers are in), I would imagine it is considerable, considering the prevalence of auto-picking, whether intentional or unintentional.
If you mock draft with a group of people you will be drafting for real with in a couple of months, I would handle the situation differently. First, I would actively not target your sleepers. Even though everyone else will probably be doing the same thing in the draft, you can still get a decent idea of where some players will be taken.
Note that for all of the players you do select, you cannot learn when other people might have wanted to take those players. For this reason, I would try to avoid all players you would want on your team, your real one. No, this does not mean you can take Boof Bonser in round one—you still want to act like a serious drafter.
Besides just avoiding players you want to take, you can also use this opportunity to create false hype for some players. Take Matt Wieters, for example. I guarantee that at least one person in your league is enthralled with the guy and will be willing to pull the trigger on him early. Why not scare the person into taking Wieters even earlier in the real draft by taking him extra early in the mock draft?
Perhaps drafting with random people will be most beneficial if you have the conscience of an 11th century priest. Also, remember that mock drafting is like playing poker with fake chips: The moves will never be honest!
If you are really desperate to participate in an honest draft before your real one and are without any sort of moral conscience, you can always sign up for a random public league, draft as if it were a mock draft, and then not follow the league. While I would never do this, I also would never sign up for a public league expecting to be able to take it seriously.
If you are looking for a good league for this year, last season Derek took the e-mails of interested parties and set them up together to form fun, competitive leagues. He says he'll do it again this year; watch for details.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:03am (5) Comments
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Around this time last year, I showed that saves are unpredictable and explained why I don't like paying much for them on Draft Day. Does that mean, however, that we should treat all closers as precisely equal commodities and flip a coin to decide which one to take in any given situation? Of course not. If Mariano Rivera is sitting next to Fernando Rodney in Round 20, is it a toss-up? No, sir. I'm taking Rivera, and so are you. But why?
The answer deals largely with probability. While both Rivera and Rodney are expected to start the year closing games (assuming the Tigers don't sign someone like Brandon Lyon), what's the probability that each will end the year closing games? I'm sure most would agree that Rivera is a much surer bet than Rodney to still be closing games in September. But how do we quantify the difference?
I'll be the first to admit that the process I'm about to outline is a bit subjective, but that's the only way we can do this. This will change based on your own judgments of situations, but hopefully the process I lay out will prove useful.
When looking at how long a closer will last, there are two primary probabilities we much come up with: the probability of injury and the probability that poor performance or managerial whim will lead to removal. Also, if you're drafting early and the team's closer hasn't been announced yet, the probability of winning the job is important too.
To elaborate further, the injury probability isn't the probability that a player will get injured, because that begs the question "how long?" Instead, the percentage of time we expect the player to miss due to injury. As a guideline, one month is roughly 17 percent of the season.
The save system
Now let's take a look at how you might go about putting this all together. For our purposes today, keep in mind that these figures aren't based on any real measurements. They are quick estimates simply to show you how this should be done.
To keep things simple, I'll ignore the impact of team quality on save opportunities and the impact of closer skill on save conversions, since the effects aren't that large. If we were to do this in a more scientific manner, both would need to be considered, although there would be a heavy regression to the mean component since there is so much random variation in these things (check out the article I linked in the first sentence to see more precise figures).
In this vein, I assigned every closer 42 save opportunities (which I got by taking the average number of opportunities for all pitchers who closed the entire year in either 2007 or 2008) and a conversion percentage of 88 percent (the aggregate rate for this same set of pitchers).
+-----+-----------------+-----+---------+--------+---------+-----+----+ | ADP | CLOSER | SVO | GET JOB | INJURY | REMOVAL | SV% | SV | +-----+-----------------+-----+---------+--------+---------+-----+----+ | 9 | Joakim Soria | 42 | 100% | 11% | 3% | 88% | 32 | | 7 | Mariano Rivera | 42 | 100% | 15% | 6% | 88% | 30 | | 18 | Joel Hanrahan | 42 | 97% | 12% | 10% | 88% | 28 | | 23 | Fernando Rodney | 42 | 65% | 22% | 60% | 88% | 7 | +-----+-----------------+-----+---------+--------+---------+-----+----+Note: I didn't include it in the table above, but for some closers, you could add another column with the percentage chance that the pitcher is traded to a team who will only use him as a setup man or that the team will trade for a closer to supplant him. In 2009, this could apply to a guy like Huston Street or Jonathan Broxton.
Again, while these are based on some quick, subjective judgments on my part, you can see that — strictly in terms of saves — it is completely unnecessary to take a closer in the early portion of a mixed league draft. Under this method, early round options like Joakim Soria and Rivera would be just as good of bets as Joel Hanrahan, who could come a full ten rounds later.
As long as you're making reasonable assessments and you pick the right late-round closer options, you will be making the correct percentage play. Of course, if you pick the wrong option, you could wind up with Rodney's seven projected saves (ADP: Round 23).
It's very important to keep in mind that this method will not parallel real world results, and using it will severely decrease the value of closers in comparison to the rest of the player pool. Even if we assign a closer who is 100% to win the job a 0 percent injury score and 0 percent removal score, he would still only project out to 37 saves. The save leader next year will have far more than 37 saves.
The problem is that whoever this is will get there through a lot of good luck, something we simply can't project. Therefore, when making your projections (or looking at someone else's), it would be imprudent to assign any closer more than 40 or so saves, and certainly no more than 45. If you're using a set of projections that have several closers above 40 or 42 saves, I would definitely consider looking elsewhere for save projections.
While a closer projected to save 45 or 50 games (or 35 or 40 games with poor skills, ala Todd Jones)—as some systems will project—might have 60 or 70 percent of his value tied up in saves, a closer projected to save 30 games might only receive 40 percent or so of his value from saves.
This is notable because, when evaluating closers using this method, it makes it more important to identify the closers with good skills. Not only will good skills decrease a closer's "Removal percentage", those good skills will translate to a better ERA, WHIP, and strikeout total, which now make up a greater portion of the pitcher's value.
Unless you're playing in a league of full owners who pay attention to peripheral stats (as many of you do), you can gain a bit of an advantage here. Closers are often known for great "stuff" and blazing fastballs, but they certainly don't need these things to succeed. Trevor Hoffman is a change-up specialist who throws his fastball just 86 MPH, but he is still a good pitcher, far better than a guy like Matt Lindstrom who can touch 100 MPH. Still, they are both being drafted around the 18th and 19th round.
Hopefully this provides you with a new, better way of evaluating a closer's save potential. Again, it's absolutely subjective, but many of these things simply can't be objectified, and this doesn't have to be a precise exercise. You can gain value from it simply by separating the Hanrahan's from the Rodney's. It doesn't matter if your judgments put Hanrahan at 25 saves and Rodney at 15; that's still a large enough gap to differentiate them for drafting purposes.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:08am (15) Comments
Thursday, January 22, 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.
Different fantasy baseball formats place an emphasis on different types of players, and Rotohog is no exception. There are several types of players who are worth more in Rotohog than in other formats. In this article, I’ll talk about which players those are, and in future articles I’ll discuss some of the specific players who fall into each category.
In general there are two categories of players who will tend to gain the most value in Rotohog relative to other formats – those with extremely favorable home parks and those ‘wait and see’ players whose value can’t be fully assessed until after the season begins.
The increased value of players with favorable home parks comes from the ability to turn over your roster every day in Rotohog. You can select players with the most favorable situation each day, and avoid those with less favorable situations. Two important aspects of your evaluation should be what park a player is playing in, and whether the player is benefiting from home field advantage when they play in that park. When a player is benefiting from a favorable park (a pitcher in a pitchers’ park or a hitter in a hitters’ park) AND is at home, their performance will be far better than their average performance for the season. When they’re not at home, you can simply drop them and look for another player with a more favorable match-up that day.
Because of that, you should end up using players with extremely favorable parks more often than a slightly superior player who is projected for the same full season statistics despite playing in a less favorable park. Hitters with home games in Philadelphia, Colorado, Cincinnati, Chicago, Boston and Texas will frequently find their way into your lineup. The same goes for pitchers whose home games are in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and other pitchers’ parks.
The second group of players who gain the most value in Rotohog are those who whose role or effectiveness can’t be determined until after the season begins. While you might stay away from them in a traditional league (where drafts occur before the season starts), in Rotohog you have the luxury of waiting to see how things turn out before you start using them on your roster.
This group of players includes players with health concerns, young prospects with star potential, and possible closers. You’ll have a chance to see if the player is being used in a role that will give them enough value to be worth using before you have to make a decision on whether to include them on your roster. For example, did the relief pitcher get his team’s first few save opportunities? You’ll see able to see how those with health issues or other concerns about effectiveness perform before you commit to using them. That’s an especially strong advantage with pitchers, where a high strikeout rate over as short a span as three or four starts may give you confidence that the player is healthy, or has reached a new level of performance.
A group of players who gain value from a more subtle effect are top starting pitchers who don’t tend to pitch deep into ballgames. Because a win is worth so much (20 points) relative to other statistics a player can compile, you’re generally going to benefit more from a starting pitcher being pulled after five innings with the lead, rather than having him left in the game another 3 or 4 innings. Players who tend to have this happen the most frequently are young pitchers (whose managers will tend to protect them from throwing high pitch counts) with very high strikeout rates, but relatively poor control. Some prime suspects are Joba Chamberlain, Edinson Volquez, Scott Kazmir, and Chad Billingsley.
One last group of players who are worth more in Rotohog are those who are strong in categories that Rotohog places a higher value than other formats. The best way to identify these players is simply to calculate their projected point totals based on whatever set of statistical projections you prefer. You’ll find some interesting names popping up high in the rankings. For example, I used Nick Swisher in my lineup a number of times last season, with very good results.
If there’s a general lesson in all of this it’s that whatever format you’re playing, you need to understand the specific rules of the game and how those will impact which players you should target.