December 13, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Hey guys, I am in a weekly, 12-team, 5x5, head-to-head, mixed league with a rolling waiver system. We have put more emphasis on relievers this year, requiring each team to roster three. We also roster four SP, two P, five BN and two DL spots. Assuming all the closers are drafted first, do you feel I should look at guys with questionable stuff who are next in line to close or vulture saves, or should I concentrate on low-ERA/WHIP, high-K middle relievers? I am confident I will be able to snag some free agent closers during the season and the middle relievers could help with three other categories in the meantime. However, I don't want to lose too many games early on by not getting enough saves. They may not be mutually exclusive either, so are there some four-category value picks you would recommend?
If the price is right, I would strongly consider one of the low-ERA/WHIP, high-K middle relievers in place of a mediocre closer-in-waiting. Assuming all the true closers are gone, I don't see the value in starting a mediocre closer-in-waiting guy in until he is actually closing. You may want to bench such a player in case he becomes a closer, but I wouldn't start him. In a HTH league, you can also go on a match-up basis. If there's a week where one save is likely to be the difference in that category, you may want to press on the saves and pass on the ERA (for instance). But in general, I would go with the three-category guy rather than the zero-category guy. Some four-category guys, though, are JJ Putz and Jensen Lewis.
- Jonathan Halket
I’m a big fan of the site and I’m hoping someone can help with me in my first-ever keeper league. I adopted my friend’s team from last year. Although he knows nothing about sports, he somehow ended up with a decent team but still finished near dead last. So I’m left with five picks from a decent talent pool. I have three sure-fire keepers—Braun, Wright and Sabathia. With my last two keepers, I need help picking from a pool of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Dunn, Joey Votto, John Lackey and Jose Valverde. As of now I am leaning towards keeping Lackey and Valverde.
Unless pitching is scarce in your league, I am going to disagree with your decision to keep Lackey and Valverde. In Lackey, I see a pitcher toward the end of his peak with a declining K rate. His ERA might be slightly lower this year than last assuming a regressed HR/FB rate (15.3% in 2008), but in a couple of seasons I can see Lackey as only a slightly above-average starting pitcher. Valverde is a good closer with a secure job, but my feeling is that the saves he would accumulate could easily be replaced by drafting a cheap closer late, someone like Joel Hanrahan or Chad Qualls.
On the other hand, a hitter's stats like Crawford's could not be easily replaced. At 28 years old, he should still be able to produce at a high level a few years down the road, and his 2009 numbers should more closely resemble his 2007 numbers than his disappointing 2008 ones. Then you are left with two players to consider: Votto and Dunn. I like both players a lot, but in my opinion Votto gets the nod, especially in a keeper league.
- Paul Singman
Hey guys, love the site and all the info. I have a question:
I'm trying to take raw projections and use them to calculate a single-number value. Can you give any guidance on how to calculate a value with the five different categories? For instance, how do you calculate the difference in value for two players below:
A: .280, 20/90/90/10
B: .300, 15/80/80/20
I seem to remember using stand deviation and other tools but can't for the life of me remember how to calculate this out. Any help would be appreciated.
Here's what I know some people do. Take the entire pool of hitters for your draft, so if you have 12 roster spots for hitters and 10 teams, you're looking at the top 120 hitters. Throw their projected stats into Excel, and calculate the standard deviation for each of the fantasy categories using the =STDEV function, as well as the average of each. You'll find something like an average of 16 HR, and a standard deviation of 8. You can use this to calculate a player's z-score in HRs, which is simply their projected HR minus the average, divided by the SD. So if you have Pujols projected for 36 HR, it would be (36-16)/8 = 2.5. Add up the z-scores across all categories and you'll get a sum for each player, all in like units. It works for pitchers too—a hitter with a sum of 5.0 should be worth the same as a pitcher with a sum of 5.0.
It gets tricky for the rate stats, however, because playing time is not factored into the stat; certainly, a 3.50 ERA for 200 innings pitched is more valuable than a 3.25 ERA for 20 innings pitched. So for BA, take the average of all your hitters again—let's say .275. Multiply each player's predicted at-bats by .275 to get the average number of hits he would get, and then subtract that from their actual projected number of hits. So if I have Ichiro at 220 hits in 650 AB (a .338 BA), his score would be 220 - (.275 * 650) = 41. That final number is often referred to as xH, $H, or something like that. It's that statistic that you'll want to find the average and standard deviation of, in order to calculate the z-scores for player BA's. Of course, a shortcut to all of this is simply to assume most top fantasy players get about the same number of ABs, and you can simply find the average and standard deviation of their batting averages themselves. But, this will slightly undervalue high batting average, high at-bat guys like Michael Young.
- Michael Lerra
Posted by THT Fantasy Mailbag at 2:27am (1) Comments
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Imagine that you own Kevin Youkilis. You’re a Yankees fan and you hate the Red Sox, so you want to get rid of him out of spite. So you toss him up on the trading block and list outfielders and starting pitchers as your needs. The next morning, one manager offers you one of the following players for Youkilis:
1) Matt Kemp
2) Roy Halladay
Which offer are you more inclined to accept?
It turns out that you’re not sure which you one you want, so you let the trade offers linger for a couple days until the other owner cancels them. A week later, you find that that manager has now offered you a choice of three players for Youk:
1) Matt Kemp
2) Roy Halladay
3) Alex Rios
Now which offer are you more inclined to accept? Did your answer change at all?
The point I am trying to illustrate is one that was raised by one of our readers, Ben, here in the comments section of my previous article. That idea is the asymmetrical dominance effect , also known as the decoy effect.
The asymmetrical dominance effect is the phenomenon in which people show a change in preference between two items when a third item, dominated by either of the first two items, is introduced as an option. There are multiple research studies in which this effect is manifested, and I’ll describe two of them, beginning with the one mentioned in the comments section of the article linked above.
The first study is one that was conducted by Dan Ariely, and in this experiment, students at the University of North Carolina and Duke University were presented with prospective dating partners and instructed to pick a single person to ask out on a date. Three different types of situations were presented:
1). Situation 1 consisted of dating options A and B, both of whom were attractive but had varying degrees of attractive characteristics.
2). Situation 2 consisted of dating options A, B and C(a), with C(a) being almost but not quite as appealing as A.
3). Situation 3 consisted of dating options A, B and C(b), with C(b) being almost but not quite as appealing as B.
So a graphical illustration might look something like this:
The results of this experiment helped support the asymmetrical dominance effect. Participants were more likely to select dating option A over dating option B when the third dating option, C(a), who was slightly less appealing then A, was present. And conversely, participants were more likely to choose dating option B over dating option A when the third dating option, C(b), who was slightly less appealing than B, was present.
The effect manifests in situations outside of partner selection as well. The second study I want to describe is another study by Ariely. This time, subjects were divided into two groups. In group one, subjects decided between microwaves A and B, with microwave A being expensive and of high quality, and with microwave B being less expensive and of medium quality. Forty percent of the subjects in group one preferred microwave A and 60 percent preferred microwave B.
Subjects in group two had three microwaves to choose from: microwaves A and B, and then a third microwave, C(a), that was very similar in dimensions and quality to microwave A, but was more expensive. So in this scenario, it was very clear that microwave C(a) was dominated by microwave A.
A graphical illustration of this paradigm presented to group 2 might look something like this:
While the majority of subjects in group one preferred microwave B to microwave A, the subjects in group two showed a different preference. This time, 56 percent of subjects chose microwave A, 36 percent chose microwave B and the remaining 8 percent chose microwave C(a). Somehow, this introduction of the third microwave, C(a), completely reversed the ratio of preference between microwaves A and B:
Microwaves A B C(a) Group 1 40% 60% -- Group 2 56% 36% 8%Despite differing situations (people/dates vs. microwaves), the underlying theme in both of these studies is the same. That is, that the presence of a third option, one that has an asymmetric dominance relation with one of the two other alternatives, affects a person's preference of a given alternative over a second alternative.
Let’s go back to my scenario at the top of the page. The construct, according to the studies mentioned earlier, would be as follows:
1) Player A
2) Player B: similar to A but has different attributes
3) Player C(a): dominated by A, meaning he has similar attributes but is slightly less appealing
Using Chone projections for 2009, and using the average draft positions (ADP) as sort of an anchoring point for market value, we’ll have this:
ADP Runs HR RBI BA SB W K ERA WHIP Matt Kemp 38 84 16 74 0.311 26 Roy Halladay 46 -- -- -- -- -- 13 152 3.56 1.22 Alex Rios 39 86 17 75 0.285 19In looking at these stat lines, I think it’s pretty clearly that Alex Rios serves as Matt Kemp's decoy. They both have similar attributes (R, HR, RBI), but Rios is slightly less appealing (lower BA and less SB). In other words, Rios is dominated by Kemp and would most likely never be chosen in this scenario given these numbers.
As Ben asked a couple weeks ago, the question then, is can this actually be applied to fantasy baseball?
My answer is yes, I do think that the asymmetric dominance effect can manifest itself within the realms of fantasy baseball. If we look at Ariely’s study, each potential dating option had varying degrees of attractive characteristics; some were funnier than others, some more intelligent, others a little more honest, and so on. Each option had different levels of attractive attributes that made it more (or less) appealing than the other options. We do the same thing with baseball players but instead of judging them by cost and quality like we did with the microwaves, we look at runs, home runs, batting average, etc.
Considering that these items are essentially the same, presenting our trade proposals in a similar format as with the dating options and microwaves should have some sort of effect since, what really matters, is the contextual configuration of the options. This doesn’t mean these types of trade proposals will always work, as there are many variables to consider. And, after all, the opposing manager can still decline all three proposals whereas the subjects in these studies were forced to pick. However, it does seem as if designing trade proposals in this way would have an effect in that it may increase the likelihood that a trade will happen in the first place or that the third, lesser player will really serve as a decoy.
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 12:01am (10) Comments
Friday, March 20, 2009
There are some pitchers you should be targeting in daily transactions leagues. No, I’m not referring to top tier pitchers like Johan Santana. I’m also not referring to sleepers, like Max Scherzer. I’m talking about the worst of the worst starting pitchers. Those who are so bad, that opposing hitters can be expected to drastically outperform what they’re usually capable of. Lots of players in leagues with daily transactions will consider benching hitters who face "stud" starting pitchers, but very few people take the time to really evaluate which starting pitchers are so bad that marginal hitters should be used against them.
In this article, I’ll provide the names of some pitchers to keep a close eye on. Of course, any list of bad major league pitchers is likely to change frequently, as these guys are particularly likely to be sent down to the minor leagues or put on the disabled list. So I’ll also provide some guidelines to identifying bad pitchers yourself.
Generally what you’re looking for are the following:
Low strikeout rates—In general, pitchers with low strikeout rates are bad. Anytime a batter doesn’t strike out, they’ve got a chance of a hit. All types of hits are more common against pitchers with low strikeout rates. That means that not only will batting average be higher against these pitchers, but home runs will increase, and consequently runs and runs batted in will increase. If you’re in points leagues, where double and triples are worth more than singles, those will increase proportionally as well.
High walk rates—The impact of high walk rates is a little more subtle than low strikeout rates. While these obviously have a great impact on a pitcher’s overall success, walks aren’t that valuable (if they have any direct value at all) in most formats. However, more walks leads to more opportunities for runs, runs batted in, and stolen bases.
Low groundball rates—Pitchers with low groundball rates allow more home runs. That in itself is reason enough to target them. An added benefit is the increase in runs and runs batted in.
Weak bullpens—This is an easy factor to overlook, but very important. Particularly because lousy starting pitchers will frequently be knocked out of the game early, you want to target those on teams where the relievers who replace them will be just as bad. Keep in mind that when these guys start, more often than not, their team will be losing by the time the bullpen is used. So you’re not quite as interested in the quality of the closer and setup men as you are in the pitchers likely to see action when the team is losing. Evaluating the bullpen can be tricky, but basically you’re looking for the same things in the bullpen that you did for starting pitchers … low strikeout rates, high walk rates, and low groundball rates.
I would have liked to include an exhaustive list of the worst pitchers likely to be in starting rotations on Opening Day, but out of my original list of 40 of the worst pitchers to get major league starts last year, only three seem like sure things to make an Opening Day rotation.
Kyle Davies—Low strikeout rate, high walk rate, flyball pitcher, on a bad team, pitching in a hitters’ park. The only thing about Davies that isn’t ideal as a target is that he’s young enough at 25 that he might improve.
Matt Harrison—Extremely low strikeout rate, mediocre control, flyball pitcher, in a hitters’ park, on a team with a shaky bullpen. Like Davies, the only risk with Harrison is that at 23 years old, its very possible he won’t always be this bad.
Edwin Jackson—Like the others, the main thing Jackson has going for him is youth. Incredibly, he’s still only 25, even though it seems like many years since he was considered a hot prospect. Statistically Jackson is very similar to Davies, although he did put up a substantially better groundball rate in 2007 than he did in 2008. While he pitches in a relatively favorable park, Jackson is likely to have a terrible bullpen behind him in 2009.
As the season progresses, many other bad pitchers, some even worse than these three, will find their way into starting rotations. Identifying them quickly, and taking advantage of hitters matched up against them, is a key to success in leagues with daily transactions.
NOTE: On an unrelated note, I’d like to invite readers of The Hardball Times to participate in a free fantasy baseball contest that my Website, Draftbug, is hosting with $100 in prizes. Unlike our standard daily contests, this one will involve choosing 10 hitters within a salary cap, and scoring a point for each home run your team hits in the month of April. The top 20 finishers will get cash prizes, with 1st place receiving $24. Registration for the site and the contest are free, and only take a minute.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 1:13am (2) Comments
I promised that we would expand upon the THT rankings list, and today I am going to deliver. A few of the writers chimed in with their thoughts on the rankings and, without further ado, here is what was said.
High on: Fred Lewis | THT rank: 42 | My rank: 31 — In his first full season as the Giants' left fielder, Lewis impressed, batting .280 with 10 home runs and 20 steals. Even with a regressed batting average (due to a .367 BABIP and alarming 26 percent K rate), I expect Lewis to produce at a high level in 2009. A .270 batting average complemented by 15 home runs and 25 steals are reasonable expectations of Lewis given a full season of at-bats. Those projections propelled him up my rankings, pushing him ahead of guys like Brad Hawpe, Jermaine Dye, and Chris Young.
Low on: Aramis Ramirez | THT rank: 5 | My rank: 10 — Praised for his consistent level of production over the last six years, Aramis is valued highly by many experts, who are accounting for the lack of depth at third base and considering him "a lock" for .290/30/100. I boldly predicted in this article that 2009 would be the first year that Aramis disappoints, batting a mere .275 with around 20 home runs. Aubrey Huff and Edwin Encarnacion are two players I ranked right ahead of Ramirez, and Ryan Zimmerman and Adrian were the two players I listed directly behind. If you are going to reach for a third baseman early in your draft, Aramis is one player I would not take.
- Paul Singman
I think I got it wrong: Carlos Quentin | THT rank: 20 | My rank: 10 — In retrospect, I was putting far too much credence in Quentin's 2008 numbers. His earlier numbers with Arizona are so erratic that it is easy to just ignore them. Most of his numbers seem for real, with the exception of a fairly high 18.1 HR/FB percentage. However, I should have adjusted for the small-sample uncertainty and not ranked him above Ichiro and Vlad, both of whom may have lower upside but have far lower uncertainty.
I think I'm right: Nelson Cruz | THT rank: 36 | My rank: 61 vs. Milton Bradley | THT rank: 41 | My rank: 36 — Clearly the discrepancy is due to Cruz. I don't think anyone is betting on Cruz batting anywhere near .330 or maintaining a HR/FB rate above 20 percent. Still, if we're penalizing Quentin for having a small sample, we should do so with Cruz as well. I think Cruz and Bradley both project out similarly (and both actually had similarly high BABIPs and HR/FB percentages last year), but we have more data on Bradley. So I have higher confidence in Bradley's forecasts, even with his injury risk.
I'm not sure what to make of: Rickie Weeks | THT rank: 10 | My rank: 14 — Rickie Weeks is fantasy dynamite. We all know this. He can blow up for good or bad and he can do it in your starting lineup or as a reserve. If he gets off to a cold start, I'd probably want to keep him as a reserve until he showed me some consistency. So, if I draft Weeks, I'm gonna draft an Aaron Hill or a Polanco or a DeRosa around him to ensure some above-par performance. That has a cost though and I penalized Weeks for it a bit in my rankings.
- Jonathan Halket
High on: Zach Greinke | THT rank: 34 | My rank: 19 — To be honest, I'm not sure why my colleagues here seem to be so down on Greinke, who not only posted a 3.47 ERA last year, but did so with more than eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched and a healthy groundball rate. Does everyone fear that he's not over his head problems? Afraid of the run support he might get as the ace of the Kansas City Royals staff? Regardless of the reasons, I see a pitcher who is still only 25 years old and continuing to improve from a strong base skill set. Greinke is going behind pitchers like Chris Young and Justin Verlander in most drafts; I see him as comparable to pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Cliff Lee, with better upside.
Low on: Bobby Jenks | THT rank: 11 | My rank: 18 — Everyone is in love with Jenks' reliability, having posted at least 30 saves in three consecutive seasons. However, it's hard to ignore his eroding strikeout rate, and while a good ability to induce groundballs has allowed him to continue to be effective, Jenks seemed to benefit from some BABIP good luck (.261) in 2008. I'm also concerned about that Jenks has other risk factors, from injuries associated with his stocky physique to the possibility of a trade associated with his looming 2011 free agency. Frankly, from a skills standpoint, Jenks is the fourth-best reliever on the White Sox at the moment, behind Thornton, Dotel, and Linebrink, and I'd need much better strikeouts or risk assurances to draft Jenks at his current ninth-round draft position.
- Eriq Gardner
High on: Mike Napoli | THT rank: 13 | My rank: 7 — In 227 at-bats last season, Napoli hit 20 home runs while splitting time with Jeff Mathis. I fully expect him to get more plate appearances in 2009 as Mathis has not shown much improvement at the plate over the past few years. While I don’t expect him to repeat his 23.5% HR/FB ratio of last year, his power seems to be legit, as Hit Tracker labels only a handful of his home runs as “lucky.” I also don’t expect much of a drop in his batting average either, a la Kelly Shoppach, as his BB/K ratio appears to have stabilized around 0.5 and his 0.307 BABIP last year was only slightly higher than his career rate (0.294). A tolerable batting average and a 20-plus HR potential is enough for me to put Napoli in the top 10 list for catchers.
- Marco Fujimoto
A few of the writers (and perhaps a few of you) found it interesting that Aubrey Huff was ranked above Garrett Atkins in the first base rankings but below him in the third base ones. Jonathan Halket was able to offer up a possible explanation and here is what he had to say:
The Fantasy Focus consensus rankings is, like any voting system, an attempt to summarize in one dimension the rankings of many individuals. As has been known since at least the time of Condorcet consensus rankings are not always as "logical" as the individual rankings they are based on. For instance, take the following rankings (> means "prefers"):
Joe: A > B > C > D
Dan: A > B > C > D
Jim: B > C > D > A
Question: In the consensus ranking, is B ranked higher or lower than A? If we use a numerical ranking system and then take averages, A has an average rank of 2 (two 1st places and one 4th place) whereas B has an average rank of 1.67, so B would be ranked ahead of A. If we use Condorcet's Method, which ranks A vs. B by asking which would win a pairwise election with no other candidates, A would be ranked ahead of B since A is ranked higher by two out of three voters. There are still other ways to do the ranking. Which system is preferable to you depends on how heavily you want to consider the strength of someone's opinion. Average ranking weighs the strength of each opinion equally whereas Condorcet's Method does not.
Lastly, when using an averaging method, it is possible to get seemingly contradictory results like Huff ranked over Atkins at first base but Atkins over Huff at third. For instance, suppose the above ranks were for players at first base and the following is over a different set of players at third base (but players A and B are eligible at both positions).
Joe: A > B > E > F
Dan: A > B > E > F
Jim: B > A > E > F
So, A > B at third base but B > A at first base using the averaging method. Using the Condorcet Method however, A would be ranked higher than B (A > B) at both positions.
- Jonathan Halket
I did use an averaging system when compiling the rankings so that explains some of the seemingly irrational results.
I am hoping to get an update of the rankings in before the season starts, so look forward to that next week.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:36am (2) Comments
Welcome to THT Fantasy's Roster Doctor. If you'd like your team to be analyzed by one of our fantasy baseball experts, please send your full roster to this address. Also be sure to include your league's player pool (mixed, AL-only, NL-only), number of teams, scoring format (roto, head-to-head, points, etc.), categories, whether or not it's a keeper league, and any other pertinent information. If your roster is selected it will be analyzed in a future Roster Doctor column.
Two days ago the first edition of "Roster Doctor" appeared and the reception was great. We have since received a lot of emails with rosters people want analyzed and while that is great for us, it does mean we cannot do a write-up for every roster sent.
We will try to respond to as many as possible by posting several "Roster Doctor" articles a week, and even if we are not doctoring your specific roster that you sent in, there might be something said about a player on another roster that pertains to your roster. With that said, let's take a look at the roster for today's edition.
Player pool: Mixed
No. of teams: 12
Categories: Traditional 5x5
C- Ryan Doumit
1B- Adam Dunn
2B- Brandon Phillips
SS- Alexei Ramirez
3B- Chipper Jones
OF- Ryan Braun
OF- Nick Markakis
OF- Jacoby Ellsbury
UT- Justin Upton
BN- Hank Blalock
BN- Edgar Renteria
BN- Randy Winn
SP- Felix Hernandez
SP- Kevin Slowey
RP- Jose Valverde
RP- Matt Capps
P- Heath Bell
P- Chien-Ming Wang
P- Joey Devine
BN- Jered Weaver
BN- John Smoltz
BN- Grant Balfour
Right off the bat I can tell this person focused on hitting during the draft and I like their lineup a lot. It has a good mix of power, speed, and average so it should place well in the hitting categories across the board. What I do not like, however, is the bench. Typically my bench hitters (if I have any at all depending on the free agent pool) will be high upside guys. The three hitters on this team's bench are all veterans with relatively low upsides that offer dependable, yet mediocre production.
The person whose roster this is told me Billy Butler was a free agent and I suggest picking him up for Renteria or Winn. Renteria is probably not much better than a free agent shortstop you could add if Alexei gets hurt. Shortstops like Orlando Cabrera, Christian Guzman, and even Emmanuel Burriss are not much worse than Renteria (if at all) and can be added for nothing if needed.
With an outfielder in Upton currently manning your utility spot, Winn becomes that much more expendable. His roster spot can be utilized better by a higher upside hitter like Colby Rasmus, Dallas McPherson, Travis Snider, or Josh Fields; or it could be filled by a pitcher.
Speaking of pitching, I mainly like your staff considering the low investment you made in it. Felix is a great anchor for your staff and Slowey is a solid number two. Wang could be valuable hopefully racking up some wins, although personally I am not a fan of his. I think there is a greater chance his 2009 ERA is above 4.00 as opposed to below that mark, and he provides little value in the strikeout department. Wang is someone I would be entertaining trade offers for.
I believe Smoltz will be starting 2009 on the DL and that gives you a chance to try out a sleeper pitcher on your roster like Jordan Zimmerman, Sean Gallagher, or Ian Snell if one of them is available. When Smoltz is healthy, however, I do like him as someone who can get some wins and help out your ratios.
Your bullpen is solid with three secure closers, one potential closer (Devine), and one setup man (Balfour). As far as setup men go, Balfour is top-notch but I wonder if a reliever with a better chance of closing at some point in the year is available. Check your waiver wire to see if either Jason Motte, Mark Lowe, or Chris Ray is a free agent and if one of them is, think of swapping Balfour for one of them.
My suggestions overall are to keep only one bench hitter with third base eligibility to fill in for Chipper during the times he inevitably will be on the disabled list. Blalock is a good player for that role as long as he stays healthy in 2009. With the open bench spots, add Wandy Rodriguez (another player I was told is a F/A) and one of the sleeper starters or relievers I mentioned.
For a twelve-team league I like this team and think it will contend for the title barring any major unluckiness.
Posted by Paul Singman at 11:30am (1) Comments
Monday, March 23, 2009
We’ve received plenty of emails from you guys, and while we’ll be featuring a roster analysis multiple times a week, we unfortunately won’t be able to get to every single one. Hopefully though, in each roster discussion, we’ll be able to provide some sort of insight to a player you may be targeting or questioning, or give you new ideas in how to handle your own team. So please don’t be discouraged, and continue e-mailing us your rosters—your’s might be featured in the next edition!
For today’s edition, let’s take a look at Leo’s team:
Player pool: Mixed
No. of teams: 12
Categories: Traditional 5x5 (Yahoo public)
C – Chris Iannetta
1B – Chris Davis
2B – Robinson Cano
3B – David Wright
SS – Hanley Ramirez
OF – Alfonso Soriano
OF – Carlos Lee
OF – Shin-Soo Choo
Util – Joey Votto
BN – Pablo Sandoval
BN – Willy Taveras
SP – Roy Halladay
SP – Adam Wainwright
RP – Brian Fuentes
RP – Heath Bell
P – Trevor Hoffman
P – Kevin Gregg
P – Scott Baker
BN – Kevin Slowey
BN – Hiroki Kuroda
BN – Josh Johnson
I definitely like the amount of power in this lineup, as six of the nine players in the starting lineup project to hit over 25 home runs. I also like the potential at the catcher position, with Iannetta. He should have more plate appearances in 2009, which should increase his overall numbers. Another added plus is that in 2008, his home BABIP of .276 was below average, and so we have another reason to think that his overall numbers will be a little better in 2009. So he could provide an extra boost to a lineup that should produce numbers good enough to finish near the top in all batting categories.
I do think that Soriano is an injury-risk though, as he is 33 years old and has not played more than 135 games since 2006. The various projection systems seem to take this into account, and the Bill James projection of 140 games and 576 at-bats is the most generous. You could look to trade him for someone a little more durable and reliable, like Josh Hamilton. While there might be a decrease in stolen bases, I think a drop-off is worth it considering the risk in missed playing time. If Soriano were to miss any significant time, it would be difficult to replace the power numbers he provides. So having a more reliable player, like Hamilton, would provide stability. Another option is to package Soriano with one of the bench players, and try to upgrade an outfield position with a 2-for-1 deal. While that might be difficult to do, I think its still worth a try.
The pitching staff is pretty solid, and Halladay is definitely a great anchor. I like the potential with Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Josh Johnson, as I believe they will all improve upon last season’s numbers. But an immediate concern of mine is a lack of strikeouts. Outside of Johnson, none of the starters are power pitchers. Halladay struck out 206 batters last year, but that was over 246 innings, and the 7.54 K/9 rate was his best in seven seasons as a full-time starter. Drop that rate closer to his career average, and you’ll get a number closer to 170 in the same number of innings.
There are various things you can do here:
1) You can try trading for pitchers who may have similar ERA and WHIP, but who carry better strikeout potential. An example of this might be Baker for Zach Greinke.
2) You can wait and hit the waiver wire. Every year, there are pitchers who go undrafted, get called-up during the season or simply get dropped by an impatient owner, who end up providing a ton of value for next to nothing, especially in these Yahoo public leagues. This is definitely a viable option considering the context.
3) And because this is a Yahoo public league, two-for-one deals, where you are consolidating to a single player, are much more likely to work. In this situation, I would put together a deal where I am trading a starter and a closer. There are always closer controversies at nearly every point of every season, and so I view closers as somewhat expendable in this regard. So in this situation, I might try trading Slowey and Heath Bell for Chad Billingsley, or even Halladay and Brian Fuentes for C.C. Sabathia. Those specifically may not work, but there are lots of combinations and options here.
The last thing I can suggest is keeping an eye on the Chicago Cubs closer situation. Carlos Marmol is currently listed as the closer on the depth chart, and it looks like both he and Kevin Gregg are having good springs. If Gregg stays in the setup role, his value will decrease tremendously, and I would use that opportunity to find a high-upside guy to stash.
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 2:40am (10) Comments
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Players' stocks are constantly changing, moving up or down at the news of any slight discomfort or great spring training performance. Here is a list of some of the news that is pushing some players' stocks up or down lately:
- Skip Schumaker's transition from the outfield to second base is apparently going well after initial reports said he was struggling. Skip does not have second base eligibility yet, but he should get it early in the season and that makes him a great late-round pick.
- More Cardinals news: The fight for the closer job has tilted in Jason Motte's favor after Chris Perez was shut down a few days ago with shoulder pain. Perez had a pain-free bullpen session yesterday, but Motte is certainly the favorite right now.
- After a scare earlier last week, it appeared Justin Duchscherer would start the season on DL. He still might start the year on the DL, but after two good bullpen sessions over the weekend he figures to not miss more than one or two starts.
- Two other possible A's starters, Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson, went down with injuries last week, opening up the door for Trevor Cahill to join the rotation. Cahill has been pitching great this spring, so he makes for a great late-round flier or free agent pickup.
- The competition for the Cubs' closer role is between Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol. Earlier in the offseason Gregg was trailing but after great Cactus League appearances, Gregg now has the slight advantage. Manager Lou Pinella says he will officially name the closer in the next couple of days.
- Carl Crawford is five for six in stolen bases this Spring. That is a good sign that he will reach his potential of 50 stolen bases this year
- Rockies infielder Ian Stewart may retain his second base eligibility for next season because manager Clint Hurdle says he could see time at the position this year. If you own him in a keeper league, this is good news.
- The Twins have four outfielders—Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gomez, and Denard Span—for three spots. Keep an eye on this position battle because one of these players may not start the season with a starting job.
- Earlier in the offseason Dustin McGowan had the looks of a good DL stash, but now because of a recent setback he is not expected to return until closer to July or possibly 2010. Forget about him for now.
- The hottest hitter this spring has been Giants second baseman Emmanuel Burriss. He has won the Giants' starting second base job and is a good late-round pick in deep leagues if you are looking for that last middle infielder.
- Chris Carpenter has not given up one earned run this spring in 19 innings of work. He is another player who can make a good late-round selection.
- Kevin Youkilis' ankle injury suffered during the WBC was not serious and he returned to the playing field yesterday.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia has won the Rangers' starting catcher job, beating out Taylor Teagarden. However, the two players will still figure to be involved in a small platoon situation.
- The Orioles are saying they would like to run Nick Markakis around some more this season. After getting only 10 stolen bases last year, expect a total closer to 15-20 this year.
While it is important to stay on top of this sort of stuff, it is equally important to keep a long-term mindset when hearing of minor injury news. Although I mentioned a few Spring Training performances, generally it is a good idea to not pay attention to them unless they are influencing a manager's decision for playing time or role, or showing a formerly injured player still "has it."
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:34am (6) Comments
If you’ve played fantasy baseball for any length of time, you probably can think of nothing worse than the fate of having a computer draft your team. Obviously, given enough time, monkeys can produce a sonnet of Shakespeare, but what are the chances that the dastardly "auto-pick" feature on many popular fantasy league services can produce a successful fantasy baseball team?
I've given this question some thought over the weekend after following two developments.
The first was the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
Each year, this nation goes crazy filling out March Madness brackets. President Barack Obama filled out his bracket. So too did my wife, who per her usual strategy leaned mostly on picking favorite after favorite. Guess what? Fourteen of the Sweet 16 teams this year are seeded 1, 2, 3, or 4 ... and as a result, my wife stands pretty close to first place at the moment with as good a chance of bringing home the money this year as an AIG executive.
The second was the amusing note from a fantasy baseball blogger whose life blessed him with the birth of his fourth child and cursed him with a squad of auto-picks. Afterward, in assessing his team of computer misfits, the blogger couldn't understand why the computer wouldn't adjust itself for a draft run on starting pitchers. What good is artificial intelligence, after all, if it can't be put to good fantasy baseball use?
Then again, despite what the blogger thinks of the computer's fantasy baseball chops, here's his team: C Brian McCann, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Chase Utley, SS Troy Tulowitzki, 3B Adrian Beltre, CI Pablo Sandoval, MI Kelly Johnson, OF Josh Hamilton, OF Matt Kemp, OF Jay Bruce, OF Bobby Abreu, OF Conor Jackson, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Adam Wainwright, SP Zach Greinke, SP Josh Johnson, RP Joakim Soria, RP Brian Wilson, RP Chris Pérez.
We think this is a killer team and frankly, we'd love to go to war with this squad. We even like the pitching.
"I was reminded of the importance of perspective," wrote the blogger, referring to the birth of his fourth son, who we hope is named "Auto-Pick Adam," but frankly, this statement might apply much more generally. One man's HAL 9000 is another man's USS Enterprise.
Seriously, is outsourcing your draft decisions to a non-sentient being such a miserable fate?
Most people assume that success in fantasy baseball comes via uncovering sleepers and busts and adjusting oneself to the decision-making of others.
We'd guess these are wildly overrated skills and that a good portion of the population will out-smart themselves given the opportunity.
Most people assume that blindly following draft averages isn't very skillful.
Our research shows that experts tend to stick extremely closely to the averages.
Most people spend a lot of time in the preseason obsessing over rankings and whether X player should be drafted before Y player.
Of course, most leagues have a handful of managers whose attention slips somewhere between the All-Star Game and the start of the football season. Most leagues also give managers the ability to tap a deep player pool with a limitless amount of transactions. The most successful teams are often the most active ones, from day one to the end of the season.
Drafting can make a difference. But don't count out someone who auto-picks. In the list of pitfalls to drag a fantasy team through the mud, we would definitely not include letting a computer do the heavy lifting in the preseason.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 1:46am (14) Comments
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Player pool: Mixed
No. of teams: 12
Categories: Head 2 Head
C: Mike Napoli
1B: Carlos Delgado
2B: Kaz Matsui
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Ryan Theriot
OF: Raul Ibanez
OF: Chris Young
OF: Johnny Damon
OF: Nelson Cruz
BN: Cameron Maybin (OF)
BN: Coco Crisp
BN: Melvin Mora
SP: Johan Santana
SP: Javier Vazquez
RP: Francisco Rodriguez
RP: Mariano Rivera
P: Cole Hamels
P: Jake Peavy
P: Dan Haren
BN: Jered Weaver (SP)
BN: Joe Blanton (SP)
This request comes from Angel, who looks to be in a standard Yahoo league, and I'm guessing the fourth outfield spot is actually the lone default Util spot. I chose this Roster Doctor request because I'm also in a Yahoo head-to-head standard league, and it looks like Angel and I followed pretty similar strategies.
Right off the bat, this is obviously a pitching-centric team. It looks like a draft where a lot of prime picks were spent on pitchers (maybe as many as the top six picks?), which can sometimes be disastrous. However, the pitchers chosen are not the Rich Harden type; rather, all of these guys project to be fairly durable. In addition, I'd say at least half of the hitters are players that I had identified pre-draft as good values versus their average Yahoo draft positions (Damon, Cruz, Ibanez, Beltre, Delgado). I don't know why Damon doesn't go higher, but he's been consistently undervalued over the last few years; intelligence isn't a 5x5 category, so I expect him to produce pretty well in all five stats. Nelson Cruz is the official 2009 "sleeper-that-everyone-knew-about," and he's won a full-time OF job and likely a pretty prime spot in the batting order this spring. Ibanez is going from Seattle for 81 games a year to Philly for 81 games, and he's going to face NL pitching every day! I'm excited about him this year. Beltre's another guy who seems to be underrated each year; perhaps residual bitterness that he's never going to return to his contract year power? Delgado is old but managed a solid season last year. I don't mean to say I expect big things from him this year, but when he's going 160th in a draft, he's underrated.
As far as changes go, I think the first thing you need to do is replace Napoli if his shoulder prevents him from playing full time. Kurt Suzuki is actually a reasonable option here, or A.J. Pierzynski if he's still available in your league. I don't like Kaz Matsui at all at second base; I'd take Rickie Weeks if you can. Or if Ian Stewart is undrafted, maybe grab him and see if he can win a full-time spot at 2B. If he does, he'll be a top-10 second baseman this year for sure.
I'll make one point about your pitching that I think apply to a lot of teams. In Yahoo leagues, often times weeks are won in Wins and Ks based on how many starters a team has; not how good they are. So while you have some great pitchers, including Vazquez and Weaver—both of whom go way too late this year—you may lose those categories to a manager who simply out-starts you. To that end, I'd suggest trading at least one pitcher for a good bat. Drop your bench hitters, and in their place pick up one guy with a bunch of positional options (I call these guys "Mark DeRosas") and hope you can put him in your lineup for guys who have Monday or Thursday off. And with the other two slots, pick up some SPs with good K/BB ratios. That way, no one will be able to out-start you, and your talent advantage from your remaining star pitchers will certainly give you a great shot at sweeping W, K, ERA, and WHIP.
Your closer situation looks great, assuming you can pick up one more guy who earns saves; Mike Gonzalez may still be available in your league, or maybe Jason Motte. These guys have good peripherals and I have confidence that if they're given the closer role to begin the season, they'll have a great shot at holding it for the year.
As for that suggestion on trading starting pitching talent for hitting, your weakest lineup spots seem to be SS and 2B. If Chase Utley's hip looks good, perhaps Santana for Utley. How late did Pablo Sandoval fall in your draft? Yahoo has him at an average auction position of 185 or so, but as a full-time player with catcher eligibility, he's probably a top-100 player. Haren is probably a little too much to give up for Sandoval, but perhaps a 2-for-2? Getting 1B numbers out of the catcher position will go a long way toward putting your low-cost, high-value hitters in a position to compete each week with the teams who spent their first five or six picks on hitters.
Overall, I think this looks like a solid draft. I think you had a strategy and stuck with it; your success this season is going to depend a little bit on improving some of your hitter spots via free agent pickups (you have a few replacement-level type hitters), and a fair bit on turning some SP talent into hitting talent. Don't panic; by May 1, there will definitely be a couple owners in your league who are desperate for better starting pitching. From the looks of things, you may be the only place they can turn to for it!
Posted by Michael Lerra at 1:31am (8) Comments
Nate McLouth was a popular sleeper target coming into the 2008 season due to his power/speed combo, and the owners who drafted him wound up with an excellent player:
+------+-----+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+ | YEAR | AGE | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB | +------+-----+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+ | 2008 | 26 | 597 | 0.276 | 26 | 94 | 113 | 23 | +------+-----+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
Was this season for real, though, or will he regress 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 | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | OF FB% | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+ | 2006 | 24 | Pirates | 270 | 7 | 9 | 10 | 13 | 15 | 33 | | 2007 | 25 | Pirates | 329 | 13 | 15 | 11 | 13 | 13 | 46 | | 2008 | 26 | Pirates | 597 | 26 | 32 | 12 | 15 | 16 | 41 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
As you can see, McLouth's power does indeed appear to be for real. True Home Runs expected a 13 percent HR/FB in 2007, and he posted a 12 percent HR/FB in 2008. Now, tHR thinks that further growth could be in order, up to a 15 percent HR/FB.
In addition, McLouth hits a lot of outfield flies. His 46 percent rate was fifth in baseball in 2007 behind notable power threats like Jason Giambi, Frank Thomas, and Jonny Gomes, and while it regressed in 2008, it was still well above league average (roughly 33 percent). This mix of fly balls and raw power (HR/FB) bodes very well for sustained power numbers, even if McLouth doesn't exactly look like a masher.
Entering his 27-year-old season, (assuming he gets 600 at-bats) McLouth's home run total should be in the high 20s and could eclipse 30.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+---------+-----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | xBABIP* | LD% | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+---------+-----+ | 2006 | 24 | Pirates | 270 | 0.233 | 0.255 | 78 | 0.275 | 0.293 | 25 | | 2007 | 25 | Pirates | 329 | 0.258 | 0.265 | 77 | 0.301 | 0.302 | 16 | | 2008 | 26 | Pirates | 597 | 0.276 | 0.284 | 84 | 0.291 | 0.288 | 19 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+---------+-----+
*Marcels BABIP is used in 2006 as xBABIP is unavailable
While McLouth was expected to provide power and speed to his owners, the .276 batting average was a nice perk—nearly 20 points higher than 2007. This spike was predominantly driven by a seven-point gain in contact rate. We can see the reason for this in his plate discipline numbers:
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2006 | 24 | Pirates | 270 | 78 | 87 | 0.18 | 93 | 64 | | 2007 | 25 | Pirates | 329 | 77 | 99 | 0.13 | 90 | 66 | | 2008 | 26 | Pirates | 597 | 84 | 109 | 0.10 | 93 | 77 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
McLouth's contact rate gains were driven by a combination of improved Judgment, Bat Control, and Bad Ball Hitting. All were above average in 2008, so the 84 percent contact rate was perfectly justified (league average is roughly 81 percent). While some of these may regress, I think that the simultaneous gains could indicate maturation as a hitter, and they serve to hedge against too much contact rate regression if any one of them should fall a little in 2009.
Overall, McLouth avoided being a batting average hindrance in 2008, and True Batting Average indicates that there is even more upside. The .284 figure this past season was largely due to the expected power jump as McLouth's BABIP has been nearly identical to his xBABIP for the past two seasons.
We must account for some regression, though, which means the most likely scenario may be a repeat of 2008. If we plug in an 82 percent contact rate, .293 BABIP, 42 percent fly ball rate, and 14.5 HR/FB, McLouth would hit his .276 average on the nose. If he maintains the 84 percent contact rate, though, he would hit .282.
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+ | 2006 | 24 | Pirates | 270 | 10 | 11 | 0.205 | 18 | 91 | 72 | 16 | | 2007 | 25 | Pirates | 329 | 22 | 23 | 0.246 | 24 | 96 | 68 | 9 | | 2008 | 26 | Pirates | 597 | 23 | 26 | 0.226 | 17 | 88 | 75 | 10 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
McLouth's 23 steals in 2008 certainly helped owners, but it was a bit of a drop-off from his 2007 pace. He reached first less often, attempted in these situations less frequently, and was a little less successful on those attempts. Still, Tango's Fan Scouting Report thought he got a little faster, and a recent BP interview (h/t: The Book Blog) provides some hope for more steals in 2009.
NM: ... I’m going to steal more bases....
We tend to hear a lot of this kind of stuff during Spring Training, but there's a chance this is different. I don't think it's the same thing as some random player saying, "Yeah, I'd like to steal 30 bases this year." McLouth gives real, logical reasons and even cites that it was management's idea. Might turn out to be nothing, but it certainly doesn't hurt his chances.
If McLouth gets the same number of plate appearances with the same SBO% and we plug in a 20 percent attempt rate and 85 percent success rate, he'd steal 26 bases. To get to 30, he'd only need a .235 SBO% and 22 percent SBA%. He topped both of those in 2007.
Believe it or not, it doesn't look like McLouth is done growing. A 30/30 season in 2009 is a very distinct possibility.
CBS Sportsline: T-10th OF
The Hardball Times: 13th OF
ESPN: 17th OF
ESPN ADP: 17th OF (R4)
Mock Draft Central Expert Mock Draft #2: 17th OF (R4)
RotoAuthority: 17th OF
FOX Sports - Mike Harmon: 18th OF
Razzball: 18th OF
RotoSavants: 18th OF
FOX Sports - John Halpin: 19th OF
Mock Draft Central Expert Mock Draft #3: 19th OF (R5)
Mock Draft Central ADP: 21st OF (R4)
Yahoo! Big Board: 21st OF
Yahoo! ADP: 21st OF (R5)
Fantasy Baseball Express: 21st OF
Rotoworld: 22nd OF
Mock Draft Central Expert Mock Draft #4: 24th OF (R5)
Mock Draft Central Expert Mock Draft #1: 25th OF (R6)
There's a pretty tight range for McLouth here. Aside from THT's and CBS' outlier rankings, everyone else is pretty clustered together—he's somewhere between the 17th and 21st best outfielder and must be taken in the fourth or fifth round.
While McLouth must be taken high, I feel that there is some definite profit potential here. If we assign him 600 at-bats, a .276 average, 28 home runs, 27 steals, 100 RBIs, and 85 runs, we're looking at the fifth- or sixth-best outfielder, worth close to $26. Give him 30/30 and 90 runs and he becomes a $28 player.
I like taking consistent players with my first few picks, but in the fourth round, I think McLouth is talented enough to warrant selection if your team has a couple of anchors already. Take him any time after round four and he's a steal.
Smoke and mirrors?: Absolutely not.