May 24, 2013
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Thursday, March 26, 2009
If you’ve spent any time talking to successful poker tournament players, most of them will tell you that in large multi-table tournaments with hundreds (or thousands) of players, high variance strategies are one of the keys to success. That doesn’t mean taking stupid chances, but it does mean that in a large field contest with top heavy prize distribution, if you have two options with similar expected value, then the higher variance option is usually going to win you more money in the long run.
The same concept can be used in fantasy baseball contests that share the characteristics of being large (in terms of number of contestants) and have top heavy payouts.
The ideal format to apply this idea is the daily fantasy contest sites, such as Draftbug (my site), Snapdraft, and Fantasysportslive. With contests lasting just one day, high variance strategies are easy to apply, and probably appropriate for any contests with 10 or more participants. While sacrificing expectation for variance doesn’t make sense for the very best players in longer duration fantasy sports contests, it may be beneficial for even the best players in contests lasting just one day, since even the very best players will only come out ahead very slightly more than their "fair share" of the time.
However, there are situations where high variance strategies can be applied to longer duration "global contests" such as ESPN, Rotohog, and Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge and Ultimate. The key is that these are all large contests, with thousands of entrants. The odds that you’ll win simply by making better picks are very small.
The basic idea behind sacrificing "expected points" for variance is that prize distribution is so skewed towards the first place finisher in most of these contests, that if you can increase your chances of coming in first more often, it’s worth reducing your chances of finishing in other positions in the top half of the field. A 10 person daily contest doesn’t reward you for finishing fourth instead of last, and a 10,000 person contest probably pays little or nothing for 300th place. If you want to win money in the long run in these contests, you need to shoot for the top.
One way to accomplish this is to choose players whose performance is likely to be strongly correlated. The easiest way to do this is in daily fantasy baseball contests is to choose players on the same team. If they knock the opposing starter out early and get to face the dregs of the opposing bullpen, that's going to benefit both of them ... leading to a positive correlation in their scores for the day. If the batter hitting fourth gets an RBI, there's a pretty good chance that the batter hitting ahead of him got a run ... again leading to greater correlation among their daily scores. Most daily games won't allow you to choose all players from the same team (because that would legally count as sports betting), but choosing mostly players from the same team is definitely a good idea in larger contests ... particularly if you can identify a bad opposing starting pitcher to go against. For games that give pitchers large amounts of points for wins and saves, you can greatly increase variance by selecting a starting pitcher and closer from the same team.
While this isn’t as effective in longer duration contests, there are some special situations that will allow you to get high "internal correlation" among players over the course of the season. For example, if you believe (as I do) that the Mets’ new home park (Citi Field) is going to be an extreme pitchers park, you can select as many Mets pitchers as possible. Either you’re wrong or you’re right … but if you’re right, it’s going to help all of your pitchers.
The second way to increase variance in fantasy sports contests is to differentiate from your opponents. This is a little trickier. In order for it to be a viable strategy, you need a few conditions to exist. Score should be heavily influenced by one player ... for example a game format where a single starting pitcher generally scores almost half of a team's points for the day. You need to know that most of your opponents are likely to choose the same player for that position. Imagine a game with 20 contestants where the entire score is derived from a single starting pitcher. Now imagine that there are only two starting pitchers available today ... Jake Peavy and Mike Pelfrey. Who is the better pick? Almost certainly Pelfrey! While Peavy might have a 75 percent chance of winning, if you win you'll be sharing your first place prize with about 18 other people. If Pelfrey wins (25 percent chance) you're likely to win the entire prize. This is a great (although admittedly extreme) example of how differentiation can help you in these contests.
This too is an easier strategy to implement in daily contests. Typically the only place for differentiation in full season contests is if you’re trying to make up ground in the last few days or weeks of the season. However, you can use the same "special situations" like the Citi Field example above to differentiate your team from others. Another example would be in a contest where you need to balance roster value with playing match-ups effectively. If you know that everybody else is going to focus on building roster value, maybe you can win it all by focusing on match-ups at the expense of roster value. The odds are that the masses are correct in their approach. But if you go along with them, your chances of winning are still miniscule. If you take a different approach, and that approach works, you may be the only one in position to win it all.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 3:22am (2) Comments
Friday, March 27, 2009
Position scarcity—the relative supply of "good" players at each position—plays a large role in fantasy draft and auction strategy. Good strategy demands a good measure of position scarcity. Is second base a "deep" position this year? I've heard some experts bemoan the paucity of good outfielders this year. Conceivably, measuring position scarcity might mean taking into account the expected values of every player in baseball, or at least every potential starter. In this article, I will argue that measuring scarcity is much easier: All you need to do is look at the expected performance of exactly one player at each position, the replacement level player at that position, and compare these players to each other. This should save you lots of time and potential mistakes.
Take the last pick in your draft. The player that would be picked there is a replacement level player. Actually, there is a replacement player for each position. This is the last player picked at each position.
Now take a valuation system. It can be whatever system you want as long as it obeys the following: It only compares pairs of players, and when it compares them it doesn't know or care what position they play. As you will see, pairwise comparisons are all you need to build up a proper value system. So, to reiterate, this system takes in things like expected home runs, RBIs and other stats (scoring or otherwise) but not things like position or "position scarcity."
Take each position replacement level player (PRLP) and value him at $1.
Now, for each position, compare every player eligible at that position (assume for now that there is no multi-eligibility) to the replacement player at that position. After you're done you will have dollar values for every relevant player in your league. Take this six-team, three-position table of players as an example.
1b 2b 3b Highest $18 $17 $10 $17 $1 $8 $16 $1 $6 $15 $1 $4 $5 $1 $2 PRLP $1 $1 $1
For these fictitious players: There is one really good player at second base and then a bunch of players that are not better than the PRLP at second base; at first base, the top five players are all much better than the PRLP there.
In a simple league with no bench or multi-position eligibility, the PRLP players will go in the last round of the draft: There's no reason to waste a higher round pick on them (unless there are more positions than players, of course). That's why they are valued at $1.
Now, convince yourself that the best thing the team with the first pick can do is to draft the player with the highest value, regardless of the distribution of values by position (as long as your opponents don't draft according to some crazy strategy scheme like "Always draft the best second baseman with my first pick"). That All-Star second base looks mighty tempting, doesn't it? After all, if you don't get him, you're left with the dregs at for second base. But you should not draft him first. The difference between him and his position's PRLP isn't wide enough (and note that you got that by only comparing him to the PRLP, without accounting for any kind of scarcity). Go ahead and and try it—drafting the second baseman first will yield a total team value of $26 (the $17 second baseman, the $8 third baseman and the $1 first baseman), while drafting the $18 first baseman first will yield a total team value of $27 (with the $8 third baseman and the $1 second baseman).
So, now to define position scarcity. A position (say, second base) is scarce if you can take a player from another position (say first base) and he would have a higher value if you compared him with the PRLP at second base than you got by initially comparing him to his PRLP at first base. A necessary and sufficient condition for a position (say, second base) to be scarce is that the PRLP at second base is worse (using your pairwise system) than the PLRP at another position, say first base (note: you can't see this from the dollar values in the table above, since these values were for intra-position only).
As a corollary: Scarcity has nothing to do with the distribution of talent above replacement level within the position.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 1:01am (11) Comments
It is time again to put on our white lab coats and look at another roster. Today's looks like this:
Player pool: Mixed
No. of teams: 16
Categories: Traditional 5x5
Scoring Type: Head-to-Head
C - Mike Napoli
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - Kaz Matsui
SS - Jhonny Peralta
3B - Aubrey Huff
OF - Adam Dunn
OF - Carlos Lee
OF - Felipe Lopez
Util - Jim Thome
BN - Brandon Inge
BN - Marcus Thames
BN - Russell Branyan
SP - Brandon Webb
SP - Roy Oswalt
RP - Heath Bell
RP - Joel Hanrahan
P - Brandon Lyon
P - Mark Lowe
P - Erik Bedard
BN - Wandy Rodriguez
BN - Jonathan Sanchez
BN - Andrew Miller
BN - Joel Zumaya
For a 16-team league, this team has tremendous pitching, from top to bottom with both starters and relievers. Oswalt and Webb are a great elite duo and Bedard, Sanchez, and Miller are good strikeout pitchers at the very least to round out the bottom of your rotation.
To have three closers and one probable closer is also impressive, so most likely you won't be dependent on scraping the bottom of the barrel for interim closers throughout the season, although you should always be on the lookout vulture saves.
It is apparent your pitching staff is one of the strongest in the league, but now let's see how that investment in pitching left your hitting lineup.
Honestly, not bad. I can tell you focused on getting power and with Fielder, Thome, Napoli, Dunn, and Lee, your team should thrive in the home run and RBI categories, at the obvious expense of batting average and runs. With Lopez, Matsui, and Lee, who should get about 60 total stolen bases together, you team is capable of winning the steals category every now and then.
The one player I would like to see moved is Felipe Lopez from the outfield. I do not want to see him off your team, though, because you are at a critical level of steals where any upgrade translates into a lot more wins in the category. So the question is how can we upgrade your steals without doing too much damage to the areas you are strong in, namely pitching and power?
I believe the answer lies in trading Jhonny Peralta for an outfielder and accepting a pitching downgrade, depending on the quality of outfielder you are trading for. This would then allow you to slide in Lopez at shortstop, where he will have more "value."
Some cheaper outfielders I would target who can still get steals while hitting for reasonable power are Elijah Dukes and Fred Lewis. If you traded for one of these two players, you should actually be the one getting the slight upgrade elsewhere since Peralta is the better player involved. If you want to acquire a better outfielder (knowing you might have to accept a pitching downgrade to make this happen) some players I would target are Andre Ethier, Corey Hart, Lastings Milledge, and Bobby Abreu.
With a trade like that complete, your steals should come out improved and your power weakened slightly if at all.
One last thing I would do is alter your bench hitters a little. All three players are basically the same guy—power hitters with low averages. Why not mix it up a little? Take a flier on a high-upside pitcher or find a player in free agency who can steal some bases. I do not like the homologous nature of your bench batters.
Other than those two things, I would not mess around with this roster too much until the season starts. Your team should take the pitching categories most weeks and at least two of the five hitting categories, leading to plenty of victories. Good work.
Posted by Paul Singman at 2:36am (0) Comments
With four expert league drafts now completed and most of your drafts to be completed in the coming days, I thought I would drop a quick post with the players who wound up on my teams most frequently. I still have a couple more drafts to go, but by then all of your drafts will have happened.
Please note that there is some definite selection bias on this list as two of the leagues are NL-only while only one is mixed and one is AL-only (this bias is quite obvious in that there is only one AL player on the entire list).
The list is also subject to the various quirks of the league rules and the individual drafts, so having Matt Wieters on here doesn't necessarily mean that I like him more than a Ryan Doumit or Mike Napoli. I didn't think I'd end up drafting him at all, but for whatever reason, he just happened to wind up on my team a couple of times. Take these for what they're worth, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing the list regardless.
The leagues that these results come from are LABR NL (NL-only), FSIC (NL-only), FantasyPros911 (AL-only — reserve draft has yet to be completed), and KFFL (Mixed). Without further ado, here is the list:
Hitters — 3 teams
Raul Ibanez: LABR, FSIC, KFFL
Cody Ross: LABR, FSIC, KFFL
Nyjer Morgan: LABR, FSIC, KFFL
Hitters — 2 teams
Matt Wieters: FP911, KFFL
James Loney: LABR, FSIC
Kelly Johnson: LABR, KFFL
Chris Dickerson: FSIC, KFFL
Kosuke Fukudome: LABR, FSIC
Pitchers — 3 teams
Javier Vazquez: LABR, FSIC, KFFL
Kenshin Kawakami: LABR, FSIC, KFFL
Pitchers — 2 teams
Rich Harden: LABR, KFFL
Derek Lowe: FSIC, KFFL
Jorge de la Rosa: LABR, FSIC
Ross Ohlendorf: LABR, FSIC
Questions on any of these guys? Feel free to drop them in the comments and I'd be happy to answer.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:59pm (21) Comments
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stepped up to the mound last week and pitched a long-awaited relief plan to rid banks of troubled mortgage assets. The government's announcement that it would soon team up with private investors to do something about these so-called "toxic" assets led to an explosive late-inning rally at the stock market on Wall Street. Investors were pleased that bolstering banks would lead to more flexibility in the credit markets and a flow of new transactional activity.
Meanwhile, in fantasy baseball drafts and auctions throughout the country, participants will make investment decisions that will result in the accumulation of some of their own “toxic” assets. For example, some figure that buying Alex Rodriguez at $12 is just too good a deal to pass. Others have several second-basemen already drafted but can't resist when Howie Kendrick falls to them in the 17th round. One day’s bargain becomes the next day’s hangover, as the team with three catchers and no third basemen desperately tries to swing a trade with the team with two third basemen and an undistinguished catcher.
Yes, toxic assets exist in fantasy baseball, especially at the beginning of the season when dropping a player carries emotional baggage: One day, you’re in a draft. You see a player you don’t necessarily want or need, but your draft guide is telling you that this player should have gone four rounds ago. The next day, you look at your roster, as well as yourself in the mirror, trying to figure out how you let profit potential get ahead of team needs.
You’re too invested to drop the player, however.
So you desperately start e-mailing your league-mates, trying to convince them that they made a mistake when passing up your player in the draft. You propose Kendrick for Aubrey Huff. The other team counters with Melvin Mora, who you can’t stand—but then again, you need a third baseman.
You decide to wait. And guess what—your sleeper Kendrick gets off to a really slow start. Should you drop him? Risk the chance that Kendrick eventually becomes some other team’s golden goose egg?
These are just a couple examples of the toxicity factor that sometimes haunts fantasy baseball managers early in the season.
Toxicity varies from league to league, and team to team, thanks to three factors.
First is the number of roster positions a team enjoys. Each roster position has value. Deep benches allow teams to carry players with less immediate value and more long-term potential.
Second is transactional flexibility. Some leagues allow league members to make as many add/drops as they wish throughout the season. Others use a free agent acquisition budget, or cap the number of transactions. Lots of transactional flexibility means a waiver wire that offers great potential replacement value. It becomes tougher to hang onto players with less immediate value in these formats.
Third, and finally, is team performance. A team that is doing well may be able to afford some bench room for potential. A team that is doing poorly finds the imperative to make shakeups.
In the current U.S. recession, banks are doing poorly. Transactional flexibility has withered as the credit markets have frozen. And banks find themselves with a much more shallow bench that holds no room for things like troubled mortgage assets.
So here comes Timothy “Uncle Sam” Geithner with his plan to both lend investors money at below-market rates so they have more funds to buy up the banks' bad assets as well as act as a guarantor against a great deal of the losses. If only fantasy baseball managers had league commissioners who could act with such generosity.
Of course, the bailout is not written in stone. Banks will need to participate in auctions, selling many of their assets at prices below written value. Some question whether banks, in the coming weeks, will see the wisdom of taking this course.
Same goes in the fantasy baseball world. April 15 is the day that taxes are due throughout this nation. How many fantasy baseball managers will wait until then to write off their own toxic assets?
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 2:10am (4) Comments
With the season less than one week from beginning, we thought it would be a good idea to update our preseason rankings one more time. The original rankings can be found here, and the reactions to those rankings can be found here.
Even though most of you have already drafted your teams, these rankings can be used to evaluate trades and other things of the sort. Here they are:
+--------------------------+---------------------+----------------------+-----------------------+ | Catcher | First Base | Second Base | Third Base | +--------------------------+---------------------+----------------------+-----------------------+ | 1 Brian McCann | 1 Albert Pujols | 1 Chase Utley | 1 David Wright | | 2 Russell Martin | 2 Miguel Cabrera | 2 Ian Kinsler | 2 Miguel Cabrera | | 3 Geovany Soto | 3 Mark Teixeira | 3 Dustin Pedroia | 3 Alex Rodriguez | | 4 Joe Mauer | 4 Ryan Howard | 4 Brian Roberts | 4 Kevin Youkilis | | 5 Victor Martinez | 5 Prince Fielder | 5 Brandon Phillips | 5 Aramis Ramirez | | 6 Ryan Doumit | 6 Lance Berkman | 6 Robinson Cano | 6 Evan Longoria | | 7 Chris Iannetta | 7 Justin Morneau | 7 Alexei Ramirez | 7 Chipper Jones | | 8 Jorge Posada | 8 Adrian Gonzalez | 8 Dan Uggla | 8 Ryan Zimmerman | | 9 Matt Wieters | 9 Kevin Youkilis | 9 Kelly Johnson | 9 Chris Davis | | 10 Mike Napoli | 10 Joey Votto | 10 Rickie Weeks | 10 Adrian Beltre | | 11 AJ Pierzynski | 11 Derrek Lee | 11 Mark DeRosa | 11 Edwin Encarnacion | | 11 Pablo Sandoval | 12 Chris Davis | 12 Howie Kendrick | 11 Garrett Atkins | | 13 Bengie Molina | 13 James Loney | 12 Jose Lopez | 13 Chone Figgins | | 14 Ramon Hernandez | 14 Carlos Pena | 14 Placido Polanco | 14 Jorge Cantu | | 15 Dioner Navarro | 15 Garrett Atkins | 15 Aaron Hill | 15 Aubrey Huff | | 16 Jarrod Saltalamacchia| 16 Aubrey Huff | 16 Ian Stewart | 16 Mark Reynolds | | 17 Kelly Shoppach | 17 Conor Jackson | 17 Felipe lopez | 17 Alex Gordon | | 18 Jeff Clement | 18 Adam Dunn | 18 Orlando Hudson | 18 Mark DeRosa | | 19 Ivan Rodriguez | 19 Carlos Delgado | 19 Freddy Sanchez | 19 Carlos Guillen | | 20 Brandon Inge | 20 Pablo Sandoval | 20 Kazuo Matsui | 20 Troy Glaus | | 21 Kurt Suzuki | | 21 Alexi Casilla | 20 Hank Blalock | +--------------------------+---------------------+----------------------+-----------------------+
+---------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+-------------------------+ | Shortstop | Outfield | Starting Pitcher | Relief Pitcher | +---------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+-------------------------+ | 1 Hanley Ramirez | 1 Grady Sizemore | 1 Johan Santana | 1 Jonathan Papelbon | | 2 Jose Reyes | 2 Ryan Braun | 2 Tim Lincecum | 2 Mariano Rivera | | 3 Jimmy Rollins | 3 Carlos Beltran | 3 Jake Peavy | 2 Joe Nathan | | 4 Alexei Ramirez | 4 Alfonso Soriano | 4 CC Sabathia | 4 Francisco Rodriguez | | 5 Rafael Furcal | 5 Carlos Lee | 5 Dan Haren | 5 Joakim Soria | | 5 Troy Tulowitzki | 6 BJ Upton | 5 Brandon Webb | 6 Brad Lidge | | 7 JJ Hardy | 7 Josh Hamilton | 7 Josh Beckett | 7 Jonathan Broxton | | 8 Derek Jeter | 7 Matt Holliday | 8 Roy Halladay | 8 Brian Fuentes | | 9 Stephen Drew | 9 Carl Crawford | 9 Chad Billingsley | 9 Jose Valverde | | 10 Jhonny Peralta | 10 Matt Kemp | 10 James Shields | 10 Francisco Cordero | | 11 Michael Young | 11 Nick Markakis | 11 Cole Hamels | 11 Heath Bell | | 12 Miguel Tejada | 12 Jason Bay | 12 Roy Oswalt | 12 Matt Capps | | 12 Mike Aviles | 13 Ichiro Suzuki | 13 Felix Hernandez | 13 Kerry Wood | | 14 Ryan Theriot | 14 Manny Ramirez | 14 Javier Vazquez | 14 Brandon Morrow | | 15 Yunel Escobar | 15 Curtis Granderson | 15 Joba Chamberlain | 15 Bobby Jenks | | 16 Orlando Cabrera | 16 Nate McLouth | 16 Francisco Liriano | 16 Chad Qualls | | 17 Cristan Guzman | 17 Carlos Quentin | 17 Cliff Lee | 17 Manny Corpas | | 18 Edgar Renteria | 18 Jacoby Ellsbury | 18 Scott Kazmir | 18 Frank Francisco | | 19 Khalil Greene | 19 Alex Rios | 18 Matt Cain | 19 Mike Gonzalez | | 20 Clint Barmes | 20 Bobby Abreu | 20 Yovani Gallardo | 20 Jason Motte | | | 21 Vladimir Guerrero | 21 Daisuke Matsuzaka | 21 Brian Wilson | | | 22 Magglio Ordonez | 22 Edinson Volquez | 22 Brad Ziegler | | | 23 Shane Victorino | 23 AJ Burnett | 23 Kevin Gregg | | | 24 Corey Hart | 24 Adam Wainwright | 24 Matt Lindstrom | | | 25 Lastings Milledge | 25 Jon Lester | 25 BJ Ryan | | | 26 Adam Dunn | 26 Rich Harden | 26 Carlos Marmol | | | 27 Hunter Pence | 27 Zach Greinke | 27 George Sherrill | | | 28 Torii Hunter | 28 Ricky Nolasco | 28 Brandon Lyon | | | 29 Andre Ethier | 29 John Lackey | 29 Trevor Hoffman | | | 30 Raul Ibanez | 30 Aaron Harang | 30 Chris Ray | | | 31 Jermain Dye | 31 Carlos Zambrano | 31 Joel Hanrahan | | | 32 Jay Bruce | 32 Jered Weaver | 32 Huston Street | | | 33 Johnny Damon | 33 Erik Bedard | 33 Scott Downs | | | 34 Vernon Wells | 34 Ervin Santana | | | | 35 Ryan Ludwick | 35 Scott Baker | | | | 36 Nelson Cruz | 35 Josh Johnson | | | | 37 Brad Hawpe | 37 Derek Lowe | | | | 38 Chris Young | 38 Justin Verlander | | | | 39 Conor Jackson | 39 Brett Myers | | | | 40 Justin Upton | 40 Matt Garza | | | | 41 Milton Bradley | 41 John Danks | | | | 42 Adam Lind | 42 Ted Lilly | | | | 43 Pat Burrell | 43 Kevin Slowey | | | | 44 Fred Lewis | 44 Chris Young | | | | 45 Jayson Werth | 45 David Price | | | | 46 Elijah Dukes | 46 Max Scherzer | | | | 47 Denard Span | 47 Ryan Dempster | | | | 48 Carlos Gomez | 48 Johnny Cueto | | | | 49 Cameron Maybin | 49 John Smoltz | | | | 50 Hideki Matsui | 49 Wandy Rodriguez | | | | 51 Xavier Nady | 51 Clayton Kershaw | | | | 52 Delmon Young | 52 Ubaldo Jiminez | | | | 53 David DeJesus | 53 Gil Meche | | +---------------------+-----------------------+-----------------------+-------------------------+