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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
When I started writing for The Hardball Times, the plan was for me to write about Rotohog, since that was the game where I had experienced the most success and to which was devoting the most time. That plan went out the window when Rotohog eliminated most of the prizes for its contests. Fantasy baseball is always fun, but it’s a lot more fun when there’s some money on the line, and without substantial prizes, I wasn’t as interested in Rotohog. Since then I’ve been writing on topics related to a wide variety formats using daily transactions. However, I’ve been looking to introduce a more consistent focus to my articles. It’s been decided that going forward I’ll be writing about the fantasy baseball topic nearest and dearest to my heart—daily contests.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, here’s how daily fantasy baseball contests work. You pick a team today. You win (or lose) tonight. That’s it, more or less. Most sites run the contests as "salary cap" games, where each player has an assigned cost, and you have to pick a full lineup without exceeding the salary cap. Scoring is based on a points system. In addition, some sites offer "live draft" format contests, where you actually do a quick draft with one or more opponents. Games are run with anywhere from 2 up to 100 (or more) contestants, and for stakes ranging from play money to $200 or more per contest.
Close to a dozen sites offer these contests, including Draftbug (which is my site), Snapdraft (the most heavily marketed site so far), and Fantasysportslive (the earliest site to offer these games). While they share many features, there are some differences in the sites' look and feel, contests, scoring, roster configurations, and other features. However, they have enough in common that the strategic issues players face will be similar on all of them, and most of what I talk about should be relevant no matter which you play on.
So why do I think these games are so great? There are two reasons.
Daily fantasy baseball contests allow a lot more room for use of Sabermetrics to gain an edge over your opponents. In a traditional league, the most important skills include performance projection for the season, player valuation for your format, and ongoing game strategy. For the first two, commercially available forecasts and ratings have made it very hard to gain any kind of substantial edge over opponents. Game strategy can provide an edge but isn’t especially dependent on understanding or using sabermetrics. By contrast, success at daily fantasy contests is almost entirely about who has the best “sabermetric-fu.” While the results of any one contest can appear to be almost entirely luck, the cumulative results of multiple contests per day over the course of the season have an extremely high degree of skill. And that skill encompasses forecasting player performance each day based on a host of factors including skill, park factors, home field advantage, opposing starting pitcher, opposing bullpen, health, weather, opposing lineup and more. Each of those offers the opportunity for a wide range of approaches, which will impact your success or failure. For numbers geeks, these games are like a sabermetric playground, where we can profit based on the success of our ideas.
On the other hand, as obsessed as I am (and many of you are) with baseball in general, and fantasy baseball in particular, one of the drawbacks of traditional (full season) leagues is that they’re a grind. Particularly the daily transaction leagues can feel like a chore after a while. If you take a day off it can really hurt your team, and a summer vacation can ruin your entire fantasy baseball season. Daily contests solve that problem. You play them when you have the time, and don’t play when you don’t have the time. For those of us with families and other responsibilities, that’s a real blessing. I may spend hours each day thinking about and working on fantasy baseball, but every once in a while there’s a day when it’s really hard to find even a few minutes for it. Daily contests eliminate the burden of having to check my lineup on those days.
I hope in the coming weeks and months I can not only show you how terrific these games are, but provide you with many of the ideas and tools that will help you succeed in them!
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 1:44am (5) Comments
Thursday, April 30, 2009
This is going to be a fairly short entry, but I hope it will still be informative. A couple Fantasy Focus articles over the last few weeks have referenced Yahoo leagues and this article, which provides the category averages for teams that finished in the top three of 12-team, standard 5x5 leagues in 2008. As I mentioned in my last Roster Doctor article, at the beginning of each season, I like to compare my current teams to the standings of previous leagues to see how they might do. I’ll take the average line of the project systems (i.e. Marcel, CHONE, Bill James, etc.) for each starter, add those numbers up by category and then check those past standings to help gauge the number of points my current team might accumulate in each category. While not an exact science, this method gives me a rough estimate of how I might fare in a particular league.
While the aforementioned Yahoo article provides averages for the top three places for each category, I haven’t seen an article that provides averages across all places. Yahoo allows fantasy sports participants to check standings of the past leagues they have taken part in, so I have compiled category averages for all positions for every 12-team, 5x5, Roto-style leagues I have ever participated through Yahoo. Dating back to 2001, I have apparently played in 27 of said leagues (this sort of makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life over the last near-decade, but whatever). Here’s the data, separated by category and sorted in descending order:
Points Runs HR RBI SB Avg W SV K ERA WHIP Points 12 861.2 241.8 849.9 163.5 0.298 85.1 139.5 1059.9 3.35 1.18 12 11 832.6 227.1 811.8 138.6 0.294 80.6 121.1 1012.8 3.57 1.22 11 10 815.4 218.6 791.1 124.6 0.291 78.1 106.7 976.5 3.65 1.24 10 9 794.9 209.9 771.1 111.3 0.289 75.9 97.3 947.8 3.75 1.26 9 8 778.2 203.1 754.4 106.8 0.286 74.7 86.9 926.5 3.82 1.27 8 7 764.6 197.9 741.1 99.3 0.285 72.8 77.2 900.9 3.89 1.28 7 6 753.4 193.0 724.0 93.9 0.282 69.7 68.9 887.7 3.96 1.29 6 5 739.7 189.3 711.4 88.1 0.280 67.0 62.4 856.6 4.03 1.30 5 4 728.5 180.9 693.1 79.4 0.277 64.4 57.1 826.8 4.10 1.32 4 3 710.8 176.3 673.6 68.8 0.275 61.4 48.8 771.2 4.17 1.33 3 2 691.3 166.9 655.7 61.5 0.272 56.1 37.6 713.4 4.33 1.36 2 1 624.9 150.0 595.3 50.5 0.267 48.3 19.2 643.7 4.52 1.39 1Obviously, the sample size isn’t very large and I'm not sure taking averages across so many years is the best way to handle things, but I also don't think these numbers are too far off from what the averages will be for all Yahoo leagues this year. Hopefully, this table will give you a general idea of where your team may finish at the end of the year, and also give you an idea as to categories in which you could use improvement.
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 2:51am (4) Comments
Today we’ve got a special guest article for you written by Kevin Orris of FantasyPros911. He and I had been talking a bit recently about the potential advantages a fantasy baseball owner can gain by using Twitter, so here he is with his thoughts on the matter. At the end, you can find some of my follow-up thoughts.
With the development of new technologies, the way fantasy baseball owners manage their teams has changed a great deal in recent years. For example, we now have live scoring rather than doing it by hand once a week, but my focus today is on Twitter.
For those uninformed, Twitter is a social networking site similar to Facebook and MySpace, but what’s special about Twitter is that it only allows people to post 140 character messages that are broadcast to all of your “followers.” In the changing fantasy baseball world, where people are scrounging for the quickest news, Twitter is a fantastic resource.
Not only is it free to sign up, but there are not any costs involved. How great is free entertainment in a time when the world is in a recession? The reason that I’m writing about Twitter today, though, has nothing to do with cost. It’s all about dominating your fantasy baseball league.
As most fantasy owners know, during the season, navigating the waiver wire is vital to success. Sure, drafting is a big part of it, but once you draft a team, you can’t expect it to manage itself. You've got to pick up and drop players and make trades along the way as well.
Anyone that has played fantasy baseball before knows that it’s fun to make transactions, especially when they pay off for you in a big way. It’s a simple fact that injuries happen in baseball, and in order to adjust to this in fantasy, you've got to stay on top of things.
By using Twitter as a fantasy owner, not only are you able to chat about your feelings and learn about those of actual baseball players, you’re able to find out the latest news in no time. I’m not sure about you, but being able to see what Nick Swisher, CC Sabathia, Coco Crisp, Brian Wilson, etc. have to say on a regular basis is entertaining.
Now, they are never going to tell you about their latest injury, but from a fantasy perspective, there are hundreds of fantasy baseball owners and writers on Twitter that regularly “tweet” about their teams, statistics of hot and cold players, and anything else on their mind. (For all of the Twitter “lingo” go here: http://whyfacebook.com/2008/09/11/twitter-lingo-demystified/)
This is where Twitter comes in handy; anyone is able to follow any public profile (very few profiles are set to private). Therefore, you can follow anyone from ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser (@PTIshow) to Fanball.com writer Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) or even myself (@kevinorris). By doing this, you are able to see what hundreds, thousands, or in Ashton Kutcher’s case, millions of people have to say. If you follow the right people, this can be used to your advantage to dominate your fantasy league.
For example, according to RotoWorld.com, a popular site for the latest player news, at 4:53 PM ET on April 21, they reported that Boston Red Sox outfielder Rocco Baldelli was headed to the DL. On Twitter, I found out about that about 15-20 minutes before hand.
This past Saturday, news broke that pitcher Nelson Figueroa was headed back to the Mets, when original reports stated that he would become a free agent. @TheRopolitans broke the news at 9:34 AM, and almost an hour later (10:27 AM to be exact) RotoWorld.com broke the news. MLB.com reported the news a whopping three hours later at 12:49 PM.
There are a few possible reasons behind this that I’m going to take a stab at:
1) Many Twitter members can tweet from their phones, which means while listening to the radio if they hear some breaking news, they can tweet it to everyone.
2) The people at RotoWorld don’t find their info from direct sources too often; rather it’s typically from other sources reporting it first.
3) There are people on Twitter, like myself, who are connected to people in professional baseball and they sometimes find out news bits before some news sources. I do have a few connections, and just this past week I was one of the first to find out that Brian McCann would not require a second Lasik surgery after talking to his agent on my live radio show.
4) There are live tweets from multiple sports media outlets, including ESPN, which get out pretty quickly. Although Twitter members have some connections, more often than not, main media sources will be the ones breaking the news. Twitter however, allows the news to spread faster, and more often than not, local newspapers and radio stations break stories about their teams before national outlets. The passing of Harry Kalas was first brought up by Philly.com, and was posted on Twitter within minutes.
Now that you’re excited to start an account of your own, I would recommend “following” a number of people which include: @espn, @vegasman2000, @fp911, @babeslovebaseball, @rotoadvice, @joelhenard, @dsportsdaily, @rotoinfo, @JoseCanseco, @MarkBradleyAJC, @rotoprofessor, @theropolitans, @jintman, @glundeen, @JerseyHitman, @bigjonwilliams, @invisibleman79, @johnnyarchive, @FriedBaseballATL, @coryh64, @robertreed, @FBTM_Chris, @crookedpitch, @stanhayes, @troypatterson, @seanroto, and @rhettoldham.
Be sure to sign up for an account today and let me know what you think in the comments section below.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very behind on Twitter. I’ve just recently created an account, and I’ve yet to use it. Still, I recognize the power Twitter can have for fantasy owners.
Thirty to 40 percent of closers lose their jobs every year, meaning there can be as many as 12 new closers wracking up saves. Anyone who has played in a league with daily transactions knows what it’s like to dash to the waiver wire upon hearing of a changing of the guard. How often, though, have you made that dash only to realize that someone beat you to the punch? With Twitter, you could find out this news as much as two hours earlier. And this doesn't just go for closers. Great for injuries, minor league call-ups, playing time changes, or really anything else of note.
I remember Kevin telling me a couple of weeks ago that Lastings Milledge had been demoted. I had yet to hear of it, and he said that he heard on Twitter. Sure enough, a half-hour later it appeared at MLB.com or ESPN (or one of the major sites), and what seemed like an hour or two later, it appeared as RotoWorld headline (this isn't an exact time-frame, just my recollection of it).
While the tone of this article might seem to be anti-RotoWorld, RotoWire, RotoTimes, etc, let me assure you it's not. I actually think RotoWorld is a fantastic resource. RotoWorld is great to catch up on the day's news in a short amount of time, but for news that needs to be acted upon immediately after it breaks, Twitter seems like the ticket. In a game where seconds and minutes matter, it would be foolish not to grab any advantage we can.
Why is Twitter so much faster? I have a couple suspicions. When news breaks and the first beat writer gets a hold of it, it probably takes 10 or 20 minutes to pump an article out. Then, unless you've got an immediate RSS feed to every single newspaper and website on the internet, you're going to have to wait until a major site like ESPN runs with it or until a site like RotoWorld picks it up. Then, you'll still have to be in the right place to read about it at one of these sites before your opponents do. Whatever the case, we're often getting news third-hand and dealing with the associated lag time.
With Twitter, you can get instant updates sent to your computer or phone, sometimes by the people breaking the news in the first place. At the very least, you're receiving access to the omnipresence of thousands of people surfing the web, and all it takes is one to be in the right place at the right time.
People on Twitter don't need to take the time to write a full article. They can shoot off a Tweet in five seconds and from anywhere since it can be done via cell phone. I can easily foresee every last beat writer in the country jumping on the Twitter bandwagon in the near future. They're in an extremely competitive business themselves, and Twitter seems like the quickest way of getting the news out.
Again, I'm behind on this stuff, so I could wrong, but to me this makes sense.
Any of you guys using Twitter? Have you found reliable news sources? Have we missed an advantage of it? Disagree completely? Whatever the case, drop us a comment.
Posted by Kevin Orris at 2:53am (12) Comments
About 20 games into the regular season, some players are outperforming preseason expectations, some are under performing, and others are playing at the level expected of them.
Many fantasy experts are quick to cite players doing well that have higher than expected BABIPs, saying how they will come back to Earth. And they do the same for struggling players as well.
Not so quickly mentioned are the players that are doing well despite lower BABIPs and poorly performing players with higher BABIPs. I chose to use the words "higher" and "lower" because no player that is playing well right now is going to have a low BABIP and vice versa. By identifying those with BABIPs on the lower end of the spectrum however, we can determine which players are less likely to regress towards their expected level of production.
I did not do this systematically but instead simply scoured the leader boards for anomalous players. Here are some players I found noteworthy in each category, sorted randomly:
High Production, Lower BABIP (greater chance high production level is maintained)
Note that stats in this article are through Tuesday's games
1) Albert Pujols — Mr. Automatic is off to a terrific start, batting .320 with seven homers, 25 RBIs, and even three stolen bases just for show. And all of this is being done with a .279 BABIP, which is 44 points lower than his Marcel's projected BABIP (mBABIP). I am aware that nobody thinks Pujols' season is fluky, but knowing that he is getting a little unlucky on balls in play makes it all the more impressive.
2) Torii Hunter — Torii's surprising .319 batting average is not inflated by a high BABIP as some might expect, but instead is unaffected by a neutral .300 BABIP. I am not blind to what is really happening with Hunter so far this year, though. Although his BABIP cannot account for his surprising average, it is inflated by his ridiculous 24 percent HR/FB rate. If you normalize his HR/FB and flyball rate—when the smoke clears—his new average is .275 and his home run total drops to three. So even though I listed Hunter here because he fit the criteria; I do think his season is more of a fluke than the others listed.
3) Andre Ethier — Ethier is picking up where he left off at the end of last season, batting .301 with 5 home runs and 21 RBIs. With a BABIP of .317 (.330 mBABIP) his numbers are not being nudged up by an inflated BABIP. If anything, they are being pushed down slightly, so his stats shoudl not be looked at with arched eyebrows.
4) Nelson Cruz — Think Nelson Cruz's hot start is a fluke? His .280 BABIP is 29 points lower than his mBABIP. Cruz looks like he is in the majors for good this time.
5) Adam Dunn — Usually when a player sees a 90 point jump in his batting average, people are skeptical. Dunn has seen just that with his average rising from last year's .236 to .328, but BABIP luck has had very little to do with it. His current .333 BABIP is not that far off from his mBABIP of .290. With the necessary adjustment made to his batting average, he would still be batting around .285, which I'm sure would still be acceptable to his owners.
Low Production, Higher BABIP (greater chance low production level is maintained)
1) David Wright — I like David Wright as much as the next guy and of course I believe he will have another great season, but the issue with him right now (.282 average, one home run) is himself, not luck. He is actually getting lucky on balls in play; his BABIP is above .400(!) at .404.
All I am saying about Wright and the players that follow is that BABIP unluckiness does not have to do with their slow starts. Maybe it is just too early in the season, they are getting unlucky with home runs, or are hiding an injury; I don't know for sure. What I do know, however, is that a lack of BABIP luck is not what has been keeping them down. Therefore, you should be slightly more concerned about these players.
2) Carl Crawford — From a fantasy perspective Crawford is not doing all that bad, batting about .275, scoring runs, and stealing bases (7). From a "real baseball" perspective, however, Crawford is performing unexceptionally with an wOBA at .326, which is just below league-average. Holding him back is his lack of home runs and anemic .071 Isolated Power.
What concerns me is his batting average's dependency on an inflated .354 BABIP. When you adjust his BABIP to the projected .330 level, his batting average drops to the .255 range. And now instead of Carl Crawford, you've got Michael Bourn on your team.
3) Kevin Kouzmanoff — I am not sure if anyone still believes in the Kouz but to those who still care, things are not going too well. He has hit only one home run and the one semi-positive of his season so far—his .270 average—belies his true ability as it is buoyed by his .340 BABIP.
4) Jhonny Peralta — One of the slowest players out of the gate this year, Peralta has no home runs or steals this year and is batting a mere .238. Not responsible for these early season woes is his above-projected .330 BABIP. Possible future Disgraceful List member.
5) Russell Martin — Another early disappointment, Martin and the above Peralta have eerily similar stats. Both are without any home runs or stolen bases and both are batting .225. A lot of their other stats are close too, including their BABIPs with Martin's checking in at a somewhat high .308. Whenever a player is around neutral in balls in play luck and is batting just .238, concern should arise.
I will reiterate that the players on the first list are not guaranteed to keep their production level up, as they could be getting lucky elsewhere and the players on the second list could certainly start playing as we expect, possibly even as soon as tomorrow.
When you have two players struggling in the early goings as J.J. Hardy and Peralta are, but Peralta's BABIP is .330 and Hardy's is .188, I would say there is a greater chance Hardy will rebound. That is all I'm trying to say with this exercise.