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Tuesday, March 01, 2011
If you play fantasy baseball, you know that there are a myriad of different types of leagues that you can participate in depending on your tastes and preferences. Some examples of customizable leagues include rotisserie, head-to-head, points, auction, salary cap, AL only, NL only, mixed league, and others. But one of the most important choices you can make when deciding what type of league you want to join is whether it is a keeper or non-keeper league. In a keeper league, each team owner is allowed to retain a set number of players on their roster for a pre-determined number of consecutive seasons. In a non-keeper league, rosters are refreshed every year and team owners have no long-term rights to a player from season to season.
In order to determine what the general consensus is in terms of preferring keeper or non-keeper leagues, I recently polled 100 people on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail lists, friends and personal acquaintances to gauge the growing trends. The results of the poll showed that 68 percent of fantasy baseball players preferred keeper leagues, 30 percent preferred non-keeper leagues, and 2 percent were either undecided or liked both equally. This did not come as a surprise to me given the trends over the last decade where fantasy baseball players have become more sophisticated and leagues have better replicated real baseball team management. It cannot be denied that people do enjoy drafting players and then having the ability to sign them to long-term contracts and retain them over the course of a set number of years. This was the most common reason given why people prefer keeper leagues. The strategy that goes into deciding who to retain as part of a fantasy team's long-term planning is a decent simulation of a real baseball general manager. That aspect is something that people clearly enjoy.
A keeper league configuration requires a tremendous amount of strategy, foresight, instinct, long-term planning, intuition, knowledge of minor league players, and guts. Depending on how many players you are allowed to retain, team owners endure much angst in making these crucial decisions. People also need to be conscious of injuries (my condolences to those who already declared retention of Adam Wainwright), injury-plagued players, and players returning from injury. People must also take into account a player's age, future potential, position on a team's depth chart, and supporting cast when deciding whether to retain that player going forward.
Depending on which style you choose to play, the actual fantasy baseball draft takes on a different meaning. In a keeper league, younger players who do not have lengthy resumes and are unproven have higher values assigned to them because of their long-term prospects. Signing these young players gives team owners a sense of creating their own dynasty and building for success going forward. This has almost as much intrinsic value as trying to win the league now. In a non-keeper league, the objective of team owners is to select the best players possible for the current season. This comparison applies to both auction and straight draft leagues. Obviously in an auction league, the heightened value of younger players is reflected in the dollar amount spent on those players, whereas in a straight draft, the value is represented by an early round selection. One aspect that is common between keeper and non-keeper leagues is the evaluation of potential "sleepers." Every year, there are certain unknown commodities that are deemed "sleepers" because of their potential for a breakout season. The criteria used to determine whether someone is a sleeper is completely subjective and arguably arbitrary. But regardless, sleepers are usually a late-round pick in a straight draft or a cheaper purchase in an auction depending on how badly someone buys into the hype. Either way, the evaluation of a sleeper is usually based on the present and not the future.
While there are obvious logistical and pragmatic differences between keeper and non-keeper leagues, the biggest distinction is arguably the evaluation of trades made. In a non-keeper league, there are certain objective criteria that can be used to evaluate a trade and determine whether it is fair or not (note that I said fair—not intelligent). You can look at the players involved in the trade and tell whether it passes the sniff test or not. You can look at the players' statistics and tell whether the trade has equal value. You can look at the rosters of each team involved in the trade and determine what the motivation might be to make the trade, as well as ascertain whether any collusion may be taking place.
But all bets are off when looking at trades in a keeper league. In keeper leagues, trading away current high-priced talent in exchange for young, up-and-coming players is a perfectly acceptable and common strategy to employ. This is most typical when a team competing for a playoff berth needs a player to produce for him this year, so he would trade away unproven talent to a team looking to rebuild for the future. Does this sound familiar? It happens in real baseball all the time. So when evaluating whether a trade like this should be approved, you cannot use objective criteria like statistics, team rosters, or auction values.
For example, Team A is in second place and needs to bolster its pitching staff to make a run at the league championship this year. Team B is in second to last place in the league and has no chance of earning a playoff berth this season. Team A possesses several younger players who are projected to be stars down the road and under contract for multiple seasons, but they cannot be relied upon at the present time to contribute from a fantasy perspective. Team B possesses current star pitchers who are under the final year of their contract in the keeper league. So Team A offers a package including Aroldis Chapman, Jeremy Hellickson, Mike Moustakas and Freddie Freeman to Team B in exchange for Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter.
In a non-keeper league, this trade would never be allowed because the current values of these players is so lopsided. For 2011, Roy Oswalt and Chris Carpenter are light years more valuable than the package of young players. However, in a keeper league format, this trade would be considered fair and equal based on what each team's needs are. Team A would be acquiring two top pitchers to help his run at a championship this season. He doesn't care that these players are essentially rentals and do not have as much long-term value. Team B would be acquiring four young players with great upside to build for next season and beyond. This dynamic is exactly what MLB general managers do when deciding whether to trade veteran players for prospects.
When it comes to deciding whether to play in a keeper or non-keeper league, it all depends on your own personal taste and preferences. But beware, keeper leagues are premised on the fact that they will be running continuously year-to-year while retaining most if not all of its league members. There ideally needs to be a commitment in place amongst all league members that they are in it for the long-haul since they are investing in their team not just this year, but for years down the road.
That is why the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment advises you that the best way to ensure stability is probably to be involved in a non-keeper league for a few years and establish a continuous rapport with the other league members before transitioning the league into a keeper format. This will demonstrate a commitment amongst your league members that they are dependable and consistent with their status in the league, and it also presumes that you have open lines of communication with other league members to discuss those difficult trade scnearios (like the one referenced above). Stability is key to having a successful keeper league because when a team has to be replaced, the new person coming into the league is likely stuck inheriting that team and must make decisions he or she doesn't necessarily want to make.
The verdict is that keeper leagues are unquestionably more popular and provide unique challenges and opportunities as compared to non-keeper leagues. But if you decide to do a keeper league, beware of the distinctions and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure you are in a league that will sustain itself down the road.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:03am (15) Comments
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Every new fantasy baseball season is filled with promise, intrigue and possibility for the player. Some of us may be coming off a dreadful 2010 and looking to rebound this year. Other's fantasy skills may have flourished last season and the prospects for 2011 look bright. Regardless of your past performance, the 2011 Fantasy Season can be one unlike any season-long league you've ever competed in. I'm talking about the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball.
This game type is very different from the traditional season—which begins with the draft, after which any and all decisions revolve around the roster you created for yourself. No my friends, in this world you will be drafting a new team every single day. That's right, you will never have to experience the long-term frustrations of being bitten by the injury bug, plagued by platoons or infuriated with off-days in the world of daily fantasy.
For intense gamers this is the ultimate in competition. The ability to play in head-to-head, multi-player and even huge tournaments on a daily basis is something that may be difficult for the season-long player to even comprehend. And the best part is you can win cash every single day if you so choose. Daily Fantasy sites feature games ranging from FREE all the way up to stakes in the hundreds of dollars. It is a cut-throat world where mistakes are punished and good decisions can be highly profitable.
In this article I will provide you with the three basic principles of this game that can and will get you started on the path to success.
You know the countless number of hours that are spent preparing for one's draft day in the season long format? Imagine doing that, on a slightly smaller scale, every single day of the 2011 season. It is a time-consuming, and unrelenting process that consumes as much time as the player's life can allow him. Whereas a season-long player may have to choose between Neil Walker and Chone Figgins once a week when games are plentiful, a daily player is allotted the opportunity to pick ANY second baseman that's playing EVERY day of the week, among 10-15 realistic options.
So where does one begin to figure out who to select? For a 'newbie,' as we like to call rookies in the industry, the first step should be identifying statistical websites that you can use to your advantage. THT has many resources on its pages that a daily player would most certainly find very useful. Things such as generic split stats, right/lefty matchup ratings and home field batting improvement are all things that the daily fantasy player delves into for minutes to hours a day.
Your knowledge of statistical significance as it relates to individual performance is going to have to be refined and sharpened as you progress through the daily fantasy world and I hate to tell you that there is no perfect formula. But what I can tell you is that the names of daily players at the top of the earnings leaderboards across the industry are the same, and appear consistently month after month. The initial step for monetary success for these and all other profitable players in the industry is preparing long and hard on a daily basis. Every position must be scrutinized and this is where the next step begins...
The most popular game format for daily fantasy, and the one that these principles highlight, is the Salary Cap. This is a fairly straight forward competition type in which each player is presented with a set amount of money from which they select the day's players. There are two main methods of thinking when it comes to selection, which I like to call 'The Balanced Approach' and the 'Studs and Duds' Methodology.
The Balanced Approach sounds exactly like what it is. It involves putting together a lineup of players that have consistently performed well as regular starters for their prospective teams. In the salary cap format, players such as these will carry moderate-to-high price tags and should (if selected properly) put up a fairly high total point score for the day. There is very little risk in this type of lineup selection and keeps the blood pressure at a moderate level.
On the other hand, the risk takers in the industry primarily deploy the Studs and Duds Methodology. This is for the daily fantasy players with stones, as they say. This selection process involves more dedication, but can also reap bigger rewards. First, the player utilizing this process must identify two or three bench players that are getting a spot start on that day. They plug these players into their lineup, who carry very low price tags because they do not play regularly. By doing so, the player can also afford to play the cream of the crop. Albert Pujols, Carlos Gonzalez and Evan Longoria are examples of guys that come to mind who carry such high price tags that you need to make space for them by saving money somewhere.
Both methods of selection have merit, and I will debate which implementation carries with it a better long-term outlook in a later article, but for now it is just important that you all realize that these are the decisions that must be made for a fantasy player's lineup day in and day out.
So now that you've chosen your team and the games have begun you may think that all the work is left to the MLB players themselves. Not so fast...
This is the final, and most often overlooked, portion to daily fantasy baseball success. Watch the games, people! By this I mean, both your matchups for the day, and the competition itself so that you can see things progress. You wouldn't make an investment and then just trust that it is growing over time would you? It's the same concept here. In order to learn and grow as a player you need to identify both the good and bad decisions you made and how to correct them.
Let's say for example that Ryan Howard may have gone 0-4 with a strikeout. And you may be very upset with him. But if you realize that two of his outs were line drives right at the 2B playing short right field and his strikeout was off of a devastating left-handed reliever. Knowing these things can make a big difference when it comes to your future selection of Mr. Howard.
Its things like this that make the long term difference in our game. Daily fantasy owners would agree when I say that the game reflects on every other aspect of life. Those who put in the work reap the benefits. If you outwork the others you will get ahead. And if you slack off you will get left behind.
It's a fun endeavor to undertake, but I implore you not to do so with a lack of knowledge. The established players, including myself, will be more than happy to wipe the floor with you.
In the coming weeks and months I will do my best to enlighten you to this new and evolving world. It is an ever-changing and expanding segment of the fantasy baseball industry and I myself am learning new things everyday. I'll do my best to keep you informed of happenings in this world and how you can use certain strategies to your advantage. I'll also do my best to help you exploit the weaknesses of others who are not so informed.
For now please take a look at some of the sites that will be offering Daily Fantasy Baseball in the near future:
Fantasy Sports Live
See you soon!
Kevin 'KC' Cearnal
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:46am (2) Comments
Thursday, March 03, 2011
The countdown is on! There are only 26 days remaining until the Tigers and Yankees take the field to begin another glorious baseball season. If you haven’t done so already, you’re drafting your team(s) in the next three weeks.
Those drafting in the first weekend of National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) drafts, you only have 17 days to update your rankings, finalize your cheat sheets, and develop a solid draft plan and strategy. What this means is, if you aren’t completely finished with your draft preparation, you have to get on the ball and do so quickly.
Last week I started to delve into how I was going about developing my draft strategy. If you haven’t done so already, please check out that piece before reading this one so you can follow along with my entire thought process as I develop this plan.
Last time, I touched briefly on how my rankings are split into tiers of value, which I’ll expand on a bit here. The spreadsheet that I’m using, which will be the list I use to cross out players during the draft, has every position listed horizontally across the top, and it then lists players in order going downward. These players are ranked at their specific position, as well as grouped in tiers based on players of equal value at other positions. This does two things for me.
First, it allows me to visually see where the drop-offs—or, conversely, pools of value—are at each position. Right now, I can see that second base is one of the deeper positions in this year’s draft. The lower tiers are full of quality players that I wouldn’t mind as a starter in my 15-team league, and I’m confident that I can grab one of these players in the seconnd half of my draft.
What this means is that I will almost assuredly pass over Robinson Cano, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia and the rest of the top twelve second baseman.
Secondly, this list allows me to compare players against each other at their same position, and also against players from every other position. For example, let’s say it’s the 14th round and my team is severely lacking speed. In my original strategy, I plan on taking my shortstop around this time. However, there are no shortstops who steal enough to help me out in that category.
However, there are two outfielders in the same tier who could easily steal 30-plus bases. I would then take my fourth outfielder a little earlier than anticipated, and draft my shortstop where I would’ve normally taken the outfielder.
The next piece of advice that I have for you is in regards to average draft position (ADP). While this can be a very useful tool and provide solid data leading up to your draft, don’t rely on it as a crutch when actually at the draft table. After the top four or five rounds, the reliability of ADP has a much higher variance.
A lot of people think that they can look at ADP, find the players they want, and then just select them a round before they’re “expected” to go. The problem is that everyone else at the table will be armed with the same data.
Here’s another very important thing to note about ADP. Many players will see a player fall during the draft and select him purely based on “value.” He or she will think, “Obviously, this player was supposed to go a round or two before this and is still there, so I have to take him!”
This line of thinking is extremely flawed, and here’s why. If a player is falling that far, 14 other teams have passed on him at least once. Maybe there are injury concerns or other information that you aren’t aware of. Also, selecting a player like this usually won’t fit into the plan that you have laid out going into the draft. While you want to be flexible at the draft table, you don’t want to be Peyton Manning calling an audible every pick.
If you’ve prepared properly, you’ve put months of hard work into your draft plan. Do you really want to trust a decision that you’re making in one minute while you’re on the clock instead of the carefully crafted plan that you dedicated so much time to?
One final aspect that I want to explore today involves setting your Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) settings. While this may not apply to some leagues, it is an important feature of the NFBC and one that I have been spending a lot of time analyzing this week. The KDS settings allow you to have some say over your draft position, rather than just drawing names out of a hat. You rank each position in the order you like, and as each name is chosen, they get the top spot on their list that is still available.
I think it’s important to look over the inventory as thoroughly as possible and decide what players you want to build your team around. I try to look at each draft position and plan out the first 4-6 rounds to see what kind of team I would end up with.
Personally, as of now I see a clear-cut top four players that are an advantage over the rest of the field. There is a chance that one of those top four players falls to pick No. 5, so I’d factor that into my KDS as well, worst-case scenario being I get to choose the best of the rest at No. 5.
After that, the next 10-15 guys could go anywhere from fifth to 20th, depending on your personal preference. A few of those guys I like better than consensus and current ADP, which means I wouldn’t need to take them until the back end of round one. So, for now, I’m looking something like 1-5, 11-15, 10-6, but that will probably change numerous times before draft day.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this series next week, where I basically spell out exactly what I’m looking to do in each round on draft day! As always, questions and comments are appreciated.
Posted by Dave Shovein at 5:11am (5) Comments
Dan writes in:
I'm in a 12-team 5x5 keeper with the typical categories. League rules on keepers are that each team keeps five plus a minors spot, with the cost being the pick it took to get a guy (free agents are a last-round pick) moving one pick closer to round one each offseason. Finally, any player chosen in the first five rounds cannot be kept.
I have some easy choices: Hanley Ramirez costing me a 21, Clay Buchholz costing me a 22, Josh Johnson costing me a 7, and Matt Cain costing me a 12. I have Michael Pineda as my minors keeper. (We started the league in 2006 and not everyone figured out the importance of keepers right away, so Hanley was a free agent to begin '06.)
Here's my dilemma: I took Colby Rasmus in round 10, so I can keep him for my tenth rounder this year, and I have Brian Matusz who was my minors keeper from the end of 2009, so he'll be a last/very-late-round pick sacrifice. I like the idea of having four good SPs, allowing me to build my offense through the draft, but I'm high on Rasmus' potential to take off this season.
You certainly have some great deals in Ramirez and Buchholz. Cain is worth giving up a 12th-round pick for, and Johnson is just barely worth a seventh-round selection. Johnson’s going around that round because of his late-season shoulder concerns so, if you want to keep him, you’re assuming some extra injury risk, but at least being paid to do so.
For what it is worth, Rasmus’ average draft position (ADP) at Mock Draft Central is 94 (which makes him the 89th-best player), and that was also his draft spot (89) in THT Fantasy Focus’ own expert mock draft. There seem to be quite a few folks that share your high opinion of Rasmus.
I am not one of them.
Rasmus suffers from twin risks: playing time and ability. In order for Rasmus to be worth an 89th pick, he has to perform better in all scoring categories than he did last season. Most projections have him instead regressing or flat-lining in these categories—not surprising given his .354 BABIP last season and perennial high strikeout rate.
Rasmus also isn’t in his manager’s good graces, and if he starts the season poorly, he could easily lose some playing time to Jon Jay. Of course, if Lance Berkman gets injured again, there should be enough room in the Cardinals outfield to accommodate Rasmus on a full-time basis no matter what.
Given that Rasmus is only going to cost you a tenth-round pick, he may still be a decent value for you even if he isn’t worth an 89th pick. I’d personally prefer Shane Victorino or Carlos Lee, both of whom have worse ADPs.
Alas, Matusz is no great shakes, even in the last round. Depending on whether that’s a reserve round or not, Matusz is probably exactly worth the round he’d cost you. He has some upside, but, given that he pitches in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and in the slugger-loaded AL East, he poses a lot of risk to your stats nearly any week that you’d start him.
Depending on when your draft is, Matusz may not even be worth the risk of prematurely locking him onto your roster. But he does have upside potential, too, in that if he did somehow shine this year, it would be quite cheap to keep him again the next year. Rasmus isn't as likely to keep offering you keeper value.
An incredibly important caveat to this advice is that your league may be so out of whack that typical ADPs do not apply. If many other teams have great keepers in ridiculously low rounds, a tenth-round pick is not like any other league’s tenth-round pick, but is actually worth much less. Thus, the keepers that you could keep for that pick are worth more.
Lastly, I definitely wouldn’t worry about having too few or too many of a certain kind of keeper. Keep the players that give you the best value, and there will be plenty of picks in the draft to repair any imbalance.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:12am (7) Comments
There are enough veteran second base options around, so rookies won't need to be relied upon. But if you're looking for upside, there are some rookies that should have your attention.
Danny Espinosa is intriguing and appears to be Washington's top option at second base. I don't think he will ever get there, but he has legitimate 20-20 potential. His batting average will never win your league, either, but his upside is enough to take a late-round flier on and plug him in during his hot streaks.
Dustin Ackley doesn't do much for me, but others consider him to be a future all-star. With a hot two months in Triple-A, Seattle will find it difficult to keep him from the big leagues. And that means all of you looking for a spark at second base should take notice.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is getting some "shiny new toy" buzz, but his upside is limited. He should produce a good batting average and 10-20 steals, but little else. He is a good injury replacement for your No. 1 option.
Brett Lawrie is the only other rookie I could see making an impact at second base, even though it seems that he will end up at third base full-time before long. His bat speed could spell a .300-30 future, which could come sooner rather than later with a great showing at Triple-A to start the season.
On the non-rookie front, Gordon Beckham is someone I am investing heavily in as a classic post-hype sleeper, although I would prefer to have a proven No. 1 option to rely on if things don't work out. I'm not a Sean Rodriguez supporter, but judging by some of his minor league seasons, there is upside to be had. He's worth a plug and play if your options are limited and you can ride a hot streak. Staying in Tampa, I like Reid Brignac more than Rodriguez due to his dual eligibility and proven major league power.
There really isn't much to speak of in terms of rookie shortstops ready to make an impact, given that Espinosa and Nishioka should be shortstop eligible but have already been written about. So it might be best to talk about some of the young guys ready to make a name for themselves.
Ian Desmond is getting a lot of love from a lot of fantasy experts, but I'm thinking we've already seen a career year out of him. The .269 average and 17 steals seems doable again, but I honestly don't see double-digit homers out of his bat ever again. I see him as a solid No. 2 option or injury replacement.
I would take Elvis Andrus over Desmond every time. His batting average is going to get better, and his stolen base production is the real separator. And I think he will end up with more home runs than Desmond, too, despite giving us a goose egg in 2010, making him a solid fantasy starter.
I have Starlin Castro ahead of Desmond, too. I see a better batting average, a bit more power, and similar stolen base production. He is a great No. 2 option for those rainy days.
Asdrubal Cabrera is a strong injury replacement option, but he lacks the overall upside of Castro and the speed upside of Andrus.
And that leaves Alcides Escobar, who I have rated a slight notch below Castro and Desmond. Despite his rookie showing, he has similar upside to Andrus, but I need to see the numbers to believe it.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:10am (2) Comments
Friday, March 04, 2011
Last week, Chad Millman of ESPN devoted his Behind the Bets podcast to what I think to be a quite self-evident question: is fantasy sports (when played for stakes) gambling? Millman discussed this issue with two college professors, Bo Bernard, who specializes in sociology and Steven Weiss, who teaches psychology. Both Bernard and Weiss have studied gambling and fantasy sports fairly extensively.
At this point, let me be absolutely clear, I love pedantic debate that intellectualizes the most seemingly obvious questions and scrutinizes our most basic assumptions. I’m also fairly contrarian as a general rule… often specifically because of my habit of distilling presumed self-evident questions to their philosophical roots. All of this is basically to say that even though I was fairly certain in my opinion on this matter before hearing the podcast, I was fully open and eager to hear compelling intellectual arguments to change my mind. It didn’t happen though.
To be fair, though both professors concede that this is a debatable issue, they seemed to lean toward fantasy sports being a form of gambling, Bernard leaning harder than Weiss. I don’t really see this issue as particularly debatable at all, but I think it’s probably worth going through a few of the points that were raised to cast fantasy sports as a form of gambling because I’d like to take my shot a refuting them.
First, let’s start with the most basic definition of what gambling is in its most fundamental and broad sense. Bernard offered the following definition: the wagering of something of value on an outcome that is unknown.
Beautiful. I don’t think there’s need to geek out further into this. I will only attempt to delve a bit deeper to clarify the term “something of value.” I take this to mean either raw, absolute value or value to the owner. Therefore, if you are playing for money, the stakes automatically have value. It does not matter if you are Oprah Winfrey and playing in a $25 per team league, the fact that a relatively small sum of money may not practically matter to you does not mean that the stakes are not valuable; their objective value trumps any absence of value it may have to you. My ironclad example here is that nobody would make the argument that nickel slots are not gambling simply because the stakes are so low. On the flip side, if something is valuable to you, even if not particularly valuable to the rest of the world, and you wager it, you are gambling. …Playing poker for pretzel sticks isn’t really gambling… unless the game is being played among the cast of Survivor.
Honestly, I think the debate basically ends right here. If you are playing fantasy baseball for money, you are gambling. But, not everybody is ready to pack up their tents and go home here, so let’s look way too extensively at some of the other arguments.
The preponderance theory
This argument, originally asserted in this discussion by Weiss, states that fantasy baseball is more of a game of skill than a game of chance. Weiss references a study he helped conduct among fantasy players and non-players that studied the perception of skill versus luck in fantasy sports outcomes. Both groups concluded that skill was more important than luck. While seemingly simple and straightforward, this is problematic on many levels.
First of all, I’m not sure what the correct way to splice the luck versus skill component of any game is, but I’m quite certain that simply asking folks what skills are required and how much they perceive luck to be a factor is far from sufficient, regardless of whether there is a “control” in this study (non-fantasy players).
Further, why is skill necessary? To perform well, presumably, but what does that mean? To win a league? To finish above average, in the top half of the standings? There are many possible outcomes in fantasy sports league, so let me digress for a moment to make some additional points about the overlap and conflation of skill and luck in games that are a combination thereof.
Let’s talk about sports betting for a moment. Sports betting, like fantasy baseball, and like poker for that matter, is a game of chance through which one can considerably improve his or her odds through the acquisition of skill. (Of course, this is the fundamental flaw in the preponderance theory, even if you do grant it is applicable; you can gamble on a game of skill just as easily as you can gamble on a game of chance.) So, how much of sports betting is luck and how much is skill? Well, if you ask a professional gambler, he or she will tell you that only a select few can make a living by gambling, so therefore skill must prominently factor in.
I don’t know about that. I mean, I agree, but I also think it depends on how you look at things. In sports betting, there are two potential outcomes, three if you include the push. If you were to randomly wager on a side of any sports bet (with a spread), there would be a 50-50 chance of you winning and losing, if the line is set correctly. (It’s probably more like 48.5/48.5/3 if you include the push, but I’ll leave that out of the equation for simplicity’s sake.) The skill in sports betting comes in being able to set a better line than the house, so you get your edge because you’re able to identify that the line is really not set at 50-50 odds, but maybe 55/45 odds. Essentially, this is the same kind of edge one can find in fantasy, setting more accurate values to potential plays (players).
This achievement, however, does not fundamentally contradict the notion that you are playing a game of chance. You’re now simply playing a game of chance in which the odds have been mispriced. Note that to be a successful professional gambler, you’re "only" expected to win at approximately a 54 percent clip. So, what did all your hours and hours of work and the possession of elite skill actually earn you? I’d say you earned a 5–10 percent increased likelihood of winning over the square public bettor.
Now, I don’t mean to demean that accomplishment at all, practically speaking, that’s the tipping point. By exerting your skill, you’ve tilted the odds enough to make this game of chance sufficiently likely to play out in your favor over an extended period of time. But, getting back to the question of whether this is a game of skill or chance, is an endeavor in which the absolute best and most skilled in the business are able to swing the odds less than 10 percent in their favor something that can be classified as being defined by a preponderance of skill? That is, even if somebody needs skill to succeed in something in the long term, does that mean that the game itself, or each trial, not fundamentally characterized by luck? I’m trying to distinguish the nature of the game from the nature of one’s performance at that game here, and I think it’s fair to characterize the role of skill in fantasy baseball as generally similar to the role of skill in sports betting or poker.
Just to harp on this point a bit longer (you don’t have anywhere you’d rather be, right?), let’s take an extreme example, even though I don’t like arguing from the margins in philosophical debate. Let’s take a game that is clearly defined by skill; we’ll use basketball. In my absolute luckiest performance would it be possible for me to beat any pro basketball player in a game of basketball, no matter how small the sample size?
…Well, okay you got me. But, what if I excluded Eddy Curry? There we go, of course not, and that is because basketball is defined almost exclusively by skill. Now, I don’t gamble at sports books, but would it be possible for me to have a better weekly run than a top sports bettor, or even a better month, or maybe even a better year? Absolutely. If we grant the same overall dynamic to poker, we can look at the history of the World Series of Poker to prove that point.
Finally (and this may look like I’m taking a shot at professional sports bettors, but I’m not because I respect them greatly), isn’t it actually possible to profit over the long term in sports betting strictly on the strength of having good luck? Now, I understand that a lot of the skill in being a sharp is managing a bankroll, getting more money in on better bets, etc., so one’s rate of return is not necessarily identical to his/her win percentage over 50 percent. However, when I listen to pro bettors speak about their analytics, I’m usually not all that impressed. Somebody like Nassim Taleb (get ‘em Jon Halket) might be inclined to accuse successful pro bettors of being “fooled by randomness.” Maybe some of them are luckier than they are good, and essentially justifying their luck with pseudo-intellectualism? I don’t necessarily think this is the case, but it does cross my mind often when I hear pro gamblers explain their reasoning. They seem to understand strategy and how odds work and when to act—that’s their strength, in my opinion—but I’ve yet to hear somebody who makes me say, “Wow, this guy sounds like he really has it figured out,” the way I do when I read, say, Tom Tango’s work.
So, just to recap, I just spent like 750 words discussing sports betting to make the point that fantasy baseball is not, by a preponderance of its nature, necessarily a game of skill. I chose to focus on sports betting because defining successful performance in fantasy sports is a lot more ambiguous than the binary outcomes of sports gambling, and that definition of success was never offered for fantasy baseball.
Game of skill argument B
In this podcast, the professors also reference a study done two German researchers, Ingo Fielder and Jan-Phillip Rock, which proves poker is a game of skill by displaying that over 50,000 hands the best poker players emerge as most successful. As with the preponderance theory, I actually interpret this finding contrary to the way it is used in the professors’ arguments.
I don’t doubt the fantasy baseball possesses a similar dynamic in terms of meritocracy over truly extended sample size, but practically speaking, you are not gambling on 50,000 poker hands or hundreds of fantasy seasons. The number of trials needed to establish the meritocratic dynamic of this game ironically underscores the importance of luck as it relates to the practical application of the fantasy baseball experience. Once again, there needn’t be equal odds on either side of a proposition for an activity to be defined as gambling, in a social sense… a distinction we’ll get to shortly.
Relative skill vs. absolute skill
Fielder and Rock also raised the point that the role skill plays in poker or fantasy sports relates to the relative skill of the players in the league. The closer the level of skill among the competitors, the more luck is likely to matter. I feel this effect is more profound in fantasy sports than in poker or sports betting. In sports betting, you are simply competing against the oddsmaker, but doing so through the team on which you wager. There’s significant uncertainty in this equation because you adopt all the risk that comes with the performance of the team, but the essence of the challenge is outsmarting the oddsmaker, one on one.
In poker, there’s plenty of luck in regard to picking up hands, but in the skill side of the game, you are competing directly against your opponents at the tables. In fantasy sports, there are very few opportunities for a direct battle of wits between two owners; if performed at a high level, everybody makes pretty sound decisions and while each owner would likely be able to claim several successful attempts to outsmart the market, some will also benefit more from random variance, and some will be hurt more by unforeseeable injuries. Basically, correctly identifying which player will have the better season between Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira is exponentially less valuable than not being the guy who made a wise value investment in this season’s Kendry Morales or Justin Morneau.
The way I view the competition in fantasy sports, and to a large degree the whole endeavor, is that it's a competition to assemble the best risk equation of all the participants. You're building a portfolio. The skill lies in putting yourself in the best position to benefit from the random variation of performance curves and outlying events.
Any game with the tiniest skill component can become largely meritocratic if the chasm in that area is overwhelming, but when played among those who are generally your peers, fantasy sports is an activity of chance that is affected by skill, not a game of skill affected by chance. As a thought experiment, consider an auto-drafted team to represent a team of average skill in the most influential part of the game, the draft. Are we to assume that in an “expert league,” an auto-drafted would be the worst team or finish last anything approaching all the time?
Professor Bernard offered an argument the gist of which was that that social norms and definitions, as well as the real world ramifications of specific actions, play a role in defining them. In the abstract, I agree… but, again, only in the social sense. The lottery is gambling regardless of the public perception thereof; ditto for investing in the stock market. The essential nature of fantasy sports, specifically it fitting the definition of gambling offered at the top of this piece to a T, trumps any circumstantial concerns.
Bernard goes on to talk about the “real world consequences” (or benefits) of failing (or succeeding) at fantasy sports, which are similar to success in any other gambling activity. He even notes that the problem fantasy behavior qualify under the criteria of problem gambling.
Meanwhile, Weiss feels that the applied setting of the fantasy baseball experience is atypical of gambling, often repeating that he knows what gambling is and, as an avid fantasy player and a former gambler, fantasy sports simply don’t feel like gambling. His offering of the old Potter Stewart defense, frankly reads as a classic case of cognitive dissonance to me.
Opinion of sports leagues
It should also be noted that the NCAA does not allow its athletes to participate in fantasy sports for stakes. The NFL had previously banned its players from competing in fantasy sports, but no longer does so, though it’s not clear to me whether the “for stakes” caveat is in effect in the NFL too.
Legal definitions vs. social definitions
Often times, those who are in favor of further enabling forms of gambling rely on studies that prove the skill based component of a game to advocate for change of legal considerations regarding such a game. For example, the movement to define poker as a game of skill does not have only its academic face. Many who advocate poker’s standing as a game of skill seek special treatment of the game under the laws that govern gambling.
This is not the definition of “gambling” or “game of skill” that we should be concerned about. Legality is not an argument about the nature of an activity (drinking alcohol vs. smoking marijuana), but simply a cultural judgment of that activity. When we play fantasy sports for stakes, we are engaging in an activity that is defined by the risking of items of value on outcomes unknown, the fact that skill plays a role, and sometimes an important role, in determining the outcomes of this activity does not negate that. Fantasy sports is not a bowling competition where we each place down some cash and try to get the highest score; the outcomes are much more varied, the inputs infinite, and the intersection of strategy and random variance too complex to reduce as such. It’s way more like sports betting or poker; it’s gambling!
Taking it a step further
Not only have I made it clear that I think fantasy sports are unequivocally forms of sports gambling (and we haven’t even discussed daily fantasy games, which are much closer to traditional sports betting), but I’d even argue that it is impossible to play fantasy sports as they are intended without gambling.
Any games that are predicated on managing risk must be played for meaningful stakes to retain their integrity. An extreme example of this is the idea that if there was no money on the line in a poker game, it would be impossible to ever bluff successfully. To keep a game on the up and up, participants have to have something to lose when taking on additional risk; there must be real, meaningful consequences for strategic failure. If a player doesn’t fear losing, that player will not always act in accordance with his most objective rationality.
In previous columns, I’ve written fairly extensively about promoting integrity within your leagues, but this is the most fundamental foundation of all incentives for owners to maintain the league’s integrity. For some folks, honor and their individual values and commitment are enough, but for others the absence of a true penalty for losing empowers them to sully the league by doing things like making trades just for the sake of trading. Once these dynamics infiltrate your league, you are no longer playing rotisserie sports in a pure form.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 1:24am (10) Comments
With draft dates quickly approaching as fantasy preseason gets into full swing, now feels like an apt time for this year's list of my favorite research resources.
Resources at a price
In terms of for-pay resources, I recommend only two tools: THT Forecasts and in-auction software. Beyond this, most of the best fantasy information on the net is either free or can substantially be gotten for free.
In terms of projection systems, there is a lot of helpful, free stuff out there for free on the Internet. Fangraphs has fantasy forecasts by Bill James, RotoChamp, and "The Fans" (crowdsourced projections) available on player pages. Fangraphs also tends to feature ZiPS projections once they are released in their entirety. Right now, Fangraphs does not have a sortable 2011 projections page on-line, but will likely add one in the coming weeks. CHONE, which has won most accuracy comparisons, no longer exists.
Tom Tango recently tested the accuracies of the most popular projection systems on the market (CHONE, Oliver, ZiPS, PECOTA, Marcel) and found that for players with higher sample sizes of major league production, the projection systems tend to be pretty fungible overall. Where the real challenge comes, however, is in forecasting younger players with little or no minor league records. That is where the systems vary most and this is where Oliver and THT Forecasts have a comparative advantage.
According to Tango's evaluation of the forecasts from 2007-2010, Oliver does the best at forecasting young players based on minor league production. This is why I recommend Oliver and THT Forecasts so highly. Everyone and their mothers know what Bobby Abreu is capable of, but what about young players like Jason Heyward or Brian Matusz last year? Or how about Mike Stanton or Freddie Freeman this year? Especially for keeper leagues, Oliver and THT Forecasts act as a great resource to evaluate young player's prospective value to help you determine whether they are a multi-dollar investments at the auction table, or $1 spec picks at best.
In addition to being fantastic at projecting young players via Oliver, THT Forecast also offers three other great resources for fantasy players. First, THT Forecasts has a customizable fantasy pricing guide that lets you accurately forecast players' fantasy values, a true burden for auction leagues. For batting stat categories, you can choose among AVG, R, RBI, HR, SB, 2B,3B, BB, K, OBP, SLG, OPS, TB, SB-CS, TB+BB, Runs Produced, and 2B+3B. For pitching stat categories, you can choose among W, SV, ERA, WHIP, K, K/9, BB/9, HR/9, IP, TB, K/BB, and Net Wins (Quality Starts and Holds are not yet available). These highly customizable fantasy pricing permutations make calculating values for diverse leagues as easy as clicking the right buttons.
Free sites offer similar pricing systems, but a pricing guide is only as strong as its forecasts and THT Forecast is the only system that uses Oliver (rated second only to CHONE, now defunct, amongst the various forecasts Tango evaluated from 2007-2010).
In addition to being a fantastic preseason draft-day resource, Oliver shines in its continuous usefulness through its "rest of season" projections. Like most fantasy system, Oliver "learns" as more data become available, but rather than wait until the offseason to tell you what it's learned, Oliver incorporates its new knowledge into the form of "rest of season" (ROS) projections. ZiPS offers a similar service for free, but crucially THT Forecasts adjusts its numbers using weekly updated playing time projections.
Finally, THT Forecasts offers exportable spreadsheets of Oliver forecasts so that you can rank your Oliver's in-season and rest-of-season expectations to mine for value throughout the season.
Each of THT Forecast's features make it a true bargain. Full disclosure: I work for the Hardball Times (duh) and contribute to THT Forecasts. Nonetheless, I can honestly attest to its value and utility, having used it for almost a year now. If you do not believe me, just read Tom Tango's full evaluation of the forecasting systems. Customer service for THT Forecasts is also incredibly responsive. You can purchase access to Oliver via THT Forecasts for $14.95 for the entire 2011 season.
The only other for-pay software that I can legitimately recommend are in-draft tools. Though I do not use in-draft software, the two that my colleague Joe Dimino most recommends are the offerings of RotoLab and John Benson (link broken?). I have little to no experiences with this on draft day, but here is what Joe had to say in the comment section of Brad Johnson's Feb. 7 article A Beginner's Guide To Auction Draft Nominations:
I’ve used Benson’s software and RotoLab. One of the nice things about both of these is that they will calculate inflation during your auction and adjust player prices accordingly. It’s also nice to visually be able to see that there is one really good player at a position left, with a huge dropoff after, things like that.
Take the information at face value, as it clearly was not written for this post. The concept of what these in-draft software programs do is pretty nice and powerful, but my view is that I can do what they do for free, albeit with more work on draft day. Perhaps a reader has used a better in-draft management tool (or even RotoLab/Benson) and can identify it and elaborate about it in the comments below?
The first free resource that I can offer is a spreadsheet of 2010's hitters with a minimum of 300 plate appearances broken down by BABIP and xBABIP. The article gives you all the information you will need to understand the information presented, but in a nutshell, it took each player's batting line and adjusted it to reflect xBABIP rather than actual BABIP. In other words, the article presents what each player should have hit last season, in theory, if we strip batted ball luck from the results.
The second free resource that I can recommend is my own xWHIP 2.0 calculator. xWHIP is similar to xBABIP, but for pitchers. xWHIP takes a pitcher's batted ball data, normalizes his LD rate (19 percent) and home runs per fly ball (11.5 percent), and determines his expected hit rate based on the new batted ball distribution. I am working on a new version of xWHIP. The beta, using 2008 values, can be found in the bottom of my original (and now outdated) Top 50 Fantasy Reliever rankings article.
The third resource I can offer is my extensive, long toiled, and up-to-date fantasy baseball rankings by position. I've ranked the top 20 infielders at each position (including middle and corner infielders), the top 60 outfielders, the top 100 starting pitchers (you can read my thoughts on each of those 100 pitchers by clicking here, though the list has since been updated), and the top 50 relievers. I also included Oliver's top 20 by position and compared them to my own for good measure, though to access the up-to-date value stats that each player is expected to contribute, you will have to purchase THT Forecasts.
The updated rankings indicate changes that have been made from my original preseason rankings (and why I made the changes), so to see my thoughts on the various players I ranked, you can access the original (out of date) rankings by position: Catcher || First Base || Second Base || Shortstop || Third Base || Corner and middle infield || Outfield || Starting pitchers
If you want rankings from other resources, Fantasy Rundown has an excellent collection of fantasy rankings from the various sources around the net. Just don't be a rankings slave.
The fourth resource I recommend is a recent and extensive article I wrote on how to value players for auction drafts. In addition to my methodology, there is a link in my article to how Tom Tango recommends calculating auction values.
Also check out my amazing list of the most humorous fantasy baseball team names. Because that is what owning a team is really all about!
Want to stay on top of various teams' precarious closer situations? Follow CloserNews on twitter, where MLBTradeRumors creator Tim Dierkes and crew bring you the most up-to-date facts and rumors regarding closers as soon as it hits the wire.
I am also currently working on the most up-to-date comparison chart of fantasy rankings by drafting system for CBS, Yahoo, ESPN and Mock Draft Central. Readers of Roto Authority may recall I did this last year. I should have this chart up by March 15, so check back to this post around then. I will use THT Fantasy's twitter to tweet about when I add the ranking comparison chart completed and online, so I suggest following THTFantasy and my twitter account in the interim. UPDATE: You can download my comparison spreadsheet by clicking here.
Other great free resources include RotoAuthority's "What It Takes To Win," Fantasy Rundown's catalog of prospect rankings from around the net (including that of THT's Matt Hagen), and the Fantasy Outlook section of Game Of Inches (my own blog, to which I contribute under the moniker David "MVP" Eckstein).
What other fantasy resources do you use? Which do you like/dislike and why? Sound off in the comment section below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 1:39am (22) Comments
Monday, March 07, 2011
Last week, I participated in my first draft of the year, the Cardrunners expert league. If you recall from last year, Cardrunners was started under the premise of pitting gambler and Wall Street-trader types against fantasy industry baseball experts, creating "an interesting confrontation between the experienced experts and the sharp newcomers used to beating various games."
As I'm sure regular THT readers will remember, there was a lot of interesting discussion both at the Cardrunners league site and here at THT. With another talented crop of participants, this year is sure to be the same.
In addition to me, we have Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman) and Jason Grey (ESPN) returning on the fantasy expert side. Joining us are Tout Wars and LABR vets Dalton Del Don (Rotowire), Larry Schechter (Sandlot Shrink), and Shawn Childs (VuFantasyBaseball, and the most successful player in NFBC history).
Returning on the other side are World Series of Poker bracelet winner Eric Kesselman and a newly-formed team of Cardrunners founder Andrew Wiggins and Brian Hastings, who holds the record for most money won during a single day of online poker ($4.18 million).
Other additions to the league include financial analyst Scott Schaffran, NFBC vet and one-time LABR "regular guy" champ Trevor Braunig, and wildly successful fantasy amateur Clark Olson, who's won two ESPN Uber Challenges and three NFBC leagues. (Oh, and he's a rocket scientist who's worked on the Mars rover.)
Rounding on the lineup is Chris Hill of PokerStars and his partner, Hollywood director Nick Cassavetes, who you may recognize from Face/Off, his cameo on Entourage last year, or from his directing of The Notebook, John Q or any number of other projects.
Here's my roster. Keep in mind this is an incredibly deep 5x5 AL-only league with a $260 cap.
Pos Player Price C Mike Napoli $20 C Jeff Mathis $2 1B Adam Lind $19 2B Aaron Hill $19 3B Mark Reynolds $19 SS Jason Donald $1 CI Kevin Kouzmanoff $9 MI Maicer Izturis $5 OF Curtis Granderson $23 OF Travis Snider $15 OF Alex Gordon $15 OF Luke Scott $14 OF Gregor Blanco $0 UT Dan Johnson $10 BN (C) Robinson Chirinos $0
Pos Player Price SP Dan Haren $25 SP Colby Lewis $17 SP Michael Pineda $8 SP Phil Coke $6 SP Sergio Mitre $1 SP Jeff Francis $4 CL Matt Thornto $12 CL Frank Francisco $13 RP Octavio Dotel $2 BN (SP) Luke Hochevar $1 BN (RP) Arthur Rhodes $0 BN (RP) Darren O'Day $0
Full results of the auction can be viewed here.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Also, by the time you're reading this, I also will have completed the LABR NL auction. I'll be posting the results of that here at THT Fantasy on Wednesday.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:10am (9) Comments
There was a saying in my household growing up that if you make your bed hard then you are the one that’s going to have to lie in it. Saturday, I completed my first expert draft of the year, and the results weren’t pretty.
First of all, the league consisted of bloggers and writers from several reputable sites like Fantasy Pros 911, Fantasy Baseball Sherpas, MLB.com Fantasy 411 and more. It was an NL-Only, roto, auction draft—the classic "expert" settings.
During this draft, I found myself getting way too cheap and forced to confront the ever-present danger of inflation late in the draft. My pitching is good, but I left myself without a closer, an elite bat and speed. Here is my roster:
C B.Posey 1B C. Pena 2B N. Walker 3B C. Jones SS I. Desmond MI D. Espinosa CI J. Lopez OF A. Ethier OF A. Soriano OF W. Venable OF C. Ross DH M. Morse B Y. Alonso B B. Belt B W. Ramos B A. Craig P R. Halladay P D. Hudson P Y. Gallardo P J. Chacin P J. Zimmermann P J. Jurrjens P A. Chapman P H. Bailey P Y. Maya
I had trouble following my own advice: always spend to get the players you like. Rankings are important, but you must always be true to your strategies. Understanding the player pool is one thing, but as I learned this weekend, you must be a risk taker and push your drafting agenda on others, not the other way around. Finding the way to combine these rankings with your league settings and your own personal flair is the way to fantasy stardom.
Furthermore, here’s the 51-100 Head-to-Head rankings:
Name R HR RBI SB AVG W K SV ERA WHIP 51. Ian Kinsler 95 22 71 26 0.280 52. David Price 17 190 0 3.02 1.19 53. Clayton Kershaw 13 204 0 2.94 1.21 54. Justin Verlander 16 220 0 3.41 1.24 55. Ichiro Suzuki 82 8 45 37 0.321 56. Jimmy Rollins 88 16 68 30 0.270 57. CC Sabathia 18 200 0 3.26 1.21 58. Carlos Santana 75 24 78 9 0.280 59. Alex Rios 80 20 80 25 0.277 60. Ubaldo Jimenez 17 198 0 3.50 1.26 61. B.J. Upton 81 25 71 27 0.269 62. Francisco Liriano 16 195 0 2.85 1.16 63. Max Scherzer 15 201 0 3.23 1.20 64. Yovani Gallardo 19 211 0 3.59 1.27 65. Brandon Phillips 82 20 79 20 0.279 66. Adrian Beltre 78 23 82 6 0.286 67. Mike Stanton 75 34 84 9 0.267 68. Stephen Drew 77 23 80 10 0.281 69. Mat Latos 12 193 0 3.02 1.24 70. Alexei Ramirez 82 18 70 21 0.280 71. Hunter Pence 76 27 76 22 0.281 72. Jered Weaver 14 210 0 3.10 1.25 73. Matt Cain 14 178 0 3.21 1.23 74. Pedro Alvarez 69 30 75 3 0.262 75. Rickie Weeks 90 24 64 12 0.270 76. Delmon Young 77 20 86 6 0.291 77. Paul Konerko 73 32 83 2 0.279 78. Mark Reynolds 71 31 81 10 0.254 79. Derek Jeter 95 16 60 14 0.289 80. Colby Rasmus 87 21 66 15 0.275 81. Curtis Granderson 84 26 65 18 0.267 82. Dan Haren 15 215 0 3.61 1.29 83. Cole Hamels 13 195 0 3.36 1.29 84. Rafael Furcal 80 9 59 29 0.296 86. Wandy Rodriguez 13 194 0 3.47 1.22 87. Michael Young 85 19 88 7 0.285 88. Nick Markakis 90 19 85 8 0.297 89. Vladimir Guerrero 83 24 91 4 0.275 90. Corey Hart 82 25 87 8 0.272 91. Chris B. Young 85 27 85 5 0.259 92. Aramis Ramirez 69 25 85 1 0.274 93. Shane Victorino 94 11 64 32 0.280 94. Carlos Pena 72 38 100 3 0.240 95. Chris Carpenter 14 169 0 3.08 1.18 96. Joakim Soria 4 78 42 2.10 1.05 97. Ben Zobrist 79 13 80 20 0.264 98. Adam Jones 80 19 70 13 0.287 99. Carlos Marmol 6 104 40 2.54 1.27 100. Dan Hudson 14 189 0 2.98 1.17
Points of Interest (Discord):
Ian Kinsler: My apologies to Kinsler. When I made this list I hadn’t given him the credit he deserves. Brought to my attention in last week’s run of 1-50, I realized that I owed more to Kinsler than a 51 player ranking. He is absolutely pounding the fastball-laced pitching in Arizona, as he already has four spring training home runs.
Reader Dan brought to my attention that, when healthy, Kinsler provides a lot of value. I have agreed he should be bumped from this bottom tier. In a revised ranking, he should fit somewhere in the Justin Morneau range of upper 30s to low 40s. Again, I am sorry, Ian, but you must stay healthy to achieve anything.
Stephen Drew: His second half has captured my imagination of what could happen if he has really regained his '08 form. I believe he has every chance to put up 20-plus home runs and near a .300 batting average.
He has speed that no one other than the Baseball Forecasters knows exists. He’s got all the tools to step into the company of the Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins tier.
Daniel Hudson: Hudson is one pitcher that all the writers at THT are in love with, and for good reason. Coming over in the Edwin Jackson deal, the trade afforded Hudson the chance to show the world what he could do with an opportunity.
Looking back, I’m quite sure the White Sox would not have let this future ace go for the immediate impact of Jackson. Hudson was able to keep the ball in the park at Chase Field, something few other pitchers are able to do. He could have been a little lucky, but he has all the tools to be the best pitcher in the desert.
Colby Rasmus over Corey Hart: We all love the commentaries that spring up in spring training of newfound health, weight loss/gain, or revamped approaches. It’s regurgitated and spewed about over every player. In Rasmus’ case, I will take exception.
Rasmus has had trouble recognizing his role, not only as a player, but also as a Cardinal in general. Some have even questioned his dedication to St. Louis. This offseason has seemingly been a time of reflection for Rasmus. He will have to discover his drive to compete for the Cardinals if he is to be of any relevance in 2011. I believe he does. I think Rasmus even has a better chance of equaling Hart’s 2010 numbers than Hart does.
Mark Reynolds: Every baseball expert—fantasy or not—will tell you that power, rather than speed, is becoming more of a premium, and Reynolds will offer power. He’s only 27 years old, so the deteriorating batting average and record-breaking strikeout numbers could correct themselves a little. I imagine he’ll continue his free-swinging ways, but the scenery in Baltimore might be more conducive to an increase in runs and RBI.
In order for this ranking to hold merit, Reynolds must show an ability to make contact. I believe he will improve to somewhere between 2009 and 2010, which would be a decent stat line for the depleted third base player pool. Naturally, avoid him in strikeout leagues.
Chris Carpenter: His rotation mate is lost, and the Cardinals' season is in jeopardy. Is Carpenter going to be healthy the entire year? For Pujols’ future as a Cardinal’s sake, let’s hope so.
Carpenter is a great “real-life” pitcher. As for fantasy, he no longer strikes out a lot of batters. He’s good for around a 3.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP, but how many wins can he gather in 2011? Will he even be healthy enough to post another 200-plus inning season? Chances are solid this 35 year old will be a good pitcher, but is he good enough to still be considered a top 10 pitcher? I say no.
Joakim Soria: So Soria is my top closer going into 2011. His ability to succeed on a team that has lacked success is rather remarkable. He locates his low-90s fastball with ease, and he couples that with a biting slider. His FIP is sub 3.00, and his groundball percentage rose to the elite levels of 48 percent.
He’s not going to be a 100-strikeout closer, but he'll hold his own in the 70-80 whiff range. His only weakness is the Royals, who will even be improving as the injection of youth begins. Oh, let’s also not forget about his second half line of 21 saves, 1.06 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Plus, he’s just 26.
Since draft days are approaching faster and faster, next week’s installment of the Top 300 will be numbers 101-200. As always, I enjoy rankings fodder as much I enjoy making the rankings, so feel free to bring your opinions to the comments section.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 10:00am (11) Comments
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Hello and welcome back to another exciting edition of developing a draft plan! I’m your host, Dave Shovein, and I am about to break down exactly what I’m looking to do in each round of my next draft.
Now you may be asking, “But Dave, what if other competitors in your league frequent this web site, and you basically spell out your entire draft plan to them?” And while that is an honest concern, I’m more or less identifying tiers of players that I’ll be selecting from and not specific players I truly value.
If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series( Part 1, Part 2 ) I suggest that you do so before reading on to get some necessary background on how this plan has progressed.
This is an NFBC league, which means that it’s a 15-team, 30-round snake draft. We roster 30 total players, 23 starters (two catchers, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, five outfielders, a utility man, a corner infielder, a middle infielder, nine pitchers) and seven bench slots. The first thing I have done is finalize my KDS settings to determine where I would like to draft. Right now, my preference is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 15, 11, 10, 9, 8, and 7. Since the draft order has yet to be selected, for the sake of this exercise I’m going to plan as if I’m drafting from the top of the draft at pick one.
Now again, I’m going to identify specific players, but at the same time remember that I’m more or less planning on when a tier is going and not the specific guy. It’s nearly impossible to plan ahead for specific players due to the variability of each draft.
Round 1. pick 1: (1B) Albert Pujols: As I stated previously, one of my main goals in this draft is to roster one of the top seven first basemen, since there is a significant dropoff and much more uncertainty after that. Hanley Ramirez did merit consideration here, as another of my goals is to draft a top eight shortstop, but I know that drafting from the top of the first round means none of those other first sackers will make it back around at the two-three turn.
2.15: (SS) Jose Reyes: Given how early drafts have shaped up, there’s a 50/50 chance that Reyes lasts until this pick. I have him as by far the third best shortstop, and will gladly take him here. If he’s off the board, I look for value at the third base or outfield positions rather than taking my next best shortstop.
3.01: (SP) Felix Hernandez: Another goal of mine this year is to own a top six starting pitcher, and King Felix surely fits that bill. While he may not win 20 games, his sparkling ratios and impressive strikeout potential provide a solid anchor to my staff.
4.15: (OF) Hunter Pence: At this point, as long as I already have my first base/shortstop combo rostered, I’m looking for a solid outfielder or third baseman who can contribute across the board, and Pence provides just that. He’s a model of consistency and still has plenty of room for growth and upside.
5.01: (C) Carlos Santana: Sometimes if you really want a player, you have to reach above where his ADP has him going, especially drafting from either end of the snake. Santana is a player I love this year and I know that he won’t make it back at 6.15 so I’ll pull the trigger early here.
6.15: (RP) Joakim Soria: Another of my goals is to draft a top six closer. This is the one position that will have the most variance come draft day, as they usually go in runs. In some drafts, this could be one of the first closers off the board; in other,s all six in my top tier may be gone at this point. Odds are that at least one from that group will be on the board still, and Soria becomes the anchor of my bullpen.
7.01: (3B) Aramis Ramirez: This is the last in a tier of third basemen I’m targeting. I think that A-Ram bounces back in a big way and provides the solid power that he displayed in the second half last season.
8.15: (SP) Brandon Morrow: I’m a sucker for tremendous strikeout potential, and Morrow was the best in the business at punching hitters out last year. Provided he can stay healthy, he’s an excellent No. 2.
9.01: (OF) Nick Markakis: A solid second outfielder who won’t hurt you in any category. His numbers should improve across the board hitting third in a much-improved Orioles lineup.
10.15 (SP): Jonathan Sanchez: Again, make sure you target pitchers with high strikeout potential. He's always had the stuff, and finally started to harness it last season.
11.01 (OF): Brett Gardner: As I look at the way my team is currently constructed, I am slightly lacking in speed. Gardner fills that need nicely, as well as solid average and runs scored.
12.15 (RP): Drew Storen: My plan on closers is to draft one of the top six early, then focus on a solid No. 2 who has job security. Storen fits that description perfectly, and also has nice upside.
13.01 (CI): Derrek Lee: Best of the remaining corner infield options, and I think there is potential for a nice bounce-back year if he can remain healthy.
14.15 (SP): Jordan Zimmermann Solid live arm with oodles of upside. Has big time strikeout potential as well.
15.01 (OF) Travis Snider: Post-hype sleeper? Snider has awesome power potential and should be hitting sixth in the Jays lineup. Twenty-five home runs aren’t out of the question, and that returns solid value in the 15th round.
16.15 (SP): Carlos Zambrano: Big Z is another guy I’m really high on this year. Though he’s a head case, he was tremendous in the second half last year and fits in nicely as my fifth starter here.
17.01 (C): Carlos Ruiz: With my second catcher, I’m a huge fan of taking someone who will contribute a bit in my counting stats, but more importantly won’t kill my batting average.
18.15 (RP): Kevin Gregg: Depending on how each specific draft unfolds, there could be a closer with a job still on the board at this point in the draft. Over the course of the season, you need roughly 90-100 saves, which amounts to 2.5 closers. If I can get 10 out of Gregg here, he has value to my team and saves my FAAB dollars.
19.01 (2B): Tsuyoshi Nishioka: I think the pool of players at second base is extremely deep, which allows me to wait and take a guy in the 19th round who could hit .300 with 25-plus steals.
20.15 (SP): James McDonald: One of my favorite late round starters this year. I hope he can build off his late-season surge with the Pirates.
21.01 (UTIL): Mike Moustakas: He should get called up after his Super-2 deadline, and could be impact rookie the way Ryan Braun was a few years ago. As draft day gets closer, his ADP will most certainly rise.
22.15 (MI): Danny Espinosa: Possible 20/20 second baseman, another reason I wait on that position this year.
23.01 (OF): Peter Bourjos: I generally don’t wait this long to select my fifth outfielder, but as of now there are a couple of guys I like who remain on the board this long. I think he’ll stick in the lineup with his amazing defense in center field, and although the average may be suspect, he should provide 25-plus steals with a bit of pop as well.
24.15: (RP): Koji Uehara: I’m a big fan of gambling on closers-in-waiting late, especially when they’re backing up one that you already have.
25.01: (OF): Lorenzo Cain: It shouldn’t be long before he pushes Melky Cabrera out of the way. Nice speed potential.
26.15: (SP): Aaron Harang: Perhaps the move to PETCO will be good for him. He was one of the more solid pitchers in the game for several years before Dusty Baker overused him.
27.01: (1B) Juan Miranda: Good roster filler here to fill the utility spot until Moustakas is called up.
28.15 (SP): Daisuke Matsuzaka: His whip may be a train wreck, but as a late-round starting pitcher, he has K potential and should win a decent number of games.
29.01 (SP): Scott Kazmir: Another decent late-round gamble. If he can regain his velocity, could be a sleeper play this late.
30.15 (SP/RP): Alexi Ogando: I think that as spring closes, he will move much higher up draft boards once he gets a clearly defined role.
Now obviously, the specific players here may not end up on my team, but I have a good idea on where I want to fill each position, and what tiers I am targeting. In the reserve rounds, what I'm really looking for are healthy starting pitchers with strikeout upside, closers-in-waiting, and although I didn't really fit one into the plan here, someone with multi-positional availability with a starting job somewhere.
Trust me; going through this exercise with your own team will pay tremendous dividends come draft day. As always, questions, comments and concerns are welcomed and appreciated.