December 5, 2013
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011
As I have explained before, I run a business called Fantasy Judgment, an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy sports leagues. Part of why I was asked to write for The Hardball Times was to share with you some of the cases that are submitted and the decisions written resolving such issues. Before anyone goes on the attack with accusations of self-promotion, this goes to the very heart of my column that analyzes various issues within the fantasy baseball universe. Most of the issues that come across my desk are trade disputes, so I wanted to share a recent decision with you to show how we evaluate proposed trades and come to our decisions.
THE SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
Smittydogs v. Stud Muffins
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE INCONTINENT LEAGUE
Decided April 22, 2011
Cite as 3 F.J. 10 (April 2011)
A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Incontinent League”) utilizing an auction-style draft and transaction platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league. This is an NL-only keeper league where each team is permitted to maintain up to 10 players during each offseason with each individual player allowed to be kept for a maximum of three years. Each team is also permitted to keep two minor league players which are in addition to the 10 players kept. This Roto league also has a $36 in-season salary cap that is applicable for all teams.
As with many rotisserie leagues, the subject Roto league uses the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) home runs; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases. For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves. Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head-to-head games contained within the Roto league.
The Smittydogs have made two trades with the Stud Muffins which can be evaluated concurrently. The Smittydogs traded Todd Helton (1B-COL) and Brooks Conrad (3B-ATL) to the Stud Muffins in exchange for Jason Motte (RP-STL) and Mitchell Boggs (RP-STL).
(1) Should the trades between the Smittydogs and the Stud Muffins be upheld and approved?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions and trades. The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team and manage it accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication and savviness.
The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league. A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league. The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated. In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season. They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft. In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent.
Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams. The Court has not been presented with any evidence of such malfeasance, so assumptions will be made that this is not an issue.
At first glance, the individual trades of Todd Helton in exchange for Jason Motte, and Brooks Conrad in exchange for Mitchell Boggs look slightly uneven. However, when viewed in totality as if it was a two-for-two trade, the deal makes more sense. It should be noted that the Smittydogs acquired Ryan Franklin (RP-STL) earlier in the season, and he has since lost his job as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Clearly this served as a motivating factor for Smittydogs to acquire two potential candidates that will be obtaining Franklin’s save opportunities.
When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective. See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin). Here, the Smittydogs were in need of saves due to Franklin’s demotion, so there was an inherent need to acquire potential replacements for him.
Todd Helton was once one of the premiere players in the league and a top option in terms of fantasy production. However, due to age and injuries, he has been sapped of the power and run production the fantasy baseball community was accustomed to for almost a decade. At this point in his career, Helton cannot be relied upon to play every day, nor can he be relied upon to contribute mightily in any of the roto categories.
However, he is still capable of reaching .300 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs if he remains healthy enough. He will be afforded every opportunity to play consistently for a Rockies team that is expected to contend for the National League West title. It makes sense that he would be desirable by the Stud Muffins in exchange for a couple of Cardinals relievers without a track record of success.
The puzzling aspect of this trade is Brooks Conrad who is nothing more than a bench player. He was given significant playing time in 2010, and besides a game-winning grand slam home run, he did nothing remarkable other than make errors filling in for Chipper Jones. Conrad’s role is solely as a reserve, and he hasn’t even been given an opportunity to start a game yet in 2011. That being said, his inclusion in these deals doesn’t increase or decrease their value.
None of the players involved cost significant salary dollars, and their values only net a $0.10 difference which is hardly enough to consider as a factor in the trade. Additionally, none of these players are projected to be long-term assets for either team.
As referenced in Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010), the dichotomy between the Smittydogs and the Stud Muffins' motivations is precisely why the Court must look at trades in keeper leagues differently than non-keeper leagues. However, had this trade been made in a non-keeper league, the Court would still likely approve it.
These two trades were made concurrently and subsequently evaluated in totality for judicial economy and ease of reference for the parties. Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trades are fair, equal, and free of collusion. The trades should be approved as they comport with the best interests of the league.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:04am (9) Comments
I hope everyone out there in reader-land had a very safe and happy Easter holiday. If you have followed along with this column since the start of the season, I have good news for you all. For the first time this season, Dynamic Inertia is actually showing signs of life! We all know how much of a struggle it had been through the first three weeks, but week four finally started to turn things in the right direction.
For the first time this year, we made all of our weekly hitting targets. Our at-bat total (294) was at its highest total of the young season, and as I explained all offseason, maximizing your potential at-bats correlates strongly to success in this game. For the week we hit a blistering .299, raising our season average all the way up to .255. This is still well short of the .277 that we are trying to attain, but is at least a promising step in that direction. We scored 45 runs this week, which is just barely over our target of 44. This leaves us almost 12 runs behind the pace that we want to achieve for the season, but one good week can fix that problem. Our total of 48 RBIs for the week (lead by eight from Ryan Raburn finally producing) is actually six over our target, which brings our deficit on the season down to five, so no serious problem there either.
Will Venable has struggled mightily this young season, but he did steal three bases last week to lead our team to a total of eight. This is slightly over our weekly target of seven, and for the year we are exactly on pace here. The major problem on offense remains power. We did bounce back from an atrocious three home runs in week three to hit 10 this week, but we are still 10-and-a-half behind the pace for the year. Justin Morneau, Michael Young, Will Venable and Carl Crawford combining to hit one long ball on the season are primarily to blame for this deficit. Hopefully, with Corey Hart returning to action this week, we will see an increase in this department.
On the pitching side of things, the problem continues to be wins. As I’ve explained before in this column after the first week, I felt that we were already dangerously behind the pace in wins and would need to add double starters as much as possible in an attempt to rectify the situation.
Well, each of the previous weeks we have employed this strategy, yet still are way behind where we need to be in wins. Chris Carpenter and Matt Garza have both pitched fairly well, and each has had his bullpen blow leads after leaving as the pitcher of record. I know that their wins will eventually come, but having them combine for zero thus far has been frustrating. Michael Pineda has actually been the ace of our staff in the early going with three of our seven victories. Justin Verlander and Scott Baker also pitched well and earned victories this week. Though their three wins are under the target pace that we need, it was at least a welcomed improvement. Still, we are eight wins behind the pace and will continue to add double starters where possible in an effort to correct this issue.
For the week we pitched only 51.2 innings, but did so with solid ratios of a 3.31 ERA/1.10 WHIP. Although still way too high, these bring our season totals down to 4.21/1.28 respectively. Our staff combined to strike out more than a batter per inning with 53, which brings our season total to 16 over the pace that we want to achieve.
Jose Contreras recorded our only two saves of the week, but he also headed to the disabled list and may never return to his closer role upon returning. Luckily, Drew Storen has seized the gig in Washington and will immediately step in for Contreras in our lineup. We are only one save behind our target for the year so far, and hopefully Joel Hanrahan and Storen can keep us at the 3-3.5 save average that we need.
As far as the lineup planning for this week is concerned, we do have a couple of decisions to make. On offense we do have one quality bat on our bench in Casey Blake, who hit .370 last week with 10 runs scored (six over the weekend while in our lineup) a home run and four RBI. While it would be great to fit him in again this week, Michael Young is firmly entrenched at third, Vladimir Guerrero occupies our utility spot and Justin Morneau finally returned and had two multi-hit games over the weekend. Since it appears that he has gotten things going, he has to be in the lineup as well. Still, Blake is a very quality bench guy to have and will help us out immensely over the course of the season.
The other decision on offense revolves around Corey Hart. He is expected to return to the Brewers lineup on Tuesday in the middle game of their series against the Reds. This would leave him with two games for the Monday-Thursday period where he could potentially play for us. The two options to sit down to make room for Hart are Rick Ankiel and Will Venable. Ankiel plays four games this period, and continues to hit second for the Nationals. In an effort to maximize at-bats, he has to remain in the lineup. Venable has struggled greatly, but at least he showed some signs of life last week. He also plays three games for the period against the Braves. If the Monday night lineup comes out before the 6:55 p.m. deadline and Venable isn’t in, then I’ll probably swap Hart in. If Venable looks like he’ll play three, then we will wait until the weekend to activate Hart.
As for our nine pitching spots, our options for this week aren’t attractive. Storen and Hanrahan are in for sure as our closers. Verlander, Carpenter, Garza, Baker and Pineda have all earned the right to pitch every week for us. This leaves the final two spots to the group of Marco Estrada, JA Happ, James McDonald and Jason Vargas. Vargas pitches for a Seattle team that doesn’t win often, and is at Fenway against a Boston team that has hit much better recently. He’s out for sure. Estrada has actually been the best of the bunch and has earned at least one start for us, so he’s in.
The final spot comes down to two pitchers who have been more or less terrible this year in Happ and Mcdonald. Happ pitches at home against the hard-hitting Cardinals, while McDonald goes at home against the Giants. There is a possibility that Pujols may miss that entire series, so maybe Happ gets the call? Though I can’t even make a good argument for McDonald, he seems to be the direction that I’m leaning right now. This one will likely be a game time decision.
As far as FAAB bidding this week, I targeted two potential impact bats in Jerry Sands and Ryan Roberts, but was easily outbid on each (going for $188 and $125 respectively).
Here’s to hoping that our momentum from week four spills over into week five and that as we look back next week we’ll continue our steady climb up the standings. Again, I genuinely appreciate any feedback, comments, questions or concerns that you may have about my team or yours. Leave em’ here and I’ll be happy to offer any advice. Best of luck to you all in week five!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:05am (5) Comments
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I’ve heard it said that once a man dates a model, it’s as if he is initiated into some sort of exclusive club, that some sort of metaphoric memo is distributed among models officially declaring the gentleman acceptable for dating among their class. This notion, nonsensical as it is, gets at the role context and labeling can play in the evaluation of a commodity. In our case, the commodity will be a fantasy baseball player.
Context can enlighten, but it can also obfuscate. I may re-evaluate a player’s perfectly objective value in the context of my team’s existing strengths and weaknesses, of his positional eligibility, or of dynamics relevant to his actual baseball team. These are behaviors are all among best practices for fantasy baseball GMs. But, today I’d like to talk about one specific dynamic that often changes the context of a player’s value – the premature drop, the scarlet letter.
About a week and a half ago, an owner in one of my shallow mixed leagues dropped Chone Figgins. At the time, Figgy was hitting .150 with four runs scored and one lonely stolen base. This is a H2H league, and the owner was lacking offense across multiple categories, so it’s understandable that he was just looking for a bat could just provide some semblance of balanced offensive value, and Figgins wasn’t doing it.
I picked Figgins up, having some faith in his track record, despite being somewhat concerned about his performance this year and last. My Ryan Theriot, Ryan Raburn, and Danny Espinosa middle infield was producing fine in that league, but they’re hardly a reliable murderers row, and I figured that I could use a contingency plan on the bench, and that Figgy’s speed and dual positional eligibility was a good fit for travel days and chasing steals, if and when needed.
This past weekend, when I heard Neftali Feliz had gone down, I scurried to the wire to pick up Darren Oliver and was faced with the decision of who to drop to accommodate him. At the time, I had a number of offensive players on my bench and was looking to choose one. I was seriously considering Figgins when a thought occurred to me.
My main league is also a shallow mixed league, and I’m a Figgins owner there, too. To be clear, I’m not a huge Figgins fan, it just worked out like that. It just so happened that Figgins was an option on the draft board at a point when I simultaneously determined that my biggest categorical need was steals and my biggest positional need was a middle infielder. See, context in action. But, I had never considered dropping Figgins in that league, either to make room for another pick-up, or for a hot starting second sacker. Hell, I was playing Placido Polanco at my Util spot (any time now, Kendrys Morales, I’m ready for you to return to the line-up) and I still didn’t even consider dropping Figgins to slide Polanco over to 2B and search for the best available bat to plug in at Util.
So, in one league, I’m willing to drop Figgins to speculate on who might be a short term, and quite possibly marginally effective, replacement for a disabled closer, yet in another, I have not even considered dropping him for other players who are likely far more valuable than Darren Oliver. That’s a pretty big gap in my evaluation of Figgy’s value from league to league.
First, let me get my rational defenses out of the way. There are some differences between the two leagues. For one, the league in which I hadn’t considered cutting Figgins loose is a roto league, so I can’t punt steals there and while I’m actually sitting toward the top of that category, I anticipate it necessary to need to get some speed from that position if I really want to be set up to compete long term. Additionally, I didn’t invest all too highly in Figgins in the first place and my team is set up so that if he just steals his 40 bases and does virtually nothing else, he’ll give me just about all I actually need from him.
With all that said, the dynamic clearly driving this internal inconsistency of mine is that in one league, Figgins has already been written off by somebody else. This distinction leads to two psychological effects. First of all, any player you pick up off the waiver wire is “found money,” which is much easier to blow on something frivolous. There’s just not the same level of attachment and investment in the commodity, even though the commodity being found versus purchased doesn’t make the commodity itself any less valuable. And, though this doesn’t change the value, it does change the way people behave. The second effect is that of one of the most well-established tools for oppressing people in human history—I’ve been primed to think of Figgins a certain way because somebody else categorized him as such. Once another owner treats a player like garbage, it’s easier for you to do so.
So, I paused, took stock of my opinions on Figgins in each context and did some investigation into his peripherals this year and last. I’ve met in the middle. I did not cut Figgins in the one league, and I’ve reconsidered and weakened the strength of my commitment to him in the other. And, this is where the practical advice is to be gleaned from this experience.
Each league is its own animal, and in addition to the legitimate value swings that accompany changes in roster and scoring structure, there are subjective swings in value that gradually and silently become codified based on the collective behavior and preference of those who make up that league. For those of you in multiple leagues, it’s prudent to consider whether illegitimate shifts in context are altering your opinion of a player from league to league.
At the same time, it’s worth noting the flip side of this dynamic. Some players, or players in certain situations, just aren’t incredibly attractive to the market and sometimes the lack of interest is for illegitimate reasons. A player endures a loss in perceived value when he is dropped, and players who are picked up from the waiver wire are often unable to fetch their true value in trades. Some people neglect a player’s true value and harp on the notion that they don’t want to pay market price for something you were lucky enough to find in the bargain bin. This may not be entirely rational, but it’s something you may have to train yourself to deal with.
Last year, perhaps you found it difficult to find another owner who believed enough in Mike Stanton to trade you something of value for him. Going into this season, those same owners probably salivated over him. Now, some of his owners probably can’t give him away. But, if he hits the wire, those same newly re-disinterested folks will once again become interested. Then, if he gets it going, he’ll be hard to sell for full price again.
The moral of the story here is that sometimes, just as in retail, the price for which an item most recently sold is a better indicator of its “market worth,” than its inherent value. You must strive to remain as objective as possible. Use these group-think tendencies to your advantage when you can, and above all, value an item for what it is – or at least what you believe it to be—and not what it costs.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:30am (2) Comments
THT's Ben Pritchett approached me this week about facing him in a game of daily fantasy. Of course I accepted, and hence was set a match-up of THT staffers. With Ben's permission I am going to give you a look at the lineups, results and five points of interest stemming from our heated battle that I felt were worthy of discussion. Identifying and discussing these line items may help you understand both good and bad habits that you can form when playing daily fantasy baseball.
Let's start with the general match-up details:
Date: Wednesday April 20
Game Type: Standard Salary Cap, $35,000
Hitters: 1B = 1pt, 2B = 2pts, 3B = 3pts, HR = 4pts, RBI = 1pt, R = 1pt, BB = 1pt, SB = 2pts, Out (calculated as at bats - hits) = -.25pt
Pitchers: W = 7pts, ER = -1pt, SO=1pt, IP = 1pt*
* Fractional scoring per out.
If there are other details you would like please feel free to visit the match-up page here (Ben Pritchett vs. Kevin Cearnal)
Here's how the lineups shook out:
Ben Pritchett (naturalslugger)
(Pos) Player [Salary] *PointTotal*
(P) Zach Britton [3,900] *13*
(C) Carlos Santana [3,300] *3.5*
(1B) Joey Votto [4,100] *3.5*
(2B) Dan Uggla [3,500] *0.5*
(3B) Rich Robertson [3,900] *2.5*
(SS) Hanley Ramirez [3,700] *1.25*
(LF) Matt Holliday [3,900] *4.75*
(CF) Andrew McCutchen [3,600] *0*
(RF) Jason Heyward [3,400] *-1*
TOTAL = 28
Kevin Cearnal (kcearnal)
(P) Jered Weaver [9,900] *23*
(C) J.P. Arencibia [2,500] *6.5*
(1B) Joey Votto [4,100] *3.5*
(2B) Brian Roberts [3,400] *0.25*
(3B) Greg Dobbs [2,600] *1.25*
(SS) Yunel Escobar [3,200] *1.25*
(LF) Alex Gordon [3,200] *4*
(CF) Grady Sizemore [2,500] *0*
(RF) Shin-Soo Choo [3,600] *3*
TOTAL = 42.75
So here are the five things I hope a new player can learn from this match-up:
1. McCutchen was MIA - So we both took big fat zeroes from our center fielders. The only difference was that mine took the field. This was the night that McCutchen had "family matters" to attend to and missed the game. And while something like this is impossible to predict, it is not impossible to find out. I got this news roughly 2 1/2 hours prior to game time via one of my favorite tools, ESPN's fantasy news text alerts. For those of you who don't already utilize this tool I highly recommend it. It is free and can provide helpful insights, such as the aforementioned example, on a nightly basis. If Ben had picked up on this info, he would have certainly replaced his center fielder, giving him a chance to make up some points. Paying premium price for a guy who isn't playing is unacceptable. Period.
2. Pick a solidified starter - Britton vs. Weaver is a very interesting matchup to analyze. Both got the win (7 points), which is the most important thing to consider when picking a pitcher on FanDuel. Pick a guy you think will win. End of story.
But beyond that, I would even go as far as to say that I never settle for anything less than the best pitcher of the day. The pricing is such that you can afford any pitcher, and still create a decent lineup with a little work. And that's where the difference in experience comes into play. I took the premium pitcher. Ben did not. And I don't blame him for going after Britton. He had a good start and was one of the cheapest options of the day. This choice allowed Ben to pick the very best player at every other position on his team. But pitcher is not where you want to short change yourself. You can find low cost options elsewhere (just look at my lineup). Weaver racked up the K's and pitched a CG. He's a stud and he has to be on your roster almost every fifth day.
So lesson two is this: when playing FanDuel, always pick the pitcher you think will score the best, regardless of price. This will prevent you from kicking yourself later.
3. Project points, but also determine value - So let's just say that, theoretically, Ben thought Holliday would put up five points. That's a great total and you'd take that any day of the week. But Holliday is in the top three in terms of cost. Gordon, on the other hand was red hot, $700 cheaper, and I projected him for 3.5. This is where you must consider value for your money. I've discussed this in previous articles, but I can't emphasize the point enough: if your going to pay big money for a guy, make sure not only that he is going to be the highest scoring player, but also that there isn't a guy for less that will be comparable. I'm pretty sure that there is a business term called "cost-benefit analysis." And I'm also pretty sure that that's the point I'm trying to get across here.
Find the bargains that make sense. Use them. And make sure that 99 percent of the time these bargains are position players, not pitchers.
4. Rarely pay the premium for a catcher - For the most part, catchers stink at hitting. Outside of a handful of guys (of which you might consider Santana one) they are atrocious and unreliable. So I think that this is one of your best options for bargain shopping. Especially on a night when Mr. Arencibia is behind home plate. He's cheap and he has big point potential, the ideal combination for my catcher selection. I guess my criticism here is based on my prior experience. It rarely pays off to spend on catching, or so it seems. So, unless you see unbelievable priors or a catcher is riding a hot streak, I would advise you to fork out your dollars elsewhere.
5. Never, ever play against me! - I'm kind of a big deal. People know me. But all kidding aside, the lesson to be learned here is to do your best to match-up with people that have similar daily fantasy baseball skills as you do. You'll get smoked if you start facing the big boys in the beginning. And while you may learn a lot, and really fast, your bankroll will also take a beating. So start off slow and try to find guys, like you, that are just starting out. This way you'll be able to hone your craft and eventually become one of the game's premier players.
Well that's all for this week. Hope that this showed you how little maneuvers can make a huge difference in daily fantasy. Experience is also a key factor in the daily fantasy world, so I invite all of you to start getting some at any of the following sites:
FanDuel -- DraftStreet -- DraftZone -- Fantasy Sports Live -- SportsGeek
See you next time!
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:57am (10) Comments
Thursday, April 28, 2011
“When I was drafting I decided to take some risks at closer to secure my starting pitching and position players elsewhere. This strategy has come to haunt me as the guys I settled on, Joe Nathan and John Axford, have both sucked. Would trading a SP for a closer be the right move or would waiting for an unowned RP to get a closer job be the better option?
"As I've made inquiries to other owners the only SP which I could trade to realistically get something of value back is David Price. Is losing the innings that David Price would give you in a league with an innings limit be worth getting the saves? In past years I never would've considered the option but I'm pretty desperate in the saves category. Injuries, along with my closer problems, have caused me to drop to ninth in the standings. Since there are only two DL spots I am forced to have players on my roster who aren't contributing. Thankfully all of them seem like they should be coming back within the next several weeks.
"My biggest flaw in my hitting seems to be CI but there aren't many good options on the FA market. Best FA options are: Matt Laporta, Brett Wallace, Tyler Greene, Chris Johnson and Ty Wiggington. Looking at my roster are there any other changes I should make? Thanks."
Player Pool: Mixed
No. of Teams: 12
Categories: 5x5 (R,HR, RBI,BA, Steals x W, SV, SO, ERA, WHIP), daily, Public, Keeper
C: Geovany Soto
C: J.P. Arencibia
1B: Joey Votto K
2B: Gordon Beckham
3B: Wilson Betemit
SS: Troy Tulowitzki K
CI: Todd Helton
MI: Danny Espinosa
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Jose Tabata
OF: Logan Morrison
OF: Travis Snider
OF: Chris Coghlan
UT: Matt Joyce
BN: Freddy Sanchez
BN: Mark Trumbo
BN: Andres Torres
BN: Ryan Zimmerman K
SP: Roy Halladay K
SP: Felix Hernandez K
SP: David Price
SP: Brett Anderson
RP: John Axford
RP: Joe Nathan
RP: Koji Uehara
P: Edinson Volquez
P: Jordan Zimmerman
BN: Kyle Drabek
BN: Matt Harrison
DL: Zack Greinke
DL: Brian Matusz
I would substitute Wallace for Trumbo. With Trumbo struggling, he’s no guarantee to keep his job or even stay in the majors once Kendrys Morales returns. Wallace’s average is a bit of a mirage as it is supported by an almost .400 BABIP. But the improvement in his batting eye seems for real.
As for your deeper problem with closers, there are two possible solutions.
The first solution is the more obvious one. You have a few front line starters and Greinke coming back from injury. You can trade one of them for a closer, but to get equal value for any of your top starters, you’d need to put together a package deal where you’d be giving up the best part. That’s not usually a good strategy. Maybe an owner will panic with Mariano Rivera or Brian Wilson and you can trade Volquez or Harrison for him (though I doubt it).
If you traded Price or Anderson for one of Rivera or Wilson, that’d be fine, though. You’re in a daily league which means you should be able to find, from time to time, good match-ups to stream; e.g., anyone pitching against Seattle or San Diego.
The second strategy is to stick with your solid starting staff, at least for a while, build up a solid lead in strikeouts and wins and a good buffer in ERA and WHIP, and wait for an owner who gets desperate. Injuries are not a rarity on pitching staffs.
In the meantime, dump any extraneous starter—preferably in a trade as they still have some value. I’m not huge fan of Zimmermann; his groundball rate is too low given his low strikeout rate. But he’s the brand of pitcher that some owners will bite on.
With the extra roster spot, feel free to stream relievers. Pick up a set-up man for a team whose closer has pitched the last two nights. You won’t get much here but you may vulture a few wins and saves. In the meantime, you may get lucky landing the next closer too. The closer crown is not being worn lightly this season and there are probably several more changes to come.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 5:08am (6) Comments
Friday, April 29, 2011
Real life has a nasty habit of throwing obstacles in our path. While Jeffrey Gross hits the restricted list for personal reasons (law finals), I will be coming off the bench to provide the usual NL waiver wire treats. Let's get down to business.
Hong-Chih Kuo | Dodgers | RP | 29 percent Yahoo! ownership
Vicente Padilla | Dodgers | RP | Six percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD (Kuo): 3.38 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 13.5 K/9, 13.5 BB/9
YTD (Padilla): 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3 K/9, 3 BB/9
Oliver Projection (Kuo): 2.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Oliver Projection (Padilla): 4.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
The big news of the week came after Jonathan Broxton's first blown save of the season. From the bare stats alone, the demotion to committee closer may seem a bit hasty, but Broxton's been skating on thin ice for awhile now. His struggles last season are well known and he appears to be even worse this season despite generally satisfactory results including a win, five saves, and the aforementioned lone blown save.
However, that glosses over the damage he's done this season. In his 10.1 innings, his strikeout rate has almost halved from this career rate (6.97 per nine compared to 11.57) while his walk rate has nearly doubled (6.10 per nine compared to 3.72). His average fastball velocity has dropped a second consecutive year as well. Your gut reaction might be to say "small sample" but even the number that is most guaranteed to regress in a positive manner, his 22.2 percent home run to fly ball ration (HR/FB), is at least partially due to the number of cookies he has served up. Until he improves his command and control, he's going to continue to ignite more rallies than a respectable "closer," even if some of his peripherals improve.
So who is there to replace him? The long term answer for dynasty leagues might be Kenley Jansen, but it appears a mutating monster composed of Broxton, Kuo, and Padilla will handle ninth inning duties for the bulk of 2011.
Padilla stepped in on Wednesday for an uneventful save. He's a pretty pedestrian reliever when all is said and done but when your alternative is as combustible as Broxton, pedestrian will do. Padilla the reliever may strike out close to eight per nine innings pitched, walk about three per nine innings, and post ERA and WHIP numbers that will neither help nor harm you—about 3.50 and 1.30 respectively. Keep in mind, those projections depend on Padilla experiencing the typical uptick in talent from the rotation to bullpen transition. If he pitches like he does when he starts, he will not be touching many ninth innings.
Kuo is the most interesting option in Dodgerland, both because he took over for Broxton in 2010 and because he might just be a top 10 reliever on a per inning basis. The Oliver projection system envisions 9.6 strike outs per nine, a stingy 2.5 walks per nine along with a glowing 2.79 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Given he's struck out 10.51 batters per nine over his career, he could best those numbers by a small but significant margin.
Of course, the problem with Kuo is well known: He's more fragile than porcelain. In fact, he's on the disabled list as we speak, although he is currently on rehab assignment and could rejoin the team as early as today. He got roughed up a bit on Tuesday so the Dodgers may try to get him a couple of strong appearances before activating him. In any case, the time to act is now. Bear in mind that Kuo's injury history will probably lead the Dodgers to handle him carefully, opening plenty of opportunities for Padilla and Broxton.
Recommendations: Kuo should be owned in any league that counts saves, uses linear weights, or has reliever slots. If you can, toss him on the DL and use Padilla as a handcuff. Speaking of Padilla, he should be owned in NL-only leagues, all 14-team mixed leagues, and any other league where an owner has bench space and is interested in scraping together five or 10 saves. For now, Broxton should be held in NL-only and most 12-team formats.
Ryan Madson | Phillies | RP | 65 percent Yahoo! ownership
Antonio Bastardo | Phillies | RP | seven percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD (Madson): 0.90 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
YTD (Bastardo): 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.94 K/9, 3.48 BB/9
Oliver projection (Madson): 3.39 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
Oliver projection (Bastardo): 4.08 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
On paper, the Phillies closer is Brad Lidge. However, his timetable to return appears to be sometime in July and it's unclear whether the Phillies will even really want him around by then. Plan B was Jose Contreras, but a five-appearance stretch over six days seems to have contributed to his own trip to the disabled list with a strained elbow, not that Charlie Manuel is having any of that.
Plan C is Ryan Madson, a man who despite being an elite reliever, simply has failed in the ninth inning role. A stroll over to Baseball Reference shows that his numbers in the ninth inning are considerably worse than his other relief innings (he spent some time in 2006 as a starter). This lack of success under pressure—whether the result of nerves, bad luck, or Grand Conspiracy—is at least part of the reason the Phillies opted to go with Contreras as closer.
What can we expect from Madson the closer? If you are willing to lay aside the rough ninth inning history, we are looking at a reliever who will strike out a batter per inning, post an ERA of roughly 3.00 and throw together a WHIP of about 1.00. These are very good things to have when they come packaged with saves. However...
It comes with a caveat, Madson is one of two pitchers Manuel trusts in his bullpen. The other is the left-handed reliever Bastardo. He has some things in common with the aforementioned Kuo: He's an oft-injured, full-inning lefty with a strikeout rate that will probably be above 10 per nine innings. He'll walk more guys than Kuo, about four per nine, but otherwise he's a potentially valuable arm who could scrounge a few saves. Manuel recently complained about Madson asking for a day off last Sunday, so Bastardo may find some favor from ol' Chuck for being available for the one-pitch save in that game.
Recommendations: Madson is an immediate pick-up in all but the shallowest of leagues. Bastardo should be owned in all NL-only leagues as well as 14-team mixed leagues and most 12-team mixed leagues.
Brett Wallace | Astros | 1B | 12 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver projection: .263/.326/.421
For those few owners out there who stuck with Wallace, his early season success has been a bit of a revelation. Sure, it can't and won't continue, a .444 balls in play average (BABIP) is what we in the biz refer to as unsustainable. However, there are some encouraging signs in his early season success that might indicate he's made an adjustment, and he's made scant few of those since becoming a professional.
The former Arizona State star has swatted his way to a mean .367/.432/.494 line in the early going with one home run. Regression will catch up to Wallace: That .444 BABIP is supported by a mere .295 expected BABIP (xBABIP). He also boasts a vibrant 25 percent line drive rate. As that does its own dance of regression, the hits will start falling in less frequently. Oliver agrees, projecting a rest of season triple slash around .263/.326./421 with about 18 home runs in full time play.
Before detailing why Wallace is due for negative regression, there was talk of positive signs. Both his strikeout and walk rates have improved considerably compared to last year. He is walking in 9.1 percent of his plate appearances while striking out in a mere 19 percent. Last year, he walked in only five percent of his plate appearances while striking out a brutal 34.7 percent, a number that caused some analysts (including me) to wonder aloud if Wallace could possibly be a major league quality player. He's never been much of a walker, so expect that rate to drift back near six percent. However, his current strikeout rate is similar to his minor league numbers and could potentially be sustainable. If so, Wallace will be putting a full 15 percent more balls in play, which should help his fantasy numbers across the board.
Given his previous status as a top prospect, it might not be long before other fantasy owners take notice and start buying on Wallace.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all NL-only and 14-team leagues and most deep 12-team leagues. Watch in other formats.
Ryan Ludwick | Padres | OF | Six percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver projection: .258/.329/.465
When Ludwick has a "normal" BABIP, he's a roughly league average outfielder. He's not someone you're dying to employ in any fantasy format, but you probably won't hate yourself if you're forced into leaning on him as your last outfielder.
Right now, Ludwick is struggling with some balls in play demons. Most of his peripherals are typical, a 10 percent walk rate, 23.6 percent strikeout rate, and .191 ISO. He's even lifting the ball more frequently, which is a good thing for a guy with Ludwick's sock, even in Petco Cavern. But that dastardly villain of chance has stuck him with a .219 BABIP. His expected BABIP is still low at .255, but you can thank his temporarily elevated fly ball rate for that and expect something closer to .290 in the future.
That sets him up to hit his Oliver projections, which jibe with what was mentioned in the first paragraph—average, employable, unexciting. He still has 20-home run upside and bats in the heart of the Padres lineup. Yes, it is an impotent lineup, but RBI opportunities will still appear.
Recommendation: Own in all NL-only leagues. Leagues with 60 or more outfielders should be able to find a home for him. Shallow leagues can ignore him entirely.
Randy Wolf | Brewers | SP | 37 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.51 K/9, 2.35 BB/9
Oliver projection: 4.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
2011 is looking like it might be one of those good Randy Wolf years, the kind where he pitches well enough to give his team a chance to win him 15 games if it deigns to support him with runs. Theoretically, the Brewers should have plenty of pop to help bolster Wolf's win totals, but Wolf has always seemed to be on the short end when it comes to run support.
By all means, Wolf is not much more than a temporary patch for an owner with rotation troubles. He's another guy who falls into that won't help or hurt you category. He's been exactly the same pitcher since 2005, so there is not much scope for change in his skill set. What we have is a pitcher who can throw together something like a 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and seven strikeouts per nine while giving his potent offense a chance to win ballgames for him.
The big thing people are seeing right now with Wolf is a shiny 2.64 ERA and his 29 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. Don't buy into the glitter expecting those rates to hold up. However, given that some fantasy owners still remember his successful 2009, a savvy owner might be able to claim him off the wire now and sell him a few weeks down the line if Wolf's luck holds.
Recommendation Own in NL-only leagues and all 14-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in about half of 12-team mixed roto leagues and can be streamed in 10-12 team head-to-head.
Gerardo Parra | Diamondbacks | OF | one percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver projections: .282/.328/.401
Here's something for those deep leaguers out there. Thanks to a few injured Diamondbacks, Parra has pushed his way into a fairly regular role. He has started the team's last seven games and has performed well in the short span.
Parra will never set the world on fire. It might be best to think of him as the most recent version of Ben Francisco. He shouldn't help or hurt you in any category, but he's a respectable patch to use while searching for a better alternative. His future role with the club is uncertain, so you might find that this is a short term investment.
Currently, Parra's compiled a respectable .309/.333/.400 triple slash that is partially propped up by a .364 BABIP. He walks infrequently, only two times in his 57 plate appearances this season, but he couples that with a roughly league average strikeout rate so he's putting the ball in play very frequently. His roughly .100 isolated slugging percentage makes him a bit of an anti-three true outcomes hitter, but he does have the pop and the home park to swat about 10 home runs in a full season of at bats. He'll even steal a few bases to boot.
Oliver isn't crazy about him. His projected slash of .282/.328/.401 is unimpressive, but it's certainly employable in a deep league.
Recommendation: Own in 12-team NL-only leagues. Mixed leagues that use more than 70 outfielders should have a home for Parra. Owners with outfield troubles in deep roster 12-team leagues might also want to take a peek.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 4:10am (35) Comments
Johnny Damon| Tampa Bay| OF| 33 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .280/.357/.446
After opening his Rays' tenure 1-for-19, Johnny Damon has settled in quite nicely with 19 hits in his next 58 at bats. Damon's walk rate is just about non-existent in the early going at just 3.7 percent, but I'd expect that to work its way closer to his career 9.3 percent mark. The exciting thing for his owners is the power and speed he has exhibited in the early going muscling out four home runs and swiping three bases. Batting second should help him yield healthy run and RBI totals in addition to his power-speed combination. Playing his home games at Tropicana Field is likely to cap his home run potential, but given his hot start, 15-18 home runs at season's end don't appear a total pipe dream, one year after he slugged just eight.
Rays manager Joe Maddon has never been shy about letting his players run, and with early season success, I'd be willing to guess that if he stays healthy Damon will steal over 20 bases for the first time since 2008. Likely owned in deeper leagues, it is still surprising to see a name brand player like Damon available in 67 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in leagues where 50 or more outfielders are rostered.
Matt Joyce| Tampa Bay| OF| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .254/.344/.471
Matt Joyce actually one-upped teammate Damon in terms of cold starts, opening just 1-for-20, but has since settled into a groove. Joyce struggles with southpaws, and frequently sits against them, but those in deeper leagues with bench flexibility should take note of his success against righties (.260/.354/.508 with 25 home runs in 492 at-bats in his major league career). He's a cheap source of power who should post solid RBI totals if the Rays continue to slot him somewhere in the heart of the order against righties upon Evan Longoria's return.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some large mixed leagues as well as most AL-only leagues.
Hank Conger| Los Angeles Angels)| C| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .254/.344/.471
Angels manager Mike Scioscia appears to finally realizing that Jeff Mathis simply isn't a starting catcher, and has split the playing time essentially 50-50 at the position with Hank Conger.
Conger has outperformed Mathis, and unlike previous Angels backup catcher Mike Napoli, isn't a liability behind the plate, making him a guy Scioscia, a former catcher, should feel comfortable using regularly. Baseball America rated Conger as the fourth best prospect in the organization, and John Sickels, as of January, rated him a "B," prospect. He has hit for a high average in his minor league career, he doesn't strike out often, and he's shown the ability to take a walk, all things that should help him transition to big league pitching and post a respectable average at the highest level. At the moment, his power is mostly of the doubles variety, but he has ripped a couple of home runs in the early going and taken to the air a bit with a 43.8 percent flyball rate (small sample size caution).
A catcher with Conger's upside should be owned in many more leagues than he currently is. Likely hurting his ownership total is the time share with Mathis; as his playing time nudges its way up, expect his ownership to follow suit. Those in two-catcher leagues should have gobbled him up already, but if he's available, grab him. Conger has enough upside that he could find his way onto single catcher mixed league rosters if things break right, and should be on watch lists in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-catcher leagues. Should be owned in some large single-catcher mixed leagues and most AL-only leagues.
Joel Pineiro| Los Angeles Angels| SP| 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: 3.92 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 5.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
One of Dave Duncan's reclamation projects, Joel Pineiro pitched effectively after leaving his tutelage for a healthy payday to don an Angels cap. He opened the season on the disabled list, but Pineiro is set to be activated to start against Tampa Bay on Saturday. Not a flashy player who's going to post gaudy strikeout totals, but an effective one nonetheless. Pineiro attacks the strike zone, issuing few free passes and inducing tons of ground balls. Should he not be unlucky with his BABIP and home run-per-flyball (HR/FB) results, Pineiro has a chance to post helpful ERA and WHIP totals that closely mirror his 2009 and 2010 marks. Players in Pineiro's mold have very little room for error, so should his walk rate rise and no longer be elite, or his ground balls begin turning into fly balls, he will quickly fade into fantasy irrelevance unless it coincides with a rise in strikeouts.
He's not a perfect fit for all league types, as those in roto-leagues with a low innings cap will either be better suited looking for a starter with a higher K/9, or flanking him with a couple of high strikeout relievers to prop up team totals. Those in head-to-head leagues, and leagues with tough-to-reach innings caps shouldn't be as concerned with his low strikeout rate. Regardless of league type or size, it's probably best to sit him in his first start back against a hot Rays squad.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some large mixed leagues, and some AL-only leagues.
Gavin Floyd| Chicago (American League)| SP| 55 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.49, 2.06 BB/9, 50.5 GB
Oliver ROS: 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Owned in more leagues than players I typically care to cover, Gavin Floyd is still unowned in entirely too many leagues, hence his inclusion this week. Floyd has seen his groundball rate increase each of the last two seasons, and he can now officially be labeled an extreme groundballer: His worm-burning ways have carried over to this season. In addition, he is striking out more batters this season while walking fewer. Floyd's lights-out June and July last season show the type of brilliance he is capable of when things are clicking. At 28 years of age, his best full season may still be ahead of him. Jump on board for the ride this year.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues.
J.P. Howell| Tampa Bay| SP/RP| 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: 3.91 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
Questions surround J.P. Howell, who missed all of the 2010 season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, but reports of his work in extended spring training games are positive.
Howell has excelled since the Rays decided to shift him to the bullpen, racking up lots of strikeouts in spite of an underwhelming fastball that sits in the mid-80s. Kyle Farnsworth has pitched well in the closer role for the Rays thus far, so Howell's opportunity to pick up saves may come exclusively in a vulture capacity when the team would be better off trotting out a southpaw in place of their regular ninth inning man. Those in leagues that count holds should consider stashing him on the disabled list now. Perhaps the greatest appeal behind Howell is Yahoo's inexplicable decision to award him starting pitching eligibility.
He's set to begin a rehab assignment soon, so keep an eye on his early results, as recovery from shoulder surgery can be a bit dicey. (Just ask Erik Bedard and Brandon Webb.
Recommendation: Should be monitored in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.