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Wednesday, October 05, 2011
A few seasons ago, a good friend of mine approached me about taking co-ownership of his fantasy team. This team was in a long-standing league originally started within his fraternity in the 1990s—a fairly high stakes, highly competitive, vanilla design, snakedraft league. Having spent most of my years playing fantasy sports competing against my friends, I was eager to join forces and collaborate for once.
The alliance made a lot of sense and paid immediate dividends. We took second place in my first year sharing the cockpit, amounting to a pretty nice profit even when split two ways. The following season, we took third, which also netted us a moderate payday. Since 2009, however, we just haven’t been getting it done, and my co-owner and I have agreed that our partnership, and our overall participation in the league, has run its course.
We were hoping to go out on top this year (of course if we did win, we’d be drawn back next year), and were comfortably situated in second place right on the heels of the league leader with about six weeks left in the season. But everything sort of collapsed down the stretch and our team spiraled to a fifth place finish. Despite our early success, I’ve come to feel that co-managing is highly suboptimal. Most likely, we had success in the early years in spite of our partnership, not because of it.
On paper, our alliance made a lot of sense. My biggest weakness as an owner is that I can settle too easily in the trade market; I’m very willing to see the other side’s view and therefore probably don’t always extract as much value as I can from deals. On the other hand, my friend drives a hard bargain and is sometimes able to pull off deals I didn’t think he’d get through. I’m very conservative and cautious about young unproven players; he’s much more bullish about impact rookies. Where I expect regression, he often sees the potential for growth. I’m extremely against investing highly in starting pitching; he is against that philosophy too, but not as adamantly so. He’s up earlier than I am; I’m awake later than he is. So, theoretically this should lead to productive and healthy discussion about strategy and a well-vetted vision and direction when establishing the complexion and charting the course of our team. Sometimes it does, but sometimes when you seek the best of both worlds you can also get the worst of them too.
Agreeing on our larger strategic directions was often actually quite easy. Occasionally we’d reach the kind of impasse when one of us wants to take a pet player at a high draft spot while the other claims to be really high on some of the lower price tag options at the same position. But, overall, we were able to agree on roster construction. And many times the good and bad choices each co-GM makes evens out. This year, I talked him out of overpaying for a mid-tier SS in order to take Johnny Peralta in the wee rounds. But, I also talked him out of Michael Young at 3B in the round we eventually selected Jonathan Broxton, and then into Pedro Alvarez because we missed Young. Because of me, we drafted Anibal Sanchez and James Shields, but also John Lackey. He convinced me to reach even further than I wanted to for Gio Gonzalez, who turned us a nice profit, but also bumped Joe Nathan further up the board than I wanted. Building the initial team is something that many people worry about when considering the co-manage strategy, but that is the least challenging aspect of the season, as far as I’m concerned.
In season too, we often agreed on strategy. But strategy is useless without execution and that’s where the co-manager approach can be a killer. Below, I’m going to list some points of consideration prospective co-GMs should mull over and reach agreement upon before signing a partnership.
Degree of autonomy
One very basic element of the co-manager relationship that needs to be agreed upon is what kinds of moves each manager can make without consulting the co-manager. For example, determining which players can be dropped at the whim of one manger is important, as is determining whether each manager should be given latitude to randomly stream a pitcher he feels has an advantageous match-up. You do not want to delay minor moves that need to be made quickly and regularly. Another good thing to agree upon at all times is the identification of the single most expendable player on your roster. If I’m watching a game and see somebody’s closer writhing in pain, I’m going to run to my computer—who am I going to drop to make a speculative add?
Accepted returns in trades
One problem we would run into would be that we would agree that we need to trade X for Y—a mid-tier starting pitcher for a mid-tier OF, for example. It’s recommended to agree upon a list of players you’d each accept for a few possible trade chips on your end. As I mentioned above, my partner was good at getting the most out of trades. But to do that, he also proposed a lot of trades that I thought were unrealistic. We’re both busy professionals, so sometimes I’d ask him if he could propose some trades to improve our OF, or ask me to do the same. If I thought our needs were immediate, sometimes I’d feel that he was kind of frittering away time by proposing blue sky trades, which just allowed our need to intensify. On the flip side, perhaps I was too willing to settle.
You can see how this strength of perspective can morph into a practical weakness. I think his trade proposals aren’t productive because they aren’t getting close to getting done; therefore our need continues to grow. This dynamic then pushes me harder to want to get some fix done even if it isn’t best fix, thereby increasing my willingness to settle. The best way to avoid this is to agree upon returns for various players, prioritize offers starting with the best return deemed realistically possible, and then go down the line methodically.
Line-up setting responsibilities
One of the most painful and bush league of mistakes one can make in a co-manger situation is to assume that the other manager is going to do something, while he/she assumes you are going to do it, only to see it go undone. I’m running late for work and don’t have time to rotate the team, but I’m sure he’ll check it and insert Cliff Lee off the bench. Meanwhile, he is thinking the same thing and the next thing you known you have complete game shutout on your bench.
You can split up this responsibility by day of the week, or you can just agree that you are both responsible for checking every day, but you can’t get caught staring at each other watching the pop up drop between because neither of you called for the ball.
Overall, I think the co-manager approach began to hurt us more than help us as time progressed. Neither of us have time during our workdays to discuss these issues. We both need to be in a situation where we can make quick and decisive moves autonomously. My life dictates I have less daily time to devote to fantasy baseball—I’m not happy about it, but it’s the case—so, when those windows open themselves, I can’t afford to also have to check if my co-manager’s window happens to be open as well. It is my belief that two managers who are independently highly skilled and competent are likely better off on their own than in tandem—what is gained insight and added knowledge is overshadowed by what is lost in agility and freedom.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:09am (5) Comments
Thursday, October 06, 2011
My name is Nick Fleder, and I’m a new contributor to THT Fantasy. I’ve been playing fantasy baseball all my life, really (it’s been a short life so far), and it’s no less than an obsession. This is all very exciting for me, and I’d love to see feedback, comments, criticism, quips, love/hate mail in the comment section and via e-mail. Hit me up at nick DOT fleder AT gmail DOT com.
Drafting is where the magic happens. Yes, it’s important to hit, and hit big, on your first few selections. Whether it be a first round pick in a snake draft or a big $40 stud in an auction, it’s important to get your core right. But it’s not enough to assemble a few superstars and mid-round sleepers if you waste your late picks on middling and dwindling veterans.
Much like the GMs in actual baseball, smart owners will search for the market inefficiencies. They will try to avoid the overvalued and assemble a winning team in whatever way they see fit, even if some of the decisions are instinctive.
One approach I often use is nabbing bullpen arms with good WHIP and ERA stats. While I supplement the one or two aces (Cliff Lee, for example) on my staff with a bunch of crappy NL-only level starters to chase wins (Chris Narveson), I might be able to undo any collateral damage by picking up three or four good bullpen arms in my 10-player supplemental draft. After all, a Mike Adams or three can be as valuable as an ace.
But the most glaring fantasy baseball market inefficiency is the rookie player. Here are some offensive rookie stats from the last two years you may be familiar with:
Name (Year) HR RBI Runs Batting Average Stolen Bases F. Freeman (2011) 21 76 67 0.282 4 D. Espinosa (2011) 21 66 72 0.236 17 J. Heyward (2010) 18 72 83 0.277 11 G. Sanchez (2010) 19 85 72 0.273 5 I. Desmond (2010) 10 65 59 0.269 17*Note: Eric Hosmer, Starlin Castro, and other midseason pickups were omitted because owners in re-draft leagues couldn’t have reasonably expected a midseason call-up.
Things you may have observed:
1) This is a stellar crop of rookies from the last two years, who…
2) All had opening day jobs at the beginning of the 2010 or 2011 season…
Things you may not have observed:
1) How low their average draft positions were…
2) Who was selected near our rookies at hand in a snake draft:
Name (Rookie Year) ADP* Drafted Within Five Spots F. Freeman (2011) 213 Daniel Bard D. Espinosa (2011) 308 Jose Lopez J. Heyward (2010) 222 Joba Chamberlain G. Sanchez (2010) N/A N/A I. Desmond (2010) 320 Jason Marquis
*ADP taken from Mock Draft Central for 2010 numbers, and The Fantasy Fix for 2011 numbers
The same trend holds true for pitchers, too. Their stats are useful at worst...:
Name (Year) Wins ERA WHIP Strikeouts J. Hellickson (2011) 13 2.95 1.15 117 M. Pineda (2011) 9 3.74 1.10 173 I. Nova (2011) 16 3.70 1.33 98 W. Davis (2010) 12 4.07 1.35 113 B. Matusz (2010) 10 4.30 1.34 143
...but their Average Draft Position reflects very little to no cost on Draft Day.
Name (Rookie Year) ADP Drafted Within Five Spots J. Hellickson (2011) 165 Phil Hughes I. Nova (2011) N/A N/A M. Pineda (2011) 342 Miguel Olivo W. Davis (2010) 232 Aaron Harang B. Matusz (2010) 243 Jason FrasorThere are, of course, a couple of things to note:
1) Hellickson is an example of a rarity: A hyped rookie pitcher with a job wrapped up since the previous September who shot up the ADP rankings and was picked in the 16th round (at the earliest). Compared to the ADP of the other rookie pitchers examined here, this may seem high. But the 16th round isn’t exactly full of stars. Guys picked in the same vicinity included Joe Nathan, Rajai Davis, Brad Lidge, Ryan Franklin, Matt Thornton, Ian Stewart, and Brett Myers. Play the upside here, but especially…
2) …In the 23rd and 24th rounds, and so on (if you even have that many rounds). The ESPN Player Rater is imperfect but sheds some light as to actual production in comparison to draft position. (Unfortunately, ESPN seems to be lax about archiving Average Draft Position and Player Rater tools, so we’ll examine 2011 rookies drafted whose Player Rater totals are still readily avaliable.)
Name ADP Player Rater by Position J. Hellickson (2011) 165 25th I. Nova (2011) N/A 66th M. Pineda (2011) 342 37th F. Freeman (2011) 213 18th D. Espinosa (2011) 308 13th
As you see, starting pitching and first base were deep this year. But every league I’ve ever seen has, at a minimum, nine pitchers spots and room for at least three first basemen (First Base, Corner Infield, Utility). If you can identify rookies over the winter and in March who will have full-time jobs in April, do yourself a favor and spend a late pick on them.
The Hellicksons of the world are few and far between (the ultra-hyped Heyward went in the 22nd round on average in all drafts conducted before April 2010), but have the potential to pay off substantially, and the Freemans and Espinosas of the world only further illustrate that point.
Craig Kimbrel is another glowing example. A quick look at ESPN Standard League Live Draft Results will leave you with this of mind-blowing number: Kimbrel went for $4.1 in the average league. Yes, Jonny Venters was on the horizon (Kimbrel, the righty, should have been seen as the clear favorite for save oppurtunities), but the kid was in line for at least a share of the saves in Atlanta and had a 17.4 K/9 in 20 innings the previous September.
His low draft position is rookie bias, and it’s heartbreaking for those who missed on him. Sure, some rookies flop, but considering risk versus reward, it’s silly to ignore first-year talent that has ample playing time. We study the past to learn from our mistakes at times, so don’t make the mistake of passing up the $4 rookie to spend your money on a lower upside Vladimir Guerrero ($4.1 on ESPN). Take a chance on the rook.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 6:02am (13) Comments
Posted by Nick Fleder at 10:53am (1) Comments
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
With the 2011 fantasy baseball season now in the history books, I will be dedicating this column during the offseason to reviewing and analyzing some rules, issues and incidents that have occurred in a fantasy baseball league of which I have been the commissioner since 1999. The Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League (“OBFBL”) was created prior to the 1999 season when I gathered friends and family together to form a 16-team, non-keeper, mixed AL/NL, H2H, points league (it would be expanded to 18 teams in 2000 where it remains today). Mike Piazza was the first player ever to be drafted in the OBFBL. To really put into perspective for you how long ago this was, I started manually tabulating the statistics and points for each player and team during the first week of the season. Finally, my co-commissioner told me about TQ Stats to host our league on the internet. At that time, I was 20 years old and naïve about how the internet and fantasy sports could mesh. Now the fantasy sports industry could not exist without the world wide web.
Over the past thirteen seasons, I have seen just about anything and everything that could possibly happen in a fantasy baseball league. I authored a league constitution in 1999 and have continued to amend and modify it each year as new issues and scenarios arose. It was imperative that I adjust the rules when issues of first impression came up and needed to be dealt with on an ongoing basis. I also tried doing other different things to add some spice and flavor to the league. Some worked and some did not. These experiences are what I draw from when resolving league disputes and issues for the Fantasy Judgment. I will be sharing with you some of the more interesting issues that arose and how I dealt with them
To kick things off on this new topic within my column, I would like to take you back to 2002. I must forewarn you that this is actually a tragic and sad story, but one that did have an impact on fantasy baseball. I am referring to the untimely and unfortunate death of Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile. As we all remember, Kile was a solid major league pitcher with a no-hitter on his resume. He had resurrected his career in St. Louis after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies and enduring a few horrendous seasons in Denver. After a few years of fantasy obscurity, Kile had once again become a viable option for a fantasy baseball pitching staff. In 2002, Kile was on OBFBL member Kurt Morris’s team. Morris, the OBFBL champion in 2000, was a savvy fantasy baseball player who took the league very seriously. I recently spoke to Morris about Kile’s death and how it affected his team and our league. Here is what he had to say:
When Darryl Kile died in mid-June 2002, I was trying to jockey my team to be a legitimate playoff contender. Our league was a very deep 18-team league. While he was not the ace of my pitching staff, Kile was an important piece to my team in a points league where solid starting pitching was critical for contention.
Somehow, I got blamed for Darryl Kile’s untimely and tragic death. While I can assure you that I had nothing to do with it (and I have proof I was working at a law firm in New York City as a summer associate), the fact remained that this horrible tragedy needed to be dealt with in terms of our fantasy baseball league, and specifically, Kurt’s team. He added the following:
“Immediately I was on the phone to the other members of the league asking what this meant. Kile was an integral part of my team and I needed retribution. In a swift act of justice, our commissioner decided that, due to the tragic nature of the situation, I would have the first pick-up rights for the upcoming waiver week. With my selection, I chose a young pitcher from San Diego who made his major league debut on the very day of Kile's death. His name was Jake Peavy. While Peavy didn't have a stellar rookie campaign (6-7, 4.52), he was a serviceable starter for me for the remainder of the year and replaced the production that I lost from Darryl Kile. Mike's decision was swift, in good taste, and made sense given the circumstances.”
When I decided to handle the situation in this manner, not one other league member opposed or challenged my decision. Everyone felt that it was the right thing to do in order to compensate Kurt for the most extreme of circumstances once could imagine. In 2002, there were no rules in place or provisions in the OBFBL constitution for such action. However, as league commissioner, I felt it was in the league’s best interests to handle the situation that way. Since then, the Darryl Kile Rule is entrenched in the OBFBL’s jurisprudence. Fortunately, it is not a rule that has ever been invoked since Darryl Kile. The only time it ever came up as a possibility was in 2009 when Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart was tragically killed in a car accident. He was not on anyone’s roster at the time, so there was no need to award a team apriority waiver pick.
Planning ahead in case a professional ballplayer dies while on your fantasy team is a morbid and cynical thought. But before June 2002, I never would have thought it could be a possibility. While the chances of this happening again are extremely remote, the fact remains that there is now precedent and a rule in place to deal with such a situation within the league should it arise again. As a league commissioner, all that can be asked of you is to be in the best position possible to deal with an unforeseen circumstance. That is exactly what I did.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:04am (9) Comments
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
While the major league season is still riding out a crescendo that began in mid-September and has yet to break, much of the fantasy baseball world is in hibernation. Even a devout fantasy baseball player is prone to checking out for a bit once the regular season ends to cleanse the palate and recharge the batteries. But, when you’re ready to dedicate yourself to fantasy baseball once again, trust that the THT Fantasy staff will be here.
The offseason actually lends itself to the exploration of some interesting and important fantasy baseball topics. During the season, I feel somewhat compelled to center my columns on some measure of actionable advice to my readers, but the offseason allows for exploration of statistical models, pontification on league construction, and more traditional activities such as forecasting.
So, let me just take a bit of time to let everybody know what we have in store for the offseason, including some new features.
THT Fantasy Chats
Last week, you may have noticed a grey box on the main and Fantasy home pages, promoting a live chat via Coveritlive. THT Fantasy chats are the brainchild of new staff writer Nick Fleder. The plan is to hold live chats every other Sunday* at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Various THT Fantasy writers will be available to discuss your fantasy questions. We love interacting with the readers, and look at this as just another way to be an accessible resource for fellow fantasy diehards.
The next chat is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23. I hope you’ll join me as I try to stoically discuss fantasy baseball like a professional while I’m really violently throwing items around my house and cursing some bottom-feeding defense for blowing a three-team-teaser.
Hardball Times will also be hosting non-fantasy chats, so keep your eye out for those too.
With the proliferation of keeper leagues, roster questions don’t cease after game No. 162. Luckily, Jonathan Halket, the in-season Roster Doctor, is expanding his practice to include some offseason work—even though “keeper” doesn’t even remotely rhyme with “doctor.” So, please continue to send your offseason roster-related dilemmas to the keeper doctor at rosterdoctor AT gmail DOT com. Keep in mind the following suggested guidelines for submissions:
Emails in simple text with players' full names properly spelled are much more likely to get responses. Also be sure to include your league's player pool (mixed, AL-only, NL-only), number of teams, scoring format (roto, head-to-head, points, etc.), categories, and any other pertinent information.
Offseason Closer Watch
One way to get a leg up on your competition is to correctly anticipate closer decisions and acquisitions before they happen. That is why it is important to keep a pulse on offseason reliever moves and the overall complexion of the many bullpens that are in offseason flux each year. Nabbing a middle reliever prior to a role change can be invaluable. Paul Singman will continue to update the “Closer Watch” with a speculative eye toward next year and make periodic updates reflecting educated guesses on yet-to-be-decided closer gigs.
Content, content, and more content
In addition, expect plenty of value non-branded work over the next few months.
Josh Shepardson, who recently turned in a fabulous update of our Top 100 Fantasy Prospects feature, will continue his immersion in the youth, not by Occupying Wall Street, but by going in-depth on specific prospects of interest.
Michael Stein’s Fantasy Judgment series will explore important and unique instances in his long tenure as a league commissioner and discuss how precedents and rules get formed in fantasy leagues.
Jeff Gross will continue to contribute his own brand of commentary and statistical analysis throughout the offseason, exploring a variety of topics from projections to the importance of league constitutions, as well as manning @THTFantasy on Twitter.
Dave Shovein will take you through preparations for high stakes, high volume fantasy league tournaments.
Josh Smolow’s Fluke Watch will continue to analyze some of the game’s more enigmatic performers and give insight into who we should avoid in 2012, as well as whom we should bid on with confidence.
Newcomer Nick Fleder,and THT prognosticator extraordinaire, Ben Pritchett will continue to contribute on a variety of timely and perennially relevant issues. Brad Johnson is known to drop in as well.
Yeah, I’m still here too. I plan to contribute my often misplaced and experimental pseudo-philosophical, sociology-based, wannabe economist musings. But, I’ll also be working on some long term projects that shall remain secret as long as I continue my half of the bribe and draft Julian Assange’s fantasy teams for him.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:51am (0) Comments
Thursday, October 13, 2011
A is for…“Ace in the Hole” starting pitcher strategy
In a 4x4, NL-only league with nine starters drafted for roughly $100 bucks out of $260, Clayton Kershaw was worth $55 dollars. Roy Halladay lagged behind, accruing $45 dollars worth of value, and Cliff Lee followed at $43. These were three of the five most valuable NL-only players, and that doesn’t even factor in potential strikeout value. An “Ace in the Hole” strategy involves drafting two aces and an array of mid-level to low-level starters, whose value comes in the form of wins while your aces serve as 200-inning-per-year ratio rocks.
There’s a certain amount of risk to this approach, but that exists everywhere in fantasy baseball. A combination of Josh Johnson (nine games started in 2011) and Zack Greinke (unimpressive standard stats, such as a 3.93 ERA, overshadowing impressive peripherals, such as a 2.56 xFIP) would represent a worst-case scenario of sorts, but the combined value of Halladay and Kershaw, for example ($100 on Baseball Monster) would roughly equal having five Matt Cains on your staff ($22).
While Mike Adams and other relief pitchers with superb stats would hold value on a staff populated by mid-level starters with weak ratio stats (ERA, WHIP), they wouldn’t find so much value here. Since Halladay and Kershaw (again playing the best-case scenario) would’ve provided roughly 470 innings, you could feel comfortable drafting a Kyle Lohse, Randy Wolf, Dillon Gee, or Aaron Harang. You play these guys for wins, and hope to get decent ratios, knowing you have a safety valve in the form of your aces.
Undervalued players to target:
I know. Madison Bumgarner is 23, pitches for one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, and is possibly the third-best pitcher on his own staff. But the Mad Bum has a 3.10/3.06/3.35 ERA/FIP/xFIP triple slash through 325.2 career major league innings. His BABIP was in line, if not a tick high last year, at .322, and his left-on-base percentage (LOB%) was perfectly average at 72.4 percent. His FIP was fourth-best in the majors, behind Halladay, Kershaw, and Lee. See what I’m saying?
Greinke was a major disappointment in the fantasy world after missing a month with a back injury suffered during a pickup basketball game, and he put up a below-average ERA and average WHIP. His strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) was a career best at 10.54, though, and he won 16 games in 28 starts on the offensive juggernaut that was the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. Give him five more starts, and you may have looked at 18 wins and an ERA around 3.60 (trending downward, lest you forget). He had a 2.98 FIP and a 2.56 xFIP, and his BABIP was a bit high. He will be a superb second ace.
B is for…BABIP
Already used in this article, BABIP is quite simply the number of balls put in play that end in a hit divided by the total number of balls put in play. Home runs are excluded from BABIP, as are strikeouts or walks, but all other outcomes—from pop outs to bunt hits to line drive doubles—factor into one’s BABIP.
No longer so revolutionary, the concept is that the ball not making an out is much in the hands of luck. Of course, a line drive has a much higher probability of falling for a hit than a fly ball, but BABIP stabilizes to a player’s mean, and this can give you a competitive advantage in drafting batting average.
The top three BABIPs in 2010 were Austin Jackson (a ridiculous .396), Josh Hamilton (also ridiculous at .390), and Carlos Gonzalez (still ridiculous at .384). The league average is said to be around .300, but some players naturally have higher ones, whether because of their speed or batted-ball types.
Jackson finished with a .340 BABIP in 2011, CarGo finished with a .326 BABIP, and Hamilton fell all the way to .317. None of the players with a top-ten BABIP in 2010 found his name at the top of the leaderboard in 2011. Joey Votto was closest, finishing 13th in 2011 with a .349 BABIP after finishing fourth with a .361 mark in 2010.
So BABIP fluctuates wildly at times, and those with the highest batting average on balls in play aren’t likely to keep it up.
(Stats courtesy of FanGraphs)
Adrian Gonzalez (.380), Matt Kemp (.380), and Emilio Bonifacio (.372) led the league this year; expect regression, and expect it to be major.
C is for…cheap speed
I’m a sucker for cheap speed. In my keeper league, I like to acquire guys who cost very little and will steal a ton of bases while picking from a much larger pool of power hitters while inflating the price on the Michael Bourn and Rajai Davis types for my league mates. While it sounds hard to do, and may be in some cases, it’s a strategy worth pursuing.
If I keep four or five thirty-plus steal guys and have a few steals, on average, from the rest of my nine or 10 offensive players, not only will I win that category in most years, but I’ll deplete the pool of speedsters. Late in the draft, generally, a GM who panics, realizing he has very little in the way of stolen base options in the pool and fewer still on his team, will pay way more than he should for an elite speed man like Bourn, who is generally valuable but overpriced in my drafts for this reason exactly.
Here are some under-the-radar stolen base options for 2012:
Angel Pagan: Pagan broke out as a 29 year old in 2010 after crawling through the Cubs’ system and being cast off to the Mets as a utility roster filler. But injuries, coupled with an excellent second half in 2009, led Pagan to full at-bats in 2010, and he cashed in to the tune of a .290 batting average, 37 steals, and most impressively, 4.7 WAR (though I am unaware of a fantasy league that uses WAR as a stat).
In 2011, Pagan was drafted in the late 13th round in a standard ESPN mixed league and struggled with injury problems and batting average concerns in the first half. Pagan still put up elite speed numbers (32 steals in 532 PA) and brought his average back to respectability.
Lost amid the disappointment was how unlucky he was, and how he raised his walk rate from 7.0 percent to 8.1 percent and cut his strikeout percentage by nearly 4.5 percent. His BABIP was low at .285 (career .314 BABIP) considering how speedy he is, and more luck, coupled with a clean bill of health on opening day, will allow Pagan to improve on his 2010 numbers while costing less than he did in 2011.
Dee Gordon: Dee Gordon is fast. He bunts a lot, beats out a ton of infield hits, and generally wreaks havoc on the basepaths. My gut tells me Jamey Carroll is traded rather than kept as a 38-year-old utility infielder, and Rafael Furcal already was. Gordon was the Dodgers’ top prospect in 2011, and he stole 24 bases in 233 plate appearances, which, when extrapolated to 600 PA, would equal 61.8 SB. So, yeah, he defines cheap speed…that is, if he does turn out to be cheap.
Alejandro de Aza: De Aza took the South Side of the Windy City by storm with a .329 batting average, 151 wRC+, and 2.8 WAR audition in the waning months of the 2011 season, when he was given 171 plate appearances. He racked up a dozen steals in such playing time, and he stole 22 bases earlier in the year in Triple-A, where he was given an additional 435 PA.
De Aza could put up a quiet 10-HR, 30-SB season with his respectable power and elite speed, as his 7.8 Speed Rating was among the top 15 of all major leaguers with 150 or more plate appearances.
Jordan Schafer: Schafer was the centerpiece of the Michael Bourn deal, believe it or not, and has acquired the tag of “center fielder of the future” for the anemic Astros. Set to lose another 100 games next year barring an unlikely free agent splash, the ‘Stros will give Schafer plenty of playing time, and he did one thing well consistently last year with his 338 PA: He stole bases.
Always a threat to run with his 7.8 Speed Rating and center fielder legs, Schafer could reach 40 steals playing every day. He won’t do much to help your team by way of any of the other four major categories, but take advantage of this opportunity, even if he isn’t so fun to watch.
D is for…dwindling value
Alex Rodriguez. David Wright. Kevin Youkilis. What do these men all have in common? Well, they play professional baseball for a living, and at a corner infield position. They were all fantasy disappointments, and they were all top 30 picks on average in 2011, according to ESPN live draft results.
At some point in life, people get old, and they have to quit doing what they love for a living because they lose passion or physically cannot compete anymore. These three players have not reached such a point yet, but they are undeniably on the downturn in their careers and are taken as staples in a Roto team when they should be left untouched at such a high spot in drafts.
A-Rod is 36 years old, David Wright will be 29 next year, and Youk will be 33 on Opening Day 2012. All of these players have peaked, and all of them will fall in drafts next year…as well they should.
Wright may be the most highly disputed name on the list. The man’s not even thirty, you say, and is still a well above-average baseball player on the offensive side (his injury-shortened 2011 still had him at 118 wRC+, which indexes players adjusted for league and park, with 100 being average and every single point above 100 equaling one percent more production than average).
But trending downwards from his incredibly consistent cluster of 2005-2008 are, on average, his home runs, runs scored, RBI, batting average, BABIP, wRC+, UZR and WAR. Trending upwards are his strikeouts. He’s being drafted as the guy who always flirted with 30-30 (averaged 29 HR and 21.5 SB from 2005-2008, went 30-30 once) and always hit .300 (.311 BA from those four seasons) while serving as the centerpiece of the Mets’ glowing future (6.85 WAR in those four seasons on average, including 8.9 in 2007).
His third base defense has become steadily terrible (-10 UZR or worse three years in a row), and his offense in general has diminished. So tell me again why he’s worth a second-, third-, or even fourth-round pick when his floor is going lower and lower?
A-Rod, too, is being drafted like the multi-category stud that he used to be, when in reality, he’s stopped stealing bases and stopped finishing seasons. In a weak third base crop, Rodriguez finished 10th at his position per ESPN Player Rater weights, while he was drafted 19th overall, on average. He’ll probably go in the third or fourth round next year and doesn’t deserve to.
The third baseman drafted 10th last year was Pablo Sandoval coming off of a bad year, and he went 109th. I’d rather have Aramis Ramirez around 75th overall or Sandoval around the fourth round than reach on A-Rod.
Youkilis will probably be eligible at both first and third next year, which will help him remain reached-for, but in reality, the Greek God of Walks is brittle and dwindling. He’s never played 150 games, and over the last three years, only tallied 120 twice (136, 120, 102 games played), while seeing his batting average slip from the .305-.312 range in 2008-2010 all the way down to .258 last year. Youk is striking out more, hitting with less authority (.833 OPS last year was 50 points below his career mark), and has likely already peaked.
So I ask, why reach on these fellas?
Posted by Nick Fleder at 6:03am (2) Comments
The Arizona Fall League (AFL) has historically attracted some of baseball's best prospects, and this year once again has a number of notable prospects playing on each of the six teams—the Mesa Solar Sox, Peoria Javelinas, Phoenix Desert Dogs, Salt City Rafters, Scottsdale Scorpions and Surprise Saguaros.
Each team has prospects from five Major League organizations. In all, 18 players who appeared on the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect List that I recently compiled are playing in the AFL. Of those, 16 are hitters, while the two pitchers are the first two picks in this year's Rule IV (Amateur) Draft.
The team featuring the most players from our fantasy top 100 is the Scorpions with six. No team has played in more than eight games, so I'll hold off on referencing player stats until next week, when I'll begin highlighting the top performers. Below is a list of the Top-100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects participating in the AFL.
Rank| Player| Team| Position| Organization
1| Bryce Harper| Scottsdale Scorpions| OF|Washington Nationals
2| Mike Trout| Scottsdale Scorpions| OF| Los Angeles Angels
20| Nolan Arenado| Salt River Rafters| 3B| Colorado Rockies
21| Jean Segura| Scottsdale Scorpions| SS| Los Angeles Angels
28| Gerrit Cole| Mesa Solar Sox| SP| Pittsburgh Pirates
33| Michael Choice| Phoenix Desert Dogs| OF| Oakland A's
35| Jedd Gyorko| Peoria Javelinas| 3B| San Diego Padres
36| Nick Franklin| Peoria Javelinas| SS| Seattle Mariners
39| Wil Myers| Surprise Saguaros| OF| Kansas City Royals
41| Yasmani Grandal| Phoenix Desert Dogs| C| Cincinnati Reds
44| Gary Brown| Scottsdale Scorpions| OF| San Francisco Giants
47| Oscar Taveras| Peoria Javelinas| OF| St. Louis Cardinals
49| Anthony Gose| Phoenix Desert Dogs| OF| Toronto Blue Jays
52| Danny Hultzen| Peoria Javelinas| SP| Seattle Mariners
64| Mike Olt| Surprise Saguaros| 3B| Texas Rangers
78| Will Middlebrooks| Scottsdale Scorpions| 3B| Boston Red Sox
90| Joe Panik| Scottsdale Scorpions| SS| San Francisco Giants
97| Tim Beckham| Surprise Saguaros| SS| Tampa Bay Rays
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:03am (4) Comments
Friday, October 14, 2011
Don't forget to follow THTFantasy on Twitter. A special shout-out thanks to Yizhe Shen for helping me compile the data for players on multiple teams this year.
Each of the past two seasons, I have made it a habit to use The Hardball Times' expected BABIP (xBABIP) formula in an attempt to take a somewhat luck-neutral look at batting lines from the previous year to help better forecast relative value for the (ages away) upcoming season. Not to break habit, what follows is a breakdown of 2011 batting lines.
Before I present the data, which can be accessed and sorted by clicking here, let me explain my methodology and the crucial-to-understand underlying assumptions. If you have not yet read Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix's article on their xBABIP formula, I suggest doing so before proceeding, because I use their formula.
Step one is calculating each player's xBABIP. This can be done through a variety of methods, but as I have indicated above, I use Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix's xBABIP formula. It is worth noting that other xBABIP formulas do exist, such as the one posted by slash12 a couple of years ago on Beyond The Boxscore. xBABIP is a theoretical model, and each formula has its own pros and cons.
I prefer to use The Hardball Times' version because 1) I'm a company man and 2) it accounts for park (though admittedly, the park factor data are a few years old now, and for a few teams—the Yankees, Twins, Mets, and starting next year, the Marlins—the park factors are entirely obsolete). Feel free to use the follow methodology of determining batting line with whatever formulation of xBABIP you choose.
Once you have calculated each player's xBABIP (a feat easier said than done, especially if you have to account for partial seasons and league/park factors), you will need to apply it using fancy algebra to determine a player's expected, luck-neutralized batting average (xAVG), on base percentage (xOBP), and slugging percentage (xSLG).
To calculate expected batting average, you begin by calculating the expected hits differential between a player's actual BABIP and his expected BABIP. To calculate a player's expected hits total, simply rearrange the BABIP formula using xBABIP in place of actual BABIP.
In other words, a player's expected hits are equal to that player's actual home run total plus his xBABIP times the following: At-bats minus strikeouts minus home runs plus sacrifice flies. In other words, xH=HR+xBABIP*(AB-K-HR+SF). Take this expected hits total and divide by at-bats to get xAVG.
Next, you will need to calculate xOBP. This is done by simply taking the quotient of the sum of hits, walks and hit by pitches and dividing that by the sum of at bats, walks, hit by pitches, and sacrifice flies. Not too complicated.
Calculating xSLG is at least as easy as calculating xOBP, but how you calculate it largely depends on how you perceive xBABIP to affect hits. If you think that a player's power rate would remain constant irrespective of BABIP luck, then you simply calculate a player's actual ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) and add that value to his expected batting average.
If you pessimistically/optimistically believe that all hits gained/lost to BABIP luck were singles, then you calculate xSLG as by adding the difference between expected hits and actual hits to a player's singles total, and then dividing the sum of singles plus two times doubles plus three times triples plus four times home runs by at-bats.
As may be obvious, both methods have their own issues with calculating the expected power of the hits gained/saved through BABIP luck.
The first xSLG method holds power constant, which seems nice in theory. However, given that home runs totals are generally not affected by BABIP luck hit changes, using ISO either over/underestimates power depending on whether xBABIP would either subtract or add hits to a player's final line.
With the hits-added method, a player would be adding non-home run hits at an ISO pace that includes home runs. Alternatively, if hits are subtracted, it is subtracting some home run power value.
The "be overly pessimistic/optimistic approach" of course greatly oversimplifies this error, but it does so with a degree of skepticism. For hits added, we see what life would be like if all hits were singles, and think that there's power upside to be had in the projection.
Alternatively, for hits subtracted, we get some dose of reality with the understanding that there's a little more risk than the downward adjustment the numbers indicate. You might think of a hits-subtracted situation assuming all singles as the "upside" of luck-adjustment.
So pick you method of xSLG; each has its own vices. I prefer to use the first method (constant ISO adjustment), so that is what you will find in my spreadsheet of numbers below.
The methodology laid out, there are a few crucial points that must be addressed before the data are presented.
First is the people included in my data set. My data address only players who accumulated 300 or more plate appearances. With the exception of infield flyballs, pretty much all of the rest of the relevant xBABIP data stabilize by a half season's worth of plate appearances.
However, several players of interest were fewer than 15 plate appearances under the threshold (Desmond Jennings, Justin Morneau, Grady Sizemore, Chris Coghlan and John Mayberry) who I decided to add to the sample out of personal interest nonetheless.
Second, you are probably wondering how to use a different xBABIP formula (particularly slash12's) to get all the relevant numbers without having to do any additional, unnecessary work on your own. As a guy with a background in economics, I understand that desire to do the least amount of additional work necessary to capture the benefit sought, and accordingly, making an xBABIP formula adjustment is very easy with my spreadsheet.
All you need to do is change the formula in the xBABIP cell for the first player to reflect your favored xBABIP formula. Then, drag that cell down vertically to the bottom of the data set. Voila! All of the resulting changes and math will be done for you.
Finally, it is worth reminding you that the default xBABIP method used in my spreadsheet has slightly obsolete data (it's multi-year data from a couple of years ago) that is totally obsolete with respect to a few teams: The Mets, Yankees and Twins. With these three teams, you will need to mentally adjust the numbers to reflect the differential between these teams' old parks and their new ones.
Beyond just the limits of my particular data set, there is also an important assumption that underlies xBABIP that is critical to note. This assumption—which will be true of any xBABIP formula (well, unless that formula regresses a player's numbers towards some skill-based mean, which in and of itself would raise its own issues)—is that a player's xBABIP from year N will remain constant in year N+1. This is a bold assumption, and highly unlikely to be true in any single case.
xBABIP analyzes past luck based on past results, but it does not forecast the underlying elements that go in to figuring out the difference between skill and luck-based reality for future situations. To the extent a player's expected future walk rate, strikeout rate, groundball rate, flyball rate, infield flyball rate, line drive rate and home run rate—to name a few areas—could/will deviate next year from this year, xBABIP will not reflect those deviations.
Hence, if you think a player's line drive rate will increase in 2012 compared to 2011, then you should assume that his real expected future BABIP will be higher than his xBABIP. Let's call this difference nominal xBABIP and real xBABIP.
You should be particularly wary of players who had abnormally high/low home run rates last year. To the extent that home runs will increase or decrease in 2012, that will be a major factor that will impact the player's real versus nominal xBABIP figure. My spreadsheet calculates nominal xBABIP and makes adjustments accordingly. You will need to calculate or mentally adjust real xBABIP on your own.
That said, let's look at the data. In case you have not already, you can download the spreadsheet by clicking here. If the column header has an "x" in front of the stat, it is xBABIP adjusted. If there is no "x," then that stat is the player's actual 2011 stat. For example, "AVG" is the player's 2011 batting average, whereas "xAVG" is his expected batting average based on xBABIP.
If the column header has a "d" in front of the stat, then it is a differential. For example "dBABIP" is the difference between a player's xBABIP and actual BABIP.
Looking through the 275-player spreadsheet, only 61 players (22 percent) have xBABIPs below their actual BABIPs, a testament to another year of excellent pitching and defense. The average actual batting average of the player sample is .267, while the average expected batting average was .281.
Clearly the data are a bit skewed on the high end. I tested the data set with slash12's xBABIP formula, and it also had an average expected batting average that was more than .10 points above the actual league batting average. Fewer than 30 qualified players had a batting average of or above .300 this year; xBABIP believes that that number should have been 42.
Turning to the data, let's first look at the "unluckiest" batters of 2011—those who are most likely to see the sharpest batting average improvements in 2012 (dBABIP greater than .050):
LastName FirstName Team BABIP xBABIP dBABIP Chone Figgins Mariners 0.215 0.314 0.100 Vernon Wells Angels 0.214 0.298 0.084 Rafael Furcal MULTIPLE 0.240 0.320 0.080 Chris Coghlan Marlins 0.263 0.331 0.068 Ian Kinsler Rangers 0.243 0.310 0.068 Russell Martin Yankees 0.252 0.318 0.066 Logan Morrison Marlins 0.265 0.328 0.064 Casey McGehee Brewers 0.249 0.313 0.064 Jonathan Herrera Rockies 0.273 0.337 0.063 Evan Longoria Rays 0.239 0.302 0.063 Alex Rios White Sox 0.237 0.299 0.062 Hanley Ramirez Marlins 0.275 0.337 0.062 Dan Uggla Braves 0.253 0.314 0.061 Ben Revere Twins 0.293 0.354 0.061 Ty Wigginton Rockies 0.271 0.330 0.059 Orlando Cabrera MULTIPLE 0.259 0.318 0.059 Adam Dunn White Sox 0.240 0.299 0.059 Jason Heyward Braves 0.260 0.318 0.058 Mark Teixeira Yankees 0.239 0.296 0.057 Jorge Posada Yankees 0.262 0.317 0.055 Miguel Tejada Giants 0.254 0.308 0.054 Juan Uribe Dodgers 0.245 0.299 0.053 Kelly Johnson MULTIPLE 0.277 0.330 0.053 Adam Lind Blue Jays 0.265 0.317 0.052 Wilson Valdez Phillies 0.288 0.338 0.051 Coco Crisp Athletics 0.284 0.335 0.051
As you might expect, a lot of the guys with some of the lowest batting averages in baseball populate this list. Those players, though mostly terrible, were not nearly as terrible as their batting lines from last year indicate. For example, Alex Rios was likely more a .260-.270 than a .227 hitter, and Adam Dunn should have hit closer to .200 than .159.
Mingled in with the bad players with bad luck last year, however, are a few really interesting names. The one that most stands out is Ian Kinsler, who I already explained could be a first-round caliber player next season. In addition to Kinsler are Evan Longoria and Hanley Ramirez. Long-time fans of the pair can take a cautious sigh of relief if they were worried about spending a third-round pick on either. Mark Texeira is on this list, but I am more skeptical than I am with Ramirez and Longoria that he can bounce back to previous batting average form.
The most shocking name on this list might be Chone Figgins, who seems to be at the end of his career after a .302 wOBA (88 wRC+) last season and a putrid .218 wOBA (34 wRC+) this season. xBABIP thinks Figgins should have hit .273/.321/.332 (.653 OPS) this year, which would have been about league average by wOBA standards once park factors are considered.
Figgins' bat is pretty hollow in real life, but as a perennial base-stealing threat when he gets on, it is encouraging to see that Figgins still has the potential to get on base 33 percent of the time. Figgins' walk rate this season plummeted to a career-low 6.7 percent after four seasons of a walk rate above 10 percent, so some bounceback could be imminent just from regression. This noted, Figgins could be a sleeper source of stolen bases next year.
Next, the 26 "luckiest" batters of 2012 (dBABIP less than -.015), who are most likely to see the sharpest batting average declines in 2012:
LastName FirstName Team BABIP xBABIP dBABIP Wilson Betemit MULTIPLE 0.391 0.323 -0.068 Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox 0.380 0.333 -0.047 Nick Hundley Padres 0.362 0.317 -0.044 Alex Avila Tigers 0.366 0.326 -0.041 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 0.365 0.324 -0.041 Hunter Pence MULTIPLE 0.361 0.322 -0.039 Chase Headley Padres 0.368 0.329 -0.039 Jose Reyes Mets 0.353 0.319 -0.034 Matt Kemp Dodgers 0.380 0.345 -0.034 Daniel Murphy Mets 0.345 0.311 -0.034 Victor Martinez Tigers 0.343 0.309 -0.034 Nyjer Morgan Brewers 0.362 0.329 -0.032 Jemile Weeks Athletics 0.350 0.320 -0.030 Michael Young Rangers 0.367 0.337 -0.030 Lucas Duda Mets 0.326 0.297 -0.029 Alex Gordon Royals 0.358 0.331 -0.027 Jhonny Peralta Tigers 0.325 0.300 -0.025 Dustin Ackley Mariners 0.339 0.316 -0.023 Andre Ethier Dodgers 0.348 0.326 -0.023 Carlos Beltran MULTIPLE 0.324 0.302 -0.021 Mike Napoli Rangers 0.344 0.323 -0.021 Joey Votto Reds 0.349 0.329 -0.020 Ryan Raburn Tigers 0.324 0.305 -0.020 Casey Kotchman Rays 0.335 0.318 -0.017 Michael Morse Nationals 0.344 0.328 -0.016 Ryan Braun Brewers 0.350 0.334 -0.016
As mentioned above, only 22 percent of the players in the sample overperformed their expected BABIP in 2011. This is likely due to the returned recognition of value provided by athleticism and defense in the post-Moneyball era, along with better pitching league-wide.
Unsurprisingly, the "luckiest" batters tend to be the guys who competed for the batting title, and in this regard we find the names Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Ryan Braun mingled into the list.
This does not mean that these players are per se guys to avoid next year; they are still great. Their inclusion on this list simply means that their value will be inflated above their luck-neutral talent line. An inflated batting average through BABIP luck tends to lead to extra runs and RBIs, as well as stolen bases, by virtue of the law of opportunity.
Some of the interesting non-elite names on the luck list are second basemen Jemile Weeks and Dustin Ackley. Second base was surprisingly deep this year. Per Yahoo's end of season player rankings, four of the top 26 players were second-base eligible, while seven of the top 100 players were second basemen. With both second base rookies poised to see their averages drop precipitously next season, it is quite possible second base might not be as bountiful next year.
Alex Avila also resides on this list. While his .295 batting average may not be for real, his 15-20 home run power is. The same can be said about Mike Napoli, who is really a .260 hitter with 20-30 home run power depending on playing time.
Of all the names on the list, however, I think Alex Gordon might end up being the most overrated for 2012. As a long-time Gordon supporter and well-rewarded 2011 owner, it pains me to call the guy overrated after years of him not getting a proper chance, but Gordon is not a .300/20/20 player.
Rather, he is more a .275-.280 hitter capable of a low .800s OPS with 20 home run capability and double-digit stolen base potential. A .280/20/13 campaign may be in the cards, but you'll likely be paying a premium over that level to acquire him next year in non-keeper formats. It is also worth noting that Gordon loses his third-base eligibility next year, which will also negatively affect his fantasy value.
So who are some names on the BABIP luck list that most shocked you? Who do you think is least likely to match his expected batting average?
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 6:00am (26) Comments
Monday, October 17, 2011
October marks a time of reflection for the fantasy baseball manager. We reflect on championships won or lament over championships lost. Whichever category you find yourself in, no doubt there were certain players that caught your fancy in 2011.
I find that October is a month where I really start identifying players that I like for 2012. Once identified, I’ll spend the rest of the off-season contriving a strategy to accumulate as many of them as possible. Over the next several weeks I will be identifying these players for your enjoyment, and hopefully they will carve a spot in your heart like they have in mine. This first installment will be all rookies and second-year players.
Stephen Strasburg SP WAS - Strasburg will be at the top of my draft day wish list, and not because I think he’s going to be the best pitcher in baseball. My love for Strasburg stems directly from the excitement he’ll give my fantasy roster. Just like teams will bring in high-profile names to get the fans excited, I like to roster exciting players to keep me that much more interested.
I know this will sound silly, but you build a relationship with your fantasy baseball team. I want guys on my team that are fun to watch and have enormous upsides. I don’t think there’s anybody more perfect for that role in 2012 than Strasburg.
To tease us, the Nationals brought back Strasburg for a five-start stretch that saw him post a 9.0 strikeout-per-nine rate and two walks. That’s two walks, period! His FIP in this vacuum was an unbelievable 1.28. To go along with those ridiculous stats, he was also the best pitcher in the game from the moment he made start number one to the end of the 2011 season.
Here’s the catch. Strasburg will be sought after by every other manager in your league. He now also has a very significant injury to go along with the daily pressure of being the greatest prospect ever to toe a major league rubber.
Lastly, you must assume that there will be an innings limit on Strasburg for next season. Some reports have him maxing out at 160 innings pitched. For obvious reasons, an innings limit will reduce his value, but if that dissuades other owners from pursuing him, then more power to them. Me, myself, and I will be overpaying for Strasburg.
Kenley Jansen RP LAD - In 53 innings this past season, Jansen racked up almost 100 strikeouts en route to a Dodgers record-setting 16.1 K/9. Over the last 30 days of the 2011 season, he was pitching at a 20.86 K/9 and -0.59 FIP. I didn’t even know it was possible to get a negative FIP until looking over Kenley’s stats. You can also guarantee yourself there wasn’t anybody else anywhere close to those numbers.
Jansen hasn’t yet cemented himself into the closer role in Los Angeles, but most, myself included, do not believe that Javy Guerra has the skill set to keep him away. Just think about a closer that could theoretically give you 150 Ks. That’s worth owning, loving, and telling your girlfriend about. Jansen should be cheap come draft day and is the premier non-closer reliever to own.
Brandon Beachy SP ATL - I don’t know if I’m quite ready to talk about Beachy. He faded in September and had a hand in the demise of my beloved Braves. Furthermore, September caused me to question his control. As his strikeouts increased, his walks did as well. I understand the effects of a playoff race on a young pitcher, but part of me wonders if he fatigued down the stretch, as this was his first full season in the majors.
However, there’s still a lot to love about Beachy. He had the best K/9 of all pitchers in the game (min. 130 IP). That’s sexy. His control wasn’t elite, but it wasn’t bad, either. After seeing him pitch all season, I don’t think there’s any disputing that he is the Atlanta Braves pitcher to own in 2012. His stuff is electric, and he’s still growing into his skill set.
Health permitting, I could see Beachy building on his 2011 performance with a 200-plus strikeout season in 2012. This will be the last year to get him at any sort of discount.
Jesus Montero C NYY - What do we like more than young catchers that can absolutely rake? That’s right, young catcher-eligible players that don’t actually have to catch on a nightly basis. Welcome to Jesus Montero’s role with the Yanks for 2012.
In his small September role as a DH, Montero did more than enough to lock up that job moving forward. To go along with his .328 AVG, Montero smacked four home runs in just 69 plate appearances. Granted, this was a very small sample size, but Montero’s career minor league numbers point to something close to 20 HR and a .285-plus batting average.
With Montero’s youth and pedigree and fortunate playing situation, he could have a very bright 2012, and I want to be a part of it.
It’s very logical to assume he’ll be in the bottom tier of starting fantasy catchers in a 12-team league. I understand the risk associated with young catchers, but 2012 could very well be the deepest season for value at the catcher position we may have ever seen. Emergences of Ryan Lavarnway, Devin Mesoraco, Travis d'ArnaudWilin Rosario will most likely deepen the position greatly.
Of all the rookie catchers, I will stick with Montero, but I could totally understand handcuffing him with Mesoraco, Lavarnway, or Rosario just to minimize the risk.
Matt Downs 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF HOU - I know it’s ridiculous seeing all those positions listed next to Downs’ name, but he made at least one start at all those spots in 2011. Depending on your particular league’s position eligibility requirements, Downs could prove quite the valuable fantasy asset. According to ESPN, he’ll only be eligible at second base and third base. In Yahoo leagues, he should have eligibility at first base, second base, and third base.
Innately, Downs’ value is directly tied to his positional eligibility, but Downs showed some great power gains in 2011. The Astros/Giants always viewed Downs as a utility man with power. It was nice to see him put that on display at the major league level. He was able to amass 10 HR in 109 plate appearances. That’s an incredible display for a middle infielder, and something that should have caught the eye of all fantasy owners.
There is a Downside. His strikeout rate skyrocketed at the major league level (21.2 percent). His .316 BABIP was a little high, but not too outrageous to think he was incredibly lucky to attain his .274 AVG. He also has no speed despite stealing 24 bases in 2008. He’s also a little old at 27.
I think Downs projects 20-HR potential, and he’s a middle infielder with crazy position eligibility (at least 2B/3B). I don’t know what his batting average will look like in 2012, and that’s where the risk will come in to play. I’m targeting Downs as a MI in standard leagues and a utility bench player in 10-team leagues.
Kansas City’s corner infielders Eric Hosmer 1B and Mike Moustakas 3B - Anybody who has spent five minutes reading my fantasy ramblings has realized at least one thing about me. I absolutely love pedigree and upside. Kansas City reminds me of the Cincinnati Reds a couple of years ago when they had Joey Votto and Jay Bruce come up around the same time.
There was constant debate over who would be the best of the twosome. Bruce was the greater prospect according to scouts, but Votto had that "it" factor where every time he laced his cleats for the Reds, he performed at a high level.
I feel like that there will be that same debate as to who is going to be better, Hosmer or Moustakas. They have differing skill sets, but both have a lot to offer a fantasy team in search of some cheap upside.
Hosmer had pretty much all of the 2011 season to mature, and he definitely finished the year strong, hitting for a .360 BA with seven HR over the last thirty days. He could make that next step in development, and we could very well see a .300 AVG/30 HR/ 20 SB line as soon as 2012. I’m all-in on Hosmer.
My affection for Moustakas is no secret. He brings power in a day where everybody is hitting 30 HR or fewer. He brings excitement to a position (third base) that is losing offensive production every season. Moose struggled to adjust to major league pitching as he did he first season in the minors, but he improved greatly in the month of September. After struggling through July and August, Moustakas popped four homers and blazed to a .352 AVG in the final month.
I will be watching both of these guys through Spring Training and hopefully will be penciling them in as contributors to my 2012 ballclub.
Look for my next wish list in two weeks, where we’ll dive into starting pitchers.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 6:03am (8) Comments
Thursday, October 20, 2011
E is for…extrapolate
It’s something we all think about but rarely practice statistically. While some people cry small sample size, one can make an educated guess, in certain instances, as to what a player’s full-season stats can be if injuries or midseason call-ups (and the lack of at-bats because of that) are ignored.
Take, for example, Dee Gordon, who has been mentioned in this Alphabet series already under “C is for cheap speed.” Gordon was called up at two different points during the season—once because of a Rafael Furcal injury and another because of the Furcal trade—and he also hit the DL once. He logged only 233 plate appearances for the aforementioned reasons, but still stole 24 bases.
Known as a counting stat, we can (somewhat) fairly assume that Gordon would have kept some semblance of that pace if he had gotten 600 PA. You can dispute or not that he could have truly kept such a torrid pace, but if we extrapolate his totals to reach 600 plate appearances, Gordon would have stolen about 62 bases last year.
Extrapolating is used for counting stats only, and is especially helpful with speedsters. If there’s opportunity mixed with talent, extrapolation can sometimes tell you what that equation might produce. It can be misleading, though.
Jason Bourgeois stole 31 bases in 238 AB for the Astros this year, and extrapolation to 600 AB would yield a predicted steals total of 78 bases. But if you don’t know the situation—that Bourgeois hit .400 for a month before hitting the DL, gaining a full-time job when he got back, suffering offensively when he was given that job, and eventually being relegated to the duties of a fourth outfielder—you can be misled.
Bourgeois doesn’t have a true talent level like Gordon, who is a top prospect, the shortstop of the future in Los Angeles, and will get ample at-bats to try his hand at 80 steals.
Here’s a look at some notable extrapolation totals. Assume 600 AB, and do what you will with these stats. Also, I rounded up to the nearest whole number when applicable.
Name Ext. RBI Ext. HR Ext. SB Hanley Ramirez 80 18 36 Carlos Gonzalez 115 32 25 Desmond Jennings 61 24 49 Jemile Weeks 47 3 33 Eduardo Nunez 58 10 43 Brett Lawrie 100 36 28
F is for…FIP
Baseball Prospectus does a good job of summarizing FIP, so I’ll borrow their definition:
Fielding Independent Pitching converts a pitcher's three true outcomes into an ERA-like number. The formula is (13*HR+3*BB-2*K)/IP, plus a constant (usually around 3.2) to put it on the same scale as ERA.
That said, it’s not the best predictive tool in the universe. It can better tell (in my opinion) what a pitcher’s true talent level over that span was, though—what factors did he control, and how well did he do controlling those factors?
xFIP is known to be a better predictive tool, as it stabilizes home run rate to roughly the league average, sifting out outliers in HR/FB rate by making it a stable 10.5 percent. We’ll use some combination of both to find some names who will not be called elite, and maybe rightfully so, but did find their name on a list of elite pitchers in 2011.
Brandon McCarthy, he of a 2.86 FIP and a 3.30 xFIP, was fifth in the league in the former. He isn’t a strikeout artist and pitches for the A’s, which means fewer opportunities to win (at least in theory) and less publicity, but he was quietly really, really effective with 4.7 WAR and a 3.32 plain-old ERA.
Matt Garza, he of a 2.95 FIP and a 3.19 xFIP, was McCarthy-esque in Chi-Town after the Cubs gave up a king’s ransom to get him. He exceeded his thought-to-be-an-outlier 8.38 K/9 put up in 2009 (he tallied 6-7 K/9 the four previous seasons, though only two were full seasons) by over half a strikeout per nine, and beat his career BB/9 rate (3.11), recording 2.86 BB/9. Though his HR/9 was seemingly fluky (0.64 HR/9 in 2011 vs. 0.97 career), he took a step forward this year, and should serve well as a No. 3 starter in fantasy next year.
Doug Fister, he of a 3.02 FIP, a 3.61 xFIP, and a sparkling 2.83 ERA, was superb in the Tigers uniform after being quietly productive in Seattle for a year and a half. After winning three of his first 21 starters as a Mariner despite his 3.33 ERA and 3.27 FIP, he was shipped to the Tigers, where he won eight of his 10 starts to the tune of a 1.79/2.49/2.75 triple slash.
His entire 5.6 WAR season was generally in line with his career BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB rate, though the HR may come more often against Fister next year. He, like McCarthy, isn’t a strikeout artist, which may explain why his name isn’t mentioned among fantasy’s elite starters, but he can be excellent for ratios (1.06 WHIP this year, 1.18 career WHIP).
Also interesting to see is ERA-FIP, which is a stat that simply subtracts one’s ERA from his FIP to see how lucky he’s been. The list is often telling in terms of who is a regression candidate. For example, Trevor Cahill’s 2010 ERA-FIP was third worst in the league at -1.21, and his 4.19 FIP was matched almost exactly in 2011 with a 4.16 ERA, which is purely coincidence, but does exemplify the power of FIP to tell us who overperformed.
The three lowest (bad) and highest (good) ERA-FIPs in 2011:
Jeremy Hellickson (-1.49) Ricky Romero (-1.28) Joe Saunders (-1.08)
Derek Lowe (1.35) Ricky Nolasco (1.14) Brandon Morrow (1.08)
This isn’t to say that Lowe, Nolasco, and Morrow will be studly in 2012, but it's more than likely they will return to respectability. Their ERAs, respectively, were 5.05, 4.67 and 4.72, which doesn’t represent their performance rightly; or at least, that’s what FIP is here to argue.
G is for…ghost teams
For commissioners and competitive Rotoheads alike, nothing is worse than a ghost team. A familiar situation may be this: You find yourself bummed after another anemic offensive day and, slipping in the standings, you panic and look for a change. You scour the waiver wire and free agent pool and you find nothing suitable; you want shakeup, and you want it now. You have your mind set on a certain player, you decide—let’s say Pablo Sandoval—and you find he belongs to the ghost team.
Whether that becomes obvious right away or after the ghost team’s owner doesn’t respond in the next week, it’s a frustrating situation, no doubt.
In leagues in a professional setting, corresponding over e-mail to spitball trade ideas before proposing them through the system is a generally good idea. You have the assurance that they will check their professional system/company e-mail (with a few exceptions), and you can guarantee yourself an answer.
But say you don’t have such a e-mail setup, and your owner has truly "gone rogue." Well, frankly, there is no solution I can see. I’ve suffered through it several times and, unfortunately, with the same guy in one of those cases, and my advice is to seriously consider who you put in your league. If you already have an indifferent owner, replace him or her before the season starts.
And what happens in redraft leagues, where the owner can freely stop paying attention because “they have no chance?” In such a case, they’re in the right, as frustrating as it can be.
They would be doing the whole league a disfavor by picking which owner (their best friend, probably) they want to win, and trading their stars to him or her with no tangible reward involved. Or they could just be committing collusion, and selling their players to the highest bidder so they cash out even with a bad fantasy season. So by simply playing in a re-draft league, you are allowing ample opportunities for an owner to screw it up for everyone else. Simple solution? Play in a keeper league.
H is for…HR/FB
Home runs-per-fly ball (HR/FB) is about as self-explanatory as stats get, but here’s an explanation anyway: How many of a given player’s fly balls end up as home runs.
The 2010 MLB average was 10.6 percent, and the highest was 25 percent. Since 2005, only five HR/FB percentages have been above 30 percent, and Ryan Howard has put up three of the five highest HR/FB percentages. His peak season, 2006, had him at 39.5 percent, which is almost eight percentage points higher than the next highest one (31.8 percent, put up by Howard in 2008).
Over the last six years, many players who have put up HR/FB percentages over 25 percent in a single season have experienced some sort of regression, but also interesting are the outliers. Here’s a chart that better exemplifies the regression/outliers:
You’ll notice that it’s terribly volatile, random, and full of outliers. Ryan Howard has a career 28.7 HR/FB. Alex Rodriguez has a career HR/FB of 22.5.
This all brings me to the point about Mike Stanton; his power is elite, possibly historically elite. He has a 24.0 percent HR/FB ratio is his young career. Stanton led the league by 2.1 percentage points with a 24.8 percent HR/FB ratio in 2011, and he has 56 home runs before he’s even turned 22. Among all hitters with 500 plate appearances in history, he has the fifth-highest HR/FB percentage; and one of the hitters ahead of him on the list is pitcher Carlos Zambrano Howard, Jim Thome, and Barry Bonds represent the other three.
Howard had the historically good 39.5 percent in 2006, and then dropped considerably to a point where he was still around 20 percent above average. In 2007 he put up that mark, 31.5 percent, and followed it up with 31.8percent. His ridiculous 2006 aside, he improved his numbers from 2007 to 2008 in terms of HR/FB, despite the notion that he was riding on a huge wave of good fortune.
Stanton is one of these outliers. He was assigned an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale by Keith Law, unsurprisingly, and if you’ve ever seen one of his bombs, you know he has a special level of raw power. His HR/FB may be able to stay at the 25 percent level or even increase, as players with his caliber of power don't necessarily regress (though the possibility remains), and his outrageous ratio, coupled with his untapped upside, means we could be looking at 50 HR as soon as next year.
I is for…injuries
I is for injuries, or a lack thereof. The following players have played in almost every game over the last three years, or are within 10 games of the 486 possible in the years between 2009-2011. There’s something to be said, especially in a H2H league, about players who are consistently suiting up and giving you the maximum number of games and not disturbing the balance of your team by hitting the DL or giving themselves too many off days.
Consistently on-the-field players
Prince Fielder has played in 485 games.
Matt Kemp, 482.
Nick Markakis, 481.
Robinson Cano, 480.
Adrian Gonzalez, 479.
Dan Uggla, 478.
James Loney, 477.
Billy Butler, 476.
Granted, this doesn’t paint the full picture; some of these injuries can be considered “freak” injuries, rather than the accumulation of bumps and bruises. Particularly brittle are Rollins (three DL trips in the last two years; four in the last four years) and Cabrera, who has hit the DL twice in the last three years, and missed 11 games with dings and dents in 2011.
Jason Bay has played in 369.
Stephen Drew, 372.
Chase Utley, 374.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 379.
Hanley Ramirez, 385.
Jimmy Rollins, 385.
Dustin Pedroia, 388.
There’s no cutting edge research here, but those numbers are just something to keep in the back of your mind at a H2H draft. When given the choice between Pedroia and Cano, would you rather have the advantage of 30 more games a year? Are rhetorical questions annoying?