December 5, 2013
And here's the full roster.
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
Or you can search by:
THT E-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
With the calendar officially turned to 2012, it is time to start focusing on the upcoming fantasy baseball season. One of the most fun and exciting aspects of any fantasy baseball league is the draft. It doesn't matter whether it is a snake or auction draft, or whether it is a keeper or non-keeper league. There is always built-up tension, anxiety and anticipation. Anyone who aspires to succeed in a fantasy baseball league knows how important it is to prepare and set strategy for the draft. You hope to be in a league filled with many others who are as passionate and dedicated as you.
To smoothly and efficiently administer the draft, the league commissioner should set a time limit on each draft pick. In this day and age of fantasy sports on the internet, chances are you are in a league that drafts through the host Web site's own software with an automated time clock set to a specific preference. But some leagues still draft the old-fashioned way and require a manual time clock. Either way, it is imperative that the commissioner mandate a finite amount of time per pick.
As fun as the draft can be, it can also be extremely tedious and exhausting. A fantasy baseball draft could take several hours to complete given large rosters and multiple positions to fill. To prevent the process from dragging on, the commissioner should set a reasonable time limit for each pick. There is a presumption that everyone has prepared for the draft and should have some semblance of an idea what they are doing. While that is not always the case, 60 seconds per draft selection is more than enough time for people to consult their own lists or online rankings to find a player to draft.
Of course, in an auction league, the time limits are different. If you aren't using an online auction, you should set a time limit for each team to nominate a player and then for each bid. If you leave it open-ended with no countdown clock, the process could last forever (or at least feel like it).
As commissioner, one of the most important things you can do is enforce the rules and guidelines that are set. If there is a time limit for a draft pick, there should be some penalty for a team that violates the rule. In league that I run, my rule is that if a team goes beyond the set time it forfeits that pick and must wait until the end of that particular round to make its selection. Over the past 13 years, I have enforced this rule three times. That is because my league members know the rule exists and know I will enforce it if necessary. Using online draft software, I simply go back and recreate the draft picks as they happened and then let the offending team manager make his pick, which gets entered afterwards.
It is true that many league Web sites have a draft robot or settings to automatically draft the next highest rated player if the time clock expires. However, in a sense, that unfairly prejudices the teams that follow in the draft order because there is no guarantee that the offending team would have taken that player. Granted, that next highest ranked player may be someone at a position that isn't needed, but it can reward a team for not making a timely pick by giving it player of such high value. That is why I have opted to allow teams to make their selections at the end of the round, because it forces them to miss out on players selected before them that they could have had in the first place.
It comes down to proper draft preparation, etiquette, and efficiency. The draft is where people build their teams and a lot of time and energy is spent preparing for the big day. It should be treated with the proper respect, and that includes being ready to make your picks on a timely basis. Of course there are extenuating circumstances such as loss of internet connection or other technical issues that may arise. Those situations can be dealt with on a case by case basis and can be corrected retroactively. What I am referring to is the simple act of making a selection and being mindful of the time it takes to complete a draft.
The purpose of having a time limit is not to penalize people. In fact, most people do not need an entire 60 seconds to make their selections. But simply having the clock running with consequences if it expires will keep people focused while also making the draft more efficient. Of course, if your league members do not mind spending six hours participating in a fantasy draft, then by all means do not set a time limit. The Court leaves that to your discretion.
Posted by Michael Stein at 6:01am (2) Comments
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
In Michael Stein’s column posted earlier this week, he wrote the following:
It is true that many league Web sites have a draft robot or settings to automatically draft the next-highest-rated player if the time clock expires. However, in a sense, that unfairly prejudices the teams that follow in the draft order because there is no guarantee that the offending team would have taken that player.
This passage reminds me of one of my pet peeves about autodraft or autobid and begs the question of whether these features are necessary evils or just problems in need of creative solutions. First, let me establish my somewhat selfish beef with the autopick feature; many of you will relate.
Every year there are a few good, but most often not great, players about whom the pre-ranking committee on the league provider site and the general public have incongruous opinions. Most often these are players who have “sneaky value,” meaning their production isn’t glamorous in the glory categories, but they help everywhere and have little weakness or are players coming off a breakout that few saw coming and the public is skeptical of the player’s ability repeat. Sometimes I’m on the side of pre-rank, and sometimes I’m on the side of the public.
The thing that’s common among these players is that they often are drafted later than their pre-rank would demand, either because the non-believer doesn’t believe or the believer is trying to “profit” off the pervasive non-belief. Most often, I’ll actually be in the middle of both sides. I often think the player is a reach at his pre-rank but also often perceive the public backlash too strong and see that player as the best available pick a round or two after his pre-rank.
Most who autodraft won’t actually submit their custom pre-ranks for more than the first few rounds worth of picks, if at all. Now, having the robot select the highest pre-ranked player on the board is rarely an issue to me in the first few rounds, as there is less divergence of opinion at the earliest stages of the draft and very little likelihood that a player toward the top of the draft board will last until your pick if it is more than a few selections away.
But in the middle-to-late rounds, this situation becomes more common. Once people start deviating from the pre-ranks more consistently and widely in their selections, it often starts to become obvious who auto-drafting team X is going to wind up with when his pick comes up seven slots from the present.
It’s frustrating when the autodraft robot makes what you think is a savvy selection on behalf of an owner that you don’t think would have been astute enough to trust a correct pre-ranking of an obscure, yet valuable player. I know I’m not the only person who has cursed to myself that I would have wound up with (my desired) Player X if only owner so-and-so was making his own picks.
Another specific scenario in which this may happen is when there had been a run on a specific position or type of player, and you had abstained, and you know that because of the way other teams are constructed, the other teams shouldn’t really be targeting one of the higher-ranked players on the board.
Unable to dynamically filter by the needs of the roster during its construction, the autodraft robot is primed to draft a player that will do its owner little good but will cap the value you, as the minority owner in need of such a commodity, can extract from that player’s draft position.
Of course, autodraft also will make its share of foolish selections, as well, thereby creating opportunities for value to be reaped by the real live humans participating in the draft, but to me this isn’t a you-take-the-good-with-the-bad write-off. And I guess that belief is rooted in a subjective opinion regarding my fantasy sports values.
Some view autodraft as a neutral tool for those unable to participate in their draft or not confident enough in their personal capacities to make wise decisions. If you hold that view, it stands to reason that autodraft should be a neutral application. But, I don’t share that opinion. I take fantasy sports more seriously than that, obviously.
I value active participation in a league, and among the holiest commandment on that list is to participate in your live draft, in person. I know sometimes emergencies happen, but in the absence thereof, figure out a way to make your draft, plan ahead enough to request a rescheduling of the draft, or at the very least try to find a friend to participate for you instead of ceding control to the robot. I’d rather you give your draft over to a savvier human player than to Wilson.
The fact that I hold this value leads me to feel that using the autodraft should be punitive. So it should come as no shock that I get quite peeved in instances where, in my estimation, one’s choice to opt into autodraft actually punishes ME!
So, what should we do about this? Anything? Is this something I just have to suck up and live with, because sometimes emergencies really do arise and, therefore, it’s unfair to punish somebody who is on autodraft because we don’t know the circumstances that led to that outcome?
I’ve been in live drafts where an owner had computer problems, lost his internet connection and faded into autodraft for a few rounds while the problem was resolved. Even if we feel it’s fair to punish the lazy or intellectually timid auto-drafter, should he who is the victim of technical difficulties be subject to the same punishment?
In Michael’s column, he mentioned that he institutes a penalty for an owner who doesn’t make his selection within the allotted per-pick time limit. That owner is not allowed to autodraft the highest player on the board, but instead gets his pick skipped and is then put back on the clock at the end of the round, forced to pick last. I think that’s a good idea. Frankly, I’d be okay with instituting the same rule for auto-drafters, with some exceptions, forcing them to simply pick last every round.
I’d grant the owner a pass, meaning standard autodraft rules, under any of the following circumstances (and perhaps some others that have slipped my mind):
So, what do you think? Is my ire and proposed penalty reasonable? Or am I being draconian, and an irrational and petty tyrant?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:44am (10) Comments
Friday, January 06, 2012
Dynasty leagues are among the most enigmatic in the entire land of fantasy sports, and I’m of the mind that they represent the game in its true form most successfully.
You must build from the bottom up, target depth and roster balance, and sell high and buy low when necessary. Most importantly, you must think years ahead, and make rebuilding projects and keenly timed all-ins at your own risk. An injury or physical or mental setback that sinks your top prospect in Double-A will hurt you much in the same way it would the Pittsburgh Pirates. No one knows how your minor league talent will shake up, and what steals you might find in your supplemental minor league draft. Welcome to the world of dynasty league baseball. It’s a ruthless, enticing, and incredibly time-consuming—and did I mention awesome?— form of the simplistic game we’ve all come to know and love.
Thus, Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett and I have put together our lists of the top 25 of players under the age of 25 at the present date (all players born on Jan. 6, 1986 or later are eligible). The parameters for last year’s rankings are the same in 2012. A refresher, from Josh Shepardson’s 2011 presentation of these rankings:
The league scoring we used as a guideline was a 5x5 roto league that includes two catchers, one corner infielder, one middle infielder one utility player, five outfielders, nine pitchers of any type (with a 1,250 innings pitched cap) and the other standard positions.
Because of the age limitations in these rankings, don’t be surprised when you don’t see Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, David Price or Adam Jones, to name a few (the first three graduated from this list in 2011). I think I speak for many of my fellow rankers when I say that the aforementioned four are all excellent dynasty league players, and Longoria in particular is among the top of the crop, even at age 26.
With that said, please do scrutinize, argue, react, agree/disagree, and question our rankings in the comments below (or at our respective e-mail addresses). We encourage all reactions, as always.
The e-mail addresses of the authors of these rankings:
Rk Ben Pritchett Josh Shepardson Nick Fleder 1 Stephen Strasburg Justin Upton Stephen Strasburg 2 Clayton Kershaw Stephen Strasburg Brett Lawrie 3 Carlos Santana Clayton Kershaw Justin Upton 4 Justin Upton Felix Hernandez Clayton Kershaw 5 Felix Hernandez Mike Stanton Desmond Jennings 6 Brett Lawrie Bryce Harper Starlin Castro 7 Andrew McCutchen Mike Trout Mike Stanton 8 Mike Stanton Brett Lawrie Matt Moore 9 Mike Trout Carlos Santana Felix Hernandez 10 Jason Heyward Eric Hosmer Carlos Santana 11 Yu Darvish Andrew McCutchen Jesus Montero 12 Eric Hosmer Desmond Jennings Andrew McCutchen 13 Bryce Harper Jay Bruce Eric Hosmer 14 Matt Moore Matt Moore Bryce Harper 15 Jay Bruce Madison Bumgarner Mike Trout 16 Tommy Hanson Buster Posey Madison Bumgarner 17 Pablo Sandoval Starlin Castro Pablo Sandoval 18 Dustin Ackley Matt Wieters Jay Bruce 19 Mat Latos Pablo Sandoval Paul Goldschmidt 20 Buster Posey Jesus Montero Jason Heyward 21 Starlin Castro Elvis Andrus Michael Pineda 22 Jesus Montero Jason Heyward Buster Posey 23 Mike Moustakas Dustin Ackley Matt Weiters 24 Michael Pineda Michael Pineda Elvis Andrus 25 Desmond Jennings Yovani Gallardo Dee Gordon Next Five: Next Five: Next Five: 26 Alex Avila Mat Latos Craig Kimbrel 27 Madison Bumgarner Brandon Beachy Yovani Gallardo 28 Neftali Feliz Jason Kipnis Dustin Ackley 29 Cameron Maybin Freddie Freeman Mat Latos 30 Elvis Andrus Dee Gordon Brandon Belt Five More: Five More: Five More: 31 Paul Goldschmidt Alex Avila Cameron Maybin 32 Brandon Belt Tommy Hanson Julio Teheran 33 Travis Snider Yu Darvish Yu Darvish 34 Dayan Viciedo Cameron Maybin Daniel Hudson 35 Devin Mesoraco Mike Moustakas Jason Kipnis
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:17am (118) Comments
Monday, January 09, 2012
Before Dec. 10, 2011, I would have argued that Ryan Braun should be the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2012 season. On Dec. 11, I would have said he doesn’t deserve to even be on anyone’s fantasy radar at all.
What changed? Well, I was shocked to learn that Braun, one of my own personal favorite players, had tested positive for PEDs. Actually, it was a “banned” substance. You can google what that substance is speculated to be. I won’t substantiate those rumors here.
Historically I am a massive steroid user apologist, as are most fantasy sports enthusiasts, I would think. We tend to be all about winning the statistics and have little regard for the purity/integrity of how those stats are accumulated. I may be generalizing, and forgive me for that, but this isn’t doing your taxes, and I’m not leading the free world. I want guys that produce. You produce, I’m happy. If you don’t produce, I cut/trade you. It’s all pretty simple.
Braun struck me differently. I didn’t believe it. From all accounts that I’ve ever read about him, I have never heard one thing that would indicate him as a purposeful cheater, so I was very disappointed. My passion that spurned my love for him as a player quickly turned to disdain for him as a 2012 fantasy option. Fifty games will be the sentence if Braun’s suspension is upheld.
Here we are a month later, and my emotions have settled. I’ve started to think about how I could use this to my advantage. We are going to assume that Braun is not granted his appeal seeing as most of your fellow drafters will be doing the same. So in what round can we expect Braun to be taken? I can’t imagine he will be anywhere near a forty dollar value or near the first three rounds of any redraft league as he was prior to December.
I went to Mock Draft Central to get the pulse of his current ADP. Well, that was a total fail. MDC’s player rankings are way off, and only three team managers were present for the ten-team mock. I left the draft room to gander upon the ADP reports they have listed. Braun apparently rated from the second pick all the way to pick 96. For the sake of argument, I’m going to take both the second pick out as an outlier, or rather a draft that was done prior to the news of the 50-game suspension.
To understand what you should pay for Braun, you need to understand what you could expect statistically from him. I set out on this journey to help myself and you get a better, more reasonable expectation for Braun’s 2012 season. So, obviously, Braun is facing a season where he can play a maximum of 112 games. Since Braun has never played 162 games in a season, you can’t automatically assume he plays all 112 of those games.
Braun’s career average is 154 games, not including his midseason call-up year during his rookie season. Furthermore, I didn’t include any of his rookie stats in my averages considering the amount of games he played and the outlier-like stats he was able to accrue. We will not dismiss these stats; however, we will return to this rookie season later in my analysis.
If you take that 154-game average Braun amassed during his four years of service time and project it across 112 games, you will come to about 106-107 games. Taking this 106.45-game average and inputting that against his career averages, it’s actually quite easy to come up with a fun look at what a 2012 season could look like it. Granted, this methodology is as basic as it gets, but I think it will go far towards proving my point.
Here’s the line I was able to come up with: .310 AVG/ 22 HR/ 72 R/ 75 RBI/ 14 SB. All those stats were slightly rounded up. I must first say that Braun’s value will be greatly different to head-to-head and dynasty leaguers than it will be to a standard 5x5 roto league. Braun will have significantly more value in H2H than roto because of replacement value.
Roto is about amassing the most possible stats out of a set amount of games. H2H is about beating an opponent’s lineup any single week. Stashing Braun on the bench would be more valuable to a H2H gamer because of his ability to dramatically affect the second half of the season and even into the fantasy playoffs.
For you roto-heads out there, I think Braun may be worth more than you think. When I set out to write this piece, I had Braun pegged as a seventh-to-eight-round guy. Once I averaged out that projected stat line above, I began to have a little different feeling.
Bear with me here, but how about pairing the pick of Braun with another emerging outfielder that surely won’t cost much? I like Chris Heisey or Dayan Viciedo. If you take these cheap outfielders and live with their production for fifty games, how good a collective season could we be talking about for this OF position on your starting lineup?
If Heisey hits 8-10 home runs during that span, we’re talking a 30-plus HR season when you combine that with Braun. It’s very possible, seeing as he put 18 HR in 279 at-bats, and it sounds like he will be in for everyday playing time. If Viciedo hits 4-5 homers with nearly a .300 average, your talking about a surefire second-round pick. I love Viciedo as a sneaky outfield play this year with the departure of Carlos Quentin to San Diego.
I almost feel it would be stupid not to take advantage of everybody else’s propensity to stay away from Braun. I think I like the idea of bringing in a stud on a suspension because I can take the value and strategize how to deal with the playing time gap. Anybody I get to fill that gap should do a good enough job to make this OF position uber-valuable.
Let’s get back to that rookie season. I had so much fun looking at Braun because his stat lines are built for this kind of speculation and strategy. If you look at that rookie season, he appeared in 113 games. That’s an interesting coincidence. In 2007, Braun hit .324 AVG/ 34 HR/ 91 R/ 97 RBI/ 15 SB. Could you imagine getting that stat line out of 112 games? It wouldn’t matter who you got to be the fill-in. You would automatically have first-round value.
That’s what I’m trying to say. Braun’s rookie year is an obvious outlier, but there is a definite “what if.” He has the talent, and you know he’ll have the motivation.
I will say this. I will be paying upwards of $25-30 for Braun, and I will be targeting him beginning in the fourth round. I think he slots in there ahead of Hunter Pence, Adam Jones, and even Alex Gordon. You could argue Josh Hamilton, but I will always overvalue Hamilton.
I am very curious to see if anybody has similar or differing opinions about Mr. Braun. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:30am (27) Comments
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Last week, Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett and myself debuted the 2012 dynasty league rankings of players 25 years or younger. The subsequent discussion led me to re-think some rankings, add and delete a few names, and move a certain Clayton Kershaw up a few spots. The list, both old and tidied-up:
Rk Old List New List 1 Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg 2 Justin Upton Clayton Kershaw 3 Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie 4 Clayton Kershaw Justin Upton 5 Desmond Jennings Mike Stanton 6 Felix Hernandez Desmond Jennings 7 Matt Moore Matt Moore 8 Mike Stanton Felix Hernandez 9 Starlin Castro Starlin Castro 10 Carlos Santana Carlos Santana 11 Jesus Montero Jesus Montero 12 Andrew McCutchen Andrew McCutchen 13 Eric Hosmer Eric Hosmer 14 Bryce Harper Bryce Harper 15 Mike Trout Mike Trout 16 Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner 17 Pablo Sandoval Pablo Sandoval 18 Jay Bruce Paul Goldschmidt 19 Paul Goldschmidt Jay Bruce 20 Jason Heyward Jason Heyward 21 Michael Pineda Matt Weiters 22 Buster Posey Michael Pineda 23 Matt Weiters Buster Posey 24 Elvis Andrus Mat Latos 25 Dee Gordon Dee Gordon Next Five: Next Five: 26 Craig Kimbrel Elvis Andrus 27 Yovani Gallardo Julio Teheran 28 Dustin Ackley Yu Darvish 29 Mat Latos Jason Kipnis 30 Brandon Belt Yovani Gallardo Five More: Five More: 31 Cameron Maybin Logan Morrison 32 Julio Teheran Brandon Belt 33 Yu Darvish Mike Moustakas 34 Daniel Hudson Dustin Ackley 35 Jason Kipnis Tommy Hanson
I do remain steadfast in my decision to place Stephen Strasburg ahead of the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. It’s not for the risk-averse — neither is a 1-2 ranking of starting pitchers, of course — but my rationale lies in the upside the former possesses.
Sure, there is something (a lot, actually) to be said about a pitcher on a steep uphill trend, who put together a ridiculous 2.28/2.47/2.84 stat line in his Cy Young campaign, along with a sub 1.00 WHIP, an incredible 9.57 K/9, and 21 wins. It doesn’t get much better than that, but the key word is much.
I wouldn’t wager that Strasburg will ever be much better than Kershaw, but his K upside is higher, his pedigree is greater, and he may very well be the best prospect the game has ever seen. Sample size aside, the returns at the MLB level have been excellent (an 11.35 K/9 and a 1.87 FIP in 17 starts), and RotoChamp projects a jump to Kershaw-esque stats right away, with a 10.70 K/9 and a 2.37 ERA. I’ll play the upside, though my deeper research into Kershaw led me to bump him up to number two.
I’ll address some other changes I made:
Justin Upton moved below Brett Lawrie
2011 was the year I became a Justin Upton believer, but he remains a player better in real life than in fantasy. Sure, his power-speed combo with a fleeting batting average is drool-worthy, but the fact is that his MVP candidacy stems from his five-tool performance, including his superb right field and smart base running.
Lawrie is also a five-tool player as well, but his spot on the diamond is enough to warrant a higher ranking. Lawrie, in — gulp — only 171 plate appearances, launched himself into fantasy stardom. He hit nine homers in those 43 games, stole seven bases, chipped in over 25 steals and runs, and hit nearly .300, effectively pacing himself for a 34 homer, 100 run, 96 RBI, 27 steal season – all at the hot corner. To think he did that in his first go-round at the major league level is scary.
Mat Latos jumps from #29 to #24
Several commenters thought Latos was placed too low, and I agreed in retrospect. I had Michael Pineda and Yovani Gallardo above him, mostly due to the PETCO-Great American Ballpark transition. Latos, after all, does have a 3.57 ERA away from home in his short career– fairly pedestrian to be ranked so high on these lists—and isn’t so elite as the other two in the strikeout department. That said, he historically has a higher home run rate at PETCO than away from it, and if he can return his K/9 to the 9+ range, he’ll be a fantasy ace for years to come—which surely leaves him in the top 25, no?
Dee Gordon over Elvis Andrus?
Both young, soft-hitting speedsters at the shortstop position, Dee Gordon and Elvis Andrus, at this juncture, are practically a toss-up. Andrus seems to have capped out at just under 40 steals—he’s put up 33, 32, and 37 in the last three seasons—while Gordon has 70+ steal upside if he can manage to get on base a respectable amount. Sure, he doesn’t draw too many walks, but he can beat out his fair share of bunt and infield hits, and with Davey Lopes teaching him the ropes, he should be a wildly successful base stealer.
Jason Kipnis moves from #35 to #29
Kipnis essentially switched spots with Dustin Ackley, who fell from 28 to 34. Ackley is a more intriguing player in real life terms, but batting average isn’t his strong suit and he doesn’t put up superb counting stats. Kipnis has 20/20 upside as soon as next season, and could be a Chase Utley-like second baseman in terms of fantasy production, whereas Ackley might win fifteen Gold Gloves and lead the Mariners to a World Series victory. Okay, maybe I’m dreaming.
Craig Kimbrel disappears…
I’m a huge Kimbrel homer —– I’ve written about him here and here — but the fact of the matter is that closers are, indeed, incredibly volatile and untrustworthy. He’s certainly the first closer I take in dynasty formats, and his numbers do look better than Mariano Rivera’s ever have (I know, a seemingly hyperbolic statement), but the fact is that saves are easy to find in the final few rounds of any draft or on any waiver wire, and that alone makes Kimbrel worth ditching if you can snag another top 25 player in return. Sure, he might strikeout 100+ per year and might be a lock for 40 saves in five years, but if you find yourself mulling over a Craig Kimbrel for Buster Posey deal, for example, I’d pull the trigger. Frank Fransisco is always waiting in the last round…
Is Matt Moore really ranked higher than Felix Hernandez?
The short and sweet: Matt Moore will have more strikeouts, should have no problem besting Felix’s 1.22 WHIP year-in and year-out, and should challenge a sub 3.00 ERA without a problem. He also doesn’t have three straight years of 230+ innings to his name, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your propensity for risk-aversion and value of past performance. It’s a good thing in my mind, for what it’s worth.
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:10am (20) Comments
Friday, January 13, 2012
Posted by Nick Fleder at 5:51am (10) Comments
Monday, January 16, 2012
In 2011, only two players hit over 40 home runs, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson. I told you that both of them would accomplish this feat.
Calling Bautista was relatively easy even though everybody in the industry said that he couldn’t maintain. I argued that he would be better, sacrificing some home runs for batting average.
Granderson was a little bit more of a gut call. He always has had a good power stroke for a little player, but I was infatuated with how his swing would benefit by the move to Yankee Stadium. I was fortunate that feeling was right.
That’s what playing fantasy baseball is all about. It’s about taking the stats—basic and advanced—scouting reports, newswire, gut calls, and personal preference and forming a stable, statistical-accumulating team structure.
Mike Stanton is my first flag-staking player for 2012. Well, you may say that's an easy call. Stanton should be drafted in the first four rounds, which in itself makes him worthy to everybody. According to the 2012 Baseball Forecaster, 80 percent of all players that will yield first-round value are found in the first four rounds of drafts. Less than half of the players drafted in the first round actually yield first-round value. So this is really the most interesting and exciting part of drafting to me. We face a conundrum of making your early picks count even though the odds are stacked against you.
Assuming that just five players picked in the first round actually retain first-round value, that leaves ten draft positions available to be filled by players drafted in the next three rounds. Using the 80 percent success rate discovered by the Forecaster guys, that means only seven of the remaining 45 possible players will deliver first-round-caliber stats.
You have roughly a 15.6 percent chance per round to nail a first-round player while drafting in rounds two through four. When you break it down like that, you realize why we feel such great satisfaction when these players succeed. You would have a greater chance at winning lottery scratch-offs or playing blackjack. So how do we improve our odds? Well, I believe that old-fashioned work always beats any other variable, whether it be draft position, luck, bias, etc.
I have just begun to research for my Fantasy Sports R Us NL-only expert league, and I really just stumbled upon Stanton. Honestly, going into last year, I felt like Stanton’s stock was too high. I was unwilling to pay such a high price for a 21-year-old hitter. Today, I stand corrected. Not only do I think Stanton will improve on his studly sophomore season, he will be a top-15 hitter. That will also make him a borderline first-round talent.
Will Stanton get drafted in the first round? No, and he shouldn’t be. Most consider him a third-round pick. I will have no reservations with someone taking him in the second round. I will slate him as a late first-round/early second-round pick in my FSIC NL-only league. I would hope to hold out to the third round in standard formats. Don’t hold your breath that he lasts that long, though. In auction leagues, it should be significantly easier to gauge his value.
Why is Stanton a first-round player in 2012? The two guys I mentioned earlier in this article were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in isolated power (ISOP) last season. That’s Bautista and Granderson for those of you not paying attention. Stanton was third. The funny thing about ISOP is that it usually hits a peak in ages 24-26. Stanton is only 22. It’s scary to think what his ceiling might be. If he sees ISOP growth in 2012, you should expect 40-plus home runs.
Secondly, the table is now set for Stanton to feast. Assuming that Stanton bats cleanup, let’s put newly acquired Jose Reyes at leadoff. Emilio Bonifacio can handle batting second, and Hanley Ramirez should be just fine batting third.
Stanton couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to get on base in front of him. Lots of what I’m able to decipher about Stanton is speculation, but if he gets the same number of plate appearances as last year, he will hit more than 100 RBIs with all those speed demons batting ahead of him.
Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez should be good enough to give Stanton protection in the lineup and should help him improve his run total. The 2011 campaign saw both Morrison and Sanchez disappoint for different reasons, but one or both should bounce back. Confidence can do a lot for a ballclub, and I think the Marlins, especially Morrison and Sanchez, could finally regain some of what was lost in 2011 if they can catch fire early in the 2012.
Stanton improved his walk rates and strikeout rates in 2011. I can only assume that with his athletic ability and young age, he should continue to show growth, even with his propensity to strike out in bunches. A better OBP and batting eye would further improve his chances of putting up gigantic numbers and should help his batting average.
Stanton’s batting average will always be his largest liability and could be the difference between him having first-round value or fourth-round value. I’m willing to gamble that he hits in the .270s in 2012. I can live with that if he sees the growth I expect him to have in all the other categories.
Here’s my favorite nugget of information I was able to dredge up. Jeff Zimmerman of Rotographs took batted ball information and deduced that Stanton had an average increase of 20 feet on his hit distance from 2010 to 2011. That was the third-best increase of all players, and as I can see, his average of 322 feet was best in baseball. Basically, if Stanton gets a hold of a pitch, it goes a long way, but we all knew that.
Further evidence of that raw power was his 15 “no doubt” home runs. “No doubt” home runs is a category developed by Hittracker that assigns a categorical value to the distance of home runs. “No doubt” represents the highest possible tier for home run distance. Only Bautista hit more “no doubt” home runs than Stanton in 2011.
If you are still wavering, I must also mention the fact that Stanton stole four bases in the second half of 2011. Hoping for double-digit steals may not be totally crazy. An improved batting average, OBP and protection could give Stanton a better incentive to advance as a runner. His baserunning skills are a far cry from average, but most powerful middle-of-the-order hitters can luck into double-digit steals if they are in a breakout season. This may all be wishful thinking, but it’s not totally insane.
So we’ve established that Stanton is powerful, athletic and ready to succeed at a very young baseball age. Let’s look at what kind of line I project he will have in 2012. Stanton should post a line of .271 AVG/ 44 HRs/ 123 RBIs/ 102 Rs/ 10 SBs. I know that these numbers are lofty, but I almost feel like I am undervaluing what kind of season he could have because I’m afraid of being too bold to avoid claims of lunacy.
In my FSIC team, I plan to get a stable first rounder like Joey Votto, pair him with Stanton, and add a stolen-base hound like Michael Bourn in the third. I would be ecstatic if these were my first three picks in my NL only league. But man plans; God laughs.
Do you think Stanton has what it takes? Please let me know what you think below. Also, feel free to give me your 16 percent guy that you plan to target in rounds 2-4. There’s obvious risk with Stanton and the Marlins in general, but that’s why it’s a 15 percent chance and not 100 percent. Happy hunting.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:37am (18) Comments
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
In 2012, fantasy baseball leagues are infinitely customizable. Do you want keeper or non-keeper? Mixed league or AL/NL only? Roto or points? The list goes on. These are all important choices to make, but they are ancillary to the most significant choice: draft style. Deciding what style the draft will be is critical a fantasy baseball player's strategy. There are two choices, and each one will have a lasting impact on your league.
The old school standard method of drafting is called a snake or serpentine draft. In this format, teams draft in descending order in the first round and reverse order in the second. The last team in the predetermined order will have two consecutive draft picks, and the team with the first overall pick must wait the longest time to get his/her second pick. Then, that team will have the first pick in the third round and the draft continues down the order again.
The idea behind this draft style is to have each team average the same draft position. There is no industry-wide empirical data to illustrate the success rate of teams that draft at the beginning or end. However, I can use the league where I have been commissioner since 1999 for some guidance. Only one of the 13 previous winners of the Old Bridge Fantasy Baseball League has drafted first. More than half of the champions have drafted between nine and 12. That is obviously a small representation of the success rate in a snake draft, but after 13 years, it is fair to draw some conclusions.
In contrast, the other style of fantasy baseball draft is an auction. This has become much more popular over the last decade as many fantasy experts and consultants have stated their preference for it. Each team is given a budget of fantasy dollars to spend on players to create a roster. Similar to snake drafts, there is a pre-arranged draft order. However, instead of selecting players and adding them to your roster, teams nominate a player to be put up for bidding. The team that nominates a player automatically makes the first bid so that if no one else bids, that team wins the player. Because of this, there is a lot of strategy behind selecting a player to nominate.
Obviously the best players will cost the most money. Teams must make critical decisions on how to allocate their budget because they have an entire roster to fill with a finite amount of money. Once a player is nominated, a time clock will start and each team can make a bid for that player. When a new bid is made, the clock resets again—usually to ten seconds. Once that clock expires without a new bid, the team with the highest bid wins that player.
There is no doubt that the auction draft is more dramatic and arguably more exciting. People can plan and strategize more effectively beforehand. Additionally, every team is essentially on an even playing field because everyone has access to all of the best players. It may not be wise, but one team can outbid everyone else on the top two or three players and stack their roster. The downside is that they would be left without enough money to fill the rest of their roster with viable options.
As with everything else in fantasy baseball, it comes down to a matter of preference. If you have never done an auction draft, it is something you should experience. The best bet is to find a free public league and try an auction in that environment.
But there is also something special and fun about the old school snake drafts. You can effectively strategize if you know the draft order well ahead of time and if you learn enough about the drafting tendencies of fellow league members. However, randomness and unpredictability reign supreme in snake drafts.
There are merits and benefits to both. It all depends on what your preferences are. But whichever you choose will have a profound impact on how you strategize and on team you draft.
Posted by Michael Stein at 12:52am (16) Comments
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
It's well established that humans are poor at assessing risk; we constantly think actions that are, statistically-speaking, quite dangerous are safe and that acts that are actually quite safe to be dangerous. To borrow example from the Steves of Freakonomics, if your household has both a gun and a swimming pool, it is far more likely a child will die in the pool than by the gun.
In Ben Pritchett’s recent column about Mike Stanton, he mentioned the following:
According to the 2012 Baseball Forecaster, 80 percent of all players that will yield first-round value are found in the first four rounds of drafts. Less than half of the players drafted in the first round actually yield first-round value…Assuming that just five players picked in the first round actually retain first-round value, that leaves ten draft positions available to be filled by players drafted in the next three rounds. Using the 80 percent success rate discovered by the Forecaster guys, that means only seven of the remaining 45 possible players will deliver first-round-caliber stats.
This comment led to a brief discussion in the comment section about "playing it safe" when drafting. Commenter Simon, posed the question:
Perhaps one way of looking at the Baseball Forecaster stats suggests that playing safe in the first 4 rounds is not really the exact science we all like to think it is!?
Ben agreed, responding thusly,
Playing it safe is all relative. There’s really no such thing as safe in this crazy game we play. I would say there are players that can hurt you more than others, but that’s honestly relative as well.
I had actually been having a few thoughts of my own on this line and I want to offer some insights on this issue.
I don’t want to bog you down with more sob stories about my teams, but long story short, some of you might remember that I’m the proud keeper league owner of both Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard. Yeah, well, my fifth keeper in that league also happened to be Victor Martinez.
Basically, I was asking myself whether I could find five players on my roster reasonably capable of putting up first-through-fifth-round value in light of this most recent blow. And, my answer was yes. Troy Tulowitzki, Nelson Cruz, Jered Weaver, Drew Stubbs, and a partial season from Howard or Braun could conceivably yield value congruent with the rounds in which I was to keep those players. It’s not the most likely scenario, but it is certainly possible.
Every year, stud players suffer injury, players who were expected to make a leap flop, players written off as mediocre surge, outlying BABIPs, strand rates, or RBI opportunities lead to good players having fantastic seasons and great players merely having good seasons. Stuff happens.
In one respect, I agree with Ben and Simon, but at the same time it isn’t nearly that simple, though I’m not implying either of them made such the claim. When you are assembling a fantasy team you are accruing a portfolio of assets. These assets have different levels of risk and ranges of projected performance—in addition to injury risk. Some players have a history of less variance in performance, while others have higher ceilings, lower floors and less stability.
When you’re making your first four picks—and the rest of them—you are creating a complex matrix of probabilities, and not everybody builds their team the same way. As is the case with individual players, some teams embrace wider variance in performance with a boom-or-bust strategy while others focus on building a team to be “in the hunt” and then hoping to make a few key moves from there.
When advocates of early-round conservatism preach their philosophy, they are simply saying they prefer to take the known B+ student instead of the prodigy who also has a history of not showing up to class. The idea that more than half of the top 15 players each season will emerge from picks 16 to 60 is only tangentially relevant to the counterargument of early-round conservatism.
The reason why expanding your appetite to take on variance works so well in the later rounds is that the opportunity cost of a botched pick gets progressively lower throughout the draft/auction. Therefore, the relative value of a home run pick is also greater.
Selecting a player at pick 40 who winds up having top-15 value does not guarantee that I will have gotten value from the top end of my draft (though getting one top-75 player past round 20 pretty much ensures I got value from the bottom of my draft). I could easily botch a second pick as significantly as I profited on the first.
The underlying premise of early-round conservatism is that your top picks are not when you should be looking for value because with the opportunity for value comes added risk. And since the risk quotient for each pick/buy increases by almost unilaterally by nature as the player pool gets thinner, adding risk at the top of the draft can lead to compiling a team that is excessively volatile.
Early-round conservatives don’t contest the idea that there is a degree of risk with every player and that, anecdotally, allegedly safe top-round picks bust every year. However, the issue is about risk management: How much of your bankroll do you want to bet on the first few hands of the night? Do you want to throw away the pair of queens to chase the flush? Owners must make these decisions on their own and in consideration of their own preferred strategies and the settings of their particular league.
Here are two final thoughts. First, if you have a strong feeling about a player that you think is based on sound reasoning, act on it. You shouldn’t be unwilling to take a risk in the early rounds if it is one you believe in, but there are times when risks seem unnecessary. Stephen Strasburg could have a better season than Clayton Kershaw next year, but what sort of premium would you have to pay above Strasburg’s “normal” price to take him ahead of Kershaw, and what would be gained over Kershaw if he hit his 95th percentile season and Kershaw his 88th? Simply, is the risk worth the reward?
Second, at certain times, it may make sense to embrace the added risk in the grand scheme of things. The best players in the league have the lowest chance of busting, not just the highest chances of excelling. I’m reluctant, still, to trade Tulo to fortify the back end of my keeper roster because if I exchange Tulo for two lesser players in the 35-50 range, I’m also taking on additional risk.
There’s some probability that Stubbs reaches his full potential and has breakout year. There’s also a very high probability Tulo is one of those top 15 players. If I exchange that probability for a marginally increased probability out of Stubbs and a second player with similar probability at being top 50 (and a lesser probability of being top 10), in a very important way, I’m actually adding more risk to my portfolio. I would need one of my players to overperform to get my one top-15 player, and there would still be considerable risk that my back-end keepers don’t earn their draft price.
To switch sports for the closing analogy, I don’t want to pass up an open foul-line jumper for the chance to take two contested three-pointers. But, in the right context, a three-pointer can be a pretty sound percentage play as well.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:30am (7) Comments
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Let’s take a look at several players’ Average Draft Positions—found on Mock Draft Central—to see if we can go bargain shopping in mid-January. Keep in mind, of course, that it’s incredibly early, and there always is—and surely this year will be no exception—a lot of volatility and shifting that takes place in ADP from January to April. Still, there is some merit in discussing. Shall we?
Madison Bumgarner (20th SP taken at an ADP of 79)
The artist currently known as Mad-Bum is being taken behind the likes of Ian Kennedy, Mat Latos, and James Shields. Good. Let’s hope it stays that way: Bumgarner had normal BABIP and strand rates, a HR/FB that is no doubt low but can be attributed to his giant home stadium, and a better FIP and xFIP than all three pitchers taken immediately ahead of him. I’d rather have Bumgarner, despite his shortcomings in the WHIP department.
Doug Fister (50th starting pitcher taken at an ADP of 176)
A career win-loss of 20-31 has certainly detracted from Fister’s fantasy value in the past, but that doesn’t mean the trend will continue. People seem to be ignoring the fact that Fister put up nasty numbers in his 10 starts in a Tigers uniform. He put up a triple-slash of 1.79/2.49/2.75 and won eight games, almost tripling his three wins put up in his previous 21 starts with the Mariners. Overall, Fister put up a 2.83 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and 6.07 strikeouts per nine innings, which looks much better, again, in the context of his Comerica days (7.29 in his Detroit stint). It’s rare you see such disregard for someone who put up $21 of value in a standard 12-team league, but Christmas sometimes comes in January. Keep tabs and see if he’s still severely undervalued in April: I’d guess not.
Grady Sizemore (76th outfielder taken at an ADP of 224)
Drafted so far in only 52.8 percent of leagues, you could do much worse with a late-round flier than Sizemore, who is indeed the same man who put together no worse than 5.8 WAR and no greater than 8.0 WAR in the 2005-2008 years, known in the Sizemore household as the “good old days.” He hasn’t been on the field a lot lately to prove his worth, and when he has—notably, his 77-game cameo last year—he faced strikeout woes (rate was nearly 30 percent in 2011) and batting average lows (.224 showing last year was well below his .269 career mark). Once upon a time, though, Sizemore graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was proclaimed, “without a doubt, one of the greatest players of our generation.” He might fizzle—in fact, he should be expected to, considering how brittle he is—but don’t forget the talent that once existed. He’s a lottery ticket worth buying at present price.
Frank Francisco (40th relief pitcher taken at an ADP of 230)
This isn’t to say I like Frank Francisco; I wouldn’t want you to think that, now. I don’t think much of him as a major league pitcher. He’s clocked in at somewhere around average in his major league career, perhaps slightly above. But relief pitchers are all about saves. Particularly if you play without innings limits, you’ll find that a pitcher who throws only 50 innings for you will have little bearing on your ratio stats; that is, unless his name is Ryan Franklin, circa 2011. Francisco had a solid 3.36 xFIP last year, and his 12.7 percent HR/FB should go down substantially in Flushing. He’ll be an asset in strikeouts and saves, though it’d be risky to count on anything more than 20 based on his past inability to hold a job. To get him in the 23rd round of a 10-team draft would be a certain steal, though. Where’s the risk?