December 7, 2013

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## Fantasy valuation systems: adding more context

On Friday, we discussed three different fantasy baseball valuation systems. I promised positional rankings for the rest of the season, but today we're going to get a little more familiar with the numbers before delving into those rankings tomorrow.

When playing in a rotisserie fantasy baseball league, you want to accumulate the most roto points. Simple concept, right? Well, now we have a couple of systems that try to quantify each player’s roto point values. This should be helpful in valuing players, especially when preparing for a draft or when making a trade.

But, even as straightforward of a concept roto point values is, it can still seem a little abstract before we familiarize ourselves with some of the nuances, like what is league average for leagues of various sizes? What does the positional scarcity spectrum look like? Are two top-40 players really worth a top-5 player? If not, what is? And so on. So, without any more foreshadowing, let's build a little framework for reference.

(For the sake of simplicity, I am only going to use one formula—my roto points above average formula (rPAA)—instead of all three. This shouldn’t change much, as all three formulas showed strong correlations with one another in their valuation of players, both hitters and pitchers.)

### League Average

League average, in this case, is simply the average roto point score for all players that would be inserted into any starting lineup in a league, with hitters and pitchers having separate calculations. A typical 10-team league has 13 starting hitters and nine starting pitchers, so in this case, league average is the average score from the top-130 hitters and top-90 pitchers. For 12-team leagues, it is 156 hitters and 108 pitchers.

Bench utilization, pitcher streaming, daily lineup adjustments and individual league rules can muddy the water a little bit with regards to a true league average, but for now we are going to continue the theme of simplicity and use this non-flexible definition of starters.

The league-average amount of raw (non-adjusted) roto points for hitting over the past three full seasons (2009-2011):
{exp:list_maker}10-team leagues: 9.61
12-team leagues: 9.03
14-team leagues: 8.53
16-team leagues: 8.08 {/exp:list_maker}This graph is displaying the top 156 hitters in terms of their roto point production in relation to league average in a 12-team league in 2011.

Only 71 hitters (45.5 percent) scored above zero. This is because there is so much roto value created by the top few players. Most seasoned players already know this. The total roto point value of those 71 players scoring in the positives was 161.12 rPAA. The top-20 accounted for 101.03 (62.7 percent) of those marginal points. So yeah, it pays to have stars on your team.

On the pitching side, league average is a little lower, again these numbers are averaged from 2009-2011:
{exp:list_maker}10-team league: 7.48
12-team league: 6.98
14-team league: 6.56
16-team league: 6.18 {/exp:list_maker}This graph shows the rPAA of the top 108 pitchers in a 12-team league for 2011.

As with hitters, pitching scores at the top are disproportionately more valuable than scores throughout the rest of the curve are, but, with pitchers, the dropoff is much steeper. Only 37 players (34.3 percent) recorded a roto point value of above average. And of the 104.38 points produced by those top-37 players, the top-10 earners raked in 65.49 (62.7 percent) of them.

2011 rPAA Percentiles for Hitters (12-team leagues; Non-Positional Adjusted)
```

Percentile
Hitter
rPAA

1
Matt Kemp
9.95

10
Melky Cabrera
3.54

25
Jay Bruce
1.59

50
Alex Avila
-0.28

75
Logan Morrison
-2.09

90
Casey Kotchman
-2.91

100
Ryan Ludwick
-3.31

```

2011 rPAA Percentiles for Pitchers (12-team leagues)
```

Percentile
Pitcher
rPAA

1
Justin Verlander
10.73

10
C.J. Wilson
3.36

25
Jon Lester
0.94

50
Fernando Salas
-0.83

75
Aaron Harang
-1.67

90
Jason Motte
-2.36

100
Edwin Jackson
-2.66

```

It is easier to find production at some positions than others. This is no secret. Thus, we need to adjust for positional value. To do this we simply find the number of players at each position likely to be owned for a particular league size. Let's call this number X. Now, we take the average scores of the top-X players at each position (X will vary by position). After we find the average for each position, we measure each positional average against the others, giving extra credit to the positions with lower positional averages and giving less credit to positions where production is more abundant.

Let's use a 12-team league as an example. There are 12 starting shortstops and 12 middle infielders. Without knowing the player pool for a particular year, it would be safe to assume that roughly 18 shortstops will be owned in a 12-team league.

Obviously, the utility slot will create some difficulties when looking at positions of abundance, but since the distribution of positions used at utility throughout a league will vary from year-to-year and league-to-league, we will ignore this variable for this summary. When actually calculating an overall list at any specific point in time using a static player pool, this can be accounted for with much better accuracy.

Moving on, now that we have a number, 18, we take the average value of the top-18 shortstops in relation to the average at other positions. Let's say it is -1.0. Once we have averages for all other positions, we can use the most abundant position as the benchmark for what all other positional averages should be raised to after positional adjustments. Lets say that first base is the most abundant position, with an average score of +2.0. In this case we will give a +3.0 bump to each shortstop. Now we can value them on the same scale.

Here are the positional averages for 12-team leagues for each position. These are raw scores and have not been set to league average.

First base is clearly the most productive position, with outfield a distant second. Contrary to traditional beliefs, shortstop is not substantially scarcer than third base or second base, as all three positions have scored about equally in recent years. Bringing up the rear is catcher, which has a raw score of an average of 3.8 points lower than first base over the past three years.

Again, how middle and corner infielders are distributed, and what positions are commonly play in the utility slot will alter the data some, but this should give us a decent idea of what positions to pay the extra buck for.

### How much is the No. 1 player worth?

Fantasy players often wonder whether they should sell the best, or one of the best, fantasy baseball players to try to shore up weak spots in another areas or if they should just hold tight? It is always a good idea to sell a player if you are being overwhelmed with value, but what is the tipping point between accepting and rejecting a proposal?

The top offensive player in 2011 was Kemp, who provided nearly 18.6 raw roto points and just under 10.0 marginal roto points over a league-average player. To figure out what type of two-for-one trade would have worked out in retrospect—say if you made the deal at the beginning of 2011—we can add up Kemp’s 18.6 to a replacement level player worth around 5.4 roto points. (Factoring in a replacement-level player is just a quick way to estimate the value of the player you would have to drop from your roster to make room for two incoming players, as chances are this player will be close to replacement level.)

To trade away Kemp last season, you would have needed at least 24.0 roto points of value in return just to theoretically break even. A couple of combinations that would have just broke even are Joey Votto and Hunter Pence, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira, or Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce. And that’s without figuring in that you are probably eventually going to find a player who will produce more than replacement level value.

All of those hypothetical deals would have broken even, but Kemp nearly went 40/40 and competed for a Triple Crown. His 2011 season was easily the best (fantasy) offensive season of the last three years. So this is by no means the actual break-even point when selling the game’s best player.

Entering a season, the top-ranked player is typically valued at an expected 14-15 raw roto points, depending on the degree of aggression the projection exhibits. In this case, two top-40 hitters should be a “fair deal,” but again, that assumes that everything will happen in a vacuum. Chances are that the attentive owner will end up with a player better than replacement level to supplement that top-tier talent, and any player capable of being selected No. 1 overall is almost surely going to be more reliable than two random top-40 hitters. If it was my team and I owned the game’s best hitter in a 12-team league, I would need a bit more than just hypothetical "break-even" value, so something around two top-25 hitters might be the minimum package I'd be looking for.

Whether or not you are trading for the best player in the game, one can use this valuation system to get a general sense of where he or she stands in the deal. The more players that are involved in a deal, the more complex that deal becomes. With a simple calculation of expected roto value, an eight-player trade transforms from a complete uncertainty to a positive or negative number that should eliminate most of the guesswork. Categorical needs will have to be considered, as well, but absent of obscure, league-specific context, this method of trade evaluation should save a lot of time.

### Year-to-Year Roto Point Correlations

Pitching correlations:

From 2009 to 2010, roto point totals by pitchers correlated at 0.6154 (r^2 = .3787), and from 2010 to 2011 the correlation was 0.6331 (r^2 = .4107). I also isolated the top-20 pitchers to see if the best pitchers were more reliable year to year. The correlations were 0.2165 (2009-2010) and -0.0989 (2010-2011).

So, while pitchers like Zack Greinke in 2009 and Justin Verlander in 2011 have produced like a top-5 overall player, there is far too much variance with regards to the spectrum of reasonable, expected outcomes to justify taking a pitcher that early. This is why axioms like "wait on pitching" exist. We obviously can dissect the underlying numbers to get a little closer in our projections than these correlations might suggest, but even consistently good pitchers have a high volatility range.

Hitting correlations:

From 2009 to 2010, the roto point totals for hitters showed a correlation of 0.7739 (r^2 = 0.5990). From 2010 to 2011, the correlation was 0.7706 (r^2 = 0.5939). This correlation is much higher than pitchers. It's not ideal, but at least there is more signal than noise with hitters. The top-20 hitters also showed much better year-to-year correlations of 0.4314 (2009-2010) and 0.4543 (2010-2011). These correlations are by no means precise, but hitters are way more reliable than pitchers, which is a predominant factor in why pitchers are infrequently selected in the first few round of fantasy drafts.

### Concluding Thoughts

Hopefully, all of this has enhanced your understanding of my methodology. Jeff Gross' E.Y.E.S. method and Mike Silver's FantasyPlayerRater formula, as we discussed Friday, showed strong correlations both to each other and to my method, so once we start getting into some Oliver-driven objective rankings, which are slated to begin Tuesday, following along with their valuations shouldn't be much trouble, either.

Posted by Jesse Sakstrup at 5:06am (3) Comments

## The daily grind: 7-30

The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!

The Fanduel picks are a mixture of Daily League specific advice and information for the more typical fantasy owner.

### Today's grind

The Fanduel Daily League Players of the Day are:

Pitcher (to start) There are quite a few games for a Monday and even some nice options. Mike Leake couldn't ask for a much better match-up than the Padres. Aside from a recent blow up against Arizona, he's been very solid.

I'll be leaning most heavily on Marco Estrada. He has been homer prone, but his ratios are elite and he's set to spin his trade against the Astros.

Pitcher (bum): I expect Hisashi Iwakuma, Jeremy Hefner, and Ervin Santana to take a pretty thorough thumping today. They face the Blue Jays, Giants, and Rangers respectively.

Hitter (power): Keeping with the theme above, I'd lean on Travis Snider and Adam Lind to do some of that thumping.

Hitter (speed): David Murphy's been a touch cool lately, but he's still a five category contributor. Quintin Berry has a usable match-up against Clay Buchholz. Most of the usual suspects are "sits" today.

### Tomorrow's grind

I'm not a big Aaron Laffey fan, but he should be able to handle the Mariners offense at Safeco.

Kris Medlen has the Marlins and he's one of the most criminally misused pitchers in baseball in my opinion. Which is not to say he's amazing or anything, but he's certainly a mid-rotation quality arm.

Team Player Handedness Opposing Pitcher   Team Player Handedness Opposing Pitcher
Angels         Brewers
Maicer Izturis R Derek Holland     Carlos Gomez R Dallas Keuchel
Alberto Callaspo R Derek Holland     Norichika Aoki L Dallas Keuchel
Athletics         Cubs
Brandon Moss L James Shields     Tony Campana L A.J. Burnett
Jemile Weeks S James Shields     David DeJesus L A.J. Burnett
Coco Crisp S James Shields   Diamondbacks
Seth Smith L James Shields     Willie Bloomquist R Chris Capuano
Blue Jays         Dodgers
Yunel Escobar R Jason Vargas     A.J. Ellis R Wade Miley
Rajai Davis R Jason Vargas   Giants
Indians           Nate Schierholtz L Matt Harvey
Johnny Damon L Luke Hochevar     Angel Pagan S Matt Harvey
Travis Hafner L Luke Hochevar   Mets
Casey Kotchman L Luke Hochevar     Kirk Nieuwenhuis L Tim Lincecum
Mariners         Nationals
Casper Wells R Aaron Laffey     Jesus Flores R Cliff Lee
Trayvon Robinson S Aaron Laffey     Steve Lombardozzi S Cliff Lee
Orioles           Tyler Moore R Cliff Lee
Wilson Betemit S Ivan Nova   Padres
Jim Thome L Ivan Nova     Yasmani Grandal S Homer Bailey
Rangers           Yonder Alonso L Homer Bailey
David Murphy L Jered Weaver     Carlos Quentin R Homer Bailey
Rays           Will Venable L Homer Bailey
Sean Rodriguez R Tommy Milone   Reds
Elliot Johnson S Tommy Milone     Zack Cozart R Jason Marquis
Royals           Todd Frazier R Jason Marquis
Salvador Perez R Derek Lowe     Chris Heisey R Jason Marquis
Alcides Escobar R Derek Lowe
Lorenzo Cain R Derek Lowe
Tigers
Brennan Boesch L Josh Beckett
Quintin Berry L Josh Beckett
Twins
Ryan Doumit S Francisco Liriano
White Sox
Jordan Danks L Nick Blackburn
Dayan Viciedo R Nick Blackburn
Yankees
Raul Ibanez L Chris Tillman

I'm tempted to put Carlos Gomez in the power category with all the long balls he's hit recently. He's got the platoon advantage tomorrow.

His peer, Rajai Davis, also have the platoon advantage.

Cliff Lee hasn't been nearly as bad as his 1-6 record, but the 3.95 ERA doesn't appear too off base. He lacks a put away pitch at the moment and his often pinpoint control has been off for most of the season. That said, I like Tyler Moore against him tomorrow.

### Reliever watch

Alfredo Aceves blew the save yesterday but held on for a much deserved win. He pitched 2.1 innings.

Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford teamed up for an epic blown save. Axford really blew the save twice. With a four run lead in the eighth, K-Rod and Axford allowed the Nationals to tie the game. The Brewers then scored two more runs on the home half which Axford promptly surrendered in the ninth.

## The Verdict: controversial and contentious fantasy baseball trade dispute

SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT

Pinetar Ponies vs. Wookie Invasion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM AN ANONYMOUS FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE

Decided July 25, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 150 (July 2012)

Factual Background

An anonymous fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “the league” is a 14-team mixed AL/NL keeper league comprised of two divisions of seven (7) teams each where the top three (3) teams in each division earn a playoff berth. Teams are permitted to maintain up to fourteen (14) players during each off-season. It is unknown whether players are signed to contracts or if there are any restrictions on how long a player may be retained.

It is unknown whether the league is rotisserie or points based. The Court presumes it is a head-to-head league given the commissioner’s filed with the Court references one team being “five games out of the last playoff spot.”

The Court’s forthcoming decision is based on the information provided in the case submission by the league commissioner.

Procedural History

A controversial trade was made between two teams in the league. Wookie Invasion traded Andre Ethier (OF-LAD) and Lance Berkman (1B/OF-STL) to the Pumas in exchange for Sergio Santos (RP-TOR) and Trevor Bauer (SP-ARZ). Wookie Invasion is currently in last place in its division. The Pumas are currently in 5th place in their division and five games out of the final playoff spot.

It is alleged that Wookie Invasion has a personal issue with Pinetar Ponies, the 3rd place team. After some league members questioned the validity and rationale behind the trade, Wookie Invasion responded via email to the entire league that he “100% traded in order to help the Pumas catch the Pinetar Ponies.”

The league commissioner seeks an opinion from the Court whether this trade should be approved or rejected.

Issues Presented

(1) Was this trade executed as a result of collusive conduct between Wookie Invasion and the Pumas?

(2) If there is no collusive conduct present, should the trade made between Wookie Invasion and the Pumas be approved?

Decision

The analysis of this case involves two elements. First, we must determine if there is any collusion involved between the teams making the underlying trade. Once that has been determined, we can enter into a discussion about the actual merits of the trade and the players involved.

I. WAS THIS TRADE EXECUTED AS A RESULT OF COLLUSIVE CONDUCT BETWEEN WOOKIE INVASION AND THE PUMAS?

The statement made by Wookie Invasion regarding his motivation for making this trade is worrisome. It is not uncommon for people to have personal issues or conflicts within the confines of a fantasy league. The very nature of competition can foster animosity, or a personal issue can manifest itself into the social atmosphere of a fantasy league. What the Court seeks to avoid is allowing these issues to undermine the integrity of the entire league.

On its face, there is an appearance of impropriety because Wookie Invasion has openly admitted that he is motivated to make this trade for the sole purpose of improving the Pumas’ chances of catching the Pinetar Ponies in the standings. What we must look at closely is whether the Pumas have conspired with Wookie Invasion to facilitate this deal and, in exchange, offered a tangible benefit to Wookie Invasion.

Collusion is defined as a secret agreement or conspiracy especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes. See Steel Curtain v. Rusty Trombones, 3 F.J. 201, 203 (November 2011). When presented with allegations or suspicions of collusion, the Court will look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the accused. This is because acts of collusion within a fantasy league are one of the most serious fantasy sports crimes that can be committed and can undermine the integrity of a league more so than almost anything else. Team Zero v. Samcro Reaper Crew, 3 F.J. 177, 179 (October 2011).

From the Pumas perspective, they are clearly receiving a windfall in this trade based on present-day value. The additions of Ethier, one of the top outfielders in the league, and Berkman are indisputably huge improvements over Santos and Bauer for the 2012 season. Santos has been out since April and recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Any value he has is purely based on projections and long-term planning for when he returns. Bauer, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, did not have a successful stint at the major league level earlier this year. He is currently in the minors and likely won’t have much fantasy impact for the remainder of the 2012 season.

The record is devoid of any indication that the Pumas sought to take advantage of Wookie Invasion’s personal vendetta against the Pinetar Ponies. All indications are that Wookie Invasion looked to make a deal with a team in a position to knock the Pinetar Ponies out of a playoff berth. The Court will refrain from making a judgment on the maturity or sensibility of such a desire. However, it seems apparent that the Pumas merely were the innocent beneficiary Wookie Invasion’s intentions.

Without a confession or some form of written proof, the Court will rely on circumstantial evidence and weigh the totality of the circumstances to determine if collusive conduct is present. John Doe v. Richard Roe, 3. F.J. 197, 200 (October 2011). Here, there is no confession from the Pumas. There is no indication that the Pumas consented to any sort of plan to purposefully undermine the integrity of the league. They simply accepted a trade that was proposed to them and that improved their team for the current season. See Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that fantasy baseball teams are not obligated to shop players around for a more advantageous deal solely to appease skeptical league members).

There is no indication whatsoever that the Pumas and Wookie Invasion agreed to a monetary share of any prize money that is potentially won. There is also no indication that an agreement was reached for future trades to be made as compensation. Despite it being overtly obvious what Wookie Invasion’s motive was, there is no evidence to support the contention that the Pumas shared such Machiavellian intent. Rather, they agreed to a trade that benefited their team. Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that the Pumas did not conspire with Wookie Invasion in an act of collusion.

II. IF THERE IS NO COLLUSIVE CONDUCT PRESENT, SHOULD THE TRADE MADE BETWEEN WOOKIE INVASION AND THE PUMAS BE APPROVED?

The Court typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades. People pay money to participate in fantasy leagues, and generally they should be afforded the freedom to manage their team accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness. See 4 Ponies v. Carson City Cocks, 3 F.J. 13 (May 2011).

It is well documented that there is a different analysis of trades in a keeper league as opposed to a non-keeper league. A trade that may look facially uneven or lopsided could easily pass muster in a keeper league. Trades made between teams in a keeper league need to be analyzed by other factors besides merely comparing statistics. Grave Diggers vs. Chilidogs, 4 F.J. 5, 8 (January 2012). These other factors include salary cap flexibility, contractual status of players, and long-term planning at the expense of the current season. Smittydogs vs. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 33 (June 2010); Winners vs. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011) (holding that team owners in keeper leagues with no hope of contending in the current season must make critical roster management decisions of whether to trade established players to help build for the future).

The Court will evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. See Victoria’s Secret vs. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010). The Court will not undermine a fantasy owner’s ability to manage his/her team unless a deal is unfair or inequitable, ripe with collusion, or not in the best interests of the league. Whether a trade is objectively intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis. 4 Ponies vs. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 27 (June 2011). The virtue of a trade is measured in both quantifiable criteria and subjective needs of the teams involved. Carson City Cocks vs. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 23, 24 (May 2011).

At first glance, the trade of Andre Ethier and Lance Berkman in exchange for Sergio Santos and Trevor Bauer looks inequitable based on present-day value. None of the players involved in this trade are considered elite for purposes of requiring additional scrutiny merely because of how valuable they are based on their statistics and name recognition. See Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 216, 220 (November 2011).

Ethier is the best player in this trade. Through July 24, 2012, he is batting .294 with 11 homeruns, 61 RBI and an OPS of .853. While it is unlikely he will reach 30 homeruns, his run production and batting average should improve with the Dodgers’ recent acquisition of Hanley Ramirez who will likely bat ahead of Ethier in the lineup.

Berkman had a renaissance season in 2011. While it was doubtful he would replicate that this year, he hasn’t been on the field much to try. Berkman has been hobbled by injuries all season which has limited him to only 21 games. He recently was hit by a pitch on the same knee that was operated on earlier in the year. While he is not expected to miss much time as a result, he is clearly not the same player he was last year as his bat speed has decreased and he cannot generate the same power out of his legs.

Bauer, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, had a disappointing stint with the Diamondbacks. He only pitched four games, winning just one while accumulating a disastrous 6.06 ERA and 1.65 WHIP. However, this was a small sample after Bauer only had a handful of starts at Triple-A. With more seasoning, he will be a fixture in Arizona’s starting rotation in 2013.

Santos was acquired by the Blue Jays this past offseason to be their new closer. However, he sustained a shoulder injury in April and had to undergo season-ending surgery. All indications thus far are that he will be ready for the 2013 season and should assume Toronto’s closer role once again. When healthy, he could be in line for 30 saves next year with an improving Toronto team that will get half of its starting rotation back by then.

When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective. See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin). The Court is unaware of each team’s respective rosters. Therefore, we cannot draw any conclusions or make any comparisons to the roster needs of either team. However, the Pumas, only five games out of the final playoff berth, are clearly looking to make a run for this season. The acquisitions of Ethier and Berkman are indicative of improving his team with a “win now” mentality.

Conversely, Wookie Invasion is in last place with no hopes of competing this year. When a team owner in a keeper league no longer has any hope for contending in the current season, he must make a critical roster management decision of whether to trade off established players. See Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite, 3 F.J. 97, 102 (July 2011). Granted his underlying motivation for helping the Pumas overtake the Pinetar Ponies has to be taken into account. But the fact remains that Santos and Bauer do have long-term value despite offering nothing in compensation for the current season.

A trade will be rejected when the Court cannot objectively ascertain any benefit to one of the teams and the net result in no way makes a team better now or in the future. Los Pollos Hermanos v. Little Stumps, 3 F.J. 192, 195 (October 2011). While this trade is completely one-sided for the 2012 season, it does have projected value for next season and beyond. Because of the projected value Bauer and Santos have, this deal cannot be considered a “dump.” Additionally, while Ethier is a very good player, he is not at the same level as someone like Miguel Cabrera or Ryan Braun.

Based on the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby decides that the subject trade should be approved. However, the personal vendetta between Wookie Invasion and Pinetar Ponies needs to be addressed by the commissioner. While this controversial trade should be approved, it could potentially lead to a slippery slope that could undermine the integrity of the league.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Posted by Michael Stein at 5:30am (0) Comments

## Haste makes… hay

A mid-to-late-August fantasy trade deadline leaves very little time for players acquired at that point to produce for their new teams and give them the categorical surges for which they are needed and acquired. Therefore, if you are in need of help in a specific category, there aren’t many compelling reasons to wait longer, despite the time cushion available. One effect of the late trade deadline is that it acts as a peg that influences the timeline on which owners begin to consider trading, compelling many owners to procrastinate and often ultimately wait too long to make their moves.

With the logic of acting sooner than later fairly self-evident, I’d like to discuss the exceptional cases in which waiting a few extra weeks is wise.

Trading low-volume stats from surplus without major categorical need
You are at or toward the top of the standings. You’ve already secured some distance and security in saves, steals, or maybe homers – you can trade a one-category producer away and still expect a top 3 finish in the category. You have no glaring needs, are generally competitive across the board and are basically looking to upgrade one of your weaker starting position players or for an extra arm to provide some push down the stretch.

In these scenarios, the player you are trading doesn’t hold much value to your team, roto-points-wise, so it is in your team’s interest, in a vacuum, to trade this player even for a modest upgrade at another position. However, the player you are giving up could be very valuable to the team acquiring him. You may be giving up more points to the receiver than you will gain from the player you will get.

In this scenario, you shouldn’t be in a major rush and completing a deal shouldn’t be too difficult, as there are likely many potential suitors (these categories tend to cluster in the middle) and you likely have a fair amount of flexibility regarding the position of the player you take back. In this situation, you also must consider the teams with which you are willing to be a trading partner. You don’t want to trade with a close rival, since you are likely to lose out in raw points in the deal. So, trading with a team at the middle or bottom of the standings is preferable. You may also want to consider trying to ship the player to a team that could then pass your rival in the category, stealing yourself an extra point that way as well.

You don’t have to wait in this scenario, per se, rather the proper course is dependent upon how close certain categories are and the relative position of the team with which you are planning to trade.

Creating time pressure when acquiring somebody else’s surplus value

Look at the above situation from the eyes of the rest of the league. Sometimes you can tell from a team’s roster construction and categorical strengths that they will be looking to unload a categorical surplus at the deadline. If a team is leading comfortably in saves, a closer with non-elite ratio stats is useless to that team, but can be useful to you. As the deadline approaches, the other owner is going to have increased pressure to deal that surplus and therefore may be willing to accept less in return just to get something back that they can use.

One other point to note here is that it is usually not worth trying to wait to extract the best possible deal if your need is glaring. Getting a player who will help you in a category in which you need to make up considerable ground onto your roster immediately will have more impact than waiting two weeks and getting either a slightly better player or giving up a bit less to get that player. You have to win the league, not the trade.

Making sneaky plays for next year when you aren’t out of this year’s race
Over the years, Derek Carty emerged as one of the masters of free to cheap closer keeper strategy and each year he would publish candidates to emerge as closers the following season. Suppose Rafael Betancourt is not dealt before this article publishes. Don’t think the Rockies have any use for him going forward and that they feel they’d be better off trading the established veteran with a friendly contract and handing the job to Rex Brothers in 2013? Well, wouldn’t it be smart to trade for Brothers now and keep him at his pre-closer price?

If you are in the race now, these are luxury moves. You don’t want to give up anything you need to win this year, and the player you are targeting will likely make a bigger impact as an under-the-radar keeper next year due to potential offseason moves. In this case it is sensible to wait as long as you can before acting so your sacrifice is minimal. In these cases, you are expecting the change of status to occur in the offseason, so waiting an extra few weeks shouldn’t change much about the player’s price.

If you have a nice lead in your league, this could be another way to spend your surplus value—trying to acquire cheap players with the best chances of becoming more valuable in the offseason via a change of team or role. Who these players might be usually becomes clearer once the MLB trade deadline passes.

Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:34am (0) Comments

## August catcher rankings

Most fantasy rankings are forged on ‘gut calls’ and the whimsical notions of whoever is compiling the list. Some experts don’t pay for saves, some don’t pay for steals, some wait on pitching, some value upside, some value reliability, and so on. While it might be nice to see plenty of different opinions, it probably doesn’t truly help unless you understand the biases of each individual ranker. This is why some of the writers here at The Hardball Times have created their own, objective valuation methods, outlined here and here (reading, or at least skimming, these introductory articles will give you a much better understanding of the rankings that follow and should help to answer most potential questions).

In accompaniment with Oliver’s rest of season forecasts, we will use these objective formulas to create objective rankings. You may not agree with a particular rank, but you will know how the ranking was calculated and you wont have to guess what the ranker was thinking. This should make adding your own personal adjustments and biases much easier. And perhaps this type of ranking will introduce some potential buys and sells that you may have otherwise overlooked.

These rankings will assume a 12-team league in adjusting for league average. The ordering of players, however, is unaffected; players will rank in identical order for leagues of all sizes.

So, lets get to it. First up are catchers.
```

Num
Name
AB
R
HR
RBI
SB
BA
rPAA (ROS)
EYES (ROS)
Full Season*

1
Mike Napoli
171
27
11
33
1
0.271
0.65
0.83
9.51

2
Buster Posey
196
27
7
29
1
0.298
0.43
0.74
8.91

3
Brian McCann
192
27
9
31
1
0.269
0.35
0.44
8.70

4
Joe Mauer
194
28
4
26
1
0.315
0.27
0.68
8.46

5
Miguel Montero
203
27
7
30

0.282
0.19
0.35
8.25

6
179
24
5
24
2
0.292
-0.08
-0.07
7.52

7
Carlos Santana
195
29
7
28
1
0.248
-0.13
-0.25
7.37

8
Carlos Ruiz
173
24
4
25

0.303
-0.20
-0.14
7.17

9
J.P. Arencibia
194
24
10
31

0.23
-0.23
-0.63
7.11

10
Alex Avila
191
26
6
26
1
0.258
-0.30
-0.49
6.91

11
A.J. Pierzynski
184
22
5
25

0.283
-0.39
-0.56
6.65

12
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
169
21
8
27

0.235
-0.57
-1.11
6.15

13
Jonathan Lucroy
181
22
4
22
1
0.275
-0.60
-0.90
6.07

14
Matt Wieters
171
21
6
24

0.257
-0.65
-1.09
5.93

15
174
19
4
21

0.272
-0.88
-1.36
5.30

16
Ramon Hernandez
145
18
4
20

0.28
-0.89
-1.37
5.29

17
Rod Barajas
157
18
7
23

0.237
-0.89
-1.60
5.27

18
Geovany Soto
151
19
6
22

0.238
-0.97
-1.65
5.07

19
John Buck
154
19
6
21

0.238
-1.01
-1.72
4.95

20
Ryan Doumit
133
17
4
19

0.267
-1.08
-1.71
4.77

21
Miguel Olivo
162
18
5
20
2
0.226
-1.15
-2.00
4.58

22
Chris Iannetta
135
18
5
18
1
0.228
-1.21
-2.05
4.39

23
Russell Martin
139
17
4
17
2
0.234
-1.26
-2.12
4.26

24
A.J. Ellis
163
21
2
17

0.259
-1.28
-1.89
4.21

25
Jesus Flores
174
17
4
20

0.244
-1.30
-2.12
4.15

26
Ryan Hanigan
129
15
2
15

0.272
-1.46
-2.24
3.71

27
Yorvit Torrealba
124
14
2
14
1
0.264
-1.51
-2.38
3.57

28
Devin Mesoraco
89
12
4
14

0.253
-1.53
-2.50
3.54

29
Yasmani Grandal
131
15
3
16

0.246
-1.54
-2.45
3.51

30
Josh Thole
132
15
1
13

0.269
-1.66
-2.51
3.17

31
Jose Molina
133
14
3
14

0.236
-1.74
-2.80
2.95

32
Kurt Suzuki
124
13
2
14

0.238
-1.84
-2.93
2.68

33
Chris Snyder
73
9
3
10

0.227
-1.99
-3.25
2.26

34
Jason Castro
120
13
1
12

0.239
-2.00
-3.13
2.25

35
Derek Norris
84
10
3
10
1
0.207
-2.00
-3.31
2.24

36
Wilin Rosario
58
7
2
9

0.243
-2.11
-3.40
1.94

37
Tyler Flowers
63
8
2
9

0.218
-2.17
-3.52
1.76

38
John Jaso
64
7
1
7

0.251
-2.26
-3.59
1.52

39
Jose Lobaton
86
9
1
8

0.226
-2.30
-3.67
1.40

40
Michael McKenry
66
7
1
7

0.231
-2.34
-3.74
1.29

41
Steve Clevenger
57
6

6

0.272
-2.35
-3.69
1.27

42
Brett Hayes
68
7
1
7

0.225
-2.37
-3.80
1.21

43
Nick Hundley
55
6
1
6

0.233
-2.39
-3.82
1.17

44
Kelly Shoppach
43
5
1
6

0.229
-2.41
-3.86
1.12

45
Bobby Wilson
66
6
1
6

0.227
-2.44
-3.91
1.03

46
Jhonatan Solano
57
5
1
5

0.238
-2.45
-3.93
0.99

47
43
4
1
5

0.232
-2.48
-3.98
0.93

48
Brayan Pena
57
5

5

0.249
-2.51
-3.97
0.83

49
Chris Stewart
66
6

6

0.232
-2.51
-3.98
0.82

50
Hector Sanchez
39
4

4

0.257
-2.54
-4.03
0.75

51
Erik Kratz
22
2
1
3

0.252
-2.55
-4.11
0.72

52
Ronny Paulino
29
3

3

0.263
-2.60
-4.13
0.59

53
David Ross
26
3

3

0.258
-2.60
-4.14
0.57

54
Tony Cruz
45
4

4

0.236
-2.61
-4.14
0.57

55
Mike Nickeas
55
5

5

0.215
-2.62
-4.18
0.53

56
Rob Johnson
33
3

3

0.215
-2.70
-4.31
0.32

57
Wil Nieves
22
2

2

0.243
-2.70
-4.30
0.31

58
Gerald Laird
22
2

2

0.243
-2.70
-4.30
0.31

59
Lou Marson
32
3

2

0.225
-2.71
-4.32
0.28

60
Carlos Corporan
22
2

2

0.227
-2.72
-4.34
0.26

61
John Baker
32
3

2

0.221
-2.72
-4.33
0.25

62
Jeff Mathis
33
3

3

0.201
-2.73
-4.36
0.24

63
Matt Treanor
31
3

2

0.216
-2.73
-4.35
0.24

64
Ryan Lavarnway
10
1

1

0.273
-2.74
-4.37
0.21

65
Henry Blanco
15
1

2

0.232
-2.74
-4.38
0.21

66
Francisco Cervelli
10
1

1

0.241
-2.76
-4.40
0.16

67
Welington Castillo
11
1

1

0.243
-2.76
-4.40
0.16

68
Drew Butera
45
3

3

0.208
-2.76
-4.42
0.14

69
John Hester
11
1

1

0.235
-2.76
-4.41
0.14

70
Tim Federowicz
11
1

1

0.231
-2.76
-4.42
0.13

71
Anthony Recker
10
1

1

0.223
-2.77
-4.42
0.13

72
Luis Exposito
13
1

1

0.231
-2.77
-4.43
0.12

73
Taylor Teagarden
13
1

1

0.205
-2.79
-4.46
0.06

```

*Full season = the raw (non-adjusted) full season pace roto score using the roto points above replacement method. This is, essentially, the amount of expected roto points each catcher would score above an empty spot in a lineup over a full season.

Using the roto points above average (rPAA) formula, the average catcher is projected to score 2.82 raw roto points prior to adjusting for league average, with Mike Napoli projected at 3.46. After adjustments, though, you can see there is little difference between any of the players. Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the 12th ranked catcher, are separated by just 1.22 expected rest of season roto points. The E.Y.E.S. method sees a bit more of a difference between first and 12th, but at a gap of just 1.73 roto points, the difference isn’t substantially greater.

The main take-away – at least what the numbers are saying anyways—is that there isn’t much to be gained or lost at catcher from this point forward. There will probably be a catcher or two who far outperforms the rest for the remainder of the season, but none have been outstanding to the point where Oliver believes in them enough to rank them as such.

### Analysis

Mike Napoli – Oliver has Mike Napoli as the top ranked catcher going forward, but much of that expected value is tied to a .271 projected batting average. While Napoli is certainly capable of hitting for an average that high for the remainder of the year, he is currently hitting just .227 and is striking out in 30.0 percent of his plate appearances (career 25.2 percent). His plate discipline looks fine, but both his contact percentage and swinging strike rate are higher than his career averages, although not quite enough to justify a 30.0 percent strikeout rate.

I would guess Napoli cuts his strikeouts down to around 27 percent and raises his slightly low .285 BABIP to around .295 the rest of the way. These slight improvements would vastly improve Napoli’s batting average, but only to around .260, which happens to be his career average.

Another objection I have with Napoli’s projection is his RBI rate. Oliver thinks he will drive in about 0.19 runs per at bat. Over the course of his first two seasons in Texas he has averaged just 0.17 RBI per at bat and he has played much worse this season (0.13 RBI/AB). Given his struggles, and the fact that he is hitting eighth in the Rangers lineup, I wouldn’t pay for much more than 0.15 RBI per at bat, which would equal about 26 RBI from this point forward.

These may seem like minor or futile adjustments, but they move Napoli's down to a score of 0.26 roto points above replacement (0.23 EYES), which, over a full season, would translate to a difference of about 1.07 roto points. This also moves Napoli down to catcher number three according to the rPAA formula and fifth according to EYES.

Miguel Montero – Currently hitting .282, Oliver believes that Montero can maintain that same average for the remainder of the season. But, Montero is striking out at a rate that would tie his career high (23.7 percent) and is benefiting from a .356 BABIP, 43 points higher than his career average. He is a career .273 hitter, and with an inflated strikeout rate, BABIP regression should probably send his average into the .260s.
This adjustment doesn’t change Montero’s ranking, but it does move his roto scores below league average (-0.02 and -0.03).

Ramon Hernandez and Wilin Rosario – Oliver seems to think that Hernandez is going to get 145 at bats from this point forward. Hernandez, however, has only played in seven games since July 13 when he came off the disabled list. During that time Rosario has only played in eight games, so it isn't like there is a clear starter among the two. Given that Hernandez is 36 years old, and that Rosario is the Rockies future at the position, and that the Rockies are nowhere near competitive this season, it would seem like Rosario would get at least a slight majority of the playing time behind the plate going forward. And at the very least, it would be hard to project much more than a 50/50 split between the two for the remainder of the year.

Adjustments: Hernandez to 100 at bats (moves down to 28th and 29th among catchers). Rosario to 125 at bats (moves up to 26th and 26th among catchers).

Posted by Jesse Sakstrup at 5:46am (12) Comments

## The daily grind: 7-31

The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice based on my every morning waiver wire search. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!

The Fanduel picks are a mixture of Daily League specific advice and information for the more typical fantasy owner.

### Today's grind

Those in leagues with same-day moves should refer back to yesterday’s table. Some of those entries are already obsolete.

The Fanduel Daily League Players of the Day are:

Pitcher (to start): Neither pitcher is a must-start option, but Kris Medlen against the Marlins and Aaron Laffey against the Mariners strike me as playable.

Pitcher (bum): Keep a close eye out today as any probable pitcher who is dealt will result in an exploitable situation. Ryan Dempster is scheduled today, but if he's traded it will be a bullpen day.

For more fixed starts, the potent Tigers lineup can probably get to Josh Beckett. And the White Sox face the ultimate bum - at least this season - Nick Blackburn.

Hitter (power): Tyler Moore against Cliff Lee has a chance to show some power. Not a recommendation I ever expected to make. Travis Snider has Dempster at the moment, but that could change suddenly.

Hitter (speed): Carlos Gomez has the platoon advantage, plenty of speed, and a surprising recent burst of power. His ownership is still only at 23 percent. Rajai Davis also has the platoon advantage and should be back to starting more frequently now that Snider and Eric Thames have been dealt.

### Tomorrow's grind

There are a ton of pitching options tomorrow, most of them guys I would have recommended weeks or months ago but not now.

That said, Carlos Villanueva against the Mariners at Safeco looks quite useful. Jake Westbrook is set to face the Rockies which is a survivable match-up and Zach McAllister has the Royals.

If you want something with a little more ceiling and uncertainty, Wade LeBlanc is paired off against the Braves and Ben Sheets.

Team Player Handedness Opposing Pitcher   Team Player Handedness Opposing Pitcher
Athletics         Brewers
Brandon Moss L Alex Cobb     Carlos Gomez R Jordan Lyles
Jemile Weeks S Alex Cobb     Norichika Aoki L Jordan Lyles
Seth Smith L Alex Cobb   Cubs
Blue Jays           David DeJesus L Jeff Karstens
Anthony Gose L Blake Beaven   Dodgers
Rajai Davis R Blake Beaven     A.J. Ellis R Josh Collmenter
Indians         Giants
Johnny Damon L Luis Mendoza     Angel Pagan S Jon Niese
Mariners         Nationals
Eric Thames L Carlos Villanueva     Steve Lombardozzi S Vance Worley
Mike Carp L Carlos Villanueva   Padres
Trayvon Robinson S Carlos Villanueva     Yasmani Grandal S Bronson Arroyo
Michael Saunders L Carlos Villanueva     Yonder Alonso L Bronson Arroyo
Rangers           Carlos Quentin R Bronson Arroyo
David Murphy L Dan Haren     Will Venable L Bronson Arroyo
Rays         Phillies
Carlos Pena L Jarrod Parker     Laynce Nix L Edwin Jackson
Red Sox           Juan Pierre L Edwin Jackson
Ryan Sweeney L Rick Porcello   Pirates
Royals           Starling Marte R Travis Wood
Salvador Perez R Zach McAllister     Casey McGehee R Travis Wood
Alcides Escobar R Zach McAllister   Reds
Lorenzo Cain R Zach McAllister     Zack Cozart R Kip Wells
Tigers           Todd Frazier R Kip Wells
Brennan Boesch L Aaron Cook
Quintin Berry L Aaron Cook
Twins
Ryan Doumit S Jake Peavy
Denard Span L Jake Peavy
Ben Revere L Jake Peavy
White Sox
Dayan Viciedo R Scott Diamond
Yankees
Andruw Jones R Zach Britton

Few match-ups for the gambling man tomorrow. Our old pal Andruw Jones is back again. And the duo of Seth Smith and Brandon Moss should be back in action.

Carlos Gomez and the Brewers face Jordan Lyles, but without the platoon advantage, it might be one of those games where Nyjer Morgan gets a tune up.

### Reliever watch

The Dodgers acquired Brandon League from the Mariners, which really doesn't mean a whole lot as far as we are concerned.

Francisco Cordero blew up in the seventh yesterday and really shouldn't be pitching anywhere near a leveraged situation.