May 19, 2013
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Monday, November 05, 2012
We are only a week removed from the culmination of the 2012 postseason, and while the offseason is still in it's most nascent stages, it is never too early to look towards the upcoming season. Below is my preliminary—and incredibly early—look at the top 300 fantasy baseball players for the 2013 season. Players are ranked by their expected value in standard 5x5 Rotisserie leagues. The list is slanted slightly towards 12-team leagues, but the ordering would stray very little in any other format.
I have created my own regression-based projections for well over 300 players, looking at a profusion of peripheral data to arrive at projections that I feel are reasonable, break-even points for each player. Back in August, I outlined my personal method for valuing players, called 'roto points above average' (rPAA), a method that is both quantitative and objective (outlined here and here). I use the same methodology in these rankings, with the sole exception that I am using my own projections instead of projections generated by ZiPS, which were used in the August rankings.
Once all players have been projected, positional adjustments are then made to account for dearth and abundance. Once this is completed, the values are set and a rough outline is created. My rankings do not reflect the precise ordering of players by projected roto point total, as my own subjectivity does move players up or down when the difference between them is merely fractions of a point.
Understanding my personal biases
I tended to rank catchers, starting pitchers and relief pitchers slightly lower than where their projected roto point total suggested they should go. This is because these positions usually have less certainty with regards to health, and because the surface numbers of pitchers (ERA, WHIP, wins and saves) are more vulnerable to wild fluctuations due to random variation or team context rather than skill elevation or degradation. And with closers, roles are in constant flux, making values extremely mercurial, rendering closers more replaceable with shrewd waiver-wire manipulation.
Remember that while these rankings are reasoned and were contrived deliberately, I cannot claim to have dissected every player profile with a surgeon's precision. In the coming months, I will delve deeper into plate discipline statistics, pitch-f/x data, and more individualized qualitative analysis. And, as always, roster moves, playing time expectations, closer roles, and injury status will become more salient in the coming months, inevitably affecting subsequent rankings.
I will update this list periodically throughout the offseason, but for now this is what my initial top 300 for 2013 looks like. Comments, critique, suggestions and questions are welcome.
Posted by Jesse Sakstrup at 5:02am (13) Comments
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I must confess. Despite posturing as a league design guru, I hadn’t actually participated in a league with weekly (as opposed to daily) roster rotation until last year. This wasn’t because of lack of exposure or opportunity. In fact, it was precisely the opposite. As somebody who considers league design the predominant dynamic influencing user experience, I had made a deliberate decision to avoid such leagues. After participating this past year in the THT-Fangraphs league, which used the weekly lineup setup, I realized my hunch was even more right on than I had anticipated.
Before voicing my displeasure with this format, let me first get a few disclaimers out of the way. This piece is not intended to knock those who enjoy the weekly transaction format, but rather to prepare those who use a daily format for how stark the effect on user experience and strategy is. This is also not intended to knock my colleagues who put together the league. Many of us play in many leagues and the thought behind the weekly transaction setting was to both simplify the league and control for individual owners’ ability to access the league. The intentions were noble and made sense on paper… though one key flaw undermined these intentions that we should have noticed.
More on that later.
The weekly transaction structure is significantly more limiting than I had expected. For one, while I figured there’d be some notable adjustment to roster setting decision criteria, such as two-start B-level pitchers vs. one-start A-level pitchers. I didn’t realize the extent to which it should actually impact roster construction.
For one, I like to use relievers heavily in my fantasy teams. I like to have a lot of closers and/or elite middle relievers. This is very difficult in a weekly lineup setting league because—obviously—you can’t remove your starting pitchers from your active lineup on the days they don’t pitch. This is actually one of my biggest philosophical gripes with the weekly transaction setup. The idea that you must, by design, keep a player active every day throughout the week, when that player—by the nature of his position—plays only once per five days seems somewhat outlandish. By the same token, the idea that you should sit players who can come into a game on any given day, to have the once-per-five-day player active seems a bit backwards as well.
Regardless of your feelings on the inherent logic of the league setup, what you are left with is a dynamic that prioritizes both a top-heavy starting staff and bullpen core. I had four closers for almost the whole season in a 12-team league, yet I was unable to amass a significant lead in saves because if I played more than two closers for more than a week here or there, I’d be buried in pitcher counting stats because I wouldn’t have enough active roster spots for my starters to amass enough innings to compete.
Having constructed my roster with a spread-the-value approach, the bench depth that was probably supposed to be sunk cost actually allowed me some able replacements when I got bombarded by the injury bug. Still, this was merely a happy accident. The stars and scrubs pitching line-up is the way to go in a weekly league. However, such an approach means you are inherently at the mercy of the injury gods. To me, this puts rational risk assessment across a portfolio at odds with the practical considerations of deploying those assets. This dynamic is off-putting to me.
The biggest gaffe in our design of this league, however, was that while lineup setting was weekly, players were not set to come off waivers at a uniform time. Therefore, if you wanted to monitor the free agent pool and ensure you had a chance to bid on every player dropped to waivers, you had to log in to the league almost daily anyway. This undermined the whole point of the “set it and forget it” ethos behind the original decision to move away from daily transactions. Therefore, users were left with the worst of both worlds.
Honestly, I don’t recall whether this was an oversight on our part when initially setting up the league or whether there were limitations in the Yahoo client that made us unable to track free agency pickups with the weekly rotations. Either way, I’m going to assume that if it happened to us, it’s happened to a lot of you at some point.
On the general spectrum of hands-off to micro-manager, I lean toward the latter. So, I knew I was going to dislike the weekly system. But, more than enabling a certain kind of managerial strategy, I’m a staunch advocate of freedom of choice. Simplifying the act of playing the game and reducing the “responsibilities” associated with fantasy baseball are not illogical goals, but when achieving them actually precludes managerial freedom to make use of well-established and common strategies in fantasy baseball, the cost outweighs the gain. Te game itself is not made different enough to warrant the effective preclusion of concepts as fundamental as maximizing at-bats or playing match-ups.
Some of you may wholeheartedly disagree with my take on weekly transaction leagues, but the main takeaway here shouldn’t be limited to the merits of a particular feature of league design. Rather, I’d like to stress two larger related points. One, trust both your gut and analytical skills when looking over the specs of a league you may be invited to join. If you think its design is either flawed or outside your preferences, it probably is. And, second, join only leagues that you are confident will yield a positive experience. League design is one aspect to consider when making that determination.
I am not suggesting the fantasy leaguers should cease trying new kinds of leagues and new formats. Variety is the spice of life. But, by understanding your own tastes and what makes a good user experience, you are better equipped to more wisely choose which new experiences to seek.