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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
So you have decided to become the commissioner of a fantasy sports league. Congratulations, that is very noble of you. But do you really know what you got yourself into? Are you truly prepared to handle the league’s administrative duties while also trying to lead your own team to victory? There are likely numerous aspects of being a league commissioner that have never crossed your mind. But fear not: The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is here to help guide you through the trials and tribulations of being a commissioner.
All guts, no glory
Do not kid yourself… there is nothing glamorous about being a league commissioner. You are not treated like a rock star and most likely none of your fellow league members will show you much, if any, appreciation for your efforts. It is a thankless job that, at the end of the day, will likely create more headaches for you than any feeling of satisfaction. This is not meant to deter you or imply that you are making a mistake. But you should be aware of the reality that comes along with owning this position.
In most instances, your decision to become the league commissioner indicates that no one else wanted to do it. Most people do not want the responsibility. But that is what sets you apart. Being a league commissioner requires several attributes that not everyone possesses. We will get more into that later, but be forewarned that the time and energy you will put into this job will go largely unnoticed. But that is okay because you didn’t take on this role to be a celebrity.
Be wary of who you let into the league
There are generally two types of leagues that require commissioners: public and private. Public leagues are usually composed of random people who do not know each other but wish to participate in the competition. Private leagues are usually people who know each other, or at least require an invitation from the commissioner. Public leagues are a whole other story, so for now we are going to focus solely on private leagues where the commissioner likely knows his league members.
It is a dangerous proposition to have more authority and power than friends, family, colleagues or casual acquaintances with whom you are in a league. You need to make sure your league is composed of people you can trust, who are reliable, and who have good reputations. If a friend recommends a new member you don’t know, you are well within your right to ask questions and get a better sense of who this person is.
Ideally you want your league to comprise people who are fiscally responsible and make their payments on time. They should be reliable in terms of attending and being prepared for the draft. They should be respectful and considerate of others by engaging in conversation and at least responding to trade inquiries or other questions from the commissioner and fellow league members. They should be competitive and honorable by ensuring that they play a legal lineup every week irrespective of their place in the standings. And you hope they are committed to the league in an effort to retain full membership year to year.
Put everything in writing
Being a commissioner requires you to communicate frequently and decisively with your league members. Whether you are trying to schedule the draft, amend a rule, fix an error, etc., you must be an effective communicator. The best way to do this is always in writing, using a medium that you know will be easily accessible by your league members. Many fantasy sites have message boards and other forums where league members can post comments or questions. But the reality is that many people do not read the league message board. It should not be assumed that messages posted there will be read or seen. Instead, you need to have a group email list where you can write to all league members and be able to confirm delivery and receipt. This gives you the knowledge that your message has been sent and received by everyone else.
The other reason to put everything in writing is for transparency. As commissioner, you don’t want to give anyone a reason to be skeptical of your integrity. So before you take any action that would affect the league overall, it is always best to convey your thoughts to everyone first and at least let the league know what you intend on doing.
Finally, the most important piece of writing you can have is a constitution, charter, or set of guidelines. Many league still do not operate under the guidance of a governing document. That is okay, but there should be a delineated set of rules that keeps league members on the same page and prevents any unfair advantages. Of course league commissioners are not expected to account for every possible scenario. But there should be written procedures in place to at least guide the commissioner and league members on how to handle an unforeseen predicament.
Get a secure piggy bank
Most fantasy leagues are played for money. Typically each league member pays an entry fee to the commissioner, who holds the cash until the end of the season for distribution. As we all know, the more money we come across, the more problems we see. Depending on how well people know you, there are certain to be those who are uneasy about giving you their money. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for rogue or unscrupulous commissioners to steal people’s money and not re-distribute winnings properly at the end of a season. That is why you must be extra careful with your league members’ money and keep it in a safe place, in full.
There are companies, such as LeagueSafe.com, which will hold everyone’s money securely and distribute the winnings for you. But if you want to keep control of the money yourself, just be careful not to spend it or lose it. At the end of the day, your league members are rightfully depending on you to allocate the winnings for the full and proper amount.
Think outside the proverbial box
There are a finite number of ways to customize a fantasy sports league. In recent years new companies have emerged offering different types of fantasy games, but most people still play standard rotisserie or head-to-head points leagues. But you can make things more fun by coming up with creative and innovative ways to maximize the experience. Whether it is adding different scoring categories, having a unique schedule, or offering daily or weekly prizes and incentives, the possibilities are many.
You need to ask yourself what you would consider fun and exciting if you were a member of someone else’s league. How can you create more drama and excitement while still maintaining the integrity of the league and the spirit of competition? Ask your league members for thoughts or suggestions, and tell everyone that you are open to new ideas. This will help keep the lines of communication open and demonstrate your willingness to listen to other perspectives.
Monarchy over democracy… to a point
Just as important as it is to let our league members know their opinions matter, you need to balance that with the necessity of maintaining control and authority over the whole thing. Of course you cannot be expected to know everything and always be right, but at least if it is only your decision that matters the league can function relatively smoothly.
The problem with having league votes on issues such as rule changes or trade approvals is that you could possibly get 10, 12, 14 or more different opinions. The fact is that league members have only their own agendas on their minds when being empowered with the ability to make crucial decisions. This does not give you carte blanche to run rampant over the league and break rules. Rather, it puts the most critical decisions and functions of the league in one person’s hands instead of 10 or more.
Trade disputes are some of the most common types of cases that get submitted to Fantasy Judgment. People dispute trades because someone else’s deal will negatively affect other teams, or those other teams are jealous that they didn’t make such a move. The point is that people cannot separate their own interest in a transaction from the overall best interests of the league. When people become owners of fantasy teams, they are entitled to manage their teams however they see fit within the confines of the rules. Allowing all league members to have a say in such activities severely inhibits fantasy owners’ abilities to make such moves.
But what will really set you apart as a great commissioner is if you can avoid conflicts of interest. Yes, you have the right to manage your own team and strive to success just like everyone else. But if you find your own team embroiled in an issue that you have the power to rule on, then you must take a step back and recuse yourself. Regardless of whether your decision is correct or fair, there is an appearance of impropriety if you make a decision that has some direct impact on your own team. The best way to avoid this situation is to ask yourself “How would my decision appear to everyone else?”
It’s a 24/7/365 job
There really is no such thing as a fantasy sports offseason anymore. With so many keeper or dynasty leagues, people are making trades and roster moves all year long. Even redraft leagues have lots of activity going on, including draft positions, rule changes, and preparations for the upcoming season. As commissioner, you must be readily available at any time to answer questions or resolve conflicts. That doesn’t mean you cannot go on vacation. But you should have a co-commissioner, a first mate, or a vice-president on board to help with some of the burden. By having someone alongside, you have a decision-maker who can approve or reject any trades made the commissioner. This balance of power is another demonstration of how fair and transparent you are.
Rules of engagement
Each fantasy league has different rules. Commissioners are free to choose what they want to include in their league’s rules, but some universal principles should apply to all leagues th atseek to maintain order and integrity, such as preventing teams mathematically eliminated from the playoffs from making trades or dumping players for the remainder of the regular season. Commissioners need to be specific and explicit when writing their rules so that it is clear to all league members what the rule actually is. For example, if a commissioner employs a penalty for having an illegal lineup or roster, it should be clearly defined what makes a lineup or roster illegal. Take a step back and objectively consider whether the rules you have written are clear and unambiguous. If you sense any gray area, then revise them.
This list is not exhaustive and is meant to provide a framework for you to work with as you take on the responsibilities of being a fantasy league commissioner. If it sounds like a lot of work, that is because it is. But it is well worth the effort because you can help make yours and everyone else’s fantasy experiences the most fun and competitive it can be.
Posted by Michael Stein at 3:51am (1) Comments
Thursday, December 13, 2012
With Winter Meetings in the rearview mirror, the free agent and trade carousels are in motion. At this point, I’d like to take a moment to review some of the players changing teams and speculate on how the move will impact their fantasy stock for 2013.
Michael Young to the Phillies.
Young has always been a bit better as a fantasy asset than a real player. Add a reluctance to walk to very good contact skills, throw in varied positional eligibility, and an attractive home park and line-up, and you have quite the fantasy player. In a great season, Young is a four-category contributor, and in merely a good season he is quite valuable in three categories. The problem is that last year he was pretty bad overall (78 OPS+).
I expect a bit of a bounce back. After all, some added stability regarding his role can only help things and he’s merely one year removed from one of the best seasons of his career. Young leaves one of the best home parks and possibly the game’s best line-up, but inherits hitter-friendly confines and a capable cast of bats. Circumstantially, he takes a small step backward, but on mere regression, he should outproduce 2012.
The one cause for concern with a player like Young is that it seems that when players with poor plate discipline lose it, they seem to drop precipitously. Presumably, it takes more skill or athleticism, so to speak, to continue succeeding with bad discipline. I compare it to a basketball player who takes a lot of high degree of difficulty shots. As age catches up to you, you need to find a way to succeed with less stress if you want to maintain production.
Still, positional versatility is an underrated attribute to a player’s fantasy value. At a modest investment, Young could prove a nice value pick next year.
Zack Greinke to the Dodgers
He had the best season of his career with the Royals, but Greinke’s keeper owners have to be glad to see him head back to the NL. Personally, I think this move can only help Greinke. While there may be concern about his anxiety issues and the huge market that is Los Angeles, those Dodgers fans are not the bloodthirsty brand known to inhabit the Eastern cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. If you are a pitcher, the NL West is where you want to be.
I’m an unabashed Greinke supporter and feel he has top-five pitcher potential each year, though you normally only have to pay for top 15-20 talent. Compared to players like C.J. Wilson, the upside of a Greinke is higher at a similar price. If the price stays the same as it has the past two years, I’ll probably try my luck again.
James Shields to the Royals.
Some might be down on the stock of Big Game James after this move, but I think that notion is rooted in the foolhardy temptation to chase wins. Nothing warps a clear-minded view of starting pitcher value than win-chasing. A team’s overall record is next to irrelevant to the ability of the starter to win games, as the team’s overall record includes the outcomes of all the games in which somebody was the starting pitcher.
One should not think about whether the Royals will contend, but rather whether they are good enough to win a high quality pitcher 15-pus games. The answer to that question is yes. The drop in quality of supporting cast will be mitigated by the move from baseball’s toughest division to its easiest.
Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli to the Red Sox
It’s almost impossible for an offensive player to head to Boston and not see an uptick in value. I’ve always been a big fan of the Flyin’ Hawaiian as a fantasy player and I think this move could return him to second-outfielder level value.
Meanwhile, Napoli departs the hitter’s haven of Arlington, but is a streaky, right-handed power bat. In Boston, that’s a good thing. Napoli is the type of player who can win weeks for you and that capability will only be enhanced in Bean Town. If he’s able to remain healthy, Napoli could also be in line for his second highest career AB total.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Napoli emerged as one of the first buy low candidates of 2013. With more attention on him than ever before, a bad start to the season (by a player who seems prone to peaks and valleys) could bring for a surge of “he’s a bust” coverage by a Boston media core that revels in failure as much as success, leading to more novice owners itching to cut bait.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:09am (1) Comments
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Carlos Santana, entering his fourth season in the majors, has seemingly been a sleeper forever. It’s been said a lot before, but I have a strong feeling this will be the last time.
Santana is starting to feel a little bit like the catching version of Ricky Nolasco (all potential, no results). His career batting average in his 344 game major league career is .247. His career high batting average was .260 (back in 2010). He is slow on his feet (2.6 speed score last season), and hits the ball on the ground more often that he hits fly balls. Further, although he has a very respectable 51 career home runs in less than 1,500 major league plate appearances, Santana saw his power stroke drop significantly last year (.050 ISO differential).
However, these knocks are superfluous. Santana has made strides in his game over his major league tenure that make him look more like a player in the mold of 2008/2010 Geovany Soto than the 2009/2011/2012 Soto.
For starters, Santana has consistently maintained one of his key assets at an elite level, his plate discipline. Just over 15 percent of his trips to the plate in the major leagues have resulted in a free pass. Thus, despite posting a career batting average south of the .250 mark, his career on-base percentage is north of .360. Only three players drew more walks than Santana's 91 last year: Adam Dunn (105), Ben Zobrist (95) and Dan Uggla (93). Each of those played 150 or more games in 2012. Santana played in 142. For his two-plus years of major league service, Santana has walked 15.4 percent of the time. Over the past three years, the only major league players to draw a greater percentage of walks are Jose Bautista, Joey Votto, Lance Berkman and Daric Barton. Not even Kevin Youkilis, the Greek god of walks, drew free passes 15 percent of the time in any single season of his career.
Santana’s plate discipline skills and pitch recognition talent as a catcher have developed in a way that should manifest in ways outside on-base prowess. In 2012, Black Magic Woman swung more often than in 2011, but at pitches in the zone. At the same time, while remaining selective with bad pitches, he made contact more often with pitches outside of the zone.
The results have been apparent in his process-based metrics, although not in his results. Santana saw his line-drive rate jump to league average rates last season, while his popup rate fell at an even faster rate. His walk rate remained consistent, while his strikeout rate fell nearly four percentage points. A 16.6 percent strikeout rate is respectable for any player; for a power hitter, it is rare. Santana has shown the ability to handle almost every pitch except the slider. For whatever reason, his other weak pitch last year was the fastball. Santana has shown the talent to absolutely crush fastballs in both the major and minor leagues. Assuming health, I am not worried about the young power hitter (his power graded as a 65-70 on the 20-80 scale, if memory serves) handling fastballs in 2013.
Santana sees a first-pitch strike barely half the time, and only 45 percent of all pitches thrown to him last season were actually strikes last year. As pitchers become increasingly aware they need to throw Santana strikes if they want to keep him off the bases, and as Santana gets more chances at quality pitches, things should turn around. This is particularly true as pitchers fall behind in the count on him and need to lean on their fastball.
By my calculations, and based on his approach at the plate, Santana should have posted a batting average in the upper .270s last year. Even with depressed power, he should have pushed an .810+ OPS. Santana is not going to win a batting title any time soon, and he’s not a player in the mold of Joey Votto, but in the upper minors Santana hit .296 over 189 games between the ages of 22 and 24. His major league equivalent batting averages between 2008 and 2010 were .287, .258 and .273. Over that span, his respective MLE wOBAs were .375, .367 and .392.
Santana's career trajectory has been an odd one. A freak knee injury ended his rookie season prematurely. A concussion likely stunted him last year. While David Wright is a testament to the risks and effects of a concussion on a promising young player's career, Santana finished the second half of 2012 strong. His power numbers in July and September were in line with expectations, and he walked (49) more often that he struck out (43) over the season's final three months.
There is no such thing as a "sure thing" in baseball, and Santana is certainly a name that carries some amount of brand recognition for a player who's never cracked the top 150 in a given season. However, if I were a betting man, I'd put plenty of chips on Santana being one of the better value picks of 2013, even if he costs you double-digit draft dollars.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 11:03pm (8) Comments
Friday, December 28, 2012
Today, we’ll look at a few more players who will be donning new laundry in 2013 and ask whether their value will be bolstered or diminished as a result of their new surroundings.
Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays
This move has to be a positive for Reyes, if for no other reason than addition by subtraction. As many fantasy-relevant players who can extricate themselves from the Miami Marlins mess, the better.
Reyes moves to a more offensive-friendly division, which will help him; 18 games on the basepaths against the Red Sox catching corps is a boon unto itself. Additionally, the mere presence of a DH helps players like Reyes appreciably. The speedy leadoff man is the type who accumulates value by volume of opportunity. Given enough plate appearances, Reyes will grind out those runs and stolen bases that return big value, while adding weight to a plus- to heavily-plus batting average.
It will be interesting to see where Reyes starts to settle in during preseason mock drafts (he sits at an ADP of 36 right now, which I think is about right). He’s coming off a disappointing season (though it wasn’t as bad as you might think it was), but is now central to the new Toronto Blue Jays hype. I think the Toronto offense actually has a lot of question marks. A vintage Reyes season would be tremendously valuable toward erasing them.
R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays
Dickey’s story is one that proves truth is stranger than fiction. And, frankly, I’m a believer. The great thing about Dickey, from the perspective of somebody looking for potential value, is that he’s essentially a unique profile in the history of the game. For a top-flight pitcher, he’s old calendar-wise, but he hasn’t racked up the number of innings most pitchers his age have. He’s a knuckleballer, which further complicates the question about the age of his arm. But, he throws the knuckler harder than just about anybody before him, making him even unique among knuckleballers. So, there certainly could be room for those with an opinion on Dickey to either get value or let a fellow owner crap out.
Current ADP rankings have Dickey going 55th, the 13th overall pitcher off the board. There aren’t too many pitchers ranked behind him who I’d prefer, so this seems pretty reasonable to me. I would expect that a move to the AL East and out of Citi Field will hurt his numbers a bit, but I still expect a workhorse type season with good rates and nice strikeout numbers.
Whatever progress the NL may have been slowly making on figuring Dickey out last year will be irrelevant, as he inherits a league of relative noobs.
I believe in Dickey are therefore treat him essentially the same as any other ace pitcher moving from a pitcher-friendly NL park to the war zone that is the AL East.
A.J. Pierzynski to the Rangers
The polarizing Pierzynski is a 35-year-old catcher coming off a career year. This is not generally the recipe of a player fantasy experts make their hay touting. Mitigating his age and the fact that his stellar 2012 was preceded by pedestrian-at-best 2010 and 2011 seasons is the fact that Pierzynski moves to the hitters' haven that is Texas (though Chicago itself is quite generous) and inherits a superior line-up. Pierzynski is a safe pick as a non glamorous back-end 12-14 team league starter, or an absolute stud second catcher. There’s a little upside there as well.
Strategically speaking, most roster-able catchers outside the top few offer some power upside while hurting you in average. Pierzynski is cut in the opposite mold. A full time catcher with career .284 batting average is more valuable than many may think. Those who like to gobble up earlier-round power threats with batting average liability like Jay Bruce, and who are left looking for cheap average-helpers late in the draft, might consider targeting Pierzynski.
Josh Hamilton to the Angels
I guess we have to touch on Josh Hamilton here, but to be honest, his entry is among the least interesting of those who have changed teams this offseason. Simply, superstars are less impacted by the kinds of variables that come with changing teams than anybody else. Hamilton leaves a launching pad of a home park, but inherits a line-up that already boasts two of the best offensive players in the game. He also stays in the same division, so intra-division road park issues remain fairly steady.
I don’t want Hamilton. I won’t be buying him in any auctions, and I’ll try to stay away from him in drafts. If I can’t find any hitters I really like when he’s left on the board, I might even just go with Justin Verlander instead. Hamilton is injury prone and his value is sky-high (ADP of 7). He also strikes me as the type of player who will lose it quickly when it does go. He’s so undisciplined and seems reliant on a few torrid hot streaks to fuel his gaudy production totals. I’d prefer to bet on an Albert Pujols rebirth, or on the balanced output of an Andrew McCutchen.