Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An In-Depth Look Into the A's Rotation

For A's fans coming into the 2008 season, there was not much optimism. After the trades of Swisher and Haren, the season was supposed to be sacrificed for the future. The few hopes for A's fans came from Rich Harden healthy enough to start the season (once again), Eric Chavez supposed good recovery and quick return, and Justin Duchscherer joining the rotation. If you told these same fans that Harden and Duchscherer would go on the DL early and Chavy would be nowhere near returning, (he's currently on the 60 day DL) they would be sure the team was struggling mightily.

However this is not the case as the A's sit at 17-10, giving them the best record in the AL. Their offense could be called at best "sufficient" since it has been around the league average in hitting and it not the reason for the team's success. Rather the A's dominance has come from their rather dominant pitching, which currently owns a league-best 3.14 era. So if the pitching has not come from Harden, Duchscherer, or projected "ace" Joe Blanton, (4.07 era thus far) who has came through?

Names I'll throw out now are Andrew Brown (15 IP 0.00 ERA) Santiago Casilla (13.1 IP 0.00 ERA) Dana Eveland (29 IP 2.48 ERA) Chad Gaudin (30 IP 3.00 ERA) and Greg Smith (25 IP 2.88 ERA). I will take a closer look at these five players in the upcoming days and determine if they are legitimate MLB pitchers or just "fakers" pretending to be for the month of April.

I'm not going to discuss these pitchers tonight, but rather the method I will be using to evaluate them. It was proven that pitchers have little control over balls in play, and only control strikeouts, walks, home runs, and to a lesser extent extra-basehits and flyball/groundball ratio. (for a nice, short paragraph explaining what I'm saying, click here) Keeping that in mind, to evaluate the pitchers I will only look at BB%, K%, HR/FB%, FB/GB%, and stats like FIP that are luck-independent pitching statistics by definition.

So maybe tomorrow or sometime in the next few days look forward to my analysis. Since a few of the pitchers are rookies (Smith and Eveland) and almost all have limited major league experience, minor league stats will be necessary

Lastly I should note that Harden, Duchscherer, Joey Devine, and Keith Foulke have a combined 1.70 ERA in 37.1 innings, which definitely factors into the 3.14 team ERA, although none pitched enough innings individually to be included. Also Blanton's 4.07 ERA was achieved over 48.2 IP, and his inning-eating ability has definitely helped the team. I was not taking a shot at him earlier, he just hasn't exceeded expectations.



Sunday, April 27, 2008

Closer's Songs - What They Enter To

Ever since Yankees closer Sparky Lyle entered games to "Pomp and Circumstance" most closers choose a song they enter games to. For Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner it's "Enter Sandman", for Trevor Hoffman it's "Hells Bells", and for Eric Gagne it's "Welcome To the Jungle". Frankly, in my opinion, these songs suck.

If I were the closer for an MLB team I would enter into the aptly named "Closing Time" by Semisonic. It starts out slow and mysteriously enough to give fans the feeling of anticipation. Then you would burst out of the bullpen right as the edgy chorus begins. The scene would be perfect; perhaps even better with some sparks or fireworks or something else of the sort.

Lyrics to Closing Time can be found here.

Anyway I've given up my dream of becoming a professional baseball player, so my new dream is for a MLB closer to decide to make "Closing Time" their entering song after viewing my blog.

If anyone has a suggestion of a song they think would make a good closer song, or wants to share their favorite current closer's song, feel free to post it as a comment.



Friday, April 25, 2008

The Little Known Rule of Service Time

I'm always amazed at how many people can enjoy baseball without knowing a rule as important as service time. The rule almost single-handedly is the reason baseball has parity without a salary cap. Compared to revenue sharing, the service time rule does a lot more for small-market teams to help them be competitive.

Service time basically allows a team to keep a player for 6 years before they can become a free-agent. Not only does the team get to keep the player, but they get to keep him for a low salary as well. For the first 3 years of non free agent eligibility, the team can pay the player the league minimum regardless of player performance. However after 3 years, the player is eligible for arbitration, a process started in 1973.

Arbitration is a process in which the player and the team both submit a proposed salary to an arbiter, who then decides which salary is more fair based on the relative salaries of other players with similar experience and statistics. Whew. That's a long sentence, re-read it if you have to. Salaries awarded in arbitration are usually very team favored, although Ryan Howard was awarded a ridiculous 10 mil when he beat the Phillies in arbitration this year. In 2006 Alfonso Soriano was awarded 10 mil, and this year K-Rod lost in arbitration but gets a cool 10 mil as well, he was pushing for 12.5 million. So far no one has broken the 10 million mark in arbitration, but obviously it’s bound to happen sometime soon though probably not in the next 2 years.

As you can see from the chart (which i got from Dave Studeman's article on arbitration at the Hardball Times) the average player receives a relatively low salary from arbitration, although like the Earth's temperature, the salaries are rapidly increasing.

Hanley Ramirez will enter arbitration this offseason, and if he gets awarded 10 million in the process, that's ridiculous for the Marlins considering that is half their whole team's salary! (its $ 21,811,500) The awardings in arbitration must be capped somewhere because any higher than 10 million and were talking free agent money. Give those small market teams a break.
After those 3 arbitration years, a player is finally ready to head into free-agency. If you think about it, a player has his salary artificially deflated for his first 6 years in the majors. After those 6 years, what player wouldn't let loose and just take the highest offer. People are always yelling, "Players are so greedy, why wouldn't they take a lower offer and stay with a team that's be so good to them!?!" The reason is they have worked their ass off for the past 6 years and now, finally, they can enjoy the fruits of their success. Doesn't sound so greedy when you think about it from that perspective does it?
The last thing I'm going to take about is long-term contracts before a player is free agent eligible. Why would a team do this when they can just have a nice low 1-year contract with the player. Signing them long-term is risky since, well most of these younger players can be unproven, and any player is always just one injury away from a derailed career. Then the team is stuck with that contract for the next 2-3-4-5-6 years, however long it is. The reason is for the team to be able to keep the player on a relatively low contract for the first one or two years of their free agent eligibility. So when the Rockies sign Troy Tulowitzki to a 6 year 31 mil contract, and you say "5 million a year for such a talented young player!" Understand that the Rockies are playing Tulowitzki more than they have to for the next 5 years, while saving themselves some cash during the first 2 years of his free agent eligibility while he's under contract.
That's it! I hope you now know more about the rules of MLB, maybe I'll make a few more posts like these. I did write one earlier on players to be named later if you missed it click on the link. The service time of every major leaguer can conveniently be found at Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Enjoy the season!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Next Billy Beane

Today I was watching the Mets-Brewers game and something seemingly insignificant caught my attention. The Brewers sent up Hernan Iribarren to the plate, it was his first major league at bat, and the first pitch Hernan sees he smacks up the middle for a single. Almost comically, Mets pitcher Carlos Muniz abruptly picked off poor Hernan Iribarren at first base. The announcers and everyone watching were all laughing "Haha, that sucks!" however I realized the deep implications of the pick-off.

At that moment, Hernan's career as a baseball player was ruined but also simultaneously a different and exciting was destined. He will one day become the GM of a baseball team and be very very successful. Why is this? Simply because the exact same thing happened to Billy Beane as a player. On page 49 of the infamous book Moneyball by Michael Lewis it is stated, "Billy got his first big league hit off Jerry Koosman─who immediately picked him off first base. It was funny; it was also sad." Billy went on to have a terrible career, which led to him choosing the path of baseball executive over player.

I'm not sure if anybody else has been picked off first base on their first major league hit, I don't feel like finding out. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened to a few others, but not more than 2 or 3.

Anyway, if this Hernan Iribarren guy becomes the next Billy Beane, you can call me God. Of course that wouldn't happen until around 10-15 years or so, and we'll all forget by then, but I'm making my prediction nevertheless.



Fun With Batting Average Download

Yesterday Derek Carty made available for download a spreadsheet function that allows you to adjust the At bats, contact rate, HR/FB%, FB%, and BABIP of a hitter to determine what their batting average should be. Hopefully you know that certain meters such as contact rate and BABIP are better indicators of a player's future batting average than batting average itself.

This tool can prove very useful, especially in the beginning of the season, in showing whether a players performance is due more to skill or luck. Click here to see the article and at the bottom Carty has the link to click for download.

You can either play around typing in fake numbers, which is actually useful because it allows you to see which indicating stats have a greater affect on batting average than others. Or, you can type in a player's real contact rate, HR/FB%, etc. to determine what his batting average should be, and compare it to his current actual one. Those stats can be found at Fangraphs, or The Hardball Times.



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rich Harden Goes On the DL

I'm sure you've heard that before. The injury (biceps tendinitis) is minor, and he should be back in the minimum (15 days) time, but don't expect this to be his last trip to the DL this season. He's phenomenal enough when he plays that's its worth it to keep him, but expect every start to possibly be his last. If he goes around 3-4 weeks of great pitching, consider trading him before he gets hurt again, which is an inevitable.



P.S. Sorry for the lack of updating, very busy right now, and by busy I don't mean lazy, I do mean busy. Starting April 18 I will be posting 3-4-5 times a week again. So I'll forewarn all of my "regulars" you don't have to check everyday for the next week. But after that, I see some clouds on the horizon which means I'll be raining (possibly typhooning) the good info. That's possibly the corniest joke but perhaps you cracked a smirk.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Moving Away From 5X5

Most of the leagues I participate in are actually not your standard 5 X 5 roto leagues. My ideal scoring system would be a rotisserie regular season with a H2H playoffs, but since that's not offered on Yahoo, I opt for H2H because it honestly is much more exciting. I also make sure there is a high minimum innings pitched (discussed in a recent article) and if there isn't, I make sure to take advantage of it. Still those are not the two things I find most annoying about "standard" leagues.

I hate the 5 hitting categories. They tell you nothing of how your team performed. If you see this stat line,

1/4H/AB 1R 0HR 1RBI 0SB .250 AVG

you know absolutely nothing about the game! Perhaps the player got a a double for his hit, maybe he walked in the 3rd and got the run and later got the rbi on a sac fly. This completely changes how well the player played.

There is no easy way to fix this, but one stat that is a great addition is total bases. Total bases are basically slugging percentage without dividing the slugging by at bats. The simple formula is:

(Singles * 1) + (Doubles * 2) + (Triples * 3) + (Homeruns * 4) = TB

Now at least players who hit doubles do get extra value instead of just the higher chance of getting an rbi or run for their hit. Also, as simple as total bases is, players ranked highly by more advanced statistics tend to be ranked similarly by their amount of total bases.

You can't have a 6X5 so now you must add another pitching category. My favorites are either K/BB or holds. I'd opt with holds because it just adds another interesting dimension to the relief pitcher market, and relievers are becoming more valued in MLB baseball every year.

Total bases isn't perfect, yet since fantasy baseball still remains discouragingly tied to traditional statistics, it will suffice for current seasons. I do hope however that in the coming seasons the large fantasy baseball providers will allow you to choose more advanced statistics. For now, we wait.



Thursday, April 3, 2008

To Sit, Or Not To Sit

To sit, or not to sit... I will answer that question.

Once the baseball season begins, one of the most frustrating things from a fantasy standpoint is deciding who starts or sits for the current day.

When it comes to hitters, I have much less to think about than the average fantasy player. That's because most people have around 2-4 bench hitters. I have 1 to 2 tops on my teams. This is because bench hitter's serve no purpose except keeping your fantasy bench warm I guess. If you followed my draft strategy (obviously in the archives now) which was to go hitter heavy, your lineup should not consist of anyone close to the backup level. This means that my 1 or 2 bench guys are good but still significantly worse than anyone in my all-star lineup, thus pitching matchups (meaning who the batter is facing that night) are less decisive than their difference in skill. Basically, I go with the same hitting lineup everyday with the exception of a weaker player facing a Johan Santana.

In order to save yourself some unwanted frustration, decide right now what players you will sit in what situations. For example, tell yourself you will sit your bottom 3 pitchers against the top 5 offenses, no exceptions allowed. (we will talk about exceptions later) This lets you avoid all crazy "what if" situations that will be running through you head the next day.

Exceptions time. Please note an acceptable exception cannot be, "I just have one of those feelings Dave Bush will shut down the Phillies today, he always pitches great on 3rd Wednesdays of the month when the humidity is 58 percent." Those types of things shouldn't be taken into account if you have a life. My exceptions are very easy and logical. . .

There are two main exceptions actually, the first being changed expectations. For instance if you were lucky enough to draft...ehrm... Dan Haren last year, perhaps in the beginning of the season you were a little wary of starting him against dominant teams. However after a great first couple of months, its safe to say your expectations for him have changed, thus your start/sit rules for him must change as well. I think you can understand how that would work this year without me having to give an example.

The other exception occurs in Head-to-Head leagues under specific conditions. Let's say your pitching has been good for the past week and you are dominating wins and K's, and are barely winning in ERA and WHIP. The day is Sunday, and you have Dustin McGowan starting against the Pirates, and your opponent has no starters starting. Normally you would start Dustin "Sideburns" McGowan against the lowly Pirates, but since this situation is special you do not. Pitching him would risk you losing Era and Whip,while virtually having no upside, except for confidence from dominance, which really doesn't help you unless your the kind who likes to brag. Just keep McGowan on the bench, nothing to sophisticated going on here.

Basically, don't decide on some weird gut emotion you have to start or sit one of your lesser pitchers against a dominant offense, rather make firm preset rules and stick to them unless one of the exception situations apply.

In the meantime, enjoy the season and make sure to not be that one asshole in every league that doesn't follow.



Update: If you visit your Yahoo league today, you'll see this message across the top of your league page:

Matchup Ratings: All players now have 5-star ratings and a detailed note from the experts at Inside Edge, a leading professional scouting service. View these ratings on your team page Research tab, or in the News & Expert Advice section.

I checked the "5-Star Rating" for my players, and found it very arbitrary. I tried to find the "detailed note" to see what their ratings were based on and couldn't find them. Right now I don't think the rating system should be taken into account.

Update 2: This has nothing to do with the Yahoo update above, but this is just a note I forgot to include in the article. It has been proven, although I don't have the exact percentages and such, it was proven that players coming off a bad game or start have a higher chance of doing bad their next game or start. This means that if one of your pitchers has had a 9 Era over their past 2 starts, do not think they "are due" for a good game. Players are naturally streaky, so ride out those hot streaks and try to limit their cold ones. No player is ever due for anything, just keep that in mind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Min/Max Innings Pitched Limits

Almost every league you will be in this year will have a poorly set minimum innings pitched limit, which you the savvy player can take fair advantage of.

If the minimum innings pitched limit in your league is set too low (esp in H2H leagues) my strategy is to draft one elite pitcher in round 3, 4, or 5, and then one more pitcher in either rounds 8, 9, or 10. After that, your done with Sp and from there just draft the best middle relievers (Broxton, Betancourt, Pena, Okajima, Bell, plus a few others). Your pitching staff will only be comprised of those 2 Sp's and Mr's. It will look something like Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, and then any combination of at least 2-3 of the middle relievers I listed above. Your era and whip will be sick. Your welcome.

A limit I consider low is anywhere from no minimum up to about 20 a week. With the strategy mentioned above, you should definitely win era and whip most weeks while most likely losing wins, k's, and saves. If your league has a stat like k:bb, or k/9 , this strategy works even better because you'll most likely take that as well. Since you've made a small investment on pitching, your hitting should be good enough to net you at least 3 categories a week. If you take 4 of them, good job, you've won that week.

In a league where the min is set relatively high (Notice how I said relatively high instead of too high. That is because I believe in high minimum innings pitched limits) you should value pitchers more in your draft. If you've read my other articles on drafting strategy, you'll know I don't value pitching very high. In fact, in most of my leagues my first pitcher taken was Rich Hill somewhere in the low double-digit rounds. So when I say "I will value pitching more," that does not mean take Santana or Peavy. It just means be more aware that you must actually build a staff of quality pitchers. Rich Hill might still be my first pitcher taken, but I'll make sure to take guys like Ian Snell, McGowan, Shields, Vazquez, Cain, Lilly, Billingsley, and Wainwright in the following rounds.

Personally, I feel maximum innings pitched limits are unnecessary. Pitching is already devalued in leagues, so why devalue it more by placing a max limit? There are so many pitchers, that if you force teams to only play 2-3, you'll end up in a league with Zack Greinke and Jeff Francis on the f/a market. Stupid.

I will admit there is a purpose to max innings pitched limits, and that is to prevent people from "streaming" pitchers. For those who don't know, streaming involves adding pitchers that are pitching that day and then dropping them the next day for whoever is pitching then. The skill of the pitcher doesn't matter because the strategy is to just to compile as many wins and k's as possible, while bombing Era and Whip. This strategy lets you almost split the pitching categories without having to invest in pitching at all. In order to prevent streaming in your league either place a moves limit, or simply make a "gentleman's agreement" with the people in your league not to stream. Problem solved! Once again there is no reason for a max innings limit so forget about them.

If you can tell by what I've said so far, I feel a good min innings limit is anywhere from 35-50. The higher the limit, the more you should value pitching.

Also, just because you've already had your draft doesn't mean this doesn't apply to you. If you check your settings and see your league has a 15 min innings pitched limit and you own Beckett, Verlander, Haren, and King Felix, then go trade 2 or 3 of them to bolster your hitting knowing that your pitching will hold its own.

Don't forget to leave your comments!



Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sleeper Alert: Jason Giambi

Jason Giambi may be owned in your league or he may not. Whatever the case may be, he should be on your radar. Last year his season was ruined by injuries and that may happen again this year, but so far he feels and great and is hitting great. He finished the spring with a .413 batting average and 2 home runs.

When aging sluggers decline in power, you normally see their peripheral stats decrease as well. His line drive percentage has decreased since his monster years, but 16.5% is still respectable. He's still drawing walks at a great pace, and his slugging percentage should come back to his career level of .536 with his good health. He's obviously batting in a great lineup so runs and rbi's should approach the century mark as long as he gets regular playing time.

Playing time could be an issue with Giambi considering the Yankees want to give Shelly Duncan and Wilson Betemit some at bats. Either way I believe Giambi will get plenty of at bats and it won't be issue since reports are that he's playing a good 1st base.

There's obviously a chance that at 37 years old Giambi just won't have enough left to play well for a full season, but considering the cheap price you can get him at, I think he's worth the risk. The high reward is definitely there for a season with a .260-.270 ba, .410-.430 obp, 30 homers, 85 runs, 110 rbi's, and the ever important 1 stolen base.

Giambi is not a guy like Delgado whose age has caught up to him. Right now all the indicators are present that Giambi will rebound this year. If he is on the f/a market, take a chance and add him if you've got somebody you feel comfortable dropping. If he's on the bench of another team, then offer them something small for him like a average pitcher and see if you can acquire him that way. Giambi doesn't have to be your starting 1st baseman now, but by the end of the season when you've won your league, you just might find him there.



March Madness!!!

Let the [real] season begin!!!

No, I'm not talking about a college basketball tournament where thousands of people lose millions of dollars, but rather Major League Baseball where millions of people enjoy thousands of games. (2,430 to be exact)

My real reason for this post was just to see how many people come to my site looking for college basketball info, only to be disappointed and leave. Sorry if your one of them.



Update: I participated in a bracket this year and came in 2nd, which netted me $25 so March Madness is acceptable, as a long as I win.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yahoo Makes Itself Useful

For almost every fantasy baseball league I've been in, I've used Yahoo and its worked out fine. Yea sure, there are definitely some things I would change about the Yahoo system, but overall I'm satisfied.

When it came to Yahoo's fantasy advice however , mostly from Funston, Evans, Buser, and Behrens, I wasn't satisfied.

Big Board is completely useless; a listing of his top 50/100 players does not help me win a fantasy league. Sometimes I'll just read the sounding board because it can be amusing.

Evans and Behrens will occasionally write an interesting article, however usually they are simply average.

Buser is the one Yahoo expert I like. His two articles
Law of Averages, and Law of Average Part II are extremely interesting and you should definitely take a look.

Anyway the reason I'm writing this article is to let you know that the Yahoo staff has just made itself useful in my opinion by releasing a couple of nifty spreadsheets containing every players' stats. It's not a list of ERA, or batting average, but rather more of the skill indicator stats like Babip, LD%, etc.

Click here for the pitcher's spreadsheet

Click here for the hitter's spreadsheet

If you don't know some of the stats, refer to their
glossary page.

Enjoy the season,


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

And You Thought A-Rod Was Paid Too Much

All you ever hear regarding salaries goes something like this, "Player's are sooo overpaid!". That is true, the salaries of some players (ehem A-Rod) can be disheartening to some. However no one, or at least very few people talk about the exorbitant salary of these people. It's not the managers, scouts, team executives, or the cotton candy vendor that is overpaid, but rather the always impressive, Bud Selig. The man made an astounding 15.05 million dollars last year.

Well I did some research and found out that although Selig does make more than the other major sport commissioners, its not that much more. NFL commish Roger Goodell's annual salary is $11.2 million, and NBA commish David Stern makes around $10 mil; they're overpaid too.

Still last year MLB paid $85.1 million to its 236 employees. Perhaps that money could go some place else besides the pockets of people whose job it is to ignore steroids and schedule games at inconvenient hours in Japan.

Let the players make as much money as they can; they're the ones putting their bodies at risk on the field every day. I'd rather see them make millions of dollars than Bud Selig.

Just for fun I typed Bud Selig's name into an
anagram generator just to find out if there are any clever re-letterings of his name. Unfortunately the best 3 were: Digs Lube, Bugs Lied, and Big Duels. Nothing too insightful, unless he digs lube in which case I'm a genius.

The contracts of every baseball player and executive can be conveniently found at
Cot's Baseball Contracts.



Monday, March 24, 2008

You Just Might Thank Me Later

If your fantasy baseball league has multiple DL spots, pay close attention to these specific instructions:

Step 1) Go to your league's home and click on the 'Player' tab (assuming your using Yahoo)

Step 2) Search these exact letters in the search box: 'Gonzalez' (w/o the quotes)

Step 3) scan the list of results and find a Mike Gonzalez RP, ATL

Step 4) If player (Mike Gonzalez) is currently unowned, then immediately add him to your roster.

Step 5) Drop your worst player, or your best player...it honestly won't matter

Step 6) Once returned to the 'My Team' page, add Mike Gonzalez to the DL.

Step 7) Now re-add the player you dropped to get Mike Gonzalez, or another player if you so choose

Step 8) All you have to do now, is wait!

I'm telling you to do this because right now the closer situation in Atlanta is a little messy. Current closer Rafael Soriano is dealing with a sore-elbow problem, and although he is ready to start the season, He's had issues with his elbow before evidently as he had Tommy John surgery back in 2004. So obviously this is a major concern for all Braves fans and Soriano owners.

Now the guy I told you to add, Mike Gonzalez, is actually currently recovering from Tommy John surgery himself, and is slated to return to the mound a little after the All-Star Break. But so what? since right now you've just stashed him on your roster for free!

There is a man named Peter Moylan, a man you should know something about since he had a pretty spectacular, yet under-the-radar season
last year. If Soriano goes out before Gonzalez can return, Moylan will become the closer. However, post All-Star Break if Rafael Soriano gets 'DL'ed, Gonzalez almost certainly will become the Braves closer. In other leagues, there will be a scramble for this guy, and only one will claim the prize. You however, will already have him on your roster and will be able to exclaim, "Haha, bitched you all!"

Of course there's a fair chance Soriano simply stays healthy, and Gonzalez becomes droppable when he returns. Well, then just shrug your shoulders and move one, cause you didn't pay nothing for 'em.



Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't Buy the Hype

Last year was a crazy year for rookies in baseball. A plethora of youngsters made the jump to the big leagues and performed well...almost too well. Hunter Pence, Ryan Braun, Dustin Pedroia, Joba Chamberlain, Yovani Gallardo, and Troy Tulowitzki all had impressive rookie campaigns. And so this year, not surprisingly, people are drafting rookies way too early. Let them draft their Evan Longorias (no relation to Eva), Jacoby Ellisburys, and Clay "Itchy" Buchholz because last year was simply fluky.

I'm not saying that the rookies of last year (Pence, Braun, etc.) had fluky seasons, as I am expecting similar production from many of them; however I am saying that the amount of first-timers that proved valuable last year was unusually high and this year's rookies won't compare. I'm also not saying avoid rookies at all costs because a few this year most likely will put up valuable numbers. If Evan Longoria falls to you in the 19th round, scoop him up, but don't take him in the 12th and expect him to be your primary 3rd baseman. It's simply too risky. Yes the reward is there, but I don't like finishing either last or first in every league I'm in. It also won't be a 50/50 first to last split, it will be more of a 92/8.

I'm sure everyone has heard the adage: a hitter's prime starts when he hits that 26/27 age mark, or has 3 years experience. Consider it good advice to draft players hitting their prime. The reward is still there and the floor isn't as low, or as in some rookie's cases, nonexistent.

So instead of drafting Longoria, take Kevin Kouzmanoff or Hank Blalock. Don't worry about Jacoby, take Pat Burrell or Nick Swisher. Screw Joey Votto and take Ryan Garko or Conor Jackson.

Here's a list of players I feel are primed to breakout:

Dustin McGowan
Ian Snell (kinda did last year, but still being drafted late)
Josh Hamilton
Kelly Johnson
Chris Duncan
Jhonny Peralta

Now here's some rookies I wouldn't take until very late:

Geovany Soto
Andy LaRoche
Jay Bruce
Colby Rasmus
Ian Kennedy

Now of course the fun part about avoiding rookies is that after they have dissapointing rookie seasons and decent sophmore ones, you get to draft them late for their breakout third season when your league-mates have already forgotten them and moved onto next year's class of rookies.

Lastly, if you are in a keeper league, ignore everything in this post.



Friday, March 21, 2008

An Interesting Blog

An MLB scout, Frankie Piliere, and his more sabermetric-minded friend, Kiley McDaniel, have started their own blog aptly named Saber-Scouting. On it they combine their mix of sabermetric and mechanical analysis to form interesting views on players. Definitely a site to check out.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

I Need A Tissue

I need a tissue because I have an issue...with fantasy baseball that is. All too often I get discouraged by the incredibly high amount of luck involved with fantasy baseball. Do you know how remarkably lucky you have to get to win a league? Well, I'm not here to give you some exact percentage, but I'm sure the number is higher than any competitive player would want it to be.

You spend hours upon hours reading all the articles you can find across the web, preparing cheat sheets and tiered rankings, and reading about some linear weights theory, which sounds good to you, although no site offers a spreadsheet of the statistic. So all of this research, all of the time you've put in, and you still find your fate tied to the fantasy gods. Doesn't sound like much fun does it?

Sure the educated do have an edge over the blind, but I find that edge discouragingly small. A regular fantasy player will beat an expert waaay too many times out of one-hundred. This is because we aren't drafting robots, we are drafting human beings that get injured, have slumps, and can sometimes outright suck. Some feel this is what gives the game its edge, however at the end of a season with a disappointing finish, sometimes one cannot help but feel like the game can be a waste of time.

I guess this is the case with many things in life...oh well. I like to think luck favors the prepared, so go read those articles, go fill out your rankings, and constantly check your league homepage because when you win that way, victory is that much sweeter.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jap Anus Relations

Astros 2nd basemen, Kaz Matsui will start the season on the DL. This really only applies to really deep leagues, where one might consider picking such a mediocre player. So what's ailing this import? According to Yahoo! sports it is this:

"Brian McTaggert, of the Houston Chronicle, reports Houston Astros 2B Kazuo Matsui (anus) is likely to begin the season on the disabled list."

Yes folks, its his anus. Hope it feels better soon, maybe some soothing lotion will help although I can't call myself an expert on the topic.

Lastly if you do not get my title, its from SNL's Celebrity Jeopardy. For the record I hate Saturday Night Live. Some things do get old.



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Draft Deals

To be honest, I'm not sure how widely known draft deals are, and if they are commonly used. In case they aren't well known, draft deals (at least that's what I call them) are an agreement between two players in a league who each agree not to take a player of the other's choice.


You: "I won't take Nick Swisher if you won't take Jeff Francouer"
Other: "deal"

So when the draft comes around, you know that Francouer won't be taken by the guy you made the deal with.

These deals should be made prior to the draft, and apply more to leagues where you and your close buddies are the managers. That probably makes this article irrelevant to. . . ehmm.. about, I don't know, about 50% of leagues. That's an arbitrary guess, but draft deals are quite underutilized in close-knit or returning leagues, where you know the types of players other managers tend to like (so I think, I've never been in a league with more than 3 of them).

Take advantage of a person's "man crush" player (Nick Swisher in my case). Tell them you won't pick "their guy" if they don't pick a player your targeting.

Time for the part of this article I've been waiting to share. . . this is definitely a strategy you've never heard of, and its something I've never tried, only thought of in theory. Hypothetically, although it would be difficult to pull off, you could make a draft deal with every manager in the league for the same player.

Let's say that player is Nick Markakis. So this means no one in your league except you is able to draft Nick Markakis. What do you do? You draft Nick the Stick in last round of your draft! Talk about getting value.

Of course the down side is that in a 12-team league there are 11 guys, probably of equal value to Markakis, that you won't be able to draft. However let's think about this, without doing this (almost impossible) strategy you'll get Markakis in the 4th round, and then your last round pick, whoever it may be. If you manage to employ the strategy however, you can draft a player equal to 5th round value in the fourth round, considering the 11 players you cannot draft are of 4th round value, and then you get Markakis in the last round.

Since the other rounds of the draft would remain unaffected, this is basically the same as trading your last round pick for a 5th round pick. Sound good to you?

Again I have never tried this, and there's a good chance I never will. But please, if anyone does pull this off successfully, tell me how it went so I know if I'm actually smart or just a moron who thinks he is.



Friday, March 7, 2008

Mr. Balky, He's Back!

i amThere's a name I'm gonna throw out there, tell me if you've ever heard of this player. Randy Johnson. What. . .what was that? Oh you have heard of this guy. Very well then. Whether you are aware or not, he might be pitching in a stadium located near you this season; or he could be pitching for your fantasy team this season.

Randy, or the "Big Unit", has had some monster seasons. For example, the average stats from his 1999- 2002 campaigns are 257 IP, a 1.045 WHIP, 2.48 ERA, and the most impressive of them all, 354 k's per season. Could you imagine if you played fantasy baseball back then! Those numbers even make Johan jealous.

Now we are 7 years later, Johnson is 44 and coming off major back surgery. . . two surgeries actually. The first one was to repair a herniated disc, and the second one removed that same disc. Sounds like a guy you want, right? Don't worry I know it isn't.

Let's see where he's being taken to get an idea of what his value is. According to mockdraftcentral.com, his average draft position is 218, or an 18th round pick in a standard 12-team league. Therefore, you don't have to invest a lot to get him.

Now let's see what you can expect from Johnson if you do draft him. Over the past two years he's pitched 261 innings, and and struck out 244 batters. K's show if a pitcher is still "dominating" hitters, and its always a good sign to see an older pitcher maintain his k rate the way Randy has. I don't expect him to return to his former ways, but I do expect a sort of rebound season from him.

Now lets take a look on what one can expect in terms of numbers from Johnson. Based on this article: http://baseballmachine.blogspot.com/2008/03/why-projection-systems-are-useless.html I'm not just gonna give you one median projection, but a set of worst to best with a percentage after them.

Waste of a Pick: He barely pitches do to injuries.
Projection: 0 IP, 0 etc.
Chance: 20%

Bad: Misses significant time to injuries, or is ineffective
Projection: 60 IP, 2 wins, 4.80 era, 1.42 whip, 48 Ks
Chance: 10%

Average: Pitches, but performs like an 18th round pick
Projection: 165 IP, 4.30 era, 1.34 whip, 140 Ks
Chance: 35%

Solid: Pitches well, gives you positive value for your pick
Projection: 170 IP, 3.82 era, 1.25 Whip, 155 Ks
Chance: 30%

Spectacular: Pitches like the Randy we once knew
Projection: 185 IP, 3.35 era, 1.16 whip, 175 Ks
Chance: 5%

So obviously there is a solid chance based on my projections that Randy Johnson will prove to be a valuable pick late in your draft.



P.S. If your wondering why it says posted on Friday when this is first coming up on Sunday is because Blogger posts the date when i first start writing the article, not when I publish it. Nothing I can do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Little Thing Called Sample Size

Its this time of year, spring training. Can you feel the excitement in the air!!! Well I can't. The results in spring training are relatively meaningless from a fan standpoint, and extremely meaningless from a fantasy standpoint. Why is that? Well besides the obvious fact that players might not be giving it their "all" (at least the ones who have secured roster spots), its because of sample size.

Players only play in a small number of games, which means only a small number of at bats. In case I need to spell everything out for you, this just happens to work for pitchers as well with their innings pitched. To put it into poetic form, "A small sample of at bats is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get."

I would not be surprised if last year a guy like Xavier Nady out-hit Alex Rodriguez over the course of one week in the MLB season. (perhaps it was near the playoffs?). This means that based on the results of one week of games, the true value of a player is not revealed. Players get lucky/unlucky, they get hot, get cold, and there are just too many variables to even count. Over the course of an entire season, however, those variables tend to even out and tah daaaa! the true value appears.

Of course there are such nuances as unlucky seasons or just plain bad seasons (probably due to injuries). That's where stats like BABIP, FIP, DIPS WHIP, and LIPS ERA come into play. Although I won't explain them today, (BABIP I have in previous articles) Hey! Check back soon another day.

I can rhyme. . . sort of.



Monday, March 3, 2008

Specific Drafting Strategy

The draft strategy I will talk about in this post is not general, in fact it is the strategy I've found most effective specifically for drafts this year. I've found it the best after analyzing the resulting teams from probably around 25 mock drafts I've completed over at mockdraftcentral.com

I'll break it down based on where I feel the best time is to draft each position, and obviously it will vary greatly based on what you pick is in draft, so I'll tell you now it works best with picks 6-10 in a 12-team league.

Catchers - Do not take any of the elites, it simply ruins your chances at filling holes at other positions. I've found that Posada will fall sometimes, once I got him in the ninth round, which is good value. I'd say avoid Mauer, I think he gets over picked, and isn't even that great in fantasy. Johima is good value if he falls past the tenth. I'd say best value is taking Soto, Bengie around 13th round or Ramon Hernandez a couple rounds later. Noticed how J.R. Towles was not named, he's too unproven.

1st Basemen - I say don't go elite, but its not the worst if you do. I'm fine taking a Travis Hafner or Morneau in the 4th/5th round. If you miss them, go with Konerko, Pena, or Adrian Gonzalez around the 7/8th round. Notice Adrian Gonzalez in bold, that means he's important. Also do not take Carlos Delgado, I know; trust me I know, he will not rebound.

2nd basemen - Again avoid elites, no Chase Utley in the first round, no Brandon Phillips or BJ Upton in the second. There's just too many good sleeper 2nd basemen that are solid that go oh so late. Kelly Johnson is my favorite, followed by the likes of Placido Polanco, Aaron Hill, and Mark Ellis. Solid players available late, get'em.

3rd Basemen - This is what you've been waiting for, GET ELITE. This means get Wright, Miggy, Braun, Aramis, Atkins, Chipper, Chone (not the projection system), or Ryan Zimmerman. Get one of them! I don't care which, just get one. Trust Me. The drop-off is steep. You'll survive with Beltre, Gordon (eh, risky), but get an elite. If you manage to screw this up, I say don't pick those Beltre, Gordon guys and wait on either Youkilis or Kouzmanoff. They are better value and high to decent upside. Get elite!

Short Stop - Here it is again, target an elite shortstop. Either get one of the big three (Reyes, Hanley, Rollins) or get one of the next big three (Tulo, Guillen or Jeter). Again I do not care which one, just get one. If you do manage to fail at this, look to bargain towards Khalil Greene if you want power, or Theriot/Julio Lugo for some late steals. Get an elite SS.

Outfield - This position was shallow last year, its deep this year. Just pick it around your other picks. I'll give some specific guys I like to target: Corey Hart, Delmon Young, Nick Markakis, Francoeur, Pat Burrell, and Nick Swisher. I'd avoid Alex Rios (taken too high), Vlad, Magglio, Crawford, Brad Hawpe. Obviously those guys are good, I just feel they are being taken too high. Late round sleepers you can take a risk on are Jack Cust, Colby Rasmus, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton.

Starting Pitching - When I call the position of outfield deep, that means starting pitching is like a bottomless crevice from which you might think liquid-hot magma would spew. That's relatively speaking of couse, but understand that there are just so many good starting pitchers that please, I'm begging you, do not take Johan or Peavy or Beckett or Bedard despite how much your index finger may twitch when you scroll your mouse over one of their names. Don't even think about taking a pitcher from the next tier of players either. Start taking an Sp around pick 100 when Lincecum, Rich Hill, Shields (check out the k/bb!), and Javier V start going. Then wait a pick to take guys like Billingsley, Lilly, Snell, and Liriano (if your willing). Notice guys I did not name like Fausto, Halladay, and Burnett (no offense to those Blue Jays fans). Then finish by filling out your roster with solid pitchers like Dustin McGowan, Wainwright, Gorzo, Blanton, and Jeff Francis. If you want, take a late-round flier on Rich Harden.

Relief Pitchers - Anyone reading my blog is I hope not stupid enough to take a Putz or Papelbon round 5-6. So where do we go from there? HOW ABOUT NOT TAKE ANOTHER CLOSER UNTIL ROUND 15!!!! I know Matthew Berry is a big advocator of this strategy, and I am too. Maybe get a decent closer late like CJ Wilson, Joakim Soria, Brandon Lyon, Troy Percival, or Isringhausen/Capps if they fall. Although I listed those names, I'd rather have the top tier setup men than the cheap closers who have a good chance of losing their jobs. The best set-up men are Betancourt, Heath Bell, Jon Broxton, Okajima, and Scot Shields. These guys have a decent chance of closing themselves, and bring great ratios, and high K rates. Do not get elite.

That's it! If you happen to get a late pick, open this post right away and follow it as best you can. I personally guarentee your team will do well, or else I'll . . .ehrm . . .well you didn't give me anything for reading this, so I have nothing to give you back.



Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why Projection Systems are Useless

When someone says projection systems, I think of words like Chone, Marcels, and Pecota. A lot of baseball sites pridefully boast that they feature the new year's player projections from these systems. I immediately leave those sites.

The reason I dislike these systems is not because they are wrong. In fact, according to what I've heard, they are fairly accurate. The reason I dislike them is because the systems themselves are extremely predictable. As a hitter gets older, decrease his power and speed; as a pitcher gets older decrease his K rate. I don't need a projection system to tell me Carlos Lee's numbers will be around .300 avg, 30 homers, 100 rbi/runs, and 10 SB. When it comes to bold predictions, projection systems like Chone, Marcels, and Pecota have none of them. For a fantasy owner, that makes them irrelevant.

Any moron can draft dependable players and finish respectably in a fantasy league. But if you have the desire to win, you must pick players with upside, the Ryan Brauns and Fausto Carmonas of last year. Those are obviously extreme examples, and those two were highly improbably; so improbable that in fact it would have been unwise to spend even a last round pick on them. Those players are the rewards for persistent owners that constantly check updates and are ready to pounce on the f/a market.

I'm talking about players this year like Frank Thomas, Jason Giambi, Evan Longoria and Clay Buchholz. There's a fair chance they do nothing or play mediocre, however there's that small chance they play amazingly. It's those value picks that win you fantasy leagues. A quote from Matthew Berry puts it best, "You can't win the league in the first round but you certainly can lose it."

Notice how my player examples included older veterans like Thomas and Giambi. I'm not a big fan of drafting rookies like Longoria, as they usually take a few years to adjust. Last year was simply a uniquely crazy year where many rookies thrived in the bigs. Don't expect that to happen again, to the same extent at least. However proven players, usually ones who have recently suffered injuries, often prove to be the best sleeper candidates. I'm not saying target players who were recently injured, that's stupid, but certain formerly talented players fall so far in drafts that they become worth a late round gamble.

The aforementioned quote by Mr. berry leads me to my second point of this article, avoid players who have a high risk rate. That means don't pick Albert Pujols in your draft this year! It's simply just not worth it. Your first/second round picks should have virtually no risk attached to them. Pujols is very, very risky with that elbow, and even his best case scenario isn't much better than your alternative options. His worst case scenario is, however, much worse. Avoid.

Projection systems usually fail to recognize these types of players. Lists of break-out/collapsing candidates are much more valuable than viewing whole projection systems. Most of them just average a player's stats over the last few years, placing more weight on recent years. Although fairly accurate, that isn't exactly useful, as long as you are not a moron.

I believe baseball prospectus (a site I am not a subscriber to, because of monetary issues) lists a collapse rate for all the players. This is extremely useful, and apparently they do decent job since they listed Jason Bay as probably candidate for a collapse last year. If you are fortunate enough to be a subscriber, avoid any player with a high collapse rate, and target those with high break-out rates. That was an obvious statement, but too many people ignore those percentages and just listen to a projection system that takes no risks. Don't be that guy.



Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pre-Season Predictions

Spring Training is a great time of year for baseball fans. Baseball scores return again to the ESPN bottom line, fantasy baseball drafts are stressfully being completed, and player performance in these meaningless spring-training games are over-hyped. That's a valuable piece of information - don't get overly excited/nervous about the results of a spring training game. However that's not what I'm here to talk to you about, today at least.

I'm writing simply to put my predictions in stone. It's always fun (if you are patient enough) to wait till the end of the season and see how horrific your predictions were (or amazing if your me). Anyways, so here's my preseason predictions:

Al East

1st - BoSox: rotation vaults them over the Yankees

2nd - Yankees: they will once again be vying for the wild card this year

3rd - Blue Jays: they are an average team, but if rotation stays healthy will be an above-average club

4th - Rays: great young rotation, will tkae third place next year

5th - Orioles: nothing happening in Baltimore

Al Central

1st - Indians: Solid everywhere, just edge Tigers

2nd - Tigers: beast lineup and solid pitching, but too many players had career years

3rd - White Sox: traded away their future for a non-existent present

4th - Twins: Liriano, Mauer, Morneau keep them from being worst

5th - Royals: players still young and immature

Al West

1st - Angels: pretty solid all-around, weak division helps

2nd - Mariners: great front two, after that weak rotation and lineup

3rd - A's: even if healthy, they're a few years away

4th - Rangers: their Gm is the Isiah Thomas of the MLB (to an extent)

Nl East

1st - Mets: it pains me, but they will most-likely will pull it off

2nd - Phillies: can't compete with their pitching

3rd - Braves: same as Phils

4th/5th - Marlins and Nationals: honestly no one cares who comes in what

Nl Central

1st - Cubbies: just edge Brewers

2nd - Brewers: rotation simply a notch worse

3rd - Astros: after Oswalt pitching isn't there

4th - Reds: going in the right direction at least

5th - Cardinals: they have the look of a spiraling team

6th - Pirates: Glad I'm not a Pirates fan, all I have to say

Nl West - Toughest to predict

1st - Rockies - last year was a little flukey, but they are still the best

2nd - D'Backs - great 1-2 punch with question marks after that, lineup extremely young and unproven, yet very talented

3rd: Dodgers: no, not because of Torre, rather their solid lineup and decent rotation

4th - Padres: rotation isn't great after Peavy and Young, and their line-up isn't any better than last year's

5th - Giants: lineup will be one of worst all time, rotation has some intriguing young stars