LINK: Building a Major League Bullpen

Former Fantasy Baseball Guide writer and former Brewers and Mariners front office hand Tony Blengino takes a look at the best bullpens in each league in each year since 2000, and what he discovers is something we only-league fantasy players have already figured out: Even though good relievers are important and can earn lots of fantasy value, non-closers are not a good place to invest draft dollars.

Analysis at Fangraphs well worth reading for what it tells us about player consistency, management intention, and how the two are not a straight line.


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LINK: Did pitchFX Destroy Baseball?

marcummoveDerek Thompson surveys the scientific literature of the strike zone today to demonstrate that fewer homers hit is bad for baseball, and that fewer homers are being hit today for two primary reasons:

1) Starting in 2006 stringent drug testing reduced the use of PEDs in the game.

2) Starting in 2006, the introduction of the pitchFX system increased the size of the strike zone, most notably by expanding the low part downward. Follow the link for more about pitchFX, a video and computer sensor system that tracks the speed and trajectory of every major league pitch.

It’s an interesting piece, especially the chart that shows how much better the umpires have gotten since their work could be not only reviewed, but reviewed against real objective data (not that it is always perfect).

As someone who, perhaps naively, argued in the early days of the homer boom that it looked to me like the real cause was a flattening strike zone, which meant hitters could look inside or outside and not so much up and down, the data strongly suggests this is at least partially true. One researcher says that the decline in homers since 2006 is 40 percent due to changes in the strike zone.

That’s a lot, and could be true, but I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

At the end of his piece Thompson lists other causes for a drop in offensive power, including defense (though this shouldn’t have much of an impact on homer rates) and changes in the baseball, but when he tries to remind us all of the shadow of PEDs use on this issue, he falters.

He writes:

Perhaps most importantly, the harsh 2006 rules against performance-enhancing drugs offer a compelling explanation for baseball’s dearth of power—although it’s odd that baseball’s minor leagues haven’t seen a similar decline in offensive performance since their own steroid policy was implemented.

The minor league drug policy is in many ways more stringent than the major league program. What the minor leagues don’t have is pitchFX and the absolutely best umpires.

Baseball_umpire_2004Oh, and to answer the question in the headline: pitchFX didn’t destroy baseball, it simply made the administration of the game more accurate and fair.

But if the low run environment proves to be persistent and unpopular, MLB can raise the bottom of the strike zone back to 2006 levels. That’s what they do. (It perhaps pertains that it was part of my argument about the power of the strike zone to change other outcomes, that umpires would be inclined to make this adjustment in an ad hoc way if the pitchers became too dominant, in order to help sustain the game’s equilibrium, which wavers but never cracks.)

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LINK: Origins of John Holdzkom.

Screenshot 2014-09-10 10.49.21John Holdzkom landed in the Pirates pen a few weeks ago with a spotty history. He started this year in an independent league in Texas, for instance.

A friend of our friend Tim McLeod, Brook “Boris” Kilpatrick, has some first-hand experience with Holdzkom in Australia in 2013, and shares it at his website that covers Australian baseball. It’s a fun piece.

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When Win-Win Becomes Lose-Meh

We make trades trying to get an edge for ourselves, but since the other guy is also trying to get an edge what we hope for is a Win-Win scenario. Both teams get what they need. Very nice, and all that, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Rafael Soriano’s meltdown in last night’s Nationals game caused me to revisit a trade I made in Tout NL with Brian Walton at the end of July. Brian, in fact, took possession of Rafael Soriano on July 28th, the same day I took possession of Eric Young Jr.

Soriano had a 1.10 ERA and .902 WHIP going into that night’s play.

Young was averaging 50 AB and 6 SB per month on the season, though he had been slightly more productive when active because he missed time on the DL in June. In July, up to the point of the trade, he had 38 PA and 5 steals.

To set the context, Brian and I were virtually tied in Saves, each with one closer, at the bottom of the pile. The idea was that whichever of us got two closers would be sure to gain at least a few points in Saves. I was ahead of Brian, so I wanted him to trade me his closer, but he wasn’t interested in my starting pitchers (other than Bumgarner, who I wasn’t trading), and all my hitters were hurt. I needed steals (and Runs and RBI) and Brian had a big lead. It wasn’t perfect for me, but it seemed fair on the points potential, Soriano for Young, and, more to the point, something had to be done.

If I got a steal for every save I lost I would have been happy.

The night of July 28, Soriano allowed 4 runs and blew the save and Eric Young did not play. And that’s the way it’s gone for both ever since.

Since Walton acquired Soriano he’s won 2, saved 6, with an 8.22 ERA and 1.786 WHIP. He has struck out 15 in 15.1 innings.

Since I acquired Eric Young he’s had just 24 AB and stolen 2 bases, with 3 runs and 2 RBI. Yawn!

What-if scenarios are tricky, but to assess it roughly, if I had kept Soriano I would have one half point more in saves (tied with Walton, instead of 12 behind), and at least one fewer point in ERA and WHIP, and my hitting would be the same, except I’d be five behind the two guys ahead of me in steals, instead of three.

Brian has gained one and  a half points in Saves, and Soriano’s terribleness may not have cost him points in ERA and WHIP, but that’s because he’s so low in the standings in those cats (and he remains in first in steals).

He wins the deal, but not in the way either of us expected.







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Andy and Derek’s Guide Podcast No. 3 Is Here!

In which they preview the first week’s games for fantasy football purposes.

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ASK ROTOMAN: Should I Sit Scherzer?


I am wondering if I should start Max Scherzer tonight, September 4th, against the Cleveland Indians? I am not going to win the ‘Wins’ category in my current matchup, but a solid outing from Scherzer could lock me into winning ERA and WHIP. He has had a few shaky starts recently and the games against the Indians this year seem to yield a high amout of runs. Just wondering how you are feeling about that start or if it is too risky?

“Unsure About Scherzer”

scherzer-headshotDear Unsure,

Whatever I say here is going to be wrong, and whatever you do is going to be wrong. That’s Roto Law.

The reason you pay a lot of for Scherzer is because over the course of the season you know he’s going to be real good, even when he has some bad starts.

But things change a little when the Wins category doesn’t matter. Instead of a four category contributor he’s a three category guy. In roto leagues two of those cats that are very hard to move at this time of year. I’m inferring you’re in a Head to Head league, in which case the difference between a good and bad outing from Scherzer could be the difference between winning and losing.

As you say, his last three starts have been poor, and his overall performance against the Indians this year has been weak. So there’s reason to worry. Still, I’m inclined to no overthink it. If the Tigers think Scherzer should be out there, I think he has to pitch for my team if a good performance will help me.

There’s too much time left in the season to start doubting your assets. And I’m sure Scherzer is an asset.

I did check Scherzer’s record against the Indians in 2013, and he was 3-0 versus the team, with a 2.70 ERA. The bottom line on performance versus opponents is the sample is always too small to rely on, even though there may be a decided reason a pitcher struggles against certain lineups. The problem is if he’s just had a run of normal bad luck, his numbers might look exactly the same.

So, stick with Scherzer, I say.

I just wish I could tell you whether you should or shouldn’t take my advice.


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New York Daily News Follows The Fantasy Football Guide 2014′s Lead

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One of the country’s largest circulation daily newspapers announced yesterday that they’ve changed their policy, and will not publish (with the exception of reader letters and quotes in which the name is relevant, as well as packages supplied by outside vendors, though they’re going to try to strip it from those) the Washington NFL team’s name. I suspect they’re going to get some letters.

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Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Hitting Bargains, through August 31

Screenshot 2014-09-04 12.28.40None of the most expensive hitters show up on the list of profitmakers, because the known hitters are paid for on auction day. The Top 20 is a mix of guys having explosively good years after being paid to be a little above average, and the unknowns who weren’t bought or were taken in the end game, who have turned out to be pretty productive. It’s hard to look back to March and see how we could have predicted any of these breakouts, but the teams that landed these guys have a leg up on the rest of us.

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Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Pitching Bargains, through August 31

Screenshot 2014-09-04 12.19.47Profits are where it’s at, the more you have the more likely you are to win, and they can be found among starters and relievers, including setup guys. Starting studs can still turn out to be a bargain, but the differencemaker in pitching is the number of impact players who are either unbought in the auction or picked up for a buck or two in the end game.

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August Roto Prices are posted at

You’ll find the Google Sheet here, the explanation and some follow up posts at

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