ASK ROTOMAN: A Dank(s) House Is Not A Home

Dear Rotoman:

With Cam Bedrosian (LAA) being called up from the minors, I have a tough decision to make:  I hold both TJ House (CLE) and John Danks (CHW) on my squad.  I think Bedrosian has a closer in waiting feel about him and LAA looks like they will need one before the season wraps, so one of my starters needs to go.  I see nothing on the projected pitchers list about House in CLE and Danks has been stinking up the joint in CHW.  I need innings and can afford a bad outing or two if I can get 6 IP per start.  Your suggestions on who to keep and who to toss? (12 team AL only 5×5 Roto with regular categories, with the exception of S is S+1/2H).

“A Chair”

Dear Chair:

With a 14.14 ERA, why is this man smiling?

With a 14.14 ERA, why is this man smiling?

I’m listening to the Luther Vandross version of the Bachrach-David classic (see below). Thanks for putting me in mind of it.

First off, you might be right about Bedrosian, though if the Angels were to move Huston Street it’s hard to see the job going to anyone other than Joe Smith first. That makes Bedrosian a real longshot, but since your league values holds he has some potential value.

As for Danks vs. House, I had Danks as a $1 pitcher in the preseason, and House as a $5 pitcher. Not much has changed since then.

House is not a big strikeout guy, but gets lots of grounders. He’s been terrible so far, and his velocity is down, but it appears this is more a question of finding a rhythm than health. So, expect him to get back to the decent-enough form he showed last year. Maybe not quite as stellar an ERA, but lots of ground outs and something close to 7 K per 9.

Danks has shown in recent years that as bad as he can be sometimes, he’s not an overall disaster. He only strikes out five or six per nine and shouldn’t be expected to have an ERA better than 4.25.

So, House is clearly to be preferred, despite his cold start. He’s slated to be the Indians starter this coming Tuesday. I can’t promise he’ll go six innings, and would probably have written different advice if the Talking Heads Burning Down the House was the first song that came to mind.


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Tuesday Bloody Tuesday. A Daily Fantasy Sports Story.

I’m new to DFS. So new I still have to think about what DFS means. Daily Fantasy Sports. I’ve just started playing DFS this year, beginning with a FanDuel Opening Day Challenge to beat Rotoman. Only four did, beat Rotoman I mean. I finished fifth, and took home $20. That was fun.

Since then I’ve played in the two Tout Wars Daily contests and finished in the middle of the pack, and a freeroll in which I picked fairly capriciously and didn’t do very well. But I hadn’t really tried, so whatever.

In the meantime, I also set up an account at Draft Kings, because I wanted to compare the two games and it bought me a Baseball Prospectus membership. In my first game there I finished fifth, won $15, and thought, gee, this is easy!

Actually, not. What I mostly thought was that I’d done well in small stakes games in which I spent some real time making real decisions after real effort to set a good lineup. To do that and make $10 or $15 each time is simply not worth it. Who has the time?

Yesterday, thinking about this, I got interested in two big contests, one each at FanDuel and Draft Kings.

At Draft Kings some 38,300 $3 entries would be competing for $100,000, paid out to 785 places.

At FanDuel, 6,850 $5 entries were chasing $30,000, paid out to 1,296 places.

brettandersonI’m not going to go into details about my rosters, but the only common players on the two teams were Bret Anderson, pitcher, who was a late replacement for Taijuan Walker, who I chickened out on, and Alex Rodriguez, who seemed a likely beneficiary of a stiff breeze out to left field at Comerica Park against Kyle Lobstein.

Notice how his name starts with L-O-B? He’s not a flamethrower.

In Draft Kings I had the bright idea of taking Michael Fiers as my second starter, which didn’t help, but the fact is that both my teams, checkered with stars and power bats playing in ballparks with the wind blowing out and bad opposing starters, were disasters.

My Draft Kings team, which featured no Reds, who knocked the bejeeziz out of the Brewers whole staff, and finished 36,826, finishing ahead of only the 1,500 souls who built their teams around Bud Norris.

And FanDuel was worse. My pathetic squad finished 6,879 out of 6,896.

Who were the winners? In both leagues, teams that loaded up on Reds and Blue Jays, not the Yankees and Indians I focused on. The same guy finished first, second, third, and fourth in Draft Kings, starting Francisco Liriano in two, Colin McHugh in three, Chris Archer in one and Nick Martinez in the other.

All four of his teams had Joey Votto, three had Brandon Phillips, all had Jay Bruce. They all also had Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton. Did I mention that the Reds scored 16 runs last night? Many of them against Michael Fiers?

Many players make multiple entries. The team that finished last yesterday in FanDuel, also finished next to last. Multiple entries don’t increase your odds of winning, unless you win all your bets, but they do increase your action. Looking deep in the standings I found teams that submitted four identical entries that finished in the mid 37 thousands in Draft Kings. Presumably on other days things go better than that.

A more interesting question is whether it is better to load up with players from a single team, or to take them from a variety of games. Is it easier to pick the game with the most outsized scoring results, or the players facing the best matchups in the best parks? And how much do player prices shift to adjust from day to day? I don’t know, and clearly I have more to learn before I’ll be taking these games seriously.

Have I learned any other lessons? Well, the key one is the one that got me interested in the first place. Any single day’s results are pretty arbitrary. Before yesterday’s brawl, the Reds were the fourth lowest scoring team in the NL, while Milwaukee was the lowest. So the race is a long one, maybe best measured by the year and its winnings, just like regular year-long fantasy. The big difference, I don’t ever have to roster Fiers again.




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ASK ROTOMAN: Travis or LeMahieu


I am working on a trade for Justin Upton. The other team wants me to give him Devon Travis or DJ LeMahieu as well as someone else. Who should I give him?

“Give Me A Second”

Dear DMAS:

Both LeMahieu and Travis are on fire right now. The Blue Jays second baseman is hitting .356 with three homers (and no steals), while the Rockies second baseman is hitting .444 (!!!) with a homer and a steal. Needless to say, neither is quite as good as they’ve looked so far.

I feel as if we have a pretty good handle on LeMahieu. He has earned $13 and $14 the past two years, with modest power and stolen base potential. That makes him a solid addition to any team, but not a differencemaker.

devontravisphotoTravis is more interesting. He’s posted solid numbers in the minor leagues, but did so as a collegiate player who was a little old for each level. He didn’t rocket up through the minors, the way highly-skilled players often do.

He’s shown decent plate coverage and strike zone control, and some power, but it isn’t clear how that is going to translate to the big leagues over the long run. My projection for him shows him to be similar to LeMahieu, but with more speed.

But he also is more unknowable. He’s younger, with more growth potential, and is perhaps a little more athletic. That suggests there is a chance he could get better than anyone (except maybe the Blue Jays) expected.

So, I would put it this way: If you want to play it safe, hold onto LeMahieu. He’s got a job, is solid but not exciting. If you want to gamble, hold onto Travis. Maybe the power is for real, the speed will kick in, and he (plus Upton) will make you a winner.


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Rotisserie Culture 101

Bruce Buschel usually precedes each American Dream League auction with a benediction, but this year, in honor of our Easter Sunday kickoff, he and Larry Fine sang lyrics they wrote to the melody (sort of) of Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade. I missed the very beginning, alas, but you’ll get the idea.

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ASK ROTOMAN: Kris Bryant is Coming! Kris Bryant is Coming!

Hey Rotoman,

I am in a 12 team H2H Points league which is very competitive between the guys I work with.

My question pertains to Kris Bryant…I am not going to ask you when is he going to get the call. I am sure you are tired of that.

I have him sitting on my bench and it looks like he is going to (once he gets called up) take one of my two Utility spots. They are right now filled with Stephen Vogt and Brandon Belt. I was wondering which of the two to keep knowing that most likely somebody else would put in a waiver claim on either.

“Get Out The Vogt or Tighten the Belt?”


The only reason I can imagine you would consider dumping Belt in favor of Vogt is if it’s a good strategy to have a backup catcher available. I wouldn’t do that, so my answer is that Vogt is the guy to dump when Bryant is called up.

Screenshot 2015-04-15 13.26.15When will Bryant be called up? 

This coming Friday is deadline number one. If he’s called up after April 17th, the Cubs will gain an additional year of control before he becomes a free agent.

The next deadline is sometime in June. If he’s called up after that, he will avoid super two status in 2017, and thus won’t go into arbitration until after the 2018 season.

Waiting until June would save the Cubs millions of dollars over the next six years, which is why they might waid.

On the other hand, they’re off to a good start, one game over .500 at this point. Bryant is again crushing Triple-A pitching, to an OPS tune of 1.089. There is clearly little for him to learn in the minors.

Plus, the Cubs are playing Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella at third base. Even if Bryant struggles with big league pitchers, he’s better than either of those two. Which is why I think we’ll see him sooner rather than later.


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ASK ROTOMAN: Boring or Flashy?

Dear Rotoman:

Do you think it would be wise to cut Tyler Clippard and pick up Miguel Castro of Toronto?

It is a 10-team mixed league roto league. I look forward to your reply,


Dear B:

Tyler Clippard is the closer on the Oakland Athletics, but has not yet had a save opportunity in this young season. It’s expected that Clippard will return to his usual role as a setup guy once Sean Doolittle comes off the DL, which is expected to be in late May.

castro3Miguel Castro is a hard-throwing youngster who has surprisingly ended up as the Blue Jays closer just a week into the season. He’s a lively performer who already ranks fourth on the list of 20 and younger pitchers with the most saves since MLB went to Divisional play in 1968.

And that’s the rub. We’re in mostly uncharted territory here. Terry Forster had 26 saves in 1972 as a 20 year old, Victor Cruz had nine in 1978, and Don Gullett had six in 1970, all before the era of fantasy baseball. Is a 20 year old with just 15 starts in Single-A last year able to hold onto the closing job all season long?

And what are the chances that Doolittle doesn’t make it back in five weeks, or he cedes the closer job even if he does make it back?

There are no hard and fast answers to any of these questions. What I think we know is that Castro probably has a slightly higher save ceiling than Clippard, but Clippard might be a little more reliable. That is, Castro is the greater unknown here, and thus comes with greater risk, but also has a better chance to get a lot of saves this year.

For me, this seems to be a bit of a sideways move for you. Probably worth doing if Castro is cheap, certainly worth doing if you don’t have to throw Clippard back, but in all likelihood, not a reason to bet the farm.

Edge to Castro.


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LINK: How To Stay Sane in Baseball

Former Cub Adrian Cardenas has a piece at the New Yorker’s website about the mental issues that come up for players playing baseball. There’s a much bigger story out there, but he does a good job of mixing his personal story with a wider perspective.

You can read it here.

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ASK ROTOMAN: Should I WeaR A Dickey?

Dear Rotoman:

I am in a 12 man league in yahoo.  I saw on the waiver wire that R.A Dickey is out there and I was wondering if I should pick him up as my back end starter over Henderson Alvarez or Jason Hammel or even  Ken Giles?

“Fashion Hound”

Dear Hound:

I love RA Dickey much more than I love dickies.

radickeywgripRA Dickey was born without a UCL, for one. For another, he recharged a stalled out career as a pitcher to become, for one season anyway, one of the best pitchers in the game. He also managed to write his autobiography before that career season, and spent much of his time on top of the world doing things like climbing big mountains to raise money for charity.

He also starred in a fun baseball movie called Knuckleball!

dickeycompare1Dickies, on the other hand, were something I wore for some reason when I was a kid, maybe because we were so poor we couldn’t afford an entire turtleneck. What a dweeb!

But that’s the easy question. The question you ask is a little tougher.

Do you want RA Dickey over Henderson Alvarez and Jason Hammel?

I project Dickey to earn $14 this year. He earned $11 last year and $10 the year before. Fantasy experts are paying him about $9 this year.

I project Henderson Alvarez to earn $4 this year, though last year he earned $16. Fantasy experts are paying him about $6 this year.

I project Jason Hammel to earn $7 this year, though last year he earned $14. Fantasy experts are paying him about $5 this year.

So yes, I think you want Dickey, even though he’s old. He’s also a knuckleballer, which reduces the stress on his arm. That said, part of his success was that he was a hard-throwing knuckleballer, and he’s not throwing as hard now as he was during his glorious season. But he’s still effective and probably a better bet than Alvarez and Hammel?

But what about Ken Giles?

He’s not a starter, but he is the closer in waiting behind the Phillies’ most marketable player, Jonathan Papelbon. As a hard-throwing setup guy he can earn $10, but if the Phils are able to move Papelbon he becomes so much more valuable.

I think I would take Dickey for Hammels and hold onto Giles.



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ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question


12 team AL only legacy league.  9  keepers.  Approximately 15 percent inflation.  Should I keep:

Alexei Ramirez at $20
Shane Green at $5

JA Happ at $5
Robbie Grossman at $2
Masahiro Tanaka at $23 (likely not but I’m a Yankee fan)

Can keep all or none?

Dear E:

Yes on Alexei Ramirez (a $21 player without inflation) and Shane Greene (a $6 player w/o inflation), and maybe on Robbie Grossman (he’ll earn $2 if he holds onto a job, but things are tight in the Houston OF).

No on JA Happ, who should cost less than $5 in your auction, and Masahiro Tanaka, who should cost $18 to $20 in your auction and will be an injury risk every time he pitches. If Tanaka pitches all season he’ll way outearn his price, which makes him a high risk/high return arm this year.


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TOUT WARS NL: How I See Things

This was my view across the draft table.

cockcroftacceptstheprize2It’s nice to see Tristan Cockcroft (with trophy) enjoying himself.

I had one plan going into this year’s auction. If I was to land either Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, I would eschew an ace, buy one aspiring ace and then fill in with all the attractive young NL starters available near the end.

On the hitting side, I ticked all the OBP guys up a buck and the anti-OBP guys down a buck, rather than fully price in the OBP difference. The reason was my observation last year that buying OBP won me the category, but cost me a bit in countables. My goal was to be cognizant of OBP, but to buy homers and RBI foremost and scramble later.

The auction opened with four straight pitcher nominations, and then—with just a few exceptions—a heavy stream of the game’s best players. The pace was brisk and I bought the players who came in well under my bid prices. This landed me Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun in the early part of the game, as well as Craig Kimbrel.

Shortly thereafter, Troy Tulowitzki and Buster Posey joined Team Rotoman, and when the bidding stalled at $26 later on Anthony Rendon, I had to bid, and once again I was playing Stars and Scrubs style, as I did last year to disastrous second-half results.

The thing about last year’s first half was it showed the power of Stars and Scrubs. My guys were in second place late in June, even though I’d lost Joey Votto for a month. The second half, when six of my seven 20+ guys did DL time, was the flip side. Once I started sliding the only thing that stopped me was the end of the season.

The problem is that prices in this league at the top end are usually a touch soft. Not a lot soft, but a buck or two on each of the Top 50 hitters adds up to $75 or $100 that later gets redistributed to the attractive players later on. If you don’t spend early, you spend late.

The problem is that if you spend your money early on the chalk, and add all those big players, the teams with a little more scratch pick off the attractive endgame buys. On the pitching side, the guys I wanted for four were going for five, the guys I wanted for three went for four, and so on. Which is how one ends up with perhaps the least appealing pitching staff of all time.

And I’m not bummed out about that. But it surely didn’t go the way I hoped. Here’s a chart to see the problem:

Pitchers who cost $20 or more whose draft price differed by $2 or more from my expected price:

Pitcher Bid Cost
Bumgarner $27 $25
Cueto $24 $21
Greinke $23 $25
Chapman $23 $25
Zimmerman $23 $21
Hamels $21 $19
Wainwright $20 $18

There were 11 pitchers priced $20 or above. Five were more or less dead on. Five were off by two bucks, and one was off by $3. Nobody got a great deal here, but as a group the 11 cost $8 less than expected.

In the $15-$19 group:

Teheran $18 $16
Arrieta $17 $19
Lester $17 $19
Cole $17 $20
Shields $16 $18
Papelbon $15 $13
Melancon $15 $18

There were 12 pitchers in this group. Five were more or less dead on. Five were off by $2, Two were off by $3.  This group cost $8 more than expected. This is where I hoped to pick off Arrieta or Cole.

After two groups, the bid prices equal the sale prices.

From $10-$14, the two dollar (or more) differences:

Rosenthal $14 $16
Cashner $14 $11
Fiers $13 $10
Benoit $13 $17
Rondon $12 $15
G Gonzalez $11 $16
Cain $12 $9
Lynn $11 $16
Latos $11 $15
Ross $11 $14
Casilla $11 $7

There are 19 in this group. Eight were more or less dead on. Only one was within $2. Only five were within $3. As a group, bidding exceeded my bid prices by $12.

Alas, this was the group from which I hoped to walk away with Matt Cain and either Mike Fiers or Lance Lynn and, I hoped Shelby Miller. Lynn blew up, but I guess I blew it on Fiers. He had the biggest discount other than Cain in the group and I can only think my bankroll was so depleted at that point that I simply couldn’t buy him. But from this side of the ledger I absolutely had to. Too late.

I should point out that there is operator error here. In the next group, of $5-$9 pitchers, I had Homer Bailey at $7 even though he went for $11 in LABR. His $12 on Sunday was aggressive, but not crazy.

In that same group, I wanted Jenry Mejia ($9 $8), Kyle Lohse ($8 $7–I got beat to $7 and couldn’t real afford it, much less $8), Kyle Hendricks ($7 $6), Wily Peralta ($7 $9), Jimmy Nelson ($6 $6) and Carlos Martinez ($5 $8).

I know this recitation is dry as toast, but the point here is sweet as salty butter. This group doesn’t spend on the big pitchers, but only by a little, and uses their savings  to pay for the cheaper guys with upside. Not outrageously, but just enough for a small bankrolled guy (like me) to lose out on every one.

This was my decision, based on my evaluation that it would be better to have Martin Prado rather than one of those mid-level pitchers. That’s not a sure thing, but it is a fairly sure thing that I will have more opportunities to find pitching help during the season than hitting help.

So, I stuck to my values, wherever they might take me, and I’ll try to fix the team composition in season. That is always part of the process. The game is rarely won in the auction. What I have now is a nice group of hitters, one and a half comeback pitchers, a fair amount of saves and closer strikeouts, and a budding closer in waiting behind two injured relievers.

There is work to be done.

Here’s my team with Bid Price and Cost:

Buster Posey $27 $27
Yasmani Grandal $12 $13 (paid extra because he’s a 1B, too)

Sean Rodriguez $1 $1
C. Johnson $12 $7
Martin Prado $15 $15

Anthony Rendon $29 $27
Troy Tulowitzki $31 $29
Alberto Callaspo $4 $3

Andrew McCutchen $43 $39
Ryan Braun $34 $30
Gerardo Parra $5 $3
Melvin Upton $8 $4
Will Venable  $4 $3

Nate McLouth $3 $1

Matt Cain $12 $8
Jose Fernandez $10 $9
Tom Kohler $1 $2
Mike Minor $4 $2
Tsuyoshi Wada $3 $1
Evan Marshall $1 $2
Bobby Parnell $3 $5 (thought he was worth more to pair with Mejia)
Jenry Mejia $9 $8
Craig Kimbrel $22 $21

That’s a net positive of $33, if anyone’s counting. It may not be pretty, but there are pieces here to work with.





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