There’s Going To Be A Mock Draft Tonight! UPDATE.

This is not a song by the Eagles.

Jimi at Couch Managers, a fine mock draft site, has invited a bunch of roto experts for a 5×5 draft tonight (February 3) at 8pm ET.

You can watch if you want at Couch Managers, and you might want to. The draft and chat room will be visible. This will not be a caucus.

The lineup is full of personality and includes  Cory Schwartz, Adam Ronis, Tim Heaney, Gene McCaffrey, Joel Henard, Doug Anderson, Tim McLeod, Paul Sporer, Mike Gianella, Lawr Michaels, Ryan Bloomfield, and Chris O’Brien, plus someone named big magoo, from Razzball. Oh, and I’m playing, too.

The draft is over. You can see the results here.

UPDATED: The upshot: I took Kershaw with No. 5. Scherzer went at 15. There was then a pause, and then near the end of Round 2 pitchers started to fall off the board.  All the shiny bubbles, the most desired players (Cory Seager went No. 30) kept being taken in the round ahead of where I had them ranked and so I ended up drafting boring productive hitters, until I had enough of them. Guys like JD Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Cargo. Closers went early, too. We really need some research on these different approaches. Do they matter? After all, if everyone is taking pitchers early the hitters they’re not taking early will be there later.

If you look at the draft, feel free to comment on who did best in the comments (and why).

pixelstats trackingpixel

Mickey, Willie and the Hacker. Or Buschel’s Perfect Day.

Screenshot 2016-01-31 00.43.08I play in the American Dream League with the tech writer Steven Levy, whose team is known as the Random Hackers.

Another writer (of this excellent book, among other things), Bruce Buschel, is in the league, too, and has been since its first year, 1981. His team has gone by many names, most memorably, the BB Gubs.

Even if you don’t know who Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Martin Luther King are, or Bowie Kuhn for that matter, let Bruce fill you in with this delightful shaggy dog story.

Read it here.

pixelstats trackingpixel

Corrections and Updates for the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2016

This is the place you’ll find updates and corrections and explanatory notes about the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2016. If you have a question or comment and don’t see it addressed here, please email rotoman@gmail.com.

Raisel Iglesias (Page 28 and Page 122): This is a doozy. In the Draft at a Glance Chart on page 28 he’s listed twice, at $10 and $7. And then he’s profiled on page 122 with a Big Price of $8. You’ll note that along with his profile, in which HC Green says he has “considerable upside,” he scored seven picks and a single pan. Steve Moyer’s Pan was contrarian, based on what seemed like excessive enthusiasm from the chattering roto classes at Shandlerfest. Iglesias signed a long contract out of Cuba last spring, and was not considered a top prospect. A reliever in Cuba, he converted quickly to starting, was sent down to Triple-A to build his arm strength, and was excellent from August onward. That is, 45 strikeouts in 39.7 innings and a 2.27 ERA from August on. I can explain how he ended up twice in the Draft at a Glance chart. I changed his price from $7 to $10 late in the magazine’s production because of all those Picks. No way was he going for single digits this spring. We messed up the edit of the chart, and I missed the mess up while proofing. I have no idea how the $8 price ended up in the profile box. That must have been another fidget about his price.

And this might be another one. Tony Blengino broke Iglesias’s game down at Fangraphs in January, which is worth reading here. He’s a fan. The main takeaway: “He’s in the immediate next tier, in a virtual dead hear with Gerrit Cole, Kyle Hendricks, Carlos Martinez and Shelby Miller. Pretty good company. Plus, a bunch of those guys owe their 2015 rankings to BIP authority allowed, which fluctuates more than Ks and BBs, more so than Iglesias.”

I think that may be a fair assessment of how Iglesias expressed his talent last year, but it would be a mistake to bid him up that high (into the $15-$20 range) based on his small sample of success. $10 seems fair, maybe $12 if your psyched, but odds are that’s not going to get him. Thanks to Jeffrey of Brooklyn for finding this mistake and a few others. It’s much appreciated.

Will in Chicago Writes: “You asked for corrections?

Page 3 Paragraph 2

In the letter from the editor, you mention Ernie Lombardo. You were referring to Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi. (Ed. Yes I was.)

Perhaps you play the guitar and you were thinking of the guitar maker Ernie Lombardo? Or maybe you were writing this during New Year’s Eve and thinking of the late Guy Lombardo? (Ed. I’ve seen Guy Lombardo lead, have not seen Ernie Lombardo make a guitar, but I have seen Mike Lombardo win three Tout Wars NL titles.)

I look forward to reading the rest of the magazine. Does this correction make the blog?

Regards,
Will in Chicago”

Kelby Tomlinson (page 89): Called up at the end of the season, when Joe Panik was down, Tomlinson had a very nice stint as the Giants regular second baseman. This comes on the heels of a good season in split between Double and Triple-A, during which he put up a MLE of 2 homers and 17 steals with a .275 BA in 375 AB. In the Guide I gave him 184 AB for 2016, because he’s blocked at second and short by players who are regulars when healthy. I also gave him a $9 Big Price, which reflects my enthusiasm for him should he find his way to at bats. Good contact speed guys in the middle infield are potent forces in deep fantasy leagues, but given the lack of a path to playing time Tomlinson’s price should have been $4, which is still enthusiastic. Also, his projected BA should be .275, good but not great.

Jarrett Parker (Page 72): He had a sweet cup of coffee in September, but it was only 29 at bats (and really one 3 homer/7 ribbie game in Oakland). The formula chewed that into quite a 2016 season for the young slugger and strikeout fiend. Those numbers are way wrong. Parker’s MLE in Fresno for 2015 was a .224 BA, with 14 homers and 14 steals in 400+ at bats. His contact issues are a problem going forward, but the bigger change since the Guide closed is that the Giants added Denard Span, which makes Parker at least the fourth outfielder on their depth chart, if not the fifth. If he gets 295 at bats, as originally projected, he could hit seven homers and steal nine bases, while hitting .235 or so. At the same time, guys with solid minor league production but low contact rates do sometimes mash, at least for a while, if they get the chance to play. If Parker falls into some PT he’s certainly worth a short term for the power/speed thing, but his batting average is going to eventually hurt.

Rymer Liriano (page 64): For some reason he doesn’t have 2015 stats in his statbox. He played in Triple-A El Paso all year and the stats looked good:.292 BA, 14 homers, 16 steals, but Triple-A El Paso is not a real hitting environment. What looks like a rebound from 2014 struggles really wasn’t. The MLE for his 2015 Triple-A season is .229, with nine homers and 12 steals, not the stats of a major league corner outfielder, which perhaps explains why the Padres dropped him from their 40 man roster today (Jan. 22, 2016). He’s still young, he still has a chance to find a role as a useful parttimer perhaps, but clearly the Pads don’t think he has a chance to be a ML regular.

CATCHER At A Glance (page 19): Devin Mesoraco was left off this chart because he only played four games last year. Usually a guy like him shows up in the DH section, and then I move him over. I don’t know how I missed him, especially because I have him priced at an aggressive $15. That’s a good price for him if he’s totally recovered from his hip problems, but that is hardly a sure thing. Hips are tricky. It’s too early to know, and upon reconsideration I would say that at this point he’s probably a $7 player, understanding that he could drop to $0 if he is reinjured, and likely to cost as much as $15-17 if he is actually healthy.

Kris Bryant’s Projection (page 37): There is no mechanical projection that can take a first year look at a player who played a part of a year in the majors and nail it. So, years ago I stopped pretending and started handling the one-year guys manually. The problem is that what comes out of the spreadsheet looks a lot like their first year numbers, and sometimes when I go through the list while putting the projections together for the magazine, I miss one. I missed Bryant. Partly because I think the quantitatives are pretty reasonable. It’s the batting average that bugs me. A 64 percent contact rate should be a .220 batting average. Bryant hits the ball so hard and has so consistently put up huge BABIPs, that you have to give him extra credit. So, maybe his BA should be .240-.250. No way can he sustain .275 striking out 30 percent of the time. So, .240, 90 R, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 13 SB seems about right.

THE GUIDE, Lawr Michaels’ Picks and Pans: He sent them in in plenty of time. I didn’t cut them into my master file. They aren’t in this year’s Guide. Sorry about that, Lawr. But here they are . . .

Picks

Wilmer Flores: When Ruben Tejada lost his knee to Chase Utley in the playoffs, I heard people ask if the Mets could win without Tejada. Huh? Flores, who did play 137 games last year, hit 16 big flies and didn’t turn 24 till August. He is going to be good.

Henry Owens: For a team struggling so deeply to identify decent starting pitching in 2015, it is impressive that the team was so concerted with the development and promotion of lefty Owens. The tall (6’6”) hurler whiffed 572 over 516 minor league frames, and then went 2-2, 3.38 over last five starts at Fenway. Not that it matters, but he does have the strange Twitter handle of @H____O_______.

Anthony DeSclafani: Sneaky good starter, DeSclafani might well be dismissed by owners who look to ERA, but if he can build on the 9.6 K per nine innings he grabbed the last month, the righty makes a nice fourth starter gamble for probably cheap.

Brandon Finnegan: Potentially dominant, Finnegan, the Royals #1 pick in 2014 had enough skills to debut that same year. 55 whiffs over 55 big league innings, Finnegan might be overlooked based upon his 2015 line.

Greg Bird: Arod and Teix are 75 years old between them, and if anyone thinks they can knock off 500 at-bats each, I know of tickets on a space shuttle trip to Alpha Centauri you might like. Bird will establish himself as a starter by June, and that will be that.

Stephen Piscotty: Pretty hard to not like a Stanford alum who debuts as well as Piscotty did last year.

Xander Bogaerts: Big jump in skill mastery last year as Bogaerts knocked out 199 hits. With his youthful Boston mates, Bogaerts will simply get better.

Gary Sanchez: He is big and slow and has a lot of pop, and just looks like he should be a Yankees catcher. What is not to like?

Marcell Ozuna: So, talented, but pushed forward so quickly, I am guessing Ozuna matures a little and settles down with the Fish, or better gets swapped, picks it up, and haunts Miami for the next ten years.

Randall Grichuk: First round pick of the Angels in 2009, then stolen by the Cards for David Freese, Grichuk has the stuff to replace Matt Holliday in all ways except a crappy attitude.

Ender Inciarte: Finished fifth in ROY polling in 2014, and stepped it up last year and hit .303 while steaking 21. This kid is good.

Brad Miller: More power first half, more plate discipline second half. I am guessing he learned.

Pans

Scott Kazmir: Great story. Great comeback. Learned to pitch, but I fear the ride is over.

Gerrado Parra: Baseline is probably a lot closer to his Baltimore 2015 line as opposed to his Milwaukee one.

Taylor Jungman: A 4.10 minor league ERA with a 1.358 WHIP tells me 2015 was an anomaly, and 2016 means a correction.

 

pixelstats trackingpixel

The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2016 in Brooklyn!

I spied the Guide in the wild today, at the Park Slope Barnes and Noble. Just us and the Sporting News amidst the gun mags.

2016-01-11 14.40.27
Guitar mags, too.
pixelstats trackingpixel

Woodrow Wilson: Father of Fantasy Baseball?

p1020962-copyJohn Thorn, basesball historian, has an amazing tale about Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US president, who as a boy appears to have spent 1871 creating a fictional version of the National Association season that year.

Found in the Woodrow Wilson collection at the Library of Congress was a handwritten end of season account, including box scores, that mimicked similar actual accounts published by Henry Chadwick.

The attention to detail is amazing, and maybe a little scary. Read Thorn’s story for all the details, including an account of the “newspaper’s” sale by the auction house that is today called Southby’s, which attributed the piece to Chadwick himself.

UPDATE: The linked story was originally published on February 24, 2014, but I just came upon it today. If you liked this story, you may like this one about the baseball game Jack Kerouac invented as a boy.

pixelstats trackingpixel

ADL: What Happened?

Screenshot 2015-10-06 14.50.03I bought the team you see on the left on April 5, 2015, to play in the American Dream League.

It is a keeper league, and I kept Kyle Seager, Kole Calhoun, Luke Gregerson and Kyle Gibson. I also kept Josmil Pinto as my first reserve pick, but he got hurt early in the season in the minors and was never called up.

Still, the other four did pretty well. Well enough to be, arguably, the best kept group in the league. That wasn’t clearly the case on auction day.

Alas, I made three costly errors in hitting on auction day: Victor Martinez (old and hurt and paid like he might repeat his extraordinary 2014 season), Adam LaRoche (got off to a hot start, but also old, and looked it as the season dragged on), and Danny Santana (young and spry but with massive holes in his swing and glove, thus spent most of the year in the minors).

These were all foreseeable outcomes, though none of the prices were crazy considering the players’ 2015 earnings. In any case, I preach it always but in this case I didn’t follow my own advice: Old guys, guys with notable flaws in their games, guys with potential health issues, have to be discounted. Otherwise, you don’t want them.

If you read my comments about Tout Wars, all I have to say here about pitching is, Ugh. I did it again. Kind of. The ADL is a 4×4 keeper league and it is known going in that the top pitchers will be kept or bid up. I priced the top guys aggressively, I thought, but they all went for premium prices. Shut out, unwilling to escalate too much, I got clever and decided to put my money on Alex Cobb, a top starter who was supposed to be back in six weeks. He didn’t come back, and was expensive bust No. 4.

Even so, in mid May I was in second place overall, and my staff was second in ERA and second in WHIP. My hitting was in terrible shape, because of slow starts by everyone. I tried to fix things on the waiver wire, but on April 20, our first week, I didn’t bid on Marco Estrada (who went for $4) and Shawn Tolleson (who went for $0). In the following weeks there wasn’t much pitching available, until Lance McCullers was called up.

I bid, but three teams bid more than $15 out of our $50 budgets. The winning team paid $19. I thought it was too expensive, until I saw McCullers pitch.

As, one by one, my high flying starters combusted, my team sank in the standings. Still, the team that finished last in the draft day standings was in fifth place as late as the penultimate week of the season.

Part of it was the ascension of Eddie Rosario and the resurrection of Shin-Shoo Choo (an old suspect guy who actually went at a discount). Some of it was adding Ben Revere at the trade deadline. I also had Kris Medlen come back in the second half, and picked up Josh Tomlin on waivers. They helped.

Another part was managing to top the league in Wins despite finishing next to last in ERA and fourth from last in WHIP. I had 26 wins from pitchers who had an ERA of more than 5.00 while they labored for my Bad K.

There are two lessons learned here.

1) Take flawed old players at a big discount or not at all. They may not fail, but the cost when they do should be less.

2) If going cheap in pitching, you have to have an ace. If you don’t have an ace you need a broader range of pitching support, which is going to cost more.

Looking at 2016, I have seven keepers max. How about?

Shin-Soo Choo 17
Chris Davis 23
Eddie Rosario 10
Jason Kipnis 20

Danny Salazar 10
Kelvin Herrera 2
Kris Medlen 3

On the Bubble

Salvador Perez 19
Caleb Joseph 1

Last but not least, Walter Shapiro’s Nattering Nabobs kicked ass all season long. They moved into first place the third week of the season, and were never bested after, winning with a 35-year league record 87 points. Here’s the finals (yes, the Palukas passed me on the next to last day, dropping me into the second division):

Screenshot 2015-10-06 23.19.01

 

 

pixelstats trackingpixel

LINK: Scars of the Game

Screenshot 2015-10-06 10.11.37The New York Times has a surprisingly engaging photo essay about elbows, Tommy John surgery, and the scars that are left behind.

pixelstats trackingpixel

Today’s Daily Fantasy Sports Controversy

I first learned about it from industry friends, who pointed to a story in today’s New York Times.  The story originally broke in a discussion forum at Rotogrinders.com.

It seems a Draft Kings employee who writes about ownership percentages (how many Draft Kings players rostered particular NFL players in any given week) at Draft Kings finished second in a Week 3 contest at FanDuel and took home $350,000.

This same DK employee had accidentally published the ownership percentages before the DK games had locked that same week, demonstrating that some individuals have access. This wasn’t known before.

Big fantasy tournaments have thousands of entries, and there is a competitive advantage in avoiding commonly-rostered players. So the first question is whether the employee was using his Draft Kings information at FanDuel?

The second question is who actually has access to his information and, while they’re not allowed to play on the sites they work for, do they use it to play on other sites?

The answers are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, murky. Daily fantasy sports is an unregulated (so far) business. And while that seems likely to change, for now players are reliant on their trust of the game makers themselves.

The website legalsportsreport.com has an excellent What we know now about the situation, which attempts to answer all the questions raised here.

It’s hard for me to believe that these games are intentionally crooked. There seems to be too much money to be made for them to cut corners, but it is also true that if there is a way to get an advantage somehow someone is going to figure it out and take it. Which is why the legal gambling industry works hard to maintain a squeaky clean reputation. Trust is important.

Trust is unraveling in DFS, today, and the operators are going to have to work to earn it back.

pixelstats trackingpixel

Gushy story about CC Sabathia

It’s in the NY Times and makes Brian Cashman sympathetic, too.

I think the timing here has to be selfless. CC needed help, and he said he did.

 

 

pixelstats trackingpixel

Tout Wars: What Happened?

The Dark Other Side of My Worst Year Yet.

RotomanWhat HappenedIt’s recap time, which is a bummer. Unlike Mike Gianella, whose graceful recap of his Tout Wars championship season is delightful and wise, finishing at the back end of the standings can feel existential. As in “why am I all alone here?”

This year was particularly so, because after the auctions in both Tout Wars and the American Dream League, when I checked the projected standings, I was told I would come in last. This didn’t bother me, at the time, because I had a high-variance strategy. High variance means if things go badly, my team will be terrible, but also that the ingredients are there for a few things to go well and the team to be very competitive.

In both Tout Wars and the American Dream League the high variance came from trying to put together the Perfect Pitching Staff, as I described in a series of pieces last year. The idea is to spend the least in pitching, the most in hitting, and still have a good shot at putting together a competitive staff.

In short, create a strong foundation with an anchor and a closer, then grab the strongest pitchers you can in the $1 to $5 range to fill in. Then add more pitchers in the reserve rounds. It is out of the ranks of the $1 to $5 and undrafted pitchers that some of the biggest bargains come. It is also out of the attractive pitchers priced in the teens that some of the biggest busts come. Avoid busts, hit on a bargain or two and with a solid ace and a solid closer you have the makings of a very competitive and bargain-priced (overall) pitching staff.

In 2014 this worked reasonably well. In the ADL I finished second, just out of first, while in Tout Wars I finished badly, but that was not because of my pitching, but rather because my high-priced hitters all got hurt. Here’s what happened in 2015.

While working through my price lists in March, in preparation for my auctions, I convinced myself that in the past I had too casually blown past my carefully-honed prices. Out of an overpay of a dollar here or a dollar there, I basically ended up overpaying for the guys I liked who someone else liked, too. This could work, of course, but it decreased my chances of finding the real bargains, which are the guys I liked that no one else liked. Based on this observation, and with a desire to do things a little differently, I committed to sticking to my prices. I wouldn’t go over them until I really had to.

Note, that my price lists added up to exactly $3120, the amount available to spend. Note also that I gave 70 percent to the hitting side, 30 percent to the pitching in Tout Wars, which has been the split in recent years.

In Tout Wars, which auctioned on March 22nd, Tristan Cockcroft threw out Max Scherzer for $30. I had $31 on my sheet. I wasn’t surprised by Tristan’s gambit (though I expected it would be Kershaw), but I didn’t go the extra dollar because I didn’t want to define my team so decisively so immediately. Big mistake.

Next out was Kershaw, nominated by Mike Gianella (who sat next to Tristan so he could throw out the big starter that Tristan didn’t). With the bidding at $37, again right below my bid limit, I stopped, with the mistaken belief that I would find a better bargain in the next group,  which included Wainwright, Bumgarner, Strasburg, Greinke and Arrieta.

I look back now and, apart from Wainwright’s injury and Strasburg’s bad first half, these guys were bargains, and therein lay my mistake. Prices be damned, if I was going to execute my plan I needed one of these guys.

And when I didn’t I needed to pivot and do a better job of accumulating other pitchers. The reason to stay away from pitchers priced in the teens is because they can be such big busts, but the odds that some of them will be big earners is better than it is for the cheapies. Here, my inflexibility hurt me.

So too, perhaps, did the fact that Tout teams spent a little more on pitching than usual, spending 31.2 percent.

All the pitchers I was high on in the middling group went for more than my bid prices.  I bid my price and someone went one more and I decided to wait for the next. Until there were none left.

Shoulders not strong enough to carry entire staff.
Shoulders not strong enough to carry entire staff.

At which point I had the Braves saves (Craig Kimbrel) and the Mets saves (Jenry Mejia and Bobby Parnell) and had to do something. Still, I maintained my pricing discipline to the bitter end, letting all sorts of good cheap pitchers go because I had them for $1 and they went to $2. I ended up with Matt Cain for $9 (my max price for a guy who I thought could bounce back, but who couldn’t) and Jose Fernandez for $9 (a fair price for half a season of an ace, only he got hurt again), plus Tsuyoshi Wada and Mike Minor (both also on the DL), and Tom Kohler, my ace.

The good thing, of course, was that I had a killer offense, except, Anthony Rendon went down and Tulowitzki and McCutchen got off to bad starts, and even with a great season from Gerardo Parra and productivity from Wil Venable, I had no excess from which to deal.

And yet, all was not a disaster. At some point over the summer I crawled up to sixth place. I was no threat to fifth place, but I was close to 60 points, and ahead of more teams than I was behind. I had Jose Fernandez, pitching lights out, but because I had been so far behind in ERA and WHIP earlier in the year, I had continued to throw as many terrible two-start pitchers (the only available ones) as I could find, to try and hang in in Wins and Strikeouts.

That made Fernandez  trade bait. In fact, I made a deal to trade him, a deal for two closers, the night in early August he got hurt again. I emailed my trading partner, offering him an out, and he took it. We called off the trade.

After that the slide was inexorable. I tried to stream two-start pitchers and ended up owning almost all of the young Cincinnati starters except the good one. That didn’t matter, because I was dead in ERA and WHIP, but soon I was also dead in Wins and Strikeouts. Bad pitching doesn’t get many of those.

And Tulo in Toronto was not an offensive force, Ryan Braun (who the radio guys after the auction criticized, but who had a great season) got hurt, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever.

I screwed up the auction royally. I had a high variance strategy that instead of excellent or awful had at it’s end points (due to miserable execution) mediocre and miserable. That’s the end of the story.

 

 

 

pixelstats trackingpixel