The Fantasy Football Guide 2019 Is Here!

The official release date was July 21st, but the first copy in the wild appeared on July 14th. Let us know where you’ve seen it and we’ll get out the word!

Ask Rotoman: Keeping It Fair While Adding Keepers

Dear Rotoman:

As commissioner of our league we traditionally kept three players for three seasons with the three keepers counting as your first three picks just to keep it simple.

I was wondering if we gave owners the option to keep up to five players with those players going as your five first rounds. But I want to keep it fair for all owners, even ones that don’t have a too many true keepers.

My question is, would it necessarily hurt a weak team if he only kept one or two players and attempted to rebuild from the draft. My goal is not to put someone at disadvantage because these changes.

“Even Steven”

Dear Even:

Your issue isn’t expansion, I don’t think, but rather your decision to make your keepers the first three picks in your draft. This setup means that the keeper comparison, the rationale for keeping a guy rather than throwing him back and taking the best available player, is much higher than it probably should be.

Here’s why:

Assuming your league is 12 teams (but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t, the same rationale would apply to any size league), your three keeps are going to take 36 players off the draft board. Are these the top 36 players on your board? Almost certainly not.

Well, the first few years they might be close, but as freeze eligibilities expire for players they go back up on the board. If they are better than your third-best, or second-best, or even first-best freeze, you might as well not keep the keeper, or keepers.

This is sure to happen, and when it does your keeper system should break down quickly. The only way for it to not break down is if each owner is required to keep three players.

And, of course, expanding to five keepers, and giving owners the option to not keep five, will only make matters worse.

The right way to value keepers in a draft league is to keep them in the round they were taken originally. That way they have real value and don’t have to compete with the best available players on the draft board for value.

It isn’t as easy to track, but it isn’t that hard either, and should make your game much more fun.

Sincerely,

ASK ROTOMAN: More categories please.

Hi,

Our three-player keeper/yahoo standard roster /10 team league/ daily moves. wants to modernize our standard 5×5 categories for next season, but we can’t come to an agreement.

Either 6×6 adding OPS, QS and replacing S with S+H.

Or 7×7 adding OBP, SLG, QS, Holds separate.

We are expanding the rosters slightly next season as well, and we also don’t want to drop the win category all together.

We don’t know what potential issues we will have with these potential set ups, thanks for your help.

“Cats Meow”

Dear Cats:

I’m in favor of modernizing, for sure, but you were right to ask, because there are implications worth considering in all your potential moves.

The big one: Do more categories make for a better game? The obvious answer is with more categories you have more verisimilitude. More different players have value doing different things and that’s good, right?

Maybe not. Or rather, more categories means you run into a math problem. Back in ancient times we played 4×4 (no Runs or Strikeouts), but sometime around 2000 it became obvious that more and more people were playing 5×5 (with Runs and Strikeouts). In Tout Wars we switched over and those of us who do player pricing discovered something that makes total sense but wasn’t at all intuitive: More cats mean the most expensive players earn less.

The reason is math. Each category siphons off some value from the players at the top, and gives it to the players in the middle. Last year the game’s premiere strikeout pitcher, Max Scherzer, earned $40 in 5×5 (with strikeouts) and $41 in 4×4 (without strikeouts). Crazy, eh? Be prepared for that.

In other instances, you’re adding redundant categories. For instance, if you add OPS to a league that counts batting average, too, you’re counting batting average twice. And counting home runs twice, too, since they’re a big part of the SLG slice of OPS. I would recommend replacing BA with OBP, so that you count walks on the hitting side as well as the pitching side, and be done with it.

Similarly, adding QS as an extra category in addition to Wins, means starting pitchers games started are counted twice in counting stats (plus strikeouts! That’s three times) and they loom larger in ERA and WHIP as well. This will make good starting pitchers much more valuable, and much more pricey I would think.

Plus, adding Holds to the Saves category makes relievers much less valuable. The reason is supply and demand. Saves have value because there is only one fellow on a team getting a save in any given game. Holds can be spread between two or three pitchers, which expands the pool significantly. With more supply comes less demand, and lower prices. Is that what you want?

In The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2012, I think, Tim McLeod pitched the idea of using Saves + Half Holds as a category, to give recognition to middle relievers, but to continue to venerate those who are able to close games without getting hurt or becoming ineffective. I think this is much better way to go.

And while we’re at that, Wins + Half QS as a single cat recognizes that bad luck can hurt starters who are pitching effectively without destroying the notion that getting a win is something pitchers are trying to do and should be rewarded for.

Okay, so right now I’m on: OBP, Runs, HR, RBI, SB for hitters. ERA, WHIP, W+Half QS, Sv + Half Holds, and Strikeouts for pitchers. Hmm. 5×5.

I guess if you wanted to go to 6×6 I’d suggest adding SLG to the hitting side (count doubles as well as homers) and Innings Pitched to the pitching side, though I fear that doubling up on IP and Ks is going to push too much value to the pitchers again. Tristan Cockcroft has long suggested adding IP and changing Ks to K/9, making it a third pitching rate stat. That does restore some balance to the starter/reliever mix.

Might there be unintended consequences having half the pitching cats be rate stats? There might be, but Tristan swears by this and so it is surely worth a shot.

One other idea: Fielding stats. I know, they’re all flawed, but in fantasy baseball the goal isn’t a perfect reflection of a player’s contribution on a baseball field, but a given valuation based on the stats you choose to count.

Inside Edge has published fielding stats in recent years that track plays based on difficulty. So they have plays rated Impossible (no one can make them), Remote (a 1-10 percent chance), Unlikely (11-40 percent chance), Even (40-60), Likely (60-90), and Routine (91-100). My idea is to add Remote plays as a counting stat.

Last year, Nolan Arenado made 39 Remote plays, two more than Brandon Crawford, who made one more than Manny Machado. This would be a little like Home Runs, events that some players do regularly, but far from every day. Giving value to Brandon Crawford for his defense seems like a worthwhile idea.

The other category would be to count Routine as a rate stat, so every error or misplay on a play everyone should make would hurt your team in that one. Many outfielders and catchers top this list, having not made a mistake on a routine play last year, but there is Rougned Odor in 19th place, the highest ranked middle infielder by far. Let’s give him a hand.

The only problem is that this data is not available from Inside Edge in game, and FanGraphs is not even showing it for 2019. If no stats services have it, it doesn’t exist, so for now this is a pipe dream. But in the future, I’m all in.

Good luck with your decision. I hope you and your leaguemates have a fun discussion.

Sincerely,

Ask Rotoman: Two Fer Two Trade

Ask Rotoman: Hey hope all is well. Love the articles!!

I am in a 10 team NL-only 5×5 league. I was offered Starling Marte and Archie Bradley for Sonny Grey and Ben Zobrist. Should I jump on it?? Should I stay away from Marte?? Thanks!!

“Contusion Confusion”

Hey CC:

All is good here. Thanks for the question.

I’d say about 100 percent of your question turns on how hurt Marte is. We don’t have a definitive answer, but after running into Erik Gonzalez last week Marte has resumed some baseball activities. Does that mean he’s due back soon? No.

But it does mean that there is a timeline for him coming back. Since he’s a bit of a star that’s important, because the other guys in your deal are not stars. An Archie Bradley who isn’t closing is a fill in type. Not a bad pitcher, but someone you’re looking to replace if you have him active.

As for Sonny Grey, so far so good. Right now he’s pitching like the front line pitcher he was a few years ago. If he continues with that he could be worth Marte, who is a front line hitter (when he gets over the injury). Are you going to bet he continues with that?

As far as Zobrist goes, he’s the bat side equivalent of Archie Bradley. Useful in an NL only league, but less so in a 10 team edition.

In conclusion. Starling Marte in a hot month or two could produce more than the other three combined over the whole season. Or not, but I think that’s the bet you want to take.

“Unreservedly,”

Patton $ Cheat Sheets are here in time for your Fantasy Baseball Auction/Draft! That means now!

Is your fantasy baseball draft coming up? Are you not ready? Or would you like to see what lists Alex Patton and Rotoman (FSWA Hall of Famers) are using this year? No matter what you need, they are here to help.

We’ve extracted all the ranked position charts from the PattonandCo.com annual subscriber package (which we’ve been selling for 20 years and you can buy here) and made Fantasy Baseball Cheat Sheets based on Alex’s 4×4 and Rotoman’s 5×5 lists for AL, NL and Mixed leagues.

These lists are great for reviewing your own opinions, or as the basis for your auction/draft itself. These are the Cheat Sheets Alex and Rotoman will be taking to their own AL and NL only auctions this week and next.

Interested? You can read more and buy by clicking here.

My Tout Wars Mixed Draft.

This is my first year in the Tout Wars Mixed Draft league. The thing to remember about this league is that in the last four years Rudy Gamble has finished first twice and second twice, Adam Ronis has finished first twice and second once, and so since the 2015 season only one other player has finished first or second: Scott White, in 2017.

In the offseason Rudy suggested that he and Ronis had an advantage because of Tout’s rules allowing the top finishers first choices in picking draft position the following year. But a little research with NFBC leagues doesn’t show any advantage to earlier picks in a draft. Last year teams picking in the ninth, 10th and 11th slots has slightly better results than others.

There is talk about changing this rule, but I would like to see some solid evidence that having the first pick consistently helps team finish higher in the standings. For that we need to look at more years.

In last night’s Mixed Draft, I chose to pick in the No. 10 slot. This was based on the aforesaid research, thin as it was, but also on my observation that if you didn’t get one of the first two picks this year you were basically playing a jump ball for the next eight or nine players. Earlier in the week, in the National Fantasy Baseball Invitational, I lucked into the 11th pick (it was random), and scored Alex Bregman.

With the 10th pick in a league that uses On Base Percentage instead of Batting Average, I hoped I might get a shot at JD Martinez or Christian Yelich or some other of that 2-10 group of hitters, and I did. Only the guy who fell to me was unexpectedly Nolan Arenado, since Jose Ramirez didn’t drop as he might have. I did not debate this pick.

Here are some comments on the successive picks:

ROUND 2: Freddie Freeman. The alternative option was Rhys Hoskins. I like Freddie.

ROUND 3: Charlie Blackmon. Two of the Rockies big producers for my Colorado based team. I’m looking forward to seeing them on April 9th against the Braves. Yes, I’m a homer.

ROUND 4: Corey Seager. This was perhaps the most challenging pick. The question: Do I go Correa, who suffered with back injuries last year but says he’s healthy, or Seager, who missed almost the whole year with hip and elbow surgeries, but is expected to be healthy by opening day? When healthy they’re pretty similar. I picked Seager as much on a hunch as on a fear of back spasms.

ROUND 5: Clayton Kershaw. I would usually have taken one of the ace pitchers in the third round, but the only one left was Luis Severino, who earlier in the day was shut down with arm discomfort. In the fourth, as the only team without a pitcher and the second wave of starters just starting to go, I chose an offensive piece, figuring I could get someone comparable in the fifth. In this context, I’ll take Kershaw. He can’t be expected to throw 200 innings, he may not strike out an elite number, but he’s shown that he can get guys out anyway. If I get 150 innings like last year I’ll be very happy with this.

ROUND 6: Michael Brantley. Frankly, he showed up at the top of my queue based on my rankings in this format. Other guys in this area, like David Dahl and Michael Conforto, were tempting. I went with the queue.

ROUND 7: Dee Gordon. This round was very meh. I wasn’t thrilled with the hitters, didn’t feel like the pitchers were worth reaching for, but did have a need at that point for steals. Dee Gordon was a category play. It meant I didn’t need to worry about steals again. On the radio later, Glenn Colton asked me if I was concerned about Gordon hitting down in the order. I would be concerned if I needed 60 steals from him, but I’ll be quite happy with 25-30 and a not totally destructive OBP.

ROUND 8: Josh Hader. It was time for a closer. Instead I took an innings eating setup guy who strikes out a starter’s worth of hitters. He could get saves if things break right, but without an ace on board I decided to cobble a high skills pitching staff together out of injury concerns and question marks. I could have taken someone like LeClerc, who will likely get more saves than Hader, but he might not and he won’t be as decisively dominant. That was my thinking, at any rate.

ROUND 9: Michael Foltynewicz. Surely Folty fell this far because of concerns about his elbow, which has slowed his spring training. The reports sound okay at this point, he may miss an early start (or he could implode) but if he turns out to be okay he’s a big plus.

ROUND 10: Wade Davis. Here come some saves, I figure.

ROUND 11: Tim Anderson. A 20-20 shortstop who is just maturing into his prime is gold, especially since he’s shown some a smidge of progress on the walk-taking side of things. It does mean I need to find ways to shore up my OBP.

ROUND 12: Ender Inciarte. I should have taken Kepler here, but I had Inciarte ranked higher. I’m one who has been holding his breath for the Kepler breakout for some time now. Inciarte makes enough contact and runs enough that I might be able to use him or Gordon to make a trade later.

ROUND 13: Josh James. Like Folty, he’s hurt during spring training, and that seems to be enough to knock the youngster out of the rotation to start the season. Like Folty, he can strike out a lot of guys. Many of my targets for this round, Ryu, Maeda, and Peacock, were snatched up just before my pick. Maybe I could have waited til the 14th, but there wasn’t anyone coming up that one I fancied more.

ROUND 14: Sean Newcomb. He ran out of gas last season, his first, but he’s a bonafide strikeout guy who could quickly become a No. 2 with just a bit better control. And he’s not hurt.

ROUND 15: Josh Bell. This guy can hit. He can also walk. He’s constantly criticized for not hitting for big power as a first baseman, but he was exactly the sort of OBP sink that I needed. The funny thing is that I debated whether to go for Bell or Brian Anderson with this pick. They’re both essentially the same player, and both perfect for late in the day OBP leagues. I chose Bell because it feels like more power could come to him sooner. I’m not counting on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

ROUND 16: Jorge Alfaro. Catching was getting very thin and I liked Alfaro a lot last year. There is less to like this year, at least for now, but the AB should be there in Miami and there is some chance that as he settles into the job he’ll blossom as I expected him to last year.

ROUND 17: Jimmy Nelson. Did not pitch last year. Was very good the year before that. I’m wary of shoulder rehabs, but the reward potential here is high. The pitcher taken before him was Carlos Martinez, no prize, and the next after was Jake Junis, who I would have liked to have. Love those AL Central pitchers.

ROUND 18: Gregory Polanco. More risk here, but we’re in the endgame and this is a mixed league. Not totally shallow, but there will be players to sub in for Polanco until he returns. The bigger question is how much he’ll run when he comes back, and how much the injury will sap his power.

ROUND 19: Reynaldo Lopez. He struck out more and walked fewer in the second half than in the first. For a young pitcher, one for whom I would excuse a fatigue-induced second-half melt down, that seems like a good sign. He also has the advantage of pitching a lot of games against the Royals and Tigers.

ROUND 20: Vince Velasquez. He’s not going to throw a lot of innings, he gets pulled after two times through the lineup, but he throws strikeouts and kept the ball in the park last year. No chance he becomes the ace he once looked like he’d grow into, but if properly managed he could be a very sneaky fantasy asset.

ROUND 21: Brian Anderson. Look what I found. Another corner with a nice stroke, excellent on base skills and not a ton of power. Anderson also has the virtue of qualifying in the outfield.

ROUND 22: Freddy Peralta. The theme develops. Peralta, like Josh James, could end up in the bullpen, where his strikeouts will soar as his innings drop. The big question is just how soaring the bases on balls remain, and whether he can continue to throw fly balls that don’t get out of the park. With young pitchers of talent, there is always a chance.

ROUND 23: Austin Hedges. Needed another catcher. Liked Hedges before he demonstrated just how hard it is for him to make contact with bat on ball. He has some power and a bit of pedigree, and he’s turning 27, which isn’t magic but gets him past the early struggles of a young catcher.

RESERVE ROUNDS: There are six reserve rounds in Tout Mixed Draft. Your roster doesn’t have to be complete after 23 rounds, but does need to be after 29. I took Kevin Pillar (useful power speed outfield backup, will play while Polanco is out), Brent Honeywell (staying on message), Framber Valdez (not in the rotation yet, but effective in there last year), Mark Melancon (could he close in SF? Closer monkey says so), Joe Jimenez (could he close in Detroit? Closer monkey says not yet, but he’s behind Shane Greene, who could be traded), and Yonny Chirinos (more in the Franber mode than the Honeywell, he looked promising last year).

In summary, I like my team. It could be really good if things work out, and could be awful if things don’t. The biggest issue will likely be that this staff of talented but risky arms will not run up the innings and will end up struggling in Wins and Strikeouts, even if it pitches well. It’s harder to pull this off in 5×5 than it is in 4×4. But it won’t take a lot of good luck to land in the hunt, which at this point, three weeks before the start of the season, is all you can hope for.

Ask Rotoman: Dynasty Keeper Cut One

Hi,

I am in a daily head-to-head dynasty league. This year we cut the number of minor leaguers we can keep from 5 to 3. I have Jo Adell, Joey Bart, Dylan Cease, Keibert Ruiz, and Nick Senzel.

I prefer Bart over Ruiz, and since both are catchers, I think Ruiz is out.

The question is do I cut Adell, Senzel, or Cease? My concern is based on what position Senzel might wind up at. Thoughts?

“Senzelbility or Surcease?”

Dear S-squared:

Given his age, his tools, his proven skills, and did I mention his age(?), Jo Adell is a Dynasty player to own. He’s not likely to see the majors this year, might not see them in 2020, but he could if he keeps mashing. I wouldn’t drop him.

Which brings us to Senzel and Cease and your concern about Senzel’s position.

First off, Senzel is the better prospect. Just is. A good hitter is always a better prospect than a good pitcher because not as many hitting prospects fall apart in the majors, plus the injury risk.

And Senzel is expected to start the year in the majors, or, you know, sometime a little later so the Reds gain an extra year of control, while Cease may get a call up but he may not.

As to position, Senzel is likely a second baseman as the season starts. The Reds are talking about having him play in center field. That dings his value a bit, especially if you’re in a 10-team league, but that’s in the future. For now you have some second base goodness coming (or here), and Senzel is such a polished hitter he’s likely to start strong and get stronger.

That’s Senzelble.

Sincerely,

Ask Rotoman: My Fifth Keeper?

Hi,

10 team mixed league with 5 offensive (OBP, HR, Rbis, R, SB and 4 pitching categories (Wins, Saves, ERA and WHIP) NO STRIKEOUTS.

5 keepers

Committed to 4: Freddie Freeman, Jose Ramirez, Charlie Blackmon and Francisco Lindor. Fifth from Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola or maybe Jean Segura.

Any preference from these three?

“A Fifth of Gerrit or Man of Aaron?”

Dear Fifth Man:

I don’t know. The biggest difference between Cole and Nola is that Gerrit has six letters and Aaron only five. And Cole was a better strikeout pitcher last year.

For one thing, go with a pitcher, because you need an ace and Cole and Nola are two of the top tier of starting pitchers.

Since strikeouts don’t count in your league there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. Will Houston score more runs and win more games? That’s a point for Cole. Who has been better the last two years combined? That would be Nola, but Cole was better last year.

In 5×5, I have Cole at $28 and Nola at $26, but that difference is due to strikeouts. Nola has the edge in ERA and WHIP, but it’s a small one. So, like I said, I don’t know.

I guess I would go with Cole if forced to pick, which I’m making myself do, because I think the improvement he showed last year is sustainable and that makes him the better power pitcher. Thus more likely to repeat.

But if you’re hunch goes the other way, go with your hunch.

Sincerely,

Eno Sarris on Stats

The Athletic has hired a solid stable of fantasy and analytical baseball writers. The excellent Eno Sarris published a story today about how advanced stats work. He makes drudgery fun, plus it’s baseball.

Ask Rotoman: The Next Step to Winning

Hello,
I’m writing because I read your article in your magazine. It’s great it’s been around for 20 years.  Typically I print out a cheat sheet and try to study it and overstudy but can’t beat having a magazine with insights and tips.  I’m also writing because I am the commissioner of my league.  This will be the 10th anniversary of it!  It’s been 10 years and I still haven’t won a championship.  My league is with Yahoo 5×5 Head to Head.  I rack my brains out every year.  I’ve gotten better over the years, making the playoffs, but I can’t get over the hump.  Any suggestions or advice you may have, besides walking away with my sanity while it’s still intact?  I laugh buts it’s true.  Every year I try a different strategy but never seems to pan out.  Oh and it’s not a keeper league.  Which I think makes it a lot more difficult.  Thanks for reading my plea for help.  Hopefully I’ll be able to hear from you soon. Keep up the great work!
“Bridesmaid”

Dear B:
In my day (which is a long one) I’ve won a fair number of league titles, but I’ve been playing in Tout Wars for 20 years and not won a title. Second place a few times, in the money some, but never a first. So I know where you’re coming from. The fact is, however, that there is no one-size fits all answer to the question. Here’s why.
If everyone in your league was equally talented, equally smart, made an equal effort, in 10 years at least two teams, despite doing everything right, would not have won titles. In 2o years the odds would be that one or two equally talented teams would not have a title. So the fact is that we’re really looking at a sample size that’s too small to accurately judge what’s going on based on the results. The challenge for you is to analyze what’s happening in your league, and then come up with a strategy that will give you an edge, because the keys to winning are three: Knowing the values of players, knowing how other teams value players, and working hard to always get the edge in value.
Here are a few places to look:
Knowing the value of players: Of first importance is knowing your scoring system. How many points hitters and pitchers score, and when, makes a huge difference, and will determine how valuable players are. In shallow mixed leagues nearly all the value is found in the more better best most extraordinary players. While everyone knows these players, they’re the first ones to go in the draft. Then, at every pick later in the draft you’re going to have to choose between a player who is 30 years old, a solid regular with unspectacular production and a player who is younger, more athletic, but with perhaps injury or playing time issues. In other words, $10 in the bank versus the possibility of buying $20 with the risk of getting only $1. What you need to remember is that in a shallow mixed league the value of $10 in the bank is less than the riskier player, because if your riskier pick fails there will be other players available on waivers who are almost as good as the safe pick.
Knowing how other teams value players: One of the things I like about drafts is that bad players can totally screw up picks if they don’t know how the room values players. One of the things I don’t like about drafts is that I can screw up picks, too, if I don’t get the room right. The way to get familiar with what other people do in the draft room is to participate in Mock Drafts. It only takes a few, played by your league’s rules, to get a feel for the types of players taking Adelberto Mondesi and Vlad Jr. in the second or third round. There is variation in every mock, but seeing the highs and lows for players will give you an idea about when you need to reach for the guys you value highly, and not reach too early. (It’s also an opportunity to try out different approaches to your draft, to see how the opposition reacts.)
Working hard to always get the edge in value: Working harder means working effectively. I think your first order of business should be to figure out if there is a reason other teams have won your league. If it’s just one or two guys winning, what are they doing? If it’s a different team winning every year, and they’re all doing different things, what are all the things they’re doing? And what can you do to find the bargains they leave behind. Then, work hard in season to stay on top of matchups, player health and slumps, and pursuing creative trades that can earn you extra points bit by bit. Extra points lead to extra wins.
You may or may not solve this thing this year. Head to Head can get pretty random, especially in the playoffs, so the best team doesn’t always win. But having the best team will give you the best chance. If you execute this year and honestly evaluate after the season about what went right and what went wrong, you’ll be able to hone your approach the following year so that you get better. Consistently working in a framework of evaluation and experimentation is the way to improve, so that when you get lucky you’ll find the championship you long for.
Good luck!