ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question

Ask Rotoman:

I can hold 8 in a $260 NL only auction league. Which 8 do u think?

Jose Peraza $8 Starlin Castro 8 Yasmani Grandal 6 Jeff McNeil 1 Lorenzo Cain 29 Eric Lauer 1 Stephen Matz 6 Trevor Williams 3 Alen Hanson 1 Hector Neris 1 Yoshi Hirano 5 Pablo Lopez 1 Franchy Cordero 10 Koda Glover 2.

Thanks
Eight is Enough

Dear Eight:

I don’t usually answer such open-ended questions on the site because, well, it seems to me you should do most of the work. That’s why you play. And then hit me with the hard question I might contribute something to. For you, that’s determining your No. 7 and 8 picks.

But today is launch day of the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017 and your question does let me highlight how to decide who to keep.

Make a list of your players and their prices. Then add their big prices from the Guide (or whatever reputable source you have for prices, including your own), and do the math:

Jose Peraza $8 $25 = +$17
Starlin Castro 8 $18 = +$10
Yasmani Grandal 6 $10 = +$3
Jeff McNeil 1 $12 = +$11
Lorenzo Cain 29 $24 = -$5
Eric Lauer 1 $2 = +$1
Stephen Matz 6 $8 = +$2
Trevor Williams 3 $12 = +$9
Alen Hanson 1 $5 = +$4
Hector Neris 1 $1 = E
Yoshi Hirano 5 $3 = -$2
Pablo Lopez 1 $1 = E
Franchy Cordero 10 $5 = -$5
Koda Glover 2 $0 = -$2

First thing first, there are the big winners: Peraza, Castro, McNeil, and Trevor Williams are obvious keeps. That’s four.

Picking off the other four gets more complicated. First off, Yasmani Grandal is at a good price and is looking at a change of scene that might give him a boost. That’s five.

Of the remainders, Alen Hanson is cheap. He’s not a great hitter, doesn’t have much power or speed, but he could get a fair number of at bats, and he has some power and maybe a little speed. That’s six.

To get to the final two you have to evaluate my prices and your expectations.

For instance, if you think Glover or Hirano might close, you have to consider them. At present I do not.

If you’re in a pinch you can keep Lopez and Lauer, because they are arms with some talent who might get a chance to play this year. The problem is they’re not going for more than a buck or two on auction day, so these are plays of last resort.

Lorenzo Cain is costly, and should go for less than $29 in startup leagues, but what is the inflation rate in your league? If it’s more than 20-percent he becomes something like a  bargain. Heck, you might think he’s going to go for $29 in your league, which definitely makes him a bargain. You have to decide if you want to park that money in him, or go after a different outfielder to anchor your offense. He could be your seventh keeper. Or not. I’m personally wary of $33 year old outfielders whose games rely on speed. With each year, the risk of a big failure goes up.

Which brings us to Steven Matz or Franchy Cordero. I think $10 is too much for Cordero, but others love him and if you love him you might want to take a chance. FWIW Baseball HQ has him earning $15 this year. I think his contact skills are so bad that, while he could earn $15, he could also be back in the minors in a hurry. Especially because he’s coming off a wrist injury.

Which leave us with Matz, who has been injury prone and not that good since his dazzling debut in 2015. I think he’s no riskier than Cordero and cheaper, with the same sort of upside, which is why I would make him my eighth.

When you have to make these decisions matters a lot. Health issues and playing time issues will become clearer than mud as the preseason approaches. The longer you can wait the more clarity you’ll bring to your final decisions. But it doesn’t hurt to start exploring the possibilities early.

Best,

rotomansignature

Rotoman

Brian Walton Tastes Own Medicine. Smiles.

My friend Brian pays attention to the rules. He’s done that in Tout Wars for years, and in recent years has been writing a column at Creativesports.com (and Mastersball.com before that) about fantasy baseball rules.

This week I thought I’d caught him up in a rules violations in the XFL, a league we play in together.

 

And I did, but he’d already gotten clearance from the league’s poobahs, who said there was precedence for his position. Maybe there was, but whoever benefited from it should have also insisted that the language in the Constitution be changed. It wasn’t.

What I know is that I reverse engineered the box score, and Franmil Reyes had his 50th at bat of the season, changing his draft status, in the bottom of the 6th inning of Sunday night’s Padres game. That at bat clearly came before 9pm, draft time, when Brian took Reyes as a Farm player. That is, one with 49 or fewer at bats. But Brian was allowed the +$3 for his newest farm player.

My partner Alex and I were fine with the common sense rule being applied, rather than what was written in the Constitution, and yet we still nurse a grudge about the fact that the league didn’t apply the common sense ruling they should have, that when a Frozen player dies before the auction, as Oscar Taveras did a few years ago, you should be allowed to at least open up his slot on auction day to make room for a sentient body. The fact that no one had died in the last two weeks of October before meant that there was no precedent, but the exception is now in the Constitution.

You should always read Brian, he’s a punctilious  thinker and a good guy. Plus, among a lot of things, he knows his Cardinals. His story is here.

And the Constitution has been changed to reflect reality. Yeah for that.

Baseball and Race and Let’s Talk About It

My friend, Don Drooker, wrote about Jackie Robinson last week. Why? What, are you living under a rock? Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League baseball on April 15, 1947.

That is appalling, as every baseball fan knows. And really as anyone who has thought about the history of the United States knows. But that is what happened, and we rightfully celebrate the end of the barrier. It would certainly be wrong not to, at least until all the ancillary misery of racism has been fixed.

I think about the slogan, Make America Great Again, and it is difficult to think of it as meaning anything other than that we were a better country when we were whiter and had more slaves, or at least fewer civil rights laws. My friend Don’s piece reminded me of something.

I was young. Maybe 6, could be 7. My friends and I collected baseball cards. We were crazy about baseball cards, really. And we played games. The most popular baseball card games we played were built on the rules of the card game War.

You would lay down a card, at random, and another player would lay down a card at random. If they matched, the other player would take your card. If they didn’t match, the next player would turn a card, and so on until a match was made.

Matches were made with logo colors, team names, positions. We had a lot of variations of the game. This was a way to mix up our card collections, which we didn’t see as having monetary value, but we did see as currency of a baseball fandom sort.

And then, one day, we decided to play the same game, but using player skin color as the determinant for matches. What I can say for sure is none of us six year olds thought skin color meant anything other than the color of skin. There were no other signifiers for us. We saw it as natural a swap as your yellow logo versus my yellow logo. So we sat on the stoop of my friend’s house playing this game, when my friend’s mother heard what we were doing. Matching on skin tones. Boom.

Everyone had to go home. This was unacceptable.

I think back and I don’t blame my nameless friend’s mom. She was telling us race is not a game.

But she wasn’t telling us that race is in the eye of the beholder. It is a power system. And our innocent heads, up to that point, didn’t see skin color as anything other than skin color. A shade.

Later, we learned how much more there was to it.

 

Tout Wars H2H: Justin Mason May Have A Point

This is the third year of the Tout Wars Head to Head League and the third new scoring system.

Year one we went with a roto scoring system for 22 head to head contests, and then a real roto scoring standings system for the remaining 36 contests. First place was 12-0, second was 11-1, and so on. It was an interesting idea that earned Jeff Zimmerman a win over Brent Hershey, despite Brent’s better direct H2H record, but it was cumbersome to track in season.

Year two we went with 22 head to head contests, using a variety of roto categories. Vlad Sedler edged out Andrea LaMont on the season. It was fine.

In both the first two years I finished third.

For Year three we’re moving to a traditional points scoring system. The idea has been pushed by Jake Ciely since day one, and the point that finally won the day was this one: More people play head to head points than any other game.

Of course, they don’t play head to head auction, and here is why that matters.

H2H points games are usually run with snake drafts. Teams pick in whatever order they’re assigned, with picks reversing each round. In a points league your goal is to amass the most points, and in a points draft the best player to take is the one you think is going to score the most points. Always.

In an auction, your goal is to buy the most points you can, but there are a variety of ways to get there. You can be creative in how you score your points. The creative approaches teams in the H2H league used this past weekend were two.

1) You could go stars and scrubs, buying expensive players and then filling in with cheap ones at the end. Every team but Clay Link did this, averaging less than three players who went in the teens (Link bought seven such).

2) You could go stars and scrubs, with all your stars pitchers, and spend only $59 on hitters. Only Justin Mason did this.

You can read about Justin’s team here.  He basically cracked the code. He zigged in a way that gives him a pretty big advantage over every other team. Week after week. The reason is because in points leagues two-start pitchers generally earn a lot of points in their weeks, and stud pitchers, who go deep into games (like, say, Justin’s Kershaw and Scherzer) earn a lot of points every start. So in any given week pitchers are going to earn a lot of points, giving Justin’s team a win in pitching.

As long as he scores enough hitting points so that he loses hitting by less than he wins pitching by, he’ll go home each week a 6-2 winner. (Each contest gives two wins to the hitting winner, two wins to the pitching winner, and four wins to the overall winner, and corresponding losses.)

Because this is a 12-team league, there are plenty of replacement players out there. Lots of decent hitters on the waiver wire. The rest of us have a lot of work to do.

For my part, I didn’t come up with a very clever way to take advantage of the rules. Having never played in a points league before, I took my projections, converted them to points, and tried to buy the highest scorers. I figured the most expensive players would be a little overpriced, because they didn’t really score that many more points than others, and I went for guys on the next tier. I like my team, who doesn’t like a 12-team league team, but have no idea how to measure it against the others, all of which have a similar mix of costly hitters, costly pitchers and cheap everything else.

I think we’re going to have to play this one out, and hope that Justin doesn’t run away with it early.

Team Rotoman

C: Sal Perez, Yasmani Grandal

MI: Brian Dozier, Elvis Andrus, Whit Merrifield

CI: Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer

OF: AJ Pollock, Billy Hamilton, Domingo Santana, Ian Happ, Manny Margot

UT: Yuli Gurriel

SP: Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda

RP: Jeurys Familia, Arodys Vizcaino, Alex Colome

RES: Willie Calhoun, David Robertson, AJ Minter, Amed Rosario, Carlos Rodon, Zach Britton

This is a team that’s probably light in power and innings, that will need a breakout season for Taijuan Walker to push it over the top.

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational

Justin Mason, of Fantasy Friends With Benefits, did a good big thing. He got Fantrax to host a bunch of 15 team leagues full of fantasy experts, plus put up a grand in prize money.

The rules are pretty normal, except there is that looming consolidated standings.

I landed in League 9, which included some folks I knew, like Adam Ronis and Tim Heaney, some I’d heard of, especially Doug Thorburn and Rob Silver, and a bunch of other foes who proved to be formidable, too.

This was a tough draft. There was no finessing picks. You had to take who you wanted, because they were not going to be there next turn.

Picking from the 13th spot afforded opportunity, I landed Blackmon and Bryant as my first two picks, but meant it was a long time to get back to my third pick, when all the stud pitchers were gone. Six of them in a row preceding my pick of Edwin Encarnacion. Okay, mostly gone. I could have made it seven by taking Yu Darvish.

This is also a league with one catcher. I like two catchers. Most catchers share time, two catcher rosters recognize this, and force decisions about how to allocate budget to backstops. One catcher diminishes the importance of almost all catchers. The 15th catcher isn’t a stud, but he’s not a waste. And if he turns out to be a waste, for whatever reason, the short roster means there will be options. Two catchers means you have to commit, and you have to work hard to recover if something goes wrong. I think that’s a tougher play.

In this league I have a pretty strong offense. That’s because I didn’t take a pitcher until the sixth round. And I then proceeded to make a mostly risk pitching staff. Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb had yet to sign. Eduardo Rodriguez is hurt. Brad Peacock is a swing man in a deep staff. Kyle Hendricks wasn’t all he was supposed to be last year.

We can argue pitching all day. What I surely didn’t do was buy saves. This was a function of trying to buy high-skills pitchers who were still available. Guys like Hendricks, Jameson Taillon, and even Zack Wheeler. Did I want Fernando Rodney or Shane Green instead? No.

But not having two closers is a problem in a broad contest with many many scores of teams. As I said to Justin in an email the other day, I might easily win this league and not do well at all in the overall. To fix that I’m going to have to find some saves.

Fortunately, that’s possible. My Team (Five reserve picks are pitchers):

Pos Player Team
C Posey, Buster SF
1B Encarnacion, Edwin CLE
2B Merrifield, Whit KC
3B Bryant, Kris CHC
SS Gregorius, Didi NYY
CI Bird, Greg NYY
MI Anderson, Tim CHW
OF Blackmon, Charlie COL
OF Fowler, Dustin OAK
OF Hicks, Aaron NYY
OF Pillar, Kevin TOR
OF Souza Jr., Steven ARI
UT Cruz, Nelson SEA
UT Duffy, Matt TB
Totals
Pitching
Pos Player Team
P Arrieta, Jake PHI
P Givens, Mychal BAL
P Hendricks, Kyle CHC
P Hildenberger, Trevor MIN
P Kahnle, Tommy NYY
P Madson, Ryan WAS
P Peacock, Brad HOU
P Taillon, Jameson PIT
P Wheeler, Zack NYM
P Cobb, Alex (N/A)
P Lyons, Tyler STL
P O’Day, Darren BAL
P Rodriguez, Eduardo BOS
P Stroman, Marcus TOR

 

 

 

What is Your Walk Up Song?

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Tom McFeeley, a fantasy sports writer, asking other fantasy baseball writers to tell him what their walk up song was. You know, the music that plays as the batter makes his way from on deck circle to the batter’s box. It’s a 10 second sting that define you sonically.

For instance, last year Francisco Lindor used Digital Underground’s The Humpty Dance as his walk up song.

Unfortunately, I was traveling when the email came in and I didn’t act right away and I missed out. I’m not one of the 64 songs in the brackets Tom is running. You can read about it here, and vote your heart. Someone deserves to win.

Apart from lacking some really important historical context (My projections were the first fantasy content on ESPN, and I, along with Greg Ambrosius and Alex Patton and editors David Schoenfield and Rob Neyer, put up the first fantasy coverage) it’s a fun read, and listen, and made me sorry I hadn’t gotten in on it.

When Tom asked I didn’t have a walk up song, but my first thought was the Modern Lovers Roadrunner would be pretty good.

The first 10 seconds would be killer, but maybe the countdown and singing would get tiresome, in which case the break from about 30 seconds to 40 seconds would be great.

Why? For me, growing up, listening to baseball after bedtime on the radio, sometimes from as far away as Detroit, is what Jonathan Richman’s tribute to late night radio and rock ‘n’ roll evokes for me.

Link: A Nice Story About Sherri Nichols, Sabermetric Pioneer

The early days of the internet were extra exciting because only “advanced” people were on it, talking. There were few civilians back in that day, and there were no structures, so opportunity to talk and engage was really open.

I found my voice in alt.rec.baseball and more often alt.rec.baseball.fantasy, which were Usenets groups that attracted a lot of people with interests and passions and ideas, at a time when public internet discourse wasn’t routinely ruined by vandals.

One of the people who was encountered on alt.rec.baseball was Sherri Nichols, who is the topic of a very nice Ben Lindbergh piece on The Ringer. You can read it here.

I have no problem with Ben’s recitation of the history, and I fully embrace the idea that baseball nerdom would be better if it became more gender balanced. Or at least recognized that women were there, as Sherri was, when important ideas were being developed.

But his story is also an intriguing look at how the internet went from being the domain of academics and people with ideas to a teapot tempested with opinions.

I don’t want to tie too big a bow on it, but those of us who like real ideas miss the old days.

 

 

 

 

Ask Rotoman: Donde Esta Julio Urias?

Rotoman:

Julio Urias is missing. He seems to be the most significant NL omission from this year’s Fantasy Baseball Guide.

I’m in an NL-only league

Who gets into the Guide, and who doesn’t, is a laborious process.

Most all players who played the preceding year get in, though there are some exceptions. For instance, older relief pitchers who had only a few innings, aren’t on the 40-man roster and have little chance for a significant role, are often chopped. Same thing with hitters dropped from the 40-man roster, though these feel like tougher calls. The goal is to get everyone in the magazine we can anticipate contributing in the majors in some way.

I then go through all the guys we didn’t put in the previous year’s Guide to see if their injuries are better, or they’re returning from Japan or Korea. This is unbelievably tedious, but thanks to RotoWire and RotoWorld it isn’t usually hard. Just tedious, and sometimes rewarding. Some of the best stories in any year’s Guide are there because of reading so many accounts of lost years.

julio uras throwsA player like Urias, who pitched 23.3 innings last year, making five weak starts before going down in May, could go either way. Urias was a top prospect as a 19 year old and made his major league debut months before his 20th birthday, but he didn’t have Tommy John surgery until late June last year.

While the timeline for TJ recovery for starters is roughly a year, many do not make it back in a year, and many more are not effective their first bit after coming back. Because of this, it was my guess that Urias, if he does make it back this coming summer, is going to mostly pitch in Triple-A, strengthening his arm, and getting healthy for the 2019 campaign.

So, I gave Urias the boot. He’s not in the Guide. I’m okay with that decision, but since you asked I’ve come up with one reason I should have included him:

Let’s say you play in a keeper league in which Urias is a free agent. You don’t expect much from him this year, but if you add him for cheap you’ll get to reserve him this year and have him for cheap in 2019. There are too many questions about recovery, and his stamina, to assume a full return to his 2016 standard in 2019, but if he’s cheap he’s certainly worth a shot.

Don’t forget about him.

How to Use The Guide’s Big Price in Shallow Mixed Leagues

A reader writes: “How would you equate or gauge the Big Price to a 12 man 5X5 mixed league auction with $260. We play keepers too but that’s really not my issue. The Big Number seems to be about right as most other magazines I’ve seen will list auction prices using that format.”

I’ve answered this question before, and published an article showing how to do the math in 2014. Click here to read that.

But before you do that, you may want to read this.

The prices in The Guide are for a 24-team mixed league, and are intended to emulate the pricing of a deep AL and NL only leagues. The reason I don’t publish AL and NL only prices—the leagues are a little different, which makes the values of their stats a little different—is because when we put together the Guide in December there are usually hundreds of free agents out there. We don’t know who is going to be in which league.

The important thing to remember about deep prices is that the value of the stats, be they homers, RBIs, runs, hits, steals, are linear. That means that every home run a batter hits has the same value. Every stolen base has the same value. Et cetera. The reason for this is because the vast majority of stats that are produced in the whichever league one is playing in are counted in your roto standings. The replacement level is pretty close to nil for any stat category.

In a 12-team mixed league, you’re playing with just 12 of baseball’s 30 teams. You’re only using the half the available stats overall, roughly (this varies by category). This means that a player has to hit a bunch of homers before those homers have any value. And if he doesn’t hit them, there will someone available for free who will.

What this means, practically, is that in a AL or NL only league, the last player taken costs $1. And in a 12 team mixed league the last player taken cost $1. But the last player taken in the mixed league would have cost about $13 in the only league. The chart below shows the prices for players taken in a 15-team mixed auction, likely Tout Wars in 2016, from most expensive to least.

The thing to notice is that the graph goes pretty straight at about the 50th player taken, which supports the observation that after the third round in a mixed draft the players in each round are pretty interchangeable. No matter who someone takes, there’s another player like him still available. But this isn’t so among the best players. They are not interchangeable, and their value drops quickly, as the left side of the graph shows.

Screenshot 2016-02-20 18.05.39

When someone takes Mike Trout, there isn’t another Mike Trout out there. There is Jose Altuve, but when he’s gone there isn’t someone similar. By the time you get to the sixth or seventh player the options are not nearly as appealing as the early choices were. In a draft, the compensation is the earlier pick in the next round. In an auction there is no compensation. Those irreplaceable players can only go to the person who pays for them, and that drives their prices up. Hence the steep curve in the graph showing the prices of the best players.

This situation is even more extreme in a 12-team league than a 15-team league. The bottom line is that if you convert the magazine prices to your mixed league size, it is important that you then reallocate money from the least expensive end of the list to the most expensive end, so that you have realistic prices for the Trouts, Turners, and Scherzers in your game.

Your draft day goal is to have a list that shows the prices you’re willing to pay for each available player, and have that add up to the amount of money available in your auction.

You don’t have to buy those most expensive players. In this year’s Guide, Tout Mixed Auction 2017 winner Jeff Zimmerman talks about how the prices for the top guys in that auction were overinflated. He complains that people always inflate the prices of the top guys in mixed auctions, as if that’s a mistake. I think Jeff is such a numbers guy that he only looks at what people earned to determine their price, and from his success you can see that his price list can work. But I think his list worked in spite of his error, rather than because of it.

What makes me think so? The graph above.

Rating the Picks and Pans

Every year I’m asked by quite a few people why we don’t rate the Picks and Pans from the Guide. There are two answers:

  1. There isn’t time. There are more than 300 of these comments in the Guide in any given year, and to do a fair evaluation each has to be looked at closely. Many Picks suggest modest gains for very marginal players, and many Pans concede good but not great performance for stars. Two comments, one pick and one pan, can predict the same things.
  2. It would be a little rude. I ask a lot of smart fantasy baseball people to participate in the fun of the Picks and Pans. When we first pick up the Guide after its January release, it’s hard to resist the lure of who’s picking/panning who. “Rick Porcello, 11 Pans! Incredible!” We all get some right, and some wrong, but the fun comes from the jokes, the word play, the odd stats, that crop up in the comments. I’m afraid putting them up on a scoreboard, from which reputation could be inferred immediately would spoil things. Everyone would be obligated to be more exacting, less free wheeling, or possibly suffer for it. That’s no fun!

But Don Drooker, the Rotisserie Duck (not a la orange), grades his own picks at his excellent blog, rotisserieduck.com. Maybe because they’re so good, or so much fun. This is something I endorse. Reading his comments and then his explanation of why he graded the P+Ps as he did is almost as informative as reading the original predictions.

Good work, Don!