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
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 and more often, 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 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?


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, 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!

The GM Project 2018

I played the Twins again, and ended up trading for JT Realmuto and signing JD Martinez as a free agent. It isn’t what I planned on doing. You can read the story here.

There are links to the stories of other teams on the page. They’re a fun way to read analysis of what each franchise’s situation is going into the offseason, and what might be out there at a reasonable budget. (Just don’t expect the Twins to be signing Martinez. That was the place I had the money to sign Alex Cobb or, maybe, Yu Darvish.

American Dream League Update (I’m in first).

About 80 percent of all players have played tonight. The Angels and Mariners just got started, the As and Royals have a few more innings. And I’m in first place in a league that I’ve written about a lot, but have never won. This isn’t the place to examine that, but I did want to look at the miracle of what has happened in the home stretch.

On August 27, my birthday, my team was languishing. I’m the Bad Kreuznachs.

Screenshot 2017-09-29 22.22.39This wasn’t quite the low point in the season, but it was the start of feeling that there was not enough time for things to get better.

I started thinking about at least making it into the money, fourth place, and it was clear that that was a stretch.

This was a team with a pretty good freeze list, a team that was in first place until the end of May, a team that didn’t have huge injuries. (Well, Dallas Keuchel missed too much time, and Zach Britton’s injury killed my saves strategy, but my pitching was surprisingly good, thanks to Brad Peacock and a bunch of middle relievers. When James Paxton got hurt, it didn’t even hurt, was how good my staff was.) It was a team for which I had high hopes, and desultory play across the board crushed them. Or at least so it seemed on August 27th.

Today, there are only a few games going on, so we’re down to just two days left in the season, and I am in a much different place.

Screenshot 2017-09-29 22.23.03

The first week of September I had a monster week, with 27 homers and 58 RBI, and in each week since I’ve had the best offense in the league. This was the eventual payoff for adding Lucas Duda (FAAB) and Aaron Judge (trade Dallas Keuchel for him), and also the waiver pickup of Teoscar Hernandez after Ben Revere lost his job (if that hadn’t been clear I wouldn’t have been in on Hernandez and it would have cost me a few points), and the draft buy of the injured Wilson Ramos, who was weak upon his return from injury in July, but has been fantastic in September.

I built up such a lead in wins in late August, thanks mostly to middle relievers, that I was able to cut any starter who faltered down the stretch, and while some of the middle relievers that replaced them haven’t been very good, they haven’t pitched many innings and haven’t hurt my qualitatives.

And Trevor Bauer, who I had as a keep, and Brad Peacock, who I FAABed early on, have been lights out since the All Star break.

And even, after a year of Saves misery, Mike Minor earned a few saves in the last few weeks and earned me a point.

The end result is that what looked like a historically tight race a week or two ago, is now dependent on my team catastrophically failing in the last two days to be a race at all. I’m not discounting that possibility. I’m the new fresh face, the recent riser, and all season long those fresh faces rose and then fell in succession. The good thing for me is that time is running out.

So I’m not counting on anything, but I am amazed to be in this fortunate position, in a league I’ve long struggled to be the bridesmaid, from time to time, and never the bride, to be running my fingers through the wedding cake. Tonight, my aim feels true. A little more than two days will tell the tale. Even if I end up falling behind the Tooners or Kids in the last days I’ll feel fantastically lucky. On my birthday I would have been happy with fifth, and first reserve round pick in March.

Tonight I don’t have to discuss what I’ll settle for.



Round 1 of the ADL Reserve Draft 2017 Revisited

2017 ADL Reserve DraftThe American Dream League held its auction on Opening Day. 12 teams took (or kept) 24 players each (14 hitters, 10 pitchers) by bidding, and then, after a 10 minute break, had seven rounds of drafting. I came upon the sheet on which I wrote the reserve claims on that fateful day. My own reserve draft was very weak, which got me thinking about how much value was in our auction, and who got it.

The number in parentheses is their 5×5 earnings so far this season.


Lucas Giolito: Future ace, right? Has a 4.47 ERA in Triple-A this season, with 59 walks in 129 innings.

Rowdy Telez: Young power hitter making the jump to Triple-A, didn’t click. Hitting .222 with only six homers in Triple-A.

Brandon Guyer ($2): Veteran role player never really found a role. 112 AB with two homers and two stolen bases with Cleveland.

Bradley Zimmer ($11): Guyer’s loss was Zimmer’s gain. Our first solid contributor. Only hitting .246 in 240 AB, but with eight homers and 14 stolen bases. He has struck out 77 times, but walked 25.

Guillermo Heredia ($8): Fourth outfielder has seen more playing time because of the Vogelbach failure and Gamel injuries. Hitting .287 in 286 at bats with six homers and one steal.

Eduardo Escobar ($9): Solid utilityman benefits from Jorge Polanco’s struggles. Hitting .250 in 280 at bats with 10 homers and four steals.

Sam Travis ($1): Only Hanley Ramirez ahead of him. Hit .278 in 43 at bats with no homers and one steal in a brief time in Boston, and is back in the minors in Triple-A, where he is having a mild season.

AJ Reed: Everybody’s hot choice for 2016 seemed like a good reserve pick, but even with Houston injuries he’s seen just six AB this year, but does have 25 Triple-A homers.

Byung Ho Park: Big swing for a big power hitter, who has spent a meek year in Triple-A, striking out 115 times in 355 at bats.

Yoan Moncada: Last year’s big failure won a big arm in trade for Boston. Now up with Chicago he’s hitting .186 and has struck out 36 times in 81 at bats. He’s still young and was solid in his time in Triple-A.

Jose De Leon: Future ace has been hurt all season, but did earn a W in his one appearance in relief for Tampa, despite allowing three earned runs in 2.2 innings.

Jose Berrios ($9): Future ace started the year in Triple-A, but has now made 17 starts for the Twins. The results have been a little up and a little down, with a 4.27 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, which with 10 wins for the surprising Twins is enough to have earned $9. My projection for him before the season was 4.25 and 1.31 with fewer wins.

$40 in earnings for this group. Four contributors.

How much in earnings in Round 2? F Martes ($3), Jacob May (-$2), Whit Merrifield ($22, on the first place team), Rey Lopez ($1), Franklin Berretto ($1), Nick Franklin ($0), Dan Vogelbach, Michael Kopech, Clint Frazier ($3), Joe Jimenez (-$3), Cody Asche (-$2), Tyler O’Neill.

$23 in earnings for this group. One contributor.


Rotoman on Mets 360 Podcast

Screenshot 2017-08-10 08.07.51Brian Joura invited me onto his show to talk about the Mets and baseball in general. Challenging questions led to a fun time. Listen here.