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.

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,

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!

Ask Rotoman: Should I Trade Mookie Betts?

Dear Rotoman:

I’m in a dynasty H2H total points based. Got a trade offer.

Juan Soto. Jon Lester. Blake Snell. Pick 29 and Pick 53 for

Mookie Betts. Mike Clevinger and Pick 42.

It’s a 12 team league on we are on year eight. My starting line up is:

Bats…S Perez C…J Bell 1B…Baez 2B…J Rameriz 3B…Machado SS…Betts. Acuna. Braun OF… N Cruz DH
Pitchers…Tanaka. Bumgarner. Clevinger. Buehler. Porcello

I dont have much depth and close to the cap. I’ll drop braun and I have Cueto I can easily drop to make room. Thoughts on the deal, I could use the advice on this one please.

“Blockbuster Made or Averted?”

Dear Blockbuster:

This is a big deal, and without knowing your categories, how big your roster is, how weak your depth actually is, and if that matters, it’s hard to be definitive. What I know is this:

  1. Juan Soto is not as valuable as Mookie Betts, because he won’t run as much, and because he’s had one amazing partial season, while Mookie has proven he’s a Top 5 player.
  2. Blake Snell is probably equally better than Mike Clevinger as Mookie is better than Soto. So these two pieces wash. If you had enough hitting and needed pitching, that’s a deal you might do reasonably. Since it looks like you have hitting and need pitching, that’s an argument for it.

The rest of the trade has you giving up Pick 42 and getting Pick 29 and Pick 53 plus Jon Lester, who is not a sure thing to be excellent, but has a decent chance of it. In a league with as many keepers as your teams seem to have, there is very little difference between picks 29, 42 and 53, and you get two for the price of one. Since Lester is better than Cueto, who is going to miss the whole year, he’s a bonus.

Could you lose this trade? Certainly. My rule of thumb is don’t give up the best player in a deal in return for depth, especially in shallow leagues, where only the very best players are much above replacement level, but I like Snell enough this year (I like Clevinger, too, but not quite as much) that the core is a solid pitching for hitting deal, and the add ins are a bonus.

Go forth and multiply,
rotomansignature

Rotoman

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

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