ASK ROTOMAN: Impossible Keeper League Question

Dear Rotoman:

I am in a 12 team fantasy baseball league, rotisserie style, with 4 keepers. You can keep 1 player for a maximum of 5 seasons. I finished 5th in the league last year and have the 1st overall pick of the year. It so happens that Mike Trout was kept the last 5 years and will be available to be drafted this year. Is there any deal out there that would make you think about trading that pick? Perhaps the other person’s number 1 and 2? Something more than that?

“Fishing for Improvement”

Dear FFI:

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27)There are many questions about your rules that are hard to deduce. For instance, how many of the typical first-round picks are available in this draft?

And, do the keepers clog the round they’re taken for the teams that keep them? Or are they merely gone?

So, you may have technical issues with my answer, but I think the answer is fairly obvious (though the execution may not be).

First point: In shallow leagues, as you have, the best most hardest to replace players are worth a premium. Having the first pick and taking Trout is valuable in any startup league. In a league where much of the first two rounds of talent are kept, as I imagine yours is, having Trout has extra valuable.

Second point: There isn’t much you can do about the kept players. Your job is to maximize your haul in the pool. So, Trout is clearly No. 1. Whom of the available players is going to be your second pick? I think that player is your baseline.

Third point: If you can swap Trout for two players better than your second pick, you may have the makings of a deal. But that isn’t a sure thing. Remember: In shallow leagues top talent has an outsized value. And you certainly wouldn’t trade Trout for two players worse than Trout and your No. 2.

Fourth point: In shallow leagues, position scarcity matters a bit more than some expect. So, trading number one for two positions before No. 24 may make sense if you can see a way to score a top SS and a great 2B or, given your league size, a top catcher.

But: It’s hard to tell without specific information about all this stuff. Which is your job. I think it’s possible for someone to buy Trout off you and make you a good deal, for them or for you, but you need to go both for quantity and for position advantage when analyzing your league. That’s where your real advantage is going to be found.

It’s a tough deal to make, but it can be made.

Ruggedly,
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Rotoman’s 2016 Projections: How’d He Do?

I used to evaluate my projections each year against what really happened. When I started doing this, 22 years ago, I was ambitious and driven to get better results, but after many years the limits of our predictive ability are obvious. The bottom line is that there is no way to predictively model the game’s stochastic nature. Random stuff causes a significant percentage of the events that happen on the baseball field, and trying to guess whether those random events are going to go one way or the other is absurd.

Or rather, trying to guess them accurately is absurd. We continue to make our guesses, and we (and I mean all baseball predictors) continue to get something like 75 percent accuracy (which is a 25 percent failure rate).

That significant variance also makes it hard to judge whether improvements are actually improvements or not. If I score around 75 percent each year, does it mean something systematically when that number dips to 73 percent, or bumps up to 77 percent, the next year? Or is that a reflection of randomness? At the very least it’s hard to tell.

But I didn’t stop measuring because it’s hard to tell. I stopped because the timing was bad. The season ends and I’m all in on the Guide, there isn’t much time to do the comparison, and not much urgency given how little there is to be learned.

When the Guide is done, it’s the holidays, and then a rush to complete the much more extensive projections in the Patton $ Software by the end of January. And once that’s done, there’s getting ready for the season. But this year, someone asked specifically for an evaluation, so I put together a spreadsheet. You can see it here.

The first thing I check is the overall accuracy of the Top 100 hitters and pitchers. That is, I look at the Top 100 hitters projected for the most at bats, and compare their category totals with what actually happened. This year:

AB: 94 percent
R: 99 percent
2B: 93 percent
3B: 90 percent
HR: 114 percent
RBI: 100 percent
BB: 101 percent
K: 96 percent
SB: 86 percent
CS: 85 percent
BA: 101 percent

Not perfect, and not necessarily imperfect in obvious ways.

One of the standard ways to measure the accuracy of projections is to use the Correlation Coefficient, which measures the extent to which two variables (in this case the 2016 projection and the 2016 actual result) have a linear relationship. To be a little more brass tacks about it, a correlation of 1 means that two sets of data create the same angle when graphed, even if they show up in different parts of the graph. 3, 4, 5 would have a correlation of 1 with 5, 6, 7.

A correlation of 0 means that the two data sets are completely unrelated to each other.

Most interestingly, a -1 correlation would mean that the second data set would be at a 90 degree angle to the first. Negatively correlated.

With that in mind, here are the correlations for my 2016 projections compared to what actually happened.

Screenshot 2017-02-03 23.44.55

The first thing to note, for my self esteem, is that when we look at the Top 500 projected hitters, I hit the 75 mark in AB, R, HR, RBI and, almost, SB. That’s the holy grail, I think. You want your set to reach .75 in correlation. That’s a pretty good correlation, if you know what I mean.

But, and big but, the numbers are much more problematic when measuring the Top 100 projected hitters. AB is a mess, but oddly HR, RBI and SB aren’t that bad. Remember that .75 is about as good as it gets, though that statement comes with provisos.

What I’m getting at here is that there are many ways to evaluate projections.

If you look at the whole data set, as we do here in the Top 500 projections, we get about the results we hope for. This is the limit of a baseball projection, or close to it.

Another way to evaluate projections is to sort by the actual number of at bats players actually had. This gives you a list of the most active players on the year, and how best we predicted that.

Screenshot 2017-02-04 00.10.22

A little better, it turns out, which means that we’re doing better predicting who actually plays and how they produce than we are predicting what the most predicted guys are going to produce. By a little.

Pitchers are going to have to wait for later, but I hope this gives a little bit of a taste about what projection reviewing means. Maybe we’ll take a look at some other systems, too, coming up.

Find out about Rotoman on Scott Engel’s Fantasy Hall of Fame Hour Radio Show.

35A couple of weeks ago Scott Engel invited me onto his show, which comes out each week. He talks to someone about their love of sports and fantasy sports. You can hear all the programs here.

I posted about it on Facebook and Twitter, but I neglected to post about it here. Scott is a good interviewer and he asked Rotoman a lot of questions. I had a fun time talking about my life for about 20 minutes. Friends said I did well and I thought I came across decently, so here’s link to the MP3.

And thanks to Scott for having me on.

ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question Involving Power

Rotoman!

I’m in a 10 team head to head keeper. My question is should I keep Cespedes in the ninth or Trumbo in the 20th.

Thank you so much,
Frank

Dear Frank:

I’m going to ignore the H2H aspect. Cespedes and Trumbo are both power hitters, similar enough in type if not style that the format shouldn’t affect their value much.

The way to figure out who the better keeper is in a draft league is to convert each draft spot to a dollar value. I don’t have that data for a 10-team league, but I do for a 15-teamer. Tout Wars Mixed Auction is a good source of auction information going back for years.

The major differences between the two different-sized leagues is that the smaller the league, the more valuable the best players at each position. Since neither Cespedes nor Trumbo is among the top players in the outfield, their values should degrade by a similar amount in the smaller format.

In the 15 teamer, a ninth round pick is worth $15-$16.

In that same league, a 20th round pick is worth $4-$5.

These prices are derived by taking the 2016 Tout Wars Mixed Auction and sorting the prices from highest to lowest. The 20th round includes picks 229 to 240. The ninth round has picks 97 to 108.

Last year, Cespedes cost $22 in the 15-team league, which makes him a +$7. Trumbo cost $10, which makes him a $5. Cespedes performed slightly below expectations last year, while Trumbo performed slightly above expectations, so the two are pretty comparable, which I suppose is why you’re asking.

Yoenis Cespedes takes batting practice on #WSMediaDay.
Yoenis Cespedes takes batting practice on #WSMediaDay.

My answer is that I would keep Cespedes, because in his down year he still earned more than Trumbo. He’s a surer bet than Trumbo, with far less chance of giving you nothing. By the ninth round he is exactly the sort of player you want, somewhat underpriced, but not too risky.

Later in the draft you can buy players like Trumbo, maybe even Trumbo perhaps, and even better by not keeping him you may be able to saddle another team, a team that loves having the home run champion, with a less valuable commodity a little too high a price.

Win-win, potentially.

 

Sincerely,

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ASK ROTOMAN: Expansion Blues

Greetings Rotoman.

We have a veteran 20 year sharks 5X5 ultra roto league in a quandary. We’ve lost four teams from our original 12, working frantically to replace them and return to 12 via a dispersal draft from the vacated rosters. If we ultimately return with only 11 or even 10 owners, would it necessitate throwing back all players frozen from the previous season (max 15 with carry over salaries and contracts) because there will be fewer teams and less $ avail to spend? I.e., will the salaries be skewed since they’re based on a 12 team league, not 11 or 10? We’re desperately trying to maintain status quo and not start over. Are there ways to augment or artificially level the playing field and legitimize the salaries of those frozen players? 

“Skewed Blues”

Dear SB:

That’s tough luck losing four teams, and good luck restocking your roster of owners.

To answer your question: A dispersal draft, distributing the best keeps from four teams to three teams, will skew in favor of the three new teams. While the original franchises will be keeping 15 x 8 = 120 players of a potential 120 best keeps, or 100 percent, the new franchises will be keeping 45 of 60, or 75 percent. The new teams would be able to be more selective and end up with better freeze lists. You don’t want that.

I think the fairest way to solve this problem is to let each owner who signs up adopt one of the existing franchises, so he’ll be keeping 100 percent of the best keepers. There’s no selection advantage to that, but there is the likelihood that some abandoned freeze lists will be better than others. There are two ways to handle that.

One would be to reward early movers by giving them their choice of franchise. It’s probably best to let your targets know that they’ll be in a draft of teams if they sign up by, say February 1. Then on February 1, have the new owners play paper-rock-scissors or flip coins to determine an order or selection, and then let them pick the teams by that established priority.

The other way to go is to randomize. Put the names of the abandoned teams in a hat, and as new owners sign up randomly give them one of the franchises. Each will get what he gets, for better or worse. But each will be getting 100 percent of the best freezes, which seems totally fair. This has the advantage of possibly keeping a better freeze list available, should early selecters be unlucky, and you can use it as an incentive for new owners to join up. Although, if these freeze lists were really good, what sort of owner would bail?

Hope this helps and good luck getting it together for the new year!

Sincerely,

rotomansignature

Ask Rotoman: Dump Trade Blues!

Rotoman!

Is this trade something that should go through?

Four-keeper-league. Player that is in contention trades B. Snell ($4) next year for J. Votto and Y. Tomas. The team getting Snell has at least six better keeper options for next year and can only keep four.

Am I right to be pissed about this? I don’t like vetoing trades but this is kind of out there right?

“Snelly Deal”

Dear Snelly,

One of the prime reality distortion fields (RDF) covers a league leader who sees an opponent get key pieces for something he sees as marginal. So here’s my question:

Is Snell really his seventh best keeper on the team that traded away Votto and Tomas?

The follow up question:

Does the team that traded away Votto and Tomas think Snell is his seventh best keeper?

I have no way of knowing the answer to either of these questions, but the only way for you to pull back the RDF is to honestly evaluate them.

If your answers are Yes to the first question and No to the second, you then have to ask:

Is there some sort of collusion going on?

If not, then you have to ask:

Is this guy an idiot?

If the answer to either of those questions is Yes, it might make sense to challenge the trade. In the case of collusion, it is imperative. But in my experience almost all trades that are looked at as fatally imbalanced look that way because the evaluator isn’t looking at the goals of the involved teams accurately.

I would talk to the team that dealt away Votto and Tomas, and find out what he’s thinking. You shouldn’t have to agree with him to decide whether his side of the story is at all valid. Chances are it is, even if you don’t like it.

Sincerely,

rotomansignature

PS. I would surely like to have Snell next year at $4 in an AL league, and would be happy to have him at that price in a Mixed league.

ASK ROTOMAN: Whither Matt Harvey?

Obviously there is something wrong with Matt Harvey, so is it too soon to drop him? As of right now Josh Tomlin, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright are available.

My Pitchers are Bumgardner, Syndergaard, Harvey, Stroman, Vince Velasquez, Smyly and Wacha.

“Hardly Harvey So Far”

DSC_0163_Matt_HarveyYour question came in as I was reading Eno Sarris’s excellent take on Harvey at FanGraphs on Friday.

Eno takes a look at Harvey’s velocity, movement and command in the past, compares them to his recent struggles, and concludes, um, that if he pitches a little better he might get much better results. If that sounds like weak analysis, it isn’t at all. It’s nuanced and precise about a process that is nuanced but with a broad range of variable outcomes, not all of which actually have any precise cause.

That, I know, doesn’t help much. You have a floundering pitcher (with a rich and productive history) who is hurting your team. So you need to know whether you should make a move now. How likely is Harvey to bounce back, and when?

Here are a few things I know.

The Mets were concerned enough to consider sending Harvey to the minors, push back his next start, or take everything out of his locker and burn it. Really!

John Smoltz reported last week that he’d studied the issue of young pitchers who appear in World Series, and discovered that many suffer a fall off the next season. Now, there are some issues with that. Harvey isn’t that young, for one, and one would assume young pitchers are generally pitching in the World Series because they had a better than average year. As we know, pitchers who have had a better than average (for them) year will usually have a not as good year the next year. This is what is meant by the expression regression to the mean. So, I’m not sure about Smoltz’s study, but I am sure that Harvey was on an innings limit last year for a reason, that for a different reason he blew through it, and as Eno points out, his velocity is down this year (at least some of the time, though Eno also points out that you might expect that to happen to a pitcher who is entering his 27th year).

Pitchers spend their careers making adjustments as their physical abilities change. It’s tempting for us to look and see consistency as a virtue, but in most cases pitchers succeed with consistent performance, not necessarily consistent tools. Presumably, Harvey is working hard now to adapt to these small changes (he has a similar issue with his slider, Eno notes), and has the skills and mindset to do so.

Given that, it seems to me there’s a pretty fair chance he’s going to be better than he’s been thus far. And while his ERA has been a disaster thus far, some of that appears to be a product of an elevated BABIP and diminished LOB rate. If his actual ERA were the same as his FIP (3.62) or xFIP (3.84) you probably would be more patient with him. His failures, in that case, wouldn’t seem quite so dire.

Not so long ago I looked at how well regarded pitchers performed after a slow start. The upshot was that they generally performed better, and some actually perform as well as was expected of them in the preseason, after they get past the rough patch. So there is hope.

The upshot from all this? I kind of wish I owned Matt Harvey.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: A pitcher smuggled out of Cuba

Dear Rotoman:

I’m not sure if this falls into the scope of the questions you answer, but I was talking with a friend last night about baseball history and he brought up a pitcher who had been smuggled out of cuba by his manager after he was attacked with some kind of weapon. I remember reading about that somewhere, but can’t remember the player’s name and can’t find it anywhere! Do you have any idea?

“History Buff”

Van Lingle Mungo was a rough and rowdy pitcher, mostly for the Brooklyn Dodgers, from 1931 to 1945.

The quote that is always used to address his temper is from Casey Stengal: “”Mungo and I get along fine. I just tell him I won’t stand for no nonsense, and then I duck”

At the Baseball Almanac I found this telling of the story of Mungo on a date in Havana:

The following story about Van Mungo appeared in The Herring Design Quarterlies, “Once, when the Dodgers were training in Cuba, his friends really saved him. Seems Van Lingle Mungo became enamored with a nightclub dancer by the name of Gonzalez, and she liked him pretty well, too. Her husband caught them in the clutches, and Mungo punched him in the eye. Señor Gonzalez returned with a butcher knife. That’s when a Dodgers executive by the name of Babe Hamberger hid Mungo in a laundry cart. He got his pitcher out of a major jam and down to the wharf where a seaplane was waiting. Mungo hid while his bags were loaded. Then Hamberger yelled, and Mungo sprinted for the plane, leaping aboard with the police hot on his heels.”

Bill James, in the Historical Baseball Abstract, lists Mungo as a drinking man in 1930s baseball, and that’s all.

But Mungo has been immortalized, of a sort, by David Frishberg, who wrote a song called “Van Lingle Mungo.” It’s a jazzy piece, well worth a listen, and while you do head over to Baseball Almanac and read about Frishberg’s one meeting with Mungo.

ASK ROTOMAN: A Real Keep Question!

I’m in a 13-team NL-only 5×5 $260 keeper league. We can freeze up to 9 players. List is due Sunday.

I am definitely keeping: Pollock $16, Domingo Santana $2, S Casilla $4, Joe Ross $2, R Iglesias $1, Nola $1.

I need to choose 3 more from the following: Rendon $22, E Suarez $19, Span $13, Kang $7, Peraza $1, H Strickland $2. I’m honestly stumped. Who would you select, Rotoman? Thanks in advance for your time.

“Old School”

Yeah, this is living. Deep league keepers are challenging, and raise all sorts of questions keeper questions that involve only stars don’t. Who would you keep? Mantle or Mays? There is an answer, it’s worth discussing for about 30 seconds before saying, Mays! But really, you’re making me jealous either way.

In deep leagues, one has real decisions to make, and can use expert league prices to start to find answers. Here are your possibles, with their freeze prices compared to their Tout Wars prices:

Rendon: 22, 23 in TW, +1
Suarez: 19, 12 in TW, -7
Span: 13, 14 in TW, +1
Kang: 7, 15 in TW, +8
Peraza: 1, 7 in TW, +6
Strickland: 2, 4 in TW, +2

Step 1, the easy way, would be to declare that Kang, Peraza, and Strickland are the three biggest bargains and be done with it. And you could do that, and it could work out.

Kang, Peraza, and Strickland are also your cheapest choices, and we haven’t yet factored in inflation. I have no idea how much inflation you have, but let’s say it’s 20 percent (a guesstimate based on the prices of the guys you are keeping). Let’s increase the Tout Wars prices by 20 percent and run the chart again:

Rendon: 22, 28 inflated in TW, +6
Suarez: 19, 14 inflated in TW, -5
Span: 13, 17 inflated in TW, +4
Kang: 7, 18 inflated in TW, +11
Peraza: 1, 8 inflated in TW, +7
Strickland: 2,inflated 5 in TW, +3

Once you insert the inflated dollars to your expected draft prices, things get a good deal murkier.

Kang is your obvious keep, even though he’s expected to miss the first month of the season. Your price is good for him and he’s worth holding onto.

Peraza went for $7 to Todd Zola in Tout Wars. Todd was looking for upside buys on which to spend his money late in the auction, when he had the hammer. Peraza is fast and young. He could start the season in the minors, and may not be eligible to be drafted/kept, or he could start the season in center field, subbing for the hurt Billy Hamilton. Then what happens when Hamilton gets healthy?

Span is a solid player at a solid price.

Suarez is a solid player at a bad (for you) price.

Strickland isn’t the closer in San Francisco now, and may not be this year. I think he’s a good closer-in-waiting type to roster, appealing because you already have Casilla and because he could be asked to step up and he has the skills to do the job, but that means he should still be fairly cheap in your auction.

Rendon is healthy, coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing season. He’ll be 26 this year, still young and likely to be very productive. He’s had injury problems all his career, in the pros and college, so you can’t disregard that, but at $22 you get a fair price for him that looks better in an environment of inflated prices.

I would keep Rendon, Span and Kang, they offer pretty sure and solid production, and try to pick up Peraza and Strickland in the endgame. Their prices should not be as inflated as much as the bigger-priced players. And if you don’t get them you’ll find worthy alternatives in your draft pool.

Deeply,
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ASK ROTOMAN: Keepers Tonight!

chrissale-smallDrafting tonight in a Keeper league, so I’m not sure if you can help me out in time. Get to carry over 4 keepers. Going to keep Donaldson, Correa, and Kershaw. Having a hard time deciding between Sale and Altuve. Suggestions?

“Sale? No Sale?”

Of course you’re having a hard time. Choosing between gold and more gold is no easy matter. There are a few things worth talking about.

  1. The simple fact is that Altuve will be taken in the Top 10, in all likelihood, in a startup (no keepers) league. Altuve is going much earlier in drafts and auctions than Sale is, so keep Altuve.
  2. No matter what pick you have in the first round, by the time the snake gets back to you in the second, in most drafts there is a good chance that Sale will still be there. So keep Altuve.
  3. Except, unless, if, in case, in your league, all the other top pitchers will be kept. If everybody else in your league is keeping two pitchers, or three, it might make sense for you to keep two. So, maybe keep Sale, if that’s the case.
  4. Another case for Sale could be made if you have an early pick in the draft, and might snag Altuve (or someone better) back, and there is a good chance Sale would be gone by the time the snake made its way back to you. Then, keep Sale.

But generally, keep Altuve.

Ca-ching!
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