All Star Stats Is Down. For the count.

Perhaps because of Rotoman’s kvetch last May about the terrible and terribly expensive service All Star Stats was providing, All Star Stats announced today that they are shuttering their terrible stat service.

They’ve made a deal with CBSsports.com to provide services free in 2013. I haven’t used CBSsports.com’s stat service in a couple of years, but then it was not friendly for league commissioners. It does have a lot of bells and whistles and I can say that they were trying to improve things, so they may be fine.

What I can say for sure is that onRoto.com is an excellent baseball stat service with a good price and lots of fun features. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

KVETCH: All Star Stats is Horrible!

It is 9 am on Thursday morning. My coffee is gone and my preworkday ritual of checking my fantasy baseball teams has been disrupted because All Star Stats hasn’t updated yesterday’s stats. Instead I see this (click to expand):

This is the third day this week ASS (as we mockingly call them) has failed to do what every other stat service seems able to do; that is, update the standings before midmorning. Yesterday they didn’t update until after 11 am!

This is absurd because ASS is an expensive service. The book rate to run a league for the season is more than $500. We complained a few years ago and they cut the price by a couple hundred dollars, but we still pay a premium. (I should note that the screen capture is from the XFL, which is comped by ASS because we’re a longtime “industry” league. I can’t complain about that. It is the American Dream League that is being bled by the service thieves at All Star Stats.)

If this was the first time there were service problems, so be it, but I was just searching through my email and discovered that we were complaining about this exact same issue in 2007! There have been many days with the same problem every year! Many days. Yes, we are idiots.

What has kept us at ASS all these years is what kept us at USA Stats in the years before that company was bought by All Start stats. (Before that we were with the venerated and brilliant Heath Data Services, perhaps the game’s first stat service, which has not ever been matched, but was sold to USA Stats in the mid-90s.) That is inertia. A league full of older guys fears having to learn a new system. The discomfort zone is high, even when the company delivering the goods now is doing a terrible job of it, costing 350 percent more for fewer features and less reliability.

I can promise you, we will not be with ASS next year. Even the most frightened of our cohort is realizing that this level of indifference is degrading, insulting, cannot be tolerated by reasonable people. Not being able to get our stats for a few hours from time to time isn’t the biggest deal in the world, for sure, but why should we pay extra for this? I should note that the ASS support people write apologetically very well, what with all the practice they’ve had.

ASS is owned by NBC, which is owned by Comcast, neither of which has any organic connection to the fantasy baseball world. They are playing us for fools, and it is well past time we all move on.

The Accuracy of Projections–the hitting optimizer

I participated in my first auction last night, the Cardrunners League, and because we’re using CBSsports.com to run the league, you can easily get a chart with the projected stats for each team. I did that and learned that according to the CBS projections my hitting is mediocre (uh-oh, and they’re not as negative on Grady Sizemore as they probably should be) and my pitching is pretty good. Overall, it looks like 75 points or so for my team, which I’ll take.

But then I found on the CBSsports.com site, a story by Al Melchior and a widget that lets you graphically compare the CBSsports projections and the Accuscore projections. The differences are striking, and a good reminder that projections give you a very limited amount of information.

You can find out more about my draft at Patton and Co, in the Kevin Gregg discussion.

Rob Neyer leaves ESPN

I started working for ESPN in 1995, when the newly launched ESPN Sportszone paid me for the baseball projections I’d put together for the book, “How to Win at Rotisserie Baseball.” The book wasn’t published that year because the publisher worried that the lockout, which killed the 1994 World Series, would kill the 1995 season. The ESPN Sportszone launched in April, shortly after the players and owners settled, and my projections became the first fantasy content on the fledgling website.

In 1996, ESPN paid me to go to Spring Training and report from the camps of Florida from a fantasy perspective, and somewhere in there Ask Rotoman was born. At some point that year, Rob Neyer became my editor. As he says in the fairwell note he posted on his blog at ESPN this week, he was an improbable fantasy baseball editor, and my recollection is that he pretty much left me alone. Now he’s moved on from ESPN, and good luck to him at what I hope proves to be a lively and successful tenure at SB Nation.

His first week there as National Baseball Editor has been energetic and promising. Rob is one of the most original and vibrant of modern baseball writers of the Internet era ( though not necessarily on the Internet). He’ll have a broader canvas to work on at SB Nation, and a chance to wrest some of the power away from the corporate giants. Go get ’em, Rob, for all of us.

The Players Who Weren’t Traded

I don’t know about you, but I spent the last few days leading up to the interleague trade deadline clicking on the excellent mlbtraderumors.com. And even now that the deadline has past and the smoke (Smoak) has cleared, they’re still relevant and worth checking out.

This post about the players who weren’t traded is full of useful information, but none more so than the list of players who cleared waivers in August last year and changed teams. If you weren’t in the best position to cash in on the semi blue chippers who just changed leagues, have hope. If the past is prelude, there is more yet to come.

Top 200 Fantasy Team Names

CBSsports hosts more than 100,000 fantasy leagues and have compiled a list of the Top 200 team names, which is heavily studded with references to movie teams (Chico’s Bail Bonds, Kobra Kai) and, disappointingly, real team names (Yankees? Red Sox? I thought we played to make up our own teams.). In the public so-called experts leagues I play in I go under my own name, which is its own kind of boring, but in my home leagues I have made up names:

American Dream League: Bad Kreuznachs, a nod to my ancestral home town across the water and, I guess, either George Thoroughgood or Jim Croce.

Rotoman’s Regulars: Jorge Regulas, a pun off the Regulars league name and nod to the old Moldy Peaches song.

Neither of these names made the Top 200 this year.

The Cardrunners Discussion

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about a new league I’m playing in called Cardrunners, after a poker instructional site that is sponsoring it. The league has a blog and home page, which has turned into a lively discussion about two divergent approaches to the game.

Bill Phipps is a poker player and a financial guy, and he thinks the general level of fantasy play is poor. He believes building a model of projections and valuation can help someone beat others consistently. Bill’s posts at the Cardrunners blog are provocative and confident. League organizer Eric Kesselman is a frequent contributor, too, with a sensibility similar to Bill’s, but without the bluster.

Rotowire’s Chris Liss argues that all the information of projections and valuation are shared by all the players in any competent fantasy league, and that the edge goes to the player who has the imagination to see what next year’s cheat sheet is going to look like this year, and draft accordingly. Chris has a post at Rotosynthesis called Lost in Translation: Why your projections and dollar values won’t save you.

One gets the sense that the Bill and the poker players don’t realize how tramped over this ground already is. Maybe I should send them to the Masochists Notes from Alex Patton’s books of the 80s and early 90s. The Masochists chapter that Alex blames for ending his run as a book author is here. It is about a retrospective draft experiment we set up, among other things.

How to Dominate a Yahoo Auction

Last Player Picked

An excellent summary of shallow mixed league strategy in general, that has very useful information that applies to the Yahoo platform in particular. If you play in this format you have to read this.

The Rotoman’s Regulars League Draft

Sunday night we held the seventh annual Rotoman’s Regulars League draft. The league is a 20 team Yahoo 5×5 league. Rosters are 20 deep (four reserves), so 400 players are taken. This is a very tough league with very smart, tough competition, both in the draft and all season long. And the all season long part is crucial. Though the league has weekly waiver claims it has daily ups and downs, so maximizing one’s reserve list and streaming players and pitchers on off days is essential. I made a respectable showing the first year, but each subsequent year things got worse until I decided to take a break. I hate sucking. This year I decided to return. I missed the guys and in spite of my suckiness at it, I like the format a lot.

How’d I do? Sucky. Here’s the team:
Jorge Regulah Roster

Here’s what happened:

1. Miguel Cabrera (1B): The seventh pick overall comes after the big boys, but before you can legitimately go after someone like Mauer or Lincecum. I mean, you could, but it doesn’t feel right. So, I went after the guy I think is the best of the big boys who isn’t a big boy. He’s the right age, he’ll be helped having Johnny Damon hitting ahead of him (but maybe not Austin Jackson), and he has a lot to live down after last year’s disgraceful exit.

2. Pablo Sandoval (3B): Waiting 26 picks for a second guy is frustrating. All the obvious names went off the board. I didn’t want an outfielder and I don’t trust Mark Reynolds or Ben Zobrist at this point, and I had a first baseman already. So, it was Sandoval for me. He’s young, so maybe there’s upside, but he plays on a crappy team offensively in a bad ballpark for hitting, so he’s risky, too.

3. Brian Roberts (2B): I was glad he was around. I wanted a middle infielder who ran. What I didn’t want was a guy who’d had his first workout of the spring hours before because of a bad disk in his back. I’d read about his problems earlier in February, but somehow missed the reports of escalating malady. If I’d known I would have taken the aging statesman, Derek Jeter. Roberts says he’ll be okay, so there’s that, but players aren’t doctors. My fingers are crossed. And I took a 2B in the reserve rounds, just in case.

4. Denard Span (OF): Okay, time for an outfielder, because there were no appropriate shortstops or corners. I added three to my queue: Andre Ethier, Andrew McCutcheon, and Denard Span. All three were available as my turn approached, but then they went down on order: McCutcheon, Ethier, and–on my turn–Span. The guy I missed was Hunter Pence, who I like a tick better, but the reality is that I like Span more than most, and I got him.

Read more…

Convince your league to replace BA with OBP

Rotographs

In standard 4×4 and 5×5 leagues, OBP is clearly so much superior a rate stat to BA and we all know it, that I’m shocked everyone hasn’t made the change. Once you’re tried it you’ll never go back, because players values actually reflect their values (minus defense) in the major leagues.

But it’s hard to get people to change, which is why only one of my leagues use OBP instead of BA. We’ve talked about making the change in Tout Wars, but since part of the league’s goal is to offer draft guidance, it isn’t going to happen until you all switch over. Get going!