The Athletic has hired a solid stable of fantasy and analytical baseball writers. The excellent Eno Sarris published a story today about how advanced stats work. He makes drudgery fun, plus it’s baseball.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the second year in a row Brian Joura of Mets360.com asked me to participate in his GM Simulation.
Here’s the deal: 30 baseball writers are given the rosters of the major league teams and are asked to simulate the offseason. For the second year in a row I had the Twins.
This year, I made more like the real Twins and made Mauer the (downcast) face of the organization. All that money spent on a mild-mannered first baseman who is no Superman made improving the team difficult, but maybe having Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier and lots of other young talent will be enough.
I put down some notes about my plans and how I executed them here, at Brian’s site.
You’ll find the comments of other owners on the project page.
I encourage your comments about my moves and everyone else’s. I’m not an expert on the Twins farm system, but it seemed to me there might be enough talent in Gonsalves and Stewart to shore up the rotation if the hitters came through, but that’s far from a sure thing. What is for sure is that there wasn’t the money to buy a better starter than what we already had.
Josh Levin uses the sagas of the Fire Joe Morgan blog and Rob Neyer to chat about how baseball’s statistical revolution stopped being about stats versus scouts, and comes up with something nice to say about Tim McCarver!
Well worth reading for it’s gentle sense of history, and optimistic view forward. In Slate.
This is not an event in Korea put together by BaseballHQ. It seems that in Korea throwing out the first pitch to a ballgame has become an entertainment and marketing opportunity.
Over at Slate, they asked a connoisseur of Korean baseball to provide some video of the most entertaining first pitches. You’ll have to click through the links to watch most of them at YouTube, but it’s worth it.
A couple of years ago I made the decision to drop the Washington NFL team’s name from The Fantasy Football Guide.
The rationale was simple. The name derived from a term common to scalp hunters during the Indian wars of the 19th Century. It was considered offensive by many Native Americans. The team’s own history of use of the name began with a racist and his racist intentions. Or, as Tara Houska, quoted in the New York Times article today about the WaPo poll, said:
“Ms. Houska, who lives in Washington, said she was bracing for all the people who would be waving the poll in her face — “the poll, the poll, the poll” — and saying she had no right to be offended by the name of the local football team.
That the matter is even up for debate baffles her.
“It’s a straight-up slur,” she said. “It’s a dictionary-defined racial slur. It should be a no-brainer — but somehow, it’s not.”
After the first magazine issue without the team name came out I received a number of angry letters from people saying that if they’d read the Editor’s Letter about the issue before buying the magazine they would have put it back on the rack. Some were mad because I was attacking their team, their Nation, and they would not stand for that. Others were mad because they saw in my stance the influence of the mad culture of political correctness, in which it is suddenly and (to apparently many) improper to seek to avoid needlessly insulting people and hatefully reminding them that they have it worse than you.
I’m sure we lost some sales since then to these folks, but sales overall are up andI get more letters each year from folks who like the magazine than the year before, so I can live with the consequences of pushing this small principle.
But learning today about this poll disturbs me a bit. Could it be true that 90 percent of the polled Native Americans don’t have a problem with the Washington team’s name? And the poll reports that 80 percent would not be offended if called redskin by a non Native American. There are questions about the poll. The sample was small and there are questions about the demographics. I would be more suspicious of these results if they didn’t echo a 2004 Annenberg poll on the issue that has always been looked at as on the margins, since so much Native American institutional strength was allied against the Washington NFL team name.
The Times article goes into the process of once offensive expressions becoming something else, relates stories from different cultures, but returns ultimately to Ms. Houska, and ends with her quote, which I included above. It’s well worth reading.
Now, production is underway on the Fantasy Football Guide 2016 and I’ve got some thinking to do. Ten percent of 5.4M Native Americans is 540,000 people. That’s not a small number to offend with something as trivial as a team name. I’m inclined to continue the boycott, even if it isn’t politically correct in these times.
This is not a song by the Eagles.
Jimi at Couch Managers, a fine mock draft site, has invited a bunch of roto experts for a 5×5 draft tonight (February 3) at 8pm ET.
You can watch if you want at Couch Managers, and you might want to. The draft and chat room will be visible. This will not be a caucus.
The lineup is full of personality and includes Cory Schwartz, Adam Ronis, Tim Heaney, Gene McCaffrey, Joel Henard, Doug Anderson, Tim McLeod, Paul Sporer, Mike Gianella, Lawr Michaels, Ryan Bloomfield, and Chris O’Brien, plus someone named big magoo, from Razzball. Oh, and I’m playing, too.
The draft is over. You can see the results here.
UPDATED: The upshot: I took Kershaw with No. 5. Scherzer went at 15. There was then a pause, and then near the end of Round 2 pitchers started to fall off the board. All the shiny bubbles, the most desired players (Cory Seager went No. 30) kept being taken in the round ahead of where I had them ranked and so I ended up drafting boring productive hitters, until I had enough of them. Guys like JD Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, Cargo. Closers went early, too. We really need some research on these different approaches. Do they matter? After all, if everyone is taking pitchers early the hitters they’re not taking early will be there later.
If you look at the draft, feel free to comment on who did best in the comments (and why).
I play in the American Dream League with the tech writer Steven Levy, whose team is known as the Random Hackers.
Another writer (of this excellent book, among other things), Bruce Buschel, is in the league, too, and has been since its first year, 1981. His team has gone by many names, most memorably, the BB Gubs.
Even if you don’t know who Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Martin Luther King are, or Bowie Kuhn for that matter, let Bruce fill you in with this delightful shaggy dog story.