Big Profits, Big Losses: The Midseason Spreadsheets – Pitchers Edition

IMG_0026_Jason_VargasThe bottom line in fantasy baseball is where are you in the standings. Absolutely.

But the bottom line is a moving target as the season goes along. The top performers in the first half don’t usually perform as well in the second half, and some folks we’ve left for dead in the first half reemerge in the second half full of life. All of which aligns with what we know about regression to the mean. If you’re the best (or worst) at something for a little while, you’re likely to do worse (or better) for the next little while.

You can see the first half fantasy profit/loss spreadsheet here. Use this information to help target players for the second half.

Top 20 Pitching Profiteers in the First Half of 2017:

Jason Vargas
Ervin Santana
Alex Wood
Mike Leake
Gio Gonzalez
Chase Anderson
Ivan Nova
Max Scherzer
Robbie Ray
Jimmy Nelson
Felipe Rivero
Scott Feldman
Corey Knebel
Ariel Miranda
Jordan Montgomery
Zack Greinke
Luis Severino
Greg Holland
Dallas Keuchel
Kyle Freeland

Of course, everyone wants to know who is killing their team, as if they didn’t already know.

The Bottom Ten Biggest Losers in the First Half of 2017:

Madison Bumgarner
Noah Syndergaard
Sam Dyson
Bartolo Colon
Tyler Glasnow
Zach Britton
Chris Tillman
Francisco Rodriguez
Aroldis Chapman
Masahiro Tanaka

No. 11 is Jason Verlander, BTW. You have to decide whether to bail on bad first halfs by historically good pitchers. I would bet on a better second half for Tanaka and Verlander, and worry more about Tillman and Glasnow.

But Tillman and Glasnow are talented, and history says that if they stay healthy they will have their moments.

Big Profits, Big Losses: The Midseason Spreadsheets – Hitters Edition

Yesterday I posted lists of the Top 20 hitters and pitchers in 2017, sorted by the Most Costly (with 2017 earnings), and the Most Earned (with 2017 prices).

Today I’m dumping the whole spreadsheets, sorted right now by Biggest Profit to Biggest Loss.

The most profitable hitters so far this year are:

Aaron Judge
Jeff Zimmerman
Justin Smoak
Cody Bellinger
Corey Dickerson
Avisail Garcia
Mark Reynolds
Logan Morrison
Marwin Gonzalez
Ben Gamel
Chris Taylor
Michael Taylor
Trey Mancini
Chris Owings
Andrelton Simmons
Aaron Hicks
Tim Beckham
Travis Shaw
Tommy Pham
Whit Merrifield

The Top Losers? From worst to less worst…

Starling Marte
Josh Donaldson
Manny Machado
Kyle Schwarber
Carlos Gonzalez
Leonys Martin
Ryan Braun
Marcus Semien
Miguel Cabrera
Greg Bird

That’s enough, right? These are guys someone paid real money for, and the results have not been good.

If you want the whole hitter list, download it here.

 

Halfway Hitters: The first half’s big earners

Looking at hitters the other way, from the top of the list of big earners, is a very reciprocal view than looking at them ranked by preseason expectations.

In fact, the Top 20 big earners so far cost $491, the exact same amount the Top 20 most costly hitters earned. That’s weird.

And the Top 20 big earners have earned $665, just $30 less than the Top 20 most costly hitters cost!

None of the Top 20 big earners went for free on auction day, but Aaron Judge, Ryan Zimmerman and Corey Dickerson went for single digits and are earning big profits.

Here’s the list:

Screenshot 2017-07-05 18.05.18

Halfway HItters: 5×5 Earnings at the midpoint

Hitters are generally considered more reliable than pitchers, in large part because they do not get hurt as catastrophically as do hurlers. But a look at the Top 20 hitters ranked by auction day 5×5 price shows disasters for owners of Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman and Starling Marte.

Still, the Top 20 hitters cost $695 and earned $491, a better ratio than the Top 20 pitchers.

A closer look at the list shows that most of the attrition is due to injury, and a slight overvaluing of the best players, who also happen to put up big stats even when they’re not having a great season.

Screenshot 2017-07-05 17.49.32

Pitchers at Midseason: This year’s top earners (so far)

Another way to look at the pitching pool is to see what the top earners are earning, and just how much they cost on auction day.

The ratio of cost to earnings in this group reverses. The Top 20 players cost $313 and earn $596.

The biggest earner, Max Scherzer, was the third most costly pitcher, while Clayton Kershaw, also on this list was the most costly by a lot, but the big differences are the guys nobody expected so see here. Jason Vargas, Ervin Santana, Alex Wood, Ivan Nova!?!?!? No bigger surprise comes in at No. 20 on the list, Chase Anderson, who was not even bought by the experts on draft day.

Here’s the whole list of biggest 2017 earners so far (click to enlarge):

Screenshot 2017-07-05 17.04.07

Pitchers At the Halfway Point: The 20 Most Expensive 5×5 Pitchers

Through June second, the Top 20 most expensive pitchers are a mixed bag. Some, like Max Scherzer, shook off preseason injury worries, and is dominating right now, the best pitcher in either league in the first half.

Some, like Clayton Kershaw, who was bid up to $43 in the expert leagues because of his dominance and reliability, has reliably earned exactly that in the first half of play this year. So there.

But overall, this top group cost $521 in salary in the preseason and has thus far earned only $357, thanks to injuries and busts. Madison Bumgarner was the second priciest pitcher on auction day, and was effective in the few starts he made before he was shut down with a sprained shoulder following a dirt bike accident in mid April.

Ouch! Here’s a look at the Top 20 highest paid pitchers this year, and how they’re faring. You can click for a larger view.

Screenshot 2017-07-05 15.30.28

The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017 Projections Update Is Here.

Actually, it was here a week ago, but a screwup on my part made it very hard to find.

If you would like the FBG projections and prices update, it is here. The password is the last name of the first player profiled on page 90 of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Guide. It is case sensitive.

You do not have to sign up for Dropbox, or even sign in, to download the file.

You can track what changes I’ve made to the projections since March 15 here.

Maas No Maas: The Trouble With Trea Turner

Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.
Standup guy Howard Bender sitting down in Half Moon Bay.

Everybody’s buddy and fine fantasy baseball analyst, Howard Bender, had a piece in the NY Post this week warning about overestimating Turner this year, the way Carlos Correa was overestimated last year.

That’s good advice in general, and probably as it applies to Turner, but it raises the question of how do you draw the line on a young player with a spectacularly good partial season under his belt.

I looked at hitters who had an OPS+ of 130 or better in the year they lost their rookie status since 1980 (the Roto Era), who had 249 plate appearances or more. Sixty one hitters qualified.

Five of those seasons came in 2016. That would be Corey Seager, Aledmys Diaz, Trea Turner, and the Ryans Shrimpf and Healy. One player, Kyle Schwarber, had a qualifying first season and didn’t play the next. That leaves us with 55 hitters in the pool.

What can we learn from them?

If we sort them from top to bottom based on first year OPS+:

kevinmaasrookiecardThe top 11 had an an OPS+ of 157 in year 1 and an OPS+ of 137 in year 2. Two of this group improved in year two, a man named Trout and another named Greenwell. Three had less than a 130 OPS in year 2: Luke Scott, posterboy Kevin Maas, and Miguel Sano. This group averaged 499 plate appearances.

The next 11 averaged  143 in year 1, and 109 in year 2. One of this cohort, Randy Milligan, improved. Seven had less than a 130 OPS+. Five has less than a 100 OPS+. This group averaged 442 plate appearances.

The middle 11 averaged 137 in year 1, and 116 in year 2. Kris Bryant was the only one to improve. Two were better than 130 in year 2. Only two had less than a 100 OPS+, both at 99, which is why the year 2 average went up for this group. This group averaged 349 plate appearances.

The fourth 11 average 133 in year 1, and 120 in year 2. Ryan Howard and Jason Bay improved. They were also the only two to have an OPS+ the next year better than 130. None of this group has an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 416 plate appearances.

The last quintile averaged 131 in year 1, and 113 in year 2. Josh Hamilton, John Kruk, Lonnie Smith, and Ryan Klesko all improved and had an OPS+ of better than 130. Four hitters had an OPS+ of less than 100. This group averaged 343 plate appearances.

Another way to split these guys into groups would be by plate appearances.

The top quintile averaged 639 plate appearances, with a 151 OPS+ in year 1, and a 137 OPS+ in year 2.

The next group averaged 463 plate appearances, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, and a 136 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 138 in year 1, an 85 in year 2.

The fourth group averaged 337 PA, with a 135 in year 1, a 122 in year 2.

The last group averaged just 273 PA, with a 139 in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

All in all, 20 of the 55 players did better than 130 in OPS+ in year 2, 25 did better than 120 OPS+, 33 did better than 110, and 48 did better than 100. That leaves seven true busts, and 30 total who could be considered disappointing.

Eleven of the 20 players who topped 130 in OPS+ had more than 450 plate appearances. Only four of the next 20 players had 450 PA or more.

A final set of ranks, based on percentage of change from year 1 to year 2.

The top quintile averaged 428 plate appearances, posting a 138 OPS+ in year 1, and a 154 in year 2.

The next averaged 508 PA, with 142 in year 1, 131 in year 2.

The middle quintile averaged 415 PA, with a 141 OPS+ in year 1, a 116 in year 2.

The fourth quintile averaged 352 PA, with a 137 OPS+ in year 1, and a 103 in year 2.

The bottom quintile averaged 388 PA, with a 153 OPS+ in year 1, and an 85 in year 2.

Comparing the top half sorted by percentage of change from year 1 to year 2, the top half had 487 plate appearances while the bottom half had 384. The average age of the top half was 23.4 years old, while the bottom half was 24.5. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bottom half hit more homers and stole more bases per plate appearance.

Plate appearances and high OPS+ are the best indicators of a repeat season of top performances for these players, but players of all types do repeat and get better.

So, what happens if we look at only those players with fewer than 450 PA in year 1? There are 37 of them.

Sort them into thirds, and we see that the top two thirds are younger than the bottom third. Older is definitely worse when you’re looking at partial seasons with a high OPS+ in your rookie year.  Or maybe it is better put, younger is definitely better.

So, what do we make of this year’s crop?

Corey Seager and Aledmys Diaz should be the most trusted, because they had the most at bats, but neither had a particularly high OPS+ last year, which is a bit of a warning sign. And Diaz is somewhat older, a reason to distrust.

MG_6917_Trea_TurnerTrea Turner had the best OPS+ last year, but only 324 plate appearances. Still he’s young, which is a positive sign.

Ryan Shrimpf just snuck onto the list at 130 OPS+. He’s 28 years old, very old, and only had six more PA than Turner. He’s neg all the way.

Finally, Ryon Healy is slightly old, with a 135 OPS+, and only 283 PA. Not as negative as Shrimpf, but not as positive as the other guys.

Bonus No. 1: Kyle Schwarber missed last year, but will be back this year after a powerful world series. He’s still young, but is coming off a 130 OPS+ in 2015. He’s a mixed bag until you see him swing.

Bonus No. 2: Gary Sanchez didn’t make the 250 PA cutoff, but in 229 PA last year he put up a monster 168  OPS+. Only Mike Trout and Jose Abreu did better in our 250+ PA cohort. On the other hand, if you look at the cohort of those who didn’t qualify, the only hitters who did better in year 1 were Frank Thomas and Phil Plantier. Both were 22 their rookie year. Thomas followed up his 177 OPS+ rookie year with a league leading 180 the next year, and then 177, 174, 212, 179, 178, 181 in the next six years. Plantier followed his 178 with a 90 and never topped the 122 he had in year 3.

Finally, what to do with all this? Although there is data here, this sort of study is really anecdotal. The sample is small, the results so various as to mock any absolute conclusions. But maybe you read the above and feel differently.

What I think it tells us is that there are players who post a super first season and then repeat. You can’t rule that out for these guys this season.

But as you would expect, extreme performance usually regresses to the mean, so you should not count on a repeat. And you should fear charging ahead taking anyone with such a small performance sample, because the possibility of sophomore slump is always there (except for Corey Seager, right?).

Which is pretty dull and which brings us to Howard’s comment about Trea Turner. He says, “Of course Turner is a great talent, but just doubling his total because he will get twice the at-bats this year is not the proper way to project.”

The trouble with Turner is that even if you regress back his stats you end up with ridiculous numbers. My projection, which doesn’t come close to doubling last year’s numbers is 18 homers, with 49 steals, a modest 93 runs and 68 RBI, with a .307 batting average. In 5×5, that’s worth $37. First-round value.

ZIPS chops more aggressively. It gives Turner 260 more plate appearances than last year and one more homer, three more steals, a .282 batting average and modest 77/66 runs and RBI split. But even that modest projection is worth $29, which is a Top 15 hitter.

Is my projection the median projection? Is ZIPS’? That’s the trouble with Turner. Right now I have him with an NL-only bid price of $27. That’s not going to get him, and paying more isn’t necessarily going to hurt the team that buys him.

So, what you do is you keep bidding. Certainly to $27, maybe to $30. This is a place to read the room. Once you’re at $30 you don’t really want him, but the risk of bidding up the guy who does really want him isn’t huge. I mean, you might end up with Trea Turner!

At that price, that could be trouble, but might not.

Here’s a link to the data, both that which I used and that which I didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Rotoman: Keepers Extreme Vetting

Dear Rotoman:

As for now my fantasy baseball keepers are

Josh Donaldson, Tor 3B K

Francisco Lindor, Cle SS K

Carlos Gonzalez, Col OF K

Jonathan Villar, Mil SS, 3B K

Joey Votto, Cin 1B K

But I also have A.J. Pollock, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Peraza, Jason Hammel, J.A. Happ and Jacob deGrom.

Just wondering if I’ve chosen the best 5 out of my keepers.

“Top Five”

Dear TF:

A quick glance tells me you have the right guys.

Donaldson is a first round pick. Votto a second rounder. Lindor a third round pick. Cargo and Villar are also third round values.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t have options. AJ Pollock is a third rounder probably, so if you decided to go for him over Cargo no one could blame you. I have Cargo ranked a little higher, mostly because Pollock is just coming back from a lost year, his second in the last three, which adds a bit of risk.

Jonathan Villar in Houston, before being traded to the Brewers
Jonathan Villar in Houston, before being traded to the Brewers

More interestingly, while Jonathan Villar is going in the third round, Jose Peraza is going in the ninth. Villar has his spectacular 2016 season under his belt, but Peraza looks to be similar type of player. Until the Brandon Phillips trade it was hard to see where he would get full time at bats, but all of sudden his way is cleared.

Steamer has Jonathan Villar projected to hit .255 with 15 homers and 54 steals. My projection is for .250 with 15 homers and 48 steals. So we’re in the same ballpark certainly.

Steamer has Peraza projected to hit .282 with six homers and 42 steals. My projection is for him to hit .300 with seven homers and 38 steals. So, again, similar, as I suppose we should be. We’re working off similar inputs.

Clearly, unless you value batting average a lot, and you shouldn’t, Villar is the better keep for you, but it is possible to see how in a BA league that Peraza could conceivably outperform Villar this year. That’s not a reason not to keep Villar, but in a league where both are available it is a reason not to reach too much for Villar. If someone else grabs him you can get a somewhat similar player about 50 picks later.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Tracks of Rotoman’s Tiers at Catcher 2017

People say I’m the belle of spring training
Because I answer questions here
And I won’t say I’m ever complaining
Because I have readers, words, and good beer.

But take a good look at my face
Gary Sanchez might be out of place
If not it’s easy to displace
Devin Mezz-or-a-co.

The process of getting the Patton $ Online projections and prices out the door is iterative. I make different lists and try to locate rankings and projections relationships that don’t make as much sense as they should, and then I change them.

The more I wash-rinse-repeat, the more I fix things. I’ll be the first to admit that while my formulas capture a lot of “talent” in the stats, quirks in playing time, age, injury and development, as well as nutty performances, can screw things up a little, and sometimes a lot. Massaging the projections and prices manually leads to better overall results always.

This week I’m going to be going through the tiers position by position, and see what’s what. Feel free to follow along and comment if you see something awry, on the player pages at pattonandco.com. (Feel free to comment here, if you prefer, but I find the pattonandco.com player pages a better way to chat about players, with more people who know more things about them.)

busterposeyTOP TIER: Buster Posey

Some are bumping Jonathan Lucroy into Posey’s league, partly because Posey himself dropped down into the area where you might expect to find a healthy Lucroy this year. My take is Buster bounces back up a little after a down year, and LuCroy, who is older, coming off two down years, doesn’t bounce back up quite so far. Even in Texas. And even if Posey hangs tight where he was last year, Lucroy is no lock to catch up to him. Buster stands along, at least for one more year.

 

TIER TWO: Jonathan Lucroy, JT Realmuto, Willson Contreras, Sal Perez

These guys are good hitters, have some power, and Realmuto has some speed to make up for the power he doesn’t quite have as much of. I can see any of these guys having a year as good as Posey’s, if they get a little lucky. Each could be a disappointment, too. The challenging question here is why Sal Perez and Willson Contreras are in this tier and Evan Gattis and Yadier Molina are in the next one. For me, it’s all about youth and playing time. Perez and Contreras are in the prime of their youth, while Gattis and Molina are moving past it.

TIER THREE: Gary Sanchez, Yadier Molina, Evan Gattis, Stephen Vogt, Brian McCann, Welington Castillo, Yasmani Grandal

So, why is Sanchez down here, and Contreras in the level above? For me it’s about the hit tool. Contreras has it, for sure, which should make him a better bet to improve this year and a better bet not to struggle. Sanchez was incredible last year, and he should get a chance to play even if his batting average falls some because of his good batting eye (Contreras has a pretty good eye, t00), but as his average falls so will his value, even if he hits a lot of homers. That makes him extra valuable in OBP leagues. And if he doesn’t hit as many homers and struggles out of the box? That makes him a little riskier. Not that his struggles are a sure thing, but you have to be aware of them. The rest of these guys are veterans, each with a pretty good track record, but Yasmani Grandal resides here as a reminder of how Sanchez might struggle going forward.

TIER FOUR: Matt Wieters, Devin Mesoraco, Russell Martin, James McCann, Yan Gomes, Derek Norris, Wilson Ramos

One of these guys is really not like the others. That would be Wilson Ramos, who had a terrific 2016 and would be ranked in Group 2 or 3 except that he is rehabbing from ACL and meniscus surgeries late last year. He has said he’ll be ready in May, as a DH. If that’s true he might end up in Tier 3, but the initial prognosis had him back at mid-season, and catchers rehabbing knees have an extra long way to go. I’m bidding him as a half season of a $14 player, considering last year a career year given his past history and age. One other player with caution. Yan Gomes was hurt last year, and the year before. He looks like he should bounce back to being a decent power-hitting catcher with a challenged batting average, but the longer a player struggles with injury the more chances there are for other things to go wrong.

FINAL TIER: Some of these guys will do well, some will crash and burn, or fade away. And the problem is that opportunity isn’t going to be the difference maker. These guys earn their checks with their gloves, for the most part. If they hit, good for their teams, good for their families, great if they’re up for a new contract next year, but if they don’t they likely still have some playing time left. And that can be a double-edged fantasy sword. Still, they should be cheap, and there is some chance

Travis D’Arnaud had Tier Two potential once upon a time, and could land in Tier Three this year if all goes well. But all hasn’t gone well for him, he has a chronic and degenerative hip condition, and that makes him a tough guy to bet on to stay healthy.

Cameron Rupp is coming off a pretty good season, but he probably isn’t really quite that good and he’s blocking, right now, one of the best catching prospects in the game. Will he get a full season? Will he be able to hit .250 again? A lot of questions here, which should knock down his price.

Jett Bandy has a cool name and hits fly balls, which might make him a power hitter at some point. Right now he’s a somewhat wild and undisciplined hitter and better as an idea than an offensive weapon, which he’s going to need to be to continue to earn playing time.

Tucker Barnhart came up as a defense-first catcher, and hit enough when called on last year to remain a viable option if Mesoraco gets hurt again. Or should I say when Mesoraco gets hurt again. But he doesn’t have enough power to be a real force, and there is a good chance he won’t hit .250 again. Which makes playing time concerns disqualifying except late in the endgame.

Sandy Leon did something really silly last year, something that shows you just how misleading baseball statistics can be, at least in a small sample. And good for him. He’ll always be able to say he hit .300. But he’s not hitting .300 again. Doubtful he has another .250 season in him. He is a good defensive catcher and will get some at bats, which in a normal year (unlike last year) would not be a good thing for your fantasy team. The reason he is here is that he hit the ball a lot harder last year than in the past. That sort of thing persists for the best hitters, but fluctuates for the bad ones. There is some chance he could have gotten better last year, which makes him a fair endgame play.

Austin Hedges hasn’t hit in the majors yet, in short stints the last two years, and he comes with the reputation of a good field no hit catcher. Still, he put up breakout numbers in bandbox El Paso last year, good enough for an MLE of .268 and 15 homers in 350 at bats. Don’t bet the gardening budget on that this year, but he should be cheap and if he does do that he’ll be a fantasy plus.

Francisco Cervelli is what he is, to coin a phrase. Good defender, not a total zero with the stick. Totally uninteresting.

Miguel Montero had some good years in Arizona, but he’s not the best catcher on the Cubs and so is unlikely to get enough at bats to contribute much.

Nick Hundley is in a similar position in San Francisco, which will also not have the juicy effect that playing in Coors had.

Tom Murphy! An interesting young catcher who should get a shot at playing time, and may have the bat to contribute, especially playing in Colorado. There’s a good chance he’s going to strike out so much it will be hard for him to stay in the lineup, so take advantage of his low price and hope he figures out how to keep the power while working with a shorter swing.

Tony Wolters was a bit of a nifty pickup last year, because he hit a few homers and stole a few bases. The problem was that three of those steals came in two games in mid April, when he was probably not active for anyone, and after that he didn’t steal another until July. Not cool Tony. Playing time this year is going to depend on just how interesting Tom Murphy turns out to be. There should be enough AB for Wolters to have a couple more good games running, which makes him a viable second catcher, and if Murphy stumbles an uptick is, well, an uptick in PT.

Kurt Suzuki arrived in Minnesota as a no-hit catcher and leaves as a no-hit catcher, but in between had some decent seasons with the bat. Surprising! He might help the Braves this year, in real life, but likely playing mostly against lefties isn’t going to play enough to be more than a fantasy placeholder.

Tyler Flowers will face righties in Atlanta, and will continue to have the career that Tom Murphy seems on track for. Good power, but lots of swings and misses.

Jorge Alfaro is the top catching prospect in the game right now. Fortunately for Cameron Rupp, Alfaro has been contact challenged coming up, which might buy Rupp more time as a starter. Fortunately for Alfaro, Rupp hit enough last year that the Phillies can let Alfaro mature at his own pace. Once Alfaro starts to hit, however, he’ll get the call up and Rupp will sit down.

Jason Castro landed in Minnesota, and has a shot at lots of at bats unless John Ryan Murphy surprises. He’s been pretty feeble the past couple of years, but does have some slight success in his past.

Less Than Zero Tier: John Ryan Murphy, Tomas Telis, Chris Iannetta, Mike Zunino, Josh Phegley, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila, Tony Brown, Dioner Navarro, Geovanny Soto, Carlos Perez, Andrew Susac, Austin Barnes, Brayan Pena, Chris Herrman.

These guys are likely to be negative earners if you play them all year in leagues that value opportunity cost at -$4, as I do. If you don’t they’ll probably on average earn a buck each, and a few have a chance to do better than that if there are at bats for them. If you pay a buck for one of these guys and earn $5 you’ve got yourself a steal.

Mike Zunino deserves special mention. He has terrific power, but he also has an amazing swing-and-miss stroke and not great plate discipline. He’s earned a total of $12 the last three years, including a $5 and $9 year. But his bat is so weak when it isn’t blasting, and his organization knows it and is troubled by it, that he isn’t going to be on any sort of long leash. The minors is always a little breeze away for Zunino. Worth a dollar, could be a great addition to a team dumping BA, but could also see 60 at bats and a bus ticket to Korea. Good luck with that.