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,

Brian Walton Tastes Own Medicine. Smiles.

My friend Brian pays attention to the rules. He’s done that in Tout Wars for years, and in recent years has been writing a column at Creativesports.com (and Mastersball.com before that) about fantasy baseball rules.

This week I thought I’d caught him up in a rules violations in the XFL, a league we play in together.

 

And I did, but he’d already gotten clearance from the league’s poobahs, who said there was precedence for his position. Maybe there was, but whoever benefited from it should have also insisted that the language in the Constitution be changed. It wasn’t.

What I know is that I reverse engineered the box score, and Franmil Reyes had his 50th at bat of the season, changing his draft status, in the bottom of the 6th inning of Sunday night’s Padres game. That at bat clearly came before 9pm, draft time, when Brian took Reyes as a Farm player. That is, one with 49 or fewer at bats. But Brian was allowed the +$3 for his newest farm player.

My partner Alex and I were fine with the common sense rule being applied, rather than what was written in the Constitution, and yet we still nurse a grudge about the fact that the league didn’t apply the common sense ruling they should have, that when a Frozen player dies before the auction, as Oscar Taveras did a few years ago, you should be allowed to at least open up his slot on auction day to make room for a sentient body. The fact that no one had died in the last two weeks of October before meant that there was no precedent, but the exception is now in the Constitution.

You should always read Brian, he’s a punctilious  thinker and a good guy. Plus, among a lot of things, he knows his Cardinals. His story is here.

And the Constitution has been changed to reflect reality. Yeah for that.

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: Hold On I’m Comin’!

My league 8 team AL only 5×5 pitching categories are QS, SV, Holds, K and ERA.

We have had holds for at least seven years. I always struggle with it. Since its a bit of an odd ball category not much is written about it. A hold is a terrible stat, but it brings value to middle relievers. I was wondering if you had any good advice on how to attack Holds?

“Hold Out”

Holds is a terrible stat, just about as terrible as Saves, though a little worse because a staff can have more holds in a game than Saves, or Wins, for that matter.

But in the fantasy game, holds can have a solid role, as a way to value productive relief pitchers, even if they don’t find their way into the closing job.

What’s curious about your league is that instead of combining Saves and Holds in a single category that values relief pitchers, you’ve split the two imperfect stats so that you have to man two less-than-perfect categories.

The cool thing about that is that you’ll need to roster a closer, and an eighth inning guy, at least, so i guess your question is, how do you identify the eighth inning guy.

Path No. 1: Read many comments from each team’s manager about how he is going to set up his bullpen. Of course you’re going to roster a closer or two, but then also keep an eye on the guys who are identified as setup guys. These are the guys likely to run up high holds totals.

Path No. 2: Identify guys with high strikeout totals and low walk totals. These guys may not be identified by their managers as closers in waiting or setup guys, but they’re likely–if they can keep it up–to be increasingly trusted in game situations, which means they’re likely to add Holds or Saves as the season goes along.

The quirkiness of your rules also means that you can mess around with your roster configuration. Clayton Kershaw plus a roster of high strikeout relievers could finish high in ERA, Holds, and Saves, and in the middle of the pack in Strikeouts, for middle of the pack money. But even if you put together a more traditional staff, high strikeout pitchers are going to help you in Ks and ERA, and maybe Holds and Saves, too.

Past performance and youth are the best predictors of high strikeout rates among relievers.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: Is Jake Elmore Perfect?

Hi.

This could be a dumb one but I cant find the answer anywhere. Last week I picked up Jake Elmore. In his first game he went 1 for 1 giving him a batting average of 1.000 on that particular day. If I don’t play him again and remove him from my roster do I retain that batting average towards the category? There’s nothing in my league settings that states you have to use a player a minimum amount of times. Is this a loophole that could be used towards batting average and also ERA and WHIP for pitchers? I really don’t want to question my Commissioner in case I have stumbled onto an advantage. I’m a first time player so I hope I’m not coming across as an idiot. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

“Idiot Wind”

Dear IW:

jakeelmoretwitterThe short answer is that without knowing your league rules, it’s hard to say exactly what having a 1-1 Jake Elmore means.

What can be said with certainty is that your ignorant question goes to the very heart of fantasy game theory when the game is played with category rankings.

That’s because one maximizes the qualitative categories (BA, OBP, ERA, WHIP) by reducing the number of AB or IP relative to productive evens (Hits for hitters, Outs for pitchers) by reducing the number of AB and IP, trying to prune away the bad ones and focus on the productive ones.

jakeelwoodFor instance, a pitching roster of middle relievers would almost certainly win ERA and WHIP, but would do very poorly in Wins, WHIP, and Strikeouts, the quantitative categories.

The challenge of Rotisserie style scoring is to find the balance between these two inexorable and mostly contradictory forces, though the challenge was reduced as the game moved from 4×4 (in which 37.5 percent of the categories were qualitative) to 5×5 (in which they are 30 percent). Still, in recent years a lot of roto thought has turned on how to take advantage of strong middle relievers in 5×5.

Still, it’s hard to see the advantage you’re going to get out of a 1 for 1 performance by Elmore. That’s just one of thousands of at bats your team is going to accumulate over the course of the season, which makes it the smallest of advantages possible.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: Addison Russell at Second Base

WHEN WILL CUBS RUSSEL BE QUALIFIED 4 2 BASE?

No Signature

Dear Shouter:

There are so many things wrong with your question, they must be addressed.

A salutation isn’t required, but it is nice. I’m fine with just Rotoman! or Hey Rotoman! or Hey! Or even something without an exclamation point.

Secondly, we are too deep into the 21st century for anyone to not know about the caps lock. Don’t use it to communicate. It is that easy. WHY? Because it feels like shouting.

It isn’t that hard to type “for.” Or FOR if you must.

If you’re going to type 2, you might as well type 2B. That gets it done. 2 BASE sounds like a small boy band.

The premise of your question is either impossibly specific or hits the sweet spot of my opinion.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 16.23.16If you want to know how many games it takes for Addison Russell (LL at the end, or I prefer ll) in your fantasy league to qualify at second base, I have no idea because you didn’t say what league you’re in.

And since looking up rules is easier, there is always a link on your stat service, than typing with thumbs, you should look there.

If you’re asking how Addison Russell is performing as a second baseman, since he has always played shortstop until this year, I’m interested, too.

Russell had only played five minor league games at second base before the Cubs called him up to the major leagues. And he’s played five major league games at second base. He made one error in each five-game set, which is too many, but errors are not a fair way to grade a fielder, at least not entirely.

Joe Maddon says Russell is doing a fine job as a fielder at second base, which could be the truth, or Maddon could be blowing smoke. We do know that Russell is a fine shortstop, so any problems he has at the less-demanding second base position are likely due to the learning curve, which he should quickly move along.

The big issue for Russell right now is the bat. He drove in two with a double yesterday, but he’s struck out 12 times in 22 AB. Even for a Cubs player that’s a lot. But Maddon seems fine with letting him work it out, and the Cubs have been winning, so maybe he’ll get a chance to develop his big league talent in the big leagues.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Ask Rotoman: Zack Greinke or Mark Melancon?

Rotoman:

Only 4 pitching categories in my keeper league. Wins+Saves is one category…Greinke or Melancon?

“Volatile”

Dear V:

My 5×5 projections for both Greinke and Melancon are worth $17 this year, so I thought this would be an easy one to answer. Combine the value of the Wins and Saves for the pitchers, divide in half, and replace the values of Wins and Saves with that number and bingo. Or voila! Or eureka!

Instead, I’m not sure. I used the Razzball, FanGraphs and Patton $ Online value calculators on whatever projections they used (Grey Albright, Steamer, Rotoman) and found that though the numbers they spit out were different, all favored Greinke. In order: $10.4/$8.2, $7.6/$1.9, $10.1/$7.55.

Fangraphs clearly punishes relievers more for their lack of strikeouts, but I’m sure a closer look would show they’re rewarded more for their low ERA and Ratio. Razzball and Patton were close enough to declare a winner, but I was nagged by the question of population. You see, pricing systems are based on the performance of some group of players. In the regular 5×5 world this means one thing, but when you make guys who get saves more valuable, as you do when you combine saves and wins, the population changes. That changes the value of an earned run, it alters WHIP, it means a strikeout is worth something different.

Mark Melancon, off field
Mark Melancon, off field

So, I ran the numbers on last year’s stats using my own pricing calculator.

Last year, in 5×5, my pricer says Greinke earned $21 and Melancon earned $19, Combine Wins and Saves into one category for all ML pitchers, re-sort, and their prices change to $21 and $20.

Which means, if you agree with me that they’re each worth $17 this year, that Melancon gains a little edge in value over Greinke using your rules.  But prices didn’t change as much at the high end as I expected they would.

Of course, value is only part of the equation. Keeper questions start there, but always come back to what the guy is going to go for in your league. You want to keep the one you think is going to cost more. That’s a question only you can figure out.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: Doing the Newest FAABest Steps!

Dear Rotoman: 

As a league that’s been around for 30 years, we’ve played by the rules that Alex Patton established in his book, and have made sure we changed the ones he did in newer books. Since he hasn’t put out a book in several years, many in our league are wanting to know if some of our rules are outdated and need to be changed, dropped or modified.

We play NL, 5×5 (HR,R,SB,OBP,RBI and W,S,K,ERA,WHIP), $280 starting salary, $340 in season cap, 25 players with Farm Team. Three year contracts with extensions at $5 per year. We do $100 FAAB from after All-Star til last week of August. FAAB over $10 must be kept next year or dropped for $10 salary penalty.

Anyway, do you know if most teams still use these same basic rules or have any of them mostly changed. The one I want to modify is to make FAAB all year vs. six weeks. Currently, early in the season, lower ranked teams are “rewarded” by drafting guys that don’t play or will soon be sent down, to wait and see the two or three guys we all miss in the draft each year. The league winner last year screwed his draft and left with $60+ dollars, only to pick up Erving Santana, Hector Rondon and Aaron Harang the first three weeks of the season. Personally, I feel like every player needs to be FAAB eligible so that EVERY OWNER has a chance. Higher ranked teams cannot get these guys for DL selections because lower teams are holding their DL guys several weeks to see if someone good comes up.

Any input you can give us would be greatly appreciated as it relates to how most leagues deal with things these days.

“Old Ruled”

pattonbookDear OR:

What’s funny is that I’ve played with Alex Patton in the American Dream League, which was something of the model league in his books, for more than 20 years, and our rules are totally unlike yours. I’ll be brief: AL, 4×4 (BA), $260 budget, no salary cap, 24 man rosters with seven man reserve. One year contract with no escalator. $50 FAAB starting the third week, and then all season long.

Crazy no?

The fact of the matter is that your league is much more progressive, with your 5×5 and OBP, particularly, than the ADL is. Which doesn’t mean that rules can’t or shouldn’t be changed. There’s just no reason to try to conform to any one set of rules, because you can’t. There are people playing in so many styles I hesitate to list them, because I’m nodding off just thinking about them.

Which brings us to your crazy FAAB rule. Yes, I said crazy, because I think you guys have it all backward.

In the old days, before their was FAAB in Fantasyland, the waiver wire ruled supreme. Whoever got their claim in first, when a player “came over,” (as we still say though without the frenzied dialing), would acquire the player. But everyone soon realized that this gave such an advantage to the unemployed obsessive they wished they could be, that weekly waivers became more the norm.

The problem with weekly waivers is that priority goes to the bad teams, the teams lower in the standings, which means they acquire talent that all too often would get traded to one of the good teams, thus making all the other competing teams angry. Hence, FAAB.

FAAB is an equalizer. It gives each of us the chance to make the market on a particular player on a particular day. And if we blow our wad one day, the teams that still have FAAB left have the advantage. Which is why it is perfect tool for leagues to use all season long.

In fact, relegating it to a brief period means there is no warp and woof to the budgets. I would imagine players are traded over from the AL and everybody goes all in on them, and they’re awarded to the team lowest in the standings on the tie-breaker. That misses the point.

I mentioned that in the ADL we wait three weeks to start up our FAAB. This is a vestige of our time before FAAB. We held up waivers until there was some settling in the standings, a bubbling up of talent, a dropping down of not so much, so that good teams off to a bad start weren’t unjustly rewarded. Some argue that since we use FAAB now we could start waivers Week 1, and they’re right. But I resist that.

Having a week or two, or even three, before teams can beef up their rosters is a test for teams that take players in the auction who are injured. The idea is no more an impetus to force them to find a replacement than the Affordable Care Act was intended to compel the States to set up their own exchanges. Rather, the goal is to inflict on them a little pain if they don’t draft a replacement. Isn’t that fun?

As for some of the other crazy new rules the kids are coming up with, OR, don’t get me started. Have you heard of the Daily Games?

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

ASK ROTOMAN: How is a stat service like a nice Chianti and fava beans

All Hail Rotoman!

Is there a ‘3rd party’ available for a weekly FAAB process?

Currently, our FAAB rules require us to turn our weekly roster changes and FAABs into the commissioner on Sunday Nights by 9pm.  The league-friendly commissioner, has made that 9pm kind of a ‘soft deadline’ and has on occasion accepted FAABs and roster changes past that 9pm deadline with a friendly reminder to get it in on time.  In addition, new job responsibilities have delayed the FAAB results and roster changes until Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday mornings.

My thought here is… IF there is a 3rd party process available, any and all deadline and integrity concerns can be completely eliminated.

There is NOT an integrity issue with the commish.  Just looking at alternative methods for assuring that the FAAB process is timely and legit.

Sincerely,
Hannibal Lester

Dear Hannibal,

Almost all stat services have automated FAAB processes. These require that teams enter their claims and picks and moves into the box, via a form of some sort, and at the appointed hour, as the bells strike, the software does it’s utterly rational magic and awards are made.

In the past I’ve used the systems at Yahoo, ESPN and CBSsports and found they all worked well enough. It has been a while, however, so chances are decent they have improved, though I don’t know for sure.

I can enthusiastically endorse the BidMeister at onRoto.com, which is quite flexible and fault tolerant, though it does force you to submit your bids structured as replacement blocks. That is, all your claims to replace your first basemen go in at once, then your claims for a starting pitcher, then the outfielder.

I was at first wary of this, but once you take this into account you can gain most of the control you want by ordering the blocks and using your FAAB.

And this is how a stat service is like a liver, which goes so well with the favas and a nice Chianti. It filters out the labor and toxins of a fantasy league, increases communication and information, making the thing work better, and does so quietly, at least in the best of times.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

A Pitch Clock.

pitchclock-arizonaThere’s a story here that is all gung ho in favor of a ML pitch clock that limits pitchers to 20 seconds between pitches.

The writer shows the average times for the Royals pitchers last year, and only Bruce Chen averaged less than 20 seconds. He notes, however, that there wasn’t a pitch clock, that hitters were allowed more time to get ready than they presumably will if the pitcher is facing a clock, and the Royals other starters, Ventura and Guthrie, were just a hair over 20 seconds on average, so maybe wouldn’t be too rushed if the rule is adopted. All well and good.

I just wanted to report that after watching some games in the Arizona Fall League last November, in which the pitch clock was used, the main thing we noticed is that there were clocks everywhere. In order to make sure everyone knew how much time remained, there were clocks on the fence behind the catcher, on each dugout, and on the right and left field fences. Maybe it was the novelty, but the bright flickering light was a definite distraction. (The picture above shows the clocks on the first base side.)

And just as at a basketball game, there was almost as much suspense watching the pitcher beat the clock as there was seeing him work the batter. So, the clocks are ugly and distracting. Will they speed up the game?

Another point is that the clock is reset when the pitcher starts his rocker step. So, if a pitcher uses all 20 seconds to start his rocker step, his full windup and delivery will put him on a longer than 20 second pace.

With that in mind, if each pitch is made on average five seconds faster, a game with 250 pitches would save 1250 seconds. That’s 21 minutes or so, which would be quite an accomplishment, but would we even notice? I suspect that we wouldn’t. We would still be irritated by pitching changes for every batter in the later innings, in games aren’t all that close, and two minute breaks between half innings for commercials, and three minutes for the 7th inning stretch’s two songs–at least. These are the things that make baseball games seem slow and too long, and each is hard to address because it either is an important part of the competition strategically, or it is a money generator.

So if we’re really concerned about game length, let’s try another idea: Seven inning games.