Rotoman is the Twins GM!

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.

joe_mauer_by_keith_allisonLast year, I dumped Joe Mauer, saved some money and improved the team.

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.

 

 

How It Went: Tout Wars Head 2 Head

Tout Wars decided to start a Head 2 Head game and I set about to create a challenging 12-team mixed game that would not rely on extreme distorting tactics (overloading on relievers or starters) to win. The result was:

The Rules:

5×5, $260, standard Tout Wars rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers).

Categories: R, HR, RBI, NET SB, OBP, W+QS, ERA, NET SV, K/9, WHIP

Each team would face each other team twice in 18 one-week contests and four two-week contests. Each contest would generate six games of Wins and Losses. The team that won the most Hitting categories would get two wins, the other two losses. Ties split the two. Same went for Pitching categories, and Overall. So in any contest you might go anywhere from 6-0 to 0-6, with each step in between possible, too. These contests would generate 132 wins and losses for each team.

But there would also be a roto contest going on. Teams would be ranked by 5×5 roto standings for the first half of the season (opening day to July 3 this year),  the second half of the season, and the season as a whole. Each of the three parts would generate 11 wins or losses, so the first place team would go 11-0, the second place team 10-1, and so on. This would generate 33 more wins and losses, so each team would have 165 decisions, three more than a major league team.

There were minimum innings requirements for each half of the season and the season as a whole (450 each half, 900 for the whole).

Fairly late in the game I decided to play this game this year, rather than in Tout NL, because I had never played in a Head to Head league and thought I should take some of my my own medicine.

You can read my preseason comments about my team here.

rotomanisthebestLong story short? I finished third, behind Jeff Zimmerman and Brent Hershey. But the highlight of my year was winning a side bet with Howard Bender, which resulted in this picture being splashed via social media all over the internet.

Here’s a link to the final standings. You’ll find the week-by-week results here.

The first thing that happened was that my main steals guy, Dee Gordon, was suspended and missed the first 80 games of the season. Still, I finished second in steals for the first half because Mike Trout was running and Wil Myers was running and I picked up Jose Ramirez after it looked like Brad Miller wasn’t going to play regularly and he was running. As was Paul Goldschmidt. So, steals weren’t a problem.

Hitting wasn’t a problem, all season, except for the week I lost 6-0 to Andrea LaMont, whose team was built around a strong pitching staff that didn’t perform. Along the way I picked up Aledmys Diaz and Jean Segura, in addition to Ramirez, and all produced in the cumulative and qualitative cats, and Trout, Goldschmidt, Manny Machado all stayed healthy and did their typically excellent jobs. Then reservist Trea Turner emerged and Dee Gordon returned and the offense got even stronger in the second half, even with Diaz missing a lot of time to injury, though by then I could have used Brad Miller back, for his power.

Net Saves became a problem. Jonathan Papelbon, Trevor Rosenthal and David Robertson did not endure. So I hovered in the middle of the pack, winning some weekly contests and losing others.

The biggest problem was that I had one ace. His name was Jake Arrieta and he was a monster in the first half. So was Taijuan Walker. Rich Hill and Trevor Bauer helped in the first half, but Kevin Gausman was inconsistent and hurtful, and Jared Eickhoff turned a fast start into a mess. Still, the bottom line was that my anchor kept the ship afloat, and I finished middle-up in all the pitching categories except W+QS.

The biggest problem came when my anchor went overboard in the second half, and my ship,  er, pitching staff sank. Arrieta became inconsistent and in many weeks was a liability. Overall he had a 4.48 ERA in the second half and struck out barely more than seven batters per nine. Taijuan Walker was terrible when he was healthy enough to take the mound, and Rich Hill didn’t take the mound enough to compensate.

Saves continued to be a problem, too. I picked up Tony Watson and Brandon Maurer to replace the fallen Papelbon and Rosenthal, which worked for a while, but then they went down, too. I again finished in the middle of saves, but near or at the bottom of ERA and WHIP and in the middle in K/9.

The result was that I often lost the pitching categories in the H2H part of the game, which led to a lot of 4-2 and 3-3 weeks. Not good enough to catch Jeff Zimmerman and Brent Hershey, who soldiered on. I did wreck Hershey’s chances with a 6-0 victory over him in the penultimate H2H contest, but that’s no satisfaction.

Could I have done something different? In hindsight I should have traded either Dee Gordon or Trea Turner or Travis Jankowski or Wil Myers or Paul Goldschmidt for good starting pitching. I mean, how could I not? What I can is that I tried to shortly after Gordon returned, but got no interest then at all, and I have to admit that after a while I felt defeated. I didn’t see a way to catch the leaders, even though I wasn’t that far back. The problem had to do with K/9 as a category.

Looking for a starting pitcher, I needed one with a high K rate. But so, obviously enough, did everyone else. That’s because most starters with high K rates are productive pitchers in ERA and Ratio, too, and probably Wins and Quality Starts, as well. That makes them hugely valuable and pretty much irreplaceable. Especially given the innings minimum, because not only are you then losing a high K rate pitcher when you trade him, but you’re adding someone who hurts you in that category. You can’t sit on a lead, you’re likely to be actively undermining it. Not cool.

I’m not sure if this is a flaw, exactly, but it was a part of this year’s game. Alternatives are all problematic, which is how we ended up with the current rules. Doing away with the minimum innings requirement means starters have no value in the H2H part of the game. Changing to a cumulative stat, like K or K-BB robs relievers of most of their value. But I wonder if that is a bad thing? It may be in a 12-team league, but not in a larger deeper league. I’m not sure.

We’ll be having a discussion about that over the winter. What seems evident is that teams that spent less on pitching finished in the top three positions (Howard Bender spent less, too, but had the misfortune of ending up with Sonny Gray and Gerrit Cole as his aces).

We’ll also evaluate whether going to Net Saves and Steals was a good thing, or if it just complicated things unnecessarily. What Net Saves did was undermine the value of non-closing relievers, because they tend to blow more saves than they get actual chances to earn them.

And finally, we’ll look at the hybrid H2H/Roto structure. It made a difference. Brent Hershey’s team won the roto standings all three parts of the season, while Jeff Zimmerman’s team finished second and I finished third. Zimmerman adapted after finishing tied for first in H2H the first half and won the H2H handily in the second half. Similarly, Jake Ciely’s team edged mine in H2H both halves, but I was able to overtake him because of the roto games. Since the advantage seems to have gone both ways, to the H2H play in the Zimmerman case, and to the Roto play in my case, maybe there is something to this.

The biggest problem was incorporating the roto standings into the website. If we can come up with a better way we’ll probably get rid of the roto part. Or not. It’s all up for review.

What I know is that this was a fun and challenging game to play and follow along with (though I’m not sure whether Doug Anderson and Andrea LaMont feel the same way).

 

 

LINK: How To Stay Sane in Baseball

Former Cub Adrian Cardenas has a piece at the New Yorker’s website about the mental issues that come up for players playing baseball. There’s a much bigger story out there, but he does a good job of mixing his personal story with a wider perspective.

You can read it here.

How’m I Doing? The End of April Report

I’m playing in three leagues this year. Tout Wars NL, American Dream League AL, XFL Mixed. This is about as close as I’ll get to the ideal of putting all one’s eggs in one basket, where attention is focused and mistakes hurt all season long.

So, how are things going?

TOUT WARS NL

The standings are bleak, and they’re not getting any better. Well, I did climb into 10th place last night, thanks to Todd’s nightmare.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 11.54.42

You can see all the league details here.

I went with an extreme Stars and Scrubs strategy here, and a pitching staff of Bumgarner, Rafael Soriano and a bunch of cheap guys. The hitting has not been helped by Ryan Zimmerman’s injury, and as expected picking up productive hitters via FAAB has not been easy. Tony Campana has helped with four steals. Otherwise, not so much from anyone.

The good news is that Nate McLouth should see more playing time due to Bryce Harper’s surgery, and I have an insane cushion in OBP. The question coming out of the auction was whether I would be able to deal OBP for productive hitters in other categories. It’s still too early to judge, but if I’m going to climb out of this hole it will be because someone saw lots of value in Joey Votto.

The other good news is that the pitching staff has been pretty good, despite their pathetic standing in WHIP. Cheap guys out of the draft, Wily Peralta and Tanner Roark, have been good. So has cheap FAAB pickup Alfredo Simon. Bumgarner’s WHIP has been a big problem, as has Edwin Jackson’s performance overall, though that has improved lately. There’s work to be done here, but if Jake Arrieta isn’t bad and Andrew Heaney shows up in June, there is some potential to be a pretty good staff.

Getting off to a bad start is a problem. It makes it more difficult to maneuver, and puts pressure on that leads to mistakes. My week by week finishes (11, 10, 10, 3) show some improvement. There is still lots of time, if I make the right moves.

AMERICAN DREAM LEAGUE

I’ve been in first or second all season thus far.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 12.10.51

I came out of the auction thinking I had a pretty strong team, both offensively and in pitching. Until last week I was languishing in homers, however, but then Kyle Seager busted out, and things are okay there.

Where I am suffering right now is stolen bases, despite having guys like Alex Rios, Shin Soo Choo, Erick Aybar, and Ian Kinsler. And wasn’t Eric Hosmer supposed to run a little, too? The problem is that all my speed guys are pushing into their thirties, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they’ve slowed down some. I’m going to need to do something about that.

Especially because I didn’t buy a closer, despite intentions to. I did buy Matt Thornton, as a CIW, and scored, sort of. He’s saved three games, which is better than nothing, but obviously if I don’t add steals I’m going to need to trade some speed for saves. It’s going to take a lot of luck to improve in both categories.

Last week was a rough one, because I lost Chris Sale and Shin Soo Choo for extended period, and dropped into second place. Shoo came back last night, and Sale is expected next week, probably. This team has broad enough talent that I should be able to compete, but it’s still early. Plenty more could go wrong.

XFL

This odd mixed league, with an auction in November and a 17-round reserve draft in March, is a keeper league. Alex Patton and I are co-owners.

Right now we have a strong offense, but have been hobbled by our big three starters, Jordan Zimmerman, Jered Weaver and Mike Minor. We also have a team construction problem. Since these guys aren’t big strikeout guys, and we’re playing three closers, we can’t really compete in strikeouts.

This being a mixed league (15 teams), the success of the secondary starters is very important and we’ve not gotten much out of Jenry Mejia, Felix Doubront, Jarred Cosart and some others. Henderson Alvarez has been excellent, but it’s hard to expect him to continue on this level.

This is a league in which teams play to win, and when that is clearly not in the cards they trade for next year’s keepers. We’re in poor enough shape to have started to think about the next step, but we have so much talent it’s hard to embrace failure so soon. Alex is chomping to make changes, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But losing Archie Bradley is not a harbinger.

Screenshot 2014-04-30 12.25.56

LINK: Fantasy Baseball Name Generator

You should know about this Fantasy Baseball Name Generator, just because it could be a ton of fun. For now it’s amusing. I’m not wowed by the names, for one. Those riffing off the Team are at least contextually interesting, or not. The purely random names can be funny or not, purely at random apparently.

Screenshot 2014-03-11 10.58.33

My suggestion, which they say they will add next year, is a generator based on the original Rotisserie League naming convention, by which teams use their last name to create a pun in the form of a team name. Like Okrent Fenokees. Perfect.

John Burgeson on the variability of baseball statistics

This collection of listserv posts from 2000 is the clearest expression of how baseball stats don’t tell the whole story about a ballplayer’s talents. Nor are statistics the last word about teams. Must reading for anyone interested in baseball statistics and sabremetrics.

Read: http://sabr.org/latest/john-burgeson-variability-baseball-statistics

Depth Charts: Atlanta Braves

C: Brian McCann is one of the top catchers in the game. David Ross doesn’t play much, and won’t hurt your batting average.

Read more…

Depth Charts: Arizona Diamondbacks

C: Miguel Montero will see all the at bats he can. Henry Blanco is coming off a career year, but at 41 this year he can be expected to repeat. Craig Tatum was recently claimed and is less of an offensive presence than Blanco.

Read more…

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.

An article about Road Home Run Rates

Derek Carty THT Fantasy Focus

The Hardball Times’ fantasy writer looks at which teams and players have the biggest changes in the home run rates of their road ballparks in the coming season. As he says at the end of the story, this is fun stuff, especially if you learn that one of your freezes (Josh Hamilton, let’s say) had one of the toughest road park schedules for homers last year. On the other hand, the team that gains the most this year is the Phillies, up 2.2 percent!

If they hit 105 road homers last year, this information suggests that this year they might hit 107! The last three years the Phillies have averaged 102 road home runs. Make of this what you will.