Ask Rotoman: My Fifth Keeper?

Hi,

10 team mixed league with 5 offensive (OBP, HR, Rbis, R, SB and 4 pitching categories (Wins, Saves, ERA and WHIP) NO STRIKEOUTS.

5 keepers

Committed to 4: Freddie Freeman, Jose Ramirez, Charlie Blackmon and Francisco Lindor. Fifth from Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola or maybe Jean Segura.

Any preference from these three?

“A Fifth of Gerrit or Man of Aaron?”

Dear Fifth Man:

I don’t know. The biggest difference between Cole and Nola is that Gerrit has six letters and Aaron only five. And Cole was a better strikeout pitcher last year.

For one thing, go with a pitcher, because you need an ace and Cole and Nola are two of the top tier of starting pitchers.

Since strikeouts don’t count in your league there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. Will Houston score more runs and win more games? That’s a point for Cole. Who has been better the last two years combined? That would be Nola, but Cole was better last year.

In 5×5, I have Cole at $28 and Nola at $26, but that difference is due to strikeouts. Nola has the edge in ERA and WHIP, but it’s a small one. So, like I said, I don’t know.

I guess I would go with Cole if forced to pick, which I’m making myself do, because I think the improvement he showed last year is sustainable and that makes him the better power pitcher. Thus more likely to repeat.

But if you’re hunch goes the other way, go with your hunch.

Sincerely,

Eno Sarris on Stats

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.

Ask Rotoman: The Next Step to Winning

Hello,
I’m writing because I read your article in your magazine. It’s great it’s been around for 20 years.  Typically I print out a cheat sheet and try to study it and overstudy but can’t beat having a magazine with insights and tips.  I’m also writing because I am the commissioner of my league.  This will be the 10th anniversary of it!  It’s been 10 years and I still haven’t won a championship.  My league is with Yahoo 5×5 Head to Head.  I rack my brains out every year.  I’ve gotten better over the years, making the playoffs, but I can’t get over the hump.  Any suggestions or advice you may have, besides walking away with my sanity while it’s still intact?  I laugh buts it’s true.  Every year I try a different strategy but never seems to pan out.  Oh and it’s not a keeper league.  Which I think makes it a lot more difficult.  Thanks for reading my plea for help.  Hopefully I’ll be able to hear from you soon. Keep up the great work!
“Bridesmaid”

Dear B:
In my day (which is a long one) I’ve won a fair number of league titles, but I’ve been playing in Tout Wars for 20 years and not won a title. Second place a few times, in the money some, but never a first. So I know where you’re coming from. The fact is, however, that there is no one-size fits all answer to the question. Here’s why.
If everyone in your league was equally talented, equally smart, made an equal effort, in 10 years at least two teams, despite doing everything right, would not have won titles. In 2o years the odds would be that one or two equally talented teams would not have a title. So the fact is that we’re really looking at a sample size that’s too small to accurately judge what’s going on based on the results. The challenge for you is to analyze what’s happening in your league, and then come up with a strategy that will give you an edge, because the keys to winning are three: Knowing the values of players, knowing how other teams value players, and working hard to always get the edge in value.
Here are a few places to look:
Knowing the value of players: Of first importance is knowing your scoring system. How many points hitters and pitchers score, and when, makes a huge difference, and will determine how valuable players are. In shallow mixed leagues nearly all the value is found in the more better best most extraordinary players. While everyone knows these players, they’re the first ones to go in the draft. Then, at every pick later in the draft you’re going to have to choose between a player who is 30 years old, a solid regular with unspectacular production and a player who is younger, more athletic, but with perhaps injury or playing time issues. In other words, $10 in the bank versus the possibility of buying $20 with the risk of getting only $1. What you need to remember is that in a shallow mixed league the value of $10 in the bank is less than the riskier player, because if your riskier pick fails there will be other players available on waivers who are almost as good as the safe pick.
Knowing how other teams value players: One of the things I like about drafts is that bad players can totally screw up picks if they don’t know how the room values players. One of the things I don’t like about drafts is that I can screw up picks, too, if I don’t get the room right. The way to get familiar with what other people do in the draft room is to participate in Mock Drafts. It only takes a few, played by your league’s rules, to get a feel for the types of players taking Adelberto Mondesi and Vlad Jr. in the second or third round. There is variation in every mock, but seeing the highs and lows for players will give you an idea about when you need to reach for the guys you value highly, and not reach too early. (It’s also an opportunity to try out different approaches to your draft, to see how the opposition reacts.)
Working hard to always get the edge in value: Working harder means working effectively. I think your first order of business should be to figure out if there is a reason other teams have won your league. If it’s just one or two guys winning, what are they doing? If it’s a different team winning every year, and they’re all doing different things, what are all the things they’re doing? And what can you do to find the bargains they leave behind. Then, work hard in season to stay on top of matchups, player health and slumps, and pursuing creative trades that can earn you extra points bit by bit. Extra points lead to extra wins.
You may or may not solve this thing this year. Head to Head can get pretty random, especially in the playoffs, so the best team doesn’t always win. But having the best team will give you the best chance. If you execute this year and honestly evaluate after the season about what went right and what went wrong, you’ll be able to hone your approach the following year so that you get better. Consistently working in a framework of evaluation and experimentation is the way to improve, so that when you get lucky you’ll find the championship you long for.
Good luck!

Ask Rotoman: Should I Trade Mookie Betts?

Dear Rotoman:

I’m in a dynasty H2H total points based. Got a trade offer.

Juan Soto. Jon Lester. Blake Snell. Pick 29 and Pick 53 for

Mookie Betts. Mike Clevinger and Pick 42.

It’s a 12 team league on we are on year eight. My starting line up is:

Bats…S Perez C…J Bell 1B…Baez 2B…J Rameriz 3B…Machado SS…Betts. Acuna. Braun OF… N Cruz DH
Pitchers…Tanaka. Bumgarner. Clevinger. Buehler. Porcello

I dont have much depth and close to the cap. I’ll drop braun and I have Cueto I can easily drop to make room. Thoughts on the deal, I could use the advice on this one please.

“Blockbuster Made or Averted?”

Dear Blockbuster:

This is a big deal, and without knowing your categories, how big your roster is, how weak your depth actually is, and if that matters, it’s hard to be definitive. What I know is this:

  1. Juan Soto is not as valuable as Mookie Betts, because he won’t run as much, and because he’s had one amazing partial season, while Mookie has proven he’s a Top 5 player.
  2. Blake Snell is probably equally better than Mike Clevinger as Mookie is better than Soto. So these two pieces wash. If you had enough hitting and needed pitching, that’s a deal you might do reasonably. Since it looks like you have hitting and need pitching, that’s an argument for it.

The rest of the trade has you giving up Pick 42 and getting Pick 29 and Pick 53 plus Jon Lester, who is not a sure thing to be excellent, but has a decent chance of it. In a league with as many keepers as your teams seem to have, there is very little difference between picks 29, 42 and 53, and you get two for the price of one. Since Lester is better than Cueto, who is going to miss the whole year, he’s a bonus.

Could you lose this trade? Certainly. My rule of thumb is don’t give up the best player in a deal in return for depth, especially in shallow leagues, where only the very best players are much above replacement level, but I like Snell enough this year (I like Clevinger, too, but not quite as much) that the core is a solid pitching for hitting deal, and the add ins are a bonus.

Go forth and multiply,
rotomansignature

Rotoman

ASK ROTOMAN: Keeper Question

Ask Rotoman:

I can hold 8 in a $260 NL only auction league. Which 8 do u think?

Jose Peraza $8 Starlin Castro 8 Yasmani Grandal 6 Jeff McNeil 1 Lorenzo Cain 29 Eric Lauer 1 Stephen Matz 6 Trevor Williams 3 Alen Hanson 1 Hector Neris 1 Yoshi Hirano 5 Pablo Lopez 1 Franchy Cordero 10 Koda Glover 2.

Thanks
Eight is Enough

Dear Eight:

I don’t usually answer such open-ended questions on the site because, well, it seems to me you should do most of the work. That’s why you play. And then hit me with the hard question I might contribute something to. For you, that’s determining your No. 7 and 8 picks.

But today is launch day of the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2017 and your question does let me highlight how to decide who to keep.

Make a list of your players and their prices. Then add their big prices from the Guide (or whatever reputable source you have for prices, including your own), and do the math:

Jose Peraza $8 $25 = +$17
Starlin Castro 8 $18 = +$10
Yasmani Grandal 6 $10 = +$3
Jeff McNeil 1 $12 = +$11
Lorenzo Cain 29 $24 = -$5
Eric Lauer 1 $2 = +$1
Stephen Matz 6 $8 = +$2
Trevor Williams 3 $12 = +$9
Alen Hanson 1 $5 = +$4
Hector Neris 1 $1 = E
Yoshi Hirano 5 $3 = -$2
Pablo Lopez 1 $1 = E
Franchy Cordero 10 $5 = -$5
Koda Glover 2 $0 = -$2

First thing first, there are the big winners: Peraza, Castro, McNeil, and Trevor Williams are obvious keeps. That’s four.

Picking off the other four gets more complicated. First off, Yasmani Grandal is at a good price and is looking at a change of scene that might give him a boost. That’s five.

Of the remainders, Alen Hanson is cheap. He’s not a great hitter, doesn’t have much power or speed, but he could get a fair number of at bats, and he has some power and maybe a little speed. That’s six.

To get to the final two you have to evaluate my prices and your expectations.

For instance, if you think Glover or Hirano might close, you have to consider them. At present I do not.

If you’re in a pinch you can keep Lopez and Lauer, because they are arms with some talent who might get a chance to play this year. The problem is they’re not going for more than a buck or two on auction day, so these are plays of last resort.

Lorenzo Cain is costly, and should go for less than $29 in startup leagues, but what is the inflation rate in your league? If it’s more than 20-percent he becomes something like a  bargain. Heck, you might think he’s going to go for $29 in your league, which definitely makes him a bargain. You have to decide if you want to park that money in him, or go after a different outfielder to anchor your offense. He could be your seventh keeper. Or not. I’m personally wary of $33 year old outfielders whose games rely on speed. With each year, the risk of a big failure goes up.

Which brings us to Steven Matz or Franchy Cordero. I think $10 is too much for Cordero, but others love him and if you love him you might want to take a chance. FWIW Baseball HQ has him earning $15 this year. I think his contact skills are so bad that, while he could earn $15, he could also be back in the minors in a hurry. Especially because he’s coming off a wrist injury.

Which leave us with Matz, who has been injury prone and not that good since his dazzling debut in 2015. I think he’s no riskier than Cordero and cheaper, with the same sort of upside, which is why I would make him my eighth.

When you have to make these decisions matters a lot. Health issues and playing time issues will become clearer than mud as the preseason approaches. The longer you can wait the more clarity you’ll bring to your final decisions. But it doesn’t hurt to start exploring the possibilities early.

Best,

rotomansignature

Rotoman

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.

Baseball and Race and Let’s Talk About It

My friend, Don Drooker, wrote about Jackie Robinson last week. Why? What, are you living under a rock? Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League baseball on April 15, 1947.

That is appalling, as every baseball fan knows. And really as anyone who has thought about the history of the United States knows. But that is what happened, and we rightfully celebrate the end of the barrier. It would certainly be wrong not to, at least until all the ancillary misery of racism has been fixed.

I think about the slogan, Make America Great Again, and it is difficult to think of it as meaning anything other than that we were a better country when we were whiter and had more slaves, or at least fewer civil rights laws. My friend Don’s piece reminded me of something.

I was young. Maybe 6, could be 7. My friends and I collected baseball cards. We were crazy about baseball cards, really. And we played games. The most popular baseball card games we played were built on the rules of the card game War.

You would lay down a card, at random, and another player would lay down a card at random. If they matched, the other player would take your card. If they didn’t match, the next player would turn a card, and so on until a match was made.

Matches were made with logo colors, team names, positions. We had a lot of variations of the game. This was a way to mix up our card collections, which we didn’t see as having monetary value, but we did see as currency of a baseball fandom sort.

And then, one day, we decided to play the same game, but using player skin color as the determinant for matches. What I can say for sure is none of us six year olds thought skin color meant anything other than the color of skin. There were no other signifiers for us. We saw it as natural a swap as your yellow logo versus my yellow logo. So we sat on the stoop of my friend’s house playing this game, when my friend’s mother heard what we were doing. Matching on skin tones. Boom.

Everyone had to go home. This was unacceptable.

I think back and I don’t blame my nameless friend’s mom. She was telling us race is not a game.

But she wasn’t telling us that race is in the eye of the beholder. It is a power system. And our innocent heads, up to that point, didn’t see skin color as anything other than skin color. A shade.

Later, we learned how much more there was to it.

 

Tout Wars H2H: Justin Mason May Have A Point

This is the third year of the Tout Wars Head to Head League and the third new scoring system.

Year one we went with a roto scoring system for 22 head to head contests, and then a real roto scoring standings system for the remaining 36 contests. First place was 12-0, second was 11-1, and so on. It was an interesting idea that earned Jeff Zimmerman a win over Brent Hershey, despite Brent’s better direct H2H record, but it was cumbersome to track in season.

Year two we went with 22 head to head contests, using a variety of roto categories. Vlad Sedler edged out Andrea LaMont on the season. It was fine.

In both the first two years I finished third.

For Year three we’re moving to a traditional points scoring system. The idea has been pushed by Jake Ciely since day one, and the point that finally won the day was this one: More people play head to head points than any other game.

Of course, they don’t play head to head auction, and here is why that matters.

H2H points games are usually run with snake drafts. Teams pick in whatever order they’re assigned, with picks reversing each round. In a points league your goal is to amass the most points, and in a points draft the best player to take is the one you think is going to score the most points. Always.

In an auction, your goal is to buy the most points you can, but there are a variety of ways to get there. You can be creative in how you score your points. The creative approaches teams in the H2H league used this past weekend were two.

1) You could go stars and scrubs, buying expensive players and then filling in with cheap ones at the end. Every team but Clay Link did this, averaging less than three players who went in the teens (Link bought seven such).

2) You could go stars and scrubs, with all your stars pitchers, and spend only $59 on hitters. Only Justin Mason did this.

You can read about Justin’s team here.  He basically cracked the code. He zigged in a way that gives him a pretty big advantage over every other team. Week after week. The reason is because in points leagues two-start pitchers generally earn a lot of points in their weeks, and stud pitchers, who go deep into games (like, say, Justin’s Kershaw and Scherzer) earn a lot of points every start. So in any given week pitchers are going to earn a lot of points, giving Justin’s team a win in pitching.

As long as he scores enough hitting points so that he loses hitting by less than he wins pitching by, he’ll go home each week a 6-2 winner. (Each contest gives two wins to the hitting winner, two wins to the pitching winner, and four wins to the overall winner, and corresponding losses.)

Because this is a 12-team league, there are plenty of replacement players out there. Lots of decent hitters on the waiver wire. The rest of us have a lot of work to do.

For my part, I didn’t come up with a very clever way to take advantage of the rules. Having never played in a points league before, I took my projections, converted them to points, and tried to buy the highest scorers. I figured the most expensive players would be a little overpriced, because they didn’t really score that many more points than others, and I went for guys on the next tier. I like my team, who doesn’t like a 12-team league team, but have no idea how to measure it against the others, all of which have a similar mix of costly hitters, costly pitchers and cheap everything else.

I think we’re going to have to play this one out, and hope that Justin doesn’t run away with it early.

Team Rotoman

C: Sal Perez, Yasmani Grandal

MI: Brian Dozier, Elvis Andrus, Whit Merrifield

CI: Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Donaldson, Eric Hosmer

OF: AJ Pollock, Billy Hamilton, Domingo Santana, Ian Happ, Manny Margot

UT: Yuli Gurriel

SP: Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda

RP: Jeurys Familia, Arodys Vizcaino, Alex Colome

RES: Willie Calhoun, David Robertson, AJ Minter, Amed Rosario, Carlos Rodon, Zach Britton

This is a team that’s probably light in power and innings, that will need a breakout season for Taijuan Walker to push it over the top.

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational

Justin Mason, of Fantasy Friends With Benefits, did a good big thing. He got Fantrax to host a bunch of 15 team leagues full of fantasy experts, plus put up a grand in prize money.

The rules are pretty normal, except there is that looming consolidated standings.

I landed in League 9, which included some folks I knew, like Adam Ronis and Tim Heaney, some I’d heard of, especially Doug Thorburn and Rob Silver, and a bunch of other foes who proved to be formidable, too.

This was a tough draft. There was no finessing picks. You had to take who you wanted, because they were not going to be there next turn.

Picking from the 13th spot afforded opportunity, I landed Blackmon and Bryant as my first two picks, but meant it was a long time to get back to my third pick, when all the stud pitchers were gone. Six of them in a row preceding my pick of Edwin Encarnacion. Okay, mostly gone. I could have made it seven by taking Yu Darvish.

This is also a league with one catcher. I like two catchers. Most catchers share time, two catcher rosters recognize this, and force decisions about how to allocate budget to backstops. One catcher diminishes the importance of almost all catchers. The 15th catcher isn’t a stud, but he’s not a waste. And if he turns out to be a waste, for whatever reason, the short roster means there will be options. Two catchers means you have to commit, and you have to work hard to recover if something goes wrong. I think that’s a tougher play.

In this league I have a pretty strong offense. That’s because I didn’t take a pitcher until the sixth round. And I then proceeded to make a mostly risk pitching staff. Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb had yet to sign. Eduardo Rodriguez is hurt. Brad Peacock is a swing man in a deep staff. Kyle Hendricks wasn’t all he was supposed to be last year.

We can argue pitching all day. What I surely didn’t do was buy saves. This was a function of trying to buy high-skills pitchers who were still available. Guys like Hendricks, Jameson Taillon, and even Zack Wheeler. Did I want Fernando Rodney or Shane Green instead? No.

But not having two closers is a problem in a broad contest with many many scores of teams. As I said to Justin in an email the other day, I might easily win this league and not do well at all in the overall. To fix that I’m going to have to find some saves.

Fortunately, that’s possible. My Team (Five reserve picks are pitchers):

Pos Player Team
C Posey, Buster SF
1B Encarnacion, Edwin CLE
2B Merrifield, Whit KC
3B Bryant, Kris CHC
SS Gregorius, Didi NYY
CI Bird, Greg NYY
MI Anderson, Tim CHW
OF Blackmon, Charlie COL
OF Fowler, Dustin OAK
OF Hicks, Aaron NYY
OF Pillar, Kevin TOR
OF Souza Jr., Steven ARI
UT Cruz, Nelson SEA
UT Duffy, Matt TB
Totals
Pitching
Pos Player Team
P Arrieta, Jake PHI
P Givens, Mychal BAL
P Hendricks, Kyle CHC
P Hildenberger, Trevor MIN
P Kahnle, Tommy NYY
P Madson, Ryan WAS
P Peacock, Brad HOU
P Taillon, Jameson PIT
P Wheeler, Zack NYM
P Cobb, Alex (N/A)
P Lyons, Tyler STL
P O’Day, Darren BAL
P Rodriguez, Eduardo BOS
P Stroman, Marcus TOR

 

 

 

What is Your Walk Up Song?

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Tom McFeeley, a fantasy sports writer, asking other fantasy baseball writers to tell him what their walk up song was. You know, the music that plays as the batter makes his way from on deck circle to the batter’s box. It’s a 10 second sting that define you sonically.

For instance, last year Francisco Lindor used Digital Underground’s The Humpty Dance as his walk up song.

Unfortunately, I was traveling when the email came in and I didn’t act right away and I missed out. I’m not one of the 64 songs in the brackets Tom is running. You can read about it here, and vote your heart. Someone deserves to win.

Apart from lacking some really important historical context (My projections were the first fantasy content on ESPN, and I, along with Greg Ambrosius and Alex Patton and editors David Schoenfield and Rob Neyer, put up the first fantasy coverage) it’s a fun read, and listen, and made me sorry I hadn’t gotten in on it.

When Tom asked I didn’t have a walk up song, but my first thought was the Modern Lovers Roadrunner would be pretty good.

The first 10 seconds would be killer, but maybe the countdown and singing would get tiresome, in which case the break from about 30 seconds to 40 seconds would be great.

Why? For me, growing up, listening to baseball after bedtime on the radio, sometimes from as far away as Detroit, is what Jonathan Richman’s tribute to late night radio and rock ‘n’ roll evokes for me.