Brian Joura invited me onto his show to talk about the Mets and baseball in general. Challenging questions led to a fun time. Listen here.
“Dear Mr. Rotoman:
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:
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:
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.
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:
The Top Losers? From worst to less worst…
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.
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:
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.
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):
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.
I’ve been operating under a few well known and mostly agreed upon facts.
- People love home runs.
- A slimmer taller strike zone, which better represents the rule book strike zone, is being called these days.
- Even without PEDs, athletes (and all of society) values strength more than ever.
- There are always PEDs, though they don’t seem to be widespread, but they’re certainly there.
- When home runs go up and strikeout rate goes up, too? Yes, hitters are swinging harder, making more mistakes, but also hitting more balls out of the park. There should be a Moore’s Law about this ratio. I’m going to work on it.
But the fact is, as Ben Lindbergh points out in this Ringer piece, based on research by the estimable Mitchel Lichtman, it seems the ball is juiced.
Lindbergh is extremely diplomatic about this assertion.
Maybe because Lichtman’s interesting testing (certified game-used balls bought on Ebay) is based on a small sample size, and subject to all kind of aging and sample treatment issues that are especially important in a small sample.
So, it’s fair so posit that Lichtman’s numbers aren’t perfect.
But, when you go through all that Lindbergh goes through quite methodically to present the case, it’s hard not to conclude that the ball is likely juiced. And that a small difference, seven feet in distance, could account for the insane increase in homers the last few years.
Which doesn’t mean that the MLB poohbahs decided to juice the ball, because as Lindbergh points out, if that’s what they did they did it in the most obvious way. Which, with crazy child reverse logic, means they probably didn’t do that on purpose, because they would not want their fingerprints on the manipulation. Right?
But they might have not cared, too, though they deny it, and have presented scientific evidence from their own labs that Lindbergh was given access to some months back that the balls are not juiced. We’ll let Alex Jones, the performance artist, weigh in here.
The most interesting part of the story for me was Lindbergh’s recitation of some Craig Wright-reported historical info about the transition from the dead ball to live ball in 1919 to 1921. The wool changed! The bottom line is that the game is played and has been played in continually changing historical and social conditions. To expect gross stats to adhere to any simple benchmark was a childhood fantasy for most of us, and for anyone younger? It should be a goof.
So, I’m not 100 percent down with Lichtman and Lindbergh, I mean who knows for sure (none of us), but this is good work, and the discussion should continue. That’s how science works.
PS. Plus, I realize I didn’t include the most excellent stat to help explain that the home run rate is because the balls are different. Big home run hitters aren’t benefiting much. Top home run rates aren’t increasing. What is increasing is home runs from secondary hitters, whose deep fly balls are suddenly leaving the park. Assuming that’s true, I’m taking their word, let’s blame the ball.
Tyler Kepner tells a pretty good story about Gift Ngoepe (en-GO-epe), the first African to play in the major leagues. He’s a slick fielding infielder from South Africa who was promoted last week by the Pirates, who have nurtured him through their system for the past nine years. Nicely, the story suggests.
You should read the story, because it is a good story, because Ngoepe is charming, because his mother was a saint and so she suffered (and died), because he worked with Barry Larkin in Italy, because he’s a great fielder, apparently, (and a bad hitter, but off to a hot start with the bat in the majors).
And maybe because it’s helpful to hear some of the details of how some person got to that point. Kepner tells a good story. Even if you didn’t care about baseball you might like this one.