How Many Starters?

Dear Rotoman:

Currently 2nd place in my NFC league. Punting in Saves, but have been acquiring players for a run at stolen bases, thinking RBIs and HRs will improve in the second half. My question, I am about to embark on a strategy of employing seven starters, and only two relievers, believing my strikeouts will rise, at the risk of jeopardizing my ratios. Is this a reasonable strategy?

Starter Heaven

Hey SH,

The rules of fantasy baseball dictate some things. One important one is that the team with the most at bats will score well in runs and RBIs. Volume matters. Home runs too, in a lot of cases.

Pitching is odder. Consider wins random. Ratios are better for relievers than starters overall, but the best starters dominate the ratios. So finding a balance matters. Your question asks where does that balance happen and my answer is there is no answer.

I’ve had success in recent years finding cheap pitchers who did well, leading my leagues in innings and the ratio categories. But it can go the other way.

The one thing you can count on is that the more innings you post the more strikeouts you’ll put up. Will the ERA and Ratio go up too? Probably, but that isn’t certain. Part of fantasy baseball success is hitting the lucky pockets. Going for quantity and angling for quality is a pretty good strategy, even if it isn’t fool proof.

In other words, go for it. But no guarantees.

Sincerely,

Rotoman

Ask Rotoman: How Do I Value Keepers?

I’m new to an AL-only keeper league.This is the first year we’re keeping players (was a full redraft last year). How does one calculate inflation? In general, when the delta between salary and projection is about the same, should one keep the higher-priced player since the player pool will have fewer five-star players available and their prices will be that much higher?

Delta Dawn

Dear DD:

There is a formula for calculating the inflation rate going into an auction with keepers. I’ve screwed it up enough in the past that I’m going to be careful here, but let’s try this:

Take the your total league budget ($3120, traditionally) minus the expected cost of the frozen players, that is their par value, and divide it by the actual cost of the keepers subtracted from $3120. The result is your inflation rate.

For instance, let’s say you had $624 worth of talent frozen that was going to cost $312. That gives you $312 of talent that isn’t being paid for. Using the formula above you will have $2808 dollars chasing $2496 worth of players, inflating the price of the remaining available players by 11 percent. That’s in a traditional roto league, with 12 teams on a $260 budget.

But simply increasing the bid price of all players by 10 percent isn’t going to reflect how your league spends those inflated dollars. A savvy league will spend the extra money buying the most attractive available players, generally starting pitchers and five-category hitters or the most productive sluggers.

When deciding who to keep the question for you is what each player will go for in the auction. If Bo Bichette can be kept at $31 this year and you judge his straight value to be $38 (he earned $40 last year, and he cost $37 and $39 in LABR and Tout Wars respectively) you would have an inflated value of $7. That’s the number that would go into your inflation rate calculation.

But on auction day how much will he really go for? A 10 percent bump gets him to $42, but should he stop there? For the best players in a league that understands inflation I think not. Better to spend an extra dollar and get the league’s premiere shortstop than spend an extra dollar to pick up Cavan Biggio at 10 percent over his draft prices of $10. Right?

This doesn’t mean you should always keep the more expensive player as your own keep, if both have the same discount this year. Given your team configuration, the quality of your keeps in relation to the quality of other teams, and your strategic approach to this year’s auction, it might make sense to have more money than more tied-up talent, but all other things being equal keeping the rarer talent does make the most sense.

One other point. What happens when a league doesn’t understand inflation is that teams marshall their money, don’t spend up for the best players, and end up competing for the middlin’ players when they realize all the choice talent is gone.

Or they leave money on the table, unspent and immediately worthless in the usual leagues. (Some leagues have a formula for converting unspent draft dollars into FAAB, which can be a strategic aim but also rewards auction day incompetence.)

The fact is, understanding inflation and tracking how it shows up during your auction will give you a terrific edge. It’s well worth figuring out how many inflated dollars there are in your league and then apportioning them to the players you value most in your pre-draft list. Then, during the auction, keep a rough count of how much prices are running ahead or behind your budget. If they’re running ahead you know that bargains are coming, and if they’re running behind it’s time to get shopping.

Good luck!

Ask Rotoman: Where are you?

Rotoman!

Where can I buy the Guide? I can’t find it anywhere in New Jersey.

Thanks.

Thanks for asking.

This is a problem.

Something like 125K Guides are printed and shipped to outlets across the country. But moving this amount of physical paper around is inefficient. And given the size of our country and the many retail outlets not all the issues end up where someone wants to buy them.

Yes, we like having a physical magazine in our hands. That’s why we make the Guide. But it costs a lot to make that work, and sadly distribution gets in the way of getting our physical product into the right hands.

The Fantasy Baseball Guide does have a pdf edition. You can buy it at TheFantasyGuide.com. It costs the same and has the same content. You’ll have to decide any the other issues, but it will get you there.

In recent years there was an app called Mag Finder that helped you find where magazines were on sale. This year it seems to be broken for some reason. If it was working I’d give you a best shot, depending on where you were in New Jersey, but for now all I can say is good luck.

And the pdf is the fallback. Good luck!

Ask Rotoman: Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

HI Peter,

We’ve chatted in the past…..really enjoy the new Guide. I did the PDF also…great idea. I subscribed to the spreadsheets this year…totally confused at the moment but working on it.

Quick question: I’m in a ten-team H2H points league with 16 keepers and 26 total spots 13 hitters and 13 pitchers…6 starters 4 relief and 3 reserves. We have a snake draft coming up and I’m picking sixth this year. We do four rounds of drafts then it’s open drafts one player per day starting at 9:00 pm until rosters are complete.

The top six pitchers available ranked by order of your Guide are Clevinger, Verlander, Saurez, Rodriguez, Ryu, and Urquidy. Naturally not all of the guys ahead of me will take pitchers but I have a feeling at least Verlander will be gone. I know we don’t have any additional data, but have you changed opinions on any of them in the past few months. I think it may end up between Clevinger, Saurez, and Rodriguez available to me. Would you still rank them the same?

Thanks,
Ranking Full Stop

Dear Ranking,

To tell you the truth, I have no idea about the implications your league’s rules will have on player value. That’s something you and every person who plays in a non-standard league has to figure out for themselves.

The six pitchers you mention range in 24 team mixed league value (akin to only-league value) from $16-$13. This is a narrow band.

My advice when addressing a group like this is for you to decide who you like best and rank them yourself. I’m good with my list, but I can say that Clevinger is high because I’m not super worried about him coming back from injury. I could be wrong.

Verlander is here because given his age I’m worried about him coming back from injury, but he’s a generational talent and so even then he’s old he can’t be dismissed.

Eduardo Rodriguez has a great arm, seems to have recovered from his Covid induced myocarditis, but still is an underachiever. Is that bad luck? Or is he doing something wrong.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has great skills when he’s healthy but doesn’t have the physical heft to dominate. Suarez had a great run last year, but there isn’t much in the pedigree to support greatness. Urquidy has great talent, but a fragile track record. You get the picture. All of these guys could be excellent, and all of them could tank. But all of them are coveted enough that the price isn’t going to be inconsequential.

It has long been my maxim that when you have a cluster of similarly valued players you’re best off taking the last in the group rather than the first. This isn’t always possible, buy I think it applies here. Any one of these pitchers could be top 10 this year, and all of them could bust. Invest the least and hope for the most.

I know this isn’t exactly the question you asked, but I think it’s the answer that might help the most.

Good luck,

Ask Rotoman: Help! Keepers and Trade Possibilities

I recently purchased your magazine and I was looking over some auction values. I have a 2-part question. This is for a 14 team 5X5 Roto league, $260 budget. We can keep 7 players, but we don’t have to use all 7 spots.

Part 1: Which keepers would you go with:

Luis Robert-$21
Yordan Alvarez-$21
Robbie Ray- $7
Zach Wheeler- $16
Jonathan India- $11
Hunter Renfroe- $7
CJ Cron- $8
Frankie Montas- $19

Part 2: There are 2 potential trades I can make, would you do either or both if I can pull them off? Which would you prefer if you like both?

Send: $7 Robbie Ray and $7 Hunter Renfroe or $8 CJ Cron for $33 Trea Turne

Send: $7 Hunter Renfroe or $8 CJ Cron for $26 Trevor Story

I feel like I am trying to compensate for my lack of steals with my keepers. But, I can trade in this league if I am behind in steals mid-way.

I am really enjoying the magazine, thank you!
A Fan

Dear Fan:

The important thing to note about the prices in The Guide is they are scaled to 24 team mixed leagues, a much different universe than a 14 team mixed league.

The difference is dramatic. In a 24-team mixed league, CJ Cron is a $14 player. That means he’s a hair above average in value for an only league fantasy league. But overall he ranks about 25th at first base and around 50th at corner infield. That means Cron would be one of the last corners taken in a league your size, giving him a price of $2. Or $4 if you really like him.

Hunter Renfroe is in the same situation. He’s about 80th among outfielders. A 14-team mixed league takes 5 x 14 = 70 outfielders. Given multiposition and utility Renfroe could be an endgame steal, but you should not freeze him for $7.

The good news here is if you can trade Robbie Ray and Cron for Trea Turner, you hit the jackpot. Ray’s price is really good, but he doesn’t yet count as a solid starter. Trea Turner is a unique talent, the sort you want to roster in a shallow mixed league. You could lose this deal. Ray could be as good as last year and Turner is coming off a career year, he may not perform at such heights this year. But I think you start better putting together a winning team having Turner at $33 than Ray and Cron at $7 and $8 respectively.

As for Renfroe for Trevor Story, I’m a big Story fan. Or maybe I should say I was. He’s coming off a down year, he could be leaving Colorado, and he’s getting older. He’s way better than Renfroe, but at more than three times the cost, I don’t think I’d deal unless you expect many shortstops to be kept by other teams. You’re not keeping Renfroe, but the only reason to keep Story at his price is if you think he’s going to cost more on draft day.

If he is, jump in. But I suspect he won’t.

Good luck,


The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2022 Is Here!

Almost here!

We’re live!

This year’s model has more than 1200 player profiles written by old friends HC Green, Rob Blackstien, Jeff Zimmerman, Tim McLeod, and JD Bolick, and introducing a newcomer, veteran sportswriter Larry Fine, against whom I’ve been playing rotisserie baseball for almost 30 years.

Rookie profiles were written by the guys above, with additions from Perry Van Hook, Rob Leibowitz, Jeff Winick, and Scott Swanay. Rob put the section together.

You’ll also find more of JD’s unheralded rookies, a bit about the Perfect Pitching Staff by yours truly, and Strategies of Champions by Glenn Colton, Fred Zinkie, Ron Shandler, Alex Patton, and Don Drooker. Good stuff there.

Plus, the mag to have major league and minor league games played.

Finally, an All-Star mock draft, featuring in pick order Zach Steinhorn (Creativesports 2.0), Tim McLeod (Prospect361.com), Justin Mason (friendswithfantasybenefits.com), Doug Anderson (FantraxHQ.com), Todd Zola (Mastersball), Derek VanRiper (The Athletic), Ariel Cohen (FanGraphs), Clay Link (Rotowire.com), Howard Bender (Fantasy Alarm), Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ), moi, Ian Kahn (The Athletic), JD Bolick (The Guide), Steve Gardner (USA Today), and Eric Cross (FantraxHQ.com), all commenting on each of their picks. Tim McLeod put it all together, many thanks to him for that.

The Guide also has my fantasy prices and cheat sheet, along with Picks and Pans from Dave Adler, Rob Blackstien, JD Bolick, Ariel Cohen, Buck Davidson, Patrick Davitt, Doug Dennis, Don Drooker, Mike Gianella, Phil Hertz, Tim McLeod, Alex Patton, Mike Podhorzer, Vlad Sedler, Ron Shandler, Zach Steinhorn, Seth Trachtman, and Jeff Winick. So many opinions!

Find the Guide at Barnes and Noble, Wal Mart, and an assortment of drug stores, groceries, and magazine stands across the USA and Canada (though maybe not in Wal Mart in Canada). But there is a convenience store in Atitoken Ontario that is usually one of the first on the continent to put the Guide on sale. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the drive.

There is also a pdf version for sale at thefantasyguide.com.

Look for updates about availability and corrections to mistakes (oops) on the Baseball Guide 2022 Corrections and Updates Page.

Tout Wars NL: Why I Lost

The season is over. I finished seventh, and I spent the whole season wondering why my team wasn’t competitive. The answer isn’t obvious.

I wrote about my draft in March here.

I ended up going stars (Mookie, Freddie, Nolan, Buehler, catcher Will Smith) and scrubs (A pitching staff of Buehler (not a scrub), Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Logan Webb) plus Brendan Rodgers for cheap.

I had great pickups. I lucked into Tyler Naquin early (I’d bid way more on Justin Williams and was outbid) and picked up Eric Lauer for cheap, who was very productive when he could pitch.

I accidentally bid up Dansby Swanson because of the online software, but he was close enough for government work. As they used to say generously.

So here’s the problem. I ended up with a very good offense, thank you stars (though not that much Mookie) and Naquin. I hit on all my pitchers, except that the ones I didn’t hit on were horrible, so I had a constant battle between innings and quality. And in the midst of battle, I traded the fading Jurickson Profar for the more massively fading Taijuan Walker, and deserved getting burned, and then traded Buehler for Ozzie Albies because I had a bunch of steals points to gain. But Ozzie didn’t run much in August and September.

So, no steals points, and even after adding Giovanny Gallegos, not too many saves points. That’s a hard road to victory. But I didn’t even get close. Something went gone wrong.

But not really. Kevin Pillar for $2, though his .274 OBP didn’t help at all was an okay fill-in piece. Profar stole nine bases before I traded him in mid-June and only one afterward. Dominic Smith went wrong. I thought I got a steal at $17, but his $8 earnings were not a crushing blow.

One theory I had was that going stars and scrubs meant that I added bad players to fill out the roster, but that wasn’t really true. Eventually, at least. One problem from the draft was that I ended up with an outfield of Pillar, Anthony Alford, Sam Hilliard, Mookie Betts. Not good, but replacing Alford with Naquin early on fixed enough of that.

I ended up with the most at bats in the league and 38 (of 48) hitting points. Offense was not the disaster.

Finishing 11th in steals, however, was. 10 steals would have meant six more points. But six more points would only get me better mediocrity.

When I traded Profar for Taijuan Walker, after much prodding from Walton, my thinking was that Profar had never run this much, I was fifth in steals, and Mookie (injured) wasn’t running yet. Brian and I both knew that Walker was over his head, but I thought he might be okay. He wasn’t.

And you would think his disastrous 78 innings pitched after I acquired him (those are the ones I had him active, I benched him for 12.7 innings of 4.26/0.947 dammit) would have been destroying, but I went from six ERA/WHIP points before the trade to 10 by seasons end.

This is after trading Walker Buehler, who pitched 86.3 innings after I traded him with a 2.61 ERA and 1.042 WHIP. So, I added a bum, got rid of an ace, and still improved my pitching.

How? Logan Webb became a star, I got decent innings from waiver acquisition Rich Hill, Ian Anderson and Touki Toussaint were okay, and Blake Treinen, Brad Boxberger, Chris Stratton, and Giovanny Gallegos were good.

I’ve tried to unwind the moves, to see if I could have made better decisions, and clearly I could have, but it doesn’t work that way. The Draft Day standings tell the story of the teams we bought, and mine wasn’t a contender.

I think this tells the real story. I bought a lot of middle pitchers on the Dodges (Price, Dustin May, Victor Gonzalez, Treinen on reserve) so I didn’t have a ton of innings. Chasing wins and strikeouts I sacrificed ERA and WHIP, and ended up with the same middlin’ team I drafted, just with a different shape. Moving deck chairs around. Maybe if I don’t go chasing pitchers the Naquin pickup and other good decisions would have helped me in significant ways. I don’t know.

What I do know is that Fred Zinkie approached me early in the season and offered me Kenley Jansen for Dominic Smith. In retrospect not making that deal was my greatest blunder, but at the time I still thought Smith was going to rebound and the reason I bet on Price/May/Gonzalez/Treinen was because I thought Jansen might fail.

Zinkie might have lost 10 or even 14 points if we’d made that trade. I might have gained 10. He still would have won, I still would have ended up in the middle.

The answer is better drafts.

Th

Ask Rotoman: We Need the Guide’s Prices!

Dear Rotoman:

I saw you were editor and chief of my favorite magazine…”The Fantasy Baseball Guide”. We use this as our bible to set values for our league. Because of Covid I realize things may be delayed etc. Could you let me know if the magazine is coming out on time this year? Thank you!

A Reader

Dear Reader:

The publisher decided the retail environment was not conducive to publishing the Guide this year, so they have us on hold until next year (we hope).

I’ve been writing profiles and published a full price list and projections yesterday, available to Subscribers to the Rotoman Special at pattonandco.com (pattonandco.com/rotoman). It costs $10. We don’t yet have an automatic link to the prices page for a silly tech reason, but if you subscribe let me know and I’ll send you the link.

I also started a newsletter that contains samples of the profiles. It’s free and you can subscribe at rotoman.substack.com

Thanks for asking. I’m sorry we don’t have a Guide this year.

Sincerely,

Sign Up for Rotoman’s Guide Newsletter.

News and notes from Rotoman, plus samples each week of the player profiles Rotoman is writing for the 2021 season, sign up for the free newsletter here: CLICK TO SIGN UP.

Rotoman’s Fantasy Baseball Guide 2021 is Coming!

The bad news is that the publisher decided the retail prospects were still poor enough that publishing The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2021 was not a good idea. We’re holding out hope for the football magazine, and all we can do is see.

The good news (and I hope you agree) is that I’m writing Rotoman’s Fantasy Baseball Guide 2021, kind of the same but obviously different, too.

What’s the same? There will be a lot of profiles, prices, and projections. How many? We’ll see. Everyone who is projected to be a regular, for sure, and lots of other players who might contribute in deep leagues will be profiled. I’m writing all the profiles myself, so there may not be quite as many bits about back-of-the-bullpen arms as usual. But if the season doesn’t start until June, maybe I’ll get to everyone.

There will also be draft at a glance lists by position, and some pieces about strategy and ways to play fantasy that I’m working on.

What’s different? No mock draft. I don’t think it makes sense when the start of the season is indefinite. Once we know for sure maybe we try one.

No Strategies of Champions. I inveigle my colleagues to contribute to the Guide each year by asking them to explain why they’re so good at this game. And so lucky. They do it for a copy of the printed Guide, which I greatly appreciate. That won’t be possible this year, so I let them off the hook.

There may not be a print version. My goal is to have a print-on-demand version of the book available at the start of February. But my experience with this tech is limited, I don’t think I can promise that at this point. But I’m going to try.

There will be an ebook version available in February if the season is going to start in April. It will be pushed back if the start of the season is.

In the meantime, please sign up for The Newsletter. I’ll be putting out an issue each week, containing the player profiles I’ve been working on, some notes on the news, recommended reading, answer reader asks, and some other fun stuff I hope. It will be free, so you have nothing to lose! Click here to sign up for The Newsletter.

I’m also publishing all the player profiles at pattonandco.com. Alex and Colin have made a special membership level for Rotoman’s Guide. For $10 my profiles for each player will appear at the top of each player page. Subscribers to the big package will have access, too, for no extra charge. Please check out the site, it’s great even if you don’t subscribe but you do have to sign up, the subscription page goes live on December 15th, and the first profiles go up about then, too, once we work out the kinks.