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!
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.
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.
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.
We held Tout Weekend as planned back in March, though not in person and with no party at Foley’s and before many of us knew what Zoom was. We drafted online, on Fantrax, hoping baseball would be back in a month or two or, many of us expected, around the Fourth of July.
That guess was better than most of my draft day picks. Baseball resumed on July 23rd, and with one day of the postseason under our belts, the expanded playoffs will continue for the next month. But Tout Wars is done, as was my team, it turns out, the moment the draft ended.
In that draft I bought a stars-and-scrubs style team. A couple of the scrubs, Dominic Smith and Tony Gonsolin, worked out. If the core of my team had been average those two would have pushed the team toward contention. But the rest of the team wasn’t average. Let’s take a look why:
Ronald Acuna Jr. $44 ($47 value): Earned $29, all prices for OBP 5×5. Obviously didn’t earn out, but compared to Yelich ($19) he was a better buy at the same price, in spite of the time he missed. You pay great players a lot because even when they aren’t great they contribute a lot of stats. Acuna and Yelich showed that in 2020, small consolation to me and Justin Mason, Yelich’s owner who finished 2 points ahead of me in the standings.
Walker Buehler $30 ($29 value): Earned $8. When your ace is a tres you’re going to have problems. It doesn’t appear that there was anything wrong with Buehler when he was on the mound, but he missed some starts with a blister in September, and was unlucky in wins when he got five innings in pitching for a team that led baseball in runs scored.
Ozzie Albies $27 ($33 value): Earned $10. He came on at the end, showing why it wasn’t madness to expect a lot. Missing a month of a two-month season puts you in the hole, to be sure.
Nolan Arenado $35 ($40 value): Earned $13. His auction price was depressed because of the threat he might be traded to a less commodious ballpark. My bet was he wouldn’t, and he wasn’t. Alas, he was not having a great season when he hurt his shoulder in early September, and he struggled after that until he was shut down. Players slump at times, and in the short season there was scant time to get a second chance to fix things.
Will Smith $14 ($14 value): Earned $12. He got on at a good clip, missed 10 days with a neck injury, and will have better seasons than this one, which was fine.
Wilson Ramos $13 ($17 value): Earned $6. A bad season for Ramos.
Reisel Iglesias $13 ($13 value): Earned $17. Finally, someone who performed as expected, maybe a little better.
Yasiel Puig $5 ($3 value): Did Not Play. Tantalizingly close to signing with the Braves in July, he got the Covid and did not get another chance. He was one of two shots at picking up a significant producer for cheap for a think outfield.
Mike Moustakas $22 ($22 value): Earned $9. All my stars tanked. Moustakas, like Albies, was hurt for much of the season. In my notes after the draft I said that I really wanted Corey Seager, a switch that would have helped my team quite a bit.
Dylan Carlson $8 ($8 value): Earned $2. There were two risks here. One, that he wouldn’t get a chance, the other that if given the chance he wouldn’t produce. I felt certain enough that he’d get the chance that I’d take the risk he wouldn’t produce. He didn’t. Given my needs I went for it and took a shot that didn’t pan out. If the rest of the team was working this wouldn’t have mattered.
Mike Foltynewicz $12 ($12 value): Earned -$9. I was going to get either Folty or Lamet for $13, I thought. I didn’t get Lamet, was pleased to have Folty, until the season started. Another close call.
Ender Inciarte $6 ($6 value): Earned $4. Part of the reason he got as many at bats as he did was because Acuna was hurt. Still, it was Markakis’s decision to come back and play that cost Inciarte playing time. Well, that and his own limited offensive production.
Freddy Galvis $7 ($7 value): Earned $8. As expected, the poor OBP offset most of his offensive contributions, but not all.
Chris Archer $5 ($7 value): DNP. Had season-ending neck surgery in June.
AJ Pollock $7 ($14 value): Earned $23. I was pleased as punch to get him at $7, and he came through. Too bad it was wasted.
Wade Davis $2 ($4 value): Earned -$9. He only lost so little because he only pitched 4.1 innings. A calculated risk that he’d be a saves source. Didn’t count on the return of Daniel Bard, or Davis’s shoulder going out.
Sean Newcomb $2 ($4 value): Earned -$12. Rounding out a pitching staff, you throw your darts and hope for the best. Sometimes you get the worst.
Of my reserve picks, Dominic Smith earned $19 and Tony Gonsolin earned $23. A winning year is when your core team does okay and you’re able to augment with good pick-ups.
Notable waivers pickups were Ben Gamel ($4), Andres Gimenez ($12), Donovan Solano on August 3 ($15 for the season), and David Peterson ($9), all good, but at the end of August I sprung for Jose Israel Garcia, Julio Mateo, Taylor Clarke and Trevor Rogers, all with potential but in the end hurtful, not helpful.
In the end, I finished with 50 points. My draft day roster finish was similar, next to last, but with only 40 points, so I improved. For now, that’s the positive message I take away from this weird season.
I play in a roto 5×5 league which uses OBP instead of BA. Why is Mark Canha rated so low?
First thing, my prices and rankings are for batting average leagues. I’m a big fan of using OBP, it makes total sense to credit hitters with walks, especially when we penalize pitchers for them, but OBP hasn’t caught on yet. So my price, $11, reflects Canha’s weak batting average, not his very good on base percentage.
That said, a few facts argue against that $11 price.
Canha earned $17 last year, and $11 the year before.
He went for $15 and $14 in the CBS and LABR expert leagues this year, both BA leagues, and $16 in Tout Wars, which uses OBP.
My own projection is rosier than any of those carried at FanGraphs, and when you price it it suggests Canha is a $16 player on par in BA leagues, a dollar or two more in OBP leagues.
Absent a transcript of what I was thinking when I priced him at $9 in March, and bumped him to $11 earlier this month in the update, here are the caveats:
He shined last year as a full time player after the break, a career year really, but that’s a small sample after more spotty playing time because he’s generally been weak against lefties. He hit eight homers last year against lefties, good, with a .221 BA. Bad. If he loses at bats he loses value.
He’s 31 years old and falls into that class of player who is older, less athletic, platoonable and more prone to lose his job to younger and more athletic players at any time. And if his gains the last two years are real, he’s a classic late bloomer, a type of hitter who generally falls apart quickly as he ages.
Will Canha lose his job this year? Probably not. Could he match last year’s numbers? Certainly, but is that guaranteed? Far from it, and there is some little risk of collapse.
So, I gave him an $11 price because he’s not the sort of player you want to bid up to his career best price, he’s the sort you want to sneak in after all the sexier choices are gone and the boring choice goes a little cheaply.
Still, $11 is probably a little too pessimistic. That’s the price you want to pay for him, but odds are good in BA leagues he’ll go for $13-15, as he did in the expert leagues that use BA, and $16 as he did in Tout. That’s okay. I’ve bumped his price to $13, because it might make sense for you to pay that at some point. In OBP maybe you want to go $14.
And, of course, if you’re a big fan and you want to take him to $16, that may well work out. So, feel free, but you won’t find me bidding against you if you do.
This may seem silly, but have you considered putting what was prepared for Fantasy Football Guide online for a nominal charge or free? One of the big annual NHL guides did that in a year where there was strike uncertainty. I need to know what J. D. Bolick thinks of rookies! I have been checking the cigar store for FFG compulsively — a real downer that you aren’t publishing.
Thanks for your note Alan. If we had started work on the Guide and had something to show we would certainly share it, but because we were in lockdown at the time we usually start work on the mag (the day after the NFL Draft), and the publisher was unsure whether he would pay for it, we didn’t start working.
And so, not unexpectedly, no work was done, and hence we have nothing to share.
I sent your note to JD and he was grateful for the support. And we all look forward to the chance that next year we’ll be back on our regular schedule. We’re sorry to miss this one.
The biggest news is that The Fantasy Football Guide 2020 is shelved. The publisher was getting too few advance orders from skittish retailers, and so we’re taking a pass for this season. We hope there’s a football season this fall and you can enjoy it without the Guide.
The goal is to be back for baseball come January, if possible.
In the meantime, we have baseball potentially starting up. Updated projections and prices for buyers of The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2020, reflecting the 60 game season and the unbalanced schedule, will be available on July 9th on the Updates and Corrections page here.
I’ve now done three retro drafts, for 1982, 1990 and 1999. I wrote about the 1982 draft here, and have written about the 1990 and 1999 drafts at pattonandco.com, in the Stage Four thread.
I’ve finished in the Top 4 each time, but have yet to win one. I’ll be drafting next Wednesday night, taking apart the 1986 season. Fred Zinkie selected it because he won last week’s 1999 contest, jumping a mighty 11 points with his last round pick of Ryan Klesko.
I took apart the draft a few different ways. First I looked at how many draft dollars each team bought in hitting and pitching, using my earnings values (which give positive value to the Top 108 pitchers and Top 168 hitters based on their 10 category stats).
Then I compared their earnings to their expected earnings for each draft slot (basically my earnings list sorted from highest to lowest), to see their NET value.
And I compared these things to their actual finish. Here are the data:
Looking at this, it doesn’t really pass the smell test. Dean earned more than Fred? How did Jeff finish so high while earning so little?
Someone over at pattonandco.com pointed out that Fred added Pedro Astacio, who I had valued at -$20 on the season. That appears to have cost him two points in ERA and WHIP combined, because of the way those categories were grouped, but gained him many more Wins and Strikeouts.
Someone else suggested that this indicated a problem with my pricing, but I don’t think that’s true in a general sense. But in a very specific sense the issue of who gets a positive value seems to have a lot of impact on pitcher prices. I wrote:
Doug led in ERA and was second in WHIP. I was second in ERA and third in WHIP. Dean was third in ERA and first in WHIP. Fred was first in strikeouts and fifth in ERA and WHIP. And the three of us are way ahead of the other nine teams, with Fred finishing just ahead of seven of them. That’s efficiency.
I think this shows not a problem with my pricing, but a problem with pricing in general. The dollar values work, but they then have to be applied to the right stats when you’re constructing your team. In other words, it’s not the meat it’s the motion.
But one issue to be aware of is that pitcher value very much depends on which 108 pitchers you value. The math will tell you one group, but as we can see, for a team in a particular position, a player like David Cone or Pedro Astacio will have real value and supplant one of the 70 inning relievers with a low ERA and Ratio that usually reside in the $1-$5 range.
So, if you go and reprice the actual pool, so that the worst pitcher is worth $1 and the 108 add up to $1092, the value of Pedro Martinez drops from $55 to $25. (I just did that.)
In the prospective leagues we usually price for, this phenomenon drives up the value of the best pitchers, but when we know what the stats are going to add up to it seems to do the opposite. Here’s how the Retro earnings looks with the pitching pool repriced.
This doesn’t really make sense to me logically but eyeballing the Dollar totals in this chart makes more sense to me than the earlier one.
Note: I also adjusted the hitters in a similar way after noticing that the total wasn’t adding up to $3120. These results look more like what I would have expected, demonstrating that in a retro draft to get good prices you need to know which players will be selected.
For 17 years I’ve played with a bunch of friends in a quirky keeper 5×5 (OBP) fantasy league called the XFL. We hold a $260 auction in the fall at First Pitch Arizona, keeping up to 15 players off the previous year’s rosters with a $5 increase (+$3 for players picked up before they had ML playing time). Then, in March, usually, we have a 17-round supplemental draft to round out our 40-man rosters.
Only this year, you know, we didn’t have that supplemental. We first put it off until April 20, and then as that date approached we collectively realized that it made no sense to spend time on something when conditions in the majors this year may be totally different, or that there may not even be a this year, so we postponed.
Which led to the idea of doing something. Anything. What that turned out to be, under the direction of Ron Shandler, was a draft of the major league players from 1982. I’m not sure why Ron chose ’82. I pushed for 1980, since that was the first year of our game and Dan Okrent’s piece about the Rotisserie League the following winter in Inside Sports magazine was called “The Year George Foster Wasn’t Worth $36.” But 1982 was fine, it was the first year I played the game, joining the Stardust League that Matthew Berry wrote about recently, in its second year.
There are things about a retrospective draft that are different than they are in a prospective draft. Our regular drafts and auctions before the season is played are shaped by our expectations–our projections–of what players may do, what chances there are that they will do more, or less, and how we put a price on that range of outcomes.
In a retro draft you know what a player has actually done, and you know the context in which he did it. That makes it fairly easy to come up with a value for each player and a ranking of player values. But it turns out that the math only gets you so far. Here’s why.
The Split: Many years ago, in the early ’90s, Les Leopold and I developed the idea that each player actually had two prices. One was his actual worth in the fantasy season just played (that’s his retro price), and his draft price, which was based on his projection and market expectations, what I call in The Guide The Big Price. We theorized that in a retrospective auction you would allocate 50 percent of your budget to pitching and 50 percent to hitting. This was something I tried to test for a long time, but there wasn’t much interest until everyone had to stay at home for months on end.
But alas, in preparing for this retro draft, it quickly became clear to me that allocating 50 percent to pitching didn’t solve all the problems. The one problem it did solve is that of pitcher injuries and unreliability, which are one and the same for the most part. Pitchers who stay healthy are reliable, but pitchers get hurt a lot. So while we discount pitching in our draft price, splitting our budgets about 65/35, spending half on pitching for half the points seemed like a good strategy.
But if you do that, I soon realized, you’re going to have to compete in all five pitching categories, and if you do that you’re going to bump into the fact that in a draft you can’t really load up your staff with aces. If you have the first pick and take Steve Carlton by the time you pick again all the other high strikeout, high wins starters will be gone. Drafts, obviously, are different than auctions, so once again we’re not testing the split.
Dumping: A draft is a linear playing field. The difference between the price of each successive pick is the same. But the value of the player pool is not the same. So, when you graph, say, the auction prices in a mixed league and compare it to the line of selections in a similarly configured mixed draft, you’ll see that the value of the first 50 or so picks is higher than the line, while after the third round most picks are under the line.
I prepared by running the available players through my pricing spreadsheet, adjusting for a 12 team mixed league. Absolute prices weren’t important for this exercise, it was a draft, but I tried to jigger the balance between the categories so that I didn’t overvalue low-ERA low-production pitchers. The danger of doing that is because you’re (I) using computed prices for the player’s season. When we’re ranking players prospectively, we don’t price their optimal performance but rather one that’s in the middle of the range of possibilities. Drafting retroactively, you know what Joe Niekro’s optimal performance was worth, but if the value of his ERA and Ratio outstrip Steve Carlton’s monster strikeouts and wins in your formula, are you putting together a roster that can win?
As it turns out, Brian Feldman (fantasybaseballauctioneer.com) led off with Carlton as the first pick. I had the wheel and took Andre Dawson with the 12th pick and Joaquin “Donde Esta Mi Cabeza” Andujar for some reason. Niekro was still there, higher on my sheet, but at that point my sheet was too big, too many columns, and I misread hits allowed for strikeouts in Andujar’s case and typed his name into the sheet. It was fine, they were close enough, but I had already deviated from my pricing.
At the next turn I took Dave Winfield and Goose Gossage, creating my own mini Yankees run which also set off a closer run. But I didn’t really mean to turn this into a play by play. There are a few other points about this exercise.
If you love baseball and play fantasy baseball this is potentially a great way to get together virtually with friends and spend some hours with a new way to play and talk about baseball. Some of us played fantasy baseball in 1982, some of us weren’t even born in 1982, but we all knew how great Robin Yount’s season was, how bad George Foster’s was. There was lots to talk about while selecting teams.
Zoom allowed us to see the excellent drafting spreadsheet that is part of the Mastersball.com package. A handful of us were also on camera, though the demands of keeping up with our lists meant we weren’t watching each other. The rest were on audio feeds, which was filled with banter and reminiscing.
The spreadsheet updated after each pick with revised standings, but we didn’t start checking that (Todd Zola was updating the sheet and he’d have to be asked to show that page) until more than halfway through. If I’d been paying attention to it earlier I would have seen that by not taking Ricky or Timmy or Willie my pursuit of steals was doomed, which would have changed some of my later picks as I vainly pursued the bottom of the steals pack and failed. This came to a head fairly deep in the draft when I selected Dickie Thon’s 37 saves and didn’t make a dent.
Position scarcity is something I didn’t think about in advance and though I was in the lead for a number of the first 20 rounds my team faded at the end. I don’t think that was caused by scarcity because when you know everyone’s value the math tells you the tradeoffs. If you take Gary Carter in the third you’re getting fewer stats than if you take Gary Ward, do you get that back later? You might, but that’s not a sure thing. A properly formed price list would have the exact 168 hitters with the positions necessary to fill 12 team rosters and prices rejiggered to reflect the fact that some of those catchers are of negative value when you price all players. They’re not negative valued when you have to pay for them, the prices have to change.
In the end, Jeff Erickson pulled out to a good lead in the last round, optimizing his categories. I failed at optimizing, wasting value by buying too much average, wasting money on steals, and having too low an ERA and WHIP. We’ll be playing again in a couple of weeks, Jeff picked the 1990 season, and you can be sure we’ll all be paying more attention, not necessarily balancing the categories, but more effectively managing the categories we dump. Or not.
Ask Rotoman: How will multiple game suspensions for an individual player that were supposed to start at the beginning of the season in March, be calculated when and if the season does start. Will there be a reduction of games due to the late start?
Good question. Here’s what MLB says:
All suspensions of 80-or-fewer games will be served in 2020 if games are played. Should the season be canceled, those suspensions would not carry over to 2021.
What MLB doesn’t say is whether those suspensions will be pro-rated for the games that will be (we hope) played this year. For instance, if the season is scheduled for 81 games, will German’s suspension be 80 games (the full monte) or 40 games (the prorated part).
The canceling of the suspensions if the season isn’t played at all suggests that the suspensions will be pro-rated, I think, in recognition that the punishment is meant to be proportional. This is also how service time will be treated for all players. Given players’ limited shelf life, giving them a full season penalty when a half seasons worth of games are played seems excessive.
But since this isn’t stated we can’t really know for sure until issues like the length and shape of the schedule are worked out, and both players and owners can assess how things are going to go. That won’t be until late May, at the very earliest, it looks like. We hope.