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: 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,


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,

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.

Ask Rotoman: Canha Worms

Dear Rotoman:

I play in a roto 5×5 league which uses OBP instead of BA. Why is Mark Canha rated so low?

Andy

Dear Andy,

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.

  1. Canha earned $17 last year, and $11 the year before.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Thanks for the question!

Ask Rotoman: We Heart JD Bolick!

Dear Rotoman:

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.

Alan

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.

Best,


Ask Rotoman News, June 25 Edition

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.

Feel free to ask Rotoman any questions about this strange and endangered season.

Despite pessimism about the chance the full 60 games get played, I’m looking forward to reconsidering baseball again.

Last time I bought this team in the Tout Wars NL auction back in March.

Photo by Keith Allison

Ask Rotoman: What happens to Domingo German this season?

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.

MLB.com

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.