Rotoman is the Twins GM!

For the second year in a row Brian Joura of asked me to participate in his GM Simulation.

Here’s the deal: 30 baseball writers are given the rosters of the major league teams and are asked to simulate the offseason. For the second year in a row I had the Twins.

joe_mauer_by_keith_allisonLast year, I dumped Joe Mauer, saved some money and improved the team.

This year, I made more like the real Twins and made Mauer the (downcast) face of the organization. All that money spent on a mild-mannered first baseman who is no Superman made improving the team difficult, but maybe having Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier and lots of other young talent will be enough.

I put down some notes about my plans and how I executed them here, at Brian’s site.

You’ll find the comments of other owners on the project page.

I encourage your comments about my moves and everyone else’s. I’m not an expert on the Twins farm system, but it seemed to me there might be enough talent in Gonsalves and Stewart to shore up the rotation if the hitters came through, but that’s far from a sure thing. What is for sure is that there wasn’t the money to buy a better starter than what we already had.



LINK: Zola at on Saves

Todd keep doing great work. I’ve heard Todd moan about this too often to be surprised by this, but his presentation is clear and keeps moving forward. It feels like he’s overstating the hurtfulness of the bad closers qualitatives, that the real non-save impact value of closers are the strikeouts the best bring, but he’s seen the numbers, which I look forward to at some point.

ASK ROTOMAN: Mr. Consistent Choo vs. Wildman Gomez?

Dear Rotoman:

Which of these 2 outfielders would you rather have for 2014?

  Average HR SB Runs RBIs
Player A .284 19 20 97 60
Player B .277 21 38 76 67

Player A is Shin-Soo Choo.  Player B is Carlos Gomez.  These statistics are their averages over the past 2 seasons. Gomez has the advantage, perhaps, but if you extend the timeline to four years Choo is clearly superior.

Shouldn’t we value consistency more?

Dear Fantasy Assembly:

As you can see from the above signature, I cheated. You, Fantasy Assembly, didn’t write asking my advice. I happened upon your site today and was interested in your story about consistent players. Hat tip to Ray Flowers, too.

Not because you (and he) are necessarily wrong, but because I think if you frame the question differently (as they slyly do, in fact) you’ll see that you clearly don’t want consistent players.

Here’s why.

Let’s say everybody in your league knew the right price of every player. And let’s say that they price enforced so that every player was bid up to the exact right price. If every owner knew exactly what the player was actually going to, say you were drafting last year’s stats, then every team would pay $260 for $260 talent. You’re looking at a 12-way tie!

Of course, players aren’t predictable. They have good years, bad years, better and worse years. Sometimes it’s luck, good or bad, sometimes it’s injury or distraction. But in our experience some players are more consistent than others.

One guy may earn $24-$26-$27 over a three year period. An average of $26.

Another might earn $38-$15-$24, also an average of $26. Now, if the down year was due to injury, it would be tempting to say this guy is a $26 player, too. Or close.

On draft day, both players are taken for $25. A $1 bargain, their owners think, but what is likely to happen?

Mr. Consistency might lose a couple of dollars or earn a couple of dollars. Not bad, but fairly low impact.

On the other hand, the wildman could earn $15 or he could earn $37 or he could earn $27, depending on which year you land him. That obviously hurts if you catch the bad year, but championships are won with clusters of good years. A midseason look at how the Tout Wars teams who had last year’s biggest breakouts were doing showed that one big win was not enough to drive a team to the top.

So maybe spending par to buy consistent players to shore up your stats isn’t the right way to go. Maybe taking riskier guys, with a bigger swing of potential outcomes, gives you a better chance of winning. Sure, in years where it all goes wrong, you’ll get killed. But in the years when things go right, you’ll have a dominating team.

Now, Fantasy Assembly kind of nods to this way of thinking, when it suggests you buy some consistent players and then make your upside plays in addition. Which may be enough, but I’m just not sure. The logic suggests that if you get fair prices on the erratic guys, they’ll give you a better chance of winning than the consistent guys, who give you a better chance at fourth place.

Of course, one great challenge is figuring out who is truly inconsistent, but with potential (not on his way down).

Tilting wildly,

In The News: Lord Zola Proclaims 2-20-14

Todd Zola and I were members of the usenet group back when George Clinton was president. We knew what was coming.

And now, today, umpteen years later, we both published charts linking draft order to auction prices, which seems to be the new orange. Make of it what you will.

I think Todd’s story does a fine job pointing out that using ADP for your mixed draft analysis is not enough. And I’m happy to embrace Todd’s perfectly independently concluded idea that draft value is akin to auction value.

FWIW Todd and I are talking about sharing data and working on some new ideas, too.

The Fangraphs Mock Draft: Live Blog

I’m posting here as it goes along, on Monday night, about my picks. I’m sitting in the 17th seat in an 18-team league, mostly because I didn’t realize that the hammer was available. Now, every seat is taken but first. Interesting.

UPDATE: You will find the whole draft results at Couch Managers. There is a discussion going on over at Fangraphs.

Music: Holy Modal Rounders 1+2
Beer: Six Points Sweet Action (with dinner)

Bring it on at 9pm. See you then.

8:51pm: With the 17th pick, I’m hoping for scraps. That someone really good will fall. This isn’t really a year for such a thing. After Trout and Cabrera, I would argue, everyone is a little suspect (or perhaps better said, interchangeable). For instance, I don’t know if I’d take Cano over Hanley Ramirez, and yet there is some small chance that Ramirez will fall to 17th, while no chance at all that Cano will. So, I wait.

9:01: Derek Van Riper took Mike Trout.

Jason Kipnis9:11: Hanley Ramirez didn’t fall, didn’t come close. I took Jason Kipnis, even though I had Adrian Beltre ranked higher, hypnotized by the colors of Couch Manager’s software.

9:12: Beltre was still there on the way back. Brilliant. Now I have to wait 34 picks. The guy on the turn took Ellsbury and Fielder, perfectly fine picks ahead of Beltre, but I’ll suggest that position aside (which is an advantage for Beltre), he’s been a better and more consistent offensive player than those two. But he’s getting older, and any of these guys can have a great year that beggars all the others.

9:31: Third round I took Elvis Andrus, whose youth outweighs his struggles last year. In the fourth after the turn I took Joe Mauer, filling out my skill positions. I would have taken Jason Heyward ahead of Mauer, but he was taken just before it got back to me. I didn’t really set out to take skill position guys, but in each case the available outfielders and first basemen seemed wanting. But now it’s time to change focus. I’m still waiting on pitchers unless someone prime falls to the next spot.

Music: Acid Tongue, Jenny Lewis

9:52: Fifth round goes to Josh Hamilton, my first outfielder. The timing is right, though my confidence of a rebound isn’t strong. But it is possible. Sixth round to Mike Napoli, rounding out my infield. Last year is repeatable, which would be just fine here.

10:06: Seventh round I had to turn to pitchers. The only offensive players who attracted were JJ Hardy and Leonys Martin. I took Mike Minor, hoping Martin would fall, but he was grabbed. I took Shelby Miller next, not Hardy, because it seemed like a time to take pitchers. Not sure there was a right or wrong choice, just my preference to build somewhat symmetrically, if I can.

10:20: Ninth round went for Addison Reed, a closer. This is unusual for me, but in keeping with my determination that it is good to have a closer. With the 10th pick I was going to take Will Venable, but he was snatched, so I took Brett Gardner instead. I’m now a little speed heavy. The alternative was Johnny Cueto, who might be great again but comes with some risk. Adding an outfielder felt like it made more sense.

Music: Off. The rest of the house is in bed.

10:36: 11th and 12th round went to my top two picks in queue, while I was chatting about Tout Wars and the new auction location, which will be open to the public. Details to come. Hello Justin Masterson and RA Dickey. I couldn’t be happier.

10:52: 13th round had Dayan Viciedo and Carlos Quentin atop the queue, and I gladly grabbed Viciedo, who will have a very big year someday soon. But I had second thoughts on Quentin and took George Springer instead. Some power, more speed than I need, but more health and excitement, too. The guy after me took Quentin with the next pick.

11:07: 15th Round I took Mike Moustakas, who is a hard worker and will succeed if he’s physically capable. He should get another solid chance to try. I consider him sold post-hype speculation. In Round 16 I took Gerardo Parra, who is probably better defined by his limitations so far than his excellent baseball skills. I hope for some sort of breakout.

11:13: Round 17 goes to Joe Kelly, who could be a potent starter but qualifies as a reliever in this league. Erasmo Ramirez, who should be healthy and has the skills to succeed if he can get the rest of it in place, is my 18th pick. In a regular mixed league these seem like reaches, but at this point in an 18 team league we’re all grasping a little.

11:26: In the 19th I took Rickie Weeks for middle infield. Maybe he’s done, but he was by far the most potentially potent MI available. In the 20th I took Archie Bradley, who isn’t a sure thing either, but has the skills to step into the rotation and succeed immediately.

11:39: It’s late and the pickin’s are very slim. My hitting is mostly reliable, so I added Byron Buxton, who will have to be replaced for the first half of the season (at least), but at this point there will be reserve guys who can fill in. At 22 I take Tanner Roark, who I’m surprised has lasted this long. The idea is the same: Big upside, if they play, and replaceable in the near term if they don’t.

11:49: At 23 I take Jeremy Hellickson, coming off an awful year after showing years of great potential and modest results. I still see success coming, but I’m glad it’s the reserves. In the 24th round I go for Michael Pineda, a great arm coming back from potentially career-ending surgery (and some shoulder woes last summer during rehab), which is exactly where he should go.

11:54: Final pick, last reserve pick, is Felix Doubront, who had a good run last summer, sandwiched by a terrible start and an awful ending. He’s still young with good stuff. Fingers crossed and I hope I don’t have to use him once Bradley makes the bigs.

More Hitter/Pitcher Split Talk at Fangraphs

Eno Sarris took a twittersation I had with Chris Liss, Steve Gardner, Jeff Erickson and Mike Gianella, following my appearance on the radio with Chris and Jeff earlier day, and turned it into more talk about these valuation issues.

You can read my fully expressed take at And I’ll be writing more about some ancillary issues in the coming days at that site.


Elect Randy Johnson to the Hall of Fame Unanimously!

randy-johnson-sicover2Trace Woods has posted a delightful piece today in light of the absurdity that 16 Hall of Fame voters left Greg Maddux’s name off this year’s ballot. His quest? To get Randy Johnson elected next January unanimously, and he does a good job of making the case that Randy Johnson might be the best left-handed pitcher in the game’s history. How could anyone not vote for him?

If you’re a HoF voter, you have to read the piece and do the right thing. Please.

If you’re a baseball fan, please spread the word. Sixteen voters should be embarrassed this year. Let’s help save them from themselves next year.

Historical Fantasy Prices

Chris Liss has a history of trying to calculate historical fantasy prices. He recounts that history in a post at Rotowire that is well worth reading.

His post reminded me of my first post as a short-lived Baseball Prospectus writer back in 1999. I wrote a long impassioned screed hating on ESPN, my former employer, for totally misunderstanding the fantasy game and the informational needs of us players. BP Bowdlerized it, probably for my own good, but frustratingly. They left the results of my data driven look into baseball history intact.

What I did was calculate roto values, in league context, for every year in baseball from 1903. The results are interesting because of the way they demonstrate Stephen Jay Gould’s point about the way that a limited sample increases the relative achievement of the elite. The point, I think, is that in a small league with limited talent, the best players dominate in ways that can’t happen when the game is more universal and talent is more widely distributed.

(The results are far more useful in post WWII era, when the player population has stabilized, gradually. Those year-to-year numbers became the basis of the Magic Grid I started using back then to find comparable seasons in order to assess likeliness of performance (earnings) for different types of players based on their histories.)

What would it be like to play roto in 1915? My values win, hands down. That’s what they calculate. But Chris measures something else that has its own value.

Derek Carty is Absolutely Right! Except that he’s wrong.

Todd Zola ran a Roundtable I participated in over at KFFL this week, about Tout Wars move to on base percentage instead of batting average as a category in the Mixed league this year. The support of the merry knights was fairly strong, which surprised me. We decided to ease into OBP in mixed only because we’d disrupted the AL and NL leagues last year introducing the Swingman.

parry_riposteNow, Derek Carty has laid out an argument against using OBP, at his blog.

I agree with him 110 percent that the object of the fantasy game is not to mimic the real game. The fantasy game is derivative of a real world game, but it has it’s own very distinct rules and strategies and calls on totally different skills to play. For me this is a major point of the thing. When I was young I played baseball on the diamond. If I wanted to keep playing that game I’d play it, or a computer version of it. To my mind the genius of the fantasy game was the establishment of eight categories that collect data about the skills and roles of players, allowing one to create a great or crappy team based on one’s ability to collect the categories efficiently. I begrudge the move to ten cats, we don’t really need more than that, and I have no desire to play with more (though many people do).

As Derek points out, these basic categories are not the ones that best represent a player’s skills. What I want to point out is that these trad cats collect players with a variety of talents into a team that can compete against other teams, ensuring that diversity and scarcity are valued. But that doesn’t mean these cats can’t be improved, and I think the obvious improvement we’ve been waiting for has been adopting OBP instead of BA. There are two reasons for this:

1) Taking a walk is a fundamental skill, and the only ways the original roto categories valued walks was in runs scored (guys on base more score more) and stolen base opportunities. So, walks weren’t nothing, but they weren’t much either. OBP gives real value to hitters whose game involves getting on base more, at the expense of less-talented hitters who don’t take walks.

2) When fantasy leagues use BA as a category, a player who takes a walk can help his major league team and hurt his minor league team. Every BB in standard roto is a miss, a lost chance to get a hit or (usually) drive in a run or hit a home run. In standard fantasy, if you draft a team of guys who walk a lot you’ll lose the at-bats race, and often (though not necessarily) lag in the counting categories. Shouldn’t fantasy value the better hitter more if it can?

I think OBP is an obvious improvement over BA, and maybe the knights of the roundtable did too because many of them have played in the XFL, which adopted OBP 11 seasons ago. The differences aren’t huge, but suddenly the .255 hitter with a .380 OBP becomes the stud he is in real life and it feels right. That’s the way it should be.