TOUT WARS NL: How I See Things

This was my view across the draft table.

cockcroftacceptstheprize2It’s nice to see Tristan Cockcroft (with trophy) enjoying himself.

I had one plan going into this year’s auction. If I was to land either Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, I would eschew an ace, buy one aspiring ace and then fill in with all the attractive young NL starters available near the end.

On the hitting side, I ticked all the OBP guys up a buck and the anti-OBP guys down a buck, rather than fully price in the OBP difference. The reason was my observation last year that buying OBP won me the category, but cost me a bit in countables. My goal was to be cognizant of OBP, but to buy homers and RBI foremost and scramble later.

The auction opened with four straight pitcher nominations, and then—with just a few exceptions—a heavy stream of the game’s best players. The pace was brisk and I bought the players who came in well under my bid prices. This landed me Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun in the early part of the game, as well as Craig Kimbrel.

Shortly thereafter, Troy Tulowitzki and Buster Posey joined Team Rotoman, and when the bidding stalled at $26 later on Anthony Rendon, I had to bid, and once again I was playing Stars and Scrubs style, as I did last year to disastrous second-half results.

The thing about last year’s first half was it showed the power of Stars and Scrubs. My guys were in second place late in June, even though I’d lost Joey Votto for a month. The second half, when six of my seven 20+ guys did DL time, was the flip side. Once I started sliding the only thing that stopped me was the end of the season.

The problem is that prices in this league at the top end are usually a touch soft. Not a lot soft, but a buck or two on each of the Top 50 hitters adds up to $75 or $100 that later gets redistributed to the attractive players later on. If you don’t spend early, you spend late.

The problem is that if you spend your money early on the chalk, and add all those big players, the teams with a little more scratch pick off the attractive endgame buys. On the pitching side, the guys I wanted for four were going for five, the guys I wanted for three went for four, and so on. Which is how one ends up with perhaps the least appealing pitching staff of all time.

And I’m not bummed out about that. But it surely didn’t go the way I hoped. Here’s a chart to see the problem:

Pitchers who cost $20 or more whose draft price differed by $2 or more from my expected price:

Pitcher Bid Cost
Bumgarner $27 $25
Cueto $24 $21
Greinke $23 $25
Chapman $23 $25
Zimmerman $23 $21
Hamels $21 $19
Wainwright $20 $18

There were 11 pitchers priced $20 or above. Five were more or less dead on. Five were off by two bucks, and one was off by $3. Nobody got a great deal here, but as a group the 11 cost $8 less than expected.

In the $15-$19 group:

Teheran $18 $16
Arrieta $17 $19
Lester $17 $19
Cole $17 $20
Shields $16 $18
Papelbon $15 $13
Melancon $15 $18

There were 12 pitchers in this group. Five were more or less dead on. Five were off by $2, Two were off by $3.  This group cost $8 more than expected. This is where I hoped to pick off Arrieta or Cole.

After two groups, the bid prices equal the sale prices.

From $10-$14, the two dollar (or more) differences:

Rosenthal $14 $16
Cashner $14 $11
Fiers $13 $10
Benoit $13 $17
Rondon $12 $15
G Gonzalez $11 $16
Cain $12 $9
Lynn $11 $16
Latos $11 $15
Ross $11 $14
Casilla $11 $7

There are 19 in this group. Eight were more or less dead on. Only one was within $2. Only five were within $3. As a group, bidding exceeded my bid prices by $12.

Alas, this was the group from which I hoped to walk away with Matt Cain and either Mike Fiers or Lance Lynn and, I hoped Shelby Miller. Lynn blew up, but I guess I blew it on Fiers. He had the biggest discount other than Cain in the group and I can only think my bankroll was so depleted at that point that I simply couldn’t buy him. But from this side of the ledger I absolutely had to. Too late.

I should point out that there is operator error here. In the next group, of $5-$9 pitchers, I had Homer Bailey at $7 even though he went for $11 in LABR. His $12 on Sunday was aggressive, but not crazy.

In that same group, I wanted Jenry Mejia ($9 $8), Kyle Lohse ($8 $7–I got beat to $7 and couldn’t real afford it, much less $8), Kyle Hendricks ($7 $6), Wily Peralta ($7 $9), Jimmy Nelson ($6 $6) and Carlos Martinez ($5 $8).

I know this recitation is dry as toast, but the point here is sweet as salty butter. This group doesn’t spend on the big pitchers, but only by a little, and uses their savings  to pay for the cheaper guys with upside. Not outrageously, but just enough for a small bankrolled guy (like me) to lose out on every one.

This was my decision, based on my evaluation that it would be better to have Martin Prado rather than one of those mid-level pitchers. That’s not a sure thing, but it is a fairly sure thing that I will have more opportunities to find pitching help during the season than hitting help.

So, I stuck to my values, wherever they might take me, and I’ll try to fix the team composition in season. That is always part of the process. The game is rarely won in the auction. What I have now is a nice group of hitters, one and a half comeback pitchers, a fair amount of saves and closer strikeouts, and a budding closer in waiting behind two injured relievers.

There is work to be done.

Here’s my team with Bid Price and Cost:

Buster Posey $27 $27
Yasmani Grandal $12 $13 (paid extra because he’s a 1B, too)

Sean Rodriguez $1 $1
C. Johnson $12 $7
Martin Prado $15 $15

Anthony Rendon $29 $27
Troy Tulowitzki $31 $29
Alberto Callaspo $4 $3

Andrew McCutchen $43 $39
Ryan Braun $34 $30
Gerardo Parra $5 $3
Melvin Upton $8 $4
Will Venable  $4 $3

Nate McLouth $3 $1

Matt Cain $12 $8
Jose Fernandez $10 $9
Tom Kohler $1 $2
Mike Minor $4 $2
Tsuyoshi Wada $3 $1
Evan Marshall $1 $2
Bobby Parnell $3 $5 (thought he was worth more to pair with Mejia)
Jenry Mejia $9 $8
Craig Kimbrel $22 $21

That’s a net positive of $33, if anyone’s counting. It may not be pretty, but there are pieces here to work with.

 

 

 

 

Ask Rotoman: Zack Greinke or Mark Melancon?

Rotoman:

Only 4 pitching categories in my keeper league. Wins+Saves is one category…Greinke or Melancon?

“Volatile”

Dear V:

My 5×5 projections for both Greinke and Melancon are worth $17 this year, so I thought this would be an easy one to answer. Combine the value of the Wins and Saves for the pitchers, divide in half, and replace the values of Wins and Saves with that number and bingo. Or voila! Or eureka!

Instead, I’m not sure. I used the Razzball, FanGraphs and Patton $ Online value calculators on whatever projections they used (Grey Albright, Steamer, Rotoman) and found that though the numbers they spit out were different, all favored Greinke. In order: $10.4/$8.2, $7.6/$1.9, $10.1/$7.55.

Fangraphs clearly punishes relievers more for their lack of strikeouts, but I’m sure a closer look would show they’re rewarded more for their low ERA and Ratio. Razzball and Patton were close enough to declare a winner, but I was nagged by the question of population. You see, pricing systems are based on the performance of some group of players. In the regular 5×5 world this means one thing, but when you make guys who get saves more valuable, as you do when you combine saves and wins, the population changes. That changes the value of an earned run, it alters WHIP, it means a strikeout is worth something different.

Mark Melancon, off field
Mark Melancon, off field

So, I ran the numbers on last year’s stats using my own pricing calculator.

Last year, in 5×5, my pricer says Greinke earned $21 and Melancon earned $19, Combine Wins and Saves into one category for all ML pitchers, re-sort, and their prices change to $21 and $20.

Which means, if you agree with me that they’re each worth $17 this year, that Melancon gains a little edge in value over Greinke using your rules.  But prices didn’t change as much at the high end as I expected they would.

Of course, value is only part of the equation. Keeper questions start there, but always come back to what the guy is going to go for in your league. You want to keep the one you think is going to cost more. That’s a question only you can figure out.

Sincerely,
rotomansignature

Why There Will Never Be A Rotoman 250. B/w The Rotoman 250.

the250-copyI’m asked sometimes why there isn’t a Top 250 player list in the Fantasy Baseball Guide. I wrote about this last year, explaining why, so I won’t repeat myself too much here.

But an interesting thing happened this year while putting together this year’s Mock Draft for the magazine, and I thought it might be helpful to talk about it.

Now that the Guide is back to an early printing schedule, the Mock happens in mid November, and no draft service has updated draft-ranking lists loaded on their sites. We used CouchManagers.com this year, and they were glad we were using the service so early, hoping it would help them develop and fine tune their rankings.

Rankings are an important part of a draft service, because they help drafters find the players most likely to be drafted when their turn comes, which makes the whole process move more smoothly. But rankings, like ADP, also serve as a powerful suggestion for who to take in any given round. Not only do they suggest who ranks most highly, but they’re like an advertisement shown to everyone else pitching that player. If you want a player who appears near the top of the list, you better take him now because he isn’t going to fall once he’s atop the ranking list.

The fact is, playing the ebbs and flows of demand that ripple through the draft software and its lists are one of the skills of drafting a fantasy team. And another reason why a Top 250 not based on your draft sites list is of limited utility.

But this year, for the mock, I decided to take my Dollar Values and turn them into a draft list.

To each price I added .4 for catchers, .3 for shortstops, .2 for second basemen and .1 for third basemen.

I didn’t change the prices of pitchers, but I knew I would have to manage when to take them by using my sense of the draft. I wanted an Ace and I wanted a solid closer, and after that I was willing to scramble. My strategy was to take a pitcher in the later rounds when there was no standout hitter available.

(Note: I think one could simulate approximate pitcher draft slots by subtracting a certain number of places from each of them, but I think we’re better served knowing where pitchers rank in value–remember, at these prices they’re only getting 30 percent of the draft budget–and make decisions based on that.)

The list I made for that night is a bit out of date, so I’ve made a new one based on my current prices. Enjoy.

THE ROTOMAN 250
1: M Trout, LAA, OF
2: A McCutchen, PIT, OF
3: C Kershaw, LAD, P
4: J Abreu, CHA, 1B
5: M Cabrera, DET, 1B
6: P Goldschmidt, ARI, 1B
7: J Altuve, HOU, 2B
8: G Stanton, MIA, OF
9: F Hernandez, SEA, P
10: R Cano, SEA, 2B
11: C Sale, CHA, P
12: A Jones, BAL, OF
13: R Braun, MIL, OF
14: D Price, DET, P
15: C Gomez, MIL, OF
16: M Brantley, CLE, OF
17: M Bumgarner, SF, P
18: A Rendon, WAS, 2B
19: S Strasburg, WAS, P
20: I Desmond, WAS, SS
21: B Posey, SF, C
22: J Bautista, TOR, OF
23: J Ellsbury, NYA, OF
24: B Harper, WAS, OF
25: H Pence, SF, OF
26: A Gonzalez, LAD, 1B
27: F Freeman, ATL, 1B
28: A Beltre, TEX, 3B
29: P Fielder, TEX, 1B
30: C Gonzalez, COL, OF
31: S Marte, PIT, OF
32: A Rizzo, CHN, 1B
33: J Upton, SD, OF
34: J Zimmermann, WAS, P
35: C Kluber, CLE, P
36: J Reyes, TOR, SS
37: T Tulowitzki, COL, SS
38: M Scherzer, WAS, P
39: J Donaldson, TOR, 3B
40: E Encarnacion, TOR, 1B
41: V Martinez, DET, 1B
42: A Pujols, LAA, 1B
43: Y Puig, LAD, OF
44: A Wainwright, STL, P
45: Z Greinke, LAD, P
46: K Seager, SEA, 3B
47: D Wright, NYN, 3B
48: B Hamilton, CIN, OF
49: M Kemp, SD, OF
50: J Cueto, CIN, P
51: I Kinsler, DET, 2B
52: A Chapman, CIN, P
53: D Gordon, MIA, 2B
54: D Murphy, NYN, 2B
55: E Longoria, TAM, 3B
56: C Hamels, PHI, P
57: M Holliday, STL, OF
58: J Votto, CIN, 1B
59: C Yelich, MIA, OF
60: H Iwakuma, SEA, P
61: J Lucroy, MIL, C
62: C Kimbrel, ATL, P
63: D Pedroia, BOS, 2B
64: B Revere, PHI, OF
65: H Ramirez, BOS, SS
66: S Castro, CHN, SS
67: A Gordon, KC, OF
68: T Frazier, CIN, 3B
69: R Zimmerman, WAS, 3B
70: Y Cespedes, DET, OF
71: N Cruz, SEA, OF
72: C Dickerson, COL, OF
73: M Ozuna, MIA, OF
74: J Werth, WAS, OF
75: H Kendrick, LAD, 2B
76: W Rosario, COL, C
77: G Richards, LAA, P
78: A Ramirez, CHA, SS
79: E Andrus, TEX, SS
80: M Machado, BAL, 3B
81: B Belt, SF, 1B
82: G Holland, KC, P
83: Y Darvish, TEX, P
84: J Samardzija, CHA, P
85: P Sandoval, BOS, 3B
86: N Arenado, COL, 3B
87: C Davis, BAL, 1B
88: B Gardner, NYA, OF
89: A Rios, KC, OF
90: M Adams, STL, 1B
91: J Heyward, STL, OF
92: W Myers, SD, OF
93: D Span, WAS, OF
94: M Cabrera, CHA, OF
95: L Martin, TEX, OF
96: J Kipnis, CLE, 2B
97: E Aybar, LAA, SS
98: M Carpenter, STL, 3B
99: B Butler, OAK, 1B
100: S Choo, TEX, OF
101: E Hosmer, KC, 1B
102: J Bruce, CIN, OF
103: J Morneau, COL, 1B
104: J Teheran, ATL, P
105: M Tanaka, NYA, P
106: D Santana, MIN, SS
107: N Walker, PIT, 2B
108: N Castellanos, DET, 3B
109: K Calhoun, LAA, OF
110: A Eaton, CHA, OF
111: A LaRoche, CHA, 1B
112: J Martinez, DET, OF
113: B Zobrist, OAK, 2B
114: C Blackmon, COL, OF
115: C Crawford, LAD, OF
116: S Gray, OAK, P
117: A Jackson, SEA, OF
118: D Mesoraco, CIN, C
119: Y Molina, STL, C
120: H Street, LAA, P
121: A Escobar, KC, SS
122: M Prado, MIA, 2B
123: C Utley, PHI, 2B
124: S Perez, KC, C
125: L Chisenhall, CLE, 3B
126: J Harrison, PIT, 3B
127: M Pineda, NYA, P
128: R Castillo, BOS, OF
129: B Dozier, MIN, 2B
130: J Loney, TAM, 1B
131: G Springer, HOU, OF
132: L Duda, NYN, 1B
133: D Betances, NYA, P
134: A Cobb, TAM, P
135: J Arrieta, CHN, P
136: F Rodney, SEA, P
137: K Jansen, LAD, P
138: A Wood, ATL, P
139: J Peralta, STL, SS
140: C Santana, CLE, 1B
141: Y Gomes, CLE, C
142: S Gennett, MIL, 2B
143: K Wong, STL, 2B
144: L Cain, KC, OF
145: A Craig, BOS, OF
146: D Ortiz, BOS, DH
147: M Trumbo, ARI, 1B
148: J deGrom, NYN, P
149: R Odor, TEX, 2B
150: B Moss, CLE, OF
151: J Hardy, BAL, SS
152: C Headley, NYA, 3B
153: S Cishek, MIA, P
154: D Fowler, HOU, OF
155: M Wieters, BAL, C
156: P Alvarez, PIT, 3B
157: C Johnson, ATL, 3B
158: C Carter, HOU, DH
159: A Garcia, CHA, OF
160: K Davis, MIL, OF
161: M Morse, MIA, OF
162: G Polanco, PIT, OF
163: D Stubbs, COL, OF
164: J Fernandez, MIA, P
165: D Fister, WAS, P
166: J Lester, CHN, P
167: C Carrasco, CLE, P
168: J Shields, FA, P
169: M Shoemaker, LAA, P
170: D Smyly, TAM, P
171: J Papelbon, PHI, P
172: T Roark, WAS, P
173: A Sanchez, DET, P
174: E Gattis, HOU, C
175: H Ryu, LAD, P
176: J Rollins, LAD, SS
177: J Segura, MIL, SS
178: D Jennings, TAM, OF
179: B Phillips, CIN, 2B
180: T Plouffe, MIN, 3B
181: A Ramirez, MIL, 3B
182: A Cabrera, TAM, SS
183: A Lind, MIL, 1B
184: O Arcia, MIN, OF
185: M Betts, BOS, OF
186: C Crisp, OAK, OF
187: A De Aza, BAL, OF
188: J Hamilton, LAA, OF
189: B Lawrie, OAK, 2B
190: J Mauer, MIN, 1B
191: J Jay, STL, OF
192: A Pagan, SF, OF
193: P Hughes, MIN, P
194: D Robertson, CHA, P
195: A Cashner, SD, P
196: M Fiers, MIL, P
197: M Melancon, PIT, P
198: B McCann, NYA, C
199: J Lowrie, HOU, SS
200: J Mercer, PIT, SS
201: J Gyorko, SD, 2B
202: T Yasmany, ARI, 3B
203: D Ackley, SEA, OF
204: M Bourn, CLE, OF
205: C Cron, LAA, 1B
206: R Davis, DET, OF
207: T Hunter, MIN, OF
208: J Lagares, NYN, OF
209: N Markakis, ATL, OF
210: J Soler, CHN, OF
211: D Salazar, CLE, P
212: J Weaver, LAA, P
213: M Cain, SF, P
214: G Cole, PIT, P
215: D Viciedo, CHA, OF
216: R Martin, TOR, C
217: C Allen, CLE, P
218: Z Britton, BAL, P
219: Y Ventura, KC, P
220: F Rodriguez, MIL, P
221: T Rosenthal, STL, P
222: X Bogaerts, BOS, SS
223: B Crawford, SF, SS
224: A Simmons, ATL, SS
225: D Freese, LAA, 3B
226: C Gillaspie, CHA, 3B
227: K Morales, KC, 1B
228: S Pearce, BAL, 1B
229: C Rasmus, FA, OF
230: M Cuddyer, NYN, OF
231: C Granderson, NYN, OF
232: R Howard, PHI, 1B
233: G Parra, MIL, OF
234: J Pederson, LAD, OF
235: A Pollock, ARI, OF
236: M Wacha, STL, P
237: Y Solarte, SD, 2B
238: D LeMahieu, COL, 2B
239: J Panik, SF, 2B
240: C Tillman, BAL, P
241: M Montero, CHN, C
242: W Ramos, WAS, C
243: E Cabrera, FA, SS
244: T Watson, PIT, P
245: N Feliz, TEX, P
246: S Kazmir, OAK, P
247: A Sanchez, TOR, P
248: M Stroman, TOR, P
249: J Verlander, DET, P
250: S Casilla, SF, P

I hope this is a good start for you in your draft.

Top 20 Fantasy Baseball Hitting Bargains, through August 31

Screenshot 2014-09-04 12.28.40None of the most expensive hitters show up on the list of profitmakers, because the known hitters are paid for on auction day. The Top 20 is a mix of guys having explosively good years after being paid to be a little above average, and the unknowns who weren’t bought or were taken in the end game, who have turned out to be pretty productive. It’s hard to look back to March and see how we could have predicted any of these breakouts, but the teams that landed these guys have a leg up on the rest of us.

August Roto Prices are posted at RotomansGuide.com

You’ll find the Google Sheet here, the explanation and some follow up posts at RotomansGuide.com.

The Price of Everything

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the dilemma of owning David Price in an AL only league in which the stats of players traded to the NL don’t count. I’d sent a note to the other owners in the American Dream League offering Price for a power hitter, a catcher preferably, but as a team battling for first place, willing to take any deal that returned fair value and helped my team in some way.

The initial offers—Jason Castro, Derek Norris—seemed potentially doable on July 29th, if I was panicked and certain that Price was going to the Dodgers or Cardinals, but not strong enough to get me to give up in early July the four or five more starts he likely had with Tampa in July, and the not insignificant potential that Price would remain in the American League.

I then came up with an idea that I thought was great. The team that owned Yu Darvish was in last place, below the point threshold that triggers a penalty in the next year’s FAAB. That is, a team loses one FAAB (of 50) for each point it finishes below 35 points. You also gain extra keeper slots for each standings place you gain, from four up to eight.  So a team in trouble has a great incentive to gain points.

My idea was to trade for Darvish, offering Price and James “Some Came Running” Jones, who has ranked second in the AL in stolen bases since he was inserted into the Mariners outfield on May 6th. Price is of equal value if he stays in the AL and no value if he is traded to the NL, which is where Jones comes in. If Price stays in the AL the team gets a huge boost, if he’s traded they still get some points moving up in steals.

The team that owned Darvish were not moved to move him. Part of the problem was that they only had three places to gain in steals, which is nice but not a big deal. And while Darvish and Price have keeper value for 2015, Darvish in all likelihood will be back. Not only might he lose Price this year, but he’d also likely lose him for next year.

At this point I was thinking that I might end up keeping Price. My pitching staff was okay, but it never hurts to have one of the best pitchers in the league on your team. And if I lost him? My staff was still okay, and if I managed it creatively I might even gain points in ERA and Ratio without Price. My lead in wins was big enough I wouldn’t be crushed. I was okay keeping Price, but then Huston Street was traded to Anaheim.

Huston Street

Two teams had $38 FAAB left. No other was close. One was in the second division, but second in saves with a big lead. He had no need for Street. The other was, depending on the day, a point ahead or behind me in the standings, a couple points out of first place. Another closer for him was worth at least three points in saves, plus another potential point or two in ERA and WHIP.

Over at the discussion board at pattonandco.com I suggested that the team who didn’t need a closer might benefit more by buying Street and flipping him than by waiting to see who else is dealt to the AL. A bird in hand and all that. I wasn’t thinking at that time of being the one to get Street, I just didn’t want the team I was fighting to get him. That owner accused me of being self-interested. Guilty.

What I didn’t think of, the other owner did, was trading David Price for Huston Street. The other owner proposed it online, and there was only one reason I could see not to do it. I’m pretty far behind in Saves. Two saves for one point, and then it’s 13 saves to the pack. That’s a lot of ground to make up.

But I decided to go for it, for a few reasons.

Street is a fair value return for Price in 4×4. Did I mention this was 4×4? So far this year Street has earned $24 and Price $20, using Alex Patton’s prices. I don’t expect Street to outearn Price the rest of the way, Price’s first-half ERA was inflated by what seemed to be some bad luck on fly balls. More than usual left the yard. He should have a lower ERA in the last two months.

Important to me, however, is that relief pitcher ERA and Ratio have real value. To date, Price has earned $4.90 in ERA and $7.60 in WHIP. Street doesn’t have nearly as many innings, but he’s earned $4.20 in ERA and $3.90 in WHIP.

But if my per month earnings projection for Price is $5, he’s projected to earn $11 the rest of the way. While Street’s per month projection is $4, so he’s expected to earn $9. But there is some real chance that Price will do his earning in the NL. If that chance is 20 percent, I get a slight edge in the deal. If the odds are more 50-50, which I do, then things look very well today pricewise.

Category-wise, however, the prices are askew. For one, I have a big edge in wins, so Price’s wins (worth $8.70 to date) have helped me out to a decent lead in the category, and don’t mean that much to me at this point. And I have a big deficit in saves, so Streets saves (worth $14.90 so far) might not mean that much to me.

Except, I have a couple of outs, as we say in poker.

For some reason I bought Matt Lindstrom in our auction, and he was the White Sox closer at the start of the year before he got hurt. He is rehabbing now and is expected to be back in the majors in early August. If he is reinstalled as the team’s closer and save 5-10 games the rest of the way, I could actually make up ground.

I also have Aaron Loup, who saved two games for the Blue Jays this past weekend (before Casey Janssen was pounded last night). More saves is a big help (my fingers are crossed).

I hope that breaking the lead up to this deal will help illustrate the many different factors that go into dealmaking. I think the biggest one, however, are your league’s rules. This old school AL 4×4 league, the first AL rotisserie league in existence ever, is no longer typical, but then neither are your 6×6 15-team mixed league that doesn’t include teams from the NL west. Or whatever.

Working through how your league works will help you unlock value, and perhaps make trades that help both sides, and give you a better chance to win.

The April Leaders: The best and worst of April

I’m still working on getting the month report formatted properly, but this seems as good a time as any for some April Top 10s. This is for 5×5 BA for only leagues, thru April 30.

One thing to remember is that these prices are scaled to full season prices. If you wanted to judge them in terms of actual one-month production (or lack thereof) you would divide them by 6.25. So, Charlie Blackmon at this point has actually earned $43/6.25, or about $7.  That’s roughly what his end of year earnings would be if he stopped playing after Wednesday’s games.

More April Roto $ Reports will come out of the weekend.

TOP 10 APRIL HITTERS

Charlie Blackmon, Rockies, $43
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox, $39
Jose Abreu, White Sox, $37
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers, $37
Mike Trout, Angels, $37
Justin Upton, Braves, $36
Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays, $36
Troy Tulowitski, Rockies, $36
Justin Morneau, Rockies, $35
Giancarlo Stanton, $35

BOTTOM 10 APRIL HITTERS

Freddy Galvis, Phillies, -$8
Moises Sierra, Blue Jays, -$7
Tim Federowicz, Dodgers, -$6
JP Arencibia, Rangers, -$6
Jeff Baker, Marlins, -$5
John Baker, Cubs, -$5
Cody Ross, Diamondbacks, -$5
Juan Perez, Giants, -$5
Shane Robinson, Cardinals, -$4
Charlie Culberson, Rockies, -$4

TOP 10 APRIL PITCHERS

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $49
Johnny Cueto, Reds, $47
Tim Hudson, Giants, $42
Jose Fernandez, Marlins, $39
Jason Hammel, Cubs, $35
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers, $33
Julio Teheran, Braves, $33
Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $30
James Shields, Royals, $29
Scott Kazmir, Athletics, $29

BOTTOM 10 APRIL PITCHERS

Felipe Paulino, White Sox, -$46
Carlos Villanueva, Cubs, -$37
Tanner Scheppers, Rangers, -$30
Bronson Arroyo, Diamondbacks, -$27
Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles, -$27
Kevin Correia, Twins, -$26
Ricky Nolasco, Twins, -$25
Lucas Harrell, Astros, -$25
Mike Pelfrey, Twins, -$24
Ivan Nova, Yankees, -$24

ASK ROTOMAN: Wacha Flocka Cashner?

Hi Rotoman –

Can you explain how prices sometimes do not coordinate with projections? For example below are your projections for Cashner and Wacha:

Cashner: 10 W, 3.53 ERA, 149 K, 1.24 WHIP
Wacha: 9 W, 3.45 ERA, 173 K, 1.16 WHIP

Yet you have Cashner at $16 and Wacha at $8.

Could the difference be perceived risk?

“Wacha Flaka Cashner”

Dear WFC:
In the Fantasy Guide, the projections are a starting point. They’re based on past performance rates regressed toward the mean, with some manual adjustments, scaled to a rough estimate of playing time (which is also regressed). The Projections are my attempt to describe a player using numbers. I hope that they give a sense how hittable a guy is, what sort of control he has, does he hit for average, can he run, that sort of thing.

The Big Prices in the Guide are my attempt to fix a guy’s value against the market. The prices are meant to be advice on who to buy and who to not buy. Essentially, I try to set the price on guys I expect to do well a buck or two higher than their “market” price. And guys I have concerns about, I set a buck or two lower.

It is important to note that the Prices add up to the budget for a 12-team AL or NL league with $260 budget per team. The reason to budget this way is because it helps you track the spending during the auction. If guys are going for more than the bid prices, you know that there are going to be bargains later. If guys are going for less? A bubble is born.

Now, let’s fast forward to March 15. That’s the day I posted the updated projections and prices here, for purchasers of the Guide. The adjusted projections were:

Cashner: 184 IP, 3.54 ERA, 10 W, 149 K, 1.14 WHIP
Wacha: 172 IP, 3.77 ERA, 11 W, 163 K, 1.24 WHIP

Now here’s the interesting part. The price for Cashner in 5×5 is $16. The price for Wacha is $15. But if you translate the above to dollar values, Cashner’s line is worth about $17, while Wacha’s is worth $8.

What happened?

Two things. As we hurtled toward the baseball season I learned that the market for Wacha is red hot. People consistently have him valued higher than Shelby Miller, which I think is a little wacky. It turns out that he tends to be going in the $16-$18 range in startup auctions. If I kept him at my pessimistic $8 price, it would look like a massive overpay when he went for twice that on draft day. But it isn’t really. The low end of the market for Wacha is $16, and I don’t want him at that.

Cashner, on the other hand, is a guy I want at $16. I mean, I’d rather have him at $14, and that’s been his average price this preseason, ranging from $13 to $15, but if I have to go $16 I’m okay with that.

The other thing I did was tinker with the projections to better reflect my perceptions about these two.

Wacha was a fastball/changeup guy last year. That’s it. An excellent fastball, a tough change, and early success, but it’s really hard to sustain a high level of success over multiple times through the lineup with just two pitches. No matter how good they are. My pessimism derives from the limited arsenal and the good chance that as major league scouts and hitters get repeated looks at him, there is going to be some payback.

The reason why most everyone thinks I’m wrong is because Wacha has added a curveball, which he threw a fair amount in his first start this year, and a cutter, which he didn’t throw much. It’s early, the pitches are new, and so there’s a lot we know. If he adds them effectively, he will become every bit the ace he looked like late last year. My bet is there is going to be some adjusting and he’s going to have some rough starts. So I think he’ll allow more hits and runs. We’ll see.

Cashner, on the other hand, is older, more experienced, has a more traditional fastball/slider/change repertoire already in place. I like him being at least as good as he was last year, when he earned $17.

The final word is that this process is one that consists of information, generated by the players that play, the press that follows them and tells the world what happened, and the numbers that describe what they did. This information is distilled by analysts as it comes in and added to both the projection, something of a description of average talent levels, and the market, which filters it all through the lens of risk and reward, which leads to bid values.

The whole process stops, for a few seconds at least, the moment the auctioneer says Sold! And then it starts all over again.

 

Let Me Count The Ways.

Screenshot 2014-03-24 10.38.34 In my prep for Tout Wars this year, the biggest question was what sort of impact the switch to On Base Percentage from Batting Average was going to have.

After all, we have years of creating player values based on BA and some players change value quite a lot–up and down–with the change. Mike Gianella said he didn’t think prices would change much, while my research showed that players who walked a lot saw a big increase in value. Why wouldn’t prices go up? Especially since a player’s walk rate is relatively predictable compared to batting average.

I decided to price the top OBP guys a step lower than my calculated price for them using OBP, deciding to buy whoever I was able to buy under my listed price. The idea being that I would buy bargains, and if guys like Joey Votto and Andrew McCutchen didn’t get the full bump up in price they logically should have, then they represented real bargains.

That is what happened.

THE STARS

Early in the draft, I just kept buying. Votto came out first. I had him on my sheet at $39, but he was the player with the biggest OBP value because of his incredible eye. I bid $38 and won him. We were off. ($paid/$budget)

Joey Votto, $38/$39. The premier OBP player. I couldn’t let him go to someone else for $37. I couldn’t. And maybe he’ll have a few more runners in scoring position, if the $22 Billy Hamilton proves a bargain.

Andrew McCutchen, $38/$40. The premier OBP outfielder. Remember, I considered these bid prices to be fairly conservative.

Hanley Ramirez, $30/$36. Big OBP boost, yet he went for his 5x5BA price. The big thing is he’s one of 10 good shortstops.

Troy Tulowitzki, $30/$36. I was ecstatic about adding the top two shortstops, both with no bump up of price for their good OBP skills. Each brings a certain amount of injury risk and a certain amount of ability to produce big numbers in limited playing time.

Madison Bumgarner, $25/$26. The pitching prices were pretty fair. My plan was to buy one ace or maybe two near aces. I did not want to get caught up buying midlevel guys. Buy a closer, and then round out the rotation and the reserve list with <$5 guys. I chose Bumgarner, though when Jordan Zimmermann went for $18 I regretted not taking him and Matt Cain, who went for $20. Those were the two best bargains by my lights. But that would have driven up my pitching budget a little. My goal was to spend as little on pitching as I could get away with, and use the extra dough for hitting.

Ryan Zimmerman, $24/$30. I was kicking myself for letting David Wright go at $29 (I had him at $33), but I decided I couldn’t buy them all. Still, that was an excellent price. But I also knew that after Wright and Zimmerman the NL third basemen are a motley group. Who is Chase Headley? How long can Aramis Ramirez last? Is Pablo Sandoval going to show up? Can Pedro Alvarez make enough contact? There are a few guys eligible at both second and third, like Martin Prado and Matt Carpenter, who are less dicey if not much more talented. And that’s it. The bidding on Zimmerman made it easy. He went for his BA price, but he’s a OBP contributor.

Martin Prado, $22/$23. At this point I didn’t need Martin Prado necessarily, but I did need a second baseman, and I liked that Prado qualified at both second and third. But I didn’t really think I was getting him. Usually the bidding moves quickly until it slows, and then it inches forward a few more dollars. In this case, there was a flurry and didn’t expect my bid to stand, but suddenly the room went quiet.

Yasmani Grandal, $10/$11. We really don’t know what Grandal can be, because of the injuries and drug suspensions, but we do know he’ll take a base on balls. Catcher is a position that drops off so suddenly that I prefer to not scrape the bottom of the barrel (though that works sometimes). I had identified Grandal as a guy with a strong OBP, which should be a plus even if he doesn’t play as much as I hope he does.

Ryan Doumit, $7/$9. He should play regularly, has some power, and was relatively inexpensive. Only a star in comparison to my scrubs.

Rafael Soriano, $13/$13. I never used to buy closers because I thought they were overpriced, which works out great if you’re able to pick off one of the closers that emerge early in the year. But if you miss out on that, not buying a closer means that if any other category becomes an issue, you’re suddenly tanking two, which is not a very comfortable position to be in. So last year I bought a closer, but Kyuji Fujikawa fell apart shortly after gaining the role. I’m hoping Soriano fares better. He’s certainly better established, though he struggled at times last year.

SCRUB HITTERS

Nate McLouth, $5/$11. His batting average hurts you in the BA game, but in OBP his value increases. He set a career high in steals last year, but is devalued because he’s getting older. I’m hoping for 450 at bats, with some homers. I’ve seen projections for 250 AB, but why sign him for two years if that’s the expectation? At this price, he fit my team.

Gregor Blanco, $2/$8. He doesn’t have much power, but he runs and he takes walks, so whatever his batting average he contributes. Like McLouth, he’s not a regular but should fill in regularly and put up 400 at bats or so.

Brian Bogusevic, $1/$1. He bats lefty, and could get a fair amount of play until Marcel Ozuna is called up. He has a little power and speed, and I certainly hope I can improve on him soon.

Derek Dietrich, $1/$4. Earlier last week I mocked him. He doesn’t have the contact skills to hit for a high average, but he does have some power and, more importantly, he seems to be ahead of Donovan Solano on the Marlins’ depth chart backing up Rafael Furcal. What I wasn’t aware of was that he took a ball in the face last week and suffered a fracture, which will have him wearing a plastic face guard for some time.

Kris Bryant, $1/R1. I’m not convinced he’s going to hit, at least not at first, but he was the blue chip third base prospect available in dollar days. There will be some guys available on waivers to replace him. The biggest issue is that I also took a minor league pitcher as Swingman, and with four reserve slots it will be a challenge to manage this productively.

SCRUB PITCHERS

Wily Peralta, $4/$5. Hard-throwing sinkerballer hasn’t put it together yet, which is why he was available for $4. At this part of the auction I was looking for arms that might get a fair number of innings with some potential to break out or surprise a little. If Peralta realizes a bit of his potential he’ll be a big plus for my team.

Tanner Roark, $3/$7. This was a tough situation. I really wanted Jenry Mejia, but I had no way to gauge the temperature of the room. I had Roark ranked similarly, which was high enough to expect half a year of solid pitching with questions about his role to start the season. He’s had a good spring, and I’m hoping to hit with all my lottery tickets.

Vic Black, $2/$2. A good young arm is the likely Closer in Waiting to Bobby Parnell. This was off plan, but seemed like a good bet despite his bad spring.

Jake Arrieta, $1/$4. My AL-only friends will tell you how long I’ve been waiting on Arrieta. He pitched pretty well once he landed in Chicago and the National League last year, but was cheap because there isn’t a clear rotation slot for him.

Edwin Jackson, $1/$2. His FIP has been below 4.00 forever, while the ERA bounced around. Not an elite strikeout guy, but good enough to earn some profits.

Freddy Garcia, $1/$1. There really isn’t much justification for this pick here, except that he pitched well in short spurts last year, especially in the NL, and has a shot at the rotation in Atlanta to start the season. But realistically he’s a placeholder, especially since he was released while I was writing this.

Paul Maholm, $1/$1. Another back of the rotation veteran starter, though he has the first third of an inning pitched for my team in relief, down under, and has delivered a 0.00 ERA. Obviously, I hope one of these three veterans comes through.

Andrew Heaney, $1/Res. High upside arm, will start the year in the minors. It’s going to be hard to hang onto him and Kris Bryant on reserve, as I try to improve me team, but after a good spring, he’s a fair shot at a callup in June. He’s got great stuff and could succeed immediately.

RESERVES

Arodys Vizcaino. Another great arm, he’s coming back from TJ two years ago and is almost ready.

Will Smith. I love his arm and he showed last year that he can pitch, at least out of the pen. Not sure about the role going forward, but he’ll throw lots of strikeouts and has the potential to push himself forward.

A.J. Cole. He was brilliant in Double-A last year, and it’s hard to see a clear line to the majors right now, but he’s a big mature-for-his-age talent.

Tyler Colvin. I circled Pedro Strop on my sheet, but when it was my turn I called Colvin. He’s really a bad player, but both times I’ve had him he’s been a big money maker. A bad player having a bad spring is not an inspiration, but rarely is a fourth round reserve an inspiration.

DO I LIKE MY TEAM?

It’s hard not to like all those stars, and while it wasn’t my plan to buy them all, I did go in aware that this might happen.

And I’m not unhappy with the outfielders. They are a serviceable lot considering the strength of my middle infield.

The challenge will be to convert the “undervalued” OBP into counting stats and at bats, plus improving the pitching staff. If one or two of these guys doesn’t end up pitching well, I’m going to have to find some value out there by trade or FAAB.

In other words, I have a valuable and solid foundation, but there is a lot of work to do to get the structure built.

PLAYING TIME: Seattle’s Shortstops

Screenshot 2014-03-13 08.41.57When the Mariners added Robinson Cano as a free agent this past winter, they forced one of their top prospects, Nick Franklin, from the position he seemed likely to hold onto for the foreseeable future. For all intents and purposes, this set up a battle for shortstop between the team’s top two middle infield prospects.

Brad Miller is the older of the two and had the better rookie season. He’s got a good eye, makes good contact and stepped up into the majors with only a small hit to his walk rate last year. He’s also played more shortstop than Franklin.

Franklin stumbled in the majors last year, hitting .225. He was able to draw walks in the majors, but his contact rate took a big hit and his batting average crashed. But even his minor league contact rates trailed Miller’s. Franklin has more power, however, he hit 12 homers last year, and might end up getting on base as much as Miller once he adjusts to big league pitching. The question is whether he’ll get the chance this year.

There are a few possibilities here and one could burn a lot of pixels over the backs and forths of the arguments, most of which end up with the logical conclusion that two bodies cannot exist in the same space. The bottom line is that last year Miller’s bat was ready, Franklin’s was not. Both are having strong springs, which makes this all clear as mud, but the course that makes more baseball sense is to give Miller—the older more established candidate—the job, send Franklin down for more seasoning, and see what happens.

If Franklin gets off to a hot start maybe there’s a trade to be had, or an injury will change all the conditions. If Miller stumbles, a team that has struggled to get prospects started on the road to their self realization as major league regulars (I’m not just blowing Smoak here), will have Franklin and Willie Bloomquist to fall back on.

That seems like the most likely way to get everyone in place to succeed.