Archive for January, 2009

Wednesday: 01.28.2009

Measuring Impact of Projected Stats

Chances are if you’ve been playing fantasy baseball for a few years, you have said or heard someone say that he/she is just aiming to finish in every category and that should take them to the promised land. In standard 12 team leagues, that would give them 10 points in 10 categories and it’s a rare instance where 100 points wouldn’t win the league. How do you put that benchmark in use while preparing for your drafts and auctions? Are you overvaluing or undervaluing someone’s contribution to the detriment of your team? I wanted to look at what something like 30 home runs or 20 stolen bases meant to the “Finish Third Theory” and which one was more valuable so I did a little math. I took the third place value over the past few years from the many leagues I’ve played in an came up with an average for 12-team NL, AL and Mixed (MX) leagues. Then I looked at how impactful a series of benchmark numbers were on that 3rd place total. Finally, I included the average you ideally want per roster spot to hit that total so you can have an idea how far above or under average your team is tracking towards that sweet spot.

I only looked at home runs, stolen bases and strikeouts because those are the most skill-based statistics and they best lend themselves to being projected year-in and year-out. Runs, runs batted in and wins are very team-based and situational. Of course the rate categories (OBP or AVG, ERA and WHIP) would be too difficult to study in this format.

Home Runs
home-runs

What we see on the home run chart is that you have to build a foundation with this category. Just because you land Ryan Howard early doesn’t mean you can shuffle your attention elsewhere because you’ve got your power stud. The best part about home run studs is that they are contributing to three categories with their one skill. Only one of the top 10 home run hitters from 2008 failed to score at least 85 runs (Adam Dunn, 79) and all 10 had at least 100 RBIs. Pat Burrell and Jack Cust joined Dunn as the only players within the top 20 to score fewer than 85 while Cust was the lone top 20 entry to have fewer than 85 RBIs. Remember that you can never have too much power. Even in mid-season trade negotiations, you can pitch the fact that you’re offering help in three categories when offering a big slugger.

Stolen Bases
stolen-bases

This is why I love power-speed combo players. Not only is my power base being built, but I’m getting HUGE contributions to my speed base at the same time. I understand that Wily Taveras is a huge contributor to the speed needed for third place, but he’s a virtual zero everywhere else. Jayson Werth, used here because he is in Taveras’ ADP range, brings 15% of the speed to the table AND 12% of the power. It’s not that Taveras is useless and would never wind up on a roster of mine, but his speed is often analyzed on its own with no regard for the detrimental impact of Taveras elsewhere. Give me Delmon Young 100 out of 100 times over Juan Pierre though the two are just one spot from one another in ADP. The lesson here is not look at speed in a vacuum and over draft the “all-speed” types. Meanwhile, seeing how impactful a top base stealer can be to the bottom line makes a case for Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Grady Sizemore as the top three fantasy values because of their plentiful across-the-board contributions. They are all bona fide first rounders, but all three deliver at least a quarter of the stolen base total needed for 3rd place while posting elite figures in at least TWO more categories.

Strikeouts
strikeouts

For me, the biggest surprise here was how much a 150-strikeout pitcher can move the needle. With 10 or fewer available in most seasons, the 200-K guys are obviously highly sought after with good reason but missing out on them while snagging three of the 30 other 150+ strikeout guys is a very reasonable alternative. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that someone topping 200 strikeouts will be very valuable to your team because only one had fewer 16 wins and two posted an ERA higher than 3.49, but the catch is the risk associated with pitchers—also not a newsflash. The bankable 200-K guys (Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum) likely won’t find their way onto my roster because I’d rather add another 20 HR/20 SB guy in those early rounds. Don’t be afraid of that solid starter that gets just 6.0 K/9 because you falsely believe he doesn’t strike out enough batters to significantly improve the bottom line.

Tuesday: 01.27.2009

Mock Draft Update 2: 20-Team 5×5 Mixed League

When I last updated my progress on this mock draft, I was through five rounds. We’re nearly 10 rounds further along at this point, so I’ve got plenty to cover on my end as far as who I’ve taken and why. I’ve yet to draft in the 15th round, so let’s look at rounds six through fourteen.

Sixth Round – The Scarcity Pick
I thought long and hard about going with Paul Konerko right here. First off, I think he’s going to rebound quite nicely with something in the 30 HR/90 RBI season, but also that was the last infield position I needed to fill. Enter phase 1 of my game plan: eliminate scarcity. In a league this deep, bottom tier outfielders and first basemen will look a heckuva lot more appetizing than the rubble left up the middle. Therefore I went with Jhonny Peralta here and sealed up the my entire middle infield in just six rounds. At this point, I have a 2B, SS, MI and C in my first four picks. As for Peralta, doesn’t it feel like he has been around forever? He is just 26 years old, but he’s been a very good player for three of his four seasons giving fantasy owners about 20 HR and 80 RBIs year in and year out. His one off year (2006) still produced 13 home runs and 68 RBIs. I would be more than content with a repeat of his $20 season from last year, but improvements aren’t out of the question either.

Seventh Round – The Zag
There were 24 picks between me and my next selection and all but seven were pitchers and outfielders. Most teams were filling out the positions requiring the most selections, but I had other plans in store. I targeted Ryan Doumit here and I felt rather certain he’d be on this team. This is a league of sharks, so there’s no doubt they all know plenty about Doumit, but outside of the big Ms going where you would expect, no one appeared to be looking at backstops. Remember when I said this was a league of sharks? Doumit predictably went four picks before I was up. Not to be deterred, I stuck to the plan of zagging when they zig… or whatever the saying. I stayed behind the plate and went with Chris Iannetta. It was pick 133 which felt a little early, but I was happy with it regardless. Then I looked at the ADP list on mockdraftcentral.com and saw he was sitting at 135 and I felt even better. Can you believe his 135 ranking is actually six spots LOWER than Matt Wieters? I wouldn’t feel confident going high on a rookie catcher even with what Geovany Soto did a year ago. That’s the exception, not the rule. Iannetta has the skills for a 20+ home run season with a decent batting average and solid counting numbers. He’s got great plate discipline so as long as he remains healthy, he’ll be quite good in 2009.

Eighth Round – The Reach
With my positional scarcity plan full executed through seven rounds, I now need to begin focusing on the deeper positions before I’m left with nothing I like and my plan is foiled. Outfield is an area I feel strongly about in 2009 after absorbing so much knowledge while writing the Top 100 piece. One player whose stock I purchased plenty of during that process was Shin-Soo Choo. I made him the 148th selection overall which did not compare favorably with the mock drafting masses as he checks in at 264 on the ADP list! Color me unfazed by this development. If I followed the herds in fantasy baseball, it’d be hard to be successful. I don’t know how my leaguemates viewed the pick and if he was in the queue for many of them, but even though I would call it a bit of a reach, there are just too many picks in between to wait on someone you feel could be close to going off of the board. He second half surge wasn’t a fluke that came out of nowhere. He was a highly touted prospect coming up and began paying dividends on his promise during the second half of last year.

Ninth Round – The Mistake
I made my first mistake in terms of executing my plan flawlessly. It’s foolish to punt any category in such a large league and while I generally punt the most puntable stat, saves, I vowed not to in the 20-teamer this year. I wanted to get an ace (a relative term, given how volatile the entire group is) closer that could net me 35+ and then speculate from there. If you speculate out the gate and don’t hit, you’re now competing against 19 other owners (and damn good ones at that) for anything that pops up during the season. The chances of a middle reliever that gets a shot NOT being on a roster already are slim, too. The mistake comes in that I should’ve taken B.J. Ryan or even Matt Capps instead of Choo. As I mentioned, Choo might have made it back to me and then I’d have my closer. Instead, I let them go and they were taken before the eighth round finished. Instead I got newly appointed closer, Heath Bell. Though he struggled mightily during the second half last year, he still struck out over 1/IP to make up for the lack of dominance in the first half. Pitcher friendly park, flamethrower and on a team where most wins should come in close games are reasons to like Bell here. As a rebound from my first “Oh crap!” moment, I’m pleased.

Tenth Round – The Bounceback
Ever since I passed on Konerko, I’ve been eyeballing the first basemen thinking I should take one. I would’ve taken Jason Giambi last round but he was gone so I passed because I wasn’t in love with Plan B: Adam LaRoche. This is one of those picks that if it pays off the way it can, ends up being a season-changer. I started off my rotation with Erik Bedard. I don’t think I ever stopped believing in him last year even when it was clear that 2008 just wasn’t his year. He remained firmly entrenched on my radar again this season and I decided that he would anchor my staff. I am not the kind of guy that drafts pitching early all that often. Even in a league this big, I hold off. Starting pitching will emerge as the season progresses, even some guys that aren’t rostered, even in a 20-team, 5-reserve league. I’ll build my rotation around some upside guys and take it from there. Bedard fits the mold nicely as a return to 2006-2007 levels would give me near-ace level production with pick 188. My other consideration here was WHIP-friendly, Kevin Slowey. That may have been a safer pick, but I wanted to gamble.

Eleventh Round – The Post-Hype
Immediately after picking Bedard, I committed to the idea of building my rotation for the next few rounds and I wrote one name down for the 11th round. The superstitious part of me was reticent to do that, but I wanted this particular skillset. I probably could’ve found a derivation of it somewhere else had he gone, but Johnny Cueto made it back to me and I snagged the post-hype sleeper as my #2. He was a bit wild at times and suffered from a serious case of gopheritis, but he is an absolute flamethrower with room to grow. The giant downside is that he has an idiot for a manger in Dusty Baker meaning his season could be ruined with a four inning middle relief stint at the drop of a hat. Another thing that sold me on Cueto was that his 174-inning workload at the major league level was only a 13 inning jump from his minor league work across three levels in 2007. He could feasibly be the third Cincinnati Reds starter to go after Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang, but he has a legitimate shot at ending the season as their best.

Twelfth Round – The Favorite
Though I wrote a few more names down to target in the 12th round, anyone that knows me knows that I only wanted one of them. I didn’t even see who else made it to me when I picked because Andrew Sonnanstine was available and he instantly became my #3 starter. The strangest thing about my desire to roster Sonnanstine in every league (including NL-Onlys for some reason) is that I love strikeout guys, almost to a fault. Sonny’s game is at the opposite end of that spectrum. He’s right around that usable level of 6.0 K/9, but it’s his pinpoint control and reluctance to give a free pass I like so much. When he first came up in 2007, he had a completely worthless defense and bullpen supporting him so his numbers were garbage. Now both are assets and he is on his way to becoming a very reliable, very underrated starting pitcher.

Thirteenth Round – The Late Power
The outfield depth dried up on me in a hurry and frankly, it caught me by surprise. I had Jack Cust and Ryan Garko as my top two candidates for this round. Both went, so I knew I wanted to go with my OF3 here in round 13, but I expected a better list of candidates. This late, no one is a sure thing, but the question marks on a lot of these guys are in 72-point font. I went with a somewhat reliable power source in Josh Willingham. He can be a walking WebMD entry at times, too, but he’s a 20+ HR hitter if he gets 500 at-bats. Perhaps he can recapture the magic he had going out of the gate last year and put up that career year he was headed towards.

Fourteenth Round – The Aged Veteran
When Garko was taken last round, I started looking at the likes of Lyle Overbay as my first baseman. That’s when I knew I was in trouble there. Then, someone took him near the end of the 13th and I knew I was dead meat! I may regret not locking up one of my primary power targets (Giambi and Cust) earlier as I now have Todd Helton at 1B. He hasn’t been a top-flight power threat since 2005 and despite the surgery to fix his back issues, 2009 will be no different. Ideally, I just want 450 at-bats because it’ll likely net a .300-something average with 70 runs scored & driven in. If he can toss in 12-15 home runs, great. I continually pushed the envelope of 1B targets I really liked and I paid the price here. Hindsight being 20/15, this is a much greater mistake than skipping Ryan and Capps to get Choo and end up with Bell.

And that catches us up now. Overall, I’m pleased with how my position scarcity plan worked out and I have the beginnings of a nice rotation as far as I’m concerned. Again, the first base debacle haunts me right now, but there is time to correct it and who knows, maybe Helton is ready by early April and gets 500+ at-bats in this year.

Thanks for the patience during the lag in posting. The computer issues I had were nightmarish, but it looks like everything is firmly back on track and even better than a week ago as my sound now works and will facilitate a return to podcasting. If I can finish all of my work in a timely manner, I will have a post AND podcast tomorrow evening.

Monday: 01.26.2009

Computer Down; Posting Scarce

It’s been awhile since I’ve had anything new, but my computer is in the shop right so I’ve only got the work computer at my disposal. I just called GeekSquad and the news wasn’t particularly good. Hopefully it gets fixed sooner than later. I have most of my baseball data on my external hard drive so I should be able to continue regular posting tonight/tomorrow. I’m overdue for an update on my mock draft so I’ll get that done ASAP as that doesn’t requires any of the stuff from my external HD.

Is there anything more annoying than computer troubles?

Wednesday: 01.21.2009

Scheduling Advantages Down the Stretch

Sometimes a fantasy league’s trade deadline tops that of the major league action as the contenders aim to get that missing piece for a stretch run. What follows is a look at the August and September home/road breakdown of some of the parks most known for favoring its hitters and some of the parks most known for favoring its pitchers. Why pay the extra prospect or draft pick that your trade partner requests for Garrett Atkins if he’s going to spend most of September on the road where he struggles to be much more than replacement level? Maybe Tom Gorzelanny is worth it as a throw-in piece of deal if the Pirates will be at home for most of the final two months.

Hitter-Friendly Parks

hitter

The takeaways from the above list are:

– Give Colorado Rockies hitters a boost in deadline dealings as they get 10 more games at home than on the road including a very nice 18/9 split in the final month of the season.

– Temper the expectations of Texas Rangers hitters with lopsided home/road splits already on your roster and being considered in prospective trades.

– Baltimore Orioles hitters get fewer games at home down the stretch, but the four game difference isn’t overwhelming. I’d rate them as is in deadline deals with no biases about where they will play the final two months.

– Conversely (or similarly), Chicago White Sox hitters get more games at home down the stretch, but the four game difference isn’t overwhelming. Again, there should be no home-field price hike factored in during your late July trade talks for White Sox hitters.

– Finally for our hitter-friendly parks, the Cincinnati Reds hitters are nearly even in home and away tilts over the course of August and September. There is a five game difference in September in favor of road games, but they have four in Colorado and another three game set at the Juice Box in Houston. If anything, their schedule leans in their favor much like Chicago’s.

Pitcher-Friendly Parks

pitcher

The takeaways from the above list are:

– San Diego, every pitcher’s dream, are about neutral on the whole but do have a 10/16 home/road split in the season’s final month including six of the final eight in Colorado and Arizona. Owners in leagues with August trade deadlines might consider moving their San Diego arms for the final month.

– Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers have a very favorable final two months with just 20 games on the road. The unfortunate part is that outside of Paul Maholm, they just don’t have very many desirable pitchers as we head into 2009. Gorzelanny and Ian Snell may bounce back, but after that it’s Zach Duke, Phil Dumatrait and Ross Ohlendorf.

– The arms of the Bay Area have nearly identical splits over the final two months with no overwhelming advantage showing up for either ballclub. I can’t imagine a scenario where you wouldn’t want to hang onto the rosterable arms of San Francisco anyway, but it’s still somewhat comforting to know that they won’t be touring the NL’s most hitter-friendly parks down the stretch. Oakland grows pitchers seemingly like no other and they have a history of turning it on during the 2nd half (last year notwithstanding) so they too are good holds for deadline dealings.

– Even though Minnesota’s schedule is tilted slightly towards road games, their pitchers are of a high enough caliber that you will want them in just about any situation.

The above knowledge likely won’t win a league on its own, but you have to try and take advantage of any potential help that may be available. I could see this knowledge being quite helpful in head-to-head leagues, too.

Tuesday: 01.20.2009

Top 24 First Basemen: 12-1

Here is the completion of my top 24 first basemen for 2009.

Part 1

12. Carlos Pena, 31, Tampa Bay Rays – There was a group of people that believed Pena would be a flop after his huge 2007 season. After his first half, they were looking spot on, but he became a catalyst for the Rays’ second half run en route to a 20 home run performance. Pena is your regular WYSIWYG kind of guy and you can just about bet on .250/30/100 for the foreseeable future. OBP leaguers give Pena a boost with his stellar walk rate increasing his value markedly. Pena is the kind of guy that is skipped over round after round because there isn’t much perceived upside with him, but 2007 proved that he can get on a roll and have a top tier season.

11. Derrek Lee, 33, Chicago Cubs – EVERY capsule about Lee this season immediately references 2005 and I’m afraid I can’t break the trend. That season is now clearly an outlier that will never be reached again. He might still have another 30-home run outburst in his bat, but realistically he’s a mid-20s home run hitter with big average and big runs & RBIs totals. He used to be a perennial double-digit basestealer, but his past two full seasons have yielded just six and eight, respectively. Still, you like the added steals from an unexpected source. Lee’s name usually combines with memories of 2005 to take him off the board well before he should so make sure you avoid that pitfall and don’t pass up better production with lesser names.

10. Joey Votto, 25, Cincinnati Reds – He had a Derrek Lee-lite season last year with depressed totals in runs scored & driven in thanks to his spot in the lineup and a lesser lineup than Lee’s Cubs. He actually bounced all around the lineup, but the 7-hole was his home most often. He will assuredly move up this season which will allow him to be the full version of Lee, but likely cheaper since he isn’t as well known… yet. What makes him better than Lee is that he is on the upswing while Lee has plateaued. With a great home stadium, he should still manage the mid-20s power despite such a high groundball rate (44%). The upside is a .300-90-30-100-10 season so don’t be afraid to go the extra dollar to get him.

9. Adrian Gonzalez, 27, San Diego Padres – Can you imagine if he was still in Texas? Instead he’s stuck in the anti-Coors which severely caps his ceiling. After hitting 21 home runs through June, he managed just 10 across July and August as the Padres played 32 of their 55 games at home. That said he is still a bankable 30-100 hitter with a nice batting average. He has dropped yearly against lefties which keeps him from a perennial .300, but his .280 is still quite useful. It appears as though the fences will be moved in at Petco which can only help Gonzalez in his quest to tame the stadium, but pay for 30-100 and if you get the 2008 bonus again, enjoy it.

8. Kevin Youkilis, 30, Boston Red Sox – Here is why I don’t think the 13 home run increase from Youk was a fluke: his walk rate fell by 3% and I believe a lot of that was him going for solid pitches that he ended up being able to do a lot with earlier in the count. Known as the Greek God of Walks, I think in past seasons he was waiting for the perfect pitch or just taking a walk. To wit, he had 15 home runs after a 1-0 count against just seven in 2007. I feel like another 25+ home run season rests on Youk’s shoulders as he decides whether or not he wants to take that approach again this season. As part of that lineup, his counting stats will be excellent as well. He’s one to chase.

7. Justin Morneau, 28, Minnesota Twins – The home runs per flyball rate dropped well off of his career norms so it cut into the home run totals, but the 97 runs, 129 RBIs and .300 batting average helped alleviate the sting. This is a guy that is getting better and becoming an elite producer at first base as seemingly no one notices. With three straight seasons of 590+ at-bats owners can have confidence that he will always be out there for them. With a correction in the hr/f rate, he could repeat the 2008 season with six or seven extra home runs.

6. Prince Fielder, 25, Milwaukee Brewers – The 50 home runs from 2007 was supported by an unsustainable hr/f rate (24%). The 46% clip at which he hit flyballs was unprecedented before and unmatched after which also aided the drop in home run output. Even still, Fielder is a legitimate power source nearly guaranteed for a mid-30s home run output with a real shot in any given year to get back to 50. To have full seasons of 28, 50 and 34 home runs entering your age 25 season is truly remarkable. It is not unrealistic to imagine sustainable growth, but set your expectations for 35-110 to prevent yourself from overpaying.

5. Lance Berkman, 33, Houston Astros – Don’t bring up Berkman’s name around head-to-head fantasy players. He had a disgusting .365-72-22-68-12 first half of the season followed by a dismal .252-45-7-38-6 second half. That enormous drop-off prevented Berkman from reversing a declining home run trend that started back in 2006. Don’t buy the 2008 speed for 2009, but this is still an excellent skillset capable of .300-30-100. He will offer 6-8 stolen bases and should score at least 100 runs with Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence behind him. The second half might have left a sour enough taste in your league to depress Berkman’s value relative to other studs, bid accordingly if you’re in such a league.

4. Mark Teixeira, 29, New York Yankees – He has plateaued at 30-100 since the monster 43-home run season back in 2005, but combined with a reliable .300 average and a ton runs makes him an elite commodity. Heading to New York should bode well for both the runs scored and runs driven in totals, while the new Yankee Stadium remains an unknown in terms of its affect on home runs. His new residence is likely to drive the price up, but don’t get caught up in the hysteria and treat like anything but the 4th-best first baseman in the league. It doesn’t get much more reliable than Teixeira so there is nothing wrong with making a part of your team’s foundation.

3. Ryan Howard, 29, Philadelphia Phillies – Howard is as elite as it gets when it comes to power production. The batting average has left something to be desired since the MVP campaign, but when you are getting those home run and RBI totals, it is hard to complain. A sharp drop in walk rate didn’t help much when he was in prolonged slumps, but that should return in 2009. He is quite streaky so H2H-leaguers beware when bidding. The fact of the matter is he has 58, 47 and 48 home runs in his past three seasons with a ton of RBIs and about 100 runs scored per as well. All of that without being a complete liability in batting average helps make Howard one of the best of the game.

2. Miguel Cabrera, 26, Detroit Tigers – If I put Cabrera ahead of Albert Pujols, it would look like little more than homersim, so I avoided the temptation. Well that and I’m not entirely sold that he belongs there so I wasn’t going to do it just for the sake of doing it. He absolutely dominated the league in the second half of 2008 and it clear that he is fully acclimated to the American League now. What is the ceiling for this guy? He has increased his home run and RBI totals yearly since 2006 and he could be headed for another jump after last year’s 37/127 effort. Make no mistake; he is a late first round talent for 2009.

1. Albert Pujols, 29, St. Louis Cardinals – Who can you say about Pujols that hasn’t been said? He is just so amazing year after year. He hasn’t put up especially gaudy home run and RBI titles the past two seasons, but the insane batting average he posts yearly separates him from the pack. He hasn’t hit below .330 since 2002 including last year’s .357. I love Hanley Ramirez as much as anyone else, but I have no qualms with making Pujols the #1 overall pick in a scratch draft. It is frightening to think that he could actually improve on last year and get back to 2006 levels. Letting him go any deeper than fourth overall is a crime and at fourth, that owner is getting a steal.

al-1b
top-24-1b nl-1b

Monday: 01.19.2009

Top 24 First Basemen: 24-13

There is a very simple directive for a first baseman in fantasy baseball: hit home runs. If you’re not drawing significant power from this position, you’re doing your team a disservice in home runs and runs batted in. There are exceptions, of course, such as pairing a power third baseman with a loaded outfield leaving you with Casey Kotchman or Lyle Overbay. But with so much bankable power at first base, it is wiser to establish your power foundation here. Below is the first of my top 24s around the infield. Everyone does top 10s or 25s or 50s (or even 100s), so I went with 24 because it’s different… and my favorite number. Let’s count ‘em down:

24. Billy Butler, 23, Kansas City Royals – Butler labored through an up-and-down season including a trip back to AAA, which is probably where he should’ve spent the bulk of the 2008 but the Royals were enticed by his .794 OPS in 329 at-bats in 2007 plus they weren’t going anywhere so I don’t blame them for giving him a legitimate opportunity. I still think he’s at least a year away from being the guy fantasy baseballers want him to be and at 23 that is expected. Every league has at least one guy who loves young potential, so Butler will be snapped up before 23 other first basemen go, but the .300-30-100 line isn’t coming just yet. Tremendous choice in keeper leagues, but a middling line for 1B in 2009.

23. Mike Jacobs, 28, Kansas City Royals – Another reason that Butler isn’t a great pick for 2009 is Jacobs. We all knew he had 30-homer pop in his bat, it was a merely a case of when it’d all come together for him. The oddity in his numbers was that he went from .290 against lefties in 2007 to just .218 last which held his batting average down. He has the ability to be batting average-neutral instead of dead weight, but even if he fails to bring it back into the .260s he is still a great source of cheap power. The park move moot as both Dolphins and Kauffman Stadiums depress home runs. If not for the declining OBP since 2006 and move to a weaker lineup, I’d have a brighter outlook for Jacobs. Pay for another 30-home run season, but temper expectations beyond that category.

22. James Loney, 24, Los Angeles Dodgers – A magical September in 2007 has clouded the judgment of Loney. His nine home runs that month were two short of best total in any minor league season (11 over 504 at-bats in 2005). He is not a power hitter and while he may develop some, it would likely be two or three years down the road as that is a skill of aged. He is a .300ish hitter capable of driving in and scoring a decent amount of runs. And based on last season and his minor league track record, he is also good for a handful of stolen bases, though he is not terribly proficient at it (58% minors, 62% majors) so manager Joe Torre may stop sending him. If someone in your league wants to pay him as a 25 (or even 20) home run hitter, then let ‘em because they are likely to be dissatisfied with the results.

21. Conor Jackson, 27, Arizona Diamondbacks – Meet James Loney v1.0. Well that’s not entirely true as Jackson is significantly more patient at the plate than Loney, but in terms of the power production they are often lumped together and with good reason. Jackson made my outfielder list (#36) and I commented there that I’d much rather place him in the outfield because he has yet to top 15 home runs. In fact, he shaved three HRs off of that 2007 total despite 125 more at-bats. I don’t know where the speed (10 SB) came from or if it’s here to stay, but that would certainly add to his value. With his ability to control the zone and do what he wants at the plate, I feel he could hit 20 home runs at the expense of his batting average, but without knowing whether he plans to do such a thing (he never responds to my texts!) I’m buying a .290-80-15-80-3 line here.

20. Jason Giambi, 38, Oakland A’s – Health is your only concern here in terms of betting on another 30-home run season. I am not even concerned that the move back to McAfee Coliseum will eat up a significant portion of his power. Giambi is as legit as they get when it comes to power hitters and the reliability of that power makes the batting average easier to swallow. With Jack Cust & Matt Holliday joining Giambi, the middle of that A’s lineup is pretty formidable. For OBP leaguers, bump Giambi up quite a bit as last year’s .373 was his lowest full season output since 1998.

19. Ryan Garko, 28, Cleveland Indians – He seemingly belongs in the Jackson-Loney zone, but I’m projecting a power boost back up over 20 and nearing 25 in 2009. Garko has seven home runs and 45 RBIs both before and after the break, but the latter came in 87 fewer at-bats and with a .319 average (again a .241 before). He has shown 20-HR power before and a correction in hr/f % will take him there again. He is capable of a .280-25-90 season, especially in that lineup. Talks of trying him in the outfield only improve his value since he will lose fewer at-bats as the Indians try to fit him, Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach into the lineup together.

18. Jorge Cantu, 27, Florida Marlins – Welcome back, Jorge! There are a couple reasons why he shouldn’t fade as he did after 2005’s breakout: doubled his walk rate from awful 3% to a usable 6% and the power was supported by a boost in flyballs. His at-bats shouldn’t be affected by the arrival of Gaby Sanchez as Cantu can play either corner and Sanchez is expected to battle Dallas McPherson for a starting spot. Surprisingly only 27, Cantu might actually improve as he enters his prime, however I’d be most comfortable paying something along the lines of 85-25-85-3.

17. Adam LaRoche, 29, Pittsburgh Pirates – LaRoche is absolutely unnerving to own in head-to-head leagues, but he’s the classic set it & forget it type for roto league players. Looking back, it seems 2006 saw luck on his side and resulted in a 32 home run season as opposed to signaling his arrival as a perennial 30-HR guy. The 25-85 he delivered last year is what you should expect from LaRoche. If you get him on draft and he sputters out of the gate in April and May, be ready to pounce as he will inevitably heat up. He was part of my 2nd-halfers list last year and gave owners 14 home runs and .975 OPS after the break.

16. Paul Konerko, 33, Chicago White Sox – Looking for a good value in 2009? Here it is. Konerko bounced back from an awful first half, but his final line is still unappealing and he could be mistaken as someone who is finished. That creates a buying opportunity. He still plays in a very power-friendly park and he slugged 14 home runs in 210 second half at-bats to offset a rough first half of eight in 228 AB. It is not entirely unrealistic to believe that Konerko could put up a .280+ batting average with 30 home runs and 95+ RBIs. A bounce-back season is on the horizon for a now healthy Konerko.

15. Carlos Delgado, 36, New York Mets – It will be interesting to see how Delgado is treated in fantasyland this season. Will he be remembered for a second half surge that is deemed unrepeatable or will owners see his final numbers, realize they are legit and bid him up? The latter should happen. A composite view shows that 2007 is the clear aberration and last year was nothing new in terms of skills, merely a slow start. Relying on a 36-year old can be frightening, but take comfort in the fact that Delgado has a string of four straight 500+ at-bat seasons and 11 of the last 12. He is also just 31 home runs short of 500 for his career, which could provide motivation for another solid year. Bid confidently.

14. Chris Davis, 23, Texas Rangers – When you hit 17 home runs in 80 games, it gets some attention. He hit 23 other home runs in 77 minor league games. That raw power of Davis is being coveted by many fantasy baseballers this season especially with a full season at his disposal and the potential of 81 games at the Ballpark in Arlington. With Michael Young moving to third base, Davis should be locked in at first for the bulk of the season. The Texas lineup should remain rather formidable giving Davis a great chance at 100+ RBIs with his 30+ home run capability. He didn’t quite set the league on fire like Ryan Braun, but his power is as legit and should be pursued aggressively.

13. Aubrey Huff, 32, Baltimore Orioles – He might not have another 32 home run season, but his return to prominence should not be ignored. His skills have been steady for a long time now, though an increase in flyballs likely made the big HR number possible. Still, a 25/100 season from Huff won’t cost that much and carries the potential for more. Huff’s dual eligibility at first and third only makes him a more attractive option. There seems to be a perception that Huff is older than his 32 years and if that prevails in your league, he could be discounted further; take advantage.

I was going to put all 24 up this morning, but I went to the late showing of the movie The Wrestler last night. It has been highly acclaimed and with good reason. It was a very good movie, but by the time I got home at 1:30, I was too tired to finish the last seven. I’ll complete the list tonight after work.

Thursday: 01.15.2009

Mock Draft Update: 20-Team 5×5 Mixed League

Every year at Rotojunkie.com there is a series of mock drafts of varying formats. The one that usually kicks off the bonanza is a 20-team mixer using the standard 5×5 categories. We draft a standard 23-man roster with five reserves with a firm rule that you have to complete the starting roster before getting into reserves. A 15-game qualifier is used for position eligibility. As the draft plays out over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting updates on the draft, specifically my picks and reasoning behind the selections made.

First Round – The Foundation
I pulled the 13th pick overall which didn’t affect me one way or another in terms of being happy. I had the 12th pick last year, so while it might’ve been cool to see how I do from another area of the draft, I’m fine with this spot. It started off as most mocks have so far this season with very little surprise in the picks leading up to mine. Mark Teixeira at 8th isn’t where I’d have gone, but as a huge Big Tex fan, I can’t dog the pick. After my primary target for this spot, Ryan Braun, went 10th, I began to worry that 11 or 12 would take the other guy I really wanted here. Thankfully they both passed on Ian Kinsler and I made the star second baseman my first pick. I still might’ve made him the first 2B taken even if Chase Utley was guaranteed to play Opening Day because I shudder to think what Kinsler can do in a full season. I’m an avid fan of the ultra power-speed combos like Kinsler, throw in the fact that he’s an infielder and I’m ecstatic to land him. Last year was his first 500 at-bat season, but it was barely above so the fragility is of some concern. With a full season, he has .290-120-25-100-25 potential in him.

Second Round – The Budding Star
Since I didn’t get Braun with my 1st pick, I was determined to go with an outfielder in the second round because I wasn’t going to get left without an elite one. Enter Matt Kemp. Another power-speed combo poised for another monster fantasy year. His .290 batting average was propped up by destroying lefties to the tune of .369. There may be a drop in average based on that huge performance vs. lefties, but for his career, he has hit .354 against southpaws in 316 at-bats. With 463 drafts being counted, Kemp’s average draft position is 42nd overall at MockDraftCentral.com making my picking him at 28th look like a reach. My next pick is 53rd so I know he’s not making it back to me. Heck, he probably gets snatched by the guy that eventually took Nate McLouth two picks after I grabbed Kemp. If you want a guy in a 20-team league, you have to go get him even if you feel it might be a round early. I stayed true to myself considering I rated Kemp the 8th best outfielder in my Top 100 list and he was the 10th OF off the board.

Third Round – The Risk
Generally, you don’t want your third round pick coming off of a season with 143 at-bats. There aren’t any good reasons for that kind of at-bat total. Nevertheless, I dove head first into a rebound season by Rafael Furcal in 2009. Even if the bad back prevents a mid-teens HR output, I’m still happy with 35 steals and a .300 average at short. However, that’s near the “worst case scenario” end of the spectrum. If he gives me something circa 2005-06, which is what I’m obviously expecting by making him a third rounder, then I have three $27-30 players to start off my squad.

Fourth Round – The Risk, Part 2
For someone who claims to be a very risk averse fantasy baseballer, I don’t think it’s a great idea to have two risks in the first four picks… but hear me out. I took Victor Martinez with the 68th pick in the draft. The 2008 season was a clearly a throwaway bust on all fronts for Martinez, but I don’t think it’s the beginning of the end for him by any stretch. I expect a return to his usual .300-20-100 line we had grown accustomed to see from him. That alone doesn’t make him a fourth round pick, the bonus is obviously that it comes from a catcher. We already know how sparse it is at catcher in regular 12-teamers that require you to roster two, so how bad do you think it gets when 20 teams are taking two?! It was either go for Martinez now or wait it out and end up with Mike Redmond & Nick Hundley. It’s bad enough when the second catcher is a dead spot you simply hope doesn’t hurt too much, but having TWO holes in your lineup just won’t work. With an ADP of 80, MockDraftCentral says I took Martinez 12 spots too soon. Well there were 12 more picks just before the 4th round finished so he most definitely wasn’t getting back to me in the 5th round.

Five Round – The Breakout
I struggled with this pick. I have a plan I’m trying to adhere to for this league and third base was next on the docket. I stuck to that course of action, but I had a tough time deciding who would man the hot corner for my team. I went with Alex Gordon after much debate involving he, Adrian Beltre and Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman had the highest ADP (97) by a landslide, but I chose the higher ceiling. Gordon showed markedly improved plate patience last year and his distribution of balls in play shifted to more flyballs and line drives, which is always a plus for power. Though he fell flat on his face after shouldering a lofty expectation load, Gordon took steps forward in his sophomore season. I would be thrilled with 25 HR and 10 SB here, but he has the ability for even more if he takes some big steps forward in year three.

1. I.Kinsler, 2B
2. M.Kemp, OF
3. R.Furcal, SS
4. V.Martinez, C
5. A.Gordon, 3B

So that’s where we are right now. You can follow our progress in real-time here:

Our Draft

Mock Draft Central’s ADP Report (member’s get list of 483)

Tuesday: 01.13.2009

The Outfielder Triple Comparison

Last Wednesday, I compared my outfielder rankings with the recently released Sporting News Fantasy Baseball ’09 magazine. I didn’t compare to show one was markedly better than the other or anything like that, I just love comparing things-especially fantasy baseball rankings. I take pride in my rankings because I put a lot of time and effort into them as I’m sure industry standard magazines like SN do, too. Thus, when I see another ranking list of the same set of players, I’m always intrigued because I like to see what aligned closely and where the huge differences were on both ends of the spectrum. As I mentioned yesterday, my friend and colleague Jason Collette and his crew released their magazine through fanball.com & ownersedge.com (For those interested, it’s been rumored to be at Borders more often than Barnes & Noble… this was true in several areas across the country).

Now I have a third set of rankings to add to the mix and get an even better feel for how the outfielders are being viewed for 2009. I’ll cover the fanball list the same way I did the Sporting News whereby first I’ll look at the big differences between my list and theirs followed by the composite list in alphabetical order. Then, as an extra special treat, I’ll put up a triple comparison with an average ranking for 95 of the outfielders from my original list.

Outfielders I Love…

Here are the guys I rated much higher than the fanball crew. The cutoff was a double-digit difference between the lists:

fb-comp11

The Sporting News and I didn’t top 30 on any difference whereas I have five such differences with fanball. What does it mean? Nothing in particular. Three of the major differences in ranking came on Scott Hairston, Jody Gerut and Carlos Gonzalez, but I rated them in the latter part of my list of 100 and they rated them in the latter part of their list of 160. That doesn’t change the fact that I like them better, but the mixed league values from 80 to 160 were $0 for fanball so they find that back half rather interchangeable to some degree.

Our differences for J.D. Drew and Lastings Milledge are more significant as far as I’m concerned. I rated both in the top half while fanball had them firmly in the bottom half of their top 100. The near-guarantee that Drew will miss time due to injury has soiled his value and the fanball crew clearly doesn’t want anyone getting burned again so they slotted him behind the likes of Travis Buck, Nate Schierholtz and Steven Pearce among others. I’d be willing to admit that I was a bit generous, but his skillset is so plentiful that I couldn’t crush him despite his injury woes. I could see bumping him down a little bit in the update, but even 122 games of Drew (his average over the past five seasons) is better than the unknowns above, especially with his upside if he can make it into 140+ games.

The Milledge difference seems to be a stark difference of opinion. My love for Milledge in 2009 could start reaching Jason Collette-Nelson Cruz levels by the spring. Meanwhile, fanball is less than impressed with the budding outfielder. The accompanying capsule for Milledge said they were put off by his streakiness which isn’t a totally unfair critique. It’s easier for me to overlook the month-to-month swings since I play roto leagues almost exclusively. If he avoids the slow start he had in 2008 and doesn’t miss an entire as he did last July, I can’t see how he doesn’t show growth in 2009.

The Tattooed Titan, Josh Hamilton, fell pretty deep in their top 20. I remember thinking I might have been overrating him at six and it seems that the fanball guys would seem to say I did in fact. However, if they look at my rating of sixth among outfielders and think I was generous compared to their 18 slotting, I wonder what they thought of Yahoo!’s Brandon Funston rating him ninth OVERALL on his initial Big Board of 2009.

Outfielders They Love…

Here are the guys that fanball rated much higher than I did in my list. The cutoff was a double-digit difference between the lists:

fb-comp2

I guess I severely underrate speed. At least that’s what it seems like when you look at the list above. I’m not a huge fan of the speed specialists opting more for the power-speed combos with upside. I rarely leave a draft or auction with someone poised to steal 50+ bags with their 1 HR & 25 RBI and that is reflected in my rankings. I realize the pure dollar value of stolen bases is rather high in fantasy baseball, but there is no way I’m taking Carlos Gomez before the likes of Adam Dunn, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez, Nate McLouth and Vernon Wells though all five rate behind Gomez in the fanball list. I won’t delve into theory here in this piece, but what’s easier to fix in June or July: home runs, runs batted in and average or stolen bases? Maneuvering a deal for a stolen base guy like Gomez or Willy Taveras while holding a top 4 spot in HR, RBI and AVG makes much more sense than stocking speed and trying to peddle it later for the other categories. While I do believe they went too high on Jacoby Ellsbury, at least he’s a two category stud with potential for another (he could hit for .300+) and worthwhile offerings in HR & RBI for a leadoff guy.

Here is the fanball-Sporer full comparison in alphabetical order:

Click for full view

Click for full view

The Composite Look

Now that I’ve look at my list in comparison to two others, what does an average of all three yield? Notice how an outlier on one of the lists can boost or deflate a player’s final ranking even if the other two were well on the other side of the spectrum for said player (Ellsbury, Quentin specifically):

click for full view

click for full view

Monday: 01.12.2009

More Outfielder Comparisons Coming…

For those emailing and asking about the Top 100 Starting Pitchers, I appreciate your continued patience as I am diligently working on that piece. In the meantime, I’m putting together another comparison of outfielder lists. Today I picked up the Fanball.com magazine due in large part to the fact that it prominently features a very good friend of mine, Jason Collette. The presentation of the magazine is absolutely wonderful, second to none. I’ve only just begun to read the magazine so I don’t have any specific thoughts on the feature articles or rankings just yet. I’ll post the comparison on Tuesday and should be able to include a triple comparison of my list and the two magazine plus how outfielders are being taken in mock drafts being held at MockDraftCentral.com. All the thoughts and theories of the lists are nice enough, but how is it all playing out when teams are being assembled?

I hope to finish a couple of other things for the fantasy guide this week, so please stay tuned for those updates as well.

Friday: 01.9.2009

Batting Average Anchors: Myth?

We have all seen this exchange. You’re in a draft or auction and Adam Dunn has just landed on his team for the season. After the draft pick or once the bidding is done, one guy (and sometimes even a couple) invariably tells the owner that while he may like Dunn’s power, that owner will regret carrying Dunn’s often putrid batting average. With five straight years of 40+ home runs, it is easy to see why rostering him is a desirable proposition. So how much do these batting average anchors hurt the team?

A standard league has 14 hitting spots on a roster thus Dunn or the batting average dead weight of your choice is accountable for essentially 1/14th of team’s batting average. This can and does vary based on the number of at-bats a player has in a season, but for the most part you can expect about 515 to 575 at-bats from someone like Dunn. What I did was look at a few different scenarios and then looked at how adding a batting average stud like Joe Mauer to the mix differed from adding Dunn or Mark Reynolds to that same team.

The first scenario has the other 13 players at a .275 average with 550 at-bats per spot. How did that team fare when adding the stud, the mid-level and the dud?

avg-anchor1

Adding Mauer to the team as is nets a healthy four points to the batting average and adding him in lieu of any of our three anchors yields a six point boost. Those results aren’t particularly surprising. The fact that each of anchors only costs the team as a whole two points is promising. Surely that minor bump down is more than offset by their contributions in the power categories (and the decent offering of speed by Reynolds).

How about when a team is hitting .280 on an average of 550 at-bats per player? The results aren’t much different:

avg-anchor21

The impact of Mauer and Ichiro is equal now while Pat Burrell gets a one point edge over his average-deficient peers. For all intents and purposes, there is little difference between these first two examples. Though I doubt it’s a newsflash to many, notice that the player with a slightly higher average than the team he’s joining does nothing to impact the team’s overall batting average? If you’re deciding between a two players with close lines, but one guy hits .272 with a eight more runs, two more home runs, seven more RBIs and an extra steal than the guy hitting .285, take the .272 guy because both have a virtually nil impact on the overall batting average so you might as well grab the extra counting stats.

Next I looked at a team that averages 450 at-bats per player. Obviously the more at-bats on a team, the less one guy’s batting average impacts the bottom line. Since the .275 and .280 studies were virtually the same under 550 at-bats, I only looked at the .280 average team with 450 at-bats:

avg-anchor3

Here we see that the run-of-the-mill .285 average guy in 450 at-bats does positively impact the team’s batting average. There is now an eight point difference between Mauer and Dunn. Clearly that’s significant. In this scenario there is a legitimate decision as to whether or not Dunn’s power advantage will make up for his lack of batting average. The answer to this is variable dependent on the team you’ve assembled to that point and what your plan is continuing on through the rest of the draft or auction.

Finally, I looked at a scenario of rostering TWO of these batting average black holes. You will obviously be getting some insane power production if you put Dunn and Burrell on your team, but what kind of hole will you find yourself in from a batting average standpoint?

avg-anchor4

Frankly, I expected worse here. Sure there is a 10-point gap between Mauer/random .280 dude and Burrell/Dunn, but 70+ home runs and 180+ RBIs is a nice consolation prize. In the end, I think the fantasy baseball community as a whole overrates the negative impact of a poor batting average from someone like Dunn. It’s not like discussing the downside of Dwight Howard‘s awful free throw percentage on your basketball team. Basketball players take a very disparate number of free throws and Howard is among the leaders. The number of at-bats for players on a fantasy baseball team doesn’t vary all that much. And if they’re hitting horribly, they’ll lose at-bats to someone else. When Howard is especially awful at free throws, teams are more inclined to send him to the line a few extra times that week or month.

I have never shied away from a bad batting average power hitter and I probably never will given that a 550 at-bat season is about 6-8% of a team’s at-bat total while 40 home runs is about 18% of the average team’s home run total and 100 RBIs is about 11% of the average team’s RBI total. Even the 11 steals by Reynolds is around 10% of the stolen base total for a mid-pack team further proving that the potential impact of a player’s counting stats is higher than even the best hitter’s impact on batting average.

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