Posts tagged ‘fantasy baseball strategy’

Thursday: 02.21.2013

YouTube Thursday!

This probably won’t become a new thing, especially since I share YouTube videos on random days all the time. The only unifying links between these two videos I’m going to share is that they’re about baseball and they’re housed on YouTube, hence YouTube Thursday!

The first may require earplugs. The sound off of Jorge Soler’s bat when he treats this ball how Chris Brown might a woman was insane:

Update: Harry Pavlidis shared this Javier Baez video with my co-host Jason Collette while they were discussing Soler’s blast.

The next is a video-cast (a vodcast perhaps? I’m sure someone has called it that before) between two industry stalwarts, Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss of Rotowire, discussing position scarcity.

I’m in the home stretch with the SP Guide which is why content here has been a bit light. It’ll pick back up once we release (target date remains: 2/28-3/1).

Sunday: 02.17.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 5 Days – Chapman Not Starting?

Only 5 days until live game action…

Aroldis Not Guaranteed Spot

Dusty Baker did his best Lee Corso imitation on Saturday when it came to the topic of Aroldis Chapman and the rotation for 2013. Baker was careful to note that we entered 2012 under similar assumptions before Chapman headed back to the pen and eventually took the closer’s job in late May. The money quote from Hal McCoy’s article:

Manager Dusty Baker emphasized that point Saturday morning when somebody said, “Your rotation was good last year, but you’re still making the move with Chapman. . .”

At that point, Baker interrupted and said, “Maybe. That’s a maybe. It’s the same situation as last year. We started with Chapman as a starter. Then Ryan Madson (closer) went down. We had no clue Chapman would be as good as he is as a closer. I don’t think anybody did.

We didn’t know if he was going to throw enough strikes,” Baker added. “We put him in a set-up role, going two innings, because he was groomed in spring training to be a starter and that helped him to get his control. So, right now, we’re in the same boat — trying to get him multiple innings in case he doesn’t start he can still be sharp.”

While this does make him more difficult to rank and project for 2013, it doesn’t really hurt his fantasy value. If anything, it’s a boon to it because unless he pulls a Chris Sale in the rotation, he is far more valuable to fantasy managers as a closer, especially at his current cost. In current NFBC mock draft data, Chapman is going 83rd overall whereas the unanimous #1 closer Craig Kimbrel is going 49th. It is only unanimous because we’ve been led to believe that Chapman is set to be Cincy’s 4th or 5th starter. If he ends closing again, he’s right there with Kimbrel and all of sudden becomes a huge value for those who are getting him at 84 or later.

Meanwhile, if they get a full-time starter who isn’t Sale 2.0 or better, then they vastly overpaid. Stay tuned as I’m sure we will learn much more in the coming month.

Wednesday: 07.6.2011

Practicing Patience: How Much Is Enough?

Being patient has got to be the most difficult trait for a fantasy baseball manager to exhibit year in and year out.  The difficulty is born out of the internet age where you have instant access to every single pitch going on in any game and with that the ability to alter your lineup on a daily basis (in many leagues, there are still plenty of leagues that limit teams to weekly moves).  Of course just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean you have to take it, but still many fantasy managers see their team wallowing near the bottom of the standings on Tax Day and feel the only appropriate measure is to start tinkering or worse, making wholesale moves.

Others think they have exhibited enough patience if they wait until the calendar at least flips a month over to May.  Still some have a mid-May mark mapped out while some use Memorial Day as a demarcation point.  How long do you wait on a struggling player?  The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no universal answer.  One guideline that has gained steam comes from Cory Schwartz over at MLB Network and MLB.com and it is to take the 26 weeks of the season, subtract the player’s round you drafted him in and that is how many weeks you should wait into the season before even considering a cut.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but for those who struggle with an exact date, this is a quick measure that can help you make the difficult choice.  There are far too many variables at play to give a definitive answer.  Another major factor is your league’s free agent pool.

Often to roster a new guy, somebody has to leave.  There will invariably be roster-worthy guys in your free agent player pool whether they went undrafted and have now acquired some playing time that they are doing well with or they have been called up from the minor leagues and have the talent to make an impact.  Every team has those last few rounds worth of picks that are often fliers and sleepers and they should probably be your first gone if you feel you *must* take a chance on a waiver player hoping that he is the next Jose Bautista.  But even that isn’t always a great idea.  More on those types later.

What I really want to focus on right now is the good players and how much patience they deserve in a given year.  In most cases, 80-85% of your early round picks (say 1-12 or 1-15, assuming 12 team leagues here) are spent on guys with significant track records spanning three-plus years of work.  How long do these guys deserve to be rostered before you cut bait for a flavor of the week? Waiting until mid-May or Memorial Day sure feels like a long time, but is it?

Through Memorial Day of this season Nick Markakis had a .249/.316/.324 line with four home runs, 17 RBIs and four stolen bases.  As a career .297 hitter, he was well below expectations in the category you expect him to excel in.  He was starting to turn up on a lot of waiver wires.  An outfielder hitting .249 with mediocre production everywhere else just isn’t that enticing.  But is that really a large enough sample to turn your back on a 9th round pick?

His home run totals have declined yearly since 2007 and at 27 years old there likely isn’t about to be a massive turnaround for him in that area.  His pace after May 31st was 14 which is actually an increase from last year so that wasn’t on the list of reasons to drop him.  If you had misguided expectations about his power, that is on you.  Meanwhile his 14 stolen base pace would actually mark a four-year high.  The major issue, without question, was that he wasn’t delivering in his best category.

But do you cut a guy with 3202 at-bats (his total after Memorial Day 2011) because he has underperformed his career mark in batting average for 7% (213) of them and that 7% just happens to be at the beginning of a baseball season making it look worse?  Looking at it on a season-only level, he had expired about 33% of his expected at-bats with a .249 average.  Again, it feels like a lot, but he still had two-thirds of the season to get back on track.  He would need to hit .322 over his remaining 67% of at-bats to reach the career mark of .297, does that sound feasible for a guy with 3341 at-bats of .297 batting average under his belt?

Many of you probably realize how this is turns out.  Markakis hit .351 in June with 12 multi-hit games (out of 25), a 19-game hitting streak from June 8th-30th and just four hitless games in the month.  Only two of his five games in July have been hitless while the other three are all multi-hit games including a 5-for-5 effort on July 3rd.  He is hitting .294/.340/.386 while still pacing for 14 home runs and stolen bases.  He’s the 34th rated outfielder at ESPN despite runs scored and driven in paces that don’t reach 70.

In 10 and 12-team leagues, the waiver pools are deep and while I often encourage fantasy managers to practice extreme patience, especially with their studs, it would have been tough to blame someone who gave Markakis one more week after Memorial Day before making a decision.  That was his only lull in the month with all four of his hitless games coming in that week as he went 3-for-24 pushing his average down to .236 for the year.  I bet he was cut a lot in the eight day period from May 31st to June 7th, just before he went on his torrid pace.  Can you blame somebody, though? According to Schwartz’s guideline, with Markakis going anywhere between the 8th and 10th rounds, he should’ve been held until the 15th-17th week area.  Memorial Day week was only week nine, way too early to even consider a cut.

For me, he is this year’s Wandy Rodriguez.  Last year Rodriguez just didn’t look good through mid-June.  He posted a passable 3.65 ERA in April, but that came with 5.1 K/9 and 1.8 K/BB rates.  The strikeouts ticked up a bit in May and June (6.5 & 6.8), but his strikeout-to-walk rates held firmly below 2.0 at 1.8 and 1.6 for the months.  After a June 18th start against Texas during which Rodriguez was ripped for six runs in three innings, his ERA was at 6.09 (the worst since his second start when it was 6.10) in 75 innings.

Overall, 75 innings isn’t a major sample, but it was 38% of his expected inning total and in the “Year of the Pitcher”, Wandy managers watched as several viable starters were picked up by their leaguemates while they held onto the struggling Rodriguez.  A friend of mine asked if he should cut Rodriguez (I honestly don’t remember for who) after that June 18th start.  He is chronically impatient and I encouraged him to hang on through May and early June, but after that implosion I gave him my blessing figuring he had waited long enough.  Whoops.

Rodriguez would allow more than three runs just once in his remaining 18 starts as he posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB in 120 innings as one of baseball’s best pitcher.  His season ERA landed at 3.60 which was an increase from 2009’s 3.02, but in the grand scheme it was about eight extra earned runs which is negligible for a nine man fantasy staff.  Did my friend and other fantasy managers who cut bait in mid-June wait long enough?  Rodriguez wasn’t an elite arm of the Halladay-Lincecum class coming into 2010, but he was certainly in that second or third tier depending how strict you are with your #1s.  Using the Schwartz Method, he should have been held until week 16 or so.  June 18th was in week 11.

Obviously given his league format, a 10-team mixed league, I thought he was patient enough.  I think I would have green-lit his move in a 12-team league, too (by the way, the Schwartz Method is tailored to standard 12-team mixed leagues).  This is why there isn’t one standard answer.  It all depends on league size, league rules and who is available.  This is more of a thought exercise than a piece filled with answers.  My stance is and always will be to error on the side of too patient, especially with your better, more proven players (i.e. guys with legitimate three-plus year track records).

It isn’t just about being patient with your best, though.  What about your sleepers?  You spend all winter crafting your lists and poring over the numbers to find your late round gems only to dispatch them to the waiver after a slow month.  I understand they are more expendable than someone like Markakis or Rodriguez because they were your 20-something round pick, but why even draft them if you aren’t going to give them a reasonable chance to prove you right?

Take James McDonald for example.  He had a strong second half with his new team last year after a midseason trade and many (including myself) liked him for a breakthrough season under the radar in Pittsburgh.  He was available very late in just about any league (even NL-Only leagues unless you encountered an owner or two who felt the same way and pushed the bidding or draft position up a bit).

He was toting a 7.66 after April with more walks than strikeouts.  Even allowing for the fact that his stretch run in 2010 was a sample size of just 64 innings, it was still much larger than the 19-inning sample many used as grounds for cutting him after his April 21st start where he was bombed out for eight runs in just three innings.  He has a 2.95 ERA in 73 innings since April 27th.  In fairness, the WHIP is very high at 1.49 due mostly to his walks, but he has delivered a strong 7.2 strikeout rate.  He was almost certainly your final pitcher selected so it wouldn’t have tanked your season to see things through for more than 20 innings or even ideally at least 60-65.

What about Erik Bedard?  It has never been about talent with Bedard, only health.  You knew the Mariners were going to ease him into things in an effort to get as much out of him as they can considering how injury-riddled his Seattle tenure has been thus far.  He didn’t go more than five innings in any of his first four starts and carried a 7.71 ERA into his April 27th start.  Home runs were destroying him (seven allowed in four starts including two in each of his first three).  His HR/FB rate was 16%, odd for a guy who only once topped 9% in his career (12% in 2007).

Over the next two months, from April 27th to June 27th, he posted a 1.77 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 K/BB in 71 innings.  You took a flier him obviously recognizing his talent and the low cost on draft day.  Why not see it through more than four starts at the beginning of the season?  I am not saying everyone cut him, but I can speak to his availability being significant because he featured in Trolling the Wire for his May 8th, 25th, June 1st and 5th starts and I don’t recommend anybody that isn’t widely available (50% or more) at all three of the major outlets.

So we have run the gamut here.  From star-level players to young sleepers to injury risk talent and the one conclusion I think we can come to is that Tax Day, May 1st and May 15th are all out as viable “patience points”.  Tax Day was never viable… never, ever, ever, but I guarantee you some names will hit the wire two weeks into next season that will end up being major contributors for a different team in your league.  As for May 1st and May 15th, I just don’t know how you can reasonably say that they are legitimate samples from which to make a decision as large as cutting a player.

Your league format will play a role, but even then I think only May 15th should be the only those three early dates to come into play because if your league’s waiver wire is that deep, it is still going to have talent in mid-May so you can least hold out that long before making major cuts that could come back to hurt you.  What everyone needs to understand is that even mid-May or the end of May simply might not be long enough when you are dealing with all single digit and early double digit round picks.  That should sound like “no duh” advice, but playing in a wide variety of leagues year in and year out, I see guys released who have no business being on waiver wires before the first day of summer.

Just this year I saw a fantasy manager, who prides himself on being patient, cut Markakis on June 9th to get out in front of the latest prospect, Anthony Rizzo.  Guess who that idiot was?

 

Me.

Friday: 07.1.2011

Hail Mary Team, Part 2

If you missed part 1 of the Hail Mary Team that explained what it is and outlined the catchers and first basemen, feel free to check it out here.  Continuing the team today, here are the shortstops and third basemen.

SHORTSTOP:

Hanley Ramirez (FLO) – Going obvious again, but of course that doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice or that he won’t be discounted.  We are now halfway through the season and Ramirez is toting a .325 SLG after never dipping .475 in his five years and three of which were .540 or better; if his fantasy manager isn’t offering any sort of discount at this point then he is delusional and you are better off looking elsewhere.  That doesn’t mean you are going to get him for some shlub off the wire, but no way should you send back first round talent, either, not at this point.  Why should you want him?  Track record.  It is extensive as he was no worse than the third pick overall on everybody’s board this spring.  You are simply betting on a rebound, hoping that the time off (he isn’t headed to his third straight All-Star Game, that’s for sure) clears his head and recharges the battery.

Rafael Furcal (LAD) – Another option is Furcal who is currently out on a rehab assignment returning from an oblique injury (isn’t that what everyone is returning from these days?).  The presence of prospect Dee Gordon isn’t expected to block Furcal as the Dodgers have discussed moving him to second base and leaving Gordon at short.  Furcal is obviously a risk as he played 97 games last year and just 17 (bad ones) this year.  He’s getting up there in age for a middle infielder at 33, but he was sharp in his limited sample last year hitting .300 with eight home runs and 22 stolen bases.  He could give the Dodgers lineup and your lineup a spark if he is back at 100%.

Also keep in mind: Jimmy Rollins.  The pickins are slim at short if Ramirez isn’t available at a discount so we turn to former stars who have turned from Google into penny stocks.

THIRD BASE:

Martin Prado (ATL) – He would be one of the more costly team members on this list as he hasn’t been a complete abomination this year, rather he has only slightly underperforming expectations until going out with an injury (a staph infection… gross).   He is set to start his rehab assignment next week so time is probably running out for any sort of discount on him.  If you have a solid asset to trade, maybe the Prado manager also has another Hail Mary Teamer and you can package those two for your more worthy asset in turn plugging two holes for yourself.

Adrian Beltre (TEX) – Let me be clear here, Beltre isn’t quite in the class of the rest of this team.  He is on pace for 27 home runs and 111 RBIs, but his .259 AVG and .751 OPS might have a Beltre lamenting a bit after his .321 and .919 performances in Boston last year.  They would be foolish to have any issues with his performance, but it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me either.  If his team’s manager in your league has Beltre and another player from the list, you could flip one of what is likely just a few prized assets for Beltre and someone else.  Again since you are deep in the standings, you likely have several holes on your team so essentially you would be spreading the talent and creating a net gain by moving your best or second best player for Beltre and someone else to remove that zero from your lineup.

Also keep in mind: Mark Reynolds.  He’s actually on track to essentially match his 2010 season, but the team he is on in your league can’t afford the batting average hit, he would be a nice fit for a Hail Mary squad.  He should be a huge power source over the course of the second half and could reasonably hit 20 home runs, but should be good for no fewer than 15.

Next: Outfielders (OF & SP will be split into separate pieces as there will be several for each)

Thursday: 06.30.2011

The Hail Mary Team, Part 1

As of right now 13 others are at 82 games, 11 teams are at the exact halfway point (81 games) and the remaining six are very close.  By Monday, every team will be at or beyond the halfway point so it’s safe to say the fantasy baseball season is also at the midpoint.  By now you should have a pretty strong feel for your team one way or another.  Unfortunately for some of us, that way might be “another” meaning lower end of the standings seemingly without a prayer.

You might not be like me, a guy who plays multiple leagues, meaning your summer could essentially be ruined before the fourth of July and with football (and with it fantasy football) in limbo, things look bleak.  But fear not, I am here to help.  While things may seem hopeless, they aren’t always as they seem and there may still be some hope or at the very least you can put in every last bit of effort and buy yourself at least another month to six weeks of fun trying climb back into the race.  Remember, while it best to win the league, many leagues still have a strong incentive to finish second, third or fourth (and sometimes fifth depending on league format) assuming there is a prize pool on the line (or a minor league draft which is often the reward for that first spot out of the money).

With that, I present to you the Hail Mary Team.  This team is for the owners who are down deep in the standings and for whom it looks like nothing short of a miracle will save them.  The Hail Mary Team is a list of currently underperforming (and thus almost certainly undervalued) assets who can reasonably be believed to be in for a major upturn in the second half of the season as they regress toward their career mean (regression to the mean isn’t always negative).  Whether they are dealing with a rash of bad luck, injury, flat out poor play or all three, their track record says they are way better than this and thus why not invest, especially at a discounted rate?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula to determine if a team is a candidate for this method, so you will have to base it on your league and the standings are stratified (though feel free to contact me in the comments or on Twitter if you want my opinion on the matter).  Ideally, you would want to have the most points to gain the counting categories (HR, R, RBI, W, SV, K) as opposed to the rate stats (AVG or OBP, ERA & WHIP) because the rate stats will be much harder to move at this point and going forward.  As you pile up innings and at-bats, great performances, even the best of the best, have less impact on those three categories.  That doesn’t mean you want to be dead last in the counting stats, but ideally a few (if not all) would be nicely clumped to where a surge could earn you several points instead of needing 6 HR for 1 pt but then another 20 for the next pt and still 10 more the third point, etc… you get the point.

The guys on the HMT should be available via trade at less than full price in your league (and some may even be waiver wire assets).  What you might do is trade one of your decent guys (not stars) for two or even three (depending on the players involved) of these players so the end result is still a net gain (assuming the Hail Marys [Maries?] connect, of course).  You may already have some of these guys which has led to your issues in the first place.  Hang onto them, add more and hope to catch lightning in a bottle.  The really fun part here will be the building of this team since actually winning is a longshot.  So if you team is on the ropes and you love trading, then this is a strategy for you.

Don’t be afraid to trade your stars in this strategy, but make sure you get a mint and that the extra assets are filling for zeroes or close to it.  Also make sure to get the upper echelon Hail Mary Teamers for your stars.  Don’t trade off your solid Hunter Pence for two “Also Keep In Mind” guys.  That will make more sense when you see the players, but the main point is that if you are getting several assets to plug some of the many holes that buried you in the first place, then don’t trade your star asset or at least don’t trade him to the owner who won’t pay.  Ideally you would like to keep your two or three best assets while adding a handful of the HMT’ers to the equation.  As always, I am available on Twitter (@sporer) clarification or for advice on potential offers.

One other thing before we get to the team of players, this is best executed in redraft leagues for obvious reasons.  If you are toast or near toast in a keeper league, you should be building for 2012 (and reading my Keeper Building Block series to help you with that) as opposed to taking a flier on winning the league or pushing your way into a money spot.

I will break this up a bit, but the entire team will be out by Monday so you can spend your fourth of July day off working the trade wires (or hanging out by the pool with some cold ones… either or).

CATCHER:

Carlos Santana (CLE) – Right or wrong, fantasy managers still pay a lot of attention to batting average and let that be the primary indicator as to whether or not a guy is playing well.  Santana’s batting average is .226 meaning he could be discounted.  However, some owners may realize he has 11 home runs already and he’s on pace for 23 with 74 runs scored and batted in along with an unexpected six stolen bases which is damn good from catcher even with a bad batting average.  If your league’s Santana manager is one of those realizing his full value, just move along, I have another name for you to fall back on.

Mike Napoli (TEX) – He is coming off of a busted month where he only played eight games before getting hurt.  He is slated to started his rehab assignment soon so now is the time to pounce.  His owner might look at the .221 average and think, “Man, I knew he wouldn’t be a batting average asset, but I wanted better than this, plus he only has 10 homers, dude’s weak.”  Dude’s not weak.  He’s toting an .836 OPS and .365 wOBA despite that garbage average because he’s walking at a near-career high clip (15%) and smashing a bomb every 14 at-bats.

Also keep in mind: Joe Mauer.  I can’t imagine he is anywhere near full price.  Some people never discount big names, though.  But check in on his team’s manager, you never know.  He won’t offer the power potential of the other two, though, and his primary asset (batting average) is the toughest category to fix.

FIRST BASE:

Coincidentally, both Santana and Napoli qualify at first base so you could use one of them or go with the obvious name…

Adam Dunn (CHW) – Do I really need to enlighten you on why he’s on this team?  Seven seasons of 38+ home runs including five with 40+, he didn’t just forget how to play.  He’s never been great against lefties, but a career mark of .234 with an .800 OPS is a helluva better than the 1-for-53 superslump he is current mired in against southpaws.  He might suck the rest of the year, there’s a real chance of that when you see him play.  That’s why it is a Hail Mary Team, because he might also smash 20+ home runs and getting some BABIP fortune to push his current .262 BABIP closer to his .294 career mark.

Also keep in mind: Aubrey Huff.  Should be dirt cheap and he was great as recently as last year.

SECOND BASE:

Dan Uggla (ATL) – Going with the obvious name here again, but it’s the best fit so there’s no reason not to put him on this “team”.  He does have 12 home runs so he isn’t terribly far off the pace of the 31 average he has set the over the last five years, but it comes with a .178 average and modest RBI and runs scored paces of 55 and 69, respectively, so he certainly shouldn’t be untouchable.  He is basically on pace for Aaron Hill’s 2010 season at this point right down to the absurdly low .189 BABIP so there is a precedent for this kind of season out of a proven player, but his power upside is worth the gamble for this experiment.

Ryan Raburn (DET) – He has become the second half surge posterboy over the last two years.  Last year he ended the first half with a .637 OPS and just two home runs.  He went on to rip 13 home runs, drive in 46, hit .305 and post a .900 OPS in the second half.  In 2009, it wasn’t so much that he languished through the first half, he was solid (.842 OPS, 6 HR in 50 G), but he took it to another level in the second half.  From the trade deadline to season’s end, he hit .350 (in 55 games) with 10 home runs.  Something about the dog days of summer puts a spring in Raburn’s bat.  He has the added benefit of dual-eligibility at second base and in the outfield.

Also keep in mind: Kelly Johnson & Hill.  Johnson is another guy who might draw a discount because of his .210 batting average, but a more savvy owner (or just one paying attention) realizes that his 26 HR/16 SB pace takes a lot of the sting out of that batting average.  You won’t know if you don’t inquire.  Hill’s comically low 3.2% HR/FB can’t  stick all year can it?  Not after years of 15% and 11%, right?  Although he did go a full season with a 4% rate back in 2004 plus he loves being the outlier of bad luck in metrics (see also: his 2010 BABIP mentioned above).  He can be a last resort at this position.

 

Next: Shortstops & Third Basemen

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