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Friday, March 30, 2007

New Site: Fantasy Arbiter

I just came across I new site I thought I should let you know about. It's called the Fantasy Arbiter. Have you ever had a dispute in your league over which trades should be passed and which should be nullified? Without going into detail, my own opinion is that all trades should be allowed. The problem is not everyone feels the same way, and your league's commissioner is usually the only person whose opinion matters anyway. Send in your league and trade details to the Fantasy Arbiter and he will give an outsider's, objective opinion on the trade. This should be in interesting site to watch for.

Mailbag: Pick Up Hermanson?

Here's another Mailbag question from someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Make your opinion on this known by commenting!

This person writes:

I just discovered your site; really impressive work. If this year's f-ball blogs were second basemen, yours would be Chase Utley.

First a tip -- Dustin Hermanson has been quietly added to the Yahoo! player list and I believe is clearing waivers in most leagues tonight.

Now my question. Who will most likely close in Cincy this year?

In a deep 14-team mixed 5x5 keeper, my droppable pitchers are Dave Weathers, John Maine, and Josh Johnson. My hope with Johnson was that the Marlins would place him on the DL sooner so that I could stash him, but they are taking their time about it. Should I drop one of these guys to put a waiver move on Hermanson?"

I responded:

Great to hear you enjoy my blog. This is a good question. Bill Bray will be on the DL, so he is completely out of the running for now. This leaves Todd Coffey, Mike Stanton, David Weathers, and Dustin Hermanson as the options. Coffey I sincerely doubt will close, even though he is just as capable as the other guys. Early on the talk was that Stanton and Weathers would share the duty. Then Weathers became more of the frontrunner to take the brunt of the work. Then Hermanson was signed, and there were whispered that if he impressed in Spring Training he could quickly slide into the closer role. Since then there have been more whispers that he will soon be named the closer. There has not been an official announcement yet, but if the season opened today I would think Hermanson is the most likely to close. Whoever gets the job in Cincy will be on a very short leash, but in a 14-team league these guys are still worth roster spots.

That being said, you seem to have a slight dilemma. Dave Weathers seems the most obvious guy to drop, but he could just as easily be closing on Sunday, so it could backfire on you. Let's take a look at Maine and Johnson. Health issues aside, I think Johnson is the slightly better pitcher in that he has more room to improve. Both have K rates a little over 7 and BB rates in the mid-to-high 3s. Johnson though has the higher GB Rate, 45% to 37%. Assuming Johnson and Maine won't be your keepers, I think this leaves either Weathers or Johnson to be dropped. While Johnson is slightly better, he will provide much less value than Maine because he will not pitch as many innings as Maine will, provided Maine stays healthy.

So, Weathers or Johnson? Or neither? This depends a little on how many guys like Akinori Otsuka or Mike Gonzalez or Joel Zumaya are on waivers. In a 14-team league, chances are these guys are gone. If they are, then I think you need to get Hermanson. If a lot of these types of guys (guys who have a shaky closer ahead of them) are available, I don't see it necessary to rush to get Hermanson as there will be better, safer options popping up throughout the year.

It also depends on your Starting Pitching. Can you afford to lose Johnson and not get him back? How good is the rest of your staff? If a guy like Jamie Shields or Philip Hughes or Oliver Perez is still on waivers, I think you can afford to lose Johnson. But then we think about the debate over SPs vs. RPs. It is much worse to lose a decent SP than it is to miss out on a so-so RP. Will Johnson be picked up right away if dropped? Would you be able to get him back again to stash on the DL once Yahoo! makes him DL eligible?

This is a very tough decision, but I would probably lean towards dropping Weathers and grabbing Hermanson, then cross your fingers for him to close. He is a better option than Weathers; let’s just hope the Reds realize this. This is the safest move to make; you won't lose your SPs and you will have the closer most likely to get save opps early on in Hermanson. If Weathers is named the closer, you may even be able to scoop him back up on Sunday.

I hope this advice helps, and I hope I am steering you in the right direction, but the Reds have been so hush-hush on this it's difficult to tell."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Run Formula Update and Asking for Some Help

I believe I have the run formula near completion. I have it working now at around 95% for players who are not really fast. But the problem comes for players who are. The problem is that I am actually overestimating Runs for fast players, not underestimating them as I had originally thought I would. I think the problem may be with Steals because right now all steals are counted as Second Base Steals.

If anyone has come across a site that provides how many attempts and successes a player has stealing second as well as third, individually, please let me know so I can finish this formula up. I will be looking on my own, but I thought letting all of you know was a good idea as well.

Thanks for your help!

Gagne to Begin Year on DL

It was only a matter of time. Eric Gagne will begin the season on the Disabled List. The Rangers insist that he is not injured and that they just want him to pitch more innings to get ready. This is a great news for the opportunists out there. Snag Akinori Otsuka off your waiver wire if you are someone like me who didn't overspend on closers in your draft.

Otsuka will serve as the Rangers closer for at least two weeks, possibly longer. In this time he could get you an extremely cheap 8-10 saves paired with a low ERA and WHIP and a handful of Ks. You can't say this about some of the closers that were picked in the teens in your draft. Of course after two weeks Gagne will be back and Ostuka will return to his setup role, but in that time you will have picked up a bunch of cheap saves. Otsuka has a Fantasy Score of 9.87, good for a rank of 15 between Octavio Dotel and Huston Street.

If you monitor situations like these and are able to juggle your closers, you will be able to compete for top points in the Saves category for very little cost.

One More Post About Personal Team Advising

I've already posted about this twice, but with Opening Day on Sunday I thought I'd mention this one more time. If you would like me to serve as your Personal Fantasy Baseball Team Advisor throughout the season, giving detailed, specific advice about your league and your team, please contact me ASAP.

With enough interest this would become my summer job and I would have a nearly unlimited amount of time to spend with each and every one of you on helping you win your leagues. This would probably cost $15-$20, but you would be getting personalized attention like you couldn't get anywhere else.

You see the types of responses the Mailbag questions get; this is the type of service you would receive, except you would get it for every player on your roster and every potential trade or waiver wire pickup you could make. I will also propose trades and pickups that I think you should make.

I need to know very soon to see if this is a possibility. If I don't get enough interest I wouldn't be able to do this as I wouldn't be able to devote the amount of time I would like to you. So if you're interested, please contact me ASAP.
Email me at:
saberoticians [at] blogspot . com

Mailbag: Multi-Player Trade

Back with another edition of the Saberoticians Fantasy Baseball Mailbag. After this I'm getting back to work on the formulas and rankings. After reading feel free to comment on what you would do in this situation.

Luke Gloeckner wrote:
" Hey. First off: your blog is a lifesaver. There's some great knowledge on there. I just recently stumbled upon and have read through a great majority of it already. Awesome, awesome stuff!

Anyway, forgive me for doing so, but I wanted to talk through a situation with you. I'm in a keeper league that heavily favors pitching (notably, quality starts are worth more than any other stat). I'm one of those fools who ended up with Chris Young virtue of a pick in this year's draft. After drafting him, I was sifting through some stats and stumbled upon the BABIP leaders for last year and was floored by how he dwarfed the competition here. Then I found your article where you labeled him as over-hyped. So, I immediately put him on the trading block in my league (the rest of the league loved the pick when I got him) to see what value I could get for him (he is my fourth starter behind Santana, Lackey and Verlander).

The offer I was able to work out with someone is Chris Young, Ryan Zimmerman and Rocco Baldelli for Garrett Atkins, Kelvim Escobar and Mike Pelfrey. Keep in mind, this is a keeper league (we keep four or five players each year). The offer's sitting on the table as of right now and I was just wondering what your thoughts on the deal were, as I've found your advice and research very valuable.

Once again, I apologize for trying to make use of you as a sounding board for trade advice but I just wanted a non-partisan opinion and through your writing, I can see yours is respectable. Write back with your thoughts, if you get the chance.


My response:
"As I said on the blog, I am not a fan of Chris Young this year. He is alright, but is highly overrated. That being said, I think you've found yourself a very favorable deal. I believe I've mentioned Atkins before on the blog; he is fantastic. He should be a first round pick next year once people realize that he is for real. While Zimmerman is alright, he is no Atkins. I have Zimmerman down for a .287 BA and Atkins for .330-ish (I'm not at my normal computer right now to get the exact figure). While Zimmerman hit 50 2Bs and 3Bs and could take a leap in HRs, Atkins is already at a high power level and has an equally good chance to continue to hit more. Atkins also has the luxury of a superior lineup.

I have Escobar ranked around #20 and Young at #33, so I obviously see that as an upgrade. I like Pelfrey a lot too, if you read my Mets Preview of the Starting Rotation. It's difficult to tell how his numbers will translate to the majors, but he certainly has a ton of potential and is definitely a good guy to have in a keeper league (Philip Hughes is another guy I love in keeper leagues).

Baldelli is so-so, not a ton of power and not a fantastic contact hitter. He's expendable for sure.

Definately do this trade.

Looking at the rest of your rotation, my advice would be to make a few more trades. I'm not big on Verlander unless he can eventually get his K/9 up to the 8.00 - 9.00 level, which seems somewhat unlikely. There are much better pitchers out there. Same goes for Lackey, who is certainly a decent pitcher but not someone you should be relying on as a #2 (after this trade Escobar will actually be your second best pitcher). Take a look at my Starting Pitcher Rankings; I think you'll find some guys who could provide better value than Lackey or Verlander. Felix, Hamels, Kazmir, and Myers are all great young guys who are better than these two. Verlander and Lackey are both highly rated for now, so I would definitely recommend trading them both (Verlander even more so) if at all possible.

Santana is obviously a great pitcher, but I don't have him on any of my teams. His value is so high right now I actually would look into a possible trade. You could get two great players for him. I don't know how your offense is, but if it's good I would try to grab two pitchers. Felix Hernandez would be awesome, especially in a keeper league. If you could get Felix and a Hamels/Kazmir/Myers type you would be in great shape. If you could get two of these for Verlander and Lackey you probably wouldn't even need to trade Santana, unless you wanted to get an elite hitter and another good pitcher for him.

A rotation of:
Santana, Felix, Myers, Escobar is very good, but

A rotation of:
Peavy, Felix, Myers, Escobar is also very good and could net you another top hitter for your offense.

Anyway, I think I've given you a little bit to think about.

Essentially, I would advise you to make this trade and look into a few more. I hope this advice helps! Let me know how everything turns out for you!"

Please let your thoughts on this matter be heard! Comment away!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rate My Team

Hey guys. I figured I'd give you something to look at having not posted much in the last 36 hours. This is one of my teams this year. This league is a 5x5, Roto Style, 10-team league.

C - Mike Piazza
1B - Lance Berkman
2B - Ray Durham
3B - Edwin Encarnacion
SS - Bill Hall
CI - Jason Giambi
MI - Ryan Freel
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - Kenny Lofton
RF - Bobby Abreu
OF - Barry Bonds
OF - Adam Dunn
UT - Frank Thomas
BN - Adam LaRoche
BN - Pat Burrell
BN - Chris Duncan

SP - Jake Peavy
SP - Felix Hernandez
RP - Octavio Dotel
RP - Akinori Otsuka
P - Curt Schilling
P - Brett Myers
P - Javier Vazquez
BN - Scott Olsen
BN - Mike Pelfrey

Alright, let me know what you think of my team. I am currently trying to get a base stealer after missing out on Carlos Beltran early. A Juan Pierre type I think would fit nicely with this team, especially considering Kenny Lofton is my current CF. Anyway, my draft was conducted before my I finished my hitter rankings (which I believe I made some great strides on today), so my offense may or may not fit with my rankings exactly. All of these guys I believe are good baseball players. Let's hope that my rankings find they are good fantasy players too!

No Posts Today... Hard at Work on Rankings

Sorry, no posts today. I'm working hard on the rankings to try and get them to you by Opening Day. Let's hope I am able to meet that goal. I got a late start on things this year. Next year I'll be doing everything in November or December and making minor adjustments as necessary. If any big news breaks today I'll let you know the fantasy impact of it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Jorge Julio to Marlins

The Marlins acquired Jorge Julio for SP Yusmeiro Petit, whom them acquired last off-season from the Mets in the Carlos Delgado deal. It is assumed that Julio will close for the Marlins, who hadn't yet named a closer.

I don't see this as a necessary move as Gregg, Lindstrom, or Owens could have been a serviceable closer for the Fish. With the move though, Julio puts himself into a very good fantasy spot. He has now been added to the Saberoticians Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings. He has a Fantasy Score of 8.71 and is ranked #20. We expect a K/9 around 9.00, a BB/9 around 4.3, and a GB Percentage around 40%.

If you are in need of a closer and Julio is still on your waiver wire when you read this, I suggest you grab him. With a pretty good offense and decent pitching, Julio should pick up a good number of saves. He's also got some talent, contrary to the beliefs of many casual observers. Let's just hope that new Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't one of these people.

If Julio does lose his job, Taylor Tankersley, Gregg, Lindstrom, or Owens would most likely take over and be just as valuable - if not more so - than Julio.

RBI and Run Formula Update

Again everyone, I am terribly sorry the hitter rankings are taking this long. I've been running into unforseen problems. I believe I have the RBI and Run formulas done, but I'm having some difficulty with my database. I'm trying to resolve this today, and hopefully I will be able to. I'll keep you posted.

Mailbag: Furcal or Wang?

Here's another mailbag question. Keep them coming! I do my best to answer all of them and some I'll post on here, with your consent.

Evan wrote:

Thanks for the blog, helped me out during my draft. I've done fantasy
baseball before, but this year I'm taking it more seriously than in
the past (or at least I am for now).

I was wondering if you could post some advice about injured players.
I'm in a Yahoo head-to-head league, and I've got both Furcal and
Chien-Ming Wang on my team. The league has one DL spot, but I don't
have a backup shortstop. I'm not asking for any detailed advice, but
do you think I should hold on to both?"

I responded:

"I know exactly what I would do; I would try to get rid of Chien-Ming Wang. I don't like Wang as he will kill you in Ks. His ERA won't be that good - over 4 - and his WHIP will be over 1.30. Combined with a K/9 under 4 and you have a pitcher that doesn't deserve a roster spot. He will pick up wins playing on the Yankees, but I don't believe this justifies the hype surrounding him. I would immediately start trying to trade Wang. Take a look at my Starting Pitcher Rankings and see if you can get a guy like Curt Schilling. Felix Hernandez would be great, but I doubt his owner would bite on that. If you can't nab Schilling, try for Mussina and then A.J. Burnett. Since it's a Yahoo! league you may be able to get a little extra with Burnett as they had him ranked low.

I like Furcal a lot this year. I have him down for a .299 Batting Average and a bunch of Steals. He also has a decent amount of pop for a SS and 12-15 HRs seems likely. He hits in a good lineup and a 100 Runs pace shouldn't be hard to come by, although my formula is still a work in progress. He won't get a ton of RBIs, but he still should be a top 5, possibly top 3 SS. Definitely keep Furcal and stash him on the DL if he misses any time, although yesterday he said he should be ready for Opening Day."

Let me know what you guys would do! And keep those Mailbag questions coming!

Closer Updates

David Weathers looks to be the frontrunner for the Reds closer job for now, but Dustin Hermanson could take the job at some point. He would be a slightly better fantasy prospect than Weathers would, but I would suggest steering clear of this situation if possible. Hermanson has been added to the closer rankings, however.

The same goes for the Devil Rays. Joe Maddon said today that he would "mix and match in the beginning." Not a situation that is favorable to fantasy owners to say the least. Al Reyes has also emerged as an option and would surely be a better one than Seth McClung. I'll work on adding Reyes to the rankings shortly.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

No Weekend Posts?

Sorry for the lack of posts this weekend. I'm working very hard on getting these rankings done, but it's becoming a much larger task than I thought it would be. I'm trying very hard to have them for you by the end of the week, so hopefully I'll reach that goal. I'll post some normal content tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Look at ProTrades All-Unlucky Team vs. Saberoticians Stats

A couple of hours ago I ran a comparison on ProTrades All-Lucky Team and the Saberoticians findings. The results were very similar. Now we'll take a look at ProTrade's All-Unlucky Team and how it compares to our findings. The format is the same: Position, Player, ProTrade Expected Batting Average, Saberoticians Expected Average.

C - Mike Piazza - .308 - .307
1B - Jason Giambi - .270 - .271
2B - Josh Barfield - .297 - .280
SS - Jimmy Rollins - .289 - .300
3B - Garrett Atkins - .339 - .324
OF - Carlos Beltran - .298 - .288
OF - Andruw Jones - .279 - .293
OF - Adam Dunn - .248 - .249

We see similar results to the All-Lucky Team. Mike Piazza, Jason Giambi, and Adam Dunn are within .001 of each other. Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran are within .011 of each other. With Garrett Atkins there is a .015 difference, although we both agree he was amazing.

I'm unsure why Barfield is so high for them, but their system is different than mine. I see an 80% Contact Rate, 18% Line Drive Rate, 6% BB Rate, 11 Flyball HRs and 13 Infield Hits. In my system this equates to a .280 Average. Perhaps the balls he put in play were extraordinarily well-hit and they just didn't fall. These types of things don't show up in my system as I don't have access to every batted ball.

Things can get a little murky when dealing with guys with speed. Beltran, Rollins, and Jones all have wheels, and Barfield isn't slow either.

All in all though, I think we see that batted balls provide an interesting look at things, but we can also get pretty darn close using these ratios too.

ProTrade's All-Lucky Team = Very Similar to Our Findings

I just read a post over at ProTrade. "PROTRADE has mapped out every inch of the diamond, charting every batted ball in the majors over the past five years, calculating the probability that given their distance, direction and hardness, they become hits or outs."

This is very similar to the type of thing I advocated in my Power Hitting Sabermetrics Explanation.

Anyway, after reading the results of this team and checking my own data, I found that ProTrade has come up with very similar results to me. Below is a list of all of the players listed on their 2006 MLB All-Lucky Team, ProTrade's Expected Batting Average, and the Saberoticians Expected Batting Average.

C - Joe Mauer - .312 - .313
1B - Jim Thome - .267 - .264
2B - Dan Uggla - .250 - .272
SS - Hanley Ramirez - .265 - .276
3B - Mark Teahen - .265 - .257
LF - Manny Ramirez - .297 - .309
CF - Gary Matthews Jr. - .262 - .281
RF - Bobby Abreu - .276 - .277

We see that ProTrade and the Saberoticians agree almost exactly on Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Mark Teahen, and Bobby Abreu.

ProTrade admitted that Speed was not incorporated into their Expected Batting Averages, just batted balls. I do incorporate speed into mine in the form of Infield Hits - groundballs legged out by fast players. The players we disagree on by more than .010 - Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Gary Matthews Jr. - all legged out a good amount of groundballs.

We are .012 apart on Manny Ramirez... not bad. We both agree he shouldn't have hit as high as he did last year.

All in all, I love what this article presents. This is something I will dig deeper into, but I think it shows that the way I do things now is also very accurate.

More on Personal Fantasy Team Advisor

A few days ago I posted about how I would be willing to serve as a Personal Fantasy Team Advisor to readers. I would have contact with you every day, giving you in-depth advice on the best moves for you to make. Which of your players should be traded, which should be held on to, who to target in trades, who would be a good waiver wire pickup, and everything else that would be needed to help you win your league.

I have received emails from a few people who said they would be interested, but I thought I might know why others are hesitant.

Since I haven't had time to post a ton of content of late, people might be hesitant to take me up on this offer. They might be afraid that I wouldn't have time for them and they would be wasting there money. THIS IS NOT THE CASE! My lack of posts of late is due to a ton of studying and papers that I've needed to get done. Keeping up a 4.0 GPA isn't the easiest of tasks. If enough people accept my offer, school will be over, and this would serve as my summer job. I would have all the time in the world to help you.

The advice you will receive will not be like what I post on here. What I post on here is generalized to help everyone. What I will give you is individual advice that relates to your specific team and league setup that goes beyond what you will read here (or on any Fantasy Baseball Blog for that matter).

So if you are interested, please email me. The cost will probably range from $15 to 20$. Email me and let me know what you think of this offer! If I get enough interest, we will get started ASAP. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Papelbon to Close

ESPN is reporting that Jonathan Papelbon will return to his role as the Boston Red Sox closer. This makes the closer pool a little deeper, as Papelbon is a quality option. I still wouldn't recommend drafting him simply because closers aren't worth early picks, as I've mentioned numerous times before.

Papelbon is good though, posting a 9.88 K/9 and a 1.71 BB/9 in 2006. His walks will probably increase, but his Ks will probably hover between 9 and 10. His GB Percentage is not good (37%), but his great command and strikeout numbers make up for it. He's already on my Closer Rankings; I'll just remove the rest of the Red Sox.

This takes a small chip out of the stock of a guy like Jorge Julio who was a potential trade target of the Red Sox. There are still teams interested in trading for a closer, but the Red Sox are one team you can remove from this list.

Overhyped Player: SP Chris Young

San Diego's Chris Young.
  • has him at #16 (ahead of Schilling, Felix, Sheets, Myers, Burnett, Escobar, and Harden)
  • Brandon Funston at Yahoo! has him as #18 (in the same tier as Smoltz, Sheets, and Felix and one ahead of Schilling)
  • ESPN has him at #18 (ahead of Sabathia, Hamels, Burnett, Schilling, Mussina, and Vazquez)
  • RotoWorld has him at #23 (ahead of Kazmir, Hamels, Haren, and Burnett)
  • The Saberoticians have him at #33 (behind all of the aformentioned players)

  • Chris Young is a decent pitcher with a little upside. He is entering his third year, a prime breakout year, but as we know this doesn't always lead to success.

    Young is very good a striking guys out (8.23 K/9 in 2006), but his command isn't bad. He had a 3.46 BB/9 in 2006, but had a 2.46 BB/9 in 2005. He will need to get back to that level in order to be successful this year. He has a horrendous GB Percentage - 25.4% in 2006! It is very difficult to become a good pitcher with a GB Percentage that low. It was 32.7% in 2005, but even that is terrible.

    Chris Young was aided last year by an absurd .228 Batting Average on Balls in Play. League average is close to .290. Chris Young's ERA could have been near 5.00 had his BABIP been .290 and we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion right now. He have up one more HR than he should have, and I wouldn't expect any fewer than 30 HRs for 2007 in Young pitchers 200 innings.

    All in all, Young is a decent pitcher with room to improve on his BB/9 and might even jump a little in K/9 (although a slight regression is also possible). He is just being drafted too early for my liking, and hopefully for yours too.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Overhyped Player: Ervin Santana

    I have read on a few sites recently some praise for Ervin Santana. The argument dictates how Santana is a third year starting pitcher who had decent numbers last year and should improve upon them this year. Some have even said Santana could wind up in the Top 20 SPs by year's end.

    I disagree. Santana is a decent pitcher, but nothing more. I doubt he will ever become something more. Most of his numbers seem to have reached their ceiling. The first is Groundball Percentage. This is something that rarely fluctuates more than a few points unless new pitches are added to a guy's repertoire. Santana's was 36.6% in 2005 and 38.4% in 2006. Not very good. I don't see much improvement here.

    To make up for a low GB Percentage, a pitcher has to strike a lot of guys out and keep his walk rate fairly low in order to become a top pitcher. Santana had a 6.22 K/9. While a spike is possible, I highly doubt Santana will get that around 8 where it needs to be. I even see 7 as a stretch. Guys don't just all of a sudden start striking more guys out because they've been in the league for two years. Doesn't happen very often.

    That's two strikes against Santana. To retaliate from this he needs impeccable control... which he doesn't have. Control is the most likely of the three most important stats to improve upon. Santana had a 3.09 BB/9 in 2006, which is decent. That gave him a 2.01 K/BB.

    If he could get his K/9 to 7.00 and his BB/9 to 2.5, he could be pretty effective. But even if that happened, he still wouldn't be a Top 20 SP. He probably wouldn't even be a Top 30 SP.

    So why are people so high on Santana? Because his surface numbers last year (4.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 HRs) look pretty good. What these people aren't looking at is his .266 BABIP - well below average - and his 29 Expected Home Runs. He should have given up 8 more HRs and a ton more hits. This will even out this year and Santana could fall into Fantasy Baseball obscurity if he doesn't improve his peripherals.

    Don't buy into the false hype. Avoid Ervin Santana.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Sleeper Alert: Akinori Otsuka

    Today the Star Ledger mentioned that Akinori Otsuka could end up closing games for the Boston Red Sox, the Florida Marlins, or the Cleveland Indians if Eric Gagne proves he is healthy.

    I took Otsuka in my own league because of this possible scenario. Best case is he gets traded to a team like one of these three with good offenses and pretty good pitching. He should get a lot of save opportunities there, and he is a great pitcher to boot.

    If he doesn't get traded because Gagne can't prove he's healthy, Otsuka will be closing for the Rangers. Not as good as the Sox, but not bad either. He'd still get a bunch of save opportunities.

    Otsuka's current Fantasy Score is 9.87, which would put him between Octavio Dotel and Huston Street. His K/9 has been dropping since his rookie year (7.09 in 2006) but he made up for it with a stellar BB/9 in 2006 (1.66). His K/9 could pop back up over 8, and his BB/9 could rise to around 3, but as long as he can keep his K/BB around 3 with no trips south of 2, he should be a great option that you can get for cheap. His career 49.6% Groundball Percentage also helps him out a great deal. If his K/9 were to get back around 9 and his BB/9 stayed around its 2006 level (a somewhat unlikely scenario), Otsuka would probably be one of the Top 5-7 closing options out there.

    Take a flier on Akinori Otsuka in deeper leagues after the closers with job security are gone. There's a decent chance he'll wrack up the saves somewhere in 2007.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Mailbag: Felix for Aramis?

    A reader who asked to be left anonymous wrote:

    "Hi Derek,

    I love your blog. I've been a huge fantasy baseball fan for about 10 years now, but ever since my first year I haven't been able to do better than 4th place. I wonder if you might give me some advice on a possible trade.

    I'm in an 8-team league. I think my team is pretty strong except that I'm weak at 3rd base. Right now my I have Freddy Sanchez at that position. Ideally, I'd like to use him as a rover between 2B, SS, and 3B. I'm wondering if I should make a trade to get a better 3B. One of the other teams in my league offered me Aramis Ramirez for Felix Hernandez. I like Felix but his numbers weren't great last year. My other SP are Smoltz, Harden, Myers, Cain, and Jered Weaver. We only have 4 SP positions and so now I have two on the bench. Would you make the trade?"

    I responded:
    "Happy to hear you like my blog. First, you should know that my hitter rankings aren't completed yet as my RBI and Run formulas are still being created/finished. That being said, Aramis Ramirez is a very good 3B. Great Contact and Line Drive Rates with lots of power. He is also fairly good at drawing a walk.

    He has good hitters ahead of him in Soriano and Lee, and Murton could be pretty decent as well. Over 100 RBIs should be expected, but I don't have an exact figure yet. His Runs should be decent. Jones has some power and Barrett is one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. DeRosa is a decent hitter but doesn't have a ton of power (Barrett doesn't really either). His Runs should be pretty good because he gets on base and has decent players behind him, but again I don't have an exact figure.

    I love Felix Hernandez. I have him ranked as my #4 SP, and I think trading him for Ramirez would be a mistake. While his surface numbers last year weren't great, his peripherals were and I expect him to contend with Johan Santana for the Cy Young this year.
    Smoltz and Myers are also great pitchers. Harden is very good as well (Top 15). Let's just hope he can stay healthy. I'm not super big on Cain or Weaver. I would probably counteroffer with both of those two for Ramirez (and someone else if you can swing it).

    Another option would be to seek another 3B. My favorite choice this year is Garrett Atkins. I'd offer those two for Atkins first, and if it is denied try for Ramirez. If you can't find a deal that works for either of those two, my next target would be Chipper Jones. He would be much cheaper than Atkins or Aramis. You might be able to get him for just one of Cain or Weaver. Aramis and Chipper might be a little injury prone, but you have Sanchez who could step in if they get hurt. Edwin Encarnacion would also be a great backup for either of those two if he is on your waiver wire.

    That would still leave you with:
    with possibly Cain/Weaver on the Bench.

    I don't know what your maximum total innings limit is, but if it is low you could afford to lose both Cain and Weaver with this rotation. Just make sure to pick up Philip Hughes in June and Roger Clemens in April or June if he is available. Pedro Martinez the last couple weeks of the year could also help out. Check my site throughout the season for my top Waiver Wire Pickups.
    If you are able to keep one of Cain or Weaver I would recommend trading him for Schilling, Mussina, Burnett, Vazquez, or Kelvim Escobar, in that order. Oh, and if Dave Bush is on your waiver wire (he might be in an 8 team league) pick him up.

    One last option:
    If you could turn Cain or Weaver into Curt Schilling you could probably afford to trade Smoltz and the other one (Cain/Weaver) for Atkins or possibly Aramis."

    I wrote more about Felix Hernandez here, which may have gotten overlooked by many of you as it was my first post about a player.

    If you have a agree or have a different opinion than me please feel free to post away!

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Sorry for the Slow Weekend...

    Sorry for the slow weekend. I've been trying to manage some work and the NCAA Tournament - the best weekend of the year - and haven't had a ton of time to post here. I have run a study on Power Hitting that I'll be posting tomorrow or Tuesday, and I'll be running another that should be posted tomorrow or the next day as well.

    The Runs and RBI formulas are coming along nicely; the biggest problem of late has been how to set up my database to automatically generate the numbers for all players based on my formula. I think I've figured out how to do this, but I don't think I'll have the rankings ready by at least Saturday.

    Thanks. I'll be sure to post a good amount tomorrow!

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Explanation of Sabermetrics - Power Hitting

    (NOTE: I realize a small error in my queries, so some of the numbers I had posted were incorrect. I fixed the error and corrected the numbers, but there was little difference in the results.)

    Ask almost any sabermetrician what the most difficult facet of baseball to predict is. You will hear one answer from almost every single one: season to season pitcher performance. While I will certainly agree that this is a very difficult thing to predict, I have found trouble in predicting something else, something from the other side of home plate: power hitting.

    While contact hitting remains fairly constant over the years, a hitter's ability to hit for power is always fluctuating. Younger guys are developing power, older guys are losing power. Contact hitting is much more basic. Either you are a good contact hitter or you are not. Sure, you can change your swing or learn more about it as you mature, but overall the ability to hit for contact is fairly linear. A poor contact hitter one year isn't going to become a good one the next. But a player who is a poor power hitter can become a good one the next year, which is what makes power hitting such an interesting - and difficult to study - topic.

    So how do you predict power, and why is it so difficult? The most basic way is to use Doubles, Triples, or a combination of the two. The thinking behind this is that as a player matures and gets stronger, these Extra Base Hits will have enough power behind them to clear the fence instead of staying in the yard for a multi-bagger. I tested this theory among players with at least 200 At-Bats in 2004, 2005, and 2006. 73 of these players increase their AB/2B from 2004 to 2005 by more than 1.5 points. From 2005 to 2006, just 27 of these players increased their AB/HR. That’s just 37%. If 2Bs are supposed to predict power, why were they only successful 37% of the time?

    Doubles and Triples, I believe, are not the best source for power prediction. Approximately 14% of all doubles are groundballs, and as we know groundballs can never be converted into a home run. Doubles are especially tricky when looking at hitters who have some speed. They may hit a line drive or a bloop into the shallow part of the outfield that would be a single for slow batters, but because of their speed are able to turn it into a double. This is nice to be able to do, but it has nothing to do with potential future home run power. Or, these same players may actually hit a ball well, but because of their speed turn their double into a triple.

    This begs two questions. One, what if we exclude fast players from our sample? I took out any player who had 20 or more steals in any of the 3 years, and the percentage actually decreased to 35%.

    The second question is why don’t we include triples? Well, because triples are even more flawed than doubles are. Triples are almost the sole property of fast players. Slower players will very rarely hit a triple and will almost never hit more several in a season. Again though, why not include them? They just seem to be an extension of doubles for fast players. The problem is that 42% of triples are groundballs, usually hit down the first base line and into the corner in right field so that the fast runner has a chance to make it to third. This has nothing to do with the type of power we are talking about.

    If we do include 3Bs and exclude fast players, we get 59 players increasing their AB/(2B+3B) from 2004 to 2005 and 19 increasing their AB/HR from 2005 to 2006. That's about 32%.

    If the flaws with doubles and triples aren't enough to persuade you, there is a whole other category of hits that prove troublesome that you won't be able to find in any box score or stat sheet. Thus far I have ignored the most important condition of a double... that it is a ball in play. Balls in play are never to be entirely trusted because once they are put in play, they are out of the control of the pitcher and the batter and put into the hands of luck and defense, a sabermetrician's biggest adversary. There are plenty of well-hit balls that do not fall for hits because of bad luck or amazing defense. On the flip-side of the coin, there are plenty of balls that fall for hits that don't deserve to because of that slow, injury-ridden left fielder that happened to be playing at the time the ball was put into play. Essentially, because doubles and triples are balls in play, they will never be capable of being fully trusted.

    So basically, a plethora of stats seem to be either flawed or meaningless that were otherwise thought to be useful… some even considered to be "sabermetric" in nature. Here is a list of a few common ones:

    • Doubles
    • Triples
    • Total Bases
    • Slugging Percentage
    • Isolated Power
    • On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS)
    • Secondary Average

    Now I realize I have done a good job bashing doubles and triples, but the fact remains: they are our only guide to go on for predicting power. So how should we go about prediciting power if 2Bs and 3Bs aren’t very accurate? The answer to that, right now, is that we can't - at least with the primitive stats that we have to work with. With access to batted ball data for every player, we would be able to set parameters for what is considered a well-hit ball, add up all of these for each player, and defining power could conceivably be quite easy from there. This seems to be the only sure-fire way to see who the players who have a true chance of developing - or losing - power are.

    Hit Tracker is a service that seems to have realized exactly what I am talking about. Last year they tracked every home run hit by every player and, using physical science, determined each Home Run’s “True Distance,” in addition to a number of other bits of information about the hit. We use this data to determine our “True Home Run” stat. We take each home run’s true distance and the location where it went over the fence and place it into a theoretical, Average MLB Ballpark. From there, we can determine how many would have actually gone out in this ballpark and which wouldn’t have.

    The problem with this is that only Home Runs are included by Hit Tracker. To get a true sense of a hitter’s power, we’d need this data on all airballs, not just the ones to clear the fence. What about the ones that should have but didn’t? Hit Tracker will be correcting this in 2007 by tracking all airballs, but unless they do this for past years, it may be a while before we can develop a very accurate power prediction system.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    New Idea - Looking for Input

    I came up with an idea that I wanted to run by you guys. If I were to offer personalized advice for you fantasy team, would you be interested? You send me all the details of your league and your full roster, and I'll work with you throughout the entire season to try and help you win your league. We'd have regular email contact, and I'd offer my advice on which of your players would be good to trade, which to hang onto, who to target in trades, and who would make for good waiver wire pickups. I will be doing a little of this throughout the season on this blog for everyone, but I won't be able to answer all of your questions and help your team, specifically, that way. With this new idea I would help you every step of the way.

    If anyone would be interested in this let me know, either via email or just leave a comment. I'd probably have to charge $10 or $15, but I think it'd be worth it if it helped you win your league.

    Thanks for your input!

    My Team's Pitching Staff

    I've been posting rankings and advice and reasons behind them, but I've never actually mentioned any of my own teams. Today I'll go over my pitching staff in my favorite league. I play in it with a bunch of my friends, and I find this to be the most fun league I play in. Here's my pitching staff in addition to the round I took him in.

    This is a Yahoo! league with the following roster spots:
    C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, LF, CF, RF, OF, OF, UT
    SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P
    5 Bench Spots

    It is a 10-team league and our draft lasted 25 rounds. I had the 10th pick. Two rounds are given as I had back-to-back picks and it didn't matter which of the two rounds I technically took him in.

    3/4. Jake Peavy - perhaps a round early, but I wanted him badly.
    5/6. Felix Hernandez - Yahoo! has him ranked very highly and he was the second pitcher left on Yahoo!s board when I took him; I couldn't risk not getting him in the next round as I'd planned.
    9/10. Curt Schilling - I love Schilling, and I think he is a steal here.
    9/10. Brett Myers - Myers had normally been going in Round 8 in 10 team leagues, and I thought he was a good value here. I also knew that my friend was targeting Burnett, Bush, Escobar, and Vazquez late, so taking Myers here insured I wouldn't end up with too few quality pitchers. I hadn't intended on taking Myers, but with Chipper Jones gone and my next few targets a reach here, Myers seemed like the right pick.
    17/18. Javier Vazquez - As I suspected, A.J. Burnett was taken the pick before by my friend and I had to settle for Vazquez. Kelvim Escobar was taken by the same friend with the second pick of Round 18. Surprisingly, another friend liked Bush more than I do and took him in Round 16. Looks like Myers was a good pick.
    19/20. Octavio Dotel - Valverde went in Round 16, earlier than I would have liked, and my friend who took Burnett and Escobar took Saito right before I could here. I settled for my third choice, Dotel. Not a huge problem, as I will surely find some good bargains on the waiver wire throughout the year.
    21/22. Scott Olsen - I'd rather have Escobar, Vazquez, or Bush as my #5 SP, but I could do worse than Olsen.
    23/24. Derek Lowe - Not who I wanted to get, but he will provide a good ERA. Considering the K-machine I'd built throughout the draft, I could afford an average amount of Ks from Lowe. His WHIP will be decent, not great. Could have done worse. Philip Hughes or possibly Mike Pelfrey will most likely take his spot on my roster later in the year. Roger Clemens could as well if the guy who drafted him gets sick of waiting and drops him.
    25 - Akinori Otsuka - Last pick of the draft, no closers left who are guaranteed a job... Otsuka seemed like a decent pick. I don't intend for him to be on my roster on April 1st, but seeing as how my draft was held in Mid-February I thought I'd see how Eric Gagne held up through Spring Training. I will probably drop him within the next couple weeks and pick up Kevin Gregg if Gagne doesn't get hurt and the Marlins give Gregg the job to start the season. My league - correctly - doesn't value Middle Relievers very highly, and Otsuka should still be there should Gagne go down later in the year.

    The staff I hoped to get:
    SP Peavy
    SP Felix
    RP Valverde
    RP Saito
    P Schilling
    P Burnett
    P Vazquez
    BN Escobar
    BN Bush/Olsen/Dotel

    The staff I ended up with:
    SP Peavy
    SP Felix
    RP Dotel
    RP Otsuka (Gregg)
    P Schilling
    P Myers
    P Vazquez
    BN Olsen
    BN Lowe

    Overall I think I did pretty well. I missed my closers, but I should be able to get some quality guys throughout the year, as I've been preaching for a while now.

    If you have any questions or comments about my team's pitching, feel free to let me know!

    Now, back to some more March Madness action! I might post a little during the break from 5 to 7. I'll also be working on the Run and RBI formulas.

    Closer Updates

    Julian Tavarez is apparently the frontrunner now for the Red Sox closer job. I have added him to my closer rankings, but he doesn't seem to be much better than any of the other Red Sox options. I still expect a trade if Papelbon isn't healthy enough to do the job. Armando Benitez may be an option, but no deal has been discussed yet.

    J.J. Putz had an MRI this morning. The Mariners will regret trading Rafael Soriano if Putz goes down for a while. Chris Reitsma seems to be the most likely to fill the role, but he is only an average fantasy option. Arthur Rhodes is also a possibility and a slightly better fantasy option. They have both been added to the Closer Rankings. The Mariners won't pursue Armando Benitez. The news about Putz is just another reason why I dislike taking closers early.

    Jorge Julio is being discussed as a trade target by the Marlins. I don't believe they need Julio, but if they get him he would most likely step right into the closer's role. His Fantasy Score is 8.71, which would put him between Kevin Gregg (the current Marlins front runner) and Jason Isringhausen. He would make a pretty good fantasy option if he landed a closer job somewhere. The Giants have also talked about Julio in case they trade Armando Benitez.

    Brian Stokes is now a closer option for the Devil Rays after being converted from a starter. He has poor control and doesn't strike out a lot of guys. He is decent at inducing groundballs, but I don't think he's much of an improvement over Seth McClung.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Great News! - Runs Scored Formula

    I have some great news tonight! I believe I have finally figured out the Runs Scored formula that I have been trying to calculate. I still have some more tests to run on it, and I've only tested in on 3 players so far. But of those players it is about 94% accurate. There are a few little things I want to add to try and get this percentage up around 96% or 97%, but I believe I have a very workable formula at the moment. I'll keep you posted.

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Sorry for the slow day...

    Sorry there haven't been any posts today. I'm not feeling well and have just crawled out of bed. I'll be posting on Moises Alou in a little while, and I'll put up my full Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings shortly after that. If I'm feeling up to it I'll try to do a little something else later tonight. Sorry to keep you waiting...

    Sleeper Alert - Moises Alou

    Moises Alou is 40 years old. Moises Alou is moving to a pitcher's park. Moises Alou only played in 98 games last year. Moises Alou only had 345 At-Bats last year. Moises Alou has an injury background. Moises Alou will hit over .300 next year.

    Which of these statements doesn't belong? Well, the last statement is the only positive one about Alou, so perhaps that's the right answer. Or, it's a trick question, and all of these statements are true. Yeah, that's it.

    Alou is an amazing contact hitter. 89% Contact and a nearly 20% Line Drive Percentage. He's also got a 10% BB/TPA. His BB/TPA dropped to 8% last year as his P/PA dropped to 3.28, but if that bounces back a little bit Alou could contend for the batting title.

    He also has some good power for a guy his age. He hit 18 True HRs last year, and since I expect him to play in more than 98 games, that number should be around 20-25 in 2007. Throw in the great lineup he is playing in for the Mets and Alou should have plenty of RBI and Run opportunities.

    The only drawback to Alou is that he won't play everyday. So what kind of strategy should you employ with him? Pair him and a guy like Barry Bonds, who also won't play everyday. Those two combined will provide you with a ton of production at a fraction of the price.

    Friday, March 9, 2007

    Player Strategy Update - Takashi Saito

    Version 3 of the Expert ADP Report just came out, and we have an update on Takashi Saito. He is going in Round 10, on average, in a 12-team draft. I now recommend everyone stay away from Saito as he is going much too early. If you are in a Yahoo! league, however, his Yahoo! rank puts him in Round 18. If he is still there in Round 17 or 18, pull the trigger on him.

    If Saito is gone, be sure to target Jose Valverde in Round 17 or 18, as well as Octavio Dotel in the same area. If you aren't able to snag two of those guys, it might be a smart move to grab Ryan Dempster in Round 22 or 23.

    Other closers of note include Jason Isringhausen in Round 17, Salomon Torres in Round 19, and Armando Benitez in Round 23. Of those choices, as long as I got Valverde, Saito, or Dotel, I would probably take Dempster in Round 22.

    Don't panic if Dempster is gone or if you have another player that is too much of a value to pass up on. Even the intelligence of picking Dempster could be argued considering all of the guys who will get a chance to close this year. If you read the post before this - Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings - you'll notice that there are tons of Closer jobs that are either still being fought over or will open up due to injury or poor performance.

    While Mike Timlin isn't the most talented player, the Red Sox closer is bound to get at least 35 or 40 opportunities to close games and he could be a good choice in the closing rounds of a draft, although his job security isn't very good. I doubt the Red Sox will be relying on Timlin down the stretch. Could a trade for a guy like Octavio Dotel be in the cards, maybe?

    The winner of the Marlins job is also bound to get a decent amount of save opportunities with a pretty good offense and some decent starting pitchers. All of their options seem to be more talented than Timlin. Kevin Gregg is the front runner now, but Henry Owens is a great pitcher too should he win the job. Taylor Tankersley was one of my targets in drafts a few months back, so if he should recover well from his injury and take the job be sure to pick him up right away. If Gregg doesn't get drafted and ends up winning the job, makes sure to grab him. He might even be a better option than Dempster in the draft. You're just taking the risk he doesn't close games come April 1st.

    Anyway, I think that should be enough Closer talk for a while. I sure seem to have talked a lot about end-game stoppers considering how overvalued I think they are.

    Fantasy Gameday for Version 3 of the Experts ADP Report.

    Fantasy Baseball Rankings - Closers

    These rankings are more for informational purposes than anything else, as we don't advocate taking closers early. For more Closer information, read these two articles we've recently written on the subject. In short, wait until the late rounds of the draft to take closers.

    Draft Day Strategy - Closers
    Sleeper Alert - Late Round Closers

    Like our Starting Pitcher Rankings, these don't take injury risk into account. While Gagne is #1, I wouldn't recommend drafting him - even if I recommended drafting top closers in general - because he is a huge risk and has Akinori Otsuka (a great option if Gagne does go down) breathing down his neck. Our Closer Rankings include player's involved in Closer Battles, not just the front runners.

    Lastly, these Closer Rankings only represent the player's skill, not his likely hood to receive save opportunities. As this is a delicate thing to predict, we aren't even going to attempt it. We don't have a scientific way of doing it at the moment, but it is something we will be looking into for 2008. This is explained more in our Draft Day Strategy article on Closers.

    Without further ado, our Fantasy Baseball Closer Rankings.

    Rank Pitcher Score
    1 Eric Gagne 13.59
    2 Joe Nathan 12.86
    3 Brad Lidge 12.86
    4 Francisco Rodriguez 12.36
    5 Billy Wagner 12.32
    6 B.J. Ryan 12.22
    7 J.J. Putz 11.10
    8 Jonathan Papelbon 10.78
    9 Jose Valverde 10.68
    10 Bobby Jenks 10.65
    11 Tom Gordon 10.36
    12 Mariano Rivera 10.26
    13 Takashi Saito 9.91
    14 Octavio Dotel 9.90
    15 Huston Street 9.76
    16 Francisco Cordero 9.63
    17 Trevor Hoffman 9.34
    18 Brian Fuentes 9.34
    19 Chad Cordero 8.91
    20 Jorge Julio 8.71
    21 Jason Isringhausen 8.66
    22 Danny Miceli 8.45
    23 Bob Wickman 8.39
    24 Chris Ray 8.28
    25 Ryan Dempster 8.12
    26 Armando Benitez 8.07
    27 Arthur Rhodes 7.87
    28 Salomon Torres 7.80
    29 Chris Reitsma 7.79
    30 Dustin Hermanson 7.70
    31 Bill Bray 7.49
    32 Joe Borowski 7.34
    33 Mike Stanton 7.18
    34 David Weathers 7.13
    35 Todd Coffey 7.10
    36 Todd Jones 7.05
    37 Seth McClung 5.26

    Teams that have closer jobs up for grabs include:
  • Reds
  • Red Sox
  • Devil Rays
  • Marlins (Tankersley's DLed to start the year and Owens and Lindstrom aren't included, but Owens is a good sleeper if he gets the job)

    Teams whose closer has an above average chance of getting injured or losing his job by year's end:
  • Tigers
  • Rangers
  • Braves
  • Cubs
  • Pirates
  • Cards
  • Giants
  • Phillies
  • Indians

  • The two lists above illustrate one of my biggest arguments for waiting on closers. Guys will be available on the waiver wire, and this year, lots of great options will be.

    UPDATE 3/9: Brendan Donnelly, Joel Pineiro, Craig Hansen, and Jonathan Papelbon added with the news of Mike Timlin's injury (Thanks to Jason McAdams of My Baseball Bias for the tip). I wouldn't touch any of these guys until something is resolved. Unless Papelbon takes the job, which doctors continue to say he shouldn't do for health reasons, I don't see the Red Sox trusting any of these guys in their run for the playoffs. I see a mid-season trade as the most likely scenario.

    UPDATE: 3/16: Julian Tavarez, Chris Reitsma, and Arthur Rhodes added.

    UPDATE: 3/26: All Red Sox (except Jonathan Papelbon) removed with news that Papelbon will close. Dustin Hermanson added.

    UPDATE: 3/26: Jorge Julio added with the news that he has been traded to the Marlins.

    Sleeper Alert - Nick Johnson

    Nick Johnson is known throughout the league as an injury risk, and he will begin 2007 on the DL. I've heard from various sources that he should be out through most of June. And because Johnson is a slow healer, he may not be at full strength until July.

    Despite these obvious drawbacks, I recommend draft Nick Johnson in one of the last few rounds of your draft and stashing him in one of your DL spots (assuming your leagues gives you at least one or two).

    An 80% Contact and 21% Line Drive Percentage make Johnson a good bet for a high average to begin with, but throw in his tendency to draw more walks than almost any other player in the game and Johnson is a great bet for a .285 to .290 average. His good, developing power helps as well. He hit 23 Home Runs and 21 True Home Runs last year, in addition to 46 2Bs and 3Bs. He Ks a decent amount, about 20%, but if his power continues to improve this shouldn't be a problem. He still has some decent players in the lineup, and his great walking ability will help him score a good amount of runs. His injury to his leg may hinder some of his opportunities, but hopefully not too many.

    His injury and the loss of Alfonso Soriano will keep some people away from him; don't be one of these people. Nick Johnson is the real deal and if he were playing a full season this year would be a lock for a second or third round pick come 2008 in a good lineup.

    Make sure to draft one of of our top 1B (like Jason Giambi), and if your league uses a CI spot a second good 1B (like Adam LaRoche or Nomar Garciaparra) because Johnson could miss half the season. But by the time he has proven he is healthy, the stock of Giambi or LaRoche or Garciaparra should be up enough to warrant a trade for a position of need. Then slot Johnson in that guy's spot and you should be good to go.

    As always, Batted Ball Data comes from The Hardball Times

    Thursday, March 8, 2007

    Draft Day Strategy - Starting Pitchers

    Starting pitchers are an interesting breed, and there are always different ideas on where they should be drafted. Some say pitching stats are volatile, and the downside for any pitcher, even a top pitcher like Johan Santana, is much greater than it is for a hitter. These people say you should wait on pitchers and grab bargains later in the draft, where you're not investing too much. Others will tell you that there are only a few elite starting pitchers, and that it's necessary to grab at least one or two early.

    Note: My strategy is designed for a twelve-team league with 2 SP, 2 RP, 3 P, 5 BN spots. (typical Yahoo! setup). For 8 or 10 team leagues, target these same guys, just wait an extra round or two on them - adjust accordingly.

    I advocate a strategy of moderation, somewhere between these two strategies. Find the best values, and take advantage of them. I agree that you need one stable Ace in the first three or four rounds. This year, my pick is Jake Peavy, our #3 SP. The seventh pitcher taken overall, with an ADP (Average Draft Position) of Round 5.04, Peavy is a good value in the fourth round of a twelve team draft.

    Round 1-3 and 5-6 should be used on hitters.
    Round 7 should be used on your next value pitchers. My favorite pick here is Felix Hernandez. The first player profiled on the Saberoticians back in February, Hernandez is our #4 SP. In the 7th round, normally going off as the 14th SP in expert drafts, Hernandez is a great value. If he is gone, hope Ben Sheets falls to you. Sheets is our #2 SP, but always seems to be injured. I prefer Felix, but Sheets is good too. If both are gone, John Smoltz works too, but be a little upset you didn't get either of your top 2 choices.

    Round 10 comes our next spot for SP value.
    Curt Schilling, our #5 Starting Pitcher, is a fantastic pick this late in the draft. 'Experts' find him to be 27th best SP. Help me prove them wrong. At this point, you now have 3 of the best 5 Starting Pitchers on your team and only had to use 1 of your first 5 picks.

    Here's where you can deviate a little if you choose. If you feel good about your offense and you think you can spare another pick in the early teens on a SP, Mike Mussina would be a great choice. A.J. Burnett is also a good guy to target here, or Rich Harden if he falls (although he is risky due to injury concerns).

    Next comes a wave when you need to pick at least two, quite possibly all three of these guys. Javier Vazquez, Kelvim Escobar, and Dave Bush are all going off the board in the 17th Round on average, but if you didn't take Mussina or Burnett you may need to start in the 15th and go 1,2,3 in Rounds 15,16,17. If you miss out on one, Scott Olsen could be picked in his stead.

    Wait until one of the last rounds to grab Jamie Shields, a guy we are fairly high on but isn't getting drafted.

    If things worked out for you, you should be looking at a rotation of:
    1. Jake Peavy
    2. Felix Hernandez
    3. Curt Schiling
    4. Mike Mussina
    5. Javier Vazquez
    BN Kelvim Escobar
    BN Jamie Shields

    This rotation will be the best staff in your league, without compromising your offense. You'll still have Rounds 1-3, 5-6, 8-9, 11-12, 14-16, 18-25 for offense. That's plenty, considering all the great value guys we have found for offense. It may be a little overkill, so also consider going with:

    1. Jake Peavy
    2. Felix Hernandez
    3. Curt Schiling
    4. Javier Vazquez
    5. Kelvim Escobar
    BN Derek Lowe
    BN Jamie Shields

    Don't freak out if you miss out on somebody though. If you're lucky, Roger Clemens may fall into your lap in the late rounds. He isn't worth taking early because he will only pitch a few months, but he's a top 10 SP when he does throw. Also, Philip Hughes will be on the way towards the middle of the year, so be ready to pick him up off the Waiver Wire.

    ADP information came from Fantasy Gameday

    New Feature: Mailbag

    I'm sure many of you haven't seen rankings or player evaluations like mine, and I'm sure many of you have a lot of questions about how we do things and why certain things are more important than others and whatnot. Or maybe you have a question about a single player.

    If you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me. I will do my best to respond to each email, and a few that I feel would be beneficial for others will be answered on here.

    Please email me at titanfan21[at]

    Change '[at]' to an '@' symbol.


    Wednesday, March 7, 2007

    Undervalued Player Alert - Frank Thomas

    Many fantasy baseball sites are saying how unlikely it is for Frank Thomas to repeat his 2006 season, how he is being drafted too high. I disagree completely with these people. Frank Thomas is an amazing baseball player and a darn good fantasy player. While Thomas is 39 years old, we still think he has enough gas left in the tank for him to be one of the best values of the draft in Round 9 or 10 of a 12-team draft.

    The first thing we'll talk about is his incredible power. He hit 39 Home Runs and 37 True Home Runs last year. He will probably get fewer At-Bats this year, so we have him down for 29 True Home Runs. Strangely enough he only hit 12 Doubles last year, the only red flag we see for him. These tend to be a subjective stat, but 12 isn't a lot even considering this fact. Despite this, we still think he will be a good power option. He's hitting in the heart of a good lineup, with good hitters in front and behind. His RBI numbers should be good.

    Thomas is actually a deceptively good contact hitter. Thomas hit .270 last year despite a .251 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) - nearly .50 points below average. Had he hit the league average .300 BABIP he would have approached a .300 average. Part of his low BABIP could be his lack of speed, but BABIP is luck influenced, even for hitters.

    Thomas's Contact Rate seems to fluctuate more than most hitters, but it was 83% last year - rare for someone with his power. We expect it to be around 78% or 79% this year. Thomas is one of the most disciplined hitters in all of baseball and draws a ton of walks (which will also help him to score runs), which is important for those who hit for high average. A 19% Line Drive Percentage doesn't hurt either. His high HR rates also help out too... they're like free hits.

    His Ks are a weakness, but if he can keep his K/AB around 21% or 22%, Thomas should hit around .285-.290. I know this sounds absurd... very few people, I imagine, project Frank Thomas to hit that high. I may end up looking like a fool come September, but the numbers add up, and I trust the numbers. I don't take speed into my calculations, as it is difficult to quantify, and Thomas's lack of speed may be the reason for his low BABIP, which means his Batting Average may only be .270 or .280. I'm hoping this isn't the case, and his .285 BABIP in 2004 is a good start to the argument against this theory. I would have no problem reserving a spot on my team for Thomas and pessimistically putting him down for a .275-.280 average.

    He won't steal any bases and his lack of speed will keep his Runs Scored somewhat modest, but Thomas is a great ballplayer that should help out in four categories. His lack of first base eligibility in most leagues is a downer, but a man with the skills of Thomas is worth constricting to your UT spot. Take Thomas in the 9th or 10th round and get the production of a third rounder.

    Bust Alert - Barry Zito

    When I heard that the San Francisco Giants had signed Barry Zito to a $128 million, I'm not sure what processed first: the stupidity of the signing or the excitment that it was the Giants - and not my Mets - that had done the signing. After it had registered, I couldn't help doing a little dance in excitment. While my Mets are still missing an Ace Starting Pitcher, Barry Zito was not this Ace.

    Barry Zito, due to his great 2002 Cy Young season, his well-known 12-6 curveball, and his rock star image has become one of the most well-known pitchers in baseball. With Matsuzaka quickly scooped up the the Red Sox, Zito - to the common fan - appeared to be the best option left on the market. For whatever reason, the San Francisco Giants decided it was a wise move to sign him to the largest contract ever tendered a pitcher in major league history. The large sum was partially influenced by marketing opportunies for the team, but Zito still will not be worth it. Here's why.

    To start with, his luck dependent numbers have never been that great, with the exception of 2002. His ERA has always been around 4.00. His K/9 is only around 6.25 - a huge drawback for fantasy purposes. His command is terrible, between 3.5 and 4.0 BB/9 over the past 4 years. In that timespan, his K/BB has gone above 2.00 just once - and it barely made it. The last reason I dislike Barry Zito is that his GB Percentage has gone above 40% just once in his career.

    Please heed my warning. Do not take Barry Zito this year. He is not a good pitcher, and will rely heavily on luck if he is to have anymore than a #3 starter's season.

    What about... Other Starting Pitchers

    I was recently asked where some of these pitchers would rank:
    1) Dontrelle Willis
    2) Justin Verlander
    3) Bronson Arroyo
    4) Ervin Santana
    5) Chien-Ming Wang
    6) Freddy Garcia
    7) Ian Snell
    8) Kevin Millwood
    9) Anibal Sanchez
    10)Jose Contreras
    11)Chuck James
    12)Jon Garland
    13)Mark Buehrle
    14)Tim Hudson
    15)Cliff Lee

    I think it would be a good idea to address some of these guys for those of you that might be thinking about drafting them. First off, anyone not in my Top 45 probably isn't a very good guy to pick. They will all have faults.

    D-Train is a popular guy, but an overrated pitcher. Dontrelle, Contreras, Snell, Millwood, and Buehrle fall between #45 and #55. Snell has some potential to improve. He had a good K/9 and a decent GB Percentage. If he could keep the same GB Percentage and improve his control - the easiest of our 3 critical factors for young pitchers to improve - he could become a good fantasy pitcher. I wouldn't take him though just based on something he could do.

    Verlander, while popularized by his seemingly great season last year, isn't that great. His low K/9 diminishes a lot of his value, and his K/BB barely made it over 2 last year. His GB Percentage is also a rather average 42%. He should have given up an extra 5 HRs last year.

    Chien-Ming Wang is an interesting suspect. Despite his low K rate, he is a fairly effective pitcher. His GB Percentage is great (63%), but his K/BB is below 2. His lack of Ks makes him almost worthless in that category, and hurts his WHIP a lot. The less Ks you get, the more balls get put in play. The more balls put in play, the more turn into hits. His K/9 is so low he is rendered almost useless in two categories and therefore is a terrible fantasy option. His Fantasy Score was a poor 6.57, putting him near #100.

    Arroyo, Santana, Garcia, Hudson, and Lee have low GB Percentages which makes them too susceptible to HRs in addition to low K rates. They are ranked between 60 and 80. Arroyo, Garcia, Hudson, Santana, Lee is the order in which them appear.

    Anibal Sanchez appears about 7 spots below Santana. He had a terrible K/BB and low K/9 last year, but his minor league stats suggest both could improve. He's just not a risk that is necessary to take with so many proven players available this year.

    Garland has great command and a good GB Percentage, but his K/9 below 5 makes him an unusable fantasy option, much like Wang. He is ranked worse than Wang though, outside the Top 100.

    Chuck James is also outside the Top 100. He has an average K/9, but his control isn't very good. This could be improved, but it is unlikely he can also improve his GB Percentage to an acceptable point. It was an abysmal 27% last year.

    I hope this clears things up about some of these well-known pitchers that I failed to include in my Top 45 Starting Pitcher Rankings.

    A Final Note
    Our rankings aren't meant to pick out guys who will do poorly as much as they are meant to pick out guys who will play well. Reducing risk by picking quality pitchers is usually the best strategy you can use.

    Batted ball data, as always, comes from The Hardball Times

    What about... Dice-K, Papelbon, and Wainwright

    I was recently asked where Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon, and Adam Wainwright would rank had a included them in my projections.

    Daisuke Matsuzaka isn't on my list because we weren't able to find batted ball stats for him, so his projection was incomplete. What stats we did have were very impressive though. He had a 5.8 K/BB, 9.6 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9. It's very difficult to tell how these stats will translate to America, but I would bet he becomes a fairly good pitcher over here. If he posts a 7.5 K/9, a 3 K/BB, and even a Groundball Percentage of 40%, he would be ranked around #35-40. He could just easily best those numbers as he could do worse. I haven't down very much research into how Japanese pitching stats translate to America. There are enough safer options available that I would say to ignore Dice-K, at least to start the year. If I can get some Spring Training batted ball stats on him I'll post more on him towards the end of the month.

    Wainwright and Papelbon are very different players. Papelbon is more of a boom or bust type, while Wainwright is a little safer. Papelbon had lots of Ks and a K/BB near 6, but his GB Percentage was a terrible 37%. He could be decent if he can keep his K/BB near 3 and his K/9 about 7.5, but there is no guarantee on this. Wainwright has a better GB Percentage - 47.5% - but a worse K/BB - 3.27. His K/9 is also lower, 8.64, which may be difficult to keep above 7 as a starter.

    We're all about reducing risk at the Saberoticians, and these three guys could be good, but could just as easily be average. We prefer safer options. Draft Curt Schilling instead of Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett over Papelbon, and Kelvim Escobar, Javier Vazquez, or Dave Bush instead of Wainwright. You'll be happy you did.

    Minor League Player Watch - Philip Hughes

    If we were to make a list of the top prospects by Sabermetric Standards, Philip Hughes would almost certainly be the #1 SP, quite possibly the #1 prospect overall in the game. As a Mets fan it pains me to say this, but Hughes is the real deal. If he doesn't make the team out of Spring Training he should be picked up and stashed away sometime in May or June, because he will be up towards the middle of the season. Let's take a closer look at this big-time prospect.

    His 10.71 K/9 sticks out like a sore thumb... but in a good way. Hughes pitched 116 innings for Double A Trenton in 2006 where he completely dominated everybody. His BB/9 was a very good 2.48. That gives Hughes a Schilling-like 4.3 K/BB. As if this wasn't enough, more than half of the balls put in play against him are Groundballs. He had a 52.4% Groundball Percentage for Trenton last year. High Ks, Low BBs, and High GBs is the trifecta for any pitcher. The only major league pitcher capable of this feat at the present time is Francisco Liriano. Felix Hernandez is on the verge of this as well.

    If these numbers translate at all to the majors, Hughes could be the best waiver wire pickup of the summer. Throw in the fact that he's a Yankee, and wins are bound to come for him. Make sure he is on your team by June 1; we'll talk more about him as the time comes. Oh, and if some Yankee fan thought he or she'd be cute by drafting him, it might be a good idea to try and trade for him now. Don't overpay, but Hughes could be a top 30 SP this year, and I'm saying that pessimistically. He could certainly end up higher; he's definitely got the skills for it.

    The minor league stats came from Minor League Splits dot com