Saturday, February 28, 2009

Who Wants To Be Draftbug Millionaire?

Who wants to be a Draftbug millionaire? I'm looking for one or more people to work on a project with me. Basically, you'll start out with a small bankroll, build it up through winning on Draftbug and through blogging about your experiences and refering readers of your blog to the site. The requirements are:
1. Good analytic skills.
2. Willingness to deposit $20 by credit card.
3. Willingness to write blog posts about your results, plans, and thoughts on an almost daily basis.
4. An insatiable desire to make a lot of money.
5. Willingness to commit to a relatively long term project.

What I'll do to help you out:
1. Contribute an additional $20 to get you started.
2. Help you get the word out about your blog.
3. Will provide strategy and daily player ratings assistance (especially during baseball season) to help you win consistently.
4. Will assist with technical and other advice on blogging and getting referals.
5. A commitment to making this a success for everyone involved.

I'm going to be pretty selective about who I include in this, so if you're interested, send me a quick email expressing an interest immediately, and then by Friday you can get me a longer email telling me why you'd be a good candidate.

Spring Training Statistics

For the most part, Spring Training stats should be ignored, just like Spring Training standings. But there are at least three situations where its worthwhile to pay attention to Spring Training stats:

1. To see whether players returning from injury will be effective. Particularly with pitchers, you can tell how they're doing by looking at their K/9 and K/BB. Just make sure to ignore stats like ERA that have more variance.

2. Look for young hitters with MONSTER numbers. Not just good numbers, but numbers among the best in the league. Research has shown that guys who have a Spring Training slugging percentage more than .200 better than their career average will tend to improve their regular season stats.

3. See how players fighting for jobs are doing. You're really trying to look at this from the perspective of their managers, many of whom put too much stock in Spring Training stats, despite the small sample size. This may be players trying to stick in the majors, fighting for the closer job, or fighting for an everyday spot in the lineup.

One good place to get Spring Training stats is MLB Spring Training Stats.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Last Chance

Today and tomorrow are the last chance to get $4 of free credits when you register for Draftbug, which is the site where I'm offering daily fantasy sports contests. Registration is free and easy. There are real money contests and play money contests in basketball and hockey running now. Or you can simply hang on to your $4 worth of credits until baseball starts. But if you don't sign up by Saturday night, then you'll need to deposit money (by credit card or Paypal) in order to win real money.

Sean Marshall 2009

Sean Marshall has a good chance of winning the last spot in the Chicago Cubs rotation for 2009. He also has a good chance of being one of the better #5 starters in the major leagues this year, and a nice late round bargain in relatively deep fantasy leagues. Marshall's strikeout rate improved drastically last year, going from a K/9 of 5.8 the previous year to 8.1. That was in 65.1 innings, which is enough that a change of that magnitude has to be somewhat meaningful. His control remained about the same. His groundball rate got substantially worse, dropping from 48.2% to 41.2% His increased strikeout rate may have occurred as the result of a change in approach that was achieved at the expense of his groundball rate, or it may have simply been improvement in a young pitcher, with the lower groundball rate being a fluke. If it was the latter, then Marshall has the chance to be an excellent starting pitcher this year. If not, he's still worth owning in deep leagues.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jeff Niemann 2009

The biggest negative about Jeff Niemann is that he isn't going to start the season in a major league starting rotation. With David Price filling the last spot in their rotation, Niemann will either have to spend time in the bullpen or the minor leagues. He's still an interesting enough pitcher, and close enough to a major league rotation spot if there's an injury or trade, that he's worth evaluating. Niemann's AAA numbers paint the picture of someone who should be moderately effective in the majors immediately. I would expect something like a K/9 of 7.0 and BB/9 of 4.5. Hopefully his control will improve over time. While Niemann is going to be 26 in a few days, the window of opportunity for pitchers to continue improving lasts a little longer than for hitters. While I don't have access to minor league groundball rates, Niemann's home run rates suggest that he doesn't induce a particularly high rate of groundballs. So why do I consider him an interesting pitcher to follow? In an article in The Hardball Times, Josh Kalk showed that using 'pitcher similarity scores' that measure the actual physical traits of a pitcher's pitches (velocity, movement, etc.) Niemann is in some pretty select company. His closest 'comps' include Soria, Kershaw, Cain, Chamberlain, and some guy named Lincecum. While there hasn't been any research yet on how valuable a predictive tool this kind of analysis is, it'll be interesting to see what it means in Niemann's case.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anibal Sanchez 2009

Anibal Sanchez may be the perfect late round pick this year. A good current skillset combined with youth and high upside potential, all disguised by injury reduced totals and a horribly unlucky 5.57 ERA in 2008 make him a potential steal. Even though he's been around for a while, Sanchez is still only 25 years old. He missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, but came back to put up a K/9 of 8.0 (and BB/9 of 4.3) in almost 52 innings of work. His control is still a concern, but at 25 years old, there's reason to think it may improve over time, and his strikeout rate is good enough that he'll be fairly effective even if it doesn't. His injury history is also a concern of course, but late round picks all come with some baggage, and in Sanchez's case it seems well worth the risk.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Assorted Stuff

I won't have time to do any strategy or profile threads today. Just a few assorted odds and ends.

Just five more days in the February promotion at Draftbug. New accounts get funded with $4 worth of player points free until the end of the month.

I've mentioned before that I won Rotohog's 2008 Baseball contest. They launched the 2009 one yesterday, and the prizes were reduced...basically to nothing. The 2007 winner has already publicly said that he probably won't be playing, and while I haven't made a decision yet, I certainly won't be taking it very seriously this year.

Last, thanks to everyone who's been visiting The Waiver Wire. I appreciate all your feedback...even the anonymous commenter who asked "Are you an idiot?" a few days ago. If any of you have questions or topics that you'd like me to cover, just send an email or make a comment!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jon Niese 2009

Jon Niese is in the running for the fifth spot in the Mets rotation for 2009. That isn't necessarily a good thing, for anyone other than Niese, his immediate family, and the Mets opponents. Don't get me wrong...Niese may eventually be a good major league pitcher. But he's just 22 years old, and there's nothing in his statistical record to indicate that he's ready to be more than a very mediocre major leaguer at this stage of his career. At each level of the minors he's had good, but not exceptional strikeout rates. And at each level fo the minors, his control has been good enough to be effective, but not good enough to be effective at the major league level. Obviously with any young pitcher, you should keep an eye on his rate statistics for any major changes in his ability, but I would definitely not draft Niese to start the season in any standard format.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poker and Fantasy Baseball

I joined me first league of the season a few days ago. This is actually the first money league I've done with a fairly standard format in several years, as my focus has primarily been on Rotohog. It's a 5 * 5 daily transactions Yahoo league, that replaces batting average with on base percentage. I don't know the people in the league personally, and don't really know how good they are. What I do know is that all of them are very serious poker players...with several of them either supporting themselves through poker or hoping to get good enough to do so. That probably means that they're generally going to be pretty good at fantasy baseball too, although if I'm lucky they'll be playing eight or ten tables of poker instead of focusing on our draft! The draft is March 2nd, and I'll post an update here once I've got my team.

Jeff Samardzija 2009

Jeff Samardzija will go into the 2009 season as the Chicago Cubs number six starting pitcher, and will be part of their Triple A rotation. That's exactly where he belongs as he doesn't yet appear to be ready to be successful in the majors. His 25 strikeouts and 15 walks in a 27.2 inning major league trial last year is about the best the Cubs could have hoped for based on his minor league numbers, and his 2.28 ERA was a fluke that was largely to due his not allowing any home runs. In the minor leagues prior to last year, Samardzija not only had control problems but also had a very mediocre strikeout rate. He just turned 24, so there's plenty of time for him to improve, and he may yet become a star, but he's got a ways to go before he turns 'great stuff' into 'great performance'.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chris Young 2009

When Chris Young (the pitcher) was traded from Texas to San Diego, I had high hopes for him. Although he has put up excellent ERAs each year since then (3.46, 3.12, and 3.96), I've generally been disappointed with his performance. His control has gotten worse each year, and reached a low point 4.3 walks per nine innings in 2008. And he's gone from an extreme flyball pitcher to something beyond that. Young is now probably the most extreme flyball pitcher in baseball, putting up a 21.7% groundball rate last year. Add to that the fact that Young may be the worst pitcher in baseball at preventing stolen bases, and there's a lot to be concerned about. I believe that a combination of a very favorable home park and a whole lot of good luck has helped Young out the past few years, and that there's a high risk that his home runs per fly ball will rise to a more normal level, causing Young to be revealed as a very mediocre pitcher despite his good strikeout rate. I would steer clear of him in 2009, other than possibly using him at home against weak lineups in daily transactions games like Snapdraft and Draftbug.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Draftbug Promotions

I just wanted to remind everyone that we're giving out $4 worth of credits free if you register for Draftbug in the next eight days. Registration takes about a minute, and is free. We're currently running one day fantasy basketball and hockey contests, but if you're only interested in baseball you're welcome to sign up to get your credits and save them until Opening Day.

In addition, I'm adding a new offer to sweeten the pot a little. If you sign up for Draftbug between now and March 31st and play in at least $20 worth of contests, I'll send you daily Draftbug expected scoring projections for all major league baseball players each day for the month of April. These projections will be based on the same data I use in Rotohog Baseball, which I won in 2008 against more than 40,000 other competitors.

Jered Weaver 2009

Two years ago, after putting up an earned run average of 2.56, Jered Weaver was considered by many to be a star pitcher and one of the better pitchers in the American League. However, after ERAs of 3.91 and 4.33 the past two years, his stock has fallen drastically, and he is now viewed by most as a very average pitcher. The remarkable thing is that he is almost the exact same pitcher he always was! After his extremely lucky 2006, Weaver was one of the most overrated players in baseball. Now he may be slightly underrated. Weaver is one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in baseball, having groundball rates between 30% and 36% all three seasons he's pitched in the majors. He makes up for that to some extent by having a decent strikeout rate (2008 K/9: 7.9) and pretty good control (2008 BB/9: 2.8). At 26 years old, he's still likely to improve a little. I would expect something a similar strikeout rate in 2009, with slightly better control.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taylor Teagarden 2009

A lot of fantasy baseball players seem to be rooting for Taylor Teagarden to beat out the Rangers' two other young catchers for the starting job in 2009. I'm not. Although he arguably has the most power (Max Ramirez fans could reasonably disagree), he's the oldest of the three (25 years old) and has the least success in the high minor leagues. Most of his really impressive numbers were compiled at high A ball, as he struggled at both AA and AAA last season. I suspect that of the three catchers, Teagarden is the most likely to struggle badly enough to be sent down the the minors at some point. I suspect that what will actually happen is that he'll begin the season as the starting catcher at AAA...which is the correct destination for him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brian Roberts 2009

I'm not sure why, but Brian Roberts is one of my favorite players. While he doesn't get the hype of the top fantasy second basemen, he's become one of the top base stealers in the major leagues, and contributes in other categories as well. He's particularly valuable in most points leagues (including Rotohog, Snapdraft, and Draftbug), where many of his other contributions are rewards. Roberts is a doubles machine. He's had 50 twice, and has exceeded 40 doubles for four of the past five years. He hits lots of triples. He gets a ton of walks for a guy who isn't a slugger. Playing in a relatively neutral ballpark, Roberts is going to be a decent alternative in your daily lineup anytime the big three of Utley, Kinsler, and Pedroia aren't benefiting from their cozy home parks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jay Bruce 2009

Like Pablo Sandoval (who I discussed yesterday), Jay Bruce shows the kind of trend we're looking for in potential star hitters - improvement as he moved up through the minor leagues, playing in leagues where he was one of the youngest players, and developing power. Bruce is already capable of hitting 30 home runs in a full Major League season, and at 22 years old he's still in the steep part of the learning curve. While his walk rate is a little lower than I like in a slugger, there's plenty of time to improve. Also his ability to hit for high average in the minor leagues suggests that he's able to compensate for the lack of walks in other ways. The only other negative I can see is that the speed he showed in the lower minor leagues (as much as 19 SB) is likely something he's never going to come close to again. Bruce's home park is a huge bonus for anyone playing in leagues where you can turn over your whole team every day. For 2009 he's likely to be very average on the road (where he's going to be in tougher parks and also have a slight away game disadvantage), but be a star at home.

Kyle Kendrick 2009

Kyle Kendrick appears to be the leading candidate for the #5 spot in the Phillies starting rotation for 2009. That's definitely not something that Philadelphia fans should be thrilled about. In 2007, Kendrick was mediocre, striking out out only 3.8 batters per nine innings, but partially making up for the low strikeout rate with good control (BB/9: 2.0) and lots of groundballs (47.1%). Unfortunately, Kendrick took a step backwards in all areas in 2008, as he struck out only 3.6, walked 3.1, and had a groundball rate of 44.3%. Those numbers simply aren't good enough to be a major league starting pitcher, and Kendrick is going to need to show some improvement or Philadelphia management may catch on to the fact that he isn't very good. In the meantime, we can profit by targeting hitters who are facing him when his turn in the rotation comes around!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pablo Sandoval 2009

Pablo Sandoval shows exactly the kind of progression you want to see in a young player. He's 22 years old, has been younger than most of his competition at every level he's played, and has shown a general improvement in stats. While he's always been able to hit for average, Sandoval has begun to hit home runs. That's going to be important to his future as a potential fantasy star, since his move from catcher to 1B/3B sets the bar a lot higher on what he needs to accomplish as a hitter. While Sandoval has a lower walk rate than you'd usually want to see in a top prospect, his ability to avoid strikeouts at all levels (including the majors) means that he should have a good chance of continuing to hit for a high average. Sandoval is a good prospect in any case, but if he somehow has 2009 catcher eligibility in your league, then he's almost certainly going to be a great target on draft day.

Yovani Gallardo 2009

If completely healthy, Yovani Gallardo is an excellent pitcher. While there is no reason to expect any problems with the knee on which he had surgery last year, anyone considering drafting him should watch closely to see whether he decides to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. While it's good news that he's recovered enough to consider it, I would definitely prefer to see him take things slowly before the season. He wasn't especially impressive in the short time after he returned at the end of last season, but that is less of a concern. Assuming he's back at full strength for the 2009 season, Gallardo is young enough (23) that it's reasonable to hope for even better than his 2007 statistics (K/9: 8.4, BB/9: 3.1, GB%: 38.2%). Gallardo seems to be all over the place in early drafts, so you'll need to wait to see how far he slips before deciding whether he's worth targeting.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Livan Hernandez 2009

I continue to be unimpressed by the moves the Mets are making with regard to their starting rotation for 2009. They've now signed Livan Hernandez to a one year deal, and he'll be given a chance to compete for the last spot in their starting rotation. Livan Hernandez used to be overrated. Now he's gotten so bad that everyone (except MLB general managers) realizes his shortcomings. In 2008 he struck out 67 and walked 43 in 180 innings. He actually wasn't quite as awful as the previous year, because at least his groundball rate increased (to 43.7% in the AL and 47.1% in the NL). Livan turns 34 years old next week, and it appears that his arm has been pretty much used up by managers who didn't understand the impact of overuse. If he makes the Mets rotation, Livan will be one of my favorite targets for opposing hitters in daily contests, especially when he's on the road.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tom Glavine 2009

Tom Glavine is apparently playing hardball with the Atlanta Braves and asking for more money than they've offered him so far. As a Mets fan, I hope Atlanta gives him what he's asking for. The truth is, at this point in his career, Glavine should be paying them to let him pitch. He's been absolutely terrible for the past two year, and at 42 years old (43 by Opening Day) there's little chance that Glavine will improve substantially. In 2007 he struck out only 4.1 batters per nine innings, walked 2.9 and had a 41.8% groundball rate. In 2008 he increased his strikeout rate to 5.1 and his groundball rate to 47.4%. The only problem was that he also increase his walk rate to a shocking 5.1 per nine innings. It's hard for any pitcher to be successful with that lack of control, and impossible for a finesse pitcher like Glavine. If Glavine signs, I'll be looking to play opposing hitters against him as much as possible in 2009 in daily transaction games like Rotohog, Yahoo Fantasy Baseball, Draftbug, and Snapdraft!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ken Griffey Jr. 2009

Various sources are reporting that Ken Griffey Jr. is close to signing a deal to return to the Seattle Mariners. Sadly, this isn't the kind of big news it would have been years ago. Age and injuries have robbed Griffey of much of his talent, and at 39 years old in 2009, Griffey doesn't have much to offer your fantasy team other than the ability to pick up some home runs in the late round of your draft. He's no longer good enough to use in most daily formats such as Rotohog or Snapdraft, and its likely that even in traditional leagues you'll be able to find options with similar power but more upside. To make matters worse, Griffey will be going from a very favorable home park to an unfavorable one.

Braden Looper 2009

Braden Looper signed a one year deal yesterday to be part of the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation in 2009. In his first season as a starting pitcher (2007), Braden Looper was awful. He struck out only 4.5 batters per nine innings and walked 2.7, while inducing 42.2% groundballs. That's barely major league quality pitching. However, he took a step forward in 2008, and put up much better numbers. His strikeout rate increased to 5.0, his walk rate dropped to 2.1, and his groundball rate rose to 48.4%. So which season was the real Braden Looper? I would expect the strikeout and walk rates to be somewhere in between this season, but for the groundball rate to remain high. So on balance, Looper is likely to be closer to the 2008 (good) Looper than the 2007 (bad) version.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Measuring Impact of Skill (Part II)

Now that Yahoo Fantasy Baseball has launched for 2009, I want to do a few posts discussing strategy for that format, but first I'd like to take the discussion on measuring the impact of skill vs. luck in various format a little further. The last time I wrote about it, I discussed the idea of calculating the number of 'decision points' as a measure of skill. But all decision points are not created equally. Some are so obvious that there's no real decision. So what you really want to look at are what I would call 'reasonable decision points'. In a default format Yahoo league, there are 2880 decision points (180 * 16), but that's really misleading. If you have Albert Pujols, you're obviously never going to bench or drop him. What you're really interest in is how many decision points there are where there's a real choice about what to do. Estimating this is more of an art than a science. I would guess that on an average day there are probably 7 or 8 roster spots where you could reasonably plug in someone from your bench or a free agent. So the 'reasonable decision points' for default Yahoo leagues would be something like 1440 (8 * 180). Still a very "high skill" game.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Draftbug Baseball

I know that a lot of you have been waiting to register for Draftbug until baseball season begins. My advice for you is: don't wait. We're currently giving all new players $4 worth of player points to try out the games. Even if you don't enter a contest yet, make sure you get the points by registering before we stop giving them out. You can either use them for NBA basketball contests to try and build up a more substantial bankroll for baseball season, or you can just save the points until opening day.

Bobby Abreu 2009

Bobby Abreu is drawing virtually no interest as a free agent this offseason. The Mets actually had the nerve to express an interest in signing him...but only if its to a one year contract at less than four million dollars per year. There are bat boys with better deals than that. Don't be fooled though. Abreu is still a good baseball player, and more importantly an excellent fantasy player. He hit .296 with 20 HR and 22 SB along with 100 runs and 100 RBI last year. The previous year he was better in every singly category except batting average. Even assuming the normal decline you'd expect in a player who will be 35 years old for the entire season, Abreu is still going to help your team in most (if not all categories). While not an elite fantasy pick, Abreu is definitely worth taking for 2009 if he begins to slide in your draft.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Measuring Skill of Different Formats

I've sometimes gotten into debates with people about which formats of fantasy baseball involve the most skill. Or even, which types of fantasy sports involve the most skill. Before providing a few ways of 'measuring' the amount of skill in each format, its worth defining what I mean by "skill", because its not the same as how others define it. The degree of skill (in my opinion) is the degree to which the same strategies will produce the same results from one contest to the next. It is NOT how complicated a game is...unless that influences how consistently the same results repeat themselves. If a different person wins your 10 team league each year, you probably aren't playing what I would consider a 'high skill' format...even if you have 50 man minor league rosters and incredibly complicated keeper rules.

There are lots of ways to measure the kind of skill I'm talking about in a format. One that does not work especially well is simply looking at how consistent the results are from year to year. The problem is that peoples' strategies change over time. I'm definitely not doing everything the same this year that I did last year...and neither are you, most likely.

So instead, one crude measure of skill is to look at how many 'decision points' there are. The crudest measure of this would be taking the number of roster spots and multiplying by the number of transaction periods. So 18 man rosters with weekly transactions would be 468 (18*26) decision points. 10 man rosters for a one day contest would be just 10 decision points. 25 man rosters with daily transactions would be 4,500 (25 * 180) decision points.

Tomorrow I'll talk about what's wrong with this approach, and how to address its deficiencies.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Adam Jones 2009

Adam Jones basically has one thing going for him: he's young. Jones is only 23 years old, and when it comes to hitters, that can mean a lot. Young players not only have more time to improve, but the younger they are the faster they're likely to improve too. That said, there are definitely some negative indicators in Jones' record. Not only did he not show much power in 2008, but he also hit very few doubles (which are often a good indicator of developing power). Along with his mediocre batting average, Jones had a very bad strikeout to walk ratio. Even in Jones' best season in the minor leagues (2007 at AAA) his walk rate was extremely low. While Jones has time to improve and justify the hype that surrounded him as a prospect, I wouldn't put my money on him becoming much better than an average major league hitter.

Will Ohman 2009

One of the better middle relievers still available as a free agent is Will Ohman. While he will always be limited by his mediocre control, his strong strikeout rate (K/9: 8.3 in 2008) is enough to make him an effective relief pitcher. Ohman is even a little better than that when facing left handed batters, so if he's used strictly as a LOOGY, then he can be an asset to most teams. Unlike hitters, pitchers do tend each to have their own 'platoon differential' that is consistent from year to year. While his strikeout rate and groundball rate have fluctuated somewhat over the years, whoever signs Ohman for 2009 knows more or less what they'll be getting.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

An Offer You Can't Refuse

I'm willing to give up to five people a free $10 bankroll on Draftbug. There isn't a catch. Basically I'm looking for the five best fantasy sports players I can find, and I'm definitely favoring those who will play (and win) at either basketball or hockey, so they don't have to wait two months to get started. If you're interested, please send me an email and I'll provide a lot more detail (including an explanation of why I'm doing this). I'll also be giving you whatever advice or tips I can to help you succeed. My goal here is for all five people to make a LOT of money.

Andruw Jones 2009

Andruw Jones was beyond awful in 2008, batting .158 will little power and striking out at an incredibly high rate. Normally I'd be tempted to blame a hidden injury for performance this bad, but he had a very bad 2007 as well, so it's unlikely that he would have kept an injury hidden for so long. I suspect there's been a real (and steep) decline in his skillset over the past several years. It appears that he's likely to sign a minor league agreement with the Texas Rangers for 2009. If he does make the team, that's bad news for Nelson Cruz owners in traditional leagues, since Jones certainly isn't going to be taking much playing time from Josh Hamilton. However, those of us who play in daily leagues will still have the luxury of confirming whether Cruz is in the lineup each day before playing him. Now we just have to hope that Texas' management realizes that Jones is no longer a good enough fielder to be heavily used as a late inning defensive replacement.

George Sherrill 2009

The Baltimore Orioles have can choose between George Sherrill and Chris Ray as their closer for 2009, and neither of them is a great option. While Sherrill does have the kind of strikeout rate you'd want in a closer (K/9: 9.3 in 2008, and even higher the previous three years), he also has terrible control and a tendency to allow a lot of fly balls. Some nights he'll come into the game, strike out the side, and look great. Other nights he'll allow a walk or two, followed by a home run. Unfortunately, Chris Ray suffers from the same flaws, so the Orioles aren't really making a mistake by planning to start the season with Sherrill closing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Shin-Soo Choo 2009

After looking over Shin-Soo Choo's statistics, I'm no longer beating myself up quite as much for letting him slip to pick #258 in my recent mock draft. Yes, it was a mistake, and I should have picked him instead of Lyle Overbay. But no, Choo is probably not a superstar. On the plus side, Choo has hit around .300 in the majors the past two seasons and has decent power. On the other hand, his power isn't really exceptional and his minor league record suggests that if anything he may not be quite as good as he's appeared in limited at bats in the majors in 2007 and 2008. The real surprise for me is that he's already 26 years old. I had the impression that he was several years younger than that. I know that a lot of 'experts' point to age 27 as the most likely year for for breakouts, but they're misunderstanding the research. Age 27 is the peak of the aging curve. It's the year when hitters are mostly likely to be at their best. But the slope of the curve gets very gentle at the top, and age 27 is only slightly better than age 26 (or age 28) on average. True breakouts are much more likely in substantially younger players, as the slope of the skills curve is steeper the further away from age 27 you go. This is all a way of saying that Choo isn't really a breakout candidate. He's a pretty good hitter who is likely to get just very slightly better than he is now. An excellent pick at #258, but not that likely to make or break anyone's season in 2009.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Mock Draft

I participated in my first mock draft last night. I'll post some thoughts on it over the next few days, but for starters here's the roster I ended up with:

1B Lyle Overbay TOR R22 P5
2B Ian Kinsler TEX R1 P8
2B Dustin Pedroia BOS R3 P8
3B Garrett Atkins COL R7 P8
3B Casey Blake LA R21 P8
3B Ian Stewart COL R24 P5
SS Jhonny Peralta CLE R13 P8
C Mike Napoli ANA R11 P8
C A.J. Pierzynski CHW R19 P8
OF Manny Ramirez LA R2 P5
OF Nick Markakis BAL R4 P5
OF Nate McLouth PIT R6 P5
OF Nelson Cruz TEX R10 P5
OF Conor Jackson ARI R17 P8
SP Brandon Webb ARI R5 P8
SP Scott Kazmir TB R8 P5
SP John Danks CHW R18 P5
SP Andy Pettitte NYY R20 P5
SP Jeremy Bonderman DET R23 P8
SP Clay Buchholz BOS R25 P8
RP Joba Chamberlain NYY R9 P8
RP Trevor Hoffman MIL R12 P5
RP Mike Gonzalez ATL R14 P5
RP Joey Devine OAK R15 P8
RP Joel Hanrahan WAS R16 P5

Given my lack of preparation I thought I did ok. The projections on Mock Draft Central (which I'd take with a grain of salt) actually project me to 'win' the league, although I think they're overrating my offense and underrating my starting pitching. I think Danks, Bonderman and Pettitte were absolute steals where I got them. If I had known how long they'd last I wouldn't have taken Kazmir when I did. My first round pick of Kinsler (ahead of Cabrera, Howard, and others) was questionable. I also messed up by not realizing that Shin Soo Choo was available when I selected Overbay. I would have picked Choo several rounds earlier if I had noticed him on the list. Luckily, despite not realizing that Ben Sheets is out for most of the year, I wasn't the poor sucker who took him.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chase Wright 2009

After a solid 2006 season at high A ball and a good start to 2007 at AA, it appeared that Chase Wright might be a decent major league prospect. It is now apparent that isn't the case, as he's been absolutely terrible since then. His most recent significant action was at AA last year, where he struck out 53 and walked 34 in 94.1 innings. Even with the benefit of his recent trade to the National League, and a possible move to the bullpen, Wright is going to need to improve substantially in 2009 and beyond to have any shot at a successful major league career. Wright turns 26 in a few days, and with his lack of progress the last few years, he's a longshot to make the needed improvement.

Eddie Guardado 2009

Texas' signing of Eddie Guardado to a one year minor league contract for 2009 sounded like a good idea until I looked at his statistics for the past three years. Admittedly this is in a very limited number of innings, but its so extreme that it can't be ignored. His groundball rates for the past three years have been under 26% each year. That's in 70 total innings, so its not THAT small of a sample size, and he was an extreme flyball pitcher even before that. Coupled with his low strikeout rate and a home run friendly park...this has the makings of a disaster. Guardado is likely to begin the season in a setup role, and if something happens to Frank Francisco could even find his way into some save opportunities. I suspect he will quickly find his way out of any key role in the bullpen, and is likely to be doing mop up duty (or be sent down) by the All-Star Break.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winning at Draftbug

This is an article about fantasy basketball. I realize that most of your are primarily interested in fantasy baseball, but since its basketball season, I thought I'd share a strategy to win at Draftbug and other daily fantasy basketball contests (such as Snapdraft). My approach to this (and its worth mentioning that I haven't had time to try this out yet) is fairly similar to the approach I used to win the 2008 Rotohog Baseball contest. You'll probably want to do this in MS-Excel. Here are the steps I would take:

1. Calculate player statistics in all scoring categories per minute played. This gives you an idea how good the player is when they're actually in the game.

2. Estimate expected minutes played for all players. Assuming that you don't follow basketball closely, I'd probably use something like the average of the last 5 or 10 games. You're going to miss out on players filling in for very short periods when someone is injured (and those probably are the best values), but at least you'll also avoid giving a high ranking to most players who WERE filling in and will be pushed to the bench by returning players. Giving someone who won't play a top rating is a much worse mistake to make here than underrating someone who will play more than expected.

3. Make an adjustment to play statistics based on whether the player is home or away. I would add 2% for home players and subtract 2% for players on the road. That may be slightly underadjusting, but in general I'd rather than overshoot with my adjustments.

4. Make an adjustment for opponent. You can get fancy with this and try to use statistics for how opponents affect specific statistics or players at specific positions' stats, but for starters just calculate the impact specific teams have on opponents scoring, and adjust projections by that amount. So if a given team allows 95 points per game vs. a league average of 100 points per game, then adjust their opponents' projections in all categories down by 5%.

5. Calculate a points projection using Draftbug's scoring system based on the statistical projection you'd done.

6. Select a team that balances solid undervalued players based on your points projection with top rated players (who may or may not be underpriced).

You can refine this strategy to be more precise, but I'm fairly certain that it will be a winning one, even in the relatively crude form described above.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bullpen Boxscore

For anyone interested in relief pitching (in other words, most fantasy baseball players), there's a new blog in town. Bullpen Boxscore already has a ton of great bullpen related content, and is going to be an invaluable resource during the preseason and once the season gets underway. I highly encourage everyone to go over and take a look.

Aaron Harang 2009

Aaron Harang's 2008 season is generally perceived to be way out of line with the rest of his career. The debate seems to be focused on whether he will bounce back, or whether there is some sort of lasting problem. Harang put up a K/9 of 7.5, BB/9 of 2.4, and groundball rate of 34.1% in 2008, all worse than the previous two years. On the other hand, prior to 2006 Harang actually had lower strikeout rates than last year, so maybe he simply outperformed his underlying ability in 2006 and 2007. The one factor that makes this seem somewhat unlikely is that he had previously always had grounball rates above 38%. The low rate last year does suggest that something in either his approach or his ability changed...which in turn suggests that the lower strikeout rate may reflect a real change in his pitching too. There's a fairly good chance that with a winter of rest behind him, Harang will be back to his old self in 2009. Just be aware that his old self may not be quite as good as his statistics from 2007 would suggest.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Brad Ziegler 2009

Brad Ziegler will be competing with Joey Devine to win the Oakland A's closer job in 2009. Actually, according to the A's manager, they'll be sharing closing duties, but that type of arrangement almost never lasts in today's major league baseball. Ziegler put up an incredible 1.06 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched in 2008 in his first look at the major leagues. That sounds impressive, but don't expect a repeat performance. He struck out only 30 batters and walked 22. Not exactly a recipe for stardom, particularly as a 29 year old who is unlikely to improve very much. His high (59.7%) groundball rate will ensure that he's able to be an effective major league pitcher, but Ziegler isn't really closer material, and the sooner the A's acknowledge that, the better off they'll be.

Jeremy Bonderman 2009

Jeremy Bonderman has the potential to be a very nice value in most leagues for 2009. His stock should be low after an injury curtailed season in 2008, where his strikeout rate dropped to 5.3. The good news is that surgery took care of a blood clot in his arm, and he's reportedly feeling great. I think this is one case where an injury provides a real excuse for his dropoff in performance, and where there isn't much chance of the injury recurring. If Bonderman rebounds to the kind of performance he had in 2007 (K/9: 7.4, BB/9: 2.5, GB%: 47.9) he's going to be a great deal. At 26 years old, he has the potential to improve to be even better than that.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brett Myers 2009

After a tumultuous 2007 season, in which Brett Myers was sent to the bullpen to work out his problems (despite having an incredibly high K/9 rate at the time), Myers was more or less back to his old self as a member of the Phillies rotation last year. His strikeout rate of 7.7 was slightly lower than it had been the past few seasons, but close enough to previous levels not to be a real concern. He walked 3.1 per game and allowed 47.1% groundballs. Both well within the range of the rest of his career. Myers should continue to be a solid starting pitcher, although his home park certainly isn't making his job any easier. He may be a slight bargain in many drafts for 2009, as the perception seems to be that he isn't as good as he used to be.

Brian Bruney 2009

The Yankees signed Brian Bruney to a one year contract several days ago. This seems like a prudent move, especially given the recent news that Mariano Rivera hasn't started throwing yet after October surgery. Bruney actually had his best season last year, albeit in an injury shortened season. Previously an extreme flyball pitcher with major control issues, Bruney struck out 9.3 batters per game and walked "only" 4.5 along with a 42.5% groundball rate in his 34.3 innings of work. If he can keep up those ratios in 2009, he'll be an asset to the Yankees, and if Rivera isn't ready for opening day, Bruney is one of the pitchers who could pick up a few saves as a bonus.