Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today's MLB Schedule

Today's MLB schedule features a bunch of early games, lots of good pitching, a number of favorable matchups for hitters, and some risk of rain for most of the favorable hitting situations.

On the pitching side, my top three rated players are Santana, Lincecum, and Kazmir. However, exact ratings will depend on your scoring system, and guys like Gallardo, Greinke, Myers and Vazquez should all score well.

For hitters, the best situations are those for the Orioles, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Yankees. Although the first three of those are all at some risk of rain, none appear to particularly likely at this point to be rained out.

If you're playing Draftbug, some of the players that were especially good bargains were repriced earlier this week, but guys like Spilborghs, Swisher, and a number of the Orioles players still look like great values. Using these guys will make it easier to get a few of the star players with good matchups too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's Wrong With CC Sabathia

Yesterday I argued that there's nothing at all wrong with Jake Peavy, despite his high earned run average. I'll stand by that opinion, even though he was hit hard and his control was off. His strikeout rate remained good, which is the single most important indicator to me.

CC Sabathia, on the other hand, worries me. His 12 strikeouts and 14 walks is an ugly, ugly ratio. That's about the number of walks he should have in mid June. I'm not saying he won't do well this season, but there's a definite warning flag up until he has one or two high strikeout, low walk games. For daily contests today, he's my top rated pitcher, but I'm going to look elsewhere for some value. Particularly given his high price in all formats, he's just not worth the risk right now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's Wrong With Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy's 5.13 ERA through four starts has some people wondering what's wrong with him. I can answer that for them - absolutely nothing is wrong with Jake Peavy! In fact, his strikeout and walk rates are identical to what they were in 2008 (K/9: 9.1, BB/9: 3.2) and his groundball rate has actually risen from last year. Peavy is a classic 'buy low' candidate right now. He's an elite starting pitcher, easily one of the top five in baseball. He's especially deadly in daily contests, where he's typically the highest ranked pitcher on the days when he's starting at home in pitcher-friendly San Diego. He tops my ranking for today's games, slightly ahead of Halladay and Harden.

On the hitting side, a number of teams including the Mets, Orioles, Dodgers, Rangers, and Phillies have good match-ups. The Dodgers have an interesting situation, where hitters capable of stealing bases have a particularly favorable situation due to the difficulty that Jason Marquis has holding runners on base.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Betting On Your Sabermetric Knowledge

Today is one of the those days that illustrate why I love daily fantasy baseball contests. The Tigers are starting Rick Porcello, who I believe would probably be a slightly above average Double A ball! A lot of people disagree with me, and think he's a potential sleeper or star in the making. Needless to say I won't be using him in any of my leagues. But the real fun is that I can 'bet' on my opinion in daily contests. Using a lot of the Royals (who are facing home in Kansas City) will give me a number of very cheap players who are priced very low, and will allow me to load up on the very best (and most expensive) players at other positions. Royals like Jacobs, Crisp, and Dejesus are all near the top of my rankings for today's game. While Porcello has been ok so far (7 Ks and just 1 BB in 12 IP) the sample size is still too small to convince me that he's gone from struggling in A ball to success in the major leagues over the offseason. One of the early lessons of Sabermetrics was that minor league statistics do have value when predicting major league performance, and I'm not ready to ignore Porcello's past until he shows good control for 4 or 5 games. If I'm right about Porcello, there's a good chance I'll be richer tomorrow than I am today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Daily Fantasy Baseball Contest Matchups

A number of teams seem to have really favorable matchups for hitters today. The Blue Jays benefit from home field advantage against Matt Harrison, who is one of the weakest regular starting pitchers in the majors right now. The Indians have a similar situation against Brian Bannister. Interestingly, in the Giants-Padres match-up, its the Giants where some of the players have a particularly good match up, despite the presence of Barry Zito on the mound for them. That's because Chris Young, while a pretty good pitcher, is so awful at holding runners on base. Any players on the Giants who are capable of stealing bases will benefit.

On the pitching side, Sabathia looks to be the best pick for the day (at least under Draftbug scoring rules), with Haren, Lee, and Hamels as the next best options. Because it's unclear if he's fully healthy, I'd probably steer clear of Hamels for now. But despite his poor results this season, I think Lee is just fine and makes a nice pick in multi player contests, where he's not likely to get selected by many other people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Derek Holland 2009

Derek Holland is likely to see significant major league action for Texas in 2009, despite having moved through the minor leagues very quickly last year. Because of the rapid series of promotions, there's less of a statistical track record to forecast his future than for most pitchers. That said, the 22 year old lefty looks like a terrific prospect. His strikeout rates were generally above one per inning, and he displayed excellent control as well. While the competition at the major league level is much tougher, he still figures to be effective almost immediately. I wouldn't expect him to be an instant star, especially pitching in Texas, but he's a great player to have in keeper leagues, and may have some value for spot use in Yahoo leagues as a starter or middle reliever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weather is Critical in Daily Fantasy Baseball and Baseball Betting

The importance of watching the weather in daily fantasy baseball contests and for baseball betting in general can't be overemphasized. Today is the best example I've ever seen for that. There are only seven games scheduled, one is starting too early to be included in most daily contests, and four of the other six are likely to be rained out. If you can find a contest where your opponent isn't watching the weather report, you may be able to make some REALLY easy money! This is the best baseball weather site I've found. Many of the others are in foramts that make it hard to scan the full slate of games for risks of rainout.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is Erik Bedard Back As A Fantasy Star?

I've talked about this before, but in general I find pitchers to be a lot more predictable than hitters. I know that goes against the common wisdom, but there's a reason for it. Hitters do tend to follow slightly more predictable career paths. We probably can do a better idea projecting what will happen over the next few years for any group of hitters than pitchers because of the likelihood that many pitchers will be impacted by changes in health, arm strength, and mechanics. On the other hand, when one of those things happens, it's generally pretty easy to see in the statistics of the pitcher. When a previously dominating pitcher goes two months with a strikeout rate under 6, we KNOW something is wrong. When a top hitter goes two months with a .190 batting average, we have no idea whether there's a problem, or he's just had some bad luck. In the future, we may gain additional insight from Pitch/fx, but that's just going to widen the gap even more, making diagnosing pitchers struggles even easier.

Before the season, I was down on Erik Bedard, both because of his Spring statistics and some things I had heard. After his second start, I suggested I might have been wrong. Through three starts, he's got 23 strikeouts and only 3 walks in 19.1 innings. He appears to be completely healthy, and I think he's an excellent trade target. His value may have gone up since opening day, but probably not far enough to prevent him from being cheaper than he should in most leagues.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Sox at Fenway Against Adam Eaton....Hmmm...

As the headline says, the Red Sox are at home today against Adam Eaton. I may have spoken too soon the other day when I declared the Texas match-up for the day 'about as good a match-up as you'll find all year'. It turns out that good match-up aren't as unusual as I had remembered! Anytime a team is at home in a good hitters' park against a bad pitcher, you should be looking to use as many of their hitters as possible. That's particularly easy to implement in salary cap leagues and daily contest leagues where you're able to set an entirely new lineup every day. In any case, in addition to their stars, Drew and Lowell offer nice mid priced alternatives for today's games.

The Yankees also have a very good match-up today, as they're at home against Carmona. I know that a lot of people think Carmona is a good pitcher who has just hit some rough patches, but I don't buy it. At his best, his low strikeout rate would still make him a marginally effective pitcher. And guys like Damon and Teixeira tend to score big points against guys as wild as him.

On the pitching side, Santana and Lincecum appear to be the best, but as usual it depends on your scoring system. There are many good starting pitching options today.

Friday, April 17, 2009

4/17: Favorable Matchups

A few people have asked me to start discussing favorable matchups the day before the games, so that they can take the advice into account when setting lineups for games like ESPN Baseball Challenge and Yahoo, where transactions have to be done the day before. I'll do it when I can, but can't promise anything - I'm mostly evaluating the match-ups when I've got a few minutes to set my lineup for Draftbug daily fantasy baseball contests which only lock a few minutes before the earliest games start.

For today's games, the hitters on the Phillies, Royals, and Cubs have favorable match-ups.

The Phillies match-up is pretty interesting. Chris Young is actually a pretty good pitcher, but he's also a flyball pitcher on the road in a great home run park. That still would make this only a moderately good matchup for the Phillies. What puts some of their players over the top is that Young is possibly the worst pitcher in baseball when it comes to holding runners on base. Guys like Rollins and Victorino will have a chance to run wild on the basepaths.

The Royals against Matt Harrison in Texas is very favorable as well. Harrison is not good. Texas is good for hitters. Anybody who plays is a nice potential sleeper, even in points leagues where you might not normally consider them. I'll be eyeing Coco Crisp for use in some of my contests. Not that he'll be quite as valuable as the top outfielders, but he'll be close enough, and a bargain that will allow me to use more expensive players like Rollings and Utley.

The Cubs at home against Walters have a nice match-up too. Walters should have a respectable strikeout rate, but he's wild, and any team at home in a hitters park shoudld be expected to perform well.

On the pitching side, Hamels would appear to be the clear standout, except for his one strikeout performance last time out, following health concerns. Because of that, he's risky and those not willing to take a chance may want to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4/14: Rangers Hitters For the Win!

I'm going to be pretty busy for a few days (through Thursday) and likely won't have time to post, but just wanted to say that the Rangers hitters have about as favorable matchup as possible today. They're facing a terrible starting pitcher (Simon) at home in a good hitters park. And Baltimore always has a weak bullpen as well. I think there's a great profit opportunity for those who load up on Rangers hitters in Draftbug contests today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

4/13: Favorable Matchups For Mets, Rangers, Royals and White Sox Hitters

It looks like today's games feature favorable matchups for the Mets, Rangers, Royals, and White Sox hitters.

Actually, there's some guesswork involved with the Mets hitters. Walter Silva is one of the few players for whom I couldn't easily find any historical stats. Until he proves otherwise, I'm assuming he's pretty bad. And I'm assuming for now that Citi Field is similar to Shea. I believe it may be an even better pitchers' park though. So proceed with caution on the Mets hitters.

The Rangers and Royals hitters are at home in good hitters parks. The Rangers face Uehara, who I've projected to be fairly average pitcher. The Royals face Fausto Carmona, who is terrible (although he won't allow many home runs).

The White Sox situation isn't quite as favorable, since they're on the road in Detroit (a decent pitchers' park), but Miner is a bad enough pitcher that its still a good situation for the Chicago hitters.

On the pitching side, Billingsley looks like the best pick in mosts daily contest formats, with a number of decent alternatives in Slowey, Kazmir, Lilly, Greinke, and Gallardo, and Volquez.

Why Draftbug Is Better Than Snapdraft

For those of you who haven't had the chance to do a direct comparison of Draftbug and Snapdraft, I figured I'd provide a list of some of the differences. Since I'm obviously somewhat biased, I'll stick with undisputable facts, and I'll acknowledge up front that most people feel that Snapdraft has an appealing look and feel as well as a good level of traffic. That said, here's what Draftbug has:

1. Lower Rake. Snapdraft is charging you 20% fees per contest you play in. That's very hard to overcome, no matter how good you are. It means that you're less likely to come out ahead in the long run, and more likely to lose all your money after playing in a smaller number of contests.

2. Chat Box. Our chat area gives the site a more fun, communal feel, because you have the opportunity to get to know your opponents, talk strategy, ask questions, and do some friendly trash talking.

3. Live Drafts. Like other sites, we have standard 'salary cap' type contests. But unlike Snapdraft and others, we offer 'live draft' contests. These are great for those who think that draft day is the best day of the fantasy baseball season.

4. Flexible Contest Formats. We can (and do) set up contests with a variety of formats. If you have ideas for a scoring option or roster configuration that you think would be fun, let us know and we'll set up for you.

5. Guaranteed Cotnests. Once two people are entered in a contest, we won't cancel it or reduce matter how many people were supposed to be entered.

Try Draftbug daily fantasy baseball contests today and see the difference!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Favorable Matchups - 4/12

Before I start on the matchups, I wanted to address a question that reader Scott Berger asked: "What is the current thinking on Bedard?". I'm glad he asked, because this raises a few interesting points. When I'm down on a talented pitcher coming back from injury, it doesn't take much for me to change my mind. Bedard's eight strikeout, no walk performance definitely impacts my opinion of his effectiveness. I'm not saying I expect him to be dominant like in 2007, but this definitely makes it substantially more likely that he's healthy enough to pitch effectively. Strikeout rate in particular is a VERY sensitive indicator with great predictive ability. If he has two or three more games like that, I'd be sure he's fine. As it is, he's worth getting if cheap in any format, and I'd now consider him in certain situations in daily contests.

For today's matchups, Lincecum is the clear standout on the pitching side. He's already possibly the best pitcher, and he'll be in the best pitcher's park in baseball against a weak offense. Interestingly, his opponent Chris Young is probably one of the best bargains among those looking for a less expensive pitcher in daily contests.

On the hitting side, the White Sox, Rays, Mariners, Phillies, and Rockies are in favorable situations. Unfortunately, there appears to be a threat of rain for the Phillies-Rockies game, so they should be avoided if possible. There's also a threat of rain for the Yankees-Royals game.

The White Sox are at home in a hitters park against a relatively weak pitcher. While Blackburn has good enough control to keep his ERA in check, his low strikeout rate makes his a good target for opposing hitters...especially those prone to strikeout a lot against better pitchers. Sometimes these things aren't symetrical. A wilder pitcher with a better strikeout rate might be a worse choice to have on your team than Blackburn, but also a tougher matchup for opposing hitters.

The Rays and Mariners both face bad pitchers, although they're both on the road and in the Mariners' case in a tough ballpark, so their hitters may not present as good an opportunity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Favorable Matchups - MLB Schedule 4/10

One of things I'll be trying to do here is alert you to teams and players with particularly favorable upcoming matchups. That should give you a big edge in daily contests and other fantasy baseball formats with daily transactions.

One thing to keep in mind is that a matchup may not affect all players equally. When Chris Young comes to town, that's not a great matchup for most Mets hitters, because of his high strikeout rate. But things couldn't be better for Jose Reyes, since Young is absurdly easy to steal bases against. There are other factors (such as handedness and pitching style) that can influence individual hitters differently as well. So there are going to be times when I'll identify a team that generally has a good matchup, and other times when I'll identify specific players.

Overall, for today's games it appears that the two big winners on the hitting side are the White Sox and Phillies. Both play in hitters parks against bad starting pitchers. The White Sox have the added bonus of home field advantage. On the pitching side, the top two picks in most formats should be Lowe and Harden. Which comes out on top in the rankings depends on the scoring system, since they have such different styles.

Thanks to a pitching at home in a pitcher's park against a bad offense and a bad opposing starting pitcher, Shawn Hill is an excellent bargain who should be available cheap in almost any format. In fact, in some formats he's not far below Lowe and Harden for today's games! Padres relievers are worth targeting as fact home field advantage is greater for relievers, because the home team always has to pitch a full nine innings, providing them with more opportunity than visiting relievers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Winning Snapdraft Freerolls

Here's a basic strategy for winning Snapdraft freerolls. You can also use a similar strategy to win the daily $5 freerolls offered at Draftbug. The Draftbug freerolls have the added advantage of paying cash to the top TWO finishers.

The key thing to remember is that only the these are large contests with top heavy payouts. There's no reward for coming in 3rd. That means that you shouldn't be seeking consistent performance - you should be using high variance, risky players who will increase your chances of an abnormally high score...even if there's also a chance of them being total busts for the day. Here's how you can do that:

1. Pick multiple hitters on the same team. Hitters on the same team (especially those near each other in the batting order) will tend to have high correlation in their performance. When one does well, the others will benefit. When there's a blowout, they'll all face the same 'garbage time' relievers. That means that if you use a few hitters from one team, there will tend to be more variance in your score. Some days you'll do really well and some days you'll do really badly. That's what you need to aim for in large field, top heavy tournaments.

2. Pick players who you expect others not to take. Once you play in a bunch of freerolls at Snapdraft or Draftbug you'll get a feel for which players are popular. Avoid those players. It doesn't do much for your chances of victory if Santana pitches a no hitter, if 15 other entrants had him on their team as well. However, on the (admittedly, less likely) chance that Scott Baker pitches a no hitter, you may very well be the only person who had you a huge advantage in the contest.

3. Pick control pitchers. This seems a little counterintuitive, but here's why you should alway take control pitchers. A high strikeout, high walk pitcher is going to have trouble finishing their games, no matter how well they pitch. Someone like Rich Harden just isn't that efficient. He's often going to pitch great...and still come out after 6 or 7 innings. In a contest with a less top-heavy payout, that may be great. But if you need to come in first, it's better to take a pitcher like Mark Buehrle. Although he really isn't as good, on the days when he gets lucky and does well, he has an excellent chance of pitching a complete game. In other words, his scores will have higher variance...which is what you're looking for in these contests.

4. Pick sluggers...even bad ones. Sluggers will tend to have higher variance in their scores. Anytime they hit a home run, they score well. Since you only care about 1st place, you don't mind that sometimes they'll strike out three times and have a negative score. High variance wins daily contest freerolls.

5. Don't worry about rain, benchings, and injuries. That's a slight exaggeration, but if there's a clearly superior option available, but you're worried that he might not get to play...stop worrying. You're going for first, and you need to increase your chances of a GREAT score, even if it also increases your chances of a really lousy one.

I hope this advice helps, or at least gets you thinking about strategy in large contests with only one or two spots winning. Also, if you haven't already done so, I'd definitely suggest trying out the Draftbug freerolls. While the site is similar to Snapdraft, it has some real advantages...including a public chat area that people actually use to swap strategy, ask questions, and talk trash.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Too Much Fun

Going into the season I was planning to play 6 different formats of fantasy baseball - Yahoo, Draftbug, Playspex, ESPN Baseball Challenge, The Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, and Salary Cap Baseball for Facebook.

It turns out that on top of daily writing for two blogs, weekly writing for two other websites, and promoting a contest site, that's something I'm incapable of. I've already dropped Playspex and Salary Cap Baseball for Facebook. They simply felt like too much 'work' to be worthwhile. Yahoo and TSN I'll play the full season because I've committed to it, I'm enjoying the ESPN format so far, and best of all I'm absolutely LOVING Draftbug. I realize I'm not the most objective reviewer of the site, but the challenge of picking daily lineups combined with the freedom to only enter contests on days when I have the time to devote to it make it the perfect format for me. I (and three other players) will be writing about our experiences playing the game on a daily basis at Draftbug Millionaire.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trusting Your Instincts

Actually, this post is about NOT trusting your instincts. If you're using the right data and doing the right calculations, you should generally trust the numbers, rather than your instincts. Most people find that very difficult to do, and if you're able to do it, then you're going to have an edge over your opponents. In the Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, my calculations told me that Garret Atkins and Alexei Ramirez belong in my lineup. My instincts tell me that both are overrated players going into this season. However, the calculations are able to take things into account that are too subtle for my intuition to factor in - for example, the exact details of the scoring system for the contest format. I don't believe that my instincts are based on something that the calculations can't reflect (for example an injury, or reduced playing time), so I'll follow the numbers and gain an edge that other people might pass up.

Another example of that is in Draftbug, where my instincts told me that the four hitters who have clear advantages at their position today are Sizemore, Wright, V. Martinez, and Kinsler. The numbers confirm Sizemore and Wright, but show that Kinsler actually is a substantially worse pick for today than Pedroia (except that Pedroia may be rained out), and that under Draftbug's scoring system Martinez only has a very small edge on Mike Napoli. As usual, I'll trust the numbers, except where I know they're unaware of something important (like the weather report).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Snapdraft Scoring Compared To Draftbug Scoring

Bookmark this post if you want to use it for reference. I'll leave it here until there isn't an internet anymore.

Keep in mind that despite some similarity in the scoring systems, there are lots of difference between Draftbug and Snapdraft. One difference is that Draftbug actually penalizes pitchers for allowing hits, walks, and runs. Snapdraft's omission of this is pretty odd. Perhaps the most significant difference is that Snapdraft charges an absurd 20% rake on most contests, while Draftbug generally charges 10%. For many solid players, this can make the difference between being a long term winner and long term loser.

Snapdraft Scoring:
+ 1 each Single
+ 2 each Double
+ 3 each Triple
+ 4 each Home Run
+ 1 each Run Batted In
+ 1 each Run Scored
+ 1 each Walk
+ 2 each Stolen Base
+ 10 each Win
+ 10 each Save
+ 1 each Inning*
+ 1 each Strike Out

Draftbug Scoring:
1B = 1 pt
2B = 2 pt
3B = 3 pt
HR = 4 pt
R = 1 pt
RBI = 1 pt
BB = 1 pt
SB = 2 pt
K = -1 pt

W = 10 pt
L = -3 pt
SV = 7 pt
IP = 3 pt
H = -1 pt
K = 1 pt
ER = -1 pt
BB = -1 pt

Ready Or Not, Opening Day Is Tomorrow

Opening Day is tomorrow, and I'm definitely feeling a little unready. There was a brief scare yesterday when my newly tweaked statistical model indicated that Juan Pierre against Tim Lincecum would be a terrific situation, but things appear to be under control now, and I've got my initial lineups set in all five formats I'll be playing this year - Yahoo, ESPN Baseball Challenge, Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, Playspex, and Salary Cap Baseball on Facebook. For anyone who still isn't signed up on Draftbug, there are still 7 spots left in the free $100 April Home Run Derby.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trevor Cahill 2009

With the news that Trevor Cahill is going to be the second starter in Oakland's rotation in 2009, he's suddenly become the focus of a lot of attention and analysis. Much of it has focused on the positives, as it often does with promising young pitchers. I'm here to provide a bit of a reality check. Cahill is a terrific long term prospect. He just turned 21, and he's had high strikeout rates in the minor leagues. His low home run rates allowed in the minors suggest that he may be a groundball pitcher, which would certainly be a big advantage. However, I don't think he's ready for immediate success in the majors. The highest level he's pitched at in the regular season is AA, and his strikeout and walk rate suggest that he was more lucky than good at that level. Despite 'winning' a spot in the rotation this Spring, he's struggled with his control again. If he can maintain a high groundball rate, he's got a chance of sticking in the majors, but barring some drastic improvement, I think it's going to be several years before he can be considered a solid fantasy option.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Matt Cain 2009

I'm sure this is going to outrage all the people who think that Matt Cain has been the victim of bad luck and bad teammates the past two years, but I've never really understood what all the fuss was about when it comes to Cain. Yes, you'd expect a player who puts up the ERA has the past two years to win more games, so to that extent the public perception is true. But he's been very luck to have such a good ERA with the component statistics he's put up. His control is mediocre (3.8 BB/9 in 2008) and he's an extreme flyball pitcher. Like any 24 year old pitcher, there's plenty of time for improvement, but right now he's a very average pitcher on a bad team. I would definitely stay away from him in 2009 unless your leaguemates agree with me and let him slide very far down in the draft.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dexter Fowler 2009

The days when any hitter on the Rockies roster is considered a guaranteed success are long gone, thanks to the humidor, but with prospect Dexter Fowler unexpectedly winning a spot on the team for opening day 2009, I thought he'd be worth taking a look at. Fowler's main claim to fame is a .335 batting average (and .431 on base percentage) at AA last year. Unfortunately, he does back that up with much power (only 9 HRs) and while fast (20 SBs), he's not really fast enough for that to be a major bonus for his fantasy owners. Also, the high batting average in 2008 is somewhat out of line with the rest of his minor league career. At 23 years old, I think there's room for Fowler to be a pretty good major leaguer, but he's never going to be a fantasy superstar. I actually like him better as a 'real' player, where his excellent on base skills should make him a good leadoff hitter, and his ability to play center field gives him added value.