Monday, August 30, 2010

Update

Three months isn't long to wait to update a blog, right?

Quick update on my teams: The slow draft team is 10th out of 15. Playing part of the season without a second baseman will do that. My bad Online Double Play team just worked it's way up to 5th out 12. That's as high as it's going to make it, as I'm trailing the 4th place team by 17 points. My good Online Double Play team is fighting for first in it's league. Today, I'm in first. But I've been swapping positions on a daily basis with one other team. As recently as two weeks ago, there were six teams shuffling positions daily, but the race seems to have narrowed to three of us now. None of us are anywhere near the top positions in the overall standings.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NFBC Leagues Update

Quick updates on my three NFBC teams...

The slow draft team is still struggling, but at the moment it's moved up from last place to 13th out of 15. Surprisingly, the pitching has been adequate, despite my ending up with only 5 starting pitchers in major league rotations so far. However, my hitting has been awful. The main issue wasn't so much that I didn't try to draft depth. It was that I did a lousy job of identifying players who would receive full time at bats, and have ended up with several part time players in my lineup for part of the season. The most damaging situation has been having to use Kaz Matsui in place of Brian Roberts.

My first NFBC team (DailyBaseballData.com) has had a narrow lead for first place for the past couple of weeks. It's surprisingly that it's held an uninterrupted lead for that whole time, because it's definitely one of the lower ranked 1st place teams in the overall contests, varying from a high of 99th overall to a low of around 125th overall during that time. When I drafted the team, it looked like the starting pitching was weak, but getting Ricky Romero, Phil Hughes, and C.J. Wilson has really improved the situation. The one major weakness has been saves, with only Qualls and Dotel as healthy closers. In an attempt to fix that problem, I made my first expensive free agent purchase of the season, winning Jose Contreras for 151 FAAB yesterday. Hopefully he'll get most of the saves while Lidge and Madson are out, and will hold onto the closer job for a while.

My other NFBC team is still struggling, at 10th place out of 12 in its league. Both pitching and hitting have been problems, although the roster still looks respectable in all areas (to me). At this point I think it's safe to say that this team won't be winning me the $60,000 for first place overall, but I do think it has the potential to gain some ground and be competitive in its league. Another month near the bottom of the standings, and I'll change my opinion on that.

I also wanted to responded to a user comment on Chad Qualls. Yes, his statistics stink so far this year. But the last time I checked (a couple of days ago) he had 13 strikeouts and 5 walks (in 13 innings pitched) with a 48% groundball rate. That means he's pitching fine, and has just suffered from a little bit of bad luck so far. As long as Arizona remains patient with him, he should retain all of his value. Normally I'd be very worried that they wouldn't have patience, but their entire bullpen has been so bad this season that they don't seem to have any tempting alternatives for the closer role.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Free Daily Fantasy Baseball Games, Win Cash Prizes

If you've never tried any of the sites with daily fantasy baseball games, now is the perfect time. New players at Fanduel can play in 50 person contests tomorrow (Friday) with the top three finshers in each winning cash prizes of $50, $30, and $20. Just click the ad below (not the one to the right of the screen, which will take you to a different landing page), register, and pick your team. Then sit back, enjoy Friday's games, and win some cash!

FanDuel - Fantasy Baseball Free Game

Friday, April 30, 2010

FAAB Bidding

It's been a while since I posted, so I'll give a quick update on my teams.

The slow draft team ('The Waiver Wire') has been awful. It's firmly planted in last place. Surprisingly, the problem hasn't been the pitching (yet), but my offense is near last in all categories. There's not a lot to say about the team other than this...they say that if you sit down at the poker table and don't know who the sucker is within five minutes, then it's you. What they forget to tell you is that sometimes even when you think that you DO know who the sucker is, you're wrong...and it's you.

The first NFBC Double Play team that I drafted ('DailyBaseballData.com') has had a good week, and had moved up to 3rd place in it's league this morning. This league is pretty evenly matched at this point, so much so that the team that was leading yesterday is in 5th today. What's particularly encouraging about my move up is that it's happened despite Cruz and Anderson joining Mike Gonzalez on the DL. The only bad news is that this is the team I didn't think had enough pitching going into the season. My rotation is now Lester, Anderson (DL), Slowey, C.J. Wilson, Hughes, and Romero. That's not awful, but unlikely to score well enough to put me into the running for the top overall teams. I'm also thin at closer, where Qualls and Dotel are my only healthy options...and both look like performance (and health) risks at this point.

The second NFBC Double Play team that I drafted ('Fanduel.com') has had a decent weak too, finally moving out of the cellar and up to 10th place. While the team's performance has been disappointing so far, I think it's too early to completely write it off.

One of the features of NFBC that's a new experience for me has been Free Agent Acquisition (FAAB) bidding. Each team gets a budget of $1,000 to bid on players every Sunday night. There are such a wide variety of strategies being used that all sorts of weird situations come up. Several players in my leagues have already gone for more than $100 higher than the next highest bid. One owner in each league has already exhausted more than $700 of their $1,000 budget. For the most part, I'm making frequent small bids, and trying not to treat any one player as a 'must have'. I anticipate using my budget gradually throughout the season to patch lineup holes, and pick up players with favorable schedules. I want to try to avoid filling up my bench with lots of speculative players who may or may not ever have a use...although with my closers struggling I'm finding the that temptation to pick up potential future closers is getting the best of me in some cases.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is It Time To Worry Yet?

A common question for fantasy baseball players to ask at this time of year is "Is it time to worry yet?". The correct answer is "it depends". Some situations where poor performance might be reason to worry:

1. There are concerns that an injury is contributing to the player's poor performance.

2. The player is in danger of losing playing time due to the poor performance.

3. The player is old enough that the poor performance may indicate that they've reached the steep part of the aging curve.

4. A pitcher has poor peripheral stats (K/9 and BB/9) AND is showing reduced velocity on their fastball.

If none of those conditions are present, then it's much too early to worry. On one popular baseball forum, a number of people said that they were worried about Hunter Pence. Why? This is a player who has a fairly established performance level. He just turned 27 years old. As far as a I know, there are no injury concerns and there's no risk of him losing playing time. If you're playing in a league where he may be available at a discount, he's exactly the type of player you should be targeting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Draft Champions' Strategy

One thing that became clear on Opening Day is that the key to strategy in the format that my slow draft team uses (which is called 'Draft Champions') is getting enough depth. Not only is there no trading (like all NFBC contests), but there’s no free agent pool either. You play the whole season with the original 45 players you drafted. I was aware of the hitting depth I’d need, but definitely underestimated what I’d want for starting pitchers. I think that drafting 8 or 9 pitchers would be more than enough, and I’d even be able to rotate some of them out of my lineup on weeks when they had an unfavorable start. Things haven’t worked out that way. Smoltz retired rather than finding a team to sign with. McDonald and Miller were sent down to the minors, as their teams apparently weren’t as high on their potential as I was. And Rzepzynski was injured…leaving me with only five starting pitchers. Not good…and lesson learned for next year.

Speaking of which, there’s talk of NFBC organizing next year’s slow draft/draft champions leagues into a larger overall contest with a prize pool for overall standings. That’s a GREAT idea, and terrific news for people without a lot of time to participate in a normal draft and plan FAAB acquisitions all season. All you’d do is participate in the slow draft, and then set your lineup (among only 45 players) each week. Count me in!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Catching Up

It's been tough keeping up posting with all of the excitement over Opening Day. Over the next few days, I'll see if I can get caught up. I'll start today by sharing my thoughts on my second NFBC Online Double Play draft. Going into it, I wanted to make a few changes from my strategy in the first one:

1. Get at least one more very strong starting pitcher.
2. Try to 'reach' on less of my favorite players, and I see if could make more 'value' picks.
3. Where possible, diversify by not picking players I had on the first team. I don't want an injury to kill the chances of both teams, so especially in the first five or six rounds I didn't want to repeat picks.
4. Use my bench to take advantage of the one game 'week 0' scoring period.
5. Get Matt Wieters and Francisco Liriano.

I definitely think I succeeded on the first count. My top three of Johnson, Hamels, and Anderson is a little strong than my other team (which has Lester, Anderson, and Slowey).

Hard to say whether I did a good job of getting value picks overall. Speed was definitely undervalued in this draft, so I think Reyes at 32 and Morgan at 185 were good value. Also, I think McLouth at 137 was good, and he certainly wasn't someone on my radar.

No repeats until C. Gonzalez at 89, so that part of my plan was successful.

Gardner and Okajima made sure that my 'week 0' strategy was worthwhile.

I reached a bit for Wieters at 56. Liriano was gone before 152, where I had planned to take him. I really think I'm going to regret not getting him on either team.

One other pick I'm questioning is Jason Werth at 41. Based on ADP, this represents good value. The reason I don't like it, is that I think really think Nelson Cruz is a superior player who fits the same profile. I didn't pick Cruz, because I thought there was a chance he'd make it back to me at 56...in which case I would have tried to wait until 65 for Wieters. It didn't work out that way, since Cruz went before my next pick.

My other mistake was not realizing that Rauch was still available when I took Madson. That could really cost me, if Lidge comes back relatively soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another NFBC Double Play Online Draft

At the last minute I decided to do another NFBC Double Play Online. I'll list my full draft results here, and post some discussion in the next few days:

1 8 Miguel Cabrera 1B
2 17 Troy Tulowitzki SS
3 32 Jose Reyes SS
4 41 Jayson Werth OF
5 56 Matt Wieters C
6 65 Josh Johnson P
7 80 Cole Hamels P
8 89 Carlos Gonzalez OF
9 104 Jose Lopez 3B
10 113 Carlos Quentin OF
11 128 Brett Anderson P
12 137 Nate McLouth OF
13 152 A.J. Pierzynski C
14 161 Chad Qualls P
15 176 Mike Gonzalez P
16 185 Nyjer Morgan OF
17 200 Matt Lindstrom P
18 209 Ryan Madson P
19 224 Travis Snider OF
20 233 Justin Masterson P
21 248 Casey Blake 3B
22 257 Aaron Harang P
23 272 Aubrey Huff 1B
24 281 J.D. Drew OF
25 296 Brett Gardner OF
26 305 Daniel Bard P
27 320 Paul Maholm P
28 329 Hideki Okajima P
29 344 Felipe Paulino P
30 353 Damaso Marte P

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fanduel Daily Baseball Contest Launch

Fanduel will be launching their daily baseball contests on Friday. In addition, they'll be launching multiplayer contests for all sports at the same time. New players can receive a $10 deposit bonus from them by entering LAUNCH10 in the promo code field of the registration form. Note that to enter a promo code, you'll need to register for the site using the small 'join' link in the upper right corner of the screen. If you register with the form on the main landing page (which doesn't provide anywhere to enter the promo code), then just send me an email and I'll get you credited for the $10 bonus.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Full NFBC Roster

Here's my full roster for the NFBC Online Double Play team that I talked about yesterday. In general, my assumption was that I could pick up underrated pitchers and would also be able to improve my pitching stats through active roster management during the season, so I focused on hitters during the early rounds. As I mentioned before, I got a lot of hitters that I really like...in many cases by reaching a little. I don't think a lot of players on my team would be viewed as 'value' picks, at least when compared to their usual ADP. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'll discuss the draft more over the next couple of weeks.

Round 1: Prince Fielder
Round 2: David Wright
Round 3: Dustin Pedroia
Round 4: Nelson Cruz
Round 5: Jon Lester
Round 6: Shin-Soo Choo
Round 7: Alexei Ramirez
Round 8: Carlos Gonzalez
Round 9: Carlos Quentin
Round 10: Brett Anderson
Round 11: Mike Napoli
Round 12: Chad Qualls
Round 13: Garrett Jones
Round 14: Mike Gonzalez
Round 15: Octavio Dotel
Round 16: Kevin Slowey
Round 17: Franklin Gutierrez
Round 18: Paul Konerko
Round 19: Kevin Gregg
Round 20: Ryan Theriot
Round 21: Marc Rzepczynski
Round 22: Phil Hughes
Round 23: Juan Rivera
Round 24: C.J. Wilson
Round 25: Brandon Wood
Round 26: Ivan Rodriguez
Round 27: Orlando Hudson
Round 28: Ricky Romero
Round 29: Daniel Bard
Round 30: Mike Adams

There's a great new site available if you're interested in learning about horse racing partnerships

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NFBC Online Double Play Draft

My main league for this year is an NFBC Online Double Play. For those who don't know, here are the key facts:

-$350 entry fee
-23 active players, 7 bench players
-5X5 scoring
-12 team leagues, with top two receiving prizes
-Additional prizes for top ten teams overall out of up to 1,080 teams

I'll probably be talking about this league a lot during the season. For now, I'll just cover a few of the highlights (and lowlights) from my draft last night.

The Good: I like my team and got a surprisingly large number of the players I was targeting. In two cases, a player I anticipated picking wasn't available, but a better player that I thought would be gone was available instead. I thought I'd get Miguel Cabrera with pick 1.10. He was gone, but I got Prince Fielder instead. I thought I'd get Josh Johnson with pick 5.10. He was gone, but I got Jon Lester instead. My offense is unusually balanced, with very few one dimensional players. I consider that an advantage, because an injury to one player generally won't have a disproportionate impact on any one category for me. My top two starters are a little better than I expected to end up with (Lester and Brett Anderson). I expected to get three low end closers, but ended up with four (Qualls, Gonzalez, Dotel, and Gregg).

The Bad: There were three players I really wanted who weren't available when I hoped they'd be. I thought that even with yesterday's news, Jose Reyes might slip to pick 3.10. He didn't. I was very surprised and disappointed that Matt Wieters wasn't available at pick 6.3 (or even 5.10). And Francisco Liriano went a few picks before I was set to take him at 15.10. Missing out on Liriano caused the middle of my rotation to be a little weaker than I hoped. Slowey is my #3, and then I have to sort through Rzep, Hughes, Ricky Romero and CJ Wilson for the remaining permanent spots in my rotation. I like all of those guys, but I really think Liriano is poised to return to be a top pitcher.

The Ugly: My plan if Reyes wasn't available was supposed to be that I would consider taking Felix Hernandez (if available) but would probably take Derek Jeter at 3.10. When the pick came up, Reyes and Hernandez were both gone. What threw me off was that Dustin Pedroia was somewhat unexpectedly still available. I had him projected for almost identical statistics to Jeter, but I almost always prefer the younger player in that situation. The one minor detail I forgot was that I had read about an injury to Pedroia a few hours earlier. I'm not sure if it was the excitement of the draft or what, but it completely slipped my mind until this morning. So I went ahead and picked Pedroia. Luckily for me, his x-rays came back negative today, so it looks like I may have dodged a bullet.

The other ugliness arose from Fanball's new draft software. Overall I think the interface is pretty good, and some tweaking could make it exceptional. Unfortunately, there were some bugs that caused nearly an hour of delays early in the draft. An additional half hour or so of delays were caused by one player having three or four separate problems where he was in autodraft mode and ended up with players he didn't want...resulting in the draft being stopped and rolled back two or three picks. So our 9pm draft ended up finishing after 1:30am. In Fanball's defense, their customer support for NFBC is really amazing. We were provided with a phone number at the beginning of the draft. During the course of the draft several of us briefly lost internet connections, and I was easily able to get Geoff from Fanball on the phone, where he told me the picks I had missed and manually entered the player I wanted for my next picks.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Interview With Daily Contest Player Who Made $8K in 2009

I've been doing some part time work for the folks at Fanduel and recently had the opportunity to interview ‘Headchopper’, who is one of the top players on the site. Headchopper (whose real name is David) is a 30 year old real estate agent from Texas. Some readers of The Waiver Wire might be interested in what he had to say. What follows are some of the highlights of our conversation.

Fanduel: You play in a pretty large amount of contests every day. I believe you’ve mentioned before that you were an overall winner in 2009. How much total profit did you make?

Headchopper: In 2009, I won various daily contests for $34,000+, and lost contests in the amount of $26,000. So there was a net profit of around $8,000.

Fanduel: Was your profit split among multiple sports, or did one sport account for the bulk of your winnings?

Headchopper: Football was my top sport this past season, followed closely by baseball. Basketball was a distant 3rd. Having the basketball season start while football is in full swing really detracts from the first couple months of basketball for me. And now as the basketball season winds down, preparation for baseball is taking place, so it takes a backseat again.

Fanduel: Do you play more traditional formats of fantasy games for any of those sports?

Headchopper: I used to play a lot of yearly leagues. But as I got into the daily sites, I have tapered off from those leagues.

Fanduel: How long have you been playing in daily fantasy contests, and how did you first find out about them?

Headchopper: I first found daily fantasy sports thru a link on a sports website in late 2008 or early 2009. I dabbled for a while, and then around June 2009 started playing in bulk.

Fanduel: Are you into sports betting, poker or any other forms of gambling?

Headchopper: I used to gamble on sports a lot. I also played a lot of internet poker. I found that ,although you can get on a hot streak and make some money, ultimately you’re not going to beat the sportsbooks. Fantasy sports lets you apply the same type of information to the daily sports games, but with a little more control over the outcome.

Fanduel: What do you think are some underrated aspects of strategy for daily fantasy contests that beginning players might overlook?

Headchopper: I always try to commit 15-20 minutes before lineups lock to update the status of players involved in that day’s contests. There’s nothing worse than being caught with a late scratch that could have been avoided. There are going to be times when you catch bad breaks with injuries and so forth, but knowledge is king. The more you know and keep abreast of the news, the better your chances to minimize those situations.

Fanduel: What’s your favorite thing about playing in the daily contests on Fanduel?

Headchopper: I love to find players who outperform themselves on that given night. And I love to see some guys cry about how lucky it was. But down inside, you know that you did the research and you had a hunch it was going to happen, so it's really not luck at all.

Fanduel: Is there anyone else playing on Fanduel that’s good enough that you’d prefer not to see them as your opponent very often?

Headchopper: I will, and have, played anyone who wants to play. But when dealing with the mathematics of winning percentage and what it takes to turn a profit, I would rather not be lined up against Tuffled1 or UCLA2 every night in basketball.

Fanduel: Is your opinion of Tuffled1 and UCLA2 based simply on their playing a lot, or can you tell from their picks that they're strong opponents?

Headchopper: When I first started playing at Fanduel, there weren’t nearly as many players as there are now. Every day I was up against those two guys. And they usually played the same players. I could tell right away they both had a great deal of knowledge about basketball and that it would be really tough to turn a profit if I were to play them every night.

Fanduel: Do you have any specific goals for your play in fantasy contests in 2010?

Headchopper: In 2010 I'd just like to establish some momentum to start baseball and carry it on into football season.

Fanduel: What’s something that you think could be even better about Fanduel in the future?

Headchopper: More games...More sports. Tap into the college fantasy market while it is still new. Because very soon it is going to grow to be as big as NBA and MLB fantasy. I fell in love with college football. So many players to choose from really benefits those who put in the research and I did quite well at that sport and hope you’ll offer it in the future.

Click here to register for the daily fantasy sports contests at Fanduel.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Random Updates

My main draft for this year (NFBC Online Double Play) is next Tuesday night, so I've been pretty busy preparing for that.

In the meantime, here are updates on a few other sites...

Citizen Sports (which was just acquired by Yahoo) launched their Salary Cap game on Facebook. There were some relatively minor rule changes, so if you're playing the game definitely read the new rules. Also, I wasn't able to find any mention of prizes.

ESPN launched their Baseball Challenge. Like all the full season salary cap games, prizes have been reduced to the point that they're worth almost nothing.

These are tough, tough times if you're a fan of full season salary cap fantasy baseball with daily transactions. There simply isn't any way to use your skills to make money at these games in 2010. Your best bet is to play in daily contests, where the top players from the full season contests should be able to maintain a high enough winning percentage to be quite profitable over the long run.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why You Should Care About Average Draft Position

I've heard at several fantasy baseball players proudly state that they ignore Average Draft Position (ADP) when planning for their drafts. The reasoning seems to be that you should 'think for yourself'...which would imply that visiting blogs, websites, and other sources of information isn't a good idea either. Of course, anyone suggesting this is missing the point of ADP data. I'm not reviewing it to figure out which players are the most valuable. I'm reviewing it to see how early I need to pick the players I really like if I don't want to risk having them selected by someone else first. I may think that Carlos Gonzalez is worth a 6th round pick, but ADP data helps me determine that I can wait until the 9th round to get him. Thanks to knowing his ADP, there's a good chance that I can get another 6th round quality player along with Carlos Gonzalez, instead of picking him in the 6th round and getting a 9th round quality player in the 9th round. That's a big edge, and anybody who completely ignores it is almost certainly not drafting as efficiently as they could.

There are several well known sources of ADP data (Mockdraftcentral.com and the newer Couchmanagers.com). I'd also recommend Fantasy Game Day which gathers ADP data from a variety of sources, and provides a spreadsheet that groups players into 'tiers' based on their ADP and average round selected in different sized leagues.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Daily Fantasy Baseball: $20 Free With Promo Code

For anyone interested in trying out daily fantasy baseball contests this season, Fanduel is offering $20 free on all deposits by new players. So for a $10 deposit (the minimum), you'll get $30 in your account. Just sign up using the 'join' link and enter PADDY20 in the promotional code field between now and next Monday. Don't use the quick registration form on the main 'landing' page for the site, because it doesn't have anywhere to enter the promo code. Once the promo ends, you're only likely to get $10-$12 for your $10 deposit, so this is definitely the best time to make deposits if you're planning to play in the daily baseball contests. For anyone who hasn't tried these out, they're one day salary cap contests. Deposit money via credit card or Paypal, pick a team within the salary cap, win (or lose) based on the performance of your players that day, and withdraw money whenever you want by check or Paypal. The contests are a lot of fun - both because of the immediate gratification of seeing whether you win or lose the same day you make your picks, and because they give you an opportunity to evaluate aspects of the game that normal fantasy contests don't emphasize - strength of opponent, park, home/away, platoon advantages, etc.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mat Latos 2010

Mat Latos is a popular recommendation as a sleeper pick for 2010. People are looking at his long term potential, his strong minor league numbers, and the advantage he'll gain from pitching half of his games in San Diego. While all of those should help him out, I'm not convinced he's ready to excel in the majors yet. His strikeout ratees in A and AA were right around one batter per inning. Good (especially when coupled with good control), but not exceptional for a top prospect. I suspect that he's going to struggle this year, unless he takes a big step forward.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Setting Your Fantasy Baseball Goals

If you ask most people what they're trying to accomplish in any fantasy baseball league or contest, the answer will that their goal is to do as well as possible. Sometimes that's a reasonable answer, but in some formats you're forced to choose among multiple goals. One obvious example of this is in the high stakes contests like NFBC or WCOFB. Is your primary focus to win the overall prizes or to ensure that you win your league? You can try to balance both goals, but by doing you make your chances of accomplishing either one worse.

How to treat the current situation with Jose Reyes is a perfect example of this choice. Let's say you're drafting in the NFBC this weekend. Jose Reyes is supposed to rest for the next "approximately 2-8 weeks". If his thyroid condition has improved at that point, he can start getting ready to play. In other words, he could conceivably be back by Opening Day...or we could learn in mid-May that he needs to miss more time. Let's assume that his current situation causes him to be drafted in the 4th round, instead of the 2nd round where he was going in most drafts unil the latest news broke.

So is Jose Reyes worth a 4th round pick right now? That completely depends on your goals. If you want to ensure that you win your league, I think he's too high a risk. This guy could miss half the season. On the other hand, if you want to beat out hundreds of other opponents for the top overall prize, you need to swing for the fences...and getting a first round quality player in the fourth round would be a great way to do that. If you don't think through your goals ahead of time, you may end up with a blended strategy that fails on both counts. You'll pick some risky players, some safe players, and end up with less than your share of league victories despite never putting yourself in position for a high overall finish.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NFBC Slow Draft - Full Roster

We finally finished my NFBC slow draft. I'm pretty happy with my team overall. With no trades or free agent pickups, it was important to have depth at every position. The only real hole in my team's depth is that I would have liked to have three third basemen, and only have two. I also wouldn't have minded getting another starting pitcher, but missed out on all the others that I liked. I obviously focused more on hitting than pitching...that was a calculated risk, because I think I'm good enough at evaluating pitchers that I should do ok with them anyway. We'll see if I'm right. I also expect to make more active use of my bench players than most owners, so I focused on getting guys who will get playing time, even if they didn't have quite as much upside as some of the available prospects in the later rounds. Here's my full roster:

1B Prince Fielder MIL R1 P9
1B Daniel Murphy NYM R24 P7
1B Gaby Sanchez FLA R32 P7
1B Ryan Garko SEA R33 P9
2B Brian Roberts BAL R3 P9
2B Kaz Matsui HOU R22 P7
2B Alexi Casilla MIN R44 P7
3B Aramis Ramirez CHC R4 P7
3B Jake Fox OAK R23 P9
SS Jose Reyes NYM R2 P7
SS Yuniesky Betancourt KC R35 P9
SS Tommy Manzella HOU R39 P9
C Matt Wieters BAL R5 P9
C Kurt Suzuki OAK R10 P7
C Gerald Laird DET R27 P9
OF Carlos Quentin CHW R7 P9
OF Garrett Jones PIT R9 P9
OF Nolan Reimold BAL R13 P9
OF Juan Rivera ANA R16 P7
OF Travis Snider TOR R17 P9
OF Scott Podsednik KC R18 P7
OF Luke Scott BAL R20 P7
OF Nate Schierholtz SF R28 P7
OF Micah Hoffpauir CHC R45 P9
DH Ken Griffey SEA R36 P7
DH Mike Jacobs NYM R40 P7
SP Javier Vazquez NYY R6 P7
SP Chad Billingsley LA R8 P7
SP Roy Oswalt HOU R12 P7
SP Marc Rzepczynski TOR R19 P9
SP Colby Lewis TEX R21 P9
SP Ricky Romero TOR R26 P7
SP Jon Niese NYM R29 P9
SP John Smoltz FA R30 P7
SP Andrew Miller FLA R34 P7
SP James McDonald LA R38 P7
RP Rafael Soriano TB R11 P9
RP Kerry Wood CLE R14 P7
RP Kevin Gregg TOR R15 P9
RP Chris Perez CLE R25 P9
RP Dan Wheeler TB R31 P9
RP Mike Adams SD R37 P9
RP Peter Moylan ATL R41 P9
RP Joe Thatcher SD R42 P7
RP Hong-Chih Kuo LA R43 P9

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Justin Masterson 2010

Justin Masterson is an intriguing sleeper in 2010. Pitching part of the season in relief and part of the season as a starter, he struck out 8.28 and walked 4.18 per nine innings last year. Combined with a very good 53.6% groundball rate, those stats make Masterson a highly effective pitcher. Normally a little bit of regression could be expected now that Masterson will presumably be pitching the full season as a starter, but given his age (about to turn 25) there's every possibility that Masterson could actully improve this season. If he can improve his control at all, he's going to very solid...far better than his current position in most drafts would indicate.

Great site for Premier League starting lineups

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Industry Updates

Thought I'd do a quick update on the current status of various sites in the fantasy baseball industry...

NFBC - just (in the past few days) gave players a first look at their new draft software and FAAB software. Overall, opinion seems to be lukewarm (or slightly better) on the draft software and somewhat more positive on the FAAB software. The good news is that they've been very active in forum discussions about the features, and I'm expecting a lot of the minor improvements people are looking for to be included very promptly. Compared to most software launches in the industry, I'd say they should be pretty happy with how they've done on this one. I'm definitely very impressed by their customer service - they're always on their own message boards, respond to most emails immediately, and I'm guessing that even though today is Sunday we'll see a comment from one of them in response to this post.

WCOFB - I didn't spend a lot of time looking, but I wasn't able to get a sense of how sign-ups are going from their message forum. If anyone has an idea how many people they've got so far, I'd be curious to hear from you.

Sporting News/Rotohog - These are basically the same entity at this point. Rotohog's site indicates salary cap and stock exchange games are coming soon. Players on the TSN message boards are furious at the lack of news and lack of responsiveness of the TSN staff.

Rapiddraft - Apparently will not be having baseball this year.

Fantasyworld - Also, apparently will not be having baseball. The lack of news on their site is a little odd, but at least one player reported receiving his football prizes recenty, so there's clearly nothing to worry about.

ESPN Baseball Challenge - No news yet on ESPN about this one. They never seem to give much advance notice when it launches, so I assume it will be back. That said, think they did eliminate the equivalent baseball game, so it bears watching.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ricky Romero 2010

It's a little unclear to me why Ricky Romero isn't a more popular late round pick than he is. His performance in in 2009 was very solid. 7.13 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.99 walks per nine innings is more than good enough to be effective when combined with his exceptional 54.0% groundball rate. I assume people's hesitation to embrace Romero's success is based on Toronto's weak offense in 2010 combined with the fact that his minor league track record suggests that he might be in for some regression in 2010. Romero is only 25 years old though, so I'm going to guess that the improvement last year was real, and that Romero will make a nice sleeper for those of us playing in deep leagues.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fantasy Horse Racing Contest

I realize that most people are coming to The Waiver Wire for fantasy baseball information, but once in a while I post something about other fantasy sports. If you're one of the five other people in the world who follows horse racing as closely as me, fantasy horse racing contests can be a lot of fun. There are a few contests running this year. In the most interesting on, you pay a $12 entry fee that makes you eligible for a $10,000 prize every month for the next year ($12 total entry fee, $120,000 total prizes). Select an 18 horse/5 jockey stable for the year. Each month activate 12 horses and 3 jockeys. Score points based on performance. Top score each month wins the $10K. The website is Derbydreamer.com. If you are going to enter, use my referal code (16228145) and I'd be happy to give you some pointers.

Jake Fox 2010

Last year Jake Fox hit .259 with 11 home runs in 216 at bats. That's pretty consistent with what he's done throughout his minor league career on a per at bat basis. The key for 2010 is how much playing time he's going to get. Interestingly for a guy whose weakness is his inability to field well, Fox has some additional value due to position eligibility (3B and OF). The thing to watch for is whether he fields either of those positions well enough to get much playing time at them in 2010, or will he just be splitting at bats at DH with Jack Cust. The other interesting question is whether his work in AAA last year was a fluke, or a sign of things to come: .409 with 17 home runs in 164 at bats!

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Update On Random NFBC Stuff

I've made two more picks in the slow draft since my last update:

Rd. 17, Pick #249: Travis Snider
Rd. 18, Pick #262: Scott Podsednik

I don't really like Podsednik much, but he's like to start most games to the Royals, and I felt like I needed someone capable of stealing a bunch of bases.

One word of caution to anyone who hasn't tried a slow draft before. Don't be fooled by the name and the 12 hour time limit. People will get cranky if you consistently take a long time with your picks. If you want to avoid that, let people know your schedule, give some of them your contact info, and put yourself on autopick or find someone who can pick for you when you're going to be out for too long.

At some point in the next few weeks I'm going to sign up for the NFBC Double Play. The online version of that contest (which is the one I'll be entering) has a $350 entry fee, small league prizes, and overall prizes for the top finishers, including a $60K grand prize. Drafts are scheduled at a variety of different times, and I'd love to hear people's opinions on when the competition is likely to be the weakest. I've heard several people suggest that the early drafts (held in mid March) aren't likely to attract as many of the top players as those in later March and early April. That probably makes sense. I'm also thinking that the 9pm drafts (especially during the week) are likely to have more people making hurried late round picks than the afternoon drafts or 7pm drafts. 9pm on St. Patrick's Day seems very promising although I don't know if my preparation will be done in time for that one.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

NFBC Slow Draft Mistake Picks

A few people have asked me which picks I considered mistakes by my opponents in the NFBC slow draft. I'll focus on some of the ones where I think that clearly superior options were still available at the same positions.

Ubaldo Jimenez before Hamels, Peavy, and Carpenter.
Matt Cain before Lackey, Billingsley, and Anderson.
David Aardsma before Jenks, Soriano, and Qualls.
Jason Frasor before Lidge, Gonzalez, Nunez, and Wood.
Jeff Niemann before Lilly, Buchholz, and Kuroda.

Someone also asked me about my strategy for closers. This was a case where I went for quantity over quality. Here are my picks since the last update:

Rd. 13, Pick #189: Nolan Reimold
Rd. 14 Pick #202: Kerry Wood
Rd. 15 Pick #219: Kevin Gregg
Rd. 16 Pick #232: Juan Rivera

In a league where the average team is going to have only two closers, I think having Soriano, Wood, and Gregg should work out fine.

Matt Wieters 2010

One player who I really wasn't expecting to get in my NFBC slow draft was Matt Wieters. I had seen the early round results of a few similar drafts where he went in the late 40s or 50s and assumed that's where his ADP would be. When he was still available at pick 69, I jumped at the opportunity to take him. The more I think about Wieters, the more I like his chances to be a top three catcher in 2010. Last year in the Major Leagues, he hit .288 with 9 home runs in 354 at bats. Projected to a full season, that's not bad at all and would probably make him about the 6th or 7th best catcher. The thing is, he was MUCH better the previous two years in the Minor Leagues. He hit for more power (27 home runs in 437 combined at bats) and a better batting average (.345 in 2007 and .365 in 2008). His strikeout to walk ratio gives a clue why his average suffered such a decline in the majors as he had only 28 walks and 86 strikeouts, for a guy who walked more than he struck out during his minor league career. Expect the strikeouts to drop, and the average and home runs to increase in 2010, as the 23 year old Wieters is likely to improve substantially.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Catching Up On My NFBC Slow Draft

Here's the latest update on my team in the NFBC slow draft league. Keep in mind that this is a 15 team, 45 round draft, and that there will be no in season trading or free agent acquisition.

Rd. 1, #9: Prince Fielder
Rd. 2, #22: Jose Reyes
Rd. 3, #39: Brian Roberts
Rd. 4, #52: Aramis Ramirez
Rd. 5, #69: Matt Wieters
Rd. 6, #82: Javier Vazquez
Rd. 7, #99: Carlos Quentin
Rd. 8, #112: Chad Billingsley
Rd. 9, #129: Garret Jones
Rd. 10, #142: Kurt Suzuki
Rd. 11, #159: Rafael Soriano
Rd. 12, #172: Roy Oswalt

Overall, the guys in my league appear to be doing a good job with their drafts, although there have been a number of pitching picks in the past two or three rounds that I think were mistakes. That's not surprisingly, since I generally form strong opinions on pitchers, while being more of a crowd follower when it comes to evaluating hitters.

It's also worth noting that the NFBC released ADP ranking from earlier slow drafts yesterday or the day before, which may help people avoid reaching for players who could be drafted many rounds later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Designing a New Scoring Format

Yesterday, one of The Waiver Wire's readers asked the following question about designing a new scoring format: "If one were to start/join a fantasy league that only used one or two categories for hitters and pitchers which categories would you choose?"

The truth is, I would probably choose something funky that I think I could forecast better than others - for example, home runs allowed for pitchers. I assume that's not really what Mike was looking for though. I'd guess he's looking for categories that would have some relation to the actual 'quality' of player, and would produce player values that have some similarity to more traditional leagues.

With that as the goal, I think you'd generally need two categories to create a balanced game. For hitters, I'd probably go with batting average and home runs, although I suppose that replacing batting average with steals would work pretty well also.

For pitchers I'd use ERA and either wins or strikeouts. That would require players to go for 'quantity' as well as 'quality' and would eliminate most of the potential gimmick strategies.

Mike went on to suggest OPS as a potential single category for hitters. That would work fine, as long as there's a requirement for players to reach some minimum number of at bats. Likewise, ERA could be used for pitchers, as long as there's an innings pitched minimum.

Monday, February 22, 2010

NFBC Slow Draft: First Four Rounds

A few days ago, I mentioned the slow draft I'm participating in at NFBC. It's a 15 team league, and we're about half way through the fifth round right now. I'll have to be careful not to discuss my plans in too much detail, because my competitors are aware of this blog. I'll talk more about my plan for the season after the draft is over (which should be in about a month). That said, here are my first four picks:

Rd. 1, #9: Prince Fielder
Rd. 2, #22: Jose Reyes
Rd. 3, #39: Brian Roberts
Rd. 4, #52: Aramis Ramirez

I've already had two players get taken one pick before my turn - McCann in the 3rd round and Lind in the 5th round. That said, I'm reasonably happy with how things are going. I wanted either Fielder or Cabrera in the 1st round, and both ended up being available. I was hoping Reyes would make it to me in the 2nd round, and have no idea who I would have taken if he wasn't.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Minor League Fantasy Baseball Simulation

For those interested in something a little different, Box Baseball offers 'fantasy baseball simulations'. My undestanding is that you pick teams at the beginning of the season, and then watch simulated games using your players, with one game played out each day of the season. What should make this really compelling is that they've now added minor leagues to the game, making this (I believe) the first minor league fantasy baseball game of any sort. Use WAIVER as the promo code when you register, and you'll get a $10 discount.

I just registered for my first 'real' league of the 2010 season. It's a 'Draft Champions' slow draft league at NFBC. That means a 45 round draft where we can't pick up or drop players during the season, but we can move players in and out of our starting lineup. The league is almost full, so we should be getting started later today or tomorrow. As I make my picks over the next 2-3 weeks, I'll be talking about them here.

If any of you are tax lawyers or accountants, and are interested in collaborating on a tax related fantasy sports article, let me know. Particularly for someone interested in potentially picking up some business for a private tax preparation business, this should be a great opportunity for exposure.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Replacement Value and Scarcity in Fantasy Baseball

Like most complex topics, I think most people try to oversimplify the idea of 'replacement value'. That results in projections and draft strategies that end up taking it into account incorrectly. To avoid the pitfalls associated with the concept, you should keep one thing in mind all the time: when I'm valuing or choosing a player, what is the relative value of the players I may end up with instead? During the season, there's a simple way to approach this. If I need to pick up a player at any given position, how good is the best player available on the waiver wire at that position? That's the replacement value to use for players at that position (for example, when I've evaluating potential trades). On the other hand, things are more complex when you're looking at replacement value as part of your draft preparation. You don't care about the quality of players who will end up on the waiver wire post-draft, because those are not that players you're going to end up with if you don't draft 'Player A' at a position. Instead, you should be thinking about position scarcity. What players are you likely to end up with at the same position later on in the draft if you pass up the player you're evaluating now? If you were going to attempt to quantify it (which would be a very difficult task), the scarcity or replacement value you cared about would be something like the average quality of remaining draft-worthy players at that position, weighted by the likelihood of each player ending up on your team. Obviously, most of you are NOT going to try to measure that, but you can instead group players by tiers at each position. That way instead of looking at the worst third baseman and the worst first baseman and assuming the position have equal 'replacement value', you'll know that after the 4th round or so of most draft, there's enough scarcity of quality third basemen that you're likely to end up with someone very mediocre, while there are still plenty of strong first basemen who are likely to be available over the next few rounds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wade Davis 2010

Wade Davis is frequently mentioned as a potential sleeper for 2010. I think that's a reasonable opinion, as long you you keep in mind the word 'potential'. He's young (24) and has always had good (but not truly exceptional) strikeout rates. I think some people are looking at his 36.1 major league innings last year (with 36 strikeouts and 13 walks) and drawing the conclusion that he may be ready to dominate immediately. That probably isn't the case. His control hasn't been terrific in the minor leagues, and unless he improves substantially (which is possible), I would expect something like 7 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.5 walks per nine innings. A solid major leaguer, but nothing special. Judging by his minor league home run rates, I assume he's not a groundball pitcher either, so I'd expect an ERA in the mid-to-high 4s. At his current MockDraftCentral ADP of 296th (79th starting pitcher), that's reasonable, but there are definitely a few better picks available later on in most drafts.

Monday, February 15, 2010

John Danks 2010

Another player getting less attention than he did at this time last year is John Danks. Like Lackey, his ADP does seem reasonable - 162nd overall (37th among starting pitchers). And like Lackey, Danks seems like a fairly 'safe' pick for that point in the draft. The difference is that Danks probably has more upside - he's only 24 years old. His component stats regressed slightly in 2009, as he struck out 6.69 per nine innings and walked 3.28. His groundball rate did improve to a career best 44.2% though. Danks seems like a nice combination of low risk and good upside for 2010, as long as you don't have to reach to pick him.

John Lackey

John Lackey seems to be flying under the radar in 2010. While his ADP of 116th (24th starting pitcher) at MockDraftCentral seems reasonable, I just don't hear anyone talking about him. His component statistics have been remarkably consistent over the past five years. While he doesn't have the same upside as some other pitchers going around the same point in drafts, he's a very solid #2 or #3 starter for fantasy rotations. Last year he struck out 7.09 per nine innings, walked 2.40 per nine innings, and had a 44.9% groundball rate. I expect about the same this year, although I do think that the move to Boston could result in more wins.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brian Matusz 2010

I have to admit that I went into this post with the preconceived idea that Brian Matusz is being overrated for 2010. After looking at the stats, I am not so sure. In two minor league stops, he struck out a combined 121 batters and walked 32 batters in 113 innings. Those accomplishments were at A+ and AA ball, which makes them slightly less impressive. However, Matusz was effective once he reached the majors as well, striking out 38 and walking 14 in 44.2 innings pitched. Given his age (23) and lack of professional experience, I think some improvement can be expected to take place this year. The only real negative is his low groundball rate of 31.2% in the majors. While I wouldn't want to rely on Matusz too heavily until he has more of a track record, I do think he could be a nice upside pick if you've got a few solid starters already in your rotation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yahoo Fantasy Baseball. NFBC, and Rapiddraft

For those who are interested, Yahoo Fantasy Baseball is now open for registration.

At the other end of the price spectrum are the NFBC high stakes contests. I'm not quite ready to take the plunge into their main event, but I will be dipping my toes in the water this year by trying out the NFBC Double Play Online. $350 to enter, with a $60K grand prize sounds pretty good to me. There are additional league prizes and prizes for the overall top finishers. The format is 12 team leagues, 23 active players with a 7 player bench. Rotisserie 5X5 scoring. Weekly FAAB acquisitions and pitcher changes, but twice weekly hitter lineup changes. I'll be talking a lot more about the format, since that (along with daily fantasy contests) will be my main focus this year. I was hoping that Rapidraft would run a baseball contest, but that doesn't appear to be the case, since they've already announced that football mock drafts are coming soon.

Yovani Gallardo 2010

Yovanni Gallardo is a relatively high risk/high reward pick for where he's going in most drafts. His age (23) and high strikeout rate (9.89 last season) give him incredible offset. His mediocre control (BB/9: 4.56) was somewhat offset by an improving groundball rate of 45.0%. In addition to the control issues, there is injury risk, as he threw a fairly large number of innings (194) for someone coming off almost a fully missed season. If you're picking your first or second starting pitcher, I'd suggest going with a safer pick like Beckett or Hamels (who are generally only going a few spots before Gallardo), but if he you're already up to your third starter, Gallardo may have the best upside of those available.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Relief Pitcher Wins and Categories

With so much good fantasy baseball information now available for free on the internet, or at little cost through books, magazines, and subscriptions, it can be hard to get an edge over your competition. One way that I try to find an advantage is by doing small research studies on fantasy-related topics that nobody has looked at. For example, because of the way baseball's scoring system assigns 'wins' to pitchers, I've always thought that relief pitchers would likely get a greater share of the team's wins in home games. Given that teams also win a greater percentage of games at home, I thought that there might be some potential advantage in certain formats to using middle relievers when they're pitching at home.

To test that theory, I put together a list of 18 good middle relievers, and added up their wins at home vs. their wins on the road. Because of the limited sample size, the results were inconclusive - 31 home wins vs. 26 road wins. Considering the rate at which home teams win games overall, that was a little less support for my theory than I expected. However, the study would be worth repeating for a larger group of pitchers.

My reason for expecting more relief wins at home can be illustrated with the following scenarios. Game is tied. Team is at home. Starting pitcher is pulled after 5 innings. Relief pitcher throws scoreless top of 6th inning, and home team scores in bottom of 6th. Reliever gets win. Now, same thing on the road. Starter is pulled after five innings. Team scores go ahead run in sixth inning. Reliever pitches scoreless bottom of sixth. Starter gets win. So basically, the middle reliever gets one extra inning of potential wins at home, and the starter gets on less inning of potential wins.

I think this is something that's worth studying further, using a larger sample size (more pitchers and for multiple years). Also, this effect would affect different pitchers differently, depending on their usage patterns. It would probably be worth categorizing the pitchers into 'types' based on usage, either using the six categories that Bill James used in his "2009 Relief Pitchers" article in The Bill James Handbook 2010
or basing it on some other combinaion of the 22 statistical categories he shows for each pitcher in the same article.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chad Qualls 2010

If current trends continue, Chad Qualls will be one of the best values available on fantasy baseball draft day 2010. He's currently the 229th ranked player at MockDraftCentral, and isn't ranked at Couchmanagers.com. This is a near-elite level closer. Very few pitchers in baseball have Qualls' combination of peripheral stats. Last season his K/9 was 7.79, BB/9 was 1.21, and groundball rate was 56.9%. I expect the walk rate to regress to somewhere between 2 and 2.5 this year, but that still makes Qualls an exceptional pitcher. He's obviously slipping because of concerns about his September knee surgery. However, he was supposed to be completely ready for Spring Training, and I haven't yet heard anything to contradict that. Given some of the other 'talent' that is available at that point in most drafts, using a 19th or 20th round pick on Qualls seems like a risk that's well worth taking.

Super Fast Mock Drafts

A few days ago, I mentioned the slow mock draft that I was participating in. I was planning to give updates all the way through the draft, but it ran into some problems. It was SO slow that people began to lose interest and go into 'autopick' mode, so many of the picks were made by the Couchmanagers' ranking system, and didn't really provide much useful information.

That experience inspired me to invent the 'Super Fast Mock Draft'. I'm able to complete them in less than half an hour, and they're available starting immediately, 24 hours a day. You may be wondering how that's possible.

Basically, I just take the results of any random mock draft completed by others. I decide what position I will pick in. Each round I'm allowed to pick any players who hadn't been picked already at that point. It's great. I don't need to wait for others to be available or to make their pick. This early in the season, thinking through the picks and researching any questions that come up is more valuable than the experience of drafting at 'full speed' with a time limit. I can stop and see who really is better out of Carlos Gonzalez or Tori Hunter, whether Brad Lidge is likely to be ready for opening day, or what kind of playing time Mike Napoli should get.

The 'flow' of the draft isn't exactly what it would be in a mock draft with other players, since my picks aren't impacting who others can take. But it's close enough that the practice I get from it is just as valuable.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Felipe Paulino 2010

This guy is one of the true sleepers of 2010. I actually feel a little bit guilty writing about him, since I'm sure there are some other people out there who have him on their radar and have been keeping him secret. That said, I've found that no matter how convincing the evidence that a player should do well, a 6.27 ERA general does a good job of limiting his popularity on draft day. Add to that the fact that Paulino may have to compete for a spot in the rotation for a team with a bad offense, and it's easy to see why Paulino is not currently ranked in the Mockdraftcentral.com ADP rankings. They go down to #390, and guys like Homer Bailey and Aroldis Chapman, both of whom Paulino should easly outperform are ranked at least 100 spots earlier in the 290s.

So why am I so high on Paulino? For starters, he struck out 8.57 batters per nine innings. He combined that with ok control (BB/9: 3.41) and an average groundball rate of 42.2%. That's good for an xFIP of 4.10. And at 26 years old, Paulino definitely has a reasonable chance of further improvement. If you're in a deep league, Paulino will make a great late round pick, and even in shallow leagues he's someone you should keep an eye on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rick Porcello 2010

I was very critical of the Tigers for starting Porcello off in the major leagues last year. Based on his minor league numbers the previous season, I thought he had little chance of success. Porcello definitely held his own though, largely due to a very high groundball rate of 54.2%. With that kind of ability to induce grounders, Porcello doesn't need great strikeout rates or walk rates to success, which is good, since his rates last year were weak (K/9: 4.69, BB/9: 2.74). If Porcelo (who just turned 21 years old) can improve on that low strikeout rate, he could be excellent in 2010. But don't be fooled by the sub-4 ERA...Porcello definitely got a bit lucky last year, and could pitch better while putting up a higher ERA this season.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Elvis Andrus 2010

Elvis Andrus is a good example of the type of player I most like to have on my teams - low risk, high reward. Yes, that's right...low risk, high reward. What does a player have to do to qualify for that unlikely combination. Generally, they need to be VERY young - that's where the high reward comes from. Because of their youth, we simply don't know how much they might still improve...but it's likely to be a substantial amount. The low risk comes from a combination of having an established track record of performance (in this case, Andrus' 2009 season), not being at risk of losing playing time if they struggle, and not showing any particular reason to be worried about injury risk. Andrus qualifies on all counts, and a repeat of the 33 steals he managed in 2009, would make him a worthwhile pick in 2010 at his current Couchmanagers ADP of 107th, especially if you aren't able to get any of the big name stolen base specialists.

Friday, January 29, 2010

B.J. Upton 2010

It seems like each year, perception of B.J. Upton's fantasy baseball value swings wildly from drastically overrated to underrated, and then reverses itself the next season. I think he may be due for an upswing this year. His most recent ADP at Couchmanagers.com had him ranked as the 104th player, just below hitters like Pence, Loney, Wieters, C. Jones, Y. Escobar and Soriano. Although his average was terrible (.241) last year, he has hit .300 in a full major league season. He's also hit 24 home runs in a season. And he's stolen over 40 bases each of the past two years. So we know the potential is there for a huge season, if he puts it all together. It may seem as though Upton has been around for ever, but he's still only 25 years old! Improvement can be expected, and it wouldn't surprise me if he becomes an elite player for fantasy baseball in 2010.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Updates Including WCOFB

Notes on a few fantasy baseball odds and ends...

First of all, if you have any questions or topics you'd like me to address in future posts (including "what should I?" type questions), email me at the address listed at the bottom of the righthand sidebar.

The slow mock draft that I mentioned a couple of days ago is underway. I picked 10th out of 12. I was hoping that Prince Fielder would fall to me, but he went one pick earlier. I ended up with Ryan Howard at #10 and Joe Mauer at #15. The best potential alternatives would have been Miguel Cabrera instead of Howard, and Carl Crawford instead of Mauer.

I'm still waiting to see if a number of sites are going to launch baseball contests this year. One that has added some detail this week is the WCOFB. It's organized by the same folks who do the WCOFF. The main event will have a $1,600 entry fee, pay out league prizes, and a grand prize with value of $200,000. The one odd thing is that I can't find a mention of other prizes for the top overall finishers. If that's the case, you could potentially finish 2nd in your league and overall, and get only $2,500 back for your $1,600 entry fee. More realistically, someone WILL win their league and finish 2nd overall...and get back only $6,000, just like any other league winner.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

John Smoltz 2010

The Mets are reportedly interested in signing John Smoltz for the 2010 season. If they do, that might be the smartest thing they've done in the past year. Yes, Smoltz is a 42 year old pitcher who put up a 6.35 ERA in a half season of work last year. But if you look beyond the ugly ERA, Smoltz actually pitched pretty well, striking out 8.42 per nine innings and walking only 2.08. Much of that was accomplished in the American League, which makes it even more impressive. The only warning sign is that after many years of strong groundball rates (in the 44%-49% range), Smoltz was a mediocre 39.6% in 2009. That said, Smoltz' peripheral numbers are very similar to another popular sleeper this year: Ricky Nolasco. But Smoltz will go far later (if at all) in your draft. He isn't currently listed at Couchmanagers.com, which means he's not going before pick #275. I suspect that he'll start getting picked a little earlier if he signs with a team, but he should remain a bargain.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

NFBC Double Play (Online) Slow Mock Draft

The NFBC Double Play (formerly called NFBC Online) is a $350 contest with a $60K grand prize, as well as league prizes and additional prize for the other top overall finishers. If anyone is interested participating in a slow mock draft to practice for it, I've set one up at: Couch Managers. There are 12 hour time limits on picks. 12 teams will participate, and the draft will last 30 rounds. Assume standard 5*5 roto scoring, with a 700 IP minimum.

Francisco Liriano 2010

The good news for Francisco Liriano is that he's still only 26 years old. For some perspective, that's younger than J.A. Happ. He is also was nowhere near as bad as his 5.80 ERA last year indicated, as he struck out 8.03 batters per nine innings and walked 4.28. He's better than J.A. Happ too. The bad news is that, so far, he's just a shell of what he used to be. While his strikeout rate and walk rate have gotten worse, the greatest concern to me is that his groundball rate has gone from a fantastic 55.3% in 2006 to a very mediocre 40.2% last year. He simply isn't the same kind of pitcher he used to be, and it's likely that the changes in his pitches go well beyond a reduced velocity. All of that said, I think there's still a good chance that he slips far enough in drafts to make him a sleeper. If he pitches as well as last year, his ERA should be in the 4s with any kind of luck at all. And given his age, and the additional time since his surgery, there's certainly the possibility that he continues to improve. Just don't pick him too soon, particularly since there's a great deal of injury risk that comes with Liriano, as he was shut down with elbow problems towards the end of last year.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Neftali Feliz 2010

The minor league statistics of Nefali Feliz suggested that the 21 year old might struggle with his control when he first reached the major leagues. That wasn't the case at all, as he struck out 39 and walked only 8 in 31 innings of relief. While Feliz would certainly be one of the Rangers' better starting pitchers, some expect them to continue handling him with extreme care, and put him in the bullpen to start 2010. While this would hurt his value in many leagues, it might actually help in other formats. As I discussed in the Joba Chamberlain profile, relievers with starting pitcher eligibility can be very valuable in formats that have just the right combination of roster restrictions and innings pitched limits. While Feliz had no major league starts in 2009, he may be categorized as a SP because of his 13 starts in the minors.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Joba Chamberlain 2010: Starter or Reliever?

According to most, Joba Chamberlain will be competing with Phil Hughes for a spot in the Yankees rotation in 2010. That alone makes valuing him a difficult proposition. His poor performance in 2009 adds another layer of complexity. Chamberlain is going to be a high risk, high reward pick this year, and whether he's a successful one will come down in large part to whether the Yankees choose to make him a starter or a reliever.

In 2008, pitching sometimes in relief and sometimes as a starter, Chamberlain struck out 10.58 batters per nine innings and walked 3.50. Combined with his 52.0% groundball rate, I was convinced he would be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball in 2009. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. He was worse in all area, as he struck out only 7.61 per nine innings and walked 4.35. His groundball rate was also substantially worse (42.9%). What happened? Is it possible that the move to full time starting, along with a dose of bad luck, could make the same guy who was so good in 2008 pitch so poorly in 2009?

Probably not. According to pitch/fx experts, Chamberlain appeared to have lost something off his fastball. In cases like this (a young pitcher losing some effectiveness), I think it's often a warning sign about major injury problems. On the other hand, it's also perfectly possible that the winter off will give his arm a chance to recover from whatever was ailing it. Whatever projection you use for Chamberlain this year, don't count it. Evaluate whether you can afford the risk of a totally lost season vs. whether you need the upside to be competitive. And keep in mind that for formats with an innings pitched limit combined with few roster spots for relief pitchers, Chamberlain may have some unique value as a relief pitcher who has starting pitcher eligibility.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fantasy Sports Trade Assocation (FSTA) Conference 2010

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Business Conference is taking place next week in Las Vegas. Like many of you, I typically don't pay a lot of attention to it, since I won't be attending. However, this is the time of year when I'm eagerly waiting to see what new fantasy baseball contests will be launched, which contests will make changes to their rules, and what the prizes will be for the big contests. I've always wondered why most of the games launch so late. I would think a December launch would be a big advantage in getting publicity and signing players up before their money and time are committed elsewhere. I suspect that one of the reasons for the late launches is that many companies (especially newer ones) feel that they'll get the most publicity by launching at the FSTA show. Because of that, I'm hoping that we're going to see a bunch of announcements next week. If so, I'll be providing all the details here, and hope to be able to provide special deals, discounts, and bonuses for some of the sites as well.

Some of the questions that I hope to see answered in the next couple of weeks:
1. Will Rapiddraft launch a baseball game in 2010?
2. What will Fantasyworld's baseball game look like (assuming they have one)?
3. What will the prize pool for WCOFB look like, and will they be hurt by the fact that NFBC launched early and already has 210 signups for their main event?
4. Will any of Rotohog's partners offer prizes that make the game worth playing seriously?
5. Will ESPN up the prizes for its Baseball Challenge?
6. What other new games will appear out of the woodwork this year?

Check back here next week to see what I've been able to uncover!

Octavio Dotel 2010: Pittsburgh Pirates Closer

Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Octavio Dotel to be their closer for 2010. It remains to be seen where Dotel will be picked in drafts, but I'm guessing that it will be low enough to make him a solid sleeper. The combination of being on a bad team, having had some problems when used as a closer in the past, and a terrible walk rate last season (BB/9: 5.20) should be enough to keep people from being too enthusiastic about him. The only one of those that I put any stock in is the walk rate. And since his strikeout rate remained excellent (K/9: 10.83), I'm willing to give Dotel the benefit of the doubt and assume that his walk rate should move back to a more typical (for him) level in the high 3s. The other concern is that he's an extreme flyball pitcher, with a career groundball rate of only 33.3%. That means that he is prone to giving up home runs. Overall, I'd view him as a very slightly inferior version of David Aardsma...very high strikeout rate, bad control, flyball pitcher, without a long record of closing success. Given the risks Dotel isn't someone you want to reach for in the draft (hint: neither is Aardsma), but if he falls far enough, he could make a big impact for your team.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Joel Pineiro 2010

Joel Pineiro was a different pitcher in 2009 than the rest of his career. That's a good thing. He went from a low strikeout pitcher with ok control and a pretty good groundball rate to a lower strikeout pitcher with GREAT control and a GREAT groundball rate. That transformation cut more than half a run from his xFIP. If he had improved in only one category, I would be questioning whether their was a real change in ability, or whether 2009 was a fluke. However, when there are substantial changes in all peripheral stats, it's a pretty good indication that something in his approach changed, or he started using a new pitch. I haven't done the Pitch/fx research to see if it backs that theory up, but I'd be very surprised if that isn't the case here. Given that, I think the best guess for Pineiro's 2010 season is more of the same. Maybe a little bit of regression to the mean in his walk rate and groundball rate, but not too much. In addition, his signing with the Angels means that he'll be suffering the effects of moving from the National League to the American League, which typically results in a lower strikeout rate. So overall, I expect Pineiro not to quite match his 2009 performance, but a walk rate below 2.0 and a groundball rate above 55% should still make him effective. Look for plenty of wins and a respectable (low 4s) ERA, but a mediocre WHIP and few strikeouts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Flaw Of Averages

I've added an Amazon.com ad with some suggested reading for Waiver Wire visitors. All of these are likely to be either entertaining or useful for fantasy baseball players. You can cycle through the full list of ten books using the up and down arrows that appear in the ad.

One book that I'd particularly recommend is The Flaw of Averages. I'm about halfway through it so far, and it's one of the more thought provoking books I've read in the past few years. If your education or job have had a heavy emphasis on statistical analysis, you may find a lot of the material in the book obvious. And if you're looking for something to spoon-feed you information about baseball, then it won't be for you. But I've found the book inspiring when it comes to thinking about various fantasy sports formats and how best to analyze them. It's already motivated me to write simulations to test out how to increase lineup variance in multiplayer daily fantasy contests and how much the results of certain game formats with playoffs rely on skill vs. luck.

J.A. Happ 2010

Quick quiz: how old do you think Phillies' breakout prospect J.A. Happ is? If you got the correct answer (27), you did a lot better than me. What kind of 'prospect' is 27 years old?!? I had assumed he was 22 or 23. A big deal was made over the Winter about whether the Phillies would trade Happ or keep him for 2010. Given that he's a 27 year old pitcher with one major league season under his belt, I'm not sure what the big deal was. If you look past the pretty 2.93 ERA, Happ was just ok in 2009, striking out 6.45 per nine innings and walking 3.04. His groundball rate was no help either at 38.4%. Happ is currently at #141 overall on Couchmanagers.com. The next three starting pitchers are Shields, Garza, and Baker. I'd rather take any of those guys than Happ.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grady Sizemore 2010

2009 was a disappointing season for Grady Sizemore. He was coming off of his best year (mainly due to 33 HR and 38 SB) and was being picked in the late first round of some drafts. In an injury plagued season, Sizemore put up only 18 HR and 13 SB, with an awful .248 batting average. Sizemore is still only 27 years old, so assuming he's healthy in 2010, he should bounce back well. I would expect something on the order of .275, 28 HR, 25 SB. That would make him a bit of a stretch as his current Couchmanagers.com ADP of #23, but the same could be said of any of the outfielders available at that point in this year's drafts.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Josh Johnson 2010

Josh Johnson was excellent in 2009. Turning 26 years old in a couple of weeks, he's on the cusp of being an elite pitcher. If his performances regresses from it's 2009 levels, Johnson is just another good starting pitcher. If he maintains or improves upon it, he's a star. He struck out 8.22 batters per nine innings, walked 2.50, and had a 50.3% groundball rate. All three of those are very slightly better than what he did in 2008, but at his age the only one that I see regressing a bit is the groundball rate. To give you an idea of how good Johnson's peripherals are, one of the most comparable players is Brett Anderson. That may not sound like high praise, but I expect to get Anderson on almost all of my teams this year...I'm that high on him. Ok, I'll give you two more guys with similar peripherals - Carpenter and Wainwright. I would expect a similar performance from all four of these guys in 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Carlos Lee 2010

Carlos Lee had a bizarre season in 2009, hitting .300 with 26 home runs and 35 doubles (in 610 at bats) yet still managing to score only 65 runs. That's quite an accomplishment...possibly only rivaled in baseball history by Brook Jacoby's remarkable 1987 season (.300, 32 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R). I usually ignore a player's ability to score runs when evaluating him for fantasy baseball, figuring that the spread from the best run scorers to the worst isn't that great. But Lee's performance last year was so extreme that I think it's worth at least asking the question - will he be able to score more in 2010? I suspect that the answer is "yes, but he'll still be below average". He's part of a bad offense, takes few walks, and isn't particularly fast anymore. That said, he clearly had some bad luck last year. Overall, Lee has been one of the more consistent performers in baseball over the past decade, but may be slightly overvalued based on where he's going in most drafts (ranked 62nd at Couchmanagers). At 33 years old, he simply doesn't have a lot of upside compared to lower ranked players such as Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Shin-Soo Choo.

Colby Lewis 2010: Great Control In Japan

Actually, Colby Lewis had great control pitching in Japan in 2009. For 2010, he'll be returning to the Texas Rangers. Assuming Lewis gets a spot in the Texas rotation (which I think is very likely), he should be successful against major leaguers. Last season he struck out 186 and walked an absurdly low 19 in 176.1 innings pitched. His 2008 statistics were very similar. While the competition isn't quite as tough in Japan (and he pitched in a league without DHs), I would still expect something along the lines of 7 strikeouts and 2 walks per nine innings. Lewis is a flyball pitcher (at least he was when he was in the majors before), so he's not going to be a star with those numbers, but he should be quite effective. It's hard to predict where he's going to go in drafts. Will his poor track record in the U.S. outweigh his strong performance in Japan? We won't know until we see how he fares in mock drafts.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Carlos Quentin 2010: Draft Day Steal?

The honest truth is that I have no idea what to expect of Carlos Quentin in 2010. The good news is that he's only 27 years old, and that as bad as his injury plagued 2009 season was, he still was on pace for 30+ home runs if you project his at bats to a full season's worth. He also rarely strikes out compared to most sluggers, giving him added value in some daily contest formats. After going in the third or fourth round of drafts last year, he's ranked 114th by ADP at CouchManagers.com right now.

That said, there's plenty of bad news. First of all, he's never had 500 at bats in a season. So injuries may just be part of the package with him. Even in his terrific 2008 season, the low strikeout rate didn't lead to a particularly high batting average (.288) and his average in the majors other than that has been really poor. Quentin hits remarkably few doubles for a slugger. He also doesn't get a lot of walks or triples. Those characteristics may actually hurt him more in daily contests than in traditional leagues where those statistics don't count.

If he really falls below pick 100 in your draft, then I would classify Quentin as a draft day steal. But he's definitely a fairly high risk player. In general, I'm hesitant to consider a player's potential trade value when evaluating him, but I do think that a resurgent Quentin would be perceived differently than equivalent players. For example, if Quentin is hitting .300 with 18 home runs at the All-Star break, he could probably bring a lot more in return than if someone like Nolan Reimold does the same.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking for a VB.NET Lead Developer/Programmer

A lot of Waiver Wire readers seem to have technical backgrounds, so I thought it would be worth posting this here. The company I work for is looking for a VB.NET Lead Developer in Morristown, NJ or Washington, DC. The position will be responsible for leading a small development team coding financial services software applications using VB.NET. It will initially involve approximately 50-75% coding, and will have one direct report. If you (or someone you know) might be interested, send me an email at the address linked to at the very bottom of the sidebar on the right hand side of the screen.

Josh Hamilton 2010: Expect a Rebound

I'm expecting a major rebound for Josh Hamilton in 2010. It seems as though people are writing his fantastic 2008 season (.304 AVG, 32 HR, 9 SB) as a fluke right now, with Hamilton ranked 63rd by ADP at Couchmanagers.com. That's a pretty big fall from last year, when Hamilton was a late first round or early second round pick in many drafts. Hamilton is only 28 years old, so he should still be in his prime. His numbers were obviously hurt by injuries in 2009, so I'm willing to give him a partial free pass on his weak season. The problem with viewing his previous season as a fluke is that in roughly a half season in 2007 (298 AB), he was just as good, hitting .292 with 19 home runs. And despite his age, he had played in very few minor league games, so he was essentially learning on the job. If anything, I think Hamilton's career path is likely to follow that of a player a year or two younger than he is. In other words, I think there's a possibility that the best is yet to come for Hamilton. If he's available in the 4th or 5th round of a 12 team draft and you're looking for an outfielder, I wouldn't hesitate to take him.

David Price 2010: Redraft - No, Keeper - Yes

Last year, I warned people to temper their expectations for David Price. Based on his Minor League numbers, it was very unlikely that his performance was going to match the hype. I turned out to be correct, as Price was a very average pitcher in 2009, with a 7.15 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, and 41.5 GB%. I would expect about the same in 2010, although any young pitcher with such good stuff has the potential for sudden improvement. The key statistic to watch for Price early in the season is his walk rate. If he gets through the first 30-40 innings with improved control, then there's a good chance that he's taken the next step in his development. In the meantime, I think he's someone who would be worthwhile to draft in the middle rounds of a keeper league, but in redraft leagues there are going to be better options available when he's picked in your 2010 draft.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aroldis Chapman 2010: Fastest Pitch, Biggest Bust

My thoughts on Aroldis Chapman in 2010 (and beyond) can be summed up in four words: fastest pitch, biggest bust. Ok, technically neither of those are true, but here are the key facts about Chapman. He is a 22 year old Cuban who defected last year, and was just signed by the Cincinnati Reds for 5 years and $25 million (with an option for a sixth year at $5m). His fastball has been clocked as high as 102 MPH. Obviously the Reds (and other teams) were willing to pay for his upside. Now the bad news - according to Baseball Reference, in his last season in Cuba he walked 62 batters in 118.1 innings pitched. He also threw 14 wild pitched. That's really bad. Especially against less than Major League quality opposition. His strikeout rate doesn't make up for it. He struck out 130. That's excellent, but not really dominant enought to begin to make up for that lack of control. People like to point to Randy Johnson as a pitcher with similar skills and similar statistics early in his career. That's true, but I don't think you can expect every wild 22 year old to figure things out like Johnson did. Chapman's upside is probably worth the risk in a keeper league, but I don't expect him to have any impact at all in 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Roy Oswalt 2010

Roy Oswalt struggled with back problems in 2009, and put up the highest ERA of his career at 4.12. That ERA should depress his draft position. However, his peripheral statistics (K/9: 6.85, BB/9: 2.08, GB%: 43.3%) are virtually indistinguishable from any of his past five seasons. Oswalt has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the majors for years, and while the groundball rate dipped a little bit in 2009, it's still within the range of what he's done in the past. Rather than indicating a change in effectiveness, I would assume it was a minor fluke, and that his 2010 will be more or less in line with what he's always done.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vlad Guerrero 2010: Texas Rangers

Vlad Guerrero is a Texas Ranger for the 2010 season. That's good new for his owners, as a friendly home park should help cancel out the effects of again. Vlad will be 35 years old for the upcoming season, and he's definitely not the fantasy stud that he used to be. His speed is gone. While still solid, his batting average and home runs have shown a downward trend for several years now. Until last year, his peripheral stats gave reason for hope that he might bounce back to previous levels, but with an increasing strikeout rate and decreasing walk rate, it seems likely that the decline is permanent. Playing in Texas, he's an ok pick in the mid-to-late rounds, but he's definitely not someone you want to reach for.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Chat Room

As far as I know, nothing like this has really taken off in popularity yet. I'm not sure why. I've set up a fantasy baseball chat room...right here at The Waiver Wire. Right over there ----->>>>
On the right side of the screen. Give it a shot...leave a message, and if anyone else is around, talk about fantasy baseball!
If you've got a website of your own, you can use the same widget, either to set up your own 'chat room', or to share this one. I'd recommend the latter, so that together we can get a critical mass of people talking fantasy baseball...after all, a chat room isn't much use until there's someone to chat with. To share the Waiver Wire Fantasy Baseball Chat Room, click the [Embed Chatroom] button, and follow instructions.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rich Harden 2010

For years, I was a true believer that Rich Harden would eventually have a breakout season, and be one of the top pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, that becomes less likely with each passing year. Harden is still injury prone, and hasn't pitched 150 or more innings since 2004. His control was worse than ever last year, as he walked 4.28 batters per nine innings. And with the move to Texas, he's now pitching in a tougher league, in a bad park for flyball pitchers. That said, Harden still has one of the highest strikeout rates in baseball every year, and is still only 28 years old. As always, he'll be a high risk/high reward option for your fantasy team, and his draft position is likely to reflect the decreasing probability that he'll put it all together.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jon Lester 2010: Best Pitcher in AL?

I think it's probably finally time for me to admit it: yes, Jon Lester is better than Clay Buccholz, and probably will continue to be better. I was wrong. Actually, Lester is better than pretty much everyone. His peripheral numbers were very similar to Tim Lincecum...but in the much tougher American League. I think an argument could be made that he was the best pitcher in the AL last year, as he made a tremendous jump in strikeout rate (from 2008 K/9 of 6.50 to 2009 K/9 of 9.96), maintained his good control (BB/9: 2.83) and maintained his excellent groundball rate (47.7%). Normally, I'd be very wary of that huge jump in strikeout, and expect some regression. However, this article points out that on average, Lester's fastball was substantially faster in 2009 than in 2008, suggesting that the drastic increase may represent a real improvement that he can maintain in 2010.

Matt Garza 2010

A few years ago, Matt Garza was considered the best pitching prospect in baseball. While Garza has been a solid major league starter (quietly putting up ERAs in the 3s each year from 2007-2009), his performance has been unspectacular. At 26 years old, is there a chance that his performance eventually matches the hype? It's possible. Last year, Garza had his highest strikeout rate (K/9: 8.38). His control continued to be average though (BB/9: 3.50). If he can improve his control in 2010, while maintaining that strikeout rate, then he would potentially be one of the better pitchers in the American League. For now, he's an effective late round pick with some upside.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Scott Kazmir 2010

Four times in five years, Scott Kazmir recorded strikeout rates of 9.81 per nine innings or higher. Then, in 2009, he struck out only 7.15 per nine innings. When a 25 year old pitcher has that kind of drop in strikeout rate, it's cause for concern...and often an indication of an underlying injury. While there's certainly a good chance that the Winter off will allow Kazmir to get over whatever his problems are, he's not someone you'll want to count on for very much in 2010. I think his current Couchmanagers.com ADP (ranked 160th) seems about right. You'll be taking a gamble. If he returns to his pre-2009 level of performance, you'll be getting a bargain. If he pitches like he did in 2009, you will have taken him slightly too early. And if his arm falls off, you won't have wasted too high a pick on him. Whether you draft him or not should depend on the extent to which you need to 'swing for the fences' to have a successful season.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Matt Cain 2010: Overrated?

If there's one pitcher I'm not likely to end up with any of my teams in 2010, it's Matt Cain. He drastically outperformed his xFIP last year, putting up an exceptional 2.89 earned run average, and winning fourteen games. This is a pitcher with very average peripheral stats: 7.07 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, 38.9% groundball rate. Unless those numbers improve, I would expect an earned run average around 4. Meanwhile, he's being picked in mock drafts shortly after studs like Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. He does have a couple of things going for him. He's only 25 years old, despite being around forever. That means that real improvement is still fairly likely. And he's now substantially outperformed his xFIP for three straight years. Over the short term, xFIP is a far better predictor of ERA than ERA itself is. However, the longer the time period, the better a predictor ERA becomes, as it includes some of the more subtle skills that aren't reflected in xFIP. That said, I still don't see Cain as being worth a pick anywhere near where he's going in most drafts.

Josh Beckett 2010

Josh Beckett is one of the more consistent starting pitchers in baseball. In 2009, he had his usual excellent strikeout rate (K/9: 8.43), walk rate (BB/9: 2.33), and solid groundball rate (47.2%). I would expect more of the same in 2010, as those numbers were actually slightly inferior to Beckett's 2007 and 2008. Beckett is going 74th on average at CouchManagers.com. I think that's pretty fair, but do feel that he's a substantially better pick than many of the pitchers going in the 20-30 picks after him. Guys like Tommy Hanson, Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, and Jered Weaver all have drawbacks - worse control, less track record, unfavorable leagues change, lower strikeout rate, worse groundball rate, etc. I'll discuss some of these guys in future posts. Most years, picks 80-120 are where I start looking to pick up undervalued starting pitchers, but as I've mentioned before this year looks a little bit different. It seems like picking up one stud starter (Lincecum or Halladay) in the 2nd round and then loading up on undervalued hitters in the middle rounds may be the way to go.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Addiction

For anyone wondering how extreme fantasy baseball addiction can get, here's a screenshot of a spreadsheet I've been working on for the past few weeks...



That may not seem so extreme, but this spreadsheet is designed to help me win a fantasy baseball contest whose inaugural season hasn't launched yet. In fact, the launch hasn't even been announced yet. Based on the site's football contest, I emailed customer services asking if they will run a 2010 baseball contest. Their response ("Yes, we are planning to.") was enough to get me started, based on some assumptions about what the format was likely to be when 'converted' to baseball.

That may seem crazy, but these large contests are almost always most profitable to play in their initial season. In general, the prizes are largest the first year, fewer people are competing, and those who are competing haven't spent as much time figuring out optimal strategies. As the various sites launch their games for 2010, I'll discuss many of them here. I'll particularly focus on those which I think will offer the best profit opportunities. Fantasy baseball is always fun, but I find it the most fun when I'm winning money at it.

Troy Tulowitzki 2010

On the surface, it looks like 2009 was either a breakout season for Troy Tulowitzki, or possibly a fluke. However, digging into the details a little further reveals that it was more of a gradual progression from his excellent 2007 season. An injury shortened 2008 appears to be the outlier in the progression of an excellent young player. With the exception of stolen bases, Tulowitzki's 2009 numbers show very slight improvements over 2007 in most areas. That's encouraging, and I think he can be expected to have a similar season in 2010. Given that he's still only 25, there's excellent upside as well. The only area that I'd be concerned about is his steals. He's always had a low success rate, and prior to last year's 20 steals, his previous career best was 7. It appears he was given the green light without really earning it. Hopefully, he won't have that taken away from him this season. I think a line of .295 with 25 home runs and 15 steals is fairly conservative, but the there's definitely potential for better.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Aaron Hill 2010

It's hard to know quite what to make of Aaron Hill's monster breakout season last year. He hit 36 home runs, after putting up a previous career high of 17. He did hit 10 less doubles than in his previous full season, so the jump in home runs wasn't quite as drastic as it appeared...but it was still pretty extreme. Hill's other numbers (batting average, walk rate, strikeout rate) all remained fairly close to their previous levels. Interestingly, his groundball rate rose...not what you'd expect in a player who suddenly hit a lot more home runs. Hill is only 27 years old, so that improves the chances that this was a genuine breakout. In addition, he still hit plenty of doubles (37 in 2009), which reduces the risk that the home run total was due to him getting 'lucky'. I'm not expecting him to hit 36 home runs again in 2010, but something in the 25-30 range seems likely. That would still make him very valuable as a 2nd baseman, and a good pick relatively early in drafts.

David Aardsma 2010: Seattle Mariners Closer

David Aardsma will be the Seattle Mariners closer in 2010. In 2009, he moved into the closer role and was very successful, saving 38 games and putting up a 2.52 earned run average. However, if you look a little more closely, there's definitely some risk here. Aardsma 4.29 batters per nine innings. That's already pretty marginal, without considering that at 28 years old, it's the best control he's ever shown in the major leagues. Then consider that his groundball rate was an atrocious 25.3%, and has always been pretty weak. Aardsma certainly has the potential and the strikeout rate needed to succeed as a closer, but if his walk rate rises to it's previous levels, there's a distinct possibility that one of the Mariners other relievers (hopefully Brandon League) will have the opportunity to close at some point this season.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Evan Longoria 2010

In my last post (about Joey Votto), I mentioned that there doesn't seem to be much dropoff from the hitters available in the late first round or early second round of most drafts, such as Evan Longoria, and the guys available in the middle rounds. While Longoria is an excellent baseball player, I stand by that statement. For fantasy purposes, Longoria's strength is that he hit 33 home runs last year and is young enough (24) that he should continue to improve. He steals a few bases, but not enough to have a huge impact on his value. His batting average is mediocre (.281 in 2009, .272 in 2008). While he certainly has the upside to become worthy of being a first rounder, he's not so good or so young at this point that I'd be excited having him as the best player on my team. There are a number of players who might be available at the same point in 2010 drafts who I'd prefer, including Tulowitzki, Howard, and Cabrera.

Joey Votto 2010

Last year, Joey Votto hit .322 with 25 home runs in just 469 at bats. I'm a little hesitant about his ability to repeat that kind of performance, because both the power and the batting average were substantially better than the Major League equivalents of his minor league numbers. At 26 years old, it's not clear whether Votto had a breakout season indicative of a new level of ability, or whether it was simply a career year. Votto's ADP at CouchManagers has him ranked 50th, which seems reasonable. It seems as though hitters are particularly hard to rank this year. I think a case could be made that for 2010, Votto isn't a lot worse than Evan Longoria (ranked 11th). On the other hand, a case could also be made that he isn't at all better than Shin-Soo Choo (ranked 85th). The relatively gradual decline in hitting talent from the early rounds to the middle rounds of drafts may make it worthwhile to pick the top pitchers earlier than most years, or to focus on players whose values benefit from position scarcity.

Nelson Cruz 2010

Last year at this time, Nelson Cruz was one of my favorite sleepers. After his excellent 2009 season, Cruz can no longer be considered a sleeper for 2010. Although CouchManagers.com has his average draft position ranked at a very modest #73, Cruz went at #45 in one recent experts mock draft.

In 2009, Cruz hit .260 with 33 home runs and 20 stolen bases. That was in only 462 at bats, so it would have been around 40 home runs and 25 steals if Cruz had played every day. In addition, his last two partial seasons at AAA have yielded batting averages of .352 and .342, so there is reason to think he can manage a .300 batting average in the Major Leagues.

Now, the bad news. Cruz is already 29 years old, so he's in his prime and unlikely to improve much (if at all). The Rangers have shown a tendency to mess with his playing time, so you can necessarily count on him getting 500+ at bats. Cruz doesn't hit a lot of doubles, which suggests his home run totals could be a little flukey, although at this point it does appear that may be a consistent pattern in his case. He also doesn't hit triples or walk much, which may have a real impact depending on your league format.

Taking all that into account, I think Cruz is still a very good value anywhere from about #50-#70 in a draft. Despite his success, he still seems to be underrated.