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 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 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.