New for the 2016 fantasy baseball season is a unique contest offered by our friends at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) called the Cutline Championship. A complete review of the rules can be found HERE.
In brief, the Cutline Championship is a points-based, best-ball scoring format. The leagues consist of ten teams and use standard NFBC roster requirements and position eligibilities. There will be an initial snake draft to fill 36 roster spots then a pair of in-season FAAB periods. The first is the week after the season starts where you can add up to five more players with the second in early June where you can add as many as you want to a maximum of 46 roster spots. The regular season ends right around the All-Star break where teams will be entered into the Cutline Finals, Consolation Round or have their season end. More teams will be eliminated over the next nine weeks until a Cutline Champion is crowned in early September.
What follows is a primer for those entering the inaugural Cutline Championship. Even though the discussion will focus on that contest, many of the principles transcend into other formats, so hopefully all Platinum subscribers can glean a nugget or two to help in their draft prep.
The Cutline scoring is designed so that the ranking of the players by points emulates the ranking via standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring. The hitter’s correlation coefficient is .99 while the pitcher’s is about .90.
A noteworthy difference between the Cutline and other NFBC contests is there isn’t a Friday transaction day for hitters. The scoring period for everyone runs from Monday through Sunday.
Points are awarded as follows:
For those not familiar, best-ball scoring means your optimum lineup will be determined automatically each week without you ever setting a lineup. The only team management required is the initial draft and the two in-season FAAB periods. The NFBC site does the rest.
The intelligence is designed to account for corner infield, middle infield, utility and multiple position eligibility. There’s no delineation between starting pitchers and relievers – your top nine arms each week contribute to your total, regardless of their role.
PROPER RANKING USING POINTS SCORING
As discussed, back-testing using previous season’s final stats was used to produce a system that correlates very well to 5x5 roto-scoring. That’s all well and good but it’s still essential to come up with a draft list incorporating principles intrinsic to points scoring.
If you play fantasy football, you know where this is going. The key to points leagues is rankings should not be based on raw points but rather adjusted points using the last player drafted at each position as a baseline. The idea is everyone in the league is credited with the number of points scored by the worst active player at each position so the person with that player essentially earns no useful points from that player.
Mathematically, find the worst draft-worthy player at each position, subtract those points from everyone at the position and re-rank according to those adjusted points.
Truth be told, this is by no means perfect, especially in a best-ball format. The calculation only works if one player occupies each roster spot all season – which is obviously not the case. In addition, the use of corner, middle, utility and players that are eligible for multiple positions skew the replacement level. Still, doing the best you can to determine replacement is better than ignoring it. Ultimately, draft flow comes down to varying expectations of player performance but having a starting point where, at minimum, the players are ranked accurately relative to each other is very beneficial.
HOW MASTERSBALL GENERATES CUTLINE RANKINGS
Let’s start with the easy part – pitching. There are ten teams with nine roster spots, so the expected points from the 90th highest total is subtracted from all the hurlers.
Hitting is where it gets dicey. Here’s what we know.
Players with multiple eligibility are assigned a primary position according to this hierarchy:
C > SS > 2B > 3B > OF > 1B
This is how I view the strength of positions – you may see it differently. Your team, your call.
The projected points for all the hitters are calculated. The top-140 (ten teams, 14 roster spots) are examined to see if the above criteria are satisfied, starting with catcher and moving the hierarchy. If a position is short, the highest ranking player at that position is brought into the top-140, knocking out the lowest ranked player at a position that has not yet been checked. When finished, the top-140 should now consist of ample players at each position to fill all ten active rosters.
The lowest ranked player at each position is identified and those points are subtracted from every player with that same primary position. These adjusted points are used to rank hitters and pitchers together.
To reiterate, this process isn’t perfect, but it’s better than using unadjusted points. Because of the unique Cutline points system, the adjustment isn’t all that steep. However, to those playing in points leagues other than the NFBC cutline, omitting the adjustment is the biggest mistake made. The projected points for hitters and pitchers will be computed and it is wrongfully concluded that one is way more valuable than the other based on raw points.
GO BIG OR GO HOME
Before we go on to discuss some specific strategies, it’s necessary to set the proper mindset. Sure, there’s a league prize, as the top-scorer in each ten-team league will pocket a nifty $250. Hopefully, it’s obvious that the NFBC Cutline is a contest where you’re....
Sorry friends, I need to save the rest for the Platinum subscribers. The remainder of this discussion along with Cutline rankings are now posted for Platinum. Please note we are very close to unveiling a promotion where you can get $20 off the regular cost of $34.95. If you qualify for the promotion, we'll gladly refund $20 off the purchase price once we are able to go live. To subscribe, click HERE. Please make sure you're registered and logged into the site. You can create an account via the log in box on the home page.
How to handle catcher pricing and ranking is an oft-debated topic. If positions are ignored and a positive price is assigned to exactly enough hitters necessary so everyone has a full active roster, the number of draft-worthy catchers isn’t sufficient to stock them all if positions aren’t ignored.
As such, there is a contingent of fantasy players that contend some owners are forced to pay a positive amount for players that will return a deficit. Others insist that pricing should be adjusted such that there are at minimum, ample players at each position with a positive price to comprise all the active rosters. I’m a card-carrying member -- if not the leader -- of the latter.
Mathematically, this is accomplished by setting the price of the worst drafted player at each position to the minimum cost and scaling everyone else up. Our Platinum archives store a plethora of essays on this topic.
Good news, gang. As part of an impending site facelift, said essays along with a treasure trove of additional strategy pieces will soon be brought out from behind the firewall and will be available for free in our new MastersVault.
Let’s take a look at what’s actually happened the previous three seasons in terms of catcher earnings at the end of the season. Dollar values from 15-team mixed leagues, standard 5x5 scoring with 23-man (two-catcher) rosters will be calculated – both forcing positions and ignoring positions. The top earning along with number 30 (worst positively valued) backstop will be presented.
Yikes! Last season’s catcher bump really spiked.
Values are reflective of the player’s contribution to the draft-worthy populace. To force positions, each player’s raw stats are adjusted by subtracting away the respective replacement level by position. This sets the worst draft-worthy player at each position to the minimum price, conventionally $1. The worse the replacement level, the bigger the price bump since fewer stats are taken away from the player.
Perhaps a look at replacement level catcher stats will help elucidate the impetus for the alarming catcher bump last year.
Sure enough, the replacement level receiver is indeed declining – most notably in batting average. There’s a cascade effect as a lower average results in fewer runs and RBI. For those unaware of valuation protocol, there is a means of converting batting average into a pseudo counting stat. Last season after this conversion, each catcher’s adjusted average along with being docked fewer runs and RBI resulted in the huge delta between forcing and ignoring position.
So what’s the early forecast for catchers based on our 2016 projections? All you need to know is, at least presently, Buster Posey is the third ranked overall player (not catcher, PLAYER) with Kyle Schwarber occupying the seventh spot.
Bad news, gang. The rest of this discussion is for Platinum subscribers only. Before you get all pissy, please realize the aforementioned site revamp is subsidized via Platinum sales. In other words, you’ll be benefiting from the site upgrade made available by the Platinum subscribers. That said, I promise the remainder of this discussion, along with a bevy of upcoming essays, is well worth the cost. This doesn’t even consider you’ll have access to the same player projections, profiles and tools utilized by four of the past six National Fantasy Baseball Championship grand prize winners. This includes our own Greg Morgan, who along with his father Dale took down the 2014 NFBC title.
I apologize for the vagueness of this addendum but we’re excited to be on the verge of unveiling a promotion where you’ll have Platinum access at a significantly lower cost. However, if you’re anxious to subscribe now and are eligible for the promotion, we’ll be happy to honor it with your payment adjusted accordingly.
Hang tight everyone. We have some exciting plans in store for the 2016 campaign.
This past Tuesday evening, I had the privilege of participating in the Mixed LABR draft. A few years back, Steve Gardner of USA Today added an on-line draft to the League of Baseball Reality family, joining the traditional American League and National League auctions, which will be occurring March 7 and 8.
Mixed LABR is a 15-team league with standard 23-man rosters with a six-man reserve. Important to note is we use a separate DL with no limits. This will become relevant in a bit. Trading is allowed and as opposed to some industry leagues, deals are commonplace.
What follows is a pick-by-pick review with a snapshot of what I was thinking at the time.
1.13 Jose Altuve 2B, HOU: Before each draft, I do what we all do but no one wants to admit it. It’s OK, we’re all adults here, we’ve been doing it for years. I turn the lights down low, grab my laptop and mocksterbate. This time I dreamt about a pair of up-and-comers: Anthony Rendon and Anthony Rizzo. The only question was which one I wanted to do first. It turned out they both came out prematurely. I thought I was screwed. Hold on, here comes the climax. There’s a happy ending after all as Jose Altuve fell right into my lap. I know he’s small, but size isn’t everything. What he lacks in stature he makes up for with speed and durability. Not everyone would have taken Altuve in this spot, afraid he blew his wad last season and there was no way he could get it up to that level again. I’m OK with that. I don’t need him to do that again, what he did in a previous relationship is his business. I just need to lower my expectations and plan accordingly so I don’t get hurt down the line.
OK, enough with this tongue-in-cheek spewing. Altuve may not have been my first choice but part of a draft is being so intimate with the player pool that you can adjust to any situation. I had worked out some paths for just this scenario and here’s why I picked Altuve. As mentioned, this is a trading league with separate reserve and disabled lists. This means I can comfortably stash a prospect and still have ample reserve spots to manage pitching and cover the hitting with back-ups. It won’t be opening day but at some point, the Atlanta Braves are going to promote Jose Peraza and hand him the reins to either second base or center field. The day they do, I put Altuve on the market. I’m guessing ten minutes later, MLB.com’s Fred Zinkie will send me three offers from which to choose. The point is, I have already considered how to build a team starting with Altuve and embellished it with a possible trade from strength.
2.03 Hanley Ramirez LF, BOS: Twitter expected Josh Donaldson at this spot but I’m swinging for the fences. If I had it to do again, I may have taken Donaldson but I’m also doing a little diversification. I already have a few shares and although I expect huge things from the Bringer of Rain in Toronto, I’m concerned about the turf. So of course I opt for the durability and reliability of Hanley. Sigh. I know the risks but I’m playing to win and that’s Ramirez. Anecdotal, for sure, but David Ortiz and Ramirez have a father-son type relationship, so I expect attitude and effort isn’t going to be an issue.
3.13 Matt Kemp LF, SD: If you’re keeping score, you’re playing to win. Kemp is another play-to-win pick. I like the upside and am not shying away because of the park.
4.03 Yoenis Cespedes LF, DET: Love the lineup, and Comerica isn’t the monster park many perceive. It’s all about counting stats and Cespedes should have bountiful runs and RBI.
5.13 Kole Calhoun RF, LAA: The only surer thing is Batman escaping the clutches of the Joker or Penguin. If healthy, Calhoun could lead the league in runs with 20/10 well within his grasp.
6.03 Sonny Gray SP, OAK: This was a tough one. I could push pitching a little further but there’s someone I’m eyeing and the last thing I want is to get burned on both pitching and not getting my guy. This is the equivalent of nominating someone you want fairly early in an auction and either buying him so you know what you’re working with or letting him go. I opted to buy him.
7.13 Cody Allen RP, CLE: Most say there’s a big-four with respect to closers. Others contend it’s five with Dellin Betances joining Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland and Craig Kimbrel. I agree that it’s a quintet; I just think they have the fifth musketeer wrong, it’s Allen.
8.03 Rusney Castillo CF, BOS: And here’s the mystery guy. Yes, there’s a logjam but I’m taking off my projection hat and putting on my drafting hat and have to believe Castillo is going to play nearly every day. He’ll be hitting down in the order, which will hurt him a bit, but Boston should turn the order over enough so it shouldn’t be that bad. I think Castillo has a Starling Marte ceiling with a Leonys Martin floor. My thoughts on ADP are expressed in the piece linked above. I’m playing to win.
9.13 Tyson Ross SP, SD: When you push pitching, you often need a little luck and I am very fortunate Ross fell to me as my SP2. Everyone knows about the park; it’s the quiet 200 whiffs that I covet.
10.03 Adam LaRoche 1B, CWS: LaRoche is a key component of the Altuve plan. I knew I’d need some solid but not overly pricey power from my corners and LaRoche is perfect.
11.13 Hector Rondon RP, CHC: I considered fading my second closer since this draft is so early and there are still a number of unsettled bullpens. But then I realized that other than Rotowire’s Jeff Erickson, who cleverly paired Chapman with Holland early, everyone else would have the same thought and some would follow through. The result would be a high demand for each emerging closer, so instead of getting involved with that, I went with a guy that demonstrated he belongs in the middle tier of closers.
12.03 Zack Wheeler SP, NYM: As psyched as I was with Ross, I was just as giddy with Wheeler. He may not get 200 punch outs, but it is certainly plausible. I can make up ratios later. I need to make up strikeouts now and Wheeler fits the bill.
13.13 Adam Lind 1B, MIL: Lind is in a similar spot as LaRoche except he may fall into a platoon. If that happens, I’ll see what kind of numbers he’s producing and make a decision. I’m OK with a couple of platoon hitters in a 15-team league, though admittedly I prefer to grab them later.
14.03 Ian Kennedy SP, SD: There were a lot of ways to go here – primarily addressing third base or catcher. There were still some receivers I liked on the board, but the guys with picks 14 and 15 didn’t have any catchers either. I figured the rest of the guys wouldn’t be looking for their second backstop and I’d pick before Bobby Colton at 14 or Mike Gianella/Bret Sayre at the wheel, so I should have my pick of what’s left and if one or both teams pushed catchers even more, I’d get two. As for third base, I didn’t like the inventory available at this spot and made peace with the fact that I’d be picking one from Trevor Plouffe, Nick Castellanos or Lonnie Chisenhall in a few rounds. That left me with another 200-K arm in Kennedy.
15.13 John Jaso C, TB: My friend and colleague Glenn Colton expressed some displeasure with this pick while covering the draft with fellow friend and colleague Rick Wolf for SiriusXM fantasy, citing the lack of upside. While I’m not sure I’d call it upside, the allure of this choice is Jaso will be the primary DH, hitting out of the two-hole for the Rays. Tropicana Field may not be a hitter’s paradise, but the rest of the AL East is rather kind to lefty swingers.
16.03 Rene Rivera C, TB: Not going to lie, I loathe this pick. In a vacuum, it’s not horrible. It’s just that I didn’t need to lock down my second catcher, but in my head the plan was for two and sure enough, a couple went at the wheel. I should have been better prepared for that but I wasn’t. Shame on me.
17.13 Michael Cuddyer RF, NYM: Not sexy but Cuddyer should play regularly and Citi Field was positive for home runs even before they moved the fences in…again.
18.03 Brad Boxberger RP, TB: The way to address ratios is with smart match-up plays while using relievers like Boxberger if the steaming options aren’t attractive. Plus, I may have drafted a third closer. My money is on Boxberger to emerge from the Tampa bullpen with the gig and maybe even keep it when Jake McGee returns.
19.13 Wily Peralta SP, MIL: Peralta isn’t my usual type as an SP5 since his home park mitigates the straight skills advantage incurred when working at home, but the overall potential was too good to ignore.
20.03 Dalton Pompey CF, TOR: Here’s where having already done a ton of drafts comes in handy. Pompey is in essence my first reserve. I know there will be a plethora of viable utility options in reserve. And if Pompey hits the ground running…literally…speed is really an asset, further paving the way for an Altuve trade even if I get sniped with Peraza.
21.13 Lonnie Chisenhall 3B, CLE: It’s really funny how things sometimes work out. Of the three hot corner candidates I mentioned earlier, I prefer Chisenhall. And, the other two were taken before him. As an aside, this is why offering choices in a trade is a great idea since the player your opponent selects may not be the one you like best.
22.03 A.J. Burnett SP, PIT: Now this is exactly the type of late starter I like to deploy: high strikeout potential and a great home park to play match-ups.
23.13 Jose Peraza 2B, ATL: I love it when a plan comes together.
24.03 Shane Greene SP, DET: I prefer National League streamers but Greene fits the description otherwise.
25.13 DJ LeMahieu 2B, COL: Someone has to play second until Peraza is ready.
26.03 Matt Joyce LF, LAA: And here’s my utility.
27.13 Kendall Graveman RP, OAK: If he wins a spot in the Oakland rotation, I have another spot-starter. If he doesn’t, I have my first drop.
28.03 Seth Smith LF, SEA: Just an alternative to Joyce.
29.13 Josh Rutledge 2B, LAA: What can I say, I’m still a believer and if he comes away with the second base job in Anaheim, he’ll earn the draft equivalent of an auction buck.
|C: Jaso and Rivera|
|CI: LaRoche, Chisenhall, Lind|
|MI: Altuve, Ramirez, LeMahieu (Peraza, Rutledge)|
|OF: Kemp, Cespedes, Calhoun, Castillo, Cuddyer (Pompey)|
|UT: Joyce (Smith)|
|SP: Gray, Ross, Wheeler, Kennedy, Peralta, Burnett (Greene, Graveman)|
|RP: Allen, Rondon, Boxberger|
As you’re probably aware by now, the Mastersball crew spent last weekend in the Big Apple, participating in the Tout Wars festivities. Along with Brian Walton, I represent the site in the National League Auction. Instead of giving you the standard pick-by-pick review, I thought I’d offer my reasoning for a couple of purchases that I don’t usually make. This will serve as an excellent example of how really understanding your rules and the repercussions can aid on draft day.
By means of reminder, Tout Wars has a rule whereby teams are penalized a FAAB unit for each point they fall below a set threshold. For the first time since the implementation of the rule, I’m beginning the season with less than the maximum 100. I ended the 2014 season with 53.5 points which translates to 93 FAAB units.
Even though trading of FAAB is allowed, and we are able to get FAAB rebated for players put on the disabled list, I am going in with the mindset that I’m out of the running for having the hammer at the July 31 trading deadline, so I may as well spend early and often. Further, if I’m going to spend early and often, I should design my roster to best take advantage of this.
The two paths I opted to use were dedicating a couple of roster spots to $1 end-gamers as well as buying a couple of promising minor leaguers that aren’t likely to break camp but that should be up my mid-season. In essence, the prospects would serve as my trade deadline acquisitions, hopefully a bit earlier. Initially I’d use reserves to backfill the open spots, then I’d be aggressive with FAAB looking for an upgrade.
The $1 players I picked up are Charlie Culberson and Chris Denorfia. In reserves, I backed them up with Daniel Descalso and Brandon Barnes. I’m not thrilled that I’m locked into a shortstop only for Culberson having blocked the middle via buying a pair of second basemen in Kolten Wong and Daniel Murphy. That said, Descalso also qualifies at shortstop so I have the market cornered on potential Troy Tulowitzki replacements.
The players sent to the farm on my active roster are Jose Peraza, Maikel Franco and Robbie Erlin. There’s a very good chance that all three will be up and contribute this season. Peraza cost me three bucks, Franco was double that while Erlin was a buck as my last pick. Peraza is presently at swingman, so Barnes or Descalso could be promoted, or if I wanted to drop someone, I could FAAB a pitcher into the spot. Franco is occupying corner but will be replaced by Tommy Medica. I have better opportunity to upgrade Medica as compared to shortstop since either a first baseman or third baseman will do the trick. Assuming he’s ready by opening day, I took a shot that Joel Peralta would be selected to fill in for Kenley Jansen and get me some saves from a reserve pick, activating him for Erlin.
I really didn’t do a very good job of acquiring multi-position players, which would have aided this tactic. Other than Culberson and Descalso, the only two-position player is Scott Van Slyke, who is my sole first base eligible option. I’m fine with Van Slyke, but am obviously looking to upgrade the roster spot shared by my versatile Rockies.
I have no idea if this will be effective. Obviously, if Peraza, Franco and Erlin contribute, I’ll appear to be a genius. If not, not so much. But part of the fun of this is thinking outside the box and trying to get an edge above and beyond knowing baseball. It seemed apparent that figuring out a way to mitigate less FAAB would help me in the big picture. The scheme discussed above interweaves that with upgrading end-gamers and stashing a couple of prospects, something I usually don’t do. But the way I see it, the entire available player list is the equivalent of an extra roster spot for me since I’ll be liberally dipping into the free agent inventory. Assisting this is there are separate disabled lists, so I’ll always have reserves devoid of injured players. I’ll be short a reserve spot or two until my guys are hopefully promoted, but the player pool is not like a mixed league, there isn’t as much activity between active and reserves.
The entire Tout Wars results are HERE. I’m happy to address any specific player questions or elucidate strategy in the comments or forum.
An interesting scenario has developed in a league I administer. I think it’s important to note that while the person in charge of a league is referred to as the commissioner, my belief is their role should be as administrator and not to govern. The rules should run the league. The commissioner just makes sure everything is adhered to, along with setting things up, etc. In essence, once the first pitch is thrown, football is kicked off, puck is dropped or basketball is tipped off, the league runs itself.
The league in question is a 15-team mixed high stakes keeper league, run as a private satellite by the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. The entry is $1150, so I’m extremely sensitive to making sure everything is done by the book. There’s no trading, which means the opportunities for a lesser squad to rebuild are limited.
One way to play for the future is to not activate a minor league player and wait until you’re contending. Once active, you control the player for three years, so this way you’re not burning a season of eligibility while you’re out of the money.
Another means of focusing on next season is we use our FAAB budget to bid for draft spots – for both the regular and farm draft. The person with the first pick in the regular draft goes last in the Minors portion and vice versa. We auction off each spot with the winning bid subtracted from the original $1000 units. We’ve had owners bid as much as $950 for the first overall pick and almost that for the first minor league selection. The idea is you don’t care about this season, so having the full boat of FAAB doesn’t mean as much as securing a top keeper or prospect.
The catch to this bidding is the four teams that cashed the previous season are excluded from the slot auction. After the other 11 teams have bought their spot, we go in reverse order of finish to pick the remaining spots. Furthermore, the four teams lose FAAB equal to the average of the 11 winning bids. This number is usually between 200 and 300 units.
I didn’t set up this rule. I took over the league from the original commissioner. The intent is more from the commissioner’s perspective than from that of the player. It’s supposed to help prevent lesser teams from leaving as well as being a factor if we do need a replacement. The idea is the top teams are hindered since they don’t get to decide if they want to pay for their desired spot along with being saddled with less FAAB.
After last season, a long-time owner asked that we vote on this rule, wanting to eliminate the penalty of exclusion from the slot auction. So we’ve put it up to a vote.
Arguments have been stated both ways. We’re in fact in the process of tallying up the votes.
Here’s my conundrum. As an owner in the league, I’m not sure the rule is fair. When I cash, why should I be penalized? We can only keep players three years. More often than not, the better keepers on a cashing team are on expiring contracts, so their freeze list isn’t all that strong.
On the other hand, have you ever tried to recruit an owner to take over a crappy team? Now ask that owner to send you 1000 jellybeans. Yeah, it sucks.
This vote came up four years ago when I wasn’t running things. Back then, while I didn’t initiate the vote, I was fairly vocal backing it. And I still feel that way. I don’t believe the top teams should be penalized for their success.
I don’t want to come off as a mensch here, but my philosophy when it comes to running a league is the by-laws should be for the good of the league and not for the ease of administering. The rule is obviously doing its job as cashing teams feel penalized and others feel that’s a good thing. If it passed, as commissioner, I’m accepting the responsibility of finding alternate means to prevent teams from leaving and/or enticing new owners to join. It comes with the territory.
Tied into the vote is the rule would not go into effect this season. If it passes, winning teams would be part of the auction in 2016. I had a few teams contact me privately and confide that while they are in favor of the rule change, they are adamant that we delay its implantation until 2016, contending decisions were made with the present rule in place.
Obviously, this is standard protocol. That said, I had trouble believing major decisions were based on this rule and asked a couple to reconsider their positions. But they all insisted they made moves based on the rule being in place. Harkening back to my sensitivity that a league with an entry over 1000 clams needs to be run by-the-book, I made it clear that if the rule passed, we’d begin using it a year from now and not the impending slot auction.
I’m writing this because I suspect many leagues are in the process of gathering the band back together with the likelihood of having their own rules discussion and I thought it may be helpful to share how a long-standing high stakes league operates. Rules discussions are often tedious if not frustrating - but they're necessary. Inevitably, votes are cast for the good of the owner and not necessarily for the good of the league.
Everything is contextual, but it’s up to the commissioner to marry the two. I personally find eliminating the factor of making my job easier helps get to the meeting point quicker.
If the sole purpose of the rule is to make the commissioner’s job easier, then you need a new rule. Or, a new commissioner.