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Wednesday 22nd Nov 2017

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

For those who missed it, here’s a review of my personal 2015 first round. Keep in mind this is what I would do if all the previous players were taken. It is not how I expect the rankings generated from projections to unfold.

Blech. That’s pretty much how I feel about the second round, at least as of this writing. Maybe after delving into the numbers I’ll change my mind, but as of now, just about every option will require going against one of my personal drafting doctrines. The choices will all be either injury risks or players with a limited track record at this level of success.

2.01 Jose Altuve - I’ll spare the regression narrative as there’s no way Altuve will repeat last season’s batting average. But here’s the thing. He’s still going to hit in the neighborhood of .300 and be among the league leaders in steals. He’s also going to score a ton of runs in an improving lineup (George Springer, Jon Singleton and Chris Carter). What separates Altuve from other stolen base artists like Billy Hamilton, Ben Revere and Dee Gordon is more pop and hitting atop an American League lineup so he’ll have a reasonable number of RBI – at least relative to the aforementioned troika. Circling back to the regression, there’s a very steep decline in dollars earned in the first round. The difference between the first pick overall and this pick is about 15 auction dollars. So yeah, Altuve won’t repeat but he has 15 dollars worth of buffer to work with. After all, he did lead all players in 2014 earnings.

2.02 Anthony Rizzo – While I’d be more confident if Rizzo had one more season under his belt, there are signs 2014 can be his expected baseline. There weren’t any metrics that spiked. Rizzo just put the best of 2012 and 2013 together. His contact is good but not great in today’s landscape of elevated strikeouts. His biggest improvement is the manner he handled southpaws. One concern is a career high in fly ball rate, so if there’s any regression, it will be fewer homers as a result of a drop in fly balls. That said, Rizzo missed time but should be healthy entering 2015 with the expectation of a full season. A full season of Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and possibly Kris Bryant should result in a bump in runs and RBI.

2.03 Charlie Blackmon – Yeah, Blackmon is a figment of Coors Feld, but last I checked, he’ll be manning center again in Colorado which means another run at 20 homers with even more steals.

2.04 Todd Frazier – This pick takes a leap of faith but perhaps not where you might assume. Frazier’s power spike wasn’t all that unexpected, considering his age and home park. What’s eye-popping is 20 steals as that’s what compensates for a lower average than others in this tier. It’s a bit disconcerting that 12 of the swipes came from April through June (eight in May) but it does appear like the Reds will run, which should mean at least double digits, hopefully high teens.

2.05 Adrian Beltre – Promise me he’ll stay healthy and I’ll bump Beltre up since I still believe in the skills.

2.06 Troy Tulowitzki – At what point does the injury risk fall behind the performance reward? That’s the question we’ll all have to ask ourselves and this is my answer. While I’m not going to use the same line as I did with Jacoby Ellsbury – he’s not injury prone, he’s accident prone – Tulo has missed enough time that he has to be considered a health risk. But at least nothing is chronic and he’s expected to fully recover from the hip procedure that cut his 2014 short.

2.07 Clayton Kershaw – As I mentioned last time, by the numbers Kershaw is worthy of the first overall pick and I expect an ADP between 3 and 5. It’s just that I believe in drafting to my strength and I’m confident in my ability to put together a competitive pitching staff without Kershaw. That said, there comes a time where the risk of the remaining hitters is too much. Realistically, it’s not going to come to this, but I’m listing my choices as if 15 Zola-clones were picking and the draft went chalk. Man, that’s a scary thought – 15 me’s. Whoever’s in charge of making Diet Mountain Dew would get a ton of overtime, that’s for sure.

2.08 Justin Upton – I’m not expecting the uber-stud we all thought was in store for Upton. But he’s now at the point where .270 with high 20s homers is bankable along with 180 runs plus RBI and a handful of bags. I’m paying for his floor, not his ceiling, which is exactly opposite of what many did a few years ago. There’s a good chance I use this exact same analysis in a couple of years, subbing in Bryce Harper.

2.09 Felix Hernandez – Again, I don’t love taking an arm this early but the reliability of The King trumps what’s left. I doubt I’ll have to make this pick since there aren’t 14 more of me populating the planet (I can’t speak for other galaxies) so someone already discussed will be available here.

2.10 Chris Sale – Sale may actually possess better skills than Hernandez but I feel the injury risk with the lanky southpaw is enough to drop him down a notch.

2.11 Madison Bumgarner – Check the numbers; he belongs in the tier below Kershaw, perhaps even at the top of it but I still like the preceding two guys a tad more.

2.12 Michael Brantley – Brantley’s numbers are awfully close to Blackmon’s but he’s dropped several spots since he’s more likely to incur a power drop. I can just as easily see Brantley hitting 10 homers as challenging 20 again.

2.13 Carlos Gonzalez – I’ll be honest, if I were to write this piece again, the order of the last three could be different. You know the narrative; CarGo is a stud between disabled list visits.

2.14 Hanley Ramirez – Similar to Gonzalez except Ramirez isn’t quite as consistent. His highs are higher than CarGo but his lows are also lower.

2.15 Yasiel Puig – Actually, not only could the order have been different, the names may also have varied. I considered Ryan Braun, Harper, Adrian Gonzalez and Max Scherzer – all of which will be discussed in the final installment of this series. Puig went through some down spells but the signs are there if he can mature and exhibit some consistency.

NEXT TIME – Notable omissions

 

The Division Championship Series aren’t over yet and I’m 12 rounds into a National Fantasy Baseball Championship league that counts as well as taking part in an industry mini-mock. Others have already opined on how they feel the first few rounds of 2015 drafts will go, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring.

By means of some context, I have not yet begun the process of 2015 player projections, though I may be engrossed in that exercise as you’re reading this. My list is mostly intuitive, though I do have the luxury of seeing how a couple of other drafts have transpired. This has forced me to take a closer look at a couple of players I admittedly would have omitted otherwise.

In addition, I’m a firm believer that a draft list SHOULD NOT be a duplicate of ranking by projected dollar potential - I’m officially ceasing using the term value and replacing it with the more practical and accurate term of potential. I’m more concerned about roster construct than a rank. This is most prevalent with pitchers and hitters with either speed or batting average as their primary contribution.

Finally, I don’t consider position early on, save for eschewing pitchers and catchers for strategic reasons. As such, you won’t see either Clayton Kershaw or Buster Posey listed in my first round. This doesn’t mean my eventual rankings won’t have both worthy of a top pick. Heck, Kershaw will likely end up top-five if not better. I wrote at the All-Star break to get ready for an off-season of discussion pimping Kershaw for going first or second overall. I’m just not doing it, but that’s a story for another day.

Here’s my first round in a 15-team league. I’ll follow up with the second round on Tuesday then finish up with notable omissions on Thursday.

1. Mike Trout – What distinguishes the very top from the rest is runs and RBI. Especially in today’s offensive environment (double entendre intended), having a reasonable expectation of triple-digit runs and RBI is fantasy gold.

2. Andrew McCutchen – I chose Cutch second in the aforementioned industry mock. I love the across the board contributions as well as his durability and reliability. Add in McCutchen is still on the good side of the learning curve on a team with an improving offense (Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco) and McCutchen has a shot at 100/100, though I won’t be projecting that.

3. Giancarlo Stanton – The power potential was never in question. For most, durability was and to be honest, Stanton still only played 145 games, but that’s enough for me to count on a similar number which is plenty. My concern was the lack of run production. Those fears have been assuaged by Christian Yelich, who replaces Kole Calhoun as my current bromantic interest. For me, past Trout and Cutch, everyone has a wart. Stanton’s is health and I’m not all that worried.

4. Miguel Cabrera – Skills still solid, I’m nervous about health. I realize the current issue is bone spurs that should be completely fixed, but Miggy is getting on a bit and has dealt with pesky injuries for a couple seasons. This is enough for me to fade him when there’s other options to choose.

5. Carlos Gomez – This is probably a surprise. Not many will question the contention that Gomez has an upside higher than any player not sharing a last name with an aquatic animal. Their counter will be Gomez has a floor much lower than optimal for a foundation pick. He’s actually walking a tad more while maintaining an admittedly high, but acceptable strikeout rate when taken in concert with his high basal batting average on balls in play. Now factor in Gomez will be among the league leaders in homers plus steals and I’ll take him in this spot every time.

6. Paul Goldschmidt – Others will take him higher and I’m not going to argue. I can’t point to any one metric I expect to falter. Goldschmidt has displayed the ability to maintain a high BABIP and a high home run per fly ball which counters a low fly ball rate. His contact rate isn’t great but it’s similar to that of Gomez and Goldschmidt walks twice as much. My concern is Goldschmidt has nowhere to go but down, unless he whiffs less. I see more possible downside with Goldschmidt than those above.

7. Adam Jones – It helps if you read the following in the voice of the guy that does the truck and beef commercials. Consistency, reliability, durability – Adam Jones, he’s a fantasy winner.

8. Jacoby Ellsbury – He’s been a top-20 fantasy performer in five of the last seven seasons, three of which have been top-10. It’s cliché, but it’s my own cliché. Ellsbury isn’t injury prone, he’s accident prone. When healthy, he’s a top-10 guy.

9. Edwin Encarnacion – Any residual fears of a drop in power from his bum wrist were assuaged with six September bombs. That said, there’s some concern that Encarnacion smacked 16 in May, a monthly total that he won’t repeat. But in an era with waning power, Encarnacion’s pop is worth even more.

9A. Jose Bautista – Bautista and Encarnacion profile nearly identically. The only reason Joey Bats is 9A and not 9 is he was born two years earlier than Encarnacion.

11. Matt Kemp – The narrative will be if Kemp is healthy, he’ll put up first round numbers like before, but without the steals. Well, I’ll take that a step further and say I expect that he’ll be healthy. Chances are, Kemp won’t be picked this early (unless he kills it in the spring) so I should be able to get someone above at this spot then take Kemp in the second round.

12. Robinson Cano – Hey, everyone was right and Cano hit fewer homers. But we were really all wrong since no one thought they’d drop as much as they did. My expectations for Cano are basically what they were last season - .300 with low 20 HR with a sprinkle of steals. I think the Mariners will improve their attack which should aid in run production. As mentioned, I don’t pay for position, but I do pay for reliability and durability which pushes Cano into a late first-rounder.

13. Jose Abreu – Long story short is while Abreu’s .356 BABIP is supported by a high line drive rate, I’m not confident he’ll sustain that level of hard contact. Abreu also made better contact than was expected based on his numbers in Cuba. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that with a year’s worth of video to study. I may get burned but I need to see it again.

14. Anthony Rendon – My primary concern with Rendon isn’t skills, it’s remaining in the two-hole where he gets 30 or 40 more plate appearances than he would get if he hit lower. More than likely, Rendon will be the opening day third baseman and stay there all season which should help his offense. I love his contact rate along with a legit shot at 20/20 with a 25/25 upside. Others will push teammate Ian Desmond to this spot and rightfully so since his floor is 20/20 with a 30/30 ceiling. But I’ll take the additional plate appearances and better contact.

15. Ian Desmond – The spike in strikeouts is disconcerting, especially since he already carries a low contact rate. But the reward of a three-year average of 23 HR and 22 SB makes the risk palatable.

OK, so I have an idea. Truth of the matter is I get tons of ideas but most of them get buried in a folder on my desktop called “Yeah Right.” The thing about this one is it was supposed to be a joke but a couple of guys think it actually has legs. Not just a couple of guys – a couple of guys in the fantasy industry that are pretty tuned into the landscape.

It came about at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association football draft last month. As Lawr detailed, we had the first pick. The order was drawn about 15 minutes previous to when we were on the clock so we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about who we wanted. We quickly decided we didn’t want Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham, which left a running back. There are four ball-carriers that can be a defensible top choice: Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy. Who we took and why along with the relative merits of each aren’t important; they’ll be plenty of time to talk about that. What is important is what I off-handedly uttered to my co-manager with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek.

"Geez, I sort of wish we could pick a quarter share of each."

I told the story to a couple of guys at the FSTA conference, not to pitch the idea but rather to demonstrate how close the call is and how all of the four are viable options. They both said forget that, the idea was genius. Well, they may not have said genius but I need practice spelling the word properly and this was a good time to use it. Suffice it to say they both pushed me to seriously consider the notion. One, Fantasy Sport Network’s Nando DiFino threatened to pick up the ball and run with it if I fumbled. See what I did there?

The concept is a draft (most logically football but it could work for baseball) where you could pick partial shares of the player and the scoring would be adjusted to account for the percentage you own. So if quarter shares were allowed, Lawr and I could have actually done what I jokingly suggested and picked up a 25 percent share of Forte, Charles, Peterson and McCoy.

Obviously there's a ton of details that would need to be hammered out, not the least of which is a person goofy enough to organize and administer such a monster since there isn’t a commissioner service equipped to handle the format. The person would have to be pretty adept with spreadsheets and know enough people to recruit league members.

OK, I’ll do it.

At this point, the only rule that is set-in-stone is you can draft partial shares of players and those shares are available until 100 percent of the player is chosen. Past that, everything is on the table. I have some ideas (some rather obvious, some a bit more creative) but if the idea has legs, we can take it to the Mastersball forum and discuss the rules.

So, what do you think? Does the ability to pick 25 percent of Matt Forte, 25 percent of Calvin Johnson, 25 percent of Jimmy Graham and 25 percent of Payton Manning with the top pick pique your interest?

I’ll tell you what. Post a note in the comments or drop me a line and if we have ample feedback, we’ll take it to the message board so I can move this one into the “About Damned Time" folder. If we can come up with some rules, I’ll set it up and run the league from the site.

Deal?

As many of you know, our friend and colleague Ron Shandler has launched a new venture, Shandler Park. Ron has married the game theory and player evaluation of traditional fantasy with the faster-paced, more hands-on management of daily fantasy into an entertaining month long contest. Lawr Michaels, Perry Van Hook and I are doing some writing for Shandler Park and have been playing regularly since April.

It’s a pay-for-play setup but as site content contributors, we all have teams scattered throughout the leagues that are of course not eligible for prizes. But by playing, we get to put our theories into practice. In fact, we’re encouraged to experiment with different strategies and different lineups. Of the trio, Lawr has taken the best advantage of making these leagues his personal laboratory as he’s not afraid to try what some may consider out-of-the-box strategies.

In brief, Shandler Park is a salary cap game where you select a roster of 32 players whose collective prices cannot exceed the preset cap. The prices are based on a combination of a player’s historical performance and their current level. The cap only applies when choosing the 32 players at your disposal for the month. The active lineup is the same as traditional fantasy, with 14 hitters and 9 pitchers (leaving 9 on reserve). Hitting and pitching changes are allowed on Monday and Friday. Scoring is rotisserie style using modified 4x4 scoring.

HITTING

  • On-Base Percentage
  • Home Runs
  • Runs Produced (Runs+RBI-HR)
  • Stolen Bases
  • PITCHING

  • Wins + Quality Starts
  • Saves + Holds
  • ERA
  • Strikeouts
  • This month, Ron decided to have a little fun and invited a group of fellow writers, analysts and radio hosts to join an industry showcase league. Brian Walton has joined Lawr and I in this publicly accessible contest. This is the final week, so we thought you may enjoy following along and hopefully joining the festivities in August. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

    To follow along, click HERE.

    Here are the standings entering the final week of the contest:

    1. ToddZola 87.5
    2. PhilHertz 86
    3. RonShandler 84.5
    4. RayMurphy 84
    5. Wolfman 83.5
    6. PatrickDavitt 81.5
    7. KyleElfrink 69
    8. Rotoman 68.5
    9. BrianWalton 67.5
    10. CederHomers 64
    11. SteveGardner 61
    12. JeffErickson 60.5
    13. DaveAdler 54
    14. DougDennis 48
    15. RayFlowers 44.5
    16. lawrmichaels 44

    Having lost Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, it's going to take a little luck for yours truly to hold onto this precarious lead and finish atop this esteemed group. In lieu of Lind, I am using Manny Machado, so that's not too bad. The replacement for Encarnacion is either J.J. Hardy or Wilin Rosario. When we're talking about a month's worth of games, three homers can mean five or six points (not to mention points in the runs produced category), so the drop-off here is significant.

    While I'll decide when everything's said and done if I should have had another stick in reserve, my present focus is on maximizing pitching points since I have more available reserves to work with. Despite completely forgetting to change my roster the Friday before the All-Star break, my pitching has come through and I'm near the top in whiffs and W+QS. On the other hand, I'm lagging in SV+HLD. So what I'm doing is switching from 7 starters and 2 relievers to 6 starters and 3 relievers figuring to maintain my stead in strikeouts and W+QS while hoping for some good fortune with saves and holds, since one of my relievers is Joe Smith.

    Something I am regretting is not having a fourth reliever. The irony is I usually have four bullpen arms but I opted to go with three, wanting to make sure I had ample starters to handle the reshuffling of the rotations before and after the break (and of course I forgot to make the changes - sigh).

    Hopefully, by setting the stage for this exciting finish, you can see the multitude of strategies available in Shandler Park and in turn give it a try.

  • Budget dedicated to active roster spots versus reserves
  • Number of hitters versus number of pitchers
  • Number of starting pitchers versus number of relievers
  • Twice-a-week moves to maximize at-bats and innings
  • Final week strategies to maximize points
  • And the best part is you get to do it all over again every month.

    Hopefully, you'll take some time to root on my squad and check out some of the archived essays on Shandler Park. Who knows, maybe this time next month, you'll be battling for second place in my league!

    It’s no secret that I’ve been smitten by the daily fantasy baseball format. While I admit the format isn’t for everybody, I’m a bit taken aback by some of the comments I have heard and read about the game – some of which was in personal correspondence.

    Cutting to the chase, the primary issue is how much luck is involved with daily fantasy baseball. There have been multiple contentions that it’s gambling and not fantasy baseball with some even claiming they are insulted that their sacred game has to share the name with such non-worthy variant.

    As my compadre likes to say, chill out – it’s a game based on a game.

    But it really is more than that. Equating daily fantasy with gambling is at minimum myopic with some bridging into an elitist arrogance. Honestly, I’m quite surprised with some of the comments I’ve read on various message forums and heard in conversation.

    Maybe I’m the one that is naïve because I’m having a modicum of success and am justifying my participation. Not that I need to justify it, it’s just that some are questioning that I am now writing a lot more about daily and prefer I stick to traditional fantasy.

    Here’s my take. Distilled down to its core, both daily and traditional fantasy entail predicting then quantifying player expectation. In traditional fantasy, the currency is auction dollars or a draft round. In the daily game, it’s a salary set by the site. The bottom line is the same analytic methods used in traditional fantasy are apropos for daily.

    When I’m looking at a pitcher to use in my daily lineup, I look at the same strikeout and walk rates I use when projecting for the year-long games. I compare the hurler’s real ERA to his expected ERA to find options that are underpriced since most sites set the salary based on outcomes. I look at hit rate to find unlucky pitchers that other may avoid. Again – the same metrics are evaluated.

    The same idea holds true for hitters. Unlucky batters are likely to be underpriced. Everything that goes into evaluating player performance for six month goes into researching players for use that night in daily.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say I’ve convinced some proponents the above is true. The follow-up will no doubt be something like…

    “That’s all well and good, but the success rate of projecting a season’s worth of performance is much greater than predicting out performance for one day. Projecting a sample as small as a day is almost luck. Therefore winning at daily fantasy is almost all luck.”

    Look, I’m not going to deny that luck plays a major role in deciding daily contests – it does. But you know what? It also has a significant influence on the result of year-long contests, just ask those that picked up Jose Fernandez last year. And don’t even pretend you thought he’d be that good.

    There’s no doubt that in order to take down a large entry tournament you’re going to need to hit on a player or two that has a highlight reel night. But without a supporting cast that does their job, the surprise production that game would have gone to waste.

    Hmmm – sounds just like the dynamic of the sacred traditional format.

    An argument to which I do concur is volume playing is an unfortunate repercussion of daily games. As I’ve admitted, there’s more variance in daily games. One way to mitigate the variance is to play in multiple contests– and by multiple I mean hundreds a night.

    I understand this feeds into the gambling narrative and I have no retort. A major element of daily games is bankroll management with the underlying understanding odds and probability. Entering a team into a daily contest definitely has a betting feel when you take this aspect into consideration.

    But I ask, what’s wrong with that? Seriously, why is this an issue? So it’s not baseball. Is being a good trader baseball? (Insert the high stakes arena and my league doesn’t allow trading here.) There are skills other than “knowing baseball” necessary to compete in the traditional format. And there are skills other than knowing baseball that are part and parcel to the daily format.

    I realize some are not going to get over the perceived luck and gambling element of daily fantasy sports.

    That’s fine.

    I just don’t get some of the vitriol. If you don’t like a TV show, you don’t watch. If you don’t like a song, you change the station. If you don’t like some food, you don’t eat it.

    If you don’t like daily fantasy baseball, don’t play.

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