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Friday 24th Nov 2017

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

It’s that time again as the fine folks at DraftStreet.com are sponsoring another $350 Freeroll for Mastersball readers. And I am here again to talk about the team I am entering. After cashing in the first two Freeroll contests, I had a rough week last time and I am anxious to get back to my old winning ways.

A mistake often made, be it in standard fantasy baseball or daily formats is to have a knee-jerk reaction when things are not going your way. As such, I am going to hold firm to the stratagem I have used to this point:

1. Ignore streaks
2. Ignore historical hitters versus pitcher matchups
3. Focus on using players at home
4. Focus on off-handed hitting matchups in good hitting parks
5. Focus on hitters facing below average pitchers and pitchers facing below average hitters

The key is not to get so wrapped up in these “rules” to overlook other areas to gain an edge. The first thing that struck me when I took a look at the pitchers was for the first time, there were fewer aces than normal. My first thought was “cool, this will be a real test of the home-field theory” since I would be counting on the above to get an advantage and not just rely on talent.

Then something else caught my eye. There are a couple of what I consider to be lesser hurlers working on the road, against better teams in good hitter’s parks. This goes against the spread the wealth mentality, but I opted to load up on hitters that follow the above and are facing these lesser starters. My two victims are Cleveland’s Jeanmar Gomez, facing the White Sox in the friendly Cell, rookie Christian Friedrich on the road versus the Reds in the Great American Ballpark.

Real quick, by means of review, my means of assembling the squad is as follows:

 

1. Start with pitching
2. Go bottom-up through the positions, looking for the bargains
3. Go top down, looking for the outstanding stud matchups
4. Fili-in the blanks with what is left in terms of salary

Here we go….

SP: Jason Hammel ($10,594) – Hammel’s peripherals suggest his success is real and I am hoping it continues, though the Royals are surprisingly strong against RHP, sporting a .738 OBP.

SP:  Tim Hudson ($11,728) – Hudson does not fan as many as I would like in this format and I suspect that is going to be another rule as I continue to learn the nuances, but I’ll take the chance against a middle of the pack Nationals’ attack when facing righties.

SP: A.J. Burnett ($12,125) – Perhaps an over-compensation for wanting K’s, but Burnett is squaring off against the Cubs, who struggle against right-handers.

RP: Jim Johnson ($2891) – I like to match up my closer with one of my starters. I cannot fit Craig Kimbel under the cap and I am more confident in Hammel than Burnett, so Joel Hanrahan loses out.

C: A.J. Pierzynski ($7,513) – Let the piling on begin with this L-R match-up. I feel safe Pierzynski will play but with catcher, it is always best to keep your eye on lineups and have a Plan B in mind, just in case. Matt Wieters will be the backup if needed.

1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($6,452) – Impressive rookie Alex Cobb will be on the bump, but the veteran Gonzalez should pose a threat in this L-R confrontation.

2B: Dan Uggla ($5,694) – The primary reason for Uggla is none of the piling on matchups were attractive so I’ll take a power-hitting righty against the southpaw Ross Detwiler.

3B: Todd Frazier ($4,640) – Cheap, right-handed and a Red – three for three. Let’s see if Frazier can handle Friedrich. There is some concern as if he can’t, the Rox rook is a strikeout guy which would be negative points.

SS: Zack Cozart ($,4041) – Cozart has the same three traits as Frazier and he hits at the top of the order so he is a threat to score runs, which is important in this scoring system (and may soon become a rule; only draft players in the top-half of the batting order).

OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis ($4,604) – Nieuwenhuis is seeing regular at-bats versus righties. Anthony Bass, the opposition, has looked very good, but let’s see how he does outside of PETCO.

OF: Alejandro De Aza ($6,823) – Pale Hose number two, De Aza is another top of the order lefty facing the RH Gomez.

OF: Drew Stubbs ($5,187) – Our third Red, if he doesn’t fan, Stubbs is almost assured of scoring some points since he can do everything. I am sure Friedrich is a great guy, but let’s just say I am not going to be his biggest fan tonight.

UT: Adam Dunn ($7882) – And now our third South Sider, Dunn is another strikeout threat but a homer threat as well. I’ll take the chance he can make contact against Gomez.

UT: David Ortiz ($9,784) – Maybe a mini-piling on, Big Papi is the second BoSox and our final hitter. Cobb has looked good, but the patient approach of the suddenly effective Red Sox attack could cause issues.

Well, here is it. I actually like the way this came together. If you’re not playing, wish me luck. If you are, let the best team win.

OK, so this is rather embarrassing. I set up this whole “homework assignment” and it turns out I messed up the data a little. If you have not seen it, I posted a series of five pitcher rankings based on last season’s final stats and asked for opinions as to which list was favored with respect to how pitchers should be ranked for fantasy purposes. I have fixed the list, so if you took the time to go through them, I apologize. Everyone, please take a moment to look at the corrected lists, with the second series of names being the one that is changed. Of note is where relievers now fall, please click HERE.

For those that picked the second, do you still feel that way?

Here’s the deal. We all know how wacky this season has been with respect to closers. Even before this season. many leagues have addressed the issue by incorporating holds in different machinations. Three of these are included on the list, and for the record, I play in a league that uses each one.

But I have an issue with that. I think holds are every bit as suspect as a stat as saves, perhaps even more so. It is still up to a manager’s whim and is just an artificial means of attempting to reduce the randomness relievers are awarded the closer role. Now, that same randomness extends to the set up guys.

Perhaps the main reason I don’t like using both saves and holds is they violate what I feel is a basic tenet of the way fantasy baseball should be played. It is my opinion that the game should consist of the following:

 

1. Project a reasonable level of performance for each player
2. Convert this performance to a relative fantasy value
3. Assemble a roster with the potential to score as many points as possible
4. Manage the roster in-season to maximize the number of points scored

 

The use of saves and holds violates the top line. Projecting saves and holds is a complete crapshoot. I hate to sound cliché, but there is no skill to assigning saves and holds. Granted, one can argue there is some degree of logic, but even that is more common sense and not based on anything analytical, derived from projection theory.

And to anticipate those that (correctly) point out that there is a degree of this logic and common sense outside of projection theory when it comes to projecting wins, RBI and runs, you are right. That said, to me anyway, saves and holds are at another level of being whimsical. Better pitchers with better offenses and good bullpens should get more wins. Players hitting first and second should score more runs while those hitting after should get more RBI. Yes, these are all team-dependent, but they are less subject to the manager’s mood than setup men and closers. Lineups are designed based on the skills of the hitters. Rotations are constructed based on skills of the pitchers. Bullpens, however, are not always organized based on skills.

You know the expression “don’t come to me with a problem unless you have a solution?” Well, here’s the solution.

What skill is the most important for a pitcher? Shouldn’t this be what we use as a fantasy category? In my not so humble opinion, this skill is K/9. I know that no single skill is the be all end all, but if you had to use one skill as an initial filter and you were not allowed to use multiple, my choice would be K/9. Therefore, my ideal scoring system uses K/9.

I realize an argument can be made that K/BB is arguably better and maybe it is. But from a fantasy baseball perspective, walks are already accounted for in WHIP, so having K/9 replace saves is my first suggestion.

Uh oh, now we have K/9 and K’s as categories, we can’t have that. So here is what we do. Replace strikeouts with innings pitched. Think about it, this is representative of a pitcher’s skill, or at minimum, reflective of the pitcher’s contribution to his MLB team. Pitchers should be rewarded for the simple fact they threw an inning. Yeah, I know, batters don’t get credit for every at-bat, but in general, they don’t get pulled from the game if they are struggling either.

This makes my ideal 5x5 scoring system W, IP, ERA, WHIP, K/9. OK, maybe this is not ideal as there are still some issues with W and even ERA, but we are having a hard enough of a time getting leagues to recognize on-base percentage is superior than batting average, how the heck can we get them to use QS and xFIP in roto-scoring? Let’s crawl before we walk.

For those that doubt I can get the fantasy community to listen, guess who used what is now called the KDS draft spot designation process five years before the National Fantasy Baseball Championships revolutionized draft slot assignment? I’ll give you a hint; he’s the same guy that pestered the Tout Wars LLC for five years before they finally agreed to convert an outfielder spot to a swing position, capable of being filled by a pitcher or hitter – that’s right, THIS GUY.

Let’s reveal the scoring systems used for the five sets of rankings and I again apologize for botching them.

 

COLUMN 1: Saves + Holds/2
COLUMN 2: K/9+IP
COLUMN 3: Saves + Holds – Blown saves
COLUMN 4: Saves + Holds
COLUMN 5: standard 5x5

As alluded to in the beginning, the telltale aspect of the K/9+IP list is the absence of a reliever until Craig Kimbrel at #36. Even more relevant is the subsequent order of relievers, which is a far better measure of the player’s skills and contributions. Here is just the reliever ranking within each list. Do you feel the relative rank is more representative than in standard scoring?

 

SV + H/2 K/9+IP SV+H-BS SV+H STD 5x5
Craig Kimbrel Craig Kimbrel Tyler Clippard Tyler Clippard Craig Kimbrel
Tyler Clippard Tyler Clippard Jonny Venters Craig Kimbrel Drew Storen
Drew Storen David Robertson Mike Adams Jonny Venters John Axford
Mike Adams Jonny Venters Craig Kimbrel Mike Adams Mariano Rivera
Jonny Venters Mike Adams David Robertson David Robertson Jose Valverde
John Axford Koji Uehara Drew Storen Drew Storen J.J. Putz
Mariano Rivera Alfredo Aceves John Axford Sean Marshall Joel Hanrahan
Fernando Salas Greg Holland Sean Marshall Alfredo Aceves Fernando Salas
J.J. Putz Sergio Romo Jose Valverde John Axford Francisco Cordero
Jose Valverde Fernando Salas Eric O'Flaherty Eric O'Flaherty Jonathan Papelbon
Alfredo Aceves Jonathan Papelbon Alfredo Aceves Fernando Salas Tyler Clippard
Joel Hanrahan Sean Marshall Mariano Rivera Mariano Rivera Alfredo Aceves
David Robertson Kenley Jansen J.J. Putz J.J. Putz Mike Adams
Francisco Cordero John Axford Fernando Salas Jose Valverde Jonny Venters
Jonathan Papelbon Eric O'Flaherty Joel Hanrahan Joel Hanrahan Ryan Madson
Sean Marshall Antonio Bastardo Koji Uehara Jason Motte Kyle Farnsworth
Eric O'Flaherty Drew Storen Greg Holland Francisco Cordero Sergio Santos
Francisco Rodriguez Vinnie Pestano Jason Motte Koji Uehara Mark Melancon
Jason Motte Jeff Samardzija Jonathan Papelbon Greg Holland Jordan Walden
Ryan Madson Jason Motte Francisco Cordero Francisco Rodriguez Francisco Rodriguez
Greg Holland Sergio Santos Francisco Rodriguez Jonathan Papelbon David Robertson
Kyle Farnsworth Edward Mujica Sergio Romo Sergio Romo Jason Motte
Koji Uehara Al Alburquerque Antonio Bastardo Scott Downs Sean Marshall
Mark Melancon Jesse Crain Scott Downs Antonio Bastardo Greg Holland
Antonio Bastardo Rafael Betancourt Ryan Madson Edward Mujica Antonio Bastardo
Sergio Santos Francisco Rodriguez Edward Mujica Grant Balfour Eric O'Flaherty
Sergio Romo Mark Melancon Daniel Bard Ryan Madson Koji Uehara
Edward Mujica Mariano Rivera Rafael Betancourt Rafael Betancourt Edward Mujica
Jordan Walden J.J. Putz David Hernandez Daniel Bard Sergio Romo
Scott Downs Grant Balfour Grant Balfour Jesse Crain Carlos Marmol
Rafael Betancourt David Hernandez Joel Peralta Kyle Farnsworth Rafael Betancourt
Grant Balfour Daniel Bard Jesse Crain Mark Melancon Scott Downs
David Hernandez Kyle Farnsworth Mark Melancon David Hernandez Joel Peralta
Jesse Crain Joel Hanrahan Kyle Farnsworth Joel Peralta David Hernandez
Joel Peralta Casey Janssen Joaquin Benoit Joaquin Benoit Jeff Samardzija
Daniel Bard Joel Peralta Sergio Santos Sergio Santos Jesse Crain
Jeff Samardzija Jose Valverde Tony Sipp Vinnie Pestano Grant Balfour
Vinnie Pestano Ryan Madson Vinnie Pestano Jordan Walden Casey Janssen
Joaquin Benoit Joaquin Benoit Jeff Samardzija Jeff Samardzija Kenley Jansen
Tony Sipp Octavio Dotel Jordan Walden Tony Sipp Vinnie Pestano
Carlos Marmol Scott Downs Joe Smith Joe Smith Matt Belisle
Matt Belisle Glen Perkins Glen Perkins Matt Belisle Al Alburquerque
Joe Smith Matt Belisle Kenley Jansen Glen Perkins Joe Smith
Casey Janssen Ramon Ramirez Ramon Ramirez Casey Janssen Ramon Ramirez
Kenley Jansen Jordan Walden Casey Janssen Darren Oliver Joaquin Benoit
Ramon Ramirez Tony Sipp Darren Oliver Kenley Jansen Daniel Bard
Glen Perkins Carlos Marmol Matt Belisle Ramon Ramirez Tony Sipp
Al Alburquerque Francisco Cordero Al Alburquerque Al Alburquerque Octavio Dotel
Darren Oliver Aroldis Chapman Octavio Dotel Carlos Marmol Glen Perkins
Octavio Dotel Ernesto Frieri Carlos Marmol Octavio Dotel Darren Oliver
Aroldis Chapman Joe Smith Aroldis Chapman Aroldis Chapman Aroldis Chapman
Ernesto Frieri Mike Dunn Ernesto Frieri Ernesto Frieri Ernesto Frieri
Mike Dunn Darren Oliver Mike Dunn Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Aaron Crow Aaron Crow Aaron Crow Aaron Crow Aaron Crow
Tom Gorzelanny Tom Gorzelanny Tom Gorzelanny Tom Gorzelanny Tom Gorzelanny

The 400-pound gorilla of this idea is Mariano Rivera. He checks in at #28 among relievers. Is Al Alburquerque really a better pitcher than Mo? But you can’t have it both ways. Either saves are meaningful or they are not. Well, that’s not exactly true. Maybe this is just a jumping off point and the wins category is altered to include saves.

After all, there is a reason they call this fantasy baseball.


 

 

I’ll start this off by saying I still love this part-time hobby, full-time obsession we call fantasy baseball. I have often pondered what it is going to take for me to quit playing and rigor mortis has usually been my conclusion. That said, lately I have been scratching my head, trying to figure out if the game has passed me by and I need to rethink a few things in terms of my approach.

In a nutshell, I believe fantasy baseball should be a game of skill, first coming up with an idea of how each player will perform, be it formally with a spreadsheet or in a more Zen-like manner, based on experience, common sense and intuition. Then this performance should be ranked, again be it formally or informally in a relative manner, this guy is better than that guy who in turn is better than the guy over there. Next, you assemble your roster, procuring as much potential as possible, combining your player ranking with game theory. Finally, you manage your roster during the season, making moves along the way to improve your team via the means available to you. I don’t like to put a percentage on what is most important, but I do feel if you consider the process to be three parts, what you do before the draft/auction should be most important, followed by the draft/auction with the in-season management coming in third. This is not a reflection of the time spent on each, just the relative importance I not so humbly believe each portion should contribute to the success of your team. I am cognizant of the fact that rules have evolved to sway the scales to in-season management, but that’s OK.

Back in the day, all one needed to succeed in all this was having better access to player information. Forget projections and valuation. It didn’t matter what hot prospects were on the way. If you knew who was playing before the other guys, you won simply because you had more at-bats and innings pitched. Stars and scrubs was the way to go, because you knew the scrubs better than everyone else. In season, you knew the injury replacement and role changes first, which is all that was necessary to win. Their BABIP didn’t matter. The difference in velocity between their four-seamer and circle change was moot. Playing time was the key. Back then there was no MLB Extra Innings or SiriusXM, let alone the Internet. The daily notes section of USA Today was the fantasy lifeblood! The Sunday notes column that Peter Gammons wrote in the Boston Globe was a fantasy player’s dream. Baseball Weekly, the Sporting News, these were the equivalent of Rotoworld and Fangraphs.

sports-weekly

But then Al Gore invented the Internet and things began to change. Who remembers Mosaic? How about Nando net? If it were not for Usenet and recreation.sports.baseball.fantasy, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading this now. Mosaic was the first Internet browser. For those not familiar get this, you could only look at ONE PAGE AT A TIME! There were no tabs, no jump links, let alone bookmarks or favorites. But man, was it GREAT! I suspect those of us in school with access to computers had a bit of an advantage over those less fortunate. Nando.net was the news portal and featured s huge sports portion, replete with everything a fantasy enthusiast needed in terms of stats, box scores, lineups, etc. Usenet was the home of newsgroups, which were the precursor to message forums. The unfortunate downfall of Usenet was the proliferation of pornography SPAM.

The primary influence the Internet had on our hobby was bringing information to the masses. Simply knowing who was playing was no longer the key to success as everybody was soon privy to that. Be it via Compuserve, Prodigy or AOL, if you played fantasy baseball, you subscribed to one of those services. I have fond memories of traveling with the first thing I did after checking into my room was unplugging the phone and plugging in my laptop, then crossing my fingers there was a local AOL access number. Anyway, this all sparked a revolution of sorts and changed, for the better, the way the game was played.

Since everyone now knew who was playing and their stats, the new completive advantage emanated from superior player evaluation, in part pioneered by our colleague Ron Shandler in concert with player valuation, with luminaries such as Alex Patton and John Benson at the forefront. Success was now borne from refined player projection and valuation theory. And I’d like to think that this is still important to this day, as suggested earlier.

Of course, with the Internet explosion, what used to be niche analysis is now in the mainstream.  The advantage you used to have because you knew to look past ERA is now minimized. Most everyone knows a hitter with a BABIP higher or lower than their career norm will regress. That said, just because something is commonplace, that doesn’t mean everyone is equally adept at the analysis, evaluation and application. This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff.

The problem I have with today’s game is all this is now seemingly moot due to the incredible increase in player injuries, especially in the single league, AL and NL only formats. I know, there’s no crying in baseball, injuries can happen to everyone and it is up to the owner to rise above their ill fate and overcome – I get that. But it is frustrating as all get out that months….not days….not weeks….but months of preparation can be for naught due to things completely out of one’s control. Again, this is just a game. I am not less of a person because I did not win my fantasy league. It’s just frustrating. The balance of what I personally deem as most important has shifted to in-season management deciding leagues out of necessity, due to injuries.

Additionally, and this is the part that I am re-thinking, another repercussion of the injury madness is salient analysis is becoming secondary to whimsical gut feels. I have a saying I like to use when it comes to fantasy baseball: I’d rather be wrong for the right reasons than right for the wrong reasons. The idea is the process is more important than the result. Sometimes, the result is not reflective of the process. But, for the longest time, being right 51% of the time led to overall success. Lately, at least it seems anyway, I have been victim of what poker players term bad beats.  The odds were in my favor, the cards just didn’t fall my way.

At the end of the day, I know my little saying is still the right way of looking at things. The process is still paramount. but perhaps the means I calculate the odds could be refined.

Methinks it is time to start re-thinking the reasons.

It’s that time again, Draft Street is sponsoring another $350 Free Roll available to Mastersball readers. By means reminder, this will be a one day contest featuring the games played on Friday, May 11. It costs nothing to enter and seven spots will cash, totaling $350. All you have to do is choose 14 players that fit under the salary cap and watch your points add up. I’ve cashed in each of the first two promotions, though admittedly last time my alter ego, Lord Z took the honors in the Baseball HQ promotion. But the point is, if I can do it how hard can it be?

As usual, my focus is going to be on LHB-RHP and RHB-LHP hitting matchups, favoring players at home in good hitting parks. For pitching, I want a guy at home, facing a lesser team and lower quality opponent on the mound, in an effort to increase win potential. I’ll choose three starters and pair up the cheapest closer corresponding to one of the starters.

Like always, I refuse to be suckered into the hitter versus pitcher data that everyone seems to think is so vital to success. Google it if you don’t believe me, but the sample size is simply too small for past performance to be significant, regardless of how enticing it may seem.

This week, I am going to introduce another factor into my selections, one which may seem counter-intuitive, but as it turns out, could end up playing to my advantage twice. You see, my own unpublished research as well as everything I have seen on the Internet all conclude the same thing, and that is deploying perceived hot players while avoiding what appear to be cold players is not a viable strategy, as recent performances is not an indicator of expected performance. That is, it is much better to rely on a player’s history than make a judgment on a couple of weeks, no matter how well the player has performed. I see this as an advantage since I sense others will shun these players, and their salaries are lower. The Draft Street salaries are at least in part based on recent and/or performance to date, so there are several notable star players with depressed salaries.

To briefly review how I put the pieces into the puzzle, I start with the pitching, not necessarily looking for the bargain basement prices, but focusing more on juicy matchups. I’ll make up salary with hitters. To that end, I go through all the positions and try to find a viable player for under $5000. Then I raise the limit to $6000. At this point, I assess where I stand in terms of available salary and go through the higher players until I have one spot left, then it is a matter of finding the best player under that number, keeping in mind the goal is not to get as close to the cap as possible, but rather to find the best player as possible. That said, if I feel I am leaving too much cap space unspent, I will look to see if I can upgrade a spot.

That’s the process, here’s the squad:

C: Carlos Santana ($6717) – Santana is on the road, but he is facing Clay Buchholz, who is off to a very slow start. The Tribe has a bunch of lefties in their lineup which should lead to a few run producing and scoring chances.

Albert_Pujols

1B: Albert Pujols ($5636) – YIKES!! I know he is off to a slow start, but Pujols is priced like a platoon player. Adding to the intrigue is the opposing mounds man is Yu Darvish. The matchup defies two of my rules of thumb as Albert is facing a righty on the road, but at least the park is favorable. Plus, it’s Albert freaking Pujols, priced below such luminaries as Matt Downs, David Cooper, Brett Pill and Matt LaPorta.  Come on.

2B: Danny Espinosa ($4055) – Here’s putting the slump theory to the test, I am pretty sure Espinosa will not be played a whole lot, even though his salary is quite low. He’s on the road, facing James McDonald who is on a roll, but like hitters, recent streaks are not a harbinger. Espinosa is a switch-hitter and can score points with his power or speed; I just have to hope he is able to make contact as strikeouts are counted against the total.

3B: Chase Headley ($5900) – Headley is on the road, but at least it is in Philly, facing Vance Worley, not an overwhelming matchup. I like Headley because he’s a switch-hitter and I think he is underrated, leading to a reasonable salary. He’s a better base runner than many realize which can lead to runs and steals.

SS: Jimmy Rollins ($5249) – While Rollins is no longer a roto-stud, he still profiles very well in this format since the only negatives are strikeouts and grounding into double plays, a couple of results Rollins is usually able to avoid. He’s a switcher, facing Richard at friendly Citizen's Bank Park. I know he’s in a “slump” which renders the veteran shortstop my third scuffler with a depressed salary.

OF: Denard Span ($5115) – This is my least confident pick as Span turned out to be the “fit him in” guy. That said, the matchup against Kyle Drabek is in his favor and since Span’s game is running, the big park is not an issue. I’ll take a walk, steal and a run any day.

OF: Hunter Pence: ($9145) – In a vacuum, Pence is a perfect selection since he fits the vitals: RHB vs. LHP at home in a great park. But there’s another reason I chose him.

OF: John Mayberry ($3659) - Sensing a pattern? Hang in, there’s more to come. Along with fitting the criteria, Mayberry is dirt cheap, and that’s not all.

UT: Ty Wigginton ($5291) – If you have not figured it out by now, I am going to have a Philly cheese steak for dinner then blast the theme from Rocky through my speakers as I get ready to cheer on my favorite team (for one night only), Philadelphia. It came about by accident, but as I was constructing the team, I decided to overload on Phillies, hoping to cash in on a slugfest. I’m not sure if this is a viable strategy, seems to me it may be a win or go home sort of play, but maybe that’s what it takes to win this thing. One note on Wigginton, he is a risk since he’s hurt, but I am covered by using him at utility and not third without another third baseman at utility. This way, if I am worried that he won’t play. I can look for a hitter at any position, not just the hot corner. My best backup option is Alfonso Soriano at Milwaukee against Randy Wolf, but I am eager to deploy the overload method so I hope to find a positive report on Wiggy early enough to lock in the best lineup.

UT: David Ortiz ($9364) – Big Papi is at home, facing Ubaldo Jimenez. This is a lot of salary to spend, but I like the matchup. Something to note is especially when it comes to East Coast and Midwestern games, pay attention to the forecast, it would he harsh to lose a player due to a rainout. Friday night is supposed to be perfect in both Boston and Philadelphia.

GENERAL WORD OF CAUTION: DO NOT TRUST THE PITCHERS TO BE ACCURATE! Last time C.C. Sabathia was listed as a probable for the Friday games and he did not pitch. It is well worth the effort to confirm that the listed starter is indeed scheduled, not to mention you could be basing hitting selections on hurlers not actually active that evening. Keep in mind that since Draft Street needs to set and lock the prices well in advance of the games, often something slips through the cracks.

SP: Chris Capuano ($14,531): Capuano is one of the more under-appreciated fantasy performers. His peripherals have been solid for over a year. Dodger Stadium is a nice place to pitch and Jamie Moyer and the Rockies make for a nice matchup. Capuano should be able to neutralize the lefties in the Colorado lineup, which is their strength.

SP: Jaime Garcia ($9747): Garcia at home is always a good thing. Mike Minor and the Atlanta Braves are not easy opponents, but to be completely upfront, the main reason this was chosen was to pair up Jason Motte with Garcia as Motte’s salary is surprisingly low.

RP: Jason Motte ($1879): Unless I am missing something, there is no reason for Motte’s price to be this dirt cheap, figure I may as well take advantage.

P: Gavin Floyd ($13,680): Pitcher strikeouts along with wins are what pump up the points and I like Floyd’s chanced for both as he faces off against the Kansas City Royals.

Good luck to to your squad!

As you likely know by now, DraftStreet.com is promoting a bi-monthly FreeRoll contest for Mastersball.com readers, the second of which is scheduled for tonight, Friday April 27. If you want to participate and try to win your share of the $350 up for grabs, CLICK HERE, but hurry as lineups lock at 7:05 PM ET/4:05 PM PT.

The format is a salary cap game where you fit fourteen players under a cap and accumulate points based on their Friday night performance. A couple of weeks ago, in a FreeRoll set up exclusively for Mastersball.com, our own Ryan Carey took home the big prize of $100 while I finished a respectable third, adding $50 to my account.  Look out Ryan; I’m out to get you this week!

As I discussed when I shared my strategy for the initial FreeRoll, I plan on sticking to some basic principles when selecting my players. They are as follows:

  • Favor players at home
  • Favor pitchers in pitcher’s parks and hitters in hitter’s parks
  • Deploy as many L-R and R-L hitting matchups as possible
  • Start pitchers against lesser teams
  • Ignore specific hitter versus pitcher stats as they are not significant, no matter how enticing, in such a small sample
  • Thinking about the contest in the two weeks between promotions, I have three more rules of thumb I am going to heed:

  • Pay attention to the weather reports to assure all roster spots will be occupied by an active player
  • Choose the cheapest closer that pairs with one of your starting pitchers
  • Fill the fourth pitcher spot with a starting pitcher
  • In the inaugural contest, I went with two starters and their associated closers. It did not take me long to learn that it is starting pitching that will rack up the points most nights and it is not guaranteed your closer gets into the game. Having three starting pitchers assures you of getting points in a roster spot that could be occupied by a closer that does not even warm up. The downside is starting pitchers are the highest priced entities in the game so you really need to hit on your pitching as well as find the bargain bats so you can stay under the cap.

    An idea that I want to investigate for future promotions is finding a starting pitcher edge using umpire tendencies. In depth data is kept with respect to how an umpire calls a game. Now, before you think this is the holy grail of this sort of competition, please realize each umpire is behind the plate for only 30-40 games a season and for every pitcher friendly  arbiter, there will be one not so kind. Then consider that there are some pitchers you are not going to start regardless of the man in blue calling balls and strikes. The point is, the opportunities to deploy this tactic will be limited, but when they in fact exist, you can save some significant salary cap space. For those playing more than just the promotional FreeRolls, you may want to do a Internet search on umpire data to find a day you can gain this competitive advantage. My intention is to elaborate on this topic in my column accompanying the next promotional FreeRoll.

    Here is the squad I selected for tonight’s contest. If I make any last minute changes, I will post them in the comments below. The name of my entry is ToddZ. I will discuss it in terms of how I put the team together then at the end, the players by position and salary will be listed.

    My first step was deciding on three starters and the closer. At first blush, three arms piqued my interest, all with home tilts: Ricky Romero (TOR) versus Blake Beavan (SEA), Clayton Kershaw (LAD) versus Ross Detwiler (WAS) and Tommy Hanson (ATL) versus A.J. Burnett (PIT). All the home teams should be favored, playing rather suspect offenses. As I proceeded to fill out my hitters, I didn’t think there would be ample salary to fill each spot with a player I was comfortable using, so I looked for another hurler. I opted to go against one of my rules of thumb and am using Drew Pomeranz (COL) versus Chris Schwinden (NYM).  The obvious hope is the potent Rockie attack is able to get to the Mets’ rookie, making his 2012 debut, giving Pomeranz the win. For the closer, I am counting on Francisco Cordero to save the victory for Romero.

    The next step was going through each position, starting at the bottom of the salaries in an effort to find a lower priced gem fitting the above criteria (L-R/R-L , at home in a hitter’s park). My goal was to find batter’s under $5000 or so. If I was unable to find someone at a position, I left it empty until the next pass, when I had a better idea of how much salary I had to play with. I added John Buck (MIA), Gaby Sanchez (MIA) and Eric Thames (TOR). The Marlins’ Buck and Sanchez are both righties scheduled to face southpaw Joe Saunders. Lefty Thames has a date with righty Beavan.

    I then raised the limit to around $6000 and added Brandon Phillips (CIN) and Giancarlo Stanton (MIA). Righty Phillips has lefty Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) on the docket while the right-handed Stanton hopes to get off the snide against Saunders.

    At this point, I decide to go back through the lowest salaries and see if there were some starters that did not meet all of the desired criteria, but still made sense to play. Welcome to the fold, Marlon Byrd (BOS). The new Red Sox centerfielder is on the road, facing fellow right-hander John Danks, but the salary was dirt cheap and US Cellular is favorable, plus Byrd should have chances to score and knock in teammates as the Boston attack is warming up.

    Now the fun begins as I get to fill in with some upper echelon sticks. When it comes to the elite, I am not as concerned about L/R and R/L. I’ll take guys in good hitting parks, facing weaker pitching or in a strong lineup. David Wright (NYM), Troy Tulowitzki (COL) and Ben Zobrist (TAM) added some star power to the squad. Wright is facing Pomeranz, who I am starting, but I still like the righty third-sackers chances of having a strong night against the raw southpaw. In an effort to counter that, Tulowitzki will hopefully do some damage against fellow righty Schwinden, but he is at home and home is Coors Field. Zobrist is a switch hitter but he is on the road with Matt Harrison (TEX) on the bump. Texas is a great hitter’s park so Zobrist should be fine.

    I was left with one utility spot, so the obvious step is going to the amount left and choosing the best player left that can fit under the cap. It is important to note that the selection does not have to be the highest priced player left, just the best player. Though, if you leave a significant amount of salary unspent, you should take the time to make sure you can’t upgrade another spot. The final roster spot went to the switch hitting Jed Lowrie (HOU) as he will dig in against Mike Leake (CIN) on the road, but the Great American Ballpark is a hitter’s paradise and I am not a Leake fan.

    TEAM SUMMARY:
    C: John Buck ($3768)
    1B: Gaby Sanchez ($5187)
    2B: Brandon Phillips ($5974)
    3B: David Wright ($8057)
    SS:  Troy Tulowitzki ($9148)
    OF Eric Thames ($4347)
    OF: Giancarlo Stanton ($6024)
    OF Marlon Byrd ($2543)
    U: Ben Zobrist ($6561)
    U: Jed Lowrie ($6030)
    SP: Clayton Kershaw ($16,531)
    SP: Ricky Romero ($14306)
    RP: Francisco Cordero ($1956)
    P: Drew Pomeranz ($9409)
    TOTAL SALARY: $99,841

     

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