Draft Street is back and this week’s freeroll is bringing back memories, Back before the Internet became real popular, the pick ‘em style game was a favorite in magazines, due to its simplicity. I recall filling out many an entry and mailing it in (note the lack of an “e-“). Perhaps the biggest appeal of this format was it was always set up so you had two or three superstars on your team. Of course back there, there was no MLB.tv package, Extra Innings or satellite radio. You could watch your local team and perhaps the Braces, Cubs, Yankees and Mets along with ESPN if your cable company carried it. Yes, it was “if” back then.
In the Pick ‘em style, all you need to do is take one player from each tier. That’s it, no balancing of salary and the needs to identify low priced gems, if you want him, pick him. No leaving a guy off your team because he’s too expensive. Pint, click and he’s yours.
I’m going to stick with my standard principles, and actually, this is going to be a great way of testing how well they work as each tier is set up my Draft Street to consist of players similar in potential so I can easily go back after the night is through and see which player actually did perform the best from each tier to see if it was random or if they somehow followed one of my tenets, and if so, which one? Of course, the sample is too small to draw any actionable conclusions, but you have to start somewhere.
There are no pitchers in the picks, so here is a review of my rules of thumb for picking hitters:
Favor lefty hitters facing righty hitters, then righty hitters against southpaw chuckers, then righty versus righties as a last resort while not taking any lefty on lefty matchups.
Here are the eight tiers with my representative from each:
|David Ortiz (L) vs. Jair Jurrjens (R)|
|Adam Dunn (L) vs. Zack Greinke (R)|
|Ryan Braun (R) @ Chris Sale (L)|
|Josh Hamilton (L) vs. Christian Friedrich (L)|
|Jose Bautista (R) @ Anibal Sanchez (R)|
|David Wright (R) vs. Andy Pettitte (L)|
|Carlos Gonzalez (L) @ Roy Oswalt (R)|
Votto barely beat out Big Papi with CarGo also under consideration. It was tough to leave Ortiz off, but as a whole, I like Votto’s chance of more runs and RBI so he gets the nod.
TIER 2 – Ian Kinsler (R) vs. Friedrich (L)
|Albert Pujols (R) vs. Chad Billingsley (R)|
|Mike Trout (R) vs. Billingsley (R)|
|Curtis Granderson (L) @ Jonathon Niese (L)|
|Brandon Phillips (R) vs. Blackburn (R)|
|Jay Bruce (L) vs. Blackburn (R)|
|Carlos Beltran (S) @ Vin Mazzaro (R)|
|Melky Cabrera (S) @ Jarrod Parker (R)|
Kinsler was a relatively easy choice though Jay Bruce warranted some consideration, but Kinsler hits higher in the order and will fan less.
|Paul Konerko (R) vs. Greinke (R)|
|Miguel Cabrera (R) @ Burnett (R)|
|Aramis Ramirez (R) @ Chris Sale (L)|
|Robinson Cano (L) @ Niese (L)|
|Edwin Encarnacion (R) @ Sanchez (R)|
|Hunter Pence (R) vs. James Shields (R)|
|Andrew McCutchen (R) vs. Doug Fister (R)|
Fielder is the only choice playing on the road, but the home options are just not enticing enough to use. Pence is the only guy I considered since Shields is prone to the long ball. This tier is going to be interesting to follow.
TIER 4 – Adrian Beltre (R) vs. Friedrich (L)
|Adam Jones (R) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (R)|
|Mark Teixeira (S) @ Niese (L)|
|Nick Swisher (L) @ Niese (L)|
|Jose Altuve(R) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (R)|
|Shane Victorino (S) vs. Shields (R)|
|Matt Holliday (R) @ Mazzaro (R)|
|Michael Cuddyer (R) @ Oswalt (R)|
Beltre is the second of three Rangers that will make the cut. Is there a better matchup than Texas facing Friedrich at the comfy confines of The Ballpark at Arlington? Victorino was a distant second in this tier.
|Mark Trumbo (R) vs. Billingsley (R)|
|Denard Span (L) @ Homer Bailey (R)|
|Derek Jeter (R) @ Niese (L)|
|Josh Reddick (L) vs. Tim Lincecum (R)|
|Rajai Davis (R) @ Sanchez (R)|
|Andre Ethier (L) @ Dan Haren (R)|
|Bryce Harper (L) @ Jason Hammel (R)|
I’ll take a lead-off hitter facing a rookie. Harper and Reddick also were interesting, but Gordon’s track record in general is a point in his favor.
TIER 6 – Mike Moustakas (L) vs. Joe Kelly (R)
|Alejandro De Aza (L) vs. Greinke (R)|
|Shin-Soo Choo (L) @ Lucas Harrell (R)|
|Asdrubal Cabrera (S) @ Harrell (R)|
|Eric Hosmer (L) vs. Kelly (R)|
|Alex Rodriguez (R) @Niese (L)|
|Pablo Sandoval (S) @ Parker (R)|
|Aaron Hill (R) vs. Jeff Samardzija (R)|
This was the toughest call as Moustakas and teammate Hosmer both profile similarly. Moustakas was the choice mostly on gut as he has hit better this season than Hosmer, though in general, Hosmer is the better hitter.
TIER 7 – Jimmy Rollins (S) vs. James Shields (R)
|Chris Davis (L) vs. Zimmermann (R)|
|Dustin Pedroia (R) vs. Jurrjens (R)|
|Michael Bourn (L) @ Jon Lester (L)|
|Alfonso Soriano (R) @ Joe Saunders (L)|
|Ian Desmond (R) @ Hammel (R)|
|Chase Headley (S) vs. Kevin Millwood (R)|
|Jose Reyes (S) vs. Ricky Romero (L)|
Picking a Phillie has tempted me and I finally took the plunge. Jose Reyes was also considered since his game is not impacted by the big park so he could so some damage on the bases against the sometimes out-of-control Romero.
TIER 8 – Nelson Cruz (R) vs. Friedrich (L)
|Colby Rasmus (L) @ Sanchez (R)|
|Brian McCann (L) @ Lester (L)|
|Ryan Ludwick (R) vs. Blackburn (R)|
|Adam LaRoche (L) @ Hammel (R)|
|Angel Pagan (S) @ Parker (R)|
|Carlos Pena (L) @ Cliff Lee (L)|
|B.J. Upton (R) @ Lee (L)|
Completing the Texas trio, Cruz fits all the criteria and was the easiest choice of the bunch. I really didn’t even consider anyone else, but if forced for a second choice, I’d be torn between LaRoche and Upton. LaRoche has the handedness, good park and lesser opposing pitcher while Upton also has the handedness, is in even a better park but is facing an ace in Lee.
That’s the squad, please feel free to tell me where I screwed up in the comments and prove it to me by playing. It is no secret I play under a couple of different usernames, so I am also going to enter a team consisting of the runner-up choices as well as a third team where there choices are totally random.
In a recent column, I made the comment that I feel the fantasy industry as a whole is doing a poor job educating the fantasy public in some areas. I must have tweaked a nerve as I received a rather nasty anonymous e-mail, challenging me to come up with three examples. I say anonymous because the e-mail address did not contain a name, it was not registered in our database and it was unsigned. This is speculation, but it may have come from someone in the industry, which is fine. Instead of replying back to the mystery person, they obviously read the material on the site so I thought I would share five examples publicly.
Before I do, I want to preface this by saying my comment was on the whole. There are obviously some people offering solid advice – a lot of people. But the advice is not getting through to everyone. While some of the blame goes to the fantasy public for being stubborn or lazy (whoops, now I’ve also pissed off the public, too) more blame lies with those charged with disseminating the information, not doing their homework, preaching clichés they learned five years ago from an outdated version of the “So-Called Experts handbook.”
1. The notion that trades are won or lost
Trades are not won or lost. When we receive a question like “Jones for Smith, who wins?”, our response should be an explanation that trades are not about winning and losing the deal – they are about improving your team. The currency used to evaluate the deal should not be the rest-of-season dollar value we offer in Platinum, where they rank on the Yahoo big board or the ESPN Player Rater. The measuring stick should be the intrinsic value to your team. The best trades are when both teams get the help they need. If that means both win, I can accept that in a semantic sense. But the point is, “Jones for Smith, who wins/” is the incorrect way of approaching the process and if the answer is either “Jones” or “Smith”, the advisor is doing a disservice to the advisee, regardless of the names involved. It should be explained that every move involves a balancing move, either a player is replaced or added to the active lineup.
Who does Jones replace? Who replaces Smith? It is the difference in these players that matters, not the raw value of the player in the proverbial vacuum. This is especially true when an uneven number of players is exchanged. The equation is points potential of your roster before the trade versus the potential after, not Jones is projected for $25, Smith is projected for $15, you need to get back a better player than Smith if you trade Jones. If Smith earns your team 5 standings places while Jones does not help you, Smith has more intrinsic value to your team – case closed.
2. Playing streaks and matchups
This is a topic that has come front and center as more fantasy leagues allow daily moves and the emergence of the one-day fantasy pay for play sites. The bottom line is no matter how well we think we know baseball, no matter how many games we have watched, regardless of what our intuition tells us, streaks are usually just clusters of good (or bad) things happening together and historical hitter-pitcher matchups are non-predictive of future matchups.
The Internet is full of “proof”, if you are so inclined, employ your favorites search engine and check it out. The pioneer of this sort of thing is Tom Tango and the work is published online and in books. More recently, Derek Carty has done some simple yet elegant studies on the subject and our friends at Baseball HQ are now also dabbling in this for the benefit of their subscribers.
With respect to streaks, sure, some players are legitimately hot or cold. But more often than not, it is just a series of events falling on the good or bad side of the probability curve. If you flip a coin 500 times, there will be a stretch where there are more heads than tails and vice versa. But once you get to 500 (or whatever), the heads and tails are almost the same. That’s all a streak is, five heads in a row. I will personally look at a player’s strikeout rate when he is in the midst of a streak, since making contact is the entity in the player’s control. If a player is striking out at a depressed rate during a streak, I’ll make the subjective assumption he could be legitimately hot and manage accordingly. If he is fanning at the same or elevated rate, he’s just lucky. Similarly, if a cold player is whiffing more than normal, I consider him truly cold. But if his strikeouts are normal, he’s just unlucky.
Early in the season, Bryan LaHair was as hot as a pistol, or was he? His K-rate was even higher than normal, so while there was some likelihood of “being in the zone”, he was also quite lucky. You don’t strike out that much if you are truly in the zone. His monthly splits are:
In April, he was quite fortunate with BABIP but struck out a ton, in May he was snake bit but made better contact and so far in June, his luck is back but so are the whiifs. LaHair is about a .280 hitter. Batting average can fluctuate 15-20 points just due to randomness and probability and have nothing to do with skills. By season’s end, Lahair will be right where he is supposed to be, .280 +/15 points. Trying to time his streaks is a crapshoot.
The hot commodity today is Trevor Plouffe. Some are saying we should have known because his second half numbers last season were promising. But, so were a lot of others. Second half numbers are non-predictive. Plouffe’s splits are as follows:
His strikeouts have been fairly consistent; so Plouffe is still the same player. He is probably making harder contact now, but there is no evidence this is an increase in skills and is sustainable, it is just the randomness of when it happened to manifest. Picking Plouffe up and dropping a better player is likely going to cost you in the long term and perhaps short term as well as we have no idea when the pixie dust runs out and Plouffe returns to being Plouffe. The instances of an emergence like Jose Bautista are rare, and are usually accompanied by a discernable skill improving. In Bautista's case, it was more walks and fewer whiffs.
The mistake being made by fantasy pundits is recommending that better players are dropped for Plouffe, with the recommendation to “ride the streak”. This is misleading and shows some giving advice are uneducated as to what is really going on.
In general, the fantasy public has a misperception of what a projection is and expects it to be something it isn’t. By definition, a projection is an objective view. It is the most likely scenario based on what has happened in the past, using history as a guide. Will it always come to fruition? No, of course it won’t. The most likely outcome of rolling a pair of dice is seven, but that only occurs 17 percent of the time! But the proper answer to “what will the dice roll be” is seven. Anything else is speculation, and once you add speculation to a projection, by definition it is no longer a true projection.
You’ll see complaints that so-and-so’s projections are too conservative, they never go out on a limb. Well, if they did, they would no longer be projections.
You’ll see someone providing projections pride themselves in not relying on a stupid spreadsheet to do the work. They do each one by hand and may cite a success based on a player having a great September. Well, unless you can show that every player having a similar September gets the same boost and you give that boost to everyone that had a great September, you are using a subjective bias and are no longer providing true projections.
That said, I am not trying to imply that I or anyone else provide the best projections. I may feel I have a better understanding of the process in a global sense but will admit that the execution may not be completely correct. I do the best I can, determining translations, but I am not going to claim they are the best. Maybe my MLE’s are not complete enough. Maybe I should be regressing BABIP differently. I look into this every off-season and attempt to improve methods, but I am sure I am missing something. All I am saying is I am providing what can be defined as a projection, not my opinion of how a player will perform, mainly because my opinion is just that, an opinion, and I feel my job is to provide as much information as possible for you to formulate your own opinion.
Now with that said, I also think those providing projections do not emphasize they are not static, but each player actually has a range of expected performance, which we represent by a single, static line. I think we need to do a better job of sharing that objective range, especially since the projection commonly provided is not always the midpoint of the high and low ends. In fact, it usually is not. This is an area I would personally like to improve and will strive to do just that.
Sorry to be so inconsistent with my posting lately. It’s no secret that I have been doing some freelance projects for ESPN, my first work of any kind since I was laid off from my biotech job over two years ago. I’m beginning to wonder if I have seen my last test tube.
Anyway, one of the assignments with the World Wide Leader has been to help out with The Answer Guys service, a feature of ESPN Insider where you get to ask a question a week, usually seeking advice on a trade or roster move for your fantasy teams, and it is guaranteed answered within 24 hours. The service is very popular, as the guys that have been doing it for several years are top notch, both in terms of advice and customer service, as is evident by the tone of questions from regular users.
I’m going to be honest. At first, I was struggling with the responsibility, since the questions and desired answers were “not my style”. It’s weird what we remember and what we forget, but something that has stayed with me is a comment made on the NFBC boards when the contest first originated. Someone, in a rather insulting manner warned users, “don’t bother getting into an argument with Zola, he’s only going to try to teach you something.” Little did the disgruntled guy know he just gave me what I consider to be one of the nicer compliments I have ever received.
It was hard at the beginning (OK, it still is hard) to address questions like “Who wins this trade – Howard Kendrick for Matt Garza?” If we were to get this question on the Platinum Mastersball forum where we also have a 24-hour promise, we would respectfully ask for more information. What are the league format and the scoring? Who does Garza/Kendrick replace and who replaces them? Not to mention, the purpose is not to win a trade, but to make your team better and both sides can be winners.
I’m not writing this to bash those that are asking those types of questions, far from it. I am actually writing it to bash my fellow industry brethren for looking down upon questions of this nature and not finding a way to educate those asking as opposed to at best ignoring and at worst, chiding. I see it on message forums, I hear it on the radio.
Granted, not many of the “so-called experts” play in ten team head to head points leagues where Josh Beckett is available on the waiver wire. But, it wasn’t that long ago that you could fit everyone that made a living from fantasy baseball into one room. Now, you need a couple of hotels, preferably on the strip in Las Vegas if you have ever met one of these guys or gals, though I know a few of us that would be just as happy in the Double-Tree in Phoenix Arizona.
My point is, we all had to crawl before we walked. Fantasy baseball is unique in that the games genesis was what we consider to be the most difficult variant, and it has been simplified over time to attract more players. Most things start simple and evolve, like fantasy football, for example. Those of us that have been in the industry for years cut our teeth on AL and NL only auctions, using 4x4 scoring with no reserve lists.
Times have changed. Now the introductory format is the aforementioned ten-team head to head points league, or something similar. But instead of ignoring these leagues or insulting them, if we want to continue to be able to fill a few hotels on the Vegas strip, we, meaning my fellow “so-called experts” and I need to do a better job of teaching them something.
Hmm, where have I heard that phrase before?
Draft Street is doing something a little different this time. As you may have seen yesterday, Draft Street is sponsoring a championship where they will award $35,000 to the lucky winner. In order to enter the big dance, you need to win one of the 40 qualifying tournaments. Today’s FreeRoll will not only award $100 cash to the top-3 finishers, but the top-15 teams get a free spot in one of the 40 qualifying tournaments this coming Friday.
While I am working on a means to incorporate more “bang for the buck” valuation principles into the selection of my Draft Street teams, for the time being, we’re going to have to rely on the same philosophy I have employed thus far:
I mostly held true to form, but with one exception as I opted to go with two starting pitchers and two closers since I could not find a combination under the cap using three starting pitchers I liked. To be honest, I am not warm and fuzzy about this squad. I think the reason is more so than previous weeks, I am forcing these players into my lineup in an effort to satisfy the above criteria.
You know what that means. I’ll finish in the top-15, get a free entry into the $35K qualifier on Friday where I will draft a team I love. Of course, my beloved Friday team will spit the bit. Such is the nature of the beast in this part-time hobby, full-time obsession we call fantasy baseball.
Without further adieu, here is my team:
C: Wilin Rosario, COL ($7424) – Rosario is on the road, facing a thus far impressive southpaw in Wade Miley. But Arizona is a good place to hit and I anticipate some regression for Miley and hope Rosario benefits tonight.
1B: Joey Votto, CIN ($10,283) – Truth be told, it was obstinacy keeping Votto in the lineup that resulted in difficulty finding the right combination, especially only using two starting pitchers. What I have witnessed with previous FreeRolls is the leaders always have someone that goes off that evening. While it is impossible to predict when a player will have one of those highlight reel nights, it was usually a name player. My likely backwards thinking is Votto is capable of such a night and his high price tag will scare almost everyone else away. He’s at home, facing Brad Lincoln which is about as favorable as it gets.
2B: Robinson Cano, NYY( $8027) – OK, maybe there were two players I am being extra stubborn about since I just have a feeling this will be Cano’s night, facing another impressive youngster in Alex Cobb.
3B: Jordan Pacheco, COL ($5905) – I’m not warm and fuzzy about this, and quite frankly I wish I had more D-Backs facing the less than intimidating Josh Outman, but it didn’t work out that way. Pacheco makes good contact which portends well in this format as runs and RBI are helpful.
SS: Erick Aybar, LAA ($4321) – Aybar is basically my salary relief. I really don’t like his profile of player in the format as he hits towards the bottom of the order meaning he has 20% less of a chance to score points.
OF: Nick Swisher, NYY ($6751) – The Yankees versus Cobb were one of the teams I wanted to overload, hoping they get to the sophomore
OF: Jay Bruce, CIN ($8348) – As suggested, I like the matchup against Lincoln and am hoping Bruce continues his damage against righties.
OF: Justin Upton, ARO ($5989) – I’m going to have to check the lineups as J-Up was benched last night, hopefully he is back in there and returns with vengeance against the aforementioned Outman.
UT: Chris Young, ARI ($6738) – I didn’t say I wish I had SOME D-Backs in against Outman, I said I wish I had MORE.
UT: Hunter Pence, PHI ($9668) - No real reason here other than I had the money and couldn’t figure out anything else to do with it. Pence squares off at home against the tough but not invincible Chris Capuano.
SP: Jerome Williams ($9702) – With the caveat that this is the same Mariner team that destroyed Derek Holland the other night, Williams at home versus Seattle was one of the more attractive pitching matchups.
SP: Zack Greinke, MIL ($13, 581) – This is precisely why I need to set up a bang-for –the-buck means of analysis. Greinke versus the Cubs is a no-brainer matchup, but it is also the most expensive. The question is whether deploying the Brewer ace is an efficient use of funds given the salary cap implications.
RP: Addison Reed, CHW ($1534) and RP: Jose Valverde, DET ($1696) – Not gonna lie here, took the two cheapest closers that I felt had reasonable shots at saves. I didn’t even pair them with my starters.
What you got?
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.
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.
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: 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.