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Wednesday 29th Mar 2017

Do you want to learn Mastersball's tricks of the trade to win at the NFBC?  The Masters of the NFBC is the place.

Batting Average on Balls In Play, when calculated across the league, comes in at around .300, but each player establishes his own BABIP baseline over time. Speed, line drive percentage, fly ball percentage and ground ball percentage all play into it. Another factor that is hard to quantify, but which I believe is a significant component, is how well a player can adjust to defensive shifts. Teams are privy to many statistics and much information that we as fans don’t have. They compile those statistics and keep them under lock and key for a reason…they matter, and the clubs use them when implementing defensive shifts. Injuries can also wreak havoc on a player’s BABIP. We can still use BABIP as a tool to find hidden assets on the wire or to assist us in deploying the assets we have. Just be mindful of the aforementioned before assuming BABIP’s gravity is omnipotent. I typically look at each player’s career average and expect his numbers to gravitate towards that, keeping in mind the caveats and exceptions. If a player has a dramatically reduced BABIP three years running, it may serve us well to consider that span his new baseline.


2013 BABIP

2013 Batting Average

Career BABIP

Career Batting Average

Adam Dunn





David Murphy





Mike Moustakas





B.J. Upton





Vernon Wells





Albert Pujols





Yoenis Cespedes





Victor Martinez





Adam Dunn just hasn’t been the same since moving over to the junior circuit. His BAPIPs for the pale hose the last three years (.240/.246/.212) indicate the .320+ we saw with the Nationals and occasionally the Reds are long gone. The Big Donkey has trimmed his strikeout rate this year, but has produced a near career low 17.6% line drive clip (19.7 career average). Expect a slight bounce up.

David Murphy has also cut his whiffs to a career low (11.5%) while keeping his line drive rate at a respectable 19.8%. Things are about to heat up at the Ballpark in Arlington as we head into the middle of July and into August. The threat of Jurickson Profar stealing at-bats has prompted many to drop Murphy in FBPC leagues. A correction should be just around the corner unless a back ailment he sustained in May during a confrontation with an outfield wall hinders him.

I picked up Mike Moustakas last week and he may be available elsewhere. The unproven youngster is worth a look. We don’t know yet what he will be, but his BABIP can’t stay this low for long. He’s not exactly en fuego, but he has hit .294 over the last month and we shouldn’t forget the 20 bombs he hit last year.

Redemption is impossible at this point after the roto torture B.J. Upton has inflicted upon his owners. In spite of this, I think you have to ride this wave out wherever it takes you. One can’t expect that all the numbers will be there at the end of September, but some of them should be, and it will be a double dose of bad medicine if he tallies them on your bench.

There’s more than a little bad luck behind Albert Pujols’ fall from greatness. He’s striking out at a career high 12.4%, and his Isolated Power of just .168 is in unchartered waters. Age, declining bat speed and injuries have transformed the former MVP into what he has become: just another guy with a little power. A full slate of health would portend of a slight rebound, but that may not come until the off-season.

Vernon Wells isn’t as good as he was in April (.300/.366/.544) and he’s not as bad as he was in June (.133/.143/.147). Benching him certainly made sense, but dropping him outright might be an overreaction unless you are loaded. He’s worthy of being a 6th outfielder and a matchup play as the Yankees’ part-time cleanup hitter.

FIP has been a much-maligned stat in some sabermetric circles. The complaint is that FIP gives too much credit to the pitcher for preventing home runs. This gave birth to xFIP, which normalized the home run to fly ball rate to a league average. I think it’s rather intuitive that a pitcher has some influence over how frequently his fly balls leave the park and I don’t take seriously the notion that a home run rate that deviates from league average is necessarily and entirely due to just luck, park factors, and weather. If only a major league ball club would allow me to take the mound for 30 starts I could quickly dispel this notion. You would see balls leave the yard at a rate that would shatter the league average and I assure you this rate would never normalize no matter how many starts the team suffered through. This should all make sense. It takes skill to connect with a good slider and hit it on the screws. The more perfect the contact the farther it will travel. The better the breaking ball, the more likely the hitter will miss it, if only slightly. This will impact the distance on fly balls and how many will die on the warning track as opposed to clearing the fence.

Does this mean we should stick to FIP as our adjusted ERA of preference? Not necessarily. The problem is sample size. It simply takes too long to amass a sample size large enough for a HR/FB rate to give us an accurate picture of a pitcher’s home run prevention skills. By the time enough stats are accumulated, the pitcher has already gone through a number of evolutions. His velocity has increased or decreased any number of times. He may have added a new pitch, dropped another, adjusted his grip on his change up, learned how to change speeds more effectively, etc. etc. On top of this, the impact of his HR prevention skills is statistically minimal. In light of all this, it may be preferable to use xFIP.

Among qualified pitchers, Gio Gonzalez had the lowest FB rate last year, as 5.8% of fly balls left the yard. This year, he’s giving them up at a 9.6% clip (career 9.3%). Aaron Harang went from 6.3% to 11.4% (career 10.4%). Felix Hernandez posted an above average 7.7% that shot up to 11.0% this year (10.3% career). In fact, the top 10 from 2012 all follow this same pattern except for Clayton Kershaw, who has trimmed his numbers from 8.1% down to 6.6% (career 6.8%).


2013 HR/FB%

2013 ERA

2013        FIP

2013      xFIP

Career HR/FB %

Jhoulys Chacin






Clay Buchholz






Adam Wainwright






Lance Lynn






Matt Harvey






Eric Stults






Derek Holland






Bud Norris






Doug Fister






Jorge De La Rosa






Travis Wood






Chacin’s 2.4%, from a pitcher who pitches half his game at Coors Field, jumps off the page. Interestingly, in Colorado he’s yielding only 1.9%. It doesn’t take a sabermetrician to realize that this is unsustainable. His ground ball rate is up and his fly ball rate is down. That’s good. His strikeout rate being lower is not so good. Be prepared for a correction.

Travis Wood is another player I own that is skating on thin xFIP ice. Even if you buy into the concept of a pitcher inducing weak contact, his .218 BABIP has nowhere to go but up. Enjoy the flight while it lasts, but don’t be surprised if you encounter some turbulence before too long. Clay Buchholz owners should also brace themselves for a few bumps in the road. His luck in keeping it in the park and that .258 BABIP aren’t going to last.

I have spent a few weeks now atop the National FBPC standings, a perch I’ve been seemingly destined to fall from due to miscalculating how my opponents would use the player pool. In a 14-team format, you have to know how to balance the talent available on the wire with the talent already in tow. Placing too much importance on hitting has turned out to be a mortal sin. Early on, I placed a premium on hitting when allocating the bats and arms taking up roster space. I have paid the price as my weak strikeout and win totals continue to spiral downward. Those who thought that twice a week moves would entice streamers to replenish the pool with weekly serviceable pitching drops have been forced to suffer through the ignoble task of rostering the Brandon Maurers and Joe Blantons of the world, all while seeing hitting talent like Raul Ibanez, Adam Lind, or someone similar available for a song most every week.

On Sunday morning, the top five teams ranked thusly:

Overall Rank FBPC

Number of Bench Pitchers

Number of Bench Hitters

Total Points Wins and Strikeouts





















 Of course, I have the 4th overall team, illustrating exactly what an imbalance will lead to: an insufficient number of wins and strikeouts resulting from an insufficient number of starts. Obviously, there will be reasons for exceptions, and injuries might force one to adjust, but it seems that six starting pitchers on your bench is the sweet spot here. I think most teams will need at least five.

Quick Hits

-I noticed that Jhoulys Chacin was dropped in a number of leagues. He has a 4.92 home ERA but a 2.05 ERA away from Coors Field. He’s perfect for FBPC leagues as you can easily avoid the land mines.

-Chris Parmelee hasn’t been much of a fantasy asset in his short career, but he has quietly hit .294 with four knocks the last 30 days. Don’t forget that he slashed .338/.457/.645 for Triple-A Rochester in 2012, leaving the yard 17 times in just 64 games. There’s hidden power here. No one knows when it will arrive, but when it does he will no longer be cheap.

-Anibal Sanchez is still not throwing from a mound and the Tigers have not announced a return date. A certain rookie southpaw with a 2.78 ERA and 1.02 WHIP and an 84/16 K/BB ratio at Triple-A is still a free agent in some NFBC and FBPC leagues. That lefty will try to make it three solid outings in a row on Wednesday in Motown against the Angels.

-Zoilo Almonte is still flying under the radar in a few leagues, perhaps due to the looming return of Curtis Granderson around the All-Star break. The 24-year-old rookie has 30-20 potential. Relax, I said potential. He’s a switch-hitter who will see a lot of righties with a short porch in left field. In the second week of July, the Royals and Twins (total of one southpaw between both starting rotations) will travel to the Bronx. He’s certainly worth a buck or two to see what happens.

-Carlos Quentin had another knee scope last fall and then hired a personal chef to help him incorporate a special diet designed to reduce inflammation and reinstituted some yoga routines that he believed would increase flexibility. The brittle slugger has still missed 30% of the Padres’ matches this year.

-During an interview in the preseason, Max Scherzer talked about working on a curveball he wanted to implement. He’s only mixed it in on around 8% of his pitches, but it’s another element opposing hitters have to think about. He has a quality fastball (93.1mph) and a slider (85.3mph). His curveball (78.5 mph) adds a speed layer that disrupts a hitter’s timing. His 3.05 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 2.55 FIP are the lowest of his career.

I’ve always believed in spending your FAAB money early and often. Why hoard all of your fake money when its value dissipates every week? Think about it. A player picked up the first week can potentially be used for 26 weeks, however a week two pickup can only be used 25 weeks, the week three acquisition is only useful for 24 weeks, and so on. The last week of waivers your entire FAAB budget has only a one-week impact. By this gage your FAAB dollars decrease in real spending power approximately 3.8 percent each and every week. Let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that the quality of free agents, or stated differently the available player pool, is exactly the same every week for the entire 26-week season. If you hold all of your dough the first week, your $1000 FAAB budget effectively shrinks to about $961.54 the next week, the following week that figure falls to $924.56. This depreciation continues every week until week 26 when, if thru some insane concept of frugality you still have a thousand bucks in your FAAB wallet, it’s really only worth $38.46 in terms of week-one spending power.

The problem is that not all waiver pickups are created equal. Can we assume that just because we spend more on a player that they’ll perform better than the $5 fliers? I’ve spent hot and heavy early on in most of my leagues. Some picks panned out but a lot of them did not. That’s to be expected but the larger issue I must deal with is that most weeks of late I’ve been unable to acquire my targets and I’ve been outbid by the smallest of margins. If I bid $5 someone else bids $6. If I bid $8 someone else bids $10. This has happened countless times and there’s nothing I can do about it because I’ve blown my mullah.  Such negative consequences can be practically mitigated if the high $ players previously procured are sure things, commodities that are guaranteed to produce.

Here are some of those costly acquisitions in an NFBC Main Event this year:

Jose Fernandez 811 – (3.11/4/77/1.15)

Tony Cingrani 290 – (3.15/3/46/0.98)

Marcell Ozuna 276 – (.296/19/1/17/3)

Kevin Gausman 270 – (7.66/0/20/1.62)

Scott Kazmir 255 – (5.89/3/55/1.65)

Kevin Gregg 215 – (0.83/9/24/0.97)

Junichi Tazawa 150 - (2.59/0/36/1.15)

Chris Capuano 135 – (5.45/1/24/1.52)

Wade Davis 134 – (5.18/4/65/1.74)

Michael Wacha 124 – (4.58/1/14/1.19)

Francisco Rodriguez 124 – (0.79/4/10/0.62)

Didi Gregorius 118 – (.298/28/4/15/0)

Jose Fernandez has been a hit, but he better be for $811. Tony Cingrani has been stellar, but he’s logged 40 IP and is headed to the bullpen. Furthermore how many of us can tell the Cingrani's from the Gausman's? Are we that good at scouting? Or are we just rolling the FAAB dice? The hitters in this list have produced virtually zilch in the home run and stolen base departments. Well, at least by going all out your pickups will be better, right? Let’s look at how some cheaper fliers panned out:

Travis Wood 3 – (2.65/5/60/1.00)

Travis Hafner 1 – (.221/25/11/32/2)

Eric Stults 1 – (3.28/6/60/1.07)

Edward Mujica 10 – (1.82/19/27/0.64)

Marlon Byrd 23 – (.253/22/11/32/0)

Francisco Liriano 3 – (2.36/5/49/1.26)

Dan Straily 34 – (4.47/4/47/1.07)

Jason Castro 9 – (.270/29/10/23/2)

Rick Porcello 53 – (4.37/4/59/1.14)

Miguel Gonzalez 23 – (3.75/5/54/1.21)

Chad Gaudin 5 – (2.83/2/40/1.20)

The second list speaks for itself. Granted, I cherry picked from the bargains, but even with that consideration, the percentages lead me to second guess my premise. There are no sure things on the waiver wire. As a result it may be wiser allocate your budget to enable buying as many lotto tickets as you can, rather than focusing on a few expensive ones early in the season. The sample size is too small at the moment, but stay tuned. Later in the season we’ll revisit this if I can get a hold of the data.

David Price’s average fastball velocity is down 3.1 miles per hour from last year. His average slider velocity is down 1.8 mph. He’s throwing his fastball and slider less and mixing in his change and curve more frequently than he did in 2012. Joe Madden expressed concern over this, and fantasy owners have reason to be concerned as well. His line drive % and home run per fly ball % are both at career highs. As always, small sample size caveats apply, but it’s pretty intuitive that when you throw with less velocity the hitter has more time to square up the baseball.  Expect some regression, but only partial unless some of the zip returns to his four-seamer. To be fair, his strikeout rate and walk rate are down only slightly. His BABIP isn’t going to stay at .353 and his 23.9% HR per fly ball rate has nowhere to go but down, but something is just not right down in Tampa.

Matt Cain has seen a slight dip on his fastball, but only 0.5 mph. His K/9 of 7.94 is right on pace with last year, and his walk rate is down slightly. I might be a little irritated at the box score, but if I own Matt Cain I’m not worried. His HR per fly ball rate (15.6%), BABIP (.299), and Left on Base % (56) will all normalize with enough innings.

Julio Teheran was the best pitcher in spring training, racking up a league leading 35 strikeouts and sporting a 1.04 ERA and a 0.62 WHIP. He went undrafted in January drafts but was a bottle rocket shooting up draft boards in March, often going as high as the 11th or 12th round in the NFBC. The preseason stud turned into a dud as soon as the real games began. Still think spring training stats matter?

I was able to watch only two innings of Tony Cingrani’s season debut. He seems like a heady pitcher, changing the eye level of the hitter and working his fastball inside and out. He has a four-seamer that seems to explode up and out of the zone, though Justin Ruggiano caught up to one and pulled it into the left field bleachers. His velocity appears to be effortless, sitting between 91-94 mph, with an occasional changeup under 80 mph. I’m not sure if his breaking ball was a curve or a slider, but it had minimal movement. We’ll see if that’s enough to get it done against better hitters. Too early for any prognostication, other than he’s still a very young lefty that cost too much Sunday night for my tastes. Jose Fernandez went for over $800 in my NFBC league. Cingrani’s bids were all over the place, but most ranged from $275 to $600. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, but it seems it takes lefties longer to develop than right-handed hurlers. There will be growing pains and I’d rather not blow half of my remaining FAAB budget to experience them.

Theo Epstein recently stated that scouts and executives make more mistakes in player evaluation during preseason and September than any other time. The stats during these periods mean little to nothing. It’s just not ‘real’ major league baseball. With the expanded rosters to include minor leaguers and players experimenting rather than trying to win, it’s easy to be deceived. Heck, I know this and every year I still get fooled by the mirages of March. As these assets we thought we saw on draft day vanish, and as the injury bug starts to hit, we may have to find replacements. Let’s see if we can spot a nugget or two amidst the dross on the waiver wire.

Travis Hafner is still unowned in a couple NFBC 15-team, FBPC 14-team, and plenty of NFBC 12-team leagues. He shouldn’t be viewed as an every-week fixture in fantasy lineups. That’s not exactly a revelation, but consider this. Hafner has hit 6th once, 5th once and cleanup eight times in the first ten games. Let’s not forget that he’s a lefty playing half of his games in Yankee Stadium. He is getting a little long in the tooth, but there may still be just enough gas in the tank to make him valuable as a situational spot play in his new environs. Pronk slashed .241/.361/.437 last year and .302/.404/.482 in 2011 against right-handed pitching. Those splits should receive a boost in the Bronx. Division rivals bring 13 RHP’s and 7 LHP’s in their starting rotation. The Yanks also face the Astros later this month (only one lefty) and then travel to Coors Field in May. Deep offensive teams won’t have room for him, but those with weak sticks might find him useful given two lineup periods per week for offensive players. He’ll get pushed down the lineup once Jeter and Teixeira return, but the lineup will score more runs and turn over more frequently as well.

Josh Donaldson’s ice-cold start at the hot corner in 2012 earned him a trip down to Sacramento. Owners who took a flier on him this year no doubt had a feeling of déjà vu, that is until he turned it on the last few games. If you are still scrambling for an Aramis Ramirez replacement, there are worse darts that you could throw. Donaldson has displayed patience in the Minors, can steal a base and has 20+ home run power. He slashed .290/.356/.489 with three steals and eight home runs in 47 games after being recalled for the final two months of last season.

Greg Dobbs, Alberto Callaspo and Placido Polanco are some other stop gap options while Aramis is on the shelf. They’re capable of a semi-empty .280 BA at third base and can stop the bleeding for a couple of weeks. If you prefer a tourniquet, Carlos Pena may be available, but beware that he might amputate your batting average if you start him for too long.

Hunter Morris is biding his time in Nashville. Keep an eye on this situation, as the Brewers seem content to put Yuniesky Betancourt at 1B for now, but don’t be caught napping if Morris is given a shot to start while Ramirez in on the DL. Morris hit 28 homers and posted a .303/.357/.563 line at Double-A.

I’m not sure what is keeping Jordany Valdespin from getting regular at-bats. When he does, he’s worthy of a roster spot if you like 15-15 upside and modest Runs production. Nate McLouth is a 20-20 threat hitting in a good lineup and is available in a few leagues.

If he could get enough at-bats and make enough contact against major league pitching, Michael Taylor has 15-20 potential. He may not be up for long and it’s not clear how much he’ll be used, but you just never know how these things will go. He posted a .405 OBP last year at Triple-A. Definitely worth a shot in AL-only leagues.

I dropped Chris Capuano just in the nick of time to see him get his rotation spot back. He struck out 4.9 batters per start last year and paired that with a 1.22 WHIP and excellent command, very useful in FBPC leagues with twice a week pitcher moves.


I’d like to distill a few salient market observations from the last two weeks of high stakes drafts in the NFBC and the FBPC.

Players who weren’t drafted who should have been

Roberto Hernandez - A lot of people laughed at the notion of Roberto Hernandez winning a spot in the rotation. Now they are chuckling at the idea he’ll be able to keep the job, let alone be average. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but just remember that those laughing now also laughed at the prospects of Fernando Rodney being a successful closer just one short year ago. As a 30th round pick or a $1 FAAB pickup, it’s not exactly a disaster if things don’t work out.

Jeremy Guthrie – He didn’t exactly thrive at Coors Field, but who does? He’s a control artist who can’t afford to miss his spots, but he didn’t miss that often in Kansas City (3.16/1.13) with a 3/1 K/BB ratio. He has posted a sub-1.24 WHIP in 3 of the last 6 seasons. A 50% chance at those ratios as a streamer in the FBPC or as your 9th or 10th starter in the NFBC is worth a buck.

Jeff Francoeur – Just one year removed from a 20-20-.285 campaign. Yes, he was a bum last year. So what. Yes, he’s only done it once. But if he’s done it once he can do it again. What more do you want from Mr. Irrelevant? He went very late in some leagues and was even undrafted in others. Remember, buy low, sell high.

Vernon Wells – I’m sorry, but his fall from Sabermetric grace after signing that huge contract was hardly a surprise. Now he’s the forgotten red-headed stepchild with a high ceiling getting a healthy number of AB’s to start the season in the Bronx. If he takes off it might be hard to send him back to the bench. If he doesn’t, just go fish again.

Buyers remorse

Robinson Cano – I drafted from 1.4 in a Main Event Saturday and pulled the trigger on Cano, and part of me immediately wished I’d drafted someone else. Yes, I’m worried about the PED rumors. I would not draft him in a stand-alone league, but to win the overall I went out on a limb here. I haven’t even mentioned the depleted Yankees lineup, which should translate to fewer AB’s, Runs, and RBI’s.

Alex Rios – I said that Saberhagenmetrics would keep me away this year, and I resisted the temptation to draft the paragon of consistent inconsistency until Saturday. He’s doubtful for the opener with a bad back and I’ve got a bad feeling, but then again I had the same bad feeling when I bought Carlos Delgado for $5 in the Ultimate Auction in 2008. Let’s hope I’m wrong again.

Wild Card

Julio Teheran – Spring stats don’t mean much, but in Julio’s case this may be an exception, and really it’s not the stats but the stuff behind them. His command and quality of his pitches have drastically improved. I saw him drafted anywhere from 12th to 14th round the last two weeks. I would not be surprising to see him turn a profit at that price, but he is still a rookie, and taking him so high dilutes some (not all) of the potential advantage of taking him. He’s still capable of rewarding those owners who took a chance on him.

No Thanks

Michael Morse – I like Michael Morse, but the Mariner was drafted anywhere from the 10th to the 12th round before spring training began. Then it was discovered that he could hit a fastball in exhibition games and suddenly he’s worth a seventh round pick? You’re not going to lose because you took Morse a couple rounds too early, and he could definitely earn that position, but the market is adjusting it’s price based on stats from games that don’t count. Don’t follow the market. Spot the errors.

The second NFBC weekend is just a few days away, so let’s get right to work. Any grizzled NFBC veteran knows that a major component to constructing a quality team is to spot market inefficiencies and inaccuracies. The near ubiquity of roto information available today makes beating that market exceedingly difficult. There isn’t much dead money in the high stakes world. Those willing to plop down four to five figures have not only done their homework, but likely have a healthy obsession for the 5x5 craft or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. We’ve all heard the debate about exactly how much skill vs. luck is involved in finishing in the money.  The reality that is often overlooked is that to the degree that everyone at the draft table has the same amount of knowledge, to that degree, winning your league approaches 100% luck. In this twitter universe, what knowledge can possibly escape the notice of our competitors? How can we gain an edge?

A similar problem presents itself to MLB teams as well. In response, they have developed proprietary information systems and keep a tight lid on the data. The Tampa Bay Rays outpace the competition in using such data. They know things that we don’t and they have a track record of success that the roto market at large has not identified in recent years, at least not on draft day. That makes Tampa a great place to start looking for market errors.

Brian Kenny has dubbed Jose Molina the “Babe Ruth of pitch framing.” It’s a fitting moniker since some have calculated that his adroit mitt movement saved 50 Runs in 2012. We don’t know exactly how that number was calculated. Some think it’s too high, but I think it’s much greater than most people realize. Of course, this is only one of a bag full of tactics the Rays have employed. They are the pioneers of defensive shifts and are acutely aware of all the defensive metrics. They also have one of the best scouting departments and know how to fix something that’s broken. They transformed a mediocre Kyle Farnsworth into an excellent stopper in 2011 and resurrected Fernando Rodney’s career to make him an elite closer in 2012.

Ben Zobrist logged 541 innings in right field and still finished 6th in UZR with 9.8 runs saved. In 408 innings at 2B he lost 3.5 runs. The addition of Kelly Johnson and Ryan Roberts to the fold portends that Zobrist is ticketed to see the bulk of his time in RF. Johnson posted a questionable -6.5 UZR at the keystone last year, but he saved 7.1 at the same position in 2010. He’s no spring chicken but he’s still only 31, so perhaps his hamstring ailment affected his range. He does have experience with Yunel Escobar, who saved 4.6 runs at SS with the Blue Jays, a marked improvement over the 9.1 runs lost by the shortstop committee employed by the Rays last year.  They could also turn to Ryan Roberts, who saved 4.7 runs playing 2B. In that scenario, Johnson could see time in left field filling the void left by Desmond Jennings, who in turn moves over to center to replace BJ Upton. Upton lost the Rays 2.4 runs. If Johnson can do better than that in left, the Rays will be content. They also upgraded at first base from Carlos Pena’s 3.2 to James Loney’s 8.1. These collective upgrades in the infield join Evan Longoria, whose injuries caused him to slip in 2012, but he averaged 13.7 runs saved from 2008-2011. Good health should see a return to previous levels. All this paves the way for Alex Cobb’s 58.8 ground ball rate and the Indian formerly known as Fausto Carmona. When Roberto Hernandez peaked back in 2007 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, he had an effective sinker that induced a 64% ground ball rate. The Rays are trying to build a defense that is up to the task. This makes Hernandez a decent late flier in AL-only leagues. He’s not going to rack up the K’s, but for a song at the end, there are worse lotto tickets. Yes, his numbers have been ugly the last few years, but the same could have been said of Rodney when the Rays signed him.

On the flip side, James Shields will still be a decent pitcher, but he leaves the Rays for the Royals and will no longer have Molina framing his pitches. Nothing against Salvador Perez, but I’m staying away from Shields this year.

There is no question we have to do our homework with GB and FB rates, BABIP, FIP, xFIP, et. al. That merely lays the foundation. Then we have to move our eye to the possibilities that the market has not emphasized.

I recently had the honor of participating in an industry auction with a number of accomplished writers. It was a 12-team, AL-only format, and it was every bit as tough as the NFBC AL-only leagues I’ve been in. However, with the NFBC kicking things off this weekend, I don’t want to talk about my team. I want to hit you with some values that might be useful as you’re headed to the NFBC this weekend or as you’re looking to a similar AL-only draft.

Each year there are a certain number of players that we ‘saberheads’ think we can get at a relatively inexpensive price if we miss out on an upper tier player at a particular position. These are the “safety blankets,” if you will, at various positions.  Sometimes these can be traps if we’re not savvy enough to sense when everyone is going to hold out for the same “value” pick. In this draft, those players were Ernesto Frieri $15 and Lorenzo Cain $20. Both were targets and both went for a lot more than I expected. Though both picks made sense at the time, the odds are against turning a profit here.

Players that are getting no respect at all: Bartolo Colon $1, Franklin Gutierrez $2, Carlos Pena $4, Nate Mclouth $4, Mitch Moreland $4, Josh Donaldson $1.

Players you’re going to have to get out the wallet to own: Yoenis Cespedes $31, Mike Trout $40, Robinson Cano $36, Jose Reyes $34, Justin Verlander $34, David Price $30, Ben Zobrist $27, Albert Pujols $33, Miguel Cabrera $39.

Players that cost more than I expected:  Leonys Martin $14, Dustin Ackley $15, Gordon Beckham $15, Tyler Flowers $9, Lorenzo Cain $20, Ernesto Frieri $15, Salvador Perez $20.

Other players of interest: Manny Machado $15, Jed Lowrie $8, Chris Carter $12, Hiroyuki Nakajima $9, Dylan Bundy $3, Jurickson Profar $8, Mike Zunino $3, Will Myers $12, Bruce Rondon $10, Aaron Hicks $9, Trevor Bauer $5.

In the reserve rounds, the following players may be worth a flier:

Brennan Boesch – A lefty in Yankee stadium with modest pop.

Nate Freiman – He’s 6’8” and weighs 220. As a rule 5 draftee, he stands a good chance of making the active roster. He slashed .298/.370/.502 at Double-A in 2012.

Jeff Kobernus – The Tigers rule 5 pick stole 94 bases in the Minors over the last 2 years.  The Tigers lack a true burner, and with injury-prone Andy Dirks platooning in left field, a run at 20+ SB’s could be in the cards.

Chris McGuiness – Yet another rule 5 subject.  This little Indian brought the Arizona Fall League MVP trophy all the way home.

Roberto Hernandez – Tampa Bay made moves to upgrade their infield defense and if anyone can fix the sinkerballer, formerly known as Fausto, the Rays, formerly known as devlish, can.

Al Albuquerque – He’s the best reliever in Motown right now and it’s not even close. The problem is with his health issues in the past, it’s unlikely that the Tigers will push their luck by making him pitch on back-to-back days.

Whether you have computer draft software at the draft table doing projections for you or you have the old school pen and paper for tabulation, you probably have some sort of system to track projected stats of the players you draft and accumulate totals in each category to ensure that you are drafting a balanced team that will compete in all categories (unless you are punting).  I don’t know about you, but I usually find it difficult to impossible to hit those targets.  I’m always short somewhere and I have to decide where I want the holes to be.  I’ll typically look at a few leagues from the previous year to see where I need to be to win each category; picking a sweet spot for the total I’m shooting for (i.e. I’m not going to worry about squeezing out 40 extra Home Runs just to obtain 1 or 2 more roto points.  For offense I’ll usually just focus on HR’s and SB’s and hope that the Runs and RBI’s fall into place, trying to eliminate as much noise as possible so that I can focus on the draft itself.  In any event have you ever wondered what percentage of those targets you have to obtain on draft day?  There’s a full 26 weeks of FAAB to pick up replacements that will contribute.  What should one expect from FAAB sources?

‘The Worst Russians Ever’ owned by Gregory Glukhovsky are currently in first place in my NFBC Main Event League.  Breaking down their stats in the counting categories I discovered:  Of their 70 Wins, 57 were drafted and 13 were from waivers (81.5%/18.5%).  999K’s – 798 drafted, 201 from waivers (80%/20%).  72 Saves – 36 drafted, 36 waivers (50%/50%).  On the offensive side: 846 Runs – 824 drafted, 22 waivers (97.5%/2.5%).  242 HR’s – 235 drafted, 7 waivers (97%/3%). 789 RBI’s – 768 drafted, 21 waivers (97.5%/2.5%).  159 SB’s – 155 drafted, 4 waivers (97.5%/2.5%).

Simply amazing.  To the surprise of no one the biggest waiver contribution was in the Saves category, but across the board over 97% of his offense was obtained on draft day.  Of course, that doesn’t mean assets weren’t available on the waiver wire.  He just didn’t need them!  He’s had David Ortiz miss one month.  Outside of that his entire draft has been a bastion of near perfect health.  Drafting Mike Trout doesn’t hurt either.  The Russians have simply dominated all offensive categories to the tune of 72 points out of a possible 75.  It’s not as though they were risk averse, as their draft included Ryan Braun, Jose Reyes, Kendrys Morales, and Martin Prado among their first 11 picks.  They didn’t ignore pitching early either, drafting Felix Hernandez in the 3rd, Yovani Gallardo in the 4th, and Jon Lester in the 6th round.  It might be the highest scoring offense I’ve witnessed of any league I’ve been in.

The Pale King is in 2nd and his stats breakdown thusly: 789 Runs – 755 draft, 44 waivers (94.5%/5.5%). 185 HR’s – 172 draft, 13 waivers (93%/7%).  717 RBI’s – 667 drafted, 50 waivers (93%/7%).  140 SB’s – 140 drafted, 0 waivers (100%/0%).  86 Wins – 80 drafted, 6 waivers (93%/7%).  1074 K’s – 975 drafted, 99 waivers.  34 Saves – 10 drafted, 24 waivers (29.5%/70.5%).  Astounding.  It seems as though FAAB is always a significant part of all the teams I manage, good and bad.  Maybe that’s because I’m constantly plagued by injuries.  Maybe my drafting skills need some serious tweaking. Perhaps both!  Over 93% of the entire offense is fueled by his draft and with the exception of Saves, over 90% of his pitching was in place back in March.

I’m not sure how they do it.  I’ve been in hundreds of drafts and every one of them both categories and positions are sniped left and right.  I have to decide whether to leave value on the table to chase statistical or positional balance, or take what the draft gives me and leave myself exposed (ending up with non competitive projections in certain categories, or being forced to start players that have part-time roles with their MLB clubs).  Knowing whether or not it is realistic to expect help with FAAB over the course of the season is critical in making draft day decisions.  Next week we’ll look at the flip side of the coin of what was presented here today.

Some casual research of the top NFBC Main Event teams has revealed some interesting random facts. Let’s jump right in.  Six of seven the top teams were drafted on March 24th, one full week before the ‘second round’ of the NFBC on March 31st.  I’ve heard ad nauseum how the later drafters have the advantage because they have more information at their disposal.  This opinion has always baffled me.  How is it an advantage if everyone has this additional info?  If you are more knowledgeable and prepared than your opponents then the clear advantage goes to the early drafter that has insight on who will win position battles and spots in the rotation.  As you get closer to the season this knowledge/edge is effectually destroyed when official announcements are made about said position battles.  No more insight needed as everyone knows.  The player once available in the 15th round is now going in the 8th.   The opportunity of profiting on this knowledge has been eradicated.  Now the aforementioned data point doesn’t prove anything as it is too small of a sample size and there are obviously many factors that go into an overall championship, but it is interesting.

Looking at only the top ten picks of the top five teams, only six players appear on multiple rosters: Adrian BeltreJoey VottoDavid PriceShin-Soo ChooJoe MauerYu Darvish.  Each of these players was rostered on two of the top five teams.  All drafted at least two starting pitchers, usually in their top eight picks.  Four of the five teams drafted at least one ace within their first four selections.  Three of the top five teams ignored saves early, waiting until after tenth round to draft a closer.  The other two teams waited until the ninth.

Kevin Kirves currently leads the Main Event by four points.  Not surprisingly he has employed the services of a rookie outfielder from Anaheim.  What is surprising is that same outfielder is absent from the rosters of the teams ranked 2nd-6th.  Mike Trout is still on four of the top ten rosters.

One of the more interesting drafts was from Nick Cassavetes.  Shawn Childs recently did a nice write up on his team’s current roster and his shot at making a run at the title: http://sportsdraftdaily.com/2012/08/hollywood-meets-fantasy/

What I absolutely love about his draft is that he went with Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander with his first two picks.  Love it, love it, love it.  Verlander was not a target for me this year, but that’s not the point.  What I love is the strategy employed here.  Nick was leveraging his draft position.  With 14 hitters already off the board, drafting another bat locks him into a deficit, but he evened the playing field by taking the two best pitchers on his draft sheet.  He did draft Mike Trout in round 22 and that helps, but you don’t have to draft the fantasy MVP to make this work.  In 2004 I drafted near the end of the first round and started off with Curt SchillingKerry Wood, and Jason Schmidt as my first three picks.  In the end I had plenty of offense.  A young Miguel Cabrera turned in a nice profit.  Vinny Castilla and Jeromy Burnitz were poised to explode moving to Coors field, yet the fantasy market ignored their potential due to the bias against aging players.  In fact, both the draft and the waiver wire were littered with offensive value.

Take what the draft gives you.  Ignore the scoffers.  Zig when others zag.  Nick did and is ‘zigging’ his way to the top of the leaderboard.

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