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With Gold Glove Including Defensive Metrics, Will Fantasy Follow? PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00

Since its 1957 inception, the Rawlings Gold Glove Award has been a welcome addition to Major League Baseball’s annual recognition process, while also being a source of controversy at times. Those considered to be the best defensive players by position by league are selected annually via a vote of MLB managers and coaches.

Despite this seemingly-knowledgeable voting constituency, there have been a number of questionable winners over the years. Perhaps most notable was the selection of Rafael Palmeiro following a season in which he was almost exclusively a designated hitter.

In fact, the difficulty of separating hitting from defense has been perhaps the award's greatest challenge over time. It has seemed that to win a Gold Glove, one must also have a good season with the bat, and if not, the chance of winning the top defensive award is dramatically decreased.

Recognizing that a lack of readily-available defensive metrics may be one reason offense is being overly considered, Rawlings and the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) established a partnership. The idea was to bring in an impartial party to adjust the existing process rather than scrap it entirely.

A committee of seven sabermetric experts was convened to study the issue and developed what they call the SABR Defensive Index, or SDI. At its essence, the SDI is expressed by the number of runs a fielder "saves" his team.

By definition, the construction of the SDI is complicated, however, as it takes into account information from a number of sources - from batted ball, location-based data (70 percent weighting) and from play-by-play accounts (30 percent). The three metrics representing batted ball data include Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Ultimate Zone Rating developed by Mitchel Lichtman, and Runs Effectively Defended built by SABR member Chris Dial. The two metrics from play-by-play data are Defensive Regression Analysis, created by Michael Humphreys, and Total Zone Rating.

What these fielding metrics capture include a fielder's range, throwing arm, sure-handedness, ability to turn double plays, ability to convert bunts into outs, scoops of throws in the dirt as well as the number of "excellent" and "poor" fielding plays.

For outfielders, the ability to prevent runners from taking an extra base is rated. For catchers, blocking balls in the dirt and stolen bases/caught stealing are also included. A pitcher’s ability to control the running game by holding runners on base is also measured.

In terms of Gold Glove Award weighting, the SDI will be worth 30 total "votes.” That represents approximately 25 percent of the scoring, which will be added to the traditional votes from the managers and coaches.

SDI results will also be provided up front to help the voters. A statistical resource guide will accompany the Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches. Whether or not they actually use it remains to be seen.

The 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners will be announced on October 29 – the first time we will see if including sabermetric defensive stats leads to a better set of winners.

The SDI will also be used in comparing players across positions to help determine the updated Rawlings Platinum Glove Award, for the single best Gold Glove Award winner.

At this point, the Platinum Glove Award voting process has not yet been announced, but the online fan vote will continue once the Gold Glove Award winners are revealed. As such, the SDI will be shared with the general public, as well. That could go a long way toward potentially increasing its acceptance by a broader cross-section of baseball observers.

In the bigger picture, perhaps if defensive metrics can be more standardized and are embraced by the baseball community as a whole over time, fantasy baseball could also incorporate a defensive component.

The SDI potentially represents a step in that direction, and for that reason, I hope it is successful.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 September 2013 13:16
 
Even if NL Races are Over, Your Leagues are Not PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 14 September 2013 00:00

With less than three weeks to go in the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season, the addition of the second Wild Card is helping to keep the American League especially exciting.

As I write this, six AL clubs are within 2 ½ games of one of the Wild Card berths – Texas, Tampa Bay, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City. Given that, there is no reason to suspect anything other than a race down to the wire.

That is not the case in the National League, however. In the Senior Circuit, the battles are pretty much over. The only exception is which of the three contending Central Division teams will win the division, with the other two the likely wild cards.

Yes, Washington is technically still in it, but eight games out with 16 to go, it is grim. coolstandings.com gives the Nats just a 2.7 percent chance of bumping off one of the NL Central squads to make the postseason.

In terms of true mathematical elimination, over half of the NL squads, eight of 15, have nothing for which to play except 2014. Over in the Junior Circuit, only five teams are already justified looking ahead to next year.

Couple these dynamics with September MLB roster expansion from the normal 25 to a theoretical maximum of 40, and fantasy managers’ challenges of assessing playing time changes become even greater. In some cases, attention on baseball is waning. The competition with football leagues that are still in their very early stages currently offer greater hope for owners.

In the final month, MLB teams typically add from six to 10 reinforcements from the minor leagues. Any and all of these players can be active on any given day. As a result, an MLB team that is out of the hunt may not only give starts to unproven prospects over tired regulars, the manager may pull more double-switches, too.

A handful of clubs have even gone to a temporary six-man rotation. This gives them the opportunity to observe more youngsters while managing pitch counts and can be done before formally having to commit to 2014 roles.

Considering all these variables, I asked several of my National League Tout Wars friends and competitors the following questions.

“Given the lack of close races in the NL, do you see any potential impact on your NL fantasy teams and how you manage them? Do you feel the lack of competitive races is a positive or a negative for your chances and why?”

Kind enough to reply all the way from Italy, where he was on vacation, BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz cut right to the bone.

“I don't see much impact on my team,” Hertz said. “I just need guys to get healthy and that's looking less and less likely.”

Hertz is currently in sixth place, 12 ½ points out of the lead and just two points ahead of yours truly. The losses of Domonic Brown, Yonder Alonso, Marcell Ozuna and Starling Marte have shackled his offense.

USA TODAY’s Steve Gardner is tied for third, 6 ½ points out. Among the points Steve makes is that despite the expanded rosters, viable alternatives are few.

“In this case, I think it’s helped my team,” said Gardner. “I’ve needed to pick up several hitters off the waiver wire lately to fill holes created by injuries and trades. The guys I’ve plugged into my lineup (Donnie Murphy, Caleb Gindl, Andrew Brown, Justin Turner) are on non-contenders and may not have gotten much of a chance to play if their teams had been involved in the playoff chase."

“The one area where it could impact my team is if the Mets decide that they don’t have any reason to activate David Wright off the disabled list. I could really use his bat, even if it’s only for the last week or 10 days."

“From a pitching standpoint, the jury’s still out … but I like the fact that I have a staff that doesn’t have to worry about innings limits (Wainwright, Samardzija, Medlen, Arroyo, E. Jackson)."

“Overall, I don’t think it changes the way I manage my team, mostly because I don’t really have any alternatives to the players currently in my starting lineup,” Steve concluded.

Knotted with Gardner in the NL Tout standings is our own Lord Zola. He offers an excellent reminder about the potential of tied Wild Card races requiring a regular-season Game 163 to break ties. Now is the time to check your constitution to verify these games are included in your league scoring and act accordingly.

“When you're fighting and scrapping for points, any possible edge is a good thing,” notes Todd. “However in a league as deep as NL Tout Wars, the ability to manage your team to take advantage of the situation is limited by a four-man reserve list that may or may not have a player on one of the teams in contention."

“Teams in contention are more likely to continue to start their best players so that would provide the peace of mind your fantasy team is getting maximum at-bats. Maybe in a mixed league this would aid in decision-making at the fringes, but in NL Tout, you're going to have the player active regardless."

“On the flip-side, the star players on playoff teams with their spot locked may get more rest, but again in NL Tout, they're going to play anyway."

“One possible repercussion is with injured players. If you own Carlos Gonzalez and need the reserve spot, you can feel pretty confident in dropping him since there is very little chance he returns this season. On the other hand, I am carrying Allen Craig on my NL Tout reserve since the Cardinals will no doubt want to get him some at-bats to either secure a playoff spot or to get the rust off for the playoffs. At present, there is no one available for pick-up that I would use, but if there was, I'd have a tough decision to make if I needed that fourth reserve spot."

“Not to tip my hand, but I have kept an eye on the free agent list each week looking to see if there is a player from a team with a chance to play a 163rd game available. This may seem like a needle in a haystack, but a few years back, I was able to jump into the money in a National Fantasy Baseball Championship league on Rick Porcello's seventh strikeout in game 163. The caveat in Tout Wars is the rule that requires you to activate all free agent acquisitions following the week you win them,” Zola concluded.

In my own case, I am just hoping and praying my players will continue to be written onto their clubs’ lineup cards each day.

One complicating matter that is front and center right now is my glut of players on non-contending teams. Those competing for one of the five likely NL playoff clubs fill just four of my 23 active roster spots.

As a result, I feel vulnerable, but as the others noted, viable alternatives to play are few and far between. For draft day next season, I will need to make sure I am not so singularly focused on acquiring bargains that I draft a roster filled with players from non-contenders.

Special thanks to Phil, Steve and Todd for contributing to this article. Remember to check out their respective writings at BaseballHQ, USA TODAY and right here at Mastersball.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 08:59
 
Three simple words can make all the difference PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 07 September 2013 00:00

“I called him.”

Three words constituted the most succinct and beautiful comeback I can recall in a fantasy context in a number of years.

The setting was this. In a keeper league, the declaration deadline was rapidly approaching. As is often the case, some owners had too many quality keeper candidates while others were lacking.

The commissioner, also one of the league participants, was initially among the “have-nots.” I was one of the “haves,” but I'm not a part of this story.

It turns out two of the “have nots” both approached one of the “haves,” inquiring about a trade. When the deal was announced as having been consummated - with the commish as the winner - the other “have not” owner squealed.

First, he stated flatly that he would have offered more advantageous trade terms – if only his e-mails had been answered.

The complainer went on to publicly accuse the commish and the seller of collusion before asking in a most frustrated manner, “What kind of magic did you pull?”

The aforementioned three-word answer signaled an immediate end of discussion.

By the timing of this article, you probably surmised that the context is football, but in reality, the fantasy sport involved does not matter.

It also is irrelevant that the subject is a keeper pick. It could just as easily have been a straight trade at any point during a season - or even afterwards, if it would fit the league format.

To some, this may seem like a visit from “Captain Obvious,” but I feel it is worthy of magnification.

In this world in which e-mails, texting and even Twitter are commonly used for trade negotiations, we can often forget how much more efficient a simple phone call can be.

Personally, I realize that I have gotten lazy in this area. In a recent trade negotiation, I counted 17 e-mails from me to the other owner over a multi-day period, with a roughly equal total heading the other direction.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if a five-minute discussion instead would have gotten the job done.

In a long story that I will not tell its entirety here since it is not baseball-related, just this past week I had another reinforcement of the importance of direct communication.

I was trying to acquire a desirable automobile for sale online. I was not the first to make an offer for the car, but I was ultimately the winner.

The reason why was trust. The seller had become jaded by tire-kickers with talks of big plans but not following through.

In this case, I took the time to call the seller. I told him a bit about myself and why this particular model of car has personal significance.

Others had stuck to online communications, which may be more precise, but certainly less personal.

When the other potential buyers learned the car had been sold, several were angry with the seller. They told him they would have been willing to pay more.

To the seller, getting the last dollar was less important than sending the vehicle to a good new home in a painless transaction. I offered both.

Though I am unsure exactly how the seller communicated with the losing bidders, my guess is that he simply said something very much like,

“He called me.”

In your trade situations, it will usually be to your advantage to do the same.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 September 2013 08:57
 
Making a Trade that Could Not be Made PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 31 August 2013 00:00

I understand how boring it can be to read about others’ teams, but it only makes sense to try to ground lessons in real-life situations. That remains my quest here in Articles of Configuration.

Last time, I shared the reasons why my league mates in National League Tout Wars were disinterested in acquiring starting pitching. Unfortunately, that is what I had to offer.

The lesson to be learned is that in single league formats, the longer the season goes on, the greater value is placed on hitting. So if you do take advantage of pitching bargains on draft day, make sure you make your moves to balance your roster sooner rather than later.

I admitted that one hope, albeit remote, was that by polling my peers for my article, I might be able to open trade dialogue.

It actually worked in two cases. Though only one trade was eventually executed, I felt like I ended up in a far better place than where I had been previously.

The message here is a simple one. It often takes time and persistence to make a deal, but if you keep at it and both sides can see benefit, you can end up with success.

The door opening in this situation was a simple case of clarification. In my initial league-wide e-mail offering of eight starting pitchers for trade, I did not make it clear I would consider moving more than one of them. My prospective trade partner, Mike Gianella, could not tell and was too busy to ask – until my poll.

Another lesson learned. No matter how clear you think you are in your communications, you probably aren’t. Read and re-read and go overboard in explaining. As the old line goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Despite being in the upper half of the league in most hitting categories and in the bottom half in pitching, the latter is what I had to trade. The reason was that I had acquired a number of injured pitchers at bargain prices (usually $1 and a week of no stats) after they had been cashed in by their original owners for FAAB rebates.

Looking ahead to roster expansion in September, I could see a number of my current disabled list pitchers returning. They include names like Jason Grilli, Wandy Rodriguez, Ross Detwiler and James McDonald. Roy Halladay just was activated this past week. While all will likely not make it back this season, even if one or two come through, I would need roster room for them.

My goal was to trade a couple of my incumbent starters for a front-line offensive player. Ideally, it would be a strong performer in batting average, a category in which I was weak but had opportunity to pick up points.

While I do not have a realistic chance of winning the league, my revised goal is to add at least 10 points in the final month and finish in the top five.

As the dialogue began, Gianella was cautious. He seemed to want me to be the first to declare players’ names. As I scanned his roster of hitters, my eye kept returning to the oft-injured Dodgers star, Hanley Ramirez. While I probably could have taken a safer route by going after Hanley’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, for example, I decided to go for it.

At this point of the season, taking a little extra risk seemed like a good idea.

After several back and forths that carried across multiple days, Gianella was ready to name names. I assumed he would want my top strikeout arms, Francisco Liriano and Homer Bailey.

Though the wait was painful, Mike did a smart thing to enable the trade. Instead of demanding two names only, he identified four of my starters that would work for him. He didn’t give me carte blanche, however. Mike defined four combinations he would accept.

Three of them included Liriano. After looking at Liriano’s career track record, I worried that his September results could tail off. Bailey and Kyle Lohse were two others named, along with Jorge De La Rosa. The Rockies starter has the built-in risk that goes with his home park to go with a WHIP that is higher than I’d like.

After a bit of thought, I decided on Liriano and De La Rosa for Ramirez.

Before we could close the deal, a complication ensued. Rather than panic, it required a bit of time to understand and solve.

During the multi-day period of our dialogue, the weekly free agent deadline came and went. Gianella had dropped his only potential backfill for Hanley, meaning I had to sweeten the deal a bit so his roster could remain legal.

I had the ideal sacrifice in Miami’s Ed Lucas, a regular who qualifies at first, second and third, but who had been dragging down my batting average (.216 while active on my roster). In a way, it was a double benefit getting Hanley in and Lucas out.

In executing the trade, I needed to fill a couple of pitching spots. Due to the same time crunch, I had only one viable option – the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, who had perplexed the Cardinals over seven innings during the prior weekend. I would have also had to activate Trevor Cahill, who was hammered in his first start off the DL.

Instead, Mike came to my aid by throwing in Colorado’s Matt Belisle to tide my pitching over for the week.

Here is another example of potential learning. Both of us had come far so far in the trade talks that we were motivated to work out the two throw-ins rather than scuttle the entire deal.

As it turned out, both hurlers were two-start pitchers the first week – and they pitched on the first day they changed teams. Sellers’ remorse immediately set in for me as Liriano threw seven shutout innings while fanning 13 Padres. That same night, De La Rosa went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on six baserunners. Both starters collected wins.

On the other hand, Hanley went 1-for-9 in his first two contests on my roster. After that, I decided to stop analyzing day-to-day results, reminding myself I am in this for the long haul - or at least the final month.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 07:03
 
Going Heavy on Hitting Would Have Been a Good Idea PDF Print E-mail
Articles of Configuration
Written by Brian Walton   
Saturday, 24 August 2013 00:00

Remember way back in March?

Before the auction draft in your single league format, you may have been wondering whether to spend a bit more on hitting, with the idea of acquiring pitching later if needed.

In a non-auction format, you may have been considering the ramifications of going heavy on hitting early and making pitching a lower priority in the early rounds.

If the 2013 National League Tout Wars is typical, you were clearly on the right track if you were more focused on hitting.

In a recent article, I shared my in-season strategy of picking up distressed assets at discount prices, hoping to cash in later. Specifically, I purchased injured players who had been cashed out by their original owners in return for a FAAB rebate.

In most cases, the players that fit this profile were pitchers, with Philadelphia’s Ben Revere being the exception. With a number of hurlers currently on my disabled list nearing return, I am facing a potential roster jam.

Trevor Cahill was first to return, with Ross Detwiler, Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, Jason Grilli and James McDonald among others who are in line to potentially contribute in the final month to six weeks, if healthy.

With six starters already active, including NL wins leader Francisco Liriano and no-hit master Homer Bailey, I needed to create roster room. Others on my roster are Marco Estrada, Jorge De La Rosa, Jacob Turner and Kyle Lohse.

Though sending out mass trade e-mails is rarely the best way to go, with eight starters I could trade – six actives plus Cahill and Jake Arrieta, who one-hit the Cardinals for six innings Saturday - I had no idea which pitchers might interest which owners.

So, I named all my available starters and asked for offense – any offense – in return. I even offered to provide hitting backfill if that would help ease a deal.

Surely there had to be something for everyone – right?

Not exactly. In fact, almost nothing.

From the 11 other Tout owners, I received exactly one reply. It was an offer for a .230-hitting catcher.

Now, I did not take the lack of response personally, nor did I believe my pitching was worthless.

I decided to try to make lemonade from lemons by making this the subject of my column. To make the exercise more meaningful for you, the reader, I polled my peers for their reasons to reject my overture.

To be entirely honest, in addition to getting column fodder, I held a low-odds hope that my second e-mail might generate some actual trade dialogue.

The specifics from many of the NL Tout warriors follow, but the overriding theme is that no one can spare hitting at this point of the season. Many feel they have more leverage in the offensive categories.

For this to be the case universally across the league despite the wide differences between where these owners sit in the category standings signals a clear gulf in perceived player value in favor of hitters.

Keep this in mind for your leagues, even if the lesson cannot be applied until 2014. I know I will.

Todd Zola summarizes the situation well:

“I've got no hitting to spare - in fact need hitting myself. I lead the league in wins and just got McCarthy and now Gallardo back and was hoping to move pitching but it is not a seller's market. Everyone is looking to move pitching.”

Lenny Melnick believes I waited too long:

“I had high hopes for my pitching after the draft. then I lost Beckett early. Gio stumbled early, Burnett went on the DL, Kennedy bombed then got suspended. I fell behind in wins and K's and decided to add Haren via trade. Haren made it even worse."

“I searched for pitchers then and stumbled on Nicasio and a few others to no avail. Adding a pitcher now will be like chasing a tail. Most starters have 8-9 starts remaining and acquiring one won't help, as gaining points is a function of the entire staff at this point. Offensive injuries have dissipated my strengths and made obtaining a pitcher a trade to make a trade."

“To get the best value in return for a pitcher is to deal him early. At this point, unless the stats are very close, one starter may not help, unless the pitchers who got you in trouble also turn it around, which at this point would be extremely lucky.”

At least Scott Wilderman made an offer, but could not quite do it with a straight face.

“Until my injuries heal, I have no offense to offer. The only thing I could part with is perhaps Kimbrel -- Kimbrel and Lombardozzi for Liriano and Estrada?

“I thought not...”

Add Scott Pianowski to the long list of those frustrated in trying and failing to deal arms for bats. In his case, a prime starter was on the block with no interest generated:

“I couldn't give Matt Harvey away all year. I need bats, too.”

Perhaps I should feel better that the league leader and I are on the same wavelength. Then again, Tristan H. Cockcroft cannot find a trade partner, either.

“I was recently looking for nearly the identical thing as you with similar results. The market is poor for pitching-for-hitting deals.”

Peter Kreutzer has been trying to improve his hitting for some time, so he isn’t interested in trading any away.

“My project all summer has been to improve hitting, so trading hitting for pitching didn't fit my objectives.”

Derek Carty is another who sees no advantage in trading.

“Mostly I just don't have any hitting surplus to trade. My team is kind of a mess and I'm happy enough with where my pitching is at right now that I don't think trading for another one would really do me any good. Lincecum is finally pitching well (well, sometimes), and I haven't had Garza, Beachy or Niese the whole year, so if anything I need hitting."

“I mean if the price is right, of course I'd be interested, but I just didn't think I'd be able to make a suitable offer.”

Earlier, Phil Hertz unloaded almost all of his starters in an offense-heavy initiative, so he would not be a good match. I guess Phil previously soaked up what limited pitching-for-hitting interest was out there in the league.

“My main interest in a starter is making sure I get to 950 (innings), and my hitting is in a tenuous situation, so giving up a good hitter is a dubious proposition.”

Steve Gardner is another who had already made his deals. I love his humor, though.

“Not much interest from my perspective, especially since I recently traded several bats (Segura, Rendon) to improve my pitching staff (Samardzija, Wainwright)."

“My hitters are dropping like flies in Starling Marte’s glove. The loss of David Wright, possibly for the rest of the season, really hurts my offense, so I’m scrambling to find some warm bodies to fill out that starting lineup.”

Mike Gianella shares more details on his thought process, but the bottom line is the same.

“As I do with every trade query that I receive, general or specific, I took the time to look at the players that you have on offer and see if they would help my team or not."

“Somewhat unintentionally, I only spent $34 on my pitching staff at the auction. I intended to trade for pitching early, but multiple injuries (Ryan Ludwick, Hanley Ramirez, Lucas Duda, Aaron Hill, Pablo Sandoval) put a crimp in this plan. By the time most of these players came back, I was in a deep strikeout hole. The best case scenario with any trade (with you or any team), involved a one-point gain in Ks that I might make anyway. I could move up in wins, ERA, or WHIP, but strikeouts are the one category when acquiring a pitcher where the gains are the least ephemeral and easiest to measure. It looked like a hitter/pitcher trade was going to be a neutral move for me, at best.”

Thank you to all the aforementioned members of National League Tout Wars for participating. Remember, you can seemingly always trade too much hitting, but not necessarily so with pitching.

 

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 August 2013 09:13
 
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