Long-time editor of The Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition, my National League Tout Wars competitor and friend Peter Kreutzer, was recently asked an interesting question by one of the magazine’s annual buyers. Peter shared the exchange on his blog.
The reader wondered which of the 30 of us who pen Picks and Pans that accompany The Fantasy Baseball Guide’s player profiles each year do the best job. Peter replied with the kind of tact and professionalism for which he has long been known, noting a strength of the process is that each writer can express himself as he best chooses.
Still, it caused me to wonder, as I am big on accountability. How did I do last year?
As a general rule, I try to go more for quality than sheer quantity of picks. I don’t consider myself much of a comedian, instead simply hoping to dispense solid advice. Man, I wonder how I did.
First, I had to re-familiarize myself with the specific Picks and Pans I had submitted for the 2013 Guide. Once I found them, I was a bit embarrassed. It appears that I had only gotten halfway through by the publishing deadline and sent in only my pitching write-ups. My best intention of completing the hitters must have been covered by an avalanche of other work – or maybe just a faulty memory.
I had gotten as far as 12 names – an equal number of pitching picks and pans alike. Re-reading my one-paragraph summaries for each, it is clear that at the time, I had been dabbling in the question of how best to apply newer analytics such as FIP and BABIP to fantasy projections.
Though I will not repeat every word of those year-old magazine predictions now, what I will do as part of revisiting them is to compare the pre-season values of the pitchers to their end-of-season values in a 15-team mixed league format. The source of the respective dollar amounts is our Mastersball Platinum package, of course.
After all, the numbers will speak far more loudly than my words!
Max Scherzer. Pre-season value = $13, End-of-season value = $29.
I readily admitted right up front that it may have seemed to be nothing more than bandwagon-hopping to pick a 16-game winner from 2012, but I had justification for expecting even more in 2013. Among all qualifying starting pitchers, Scherzer’s 2012 BABIP of .333 was second-highest in all of MLB. I felt a tighter defense in Detroit would help, as well.
Adam Wainwright. Pre-season value = $23, End-of-season value = $26.
Not a lot of magic here, yet a slight uptick in return was achieved compared to the early-camp view. The big right-hander was in his second year following Tommy John surgery. His 2012 record was mixed, but he was also somewhat unlucky as his .315 BABIP was fifth-highest among MLB qualifiers. His FIP was almost a run lower than his 2012 ERA.
Tim Lincecum. Pre-season value = $6, End-of-season value = $-3.
I guess I should have taken more seriously his in-season fall from grace in 2012 and not accepted his partial recovery when it seemed to matter most that October. What caught my eye is that his 2012 FIP was a run lower than his ERA and his BABIP of .309 ranked in the top-20 highest in MLB. It turns out that diminished velocity trumped it all.
Cliff Lee. Pre-season value = $26, End-of-season value = $26.
In a bit of a twist of the infamous Dennis Green rant of several years back, “He was what we thought he was.”
Again, in looking back, perhaps this was low-hanging fruit. After all, there was no way Lee’s 2012 hex would be of more than one year duration, right? I saw absolutely nothing wrong with Lee’s peripherals and he delivered as expected.
Greg Holland. Pre-season value = $11, End-of-season value = $23.
I certainly did not get in dutch over this choice. (See why I generally avoid comedy?) Though the 2013 Royals made some bold moves to try to improve their rotation, that wasn’t what was behind this pick. I was excited about Holland’s 12.2 K/9 rate and a very unlucky BABIP of .346 in 2012.
Jaime Garcia. Pre-season value = $5, End-of-season value = $-6.
I purposely closed out my picks with a high-risk, high-reward name. Garcia had shoulder problems to close 2012 but did not go under the knife. He had a great spring in 2013 and made it through nine solid regular-season starts before requiring that appointment with the surgeon. By the way, his 2012 FIP had been a full run better than his 3.92 ERA and his BABIP was an unlucky .339.
Pick scoreboard: 3-2-1. Obtaining only slightly better than a .500 mark is nothing about which to brag. Let’s move on to my…
Fernando Rodney. Pre-season value = $15, End-of-season value = $8.
The then-closer of the Rays was inarguably coming off a strong 2012, but despite Rodney having more lives than a cat, I did not see more of the same coming in 2013. I felt I was backed up by his unbelievably-low .220 BABIP the year before. As you know, Rodney has since moved on to Seattle, where it often rains.
Joel Hanrahan. Pre-season value = $6, End-of-season value = $-11.
Despite a projection of 32 saves for the Red Sox, I did not like what I saw in Hanrahan’s 2012 results with Pittsburgh - a walk rate over 5.4 per nine innings, an unsustainably-low .225 BABIP and a FIP of 4.45 versus his actual ERA of 2.72. Granted, I had no premonition that his season would end in early-May due to Tommy John surgery, but I also did not own him in any leagues.
Sergio Romo. Pre-season value = $19, End-of-season value = $12.
I felt the Giants were bound to take a fall after their 2012 championship and their closer would share. After all, in 2012, Romo had stranded an unworldly 90.7% of his baserunners with a very low .239 BABIP. He is still a solid closer, but was overpriced last season.
Jered Weaver. Pre-season value = $25, End-of-season value = $7.
20 wins represents a tall tower from which to fall, but what really bothered me was a 2012 strikeout rate below seven per nine innings and a very low .241 BABIP. In all fairness, Weaver might have had a shot at returning his value had he not lost a couple of months with a broken non-pitching elbow. Still, a pan is a pan.
Jeremy Hellickson. Pre-season value = $8, End-of-season value = $-11.
There was more to Hellickson’s 2012 performance than a shiny 3.10 ERA. For example, just 6.3 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings and a FIP that was 1.5 runs higher than his actual ERA. Even I had no idea the pendulum would swing as wildly in the other direction last season, however.
Kyle Lohse. Pre-season value = $7, End-of-season value = $9.
Perhaps I did the same thing most everyone has done for much of Lohse’s career – sell him short. I thought the Milwaukee version would be less effective than the St. Louis contract year Lohse the year before. Knowing his 2012 BABIP was low at .262 gave me support for what became my missed pan.
Pan scoreboard: 5-1-0. Overall score: 8-3-1 (.727).
Well, that wasn’t so bad, after all. Of course, we are all only as good as our most recent Picks (and Pans), so get your copy of The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2014 Professional Edition. There, you can check out my current predictions, along with those of 29 of my esteemed peers, including our own Rob Leibowitz, Lawr Michaels and Todd Zola.
Tip: You can buy the online ($7.99) or .pdf ($9.99) versions of The Guide at thefantasysportsguide.com. Use the PROMOCODE “mastersball2014” to receive a dollar off. If you prefer the print version, check your local newsstand, but hurry before they are all gone.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.