Several weeks ago, I used some bandwidth to express some concern about the closer pool for this year’s drafts and auctions. At the time, I had not really delved into the inventory, it was more an off-the-cuff observation, suggesting there were not many reliable options and the landscape was going to be crazy. But lately, I have been writing profiles for both the Platinum subscription and ESPN and I’m not as concerned anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there are 30 Mo Rivera clones populating the Majors. It’s just that upon closer inspection (see what I did there?), things aren’t as bad as I thought. It turns out that there are the normal tiers, with perhaps a few less at the top. There are a lot of guys that inherited the job in-season last year possessing everything necessary to be a reliable closer except a track record of success. Their peripherals are closer-worthy. They’ve just been on the job for less than a year.
Here’s how I see the tiers (in no particular order within the tier) with some quips.
Today we’re going to continue looking at the repercussions of APE, the ADP Principles of Equivalence. If you are new to the site and need to catch up, I introduced the concept HERE and talked about it in terms of position scarcity HERE. The next focus will be on ADP or average draft position.
The Internet is now overflowing with essays hammering the concept of ADP. I’ve got a few of them out there myself, which is ironic since I was producing ADP’s from National Fantasy Baseball Championship satellite leagues for our Platinum customers before they were even produced by the NFBC. At the time, they were helpful. As with any strategy or tool to gain an edge, it is most effective when no one else is doing the same thing or using the information. ADP’s are everywhere so they are no longer the drafting tool they were five years ago.
A few of the conventional reasons cited when making the case why ADP’s are no longer the cat’s meow are they often are a mishmash of different league formats and rules. Some are biased by the default ranking of the site administering the mock draft or even the inclusion of computer-drafted teams. Some include mocks previous to decision altering information being made public such as the recent PED scandal, the pause around Felix Hernandez signing his extension and even Michael Bourn signing with Cleveland. In short, the credibility of the ADP is questionable.
All of this is well and good, but my main beef with ADP’s is the perception of what they are and what they should be used for. Let’s say we generated an ADP using the same league format, within a short time frame so the information was all the same. The result is not a guide to help you rank players like many appear to believe, but merely a quantification of how the market ranks the players. I realize this may seem to be one and the same, but here’s the difference. If you want an opinion on something, who do you ask? I hope it is someone well edified on the subject, so their answer is credible. Now think about an ADP. With due respect to those generating it, and I don’t care if this is an NFBC ADP, do you really trust each and every person’s opinion that goes into producing the ranking? Think about it – only one person wins a league. There are 14 losers. To be blunt, an ADP aggregates the opinions of more losers than winners. If you use an ADP to help rank a player’s potential production, you are misusing it. You should be coming up with your expected production independent of the ADP, then perhaps gauging market value using an ADP that best resembles the league of interest. To base your picks on the ADP is a big mistake.
I and others have been preaching this and similar arguments for a couple of years but I still hear things like ”that was a great pick, you got him at pick 90 and his ADP is 72” or “you took him way too early with the 52nd pick, his ADP is 67.” In fact, a feature of the NFBC draft room is to grade your draft relative to the current NFBC ADP. That drives me nuts.
Much like the scarcity argument posed last week, it’s one thing to continually make a point anecdotally to a populace that likes numbers while it’s another to actually use numbers – so let’s use numbers to help make the point sink in.
Reviewing the concept of APE, you determine the dollar value of each player like you would an auction and then line them up highest to lowest. Given that this is not the same as a properly constructed draft list, if you assign a round number to each value corresponding to where they fall (in a 15 team draft, the 15 highest values would be round one, the next 15 round two, etc) and multiply that by three, the resulting number represents the amount of players above and below that pick player are fundamentally the same, or at least they have the same value. Same value is defined as anything within two dollars. In other words, a $16 player and an $18 player are basically the same guy. Expected performance, thus the corresponding value is best thought of as a range of outcomes. Outcomes with $2 worth of value are the same. Going back to the rankings, a sixth round player would have eighteen players above and below that can be considered to be equal in value.
Let’s use an example. In a 15-team league, pick 80 is the fifth pick of the sixth round, so the players ranked between 62 and 98 are all the same as player 80, assuming you agree a player +/- $2 is the same player. What would happen if at that pick, you chose a guy with an ADP of 95? You’d be chided for taking him too early, but did you? According to APE, you took a guy within the two dollar range, so no, it was not too early. Now think if this were the tenth round, there would be thirty players above and below. If you took a player with an ADP 27 picks later, hysterical laughter would ensue and insults would fly – all unwarranted.
Going back to pick 80, what if player 65 was still on the board and you drafted him, what would the reaction be? Everyone would be lauding what a great value pick you just made – or was it? He’s also within that two dollar boundary, so was it really that great a pick? Not according to APE it wasn’t.
I realize there are fallacies in this argument. The ranking by dollar values does not necessarily mesh with the projected dollar values if you order them via ADP, but they’ll be pretty darned close. At minimum, they are close enough so the notion of APE can still be applied.
The bottom line is I no longer need to use straw man arguments why I feel ADP’s being misused, I can demonstrate it mathematically. Even if the ADP is a perfect reflection of the market and is generated by a group that really knows their stuff, the application of the ADP is faulty. It’s not a judge of the quality of the pick unless the choice was so egregious it falls out of the limits set by APE. And even then, the intrinsic value of the pick could make it viable.
This is a good place to stop as the next installment of this series is going to focus on intrinsic value and how the proper use of ADP helps you acquire the most intrinsic value. Please feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to respond.
For years, I have built several research projects using a foundation I call graph-a-draft. The process works by generating dollar values as if the draft was an auction and then assigning dollar values to the draft spots in descending order. The primary finding was the descent was not linear. Specifically, the delta between players in the early rounds is greater than in the middle and later rounds.
The emanating draft strategy from this appears early on: you leave potential production on the table if you select a player too far down your list, most likely to fill a position you consider scarce. The advice has always been not to stretch too far at the beginning for once you reach round five or so, the next several players are all close enough in value that they are the same player. So now if you jump down your list a ways to find a player at a specific position, you aren’t sacrificing potential.
The problem with this is that the idea is too abstract. Most fantasy baseball players are numbers-oriented. Not to mention, they like tangible evidence something is true.
Largely because a series of planned essays are going to incorporate the graph-a-draft theme and they are going to attack such sanctified themes as scarcity and average draft position, I felt I needed a stronger argument that involved numbers and concrete rules. Ladies and gentleman, I introduce the rule of “Round Times Three: Close counts in more than just horseshoes and hand grenades.” I know I need a cute acronym for this; we’ll worry about that later.
Here’s the principle: dollar values are best thought of as ranges, not static integers. Take away a wind-blown homer and a steal, and a $17 player becomes a $15 player. Give a guy 15 more plate appearances and the associated production and a $23 guy is now a $25 guy. The rule of thumb is players within $2 are fundamentally the same guy. Some are comfortable bumping that to $3 or even higher, but we’ll stick with $2. The smaller the number we set as equal in value, the more powerful the findings about to be revealed will be.
Let’s go back to the graph-a-draft principle. What we want to do is set a concrete boundary for players to be considered the same according to projected dollar value. All you need to do is take the round in which the player is ranked, multiply by three and that many players above and below the player in question are almost always within $2. The rule of thumb rattles a little at the extremes, but that’s OK.
Here’s an example. Let’s use a 15 team league. The 50th ranked player is the equivalent of a fourth round pick. Take four and multiple by three to get twelve. This means twelve players above and twelve players below are fundamentally the same guy as the 50th ranked player. By rankings, the 38th to 62nd ranked player is all the same guy.
Similarly, a player slotted in the tenth round has thirty players to either side that can be considered the same. Think about that; when you’re in the tenth round, 61 players offer your team the same potential.
If you don’t agree then you don’t agree that players within $2 in value are the same. The graph-a-draft data followed by round times three results in this $2 or less differential an overwhelming number of times.
One controversial repercussion is the notion of a value pick is seriously questioned. Up to this point, if someone selects a player with seventh round value in the ninth round, the drafter is lauded for their value pick. Let’s say you have pick 9.05 or number 125. This means the players ranked 98th-152nd are the same. You take your 100th ranked player. If the draft goes chalk, this is pick 7.10 and everyone pats you on the back. But based on the round-times-three notion, is it really a value pick or just someone within the range of expectation for that 125th spot? My contention is it now should be considered the latter, sorry.
On the other hand, the scolding one gets for reaching too early is often unwarranted. So long as the player is ranked within round-times-three, it isn’t a reach at all. It is simply taking a player inside a reasonable projected range. If you’re in the sixth round and the ADP of the player is round eight, some will say you should have waited until round seven. But six times three is eighteen, which could put the player into round eight.
It is this latter example that I will harp on in the coming weeks, mostly to refute the principle of scarcity. We’ll detail this more in coming installments, but it isn’t too hard to figure out the contention is going to be there is no need to leave stats on the table early for the sake of a scarce position since there will surely be someone within round-times-three at every position later in the festivities.
Before you go and spend the week coming up with a clever nickname so I can market this concept, I’ll address the breakdown of the rule at the extremes. Recall that early on, the delta between players is greatest. In the first round, there can be anywhere from $2-$4 (sometimes more) between adjacent players. So even if you only jump down three players, the difference will be greater than $2 or $3. Actually, this serves to really reinforce how detrimental it is to sacrifice potential on a first round pick for perceived scarce positions.
At the end of a draft, the round times three means there are up to 69 players either way. Once you get to round twenty, the 60th player previous is often $3 or even $4 different. But by that time, players that far away will likely be drafted. If not, you have a different opinion than the field for that player, which is great, now you truly get a potential value pick. In the end game, it is all about needs and differing opinions on players’ skills and more importantly, playing time.
Hopefully this gets your juices flowing for fantasy baseball. We’ll spend the next several Tuesdays applying this principle. So far, the best names I have are Rx3 (a very poor takeoff on the Redskins’ RGIII) and JAZZ, as in close enough for jazz.
I told you I needed help naming it.
Last week, I introduced a concept that generated a bit of a buzz. Starting today and for the next several weeks, I’m going to discuss some reprecussions of ADP Principles of Equivalence, or APE for short. Credit for the name goes to my friend and colleague Ron Shandler of BaseballHQ. Hey, when a guy who built a business in part on introducing the LIMA plan into the fantasy baseball lexicon opines, you take heed.
By means of a brief reminder, APE revolves around the premise that player value is a range, and players within $2 of potential value are fundamentally the same player. If you take the player's projected value and determine what round of a draft that equates to and then multiply that by three, the result represents how many players ranked above and below that players are within $2. In other words, APE identifies a faction of players that are all worthy of being drafted at that spot since they can all be expected to yield a similar return on investment relative to the draft spot.
The first thing that came to mind when I discovered this principle was finally, I have a means to frame my argument when it comes to the notion of scarcity, regardless of the definition. It’s sort of funny, I am about to outline a philosophy I have shared for years. But now that I can frame it within a mathematical boundary, it’s going to make more sense, if not be more believable than the abstract means I have presented it to this point.
One of the difficulties when discussing scarcity principles is there are several applications. Some look at the relative strength of a position and deem it scarce. Others define scarcity by the number of perceived acceptable options at a position before there is a drop-off in talent. So long as the means to account for scarcity is to make sure you get players at specific positions early, APE will illustrate that reaching for said players is leaving potential production on the table, the extent of which you will not always be able to get back.
My definition of scarcity is more technical. Valuation theory dictates that the lowest ranked player at each position needs to be valued at $1, assuming we are talking in auction terms, since auction values can be used as the means to generate a ranking list or cheat sheet for a draft. In order for a position to be scarce, a mathematical adjustment is necessary to force the lowest ranked draft-worthy player to be worth $1.
The procedure to identify scarce positions involves pricing the player pool as if everyone plays the same position and assigning values. You then count up the number of draft-worthy players (those with a value of $1 or more) and determine if there are ample players at each position to fill a legal roster for all the teams in the league. Any position lacking a sufficient number of players is scarce.
In past years, my recommendation has been to not worry about altering the baseline price for a position if there are enough players in every position to legally fill out all the rosters. I have since changed my mind, since as alluded to, common sense dictates that the last player drafted at each spot is worth $1, so the lowest player at each position should be forced to be $1, then everyone else is scaled up accordingly. So basically, when I do my pricing, I don’t even identify scarce positions; it is part of my process to set a distinct replacement level for each position, which forces the necessary distribution of players into the draft-worthy pool. In other words, my definition of scarcity can be attacked mathematically, with the result incorporated directly onto my rankings and cheat sheets.
My approach to a draft is each pick should be considered in terms of return on investment or ROI. The goal is to maximize your ROI at each spot, given that in order to win, you’ll need a net positive return, so breaking even at each spot will result in a middle of the pack finish. As discussed last week, if you graph the expected ROI from the first pick to the last, the slope is not linear. The delta between the early picks is much greater than the middle and later picks.
Those that practice scarcity drafting will reach for a player ranked lower on their cheat sheet, or artificially rank them higher because of the perceived scarcity. My contention is if you reach for a player such that he falls outside of the boundary as defined by APE, you are leaving potential production on the table. I understand those that do this believe they are in fact constructing their roster to maximize ROI later, but I vehemently dispute that point.
The argument most scarcity proponents offer to support their philosophy is to compare their so-called scarce player and a player drafted in an arbitrary round later at a non-scarce position to a non-scarce player drafted early and a scarce player drafted late, each with a similar ADP to their players. I consider this a fallacious contention.
They are basing the comparison on either their rankings or an ADP. Who’s to say my evaluation of the involved players is not different? What if I value my first pick higher and prefer a different player later, one that I value more than that used in the comparison? Not to mention, why does my perceived scarce player have to come from that round? Why can’t I wait until there’s a player at that position at or near the top of my available rankings later?
That last question, my friends is the crux of my entire argument. My assertion is at some point in every draft, there will be a player to fill each position at or near the top of your cheat sheet. At minimum, there will be a player falling within the boundaries of APE at each position there for the taking by the time you finish your draft. In order for this to be true, you need to:
This last point is quite important and could be the key to success with this philosophy. We all have our guys, those we like more than everyone else. Sometimes we may also be faced with the proposition of taking our guy, or filling an open position that others consider scarce, with a player ranked highly on your cheat sheet. This could be the best opportunity to get the desired ROI relative to the draft spot for that position. But if you bypass on your guy, that means you’ll need to find someone else to play that spot, and if you have drafted other teams with this player, that is something you haven’t encountered yet. Being able to best accomplish this is tied to the first and second point above.
So to reiterate, I promise that if you know the players thoroughly, and are patient, there will be a player at each position at or near the top of your cheat sheets. You just have to be keen enough to recognize the opportunity and have the touch to construct a balanced roster by the end of the draft. If you do this, you aren’t assured of the league championship, but I assure you that you will have a stronger foundation to take into the season. Your competitor that reached early left stats on the table. Even if you match them ROI for ROI the rest of the draft, you’ll be ahead. They falsely think they’ll make up for what they sacrificed, but they won’t so long as you combine APE with an open mind and a lot of homework.
To jump ahead a bit, there is more to APE than just taking the best player on the board. You still need to blend APE philosophy with the unique market each draft presents. As an example, even though the implication is to take an outfielder if he’s the top player on your list, I still don’t want to fill all five of my outfield spots early. I want a couple for the later rounds where there are inevitably a bunch of outfielders on the board that are the highest ranked players. I know what you’re thinking; that flies in the face of the scarcity concept discussed earlier. At the end, all the players should be equally lousy. What you need to remember is we all evaluate players differently and because there are more outfielders, there will always be some you like more than everyone else. On your personal cheat sheet, the outfielder ranked at 300 and the shortstop ranked at 301 are the same quality of player, but there is usually an outfielder you have ranked 250 still available – due to the difference in expectations.
Please don’t get hung up on this. In a future piece, I’ll demonstrate this mathematically. After all, you guys seem to respond better to mathematical proof as opposed to some goof saying “because I said so.”
On Monday night, Lawr and I represented Mastersball in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) fantasy baseball draft. We were joined by twelve of the industry’s finest. Defending champs Howard Kamen and Steve Gardner from USA Today won the draft lottery--as well as the league last year--and chose first. The entire draft is available HERE.
Here is a complete list of the participants and their first round selection.
1.01 USA Today: Howard Kamen and Steve Gardner - Ryan Braun
1.02 Fantasy Alarm: Jeff Mans - Miguel Cabrera
1.03 Head to Head Sports: Glenn Colton, Rick Wolf & Stacy Stearns - Robinson Cano
1.04 Fantasy Sharks: Mark Griffis & Tony Holm – Mike Trout
1.05 Fantistics Insider baseball.com: Anthony Perri – Matt Kemp
1.06 SiriusXM Fantasy Drive: Ray Flowers - Andrew McCutchen
1.07 Stats Inc/NFBC: Greg Ambrosius – Joey Votto
1.08 CDM Sports: Charlie Wiegert – Albert Pujols
1.09 RTS Sports: Chris Thompson & Jeff Paur – Prince Fielder
1.10 RotoWire: Chris Liss & Derek Van Riper – Giancarlo Stanton
1.11 Baseball HQ: Ron Shandler – Carlos Gonzalez
1.12 Mastersball: Lawr Michaels and Todd Zola – Buster Posey
1.13 KFFL: Tim Heaney – Jose Bautista
Before revealing the rest of the Mastersball squad with some commentary, I’m guessing a few of you are scratching your heads at the selection of Posey. Here’s what went down. I was at the draft table; Lawr was with me via g-chat. We had a list of 5 or 6 players that routinely are available at this spot. We expected at least one pitcher and Posey himself to be off the board. So mucn for the best laid plans.
When it was our pick, everyone from the list was gone so we had to scramble a bit. It came down to Posey and Adrian Beltre. Another time, another place. I may have lobbied harder for Beltre. But ultimately we opted for Posey because of something we often forget in this game. We opted for Posey because neither of us are going to own the reigning NL MVP in any other league, he’s just not our style, so we figured what they hey, let’s have some fun.
That said, from a numbers standpoint, there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with that pick. Platinum subscribers know we have Posey ranked even higher than twelve. My philosophy is every draft spot has an expectation associated with it. The idea is to get a positive return on investment at as many spots as possible. If everyone produced as we project, Posey is the player that offers us the greatest return on investment at that spot.
Of course, this is only part of the equation. A projection is not static. There is an upside ceiling and downside floor that needs to be considered. Perhaps this is rolled into the downside, but the health and durability of the player needs to be incorporated into the decision. Then there is the general game theory aspect of the pick – how does the pick set up future picks and their prospective return on investment?
Those in the draft room that questioned the pick cited the injury risk. And of course it exists. It’s too easy to say Posey will play first in a lot of games so he is less of a risk, he’s really not. We accepted that risk primarily because all of the players in this range also had a health risk. To wit, directly following the pick was Jose Bautista (coming off surgery to repair the sheath on his wrist), Dustin Pedroia (missed time the past two season), Adrian Beltre (missed time two of the past four seasons), Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Hamilton and Hanley Ramirez - each one being a potential AFLAC customer. Other than the argument that it would be harder to replace Posey than the others, is he really any more of a risk? Personally, I don’t think so.
The argument I can make against Posey relates to the return of investment mentioned earlier. Given that I already stated that Posey’s expected ROI was maximum for that spot, my sense was this would be true of catchers throughout the draft, and it was more giving up the opportunity cost to get a huge ROI relative to a later spot we could have taken a receiver. Case and point is Ron Shandler getting Yadier Molina in round five – locking in a similar ROI we enjoy with Posey. But on the other and, I was already wrong once, anticipating the first round picks, so taking Posey was also a bit of bird in the hand. What if we planned o taking Yadi in the fifth? Ron would have snaked us.
Bottom line? We are both perfectly fine with Posey and if I wasn’t fighting off a head cold, I’d be sleeping like a baby.
Here’s the rest of the squad.
2. Justin Upton – go big or go home pick. JUp has flashed the ability to warrant this spot, but it isn’t like his numbers put him here, there is a bit of a leap of faith he takes a leap up.
3. Edwin Encarnacion – when I suggested Encarnacion, Lawr asked, “Do you think he can repeat?” I typed back, “No, but I think he can get 35 and 35 ain’t bad.”
4. Brandon Phillips – for those new to the site (and if you are here due to our sponsorship of the draft on SiriusXM, welcome!), we are contractually obligated to take Phillips. All good teams feature balance: power versus speed, hitting versus pitching, strikeouts versus saves, and risk versus reliability. We have some risk that Phillips help mitigate, plus he hits near the top of a potent lineup, so the runs and RBI should be there.
5. Yu Darvish – another go big or go home selection. Darvish is a little like Upton in that in order to earn this spot, he needs to pitch better than he has shown in the bigs thus far, but we both feel he can take that step, and he racks up the whiffs, a philosophy Lawr and I share when it comes to chuckers.
6. Adam Wainwright – further removed from TJS, Wainwright should be ready to assume his place among the elite in the Senior Circuit.
7. Matt Moore – this was a matter of if we don’t do it now, we weren’t going to get him and Lawr and I both see Moore as ready to dominate. The other option was Scherzer, someone I really like and it was pretty much a coin flip, with the tiebreaker being that whole fun thing as Lawr and I enjoy watching Moore toil.
8. Alex Rios – we’re a bit short on speed and although we are not averse to getting someone like Ben Revere, we wanted to start to chip away and get some bags. Plus, I think Rios is underappreciated. Pitchers get cut some slack when they are unlucky. Rios had some ill fortune and is still paying for it perceptually. His skills are solid.
9. Salvador Perez – another example of decent ROI for a catcher. Perez should hit for a little more pop.
10. Erick Aybar – more steals, but also contributions elsewhere. If he carries over his second half success, he should be fine.
12. Kyle Seager – there’s a bit of a back story to Seager. Last spring, Lawr was all over him, but I was skeptical and wasn’t sure he would even keep the job. Mainly because I am such a huge fan of Felix Hernandez, I caught a bunch of Mariners’ games and developed a bromance on Seager. The guy hits line drives in his sleep. The new dimensions at Safeco Field will surely help, but I don’t care, line drives play anywhere. Lawr tends to be wary of sophomores (rightfully so, ask 2012 Eric Hosmer and Brett Lawrie owners). But we felt this had enough of a built in discount to take him here.
13. Jake Peavy – with Peavy, it’s all about the health. He showed us last season that his skills are back. I’m less concerned about injuries in a rather shallow 13-team league feeling we can find support if needed, so here the reward trumps the risk.
14. Ichiro Suzuki – taking Ichiro probably locks us out of Revere, a fave of Lawr, but we both like the average and steals which put us in a position to pound up the bombs without worrying about average.
15. Josh Reddick – yes, he’s going to regress (so will 70 percent of all the players). But his defense will keep him in the lineup despite the Athletics having 17 outfielders on their roster. Plus, he was a 50/50 pick.
16. Dayan Viciedo – the other half of the 50/50. What I mean is we are hoping that one of two hits 25 homers. If the other one struggles, we’ll get a replacement.
17. Yonder Alonso – the plan is to take a speculative corner in reserve, so we wanted someone a little safer here to fall back on.
18. Steve Cishek – saves is saves. Cishek’s got the job, just a matter of how many opportunities the Marlins give him.
19. Matt Harrison –go Rangers! Watching Harrison is sort of like watching a knuckleballer. You never feel comfortable, but by season’s end, the numbers are there.
21. Drew Smyly – a bit of a speculative pick as right now, Smyly is odd man out. But Porcello is rumored to be on the block and smoke usually means fire.
22. Carlos Quentin – when he plays, he hits homers. When he’s hurt, we use someone else.
24. Steve Lombardozzi – could be a steal or could be our first drop. Lombardozzi is slated to be a super-utility and as such, would not get the AB necessary to be active. However, an injury to one of about four players (or a trade) and we have our steal.
27. Adam Lind – and here’s the corner with upside.
28 Will Venable – worthy of this spot on merit, but Venable also makes a nice hedge for Quentin.
29. Trevor Rosenthal – love the arm, we’ll see about the role.
Please feel free to comment or ask question. Lawr and I will do our best to address them.