Rotisserie Duck

The Top 10 Baseball Card Sets Ever PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 21 November 2014 00:00
Sometimes you have to wonder how the Internet would exist without top-10 lists. Everything from household appliances to cars to "Black Friday" sales to movies, they all show up on your home page every day without you even requesting the information through a search engine. Of course, those magical software engineers have reviewed your recent website searches and already know you're considering a new car or a trip to Europe or some new underwear, so don't be surprised that some electronic Sherlock Holmes knows your innermost thoughts. The only clue this writer has is that you like baseball and as a consequence, might have interest in the sport's history. And nothing portrays the history of the game better than a baseball card. For well over 100 years, they've been imbedded in the fabric of the game for youngsters and the young at heart.

As with any "best" list, there is a natural bias due to the age of the person making the judgment. Today's median age in this country is about 37 and you won't find any sets listed that didn't appear before Mr. Median was born. Another prejudice takes the form of the reviewer's favorite set from their childhood and for "Baby Boomers", they'll all come from the 50's and 60's. So while some of you will wonder why the beautiful 1975 Topps set isn't on the list, that's the whole point of going through this exercise...if we all agreed, the discussion wouldn't be fun. The values of the sets listed are based on cards in "Excellent" (EX 5) condition.

#10 - 1956 Topps

56_ToppsIn 1955, Topps produced their first horizontal card set and some people prefer it due to the rookie cards of Roberto Clemente and Sandy Koufax. The '56 set, however, actually improved upon the design and is one of the most beautiful ever issued. The 340-card issue has a profile shot layered over an actual action sequence of the player. The most expensive card is the Mickey Mantle (who was not in the '55 set), representing his Triple Crown season. Included are all the great stars of the 50's such as Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. A complete set would be valued at about $6,000.


#9 - 1953 Topps

53_ToppsThis was the second year issue of the Topps Company and it still stands out as one of the most artistic in the annals of the hobby. The 274-card set uses a format that bears a recognizable artistic depiction of the featured player. Both Mantle and Mays were shortprints and are the two most expensive cards in the set. You'll also find many other legendary New York players like Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and the rookie cards of Jim Gilliam and Johnny Podres. Set aside $10,000 for this one.

#8 - 1953 Bowman (Color)

53_BowmanThis amazing set is famous for its simplicity. The 160 cards  have only a color photo of the player on the front with no name, position or team affiliation. In fact, even for real baseball fans, trying to see how many players you can recognize without looking at the back of the cards is a real challenge. The photography is exquisite and there are many action shots and a few multiple-player cards. The Stan Musial card is a prized collectible and you'll also find a card that has Mantle, Berra and Hank Bauer. $8,000 will put this in your collection.





#7 - 1915 Cracker Jack


Yes, they're called Cracker Jack cards because they were inserted in boxes of the molasses-covered popcorn snack...and the entire set was also available through a mail-in offer. The 176 players were from the American, National and Federal League (the third major league in 1914-15) and include Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and the famous "Black Sox" player, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. A set in "EX" condition is worth $50,000...say it ain't so, Joe.

#6 - 1963 Topps


The most recent of our top 10, this 576-card set was one of many great issues of the 1960's. Its unique format with a large photo of each player as well as a smaller, black and white image in a circle stands the test of time. Topps added many other aspects to the set with theme cards such as "League Leaders", "Managers", "World Series" and multi-player cards including rookie cards that showed four individual players. In that category is the highest valued card, Pete Rose's rookie card (#537) as well as the rookie card of Pirates legend Willie Stargell. Many of the stars from the 50's were still active in '63 and the horizon was filled with new stars like Carl Yastrzemski, Brooks and Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda. A $4,000 budget should get it into your collection.



#5 - 1941 Play Ball

41_PBThis was the third year of production for the Play Ball series, but the first to add color to the cards. In addition, 1941 ended up being an enormously historic season with Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams batting .406. It also turned out to be the last year for the product as World War II changed the landscape of baseball for years to come. In addition to the Yankee Clipper and Teddy Ballgame, you'll find Hall of Famers like Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Bobby Doerr and the rookie card of Pee Wee Reese. Only 72 cards, it will still cost almost $7,000 to collect.

#4 - 1951 Bowman


The Bowman Company produced baseball cards from 1948-1955 and this is the most coveted of the group. The initial run was 252 cards but late in production, another 72 were added and having the rookie cards of both Mantle and Mays in that "high number" series took the set to another level for collectors. You'll also find Ford, Williams, Campanella, Duke Snider, Bob Feller and many others. $13,000 - $14,000 is the ballpark price.


#3 - 1952 Topps

52_ToppsThe "Holy Grail" for collectors of post-war baseball cards, this is the first complete set issue from the Topps Company. It includes 407 cards but #'s 311-407 were issued late in the production run and are very scarce. Ironically, the first card of the difficult series is Mickey Mantle, who went on to be the most popular player of the 50's and 60's. Even though it isn't technically his rookie card, it is his first Topps card and his appeal and the scarcity of the card make it an iconic collectible. Hopefully, you're sitting down because the Mantle card in "EX 5" condition books for $20,000. The set has many other great stars including Phil Rizzuto, Warren Spahn, Richie Ashburn, Larry Doby and the rookie card of Eddie Mathews. Even common cards from the scarce series book for $140 each. The complete set is worth over $50,000.

#2 - 1933 Goudey

33_GoudeyProduced by Big League Gum, these colorful cards set the standard for sports collectibles. They were larger than earlier issues and had great eye-appeal with their artistic illustrations. As with all sets, the real demand is created by the players featured on the cards. The 240 cards in the Goudey line-up comprise a who's-who of Hall of Fame players and in many cases, the most famous ones had multiple cards in the set, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Also included are Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott and Rogers Hornsby. $50,000+ is the price tag.







That brings us to #1 and to hearken back to Saturday morning serials at the movie theater, we'll leave you hanging and talk about the winner in detail during a future visit. Here's a hint - tobacco is a key factor.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 09:14
Wait 'Til You Get A Whiff Of This PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 14 November 2014 00:00
Being born one year before Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier in the major leagues, I've always embraced positive change in the game. From Bill James’ early work to the explosion of Fantasy Baseball to expanded media coverage to new analytics, it has all been great fun. There are still some old-school roots, like wishing hitters would choke up with two strikes and put the ball in play, but change is inevitable even if we don't agree with the details at the time.

This concept struck home again recently while watching a MLB Network interview with the new Dodgers GM, Farhan Zaidi. At age 37, Zaidi has worked for the Oakland A's for the last ten years. He is a Canadian of Pakistani decent who grew up in the Philippines and becomes the first Muslim GM in the major leagues. He has economics degrees from MIT (undergraduate) and Cal Berkeley (doctorate) and is obviously well-schooled in statistical analysis, having worked for Billy Beane's "Moneyball" regime. In fact, at least one L.A. sportswriter has already criticized the Dodgers for hiring a front office of nerds who comprise a "geek squad."

In the interview, however, Zaidi came across as a smart, personable guy who clearly understands the ongoing debate of stat heads vs. scouts, and he wasn't even wearing a pocket-protector. The most interesting Q&A for fantasy players was when he was asked if it's tougher to analyze pitchers or hitters. There was no hesitation, as the new GM detailed why pitchers are so much more difficult to assess. He pointed out that something as simple as adding another pitch (like a young Mariano Rivera) can change the career path for a pitcher. And, of course, there’s the injury factor and how each pitcher might recover differently.

From a fantasy perspective, we're always looking for the Holy Grail when it comes to pitching analysis. As one of the better players in my league says at least a dozen times a season, "I hate pitchers." Another owner in the same league had a strong season in 2013 by concentrating on the WHIP/Ratio factor at the draft. While that worked in a 4x4 format, adding strikeouts to the equation would diminish the value of some control pitchers. Using K rate in a 5x5 league makes some sense, but a pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning might also issue a high volume of walks. In an earlier article, this column pointed out the stat of "Fielding Independent Pitching" (FIP) as a way to determine if a pitcher's ERA might have been lucky or unlucky in a given season.

At the recent First Pitch Arizona meeting, a plethora of smart guys discussed all types of baseball related topics. In one session, another pitching statistic was added to the mix of tools to confuse us even further. The presenter indicated that his favorite pitching metric was "Whiff Rate" because it was simple and makes sense intuitively. What you are really trying to determine with this stat are the pitchers who have the best "stuff." By digging around the FanGraphs website, you can find the "Contact %" for every major league hurler. The difference between that number and 100% is their whiff rate, or in other words, how often batters missed a pitch. Over the last three years, whiff rate for starting pitchers averages about 20%. Not surprisingly, many of the top hurlers in baseball are near the top of the list, but others might jump off the page. These numbers are based on a 160-inning minimum.

1) Francisco Liriano (Free Agent), 31.9% - Just in case you're wondering why a mid-market team like the Pirates would offer a 7-game winner $15.3 million.

2) Tyson Ross (Padres), 28.6% - Petco Park doesn't cause swings and misses.

3) Chris Sale (White Sox), 27.2% - Nasty side-winder.

4) Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), 27% - Another Cy Young Award.

5) Felix Hernandez (Mariners), 26.4% - Doesn't seem like slightly diminished velocity has impacted his stuff.

6) Ervin Santana (Free Agent), 25.7% - Another free agent who has been given the $15.3 million qualifying offer.

7) Corey Kluber (Indians), 25.6% - Under the radar in Cleveland, he appears to be the real deal.

8) Max Scherzer (Free Agent), 24.7% - You had better be good to turn down $140+ million.

9) Zack Greinke (Dodgers), 24.6% - In Kershaw's shadow, he's 32-12 over the last two seasons.

10) Garrett Richards (Angels), 24.4% - The injury factor looms.

11) Cole Hamels (Phillies), 24.4% - Might be the asset traded by Philadelphia to rebuild its roster.

12) Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), 23.8% - Has gone from over-rated to under-rated.

13) Alex Cobb, 23% (Rays) - In 49 starts over the last two seasons, his ERA is 2.82.

14) Zack Wheeler (Mets), 22.9% - Won't be 25 until after opening day 2015.

15) Jeff Samardzija (A's), 22.7% - Wouldn't you like to be his agent next off-season?

Where are some of the familiar names? Madison Bumgarner (Giants) is 19th at 22.2%, David Price (Tigers) is 23rd at 21.7% and Jon Lester (Free Agent) is 25th at 21.5%.

And, you might be wondering about the bottom-of-the-barrel? Bartolo Colon (Mets) at 12.3%, Doug Fister (Nationals) at 13.4%, Mark Buehrle (Blue Jays) at 14.1%, Scott Feldman (Astros) at 14.3% and Travis Wood (Cubs) at 14.5% round out the lowest five.

So, if your pitching toolbox isn't already overflowing, take a whiff of this information.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 02:17
Teaching An Old Duck New Tricks PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00
In 30 years of playing auction-style Fantasy Baseball, winning over 25 championships can be good news and bad news. The good news is that you've proven your skills by establishing strategies and methods for success. The bad news could be that you're hesitant to adjust and make significant changes because you're afraid to mess with the baseline that has achieved positive results. That is the quandary that presented itself last week as the 15 owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) gathered in Phoenix for their 13th annual draft.

As a quick refresher, the XFL is the only experts keeper league within the fantasy industry and many of the owners’ names are familiar to those who have viewed the landscape of fantasy sports over the years. These brilliant guys produce websites, magazines, newsletters and blogs that help guide you in becoming a better player in your league. The league is a 5x5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in early November with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters (23 players are active each week during the season). Donald's Dux (my squad) has captured four championships and holds the best overall performance record over the first dozen campaigns.

With that background, along with finishes of 1st, 1st, 2nd and 2nd over the last four years, why would the Dux consider changing their strategy? The easy answer would be lack of intelligence, but there are really two reasons based on 2014 results.

First off, last November, the Dux went to the draft table with a strong offensive keeper list and some questionable pitching. Included on the staff were Matt Harvey, who was kept despite the certainty of missing 2014 (his salary was low enough to project him on the team in '15 and beyond) and Danny Farquhar, who was projected to be the closer in Seattle but lost that opportunity when the Mariners signed Fernando Rodney. Then, at the draft table, the Dux added Matt Cain, Marco Estrada and Ricky Nolasco (among others). Due to the lack of performance from that staff, the team chased pitching all year and even after adding Tim Hudson and Jason Hammel in March, as well as trading Harvey for Adam Wainwright during the season, the numbers never really came together. The Dux garnered 73 of 75 possible hitting points but only 40 points in the five pitching categories and the 113-point total was good for a solid 2nd place finish but never really challenged for the title. Secondly, even though the traditional 70/30 split for hitting and pitching has been the basis of my draft money-management over the years, it was obvious that a different breakdown might have been more successful, which was confirmed by the championship team in my NL-only "home league", which spent 42% on pitching and essentially went wire-to-wire.

Here's the keeper list for the Dux that was frozen on October 16th:

C - Devin Mesoraco $6

C -

1B - Jose Abreu $4

3B -

1/3 - Anthony Rizzo $18

2B -

SS - Starlin Castro $16

2/S -

OF - Yasiel Puig $7

OF - Carlos Gomez $20

OF - Andrew McCutchen $19

OF - Michael Brantley $12

OF - Ben Revere $20

U -

P - Tanner Roark $12

P - Zach Britton $10

P - Jacob deGrom $10

P -

P -

P -

P -

P -

P -

The nine hitters had a salary total of $122, while the three pitchers came to $32, leaving $106 to buy 11 players at the draft table. Historically, under the 70/30 strategy, the allocation would have been $60 for the five hitters and $46 for the six pitchers. Realistically however, the hitters on the keeper list could be worth $100+ more than their salary, while the pitchers didn't have a plus side of more than $10. The answer, of course, was to throw away 30 years of success and try something else. The decision was to shift $30 from hitting to pitching at the draft and try to come out with a more balanced squad. That left $30 for the five hitters and $76 for the six pitchers. So, the draft strategy was as follows:

>  Find two everyday players for about $12 each and take three end-game hitters for a total of $6.

> On the pitching side, allocate $50 for three starting pitchers, $25 for two closers and an end-gamer for the last pitching spot.

Not much research needed to be done on the offensive side, as I could bid on any position player and was only concerned about getting regular playing time and at-bats. One thought was to prioritize a second Catcher because there is a scarcity factor when 30 backstops are rostered in an OBP league, but the options were wide open. On the pitching side, the plan needed to be a little more precise. My advice to owners has always been to not "chase" any particular player. Find a group of players that fit your need and focus on getting one of them. Based on that criteria, three starting pitching tiers were established with a goal of getting one from each tier for the $50 allocation. Here's the basic list that was generated:

Tier 1 - Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester

Tier 2 - Ervin Santana, Kyle Lohse, Tyson Ross, Lance Lynn

Tier 3 - Kyle Hendricks, Jon Niese, Francisco Liriano, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Wood

For the $25 allocation on the two closers, the list included Glen Perkins, Fernando Rodney, Jonathan Papelbon, Addison Reed, Hector Rondon, Steve Cishek, Jenrry Mejia and Huston Street. The end-gamer list had Andrew Heaney, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Ken Giles and Dellin Betances along with every other available pitcher.

Before reviewing the results of the draft, there's one other important league rule for readers to understand. Even though the word "list" is being used in this discussion, the really unique aspect of the XFL is that team owners aren’t allowed to bring anything to the lists, no projections, no research, no draft software, no laptops, no tablets and no smart phones. When you sit at the table, major league depth charts are handed out with the names of keepers crossed off and that is your only reference material during the auction. Even the depth charts are as neutral as possible with players listed by position and alphabetically. You don't get any help as the typical MLB team could have 12 relief pitchers on the sheet and you need to know which one might get (or be next in line for) saves.

The actual approach at the draft table needed to be somewhat passive-aggressive. Passive in the sense of being patient, as two-thirds of the teams had more money to spend and aggressive in the sense of acquiring solid starting pitchers. Wainwright was the first out on the table from Tier 1 and my mild concern about his elbow caused me to stay out of the bidding...he went for a slightly discounted price of $21. Next up was Hamels and the Dux stayed aggressive, winning the bid at $26. The number turned out to be a good read on the market as Greinke went for $27, Zimmermann for $25 and Lester for $26. You might disagree with my choice of Hamels versus the others, but locking in cost certainty early has its advantages.

It became clear early in the proceedings that Catchers were highly coveted. After watching Yadier Molina go off the board at $19 followed by Wilson Ramos at $18, Wilin Rosario at $15 and Yamani Grandal at $14, the Dux rostered Miguel Montero for $14 as their first hitter. The prices never really leveled off as later in the draft, Russell Martin cost $18 and Chris Iannetta $13.

Now it was back to pitching and the next addition was  Liriano at $17, which was a little over-priced but the strikeout rate is impressive. The next two hurlers were closers in Cishek and Reed at $11 and $9 respectively and then Santana for $11. Looking at the pitching plan, it seemed to be SP from each of the three tiers for $54 and two closers for $20, leaving $2 for an end-gamer.

Now it was time to get at least one more everyday player. With $16 left for four hitters, the goal was to get a some production at middle infield for $10 and then grab three end-gamers. The Dux brought up Chase Utley but the thought was that $10 probably wouldn't be enough for a player who earned $16 in this format last season. It was a pleasant surprise to get him for $6. Third base was the next priority and cornering the market on infielders named Chase, Chase Headley cost only $3.  2/S was next and hoping for a youngster with upside instead of a mediocre veteran, the Dux took Nick Franklin for $1.

With $8 remaining for the last pitcher and a utility player, it seemed like we were swimming in cash. Surprisingly, Kyle Lohse was still available and nobody raised my $1 bid. He's not a sexy choice but is durable and earned $7 in this league in 2014. The Utility spot was filled for another $1 with Colby Rasmus and in retrospect, a middle infielder would have been a better choice as insurance for Franklin.

Realistically, you can't go into a league with this type of inflation thinking that your $106 can buy $106 in value. However, looking at the 11 players drafted, it's reasonable to assume that their worth is at least $70. Added to the $280 estimated value of the keepers, that's $350 of value in a $260 league. That seems like a good start for the 2015 season. Of course, many additions in the March Supplemental phase will improve many rosters and fill gaps due to November draft mistakes, injuries and role changes. Thanks to their 2nd place finish, the Dux have the 1st pick in March, so there may be another Cuban in our future.

You can peruse additional league information at



Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 10:22
MVP's Go To WAR PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 31 October 2014 00:00
"Wins Above Replacement" (WAR) has been discussed in this space on multiple occasions and the complete definition and calculation formulas can be found at as well as In essence, it is an attempt by baseball analysts to come up with a player's overall contribution to their team in one statistic. The key question is, "If this player got injured and was replaced by an available minor leaguer or Quad-A bench player, how much value would the team be losing?" The answer is shown as the number of wins a player is worth to his team over the course of a season. If you're an "old school" fan, this type of stat might not be your cup of tea, but over the years it has become much more mainstream and is certainly taken into consideration by writers who vote on post-season awards.

With that background, let's look at the real MVP's of each major league team for 2014.

AL East

> Orioles - Adam Jones led the Birds with a WAR of 5.4 but the more surprising stat is that part-time 1B/OF Steve Pearce was next at 4.9. His 21 homers and .930 OPS were significantly important to the O's winning their division.

> Yankees - This expensive and aging squad didn't have even one player worth four wins...Jacoby Ellsbury's WAR of 3.6 was the team's best.

> Blue Jays - Jose Bautista's season, with 35 homers, 103 RBI and a .928 OPS equaled an All-Star type WAR of other team member was above 3.6.

> Rays - Ben Zobrist was easily the most valuable player in Tampa Bay with a figure of 5.7, double-digit homers and steals along with defensive versatility.

> Red Sox - A dismal campaign for the Beantowners is amplified when you find that their best player was Jon Lester (4.5 WAR) and he was traded at the deadline.

AL Central

> Tigers - Max Scherzer (5.6) and Ian Kinsler (5.5) both topped Miguel Cabrera's WAR of 5.4...and Miggy's new $240 million contract doesn't even start until 2016.

> Royals - The Cinderella team was led by Alex Gordon, who was worth 6.6 wins. Gold glove defense makes a difference.

> Indians - If you don't know much about Corey Kluber, start paying attention. His WAR of 7.3 was the best figure for pitchers in the AL and on the same level with Clayton Kershaw in the Majors. The Tribe also had another under-the-radar spectacular player in Michael Brantley, who registered a WAR of 6.6.

> White Sox - Chris Sale (5.4), Jose Quintana (5.3) and Jose Abreu (5.3) give the Pale Hose a great young core.

> Twins - Phil Hughes might have been the best free-agent signing with a WAR of 6.1 and young second baseman Brian Dozier chipped in with 4.6.

AL West

> Angels - Mike Trout is the best player in baseball with a 2014 WAR of 7.8...that gives him 28 wins in his first three full seasons.

> Athletics - Josh Donaldson's 6.4 rating is twice as much as the next most valuable member of the squad.

> Mariners - If you wonder how they got so much better, just look at Felix Hernandez (6.1), Kyle Seager (5.5) and Robinson Cano (5.3).

> Astros - Jose Altuve wins the best "pound-for-pound" award with a WAR of 5.2.

> Rangers - Despite the team's dismal season, Adrian Beltre was still a force at age 35 with a number of 5.8.

NL East

> Nationals - Not a marquee name, but Anthony Rendon had a remarkable season with a WAR of 6.6, while Jordan Zimmermann led the pitching staff with 5.2.

> Mets - Not much to brag about on this squad, as Juan Lagares led the way at 3.8...and that was mostly generated from glove work.

> Braves - Jason Heyward led the way with a figure of 5.1. As with Gordon, decent production and gold glove caliber defense.

> Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton missed a significant chunk of September and still posted an impressive 6.1...definite league MVP candidate.

> Phillies - An aging team with large contracts only had one player worth at least four wins with Chase Utley at 4.1.

NL Central

> Cardinals - A questionable free-agent signing turned out to be gold for the Redbirds as Jhonny Peralta posted a WAR of 5.4.

> Pirates - Not much doubt on the Bucs roster, as reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen had another amazing season with a figure of 6.8.

> Brewers - A disappointing finish marred the accomplishments of Jonathan Lucroy (6.3) and Carlos Gomez (5.9).

> Reds - In March, who would have thought that Todd Frazier would be the team's best player with a WAR of 4.7?

> Cubs - A 25-year-old player on the cusp of stardom, Anthony Rizzo posted a figure of 5.6 and could get even better.

NL West

> Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw will be the runaway Cy Young Award winner and his WAR of 7.2 might also tempt MVP voters.

> Giants - Buster Posey is the face of the franchise and their most valuable player with a mark of 5.7.

> Padres - This was an extremely mediocre team and they finished 3rd in this division. Sadly, a part-time, 31-year-old Catcher named Rene Rivera led the WAR parade with 3.0 wins.

> Rockies - Injuries decimated this squad and Troy Tulowitzki posted a 5.1 WAR in only half a season.

> Diamondbacks - Another injured player was this team's best, as Paul Goldschmidt had 4.4 wins before hitting the DL.

Overall, the five best offense players were:

1) Mike Trout 7.8

2) Andrew McCutchen 6.8

T3) Michael Brantley 6.6

T3) Alex Gordon 6.6

T3) Anthony Rendon 6.6

And the top six pitchers:

1) Corey Kluber 7.3

2) Clayton Kershaw 7.2

3) Felix Hernandez 6.2

T4) David Price 6.1

T4) Phil Hughes 6.1

T4) Jon Lester 6.1

As the folks at Fan Graphs point out, you shouldn't get too bogged down in decimal points. Over the course of a  season, one player with a 6.4 WAR and another player with a 6.1 WAR cannot really be distinguished from each other. However, a 6.4 WAR player and a 4.1 WAR player are significantly different when calculating their value to a team in any given season. If you had no other information available and had been in solitary confinement since March, your MVP ballot with Trout in the AL and McCutchen in the NL along with a Cy Young ballot listing Kluber in the AL and Kershaw in the NL certainly wouldn't put your BWAA membership card in jeopardy.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 08:42
Jeepers Creepers Where'd You Get Those Keepers PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
Don't lie to me! At some point, you've been in a relationship where you thought of the other person as a "keeper". What exactly did you mean by that? Could the objective definition be someone whose value is worth the cost...both emotionally and financially? For those of us who are fortunate enough to play keeper league fantasy baseball, the definition is even more telling. As with John Hart and Ervin Santana or Neal Huntington and Russell Martin, we must make those tough calls when it comes to our roster. Of course, our decisions don't involve $15.3 million, but they are nonetheless difficult and heart-wrenching.

Every keeper league has its unique characteristics, but 99% of the time, keeper decisions are being made within a month of opening day, when information and advice is plentiful. For the owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), their keeper list is due in mid-October for an auction draft that takes place just as the World Series is ending. The XFL is a 15-team mixed keeper league with a $260 auction draft for a roster of 23 players (14 hitters + 9 pitchers). It has a standard 5x5 format with On-Base Percentage (OBP) replacing Batting Average (BA) and each team can keep up to 15 players, including minor league prospects. So, for example, if three of your 15 keepers are Farm players (less than 50 AB's or 20 IP in the Majors), you still need to draft 11 players at the table. To give you some understanding of the challenges involved, here's a quick review of the salary structure.

> November Draft - Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there's a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.

> March Supplemental Draft - A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major leaguers, the increase each season is $5, so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around include Dallas Keuchel, Kole Calhoun, Todd Frazier, Ian Kennedy and Marcell Ozuna. Minor leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to "the show", their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the "dynasty" component in this particular league. An example would be Andrew McCutchen, who was taken as a minor leaguer by Donald's Dux (my squad) in 2007 and now enters his 7th season on the roster at a salary of $19.

> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections - Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you'll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Danny Duffy, Danny Santana, Jake McGee, J.D. Martinez, Neftali Feliz and Steve Pearce.

As with all keeper leagues, draft inflation is an important factor and some of the bargain salaries put the percentage beyond the scope of my abacus. This creates an atmosphere where one of the difficult decisions regarding keepers is not just their value vs. cost, but what the estimated price will be at the draft to get them back. This makes those marginal keepers even more valuable as you pare your roster down to 15. As an instructive exercise for keeper league aficionados, we'll look at each roster and choose a "no-brainer" keeper (the team's MVP) and a marginal keeper in the classic "bubble" category. That way, you can drool over the former and see if you agree with the latter.

> Jeff Winick

* MVP - Victor Martinez $16 - One of the five top-earners in this format, he was a big factor in Jeff's championship run. Another season like 2014 would produce + $20 in value.

* Bubble - Ryan Braun $25 - Battled injuries and a lack of chemicals in 2014 to earn about $16, but what would he go for at the table?

> Don Drooker

* MVP - Jose Abreu $4 - By virtue of the 1st pick last March, the Cuban slugger became a member of the Dux. Anything close to 2014 results could be + $25 in value.

* Bubble - Ben Revere $20 - A great 2nd half got his value close to this salary, but the Phillies don't seem to be sold. If he gets traded, relegated to a platoon or moved down in the lineup, he becomes a "one-trick pony" (Paul Simon, 1980).

> Todd Zola

* MVP - Brian Dozier $10 - His breakout season produced close to $30 in value at a middle-infield position.

* Bubble - Jeff Samardzija $16 - Lord Z's roster only has seven keepers, so there aren't really any marginal players, but this pitcher's value could be impacted by a trade.

> Peter Kreutzer / Alex Patton

* MVP - Mike Trout $13 - One of those dynasty players, he'll be on this roster when George Jetson's son Elroy is running for President.

* Bubble - Hanley Ramirez $28 - A scarce position, but where will he land...and will he stay healthy?

> Ron Shandler

* MVP - Garrett Richards $6 - One of those great picks from March, he should be 100% for Spring Training.

* Bubble - Tommy La Stella $4 - Probably has the job, but with little power or speed, will he keep it? If this is your most marginal keeper, things aren't too bad.

> Lawr Michaels

* MVP - Yoenis Cespedes $10 - Could double this number in value while tattooing the Green Monster.

* Bubble - Jedd Gyorko $7 - Not a big investment, but his season was a real disappointment.

> Greg Ambrosius

* MVP - Josh Donaldson $11 - Produced over $25 in value in this format.

* Bubble - Salvador Perez $19 - Catchers are always at a premium in this league because 30 must be drafted and there are less than 25 who have a positive dollar value with OBP as a stat category.

> Doug Dennis

* MVP - Corey Dickerson $6 - Never highly touted, can he re-produce that $20-$25 season?

* Bubble - Elvis Andrus $19 - Had a down year but offers position and speed scarcity.

> Jeff Erickson

* MVP - Johnny Cueto $14 - Of course, it had to be a Red. Trailed only Clayton Kershaw for pitching value in this format at $34.

* Bubble - Brett Lawrie $13 - Needs to be healthy (and productive) to make this work.

> Brian Feldman

* MVP - Josh Harrison $10 - Not only had a great breakout season, he has multiple-position eligibility.

* Bubble - Gerrit Cole $7 - Not much of a risk at this price, but injuries seem to be an issue.

> Steve Moyer

* MVP - Jose Altuve $25 - Even at this salary, he's a bargain. Only five hitters earned more in 2014.

* Bubble - Brian McCann $23 - Another difficult Catcher decision, as he was impacted dramatically by defensive shifts. Maybe that September surge was a good sign.

> Gene McCaffrey

* MVP - Matt Carpenter $11 - A solid contributor, he doubled this number in value.

* Bubble - Drew Pomeranz $6 - Pitched well when available, but only logged 69 innings.

> Perry Van Hook

* MVP - Dee Gordon $6- Picked up in March and was the most valuable SS in this league.

* Bubble - Mark Trumbo $13 - Still offers that power potential and home runs get more scarce all the time.

> Brian Walton

* MVP - Justin Morneau $6 - Loved the altitude in Denver and under contract with the Rockies for at least one more year.

* Bubble - Matt Moore $10 - These are much tougher decisions in October than in March. The Rays are hoping he'll be ready in May.

While you're trick or treating on October 31, these 15 (or 16 if Alex makes an appearance) hearty fellows will be bidding in Arizona and enjoying the camaraderie of the XFL's 12th annual draft. More information and the league history can be found at 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
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