Strategy

Posts involving ways to become a more strategic fantasy baseball player.

Test Yourself - Are You a Stat Chaser?

Test Yourself – Are You a Stat Chaser?

We’ve all been there.  A player gets hot and hits several home runs in a week or a rookie gets called up and goes 3-for-3 in his first game.  But one of the most dangerous things a fantasy owner can do is “chase” these stats.  When adding players, you don’t get credit for yesterday.

The challenge is to be ahead of the curve.  Pickup the players before the big opportunity comes.  Accumulate the good stats.  Sense when a turn has been made and bail.

The worst thing you can do is continually chase today’s “hot” player, hold him for the next two weeks when he does nothing, and then repeat the cycle.

This is extremely difficult to do.  It’s against human nature.  It makes us feel warm and fuzzy to pick up that hot player.  It’s stressful and fraught with uncertainty to pickup a struggling player that may soon come into opportunity.  How can we fight these urges and determine how well we do at this?

Look Back

Wouldn’t it be great if there were an easy way to look back at every player you’ve owned over the course of the year to see the statistics they earned for your team?  You could see if you’ve owned a bunch of players that performed well below their season averages.  Then you’re likely a “stat chaser”.

Or maybe the majority of players performed in line with the rest of their season statistics and you’re displaying the patience and foresight necessary to succeed at this game.  Regardless, a restrospective review of your players’ performances can indicate if a change is necessary or confirm you’re on the right track.

The Good News Is…

There is an easy way to do this (at least in Yahoo! and CBS leagues).  In Yahoo!, access the “Team Log” link on your page.  In CBS leagues, look up player stats and filter them to show “fantasy” stats, meaning those actually accumulated for your team.

How To View Accumulated Stats In Yahoo!

  1. On your “My Team” page, locate the “Team Log” link.
    retro1
  2. You’ll then be presented with the list of every player you’ve owned over the course of the season and the statistics they’ve accumulated for your team (Forgive the small images.  Click on pictures below to see a full-size image).
    retro2
  3. You want to see players with stat lines consistent to their season averages.  The rate statistics like batting average, ERA, and WHIP are easy to compare.  You’ll have to adjust counting stats for games played, at bats, or innings pitched.   If you stream pitchers or selectively start those on your team, you hope to see an ERA and WHIP below season averages (under the assumption that you’re cherry picking the good matchups).
    retro3
  4. You don’t want to see pitchers with stat lines well worse than season averages.  This indicates one of several things.  You’re either failing at selecting good matchups.  You overreacted to one or two bad starts, accumulating the bad stats and not having the patience to wait for the regression.  Or you’re unlucky.
    retro4
  5. Be on the lookout for stat lines like the one below.  They’re not necessarily problematic if done in the right fashion.  I will often speculate very early on a player that I think will soon come into a favorable situation or opportunity, hoping for a huge payoff.  For this approach, hopefully I’ll also see a handful of “hits” to offset “misses” like this one on Martin.
    retro5

 

How To View Accumulated Stats in CBS

The process to get these statistics on CBS’ website is a little more convoluted, but it’s not difficult to do. (more…)

Case Study:  How I Increased Team Batting Average 30 Points

Case Study: How I Increased Team Batting Average 30 Points

It was this article by Tristan Cockroft in early May that jolted me.  I was sitting in the middle of the overall rotisserie standings in my mixed league, but was last in batting average by over 10 points.

One of the main takeaways from Cockroft’s article is that if you’re in trouble in the batting average category, you need to recognize this and make changes earlier in the season to address the problem than you do for the counting categories.  This is because batting average is a ratio statistic in which the denominator of the calculation (at bats) continues to steadily grow as the season goes along.  It’s much easier to nudge the batting average 5 points in May than it is in August or September.

I Needed To Act

On April 24th I sat in last place with a .236 team batting average.  Pretty pathetic for a fantasy squad in any format.  At the All-Star break I’ve managed to raise the average to .266 and climb into 6th in the category.  Here’s how I did it.

Date Move Verdict
April 24 Before even reading Cockroft’s article, I made a key move that has really paid off.  Added Matt Carpenter.  Dropped Kyle Seager.  Win
April 28 Still hadn’t read Cockroft’s article.  Took a shot on a potential batting average stud.  Added Nolan Arenado. Dropped Andrew Bailey (he had just gone on DL).  Draw
May 2 Read Cockroft’s article.  I realize it’s time to start making some bold moves to address the problem.
May 5 I’m also last in SB.  Added Dee Gordon.  Dropped Ike Davis. Nothing to lose here.  If Gordon could have hit .220 and stolen bases he would have improved my team average simply by not being Ike Davis.  Draw
May 10 Dropped Wil Middlebrooks.  Added Norichika Aoki.  Win
May 16 Nobody wanted to believe in the hot start.  Couldn’t believe he was still a free agent.  Dropped Josh Rutledge. Added Josh Donaldson.  Win
May 27 Decide it’s time to cut ties with Dee Gordon.  Dropped Gordon.  Added Leonys Martin.  Win
May 28 My dearth of hitting is at least offset by riches in the pitching categories.  Decide I’m willing to overpay for hitting because of significant leads in pitching categories. Trade away Prince Fielder, Adam Wainwright, Mariano Rivera, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Received Miguel Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and Matt Cain.  Win
June 9 Painful to look at this one in retrospect.  Decide to go for more proven batting average and SB possibilities.  Dropped Leonys Martin.  Added Shane Victorino.  Loss
June 15 Still need SB too.  Dropped Norichika Aoki.  Added Nate McClouth.  Win
June 21 Still need average and steals.  Cain had started to turn a corner.  Still had a lead in pitching categories.  Traded away BJ Upton, Aaron Hill, and Matt Cain.  Received Hanley Ramirez and Hunter Pence.  Win
July 5 Realize my DL slots are unoccupied.  In preparation for their pending returns, dropped speculation pick of Johnny Giovatella and added Adam Eaton and Derek Jeter.  TBD

Other Items Of Note

It wasn’t just who was added and dropped that made a difference.  We are also constantly making the decision of who to keep.  Who you choose to hang on to, especially during their times of struggle, is just as important.  Here’s a list of players that remained on my team from April 26th to July 14th and their batting averages at those end points:

BattingAvg

Evaluating The Approach

Looking back, you might argue that this was really all based on luck.  And to some extent luck has played a very important role.  But there was also a concerted effort to accumulate strong batting average plays and also a few “lottery tickets”, many of which have paid off.  And in the end, that’s what fantasy baseball is.  Collecting a bunch of assets that we hope will pay off.

I was acquiring Miguel Cabrera for a .330 average and wasn’t expecting .360.  I’m didn’t expect Josh Donaldson to continue to hit over .300, but he seemed like an upgrade over Josh Rutledge.  I continue to look for more “tickets” in Adam Eaton and Derek Jeter, both potential batting average stars (especially in relation to what else you can find at this point in the season).

I made mistakes along the way.  I was in on Leonys Martin very early.  Too early to catch the recent hot streak, and not patient enough to wait around for it to play out.

In hindsight many of these moves seem obvious.  I swapped a bunch of players hitting below .240 and replaced them with guys having the potential to hit for much better average.  But in the moment, it can be difficult to make moves like this.  You want to believe in the potential of guys like Ike Davis, Wil Middlebrooks, and Josh Rutledge.  The key is in realizing when the detriment of a .240 average is outweighing the possible 30 HR from a Davis or 15 SB from a Rutledge.  Recognize when the .280 hitter that will only hit 20 HR is the better fit for your team.

Takeaway

If you have a lot of ground to gain in a category, a concerted effort and a series of thoughtfully guided moves, all carefully aimed at improving that weakness, is your best move.  These don’t all have to happen in a short period of time, but you must constantly be monitoring your team and your place in each category.  Make steady and continuous effort to address weaknesses.

Take chances.  Overpay, using categories of relative strength, if you have to.  Be diligent.  Be relentless.  To borrow and tweak a quote from Mark Cuban’s foreword in “The Extra 2%”, “No one move is likely to make a difference.  But collectively, those moves make the difference between winning and losing”.

Mistakes will be made.  But because you’re making a series of calculated moves that all have a relatively high likelihood of panning out, you will make progress over all.  The wins will exceed the losses.

Thanks For Reading

I know it’s taboo to talk about ones own fantasy teams.  But I believe this exercise was a helpful illustration of what it takes to make significant progress in the standings.

Stay smart.


Young Players and Your Push For the Championship

Young Players and Your Push For the Championship

Up until now, I’ve been led to believe that the reason Wil Myers hasn’t been called up to play for the Tampa Bay Rays is simply because of service time concerns and an attempt to maximize the Rays’ control of Myers before he can become a free agent (delaying a call up until after a certain point of the season may allow a team one more year of control over a player before free agency).

I’ve even heard it said that it seems like the Rays are willing to sacrifice an opportunity to win now, while they still have David Price (who will be a free agent after the season), just to get this extra year of service out of Myers.

But maybe It’s not Really About Service Time

On the June 12th edition of his Baseball Tonight podcast, Buster Olney interviewed Rays GM Andrew Friedman about Wil Myers’ development and the range of time when Myers’ could be called up, and here’s an excerpt of the response (the Friedman interview starts at about the 24 minute mark, the comments on Myers are around 33:40):

As much as we can continue that development while he’s there (in the minors) and not affecting us as we’re trying to win games is good. And that goes for any young player, I think. While we’re competitive it’s a little bit different in how we view our young players, and if we weren’t competitive we’d probably bring them up a little bit earlier. But it’s challenging in that we can’t just bring them up to the major league level to let them finish their development. ~ Andrew Friedman – General Manager, Tampa Bay Rays

(more…)
Does It Make Sense To Carry Three Catchers?

Does It Make Sense To Carry Three Catchers?

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Yahoo! Games Played Tracker does a great job of projecting your games played by position

I play in a couple mixed leagues that use the standard rotisserie lineup configuration (if there is such a “standard” any longer) of 2 C, 1B, 3B, CI, 2B, SS, MI, 5 OF, and one UTIL/DH.  In these two catcher leagues, I perpetually leave games played on the table because no catcher plays 162 games in a season.  But in a league with games played limits, you’re given 324 games to be played by catchers during the season (162 games * 2 catchers).

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2012 Catcher leaders in games played courtesy of Fangraphs. Click the image to view this information at Fangraphs.com.

If  you only carry two catchers all year, by the time you reach the end of the season you could easily be looking at coming up 60+ games short of the allotted 324.  To illustrate, look at the catcher leaders in games played for 2012 (Note:  these are not necessarily the top 24 fantasy catchers, just MLB games played leaders).

Some of the top fantasy options like Buster Posey and Joe Mauer play a lot of games (approaching 150).  But when you start to account for the fact that 24 catchers must be started in a 12-team two-catcher league, you can see how many games will be left on the table (many don’t even get to 120 games).  And each one of those games is a missed opportunity for counting stats like runs, home runs, and RBI.

I hate the idea of using a coveted bench spot to hold the 25th best catcher.  What kind of stat line does such a player have?  But missing out on 60-80 games played seems like a huge missed opportunity.  So let’s get to the bottom of this. (more…)

The Buzz About Profar

The Buzz About Profar

Buster Olney just sent sizeable shock waves through the fantasy baseball landscape with this news:

OlneyTweet

 

Profar has sense been officially called up to the Texas Rangers.  With the amount of buzz being generated by this news, it’s time to revisit the idea that the values of players go through artificial and unfounded changes.  With news of his call up, Profar’s value to players in single-year/redraft leagues may never be higher during the 2013 season.

A few things to keep in mind about Profar:

  • He’s been touted  as the number one prospect in baseball for some time now
  • There is often confusion as to what it means to be the number one prospect.  This means he’s the best real-life baseball prospect.  Position scarcity benefits Profar (playing shortstop).  Defensive abilities are a factor in the ranking.  These things have no direct effect on our fake baseball teams’ performances.
  • He is only 20 years old.
  • He’s been roughly a .275-.280 hitter over his 3+ seasons in the minor leagues
  • If you take his minor league career average per game numbers and extrapolate them to a 162 game season you come up with 110 R, 16 HR, 80 RBI, 25 SB, 42 doubles.
    Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
    2010 17 TEX-min A- 63 288 252 42 63 19 4 23 8 3 28 46 .250 .323 .373
    2011 18 TEX-min A 115 516 430 86 123 37 12 65 23 9 65 63 .286 .390 .493
    2012 19 TEX-min AA 126 562 480 76 135 26 14 62 16 4 66 79 .281 .368 .452
    2013 20 TEX-min AAA 37 166 144 27 40 7 4 19 6 1 21 24 .278 .370 .438
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 5/19/2013.
  • If you believe he can make a smooth transition to the major leagues, this would put him somewhere in the neighborhood of being a top-eight fantasy shortstop (those numbers are similar to preseason projections for Ben Zobrist, Jimmy Rollins, Asdrubal Cabrera).
  • While he’s joining a strong MLB offense, we don’t know where he will bat in the TEX lineup.  He’s been batting second in AAA.  His spot in the lineup can significantly affect his run and RBI production.
  • The move is the result of Ian Kinsler being placed on the DL.  Profar may not even have sole ownership of the second base job while Kinsler is out.  Ron Washington has stated that he will share time with Leury Garcia.
  • When Kinsler returns, the Rangers will still have playing time and lineup issues to sort out.  Kinsler has played in 945 career games.  He’s played 2B in 944 of them.  He’s never played the outfield.  He’s never played first base.  Mitch Moreland has played the outfield.  But he’s only played right field.  Nelson Cruz plays right field.  He has played a small amount of left field.  But not much.

Make An Educated Decision

I’m not saying to avoid Profar.  Or to move him if you own him.  But there are a multitude of factors that suggest his value may be at an all time high soon after he is called up.  There is buzz.  It’s “cooler” to own the top young prospect than it is to own an aging veteran like Jimmy Rollins (even if they put up similar numbers).

If you own Profar in a single-year/redraft league, it’s at least worth your time to float him to the league and see what kind of offers arise.  If you don’t own him but would like to buy, be aware that his price may be at an all-time high.

Get smart.

A Major Error In Evaluating Fantasy Baseball Trades

As my three-year old daughter would say, “Let’s pretend…”.

Let’s pretend you’re a young boy.  Your Dad works at a factory that produces Snickers bars.  Each Friday he brings you a king-sized Snickers bar home from the factory.  Accordingly, you’ve had a lot of Snickers bars in your life.  More than any one in the neighborhood.

Your good friend Timmy lives down the street.  His father also works at a candy bar factory, but he works in the Mounds bar facility.  Each Friday Timmy’s dad brings him home a regular-sized Mounds bar.

Every king-sized Snickers bar you eat is a little less satisfying than the previous one.  Every regular-sized Mounds bar Timmy eats is a little less satisfying than the previous Mounds bar.

You long for a Mounds bar.  Timmy would kill for a Snickers.

Let’s Make A Deal

Even though you have a king-sized Snickers bar, you would gladly trade it for Timmy’s regular-sized Mounds bar.  You’ve had enough Snickers bars.  Enough chewy nougat.  Enough gooey caramel.  Snickers mean little to you at this point.  You want almonds.  You want coconut.  The smaller Mounds bar provides more benefit to you than the larger Snickers bar.

If you really want a Mounds bar, it would be foolish to keep a Snickers bar that has no value to you, despite the Snickers bar being larger in size than the Mounds bar.

That’s The Key

A trade should be evaluated on the benefit it provides to you relative to the cost you must pay.  The smaller Mounds bar provides great benefit to you.  Giving up the larger Snickers bar has little effect on your level of happiness.

The Major Mistake Often Made

But that’s not what we see in fantasy baseball.  The mistake fantasy managers often make is to compare their own cost to the cost of the other owner.  The benefits to their team are ignored.

“Well, I’m not going to give you my king-sized Snickers bar for your regular-sized Mounds bar.”

Or, “I’m not going to trade you my 50th ranked player for your 80th ranked player”.

The ranking of the player should not be the determining factor in your decision.  The decision should hinge upon if the 80th player can help your team more than the 50th player can.

How Could the 80th Ranked Player Help Me More Than the 50th ranked Player?

There are a lot of scenarios where this could occur.  If you have a weak middle infield but a strong outfield, trading an OF ranked #50 for a SS ranked #80 could significantly upgrade your team’s overall level of production.  Or if you are leading the league in home runs but are last in steals, trading a higher ranked power-hitter for a lower ranked stolen base specialist makes great sense.

But Do Your Homework

If we go back to the candy bar example, we’ve reached the conclusion that it makes sense to trade your king-sized Snickers for Timmy’s regular-sized Mounds.  But you also know that Sally’s dad works at the king-sized Mounds factory.  And Johnny’s dad works at the Skittles factory and brings him home a pack every day (instead of just on Fridays).

It makes sense to trade with Timmy.  But you also have a responsibility to make sure Timmy’s offer provides you the highest BENEFITS for the cost of the Snickers bar.  Your best strategic play is to make/solicit offers from a variety of others to maximize the benefit of trading your Snickers bar (don’t ever make a trade by negotiating with just one manager).

The Coin Is Two-Sided

You must also consider the benefit you are providing to the other team in the trade.  A trade can only occur when both parties come to the realization that the benefits of the players received exceed the cost of the players traded away.  If Timmy’s parents are divorced and his step-father that’s trying to buy his affection works with your Dad in the Snickers bar factory, you’re screwed.

Do Us All A Favor

If you find yourself attempting to work out a trade with someone hung up on player rankings or unable pull the trigger because, “He’s giving more in the deal than you are”, tell them the fascinating story of Timmy and his Mounds bar.

Learn something smart every day.

 

 

Running the Math on Early Season Batting Averages

Running the Math on Early Season Batting Averages

We’re now into May.  For the last month you’ve been beaten over the head with fantasy advice telling you to wait until at least May before making any significant moves.

You’ve exercised patience.  You haven’t made any brash decisions.  But maybe you’re still sitting with B.J. Upton (.149 BA), Ike Davis (.167), Will Middlebrooks (.193), Jose Bautista (.205), Edwin Encarnacion (.221), Matt Wieters (.224), or Martin Prado (.232) on your team.

Or maybe you’re me, with all of them…

RunTheMath
Unfortunately, they’re not really on the bench. I just ordered them this way to show them next to each other. Perhaps foolishly, I trot most of these guys out into my lineup every day.

But what do these batting averages mean?  How bad are they?  How far are they from being acceptable?  What would one good week do to a struggling player’s average?

I’m Glad You Asked

But first, let’s gain a little perspective.  I may have a fundamental flaw in the construction of this team, because with the exception of Prado, none of these guys could be expected to hit .300.  Here are their current year and career batting average and BABIP at the time of this article:

RunTheMath1
Current Year and Career BA and BABIP, Stats Courtesy of Fangraphs

From looking at the career BABIPs and their BABIPs to this point, it’s clear that each of these players has been “unlucky” to some degree (many of their BABIPs are 80 to 100 points below career levels).  

With that in mind, let’s play a simple game of “what if”.

What If Each of These Guys Had Five More Hits Since Opening Day?

As I mentioned above, we’re at about the 30 game mark for most teams.  We’re at the end of the fifth week.  What if, over the five weeks, each of these players had JUST ONE MORE HIT EACH WEEK?  I’m not asking for the world here.  Just one more hit each week, for a total of five more hits since opening day.

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Scenario 1 – Each Player Has One More Hit Each Week of the Season So Far (five more hits)

Look at the column “BA w/ 5 More Hits”.  That looks a lot better, doesn’t it?  Most of the players see their average jump at least 50 points.  In fact, of the seven players listed, three of them (Bautista, Encarnacion, and Wieters) actually SURPASS their career batting averages under this scenario.  And four of the seven players reach the .250 mark (Bautista, Encarnacion, Wieters, and Prado).

Things are not as bad as they seem.

Yeah, But Those Five Hits Didn’t Happen…

You’re still skeptical?  I’d be seeing the glass as half-empty too if I had any of these batting average leaches on my team…  Oh wait.  I have them all.

But if you’re not sold on five bloop hits dropping in over the course of a month, let me propose another scenario.

What If Each Of These Guys Has A Good Week Starting Tomorrow?

And let’s keep it reasonable.  We’ll say they go 10-for-25 next week for a .400 batting average.   (more…)