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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.
  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).
  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).
  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.
  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.


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:


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.


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.

Smart Elsewhere #5 – TINSTAAPP with Paul Sporer and Doug Thorburn

In this edition of “Smart Elsewhere“, we take a look at the TINSTAAPP podcast started recently by Doug Thorburn and Paul Sporer.

About The Duo

Paul Sporer’s work can be found all over the web, but he’s most known for his Starting Pitchers Guide series, his work at Baseball Prospectus, and his own blog,

Doug has a pitching mechanics background and worked for a time at the National Pitching Association and does great work on analyzing MLB pitchers’ mechanics (you can see a great sample here).

Paul and Doug teamed up this year on the 2013 Starting Pitchers Guide.  This guide, originally started by Sporer several years ago, is a lengthy and in-depth look at hundreds of starting pitchers, Paul’s expectations for the season, statistical analysis and more.  He added Doug’s work on pitching mechanics to the guide this year.

About The Podcast

These two team up about once each week and pump out a three or four hour podcast dedicated exclusively to pitching.  It’s a lot to take in, but it’s great content.  The information is not directly from a fantasy baseball perspective, although Paul will very frequently mix in his thoughts and how their discussions relate to fantasy baseball.

One mission of the podcast is to explain that poor pitching performances are not simply the result of bad BABIP luck, unlucky strand rates, or flukey home run rates.  Poor and inconsistent mechanics result in the inability to locate pitches and problems with command and control.  They seek to diagnose the specific reasons why pitchers are struggling and determine if and how things can be corrected.

The 10% Pitch

In an earlier TINSTAAPP episode the two made a passing reference to the phrase “a 10% pitch”.  It was a quick mention, but the implication was that if a pitcher can add a third pitch that can be thrown 10% of the time, that it can have a dramatic impact on the pitcher’s results.

This piqued my interested greatly because as you may recall, over a month ago we learned that Max Scherzer began using a curveball much more frequently than in the past.  He’s throwing it about 10% of the time in 2013.  With this in mind I then launched a quest to find other pitchers throwing new pitches in 2013.

Hearing Doug and Paul mention this “10% pitch”, I needed to know more.  So I e-mailed them to get a better explanation.

The Response

My e-mail was actually read and addressed on the June 25th episode (links below, my e-mail is referenced at about the 1 hour 45 minute mark if you want to hear the audio).  Sporer and Thorburn offer two explanations as to why adding an effective pitch that can be thrown at least 10% of the time is a big deal:

  • Paul points out that besides the fastball, pitchers need to have at least one more effective pitch for facing opposite-handed batters (typically a slider thrown by a right-handed pitcher is effective against right-handed batters, but not as effective to left-handed batters).  So in effect, a pitcher needs a second pitch that is effective to same-handed batters and a third pitch that is effective against opposite-handed batters.  When a pitcher adds a new “10% pitch”, it’s often indicative that they are adding a pitch intended to face these opposite handed-hitters that they currently don’t have an effective second pitch for.  If you consider that this “10% pitch” will be focused on batters on one side of the plate, it’s more than likely a 20% or more pitch to batters on that side (and closer to 0% to the same-handed batters).
  • Doug answered from a straight probability point of view and his response made great sense to me.  He gives the simplistic example of dividing the strike zone into four even quadrants (from the hitter’s point of view:  up and in, down and in, up and away, low and away).  A pitcher with one pitch can allocate pitch location to each of the four quadrants, giving a 25% likelihood that this one pitch will be thrown in a given quadrant.  If you mix in a second pitch, that increases the available options to eight (pitch #1 in each of the four locations, pitch #2 in each of the four locations).  From a probability standpoint, this means a 12.5% likelihood that a hitter could correctly guess pitch type and location.  And if you now add a third pitch, you have 12 options.  This means only an 8.33% likelihood that a hitter could guess pitch type and location correctly.

Applying This

Not only might it be a good idea to revisit the process to find pitchers throwing new pitches to identify those with a new 10% pitch, it’s a great tool to keep in mind for pitchers to target prior to next season.  Sporer and Thorburn spend a great deal of time talking about how Shelby Miller really only has a fastball and a curveball and has not yet developed another 10% pitch.  But you can see from the usage data at that Miller is working on a changeup.  If he can add this as a legitimate pitch in his arsenal, he may be a top ace as early as next year.

Make smart choices. If you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter if you find the work on this site worthwhile. Thanks for reading.

 Links To The Podcast



Reader Question: I Only Have Several Hours A Week To Devote, What Resources Should I Use?

I recently received a great question from one of the SFBB readers.  So great, that I thought I’d answer in the form of a blog post:

We hit the waiver wire only once a week in our league.  You certainly have given me great tools, but if you have my three or four hours a week to devote, with what and who do you suggest I spend this time? For instance since reading your thoughts, I really believe Olney is a must read.

~ Eddie

This seemingly simple question became complicated for me to answer.  I wasn’t sure if Eddie just wanted to know who my most trusted resources are.  Or if he wanted an outline of a specific process and prioritization I would use to fill three hours a week.

So I’ll take a stab at both.  If you’re looking for my list of most trusted fantasy baseball resources, skip down to the bottom of this post.  If you’re curious about the specific process I would employ to get the most “bang for your buck” by making the most of those three hours each week, keep moving along.

A lot of the thoughts below are just common sense.  This is certainly not the most technical article I’ve ever written.  But hopefully breaking down the process will make us all think more critically about how we conduct player research and how we could more efficiently use our time.

Eye Opening

I didn’t have an immediate answer to Eddie’s question.  At first I laughed, thinking to myself that Eddie only has a few precious hours each week and here I sit posting 20 minute videos and 1,000 word blog posts, sucking up his valuable time.  My next realization was that I don’t even have my own formal system of prioritization in place.  I fly by the seat of my pants, but that’s certainly not “smart”.  Maybe it’s time to think about one.

To design an effective process one must understand the exact problem.  If I had to simplify the fantasy baseball problems I’m trying to address, I would summarize them as “Understanding My Team”, “Identifying Talent”, and “Learning”.

UnderStanding My Team

Before I can reap any benefit from an expert’s advice, I’ve got to have a strong understanding of my team and its place in the standings.  This means:

  1. Assessing my team’s weaknesses and strengths (by roto category)
  2. Assessing my team’s position in the standings and those teams around me
  3. Determining players that are expendable, that I can consider dropping

Items one and two above don’t need to be done every week.  They’re not really time consuming chores, but they must be done to give context to your player research.  I can quickly filter through expert recommendations of sneaky stolen base specialists if I already lead that category.

I probably give a thorough look over the league standings once every two weeks or so.  The standings don’t change rapidly at this point in the season, and it’s going to take time to chisel away at a 20 RBI deficit.  So every couple of weeks I’ll give a good look over my situation and identify areas for improvement.  Then that analysis sticks with me for the next several weeks and becomes the focus of any transactions I’ll make and the player research I’ll conduct.

Item three can’t be done in isolation.  I need to have potential free agents in mind in order to conclude on who is expendable, but I always like to have an idea of who my most expendable player is.  Whether it’s the least talented player on my roster or someone that is talented but simply doesn’t fit current needs, it always helps to know who’s droppable.

Identifying Talent / Player Research

The exercise above of understanding your situation and knowing the approximate value of the player I can drop will allow me to more efficiently conduct player research (and make better use of the few hours I have so I can get back to writing blog posts).   To illustrate, let’s assume I’m looking to gain standings points in home runs and RBI.  After looking over my roster I conclude the player I’m most likely to drop is a struggling corner infielder expected to finish the season with 20 HR and 75 RBI.

With this in mind I can do my own basic research or I begin looking for expert advice on possible pickups.  To do my own research, I start with simple sorting of the free agent list to look for the following:

  • Best overall players available (best preseason rank but struggling)
  • Best categorical players available, year-to-date (which corner infielders have the most HR and RBI)
  • Best categorical players available, last month (which corner infielders have the most HR and RBI in the last month, this might turn up players getting more playing time in the last month than earlier in the season)
  • Which corner infielders are getting at bats over the last two weeks and which of them offer HR and RBI
  • Which corner infielders are most frequently picked up (most major fantasy providers have ways of researching the hottest pickups)

With those results in mind, I can turn to the “experts”.  I can pull up the SFBB Fantasy Baseball Expert Twitter List and scroll through the many “Weekly Pickup” columns that will surely be available.  But now that I’m armed with a sense of my team, the league, and the free agents available, I’ll be able to quickly hone in on the advice and player names that make sense for my team.  If an article clearly misses the mark of addressing my needs or is not consistent with the free agents available in my league, I can move along to the next piece.

I don’t have any “appointment reading” where I visit specific websites daily or weekly.  I let Twitter accumulate the listings of fantasy baseball advice and I’ll scroll through the feed looking for articles that pique my interest.  Similarly, podcasts are a favorite medium of mine, because I too have limited time to devote to research.  But podcasts let me make productive use of time in the car or when I’m going for a jog.


One of my main goals is to learn along the way and gain exposure to new ideas, new strategies, and new lines of thinking.  The benefit here is twofold.  First, the more I learn, the more likely I am to win and be competitive.  Second, learning is a way for me to garner enjoyment from fake baseball even if I’m not winning.

Allocating Time Between the Categories

The allocation between these three categories will fluctuate throughout the season.  If you haven’t done a thorough review of your team and the league standings in a few weeks, you’ve got to allocate time to this exercise.  I haven’t analyzed this, but I think it’s a safe bet that player research early in the season is more important than later in the season because acquisitions have the opportunity to affect your team for longer and accumulate more stats.  It’s also the time when we know the least about playing time and batting orders.  As the season progresses, if you happen to find yourself out of the running, more time can be devoted to learning about new ideas and new strategies to employ, or for expanding the horizon of your player research (looking more long-term if you’re in keeper/dynasty leagues).

My Most Trusted Fantasy BaseBall Resources

These are my personal favorites.  This is not to suggest there aren’t loads of other great, or maybe even superior, analysts out there.  But based upon their analytic mindsets, their ability to work strategy into their discussions, their insight, and my personal experience with them (they nailed a couple of players that really helped me out), these are the individuals I have grown to trust the most.  I also find many of them funny and pleasant.  I’m not a big fan of brash over-confident fantasy guy.  And they’re out there.

I’m certain you won’t enjoy all of these folks.  Or they just won’t “click” with you.  But maybe there are one or two here that you will connect with.

Name Twitter ID Description
Todd Zola Zola regularly states he would rather teach you something than manage your team for you. That’s a rarity.  I love his stuff.
Jason Collette
Paul Sporer

I group these two together because while a lot of their fantasy work is done independent of each other, I mostly consume their advice via the Baseball Prospectus “Towers of Power Fantasy Hour” podcast these two do weekly.  It’s my favorite fantasy baseball podcast.
Tristan Cockroft A lot of the content on ESPN is targeted for the masses.  Advanced statistics, tables, and deep analysis scare the masses.  But Tristan puts a lot of deep analysis and number crunching into his work.
Buster Olney He’s not a fantasy writer.  But I really enjoy his work and it’s important to think about regular baseball at times and not just focus on fake baseball.  He is on top of everything that happens in the game.  And a lot of what happens has a fantasy impact but won’t necessarily be written about by the fantasy community.
Stephania Bell ESPN’s injury expert.  I don’t track her success rate, but it seems high. If she’s worried about a player, despite the positive news from the team or player, she’s usually right.  If I have an injured player or I’m considering acquiring one, I want to know her thoughts.
Corey Schwartz Corey is a cohost of the Fantasy 411’s podcast.  He works a lot of great strategy talk into the podcast.
Eric Karabell Karabell has an analytical approach to the game and a very conservative approach to his play/advice (give me the solid aging veteran over the sexy rookie hype machine).  I like his work.
Mike Podhorzer Mike hosts Fangraphs’ podcast “The Sleeper and The Bust” and is very active elsewhere in the fantasy baseball world.  He uses a lot of advanced statistics and other metrics, like batted ball distance, to identify potential value.
Ron Shandler He’s one of the legends of the industry.  Perhaps the father of the analytical approach to this game.  He doesn’t do much player analysis, but when he speaks, it’s worth listening to.

Do Share

Who are your most trusted resources?  Do you have a formal strategy of how to manage your time?  I had never formally thought about it, but I guess there’s some semblance of thought in my practices.

Thanks.  Make smart choices.