Smart Elsewhere

Links, summaries, analysis, and reactions to smart fantasy baseball content written by others on the web.

Smart Elsewhere #8 – Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

You probably have gathered by now that I am not here offer much player analysis, sleeper talk, or draft breakdowns.  There is so much great information out there that I couldn’t possibly keep up (I have my nose too far buried in spreadsheets to write much).

Yet I do realize that spreadsheets and projections and conceptual talk I focus on can only take you so far.  At the end of the day, in-depth analysis, player profiles, rankings breakdowns, and draft prep information is extremely important to your success.

I can’t offer this myself.

But I do work with Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks and they provide A TON of this high quality information.

My Role at Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks

I used the methods documented here on SFBB to develop the projections used at Fantasy Baseball Crackerjacks.  I even write the occasional player profile, analysis, and strategy piece.  I’m very proud to be a part of the work they do at the site.  We just released the positional rankings and projections this week (see links below) and the other writers at the site pour out tons of interesting content.

Thanks For Reading

Stay smart!

Smart Elsewhere #7 – End Game Plays and Moves for Next Year with Cory Schwartz

There may not have been a more targeted and useful fantasy baseball podcast all year than the September 13th episode of Fantasy 411 podcast.  In this episode Cory Schwartz discusses a plethora of minor league September call ups that can either help you win your league this year or that have keeper-league ramifications for next year.  Later in the episode he’s joined by Paul Sporer, a favorite analyst of mine.

No matter where you are in the standings, this episode is worth 52 minutes of your time (or 35 minutes if you listen at 1.5 speed like I do).

Here’s a rundown of the episode:

  • September call ups that may help your team 0:00 – 9:00
  • Injured players and their prospects to return 9:00 – 17:15
  • Players being shut down 17:15 – 23:00
  • Paul Sporer interview 23:00 – 34:20
  • Paul Sporer and Schwartz discuss two start weeks – 34:20 – 42:45
  • Sporer and Schwartz handle listener e-mails – 42:45 – 51:53

The Players

Here are the minor league call up players Cory Schwartz discussed, with a specific focus on how they can benefit your team these last two weeks of the season.  These players are currently getting playing time but are all likely to be available in many leagues.

  • Josmil Pinto  C (MIN)
  • Chris Owings SS (ARI)
  • Tommy Medica 1B (SD)
  • Anthony Gose OF (TOR)
  • Billy Hamilton SS/OF (CIN)
  • Tanner Roark P (WAS)

The Injured

Cory also discussed several injured players and their prospects for the rest of the season.  These are guys that may or may not be useful to you in the last two weeks.

  • David Wright 3B (NYM)
  • Edwin Encarnacion 1B/3B (TOR)
  • Joe Mauer C (MIN)
  • Jacoby Ellsbury OF (BOS)
  • Allen Craig 1B/OF (STL)
  • Matt Kemp OF (LAD)
  • Howie Kendrick 2B (LAA)
  • Colby Rasmus OF (TOR)

Paul Sporer Joins The Podcast

After Schwartz discussed these end game player strategies, Paul Sporer joined the podcast to discuss next week’s two start pitchers.  And while I’m not a huge proponent of weekly head-to-head leagues, two start weeks can really help you finish a rotisserie season strong and reach innings limit caps if you’re slightly behind pace.  If you’re looking to eat up some innings, the advice of Sporer and Schwartz is definitely worth a listen.

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Links to the Podcast

Smart Elsewhere #6 – Trading Strategies from Fred Zinkie

As Major League Baseball’s trade deadline passes, it’s a good reminder to review your league standings and diagnose any weaknesses in your team that need to be addressed before the stretch run.  Once you understand where you are and where you need to go, hit the trade market.  But how do you ensure you’re making the best deal?  How do you avoid getting frustrated by the often aggravating trading process?

Expert Interviews

The Baseball HQ Radio podcast, hosted by Patrick Davitt, is my favorite resource for learning new strategies and to be exposed to different ways of thinking about fantasy baseball.  In each episode, Davitt interviews at least one industry expert.  And we’re talking respected experts like Ron Shandler (creator of Baseball HQ, among many other accomplishments), Todd Zola (creator of, fantasy author all over the web), Jeff Erickson (senior editor at Rotowire, expert league winner, writer of the year), and Larry Schecter (five time TOUT Wars winner).  There is a lot to be learned from guys like this.

During the interviews, Davitt inquires about the week’s hot players and current news, but most interestingly to me, he also ask about strategies and approaches the visiting experts use.  The topics can cover things as minor as FAAB usage techniques to as more significant topics like the July 5th trading discussion between Davitt and fantasy expert Fred Zinkie.

Talking Trades

Fred is a participant in the respected TOUT and LABR rotisserie mixed leagues and he is an extremely active trader (it sounds like he’s made more than 20 trades between the two leagues).  At the time of the interview, he was also leading both of these expert leagues.

Someone able to make that many trades, in expert leagues, and use the trades to push him into first place, must have some extremely interesting insight into how to make a trade.

How To Engineer a Trade

I’ll cherry pick some of Zinkie’s recommendations on how to engineer a deal and increase your likelihood of successfully making a trade.

  1. Don’t think about your team first.  Always start with the other team in mind.  
  2. Look over the rosters of the league and identify weaknesses for each particular team.
  3. When contacting the other team, use phrasing like, “It looks like you could use this…”.   Make it about them.  
  4. Verify that they’re interested in making some kind of trade.
  5. Then move forward and identify specific players to be involved in the trade.
  6. If you receive an insulting offer or insulting counter, take a step back and approach the deal realizing there may be a fundamental difference in how they value the players involved.  Maybe they’re really asking for another player or to address another weakness.

Other Thoughts

Fred also had an interesting thought about targeting inherently flawed players, whether it be in the draft or via trade.  Players that might be elite in one category but below average in many other, players with terrible batting averages, players proven to be injury prone, players coming off of P.E.D.  suspensions.  These flawed players will have something about them that certain managers won’t touch, no matter the price.  If you’re in a 15 team league, and because of flaws, at the draft, you’re then only competing against 10 teams instead of 15 for a player, you will end up paying less.  The law of supply and demand, if you will.

Highly Recommended

I highly recommend subscribing to or regularly checking in on the Baseball HQ Radio podcasts.  You can even go back in time and just listen to the expert commentary from old episodes.  The shows are scheduled in such a way that you can easily skip forward to Davitt’s discussion with that week’s expert and then bail on the episode once they move on to discussing only current topics.

Links To The Podcast


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



Book Review – ‘The Extra 2%’ by Jonah Keri

In addition to my typical fantasy and regular baseball readings around the web, I have decided to start reading books that I think can help build my analysis skills and baseball knowledge.  Afterwards, I’ll give a review of the book and apply some takeaways.

Leading Off

The book I chose to read first is The Extra 2%:  How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. I chose the book for two main reasons:

  1. I’m a fan of Jonah Keri’s work elsewhere on the web.
  2. The title screams to me that there are surely strategies and mindsets that can be borrowed from the book and applied to fantasy baseball.

About the Author

I first became aware of Jonah Keri when I stumbled upon his podcast a couple years back.  Unfortunately he no longer produces new episodes, but I found him smart and entertaining, and he had great baseball guests like Rickey Henderson, Rob Neyer, and R.A. Dickey on the show.  Jonah has since made it big, appearing on Baseball Tonight occasionally and writing regularly for

Please note that I only recommend resources that I think are extremely valuable and that I use myself.  The link to The Extra 2% above are affiliate links, through which I earn a small commission if you were to purchase the book. The book will cost you the same if you directly go to Amazon and search for it or if you click an affiliate link. Think of this as a small way to support the site if you find SmartFantasyBaseball valuable.  Or if you prefer a generic link through which I receive no benefit, use this.

The Extra 2%

The backdrop of the book is a look into the history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise, from the beginning battles the Tampa area fought to win a team to the inception of the franchise, its initial struggles, and then an ownership change in 2005 that gave the team  new life. On top of that historical account of the Rays franchise, Keri highlights the strategic and analytical approach the new leadership team brought with it in 2005.  As the title of the book indicates, the Rays turned to a team of Wall Street experienced businessmen and analysts with little or no formal baseball experience.  But it was the analytical and value-driven approaches learned on Wall Street that helped the Rays turn things around.

How They Did It

The book is full of specific stories and examples of how the Rays went about this transformation and the decisions they made.  From the stories, I observed three main themes the team applied to improve the Rays organization (and that you could apply to become a smarter fantasy baseball mind):

  • Strive for continuous improvement
  • Apply a consistent, methodical, and analytic process
  • Identify and take advantage of market inefficiencies (more…)

Smart Elsewhere #4 – How Late is too Late?

Two weeks ago, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs (follow Dave on Twitter) wrote an article outlining why the Blue Jays were in serious trouble of missing the playoffs.  The issue is not just that they are off to a slow start.  There is room to be off to a slow start early in the season, but by April 29th, they had already fallen significantly behind the Red Sox in the A.L. East.  The slow start coupled with the Red Sox hot start puts them in a group where only 1 of 32 teams facing such a deficit recovered to make the playoffs.

What Does This Have To Do With Fantasy Baseball?

The question is, how late is too late to make a comeback in fantasy baseball?  What statistics are necessary to engineer a climb?  What strategies are necessary the further down the standings my team is as we get deeper and deeper into the season.  Tristan H. Cockroft (follow Tristan on Twitter) attempted to answer these questions from both the hitting and pitching perspectives.

The main point in Cockroft’s articles is that ratio stats like batting average, ERA, and WHIP are much harder to change as the season goes along.  Mathematically speaking, as more of the season passes, more innings and at bats have been accumulated, and it becomes increasingly difficult to budge the ratios.  If you’re at the bottom of the standings in a ratio statistic like batting average, you’re nearing the point of no return.

With this in mind, let’s apply some strategic thinking…

  1. Make it a point to give your league standings a close look once a week.  This means reviewing the standings within each individual rotisserie category.  Develop a rough count of how many points you can realistically move up in the short-term.  Also be mindful of how many points you could fall in the short-term (you might need to defend your position in a category).
  2. Now that you have a grasp on your place in the standings, determine your best course of action.  If you’re trailing in a particular category, begin to target specialists that can help you gain ground.  If you need home runs, look into someone like Mike Morse (his owner might be fed up with his .230 batting average).  If you need stolen bases, look for Juan Pierre or Dee Gordon-types or players that may soon make an impact in that category (Adam Eaton, Eric Young Jr.).
  3. Are you within striking distance of the leaders?  Or is there a cluster of teams you can still easily reach after a good week?  Maybe no moves are necessary at this time.
  4. Are you developing a significant lead in any categories?  Or even if you aren’t “winning” the category, have you developed a sizeable gap between yourself and the team behind you in the category?
  5. Determine if “playing it safe” and making minor adjustments is sufficient to hang around with the other leaders.  Or decide if it’s necessary to start throwing haymakers and taking risks to get back into the race (think huge upside plays that could potentially be acquired at a “discount” like Wil Myers, Josh Hamilton, Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, B.J. Upton, etc.).
  6. In an extreme situation, maybe you consider embracing a poor batting average and aggressively attacking the other categories

As always, keep a level head when making transactions.  Don’t overdo it.  A couple of seemingly minor acquisitions could be enough to gain significant ground in the standings.

Do you have any tricks or rules of thumb you apply when reviewing your rotisserie standings?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t Just Sit There

Go look at your standings today.  Identify a weakness in your team or a category in which you can improve.  Make one smart move to address this concern.

Stay smart.


Smart Elsewhere #3 - Brett Talley on Exploiting Matchups to Increase Stolen Bases

Smart Elsewhere #3 – Brett Talley on Exploiting Matchups to Increase Stolen Bases

Take a look at the final standings in one of my leagues last year:


Note the tie for first place.  And then note the closeness amongst the teams in stolen bases.  Teams finished with 158, 159, 161, 162, 164, and 167.  If the team at 158 could have squeaked out 10 extra steals, they could have conceivably earned five extra points in the standings.

In this edition of Smart Elsewhere, Brett Talley (follow Brett on Twitter), a writer for the Rotographs pages of Fangraphs, takes a look at an approach you can use to try to squeak out 10 extra steals over the course of the year in his article, “Pitchers and Catchers to Exploit, Avoid When Chasing Steals

The article identifies pitchers, with more than 100 IP the last two seasons, that are most/least successfully stolen on (both a measure of frequency of steals and successful steal attempts).  The article then goes on to identify catchers with over 1,000 innings caught the last three years and the highest/lowest caught stealing percentages.

I like the applicability of this in both season-long rotisserie leagues allowing daily transactions and weekly head-to-head rotisserie leagues.  I’m not suggesting it’s necessary to check this list daily and start “streaming” base stealers against pitchers, but I see it as a way to squeak out a few extra steals over the course of the season or in a weekly head-to-head match up.

You can look up 2013 stolen base and caught stealing data by catchers on Fangraphs here or at Baseball Reference here.  And the stolen bases attempted and allowed by pitchers on Fangraphs here or at Baseball Reference here (Baseball Reference has information on stolen bases and caught stealing by pitcher, I can only find stolen bases on Fangraphs).

As an example of how to implement this, let’s say you have a decent base stealer on your team but on a typical day he doesn’t crack your starting line up.  He’s mostly sitting on the bench for depth.  But then you notice he’s got a match up against Edinson Volquez (7 SB allowed in 25 IP) and Nick Hundley (14 SB allowed in 19 G).  You can put your base stealer in the lineup and take out someone facing a difficult opposing pitcher.  Or vice versa, if you have a  stolen base specialist that usually is in the lineup, but is going against Johnny Cueto (whom Talley shows as the hardest pitcher to run in by a long shot), maybe you consider taking him out for the night and putting in a bench player with a game in Coors Field.

Updated tables for the current season, through April 29th, are below.

Want more tips and strategy advice like this?  Please click the follow button below.  Make smart choices.

Rk Player Tm G Inn SB ▾ CS CS%
1 Roberto Hernandez TBR 5 30.2 7 0 0%
2 Edinson Volquez SDP 5 25.1 7 1 13%
3 Clay Buchholz BOS 5 37.2 6 0 0%
4 A.J. Burnett PIT 6 35.0 6 0 0%
5 Cole Hamels PHI 6 37.2 6 2 25%
6 David Price TBR 6 38.0 6 2 25%
7 Chris Resop OAK 13 11.0 6 0 0%
8 Scott Feldman CHC 4 20.2 5 0 0%
9 Brad Peacock HOU 5 21.1 5 0 0%
10 Julio Teheran ATL 4 23.0 5 0 0%
11 Blake Beavan SEA 6 18.1 4 1 20%
12 Joe Blanton LAA 5 26.2 4 0 0%
13 Edwin Jackson CHC 5 28.1 4 0 0%
14 Tim Lincecum SFG 5 29.2 4 0 0%
15 Zach McAllister CLE 4 23.0 4 0 0%
16 Chris Sale CHW 5 33.0 4 0 0%
17 Evan Scribner OAK 8 12.2 4 0 0%
18 Jamey Wright TBR 10 10.1 4 0 0%
19 Dylan Axelrod CHW 5 27.1 3 3 50%
20 Josh Beckett LAD 5 30.1 3 1 25%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2013.
Rk Tm G Inn SB ▾ CS CS%
1 Tyler Flowers CHW 20 170.0 16 3 16%
2 J.P. Arencibia TOR 22 191.0 15 2 12%
3 Welington Castillo CHC 19 163.0 14 7 33%
4 Nick Hundley SDP 19 166.1 14 4 22%
5 Chris Iannetta LAA 20 171.1 13 1 7%
6 Jose Molina TBR 19 129.1 13 4 24%
7 Carlos Santana CLE 15 123.1 13 2 13%
8 Alex Avila DET 17 151.2 12 4 25%
9 Jason Castro HOU 20 162.2 12 3 20%
10 John Jaso OAK 16 127.0 11 2 15%
11 Russell Martin PIT 22 178.0 11 6 35%
12 Buster Posey SFG 22 179.2 11 5 31%
13 Jarrod Saltalamacchia BOS 17 144.0 11 0 0%
14 Gerald Laird ATL 8 69.0 10 1 9%
15 Jose Lobaton TBR 13 89.1 10 1 9%
16 Jesus Montero SEA 14 128.1 10 0 0%
17 A.J. Ellis LAD 19 167.2 9 8 47%
18 Salvador Perez KCR 21 174.2 9 3 25%
19 John Buck NYM 22 178.2 8 5 38%
20 Erik Kratz PHI 21 161.1 8 4 33%
21 Yadier Molina STL 23 209.1 8 3 27%
22 Dioner Navarro CHC 6 50.0 8 3 27%
23 Derek Norris OAK 14 104.0 7 0 0%
24 David Ross BOS 9 79.0 7 3 30%
25 Kurt Suzuki WSN 19 159.0 7 2 22%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2013.

Smart Elsewhere #2 – Carson Cistulli on Didi Gregorius and Tony Cingrani

A switch in the medium in this edition of Smart Elsewhere.  Having a long commute to work, I consume a lot of my baseball information via podcast.  On the 4/16/13 edition  of the “Eye on Baseball Rumors” podcast from, Carson Cistulli (follow Carson on Twitter) joins Chris Cwik (follow Chris on Twitter) to discuss a couple of recent minor league promotions.

Click the button below to launch iTunes and be taken to the podcast page, then play the 4/16 episode.

Here are the highlights:

  • 13:00 – 18:05 minutes – Didi Gregorius’ abilities, his likelihood to stick in the majors (he should be competent defensively and offensively, his plate approach has improved, and he may be able to stick around if he can outplay Cliff Pennington) 
  • 18:05 – 24:50 minutes – Tony Cingrani’s pitching approach, his heavy reliance upon the fastball and pitching deception, and the likelihood he’ll succeed in the major leagues (there are very few starting pitchers who rely as heavily upon the fastball as Cingrani and have any measure of success, it will be very unusual if he is able to succeed for a long period of time)

I’ll warn you that Cistulli does not give his analysis from a fantasy baseball focus.  The analysis of Gregorius and Cingrani covers their skills and their “real-life” baseball merits.  But the information is great and can be applied to your own fantasy leagues.  The entire episode does run over 50 minutes.  Outside of the 11 minutes mentioned above, Cistulli briefly discusses Brett Lawrie and then goes more in depth into his work at Fangraphs and as a baseball writer.  

Cistulli is a writer for and the host of the  (link will launch iTunes and direct you to the Fangraphs Baseball podcast), which comes highly regarded as well (certain episodes at least, he’ll preface any episode with a disclaimer if it doesn’t contain baseball analysis).

As always, let me know what you’re reading or listening to.  Leave a comment below or shoot me a link on Twitter.

Keep making smart choices.

Smart Elsewhere #1 – Do You Know Where Your Players Bat in the Lineup?

Welcome to the maiden post in the “Smart Elsewhere” series.  In post number one, ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft discusses the “Fantasy value of lineup positions” (follow Tristan on Twitter).  This is an incredibly insightful article about the benefit of loading your team with players that bat in the top four spots of the batting order.

It includes great statistics about the additional plate appearances players higher in the batting order receive, the great production drop off (in runs and RBI) that occurs the further down the line up a player bats, the effect of playing for a good offensive team, and how to think about the value of players who changed teams or positions in the lineup from last year.

Do you know where your players bat in the lineup?