Apr 13, 2014

Follow The Herd? The 3 Most Added & Dropped Hitters – Week 2


We're about 12 games into the regular season which is the time when we start to believe hot starts are sustainable and cold streaks will last forever. We're also at a point when you're starting to have to deal with injuries or tempered expectations and are therefore looking to make some moves. There's been plenty of moving and shaking happening out there already but let's see if it's worth jumping on board with some of the hot and cold names in the world of fantasy baseball.

Shallow League Trends

One of the hottest adds right now is Charlie Blackmon. I had him pegged as a sleeper prior to the season but my main concern was whether he'd get playing time. He's getting it and he's taking advantage of it. In a crowded outfield, he has set himself apart by hitting .500 (!) with a HR and 3 SB already. He obviously won't continue hitting .500 but he still has potential to be a 20/20 player with a high AVG if he can get a full season of at-bats. Definitely add him to your roster if he's out there.

The biggest issue with Michael Morse over the past few seasons has been playing time and injuries. He's healthy and he's playing and he's doing his usual thing as a result. He's a home run hitter with the ability to hit for a decent AVG. That's the type of thing you want to find on the waiver wire. Pounce!

Trevor Plouffe is the third hottest addition in shallow leagues. He's hitting .349 and he plays 3B and... yeah, I can't get on board with this particular hype train. His AVG won't sustain (way too high BABIP and GB/FB rate) and he's not really a power or speed threat. Feel free to pass on this one.

The most dropped hitters in shallow leagues (for hitters that are not on the DL) include Mike Moustakas, Chris Carter and B.J. Upton.

Moustakas was an interesting low-value gamble coming into the season. He was a prospect that came into the league with good power potential but it hasn't panned out yet. Being that he was still young, some people hoped they would find the next Chris Davis and took a late round risk on him. Two weeks in and he's playing worse than even imagined. I do agree that he's worth dropping.

Everything I said about Moustakas can be applied to Chris Carter. However, I am a bit more optimistic for Carter as he is freshly removed from a 29 HR season. The power will come but the batting average will not. For shallow leagues, you can probably find someone more valuable on the waiver wire though.

B.J. Upton is not a good baseball player anymore. I don't know why exactly. Maybe playing with his ultra-talented brother spooked him really good or something but, regardless, definitely drop him in shallow leagues (and probably any other league).

Standard League Trends

Yangveris Solarte is a hot addition right now after getting a surprising amount of playing time in the Yankees lineup. He's got no power potential and he's got zero speed but he can hit for AVG. For deeper leagues, I can see him being worth a speculative add if you have power and speed covered but I just don't see him being a valuable contributor in standard leagues.

Between AAA and the majors, Chris Colabello hit 31 homers last year. He's playing again this year and doing well so far for the Twins. He's a 30 year old rookie though so don't expect that you're unearthing a hot young prospect here. The ceiling for Colabello may be 20-25 HR with a .260 AVG and not much else. He doesn't play at a scarce position but those numbers could be valuable enough as a guy to have off the bench. I wouldn't drop anybody of value for Colabello though.

Adeiny Hechvarria is a hot add right now at the coveted shortstop position. No speed, no power, no potential for a high AVG? No thanks. He's hitting .383 right now but there's nothing that suggest it will continue. Not even worth an add in deep leagues (unless it's a really deep league).

In the world of being dropped from rosters is Kendrys Morales. This comes down to philosophy really. He's not on a roster and likely won't sign anytime soon. As injuries occur and fantasy teams struggle, the luxury of waiting for Morales to sign somewhere is something you can no longer afford. If you're lucky enough to have a healthy team and room on your bench then stashing Morales is probably worth doing but, otherwise, having someone actually producing may be more valuable right now.

Will Venable won't always be this bad. How good he will be is another question. He's doing nothing right now and teams are giving up on him. I'd add him to your roster if you're in need of some SB's as he should come around and hit .260 with 10 HR and 25 SB as the season goes on.

For whatever reason, there were a lot of people who owned Daniel Nava out there. He's not playing well right now and I don't see a very high ceiling for him anyhow. Yes, he's worth dropping to make room for someone with a bit more potential

Deep League Trends

Jason Kubel is back with the Twins and playing quite well thus far. His 30 HR season from 2012 is a distant memory but he's definitely got the potential for a 20 HR season and a decent AVG to go with it. In deep leagues, you're not going to find a lot of that on the waiver wire so he's certainly worth adding a decent bat on your bench.

Another hot add is Conor Gillaspie as he is playing like a poor man's Trevor Plouffe. Yeah, take that for what its worth. Maybe he'll continue to hit for AVG but it doesn't seem likely and he doesn't have much power to go along with his zero speed. He plays at the shallow 3B position but the ceiling for Gillaspie is a .275 AVG to go along with 10-15 HR. If that's something you need at 3B right now then go for it but don't expect much.

Tyler Flowers is the catcher that's being added to deep rosters right now. Over the course of his career, he's had 625 PA's now and has 23 HR's and a .213 AVG to show for it. So, if you want to know what you could expect out of a potential full season of playing time for him, that's your baseline. To me, I'd rather have a catcher that doesn't murder my AVG in order to get a few extra HR's.

Well, Mike Olt came onto the scene as a hot early season addition once it was announced he made Cubs' roster. He has already flashed some power potential with 2 HR's but he's also showed his other big weakness by hitting .174 thus far. That is what you're going to get right now out of Olt. He's a power bat who is still learning how to hit big league pitching. It won't always be this bad so he may be worth stashing if you have the roster space.

I want the old Alex Avila from 2011 who nearly hit .300 with 20 HR. Other people wanted that too and took a shot on him this year. However, he's hitting like the usual Alex Avila instead so people are dropping him. That's understandable and I'd drop him too at this point.

The final notable popular drop in deep leagues is Rickie Weeks. He's not getting enough playing time and his career seems to be ending before our very eyes. He's definitely worth dropping and let's all take a moment to remember the old Weeks who constantly teased us with his potential but never lived up to it.

Apr 8, 2014

Baseball, Statistics, Beer and Tacos: An Interview With Jared Cross


There's a lot of specialists within the world of baseball and fantasy sports that add to the richness of our collective knowledge. The folks at Steamer Projections represent the keepers of knowledge when it comes to accurate player projections.

While Steamer is one of the newer projection systems in that world, Jared Cross, Peter Rosenbloom and Dash Davidson have wasted no time in making their system into the most accurate projection system for both hitters and pitchers year after year. As word grew about how accurate Steamer has been, the popularity of the system grew along with it. Steamer has since become the default projection system used by many sites including the wildly popular Fangraphs and Jared has even gone on to write pieces for ESPN.com.

I got the pleasure of getting to ask Jared some questions and learn a bit about Steamer's past, present and future.



Steamer has become well-known to the baseball nerd community but we often forget that there are actual people behind the system. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a high school math and science teacher in Brooklyn, New York with two kids (2 and 4 years old) and a wife who puts up with my spending way to much time playing around with baseball statistics. Dash Davidson and Peter Rosenbloom, who will graduate from college in a couple of months, were my Chemistry students way back when they were in 10th grade and we decided to start working on this project. Peter takes his forecasting talents to J.P. Morgan in the fall and Dash is still weighing his post-college options and looking to get a job in baseball.

Why did you name it Steamer?

Our school’s sports teams are called the Steamers and we’d all played on the Steamers baseball team and, also, we’re not that creative.

You are in a grey area where two seemingly unrelated things, math and baseball, meet. Are you more of a baseball fan or a fan of statistics?

My interest in statistics was spurred by my interest in baseball but I’m a fan of statistics in it’s own right now. Really, they’re perfect together. Beer and tacos or something like that.

How did Steamer come to be? What was the goal?

The goal was initially to figure out how to win at fantasy baseball (for the record, Dash and I have consistently won our leagues -- Peter not so much) and morphed into a project to create our own projections. We started by imitating Marcel and then, after the first year, began adding features and layers of complication one at a time.

So you were aware of Marcel. What about CHONE and ZiPS from that time as well?

We knew the algorithm for Marcel and started there and we knew about some of the features that CHONE and ZiPS and others systems add to the Marcel model, like using park factors and minor league equivalents. Those were some of the first additions we made to our original model. We still don’t know everything those guys are up to, of course.

What was your biggest “eureka!” moment with Steamer?

I think it’s the realization that regression to the mean is a stand in for Bayes’ theorem and, therefore, that the baseline that we want to regress each player’s statistics towards is really a “prior” -- something like our best guess as to his ability before we know his stats.

What has been the hardest thing for you to accurately project?

Playing time and injuries, I think.

What data or stat do you wish you had access to (whether it exists or not) in order to improve upon your projections?

For the first time this year, we have access to Inside Edge data which includes the location and hang time for batted balls and I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. I’d love to have data on how deceptive pitchers’ motions are and how much their changeups looks like their fastballs. It would be incredible if we knew how hard every player works in the offseason and had medical reports that indicated their physiological age.

You have made changes each year to Steamer but are there things you hoped to add that you haven't gotten to yet?

We’d like to make long-term projections at some point. We’d also like to project platoon splits for pitchers (we have platoon splits for hitters now although they aren’t published anywhere) and be able to make a projections for individual batter-pitcher matchups. There are also ways we think we can make the projections we do have more accurate, by utilizing the Inside Edge data and by using pitchf/x data more fully among other things.

Are you aware of any sort of secret projection systems that MLB teams are using? Do you think your methodology could benefit a real ballclub?

I really don’t know. I saw Jeff Lunhow describe the Astros internal projection system as “best in class” and I’d love to know what they’re up to.

Do you play fantasy baseball? If so, how obsessive are you about it? And, do you use your own projections?

Yes, although not like I used. A friend and I used to co-manage a dynasty team in a league with a 40-man roster and another 40 minor leaguers, long-term contracts, options and arbitration and all of that. At that point, we could recite scouting reports on any top prospect including kids still in high school. That had to end when I had kids. Now I play in a low stakes, relatively easy-going league. I do use Steamer.

For those that use Steamer for fantasy baseball purposes, are there any tips you’d like to give them about the pros and cons of relying solely on the projections?

That’s tricky. If you’re thinking about how much weight to give data from different years in the past or how to adjust for a move to a new ballpark, I’d suggest that this is the kind of thing an algorithm is relatively good at and that you’re probably better off trusting Steamer (or whichever system you prefer) than your own instincts. If, however, you happen to know that player X is nursing a quad injury and won’t steal nearly as many bases as he did in the past, then you know something Steamer doesn’t and should adjust accordingly.

If you go back to when you were first starting Steamer, what is one thing you wish you could tell yourself?

I’d tell myself to learn R and SQL right away.

Where do you see Steamer five years from now (if you think it will still exist)?

I hope it still exists and that it’s a good bit better than it is now and that we’re still looking for and finding ways to improve it.

In closing, I like to ask a pretty divisive question... What’s your favorite baseball movie and why?

The Natural. I don’t know why. The music? It’s more like a dream than a movie and I spent a lot of time dreaming about baseball a kid. Also, he starts out as a kid playing catch with his dad and ends the movie playing catch with his own kid. That’s really what baseball is all about.

Apr 5, 2014

The Draft: It's What Makes The League [Slightly Strategic]


I have friends who are all about trades. I have other friends who stake their reputation on the waiver wire.

But for me? Ah. The draft. It’s what makes the league, really.

My first year in the WBL was 2007. My wife and I had married the summer before and, like it or not, there was a feeling of missing some of my individuality in that first year. Chalk it up to overcompensating toward us.

I had played fantasy baseball previously, though never whole-heartedly. It was always online drafts, rarely any interaction during the season, never for money.

The WBL was different. It was a$100 buy-in league. Big money for a guy in college for the second time. But what made it a truly different experience was the draft.

The WBL draft fulfills every stereotype about fantasy baseball, and that’s what I love it.

The winner of the previous year hosts the following year’s draft. All six drafts since I’ve been in the league have been at the winner’s parents’ house. [1]

The draft board goes up on the wall and when a player is drafted, his manager writes his name or sticks his sticker up in the slot.

My wife rolls her eyes when I talk about bringing the trophy home someday, but that just makes me want it even more.

Yoo-hoo. I didn’t know the connection to the original rotisserie league until recently, but I love Yoo-hoo, so I’ve never questioned it.

We’ve hit a groove with the movies we watch during the draft. Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez steals home, Ray Kinsella plows up his cornfield, Roy Hobbs destroys a light pole. As much as I find The Natural to be the most unintentionally hilarious movie I’ve ever seen, I’ll gladly watch it once a year on draft day.

Without the live draft, I would have dropped out of this league by now. I would have lost interest, never really having a chance to get to know my leaguemates. And I would have stopped working to get my name on that trophy. Just once.

  1. This year’s draft location changed about a week before the draft to – gasp! – not someone’s parents’ basement. For shame!  ↩

Apr 4, 2014

Overwhelmed? 4 Tools For Simplifying Your Roster Management


The baseball season has started and things are already happening way too quickly. Closers are dropping like flies and weekly waiver wire claims are just around the corner and it's really hard to keep up with it all, isn't it? Fret not because fantasy baseball does not have to be a 24 hour job. There are amazing resources out there to make your fantasy baseball life as stressfree as it can be.

Tools for Chasing Saves

Chasing saves is the term for when you are trying to pick up closers or would-be-closers for your roto team in order to get cheap saves after the draft. In leagues where there are weekly waiver wire claims, it isn't as stressful to chase saves but it is a race to your computer in leagues where add/drops are instantaneous.

     The Easy Solution: Closer Monkey
     The Advanced Solution: Follow @closernews
     The Expert Solution: Subscribe to a MLB beat writers list on Twitter
Closer Monkey is a great resource because an e-mail will simply arrive in your inbox when there has been a shift in one of the MLB bullpens. If you get emails sent to your phone, it really can't get any easier than this.

If you're on Twitter, following @closermonkey and @closernews will likely get you the information a few minutes earlier than the Closer Monkey email. You could get it even earlier than that by going right to the source and subscribing to an MLB beat writer list. These solutions require that you're constantly checking your Twitter feed 24 hours a day though. That's added stress which is what we want to avoid.

Tools for Weekly Add/Drop Advice

Most of my leagues are weekly waiver wire pickups. I prefer this to the daily grind of real-time pickups. If you're just doing weekly pickups too then all you need is a good article each week before you make your waiver claims.

     The Easy Solution: Read the FantasyPros waiver wire feed on waiver deadline day
     Possible Sites: RotoGraphs and Fake Teams
The FantasyPros feed has some great sites linked within it. If you need waiver claims in by Friday night, read some of their linked articles on Friday and you'll be knowledgeable enough to make some claims within a few minutes of reading. Your job is done for the week.

Two sites within their links that I like for weekly advice are RotoGraphs and Fake Teams. If you want to consolidate your weekly reading to one site only then choosing one of those is a good way to go.

Tools for Daily Updates

Sometimes catching up on fantasy baseball news over a morning coffee can be enough for the pace of your league.

     The Easy Solution: Fantasy Rundown
     Alternative: RotoFeed
Fantasy Rundown is the gold standard of fantasy baseball news feeds. You can rely on it being updated every morning and it only pulls from the best sources in the business. Advice and news are waiting for you every morning. If you prefer a more magazine-like feel, RotoFeed offers that but with a bit less content.

Tools for Trade Advice

The last piece of your roster management puzzle is deciding what to do about trade offers. For that, a second opinion is all you're really looking for.

     The Easy Solution: Follow and tweet at @BaseballGuys, @ProjectRoto or @FantasyWhizMLB
     The Other Easy Solution: Baseball Monster Trade Analysis
     Yet Another Easy Solution: Reddit's /r/fantasybaseball
You can get opinions from experts via Twitter by tweeting at them. It's not their job to respond but they're often more than willing to help.

When you need a third opinion on top of a second opinion, there are more options. Baseball Monster has a nice trade analyzer that uses season stats to gauge the trade for roto leagues (using projections is a premium feature that I haven't used). And, oh man, if you're still struggling at that point then crowdsourcing an opinion from a place like Reddit will hopefully settle your internal debate.

Other Helpful Tools

While this is about having a minimal toolbox to make your life easier, there are sometimes other specialty tools that you need to access in times of need. Here are a few helpful resources that you may need to call upon occasionally:

     The Fantasy Baseball Experts list on Twitter is worth subscribing to and checking out each day
     MLB Depth Charts is a great resource for looking at lineups and depth charts
     Daily Lineups at BaseballPress helps with daily lineup decisions
     Weekly Two-Start Pitcher articles for making your weekly lineup decisions

The 5 Minutes A Day Management Toolbox

If done right, fantasy baseball can just be a small, enjoyable part of your day. This is really all you need to manage a roster effectively without stress:

     1. Sign up with Closer Monkey and wait for emails about closer changes
     2. Check Fantasy Rundown in the morning for your news/advice summary
     3. On waiver claim day, check the FantasyPros waiver wire feed for advice
     4. When a trade is up, tweet at a few trade analysts for advice
That's it. Your day is freed up so that you can actually watch baseball, enjoy life and have your roster on autopilot without abandoning it. Fantasy baseball isn't about information overload. Keep it fun and easy.

Apr 3, 2014

The Differences That Make Each League Unique [The Irregular Season]


This is the debut post of The Irregular Season, a column where I'll write about my fantasy baseball experience this season. Reflection, humor, insight and some venting are all fair game within this weekly post. Enjoy!

I've come to know one truth about our game and this is it. Our leagues aren't a product of fantasy baseball itself. Fantasy baseball is a product of our leagues.

It took me ages to realize that.

I started playing fantasy baseball as a child. I'd estimate that I was probably ten years old when my oldest brother let me play with his friends in a fantasy baseball league. I know they just needed another warm body and figured I was an easy mark but, hey, I was the little brother being let into the big boy inner circle. Exciting!

Those early experiences defined my expectations about fantasy sports for years to come. I recognized it as a game that is filled with trash-talking, joke-telling, false bravado and intense conversations about our respective teams during the season.

I got older and formed my own leagues with my friends and tried to recreate that same experience. It didn't come naturally. I wondered what I was doing wrong.

I got older still and joined other leagues with other friends. Once again, I tried to make the leagues into what I thought fantasy baseball was. It didn't happen and it made me realize that it's not up to me to define the fantasy baseball experience for everyone else.

Two decades and many failed leagues later, I now play in four leagues with rich histories. They're all fantasy baseball leagues but there's no way you could convince me that they're the same game. That's a good thing because it is the differences in each league that have showed me the many reasons to love this game.

The Keeper Points League:
For The Love Of The Season

This was another older-brother-inviting-the-little-brother-into-his-world league. The style of the league was what I was already comfortable with. During the season, the owners are constantly engaged in a very interactive experience. It is a head-to-head format and there is a sense of importance surrounding who you play each week.

This league recognizes the season itself as the true cornerstone of fantasy baseball. The commissioner embraced that concept so much that there's a Twitter account with league updates and there's a website with stories about the history of the league. There's even a YouTube talk show about the league with episodes regularly posted throughout the season.

This league has taught me that being engaged throughout the season with your fellow owners is one of the best parts of fantasy baseball.

My Own Keeper Points League:
For The Love Of Gambling

I helped create a new league about a decade ago. I modeled it after what I knew. I wanted it to be a socially engaged league with trash-talking and history. This started my revelation that the experience cannot be forced.

The guys in this league all have loose connections to one another but there are a lot of people who don't know one another. The draft happens online with minimal interaction. There is some chatter throughout the season but it usually involves countless trade offers and complex rule discussions.

I've come to realize that this is a league that is ultimately about trying to win some money. We don't come back to the league every year because we love the social element or the draft or the season. We come back because there's a pretty damn big check on the line and that makes it exciting.

The Traditional Roto League:
For The Love Of The Draft

This was my first rotisserie league. I only knew one guy in the league and it felt like I was joining a cult when I got to my first draft. It was abundantly clear that the draft event was oozing with tradition and ritual and I walked right in the middle of it. This wasn't a first draft; it was an initiation. Bow down to the trophy. Kneel before the draft boardEat the cheese curds. Drink the Yoo-Hoo.

Drawing upon my previous experiences, I still felt that social engagement was a big part of fantasy baseball so I initially tried to bring that to the league after draft day. I eventually realized that the tradition here is the draft and not the season. The season is a bit of a solo journey since there's not a head-to-head element nor group interaction.

This is the league that got me to truly appreciate the ritualistic element of fantasy baseball and the traditions that can come out of it. Baseball is a constant in this world and fantasy baseball should follow that lead.

The Roto Auction Dynasty League:
For The Love Of Strategy

This is a low-stakes league and was the first auction league that I was invited to join. This is a group of loosely connected guys from around the country who all just love baseball and analyzing stats.

The league was constructed to maximize the strategic element: auction, dynasty, 6x6 roto. These are all things that require extra thinking and plotting.

It is a league that is all about trying to outsmart other smart guys. The other leagues have that element too but this was a new extreme to that idea. It allowed me to truly appreciate the strategy of fantasy baseball even more while exposing me to yet another side of this game.

What Is The Common Thread?

For me, the common thread between these four leagues is that I drafted Scott Kazmir in all of them.

Aside from that, the thing that makes all of these fantasy baseball experiences similar is they are centered around the people you play with. We are experiencing and defining it together, not alone, and that's what makes these experiences special. Paraphrasing one of my favorite quotes, fantasy baseball [is] only real when shared.

Mar 28, 2014

Do You Make These 8 Fantasy Draft Day Mistakes?


Once you realize that you've made some strategic errors in your fantasy baseball draft, it is often too late to fix them. There is no undo button to fix a bad draft pick. It sounds simple but the best strategy is really to not make errors to begin with. Knowing what mistakes to avoid is the first step.

If you've done a few drafts then you've seen other owners in your leagues fumble their way through a draft that results in having a team that has no shot at the title. You don't want to be that guy.

You can tell that your roto draft is going in that awful direction if you find yourself making these obvious mistakes.

1. You Target Pitching Too Heavily Early On

There are many different strategies when it comes to building a pitching staff and most are centered around not investing heavily in pitching. One of those strategies is the LIMA Plan and there's versions of that same plan where some folks advocate one ace and then low-investment pitchers after that. Regardless, the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to pitching is to draft too many aces. The idea of having lots of good pitching isn't bad in and of itself. The idea of not drafting hitters with your early picks is bad though. The talent pool dries up quicker than you think. You do not want to still be drafting multiple offensive starters in Rounds 15 and on.

2. You Draft Too Many "Breakout" Candidates

I think there's a lot of benefit to grabbing a Wil Myers or Jose Abreu or Jedd Gyorko in hopes that you can take advantage of their lack of a track record by getting the "next big thing". However, be conservative in your risk-taking. When you build your team with too many boom-or-bust players, you cancel out the boom by having too much bust. For every Mike Trout, there's a Desmond Jennings and a few Brett Lawries waiting right behind him (fine players that didn't offer great return-on-investment when they were being drafted as "breakout" rookies). If you look at your team and you say "if he breaks out..." about more than just a couple players then your team is filled with too many "ifs" and you're going to suffer because of it.

3. You Don't Draft A First Baseman Early Enough

It doesn't seem like a position of scarcity since there are a dozen good options at 1B but when you're in a league that has a DH or Corner Infielder position, you can suddenly find yourself in big trouble if you don't have a 1B by the seventh round and other teams already have multiple 1B's. After Anthony Rizzo and Jose Abreu are gone, you've found yourself in a horrible position if you haven't yet filled this spot. Don't be cute. Draft 1B early.

4. You Draft Too Many Injured or Injury-Prone Players

This plays along with the same theory behind drafting too many "breakout" players. There's an advertised risk with drafting a player who starts the season on the DL. That obvious risk drives his draft value down and someone eventually decides to take a chance. It's okay to be that guy. It's not okay to be that guy multiple times in the same draft. It's not okay to be taking chances on those aforementioned breakout candidates in addition to these injured players. A draft built upon risk is a draft doomed to fail.

5. You Don't Understand Your League's Position Eligibility Rules

You're looking at a cheatsheet or reading a website that makes you think that picking Evan Gattis as your catcher would be a sneaky move. You draft him and then go drink some Yoo-Hoo and carry on with life without realizing that he's not eligible at catcher in your league. Only later do you realize this and try to cover up your mistake. Suddenly your whole draft plan has shifted but it's too late to remedy the mistake.

You'd be surprised how often these mistakes occur and how much of an affect they can have upon your draft. Double-check and then triple-check anybody that you think has dual-eligibility because every league has different rules related to this.

6. You Draft A Closer That Maybe, Possibly Isn't Closing Right Now

Cool. Your draft info from early March says that Neftali Feliz is the closer for the Rangers and they're going to win a lot of games so you--no, don't be that guy. Joakim Soria got the closer job a few days ago. Know who the closers are. You can't ask for a redo on a draft pick when you get the right info a few minutes later. I recommend using Closer Monkey as a resource for knowing who is the closer for every team at the time of your draft.

7. You Wait Too Long On Outfielders

There are so many outfielders, you say! There's so many good outfielders too, you say! Until... you look around and realize that you just might have to start Ben Revere as your third outfielder because you were too busy picking closers and catchers and backup catchers. Don't be that guy. Try to have three outfielders by Round 12 so you're not scrambling for scraps (especially true in 5 OF leagues).

8. You Use Too Many Early Picks On Hitters With No Power

Dude. Do you even read Mr. Cheatsheet? No? Well you probably should. If you're in a roto league, you gotta target power early on. As an added bonus, you get higher RBI and Run totals when you draft HR guys. I like Elvis Andrus. I like Dustin Pedroia. I like Joe Mauer. But, no no no, don't draft all of these low power guys to gain those SB's or high AVG in these crucial rounds. You can find SB's through other means but you cannot make up for not having power hitters on your team. Be smart. Draft power hitters.

Mar 27, 2014

Re-Fantasizing Baseball [Slightly Strategic]


(Mike Trout)

It's nap time.

Those three words show where my life diverges from Mr. Cheatsheet's. For me, it means I have 90 minutes. I'm on Reddit. I'm (mock drafting). I'm IMing with Mr. Cheatsheet. Spotify is playing at a reasonable volume. (Evan Longoria / Giancarlo Stanton)

For Mr. Cheatsheet? I guess I'm just assuming, but nap time probably means he gets to take a nap.

This mock draft is my highest priority at the moment. I've had a feeling this entire offseason (Eric Hosmer / Zach Greinke) that if I'm going to stick out fantasy baseball for the long run, I need to continue to devote time to it. I didn't prepare at all last year. The draft was stressful. (Jean Segura / Matt Holliday) I took Danny Espinosa in the 8th. Ryan Ludwick in the 14th. I didn't pay much attention to my team during the season. I decided after the season I was done. If I wasn't going to put effort into it, I may as well quit. (Anthony Rizzo / Michael Wacha)

Then, something changed. There were a few days with nice weather. I saw grass on the ground. I started thinking about baseball. And I remembered that even though my family is my life, I can still carve out a place for myself. My kids need to see me having hobbies. (Billy Hamilton / Jose Abreu)

The first step was a decision: I changed my mind about quitting the league. I was in and I'd be ready.

I still couldn't commit myself to making it to the draft. It's a 6-hour drive that I'd have to make by myself. (Jedd Gyorko / Danny Salaazar)

Then, another change of heart. One of my leaguemates is also our tax guy and he ended up badgering me into it while were on the phone. "What's the point of being in the league if you're not coming to the draft?" he asked. (Tony Cingrani / Christian Yelich)

I didn't have a response. I figured out how to make the drive work and I'm going.

And so, I'm mocking. (Fernando Rodney / John Axford)

I printed out a spreadsheet. I highlighted the guys I want: hitters in yellow, pitchers in blue. I made a color-coded dot system: green means go, orange means it's fine if I miss on him, purple means feel free to reach. (Chris Archer / Jim Henderson)

I made a fake ESPN profile so I could have fun in the mock draft chats. At first I hated the 45 second timer on each pick, but now I see it as part of my training. (Kelly Johnson / George Springer) I'm forced to make my choices and live with them. I'm OK with seeing how it turns out if I go in a different direction. (Corey Kluber / Josh Jonson)



Most of all, I'm looking forward to the live draft. We've got the big board. It's an all-day event. The Sandlot. Yoo-hoo.

I'm excited about the drive. I'm bringing my older boy with me. He'll stay with my parents while I make the rest of the trip, but I'll get to talk baseball with him. We'll listen to podcasts. Maybe it'll turn into a tradition.

For me, the first step to re-fantasizing baseball was making a decision. After that comes the prep. Vital to that is the mock draft. (Brad Miller / Carlos Ruiz)

Russ Goerend was the co-host of the short-lived Performance Enhancing Discussions. He's a father of two boys and husband to a crafty wife. When he's not second-guessing his draft picks and trade offers, he teaches middle school English.

What To Expect During The Regular Season at Mr. Cheatsheet


Fantasy baseball is more than just the draft and Mr. Cheatsheet is more than just a draft spreadsheet.

We're nearing Opening Day (not that Australian version) so I wanted to let you know why you should stick around this season. During the regular season, we'll celebrate the game of fantasy baseball through stories, research and analysis. The goal is to learn, share and (of course) win our fantasy baseball leagues this season.

Learn

Interviews - The quickest way to become one of the best is to surround yourself with the best. This summer, I'll be interviewing great minds from the baseball analytic and fantasy baseball communities. Let's soak in some of their brain power.

Analysis - Don't expect the research to stop now that the draft is over. Expect to find more studies related to in-season fantasy baseball performance that will help influence your transactions.

Reader Mail - I love getting questions via email and tweets from the readers. This is your warning that I may use your questions here so that we can all benefit from the answers. Let's get smarter together.

Share

Fantasy baseball doesn't stop then start. It weaves its way into our day-to-day lives throughout the season.

Each week, there will be featured stories here about how life and fantasy baseball mix together. In addition, there will be stories from the frontline where you can see the decisions that occur during a typical fantasy baseball season for both a novice and a fantasy baseball "expert".

Slightly Strategic - A guest contributor will be joining the site for a weekly piece about managing his life as a middle-school English teacher and father of two young boys while managing a fantasy baseball roster too. Fans of this site may know Russ from the two shows we did together (Performance-Enhancing Discussions and Why Should We Care?).

The Irregular Season - In my day-to-day life, I'm a wild and crazy mild and lazy bachelor living in suburban Ohio and working in higher education. You know me as a fantasy expert that you put your trust in. You hope that you're putting your trust in a guy who is winning his fantasy leagues and you'll get to find out for yourself this season. Each week, I'll walk you through the trials and tribulations of my season in four different leagues and talk about how life intersects with this game.

Win

Pickups and Drops - You can find information about potential players to add via free agency on any fantasy site out there but I'll try to identify valuable players that other sites aren't talking about. I'll also recommend players to drop because that decision is sometimes even more important than who you should pick up. We all have stories about that-time-we-dropped-that-guy-who-had-a-great-season. Let's avoid that this year.

In-Season Cheatsheets - No promises here but I have a few ideas about some in-season cheatsheets that would analyze trades and pickups based on league type. This site was built upon the premise that there are countless leagues with very unique settings that need their own customized analysis. With any luck, these in-season cheatsheets will build upon that and give you a big advantage during the season.

Love

There's a reason why you found yourself at a website like this. I would register a guess that it is because you really love this game of fantasy baseball. It's special to you beyond just choosing players for your roster. There's the love of competition, camaraderie and baseball itself. This game is special to me too which is why I make these draft tools, do this research and write all of these posts to share with you. Let's share that love of fantasy baseball all year long here at Mr. Cheatsheet!

Play ball!

Mr. Cheatsheet's 2014 Draft Guide For Rounds 2 Through 10


I've done a fair share of real drafting and mock drafting this season and I always seem to get a bit mixed up in the early half of the middle rounds. The first round is easy enough because who you draft is pretty much dictated by where you draft. The later rounds of drafts are where my stockpile of value picks come into play. In between those areas is a weird grey zone where it feels like there's a void of elite talent. We're in a world with a declining amount of great hitters in a league that is dominated by pitching and it has made these early middle rounds a bit odd. In order to help anyone afflicted with the same dilemma, I've laid out a draft guide for those crucial rounds of two through ten.

For roto leagues, I looked for the best value at each position in comparison to what is left at that position after a particular round. Based on my research where I noted that HR and AVG are the most important roto categories, I also looked at the best contributors in those two areas for each round. Without further ado, here are the most valuable players in each round (in a 12-team league) according to Fantasy Gameday's ADP data:

Round 2
Best value relative to their position: 
     Edwin Encarnacion (1B), Adrian Beltre (3B), Yasiel Puig (OF), Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
Best AVG+HR (WERTH values in parenthesis) contributors:
     Troy Tulowitzki (1.8 AVG / 1.1 HR), Adrian Beltre (1.8 AVG / 1.4 HR)

Round 3
Best value relative to their position: 
     Dustin Pedroia (2B), Cliff Lee (SP)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Freddie Freeman (1.0 / 0.7), Jose Bautista (-0.5 / 1.8)

Round 4
Best value relative to their position:
     Buster Posey (C), Shin-Soo Choo (OF), Hunter Pence (OF), David Price (SP)
Best AVG+HR contribution:
     Buster Posey (1.5 / 0.0), Albert Pujols (0.4 / 1.2), Eric Hosmer (1.4 / 0.4)

Round 5
Best value relative to their position: 
     Adrian Gonzalez (1B), Ian Kinsler (2B), Elvis Andrus (SS)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     David Ortiz (1.1 / 0.8), Adrian Gonzalez (1.2 / 0.7)

Round 6
Best value relative to their position: 
     Joe Mauer (C), Kenley Jansen (RP)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Mark Trumbo (-0.8 / 1.8), Joe Mauer (2.0 / -0.6)

Round 7
Best value relative to their position: 
     Wilin Rosario (C), Jose Altuve (2B), Carlos Beltran (OF), Alex Gordon (OF)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Carlos Beltran (0.3 / 0.9), Wilin Rosario (0.4 / 0.9)

Round 8
Best value relative to their position: 
     Anthony Rizzo (1B), Kyle Seager (3B), Homer Bailey (SP), Koji Uehara (RP)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Anthony Rizzo (-0.6 / 1.3), Jose Abreu (-0.4 / 1.3)

Round 9
Best value relative to their position: 
     Michael Cuddyer (OF), Starlin Castro (SS)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Michael Cuddyer (1.2 / 0.2)

Round 10
Best value relative to their position: 
     Pablo Sandoval (3B), Doug Fister (SP)
Best AVG+HR contribution: 
     Billy Butler (1.4 / 0.3), Pablo Sandoval (0.7 / 0.2)

If you target a mix of these players over those nine rounds then you should end up with a fairly solid team. For me personally, I laid out a roadmap based off of this in regards to who I would want in each round and then a couple in-case-of-emergency versions of that roadmap if my draft plan happens to fall apart based off of how other teams may draft.

As you can see here, most of the value in these earlier rounds is tied to hitting categories so it makes sense to put your focus on hitting given the weak hitting environment of baseball right now. In the later rounds after this, you can still find enough pitchers with high ceilings to guide your team. Heck, I wrote a post about finding those pitchers too.

For roto, I think you can't go wrong keeping a keen eye on AVG and HR during these rounds because you won't find many players after Round 10 that can contribute in either category. Try running through some scenarios for yourself to see how you can end up with a high AVG, high HR team by Round 10. From Round 11 on, you can grab some SB contributors and complete your roster with a stable of high-upside pitchers.

Mar 22, 2014

Most Overvalued Players in 2014 According To The Projections


While projection systems certainly aren't the be-all-end-all when it comes to your fantasy baseball draft prep, they do offer nice conservative predictions that you can rely on. I touched upon some of the undervalued players from the main projection sources this morning and now let's look at some of the overvalued players.

One thing to keep in mind is that these projections will rarely project young unproven players to do exactly what we might assume they're going to do. Projecting a hot, young rookie to break out despite not really have a resume to back him up is nearly impossible for these types of projections. So, when you see some of the potentially "overvalued" players, do keep that in mind.

Comparing the current ADP value for these players to their potential roto value according to each projection system, here are the most overvalued players at each position:

Fangraphs Steamer Mr. C CAIRO ZiPS
C Wieters Molina Ramos Ramos Ramos
1B Goldschmidt Goldschmidt C. Davis C. Davis Adams
2B N/A Kipnis Carpenter Gyorko Cano
3B Zimmerman Machado Wright Alvarez Longoria
SS H. Ramirez Desmond H. Ramirez Tulowitzki E. Cabrera
OF Ellsbury A. Jones Ellsbury Ellsbury Ellsbury
OF Hamilton McCutchen C. Gomez Puig C. Gomez
OF Rios Harper Harper Harper Stanton
DH C. Gomez Bruce Granderson Stanton Bautista
SP Wilson Buchholz Wilson Teheran Buchholz
SP Moore Gray Weaver Gray Wacha
SP Cingrani Wheeler Wheeler Wheeler Burnett
SP Tanaka G. Cole Tanaka Strasburg G. Cole
SP G. Gonzalez Minor G. Gonzalez Sale Salazar
RP Balfour Soriano Soriano Rosenthal Soriano

Catcher

Oh, poor poor Wilson Ramos. This really comes down to the projection systems all agreeing that it's not very likely that Ramos can stay healthy for a whole season. If he's actually able to stay healthy, he should put together a decent season. The choice is yours.

First Base

The two top first baseman in most leagues are... overvalued? Well, the thing is that Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis are not projected to have bad seasons but the projection systems just don't have a long history to go off for either of these players. This is one of those situations where I'd just ignore the projection systems and carry on with my day.

Second Base

This is a tricky position because, on the whole, the projection systems think there's a lot more value than the public thinks there is at second base this year. So, while there are a lot of undervalued players here, there's not a consensus on any overvalued players. If anything, my takeaway when looking at the projections is that there's enough value within this position that you can wait on it until later on. So, for that reason, maybe Jason Kipnis and Robinson Cano deserve an "overvalued" label because of that.

Third Base

Third base is similar to second base in that there's not a lot of consensus about who is overvalued. All five guys listed above have some question marks surrounding them but the red flags still aren't obvious enough for more than one projection system to agree here. It's a position that has more undervalued guys than overvalued.

Shortstop

So, Hanley Ramirez is back to being an early round pick but the projection systems still haven't forgiven him for his past yet. Most projection systems have him bordering on reaching 20/20 with a decent batting average which is all well and good but doesn't match up to his current draft spot.

Outfield

There's actually quite a bit of agreement from the projection systems about who is overvalued in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury pops up on four of the five lists as they just don't see enough value outside of his stolen bases to make him a top pick. Bryce Harper is a bit of a surprising name to see on the lists but I mentioned earlier that the projections are a bit more conservative with young players so that is likely why. Carlos Gomez hasn't put together a long enough resume yet to validate being a top pick according to the projections. Giancarlo Stanton may not have completely scared away fans with his sub-par season last year but the projection systems are definitely considered about it and docking him accordingly.

Starting Pitchers

Once again, we see a lot of consensus here. The six pitchers that appear on multiple lists fall into either being too young to have a resume that validates their high draft pick status (Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole) or a bit of an unknown still (Masahiro Tanaka) or they have stumbled a bit in their career and the projections don't think that they will regain their earlier success (C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver). Or, well, they just don't seem to like the guy as much as the public (Gio Gonzalez).

Relief Pitchers

Projection systems generally weight the three most recent years for a pitcher and Rafael Soriano has posted near-elite numbers in only one of those three years. Despite that, he's being drafted among the top closers which either means that the public knows something that the computer don't or that maybe, just maybe, he's being a bit overvalued.