Mar 27, 2010

A Look at Mr. Cheatsheet's Stars of 2010

We talked a lot about draft strategy and positional value this preseason and hopefully we all learned a bit and had a good time.  But, underneath all of that, I had guys that I've been really excited about without overly announcing it.  So, as we head into the season, these are guys who I think will be super special people in the 2010 fantasy baseball season.  We'll revisit this at the end of the year for a good chuckle (hello future self, hope all is well).

The Batters
Julio Borbon, OF, TEX - His name has been sprinkled throughout this site consistently.  Projections systems like him, I like him, your mom probably likes him.  He's just a likable guy.  See my sleeper post for a full profile on him.
Chris Davis, 1B/3B; Elvis Andrus, SS; Nelson Cruz, OF, TEX - I like a lot of players on the Rangers this year.  Chris Davis is a bounceback candidate to the max.  Elvis Andrus is the SS you want on your roto team.  Nelson Cruz is still being overlooked but is a masher.  That whole lineup is filled with sleepers.  I'd take that whole roster as my AL-Only team and be fine with it. 
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL - He didn't get a full profile but he probably should have.  Big things are in store for this young man.  He's no longer a highly regarded prospect; he's a real baseball player now.  Next year, he'll be a top-tier OF so invest in him now while the price tag is low.
Chris Iannetta, C, COL - The news that Iannetta is sharing time with Miguel Olivio only makes me like him more.  The thing with catchers is that they're all going to hurt you in the standings of roto leagues except for McCann and Mauer.  Even though I think Iannetta will be one of the better catchers this year, he'll still represent negative value over an average fantasy starter when all is said and done.  So, with him getting less at-bats, that lessens the damage.  So, if I'm drafting a catcher later in the draft, I'm drafting this guy.  A full profile is right here.
Garrett Jones, 1B, PIT - He's also been profiled.  I also like that he's a man with a first name that could be a last name.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, BOS - Second base is deeeeeep but I do like Pedroia this season if you're going to draft a 2B early on.  He's ignored by many but provides your team with consistently solid stats.  Unfortunately, he went too early for me in all drafts but I do like him.
Placido Polanco, 2B/3B, PHI - As far as Middle Infielders go or backup 2B, I like Polanco.  Using him at 3B isn't quite as fun but he's a steady producer in an even better lineup than in the past.
Nick Swisher/Nick Johnson, NYY - These are the forgotten Yankees who will flat-out produce for you.  If you're in an OBP league, then you must snatch up these sneaky sources of production.
David Ortiz, DH, BOS - Nobody wants to like David Ortiz this year but I certainly do.  He's not as old as it seems he is.  His career is still on a decline but it's very plausible that he'll still hit .260 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs.  At the point where he's being drafted, I'm investing in him in many leagues.
B.J. Upton, OF, TB - You hear about this young Upton kid who went 20/20 in his first full major leagues season while batting exactly .300?  And, I'm not talking about Justin.  If you look at their first seasons though, they're eerily similar.  Yet, after some up-and-down years, people are dissing B.J.  I still think he has just as much promise than Justin and he's being drafted much later.  I'm investing on many teams.

The Pitchers
Octavio Dotel, RP, PIT - If you're taking a dive into the bottom tier of closers, there's few better options than Dotel.  The dude is in his late 30's but he has had a K/9 rate above 10 every year of his career.  Sure, he'll walk a few guys too but no worries.  Closers on bad teams still get saves too and why not get a closer who has the potential to get you over 80 strikeouts too?
Tim Hudson, SP, ATL - I think people forget how good he used to be.  Either that or they don't trust his health.  Well, this isn't a guy who is just starting to get healthy, he got healthy last year and dominated when he returned.  And, now we're getting ready for a full year of domination.  The Chris Carpenter of 2010, in other words.
Hiroki Kuroda, SP, LA - He was named the fourth starter on the Dodgers this year but probably deserved better.  Regardless, for fantasy purposes, he excels in all categories except strikeouts.  Yet, because of his phenomenally low walk rate, he still has one of the best K/BB rates in the league.  
Carl Pavano/Kevin Slowey/Scott Baker, MIN - Earlier I mentioned that I'd like to take the Rangers entire lineup for an AL-Only team.  Well, I'd probably take the entire Twins pitching staff for my starters.  Pavano is going to sneak up on people this year.  He's an afterthought in drafts but definitely worth having on your bench.  Slowey and Baker are two great pitchers to have in the middle of your pitching staff.  They're not fantasy aces but they're closer to it than people think.
Chad Qualls, RP, ARI - If you're taking a dive into the middle tier of closers then this is the guy I like.  People say he had an off year last year, which is true to an extent, but his xFIP was the lowest of career at 2.86 which indicates he got somewhat unlucky.  He's a nice value option at closer.
James Shields, SP, TB - I've talked about him on a few places on this site.  I like his ability to work deep into games for point-based or quality start leagues.  I like his K/BB rate on top of that.  He's often overlooked and always productive.

The Injured
Carlos Beltran/Ted Lilly - There's always that long fall in drafts when guys open the year on the DL.  Neither of these guys were ones I particularly coveted until their draft stock fell to bargain bin prices.  I drafted Beltran as a backup OF in one league where he fell to extreme depths and Lilly is filling a bench spot on a couple teams of mine as well.  Wait it out and you should get solid production from both of them for very little cost.

Mar 26, 2010

The 2010 Fantasy Baseball Preseason: What Did We Learn?

I discussed a lot of fun fantasy baseball topics throughout the past months leading up to the baseball season.  For those who have a last-minute draft this weekend, here are some of the juicier items we touched upon that you may want to review.  Consider this our greatest hits collection of 2010 fantasy baseball preparation material.

  • I identified potential deep sleepers then investigated them each further.
  • I identified corner infielders to target/avoid in drafts as well as middle infielders.
  • I looked at Average Draft Positions according to MockDraftCentral versus CBS to find the biggest differences between them.  Then, I showed how flawed ADP is anyway.
  • I looked at batting statistics for roto leagues related to ADP, and talked about who target after the early rounds for each stat (here's the pages for SB, AVG, HR).
  • I looked at different roto league types, like those which use quality starts or those which use OBP, and who to target in those league types.
  • I talked about whether it's worth drafting catchers like Joe Mauer or Brian McCann at the top of your drafts and determined that it was in both cases.
  • I looked at the projection systems and determined who they each had outperforming their draft position.  ZiPS liked guys who could steal bases late in the draft.  Chone liked some forgotten veterans to keep producing.  And, Marcel liked the idea of picking veterans late too.  But, they all pretty much liked Eric Young, Jr (if he starts) and Julio Borbon (so do I).
  • I took a look at whether highly drafted starting pitchers are more injury-prone or less predictable than highly drafted hitters (they're not).  Then, I tried to see if the value was really there for drafting starters early in the draft (and, it's not exactly).  But, in a separate post, I did see the value to taking an elite starter like Tim Lincecum.
  • I looked at each position and discussed the trends in value for each.
  • I introduced my cheatsheets and the WERTH system behind them and explained the slight differences between ours and Razzball's.
  • I talked about how to negotiate a trade.
So, there you have it: your brief look back into the first preseason of Mr. Cheatsheet.  Hopefully, I shed some light on draft trends and strategy and will help you out.  I'll be continuing with analysis throughout the regular season and thinking of ways to help you out (trade analysis spreadsheet is one idea floating around).  But, any ideas you have on what I can create for next season to help you better (and for the upcoming football season) would be appreciated.  Keep reading and I'll keep bringing the goods.

Mar 17, 2010

The Search for Narco: Revisited | 2010 Sleeper Hitters

The first post of this 2010 fantasy baseball season here was an introduction to my method of finding deep sleepers (or 'narcos' as I call them).  Then, throughout the past 2 months, I've discussed the strengths and weaknesses of many of them.  So, with spring training in full swing, let's take another look at the original list:

Carlos Gonzalez
Angel Pagan
David Ross
Randy Ruiz
Seth Smith
Andres Torres

Some of these names will have fairly insignificant roles in 2010 but there are a few who looks like they have a a starting job in some capacity: Kyle Blanks, Julio Borbon, Brett Gardner, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Iannetta, and Garret Jones.  I think it is likely that there will be a breakout from a couple names in that group.  The hype train has already arrived for CarGo, Borbon and Garret Jones but, despite their roles, Gardner, Blanks and Iannetta still bring an element of surprise and juicy late-round potential.  

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on what role certain players will have like Jake Fox, Jonny Gomes and Ryan Raburn but it seems that they are bets not worth making at this point in time due to various players standing in the way of their playing time.

So, personally, my draft plan this year is to try to get either Gonzalez, Borbon or Jones in the middle rounds.  Towards the tail end of the draft, I'll put a target on Gardner, Blanks or Iannetta.  And, I'll decide to pass on drafting Fox, Gomes and Raburn but will keep a very close eye on them for possible waiver wire pickup at the first sign of any good news.  My goal is to not get all of these guys because that's putting too many eggs into one strategy but I'm not afraid to make small investments in as many of these players as I'm able to.

Mar 14, 2010

Comparing 2010 ADPs Across Sites: MockDraftCentral vs. CBS

As we previously discussed, average draft position is generally a product of the rankings that the site offers the drafters.  So, you can similarly assume that your league draft will fall under the same spell.  You may have studied MockDraftCentral's average draft position data but have your league draft through CBS Sportsline.  And, if so, your jaw might drop when Alcides Escobar is drafted in the 13th round, instead of after the 20th round like you were expecting.  However, young man, if you had compared the data between CBS and MDC, you would have seen this coming.  But, don't worry, I've done your dirty work.

Here are players that have conflicting ADP positions that represent a difference greater than three rounds when comparing CBS and MDC.   Interesting to note that nearly all of these come from the same four positions: SS, OF, RP and SP.  Shortstop is a position that really drops off quickly and leaves everyone scrambling in the middle rounds so I'm not surprised that these draft sites have disagreement there.  Outfield and starting pitching are both incredibly deep due to roster requirements and represent a larger crapshoot in the middle rounds as well.  And, finally, my guess is that relief pitching is ranked much higher in the CBS default rankings since all of these RP's are being drafted much earlier in CBS drafts.

Regardless, there are some interesting names on this list and nearly all are injury risks or young players that also represent risk.  It is that risk that is causing the rankings to react differently to them and affecting ADP results.  Regardless, I'd keep this list handy during your draft to recognize that you can either wait on some of these guys who have to jump earlier than you might think.  It's good to mentally prepare yourself long before entering the draft room and seeing the strange rankings and unexpected draft flow from a different draft site.

Mar 11, 2010

Site Rankings' Influence on ADP Position: MockDraftCentral

Every draft we have is obviously very influenced by average draft position data.  You may think that Julio Borbon is going to produce value worthy of a 5th round draft pick but it would be silly to take him there if he's typically being drafted in the 10th round.  So, instead, you most likely decide to maximize your value by waiting and drafting him later on.

Average draft position is thought to be a way of sampling public opinion to determine where the average drafter would take a certain player.  However, there's one glaring problem with that idea: the mock draft sites present you with a ranked list of available players as you're drafting.  Frankly, it takes a certain amount of cajones to sway from that list and deviate too far from it.  So, my not-so-groundbreaking theory is that average draft position is mainly a slightly altered reflection of that particular site's rankings.  If Mock Draft Central (MDC) decided to rank Julio Borbon as the 50th best player this year, do you think his average draft position would still be 210?  I don't.  But, don't take my word for it, let's look at some numbers:

What you see here is a comparison of Mock Draft Central's default rankings being compared to their latest average draft position results with a final column displaying the difference between the two.  This is only for the Top 25 but you can see the similarity between the two is pretty clear.

If we expand this out to include the Top 120 players, you will see that the largest difference between average draft position and ranking for any player is 18.28 spots.  That may seem like it's a lot but let's compare Mock Draft Central's ADP to other ranking systems that wouldn't be shown on the site and see if the differences between rankings and their ADP are quite as similar.

This is the same Top 25 list but showing how ESPN, CBS, Sports Fanatic rankings compare with Mock Draft Central's average draft position.  You can see a bit more variance already particularly with names like Joey Votto, Victor Martinez and Mark Reynolds having extremely different rankings compared to MDC's ADP (acronyms are fun, aren't they?).

If we expand this out to the top 120, the differences between rankings and this ADP are, as you can already see, much greater than the 18.28 we saw earlier.  For ESPN, their largest difference between ranking and ADP was 59.53 spots and CBS' was 96.22 while Sports Fanatic takes the cake with one particular difference of 178.77.

What does that all mean?

Basically, between all of the rankings we could pull from, there wouldn't be any that would be as similar to Mock Draft Central's ADP as their own.  This provides proof that the ADP is simply a reflection of their rankings that they provide to mock drafters.

The sad thing is that nearly every fantasy baseball site across the internet will reference the ADP presented by MDC when talking about where a player is typically being drafted.  And, truly, that ADP is just a slightly altered viewing of MDC's own rankings, not a sampling of public opinion.  I think the only way we could get a true feeling of public view is if there was a mock drafting service that provided names in alphabetical order only, forcing drafters to make their own gut choices.

Does all of this mean that the average draft position that MDC provides is useless?  No.  Despite how it is generated, it still has a large influence on public opinion and every draft we'll have this year.  But, the fact of the matter is that you should take their data with a grain of salt.  When participating in your league draft this year, remember that all of the drafters around you are being influenced by the rankings that the site is presenting them at the time.  Use that knowledge to your advantage where you see fit.

There is other ADP data out there and I will look at those in the near future as well to determine if they suffer the same fatal flaw.  Stay tuned, my friends.

Mar 10, 2010

Fantasy League Remix: Using Quality Starts

There's many fantasy baseball leagues that are starting to embrace the power of the quality start but the problem is that it's a tough stat to predict.  Regardless, you do need to switch up your style in these type of leagues so what should you do?

We have an expected quality starts formula that helps us here and if we use that with Chone projections, our projected top 20 quality start pitchers for 2010 would be:

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about the list.  As you might suspect, good pitchers are predicted to get more quality starts.  If your ERA is below 4.50 (what the minimum is for a quality start), there's a good chance you'll have more quality starts.  However, the other factor to consider for quality starts is the number of innings per game that a pitcher will pitch.  If they're the type of pitcher who struggles to get six innings per game on average, they're likely going to struggle to get you quality starts.  Let's look at those with low projected innings per start:

Mainly, you'll see a lot of young guys or injury prone guys who might not be the most reliable QS options.  That's interesting.  We'll revisit that in a second.  But, first, we'll glance at some of the top names for innings per start:

On this list you see your usual heavyweight aces but then James Shields sneaks on there as well Kenshin Kawakami but I think that one might be more of an error as he has no track record to validate that.  But, regardless, the only news to take out of this little list is that one surprise source of quality starts might be James Shields.

Another thing to keep in mind for mixed leagues that use quality starts is the old adage to draft NL starters.  Out of the top 25 pitchers in quality starts in 2009, 17.5 were from the NL (with the half being given to Cliff Lee because of his league change mid-way through the year).  In 2008, the difference wasn't quite as glaring but the top 25 was still made up of 14 NL starters.  So, you certainly have better odds by going with an NL pitcher and their traditionally lower ERA.

But, to go back to what was just mentioned, are younger pitchers less reliable to go deep into games?  There could be a more in-depth study on this and odds are that this would be true but to glance at the 2009 statistics, here's the bottom tier of guys for innings pitched per start:

Generally, it's a mix of young guys and injury prone guys, much like the projections predicted.  It's hard to tell if these are low totals are because teams play it safe with those guys or if it has more to do with their makeup.  If you look at the current leaders in innings per game, you'd see that they were able to pitch over 6 innings per game started right from the beginning of their career as a major league starter (though some worked their earliest years in the bullpen to get their feet wet as opposed to going right into the rotation).

Regardless, if I was building an ideal rotation for quality starts, I'd work on getting a stud or two while also targeting a James Shields-type guy and I would certainly avoid youthful starters (which is a tricky catch-22 if you're in a keeper league).  Quality starts is a tough area to predict but basically you want guys who are going to limit runs and rack up the innings, which is what veterans do best.  And, when you've got a tough choice between a couple of pitchers, choose the one in the NL.

Mar 7, 2010

Fantasy League Remix: Replacing AVG with OBP

There are a large amount of variations on the standard 5x5 roto format that many leagues implore.  One of the more popular alterations that leagues make is to use on-base percentage instead of batting average.  In my own league experience, I've noticed that some teams don't take the stat change into account during the draft and just draft as normal.  But, how exactly should you switch up your strategy if you're using OBP instead of AVG?  Well, first off, there's some guys who you need to upgrade, here's a sample of guys that increase their WERTH by at least one roto point based on Chone's projections:

The biggest value adjustments are for Jack Cust, Nick Swisher, Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson.  The jump is so significant that all of their values increase by multiple rounds.  Looking down the list, there are some players that are typically drafted in the first few rounds but get a further boost in OBP leagues such as Jason BayChone FigginsAlex Rodriguez, Grady Sizemore, Dan UgglaB.J. Upton, Kevin Youkilis and Ben Zobrist.  All of these players now become prime targets in the first few rounds of an OBP draft.

The next thing you need to when entering an OBP draft is consider who you need to downgrade.

Chone's projection of Ichiro's OBP is a bit lower than most, but regardless his biggest benefit is traditionally batting average and he's not as quite of a force in the OBP department.  Some key names from earlier rounds to downgrade are Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Carl CrawfordJacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hill, Matt Kemp, Kendry Morales and Brandon Phillips.  Some of the differences are significant to drop these players down a full round and just hope somebody else drafts them closer to their normal ADP so you don't have to. 

Truly, you need to throw out your typical draft sheet (and possibly, um, use our cheatsheets?) when conducting a draft that isn't the standard 5x5 roto.  Most players will continue to look at standard rankings and be influenced by standard ADP while you're smartly let them grab who they shouldn't and steal the true value picks in those drafts.