Mar 31, 2010

Value in Starting Pitching, 2009 FIP Leaders

An extremely useful statistic for looking at the relative success of a pitcher is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), developed by Tom Tango.  It takes into account HR/9, K/9, BB/9 and IP and comes out in a format similar to ERA, which makes it easy for us to understand.  A pitcher with under a 4.00 FIP is generally a good pitcher, even if his ERA may have not reflected that.  Looking at the FIP leaderboard from 2009, you'd see names like Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke topping the list. But, we already know that they should be drafted high in fantasy drafts. If we filter out pitchers that are within the top 100 picks and only show those with a FIP below 4.00, we get an interesting list of potential sleeper candidates.


In the ERA column, I highlighted those pitchers who had an ERA above 4.00 despite having a FIP below 4.00.  They're good candidates to experience a dip in their ERA for 2010.  In the second column, I highlighted those that had a significantly lower ERA than their FIP and might experience a slight regression in their ERA (though they should still be good candidates for an ERA below 4.00).  And, in the third column, I highlighted those that had an xFIP (a normalized version of the stat that accounts for luck) above 4.00 so might have been a bit lucky in 2009 and could regress slightly.

So, when all is said and done, we still have a nice list of candidates that you can buy low on and expect a nice return from in 2010 with a couple of red flags (but nothing too major).  Some of these pitchers are being drafted later due to injury risk but there are names on here without any red flags who could be quite valuable for fantasy baseball purposes in 2010 such as Hiroki Kuroda, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammell, John Lackey, Gavin Floyd, Max Scherzer and Jorge De La Rosa.

If you still have some drafts to do, these are guys that you might want to keep in mind in those middle rounds as potentially valuable starters to fill up your rotation with.

Mar 30, 2010

The Other Kennedy Boy: Ian Kennedy


The Diamondbacks have decided to hand the keys to one of their starting pitcher jobs over to Ian Kennedy.  Brandon Webb will be on the DL to start the season but Kennedy secured a high enough role that he'll still be in the rotation when Webb returns.  Kennedy was once a highly rated prospect within the Yankees organization, ranking just behind Joba Chamberlain at the time.  The comparisons had linked him to Mike Mussina because of a lack of a powering fastball or other dominating pitches.

In his three-year major league career, he doesn't have a ton of innings under his belt but he has shown a fair amount of promise (with the exception of a 40 inning stretch in the majors that was abysmal).  The projection systems all see him as being somewhere around a 4.50 ERA pitcher with roughly a 1.40 WHIP and about 7 K/9 in 2010, which is nothing at all to be excited about.  He's done a great job of limiting home runs in his short career but walks have been his Achilles heel, which is likely the culprit for their high WHIP prediction.

From a fantasy standpoint, there's still an element of mystery to Ian Kennedy but he's worth a play in NL-Only leagues for sure.  In mixed leagues (particularly keeper leagues), he's worth a look depending on how deep your league is but I wouldn't shed tears if another team snatches him up.  I wouldn't bet on him to chalk up a large number of innings but he could certainly be an average starting pitcher with the potential to be slightly above average.  But, it's likely he'll be nothing more than a spot-starter for fantasy purposes in mixed leagues.

Mar 29, 2010

Your 2009 BABIP Leaderboard

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is a good indicator of how lucky a hitter or unlucky a pitcher was in a given year.  The act of getting the bat on the ball is a singular act of pitcher versus hitter.  After the ball hits the bat, it's often up to a combination of defense, luck and speed as to whether it will become a hit.  If a batter's BABIP is exceedingly high, it's often an indicator of an upcoming regression to the mean (the same goes for a batter with a ridiculously low BABIP).

In 2008, the leaderboard included a number of examples of players who had a regression in batting average in 2009.  For example:

Milton Bradley - .321 AVG w/ .388 BABIP (2008) regressed to .257 AVG w/ .310 BABIP (2009)
Kelly Johnson - .287 AVG w/ .340 BABIP (2008) regressed to .224 AVG w/ .247 BABIP (2009)
Howie Kendrick - .306 AVG w/ .357 BABIP (2008) regressed to .291 ABG w/ .338 BABIP (2009)

There are other examples that I could state but those are just a few.  Kelly Johnson's case was a little more severe and his extremely low BABIP probably is reason to expect a comeback in 2010.  Here's a quick glance at the leaderboard from 2009, including their AVG and Bill James' Speed Score.  I've highlighted those with an AVG that was at least 50 points lower than their BABIP (cause for concern), those with Speed under 5.0 (slow players usually don't have high BABIPs) and those with a BABIP that doesn't fit their past history (some players naturally have higher BABIPs based on their style of play).


For me, the biggest cause for concerns are those who are highlighted in at least two of the three columns.  These would be the players must likely to regress a bit in batting average (which would end up affecting their other categories most likely).  You don't need to necessarily avoid all of these players because David Wright, Joey Votto, Kevin Youkilis and others still will have fantasy value.  But you should be aware of the fact that you may not get a full return on your investment in all cases.

Mar 28, 2010

Ian Desmond, Your Time Has Come Too


Just wanted to note that it's now official: Ian Desmond is the Nationals' starting shortstop.  I touched on him earlier this week when that was still a rumor.  But, for a quick recap, this is what I said:
"Bill James tells us that we could expect a .280 average with over 10 HRs and 25 SBs.  I think that's a tad optimistic but not by much.  The 10 HRs and 25 SBs are a very real possibility but I think the .280 average is not feasible this year.  His minor league history suggests a .260 hitter, if not slightly lower.  He'll hurt your average but he gives you nice SBs, decent HRs and could give adequate production in Runs and RBIs.  As far as crappy shortstops go, I'll take that and run with it."
I still agree with what I said way back then, four days ago.  He's worth a pickup for those needing the shortstop help.

Mar 27, 2010

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.

The Time Has Come: Jason Heyward Will Start


You've likely heard of Jason Heyward prior to today.  Well, now you'll get a chance to really get to know him as the Braves have said the 20 year-old is staying up in the big leagues.  First and foremost, this means he should be owned in ALL leagues, if he isn't already.  He's a rare talent and he'll have his bumps in the road but he's worth owning because he could give elite production out of the gates.

The projection systems don't generally predict players out of the minors so we don't have much to go on here except for a Bill James prediction of .303 AVG, 17 HR, 11 SB, 86 R and 78 RBI.  Usually, I find William Jim to be a little too optimistic but this seems about right for Heyward.  I don't have any doubt that he'll be a .300+ hitter throughout his career.  The power is growing but isn't fully there yet so 17 HR is reasonable.  He's not a full-out speedster but can still steal bases so 11 SB is, also, reasonable.  All in all, he won't win your league for you this year but he'll be a valuable commodity because of his batting average and solid production in all other categories.  Basically, I agree with Scouting Book's take:

"He might not be a fantasy stud anytime soon (think about Matt Kemp's very slow rise to stardom), but he should be the All-Star face of the real-world Braves franchise for years to come."

And, really, do I need to say anything about Heyward's value in keeper leagues?  You already knew he was a future star; this news just quickened his rise to fame.

Mar 26, 2010

The 2010 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.

Phil Hughes Named #5 Starter, React Accordingly


The news coming out of yesterday was that Phil Hughes has been named the #5 starter for the Yankees.  Anybody pitching the Yankees surely generates a certain amount of value with the run support behind them.  And, we've always known that Hughes has the potential to be a top-flight starter but it's still unclear what to do with him in fantasyville.

His early minor league numbers indicate a freakishly dominating pitcher.  In 2006, he struck out 168 batters in 146 innings while managing a 2.16 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.  He kept dominating the minors in 2007 and earned a promotion to the majors but the success did not come quite to that tune.  He didn't pitch poorly in 2007 but wasn't as dominant as advertised.  In 2008, everything went wrong and it was a lost year.  In 2009, things did not go well as a starting pitcher for Hughes but he put up statistics as a relief pitcher that were more comparable to his 2006 minor league numbers (in other words: he was awesome).

Now, the Yankees have given him the green light to return to life as a starter but we don't quite know what we're going to get.  At this point, most drafts have been completed so you've either got him on your team or you don't.  If you don't and he's still on waivers then, yes, pick him up.  It's worth a shot for the mere inkling of a chance that he could return to fulfilling the promise he once had.  If you still do have a draft, adjust your draft boards accordingly and view Hughes as a nice sleeper candidate to fill in your pitching staff.  Much like the Yankees, I'd feel comfortable with him as my #5 starter out of the gates.

Personally, I invested in Hughes early on in many drafts because it looked like he was going to beat out Joba Chamberlain in Spring Training yet was being drafted after Joba.  It was simply a nice value play.  Now that he's a starter, I'm still not 100% what we'll get out of him, plus there's the fact that the #5 starter isn't a concrete position to occupy (Chan Ho Park was named #5 starter for the Phillies last spring and J.A. Happ was named a RP but look how that turned out).  I'm happy that Hughes is the starter but my expectations are tempered.  Regardless, I believe he has the chance to be something special still and think he's worth a gamble in your fantasy leagues if you can land him.

Mar 25, 2010

Spring News: Winning the Job

Jonathan Niese, Jaime Garcia, and Wade Davis were all officially given the #5 starter job from their respective teams.  There's also talk that young Ian Desmond might hit his way into the starting shortstop role for the Nats.  Wade Davis already had some buzz coming into the season but the rest of these players were merely afterthoughts.  Let's take a quick look at what to expect.

Jonathan Niese -  Most projection systems see him being a starter with a 4.50 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7 K's per 9 and 2.00 K/BB.  Based on his minor league history, that ERA and WHIP are much higher than his career norm but the rest seems right on.  It's hard to say whether he can put it all together but he has a chance of having an ERA closer to 4.00 and a WHIP closer to 1.25.  If that happens, he'd have a pretty nice year.  I wouldn't go out and pick him up now but I'd keep an eye on him in April and see if he puts it all together or reverts to the range that the projections had him pegged at.

Jaime Garcia - He's a promising youngster who has been fighting his way back from the dreaded Tommy John surgery.  He may not eat up innings but he'll create ground balls and strike out a ton of guys.  Anything beyond that is a guessing game.  His innings will be limited and he has nice potential but, like Niese, don't run out and grab him until he proves something.

Ian Desmond - I'll be honest; I like Desmond.  Shortstop was such a thin position this year and I punted it in a lot of leagues so Desmond whets my appetite in that regard.  The rumors are that he's winning over the Nats and could be a starter.  Bill James tells us that we could expect a .280 average with over 10 HRs and 25 SBs.  I think that's a tad optimistic but not by much.  The 10 HRs and 25 SBs are a very real possibility but I think the .280 average is not feasible this year.  His minor league history suggests a .260 hitter, if not slightly lower.  He'll hurt your average but he gives you nice SBs, decent HRs and could give adequate production in Runs and RBIs.  As far as crappy shortstops go, I'll take that and run with it.

Mar 24, 2010

Site Was Down, Has Returned

Well!  That was crappy.  I'm sorry to anybody who tried to visit the site within the past 2 days but we had some domain issues that brought everything crashing down.  That's probably not the best way to win over new fans to my site.  But, anywho, we're back now and feel free to check the new postings that are up and should have been able to be read the past two days.

The Art of the Fantasy Baseball Trade

You can put a lot of strategy into your draft but, if you want to win, you need to put even more effort into the roster moves during the season.  Waiver pickups are a low-risk way to improve your team but making trades is where you can win the league.  Some leagues don't have much action and it's hard to convince people to change their ways.  But, if trades are commonplace in your league, this can be a place for you to really make some improvements.

Making trades is truly a skill and requires good negotiation skills.  You could probably read books on negotiations and gain a good deal of knowledge on how to excel in this area, if you really wanted to.  But, don't get all crazy about that yet.  Here are a few nuggets to keep in mind this season:

Donald Trump once said that whenever you go to put a deal together always think of the worst outcome and see if you can accept that before going in.  Obviously, fantasy baseball trades all have an outcome of a player getting a career-ending injury the day after the trade but let's ignore that.  If you're giving up Mark Reynolds for Zack Greinke, sit back and think: if Greinke reverts to a 4.00 ERA after I get him, would I still be okay? Just think about the worst scenarios for those you're getting in return because that has the biggest effect on you after a trade.

I think that it's very important that you keep pushing at people.  If you think you're annoying the person then you're on the right track.  The person may get so tired of talking about the trade that they just want to get it over with.  Which deal is more likely to get done for you?  The deal where you make the offer, get rejected then leave it be or the one where you keep sending counter offers everyday?  If they are about to agree to it, close the deal before they have enough time to change their mind.

When employing that strategy, you do risk seeming desperate.  That is not the goal.  Once you appear desperate, you lose all leverage.  You need to have leverage to win a trade.  That usually comes from having something the other guy wants or needs.  That's why you'll most likely make out better if somebody else initiates the trade talks.  But, if you start the talks, you can always find somebody who has a weakness on their roster to exploit by convincing them that they NEED to fix that weakness and that you can help.

The biggest mistake I see in most people who make trade offers is that they forget that you need to give up something order to get something.  Yes, you may really like Hunter Pence this year but if you can work a trade that involves him yet gives you back the superstar you've always coveted, you need to do it.  A good real-life example of this is that the Phillies had to let Cliff Lee go when they got their crown jewel: Roy Halladay.  Don't get attached to any of your players; you can always improve.

Mar 23, 2010

Projected Command Leaders at SP

One thing that I have not touched upon quite enough during this offseason is which pitchers you should be targeting.  Personally, one of the deciding factors in determining which pitchers to target is their K/BB rate.  If the pitcher can excel in that statistic then it certainly comes as no surprise when other things fall in place around it.  Once a ball hits a bat, the pitcher doesn't have full control on whether that becomes a hit or not but a pitcher will always have complete control over his K/BB rate which shows they're striking more guys out than they're letting on base.  With that being said, the projection systems seem to be in a sort of agreement over some of the guys out of the top-tier of fantasy SP who will have stellar K/BB rates.  I think they are all worthy of setting your sights on as your SP2, SP3 or whatever you can get them at.

Kevin Slowey (4.06) - Despite his name, there are few better in this category than him.  He hasn't put it all together to make himself into a stud pitcher yet but there are indicators that it could be right around the corner.  I would invest highly in him, considering his price tag is still relatively cheap.

Ricky Nolasco (3.99) - Last year I would have said he was going too early and it turns out I was mostly right.  But, that 5.06 ERA he posted on his resume is not an indicator of his future success.  Enough drafters know this to not let his ADP drop too low but it's still letting him be drafted as a SP2 or SP3 when he has the potential to be an SP1 by year's end.

Cole Hamels (3.87) - There's really nothing about Cole Hamels' 2009 season that is particularly alarming or different than his past seasons, with the exception of his ERA.  He improved in many categories but was the victim of bad luck and a high BABIP but thankfully he's a K/BB wizard and was able to overcome and still have a decent season.  He should experience a nice return to glory in 2010.  Draft him as an elite SP2 and reap the benefits.

James Shields (3.60) - We mentioned how James Shields is an innings-eater previously.  But, apparently he's also quite the K/BB champion.  He provides many benefits and he's projected to experience a nice bounce-back this year.

Scott Baker (3.35) - Twins pitchers always have boring names but they'll always give you nice results.  Baker is uber hot in spring training and, given his skill set, he should be able to return to being a sub 4.00 ERA pitcher.

Aaron Harang (3.21) - The Harangatang has disappointed owners for two straight seasons.  This is good news because he still has the skills to be a good fantasy pitcher yet his lack of success has driven down his price tag.  He's mainly been the victim of bad luck and could turn it back around in 2010 for a nice season at a cheap price to you.

Ted Lilly (3.13) - The latest reports indicate that he could be returning from his injury much sooner than expected.  The fact that he is injured has driven down his price tag to bargain basement level.  If you invest at his current ADP, you'll be doing a little jig when he comes back in April and starts mowing down hitters again.

Josh Johnson (3.01) - His draft stock is high but people are still wary to make him their SP1.  Don't be one of those people; he's the real deal.

Roy Oswalt (2.99) - He's not an injury risk and he's had 8 seasons with an ERA below 3.55 and one season above that.  Yet he's not being drafted like he's an ace.  Drafting Roy Oswalt may not make all the ladies swoon with excitement but it's the right move regardless.  He's a sneaky ace.

Brett Anderson (2.95) - His name is nearly as boring as Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker but the results are similar.  He's a young gun but the projection systems see him only improving and growing in 2010.  Invest accordingly.

Mar 22, 2010

Stats by ADP: Runs and RBIs

The final two batting statistics we will look at in this series are Runs and RBI's.  Previously, we've seen that stolen bases are something that can simply be acquired anywhere in a draft while we've also seen that batting average and home runs are much tougher to acquire later in the draft.  Let's see which trend these last two statistics follow.  First, here is a chart documenting the progression of acquiring RBIs throughout the draft:


Ah, yes, we seem to have another category where you have to draft early to get the most value.  After the top 100 picks, there are only nine players projected to give you at least 0.25 roto points of value in RBIs:

115.71 - Brad Hawpe
122.42 - Jose Lopez
141.37 - Miguel Tejada
184.77 - James Loney
189.08 - Ryan Ludwick
194.76 - David Ortiz
199.4 - Adam LaRoche
245.83 - Nick Swisher
332.54 - Jeff Francouer

Runs seem to be more closely related to speed than power so maybe Runs will follow a trend similar to stolen bases...



On the surface, there seems to be a bit more hope towards the end of the draft but the projections actually only agree on five players to produce 0.25 roto points or above in Runs score after the top 100 picks:

122.85 - Johnny Damon
123.84 - Denard Span
183.72 - Orlando Cabrera
241.65 - Placido Polanco
245.83 - Nick Swisher

Surprising to me, runs seems to be the hardest of the stats to make up in the later rounds.  Regardless, the true lesson we can take out of all of this analysis is that you don't need to pay a premium for stolen bases but you do need to try to secure your positioning in the other four categories before the later rounds because the well dries up quickly.

Mar 21, 2010

Stats by ADP: Batting Average

We've already showed how you can make up ground in stolen bases later in the draft and we showed that it was much harder to do so with home runs.  With batting average, it's similar to home runs because of the fact that all of the talent is at the top of the draft without much to choose from later.  As I did with those previous posts, here's a graphical representation of what's out there through the draft:


Like home runs, there is not a single name who can give you at least one roto point in value after the top 100 picks.  But, if you reduce your criteria, we've got 10 guys who are projected to give you at least half a roto point in value according to three or all four of the projection systems:

123.84 - Denard Span
134.67 - Chipper Jones
139.4 - Howie Kendrick
141 - Vladimir Guerrero
153.37 - Yunel Escobar
203.08 - Todd Helton
221.87 - Martin Prado
224.43 - Chris Coghlan
241.65 - Placido Polanco
295.99 - Magglio Ordonez
327.02 - Skip Schumaker

These aren't guys who will take you from last place to first place in batting average if you target them after the top 100 picks but they are guys who can help you finish closer to the middle of the pack instead of last place. So, if you're using our cheatsheets and see that you're struggling in batting average, set a target on a couple of these guys to help fix that problem.  But, realistically, you should probably be targeting batting average during the beginning of the draft because of the lack of choices later on.

Mar 20, 2010

Who to Avoid, Who to Target for Corner Infielders

First basemen and third basemen represent an important part of the fantasy baseball player's lineup.  They're likely to give you decent numbers anywhere you choose to draft them.  But, there are those who just give 'decent' returns despite a high draft position while others will give you surprisingly 'decent' returns despite a low draft position.  Let's take a look at who to avoid and who to target:

AVOID
Mark Reynolds (-1.33, 20.94) - Mark Reynolds is a good fantasy contributer but his performance last year has inflated his value way beyond justification.  MockDraftCentral has him being drafted at 20.94 and at that spot, he represents 1.33 roto points below the value you should be getting there.  He's better suited to be drafted at around 75th overall.  So, if for some reason, your draftmates keep letting him fall to that range then you can jump on board.  Otherwise, avoid the hype.
Kendry Morales (-2.84, 51.73) - Here's another guy that has respectable stats and I would certainly think he sounds like a fine player on paper.  Then, if you told me his average draft position is at 51.73, I'd punch you in the face for your dishonesty.  After I found out you were telling the truth, I'd feel bad but I still wouldn't draft a guy who will hit .280 with 20-25 HRs and not much else at the point he's being drafted.  Out of all the guys to avoid, he is by far the most out-of-place at his current ADP.
Carlos Pena (-1.97, 74.02) - This guy has been around long enough that you know what you're getting with him and what you're getting is not the type of value that is worth of being picked at 74.02.  We've probably all owned Carlos Pena at one time or another and we all can remember how painful it is.  Just let him go.
Jorge Cantu (-1.47, 170.84) - Jorge Cantu is being drafted towards the tail end of drafts and there's projections like Chone that still don't think he's worth it at that point.  He has projections all over the board but frankly I don't trust him to perform up to the more optimistic ones and he's not going to suddenly become a stud hitter after you decide to draft him in the 15th round this year.

TARGET
Pablo Sandoval (1.9, 36.85) - For some reason, my mind links together Pablo Sandoval and Kendry Morales in the same mold.  But, they're definitely not.  And, really it's for one reason only: Pablo will hit for average like a champ.  Other than that, you get similar stat lines but Pablo's average is projected around .320 or above.  That's like Ichiro Suzuki style... except this guy hits home runs on top of that.  He's providing very good value at his current ADP.  Sign me up.
Michael Young (0.86, 91.09) - Here's another guy that I just have this mental block against.  Seeing him at 91.09 ADP does not excite me.  But, the projection systems tell me that it should excite me.  He'll contend to hit .300, he'll hit 15 HRs, he'll get 80 runs and RBIs.  Basically, he won't hurt you... he'll help your team maintain in the standings, while giving you a batting average boost.  It's like when you decide to take your cute friend to the prom instead of that supermodel you really wanted.  It may not be sexy but it's surprisingly fine.
Adam LaRoche (1.27, 176.2) - He's drafted around the same time as Jorge Cantu yet he actually outproduces that position, according to most projections.  And, you know, he's kinda like Cantu except for the fact that he'll hit 10 more home runs while getting you more runs and more RBIs.  Other than that, they're very similar.  But, really, if you're looking to draft a backup corner infielder in the 15th round, go with LaRoche and stay away from Cantu.
Nick Swisher (1.23, 235.15) - Swisher is that sneaky type of value.  People don't seem to want to draft him but he's going to give you good numbers in a strong run-producing lineup.  He'll hurt your average a bit but, even so, he still outperforms that 235.15 ADP by a large sum.  And, my friend, if you're in an OBP league... you'll be greatly rewarded for taking him late in a draft.
Nick Johnson (1.39, 269.91) - Like Nick Swisher, he'll provide you nice value out of that run-producing Yankees lineup.  Like Nick Swisher, he's incredibly more valuable in an OBP league.  But, unlike Swisher, health is a concern for him.  He's basically a guy who will give you average production across the board at a point in the draft where nearly everyone is giving you below average production.

Mar 19, 2010

Who to Avoid, Who to Target for Middle Infielders

Fantasy baseball's middle infielders are not typically your top producers but they can certainly hurt your team pretty badly, depending on who you draft.  What I'm presenting to you here is a list of second basemen or shortstops that you should avoid or target based on comparing their projected WERTH to the expected WERTH of their draft position.  In the first example, Aaron Hill is projected to produce a total of 0.33 roto points of value this season but, based on trends, you should be getting a value of 1.70 roto points of value at the 51st draft position.  So, it's recommended to avoid him because of his projection being 1.36 roto points below value for that ADP.

AVOID
Aaron Hill (-1.36, 51.8) - The overreaction to Aaron Hill's breakout season is similar to the overreaction to Mark Reynolds breakout.  What I'm saying is, they're both good players but their draft position has been driven to a point that makes them not valuable this year.  Most projections have Hill hitting about 20 HRs with a .280 average and 75 runs and RBIs and that is simply not what you draft around the 50th position of a draft, even at 2B.
Ben Zobrist (-3.31, 54.98) - He's like Aaron Hill but with a worse batting average, lower run and RBI totals but a few more steals, according to most projections.  Aaron Hill wasn't valuable at this draft spot so you cna assume that Zobrist is not either.  Three of our four main projections see him as being a very poor value (with the fans at Fangraphs being the only ones seeing him worthy of a high pick).  I'll side with the majority here and pass.
Jason Bartlett (-1.83, 105.28) - The third player in our series of 'overreaction to breakout seasons' is Jason Bartlett.  If you think you're getting a .320 batting average with 30 steals again then you better check yo-self before you wreck yo-self.  A hard regression to his career norms will cause make him not at all worth the 105.28 ADP.  He's already given you the best he can give and now his draft position should be more like 150 and not 105. 
Stephen Drew (-2.31, 115.78) - Despite 2009 Stephen Drew being more like 2007 Stephen Drew, he's still being drafted as if he'll perform like 2008 Stephen Drew.  I'm not sure which one you'll get but the projection systems aren't a big fan of him, saying he'll be a very poor value at his 115.78 ADP.
Orlando Hudson (-3.12, 186.18) - If you take all of his career bests in each stat and combine it into one year, you might get a guy who is worthy of a pick at this point.  But, what you're really getting is a far cry from that and a guy who really provides nothing to benefit you and especially in the middle rounds of a draft.
Eric Aybar (-2.15, 193.35) - I always confuse him General Akbar but Eric Aybar is far less exciting.  His one asset last year was his batting average and the projection systems look at that average and laugh at the idea of him repeating it.  He'll get you a sprinkling of stolen bases and a lot of other unexciting stats that make him unworthy of being drafted even at 193.35 in your draft.
Casey McGehee (-2.47, 217.43) - Personally, I'd really like to believe that McGehee can give you more of what he gave when he was called up last year.  His half-season with the Brewers was pretty spectacular.  However, the projection systems all seem to agree that it was an anomaly and that he'll return to Earth and not even be worth drafting at 217.43.

TARGET
Dustin Pedroia (2.15, 39.29) - Looking at his projections, most people don't get too blown away and that's why he falls to nearly the 40th pick in most drafts.  Don't fall under that same spell.  He gives you elite production in batting average and runs and mixes that with production in other three categories that are at or above fantasy league averages, which is actually enough to make him very valuable in a draft, especially at 2B.
Derek Jeter (0.82, 45.67) - Each ADP site has Jeter going at a different location but if he's being drafted at 45th in your draft, he's very worth it.  He's got a stable skill set so you know what you're going to get and, like Pedroia, it isn't jaw-dropping but it's quietly effective.  Beware jumping too high on him though, anything that is too far before the 45th pick isn't as valuable for Jeter.
Orlando Cabrera (0.94, 183.72) - After those initial picks, there really isn't much extreme value for middle infielders until late in the draft.  O-Cab represents a nice option unlike O-Dogg given that he produces up to fantasy league averages in nearly all categories and is drafted late enough to be a very nice value.
Placido Polanco (2.25, 241.65) - You know what you're getting with Polanco and it might even get better due to being in a more potent lineup in 2010.  Yet, he's being drafted extremely late in a lot of drafts and I'm not exactly sure why.  Either way, at this draft position, I'd certainly invest in Placido.
Ryan Theriot (1.33, 274.63) - The Riot may not get much respect but he's productive for a late-round pick.  Across the board, he produces at a decent rate and though he'll hurt you in home runs and RBI's, he'll make up for that with plus production in SB's and runs.  Taking a non-risky player like Theriot at 274.63 definitely has its benefits.
Kelly Johnson (1.74, 309.41) - Kelly Johnson broke a lot of fantasy owners' hearts last season and they have shunned him this year as a result.  Don't overpay for him but there's certainly nothing wrong with drafting him at 309.41 as the projection systems see him returning to 2008 form. 
Felipe Lopez (2.44, 318.98) - If you mix Orlando Cabrera and Orlanda Hudson into one big pot, something like Felipe Lopez would come out of it.  But, he's being drafted over 100 picks later.  His role with the Cardinals is uncertain but if you're in an extremely deep league, it's worth taking a flier on him late in the draft.

Mar 18, 2010

Fantasy Baseball Cheatsheets: Minor Upgrades

We needed to make a few bug fixes to our cheatsheets.  The ZiPS projections had some flaws and were coming up with inaccurate numbers so we've fixed that and it should be fine now.  Also, there were some bugs with the roto sheets as far as choosing non-standard categories.  We've fixed that too.  If anybody comes across anything else fishy, let us know!  Otherwise, here you go.  Enjoy and good luck!


Stats by ADP: Home Runs

In our previous post in this series, we talked about how you can acquire stolen bases at any point in the draft and that is simply not the case with home runs.  You can get them early but you can't get them often.  There is a pretty quick drop-off then you're left with middling positive value and mostly negative value until the draft concludes.


When we did a similar analysis on acquiring stolen bases, I provided a list of 12 players drafted after the top 100 picks and could provide greater than one full roto point of SB value in three of the four projection systems.  If I provided a similar list for those providing one full roto point of HR value after the top 100, there wouldn't be a single name on it.  That's how scarce the statistic gets as we progress.  So, instead, here is a list of seven guys who provide at least half a roto point worth of HR in three of the four projection systems:

104.73 - Carlos Quentin
189.08 - Ryan Ludwick
194.76 - David Ortiz
199.4 - Adam LaRoche
211.63 - Paul Konerko
245.83 - Nick Swisher
311.32 - Jack Cust

So, if you realized that you missed the boat on home runs in the first 100 picks, you have some work to do but this is your tiny list of guys to target.  However these seven guys are not enough to save your team.  So, the real lesson is that you need to take from this is that home runs are a stat that you'll want to secure early because it's mostly negative value throughout the rest of the draft.  Basically, don't get caught in a position where you are relying on Paul Konerko and Ryan Ludwick to save your face in the home run race.  

Mar 17, 2010

Search for Narco - Revisited

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 16, 2010

Stats by ADP: Stolen Bases

Stolen bases are a stat that can be acquired at any point in the draft.  There are those who tell you that you need to draft stolen bases early but those folks are simply misguided.  Don't believe me?  Well then, Mr. Disagreeable, here is a graph that represents projected stolen bases based on ADP data:


The front end of the draft is certainly more loaded with positive contributers in stolen bases but the end of the draft has a fair share of speedy specialists.  So, chalk up a win for me and a loss for Mr. Disagreeable.  

You can choose to pass on drafting for speed within the first 100 picks of a draft and still make up for it in the later rounds.  In fact, here is a sampling of names drafted after that point who will contribute at least 1 full roto point of WERTH in stolen bases according to three or all four of our projection systems:

130.91 - Nyjer Morgan
153.29 - Elvis Andrus
165.59 - Rajai Davis
188.05 - Julio Borbon
229.47 - Juan Pierre
232.86 - Carlos Gomez
233.54 - Everth Cabrera
264.47 - Alcides Escobar
271.64 - Dexter Fowler
311.37 - Drew Stubbs
324.57 - Scott Podsednik
333.92 - Brett Gardner


So, if you do feel compelled to ignore stolen bases for 8 or 10 rounds then start targeting these particular names, I think you will be able to make up enough ground to make a solid impact in that department.  You may not be able to climb to the top of the standings with these players alone but they'll ensure that you don't finish at the bottom of the barrel either.

Mar 15, 2010

Jonny Gomes, Deep Sleeper Candidate

The following is a profile of Jonny Gomes, one of my 2010 fantasy baseball deep sleeper candidates (affectionately called narcos).  For more information on the thought process behind the narcos, please visit the introductory post on this topic.

Photo by Getty Images
Average Draft Position: 406.36
Others drafted around that time: Andy LaRoche, Oliver Perez, Pedro Feliz
2010 Role: OF with undetermined role
2009 Production: .267, 20 HR, 3 SB, 39 R, 51 RBI in 281 ABs
My 2010 Prediction: .260, 25 HR, 5 SB, 60 R, 70 RBI in 450 ABs

Jonny Gomes was re-signed by the Reds last month and he will compete for a chance at playing time in a crowded outfield.  Offensively, there's little reason why he shouldn't be in consideration to start based on his innate ability to smack baseballs over outfield fences.  His defense is the main thing that keeps him out of the lineup.  But, as fantasy owners, his fielding doesn't affect your standings except for the fact that it gives him less chance of being a full-time starter.

His batting average has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career as well as his BABIP.  But, you could realistically expect his average to be anywhere from .245 to .280.  So, basically it will be detrimental to your team regardless.  

What Gomes is selling to you is some late-round home run power that you can plug into your lineup.  He hit 20 HRs in half a year last year but the question is whether that is repeatable.  Well, his HR/FB was much higher than his career norms yet his FB% was lower than his career norms.  So, if his FB% goes back up and his HR/FB goes back down, you'd have a guy who could hit roughly 25 HRs if he gets 450 ABs this year.  To put it into perspective, he has the ability to be what Russell Branyan was last year (431 AB, .251 avg, 31 HR, 64 R, 76 RBI).  Branyan's value was slightly different at 3B than Gomes would have at OF, depending on how many OF spots your league has.

If you draft Gomes, you would be doing so at the tail end of your draft so he's not a very risky draft option.  In fact, you could probably let him not be drafted and monitor him during the season, waiting for him to get on a hot streak.  Then, if you pounce at the right time, you could be getting a nice reward out of him when he get's on that hot streak or earns a consistent role on the team.  However, as far as our potential deep sleepers go, he is not the most viable candidate for a breakout season in 2010.

Mar 14, 2010

Comparing ADPs: 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 12, 2010

Razzball's PED Strategy Examined, Part 1

Razzball has become a wildly popular resource for fantasy baseball and, thus, it has an effect on what average drafters think in their drafts. Recently, Grey wrote a post explaining his Performance Enhancing Draft Strategy. I wanted to visit it touch upon a few items. His first axiom in the strategy is:

Never draft a pitcher with your first two picks

His short explanation says that you can't replace the impact of missing out on hitters from the 1st or 2nd round. He doesn't dive into much greater detail than that but, don't worry, I'll gladly do so. According to current MDC data (I know, I know), there is only one pitcher being drafted in the first two rounds and that would be Tim Lincecum. Let's take a look at some scenarios involve Timmy.

I'm not exactly sure where Grey wants you to take a SP instead of in the first two rounds as he doesn't state that. Regardless, using my WERTH system applied to Chone's projections, here's a comparison between what you could be getting if you draft your first SP in the 5th round instead of the 2nd round:


Drafting Tim Lincecum in the 2nd round gives you 6.94 roto points in a standard roto format while the pitchers you draft in the 5th round (Cliff Lee or Adam Wainwright) would give you an average of 3.60 roto points.  The information above shows you that the trade-off is minimal when drafting Lincecum then a 5th round hitter instead of Lee/Wainwright with a 2nd round hitter.  In other words, drafting Lincecum won't hurt you and could actually benefit you depending on how your conduct the rest of your draft.

But perhaps Grey was advocating drafting that first starting pitcher even later on, like in the 8th round.  So, let's take a look at that more extreme scenario.


In this case, it actually ends up being quite detrimental to wait until the 8th round for a pitcher while grabbing an elite batter in the 2nd round.  There's quite a few SP's to choose from in the 8th round (Tommy Hanson, Jake Peavy, Yovanni Gallardo, Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw) but they average a value of 0.53 roto points which is a far cry from Lincecum's 6.94 value.

Grey's first part of his strategy sounds very good on paper on but he offers no evidence to back up the claim.  Perhaps he has some secret evidence hidden away but, based on my research, I don't see a reason why drafting Tim Lincecum in the 2nd round would hurt your team.

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

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.