Apr 6, 2010

The Three Elements of Fantasy Baseball

In order to be successful in fantasy baseball, you need to be above average in three specific areas: player evaluation, draft strategy and roster management.  At it's simplest form, those are the three tasks of a fantasy baseball manager.  Let's take a closer look at each of these elements.

Player Evaluation - This is the area that bleeds into the entire management process and it's tough to excel in fantasy baseball without some skill here.  However, if you were excellent in player evaluation, you could still be a poor manager if you couldn't handle the other two elements that we'll discuss.  Player evaluation is simply about comparing players and realizing who is most valuable (like, 'is Ian Kinsler more valuable than Dustin Pedroia?').  It's about understanding the value of each player as it relates to fantasy baseball and your league particularly.  Throughout the preseason, I did player profiles and introduced my player valuing system in hopes of helping you better evaluate and compare players.  During the season now, I will continue with player profiles so you know who to trade for and who to target from the waiver wires (see: Roster Management).

Draft Strategy - It only lasts a couple of hours but it ends up being extremely important to your fantasy baseball success.  It's hard to overcome a poor draft but it is possible if you are especially adept in the other two areas here.  But, draft strategy is about knowing when to draft certain positions and how to effectively fill your roster to best prepare you for the season.  We went on endlessly about this in the preseason.  Now that the season is here, draft strategy won't be revisited by Mr. Cheatsheet until next preseason.

Roster Management - This is about trades and pickups.  Choosing who to sit and who to start is usually not going to make or break your season (except in single elimination head-to-head playoff games) but making the right trade or pickup can provide huge dividends.  Since the season has arrived, I'll be focusing on evaluating various players as they break out or start to slump so you know how to treat these players.  I'll also be looking at various statistics for those players and explain why they support either a breakout or a regression to the mean.  And, on top of that, I'm working on a trade analysis spreadsheet that will be updated throughout the season for you to judge who would get the best of the trade (taking many factors into account).

So, there you have it: the three elements to success and how Mr. Cheatsheet will hope you get better in each.

We had some exciting action yesterday in the baseball world but I'm reserving judgement on anything until we have a couple more games under our belt to analyze (Garrett Jones though, wow!).

Apr 4, 2010

Value in Starting Pitching, ERA/FIP Differences

We previously discussed how FIP is a valuable tool for finding good starting pitchers.  One of the more interesting uses of this statistic is to compare it to ERA and find the differences between this ERA predictor and a pitcher's actual ERA.  This is valuable in either finding potential bounceback candidates or possible regression in starting pitchers.

By comparing these values after 2008, we could have seen an upcoming regression for Armando Galarraga (3.73 ERA, 4.88 FIP), Daisuke Matsuzaka (2.90 ERA, 4.03 FIP), Joe Saunders (3.41 ERA, 4.36 FIP) and others like John Lannan, Jeremy Guthrie, Scott Olsen and Todd Wellemeyer.  And, looking at the opposite side of the spectrum, we would have noticed an upcoming better season for Javier Vazquez (4.67 ERA, 3.74 FIP), Justin Verlander (4.84 ERA, 4.18 FIP) and Jered Weaver (4.33 ERA, 3.90 FIP) among others.

Using the same logic based on 2009 stats, who should we expect a regression from in 2010?  The names that top the list are J.A. Happ, Kevin Millwood, Jair Jurrjens, Matt Cain, Bronson Arroyo, Randy Wells, John Danks and Rick Porcello.  The names I worry the least about from that list are Jurrjens and Cain because their FIPs from 2009 are in the mid 3.00 range, which is still very good.  The other names could be due for a step back in 2010, especially J.A. Happ who lead the league in this differential.

Some candidates for a better year based on this logic would be Ricky Nolasco, Carl Pavano, Jason Hammel, Cole Hamels, Jorge De La Rosa, Brett Anderson, Scott Baker and Gavin Floyd.  These are guys that you could grab for all sorts of varying values in trades.  But, they all should return more value than expected at this point so they are worth targeting in trades (or waiver wire if Pavano or Hammel are sitting out there).

Apr 2, 2010

Set Your Targets on Mat Latos

There's an old saying that any pitcher who pitches for San Diego has good value.  I need not go into details on how Petco Park is an extreme pitcher's park.  But, what you need to know is that Mat Latos is officially the 5th starter for San Diego coming out of the gates.  You can never get too excited about a 5th starter because of their inconsistent work load due to rotation shifts from days off.  But, Latos is a player with a lot of promise, much like a Phil Hughes.  Unlike Hughes, Latos pitches in the NL and pitches in that pitcher's park.  Those are two huge bonuses for any pitcher, let alone a young prospect.

So, what kind of pitcher is Latos?  What could you get out of him for fantasy purposes?

The projection systems have him close to a 4.00 ERA and 1.35 WHIP and 7.50 K/9.  That would certainly be respectable and worth a pickup in your leagues.  In his ML debut, he didn't set the world on fire.  He had a 4.62 ERA in 50 innings but had an extremely low BABIP that would lead you to believe that he was even lucky to have that ERA.  With a bit more seasoning now, we can hope he can return to something close to his minor league days where he amassed a 2.49 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 over 184 innings.  Expecting those exact numbers in the majors would be foolish but you can be sure he'll improve over his numbers from last season in the ML.

The projection systems probably have a good estimate of what you can expect out of him.  If he lives up to that, you'd have a pitcher with stats similar to Jorge De La Rosa or Max Scherzer from last year, with a slightly better ERA but a bit less strikeouts.  And, considering he's available in about half the leagues out there, that's worth looking into.