Mar 27, 2012

Roto Stats by 2012 Draft Round (Hitters)


In a roto league, you hope to finish near the top in five categories for pitchers and hitters. How well you do in those categories will be largely determined by your draft strategy. If you target SB's early then you might find yourself weak in HR's and RBI's later, for instance. In a past post, you learned that SB's have the lowest correlation to success in other roto categories but that only answers part of the question about how to approach your roto categories in a draft. The other part of the process is knowing when each stat is available in drafts.

At the beginning of a draft, you can pick your proverbial poison by taking a great power hitter or a well-rounded player. As you make each draft pick, the player pool shrinks a bit more and your options become limited. Let's visually look at how each stat breaks down during a 2012:

If you want a closer look, go ahead and click on the image above. But, basically, what we see is the projected trend for each stat throughout the draft. The flatter the line is in the middle, the less variability there is throughout the draft for that stat. For example, the Stolen Base line is very flat which shows that there are nearly just enough SB's to be found in Round 1 as Round 26. Meanwhile, the Runs line has a very steep drop in comparison to the other stats which means that it's a top-heavy stat being that you can mostly find strong run producers in the early rounds but not the late rounds.


Here's a closer visual of each trend. The two flattest lines are AVG (blue) and SB (orange) which means that you shouldn't necessarily have to overpay for those stats early as you can still find them later in the draft. The least flat lines would then be HR, Runs and RBI's. These stats all go hand-in-hand so it's especially important to target them together in the early rounds.

Basically, what all of these pretty charts show us is that you need to work on finding power early and then you can focus on AVG and SB in the later rounds. If you work on getting a great AVG and SB players on your team in the first few rounds, you'll find yourself without any options for power in the later rounds. If you want to dominate in all five categories, don't overly focus on drafting speed in the early rounds.

Mar 25, 2012

2012 Hitter Round-Up | Fantasy Sleeper Candidates


Now that I've exhausted my list of potential sleepers, it's time to see who is actually worth drafting for the 2012 season. I've talked about 11 different hitters as potential sleepers for your team but obviously you don't want your roster to be filled with all 11 of them because that would just be wacky! So, that begs the question of who you should be really targeting in your drafts here.

In the early rounds, there are two potential sleepers sitting out there who have not given us a full year of MLB success but certainly have great potential:
I like both of these players quite a bit but I would love them if they were found a couple rounds later. As it stands, they're both going in the 5th round on average in a 12-team league. They have the potential to deliver a lot more than that but going with a sleeper that early is always a risky proposition. Regardless, I have confidence that they're both very good options at that point if you decide to go with either one.

The guys I really like to grab are usually found in the middle rounds. If we're to look at the history of successful sleepers, there's a lot of evidence that points to guys taken in the middle rounds being the biggest difference makers. In 2008, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Hamilton played that role. In 2009, that guy was Nelson Cruz for me and then it was Carlos Gonzalez in 2010. And, last year, that mid-round sleeper was Mike Stanton. This year, we have two mid-rounds sleepers on my list that could produce at the same level as those past mid-round sleepers:

I like Goldy quite a lot and expect big things of him this year. Jason Kipnis has 20/20 potential which is great as a late round middle infielder. He's the only middle infielder on the sleeper lists actually so he's definitely worth targeting as well. Given their lower price tag and higher ceilings, these are guys that I'm setting my sights on.

For 2012, all of the potential late round sleepers are outfielders so perhaps you should consider leaving some space on your roster for high potential backup outfielders. These guys aren't always the biggest stars but some can really break through to help you out like Michael Morse last year (or Brett Gardner in 2010 and Shin-Soo Choo in 2009). Here are the guys that fit the mold this year:

In my analysis, it looks like Duda and De Aza have the highest values of these late round options. Next in line would be Reimold and Mayberry as good options too. While I'm not quite as high on Presley, Heisey or Bourgeious, they certainly are decent options to take a chance on in much deeper leagues. Otherwise, they can be left on the waiver wire for now and picked up if they start to heat up.

All in all, I wouldn't load my entire team with sleepers since only a percentage of the sleepers on this list will pan out. On this week's podcast, we discussed this a bit more extensively. But, regardless, I love the mid-round sleepers this year (as I always do) and I definitely will get one or two of the late round sleepers as my backup outfielders too.

Mar 24, 2012

Podcast | Fantasy Baseball Performance Enhancing Discussions, Ep. 3


In a new feature at this site, there will be an entertaining weekly podcast that is hosted by me and Russ, my co-host who will represent the average inquisitive fantasy player. Close up your spreadsheets and step away from your draft articles as we set out to entertain you and educate you in regards to fantasy baseball strategy.

Before we break into this week's episode, you must watch the awesome promo Russ created for the podcast featuring his son reenacting great baseball movie moments:


Episode 3: Drafting Fantasy Sleepers
In this episode, Russ and I discuss how to go about drafting fantasy sleepers and the caveats that go along with these risky players. We also discuss Miguel Cabrera's eye injury, Joakim Soria's replacement and Bryce Harper. In the weekly quiz, Russ struggles to figure out who last year's statistical leaders were. The mailbag question focuses on how many sleepers to target and I find a way to mention Paul Goldschmidt in another podcast.

Go ahead and subscribe to the seperate podcast RSS feed and subscribe and rate us on iTunes. More importantly, leave us some comments about the show and submit mailbag questions for future episodes!

(Also, make sure to follow the Twitter account for Russ: @mrscheatsheet)

Mar 23, 2012

2012 Position Analysis & Draft Outlook - Outfielders


Determining position scarcity at the outfield position is a tricky venture because the depth of the position is completely relative to the number of outfielders that you start in your league. In a three outfielder league, you may think that this position is incredibly deep but an owner in a five outfielder league may be pretty upset with the options for his starting 5th outfielder. Regardless of how we look at it, there is talent to be found throughout the entire draft for this position though.

Here's a glance at how the position progresses throughout a standard 12-team draft:


The various outfielders are represented by the grey dots with the draft round going horizontally and the projected roto value going vertically. There's a mix of some really elite talent in the first few rounds before the value seemingly drops down a level from Round 3 to 8 and then takes another huge dip towards  mediocrity after that.

That's all fine and good but let's see how that sort of trend compares to the other positions out there:

The trend for outfielders is represented by the red line with the grey lines representing all of the other positions. In comparison to most other positions, this is the most standard regression we'll see. In the first few rounds of the draft, it's one of the highest producing positions and it stays towards the top in the middle rounds while even finishing among the highest producing positions towards the end. 

Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun are the cream of the crop here. If we take a step down from those two, there's a nice tier of similarly valued players with Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson. Any one of those players is projected to give you nice value but they're all gone by the conclusion of the second round.

At that point, we see the next drop in talent with a group of players like Andrew McCutchen to Carl Crawford over the next four rounds. By the conclusion of the 6th round, you hope to have two good outfielders for your squad because the talent drops off considerably after that. But, that's not to say there isn't value to be had. For instance, B.J. Upton and Adam Jones project quite well over those next few rounds but they are outliers among the next group of players.

In the later rounds, when you're looking to either fill up your bench or your final OF spots in a five outfielder league, there are a couple of decent options. Nick Markakis represents the best late round value as he is seemingly always undervalued. Austin Jackson, Alex Rios and Delmon Young are decent late round options as well to fill out your team that are a bit undervalued but have a nice history.

And, of course, there are some saucy sleeper options in the late rounds here even if the projections don't show a breakout coming. This position has more late round sleepers than any with tons of talented players getting new opportunities. Just to name a few, you may want to look at Lucas Duda, John Mayberry, Alejandro De Aza or a Nolan Reimold as nice sleepy outfielders to stash away.

This is a position that you can't ignore early on. You have to try to get at least two above average options even if you're in a three outfielder league. When it comes to outfielders, the talent is distributed in noticeable waves so you need to plan accordingly. A good strategy is to get the guys you can trust early, the guys who might take a step forward in the middle rounds, a couple of trustworthy guys to fill out your lineup before you fill out your roster with the potential breakout stars.

Outfielder Average Draft Position and Projected Value in 12-Team League
Name
ADP Rd
Werth Total
Matt Kemp
1.2
8.1
Jose Bautista
1.4
5.1
Jacoby Ellsbury
1.8
5.4
Justin Upton
1.9
5.7
Carlos Gonzalez
2.2
5.8
Curtis Granderson
2.6
5.1
Ryan Braun
2.6
8.8
Mike Stanton
3
3.5
Andrew McCutchen
3.2
3.3
Josh Hamilton
3.7
2.8
Matt Holliday
3.9
3.4
Hunter Pence
4.7
3.3
Nelson Cruz
4.7
1
Jay Bruce
4.9
2.6
Michael Bourn
5.3
2.3
Carl Crawford
6
2.2
Desmond Jennings
6.2
-1.2
Alex Gordon
6.4
0.8
Michael Morse
6.5
-0.5
Shane Victorino
6.6
0.8
Shin-Soo Choo
6.8
-1.3
B.J. Upton
7.1
2.1
Lance Berkman
7.2
0.3
Corey Hart
7.9
0.5
Adam Jones
8.1
2
Michael Cuddyer
8.7
1.3
Ichiro Suzuki
8.8
1.1
Brett Gardner
8.8
0.1
Jason Heyward
9.1
-1.6
Drew Stubbs
9.4
0.2
Jayson Werth
9.6
0.6
Chris B. Young
10.3
-1
Andre Ethier
10.9
0.2
Carlos Beltran
11
-1.4
Cameron Maybin
11.4
-2.2
Nick Markakis
12.1
1.6
Nick Swisher
12.2
0.5
Logan Morrison
13.2
-2.7
Coco Crisp
13.2
-1.7
Martin Prado
13.4
-2
Melky Cabrera
13.6
0.1
Peter Bourjos
13.8
-1.8
Jeff Francoeur
15.3
-0.3
Torii Hunter
15.4
0.3
Austin Jackson
15.6
-0.1
Matt Joyce
15.6
-1.7
Carlos Lee
15.9
-0.1
Angel Pagan
16
-1.1
Josh Willingham
16.8
-1.7
Juan Pierre
17.4
-3.7
Brandon Belt
17.5
-4.6
Alex Rios
17.6
-0.6
Delmon Young
17.7
-0.1
Colby Rasmus
17.8
-0.5
Dexter Fowler
18.1
-2.6
Lucas Duda
18.1
-4
Brennan Boesch
18.2
-1.1
Jose Tabata
18.2
-2.6
Carlos Quentin
18.3
-2.5
Jason Kubel
18.4
-2.5
Mike Trout
18.4
-4.9
Lorenzo Cain
18.5
-6.2
Jason Bourgeois
18.9
-6.5
Yonder Alonso
18.9
-6.4
Seth Smith
19
-3.3
Vernon Wells
19
-2.9
John Mayberry
19.1
-4.4
Alejandro De Aza
19.3
-3.6
Ben Revere
19.4
-3.7
Grady Sizemore
19.5
-5.8
Alfonso Soriano
19.7
-3.6
Nyjer Morgan
19.7
-4.3
Jason Bay
19.7
-2.7
Rajai Davis
19.8
-4.9
Allen Craig
20
-4.5
Dayan Viciedo
20.1
-3.6
Chris Heisey
20.1
-4.7
Ryan Raburn
20.1
-4
Michael Brantley
20.1
-3
J.D. Martinez
20.1
-3.7
Bryan LaHair
20.5
-5.7
Alex Presley
20.6
-3.8
Garrett Jones
20.7
-3
Domonic Brown
20.7
-7.1
Denard Span
20.7
-3.5
Luke Scott
20.8
-5.1
Raul Ibanez
21.1
-4.1
Will Venable
21.2
-3.7
Jon Jay
21.7
-3.3
Ryan Ludwick
21.7
-3
Nolan Reimold
21.9
-4.9
Eric Thames
22
-3.2
Josh Reddick
22.7
-5.4
David Murphy
23.5
-2.8
Cody Ross
23.6
-3.6
Andres Torres
24.3
-4.6
Jerry Sands
24.4
-7.1
Travis Snider
25.3
-6.7
Marlon Byrd
26.1
-3.5
David DeJesus
26.2
-3.4
Chris Coghlan
26.2
-6.5
Franklin Gutierrez
26.5
-5
Brent Lillibridge
29.1
-7
Juan Rivera
32.4
-4.4

Mar 22, 2012

How to Use Projections for Fantasy Baseball


There are basically two types of baseball projection systems that exist: human projections and scientific projections. The human projections would be the type you see at ESPN or CBS where they have their staff make their best guess at what a player will do next season. The scientific projections are based off of formulas and weighting systems taking into account various factors related to past player performance. These would be systems like Marcel, ZiPS or Steamer.

When relying on the scientific projections, we get a good sense of what we should expect out of players for the upcoming season. These systems generally follow a method of taking data from that player's history and weighting the most recent years more heavily than older years. The projection systems differ from each other by the amount of weighting used and the different factors used for the weighting. They also differ in the stats they use and that some systems take advantage of minor league or foreign league data while others do not. But, in the end, the basic concept of taking history from recent years and weighting it based on a number of factors is the same between all projection systems.

When using these projections for fantasy baseball purposes, there are generally a few caveats to keep in mind as a result:

  • They are a conservative estimate. Since the projections look at the past statistics, an unexpected breakout season is generally not going to be predicted. Maybe you think that John Mayberry will break out this year. However, projection systems will not predict that because of his limited playing time (and thus limited production) during his career thus far. If past data doesn't show someone to be a 20/20 player then projection systems won't bend out of their way to make that prediction. So, if you're browsing through the projections to see your favorite sleeper then don't worry if he's not projected to take a large step forward based on data from ZiPS or Marcel. 
  • Following along that same train of thought, rookie projections aren't as reliable. These systems are based on using past data and the lack of that data for rookies muddles things. Some of the projection systems take minor league data into account which does improve their projections of rookies. But, even with those systems, you may be surprised to see a lower projection for a rookie than you expected. That shouldn't stop you from drafting that player if you really believe in them though.
  • On the flipside, projections for veterans are more reliable. When a guy has played in the majors for 10 years or so, the margin of error for a projection is a lot lower because there's so much data to use in making a prediction for them. Almost all systems take into account an aging curve so they recognize that performance for a 35 year old will be similar to his past three years but worse to a certain degree. More data to use for projections means more reliable data.
These are just some of the implications of using scientific projection systems. While they give you extremely accurate data, some of it is more reliable than others. The cheatsheets that you have come to know and love here rely heavily on these type of scientific projections so it's important to keep these type of things in mind as you use the cheatsheets for your drafts this year. Projection systems are great but they do have their shortcomings.

Mar 19, 2012

Alejandro De Aza - 2012 Fantasy Sleeper Candidate


There are a couple of fantasy baseball deep sleepers each year that can make the difference for your team. The following 2012 profile of Alejandro De Aza will analyze the chances that he might be one of the next big sleepers. He was selected based on my simple selection process which is detailed in this introductory post. 

ADP as of this posting: 228.35 (Round 20 in 12-team league)
Projected 2012 Role: Starting OF
2011 Production: .329 AVG, 4 HR, 29 R, 23 RBI, 12 SB in 171 PA
My 2012 Prediction: .300 AVG, 10 HR, 90 R, 55 RBI, 35 SB as starter

Leading off for the White Sox this year will be the young Alejandro De Aza. Last year, he had 13 HR, 34 SB and hit .324 between AAA and the majors. If he could bring those numbers into a full year of being a major league leadoff hitter then, wow, watch out.

My first concern with him is whether than ridiculous batting average will stick around. Playing in the Winter Leagues, he hit for a measly .198 AVG so that's not a good sing. He's only hitting .240 in this spring thus far as well. Add to all that that he had a huge BABIP of over .400 last year and it leads us to believe a regression is ahead but thankfully I don't see foresee a gigantic regression. In three seasons at AAA, he hit over .300 in every one of them and had a .309 AAA batting average. So when he does regress, I see him still maintaining a good AVG overall.

Despite being a speedster, he does have good power as he hit 22 HR's in his AAA seasons. In the leadoff spot, he likely won't be swinging for the fences too often but it should find a decent amount of HR's regardless.

The White Sox obviously feel comfortable letting De Aza run based on his 12 SB in 54 games last year. That shouldn't change this year unless he gets caught stealing far too often. As a leadoff hitter, he'll get his chance to score a lot of runs (but have his RBI totals limited there). All in all, there are a lot of potentially good things that De Aza could add to your team and he is definitely worth a late-round look.

Sleeper Verdict: Sleeptastic. In Round 20, you can't get much better than De Aza's potential. He certainly could be a major disappointment based on his performance in the Winter Leagues and thus far in Spring Training but you aren't risking a lot based on his ADP at this point. I'd reach to draft De Aza a few rounds earlier to ensure that his potential is on my bench in case he does continue to break out.

Mar 18, 2012

2012 Position Analysis & Draft Outlook - Shortstop


In baseball, middle infielders generally aren't regarded as offensive powerhouses being that they get by on their defense. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that 2B and SS are both rather weak fantasy positions. Coming into 2012, two of the former elite options have been steadily declining (Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter) and even Hanley Ramirez has had a slow decent away from fantasy dominance. While youngsters like Starlin Castro have emerged, this position remains more devoid of fantasy talent than ever.
In the chart above, we see the draft trends for SS in 2012. Each SS is represented by a grey dot and the projected draft round going from left to right with the projected roto value going vertically. Troy Tulowitzki sits out in his own world while the rest of the SS struggle to stay relevant for the next 10 rounds or so. Up until Round 12, there are some options that give at least average fantasy value but then the rug gets pulled out and there's another drop in talent.

Looking at the trend above, we don't really get a sense of how that compares to other positions. So, let's make that comparison now!
The red line shows the SS trend and the other positions are shown by the grey lines. Shortstop starts towards at the lower end of value but doesn't drop quite as far as other positions. Even with that fact, it still ends up with lower value than other positions through all rounds in the draft.

This year, there's pretty much Troy Tulowitzki and then everyone else. He delivers great value in Round 1 and then there are a couple of decent options in Round 2 with Hanley and Reyes but they aren't projected to give much more value then the guys drafted over the next few rounds after them (Starlin Castro or Elvis Andrus).

After Round 7, shortstops disappear from draft boards until Round 10 when the next tier of guys start to appear. But, there are a couple of decent options at that point with the ageless Derek Jeter and Alexei Ramirez projected to give good value.

At the tail end of the draft, there aren't many great options but Jhonny Peralta and Yunel Escobar are at least projected to give decent value as possible backups for you.

With this position, if you don't get Tulowitzki in Round 1 then you probably either want one of the guys from the next tier or you should wait on Jeter or Ramirez as very good later round options. There are only 9 shortstops projected to give close to league average value so you have to make sure to end up with one of those because the rest of the options here are extremely weak.

Shortstop Average Draft Position and Projected Value in 12-Team League

Name
ADP Rd
Werth Total
Troy Tulowitzki
1.4
5.4
Hanley Ramirez
2.5
2.5
Jose Reyes
2.6
1.4
Starlin Castro
4.7
1.7
Elvis Andrus
5.4
1
Asdrubal Cabrera
6.5
0.7
Jimmy Rollins
7
0
Derek Jeter
10.2
-0.3
J.J. Hardy
11.4
-2.9
Dee Gordon
11.7
-2.8
Alexei Ramirez
11.7
0.3
Erick Aybar
12.5
-1.8
Emilio Bonifacio
12.8
-2.7
Jhonny Peralta
13.5
-1.3
Stephen Drew
16.6
-3.2
Yunel Escobar
17.3
-2.1
Marco Scutaro
18.5
-3
Cliff Pennington
19.3
-3.9
Ian Desmond
19.6
-2.5
Jed Lowrie
19.8
-7.4
Sean Rodriguez
19.9
-5.6
Zack Cozart
19.9
-5
Alex Gonzalez
20.1
-5.1
Rafael Furcal
20.2
-5
Alexi Casilla
20.7
-6.5
Alcides Escobar
20.8
-3.7
Eduardo Nunez
21.4
-5.2
Yuniesky Betancourt
22.1
-5.8
Ryan Theriot
22.7
-6.2
Jason Bartlett
24.4
-3.5
Miguel Tejada
24.8
-7.7
Tsuyoshi Nishioka
28
-8.6
Clint Barmes
33.9
-6.3
Brendan Ryan
35.3
-6.5

Mar 17, 2012

Podcast | Fantasy Baseball Performance Enhancing Discussions, Ep. 2


In a new feature at this site, there will be an entertaining weekly podcast that is hosted by me and Russ, my co-host who will represent the average inquisitive fantasy player. Close up your spreadsheets and step away from your draft articles as we set out to entertain you and educate you in regards to fantasy baseball strategy.

Episode 2: Keeper League Strategy
In this episode, Russ and I discuss keeper leagues and how to approach them for new and old owners as well as some guys to target in those leagues. In broken news, we discuss injuries to Chris Carpenter, David Wright and Salvador Perez and how Russ can relate to them based on his softball injury. In another baseball quiz from Luke, Russ struggles between choosing whether someone is a world leader or outfielder. The first mailbag question focuses on what tools we bring to the draft and the resource of the week is Scouting Book.

Go ahead and subscribe to the seperate podcast RSS feed and subscribe and rate us on iTunes. More importantly, leave us some comments about the show and submit mailbag questions for future episodes!

(Also, make sure to follow the Twitter account for Russ: @mrscheatsheet)

Mar 16, 2012

Classic - The Expected Quality Starts Formula


This is a post that originally appeared prior to the 2011 baseball season about how Quality Starts were added into the fantasy baseball cheatsheets here.

While it isn't a necessary part of every fantasy league, many points-based leagues and some roto leagues embrace the power of the Quality Start as opposed to the generic Win statistic. Last year, I debuted a formula that David Gassko shared with me to help predict quality starts based on projections. I decided to tinker with it a bit this year and develop an improved version of the Expected Quality Starts (xQS) statistic. Two things have a direct impact on quality starts: earned runs and innings pitched. In the old statistic, only earned runs were accounted for. In the new version, I try to also identify pitchers who have a tendency to pitch deeper into games as well.

As you can see above, the new formula (which is used in the cheatsheets for any league projection system you choose) accounts for average innings per game as well as ERA to give a number of quality starts expected. When looking at last year's season totals, this generated a correlation coefficient of .908 to actual results (improved from .900 from the old system) for anyone with 10 QS or more and an improvement to .882 from .864 for the top 100 finishers in QS.

As we get more projections at our fingertips this preseason, keep checking out the cheatsheets here to take advantage of the xQS statistic and use it to help dominate your league. In the meantime, you can simply use the chart above as a handy guide to have with you to remember who to target for those mysterious quality starts.

Mar 15, 2012

"Don't Draft Catchers Early" | Strategy Mythbustin'


In the fantasy baseball universe, you're in one of two camps: those who try to get one of the top catchers (position scarcity!) or those who wait until the rest of their roster is already filled (all catchers stink!). The myth is that drafting catchers early is simply a bad strategy because the other players that you could draft early instead of a catcher are just too valuable to pass up on. That myth is strengthened by the thought that catchers are more brittle and will be more likely to spend some time on the DL.

To start, let's look at the 2012 projections by ADP and WERTH roto value to see how the value breaks down for the various rounds that catchers are being drafted in:
Catcher Avg Val
All Others
Diff
Round 4
-0.1
1.7
-1.8
Round 5
-1.2
1.8
-3
Round 6
-3.1
0.7
-3.8
Round 7
-2
0.8
-2.8
Round 8
-2.8
0.6
-3.4
Round 13
-3.8
-1.6
-2.2
Round 14
-4.2
-2
-2.2
Round 16
-4.8
-2.7
-2.1
Round 18
-4.9
-3.2
-1.7
Round 19
-6.1
-3.7
-2.4
Round 20
-6.3
-4.1
-2.2
If the projections hold true then drafting the first two catchers off the board in Round 4 (Carlos Santana or Mike Napoli) could work out just as well as drafting one after Round 13. The tier of catchers that goes from Round 5 to Round 8 isn't projected quite as well compared to the counterparts in the rounds they are being drafted though. From Round 13 to Round 20, the difference between drafting a catcher versus another position stays about the same.

What about the durability of these catchers though? Last year, two of the top four drafted catchers spent most of the year on the DL (Joe Mauer and Buster Posey) which brings the issue to the forefront. Of the 9 catchers that were taken within the earlier rounds last year, Mauer and Posey were the only two that experienced such dramatic drops in games played though. If you look at all players drafted in the first four rounds last year, there were 7 other hitters who experienced significant time lost on the DL (Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley, Ryan Zimmerman, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Morneau). So, having injuries hamper your season isn't unique to catchers necessarily.

Furthermore, if you look at the 2010 season, there were four catchers drafted before the 10th round and all four of them had over 500 PA that season. There were 7 hitters from the first four rounds at other positions that had significant DL time though. If we take it all the way back to 2009, there were five catchers drafted by the 10th round with four of the five having over 550 PA. In those two years, it was actually the catchers drafted between Rounds 10 to 15 that missed more time (6 of the 10 getting under 400 PA).

All in all, catcher does have some durability concerns on the whole but the catchers drafted at the top are more durable in most years. If durability is what scares you about the catcher position then drafting a top catcher should be more of a priority instead of waiting for the lesser options later on.

One other big issue with catchers is their reliability. Of the top 200 players last year, six were catchers and only one was drafted early. Mauer and Posey's injuries play a part in that but the position is still subject to some volatility. Brian McCannVictor Martinez and Mauer have been consistently among the top catchers drafted each year but the rest of the position fluctuates as Geovany Soto, Russell Martin, Ryan Doumit and others have shared time among being early draft picks.

When all is said and done, there is a lot of unpredictability at the catcher position. If you are going to invest in it, you want to invest in someone you trust. Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli seem to be worthy of your trust based on projections but they aren't the usual names you see at the top here. In the 4th and 18th rounds, you could grab Hunter Pence & Kurt Suzuki for nice value or Carlos Santana & Brennan Boesch for better projected value. The upside to the first option is that you have Hunter Pence but the downside is that you'll actually have to start Kurt Suzuki.

For this particular year, you have to go to one extreme or the other by drafting one of the top two or waiting until the tail end. The catchers who are being taken from Round 5 to Round 12 simply do not project well in comparison to who else you could be taking there. The catchers who are being taken at the very top actually do compare somewhat favorably though.

I wouldn't call this fantasy strategy myth completely busted but I would say it is plausible based on what we've seen in past years. For 2012, if you don't have one of the best, you might as well have one of the worst instead; there's no middle ground here.

Mar 14, 2012

2012 Overvalued/Undervalued Starting Pitchers


When scouting out the potential pitchers for your fantasy team, we typically glance at ERA first and foremost to get a sense of whether they pitched well the previous year or not. This is a mistake however as a pitcher's high or low ERA does not tell the full story. Whether a pitcher allows a run or not can be affected by so many things. As touched upon in my How To Evaluate Pitcher ERA article, we have a few tools at our disposal to really determine whether each pitcher's actual ERA was legit or whether luck played a factor in it.

In this article, I'm looking at the biggest differences between a pitcher's 2011 ERA and their xFIP or SIERA, which are two ERA predictor stats. In this first chart below, we have a list of 14 pitchers who seemed to have an ERA that was a lot better than it should have been last year:
Name ERA xFIP E-xF SIERA E-SI K/9 BB/9 BABIP HR/FB ADP Rd
Jeremy Hellickson 2.95 4.72 -1.77 4.78 -1.83 5.6 3.4 .223 8.1% 11
Jered Weaver 2.41 3.80 -1.39 3.67 -1.26 7.6 2.1 .250 6.3% 3
Ryan Vogelsong 2.71 3.85 -1.14 3.97 -1.26 7.0 3.1 .280 8.2% 19
Matt Cain 2.88 3.78 -0.90 3.78 -0.90 7.3 2.6 .260 3.7% 5
Ricky Romero 2.92 3.80 -0.88 3.78 -0.86 7.1 3.2 .242 13.2% 8
Doug Fister 2.83 3.61 -0.78 3.67 -0.84 6.1 1.5 .272 5.1% 14
Randy Wolf 3.69 4.46 -0.77 4.49 -0.80 5.7 2.8 .286 8.6% 22
R.A. Dickey 3.28 3.95 -0.67 4.02 -0.74 5.8 2.3 .278 8.3% 20
Kyle Lohse 3.39 4.04 -0.65 4.26 -0.87 5.3 2.0 .269 7.2% 20
Gio Gonzalez 3.12 3.73 -0.61 3.78 -0.66 8.8 4.1 .287 8.9% 9
J. Zimmermann 3.18 3.78 -0.60 3.70 -0.52 6.9 1.7 .291 5.9% 10
Aaron Harang 3.64 4.21 -0.57 4.25 -0.61 6.5 3.1 .302 9.4% 19
Mark Buehrle 3.59 4.14 -0.55 4.38 -0.79 4.8 2.0 .294 8.6% 19
Matt Harrison 3.39 3.85 -0.46 4.09 -0.70 6.1 2.8 .290 7.1% 20
The ERA-xFIP and ERA-SIERA columns show us the amount by which their ERA would have changed if luck wasn't a factor. Jeremy Hellickson is by far the biggest abuser here. He had a mediocre strikeout and walk rate but benefited from a incredibly small BABIP which means he should regress quite a bit this upcoming year. In the 11th round, he's not worth drafting. A couple of other interesting early round names are on the list such as Jered Weaver, Matt Cain and Ricky Romero. Even with regression, they appear to be within a pretty good ERA range under 4.00 but you don't like to see your SP1 and SP2 have these type of red flags. However, it should be noted that Matt Cain has a longstanding habit of having a much higher xFIP than his ERA throughout his career so his appearance on this list doesn't surprise or worry me.

Now, on the other side of the coin, let's look at the pitchers who had an ERA that was overly inflated which should improve in 2012:

Name ERA xFIP E-xF SIERA E-SI K/9 BB/9 BABIP HR/FB ADP Rd
Gavin Floyd 4.37 3.73 0.64 3.70 0.67 7.0 2.1 .278 10.2% 20
Max Scherzer 4.43 3.70 0.73 3.63 0.80 8.0 2.6 .314 12.6% 13
Chris Capuano 4.55 3.67 0.88 3.60 0.95 8.1 2.6 .311 12.0% 22
Ubaldo Jimenez 4.68 3.71 0.97 3.74 0.94 8.6 3.7 .314 9.3% 11
Ryan Dempster 4.80 3.70 1.10 3.79 1.01 8.5 3.7 .324 11.2% 18
Ricky Nolasco 4.67 3.55 1.12 3.79 0.88 6.5 1.9 .331 9.5% 20
Brandon Morrow 4.72 3.53 1.19 3.31 1.41 10.2 3.5 .299 10.4% 13
Zack Greinke 3.83 2.56 1.27 2.66 1.17 10.5 2.4 .318 13.6% 4
A.J. Burnett 5.15 3.86 1.29 3.89 1.26 8.2 3.9 .294 17.0% 20
Derek Lowe 5.05 3.65 1.40 3.75 1.30 6.6 3.4 .327 10.2% 31
Zack Greinke had an incredible strikeout and walk rate last year but a fluky HR/FB rate and BABIP caused his ERA to balloon. He's wisely still being taken in the 4th round of drafts but should deliver even better value than that.

As you can see, high BABIP combined with high HR/FB rates were the culprit behind most of these spikes in ERA. Those two stats are mostly out of the pitcher's control and usually will regress closer to league average rates the next season.

So, if we're looking at which starting pitchers to avoid and which to target in 2012, these lists give you a good idea of some potential names for both. It's not a certainty that Jered Weaver will drop to a 3.80 ERA in 2012 but the fact that it's even a possibility is reason enough to maybe grab someone else at that point in a draft... like maybe a Zack Greinke a round later.