Category:MLB
Posted on: September 5, 2008 2:39 am
Edited on: September 5, 2008 2:53 am
 

HRs : RBI :: SBs : runs, right?

When building a team in a Rotisserie league, I generally pay attention to only two offensive statistics: home runs and stolen bases. Players get either one or the other, none or both. It's as simple as that. I try not to confuse myself by getting tied up in batting average, which I consider largely a product of luck (as long as I avoid Adam Dunn and Chris B. Young types), and I certainly don't pay a second thought to RBI and runs scored. They just correlate so closely to home runs and stolen bases that as long as I balance the first two, the second two will respond accordingly.

Or at least they should, but they haven't for Tom Henneberry:

I am in a 5X5 Rotisserie league with 11 teams. I am second in home runs and ninth in RBI. How is this possible? Is this bad luck, or am I overlooking something?

It's possible, Tom, but it's certainly not easy to do. In fact, you pretty much can't do it in a league deeper than yours, and even in one as shallow as yours, you almost have to try.

To evaluate, let's examine three of my own leagues: a 12-team NL-only, a 12-team AL-only and a 12-team mixed. In each of the three leagues, the top five teams in home runs also rank in the top six in RBI.

Now, if you told me you ranked second in stolen bases and ninth in runs scored, the evidence would better support your situation and contradict my original premise. Of the top five teams in stolen bases in each of those same three leagues, at least two rank in the bottom third in runs scored.

Why? Enough stolen base specialists exist throughout baseball who enter games chiefly to steal bases but don't play (and therefore don't score) as often as legitimate leadoff hitters -- guys like Joey Gathright, Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn -- that a Fantasy team can gobble up one or two and remain in contention for steals while falling out of contention for runs scored.

But in your case, where you contend for home runs but not RBI, you'd have to find a home-run specialist, and home runs pretty much always require a certain number of at-bats. I suppose if you loaded up on enough guys like Luke Scott or Marcus Thames, you could end up in your situation, but you'd also lag significantly in runs scored. Do you?

Of course, I can think of one other way you ended up in your predicament. If you relied on leadoff hitters as your primary sources of power -- guys like Hanley Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano -- you'd still get plenty of home runs and runs scored, but you might find your team lacking a bit in RBI. That's not to say a well-balanced team can't have both Ramirez and Soriano -- two excellent players, no doubt -- but if you have them both, then sprinkle in a few guys like Scott and Thames and decide that's it, you have all the power you need, you might end up with a team like yours.

But see? It's almost like you have to try.

So while I'd like to file your situation under "bad luck" based on the unlikelihood of it, the accident was one you could clearly control. Just try to be more careful next time.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 29, 2008 7:57 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2008 3:14 am
 

Assessing the Sliders column

As my first full season covering Fantasy Baseball draws to a close, I find myself assessing my contributions, determining how to make them better for next year.

Of particular interest is my Sliders piece -- a column of my own invention that, because it didn't already have its own set of rules or instructions, kind of became a season-long experiment. I found myself in a constant wrestling match with terminology -- one I could usually sort out within the column itself, but not without leaving behind the more casual readers who simply wanted to glance over the piece without hanging on its every last word.

One section of the column that readers found particularly confusing was the "change-up," where I'd take my assessment of a player from a week or two earlier and completely overturn it. They thought it served no purpose other than to wreck my credibility. Take this latest e-mail from Jeff:

Scott, I do admire the fact that somehow you acquired a job writing about baseball. In regards to your Sliders column, don't you get tired of throwing change-ups? You're on the bandwagon and then off, and then back on. For example, Justin Duchscherer has a rough stretch, and you proclaim, "I told you so!" Prior to it, though, you had said he's for real. Now, you have to say, "Well, looks like he's been hurt." This kind of thing makes you look like a hack.

The change-up, in fact, serves three purposes:

1. It exposes player forecasting as the inexact science it is.
Sliders, when broken down to its barest essentials, is an exercise in player forecasting. I take individual players and explain what I think they'll do -- a pretty simple concept, really, but with one fundamental flaw:

I don't necessarily believe in player forecasting.

Sure, it has its place. It acts as a motivator, a catalyst for action. I might not pick up that left-handed slugger until I read a glowing scouting report on him, for instance. But for the most part, I prefer to build my Fantasy teams following more general, inexact strategies. In other words, I'd rather constantly react than put all my eggs in one basket, cross my arms and wait.

Player forecasting is guesswork. Anyone can make an argument for or against any player in baseball. True, some of those arguments hold more water than others, but sometimes, the more unlikely ones end up coming true. No Fantasy analyst can get every player right, and I don't want to give anyone the impression I can.

So I remind them when I get one wrong. They have the right to know. Maybe they'll follow their gut next time instead of listening to me, which wouldn't be such a bad thing. I want people to view my work as a second opinion to measure against their own, not the presiding opinion to follow blindly without even bothering to form their own.

Does that make me a hack? I'd claim just the opposite. If I acted like I got every pick right, I'd be a hack.

2. It holds me accountable.
As I've mentioned numerous times in this blog, I came into this job with the advantage of having long been a fan of Fantasy content, reading every piece I could find. So when I became a writer, I knew from my experience as a reader what I wanted to include and what I wanted to avoid.

Specifically, I never, ever wanted to pat myself on the back for a correct a prediction. OK, I don't "never, ever" do anything. In fact, I've occasionally had reason to mention a correct prediction to preface another point, but I don't ever want to find myself writing a 500-word "ode to me" because one of my thousands of predictions actually came true. A correct prediction should be the expectation, not the exception, so if I get one right, it should go without saying.

So in Sliders, I took the opposite approach, emphasizing my incorrect predictions. If forced to elaborate each week on everything that goes wrong, how can I ever get too high on something that goes right? I'll never have this Fantasy stuff totally figured out, and the change-up serves as a weekly reminder.

3. It reminds you, me and everyone else not to take this stuff too seriously.
Have you even read Sliders? It's not exactly stern-faced analysis. Sure, it presents intelligible arguments and stands behind them as long as it should, but it doesn't take itself all that seriously.

And it shouldn't. It's a piece not only about a game, but about a game about a game. Sure, it's a game we love -- maybe even obsess over -- but when push comes to shove, I think we can all agree we play it strictly for fun.

So how can a column written about something we do for fun not be for fun itself?

And the change-up was for fun, mostly. In my column about a game about a game, I included yet another game, giving the readers a chance to guess which player would make me eat my words next week and see if I'd actually follow through with it.

But with all that said, I have to admit I did get tired of looking for a change-up every week. Rarely did a player do enough in one week to make me change my mind about him, and if I waited several weeks, the change-up seemed more like a response to an in-season development than a case of me changing my mind.

So I don't know. I could see myself doing away with the change-up next season -- or at least presenting it a little differently.

Wait, I take that back.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 26, 2008 3:51 am
 

Pickup of the week: Petit

Yes, I'm back for a second time to single out that one guy to target for this week and beyond, and I think I have a name that might tickle your funny bone.

Yusmeiro Petit.

Ah, it feels good just to say. I talked about him pretty extensively in my Sliders column (which I'll try to avoid doing in the future), so I won't repeat the same stuff I said there. Really, Petit's statistics should speak for themselves. He has a 2.65 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in six starts -- all while pitching for a contender. If he was named Phil Hughes and pitched for the Yankees, he'd be owned in 94 percent of Fantasy leagues, but since he pitches for the Diamondbacks, he's owned in 24 percent.

Poor Petit. Poor 23-year-old Petit, so young and ... petite? I don't know.

I'm sorry for using the phrase "tickle your funny bone."

That's all for now.

Posted on: August 20, 2008 3:02 am
Edited on: August 20, 2008 3:03 am
 

Did you forget about Hafner?

Sometime in late June, I gave a rather heartfelt account of why I didn't have a place for Travis Hafner on my Fantasy team anymore.

I cut him then, and I haven't regretted it even once.

For the most part, Fantasy owners have followed suit, so much that his ownership has now dwindled to about 30 percent.

But with the start of his Triple-A rehab assignment this week, I can't help but feel the seduction beginning anew.

In case you missed the news at the time, Hafner had physically lost his power. A test revealed he had virtually no strength in his right shoulder, so he began an extensive rehabilitation program to rebuild it.

A lack of strength would certainly explain why his numbers dropped from David Ortiz standards to David Eckstein standards.

Now, with the coming of this rehabilitation assignment -- which the out-of-contention Indians obviously have no reason to rush -- reports abound saying Hafner feels confident, the team feels confident, and manager Eric Wedge feels confident. In batting practice, the balls have again started flying into the upper deck, and Hafner again has "that look" in his eye. All good stuff.

And in the first game of his rehab assignment Monday, Hafner hit a double.

I didn't see the double. I don't know if he blooped a ball between two outfielders or lined a shot off the right-field fence. But I know a double indicates strength, and a strong Hafner is a Hafner I haf to have.

Er ... have to have.

Think about it. What's the risk in adding him now?

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2008 2:29 am
Edited on: August 19, 2008 3:01 am
 

Pickup of the week: Wigginton

From now on, I've decided I'd do something quick on Monday, when I have to divert much of my attention to the Sliders column. I thought I'd introduce a pickup of the week, beginning this week with Ty Wigginton.

Granted, Wigginton won't have many weeks like this last one, when he hit four home runs and had multiple hits in six of seven games, but he so far has the best power numbers of his career, even trumping his 116 at-bat 2002, when he shocked the world with six home runs right out of the minors.

His greatest attribute, of course, is qualifying at second base -- one of the weakest positions in Fantasy -- but don't underestimate the value of him also qualifying at third base, first base, and if recent trends continue, outfield. If you like Mark DeRosa because of his versatility, Wigginton might offer even better numbers now that the Astros have committed to playing him every day.

And you can bet they'll play him every day. They can't afford to lose anymore thunder in their lineup -- not with Carlos N. Lee more or less done for the season.

That's all for now.
Posted on: August 16, 2008 3:25 am
Edited on: August 16, 2008 3:26 am
 

Sabathia in a class of his own

I took a big bite out of the rankings Friday night, which you can imagine is a meal I never quite finish.

Among the more notable changes, I finally gave in on one of my most-often criticized placements at starting pitcher. Yes, I dropped Johan Santana from his season-long perch at No. 1.

Don't worry, Santana owners: I haven't lost faith in the guy. I just found another one so dominant with so many jaw-dropping starts that ranking him anything less than No. 1 looks like an embarrassing oversight for CBSSports.com.

See CC Sabathia.

(You know you want to say that out loud.)

Perhaps you know some of his numbers already. Maybe you know he has four complete games, including two shutouts, in his last seven starts. Maybe you know he has a 7-0 record and 1.55 ERA since joining the Brewers in a midseason trade.

Maybe you know; maybe you don't.

And those numbers clearly set him apart from the rest of the pack. They look almost throwback, like they belong to some hybrid of four or five Hall-of-Fame pitchers.

But then I look at his season stats -- not the ones you see on his player page, but the ones that came after that horrendous four-start stretch he had at the beginning of the season, when he posted a 13.50 ERA. If you eliminate those four starts, he has a 1.92 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 168 1/3 innings -- or nearly a full season for some pitchers these days.

Those numbers combined with his strikeout per inning pitched and growing pile of complete games make his season look not just Fantasy good, but historically good. No pitcher even touches him this season, and considering he just won the Cy Young last season, he might be that one starting pitcher who goes in the first round next season.

Oh yes -- he looks that good.

In fact, I'd campaign for him to win the Cy Young again this season. I don't mean to take anything away from Brandon Webb, and I understand Sabathia accumulated half of his stats in the American League, but I think if we don't give Sabathia the award this season, it'll look almost laughable from a historical perspective.

Because his numbers really are that good. I probably should have made him the No. 1 Fantasy pitcher a few weeks ago.

Now, if only I could convince myself to move Cliff Lee into the top 10. That complete game Friday night goes a long way to helping his chances.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 14, 2008 6:43 pm
 

Dead end at the deadline? Not quite ...

Ah, the trade deadline -- a time for all the contenders to outmaneuver each other on their road to Fantasy glory while all the non-contenders pretty much just stay out of their way.

Except in a keeper league. In a keeper league, the deadline matters to everybody.

Even those who fall out of the race -- which I admit I did in my keeper league, painful as it may be. Hey, don't laugh. I drafted Travis Hafner and Carlos Pena for my starting lineup and Rafael Soriano and Manny Corpas for my bullpen (in a league that counts saves 10 points each, no less), and three of my four keepers -- Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins and Erik Bedard -- got injured right away.

Yeah, you could say I'm just making excuses. But so did Hank Steinbrenner, and everyone loves him now.

Anyway, I fought the good fight, swung a few deals along the way, and made up some serious ground in the standings. But with the trade deadline approaching Saturday and my team four games behind the last playoff team with only four weeks remaining, I decided to cash in my chips and play for next year. Otherwise, I'd have to go 4-0 and count on the other guy to go 0-4, and I'm already losing this week.

I'd never been a seller at the trade deadline before -- hey, you don't get this job by rebuilding -- but the goal seemed pretty simple to me: stock up on as many first-rounders as I could. Keep in mind I play in a Head-to-Head league with four keepers, no penalties. I don't lose draft picks or auction dollars for keeping players. I just keep the four guys I want most, no strings attached.

I already had A-Rod, who I still project as the No. 1 overall player next year. Why not go after the guys I project second and third? Why not target Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley? Both would probably go in the first round no matter what positions they played, and they happen to play two of the weakest positions in Fantasy.

I made Utley my No. 1 priority because I already had Rollins, so if I couldn't get Ramirez, I could rest easy knowing I still had an elite Fantasy shortstop. And Utley just so happened to belong to a contender. What luck.

Originally, I offered the contender -- we'll call him Contender A -- Brandon Phillips (who I acquired two weeks earlier just in case I faced this scenario), Chipper Jones and A.J. Burnett for Utley. He insisted on me adding Brian Wilson to the deal, which made no difference to me, but I warned him the other contenders might think a 4-for-1 trade crossed the line of "preserving competitive balance." Ultimately, we came to this agreement:

I got:
2B Chase Utley
RP Trevor Hoffman
SP Manny Parra
OF Jay Bruce

Contender A got:
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Chipper Jones
SP A.J. Burnett
RP Brian Wilson

I don't think he even had to give me quite as much as he did, but whatever. I've never known myself to ask for less when someone makes me an offer. Old habits, I guess.

About this time, I noticed another owner in the same position as me make a couple moves to fortify his team for next season. He didn't aim quite as high, though. He still traded with contenders -- and two different contenders than the one who traded me Utley -- but he targeted sure-fire keepers who recently suffered season-ending injuries.

Rebuilder A got:
OF Carl Crawford

Contender B got:
SP Roy Oswalt

Contender B didn't really need a pitcher, but obviously Oswalt stands to help him more this year than Crawford would have, considering the latter will miss the rest of the season following hand surgery. Crawford had lost a bit of his luster as a keeper anyway, though I still expect him to go in the first four rounds next season.

Rebuilder A got:
OF Carlos N. Lee

Contender C got:
OF Matt Kemp

Obviously, no contender would accept this trade under normal circumstances, but Lee (wrist) doesn't stand to help Contender C for the rest of the season. With all the other contenders making moves, he kind of had to make one too.

And you have to love that ripple effect -- the fact that three contenders gave up significant building blocks without really gaining ground on each other. Hooray for no collusion.

So with Utley in hand, I looked to require Ramirez, who belonged to another non-contender. That made it tougher. I had to somehow give him something for the future while still taking something for the future.

Fortunately, after the Utley trade, my potential keepers looked as follows: A-Rod (duh), Utley (duh), Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Lance Berkman and Russell Martin. Notice a problem? I had way too many. Meanwhile, the guy who owned Ramirez had Ramirez (duh), Mark Teixeira and ... um, Edinson Volquez? Justin Verlander?

Aw, this is like taking candy from a baby.

I got:
SS Hanley Ramirez

Rebuilder A got:
OF Josh Hamilton
SS Jimmy Rollins
C Russell Martin

It looks ridiculous. In a vacuum, I gave up too much, but this trade didn't happen in a vacuum. I had too many keepers, and the other guy didn't have enough. So I gave him some of my excess for an even better keeper. And no one else in the league has any right to complain about his haul because he's out of contention. It's not like I gave him the pieces he needs to go surging into the playoffs.

And now I get to keep A-Rod, Utley and Ramirez. Scary. As for that fourth keeper, I haven't decided yet. I'll probably keep Quentin, but I could always plug in Berkman if any of the other four suffer a Joel Zumaya-like offseason mishap, God forbid.

Man, falling out of contention is fun. If I don't win the league next year, I'll cry little girl tears.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 12, 2008 8:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2008 8:20 pm
 

A prolonged look at the closer rankings

I hate closers.

They lose jobs, gain jobs and trade jobs to the point that their final rankings look nothing like their preseason rankings. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Their Fantasy value has almost nothing to do with their talent, which you can't say about any other position.

Granted, I try to target the few late-round options with talent -- people like Joakim Soria, for instance -- but I get ahead of myself.

I generally avoid talking about closers -- generally. But after looking over the closer rankings today -- yes, I'm the idiot who maintains those rankings, though I didn't take over until sometime in June -- I thought I should address the reasoning behind some of my decisions.

At the top of the list, I have the elite class: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan. I don't think anyone would disagree with those four at the top, in some order. All play for contenders and have excellent stuff and established track records.

Coming in fifth as the first point of possible contention is the aforementioned Soria, who has better stats than every closer other than K-Rod. Some might say he deserves a higher ranking, then, but let's not forget he pitches for the Royals, who haven't had an elite Fantasy closer since ... I don't know, Jeff Montgomery?

On the flipside, some might say he deserves a lower ranking for the same reason, because he pitches for one of the worst teams in baseball, but let's not mistake the Royals for the Mariners. They'll win a handful of games each week, and they don't have enough offense to make any of those wins blowouts. I don't foresee a significant decrease in Soria's saves.

I rank Bobby Jenks sixth because he pitches for a contender and has one of the better ERAs and WHIPs you'll find among closers. He doesn't get the strikeouts of the five guys ahead of him, though, and he trails them by a few saves, mostly because he spent most of July on the DL. Still, numbers concern me more than anything else with him.

Brad Lidge only recently dropped behind Jenks, and only because he has a stiff right shoulder. In Fantasy, you don't want your closer missing save opportunities. They don't seem to come nearly often enough as is.

Jose Valverde comes in eighth, but he bothers me because he can look dominant for six weeks, helping your team's ERA and WHIP as well as providing saves, and then blow it all in a span of three days. Still, the Astros give him opportunities, and he converts them often enough to keep his job. When it comes to closers, saves still take priority in Fantasy.

Kerry Wood could easily rank fifth and actually did not too long ago, but with the Cubs babying him after his DL stint, he has the potential to fall even more. Like I said with Lidge, you don't want your closer missing save opportunities.

Jonathan Broxton rounds out the top 10, which some might call too high for a guy with eight saves. But really, only those eight saves prevent me from ranking him higher. He pitches for a low-scoring contender and has dominant, Brad Lidge-type stuff. I could see a Fantasy owners turning down an offer of Jenks for Broxton straight-up.

Emack and I talked on the podcast earlier today about how Fantasy owners still seem unwilling to trust Salomon Torres. My ranking of No. 11 only underscores that argument. No, he doesn't have the best stuff in the world, but you can't complain about a 2.69 ERA or his supporting cast. Emack says he'd take Torres over Wood right now. I wouldn't go that far just yet, but I can understand his point.

At No. 12, Brian Wilson completes the list of No. 1 Fantasy closers, but he barely edges Kevin Gregg, who has proven himself more than just a one-year wonder for the contending Marlins. In the end, I gave the nod to Wilson because I decided a 32-save pitcher in mid-August would start in any Fantasy league, even if he makes his own team nervous anytime he takes the mound. Besides, his good work of late has his ERA almost below 4.00.

Here's a few quick notes on the rest of the top 40:
-- Billy Wagner won't stay out of the top 12 for long. He'll come off the DL soon and has the numbers to leap ahead of Valverde. Don't get too attached to No. 32, Aaron Heilman.
-- A few weeks ago, Brian Fuentes hardly seemed worth starting in two-closer leagues. Now, he's all the way up to No. 17. Thank the rest of the Rockies.
-- Fernando Rodney has actually impressed early in his stint as Tigers closer. I moved him just inside the top 24, which still seems a little too high, but anyone who looks like he can save games for a contender deserves to start in Fantasy.
-- Rookie Chris Perez has officially leaped Jason Isringhausen in the rankings. Perez has each of the Cardinals' last two saves after Isringhausen blew his last opportunity. The team hasn't made an official announcement, but I have: You'd rather have Perez.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com