Monday, December 31, 2007

Casting My Hall of Fame Ballot

First, we need to qualify my Hall of Fame. There are players in there that don’t belong, in my opinion (Bruce Sutter, Lloyd Waner, Bill Mazeroski, the list goes on). So I’m more an elitist, purist, pick-the-word-for-baseball-snob. I’m voting for the people, in my eyes, that are no-brainers. I want an idealized Baseball Hall of Fame. I don’t want borderline people there. So with that in mind, here are my selections for 2008 induction.

1. Mark McGwire – He did steroids, andro, rubbed Moises Alou’s urine on his hands… Yes, he did all of that. But he was an absolute monster during the years when it’s safe to say everyone was juicing or impossible to prove anyone wasn’t juicing. There were a few years in there when Marge Schott was probably juicing -- God Bless her racist soul. So, all things considered, how do you leave out Mark McGwire? He should be in already, you puritans. Now go churn your butter!

2. Bert Blyeven – His case has been made to the point of over saturation. If you’d like, check out this, this or just watch Bert drop the F-bomb a few times:

3. Goose Goosage – He was the Mariano Rivera of his day. Frankly, he was way more dominant than Sutter. Throwing out his first four seasons where the teams he played for tried him as a starter, he’d have a 2.55 ERA in 1366.1 innings. Um, that’s pretty good. He’s a Hall of Famer. Don't believe me, I'm sure opposing hitters will attest to it.

That’s it for my votes. I’d let Raines wait a few years then reconsider him. Trammel, Murphy, Dawson and Lee Smith were good players, sometimes great, but they’re not Hall of Famers. Let's put it this way, did anyone ever watch Alan Trammel and say, "Now there's a Hall of Famer"? Or at least anyone outside of Detroit and sober?


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Around the Majors

1. Friends over at Inside Dodgers Baseball think the blue are out of the running for Bedard and Johan Santana. To me, this makes perfect sense. Dodgers need a bat with their lineup stacked with slap and run hitters.

2. A Yankee minor league blog, Pinstriped Scranton, talks about how Robinson Cano was, um, yanked from winter ball. Why he was even there to begin with is beyond me.

3. A Minnesota Twins farm system blog has a flashy picture of a slimmed down Miguel Cabrera. Next stop, Trimspa commercials!

4. People over at The Grand Jury have some possible scenarios on Mark Prior in Friar Tuck-brown. I choose option A.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Aramis Ramirez, Rebound or Reject

Looking forward to 2008, we look back at what happened with Aramis Ramirez in 2007. His stats were: 72/26/101/.310. Not numbers that killed your team, but, for where you had to draft him, he definitely didn’t produce numbers that made you happy. In fact, Adrian Beltre finished ahead of him on our PLAYER RATER (explanation of our player rater HERE). Aramis’s 26 home runs were his lowest total since 2002 when he hit a paltry 18. So what happened?

On April 13th, 2007, this is what was reported by ESPN:

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, one of the Chicago Cubs' hottest hitters during the first eight games, was out of the lineup with a swollen right wrist Friday and was sent to a hand specialist to be examined.

As we’ve seen time and again, wrist injuries completely zap the power from hitters -- I’m talking to you, Derrek Lee. Then to compound matters in June, Aramis hit the DL with knee tendonitis. Hard to say when the pain subsided, but his numbers look like he was playing through injury for a while. He had only six home runs combined in June, July and August. His batting eye, though, never wavered, batting nearly .340 for those months. So what can be expected for 2008?

Well, wrist injuries linger -- I'm talking to you, Hideki Matsui, through a translator, of course -- yet there was an extremely promising sign for Aramis’s 2008 campaign. In September of ‘07, Aramis hit 8 of his 26 home runs, a sign that his power was already returning as the season drew to a close. With some extra R & R in the offseason (Aramis seems like a deep-sea fisherman to me), he should be back to swatting home runs in the friendly confines. While your leaguemates look at Aramis’s ’07 numbers and pass him by on draft day, you can draft him with confidence as a rebound is in order.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Birth of Razzball

By Senior Contributing Writer Rudy Gamble

One of the greater joys of fantasy baseball is the satisfaction of properly valuing a player – e.g., selecting the right 1st round pick, getting a ‘steal’ in a later round, avoiding a guy who you know is going to have a bad year, trading a guy right before he tanks, etc. But while there are rewards in avoiding or trading overvalued players, the greater rewards are in retaining and acquiring the most successful players.

This reward system is one-sided. In investing, you can short-sell stocks that you know are going to tank and be rewarded. But if you KNEW Jason Bay was going to suck in 2007, all you could do was avoid him. What kind of reward is that?

This inequity is at the heart of a new fantasy baseball game that we at this FLB Blog are christening as Razzball. Razz is a card game similar to Texas Hold-em where the object is to have the worst hand possible. The objective of Razzball is to compile the worst fantasy baseball team possible.

The rosters are the same as currently found in standard MLB leagues: 13 hitters (C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B / 5 OF / Corner IF / Middle IF / UTIL) and 9 pitchers.

The stats are a bit different as there is a need to both reward below-average performance while making sure this isn’t achieved by avoiding active players. Since the aim is to be able to use a Yahoo or Sportsline free league for Razzball, we stuck with statistics that are generally available in those services:

AB (High = 10 points)
R (Low)
HR (Low)
RBI (Low)
K (High)
AVG (Low)

Minimum – 5200 team ABs (avg of 400 per position). Any ABs short will receive the pro-rated stats of 550 ABs at .320 AVG / 120 R / 35 HR / 120 RBI / 50 K

IP (High = 10 points)
L (High)
HR allowed (High)
ERA (High)
WHIP (High)
K (Low)

Maximum – 180 starts

For hitters, R / HR / RBI / AVG are the core offensive Razzball stats. The lowest in each category gets 10 points, highest 1 point.

Since this could conceivably be done via inactive players, several countermeasures are in place. ABs rewards teams that use active players (Outs would be better but it is an unavailable stat in standard online leagues). Strikeouts also serve as a reward for keeping an active roster while reflecting the least valuable action a hitter can contribute (Ok, GIDP is worse but roll w/ it). The minimum of 5200 ABs penalizes any team that falls short of a 400 AB per position minimum.

One exception that was made vs. traditional fantasy hitting stats was the removal of SB. This has always been an admittedly overrated stat in FLB (vis-à-vis actual value). We considered using Caught Stealing but it’s rather unpredictable and low in frequency. In addition, removing SB makes it easier to draft OFs as speed-only guys like Juan Pierre and Willy Taveras become attractive high AB, low HR/RBI guys.

For pitchers, L / ERA / WHIP / K serve as the core pitching Razzball stats. Losses makes for a great replacement over wins as it rewards playing bad active pitchers. ERA/WHIP/K are similar to R/HR/RBI/AVG in that teams are rewarded for poorest performance (highest for ERA and WHIP, lowest for K’s). IP is added as a countermeasure and HR serves as a mirror to offensive Ks (the least valuable action a pitcher can contribute). The maximum of 180 starts is consistent with many leagues and protects against an extreme amount of pitcher flighting.

The exception vs. traditional pitching stats is the absence of Saves. We considered blown saves but this is somewhat unpredictable and VERY low in frequency. So it’s likely that many closers will not be drafted – rather, there will be the greatest demand for middle relievers that pitch a lot of poor quality innings with, hopefully, some of those games on the line (to accrue Losses). We also considered using BB instead of low Ks but felt that was already factored into WHIP.

We’re still undecided on whether roster changes can be made on a daily or weekly basis but we’re leaning towards weekly.

Since Razzball is such a new concept, it’s really a blank slate for strategy. No collective wisdom over years and years of play and analysis. No publications or ‘experts’ to rely on. Should make for an exciting inaugural season.

As with regular FLB, strategy is dictated by the depth in performance at each position. Since MLB leagues tend to use about half the starting player pool, the depth in positions is nearly inverse so that the lowest valuable contributor (or Best Available Option as we’ve opined here and here) is very similar in both leagues – think Luis Gonzalez for OF (.277 / 74 R / 16 HR / 68 RBI).

Also similar to regular FLB, predicting pitching proves to be more unpredictable than hitting. In fact, the most valuable Razzball starter of 2007 was drafted in most regular leagues (Scott Olsen).

This points to an additional factor that makes for a very exciting variable – the chances that a below average performing player remains in the lineup / staff. The worst enemies are a player’s low upside, antsy coaches, contending teams, and unforgiving local media. Your best friends? A player’s high upside, smug coaches, floundering teams, and ineffectual local media.

Since there are only so many poor performing players out there, it will be important to retain them on your roster. So on the hitter side, we expect a similar amount of player activity as seen in FLB – there’s no way you’re dropping a Cristian Guzman but you’re going to rotate through 5th OFs in hopes of finding a guy on a cold streak or stumbling on a big find like a Norris Hopper (Reds OF from last year that managed 0 HR and 14 RBIs in 307 ABs!).

For pitching, it’ll be key to retain dud starters like Kip Wells and awful relief pitchers but we do foresee more turnover in pitchers than FLB since starting pitching reinforcements are generally worse than the pitching they replaced.


Best 2007 Razzball Pitchers:
1. Scott Olsen (FLA) - 176.2 IP / 15 L / 29 HR / 5.81 ERA / 1.77 WHIP / 133 K
2. Livan Hernandez (ARI) – 204.1 IP / 11 L / 34 HR / 4.93 ERA / 1.60 WHIP / 90 K
3. Woody Williams (HOU) – 188 IP / 15 L / 35 HR / 5.27 ERA / 1.43 WHIP / 101 K
4. Daniel Cabrera (BAL) – 204.1 / 18 L / 25 HR / 5.55 ERA / 1.54 WHIP / 166 K
5. Dontrelle Willis (FLA) – 205.1 / 15 L / 29 HR / 5.17 ERA / 1.60 WHIP / 146 K
6. Jose Contreras (CHI-A) – 189 IP / 17 L / 21 HR / 5.57 ERA / 1.56 WHIP / 113 K
7. Adam Eaton (PHI) – 161.2 IP / 10 L / 30 HR / 6.29 ERA / 1.63 WHIP / 97 K
8. Edwin Jackson (TB) – 161 IP / 15 L / 19 HR / 5.76 ERA / 1.76 WHIP / 128 K
9. Kip Wells (STL) – 162.2 IP / 17 L / 19 HR / 5.70 ERA / 1.63 WHIP / 122 K
10. Kyle Davies (KC) – 136 IP / 15 L / 22 HR / 6.09 ERA / 1.65 WHIP / 99 K

Honorable Mention to Mike Maroth who had a fantastic 6.89 ERA / 1.88 WHIP / 51 Ks but his measly 7 Ls and 116 IP keeps him out of the top 10.

Best 2007 Razz Hitters:
1. Nick Punto (MIN – 3B) – 472 AB / 53 R / 1 HR / 25 RBI / 90 K / .210 AVG
2. Felipe Lopez (WAS – 2B/SS) – 603 AB / 70 R / 9 HR / 50 RBI / 109 K / .245 AVG
3. Alex Gordon (KC – 3B) – 543 AB / 60 R / 15 HR / 60 RBI / 137 K / .247 AVG
4. Brandon Inge (DET – 3B) – 508 AB / 64 R / 14 HR / 71 RBI / 150 K / .236 AVG
5. Nook Logan (WAS - OF) – 325 AB / 39 R / 0 HR / 21 RBI / 86 K / .265 AVG
6. Marcus Giles (SD – 2B) – 420 AB / 52 R / 4 HR / 39 RBI / 82 K / .229 AVG
7. Stephen Drew (ARI - SS) – 543 AB / 60 R / 12 HR / 60 RBI / 100 K / .238 AVG
8. Gerald Laird (TEX - C) – 407 AB / 48 R / 9 HR / 47 RBI / 103 K / .224 AVG
9. Brad Ausmus (HOU - C) – 349 AB / 38 R / 3 HR / 25 RBI / 103 K / .235 AVG
10. Craig Biggio (HOU – 2B) – 517 AB / 68 R / 10 HR / 50 RBI / 112 K / .251 AVG

Honorable Mention to Lyle Overbay who was able to out-Razz Richie Sexson due to 425 ABs that managed 49 R / 10 HR / 44 RBI / 100 K / .240 AVG in the usually productive 1B slot. He was just good enough to stay out of the top 10.

This won’t be the first article on Razzball. Follow-ups will include a 2007 Razzball Player Rater, an evolving Razzball Glossary, and details on our inaugural 10 team league.

We will be reserving at least 5 slots for fellow fantasy baseball bloggers/columnists.
Any open slots will be filled by submissions on this site. To get your name in early, comment on this article. The more you comment on the site, the more you’ll be considered (of course, if you’re a dumbass on the boards that won’t help your cause…even though that might seem to be a positive trait for Razzball). Also, Razzball questions can be sent directly to or you can check

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Recap and Hate Mail

With this past Monday being the last day to WGA picket for 2007 and no Project Runway this week (Sweet Pea!), there was plenty of time to write fantasy baseball blog posts this week and since it’s Friday, it’s time to recap. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Why are you making this sound like a regular feature of your blog when you’ve never done it before?” because it will be a regular feature, now stop pointing out the obvious and let’s recap.

The week started off with Jeff Francoeur being dissected. He was gutted, splayed out under a harsh fluorescent and picked apart for answers. What we found wasn’t pretty and Frenchy was rejected.

Next we turned our eyes to Eric Byrnes, a man I could see saying, “I hate Arizona’s lack of vegan restaurants, but please don’t say I said so -- I’m a fan favorite!” and Shane “Mahalo” Victorino. They were propped against a wall and analyzed. One came out on top, one came out with curly hair and they both undoubtedly smoke pot.

Then it was onto Jason Bay, the most vanilla baseball player since the 1950s. I picture the Pirates doing a stage rendition of “Far From Heaven” with Bay in the Quaid role. But I digress. Jason Bay had a miserable 2007, but next year can be a fresh start… though we predict that it will be more of the same.

Finally, we tried to understand Manny and his career trajectory. Does he have one good year left in him? Why do you do what you do, Manny? We looked at historical data, yearly statistics, career averages and then, finally, we made a few broad assumptions. Face it, Manny’s an enigma wrapped in a pupusa.

Now we leave you with a piece of Earl Weaver-style hate mail from one loyal reader… No, we didn’t get any hate mail this week, but I doubt that’s because everyone agrees with us. Feel free to troll, flame and be spiteful as all get-out in the comments section. I was beaten as a child and I could use the love. Thanks and flame on, flamer.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Manny Ramirez, Rebound or Reject

I love Manny. I’m a lifelong Yankees fan and I love Manny. He’s totally gootarded (goofy and retarded). I can’t wait for Manny’s Hall of Fame speech, “Manny is very happy to have plaque, but my dentist is not.” Only Rickey Henderson’s Hall of Fame speech has a chance to equal it on the unintentional comedy scale. Today, however, we’re concerned with what Manny Ramirez will do in 2008, not 2015 when undoubtedly there will be flying cars.

In the last two years, Manny has missed 61 games, maybe twenty of them were from Manny being hurt rather than Manny being Manny. Last year his numbers were actually bad for where you had to draft him: 84/20/88/.296. Carlos Pena did this by June. Manny hits in a tremendous lineup and he has amazing strike-zone discipline. He should be able to post similar numbers to 2007 with his eyes closed. Unfortunately, Manny seems like he decided to get some shut-eye about two years ago. He’s the kid working the summer job at Friendly’s over Labor Day weekend. Tuesday’s back to school, and the kid just doesn’t care if you said Jimmies on the Happy Ending Sundae, you're not getting Jimmies. Well, Manny just doesn’t care anymore. The sundae will still be good, but you’re not getting the Jimmies. For where you have to draft Manny, I say reject.

BTW, this picture reminded me of Manny being Manny:


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jason Bay, Rebound or Reject?

Many of you would have preferred to have the “taco burns” than to have owned Jason Bay last year. He flailed at every inside pitch he was thrown, desperately trying to get something going. He managed to make people envious of Xavier Nady’s numbers.

People have long predicted Bay was nothing but a skinnier Bobby Higginson. If you look at Higginson’s career stats, he was also very useful early in his career. Now Higginson’s age 29 season is particularly interesting (the same one Bay will be entering), Higgy just came off an egregious season (just like Bay did) and he bounced back for a very productive season. So the same might be expected of Bay. But this is misinterpreting the facts. The facts:

His lineup is not getting better in 2008. In this off-season, a physician did not tend to the knee that hindered his running in 2007. Bay, instead, opted to let time heal all wounds. This does not bode well for a return to 10 or 15 steals. His BABIP for 2004, 2005 and 2006 were .352, .355 and .338 respectively. When he stopped getting so lucky in 2007, his average plummeted to .247. In 2007, Bay couldn’t catch up to any inside pitches as you can see from this graphic:

This is usually a sign that a player’s bat is slowing.

A slowing bat at 28, a horrible lineup around him and a player that had some good fortune with BABIP in the past does not equal a candidate for a rebound. So I might have suggested you draft Higginson in 2000, but I can’t do the same for Bay in 2008. Stamped: Rejected.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eric Byrnes vs. Shane Victorino

In 2007, Eric Byrnes had a career year, cashed out with a huge contract and became the first white spokesman for Soul Glo. Shane Victorino had a productive year, but was injured, costing him just over twenty games. Eric Byrnes will invariably go before Shane Victorino in 2008 fantasy baseball drafts, but should he?

Let’s look at how dramatically different 2007 was for Eric Byrnes compared to other years. His seasonal averages are 85/19/68/.267/23. Last year his numbers were 103/21/83/.286/50. He had a career high in runs, RBIs, steals and bested his seasonal average of homers. So when it’s said he had a career year, it's not an exaggeration. And if you’re just hoping to get at least steals from Byrnes, his previous high in steals was 25. Don’t get caught up in the perception that he’s on the rise. He was 31 last year. Sure, he hustles, but he always hustled and he didn’t always put up decent numbers. Maybe he finally feels like a part of organization with Arizona, but he was there in 2006 and he only stole 25 bases. Last year was a great year to have Byrnes, that doesn’t mean 2008 will be. Don’t compound your error of missing Byrnes last year by taking him this year.

Shane Victorino should be at the top of the Phillies lineup next year, which means 100 runs without blinking. His speed is obvious. Last year he had 37 steals in 131 games with only 4 times caught. His power is surprising and, in that ballpark, he’s good for 15 homers if he plays an entire year. His average is not a negative, after batting .285 combined in his first three years with the Phillies. He’s only 27. Just about the only thing Byrnes will definitely eclipse Victorino in is RBIs and that’s simply a result of where they will be batting in their respective lineup.

Finally, the most exciting thing about Victorino, he will be drafted after Byrnes in your league. Remember, always go for value over the name.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jeff Francoeur in 2008

In two full seasons, Jeff Francoeur has averaged nearly 500 outs per season. 507 outs in 2006, which put him in the top 100 of all-time, then 477 outs in 2007. Coupled with his lack of walks, Francoeur rarely sees a pitch he doesn’t like. Though he did see a few more pitches in 2007 then he did in 2006, nearly doubling his walk total. Still his 2007 walk total of 43 isn’t a number to be proud of. Delving deeper into Francoeur’s numbers you find more of the same -- a free-swinging hacker.

Checking out his baseball-reference page, you find one bright side in all of this. At his age, he compares to Harold Baines. Okay, he’s not being compared to Willie Mays, but Baines had an extremely productive career and took very few walks along the way. Another bright side, he’s only going to be 24 in 2008 and he’s played every Braves game of the last two years. He’s durable and he has some time to hone his strike-zone discipline.

The biggest red flag for me is 19 homers in 2007 after hitting 29 in 2006. It seems his attempt at plate discipline is coming at a price. Granted, his doubles shot up to 40 in 2007, but he does have good speed so these could have been well-placed gapers.

Another concern, he’s a sexy name to breakout. Maybe it’s his boyish good looks, but for some reason his average draft place and his output don’t correspond. Some players annually draft higher than they should (Hey, Jeter!) and Francoeur seems to fall into this category. A dangerous category for someone with his downside. (Jeter, fortunately, doesn’t offer the same downside.)

In 2008, maybe Francoeur will double his walks again…

Maybe his doubles will turn back into homers…

Maybe his BABIP will stay above his average…

Better yet, maybe you should just draft someone that’s a bit more dependable and let someone else worry about these headaches.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Names NOT in The Mitchell Report

The blog is about fantasy baseball, but it’s sometimes hard to ignore what goes on in the real baseball world. Frankly, if we weren’t baseball fans first, we wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about fantasy baseball. So, with a heavy heart I write, yesterday was a tough day to be a fan. Taint on lots of big names, past and present -- Bonds, Clemens, Pettitte, McGwire, Bagwell, Gagne, Sosa, Justice, Tejada and, um, F.P. Santangelo. The list goes on for pages. If you want to read The Mitchell Report in its entirety, you can here. It’s lengthy and pretty depressing, kinda like if Ken Burns did a seven-part documentary on Tonya from The Real World. But today is a new day, and I’m going to try and put a positive spin on things. Here is a list of some players NOT in The Mitchell Report. If you will, a tribute.

Greg Maddux – 347 wins going into 2008. In 1998, while McGwire racked up 70 homers, Maddux went 18-9 with a 2.22 ERA and 208 strikeouts. Good to hear the Padres are bringing him back for another year. Maybe he’ll pass Clemens on the all-time wins list.

Tom Glavine – 303 wins, 2570 career Ks, and a lifetime 3.51 ERA. In 1998, Sosa hit 66 homers, but went 0 for 4 against Glavine with three strikeouts. In the Cubs second game against Glavine in 1998, Sosa sat out to give Matt Mieske some at-bats.

Randy Johnson – 4616 career strikeouts. Hopefully, he can make it back for his 300th win. It would be nice to see. In 2001, while Bonds hit 73 homers, Randy struck out 372 batters, which is eleventh most for a season and the most since Nolan Ryan in 1973.

Pedro Martinez – From 1997 to 2003, the heart of the having-a-trainer-inject-my-ass-with-something era, Pedro had ERAs of 1.90, 2.89, 2.07, 1.74, 2.39, 2.226 and 2.22 respectively.

Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera – Combined they have over 900 saves and zero mentions in The Mitchell Report. What’s that? Gagne had trouble bouncing back day after day? Trevor smiles at Mariano then, “Try it for twelve years.”

Cy Young Winners from 1996 ‘til present – Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay and Barry Zito.

Alex Rodriguez – Canseco claims Arod should be in the Mitchell Report, but he’s not. I say we give him the benefit of the doubt. BTW, he’s arguably the best hitter in the game. When you’re in that argument, you’re pretty good.

Albert Pujols – See that premature balding is hereditary! BTW, second best hitter in the game.

Todd Helton – In 2001, he batted 132/49/146/.336. Too bad it was overshadowed.

Vladimir Guerrero – Some players medicate when they’re hobbled by injuries, some hobble. Here’s one for the hobblers.

Ichiro Suzuki – For not being in The Mitchell Report -- arrigato.

Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder – If they test positive, it’s because their steak was injected on the way to the slaughterhouse.

Frank Thomas – Okay, so he’s the Henry Hill of all of this, but it’s still a shame his 500 home runs came at a time when that was a ticket for Copperstown consideration and not a ticket to Copperstown.

Manny Ramirez – The thought of Manny trying to inject himself with something is ludicrous. Actually, the thought of Manny thinking is pretty ludicrous, but Manny get a hug from Big Papi for not being in The Report.

David Ortiz – While we’re here, someone Big Papi wasn’t hugging was McNamee.

Ken Griffey Jr.
– Maybe if Griffey took the shortcut many of colleagues did to help recuperate from injury, he would be approaching 800 home runs. Maybe his self-respect meant too much.

I wish these players above had received more recognition then and now. There’s lots of names I’m failing to mention. Please feel free to comment below some names that weren’t on The Mitchell Report.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mitchell Report

The Mitchell Report is 409-page indictment on baseball. I’ve posted below some of the more interesting parts. If you wish to download the whole thing, you can do it here.


Page 116 of the Mitchell Report:

In March 1992, Pittsburgh columnist Gene Collier addressed the perception that baseball was not a sport for steroids users. Collier derided the suggestion that the game of baseball “is simply too complex to be positively augmented by some injectable.” He quoted Penn State professor Charles Yesalis, an outspoken critic of steroid use, who said that steroids were a “natural” fit for baseball:
I don’t know how common it is, but I have colleagues in the sports medicine community who say “Yeah, they’re doing it. . . . You know baseball players are lifting weights. They’re in gyms where the steroids are, and pro baseball players know pro football players.” After discussing the problems posed by human growth hormone and other substances that were difficult to detect in drug tests, Collier concluded that baseball “should consider testing if only to show how it feels about a level field being mandatory.
In 1992, Barry Bonds won the NL MVP.

Page 117
In August 1992, Peter Gammons reported in the Boston Globe that while there was not much discussion of steroid use in baseball, “there’s a growing suspicion that it’s much greater than anyone lets on.” Ten years before Rob Manfred’s 2002 Senate testimony, Gammons wrote that a recent increase in injuries in Major League Baseball could be the result of steroid use, as “players’ muscle mass becomes too great for their bodies, resulting in the odd back and leg breakdowns . . .”

Page 122
Peter Gammons also revisited the issue in a pre-season roundup before the 1997 season began, reporting that “physicians and GMs are increasingly concerned about steroid use in baseball. As one team physician said last week, ‘The owners won’t do anything about it because the cost of testing for steroids is very high, and they don’t want to face the costs or the circumstances.’” Gammons criticized the Commissioner’s Office for “turn[ing] its back on such issues.”


Page 125
In late August 1998, Steve Wilstein, an Associated Press reporter who was following Mark McGwire’s progress toward a new single-season home run record, noticed a bottle in McGwire’s locker labeled “Androstenedione.” The ensuing AP news story led to renewed scrutiny of the use of “andro” and other substances by major league players. As previously mentioned, Commissioner Selig and others in baseball have said that this incident more than any other caused them to focus on the use of performance enhancing substances as a possible problem.

Page 128
Dr. Lewis Maharam, a prominent sports medicine practitioner who is now the race doctor for the New York City Marathon, was a vocal critic, saying that “[i]f McGwire is truly taking this, then he’s cheating.” He criticized McGwire for failing to warn young athletes about the dangers of using andro. Sometime thereafter, Dr. Maharam received a call from Dr. Robert Millman, a physician who at the time also served as the medical director for Major League Baseball. During the call, Dr. Maharam said in an interview, Dr. Millman told him that “everyone in Major League Baseball is irritated with you” and that “if you don’t shut up, they are going to sue you.” Dr. Maharam was unfazed, but a week later he received a second call in which Dr. Millman told him that if he was willing to “shut up in the press,” he would be invited to make a presentation to Major League Baseball and the Players Association about the dangers of steroids and andro. Two weeks later, Dr. Maharam made a one-hour presentation to Dr. Millman, another official from Major League Baseball, and Dr. Joel Solomon, the medical director for the Players Association. Dr. Maharam recalled that, at the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Millman expressed the view that there was not sufficient medical evidence that andro raised testosterone levels enough to be a cause for concern.


Page 216
Toward the end of the road trip which included the Marlins series, or shortly after the Blue Jays returned home to Toronto, Clemens approached McNamee (Toronto Blue Jays strength and conditioning coach) and, for the first time, brought up the subject of using steroids. Clemens said that he was not able to inject himself, and he asked for McNamee’s help.
Later that summer, Clemens asked McNamee to inject him with Winstrol, which Clemens supplied. McNamee knew the substance was Winstrol because the vials Clemens gave him were so labeled. McNamee injected Clemens approximately four times in the buttocks over a several-week period with needles that Clemens provided. Each incident took place in Clemens’s apartment at the SkyDome. McNamee never asked Clemens where he obtained the steroids.

The players listed go on for pages upon pages. All the names you’ve heard, Giambi, Sosa, Palmeiro. Some you haven’t heard as much about...


Page 224
McNamee traveled to Tampa at Pettitte’s request and spent about ten days assisting Pettitte with his rehabilitation. McNamee recalled that he injected Pettitte with human growth hormone that McNamee obtained from Radomski on two to four occasions. Pettitte paid McNamee for the trip and his expenses; there was no separate payment for the human growth hormone.

According to McNamee, around the time in 2003 that the BALCO searches became public, Pettitte asked what he should say if a reporter asked Pettitte whether he ever used performance enhancing substances. McNamee told him he was free to say what he wanted, but that he should not go out of his way to bring it up.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jayson Stark Turns Blog Over

As anyone who is a loyal reader of Jayson Stark's blog will know, he pretty much talks about nothing substantial. Hey, it worked for Seinfeld. Well, today he allows a friend of mine to talk about nothing substantial for him. Check out Matthew Mougalian's fine work here.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kosuke Fukudome to the Majors

Star center fielder for the Chunichi Dragons, Kosuke Fukudome, has announced he will play in the majors in ’08. Likely teams at this point are the Padres, Cubs and White Sox, according to ESPN.

Last year, Fukudome had an injury-plagued year, hurting his right elbow, and only played in 81 games, missing almost sixty games and the Japan Series (their World Series, guess our World doesn’t include them). Reports are that he’s fully recovered, but even fully recovered what can we expect from Fukudome in ’08? Well, let's look at his stats for his final year in Japan.

84/32/77/.285/8 are very worthwhile numbers, they are, however, not Fukudome’s stats in his final year. Huh? You thought this was about Fukudome? Well, it is. Those stats were Iwamura’s stats his final year in Japan. The year before in Japan, Iwamura hit 30 homers; in '04, he hit 44 homers. Last year, Iwamura, still only at the coveted age of 27, hit 7 homers for the Rays.

Fukudome’s last season he played a full slate in Japan was 2006 when he had excellent numbers: 117/31/104/.351/11. But as we saw from Iwamura, Japanese players’ stats get lost in translation. Not to mention, Fukudome is three years older than Iwamura. His power isn’t peaking. If anything, it’s declining. If he ends up on the Padres, with their cavernous ballpark and coming off an injury-plagued year, Fukudome is liable to put up 80/15/80/.300/10 numbers. Not bad for a fifth outfielder, but you’re going to have to take him in second outfielder draft range because of the unknown quality he’ll have going for him. He’s got a great eye, and that’s not going to change, but he’s just not worth the gamble. My advice: steer clear of Fukudome.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Curtis Granderson vs. Nick Markakis

Curtis Granderson and Nick Markakis are two players that will probably be drafted very close to each other, but who has more value?

Curtis Granderson is playing with fire. Here’s why: his strikeouts are in average killer territory of a Ryan Howard or an Adam Dunn. Right now, Granderson has been maintaining his batting average with a high BABIP. Can he get his strikeouts in check? Perhaps, but his walk rate actually declined from ’06 to ’07. Not the makings of someone learning to be more patient. Now, his runs were high, but as discussed here, runs are the least of your worries when evaluating hitters. So if I can put on my Nostradamus hat, I’ll say Granderson is more or less the player he was this year, but maybe a few more homers and a bit less average, giving him: 115/27/85/.280/25. There’s a chance Leyland moves him out of the leadoff position, but that’s doubtful. If he does, give him more RBIs and less runs. Those are good numbers. But with the Ks, his average could be .260 over 600 at-bats and absolutely hurt your team. In 2008, Granderson will be drafted way before he should. Know someone who won’t bat .260?

Nick Markakis

His predicted numbers are 100/27/115/.300/20. And guess what? That’s not a ceiling. If he can put together a full productive season, Markakis can easily reach 35 homers. Thus far, that’s been the catch with Markakis. He’s had an okay first half and then turned it on in the second half. So his very solid ’06 numbers are from another stellar second half. But what about the team around him, you ask. Yes, his team may not be as strong offensively, but Markakis is a better offensive player. Tejada, if he stays with the Orioles, should be healthy all year, after a fluke injury this year, and he will make Markakis’s numbers better. When drafting you want the better overall player, you want the player that has better natural skills, you want Nick Markakis.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stay Away From Kevin Kouzmanoff

Read an interesting piece in the Newsweek blog about how a person’s name affects their natural proclivity for certain items.

Examples: Chris Carpenter rehabs while dining on caviar, Placido Polanco jogs while listening to Paula Poundstone, Tom Trebelhorn totes around his toddler in a Toyota.

Alliteration in lieu of science, perhaps, but the article backs up its Sally-sells-seashells-science with baseball statistics.

…Based on data from 1913 through 2006, for the 6,397 players with at least 100 plate appearances, “batters whose names began with K struck out at a higher rate (in 18.8% of their plate appearances) than the remaining batters (17.2%),” the researchers find. The reason, they suggest, is that players whose first or last name starts with K like their initial so much that “even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically.” Granted, 18.8% vs. 17.2% is not a huge difference, but it was statistically significant—that is, not likely to be due to chance.
Might want to bump up Kazmir and drop Kevin Kouzmanoff on your draft cheat sheet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Victor Martinez vs. Carlos Ruiz

As we continue our ongoing series looking at low-priced alternatives, we turn our eyes to the catching position and Victor Martinez and Carlos Ruiz. Victor Martinez numbers last year were impressive for a catcher: 78/25/114/0/.301. Falling slightly above his seasonal average of 82/21/104/0/.301. Anyway you slice it, Victor Martinez’s numbers dwarfed the majority of catchers, but by how much?

The best available option of catcher as covered here was 47/13/57/2/.273 (i.e. Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada, AJ Pierzynski), by far the weakest of any position. So if you don’t get a big name (V-Mart, Posada, Russell Martin), you can’t really do that wrong with all of the others. The best method you can employ is to find a catcher with the most upside and take a flier in the very late rounds of your mixed draft. Enter, Carlos Ruiz.

Carlos Ruiz’s numbers last year were, 42/6/54/6/.259 in 374 at-bats, but they only tell a part of the story. In his previous two years in Triple-A, Carlos hit over .300 and a high of 16 homers in ‘06. At the start of '08, Carlos will be 28 years old. An age when catchers really begin to ripen (catchers tend to develop a bit later than other positions). There’s no reason to think Ruiz can’t, at the least, match the aforementioned best available option numbers. His ceiling? Obviously much greater than Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada and AJ Pierzynski. Why can't Carlos Ruiz come close to 60/17/70/6/.275? When you consider he’s entering the prime of his career, he’s hitting in Citizen’s Bank in half of his games and he should see some more at-bats, those numbers aren't a far reach. So if you fail to take a catcher early, don’t fear. Carlos Ruiz should be sitting there in the later rounds.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The New Juan Pierre

For years, Juan Pierre has given teams a boost in steals, a decent average and little else. Well, there’s going to be a new Juan Pierre and his name is Michael Bourn. Or maybe Willy Taveras was the new Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn will be the new Willy Taveras, or Michael Bourn will be the new new Juan Pierre. Now that that is muddled appropriately, let’s look at the new new Juan Pierre.

Michael Bourn will presumably bat first for the Houston Astros. A great place for a prospect that Baseball America pointed out as having the "Best Strike Zone Discipline." Okay, not exactly Best Newcomer at the AVN Awards, but strike zone discipline is not a bad thing to have for a leadoff man. I'm talking to you, Granderson.

What made Baseball America bestow Bourn with such an honor? He had a career Minor League OPS: .855 (.426 OBP). To go hand and hand with his strike zone discipline, he has demon-like speed. In Low-A he stole 57 bases in 63 attempts - a success rate of over ninety percent. BTW, those 57 bases were in only 106 games. In one and a half years at Double-A, he was 68 for 84. Triple-A, a tidy 15 for 16. Last year on the Phillies, Bourn was used primarily as a pinch runner and stole 18 of 19 bags. In 119 at-bats in the majors, he registered a .348 OBP. Oh, and Bourn hit six homers in Double-A. Juan Pierre doesn’t have six homers if you combine ‘05, ‘06 and ’07 or almost 2000 at-bats.

Also, in this great featherweight match, Michael Bourn is more than four and a half years younger than Juan Pierre. Now nowhere will you find me endorsing you draft a speed-only type like Bourn, but if you find yourself in need of a quick boost of steals, Bourn will be drafted probably ten rounds later than Juan Pierre in mixed leagues. For that kind of value, avoid Pierre and grab Bourn.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Eric Karabell Fans Unite!

Been receiving a ton of feedback about the Eric Karabell blogpost, some people even took the liberty to email me some of their own Karabell-type predictions. Enjoy, and feel free to comment some of your own predictions below.

On Friday, November 30, 2007, at 12:26 PM, Blurry Blurred Name wrote:

prince fielder, his upside is as big as his backside. if he doesn't hit at least 40 HRs, he'll have hit 39 or less.

On Friday, November 30, 2007, at 11:29 AM, Blurry Blurred Name wrote:

crawford, 26, numbers probably won't get better. at least not until the
new season.

On Friday, November 30, 2007, at 10:42 AM, Blurry Blurred Name wrote:

soriano. he could hit either 100 HRs and steal 200 bases or hit 25 HRs and steal 10 SBs. split the difference.

On Friday, November 30, 2007, at 10:07 AM, Blurry Blurred Name wrote:

if shandler plays 81 games at coors, i'm taking him!

On Friday, November 30, 2007, at 9:26 AM, Blurry Blurred Name wrote:

Drew Carey, 43, will kill himself like Ray Combs within five years.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top 25 Players for 2008

This is from ESPN's top analyst (pointing out that he's their top analyst makes it sarcastic), Eric Karabell:

1. Alex Rodriguez: Even with some statistical regression, you can't go wrong.
2. Hanley Ramirez: Power and speed, and someday manning center field.
3. Jose Reyes: Nobody steals more bases, and he could reach 15 homers.
4. David Wright: No, he's not moving to second base. He'll still run.
5. Albert Pujols: And that was an off-year. He can put up A-Rod numbers.
6. Jimmy Rollins: Take the power down a notch, but still, fantastic.
7. Alfonso Soriano: Split the difference from '06 and '07.
8. Chase Utley: Now there are two top second basemen, but still.
9. Miguel Cabrera: And it's not like Florida's park has been good to him.
10. Matt Holliday: Can't go wrong as long as he calls Coors home.
11. Carl Crawford: Extremely talented, even if this is the best he can do.
12. Vladimir Guerrero: It wouldn't hurt to have lineup protection.
13. Johan Santana: Could make the case to put him in round one.
14. Ryan Howard: No reason why he can't get back to 50 home runs.
15. Jake Peavy: Imagine the Cy Young race if Johan goes to NL!
16. Grady Sizemore: I don't think he goes 30/30, but he could.
17. David Ortiz: With the knee fixed, the extra power resumes.
18. Ichiro Suzuki: A must-get if you plan on taking Adam Dunn later.
19. Prince Fielder: I still think Ryan Howard has more upside though.
20. Brandon Phillips: Time for everyone to believe this is legit.
21. Ryan Braun: With the steals, could make the case for round one.
22. Carlos Beltran: It's not like he's too old to steal some bases.
23. Mark Teixeira: Capable of hitting anywhere, and could hit 40.
24. Lance Berkman: Go middle infield first, and he's still around later.
25. Carlos Lee: I admit he's a steal this late. Look at his stats, and Vlad's.

1. First off, Arod number #1. How's that limb look, Karabull? Don't want to venture out on it, eh? I wonder who he went out on a limb with last year, Pujols? I say take Reyes. But that will have to wait for a future column.

2. Hanley Ramirez is a bold pick for number two. Completely asinine, but bold nevertheless. Has anyone seen Hanley swing? Anyone worried about his shoulder that he hurts once a month when he swings? Yeah, me too.

3. If I see Jose Reyes at number three, I would take him gleefully. If the top two guys in your league skip Jose, they're morons or they work for ESPN.

4. David Wright sucks donkey feces. Sure, he'll get you 25/25 but so will Rollins with much more speed upside. To paraphrase Ralph Kramden, "Karabull!!!"

5. Pujols has an off year (that wasn't that off). His first off year in the majors and he drops to five. I hope none of Karabull's kiddies comes home with a B-. Off to boarding school with Tristan Cockcrap's thumb suckers.

6. Jimmy Rollins makes sense at sixth. The next one will blow your mind.

7. Soriano?!?!? Dude, between you and me. Let someone else take Soriano then mock them for taking him.

8. Utley, I like. Numerous reasons. Biggest reason, the guy actually seems to want to play every single inning of every single game. My man's a future MVP.

9. Cabrera just ate your draft cheat sheet. Personally, I want about six players instead of Cabrera, but he is a pure hitter. Plain and simple. Also, he loves to hug Miguel Olivo. Might be the shared name thing, might be something else. Keep an eye on it.

10. Holliday is officially priced out of "I got a steal" territory, which is a shame. He took about three non-intentional walks this year. I'd be wary. Karabull obviously wasn't, "Can't go wrong as long as he calls Coors home." Expert analysis! (Exclamation point now indicates sarcasm.)

11. Crawford is now falling into the "I got a steal" territory. As for Karabull's comment, "Extremely talented, even if this is the best he can do." No, this isn't the best he can do. He was playing hurt, Karanumbskull.

12. Vlad just got back from his third tour of Nam, or at least his legs appear that way. Don't take him.

13. Johan beats Peavy? Nah, he really doesn't actually. To use Karabull expert anlysis, "Not as long as Peavy calls Petco home and he's facing the weakest hitting division sixty percent of the time."

14. Ryan Howard at 14? Yeah, I would take that, but he's not going to be here.

15. Peavy is fantasy's newest ace. Karabull will make note of that at the end of November in '08.

16. Grady Sizemore -- see Howard, Ryan.

17. Ortiz, I'm sure there will be a Son of Sam Horn (do they actually call themselves this with a straight face?) who might take Ortiz at 17, but at strictly utility I would not. Aside, I bet Miguel Cabrera and Big Papi could hug each other for hours.

18. Ichiro at 18? Last year, this same nitwit probably (I don't feel like looking it up) ranked Ichiro somewhere between 25 and 30. He's the same guy every year. Eventually, he will slow down and you don't want to be there when that happens. Pass.

19. Prince Fielder will be at number 9 next year, you do the math. BTW, is it me or is Karabull living in 2006 for some of these choices?

20. Phillips... Ugh, can't argue with this, but I don't want him. Doesn't feel as safe as his 20th placed ranking should. I'd let someone else deal with Phillips.

21. Ryan Braun is going to be good, but he doesn't hit righties as well as I'd like to take him here. The fact Karabull's comment is saying there's a case for round one makes me even more nervous.

22-24 Carlos Beltran, Tex and Berkman... Seriously, this guy is their top analyst.

25. I want Carlos Lee above all three of the aforementioned bozos. The horse is a natural slugger.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Johan Santana Rumors

Can the Angels land Johan Santana? How about the Yankees? Yes and yes. Does either team really need him? No and yes. Let’s explore:

The Angels are reportedly willing to deal a top pitching prospect, Nick Adenhart and Reggie Willits but somewhat reluctant to deal their uber-prospect SS/3B Brandon Wood, according to the LA Times. If this is true, the Angels are one mad team. And not mad as in angry, mad is in Carol Channing-bonkers. They have six big league-ready pitchers, John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jon Garland, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana. Maybe they should try and get some offense. Cause, guess what, Torii Hunter really isn’t going to solidify their offense. He’s a .275/100/25/90 type hitter. Why they even signed Hunter is beyond me. (Thanks to Trent for pointing out that he was signed, not traded for. My bad.) Don’t the Angels already have a center fielder that is known for his offense? Not to mention, Willits, who they still have as of right now, is a natural center fielder. Hey, Angels’ management, how about you secure some offense?

The Yankees are also working on a deal for Santana, according to many reports, one being Newsday. This deal makes perfect sense. The Yanks desperately could use pitching. Unfortunately for the Yanks, they need to deal some pitching to get Santana, possibly Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy or Joba Chamberlain. Obviously, they don’t want to deal Hughes or Chamberlain because you’re basically robbing Peter to pay Paul in this scenario. As Buster Olney pointed out, Santana has the best ERA in Yankee Stadium of any pitcher with a minimum of three starts there at 1.17. Of course, that was against the Yanks. Lordy, what Johan would do against the likes of the Orioles. (Though I still like Nick Markakis, no matter what happens.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Do You Value Fantasy Baseball Hitters?

Part 3 of How Valid is the ESPN Player Rater?
By Senior Contributing Writer Rudy Gamble

In two previous articles (part 1 and part 2), we’ve laid out alternative views for judging the most valuable player in 2007 5x5 MLB fantasy baseball (we say Peavy) and for pitchers – using and abusing the ESPN Player Rater in the process.

In this article, we’re going to focus on valuing hitters. The questions we will tackle are:

1) What is the value of each hitting stat?
2) How does position depth/scarcity affect a player’s overall value?
3) How does our approach to hitter value compare against the ESPN Player Rater?

To download our player rankings for 2007, please click here. To view the ESPN Player Rater.

What is the value of each hitting stat?

Our approach towards valuing player stats is to look at two factors: 1) the difference between a player’s statistics and those provided by the best available option (BAO) on the free agent wire (which would take position depth/scarcity into account) and 2) the impact that stat difference might have on a league’s standings (ambivalent to position).

We’ll set position scarcity aside for a second to look at the composite stats for the BAO hitter in 2007: 67 Runs / 14 HR / 65 RBI / 6 SBs / .277. The closest player equivalent to these stats is Luis Gonzalez.

We used the final standings of our fantasy league to understand the impact of each statistic by looking at the standard deviations between teams’ totals. While it would be better if we had more league standings on which to base these standard deviations, we still feel this is superior to building ratios off team averages because it takes into account that some statistics have larger percentage gaps between teams vs. others. This is most evident when looking at HR vs. SB – while the average team in our league average 1.69 HRs to 1 SB and the BAO has a HR:SB ratio of 2.33:1, the observed impact on a team was actually 1:0.77 or that a HR has more value (not even counting the R/HR/RBI/AVG implications) to a team’s rank in the standings than an SB.

The ratio for these stats based on our analysis was: 3.3 Runs / 1 HR / 2.8 RBI / 1.3 SBs / .003 AVG. Points are credited based on these ratios (a point actually equals the above ratio * 4.6) after subtracting the BAO's stats.

Okay, let’s do two comparisons to show this works in action.

Eric Byrnes (103 / 21 / 83 / 50 / .286) vs. Miguel Cabrera ( 91 / 34 / 119 / 2 / .320)

This is an interesting one as it asks that inevitable question – how much are SBs really worth? Is it worth the addition 48 SBs to sacrifice those HRs, RBIs, and AVG that Miguel Cabrera provides? Let’s look at the points comparison of R/HR/RBI/AVG:

Runs: Byrnes 2.4 to 1.5
HRs: Cabrera 3.95 to 1.55
RBIs: Cabrera 3.95 to 1.43
AVG: Cabrera 3.48 to 1.01

(Note: While it might not look right that Cabrera’s 34 HRs could be worth 2.5x that of Eric Byrnes 21 HRs, remember that the BAO provides 14 HRs. So this is really a comparison of 20 HRs (34-14) vs. 7 HRs.)

Counting just these stats, Cabrera is about twice as valuable as Eric Byrnes (12.89 to 6.39).

But Eric Byrnes’ 50 SBs is huge given the average team only had 162 SBs in our league. A total like this could let you dominate SBs or focus on non-speed guys when filling out other positions (say, taking Khalil Greene’s 27 HRs instead of J. Lugo’s 33 SBs).

Eric Byrnes’ 50 SBs equates to 7.25 points in our scale while Cabrera’s 2 SBs equate to negative 0.45 points because it’s less than the BAO would’ve provided (which is 6). So factoring in SBs, Eric Byrnes is the more valuable fantasy hitter (13.6 to 12.4). But if your team was set for SBs, trading Eric Byrnes for Miguel Cabrera would be a no-brainer.

Placido Polanco (105 / 9 / 67 / 7 / .341) vs. Dan Uggla (113 / 31 / 88 / 2 / .245)

This comparison focuses on Polanco’s AVG contribution vs. Uggla’s power contribution.

Runs: Uggla 2.65 to 2.12
HRs: Uggla 4.0 to -0.78
RBIs: Uggla 1.94 to 0.30
SBs: Polanco -0.05 to -0.86

(Note: These comparisons do factor in position scarcity – hence, Uggla’s 2 SBs receive more negative credit that M. Cabrera’s above since the 2B BAO steals more than the average player.)

Counting these stats, Uggla is well ahead at 7.73 to 1.59 points, with the biggest driver being his 31 HRs which are worth 4.78 points more than Polanco’s 9 HRs.

But those HRs come at a price. Uggla’s .245 average is well below the BAO average of .277 (actually 2B’s have higher AVG than other positions so it’s even worse – examples of high batting average marginal 2Bs include Orlando Hudson’s .294, Luis Castillo’s .301, and Ronnie Belliard’s .290). Combining that bad average with his above average AB total (632), Uggla’s average would drop the average team’s AVG by .004 vs. the BAO 2B. This earns him a negative 3.28.

On the other hand, Polanco’s .341 in 587 ABs is worth a positive 4.77 points – more, in fact, than Uggla’s 31 HRs. He’s worth about an extra .004 on your team average meaning that swapping these two creates a .008 swing, a more dramatic swing than the 22 HR difference.

So while Placido Polanco is a negative on a team’s HR and SBs (and just about BAO level on RBIs), his high AVG catapults him into being a more valuable fantasy baseball contributor (6.4 to 4.4). If Uggla could just get to something like a .275 average or steal 20-30 SBs, his HR/RBIs could help catapult him up the 2B rankings (even with the anchor-like AVG, he ended up 7th most valuable 2B, well ahead of the .317 hitting ROY Dustin Pedroia).

How does position depth/scarcity affect a player’s overall value?

Position depth/scarcity plays a role from draft day through the end of the season.

During draft day, position depth/scarcity can increase/decrease a player’s value. A common practice is to ‘tier’ players at each position and try to group together similarly valued players. If there is only one player left in, say, the 2B tier and 5 similar valued players at SS, you may increase that 2B’s draft value because you can wait a round and likely get one of those shortstops.

After the draft, position depth/scarcity is used to compare the marginal benefit/loss of trading or adding/dropping one player over the next – e.g., I could trade Placido Polanco and replace him with little to no dropoff in any stat except AVG.

To factor this into our analysis, we extended our Best Available Option (BAO) concept to each position. We started with 10 rostered players for catchers and infield positions and 50 outfielders. We split the 1B/3B and 2B/SS positions equally and then divided up the utility position based on instinct and position depth (30% 1B, 2.5% 2B, 2.5% SS, 5% 3B, 0% C, 40% OF, 20% DH). We created composite stats for BAOs at each position – so for catcher, we took the 11th best AVG, 11th best HRs, etc. We then credited point totals based on the BAO at the position (“Position Points”) and averaged them with our average hitter BAO (“Player Points”). (Note: Since team rankings are position-agnostic – you don’t get more credit if it’s a middle infielder who hits a HR – there is a need to balance position depth/scarcity with overall stats. To keep it simple, we weighted it 50/50).

Below are the BAO stats per position (R / HR / RBI / SB / AVG) and some close statistical fits:

C – 47 / 13 / 57 / 2 / 0.273 (Paul Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada, AJ Pierzynski)
1B – 63 / 18 / 68 / 1 / 0.279 (Matt Stairs, Conor Jackson, Aubrey Huff)
2B – 79 / 11 / 61 / 9 / 0.288 (Orlando Hudson, Brendan Harris, Mark DeRosa)
SS – 72 / 11/ 60 / 11 / 0.279 (Brendan Harris, Jack Wilson)
3B – 70 / 18 / 72 / 4 / 0.279 (Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark Reynolds, Aubrey Huff)
OF – 67 / 14 / 65 / 6 / 0.273 (Luis Gonzalez, Austin Kearns, JD Drew)

The most interesting about these BAO totals is how relatively close they are. The corner positions have a slight advantage in power and the middle infield spots have a slight advantage for runs, SBs and average. Catchers are weakest – particularly in Runs as catchers play less games and are disproportionately hitting 6th to 9th (less run opportunities).

Perhaps most surprisingly, the OF position looks no better than the middle infield positions. Wouldn’t you expect OF was a deeper position than middle infield? Isn’t BJ Upton more valuable as a 2B than an OF? Short answer: not really.

Here’s why: You’ve got roughly 15 2B, 15 SS, and somewhere between 52-57 outfielders on league rosters (OF are often used for UTIL positions). Looking at MLB rosters, you have roughly 30 starting 2B, 30 starting SS, and 90 starting OFs. FLB rosters, thus, are cutting deeper into the percentage of starting OFs vs. 2B/SS.

In addition, 2B/SS have added some pop over the years. 29 middle infielders hit at least 12 HRs. Granted, some had bad averages (Bill Hall, Juan Uribe, Stephen Drew), but the perception of those positions being power-challenged is outdated. (What IS true, though, is that it’s rare to find a middle infielder with 30+ HR power).

Outfielders, on the other hand, aren’t that deep. Only about 55 hit 15 or more home runs and that includes some players that might be at other positions (Berkman, Upton, Stairs) and the weakest ones look an awful lot like Luis Gonzalez and Austin Kearns (the BAO matches).

So while we did factor position depth/scarcity into our analysis, it really didn’t play a major role for hitters. The greatest impact was at catcher where the troika of great catchers in 2007 (Jorge Posada, V-Mart, Russell Martin) got about a 2 point boost because the Catcher position was the weakest in terms of BAO.

So Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins had extremely valuable fantasy years but the fact they played SS really didn’t add any significant value (maybe +2-3%).

How does our approach to hitter value compare against the ESPN Player Rater?

ESPN has a much simpler approach for estimating hitter value than the approach we have described above. It creates a cap at 5 points and a floor at 0 points. 5 points are awarded to the MLB leader in the stat and then each other player’s total is divided into the leader’s total and then multiplied by 5 to get their total – e.g., A-Rod led with 54 homers. David Wright had 30. He received 30/54 (.556) * 5 = 2.78 points in HR. Average is done in a slightly more complex way but the lowest possible total is zero (even if the player’s average has negative value).

From a macro-perspective, this simplistic approach works fine. The top hitters are going to appear near the top, the okay hitters in the middle, the bad hitters on the bottom. At a micro-perspective, we think ESPN’s simplistic approach has greater flaws vs. our approach. These flaws are less for hitters than pitchers, though, as the greater issues arise around ratio/average based stats and pitchers have two (ERA, WHIP) vs. one for hitters (AVG).

In a previous article, we identified four issues with ESPN Player Rater for valuing pitchers

1) Capping High Points at 5
2) Positive Ratio/Average Contributions Are Undercredited
3) Negative Contributions Aren’t Penalized
4) Overcrediting of Slightly Above Average Performance

These four issues all play a role for valuing hitters but #2 and #3 are not as major an issue because ERA/WHIP are more polarizing than AVG. For example, even low value hitters may hit .290 but only a great starting pitcher can manage an ERA near 3.00 ERA.

An additional issue we’ve found is:

5) The league leader used as the points base distorts the distribution of points – While the leader in Runs and RBIs is relatively close to the other leaders (no one had, say, 200 Runs or RBIs), A-Rod’s 54 HRs and Reye’s otherworldly 78 SBs set a very high bar for 5 points. This creates odd situations where Eric Byrnes 50 SBs (tied for 4th in majors) is worth less in ESPN Player Points than his 103 Runs (outside the top 20) and Jimmy Rollins’ 30 HRs (tied for 20th) are worth less than his 94 RBIs (tied for 42nd).

Here is the assessment on a stat by stat basis:

Runs – Overcredits for all players. For above average performance, Issue #4 plays a role (the Best Available Option’s 67 Runs warrants 2.3 points). For below average performance, Issue #3 starts taking effect (less than 67 runs should warrant negative points). An additional issue throughout is that runs are so plentiful across players that the value of a run is less than other stats (A-Rod’s 143 runs warrant 4.95 points in our estimation vs. 8.29 for his 54 HRs)

Home Runs – Undercredits great performance like A-Rod and Fielder (Issue #1). Issue #5 plays a role in underestimating the value of everyone at 25+ Homers. Players between about 15-24 HRs are slightly inflated based on Issue #4. Anyone below the BAO average of 14 are overestimated based on Issue #3.

RBIs – Undercredits the great performances like A-Rod and Matt Holliday (Issue #1). Overcredits above average performance (Issue #4). Undercredits below average performance (Issue #3). Issue #4 affects more hitters than Issue #3 (which is limited to speedsters and some 2B/SS – examples are Reyes’s 57 RBIs and Pierre’s 41RBIs)

SBs – This is the category where Issues #1 and #5 play a huge role in underestimating SB value. We have Jose Reyes’ 78 SBs at a whopping 11.5 points – the most points awarded for any offensive category. Teammate David Wright’s 34 SBs earned him a respectable 4.8 points (equivalent to Holliday’s 36 HRs and Vlad’s 125 RBIs). This underestimation affects hitter values all the way down to about 10 SBs. Issue #3 plays a very minor role – greatest for 2B/SS as speed is most common in that category (Freddy Sanchez’s 0 SBs earned him a negative 1.19).

AVG – Issue #1 only affects the top 3 hitters as Magglio, Ichiro, and Matt Holliday’s averages warranted 6+ points in our ratings. Issue #2 plays a role for the rest of those with averages above .330. Issue #4 plays a role in overestimating the value of hitters lower than .330 but greater than BAO (e.g., Luis Gonzalez’s pedestrian .278 warrants 1.99 ESPN points where it should be worth zero). For low average hitters, Issue #3 plays a role in greatly overestimating their value as they should have negative value. Uggla’s aforementioned average of .245 gets .86 ESPN points compared to our -3.28 points.

Amazingly, though, the cumulative effect of these issues seems to have little bearing on the ranking of hitters. We agree with the top 10 OFs from ESPN Player Rater with slightly different ordering. The top 10 2B match down to the order. The differences play more of a role in total player rankings – below are some examples of players differently valued (Our Ranking, ESPN Ranking).

Eric Byrnes (25, 43)
Jorge Posada (58, 92)
Juan Pierre (78, 117)
Derek Jeter (86, 106)

It’s worth noting that almost every hitter is higher valued in our rankings vs. ESPN because ESPN overvalues pitchers out of the top 20 and this pushes down all the hitters.

So while we find faults in ESPN’s methodology, we can’t fault using ESPN Player Rater to understand hitter position rankings. It works surprisingly well for hitters given its simplistic approach - it’s possible that its flaws are a bigger issue as you move down the player rankings. That said, we would caution against using the combined hitter and pitcher rankings given the flaws we’ve seen with their valuing and ranking of pitchers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Are Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Correctly Valued In Player Raters?

(Part 2 of How Valid Is the ESPN Player Rater?

by Senior Corresponding Writer Rudy Gamble

If you've ever seen the ESPN Player Rater (or, for that matter, other quantitative player rankings for fantasy baseball), you've likely asked yourself:

How could there be so many starting pitchers at the top? (13 in top 20, 19 in top 30) Is that valid or just faulty weighting?

This looks even more peculiar when reviewing qualitative rankings (i.e., someone subjectively lists players) or reviewing pre-draft rankings.

Before creating our own Player Rater, our assumption was that the preponderance of starters in the top ranks of ESPN’s Player Rater was due to faulty methodology versus the true value of starters vs. hitters.

So it came as a mild surprise to find that 12 of our top 20 were starters (and we also agreed with ESPN that JJ Putz deserved top 20 inclusion). We were somewhat relieved when there were only 2 starters in the 21-30 ranks so our 14 out of the top 30 was less than ESPN.

But those were gut reactions. Now that we’ve gone through the exercise, is their truth to ESPN’s (and our) pitcher-heavy top of the rankings? Are they eerily prescient or is this a broken clock scenario?

[It's important to differentiate this exercise - the proper valuing of player statistics - versus the projection of future statistics that are done by folks like Baseball Prospectus and Ron Shandler and are used for drafting purposes. Their analysis has shown that projecting hitter stats is more accurate than pitchers stats which makes hitters less risky for drafting. While it's extremely rare to see top 10 draft results with more than 2 pitchers, this does NOT mean pitchers are less valuable. That is based on a risk/value assessment - our analysis just focuses on the 'value' part of the equation.]

We’re going to look at this as two separate subquestions: 2A) Should there be a lot of starters in the final season top 20? & 2B) Is ESPN’s ranking of starting pitchers correct?

For question 2A, let’s first look at the players in our top 20 as well as that of ESPN. We shared 19 of the same 20 players, albeit in different order. Ours includes David Ortiz at #19 while they have Cole Hamels included at #20. (Still, agreeing so much with ESPN feels unclean.)

Our Ranking. Name - Pos (ESPN Ranking)

1. Jake Peavy - SP (2)

2. Alex Rodriguez - 3B (1)

3. C.C. Sabathia - SP (3)

4. Johan Santana - SP (4)

5. Matt Holliday - OF (8)

6. Hanley Ramirez - SS (7)

7. Brandon Webb - SP (6)

8. Josh Beckett - SP (5)

9. Magglio Ordonez - OF (11)

10. John Lackey - SP (9)

11. Jimmy Rollins - SS (14)

12. David Wright - 3B (15)

13. Erik Bedard - SP (13)

14. J.J. Putz - RP (10)

15. Aaron Harang - SP (12)

16. Dan Haren - SP (16)

17. Fausto Carmona - SP (19)

18. John Smoltz - SP (18)

19. David Ortiz - 1B (22)

20. Javier Vazquez - SP (17)

22. Cole Hamels - SP (20)

To understand the impact of each category on these players’ total points, we looked at the mean and median points per category for the 13 starters and 6 hitters (excluding Putz).

Category: Mean; Median

R: 4.4; 3.1

HR: 5.1; 3.1

RBI: 4.9; 2.0

SB: 3.5; 0.4

AVG: 5.3; 2.4

W: 4.4; 4.9

SV: -0.3; -0.3

ERA: 4.8; 5.4

WHIP: 4.4; 4.8

SO: 4.4; 4.8

While the means per category looks very consistent across the hitting vs. pitcher stats (aside from Saves), the medians per category are smaller for hitter stats. This is because even the greatest hitters are rarely great in any more than 2-3 categories. While the numbers may average out high, it’s because some players dominate the category (HR=ARod) and others are merely very good or good. A-Rod led the majors in R, HR and RBI but was outside the top 20 in Average and SB. Hanley Ramirez was top 10 in R, SB and AVG but outside the top 20 in HR and top 50 in RBI. David Wright’s isn’t in the top 10 for any category - his true value is being very good across the board. David Ortiz wouldn’t steal a base if you stuffed it with pork and deep-fried it.

Looking at the top 20 in batting average, only 5 of these players were in the top 20 for HRs (Holliday, Ortiz, Pujols, Wright, and M. Cabrera). (Note: Braun didn’t have enough ABs to qualify for average but was in top 20 for HRs)

The best pitchers, on the other hand, tend to be great or at least very good in all four categories. Looking at the top 20 in the MLB for Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA, there are 19 pitchers who are in at least two of the categories – 5 of those pitchers (Peavy, Webb, Lackey, Sabathia, and Beckett) are in the top 20 across all three.

This leads to a rather straightforward theory - starters are more likely to populate the top 20 in a player rater because the top pitchers tend to get high points in all the categories where hitters only have a couple categories where they are great.

We tested this larger theory of “pitching stats are more connected” by doing a correlation analysis on all the hitters and starters to see how closely the performance in one stat is correlated with another.

A perfect 100% would mean that the stats are absolutely correlated – say, purchases at a store and a store’s sales tax receipts (every $1 in purchases would be x% in taxes). A -100% would mean that the stats are completely inverse – say, the amount of total salary a baseball team can afford and their likelihood of picking up Jose Lima.

Below are the results of the correlation analysis.





60-69% R/RBI, W/K

50-59% R/HR, W/ERA, K/ERA, K/WHIP

40-49% R/SB, R/AVG, W/WHIP

30-39% RBI/AVG


10-19% HR/AVG, SB/AVG


Negative HR/SB, RBI/SB, all stats with saves for starters

Let’s start with the highest correlating stats for hitters and pitchers: HR/RBI and ERA/WHIP. The fact that these stats correlate highest should be rather self-evident.

Those that do well in HR and RBI correlate positively with Runs but poorly with SB and AVG. There is barely any correlation on HR/AVG and a mild one for RBI/AVG (which makes sense since it does require hits generally to drive in runs). SBs are negatively correlated to HR and RBI - not a surprise to anyone who has ever drafted Juan Pierre, Scott Podsednik, or Willy Taveras.

Runs prove to be an interesting category as, besides HR/RBI, they also correlate well with SBs and AVG. This is likely due to high SB and AVG players being on base a lot, at the top of the lineup, and getting driven in by the HR/RBI guys.

So what we tend to have are two types of valuable hitters: Power/middle of the lineup guys who provide strong R/HR/RBI or Speed/top of the lineup guys who provide strong R/SB/AVG. Players like Magglio Ordonez hitting .360 while providing solid power numbers or Hanley Ramirez providing 29 home runs while providing great R/SB/AVG numbers are the EXCEPTIONS and not the rule.

With ERA/WHIP, these stats positively correlate at 40-60% with Wins and K’s. While there are those that do well in just one of these categories (say Wang in Wins or Kazmir in K’s, alliteration unintentional), a great starter doing well in most, if not all the categories, is more common than with hitters. Since there are more successful 3-4 category pitchers vs hitters (where you generally have to tradeoff strengths with weaknesses like Ichiro’s R/SB/AVG vs. HR/RBI), it makes sense that starters are disproportionately valuable.

The final point here – which was covered in the Peavy vs. A-Rod comparison - is the fact that starting pitchers have more influence over a team’s total stats than a hitter. This is particularly true in ERA and WHIP where a top starter may represent around 20% of your innings. Compare this to a hitter who is lucky to represent 8-9% of your ABs.

An illustrative comparison is looking at the stats of the 20th player in our rater – Javier Vazquez. His stat line of 15W/3.74/1.14/213K looks pretty good but what would the equivalent be in value for a hitter? If we link up Runs to Wins, HR to ERA, RBI to K’s, SBs to SV, and AVG to WHIP, our model would require a 120/21/137/0/.345 hitter. (fyi, if you want to see how SBs would play a role, switching the SB and AVG values would net .278 and 36 SBs)

So the answer to Question 2A is yes. We do feel that starters for any particular season should represent a majority of the top 20 value slots – unless, of course, a breed of power/speed guys start cropping up that rack up RBIs and don’t suck at AVG (see Mike Cameron, Chris B. Young).

On to Question #2B, is ESPN’s ranking of starting pitchers correct?

Let’s take a look at the pitchers just outside the top 20 in ESPN’s Player Rater and compare them to our totals.

ESPN Rank - Player Name – Our Rank

20 - C. Hamels - 22

21 - J. Verlander - 26

23 - K. Escobar - 36

24 - T. Lilly - 34

27 - J. Shields - 43

28 - T. Hudson - 42

29 - S. Kazmir – 55

Scott Kazmir’s stat line of 13W/3.48/1.38/239Ks netted him 3.25/3.58/2.55/4.98 in ESPN Player Rater points for a total of 14.36. Turning that into percentages, we’re looking at 22% for Wins, 25% for ERA, 18% for WHIP, and 35% for K’s.

In our rater, Scott Kazmir had 10.5 points that netted him 2.2/3.2/-1.4/6.8 or 21% for Wins, 31% for ERA, -14% for WHIP, and 64.5% for K’s.

Why the negative in WHIP? Because the Best Available Option (BAO) pitcher had a WHIP of 1.32 which bests Kazmir’s 1.38. His WHIP hurts your team, but you’ll take it because he does well in the other stats – especially K’s where he’s truly excellent.

The Kazmir comparison highlights several flaws in ESPN’s ranking of pitchers:

1) Capping High Points at 5 – Kazmir’s contribution in strikeouts has a greater impact on a team than, say, A-Rod’s run total. Treating them both at around 5 distorts Kazmir’s one special thing. It’s as if he’s Dirk Diggler and his “one special thing” has been shortened a couple of inches. (We’ll explore this concept further in another post – the capping, not fictional schlongs.)

2) Positive ERA/WHIP Contributions Are Undercredited – Kazmir’s 206.2 IP at a 3.48 ERA warrants slightly more credit than ESPN doles out since it is well below the BAO ERA of 3.96. If you estimate Kazmir represents between 1/6 and 1/7 of a team’s innings (figure 4 more starters = 800 IP, 4 relievers = 300 IP, total of 1300 IP which is about 1/6.5 of Kazmir’s total), that 0.48 difference in ERA nets out to about a 0.07-0.08 drop in team ERA. This is equivalent to the impact of a player hitting about .337 or driving in 116 RBIs. (This concept is also covered in the A-Rod vs. Peavy post.)

3) Negative Contributions Aren’t Penalized – Kazmir’s WHIP of 1.38 is below the 1.32 WHIP of the Best Available Option pitcher (the top FA starter if the best 50 starters and 40 relievers were taken). How could this net positive points? He’s hurting your team. The WHIP is a tradeoff for his other stats. It’s like going out with a girl because she’s hot AND crazy instead of because she’s hot and IN SPITE of the fact she’s crazy. This ‘tradeoff’ cost is also present in counting stats for second-tier pitchers like C. Wang (gets less than average strikeouts) or Chris "Tall San Diego Pitcher" Young (his 9 wins are less than average).

A 4th issue related to #3 – the overcrediting of slightly above average performance - is more apparent with Ted Lilly’s ERA (3.83 vs BAO 3.96) and WHIP (1.14 vs. BAO 1.32). While Lilly’s ERA should get some positive credit, it is not worth nearly as much as his WHIP. ESPN’s system doesn’t value the two that differently - Lilly with 3.12 points in ERA and 4.30 in WHIP. On the other hand, we credit Lilly with 1.3 ERA points and 4.8 WHIP points.

The summary of all these ESPN Player Rater flaws is the following:

Wins – Slightly undercredits great performance (issue #1), Doesn’t penalize below average performance (issue #3)

ERA – Undercredits great ERAs, overcredits slightly above average to bad ERAs

WHIP - Undercredits great WHIPs, overcredits slightly above average to bad WHIPs

Strikeouts – Similar to Wins but more pronounced.

For the pitchers in the top 20, these effects are minor – Harang and Vazquez are slightly inflated given their so-so ERAs, Carmona is deflated given his great ERA (3.06), Beckett and Webb switch places because Webb’s ERA superiority trumps Beckett’s 2 extra wins. Outside the top 20, the results become more pronounced since issues #3 and #4 play a greater role in the distorted value.

Thus the verdict for Question #2B - is ESPN’s ranking of starting pitchers correct? The answer is no. Their rater does a fair job at the top, but it gets continually distorted as you move outside the top 20 players because it doesn’t properly penalize mediocre to below average performance.

(Note: Unfortunately, the ESPN Player Rater's improper penalizing of below average performance has a lot in common with the internal review of Baseball Tonight anchors - please tell me John Kruk, Orestes Destrade and Eric Young aren’t coming back...)

Come March, when you’re preparing for your draft and trying to decide between pitchers, you can avoid the above mistakes by just comparing the two pitchers’ projected stats and credit a point for each of the following increments: 1.5 Wins = 0.19 ERA = 0.04 WHIP = 18 Ks. Might take a little more calculating but it could be the difference between taking Jeremy Bonderman over John Lackey (that decision still haunts me from last year...)