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...)


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Baseball Free Agents

It’s November. Oscar contenders hit theaters, Xmas shopping begins and baseball free agents wait by the phone to find out who’s overpaying for them. Picture: Andruw Jones sitting by his phone, waiting for it to ring, picking it up occasionally thinking it has rung. Here’s a breakdown of some free agents and why they matter in fantasy baseball.

Yorvit Torrealba
Yorvit Torrealba goes to the Mets. This seems all but done at this point. He went from a sleeper in a deep league to a “stay away.” Leaving Coors, hurts his value in a big way. His numbers last year away from home were: .212/15/2/13. Seriously, what is Minaya smoking? Not to mention, Yorvit could end up in a 70/30 time split with Ramon Castro. Let someone else take him in your NL-only league. Personally, I feel the Mets would have been better served coaxing Todd Hundley out of retirement.

Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds goes to the American League. This seems inevitable. He contends he can still play the field, but Barry is DH-bound or he’s not playing. If you’re in an OPS or OBP league, you absolutely should draft Bonds. His patience at the plate is almost equal to his ego. Or he could go to jail for thirty years, guess we'll have wait to see.

Andruw Jones
This was a walk year, you’re supposed to perform well, you mother******! Let’s hope the fantasy gods repay Andruw Jones by landing him in Washington. (On a related note: Hey, Nationals, bring back Tom Paciorek! Don Sutton sucks!) Perhaps the contract year pressure actually got in Andruw Jones’s head and caused him to choke for the entire season. Though, I don’t buy it. He pays like he’s listening to Bobby McFerrin in his iPod. Why would pressure get to him? Frankly, I think a lot of people will be predicting a bounce back for Andruw, but just maybe his God-given abilities that he coasted on for so many years have begun to slow. Defensively, sure he’s great, but I wouldn’t put him on a sleeper list for next year.

Michael Barrett
Numbers don’t matter
Michael Barrett goes to Colorado. This I would drop onto the sleeper list ASAP if it were to go down. I wrote above that numbers don’t matter and, in this case, they don’t. This is what happened to Michael Barrett this year: He was talking to a girl he liked in gym class and the class bully pantsed him and he was wearing skidmarked underwear. Mortified, he moved to a new town and never shook the embarrassment. Hopefully, by next year he’s moved on, because he’s not too old to bounce back to being a very productive offensive catcher.

Eric Gagne
Again, numbers-shmumbers
He will break your heart. Those Cy Young years are trailing off into the rearview mirror. Let someone else worry about his back, rotator cuff, Magglio-wannabe hair, etc. If you’re a francophile, draft Erik Bedard.

Matt Clement
Anyone who knows my past drafting can attest, I have a special place in my heart for Matt Clement. I will not waver. He strikes people out and usually comes in with a low to mid-range ERA (and on the high side WHIP, but I’ll ignore that since I’m a fan). Definitely capable of fourth fantasy starter status. If he lands in the NL (preferably with the Padres), I will have Clement on at least one of my teams and I suggest you do the same. Lest not forget how well he can deflect a line drive with his melon; this guy is money!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jacques Jones Gets Traded, Todd Jones Stays Put

The Hot Stove heats up as the Cubs make room in their overcrowded outfield. Jacques Jones, reluctant underachiever of Fantasyland, was traded yesterday and, frankly, it's two years too late. What this means for the teams involved:

Barring a trade for an outfielder, there might finally be room in the outfield for Matt Murton. Then again, Murton must have slept with Piniella's wife because he was benched last season for Craig Monroe (who has since been traded, as well). Craig Monroe of a career .749 OPS. Can Murton succeed as a full-time player? He knows how to take a walk, has moderate speed and moderate power. I could see him going 20/12 with a .280 average over 500 at-bats. 20 homers being on the low end and 12 steals being on the high end. People in a NL-only league should take a late round flier on him. Of course, keep a close eye on the goings-on in Spring Training.

In other Cubs news, Omar Infante was the player taken in return for Jacques Jones. This says more about the quality of Jacques Jones's play than about anything that could be written, but here goes...

Jacques Jones hit five home runs in 453 at-bats. He would be a fourth outfielder for the lowly Pirates. On the Tigers, let's hope Jones is merely a stopgap to Cameron Maybin and not a stop sign.

In other Tiger news, Todd Jones was reupped. Luckily, it was simply a one year contract. After Joel Zumaya hurt himself carrying helado home from Pathmark, it was expected that the Tigers would try and get one more year from Jones.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How Valid is the ESPN Player Rater?

by Senior Contributing Writer Rudy Gamble

Anyone who played ESPN 2007 Fantasy Baseball last year probably had two lingering questions throughout the season:

1) Did the ESPN employees responsible for the database crash that screwed up the first two weeks’ worth of 2007 stats befall a fate worse than Harold “Harass is one word?” Reynolds (rarely insightful on Baseball Tonight but he’s like Peter F*in’ Gammons compared to replacement ex-2B Eric Young)?

2) Is the ESPN Player Rater completely incorrect or just mostly incorrect?

While we wait to see if Outside the Lines' Bob Ley or the ESPN Ombudslady answer our repeated requests for answers on question #1, we took on the challenge of question #2.

Now you may ask, “Is this a valuable exercise beyond the joy in potentially proving ESPN wrong?” Fair question. The answer is a resounding yes. One of the greatest challenges with Fantasy Baseball is determining how to compare the value of players and their statistical contributions – any idiot could tell you that A-Rod and Peavy were the best hitter and pitcher respectively but was Matt Holliday more valuable than Jimmy Rollins? Understanding the value of each of the statistics – ESPECIALLY in non-counting stats like batting average, ERA, and WHIP – helps from the draft throughout the season as rosters are juggled, free agent options are considered, and trade offers are mulled. (That being said, proving ESPN wrong was a motivating factor.)

In no particular order, here are some of the questions we have on the 2007 season that we don’t believe ESPN Player Rater correctly answers (based on 5x5 MLB Universe):

1) Who is more valuable: A-Rod (best hitter) vs. Peavy (best player)?

2) 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?

3) ESPN creates a floor and ceiling of 0 (floor) and 5 (ceiling) for points per category. Does this misrepresent the contribution (or lack thereof) of players and what is the impact on player rankings? For example, how is Jose Reyes’ amazin’ 78 SBs worth the same amount of points as Josh Beckett’s merely impressive 20 wins? How is Richie Sexson’s horrific .205 batting average worth the same amount as Todd Helton’s sloth-like 0 SBs?

4) How is it possible that relievers J.J. Putz and Rafael Betancourt are worth more for ERA and WHIP than top starters like C.C. Sabathia, Johan Santana, and Brandon Webb when these relievers pitch about 1/3 of the innings as the starters?

5) Shouldn’t players at shallower positions receive bonus points – e.g, are Hanley Ramirez’s stats at SS more valuable than A-Rod’s stats for 3B?

To tackle these questions, we created our own Player Rater. See attached for the rankings and notes on the methodology we used. The methodology is nerdy and quasi-scientific - with heavy conceptual influence from Baseball Prospectus, Bill James, and other leaders in the field – but you could skip all the mathy stuff and just look at the rankings if you like.

We will answer these questions – and potentially others - over several posts. Let’s start off with the first one…

1) Who is more valuable: A-Rod (best hitter) vs. Peavy (best pitcher)?

ESPN has A-Rod #1 and Jake Peavy #2 by the slimmest of margins – 19.8 to 19.75. This order is in line with popular opinion. I’m sure if you were to do a ‘hindsight draft’ - whereby you draft based on 2007 stats – that Scott Boras’s wet dream would be picked #1 almost every time. There’s a much greater chance Peavy would go #3 or later than #1.

But is this some type of hitter/East Coast bias vs. pitcher/West Coast bias? Well, let’s look at how ESPN calculated the point totals:

A-Rod: Runs = 5, HR = 5, RBI = 5, SB=1.54, AVG=3.26
Peavy: K = 5, W = 4.75, SV = 0, ERA = 5, WHIP = 5

A-Rod led the majors in R/HR/RBI to earn the three category max of 15 points. His above average 24 SBs and .314 AVG netted him another 4.8 points. Peavy had a possible max of 20 points since Bud Black inexplicably turned to Trevor Hoffman to close games and was a win short of getting all 20 (should’ve showed up in that one-game playoff, Jake). So, maybe that’s it. Even the best starting pitchers can only contribute in 4 categories so a great 5-category hitter is more valuable.

What do our rankings say? It says Mr. Peavy is #1 by a healthy margin – 29.4 to 26.2 points. I’ll admit it – we were surprised too. Let’s look at our point allocations by category to explain it:

A-Rod: Runs = 4.9, HR = 8.3, RBI = 6.8, SB=3.2, AVG=3.0
Peavy: K = 6.8, W = 6.2, SV = -0.3, ERA = 9.3, WHIP = 7.4

This comparison is as good an opportunity as any to go over our methodological basis for crediting points (skip over if you’re mathphobic):

Rather than using a 0-5 point scale per category, we mirrored the VORP concept from Baseball Prospectus and created composite stats for what would be the best available option (BAO) at each position – e.g., what are the stats of the 11th best catcher who’d be the next best option post-draft. We then created a team full of these BAOs (kind of like a fantasy expansion team – hell, a team with Carlos Pena, BJ Upton, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun is much better than the MLB variety) and averaged their stats to create the BAO hitter and BAO pitcher.

We then took the team totals of our ESPN league to come up with relevant increments to award points. Our method would credit players with positive points if they performed above the BAO in a stat and negative points if they performed below (example: Magglio Ordonez was worth 7.7 AVG points while Richie Sexson was worth -4.6 points)

The increments were based on the standard deviation between our 10 teams’ totals which came out to roughly 1-2% of the average team’s total for R, HR, RBI, K, and W. SB and SV turned out around 4% of the average because team totals in these stats tend to be more widely distributed than the other counting stats (related to few players contributing the lion’s share of points – another way of explaining this is to consider the impact of 5 Wins vs. SBs and SVs on your league’s rankings. Wins would prove more valuable.). Lastly, the ratio stats – AVG, ERA, and WHIP – are around 0.5% of the average team’s total as there is much smaller % change between players (e.g., a great hitter hits .350, a bad hitter .250. That’s only a 40% difference. A-Rod hit 150% more HRs than fellow MVP candidate Mike Lowell)

These standard deviations were arbitrarily divided by 6 to create more point differential between players. For ratios, the team totals were multiplied up to reflect an individual player’s impact on the total – so a hitter would have to hit .0144 better than the BAO (assuming all 13 hitters had the same # of ABs) to raise the team’s average by the required .0011.

Lastly, we compared each player to two different types of BAOs: one specific to their position and one general (hitter or pitcher). These results were averaged together and helped to account for the fact that a BAO 1st baseman offers better stats than a BAO catcher so, all stats equal, the catcher is a more valuable hitter. (This topic will be further explored in another post. We’ve only got so much material to stretch over the offseason.)

So now let’s look at Runs vs. K’s to see this methodology in action. These make a good comparison in that the average team totals for these stats (based on our ESPN league) are nearly equal: 1150 runs and 1148 Ks.

A-Rod and Peavy led the majors in these categories (143 Rs and 240 Ks respectively) so ESPN credits each with 5 points. But the BAO hitter (who looks almost exactly like Luis Gonzalez’s stat line of .278/70/15/68/6) had 67 runs where the BAO pitcher (who looks closest to Carlos Villanueva’s season of 8 Ws/1 SV/3.94/1.35/99 K over 114 IP) had 101 K’s.

(Note: That may seem low for K’s but here’s a few other starting pitchers b/w 90 and 110 K’s that certainly saw some fantasy roster space during the season: C. Wang, G. Maddux, B. Sheets, C. Schilling, M. Mussina, J. Marquis)

So A-Rod had 76 more Runs than the BAO hitter and Peavy had 139 K’s more than the BAO in a category where teams had virtually the same average total. Another way of looking at it is that Peavy’s total would represent 20.9% of the average team’s total where A-Rod’s runs would be 12.4%.

The larger differential and impact of Peavy’s K’s vs. A-Rod’s runs are slightly curbed by the fact that Runs have a lower standard deviation which leads to crediting a point for 15.1 runs and 18.1 K’s. This nets out to 4.9 points for A-Rod’s Runs vs. 6.8 for Peavy’s K’s.

Peavy’s impact on Wins is similar to his impact in K’s and A-Rod’s HR and RBI totals net him 8.3 and 6.8 points respectively. His 24 SBs net him 3.2 points. (If anything, the ESPN total screws him – how could 24 SBs be worth only 1.5 points of 5 points, with 0 SBs equaling 0 points, given the average team only had 162 SBs?)

So it all comes down to the ratio stats (AVG, ERA, WHIP) to determine the winner.

Let’s look at A-Rod’s AVG first. To determine the impact, we start with a lineup made exclusively of BAO hitters. This group hits .2772. If we replace one BAO with A-Rod, the average goes up to .2806 – a difference of 0.0034. In addition, A-Rod had 583 ABs compared to our BAO’s 482 ABs. So A-Rod’s average has a greater impact than just 1/13th (it becomes worth about 1/11th). To account for this, we multiply his points by his # of ABs / BAO ABs (1.2). After accounting for the fact that the 3B BAO hits for a slightly higher average (.279), A-Rod’s batting average nets him 2.8 points.

Now let’s look at Peavy’s MLB-leading 2.54 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Adding him to a BAO team (5 starters + 4 relievers with removing a BAO composite of the two) changes the team ERA/WHIP from 3.960/1.315 to 3.719/1.272. This is a net decrease of 0.241 in ERA and 0.043 in WHIP.

How huge is this? Well, looking at our league, this would be the number of points gained in ERA by deducting .241 (1 team – 5 pts, 2 teams – 4 pts, 2 teams – 3 pts, 3 teams - 2 pts, 1 team – 1 pt, 1 team – 0 pts). If you factor in that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams had a maximum of 0, 1 , and 2 points to gain respectively, you can see that at a MINIMUM, Jake Peavy’s ERA would’ve gained a team 2 points and more likely 3+. The WHIP difference is similar in impact.

Now we compared Peavy against our BAO pitcher who is a composite of the best pitcher available. This could be a starter or reliever. What if we compared him against strictly the BAO starter (the 51st best starter)? This would reduce the impact of Peavy’s Wins and K’s but would actually INCREASE the impact of his ERA and WHIP. Why? Because starters pitch more innings than relievers and tend to give up more runs and baserunners. The BAO starter has an ERA of 4.15 and WHIP of 1.34 (closest comparison – Carlos Silva) where the BAO reliever is at an ERA of 3.31 and WHIP of 1.24. Compared to the BAO Starter, his ERA is worth 9.9 ‘position points’ but 8.6 ‘player points’ for an average of 9.3 points.

In summary, we would say Jake Peavy was the MVP of 2007 Fantasy Baseball (5x5, MLB Universe) over A-Rod. While A-Rod had two high contributing categories (HR and RBI), one strong (Runs), and two above average (SB and AVG), Peavy has four high contributing categories with his ERA and WHIP point total of 16.7 dwarfing his closest competitors (Santana = 11.3, Sabathia = 11.2).

While we wouldn’t have the nut sack to draft Peavy #1 in a 2008 draft (pitching is less predictable than hitting), he’d be our choice for #1 in a ‘hindsight’ draft. And if you can’t even manage 20/20 hindsight, how can you expect to see clearly into the future...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lidge to Phillies

Just back from the Writer’s Strike picket line (Jesse Jackson shook my hand and said, "God Bless." I said, "Fight the Power!") when I heard Brad Lidge (and Eric Bruntlett) got traded to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Michael Costanzo. Pujols made Lidge his bitch two seasons ago and Lidge has had to fight every step of the way back. Is he fully back yet? His wildness says probably not entirely, but this is still a coo for the Phillies. Think about it this way, if someone in your NL-only league traded Lidge for Bourn, protests flags would have flown. The Astros received three spare parts for an at-times absolutely dominating closer. Not dominating, you say? He held hitters to a .218 average and averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Um, that’s dominating. Lidge needed to get out of Houston in a bad way; Myers needed to get back in the rotation before his career was completely derailed. Phillies--Win-win, Astros-lose.

Can the Astros get by on Chad Qualls?
6-5/78/3.05/1.32, 5 saves in 82.2 innings
Averaging almost a strikeout an inning, he'll be just fine. His cheap and pretty solid. I predict teams will move and more to the cheap, solid setup man instead of the high-priced closer. Though, if you have to pay for one, Lidge isn’t a bad one at all. Not content with simply catching the Mets this year, the Phils will be a force in the NL East. I’ll tell you what, I’d rather have Lidge than the Billy Wagner we saw at the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Closer for the Cubs?

The Chicago Cubs closer, Ryan Dempster, announced today he no longer wants any part of the ninth inning unless, of course, he's throwing a complete game (insert laugh track). The Dumpster was once a mediocre starter and I see no reason why he can't return to his humble beginnings. The big story really is:


The Upstart:
Carlos Marmol
5-1/96/1.43/1.10 in 69.1 innings
His numbers were phenomenal. It's not easy to strike out 96 batters in less than 70 innings. His stuff is obviously closer-like. He had one save so Lou Piniella didn't fully trust him. Why not? Cause Lou doesn't play the young guys in crucial spots. Look at the tight leash Murton and Pie have had so far. Marmol will be out there in the seventh and/or the eighth, not the ninth. At least not this season.

The Reclamation
Kerry Wood
His numbers don't matter. You know he's good, but can he stay healthy. This would be a feel-good story the size of Rick Ankiel pre-HGH. Can it happen? Not very likely. Sure, he'll be given the ball in close games, and may even close a few, but he's too wild for the closer role. And, more than likely, he'll get injured again. So we'll probably see lots of hype about how great Kerry Wood would (stutterer!) be as closer, but it's not going to happen.

The New Closer
Bob Howry
6-7/72/3.32/1.17 in 81.1 innings
He's been dependable for two years, he has the stuff to strikeout anyone at any given moment and he's the safest option. It's not as exciting as Marmol or as feel-goody as Wood, but teams play it safe and Piniella in particular is a conservative manager. I'm sure the entire season the Chicago press and the baseball world will be waiting for Howry to lose the job and he will from time to time, but at the end of the season, Howry will have the most saves on the Cubs and Marmol will have the best numbers.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A-Rod Rumors

Baseball Prospectus had some interesting things to about who may ultimately prevail in the win-your-division-but-lose-in-the-first-round-of-the-playoffs sweepstakes.

Thoughts on the top two:

McCourt's Money: Since the Dodgers have six potential leadoff men and nary a cleanup hitter, I could see A-Rod going blue, but Joe Torre is managing them. The same Torre that batted A-Rod eighth in a postseason game. The same Torre who was sent packing (rightly or not) because of his lack of success in the postseason where he watched A-Rod do nothing with men in scoring position (0 for gazillion). A-Rod practically nailed Torre's coffin. Torre wants A-Rod? Bullocks to that.

Moreno's Money: The Angels also have way too much speed and not enough menace (the naughts version of the West Coast offense?). How badly do they need A-Rod for offense? They were hoping Juan Rivera would return for the playoffs. On the Yankees, Juan Rivera is a fourth outfielder/part-time DH. Mike Scioscia prides himself on being the captain of the ship like Jack Aubrey. He cut Jose Guillen when they were chasing the A's for a postseason berth. At the time, Guillen was their second best hitter. Mike Scioscia is a narcissist and enjoys being the star of the franchise. Why do you think their premier hitter doesn't speak English? I don't think there's room in Sciosca's ego closet for A-Rod's baggage.

OPP: I predict the Phillies. Abraham Nunez sucks like a Kriss Kross reunion tour. Slot A-Rod between Utley and Howard and you're the favorites to be the NL champions. Thinking of the prospect of this for NL-only leagues and I've got the unbridled enthusiasm of Balki Bartokomous.

From a fantasy prospective, A-Rod hits everywhere he has gone. In Dodgers' or Angels' Stadium, it would be more of the same. A-Rod will hit anywhere from 40 to 50 home runs and driving in 130. Basically the same numbers I would have said if he stayed on the Yankees. His runs will drop once he steps into any lineup other than the Yankees, unless he lands with the Red Sox, which I don't see happening or the Phillies, which I'm Bartokomously excited about.