Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to determine when to cut bait: Struggling Stars

Money in the bank! It's like taking candy from a baby! Many of you may have had these thoughts cross your path during the early stages of your draft this year. There he was, on your team. Like Gollum's ring, he was your own. Your ppreecciiouss!! That stud that you went all-in on. He had been consistent his entire career, and all of the other fools in the league are going to bow down to your managerial skills. He was going to be the savior to guide your team to a fantasy championship, he was going to hit .325 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs.

::Flash forward to May 10th::

What the hell happened? 

Many of those same managers are now tearing their hair out in frustration that the same players who were supposed to be studs are absolutely killing their team. Although it's still relatively early in the season, many of the players who were projected in the top 20 overall have struggled mightly (headlined by someone whose name rhymes with Shalbert Drojols). What is a manager supposed to do? How long should someone wait on one of their stars before pulling the trigger on a trade or even going so far as to drop them entirely?

Fear not, for the Roto-Wizard is here with his big pointy hat and magic wand to attempt to help.

This isn't fantasy football

First and foremost, everyone needs to understand that patience is a virtue, especially regarding fantasy baseball. Managers who are used to playing fantasy football may have developed a quick trigger finger in regards to their team, and will be chomping at the bit to trade under-performing studs. Some folks don't get used to the drastic difference in length between the fantasy football (usually 13 weeks) and fantasy baseball season (20 week regular season, not including playoffs). Due to the extra two month window, you need to be much more patient with players that get off to a slow start. 

On the other hand, if you know that a manager is apt to be rash and release players who are struggling and doesn't have the patience to let them develop, you might be able to work this to your advantage by using the classic buy-low, sell-high philosophy. Trading for a player when their value is at their lowest is a very smart idea, especially since what you will need to give up for them will be greatly reduced.

Experts aren't always correct

One of the pre-draft resources that I pretty much swear by is Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster. Along with having very good projections for most of the players that are fantasy-relevant (both current players and prospects), there is also a section of the book dedicated to "Gaming Research Abstracts", which are articles usually a page or two in length about a particular topic. 

Shandler wrote one himself this year that caught my eye called "The Science of the First Round", which broke down the likelihood of a player who was projected to be in the top 15 actually reaching that mark. The truth was pretty alarming. Here are some highlights of the article:

  • Two-thirds of players finishing in the Top 15 were not in the Top 15 the previous year 
  • Of those who were first-timers, fewer than 15% repeat in the first round the following year
  • Established superstars who finish in the top 15 are not guaranteed to repeat
The article goes on to suggest that as a fantasy manager, you should trust your gut with players that you feel will bring you top value, despite their pre-season average draft position (ADP). Players who have career years are doomed to regress somewhat, and that you should anticipate lower numbers, both from coming back down to Earth, and from age.

Fact is, experts aren't always correct. If I take a snap shot of how ESPN's top 15 players are currently doing, some are struggling mightily.

Albert Pujols (Projected 2nd overall) .198 AVG, 10 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI
Jose Bautista (Projected 5th overall) .182 AVG, 16 R, 5 HR, 15 RBI
Robinson Cano (Projected 7th overall) .270 AVG, 17 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury (Projected 8th overall) .192 AVG, 4 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Justin Upton (Projected 9th overall) .235 AVG, 22 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI
Adrian Gonzalez (Projected 14th overall) .279 AVG, 16 R, 2 HR, 19 RBI

A lot of "studs" are off to slow starts, whether it be to injuries or other factors. Looking at this list above (save for Ellsbury, due to the amount of time that he'll miss with his injury) I have absolutely no doubts that the players will return to their natural productive states.

Players need time to get back into the "swing" of the season, or recover from injuries

I probably could have told you that Pujols would struggle with his first foray into the American League, especially during the month of April. He hadn't seen any of these pitchers before, he had to move his family across the country to live in a completely new city, the talent level was higher than the National League (I'm sorry, but it is overall) and he had to get used to playing on an entirely new team. 

Players often need time to adjust to changes in both their life. Prime example? Pablo Sandoval struggled with an ugly child custody suit and had a terrible year in 2010, only to bounceback in 2011 and regain form.  It took a DL stint for Joey Votto to get back into form after the death of his father. Life happens. If your star is struggling, and you know that it isn't due to an injury, keep an eye on what else might be an adjustment outside of baseball. Players are only human. Just like me and you- except with huge muscles and a boatload of money.

Players who start the year off with a minor injury might need several weeks to pull it all together. Justin Upton is just now starting to hit the ball well after he struggled in the beginning of 2012 with a thumb injury. 
Adrian Gonzalez is working on getting his swing back into form, after coming off of shoulder surgery. His ability to not have a ton of "follow through" on his swing sapped his power, so he has been in the process of fine-tuning it to get everything back.

Bottom line? Make sure to give players who have adjustments (both in and out of baseball) time to get their heads and swings straight!

Some players are just slow starters

I could pretty much just type the name "Mark Teixeira" here and close the section, right?

For those of you who haven't had Maddening Mark (as I like to refer to him as) on your team previously, he pretty much disappears for the majority of April and May each year, only to turn into a one man wrecking crew by the time the fantasy playoffs get here. Adam LaRoche is another historically slow starter. It is never a bad idea to see if your stud has a history of starting off slow only to turn it on late.

So just how long should you wait?

Its very hard to point to a specific date and proclaim "If your player is still doing poorly by X date, you should look to drop or trade him". Obviously some factors need to be taken into consideration:

Generally, the higher that you drafted someone (or in the case of auction leagues, the more money that you spent on them) the longer you should wait. This is ESPECIALLY true regarding starting pitchers, who only really toe the mound once every 4th or 5th day. Unlike positional players, I find that they tend to take longer to get adjusted into the season. As a rule of thumb, I generally think something along the following lines:

  • Players who were rated in the pre-season top 25 I'd wait until at least mid June to move them
  • Players rated between 26-75 I'd wait until late May to move
  • Players rated from 75-150 I'd wait until mid May to move
In auction leagues (operating on a $260 budget and I'll assume a 10-12 team league since they are the most common):
  • If you spent $40+ dollars on the player, I'd wait until at least mid June to move them
  • If you spent $30-40 I'd wait until late May
  • If you spent $20 I'd wait until mid May
This of course assumes that your league isn't like mine where the stud players go in the $50+ range, which isn't normal. Auctions are a little harder to state according to dollar values since each should be treated as a separate entity. League rules and keepers play a part in values, so I stress the fact that the above is a very, very loose interpretation.

Also, keep in mind the following factors:
  1. Size DOES Matter -The smaller the league, the less time that you have to wait until you drop or trade an underperforming player. On the other hand, the larger the league the more time that I'd wait with a player to turn it around.
  2. Keeper Leagues - are a whole different breed of animal, especially with rookies who are struggling. I'll go with the example of Matt Moore this year. Remember how I said that if a person is experiencing some sort of change or transition that you will need to allow more time for the adjustment to occur? This is ESPECIALLY true in the case of a rookie, and I can't stress that enough. Making the jump from AA or AAA ball to the majors is an absolute HUGE adjustment talent-wise, so I'd wait on those players much longer. You don't want to be the idiot that drops Stephen Strasburg because you were impatient with him. 
  3. Trust your gut - You might notice something that really bothers you about a particular player, or you might know that someone else in your league would still pay through the moon to acquire one of your struggling stars. Everyone in my eyes is tradeable, but it has to be for the right price. 

Bottom line? PLEASE BE PATIENT!! Trust me when I say that it is much more gratifying to hold onto a stud and see him turn it around, rather than sell low and see someone else in your league reap the benefits. 

If you are still struggling with the idea of getting rid of a player, please feel free to send me a tweet or e-mail (my contact information is at the top of the page) and I'll be happy to let you know my opinion.

Best of luck,

~ The Roto Wizard

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Trades - Hints and Tips

Hello fellow fantasy baseball junkies,

One of the most commonly asked questions that I've received on both my blog and by e-mail is what my opinion is on a particular trade, and who to target for a particular trade. Seeing as how there was so much interest in the topic, I wanted to provide a handy set of guidelines which I use to analyze a trade from A to Z, starting with what to do before you propose one, who to trade with, and what to offer. I'll then follow that up with a breakdown of how to evaluate a trade and if it benefits both managers.

1. What to do before you offer a trade - 

In order to benefit the most from a trade, you need to know first the strengths and weaknesses of your own team

I can't stress this enough. Before you attempt to contact other managers in your league about either trading or picking up a player, you need to always have a firm grasp on where you stand compared to the rest of your league, position by position. In fantasy baseball, there is such a thing as having "too much" at a certain spot, especially because ignoring a category or position can potentially be the death of your season, both in roto and head to head leagues. This is just one of the reasons why I usually tend to lean towards the "spreading the risk" strategy while drafting players, over the "stars and scrubs" philosophy.

Using one of my own teams as an example, lets look at how you could determine what you are strong and weak in. In a twelve team head to head keeper league, I have the following starting outfielders:

Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson, B.J. Upton, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Swisher, and Chris Young.

For a twelve team league, that is pretty loaded. We do an auction draft, so I was able to acquire and focus on a strong set of outfielders who are all in their prime, most of which don't have an injury history, strong production, and all (save Swisher) are potential 20/20 (if not higher) candidates. I would categorize this as a position of strength for myself. Also keep in mind that what positions you are "strong" in is also dependent on league size. This same mix of players wouldn't be as strong in an eight team league, but would be ridiculous in a 16 team league.

On the other hand, I have the following relief pitchers:

Alfredo Aceves, Santiago Casilla, David Robertson, and Sergio Santos.

I'd categorize this as one of the few weaknesses that I have in this particular league. Aceves will probably lose his job after the All-Star break when Bailey comes back, so I'll have to go dumpster diving for saves. Casilla hasn't closed for a full season before. Robertson has been primarily used as a set-up man to Rivera in years past, and Santos was placed on the DL earlier this year with shoulder tightness.

Knowing what you have available to trade and where you need to concentrate is a key element to trading. Looking at this team, I don't need outfield help, but could probably use help with a relief pitcher down the road, if these folks don't perform.

If you are going to trade, find a partner who needs what you have, and has what you need

This sounds pretty simple, right? You'd be surprised how many managers don't realize this however. Offering someone who already has a ton of strong starting pitchers Jarod Weaver probably won't entice him very much. Offering that same manager Robinson Cano when he's currently using Aaron Hill might catch his eye though.

Likewise, make sure that you are going after a player that you actually want. Don't pigeon-hole yourself in a corner to get fleeced by someone who is only accepting the trade because you offered too much. Try and place yourself outside of the trade and put yourself in the eyes of another manager. Does the trade look fair on paper? Always offer a trade which will benefit both parties. After all, why should they accept a garbage trade that you throw their way?

2. How to offer a trade- 

Creating a trade that will work for both parties

Once you've found someone that will be willing to part with a player that you wish to acquire, its time to figure out how to offer something that they will want as fair compensation. You don't want to offer a trade which slaps the other person in the face, but you also don't want to give up too much. Here are some thoughts:

1. How much is acquiring this new player going to benefit you? There is a big difference between going from  Lucas Duda to Albert Pujols at 1B, compared with going from Joey Votto to Albert Pujols. If the trade is going to significantly benefit your team, you can bet that the other manager is going to ask for something that significantly benefits them back !

2. What is the talent level of the players involved? Again, using the previous example of Lucas Duda.. if you are only going to target a small upgrade to lets say Adam LaRoche or Chris Davis, then you know that lower-tier players are going to be involved with the trade. If you are attempting to trade for a tier one player like Miguel Cabrera or Roy Halladay, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will probably have to dish out equal compensation back.

3. How desperate are the managers involved in making a trade? Often times managers who have a player that is struggling are absolutely desperate to get rid of him and let that player be someone else's headache. They might be willing to sell "fifty cents on the dollar" so to speak, just to get rid of them. The same rings true for the manager attempting to acquire a player. I'll give you another example.

In that same 12 team league, earlier this season I traded away Martin Prado for Matt Wieters. I was contacted by the manager who owned Kevin Youkilis and didn't have a ton of depth at third base, so he made that offer.

Looking at my team, I already had Brett Lawrie and Mike Aviles, so I was able to part with Prado.

I currently had Geovany Soto at catcher, who was struggling mightly and was probably the weakest position on my team. Wieters was a significant upgrade over Soto, so this deal made sense to me. Seeing how the other owner wasn't prepared for Youkilis' injury, he was somewhat desperate to acquire a player that could help him out.

4. Examine positional scarcity - Some managers completely forget that a top tier second baseman might be worth more than a top tier first baseman, due to the fact that the size of fantasy-relevant players is much smaller. There is a reason that Robinson Cano is widely considered a first round draft pick in most formats. He performs much better than the remaining players at his position, and after the top 4-5 second baseman, the talent level falls off DRAMATICALLY.

In terms of position scarcity, here is my list: 2B, C, SS, 3B, 1B, RP, OF, SP

Using that as a template, a catcher who hits 20HRs will be more scarce than a 1B who hits 20HRs. Due to that fact, the catcher may be considered at a different level when the chips hit the table.

5. Look at the other teams needs - If you happen to notice that the other team is weak at stolen bases, Dee Gordon might be worth more to him than normal. If you notice that they lack power, suddenly Carlos Pena becomes more interesting. Not only target the position that they need, but the categories as well. This will make it much easier to justify the trade

6. What type of manager are they? Using that twelve team league again as an example, having played with those managers for a number of years, I can tell you that not all managers will target the same type of trades. Certain managers will over-value young prospects because we are in a keeper league. Others will prefer to obtain a player who is a veteran and has been consistent. Some managers care about a player with an injury history. Others don't. Making a trade in a league where you have played with the managers for a number of years is much easier than attempting to pull off a trade in a re-draft league where you haven't met anyone before.

3. Evaluating the trade after it happens- 

The best way (and the simplest as well) to evaluate if a trade is "good" or not is if it answers the following question:

Does the trade benefit both parties involved, and are they both happy with the trade?

If so, then the trade is probably a "good" trade.

Its extraordinarily difficult to determine in a vacuum if a trade is good without knowing an absolute TON of information, such as:

A. The size of the league
B. If it is a keeper or re-draft league (hot prospects have DRAMATICALLY increased value in keeper leagues)
C. What both teams rosters look like, both before and after the trade
D. If the trade is lopsided (aka a 2 for 1), what player will be either dropped or added from the waiver wire to offset things

Again, in order for a trade to be considered "good" in my mind, the following criteria needs to be met:

1. Neither player benefits significantly more than the other
2. Both parties agreed to the trade and felt that their teams are better now than they were before
3. None of the rules of the league are broken in the trade
4. There was no "collusion", meaning that one player isn't giving up all of their stars to intentionally have a bad team  in order for the other team to win.

As reference on player scarcity, I'd highly recommend reading the "Measuring Scarcity" article that Derek Carty wrote for the Fantasy Baseball Index Magazine for the 2011-2012 issue. That along with Ron Shandler's "Baseball Prospectus" are my top-2 magazines that I always purchase for the fantasy baseball season.

Feel free to send me any trades that you wish to analyze! I can be added on Twitter @Roto_Wizard, or reached by e-mail at

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drinking the Health Potion - Injury Updates for 5/2

In order to make it a more streamlined read, I'll cut down on the analysis and make this a little more bulleted.

Players who were recently put on the DL:

  1. Evan Longoria (3B, Rays) - Evan suffered a hamstring injury while sliding into 2nd base on 5/1, he is unfortunately expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks. Keep in mind that hamstring injuries also tend to linger.
  2. Michael Pineda (SP, Yankees) - Pineda experienced shoulder tightness during the offseason and started the year on the DL. He was initially expected to make a return to the ballclub sometime in May, but after a further examination involving a dye-contrast MRI, it was discovered that he has a torn labrum and is out for the season. I'd drop him if you had him, except for in keeper leagues.
  3. Jason Bay (OF, Mets) - Bay was placed on the DL on 4/24 because he has a non-displaced rib fracture, an injury which he suffered while diving into the wall in left field attempting to make a catch. Although he initially started off slow, Bay was picking it up with the bat before he was injured. I'd expect him to miss an additional week after the minimum stint.
  4. Daniel Hudson (SP, Diamondbacks) - Hudson was placed on the 15 day DL with a "shoulder impingement" on 4/21, and has been told to wait until at least May 8th to begin throwing again. The club indicated that he'd need at least 2 rehab starts, so I'd expect to not see him until the end of May/early June.
  5. Ryan Zimmerman (3B, Nationals) - Zimmerman was placed on the 15 day DL on 4/27 after he experienced some "shoulder tightness" which was causing him issues with swinging the bat. He is looking to be activated for 5/6, as soon as he is eligible.

Updates on existing injuries:

  1. Kyle Farnsworth (RP, Rays) - In a relatively unexpected move which is great for Fernando Rodney owners, the Rays moved Farnsworth from the 15 to 60 day DL, Don't expect to see Farnsworth until at least the all-star break. With the turmoil of the Rays closer position I'd stay away from this if at all possible.
  2. Ryan Howard (1B, Phillies) - Howard was recently cleared to begin baseball activities again on 4/28. Although he isn't expected to begin swinging a bat for the next few days, he's allowed to take grounders and begin moving around more now. Expect a late May/early June return.
  3. Drew Storen (RP, Nationals) - Storen has begun to move his arm freely and expects to start being allowed to throw within the next few days. No timetable has been updated for him, but most injury experts expect him to return prior to the all-star break.
  4. Lance Berkman (1B/OF, Cardinals) - Berkman has been on the DL with an injured calf muscle which he attempted to play through and then re-aggravated. He hasn't begun a rehab assignment or ran on it since. I'd expect a late May return.
  5. Brett Gardner (OF, Yankees) - Although Gardner was initially only expected to make the minimum stint on the DL, it appears that the Yankees are going to push for him to play in a few rehab games prior to coming back. I'd expect to see him early next week (5/8 or so)
  6. Doug Fister (SP, Tigers) - Fister has been sidelined since his first start in April with a rib muscle strain. The Tigers are planning on him coming back to make his first start on 5/7.
  7. Ryan Dempster (SP, Cubs) - Dempster will return to the normal rotation on 5/3
  8. Carlos Quentin (OF, Padres) - Quentin hasn't played a game yet so far this year after going on the DL in the off-season to recover from knee-surgery. He's expected to start a rehab assignment at AAA on 5/3 and is expected to spend at least a week there. I'd guess for a 5/14 callup.
  9. Chase Utley (2B, Phillies) - Expect Utley to finally get called up sometime during next week after spending a week getting some AB's in the minors.
  10. Chris Carpenter (SP, Cardinals) - All quiet on the western front, unfortunately. Carpenter says that his arm feels better but doesn't have a projected date to start rehabbing, let alone come back for a rehab assignment. Expect him to return after the all-star break. 
  11. Michael Morse (1B/OF, Nationals) - Morse has been the source of much frustration for managers who drafted him. After only expected to miss a week or two, he suffered a setback and is now targeting a June 1st return date. 
  12. Carl Crawford (OF, Red Sox) - After starting his rehab, Crawford's elbow flared up again and he was recently diagnosed by the famous fantasy doctor of death (James Andrews) as having a sprained ulnar ligament. He's supposed to miss an additional 3 months and won't return until August at the earliest. You may want to consider dropping him all-out in non-keeper leagues.
  13. Cliff Lee (SP, Phillies) - Lee's oblique will keep him sidelined at least another week. He isn't supposed to currently go on a rehab assignment, but throw bullpen sessions instead. Look for another 2 weeks, so returning around 5/15 or so.
  14. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, Red Sox) - Expect Ellsbury to miss at least the next 6-8 weeks with his shoulder sprain from his collision at 2nd base. 
Good luck to everyone this week !

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Predicting the Future - Minor League Watch for the month of April

It's always important to keep an eye on the major league farm systems to see if you can snag the next big prospect before everyone else in your league. Having this year's Brett Lawrie may or may not propel your team to the playoffs, so knowing at least a handful of prospects to watch is very important. Below I've listed some of the nation's top prospects and provided a rough idea of when they might be called up.

1. Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals) - Although Mike Trout may be called up earlier, no one is going to question the ability between the two. Harper was with the Nationals in Spring Training and Davey Johnson initially thought that he would be able to make the club as their starting right fielder. After a mini slump and a few days off for injuries, Harper was sent back to the minors. So far in AAA ball he's struggled somewhat, batting just .245 so far in this early season. It doesn't appear that the Nationals are in any hurry to call him up, but assuming that he turns things around, we could see him make the big club sometime after June.

2. Mike Trout (OF, Angels) - As Matthew Berry from ESPN would say, Trout has a "little bit of pop" and the wheels to eventually steal 25-30 bags. Trout has been absolutely on fire in AAA, already having an 11 game hitting streak to go along with a handful of homers, runs and steals. Anaheim currently has a logjam of players clogging Trout's promotion, but has been actively trying to trade Bobby Abreu or Vernon Wells to another club to make room. Its doubtful that Wells would move anytime soon because of his horrible contract, but Abreu is a possibility, should another club have an injury. Since they are already jumping at the bit to promote him, keep an eye out for injuries around the league and add him when another big name OF goes down.

3. Trevor Bauer (SP, Diamondbacks) - Widely regarded as the best pitching prospect in the majors currently, Bauer possesses a plus fastball and a hammer for a curve, to go along with two other average pitches. In his current stint at AAA, he has already struck out 20 batters in 15 innings, but needs to work on his control before he gets promoted. He's been compared to a younger Clayton Kershaw, in terms of a comparison. Although Josh Collementer has struggled so far, expect Arizona to promote their other top pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs before Bauer makes the club. Once he figures everything out though, watch out, he's filthy.

4. Nolan Arenado (3B, Rockies) - Arenado is currently tearing it up at AAA, hitting a ridiculous .371 through his first 9 games with a homer already. Coming off of a strong 2010 when he had 122 RBI in 134 games at High-A ball, the Rockies have a plan for their #1 prospect. I wouldn't expect him to come up until later on in the year (closer to late July or August) but once he does, especially in keeper leagues, grab him if you need help at 3B.

5. Brad Peacock (SP, Athletics) - So far in AAA Peacock is 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 17Ks in 19 IP. Although Tyler Ross was the Athletics last call-up for their 5th starter, Peacock shouldn't be held back much longer. Although not a fireballer, Peacock has above average control and should help out your WHIP, if that is a category in your league. Expect him to be called up shortly after June to avoid penalties to the big club, since Billy Beane is a cheapskate.

I'd also strongly recommend reading or subscribing to Keith Law at ESPN for his tweets and information. He's widely regarded as one of the best analysts to review upcoming prospects.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Drinking the Health Potion - Injury updates for 4/19/2012

It certainly seems like we have seen our fair-share of early season injuries so far in 2012. The most notable position to be hit so far has definitely been at relief pitcher with three of the top ten closers out with season-ending Tommy John surgery (Brian Wilson, Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria).

Several other relatively high-profile players are currently on the disabled list for a number of reasons, so you may be wondering how much longer you will have to wait to see them in action again. Luckily Roto Wizard has taken the guesswork out of that for you, so read on my friend and lets take a look at them together.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF, Red Sox) - Jacoby was recently placed on the DL on Friday the 13th (go figure) when he suffered a subluxation of his right shoulder. This happens when the humerus bone goes out of the joint but does not completely dislocate. Although this injury doesn't need any surgery, Ellsbury is still expected to miss at least the next 6-8 weeks. Since this injury is on his throwing shoulder, it will also effect his fielding and hitting. His normal aggressive center outfield play may need to be cut down while the injury heals, and I wouldn't expect him to dive and go for balls that he normally would. It may also effect his swing since this is his lead shoulder, and it may force him to alter things to make it more of a comfortable swing.

Outlook: Negative

2. Michael Morse (1B-OF, Nationals) - Morse was put on the DL back in Spring Training due to a strained lat muscle, which was causing pain for him below his right shoulder blade. Initially Morse was supposed to be cleared in time to start the season right away, but various set-backs have forced his return to be delayed. After experiencing tightness again last week, Morse underwent further tests and the results were sent to the dreaded Dr.James Andrews. No updated have been released since then and the team's timetable on his return has now been changed to "indefinitely".

Outlook: Negative

3. Chris Young (OF, Diamondbacks) - Young injured his shoulder while diving into the center field wall while making an amazing catch on 4/17. The injury initially didn't seem to be a big issue since he was raising his arm above his head and moving his shoulder around. After an MRI was performed on 4/18 he received both good and bad news. The good news? His collarbone showed no fractures and there was no extended structural damage to the shoulder. The bad news? He experienced a deep bruise and a slightly torn AC joint in his right shoulder. After being told that the team should place him on the DL, Young resisted saying that he could play through the injury, but the Diamondbacks relied on common sense and placed him on the DL. He should be able to come back in 2-3 weeks and expects to make a full recovery. I asked Stephania Bell from ESPN about his timeframe and she gave me the following info:

"Hard to know an exact timeframe on the length of the DL stint, but it was a good move to allow recovery time so it wouldn't alter his swing".

Sounds like moderately good news.

Outlook: Positive

4. David Wright (3B, Mets) - David has a hairline fracture in the middle joint of his right pinkie finger, an injury he sustained while diving headfirst into first base on a pickoff attempt. The Mets injury staff has long been criticized for mis-diagnosing injuries and providing incorrect timeframes, but in this case they didn't mess up too badly. Wright initially sat out a few games but was encouraged by management to try and test it out. The result? A HR in his first at-bat and he's been on fire ever since. His pinkie will heal on its own over the course of time and he should be just fine.

Outlook: Positive

5. Brett Gardner (OF,Yankees) - Brett was recently placed on the DL for a strained right elbow he suffered while making a diving catch in the outfield. Although it wasn't enough to initially be considered serious, after a further look Gardner is now receiving more extensive tests on the elbow to see if further damage was caused. His outlook is currently somewhat murky because we haven't received an update from the MRI which is being performed, but after a video review of the injury it didn't appear to be terribly serious. Expect him to be out about 3 weeks, barring negative news.

Outlook: Positive

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Peering into the Crystal Ball – Waiver Wire Adds for the 4/16- 4/22 Week

One of the keys to being a successful fantasy sports manager is to be active in monitoring your league’s waiver wire to see if you can make improvements to your team. You don’t want to drop players in haste, but you don’t also want to wait too long to scoop up a hot free agent who may bust out for a big year.

Below are some of the most added players in 10-14 team baseball leagues so far this week. (This is assuming you are in a mixed league). I’ve indicated their current ownership percentage next to their name, depending on the provider for your league.

  1. Santiago Casilla, RP Giants (36% CBS, 4.4% ESPN)- Initially after Brian Wilson was diagnosed with structural damage in his throwing shoulder which required Tommy John surgery, Bruce Bochy thought that he was going with the dreaded “closer by committee”. Since then he’s backed off from that stance and handed the closer job to Casilla and kept Sergio Romo in the 8th inning role. Casilla took over for Wilson late last year when he was also dealing with shoulder problems and converted 6/7 opportunities. With a mid 90’s fastball, filthy slider and above-average changeup, Casilla is a must-add for teams who have faced closer issues so far this year.
  2. Jordan Schafer, OF Astros (53% CBS, 43.5% ESPN)- A post-hype sleeper candidate lands at the #2 spot. Schafer has had a host of off-field problems but finally landed in a spot willing to give him a starting gig in Houston. So far he’s rewarded owners with 5 stolen bases and a decent amount of runs scored. He’s leading off for a fairly thin lineup and needs to improve his batting average and on-base percentage to increase his stolen base opportunities, but the upside is here.
  3. J.D. Martinez, OF Astros (91% CBS, 88.2% ESPN) – Martinez burst onto the scene late last year and hit well at the end of the season with a cup of coffee in the big leagues. He has the potential to hit 20-25 HRs and will really benefit from the short porch in left field at Minute Maid Park. Mostly targeted in drafts as a late-round flyer, he has performed very well so far and has hit safely in all of Houston’s games this season. Owners should look to keep him active during his hot streak.
  4. Lance Lynn, SP Cardinals (70% CBS, 28.3% ESPN) – Lynn is attempting to transition from a RP to a SP with the Cardinals. He has started the season off with two relatively successful outings, allowing only 1 ER in both of his starts. He hasn’t made it past the 6th inning yet, but he’ll work deeper in games as his control improves and he gets a feel for the starting role. He’s boasted a 13-3 K:BB ratio so far, and at only age 24 he has a very live arm. Intriguing flier.
  5. Danny Duffy, SP Royals (46% CBS, 5.1% ESPN) – Duffy has opened the season with two quality starts against Detroit and at Oakland. Through 12.2 innings he’s tallied 15Ks and has a 2.13 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Prior to the start of the season his ADP was around 260 or so, but Duffy will provide a substantial bargain at a discounted price. Expect a high amount of strikeouts from this flamethrower and continue to monitor his progress, as he’s still just 23 years old.
  6.  Nolan Reimold, OF Orioles (47% CBS, 16.6% ESPN) - Reimold has been absolutely on fire so far this week, hitting in eight straight games and homering for the fourth game in a row on Tuesday night. He also has multiple hits three of his last four games. While I wouldn't expect the power surge to continue like this, Reimold could reach the 20HR mark this season, and provide as a valuable backup OF or 4th-5th OF for leagues with 3+ slots.
Best of luck to all the teams out there this week,

~ The Roto Wizard

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Quality Starts vs. Wins - Which statistic more accurately reflects a pitcher's effectiveness?

Quality Starts vs. Wins

Since Daniel Okrent’s memorable plane flight in 1980 when he created the idea of Rotisserie baseball, the statistics which fantasy baseball players use to measure the success of pitchers has mostly unchanged. Wins, Saves, ERA and WHIP have been used as the main four categories to judge a pitcher’s value to their respective fantasy team. Although those four categories covered enough initially when fantasy baseball was created, due to the rise of sabermetricians, or people who attempt to measure success in baseball through objective evidence, other statistics have been created to measure a pitcher’s overall “worth” to a fantasy team, the most notable being quality starts (QS). The statistic was developed by sportswriter John Lowe in 1985 while writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is as "a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs." 

Cases can be made for both statistics in terms of their viability of use for a fantasy league. Generally speaking, the players with the most quality starts are also those that obtain the most wins on a yearly basis. So what is the benefit to using one more than the other?

The case for W over QS:

Technically speaking, a pitcher who throws six innings and allows three earned runs every start would be a valuable commodity in a league which uses QS as a category. This pitcher in question however would also be sporting a 4.50 ERA, which in the eyes of most analysts is entirely too high to be considered effective (generally speaking an ERA of under 3.20 is considered the ideal). Due to the fact that a pitchers ERA can be much higher than what is considered to be a reasonable standard and still provide worth, some experts believe that a QS is too easy to obtain, and argue that the definition of a QS should be changed to 7 innings rather than 6, or 2ER rather than 3. Even though I personally agree that allowing an earned run every other inning isn’t particularly effective per se, since the statistic has been around for almost 30 years, I doubt that it will change overnight.

QS’s are also much easier to obtain than wins. As an example, ESPN’s 2012 pitching projections forecasted that 14 starting pitchers would accumulate more than 24 QS during the baseball season. Those same projections didn’t place any pitcher above 19 wins (Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander were tied at 19). Since QS’s are easier to obtain than W’s, it is also easier to find a pitcher off of the waiver wire who may help with that category. This in theory would make it easier for a fantasy manager to build a successful staff of effective starting pitchers, while allowing them to focus more specifically on hitting categories.The amount of wins that one MLB team’s pitching staff may accrue for a baseball team is a finite number (generally speaking 40-60, depending on the success of the team. Phillies had ~ 65). Since a pitcher can be credited for a QS even in the event of a loss, there will naturally be a higher number in the market.

Also, the QS category somewhat works against pitchers who tend to go deeper into games but may allow an additional earned run. From a statistics viewpoint, a pitcher who throws a complete game (9 innings) but only allows 4 earned runs has an ERA of 4.00, lower than the 4.50 standard for a QS, but they will not earn a point in the category due to allowing too many earned runs. This counteracts the notion that a QS is an accurate assessment of a pitcher's effectiveness.

The case for QS over W:

The easiest argument against using W as a category is fairly straightforward. A pitcher can perform brilliantly and not be credited with a win, and can be absolutely dreadful and squeak out a win. Case in point? Opening night of 2012 Felix Hernandez pitched against the might of the Oakland Athletics lineup in Japan (yes, that was sarcasm). King Felix finished with the following stat line:

8.0 IP 5H 1ER 0BB 6K

Essentially he held the other team to one earned run all game, but didn’t get credit for a win because Seattle’s offense is one of the worst in the league. On the other hand, we can take a look at the flip-side of the coin. Ivan Nova had a recent start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim where he posted the following stat line:

6.0IP 8H 4ER 2BB 8K

Nova went on to get credit for the win, despite allowing 3 more ER in 2 less innings and not pitching nearly as well.

Since a pitcher can theoretically throw very poorly and still accrue a W, (after all, as long as you give up less runs than the other pitcher, you’re in line for a W if you pitch more than 5 innings), it isn’t a very good measure of a pitcher’s overall effectiveness.

Baseball writers have also started to shy away from using W as the be-all, end-all pitching statistic. The easiest example of this would be examining the Cy Young voting. Over the course of 2001-2008, the average number of W for a Cy Young winner in the American League was 20.75. In 2009 the trend bucked downwards when Zach Grienke of the Kansas City Royals won it with only 16 W, but his other statistics (2.16 ERA, 242 Ks) were incredibly dominant. In 2010 Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young with only 13 wins, but with a 2.27 ERA and 232 Ks. Due to the fact that fans and writers have begun to acknowledge that W’s are (for the most part) out of the pitcher’s control the majority of the time, the practice of solely using W’s to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness is being discarded.

In my estimation, Wins more effectively measures the prowess of a team’s hitters rather than the pitchers itself. Quality Starts more accurately measures the skills of the pitcher. To provide an example, if a team wins 11-10 and at the end of the game both pitchers go the distance, the “winning” pitcher could have a 9.0IP 10ER statline. Is that truly effective? Not necessarily. QS more accurately measures what the pitcher actually allows to happen due to him either performing well or poorly.

Quality Starts also takes into account a team’s defense as well, since it is only based off of earned runs. Unearned runs won’t count against a pitcher. Not all teams are blessed to have a stellar defense like the Tampa Bay Rays, some have to put up with bonehead outfielders like Logan Morrison behind them who turn routine “can of corn” fly balls into an adventure. Since errors are something which the pitcher has no inherent control over (other than his own errors, of course) this is another reason why QS’s more reflect the pitcher specifically, rather than the team as a whole with W’s.

Additionally, a pitcher may be unlucky enough to be going against a fellow ace like Halladay or Verlander when they are locked in. Trying to pitch against someone who goes 8.0 IP and only allows one run or two isn't the fault of the pitcher, its just dumb luck. The opposition has an effect on a W, but not a QS, which more measures the pitcher.


Bottom line? Although it is easier to accrue a quality start than a win, and although the definition of what is truly “quality” or not could use some tweaking, using quality starts instead of wins is a more precise means of interpreting value and success for starting pitchers effectiveness in fantasy baseball. Wins are a highly random endeavour dependent upon luck, defense, a team’s offense and the opposing pitcher’s outing. Quality starts measure purely how many runs a pitcher allowed over the course of an outing, which is a true measurement of how effective they were in that outing, and in a season.