Showing posts with label Fantasy Baseball Strategies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fantasy Baseball Strategies. Show all posts

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tips for Draft Domination

Originally produced for BigLeaguesMagazine  (they're gone now :( ) 

Let history inform your choices
If you have access look back at past drafts and search for trends in your fellow owners. Does one owner consistently draft young lefty pitchers? Does another fixate on much publicized sleepers? Does yet another owner always seem to have the best minor leaguers? Knowledge of your rivals gives you a degree of power over them. Call out the names of players that fit their typical plans early or force them to bid an extra dollar or two. Many owners struggle to adjust when their draft plans go awry. You can be the owner to make that happen. Let history be your guide.

Have a plan…any plan
Even a bad plan is better than not having one. It could be as simple as category goals to reach by the end of the draft (part of most good plans). It could be more complicated than Warren Buffet’s tax returns. The important thing is to have a plan of attack and to do your best to implement it. Owners without some sort of plan are more likely to forget about key players or to mess up their budgeting during an auction. There are tons of ready-made plans you can use, just adjust them to your league and the players available. If you need more ideas perform a web search for fantasy baseball strategies. I love it when a plan comes together.

Be ready to adjust when things do not go your way
Are you one of the more successful owners in your league? In many leagues the best owners will find themselves in bidding wars over any player they show even a smidge of interest in owning. Their rivals can seem more concerned with messing them up than in actually building their own winning teams. Having a decent Plan B can be the difference between a good draft day and disaster. The best way to avoid the need for an alternate plan is to have a plan with built-in options so that you are not easily hurt by those plotting against you. Is that paranoia? Not if they are out to get you.

Get your share of the Top Talent
In any draft there will be a few players that stand above the rest. In keeper leagues it is very possible there are only four or five players available with typical first round value. You should make a point of acquiring at least your share of that top talent and ideally you’ll be able to get someone else’s share of the top talent as well. The better your keeper list the more important this becomes. You do not want owners with weak keepers to be able to catch up to you just by drafting more of the top talent. It is vital to identify the best players available and decide how much of it you need to grab for yourself. Never decide you have enough to win. Be greedy.

Watch the scarce positions closely
Shortstop and second base are very shallow positions this year and though first base is deep the top tier is not deep at all and the fall to the second tier is longer than usual in my opinion. The top tier at first (in whatever order) looks like Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder with everyone in the second tier having some problem or question about their potential production. At second base it looks like Robinson Cano and everyone else. I love Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Kipnis but each has issues that prevent them from being in the top tier. Shortstop is just Jose Reyes and Pray Tulo Stays Healthy. There is nothing wrong with being an elitist in fantasy baseball.

Yes, Starting Pitching is deeper but…
Many experienced owners have long practiced waiting until the mid-rounds to start building their pitching staffs. With the number of great young pitchers on the rise some owners have fooled themselves into believing they can wait until the late rounds to collect starting pitchers. That may be possible in some very shallow leagues but if you want the opportunity to score big in the pitching categories you will need to collect some of the top two tiers of starters rather than settling for the leftovers. The pitchers at the end of the draft may seem a lot better than in years past but the best pitchers are also a lot better. So do not wait too long to get your first few starting pitchers. Unless you like having the worst pitching in your fantasy league that is.

Go ahead and pay for saves
If the top closers – Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte, Rafael Soriano and maybe Jonathan Papelbon – are available go ahead and buy one if the price is not terribly inflated. The closer position is so unstable that getting one of the top three guys could give you a huge advantage over your competition. However, if you miss out on the top three, maybe four, I suggest you wait and take the cheapest options available. Don’t avoid the category altogether in your draft as too many people are watching the waiver wire for possible saves these days. Your goal is to either get the safest options or the cheapest ones. No one likes being in the middle anyway.

Crave power above all things
The big homerun numbers have not gone away completely but when you get past the first two tiers of players the homeruns are just not available the way they used to be. Stolen bases on the other hand seem to be available at the end of drafts. There are more and more players on rosters (some do not even start) that can give you 10-20 stolen bases. Power hitters are much rarer. I like to grab power hitters that steal bases rather than devote any spots to pure base stealers. Those players are obviously much coveted by smart owners. Make the most of your dollars by avoiding the ones that could be batting average liabilities and spending a few more bucks on the best available five category hitters. Power does not just corrupt, it rules.

Stretch your draft day budget to the limit
Plan to own a few one dollar players. I try to create budget depth by planning to have a least one dollar player in each position group – one catcher, one corner, one middle infielder, one outfielder, one starting pitcher and one relief pitcher. This gives me a greater opportunity to own a top tier player in each position group as well. If you plan and execute well your one dollar guys will also be excellent sleepers. I often manage this by drafting young or inexperienced but also potential laden players in those low budget spots. Last season C John Jaso, 3B Kyle Seager, SS Everth Cabrera, OF Michael Saunders, SP Hisashi Iwakuma RP Fernando Rodney were excellent one dollar choices (wow, the Mariners dominated the end game!). Some early picks for dollar spots this season are C Erik Kratz, 2B Matt Carpenter, 3B Brent Morel, SP David Phelps and RP Sean Doolittle. If you can’t be rich, create the illusion that you are.

Dominate the End Game
Owners should attempt to save enough auction dollars to allow you to spend two or three bucks each on your last two or three players. This will eliminate the possibility that you spend the end of the auction getting outbid on players you can only nominate for a buck. At the end of most draft days there are a few players that stand out from the dregs. Perhaps talented rookies or veterans with uncertain playing time are still on the board. Most owners would prefer to avoid drafting the Michael Martinez types out of pure necessity so save a few bucks. Fill your roster with talent at every opportunity. Make your draft good to the very last spot.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Building a Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

By Jon Williams | @bigjonwilliams

Originally written for Big Leagues Magazine Before the start of the 2013 season.

The worst thing you can do going into a fantasy draft or auction you plan to dominate is to go in without a plan. A plan gives your draft day efforts a structure. Your plan should build towards the goal of bringing you a fantasy baseball championship. Without a plan you will make more mistakes on Draft Day. You will choose the wrong players and miss your statistical goals. You can know the player pool as well as anyone but in a competitive league you will lose without a plan. If you have no idea how to put together an effective plan, this is your lucky day.
Build Around Your League Rules
Every draft advice column seems to remind owners to check their league rules. You see it so often because it is of vital importance to winning a league. Slight variations in league rules can cause drastic changes to the value of a given player. Adam Dunn may be just a later round’s consideration in a typical league but in a league that replaces AVG with OBP he becomes a much more important player. In a Head 2 Head league, drafting a balanced team is much less important than in a standard Rotisserie League. In other leagues starting pitchers may be the most important players available. In a 10-team mixed league that drafts just three outfielders per team, outfielders are plentiful. In an AL-only league with 13 teams, that is not the case. Study your league rules and measure the impact those rules will have on your play. Imputing your data into draft day software like RotoLab can make the job much simpler.
Establish and Build Toward Your Goals
My goal is always to win and it never changes. Not every owner likes to play that way, particularly in keeper leagues. Some owners like to rebuild with cheap keepers and minor leaguers until they have a team they feel can win several seasons in a row. In re-draft leagues, I have known owners to build rosters with quirky handicaps such as all lefty pitchers, an All-Visa Team, and no player over 27-years old. Your goal for the draft should match your goals for the season. If you just want to have fun, a quirky draft goal is just fine, but if the goal is to win, save the quirky ideas for a different league.

Whatever your goal, it is important that you commit to that goal for as long as possible. If your goal changes more often than necessary, it will worsen your chances of achieving anything. But there are times during the season when you may have to re-work your season goals. You may decide that you cannot finish first at some point. At that point depending on your position in the standings and the composition of your roster, you might decide that finishing in the money while setting up for 2014 is a more attainable goal. Others may decide to dump their present assets and enter a re-building mode. I am on record saying that re-building is for wussies but there comes a time during a season where setting up for the following season becomes the best option.
Choose Your Keepers Carefully
Your keepers should always fit your overall plans. If they do not fit your plan, you may want to come up with a new plan (or at least trade for players that do fit). You should always rank your potential keepers in the order in which they can help your winning strategy. If you plan to focus on high-average, power hitters to complement your cheap (but great) starting pitching, an “at-value” Prince Fielder is probably a better keeper than your slightly underpriced Garrett Jones. You want your keepers to work with your strengths not against them. Your great starting pitching is less effective if you also keep your one dollar Carlos Zambrano because he used to be your favorite Cubs starter.

Now, just because your primary strategy is built on high-average, power hitters and great starting pitchers, that does not mean that you should toss back your $10 Jean Segura. Segura may not hit for power or much of a batting average, but his indicators suggest his average will not be a negative and his steals potential may make it much easier for you to concentrate on the power hitters during the draft. The same cannot be said about your $15 Everth Cabrera who may steal a ton of bases, but has the potential to pull down your team batting average. It may be possible to account for this drag but a better idea is to trade for a player or players that better fit your strategy. Andrelton Simmons may cost you five extra bucks but also saves you the hassle of trying to balance a bad BA player before the draft even starts.

You also need to study the rosters of your competitors. You should have your best guess at the keepers on the other teams before deciding on yours. This is important because keepers can take a huge chunk out of the potential player pool on several levels. You could find that certain positions are going to be extremely scarce on Draft Day. If ten of the 15 potential closers in your 12-team league are held by the owners of just six teams buying a closer at the draft could get expensive. That might make your $18 Rafael Betancourt a better keeper than you originally supposed. The players you should target should be the players that will help you win. Values and profits are very important but the way they fit into your draft strategy is just as important.
Study the Player Pool
After your league’s keepers have been calculated to the best of your ability, it is time to study the player pool in depth. You need to know what positions remain to be filled on every team’s roster. How many catchers, first basemen, second basemen and so forth will be needed to fill each open spot? In deeper leagues there could be more spots than acceptable players. Understanding the depth available (or not available) at each position will help you prepare a strategy that accounts for positions that may be short on talent. In addition to finding where the talent shortages are, you also want to find where (if anywhere) there might be abundance.
You should be able to find some bargains within the talent abundant positions that make nice targets for your draft plan. Bargains are important because with a limited budget you need to acquire as much talent as possible. The bargains also give you the extra budget to afford expensive superstars. Where there is scarce talent, you will have to prepare to pay a premium. Draft inflation can cause even the bottom tier of talent at scarce positions to cost much more than the value of their stats. Because of this, you are sometimes better off paying for the better talents available at thin positions.
Use League History to Establish Category Goals
The typical strategy here is to plan on finishing third in each category. That is nice. If you meet those goals you will probably field a competitive team with a decent shot at winning. Personally, I advise a more aggressive strategy. Plan to finish first in each category. You probably will not, but that is not the point. The point is to force you to draft not just solid performers, but also more players with upside. Marco Scutaro is a fine player who will help a lot of fantasy teams this year. However, if for the same draft day cost you could draft Jedd Gyorko you may want to consider going with the talented rookie with upside. It does not need to be just rookies either. Assume you have had a fine draft and are entering the dollars days’ portion of the auction. You could be considering names like Delmon Young and Chris Heisey, solid players who should get some playing time. But also available is Jordany Valdespin who is not as established but has a full-time starting opportunity and a minor league record that indicates he has the potential for 15 homers and 20-plus stolen bases with a decent batting average.
The Heart of Your Plan is in the Roster Design
You should choose some player targets at their projected costs whether in auction dollars or draft rounds. Experimenting with various team compositions can help you shape your draft strategy. There are the standard draft plans such as Stars and Scrubs, Spread the Risk, The LIMA Plan, Portfolio 3 and the Mayberry Plan (a web search will provide all the details you need on all of these ideas) and hundreds of plans devised by experienced owners that have no names. But no matter what plan you use to design your eventual roster, you are essentially deciding how many of the following player types you need to roster.
  • Star Players – The studs. These are the best players available. They either contribute to five categories (in standard 5×5 leagues) or are exceptional in three or four categories. Every winning team needs to have their fair share of star players. In a 12 team league if there are 15 star players available you should own two of them. This is where the bulk of a team’s value rests. Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Miguel Cabrera are good examples of Star Players in standard leagues.
  • Potential Breakouts – These players have a solid track record and an established value in fantasy leagues but skills that suggest greater upside–perhaps even the ability to become star players. Every team should own as many of this type of player as possible. Austin Jackson, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Carlos Gomez, Starlin Castro, Stephen Strasburg and Kris Medlin are good examples of potential breakout players.
  • Category Target Players – These players are not stars and usually only excel in one or two categories. Most closers and many speedsters fit into this category. These players are usually used as complements to well-rounded players to meet category goals. You do not need to own players in this category but they are often helpful. Juan Pierre, Everth Cabrera, Brandon League, Huston Street, Adam Dunn and Ben Revere are good examples of category target players.
  • Sleepers – These are players not highly regarded but have skills or a new opportunity or circumstance that suggests their values could rise sharply. Every team should have one or two sleepers as this is the best way to build a team with a value much higher than its cost. That sort of profit is what turns contenders into champions. Jordany Valdespin, Cliff Pennington, Justin Ruggiano, Adam Lind and Logan Morrison are some decent sleepers.
  • Rookies – These players have very little experience in the major leagues if any at all. Most analysts will suggest you avoid rookies as they often underperform their skills. But rookies, like sleepers, can be hugely valuable to a team. When they do perform, their value often far exceeds their draft day cost. Rostering the right rookie at a minimal cost is like purchasing a lottery pick. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are examples of winning lottery tickets. This season, Jedd Gyorko, Jean Segura, Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole are examples of rookies that could pay off big for fantasy owners.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a well-thought-out plan for Draft Day. Executing that plan can be difficult as other owners are certain to covet some of the same players and force you to either pay more or alter your strategies. Consider various options for every component of your plan and the odds of things going drastically wrong shrink. Going into draft day without a plan is planning to fail.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The 2012 Fantasy Baseball Index Expert Poll

I blatantly stole these questions from the 2012 Fantasy Baseball Index magazine's expert poll. Join in the fun by providing your own answers to one, some or all of the questions in the commenting section.

Late round player who will provide early rounds value

AL- Henderson Alvarez

NL-Chris Heisey

Marquee player who will disappoint his owners

AL- Matt Moore

NL- Stephen Strasburg

Closer most likely to lose his job

AL- Jose Valverde

NL- Rafael Betancourt (not because he lacks skills but because the Rockies are already grooming his replacement).

Best value pick at closer

AL- Joakim Soria

NL- Ryan Madson

Rookie of the Year

AL- Yu Darvish

NL- Nolan Arenado

The biggest fluke of the 2011 season

AL - Adam Dunn's lack of power

NL- Allen Craig

2012 Fantasy MVP

AL- Josh Hamilton

NL- Matt Kemp

Convince us that we should spend money (or not) on Yu Darvish. Are we just supposed to ignore that no system for translating performance from Japan to MLB seems to get it right? Is Daisuke Matsuzaka the most important piece of evidence we have or not, and why?

Spend it but within reason. I see Yu Darvish as a potential front line pitcher, a top ten type of guy. I see his downside as still slightly better than league average. In an AL-only I'd be willing to bid into the low to mid 20's.

Darvish's situation is nothing like Dice-K's. Matsuzaka came to the Red Sox and rather than be happy with what they had, they tried to change him into their version of what he should be. They made him change his workout routines, reduced his use of his change-up, and then didn't support him publicly when he failed to be an ace. In addition, Darvish isn't like a lot of japanese pitchers. He doesn't rely on hesitations and other forms of deception.

I also have a ton of faith in the scouting, evaluation and teaching skills in the Rangers organization. They put a lot of work into Darvish and being certain he was the pitcher they wanted to spend 100 million dollars to acquire. This might be the largest factor in my faith that Darvish will perform as expected.

What is your strategy for saves?

I usually refuse to spend top dollar on closers. If a closer or closers don't go into my acceptable range I will just dump saves during the draft or auction. I used to practice buying next year's closers but this strategy has become so popular that it is sometimes cheaper to just pay for this year's saves.

Every expert is still holding out hope for some struggling (or apparently failed) prospect. Who is your guy and why is this his year?

I have a few I'm willing to bet on - Jason Heyward and Brain Matusz are two.

Heyward was hit hard by injuries. He has worked hard this winter. He has radically changed his diet and workout habits for the better. He has tremendous natural talent as well as advanced skills with the bat. With health, those talents and skills should be on display in 2012.

Matusz was, not so long ago, considered one of the better pitching prospects in the game. He suffered a couple of injuries that contributed to his loss of velocity. He re-gained most of his fastball towards the end of the season but the control was still a bit behind. I think he'll be fine. The Orioles believe the same thing if that matters to you.

Fill in the blanks in 50 words or less: Everyone is missing out on ______ (secretly valuable fantasy player) because _______ (esoteric expert reason).

Everyone is missing out on Chris Heisey because of the mistaken belief that Dusty Baker would prefer to play the mediocre Ryan Ludwick instead. Dusty does believe in easing youngsters into starting roles, but he has no problem putting more experienced players on his bench. Ludwick was acquired as depth and protection, not as a better option than Heisey.

Heisey has 20/20 potential this season and even 30/30 if everything breaks right for him. Yet he is being drafted in the very late rounds (if at all). This is the year for the Reds and Chris Heisey.

Which reliever turning starter would you draft first and why?

The candidates have to be Neftali Feliz, Chris Sale, Daniel Bard, and Aaron Crow.

I actually like them all to some degree but the one I am most willing to bet on would be Neftali Feliz. Feliz has the highest ceiling, the most success as a starter in the minors, and the best pitching coaches. I'd take Daniel Bard second, Chris Sale and close third, and Crow brings up the rear.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Free Advanced Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide

As Fantasy Preparation starts to kick into overdrive, I thought it might be helpful to put together a collection of some of this site's more useful articles. Within these links you'll find advice for almost every type of league and a ton of strategy and trade tips. Everything from calculating inflation to building an auction budget to scouting pitchers. So hopefully this post will save you a bunch of time searching the internet, time you can now devote to finding cheap tickets to MLB's Opening Day! This article provides you with info rarely found in most magazines and internet Draft Guides, and it is entirely free.

Building Your Auction Budget

Lucky breaks down his strategy for building the optimal Auction Day Budget. This is one of the keys to fantasy prep that many owners skip - to their detriment.

Auction Strategy and Tactics

This is another of Lucky's Greatest Hits (it looks like he'll have more for you soon, keep those fingers crossed). This article breaks down the auction into its various components and shows you the keys to exploiting those elements to your advantage.

Looking for Wins?

Wins are the most unpredictable category but they still represent ten percent of your potential fantasy points. This article gives you the keys to maximizing your chances at putting more wins on your championship roster.

The Ten Step Non-Wussy Guide to Re-Building Your Fantasy Team

Do you have a weak keeper list after trading your way into a Championship? This article shows that you do not have to take a year or more off from winning if you're willing to put the work into it.

The Secrets of Sustained Success

Why do some owners continually sit at the top of the standings while others only get there once in a while? This article breaks down the elements of sustained success.

Patience is a Virtue for Fantasy Owners

Do you find yourself regretting certain trades or FAAB bids during the season? This article preaches the virtues of patience.

A Quick Guide to Calculating Inflation and Building a Freeze List

So many fantasy owners are overwhelmed by even the idea of inflation. This article makes it easy to understand and implement into your draft prep.

Building A Better Pitching Staff

This article is about Zigging while they Zag. Everyone is using the 70/30 hitting to pitching ratio. If you have been thinking about trying something different, this article may provide some inspiration.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Fantasy Owners

This article takes the ideas of a popular self help book and applies them to your fantasy team. It works better than you may believe.

Ten Fantasy Baseball Trade Secrets

Are you a big trader in your leagues? Even if you are not, this article provides some guidelines to becoming a great trader.

Your Favorite Fantasy Expert Poll

This article isn't about advice so much as who you should listen to. Check out the comments and you may find some great fantasy experts you have not been following.

Auction Keeper League Strategies

Looking for an advantage in your keeper league auction? This article may be the advice that puts you over the top.

Anti-Dumping Strategies

Are dump trades getting you down? Try some of these ideas to make it a non issue in your league.

Winning Takes More Than Player Knowledge

Think you know the player pool better than everyone else in your league but still can't find your name on a championship trophy? Even the very best player analysts need to understand what it takes to win.

Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues

Ask yourself these questions and you may find you start to think differently regarding your freeze list and draft strategy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Deep Head-to-Head Strategy Ideas

I received this e-mail recently:
Hey Jon

I'm being thrown headfirst into the deep end. Having never been in over a 12 team league I draft a terrible slot in my 1st 20 team league. I am open to ANY advice on how to draft from that slot. Setting are below
20 teams but 4 divisions
Scoring Type: Head-to-Head , but no playoffs … regular season winner = winner
Player Universe: All baseball
Allow Draft Pick Trades: Yes
Waiver Type: FAAB w/ Continual rolling list tiebreak
Max Acquisitions per Week: 5
Min Innings Pitched: 15
Roster Positions: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, Util, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, BN, BN, BN, BN, DL, DL
Categories = std 5X5
Thanks in advance,
Big Mike
In my opinion Head2Head is the most difficult style of fantasy to have consistent success. The luck factor in H2H looms larger because of the weekly games. It becomes more important that you roster players that provide consistent production from week to week. It also requires that owners are extremely diligent in setting their lineups. In roto-style leagues, a week of inactivity can pass without incident, that is rarely the case in H2H. You are always looking to maximize pitching match-ups and get two-start pitchers into your lineup.

Five Deep H2H League Strategy Tips
  1. Pitching, Especially Starting Pitching is Emphasized - H2H leagues tend to have a smaller roster of hitters than in roto leagues. Fortunately, Big Mike is not in a points-based H2H league which would make good pitching even more vital. The balance of hitters to pitchers is closer. I would make a greater effort than usual to roster a couple of top starters. Overall, you want safer starters and in a deep league they will run out fast. Readers familiar with would target pitchers with high PQS scores. Simply put, it is about minimizing the potential for disastrous outings.
  2. Take Fewer Risks - As fantasy owners we love the upside of less experienced batters. Guys like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are bound to find a place on the ends of our rosters. But in H2H leagues you want players you can count on. Sure, Harper may hit 40 homers but is as likely to to spend half the year in the minors and to struggle in his initial opportunity. This is not to say you should not take any risks. It is hard to win a fantasy league playing it completely safe. What you want to do is take better risks. Instead of betting on rookies or players coming back from injuries, focus on players who have been productive but who have the skills to do more. One example might be Logan Morrison. Morrison has shown he has the ability to hit for average with above average power but he hasn't displayed all those skills in the major leagues, this might be the season he does it.
  3. Dumping Categories is NOT a Bad Idea - In H2H your aim is to win more categories in a given week than your opponent. In deeper leagues, power has become a scarce commodity. Dumping homers to load up on avg, runs, and steals is a way to gain an advantage during your draft. This strategy would allow you to draft a few top starting pitchers early and build a surplus in 6-7 categories while your opponents struggle to build a more balanced lineup.
  4. Avoid the Injury Prone - I am usually one to draft a Chipper Jones or a J.J. Putz if they come at a discount. However, in deeper leagues the quality of the replacement player is far less. In a twelve-team mixed league I might be able to pick up Placido Polanco or a similar replacement for Chipper (maybe even better) but in a deep league that replacement is more like Greg Dobbs (if you're lucky) and you may have to overbid to get him.
  5. Plot Your Strategy Carefully - For experienced owners, the player pool in a twelve-team league is well known. In a twenty team league, even with smaller H2H rosters, the later rounds can be hazardous when you are breaching that depth for the first time. Avoid targeting specific players but put together short lists for each round so you have a target range. Remember, the deeper the league the more important your initial draft becomes. So do not wing it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Win: The LIMA Plan

The LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) Plan became extremely popular for a while. However, it soon became a less effective strategy for some because the most recommended LIMA pitchers were so hotly desired that they quickly became too expensive to fit within the plan. We zig when they zag, so many of us dropped the strategy. Now, with a few years separating us from the height of the strategy's popularity, it may become a viable strategy again, with a few tweaks.
  1. Go extreme LIMA - Avoid the future closer types and the popular future starter candidates such as Chris Sale and Aroldis Chapman. These guys are too popular to get at a discount. You need to be way ahead of the game to effectively use the LIMA Plan now. The middle relievers you draft should cost you no more than 2-3 bucks each. Here are a few guys to look into that should be pretty cheap: Wilton Lopez, Astros; Joe Thatcher, Padres; Matt Belisle, Rockies; Takashi Saito, Brewers; and James Russell, Cubs.
  2. Screw the Closer - Unless you can get one for dirt cheap, forget about drafting a closer and spend even more on offense. You can trade for a closer later if you don't get lucky on the waiver wire. With offense you should be able to put together, you should have plenty to entice potential trade partners.
  3. Pick Up Young Starters - When you troll the waiver wire look for young starters getting call ups, especially ones being called up after brief demotions. They're usually a lot better the second time around.
You can still win with the LIMA Plan, it just takes a little imagination and stepping away from the guys that everyone else is clamoring after.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Win: The Stars and Scrubs Strategy

Stars and Scrubs is a strategy that a lot of owners use. Essentially an owner will use his available budget to acquire as many star level players as possible. It make s some sense, these arew the players that can often carry a fantasy team for long stretches. The remaining players are the scrubs, very low cost players, the idea is to embrace risk and draft a lot of high upside scubs.

It is a strategy that will often help a team place in the money but not always bring a victory. This is not a weakness of the strategy it is a weakness in the owner's use of it. Here are some tips to make it a more effective strategy.
  1. Scarce Positions - If you're willing to pay top dollar for stars, do it at the positions that will bring you the biggest advantage. This year grabbing the top shortstops is a great strategy. Typically, catcher, and third base are going to be good spots to spend your money as well. I would also grab the top outfielders if you can manage it. Outfield thins out very quickly when 12-13 teams (only leagues) or 15-20 teams (deeper mixed leagues) are grabbing five each.
  2. The Pitchers - I would avoid buying pitchers with my stud money. You should have a pitching budget and a pitching plan that is independent of your offensive plan. Spending 25-plus on pitchers even the best ones is not something I am often willing to do. I personally prefer to have a deep group of $8-15 guys with maybe a $20 "ace" to front things. I always have 2-3 one dollar relief pitchers - even in deep leagues you can manage to grab a few relievers with high strikeout ability for very cheap, you should have a long list of possibilities with you at the draft.
  3. The Scrubs - You also need to have a plan for your scrubs. You don't want to just buy the guys that go cheap. You want specific groups of scrubs. Identify players that will not cost big money that have the potential for career-high at-bat totals, young players with upside and playing time potential. Older veterans with starting roles that fantasy owners are bored with owning. And players returning from long-term disabled list stints. Platoon Players with at least one dominate ability, such as hitting for power or stealing bases. Some ideas: 2B Josh Barfield, Phillies; 3B/OF Alex Gordon, Royals; OF Julio Borbon, Rangers; C Brayan Pena, Royals; OF Jordan Schafer, Braves; 3B Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays; OF Marcus Thames, Dodgers; 2B/OF Ryan Raburn; and SS Jed Lowrie, Red Sox.
Stars and Scrubs is a legit strategy for use in any auction league. Just remember to consider your scrubs just as important as your stars and you can have a championship level auction.

Coming This Week:

Monday Night: How to Win - Still Using the LIMA Plan?

Wednesday Morning: The 2011 All Sleeper League Teams

Friday Night: 2011 Breakout Pitchers

And all sorts of goodness in-between! Don't miss it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Secrets of Sustained Success

Ron Shandler recently wrote a couple of articles devoted to uncovering the formula for consistent success in Fantasy Baseball. He broke fantasy success down to six variables and polled fans and his fellow experts to weigh the importance of each. I won't reveal all of Ron's conclusions. The articles were part of a free preview (I'm not certain if that is still available or not but here are the links):

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part One

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part Two

I find this to be an interesting topic for discussion. In leagues of relative equals (in baseball knowledge and fantasy tactics) any owner can win in a given season. The true challenge is winning year after year after year. This is about finding the key to that sustained success.

1. Better player projections: I do not believe that the difference between occasional success and consistent success has much, if anything, to do with the difference between most sets of projections. I am certain there are some horrible projections available. However, smart owners are probably choosing from the more established options. If you are using projections from Baseball HQ, RotoWorld, RotoWire, Mastersball, Yahoo, ESPN, The Sporting News, Fantasy Pros 911 or any of a dozen others, you are doing just fine.

The key here is to use a set of projections that you can familiarize yourself with well before your draft or auction. You should have at least a general idea of how the projections were generated. It could be a complex formula that incorporates dozens of performance indicators and multiple computer generated algorithms or it could be as simple as weighted three-year averages. As long as you know and understand the process enough to vary from it when it seems logical.

2. Better grasp of contextual elements that affected players: This is the variable that is most important to me. This is how you manage to draft Carlos Silva, Ben Zobrist, Ryan Ludwick, and so forth from year to year. This is also how you know that the Braves will go with Jason Heyward to start the season and that Mike Stanton will have to wait, regardless of their spring performances. This is how you understand that Brandon Wood will get an extended opportunity and Chris Davis will not.

Owners need to know managers and general managers and their tendencies. Every owner who hopes to have consistent success should understand how each team utilizes players on the major league roster and in the minors. You should know which players are likely to be traded and which are virtually untouchable and why. The best owners instinctively know what teams are planning to do in any given situation based on their history and trends.

3. Better sense of value: It is essential that owners know how much a player is worth in their individual league. But it goes beyond knowing that Albert Pujols is typically worth $45. You need to know the value your league places on him as well. If your league refuses to pay more than $40 for any player being willing to say $41 could be a monstrous advantage to you.

Every league has subtle differences in the players they value. My local leagues, the MPRL (American League Only) and CGRL (National League Only) tend to over value the top prospects and young players. They also pay top dollar for the studs, leaving the boring veterans in the middle as excellent bargains. If this is news to you go back to your leagues draft or auction and examine the record for trends you may be able to exploit next season.

4. Better in-draft strategy and tactics: Owners should go into every draft or auction with a plan. While it is not always a good idea to target certain players, many of the best owners I have known plan to acquire players within small groups of the similarly skilled. They also have back-up plans. They exactly what they will do if plan A is not working out. It may not surprise you that this is the area that Shandler's group of experts collectively assigned the most importance.

This is an area I need to strengthen in my own game. I am good at establishing a plan of action. I always have a well-worked plan. My weakness has always been adjusting when things do not go as planned. When plan-A fails I start to take too many chances. I tend to embrace so much risk that winning becomes almost impossible unless I am incredibly lucky. Fortunately, this doesn't happen to me often but it did happen to me in several drafts this season. Owners should always be prepared when things go awry. It happens to everyone.

5. Better in-season roster management: This encompasses FAAB bidding, trades, pick-ups, use of your reserve roster, activating minor leaguers, and replacing disabled players. If your league allows free pick-ups and the constant churning of your roster - this can become the most crucial element in winning. In contrast, if your league allows very little in the way of roster changes this is almost irrelevant and your draft becomes that much more important.

One of the best ways to keep up with your leagues is to set aside a regular block of time everyday to review your leagues. This can be quite quick if you are doing it everyday. I have the bad habit of skipping the review of teams I am less concerned about (no money involved usually). It typically starts with a time cruch and I put things off and a day becomes a week, becomes a month, and so on. I plan on doing better with this in the future by not being in quite so many leagues.

6. Better luck: Any idiot can get lucky and win a fantasy league. Luck plays a huge part in every league. Most of the time injuries, suspensions, slow starts, and off years are just bad luck. Or you might get lucky by picking up Livan Hernandez to ride his hot streak and finding that it lasts the entire season. but luck is not entirely random, you can create your own good or bad luck.

Drafting Mark Teixeira knowing he starts slow is one thing, drafting him, Grady Sizemore coming off an injury, Milton Bradley, Chris Davis, Brandon Wood and Ken Griffey Jr. onto the same team was just asking for trouble. You can often avoid massive amounts of bad luck by using your head in most cases. Know the injury history of your players and don't place too much risk onto one roster.

Good owners will also give themselves the chance to get lucky. Playing it safe will not usually result in a fantasy championship but it requires a smart balance. If you realized that Chris Davis would get the hook if he started slow, using a reserve pick on Justin Smoak is a great risk.

What do think is most important to consistent success?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Fantasy Owners

There is more to being a Champion than having a good draft or making killer trades. They obviously help but if you really want to win you need to adapt the attitude of an effective owner.
  1. Be Proactive - An effective owner is always looking for ways to improve his team. Building an effective team starts at the draft but it is not all about trading after that. Without making snap judgments you need to identify your shortcomings and work to fix them. This is not all about trading. The waiver wire and FAAB are very useful tools that are in place to allow you to fill holes and make small improvements. Even small upgrades can make a large impact over the course of the season.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind - Before the draft or auction, before making a trade, or even making a waiver claim the effective owner knows exactly what he hopes to achieve with any given move. He has considered the consequences and the benefits of his plan. Every move you make should be to further your ultimate goal of winning. If it does not move you towards a championship you should reconsider.
  3. Put First Things First - Do not waste the time you spend managing your team on fruitless pursuits. David Wright may be your favorite player but trading Evan Longoria for him would be a mistake. Realize that your first priority is to win and not to build a collection of your favorite players. All of your focus should be on moving your team towards a championship.
  4. Think Win/Win - Any deals you make should be made without sacrificing the good relationship between you and the other party. Don't use trickery or any other form of deception to complete a deal. Because if you do you may ruin any chance of making further deals with that team. Your trading partner should leave the table satisfied that he accomplished something even if they did not accomplish as much as you did.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood - Before you can make an effective deal you need to understand the needs of your potential trading partner. By providing your rival with what he needs, you increase the opportunity to gain what you in turn require from the deal. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you would make the same deal as the owner of the other team. When you are satisfied from both their perspective and yours, you will have created a good offer.
  6. Synergize - Work to create good relationships with the other team owners. The more open the lines of communication in your league the stronger the league will be as a whole. A strong league has fewer conflicts and misunderstandings. Work with the other owners to write a constitution and set of rules that satisfies all of the owners. Why have rules that a majority of the league does not like? A group of happy (or at least content) owners makes a stronger league.
  7. Sharpen the Saw - Effective owners never stop learning. They constantly investigate new strategies and advanced statistics. They study the players at all levels of competition. They watch baseball and think about the game. Effective owners never think they have an unbeatable strategy because they know that eventually it will be countered. When an owner no longer studies the game he ceases to be effective.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Yankees Re-Boot their Pitching Staff

Sometimes I wonder why the Yankees (and every other big market team) have to see things fail before they make the moves that seem so obvious to me and I'm certain many others. The Yankees finally placed Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list to give him time to re-build his arm strength. Brian Bruney and Cody Ransom also hit the disabled list. They recalled closer of the future Mark Melancon and the talented David Robertson to fill roles in the bullpen. Angel Berroa who looked great this spring had to wait for Cody Ransom of all people to get hurt before getting a job.

I thought it was obvious at the end of the 2008 season that those two players would have big roles to play in the 2009 bullpen. It also seemed as if the Yankees knew it too. But rather than give them jobs to start the season they insist on working with lesser talents and blow a few games before doing what they knew months ago they would do eventually. But maybe I'm missing some subtle ability in Cody Ransom and some skill that Robertson and Melancon were missing that a few weeks in the minor leagues solved...

Owners in American League-only should grab Melancon as soon as possible. He should take over the eighth inning role this season and eventually replace Mariano Rivera as the Yankees closer. David Robertson is another option for the Yankees that I like a lot. He has great stuff and should provide strikeouts in bunches. He has control issues at times like most young pitchers but has shown improvement lately. The Yankees released Humberto Sanchez which seemed unnecessary to me. I can think of a few names I would rather dump before giving up on him. Though again, the Yankees probably have some information I don't. Seriously, they probably do.

Phil Hughes, who I suggested to anyone who listened as a bullpen candidate out of spring training, is expected to get the call on Tuesday to start in Wang's spot. He is probably getting two starts on the road which is not really a bad thing. I sincerely believe that Hughes will never ride a minor league bus again. I'll be picking him up in every league possible. It wasn't so long ago that Hughes was more highly thought of than Joba Chamberlain.

Speaking of Joba...the Yankees need to stop babying him so much. I respect that they want to be responsible with his arm and put restraints on his pitch counts but I think its holding him back. From watching him, I think Joba pitches better when his arm is well stretched. In the bullpen he always seemed to pitch better when he had multiple outings in a week. When he went long stretches his control would leave him. This is not an argument that he should return to the pen. But rather that the Yankees should extend his pitch count a little and stop skipping him in the rotation. I still love Joba as a fantasy option he just won't do much good for fantasy owners or the Yankees until they stop treating him with kid gloves.

Mark Melancon Statistics

Mark Melancon Profile

Mark Melancon Spring Report

Friday, March 06, 2009

Auction Keeper League Strategy

I have received this question so often that I feel it is time to write a post about it:

What is the best strategy to follow in Auction Keeper Leagues if...

The line above is usually followed by phrases such as "if my keepers really suck" or "I only have a few keepers but they are really good" and even "if all the good players are kept."

It is impossible to answer those questions well without a ton of information about the league, the owners, the rules, and rosters. I thought it might prove useful to some to share my own approach. By necessity (and enjoyment factors) I vary the plan a bit in every league. I think it is really boring to have multiple teams with duplicate rosters. I will not present this as a infallible plan. But this should give some of you a way to go and others some ideas to implement with your own strategies.

My Philosophy
KRS-ONE isn't the only one who thinks very deeply. After years of flipping and flopping I finally decided a few years ago that rebuilding in fantasy baseball is for losers. We are not running the Pittsburgh Pirates and unless you're in a very unique league there is no team with a New York Yankees advantage. Go for it. Every season. Rather than try to win every other year (I've seen some owners re-build for multiple years --sick) I try to finish first every year. If I fail to win a championship and finish second and third instead of rebuilding for the following year so be it. This doesn't mean I won't make a trade or pick up a player with the future in mind. You can very successfully do both.

Which Players to Keep
First and foremost, if you want to win do not keep players (aside from minor leaguers of course) based on what they might do in two or three years. Every player you protect should be a contributor to your success right now. While it is important to take a few chances on draft day, your protected list should be as full of as many certainties as possible. If you have young players with future value who you cannot stash in reserve or on a farm roster you must trade them for some present day value or future value that you can stash. If you are as obsessed with young players as I am this can be difficult but you get used to it when it results in winning more often.

The most valuable keepers are usually pitchers. It is much easier to replace the under priced hitter you put back into the available player pool than the under priced starter or closer. I like to keep as many under priced pitchers as possible so I can concentrate on hitters come draft day. I often attempt to trade my borderline hitting keepers for cheap pitching. Some years it works and others it does not. This year in my AL-only I tried to trade for a cheap Kevin Slowey and Phil Hughes.

Set Your Goals High
I often hear owners mention they set goals of finishing third in every category. That's sweet. I set a goal of finishing first in every category. Do I make it? Not usually but I've been damned close. Setting my goals high forces me to draft players with upside potential. This has the extra added benefit of building up my keeper list. It also gives me a little more room to screw up and still finish third in every category.

Building a Strong Roster
I use what is often referred to as a Stars & Scrubs strategy. However, the way I do it it is more of a Stars & Future Stars strategy. I plot out my budget well ahead of time and experiment by plugging various names into the different slots. If I have a very strong keeper list I'll take fewer risks but reach for my biggest upside sleepers. When I have a weaker roster I draft more sleepers but try to limit the downside. John Smoltz has a lot of upside if healthy but has very little downside. Russell Branyan has huge upside but also a pretty miserable downside. I usually split my budgets into 70 percent hitting and 30 percent for pitching. I split my roster into the following fairly obvious groups:

Catchers - I allocate enough here to buy one of the better catchers available. My second catcher will be a younger catcher with offensive potential. A lot of teams are willing to live with whatever two bucks will get them at the catcher position. I would prefer my one dollar guys to be corners and outfielders.

Corner Infielders - I like to have at least one stud at this position, if that stud is a inexpensive keeper all the better. In my optimum situation I end up with a stud, a steady vet and a young player with upside. Corners are usually among the most productive players on your team. This is not the place to be stingy.

Middle Infielders - I like to have a strong middle infield but if money is tight this is the spot I cut dollars from. I always seem to find cheap and productive middle infielders in the end game. I'm okay with drafting the good side of platoons and talented youngsters with bench roles here. Speed is especially easy to draft in the middle infield.

Outfielders - I do not feel comfortable unless I have two stud outfielders. When I have those two studs I grow very willing to take chances in my outfield. The outfield is a good place to do some gambling with your roster because mistakes are fairly easy to overcome. You can also find the widest variety of stats in the outfield.

Utility - When my utility does not need to be a qualifying Designated Hitter (as in a lot of AL-only leagues) I try to match positions with the biggest gamble I'm taking with the rest of my roster. This allows me to more easily replace that player if the gamble fails. I very rarely allocate more than a few dollars to this spot on my roster.

Starting Pitchers - I know a lot of fantasy baseball veterans who refuse to draft more than five starting pitchers. This is usually done as precaution against adding too many bad innings (which is difficult to overcome). I refuse to limit myself to a certain number of starters. I like to have at least five and actually prefer to have seven. This helps me be more competitive in the wins category. To pull this off you have to be careful not to bid on interchangeable fifth starters that appear at the end of a lot of major league rotations.

I usually look for pitchers with the following criterion (but there are always exceptions):
  • At least half a season of major league experience in the books, but the more the better.
  • A career K9 of 7.00 or higher
  • A career Ground Ball rate of at least 40 percent
  • Pitching in front of a strong defensive team (which does not require the team to actually be good)
  • A good minor league resume (majors is obviously better but also more expensive)
Relief Pitchers - Nine times out of ten I refuse to pay for saves. I usually manage to roster a few future closers while they are still cheap. In keeper leagues you have the advantage of looking beyond just the present season. I drafted Heath Bell two years ago and he's been worth rostering both seasons and now he is a closer. In the last two years in addition to Bell I've drafted Chris Perez, Joey Devine, Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Qualls, Frank Francisco, Matt Lindstrom, and Grant Balfour. More often than not for less than five dollars each. In almost every case they have been worth owning well before they became closers.
Drafting future closers has usually been about drafting relievers with dominating stuff in bullpens with shakey, old, or injury-prone closers.

How to Stretch Your Budget Further
Never spend your available cash on mediocrities.. This is the kiss of death to fantasy teams. I buy the best talents available within my budgetary limits. I always place talent above roles. I would prefer to spend one dollar on talented Orioles starter David Pauley fighting for a job than on Jarrod Washburn who has a spot gift wrapped for him.

For every full price David Wright or CC Sabathia on my roster I plan to have a one dollar player. This will make it seem as if you have a lot more money to spend on the middle of your roster. If you find more bargains use any extra money on the middle of your roster rather than eliminating the one dollar spots.

Not every player needs to be an immediate everyday hitter like left fielder Ryan Braun is for the Milwaukee Brewers. For example, a player such as shortstop Emmanuel Burriss may not have a full-time role for the San Francisco Giants as the 2009 season begins but he is still likely to make a significant contribution to the fantasy teams that draft him. If he receives just 250 at bats he could steal 25 bases. At the right price a part-time player who contributes is worth rostering.

If you pay full price for a star batter be certain that said player will contribute in every statistical category. If you pay $35 dollars for a player you don't want him hurting your batting average. This is not to say that every player must contribute to every category. I'll roster a .250 hitter or two I just demand a discount.

Some Quick Auction Tips
The following bullet points are taken from my RotoExperts article "Dominating the Auction Draft" which is available for free as part of the RotoExperts Draft Kit if you register (again for free) as a member of the site. The article is a very good compliment to this one.
  • Vary your bidding style between frequent small increments and sudden big jumps. This will keep your rivals off balance and unable to anticipate when you are truly interested in a player.
  • Bid on as many players as possible. This will make it difficult for your rivals to discern your ultimate strategy.
  • You will hear that you should never nominate players you really want and you will hear that you should never nominate players that you do not want. Ignore these people and mix it up.
  • Hold off nominating your sleepers until most of the money is off the board. But do it before you run out of money yourself.
  • Follow your instincts. There is nothing worse than having regrets after a draft.
  • Draft players with upside potential, these are the players that have huge breakouts.
  • It is okay to pay for saves, just do not overpay.
  • Reserve some money and roster spots for the end game, there are always bargains at the end of an auction.
  • Watch the other owners as much as possible, everyone has a tell.
  • You are not running the Pittsburgh Pirates, there is no need to waste a whole season in re-building mode – just go for it.
  • Do not overpay for rookies, especially pitchers, no matter how highly touted.
  • However, do not avoid rookies altogether, a large percentage of breakout seasons come from rookies.
  • With everyday players, it can be beneficial to draft a mediocre player if he has guaranteed playing time. The more at-bats you can roster the better you will do in Runs and RBI.
  • Avoid starting pitchers without quality skills. They collect too many innings and drag down your ERA and WHIP.
  • The point of all this is to have fun, so do it.



Friday, February 13, 2009

Diamond Draft - Advanced Fantasy Baseball Software

I first received the Diamond Draft software a few months ago. had just purchased the rights to Diamond Draft and logically wanted their writers to become familiar with the new product. I have to say that my first impression was that it was lacking graphically. There are not many fancy visual effects. But over the course of the last three months I have used it for three different leagues -- a 20-team mixed 5x5 draft, an AL-only 5x5 auction, and an NL-only 5x5 auction. Diamond Draft has been a cinch to use and made the work of the draft and auctions a lot simpler.

Diamond Draft has proven to be an immensely valuable pre-draft tool. By entering the parameters of your league and any keepers there may be you eliminate the need to calculate inflation and cross names off of your draft list. Diamond Draft also provides you with three years of stats for every player and an extensive list of minor leaguers for those leagues that have farm systems. Every player has a projection (updated weekly) that covers includes every statistic from singles, doubles, and triples to Total Bases, OPS, and sacrifice flies. If you don't like a projection just change it. You can also highlight players in various colors to assist with your draft strategy. So, if you were using the LIMA Plan you could highlight LIMA pitchers in magenta (or whichever color you like), sleepers in blue, injury risks in red and so forth. Check out this video on using the edit screen. There is a video for almost every function available.

I have primarily used pen and paper for the 20-something years I have been involved in fantasy sports. I think it is vital to track every team's roster and budget as well as the in-draft inflation. Doing this by hand has gotten much easier over the years but it is a bitch to do. Diamond Draft handles all of this which gives you more time to look your rivals in the eye (an underrated necessity of Advanced Fantasy Baseball).

I have used a few different brands in the past and while I have nothing bad to say about them I have always gone back to my pen and paper method. One of the main reasons is I hate spending $60, $75, and even $100 dollars on software only to need to spend close to the same amount again the following season. Diamond Draft offers most of the functionality of those packages for just $34.95.

Partial List of Diamond Draft Features
  1. Drag and Drop Functionality
  2. League Overview Screen
  3. Position Overview Screen
  4. Team View Screen
  5. Points Total Screen
  6. Depth Chart Screens
  7. Position Eligibility Screen
  8. View/Edit Screens
  9. Assign Players to a team from anywhere in the program
  10. Warning Signs (overbid, position eligibility, all players drafted)
  11. Multiple Leagues
  12. Select from multiple databases
  13. Printable Reports
  14. Laptop Battery Monitor
  15. Screen Captures
  16. In-program Calculator
  17. An Amazing Help Screen
  18. Add Players to the Database
  19. An amazing array of sound effects (including the ever popular crickets)
  20. Add your own sound clips
  21. Search Function
  22. Select from various player pools (by league, undrafted, minor leaguers, MLB plus Free Agents
  23. Choose which stats to display
  24. Add Players to the depth charts
  25. Move players in the depth charts
  26. Complete Set of Projections
  27. Edit or Enter your own projections
  28. Wide array of instruction videos
  29. Forum Support at the Forums
  30. Half the price of similar products!!!
That is just a sampling of the functions of Diamond Draft. There are functions within the functions, a complete list would be a mile long. Believe me when I tell you this is an addictive toy that will not only help you prepare and dominate your draft but provide you with a hundred ways to waste time at work and at home! If I didn't think it was worth it I would not be posting this. I will personally assist you with any problems you may have. I am always just an e-mail or post comment away.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Monday, February 09, 2009

Anti-Dumping Strategies

Few aspects of fantasy baseball have created as much controversy and discussion as anti-dumping rules. Fantasy team owners take advantage of their also-ran status to trade away their expensive studs and expiring contracts for under priced veterans, rookies, and minor leaguers. The owner dumping his present season is hoping to gain an advantage in the next one. The owner benefiting this season is willing to trade cheap keepers to improve his chances of a championship. Message boards from one end of the internet to the other have hosted the debate. Is it more important to protect the integrity of the draft and good team management or to protect the ability to trade freely as in real baseball? Should poorly managed teams benefit from trades with aggressive contenders at the expense of other contenders? Are dump deals a form of collusion or is rebuilding your fantasy franchise via dumping a right worth protecting? Regardless of your answers, most leagues have instituted rules to prevent dump deals or at least limit them.


The most commonly adopted rules have been an In-Season Salary Cap and a system for vetoing unpopular deals. These rules, however well intentioned, are flawed. A salary cap prevents an owner from moving a large amount of salary for a smaller amount. This might put a severe drag on dump deals but it also prevents many perfectly fair deals. Why should an owner with the expiring contracts of Chad Billingsley $10 and Jose Reyes $17 be prevented from trading for $40 Carlos Lee and $45 Matt Holliday? Even worse than preventing owners from making fair deals is allowing other owners or even just the league’s commissioner to decide if the trade should be allowed or not. Compare it to the Boston Red Sox given the power to decide if the New York Yankees can complete a deal with the Houston Astros. A trade that seems unfair can often greatly reward the owner making the questionable deal.

Fantasy leagues cannot afford to ignore the owners that despise dumping. If a majority of owners would like to prevent such trades, leagues must take action or their futures become endangered. A Google search will reveal thousands of owners who left their leagues because their rivals took a different stance on dumping. However, it is just as important that a league consider their solutions carefully. An overly aggressive solution can make the league less fun for those owners that like to make frequent trades. The best solutions will encourage all owners to finish as high in the standings as possible. If league members at some point discover that finishing in a money position is impossible, then that owner should also see the value in finishing seventh or even eighth rather than eleventh or twelfth.



Fortunately, good solutions exist. A very simple solution that works well in conjunction with other solutions is changing the order of minor league and reserve picks. Rather than simply using the reverse of the standings as your draft order, reward the owner that finishes in the highest non-money position with the first pick in your supplemental drafts. Dole out the remaining picks in a similar fashion, with the second pick going to the next highest placed team and so on. The teams in the money would receive picks in reverse of the standings after the non-money teams. The teams finishing out of the money still receive the best minor league/reserve picks, but in a twelve-team league, that has prizes for the first six spots, the seventh place team receives a reward for its superior effort.


Every league should have a trade deadline in place but often it is late in August. A great change to make moves the deadline for uninhibited trading to a week after the Major League Baseball trade deadline in July. During the month of August, owners can trade with teams within two spots of them in the standings. The late July deadline limits dumping by taking place before most teams’ elimination from contention. The limited trading in August allows teams to make the small adjustments that injuries and MLB transactions make necessary without allowing the drastic trades between the second place team and the last placed team.


By far the best solution to dumping is instituting a Three-Year Championship. This rule’s intention is to reward the owners that are continually high in the standings over a three-year period. Leagues that charge dues can set aside a small portion each season as a prize. How much to set aside would depend on how much would motivate teams to battle for every homerun or stolen base. At the end of three seasons, simply combine the total stats from each season and rank the teams accordingly. Reward at least the top three teams with a prize and you will have teams that would have dumped previously battling to finish as high as possible every season. This increased competition is the very best drag on dumping.

Implementing these three very simple rules will not only drastically lessen the number of dump trades but also create a more competitive atmosphere around your league without ruining the fun of those owners that like to trade. With owners battling for more prizes, improved draft picks, and more of the pot, participation increases and leagues become tougher, which is more fun for everyone involved.

Follow me on Twitter: @BigJonWilliams

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues

Every season owners in keeper leagues spend weeks if not much longer agonizing over which players on their rosters should be kept. Should they keep just the huge bargains or is a $45 Alex Rodriguez or $31 CC Sabathia too good to pass up? How do you decide? Every league is going to be different. In some leagues a $31 Sabathia is a huge bargain, in others it is the height of stupidity. Today I give you ten criterion to consider as you struggle through these decisions.
Ten Questions to Consider in Keeper Leagues
(In no particular order)
  1. Was it a fluke? A fluke could be a great season or a lousy one. Look at the player's progression over the last few seasons. Does the last season fit in that progression? I like to look at BB percentage, K percentage, GB/LD/FB percentages, HR/FB and BABIP for hitters. For pitchers K/9, BB/9, GB/LD/FB percentage, BABIP, and FIP. These are the factors in a players performances that are usually consistent from season to season. If they are a young player making steady gains then a great season can be expected. If their rates have been steady and were basically the same during a disastrous (or wondrous) season there is reason to believe the performance could have been a fluke.
  2. Would the player help you more from the Draft Pool? A $28 Josh Hamilton may not seem like much of a bargain on the surface. But if your league has significant inflation and Hamilton is certain to cost $40-45 or even more if you let him go, then be becomes a serious candidate to be kept, traded, or placed back in the pool. If you don't like his price compared to his expected performance then a trade should be attempted. Remember, just because you don't like a guy doesn't mean that others will not. Try to get his inflated value in a trade. Placing the player back in the pool can also be a good option if you believe he will be overbid. If one of your oppoenents will spend 15-20 dollars more than you believe a player will be worth that gives you an advantage over that owner (assuming that you're right).
  3. Is the player acually good or just cheap? Your five dollar outfielder may typically earn five dollars but that doesn't mean he's worth keeping. One of the most valuable commodities you have are your roster spots. You should be attempting to fill each and every spot with as much value as possible. To commit to a player with an extremely limited ceiling robs you of the chance to find a significant bargain at the end of your draft. Every season in every league there are players who come out of nowhere to become fantasy studs. If you keep every Willie Bloomquist you have at value you rob yourself of the chance to roster late round bargains like the 2008 versions of outfielder Carlos Quentin, starter Cliff Lee, or catcher Kelly Shoppach.
  4. Could you throw the player back and get him for the same price? In most leagues there is a limit to how long you can keep a player. If a player would basicly go for the same price that you have on him now, why not re-draft him and keep him longer. You might get him cheaper if he's called out at the right moment. By the same token he could end up going for more if you've read the market incorrectly. But if the player is someone you like long term it could be worth it for a longer term of service.
  5. Who else is available? You could own a perfectly fine shortstop but if there are several vastly superior options and you clog your only available shortstop slot you'll be cutting yourself off from any potential bargains. It is a good idea to keep your roster flexible so if for some unexplainable reason the bidding on Troy Tulowitzki stops at $7 you can pounce all over it.
  6. What does your budget look like in relation to the players you need? If you are spending 60 percent of your budget do you alsoH have at least 60 percent of the production you need to win the league? Can you get the remaining 40 percent that you need with what you have left? One of the things I always do before declaring my keepers is to calculate how much of the value I need is provided by my keepers. I'm usually not satisfied with 40 percent of my budget for 40 percent of my needs. So I tend to throw back players that are not bargains, even if they are at value. The exception being players at the top of the position rankings - I'lll keep an at value Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright and so forth but not an at value Derek Jeter, Trevor Hoffman or Bobby Abreu. The point is to pack as much value on your keeper list as possible balanced with keeping as many of your resources available for the auction as possible.
  7. Are the types of players you need available? In keeper leagues the player pool can take strange turns. There could be just one available closer and only one or two top tier outfielders. If that is the case you might need to keep a mediocre closer or alter your strategy to avoid closers altogether at the auction. Maybe the pool is woefully short on power. You may need to keep a slightly overpriced A-Rod to ensure you reach the stats you need. It is vital that you compare the needs of your team to the players available in the auction. If there are too few options you may have to make some changes to your keeper list or to your auction strategy.
  8. Who are your opponents keeping? You need to know who is in the player pool in order to make the best decisions on your keeper list. To do this you have to guess who your rivals are keeeping. In one of my leagues I've known owners to just call and ask. Usually I don't mind sharing this information to an extent. I tell the players I'm considering keeping and let them narrow it down themselves -- of course assuming that they'll do the same for me. This will help you figure out not just who is in the player pool but also what they might cost. This is extremely valuable knowledge.
  9. How much is the inflation in your league? Calculating a rough estimate of the inflation in your league before keepers are declared can give you edge on the rest of the league. It will help you figure out what the players in the pool will cost while you still have the ability to alter your keeper list.
  10. Can you win with this as your core? Your keeper list needs to provide you with a base of stats you can build on. This isn't the time to take chances. You look for upside in the auction. You need your keeper list to be as full of sure things as possible. However, just because Joe Blow expert with the magazine article doesn't like a guy doesn't mean that he isn't a sure thing, if you believe that he is. But you need to be honest about the size of the risk you are taking. If the player in question only costs a buck and you aren't keeping him ahead of anyone better then that should be fine. But if the player in question cost $22 and he has yet to experience major league success and nothing but a hunch suggests that he can this season, you need to look at things again.
Do you have other questions you ask yourself or items to consider when forming your keeper list? If so, please share them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Importance of Defense in a Fantasy Baseball Context

If I preach about anything on this blog one of them is putting things into the proper context. David Golebiewski at has posted a terrific series of articles that examine how the defense of the Texas Rangers and the improvement of Edwin Jackson, and also the new and improving defense of the Seattle Mariners fit into fantasy baseball context. This is great stuff that you should read.

Rangeless Rangers Compound Pitching Problems

So, the vast majority of Texas’ starters were crappy, regardless of dimensions of their home ballpark. That’s not breaking news. However, the Rangers’ fielders did those starters no favors in 2008. While Texas featured some heavy hitters, several prominent players were lethargic with the leather.

David Appelman recently added yet another great feature to this site: Ultimate Zone Rating. Using a fielding model developed by Mitchel Lichtman, UZR allows us to calculate how many runs above or below average a fielder is per 150 games played (for further details and discussion, look here). Perusing the Texas team page, it becomes apparent that while the Rangers’ offense is strong up the middle, some of those runs are punted back on defense (and, in Young’s case, on offense as well):

CF Hamilton: -12.6 UZR/150
2B Kinsler: -4.4 UZR/150
SS Young: -3.7 UZR/150

This is especially significant with all of the young and extremely talented pitching about to come out of the texas Rangers minor league system. It also helps to explain why so many pitchers fail in Texas only to make dramatic improvements elsewhere. The Park Factors and Bad Defense combine tocreate a worst-case scenario for pitchers in Texas.
Trade Fallout: Jackson Jumps to Motown
In 2007, Jackson posted a 4.90 FIP. In 2008, despite the huge difference in ERA, that FIP figure remained static (4.88 FIP). While he knocked off over a walk per nine innings from his line (from 4.92 BB/9 in ‘07 to 3.78 BB/9 in ‘08), his strikeout rate dipped considerably, down from 7.16 per nine in 2007 to just 5.3 in 2008.

It wasn’t really Jackson that improved, but rather the defense around him. The dramatic shift in the quality of Tampa’s D has been well chronicled. After posting a gruesome -54.2 UZR in 2007, the Rays skyrocketed to +70.6 in ‘08 (for those of you scoring at home, that’s about a twelve-and-a-half win swing). Jackson’s BABIP was .351 in 2007, but with the best defensive squad in the majors flanking him in 2008, that number dropped to .301. He also benefitted from stranding 76.1% of runners on base, well above his 69.7% career average.

This makes the Tigers acquisition of Jackson even more interesting. The Tigers have improved their defense this offseason but is it enough to allow Jackson to stay at the level he reached last year? If it is and Jackson can increase his strikeout rate and maintain or even improve his BB/9 from last season we could be looking at a real breakout.
Meet the Mariners’ New Outfield D
As a whole, the M’s outfield was -25.5 runs below average by UZR and -15.2 runs by the Plus/Minus system (the big difference in RF is due to Dewan’s system liking Ichiro’s work there and UZR rating it as slightly below average).

Now, take a gander at the new-look Seattle D. For the sake of making this comparison easier, let’s assume that:
1. Chavez, Gutierrez and Suzuki all make 150 starts and play 1350 innings apiece.
2. The fielding metrics compiled by Gutierrez are docked 15% (it’s far from perfect, but it’s an attempt to account for the added difficulty of playing center), and Chavez and Suzuki play to the levels that they have shown in the corner spots during their respective careers. For Chavez, I added his equally stellar work in RF to his projection to make the sample size larger (the majority of his career has been spent in center).

LF Chavez: 20.3 UZR/150
CF Gutierrez: 18.3 UZR/150
RF Suzuki: 7.3 UZR/150

If this trio plays 150 games, they project to be nearly 46 runs above average with the leather. Compare that with the embarrassing work done by last year’s Ibanez-fueled, molasses-covered group: if the M’s get league-average defense from their extra outfielders (filling out the additional 12 game gap), that’s a swing of over 70 runs in outfield defense, or seven wins (!)

An improved defense as well as an improved offense means good things are in store for the Seattle Mariners pitching staff. I'm especially intrigued with the improvement that is possible for Felix Hernandez.
Read All of The Above Articles - what I've sampled for you is just that.

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