Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who is Cory Luebke?

I recently received an email from a fellow owner in the ottoneu FanGraphs Experts League inquiring about this potential trade: I give up Neftali Feliz ($21), Kyle Farnsworth ($2) and Jason Bourgeois ($1) for Micheal Pineda ($15) and...Cory Luebke ($1). Attached to Luebke's name was this comment: "Arguably my most valuable keeper!!!"

My immediate reaction was, "Wait, who is Cory Luebke?" I know that Luebke is a pitcher on the Padres, but there was nothing that made me think, "Yeah, Pineda is solid, but my goodness, I can get a $1 Cory Luebke?!"

Sure enough, Luebke's raw numbers are fantastic this year - 2.91 ERA (with a 2.98 xFIP to match), over 9.5 K/9, under 2.5 BB/9.  Sure his BABIP (.254) and LOB (71.9%) are a bit low but a K:BB ratio of nearly 4:1 will make you feel much better about that.

But there are a couple concerns I see immediately: 1) Luebke's minor league numbers leave no suggestion that anything like this is possible and 2) those numbers are not purely starter numbers - he made 29 relief appearances this year as well. Is Luebke a a one-year phenomenon, a great reliever but only decent SP, a top-of-the-rotation kind of guy? And is he arguably the other owner's most valuable keeper?

Let's start with the relief vs. starter numbers. Luebke started the year as a reliever before being moved to the rotation back in June, and he was a very effective reliever - 2.96 xFIP, 9.92 K/9, 3.46 BB/9 as a relief pitcher. Moving to the rotation should force him to back off a little - he needed to mix in more pitches, he would have to pace himself, he would face guys 2-4 times a game instead of once. Clearly, his numbers would have to take a fall.

Well, 11 starts later, the opposite has happened. His BB/9 has improved to just 1.90 BB/9. His xFIP has barely faltered, rising to just 2.98. His K-rate has been the biggest drop off, falling all the way to a Lincecumian 9.36 - placing him 8th among qualified starters this year. His 4.93 K/BB ratio as a starter ranks 4th, with only Halladay, Haren and Greinke above him.

Looking closer at his pitches, it isn't surprising that the fall has been so limited (if you can call it a fall at all). As a RP, Luebke relied on a fastball and slider, with the fastball about 25 runs above league average and the slider around 6 above. As a point of comparison, Roy Halladay's best pitch is his cutter, which is about 18 runs above average this year, followed by his curve which clocks in around 13 and his splitter, which is just over 9. Luebke threw the four-seam fastball 56% of the time and the slider 34% of the time out of the pen. He also mixed in the occasional change (6.8%) and two-seamer (2.5%).

When he came to the rotation, you would expect Luebke to mix in his other pitches more, but the opposite happened. The four-seam fastball jumped to almost 70% of his selection, at the expense of his slider, which he dropped to 23%. The change and two-seamer remained just over 7% combined.

Just as importantly, his velocity hasn't taken a hit with the longer outings. As a RP, his fastball sat at 91.1; as a SP, it's at 91.5. His slider went from 82.7 to 83; the change from 83.2 to 84.8, and the two-seamer from 91.6 to 91.1. Basically, he is the same pitcher as a SP as he was in a relief role - same pitches, same velocities. He just uses his best pitch - the four-seamer - more often.

Having only made 11 starts, my next concern was that only really using two pitches as a starter will come back to bite him when a team sees him the second or third time. It certainly isn't definitive data, but on two separate occasions, he has made back-to-back starts against the same team. First, on July 7 and 16 he faced San Franciso, then on August 11 and 16 he faced the Mets. Here are the lines from those four starts:

7/7   6IP 2ER 8K 1BB 5H 1HR
7/16 7IP 2ER 5K 1BB 4H 1HR
8/11 5IP 2ER 8K 4BB 3H 0HR
8/16 6IP 1ER 5K 3BB 3H 0HR

And really...not much to see here. His K's dropped in each of the second starts, and for some reason the Mets draw endless walks against a guy who walks no one, but other than that - pure consistency.

So the transition to starter has gone a-ok, it seems. And there is nothing to suggest that it's a fluke, although there might be evidence for a drop in K-rate moving forward, as teams adjust. What about his minor league numbers?

Nothing in his track record suggests he had a top-of-the-rotation future. Kevin Goldstein ranked him #10 in the Padres system this year and said he's a "Fourth of fifth starter, but he's already there." Marc Hulet on FanGraphs was a bit more optimistic, ranking him #3 (although this was before the influx of Boston prospects in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez) and saying, "Luebke has the potential to be a solid No. 3 starter." Clearly neither saw this kind of a breakout.

And why should they? Luebke hasn't struck out over 9 per 9 IP since 2007 in A-ball (not counting 17.2 MLB innings in 2010). Since then his strike out rates have been mostly in the 6-7 range. Facing more advanced hitting in AA and AAA, Luebke posted solid FIPs (3.83 in AA in 2009, 2.84 in AA in 2010, and 3.91 in AAA in 2010), but nothing spectacular. His k-rates were very consistent - from 6.87 to 7.03 during those three stints in the high minors), but nothing like his MLB numbers. His walk rates were even better than they have been in the bigs, often under 2 per 9 and almost always under 3 per 9 throughout his minor league career.

Looking back, we see a decent prospect - an almost sure-thing ML starter but with a ceiling at #3 or lower and certainly no ace. Looking at 2011, we see an ace. But what about September and beyond?

As you would guess from his track record (and as hinted at by the second starts vs. NYM and SFG), ZiPS rest-of-season projection sees Luebke dropping his k-rate by a lot - all the way to 7.43, which is still pretty darn good. ZiPS also expects some normalization in his BABIP (up to .304), but even with these adjustments, the projected ROS FIP is 3.53 - not his sub-3.00 numbers so far, but still nothing to sneeze at.

My best guess is that, moving forward, that ZiPS projection is just about right on. He'll strike some guys out (although probably not at a top-ten rate moving forward), he'll keep his walks down (I actually think the 3.13 projected by ZiPS for the rest of the year may be high) and he will probably post ERA's above 3 but below 4 - and my guess is that with a little help from PETCO, it will be closer to 3 than 4.

So who is Cory Luebke? Well, he isn't the Cy Young candidate he has pitched like in these 11 starts, but he also isn't the back-of-the-rotation guy that most people projected. The Padres seem to have a #2 on their hands, and if you are considering him for fantasy, he is well-worth owning and keeping. His value will be hurt by a lack of wins with San Diego, but at $1 - I probably should grab him in this trade while I have the chance.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beating the Deadline: Prepping for Vote Offs

One of the unique rules in the ottoneu universe is the arbitration process. At the end of each season, every owner in each league has the right to vote for one player on each other team, and the player from each team with the most votes is booted from the team and enters the free agent pool. When the annual auction occurs, the team that previously owned that player gets a $5 discount on him. 

For example, last year, in the original ottoneu league, I picked up Jose Bautista early in the season for $1 hoping to ride his hot streak and then cut him or use him as a useful backup at 3B and OF. Instead, weak-hitting Jose Bautista became MVP-candidate Jose Bautista, and by the time the season ended, Bautista was widely considered a top 5-10 OF. 

Whether he was a one-hit-wonder a la Brady Anderson or a Raul Ibanez-style late bloomer was up for debate, but what was not up for debate was my fellow owners allowing me to keep Bautista for $3. His value was clearly far greater than that and, sure enough, Joey Bats was voted off my team. When the pre-season auction came around, bidding on Bautista went up past the $30 mark, another owner bid $35, I bid $36...and that was it. But, because Bautista was the guy voted off my team, I got a "hometown discount" and have him on my roster at $31, instead of $35. 

Pretty simple, right? But this actually creates an interesting strategic opportunity for ottoneu owners. With the season winding down (and the trade-season REALLY winding down), what is the best way to take advantage of this rule? I've basically seen three strategies:

1) Collect as many arbitration-worthy guys as possible. This is by far the most common move for owners falling out of contention. You are collecting guys who are under-priced and worth keeping - guys who are likely to get voted off are the cream of this crop. Since each team only loses one player to arbitration, not only does having, say, 5 of these guys mean that you get to keep 4, but it also increases the variability in the voting and makes it more likely that something odd happens. Last season, ottoneu founder Niv Shah had a number of guys worth voting off, which spread the votes thin and allowed Jhoulys Chacin to sneak away as his arbitration player. A number of other highly underpaid players slipped through and, while Niv is still in a rebuilding mode, having Chacin voted off was barely a blip for him (he re-signed Chacin for $8).

2) Trade away vote-off candidates to stock up for the current year. Less common, but quite effective when it works. Last year, I did just this, moving Shin-soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, both of whom were signed for under $10. Interestingly, I probably could have kept both of them with no risk, since Bautista eventually became an obvious arbitration candidate, but I needed help in other areas and at the time those guys a) had high value to other teams and b) were likely to be voted off anyway. The reinforcements I received helped me win the league.

3) Hold onto (or trade for) one obvious arbitration candidate in order to protect other guys on your team. This is maybe a version of #1 above, but a bit different. Rather than spreading your risk over a number of guys, this is about getting one guy who you are 100% sure will be voted off, and using him as a sacrificial lamb, protecting your other players. If you have Justin Verlander for $5 (and I am sure you do), he WILL get voted off. There may be some temptation to trade him since he is gone anyway, but holding him guarantees that your $15 Curtis Granderson is safe. 

I bring this up in part because I find myself in a strange position in the original ottoneu league right now. I am in 4th place, just outside the top three and within spitting distance of a second place finish. There seems to be consensus that my two most valuable trade chips are the aforementioned $31 Bautista and a $12 Jered Weaver. If I were willing to part with one of these two, the return would be huge.

Bautista, while easier to trade (he is a good deal at $31 but not an incredible deal), is also almost guaranteed to not be my arbitration player for a second straight year. Yes, he would go for more like $45 in auction next year (just a guess), but even if I paid him $45 (meaning the auction ends at $50), this would only represent a $12 increase in price vs. what I would otherwise have paid. If Weaver goes for $45, this is a $31 increase over the raise he would naturally receive.

Weaver, however, is not the guy I think should be voted off my team (for competitive reasons, I am going to keep my opinion quiet, although you can feel free to guess in the comments). As a matter of fact, I think he is, in some ways, the sacrificial lamb I mentioned in strategy three above. He will get voted off and protect at least one and maybe two players I think are more worthy of that particular honor.

So what strategy do I take? With about 3 days left before the trade deadline, do I move Weaver for the biggest haul I can get, possibly add a guy like Verlander, plus another piece or two that would put me over the top in 2011? Or do I hold him, let him get voted off and keep my more valuable players in place?

As of right now, I am leaning towards the latter. I think my team can get over the hump and into the money without reinforcements and I would rather protect my team a bit for 2012 if I can. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trade Recap: original ottoneu

A quick recap of a trade I made about a week ago in the original ottoneu league:

I moved Wilin Rosario (Catcher in AA with Colorado, .284 OBP, .437 SLG, 16 HR, 41 R this year) and Brett Jackson (OF in AAA with the Cubs, .384, .521, 4, 13 in just 20 games) for Nick Swisher.

Here was my thinking on the deal - I am currently in third place and in very tight races in all four offensive categories (OBP, SLG, HR, R) and was starting some weak OF lately (BJ Upton, Martin Prado, among others) while waiting on Allen Craig and Luke Scott to return. Scott is now done for the season and Craig keeps getting pushed back (not to mention there is no guarantee he gets playing time in St. Louis anyway). I put out feelers for outfielders and one of the opportunities that came up was to grab Swish.

Without a doubt, this makes me better this year, and I don't think the price was too high. I like Rosario more than I probably should based on his numbers, but he is still only 22 and has tremendous power for a catching prospect. His walk rate is way down this year and he clearly needs to work on his approach, but just a year ago he had an OPS of .894 in AA. However, I am feeling pretty good about my current starting catcher (Miguel Montero) who only costs me $2 more than Rosario ($4 for Rosario, $6 for Montero). Assuming Rosario develops, he won't have a real impact until 2013 at the earliest, at which point he will likely cost $7 while Montero will cost $10. No reason to sweat losing Rosario.

Jackson is a different story. As I said, I have been struggling to field a strong OF this year and while I have one stud bat locked up for next year (Bautista at $31 this year, $33 next), there are a lot of question marks behind him. Pence at $19 this year has been good, and I probably keep him at $21 in 2012. Matt Joyce and Marlon Byrd are cheap, but one has been fading and the other I am not sure I REALLY believe in. Martin Prado is struggling this year, Luke Scott is probably done, BJ Upton is terrible. It isn't pretty.

Jackson, meanwhile, is 23 and is killing AAA. And there is not a ton blocking him in the bigs - depending on how much you think of Tyler Colvin, I guess. Jackson is very interesting in traditional 5x5 leagues (31 steals, 12 HR across three levels last year, 17 and 14 in 87 games across two levels this year). But in ottoneu 4x4, steals have no value, so he takes a hit immediately thanks to that. And there are a couple other worrisome signs. The .521 SLG in AAA is impressive, but over nearly 130 AA games, he was more like a .450 SLG guy. Keep translating that up to the majors and you have an awfully good OF (particularly with 30 steal potential) but not a star in ottoneu by any means. Next year, I think the owner who took Jackson (West Coast Wellness) will be very happy with him - and will probably remain so for the next few years - but I think holding onto third (and taking a shot at second) was worth losing Jackson.

And there is one other piece - Swisher only costs $22 this year. He looks expendable in part due to his .438 SLG this year, which is hardly impressive, but look back at him the past five years. He had the brutal .332/.410 2008 season, but ignoring that for a moment, his OBPs are .372, .381, .371, .359 (plus a .377 clip this year). His SLGs are .493, .455, .498, .511.

Is it possible his power has fallen off for good (his ISO is the lowest it has been since he played 20 games in his first season in Oakland)? Sure, it is possible. He is about to turn 31 and that is a perfectly reasonable age for a guy to start to fall off. But I think there is more to it than that.

His HR/FB is the second lowest it has been since that 20 game stint and it seems that is driving most of the difference. Looking at ZiPS rest of season projections, the system sees him with singles and doubles in a similar range to past seasons (90 singles would be his second most ever, 29 doubles would be in the middle of the pack for his career), but only 22 HR, after 29 the past two years. A slight uptick in his HR/FB to career levels could mean all the difference.

And if you look at his plate discipline, he is more selective than he was last year - which one would expect to lead to better results. His Swing% is down a bit, partially due to seeing fewer strikes, and partially due to swinging less often. His numbers, in fact, are right in line with his career numbers.

So, you have a guy who, except for a bad 2008 (which was highly BABIP driven, which is why I felt okay ignoring it), has proven to be about a .375/.490 hitter with 25-30 HR power, and hitting in a lineup that should allow him to score plenty of runs. Even if we knock down those stats a bit - partially due to the decline in offense across the league, partially due to aging - you have a guy who seems likely to put up 20-25 HR, 80+ runs, .365 OBP and .470 SLG. And that is an outfielder I am likely willing to pay $24 for in 2012.

In total, this makes the deal the potential of Rosario and Jackson for 1.333 years of Swisher - and that feels like a win.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Original Ottoneu Team Update

As I did late last week with the Experts' League, today I am going to provide an update on where my team stands in the original ottoneu league.  Again, a screen grab of our standings over the past month will help:

Looking back to the start of July, right around when I was preparing for my month of craziness, I was sitting in fourth place, a nice cushion over fifth and only a couple points from the top. Very quickly I popped up to second and then spent most of the month fighting for second, before fading late in July and finding myself where I am now - solidly in the money, but with a serious uphill battle to claim a bigger share.

Right now, I think my team is in pretty solid shape and I am not sure there is a ton I can do to improve my chances for this year. I need my pitching to improve, and I could move some youngsters for an arm, but as long as my current guys stop imploding (see CJ Wilson, yesterday), I should be okay on that front. My Weaver, Wilson, Zimmermann, Beckett, Garza, Zambrano rotation seems to be okay, especially with a solid seven-man bullpen. And while my offense is my weak spot right now, I don't see any positions that need clear improvement.

My daily lineup:

C - Miguel Montero/David Ross
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - Chase Utley
SS - JJ Hardy
MI - Martin Prado
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
OF - Jose Bautista, Hunter Pence, Nick Swisher, Marlon Byrd, Matt Joyce
Util - Paul Konerko
Bench Guys Who Get Some Run - Garrett Jones (against righties, on occasion), Jason Kipnis (when Byrd or Joyce has a bad matchup and Prado moves to the OF), Scott Sizemore (same), Mark Ellis (only in Colorado and only on occasion), BJ Upton (to fill games in OF when other guys are not playing).

I could improve the OF (and just did actually - Swish was a recent add, and a trade recap post is coming soon), but really, my biggest issue is that I dug a hole for myself while Utley, Prado, Zimmerman, and others were hurt, and while playing Morneau before I added Prince. I should get a little boost when Allen Craig and (maybe) Luke Scott return from injuries - at the very least I get some valuable depth.

But all in all, I think I basically stand pat. I don't have a ton of tradable assets (four minor leaguers - Jaff Decker, Michael Choice, Travis Wood, Andy Oliver - and a few young MLB guys - Sizemore, Kipnis, Chris Nelson - but nothing crazy). I could move Prado, since I have such MI depth among my young guys - would be a bit risky, but nothing out of the question. But really, I think I am going to have to stick with the team I have. If anyone thinks I should be making a move, let me know what I should target.

Far more interesting than my team, though, is that of Overpaid Scrubs. The Scrubs, currently sitting in 5th and having lost ground the last week or so, started the season with little hope of placing, but with one hell of a farm system. Moustakas, Hosmer, Montero, Trout, and more.

Then, starting in Mid-May, this owner went on a buying binge, moving most of his prospects in an effort to fight his way back into contention. Here is a complete list of the trades he made:

-Jaime Garcia for Nelson Cruz
-Matt Moore, Justin Smoak, Brian Matusz, Jameson Taillon for Lincecum, Mike Morse, Joaquin Benoit, Miguel Cabrera
-Randall Delgado, Alexander Torres, Mike Trout, Carlos Martinez for David Price, Brian Wilson, Drew Stubbs
-Juan Nicasio for Brandon Philips
-Drew Stubbs, Nelson Cruz, Jeurys Familia for Verlander and Hamels
-Brent Lillibridge, Jesus Montero, Brandon Morrow, Mike Moustakas, Josh Collmenter for Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera
-Fernando Salas, Zach Stewart, Eric Hosmer, Dee Gordon for Ethier, Dunn, Ubaldo and Shin-Soo Choo

An awful lot of trades, and an awful lot of lost prospects. He went from being a team that was poised to be quite good in 2012 or 2013 to a team that is in a pure win-now mode. The aggressive trading has helped him climb from the cellar to the first division, but, as you can see from the graph above, he seems to have stagnated, and has not stagnated in first or second or even third, but in fifth.

So the question is, what does Overpaid Scrubs do? He still has a few prospects (Michael Montgomery, Jorge Vazquez, Nick Castellanos) and some cheap talent ($2 Laynce Nix, $2 Tyler Clippard, $3 Asdrubal Cabrera, among others) who he could move for overpriced rentals. On the other hand, he is way over the cap and has an awful lot of talent he could trade away to rebuild his farm system before the off-season (Lincecum, Miggy, Verlander, Latos, CarGo, Cano, Hamels, Ubaldo, Price, Choo and Ethier are all over $25, and considering his $722 in salary, he will be forced to cut most of these guys in the off-season anyway).

So what do you do? Is another arm or bat going to push him forward? Or should he cut his losses now? I am a bit biased in this - I would love to add one of his pitchers, maybe one of his OF, so seeing him sell seems ideal to me - but is that really the right move for him? 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fangraphs Experts League Update

Seeing as I started this blog in order to discuss my success (or lack thereof) facing off against the experts of the fantasy baseball world, I figured I should start my return to the blog with a review of where things stand for Amateur Hour - my team in the Fangraphs Experts League.

For starters, below is a graph depicting overall standings going back to June 1 - a couple weeks after my last post and about the time at which life started distracting me from baseball (click to enlarge):

The graph is a bit tough to read but if you go back to June 1, AH is in 5th - not particularly close to 4th, but, as you can see from the run made by Eno's Slaughter over the next week, certainly within striking distance of the top three. And then things go down. While the drop wasn't precipitous, it was constant. Over the next two months, my team slowly slipped in the standings, eventually losing almost 10 points and going from fifth-within-striking-distance-of-third to seventh-and-distantly-behind-sixth.

With just about two months left in the season, its time, for lack of a better phrase, to poop or get off the pot. I have a plethora of young talent I could move in deals - Hosmer, Montero, Moustakas, Teheran, Pomeranz, Machado, Lamb, Brown, and more - to get some rentals and try to make a run. But realistically, I am not sure I have the pieces in place now to make that run feasible.

My pitching is generally solid, but not great, and I am struggling in two categories that are going to be hard to make up ground in - Saves (which just aren't available in a league with 5 RP slots) and K's (where I face a huge climb to catch the teams ahead of me). And my offense is pretty abysmal: 11th in runs, 9th in SB and AVG. I am squarely in the middle of the pack (tied for 6th) in HR and 5th in RBI, but that isn't nearly enough.

But, again, with two months left, it isn't time to wait-and-see anymore. Looking towards next year, there are still some holes on my team that need filling. I need some MI help for sure - Utley at $12 in 2012 is a steal, but Freddy Sanchez and Maicer Izturis, while potentially keepable, cannot by 2/3rds of my starting MI. 3B may be a concern - Sandoval is keepable at $26, but do I WANT to keep him at that when I have Moustakas ready? Of course, I would have to be sure Moustakas was, in fact, ready. Hosmer at 1B seems fine, but what do I have for depth? Carlos Pena is showing power but little more, Helton is aging. And my OF behind Holliday is thin (Pence is probably too expensive to keep, Garrett Jones can only be used half the time, Rajai Davis is going to lose ABs, Vlad will lose his OF eligibility).

And then there is my rotation, which I was happy with most of the year (Halladay, Weaver, Marcum, Dempster, Hellickson, Jurrjens) which clearly has not netted me the stats I want/need. Feliz may be a keepable closer, but I have very little experience with saves or valuing closers (remember, I have mostly played original ottoneu the past few years, where saves aren't counted), so I am not sure what to do with him.

The leaves me looking to pick up young, cheap OF, MI and SP/RP help as I prepare for 2012. Guys I would like to target would be cheap RP who have a shot to become closers soon, but will provide value even if they don't get saves (Kenley Jansen?), SP who can contribute in 2012 but probably won't this year (Josh Johnson? Jacob Turner?), and prospects who are either close or who are up but not REALLY contributing right now (Belt? Trout?) and therefore might be available.

The other side of that equation is that I have to have pieces to offer up. Sadly, one of my biggest trade chips was taken away from me recently - With Arencibia and Montero ready to go, I had planned to trade Brian McCann basically since day one of the season. Instead, he is injured and I am stuck holding him at a 2012 price of $35 and potentially cutting him loose in the off-season.

My other big chips - Halladay and Holliday - are both potentially, keepable, I think. They are expensive, but not prohibitively so, and both are sure-fire production. Of course, if you want to get talent, you have to give up talent, so those two are on the market (for the right price).

Neftali Feliz is available - I like him and the guy clearly has talent, but as I mentioned above, I struggle to value saves and this has me reluctant to tie up $23 in Feliz for next season. This very well may provide an opportunity to an owner who is better at evaluating the value of saves to take advantage of me, but I am still comfortable moving him.

Sandoval is a chip I would expect to see some interest in. With Longoria, Wright and Zimmerman all performing below expectations, 3B has been a weak position this year and Panda is hitting .297 with 10 HR (and a couple steals) despite having played only 63 games thus far. Honestly, I think he is well-worth keeping at $26 next year but, again, you have to move talent to get talent, and I am content to go with Moustakas at 3B next year if need be.

The other guys I am shopping all have their flaws - Chipper is old and has been hurt, Helton doesn't provide much pop for a 1B, Garrett Jones is a platoon player at best, Rajai Davis is in a crowded outfield, etc. - but it may not take a ton to nab one of these guys (or they may be a good way to sweeten a deal for one of the big names mentioned above).

As negotiations get going (IF they get going - there have been almost no trades in this league all year), I will try to post updates here, as appropriate.

In the meantime, here is a screenshot of my roster as of today. Each of these guys will see a $2 salary bump (unless he has 0 MLB experience, in which case it is $1). My question for you - who should I plan to keep and who should I try to trade?

A similar update on my other team (including a run-down of a near-trade a couple weeks ago and an actual trade today) will be up sometime early next week.

It has been two months and two weeks since my last post...

But I promise there is a good reason (series of reasons?) for that. [NOTE: This is not about's an explanation.  Baseball posts return later today.]

Not long after writing my last post, I began a gauntlet of events that distracted me from not only the blog but baseball in general and much of my typical, everyday life. Memorial Day Weekend, I headed south for my bachelor party in New Orleans. Not long after that, I was heavily invested in my final finals of business school, then graduation in early June. Once graduation was complete, I spent two weeks packing up everything I own - about 3/4ths of it to go into storage, the rest to come with me.

About a month ago, towards the end of June, my then-fiancee and I got into our car and drove to Colorado Springs, spent about a week preparing and then got married in front of 125 friends and family at a gorgeous hotel in Manitou Springs, near the base of Pikes Peak. Then my now-wife and I boarded a plane for our honeymoon - four days in Paris, seven in Mauritius (and island off the coast of Madagascar - itself an island off the coast of Africa) in the Indian Ocean.

After the whirlwind of the wedding and the complete calm and quiet of the honeymoon, we flew back to Colorado, hopped in another car (a rental this time) and drove to Seattle - completing a six week period in which I graduated business school, got married, went on a honeymoon and moved across the country. Now I am in the middle of a three week period of getting unpacked and settled before starting a new job.

So...all of that is why posts suddenly dried up, not because I abandoned my blog. Expect an update on both of my Ottoneu teams later today. Should be interesting - one is in full-fledged sales mode, the other is looking to buy (and just made a purchase today!) for the stretch run.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Data on PickSix

A few weeks back, Ottoneu's new daily game was released, and it has quickly grown to over 200 users. Niv Shah sent me some data on the first 12 days of the game (points by position for every entry for each day, totaling 1,632 entries) and I took some time to breakdown some of the numbers.

For starters, I wanted to see if Niv succeeded in creating what he hoped to create - a high variance, daily game that would allow anyone to get involved by having a wide range of possible outcomes. Well, over those 12 days, the average score was 30.8 and the standard deviation was 17. This means, assuming a normal distribution of scores (which appears to be roughly true) that 95% of scores will be between -4 and 64 - but that there is definitely room for scores ranging higher or lower.

In fact, the lowest score seen in the first 12 days was -18.1 (largely driven by Huston Street imploding for -18.7 points, but still, .6 without your reliever is nothing to be proud of).

The highest was 108.7. Actually, in the first 12 days, only two people scored over 100 and both were on the first day. Both rode a combined 33.5 from Zobrist to that total, although one of them got 39.1 out of a single player as well - Lance Berkman.

Among individual players, the averages and ranges differ slightly by position.

Catchers averaged 4.8 points with a standard deviation of 7.3, and ranged from a low of -5 (basically, an 0-X from a position player gets you a score of -X) to a high of 31(courtesy of Victor Martinez on May 9.

Corner Infielders were the best position players on average (5.3) and also had a standard deviation of 7.3. the low here was again -5 and the high was the previously mentioned 39.1 from Berkman. By the way, that 39.1 on day one of Pick Six was the highest score by a single player over those first 12 days.

Middle Infielders were the worst position players (not a surprise) with an average of just 4.1, but again had a standard deviation of 7.3 - the variance has been rather steady. The low score for a MI was -6 and Zobrists 33.5 was the highest.

Outfielders were paced by the same 39.1 from Berkman as Corner Infielders, and were second best overall at 5.2. They also had slightly more variance (7.6) but the difference is basically meaningless. The low score was -6 as well.

Pitchers did not have quite as high variance - 3.9 for SP and 5.3 for RP, but something interesting is going on with RP, which I'll explore in a moment. SP averaged 7.9 points per entry - easily the most valuable position, but their low standard deviation suggests a limited upside - which proved to be true. The highest SP score was 16.5, a May 4 effort by C.J. Wilson. The lowest was -6.6 out of Ryan Dempster on April 28 - a start used by just one Pick Six user.

As I mentioned, there is something odd going on with RP. The average for relievers is just 3.4, lower than any other position, but this is LARGELY driven by RP not playing. Every other position you can find out before the game if the guy is playing or not - RP are a bit of a leap of faith. When you eliminate the 876 relievers who didn't enter games, the average jumps up to 7.4 - nearly in line with SP and above the position players. The standard deviation barely budges to 5.5.

A few other interesting notes:
Already covered the highest scores overall, but the worst position player scores were Dustin Pedroia on 5/4 and Brennan Boesch on 4/30, both with -6. I feel for the users who picked Pedroia, but Boesch? Sometimes you get what you deserve.

The correlations between total points and points from any given position range from .47 to .50 for position players, but are just .22 for SP and .34 for RP. I haven't explored this fully yet, but I believe this is a result of users picking position players who are facing bad pitchers - take 2-3 Indians when they face Kyle Davies as happened last night, and you are going to have a lot of success. I think a lot of people use that strategy (I will have to look that up somehow) and so when that pitcher really does struggle, you end up not only with a good score from your OF or MI or CI, but from all of them - leading to a high total score. Of course this also works the other way - that pitcher steps up, you are in trouble.

Interestingly, I have avoided this strategy, feeling that I didn't want to risk having a really bad day, just to take a shot at a great day - besides, no reason I can't have a great day picking players from multiple teams.

Well, it seems I was right. My average score since day one is 37.6 and my standard deviation is a bit lower than the overall, at 14.9, so I have had slightly less volatility than the average user. As I have solidified that strategy, the difference has become more stark - my standard deviation the last 10 days is just over 10 (note that I do not have overall data for the last ten days, so it may be that EVERYONE is getting less volatile).

So what does this all suggest? Well, if your goal is to play for the long-haul - have a high average and brag about your consistency - you probably want to diversify your lineup and go with safe RP. You can accept a missed night from your RP but not a Street-like collapse.

But if you are playing for glory and greatness - if your goal is to win a day and have everyone look up at you on the leader board for those 24 hours - make sure you find a RP who is likely to pitch that night (hasn't gone the past couple days) and take a risk on an offense going up against a pitcher likely to stink up the joint - it is probably your best bet for a big night.