Thursday, March 31, 2011

Positional Rankings - 5x5

I am now down to less than 24 hours before the auction, and I am sitting in Midway unwilling to pay for internet in order to do any research, so I am going to do the next best thing – try to determine a clear strategy for the auction. But before diving into the strategy, though, let me lay out my top guys at each position (75 in the OF, 75 SP, 60 RP, and 15 everywhere else). However, I want to caveat these lists – these rankings are not 100% where I stand on each of these players, more of a starting point. A quick look at my methodology will make this clearer:

I start with a set of stat projections for the year (this year I used ZIPS, PECOTA, CAIRO, and OLIVER) and then I take a weighted average of those projections for every player. I then break these players into lists by position, putting each guy at his most valuable spot (so, for example, Martin Prado is listed under 2B but not under 3B – yes, I could use him at 3rd, but if I am playing him at 3rd there should be some team willing to move a better 3B for Prado, who that team would then use at 2B, where he provides more value).

I then rank all players at each position by each stat used in my league (so in this case, AVG, HR, R, RBI, SB or K, W, S, ERA, WHIP) take the average and standard deviation of the top X guys in each stat (where X=the number of guys at that position owned in my ottoneu league the year before), find z-scores for each player on each stat, add up the z-scores, and rank accordingly. Despite all the steps, this is actually an incredibly simplistic ranking – I don’t make many alterations to the inputs, I don’t do any detailed statistical analysis. So what you see below is an unaltered list for each position, with some notes below, explaining where I think these rankings err.

Make sense? Yeah, I know – that is a pretty significant caveat (effectively that I don’t really stand by these rankings), but these are what I start with as I prepare for the auction.  So, without further ado:

Joe Mauer
Brian McCann
Buster Posey
Jesus Montero
Carlos Santana
Victor Martinez
J.P. Arencibia
Russell Martin
Mike Napoli
Matt Wieters
Kurt Suzuki
Geovany Soto
Jake Fox
Austin Romine

First and foremost, I should note that my rankings almost always over-rate prospects. I think OLIVER is somewhat to blame for this, but suffice it to say that calling Montero the #4 catcher this year seems a tad aggressive – sure, it is POSSIBLE, but I wouldn’t bank on it. That said, the top two are no-brainers and a tier to themselves. I am surprised how low Soto falls (lack of runs seems to pull him down). The fact that Miguel Montero and Jorge Posada aren’t even in the top-15 seems silly to me. Assuming health, I am quite content to send one of those two out there every day. And the projection systems love Fox, but I am not sold – I just traded him in the original ottoneu for Brett Jackson.  I’d drop J. Montero and Arencibia, probably Santana as well, and move up Posada and M. Montero. I’d also keep an eye on Hank Conger if he gets a shot (although Mike Napoli would probably warn him to get comfortable on the bench).

First Base
Albert Pujols
Joey Votto
Miguel Cabrera
Adrian Gonzalez
Prince Fielder
Ryan Howard
Mark Teixeira
Adam Dunn
Kevin Youkilis
Paul Konerko
Justin Morneau
James Loney
Billy Butler
Derrek Lee
Lance Berkman

This list is kind of messy cause there are a lot of question marks – does Fenway outweigh Gonzalez’s shoulder surgery? Does Miggy’s off-season pull him down? Can Morneau be Morneau or is this just an extension of the weekly “We swear he’ll be back soon!” reports from 2010? Does Comiskey get Dunn 50 HR? When will Konerko turn old? And so on. But the fact is , winning without at least one top 1B is tough, and most past ottoneu winners have had two. Some young guys (Ike Davis, Freddie Freeman, Kila Ka’aihue) are awfully intriguing, and Carlos Lee and David Ortiz are both on my radar as well. Berkman, by the way, should probably be listed with OF, not 1B – his value is much higher once he gets that OF eligibility.

Second Base
Robinson Cano
Chase Utley
Dan Uggla
Brandon Phillips
Ian Kinsler
Dustin Pedroia
Jose Lopez
Kelly Johnson
Neil Walker
Brian Roberts
Martin Prado
Aaron Hill
Rickie Weeks
Howie Kendrick
Placido Polanco

This is all pre-Utley’s knee (I moved Adam Dunn for Utley this off-season in original ottoneu, by the way – had Konerko, Morneau, Thome, and Dunn and a GLARING hole at all three MI spots, so I am just hoping he gets back by June or so). Obviously he is not #2 anymore. As for the rest, I hate Jose Lopez and have no idea why he gets to be so high. I think Neil Walker is probably too high. Brian Roberts may be done – I certainly won’t be paying for him. Ben Zobrist, Gordon Beckham, and Ryan Raburn should be on this list, too. I think Beckham will bounce back, and Zobrist has gone from surprising superstar to highly underrated considering he qualifies at 2B. Brad Emaus is also intriguing, now that he is starting. His minor league track record is pretty damn good.

Hanley Ramirez
Troy Tulowitzki
Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Jose Reyes
Derek Jeter
Alexei Ramirez
Jimmy Rollins
Stephen Drew
Miguel Tejada
Jhonny Peralta
Elvis Andrus
Starlin Castro
Dee Gordon
Asdrubal Cabrera
Alcides Escobar

These might be the worst of the rankings. Nishioka should not be that high (although I do think he will have some real value), Drew should not be that low, Gordon should not be on the list. Yunel Escobar and J.J. Hardy are bounce-back candidates and I am high on both. Not sure why Furcal gets no love, either. Although that may just be the result of RBI being added to HR as a power stat – I am not used to that. One other guy I am tracking is Brent Morel – he’ll be the starting 3B for the White Sox and while he won’t hit enough to play 3B in fantasy, he qualifies at SS in ottoneu.

Third Base
David Wright
Alex Rodriguez
Evan Longoria
Ryan Zimmerman
Pablo Sandoval
Mark Reynolds
Adrian Beltre
Michael Young
Pedro Alvarez
Mike Moustakas
Aramis Ramirez
Ian Stewart
Chase Headley
Casey McGehee
Chris Davis

I think A-Rod should probably be ahead of Wright, but really I have no issues with the top 4. Sandoval’s upside is around that crew, but his downside is pretty ugly, so I think there are guys I would rather have. But note how thin 3B is – what had been a power position for a while has really slipped this year. All in all, this list seems okay to me – Moustakas won’t play enough to really be a top 10 guy, I don’t think, nor will Michael Young. The patented Adrian Beltre Post-Contract Year Swoon could be coming on, although I think leaving Safeco benefited him more than a desire for a new contract.

Ryan Braun
Carlos Gonzalez
Matt Holliday
Carl Crawford
Josh Hamilton
Justin Upton
Matt Kemp
Andrew McCutchen
Hunter Pence
Nelson Cruz
Alexis Rios
Nick Markakis
Vladimir Guerrero
Curtis Granderson
Michael Stanton
Jay Bruce
Andre Ethier
Corey Hart
Shane Victorino
Shin-Soo Choo
Jason Heyward
Carlos Lee
Torii Hunter
Jayson Werth
Chris Young
Nick Swisher
Jose Bautista
Ichiro Suzuki
Delmon Young
Adam Jones
Bobby Abreu
Adam Lind
B.J. Upton
Aubrey Huff
Brandon Belt
Raul Ibanez
Garrett Jones
Carlos Quentin
Juan Francisco
Denard Span
Jose Tabata
Alfonso Soriano
Mark Trumbo
Dominic Brown
Jason Bay
Vernon Wells
Mitch Moreland
Drew Stubbs
Julio Borbon
Michael Brantley
Chris Carter
Marlon Byrd
Brian Cavazos-Galvez
Jason Kubel
Magglio Ordonez
Brandon Laird
Austin Jackson
Mike Trout
Michael Cuddyer
Ryan Ludwick
Chris Coghlan
Luke Scott
Dave Sappelt
Peter Bourjos
Ryan Kalish
Colby Rasmus
Jeff Francoeur
Jacoby Ellsbury
Logan Morrison
Brett Jackson
Jerry Sands
Bryan LaHair
Johnny Damon
Juan Pierre
Allen Craig

I am not going to spend a ton of time on this list because it seems ridiculous to me. Speedsters are way over-rated, presumably because my system of analysis does a terrible job accounting for the scarcity of stolen bases. Beltran isn’t on here. J.D. Drew isn’t on here. David Dejesus, Alex Gordon – lots of guys I like. More importantly, guys like Bryan LaHair and Brian Cavazos-Galvez ARE on here and really really should not be. Basically, I need to reconsider how I mix projections and how I handle stats with high levels of scarcity, like stolen bases. This means I am going to have to be a lot less analytical and objective in the auction than I hoped - rather than just go off my lists and some price projections, I am going to have to be far more subjective in determining who is worth what, who falls where, etc. This will inevitably lead to me thinking I know more than I do and making poor decisions. Ugh.

Starting Pitchers
Felix Hernandez
Roy Halladay
Tim Lincecum
C.C. Sabathia
Adam Wainwright
Cliff Lee
Justin Verlander
Danny Haren
Zack Greinke
Jon Lester
Jered Weaver
Matt Cain
Cole Hamels
Ubaldo Jimenez
Roy Oswalt
Stephen Strasburg
Ted Lilly
Tommy Hanson
Clayton Kershaaw
Johan Santana
David Price
Chad Billingsley
Colby Lewis
Josh Johnson
Mat Latos
Daniel Hudson
Max Scherzer
Chris Carpenter
Javier Vazquez
Ricky Nolasco
John Danks
Wandy Rodriguez
Hiroki Kuroda
Yovani Gallardo
Jake Peavy
Francisco Liriano
Matt Garza
Jonathan Sanchez
Shaun Marcum
Scott Baker
James Shields
Ryan Dempster
Gavin Floyd
Clay Buchholz
Bronson Arroyo
Ervin Santana
Josh Beckett
Tim Hudson
Brett Myers
Phil Hughes
Jeremy Hellickson
Johnny Cueto
John Lackey
Madison Bumgarner
Trevor Cahill
Travis Wood
C.J. Wilson
Jair Jurrjens
Brian Matusz
Carlos Zambrano
Randy Wolf
Gio Gonzalez
Kevin Slowey
Dallas Braden
Jeremy Guthrie
Derek Lowe
Jaime Garcia
Jon Garland
Ian Kennedy
Barry Zito
Jeff Niemann
A.J. Burnett
Ricky Romero
Mark Buehrle
Brandon Webb

This list I am generally happy with. A couple things it doesn't know - like that Strasburg and Wainwright are hurt or that Kevin Slowey doesn't have a rotation spot. But all in all, not a TON to argue with. Personally, I don't think King Felix is #1 (Probably Lincecum, Halladay, Hernandez) and I would move Josh Johnson up a bit. A few other quibbles here and there, but all in all, I think I can work with this. 

Relief Pitchers
Jonathan Broxton
Matt Thornton
Carlos Marmol
Heath Bell
Joe Nathan
Brian Wilson
Jonathan Papelbon
Joakim Soria
Neftali Feliz
Mariano Rivera
Tyler Clippard
Hong-Chih Kuo
Luke Gregerson
Aroldis Chapman
Francisco Rodriguez
Sergio Romo
J.P. Howell
Ryan Madson
Mike Adams
Kris Medlen
Phil Coke
Huston Street
Joaquin Benoit
Sean Marshall
Joba Chamberlain
Rafael Soriano
Rafael Betancourt
Grant Balfour
Chris Sale
Takashi Saito
Andrew Bailey
Francisco Cordero
Joel Hanrahan
J.J. Putz
Frank Francisco
Brian Fuentes
Craig Breslow
Daniel Bard
Craig Kimbrel
Brandon Lyon
David Robertson
Carlos Villanueva
David Aardsma
Evan Scribner
Jose Valverde
Joe Thatcher
Chris Perez
Darren O’Day
Scott Downs
Brandon League
Ryan Franklin
Matt Belisle
Matt Guerrier
John Axford
Jonny Venters
Alexi Ogando
Joel Peralta
Nick Masset
Drew Storen
Dan Wheeler

So I seem to have a reverse SB issue here, where the highly scarce commodity (saves) is now way UNDER-valued. Great. But that is easily remedied by keeping a handy-dandy list of closers and closers-in-waiting nearby. The odd things with RP in ottoneu is that you get 5 of them each day. Under original ottoneu's 4x4 scoring, there were no saves, so the strategy here was just to get 5 guys each day who were likely to give you a solid inning or two. In this league, I will need saves which, I think, brings some football strategy into play: handcuffs! NFL RB and MLB closers have a lot in common - high injury rates, low job security, incredible value in traditional fantasy leagues - and just like you can't take Frank Gore without his backup du jour, bringing on Mariano Rivera without shelling out for Rafael Soriano is probably not a good strategy. Need to keep this in mind Thursday evening!

Ok, so those are my heavily caveated rankings (is caveated a word?  I don't think it is...). Sometime in the coming weeks I will post my rankings for the 4x4 league - those are more heavily vetted and I am much more confident in them; these are just a rough draft to use as a guide tomorrow and I hope they serve that purpose.

Sometime pre-auction, I will try to add a post on my overall strategy (this post got away from me a bit, and so we'll leave it as is). Either way, I will likely be on twitter (@chadyoung) tomorrow during the auction. I may toss a couple updates up here during breaks, but it may be easier to live-tweet rather than live-blog since the auction will be fast-moving.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The FanGraphs Experts League

Before going into anything else, let me provide some details on the league itself.

We will be using the "Old School" ottoneu settings - basically all of the roster implications of ottoneu, but traditional 5x5 roto stats. We'll have a $400 salary cap to fill a 40 man roster with the following starting positions:  C (technically there are two C spots, but that is just because it is so difficult to platoon catchers - we are still limited to 162 games at C), 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, MI, OFx5, Util, SPx5, RPx5. Players can be kept for a $2 increase in their salary, and you can keep anyone and everyone, if you want to. As I noted in the previous post, I have been playing ottoneu for five years now, so these roster considerations are pretty straightforward for me, but as the auction occurs and the season goes on, I am sure they will come up in posts quite a bit.

The 5x5 stats are actually a bit of a change for me. Part of the origination of ottoneu was an attempt to get rid of stats that either do not measure individual performance (like wins, which are team dependent) and stats that do not reflect a play making a contribution (like stolen bases, which in most cases are completely balanced out by high speed guys getting caught stealing). So for the past five years, my focus has been on a 4x4 league with OBP, SLG, HR, R for hitters and ERA, WHIP, K and HR/9* for pitchers.

Suddenly, I am losing OBP and SLG, instead getting AVG (so long, Adam Dunn), SB (Jacoby Ellsbury might actually have value in this league!) and RBI (time to avoid sluggers on bad teams). On the pitching side, I lose HR/9 (which my other team is actually quite strong in), and pick up wins (might make a Yankee pitcher other than CC ownable) and saves (time to play "guess the closer!"). This is going to mess with my knowledge of the game quite a bit and my guess is that all of my rankings will look a bit funky to you when I post them.

So...those are basically the rules.  As for the competition, there are 12 teams.

1) The league was set up by Eno Sarris from FanGraphs and he will be one of the 12 owners. He's the only other owner I have ever had any interaction with, which means I will likely lean on him in trade negotiations a bit - I find it easier to negotiate when I have at least some sense of how to interact with the person.

2) Two writers from Yahoo! Sports are joining the league - the first is Dave Brown, who just this morning posted a piece on Evan Longoria's AK-47. Not sure what the fantasy implications are of that but...well...yeah...

3) The other Yahoo! owner is Andy Behrens, who recently gave Michael Brantley a shout out as a guy worth watching. As a life-long Indians fan (which I am sure will influence my roster construction), this makes me quite happy and officially makes Andy my favorite other owner, at least for now.

4) Jeff Erickson and Peter Schoenke of Rotowire are the only co-owners in the league. Co-owners always confuse me - do I need them both to agree to a trade? And how do you handle an auction with a co-owner when auctions end if no bids are made in 15 seconds? Need to talk fast and hope other owners bid slow.

5) I have only recently started using KFFL and so I don't know much about Tim Heaney and Nicholas Minnix's fantasy perspective. It seems to me one advantage I SHOULD have in this league is that these guys are all paid to tell people what strategies to use, which means putting their own ideas down on (electronic) paper. Of course now I have started this blog so maybe I gave that up?

6) Andy Andres is a professor at Tufts University, alma mater of both ottoneu founder Niv Shah and my dad. If only I had followed in my dad's footsteps, I could have taken a course on Sabermetrics - Andy teaches one of the only courses on the topic offered anywhere.

7) Neil FitzGerald and 8) Tom Kephart are joining from BaseballHQ, where Ron Shandler plies his trade. Earlier this year, Niv was able to talk to Ron about ottoneu and learned that Ron had been talking about a similar style league...which likely means that Tom and Neil are more up to speed on what ottoneu is than anyone else.

9) ESPN split duties in writing positional previews for 2011 and one of my competitors, James Quintong, wrote the preview for 3B.  Which means I know exactly what he thinks of each 3B.  I have no idea how to take advantage of this.

10) Me. Sites featuring fantasy analysis from other owners in this league are listed above. Sites featuring my analysis?  None.  Well, unless you count this one. Which I don't. And I imagine you don't either.

This could get ugly.

Update: Seems the lineup has changed a bit - Derek Van Riper and Kevin O'Brien from Rotowire are in with one team, as is Jack Moore from RotoHardball. I'll add them to the list above at some point, but wanted to at least give their due. Welcome aboard!

*Technically we have been using slugging percentage against for pitchers, but moving forward, ottoneu will be using HR/9. The change has some real implications but nothing like the change from our 4x4 to the traditional 5x5.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome to the Show

Maybe it isn't exactly making The Show, but for a life-long baseball fan who was always better at the fantasy game than the real game, the opportunity I have before me is still pretty exciting. This year, I will be starting what should be a multi-year dynasty fantasy league with a group of top fantasy baseball experts.

My plan is to use this blog to document my attempt to beat the pros at their own game - and to just talk fantasy baseball in general. I expect to analyze basically every transaction that takes place in this league, delve into the other league I am playing in, and maybe add a bit of advice for any other fantasy players out there.

I was going to offer up some background on ottoneu, but all the information is now right here, thanks to Niv Shah, who first built a website to manage a game that no one else on the net could manage for us and has now made the game available to fantasy baseball fans world-wide through a partnership with FanGraphs.

As part of the launch of the game, FanGraphs writer Eno Sarris put together the aforementioned league of experts, and he and Niv decided I would be a good addition - my lack of credentials notwithstanding. I have won three championships in the short five-year history of the original ottoneu league, but beating friends in a game I helped invent seems like a rather flimsy resume compared to the gentlemen I have been asked to compete with (I'll introduce my competition in another post).

That said, I will be doing everything in my power to compete with the big boys, and I'll be documenting that (likely futile) effort here at Playing the Pros.

Opening Day is coming up shortly - as is the FanGraphs Experts League auction - so in the next few days I will be working hard preparing for the season. Expect 1) an introduction of the league including the rules we are using and my competition, 2) my positional player rankings, 3) a note on my strategy for the auction. If I have time, I may try to drop in something on the original ottoneu league, where I will be trying to defend my title.