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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Creation of ottoneu - Part I

This post is going to be a departure for me, something a bit different than my typical analysis of ottoneu leagues (which will return with another look at Pick Six next week). 

Anyone reading this blog knows about ottoneu as it exists today and likely plays in an ottoneu league. But the birth of the format, which has not been discussed much, will shed quite a bit of light on why ottoneu is what it is. Over the next few weeks or maybe months I am going to try to lay out the story of the creation of ottoneu, the trials of its infancy, its growth and eventually its unveiling. The primary characters of the stories will be Niv (who you know as the man behind ottoneu), Geoff (who you don't know at all but really, really should) and myself (me).

For the man behind ottoneu, Niv Shah, his love affair with baseball starts here and here (or at least takes a big jump forward there). But Niv doesn't even go to that game if I don't make him, and I don't make him if I hadn't been blown away a seemingly normal game on August 13, 1992.

This certainly pre-dates anything directly related to ottoneu, but provides some background on my baseball fandom - which would eventually help nurture Niv's baseball fandom, which made ottoneu possible, thanks to Geoff's stroke of genius. But you'll have to wait a bit to hear about that.


Every baseball fan has that moment - the one clear moment when they remember falling in love with the game. There are the stories from old timers ("I remember looking through a hole in the fence at the old stadium when Joe DiMaggio came to town and seeing him just tear a ball down the line"); the traditional stories ("Coming out of the concourse and seeing the gorgeous green field and smelling the dirt - it was a religious experience"); the dramatic stories ("Joe Carter. 1993. World Series Winner").

But my story - my baseball moment - is in many ways unremarkable. First of all, this was by no means my first game. I had been to a ton of Indians games over the years. I grew up a huge sports fans with parents who never really understood that passion, but were happy to feed it. I also have an uncle who is a sports fan and lived two doors down from me most of my youth but didn't have a son of his own. Plenty of opportunities to head to games.

But the first one I remember and remember clearly was apparently in 1992. I say apparently because my recollection is that I was about 7 or 8, which would put us in the late '80's, but baseball-reference.com assures me it was in 1992, when I was 10.

Finding the box score for the game was actually not that hard to do, because much of the night I remember accurately. I remember exactly who the starting pitchers were that night. And I remember that it was at night. And I remember I was not in school at the time.

I remember all this because on this particular evening I sat down to dinner with my family, probably around 5:30 and promptly began talking about that night's game. The Red Sox were in town and Roger Clemens was going to be on the mound. As a ten-year-old baseball fan, this was plenty of cause to go to the game.

Actually, as any baseball fan, this was cause to go to the game. In 1992, Clemens put up a 176 ERA+ and would finish 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He had won the Cy Young the year before.

Not that I cited any of this. What I cited in my well thought out argument for going to the game that night was that Clemens, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, one of the best of his generation, a once-in-a-lifetime talent that we had to see was going toe-to-toe that night with the electric, unbeatable, immortal...Charles Nagy.

Now, I don't want to go bashing Charles Nagy. Nagy may not have been Clemens, but it is worth noting that Nagy was a very solid pitcher in his career. From 1991-1999, Nagy put up more than 200 innings six times. He had an ERA+ over 130 three times and was over 100 four more.

But to a ten-year-old Indians fan, what mattered is that he was our ACE. He was only 25 and with Sandy Alomar, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento, Kenny Lofton, and Jim Thome, he was part of a core offering hope for a team that hadn't had success in 38 years.

And so I wanted to go see what our ace could do against THE ace. In retrospect, it seems kind of silly. No one, even in 1992, was clamoring for a showdown between Nagy and Clemens.

But I was.

My parents relented (this is how I know I was not in school - never would have happened on a school night) and we went down to old Municipal Stadium. At this point in Indians history, we were still in the era of wandering up to the box office and getting whatever tickets you wanted because NO one went to those games. So we showed up no earlier than ten to seven, and probably even closer to opening pitch, and bought tickets. Directly behind home plate.

This is, again, where my recollection and reality don't seem perfectly aligned. I remember two aces - two giants of the pitching world - going head-to-head, matching each other pitch-for-pitch. I remember a pitcher's duel unlike any other.

And that was half right. Both pitchers went 8 innings. Both pitchers K'd 9. Clemens threw 121 pitches, 77 for strikes. Nagy found the zone with 86 of 138 pitches.

But that is where the pitcher's duel ends. Nagy and Clemens gave up 8 hits each and Nagy walked 3 (Clemens only walked 1). And Nagy gave up 4 ER to Clemens' 2. Nagy happened to bunch his walks in the bottom of the 5th (walked two and then intentionally walked Wade Boggs to load the bases with two outs) and the Sox made him pay with back-to-back-to-back singles, driving in all four runs over the course of three hitters. Clemens gave one back in the bottom of that inning on a sac fly and Glenallen Hill (who used to CRUSH the ball) added a HR in the bottom of the 8th, but the four from the 5th held up and the Sox won.

Neither team was particularly good at that point. Actually, both teams were downright bad, a far cry from the Sox and Indians teams that would play until the wee hours of the night in a 1995 Division Series game, and continue to meet in the playoffs multiple times in the '90s and '00s. And the game, as you can see, was not that great a game. But it stuck with me.

I've had a lot of other baseball memories over the years, thanks in large part to the powerful Indians teams that grew out of that young team in '92. Manny Ramirez absolutely crushing a Dennis Eckersley pitch for a game winning grand slam comes to mind (mostly due to Eck clearly mouthing "wow" as he walked off the field). Tony Pena's walk-off in game one of the 1995 Division Series at some ungodly hour in the morning. Kenny Lofton coming around from second on a wild pitch (passed ball?) with Randy Johnson on the mound in the ALCS that year. Omar Vizquel whiffing on a suicide squeeze which somehow resulted in a huge run against the Orioles in the 1997 playoffs.

And, as with any Cleveland fan, not all of those memories are quite so sweet - Charles Nagy coming oh-so-close to fielding Edger Renteria's chopper in game 7 of the '97 World Series. Lofton holding at third against Boston in 2007. Everything that Jaret Wright did after teasing us in 1997.

But one August night in 1992, as a ten-year-old, I went to a decrepit old stadium to see a legend match up with a completely league average pitcher, saw a pretty typical Major League game between two rotten teams far out of the playoff chase, and fell in love with the game.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Original Ottoneu: Trade Recap

After completing my first FanGraphs Experts League trade last week, I followed it up with my first in-season trade of the year in the original ottoneu league. As the other owners in this league can tell you, I LOVE to trade and I am always active in the trade market, either as a buyer or seller. The fact that I have already made one trade and am in talks for one to two more is a surprise to no one.

But this is a somewhat odd trade for me to have made. Around the time I posted this, I began to explore the possibility of parting ways with Chad Billingsley. I actually think he is quite valuable in the 4x4 format and at $28, I do not think he is overpriced for his production, but I received some feedback before and during the season suggesting that most of the other owners would not have paid him that much and that his market value is actually below what I am paying him.With my team falling to last in the standings, he was one of the players I expected to sell before the year was out.

I went through the standings to see who was in a position to compete but struggling with their SP and sent out feeler emails to a few owners, and got a bite. Actually, and this becomes important, I got exactly one bite. Most of the responses I received were tepid at best, ranging from "I'm pretty lukewarm on him" to "Oh no, I hate Billingsley." (To be fair, the latter stemmed from anti-Dodger sentiment more than anything else).

But one owner expressed interest. Over the next couple weeks, talks went slowly and my team bounced around between 12th and 10th. I knew that the other owner was exploring some other deals, including one for Cliff Lee from an owner who I knew was entering full-on sales mode. We started to settle on a deal that would include either Jordan Zimmermann ($5) or Zach Britton ($3) along with a couple prospects. I couldn't get him to bite on sending me Brandon  Belt, but names like Archer, Choice, Segura, Machado, and Arodys Vizcaino were tossed around.

And then something odd happened. His team began to drop, falling from the top 5, while my team started to climb. By the beginning of the week, he and I were bouncing between 7th and 8th, and over the next couple days, I climbed as high as 3rd (for about an hour). But we kept talking and settled on a deal that would send him Billingsley and some cash for Zimmermann, Choice ($1) and Archer ($3).

My situation had changed. On Wednesday, I was in 4th when my hand was forced - the owner I was dealing with proposed the trade and gave me until 5:30 p.m. that evening or he was pulling the deal. I could have called his bluff, but I knew he could get Lee (for a higher price) or 1-2 other pitchers, and this deal really would be off the table.

Looking to the future, I think I got good value here. Zimmermann should develop into a solid starter (I think the k-rate will come back as he continues to recover from surgery), I really like what Choice brings to the table, and I think Archer could be a decent contributor - although I kind of hope he ends up in a relief role, where I think he will have more value for me.

From a 2011 perspective, I think it is clear he got more value. In evaluating this, I'll assume no 2011 value from the prospects: Choice is nowhere near the bigs and Archer seems unlikely to contribute this year either. But even so, I don't think the spread is huge. The rest of season ZiPS projection for Billingsley is 166 IP, 8.46 K/9, .6 HR/9, 3.42 ERA, 1.28 WHIP. For Zimmerman, 82 IP (by far the biggest gap), 7.13 K/9, .88 HR/9, 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP. Clearly Billingsley is the better pitcher, or projects to be, but Zimmermann is younger and much cheaper. Plus, I have strengthened my farm system to the point that I may be able to make another deal for a SP.

So the conundrum I was left with was whether to take a forward looking trade that would likely leave me needing to make another deal to get back to a solid rotation for 2011 when I was pushing up towards the money.

And this is where the fact that I got absolutely no other interest in Billingsley factors in. If this other owner made his deals and settled into a rotation he liked, I had no market to move Billingsley later in the year. In the end, I decided the value I expect (hope?) to get from Zimmermann would be enough to keep me afloat until I can figure out something else, and that I had to jump at the pure value of this deal before it disappeared.

It is not every day that you see a team in 4th move a front-line starter to a team in 8th for an unproven youngster and prospects, but I think in this case it was the right move for me. As always, would love to know what you think!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Trade Recap

Sunday evening I completed my first trade of the year in the FanGraphs Experts League. I'll deliver my evaluation here, but what I am really looking for is your feedback - was this a good trade for me to make?

As always, we need to start with some context. In this case, the only real context you need is that the only 3B eligible player on my roster as of right now is Pablo Sandoval who is obviously not going to be of much use to me for a while. I scoured the waiver wire and found pretty sparse options - Brandon Inge, Jamey Carroll, Jorge Cantu, Aaron Miles...Jack Hannahan (who I may actually start an auction on at some point) was probably my best choice, based on current performance.

Unimpressed, I turned to the trade market and found VERY few teams sitting with backup 3B. Injuries to Longoria and Zimmerman surely had something to do with that. I identified basically four candidates - Dyersville Nine had Chipper Jones riding the pine; Eno's Slaughter had Placido Polanco potentially available; and Andy Behrens had David Freese and Chase Headley on the bench.

I spoke with Eno Sarris late in the process re: his roster (he also has Martin Prado, who is 3B eligible) but he confirmed that only Polanco is available and Polanco as a daily 3B is pretty unattractive. Behrens didn't want to talk about David Freese (who subsequently got hurt himself) and asked about $1 OF/MI options for Headley. The only real option I had there was to move Orlando Cabrera or Chris Carter...and Behrens wasn't interested in either.

That left me with just Chipper. I talked to Andy Andres and he inquired on Asdrubal Cabrera. I have Cabrera signed at $6 and he is CLEARLY outperforming that value to date. The .263 BA is not world-beating, but 5 HR and 2 steals looks awfully good from a SS. As an Indians fan, I would love to believe that this start is legit and that Cabrera is about to become a hell of a value at $6, and a player I would be able to hold onto for years. Instead, I think it's just a power surge. Realistic season expectations from Cabrera moving forward? .280 avg, 7 HR, 10 SB. He'll score some runs batting second in a pretty good lineup, but I just don't think Cabrera is going to become a 15 HR, 15 SB guy.

Andy offered to sweeten the deal and gave me a few choices - Dexter Fowler ($12) or Denard Span ($11) to help with speed, Maicer Izturis ($2), Clint Barmes, Jason Bartlett, Alex Gonzalez or Jose Iglesias (all $1) to fill MI now that I am short a Cabrera, or a couple pitchers, who I wasn't at all interested in.

Looking at my roster, I decided I didn't need to pay for Span or Fowler. I am behind on SB and runs, but just got back Rajai Davis, and my OF is reasonably full - Holliday, Pence, Vlad, Davis, Julio Borbon, Alex Rios, Garrett Jones, Carlos Lee and the soon to return Domonic Brown. Lee and Jones have been helping at 1B and Util with Carlos Pena being a disaster, but I just added Todd Helton, which should ease that burden. Regardless, there is not a lot of room to play Span or Fowler.

Instead, I turned to the MI guys, and the one who jumped out at me was Izturis. Honestly, with playing time, I see no reason he can't match Asdrubal. Since 2007, he has played only 61 to 114 games each year, but when he plays, he hits for decent average, shows reasonable pop for a MI and steals bags.

In the end, I felt I had two options - Move Cabrera for Chipper plus on the guys listed above, or leave 3B empty until I can add a replacement level 3B and give up on the year. I am currently in 8th place and it is too early to sit it out, particularly with Brown back soon and Utley hopefully coming back before TOOOO long. So I made the move.

Now, since the deal was accepted, Izturis was scratched from an Angels game and may be headed to the DL, which is a shame. It changes the complexion of the deal for sure, but not to the point that I regret it. Assuming he gets back soon and plays most of the rest of the year, I think I am still better offer with him and Chipper than I was with my alternative. And if Maicer proves worth keeping, I would have him at $4 instead of Cabrera at $8 next year.

But, as I said, what I really want to know is what you think.  So...responses? Should I have made the trade? Should I have just stuck with a free agent?