Posted on: March 24, 2010 11:18 pm
 

Mistakes and Corrections

I had everything mapped out.  Every position was set and my team would be the greatest team in the league.  No one else would have a shot to come close to me.  I would dominate every week.  I could virtually taste the championship. 

Then came the draft and that's where it all went terribly wrong.

Mistake #1:  My Keepers
 
Matt Holliday
Curtis Granderson
Mark Teixeira
CC Sabathia

These are the deepest positions in fantasy baseball, and those are the positions I chose to keep.  The worst part about it is that Granderson was a mistake.  I should have kept at least one infielder.  I could have kept Aramis Ramirez or Ben Zobrist and had one of the shallower positions shored up.  I figured, however, that I could just pick one of those guys up in the second round of the draft, lock that spot down and be good to go.  Hell, I could have kept Andre Ethier or Adam Lind and had more of a sure thing in the outfield.  Instead I fell in to the Yankees hype and kept Granderson and in the process went against every piece of advice I've ever given out or held to be true.  Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.

Mistake #2:  My Picks

Not necessarily the players I picked but my position and number of picks.  I thought i picked fifth but I picked sixth instead.  Stupid.  I forgot I traded away my second round pick.  Even more stupid.  That means that I have no shot to pick Zobrist or Ramirez in the second round.  There was so much talent available in the first round, with only 4 players being kept, there's no way I could take one of those guys with that first pick.  All my draft plans were crumbling around me.  Thinking I had the fifth pick, I had five guys I was looking at in the first round:  David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Victor Martinez, Jon Lester, and Justin Verlander, in that order.  Guess who the first 5 guys off the board were.  OK, well, someone actually took Mark Reynolds in front of me so I actually got "stuck" with Lester.  CC and Lester give me a great 1-2 punch, but it put my offense in a bind, especially since I had no pick until the 3rd round.

Mistake #3:  My Draft

After Lester, I didn't have a pick until the 3rd round of the draft.  So who did I select?  Another outfielder.  Stupid.  That's right, underachieving Nick Markakis was my second pick of the draft.  Now, I like Markakis.  In a H2H league, Markakis puts up decent points per week but he's another pick at one of the deepest positions in baseball.  4th round rolls around and I do it again.  Jason Bay.  Seriously, is this seriously what I'm doing here.  Jason Bay...  To be fair, though, the top infielders on the board were Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla, Michael Young, and that's about it.  Now I don't really know why, but I hate Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla is too inconistent for a H2H league, and I'm expecting regression from Michael Young who got hurt last year but was on pace for career highs in most categories and that was at age 32.  Those were the only guys available that would probably be gone before my next pick and they are all guys that I'm expecting to hit the toilet this year, so I took Bay.  Another outfielder.

Then comes the turnaround.  After Jason Bay, I got it together.  I used all my fantasy expertise, vast as it is, to build a championship team.  As I began to make my corrections, other owners began to laugh at me.  Let them laugh now.  I'll be laughing in October.  That's right, whereas the first few picks of my draft killed me the next few picks were going to be the building blocks of a champion.  How did I do it?  I drafted players primed for a breakout and, more importantly, I drafted more outfielders.  What??  That makes no sense.  If outfielders are one of the deepest positions in baseball, how can you possibly help yourself by drafting more of them?  The answer:  build a surplus.  If I have a surplus of players at a position, I can afford to overpay for talent where I'm hurting.

Correction #1:  Surplus

My next two picks were Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn.  Smart.  Peavy, I think, gives me the best 1-2-3 in the league and I'm content to start those three SPs every week and let the chips fall where they may.  You can pretty much pencil Adam Dunn in for 40 home runs and 100+ RBI, and Dunn is where I began my surplus.  After that, I took guys that were solid players at the positions I need, Chone Figgins in the 9th and Placido Polanco in the 13th.  Now I'm not happy with either of those guys starting for me.  Figgins had a career year last year and no one not named Pujols ever follows up a career year with a similar year.  Polanco could be a top second baseman hitting from the second spot of a monster Phillies lineup but he's old and last year was the first time he has ever played in 150 games, I don't trust him enough to do it again.  Peavy, I think, gives me the best 1-2-3 in the league and I'm content to start those three SPs every week and let the chips fall where they may.  I also picked up Alfonso Soriano and Nate McLouth in the late rounds.  If Soriano plays in just 145 games and increases his BABIP to .300 (pretty big ifs) there's no reason he can't be a very good #3 OF and hopefully corrective lenses can help McLouth return to his 2008 form.  After looking at the other teams in the league, I figured that any of these guys should be starting on many of those teams.  My plan is taking shape.

Correction # 2:  Breakouts

I ended up with Stephen Drew starting at short and Miguel Montero at catcher.  I think Drew could end up being this year's Troy Tulowitzki but with a better average and if Montero's second half numbers hold up, that translates to 22HR-82RBI-80R-.300ish AVG, firmly putting him in the top 5 at the position.  Smart, I hope.  I also ended up with Colby Rasmus and Jeff Clement, both of whom could be big contributers.  Rasmus because he'll be hitting second in the Cardinals lineup, in front of Pujols, and Clement because he will have catcher eligibility but get everyday at bats playing first base for the Pirates (Pablo Sandoval anyone, well probably not that good, but could be Brandon Inge).

Correction #3:  Trades

The day after the draft, after looking over some teams, I started throwing offers out and making phone calls.  The team who had Aramis Ramirez ended up biting on one of my offers after a little haggling.  Remember all the outfielders I had, well this particular team was starting Carlos Beltran (out at least a month), and David Ortiz at DH (good second half but can he do it for a full year at his age?).  The trade ended up being Figgins and Markakis for A-Ram.  Smart.  Did I overpay for him?  Of course, but that was the plan.  I couldn't be happier.  A-Ram is a perennial 25-30HR and 100+ RBI guy and top 5 third baseman.  A freak injury cost him most of last season, but had he been healthy, he would have easily reached those numbers again.  With the extra roster spot, I picked up Howie Kendrick who had a great second half last year and is ripping the cover off the ball in spring training.  I still have a surplus in the outfield and think i can still throw a few guys out there and may be able to pull off a few more trades but even if i can't, I'm in pretty good shape going into the season.

The moral of the story?  I am the Albert freaking Einstein of fantasy baseball.  Well that's not actual a moral, and it's probably not even true, but if you find youself short on talent at a position during your draft, don't dig yourself a deeper hole and reach for players that are clearly not worth the price you'd have to pay and don't settle for someone you think will perform below their draft position.  Build a surplus at another position and work the trade wire and don't be afraid to overpay for players that will surely be better than what you have already.

Category: Fantasy Baseball
Posted on: March 16, 2010 12:12 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2010 12:36 pm
 

Last Year's Surprise 2B: Zobrist and Hill

Some of last year’s biggest surprises have many fantasy managers wondering where their true value lies.  If you owned one of the surprise standouts from last year, no doubt you love them and would happily take them in the first few rounds of your draft.  A lot of factors determine the validity of a player’s previous season.  Most fantasy managers know that batting average and ERA are almost meaningless stats that depend more upon how lucky a player was as opposed to how well they played.  Two of last year’s most surprising players were Ben Zobrist and Aaron Hill.  Both are being drafted in relatively similar spots, according to their average draft positions on cbssports.com, but can one of them excel from that draft position and leave you, the owner, with an advantage over the competition?

Ben Zobrist – ADP 48
Last Year’s Stats        Last Year’s Peripherals        Since Becoming a Regular
BA      .297                    BABIP           .326                     BABIP          .300
OBP      .405                 xBABIP         .330                     OBP             .395
SLUG    .543                LD %               20.0                   SLUG          .538
HR      27                       FB%              38.5                    HR/FB (%)    17.5
RBI    91                        GB %             41.5
RUNS    91                   HR/FB (%)     17.5
SB    17       
BB    91
KO    104

Zobrist was never a top 100 prospect, primarily because he was always old for the leagues in which he played while in the minors, a major detractor to scouts when they are drawing up their reports. While in the minors, however, only once did he hit below .300 (.279) and never had an OBP less than .400 for an entire season. Zobrist began seeing the big league field on a regular basis in the second half of 2008 and since that time, with the exception of his BABIP in ’08, he has remained remarkably consistent.  His peripheral stats from last year match up very favorably with everything he did in the minor leagues and nothing about those numbers screams “fluke.”  His production at the plate does not deviate noticeably from what you would expect out of a player with the BABIP and HR/FB ratio that Zobrist has.  That means he has the propensity to repeat those dependant statistics such as Runs and RBI becuase you can be reasonably sure that he can put up similar peripheral stats again this year.  The best thing about Zobrist is his BB/K ratio.  Even amidst a slump, he can still score points because of his batting eye and his ability to take a walk and subsequently steal a base.  If Benzo can repeat, in 2010 for an entire season, what he did in 2009 – and I believe he can – he’s a tremendous value pick at the end of round 4 in 12 team mixed leagues and may go off the board even earlier in 2011.

Aaron Hill – ADP 44
Last Year’s Stats        Last Year’s Peripherals        Since Becoming a Regular
BA      .286                    BABIP           .288                      BABIP         .307
OBP      .330                 xBABIP         .303                     OBP             .337
SLUG    .499                 LD %            19.6                     SLUG          .434
HR      36                      FB%              39.5                     HR/FB (%)    08.0
RBI    108                     GB %            41.0
RUNS    103                HR/FB (%)    14.9
SB    6       
BB    42
KO    98

Hill, unlike Zobrist, made Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list twice while in the minor leagues.  It was always expected that he would be a bona fide all star at the big league level and last year he broke out with a bang.  Not since Alfonso Soriano played the position had a second baseman hit more than 35 home runs in a season.  That’s right, Chase Utley has never done it and the only second basemen in the last decade to accomplish the feat were Soriano, Jeff Kent, and a roided up Brett Boone (allegedly).  Last year Hill was a bit unlucky in the BABIP department, hitting 15 points below his expected BABIP. His HR/FB rate more than doubled his career mark up to the beginning of last year, yet it was still below 15% which is quite a bit lower than you would expect a 35+ home run hitter to have.  A jump like that tells me that he probably won’t be able to belt the same number of round trippers but if his BABIP returns to form, he can expect to hit more doubles.  In short, Hill will be good this year, just not as good as he was last year and is probably being drafted a bit too high.  I have him solidly in the fifth round of 12 team mixed leagues as far as production goes for the upcoming season.


Both players are good, but judging from the numbers themselves, Zobrist seems to be the player most likely to repeat.  That's not to say Hill is bad and should be kicked to the curb, hell, I'd love to have him on my team, but I'd be upset if I took Hill ahead of Zobrist and ended up with a line of 25-95-90-6-.295.  Zobrist is in for a big year, in my opinion.  Expect 30-105-95-25-.295 along with a great OBP from him.









Posted on: March 4, 2010 7:13 pm
 

Only an Idiot Would Pick Hanley Over Albert

When deciding who to take with the number one overall pick in fantasy drafts, many owners agonize over the decision.  Position scarcity and injury issues jump to the front of your mind.  You analize line-up protection and contract situations.  If this reminds you of yourself, just stop thinking, at least for the first round of the draft.

This year, and for the last 5-8 years of fantasy baseball, there has only been one choice for the first pick.  There is one player who is clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest, and if you take anyone other than Albert Pujols, you should be shot, or at least laughed at by your fellow fantasy managers.  The advantage that Pujols holds over all other players in baseball is ridiculous.  In fact, I'll contend (mainly because I have no shot at owning Pujols any of my leagues this year) that whoever takes Pujols should have a 15 point per week handicap.  Since 2003, Pujols has finished number one in fantasy points every single year, except one. If you have Pujols on your team and you don't make the playoffs, then you've done something dreadfully wrong or injuries absolutely demolished the rest of your team.

Pujols and Hanley Ramirez are the consensus first and second picks this year.  Some of you (Yankees fans) will shout for A-Rod, but you all know that Hanley should realistically be the second overall pick.  Position scarcity is the number one reason that most managers will argue for Hanley over Prince Albert.  Shortstop is such a shallow position and first base such a deep position that most owners incorrectly believe that having Han-Ram, the clear number one guy at SS, and plugging in any of the top 15 first basemen will matchup with Albert and whichever "scrub" SS is filling in on that team's roster. 

Is Hanley clearly that far ahead of the pack at his weak position?  Can any of the top 10-15 players at first base come anywhere close to measuring up to Pujols?

Let's debunk the position scarcity argument right now.  I'm not saying to never consider it during your draft, but you should ignore it in the first round, and probably second round as well.  These rounds are for picking up the best players in the game and position scarcity has no factor in who actually scores the most fantasy points from year to year.  As far as first basemen go, sure, there are seemingly a million to choose from.  The problem with the position scarcity argument is that first basemen are generally the top point scorers in the league, so they go off the board relatively fast, thus making that position far more thin than it starts out.  Here are the average draft positions for the top first basemen from CBSSports.com:

Albert Pujols - 1
Prince Fielder - 6
Ryan Howard - 10
Mark Teixeira - 12
Miguel Cabrera - 16
Adrian Gonzalez - 22
Victor Martinez - 25
Justin Morneau - 35
Pablo Sandoval - 37

When it's your turn to pick again, in a 12 team league, first base is already pretty thin with those turnaround picks you have.  If you don't take Morneau now, you're stuck with someone who will clearly be a third tier player or you're stuck with someone who's true value, Kung-Fu Panda or V-mart, lies at another position.  Here are the ADPs for shortstops:

Hanley Ramirez - 2
Troy Tulowitzki - 19
Jose Reyes - 29
Jimmy Rollins - 34
Derek Jeter - 49

When the draft comes back to you, you could still have a choice of three of the top 5 shortstops, all of them clearly second tier guys.

With the number one overall pick, let's look at the points from 1B and SS positions depending on whether you took Hanley or Albert with that first pick and assuming you take a player from the other of these positions with one of your picks in rounds 2/3.  For this we will be using the 3 year average points from my customized H2H league.  The scoring is similar to standard CBS H2H scoring with a few tweaks.

Assuming you draft Pujols first, you have a shot at getting Reyes at pick 24/25 but let's just go with Jimmy Rollins because we know he will be there.  Before you say that rollins had a great year a few years ago and is clearly regressing, let me point out that rollins only scored 85 points less than hanley last year and if you wanted, you could wait until your picks in rounds 4/5 for Jeter who scored just 50 points less than Hanley last year.
 
Pujols 3 yr avg:  986 points
Rollins 3 yr avg:  820
Total 3 yr avg :  1806

For the sake of this argument, we will use the 4th best first baseman, in terms of ADP, on this list since we used the 4th best SS.  Keep in mind, though, that you probably have virtually no shot of landing Mark Teixeira with your second and third picks, whereas you have a very good shot at landing Rollins there.  Also keep in mind that Pujols outscored Tex by a whopping 220 points last year!

Hanley 3 yr avg:  883.
Teixeira 3 yr avg:  824
Total 3 yr avg:  1708

That is nearly a 100 point difference!  And that's the very best you can hope for because Morneau's point totals are nowhere near as good as Tex's.

My final point is that Pujols outscored every player in baseball last year by at least 159 points and outscored Hanley Ramirez by 265 points.  There were 6 other shortstops within 159 points of Hanley Ramirez last year.  While Hanley Ramirez may be the best shortstop in the fantasy game, the point differential between him and the next best guy at the position is a mere shadow of the dominance that Pujols has over the rest of all Major League Baseball players.  It would be sheer idiocy to not take Pujols number one overall right now and for years to come, until he shows true signs of slipping down the fantasy baseball ladder.


Posted on: February 3, 2010 1:43 pm
 

Changing of the Guard at Texas Tech

As a former Texas A&M student I am a huge fan of all things Aggie Sports.  By the same token I am diametrically opposed to all things Texas Tech.  When Mike Leach decided to stick to his guns and stick it to the Tech administration, he doomed the Red Raiders to seasons competing with Baylor and Iowa State for the bottom spot in the Big XII.  Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration because the replacement is pretty darn good.

The Red Raider football program, under the eye of Mike Leach, had become a force in the Big XII.  They always seemed to win a few games they weren’t supposed to win.  Sure, there were times when their defense was putrid and their running game was nonexistent, but you don’t need John David Crowe or the 1919 Aggie Defense (I couldn’t resist, even though I had to go back a long way for that!) when your quarterback is accumulating 400+ yards per game and the offense is still scoring 40+ points per game.  Leach took recruits that Texas, OU and even A&M discarded, put them in his uber-spread, and always ended up with something resembling a good football team.

Leach’s highly publicized termination in December 2009, will force the football team into obscurity for a few years, at least.  In his years as a head coach in the SEC, the new coach, Tommy Tuberville, compiled an impressive 110-60 record, including 6-3 in bowl games and an undefeated season.  It’s safe to say, when it comes to coaching, he is no slouch.  His problem will be switching from Leach’s spread to his more run-oriented attack.  In ten years at Auburn, only 3 times did his teams average more than 200 yards passing per game.  In nine years as Texas Tech head coach, only in his first two years as coach did Leach’s teams average less than 350 yards passing per game.  That gap in passing production means that their styles and, therefore, necessary players will be very different from each other.

Leach’s system worked because it was a quick strike, wide-open system.  He didn’t have to recruit five-star receivers to be successful; he recruited athletes that could get open.  He didn’t need the big-armed quarterback to be successful; he needed the smart, quick thinking, accurate passer.  He didn’t need the prototypical running back or 320 pound offensive line to open holes because he didn’t run the ball.

The personnel needed for Tuberville’s prospective offense will be vastly different than what he has now.  Recruiting athletes for Tech, which is in the middle of the West Texas “desert” is going to be a challenge when compared to recruiting for the historied Auburn Tigers’ football program.  Tuberville is, however, a proven coach from the best conference in football.   He is a big name and even current high school players will recognize him if he comes calling.  While I’m happy to see Leach go, I’m not so happy to see Tuberville take over.  Hopefully, it takes more than just a few years for him to implement his smashmouth offensive and defensive philosophies.

I would love to say that Texas Tech’s football program took a huge hit when Leach was dismissed, but I can’t honestly say that I think the new coach will have problems beyond the first few years with establishing Tech as a threat in the Big XII once again.  Until he can do that, however, I will smile every time the Red Raiders lose a game.




 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com