October 2013

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RotoAuthority Retrospective: Position Rankings -- Pitchers

Well, we've come to the end of RA's coverage of the 2013 season and we're wrapping up by looking back at our original position rankings. You can check out the hitters here, or you can just scroll down a little. Today, we examine our pitcher rankings. To save space and force myself to be original, I'm not including the original rankings in this post, but check them out: starters took two posts, but the relievers are more brief. I do recommend clicking those links--it'll be a long, long time of scrolling before you find articles we posted in March....

Just as for hitters, we'll check out our predictions and see how we did when we were different from the fantasy community at large (measured by proxy with Yahoo! rankings). So, the fact that Jason Motte was out for the season but ranked high on our list ain't counting against us. Neither is Jonathan Papelbon's disappointingly mortal season. Don't worry, though, there were plenty of other hits and misses worth actually noting.

Relivers

Hits

Compared to the press some other guys got, I'm pretty pleased with tabbing Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan for our 4th and 5th overall slots. Nobody that had those pitchers was disappointed, except keeper leaguers having to say their goodbye to Mo. The thing that made this ranking good wasn't where we placed these pitchers--that was pretty close to standard--but the tier break we placed before them and disappointments Rafael Soriano, Fernando Rodney, and J.J. Putz. (More on those guys below, unfortunately.)

Our 10th-12th ranked guys were by far our best predictions: Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo, and Greg Holland. All three were huge hits...though, to be fair, almost everyone else knew about Romo and Holland too. Grilli is the gem, and if I hadn't told my dad to read the article it might have been me who owned him and won our league...that's why you don't grow up to be fantasy experts, kids. Below these guys but in the same tier, we had Glen Perkins, who was another underrated hit.

We were lower than most on Joel Hanrahan, and higher than most on Bobby Parnell--both rankings I feel good about. 

At the very end of our list of Quality Non-Closers we remembered Koji Uehara. I'll claim that as a sort of moral victory.

Misses

Biggest, most glaring miss: accidentally leaving Craig Kimbrel unranked. Just kidding. We nailed that one like everyone else in the baseball-watching world. No, our big miss was ranking John Axford 8th! Ouch. There was reasoning behind that, but whatever it was it doesn't justify missing by that far. Let that be a lesson in reading multiple sources, I suppose.

Actually, everyone we ranked from 6th-9th was a miss: J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, Axford, and Fernando Rodney. Our saving grace was that we were lower on them than others...but still. At least two of those guys kept their jobs all year.

Right, smack, in the middle of our very best picks we had Tom Wilhelmsen and Rafael Betancourt ranked 13th and 14th. Wilhelmsen ran out of the same magic bartending dust that Axford did and Betancourt just fell apart. Literally. (Well, almost literally.)

Addison Reed was so good to start that 17th was low for him...but he kinda made up for it down the stretch.

Jim Johnson, Grant Balfour, Chris Perez, and Steve Cishek were all guys we thought shaky, but they all got the saves. 

Starters

Hits

Max Scherzer at number 13 was a pretty nice hit. You know you didn't regret using a 4th or 5th round pick to make sure he was on your team.

We were low on Matt Cain (not, you know, low enough), and if that kept you from nabbing him you breathed easy.

High rankings (33rd and 34th) for Homer Bailey and A.J. Burnett gave us some pretty nice hits.

We tabbed Hisashi Iwakuma for our 55th pitcher, and he more than earned that slot.

We ranked Jon Lester rather lower than average, and you probably didn't mind missing out on him as his ERA climbed after his hot start.

Putting Patrick Corbin 78th on the list meant he was actually on our board...not on a lot of others, I don't think.

Misses

We certainly paid for being higher than most on CC Sabathia and R.A. Dickey. I guess we've learned our lesson on guys with initials that don't pitch for Pittsburgh.

Between the strikeouts and our expectation that he take another step forward, we were more bullish on Yovani Gallardo (18th) than most. I, at least, paid for his hundred steps back into terrible-dom on multiple fantasy teams. We were willing to take the plunge on Roy Halladay (23rd) and Ian Kennedy (25th), which worked out horribly for anyone who jumped with us.

At 31st and 32nd, Josh Johnson and Jon Niese ruined some fantasy plans, while Marco Estrada (37th) wasn't any more helpful.

More aggression on young guns Matt Harvey (54th) and Shelby Miller (Prospects section) was warranted in retrospect, while our excitement for veterans Ryan Dempster, Phil Hughes, and Edwin Jackson was, ah, misplaced.

There were plenty of other hits and misses throughout our rankings but, unsurprisingly, most of those were us rising and falling with the fantasy community, which seems appropriate. A good rule of thumb in prediction is to have a very, very good reason when you disagree with everyone else in the world.

RotoAuthority is going dark now, to let you focus on the playoffs, or football, or fantasy cricket, or whatever it is you do to amuse yourself from October to March. Don't worry, though, RA will be back next January to give you an early leg up on your competition. See you next year.



RotoAuthority Retrospective: Position Rankings -- Hitters

By the time you read this, the real playoffs will be ready to start and you'll be ready to join the Pirates bandwagon or something like that. I will. Or maybe you'll be so morose about the way your own team missed playoffs again (three years in a row...ugh, now I know how real Pirates fans felt), and want to delve into some fantasy post-mortem. Whether you missed your league title by the thinnest of margins or imploded in April, it's always good to take a look at what went wrong...and what didn't.

Today, we'll examine RotoAuthority's position rankings and see how things went. I'm not going to reproduce all the lists here, for the sake of my space and your time, but I will be linking to each article before I hit up the highlights. And the lowlights. Today's article will focus on hitters; we'll take on pitchers in a couple days.

As a proxy for other rankings you could have looked at, I may reference the Yahoo! preseason rankings.

Outfielders

Hits

Matt Kemp certainly wasn't the seventh-best OF...but where else did you see him ranked outside the 1st round?

If you took Adam Jones in the 2nd, you didn't regret it.

Matt Holliday and Shin-Soo Choo didn't disappoint in the 3rd, while Carlos Beltran stayed healthy enough to live up to his spot in the rankings (22nd).

Alfonso Soriano did pretty good for you if he was the 37th OF taken in your draft.

Colby Rasmus and Brandon Moss were our best bench suggestions.

Misses

We'll skip the usual guys that everyone missed, and skip right to Josh Willingham, who we ranked with the 6th-7th round guys.

We missed the other direction with Hunter Pence (33rd OF), who you probably didn't get if you followed our advice. Nelson Cruz (34th) would have been an even worse call, if we hadn't mentioned "that PED thing." In that same round, you probably missed out on Shane Victorino (36th) and his resurgence. 

Carlos Gomez was starting to get trendy when we wrote this up, but we didn't quite buy it, ranking him 49th. Um...hopefully you drafted targeted him before that.

Catchers

Hits

We weren't miles ahead of everyone else on Wilin Rosario and Mike Napoli, but did place them over the still-very-good Victor Martinez, and the awful Miguel Montero. (Here I give myself a half-hearted pat on the back.)

Jonathan Lucroy was a pretty good call at 10th catcher.

Though we caught some comment-flack for it, we were duly unimpressed with Russell Martin (pitch-framing and postseason heroics notwithstanding).

Misses

We could have gone a little higher on V-Mart, and pairing Jesus Montero in a tier with Brian McCann is just embarrassing.

Of all the wild stabs in the dark we took, none were at Jason Castro or Evan Gattis, which could have made us look like geniuses.

First Basemen

Hits

Did you grab Edwin Encarnacion in the 2nd round? Feel some trepidation? That one worked out okay.

Taking David Ortiz over the majority of first basemen would have really worked out.

Ranking Ike Davis as low as 22nd wasn't nearly low enough...but it was better than the ranking plenty of other outlets gave him.

This is doubling on the same guy, but Brandon Moss was a pretty good 30th first baseman.

Misses

Congratulations if you didn't miss on Albert Pujols and Billy Butler. We were also high on Anthony Rizzo, while too low on Paul Goldschmidt.

Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko made us look bad in the 7th or 8th rounds, while Lance Berkman made us look bad if you drafted him at all.

Second Base

Hits

We were sort of ahead of the crowd on Jose Altuve, I guess. This one wasn't RA's signature position.

Misses

Well...you can start with Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist (4th and 5th), and go right to Danny Espinosa, Rickie Weeks, and Dan Uggla (9th, 10th, and 11th).

In all fairness, it's pretty tough to come out looking smart when a whole position seems to take a step back. Expect second base to be even drier in 2014 than it was going into this season.

Third Basemen

Hits

Even in a partial season, Hanley Ramirez justified his number five slot on our list. I'm sure we downgraded him after the injury, but even if you didn't, you weren't really unsatisfied. He's back.

Pedro Alvarez and Manny Machado overperformed even our expectations, but ours were higher than most, and hopefully encouraged you to draft aggressively.

I'll give us a little credit for including Matt Carpenter and Josh Donaldson in our top 30...and by us, I mean someone else on our team besides me....

Misses

We pretty much missed on everyone ranked from 6th-11th: Aramis Ramirez, Chase Headley, Brett Lawrie, Pablo Sandoval, Will Middlebrooks, and Todd Frazier all brought disappointment to their fantasy teams. Just a couple picks later, David Freese did the same. At some point I mentioned third base's "stronger middle class" than the other infield positions, and that's who these guys represent. Ouch. Not just for us, but for the entire position.

Shortstops

Hits

We suggested reaching for Ian Desmond--aren't you glad you did?

We were actually a little low on J.J Hardy, but hopefully still higher than mainstream. Those 25 homers paid dividends in plenty of leagues.

Everth Cabrera might have gotten suspended to end the season...but not before racking up nearly a million 37 steals in less than 400 AB.

Misses

Big misses for us on the whole, Elvis Andrus = Alcides Escobar equation. Andrus was much better than our 11th rank, and Escobar was much, much worse. Guess who ended up on my teams?

Jose Reyes was a disappointment at the top end of the rankings, but he had the virtue of not killing you as badly as others (looking at you, Starlin Castro).

Danny Espinosa gets to suck the life out of this set of rankings too, while Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter don't make things look any better.

Overall

There's a lot of fantasy information out there, and it's sometimes a mess to sort through. Each prediction system will have its hits and misses. The best recommendation I (or any other honest commentator) can give is to get your info from more than one source and take advantage of their mutual predictions.

Not that that would have saved you from drafting Starlin Castro.

Check us out in a couple days for the pitching segment of this narrative and the wrap-up of RA's 2013 coverage. 



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: Season In Review

Another fantasy season is in the books and with it, the first season of the "Proof Is In The Peripherals" column.  We've had a few laughs, shed a few tears, made a few obscure pop culture references that nobody understood, and overall, had more fun than a termite at a lumberyard.  Now that we've come to the end of the year, however, let's dip back into the advanced metrics one more time and see which players gained the most (and least) benefit from all those beloved peripherals...

BABIP Buster Of The Year: I think we can safely say Edwin Encarnacion is for real.  Double-E followed up his 42-homer performance from 2012 by hitting .272/.370/.534 with 36 long balls in 2013, and that's even with missing the last couple of weeks with a wrist injury.  Encarnacion did all this despite being tied (with Andrelton Simmons and Matt Wieters) for the third-lowest BABIP in all of baseball -- only Darwin Barney and Dan Uggla produced lower BABIPs this season than Encarnacion's .247 mark.  Imagine what this guy could do if he had more batted-ball luck on his side, eh?  Provided that this wrist injury isn't anything too serious, Encarnacion looks like a solid late-first round/early-second round pick in next year's fantasy drafts, especially since he'll retain his 3B eligibility.

BABIP Squanderer Of The Year:  I touched on Michael Bourn's declining steals numbers back in July and things didn't pick up for the Cleveland outfielder over the season's last two months.  He ended the year with only 23 stolen bases, by far his lowest total since becoming a regular in 2008, and not much else 5x5 help at the plate with his .263/.316/.360 line, six homers, 50 RBI and 75 runs scored.  You have to look pretty far down the list of the league's highest BABIPs to find a fantasy dud since, by the statistic's very nature, guys with high BABIPs will likely be big producers, but Bourn's .338 BABIP (tied for 24th-best in baseball) should've produced more pop.

Bourn's overall numbers aren't terrible for a fourth outfielder, but I'm guessing you drafted Bourn expecting a heck of a lot more than solid bench production.  If he's losing his speed, then frankly, Bourn's fantasy usefulness becomes extremely limited.  I'm putting a big red flag next to his name for my 2014 draft. 

BABIP Creation Of The Year: Look no further than Chris Johnson, the man with the league's highest BABIP.  Johnson had been kissed by the BABIP gods in the past (he had a .351 BABIP from 2010-12) but Johnson hit .321/.358/.457 this season despite swing and contact rates that were largely in line with his career totals.  Johnson was definitely hitting the ball hard, as his 27% line drive rate ranked eighth in baseball, but let's be honest, it was the .391 BABIP that really sealed the deal in making him into an offensive force. 

Johnson's ability to score consistently high BABIPs make him more than a one-year wonder, but since he lacks the power and run-scoring abilities of other top-tier fantasy third basemen, I'd hold off on taking him relatively early in a draft.  I'll need to see him do it again first, since y'know, four straight high BABIP years apparently isn't enough for me.  "Okay Superman, the rest of my criminal buddies have punched you in the stomach and broken their hands, but I'm sure that if MY punch hits you just right, I can....ouch, yep, that's a broken hand."

The Lucky Hurler Award: This one has to be shared between two pitchers, Travis Wood and Hisashi Iwakuma.  My criteria was to give this trophy to the pitcher(s) who had the lowest BABIP, highest strand rate and the biggest negative gap between their FIP and their ERA, and technically only Iwakuma fit the bill.  His 81.9% strand rate was second-highest in baseball, his .252 BABIP was the sixth-lowest and he posted a 2.66 ERA and a 3.44 FIP, tying the Mariners righty for the largest favorable swing in that category.  Iwakuma was tied with Wood, whose .248 BABIP was third-lowest in baseball and whose strand rate was a *bit* short of elite level, at only 77.4% (18th-highest). 

So if Wood wasn't quite up there with Iwakuma, why am I giving him a share of the award?  It's because if Iwakuma had pitched to his 3.44 FIP/3.28 xFIP/3.40 SIERA, he's still a good pitcher.  Wood, on the other hand, threw up a 4.50 xFIP and 4.50 SIERA to go with his 3.89 FIP --- if the normal regression had taken place, Wood wouldn't have been worth keeping in a fantasy rotation given his unimpressive strikeout and win totals.  So, in the spirit of John Castino and Alfredo Griffin's tied Rookie Of The Year vote in 1979, I'm just going to split the difference and give Wood and Iwakuma each a share of the award.  Double stars, everybody wins!  As for next year's fantasy drafts, I'd avoid Wood but keep an eye out for Iwakuma, who's been an underrated force out in the Seattle rotation for two years in a row now.

The Unlucky Hurler Award: It's another split vote, as Edinson Volquez and Edwin Jackson were the only two pitchers to rank in the top ten in the categories of largest BABIP, lowest strand rate and biggest gap between an ERA and FIP.  Volquez and Jackson actually both finished one-two in the ERA/FIP gap and strand rate categories, with Volquez posting a 5.71 ERA/4.24 FIP and 64.5% strand rate and Jackson stranding just 63.3% of baserunners and posting a 4.98 ERA/3.79 FIP.  Volquez also had a .325 BABIP (fourth in the league) while Jackson was right behind at .322.

Now, "unlucky" may be a bit of a relative term here since by now, fantasy owners should know what to expect from both guys.  Jackson is your prototypical fifth starter in a fantasy rotation that could easily be dropped out for a good streaming option.  Volquez had a bit of sleeper buzz last spring since he was pitching out of Petco Park, but he couldn't even get it together there, and has probably spent his last bit of fantasy capital.  It's not like either guy was counted on as a heavy option for fantasy owners but still, you can't deny that both pitchers' bad seasons weren't quite as bad as their statistics would indicate.

The Pitching Fortune Squanderer Award: Let me unleash the Colbert balloons for this one since I CALLED IT.  Hey, Jarrod Parker!  You had a .260 BABIP, 73.2% strand rate, you pitch in Oakland and you still couldn't do better than a 3.97 ERA, only 6.12 K/9 and a blergh peripherals line of 4.40 FIP/4.41 xFIP/4.48 SIERA?  It's almost like you were hampered by pitching an increased number of innings in 2012 or something.  Let me dust off my hands triumphantly for that call, one of the few many that went my way this year.  Parker threw 197 innings this season and is bound to pitch at least a few more during the Athletics' playoff run, so if arm fatigue is an issue, next year could also be shaky.  Or, since the kid doesn't even turn 25 until November, maybe he's building up that arm strength and next season he'll morph into a workhorse ace.  Parker is worth a slot as a fourth or fifth starter in your 2014 fantasy rotation but don't rely on him for any more than that...yet.



RotoAuthority League Update: Final Standings

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column is glad he wasn't one of them.

Final Standings

1. Yu at the Animal Zoo 104

2. Smell the Glove 100

3. Gramma Nutt Crushers 86

4. Brewsterville Bruins 65.5

5. E-Z Sliders 64

6. Say It Ain't So Cano 63

7. A Century of Misery 62

8. Men With Wood 59.5

 

9. Philly Cheez 58.5

10. Reedy 49

11. UP 41.5

12. Forty 2 Twenty 4 27

Well, it turns out I wasn't premature when I projected Yu at the Animal Zoo to be the champion a week ago. While Tim Dierkes and his Smell the Glove put up a valiant effort all season long, ultimately the roster for Yu at the Animal Zoo was simply too good. When I analyzed the draft way back in the spring, I immediately identified this pitching on this squad as potentially electric. In the end, though, I was actually underselling this staff. Yu at the Animal Zoo came within 0.02 in WHIP of posting a perfect score in pitching points. An offense led by a certain Tigers third baseman was certainly strong in its own right, too.

I can't say enough about the quality of management by this owner. As I pointed out last week, it's an understatement to say this owner was active. In fact, the manager for Yu at the Animal Zoo made a grand total of 286 moves. For reference, my team was next at 221. Sure, a solid draft put this squad in a good position to win the league. In-season management, however, proved to be the deciding factor in this owner taking home the title. 

Commissioner Tim Dierkes deserves some attention for finishing runner-up and in the money. After landing in the cellar in 2011 and then next-to-last in 2012, Smell the Glove enjoyed a tremendous bounceback season. On a personal level, it's a pleasure to play in a league with such a respectable commissioner. Like Smell the Glove, the Gramma Nutt Crushers cashed for a second time. The fact they're both previous champions is Exhibit A to those like me who feel this is mostly a game of skill over time.

With the thrill of victory, of course, also comes the agony of defeat. Last year's champion, UP, unfortunately got the boot from the league. Newcomers Reedy and Forty 2 Twenty 4 could only last one season. Finally, one of the league's original members, Philly Cheez, will have to say goodbye to the league. With two cashes during his time, this owner surely deserves some credit for avoiding the bottom four for so many years. We're now left with Men With Wood as the lone original member aside from Commissioner Dierkes. 





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