RotoAuthority Retrospective


RA Retrospective: We Went Bold...Did We Go Home Too?

It is perhaps not completely pertinent to note that I’m writing this only a few, very short hours of sleep after one of the greatest playoff games of my lifetime. It makes me feel better that the playoffs are here and takes the sting out of the suddenly-gone fantasy season. As you can tell, I’m not an A’s fan. 

The upshot is that if you see typos here, don’t be as quick to judge as I usually am…up late watching baseball is the only valid excuse for such things.

The other upshot is now I wish I had TV…

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my rambling homage to last night’s amazing game out of the way, let’s actually introduce the article: each preseason the RA staff produces a series of articles offering bold advice and suggesting that you (proverbially only, I promise) go home if you don’t take it. How were our results? As is customary with bold advice, the results were a mixed bag. I review our collective boldness below. 

CC Sabathia Will Regain His Form

This one came from Mark, but I was plenty on board with it, snagging CC Sabathia on at least one team. So we went bold.

And yeah, we went home. Or at least, the team (teams? I can’t even remember) that I got the big Yankee on definitely finished out of the money. In case you didn’t think about any players but your own, CC managed just 46 IP before getting injured, posting an unpleasant 5.28 ERA for his trouble. So it’s hard to say he regained his form in the sense of “helped your fantasy team or his own real-life one.”

But there is a technicality that intrigues me for Sabathia’s future: he posted a FIP of 4.78 (yeah, still bad), and an xFIP of 3.11 (straight-up good). The return of his strikeout ability (9.39 K/9) and one of the lowest walk rates of his career (1.96 BB/9) probably helped on the good side. On the bad…well, it was probably that 1.96 HR/9. No, that’s not a typo (I checked, like, three times), CC had identical walk and homer rates per nine innings. So that’s probably part of the difference in his peripheral and real numbers. Is it enough to say that he “regained his form?” No…I mean, being injured for most of the year is the opposite of being a good draft pick. But I’ll be watching his health next spring and maybe sneaking him onto some rosters. 

Masahiro Tanaka is the Next Great Fantasy Import 

I’d love to take credit for this one, but it was all Luckey. Even with Masahiro Tanaka’s injury, I suspect plenty of his owners got positive value. His super-high mock draft price (remember those?) cooled off a lot in my real drafts, to the point where I (an admitted skeptic) considered taking him. The fact that I nearly got beat in the RA Silver League by a team named after this guy testifies to his fantasy worth. In an anecdotal, non-analytic sort of way…

Anyway, Tanaka went 13-5 in 136 IP, with over a strikeout per inning and a miniscule walk rate (1.39). He posted a 2.77 ERA…and a 2.58 xFIP. So yeah, well played Luckey.

For all that, I’m not planning to draft Tanaka next year. Why? Well, he seems to have just missed the chance for us to see if the league will figure him out the second time around, a problem that has hit Japanese import pitchers in the past (I think anyway…I’ll look for real evidence before making my draft choices…) and plenty of other phenom pitchers with similar IP totals (Dontrelle Willis anyone?). I actually think Tanaka’s real, but the downside of paying an ace price for him before he’s truly proven is pretty steep.

Carlos Beltran is a Top-10 OF

Andrew called this one, but I’m not leaving him alone out there: I drafted Carlos Beltran on several teams, and while I didn’t think he was really in the top ten, I thought he was closer than most pundits.

This one couldn’t have gone much worse, with ol’ Beltran showing his, well, age. He didn’t hit and he was injured a lot, batting just .233 with 15 homers in only 449 PA. He did enjoy a monster couple weeks there that provided some hope down the stretch…and then slid back into awful. This one sent me home in particular, but what will I do with Beltran next year? Is he a good bounceback candidate…or is this the end of the line for him as he rides off into the Hall of the Very Good?

Everth Cabrera Cheats and Steals, but Doesn’t Lie 

This was my call, and I followed it up by grabbing Everth Cabrera in multiple leagues. Maybe next year’s snappy column title will be “Everth Cabrera Lies, Cheats, and Doesn’t Steal Much,” because this one failed about as badly as they can.

The Padres’ shortstop played half the year, cut his walk rate by about 40%, inflated his whiff rate by about 30%, and was just 18 for 26 in steals. He batted just .232 with a .272 OBP and just a .300 SLG. Hopefully you didn’t have him in a league that counts OPS. So Cabrera slid back in every way he could have. Was it thanks to losing those PED’s? Jhonny Peralta didn’t seem to miss ‘em. Can it all (or mostly) be chalked up to the injuries? It’s tough to say. His speed at such a scarce position makes him a hard guy to forget about, but I don’t think I’ll be counting on him to anchor my steals category or my SS position next year.

My Guys

Another of my posts, this one took note, not of who I was plugging in columns, but who I was actually mock drafting. It had enough players to have some hits in with the misses, so that was cool.

My frequent picks included Yan Gomes (win!), Brandon Moss (win!), Aaron Hill (ouch), Everth Cabrera (ugh), Aramis Ramirez (okay, I guess), Matt Holliday (eh…okay), Leonys Martin (not bad, but not special), Colby Rasmus (back to bad), Anibal Sanchez (not even a win before he got hurt), Matt Cain (I have to look away), Francisco Liriano (only good after I dropped him), Scott Kazmir (finally, another good one!), and Josh Johnson (literally useless).

I think Holliday was the only one of these guys I didn’t end up drafting. Gomes was the best one, as I had him on a couple squads, including a league-winner. Moss and Kazmir were very helpful for about the same amount of the season, and Ramirez could have been a lot worse. Like most third basemen this year. Martin delivered the steals. 

The pitching was actually where it really got ugly; while I think Sanchez could have gotten back to a near-ace level (and I think he will next year), Cain was an unmitigated disaster and Johnson didn’t pitch.

I mentioned at the end of the column that I was really amenable to injury risk and I think I spread the risk out a little better in most of my actual drafts…but yeah, I saw a lot of red DL flags during the season. 

Joe Mauer, First-Round Value

Well…nope. Sorry Joe, but the whole playing first base all year thing just didn’t seem to help. Instead of hitting like a first baseman while playing catcher for your fantasy team…well, at least you could still slot him in at catcher. 

Worryingly, it was Joe Mauer’s power that cooled off the most. I’ll be surprised if it returns after a year as rough as this one. I made Mauer a key target in a keeper league when he was a prospect, and he’s paid off for me for a decade now…but without catcher eligibility going into next year (he didn’t catch at all this year), I’m gonna have to release him. It's gonna hurt. Mauer isn’t that old, and it’s not too late for him to provide some real-life value at first, but if his power doesn’t increase it’ll be hard to see much daylight between him and James Loney next year.

Big Papi, Big Value

It feels good to be right, finally. I compared David Ortiz to similar first basemen (Prince Fielder, Freddie Freeman, Albert Pujols, and Eric Hosmer) and suggested that he might be the best…but was getting drafted the latest. (I also hedged this bet by suggesting that it might be rational to take Freeman ahead of Ortiz based on his youthful potential.)

With 35 homers, Ortiz provided some very nice value relative to his draft position. A strong comeback from Albert Pujols and a much better lineup gave the Angel a better than expected year (and way more runs scored than Ortiz), but I think anyone who drafted Big Papi was pretty pleased with what they got. Certainly happier than Fielder or Hosmer owners. 

This is another one I actually drafted on—Ortiz made it onto two or three of my teams, plus one of my wife’s. We were pretty pleased.

Justin Masterson, Top-15 Pitcher

Talk about saving the best for last. There were plenty of reasons to like Justin Masterson going into the season—well, mostly there was great strikeout potential and the fact that Cleveland looked good enough on paper to net some wins for their putative best pitcher.

Things are…different now. I wasn’t as in on this prediction as some of the others—I thought Masterson would merely be very good, instead of a fantasy ace, but not even that came to fruition. Then he was traded to the National League, so I picked him up and advised everyone else to do so. Hopefully you ignored me.

With a 5.88 ERA in just 128 IP, Masterson’s season was an unmitigated disaster. He still managed some strikeouts, but a bloated BABIP and a high walk rate were more than the whiffs could overcome. I don’t know yet whether Masterson is someone to forget about going into next year, or a great flier for the back of your fantasy rotation, but I’ve got a couple months to decide. 

Instead of harping on our mutual batting average of boldness, I’ll end this column with two predictions that are quite certain: 

1)   The A’s will not win the World Series this year, but may in the future.

2)   Tonight’s Pirates-Giants matchup will not be nearly as exciting as last night’s Royals-A’s epic.

Enjoy the playoffs, everybody. RA will finish out this week, then we'll see you in January.



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. 



RotoAuthority Retrospective: How Bold Did You Go?

Before the season started, RA ran a column called Go Bold or Go Home, in which our team threw out our boldest 2013 projections. As with any set of bold predictions, made against the wider swath of fantasy common sense, we met with mixed success. Let's see how we did.

79 Reasons to Snag Trout 1st Overall

Well, I really gave only three reasons, crystallized thusly:

1) Mike Trout is the best OF in baseball, so if you want an OF, take him.

2) It is possible that he could improve in meaningful ways, thanks to his youth.

3) Miguel Cabrera, coming off a career season, is likely to regress to the point where he isn't obviously the best hitter in baseball.

So...I pretty much struck out on three pitches. Each reason ended up getting invalidated: Chris Davis leapfrogged, like, a hundred guys to become the best OF in baseball, Trout regressed a tad (mostly in steals), and Miggy...well, at 30 years old and coming off a Triple Crown, has actually improved. Actually, (and his owners already know this), 2013 is Cabrera's best offensive season, by a huge margin. Didn't see that coming.

There is some good news, however slight: aside from the insurgent Davis, Trout was certainly the best OF, and a lot better than the only other guy considered for a top-3 pick: Ryan Braun.

If this article brought you Trout instead of Miggy (as it did me in a league in which I'm still wrestling for a third-place finish)...sorry about that. But if it brought you Trout instead of Braun...well, you're welcome.

Stephen Strasburg is the New Pedro Martinez

Too bad I didn't write this article about Yu Darvish or Max Scherzer. And too bad Clayton Kershaw picked just now to really distance himself from the elite pitching crowd. This one, in which I advised Stephen Strasburg as a first-rounder really didn't work out, but it was better than it spent much of the season looking. 

What went wrong?

Strikeout rate. If everything else that went wrong did (the Nationals regressing, Stephen Strasburg getting so few decisions, his ERA floating above the 3.00 mark), I'd still defend this call if Strasburg's strikeout rate hadn't plunged from 11.13 to 9.56. That difference, by the way, is worth another 30 strikeouts and could easily mean several points in the category in a roto-style league...or none.

So Strasburg's strikeout rate went from setting him apart among the elite to normal-for-elite-pitchers. Meanwhile, the only two pitchers who could best him in K/9 improved the rest of their game to elite status and set themselves apart: it's no wonder that Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish garnered all of RA's Cy Young votes.

Very thin silver lining: at least he was better than Justin Verlander....

Don't Draft Josh Hamilton

Total winner, from Mark Polishuk. You know what Josh Hamilton's done this year; you know when he was drafted in your league. And you know when you could have gotten other hitters with .240-ish averages and 20-ish homers: the waiver wire. Following this advice didn't win you your league, but ignoring it probably made that very, very difficult.

Not much else to say; I guess success speaks for itself.

Draft Marco Estrada--Or Else

This one failed for two reasons that were pretty predictable in retrospect: homers and injury. Marco Estrada gave up a ton of homers in the early part of the season, then hit the DL for a long time. Uh...hope he didn't cost you too high of a draft pick, though many of the pitchers getting drafted ahead of him might have been even worse busts.

For many drafters, he was worth negative value, dropped, and snapped up by someone else when he came off the DL. Pretty much the worst-case scenario. If, however, you stuck with him through his DL stint, his second half has been as good as the beginning was bad: good luck, good HR/9 rate, great production. He hurt plenty of teams in the early going, but he's powered just as many through the playoffs since coming back from the injury. Still, this one was a big miss from the predict-o-tron.

Go Old in the Outfield

Finally, predictions from this author that worked out pretty well! I suggested players like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano over younger players with more projectiblity and less track record. (Of course, I also advised Ichiro Suzuki and Cody Ross, but hey, I'll take a half-winner when I can get it.) The principle here remains a good one, I think: older players don't get many owners excited and don't carry any more inherent risk than the young. 

Draft Adam Dunn over Paul Konerko

Another bold call from Mark, another spot-on suggestion. Unfortunately, that has more to do with just how bad Paul Konerko was this season, but that's a situation you seriously didn't want to get stuck in. Adam Dunn, meanwhile, killed your average like he always does, but still brought back 33 homers and 84 RBIs with a couple games left to play, making him a pretty useful CI or OF--still not exactly someone to count on at first, but that's not what this prediction said to do anyway.

Max Scherzer is a Top-10 Starter

Um...yup. The only way Steve Adams could have improved this prediction was to change the title to Max Scherzer is a Top-2 Starter, or Max Scherzer will win the Cy Young, or Max Scherzer: Better than Justin Verlander. But I'm really just belaboring the point of how awesome Scherzer was this season. I hope you followed this advice, because I'm guessing that Scherzer's production and draft position has put him on a lot of first-place fantasy teams this year.

Aaron Hill is the 2B for You

Well, yeah. Hill smacked the ball pretty hard for a short time, then went on the DL. Not exactly superstar production for a guy that ended up on most of my fantasy teams. And my wife's. While owners aren't thrilled with the production they've gotten from Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, and Ben Zobrist, at least those guys have been in the lineup all year, more or less. 

Since returning from his injury, Hill has been pretty good, but certainly not good enough to make up for all the time spend on the DL.

Ben Zobrist is a Top-30 Fantasy Pick

Yeah, this one was a pretty big blow, as our staff average definitely liked him more than most. (Unsurprisingly, he went pretty high in the MLBTR internal league.) I've written about his decline more than once this year, and, for me, even his amazing 2B/SS/OF flexibility isn't worth his lowered power output. There's a really big difference between going 11/11 and 20/20. He was certainly worth owning, but you had to spend such a high pick to get him...well, they can't all be winners, I guess.  





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