The injury prone player, what are you good for.

Oh the ballad of Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton. Could you guys just play a full season and stay healthy the whole time, please?

Easier said than done, baseball is a hard sport to play and some players seem to be more prone to not being able to play the long season as well as everyone else. With that in mind, that doesn’t mean that these kinds of players have lost all value.

In fact these players have quite a bit of value yet. It hurts so bad when they get hurt, because typically they’re quite great when they’re healthy. So what’s their value? You have two parts greatness, one part injury concern, and one part luck. When drafting Stanton or Tulo, you’re taking a risk. They’re great players, but are you getting 140 games played?

Well Stanton played 145 in 2014, but only 74 in 2015, 116 in 2013 and 123 in 2012. That’s three partial seasons and almost one full season. This is not a great track record. But, when he plays he’s great. Stanton is one of those guys you will see 50 point weeks. The average weekly score in our league should sit around 550-600, 50 is a lot! Even better when Stanton gets hot, he could score 100. It’s been done. Crazy!

That’s some wicked value from a talented player. It hurts when he doesn’t play. Over the course of a long season, perhaps you cannot count on Stanton or Tulo to get you a full season worth of work, but does that mean you should settle for Nick Markakis or Erick Aybar because they’ll play everyday? Probably not.

You lose the player when they get hurt, but you don’t lose the roster spot. You can replace them. And their replacements put up value, granted not as much, but its not zero. Heck, 400 PAs from Giancarlo according to Steamer Projections is worth about 610 PAs from Brett Garnder. Steamer has Gardner projected for the 45th best OF.

And that’s with playing Gardner everyday. If you play Giancarlo for 400 watch him get hurt and replace him with a replacement level guy (worst case scenario) for 210 PAs you still have almost a 900 point player for the season. Wow. Or Ryan Braun.

Plus we discussed the one part luck, what if Giancarlo is healthy, plays 150 games. Well then you have a top 2-3 hitter on your hands, congratulations!

Injury prone guys have their risks, but they are attractive because they are often worth it anyway. Sure there’s a chance lady luck is against you and the player misses the whole season, but that can truly happen to any player.

A little thinking out side of the box and it’s not hard to see how the risk and reward of these kinds of players is truly worth.

Platooning pitchers can be fun, but definitely isn’t easy

One of the things that makes Dynasty Grinders unique — and challenging — is our seven start per week limit on pitchers.

There are a couple key reasons this rule is in place to begin with. First, it prevents teams in our head-to-head format from having clear volume advantages. If my team happens to have 15 starters going this week and yours only has seven, you’re at a distinct competitive disadvantage and in deep leagues, you can’t simply pick up good — or even adequate — talent* and hope to keep up.

* This isn’t a universal truth. You’ll probably be able to find serviceable guys in free agency. But if you find yourself in a week where your seventh start depends on it, good luck.

The second reason is to prevent that last thing from being an option in the first place. In a deep dynasty league, streaming just doesn’t make sense. It’s a perfectly valid strategy in 10- or 12-team leagues where the free agent pool is plentiful. But fundamentally, dynasty leagues work to put owners in a position to mimic real life general managers. And real life general managers don’t pluck guys off the street, start them, and dump them the next day only to rinse and repeat as necessary.

Anyway, because of the seven start limit, you’re going to want to carry at least that many starting pitchers*, though probably more (2-3,  maybe). Pitchers are notoriously prone to injuries and you’ll encounter weeks where all your guys’ spots in the rotation happens to fall on a Wednesday or Thursday, meaning they only get one outing that week.

* A game theory note here: one thing the seven start limit also does is make it so that hoarding SPs loses profitability at a certain point. You may think, logically, the best way to tackle pitching is to just buy up a bunch of arms. But how much do you really want to invest in that sixth, seventh, eighth starter who won’t often be in your starting lineup, especially because doing so likely means skimping on offense? At some point you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul’s sitting on your bench because Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Carrasco are taking the bump twice each this week.

So due to the depth of the league and the start limit, you’ll find yourself over the course of a season deploying players you wouldn’t even imagine — but you still want to do so while giving yourself the best odds of success.

Sometimes it will end horribly. Sometimes you’ll get lucky. Either way, there’s a certain amount of fun to be had from finding pitchers who can sufficiently fill in gaps. The challenge is earmarking roster spots for these seldom used arms. Roster spots and flexibility, you’ll find, are pretty valuable commodities, especially as the season wears on and attrition impacts your squad.

My favorite example of a guy like this is the Miami MarlinsTom Koehler. Due to spacious Marlins Park and the NL’s lack of a designated hitter, Koehler pitched to a 3.80 FIP and 0.70 HR/9 at home in 2015. On the road, he got pummeled. His road FIP was 5.21 and HR/9 rate was 1.39.* Particularly in a points league like Dynasty Grinders, where allowing a home run goes for -12.5 points, combustible HR rates like that will sting. And because of the start limit, you can’t simply absorb a bad start by culling a couple extras from whatever scraps are on the free agent pile. You just have to hope your other six guys do work.

* To translate out of linear stats and into our scoring: Koehler averaged 28.23 points per start at home but just 16.56 on the road, including all four of his negative point duds.

Between 2014 and 2015, Koehler averaged 31.5 starts a year. But since you can only start him when he pitches at home, he’s only a usable option for you roughly half the time (he pitched 90.1 innings at home and 97 on the road in 2015), meaning that only 15 or 16 times per year will he be at his most optimal.

Also, just because he’s lined up to start a home game doesn’t mean he’s a sure-fire start for you that week. You’ve surely got better pitchers. Several of them, hopefully. What if your top three guys have two start weeks? Being a startable option 15-16 times a year does not necessarily mean you’ll crack the lineup at each of those opportunities.

Of course, the same kind of platoon splits are true of hitters. The list of guys who can only hit righties or exclusively get in the lineup against lefties is long. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ 1B/OF Scott Van Slyke, for instance, had a .345 wOBA in 2015 and .447 wOBA (!!) in 2014 against left-handed pitching. But he averaged 97 games and 249.5 plate appearances a season over those two years. You can get mileage out of that.

Granted, many of those games and PAs logged came as a late-game situational hitter (so he likely wouldn’t have been in your fantasy lineup that day), but the fact remains: you’ll have many, many more opportunities to utilize a platoon hitter than you will a pitcher.

The other thing that makes having a platoon bat easier than a platoon arm: if half your team has off days, that platoon bat can fill in whether he’s in the lineup or not. If he’s not, fine. You know that if he does enter the game though, he’ll do so in a favorable spot. It’s the little things.

And this says nothing of platooning pitchers based on opponent handedness (i.e. doing a quick search of your lefty’s opposing team that day to see how they stack up when facing LHPs). Depending on the pitcher, that can whittle down his usefulness even more.

So, how much do you want to budget and pay for this occasionally useful, mostly bench-warming pitcher?

The point here is that, when assembling a team, each owner will have different strategies but most will be doing one shared thing, be it subconsciously or intentionally, and that’s trying to maximize every roster spot. It’s really hard to maximize roster spots when the guys you’ve got in them need the stars to align perfectly to be useful and may be lucky to get double digit starts for you in a given season.

But then, that’s part of the fun.

Opportunity costs: the values of platoons and the elite tier

In all familiar with the fact that, in general, baseball teams have 27 outs to spend in any given game. Managers send out their players in what they believe will give the most return (in runs scored and runs prevented) on any given day in return for those 27 outs. Simple game.

Dynasty Grinders has its own out-like currency. Each week you have 10 hitter positions that could be filled each day. You also can fill three relief pitcher slots each day. Starting pitchers work a bit different, as you can only use seven starts each week, you have days with one or as many as five.

MLB managers get the benefit of knowing they will have an opportunity to use all 27 outs. In head-to-head weekly fantasy, we don’t get that benefit. We have to deal with off-days, rain outs, day games, player rest days, and surprise injuries among others.

We’re all facing the same struggle.

That being said, we can construct our roster to mitigate these pains as much as possible. Thirty man active rosters give ample opportunity to have backups at every position. Perhaps with some creative construction, and depending how many pitchers you plan to carry, you could have three players deep in most cases.

The advantage to having a good spread of players should be clear, but if it is not here’s the bottom line:

1.15

One point one five. That’s what Steamer projections have the average plate appearance worth if you take the projections from the top 350 hitters in our league. So what does this have anything to do with platoon players or the elite tier?

Elite players will average much more per plate appearance than 1.15. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are both projected for over 1.8 points per plate appearance. They also do great things like finish games, play every day and are typically platoon proof.

These are all great things. If you have a player like this, lock it up, toss him in with a replacement level player and you have one powerful punch on your roster. This also probably gives you extra flexibility elsewhere on your roster.

0.93

Zero point nine five. That’s what Steamer projections have for the average plate appearance worth for the next 100 hitters. This is not an exact science, but as you can plainly see, the difference between what’s likely to be freely available and the typical average hitter is not a huge difference on this scope. At least not compared to what Trout and Harper mean. But, the difference has significance at the weekly level.

Say,  on any given week if you start replacement level players in any one position, you could count on something around 29 points scored. The average player in the same time scores 36 points. 7 points per week is significant. But, also consider the talent level of the players we’re discussing. I’m using 4.5 PAs per game x 7 games played.

Better players get more PAs. Better players play daily. How many replacement level players do you need to get those seven days filled? Three? Mike Alives, Clint Barmes and company do play, they do perform to some degree, but we all know they’re not regulars.

This is where platoons come in. If you are planning for them, even better. Just because overall these players might be at or around the 1.00 PPPA (points per plate appearance) mark, they might hit against lefties or righties at a much better rate. That matters. The clever manager could manipulate some tier 2 or tier 3 production out of some lower level talent by just using them when they’re in favorable positions to succeed. If you can afford the roster spots to juggle them around a bit, why not?

Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera are great, because they’re set it and forget it type players. And they’ll fetch a premium in the draft because of it. But there’s a plethora of really good players in niche situations that could be put into positions for you to take advantage of. You’ve just got to find them first.

Pre-auction valuation of players, an introduction.

It is fairly commonplace now days to have a multitude of resources that help you compete in fantasy sports. Whether you use magazines, subscription websites or various crowd sourcing tools, there is usually little problem in drawing what a player’s value will be in any fantasy league.

Dynasty Grinders is not different enough to make those types of tools useless. Quite the opposite, I believe in having more information to gather to draw my conclusions. The crowd definitely has information for you to draw from.

That being said, there are differences. Dynasty Grinders is a head to head, points based scoring, dynasty fantasy baseball league. It is similar to FanGraphs‘s version of Ottoneu, but different. We have a larger budget, draft different positions, more players. It is similar to standard dynasty leagues, but different, mostly because we are not roto.

That being said they all offer a synopsis of sorts about how the crowds are assuming players are going to perform from year to year. They are just projections, but these projections offer a baseline. This baseline is necessary to judge assumed value of any given player. The trick here for Dynasty Grinders is how to calibrate various projections or draft utilities to Dynasty Grinders’ settings.

FanGraphs does offer a nice auction calculator utility. It actually works quite nicely. But, alas, it also has its short comings. Take for instance the values of these top 5’s using Steamer Projections and with standard roster construction:

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Standard Hitters

Name Team POS PA rPTS Dollars
Mike Trout LAA OF 671 1256.1 $89.8
Bryce Harper WAS OF 647 1174.0 $78.5
Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 647 1127.2 $72.0
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 658 1123.7 $69.7
Miguel Cabrera DET 1B 649 1091.9 $65.3

Phew, $90 for Mike Trout? Hot damn. That’s a hefty price for the guy who’s won four one MVPs. But, in a sixteen team league, and with the projection of 1256 points, he has a value that it would take several players to make up at other positions. Let’s take a look at pitchers.

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Standard Pitchers

Name Team POS IP rPTS Dollars
Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 217 1430.3 $118.4
Max Scherzer WAS SP 212 1264.2 $95.6
Chris Sale CHW SP 210 1251.9 $93.9
Jake Arrieta CHC SP 208 1189.3 $85.3
Corey Kluber CLE SP 211 1183.4 $84.4

And there you have it. Starting pitchers! Now, nobody is arguing who is on the list. Those guys are studs, and in weeks that they start twice, your team is sitting in the clear driver seat.

Why the higher values? Well the context matters. First, this auction calculator is not considering that we’re a dynasty league, so while Max Scherzer is quite good, it might be better to throw the extra dollars on Corey Kluber who should be fairly easy to keep for the next half decade.

Secondly, Three of these guys are projected to outscore Mike Trout for the season. Now, any rational betting man would probably put their money on Trout to meet projections more than any other player. Pitchers are volatile, perform a job that biomechanically impacts their ability to stay healthy, and their statistical floors are just lower.

Finally, FanGraphs is tied to OttoNeu which doesn’t do head to head. They’re doing roto. This makes a difference too. Dynasty Grinders allows 7 starts per week. The guys listed above are going to get every chance to start no matter what. However, our league is likely to be prone to people not carrying 7 man staffs and streaming starts like FanGraphs assumes.

No, more likely you’ll be carrying a 9 or even 10 man starting pitcher staff. Why? Because, after the third or forth tier of starting pitcher, match-ups start to matter quite a bit. So while most teams will have their first four or five starts each week pigeon holed, those last ones often leave tactical match-up decisions.

Being able to keep 30 active players, it makes sense to grab more starters to have more choices, and also limit the streaming ability for other teams in a way. If you could pick 6 good starters who won’t get hurt, you could just do that. For those of us who can’t predict the future, we will be hedging.

So what does that change? Well let’s tweak the auction calculator, instead of letting it use the bench spots wherever, lets tell it that all 16 teams are carrying the following roster:

2 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 SS, 1 3B, 1 CI, 1 MI, 6 OF, 2 UT, 10 SP, 4 RP

Yes, while we’re not able to capitalize on all these players as full-time starters, these guys who we will be bidding on backups, do offer coverage on a week to week basis. Each week offers an extremely limited opportunity in getting starts at each position. If Mike Trout is only playing 5 games one week, you’d rather have a backup play the other two days if possible, rather than leaving the spot open. You’d also rather have a starting capable player over the replacement level one. We’re all trying to win here…so what does the FanGraphs Auction Calculator say now?

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Adjusted Roster Hitters

Name Team POS PA rPTS Dollars
Mike Trout LAA OF 671 1256.1 $55.3
Bryce Harper WAS OF 647 1174.0 $49.7
Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 647 1127.2 $46.5
Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 658 1123.7 $44.0
Miguel Cabrera DET 1B 649 1091.9 $41.9

Well, that’s quite a difference… Let’s see those pitchers again…

FanGraphs Auction Calc – Adjusted Roster Pitchers

Name Team POS IP rPTS Dollars
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers SP 217 1430.3 $71.1
Max Scherzer Nationals SP 212 1264.2 $59.7
Chris Sale White Sox SP 210 1251.9 $58.9
Jake Arrieta Cubs SP 208 1189.3 $54.6
Corey Kluber Indians SP 211 1183.4 $54.2

Now these prices almost seem too low. They probably are. The truth is that the prices are most likely in between these two values of sorts. If you click on the links that I provided. You’ll see the difference more so.

In the original list, FanGraph’s AC is setting the replacement level ($1) for players ranked 16th, 17th, 18th. That’s certainly low. Addison Russell, Erick Aybar, and Brandon Crawford are all in that “zone”, and they’re all going for at least a few dollars, if not even more.

In the second list, where the replacement level for SS is being set much lower, those three guys are all being rated around $7. Low or high? Who knows. In the case of Russell, a rookie last year, perhaps its low, as the young guys attract value in dynasty leagues.

But, when you tell the calculator that there will be money spent on the bottom of the roster, that lowers how much can be spent on the top players. Over the next two and a half months leading up to the draft, I will be going over these valuations much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, Happy New Year!

Dynasty Grinders Podcast – Episode 1

The first episode of many Dynasty Grinders chats. Jordan and Andrew get together to talk about the format and rules of the league. As the league begins to get started, it’s your chance to get in at the very beginning. If you’re interested in signing up email us at dynastygrinders@gmail.com!

Welcome to Dynasty Grinders

Hey look, it is the middle of December and you’re here looking at a fantasy baseball league. Perfect. We are here looking for a group of fantasy baseball players who are prepared to play year round. The goal is not to just find any number of players, but to find the right sixteen players.

You’re going to find out more about this league by reading the huge wall of text on our League Setup page. Before you click there, please see this list of short details to see if the league might be for you:

  • 16-team, head-to-head format.
  • OttoNeu styled points scoring system.
  • Dynasty league, 30-man active roster plus a 15-man minor league (that grows by 5 each off-season) roster.
  • Live major league auction draft, separate minor league draft.
  • Higher stakes $155 to play, two year commitment to start using LeagueSafe.
  • Payouts for regular season finishes and post-season finishes.
  • Daily communication, chatter and camaraderie.
  • A challenging yet fun atmosphere.

We are aiming for some lofty goals, but we come by them honestly. We’re open for any kinds of communication and while the rules are set, some pieces are open for discussion prior to our beginning.

Contact us here:

Rule Discussion

In developing the rules for this league, there were some easy decisions, some hard decisions, and of course, the decisions that just got made. The league setup that we have provided is largely in place. It comes from a few different leagues and experiences that lent themselves into the creation.

With that being said, this league is about communication within the group, so no better kickoff for the middle of winter, than to discuss the heart of the league before it is born. Please see our handy-dandy Rule Discussion forum to start the discussions. We cannot promise that every discussion will lead to some change, but we can say that without proper discussion, there will be no changes.

Also discussion can lead to better clarifications. We are not lawyers or writers, so we cannot believe that these documents are perfectly written. So please also spend your thoughts discussing rules if only to get a better clarification. We want everyone to be on the same page as far as the rules, so that we’re all working on the highest level.

We believe in crowd sourcing leading to the best offering for league settings. While we have carved out a specific niche in the fantasy baseball world, we do believe certain tweaks exist that we have yet to think of. That is where you come in. We cannot wait to debate it out.