Start me up, please get a no-no

The regular season is so close. The taste of baseball that counts is palatable. In the time between, because we are not there yet, let us look at starts from 2015 once again.

Using Baseball Reference’s Play Index I was able to grab all 4,858 starts from 2015. This includes each game line from each starting pitcher who started each individual game.  Before we dig deep into this data lets answer the easy questions as it relates to our scoring…

Average Start in 2015: 24.25 points
Median Start in 2015: 25.50 points
Mode Start in 2015: 35.50 points

660 starts, or 13.58% of the starts last year, ended up being negative points for the day. Ouch. Of those awful starts, the worst five were led by everyone’s favorite Jeremy Guthrie (pictured above, what the hell is wrong with his elbow):

May 25 – Jeremy Guthrie -75 points vs Yankees
May 30 – Shane Greene -66 points vs Angels
July 7 – Chad Bettis -54.5 points vs Angels
August 23 – Matt Wisler -53 points vs Cubs
August 15 – Felix Hernandez -52 points vs Red Sox

One of those is not like the others. Ouch. Felix actually had two starts that were absolutely soul crushing. But, on the other side of the table. Max Scherzer was king.

October 3 – Max Scherzer 101.5 points vs Mets
June 14 – Max Scherzer 94 points vs Brewers
May 13 – Corey Kluber 90.5 points vs Cardinals
September 25 – Carlos Carrasco 89 points vs Royals
August 30 – Jake Arrieta 88.5 points vs Dodgers

Wow! I think it should come as little surprise that two of the top five, and several of the best starts overall, came in September. Those September call-ups can make a difference compared to the rest of the season.

However, September call-ups do go both ways. As we can see below, the average points per start goes way down in September.

Average PPS by Month

April 24.25
May 24.97
June 25.47
July 25.04
August 23.25
September 22.29

Shorter outings, extra pitchers sitting in the bullpen, rookies getting a shot, injuries taking a toll, pitch counts… Everything could be counting into that low September number. It was most surprising to me that August was trending downwards so dramatically. It really catches up to September quickly.

Diving a bit deeper into those monthly numbers. You see a similar trend in innings pitched per start.

April 5.73 IP
May 5.94 IP
June 5.96 IP
July 5.90 IP
August 5.80 IP
September 5.55 IP

Well, that is interesting. Starts in April are shorter than August by some small fraction, but April starts are good for a point more per start over starts in August. Obviously pitcher quality plays a huge role. Pitching is not a healthy thing to do and by August if the pitcher was going to break down, he is already broken by now. You can see it there.

In this kind of fantasy baseball league, starts are a very important commodity. I feel like the whole point of this post is to drive home how valuable those 6th, 7th and 8th starters on your roster are. Week 1, for most teams, you may not even use them at all. Barring some kind of amazing luck, you can see here that come August and early September when playoff races are finishing and the playoffs are starting, pitching gets thinner quickly.

You might just start to find comfort in having those extra guys sitting around and doing nothing in April, because you can see that the future is dark and full of terror.

You Won’t Believe Who’s #6 On This Cool Spring Breeze List of Hot Sizzling Pitchers

A few days ago we focused on hitters that have been known to get off to a hot start, and today we will focus on pitchers that we have come to rely on in April, in each of the past three MLB seasons.

topAprilpitchers

Just like with the bats, there is an arm (or two) in this list that really doesn’t belong.

Let’s start with Anibal Sanchez – prior to the start of the 2013 season, the Tigers handed him $80 mil.  Looking at this list of pitchers, seems like that was a great signing.  However, the first number of his ERA has increased in each of his three full seasons with Detroit, up to 4.99 last year.

That being said, we are only worried about April here.  In 2013 he won three of his five starts and finished with an ERA of 1.34, 1.04 WHIP and a 41:9 K:BB ratio across 33.2 iP.  That accounted for 47% of his April points scored over the last three years.

Only Madison Bumgarner (48% ’13) and Johnny Cueto (48% ’14) had one year (month) be such a factor in them making this list.

The other pitcher that “doesn’t belong” on this list is Jeff Samardzija.

Bias aside, he is a good example of why counting wins in fantasy baseball doesn’t really make sense.  In April of 2014, Samardzija went 0-3 despite owning a 1.98 ERA across six starts (41 ip).  Actually, he is just 2-9 in early baseball.

Sonny GrayJustin VerlanderHyun-Jin Ryu and Aaron Harang each have two, 200 point Aprils in the last three years, but each had one year that prevented them for eclipsing 500 points.

2013
Remember when Yu Darvish was around striking out 13.7 batters per nine innings in April of 2013?

2014

Hey look, Adam Wainwright was the best pitcher in April for back to back years!

After just one pitcher reach 50 K in April of 2013, the MLB was falling in love with  Jose Fernandez, before Tommy John took him away, and saw Max Scherzer and Johnny Cueto have career years.

Stephen Strasburg also punched out 50 batters in April, but only lasted 34 innings – averaging less than six inning per start.

How did Nathan Eovaldi sneak in there?  The only other month he had an ERA below 4.00 was August, and still finished with an ERA over 5.00 after the All-Star Break.

2015

No pitchers struck out 50 batters last year in April, and only Clayton Kershaw and James Shields even struck out 40 batters – and neither made this list.  Kershaw had an ERA nearing 4.00.  Both pitchers only lasted 31 innings over five starts.

Remember that start to the season Aaron Harang had last year?  He finished April with a WHIP under 1.00, and over 3.5 K/BB.

Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray, Chris Archer and Gerrit Cole all gave fantasy baseball a great year and are going to have live up to HIGH expectations in 2016.

Trade: Preseason Double Stuffs | Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF Giancarlo Stanton ($72), SP Lance McCullers ($26) SP Luis Severino ($17)
Preseason Double Stuffs send: OF Bryce Harper ($109), SP James Shields ($28)

Jordan’s thoughts: I have now rewritten the introduction to my thoughts on this trade six or seven times and I copped out to talk about how flabbergasted I am. I enjoy trades, I do. They give me breath of life into writing which I always need practice doing. Clearly. This one is another fascinating one, but as we are all learning (or for some of us relearning) Dusty is shooting for the moon constantly.

Let’s look at this trade on the table. I see it as the second best hitter in MLB and a fringe #2 tier starting pitcher on his way down traded for a top ten MLB hitter capable of being a top three, a tier #3 starter and a fringe tier #4 starter. That’s where my pre-draft rankings had them. High/low whatever.

On paper I’d rather have Harper, Shields. Hands down. I’m still quite high on Shields and I would buy the over on any Shields over/under, and would bet the under on both Severino and McCullers. I think if both Harper and Stanton play a full season, Harper is the better OF four out of five times. Both have a checkered enough past, that its easy to say whoever ends up playing more games, ends up being better.

Dusty was in a great position, created by himself, to make this trade. He trades two decent, younger, and inspiring pitchers who could be great this year for an aging former ace who you know at any time could fall off or return to greatness. Pitchers are fickle.

Frankly if you like the two pitcher package, you could argue that both could be or will be better than Shields and I’d take your commentary as valuable as mine. So lets review the trade as it currently fits their teams.

Dusty wins this trade on his side. He upgrades at right field with Bryce over Giancarlo. If Buxton flops, he slides Bryce into center and rolls the dice with Preston Tucker or Josh Harrison. He gets a better player and has some flexibility back. Less reliant on Buxton. As far as my projections go, Shields is rated higher than both pitchers traded away, so Dusty replaces their output with better output. A win on both levels. RMO is now rated at 581.6 points per week, good enough for 4th best. Bravo!

Sadly I believe our Preseason Double Stuffs lose this trade. You trade away Bryce for a right fielder that you did not really need. The best three hitters by projection are Stanton – RF, Shin-Soo Choo – RF, and Jorge Soler – RF. That inflexibility limits what you can really do. Or forces you into future moves. Gomez in center is fine. Shields to McCullers is a slight drop in projected value, more so in that McCullers is only projected for 26 starts this year. Severino is however 26 projected starts of improvement over Ian Kennedy and Jerad Eickhoff. Why not shop Bryce around?

Andrew’s thoughts: Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the end, the Preseason Double Stuffs have traded Max Scherzer and Shields for Stanton, Severino, and McCullers. Is that correct? Because if so, that seems sub-optimal.

I know Ferns wasn’t thrilled with his team post-auction, but I feel like this may be an over-correction. I disagree with Jordan on Shields. I’d rather have Severino and McCullers, for no other reason than Shields burned me in Dy-Nasty last year and I’m not overly interested in more stock. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that both of those guys are 30 PPG starting pitchers and, if so, the dynamic changes.

I think my big objection is that I had no idea Harper was available. Did you? Not that I have the pieces to go get him and probably wouldn’t have tried, but you’d think the market would be tested a little. Maybe it was and I just wasn’t aware. I don’t know.

I also think salaries are being insanely overrated in the early trade market. You can go over your budget in season, people. You have a year to get right for 2017. To me, if you’re selling one of the 3-5 best players overall (Harper), you need to hold out for bonus pieces. You need to pry a prospect or two, a pick, some budget cash next year, something else extra away. The season is still two weeks away. There’s no urgency to rush this stuff. You mean to tell me that if you don’t sell Bryce this week, you won’t ever have a chance to free yourself from his $109 salary? I get that sometimes you just find the pieces you need and take it, but I just think I would’ve tested the market first.

And for Dusty, I just don’t even know. I’m a fan of big game hunting in trades too. What’s the point of expending energy trading for replacement level guys that you can manufacture through platoons or otherwise? I like turning Stanton into Harper and he doesn’t have a particularly big use for Severino and McCullers, particularly if the latter’s injury is a big deal. He’s clearly all-in for 2016, and that’s cool.

But I also see a team with two gaping holes at the UT spot (depressingly, Ryan Howard and Yonder Alonso are there now) and a team where Byron Buxton went from the first or second guy off the bench to the starting CF. Maybe Buxton pops this year. He’d better, because if he plays like last year, that’s a black hole in your starting lineup. There’s no quality depth at 2B, 3B, or SS, or in the outfield. Actually, even 1B is lacking on the depth front. The offense just looked so, so much better before all the wheeling and dealing and while the pitching is improved, I didn’t think it was a glaring problem to begin with.

Of course, Dusty still has pitching to deal, and if there’s one thing Dusty will do, it’s deal. I said yesterday and I stand by it: a smart team looks at Dusty’s roster and recognizes that he needs to turn pitching into hitting, then uses that for leverage. And frankly, I’m not sure you’re getting an impact hitter for Mike Fiers or Hishashi Iwakuma (and I’m a big Kuma fan). Maybe you try to convert Kenta Maeda‘s strong spring into a haul and someone bites, I don’t know. At some point Dusty runs the risk of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s clear there are more moves to come and so in two, three, four days, we’ll have to completely reevaluate how we perceive this roster anyway.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF George Springer ($49), SP Anderson Espinoza, 2017 1st Round Pick
The Wilfred Brimley Fighting Diabeetuses send: SP Jake Arrieta ($84), 2017 5th Round Pick

Andrew’s thoughts: In my opinion, this is a big win for the Rocky Mtn Oysters.

For The Fighting Diabeetuses, the objective here was obviously to shed some starting pitcher salary — this is a team paying Jose Fernandez and Madison Bumgarner too — and so I get the logic. In George Springer, you get a young batter with a proven major league track record, room to get even better, and a palatable salary, all the while freeing up space.

The problem is that budget space right now is not really a thing. We can go over budget in season here, so WBFD effectively had a year to wiggle around and get set for 2017. To me, this is just too preemptive a move. I was somewhat in on Arrieta myself but still didn’t understand that aspect of it. This team is now way under budget and can probably keep the majority of the roster in tact next year, which is neat, but I’m not convinced that’s worth much. The offense is better today, sure. But I’m also not sure adding Springer changes it dramatically. “Better” is a relative term. I would’ve much rather held my three high paid pitchers and seen if they could carry me through the first several weeks of baseball.

Getting Anderson Espinoza and that pick are helpful, I suppose, but again, adding them doesn’t offset the wonky timing for me. I’d rather have Espinoza than my 15th best minor leaguer, but I’m not rushing to give up one of the 10 most valuable players in our league to get him.

For the Oysters, being able to pair Arrieta with Max Scherzer should provide a huge weekly advantage. The offense takes another hit and actually looks quite rough to me now, but there’s no reason someone won’t fork over a hitter for Luis Severino, Kenta Maeda, or Collin McHugh, guys that are now a whole lot more expendable. Of course, a savvy trade owner might look at his team, recognize Dusty’s need to flip one of those starters for hitting is greater than their own need to do the opposite, and gauge him a little on price.

Dusty’s team sits way over budget for 2017 now. He’s looking at having to shed $104 or so (remember, he bought himself $20 of auction budget), but that’s not a bridge he needs to cross today and his worst case scenario might just be dumping all but his best five or six guys, which might not even be such a bad thing.

Jordan’s thoughts: Right off the bat, this trade just confuses the hell out of me. According to my line up projection simulator, both teams were neck and neck in the bottom half of projections. Not a enviable place for anyone to be. Prior to the trade the Oysters were projected for roughly 569. points per week. The Diabeetuses were projected for 567.1 points per week. Bad Good enough to rank 11th and 12th respectively.

The trade for the Oysters looks pretty decent. They get the better player at a decent value. Anytime you can add another ace you have to do it. Springer does hurt the offense as Bailey stated above. I also agree with Bailey’s assessment that now Dusty has at least two solid pitching bullets to trade for hitting. Which if timed right, and a little luck sprinkled in, could be a huge positive swing.

All that being said, as it stands right now, Dusty did improve his weekly projected output to 572.3, but now ranks in the same 11th place compared to the entire league. But, for Dusty to take that jump into the next level he needs to make better use of his now stack of assets in the rotation. My simulator sees it as a waste, but I have yet to configure my simulator with the “Dusty factor” Although I’m not certain there’s an algorithm capable of figuring out Dusty.

Was the blood sugar low again for the Fighting Diabeetuses? Before jumping into the numbers, a qualitative look can say, well when you have Martinez, Bumgarner, and Fernandez, you can stand to lose Arrieta. That is mostly right. However, George Springer, while being a huge addition as the best projected hitter on this team in 2016, is not really enough to compensate the loss of Arrieta.

What the Diabeetuses are missing to make this deal alright, is starting pitching depth on the back end. Nate Karns has not won the job yet in Seattle, Roenis Elias will likely spend more time in the bullpen this season, and Tanner Roark was not a starter last year which means even though he should be a starter this year, his innings may be reduced.

All that said, my projection simulator now has the Diabeetuses suffering through 22 replacement starts. Nearly one a week. That’s too many, they now NEED another full time starting pitcher, probably two.

Springer does make the entire hitting core better. Springer slots into the CF position, flanked by Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty. Jackie Bradley Jr now gets to back them all up nicely and fill in at utility when needed. That’s great. Hitting depth matters too and now they have it.

The cost was just too damn high. The Diabeetuses tumble down to the 16th projected line up in Dynasty Grinders. Dipping to 556 points per week was a huge hit to their total. It’s hard to fall in love with a trade like this. As a commissioner it is great to see the league ready to move big pieces and create some stir, but baseball is a long year and I think what we saw here on both ends was a overlooking of what depth really is.

I can’t help but think, what if McHugh and Rusney Castillo switched teams in this deal as well. Maybe something else in the deal has to happen to make that work out, but both teams would have benefited more from that switch. Perhaps both teams have future moves on the table ready to move up or down.

This trade as a whole, I have to call it a win for Dusty, slightly, his team does improve, having more aces is better than not, but he went from relying on Buxton to coming through to desperately depending on him. It could work out. For Josh, well I see why he did it. I just think the reasons may be misguided. If George Springer breaks out as a top 10 fantasy hitter, this clearly works out for him, but…

Bryce vs Max part duex

Yesterday Bryce Harper was traded for Max Scherzer. Andrew and I both gave our two cents about the trade. While neither of us particularly loved the trade for various reasons. I believe we both came to the conclusion that they both felt the need to make the trade to move their post-draft depth and switch it into post-draft weaknesses.

For this post I want to ignore that context. Let’s look at Bryce Harper versus Max Scherzer. Last year in 2015, Bryce scored 1,407.4 fantasy points and Max scored 1,372.5 fantasy points. Just a bit over a point a week difference. You know as well as I know, that not all weeks are treated equal.

So I built these two graphs comparing the 22-fantasy week season, comparing how each player did in those seven days stretches. Sometimes Max gets two starts in a week, sometimes he does not. Clearly sometimes Bryce plays 7 days in a week, or less. It happens. But, from your top players on your team its safe to assume, when they are available you are going to go with them, so we can compare these two players who play different positions with some reasonable expectations.

bryce

Max

This is similar to the charts I had a few weeks back, where I looked at Clayton Kershaw’s value because of his starts. These are a bit different as I stated. In 2015 each player recorded values in all 22 fantasy weeks. As you can see they’re quite similar.

Bryce was never awful, but they both had three weeks below average. Bryce was beyond outstanding five times to Max’s six. Really amazing.

They key to take from these two pictures. Is that basically two players were basically dead even. When you remove the context of the draft, of how the teams will have to proceed with back-fill going forward, among other tiny details. Things look pretty good. Both parties seem quite content that both won the deal, and perhaps… maybe they’re both ahead.

Trade: Rocky Mtn Oysters | Preseason Double Stuffs

Rocky Mtn Oysters send: OF Bryce Harper ($109)
Preseason Double Stuffs send: SP Max Scherzer ($86)

Andrew’s thoughts: This is almost too surprising to wrap my head around, but I think my knee-jerk reaction is that I don’t love it for either squad but I prefer it from the Double Stuffs’ end.

Ferns and Chris still have a formidable rotation with Chris Archer at the top, and now they’ve got a transcendent hitter to plug into their lineup and slug from Day 1. Their offense went from a bunch of question marks to a bunch of question marks surrounded by a stud. Any time you can flip a player that cost $23 less than another player at auction before any games have been played, you’re probably feeling good.

Of course, Bryce is super expensive. If you’re the Oreos, $109 is a lot. It won’t matter in 2016, but I can see future seasons having to make some serious cuts to accommodate keeping this one guy. That’s the problem paying young guys tons and tons of budget. You feel some sense of obligation to keep them long term, but it’ll hurt your roster elsewhere.

For Dusty’s Oysters, I don’t get it at all. Why swing deals to get extra budget cash, splurge on the highest paid hitter, then trade him? The benefit of those previous deals is now eroded. Given that there’s no in-season budget, he effectively spent $109 on Scherzer which, if the strategy all along was to buy a hitter to flip for a pitcher, why not just pony up for Clayton Kershaw at auction? I love Max Scherzer, so getting him for the top of your rotation is awesome. But I don’t think I’m trading Bryce straight up for any player not named Clayton Kershaw or Mike Trout (and you guys know I heart pitchers), so I can’t help but feel like simply waiting instead of rushing to make a splash may have paid off better.

Jordan’s thoughts: Holy Cow! The first giant and meaningful trade of Dynasty Grinders is a big one. My favorite non-Mariner for an awesome pitcher. This has many implications, but this appears to be a classic case of I drafted a lot of this, you drafted a lot of this, we both need the other thing, lets switch. Bryce comes with crazy potential, but his keeper value is diminished at over 20% of your normal budget. Scherzer is under that 20% mark, but not by much. Enough of that, how did that change their teams now in the pre-season.

I have my handy dandy team projection calculator using FanGraphs’s Depth Charts Projections. Prior to this trade The Oysters were ranked 8th which a projected score of roughly 576 fantasy points per week. The Double Stuffs were considerably behind scoring 563 fantasy points per week, ranked 14th of 16 Dynasty Grinders clubs. Let’s calculate the difference!

Oysters -> 565.7 Points Per Week | Net -11.3 Rank 12
Stuffs -> 564.6 Points Per Week | Net +1.6 Rank 14

Wow. How does that work? Well…

Oysters replace Bryce with George Springer just fine. But George Springer who was filling the utility spot is now replaced by Danny Espinosa, James McCann, and there’s still 300 or so replacement at bats. Dusty had a glut at right field, but doesn’t currently have the utility depth.

On the pitching side he adds 34 Max Scherzer starts to replace Luis Severino and Jake Peavy starts. Severino and Peavy are not all-stars, but they were no slouches at a projected 26 points per start each. Max’s 37 points per start is nice, but not at this cost.

I’m sorry Dusty, I don’t like this move.

For the Stuffs, they insert Harper into the CF/RF slot which essentially moves Carlos Gomez to the 4th OF and Utility role. This is a huge improvement for a variety of reasons. They took utility at bats away from Yasmany Tomas, Eduardo Escobar and Cesar Hernandez. Awesome.

On the pitching side, they lose Max, and replace him with Ian Kennedy and Jerad Eickhoff. They turned from a 37 point per game starter and handed those starts to two guys who are below average at 22 and 23 points per game projected. Ouch!

For the Double Stuffs I don’t hate the move, but I don’t love it either. I love depth as much as anyone and they both sold off on it for a marginal gain and a potential huge loss. Count me out.

2016 Auction Review – Preseason Double Stuffs

Preseason double stuffs

pf

The cookie munching team ended their draft with a case for the best pitching staff in the league. That’s hardly even a stretch. Value was gained with a couple of guys at good values like James Shields and Jake Odorizzi. Value was lost spending on $45 on three second basemen. All of whom could easily finish outside the top ten at their position. Questionable and unreasonable risks.

Hitting – Uh-oh

Things must have gone wrong here on draft day. In a vacuum, I really like Carlos Gomez, Shin-soo Choo, and Michael Conforto. Nick Castellanos and Yasmany Tomas as your third base platoon for $25? Is that a hedge? Odor, Profar and Schoop at second base? I’m not even certain they’re good trade bait. Greg Bird for $7 to not play this year I like, but this roster needs Bird this year. Moreland at first base could be okay, unlikely. Eduardo Escobar seems prime to lose his everyday job, and Travis d’Arnaud is a perfectly okay catcher.

Pitching – Oustanding

This was a case of sitting on Very Good, seeing the bullpen and decided outstanding. I’m not sold on it, but I’m not betting against Max Scherzer. Chris Archer was great last year why not repeat. James Shields seems like a safe bounce back candidate. Odorizzi is pretty good. I like Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen even if when he misses time. Zach Britton has been solid for a few years. The first four starters cemented. When you fill out 5 and 6 with a choice of Eduardo Rodriguez, Jesse Hahn or Ian Kennedy that’s pretty exciting. They’re flush with pitching. Lance Lynn to hold the DL down this year like Greg Bird for under $10 seems like a potential steal.

Depth – Good

I think technically it is alright. But, again I gave myself credit for depth with injured guys, so I’ll do the same here. They have coverage even 3 or 4 deep at some positions, that’s a good thing no matter what. The starting pitchers are deep clearly. Frankly you could lose the entire hitting line up and probably still compete here. #backhandedcompliment

Why 2016 would be bad… 

What if James Shields is broken. If Max or Archer go down too, almost all is lost. This team paid for future in a few spots, they can definitely handle some injuries if the upside shows up. However, a lot of that bet is hinged on Max and Archer. A great bet to make, but that can change in a day.

Why 2016 would be good… 

If you get a tier 2 season from Shields or Odorizzi and a tier 3 from the other you’re so sweet. Scherzer and Archer should be at the tier 1 level. That alone will allow this team to compete all year at a good level. If they’re paying attention to matchups with the hitters, perhaps there’s some three headed monster that makes a good player at one position that I’m missing. More power to them. Well actually yeah, they need more power to them.

Some thoughts about my team…

A few days have passed since our auction draft and I’m still not settled on how I feel about my team overall. Some things I like, some I don’t.

So I’m going to write some words and think this thing through a little. Sometimes writing helps to clarify.

You can also read Jordan’s thoughts on my team here.

As an aside: you can probably tell by now that I don’t care too much about talking about my team publicly. Some owners are tight-lipped. Personally, I don’t think sharing my thought processes gives away any competitive advantage. If I have a thought that I think becoming public does compromise some advantage then, well, I just won’t share it publicly. Simple enough.

Thought #1: I kinda wish I hadn’t won BOTH Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera.

Coming into the auction, I hoped to get two cornerstone hitters and go from there. I did not plan for them to both play the same position.

To be clear, I love both these guys. I’m not upset that I have them. But I do wish I would’ve spent the cash — $70 went to Votto, $71 to Miggy — from one of these guys on a player from a different position. Like, say, Josh Donaldson ($68), Andrew McCutchen ($69), or Jose Bautista ($62).

In a vacuum, I’ll take Miggy or Votto over all three of those guys. But given positional need and roster flexibility, I painted myself into a corner taking two top tier first basemen.

Thought #2: Alex Rodriguez is kind of an obstacle.

I don’t think $21 for A-Rod is too much. Jordan looked at some values using the FanGraphs auction calculator suggesting A-Rod is a $1 player, meaning I overpaid by $20 and cost myself significant value. I think the calculator is wrong.

Zips has a .336 wOBA for A-Rod in 2016. Steamer is much cooler on him. According to Steamer, he’ll be only the 105th best hitter. Fantrax, whose projections aren’t worth much, has him as the 71st best hitter. He was the 31st highest scoring hitter a year ago in a renaissance season.

No matter how you slice it, this is not a $1 player. Truthfully, $21 probably is a few bucks too much, but that’s true of a bunch of players. David Ortiz, who is A-Rod’s mirror image in a lot of ways (age, risk, production, position eligibility), went for $30. At 40, anything can happen with A-Rod. But I feel like I’ll get good numbers from him.

The problem is, he’s a utility-only hitter. And one of Miggy or Votto is plugged into that other spot, which leaves my options slim. I tend to try to accumulate talent first and worry about lineup composition later, but in this case I wish I hadn’t.

Thought #3: Patrick Corbin and Nick Markakis are a couple of my favorite values.

I love Patrick Corbin. (You love him too, given all the inquiries I’ve had for him already.) In his only full season in 2013, he posted a 3.43 FIP. Last year, in 16 games coming back from Tommy John, he picked up right where he left off with a 3.35 FIP. Oh, and he improved his strikeout and walk rates. He got swinging strikes on his slider 24% of the time.

The risk with him is clear. He could get hurt again, the track record is short, and he could be on an innings cap in 2016. I guess his home park is less than ideal too. But he’s also just 26 and has posted the kind of numbers most teams will seek from their SP2 or SP3.

And for $16. Marcus Stroman, who I like a lot, went for twice as much. I’ll take my $16 Corbin over a $41 Michael Wacha or $30 Masahiro Tanaka, for example. Off-season fantasy darling Raisel Iglesias, who I also like a lot, went for $29. Corbin struck out about a batter and a half less per nine, but also walked fewer and posted better FIP, xFIP, and HR/9 despite a BABIP that was higher by .041. I’m not saying Iglesias won’t be superior (because “upside!” or whatever). But $13 better? All I’m saying is I like this particular player at his particular price.

Markakis, meanwhile, is just an old favorite of mine from his time with the Orioles. Four bucks for a career .291/.359/.429 hitter makes me happy.

Of course, the “upside” here is nil and the power numbers last year were sobering. He hit three home runs all year with a .080 ISO. But in 2013, he hit 10 homers with a slightly better .085 ISO. He had a 2.1% HR/FB rate a year ago. Of players with 500 or more plate appearances, only noodle bats Alcides Escobar, Ben Revere, and Angel Pagan got less of their fly balls into the seats. Escobar went for $3 and Revere for $6, for whatever that’s worth. I don’t think getting back to double digit bombs is unrealistic — I think it’s likely, in fact — and if he does that (and frankly, even if he doesn’t) he will be a very solid starting outfielder at practically no cost.

Thought #4: I left too much money on the table.

I came in $10 short of our $500 auction budget due to trades, then proceeded to leave $21 in my pocket at draft’s end. That was very stupid.

Here’s what happened: after starting slowly, I quickly piled up some big dollar players. My first three players cost me $70, $71, and $71. Then I added a $21 A-Rod and $60 Johnny Cueto. My next two players, Sonny Gray and Tyson Ross, were had for $96 total. That was my setup through the first 98 nominees.

From there, I hybernated. I eventually grabbed Martin Prado ($4) at the 179th nomination spot. Going 81 spots and almost two hours without adding a player is a long time. The wait was deliberate. My cash was much lower than most everyone else’s, so I decided unless a player I really coveted came up, I’d sit back and let other teams spend, hopefully opening some holes for me later.

It worked, but I failed to hit those holes.

I sometimes undervalue hitters and/or overvalue my own ability to squeeze points out of lesser hitters. That cost me. I just waited and waited, and eventually the players worth spending on ran out and I was left with $21. I feel a lot better about my offense today if I’ve got an Alex Gordon ($17) or Matt Kemp ($11) to plug in. Or I could have, you know, taken that extra $21 plus the $21 spent on A-Rod and allocated it better. That’s enough to have bought a Starling Marte, Robinson Cano, Yasiel Puig, or JD Martinez, just to rattle off a few.

Thought #5: I should’ve kept pushing for Max Scherzer.

This sort of rolls into #1 and #4.

I bid Scherzer up to $85, then he went to Ferns for $86. There’s no telling how high the bidding might have gone if I’d kept pushing, but I wish I’d found out. If I land Scherzer, I almost definitely don’t get both Miggy and Votto.

I’m also not totally comfortable with Carlos Carrasco ($71) as my SP1, though I don’t mind his price. In other words, getting Scherzer would’ve likely took me out of the market for one of the hitters, but not Carrasco. Penciling him in as my SP2 behind Mad Max would’ve been fun.

Thought #6: Speaking of Carlos Carrasco

Someone commented in the auction room after Carrasco went off the board that the winning bid was influenced by “hype.” To which I say: when a guy finishes as the 17th highest scorer on only 30 starts, the ninth best FIP, the fourth best xFIP, and the fifth best K/9 rate, the hype has some merit behind it. And he did all that with a high, unfortunate BABIP and elevated HR/FB rate.

I get the risks here. He’s gone over 100 innings in his big league career just thrice and has maxed out at 183.2. That’s on my radar. I won’t sleep easy knowing this. But he’s paid as a top 12-13 pitcher and all indicators are that, if healthy (a caveat that applies to every pitcher), he should produce right in that range.

Thought #7: I won’t have trouble rooting for my guys.

I don’t really believe in targeting players I “like” as in, hey, so and so is fun to watch on TV, so I should do something totally irrational to get him. It’s a tiebreaker for me when choosing between similar players. But I ended up coming out of this auction with a bunch of unheralded guys that I generally like beyond just fantasy stuff. Mike Napoli ($4), Nori Aoki ($1), Denard Span ($4), and Johnny Cueto ($60). The latter isn’t “unheralded” but I wanted to mention him so that I could link to that photo.

I remember a few years ago — I think 2011, but I’m not sure — I had Aoki on my MLB The Show team. Except I had no idea he was a real player. I thought he was one of the random minor leaguers or a fictitious rookie the game created. But he was awesome in the game. He was a slap hitter kind of like Ichiro, lashing line drives all over the place. He was fast, too. In video game baseball, I attempt a million steals. As soon as I realized he actually existed, I liked him even more and have been fond of him ever since.

Thought #8: Please stay healthy, Corey Dickerson.

I didn’t actually mean to win Dickerson. I was sort of half bidding him up, half interested in him at a bargain basement price. But I accidentally clicked him for the $10 winning bid which, actually, you know, might end up working out quite nicely.

This is a guy with perpetual health issues who is obviously going from a hitter’s park so favorable that calling it simply a “hitter’s park” isn’t enough. His perceived value is way down. But he’s still just 26 years old and has posted some remarkable offensive numbers. Of batters with 600+ plate appearance since the beginning of 2014, he has the 23rd best WRC+ (133). Because park factors play so vividly in how Dickerson’s viewed, I used WRC+ because it’s a park adjusted stat. wOBA (.390), which is not park adjusted, ranks him 11th in all of baseball under those same criteria.

Neither Zips or Steamer expect him to continue hitting so torridly, nor do they expect him to play a full slate of games. Maybe both are true. Maybe I’m trying to talk myself into the player. I mean, Max Kepler, who has logged a grand total of seven MLB at-bats, went for the same price. Depending on your lens, Dickerson at $10 is a bargain.

Closing thoughts…

Overall, I expect this team to compete. But the path will be tougher than it should’ve been, and that’s my own fault. I’m excited for the challenge.

Not that in anyone in Grinders should or does care, but I took the salaries players went for here and applied them to my team in the Dy-Nasty league you’ve heard us mention on a few podcasts, which uses pretty much identical scoring. My 25-man roster over there went for $792 total here. I’ve got another seven guys in my minors there that were auctioned off here and aren’t included in that total.

The roster I’m starting with is going to require a lot more effort and attention on my part. The margin for error is smaller. My offense is going to require patience and caffeine, because while there are quality players all over (I can’t wait until those of you who are new to this depth/scoring start seeing the types of players that become valuable), it’s a unit about as exciting as flossing your teeth.

But navigating that stuff is part of the fun, and I doubt anyone is looking at their team post-auction and seeing perfection. Everyone has work to do. I’m ready to get started.

Starting pitchers what say you?

Those who are new to an OttoNeu scoring league such as this are in for a real treat. Especially with our head to head rules that limit teams to seven (7) games started (GS) by a SP each week. This creates a huge opportunity cost when selecting the starts you will be using each week. So on this leap day, let’s leap into it!

Would you rather have one Clayton Kershaw or three versions of James Shields? The answer isn’t so clear. James Shields is pretty good. He’s slightly above average. He’s one of my “comfortable” starters. Meaning any given week, I’ll use his start that week without much hesitation. He’s not awesome anymore, but he’s not awful either.

Kershaw is projected to go for over $100 in the auction and no matter what, based on past production he’s certainly going to go for a value. What you’re buying with Kershaw is an ability to get deep into games. The last three years of Kershaw saw him pitch into the 7th inning 73 of his 93 starts (that’s more than 78% of the time).

You’re also buying that he’s the team ace so he’s going to rarely get pulled before the 5th. Part of his job is to give his team’s bullpen a breather. In fact, Kershaw failed to get through five innings just twice in the last three seasons, and one of those games was the last game of the year in 2015 where he was pitching for records.

What do those two things mean? Deep into games often leads towards higher points ceilings. Low chance of an early hook means higher points floors.

Now there’s more than a few aces out there who accomplish both of those things every five days. But Kershaw, as you know, is ridiculously good on top of just chewing up innings. He strikes guys out (points!), he doesn’t allow many walks, homers or hits (avoid negative points!), and he’s reliable.

Here’s the final tally on each of Kershaw’s 93 starts over the last 3 seasons:

kershaw

Wow. Starting pitchers are really cool, right? Well hold your pants. That’s a really good starter. Here’s what Shields over the same time looks like:

Keep in mind that before you look at the following graph, that James Shields makes 101 starts, with an average 32.5 points per start (getting 32.5 points from a start is very good!).

shields

Wow. Those are two different distributions. Keep in mind, Shields according to Steamer projections is set to be about the 30th best SP for 2016. In a 16-team league, Shields is a SP2. There’s two things to really take from this. Kershaw, about once a season, in one single start, is worth the equivalent of almost three GOOD starts. THREE!

Then on the flip side the awful starts. Kershaw has one a season. Shields has just enough that you’re probably not predicting when they happen to avoid. Those negative starts hurt your week. A lot. Bad starts don’t hurt your week so much, but they don’t make you feel good. Average starts you take and put in your hat and move on. Any good start gets your juices flowing.

It’s amazing what Kershaw could do for any team. He’s so far above the rest of the world that his value is basically “name a price and just pay it.” When Kershaw has a two start week, odds are great that you’re basically playing with a 30+ point jump at a minimum over any other two start combo that your weekly match-ups throw at you.

Consider that like an extra start, or like adding Ryan Braun‘s average for a week to your line up as a bonus. Unreal.

As you go down further in the pitcher pool, you’ll see what you’d expect: the distribution leans even more left (that’s the bad side). There’s some guys who will have a distribution that is much flatter, they’re inconsistently good, awful, average.

A lot of times you can guess when these guys will be good based on match-ups and you can combine a few different guys to look like a good starter, but its a risky game. For those who may be consider punting pitchers, be careful, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re praying for at least a bad start from a guy who’s a spot starter that you found in the free agent pool because he’s hot garbage. It’s very difficult to cobble together your starting pitching. The opportunity cost that the 7-start per week limit adds to these aces is significant.

Oh and so just show how Kershaw is in his own tier. Here’s SP #2 overall, Max Scherzer:

max

Leans to the right. Yes. Max was quite good. Those perfect games, no-no are seriously awesome. But, to compare to Kershaw. Kershaw had 9 starts, average or worse. Max has SIX awful starts. Eight bad starts and nine average starts. Don’t get me wrong. Max is amazing! But he occasionally has an off day. Kerhsaw is just absurdly good.

For fun, let us take a look at what an average pitcher looks like over 3 years. This becomes a hard exercise, nobody is exactly average for three straight years, so what I did was combined Jarrod Parkers 2013 with Jorge de la Rosa‘s 2014 and Mark Buerhle‘s 2015 and smashed them together to make the 27 point per start SP. Here’s the graph.

average

It’s a mixed bag. Plenty of great useful starts in there, but the red and peach columns start to add up really quick. You’re looking at a $10-$20 pitcher. Good luck!

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!