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Fantasy Baseball Strats & Hacks – Pitchers

2014 Fantasy Baseball Hacks & Strats for Pitchers

Last time we went over my logic and strategies toward hitting in fantasy baseball. This year I spent roughly 68% of my auction draft budget on just hitting (most of that being spent on infielders). That left me with about 32% to spend on pitching, half of which was put toward Clayton Kershaw (who was also my keeper). So with just about 16% of my budget I managed to fill 6 pitching slots with guys that I see as all top 100 fantasy pitching talent by year end. Lets take a look at how I did this.

First off, pitching in baseball is easily the most inconsistent position in the sport. There are few great men in the world that dominate year over year. I would say the top 5 reliable pitchers today are Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Verlander. Honorable mentions include Bumgarner, Chris Sale, & Cliff Lee. After that you’re looking at a lot of guys who have a lot to prove in regards to their career. Last year I decided anybody outside of this “Upper Class” was worth as much as any new hot prospect coming into the league. I ended up drafting Shelby Miller, Alex Cobb, Jeff Samardzija, Addison Reed, and Greg Holland. All of these pitchers proved to be top talent and the most I spent on a single player was $12 which was Jeff Samardzija (The rest cost me $5 or less). This season, all the players I just mentioned are now in the “Middle Class” (except for Holland, he’s Upper Class material). I was determined to derive the same results with my draft this year and wanted to be more visual with my decision making.

As a result I put together a scatter plot graph that measures a pitcher’s xfip (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) and K/9 (Strikeouts Per 9 Innings). What I ended up with were the below results that I’ve broken into two tiers (Unfortunately I was unable to reorder the axis, so the quadrant we want to focus on is the upper left).

2x2_1

As we analyze Tier 1 (seen above) we see a number of “Upper Class” pitchers but more importantly we see prospects. Here we see both Danny Salazar and Tyson Ross. Now these are small sample sizes from last year but you can feel safe once you’ve looked up their stats from the minors. I’ll go ahead and say I’m expecting Salazar to be a top 25 pitcher this season and he’s going in the 11th round of drafts currently. Next is Tyson Ross who I don’t think is getting drafted much at all this season, I expect him to fall within the top 75. Now most of the other names still seem familiar, so I took them out and made room for the next tier shown below.

2x2_2

Here we see a couple more “Upper Class” pitchers in the mix but we also see a few Oakland A’s that aren’t being drafted highly either. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir are both healthy and ready to go this season. Gray is the #1 and opening day starter for the Oakland A’s. He’s currently going in the 15th round of drafts and Kazmir is barely being drafted. Both pitchers will see plenty of innings now that both Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin are out. Honorable mentions at pitchers include Chris Archer, Taijuan Walker, Zach Wheeler, Yordano Ventura, Hector Santiago, Alex Wood, and Drew Hutchinson. I think that’s plenty of starting pitchers that you can draft outside the first 10 rounds, which leaves us with a couple spots to fill for relievers.

Closer is another position where we see people come and go like girls who hit the gym preparing for spring break. For instance, who was the closer for the Red Sox before Uehara?….Papelbon?…man I don’t know and I would bet most don’t. They’re constantly replaced and rarely worth the money you spend. I’ve provided a list below of closers aligned with their average costs and K/9 from last season. The guys I recommend here are Ernesto Frieri, Danny “Lord” Farquhar, Jim Henderson, and Grant Balfour. Get two or three of those guys and you’ll be all set with relievers.

pitchers

In my opinion I think drafting this list of pitchers vs any other pitcher outside the “Upper Class” is just as risky of a scenario. It’s beneficial in regards to the younger pitchers because the league has yet to understand their weaknesses. What I’ve seen remain consistent with pitchers is their ability to strike out batters. I personally would rather have a pitcher with a 4.02 ERA and a 11.05 K/9 than a pitcher with a 2.78 ERA and a 5.20 K/9. Some may disagree but even though Tim Lincecum fell off the Cy Young train he’s still striking people out and maintaining a percentage of his value. Moral of the story, be sure to get at least once upper class pitcher and then draft your infield. From there, your options should be very flexible if approached properly.

Thanks for reading!
-@McCoMark
#BTBTeam

Fantasy Baseball Strats & Hacks

2014 Fantasy Baseball Hacks & Strats for Hitters

Welcome to the world of Mark’s strats & hacks where we strictly discuss sports on an analytical level. A little bit about myself, my line of work resides in web analytics which has been my thing since college. When I’m not crushin’ conversion funnels I enjoy analyzing sports data on the side.

I like to delve into fantasy baseball for my 16 team auction league every year. Last year, I took things a little too serious and came up with a formula which my co-manager and I utilized. We play in a 21 category head-to-head fantasy league and quite frankly understanding what players support what categories can be very tiring. Instead we decided I’d write out a formula that focused on 14 out of the 21 categories so we could find our niche in the market within the 16 team auction draft. We had determined that the “pretty” categories were not worth the $ such as HRs (Home Runs), RBIs (Runs Batted In), Wins, CG (Complete Games), SHO (Shutouts), QS (Quality Starts), etc. As a result we avoided players such as Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Anthony Rizzo, and more.

Now I’m not saying we’re the best, the smartest, or anything along those lines…but we did end the season with a 17-3-1 record in a highly competitive league (Everyone follows the Rotofeed daily, fangraphs on the reg, follow beat writers on twitter, etc.). Within this article I’ll let you in on how we refined our logic for this upcoming season, what our positional preferences were, as well as plenty of prospects to have your eyes on for the coming weeks/months.

For this season, I have done some tweaking to the logic so that what we’ll discuss will be beneficial to any DraftStreet players or regular fantasy managers. Everything for us starts at K% (Number of Strikeouts / Number of Plate appearances). Obviously you can’t look at this metric alone but it allows us to determine if the player is actually creating opportunities by putting the ball in play or if they’re the cause of their own problems by striking out. Now as I said we can’t measure this metric alone, what we primarily looked at was what we call our “Combined Hitting Ratio” which is OPS – K%. This combined metric allowed us to see players who don’t just put the ball in play but are also seeing their fair share of bases. This combination of metrics is really all you need in regards to finding a single KPI (Key Primary Indicator) that correlates with all other hitting metrics. I know there are countless others out there that do this or more but you’re looking to be different, not the same as people in the draft. Using this metric would give you a unique perspective on the market and allow you to find deals. Further down within the positional breakdown you’ll see the “Combined Hitting Ratio” Lists which are separated by position. Now some things can’t simply be found within this one metric, which leads us to other areas of fantasy baseball.

We’re big on steals and anyone leading off for a team. Obviously you’ll have to look at the starting line ups for the season to find the leadoff hitters but when it comes to steals we like to look at Steals per game. For example, the man who we consider the holy grail of steals per game is Everth Cabrera. I don’t say that because he retweeted me one time but I say it because he was on pace with Jacoby last year to lead the league in steals (Specifically speaking he was on pace for 63 steals last season). The padres play small ball and he’s at the top of that order with plenty of speed. If you haven’t check yet, Everth does not have an ideal K% History (24.5% in 2012)but he is a type of player we take because his steals will make up for his slightly higher K%. Other players like this exist like Jonathan Villar, though his K% is in the mid 20s which is very very bad (I don’t recommend drafting Villar). In the end, these stats drive our decision on offense. Now lets move onto the breakdown position by position.

Catcher:

Catcher is an interesting position when we approach it. Last year we decided that we wanted a power hitter that’d get us homers and RBIs so we drafted Wilin Rosario who led the league in HR per game for a catcher. This year I did a bit more evaluation on the position and determined that the real value here is finding the player who will see the most PAs. Now we all know that catchers take more days off than any other position in the lineup. We wanted to find the right combination of volume and efficiency in which case we recommend drafting Carlos Santana.

Santana led all catchers last year in PAs with 642, the closest after that is Buster Posey with 595 (nearly 50 less). Other solid options at this position include Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez, and Wilson Ramos. When we take a look at the line up as a whole I recommend making Santana a main priority of your draft.

catcher

1st Base:

Moving onto first base is where we use our combined hitting ratio. Our top preference at this position is regularly Prince Fielder who is arguably the most consistent hitting 1B in baseball. After Prince we look to what we call a “Formula Guy” in Edwin Encarnacion who for the past two seasons has had a K% under 15% (Last year he brought it down to 10%). He’s the top Combined Hitting Ratio player at 80% (above individuals such as Prince & Votto) and did I mention he can play 1st and 3rd base? Always helps to have that flexibility. The next person I want to point out is Jose Abreu, the White Sox 1B from Cuba. For the past 4 years in Cuba he has averaged a 15.6% K% which is fabulous. To go along with that he put up excellent career combined hitting ratio of 86% which is higher than any 1B in the MLB. Honorable mentions here include Adrian Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman, and Allen Craig.

1b

2nd Base:

Now we get to some of the positions which I deem as high importance. Second base is slim pickings and if you don’t get the right player you’ll have a difficult time filling the slot. At 2B the top of the crop is obviously Robinson Cano. After that you have a great option in Ian Kinsler. The guy that I think is the most reasonable and valuable at this position is Jose Altuve. Something I tell my co manager all the time is that we need to find players that help but don’t hurt us in the long run. Altuve is a low K% (12.6%) player who also led all 2B in steals last year. On top of that he’s been great at maintaining his batting average through his career thus far and it’s tough to find consistency like that these days (Never been below .280). Other players I recommend looking into include Anthony Rendon, Matt Carpenter, and Daniel Murphy.

2b

Shortstop:

Onto yet another position I deem of high importance in SS. Obviously the man who is the cream of the crop here is Han Ram (followed by Tulo), but if you’re looking for other options here are a few. Last year I drafted Jean Segura for $5 though this year we all know he’ll cost more and likely won’t produce the same results (his second half was very disappointing)). But with the amount of speed he carries and low K% he’s tough to turn down. From there your options are Jose Reyes, Everth Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and someone I think could break out this year is Andrelton Simmons.

ss

3rd Base:

Surprisingly, 3B is looking like the deepest position in fantasy this year. The one two punch here is definitely Miggy and Beltre but after that you’d be surprised. Aramis Ramirez is actually the #3 player at 3B for Combined Hitting (73.7%) which places him ahead of players like David Wright, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and Manny Machado. Now I’m not saying make him your starting 3B but he may be a great guy for trade bait later in the year. My real favorites here are Martin Prado, Pablo Sandoval, and Josh Donaldson. Honorable mention here is Nolan Arenado, the man who beat out Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for minor league MVP.

3rd

Outfield:

Something I preach in fantasy baseball is that OF can be terribly overrated. If you’re in a league where all the position requires is “OF” and not LF/CF/RF then it’s easily overrated. Everyone quickly falls for the Trouts, Jacobys, Brauns, and more. What I continue to focus on is the combined hitting ratio along with speed. The guys I really like this year are Ben Revere, Norichika Aoki, and Adam Eaton. Aoki specifically has the lowest K% in the league (5.9%). Revere had an impressive steals per game last year (was on pace for 40.5 steals last season) as well as a top K% for players (10.7%). Lastly, Adam Eaton is primed to break out and his minor league numbers line up spectacularly with our analysis. He had a minor league K% of 12.1% and we expect him to steal 30+ bags this season. Lastly, what do all these guys have in common? They’re all leading off this year for their teams which means plenty of runs and steal opportunities. Other sleeper picks include Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Corey Dickerson, Abraham Almonte, and Shane Victorino.

OF

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My Last tip for this article is to keep an eye on the following list of prospects as best you can throughout the season. Some may be beneficial in Dynasty Leagues if not this season.

  • Addison Russell
  • Alex Guerrero
  • Alex Meyer
  • Billy Burns
  • Byron Buxton
  • CJ Edwards
  • Francisco Lindor
  • Garin Cecchini
  • George Springer
  • Gregory Polanco
  • Henry Owens
  • Jesse Biddle
  • Jon Gray
  • Kris Bryant
  • Kyle Crick
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Lance McCullers
  • Lucas Sims
  • Maikel Franco
  • Marcus Stroman
  • Noah Syndergaard
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Rougned Odor
  • Tommy Medica
  • Tyler Glasnow
  • Thanks for Reading! Good luck this season!
    -Mark @McComark
    #BTBTeam

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