Archive for February, 2011

Bottom of the Barrel: $1 Second Baseman

As the 2011 Player Rankings outlined, there are a lot of risks at second base this season. Much of these risks are injury related, as Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler all missed significant time last season. Rickie Weeks finally broke out, but it would be foolish to forget about his past injury concerns. Should you find yourself waiting on a second baseman, here are some $1 options that may provide some value.
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Fantasy Value Above Replacement: Part Three

This is the third part in a published four part series. If you’re interested in reading the Update, click through!

If you haven’t done so, please make sure to read the first two pieces on Fantasy Value Above Replacement from earlier today.

Before we get into the auction conversion, there are a couple notes that need to be addressed.

Weighing Rate Stats – We can all agree that a batter that hits .300 in 600 at-bats is more valuable than one who does it in 400 at-bats, right? We have to take this into account and adjust for AB’s and IP in rate stats. Simply multiple a players normal z-score in the batting average category by their AB total. We’ll call this wBA. Once that is done for every player at that position, you take the z-score of those wBA numbers and you have your final batting average value. You do the same with ERA and WHIP as well, using IP instead of AB. It can actually end up helping some players with poor ERA numbers, because having a 5.00 ERA isn’t as bad if it’s only 150 innings. On the flip side, power hitters who play everyday and have a bad batting average will be penalized even more for it.

Pitcher Adjustment – Because pitchers can only contribute to four stat categories (SP don’t get saves, and it’s always best to disregard RP wins), we need to curb their value. I do this simply by multiplying their FVAAz number by 0.8 to reflect the ⅘ ratio.

Inputs – Please note, and this is a biggie, that this system is only as good as its inputs. If your projections are way off, the rankings might be, too.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can take a look at how to convert FVARz into auction values.

Auction Conversion
The auction conversion formula takes into account the number of players on each team, as well as the simple idea that every player taken in an auction has to cost at least a dollar. The conversion formula is below.

[(Team Budget – (1*no. of players per team)) / number of players per team] * (z-score above replacement / average z-score for above-replacement players) +1 = Dollar Value

Note: “Draftable” player are considered to be players who are projected to produce at a level above replacement level.

In our case, a 12-team standard league, it would look something like this:

[(260-(1*23))/23]*(FVARz / average FVARz for above-replacement players) + 1

If you want to make things easier, you can substitute 3.0 for “average FVARz for above-replacement players.” The number varies a bit year-to-year, but it is usually around 3.0. So our final formula is


This formula works because it makes two things clear: The average player should be payed the average amount of money a team can spend on a player, and a replacement level player is worth $1.

A Small Sample Using Marcel
In case you’re having a hard time visualizing this whole process, I have done a small sample of FVARz using the Marcel projections found right here on FanGraphs. The sample is done using a 400 AB minimum, and the positions are done simply based on what Marcel says.

If you want to view the sample, click here and your wish will be granted.

While I was the only one doing any direct work on this project, many others helped me out by letting me bounce ideas off them, and other such things. So, let me thank Michael Jong and Joel Goodbody, as well as FanGraphs’ own David Appelman and Eno Sarris.

Fantasy Value Above Replacement: Part Two

This is the second part in a published four part series. If you’re interested in reading Part Three, and the Update, click through!

If you haven’t already, make sure to read the introduction to Fantasy Value Above Replacement from earlier this morning.

Step Two: Adjusting for Positional Replacement Levels
Theory 2: There will be more outfielders drafted than any of the other position players, and there will be more 1B drafted then any other infield positions.

Replacement levels are taken on a positional basis. While it may seem that it is just doubling up on the positional adjustment, it is still important to do it this way. If we only standardized replacement level across positions without accounting for the number of players drafted, we could end up with very uneven numbers. There will be more outfielders drafted than any other position players, and more first baseman drafted than any other infielders. We have to reflect that in this number, and this is how we do it.

A replacement level player is defined as “a player who is available on the waiver wire in a majority (50.01%) of leagues.” This will mean that some players taken in the last couple rounds will be at (or below) replacement level, and that is just fine. When I originally created this system, I had it set for 246 players above replacement level. According to the crowdsourcing data that I collected, you guys agree that the numbers should indeed be 246, since the last 2.5 rounds of a 23 round standard draft are replacement level or below.

Because the overall replacement level doesn’t necessarily help up pinpoint the levels at each position, I did a sampling of mock drafts this offseason to help come up with the numbers. Below is a list of how many players are considered to be above replacement level at each position.

C: 12
1B: 23
2B: 18
3B: 17
SS: 16
OF: 62
SP: 62
RP: 36

The data was found using a sampling of ESPN and Yahoo mock drafts to try and prevent one site’s bias from screwing with the data.

When we set a replacement level at each position, we do so by forcing the 13th catcher (for instance) to be a replacement level player. The FVAAz number will change every year depending on the strength of the position, so we just simply adjust using the 13th catcher instead of a set number. We use the 13th catchers’ FVAAz, and add the respective value (or subtract, in some cases) to force their Fantasy Value Above Replacement to equal zero. We then use the same factor and add (or subtract) it to every other player’s FVAAz at the position.

We now have our FVARz, and once we have one for every player at every position, we can directly compare these players. Now, regardless of position, a player with a FVARz of 10 is more valuable in drafts than a player with a FVARz of 9.

Next, we’ll look at how to convert FVARz numbers into “auction dollars,” as well as going over some semi-random notes.

Fantasy Value Above Replacement: Part One

This is the first part in a published four part series. If you’re interested in reading Part Two, Part Three, and the Update, click through!

In real-life baseball analysis, we have tools such as WAR to help us boil down a players’ contributions to a single number. Yet, in fantasy baseball, no such tool exists, sans a few “player raters” out there. The goal of this project was to create a number that would allow us to easily compare players’ values to each other in an effort to create accurate rankings before drafts begin. Today I will be rolling out a Fantasy Value Above Replacement metric, henceforth known as FVARz.

Using z-scores as the underpinning of this system can help keep things objective and accurate across the board. Simply start with a projected line in the players’ 5×5 categories and include it among the rest of the players at that position. Then, within each category, take the sum of the z-scores – the number of standard deviations away from the mean a player’s statistic is – and that determines the players’ value above the positional average. We then adjust for replacement level at that position, and you have a final number you can take to the bank. We can then use those overall value numbers to compare across positions, and even convert them into auction dollars.

For the sake of simplicity, all of these numbers are done for 12-team standard roto leagues, but the data can easily be manipulated to reflect a different number of teams, positional requirements, or player pools.

Step One: Comparing Inside the Position
Theory 1: Players can only play the positions that the game engine allows them, so those other players at their position are their only competition for a roster spot (sans UTIL).

All players’ raw numbers are compared only to those in their position grouping when it comes to overall value, because players can only play the position that the game engine allows. It does not make sense to directly compare Albert Pujols’ raw numbers to Robinson Cano’s raw numbers, for example, because they cannot occupy the same spot on your roster. Their raw data needs to be adjusted before we can directly compare them.

This is important because it is the way to calculate “position scarcity,” a key component in fantasy valuation. We can all agree that hitting 25 homers as a catcher is much more valuable than hitting 25 homers as an outfielder, and this will reflect that.

So compare the players’ numbers inside each position by using z-scores. Take the positional average and standard deviation in each 5×5 category, and calculate z-scores for each player’s performance in those 5×5 categories (we’ll talk more about how we properly do batting average and other rate stats later). We then just total up those z-scores, and call that out as our Fantasy Value Above Average, or FVAAz.

It is important to be consistent when deciding which players make it into your positional player pools. It is easiest to set an AB minimum (or IP for pitchers) and use it across the board in order to guarantee consistency. You can pick whatever number you like, but I’d recommend using a minimum around 400 AB’s.

Next, we’ll look at how we set our positional replacement levels, and why we do so.

Second Basemen: Old Faces in New Places

During the week, Paul Swydan covered the marquee move of Dan Uggla in his Top 5 Targets, but there are a few more guys who filled out a change of address form at their local post office this off season.  These guys are definitely more low budget, but perhaps, in their new digs, they’ll be able to provide you with some worthwhile fantasy totals.  Sometimes, all a guy needs is a little change of scenery. Read the rest of this entry »

How Pitching is Scored in ottoneu FanGraphs Points Leagues

Interested in playing in my ottoneu league, using this scoring system?  See the bottom of this post for info on how you can join!

Last week we looked at hitter FanGraphs Points, which are built on linear weights.  A complementary pitching points system was more difficult to devise: you can’t just use linear weights, because then you’d be rewarding the pitcher who gave up the most runs!

Therefore, it was necessary to develop a system that had some objective basis, but would a) reward good pitchers for being better than bad pitchers, and b) have point totals that would correspond to those of hitters.  And, just as our hitting system doesn’t track statistics that are substantially affected by other players (like RBI or runs), our pitching system should reward pitchers for what they do as opposed to what their teammates (pitchers and fielders) do.  That means no wins, runs allowed…or hits.

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Fallers at Second Base

On Thursday, Jeff rolled out our composite second base rankings and we’ve since looked at Risers, Top Targets, and the bargain bin. All three of the gents featured on today’s “Fallers” list are clustered in our third tier, yet all of them have easily performed like tier 1 talent at least once in their career. Let’s peek at at why they’re not getting more respect from us. Read the rest of this entry »

RotoGraphs Chat

The New Guy: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Not happy with the free agent options, the Twins went abroad to solve their middle infield woes, winning the bidding for and signing 26-year-old Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He’s coming off a huge year with the Chiba Lotte Marines, hitting .346/.423/.482 with 11 HR and 22 SB (but 11 CS). He’s hit at least .300 in three of the last four years, double-digit homers in each of the last three years, and 20+ steals in four of the last five years. That’s all well and good, but it tells us nothing about how he’ll perform with the Twins in 2011 or, more importantly, his fantasy value.

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$1 Second Basemen: Rodriguez, Espinosa, Hill

We debuted our second base rankings this morning and the usual suspects – Cano, Utley, Pedroia, etc – sat at the top. The players I’m going to discuss reside far from the top of the second base mountain and should be available very late in your draft, or on top of the waiver wire once the draft is completed. Either way, they’ll likely have value that outweighs their draft position.

In all likelihood Sean Rodriguez is going to be starting  for the Tampa Bay Rays on opening day. We’re not just sure exactly where. Luckily for us Rodriguez has second base eligibility wrapped up. Last year the Tampa Bay Rays employed a platoon with Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce between second base and right field. That platoon is likely to remain in place, to start the season at least, as Joe Maddon has said he plans on easing Joyce in against left handed pitching.

No matter the position, Rodriguez is going to get his share of at bats. He has extremely good power for second base and mashes left handed pitching. His triple slash line against LHP last season was .292/.375/.442. The Rays will give him an opportunity to prove his worth against right handed pitching as well, and as long as he isn’t completely inept against them he should be a lock to receive 400+ at bats. Strikeouts will limit his average, but 15 home runs is a realistic goal for Rodriguez in 2011.

The Nationals haven’t come out and said that Danny Espinosa is their starting second basemen this season, but the team likes his glove and he is being given every chance to win the job. In 112 plate appearances last year Espinosa racked up only 22 hits, but half of those went for extra bases, including six home runs. His power his legit – his SLG% never dipped under .460 in the minors – and he has decent speed, stealing 29 and 30 bases at AA and AAA.

That power comes at the expense of his batting average, though. He doesn’t make a lot of contact, in face he’s never had a K% lower than 23.2 at any professional level. While the power is legit and makes him an attractive buy low candidate from a traditionally power starved position, he did have surgery over the winter on his hamate bone. From someone who has broken their hamate bone before let me tell you that it doesn’t heal quickly. Having said that, his power potential would be too much for me to shy away from come draft day.

This last hitter may very well go for more than $1 in nearly every league, but he is still being greatly undervalued due to his 2010 season. It is a fact that Aaron Hill was the unluckiest hitter in baseball last season. His BABIP was a paltry .196, lowest for all qualified batters. That lead to a .205 batting average. Our own Eno Sarris gathered the statistics and calculated his expected BABIP (xBABIP) as .250. Don’t ask me how he got that number, just trust in the powers of Eno. Using that figure we can guesstimate that Hill’s average should have been in the .250-.270 range.

Despite the poor BABIP and batting average Hill managed to hit 26 home runs in 580 at bats. There was one extremely noticeable change in Hill’s game from 2009 to 2010; he stopped hitting line drives. His LD% dipped from 19.6 to 10.6. The Blue Jays’ hitting coach installed a swing-as-hard-as-you-can philosophy in the players, which lead to an amazing number of home runs but little else. There is no way Hill can be that unlucky two seasons in a row. That alone should be enough to propel him back toward the upper echelon of second basemen.