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2019 Projection Systems Comparison – A Game Theory Approach


Last year, I introduced a game theory approach for comparing baseball projection systems. Today, I have once again applied the same methodology in order to evaluate which set of baseball projections excelled in 2019.

Most others who venture in such a comparative exercise make use of some type of statistical analysis. They calculate least square errors, perform a chi-squared test, or perhaps do hypothesis testing. I won’t be engaging in any of these capable methods.

Instead, I will look to determine the profitability potential of each projection system by simulating what would have happened in a fantasy auction draft. Instead, I’ll play a game.

What do I mean by this?

First, think about what happens in a fantasy baseball draft auction.

Suppose that Rudy Gamble of Razzball (or anyone who exclusively uses the Razzball projections) walks into a rotisserie auction league prior to the 2019 baseball season. Let’s say that Rudy decides to participate in an NFBC auction league. Mr. Gamble would take his projections and run them through a valuation method to obtain auction prices. He would generate a list that looked something like this …

Razzball Projected Values: Chris Sale 49, Mike Trout 45, Jacob deGrom 44, Max Scherzer 44. Mookie Betts 42, J.D. Martinez 37, Giancarlo Stanton 36, Justin Verlander 35, … , Brandon Lowe 1, Josh Reddick 1, Mark Melancon 1, etc.

In addition to the raw projected values generated by the Razzball system, Rudy would then establish a price point that he is willing to pay for each player. There might be a premium that he will pay for the top ones, and a discount that he expects to save on lower cost players. He may be willing to bid up to $46 on Jacob deGrom (valued at $44), but would only pay $1 for a $4 Jason Kipnis, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

2019’s Fantasy Baseball Value Drainers

Last week, I looked at the largest auction player bargains of 2019. These were the players who were highly profitable after considering their opportunity cost of acquisition. We defined the bargain amount as:

$Bargain = $Value – $AAV

We defined $Value as the accumulated 5×5 full season rotisserie value of each player, and $AAV as the average auction cost to purchase the player pre-season. We make use of the NFBC Average Auction Values which are readily available to us.

For the full methodology of how these player bargains are calculated, please refer to my introductory post.

Today’s attention will be directed to what I refer to as the value drainers. These are the largest “rip-offs” of 2019 – i.e., the players who earned the most negative profits for fantasy owners on a full season basis (net of their auction price). Read the rest of this entry »

2019’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains

Winning Fantasy Baseball is All. About. Value.


Several years back, a friend of mine was preparing for his fantasy baseball auction. He asked me a simple question –

“How much is Lorenzo Cain worth according to your projections?”

That was a straightforward question for me to answer. I ran the ATC Projections through my valuation model. I set the league parameters to match his specific league settings, and I generated a value for Cain of $18.

A few days later, my friend came back to me and said,

“Ariel, I bought Lorenzo Cain at my auction for $18! Isn’t that awesome?!?!”

I responded “No, that’s awful. If Lorenzo Cain is worth $18, you need to only pay $14 or $15 or $16.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Ariel Cohen’s 2019 Bold Predictions – Recap

The 2019 MLB regular season has concluded. Two Astros may very well finish 1-2 in the AL Cy Young award. The Brewers went on an unbelievable Yelich-less run to make the playoffs – only to be eliminated in the wildcard game with their best pitcher on the mound. A new record was set for rookie homeruns in a single season. The Yankees hit 306 HRs as a team, and yet that did not set a record; the Twins hit 307! Baseball set a new collective HR record. It was the year of the longball, or as Jeff Zimmerman calls it, “Happy Fun Ball.”

It is now time to check back on how we fared this year in fantasy. Let’s start with a review of this season’s bold predictions.

As I often remind my readers – we will never succeed in getting the entirety of our bold predictions correct, or even realize a majority of them. If I wanted to achieve a high success rate, I could simply have filled up my list of predictions with easy ones such as “Justin Verlander will win 10+ games this season.” That class of prediction would have been too easy.

Rather, the point of the exercise is to highlight certain undervalued (or overvalued) players by choosing a few unlikely, yet achievable outcomes. The idea is to target somewhere between the 70th and 90th percentiles of possible outcomes – predictions which are 10-30% likely to occur.

I often use the ATC Projections as a guide for these bold predictions. I look at where the ATC projections generate an outcome which varies significantly from what the general public perceives will happen. Some other times – I just go with my gut and with my own intuition.

Let’s recap!

#1: Matt Barnes will finish as a top 5 saves leader in 2019

There are two elements that need to occur for a relief pitcher to accumulate saves. The pitcher needs to:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Case for a Second-Tier Closer

Should you spend for an elite closer?

Earlier this year, I broke down the profitability potential of the starting pitcher tiers. We learned that it was profitable from a return on investment perspective to purchase an “ace” starting pitcher in your auctions and/or drafts. I am referring to the article entitled, “The Case for An Ace”.

Today, I dive into the hit rates and profitability for various relief pitcher tiers. Sure, there will always be hits and busts in each draft round. If you happen to strike the right player, you will be set … and vice versa if you happen to draft a dud. From a game theory perspective, knowing the more profitable price points for players at particular positions (or for particular scoring statistics) is extremely valuable to the shrewd fantasy owner.

In the long run – it is better to know that saves have a better ROI in Round X vs. Round Y, whereas steals have a better ROI in Round W vs. Round Z, etc. Why not maximize your potential sources of profit in fantasy baseball, by being efficient with your draft selections and with your auction dollars? Sure, you are free to draft Aristides Aquino in the 1st round if you so choose – but it is prudent to keep in your back pocket what the numbers say about what the best investments are.

The Experts / Tout Wars

In my days of playing fantasy baseball, I have come across two opposing strategies regarding closers. Both approaches have been heavily publicized over the years.

  • Never. Pay. For. Saves.
  • Buy a top closer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Does Draft Position Matter in Fantasy Baseball?


Does it make a difference as to a fantasy baseball team’s starting draft position? Are all draft slots created equally? Is it better to be at the ends (wheel/turn), or rather, is it more opportune to make one’s selections from the middle of the order?

To try and help us answer these questions, let’s look at what happened in 2019. Now, of course, the current season isn’t over just yet – there are still a few more weeks of baseball. However, now in mid-September, it is sufficiently late in the season for us to analyze how the draft positions played out over the course of 2019.

Sources Used

For this study, we will observe the standings for three different league types:

  • TGFBI – 21 Leagues
  • NFBC Main Event – 38 Leagues
  • NFBC Draft Champions – 230 Leagues

TGBFI (The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational) is our own Justin Mason’s creation. It is a compilation of 315 fantasy baseball experts, divided into 21 NFBC-Style divisions. The 315 experts are also pitted against each other in a large overall competition. [I am the host of the TGFBI Beat the Shift Podcast, which can be found right here.]

The NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) Main Event is a set of high money entry leagues, with large financial payouts for the victors. As with TGFBI, the teams are all additionally entered into an overall contest with even larger payouts for the top finishers.

The NFBC Draft Champion leagues are money league contests as well (although their cost and payouts are far less than that of the main event leagues). As I will further describe below, they are 50-round slow drafts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Draft Speed or Pound the Power?


On the latest episode of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational Podcast, I posed the following question:

In 2020 fantasy baseball drafts for roto leagues, which will you do early on?

A) Draft Speed Early
B) Pound the Power

Simultaneously, I posed the identical question on Twitter, yielding the following results:

The Twitter responses, as well as the members of the TGFBI Beat the Shift Podcast panel were pretty evenly split on what was more important to focus on. Obviously, fantasy owners need to focus on both; players who can amass a broad base of stats are ideal. But the question is still a valid one – in a vacuum, all things being equal, which player type should you favor in a draft?

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wPDI for Relief Pitchers: Mid-August Update

Previously, I provided the mid-August Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) update for starting pitchers. We took a deeper look at some rookies and comeback players found atop the wPDI leaderboard. Players such as Brendan McKay, Zac Gallen and Dinelson Lamet were highlighted by their deceptive repertoire.

Now it’s time to tackle the relief pitchers.

You can find the definitions and indexes of wPDI in its introductory article, found here. Here is a quick reminder on what the six possible plate discipline outcomes look like:

Classifying the 6 Pitching Outcomes
Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome
Zone? Out of Zone Out of Zone Out of Zone In Zone In Zone In Zone
Swing? Swung On Swung On No Swing Swung On Swung On No Swing
Contact? No Contact Contact Made No Swing No Contact Contact Made No Swing

Let’s take a look at the 2019 year to date wPDI leaderboards, for relief pitchers [minimum 15 IP]:

Read the rest of this entry »

wPDI for Starting Pitchers: Mid-August Update

Earlier this season, I introduced a new pitcher metric – Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI). It is a way to aggregate the six possible plate discipline outcomes into one simple quantity. By using plate discipline data alone, wPDI highlights the percentage of deceptive/effective pitches thrown.

Some lesser known undervalued pitchers who were revealed by wPDI in 2018 included Domingo German, Marco Gonzales, Will Smith and Ryan Pressly. Of course, wPDI also confirmed stars such as Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Aroldis Chapman.

You can find the definitions and indexes of wPDI in its introductory article, found here.

Here is a quick reminder on what the six possible plate discipline outcomes look like:

Classifying the 6 Pitching Outcomes
Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome Outcome
Zone? Out of Zone Out of Zone Out of Zone In Zone In Zone In Zone
Swing? Swung On Swung On No Swing Swung On Swung On No Swing
Contact? No Contact Contact Made No Swing No Contact Contact Made No Swing

Read the rest of this entry »

The Mathematics of a Fair Fantasy Sports Trade


We are now rapidly approaching the major league trade deadline of July 31. In our own fantasy baseball leagues, we often try to mimic real-life – and trading is no different. We set up an arbitrary date in the 2nd half of the baseball season, in which we agree to cease trading with our league mates for the remainder of the season.

Some leagues set their internal deadline a few days following the major league one. Some leagues set the deadline to be the All-Star game. Whatever your league’s trade stopping point may be, the idea is to prevent last minute unfairness or possible collusion. As a natural byproduct, having that set date often sparks some league excitement in the waning trading hours!

The title of this article is, The Mathematics of a Fair Fantasy Trade. Often, leagues will allow its individual team members (or commissioner) to vote upon and potentially veto a trade which they deem as “unfair.” These leagues will often state in their constitutions ideas resembling:

All trades should be “fair.” A trade does not necessarily need to be “good” for both sides.

The above verbiage is taken verbatim from the constitution of one of my home leagues. For a number of my other leagues, their bylaws also state something similar. League guidelines often emphasize the notion that fair trades aren’t necessarily good for both sides. They claim that a fair fantasy baseball trade does not necessarily have to be a good one.

I completely disagree with that premise. The truth is that they are one and the same. Any trade that is good for both sides is a fair one. Any trade that is fair, has the realistic potential to benefit both teams.

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