Author Archive

The Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for Hitters

Last week, I quantified a famous quote by Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg Maddux. He preached that the key to pitching is to throw a strike when the batter isn’t going to swing, and to throw a ball when the batter will [swing].

The introductory article to wPDI, the Weighted Plate Discipline Index for pitchers, can be found here.

Today, let’s turn the tables around and jump into the hitting equivalent. We can enumerate the offensive parallel of the quote – and evaluate what would be the “Maddux keys to hitting.” A Maddux hitter would swing at pitches when they are thrown in the zone and would lay off of pitches thrown out of the zone.

We will use the wPDI framework to help us quantify what we will call a “Maddux hitter.” For the hitting version of mPDI – the weights of the outcomes will be the exact inverses of the pitching indexes.

Read the rest of this entry »


Introducing: The Maddux Plate Discipline Index (mPDI) for Pitchers

“The key to pitching is to have the ability to throw a strike when they’re taking and throw a ball when the hitter is swinging.”Greg Maddux

Last week, I introduced a pitcher metric based on the six possible plate discipline outcomes. You can find the definitions and indexes in the wPDI introduction article, found here.

This week, I would like to provide you with an alternative weighting of the indexes. It will parallel the famous quote by Hall of Fame pitcher, Greg Maddux. He preached that the key to pitching is to throw a strike when the batter isn’t going to swing, and to throw a ball when the batter will [swing].

With the wPDI outcome framework in place, we can now properly quantify Greg Maddux’s quote.

Read the rest of this entry »


Introducing: Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) for Pitchers

Today, I will attempt to develop a simple pitcher metric. My exercise will provide us with a recapitulation of the plate discipline data at our disposal, while at the same time afford us the opportunity to unearth some fascinating pitching tendencies of lesser known hurlers.

To do this, let’s start with the basic ingredients of plate discipline, from the point of view of the pitcher.

We can break down any pitch into these simple binary events:

  1. Was the ball thrown in the strike zone?
  2. Was the ball swung on?
  3. Did the batter make contact with the ball?

Read the rest of this entry »


Ariel Cohen’s 2019 Bold Predictions

Opening day is finally here!

Draft season is now ending. It is time for our fantasy teams to finally start accumulating statistics (Japan series aside). After the long winter, the excitement of a new season has finally reached its pinnacle.

Now it is time to share my 2019 bold predictions with you. The ATC Projections helped shape some of these. Others come from my own personal analysis on the player, or team situation. The rest arise from blind optimism or the crossing of my fingers. These are all possibilities that could happen, that I feel will happen if things break just right.

Read the rest of this entry »


TGFBI Recap – Pitchers

In my previous post, I looked at the hitting landscape for The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) drafts. I also analyzed my own personal team in League #6 providing player commentary along the way.

Now let’s focus on the pitching.

General Observations

Closers

The first closer, Edwin Diaz was selected in either the 4th or 5th rounds of all TGFBI drafts. Diaz was the consensus top closer.

Read the rest of this entry »


TGFBI Recap – Hitters

The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) drafts have now reached their completion. If you read this website often, you are already familiar with the invitational. The compilation of 21 leagues of industry experts was created by our own, Justin Mason. Each are NFBC-style 15-team leagues, with the collection vying for an overall prize – to win industry bragging rights. Last season, I had the misfortune of playing in the same league/division as the eventual winner, Clay Link. I managed a decisive 2nd place finish in the division, but alas, there was no stopping the champ.

Today, I thought that I would provide some general observations on the TGFBI drafts, review my personal team makeup, and highlight some of my player selections along the way. My goal here is not to boast about how great my team is (or not), but rather to use the experience to convey information to you about the drafting landscape of 2019. Hopefully, some nugget of wisdom found here will assist you with your draft preparation.

Read the rest of this entry »


Steamer vs NFBC ADP – Runs Scored Bargains

In this series, I have previously uncovered potential undervalued speedsters, power bats, batting average and RBI hitters. To round out the standard fantasy offensive categories, let’s tackle the sluggers who are due to wear out the third base line, en route to crossing the plate this season. Let’s look at some potential high runs scored batters going for a discount at the draft table this year.

In 2018, there were 43 players with least 85 Runs. There were 22 players above the 95 mark, and 9 with 105 runs scored. World Series champion Mookie Betts, and Francisco Lindor led all of baseball with 129 R. Finishing in 3rd in the runs department with 119 was Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

Read the rest of this entry »


Steamer vs NFBC ADP – RBI Bargains

Previously in this series, I uncovered potential undervalued speedsters, power bats and batting average hitters – by comparing the Steamer projections to the current NFBC ADP. Now the focus turns to run production counting statistics, in the form of runs batted in.

In 2018, there were 40 players with least 85 RBI. There were 21 players above the 95 mark, and 10 with 105 runs batted in. World Series champion J.D. Martinez led all of baseball with 130 RBI. Khris Davis of Oakland came in second with 123.

Prospective projections though, are typically more conservative. Steamer projects the top RBI accumulator, Giancarlo Stanton, for 114 RBI. Only 5 players are projected to knock in 100 or more runs. For today’s analysis, I will focus on all players with a Steamer projection of 84 RBI or more. [I was going to choose 85 – however setting the threshold at 84 added a few interesting names.] This should give us a group of players who can greatly help your team’s RBI totals for the upcoming fantasy season.

As always, for these draft value comparisons, I look at:

  • The player ranks as computed by the FanGraphs Auction Calculator with Steamer projections (standard NFBC 15 team roto league settings).
  • The current NFBC ADP (of Draft Championship leagues from January 31 to present).

Below are the players selected within the top 30 ADP, who also have a Steamer projection of at least 84 RBI:

1st & 2nd Round High Runs Batted In Contributors
Name AB HR R RBI SB AVG ADP
Giancarlo Stanton 533 45 96 114 3 0.267 24
Nolan Arenado 586 37 98 109 3 0.286 10
J.D. Martinez 529 36 93 109 4 0.297 5
Manny Machado 573 34 92 99 9 0.288 15
Jose Ramirez 572 28 98 99 24 0.284 3
Mike Trout 476 36 109 98 19 0.300 1
Trevor Story 550 30 85 97 18 0.271 18
Javier Baez 586 29 81 96 17 0.269 16
Mookie Betts 584 29 115 95 26 0.302 2
Bryce Harper 503 34 93 93 10 0.267 20
Freddie Freeman 562 27 91 93 8 0.286 21
Aaron Judge 522 36 96 93 7 0.251 19
Alex Bregman 568 26 98 92 11 0.280 14
Francisco Lindor 586 30 101 89 20 0.286 7
Paul Goldschmidt 551 27 92 89 11 0.277 17
Christian Yelich 563 27 97 87 15 0.297 8

These 16 players are projected to provide an excellent run producing base for your draft. Once again, Juan Soto, the Nationals sophomore standout, just missed this list at an ADP of 31.

Below are all of the remaining players in the draft pool with a Steamer projection of at least 84 RBI:

The players above are once again ordered by their difference in Steamer Hitter Rank versus ADP Hitter Rank. Differences highlighted in GREEN are the players who are going later than their Steamer values indicate that they should; differences in RED show the overvalued players.

What jumps out to me is the rightmost column. We have been accustomed (particularly for the stolen base bargains) to seeing more RED than GREEN. That is, we are used to the select scoring categories being drafted at a premium. This isn’t the case for Runs Batted In – many of these premier sluggers are available at a discount, anywhere from 1-3 rounds earlier than Steamer values where they should be drafted.

What also stands out, is that the largest overall ADP shown is Randal Grichuk at ADP 234. Only three other players have ADPs of over 150 (Carlos Santana 196, Nomar Mazara 159, Mike Moustakas 154). Unlike stolen bases or home runs, in order to draft a player that will knock in a considerable number of runs, you need to acquire them in the first fifteen rounds – most of them in the first seven or eight rounds. One of my themes this year is “The Case for An Ace” – that you need to draft ace starting pitchers within your first few picks. On the hitting side, it is these early to middle rounds that you need to acquire most of your bats – many of whom are undervalued.

Nelson Cruz shows up on yet another undervalued player list. He is the 15th best hitter according to Steamer, yet he is going off the boards as the 60th overall hitter. He is severely undervalued and can help your team in HR, BA & RBI. He sits at #2 on this list. Take note.

Randal Grichuk, Jose Abreu and Joey Gallo were all previously covered in this series, but here are a few other players from above that I would like to highlight:

Nomar Mazara (Steamer Hitter Rank: 61, ADP Hitter Rank: 100, Overall ADP: 159)

Let’s take a quick look at some of Nomar Mazara’s power and run production output for the past three seasons:

Nomar Mazara 2016-2018
Season HR R RBI
2016 20 59 64
2017 20 64 101
2018 20 61 77
AVG 20 61 81

On the surface, it seems that Mazara is a steady 20 homer players, with low 60s Runs and low 80s RBIs. Let’s see if there are any issues with his batted ball profile:

Nomar Mazara – Assorted Batted Ball Metrics
Season LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2016 21% 49% 30% 16%
2017 19% 47% 34% 14%
2018 18% 55% 27% 20%

The 2018 GB% rate of 55% seems somewhat worrisome, and his K% rate has been ticking up year over year from 20% in 2016 to 21% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.

Could last year’s surface stats growth reversal from 2017 be injury related? Maybe. He had a thumb injury, which hampered him (and he might have played through) in the second half of 2018. Let’s look at the past season by halves:

Nomar Mazara – 2018 Stats by Half Season
Half AB R HR RBI AVG
1H 308 45 15 55 0.282
2H 181 16 5 22 0.215

Obviously, we can’t just assume that Mazara’s 1H production would continue for a full season – but his pace was a .282 BA, 30 HR, 110 RBI, 90 R clip. Wow!  Let’s look at his batted ball profile from half to half:

Nomar Mazara – 2018 Batted Ball Metrics by Half Season
Half LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
1H 22% 53% 24% 26%
2H 12% 58% 30% 12%

Although that groundball rate was still high in the first half, the other 1H metrics were more in line with his norm (albeit a few less flyballs, but a somewhat lucky HR/FB rate).

Overall, it is unclear whether Mazara will have any more growth in 2019 – but he’s only 24 years old. If healthy, he should easily ride the 20 HR threshold that he’s held. Batting in the heart of the Texas lineup should be the impetus to get him to 90+ RBI. He’s only 24 years old … the best is yet to come.

Give a strong consideration to the young outfielder for an 11th round selection, especially if you need to catch up in RBIs.

Rougned Odor (Steamer Hitter Rank: 51, ADP Hitter Rank: 81, Overall ADP: 129)

Sticking with Texas once again – we have the Texas second baseman Rougned Odor, brother of Texas minor league second baseman Rougned Odor (Yes, the two brothers have the same name, play the same position, and were in the same organization).

Odor has made great strides in plate patience recently. His walk rate rose from 3% in 2016 to 5% in 2017 to 8% in 2018! His hard contact rate went from 37% in ’17 to 45% last year. His line drive rate rose from 16% to 20% as well.

Although Odor seemingly had a down year last season, there is reason to believe his surface stats will rebound – and return close to the 30 HR levels in ’16-’17 once again. He should come close to doing so with a far better batting average to boot. Odor, like Mazara, is also still quite young – as this will only be his age 25 season.

The ATC projections do not share as much optimism as Steamer does for Odor’s RBI total. ATC has Odor projected for only 76 RBI [Steamer 84], but that’s still a solid total. According to Steamer, Odor should be the 51st hitter off of the boards, but he is being taken a number of rounds later as the 81st hitter.

Eddie Rosario (Steamer Hitter Rank: 36, ADP Hitter Rank: 57, Overall ADP: 92)

Eddie Rosario was one of my 2018 potential breakout candidates … and he was … in the first half. Rosario amassed 18 homers, 52 HRI, 6 SBs and a .315 BA in the first half alone, which is a first round type talent. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his breakout season – with shoulder and quad injuries in the second half. Instead of prolonged DL stints, Rosario played through the injuries, which made his final full season figures not as lofty.

Eddie Rosario – Assorted Batted Ball & Plate Metrics
Season K% LD% GB% FB%
2016 25.7% 19.3% 46.3% 34.4%
2017 18.0% 20.2% 42.4% 37.4%
2018 17.6% 20.3% 35.7% 44.1%

Rosario is trending in the right direction in many of his batted ball metrics and his plate discipline – Fewer strikeouts, more line drives, and fewer fly balls. His improvements will set a nice floor for his batting average. He is also hitting more balls in the air, which will ultimately aid his power metrics. Oh yes, and he also steals bases (close to double digits each year).

He is healthy now; his power should return in stride. Rosario is a player who has big upside. At the price he is currently being drafted at – he is a bargain even if he just repeats what he did last season. Batting in the heart of a revamped Minnesota lineup, Rosario is a player that will give you excellent run production metrics at a discount.

Yasiel Puig (Steamer Hitter Rank: 31, ADP Hitter Rank: 46, Overall ADP: 71)

Yasiel Puig traded in his Dodger blue this offseason for some Reds … Red. With that, he moves from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park. He will also move from a manager who took him out of games late for defense, to a better “playing time” situation. Puig only had 405 ABs last season [some injuries] – yet managed to earn mid-teens full-season auction value.

Puig has many paths to value. He steals bases – amassing 15 in each of the past two seasons. He hits for power – clubbing an average of 26 dingers over the past two years.

His ground balls have been turning into line drives over the past few seasons – giving him a solid batting average floor. Finally, he should bat somewhere in the middle of the Cincinnati lineup, which will afford him the opportunity to pile up the RBIs.

Puig is a five-tool player and is undervalued according to the Steamer projections. Other than health, he is at low risk for poor performance. He can be acquired on average in the middle of the fifth round.  A few weeks ago, he was being drafted at the end of the sixth round – so his stock is on the rise. Grab him now, while he is still going for a small discount.


Steamer vs NFBC ADP – Batting Average Bargains

Previously, I uncovered potential undervalued speedsters and power bats by comparing the Steamer projections to the current NFBC ADP. The exercise now continues for batting average.

In 2018, there were 43 qualified players with least a .280 batting average. There were 32 players above the .290 mark, and 16 above .300. Mookie Betts led all of baseball with a .346 BA, followed by his teammate, J.D. Martinez who hit for .330.

Prospective projections though, are typically more conservative. Steamer only projects 11 regular players to bat over .290 in 2019, and only 5 players to hit for at least .300. For the following analysis, I will focus on all players with a Steamer projection of a .280 BA or more. That should give us a nice group of players who can greatly help your team’s batting average in upcoming fantasy season.

For these draft value comparisons, I look at:

  • The player ranks as computed by the FanGraphs Auction Calculator with Steamer projections (standard NFBC 15 team roto league settings).
  • The current NFBC ADP (of Draft Championship leagues from January 24 to present).

Below are the players selected within the top 30 ADP, who also have a Steamer projection of at least a .280 BA:

1st & 2nd Round High Batting Average Hitters
Name AB HR R RBI SB AVG ADP
Jose Altuve 589 17 92 82 18 0.303 13
Mookie Betts 584 29 115 95 26 0.302 2
Mike Trout 476 36 109 98 19 0.300 1
J.D. Martinez 529 36 93 109 4 0.297 7
Christian Yelich 563 27 97 87 15 0.297 8
Manny Machado 573 34 92 99 9 0.288 15
Charlie Blackmon 606 26 103 79 13 0.287 27
Trea Turner 595 17 96 68 41 0.287 9
Nolan Arenado 586 37 98 109 3 0.286 10
Freddie Freeman 562 27 91 93 8 0.286 22
Francisco Lindor 586 30 101 89 20 0.286 5
Andrew Benintendi 579 18 101 76 18 0.286 30
Jose Ramirez 572 28 98 99 24 0.284 3
Alex Bregman 568 26 98 92 11 0.280 14

These 14 players are projected to provide a nice batting average base for your draft. Juan Soto, a 2nd year player, just missed this list at an ADP of 31.

Below are all of the remaining players in the draft pool with a Steamer projection of at least .280 BA:

The players above are once again ordered by their difference in Steamer Hitter Rank versus ADP Hitter Rank. Differences highlighted in GREEN are the players who are going later than their Steamer values indicate that they should; differences in RED show the overvalued players.

What is nice about this list, is that it contains quite a diverse range of player types and situations. Included in the player set are:

  • Injury bounce back players
  • Speedsters
  • Power hitters
  • Catchers
  • Rookies / Top Prospects
  • Part time contributors
  • Steady Year to Year players

The fact that these batting average contributors are so diverse in their makeup, might make it easier for you, the knowledgeable drafter – to focus on average before your competition contemplates the task. Every year, I see many fantasy players focus on only accumulating counting stats. Batting average counts nonetheless – and needs to be addressed. You will also find it easier to collect a low BA / one category contributor later on, if your batting average kicked off on excellent footing.

Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu were previously covered in this series, but here are a few other players from above that I would like to highlight:

Ketel Marte (Steamer Hitter Rank: 88, ADP Hitter Rank: 126, Overall ADP: 207)

Ketel Marte flashed a touch of power last year, hammering 14 round trippers. I have always viewed Marte as more of a speedster than anything else; his low 6 stolen base total last year was somewhat surprising to me.

Ketel Marte – HR/FB%
Season HR/FB%
2016 1.1%
2017 7.9%
2018 10.9%
SOURCE: FanGraphs

Looking at the power, his HR/FB rate has been ticking up in recent years. It is one peripheral reason that he may be able to sustain double-digit homers.

As for his batting average, which has hovered around .260 in the past few seasons – his BABIP was somewhat lowish for a player with excellent speed (.290 in 2017, .282 in 2018). Steamer is projecting a jump all the way to .280!

The increased batting average projection, as well as a jump in his walk rate in the 2nd half of last season – should lead to more opportunities for stolen bases. He currently projects to be the leadoff hitter in Arizona, and any increased volume of plate appearances would surely help his counting stats.

My word of caution is in his platoon splits. He is a far better hitter vs. left-handed pitching than vs. right, which could ultimately lead to a good-side platoon split (possibly with Jarrod Dyson taking away some of his ABs?).

He is not my favorite player on this list, but if you buy Steamer’s batting average upside projection, he is a solid mid-to-late round selection.

Adam Eaton (Steamer Hitter Rank: 106, ADP Hitter Rank: 129, Overall ADP: 210)

Eaton, who is being drafted right around Marte in the early 200s – is the better player from a pure batting average perspective. Eaton has eclipsed the .280 mark in each of his prior 5 seasons in the majors. With his batted ball profile improving throughout last year (GB% down 6%, LD% up 11%), he is a good bet to achieve that for a 6th straight season.

Long removed from his 15/15 destiny, Eaton’s plate skills are still excellent. He should still supply fantasy owners with a good source of runs if he bats at the top of a very good Washington lineup.

Health is the larger concern for Eaton, as he hasn’t managed to stay on the field for a full season since he played on the Southside of Chicago. The Nationals are loaded with capable outfielders, and I worry a bit for Eaton losing playing time to others.

In terms of boosting a team’s average, you could do worse with a 15th round pick according to Steamer – who projects a return to double digit power and steals.

Justin Turner (Steamer Hitter Rank: 55, ADP Hitter Rank: 72, Overall ADP: 113)

Justin Turner is a player that I call a “Low Variance Projection.” That is, all of the projections I look at come close in their 2019 projections.

20 HRs, 4 SB, ~.295 BA, 75-85 Runs & RBIs.

With an 11.5% strikeout rate over the past two seasons, a mid-20s LD% rate, a ~30% GB% rate, and a .319 career BABIP – His batting average looks to be rock solid. While it is tough to pencil in a .300+ BA, bet the over on .285+.

Turner always seems to be undervalued at fantasy drafts, but he shouldn’t be. He is a 4-category contributor … he does everything other than steal.

There is risk attached with Turner – health risk. He only played in 103 games last season. At age 34, he could ultimately lose a few at-bats to Max Muncy or to others, as the Dodgers have many options in the infield.

Jose Peraza (Steamer Hitter Rank: 62, ADP Hitter Rank: 56, Overall ADP: 90)

I refer to Jose Peraza as Starling Marte Lite.

Let’s dive into Peraza’s batted ball profile and contact/plate patience:

Jose Peraza – Assorted Batted Ball & Plate Metrics
Season BB% K% GB% FB%
2016 2.7% 12.9% 43.5% 29.0%
2017 3.9% 13.5% 47.1% 31.3%
2018 4.2% 11.0% 36.5% 38.0%
SOURCE: FanGraphs

Jose’s walk rate is ticking up, and his strikeout rate was nicely down last year. The mid .280s BA that he hit last year can absolutely be sustained.

What about his power? His groundball rate has been moving downwards, and it has translated into a corresponding fly-ball uptick. Peraza hit 14 HRs last year, 10 of which were in the 2nd half alone. Mid to high teens power is very possible for Peraza.

And his speed? As good as ever – you can bank on the mid-20s stolen bases, or more … if the plate skills persist.

Peraza also has a better lineup surrounding him, so expect a small climb in run production counting stats to boot.

Jose Peraza is not a bargain according to Steamer; he is going roughly in the spot that Steamer suggests he should. However, since speed is at a premium once again in 2019 drafts – the fact that he can be acquired at par value means that he is nicely priced. If you miss on someone like Starling Marte earlier on, Peraza is an excellent fill-in with upside.

Other Assorted Notes:

  • Buster Posey is shown as the top batting average bargain. As a catcher though, the magnitude of his bargain may not be as high as indicated here. First, as I don’t know exactly how the replacement level for catchers are set in the FanGraphs Auction Calculator; it is possible that the catcher bump may be too great. However, even if the theoretical bump is accurate – the market for catchers may be depressed depending upon your specific league tendencies, which would skew this analysis.
  • As batting average is not a counting statistic, players who accumulate more playing time are more beneficial to your roster. For example, you will get more BA benefit from a player with 500 ABs and a .290 BA, then from a player with only 250 ABs and a .295 BA. Some of the bottom players on the list above (R. Tapia, W. Astudillo, J. Martinez, E Nunez, G. Hampson) won’t have as direct of a full season impact as the others on the list would.

The Case for an Ace

You should buy an ace.

The fantasy landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years. Just a half decade ago, a mid-$20s bid at a mixed league auction would buy you a top pitcher. $30 was unheard of … for any pitcher. A non-hitter in the first round was blasphemous. Pitching was thought of to be too volatile, and far too risky to roster at such a considerable cost.

Read the rest of this entry »