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Does Draft Position Matter in Fantasy Baseball?

Introduction

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.

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Draft Speed or Pound the Power?

Introduction

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
A B C D E F
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]:

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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
A B C D E F
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

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The Mathematics of a Fair Fantasy Sports Trade

Introduction

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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2019’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains at Mid-Season – The Value Drainers

Previously, I looked at the hitter and pitcher auction bargains of 2019 at mid-season. These were the players that have earned the most rotisserie value, net of their cost to roster.

Now let’s turn our attention to the players who have lost the most profit in the first half of 2019, who I will refer to as the value drainers. These are the largest under-performers (to date), relative to their pre-season auction values.

To remind everyone:

  • $Value refers to the accumulated 5×5 rotisserie value of each player, scaled to a full-season.
  • $AAV refers to the average auction cost to purchase the player pre-season.
  • $Bargain is the difference between the $Value and the $AAV.

For this exercise – In order to calculate $Value, I use NFBC roster settings and scoring parameters. Actual $AAV data is used to determine the opportunity cost. For the full methodology of how these player bargains are calculated, please refer to my introductory post. Read the rest of this entry »


2019’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains at Mid-Season – Pitchers

Last week, I looked at the 2019 auction hitter bargains at mid-season. Now let’s dive into the most profitable pitchers of the first half.

To remind everyone, we aren’t looking here for the highest earning pitchers of 2019 – we are looking at pitchers with the largest values net of their opportunity cost to acquire. Gerrit Cole has earned nearly $24 of fantasy auction value – making him the 7th highest earning pitcher. However, with his $36 average auction value – he technically is in the red as far as profitability goes.

For the methodology employed and the terms used in the ensuing leaderboards, please refer to my previous post on the 2019 Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains at Mid-Season – Batters edition.

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2019’s Fantasy Baseball Auction Bargains at Mid-Season – Batters

There are two different and distinct ways to kick off each season in fantasy baseball. I am referring to the two popular ways to fill teams’ rosters pre-season – namely snake drafts and auctions. In either method of commencement, the goal is to accumulate the most player statistics for the forthcoming season.

However, drafts differ from auctions in the value proposition of roster slots – which is static for snake drafts. Unless you are able to trade draft picks, you are cemented with those specific slots that in turn correspond to fixed levels of fantasy value. At an auction, the distribution of acquired values may vary more widely.

The predominant first overall snake draft selection in just about any fantasy format (or depth) this year was Mike Trout. The impetus for that is easy to explain. Trout is the player with a tremendous (dare I say the highest) floor of talent, a high upside of statistics to accumulate, and a proven track record to back everything up. In economic terms, he provided the most potential value with the least amount of risk.

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wPDI Mid-June Leaderboard – Relief Pitchers

It has been a little while since I introduced to you my Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) for pitchers. wPDI is a (new) plate discipline index metric that aims to meaningfully aggregate the frequency of pitcher plate discipline outcomes into one composite figure. A pitcher who generates a lot of contact in the zone will have a lower wPDI, while a pitcher who generates a lot of swings and misses out of the zone will have a higher one, etc.

We are now almost halfway into the 2019 season. Let’s check up on the 2019 wPDI Leaderboard for RPs – i.e. the relief pitchers who are excelling in plate discipline.

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The Next Khris Davis

Earlier this season on FanGraphs, Ben Clemens embarked on a journey to search for a player similar to Mike Trout. Now of course, no one in the past half-decade has come close to replicating Trout’s production – but it was a fun exercise in player comparison analysis. My colleague found that Tommy Pham was Trout’s closest match.

Consider the following blind resumes for 2019:

2019 Blind Resumes
Name PA HR AVG OBP SLG LD% GB% FB% HR/FB Med% Hard% wOBA wRC+
Player A 182 12 0.242 0.313 0.479 19.8% 38.0% 42.1% 23.5% 44.6% 43.8% 0.329 108
Player B 242 15 0.239 0.293 0.500 16.7% 43.3% 40.0% 25.0% 40.0% 42.7% 0.330 105
Player C 223 15 0.250 0.300 0.514 19.1% 33.6% 47.4% 20.8% 40.8% 43.4% 0.338 112

The three players profile very similarly. They all have a fly-ball tilt to their batted ball tendencies, with few line drives. They all have large HR/FB ratios, and each have high hard-hit and medium-hit rates.

By the title of this article, you likely have already guessed the true name of one of the above lines. Player A is none other than Khris Davis.

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