Author Archive

wPDI & CSW: Whiffs

This is the second article of my series – wPDI vs. CSW. For those new to either metric, I will quickly catch you up. [The opening article can be found here.]

In last year’s FSWA Research Article of the Year, CSW Rate: An Intro to an Important New Metric, Alex Fast of PitcherList examines his site’s pitching statistic, CSW. The short and simple formula for CSW is defined as follows:

Called Strikes + Whiffs
Total Pitches

Independently, I came up with the concept of Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI). With wPDI, we ask just three questions, or three binary events for every pitch:

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

Every pitch can then be classified into 6 possible pitching outcomes based on the above. The definition of each outcome is as follows:

wPDI: 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

Each outcome is then assigned a weight, or an index. The formula for wPDI, the Weighted Plate Discipline Index is then given as:

wPDI = IndexA * A% + IndexB * B% + IndexC * C% + IndexD * D% + IndexE * E% + IndexF * F%

A% through F% are the percent of pitches thrown in each outcome, and the indexes are linear multipliers to obtain the aggregated, sortable metric.

What CSW has most in common with wPDI, is that it shares the same denominator – Total Pitches. That being the case, we can attempt to use the wPDI framework to express the PitcherList metric. CSW is rooted in Baseball Savant data, while wPDI is fed by FanGraphs figures. By exploring the similarities and differences between the metrics, we can also uncover some great nuggets of understanding.

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wPDI & CSW: Called Strikes

Introduction

Last year’s FSWA Research Article of the Year, CSW Rate: An Intro to an Important New Metric, was awarded to Alex Fast of PitcherList. In his article, Alex presents the pitching statistic, CSW – a metric which was originally coined and created by Nick Pollack in 2018. As cited in the author’s article summary, CSW is more predictive than Swinging Strike Rate (SwStr%), and is more descriptive than Whiff Rate (Whiff%).

The short and simple formula for CSW is defined as follows:

Called Strikes + Whiffs
Total Pitches

I enjoy elegant formulae. Sure – wOBA, wRC+ and the like are extraordinary metrics in their own right, but they are not the simplest to jot down. CSW is plain, simple, easy to understand, and nicely predictive.

Coincidentally, and unknowing of CSW, I came up with the concept of wPDI back in 2018. I then published my first works of the plate discipline framework on April 2, 2019. The original article was entitled Introducing: Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) for Pitchers, and can be found here.

What jumped out to me immediately upon reading Fasts’s article – was that the two metrics have something very in common. CSW and wPDI both share the very same denominator – Total Pitches. The base of both of our metrics are identical. Both utilize the very same sample size, both stabilize just as quickly, and both describe baseball through the very same lens – the pitch.

As a quick reminder of how wPDI works, every pitch can be classified into 6 possible pitching outcomes.

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Ariel Cohen’s 2020 Bold Predictions

Opening day is finally here!

In 2020, we had two distinct draft seasons – both in February/March as well as in June/July. Some fantasy teams of mine were drafted four or five months ago, while others were assembled just this past weekend. We typically spend all winter longing for the time when our fantasy teams finally start accumulating statistics. This year, due to the tragic global pandemic of COVID-19, we had to wait even longer. We are now finally here. Tonight the standings go live!

I am well aware that there is still much suffering in the U.S. and in the rest of the world from the disease. I do not mean to make light of the world’s situation by any means in my enthusiasm for baseball’s return. At the same time, watching our nation’s pastime played day in and day out, may aid the morale of the country. Although there will be many challenges, I am hopeful that the MLB will be able to start and finish the abbreviated 2020 season without major hiccups.

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Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI): 2019 Review

In my previous article, I gave an update on my Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) metric. wPDI arises from the core ingredients of plate discipline – looking only at zone rates, swing rates and contact rates.

An important distinction regarding wPDI, is that its sample size is quite a bit larger than other statistics. Many other stats are based on innings pitched, or even per plate appearance. The denominator of wPDI is pitches. While batter outcomes such as strikeouts and walks stabilize fairly quickly, wPDI can work even faster.

Let’s now take a look at the 2019 leaderboards for wPDI, to see if we can find some undervalued players.

Starting Pitchers

Starting Pitcher 2019 wPDI Leaderboard
Name IP wPDI
Blake Snell 107.0 .380
Chris Sale 147.3 .379
Gerrit Cole 212.3 .374
Justin Verlander 223.0 .373
Stephen Strasburg 209.0 .370
Zac Gallen 80.0 .365
Mike Clevinger 126.0 .362
Yu Darvish 178.7 .359
Max Scherzer 172.3 .358
Kenta Maeda 153.7 .357
Charlie Morton 194.7 .357
Lucas Giolito 176.7 .356
Patrick Corbin 202.0 .355
Luis Castillo 190.7 .355
Aaron Nola 202.3 .355
Kevin Gausman 102.3 .353
Jacob deGrom 204.0 .353
Collin McHugh 74.7 .353
Shane Bieber 214.3 .352
Jose Berrios 200.3 .352
Kyle Gibson 160.0 .350
Andrew Heaney 95.3 .350
Chris Archer 119.7 .350
Dylan Bundy 161.7 .348
Felix Pena 96.3 .348
Zack Greinke 208.7 .348
Robbie Ray 174.3 .348
Matthew Boyd 185.3 .347
Domingo German 143.0 .347
Joshua James 61.3 .347
Hyun-Jin Ryu 류현진 182.7 .347
Carlos Carrasco 80.0 .346
Jack Flaherty 196.3 .346
Dinelson Lamet 73.0 .346
Sam Gaviglio 95.7 .346
Jose Urquidy 41.0 .344
Tommy Milone 111.7 .343
Rich Hill 58.7 .343
Griffin Canning 90.3 .342
Kyle Hendricks 177.0 .342
James Paxton 150.7 .342
Sonny Gray 175.3 .340
Eduardo Rodriguez 203.3 .340
Frankie Montas 96.0 .340
Walker Buehler 182.3 .340
Freddy Peralta 85.0 .340
German Marquez 174.0 .339
Brendan McKay 49.0 .339
Francisco Liriano 70.0 .339
Trevor Bauer 213.0 .338
Miles Mikolas 184.0 .337
Alex Young 83.3 .337
Carlos Martinez 48.3 .336
Chris Paddack 140.7 .336
Ross Stripling 90.7 .335
Mike Minor 208.3 .335
Clay Buchholz 59.0 .335
Michael Pineda 146.0 .333
Noah Syndergaard 197.7 .333
Masahiro Tanaka 182.0 .333
Austin Voth 43.7 .333
Joe Musgrove 170.3 .333
Trevor Richards 135.3 .332
Gio Gonzalez 87.3 .332
Thomas Pannone 73.0 .332
Clayton Kershaw 178.3 .332
Tony Gonsolin 40.0 .331
Jake Odorizzi 159.0 .331
Caleb Smith 153.3 .331
Mike Soroka 174.7 .331
Max Fried 165.7 .330
John Gant 66.3 .330
Madison Bumgarner 207.7 .330
Minimum 40 IP

Above is the 2019 wPDI leaderboard for starting pitchers.

Blake Snell lead all starting pitchers in wPDI in 2019. The key to Snell’s success was his “out of the zone” plate discipline. In particular, Snell’s Outcome A (out of the zone, swung on and missed) was the 2nd highest of all qualified pitchers in baseball. In 2019, Blake produced a K% rate of 33.3%, the highest of his career. He logged a whopping 147 strikeouts in just 107 innings pitched. Both FIP and xFIP (3.32 & 3.31 respectively) agree that his 4.29 ERA last year was somewhat unlucky.

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Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI): A Refresher

Introduction

Last year, I introduced a new (yet simple) pitcher metric. Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) arises from the core ingredients of plate discipline from the point of view of the pitcher – control, deception, and contact.

wPDI looks at the following basic binary events:

  • Was the ball thrown in the strike zone?
  • Was the ball swung on?
  • Did the batter make contact with the ball?

That’s all.

Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) does not look at generated bat speed, exit velocity, pitch speed, or quality of contact, etc. wPDI doesn’t even focus on walk rates or strikeout rates, or any other plate appearance result. wPDI focuses solely on the pure components of a pitch. Is the pitch in the zone? Is the batter swinging at pitches in the zone? Is the batter swinging at pitches outside of the zone? Is the hitter contacting the pitch?

That’s all.

In this series of articles, I will be refining and expanding upon what I had started last year. I will look at wPDI’s effectiveness and predictability. Along the way, I shall highlight both pitchers and hitters who catch our eye based on great (and poor) plate discipline performance.

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2020 LABR Mixed Auction Recap Part II

The following is the second part of my 2020 LABR Mixed Auction recap. You can read Part I of my recap here. This was the inaugural season of the new LABR Mixed Auction league, and my very first expert auction league.

In my Tout Wars recap series, I talked about how to adjust projections for a particular league format, the proper hitter/pitcher splits to use, and how to create a market pricing curve. I also discussed at length about how to scout your opponents, and to use it to your advantage.

In Part I of my LABR recap, I talked about how to create an initial plan, and how to set an auction budget.

Today’s article will focus on a topic that is barely discussed in the fantasy community. However, I believe it to be a large key in managing your auctions, and crucial in the quest to accumulate the most fantasy value at the draft table. I am referring to player nominations.

Tactics is to know what to do when there is something to do and strategy is to know what to do when there is nothing to do”. – Gary Kasparov

If fantasy baseball drafts are akin to a game of checkers, auctions are in many ways a multi-player game of chess.

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2020 LABR Mixed Auction Recap Part I

I do not believe in authoring the typical expert draft recap article. I do not believe in writing a recap simply to illustrate one’s favorite players, or as a means to boast about one specific draft outcome. I do not believe in only going through a few undervalued players for the given year which happen to appear on that particular fantasy squad. I do not believe in writing recaps just for the heck of it.

I believe in imparting important lessons that one can take to their own drafts. More importantly, I prefer to communicate wisdom by talking through my process and preparation. I like to discuss various elements of strategy that can be of help to the astute fantasy player – which can be used in any given year.

I hope that in my draft recap series of articles, but especially in this 2020 season in limbo – you will be able to adapt and add many of my strategy components to your arsenal of fantasy baseball tricks.

For the TGFBI draft recap this year, I related the time-specific hitting and pitching landscapes of 2020. In my recap of the 2020 Tout Wars Head-to-Head auction, I provided insights into the process of preparing your own valuations and how to assemble comparative market pricing. I also discussed (at length) how to use your opponents’ tendencies to your advantage.

For my recap of the LABR Mixed auction, I will focus on a few critical strategy aspects:

  • Setting an auction budget
  • Developing a plan
  • Auction nominations

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Tout Wars Head to Head Points League – 2020 Recap – Part II

The following is the second part of my 2020 Tout Wars Head-to-Head Points League recap. You can read Part I of my recap here.

For the second straight year, I had the honor and privilege of participating in one of the most prestigious fantasy baseball industry leagues – Tout Wars (toutwars.com). This was my very first live Tout Wars auction. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we drafted online on the Sunday of March 15, 2020.

In Part I of my recap, I discussed the league rules, some of the homework that I had done on last year’s auction results, and how I obtained my auction values. I also talked about some of my other adjustments made due to the postponing of the MLB season.

Part II of my recap will be different than the typical recap article you tend to see. It will certainly differ from my usual writing style.

In today’s article, I will go through some of the intel that I had gathered on my opponents. I will dictate to you what I was looking for from the other touts and how I picked up on particular strategies during the auction. I will talk about what went right for me at the auction table and what went wrong. Finally, I will give a brief overview on my player selections.

The Touts

Well, I’m not sure that I would call members of the Tout Wars Head-to-Head Points my enemies. However, they most certainly were my opponents … at least for that Sunday afternoon in March. The quote above has appeared in folklore from many cultures, and of course, was one of the great lines of the movie “The Godfather.”

Fantasy baseball is largely about the numbers. If you often read my articles, you likely already know the importance that I place on projections and valuation.

Almost as important … perhaps even more important … is knowing your opponents. It is an advantage to be aware of the types of players that they bid on, how high they press bids, whether they nominate players they want to buy, the typical construct of their fantasy squads, etc.

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Tout Wars Head to Head Points League – 2020 Recap – Part I

Introduction

This year, I again had the great fortune and the amazing honor of being invited to one of the most prestigious fantasy baseball industry leagues – Tout Wars (toutwars.com). It was my second year participating in Tout Wars.

Last year, I was a member of the inaugural Tout Wars Draft & Hold league. This year, I was invited to take part in one of the four live auctions – the Tout Wars Head-to-Head Points league. It was originally scheduled to be held live in Midtown Manhattan on Sunday, March 15.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we were unable to hold this auction live. Though the NFBC had chosen to cancel their live auctions, and many of my home leagues agreed to postpone – the Tout Wars board had decided to proceed onward. Rather than postpone – all four remaining Tour Wars leagues competed online, with Fantrax as the provider platform.

Aside from the benefits of the social aspect of a live auction (one of the key reasons we do this in the first place), we lose many of its intangible aspects when moving to the online arena. You can no longer look a league mate in the eye as they bid. It is much harder to pick up on ‘tells’ by simply reading out your computer monitor. The art of using my voice to hypnotize others goes away (yes, that’s right – I said hypnotize). It isn’t the same.

Personally, I have played in many online auction leagues. It was a dynamic that I was used to, and I have previously played on the Fantrax software. My home office setup is quite decent for an online auction. I use two 27-inch monitors, plus a side 15-inch auxiliary monitor. I used one screen to see the auction room. One screen contained my homemade draft software. Displayed on the third monitor was my plan of attack for the day. Technologically, I was primed for the event. Perhaps, this medium of fantasy baseball drafting was even an advantage for me.

You can view the results of our auction on Fantrax here. Full spreadsheet results of all Tout Wars auctions and drafts are compiled here.

For Part I of my Tout Wars auction recap, rather than simply break down my player selections – I wanted to share with you some of my process and preparation. I might comment about one or two of my player selections along the way, but I thought that you – the reader – would benefit more from a discussion of my approach and from my overall observations.

Both in fantasy sports, as well as in real life – the process is always more important than the specific or situational results.

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Ariel Cohen’s 2020 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 from league #14, which was dubbed as the “league of death.”

Onto the pitching …

General Observations

Starting Pitchers

Let’s first compare starting pitcher ADPs from the past two seasons of TGFBI.

Average Draft Position (ADP) for 2019 Elite Starting Pitching
Rank Player ADP Min Max
1 Max Scherzer 6 3 11
2 Jacob deGrom 11 6 15
3 Chris Sale 11 5 16
4 Justin Verlander 21 14 25
5 Gerrit Cole 24 15 27
6 Aaron Nola 26 16 34
7 Corey Kluber 26 16 34
8 Blake Snell 29 22 35
SOURCE: 2019 TGFBI ADP

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