Author Archive

Men Of Goodwill: The Birchwood Brothers’ Ten Bold Predictions

One of us happens to live hard by a Goodwill Super Store, and he occasionally drops in just to see what people are giving away. All right, he sometimes buys stuff too, but it’s nice stuff, and the price is right. And we like to think of ourselves as the Goodwill Store of Fantasy Baseball, setting out a rack of bargains for you while others urge you to pay full price for name brands.

Hence our annual feature: not the humdrum Ten Bold Predictions you might find elsewhere, though of course never on Rotographs. Rather they are the outre, gauche, and louche Ten Bold Predictions in which we specialize. This year, we’ve tried to concentrate on players that you might take, either for a dollar or in the reserve rounds, in even a relatively shallow draft—say the 30-player NFBC Main Event. But we wouldn’t be the Birchwood Brothers if we didn’t offer at least one Ouija Board longshot, and since we are in fact the Birchwood Brothers, we did. And, as always, we add an eleventh Bold Prediction, about a guy who’ll cost considerably more than a dollar. Read the rest of this entry »

Revisiting the Quadrinity: The $80 Pitching Staff

And now let’s begin our annual foray into Fantasy Baseball theology—a consultation of the Holy Quadrinity. For those of you who are new to our world: Back in the day, Bret Sayre of Baseball Prospectus posited that “the three skills that are most important to the art of pitching [are] getting strikeouts, reducing walks, and keeping the ball on the ground,” and that pitchers who can do all three of those things, as betokened by their above-average stats in those categories, are or can be something special. He called this approach The Holy Trinity.

The Quadrinity is our contribution to the ongoing dialectic. We look for pitchers who are in the upper half of two categories (strikeout percentage and soft-hit percentage) and the lower half—in other words, the upper half—of two other categories (walk percentage and hard-hit percentage). You can see why both the Trinity and the Quadrinity would work, insofar as they identify really good pitchers. But you don’t need them to tell you that Jacob deGrom and Chris Sale are really good pitchers. What we found surprising is that the Quadrinity often identifies pitchers who are in fact really good, but aren’t recognized as such by the Fantasy market. Read the rest of this entry »

TGFBI Draft, Annotated: No Harm, No Fowler

Time to reflect on our just-completed draft in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. The mise-en-scene: 315 Fantasy Baseball writers (including 11 from Fangraphs) from all corners of the Internet, divided into 15-team leagues, each of which plays a season using NFBC Main Event rules, i.e. snake draft, standard 5×5 Rotisserie, 23-man starting lineups, 7-player reserve roster, weekly pitcher substitutions, twice-weekly hitter substitutions, weekly in-season FAABs. Guaranteed immortality to the overall winner.

We’re fairly pleased. According to TGFBI’s projections, we assembled the 19th-best team overall, though only the 3rd best in our own league, inches behind Ariel Cohen of Fangraphs (18th overall) and way behind Brian Creagh of Friends with Fantasy Benefits and Expand The Boxscore (7th overall), whose brilliantly-executed draft strategy (ace starters early, multiple cheap possible closers, punt steals, load up on everything else) has left us awed. Here’s what we did; take whatever you need. Read the rest of this entry »

Brad Keller: Sliding into Relevance

Just a brief dispatch this week from the trenches of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, where the elite meet to compete and tweet, and where the Birchwood Brothers, for the first time in history, drafted a pitcher in an early round. (We drafted third and took Max Scherzer.) We will no doubt have more to say about our draft results in the upcoming weeks, but if you just can’t wait, check out the pulse-quickening action in our league, and all the others, here, and share your thoughts with us. Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s Been (Un)lucky, Hitter Edition

Now let’s look—in our 100th Fangraphs article; yeah, we’re amazed, too—at hitters who were unlucky or lucky last season, and thus figure to do better or worse than people who are relying on last season’s stats think they will. Our method is simple, and is the inverse of the approach we took to pitchers last week. We look for players whose relevant stats are incongruent: their hard-hit percentage was high (or low) while their BABIP and Home Run/Flyball Percentage was low (or high). This incongruity of input and output signifies, we posit, that luck played an undue role in these guys’ 2018 season, and that Fortune, avulsive as always, will redirect the currents of their careers back to their natural course. Or something like that.

We’re sorry to say that the group of unfortunate guys is kind of meh. Whereas in 2017 (Marcell Ozuna) and 2018 (Mookie Betts) we were able to direct you to really good hitters who figured to do even better than the market predicted, we don’t have anyone like that this season. For example: the unluckiest hitter of 2018 was, hands down, 30-year-old backup catcher Roberto Perez. But what does that mean? That he will hit .207/.291/.397, as he did in 2017, rather than .168/.256/.263, as he did last year? That makes him a not-bad selection as your fourth catcher in a really deep league, but that’s about it. As you’ll see below, the action this year is with the lucky players. Still, there were a few interesting unlucky guys, and here they are: Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s Been (Un)lucky, Pitcher Edition

Time now to take our annual look at players on whom, as we measure it, fortune smiled or frowned last season. Our theory is that fortune, as is her habit, will turn that smile (or frown) upside down this season, and accordingly that forecasts for these guys based on last year’s stats will miss the mark.

What we do is simple, and readily undertaken by novices with just a few ingredients easily found around the house. We look for pitchers whose BABIPs and Home Run/Fly Ball Ratios weren’t aligned with their Hard-Hit Ball Percentages. We figure that a guy who didn’t get hit hard, but gave up a lot of hits and home runs, was unlucky, and that his luck will change this season. And also that a guy who did get hit hard, but…you get the picture. It’s not infallible—sorry about Luke Weaver, folks; we got burned too—but it works pretty well for something so straightforward. Last year, for example, it steered you toward Trevor Cahill and away from Dylan Bundy. Let’s see who it turns up this year. Read the rest of this entry »

Bour(n) Again, Part 3: Justin Time?

Bear with us for a couple of paragraphs, and we’ll get where you want us to go. It seems to us, then, that there are three levels of fandom when it comes to individual players. The first, often atavistic one, is by virtue of those players’ affiliation with a favorite team. Thus, for example: we grew up near New York City, and happened to attain baseball consciousness at exactly the time that the Yankees were the only game in town—Dodgers and Giants gone, Mets yet unborn. We are accordingly lifelong Yankee fans. We recognize the pathetic, Seinfeldian rooting-for-laundry dimension of this. But we were with them throughout the years in the wilderness with Horace Clarke and the decades with the repellent George Steinbrenner in charge, so we’re not getting off the bus now, when they are a good team run and populated mostly by people who appear to be mature, sane, intelligent, and self-effacing. Read the rest of this entry »

Bour(n) Again, Part 2: Deep League AL Reserve Rounders

Let’s get back without delay to our quick trip around the majors in search of some reserve rounders with realizable upside. NL was last week; now AL:

Toronto: Although he is 36, Kendrys Morales (NFBC Average Draft Position 442) can still hit, as he proved last season, in which he was one of only about two dozen hitters who qualified for the Quadrinity (as to which see here). We think he will keep his DH job and perform it creditably, though his value is limited because he won’t qualify anywhere else. Read the rest of this entry »

Birchwood Brothers 5.1: Bour(n) Again, Part 1

We are the Birchwood Brothers—authentic siblings, senior citizens, dispensers of healing advice and spiritual counsel to the fantasy-impaired—back for our fifth year before the mast. Like those guys who spend their vacations in Trappist monasteries, each season around this time we bid our loved ones, and adult responsibility in general, a gleeful farewell, and immerse ourselves in fantasy baseball, seeking to apprehend and carry out the divine will, as it is expressed through the designation of players who, unforeseen by all but a few of the elect, will help a fantasy team succeed.

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The Birchwood Brothers’ 10 Bold Predictions In Review

How was your season? Ours, on the whole, was pretty good, though marred by team-wide final-week syncopes that cost us first place in two leagues. This may surprise our readers, since we make a point of following our own advice and our 2018 Bold Predictions, unlike the 2017 edition, were uninspiring. One good thing about confining our BPs to $1 and reserve round picks is that we can’t get hurt too much if we’re wrong. Here’s the inquest: Read the rest of this entry »