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March 24, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Scoresheet Lineup Construction

by Rob McQuown

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That was a fun draft... Now what?

First, click on “Fantasy” now, and check out the Player Forecast Manager (PFM)! It now has SSSIM Values in it. Ben Murphy is preparing a lengthy explanation of how the values came about, but it's meant as a 1-statistic player valuation metric, based on runs. The “AAA” offensive players in Scoresheet create (using basic RC/G) between 1.5 and 2.0 runs per game (1B/OF are closer to 2.0), depending on the mix of pitchers they face. 2010 major league average runs/game was 4.38. SSSIM uses a replacement level between these two, figures the expected offensive run value above this level, and then includes defensive runs, including state-of-the-art error estimation courtesy of Colin Wyers.

Having a good team is always fun. Clicking through the “Mercenaries” roster—the team yours truly co-manages in the P-NL300 league–it's exciting to check off names in the PFM interface such as:

Joey Votto 60.98

Roy Halladay 70.35

Carlos Gonzalez 55.07

Jason Heyward 39.14

Pedro Alvarez 34.86

Colby Rasmus 27.02

Madison Bumgarner 28.32

Orlando Hudson 20.85

J.J. Hardy 20.81

Placido Polanco 19.81

Jake Westbrook 17.65

But this team has flaws (for those who want to see for themselves, here's the link). Following the advice given in this very column in previous weeks, prospects are perhaps over-represented. The presence of multiple “orphan” teams complicates this further, as that reduces the potential trading partners. The fact that there is a “Superteam” in the league makes the playoffs more easily accessible for teams in other divisions. So, for teams with holes like this one, Step One is to get in contact with league-mates who might be able to help fill them. Better still if they can be convinced that it's hopeless this year, and they need to be playing for the future, though that sort of convincing requires much subtlety.

Assuming the best-case scenarios, and that trades aren't needed, the first step is to map out team usage with expected playing time (see the BP Depth Charts). A typical offense needs about 688 PA/slot, with +/- 16 PA per slot away from fifth in the order (e.g. #4 batters get about 704 PA).

C: Hanigan (359), Ramos (250)

1B: Votto (650)

2B: Hudson (579)

3B: Alvarez (600), Polanco (580)

SS: Hardy (500), Punto (405)

LF: Gonzalez (650)

CF: Rasmus (600), Venable (545)

RF: Heyward (620)

Bench: Bonifacio (163), W. Valdez (555)

SP: Halladay, Bumgarner, Westbrook, Zambrano, Correia, Leake, Luebke

RP: Axford, Clippard, W. Lopez, Sanches, S. Casilla, K. Wood

Prospects: Strasburg, Mejia, Sh. Miller, Si. Castro, T. McNutt, Mesoraco, D. Norris, T. Sanchez, Belt

It would be nice, at this juncture, to be able to say, “Go and do likewise, gents”, but, ... this team is more like one of those examples of how not to do something. The good news is that there's time to make adjustments. Here are some notes on some known issues with the team:

  1. Lack of catcher plate appearances. Despite being decent hitters for NL catchers, Hanigan and Ramos will have to be placed in the #8 lineup slot, and then experience some managerial favor by their real-life managers to prevent Mr. AAA Catcher from rearing his ugly head.

  2. Two catchers who don't hit righties very well.

Platoon Splits:

Hanigan: -3 AVG, -9 OBP, -11 SLG vsR; +7 AVG, +22 OBP, +30 SLG vsL

Ramos: -7 AVG, -11 OBP, -13 SLG vsR; +17 AVG, +27 OBP, +32 SLG vsL

  1. All 1B/OF qualified players bat lefty. Fortunately, they are also all so good that sitting them wouldn't make much sense, but if a right-handed outfielder who was expected to get as much playing time as Venable had been available in the draft, it would have helped.

  2. No strong hitters against either LHP or RHP in the middle infield. Hardy and Hudson aren't bad, but both got the yellow skulls for their 30-day injury risk (see the new features on the player cards), and frequently take days off. Clint Barmes was the target here, able to back up both positions with excellent defense, and strong against lefties. But there are only so many picks in the draft.

  3. Not enough starting pitching depth. It's better to have at least seven full-time starters in a format like this (12 teams from NL only, with several years of crossovers being kept). It was too hard to resist five-star prospect Mejia in the draft, but taking both him and Ramos could end up being the team's undoing.

  4. Not enough relief pitching quality or depth. This isn't a pressing concern, but something to keep in mind as the season unfolds.

  5. No lefty relievers. This is doubly bad, since it means that other teams have more of them, and this lineup obviously doesn't like seeing lefty pitching as much as righties.

The above enumerated points are stored in a folder with the rosters, so that they can be reviewed frequently throughout the season–and hopefully crossed off as being “done” quickly!

That said, the lineup is difficult to get terribly wrong against righties, with good options and better options. The only worry against right-handed starters is later in the game, when the stack of lefty bats is undermined by lefty relievers. That same problem causes difficulties with lineup construction against southpaws, but at least Polanco can play instead of Alvarez, and a few extra catcher plate appearances can be risked by moving Ramos' great platoon splits up in the order. The lineups may seem a bit choppy, for now, but something like:

vsRHP:

  1. Joey Votto

  2. Carlos Gonzalez

  3. Colby Rasmus

  4. Jason Heyward

  5. Pedro Alvarez

  6. J.J. Hardy

  7. Orlando Hudson

  8. Ryan Hanigan

vsLHP:

  1. Joey Votto

  2. Carlos Gonzalez

  3. Wilson Ramos

  4. Jason Heyward

  5. Placido Polanco

  6. Colby Rasmus

  7. J.J. Hardy

  8. Orlando Hudson

So, there it is – the basics to get ready for a Scoresheet season: a “to do” list for making the team playoff-ready, basic lineups, and pitching rotations and initial reliever prioritizations. Another iteration or two will be done with the lineups, and some adjustments will be made for parks and expected SP during the first week, but the improvement or detriment caused by batting players in different orders is less influential than it's purported to be. Generally, if the best four hitters are in slots 1,2,4,5 in some order, things will work out almost as well as an ideal lineup.

Next week, in time for the first deadline, more specific tips on getting ready for the week's first games. Feel free to comment here with questions, or click on the “Contact” link, if you want the questions (and answers) kept private.

Rob McQuown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rob's other articles. You can contact Rob by clicking here

Related Content:  Orlando Hudson

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