What does it mean when a moundsman can't make up his mind?
There's always adjustments that go on. From the time I came up, I can't even remember how many times I've had to try and change what I do.—Phil Hughes
You all have a milestone by which you mark the return of baseball: the day after the Super Bowl, Truck Day, pitchers and catchers report day, Kevin Towers Terrible Prediction Day, Final Qualifying Offer Free Agent Signing Day, Opening Day. Some of you can circle your milestone days on the calendar months in advance; others can’t pin them down precisely but know roughly when they’ll arrive.
Why a dollar might go further in the front office than on the field.
The following is an excerpt from the author’s senior thesis at Brown University. He will be presenting his research at the Society for American Baseball Research Analytics Conference on March 15. The full paper will be made available later this spring.
The first-year Tiger has a longer résumé in the ninth inning, but is he a better value than the bearded Giant on draft day?
It happens in every draft. That moment when, despite your best intentions to avoid forking over a draft pick for a closer, you realize you’ll probably need to at least be somewhat competitive in saves if you’re going to make a run at your standard league title. And while I prefer waiting and speculating on saves as much as the next guy, there’s very definite value to be had in grabbing an established closer to anchor your bullpen in these formats. When that moment comes, and you’re actually going to sacrifice a pick to make this scenario a reality, it’s really important that you come through with the safest option possible to bag you the saves you need.
So, let’s take a look at a couple of the “safer” proven-closer types you’re likely to encounter around the middle rounds of your draft. In one corner, Joe Nathan, the newly signed and minted closer for the Detroit Tigers. In the other, Sergio Romo, another veteran coming off of his first full season saving games in San Francisco. Nathan is currently the seventh closer going off the board in NFBC drafts, with Romo following as the ninth closer about two rounds later. Over in Paul’s astute breakdown of relief pitcher tiers, Nathan checks in as a four-star option, while Romo leads the pack of three-star options. Let’s take a look at how they stack up, and see whether Nathan is really worth the slightly higher price on draft day.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Examining how a theory of behavioral economics can help you exploit your league-mates in drafts and auctions.
Prospect theory, a theory of behavioral economics, is actually unrelated to both our beloved and non-beloved prospects. Rather, prospect theory describes how we choose between probabilistic alternatives when risk (uncertainty) is involved. Hang with me here because this has a huge impact on the decisions we make during fantasy drafts. More specifically, prospect theory explains how we choose to take on uncertainty with each draft pick. In understanding how our league-mates and we make decisions during the draft, we will be able to find some arbitrage opportunities throughout the draft. Sometimes we take more static players and sometimes we take more dynamic players. It is easy to chalk this all up to an owner’s individual risk appetite, but that would be oversimplifying the situation. A fantasy owner’s expectation for each draft slot and the players available for selection will also be major factors in determining how much risk each owner chooses to take on with each selection.
For every pick in a draft we expect to obtain a certain amount of value. The issue is that with pick 1.6, we cannot simply draft $38 of value; we cannot draft a .303 batting average, 27 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs, and 108 runs batted in with “x” amount of positional scarcity. We have to draft actual players. So with pick 1.6, we will either be drafting Robinson Cano, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, or Chris Davis. Maybe we get lucky and one of Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, or Carlos Gonzalez falls to us. When it is time for our pick, there are three possible scenarios that we can encounter:
How quickly can you describe baseball to someone who's never seen the sport?
When you attend a graduate school program that’s 45 percent international, there are some things you expect to come with the territory. You may be asked to edit some classmates’ papers for things that seem pretty simple to us, like subject-verb agreement. You may have to relent and call that all-kicking sport “football” for a couple of years just to avoid an argument. But there will be payoffs. You expect to be introduced to all different cultures, and more importantly all different kinds of food, and that’s more than met my expectations so far.
But one thing I didn’t expect, even in a program that’s so diverse, was to show up at class one day and have this projected onto the pull-down screen.
You may think I have a bounce in my step because spring is on the way, but every sense available to me during this winter without end says you’re wrong. You could argue it’s because baseball is being played again in Arizona and Florida, but I'm not there to witness it, and even the densest cluster of pixels can't impersonate a warm breeze. No, it was Kris Bryant's first spring training at-bat that made me so giddy, the one that ended after nine pitches when the young third baseman blasted a towering drive to straight-away center. Before Bryant launched that ball into the mesosphere, I was the same skeptical Cubs fan I had always been, longing for but never truly expecting greatness. By the time it landed on the berm past the center field fence, however, I started to feel something I hadn't experienced in so long I nearly didn't recognize it: belief.
A close look at the pitcher-turned-writer's third (and best) book.
Bigger Than The Game (Citadel, 320 pp.), is Dirk Hayhurst’s third book. (Wild Pitches, a compendium of outtakes and reprints, is not quite a fourth.) It is easily his best. Bigger Than The Game has far more depth and grip than his first two books, The Bullpen Gospels and Out of My League, which are entertaining but sometimes shaggy rambles despite occasionally serious content. Now that Hayhurst has taken off his baseball glove, he has also taken off his gloves as a writer, perhaps because his retirement from playing has liberated him from the need to protect his employment status. He hits the truth harder, and with more impact. Perhaps the greatest respect you can pay to Bigger Than The Game is to say that it is a very good baseball book even though it contains very little baseball. The majority of it takes place where Hayhurst has always been most at home: in his mind, not on the mound.
The final installment of a seven-part series on the top tools in the minors.
Scouts spend countless hours watching and evaluating players, carefully considering the appropriate grade for each tool or each pitch a player offers. Throughout the course of the season and particularly throughout the course of ranking season, grades are tossed around with near reckless abandon. This player has plus power, and that player has a below-average fastball. This player offers above-average hit projection while that player buries hitters with a potential plus-plus curveball. It's easy to talk about the quality of an individual tool, but what does it all mean in the context of other players?
In the second edition of the annual Top Tools Series, the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff debated long and hard over how individual players’ tools stack up against those of their counterparts. Drawing upon our own eyewitness accounts and opinions from scouts across the league, the team debated and compiled the following ratings. The end result is a product that captures the oft-missing context of how individual player tools compare and who has the best of each tool in baseball.