Why tweaking a sound plan because of last year's outcomes could be problematic going forward.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” –Woody Allen
Per Mr. Allen, God finds our ability (or lack of ability) to forecast an uncertain future hilarious or at least laughable. And while this God might be laughing on the outside, it is not unreasonable to assume that this God is probably sad on the inside because no one will play fantasy baseball with a precognizant being.
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How to handle the reality that many second basemen (and shortstops) perform poorly in most fantasy categories.
Easily gleaned from the title is that while this is Second Base Week™ for the Baseball Prospectus fantasy squad, this article will pertain to both the keystone and shortstop position (one could argue that it will be even more relevant to the latter).
But enough with the qualifiers; let us get to it. Second basemen and shortstops do not compile as much, let us call them “fantasy stats,” as players at other offensive positions with the exception of catcher. Put differently, middle infielders hit fewer home runs, accumulate less total bases, walk less, score fewer runs, and drive in fewer runs than their counterparts. Sure they might hit for a better average and definitely steal more bases than the corner infielders, but all in all it is a less prolific package than the corner infielders and outfielders provide.
Can the Red Sox first baseman rebound from an injury-hindered 2014 campaign?
You all know Mike; you know him well enough to be completely unsurprised and even pleased to find out that his middle name is Anthony. You also know that ever since he broke into the league as a catcher with the Angels—playing Off-Broadway Roy Hobbs to Mike Scoscia’s Pop and Jeff Mathis’s Bump—Napoli has been leaving jersey buttons unbuttoned and three true outcome-ing a high percentage of his at bats. While his average and counting stats have had significant year-to-year variance due to his injury proneness and large BABIP variance, the power, patience, and strikeouts have always remained constant. That is until 2014.
Is retaining roster flexibility during drafts and auctions, and when making keeper choices, actually worthwhile?
“No decision is an island.” –Earl
Regardless of whether the author created a fictional, quotable Earl for the sake of making a point, the quote attributed to Earl is important for our drafts and auctions. Any decision we make is influenced by both past decisions we and others have made and future decisions we can imagine making. In theory, we should be cold, calculating decision-making machines, only weighing the relevant information, but that theory does not usually hold. Instead, we factor in how others will view our decisions, take sunk costs into account, try to remain logically consistent, and often weigh irrelevant information (even though it feels relevant to us). Also, our physiology keeps us warm.
Part one of a weekly strategy-based subseries that will run alongside the fantasy team's positional content.
Catchers are kind of cool because they get to wear cool gear. In Little League, catchers get to have that cool big bag for all their cool gear. In the majors, some catchers have their name on their gear and sometimes, if they have a nickname, their nickname goes on the gear as opposed to their less-cool birth name (which is kind of a weird term to begin with). Unfortunately, for fantasy purposes, this is where the coolness ends (except for Mike Piazza and that time when Jason Kendall stole those bases). As a result of this lack of fantasy prolificness, it is pretty easy to forecast catchers from a game theory perspective. What the heck does that even mean? It means that because there is no corner-infield or middle-infield equivalent for catchers and because no one sets out to put a catcher in one’s utility slot, we have a pretty good idea of the number of catchers that will be drafted, which catchers will be first off the board, and which catchers will be around if we choose to wait on the position. In other words, determining a strategic approach for how to roster catchers is easier than, say, anything else one needs to determine during a draft or auction. Relatedly, there are two key components to drafts and auctions that we should always remember:
Thanks to an annual calendar and our current place on that calendar, we can write sentiments such as, “with 2014 soon coming to an end, baseball looks toward the horizon with excitement, knowing the 2015 season soon approaches.” For the fantasy baseball community, even closer than the actual baseball season comes rankings, sleeper, bust, and strategy season. Continuing this onslaught of excitement is the Positional Series that will be rolled out here at Baseball Prospectus. The plan is that this series will roll out using the same format as last season, just bigger and better. One-year, three-year, and dynasty rankings will be produced, players will be profiled, prospects will be analyzed for fantasy purposes, sleepers and busts will be selected, and relevant strategies will be discussed.
This is a safe place and no one would blame you if you were salivating just a little bit (if more than a little bit, one might consider a shawarma or a handful of almonds) because all this information, content, and analysis sounds like a great way to prepare for the upcoming season. Alas, there is a wrinkle here that once ironed out, should further improve this said preparation; that being what we take away from all this information. The first part—the rankings or how players compare—is obvious. The second and potentially more beneficial part—the thinking behind the rankings and analysis—is not as obvious. Below we will take a look at why we are too likely to get caught up in the former, all while overlooking the latter too frequently. We will also take a look at how to improve these tendencies for this upcoming offseason.
A trio of studs compensates for the defending champs' barren farm system.
Champions of baseball, collection of various fantasy baseball talents. We all know the headliners: Posey, Pence, and Bumgarner. Beyond that, there is an unresolved third base role to go along with a lot of veterans and role players. The only interesting 25-or-under talents other than Bumgarner are Joe Panik and Andrew Susac, and interesting is being used liberally here. The Giants minor-league system is even less interesting for fantasy purposes. Anyhow, it is often the boring, the old hat, the suboptimal that gets overlooked in fantasy, and it is these very players that can turn some of the nicest fantasy baseball profits. Continue reading for analysis.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to ourTransaction Analysiscoverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Why does the value a team places on a draft pick seem to change from situation to situation?
“The Yankees never made an offer to David Robertson; determined they’d rather sign Andrew Miller and get the draft pick [compensation] for Robertson.” – Buster Olney, via Twitter
All other factors equal, it is preferable to sign a free agent who is not attached to a qualifying offer than a free agent that is QO-attached. This is obvious. What is not obvious is by how much, or whether that “how much” is always constant from free agent to free agent for each team. First round pick protection, competitive window, payroll limit, state of one’s minor-league system, and upcoming draft class will all determine how each team costs (values) losing a draft pick. According to traditional financial, economic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it theory, weighing these factors all makes sense. But, according to traditional theory, each team would individually weigh the cost of giving up a draft pick equally across all QO-attached free agents. Example time:
Team X puts the cost of losing its first round pick at $8M. Absent the qualifying offer, Team X values Max Scherzer at six years, $150M and Ervin Santana at two years, $25M. Taking the cost of losing a first round pick into account, Team X should value Scherzer at 6 years, $142M and Santana at 2 years, $17M.
Cool, makes sense. Alas, mental accounting, which posits that “people spontaneously generate their own mental accounts, and where we place these boundaries subtly (but profoundly) influences financial decision making,” indicates that our traditional theories may be oversimplifying things here. Specifically, it notes that we create topical accounts, in that our decisions are altered by the context of the situation. Whereas most think it absurd to drive 15 minutes down the road to another car dealership to save $75 on a $25,000 car, many will stand in line for an hour in the middle of the night to save that same $75 on a $250 smart phone.
Question: What does this have to do with QO-attached free agents?
Answer: Given the use of topical accounts, we could hypothesize that if GMs categorize Scherzer as an impact player and Santana as a role player—and are less willing to give up a draft pick to get a mere role player—that teams might be either (i) undervaluing the cost of the QO when valuing top free agents (saving $75 on the car) and (ii) overvaluing the cost of the QO when valuing lower-end free agents (saving $75 on the smart phone).
While we wait and see how the Cubs navigate this offseason, their current roster returns exciting young hitters, Jake Arrieta, and a lot players who would probably play lesser roles on more competitive teams. And they also have all those awesome prospects too.
The important question, for fantasy purposes, is how do all these pieces fit? There really is no good way to answer this question right now given that we do not know how free agency will unfold and the uncertainty inherent in prospects. What we can do is evaluate the players as they currently stand and make adjustments for playing time as we get more information. That said, let us get to it.
A follow-up to last week's piece, explaining how to take advantage of offseason trade-market inefficiencies.
Last week, we discussed the ways that the default effect influences our dynasty- and keeper-league offseason trade markets. Today we will take a look at some ways to deal with and take advantage of these market realities. These ways can be broken down into two categories:
Logic dictates that offseason trade activity should be virtually endless, so why doesn't this happen?
While no Major League Baseball games are currently being played, the offseason maintains a tight hold on our attention. The offseason brings every team back to 0-0 (for both major-league and fantasy baseball), and we are captivated by the hope of the new season and intrigued by the strategy each team will deploy.
Whereas in-season trades and moves tend to be limited by the competitive landscape, the offseason tends to be less limited, because more uncertainty exists about the upcoming season. In fantasy baseball, potential moves and strategies are even less limited in the sense that all teams have closer to equal resources because of parity-promoting rules and constructs such as salary caps, keeper limits, auction dollars, and draft rounds. Given all of this to go along with person-to-person inconsistency in valuing uncertain future assets (baseball players), one could assume that the offseason would be a time of torrent trade activity. In theory, each owner would continue to trade until he or she possesses each asset that he or she most values among his or her peers (obviously this depends on the value of the assets one originally owns, but you get the point). Put differently, because every owner would rank the top 300 players (or top 300 values in leagues with contracts) differently, one could assume that there would be trade after trade after trade until every discrepancy in valuation has been corrected.