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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.

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fawcettb
3/24
a comment and a question: That bullpen is going to kill you, and why were so few rookies held in that league?
mcquown
3/24
Well, I kept all of these rookies that I have. I don't know why Ramos and Mejia were tossed back, they seem like they'd at least have been of interest to rebuilding teams. Yeah, pen is weak. Clippard comes in with the 43rd-best SSSIM score among RP in NL-only, as my top showing. I do like the other pitchers more than most do, however.
WoodyS
3/24
Interesting! I must have missed the article that concludes that to optimize runs the third batter should not be one of the four most talented hitters on the team. Could you explain it again?
mcquown
3/24
Well, I've done it that way for years, but the authors of "The Book - Playing the Percentages in Baseball" let my secret (not really, but it certainly wasn't widely known) out a few years ago. The bottom line is that the #3 hitter sees the most bases-empty-2-out situations. But, really, unless one tries to undermine a lineup's effectiveness, getting more plate appearances for the better hitters works out pretty well. If shorting the #3 hitter isn't comfortable, go with the traditional best-hitter-third plan. As far as my squad, I really need a potent RH bat, this is way worse than the Werth-less Phillies, even. Maybe if Alvarez starts out hot, I can trade him for an infielder who can produce some runs...
Edwincnelson
3/24
That's a very good 12 team NL team. People who play in shallower leagues have trouble looking at this format and understanding there's only so much talent to go around. Why hold that many rookies on a team that's clearly able to win now?
krissbeth
3/24
Late March, if I recall is really late for Scoresheet league drafts, which tend to run throughout this month at their glacially slow pace. Since BP putting up SSSIM predictions has been a problem, I'm wondering when this will get fixed in the future. It certainly means that Scoresheet doesn't get my money every year that this is a problem.
mcquown
3/24
We are happy with the way SSSIM turned out, after taking numerous iterations to make it so. It will be available as soon as - or very shortly thereafter - PFM data and Scoresheet defensive ratings are available in future years, so in plenty of time to aid in drafting.
jdouge
3/25
Rob, I hope so. It's also what we heard last year. And the year before. May it be true.
dantroy
3/24
What are your preferred PFM settings for scoresheet?
WoodyS
3/24
Thanks. I thought that's where it came from. Tango et. al.'s conclusion is that "your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots." However, their analysis of #3 vs. #5 is trickier than you imply, because they'd put the better HR guy in #3 but put the better pure hitter (singles, doubles, triples, and walks) in #5. Either way (using your approach or their approach) blindly putting a punch and judy guy in the second slot and the best pure hitter in the third spot is suboptimal.
mcquown
3/24
I do that, also. I haven't fully "baked" my lineups here, but I may end up with Alvarez batting 3rd vsR. In Strat-O-Matic, I work hard to avoid GDP guys in the 3-hole as well. #5 is an interesting spot, since it comes up a lot with runners in scoring position, begging for a hit to drive them in, but also leads off a lot. I actually originally entered these lineups with Rasmus and Alvarez flipped vsR, as that was my initial thinking. Some of it will depend on real-life matchups for the players for the upcoming week in Scoresheet, so I see some tinkering going on during the season.
dantroy
3/25
This is cool stuff, but, man, is it hard to put Miguel Cabrera in the leadoff spot...
dantroy
3/24
Scoresheet lineup Q for the group: I've got Adam Jones slotted for CF and Swisher in one corner. I can play Luke Scott and Magglio Ordonez as platoon DHs, and I also have Span and Crisp - 2 good defensive OFs who are not mashers. Should I platoon Span and Crisp in the other OF corner, or should I take the defensive hit by starting both Ordonez and Scott every game (one as DH, one in OF)?
hotstatrat
3/24
To dantroy: Span hits lefties about equally well as righties. Crisp hits lefties only a little better than righties, but I would still much prefer Span to Crsip against any pitcher. See: http://www.scoresheet.com/FOR_WWW/LR_diffs.txt for the platoon splits that Scoresheet uses. The question now becomes do you like Ordonez better in the outfield than Span against righties or do you prefer Scott to Span in the outfield vs. lefties. Splitting the difference between PECOTA’s projection and the Bill James projection, then applying Scoresheet’s platoon splits, Ordonez comes in with an .800 OPS projection vs. right-handers. Span figures to be around .760. Span’s range is 2.14 compared to Ordonez with 2.03 for a difference of 0.11 which makes up for a difference of about .060 in OPS, so Span edges Ordonez vs. RHB. Combining the stats likewise for Luke Scott, he projects to be an .800 hitter vs. LHP. His defense is even worse than Magglio’s, so I would keep those sluggers in the DH role and play Span full time. Keep in mind OBA is almost twice important as Slugging. Span is the best of these players in that department, so that is all the more reason to stick with him. - John Carter www.scoresheetwiz.com
mcquown
3/25
Good advice here. I'd keep your options open for weeks where - for example - Scott is facing some weak Yankees righties in New Yankees Bandbox, or Maggs is back in Chicago for some US Cellular fun. But Span is a nice fallback plan, and probably fits a lineup role well - i.e. his lack of slugging isn't likely to cause as much distress when he's batting leadoff.
dantroy
3/25
Great advice, John and Robert. Thanks.
touchstone033
3/25
Aren't SS plate appearances dependent on real-life? That is, are you risking games during the week where Votto won't play in SS, because you're leading him off and giving him more plate appearances in games?
dantroy
3/25
This can be a problem if one of your better options at #1 or #2 is a catcher (frequent days off) or a platoon player (half the Rays lineup). I'll sometimes bat guys like that further down in the lineup to preserve as many SS starts as possible.
hotstatrat
3/25
Good point, touchstone033. There is a little flexibility built into the game, but constantly batting someone lead-off who normally bats fourth or lower might cause him to sit a few games over the course of the year. If the player hits better from one side than the other, you might just have him hitting higher than his normal place against the favorable pitchers, then lower him as much as necessary against the other pitchers. If you have a very good back-up, it might not be worth worrying about, but otherwise, it is.