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If you have read my work for any appreciable amount of time (either here at Baseball Prospectus or previously at my blog), you know that I am a significant believer in accountability. Many of us post our predictions in the spring. In turn, many of you rely on these predictions to construct your fantasy teams. Unfortunately, few fantasy writers revisit their work after the season and offer an honest assessment of how well or poorly they did. There are many reasons for this, and I could write an entire piece simply discussing why we as an “industry” are not very good at self-auditing. The short answer is that while it is human nature to pat ourselves on the back for our successes, we don’t really like to call attention to our failures.

I was guilty of this last year as well. After posting bids at BP for the first time in 2013, I wrote absolutely nothing about how I did (which kind of stinks, because I actually had a pretty good year). It is easy to criticize others for not auditing their work, but at a minimum I have to hold myself up to my own standard.

Even when fantasy analysts do take the time to look back, their analysis focuses almost completely on how the player performed against the analyst’s projection. Below is a broad example of this style of retrospective review.

Player

AB

H

R

HR

RBI

SB

BA

Joe Blow Projected

500

140

80

26

76

3

.280

Joe Blow ACTUAL

565

165

75

18

90

7

.292

We missed the mark on Blow’s home runs, but his increased line drive rate led to some additional batting average and an improved lineup (particularly in the second half after the Stars traded for Tom Prototype) led to more RBI opportunities. Overall, this was a fairly solid statistical projection, particularly since it was very close in every statistical category except for home runs.

While there is certainly some value in this exercise, most fantasy players don’t buy or draft players using only statistical projections. It is more likely that rankings (in draft formats) and dollar values (in auction formats) are the primary driver for fantasy players. Put simply, the most important factor in determining how well we did isn’t based on what we thought the player would do but rather on what we were willing to pay for that player.

What you will find below is a complete list of players where my bid limit was three dollars higher or lower than the average expert league price in the CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars auctions. In this article, I will take a look at how I did in the American League compared to the expert market. Next week I will examine how I did in the National League.

Table 1: Gianella Bullish, AL Hitters

“WINS” AGAINST THE MARKET

Name

$

CBS

LABR

Tout

AVG

+/-

MG

MG +/-

Trevor Plouffe

$16

3

8

10

7

9

11

4

Marcus Semien

$6

1

6

2

3

6

4

David Murphy

$11

5

5

7

6

5

9

3

Lonnie Chisenhall

$17

2

1

3

2

15

5

3

Yunel Escobar

$8

4

4

11

6

2

9

3

Michael Brantley

$39

12

15

16

14

24

17

3

Lorenzo Cain

$24

10

10

8

9

15

12

3

James Loney

$19

9

10

9

9

9

12

3

Ryan Hanigan

$3

1

1

2

1

2

4

3

“LOSSES” AGAINST THE MARKET

Abraham Almonte

$1

1

1

3

2

-1

9

7

Aaron Hicks

$3

1

2

1

2

8

7

David DeJesus

$4

1

2

2

2

3

8

6

Grady Sizemore

$2

1

2

6

3

-1

8

5

Asdrubal Cabrera

$11

14

15

13

14

-3

17

3

Jason Kubel

$1

1

3

2

2

-1

5

3

Raul Ibanez

$0

2

2

2

2

-2

5

3

L.J. Hoes

$0

1

3

3

2

-3

5

3

“DRAW” AGAINST THE MARKET

J.P. Arencibia

$3

2

2

1

1

5

4

The $ earnings are the AL-only earnings using my formulas for 5×5 valuation (coming next month to Baseball Prospectus in their entirety). The “AVG” is the average salary for these players in the CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars expert auctions. The “MG” column is my projected bid limit from my final pricing update in late March, and the “MG +/-“ is the difference between my bid and the average market price (not the $ earnings column).

The drawbacks of this methodology are fairly obvious. Claiming a “win” on Ryan Hanigan when I had a $4 bid limit, the market had an average $1 salary, and he earned $3 is rather silly. Yes, technically I was closer to Hanigan’s value than the market, but this isn’t the kind of advice that sells website subscriptions.

Instead of simply presenting the tables, a more useful exercise might be to self-grade my projections.

Grade A: Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Lorenzo Cain, James Loney
These are the hitters where I feel like I nailed it compared to the market. Every analyst seemed to loathe Chisenhall; my bid said he might do something this year. I didn’t expect Brantley to be the second best hitter in the American League, but my bid was an attempt to differentiate myself from the crowd. Cain was another player I didn’t expect such a robust season from, but I figured even if he only stayed on the field for 400 at bats would easily earn $12. Loney is an example of my value proposition playing out perfectly. He is a boring/vanilla player but in AL-only, earnings in the high teens are well worth the suffering through the ennui.

Grade B: Trevor Plouffe
I’d give myself an “A” on Plouffe, but his average salary is significantly dragged down by CBS. As with Cain, I expected decent performance if he played.

Grade C: Marcus Semien, David Murphy, Yunel Escobar, Asdrubal Cabrera
With the exception of Cabrera, these players all earned at or around what they were expected to earn. So why don’t I give myself a higher grade?

The idea here is that a $6 buy on Murphy for $11 of stats might be better than my $6 bid, even though the $9 price was closer to what Murphy earned. A slight profit certainly isn’t bad, but as you start filling out the bottom half of your squad, your goal is profit, not a push.

Cabrera gets a “C” because he earned $4 for the Nationals. If you play in an -only format where you can keep players traded to the “other” league, this is a virtual push.

Grade D: David DeJesus, Ryan Hanigan, J.P. Arencibia
Grade F: Abraham Almonte, Aaron Hicks, Jason Kubel, Raul Ibanez, L.J. Hoes, Grady Sizemore
None of these players is a huge loss, but these are the kind of players that can torpedo your team, particularly if you went with a Stars and Scrubs strategy. None of these guesses was horrible back in March, but there is no way around the idea that $9 for Almonte was terrible, terrible advice.

Table 2: Gianella Bearish, AL Hitters

“WINS” AGAINST THE MARKET

Name

$

CBS

LABR

Tout

AVG

+/-

MG

MG +/-

Jurickson Profar

$0

17

15

17

16

-17

7

-9

Geovany Soto

$1

8

5

8

7

-6

2

-5

Mark Teixeira

$11

18

16

19

18

-6

14

-4

Shin-Soo Choo

$10

27

25

35

29

-19

26

-3

Kendrys Morales

$4

5

7

5

6

-2

3

-3

Stephen Drew

-$1

3

8

3

5

-6

2

-3

Mike Trout

$38

43

45

49

46

-8

43

-3

Prince Fielder

$3

33

33

32

33

-30

30

-3

“LOSSES” AGAINST THE MARKET

Kole Calhoun

$20

19

15

16

17

3

13

-4

Yan Gomes

$19

16

16

13

15

4

12

-3

Derek Norris

$13

8

6

9

8

5

5

-3

Brian Dozier

$26

17

14

13

15

11

12

-3

An 8-4 record sounds terrific, but I had the advantage of more recent information on Profar and Soto than the expert leagues did and adjusted my bids downward accordingly. I will give myself “incompletes” on both players and keep them out of the grades below.

Grade A: Prince Fiedler, Mark Teixeira
The expert market saw a bounce back coming on Teixiera that I did not anticipate. It seems weird to give myself an A on Fielder given that I recommended bidding $30 on him, but the bid was specifically designed to price enforce what was an extremely robust market on Fielder in March. I was wary of raising my price from my original $27 bid limit and probably should have stuck with my instincts.

Grade B: Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Mike Trout
It feels a little bit like cheating give myself a B for Morales and Drew, but I adamantly held the line at pushing their prices up in early to mid-March solely based on the assumption that they would sign “soon.” Trout was a loss for all of us, but my $43 bid was more sensible than the market’s $46 average salary. I didn’t want to pay one dollar less than Trout’s $47 in 2012, which to date is the highest amount he has earned in his career.

Grade D: Shin-Soo Choo
While it may appear like I “won” the Choo scrum with the expert market, I would be a lying scumbag if I pretended this was the case. Tout Wars switched to on base percentage in the only leagues this year, which is why Choo cost $35 in the league. I could give myself a “C” for being in step with CBS and LABR, but this was a poor showing by everyone involved and I would rather just move on and never speak of this again.

Grade F: Kole Calhoun, Yan Gomes, Derek Norris, Brian Dozier
I wasn’t that far off on any of these players, but I can’t do a victory lap on Fielder and claim that these guys weren’t that bad. I could only give myself “D”s on Norris and Gomes, but they’re catchers and I probably should have bumped them both up more given their defensive position. I give myself a similar penalty on Dozier, but am particularly sorry in this case that I missed the multiple stories about the adjustment he made at the plate last year. I actually liked Calhoun coming into the season but worried that the graybeard Angels might find a way to platoon or bench him. My bad.

Table 3: Gianella Bullish, AL Pitchers

“WINS” AGAINST THE MARKET

Name

$

CBS

LABR

Tout

AVG

+/-

MG

MG +/-

Joakim Soria

$11

2

6

14

7

3

12

5

Jarred Cosart

$3

1

2

1

2

5

4

Yordano Ventura

$16

5

4

9

6

10

9

3

“LOSSES” AGAINST THE MARKET

John Danks

$2

1

4

2

6

1

4

Jesse Crain

5

5

1

4

-4

7

3

Zach McAllister

$0

2

3

3

3

-3

6

3

Alexi Ogando

-$2

4

4

1

3

-5

6

3

Ricky Nolasco

-$4

2

4

3

3

-7

6

3

Tanner Scheppers

-$4

3

1

-5

4

3

“DRAW” AGAINST THE MARKET

Tyler Skaggs

$6

3

5

4

4

2

8

4

There is less variation compared to the expert market on pitchers as there is on hitters because there is less bid money assigned to the pitchers than there is to the hitters. I could expand the sort to $2 higher or lower than the average bid, but a $2 bid difference offers little variance in my opinion.

I could give myself credit for Soria, but this is a case where I raised my bid only after Neftali Feliz didn’t work out in spring training. I was pretty close overall—and beat Tout Wars’s adjusted Soria bid—but this explanation is giving me a headache and I’m not even halfway through it. Let’s just leave Soria out of this and avoid any potential battles in the comments section.

Even if I did include Soria, I still did badly here: 3-6-1, with only one clear cut victory.

Grade A: Yordano Ventura
I had some of the same advantage with Ventura that I did with Soria, but screw it, I’m giving myself credit. Rookie pitchers aren’t a sure thing, and even armed with the news that Ventura might make the rotation, nine dollars was a risk for a non-carryover price.

Grade C: Jarred Cosart
Cosart gets a “B” if your league allowed you to count his National League stats after he was traded to the Marlins and a “D” if it doesn’t. I’ll split the difference.

Grade D: John Danks, Tyler Skaggs
I could give myself an “F” for Danks but positive value from a cheap pitcher isn’t worthless, particularly in leagues like CBS or Tout where you can keep active pitchers on reserve. Skaggs wasn’t completely worthless either, but spending around 10 percent of your budget on him last year wasn’t a path to success.

Grade F: Jesse Crain, Zach McAllister, Alexi Ogando, Ricky Nolasco, Tanner Scheppers
All of these pitchers earned zero or less, which is a major fantasy no-no if you spent more than a dollar. I wasn’t necessarily high on these pitchers, but I would have been better off redistributing my bid limits toward more established pitchers, or even toward the hitting side of the pool.

Table 4: Gianella Bearish, AL Pitchers

“WINS” AGAINST THE MARKET

Name

$

CBS

LABR

Tout

AVG

+/-

MG

MG +/-

Tommy Hunter

$9

13

10

10

11

-2

4

-7

Neftali Feliz

$8

17

13

2

11

-2

2

-9

Jarrod Parker

8

8

5

-5

-5

Taijuan Walker

$4

15

6

7

9

-6

5

-4

Yu Darvish

$16

32

28

31

30

-14

26

-4

Danny Salazar

$5

18

19

17

18

-13

15

-3

A.J. Griffin

15

15

6

12

-12

9

-3

Ervin Santana

5

3

3

-3

-3

“LOSSES” AGAINST THE MARKET

Chris Sale

$30

27

25

29

27

3

24

-3

Drew Smyly

$15

12

12

15

13

2

10

-3

Again, an 8-2 record sounds impressive, but a number of these pitchers can and should be removed from an honest accounting. Feliz is the other side of the Soria coin. I had him at $14 before it was obvious he wouldn’t close, and it is not fair to take credit for Feliz after the fact. Griffin and Parker were both injury cases, while Santana signed with the Braves between LABR and Tout Wars.

Grade A: Tommy Hunter, Danny Salazar
I thought perhaps I had moved Hunter’s price down late in the spring, but unlike the expert market I never believed that Hunter was going to close. I kept my price on him at $4 for most of the winter. I thought Salazar was overvalued and a dangerous target, and wish I had left my price lower where it had been in an earlier update.

Grade B: Yu Darvish, Taijuan Walker
Darvish was the highest priced pitcher in AL-only this year, but I liked Max Scherzer better. I didn’t loathe Darvish, but I was skeptical that he was going to be a $30 pitcher in 2014. The injury helped my cause. Walker’s price was mostly inflated by the odd $15 price in CBS, but I was somewhat more skeptical than LABR and especially Tout Wars.

Grade D: Chris Sale, Drew Smyly
Sale was the opposite of Darvish. Twenty-four dollars wasn’t a bad bid limit, but I should have been more aggressive. Smyly would have been a better bid if he had merely performed at the same level he did with Detroit, but his Tampa Bay numbers pushed him past my bid.

Overall Impressions
I can’t say I had a good year. I made some decent calls, but nothing in particular really stood out that made me feel like I was head and shoulders ahead of the market. It is possible that I should have increased or decreased some bids additionally to stand out more from the crowd, but the problem with this approach is that you wind up with some bids that are more novelties than anything practical or useful. Putting a $10 bid on Teixeira because I disliked him would have been more notable but also dishonest; I most certainly would have bid $11 on Tex in any auction.

I would have been better off not pushing so many marginal players like Almonte and Sizemore up at the end of spring training. I probably overreacted to late spring news and should have stuck with my guns on these marginal types of players. It would have been better to move my money to the middle or the top and maintained low bids on these players.

My biggest failing, though, was not staying with my first instinct on players like Fielder and Salazar simply because the market was more aggressive than I was. I didn’t like Fielder coming into the season; there was no good reason to push my price up to $30 just because the market was pushing so hard on him. Next year, I am definitely going to hold the line on players like this that I truly dislike.

I am going to attempt to build more on players like Brantley and Cain next year. Players with their profile are my bread and butter. Bargain-bin finds are great, but if you can get a foundation player for less than $20, this is an even-more-stellar win in a fantasy league in my opinion.

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mlsgrad99
10/13
This is very useful stuff but I wonder if it would also be useful to go a level deeper and understand why you bid what you did, and why that worked/didn't work. Sometimes my rationale for drafting a player is relatively simple, like "age 26-28, prime breakout years" or "had a great August/September last season" and it would interesting to see if those rationales were smart or not. Not sure if you can break down your thought processes on players as easily as I can, most of the time.
MikeGianella
10/13
It's a good idea. I could probably put into terms like that for some players but not so much for others, depending upon how good my memory is/was. Maybe what I'll do this winter in a future article is dig a little deeper on a few cases like this per your suggestion. MG