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Get A (Fantasy Baseball) Grip On Reality: Blog Series Part 1

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Saturday May 18, 2013

Like Dale Doback, I too manage a baseball team --kootation.com.  Lucky for me, I was able to secure a steal 113th overall in a keeper league.  You have to read the post in order to find.  Now that I am done, I am going to attend a Catalina Wine Mixer nearby!!

Like Dale Doback, I too manage a baseball team  Lucky for me, I was able to secure a steal (113th overall) in a keeper league. You have to read the post in order to find out who that player is. Now that I am done, I am going to attend a Catalina Wine Mixer nearby!! kootation.com

By Derek Jackson (MLB Reports Fantasy Expert): 

I am happy to be joining the fantastic writer’s and leadership at MLB Reports, bringing you full coverage of Fantasy Baseball. If you’ve never won that elusive fantasy title or you’re the five-peat dynasty, we can all share our knowledge of players, outlooks, and advice in an open forum.

I urge any and all of you to leave me comments ripping apart my thoughts, giving me a firm but reassuring pat on the ass, or just to tell me how great of a fantasy player I must be – Now let’s roll out two player’s who have started out very differently in 2013. This will give you some insight into the stats I use and rely on in my own decision making. all thoughts are welcome.

Read the rest of this entry

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Michael Bourn Pulling a Fast One? Buyer Beware in the Free Agency Market

Friday November 16th, 2012

Kyle Holland- It’s no secret that 2012 offseason doesn’t have the best free agent class. Being topped off by Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton is great, but it declines under them. After last year’s class, this year’s list of available players seems terrible. One free agent that will not be re-signing with his last club is Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn.

Bourn is a good outfielder, which comes as no surprise to anyone. But seriously, is Bourn really worth the $12 million+ multi-year contract he’s looking for? Let’s take a look. Read the rest of this entry

Forget Strikeouts: Hit ’Em Where They Ain’t!

Monday January 23, 2012


Douglas “Chuck” Booth-  Baseball Writer:  Back in the turn of the 20th century, baseball was a different game.  Players had second jobs to supplement their baseball salaries, teams carried few pitchers and they used the same baseball for as much of the game as they could.  There was a player named Willie Keeler who coined the phrase: “Hit ’em where they ain’t!”  It was a slang term for hitting the baseball where outfielders were not located.  This term would hold up for baseball players until Babe Ruth graced the baseball world with the retort, “I like to him them over the fence because the fielders are definitely not there.”  Strikeouts were a different situation back then as opposed to the modern-day game.

Old time baseball players were ashamed of strikeouts.  To them, you had done nothing to help your team in advancing the offence.  While I never played baseball at a higher level than age 19, I came from this very philosophy and this was twenty years ago.  My teammates and I all took turns throwing temper tantrums over striking out in Little League Baseball.  Some kids even resorted to crying.  The coaches of the teams all preached young men to cut down their strikeouts in favor of just making some contact.  For the longest time I believed that the Major League Players thought along these lines.  Media articles and sports broadcasters still interview retired players about striking out.  All of them say that it bothered them a great deal.  So what happened to change the philosophy?  Was it Money Ball?  How about Sabermetrics?  I think that these both had a role in the ever rising strikeout totals the current players are experiencing each and every year.  There are other factors like hard throwing relief pitchers and teams spending more money to keep aging veterans who have lost plate coverage, thus increasing their k rates.

In the 1990’s we also experienced the steroid era, where the bandbox stadiums were built and MLB went with the advertising campaign, “chicks dig the long ball!”  It all had led to the increased strikeout total.  To see just how far the epidemic had come, let’s go back 85 years; in 1927 Babe Ruth led the Major Leagues with 89 strikeouts.  Oh yeah, he also hit .356 with 60 HRs and drove in 164 RBIs in 540 ABs.  Lou Gehrig finished in 2nd that year with 84 strikeouts- but he hit .373 with 47 HRs and a whopping 175 RBIs in 580 ABs.  Both men walked over 100 times each and slugged over .750.  Yes pitching was not as tough as it is today. But these guys played in the dead ball era with humongous baseball stadiums.  

Fast forward to 1961. 10 players had over 100 strikeouts that year.  Much like 1927, the New York Yankees had two players leading the charge in offense with Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.  Despite hitting a record 61 HRs that season, Roger Maris had a keen eye for the plate in only striking out 67 times.  There was a shift starting with the other players in league.  A player by the name of Jake Wood stuck out a league leading 141 times.  Amongst the other players to top the 100 strikeouts mark were Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew.  It was a change in contrast to the power hitters of the league striking out on a more frequent basis.  Players like Joe Dimaggio (369 SO, 361 HRs), Ted Williams (760 SO and 521 HRs) and Stan Musial (696 SO and 475 HRs) were standing out on the pier as players who adopted the contact concept. But they were becoming a rare breed of player.

In 1986, the number of players with 100 strikeouts escalated to 40.  Yes there were an increase in the number of teams due to expansion. However, the rate of the players striking out 100 times a year far outweighed those added teams.  There were definitely a few exceptions to the rule.  Don Mattingly only struck out 444 times in 7721 Plate Appearances during his career. Wade Boggs only struck out only 745 times in nearly 11000 Plate Appearances.  It should be noted the Boggs walked 1412 times and routinely fouled off pitches with two strikes deliberately to wear down opposing pitchers; otherwise his whiffs would have been much lower.  The best of this era was Tony Gwynn, who only struck out 434 times in 10200 Plate Appearances.  All 3 of these players were part of a baseball decade in which the 1-2 hitters were purely average contact hitters who did not strikeout very much and stole bases, while playing hit and run ball.  Your power hitters belonged in the 3-4-5 slots and that was the only place to have an acceptable amount of high strikeout totals.  The 6-8 hitters were also average contact hitters with speed.

In 2011, 80 players finished with over 100 strikeouts.  There is one thing though that has remained constant.  The home runs are still up way higher from the rate of the 1980’s.  Now steroid testing has slowed down the balls leaving the yard from 10-15 years back, but more players still hit 30 homers a year than in the 25 years before the steroid era.  You might want to also throw in the decreasing strike zone the umpires seem to implement each progressive season.  Do not count on the umpires calling more strikes either, as it easier to pinpoint the botched strike calls now more than ever with technology.  Umpires are simply not willing for the most part to give much leniency to the pitchers.  Higher counts in ABs as a result will reflect in both more strikeouts and walks.

The baseball world has come to this.  It is now acceptable for players (including the management and front office backing of the idea), to carry high strikeout totals and low batting averages- if the on base percentage/power numbers are still there.  Leadoff hitters are not even immune to striking out on a regular basis.  It is a mentality that has changed the game forever.  So the next time you are wondering why all of the baseball games seem to last forever now: remember that more strikeouts equals more pitches seen. Which means the length of time each game lasts will be affected.

*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Batting Average and Earned Run Average: Are They Still Useful Baseball Stats?

Wednesday January 18th, 2012

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Just as baseball cards have become outdated, so too are the statistics that many of us memorized on the backs of those same cards as kids. The statistics that I am referring to are the generic stats used to measure a player’s success, particularly batting average for hitters and earned run average (ERA) for pitchers. Sabermetrics has taught us that there are better methods to more measure a player’s worth or success on the diamond. Far too often, numbers like ERA or batting average are skewed and do not accurately depict a player’s true level of skill.

However, batting average and ERA are statistics that are fixtures in the game, particularly in fantasy baseball. They are used to define players and probably will continue to do so. For those of us in standard 5X5 Roto Leagues, batting average and ERA account for two essential categories.

In 500 at bats, the difference between a .250 and .300 hitter is 25 hits. With six months in a season (approximately 24 weeks), that comes to about 1 hit per week. I repeat, one hit per week! I think I first heard this statistic from Major League I. Remember the old catcher with the bad knees, Jake Taylor?

If you have ever watched baseball, you know how much luck can play a factor. A guy can hit the ball on the screws four times- yet make four outs… but just as easily, getting three hits without hitting the ball out of the infield. Likewise, a pitcher’s ERA can be entirely skewed based on circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, I introduce to you two sabermetric statistics that are key in determining a player’s “true” batting average and ERA.

According to Fangraphs, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

The equation for FIP: ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

XFIP takes it even a step further by replacing a pitcher’s homerun rate with the league average (10.6% HR/FB), since this statistic is subject to high volatility.

Considering the above, Fielding Independent Pitching and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching are great determinants for what a pitcher’s ERA should be. It can tell you if a player is overachieving or perhaps pitching better than their ERA might indicate. This is the key to fantasy baseball. Target the guys who have FIP’s lower than their actual ERA and sell high on the pitcher who’s FIP is much higher than their actual ERA. By no means is the stat perfect, but it certainly gives you insight into a player’s performance and is a better indicator of future success than ERA alone.

For batters, the key statistic in determining batting average is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), which according to Fangraphs “While typically around 30% of all balls in play fall for hits, there are three main variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players: defense, luck, and changes in talent level.”

The average BABIP for players is between .290 and .310, although some hitters can maintain a much higher level. For example, Ichiro Suzuki has maintained a career BABIP of .351, well above the league average. Therefore, you can look at a player’s BABIP to see how well they are actually doing at the plate. Buy low on a guy whose BAPIP is thirty points lower than his career total. Chances are his batting average is suffering and he is a good buy-low candidate. The lower BAPIP indicates that has a victim of bad luck. Likewise, the guy who is sporting a .400 BAPIP simply cannot maintain that level and will see a major regression to the mean. In this case: sell, sell, sell!

A perfect BAPIP example is Austin Jackson, who exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rookie in 2010. With a .293 batting average and good speed, he was an attractive young player with a rising stock. However, his.293 batting average in 2010 coincided with a .396 BABIP. We know Jackson is not Ichiro (.351 BAPIP) and therefore we had to expect a major regression in 2011. Sure enough, his BAPIP dropped to .340 (still well above the league average) and as result, he finished the season with a .249 average. Therefore, I would not touch Jackson with a ten-foot pole in most leagues, at least not until he can cut down his strikeout rates and put the ball in play on a more consistent basis. Although he has proven he can produce a hit more often than most when he makes contact, he simply does not make enough contact at this point in his career to be a .300 hitter.

The young guns are generally the guys who are most difficult to read. With the veterans, you at least have their career BAPIP to use as a reference. However, do not be afraid to look at the minor league stats, which usually prove to be solid enough indicators. At the same time, never take too much stock in minor league numbers and make a hitter prove himself at the major league level.

Overall, stats like FIP and BAPIP are really just cheats for your fantasy baseball league. Batting average and ERA are statistics that are so deep-rooted that they will most likely be used forever to define a player’s success and as a result, will continue to be used in fantasy baseball. However, do not look at ERA and batting average to value a player and trying to predict their future ERA and batting average. FIP and BAPIP give you a more accurate story and are better indicators for future success- by at least attempting to eliminate the many variables that exist in the wonderful game of baseball.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR): Analyzing MLB Statistics using Sabermetrics

Wednesday January 11th, 2012

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Although WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is not the best of the sabermetric stats for fantasy baseball purposes, it has certainly transformed the way in which we can truly understand a given major league baseball player’s contribution (or lack there of) to his team. WAR attempts to epitomize a player’s total value in one sole statistic, taking into account both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. FanGraphs (the sabermetrics bible) aptly describes the essence of WAR: “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing.” A player is measured in “Wins” for a season (i.e. 3.4), while an average full-time player is worth 2 wins and a replacement player represents 0 wins. Furthermore an average staring pitcher is worth 2.0 WAR, while 1.0 WAR represents a strong season for a relief pitcher.  

Here are the 2011 leaders in WAR:

Batting

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – 9.4

  2. Matt Kemp – 8.7

  3. Jose Bautista – 8.3

  4. Dustin Pedroia – 8.0

  5. Ryan Braun – 7.8

  6. Ian Kinsler – 7.7

  7. Miguel Cabrera – 7.3

  8. Curtis Granderson 7.0

  9. Alex Gordon 6.9

  10. Joey Votto 6.9


Pitching

  1. Roy Halladay – 8.2

  2. C.C. Sabathia – 7.1

  3. Justin Verlander – 7.0

  4. Clayton Kershaw – 6.8

  5. Cliff Lee – 6.7

  6. Dan Haren

  7. C.J. Wilson – 6.4

  8. Jered Weaver – 5.9

  9. Doug Fister – 5.6

  10. Felix Hernandez – 5.6


The statistic actually defines a player’s value, something that MVP (Most Valuable Players) voters should perhaps consider come each October. For batters, the stat itself is calculated by taking into account two stats: wRAA (Weighted Runs Above Average) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which represent a batter’s offensive and defensive values, respectively. Pitching WAR replaces these two sabermetric stats with FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a stat that normalizes ERA for the “uncontrollable,” in conjunction with numbers of innings pitched. The Uncontrollable refers to what happens after the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, because obviously pitchers have almost no control over the balls that are in play. They are ultimately at the mercy of their defense.

Fangraphs site the formula for FIP as the following:

FIP: ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

If you are unfamiliar with Sabermetrics and WAR, this should feel like a mix between learning a foreign language and a calculus problem. However, don’t let this intimidate you. Spend some time on FanGraphs (It’s okay take it slowly) and it will change the way in which you think about the game of baseball. Please note that Baseball Reference has a slightly different formula/method to calculate WAR.

The beauty of WAR, however, is that it not only takes in account a player’s defensive skills (using UZR), but also the difficulty of the position. Therefore, someone like Dustin Pedroia at second base is significantly more valuable than a slugging Prince Fielder, at the first base position where power and production is demanded. Perhaps that is why Fielder is still fielding offers and has not landed a contract within his desired range. Not too shabby of statistic for a General Manager, huh? My hope is that this analysis paints the complexity of WAR and the many factors used to determine the number of wins that a player is ultimately worth to his team.

Let it be clear that by no means is WAR perfect. From a rather cynical standpoint, the very philosophy of WAR, which is calculated with so many components, professes that you cannot use one sole determinant to measure a player’s value. Furthermore, the positional adjustment numbers are the most arbitrary difficult to calculate. Can we really determine that a Center Fielder, due to difficulty to play the position itself, is worth 1.5 more wins than a first baseman? It is also difficult to determine the UZR for a first baseman, a position in which success is defined less by range and more by the ability to field throws. Paul Konerko certainly does not have great range, but he is universally regarded as one of the league’s top defensive first baseman, most likely saving Alexei Ramirez a handful of errors each season. Likewise, you cannot measure range for catchers, which use the fielding component of Stolen Base Runs Saved (rSB).  We also know that much of catcher’s true value is related to his ability to call a smart game (which cannot be measured by any given statistic).

However, from a fantasy perspective, we do not care about defense, and therefore wRAA is a more accurate indicator of offensive output. FIP can be used as well. For example, if a pitcher’s FIP indicates that his defense is frequently letting him down, and said pitcher joins a top rated defensive team; you have acquired knowledge about a player’s ability not represented by the generic stats out there. This is how you will earn surplus value and land the “surprises”, the “bounce-back” players, and avoid the “busts”.

I admit, when I first familiarized myself with FanGraphs, I felt like I was cheating in my fantasy baseball leagues. However, after joining more competitive leagues and with sabermetrics entering the mainstream, I have learned that this only provides a slight advantage. Just as it holds true for every other aspect of life, it is impossible to predict the future in the world of baseball. However, in a game of numbers- only the slightest advantage is needed to set your team apart from the competition.

WAR is a one of a kind stat. It helps us more thoroughly examine a player’s worth, especially when compared to their salary. Ultimately, the stat serves as a good building block to work back from to understand the intricacies and essence of sabermetrics.


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

An A-to-Z Guide to My MLB Offseason

Friday  November 11, 2011

Daniel Aubain (Guest Writer):  Question: What does a fantasy baseball blogger without a blog do during the offseason? Answer: Guest write an article for one of his favorite baseball sites!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Aubain and I used to run a fantasy baseball blog called Colorado Springs Fantasy Baseball Addict or COSFBA, for short. I recently decided to shut the site down and pursue other writing opportunities but the itch to write has been too strong to ignore. While I am currently working behind the scenes on a new venture, I wanted to take this opportunity today to highlight for you some topics of interest I’ve been or will be following this baseball offseason.

Below is an A-to-Z guide of some of the key topics I am paying attention to this baseball offseason. Enjoy!

  • A is for Awards: So Brett Gardner doesn’t win a Gold Glove (even though he was the best defensive player in all of baseball). Miguel Cabrera doesn’t get a Silver Slugger. And now the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on Twitter. I’m very excited to see what November 14th through November 22nd has in store for the blogosphere.
  • B is for Baseball: The most minor free agent news or offseason trade (see: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo) trumps ANYTHING going on in the NFL, NHL (that’s still a thing) and the NBA (how much longer until this is no longer a thing?).
  • C is for Closers: Fantasy baseball GMs know to “never pay for saves”. How come real GMs don’t know this? Ryan Madson possibly getting a 4 year/$44M contract offer from the Phillies? Good luck with that.
  • D is for @DJAubain: That’s right. Shameless self promotion. Be sure to follow me at my new Twitter account name. The link is RIGHT THERE!
  • E is for Exhibition Baseball: I hope all of you with the MLB Network were able to catch some of the Taiwan All-Star Series. It was a nice fix for those of us going through withdrawals after an amazing World Series.
  • F is for FanGraphs: Any aspiring Sabermetrician or fan of advanced baseball statistics has to be familiar with FanGraphs by now, right? Well, why not support their work and show the world you’re a big baseball nerd by purchasing one of these fabulous t-shirts. I’ve got mine.
  • G is for Gold Glove: I still can’t believe Brett Gardner didn’t win a Gold Glove. The mainstream media may love awards such as this (it even had its own television show this year) but those of us with any true understanding on how to measure “worthiness” with more than just web gems and name recognition are left scratching our heads more often than not.
  • H is for Hot Stove: Free agent signings. Winter meetings. Blockbuster trades. What’s not to love about the MLB offseason?
  • I is for Intentional Talk: I’m sorry, MLB Network. For all you do right in my eyes, this is your ultimate worst. I find this show unwatchable. It’s so bad it belongs on ESPN.
  • J is for Jose Reyes: Reyes to the Marlins? Not hating it.
  • K is for Keepers: Fantasy baseball GMs all over the country are anxiously discussing whether or not player X or player Y is worthy of being a keeper. I think it is absolutely crazy that some leagues have already required you locking in keepers. Wait until February or March to lock up keepers. It will make your league better. Trust me.
  • L is for Lefty Specialists: Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver are both 41 years old, coming off of World Series appearances and free agents. Which GMs are going to overpay for 50-60 appearances and 40-50 innings pitched? I’m hoping the Yankees get one of these guys to replace Boone Logan.
  • M is for Mystery Team: Nothing says offseason free agent signings like a good mystery team in the mix. Who will it be this offseason?
  • N is for Nick Punto: Nick has a World Series ring. Ted Williams and Ernie Banks have zero. Just in case you were wondering.
  • O is for Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie is now with the soon-to-be Miami Marlins and every Latin ballplayer is now rumored to be heading his way via free agency or trades. If only I understood a word he was saying in English. Don’t believe me? Check out his Twitter feed during the World Series.
  • P is for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder: How high are these contract numbers going to go and which teams are in the mix? The Yankees can’t sign everyone (in theory). It will be interesting to see where these top sluggers land.
  • Q is for Carlos Quentin: With the Chicago White Sox discussing getting younger and cheaper in 2012, could Quentin be the type of player shipped out of town for a handful of prospects? We shall see. I hear the Marlins have money. Hmmmmm.
  • R is for Realignment: Moving the Houston Astros to the AL West makes absolutely no sense. Thanks, Bud Selig, for the usual knee-jerk reaction to a problem. I’m a huge fan of a radical realignment based on true geographical rivalries. Forget the AL/NL thing. Screw the traditionalists. Make the DH optional. Create regional television networks. Let’s move this game into the 21st century already!
  • S is for Sabermetrics: It’s not going away. It’s not made up of basement-dwelling bloggers. And it is definitely NOT ruining the game of baseball and how it is played on the field. It is a tool used to evaluate and measure the performance of players. Embrace it.
  • T is for Twitter: If you’re not using Twitter, I suggest you check it out. It’s not Facebook.
  • U is for UZR: Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is one of the most widely accepted defensive metrics available and yet Brett Gardner, the best defensive player at any position, doesn’t win a Gold Glove. Bitter much? Yes.
  • V is for Vernon Wells: Just a reminder, Wells still has three years left on his contract at $21M per year. That is all.
  • W is for Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped? Unreal. This is just a horrible situation. I hope this gets resolved quickly and without tragedy. We wonder why agents and players lie to escape other countries to come to America to play baseball.
  • X is for X-Factor: No, not that horrible television show on FOX. I’m talking about the intangible “x-factor” agents will be talking about their clients bringing to a team’s clubhouse. Jim Thome has it. Francisco Rodriguez doesn’t have it.
  • Y is for Yuniesky Betancourt: According to the Bill James’ 2012 Handbook (and this tweet), Yuniesky has been baseball’s worst defensive shortstop over the last three seasons; costing his teams 46 runs. Keep that tidbit in mind as this Type B free agent lingers on the market.
  • Z is for the AriZona Fall League: If top prospects are your thing, then you need to be paying attention to what’s taking place in ‘Zona (see what I did there?). Check it out online and be sure to follow it Twitter, too.
Thanks to the great folks at MLB reports for allowing me the opportunity to share my voice with their audience. I truly appreciate it. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates on what the future has in store for me and all other guest posting articles I’ll be doing this offseason.
 
 
 
 
Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.
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