December 2009

Building better player projections

Before we get started, just a quick update to my last post (http://mlblogsfantasy411.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/broxton3.jpgarchives/2009/12/player_valuation_and_sgp.html)… I provided the average stats for each first and last place NFBC team, minus the top and bottom five outliers, but I only used 10 teams to compile the averages rather than 21 (the 26 NFBC leagues minus the five outliers). So, here are the revised numbers and the SGP in each category:

 

RANK  AVG     AB     R        H     HR   RBI    SB     W   SV     ERA      IP        WHIP      IP       SO

1ST     .2857   7543  1145   2155  303  1129   199   107   100   3.583    1516.2   1.245    1450.4   1374

15TH   .2607   6985   905   1821   202   869    94     67    19    4.726    1406.6    1.438   1387.9    950

SGP    .0017   37.2   16.0    22.2   6.8  17.3    7.0    2.6   5.5   -0.076     7.3      -0.013     4.2      28.3

 

(Sorry for the tiny font, that’s the only way I could get the whole table to fit.)

 

Not a huge difference obviously, but hey, I’m the stats guy, I’m supposed to get this stuff right!

 

Now, on to this week’s topic: how to build useful player projections. The reason we need to figure this out now is that while raw SGP can be determined on a per-category basis, meaningful SGP must be determined on a per-position basis, otherwise there will be no reflection of position scarcity in your player valuations. And to determine position scarcity or any type of pre-draft player valuation, you must develop a ranking system, and the most objective way to do that is by building projections.

 

There have been thousands of words spilled all across the Internet on the value of player projections and the need for them: some think they are critical, some think they are useful but impossible to build with any meaningful accuracy, and some think they’re a total waste of time. Baseball HQ chief Ron Shandler – one of the giants of the industry – wrote a lengthy and informative piece last year on “The Great Myths of Predictive Accuracy” (http://www.baseballhq.com/books/myths.shtml), which said in essence that even the best projection systems will typically be wrong to some extent or another on every player, so fantasy players must use all projections with a certain amount of skepticism. I hope I’m not incorrectly paraphrasing what Ron wrote, and I encourage everyone to read this excellent work.

 


Pujols.jpgIn any case, I do agree with Ron that it’s unimportant whether your projection for Albert Pujols (right) calls for him to 39 homers or 42; either number would likely be part of what we would consider an “expected” season from El Hombre. But I think pre-draft projections are critical for two key reasons:

 

* Establishing relative values of players before the draft to help in ranking them, and

* Evaluating relative strengths and weaknesses of teams as the draft progresses

 

If your projections are objective and reasonable, then they should be useful for both of those purposes. So how do we make them objective and reasonable?

 

First, consider the source… there are numerous projections available on the Internet, some for pay and some for free, and while PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus has long been considered the cream of the crop, the field has been catching up in recent years. In fact, noted sabermetrician Tom Tango conducted a season-long experiment this past season (http://tangotiger.net/forecast) which concluded what many have thought to be true: the “wisdom of the crowds” approach ultimately generates results just as good as any other system. So here’s what I do:

 

1. Gather as many different projections as I can that pass the “sanity check” – no batters projected to hit 60 homers, no pitchers with 325 strikeouts, etc. – and average them all up. In recent seasons that’s been somewhere between seven and nine different sets of projections but use as many as you think are reasonable, to get the widest range of opinions and inputs.

 

2. Adjust properly for playing time. Last season in MLB there were about 187,000 plate appearances and 43,000 innings pitched… make sure your projections add up to a reasonable estimation of those numbers. Then, make sure the playing time is distributed properly… each team should have somewhere around 6,200 plate appearances and 1,440 innings, with playing time distributed between obvious regulars and reserves. Obviously there’s no way to predict who will ultimately get every at-bat over the course of the season, but the key is to make sure playing time is appropriately distributed among the players who are likely to be selected in your draft.

 

Make sure to factor in health risk and job security as well. Projecting Nick Johnson for 550 at-bats is sure to result in disappointment, but at the same time, if you only have Derek Jeter (below) with that many you’re ignoring recent history. All players are subject to unexpected injuries, but as our friend Will Carroll would say, “health is a skill.” If a player has demonstrated an ability (or inability) to stay in the lineup, adapt accordingly.

 


Jeter12.jpg3. Once playing time is adjusted properly, pro-rate all projected counting stats accordingly… if the projection calls for 400 at-bats but you bump it up to 500, add on another 25 percent in each of the other categories.

 

4. Next up, I calculate projected RBI’s based on projected extra-base hits. The formula I use, developed by a smart guy named Mark Padden, awards about seven-tenths of an RBI for each “weighted” extra-base hit, weighted as follows: singles * .2, doubles and triples * 1 and homers * 3. So a player projected for 100 singles, 30 doubles, 5 triples and 20 homers would be projected for about 80 RBI’s. Then I tweak the RBI numbers up or down to correspond to likely batting order position… if I know Hanley Ramirez is dropping down to the third spot in the order I’ll bump up his total but then shave down those who are moving away from the heart of the order.

 

5. Make sure runs and RBI’s correlate properly. Last season, roughly 95 percent of all runs scored were generated by an RBI. Add up the runs and RBI’s in your projections, then divide RBI’s by runs… if you’re not somewhere between 94 and 96 percent on a per-team basis, you’ll need to tune your run and/or RBI projections up or down to match.

 

6. When it comes to closers, keep it simple. I project each of the likely full-time closers with three wins; there are always the exceptions who will win seven or eight or 10 games each year, but those are hard to predict, so don’t bother. Tack on a bonus win or two if you really need to, but trying to predict whether Jonathan Broxton (below) will win four or eight games next year is a futile exercise. I distribute saves in round numbers, too… clear-cut top-shelf closers get 38-42 each, the second tier get 32-36, and so on.

 


Broxton.jpg7. Keep it simple for starters, too. Strikeout and walk rates are fairly projectable, but as we know, wins are typically not. So I give aces 17-18 wins, solid mid- to upper-tier guys 14-16, and so on.

 

8. Finally, in the same vein, don’t get carried away on steals. That’s a very volatile category based as much on opportunity and managerial tendencies as it is on pure speed. Guys like Carl Crawford and Jose Reyes are always going to get their 50-60 steals as long as they’re healthy, but look at how the SB’s have fluctuated for an otherwise consistent player like the aforementioned Jeter: 30-11-15-34-14-23-11-32 over the last eight years.

 

That’s the process in a nutshell. I may be forgetting something here but hey, I can’t give away ALL of my secrets!

 

Until next week, Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

 

Thanks,

Cory

 

411 Blog Recap (12/21)

Hey guys,

A reminder to check out the ongoing slow mock draft hosted by the folks over at fantasybaseballtrademarket.com.  They’re currently nearing the end of Round 6.  Be sure to read the comments section for added insight from the participants themselves.

And here are a few links to the more recent 411 blog content:

411 Question of the Week: Overvalued All-Surprise Team members

Cory on player valuation from a fantasy perspective

411 Question of the Week: Hunting for “soft aces”

411 on Winter Meetings moves

2010 List of 12

And the links to the podcast pages on iTunes:

Fantasy 411 Audio Podcast

Fantasy 411 Video Podcast

One final podcast for 2009 coming out today.  Topics will include Milton Bradley, Juan Pierre, Nick Johnson and Mike Lowell.  The podcast schedule resumes on Monday, January 4th.

-Zach

***Follow the 411 on Twitter @fantasy411, @schwartzstops, @fantasymlb

411 Question of the Week (12/18)

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Discuss one player from the 2009 All-Surprise Team list who you think is overvalued heading into 2010.

It’s
hard to knock a 27-year-old second baseman who hits 36 homers, but I have a
hard time accepting that Aaron Hill can match next season what he did in 2009.
His walk rate actually declined from his last strong full season, in 2005, and
while his strikeout rate also dipped, he didn’t hit more fly balls than in that
17-homer campaign. In short, Hill got a little older and a little stronger,
resulting in a spike in his home run rate, but otherwise he was essentially the
same player. There’s still plenty of value in a second baseman who hits in the
.280′s with 20 or more homers, but I’m not investing a third or fourth round
pick to see what type of season Hill will offer next year.

-Cory

Not to belittle Ben Zobrist’s
breakout 2009 campaign, but let me see him do this again. In part-time
duty from 2006-2008, Zobrist hit a combined 15 home runs with 57 RBIs
and seven steals while never batting above .253. Then all of a sudden
comes a .297-27-91-17 year. Now I understand the theory that it took
regular playing time for Zobrist to realize his full potential. This,
however, is a bit extreme. Zobrist’s second base eligibility
undoubtedly enhances his fantasy value, but I’m not spending the first
pick of the sixth round (current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 61) on a
guy with such a limited body of work. I’d gladly draft Jose Lopez or
even Howie Kendrick (he’s bound to break through one of these years)
four or five rounds later.

-Zach

***On a side note, be sure to check out Jonathan Mayo and Lisa Winston’s analysis of the prospects involved in the Roy Halladay deal

411 Blog Recap (12/14)

Hey all,

As we do every Monday, below you’ll find the latest and greatest content from the blog.  Also be sure to monitor the ongoing slow mock draft organized by the guys over at fantasybaseballtrademarket.com.  Round 5 is underway.

Cory on player valuation from a fantasy perspective

411 Question of the Week: Hunting for “soft aces”

411 on Winter Meetings moves

2010 List of 12

And the links to the podcast pages on iTunes:

Fantasy 411 Audio Podcast

Fantasy 411 Video Podcast

Should be an eventful next week or two as most free agents like to have
things settled by Christmas…that is with the exception of Scott Boras
clients.  Something tells me it’ll be awhile before Matt Holliday signs
with a team.  Over here in New York, the Johnny Damon saga continues. 
Johnny, I thought winning was the most important thing?

Stay tuned…

Zach

***Follow the 411 on Twitter @fantasy411, @schwartzstops, @fantasymlb

Player valuation and SGP

Hey folks, sorry it’s been a while since my last post but I
was pretty jammed up with the Winter Meetings. Now that that’s out of the way
I’m catching up on things, so let’s pick up where we left off last time, which
was illustrating the value of stats in relative context.
To sum it up, Andre Ethier (below) didn’t hit 31 homers in a bubble last year, he hit them
in the context of an overall offensive environment, and therefore, the value of
those homers is dependant upon the overall environment.

Andre.jpg

 

However, I didn’t really do much for your fantasy planning
by putting it in the context of recent MLB league stats… knowing that there 651
fewer homers hit in 2009 than in 2000 is helpful, but how much does that effect
the value of any player? And besides, we don’t compete with the Dodgers or
Yankees or Tigers, we compete in 12- and 15-team fantasy leagues. So let’s put
things into a fantasy context and see what that means.

 

My main league, the one in which I invest the most of my
time and effort, is my 15-team mixed NFBC league. I know more people do 12-team
leagues than 15, but hey, this is the data I have available and it’s still
useful for illustrative purposes. There were 26 NFBC leagues last year, a total
of 390 teams. I dropped the top and bottom five teams in each category, since outliers
don’t help much, then took the top and bottom 10 teams in each category and averaged them
out. From that, here’s what we get for average stats of the first and last place teams in
each of the 26 NFBC leagues last year:

 

AVG     AB        R          H      HR     RBI    SB     W      SV       ERA     WHIP   IP
(ERA)   IP (WHIP)   SO

.2850    7524     1142  2144  302    1127  197    106    99      3.617    1.248    1520.9      1433.2      1367

.2611    6936     912    1811  205     876    96     68      21      4.696    1.433    1408.3      1407.6       959

 

(The first thing you should notice right away is the
importance of playing time… the average first place team had nearly 600 more
at-bats than the average last place time, which is why we say, never take a day
off when it comes to managing your roster and maximizing playing time! Note
though that there are two IP values for ERA and WHIP, since the top and bottom
teams in each category were not necessarily the same.)

 

Let’s stick with homers for our example on how to use these stats
to help figure out player values. The average top team hit 97 more homers than
the average last place team, or an average of about 6.9 homers for each of the
14 roster spots. This means that on average, for each 6.9 homers a particular
player hit, he moved his team up one point in the standings in that category.

 

Well, not so fast… because the last place team had 205
homers, you had to do better than that to get your first point and move up from
there. This is where the notion of replacement value comes in. The average
player (roster spot) on the last-place team hit 14.6 homers, so in fact, the
“replacement value” – the average player on the worst place team – was actually
just under 14.6 homers, and for each 6.9 homers above THAT, another player earned his team
one place in the standings.

 

This is the beginning of developing what is known as
standings gain points, or SGP. The concept is that you figure out what each player
was worth in each category over the replacement level – the worst player on a
roster, or slightly below – and then add it up in each of the five (batting or
pitching) categories to get his overall value.

 

So our friend Andre, who hit 31 homers, was worth
about 2.4 SGP’s in homers, the number of points in that category he was worth
over a replacement-level player. Do this exercise for each player in each
category, then add ‘em up for their overall value.

 

Mauer.jpg

But wait… Joe Mauer (right) hit 28 homers and surely those were more
valuable than the 31 Ethier hit as an outfielder, right? After all, Mauer is a
catcher and we know catchers stink, so plus production from one of them is
worth more than a good outfield season, right? Exactly… and that’s why
replacement value is different at each position. But more on that next time.

 

Looking forward to your feedback!

 

Thanks,

Cory

 

 

411 Question of the Week (12/11)

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Assuming you wait until the double-digit rounds to draft your first starting pitcher, discuss one player who you will be targeting as a “soft ace.”

This year’s List of 12 is chock full of rising young arms who could fit the bill, but it’s no secret I am most bullish on Ricky Nolasco. His hit rates and strand rates were beyond unlucky last year, to the point where his underlying stats were more that of a pitcher with a 3.75 ERA, not one over 5.00. The hit rate should improve as the Marlins seek to shore up their defense (Maybin in center, Uggla likely to be traded, Coghlan likely to return to a more natural infield position, Bonifacio relegated to bench play, etc.), and the strand rate will improve on its own as Nolasco does a better job of putting away hitters with 2-strikes, as he was more and more able to do as the season progressed. He’s at the right age, has enough experience, and clearly has the skills to be a breakthrough pitcher in 2010.

 

-Cory

 

In some drafts, Matt Cain may go late single digits and in others around the 12th, so he falls right in the middle for me. The Giants have developed into a half decent team so wins may not be as scarce as once thought for Cain. Add in a 3.00 ERA or lower and 175 to 200 strikeouts and it's a good start to a bargain staff that can produce results.

-Siano

Chad Billingsley opened 2009 looking very much like the pitcher who dominated for much of 2008. He struggled in the second half, however, going 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA. The fact that he ended the season on a down note offers a great opportunity for owners to scoop him up at a discounted price on draft day.  Billingsley still needs to fine tune his control but the strikeout rate remains strong and the NL West, at least offensively, remains weak.  At 25 years young, it’s safe to say that the best is yet to come.  I’d gladly gamble on a 2010 rebound.

 

-Zach

411 on Winter Meetings Moves

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Hey everyone,

With the Winter Meetings now over, here’s a list of the more notable trades/signings along with Siano’s brief fantasy analysis. Cory chimes in as well.

-Zach

New York Yankees – Acquired OF Curtis Granderson.

I could see a monster year here. I’ve always been a fan and think he puts up
#2 OF stats at worst in a 12 teamer.

Detroit Tigers – Acquired LHP Phil Coke and OF Austin Jackson from the Yankees, and RHP Max Scherzer from the Diamondbacks.

Coke a non-issue. Jackson a must in keeper leagues and worth a flier
late in mixed leagues. Will get drafted in all AL only leagues.
Scherzer is very attractive. Even though going to AL gets the park bump
and love the K potential. I’d draft him on mixed and AL only.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Acquired RHP Edwin Jackson and RHP Ian Kennedy.

Edwin is still a player in mixed leagues. Could be a great #3 if not
#2. I’d draft him in a mixed and bid on him in an NL only. Kennedy is a
sleeper in NL only at a buck. Change of scenery does work and out of AL.

Seattle Mariners – Signed INF Chone Figgins to four-year contract.

Cory says “I don’t think his value changes much, and the M’s might move him around a
little, possibly giving multi-position bonus value. Will he hit ahead or behind
of Ichiro? Wonder if that will change things.”

Baltimore Orioles – Acquired RHP Kevin Millwood.

I wouldn’t touch Millwood with a ten foot pole. From the frying pan
into the fire plus injury concerns. He’ll get drafted in a mixed late
but still YPNM.

Houston Astros – Acquired RHP Matt Lindstrom.

Siano says #3 in mixed. Cory more optimistic.  “Great K and HR rates
when healthy… If healthy again he could be a great #3 in mixed
leagues or a #2 for those who discount saves.”

Houston Astros – Signed INF Pedro Feliz to one-year deal.

Cory says “Worth about the same in Houston as in Philly.
Minute Maid is a great park for low-OBP righty power hitters (ie, Miguel Tejada).”

Texas Rangers – Signed RHP Rich Harden to one-year deal.

YPNM.

Washington Nationals – Acquired RHP Brian Bruney.

$1 in NL only. He can strike people out and be a low level closer if needed if he could ever stay healthy.

 Detroit Tigers – Signed INF Adam Everett to a one-year contract.

$1 in AL only at best.

Milwaukee Brewers – Signed C Gregg Zaun to a one-year contract.

$1 in NL only. Monday / Thursday in mixed.
 

The rest:

-Wolf is a must in NL only and TBD in mixed, probably a 4 or 5 when drafted but cut after a bad start and go POD.

-Lowell is interesting in Texas. He can hit and could be kept fresh at 1B and DH. Love him at UT or CO.

-Rafael Soriano if closing on TB has the stuff. Great #3 but could make it as #2 closer in 12 team mixed.

411 Update (12/8)

Hey all,

Cory will try to hop on the blog later as he’s currently swamped with Winter Meetings activities but keep an eye out for special podcasts coming your way both today and tomorrow.

Also, don’t forget to check out fantasybaseballtrademarket.com for an update on the slow mock that Mike and Cory are involved in which is right now nearing the end of the second round.

-Zach

***Follow the 411 on Twitter @fantasy411, @schwartzstops, @fantasymlb

411 Blog Recap + Early Mock Draft

Hey guys,

Very little action on the free agent/trade front thus far but with the Winter Meetings now officially underway, expect things to heat up quickly.  While most of the major signings do not get finalized until after the meetings, we should get a pretty good idea as to how many dollars the various teams are willing to spend and which specific players they are targeting.  Stay tuned.

In other news, the mock draft season has arrived!  Mike and Cory are currently taking part in a slow mock organized by the folks over at fantasybaseballtrademarket.com.  To follow the picks, head on over to their site.  Round 2 is almost complete.

And as we do every Monday, here’s a look at the latest and greatest blog content:

Schwartz on using stats to determine a player’s worth

Siano’s favorite baseball books

411 Question of the Week on notable names coming off an injury-ravaged ’09 season

2010 List of 12

Finally, the links to the 411 podcast pages on iTunes:

Fantasy 411 Audio Podcast

Fantasy 411 Video Podcast

-Zach

***Follow the 411 on Twitter @fantasy411, @schwartzstops, @fantasymlb

The Shortstop Dilemma

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Hey everyone,

One thing I’ve immediately noticed as I start to look over early 2010 rankings is that shortstop is lacking of reliable options.  Now, you might disagree and argue that there are a bunch of young guys (Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Everth Cabrera) who could take major steps forward next year, but would you really trust them to be your starting SS?  Call me greedy but I like to get both power and speed from my middle infielders and am always willing to spend a high pick in order to draft sure things.  I’m not changing my strategy this year, specifically with respect to the shortstop position.                                                                           

Can Jason Bartlett hit 14 homers again?  Will Stephen Drew and Alexei Ramirez bounce back from disappointing seasons?  Will Jose Reyes be fully recovered from his leg injury and once again be a lock for 50-plus steals?  Can a 35-year-old Miguel Tejada put together another highly productive year?  A lot of Derek Jeter’s 2009 value was tied to his 30 steals, but let’s not forget that he swiped just 26 bags combined over 2007 and 2008.  There’s no question that The Captain is as consistent as they come in the average and runs departments and should be highly sought after.  But his tremendous ’09 campaign could result in him being taken in the third or even second round when in reality he’s more of a fourth rounder.  Jimmy Rollins, despite showing signs of decline, will likely remain a second rounder due to his power/speed combination.  I’d be very surprised if any shortstop outside of Hanley, Tulo, and perhaps Rollins goes 20/20 in ’10.

So here’s my plan.  Barring the unexpected (someone gets taken way too early or hangs around way too late), either Hanley, Tulo, Rollins, Jeter or if all else fails Alexei Ramirez will be my starting shortstop in all of my leagues next year.  I’m willing to take the risks with the latter three.  Just not with anyone else. 

As for the possibility of Dustin Pedroia moving to short, I’m all for it!

-Zach

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