Mar 4, 2009

Fantasy Baseball: A Draft Thought Exercise Part II

Here's part 2 with some more of my overall opinion and evaluation of drafting strategies and tips:

7. Speed cuts both ways. Steals are great. I love to lead the league in steals and runs. If I had my way, I would draft all leadoff hitters. Although, you shoudl try and distribute steals across the roster. Two 20-20 (HR-SB) guys are almost always better than a 10-50 guy(this was not true for Jose Cruz Jr in 2002). The key is to see how many categories they contribute in. I made that mistake and have drafted Juan Pierre and Scott Posednik too early. It's ok to take those guys late (Taveras and Bourn last year) after the 12th round. Don't consider speed and power as two sides of a coin; all categories are equal to the fantasy gods.

Based on this, for me, the most overrated person to draft is Ichiro in the 2nd round. Afterwards, he is an acceptable pick. He only contributes in runs, average, and steals, and if he has a down year like last year (<.330 BA), then he is overrated.

8. Draft for your team only. This is a little harder to explain. When choosing a player, think of how he fits in your team's lineup and most importantly, how he contributes in the given categories. Have a rough projection of how each player should do as the draft progresses and don't overpopulate power or saves categories. It's good to establish categories of strength, but depending on your league, sometimes it's difficult to find willing takers in trades. In 2004, I took David Ortiz and Jim Thome, figuring it would give me all the power I needed. The downside is that it limits daily lineup flexibility. Of course, if you could take Alex Rodriguez and David Wright in the same draft to play 3B and Util, you would (though, it's not going to happen).

9. Keep in mind the waiver wire. I always draft someone who has a high upside (like the moon, baby), but also has a lot of risk involved. This is usually the first or second person to drop, especially if they don't get playing time. Examples were Alex Gordon in 2007, Hank Blalock in 2002, Max Scherzer in 2008. This only works if your league is 12 teams or less.

10. Don't overlook veterans older than 33. Do you know who was a great draft pick last year? Mike Mussina. On average, he went in the 19th round. On the hitter side, Jermaine Dye was also great. Ken Griffey, Jr, on the other hand, was not so great. They're always there at the end of drafts. Fill in your team with some guaranteed stats if you tend to draft a lot of young kids like I sometimes do. I think I drafted Greg Maddux every year from 2003-2007; average helps your team.

11. Factors for pitchers that I look at and recommend are K/9, K/BB, WHIP, IP/start, GB/FB ratio, .OPS against, HR allowed, and their home park. Because strikeouts (K) are a category, I gravitate towards high strikeout pitchers (preferably with a low WHIP). These, of course, are the top pitchers in the league: Santana, Lincecum, Hamels, and Sabathia. Wins is a category you can't really draft for, unfortunately, but a good rule of thumb is a good team+ a good closer=an acceptable number of wins.

I also like low WHIP pitchers from the year before whose ERA was a little higher than average. These pitchers are usually later round picks and are more risky because there's not a direct correlation between a low WHIP the year before and lower ERA the next year. (A good pick was Jason Schmidt in 2004, a bad pick based on this was David Bush in 2008). The hope is that the previous year's low ERA was based on some bad luck (examine batting average on balls in play and line drive % to be sure).

Ground ball pitchers with a lower strikeout percentage are also decent plays. Think Chien Ming Wang and Fausto Carmona from the past couple years; these also have some risk because a lot of their success is based on team defense and not allowing a ton of home runs. Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay are a hybrid of the above two categories, and this is why they are top 10 fantasy pitchers.

12. Factors for hitters that I look at and recommend are .OBP, .SLG, OPS+, K/BB Ratio, Line Drive%, HR/FB %, and their home park. I like multi-skilled position players; good eye, some power, some speed. They might not always be top fantasy players, but you can build a fun, competitive lineup. My favorite players last year were B.J. Upton and Matt Kemp; you never knew what they were going to do on a given day.

Power and high contact % with a high line drive % is the perfect fantasy player since it translates to high average, home runs, RBI and runs(depending on lineup position). This is Albert Pujols in brief. He is unique, but you can find up and comers with similar skill sets if you look deeply enough. On the flip side, a high strikeout% is not a deal killer to draft (Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, Alfonso Soriano, etc). The key is to factor in the player's overall skill set, their position, and how they help you in each category.

I hope this gives some insight on what to look at and how to approach a fantasy baseball snake-style draft. I'll try a rankings exercise next time.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

There was an episode of Numb3rs that dealt with sabermetrics, the mathematics behind baseball stats. A guy found a correlation of stats that could predict when a player was on steroids and some bad guys wanted to kill him for some reason. That episode also featured Bill Nye the Science Guy.