Thursday, October 23, 2008

H2H Catcher Rankings

Catcher Rankings

“Variable, this is Knife! Over! Variable, this is Knife! Over! Variable, this is Knife! Where the heck are you!?!?”

With that out of the way, let me clean up the catching variables: depending on where Cap’n ‘Tek ends up, he could fall completely off this list or move up (you assume someone paying him good free agent money would give him more playing time than the Sox might).

There are also a lot of rumblings about Boston trading for a young stud catcher (which should probably shake up/clarify the Texas catcher situation). Until that stuff plays itself out, it’s hard to rank the Saltalamacchias and Teagardens of the world.

I don’t know if there is a ton of surprise here outside of the Indians catcher position. This is more an indictment of Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner than anything else. It is conceivable that Victor Martinez slides to first base or DH to make way for Shoppach to get more at bats. While getting his first opportunity at consistent playing time, Shoppach hit three times as many HRs (21) and twice as many doubles (27) as last year – granted he had about twice as many at bats in 2008 than in 2007. He also scored 67 runs (and if the Indians offense improves) that number could increase to somewhere in the 80s in 2009. He was a second round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox, so there is potential here. It will be important to see how Matt Laporta does in camp – if he can snag an everyday spot in the line-up that could limit Shoppach’s upside.

Mike Napoli at 13 seems about right to me. In some (smaller) leagues I might take a chance on him over proven vets like AJ Pierzynski or Ramon Hernandez. He did hit .273 last year with 20 HRs and 7 stolen bases. He could conceivably be a 25 HR 10 SB guy. That combination of stats in a catcher is intriguing.

There’s also Matt Wieters. Let’s see if he breaks camp first before he gets ranked. But man, am I looking forward to his debut. I haven’t been this excited since Ben MacDonald…we all know what can happen with prospects, eh J.R. Towles?

“Circular error probable zero. Impact with high-order detonation. Have a nice day.”

Complete Ranks:

  1. Brian McCann (overall ranking: 61)
  2. Russell Martin (69)
  3. Joe Mauer (76)
  4. Geo Soto (87)
  5. Ryan Doumit (125) – can he stay healthy?
  6. Jorge Posada (128) – ditto
  7. Bengie Molina (132)
  8. Victor Martinez (148) – where has the power gone?
  9. Kelly Shoppach (153) – will he get at-bats?
  10. AJ Pierzynski (164)
  11. Chris Iannetta (169)
  12. Ramon Hernandez (176) – watch our for Matt Wieters
  13. Mike Napoli (178) – will he claim that stat potential?
  14. Chris Snyder (185)
  15. Dioner Navarro (209)
  16. Kurt Suzuki (210)
  17. Yadier Molina (212)
  18. Gerald Laird (218)
  19. Ivan Rodriguez (223)
  20. Rod Barajas (225)
  21. John Buck (236)
  22. Miguel Olivo (241)
  23. Jason Veritek (249) – his landing spot could answer a lot of question marks.
  24. Pablo Sandoval
  25. Jeff Clement

Last year’s top 10*:

  1. Russell Martin (last year’s overall ranking: 29) Finished: 3rd among catchers
  2. Victor Martinez (60) Finished: 27th among catchers
  3. Jorge Posada (76) Finished: 39th among catchers
  4. Brian McCann (102) Finished: 2nd among catchers
  5. Joe Maurer (103) Finished: 1st among catchers
  6. Geovany Soto (109) Finished 5th among catchers
  7. Kenji Johjima (110) Finished: 34th among catchers
  8. Bengie Molina (160) Finished: 6th among catchers
  9. A.J. Pierzynski (175) Finished: 8th among catchers
  10. Ryan Doumit (178) Finished: 4th among catchers
  11. Mike Napoli (195) Finished: 10th among catchers
  12. Ramon Hernandez (205) Finished: 11th among catchers

*I only ranked 12 catchers last year for two reasons. One: I didn’t play in a league – beside my 18-team SABR auction competition, which was an entirely different ranking experience – that had more than 10 teams. Two: typically people don’t double up on catchers. Frankly, after the top five, it gets a little muddy anyway. The injuries to V-Mart and Posada hurt my initial rankings and Johjima being horrible didn’t help, but otherwise, it appears my rankings ended up suitable for a standard 5x5 h2h league.

By: Albert Lang

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

H2H Rankings, Part I

I’m writing this article in protest – it’s certainly not because I need the money. My editors – I guess in keeping with Fantasy Baseball 101’s mission – won’t let me post my Survivor: Gabon, Earth’s Last Eden fantasy breakdown. Unfortunately (as you cringe), this is not a joke. I play and get killed in Fantasy Survivor every year. I once dominated Fantasy Apprentice (where have you gone Donald?!?) and posted good showings in Fantasy college football (love me some P.J. Hill). Of course I play fantasy football (4 leagues) and fantasy basketball (I won three years in a row, but failed to reach the finals last year).

Notwithstanding all these diverse interests, fantasy baseball remains my true (and first) love. This game or philosophic sporting viewpoint reminds me of Al from Step by Step – bear with me. This seminal program occurred at a decisive time for me: TGIF was still reasonably cool to watch and I was entering my teen years. So, I dedicate this column to Christine Lakin (nope, didn’t have to look it up).

Keeping this in mind, I’m going to run through my initial hitter rankings step-by-step for 2009 h2h 5x5 standard leagues. First I’ll provide a global perspective, then I’ll go position by position and end with SPs and RPs. I separate hitters and pitchers in my rankings because they are wholly different animals. If you don’t know me, I greatly devalue pitchers.

The LIMA strategy was butter to my bread back in the day. I tweaked to include the “I can’t believe Aaron Harang will continue to fall to me in the 8th/9th round,” strategy. This year he went in the 6th/7th and he ended up on none of my teams. We’re grooming James Shields to take over Harang’s role. Pitcher rankings will be forthcoming in a post framed as an ode to Eliza Dushku (don’t tell me you didn’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

I normally spend my first 8-9 draft picks on hitters. Then I binge on pitchers from 10-17 or so and try to grab sleepers where I think appropriate. I also tend to hate drafting catchers early (so they will be inordinately low on my board). I had Russell Martin in 2007 and Soto this year. If you can get top-flight catcher production in the 18-30 rounds of a draft, you already have a leg up.

The Yankees I’m low on
Yes I hate the Yankees as an entity/demonic societal subgroup, but I’ve been on the record the last few years as loving Damon (#35) and Abreu (#24). I think Derek Jeter (#81 hitter) is overvalued – he had those 34 stolen bases in 2006, but that is the outlier. Since then he has averaged 13 and in 2005 tallied only 14. You know what you’ll get from him 110 runs, 10-15 HRs, 65-75 RBIs and 10-15 SBs. That, my friends, is a poor man’s Michael Young (#68 in the rankings)

Robinson Cano (#106) is a great second half hitter (.280 versus .327 lifetime). Unfortunately he started this season well below that career .280 at .246. Clearly, he has been useful in the second half of every season he’s played and he has some upside, but don’t pay for pinstripes or someone who can cripple your BA. Also, I don’t know if you can count on him producing a ton of runs, HRs or RBIs, especially if he continues to hit in the 7-9 spots in the lineup.

I loved Carlos Guillen (#157) in 2004 – he brought me my first h2h title (of course that was a league on 'roids – we used doubles, triples, CGs, no-nos, etc.). I actually traded Kevin Millwood for Miguel Cabrera and Troy Percival in that league, but I digress. In the last four years, Carlos has averaged 91.5 games played. I was offered AROD and Guillen for Jose Reyes in a league this year. I turned it down saying I valued Reyes over AROD (which I do) and that Guillen was waiver wire fodder. I was quickly rebuffed. Well, by the end of the year, Guillen was with the other losers at the high school dance – unclaimed and alone.

Speaking of Miguel Cabrera (#18)…outside of the first year, I haven’t been his biggest fan. I had him in the low-twenties last year, while he was a consensus top 12 pick or so. He is young and reliable, although not quite at the AROD/Pujols level in my mind (obviously given my rankings). He only averaged 88 runs in his last two seasons and provides virtually no stolen bases. Home Runs, RBIs and BA consistency are good, but you can get that in later rounds (Carlos Lee, Abreu, Vlad, Dunn, etc.). I’d much rather grab a multi-dimensional player in the first two rounds or someone who dominates a category or two (Ryan Howard).

Still, the biggest surprise of all: FIVE Nationals made the hitter rankings – I’m as dumbstruck as you.

On to the Christine Lakin squad (those I love more than anyone else does):
Grady Sizemore (#2): a lot has been written about him. He is great and should be MVP. I’ve ranked him in the top 12 the last two years. He provides two of the more statistically important categories: HRs and SBs. In h2h, those categories get the least amount of weekly points, so accumulating them is helpful. The runs will be there next year in Cleveland (they cant be this bad). I’m not worried about his BA decline as his Ks have also gone down – it’ll adjust. If I get a top 5 pick, I’m trading down and taking Grady and recouping a ton of value when the draft slithers back in the second round. In short, I wish I were one of Grady’s ladies.

Let me introduce you to Ian Kinsler (#15), second rounder. Apparently I have an affinity for short haired, kind of goofy looking ball players. People have forgotten that he was a legitimate MVP candidate before going down with an injury. While he may be assuming an injury-prone tag, he only missed 40 games this year and 30 last year. Plus his production for the season – not adjusted for the time he missed – was good enough for top 30 in my book. He also amassed 38 more hits this year than last year in just 35 more at bats. Bumping him up as a Chase Utley clone into the late second round doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Also, if this global warming thing is true, it’s just going to get more and more humid in Arlington.

The other three surprise candidates all rank in the top 35: Matt Kemp (#21), Jason Bay (#23), and Shane Victorino (#32). Sign me up, I’m a signed, sealed, believer in Matt Kemp. He lowered his strike-outs by 65 in the second half, albeit in 80 fewer at bats. Those fewer at bats didn’t hinder his power, though, as he hit nine home runs both before and after the All Star break. Maybe I’m a little bullish on him by counting on a repeat SB performance, but for a player who might not have reached his full potential, I’d grab him in the second round and be ecstatic.

Jason Bay as a stolen base aficionado is clearly a one-hit wonder (where have you gone 2005?). Since joining the Red Sox, Bay, in 200 less at bats, had only 13 less home runs and remarkably 27 fewer RBIs than with the woeful Pirates. He’s good, he’s out of Pittsburgh, he ain’t a reach in the third round. He’s also anchoring my post-season fantasy team.

Shane Victorino (#32): I dubbed as the 2008 version of the 2007 version of Eric Byrnes. I loved Victorino, especially in relation to where he was going. But by the time it would be prudent to pick him, I had loaded my plate with so many OFs that I had to watch a lucky schmuck grab him and rejoice. Of course, as someone who loves Byrnes, you don’t need to remind me of his regression. Victorino doesn’t have the health issues Byrnes had, plays in a hitter’s park and slots into a delicious line-up. He was a sixth round pick by the Dodgers in 1999 and you should laugh to the championship if you get him around there.

So, how crazy are my h2h rankings? Let me know, post a comment!!!

By: Albert Lang

Monday, October 6, 2008

NL Fantasy Baseball MVP

Shortly after the playoffs end pundits Will review their choice for the National League MVP award. For us fantasy baseball folk, our analysis is a different. For example, in roto leagues, we value players who are dominant in specific categories. We favor the Corey Hart's of the league over the .250 30 homerun hitter. In real life, Carlos Delgado is likely to receive strong consideration from the beat writers for his ability to bring the Mets back from dead in the middle of the summer. And, indeed, Delgado was a valuable player in fantasy baseball as well, but he should not be fawned over as much since he is only a two-category player.

How do we go about choosing the most valuable fantasy player? There are many methodologies to consider. They include: VORP - Value over Replacement Player, position scarcity analysis, all around best statistics in the five hitting categories, or best value compared to draft position. Reasonable people may disagree on the choice, and that is part of the fun. For our purposes, we are not conducting a scientific analysis. Rather, we are going with the unscientific analysis of asking ourselves, "who would you have drafted first overall if you had the benefit of hindsight?" We do not consider value compared to draft position because we will consider players under that analysis in a separate article (Ryan Ludwick, Matt Kemp, Jorge Cantu, etc.). Here are the contenders:

Albert Pujols (.357-37-116-7-100)
Ryan Howard (.251-48-146-1-105)
Hanley Ramirez (.301-33-67-35-125)
Matt Holliday (.321-25-88-28-107)
David Wright (.302-33-124-15-114)
Lance Berkman (.312-29-106-18-114)

We believe these players were a cut above the rest in the National League this year. As a comparison, 30 players in the NL hit 25 or more homers, 14 had 100 rbi's or more, 11 had 25 steals or more, and 14 had a .300 batting average or higher.

And the winner is . . .

Albert Pujols. His .351 batting average is so far ahead of the average player that it really sets him apart. But his 37 homers and 116 rbi's are nothing to scoff at either. Pujols finished second in the NL in average, 4th in hr, 4th in rbi's, and 14th in runs. Although he only stole seven bases, his other stats are so dominant that he is most deserving of the NL fantasy baseball MVP award. It should also be noted that his preseason draft position fell due to fears that he would have surgery on his elbow. Compare him to his competitors.

Our runner up is Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez gets extra points for being an offensive force at shortstop, a position known for its scarcity of talent. His stolen bases and runs are clearly superior to most of the other players on the list, and his batting average and homers, especially when compared to other shortstops, are particularlyu impressive. In fact, his value over other NL shorstops is so great that it was hard not to choose him as MVP. But in the final analysis, Pujols' 50 extra points in batting average and 49 extra rbi's were the decider.

The other contenders have a similar story. Pujols dwarfs Matt Holiday's and Lance Berkman's stats in average, homers and rbi's. As a third basemen, David Wright is a strong contender and his stats are roughly similar to Pujols'. But Pujols had a batting average that was 55 points higher than Wright! That's like choosing someone who hit .245 over someone who hit .300. Conversely, Pujols' homers and rbi's pale in comparison to Ryan Howard's production. With a solid end of the season, Howard proved he was an offensive juggernaut, smashing 48 homers and driving in 146 runs. In fact, Howard's homers and especially his rbi's, are every bit as dominant as Pujols' batting average. But Howard loses out because he provides a net loss in two categories: batting average and steals. Howard's .251 average actually hurts most teams' batting average, and his one stolen base cannot compare to the others on this list.

Have a different opinion? Have a different choice in a H2H league? Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Playoffs

There’s Only ONE October!!! Really? And, only once a year can you play Fantasy Baseball Play-offs! And I bet you thought fantasy baseball season was over. Wrong.

Play-offs!?! Play-offs!?! Yes, fantasy baseball head to head play-offs exist.

Recently, my two best baseball buddies held a brief post-season draft. You can follow the standings here. If you need help incorporating into your local leagues, let me know and I can get you the spreadsheet. In general, you should follow typical h2h draft strategy (ignore pitchers, grab good hitters, diversify and claim HRs and SBs where possible).

Our version of post-season FB adds a new dimension: playing time, i.e. there is no redraft once players are eliminated.

So it behooves you to factor in players who will advance because then you get more pitching appearances and with that greater opportunities for Wins, Strike-outs, Saves, etc and more at-bats, which should help in almost every hitting category.

Still, I tend to agree that the baseball play-offs are more or less a crapshoot. So I draft on best available, others though draft from teams they think will move on. Sure, if two players are close, I’ll roll the dice with the guy on the team I think will go further, but in general, grab best available.

When the Cardinals won the World Series I had the 3rd/4th picks, I took Pujols. I won. Conversely, last year, Chris loaded up on Rockies and was rewarded.

The draft went like this:

Written by Albert Lang