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Friday, February 23, 2007

2007 Fantasy Preview -10 Undervalued Players (Sleepers)

It's not really fair to call these players Sleepers in that you've probably heard of most of them. They are people who you can draft late (or later than comparable players) and get decent production out of.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Kelvim EscobarSP202

dwthtb: Read the comments about Santana in our Busts list. Escobar pitched very well last year and had only 11 wins because of poor RS and poor defense (27 UER). He only made 3 fewer starts than Santana, so while he does have some injury history, he is solid across 4 categories. Take him in Round 20 and then laugh at your friend who drafted Wang in Round 12 when Escobar beats/matches him in every category.

tent time: How does Escobar fall so far? Poor run support lead to a record of 11-14, but a 3.60 ERA and a K/BB ratio of nearly 3/1. Last year's bad look will probably even itself out, but even if it doesn't he'll deliver strong numbers in ERA, WHIP and K's.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
David BushSP


dwthtb: This one has been documented extensively by Eric Karabell, but basically Bush gives up few BB's, gets a ton of K's, and only had a bad ERA due to some bad luck. Phenomenal WHIP too. ERA/Wins should improve assuming that K/BB ratio stays the same.

tent time: Fewer hits than innings pitched, solid K's and a great WHIP last year but gave up a few too many homers (26) on a mediocre ballclub. He's a year older and should improve. His K/BB ratio of nearly 4/1 speaks highly of his potential.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Morgan Ensberg3B205

dwthtb: Ensberg is starting to look like : great in odd-numbered years, and average/bad in even numbered ones. One should remember though that last year he was off too a good start before he ran into shoulder problems. Could easily rebound to 25-100 and you can draft him in Round 20+ way behind Aubrey Huff, Chad Tracey, Adrian Beltre.

tent time: In CBS Sportsline head to head leagues, Ensberg is currently the 27th third base eligible player being drafted, after the likes of Mike Lowell, Wilson Betemit, Mark DeRosa and Adrian Beltre (who doesn't deserve to even be mentioned in fantasy baseball discussions). Ensberg is only one year removed from a 35 homer season. Last year, he hit 23 long balls, but more importantly put up a .396 OBP in 120 games. Expect at least a decent rebound.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Barry BondsOF172

dwthtb: Love him or hate him, Bonds put up decent numbers in 2006. Granted his inordinate number of BB's don't really help you in AVG leagues, but he could easily go 25-90 with 80 Runs.

tent time: Bonds is currently being drafted after Gary Matthews, Jr. I would rather draft my dog than Gary Matthews, Jr, and she can't hit for much power (fast, though). Everybody in your league hates Bonds and many will attempt a moral stance and say they won't draft Bonds at all. Take advantage of this and add Bonds in the mid to late rounds (12-16).

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Pat BurrellOF138

dwthtb: He's a virtual lock for 30-100 and should have plenty of chances for RBI's as team's pitch around Ryan Howard. His average won't be great and he won't score a ton of runs in the number 5 hole, but how many 30-100 guys can you find left in round 15+?

tent time: Was Burrell's year really that bad? No. He still hit 28 homers with a .890 OPS. His biggest problem was probably all the at bats he had after Howard cleared off the bases, killing his RBI totals. With all the walks Howard is likely to accrue, Burrell should have tons of RBI opportunities. Right now he's being drafted after Corey Patterson who literally helps you in only one category. Also, my wife says he's hot.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Derek LoweSP163

dwthtb: He beat or matched Wang in every pitching category last year (ex. wins) but still ended up with 16 (tied for NL lead). His numbers were actually remarkably consistent the past 2 years in LA (ERA, WHIP separated by .02 and K/BB ratio went down slightly last year). Take him 8 rounds after Wang or Barry Zito and get similar results.

tent time: Lowe is consistent, and what his last two years in LA illustrate is how little control over their record starting pitchers have. That Lowe is being drafted some 30 spots after Wang is unbelievable.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Scott OlsenSP193

dwthtb: Olsen pitched decently last year and should get better this year. His home numbers were terrible compared to his road numbers (which is strange consider how much of a pitcher's park Dolphin Stadium is). Led all Marlins pitchers in K's and had the best K/BB ratio out of all the young guns. 2006 numbers were virtually identical to Dontrelle Willis and he didn't have any injury problems unlike Sanchez and Johnson.

tent time: As a young Marlins pitcher with solid strikeout numbers who has managed to avoid injury this far, Scott Olsen stands out on his staff. If he can cut his walks a little bit, we're looking at a possible breakout season.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Tim HudsonSP200


tent time: My partner in blogging looks at Tim Hudson and sees what most people see, and that is a pitcher whose numbers have been declining for 3 straight years. I see a veteran desperate to turn his career around who underwent a torturous offseason training program. I'll draft him very very late, and probably wait a few weeks to start using him, but I expect to be rewarded when I do. Why? Gut feeling.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Adam Laroche1B144

dwthtb: Laroche caught fire after the ASB last year and hopefully that will continue this year. He could easily be a 30-100 1B with 90-100 runs and decent AVG, yet you should be able to get him several rounds after Giambi, Sexson, and Swisher, all of whom kill your avg.

tent time: We all know his numbers in the second half of '06 (.655 slugging) and with a season coming up where he'll hit behind walk machine Jason Bay, look for LaRoche's RBI's to jump.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Ian Kinsler2B175

dwthtb: Kinsler showed moderate power and SB in an abbreviated 2006. He could easily go 20-20 which would be especially valuable at 2B since it is such a week position after Utley. He should also score a ton of runs hitting at the top of that Texas lineup. You can wait til Round 15+ to get production equivalent to Ray Durham, Josh Barfield, or Marcus Giles.

tent time: 11 steals and 14 homers in 423 at bats in '06 makes Kinsler a decent pick to go 20-20 in '07. I'd love it if he'd bat second between Lofton and Young, so if he does, watch out for a lot of runs scored. Right now he's the 13th second basemen drafted, so don't panic when a lot of second sackers are coming off the boards and remember there's potential late in the draft.

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2007 Fantasy Preview--10 Overvalued Players (Busts)

It's not really fair to call these players Busts in that some of them may turn out to have fine years. However, their production isn't going to match the position in which you draft them. So they're really "Overvalued" rather than Busts. For the record, the average draft position included comes from cbssportsline.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Felipe LopezSS (2B)79Podsednik, C. Patterson

dwthtb: His value pretty much lies in his steals. He's now going to play a full season on a team with a terrible offense, in a pitcher's park, so he will score some runs, but I'm not banking on anywhere near 100. Why draft him for the steals when you can get Corey Patterson or Podsednik (granted he is injured), several rounds later. The only upside to him is that he will be eligible at both MI positions.

tent time: In 2005, Lopez stole 15 bases. In an injury shortened 2004 season (79 games) he stole 1 (one) base. In 2006, he stole 44 bases. If you think 2006 is the real Lopez and you're sure he will duplicate those steals, then by all means go get him. I am not so sure.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Takashi SaitoCP82

dwthtb: He had an amazing season last year with an ungodly amount of K's. The question is can he do it again at age 37 especially with several young fireballers (Broxton, Billingsley) breathing down his neck.

tent time: I suppose the question with Saito is how much did accomplish simply by tricking hitters who had never seen him before? I would expect at least a slight decline and I wouldn't draft him ahead of Putz or Hoffman, unless you are wholly confident that his strikeout total will remain high.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Ryan Zimmerman3B65

dwthtb: I just don't see how a player with no lineup protection in a pitcher's park on a terrible offense is going to improve his numbers across the board, esp. HR. Chipper Jones outperformed him last year in only 4.5 months of play. Could easily wait several rounds and take Eric Chavez/Morgan Ensberg who could match him if they rebound to pre-injury performance

tent time: The allure for Zim is that he's young (24) and sure to improve. The problem is that even if he improves his game, there's hardly anybody around him to drive in, or to be driven in by. Nick Johnson has a broken leg and won't be back until at least the All Star break, leaving Zimmerman surrounded in the lineup by the likes of Brian Schneider and Nook Logan. I'm not saying Zim is bad, but since runs and RBI count, you'll be better off drafting someone like Chipper Jones or Scott Rolen later on.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Chien-Ming WangSP121

dwthtb: He offers no K's, and the Wins are largely a function of Run Support (6.32 Runs/game) and his WHIP wasn't that good (1.31). Could easily end up with 14 wins. Derek Lowe could have just as many wins, comparable ERA & WHIP, and more K's many rounds later.

tent time: The total lack of strikeouts may not be a huge deal in real baseball, but people this is fantasy baseball. Just like Christina Aguilera getting married doesn't effect my real life, but sure as hell messes up my fantasy life. In 218 innings last year, Wang only K'd 76. With a WHIP about 1.30, he basically becomes a 2 category pitcher - Wins and ERA. Should his run support decrease (no sheffield, older giambi and damon) or some more of those ground balls find holes, his value will plummet. Let somebody else take the risk.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Ervin SanatanaSP124

dwthtb: He walks a lot of batters and had a high ERA for pitching his home games in a pitcher's park. Compared to Escobar, he gave up more HR, more BB's, and fewer K's. He got more wins only because of run support--13th (6.32 runs/game) and defense. Don't expect that to continue

tent time: How the Angels managed to score over 6 runs a game for him is a mystery. A good mystery. Santana had a decent year, but he walks too many (70) and that offense will most certainly not back him up again in 2007 and unfortunately, even though they don't mean a lot in real baseball, Wins are a fantasy stat.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Vernon WellsOF36

dwthtb: Wells had a fine season last year and even contributed 17 steals. However, it was only his 2nd 30-100 season and first since 2003 (which preceeded two straight years of declining OPS). The Blue Jays lineup should be better with Frank Thomas, but Wells simply isn't a stud outfielder in the likes of Andruw Jones, Carlos Lee, or Bobby Abreu.

tent time: It's amazing how one big year can make people forget about the past. If the Wells that shows up in 2007 (bloated checkbook and all) is the Wells of 2006, then by all means, use a high pick (still not the second round, though) on him. He should score a lot of runs with Thomas and Glaus behind him. But if that average and homers dip to where they were in '04-'05 (.272 - .269, 23- 28) you'll be disappointed that you left Jones, Lee and Abreu out there. Oh, and I wouldn't count on those 17 steals repeating themselves, either.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Joe MauerC16

dwthtb: Mauer is clearly the best catcher on the market. But his average overshadowed how little he contributed in other fantasy categories. Among catchers he was 5th in RBI, 13th in HR and 3rd in steals. No way he should be drafted when people like Andruw Jones, Carlos Lee, Ichiro, Aramis Ramirez or Holliday are still available.

tent time: For a catcher to go in the third round, he'd have to be Piazza circa late 1990's. Mauer has a great average, and should score runs ahead of Morneau and Cuddyer, but there just isn't enough power here to justify the pick. Sure everybody wants a good catcher, but wait a few rounds and take Martinez or McCann. Or wait a few more rounds and take a risk on Piazza. Use that second or third round pick on the stud hitter or starter.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Jermaine DyeOF50

dwthtb: Dye will probably have a solid 30-100 season. Just don't draft him expecting to get a top 5 OF (like he was last year).

tent time: Career years happen once. They don't happen twice. If they did, they wouldn't be career years.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Ben SheetsSP56

dwthtb: Sheets pitched really well in his last 8-9 starts last year, but I just can't trust a guy who has had repeated injuries on the same body part over the last 2 season. No way, I'm taking a guy with an injury history over someone like Smoltz or Aaron Harang who have shown consistent solid production over the last 2 years.

tent time: I will not be burned by him. A player in our league said the following to no less than 10 times last season: "And when Sheets comes back, my rotation will be dominant." I refuse to be that person. May as well draft Prior. Don't be blinded by what he did in 2004, the last year he was healthy. He could be great, but let's be honest, he probably won't be.

PlayerPositionAverage Draft PositionComparable Players
Dan Uggla2B98

dwthtb: Uggly finished 2006 as the 3rd ranked 2B due to great power and Run totals. Seeing as he came out of nowhere and had a very poor finish to last year, I don't see him improving much or putting up 25-100 numbers again.

tent time: Did Uggla play over his head last year? The whole team probably did (except Cabrera). All we know is that in 122 September at bats, Uggla's OBP was .269. Go with Barfield or Kinsler later.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Fantasy Baseball Scoring: Roto vs H2H

To Roto or not to Roto: That is the question. Rotisserie (roto) scoring is still used in a majority of leagues, but Head to Head (H2H) scoring has made some progress in recent years. Does anyone honestly use points scoring??? Anyways, although leagues generally use the same categories, the scoring and results can be completely different. This article will look at the differences (both subtle and obvious) between the two scoring systems, highlight the pros and cons of each and show the types of players which are better suited to each scoring system.

Differences in scoring
Roto scoring is cumulative throughout season whereas H2H scoring is determined on weekly intervals. If you didn't know that by this point, then you're also probably under the impression that Derek Jeter is a great fielder and that baseball awards are extremely important. In which case, this website probably gave you a heart attack. In any case, the main difference between Roto and H2H scoring is that points can be made up in Roto leagues, but once they are won or lost in H2H leagues, they are gone forever.

To explain this better, let's assume that you had a team last year that included Juan Pierre, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Rafael Furcal, Hideki Matsui, Carlos Zambrano, and Jake Peavy. As of May 1st, you would have 2 hitters batting under .200 (Furcal, Ramirez), only 1 hitter over .260 (Teixeira), no hitter with more than 4 HR (Ramirez), 2 hitters contributing a total of 4 RBI's--meaning they were on pace for 12 RBI each (Furcal/Pierre) and 2 pitchers with 1 combined win and ERA's of 5.17 and 5.35 respectively (Peavy/Zambrano). These could easily have represented someone's first 7 picks or 6 of the first 10. And your team would have been screwed in every offensive category except perhaps steals. Same thing with Wins, ERA, and WHIP (both did manage to still get some K's). And you'd probably be ready to give up on fantasy baseball and perhaps your life (as I was, owning 5 of those players). In Roto scoring, the HR/AVG/RBI can all be made up over the course of the season because the only thing that matters is where you stand in each category on Oct 1. So even though Tex and Ramirez only had 25 HR at the AS Break, they hit 46 HR post AS Break which would have raised you a few spots in HR (and theoretically RBI as well). However, in a H2H league, all of the weeks when you lost HR/RBI/AVG because of them are points on the scoreboard, that you can't erase. They are permanently factored into your record (and thus your standing) once the week is over. This is the main difference between H2H and Roto which most people don't understand. In Roto leagues you can still end up getting more HR/RBI points than the slob who drafted/added Chris Shelton, Xavier Nady, Johny Gomes, and Phil Nevin. But in a H2H league, you probably lost quite handedly (at least in the OFF categories) if you played him during April at any point. Now, you would undoubtedly have destroyed him and taken the HR/RBI points when you played him again in June and August. But the point is that those points you lost in April add up and in a Roto league, he wouldn't get them because by the end of the season, you would have moved ahead of him and thus, taken them away. This above example also brings me to another difference between the leagues and this involves adding/dropping players.

Roster Transactions
The scoring differences I described above also relate to the adding/dropping of players. In Roto, you can afford to hold onto struggling players for much longer than H2H, because your finish line is months away whereas in H2H it is only 1 week away at most. When Aramis Ramirez struggles week after week, he keeps losing you points in your H2H standings. But in Roto, he has time to make it up in the standings. So it's much more tempting (and sometimes necessary) to cut players in H2H leagues much sooner than in Roto (of course those who dropped Ramirez or Justin Morneau last year were probably kicking themselves post AS Break). Of course, good judgement needs to be exercised as always.

Adding and dropping players applies much more to pitchers though as a pitcher's performance is much more dependent on the matchup(s) they face that week (team, ballpark, etc.). This is why its not as critical to draft a solid 5-7 man rotation in H2H as it is in Roto. In H2H you can keep streaming pitchers in and out of your lineup (either weekly or daily depending on your league's settings) and end up with the same results in Wins, K's, ERA/WHIP as the guy who drafted 3-4 pitchers in the first 12 rounds. Of course you still run the risk of screwing your ERA/WHIP by having 1 or 2 bad starters get completely shelled.

Category Valuations
On the offensive side, 4 of the 5 categories have pretty much the same value in both scoring systems. The only category which you need to treat differently is SB. In roto leagues, every steal counts when its one of the 60 from Jose Reyes or 1 of the 9 from Matt Holliday. However, in a H2H league, the 1 or 2 steals you may get from Chase Utley or Carlos Lee in a week is completey useless, unless you manage to win steals for that week. Thus, the main point is that marginal steals (8-20) have very little value in H2H leagues as compared to Roto leagues. You may get 1-2 steals each week from Lee/Utley/Bay but you'll still most likely lose the SB point against the guy with Reyes, the guy with Figgins, the guy with Pierre, the guy with H Ramirez, and the guy with Crawford. In Roto, Lee/Utley/Bay can equal Reyes over the long haul in SB; in H2H they might or might not equal Reyes during 2-3 times a season you play the team he's on.

On the pitching side, there's not much of a difference for Wins, Saves, and K's since Wins/Saves are so fluky and depend on so many things besides a pitcher's performance, and high strikeout pitchers usually have high strikeout games. You generally don't see pitchers with fluctuations between 1K and 10K games on a regular basis. ERA & WHIP are the two categories which should be treated differently. In Roto, a bad pitching performance stays around forever, whereas in H2H it's gone the next week against a new opponent. When you start Jake Westbrook against the Tigers (look up his career numbers), it's gonna take at least 2 (or more) starts to negate those 8 ER and WHIP over 2.00. In H2H, his crummy start may cost you ERA and WHIP for that week, but its not going to affect your ERA/WHIP going forward (which it does in Roto). This is why its much more important to get a core group of 5-7 starters in Roto than in H2H. This also applies to closers as well, but in the reverse. Terrible closers (who may end up with similar save numbers as Nathan, Rivera, etc.) can be absolutely brutal on your ERA/WHIP and can effectively ruin your ERA/WHIP with one outing because they only have 1 inning at most to distribute those runs over (as compared to starters who usually last at least 3 innings). This will be discussed later in the positional valuation section. The point is that in Roto, Bobby Jenks 41 saves are equivalent to Wagner's 40 saves and Jenks higher ERA/WHIP don't hurt you as much because they happened over a small number of IP compared to the entire season (1250-1600 IP). You can make up the 13 ER difference among your starters (ex. Zambrano vs Bonderman). However, since the intervals are so small in H2H (1 week), several bad closer outings can completely ruin your ERA/WHIP. In other words, 4 scoreless IP usually won't win you ERA/WHIP (since this is at most 10% of your IP for the week), but 8-10 ER over 2 IP can shoot your ERA/WHIP so high that its impossible to recover over only a wek. Thus, when you hear Eric Karabell constantly saying "Saves are saves" remember that this applies mainly to Roto.

Position Valuations
On the offensive side, there isn't much difference between most positions since unknown players always emerge during the season. However OF is one position where H2H leagues pose a significant difference than Roto. Because there is so much more offense for OF (as compared to say SS or 2B), there are always OF to be plucked off the wavier wire going to a favorable hitters park or on a hot streak. This is especially true in deep leagues which have 4 or 5 OF starting. As mentioned earlier, because the points earned at the end of the week can not be taken away, it pays to pick up hot OF who are going to hitters parks or facing terrible teams. The difference between OF and other position is that there is just so much more depth than other positions (except perhaps 1B).

On the defensive side, closers and starting pitchers both have their value changed depending on the league. For SP, middle of the road starters have more value in Roto than in H2H for the same reasoning mentioned above regarding the fact that points earned in H2H leagues are finalized. Dominant starting pitchers have a little more value in Roto because there will be some weeks in H2H where they have bad starts and therefore don't deliver their value. But overall, there's little difference between people like Santana, Carpenter, etc. in either type of scoring system. Closers however exhibit a huge difference. Top quality closers are much more valuable in H2H than in Roto because 1 bad closer outing can effectively cost you 2 points (ERA/WHIP) and also Saves if a RP blows 2-3 saves in a week (if you don't think it happens look up Ryan Dempster or Fausto Carmona). It's the same basic reasoning as the SB valuation mentioned above. You can get 35 saves out of Joe Nathan or Joe Borowski. In Roto scoring, you can negate Borowski's higher ERA/WHIP with your starters and the impact also isn't that great by the end of the season. However, in H2H, there will be weeks where you can't make up for the 1 IP, 4 ER outing or the 1/3 IP 3 ER outing because you only have 40-50 IP as compared to a whole season. Thus, stud closers are much more valuable in H2H than in Roto.

Winning or Losing isn't much different in Roto and H2H leagues. Bad teams in Roto leagues are usually bad in H2H leagues as well, and vice versa. However, the main difference is that H2H leagues have playoffs, very similar to MLB playoffs, and as a result, the best team doesn't always win (especially when 8 of their players sit out the final day of the season). Thus, although we mentioned earlier people can make up ground over the course of a season due to struggling players, its quite difficult to go from last to first in Roto. You might be able to make it to 3rd or even 2nd, but usually in Roto, the teams at the very top (1st, 2nd) are teams that have been consistent the entire year. In H2H leagues, you can essentially do what the Marlins did in 2003 ---get off to a terrible start, then catch fire due to key additions (Cabrera, Willis), and end up as the best team at the end of the season (even though your overall record didn't reflect it). This is one of the things which makes Roto a much more fair evaluation of team/manager quality than H2H. H2H rewards the hot team at the end of the season (like pro sports playoffs--which still usually is one of, if not, the best regular season teams); Roto rewards long term consistency and performance. It's a tradeoff essentially between fairness, interest, and excitement. Which ever scoring system you prefer, just remember that JD Drew has never gone 30-100 once in his career and that Jimmy Rollins outhomered Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Tejada last year.


RotisserieHead to Head
Pro's-Rewards overall consistency (similar to MLB regular season)

-Can make up ground for struggling players over the course of the entire season

-Don't need to pay attention as much as H2H
-more interesting, small weekly intervals allow people to stay interested in improving their standings

-Playoffs give people a chance to make up for early season struggles (similar to MLB playoff system)
Con's-long season; players tend to lose interest as season wears on esp. those at the bottom of the standings

-can be difficult to make up ground after a bad start since no playoffs at the conclusion

-Struggling players lose points which can't be made up

-Best team doesn't always win in playoffs because of 1 or 2 hot/cold players

-Playoffs usually happen when teams are resting star players for the MLB playoffs

-Requires constant roster attention--especially in leagues with minimum IP

-- Luck plays a huge factor, as there will be weeks when your team will have better stats than every other team in the league----except the team you're playing that week.

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Fantasy Baseball Preview 2007

The blog has been pretty quiet for about the last month, but don't worry, the baseball season (and specifically the fantasy baseball season) are just warming up. Over the next week, we'll be providing plenty of articles looking at sleepers, potential busts, rookies, comparisons of league types, and of course the overall top-50 players. So sit back, relax, kick up your feet, and remember, its all fun and games until someone drafts that catcher in the 4th round. And then its just fun(ny).