Friday, July 30, 2010

New Fantasy Ball Junkie Article

I have a new post up over at Fantasy Ball Junkie looking at the value of closers in H2H leagues from here on out. I simply simulated in the same way as the Stolen Bases and Home Runs articles from before. Saves are an interesting bunch, and it really depends on the dispersion of closers in your league. It also depends a large amount on the size of the league. In a 20-team league, 2 closers is likely enough to take down just about everyone else. On the other hand, in a 10-team league, if you have a single closer, he's pretty much worthless to you for winning Saves (though, they can still help with ERA, WHIP and K's).

I've been missing lately because I'm working (just about done) on my qualifying exams here, beginning to develop and plan a new class that I'm teaching this fall on methodology and analytical tools in sport management, and also working on a consulting project for a pro team who I won't name here. It's all been fun (well, not the exam part) and I just haven't been able to get on here and post anything meaningful. Same goes for FBJ until my post yesterday. We still update regularly with Quick Hits though, so keep an eye on the site. It's likely that we'll begin covering football in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to apply the same kind of simulation technique to football with points, so keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Halfway Done: Revisiting Preseason Predictions and Fantasy Callouts for Better or for Worse

So now that we're just about at the All-Star Break, I figured I'd go back and check out the predictions I made in my preseason prediction post as well as my post called "Fantasy's Fantasies". Here we go:

Fantasies:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury is worth a 2nd Round Pick. I DISAGREED.
Looks like this was right, but mainly because of injury. Right nonetheless. Even if Ellsbury were healthy, guys like Juan Pierre were going much later and Ellsbury doesn't offer much more than SB and Runs. Carl Crawford was available around the time of Ellsbury. CORRECT.

2. Joe Mauer is not worth a 1st Round pick beacause he's a catcher. I DISAGREED.
In retrospect, Mauer has not lived up to any expectations. Yuck. However, I did mention that there were reasons not to pick him. Just because he's a catcher isn't one I agree with. Either way, I have Mauer in 1 or 2 leagues where I took him in Round 2 and he hasn't done much for me. Oh well. WRONG.

3. Manny Ramirez is washed up. I DISAGREED.
Manny has been a bit on the wussy side this year, but when he's played he's been great at .322 with 8 HR and 39 RBI. While he hasn't really lived up to his draft value, that's not the line of a washed up player as many were predicting. I'll say, TIE (but you can tell me I'm just being biased).

4. Jason Bay has a ceiling of 25 HR at Citifield. I DISAGREED.
I still disagree that this is a ceiling, but I was certainly wrong about him hitting very many HR. WRONG.

5. Nick Markakis > Adam Lind. I DISAGREED.
Before the season Markakis was going rather early. Neither of these guys is worth their weight in Trident Layers, so I'm going to have to say TIE, since they've both been so terrible. Though, if I had to pick, I'd say Lind's power(ish) outperforms Markakis's nothingness.

6. Grady Sizemore is a Demigod. I STRONGLY DISAGREED.
Sizemore hasn't done much to impress me ever, and the fact that someone at Razzball suggested he could go 40-40 this year sparked this entire post. I would like to say that here, I am CORRECT.

7. Aaron Hill is overrated as a 5th Round pick. I DISAGREED.
And boy was I WRONG. His injuries haven't helped, and he still seems to be hitting HR, but with Cano and Pedroia going right before him, you should have grabbed them instead. My bad.

8. Strasburg and Heyward are worth preseason draft picks. I DISAGREED.
And you know what, I stick by it. Heyward starting out strong and since then did nothing but strike out and get hurt. His .249 AVG and 11 HR can be eclipsed with ease on the waiver wire, and he strikes out like Mark Reynolds. Strasburg is a tougher defense. But you could get his production from working waiver pickups of guys like Matt Thornton, Dan Bard, etc. Or, you could replace that 10th Round pick with a hitter that would give you stats all year. Or both. If Strasburg was a late round flier, he might have been worth the opportunity cost of that roster slot (depending on the depth of your rosters). But in a standard 10 or 12 team league, there has been plenty of pitching to go around. The exception here is H2H leagues. Strasburg should be helpful down the stretch. Unfortunately, he may not be able to contribute in the fantasy playoffs should he get you there. I'll say I'm CORRECT, but it's closer to a TIE.

9. David Ortiz and Vladimir Guerrero are done. I DISAGREED.
Yeah. I was right. This was my favorite one. And in my 20-team keeper league I got these guys for a combined $22 when Pablo Sandoval went for $70. I win. CORRECT.

10. Tim Lincecum is worth a 1st Round draft pick. I DISAGREED.
Before the season, I saw that there was a huge plateau of very very good pitchers--some with Lincecum upside in any given year--and couldn't understand why people were going for him in Round 1. Thus far, he has disappointed as a 1st Round pick (though still solid), and the opportunity cost of passing up on Miguel Cabrera or Carl Crawford have likely bitten owners in the butt. CORRECT. And for a good example why, here's a snapshot at one of my 10-team ESPN Champions league pitching staff with the price paid.

Ubaldo Jimenez $10
Josh Johnson $12
Yovanni Gallardo $14
Clayton Kershaw $8
Francisco Liriano $1
Phil Hughes $1
Shaun Marcum (FA)
Colby Lewis (FA)
Matt Thornton $1
Neftali Feliz $1
Octavio Dotel$1
Matt Capps $1
TOTAL: $50

And Lincecum went for $36 all by himself! That's what I paid for Ubaldo/Gallardo/Johnson combined.



Okay...now for real baseball:

AL: Yankees, Rangers, Twins and Red Sox (WC)

Yanks and Rangers are leading their divisions as I predicted. The Wild Card is between my predicted Red Sox and the Rays. Now the Rangers have Cliff Lee. Winners. The Tigers have really surprised me with their hitting. I'm not sure anyone saw the trio of Brennan Boesch-Ordonez-Guillen actually contributing this year, but that's why they're ahead of my predicted Twins. And the return of Max Scherzer should be helpful. If Damon starts to hit, the Twins may have a tough time catching up. They'll need a bit more from Joe Mauer and Scott Baker to do so. My surprise pick of the Mariners certainly hasn't lived up to expectations. Is it okay to say my other surprise pick was the White Sox? I did pick them to be 2nd in the Division after all.

NL: Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Rockies (WC)

Well looks like I'm not doing so well here. I don't think the Padres are going to hang on to that lead, but I might be wrong. Colorado has a nice team, but still sits in 3rd place behind both the Dodgers and Padres. I definitely saw the Reds hitting the ball well this year, but the pitching breakout was somewhat unexpected. And they don't even have some of their top prospects performing (Chapman, Volquez, Homer Bailey if you can still call him a prospect). The Cards might need another hitter if they want to be sure to pass up the Reds this year. They're a fun team to watch. And while many people saw Atlanta as a surprise contender (I had my doubts, but thought they'd be solid), I'm not sure anyone predicted the Mets to also be ahead of the Phillies. The NL East will have a shakeup before the season ends, and I suspect the Phillies still end up on top. But that's another fun race to watch. The NL is the league to keep an eye on this year. AL is pretty boring. Oh yeah, and my surprise team isn't faring so well, as the Marlins sit at 41-45. Can I just pretend that Josh Johnson was the surprise?

AL Awards:

MVP: Mauer
ROY: Sean-Rod
Cy Young: King Felix
Surprise Candidate: Longoria

Looks like #1 is out. Longoria isn't really any huge surprise, but that was also wrong, as he's had a power dip of late. King Felix looks very solid, and could make a run for it. But he'll have to compete with Cliff Lee on that one. Sean-Rod isn't going to overtake Boesch any time soon, though he's had a decent rookie season splitting time at 2B. MVP? Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, and Miguel Cabrera are the frontrunners (with Cabrera leading). I almost picked Cabrera, too, damn it! Don't forget about Vladdy, but he'll have a tough time winning an award as a DH.

NL Awards:

MVP: Pujols
ROY: Heyward
Cy Young: Halladay
Surprise: Gallardo

So far, Johnson is leading the Cy Young race, and I'd argue for Joey Votto as this year's MVP thus far, but David Wright, Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez are all worthy candidates. I discussed Heyward earlier, and it looks like Strasburg will run away with the ROY award (but don't count out Buster Posey, who's been on fire of late). If Gallardo comes back very soon, he could still contend for the Cy Young. The NL CY Race will be very interesting, and there are probably going to be about 10 guys that would have won it with their stats in any other year. Johnson has got to be my pick at this juncture.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miami Fit for a King: Let's Put This in Perspective, Cleveland

With all the hubbub about LeBron lately, I thought I'd take a look at the Heat and their drawing power. Now, Miami is a big city, but look at the Marlins attendance woes. I was curious about the Heat's ability to attract fans and, as it turns out, it's a bit different. Below is the attendance for the Heat over the course of being in Miami plotted against the NBA average:

The big dip is from the labor struggles in the 98/99 season, but we can see that more recently, Miami has been a larger market team and saw decent attendance despite the abysmal 07/08 season.

Given this, we'd expect that they would be able to spend money. And they generally do. So it's not a huge surprise that LeBron didn't end up in NY, LA, or Chicago. And Miami is a pretty big place, with plenty of opportunities for these players to make up any salary they may have sacrificed to be there. I imagine this is especially true in the case where they win multiple championships. Think the M&M Boys of the 1960's (Mantle and Maris), except in an era where everything is marketable (including 'The Decision').

I've seen a lot of articles in the media about this that seem to imply James is a terrible person for leaving Cleveland. Give me a break. The only thing to complain about here is that James did not tell the Cavs he would not resign with them in person, but made them watch it on a television show (though, I'm not convinced that the teams didn't already get word). It's not like James is off taking the highest offer out there either: some have projected he took $30 million LESS than he would have gotten in a small Cleveland market! So there's no complaining about greed. He doesn't have a responsibility to stay in Cleveland just because he's from Ohio...and even if you think he does, it's a responsibility he (or anyone) can live up to. Yeah, his presence brings pride to Cleveland...but mainly just for basketball fans. He brings money to the Cavs, that's for sure, but the impact he has on the city is likely overblown. He did not resurrect the city, and he never would have.

I find it strange that analysts find James' move one spurred by his ego. Every article I read completely contradicts other ones (and often, the same article does). What about not trying to win an NBA Championship with a bunch of scrubs makes him egotistical? I would think the opposite. But at the same time, these writers say he should want to be the star and do it himself, and going to Miami is 'cowardly'? Really? They say it ruins basketball, competitive balance, and any semblance of rivalry.

But is that really the case? I think the Miami trio will be GREAT for basketball. The NBA has never really had any parity, and the only thing that has really hoisted it up above the balance issue seems to be a two-team rivalry or complete and utter dominance. Think Johnson-Bird. Think Michael Jordan. Think the immense attention on LeBron James making other NBA stars look like AAU bench players. Sure, it will keep Cleveland from being competitive (despite what their owner says in an absolutely pathetic letter). Before this, everyone was complaining about the West being too dominant. Now they're complaining about...what? It's A-Rod all over again. Except he didn't go to a perennial powerhouse for the money. What could these athletes have done to really deserve complete hatred? It's simple jealousy, and it's kind of sickening.

Why isn't the story about 3 great basketball players who decided to work together and form a great team irrespective of salary in a world where the perception is that athletes are greedy bastards (not a sentiment I necessarily share, but it's certainly out there)? These 3 combined are likely personally giving up close to $60 million over the next 10 years to play together and win an NBA Championship. I'm not a basketball fan, but I'll tune in to watch this for sure.

Let's not rule out other teams just yet. Chicago made a great sign in Carlos Boozer, and have a young base that can compete with a superstar team lacking a bench. The Knicks seem to be on the right track and have the money to sign some big players. The Lakers are still the Lakers, and as long as Kobe is there, they'll be tough to beat. The Celtics? They gave the Lakers a run for their money, and have their stars all returning. What this likely means is that Cleveland will become irrelevant, but it will be great for the NBA. Wouldn't you watch a Miami vs. Lakers matchup that features 2 guys (James and Bryant) vying to be considered the next Jordan? Surrounded by other top stars? What about the Celtics team-oriented play up against the Heat's superstars? There are plenty of very good players in the NBA, and I think having one less team become competitive to create these stories will be net beneficial for the league. Cavs fans should enjoy watching their hometown boy wherever he plays. They got some great years from him, but the team didn't put anyone else around them even when they had the cap room to do so. Why would he stay? Thinking that a pro athlete 'owes' something to you is pure narcissism.

I'm curious if this sets a precedent. Why hasn't this happened before? I know the stars aligned and they all became free agents at the same time. But there's got to be a time where this could have happened before. Who knows. My question for an economist is this: Since the players are sellers of human capital with some market power (especially these 3 superstars), can their alliance be viewed as collusive!?!

Obviously that's a stretch, and just a question for fun. But could other teams in the league file any sort of complaint? I don't know how that would apply to labor in the traditional sense...but $200 million isn't traditional in any way and in the instance of sport, the labor is the product. Can you consider an NBA team a consumer? Just silliness from me, but I think it's fun to think about.

The NBA just got one more fan...kind of. This year I watched one game (Game 7 of the Finals). Next year I'll likely watch 2 thanks to this.