Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fantasy Trading

Hi, my name is Von and I am a fantasy addict.   There, that’s out of the way.

Let me start with a story.  A few winters ago, I made a trade in our Fantasy ACC Hoops league…I gave up Georgia Tech’s Lewis “I jack up threes” Clinch in exchange for UVA’s Sylven “Now I play in Israel” Landesberg.  I was in first place at the time of the trade and comfortably ahead in threes.  The other owner, let’s call him Smitty, was middle of the pack in the standings and really needed threes.  After the trade announcement, some owners howled and said I was raping Smitty and thought the trade should be vetoed.  It wasn’t vetoed.  Landesberg went on to be horrible for the rest of the season as he prepared for an NBA draft that ignored him.  Clinch decided to be Tech’s leading scorer and went on to help extend Paul Hewitt’s tenure another season.  I went on to finish third while Smitty ran away with the league title, thanks in large part to Clinch.  Had that trade been vetoed, history would have recorded a very different story.      

My topic is trade protests and vetoes…one of the touchiest topics in the fantasy world and one that I feel VERY passionate about.  Not to overstate things, but I think that the whole concept of protests and vetoes are about as useful as the compound walls around Bin Laden’s last residence.  I hate protests more than I hate Duke basketball, Bill Walton game analysis, a Phillies losing streak, and cauliflower all put together. 

But that’s part of the problem with the topic…fantasy owners get WAY too emotional about trades, and emotion almost always clouds the fantasy world in a bad way.  Let me explain, in (mostly) non-emotional terms, why protests and vetoes are bad for fantasy sports and should never happen (except in cases of flat-out collusion ).

Point #1: We all have the right to run our own teams as we see fit.  Especially in money leagues, we all have earned the right to make whatever decisions we feel are best for our team.  And NO ONE has the right to tell another owner that he is making a bad decision for his team.  Maybe the guy has a hunch about a player.  You might think the guy is an idiot for having that hunch.  The whole fantasy world might think the guy is an idiot as well.  The folks in that ACC league definitely thought Smitty was an idiot.  Heck, I thought he was an idiot for doing it and was convinced I had clinched (no pun intended) first place when he accepted the offer.  But it turned out Smitty was right and we were all wrong.  Had the veto occurred, it would have cost Smitty winning the league.  So, let me repeat, we all have the right to run our own teams as we see fit.

Point #2:  No trade is dead even, never has been, never will be.  Nothing tires me out more than reading the endless email trail of a trade protest bitch session where people are dissecting every player down to the nth degree to prove “this trade isn’t fair”.  Typically it includes stuff like:  “yeah but Cordero will lose his job to Chapman soon”…”yeah but LaRoche always has a big second half”…”yeah but Cargo is gonna get hot”…blah, blah, blah.  Well, the day that you can absolutely, positively guarantee a player’s future performance, you should quit your job and get your resume on over to Billy Beane real fast.  We all THINK we know what a guy will do in the future and we all look at historical data to GUESS what a player will do in the future.  But to say we know with 100% certainty what they WILL do in the future is just folly.  There are so damn many forks in the road between now and the end of the season that this whole business of analyzing a trade to death is just a waste of energy.

And this doesn’t even call into question the “true” value of hitting vs pitching, power vs speed, starters vs closers.  You want proof of just how much fantasy owners disagree on those fundamental questions?  Just look at the bid patterns of 12 owners in an auction draft.  Does every owner place an equal value on bog boppers, starters, closers, and leadoff hitters?  Of course not.  So just because you value closers very highly, don’t go protesting a trade with a closer because, in your mind, the closer makes it unbalanced.  You may be a very smart person, but the guy doing the deal might just be smarter.  And even if he isn’t, see Point #1 above. 

“But Von”, you say, “we have to veto bad trades because (according to traditional fantasy thinking) otherwise the trade will upset the balance of the league”.  Oh really?  Using math, tell me exactly how that statement is true.  Show me how the math (which is all fantasy sports is, in the end) of it proves that a “bad” trade will hurt the competitive balance of the league.  You’ll need to focus now and throw out your conventional thinking (remember, we already ditched our emotions) because this is a mathematical issue.

Let’s say that on May 1st Owner Smith trades Albert Pujols to Owner Jones for Lyle Overbay.  Is that balanced?  No.  Is Smith an idiot?  Clearly.  Should every other owner in the league get an offer to Smith just as soon as possible to try and benefit from his next stupid decision?  Absolutely.  Should it be vetoed?  No.  Look at the math of it:  Albert is going to hit thirty more home runs, Overbay will hit 10.  But does it REALLY matter which fantasy owner Pujols hits those 30 homers for?  Does it REALLY matter in the standings for the league?  Forget that Smith is an idiot – does it REALLY matter who Albert hits them for?  The answer is no, across the entire league, it really doesn’t matter.  The owners who are just ahead of Jones in homers will now fall behind him, but the owners who are just behind Smith in homers will move ahead of him.  So, yes, SOME owners do lose out because of this trade…but other owners will benefit.  Albert’s gonna hit 30 more homers and it JUST DOESN’T MATTER OVERALL who he does it for.  But, half the owners will be happy, the other half will be sad, and odds are it’s the sad half that will want to protest, which leads to my final point…       

Point #3…you don’t have the right to protest a trade just because you are pissed someone else beat you to the league idiot.  If that were the case, then every Redskins player move over the last decade would have been protested by the teams who weren’t lucky enough to deal with the Skins.  (Reminder memo to self – see if Vinny Cerrato is bored and wants to join our fantasy football money league.)  Every fantasy league has them – the owner(s) who make crazy deals.  So, quit whining about missing out on taking advantage of the idiot owner and go out there and find him and take his best players.  If you don’t have the time or energy to do that, fine…but then don’t sit back and protest when you see a trade go down that you’re just pissed you didn’t get in on for yourself.

Point #4: At the end of the day, fantasy is supposed to be fun.  Protests and vetoes and emails about protests and vetoes aren’t fun.  If we wanted to debate and argue for a hobby, we’d watch C-SPAN with our in-laws.  But we don’t; we’d rather beat the snot out of our best friends in a fantasy league, and part of that is getting the best of them in a trade that probably helps both teams, but you obviously hope helps you a lot more.  And the next time you get the urge to email your league about the insanity of the trade that just happened, take a deep breathe, remember the 4 points above, and then instead go figure out a way to do a deal just like it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Step 4 -- Don't least until Memorial Day.

As painful as it is to see your team at the bottom of the standings every day after all the hours you spent prepping for the draft, now is not the time to panic.

I can relate, I'm in four leagues and I currently sit in dead last or near dead last in two leagues (but oddly currently sit atop my two other 15 team leagues). Perhaps, it will ultimately end that way as well, but remember, two weeks is a very small sample in baseball and April is notorious for being a wildcard for many players (in any event it makes me feel better to tell myself that). Many pitchers are still looking to harness that control in meaningful game situations while the majority of hitters are still searching to get into a nice rhythm at the plate

Trading surplus, figuring out who is going to have a breakout year or a down year, and determining where your team ranks in your league are not activities I recommend in April. Lots of things happen in April that won't necessarily repeat themselves throughout the year and if you base your roster decisions on one two-week sample you are likely to be swayed by unreliable information. Look, Willie Bloomquist isn't going to be the top fantasy baseball player and Kevin Correia isn't going win the NL Cy Young...just isn't going to happen. So don't treat them like they are in a trade scenario and don't drop Shin Soo Choo to get Bloomquist just b/c Choo hasn't hit a homer yet.

(a brief digression....)My first fantasy baseball season was 1992. As our family and friends auction draft went on I realized I didn't know enough players to fill out my roster. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I did have a copy of a newspaper article with spring stats. I noticed a Pirates pitcher named Randy Timlin had the best spring ERA of any starting pitcher and I grabbed him for $1. As it turns out, Randy Timlin was not a good pitcher, really in any year EXCEPT, ironically, the first half of 1992 when he went 10-1 with a 3 something ERA. As a result my team led our NL only league in wins at the All Star Break. Sadly, Randy Timlin won 3 games the rest of the year.

This digression is one of a million examples one can make that 1/2 of a baseball season, let alone 1 month of a season, is a very small statistical sample. Crazy things can happen and you shouldn't let less than a third of the baseball season dictate major roster moves. If you did, you would be sure to get rid of Tulowitzki (except this!) and LaRoche every year, only to watch them rake for another team in the second half of the year. Personally, I really don't pay any attention to where I sit in the standings until Memorial day. It takes time to figure out what you have and need. Plus, injuries might lead the league by 20 SB on the production of one or two guys, but if one gets hurt or stops hitting, you might not be as strong in the category as you thought.

A fundamental mistake of fantasy losers is they panic when they find themselves at the bottom of the standings in week 1, assume their team sucks, and drop players they normally wouldn't drop. Even worse, they make trades based on the results of the first few weeks allowing more savvy owners to take advantage of them. Trust your pre-draft research. There is nothing wrong with dropping marginal players that aren't getting it done, or are playing less than you expected etc...what we are really talking about here is abandoning players with proven track records. Sure, maybe Felix Hernandez is just going to suck this year, but chances are he gets things on track and ends up closer to his career stats.

If you are in last on Memorial Day, you might want to panic a little...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Deep League Finds at each position

This is my first column on this blog, to date only the great Jim Colling has posted any content and if you are like me you really enjoyed the insight from this multiple fantasy champion.

Now I do not claim to be a master fantasy baseball player or even a good one at that but I do play in some high dollar leagues as well as some very deep leagues.  Currently I am playing in three 15 team leagues and one 11 team league and most of these guys are available or just picked up.   So in this post I plan to highlight one or two guys at each position that may be available or recently added to someone roster.  The idea is to provide you with a possible upgrade at a position you either suffered an injury at or just missed during draft day.

I hope you find this helpful or at least get a good laugh out of it.


Alex Avila would be the easy target here as he has recently produced with HR’s and RBI”s and if he is out there go get him, however I know in all three of my deep leagues he is no longer available.   I am going to recommend Wilson Ramos with the Nats.  Yes, he is in a timeshare with pudge but he is also racking when he plays and batted in the five hole the other night with Zimm and Morse out.  You could do a lot worse and at least this guy won’t kill your avg.    He is especially valuable in 2 catcher and keep league formats.

First Base: 

This very deep position is not as deep once you get through a 15 or 14 team draft with 1B and CI positions.  There are very slim pickings on the wire but I am going to recommend Mark Trumbo from LA Angels.  He is a big guy and mashed in the minors, who knows how long Morales will be out for.

2nd Base:

This is a position that I know I waited on in my draft because I thought a bunch of guys were all the same in the end.  Guys I like that may be available are Chris Getz, a good KC lineup, batting leadoff and steals a lot of bases.  I also like Skip Schumacher, he does nothing great but he will score 60-70 runs, steal 5-10 bases and post a .280 average at the end of the year. 

3rd Base:

This is a tough one, I believe that 3b is the shortest position in baseball this year from a fantasy perspective however if you are in a deep league you may find a guy like Miggy Tejada on the wire and while he is not the same guy he will still hit 15 HR’s and bat .280.   For those of you in a keep league or maybe a very deep league I would recommend Mike Moustakas from the Royals.  I think he will be up around June 5th and be the next big thing.


I already mentioned both of these guys in the 2nd base and 3rd base positions but you could do worse than Miguel Tejada and Wilson Valdez.  If you need steals you may want to take a look at Jack Wilson or Willie Bloomquist if he qualifies in your league.

DH:  One word, Pronk!  T. Hafner seems to finally be healthy and last I saw he was riding a hitting streak.  If he stays healthy he will hit 20/80/270.

OF:  Willie Bloomquist is not supposed to be doing what he is doing but remember he is playing for a bad team and a new manager so if he can stay hot he will find a way to stay in the lineup.  J. Francouer, yes he sucks, but he is still under 30 and seems to be getting regular at bats.

SP:  There are a lot of good pitchers still on the wire in a lot of leagues.  I recently picked up Jeff Francis in a couple of leagues, this guy was a top prospect and before being injured multiple times had some good seasons in Col.  I also like S. Baker if he has been dropped or take a chance on a young guy like Brandon Beachy, a lot of k’s but some risk.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Step 3: You will draft value, not specific players

It's the time of year when everyone is asking, and attempting to answer, the question of who to take during the draft. Sure you can make reasonable guesses on where a guy will go in the draft based on ADP or a reliable set of dollar values, but can you really answer this question until you are actually in the draft. For example, Hanley Ramirez is an absolute must at $25, but at $45, I'll pass. The point of course is the decision of whether or not you should target a player in the draft is almost entirely dependent on the cost of acquiring that player on draft day.

Now, this seems painfully obvious right? Well, sort of...but too many owners come into drafts with unrealistic expectations of getting a certain list of players and to fulfill their expectations they either blow their entire budget on those players, making it impossible to fill out a competitive team, or they panic and draft guys way too early in their drafts. unnecessarily losing the opportunity to build a better team.

Consider this: Would you trade Mark Teixiera and Ryan Zimmerman for Albert Pujols and Freddy Sanchez? I wouldn't, but maybe you like Pujols so much you would. Regardless, understand that you might be making this very call when you decide whether or not to bid $50 for Pujols? You love Mike Stanton, think he's going to blow you take him in the 3rd round of a ten team snake draft instead of the 5th round where he sits on the ADP (average draft position) list because that's where you think he'll finish the year. Well, on its own that seems reasonable, but by not waiting until the 4th did you inadvertently trade Shin Soo Choo (take Choo in the 3rd and Stanton in the 4th) for Hunter Pence (Stanton in the 3rd, Pence in the 4th)?

In any event, the fundamental concept to understand in any type of draft is that every pick has ramifications beyond just the player you draft. That's why value is so important to consider on draft day. Look...everyone...i mean your snake and or auction draft realizes that there are only two top tier SS available in this year's draft or that SP is really deep this year (btw...SP is deep every year). In fact, with the internet (thank you Al Gore), there are rarely any "sleepers" that aren't known, and being targeted, by at least half the other owners in your league. So how do you compete? You compete by targeting value on draft day rather than players.

Now, I'm not suggesting you don't pay the extra buck on the guy you really love in an auction draft or that you don't bump a guy up a few spots on your draft board, but a balanced team requires an emphasis on value. Especially in deep leagues.

A great exercise I recommend to anyone looking to reverse their fantasy fortunes is to create Mock rosters before the draft. Take a highlighter and highlight the guys you like, sleepers, or players you think are undervalued. Now make a list of each position required in your league (standard 23 players, 3 bench). For auction drafts, take your most reliable list of auction values and draft your team. Assume you get whoever you want, but always pay full value according to your list. Inevitably you'll learn one of two things. Either you can't possibly get all the guys you want, OR you might be surprised that you can afford 1 or 2 more expensive players and still fill out your roster. Now, make a second roster making changes based on what you learned from the first mock roster. Continue this exercise until you have a roster totalling the budget for your league and what you'd consider the best roster you can create. This final roster is a great tool to enter the draft with. This final roster is your "best case scenarios." (Just assume guys will go for more than you think on draft day). During the draft you can look to this roster to understand when you are ahead or behind your best case budget and make adjustments as necessary. For example, if you pay extra for your top two players, you might have to reassess how much you spend on a couple other positions. In any event, you'll be keenly aware of what you can spend throughout the draft.

For snake drafts, take an ADP list close to the date of your draft. If you don't know your draft position, make three blank rosters and draft your team from the first, middle, and end draft positions. (If you know, just use your draft position). For each pick, only allow yourself to take players within a couple of spots from your pick. You can move a player up 5 spots in the first 50 picks, 10 spots from 50-100, 15 spots from 100-150, and 20 spots from 150 to 200. After you create your roster, look to see where you'd like to improve. If you took a 2b at pick 100 instead of a SP, could you get a comparable SP down at 170 where you selected a 2b. Would your team be better if you take a guy you really like two rounds earlier? Or is taking the C you have to have making it difficult for you to fill your MI. In any event, the exercise will help you discover where value lies in the draft and it is certain to help you form a better game plan going into the draft.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Step 2: You will (almost) never make a trade where you get more players than you give.

This should be pretty obvious, but I watch the same teams year after year agree to two for one or three for two trades. If you get more players than you traded, 19 times out of 20, you are a sucker. Understand? If you aren't willing to take this step for yourself, do it for your league...making these trades just encourages the guy who sends lousy trade offers every week to keep doing it (oh wait that's me...nevermind). Actually, the leagues I'm in are very competitive and it's been fun watching owners wise up to bad trade offers. You only see one or so a year that make you cringe.

In theory, you can make 2 for 1 trades that are balanced, but what owners perceive as "balanced" is often skewed because they forget to, or incorrectly, value the open roster spot. You see, the owner getting the "one" player in the deal is getting much more than that, they are getting, at a minimum, the best player on the waiver wire in addition. But that just scratches the surface. Open roster spots are valuable, owners can be aggressive picking up speculative save opportunities or a hitter on a hot streak just to see if he turns into this years Jose Bautista or John Axford. Think about it, how many times have you struggled with whether to drop a guy who is struggling for a hot week sitting on the waiver wait b/c you don't want to give up on a guy, and before you know it the hot waiver wire pickup is gone.

In other words, an open roster spot gives you the opportunity to "try out" guys. If you like to pick up SP based on matchups it's great for that too. Roster spots are valuable, and the best owners know that even if the waiver wire looks bleak this week, there undoubtedly will be someone they want...soon. On countless occassions I've picked up someone that is comparable if not better than one of the two guys I just traded. It's a great feeling. There are exceptions...particularly later in the year if you find your team way back in saves, steals, starts, is conceivable you'd trade one pretty good starter, for example, for two closers or vice versa. It doesn't happen often, and if you aren't sure don't do it.

Want to stop being a fantasy loser? Get quality over quantity in your trades and don't receive more players than you trade away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fantasy Guys: 7 steps to avoid being a Fantasy Loser this year

Fantasy Guys: 7 steps to avoid being a Fantasy Loser this year: "Are you tired of being a fantasy loser? The guy that plays and pays every year all for a participation ribbon? Did you celebrate finally f..."

Step 1...You will ignore the so-called "experts" and you will value reliable closers. (Written by Jim Colling)

You've heard it a million times from the "experts" (who seemingly just regurgitate each others fantasy insight). "Don't pay for saves." They say it so you'd have to be an idiot to pay for saves. Truly, I am grateful for each and every one of these experts, because without them, I'd be a lot poorer. Here's the truth. Think of closers as the antithesis of cars, which immediately lose value when they leave the lot. Unlike cars, Closers tend to be at their lowest value on draft day...and that's why you'll go to the bank everyday to pay full price for them. Closers are perceived as one-trick ponies on draft day, much like the Juan Pierres of the world, so it seems odd to take them too high. Accordingly, they drop....every year...especially in snake drafts. Notably, even top closers (I've got 7-9 I'd put on that list right now with Bailey's elbow a concern) really aren't that expensive. A top closer can be had between picks 100-150 in snake drafts and often for right around $10 -- $15 in most auctions.

"But you can get cheap saves late in the draft and on the waiver wire" they tell you. can get cheap everything late in the draft and on the waiver wire, especially starting pitching. Sure, everybody can get a cheap closer or two near the end of the draft, but it's the owners that have reliable closers to combo with those speculative saves that end up winning Saves, ERA and WHIP. In fact, if you've ever been in leagues of 14 teams or more you know that FAAB budgets are burned up with owners scrambling for the newly named closers and you have to be awake at 3am to be the first one to grab the guy in FA/waiver wire leagues. Everyone is going to need the new closer when he's announced, trust me. So, when is the best time to get your legitimate closer(s)? When they are at their lowest value, the draft.

Don't believe me, take a look at ESPN's 2010 Player'll be amazed at how high closers are rated, much higher than their draft position. My recollection is there were 3 or 4 in the top 50. You won't see one go that high in a snake draft this year. Why the discrepancy? In reality, top closers are valuable in at least three categories and actually are strong in FOUR categories in shallower leagues if you use your roster positions wisely. I consider a top closer to generally be a guy that I feel is pretty much locked into the role barring an injury or trade (Right now I'd include Bell, Wilson, Rivera, K-Rod, Soria, C. Perez, Marmol, Valverde, and Papelbon). You can make pretty good arguments for about 3 or 4 others. These guys get you saves, a great ERA and generally a great WHIP. In shallow leagues with innings pitched limits ,Closers are actually money in K's as well. Why? because they get you more K's per inning than a starter would. So, if you meet the innings pitched limit, you'll be hard pressed not to be in contention for K's. Hell, Marmol got more K's last year than many Starting Pitchers period.

A perfect draft for me ends with having 1 more closer than the league avg. For example in a 10-team league you'd expect each team to have 3 closers (30 mlb teams). I want 4. In a 12-team league avg is just shy of 2.5, I want 3. 15-team, I want 3 closers. Even if successful, I am still constantly looking to add additional closers throughout the year. After all, how often can you really find three category contributors, let alone 4 on the waiver wire. More than half of SP's will actually hurt you in ERA, WHIP or K's (due to the low k per inning rate) and finding a power guy that hits for avg. and/or gets runs on the waiver wire, is tough.

One last plug for closers...if you really want to play the game (make trades, use the waiver wire) there is no commodity easier to trade than a closer. It is abundantly obvious when a team needs saves, and there are only a few guys that can provide saves. I regularly trade closers for starters and hitters that get drafted 50 spots higher than my closers.

So, if you've been an annual loser and want to change that trend, go ahead and pay for saves.