Hi Sports Fans.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Unless you are a fan of the Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos or you have a sweet spot for Peyton Manning, you are probably more concerned with your projections for your 66 team March Madness bracket or eagerly awaiting Truck Day. On that note, I offer my first column on MLB 2016 for Major League Fantasy Sports.
But first, a bit of background. I wrote for Ron Shandler for a couple of seasons and joined the MLFS radio gang in 2015. So far, I’ve offended no one (as far as I can tell) and, near as I can figure, I, along with Joe Iannone, are the only reasons the average age of your writing staff is higher than the number of wins any SP in MLB is likely to get this season. So, Iannone and I offer the steady hand of age, wisdom, and charm to this rowdy, youthful bunch. That also means that Iannone and I probably don’t have an issue with using two spaces after periods at the end of sentences.
OK, enough wit for now. On to wisdom.
I’ll be writing on the top 100 SP over the next month or so. My goal is not to tell you all whether someone should be #31 or #32, or # 47 or # 64. There’s not much really to be gained from that and it simply causes arguments that generate more heat than light. Instead, in the spirit of building fantasy rosters, I’ll look to organize the SP into tiers. I find this more useful because, after a certain point, the relative difference among Kershaw, Arrieta, and Scherzer will be rendered meaningless once we take into account the size and balance of your roster, and the statistics your league uses.
So, in this, my virgin voyage on MLFS, I take a look at what seem to be the top 20 SP a week before anyone reports to Florida or Arizona. I went to several sites to see what their experts thought regarding the top starters. As you can see from the table below, there is not much to argue about in the top 20. This table shows the top 20 SP listed in the rankings of all 5 sources noted. There are a couple of additional folks who appeared in particular rankings. Melchior listed Justin Verlander at 19. Everyone but Melchior places Oakland’s Sonny Gray between 19 and 21. (Melchior had him outside of the top 25.)
The far right columns tell us what we need to know. One lists the average ranking, the other is the standard deviation of those averages. The smaller the standard deviation, the more consistent the ranking across the 5 sources.
To no one’s surprise, Kershaw is the consensus #1. Folks are pretty consistent in their assessment that Arrieta comes in at #3 (standard deviation of only 0.89—that is in the far right column). Beyond that, the most disagreement exists around deGrom (standard deviation 4.09), Carlos Carrasco (3.94), and Johnny Cueto (3.51). In this regard, Cueto received the lowest of any ranking, garnering a 24 from Melchior.
The biggest jumps occur between Jose Fernandez at #8 and deGrom, Strasburg, and Harvey (essentially tied for #10). Were BaseballHQ not down on Max Scherzer (they rank him #7), he’d be much closer to a solid consistent #2.
So what does this tell us about the rankings? At the top tier, you are spending a lot of your fantasy budget on real world quality that does not necessarily translate into a big difference between drafting Kershaw and any of the other top 5 SP. Yahoo! Projects Kershaw at 20W, 251K, 1.95 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 27 QS. Scherzer’s Yahoo! Line is 18, 268, 2.66, 0.90, and 25. Pretty comparable. But in a standard 5×5 league, BBHQ suggests that Kershaw is worth $48, while Scherzer is a relative bargain at $24. CBS Sportline’s experts give Kershaw a price tag that runs between $12 and $14 more than Scherzer.
Granted there are intangibles out there such as the quality of the defense behind you. Fleet footed outfielders and infield shifts will take hits and runs off the board that slower fielders or traditional alignments will not. Your win is much more secure if you pitch long into games and have a quality bullpen. Nonetheless, given the relative projections in terms of performance, ranking, and dollar value, one wonders whether Kershaw could really deliver at least twice as much bang for the buck as a Scherzer, Arrieta, or Bumgarner. I doubt it.
The following table draws upon the same sources as above for projected dollar values. (It does not include Yahoo! because Yahoo! does not provide them). On the left we have average dollar value projections and, again, their standard deviation. On the right are average statistical projections from Yahoo! and BBHQ.
|Kershaw||$ 38.75||$ 7.04||225.5||19||260.5||1.94||0.88||25.5|
|Scherzer||$ 29.00||$ 4.55||216.5||16.5||253||2.93||0.97||24|
|Arrieta||$ 28.75||$ 3.50||216.5||17.5||218||2.66||1.02||25.5|
|Bumgarner||$ 27.00||$ 2.71||211||16.5||226||2.86||1.02||22.5|
|Sale||$ 26.50||$ 4.43||209||14.5||254||3.06||1.06||25|
|Kluber||$ 25.75||$ 3.86||216||14||230.5||3.11||1.08||22.5|
|Price||$ 25.50||$ 2.65||222.5||16||220.5||2.95||1.11||24|
|Fernandez||$ 24.00||$ 1.83||181||14||217.5||2.49||1.04||20.5|
|Strasburg||$ 23.00||$ 1.63||198.5||15.5||227.5||3.04||1.08||20.5|
|deGrom||$ 22.75||$ 2.22||193.5||14.5||197.5||2.73||1.04||22.5|
|Greinke||$ 22.25||$ 1.26||205.5||16||191.5||2.83||1.08||24.5|
|Harvey||$ 22.25||$ 2.06||196||14.5||201.5||2.80||1.03||21.5|
|Keuchel||$ 21.25||$ 1.26||213.5||15.5||191.5||3.06||1.14||24|
|Cole||$ 21.00||$ 1.41||212||17.5||208||2.65||1.11||24|
|Hernandez||$ 20.75||$ 0.96||210.5||15.5||210||3.14||1.12||21.5|
|Archer||$ 19.75||$ 1.50||208||15.5||223.5||3.06||1.18||21|
|Carrasco||$ 19.75||$ 1.26||196||14.5||213.5||3.24||1.08||20.5|
|Lester||$ 19.00||$ –||212.5||14.5||207.5||3.20||1.15||22|
|Syndergaard||$ 18.75||$ 0.96||181.5||13.5||196||3.03||1.10||19|
|Hamels||$ 17.00||$ 2.16||210.5||13.5||202.5||3.36||1.17||20.5|
There is no question that dollar values are a blunt tool for analysis. They are a classic artifice that tells us little in isolation. But, they serve well for comparison.
A couple of points to note. First, I again include the standard deviation of the dollar value predictions in the second column. The bigger the standard deviation, the more the disagreement about a player’s dollar value. So, the world pretty much agrees that Jon Lester is worth $19. Everyone in this survey gave him the exact same value. Kershaw, however, has a $7.04 standard deviation. In crude terms, that means that pundits could see him delivering as much as $44 value or as little as $30. If you are looking solely at the counting stats over which SP have control (Strikeouts and QS), Chris Sale is a much better bargain at $26.50 +/-$4.40. He’s projected to deliver six fewer strikeouts and the same number of QS as Kershaw for $11 less.
This leaves us to ponder how much a particular statistical category is worth when deciding between two particular players and your overall team budget. Comparing, for example, Keuchel or Greinke to Kershaw, is the additional $15 or $16 investment worth the additional 70K over the course of the season? On the other hand, if you were to play your cards right on draft day, you might ask instead whether it would be a better investment to drop $38.75 (same price as Kershaw) on Cole and Syndergaard to pick up nearly 400 K and 43 QS.
Of course, in the real world, you’d be happy to hand the ball to any of these guys…
OK–closing thoughts. At the elite level of SP, one really can’t go wrong. Injury always looms, of course. So one wonders how Fernandez will bounce back from Tommy John surgery and which version of Johnny Cueto will arrive in San Francisco. Whether or not Carlos Martinez or Sonny Gray should be in the top 25 instead of the top 30 is a great alternative to a halftime discussion about whether Coldplay and Beyoncé really have committed an artistic faux pas with Hymn for the Weekend.
The hot stove is starting to cool. Super Bowl 50 (formerly Super Bowl L) is history and pitchers and catchers are about to report. The crisp spring air, the crack of the bat… Best wishes to all.
(Click the RED link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts live on Sunday February 14th from 7-9pm EST for the 2016 debut of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We will air live every Sunday throughout the season from 7-9pm EST. We take live callers at 323-870-4395. Feel free to join the discussion. Our first show of the year will be all about the hot stove. Any trades or free agent signings of significance will be discussed from an MLB and fantasy perspective.
Our guests this week are Joe Iannone and Kyle Amore. Joe has been a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com for 3 years, and is a tenured fantasy baseball owner. Kyle is a former college ball player, played in Italy, and is the co-host of Thursday night show with Lou Landers.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly Radio Show: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday February 18th from 8-10pm EST for the 2016 debut of our Thursday night shows. This show airs live every Thursday night throughout the season from 8-10pm EST. We will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Our first show of the year will be breaking down starting pitchers from an MLB and fantasy perspective.
Our guests this week are Hernan Batista and Joe Ciccone. Joe is a writer with MLFS as well as our Chief Editor. His articles release every Wednesday morning. Hernan is a fantasy baseball owner in MLFB1, and MLFB2. Come join a lively discussion!