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“The Mad Professor” 4th of July Mid-Season Reflections

Take a moment to have some good thoughts for the victims of the latest terror attack, this time in Turkey…

The last two weeks I looked at the studs and duds–players who were over- or underperforming—at a macro level.  I got some great feedback on and off the site.  The best comment come from my colleague Joe Iannone about how best to assess value.  My analysis drew off of Yahoo!’s comparison of preseason value and current performance.  Joe noted that Tristan Cockroft of ESPN establishes value based on projected performance for the rest of the season.

What’s better?  Well it depends.  One thing to note:  Preseason rankings are value projections.  So, an analysis of current v. preseason projections boils down to a reflection on how good those preseason analyses were.  End of the season values will determine how good the assessment of value at any time during the season was.  Again, this is as much an art as a science.

Today I look at the data from the last two columns from a slightly different perspective.  I’ll use the same data.  But, I want to highlight some peculiarities regarding absolute and relative value.

ScherzerIn the top 20 P as of 27 June, three had seen their values fall:  Scherzer, Greinke and Kluber.  Why?  Disastrous starts and what not aside.  Let’s look at some numbers.  Scherzer is #2 in, #5 in IP, #18 in W (with 8) and he has 11 QS.  Why has his value dropped?

 

 

Pitcher GP Pre-
Season
Current change % Owned IP W SV K K9 ERA WHIP QS
Clayton Kershaw LAD – P 16 4 1 3 99% 115 11 0 141 1.23 1.57 0.67 14
Madison Bumgarner SF – P? 16 28 11 17 99% 108 8 0 122 1.13 1.99 1.02 14
Johnny Cueto SF – P 15 65 12 53 99% 109 11 0 96 0.88 2.06 0.99 13
Jake Arrieta ChC – P 15 25 13 12 99% 98 11 0 107 1.09 1.74 0.98 10
Jon Lester ChC – P 15 73 18 55 98% 98 9 0 99 1.01 2.10 1.00 13
Chris Sale CWS – P 15 24 20 4 99% 105 12 0 102 0.97 2.83 0.99 11
Noah Syndergaard NYM – P 15 37 21 16 99% 91 8 0 110 1.21 2.08 0.99 12
José Fernández Mia – P 14 30 22 8 99% 87 9 0 125 1.43 2.36 0.99 9
Max Scherzer Was – P 16 15 29 -14 99% 107 8 0 138 1.29 3.52 1.00 11
Stephen Strasburg Was – P 14 38 30 8 99% 93 10 0 118 1.27 2.90 1.06 10
Julio Teherán Atl – P 16 164 41 123 86% 106 3 0 99 0.93 2.46 0.89 10
Steven Wright Bos – P 15 300 45 255 87% 103 8 0 84 0.82 2.18 1.14 12
John Lackey ChC – P 15 145 50 95 94% 98 7 0 102 1.04 3.29 1.04 12
Danny Salazar Cle – P 14 83 51 32 97% 86 9 0 99 1.15 2.40 1.15 8
Marco Estrada Tor – P 14 264 56 208 83% 93 5 0 84 0.90 2.70 0.98 11
Drew Pomeranz SD – P 15 307 62 245 80% 88 7 0 102 1.16 2.76 1.13 9
Corey Kluber Cle – P 15 36 63 -27 98% 102 7 0 103 1.01 3.59 1.01 9
Cole Hamels Tex – P 15 80 64 16 98% 96 8 0 95 0.99 2.79 1.22 11
Justin Verlander Det – P 15 122 68 54 94% 100 7 0 102 1.02 3.78 1.07 11
Zack Greinke Ari – P 16 42 69 -27 99% 107 10 0 89 0.83 3.61 1.15 10

 

ArrietaBy comparison, Arrieta and Strasburg have 10 QS each.  But their run support has been better and they have 10 and 11 W, respectively.  Granted their ERAs are a run less, so they give their bullpens and batters more to work with.  Still, Arrieta and Strasburg have experience significant increases in their rankings while Scherzer has fallen.

 

 

source: mlb.com

Looking at the big gainers from last week (this table shows the 25 biggest gainers in the current 100 top P), we see equally intriguing data.  Two of these guys have 10 QS (as many as Arrieta or Strasburg).  Jeff Locke’s 7 W compare to John Lackey and Corey Kluber even though Locke has 13 fewer IP.  He’s clearly benefited from run support (otherwise that 5.12 ERA would have killed him).  But the same can be said of Chris Archer, whose line is:

GP Pre-
Season
Current change % Owned IP W SV K K9 ERA WHIP QS
Chris Archer TB – P 16 50 249 -199 95% 92 4 0 108 1.17 4.70 1.43 8

The only real difference between Archer and Locke is strikeouts.  When not pitching batting practice to opposing hitters,

 

Archer strikes folks out.  Since we value Ks as Defense–Independent counting stats in fantasy, Archer wins in terms of ranking.  But, in retrospect, skipping Archer for a batter and picking up Locke at the end of your draft would have cost you little.

Granted, no one expected Archer’s implosion.  Nonetheless, the same line (essentially) that has cost Archer nearly 200 spots in the ranking has increased Locke’s by nearly 800 spots. As I noted those numbers require a lot of massaging because Locke had nowhere to go but up at the start of the season.  Nonetheless in a generic 5×5 league, the Archer-Locke comparison sheds light on the peculiarities of Fantasy analysis.

 

All but three of the players on this list are owned in less than 25% of Yahoo! leagues.

Pitchers GP Pre-
Season
Current change % Owned IP W SV K K9 ERA WHIP QS
Jeff Locke Pit – P 16 1130 337 793 4% 89 7 0 46 0.5 5.12 1.37 9
Matt Moore TB – P 15 1095 385 710 20% 89 3 0 84 0.9 5.04 1.37 6
Ricky Nolasco Min – P 15 1113 406 707 4% 91 3 0 74 0.8 4.95 1.35 6
Chris Rusin Col – P 12 1111 430 681 0% 54 2 0 39 0.7 4.12 1.34 3
Martín Pérez Tex – P 15 886 218 668 16% 90 6 0 45 0.5 3.57 1.39 10
Jonathon Niese Pit – P 15 1071 403 668 11% 87 6 0 63 0.7 4.93 1.48 7
Chad Bettis Col – P 15 1082 421 661 5% 84 6 0 66 0.8 5.44 1.46 7
Christian Friedrich SD – P 8 1028 370 658 9% 45 4 0 36 0.8 3.60 1.56 4
Kevin Gausman Bal – P 13 891 266 625 26% 75 1 0 69 0.9 3.93 1.27 7
Matt Wisler Atl – P 15 830 208 622 11% 89 3 1 61 0.7 4.22 1.22 10
Wade Miley Sea – P 13 1033 413 620 8% 76 6 0 58 0.8 5.28 1.38 4
Derek Holland Tex – P 14 1039 435 604 7% 72 5 0 43 0.6 5.20 1.42 7
Jered Weaver LAA – P 15 1088 484 604 6% 89 6 0 51 0.6 5.24 1.44 7
Mike Foltynewicz Atl – P 6 956 353 603 2% 33 2 0 28 0.8 3.51 1.26 3
Jon Gray Col – P 12 787 210 577 26% 69 4 0 75 1.1 4.80 1.23 8
Shane Greene Det – P 15 1055 483 572 2% 25 1 1 25 1.0 4.97 1.18 1
Mat Latos CWS – P 11 969 398 571 8% 60 6 0 32 0.5 4.62 1.46 5
Juan Nicasio Pit – P 13 1059 490 569 11% 63 5 0 65 1.0 5.83 1.48 4
Robbie Ray Ari – P 15 915 347 568 10% 80 4 0 93 1.2 4.59 1.54 6
Williams Pérez Atl – P 9 1031 472 559 0% 48 2 0 23 0.5 4.62 1.21 3
Nathan Eovaldi NYY – P 14 842 295 547 30% 80 6 0 70 0.9 5.02 1.35 6
Iván Nova NYY – P 15 1035 488 547 4% 64 5 1 44 0.7 5.18 1.38 2
Tom Koehler Mia – P 15 789 252 537 12% 84 6 0 71 0.8 4.07 1.49 8
Chase Anderson Mil – P 14 912 381 531 5% 73 4 0 60 0.8 5.13 1.28 4
Archie Bradley Ari – P 8 885 369 516 19% 46 3 0 49 1.1 4.50 1.37 3

Of course, the rankings are a function of trends as well as cumulative present value.  But, were you to do a league redraft on the 4th of July, would you let an Archer drop?  Dismiss Scherzer for a round or two?  Snap up Locke while your friends were not looking?  At various points in the season, if we had followed this kind of reasoning, we’d now be looking at Carlos Gomez and Zach Greinke on someone else’s team.

So, how much of what we do is gut instinct?  How much do we cultivate that with the cold, analytical proofs of Mr. Spock-like science?

What’s amazing is that the answer is “it depends.”  Even Tristan Cockroft at ESPN acknowledges that he’s swap Kershaw (the consensus #1) for the right bat at this point in the season. (See his latest analysis here: http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/mlbranks_june22/clayton-kershaw-no-1-updated-fantasy-baseball-rankings-fantasy-baseball).  When one looks at his top 25, they do not differ much from Yahoo!’s.  The same players are there, though they may not be in the same order.

So, looking at Cockroft, Yahoo!’s and a host of other sites, we see that Ron Shandler’s Broad Assessment Balance Sheet (“BABS”) displays a lot of wisdom.  (You can read about some of this at ronshandler.com.  Some of it is subscription only.)  Shandler suggests that you can get away from the granularity of trying to decide who should be #7 or #10 and focus more broadly on projected skill levels.  Worry less about a particular Pitcher’s K potential or hitter’s HR projection and build instead a team that is a good portfolio of important skills.

It’s a great approach to draft day.  But what to do come midseason when draft options are gone, you’ve got high-priced duds and you don’t want to abandon ship to stock up for next year?  (The NFL does not start for 2 months.)  In a good league, with quality owners, there will be very few degrees of freedom after draft day and, barring extraordinary luck in snapping up a waiver wire or free agent game-changer, we find ourselves pondering the Jeff Lockes of the world as we clean the grill and look towards the HR Derby.  The analysis of player performance is fascinating.  But, barring a redraft, that analysis provides more perspective on the MLB than is does on your fantasy roster.

More to come next week with a look at batters.  Best wishes for the holiday.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Mid-Season Baseball Analysis 2016 « Mark Rush

  2. Pingback: Moonlighting: Reflections on 2016 Baseball Analysis « Mark Rush

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