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September Studs and Duds: The Mad Prof. Remembers Draft Day

Hi Sports Fans!  I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus.   The Dog Days of summer take their toll on my kinda fantasy analysis.  But, as we turn towards September and our football drafts, we can’t help but wonder…”What if?”  So, I join the rising chorus of Monday morning quarterbacks who will now be reassessing draft strategies.

Yeah—who rose, who fell?  Who burned me, who saved me?  Today I take a look at the overall performance of players based on their preseason and current Yahoo! rankings.  Not, though, that this is macro-level analysis.  We could discuss particular players and look at individual data and stats.  That’s all important stuff—for another column.  For now, I offer an overview of league-wide trends.

 

How did the preseason Top 100 do?  Batters and Pitchers

To begin, let’s just look at the top 100 batters and pitchers.  As I’ve noted in prior columns, we can’t be too worried about the top players’ losing value or rank.  If you are in the top 10, you have a lot more room to fall than you do to rise.   So, if a player is within a few spots, plus or minus of your projected rank, no owner is going to complain.   This is random variation.

There are hundreds of players to look at.  These data and this analysis draw from the top 275 pitchers and batters currently ranked by Yahoo!.  So, let’s turn first to the pre-season top 20 to see how our #1, $50 players have done.

 

Yahoo! Preseason Top 20 Batters

Batters GP* Pre-Season? Current gain(loss) % Owned
Mike Trout LAA – OF 128 1 4 -3 99%
Paul Goldschmidt Ari – 1B 128 2 10 -8 99%
Bryce Harper Was – OF ? 119 3 45 -42 99%
Josh Donaldson Tor – 3B ? 125 5 6 -1 99%
Miguel Cabrera Det – 1B 127 6 21 -15 99%
Manny Machado Bal – 3B,SS 124 7 16 -9 99%
Nolan Arenado Col – 3B ? 127 8 9 -1 99%
Andrew McCutchen Pit – OF 118 9 178 -169 97%
Carlos Correa Hou – SS ? 125 10 61 -51 99%
Giancarlo Stanton Mia – OF 103 11 150 -139 71%
Kris Bryant ChC – 3B,OF ? 125 12 3 9 99%
Anthony Rizzo ChC – 1B 124 13 17 -4 99%
José Altuve Hou – 2B ? 128 14 1 13 99%
José Bautista Tor – OF 83 16 279 -263 95%
Edwin Encarnación Tor – 1B 127 17 13 4 99%
José Abreu CWS – 1B 125 18 137 -119 96%
Mookie Betts Bos – OF ? 126 19 2 17 99%
Dee Gordon Mia – 2B ? 48 20 579 -559 90%
Buster Posey SF – C,1B 115 21 106 -85 99%
A.J. Pollock Ari – OF ? 2 22 1196 -1174 81%

 

BryantFOUR hitters—Bryant, Altuve, Encarnacion and Betts–have held or gained value.  Six (in italics)  are within 10 ranks of their preseason spots and, therefore, probably are causing no one any pain (Trout, Goldschmidt, Donaldson, Machado, Arenado and Rizzo).  The rest have plummeted.  So, half of the top 20 hitters have kept or improved value. But, their relative gains are far and away outweighed by the double and triple digit drops among their counterparts in the Preseason  Top 20.nolan-arenado-rockies

Pitchers fared no better.  Granted we have injuries here (as we did with Pollock among the batters).  But, even accounting for that, the Top 20 Pitchers did not pay off.

 

Yahoo! Preseason Top 20 Pitchers

Pitchers GP* Pre-Season? Current gain(loss) % Owned
Clayton Kershaw LAD – P ? 17 4 14 -10 98%
Max Scherzer Was – P ? 27 15 7 8 99%
Chris Sale CWS – P ? 25 24 18 6 99%
Jake Arrieta ChC – P ? 25 25 22 3 99%
Madison Bumgarner SF – P ? 28 28 12 16 99%
Jacob deGrom NYM – P 24 29 99 -70 98%
José Fernández Mia – P ? 24 30 25 5 99%
Matt Harvey NYM – P 17 34 543 -509 42%
Corey Kluber Cle – P 26 36 23 13 98%
Noah Syndergaard NYM – P 26 37 38 -1 99%
Stephen Strasburg Was – P ? 23 38 50 -12 98%
David Price Bos – P 28 40 81 -41 98%
Zack Greinke Ari – P ? 21 42 171 -129 97%
Gerrit Cole Pit – P ? 20 44 247 -203 93%
Dallas Keuchel Hou – P ? 26 48 192 -144 93%
Chris Archer TB – P 27 50 155 -105 96%
Carlos Carrasco Cle – P ? 21 57 97 -40 97%
Félix Hernández Sea – P 18 61 145 -84 97%
Johnny Cueto SF – P 26 65 32 33 99%
Sonny Gray Oak – P 21 67 800 -733 58%

 

 

022815-MLB-Washington-Nationals-starting-pitcher-Max-Scherzer-PI_vresize_1200_675_high_68SIX pitchers kept or gained value in ranks:  Scherzer, Sale, Arrieta. Fernandez, Kluber and Cueto.  Kershaw (despite his injury) and Syndergaard stayed within 10 spots. Strasburg just missed by falling 12 spots.  But, overall, the top 20 pitchers cost their owners in terms of rank and value.

If you had it all to do again, there is no doubt that you would have drafted any o
f these guys back in March.  Nonetheless, in retrospect, you hope that the value gained by your other draft picks would have offset the losses you took due to your early picks.

 

Top Gainers

In looking at the top gainers, it’s important to keep in mind, again, that there are ceilings that players will encounter.  If you are ranked 40, you can’t jump 50 spots unless, you are passed by a bunch of folks (and you slip to, say 70, before rising up). Among the 275 highest ranked players, we are much more interested in the #250 player who moves up 200 spots than the #500-ranked player who moves equally.  But, looking just at jumps, here are the top 20 batters.

 

Biggest Gainers among the 275 Highest Ranked Batters in Yahoo!

Batters GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned
Gary Sánchez NYY – C 21 1191 273 918 80%
Sandy León Bos – C 51 1172 280 892 43%
Ryan Schimpf SD – 2B,3B 60 1143 254 889 14%
Matt Joyce Pit – OF 109 1075 225 850 1%
Trea Turner Was – 2B,OF 40 1047 216 831 72%
Robbie Grossman Min – OF 76 1140 319 821 1%
Hyun Soo Kim Bal – 1B,OF 71 1206 387 819 3%
Jeremy Hazelbaker StL – OF 91 1181 365 816 5%
Tommy Joseph Phi – 1B 77 1138 326 812 4%
David Dahl Col – OF 31 1217 410 807 55%
Rickie Weeks Jr. Ari – OF 97 1192 401 791 0%
Chris Herrmann Ari – C,OF 54 1210 429 781 6%
Tim Anderson CWS – SS 66 1152 386 766 12%
Keon Broxton Mil – OF 59 1199 433 766 27%
Willson Contreras ChC – C,OF 57 1211 449 762 55%
Sean Rodríguez Pit – 1B,2B,3B,SS,OF 109 1061 311 750 2%
Alex Dickerson SD – OF 54 1215 469 746 9%
Ryan Rua Tex – 1B,OF 84 1174 438 736 1%
Cheslor Cuthbert KC – 3B 97 1045 310 735 7%
Dae-Ho Lee Sea – 1B 85 1189 459 730 1%

Anyone who moves 800 or 900 spots was probably drafted for $1 or picked up on waivers.  These guys are all midseason callus or injury replacements.  Many, such as Sanchez, Cuthbert, etc. have probably not hit their ceiling yet.  (In Sanchez’s case, we must be wary of his small sample size.) Their value lies in 2017 roster management.  Will Moustakas recover?  Is the Yankee catcher slot wide open?  Is Leon Boston’s catcher of the future (or will all of these guys wake up and realize they are mortal)?  Very few of these guys are owned in more than 50% of Yahoo! leagues as of 28 August.  But, one wonders how they will fare in keeper leagues as teams start to organize for next season.

 

Biggest Gainers among the 275 Highest Ranked Pitchers in Yahoo!

Pitchers GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned IP*
Martín Pérez Tex – P 27 1131 376 755 12% 163.2
Chad Bettis Col – P 26 1155 489 666 8% 146.1
Matt Wisler Atl – P 22 999 352 647 4% 130
Bud Norris LAD – P 32 1053 419 634 8% 108.2
Ricky Nolasco LAA – P 26 1178 563 615 2% 154.2
Wade Miley Bal – P 24 1151 565 586 8% 134
Jorge De La Rosa Col – P 23 1086 506 580 4% 115
Chris Rusin Col – P 19 1088 509 579 0% 72
Miguel González CWS – P 19 899 357 542 2% 102.1
Chase Anderson Mil – P 25 1023 501 522 5% 119
Shane Greene Det – P 37 1042 530 512 2% 46.1
Colin Rea SD – P 20 991 494 497 1% 102.2
Derek Holland Tex – P 15 936 461 475 10% 78.2
Williams Pérez Atl – P 9 984 528 456 0% 48.2
Mat Latos Was – P 11 916 480 436 5% 60.1
CC Sabathia NYY – P 23 616 274 342 17% 137.1
Lucas Harrell Tex – P 9 842 518 324 2% 47
Blake Snell TB – P 14 759 467 292 33% 68.1
Severino Gonzalez Phi – P 22 814 547 267 0% 29.2
Rick Porcello Bos – P 26 286 27 259 90% 172.2

 

Pitchers show similar patterns.  With the exception of Porcello (who was clearly an undervalued sleeper on draft day), NONE of the top 20 jumpers are owned in 50% of Yahoo! leagues or even crack the top 250 overall. Of course, Porcello started in the top 300 and is now a top 50 player. So, his jump matters as much for its magnitude as well as the point at which he started.  Most of these guys will be also late season pickups in keeper leagues.  In Porcello’s case, we see the importance of mid-round draft skills in identifying breakout players.

 

The current Top 20.

So, who paid real dividends?  If we look at the top 20 players in Yahoo! as of 28 August, we see who paid off.

Top 20 Batters Ranked by Yahoo! as of 28 August

Batters GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned
José Altuve Hou – 2B ? 128 14 1 13 99%
Mookie Betts Bos – OF ? 126 19 2 17 99%
Kris Bryant ChC – 3B,OF ? 125 12 3 9 99%
Mike Trout LAA – OF 128 1 4 -3 99%
Daniel Murphy Was – 1B,2B,3B 121 158 5 153 97%
Josh Donaldson Tor – 3B ? 125 5 6 -1 99%
David Ortiz Bos – 1B 120 69 8 61 98%
Nolan Arenado Col – 3B ? 127 8 9 -1 99%
Paul Goldschmidt Ari – 1B 128 2 10 -8 99%
Joey Votto Cin – 1B ? 125 23 11 12 98%
Edwin Encarnación Tor – 1B 127 17 13 4 99%
Charlie Blackmon Col – OF ? 114 26 15 11 97%
Manny Machado Bal – 3B,SS 124 7 16 -9 99%
Anthony Rizzo ChC – 1B 124 13 17 -4 99%
Ryan Braun Mil – OF 108 45 20 25 98%
Miguel Cabrera Det – 1B 127 6 21 -15 99%
Corey Seager LAD – SS 125 88 24 64 97%
Brian Dozier Min – 2B 124 76 28 48 95%
Jonathan Villar Mil – 3B,SS 124 300 30 270 88%
DJ LeMahieu Col – 2B 118 178 31 147 86%

villarDaniel Murphy, Jonathan Villar and DJ LeMahieu paid extraordinary dividends. With the exception of LeMahieu and Villar, all of these guys are owned in virtually all leagues and 17/20 of them started out in the top 100. Many had Murphy penciled in for a solid season.  But, anyone who picked up Villar or LeMahieu probably got them on the cheap.

 

Next 20 Batters Ranked by Yahoo! as of 28 August

Batters GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned
Robinson Canó Sea – 2B 128 55 33 22 99%
Carlos González Col – OF 119 46 34 12 98%
Ian Desmond Tex – SS,OF 128 130 35 95 95%
Nelson Cruz Sea – OF 125 35 36 -1 98%
Xander Bogaerts Bos – SS 125 62 37 25 98%
Freddie Freeman Atl – 1B 128 68 39 29 93%
Jean Segura Ari – 2B,SS 123 205 40 165 92%
Mark Trumbo Bal – 1B,OF 128 220 41 179 95%
Wil Myers SD – 1B,OF 125 239 44 195 90%
Bryce Harper Was – OF ? 119 3 45 -42 99%
Evan Longoria TB – 3B 126 121 46 75 94%
Francisco Lindor Cle – SS ? 127 101 47 54 96%
George Springer Hou – OF 129 27 48 -21 98%
Kyle Seager Sea – 3B 125 84 51 33 95%
Mike Napoli Cle – 1B,OF 120 303 52 251 85%
Starling Marte Pit – OF 118 33 53 -20 98%
Trevor Story Col – SS 97 232 54 178 46%
Ian Kinsler Det – 2B 125 89 55 34 97%
Christian Yelich Mia – OF 123 97 56 41 92%
Dustin Pedroia Bos – 2B 125 183 57 126 90%
Carlos Correa Hou – SS ? 125 10 61 -51 99%

 

TrumboThe second 20 is where the real profits were made.  Here, we see that 9 of the second 20 started outside of the top 100 and jumped into the top 40.  Of course, these numbers breed hope as well as skepticism.  Mike Napoli is playing with the house’s money. Anyone betting he repeats?  Segura, Trumbo and Myers all benefited from fresh air.  They were not exactly draft day steals.

 

Top 20 Pitchers Ranked by Yahoo! as of 28 August

Pitchers GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned IP*
Max Scherzer Was – P ? 27 15 7 8 99% 182
Madison Bumgarner SF – P ? 28 28 12 16 99% 180.2
Clayton Kershaw LAD – P ? 17 4 14 -10 98% 121
Chris Sale CWS – P ? 25 24 18 6 99% 177.2
Justin Verlander Det – P 27 122 19 103 95% 181
Jake Arrieta ChC – P ? 25 25 22 3 99% 161.2
Corey Kluber Cle – P 26 36 23 13 98% 175.2
José Fernández Mia – P ? 24 30 25 5 99% 148.2
Kyle Hendricks ChC – P 25 189 26 163 91% 152
Rick Porcello Bos – P 26 286 27 259 90% 172.2
Jon Lester ChC – P 25 73 29 44 99% 154
Johnny Cueto SF – P 26 65 32 33 99% 179.2
Noah Syndergaard NYM – P 26 37 38 -1 99% 155
José Quintana CWS – P 26 137 42 95 93% 172.1
Cole Hamels Tex – P 26 80 43 37 98% 168.2
J.A. Happ Tor – P 25 299 49 250 89% 155.1
Stephen Strasburg Was – P ? 23 38 50 -12 98% 145.1
Masahiro Tanaka NYY – P 26 111 58 53 94% 168
Danny Duffy KC – P 36 301 59 242 88% 143.2
John Lackey ChC – P 24 145 60 85 90% 158.1

Among pitchers, we see similar, but larger top 20 patterns. Five of the current top pitchers jumped 100 spots or more and eight of them started outside the top 100.Justin Verlander

 

Next 20 Pitchers Ranked by Yahoo! as of 28 August

Pitchers GP* Pre-Season Current? gain(loss) % Owned IP*
Tanner Roark Was – P 27 309 63 246 84% 168.1
Aarón Sánchez Tor – P 24 305 64 241 77% 156.1
Drew Pomeranz Bos – P 25 302 66 236 87% 146.1
Kenta Maeda LAD – P 27 207 73 134 89% 141.2
Kenley Jansen LAD – P 57 78 76 2 98% 55.1
Michael Fulmer Det – P 21 308 78 230 87% 130.2
David Price Bos – P 28 40 81 -41 98% 183.2
Jason Hammel ChC – P 30 166 83 83 89% 140
Carlos Martínez StL – P ? 24 117 84 33 93% 152.1
Steven Wright Bos – P 23 315 90 225 81% 152.2
Zach Britton Bal – P 55 110 93 17 96% 52
Andrew Miller Cle – P 54 167 94 73 91% 57
Rich Hill LAD – P 15 304 95 209 83% 82
Carlos Carrasco Cle – P ? 21 57 97 -40 97% 128
Jacob deGrom NYM – P 24 29 99 -70 98% 143
Dan Straily Cin – P 27 330 101 229 56% 151.1
Marco Estrada Tor – P 22 264 109 155 80% 137.1
Chris Tillman Bal – P 26 349 111 238 77% 153
Ian Kennedy KC – P 26 238 113 125 72% 153.2
Julio Teherán Atl – P 23 164 119 45 81% 145.2
Steven Matz NYM – P 22 134 120 14 86% 132.1

 

Once again—as with the batters–we find tremendous dividends in the second 20.  Sixteen of the second 20 started outside of the top 100. Eleven of these pitchers jumped at least 100 spots.

 

Hitters, Pitchers and Draft Strategy.

What we see here is the importance of betting on playing time with regard to batters. Whereas the biggest jumpers among batters have not come close to full season stats, the best payoffs among batters ho jumped into the top 40 came from players who have played, essentially a full season.  These guys either broke out or recovered from injury.

Among pitchers, we need to look at more data.  With the exception of RP, there is not much variance in IP among the top 40 SP.  So, these guys were already in rotations for the most part.  The key here is to have looked at trends in DIPS or other data that indicate that a SP has been plagued by bad luck despite having a solid skill set.  So, you look for the next Rick Porcello or, next year, snap up a Chris Archer clone.

As we collect firewood for our hot stoves, we can prepare to spend our winters torturing data.  But, a couple of things are clear, IMHO.  First, SP are a better source of investment than batters.  All those batters who jumped through the ranks like Spiderman would have sat on your bench until the All-Star Break (more or less). A majority of the SP who skyrocketed have pitched better than 100 innings.  Granted, many may still be #4 or #5 SP.  But, their value on a $1 bet is beyond question and they’ve been collecting Ks for most of the season.

CorreaYou are clearly more likely to assemble your starting lineup on draft day.  Barring injury, you are not going to find much waiver wire help unless the next Carlos Correa manages to go undrafted.   But, there is pitching help among free agents and waivers.  The option to stream SP gives you an opportunity that you do not have with your everyday batters.  Once you set your top 2 or 3 SP, you can afford to risk dollar picks and streaming.  Your batters won’t allow you that luxury.

So, best wishes.  It’s been a ball  writing columns and  editing for MLFS.  How many shopping days till Pitchers and Catchers report?  When’s your 2017 draft?  Is Todd Gurley still available…?  Oh never mind.  Wait till next year…

Best wishes to all.

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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