Rotisserie Duck

Wait 'Til You Get A Whiff Of This PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 14 November 2014 00:00
Being born one year before Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier in the major leagues, I've always embraced positive change in the game. From Bill James’ early work to the explosion of Fantasy Baseball to expanded media coverage to new analytics, it has all been great fun. There are still some old-school roots, like wishing hitters would choke up with two strikes and put the ball in play, but change is inevitable even if we don't agree with the details at the time.

This concept struck home again recently while watching a MLB Network interview with the new Dodgers GM, Farhan Zaidi. At age 37, Zaidi has worked for the Oakland A's for the last ten years. He is a Canadian of Pakistani decent who grew up in the Philippines and becomes the first Muslim GM in the major leagues. He has economics degrees from MIT (undergraduate) and Cal Berkeley (doctorate) and is obviously well-schooled in statistical analysis, having worked for Billy Beane's "Moneyball" regime. In fact, at least one L.A. sportswriter has already criticized the Dodgers for hiring a front office of nerds who comprise a "geek squad."

In the interview, however, Zaidi came across as a smart, personable guy who clearly understands the ongoing debate of stat heads vs. scouts, and he wasn't even wearing a pocket-protector. The most interesting Q&A for fantasy players was when he was asked if it's tougher to analyze pitchers or hitters. There was no hesitation, as the new GM detailed why pitchers are so much more difficult to assess. He pointed out that something as simple as adding another pitch (like a young Mariano Rivera) can change the career path for a pitcher. And, of course, there’s the injury factor and how each pitcher might recover differently.

From a fantasy perspective, we're always looking for the Holy Grail when it comes to pitching analysis. As one of the better players in my league says at least a dozen times a season, "I hate pitchers." Another owner in the same league had a strong season in 2013 by concentrating on the WHIP/Ratio factor at the draft. While that worked in a 4x4 format, adding strikeouts to the equation would diminish the value of some control pitchers. Using K rate in a 5x5 league makes some sense, but a pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning might also issue a high volume of walks. In an earlier article, this column pointed out the stat of "Fielding Independent Pitching" (FIP) as a way to determine if a pitcher's ERA might have been lucky or unlucky in a given season.

At the recent First Pitch Arizona meeting, a plethora of smart guys discussed all types of baseball related topics. In one session, another pitching statistic was added to the mix of tools to confuse us even further. The presenter indicated that his favorite pitching metric was "Whiff Rate" because it was simple and makes sense intuitively. What you are really trying to determine with this stat are the pitchers who have the best "stuff." By digging around the FanGraphs website, you can find the "Contact %" for every major league hurler. The difference between that number and 100% is their whiff rate, or in other words, how often batters missed a pitch. Over the last three years, whiff rate for starting pitchers averages about 20%. Not surprisingly, many of the top hurlers in baseball are near the top of the list, but others might jump off the page. These numbers are based on a 160-inning minimum.

1) Francisco Liriano (Free Agent), 31.9% - Just in case you're wondering why a mid-market team like the Pirates would offer a 7-game winner $15.3 million.

2) Tyson Ross (Padres), 28.6% - Petco Park doesn't cause swings and misses.

3) Chris Sale (White Sox), 27.2% - Nasty side-winder.

4) Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), 27% - Another Cy Young Award.

5) Felix Hernandez (Mariners), 26.4% - Doesn't seem like slightly diminished velocity has impacted his stuff.

6) Ervin Santana (Free Agent), 25.7% - Another free agent who has been given the $15.3 million qualifying offer.

7) Corey Kluber (Indians), 25.6% - Under the radar in Cleveland, he appears to be the real deal.

8) Max Scherzer (Free Agent), 24.7% - You had better be good to turn down $140+ million.

9) Zack Greinke (Dodgers), 24.6% - In Kershaw's shadow, he's 32-12 over the last two seasons.

10) Garrett Richards (Angels), 24.4% - The injury factor looms.

11) Cole Hamels (Phillies), 24.4% - Might be the asset traded by Philadelphia to rebuild its roster.

12) Stephen Strasburg (Nationals), 23.8% - Has gone from over-rated to under-rated.

13) Alex Cobb, 23% (Rays) - In 49 starts over the last two seasons, his ERA is 2.82.

14) Zack Wheeler (Mets), 22.9% - Won't be 25 until after opening day 2015.

15) Jeff Samardzija (A's), 22.7% - Wouldn't you like to be his agent next off-season?

Where are some of the familiar names? Madison Bumgarner (Giants) is 19th at 22.2%, David Price (Tigers) is 23rd at 21.7% and Jon Lester (Free Agent) is 25th at 21.5%.

And, you might be wondering about the bottom-of-the-barrel? Bartolo Colon (Mets) at 12.3%, Doug Fister (Nationals) at 13.4%, Mark Buehrle (Blue Jays) at 14.1%, Scott Feldman (Astros) at 14.3% and Travis Wood (Cubs) at 14.5% round out the lowest five.

So, if your pitching toolbox isn't already overflowing, take a whiff of this information.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 November 2014 02:17
Teaching An Old Duck New Tricks PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00
In 30 years of playing auction-style Fantasy Baseball, winning over 25 championships can be good news and bad news. The good news is that you've proven your skills by establishing strategies and methods for success. The bad news could be that you're hesitant to adjust and make significant changes because you're afraid to mess with the baseline that has achieved positive results. That is the quandary that presented itself last week as the 15 owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) gathered in Phoenix for their 13th annual draft.

As a quick refresher, the XFL is the only experts keeper league within the fantasy industry and many of the owners’ names are familiar to those who have viewed the landscape of fantasy sports over the years. These brilliant guys produce websites, magazines, newsletters and blogs that help guide you in becoming a better player in your league. The league is a 5x5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in early November with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters (23 players are active each week during the season). Donald's Dux (my squad) has captured four championships and holds the best overall performance record over the first dozen campaigns.

With that background, along with finishes of 1st, 1st, 2nd and 2nd over the last four years, why would the Dux consider changing their strategy? The easy answer would be lack of intelligence, but there are really two reasons based on 2014 results.

First off, last November, the Dux went to the draft table with a strong offensive keeper list and some questionable pitching. Included on the staff were Matt Harvey, who was kept despite the certainty of missing 2014 (his salary was low enough to project him on the team in '15 and beyond) and Danny Farquhar, who was projected to be the closer in Seattle but lost that opportunity when the Mariners signed Fernando Rodney. Then, at the draft table, the Dux added Matt Cain, Marco Estrada and Ricky Nolasco (among others). Due to the lack of performance from that staff, the team chased pitching all year and even after adding Tim Hudson and Jason Hammel in March, as well as trading Harvey for Adam Wainwright during the season, the numbers never really came together. The Dux garnered 73 of 75 possible hitting points but only 40 points in the five pitching categories and the 113-point total was good for a solid 2nd place finish but never really challenged for the title. Secondly, even though the traditional 70/30 split for hitting and pitching has been the basis of my draft money-management over the years, it was obvious that a different breakdown might have been more successful, which was confirmed by the championship team in my NL-only "home league", which spent 42% on pitching and essentially went wire-to-wire.

Here's the keeper list for the Dux that was frozen on October 16th:

C - Devin Mesoraco $6

C -

1B - Jose Abreu $4

3B -

1/3 - Anthony Rizzo $18

2B -

SS - Starlin Castro $16

2/S -

OF - Yasiel Puig $7

OF - Carlos Gomez $20

OF - Andrew McCutchen $19

OF - Michael Brantley $12

OF - Ben Revere $20

U -

P - Tanner Roark $12

P - Zach Britton $10

P - Jacob deGrom $10

P -

P -

P -

P -

P -

P -

The nine hitters had a salary total of $122, while the three pitchers came to $32, leaving $106 to buy 11 players at the draft table. Historically, under the 70/30 strategy, the allocation would have been $60 for the five hitters and $46 for the six pitchers. Realistically however, the hitters on the keeper list could be worth $100+ more than their salary, while the pitchers didn't have a plus side of more than $10. The answer, of course, was to throw away 30 years of success and try something else. The decision was to shift $30 from hitting to pitching at the draft and try to come out with a more balanced squad. That left $30 for the five hitters and $76 for the six pitchers. So, the draft strategy was as follows:

>  Find two everyday players for about $12 each and take three end-game hitters for a total of $6.

> On the pitching side, allocate $50 for three starting pitchers, $25 for two closers and an end-gamer for the last pitching spot.

Not much research needed to be done on the offensive side, as I could bid on any position player and was only concerned about getting regular playing time and at-bats. One thought was to prioritize a second Catcher because there is a scarcity factor when 30 backstops are rostered in an OBP league, but the options were wide open. On the pitching side, the plan needed to be a little more precise. My advice to owners has always been to not "chase" any particular player. Find a group of players that fit your need and focus on getting one of them. Based on that criteria, three starting pitching tiers were established with a goal of getting one from each tier for the $50 allocation. Here's the basic list that was generated:

Tier 1 - Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester

Tier 2 - Ervin Santana, Kyle Lohse, Tyson Ross, Lance Lynn

Tier 3 - Kyle Hendricks, Jon Niese, Francisco Liriano, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Wood

For the $25 allocation on the two closers, the list included Glen Perkins, Fernando Rodney, Jonathan Papelbon, Addison Reed, Hector Rondon, Steve Cishek, Jenrry Mejia and Huston Street. The end-gamer list had Andrew Heaney, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Ken Giles and Dellin Betances along with every other available pitcher.

Before reviewing the results of the draft, there's one other important league rule for readers to understand. Even though the word "list" is being used in this discussion, the really unique aspect of the XFL is that team owners aren’t allowed to bring anything to the lists, no projections, no research, no draft software, no laptops, no tablets and no smart phones. When you sit at the table, major league depth charts are handed out with the names of keepers crossed off and that is your only reference material during the auction. Even the depth charts are as neutral as possible with players listed by position and alphabetically. You don't get any help as the typical MLB team could have 12 relief pitchers on the sheet and you need to know which one might get (or be next in line for) saves.

The actual approach at the draft table needed to be somewhat passive-aggressive. Passive in the sense of being patient, as two-thirds of the teams had more money to spend and aggressive in the sense of acquiring solid starting pitchers. Wainwright was the first out on the table from Tier 1 and my mild concern about his elbow caused me to stay out of the bidding...he went for a slightly discounted price of $21. Next up was Hamels and the Dux stayed aggressive, winning the bid at $26. The number turned out to be a good read on the market as Greinke went for $27, Zimmermann for $25 and Lester for $26. You might disagree with my choice of Hamels versus the others, but locking in cost certainty early has its advantages.

It became clear early in the proceedings that Catchers were highly coveted. After watching Yadier Molina go off the board at $19 followed by Wilson Ramos at $18, Wilin Rosario at $15 and Yamani Grandal at $14, the Dux rostered Miguel Montero for $14 as their first hitter. The prices never really leveled off as later in the draft, Russell Martin cost $18 and Chris Iannetta $13.

Now it was back to pitching and the next addition was  Liriano at $17, which was a little over-priced but the strikeout rate is impressive. The next two hurlers were closers in Cishek and Reed at $11 and $9 respectively and then Santana for $11. Looking at the pitching plan, it seemed to be SP from each of the three tiers for $54 and two closers for $20, leaving $2 for an end-gamer.

Now it was time to get at least one more everyday player. With $16 left for four hitters, the goal was to get a some production at middle infield for $10 and then grab three end-gamers. The Dux brought up Chase Utley but the thought was that $10 probably wouldn't be enough for a player who earned $16 in this format last season. It was a pleasant surprise to get him for $6. Third base was the next priority and cornering the market on infielders named Chase, Chase Headley cost only $3.  2/S was next and hoping for a youngster with upside instead of a mediocre veteran, the Dux took Nick Franklin for $1.

With $8 remaining for the last pitcher and a utility player, it seemed like we were swimming in cash. Surprisingly, Kyle Lohse was still available and nobody raised my $1 bid. He's not a sexy choice but is durable and earned $7 in this league in 2014. The Utility spot was filled for another $1 with Colby Rasmus and in retrospect, a middle infielder would have been a better choice as insurance for Franklin.

Realistically, you can't go into a league with this type of inflation thinking that your $106 can buy $106 in value. However, looking at the 11 players drafted, it's reasonable to assume that their worth is at least $70. Added to the $280 estimated value of the keepers, that's $350 of value in a $260 league. That seems like a good start for the 2015 season. Of course, many additions in the March Supplemental phase will improve many rosters and fill gaps due to November draft mistakes, injuries and role changes. Thanks to their 2nd place finish, the Dux have the 1st pick in March, so there may be another Cuban in our future.

You can peruse additional league information at



Last Updated on Friday, 07 November 2014 10:22
MVP's Go To WAR PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 31 October 2014 00:00
"Wins Above Replacement" (WAR) has been discussed in this space on multiple occasions and the complete definition and calculation formulas can be found at as well as In essence, it is an attempt by baseball analysts to come up with a player's overall contribution to their team in one statistic. The key question is, "If this player got injured and was replaced by an available minor leaguer or Quad-A bench player, how much value would the team be losing?" The answer is shown as the number of wins a player is worth to his team over the course of a season. If you're an "old school" fan, this type of stat might not be your cup of tea, but over the years it has become much more mainstream and is certainly taken into consideration by writers who vote on post-season awards.

With that background, let's look at the real MVP's of each major league team for 2014.

AL East

> Orioles - Adam Jones led the Birds with a WAR of 5.4 but the more surprising stat is that part-time 1B/OF Steve Pearce was next at 4.9. His 21 homers and .930 OPS were significantly important to the O's winning their division.

> Yankees - This expensive and aging squad didn't have even one player worth four wins...Jacoby Ellsbury's WAR of 3.6 was the team's best.

> Blue Jays - Jose Bautista's season, with 35 homers, 103 RBI and a .928 OPS equaled an All-Star type WAR of other team member was above 3.6.

> Rays - Ben Zobrist was easily the most valuable player in Tampa Bay with a figure of 5.7, double-digit homers and steals along with defensive versatility.

> Red Sox - A dismal campaign for the Beantowners is amplified when you find that their best player was Jon Lester (4.5 WAR) and he was traded at the deadline.

AL Central

> Tigers - Max Scherzer (5.6) and Ian Kinsler (5.5) both topped Miguel Cabrera's WAR of 5.4...and Miggy's new $240 million contract doesn't even start until 2016.

> Royals - The Cinderella team was led by Alex Gordon, who was worth 6.6 wins. Gold glove defense makes a difference.

> Indians - If you don't know much about Corey Kluber, start paying attention. His WAR of 7.3 was the best figure for pitchers in the AL and on the same level with Clayton Kershaw in the Majors. The Tribe also had another under-the-radar spectacular player in Michael Brantley, who registered a WAR of 6.6.

> White Sox - Chris Sale (5.4), Jose Quintana (5.3) and Jose Abreu (5.3) give the Pale Hose a great young core.

> Twins - Phil Hughes might have been the best free-agent signing with a WAR of 6.1 and young second baseman Brian Dozier chipped in with 4.6.

AL West

> Angels - Mike Trout is the best player in baseball with a 2014 WAR of 7.8...that gives him 28 wins in his first three full seasons.

> Athletics - Josh Donaldson's 6.4 rating is twice as much as the next most valuable member of the squad.

> Mariners - If you wonder how they got so much better, just look at Felix Hernandez (6.1), Kyle Seager (5.5) and Robinson Cano (5.3).

> Astros - Jose Altuve wins the best "pound-for-pound" award with a WAR of 5.2.

> Rangers - Despite the team's dismal season, Adrian Beltre was still a force at age 35 with a number of 5.8.

NL East

> Nationals - Not a marquee name, but Anthony Rendon had a remarkable season with a WAR of 6.6, while Jordan Zimmermann led the pitching staff with 5.2.

> Mets - Not much to brag about on this squad, as Juan Lagares led the way at 3.8...and that was mostly generated from glove work.

> Braves - Jason Heyward led the way with a figure of 5.1. As with Gordon, decent production and gold glove caliber defense.

> Marlins - Giancarlo Stanton missed a significant chunk of September and still posted an impressive 6.1...definite league MVP candidate.

> Phillies - An aging team with large contracts only had one player worth at least four wins with Chase Utley at 4.1.

NL Central

> Cardinals - A questionable free-agent signing turned out to be gold for the Redbirds as Jhonny Peralta posted a WAR of 5.4.

> Pirates - Not much doubt on the Bucs roster, as reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen had another amazing season with a figure of 6.8.

> Brewers - A disappointing finish marred the accomplishments of Jonathan Lucroy (6.3) and Carlos Gomez (5.9).

> Reds - In March, who would have thought that Todd Frazier would be the team's best player with a WAR of 4.7?

> Cubs - A 25-year-old player on the cusp of stardom, Anthony Rizzo posted a figure of 5.6 and could get even better.

NL West

> Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw will be the runaway Cy Young Award winner and his WAR of 7.2 might also tempt MVP voters.

> Giants - Buster Posey is the face of the franchise and their most valuable player with a mark of 5.7.

> Padres - This was an extremely mediocre team and they finished 3rd in this division. Sadly, a part-time, 31-year-old Catcher named Rene Rivera led the WAR parade with 3.0 wins.

> Rockies - Injuries decimated this squad and Troy Tulowitzki posted a 5.1 WAR in only half a season.

> Diamondbacks - Another injured player was this team's best, as Paul Goldschmidt had 4.4 wins before hitting the DL.

Overall, the five best offense players were:

1) Mike Trout 7.8

2) Andrew McCutchen 6.8

T3) Michael Brantley 6.6

T3) Alex Gordon 6.6

T3) Anthony Rendon 6.6

And the top six pitchers:

1) Corey Kluber 7.3

2) Clayton Kershaw 7.2

3) Felix Hernandez 6.2

T4) David Price 6.1

T4) Phil Hughes 6.1

T4) Jon Lester 6.1

As the folks at Fan Graphs point out, you shouldn't get too bogged down in decimal points. Over the course of a  season, one player with a 6.4 WAR and another player with a 6.1 WAR cannot really be distinguished from each other. However, a 6.4 WAR player and a 4.1 WAR player are significantly different when calculating their value to a team in any given season. If you had no other information available and had been in solitary confinement since March, your MVP ballot with Trout in the AL and McCutchen in the NL along with a Cy Young ballot listing Kluber in the AL and Kershaw in the NL certainly wouldn't put your BWAA membership card in jeopardy.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 08:42
Jeepers Creepers Where'd You Get Those Keepers PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
Don't lie to me! At some point, you've been in a relationship where you thought of the other person as a "keeper". What exactly did you mean by that? Could the objective definition be someone whose value is worth the cost...both emotionally and financially? For those of us who are fortunate enough to play keeper league fantasy baseball, the definition is even more telling. As with John Hart and Ervin Santana or Neal Huntington and Russell Martin, we must make those tough calls when it comes to our roster. Of course, our decisions don't involve $15.3 million, but they are nonetheless difficult and heart-wrenching.

Every keeper league has its unique characteristics, but 99% of the time, keeper decisions are being made within a month of opening day, when information and advice is plentiful. For the owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), their keeper list is due in mid-October for an auction draft that takes place just as the World Series is ending. The XFL is a 15-team mixed keeper league with a $260 auction draft for a roster of 23 players (14 hitters + 9 pitchers). It has a standard 5x5 format with On-Base Percentage (OBP) replacing Batting Average (BA) and each team can keep up to 15 players, including minor league prospects. So, for example, if three of your 15 keepers are Farm players (less than 50 AB's or 20 IP in the Majors), you still need to draft 11 players at the table. To give you some understanding of the challenges involved, here's a quick review of the salary structure.

> November Draft - Player salaries are determined by the winning bid at the table and increase $5 each season. So, unless a team finds a break-out player in the end-game, there's a reasonable chance that expensive veterans will only be on your team for one season.

> March Supplemental Draft - A 17-round snake draft gets all the squads up to a 40-man roster from which you determine 23 active players each week. All players chosen in this phase have a $1 salary. For current major leaguers, the increase each season is $5, so the annual keeper lists have a smattering of $6 players that were great choices the previous year. Examples this time around include Dallas Keuchel, Kole Calhoun, Todd Frazier, Ian Kennedy and Marcell Ozuna. Minor leaguers taken in this phase also have a $1 starting salary, but once they get to "the show", their salary only goes up $3 per year. This is what might be described as the "dynasty" component in this particular league. An example would be Andrew McCutchen, who was taken as a minor leaguer by Donald's Dux (my squad) in 2007 and now enters his 7th season on the roster at a salary of $19.

> In-Season Monthly Free Agent Selections - Teams can choose free agents once a month and drop someone on their roster in a corresponding move. The salary is $5 with a $5 increase in subsequent seasons, so you'll see a few of these players scattered on keeper rosters at $10 each year. Current examples include Danny Duffy, Danny Santana, Jake McGee, J.D. Martinez, Neftali Feliz and Steve Pearce.

As with all keeper leagues, draft inflation is an important factor and some of the bargain salaries put the percentage beyond the scope of my abacus. This creates an atmosphere where one of the difficult decisions regarding keepers is not just their value vs. cost, but what the estimated price will be at the draft to get them back. This makes those marginal keepers even more valuable as you pare your roster down to 15. As an instructive exercise for keeper league aficionados, we'll look at each roster and choose a "no-brainer" keeper (the team's MVP) and a marginal keeper in the classic "bubble" category. That way, you can drool over the former and see if you agree with the latter.

> Jeff Winick

* MVP - Victor Martinez $16 - One of the five top-earners in this format, he was a big factor in Jeff's championship run. Another season like 2014 would produce + $20 in value.

* Bubble - Ryan Braun $25 - Battled injuries and a lack of chemicals in 2014 to earn about $16, but what would he go for at the table?

> Don Drooker

* MVP - Jose Abreu $4 - By virtue of the 1st pick last March, the Cuban slugger became a member of the Dux. Anything close to 2014 results could be + $25 in value.

* Bubble - Ben Revere $20 - A great 2nd half got his value close to this salary, but the Phillies don't seem to be sold. If he gets traded, relegated to a platoon or moved down in the lineup, he becomes a "one-trick pony" (Paul Simon, 1980).

> Todd Zola

* MVP - Brian Dozier $10 - His breakout season produced close to $30 in value at a middle-infield position.

* Bubble - Jeff Samardzija $16 - Lord Z's roster only has seven keepers, so there aren't really any marginal players, but this pitcher's value could be impacted by a trade.

> Peter Kreutzer / Alex Patton

* MVP - Mike Trout $13 - One of those dynasty players, he'll be on this roster when George Jetson's son Elroy is running for President.

* Bubble - Hanley Ramirez $28 - A scarce position, but where will he land...and will he stay healthy?

> Ron Shandler

* MVP - Garrett Richards $6 - One of those great picks from March, he should be 100% for Spring Training.

* Bubble - Tommy La Stella $4 - Probably has the job, but with little power or speed, will he keep it? If this is your most marginal keeper, things aren't too bad.

> Lawr Michaels

* MVP - Yoenis Cespedes $10 - Could double this number in value while tattooing the Green Monster.

* Bubble - Jedd Gyorko $7 - Not a big investment, but his season was a real disappointment.

> Greg Ambrosius

* MVP - Josh Donaldson $11 - Produced over $25 in value in this format.

* Bubble - Salvador Perez $19 - Catchers are always at a premium in this league because 30 must be drafted and there are less than 25 who have a positive dollar value with OBP as a stat category.

> Doug Dennis

* MVP - Corey Dickerson $6 - Never highly touted, can he re-produce that $20-$25 season?

* Bubble - Elvis Andrus $19 - Had a down year but offers position and speed scarcity.

> Jeff Erickson

* MVP - Johnny Cueto $14 - Of course, it had to be a Red. Trailed only Clayton Kershaw for pitching value in this format at $34.

* Bubble - Brett Lawrie $13 - Needs to be healthy (and productive) to make this work.

> Brian Feldman

* MVP - Josh Harrison $10 - Not only had a great breakout season, he has multiple-position eligibility.

* Bubble - Gerrit Cole $7 - Not much of a risk at this price, but injuries seem to be an issue.

> Steve Moyer

* MVP - Jose Altuve $25 - Even at this salary, he's a bargain. Only five hitters earned more in 2014.

* Bubble - Brian McCann $23 - Another difficult Catcher decision, as he was impacted dramatically by defensive shifts. Maybe that September surge was a good sign.

> Gene McCaffrey

* MVP - Matt Carpenter $11 - A solid contributor, he doubled this number in value.

* Bubble - Drew Pomeranz $6 - Pitched well when available, but only logged 69 innings.

> Perry Van Hook

* MVP - Dee Gordon $6- Picked up in March and was the most valuable SS in this league.

* Bubble - Mark Trumbo $13 - Still offers that power potential and home runs get more scarce all the time.

> Brian Walton

* MVP - Justin Morneau $6 - Loved the altitude in Denver and under contract with the Rockies for at least one more year.

* Bubble - Matt Moore $10 - These are much tougher decisions in October than in March. The Rays are hoping he'll be ready in May.

While you're trick or treating on October 31, these 15 (or 16 if Alex makes an appearance) hearty fellows will be bidding in Arizona and enjoying the camaraderie of the XFL's 12th annual draft. More information and the league history can be found at 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 00:00
Grading The Prognostications PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 17 October 2014 00:00
Each year, a number of us from are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called "The Fantasy Baseball Guide - Professional Edition" and edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of "Picks and Pans" where we try to predict which players readers should target or avoid.

Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own predictions, a few disclaimers are in order...

1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven't signed and many MLB roster roles haven't been determined.

2)  The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don't need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player, you need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an over-rated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.

3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an "expert" has a price. Most of the opponents sitting around the draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.

So, without pulling any punches, let's see how the Quacker made out...

> CODY ALLEN - PICK - When a young reliever strikes out 88 batters in 70 IP and his team is fed up with the existing closer, that would be called an opportunity. - Put up 6W, 24 SV, 2.07 ERA & 1.06 WHIP to earn close to $20 in Roto value...Grade "A"

> HENDERSON ALVAREZ - PAN - While only 24, he's too much of an enigma...allowed only 90 hits on 102 IP, but strikes out just 5 batters per 9 IP...too confusing. - I shouldn't have been so confused as he exceeded expectations with 12 W & a 2.65 ERA even though he still had a low K rate...Grade "C"

> ELVIS ANDRUS - PICK - We've become spoiled and taken him for granted...has five full MLB seasons and will only be 25 on opening day...swiped 42 of 50 bases in 2013. - A slight drop-off from '13 with a .263 BA & 27 SB, he still earned $18...Grade "B"

> NORICHIKA AOKI - PICK - Don't be fooled by the fact that he's 32...plug in 10 HR's, 25 SB's, .285 BA for 550 AB's and bid accordingly. - Had some rough patches but managed 17 SB's & that exact .285 BA while filling the Royals black hole in RF and earning $17...Grade "B"

> HOMER BAILEY - PICK - Despite the horrible first name for a pitcher and the fact that he toils at Great American, this guy has figured it out...had 199 K's and his ERA could have been a half-run less based on raw numbers. - Pitched OK for 2/3 of the season before getting hurt with 9 W & a 3.71 but disappointed fantasy owners...Grade "C"

> GORDON BECKHAM - PAN - An example of a team being fooled by hype just like a fantasy player. - Hope you followed this advice, as he hit .226 in 446 AB's with single-digit HR & SB...Grade "A"

> PETER BOURJOS - PICK - If healthy, watch where he lands this off-season...a regular job in CF somewhere produces 10-15 HR's & 20-25 SB's...turns 27 on opening day. - Never got it going offensively with a .231 BA and a $4 Roto contribution, he eventually lost the starting job in St. Louis...Grade "D"

> MICHAEL BRANTLEY - PICK - Seems to be improving each year as he moves into his age 27 season. - The best advice of the year, he had a $40+ fantasy campaign with 20 HR's, 23 SB and a .327 BA...Grade "A"

> A.J. BURNETT - PICK - If he doesn't retire and returns to Pittsburgh, don't be duped by the fact that he's 37...had 209 K's in 191 IP. - Despite nagging injuries, he stayed on the mound for 34 starts, but 8 W and a 4.59 ERA didn't help your cause...Grade "C"

> BILLY BUTLER - PAN - At the age where a spike was expected, he went from 29 to 15 HR's...that physique will age quickly. - Right on the money, he hit 9 HR with a .271 BA while barely earning double-digit dollars...Grade "A"

> MARLON BYRD - PAN - The book should be called "Cheaters Hit The Lottery" with him and Melky on the cover...a career year at age 36 equals $16 Yakov Smirnoff once said, "America is a wonderful country". - My personal prejudice against PED guys got the best of me and he earned $20 with 25 HR's...Grade "D"

> MELKY CABRERA - PAN - Has never had a decent season when he wasn't "juiced". Another former cheater who had a productive year with a .301 BA & 16 HR's...Grade "D"

> MATT CAIN - PICK - Hope his 8-10 record lowers the perceived value in your league...based on raw stats, his ERA should have been closer to 3.15 than the actual 4.00. - As always, injuries will mess up predictions as he only made 15 starts...Grade "C"

> ALLEN CRAIG - PICK - His late-season injury might give you a slight discount in March...was the best clutch hitter in baseball and his lifetime OPS is .850. - A big miss, as he never showed any of the form we saw in 2013, he hit .215 in over 450 AB's and was barely rosterable...Grade "D"

> NELSON CRUZ - PAN - At age 33 coming off a PED suspension, let someone else take the risk...could be this year's Melky Cabrera. - Another empty swing for the Duck (and lots of MLB teams), he resurrected his reputation with 40 HR's...Grade "C"

> DAVID DEJESUS - PAN - The Rays are really smart, but a contract extension for 34 year-old OF with no power, no speed and no batting average over .263 since 2010? - The Rays are a smart organization but not this time, as they paid for a .248 BA and 19 RBI's...Grade "A"

> RYAN DEMPSTER - PAN - Last June, I traded Koji Uehara for Ryan Dempster...need I say more? - Retired before the season even started due to "physical reasons"...Grade "B"

> ADAM EATON - PAN - Was over-hyped last Spring and didn't have the elbow surgically repaired...don't make a significant investment. - Was better than I thought, but not as good as the hype with only 1 HR & 15 SB's...Grade "C"

> ALCIDES ESCOBAR - PAN - Sucked in many Fantasy players with his 2012 stats at the plate...swiped 22 bases last season without getting caught, but a .259 OBP doesn't cut it. - Improved his OBP to .317 and swiped 31 bases...Grade "C"

> MARCO ESTRADA - PICK - At age 30, he's not a prospect anymore, but 261 K's in 266 IP over the last two seasons is intriguing. - In the rotation for half the season, then relegated to the bullpen but he still managed 127 K's in 151 IP...Grade "C"

> DANNY FARQUHAR - PICK - New closers are never secure, but 79 K's in 56 IP is impressive...let others focus on his 4.20 ERA. - Never got the chance to close but as a set-up man, produced a 2.66 ERA with 81 K's in 71 IP...Grade "B"

> CURTIS GRANDERSON - PAN - Some MLB team will pay dearly for those two 40-HR seasons he had at Yankee Stadium, but if he doesn't land in a HR haven, focus on the .261 lifetime BA and declining speed at age 33. - The Mets were the suckers and the "Grandyman" hit .227 in 564 AB's to destroy your team's BA...Grade "A"

> ROBERTO HERNANDEZ - PAN - Needs to try a third name...maybe Fausto Seaver? - This was more of a joke than a prediction but he did make 29 NL starts and produced a negative Roto value...Grade "A"

> EDWIN JACKSON - PAN - Every pitcher who gets a 4-year, $50+ Million deal this off-season should send him a thank-you card...he set the market for durable, journeyman hurlers and paid off with 18 losses and a 4.98 ERA. - Got even worse with 15 losses and a 6.33 ERA...Grade "A"

> CASEY JANSSEN - PICK - Under-rated and very good as a closer...56 out of 61 Save opportunities the last two seasons. - Started the year on the DL but still produced 25 saves...Grade "B"

> IAN KINSLER - PAN - Middle infielders start to fade at this age (32)...had only 13 HR's & 15 SB's in 2013, so don't pay for the stats he had in his 20's. -Stayed healthy and had a productive season with 17 HR's, 15 SB's and over 90 RBI's...Grade "C"

> JAMES LONEY - PAN - Perception is reality...his numbers for the Rays last year were almost identical to the stats he had with the Dodgers in 2011...he was a goat then and a hero now, so just understand what you're getting. - If you paid for more than 9 HR's & 4 SB's, you didn't heed this advice...Grade "B"

> JED LOWRIE - PAN - Hit .290 with 15 HR's but was the worst fielding SS in the AL...defense might not matter to you, but it matters to MLB organizations. - A .249 BA, 6 HR's & Zero SB isn't an offensive machine...Grade "B"

> CAMERON MAYBIN - PICK - Missed almost all of 2013, but swiped 66 bags the two previous seasons and the injury wasn't related to his legs. - Once again, injuries ruined his season and he's now gone from prospect to suspect...Grade "C"

> BRIAN MCCANN - PAN - He'll get a boatload of money as a 30 year-old free agent Catcher, but you should be more conservative...his composite BA for the last two seasons is .242. - Only a late-season surge got him over 20 HR's and he never adjusted to defensive shifts while hitting .232 (just like I told you). Everyone who invested $20+ at the draft table didn't get half of their money back...Grade "A"

> JHONNY PERALTA - PAN - Wasn't a great defensive SS and if he ends up being a corner OF somewhere with no juice, steer clear. - My 4th whiff on PED guys, his 21 HR's helped produce a $17 return...Grade "D"

> SALVADOR PEREZ - PICK - A 24 year-old Catcher with over 900 MLB AB's and a lifetime .301 BA...oh, and he's the best defensive backstop in the AL. - Solid season with 17 HR's & 70 RBI's but only hit.260...Grade "B"

> GLEN PERKINS - PICK - If he's still the Twins closer come March, a rock-solid pick. - "Solid" was correct with 34 Saves...Grade "A"

> HANLEY RAMIREZ - PAN - Had a 1.040 OPS in 304 AB's last season...the previous year, it was .759 in 604 AB's...don't pay for 2013's performance. - '14 was somewhere in-between with a .817 OPS and a $20+ season, but you paid more than that at the draft...Grade "B"

> TANNER ROARK - PICK - Sometimes it takes a while for young pitchers to figure it out...between AAA and majors in 2013, he allowed only 123 hits in 159 IP. - For a single-digit price in most leagues, you got 15 W and $18 in value...Grade "A"

> ANIBAL SANCHEZ - PICK - I told you to draft him last year...hope you did. - Injuries interrupted his season but managed 8 W's with a 3.43 ERA & 1.10 WHIP...Grade "C"

> DREW SMYLY - PICK - If he's in the Tigers rotation, sneak him onto your 76 IP, had 81 K's and only 17 BB. - Flourished in Tampa after the trade and ended up with 9 W's & a 3.24 ERA, so if you got him cheap, you'll be happy in '15...Grade "B"

> DREW STUBBS - PAN - Don't be sucked in by the power-speed potential...his lifetime BA is .239. - Even in Denver, he wasn't a full-time player but the altitude helped his stats and he earned $20...Grade "C"

> JONATHAN VILLAR - PICK - This is somewhat iffy because he only hit .243 in 210 AB's, but if he plays everyday, 35+ SB's will help your cause. - Never hit enough to keep the starting gig and 17 SB's don't make up for a .209 BA...Grade "D"

Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage "A" or "B" ratings on 54% of the players and without cheaters in the mix, it would have been 60%. The overall GPA was about 2.7, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Aoki, Brantley, Janssen, Roark and Smyly were helpful members on my fantasy squads...hope they helped you too.

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 October 2014 07:33
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