This is the comments thread for our 2nd annual Home Run Box Pool for the 2020 MLB season.
Trash talk in the comments (be civil), thanks for playing and good luck!
TGFBI stands for The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, a large charity-driven fantasy baseball industry competition created by Justin Mason. This is my first year competing, and the second year for our own Chris Spencer.
The format is similar to NFBC, which is 15-team leagues, 5X5 roto with 30-man rosters starting 14 hitters (2 catchers) and 9 pitchers. The pitchers are any combination of starters and relievers.
All 26 league drafts started this past Monday. I got the 7th pick in league 13. Here are my early TGFBI draft picks – who I drafted and why through four rounds.
This draft followed NFBC ADP pretty much to the letter through the first round. In fact, when I set up Draft Buddy to prep for TGFBI, I copied the ADP into the draft report tab to figure out possible pairings from my 1st and 2nd round picks. After the draft started, I didn’t have to change a thing until pick 9.
Why the first round ace, and why deGrom? deGrom may have got the call even before Gerrit Cole (drafted 6th overall), due to concerns of Cole changing ballparks and the transition involved in that. Although, Cole would seem to have more win certainty on the Yankees than deGrom on the Mets. Going pitcher, it had to be one of these two, a tier ahead of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander due to the age gap (29 Cole, 31 deGrom versus 35 and up).
Francisco Lindor was the other strong consideration at the 7th pick. The team getting an instant speed contribution is enticing, but ultimately decided the top tier ace + 2nd round hitter felt more advantageous than Lindor + next tier starter. Possible 2nd round pitchers were (a) unlikely to be Walker Buehler (drafted 14th overall), (b) possibly Jack Flaherty (he didn’t make it, drafted 23rd overall) and (c) Stephen Strasburg (er…, not comfortable with that). So desiring an ace in the first two rounds, picking 7th, better to start with the ace and leave Lindor.
A guy without a lot of MLB experience is generally a red flag for an early-round draft pick. Devers receives extremely high praise from two highly respected former players, and that counts for something. Losing Mookie Betts in the lineup doesn’t help. Ultimately between a youthful Devers and, say, Aaron Judge, who hasn’t cracked 500 PA either of the prior two seasons, or maybe teammate J.D. Martinez, I’ll go with the strong four-category contributor who chips in a handful of stolen bases. Plus, we may not have seen the best of him, yet.
I really did not think I would draft Chris Sale this year. A number of projection systems, such as THE BAT (250 K in 181 IP, 3.08 ERA) and Chris’ as-yet-not-really-named projections (sub-1.00 WHIP) are very high on Sale. In our Draft Buddy head-to-head points league last year I drafted Sale, and while he ultimately was fine overall, the early season struggles and then season-ending injury in August tainted me.
As sharp fantasy players know, but often have difficulty following, don’t overreact to last season. Don’t discount players who you feel like they burned you in the past. This season is a new season. Basically, don’t get emotional, be analytical.
Once we got past my 2nd round pick, shockingly few pitchers were taken. I did not expect Sale to fall to me. He did suffer the flu to start spring training, but it appears he is already getting over that and expects to be ready Opening Day. A mid-3rd round pick for a player capable of producing among the best pitchers in the game. Okay, I am back in on Sale.
This is a slow draft – mine a little too slow – which allows for an opportunity to discuss each pick with Chris as it approaches. Looking at the draft board, I am right in the middle. At this pick, 54th overall, there are 11 SP taken to the right of me, only 4 to the left, plus I have two myself. Fourth round, the draft is moving right to left. I said to Chris, “it is tempting to take another SP here and squeeze the owners drafting one through six.” He said, “you should take a hitter.”
And at the time we discussed this, there were some exceptional hitters available. Namely, Giancarlo Stanton and Manny Machado. If Sale was a mild burn last year then Stanton was an inferno. Is he appropriately discounted here for the power potential? Seems like it, but it didn’t matter as he got snagged right before my pick.
On to Machado, thankfully SS eligible since I already own Devers for 3B. Projected for about a .270 average is the mid-point between last season’s .256 and 2018’s .297. Blasting 30+ homers each season since 2015 avoids question about his home run output vis a vis concern about whether the juiced ball is in play this year, or not.
Starting thin at hitter makes taking a more reliable bat such as Machado a good fit at this point. Stanton would be tempting if available but certainly a much higher risk profile.
TGFBI draft boards are open to the public. Look at the league 13 draft board to check the latest picks.
Our desire to reach into the future will always exceed our grasp. But debunkers go too far when they dismiss all forecasting as a fool’s errand.Philip E. Tetlock, Superforecasting
Whether you are ranking players straight up or in tiers, projecting what their stats will look like after game 162 of the upcoming MLB season, or using someone else’s projections then tweaking based on your opinion, you are forecasting the future. A necessary skill in fantasy sports.
When we acquire a player in fantasy baseball drafts, we are essentially buying stock in that player hoping to make a profit. The player needs to produce the stats necessary to help defeat the other teams in the league.
I’ve been playing fantasy sports for a long time and I’ve always been a, “use somebody else’s projections to calculate player values but don’t follow them religiously,” kind of guy. I believe I am not alone in this regard.
Over the years I’ve always been fascinated, not that other people sit down creating baseball projections, but that they make them available for others to scrutinize.
Creating baseball projections are my blue duck. I’ve always wanted to do my own projections for fantasy baseball but was too intimidated until I read Mike Podhorzer’s (@MikePodhorzer) Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance. He does a tremendous job of explaining and demonstrating how he does it. Here’s an example:
The most precise way to go about developing a player projection is to forecast the individual components that affect the statistic in question. For example, instead of manually projecting a hitter’s home run total, the more effective method is to project the variables that directly influence it – the hitter’s strikeout and fly ball percentages and home run per fly ball rate.
In the book, Mike guides you through setting up a spreadsheet for your projections. Tanner Bell (@smartfantasybb) took it a step further over on SmartFantasyBaseball with his own spreadsheet (same link as above). With Mike and Tanner providing the foundation, I decided I was going to make my own projections.
Note the date of that tweet. This took a loooong time.
When I started I had every intention of analyzing each player and… I don’t have the time for that. I have a real 40+ hours a week job. Plus, I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to make hunches if a player will or will not improve this rate or that rate.
So I decided to build a formula that provided me with what I need for the spreadsheet. This formula takes into account the player’s past MLB and AAA history. It also takes MLB averages into account because, you know, regression and all that.
Now I’m not going to offer up the exact formula because I’m afraid I would react the same way Moneyball’s Billy Beane reacted when he gave his pie to Monica Gellar.
I learned to chase perfection. Early on in this endeavor, I started calculating the Pythagorean W-L records of each team based on runs scored by hitters and runs allowed by pitchers. My thinking was that if the W-L records passed the eye test then I was probably on the right path. Uh oh.
I purposely started with a, “worst to first” mentality. So, I quickly realized I had a problem when Baltimore’s Pythagorean W-L was 81-81, Detroit’s 79-83 and Miami’s 84-78. Something was not right. Digging deeper proved that the issue was with pitcher’s projected earned runs. My projected league-wide ERA was 4.01, something that has only happened in the “real” MLB five times since 1995.
So I went back and double-checked Mike’s formula for calculating earned runs. The book mentions that the formula he used is a modified version of the Base Runs formula. On that same link is another version of the formula. I plugged that one in and the results were much more palatable. League-wide projected 4.61 ERA which is a tad high but closer to last season’s 4.51 MLB ERA.
While I learned to chase perfection, I also learned that I will never catch perfection. There is no way I will ever be able to get league-wide projected runs scored to equal runs allowed. Therefore, the Pythagorean W-L records will never be perfect. I spent way too much time trying to accomplish this. Way too much.
Playing time is another aspect that I dwelled on too much. I started with Steamer’s projected playing time and then tweaked to get down to somewhere between 6,000-6,200 for each team. I repeated the process but factored in ACT projections. Ultimately I ended up comparing projected playing time from various sources to get to my final number.
Overall, I’m glad I finished my projections. Maybe I should have opened with that.
I thought about throwing in the towel a couple of times but stuck to it. I am already thinking of ways to improve the process for next season.