Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on February 7, 2011 @ 09:45:00 PDT


Welcome to the post Super Bowl edition of Lord Zola's Mailbag. Maybe I am getting old, but the Black Eyed Peas did nothing for me. Though, I must not be getting too old, as I was clamoring for a surprise appearance by Justin Timberlake and wardrobe malfunction for Fergie. But, short of that, I did think the Slash cameo was pretty cool.

As always, if you want your question featured, you can send it via e-mail to lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_baseball.

Let's see what we have in the queue this week.

Seattle Mariners SP Felix Hernandez
King Felix: forever favorite

Lord Zola, I am in a really fun four-person keeper league where we can keep two players. I am completely stumped on who I should keep. I have Hanley Ramirez so I know he should be one of them with the drop off past him and Troy Tulowitzki, who is being kept by another team. Out of the others, I have Joe Mauer, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. Any help on who that next one should be with a possible option pick to as I'm lobbying for a 3rd keeper slot? Thanks! - John Krobot

There is actually a lot to talk about in what is a seemingly straightforward question. But before I delve into that, I want to jump up on my soapbox for just a second and address something John mentions. If John were to have posted this question on a typical fantasy baseball forum, do you know what the majority of replies would be? I'll give you a hint, no one would answer the question. Give up? I guarantee someone would get on their high horse and suggest John join a "real league" disparaging a four-person league. But do you know what? They left out an important adjective - fun. Actually, John says the league is "really fun." Friends, that is what is important. People are what make a league, not the rules or the format of the amount of money (of the Monopoly variety, of course) that is on the line.

That segues into a piece of advice that will appear quite frequently in this space, "know thy league." John makes a very salient point with respect to Ramirez and Tulowitzki. The drop-off from those two is fairly steep, so it makes sense to make every effort to get one of those shortstops. What I would do is look at each position and rank the top-4. Of course, the exact manner to do this will depend upon this league's roster rules with respect to how many catchers and outfielders are needed along with if any middle or corner infielders or utility spots are used. After doing the rankings, look at the spread from the top to the bottom. The more bunched the players are, the more you want to wait on that position. And the more of a separation there is for a top player, the more you want that player on your team. This is why Ramirez and Tulowitzki are so valuable in this format. Think about third basemen and how closely ranked Evan Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Zimmerman are. Are you going to really be upset if you end up with Zimmerman as your representative at the hot corner? How about second base? Robinson Cano is on top, then there is a decent gap to Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, then another drop to Ian Kinsler. My target would be Cano and I would do what I could to get him. But if I missed him, any from Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler would be just fine. Let's do one more, since, as mentioned, without knowing the roster constraints, this may not be the actual pertinent analysis. If the league uses only one catcher, Joe Mauer is far and away at the head of the class, so he would be the target. Then there is Victor Martinez, Brian McCann and, somewhat reluctantly, Buster Posey. While I know it is cool to own the hot shot youngster, I am leery of Posey and if I did not have Mauer, I would really like to avoid Posey and target either McCann or Martinez.

With that as a backdrop, I am going to throw a curveball and say my second keeper would be Roy Halladay. The reason most often cited for not freezing pitching is it is more unpredictable and less reliable than hitting, and this is true. But, an argument can be made that Doc is more reliable than almost all of the players in the top-10 of any ranking list. So I have no qualms about locking up the best pitcher in the league, though, if you are allowed to keep players forever, I would be strongly tempted to keep Felix Hernandez instead, since he is almost as reliable and his shelf life is longer.

If John's push for a third keeper is accepted, I would keep Mauer to get the big advantage over the other three owners at the receiver position.

Hey Todd, keeper question for you in an AL-only league. I can keep Jeff Niemann or Michael Pineda as my last keeper, no salary implications, just looking for advice on which is better. - Greg Morrison

Cool, here is another question that on the surface seems straightforward, but actually entails a bit deeper analysis, as the answer is not as simple as stating which pitcher I like better, as there is a major catch. Even though he is an untested rookie, if he pitches this season, I am expecting the Seattle Mariners' Pineda to put up better numbers than Tampa's Niemann. But therein lies the rub. It is not a sure thing that Pineda breaks camp with the big club. And if he does, there is a good chance Seattle shuts him down early, or, at minimum, tempers his innings. So you need to factor in that for some of the season, it is likely Pineda will be on your bench and another pitcher active in his stead. What you really want to measure is Niemann versus Pineda plus his substitute. If you can backfill with someone of decent quality, then I would roll the dice with the promising rookie hurler. But if you will be picking up a back-end rotation sort, his stats may drag the cumulative total below that of Niemann by himself.

When Todd Zola is not Googling Fergie, you can usually find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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