Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on March 14, 2011 @ 03:39:22 PDT


Okay, let's have a show of hands. How many of you lost an hour of sleep Sunday morning and how many just woke up an hour later? Yeah, that's what I thought. Let's make up for lost time and catch you up on some fantasy baseball goings-on. Remember, you can have your question answered by sending it via email to lordzola@kffl.com, posting them on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

I am in an NFBC Satellite league coming up and have drawn the 15th position. In the past, when drafting from this area I've tried to employ a mix of aggressiveness and calm - knowing that I have no control over the next 28 picks. Do you have any advice or strategies you can share when it comes to approaching the draft from the rear turn this year? - Ryan C.

No, sorry, I don't.

Just kidding, of course I do. But first for those unaware, the NFBC stands for the National Fantasy Baseball Championship which hosts several live draft competitions as well as on-line satellite drafts. The leagues are no-trade leagues, but have weekly FAAB and lineup changes.

The best advice I can give concerning drafting from the 15/16 wheel is do not feel forced to take players at the so-called scarce positions, which are generally considered to be second base, shortstop and third base. If the best player on the board at your first two selections are first basemen and/or outfielders, take them and find the other positions elsewhere; trust me, they will be there.

Detroit Tigers SP Justin Verlander
Verlander vs. replacement value

The other possible issue with drafting from that spot, especially in a 15-team league, is missing out on runs, particularly starting pitchers and closers. If you want one of the top tier starters, you have to take one with your second pick, because Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez will be gone by your third pick. In fact, I would venture to say what you decide to do with your fourth pick will set you up for the rest of your draft, specifically whether you opt for a starting pitcher here or chance the possibility someone you like to head your staff will make it all the way to your 5th pick. There is going to be a ton of pitching that comes off the board between the 3/4 wheel and 5/6 wheel. Having done a couple of leagues from that spot, I think the difference in pitching between the 4th and 5th spot is larger than the difference in hitting so I have elected to go pitcher in round 4 and hitter in round 5. And truth be told, you are now faced with the exact same conundrum with your 6th pick. Do you take your second pitcher here or wait until rounds 7 and 8.

For those of you snickering, saying the smart thing to do is wait on pitching, that is yesterday's advice. The idea is to stay ahead of the curve, not listen to those regurgitating outdated platitudes. The fact is, the landscape has changed. There is a big difference between getting pitching cheap and getting cheap pitching. You want to get pitching cheap; you do not want to get cheap pitching. Getting pitching cheap is when you find quality pitching below value. The problem is, the means to identify quality under the radar pitching is no longer a secret. The application of sabermetric principles to pitching evaluation has markedly changed the draft dynamic. The 14th round gem that returns 7th round value is no longer available as he is now properly ranked. The guy you put on your reserve list that turns out to be a quality starter is now drafted in the regular draft. The guys you used to pick up on waivers are stashed on someone's reserve. You still need pitching of a certain quality to compete. A few years back, you could acquire that pitching on the cheap. Now, if you wait, what you will acquire is just plain old cheap pitching.

Before I get off this topic, I may as well debunk another myth I hear bandied about with respect to the pitching pool. I am hearing and reading tons of advice contending that waiting on pitching is the best idea because pitching is so deep nowadays. But here's the rub. Value is all relative. Pitching is indeed better now than a few years ago. But the 50th ranked pitcher today is still worth the same, in terms of fantasy baseball, as the 50th ranked pitcher from 2006. The pitcher of today may have better stats, but his value to your team is the same, as the collective stats put up by each fantasy team are better today than 2006.

Whoa - we have Facebook questions!!!

Fred Kruse posted on KFFL Baseball's Wall.
"I was offered Miguel Cabrera for Troy Tulowitzki. Should I take that deal?"

In order to really answer Fred, I would need some more details, but in a vacuum, I would strongly consider it. Obviously, Cabrera's recent personal problems have triggered this offer. But, Tulowitzxki does not come without risk of his own. Granted, the injuries are not of the chronic variety, but the fact remains he has played in 155, 101, 151 and 122 games the past four seasons. So for the sake of this discussion, let us consider Cabrera's personal demons and Tulowitzki's affinity for the disabled list to be a wash.

The question now is which player should produce better numbers, and if that is Cabrera, are they superior enough to offset the positional factor. In short, I expect Cabrera to contribute better numbers so it comes down to your view on positional scarcity. In smaller mixed leagues, I am more apt to favor scarcity which means Tulowitzki. But let us borrow from the league discussed in the first question. If I was picking and had to choose between Cabrera and Tulowitzki in a 15-team mixed league, assuming there is no more negative news about his situation, Cabrera would be my choice. His numbers are just that good.

Rich Hundley posted on KFFL Baseball's Wall.
"Looking for some good ADP lists, any suggestions?"

Rich, I will answer your question because I am a nice guy, but it is going to come with a small word of warning, I hope that is OK. My personal favorite site for ADP lists, which stands for average draft position for those curious, is www.mockdraftcentral.com.

With that said, I personally believe ADP lists are more of a crutch than a help if they are not utilized properly. They should be used as a tool, not a guide. Too many people assume too much from an ADP. And I am not even talking about the whole problem about the validity of a generic ADP to your particular league. Remember, the A stands for average. Sometimes the player goes before, sometimes he goes after. If you like someone, who cares what the ADP says, take him. Yes, obviously take him within reason. You don't take Drew Stubbs in the first couple of rounds, no matter how much you like him. But if he has sixth round ADP and you think he will return third round value, you are not reaching by taking him in the fourth. A strategy or plan is most effective when those in the minority are employing it. There was a time that only a handful at the table possessed an ADP. Now everyone does. A few weeks back, Stubbs had an eighth round ADP so those that liked him took him in the sixth or seventh. His ADP moved up, later, rinse, repeat. My point is, base your decision more on how you feel he will produce relative to his draft spot as opposed to basing your decision on how others feel he will do.

Someone offered me Justin Verlander, Carlos Zambrano, Josh Willingham and Sean Rodriguez for Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Dempster, Corey Hart and Howie Kendrick: 10 team 5X5 ... what do you think? - Mike

Well, I think that I prefer less involved deals. I come from the school that if you want to improve pitching then trade a better hitter and a lesser pitcher for a better pitcher and lesser hitter, and vice versa. When you start adding extra players, it adds too many other variables. But I understand that sometimes things start small and grow. Anyway, I see two competing trains of thought here. There is a notion that it is always best to acquire the best player in a deal, especially in a shallow league such as this, since stars win shallow leagues. The best player here is Verlander. But here is the problem. In a 10-team mixed league, Zambrano and Willingham are worthless while Rodriguez is an end gamer. So that side of the deal is basically just Verlander. On the other side, assuming he is healthy, Hart is very good, but a notch or two below Verlander. Dempster and Kendrick are useful while Gonzalez is end game fodder. To me, the deal is fundamentally Verlander for Hart, Dempster and Kendrick. I can make an argument either way and it probably depends on what I can get to replace the other three guys if I take Verlander. If they are any good at all, I take Verlander and upgrade the other spots. If not, I stick with what I have.

When Todd is not trying to convince complete strangers that the bulk of the fantasy world does not get what is happening to pitching, you can you can usually find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball, trying to convince everyone that the fantasy pitching landscape has changed.

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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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