Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2008 Fantasy Baseball Analysis: Best and Worst Draft Picks

The great thing about fantasy sports is that they provide you with verifiable data with which you can better insult people. I’ll readily label anyone who defends Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain a complete moron, but those who disagree with me can always supply some half-assed, wildly pretentious defense about how Aronofsky brilliantly inverted the conventionally accepted apparatus of narrative filmmaking in order to achieve a greater level of surrealism. Yeah, that’s bullshit, but without any raw numbers to back up my point (other than perhaps to mention that watching The Fountain physically damaged my eyelids), I can’t categorically win the argument, so I wind up just getting frustrated/beaten up by someone bigger than I am.

(For the record, other movies that fall into this category include, but are not limited to, I Heart Huckabees, Elephant, The New World, and The Darjeeling Limited. And yes, all of these films received positive reviews – if not outright raves – from the New York Times. Just further proof that I could never be a professional film critic.)

Fantasy sports, however, give you argumentative ammunition. For example, the next time an obnoxious Yankee fan gushes to me about Derek Jeter, I can always retort, “You mean the same Derek Jeter who was ranked one-hundred-fourth among all hitters in 2008 and didn’t rank in the top 50 in any major categories? That Derek Jeter?”. It’s always more satisfying to know that I’m right and the other person’s wrong when I have statistical data to actually prove it.

This is one of the reasons I do a best-and-worst pick analysis of each round of my fantasy baseball draft every year – to arm myself with an array of statistically valid insults that I can use at next year’s draft. It’s also instructive to look back and see how actual performance differed from projected performance. Plus I think it’ll help me get laid. (Note: One of these three reasons is untrue.)

The mechanics of the analysis are straightforward and mirror those used to construct the Manifesto’s Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team back in July. I ran Z-scores on a decently sized sample for each of the categories used in my 5x5 roto league. For hitters, these includes runs, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, and OPS (with the latter replacing the more standard but increasingly irrelevant measure of batting average). The pitching categories include wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and (for relievers) saves. If you don’t know what any of these categories mean, this post probably isn’t for you.

(For those interested in the nitty-gritty, the sample includes baseball’s highest-ranked 230 hitters, 75 starting pitchers, and 30 relief pitchers. I also used a multiplier of 0.75 on steals and 1.50 on saves for relievers. I’m pretty sure it’s mathematically inappropriate to use multipliers when working with Z-scores, but given how few innings relievers pitch, it’s critical to boost the relative value of saves. As for steals, well, I don’t really have a justification for lessening the impact of steals other than that I can’t stand them. Still, I used an even lower multiplier of 0.5 back in July, so you could argue I’m improving. Anyone who wants my spiffy spreadsheet, feel free to email me. God I’m such a nerd.)

I should also point out that, in selecting the worst pick of each round, I tend to ignore injuries when possible. The theory behind this is that if a top pick gets injured, fantasy owners can immediately pick up a replacement who can provide at least 75% of the injured player’s value. (Note: This assumes that said fantasy owner is actually paying attention to his team as opposed to leaving the injured player in his lineup for three weeks, thereby dramatically altering the competitive balance of the league and eventually getting himself booted for the following season.) If, however, a top pick is healthy but simply performs poorly, owners will invariably keep that player in their lineup in the hope that he turns things around, suffering the consequences as he systematically sabotages their team. Therefore, drafting players who get injured isn’t necessarily as detrimental as drafting guys who stay healthy and just plain suck.

Finally, the concept of worst pick in a given round tends to lose its zip in the second half of the draft; it’s hardly appropriate for me to ridicule someone for making a particularly poor selection in the seventeenth round when most picks in that round wound up getting cut anyway. As such, while I’ll detail the best pick in all 20 rounds in the draft, I’ll only specify the worst pick in the first 10, when there was plenty of talent still available.

(By the way, if you’re wondering how my team fared this season, I’ll tell you: After spending the majority of the season in tenth place, my squad gained about 20 points in the standings in the last three weeks of the year, only to finish in fourth, one point out of third. Why is that excruciating? Because only the top three teams win prize money. This was like the Indians’ extraordinary late-season surge in Major League, only if Ricky Vaughn had given up a homer to Haywood and Taylor had been thrown out at first on his bunt attempt. Even worse, if my pitching staff had managed one more win – just one more fucking win – I would have forced a three-way tie for second place. In related news, I had the Mets’ Oliver Perez starting for me on the last day of the season, only the pathetic Mets offense couldn’t get him a win against Florida. So in addition to stomping on the hearts of their brutally abused fan base for a second consecutive year, the Mets also managed to ruin my fantasy season. Thanks guys.)

Enough of the prelude. The Manifesto now proudly unveils the Best and Worst Picks of the 2008 Fantasy Baseball Draft:

FIRST ROUND
Best pick: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Back in March, polling revealed that American citizens were predominantly concerned with three major issues: the war in Iraq, the sub-prime lending crisis, and Albert Pujols’ elbow injury. At least one turned out just fine. Amidst rumors that he was considering Tommy John surgery, Pujols’ average draft position slid all the way from second to eleventh, which is exactly where he went in my draft. The results? Pujols’ 1.114 OPS didn’t just lead the majors – it was the highest of his entire illustrious career. He also ranked tied-for-fourth in homers (37) and ninth in RBI (116). Throw in 100 runs, and he carried the highest overall Z-score among all hitters in baseball. Apologies to: Hanley Ramirez (MLB-leading 125 runs, .940 OPS, 35 steals, by far the top shortstop), Ryan Howard (MLB-leading 48 homers and 146 RBI), David Wright (115 runs, 33 homers, 124 RBI, .924 OPS).

Worst pick: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies. It made sense that Rollins went in the first round, given that he had a monstrous 2007 season (139 runs, 30 homers, 94 RBI, 41 steals) en route to the MVP award, but it turns out that was a mirage. He did manage 47 steals this year, but his performance in the remaining categories declined dramatically, as he tallied just 76 runs, 11 homers, 59 RBI. Those translate to declines of 45%, 63%, and 37%, respectively. Just for good measure, his OPS dipped from a career-best .875 in 2007 to just .786 this year. So where does Rollins’ Z-score rank among all major league hitters? Seventy-seventh. Not exactly what fantasy owners were looking for from their first-round pick.


SECOND ROUND
Best pick: Mark Teixeira, Braves/Angels. This turned out to be an extremely tight race between Teixeira and two outfielders, Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore. Teixeira actually has the lowest Z-score (ranked twelfth in the majors compared to ninth for Beltran and eleventh for Sizemore), but I’m giving him the edge because of his huge advantage in OPS (.962, ninth in the majors, compared to .876 for both Beltran and Sizemore). He also drove in considerably more runs (121 vs. 112 for Beltran and 90 for Sizemore), hit 33 homers (matched by Sizemore, six more than Beltran), and scored 102 runs. Beltran led the trio with 116 runs scored, and Sizemore tallied 38 steals (Beltran had 25, Teixeira just two), but with those OPS-RBI numbers, I’m inclined to favor the power hitter. Apologies to: Beltran, Sizemore.

Worst pick: Carl Crawford, Devil Rays. Crawford’s one of those guys who gets taken in the second round every year because of his sexy track-star athleticism, even though he really should go in the fifth. His steal total was cut in half from last year (from 50 to 25), and with just 69 runs scored, 57 RBI, and eight homers, he should barely crack fantasy lineups. He did miss 53 games this year, but that doesn’t excuse his abysmal .718 OPS. The fifteenth player selected overall, Crawford’s ultimate Z-score ranked one-hundred-forty-third among hitters. Whoops. Sigh of relief for: Brandon Phillips (.754 OPS), B.J. Upton (nine homers, 67 RBI).


THIRD ROUND
Best pick: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox/Dodgers. As if Red Sox nation needed any additional data to fuel their disgust with Manny, consider this: When I ran my All-Star team analysis in July, Manny ranked twenty-seventh among hitters. At the end of the year, after spending two months basking in the summer sun of Los Angeles, he ranked third. That’s what happens when you drive in 53 runs in 53 games for your new team while crushing 17 homers and compiling a preposterous 1.232 OPS. Ramirez finished the year ranked tied-for-fourth in homers (37), sixth in RBI (121), and third in OPS (1.031). What a bastard. Apologies to: C.C. Sabathia (17 wins, 251 K’s, 2.70 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, third-best starting pitcher), Lance Berkman (114 runs, .986 OPS).

Worst pick: Justin Verlander, Tigers. Victor Martinez and Erik Bedard are also options here but are spared due to injuries. Martinez played in only 73 games, making his pathetic .701 OPS (down from .879 last year) less of a detriment; Bedard’s ugly 1.32 WHIP (up from 1.09 in ’07) was mitigated by his low innings total (81). Verlander, however, tossed 201 innings, and every one was ugly. The 25-year-old did win 11 games while fanning 163 batters, but he also sported a 4.84 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Among the 75 starters in the sample, both of those ranked seventy-first. So much for his label as an ace. Sigh of relief for: Martinez, Bedard.


FOURTH ROUND
Best pick: Cole Hamels, Phillies. Hamels, the eighth-best starting pitcher, gets the nod over a pair of power hitters (Adam Dunn and Justin Morneau). In addition to a solid 3.09 ERA and 196 strikeouts, Hamels’ sparkling 1.08 WHIP ranked fourth in the majors. Oddly enough, the lone area where he struggled was wins (14) despite playing on the NL East champion Phillies, further proving that wins as a stat are completely obnoxious and make no sense. Apologies to: Dunn (40 homers, 100 RBI), Morneau (129 RBI, third in the league), Dan Haren (16 wins, 206 K’s, 1.13 WHIP).

Worst pick: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Travis Hafner’s bum shoulder is the only thing that saves him here – his .628 OPS could have been disastrous had he played more than 57 games. Tulowitzki, however, played in 101 games yet managed only eight homers, 48 runs, and 46 RBI to go with his .732 OPS. That meager OPS was actually his best relative stat, and it still ranked one-hundred-seventh-eighth among hitters; overall, Tulowitzki’s Z-score ranked two-hundred-eleventh. There’s a reason Ryan Braun won Rookie of the Year last year. Sigh of relief for: Hafner, Carlos Guillen (10 homers, 54 RBI), Derek Jeter (11 homers, .771 OPS).


FIFTH ROUND
Best pick: Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox. I hate rewarding fantasy owners for drafting closers early in the draft, but no other picks in the fifth round distinguished themselves, so I’m forced to select the Boston manimal. Papelbon amassed 41 saves and 77 strikeouts in 69.1 innings to go with solid peripherals (2.34 ERA, 0.95 WHIP), ranking him as the second-best closer in the game. He was also the only reliever to rank in the top 10 in all five pitching categories (he also managed five wins) other than that old guy who pitches for the Yankees. Apologies to: Dan Uggla (32 homers), Bobby Abreu (100 runs, 100 RBI, 22 steals).

Worst pick: J.J. Putz, Mariners. See, now this is what usually happens when you draft a closer in the early rounds. Putz’s tremendous 2007 campaign included a minuscule 1.38 ERA and 0.70 WHIP to go with 40 saves – unfortunately, both the ERA and WHIP more than doubled this year (to 3.88 and 1.60, respectively), while the saves dropped to 15. He pitched only 46.1 innings due to injury, but among the 30 relievers in the sample, he ranked twenty-eighth overall (the WHIP ranked dead last). Let that be a lesson to anyone who considers drafting a closer prior to the eleventh round. Sigh of relief for: Eric Byrnes (.641 OPS and six homers in 52 games), Robinson Cano (.715 OPS, 14 homers).


SIXTH ROUND
Best pick: Tim Lincecum, Giants. The likely NL Cy Young winner also emerged as the top-ranked fantasy pitcher in 2008. In 227 innings (an alarming total for a 24-year-old), he struck out a whopping 265 batters while compiling a 2.62 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He also won 18 games, exactly one-quarter of San Francisco’s 72 victories for the year. Now Giants fans just need to hope his arm doesn’t fall off. Apologies to: Chipper Jones (1.044 OPS, second in the majors), Carlos Peña (31 homers, 102 RBI), Francisco Rodriguez (those 62 saves have to count for something).

Worst pick: Aaron Harang, Reds. Ordinarily I’ll argue that a pitcher’s win-loss record doesn’t properly reflect his performance – unfortunately for Harang, his 6-17 record in 2008 was in no way misleading. After a career year in 2007 (16-6, 218 K’s, 1.14 WHIP), his ERA ballooned to 4.78 (sixth-worst in the sample), and his 1.38 WHIP (tied for eighth-worst) wasn’t much better. Throw in just six wins, and of the 75 pitchers ranked, he placed sixty-ninth. In related news, he’s never pitched in the postseason. Sigh of relief for: Ryan Zimmerman (14 homers, 51 runs, 51 RBI).


SEVENTH ROUND
Best pick: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays. Everyone seems to have already awarded the AL Cy Young to Cliff Lee, and while the Indians’ southpaw had an incredible year (22-3, 2.54 ERA), Halladay should certainly enter the discussion. The Jays’ ace won 20 games himself, struck out more batters (206 to Lee’s 170), and ranked second in the majors in WHIP (1.05 vs. Lee’s 1.11) and eighth in ERA (2.78). And about those wins: Halladay won 20 games while receiving 4.72 runs of support per game, which ranked sixty-ninth among MLB pitchers who tossed at least 140 innings; Lee won 22 games with 6.13 runs of support, which ranked ninth overall. Just remember this when Lee goes 8-16 next season. Apologies to: Adrian Gonzalez (103 runs, 36 homers, 119 RBI, seven fans who actually noticed).

Worst pick: Gary Sheffield, Tigers. An oblique injury limited Sheffield to 114 games this season, but it was still enough to damage his owners. After a stellar 2007 season that saw him score 107 runs and steal 22 bases, Sheffield played like a 39-year-old this year, scoring only 52 runs and swiping just nine bags. He also drove in just 57 batters and finished with a paltry .725 OPS, his lowest mark since 1991. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Sigh of relief for: Nick Swisher (69 RBI, .742 OPS), Felix Hernandez (nine wins, 1.39 WHIP).


EIGHTH ROUND
Best pick: Jason Bay, Pirates/Red Sox. O.K., maybe that Manny trade wasn’t completely horrible. Bay’s numbers weren’t extraordinary, but he put up solid totals in all categories (111 runs, 31 homers, 101 RBI, .895 OPS, 10 steals, zero distractions), good enough to rank him seventeenth among hitters. For the record, all of these numbers were substantial improvements over his statistics from 2007 (including a ghastly .746 OPS), when I drafted him in the second round. And you wonder why I was less-than-ecstatic about the Manny trade at the time. Apologies to: Jim Thome (93 runs, 34 homers, 90 RBI).

Worst pick: Andruw Jones, Dodgers. I really shouldn’t select Jones here, given that he played less than half the season, but I can’t help it, not when his Z-score ranks him dead last. Jones’ numbers this year were simply obscene. In 75 games, he scored 21 runs and drove in just 14 while putting up a .505 OPS. To put that OPS in perspective, the only players within 100 points of him were Michael Bourn (.588) and Willy Taveras (.604), and both of those guys are pure speedsters (109 steals between them) – Jones didn’t steal a single base. The worst part, though, is that after mashing 41 homers two years ago, Jones hit exactly three in 2008. Now, some statisticians might measure that on a per-at-bat basis, i.e., Jones averaged one home run every 70 at-bats. That’s brutal, but I prefer to look at it like this: Despite Jones finishing 2007 with a .724 OPS, the Dodgers still signed him to a two-year, $36 million contract last offseason. Therefore, for each home run Andruw Jones hit this year, the Los Angeles Dodgers paid him exactly six million dollars. What a country. Sigh of relief for: Fausto Carmona (5.44 ERA, 1.62 WHIP), Chone Figgins (.685 OPS, 22 RBI).

(By the way, Jones is the only possible player who could have saved Carmona from “Worst Pick” status – his ERA and WHIP each ranked next-to-last of all pitchers in the sample, and his Z-score placed him dead last overall. And just to recap: The 2008 Cleveland Indians featured the American League’s (second) best pitcher (who was so terrible last year that he had to be sent to the minors), the American League’s worst pitcher (who was so good last year that he finished fourth in the Cy Young voting), and the National League’s best pitcher for the last three months of ’08 (who was so bad the first month of ’08 that many fantasy owners cut him even though he won the Cy Young last year). Cleveland: city of light, city of magic.)


NINTH ROUND
Best pick: Josh Hamilton, Rangers. The funny thing is that for all the publicity Hamilton received this year, his OPS actually dropped from his half-season with the Reds last year (from .922 to .901). No matter. The Natural still finished second in the majors with 130 RBI, and his 98 runs and 32 homers weren’t bad either. Oh, and he also was never arrested or found dead, which was a plus. Apologies to: Mariano Rivera (39 saves, 1.40 ERA, microscopic 0.67 WHIP, easily the highest-ranked reliever), James Shields (1.15 WHIP).

Worst pick: Jeff Francoeur, Braves. Lot of candidates here. Jorge Posada (three homers in 168 at-bats) and Howie Kendrick (43 runs, 37 RBI) are spared due to injuries (51 and 92 games played, respectively). Matt Cain and John Maine were both impressively bad, but at least neither of them was sent to AAA for a week to “figure things out” as was the case for Francoeur. It didn’t work. Never a patient hitter, Francoeur’s hitting stroke disappeared entirely this year, resulting in a limp .653 OPS (eighth-worst in the sample) to go with just 11 home runs in 599 at-bats. Unless your fantasy league includes outfield assists, don’t draft him next year. Sigh of relief for: Posada, Kendrick, Cain (eight wins, 1.36 WHIP), Maine (10 wins, 4.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP).


TENTH ROUND
Best pick: Chad Billingsley, Dodgers. No contest here. Billingsley ranked ninth in the majors with 201 strikeouts and also sported a 3.14 ERA while winning 16 games (both ranked in the top 20). If he can ever cut down on his walks (his 1.34 WHIP was fifteenth-worst among starters), he’ll be an absolute stud in Los Angeles. Half-hearted apologies to: Pat Burrell (33 homers).

Worst pick: Pedro Martinez, Mets. The tenth round was simply brutal for pitching – it featured four of the five lowest-ranked starters in the entire sample. Sadly, Pedro was the worst. His ugly 1.57 WHIP was third-highest among starters, but even worse was his 5.61 ERA, which ranked dead last. He also won just five games in 20 starts. Theo Epstein, if you’re reading this, take comfort in knowing that you made the right call letting him walk after 2004. Sigh of relief for: Ian Snell (5.42 ERA, league-worst 1.76 WHIP), Jeff Francis (four wins in 24 starts, 5.01 ERA, 1.48 WHIP), Francisco Liriano (1.39 WHIP).


Alright, that takes care of the “Worst Pick” classification. We’re all positive from here on out, and we’ll also be more brief. Probably.

ELEVENTH ROUND
Best pick: Ben Sheets, Brewers. It’s tempting to go with A.J. Burnett here, given that he ranked third in the majors with 231 strikeouts and was also tied for fifth in wins (18). But his 4.07 ERA and 1.34 WHIP each ranked in the bottom 15 of the sample, and with his 221.1 IP, those poor numbers could drag down a team’s totals considerably. In contrast, Sheets ranked tied-for-fourteenth in ERA (3.09) and tied-for-twelfth in WHIP (1.15) while pitching 198.1 innings, his highest total since 2004. Apologies to: Burnett, Matt Kemp (93 runs, 35 steals), Johnny Damon (95 runs, 29 steals), Jhonny Peralta (104 runs, 23 homers, 89 RBI).

TWELFTH ROUND
Best pick: Brad Lidge, Phillies. Closers were in vogue in the twelfth round of my draft, with nine of the 12 players selected working from the bullpen. Lidge, coming off a mediocre 2007 season where he saved just 19 games, was the best of the bunch. Not only did his 41 saves rank tied-for-fourth in the majors, but he led all closers in strikeouts with 92 (a whopping 11.9 per nine innings) and put up a 1.95 ERA (fifth-best in the league). I look forward to him blowing two late-game leads against the Dodgers this weekend. Apologies to: Francisco Cordero (34 saves, 78 K’s), Kevin Gregg (29 saves, seven wins).

THIRTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Joakim Soria, Royals. Let me put on my Fantasy Condescension Hat for a moment: There’s a theory that circulates within the more ignorant fantasy circles that owners should draft closers who pitch for the league’s best teams because these teams will win more games, thus giving their closers more save chances. Wrong. Good teams often win games by more than three runs, thus depriving relievers of save opportunities; in contrast, bad teams will still win a handful of games but are unlikely to blow out their opponents, translating to a number of save chances for closers. No one epitomized this in 2008 better than Soria – the Royals won just 75 games, but Soria saved 42 of them (third in the majors). He also ranked second among closers in WHIP (0.86) and fourth in ERA (1.60). Apologies to: Jermaine Dye (96 runs, 34 homers, 96 RBI), Ted Lilly (17 wins, 184 K’s).

FOURTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Derek Lowe, Dodgers. There were eight starting pitchers drafted in the fourteenth round, including high-profile guys like Andy Pettitte (who was subpar with a 4.54 ERA and 1.41 WHIP) and Barry Zito (who was abominable with a 5.15 ERA and 1.60 WHIP). Lowe, meanwhile, flew under the radar as always but ended the year with a nifty 1.13 WHIP (ninth-best in the league) to go with a sturdy 3.24 ERA. He also managed to win 14 games despite receiving just 4.82 runs of support per game (sixty-sixth among starters with at least 140 IP). And there’s still no way the Red Sox are going to re-sign him. Dammit.

FIFTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Rich Harden, A’s/Cubs. Ugh. Alright, I could write 2,000 words explaining why Rich Harden represents what Dr. Henry Jones would call the slime of humanity, but just take my word for it that he and I have issues. But after a strained shoulder sidelined the oft-injured hurler in April, Harden returned to the mound in May and wound up pitching 148 innings, the second-highest total of his career. He led the majors with a 2.07 ERA, ranked third in WHIP (1.06), and struck out 181 batters (good for 11 per nine innings, also tops in the majors among starters). Despite winning just 10 games, his composite Z-score ranked him as the sixth-best starting pitcher in the league. And God do I hate that I just wrote that. Apologies to: Carlos Delgado (third-best 38 homers, 115 RBI), Kerry Wood (34 saves, 1.09 WHIP, 84 K’s in 66.1 innings).

SIXTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Jon Lester, Red Sox. A mediocre WHIP (1.27) and poor strikeout rate (152 in 210.1 IP) prevented Lester from reaching elite status this year. But in addition to tossing a no-hitter in May, he won 16 games and sported a solid 3.21 ERA. Now he can focus on doing what he does best: winning in October.

SEVENTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Nate McLouth, Pirates. Who? McLouth had a reputation as a speedy outfielder entering 2008, but he was supposedly battling Nyjer Morgan for a starting job. He doesn’t need to battle anymore. McLouth’s 113 runs ranked tied-for-sixth in the majors, and for a guy billed as a speedster (23 steals), he did just fine in the power department (26 homers, 94 RBI). He finished ranked as the twenty-second best hitter in the league despite 105 batters being selected ahead of him. Of course, no one outside of Pittsburgh knows who the hell he is.

EIGHTEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox. Most Red Sox fans are pushing hard for gritty second baseman Dustin Pedroia to win the MVP, and while he’s had a terrific year, they’re backing the wrong guy. Pedroia’s 118 runs ranked second in the majors, and his 20 steals were a stunning surprise (he had seven in 2007), but Youkilis ranked tied-for-tenth in RBI (115) and eleventh in OPS (.959, 90 points ahead of Pedroia’s .869 mark). He also scored 91 runs and smacked 29 homers, placing his Z-score twenty-first among hitters (Pedroia ranked thirty-first). In related news, I traded him in April. For Oliver Perez. Apologies to: Jason Giambi (32 homers, 96 RBI).

NINETEENTH ROUND
Best pick: Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers. There weren’t any particularly impressive picks in the draft’s penultimate round, but after sliding into the closer’s role following a Takashi Saito injury, Broxton grabbed 14 saves while striking out 88 batters in 69 innings. He also sported solid peripherals (3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP).

TWENTIETH ROUND
Best pick: Ervin Santana, Angels. Here’s a perfect example of how staying focused during the final rounds of the draft can pay huge dividends. Santana was the two-hundred-thirty-seventh player selected and wound up ranking as the league’s ninth-best starting pitcher. His 214 strikeouts ranked fourth in the majors while his 1.12 WHIP ranked eighth. He also won 16 games while putting up a 3.49 ERA. In related news, the champion of my league drafted him.

And just for fun…

BEST WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS
Hitter: Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals. I freely admit that I’d never heard of Ludwick until he started mashing homers early in the season (he hit nine in May alone). I’ll remember him now. The St. Louis outfielder ranked tied-for-fourth in the majors with 37 home runs and also placed sixth in OPS (.966) while scoring 104 runs and driving in 113. All told, he ranked as the eight-best hitter, one slot behind top overall pick Alex Rodriguez. Fantasy sports can be strange. Apologies to: Carlos Quentin (96 runs, 36 homers, 100 RBI, .965 OPS, ranked fifteenth overall), Aubrey Huff (96 runs, 32 homers, 108 RBI, .912 OPS, ranked twenty-third overall), Dustin Pedroia (118 runs, 20 steals, ranked thirty-first overall).

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Indians. It’s easy to excuse owners for not drafting Lee – he finished 2007 with a putrid 6.29 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. Whether he simply trained hard in the offseason or sold his soul to Satan, something changed in 2008, as Lee finished tied for the major-league lead in wins (22), tied-for-third in ERA (2.54), and tied-for-sixth in WHIP (1.11). He might not deserve the Cy Young Award that he’ll likely win this month, but as the pitcher with the fourth-highest Z-score, he certainly earned the title of best waiver wire pickup. Apologies to: Ryan Dempster (17 wins, 187 K’s, 2.96 ERA), Ricky Nolasco (15 wins, 1.10 WHIP), Mike Mussina (20 wins), Edinson Volquez (17 wins, 206 K’s).

Relief Pitcher: Brian Fuentes, Rockies. After being dumped from the closer’s role in 2007 in favor of Manny Corpas, Fuentes reclaimed his spot less than a month into the season thanks to Corpas’ struggles. Once there he excelled, saving 30 games while striking out 82 batters in 62.2 innings. A free-agent-to-be, Fuentes’ excellent peripherals (2.73 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) ensured he’ll receive a tidy reward this offseason. And when he gets bounced from closing duties for the Tigers in May 2009, don’t be surprised. Apologies to: Salomon Torres (28 saves, seven wins).

And that’s that. Hope everyone enjoyed it, see you all back here for fantasy football draft analysis in January. In the meantime, maybe I’ll actually post about movies …

6 comments:

Laura said...

Jeremy,

Good job. I thought that your post was entertaining and I agree with most of your picks, though you would have done better in our league if you valued steals more =). I think that you could have considered position scarcity a little more in your analysis. For example, there were a lot of good outfielders on our waiver wire, while positions like third base and first base were thinner. I think that Evan Longoria was one of the best waiver wire pickups, because third base is such a thin position. I also think that Chris Davis was a good pick up, because he could play first and third, and he hit a lot of home runs in a short time. Of course, I never look at the numbers. Additionally, I think that Broxton was a pretty good waiver wire pickup for a reliever, but I guess that does not count, because you are giving yourself credit for drafting him even though you did not keep him on your team long enough to benefit from his success. Finally, where is the shout out for Joe Mauer? He helped my team win first place, is likely to get 3rd or 4th in the MVP vote, won the batting title, and he ranks # 1 overall in MLB for looks.

-Laura

Justin said...

I can't argue with most of your picks...I especially like your Pujols pick.
Sans injuries, I think Andruw Jones was the absolute worst pick overall. Although I am biased the fact that I drafted him, his complete "suckage" is far the worst I've seen this year.(my 2 cents)

BRIAN said...

screw you, beck... i liked The Fountain.

where do Ryan Grant in the 1st and Derek Anderson in the 3rd rank?

Jeremy said...

I'll concede that I generally ignored positional scarcity. My rationale was that owners' positional needs varied at different times in the draft. If someone had already drafted a second baseman and passed on Ian Kinsler in order to draft someone Adrian Gonzalez, can I really declare Kinsler the better pick when Gonzalez had a statistically superior year on an absolute basis? I don't want to have to account for owners' motivations when making picks -- as such, the analysis focuses on player performance, not owner performance.

(For what it's worth, third base wasn't a particularly scarce position this year. Of the top 26 hitters, seven were eligible at the hot corner.)

As for the specific waiver-wire pickups that I excluded, part of that is a function of time horizon -- I'm looking at how players ranked over the entire 2008 season, not the specific time they spent on an owner's roster. Players may have ranked comparatively high after they were added to a roster, but that doesn't translate to year-long success. Again, we're looking at composite player performance. Specifically:

Chris Davis drove in just 55 runs and scored 51, ranking him one-hundred-thirty-first overall. Again, he may have been a relative stud during the second half of the year, but I can't isolate the analysis to his specific time horizon.

Evan Longoria made a lot of headlines, but he only played in 122 games and scored just 67 runs. For the full season, he ranked fifty-ninth among hitters, placing him as the eleventh-best waiver wire pickup, sandwiched between Andre Ethier and Melvin Mora.

Joe Mauer may be dreamy, but he only hit nine home runs and stole just one base. His Z-score ranked eightieth overall; of the six hitters selected in his round (the sixth), he ranked next-to-last, behind Chipper Jones, Carlos Peña, Hunter Pence, and Chris Young. He did manage to rank ahead of Ryan Zimmerman though.

Laura said...

Well, drafting based on looks and positional scarcity has served me well over the past two years. Plus Longoria, Mauer, and Davis played a large part in helping me win the league. Mauer for the morale boost he gave the Sparkles squad and Longoria and Davis for coming through down the stretch. Plus when looking at the waiver wire, it's how many players at that position were available at the time. Longoria was an upgrade over Hank Blalock, so a lot of the good third basemen were already taken. But like I said, I never really look that the numbers that thoroughly. It's all about what WEEI and Rotoworld think (just kidding).

cbsavio said...

Hey Beck, where is the award for the player most frequently "showing up" on someone's team?? I mean Rickie Weeks has been on and off my team about 10 times in the past two season (he's very, very sneaky). I guess in the end he actually adds no value seeing as I won last year w/ him (sometimes) and came in "sub-par" this year w/ him (sometimes).

On another note, I think your analysis is pretty much spot on, with the exception of Mariano not being the best pick in the 9th round. I also agree that Ludwig and Lee were the best pickups off the scrap heap. I can't wait till they both get taken in the top 4 rounds next year and drag a team to their doom.

Last thing, any input on the best trade / who got fleeced?