Happy 2019 everyone. It seems like like just last year it was 2018. How time flies.

As most of you know, my 2019 fantasy baseball projections (collaboration with Steamer) and rankings went up about a week ago. You can use the top menu (Player Rater and Projections) to access that or use the link earlier in this paragraph to access all the Razzball rankings pages. These will be updated all the way up to opening day. I stop then because it gets progressively easier after that date and I like a challenge. I prefer to focus on Rest of Season projections at that point.

Two industry colleagues of mine – Jeff Zimmerman and Tanner Bell – wrote a fantasy baseball e-book in the offseason called The Process and were nice/smart/foolish enough to ask me to read it before they saved it to PDF. I liked it enough to write a blurb. You would think Grey would have asked me to write a blurb for one of his e-books but he deemed it redundant since we both outsource most of our content to the same farm of 13-year old boys working out of a Dubai business park. Now show me your ankles!

Jeff and Tanner’s book focuses on something near and dear to me – formulating a process to improve one’s season-long fantasy baseball performance.

I am a firm believer in process. It is what I do. All the Razzball projections, player pages, etc. are just a series of processes. While there are parts to my process that are germane to being a blog co-owner (e.g., running projected values for way more formats than I play), their book did get me to think about the common denominator between the processes I use for the tools, for my teams, and my guidance for how our readers should run their teams.

Here are some vaguely organized thoughts on the book and my own process:

  1. You should read the book. I think it will help most of you. Even if it just inspires you to improve one or two parts of your ‘game’, it will be well-worth the price.
  2. Preseason Projections – There is some good info on this. That said, I am going to pour some ice water on it. My advice – figure out what parts in the player projection process, if any, that increase your chances of winning. I will say this once but it applies to every part of your process – you are either adding value or adding work. Former>latter. Once you identify a step that you are going to repeat in the future, figure out a way to streamline it. My POV is that building your own projections is a bad ROI. It takes a ton of work and you have less underlying data at your disposal than others who publish it. Lest you think this is my ego and self-interest talking, it is worth noting that I began collaborating with Steamer at the beginning of this decade because I surmised they were better at estimating underlying rates for players (e.g., HR per Plate Appearance) than I ever could be. I determined the value I add is in playing time projections. As Steamer got more sophisticated (notably, hitter projected splits against RHP and LHP), my process got more sophisticated to leverage this data. Either through necessity or opportunity, I also supplemented context-based (vs 100% skill-based) stats like Saves, Holds, and Quality Starts and started projecting my own Runs and RBIs since I was building my own projected lineup distributions for players (note: Most volume stats can be adjusted up/down based on PAs but R/RBI are different as their projection varies depending upon lineup. It is an example why those adjusting projections at home are at a disadvantage.) I could not justify this work (nor afford the underlying Steamer stats) if it were not for Razzball. Now one area I can get behind if you have the time is trying to hunt down the player projection anomalies – guys who the projections are more likely to get wrong for some reason like previous season injuries, change in plate approach, etc.
  3. Player Rankings/Values – Jeff and Tanner wrote a solid overview of the SGP (Standings Gain Points) methodology that predates the methodology I developed for our Player Raters  (aka Point Shares). I would say my methodology is like a cousin of SGPs. I like mine better but I am not publishing my code so this is the closest thing to a cheat code if you were looking to build your own. This is clearly an area where I feel I add value. Whether this is an area where you should invest your time, I would lean towards no unless you play in a league with an odd format.
  4. Draft Prep/Strategy – This is one of two areas (see #6) where I have had the most personal improvement in recent years and recommend investing more time. There is a whole section on “Draft and Auction Strategy” and I am sure there is at least some advice here that will inspire you to make some improvements. Like with player valuation methodologies, this does not necessarily lay out how I attack a draft but follows similar philosophies. One major advantage I have learned about draft prep is that if you mock draft enough (or, in my case, use ADP to identify likely draft scenarios), you can anticipate the handful of tough decisions caused by your projections/rankings and answer those pre-draft instead of while on the clock. You will also be able to identify any systemic issues in your rankings / preferences and adjust accordingly – e.g., are you too hitter vs pitcher heavy?, did you draft enough speed?
  5. Draft War Rooms – If you have Excel skills, I recommend building your own War Room vs a program to customize it to your tastes. Unfortunately, no step by step instructions in the book on building your own War Room. A bit surprising since Tanner lives/breathes Excel. If you do not have the Excel skils, better to use one than not (note: we have a free war room on the site that will be updated after Grey finishes his preseason rankings). I think the main keys to an effective draft war room are: a) You are keeping track in the draft how your team is shaping up across each category (I prefer using my $ vs adding up stat projections as it puts all categories on the same metric but to each their own), b) You do not waste time on how other teams are doing from a stat perspective (just mark guys as drafted), and c) You have some ADP in there to make sure you are not reaching on players.
  6. In-Season StrategyStreamonator and Hittertron are obviously key to my in-season strategy. Jeff and Tanner share some solid in-season management advice. Again, it is about the process. While I have used the Razzball tools for years, I found building a process for weekly FAAB bidding a couple years ago led to marked improvement. If I had begun my current process in 2015 vs 2017, I feel I would be the 4-time defending ToutWars Mixed Draft champ (I won 2017/2018, 2nd in 2015/2016). My philosophy is to ABF – Always be FAABing. You try to find little improvements every week. My goal is to get players on the cheap 1-2 weeks before they become must gets. Sometimes this involves some luck – e.g,. I did not know Whit Merrifield would have an amazing 2H 2017 when I got him for $1. It all started with a good matchup week and my current guy at MI was weak. As for leagues with daily roster changes, I think playing a season in our Razzball Commenter Leagues is the best education you will get in that format and using Streamonator/Hittertron are table stakes.

 

  1. Big Ticket says:
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    Great stuff Rudy! Lots to think about. For 2019, who are your top 3-5 guys to keep an eye on that have SP eligibility that could also get double digit saves?

    • I only see 6 guys with 5+ GS last year and 1+ Saves in my projections: Seth Lugo, Adam Plutko, Ryne Stanek, Blaine Hardy, Diego Castillo, Sergio Romo. Slim pickings.

  2. Packers says:
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    Thanks, Rudy

  3. Mike Adamson says:
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    Sweet!

  4. OaktownSteve says:
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    Good stuff Rudy. Thoughtful. I’ve come to appreciate you reading the website these years. You do good work. I see you work hard to get the numbers right and the tools you’ve built are great. Glad to see you succeeding in the business.

    • thanks oaktown! yup, little writing these days. almost all the work goes into the projections.

  5. knucks says:
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    Hey! I bought this book yesterday and look forward to putting a dent into it over the weekend hopefully.

    Thanks for doing your thing man, appreciate it.

    • @knucks: damn, a day too late to get my sweet commission! lol. glad you bought it. enjoy!

  6. Darek says:
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    Good stuff. Been wanting to get the book but this helps nudge me to do so.

    I love reading Grey and think he has the best gut instincts in the industry, but I’m a card carrying Rudy/Steamer disciple. I really appreciate the work you put into those.

    Quick (or not so quick) drafting philosophy question. For me being a Razzball/steamer disciple, I still struggle with when to target SP in snake drafts. There are a couple of tiers where the SP separate themselves in the razzball/steamer rankings, but then there is a big cohort in the $7.5-12.5 range. While Grey always preaches waiting on pitching and, I always notice that early in a draft there are 5-10 “aces” where their Razzball/Steamer value is in the same range of dollar values of the hitters going around them. For example, I had a choice of Verlander ($27.5) or Freeman (23.7) in the early third in a draft I just did. Grey would say to take Freeman (his #19 overall player) in a heartbeat, but if I had passed, suddenly I have to reach for a tier of pitchers when their value is a lot less than the hitters going around them. For example in the same draft, we are in the fifth round and the best pitcher according to razzball/steamer is German Marquez at $14.4. Meanwhile there are 25 hitters with better dollar values, all the way up to $26. Patrick Corbin ($18) went a pick before I took Marte ($30.6) last round. Meanwhile, starting around 10, the value of pitchers being taken falls back down to the value of the hitters around them.

    Rudy- what is your philosphy on SPs when you use your rankings? Do you take an “ace” SP in say the second or third rounds when their Steamer/razzball dollar values are in the range of the hitters going around them? Do you reach for of the $15-20 pitchers that go in the 4th or 5th rounds while the hitters going around them are more like $20-25? Or do just go hitter heavy and try to pick from the blob mid rounds? I’m sure the answer is depends, but since this seems to come up every year, I wonder if you noticed that phenomenon where in the say 4-8th rounds the pitchers going are consistently valued less than the hitters going around them.

    • @Darek: thanks! yeah, grey has a great gut instinct…though it’s a byproduct of spending a ton of time on rankings + answering questions. so it’s a very informed gut!

      the past couple years – i’ve tended to come out of snake drafts with 2 SPs in the first 5 rounds and zero in the next 5 rounds. i write up my LABR and Tout Wars drafts which are in my archives (https://razzball.com/author/rudy-gamble/) and they should give a good sense of how I attack SPs. I play mostly 15 team leagues but generally have used that same philosophy in 12 team leagues like RCL.

      the challenge is when a room thinks like me. NFBC Main Event does…as does Yahoo! Friends & Family where, actually, a few guys go NUTS on SPs. in that scenario, i’m not afraid to zag if the values aren’t there. it’s not my default move though.

      • darek says:
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        @Rudy Gamble:

        Thanks- When you are taking that second SP, will you “reach” a little according to your dollar values, knowing that you probably aren’t going to find anything in rounds 5-10? The last several years when I am using your rankings, the first SP I take say in round 2 or 3 is usually in line in terms of value with those around, but by round 4 or 5 is where the $ curve of pitching seems to be falling off faster than the hitting around. It’s pretty consistent year to year I encounter that dilemma of “do I reach for the last difference making SP or take this hitter worth $5 or even 10 more?

        • i know i reached on Nola in Round 5 of ToutWars last year. I was in the #1 spot and I’m more willing to reach for guys in that spot if I’m confident they won’t make it back. I’m not obsessed w/ a guy having to be #1 on my draft board. I plan out the draft using ADP as a guide and try to map out the likely players – at least for the first 10 rounds or so. I pick 12th in LABR on Feb 12th….haven’t made up a draft board yet but figuring out where I’m drafting SP1/SP2/SP3 is probably my first decision.

  7. jbona3 says:
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    Rudy, thanks for all the hard work on your projections, it’s not easy.

    I’m in an auction keeper league ($260), and I’ve spent some time building out projections and SGP, and converting them to auction dollar projections at the category and overall level based on one of Tanner’s earlier ebooks, and I’m hoping you can provide some insight as to how you and Grey approach team building using your dollar values in drafts. I realize some of it might be your “secret sauce” and don’t expect you to give that away, but as a fellow data wonk, any insight or thoughts you have would be appreciated.

    • you know it, man. pimping and projecting have something in common….maybe i should dress more flamboyantly.

      as i noted in the post, the biggest gains i’ve made in past two years have been in-season pickups and draft prep. they feed off each other. i feel confident that i can fill any reasonable hole / weak link through FA. but I never want to go into FAAB being WEAK/DESPERATE in a category or NEED to make a trade. so i try to draft relatively balanced teams. i still try to optimize total team value but i’d rather a $290 balanced team than a $300 imbalanced team. and then i’m always FAABing to improve my team.

      hope that helps…
      rudy

      • jbona3 says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: Big Daddy Kane was on to something, that’s for sure…I appreciate the insight, I’m still trying to find that right mix in my drafts.

        On a related note, in my Auction Keeper league there’s a tentative deal on the table I’m evaluating: my $52 Harper for his $2 Forrest Whitley – I should take that deal and run, right?

        • $52 for Harper seems really high. $2 flier on Whitley sounds decent. hard to say w/ the rest of your roster but makes sense on the surface

  8. Member Berries says:
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    Rudy Rudy Rudy! (insert Rudy being carried by his teammate image)

    Awesome post – if you recommend the book (like you did), I will get it.

    I get involved in some non standard leagues and our long time baseball league just got taken to a new level – should be fun but rather tough to prep for as it includes categories like SBNet, K2DP, points for HR, singles, etc… this league is toughest on breaking standard norms of who is a great fantasy player but better to be prepared accordingly than going in blind.

    Where do you personally draw the line on projecting numbers – is it just a matter of what the demand is or more about how you get to your projections of player values? Is there anything else you’d like to get into when it comes to projecting baseball players but do not have the resources/time ? just curious what numbers fascinate the numbers guy

    • thanks. messing with the standard 5×5 outside of adding (or swapping out AVG for) OBP is not my bag. i’ve found the more I specialize in a format, the better I do. at this point, hard to get me to play anything but 15-team mixed. although i suppose i’d have a bigger advantage in alternate formats since i’m mathier than most.

      the hitter/pitcher projection pages have a lot of stats. i have more from steamer but it’s a matter of space on the site at some point.

      if i had more time, i’d put it towards prop bets and DFS.

  9. Nathan says:
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    Thanks for the advice on this book! Looks like a must have.

    What I wanna know is if there is anyone that covers dynasty leagues in depth. I see prospect stuff, but am more interested in 2nd-4th year players that are due to break out. Not everyone is an Acuña or Soto! Fantasy baseball is the best thing I’ve come across! It’s a lot more fun getting ready for year two.

    Heck even someone to bounce ideas off of! Thanks again!!

    • @Nathan: I’m not sure what dynasty coverage we will have this year. Grey would have a better idea.

  10. SwaggerJackers says:
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    Great insights, as always Rudy.

    Would you mind giving me your thoughts on this keeper league?

    10 Team Roto Daily League
    Keepers can be kept indefinitely with no penalty. Please pick 7:
    Lindor
    JD Mart
    Juan Soto
    Verlander
    Snell
    Bauer
    Khris Davis
    Hoskins
    Bryant

    • @SwaggerJackers: wow that’s a stacked list. i would leave off khris davis on the hitters (just behind hoskins who is younger and should get 1b/of pos) and verlander (just older than snell and bauer)

  11. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    thanks Rudy as always great stuff

  12. jimbeau says:
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    Why take any stats into the draft? I also don’t understand the ‘balancing your team’ concept at ALL. Projections are useful for ranking guys and setting an overall value in your mind about who you want on your team. Rudy is right about mock drafting and facing certain decisions ahead of draft day. Do that enough? Shouldn’t need stats at all on d-day.

    It can be hard to trust what looks like imbalance coming out of a draft. But if you take the value your league gives you (Moneyball style) then you should be able to manage those assets into what you need later on, no?

    • What league formats do you play? In 10/12 team mixed, the waiver wire is so stacked that you can balance your team through the year with it. I don’t think that’s the case in 15-team which is what I play. If you draft a low AVG or power team, you are probably fucked on AVG and HR. If you draft a low speed team, you need to swing a trade or get lucky in FAAB. I prefer to be relatively balanced and then use waivers opportunistically to find the most valuable player. Using my $ values during the draft to ensure this balance has been easy and effective for me.

  13. Rabbit says:
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    Rudy,
    Do you know of any in-draft auction software that you really like? I’m in a 10 team keeper league (up to 5 players kept) that is 5×5 but with OBP and K/9 instead of AVG and Totals Ks. I’ve used the Fantistics software for about 10 years and I like its flexibility, but I’ve run into some glitches the past couple auctions and I haven’t been crazy about their projections recently. I gotta figure there is something better out there but I have not found it. Any help you can give me on this? Thanks!

    • i have seen Fantistics. bummer on the glitches. doesn’t it let you import projections? i highly recommend mine/steamer. we have 5×5 OBP hitter rankings (https://razzball.com/playerrater-preseason-espnmlb12-5X5obp/). i’ve found K/9 isn’t much different than K – the only change for me is that I’d avoid poor K starters in favor of high K middle relievers.

      I’ve heard decent things about BaseballHQ/Rotolab and Rotowire’s. As I noted in the post, I build my own in Excel so I don’t have first-hand knowledge.

      • Rabbit says:
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        @Rudy Gamble: I haven’t tried to import your projections themselves into the Fantistics software in the past, but instead I have manually put in your auction values into the Notes field, so I have a second data point on price from you. Then I would input salient comments from Grey’s rankings also into the Notes field. It’s a time-intensive process but it was pretty good prep for the auction. The glitches arose during the auction–the software is supposed to recalculate player inflation (or deflation) real time as players get bought, but twice now it froze up on me trying to do that at the auction. You can imagine how receptive other owners are to my request that we pause our six-hour draft so that I can get my software up and running.

        • the player inflation/deflation calculations aren’t worth the bother IMO unless you are in a shitty league. in my auctions, seems like there aren’t major swings and, even if there were, it’s easy enough to adjust vs deal w/ the complexity.

  14. Dave says:
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    Hi Rudy,

    I’m having a hard time understanding the difference between your Yahoo and ESPN rankings and I’m sure there’s some complex math behind the scenes but I can’t figure it out. I’ll use standard 15 team for these values even though I notice the disparity in every league setting.

    1. Gary Sanchez is rank 28 and $29.1 in Yahoo vs rank 64 and $19.3 in ESPN.
    2. Giancarlo Stanton is rank 3 and $47 in Yahoo vs rank 8 and $36.5 in ESPN.

    I get that there are slight differences in total positions to fill, but both leagues are 1 catcher leagues so I would expect the catchers to be pretty consistent between rankings at least. Round 2 vs round 5 is a big stretch to me. Both Stanton and Sanchez seem abnormally high and a $10 difference, but it seems that most of the other catchers and to a lesser extent some other position players are higher in Yahoo as well. I can’t figure out what would cause that unless there’s some reason to target Catchers that I’m unaware of. I thought maybe Giancarlo jumped up due to his position, but then I noticed he jumped JD Martinez who is also OF.

  15. The difference b/w the two is standard Yahoo is 10 hitters/8 pitchers vs 13 hitters/9 pitchers. This puts more weight on premium hitters – particularly counting stats as there is so many solid players on waivers. It also means $ are inflated across the board for hitters as 10 hitters are getting the $ normally allotted to 13.

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