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A Huff is Enough

Ask Rotoman: July 20, 2006
 by Rotoman

Send your toughest fantasy questions to Rotoman.


Lowest: Carlos Zambrano, John Lackey, Chris Young, Scott Elarton, Pedro Martinez, Mike O'Conner, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Taylor Buchholz, Josh Johnson

Highest: Jason Johnson, Carlos Silva, Kevin Millwood, Brad Radke, Jeff Weaver, Andy Pettitte, Byung-Hyun Kim, Ryan Madson, Victor Santos, Rodrigo Lopez



5x5 Standard keeper league

I give Jeremy Bonderman and Chad Billingsley.

I get Paul Konerko and Nick Swisher.

Konerko replaces Todd Helton. Swisher replaces Aubrey Huff. I'm OK in pitching. Is it enough of an upgrade?

"Leave in a Huff"

Dear Huff:

At midseason, Konerko was earning $26 and Swisher was earning $14. Meanwhile, Bonderman was earning $23 and Billingsley was stealing $9 from you. While it's possible to imagine Bonderman having a somewhat better second half, and Billingsley has to be expected to be better at some point (he won his first game Tuesday night in impressive fashion), clearly Konerko and Swisher are where the value lies in this deal. Especially since you say you won't even miss Bonderman.

Except a trade isn't based just on value for value, but has to be judged on which players the players you're getting are replacing. In this case, you're replacing excellent players coming off bad first halves who could be better in the second half than the guys you're trading for.

That's not a sure thing, of course. Todd Helton is struggling this year. His numbers are looking similar to those of last year's injured and weaker Helton, a player who hit .320 with 20 homers. That earned him $27, which put him on par with Konerko then. But this year, Helton is only hitting .293, and there's a fair amount more offense in the NL this year, so he's only earning $14 thus far. You can be excused for coveting Konerko, who has certainly been more productive than Helton thus far.

But Nick Swisher, after a rousing start, has been slumping. He hit .204 with a .678 OPS in June, and is hitting .163 with a .683 OPS in July. His overall numbers look good, but for two months he's been a liability.

Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff has moved from a pitcher-friendly park in Tampa, where he hit .359 with a .943 OPS in June, to the hitter friendly park in Houston. In July, by the way, he's hitting .345 with a 1.081 OPS. I think you're giving up something there, maybe enough to offset whatever gain you get in Konerko over Helton.

Especially since there's no guarantee that Konerko will be better than Helton the rest of the way. Over the past five years, Konerko has earned $93, with a high of $26 last year. In the past five years Helton has earned $178, with a high of $45 in 2001. Helton has three years on Konerko, so it's possible he's on his way out, but at 33 years old he's more likely to bounce back.

So, it's possible if you do this deal that you could trade Bonderman to get two hitters who won't be as good as the guys you replace them with. While the trade's value is certainly fair, unless you have some other deals in mind this isn't one I can recommend.



Dear Rotoman:

I'm thinking Mike Lamb maybe wasn't the best utility IF to pick up off the wire after Morgan Ensberg went on the DL. Who would you choose from all these guys on the Wire? Keep in mind all the different stats my league uses.

A. Gonzalez(SD - 1B)
O. Vizquel (SF - SS)
R. Durham (SF - 2B)
R. Belliard (Cle - 2B)
J. Carrol (Col - 2B, 3B, SS)
B. Crosby (Oak - SS)
P. Polanco (Det - 2B, 3B)
S. Hatteberg (Cin - 1B)
A. Hill (Tor - 2B, 3B, SS)
N. Punto (Min - 2B,3B, SS)

12 team H2H...12x12...Roster changes allowed daily

Stat Categories: R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, AVG, OBP

Stat Categories: IP, W, L, SV, HR, BB, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP, K/BB, K/9

"Lamb Lies Down"

Dear Lies:

I'll agree with you, that while Lamb makes a swell platoonist, he's a tough fit in a mixed league (even one with daily transactions) because he won't play enough, even before his team goes out and trades for Aubrey Huff.

Here are the historical roto values of your alternate choices (PRE is my preseason projected price of each of these guys):

Adrian Gonzalez: -$2$10$4$ 3
Omar Vizquel:$21$15$21$19$ 8
Ray Durham:$17$16$13$15$13
Ronnie Belliard: $11$16$13$13$12
Jamey Carroll:$ 4-$2$16$ 6
Bobby Crosby: $ 7$ 6$10$ 7$14
Placido Polanco: $17$23$ 8$16$11
S. Hatteberg: $11$ 3$12$ 9$ 1
Aaron Hill: $ 4$10$ 8$ 7
Nick Punto: $ 3$ 2$10$ 5$ 1

These are AL and NL only prices, because I don't keep a historical record of mixed league prices, and because most of them weren't draftable in mixed leagues at the start of the year.

Looking over this list, given historical performance and my preseason estimation, the most likely candidates for you are Vizquel, Durham, Crosby, Belliard and Polanco. Since one of those has been far and away the best guy this year, Omar Vizquel, I think taking him is a slam dunk. But that's based on roto values, and my admission that my preseason skepticism about his ability to keep it up has been debunked.

As you point out in your letter, your league plays with 12 hitting categories, and that's different. It's also the reason we're looking at your question.

Frankly, my pricing spreadsheet can't handle 12 categories, so I couldn't just hit recalc and get an idea of which players are more valuable in your league. Looking over your categories, it's clear that the biggest issue is playing time. All of your categories but K, AVG and OBP for hitters favor players who get the most playing time. (And all those are redundant in some way with other stats, meaning your twelve categories don't really measure twelve different things.)

But which players are really more valuable in your system? It may surprise you to learn that there are two ways to measure that.

In general, on draft day, you would favor players who score high in the most categories. Across-the-board performance is probably the best way to build a team, because it spreads risk across many players. Of course, in leagues where everyone thinks this way, players with across-the-board talents will have their prices driven up and the scrappy roto player will look to assemble a group of motley talents that together add up to a winner.

All of sudden players like Jeromy Burnitz and Dave Roberts are bargains, and winners, too.

To look at how your league works, with two different measures I set up a spreadsheet that had the raw stats for each player in one grid, the results by rank, and the results by proportion.

Rank (lower is better)ABRH2B3BHRRBISBBBKTBAVGOBPTotal
Omar Vizquel321916712445449
Ronnie Belliard152164377826759
S. Hatteberg997164691153162
Ray Durham819722254639664
Adrian Gonzalez435361199917866
Jamey Carroll746626943781366
Aaron Hill663329767564569
Placido Polanco2735665810278978
Nick Punto101010721010263101283
Bobby Crosby588963424109101088
Percent (higher is better)ABRH2B3BHRRBISBBBKTBAVGOBPTotal
Omar Vizquel0.
Ray Durham0.
Jamey Carroll0.
S. Hatteberg0.
Aaron Hill0.
Adrian Gonzalez0.
Nick Punto0.
Ronnie Belliard0.
Bobby Crosby0.
Placido Polanco0.

Twelve categories is a few too many to fit comfortably on a readable page, but hopefully the whizzes at will be able to make this painless to look at.

I'm not getting into the business of projecting triples, or any of these stats, but based on year-to-date stats the key conclusion is that a player who is excelling in the roto categories is probably going to be excelling in a 12 category league as well. And so Omar Vizquel is the clear winner here as well.

And the guys who aren't excelling are probably all worth a similar amount, since playing time will be as influential as quality of play for most of them.



Colorado Rockies Pitchers: With his win over the Pirates Tuesday night, Jeff Francis became the third Colorado starter with an ERA less than 4.00. I feel safe saying (without looking it up) that this is the first time in July that this has happened. The truly shocking thing is that if you look at Home ERA only, four Colorado starters have ERAs below 4.00. Only Josh Fogg pitches in Colorado like it's 1999. The team has allowed the seventh-fewest runs in the Major Leagues this year overall, and the ninth fewest at home, but alas, they're scoring the 12th fewest, signs that smart use of the humidor has made baseball's whackiest park a lot less so both ways.

Justin Verlander: He was a top prospect who has acted like one from the get go this season. All young pitchers are subject to rough patches, as they develop ways to get ML hitters out when they don't have their best stuff, or when hitters adapt to their patterns. He struggled a bit in June, but a look at the schedule (NYY, CWS x 2, STL) explains a good part of it. Last year, Verlander threw about 155 innings in games in four levels, and had to be shut down late in the season because of a tired shoulder. He's only thrown 117 innings thus far this year, but we won't know about his strength until we get deeper into August.

Stephen Drew: A lot of touts thought he should have made the Diamondbacks out of Spring Training, but from what I saw in Arizona last November he still seemed a bit raw, and maybe a little too cocky, too. These are tough judgments, but clearly the Arizona team thought he could do with some more Minor League work. With Craig Counsell out until late August, Drew should get regular playing time. I'm sure he'll end up being a quality Major Leaguer, and if I needed someone to play shortstop I'd go after him aggressively, but he's not a sure thing to click right off the bat.

Chris Denorfia: His strong season in Triple-A this year opened the door for the fighting Reds to trade Austin Kearns. He's going to platoon with Ryan Freel, which given his speed could still mean he'll have value in NL leagues. But he's not a top prospect and is unlikely to be any help in all but the deepest of mixed leagues.



A few weeks ago you talked about picking pitchers by matchups, but for anyone interested, I use Bill James' component ERA calculations to target in-season pitching targets. Without going into the formula, Component ERA takes away "unlucky" factors that artificially inflate a pitcher's ERA. In my opinion, it more accurately portrays a pitcher's "ability" during the season.

The analysis is very basic. If a pitcher has a high ERA and his component ERA is much lower, then this pitcher has just been unlucky (usually caused by relief pitchers failing to keep inherited baserunners from scoring and by poor defense).

What do you think of Component ERA?


Dear K:

I'll get into the formula. Here it is:


PTB, defined:


Where intentional walk data are not available use:


If CERA is less than 2.24, the formula is adjusted as follows:


BB=Bases on Balls
HBP=Hit By Pitch
BFP=Batters Faced by Pitcher
IP=Innings Pitched
HR=Home Runs

What exactly is going on here?

Some call the stat ERC, just so you know, but I like CERA because of the pun. Let it be. CERA derives what a normally expected ERA be would be based on the component stats (hits, hr, etc.) of a pitcher. It tells how a pitcher would have been expected to do if he didn't have good luck or bad luck (otherwise known as good relievers or bad relievers) bail him out.

There is a problem with CERA, however, because one of the components is Hits Allowed, which we know is not really controlled by the pitcher (at least not much). So some people use a stat called BABIP (Batting Average Ball in Play) to track whether an inordinate number of hitters are getting on base against pitchers via hits that aren't homers. The idea is that a high BABIP is a sign of bad luck, and pitchers with high BABIP should be targeted as likely "buy low" candidates.

The formula for BABIP for pitchers is:


The problem with BABIPA is that it doesn't adjust for the differences in defenses behind different pitchers. A good efficient defense will make more outs, thus helping a pitcher be charged with fewer hits, credit which doesn't rightly belong to the pitcher at all.

The makers of the Baseball Mogul game came up with a way to create a component ERA that doesn't rely on a pitcher's fielders' success. I have no idea how well this works, I came across it while researching the answer to this story, but since it attempts to do what famed sabermetrician Voros McCracken (whose formula for Defense Independent Pitching Statistics is famously long and complex) has attempted to do, I thought it worthwhile looking at it here.

DICE = 3 + (3*(BB + HBP) + 13*HR - 2*K) / IP

Here is a list of all the ML starting pitchers with 80 or more IP, with their actual ERA, their CERA, BABIP and their DICE. I'm not sure what to make of this, since all of it is purely suggestive. Below the list I've identified some of the more extreme guys, who may be poised for a big turnaround, or crash.

We shall see.

Brandon Webb1032.522.660.2712.79
Aaron Harang1063.513.480.2833.17
Chris Capuano1053.463.430.2823.25
Jeremy Bonderman943.592.780.2632.82
Brad Penny1033.263.320.2683.22
Curt Schilling1133.422.920.2643.42
Roy Oswalt673.223.410.2743.48
C.C. Sabathia753.593.130.2623.33
John Smoltz 753.413.120.2603.34
Johan Santana 1052.932.300.2472.90
Jake Peavy 494.783.720.2773.53
Kevin Millwood 954.664.220.3013.47
Scott Kazmir 1073.403.590.2653.43
Greg Maddux 7104.993.870.2803.84
Francisco Liriano 1121.941.830.2242.56
Roy Halladay 1223.062.610.2423.53
Bronson Arroyo962.963.120.2523.64
Chris Carpenter 842.852.940.2443.47
David Bush674.413.560.2623.70
Javier Vazquez 945.074.170.2803.69
Aaron Cook673.593.800.2693.86
Mike Mussina 1133.302.780.2413.59
Chien-Ming Wang 1043.923.340.2543.80
Byung-Hyun Kim 564.784.650.2913.75
Jason Schmidt 663.062.680.2253.48
Jake Westbrook 754.443.800.2643.97
Kelvim Escobar693.884.190.2743.97
John Lackey 852.692.060.1973.39
Felix Hernandez884.894.450.2823.98
Danny Haren 683.733.410.2454.00
Jose Contreras913.483.070.2323.86
Ervin Santana1133.882.910.2233.78
Pedro Martinez 743.452.520.2083.61
Erik Bedard 1164.023.840.2573.89
Paul Byrd 664.264.060.2684.14
Jason Jennings 673.643.810.2543.97
Joe Blanton984.734.450.2744.16
Derek Lowe 763.983.610.2484.03
Vicente Padilla 1054.153.700.2453.87
Justin Verlander 1142.832.820.2173.96
Matt Morris874.233.720.2494.02
Elizardo Ramirez 364.163.870.2594.13
Victor Santos475.145.010.2854.24
Joshua Johnson 852.483.150.2163.83
Ian Snell 864.854.900.2804.23
Dontrelle Willis 673.944.390.2654.15
Tim Hudson784.954.270.2634.20
Andy Pettitte 894.995.210.2954.31
Randy Johnson 1075.063.660.2424.22
Zachary Duke 685.155.070.2824.30
Tony Armas Jr. 654.614.070.2494.10
Tom Glavine 1133.563.880.2504.24
Miguel Batista854.945.060.2834.42
Brett Myers 633.774.230.2604.28
Carlos Zambrano 933.233.110.1884.20
Cory Lidle 675.024.840.2714.46
Jeff Francis 783.983.430.2184.27
Robert Janssen 684.724.070.2564.48
Brad Radke774.975.520.3004.74
Chan Ho Park 654.494.130.2484.44
Jamie Moyer583.753.970.2504.57
Matthew Cain 664.903.550.2144.25
Gil Meche 943.873.790.2324.36
Mark Buehrle 974.434.290.2614.59
Tim Wakefield784.143.530.2204.46
Kenny Rogers 1134.103.650.2354.58
Nate Robertson 863.613.890.2404.40
Orlando Hernandez 585.525.100.2744.53
Barry Zito 963.303.480.2124.34
Mark Hendrickson 4103.773.640.2294.48
Cliff Lee 974.864.950.2734.67
Jason Johnson 3106.356.380.3074.79
Josh Fogg 754.234.030.2454.50
Jon Garland 935.124.700.2704.82
Chris Young 843.593.200.2024.48
Jamey Wright 684.954.360.2514.50
Jarrod Washburn 4104.413.870.2424.60
Scott Olsen744.283.670.2174.45
Paul Maholm 385.056.050.2834.81
Claudio Vargas 765.305.130.2754.79
Brett Tomko 665.124.700.2664.86
Rodrigo Lopez 6106.445.660.2855.09
John Koronka665.224.600.2594.69
Taylor Buchholz 675.313.420.2154.72
Clay Hensley674.613.790.2264.66
Freddy Garcia 1065.074.800.2655.02
Carlos Silva 596.756.340.3055.44
Jeff Weaver3116.606.150.2975.32
Livan Hernandez 685.875.770.2805.06
Ryan Madson 876.256.680.2895.48
Ted Lilly 983.864.360.2394.60
Ramon Ortiz 684.955.060.2634.88
Joel Pineiro685.795.820.2735.29
Doug Davis 564.774.550.2394.64
Jeff Suppan655.525.330.2645.05
Wandy Rodriguez 965.225.080.2564.85
Kris Benson984.594.140.2314.96
Sean Marshall 585.004.370.2304.84
Mark Mulder656.095.850.2665.67
Eric Milton 655.484.270.2345.30
Michael O'Connor 364.593.930.2095.03
Steve Trachsel944.574.800.2425.07
Jae Seo 275.074.870.2445.29
Jorge Sosa 3105.616.000.2635.89
Mark Redman 645.384.560.2325.25
Daniel Cabrera475.254.910.2204.69
Seth McClung2106.816.320.2535.85
Josh Beckett 1155.124.520.2165.62
Jason Marquis1175.975.030.2335.72
Casey Fossum334.914.950.2295.50
Scott Elarton 495.345.310.2056.61

Oh, by the way, they're ranked ascending by CERA and DICE, and descending by BABIP. This probably isn't helpful for anything in and of itself, though it means better pitchers are to found at the top of the list, less successful pitchers lower down.

I did some other sorts, trying to figure out which pitchers had the most margin to improve and came up with these candidates for traders to target:

Most of the leading bounceback candidates have pretty normal BABIP numbers, but their anticipated ERA in both measures is much better than their actual ERA. For some, like Jeff Weaver and Carlos Silva and Rodrigo Lopez, even their more optimistic anticipated numbers are dismal, so don't fall for them.

But for Jake Peavy, Javier Vazquez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Kevin Millwood, the second half looks at least a little optimistic (if there's anything to this hoo-doo).

Other guys high on the list to look at are Taylor Buchholz (though he's had an otherworldly good BABIP and dismal results thus far), Jeremy Bonderman, David Bush, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain, and BH Kim.

At the other end of the spectrum are guys who are going really good whose numbers don't support that continuing.

Josh Johnson isn't going to keep it up, though the consensus is he's doing just fine. Barry Zito is probably more of a 4.00 ERA than the 3.30 he's got right now. Ted Lilly looks like more of a 4.50 than a 3.86, though it's his arm and its health that will probably matter most with him. Brett Myers looks like a 4.25 at this point.

Remember, that these numbers aren't projections of what these guys will do the rest of the year, or where they'll end up at the end of the year, but are a re-expression of the stats they have thus far, ideally with the luck squeezed out.

With that in mind, Francisco Liriano looks like a 2.30 rather than a 1.94. Ouch.

Until next time,


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