Thursday, February 7, 2013

Introducing the Wankdorf Valuetron .500

The Super Bowl is past, meaning we're free from the tyranny of the NFL and ready to turn back to a sport innocent enough that PED usage is still viewed as impolite, not mandatory, and the most dangerous thing that ex-players put in their mouths is dip, not shotgun barrels.

Yes, pitchers and catchers report next week. It's baseball time.

With that in mind, we here at the GRBG are returning to fantasy content, continuing our proud tradition of directing 75% of this blog's content to an audience of 10 dudes. This year, we've decided to add a new element to our preseason posts, by continuing our other proud tradition of ripping off gimicks from successful Internet writers. So, just as we lifted Christina Karl's Transactions Analysis concept, we are now taking the Sports Guy's annual NBA Trade Value column and adapting it to our MLB keeper league. Here are valuation rules, which hew closely to Simmons's method:
  1. Keeper status counts. Would you rather have one year of a one-slot Mike Trout, or three years of a zero/one-slot Bryce Harper? Jered Weaver for three slots, or Yu Darvish for one?
  2. Position matters. How many second basemen do you trust?
  3. Age matters, although not as much as keeper and position. Would you rather have a 1-slot R.A. Dickey or a 1-slot Mat Latos? (No, seriously, we're asking.)
  4. Evaluate players only.  We're not going to evaluate where draft picks fit in, or the value of having Scot run your team rather than Sahil.
  5. Evaluate in a vacuum. In other words, don't focus on the needs/keeper limitations of a player's current owner.
  6. The list runs in reverse order. So if Cesar Crespo is at #15, that means that his owner would trade him for the #14 guy, but would not trade him for the #16.
We programmed these rules (in Basic) into a disused Apple IIc computer and then sent the computer to a week at sabermetric fantasy camp, thereby creating the Wankdorf Valuetron .500. All rankings are taken directly from the Valuetron. So if you disagree, don't yell at us; dig up Steve Jobs and yell at him. Today we'll run honorable mentions and numbers 16-25; the top fifteen will follow later in the week. Off we go.

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)

Yu Darvish (1 slot through '14), Adam Jones (same), Craig Kimbrel (2 slots), Jurickson Profrar (Prospect), Jered Weaver (3 slots)

What we have here is a list of great players who happen to fall way short on one of the valuation categories. 
  • Darvish has a great keeper status, but very little MLB track record. Positionally, SPs are inherently volatile, so the WV.500 only credits pitchers who have proven that they can stay healthy and produce in multiple years. (Well, with one exception, which we'll see next time.). Darvish also throws in a bad park in the harder league. 
  • Jones is a similar story: he has a great keeper status, but not much of a track record of success (how many of us have drafted him and been disappointed with the results?), and plays at a deep position.
  • Kimbrel has sort of inverse strengths and weaknesses. He has been great for multiple years now. However, two slots is a lot to pay for a closer, no matter how good. Makes the list if his keeper status is just a bit better.
  • Profrar is a free keep at a tough position, which overcomes his lack of production history.
  • Weaver has had the best SP numbers in the AL over the past two years (non-Verlander division). But 3 slots are a lot, and his peripherals aren't as otherworldly as his fantasy line.
25. Joey Votto (4 slots)

Votto is very, very good. But very, very good is the minimum needed to justify 4 slots, especially at a position like 1B where there are traditionally a number of options. Here are all of last year's 4-slot keepers, with their season lines:

       Adrian Gonzalez: 75/18/108/.344/2
       Matt Kemp:         74/23/69/.367/9
       Carlos Gonzalez:  89/22/85/.371/20
       Troy Tulowitzki:   33/8/27/.360/2

None of those four were great last year, three missed a good chunk of time, and Tulo basically lost the whole season. The inherent risk surrounding any player makes it tough to invest a third of your slots on him. (How did I come in second last year using 8 slots on CarGo and Tulo?) (Teddy)

Guys taking up 4 slots have traditionally been underperformers in this league.  In 2011, Hanley Ramirez sucked up 33% of my keeper list and proceeded to have his worst season.  The year before, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were kept at +3 by Teddy and Andy, respectively, and both put up relatively pedestrian numbers.  Ergo putting a 4 slot guy this low.  That said, Votto's about a sure a bet as you can get in baseball, which earns him a place on this list.  (El Angelo)

24. Joe Mauer (3)

(This is how I came in second last year despite using 8 slots on CarGo and Tulo.) Catchers with .416 OBPs are incredibly fun. Makes the list almost entirely on positional adjustment. (Teddy)

The chasm on positional value is absolutely brutal at two positions, and catcher is one of them.  (We'll visit the other in the next post.)   In some preseason rankings, Victor Martinez is the #5 catcher in baseball, and he missed all of 2012.  So even though he eats up a chunk of your roster, Mauer's value is real and apparent.  (El Angelo) 

23. Adrian Beltre (2)

He's been better than you think for each of the past three seasons, and still plays in a launching pad in Texas. If it weren't for the recent deepening of the 3B pool, he would be even higher. (Teddy)

The fact that third base, out of nowhere, is surprisingly deep, is what lowers his ranking, because he's not that much ahead of David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman, just to name two.  That said, he continually rakes in a bandbox in a loaded lineup, and is pretty much as solid a guarantee as you'll get at the position.  (El Angelo)

22. Cole Hamels (2)

Our first SP, which is a good time to broach the issue of how to weigh pitchers against hitters. Conventional wisdom is that hitters, who can contribute in 5 categories, are worth more than pitchers, who can contribute in only 4. Hell, some owners almost purposefully ignore SP. But there are still a fair number of SP on the list, because the Valuetron believes that the relatively scarcity of less-risky SPs drives up their value. Hamels is young, not that expensive in slots, and plays in the right league. With a better team and a better park, he'd be higher. (Teddy)

The creaking decay of the Phillies keeps him behind the next few pitchers, because on raw talent, he's one of the best in the business.  But he's going to get dinged on wins over the next couple of years on a team that's not going to score a ton of runs, and having guys in walkers for infielders sure isn't helping your WHIP or ERA.  He'd fetch a lot in return for a trade, but not as much as the next couple of guys.  (El Angelo)

21. David Price (3)

This whole next section involves serious hair-splitting among SPs. Price edges out Hamels based on park, team, and age. But it's close. (Teddy)

The biggest obstacle Price has is playing in the AL East -- the only crappy offense in the division is the Rays, which obviously, he isn't facing.  But he's a stud, and if he were fewer than 3 slots, he'd be ahead of the next few guys on this list.  (El Angelo)

20. C.C. Sabathia (1 thru '13)

Here's where the rules start to kick in. CC is probably not as good as Hamels or Price and definitely has more miles on his arm and more of everything on his dinner plate. But for one slot? Tasty. (Teddy)

Quite tasty indeed.  He's actually likely to get bad exactly when he gets expensive, so just how cost-controlled he is makes up most of his value.  (El Angelo)

19. Matt Cain (2)

Was lucky for so long that we didn't notice him getting good. (Teddy)

I don't have much to add except to recall this priceless gem from Teddy's analysis of Cain when he was picked by Andrew in 2010: "Cain is part of the delicious chocolate crust that surrounds the rancid nougat of the bottom half of the roster."  Fabulous.  (El Angelo)

18. Zach Greinke (1 thru '14)

Falls into the warm bosom of Dodger Stadium, and gets multiple starts a year against San Diego. Plus he's cheap for years to come. Assuming that L.A. doesn't cause him to go Original Homer Simpson, he should be fantastic value.  (Teddy)

This is the one player I think we may look back and say was too low on this list at the end of the year.  Between park factors, the fact that this team should hit, and gets to play a lot of games against three teams that probably aren't going to post winning records this year (Arizona, Colorado and San Diego), Greinke may well have a pair of 20-win seasons in him coming up.  (El Angelo)

17. Albert Pujols (3)

This ranking seemed borderline sacrilegious when we first saw it. But the Valuetron is pitiless. It also couldn't help but notice that, unlike a lot of guys on this list, Pujols has actually been traded in this league. So despite the veneer of untouchability that has surrounded Pujols, it's hard to argue with the good ol' WV.500 here. It still feels like he's due for at least one more late peak season, though. (Teddy)

Here's the thing -- if we were starting this league today with the exact same rules and everyone available for the first time, would Pujols even go in the first round? Obviously he doesn't stink and I agree he's got 1-2 more MVP-caliber seasons in him.  But he's already showing signs of coming down from his absurdly high peak, which still renders him valuable, just not untouchable.  (El Angelo)

16. Curtis Granderson (1 thru '13)

Really only has one elite skill (pulling RHP), but plays in the best park in the league for that skill, on a team full of guys likely to be on base when he does it. How different is he than Jose Bautista? And where does Bautista fit on this list?

How's that for a cliffhanger? (Teddy)

I'll also throw in that he's still in his peak (probably the tail-end, but still his peak nonetheless) and is playing for a contract this year.  He's going to have a monster 2013.  I wouldn't deal him for Albert Pujols.  (El Angelo)

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