Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Fantasy Baseball Roundtable - Week Five

posted by Jon Williams
This week I have the privilege of hosting this week's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. The question I posed to my fellow analysts?

What is your favorite source or method of uncovering sleepers?

Brett Greenfield - Fantasy Phenoms

An effective method for finding sleepers is to use sabermetric statistics. I use K/9 ratio, ERC differential and DIPS differential.

When looking for strikeouts, the K/9 ratio is much more important than the overall number of strikeouts tallied. Jonathan Sanchez, for example, struck out 157 batters in 158 innings last year. While 157 strikeouts may not seem so impressive, Sanchez struck out nearly a batter per inning. His K/9 ratio of 8.94 was ranked 7th in the majors behind only Tim Lincecum, AJ Burnett, Edinson Volquez, Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir and Chad Billingsley. Sanchez could strike out 200 batters, given 200 innings.

Sanchez also finished with a 5.01 ERA, which is far from impressive. However, looking at his DIPS and ERC differentials can shed some light on how much better his numbers should have been. His DIPS was 3.87 and his ERC was 4.32. Both of those ERA's are far lower than his actual ERA of 5.01.

Using sabermetric pitching statistics is definitely my favorite method for finding sleepers.


Patrick Cain - Albany Times Union
How to find sleepers?

One thing I do - and I'm sure there is an easier way - is I have a program that I wrote that collects first and second half splits for players. I then make them into rate stats and look for sizable jumps. I'm a big fan of players who make strides in their second half, assuming there is a reason for the gain.

Take for example Alex Gordon. Last year he made big gains in the second half...was this just luck or was it he's finally adjusting to major league pitching. Well, I hope for my sake, it's the later. Or, not-so-much-a-sleeper but Miguel Cabrera. Perhaps his second half improvement was he adjusted to the AL. These types of reasons, mixed with realistic increases (not something like Manny's) puts a man on my sleeper list.

Adam Ronis - Newsday
A lot of people like to look at last season's numbers and harp on those too much often ignoring a track record and a history of good skills. I like to examine these players and figure out why they had poor seasons. These are good players to look at because they come at a discount or minimal cost. Ian Snell is one example. He barely gets drafted in mixed leagues after being highly touted last season. He had some bad luck and an injury, but the numbers from 2008 get etched in the mental hard drive of many owners. That's a good thing. He's a good sleeper that should bounce back and won't cost much.

I also look at young players that came into the big leagues with a lot of hype and have failed to live up to the lofty expectations. When this happens, people tend to forget about these players. Alex Gordon is an example. Brandon Wood is an even more extreme example. Not everyone is Ryan Braun. Sometimes it takes longer for younger players to adapt to the major leagues. These players can often be sleepers, too.


Rudy Gamble - Razzball.com
I base sleeper candidates on two criteria: skill and opportunity. My main method for hitters is to scour depth charts and look for soft spots. If the 'soft spot' player has shown skill in the past, they may be worth a low investment (think Cantu and Ludwick last year). In addition, hot prospects who have seatwarmers or injury-prone players above them on the depth chart are worthwhile gambles. It's tougher in shallower leagues to make these gambles as 'Super 2' status means it'll likely be May before even the most obvious prospect is brought up (Braun, Longoria, this year Wieters).

For starting pitchers, I look at their league (favor NL), division (NL West is best), home park, ability to K guys (walks don't bother me as much), and fastball MPH. For good pitching prospects, I look to see if there's a potential opening (most staffs there are) and look at their MLE (major league equivalent) data from the minor leagues. This could either be gotten directly through a Baseball HQ (although last year's 'can't misses' of Cueto and Parra didn't help me) or gleaned by the current year projections of a CHONE or ZiPS.

For relievers, K rate and opportunity.

Tim Dierkes - RotoAuthority.com

In the preseason, it has become somewhat difficult to come up with sleepers no one else has. If we all write about the same 20-30 sleepers and play in leagues against each other, those sleepers start getting drafted before similar established players. I like Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, even to the point of taking them a round or two early. But when they go earlier than that I have to let them go. It's kind of win-win for me - I look good for the rec if they succeed, and don't have them on my team if they fail!

To find the Cruzes and Davises it's just a matter of coming up with good projections and dollar values and comparing them to average draft position reports. If a $15 player is going after the 10th round you might have a sleeper, until the hype machine rears its ugly head. The power of that hype machine depends on the level of your competition, because the magazines everyone uses typically lag behind the web in quality of analysis.

I've started to turn toward players where the strict statistical projections aren't impressive but the tools are there for good years. Could be youngsters like Jordan Zimmermann and Josh Fields or veterans like Gary Sheffield and Brad Penny. Hopefully late-round flyers on these types will pay off.

Jon Williams - RotoExperts.com
For hitters I like to look at players about to experience a huge increase in at-bats. Often players going from bench roles to fulltime (or close enough) will be underrated due to small sample sizes of their ability. One of my favorite examples for this coming season is Russell Branyan. Branyan has rarely received more than a token role in the major leagues for a variety of reasons. What is clear however is that if given 400-500 at-bats he begins to look a lot like Adam Dunn, Jack Cust, and Ryan Ludwick who will certainly cost up to ten times as much.

When it comes to pitchers I do my best to ignore roles altogether. I love to find pitchers that have shown the ability to induce groundballs and collect strikeouts. These are the pitchers who are helping themselves the most by eliminating as many park and team factors as possible. One of my favorite examples for this season is David Huff of the Indians who I expect to play a huge role in the Indians 2009 season.

Andrew Cleary - Fantasy Pros 911

My favorite method comes from the end of the previous season. In the last weeks of any fantasy season, I usually find myself scrambling for the few remaining free agents that can give the least, final benefit to my run at the title. By this time in the year, the breakout stars and proven veterans are long since entrenched on everyone's rosters, and the free agent list is full of new call-ups and streaky sometime-stars. Since I'm already evaluating pitchers and hitters to guess at whether their skills will give a good boost to my stats or not, I also keep a list of those that look like they have the skills for future success.

That's why I found myself last year adding pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine, Dallas Braden, and Chad Gaudin for some last-minute wins and strikeouts. They all had some good outings at the end of the season, and so were tantalizing bait for nervous managers like me. But I also was able to get a close enough look at their skills to know that they also each had a fair chance to make significant contributions in 2009.

Keeping this list helps me scout out some players that might be under the radar in the following year. And having that focus on the future helps keep me from going nuts over the fact that only a few more wins and strikeouts could keep me in the money. Whew!


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