The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Saturday, March 26, 2005


A year ago I entered the world of fantasy baseball. Perhaps "plunged" would be a better word; I spent the last week of March (including a business trip Wednesday through Friday) in a deep dive crunching stats from the 2003 season.

I reread my blog posts from that week and my naivete is quite amusing. For example, up until 90 minutes before the draft I thought that relief pitcher ERA and WHIP (walks + hits per inning) were counted equally with starters. What did I think, that if a pitcher had thrown one scoreless inning and then blown out his elbow, his 0.00 ERA would have the same weight as a starter who tossed 200 innings?

(Though I should note that in this introductory post, when I said that "I knew that John Smoltz closes for Seattle, for instance," I did not misplace Mr. Smoltz by 3000 miles. I simply typed something other than what my brain was thinking.)

Last year our league consisted of nine teams of 25 players. To the standard "5x5" fantasy scoring metrics (batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, stolen bases; wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, saves) we added hits, on-base percentage, errors, holds, and losses. (Obviously errors and losses are "negative" categories where you win by having as few as possible.)

We had a five-hour long draft on a Saturday afternoon. We drafted in a specific order, like pro sports teams, but the even-numbered drafts were in reverse order. So the person with the last pick in the first round would get the first pick in the second round.

My first five draft picks were Alfonso Soriano (2B-Texas), Edgar Renteria (SS-St. Louis), Bobby Abreu (RF-Phil), Jamie Moyer (SP-Seattle), and Andruw Jones (CF-Atlanta). The first round was

Alex Rodriguez (SS/3B-NYY)
Albert Pujols (1B-St. Louis)
Vlad Guerrero (RF-Anaheim)
Eric Gagne (CL-LA) (I use CL to designate closers and RP for other relief pitchers)
Alfonso Soriano (2B-Texas)
Barry Bonds (LF-SF)
Pedro Martinez (SP-Boston)
Mark Prior (SP-Chicago)
Jim Thome (1B-Phil)

Maybe I could have done a little better with my first pick. In fact my first five picks were disappointing, except for Abreu. I was saved by Abreu, and my selections of the Cy Young winners (Clemens and Santana) and top two closers (Nathan and Benitez), and finished the season tied for third.

My friend Eric rode an unusual strategy to first place: After Pedro he chose no starting pitchers! He spent the rest of his high and medium draft picks on hitters, and chose pitchers who were eligible to be starters because they had started games in 2003, but would spend 2004 as relievers. This left him behind in the wins and strikeout categories, but he made up for it by having fewer losses than anyone. (I should be fair and note that he made some shrewd picks, such as Ichiro and Carlos Guillen.)

So this year we lost two players and couldn't find any new members. We also dropped the losses category (to close the door on Eric's strategy), batting average (which was duplicated by hits), and errors (which were somewhat random). Now we had a "6x6" scoring system. (I have no idea why "x", implying multiplication; surely "+" would be better.)

I was dissatisfied with my usage of one years' statistics, and looked afield for more data. Yahoo, which hosts our league, sold "premium content" for $9.99 that included three years of statistics on all major league player. I bought it, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny.

Except for the first nine hundred and ninety-nine.

The stats were contained in a PDF file, which of course had no sorting capability. So I cut-and-pasted the data, which contained three rows for each player (2004, projected 2005, 2002 through 2005). I had to clean the data using TextPad (I was able to use regular expressions to toss the two rows I didn't want), and then copied it to a spreadsheet. Even so, I had to do more cleaning, like dealing with players with three names like Hee Sop Choi who pushed all the other stats out a column.

Did I mention yet that OpenOffice is a piece of crap, and using it for any non-trivial spreadsheet work will reduce you to tears?

The Yahoo data had traditional 5x5 stats. I needed OBP and holds; I could use batting average as a substitute for hits. So I had to wade laboriously though the bloated ESPN web page for OBP and holds data, which at least allowed me to check up on the health of each important player. Relievers had to be checked to see whether or not they were closing. Some players man multiple positions in the course of a season, and I had to go to Yahoo to see who was eligible for what.

Then I generated a score for each player, created a summary for each position, and printed a total of six sheets listing the top players. With this in hand, I left for Mountain View to make my picks.

Because I finished third out of the seven players remaining, I would draft fifth. A-Rod, Pujols, and Vlad were the obvious first three picks, just like last year. Soriano and Gagne were the best two players after them, and I was worried about Soriano because I had heard that his hamstring was still bothering him. I was not put to the test; the fourth player selected Miguel Tejada, and I was able to take "Game Over." The final round closed out with the selections of Abreu (which made me growl angrily) and Soriano.

(Where was Barry Bonds? In the 13th round! Brian, who until today was my friend, took a flyer on him just two picks before I had decided to risk selecting Bonds.)

Here are my 26 picks (we drafted an extra round for the bench position):

1. Eric Gagne, CL-LA.
2. Randy Johnson, SP-NYY.
3. Juan Pierre, CF-Fla. (I picked him for his steals; he has averaged 52 per year.)
4. Jim Thome, 1B-Phi.
5. Tom Gordon, RP-NYY.

6. Jorge Posada, C-NYY. (There was an early run on catchers.)
7. Derek Jeter, SS-NYY.
8. Carlos Lee, LF-Mil.
9. Tim Hudson, SP-Atl.
10. Octavio Dotel, CL-Oak.

11. Jason Varitek, C-Bos.
12. Javier Vazquez, SP-Ari.
13. Mike Lowell, 3B-Phi.
14. Jeff Kent, 2B-LA.
15. Matt Clement, SP-Bos.

16. Shawn Green, 1B/RF-Ari.
17. Edgar Renteria, SS-Bos. (My 2nd pick in 2004.)
18. Andruw Jones, CF-Atl. (My 5th pick last year!)
19. Jason Giambi, 1B-NYY. (After missing out on Bonds I could take a flyer of my own.)
20. Mike Cameron, CF-NYM.

21. Jose Mesa, CL-Pit.
22. Bartolo Colon, SP-Ana. (Sorry, I refuse to write "LAA".)
23. Luis Ayala, RP-Was. (He killed me last year with losses. Now losses don't count.)
24. Mike Timlin, RP-Bos.
25. Derek Lowe, SP-LA.

26. Randy Winn, LF/CF-Sea. (I took him in the 12th round in 2004.)


4 comments

4 Comments:

Not sure that mike lowell plays third base for the phillies.

By Blogger Micah, at 7:29 AM  

D-U-H spells duh. He plays for Florida. Thanks for keeping me honest, and I apologize for not having any Phillies. (I was sorely vexed when Bobby Abreu was taken in the first round. Last year I got him in the third round.)

By Blogger Floyd, at 9:44 AM  

Wow, I was your friend before today? What an honor! Considering the number of times I apparently selected players you were about to take, I suspect taking Barry was not the sole reason you won't be sending me a Xmas card.

By Blogger almightygozar, at 1:14 AM  

I apologize for not having any Phillies.

Except for Jim Thome. Geez! Maybe I should delete this whole post.

By Blogger Floyd, at 9:16 PM  

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