Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jim Rant 2 - SL News Article

Date: Sat, 03 Jan 2009 11:43:36 -0500
From: jim
To: sl
Subject: SL News Article.

(AP)-Homes Beach, FL
Addressing the informational leak that has rumors swirling about "the DONGS" heavy interest in 9(-1) catcher Joe Mauer projected to be available in the
swing of rounds 2 and 3. GM/Owner/Manager Jim Frank aka "HEAD DONG" answered questions regarding these rumors by saying, "Mauer, Shmauer" but did concede
he has looked over the catching prospect just as he has dozens of other players in the scouting process. "Should Mr. Mauer be available between rounds 2 and
3, there would have to be a lot of other pieces in place for the DONGS to go that route." said the head dong as he was questioned leaving a Holmes Beach
Hooters late last night. "By NO means has a decision been made about rounds 2 and 3 before a single pick has been made" Frank added. Frank was then heard
muttering "Swisher would be a great 2-3 swing DONG" as he hoppped on his Schwinn for the bike ride home from Hooters.
Rumor control and leaks are all part of the wizardry surrounding the weeks leading up to the SL draft (Jan 18, 2009). "The DONGS gm, just fired the first
shot across the bow of any half awake manager of the SL" one anonymous SL owner was overheard saying. Where Mauer will ultimately go in the draft is
anyones guess, but this reporter is here to say, its going to be interesting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Understanding APBA and Game Play

If APBA was a perfect simulation tool, nothing would matter except for a player’s performance during the past MLB season. It would be possible to project a player’s performance based on the same statistical tools that we use to project offensive or defensive effectiveness, such as OPS, WHIP, HR/9, etc. APBA, however, is not a perfect simulation. It has its quirks, and so does the BBW software, meaning that there is an APBA-ball element to playing the game that can give savvy managers something of a competitive advantage.

In a league full of ringers, looking for a competitive advantage can quickly become an obsession. However, it is not necessary to fully understand how APBA works to minimize the knowledge gap between managers who played APBA on the Master Boards and those who have only played on the computer, where the impact of every dice roll is calculated by the computer behind the scenes. A basic understanding of how the game works can help a lot.


As a bit of background, understand that every APBA outcome is determined first by a dice roll, resulting in a number between 11 and 66. [Note: A batter’s best outcome is always going to be at 66, which is why APBA savants sometimes sign their correspondence “66s.” It is the same as wishing someone the best of luck.] There are 36 possibilities, so each number on a player’s APBA card should reflect approximately 1/36 of the outcomes from a player’s MLB season stats. In some cases, 1/36 is not a precise enough measure to simulate a player’s stats, so a second column is used. If a zero appears in the first column, we look to the second column for the outcomes, allowing for even more precision in the simulation. Thus, a player who hit a home run fewer than once out of every 36 MLB at bats is likely to have a zero instead of a 1 (home run) at 66.

When looking at the outcomes on a player’s APBA card, not all outcomes are equal. Numbers 1-6 are extra base hits in most situations, and these are what we call the “power numbers.” Numbers 7-11 are singles of various strength (more later), 13 is a strikeout, 14 is a walk. 42 is a hit by pitch. 24s are double plays with runners on base. Everything else is probably an out, although there are some errors and other rare plays built in as well. I like to count the “on-base” numbers on a player’s card as well as the power numbers. Thus, I look for 1-11s, 14s, and 42s.

As suggested above, not all singles are created equal. As I understand it, 7s and 11s are almost always singles. 8s and 9s may be singles or outs, depending how high a grade of pitcher is on the mound. Some high grade pitchers turn 8s into outs, some turn 9s into outs, and the highest grade pitchers turn both 8s and 9s into outs. A 10 is a weak single, reduced to an out about half the time on average. Thus, when I look at a card I like to see 7s and 11s.

Similarly, not all extra base hit numbers are created equal. A 1 is almost always a home run, unless the pitcher has a G or an H, in which case the home run will sometimes (but not always, depends on the situation) be reduced to a double. With the bases empty, 2s and 3s are triples and 4, 5 and 6 result in doubles. Put a runner on first, however, and the 2s and 4s are triples, 3s and 6s are doubles, and the 5 is a home run. A 5 is more valuable than a 6 because it results in a home run far more often than a 6, although a 6 is also useful with a pitcher with an L or M on the mound. Thus, I like to look for 1s and 5s in a player’s power numbers.

As stated above, good HR control pitchers (Gs and Hs) sometimes reduce home runs to doubles and I believe they will sometimes even make a home run into a single. However, it is my understanding that extra base hits are not ever converted to outs. A Z pitcher will sometimes turn a walk into ball 2, but I do not believe they would be able to turn a 14 into an out.

High-strikeout pitchers (particularly guys with Xs and XYs) will convert certain types of outs to strikeouts, and XYs will sometimes convert a 9 (single) to a strikeout. In the same way, however, guys with a W will sometimes convert outs into walks.

Other results we need to watch for on a player’s card are the 31s, 24s, and 42s. 42s are usually hit-by-pitches, which are good for OBP, but also lead to injuries in APBA. 24s usually result in double plays with guys on base, so I usually count the number of 24s on a card, especially when deciding between two sluggers of similar value. The 31 is often a fly out to CF, but with the hit and run on, it becomes a hit. Thus, we will also want to count the number of 31s on a player’s card. [Note: A player’s hit and run rating in Advanced Draft (a 1, 2 or 3) is the same as the number of 31s on his card.]

In addition to hit numbers, we should say a quick word about platoon ratings and the stretch. Platoon ratings are important because a 3 rating raises a pitcher’s grade by 3 points, a 4 rating by 4 points, and so on. As stated above, higher grade pitchers stop more hits. Putting the stretch on reduces a pitcher’s grade slightly. Lower grade pitchers allow more hits. Thus, a manager is smart not to put the stretch on when the runner at third is no threat to steal or when the opposing manager would be foolish to risk the steal (i.e., Pujols is up).

Elementary APBA

Based on these fundamentals, here are some simple rules of thumb for reading a player’s APBA card:

  1. 1s are best. 5s are more valuable than 6s. Gs and Hs good. Ls and Ms bad.
  2. 7s and 11s are better than 8s, 9s or 10s.
  3. 14s are good. Zs are good for stopping 14s.
  4. 13s are bad for hitters. Xs and XY pitchers are valuable because they turn outs into strikeouts and even some hits (but they may reduce double plays).
  5. 24s are bad.
  6. 31s are good.
  7. 42s are a mixed bag. A risk with a J-2, J-3 or J-4 player (higher injury risk).

Expanding these further, here is a look at a couple of the elementary APBA-ball elements that every SL manager should consider during game play, when creating their lineup, and, in my view, when trying to decide between two or three players with similar MLB numbers during the draft:

The Hit & Run:

A player with three 31s on his card (Ichiro, 2009) gets three extra hit possibilities when the hit and run is called. 3/36 is 1/12 or .083 points of batting average. Thus, a guy like Ichiro becomes even more value when a base-stealer is on in front of him.

Might Makes Right:

As stated above, high grade pitchers turn singles into outs. However, extra base hits are not turned into outs. Thus, singles hitters (Ichiro, 2009) tend to suffer in batting average in the SL. Sluggers tend to do a little bit better. A 5 is often a home run with guys on base. If you have a guy with 5s on his card, you will want him up with runners on base as often as possible.

Zs, Gs and Hs are Valuable, but so are 14s:

Any rating that turns a walk into ball 2 or a home run into a double is worth looking for when assembling the pitching staff. But in the same way that extra base hits are not converted into outs, I believe that 14s (walks) are not typically converted into outs. Thus, a 14 may be worth more than an 8 or 9. High batting average in MLB does not necessarily mean high batting average in SL.

Beware the J-2 with a 42.

If you want to get the most possible games out of your J-2 superstar, it helps if he doesn’t have a 42 on his card.

Fun with the Data Disk

I wanted to do a semi-quick post about the joy of “data disk” day, when the disk comes out and we are all able to plug in APBA’s interpretation of last year’s stats for the first time. This year, as usual, there were a few kind of fun wrinkles and some of the same age-old dilemmas. I will highlight a few of them here:

The Mike Hessman Problem a/k/a “The Tempting J-4”: Every year there is a limited player or two who played in very few games but, of course, played very well. The 2009 SL season brings us Mike Hessman, he of the 12 3b games and the 1-1-1-1-6 APBA card. Also available as an emergency catcher and pinch-hitter/DH is Taylor Teagarden, with 7 power numbers (1-1-1-5-5-6-6) for 16 games. Nelson Cruz (31 games, 1.030 OPS) and Chris Dickerson (31 games, 1.021 OPS) will both get a look from SL managers.

The Joe Nathan Problem a/k/a “When to Take a Reliever”: Kind of an interesting problem each year is when it is appropriate and advantageous to take the first relief pitcher. In 2008, it was the middle of the 4th round before the first reliever went (to Keith). 6 more relievers then went in the next 25 or so picks. In 2007, it was the first pick of the 4th round (to Bob). 5 more relievers were gone before Bob picked again. In 2006, Graham took a reliever in the 1st round. Not sure he loves that pick in retrospect. Anyway, in 2009 there is kind of a unique situation in that only two pitchers about a 17 grade have a Z rating: Nathan (24XYZG+0) and Mariano (20XYZG+0). Supply and demand may dictate we see some reliever action before the 4th round.

The Tim Hudson Problem a/k/a “A Starter that can Pinch-Run”: This year Tim Hudson (11Z+1 with 15 speed) and Jair Jurrjens (a 10YG with 15 speed) are the most tempting from a speed standpoint, but managers should also not forget that Jake Peavy (13X+1) and Ryan Dempster (14XG) are both 10s. Hopefully the two of them will be wearing the same uniform in spring training, possibly with Gregg (voted most likely to overvalue a Cubs starter in the draft) and the Cubs.

The Willy Taveras Problem a/k/a “He Can Run, But God forbid he has to do anything else”:
Taveras is slightly below average for the SL as a fielder (2-32) and way below average as a hitter (3.8 runs per game), but he qualifies for over 100 steal attempts with a C35 rating. I can hear Greg salivating from here. A related question is how much of a bump Matt Holliday will get from his 45 SL steal attempts at E35. Already a premier player, Holliday will surely make some manager very happy early in the draft. Speaking of which, who was managing the Rockies last year, Vince Coleman?

The Shane Victorino Problem a/k/a “You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline:” Every year there are guys who excel in two or more areas, but those areas don’t happen to include offense, at least not at the SL level. This makes them great bench players, part-time starters, but makes them borderline everyday players. 2009 brings us Shane Victorino, the “Flyin’ Hawaiian.” Switch-hitter, 3-38 in the outfield, tons of steal attempts with a solid 30 steal success rating. However, a small 5.8 runs per game on the offensive side. These guys always end up performing at a 2.8 runs per game level for me, but it feels so good to run them out there because they look so good in the field and on the basepaths.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jim Rant

This just in from the Jim Frank draft war room: "Here we go again, last year i drafted a 77 win team with mostly knowledge of MLB numbers and completely void of XYZ and G/H insight not to mention platoon ratings and hit and run ability. THis year i have all those abpa distinctions that are key but what the hell is a first column? Roman i presume? Actually, i have seen a "card" that has the columns but i will admit i do NO scouting based on this information as i do not understand it (unfamiliar with it), so add another to my list of handicaps."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Round One: Projections Explained

Here are the hows and whys on the first round projections released last night:
  1. Jim - Albert Pujols, 1B .357, .462, .653 (1b-5, 2b-5): Jim is making noise about possibly taking Cliff Lee with this pick, or trading down. Jim, I say to thine own self be true. In a draft short on dominant offensive players, Pujols is the safe pick here. As one owner said to me recently: “Pitcher performance is just too variable in the SL.” One piece of advice, though. If you draft Pujols as a second baseman, get Mark Ellis later on as a handcuff.
  2. Keith - Cliff Lee, LHP 17YZG+3: Keith has not taken a position player in the first round of the draft since he took Bonds with the first overall pick in 2003. Even after Sabathia’s up and down year in 2008, Keith will take a pitcher again in 2009. Lee is a unique talent in a somewhat deep pitching year in that he has the Z and the G. His +3 move is also a bonus in a year where the catcher talent pool is more like a cesspool.
  3. Greg- Tim Lincecum, P 17XYG+0: Greg likes a balanced team and Lincecum could be a dominant pitcher in the SL. I like to compare his stats to Peavy in 2008. Ended up with a better SL ERA than Lackey or Sabathia. I also have three words that may send Greg away from an offensive player in this spot: 2007 Roy Halladay.
  4. Chris- Johan Santana, LHP 15XZ+2: Greg could take Santana in the 3 slot, leaving Lincecum for Chris. He does have a penchant for Z pitchers, and the +2 move and left-handedness are tempting. Chris, on the other hand, is a maverick. Nobody knows what he will do here, only that it will be “mavericky.” Berkman is another strong possibility here.
  5. Bob- Hanley Ramirez, SS .301, .400, .540 (SS-8): Bob likes to take good offensive players at traditionally limited positions. SS used to be a position where a guy could get some power. In 2009, only H-Ram offers more than 30 dingers. He also comes with a best-in-class .400 OBP and he can steal you a base or two, particularly against this year’s crop of catchers.
  6. Matt- Rich Harden, P 16XYG+2: Matt likes pitchers, and Harden is the best one left. High strikeouts, good homerun control and a +2 move all make Harden a good pick in this slot.
  7. Ken- Manny Ramirez, DH .332, .430, .601 (OF1-32): Ken says he likes Berkman in this slot and that is the name I originally had penciled in here. He fits Ken’s model of being able to run. However, I went with Manny because he had better offensive numbers across the board and I though Ken put less of a premium on defense. I guess the combination of superior defense, speed, steals, etc. bump Berkman ahead of Manny.
  8. Gregg- Lance Berkman, 1B .312, .420, .567 (1b-5): Since Berkman will probably be off the board, Gregg gets to take Manny in this slot. The .600+ slugging will be nice, although it is always tough to take a DH in the first round. Ortiz had a nice year two-years in a row as a first-round DH. Manny is a similar pick here.
  9. Steve- Chase Utley, 2B .292, .380, .535 (2b-8, 1b-2): Steve is similar to Bob in that he looks for positional value in all of his picks. This is a model I have used with limited success and most recently I had gone back to the “best available player regardless of position” used by some teams. Steve, however, can often make it work and Utley is a good pick for him here.
  10. Graham- C.C. Sabathia, LHP 14XYZG+1: Graham quietly built his team around pitching last year and I think he liked the results. I think he takes a pitcher and a position player in the swing and Sabathia is the best pitcher left. Similar to Santana but with the G, he has the potential to give Graham some value in this spot.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2009 Draft Projections: The First Round

It is well known by now that Jim has drawn the Ace and will have the first pick in the 2009 SL Draft. Should he take a pitcher or a position player? Well, there is little doubt that pitching is important in the SL. Only twice (22 percent of the time) in the Modern Era (2000-2008) has a team finished in the bottom third in the league in ERA and still won the Spit Cup. [Prior to 2000 scrubs like Doug Basler were in the league, leaving it with little credibility.] It happened this past year, when Ken finished 8th; it also happened when Ken won in 2001, when his team finished 7th in ERA. In 2008, Ken's team was somethinng of an outlier as most teams performed pretty well and the league ERA was 4.15. In 2001, pre-expansion, the league ERA was a robust 5.01 and pitching was at less of a premium.

The most common position for a league champ in the Modern Era in terms of team ERA is 2nd, happening in 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2007. Three times the Spit Cup winner has finished in the middle third of the league in team ERA, and, as noted, twice in the bottom third. No team in the Modern Era has won the league ERA title and the Spit Cup.

Three times (33 percent of the time) in the Modern Era (2000, 2005, 2008) the team with the first pick has won the Spit Cup. Only once in these three years (2000) was a pitcher taken first.

Jim does not like pitching. I have been in fantasy leagues with him since the early 1990s, and I can tell you he does not like pitching. Based on this if nothing else, and the fact that a position player has been taken first for the last two years, we are projecting a position player to go first in the draft again in 2009. After that, we think the top three pitchers will go, followed by a little run of offense.

Let's get to the projections:

First Round:
  1. Jim - Albert Pujols, 1B .357, .462, .653 (1b-5, 2b-5)
  2. Keith - Cliff Lee, LHP 17YZG+3
  3. Greg- Tim Lincecum, P 17XYG+0
  4. Chris- Johan Santana, LHP 15XZ+2
  5. Bob- Hanley Ramirez, SS .301, .400, .540 (SS-8)
  6. Matt- Rich Harden, P 16XYG+2
  7. Ken- Manny Ramirez, DH .332, .430, .601 (OF1-32)
  8. Gregg- Lance Berkman, 1B .312, .420, .567 (1b-5)
  9. Steve- Chase Utley, 2B .292, .380, .535 (2b-8, 1b-2)
  10. Graham- C.C. Sabathia, LHP 14XYZG+1
Full analysis of all these picks coming soon.

The Napkin Surfaces!

The SLDraft blog has located the now infamous napkin on which Jim Frank pledged to play Albert Pujols at second base for the entirety of the 2009 season. Among other information on the napkin are some song lyrics for a song Frank was writing about his decision to take over the Pellehatchie franchise for Dave Basler in 2007 (tentative title: "The Lostest of Causes") and information on how much Frank was willing to pay to get Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.