Sunday, November 09, 2008

2008 A.L. Catchers

Welcome back!

I took a longer hiatus than usual this winter, primarily because I'm writing some of the player profiles for
Rotoman's 2009 Fantasy Baseball Guide. I'm hoping that the free publicity will lead to more readers next year, which will lead to a more robust discussion of all things Rotisserie.

I'm going to kick off the winter the way I kicked off last winter: going down the line at each position in each league and seeing how the players did compared to how we thought they'd do. Like last year, I'm going to start out by looking back at American League catchers.

Top 10 A.L. Catchers 2008
1Joe Mauer
2Mike Napoli
3A.J. Pierzynski
4Kelly Shoppach
5Dioner Navarro
6Ivan Rodriguez
7Ramon Hernandez
8Miguel Olivo
9Kurt Suzuki
10Gerald Laird


For old readers (both of the blog and the irreplaceable Alex Patton books), this chart is likely old hat. For new readers (and I hope I have a few), here's what you're looking at:

The $ figure is what I've calculated the player's 4x4 value in 2008 to be, based on Patton's player valuation formula. It's important to note that these are my calculations; Alex's will be slightly different, and it won't be a surprise to see a player's value $1 off one way or another.

The Sal column is the average price of three expert leagues: Tout Wars, Sports Weekly, and CBS Sportsline. 2007 is what Alex says the player earned in 2007, AP is what Alex predicted that player would earn, and SW is what the March 19, 2008 issue of Sports Weekly said that player would earn.

The first thing new readers will see is what old readers already recognize. On average, the price points for these players don't vary all that much. True, from player to player, the price points will vary somewhat. Sports Weekly's $12 price on Pierzynski is a strong recommendation, while Patton's $8 limit on him is a big thumbs down. However, for this group of 10 players, the three expert leagues, Alex, and Sports Weekly have the same general idea about what these players will earn.

Veteran readers also know what I'm going tell them next: the 2007 column is a significant driver of what these players will get paid. Again, from player to player there is definitely variation. Joe Mauer had an off year/was hurt in 2007, the market expects him to get better and pays accordingly. Miguel Olivo is moving into a platoon situation in Kansas City, can't hit righties, and isn't expected to make a big impact. His price goes down.

This is probably one of the greatest themes of Rotisserie Baseball. Experts tell us over and over again that this year isn't last year and that we shouldn't pay for last year's stats. But we do pay for last year's stats. Even if we don't pay for them player by player, in groups of 10 we often do.

Top 10 A.L. Catchers 2007
1Jorge Posada
2Victor Martinez
3Joe Mauer
4Kenji Johjima
5Ivan Rodriguez
6Jason Varitek
7A.J. Pierzynski
8Ramon Hernandez
9Mike Napoli
10John Buck


I didn't include the expert auctions and Sports Weekly in this chart last year, but Patton did the same thing in 2007 that he did last year. Jason Varitek gets a $7 pay raise (from his 2006 earnings to his 2007 bid limit), while Mike Napoli and John Buck get pay cuts, but if the top catchers in 2006 earned $15 then Alex is going to find a comparable amount of money for these guys in 2007.

The same precept applies in 2008. What's surprising is that the 2008 crop was much cheaper. They earned only $1 less on average than the 10 best catchers in 2007 but cost $8 (compared to Alex's $14 bid limit).

Ten Most Expensive A.L. Catchers: 2008
1Victor Martinez
2Joe Mauer
3Jorge Posada
4Kenji Johjima
5Ramon Hernandez $11$11+1
6 (tie)
A.J. Pierzynski

Ivan Rodriguez$12$10+2$12$10$13
8Jason Varitek
9 (tie)
Kurt Suzuki

Jarrod Saltalamacchia


But all that means is that the 10 best catchers in the American League last year were far less predictable.

In particular, Martinez, Posada, and Johjima all took it on the chin. The market saw it coming with Posada, yet couldn't bring itself to penalize him any more than $8 from last year's price. They were gaga over V-Mart; paying what a player earned the year before when that player doesn't run is usually folly, but it's hard to lay off a 28-year-old catcher in his prime.

This is sort of where the balance lies with catchers in one-league (A.L. or N.L. only) leagues. We know that getting $20+ worth of stats from a catcher is a win, but we also know that we're going to take it on the chin as often as we don't with catchers. But we keep on trying. Joe Mauer is proof of that. Despite losing $12 in 2007, enough of us come back in 2008 and try again. Or someone else tries again. But Joe gets paid.

It's tempting, then, to spend $1-2 on each of your catchers and hope that you wind up with Kelly Shoppach and Miguel Olivo. But it didn't work in 2007 and usually doesn't work. Spending $3 on Buck and getting $6 worth of stats is fine. But it isn't the same as getting the 2008 version of Shoppach.

I'm not necessarily an advocate for a specific strategy at catcher. I generally wind up with one every day guy and one scrub, but the charts from the last two years show us that there is no magic formula for success behind that plate.


Toz said...

I shouldn't throw softball questions to my partner, but I do have one that is worth investigating? How do you feel about price enforcing catchers at auction? It appears to be a dangerous game because of the unpredictability of the catcher position, but you also do not want a major contributor at catcher (Mauer, e.g.) to slip through and give your opponent a boost.

Eric said...


NL-Only 4x4 keeper-league, 15 protects and up to five minor leaguers.

I have a $41 Johan Santana along with a slew of $20 and under players. All bases are covered category-wise. ($10 Brian Wilson and $3 Mike Gonzalez for Saves. Michael Bourn, Nate McLouth, Lastings Milledge for SB).

Would you keep Santana?

Toz said...

Hiya Eric - before Mike even has a chance to comment, let me ask you a couple of questions. I'll assume your league budget is $260 - how much salary are you freezing, who are your other starters, and what other starters are available in the auction that you know of or can take an educated guess about?