Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Optimizing Non-BA Categories (Or, Curiously Enough...)

Rotoman gently took issue with my post responding to his article about dumping batting average.
Just to be clear, my story was about leaving BA out of the value calculations for hitters in 5x5. Avoiding expected high BA players makes it cheaper to accumulate the counting stats by staying away from players with high BA expectations, and doesn't necessarily result in dumping a category.

This isn't a secret way to win, but rather another way to look at values and find a way to disrupt those of the people you're playing against.
His point was a fair one. I didn't really mean to imply that Rotoman was saying to dump batting average. Indeed, I started out in the first paragraph using the term de-valuing batting average, but then in the final paragraph did indeed use the term dumping batting average. It's a fine distinction, but definitely one worth making.

Without intending to do so, I did something similar in my A.L. home league auction. I had Brett Gardner and Juan Pierre frozen at a combined $45. I wanted to fill out the rest of my offense with power and while I didn't want to blow off batting average, I figured it would be cheaper to target hitters who either offered zero speed or who came with batting average risk.

I started out by trading for and freezing Matt LaPorta at $10. His luck on balls in play was fairly neutral last year, but I was banking more on some Age 26 with Experience progression than anything else. If he hits .240 again, I'll hope it’s over 500 AB and that LaPorta can manage 20-25 bombs.

My big buy on offense, Adrian Gonzalez ($41), is most definitely not a batting average risk. But with one steal in 3,631 plate appearances entering this season, he did fit the profile of a player where I wasn't paying for steals at all.

The two big names I bought at auction that could be batting average killers were Mark Reynolds ($23) and Mike Napoli ($19). Hitters with Reynolds' high whiff rate tend to have a strong BABIP, and 2010 was a significant exception to his rule. I don't expect Reynolds to hit .270, but .240 wouldn't surprise me and I could tolerate that. Napoli, on the other hand, was moderately BABIP unlucky in 2010 and his profile looks more like the .270s hitter he was in 2008-2009, not the .238 hitter he was last year. Moving to Texas should boost his average, and I was pleased that I got him at this price given the 24% inflation.

I still project fourth from the bottom in batting average and don't have any illusions that I'm going to win the category. However, I do agree with Rotoman's assessment that there is enough variability in the category that I could finish middle of the pack even without trading for batting average.

In advanced Roto leagues, we're all coming in with very similar values. You're not going to get bargains by merely walking into the room with standard prices with little or no deviation. My inflation bids on Reynolds and Napoli were slightly tweaked upward with this idea in mind. Paying $29 for Nick Markakis, $27 for Howie Kendrick, or $23 for Michael Young didn't make sense for me given what my team looked like going in. Grabbing Reynolds and Napoli, on the other hand, did. If you don't have the best freeze list coming in and you simply pay par prices across all categories, you're going to buy a fourth place team. By playing this particular angle, I'm hoping to avoid that fate.

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