Sport Fantasy Baseball: Trying to better understand rankings in a league dominated by pitching
Rain doesn't dampen Patrick Emerling's Spring Sizzler win
STAFFORD, Conn. — Patrick Emerling dodged the wreck. And then waited on the rain. His reward? The Orchard Park, New York, driver is the 49th NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler winner Friday night. Rain ended the race after 130 laps at Stafford Motor Speedway. To get the win, Emerling had to pilot the No. 07 […]To get the win, Emerling had to pilot the No. 07 Captain Pip Marina Chevrolet through a cluster of spinning cars after Ryan Preece and Ron Silk got together in Turn 2 battling for the win. The wreck also collected Anthony Nocella and Justin Bonsignore. Emerling, who was running fifth, went high and then dove between the pinwheeling Nocella and Bonsignore to get clear.
If you listened to thein the preseason, surely you know there was a long-running difference in philosophy about how to approach drafting pitching. On the one side, you had Scott White, the advocate of drafting just about as much pitching as humanly possible in the early rounds; on the other, I was making the case that because we're historically not very good at drafting pitching, it was better to try to snag a few high-end guys and then wait for upside picks in the middle and later rounds to fill out your rotation.
As it turns out … maybe we were both right?
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Pitching has absolutely dominated the 2021 season to date, due to a confluence of factors both long-running and newly introduced --. The run-scoring environment has changed so much that, based on last year's Roto scoring formula, 15 of the top 20 players so far are starting pitchers. Of the 96 pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings, 33 of them have a 3.00 ERA or lower.
And that includes plenty of those high-end pitchers Scott was looking to target, like, , , , , , , … pretty much every early-round pitcher except , really. The aces are, on the whole, dominating in the early going.
2021 New York Jets Fantasy Team Outlook: Zach Wilson Must Overcome Growing Pains
A fantasy football breakdown of the New York Jets by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs CoachingAfter 10 straight seasons of missing the playoffs and a losing record each year since 2016 (23-57), Jets fans have to miss Rex Ryan, who led them to the postseason in 2009 and 2010. Adam Gase led them to a 2-14 record in 2020 while being outscored by 214 points. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Robert Saleh earns the keys to the franchise's future after spending the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers. He’s been a coach in the NFL since 2005, giving him 16 years of experience.
But the leaderboard is also littered with a ton of late-round pitchers, too. Here's a sampling based on where they rank in ERA:
Video: Yu Darvish proving he belongs among elite starters (Yahoo! Sports)
Those pitchers all have an ERA below 2.27. Some of that is a fluke -- Ynoa is a sell-high candidate for me, and I don't think anyone is really buying into this new, strikeout-averse version of Boy. But there do appear to have been some real breakouts in the early going, and it's made ranking starting pitchers this season even more difficult than normal. Only this time, it's because we don't know how high to move everyone who is pitching well.
And it highlights how unsatisfactory ordinal rankings are for actually painting the picture of a period like this. I can put Trevor Rogers ahead ofand , or over and , but what does doing that actually tell you? Obviously, it tells you I would rather have Rogers than McCullers and Musgrove than Wheeler for the rest of the season, but that doesn't quite paint the picture.
2021 Baltimore Ravens Fantasy Team Outlook: Talented Lamar Jackson Still Needs Passing Breakthrough
A fantasy football breakdown of the Baltimore Ravens by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs CoachingJohn Harbaugh returns for his 13th season as the Ravens head coach. He has a 129-74 record with nine playoff berths and one Super Bowl title. The Ravens went 35-13 over the last three seasons, with Lamar Jackson making 37 starts. Harbaugh has one losing season in his career (5-11 in 2015). © Provided by Sports Illustrated Last year Baltimore dropped to 19th in offensive yards (2nd in 2019) while scoring 468 points (7th – 531 in 2019).
Because, while we'll slap a single number on our future expectations for a player, that's not actually how I view them. There might be ranges of the rankings where I have 12 players who I value very similarly, but someone has to go at the top and someone has to go at the bottom. What can differentiate players in those tiers are sort of foggier questions, like, how much upside I think they have or how safe they are in my eyes.
Some players have a wider range of potential outcomes than others because what they are doing this season in the early going is just so unprecedented for them. These are your Rogers and Musgrove types, where we just aren't quite sure how much of this is real.
Others have a wider range of potential outcomes because they've just struggled with consistency or injuries in the past. McCullers is actually a pretty good example of this, but also some higher-end guys like, , and .
And, of course, some players have a pretty narrow range of potential outcomes. Outside of injury, there's really not very much that can go wrong guys like Cole and Bieber, and it's not just the super high-end pitchers, either., and Zack Wheeler are all very good pitchers who also profile as very predictable at this point in their careers.
2021 Cleveland Browns Fantasy Team Outlook: Breakout 2020 Creates Lofty Expectations for Baker Mayfield & Co.
A fantasy football breakdown of the Cleveland Browns by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs CoachingCleveland brought in Kevin Stefanski as the head coach in 2020. He seized the most of his opportunity by going 11-5, giving Browns’ fans their first playoff experience since 2002. They bowed out in the AFC divisional round to the Kansas City Chiefs. Over the previous 14 seasons, Stefanski worked in the Vikings’ system with various coaching jobs. In 2019, he ran Minnesota’s offense for the first time, leading to his promotion to the Browns.
The point is, while we'll apply one ranking to a player that expresses preference, there are a lot of factors that go into it, and not just the most likely outcome. Finding a better way to present that seems like a worthwhile endeavor at this point, given how much the landscape has been altered in this first month. One way of visualizing this would be to plot every pitcher's chances of ending up in a specific spot in the rankings at the end of the season, like this:
I don't mean for this chart to be taken literally, it's just to show the way I actually see these players, more or less. You can see both Wheeler and Alcantara have a relatively high probability of finishing around 30th, illustrating their high floors and somewhat narrow range of outcomes. Musgrove and Morton, on the other hand, have a higher probability of finishing well below the must-start range, but also have a relatively higher chance of finishing in the 20-10 range.
Another way of putting it: That graph visualizes uncertainty. I won't make a chart like that for every player, but what you'll find below is something similar. I've got my top-50 starting pitchers for Roto leagues ranked for the rest of the season, and in the right column there's a rating, from 1 to 10, on how confident I feel in them finishing in that range. So, for instance, while I have Musgrove, Wheeler, Alcantara, and Morton ranked 23rd through 25th right now, I'm much more confident in Wheeler and Alcantara's chances to finish in that range than I am in Musgrove and Morton's. So, they'll have a higher rating.
Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Diagnosing your team's problems, how to handle slow starts and more
Our teams have lots of issues at this point, so let's talk about itPlayers are the lifeblood of Fantasy sports, and we wouldn't be here without them. But when it comes to winning a Fantasy league, they aren't everything. We can analyze players as much as we want, coming up with explanations for why they are doing what they are doing and what that might mean for the future, but the truth is, we don't know what they'll do. In a world where you knew what every player was going to do, that's all you would need to know.
Hopefully, this can help give you another way of understanding the rankings the way I see them in my head. Think of the confidence score as something like a tiebreaker -- I've got Brandon Woodruff ranked 12th,13th, and 14th, but I really don't think there's much of a difference between the three of them. However, I am more confident in Woodruff's chances of actually finishing in that range than I am either Flaherty or Buehler, both of whom might have slightly more high-end potential but also arguably more ways things can go wrong. Depending on what your team needs, you might actually prefer to target someone like Flaherty, who has shown the ability to go on a run Woodruff has never really come close to, but has struggled mightily with consistency.
A lot of this comes down to personal preference, and here's how I express mine:
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