Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fantasy Baseball: Players I Own

I always end up have the same players on many of my teams. I try to avoid it, but my research always ends up pointing me at the same players. This year I did a little better in avoiding repetition:
  • Carlos Guillen: Tampa4, Work League (WL)
  • Albert Pujols: Nine Bo Jacksons (NBJ), Tampa4
  • Nick Markakis: Garrett Anderson (GA), Tampa4
  • Chris B. Young: GA, Tampa4
  • Josh Beckett: WL, Tampa4
  • Gil Meche: WL, Tampa4
  • Ted Lilly: GA, Tampa4
  • Brian Wilson: GA, Tampa4
  • Rich Harden: GA, Tampa4
Hmm, on second thought, my GA and Tampa4 teams are pretty similar. Those are the two leagues I paid the most attention to, so I guess I didn't really succeed in spreading my risk. Oh well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Programming Update

Today was New England Code Camp 11: Developer Stimulus Package. What an awesome name. Thanks to Chris Bowen for organizing it. Unfortunately for me, I could only stay for the first four sessions. Got to learn about Silverlight, F#, and .NET 4.0. As always, Richard Hale Shaw was excellent, and Andy Beaulieu was also quite good. Fun times for all.

These programming conventions always give me extra energy for working on projects. This one came at a great time, because I had stopped work on Walrus since all of my fantasy baseball teams had already drafted. I now know (thanks to RHS) how F# really fits in, and how to use it as a library extension to my C# projects. Yay!

I also need to work on smaller projects. Things I can build quickly and learn small things at once. I plan to build an ASP.NET MVC app soon, but it has to be super simple so I can get it out the door fast. Maybe I'll build a blog. Easy, but somewhat boring. I haven't thought this through yet.

Nick is also urging me on, mostly by blogging and conversations on the train. He's on Twitter now at @nswarr, so you can follow him if you want. Eric always gets mad points for energy boosts. 

Any ideas for what to put on

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I Don't Like SOLID Principles

SOLID princples:
  • Single responsibility principle
  • Open-closed principle
  • Liskov substitution principle
  • Interface segregation principle
  • Dependency inversion principle
This topic has been discussed to death in the tech circles, thanks to the whole tiff started by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky. I'm just throwing my piece in the ring:

SOLID is good.
SOLID is not gospel.

The first rule of programming should be "use your brain." The first answer should always be "it depends." SOLID is not a silver bullet (because, as we know, there is no such bullet). There are going to be times where you need to write some code that is not pretty. Sometimes we acrue technical debt for valid reasons. Usually the reason is we need to implement some feature or bug fix fast, possibly because we're losing customers.

It really comes down to what Jeff said: "Quality really doesn't matter that much, in the big scheme of things." What matters is what we deliver to the customer. Of course, good code quality helps you deliver more and better apps to the customer. But the customer does not care that you followed the SOLID principles to the letter as long as the product is right.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Managing Risk With Bench Spots, Part 2

In Part 1, I discussed how you can use a bench spot as a hedge against a risky player you drafted. In this part 2, I'll discuss how to decide what to do with each of your bench spots.

You basically have four options when it comes to bench spots:
  • Platoon: One guy who mashes right-handed pitchers, one who wails on lefties.
  • Upside: Younger guys who might outperform expectations
  • Pitchers: In daily leagues, you could have extra pitchers to try to rack up counting stats.
  • Injury risks: As mentioned in part 1, you can backup your risky players.
Platoon players can often be had for cheap. Their season stats and projections are not going to look good because they hit something like .200/.300/.300 against opposite-handed pitchers. If you keep one guy who mashes righties and one you matches lefties, you can get the best of both worlds. The downside is that you have to check the matchups every day. Also these guys tend to be less-than-stellar players who could lose their job at any point. 

If you're reading this blog, you know about upside players. It's like drafting Evan Longoria or Colby Rasmus last year. Sometimes, you strike gold (see Longoria, 2008). Sometimes, the guy sits in the minors all year (see Rasmus, 2008). This category also includes guys like Elijah Dukes who have talent and always seem on the fringe of a breakout year.

In daily leagues, many managers will carry extra pitchers to try to rack up wins, saves, and strikeouts. This may not work as well with a Roto league (IP limit), but if you decide to draft pitching late, running extra pitchers out there can help offset the losses you made.

And finally, you can draft a backup for any of your risky picks. Better grab a backup 3B if you intend to draft Chipper Jones.

How do you decide what to do? By the time you're drafting bench players, you should already know how many injury backups you need. A good rule of thumb is that you want no more than half of your bench players as injury backups. You should also know if you need any platoon mates. You need to take care of these two cases first.

Once you've filled your obligations, then you can pick between upside players and extra pitchers. Make your picks based on your overall strategy (take pitchers if you need them, upside if you can). 

And finally, remember that players can fit into more than one category. Andy LaRoche is both a backup 3B and an updside player. You want all your bench players to be as useful as possible, so keep an eye of for guys that fill multiple needs.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Managing Risk with Bench Spots, Part 1

Derek Carty at Hardball Times had a great three part series on injury risks and how they can lead to great rewards. The basic premise is that if you combine a partial season of a good talent with a partial season of a replacement level player, the combined value is much greater than the sum of the parts. I totally agree with this premise (you can see me arguing in favor of it in the comments).

You can use this strategy for any player who is expected to miss time:
  • Matt Wieters will start the season in AAA, but is expected to be called up as early as May.
  • Chase Utley will start the season on the DL, and should be back within a month or so.
  • Rich Harden is currently healthy, but you never know when he'll be injured.
  • Max Scherzer will be the 5th starter in Arizona, but if he's ineffective they might send him to AAA for some work (unlikely but possible).
Clearly the Utley situation is the most valuable; you know how long he'll be out, and you can reasonable guarantee he'll be great when we returns. The Harden situation is the worst; you don't know when/if/how long he'll be out and if he'll be effective when he returns. You need to make sure to balance your roster with these risks. 

Your bench spots are one of your greatest resources for managing risk. Instead of replacing an injured or ineffective player with a replacement player (i.e. free agent), you can replace him with a bench player. You chose your bench players based on your starters. If you draft Chipper Jones as your starting 3B, you'll likely draft another 3B sometimes in the late rounds. That 3B will be better than a replacement 3B. When you do this you're using a bench spot to hedge the risk you took by drafting Jones. (You can use DL spots in this fashion only if the player is starting the season on the DL, like Utley). 

One of the greatest arguments against this strategy is that each replacement player requires a bench or DL spot. Some leagues have as few as 3 bench spots and no DL spots. Thus you have to decide whether to use you bench spots for extra starting pitchers, high-upside players, platoon mates, or injury risks. When planning to draft a risky player, mark off on your draft sheet that one of your bench spots should be reserved for a backup. 

Next post I'll look into how you should decide to use your bench spots.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Moneyball in Fantasy Sports

The main message of Moneyball was that Billy Beane built winning teams on the cheap by finding inefficiencies in the market and exploiting them. We can use that same tactic in fantasy baseball.

Let's examine a common fantasy expert recommendation: don't draft top-rated catchers in the top 100 picks. If you've been in many drafts, you've probably seen people who wait until the 19th round to pick up a catcher. In the same draft, someone probably drafted Joe Mauer in the 5th round. When you're deciding when to draft a catcher, you want to know what people think about catchers and the above recommendation. If you somehow know that everyone is following the above recommendation, you can bet that Russell Martin will be available in the 9th round and draft accordingly. That's a market inefficiency.

Another example: a common draft tenet is to not draft top-rated closers. If you know everyone is following this rule, but you really want Jonathan Papelbon, you can wait a few rounds more than you would normally to draft him.

It can be hard to figure out the trends of the draft while it's going on, especially in timed drafts like Yahoo's (90 seconds is not a lot of time). Some signs are obivous; position runs are the most obvious ones. When everyone is taking closers, the other positions are being neglected. Notice these trends.

Others inefficiencies are harder to spot. Typically you will only know how a drafter feels about single-spot positions (i.e. SS, 2B, and C) when they draft them, and then it's too late. The positions you can learn the most about are OF (undifferentiated), SP, and RP, since teams need multiple players for those positions. If you have time to keep track of your opponents drafting habits, you can see how they value those positions and make guesses as to when they might draft the next player.

You can also look at stat categories. Maybe runs are being undervalued. Maybe drafters are rushing to grab stolen bases. Keep an eye on available stats left on the board and how fast they leave the board.

You're not drafting in a vacuum; every other drafter is making moves, and every move they make carries a lot of information. In addition to your one draft sheet (you only have one, right?), you should have one scouting sheet. Take notes on your opponents. If you've played with them before, jot down your thoughts about them before the draft. If you can spot these trends before others do, you can get a huge advantage. 

(I'm hoping to handle some of this in Walrus, so keep your eyes peeled!)
All rights reserved. Take that!