Saturday, February 28, 2009

FDH Fantasy Newsletter: Volume II, Issue IX

Welcome to our 26th edition of the FDH Fantasy Newsletter, as we continue to bring you weekly fantasy sports updates in addition to our usual content on In case you missed it, here are the previous issues: Volume I, Issue I (September 4, 2008), Volume I, Issue II (September 13, 2008), Volume I, Issue III (September 19, 2008), Volume I, Issue IV (September 27, 2008), Volume I, Issue V (October 4, 2008), Volume I, Issue VI (October 11, 2008), Volume I, Issue VII (October 18, 2008), Volume I, Issue VIII (October 25, 2008), Volume I, Issue IX (November 1, 2008), Volume I, Issue X (November 8, 2008), Volume I, Issue XI (November 15, 2008), Volume I, Issue XII (November 21, 2008), Volume 1, Issue XIII (November 30, 2008), Volume 1, Issue XIV (December 7, 2008), Volume I, Issue XV (December 14, 2008), Volume I, Issue XVI (December 20, 2008), Volume I, Issue XVII (December 28, 2008), Volume II, Issue I (January 3, 2009), Volume II, Issue II (January 11, 2009), Volume II, Issue III (January 20, 2009), Volume II, Issue IV (January 24, 2009), Volume II, Issue V (January 29, 2009), Volume II, Issue VI (February 8, 2009), Volume II, Issue VII (February 17, 2009), Volume II, Issue VIII (February 23, 2009)

This week's issue previews our forthcoming FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFTOLOGY 2009 (released this Thursday March 5), a joint venture with our good pals at Sportsology. We will serialize the following segments in this issue:

^ Suggested League Guidelines
^ 2009 Fantasy Overview
^ Key Fantasy Position Battles for 2009
^ Offseason Movement Winners
^ Offseason Movement Losers
^ Don't Be That Guy!

Suggested League Guidelines

Unless you are a first-time participant, you have either played rotisserie baseball (a game in which players accrue points based on their performance in different categories) or fantasy baseball (a game in which different achievements earn various amounts of points). Here are our recommended formats for each (keeping in mind that for each format, if you have less than 10 owners, you should utilize a single-league format — and regardless of anything else, use a $100 Free Agent Acquisition Budget, or FAAB, to allow for distribution of players):

^ Rotisserie baseball: We urge you to use the standard 5X5 setup, in which BA, HR, SB, Runs and RBI are used for hitters and Wins, Saves, WHIP, ERA and Ks are used for pitchers (4X4 leagues drop Runs and Ks). For example, if you are in a 12-team league, the team scoring highest in each category earns 12 points, on down to the lowest team earning 1 point. Rotisserie baseball is traditionally associated more with the auction format, which works well here. Each player is given $260 of figurative money to purchase 23 players (2C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 SS, 1 3B, 5 OF, 1 CI, 1 MI, 1 Utility, 7 SP, 2 RP), with a 5-round standard serpentine draft afterwards to fill out a taxi squad.

^ Rotisserie/fantasy hybrid: This is probably our favorite form of competition, because it combines the traditional roto style with head-to-head play. Each week, you play against an opponent, competing in roto categories, with the winner of the most categories taking the victory (a tiebreaking category is established as a backup). Either an auction or the standard serpentine draft format works here.

^ Fantasy baseball: These categories should be used, with the number of points awarded for each in parentheses: Single (1), Double (2), Triple (3), HR (4), Hitter K (-1), Run (1), RBI (1), SB (1), Win (10), Save (5), IP– ER (1), K (1). For this format, a standard serpentine draft is preferred.

2009 Fantasy Overview

^ Two trends that we’ve been monitoring over recent seasons continued to materialize in 2008. The first is the narrowing ratio between home runs and stolen bases. Taters will always be more plentiful than steals, but the gap between the two is narrowing, meaning that power is SLIGHTLY more valuable relative to speed compared to the height of the steroid era. Speed still has value, elite speed much more value, but it’s harder to make tradeoffs than it used to be, especially for players at traditional power positions like Chone Figgins and Ichiro. The second trend that continues is the rising number of strikeouts per game almost each season recently. We predicted starting back in 2006 that with MLB’s implementation of amphetamine testing that elite heat would take on more value because players no longer able to “bean up” to play would not be catching up to it, especially in the dog days of summer. Strikeout numbers are more important than ever for big-time pitchers and your team needs to reflect this trend. Pitchers who are largely dependent on the defense behind them are losing a lot of value in this climate.

^ The middle infield and catcher positions tend to be lumped together in terms of relative scarcity from year to year, but of course no two seasons are completely alike and the availability of desirable starters at each position will vary from year to year. In 2009, the pool of starting-caliber shortstops is as deep as any of these positions have seen in recent memory. On the FDH draft board, we have eleven players listed as desirable starters (including a player who should be dual-eligible in all leagues this year in Alexei Ramirez – and admittedly, he makes a better second baseman for your team because of the smaller pool of top-level talent there). All things being equal, it should be much easier to wait and pick up a good talent at shortstop relative to catcher and second base this year.

^ Balance continues to be a key watchword for fantasy success in 2009, especially in roto-based leagues. With few obvious exceptions such as the speed-challenged Albert Pujols, hitters who deliver no value in any of the standard fantasy categories should take a back seat to other, more well-rounded contributors. If it becomes necessary to “sell out” to pick up a player in the middle-to-later rounds with good value but who is lacking in a few categories, try to find pick up their “offset twin” – a player with mirror-image strengths and weaknesses. A few possibilities would include Adam Dunn/Ichiro and James Loney/Mark Reynolds (an actual combination of players owned for $1 apiece in a 20-team, long-term keeper league by FDH Managing Partner Rick Morris).

^ The pool of available ace starting pitchers is within the range it’s been over the past few years (eight-deep on the FDH board), but the group of potential #2 starting pitchers is quite strong (14-deep on the FDH board). Plenty of upside can be found rather cheap at this level, with such potential Cy Young award winners as John Lackey, Chad Billingsley, Chris Young and Felix Hernandez being available in the upper-middle rounds in many leagues.

Key Fantasy Position Battles for 2009

^ Even if Julio Lugo starts the year as the starter at shortstop in Boston, Jed Lowrie will take the job from him by mid-summer.

^ Because Melky Cabrera has superior pop to Brett Gardner, he’ll have the upper hand on him in center field for the Yankees – and his ability to cover ground better than Nick Swisher means that most of Swish’s at-bats will have to come elsewhere.

^ At least at the outset, Delmon Young is going to get the short end of the stick in terms of corner outfield at-bats with Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer currently ahead of him.

^ Gary Matthews will struggle to get enough at-bats in the crowded Angel outfield/DH picture.

^ Jarrod Saltalamacchia has an early lead at the Ranger catcher spot over fellow highly-touted youngster Taylor Teagarden.

^ Mike Gonzalez is showing signs of being able to hold off Rafael Soriano for the Atlanta closer’s job.

^ Because there is never any upside for Florida in going with a veteran with a lower ceiling, Wes Helms will not be able to hold back uber-prospect Gaby Sanchez at first base.

^ David Murphy is being given every chance to take the Mets’ left field job from Fernando Tatis, and he will probably succeed.

^ Adam Dunn won’t get enough at-bats in the outfield to keep Nick Johnson from being marginalized at first base for D.C.

^ Chris Duncan will get at-bats at first base and outfield for St. Louis, but is realistically settling into a super-utility role.

^ Aaron Miles should be in a lead role at second base for the Cubs over Mike Fontenot.

^ Clint Barmes is the strong favorite at second base for Colorado over Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker. Meanwhile, Stewart and Carlos Gonzalez trail Seth Smith for the left field job.

Offseason Movement Winners
^ Milton Bradley
^ A.J. Burnett
^ Pat Burrell
^ Brian Fuentes
^ Brandon Lyon
^ C.C. Sabathia
^ Mark Teixeira

Offseason Movement Losers
^ Edwin Jackson
^ J.J. Putz
^ John Smoltz
^ Huston Street
^ Javier Vazquez

Don’t Be That Guy

^ Don’t Be That Guy who forgets that power is the true separator at catcher, not batting average. That Guy is going to overbid for Joe Mauer like he does every year.

^ Don’t Be That Guy who overvalues unlikely 2008 success stories like Ryan Dempster. It’s a new year – pay for what you think you’re going to get this year.

^ Don’t Be That Guy who sleeps on (or holds unhealthy grudges against) last year’s falloffs. Players like Francisco Liriano are set to rebound from injuries, while youngsters like Hunter Pence struggled at times to live up to the high expectations. Bargain shopping in the middle and late rounds can bring you a championship.

^ Don’t Be That Guy who enters the draft or auction with ironclad gimmicks. Rotisserie category “punting”! Only $1 apiece for all pitchers on the roster! All younger or all “proven” talent! The fact is that inflexible doctrines lead to failure, while nimble, think-on-your-feet reactive ability brings great success. Choose the latter approach and thank us when you’re hoisting your trophy at the end of the year.

^ Don’t Be That Guy who doesn’t fully understand the nuances of your league’s scoring system. Be fully prepared!


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