Targeting Dan Haren, the Once and Future Ace

Dan Haren was the stalwart leader of many a championship fantasy pitching rotation for almost a decade. He has won 130 major league games and made three All Star teams and has even been a Cy Young contender in both leagues. He began his career back in the days of high-octane offenses during the steroid era and has thrown 200+ innings 8 times, providing tons of production for his fantasy owners. Haren’s career 4.09 K:BB and 1.87 BB/9 ratios are the best of all active pitchers, well ahead of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Adam Wainwright, King Felix, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw in the most important peripheral stats for pitchers. In fact, Haren ranks near the top in almost all of the career statistical categorys among active pitchers. That is a very impressive feat!

Given Haren’s remarkable track record of success, why is it that he was available for free in so many fantasy leagues last summer? He was actually unowned in 50-75% of Yahoo, CBS and ESPN leagues during June through July of last year. Why would a proven ace pitcher who had been so good for so long suddenly get dropped by so many fantasy owners? Well, after a stellar year in 2011 (16-10, 192 Ks, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP!) in which he was a Cy Young contender, Haren had a shaky and somewhat disappointing season in 2012. It was not bad enough to dump him, but then came a shockingly rude stretch of poor pitching in 2013. Most of his owners gave up on him way too quickly and allowed some patient, observant bystanders to snap him up with a few well-timed mouse clicks. Let’s take a closer look… Continue reading

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Nick Doran’s Eleven Bold Predictions

Its time to have fun with some predictions. Some of my predictions are bold and some are BOLD but none of them are crazy. All of these things have a decent chance of actually happening, at least in my mind anyway. I can’t wait to brag about my psychic prognostication skills come October.

I am stepping out on a thin limb here with my first bold prediction because this rare feat has been done only one time in the history of baseball…

1. Billy Hamilton will steal 100 bases while scoring less than 100 Runs.

Take a look at Vince Coleman’s strange 1986 batting line:

PA — 670
R  – 94
H — 139
2B – 13
3B – 8
HR – 0
RBI – 29
SB – 107
CS – 14
BA – 0.232
OBP – 0.301
SLG – 0.280
OPS – 0.581
OPS+ – 62

That is all sorts of ugly. Coleman got a lot of fanfare that season because of his antics on the basepaths, but he was just plain terrible batting in front of Tom Herr, Jack Clark, Andy Van Slyke, Terry Pendleton, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith. The two are often compared, but Billy Hamilton is likely to be a much better all-around player than Vince Coleman both offensively and defensively. Hamilton won’t hit many home runs but he will get a lot more doubles and will hit for a much better slash line than Coleman, who finished his career with a very poor .668 OPS. My bold prediction is Hamilton will match Coleman’s dubious feat his rookie year but will get much better as time goes by.

2. Joey Votto will be the National League MVP. Continue reading

Mike Trout and the Price of a Pick

By the time this post publishes, my partner and I will have selected Mike Trout first overall in the new Dynasty Guru Experts League. Participating in this league is going to be a challenging ride. In fact, challenging describes the process through which our team got the #1 pick in the first place. To put it simply, each team will have a 40-man roster of both major and minor league players. The default number of keepers each year is 35, but since this is the inaugural season, teams were permitted to “bid” on draft positions by sacrificing a certain number of keepers in a blind auction. Our bid of 15 keepers did the trick for the #1 spot. Bret spelled it out in more detail on Tuesday. In this post I’ll try to lay out our thought process in our bid for the first pick.

I should probably introduce my co-owner, Paul Clewell. We’ve been playing fantasy baseball together for years, and he’s one of the reasons I started writing in the first place. After countless conversations about baseball on the phone, we decided one of us should write some of it down. We even pipe-dreamed about playing in an experts league one day. Well, here we be. So how did we arrive at the number 15, and what were we thinking? It really boils down to 5 points…

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The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 1-20

From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.

So we hope you enjoy the rankings package that we’ve put together here. And if you do, I hope that you will make a donation to show appreciation for the content you’ve seen here at the Dynasty Guru. You can do that through this link, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the top-right corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.

Starting pitching is always tough to evaluate as a whole since the group of usable starters is sooooooo big, but we have seen a shift towards more high-level performance out of younger and less-experienced hitters. In fact, were it not for Matt Harvey’s elbow explosion (dibs on that for a band name), we could have seen two pitchers in the top-five who came into 2013 with less than 60 major league innings combined. However, with great performance also comes great responsiblity–and that responsibility is for the fantasy owner to determine whether their young pitcher who was surprisingly good can continue at a high level over a long period of time. We’re pretty confident we know Jose Fernandez is going to be great, but can you say the same thing about Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar and Tony Cingrani. I’m not so confident. The other noticeable thing about starting pitching is that some of the depth we’re used to seeing is drying up a bit. But you won’t notice that with this group of studs (just wait until Thursday and Friday).

Now the 20 best starting pitchers in dynasty leagues, starting with a unanimous pick at the top spot among all TDG rankers (like you really need to ask who it is):

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The Top 225 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Part 1 (#1-50)

There are nearly a million ways to construct a starting staff for your dynasty league team. However, I cannot stress how important it is (especially for starting pitchers) to know your league’s scoring system inside and out. The rankings you’ll find below are for a standard 5×5 rotisserie league, but more and more leagues are switching over to a points format, which makes pitcher valuations a little trickier. Does your scoring system value overvalue or undervalue strikeouts? Does it give a lot of weight to wins, losses and quality starts, or not? How important is it for a starter to accumulate 225+ innings? The easiest way for you to determine where you can take advantage of your scoring system is by looking at previous season totals and comparing them to standard 5×5 end of season valuations (like the ESPN Player Rater). No matter how sharp the guys in your league are, there’s always room for arbitrage.

There is a lot of great information out there, when it comes to individual starting pitcher analysis, but nothing more comprehensive than Paul Sporer’s Starting Pitching Guide. If you don’t know what it’s about, check out the link here. And if you do, and haven’t ordered it yet (like I have), you’re starting out at a disadvantage. He’s running a 33% discount off the regular price, which you can get if you order it before my dynasty league rankings are complete on February 14th.

And now your top 50 dynasty league starters, with commentary:

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The Dynasty Guru’s Crystal Ball: 2017′s 5×5 Category Leaders

This is a fun exercise I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Right now, Opening Day 2017 is four and a half years away, but there’s absolutely no reason I can’t start speculating about who will lead the standard 5×5 rotisserie categories that season. Who knows if the 5×5 format we use now will still be the most commonplace scoring system that far into the future anyway? Maybe a standard ESPN league will be using OBP and QS instead of AVG and W. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that the categories are remaining the same.

Now, this isn’t an all-prospect list – although there are some prospects on here. And if you think I’m understating the impact of prospects in this exercise, here’s a fun fact for you. If we did this exercise after the 2007 season, looking at the 2012 category leaders, guess how many of the categories would be led by players who had not played a game in the majors at the time? The answer is 5 out of 10. And if you expand out to the top-3 in each category (including ties), you get 13 out of 33, which is 39%. Of those 13 top-3 category finishes, 7 were from players that debuted in 2008, 2 were from players that debuted in 2009, 2 were from players that debuted in 2010 and 2 were from Mike Trout, who was a junior in high school when the 2007 season ended. In fact, Trout and Buster Posey were the only two players who finished in the top-3 of any 5×5 fantasy category in 2012 to be drafted AFTER the 2007 season.

Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction – let’s go to the Future Dynasty Guru for the breakdown of what happened in 2017:

Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (.341)

It feels like Miguel Cabrera’s been around forever, but he only turned 33 on Opening Day 2017. While his power has started to wind down (this was his first season with under 30 HR in over a decade), Cabrera continues to maintain a high batting average. The two main reasons for this are: 1) he’s still a fantastic hitter to all fields and 2) by the laws of physics, it’s been impossible for him to get any slower than he was back in 2012. Runners up: Oscar Taveras (.334), Starlin Castro (.328)

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