Monday, October 15, 2012

Yahoo! Fantasy Analysts in Review

I play fantasy baseball. I started doing it to reconnect with the game and get to know the new players coming in. In that regard I have succeeded. I play over at Yahoo! since they have a solid set-up and give you some options when joining a public league. I also prefer rotisserie formats for baseball over weekly head to head, as the season is long and you can usually recover from injuries/ineffectiveness with a mixture of patience and diligence.

Any fantasy sports player interested in winning championships does their own research, but seeks other opinions knowing they do not have time to do all the necessary research throughout the season. The key is finding out which opinions, and my focus is on "expert" opinions, are worth reading for assistance and which are only worth a read, if that. As I use Yahoo! and have for many years I wanted to do a season ending review of their fantasy baseball experts: Brad Evans, Brandon Funston, Andy Behrens, Scott Pianowski, and Michael Salfino. I am using topics covered, relevant information, dedication to the season, and adaptation to the season as criteria. Keep in mind these writers work as a team and necessarily focus on different areas and that they are trying to give a broad analysis to help as many as possible, not just help you win.

Brad Evans

Articles: Pickups of the Week-Pitchers; All Wiener Team

Brad Evans often mistakes volume over substance both in his writing and when he is miked up. He knows his stuff, as every expert does, but he often comes across more as the guy at the bar than the fantasy expert you should respect. The All-Wiener Team is a mid-season report where he calls out some of the biggest flops in the season. If these players are on your team, you know they are slumping, but you take a bitter pleasure in seeing someone else call them out as well. I always find it a fun read mid-season. The pitcher pickups of the week is designed to highlight several rising pitchers who might be available on the waiver wire. He keeps it up until around September when most the staff switches over to fantasy football exclusively and the feature stops being all that relevant*. The information tries to blend player trends with upcoming opponents to sell the move. This is where his "guy at the bar" persona comes in and rather than delve below the surface he recommends players who have either recently struggled or about to take on a team on the rise. This is worth a read and maybe follow a pitcher or two, but I did not find it worth immediate action. If he modifies his approach to look at teams on the rise it could prove more useful

* if you think fantasy baseball is a bigger cash cow than fantasy football I really can't help you

Brandon Funston

Articles: Pickups of the Week; Pickups of the Week-Hitters; Early Season All-Waiver Team; Big Board

Funston was given the task of keeping up on rising/overlooked talent and filtering it out for us all season long. The Pickups of the Week covered hitters and pitchers usually on Mondays. This can be a useful source for where to look for injury replacements as the season goes on. He attempts to focus on players available in less than half of Yahoo! leagues so there is a great chance that who he recommends is available in your league. However, since his focus is on lesser owned players you need to pay attention and know who is on a fluke streak and who might be worth the gamble. I recommend using this to flesh out your watch list. He attempts to do the same thing with the Pickups of the Week-Hitters which usually came out on Fridays. This was less successful as it seemed he was identifying no-brainer players to pick-up who were probably scooped up in a competitive league. Not bad to check out, but likely a day late on value. The Early Season All-Waiver Team is something he puts together about a month into the season that looks at stars who were likely undrafted in your league. I like this even though at least half the team is already taken. These are the surprise players of the year and many will likely perform above average for the season. If I can add one or two I do, if I have to add some to my watch list and wait I will. Your team needs some assistance throughout the season and this is a list of potential helpers. Finally, the Big-Board, is a staple he brought over from his Fantasy Football posts. He attempts to rank the top fifty players along with the rest of the staff. These lists are interesting but not all that useful. If you want to have a mock debate on relative value go ahead, but this list isn't even that useful for ranking trade potential.

Andy Beherns

Closer Reports, 2-Start Pitcher of the Week, Video: Starting Pitcher Pick-ups

Closer Reports is an attempt to give you a list of teams closer committees and the relative security the closers have. This is well meaning, but I do not find it all that helpful. To begin with closers on the hot seat are usually quickly identified and replacements picked up before a post like this surfaces weekly. It also just ranks the teams 1-30 with no divide between secure closers, bubble closers, and drop worthy closers which could make it more useful. His next segment the 2-Start Pitcher of the Week is geared toward those who play head-to-head fantasy baseball. As a rotisserie player this is mere reading filler and you can move on. I am trying to focus just on the written articles as their videos segments are sporadic throughout the season at best. However, Beherns attempts to suggest some pitcher pickups throughout the season and this segment is a surefire bomb for your team. The analysis he provides appears to focus more on season records and ballparks than exploding offenses  and in-season trends. During San Diego's red-hot August-September he twice recommended questionable pitchers because "everyone likes Petco Park," you can do better analysis and should if you plan on winning your league.

Scott Pianowski

Shuffle-Ups, Closing/Opening Time, Daily Streamers

Scott Pianowski has been the most active blogger for Yahoo! fantasy baseball and sticks it out through the end of the season. He gets kudos for sticking it out and trying to help the dwindling masses still looking for advice. A few weeks into the season he starts his Shuffle-Up columns which chose a position and gives an auction valued tiered rank of where he values those players if a draft started that day. He rotates through all positions and gets around 3 shuffle ups per position throughout the year. This is a great read because he puts players in tiers with his explanation as to why, he also lets readers comment and challenge his ranks to cover missed players and over/under valued players and may adjust his ranks accordingly. Also, he ignores players on the DL, they are not playing so he removes their distraction. You can use this to argue player rankings or to evaluate possible trades in your league. However you chose to use this, these articles are informative reads and should be sought out. The Closing/Opening Time is his read on the days action. It provides some quick analysis and takeaways from the night in case you were out. This is a good source to identify injury replacements or rising players to watch. It can be a little too pitcher heavy, but he tries to balance and provide justification for his beliefs. Early in September he begins a Daily Streamers post to replace the Closing/Opening Time articles. His object is to let you know pitchers coming up who should be available and ranks them into tiers from solid gambles to don't waste your time. If you have innings to burn and stats to collect for a late season run this is a useful last check before selecting who to add/avoid. Pianowski is not perfect, but he does try to provide statistical justification for his recommendations. He also admits when he is wrong and tries to help. If you read only one fantasy expert on Yahoo! I recommend Pianowski or...

Michael Salfino

By the Numbers

Michael Salfino does not write specifically to the add/drop mindset of fantasy baseball. Rather his By the Numbers articles look at pitching with a sabermetric analysis. These are fantastic articles that point out some unique ways to look at pitchers and identify value. He looks at both starters and relievers, but generally divides the two. His articles outline his approach, his goal, and any limits he puts into the data. If you grasp the basics of advanced analysis these are great reads that can really take your pitching moves to the next level.

These analysts are trying to help each of us succeed and hopefully this article helps you decide which analysts are most helpful to you. Do you have a different take on these players, someone else to recommend, or just want to add your two-cents go ahead and let me know.