A thought occurred to me this week that I should make pasta. My own pasta. There aren’t any ingredients that are prohibitive (it’s just flour and eggs, after all– and maybe other stuff too, I haven’t actually got that far into it). I have a stand mixer and assume that would be useful. I don’t have a pasta-making attachment, but surely I could just cut the pasta with my pizza cutter into the size and shape I want. Even if it’s not perfect, it’d be homemade, and that’s got to be better, right?
Then, though, I remembered how much I like fettuccine alfredo. And all that effort — figuring out the techniques, the equipment, what goes into pasta besides eggs and flour- you know, the small stuff — would lead to a payoff of… at best something I like as much as the fettuccine alfredo I make by dumping some noodles into boiling water and saucing it? The fine folks at De Cecco have done all that work for me! Surely they have this down better than me, so why waste perfectly good fettuccine alfredo eatin’ time?
Besides a butter-and-cream based pasta, the other thing I engage in that’s probably not great for my heart but I love nonetheless is fantasy baseball. Similar to my pasta making fantasies, I’ve always thought about making my own projections. Getting my hands dirty, massaging a linear regression and cutting it just right until the homers and steals are a perfect al dente. But, like the pasta, there’s so much data and information that people who have spent all that time already perfecting those stats have already done. With the launch of the brand-new Pitcher List 6.0, I’ve been taking a spin around the new tools we have available on the site and have discovered a few that I’m definitely planning to use for my draft.
First, you’re going to need to get some parmesan cheese and grate…. oh, wait. Baseball, right. In addition to the draft kit, team previews, and rankings you’ll find on the site, here are three ways I’m using Pitcher List 6.0:
So. Many. Leaderboards. For my purposes, I’m always interested in some low-cost relievers at the ends of my drafts and/or to keep on my watchlist to get a jump on the waiver wire in-season. I use my draft for stars and then watch the waiver wire like a hawk for positions like relievers that are more unpredictable.
It seems every year the top reliever in the game just comes out of nowhere, so my feeling is typically that I’ll try to ignore those high-variance positions and save the draft for clear positions of need where I have a bit more certainty. To do so this year, I’m thinking in particular of Devin Williams and wondering if there’s another reliever out there that has a similar unhittable pitch that could make the jump this year to a lights-out, high strikeout, low-ratio guy, as Williams did last year.
A reliever that throws an elite pitch and throws it a lot might seem to be a bit tautological, but I was interested to see if I could pick out any sleepers that I should keep my eye on early in the season or during my draft.
To do so, I used the “pitch types” leaderboard for relievers, set it to “all” pitches, and filtered for Usage% to pitches thrown more than 50% of the time, then sorted by CSW% (called strikes + swinging strike rate). As expected, it gave me a list of elite relievers that have untouchable pitches that we’re all familiar with; the top 20 consists of Devin Williams’ change, Aroldis Chapman and Kirby Yates’ fastballs, and Amir Garrett’s devastating slider.
I was not prepared to see James Hoyt on the list, but his slider had the 7th-best CSW% among all pitches in the majors last year. His ERA has always been quite a bit ahead of his peripherals, owing mostly to a walk rate that’s higher than you’d like. But without that, he wouldn’t really be a sleeper, he’d just be a top-10 reliever that posted 1.23 ERA and struck out 12 batters per nine innings last year (albeit in an extremely short 14 innings pitched). The Marlins have opportunity in their pen, to say the least. Hoyt is already projected for a better ERA than both of their leading closer candidates, and with more strikeouts per inning. He’s going on my watch list to begin the season.
My home league is shallow, and as a result the past couple of years I don’t intuitively get to know as many players as I did when I had multiple deep roster leagues going. I’ve felt wholly underprepared for my draft (and probably will this year too if I’m being honest, especially if you’re one of my league mates reading this. Just assume I don’t know anything and you should probably trade me Christian Yelich after his awful season last year. Where was I?
One of my favorite features of the new PL 6.0 is the “Strengths/Weaknesses” section on player pages. When I’m relying on my spreadsheets to make calls during the draft, it’s a nice resource to do a quick check of my thinking. It’s one thing to draft from a spreadsheet with meticulous rankings, but as any of us who have had our internet go out during one of our picks and been forced to accept an auto-pick can attest, team context and needs are certainly important considerations, especially in later rounds.
Jeimer Candelario was a popular roster add last year when he went on a two-week tear where he hit 5 of his 7 homers for the year, as I wrote about in our Tigers fantasy preview. Candelario is a bit of a boom-or-bust hitter that has been largely BABIP-dependent but can get on base, making him a play for OBP leagues in particular at a corner infield spot. If I’m looking for power from that lineup spot though, I’m going to notice on his player page that he’s typically more of a doubles/triples guy.
This obviously isn’t meant to be in place of pre-draft prep, but in the heat of the draft it can provide a gut check against a player’s overall rank or raw numbers from last year, especially in those later rounds when you’re trying to fill needs or take fliers on guys. It’s a quick check on the particulars that are making up a player’s profile, and I’m going to be frantically searching for players before I draft them to check against my own rankings and team needs.
It’s a lot to keep up with, these stats. Because I’m a million years old, there was a time when taking into account a player’s K%-BB% gave me a leg up in OBP leagues, but everyone is wise to even the most rudimentary of advanced statistics today. Now, with more data and tools at everyone’s disposal and its seeming exponential growth year over year, it’s harder to keep up. I put off reading about seam-shifted wake for weeks because I was afraid of how much it would be to learn. I’m at the point where I understand where the old-school traditionalists that dismissively hand waved away OBP and WAR were coming from. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it. It’d be easier for me personally if everyone could just re-set their baseball knowledge to 2013 or so. Deal?
In the absence of that, I’m very relieved to see the stats you’ll find on Pitcher List 6.0 have nice, succinct explanations when you hover over them (and hover over “team” on the leaderboards for an Easter egg).
Early CS%? PLUS%? What are those? The hover-over feature makes it incredibly easy for when you want to do a deep dive into a particular player to diagnose what might have gone right or wrong in a season for arbitration or keeper decisions in your leagues.
Take Ketel Marte. I was a huge believer in his 2019 breakout season early on and reaped the reward, en route to a 32/10 season with a .378 OBP. He was an easy keeper decision for me in 2020, but even at a discounted price (I initially claimed him off waivers, so draft pick compensation isn’t a concern), I wanted to dive in more to his struggles in 2020.
Looking at Marte’s approach profile on his player page, you don’t have to be familiar with every category to notice that a major difference in his plate approach is his heLOC%. Hovering over that category heading, I can see that’s his % of pitches that were middle-middle, and pitchers threw him way less of those meatballs (pasta!) that he could feast on, after 4 years of steady increases. So pitchers were throwing him less down the middle, but his called strike percentage was going up at the same time. Given those two factors, I’m a little more concerned about the power outage, which was steadily progressing as pitchers threw him right down the middle and in the zone, and is combined with an inability to recognize or make contact with other pitches in the zone for 2021.
These are the tools on the new site that stuck out to me for my immediate fantasy purposes, but honestly, it’s fun just getting lost in the new leaderboards and player pages. I’d love to hear what you’re finding and ways I might have overlooked, as we’re well into draft prep season! (And if I’m wrong about homemade pasta I’ll listen to those comments as well.)
Photos by Hayden Schiff/Flickr, Jeff Chevrier& Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)