Rotohelp  
Updated
December
4th 2006
Rotohelp Site Philosophy
Rotohelp
Our Philosophy

by Jessica & Timothy Polko

We obviously cannot include all of our beliefs in this space, but the concepts expressed here adequately embody our core philosophy. We have developed these principles over years of study of first the game of baseball as fans, and then the game of fantasy baseball as participants committed to the pursuit of winning strategies.

You will find additional details of our opinions in our daily articles where we frequently air out our views on the innumerable issues that hover around baseball and fantasy baseball.

Skip to Influences and Recommended Links


Baseball Philosophies

Baseball is fun. The sport is fun, discussing the sport is fun, and even playing with a physical baseball itself can be fun. Nobody says, "Work ball" to start a ballgame.

Fantasy baseball is fun. Millions of people grow up wanting to play professional baseball and everyone believes that they can make better decisions than the lucky knuckleheads that run their favorite team. We all need to believe that we wouldn't have traded Brock for Broglio - this is the essence of fan participation.

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. A cliché, but then all clichés have some truth in them. We can make educated guesses on the best course of action to take when we possess the background information on the circumstances surrounding our decisions. The history of baseball lies in numbers.

Statistics are the lifeblood of baseball more than any other sport. Numbers like 56 and .400 are embedded in our collective American unconscious. Even evolving milestones like 714 to 755, and 60 to 61 to 70 to 73, evoke events that a majority of Americans probably can describe in detail. Years like 1927, 1961, and 1998 echo our triumphs in peace like 1776 and 1945 instantly recall our victories in war. Baseball statistics are the history that binds the sport to the American ideal.

As we believe that every person has inalienable rights, so we must acknowledge that every player has value. A Major League Baseball player is one of the top 750 people in the world in his profession. At minimum, players in the big leagues are athletic enough to field some position if every other player is injured or otherwise out of that game. For fantasy baseball, even a Colorado 5th starter has value to a team that needs 1 more IP to qualify for ERA points, and every player has a chance to contribute in the quantitative categories like Wins and RBI.

Once a player displays a tool, skill, or tendency, that player always has a chance of displaying it again. Tools include batting power and fastball speed, sometimes only shown crushing 500 foot batting practice home runs or by hitting 98 mph while warming up in the bullpen. Skills include measurements of strike zone judgment (BB/K) for batters and command and control (K/BB) for pitchers. Tendencies describe what a player has historically done with their tools and skills. A player can tend to hit around twenty home runs per season, but he can always exceed that number.

Players can also display an overt lack of aptitude in many areas but still possess the knack for remaining on a major league roster regardless of that player's overall ability. Even if you don't perceive a particular player to have any value to either a real or fantasy team, major league service time is a valuable commodity, and while you might think other players are more deserving, anyone who fills a 25-man roster spot has obviously impressed someone at some time. You can even learn as much about a player from a lack of demonstrated skills as from his effective ones.

Certain statistics are more valuable tools for prediction than others. Strike zone judgment is a better indicator of whether future batting averages will increase or decrease than looking at the actual batting average trend. An increase in a team's offensive capabilities will help contribute more dramatically to an increase in the number of wins a starting pitcher records from one year to the next than any improvement in the pitcher's abilities.

Minor league statistics have predictive value. Ballparks can significantly distort statistics. Hitters likely will have their peak seasons between the ages of 28 and 32, and pitchers between the season of 30 and 34; this is true for both the majors and fantasy baseball.


Fantasy Baseball Philosophies

Stick to the plan at the draft, and make sure that plan includes waiting for some bargains. Target players who are likely to exceed their predicted values. Avoid chronically injured players. Don't be afraid to gamble on rookie hitters in good lineups and rookie pitchers on teams with good offenses in friendly ballparks. One good bargain player can win you any league, but more are even better. Make sure you have contingency plans in case you aren't able to execute your preferred draft strategy.

If your team has injuries, off years, or even if you just drafted horribly, never be afraid to rebuild in keeper leagues if you don't believe you can finish solidly in the money. When you realize on Memorial Day that your team can finish 4th place if everything breaks your way, you should target players to help next season. If two other teams started rebuilding on National Income Tax Day, then make the best of what's still available. You should never need to rebuild two years in a row; if you find yourself doing this, contact us for help.

Don't be afraid to make numerous trade offers. You can't complete a deal if no one initiates discussions. Be willing to accept deals grossly in your favor. There are three types of owners in keeper leagues: those playing for this year, those playing for next year, and those building dynasties for every year. Each owner has different needs and wants so be willing to objectively "overpay" at times if a player fills a specific need for you: the harder to get can be the better to have.

Celebrate when you win. Use your winnings for something special for yourself and your loved ones, and count your losses as entertainment costs…on second thought, keep reading our site every day, and you shouldn't have many losses.


Influences and Recommended Links

The following people and organizations have influenced the formation of these philosophies over the years, and we encourage our readers to visit their websites and search out their publications.

The Rotisserie League and Rotisserie League Baseball
Our first exposure to fantasy was through an early edition of Rotisserie League Baseball, edited by Glen Waggoner and Robert Sklar. All fantasy league participants owe a debt of gratitude to the Founding Fathers: Waggoner, Sklar, Beloved Former Commissioner-for-Life Dan Okrent, Lee Eisenberg, Peter Gethers, Rob Fleder, Bruce McCall, Valerie Salembier, Steve Wulf, Michael Pollet, and Cork Smith. If you've never read Rotisserie League Baseball, immediately head over to your favorite on-line bookseller and go find one of the 1980's editions from before John Benson bought all the trademarks and changed it into the respective equivalent of Pat Boone's Favorite Bible Stories for the Very Young.

Speaking of John Benson,
We should probably give Benson credit for providing the framework upon which we developed Category Dollars, our valuation system in Rotisserie leagues. Along with Randy Baron, Benson wrote a book called Rotisserie League Baseball: Playing for Blood. We have since refined his formulas and added improvements such as Category Inflation, but this book provided us with a solid introduction to valuation concepts.

Ron Shandler, Baseball Headquarters, and the BaseballHQ.com Staff
Ron's website and annual Baseball Forecaster are among the most valuable resources for new strategies and baseball insight. His record speaks for itself as he's won several expert league titles since 1998. Ron has published Baseball Forecaster for nearly two decades, and on BaseballHQ, he's assembled an excellent staff of knowledgeable baseball writers. We credit Ron's materials for building much of our initial understanding of fantasy baseball and forecasting statistics. BaseballHQ costs $99 for a year-long subscription, but if you are new to the game you likely will recoup that investment provided you play in at least one league with a similar entry fee.

Moreover, Baseball Forecaster is easily the most useful addition to any novice fantasy owner's bookshelf. After reading our first copy several years ago, we went from winning about one league a year to annually finishing in the first division in most of our leagues. Any serious roto participant simply must peruse this book; you cannot make a more cost-effective investment in developing your personal strategy.

BaseballHQ also hosts an annual symposium in Phoenix during the Arizona Fall League. The symposium provides a great opportunity to meet fantasy experts, learn valuable strategy information, and even watch a few baseball games full of prospects.

John Sickels
Bill James' former research assistant and the author of the best fantasy prospect annual for the last decade, John is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable guys you could ever want to meet. He developed a "Seven Skills" rubric for scouting, the most significant advance to date on the traditional "Five Tools" of player evaluation, and he's coined other terms including LOOGY, a personal favorite of ours that stands for Lefty One-Out GuY. He even owns an M.A. in European History and plays Star Fleet Battles. You can find his current site here and his frequently updated blog at minorleagueball.com.

Will Carroll, Joe Sheehan, Rany Jazayerli, and the Baseball Prospectus Staff
The BP gang has produced some of the most consistently excellent baseball analysis available for more than a decade. We consider their annual publication a must-read for serious baseball fans, as they provide both superb breakdowns of teams and players along with occasional tidbits such as accusing the Pirates of contracting "veteranerial disease". The book also contains an excellent report on the damaging effects of high pitch counts based on significant research. Similarly, the website usually contains over a dozen new articles each week, full of the same quality commentary found in the book.

Rob Neyer
We have been reading Rob since his "Chin Muzak" days before he became so popular with readers that he does not need a column title. Another of Bill James' former research assistants and a former author of the Minor League Scouting Notebook, Rob provides the best baseball analysis on ESPN.com of any member of the "mainstream" media. He first brought to our attention now obvious advances in thinking such as using OPS and Runs Created to evaluate hitters instead of the traditional Triple Crown statistics. Along with BP's Rany Jazayerli, Rob writes a fascinating column on the Kansas City Royals, published at robneyer.com, which gave us the basic idea for "Good Chicago Sports", a former Rotohelp column.

Bill James
Lastly, we would be quite remiss if we did not acknowledge Bill James, future member of Cooperstown and baseball statistician extraordinaire. While neither of us benefited from his groundbreaking Baseball Abstracts during the 1980's, we both recognize and admire his many contributions to sabermetrics, fantasy baseball, and our understanding of "real" baseball.


As we also find several other sites and organizations invaluable in researching the day-to-day activities of MLB, we happily recommend the following:

Rotoworld easily remains the best free baseball update site on the web, and we have found that visiting at least daily is vital to stay aware of the most recent player information.

Rototimes provides an excellent compilation of breaking news and analysis from major media outlets across the web, including every significant daily newspaper.

Minor League Baseball now offers the web's best set of minor league stats after a complete site revamp, which even resulted in the addition of splits data for every player if only for their current team.

Minor League Splits emerged as one of the best sites around in 2006, featuring a variety of statistics, splits, fielding stats, and even MLE data for every minor leaguer in affiliated baseball.

Yahoo! Baseball probably is the single most useful site for us. They are the best site we have found providing wire updates, and they post The Sporting News writers' only relevant columns.

ESPN Baseball delivers the highest volume of baseball information on the web while featuring such noted columnists as the aforementioned Rob Neyer, Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, Keith Law, Jim Caple, and occasional pieces by many from among their well-known on-air talent.

Fox Sports remains useful primarily for the columns of Ken Rosenthal, heir to Peter Gammons' best baseball reporter title.

Baseball Think Factory provides a great source of interesting but sometimes relatively obscure articles from around the web in their newsstand area. More importantly, they provide a remarkably high caliber of user comments below most linked articles. Unlike the message boards used on the vast majority of sites, BTF usually hosts some of the most informative and nicely-argued discussion available anywhere on the web.

Baseball America publishes much of the magazine's content on-line, but also adds unique features like "Ask BA", which poses questions to BA writers, as well as frequent, in-depth chats with their writers. While other sites now offer more minor league statistics, BA still retains a useful database.

Major League Baseball, although frequently full of articles with which we disagree, still offers a great multitude of baseball information since the thirty teams unified their websites five years ago. MLB.com has now established itself as the best resource for current rosters, transactions, and other similar reference material.

Cot's Baseball Contracts remains the best source for current player contracts, usefully sorted by team and even including the status of key front office personnel.

Scoresheet Baseball offers some of the best online baseball simulation games. JDM's Scoresheet Baseball also merits mention as the best Scoresheet resouce site we have found.

Finally, if you ever need to find specific statistical information about a player or team, please visit Baseball Reference, which contains the most thorough database of player statistics available on the web.


Thank you for taking the time read through our philosophy, influences, and recommended links; we hope you enjoy the rest of our website.

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Out of the Frying Pan

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