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  • Dave Swan

First Pitch Florida 2020


First, I should start by thanking Baseball HQ for hosting me for such a great weekend of events. From the moment I arrived, Friday, until the closing Q&A session on Sunday night, it was filled with non-stop fantasy baseball experiences. Couple highlights that stand out to me: NL, AL, and mixed LABR auctions, numerous breakout sessions with experts, and spending a couple of afternoons attending spring training games. This article will highlight some of the first First Pitch has to offer. If you're obsessed with fantasy baseball, like me, I would highly recommend attending.


FRIDAY

After checking into the hotel and registering, the weekend started with some introductions and welcoming. Steve Gardner, Jason Collette, and Glenn Colton kick this off with a look into what is new for 2020. Experts gave a short outlook for each team in different divisions. What was impressive was the amount of material covered in such a quick time with basically no notes reviewed.


Next up, the NL-only LABR auction is on the docket. A little backstory to LABR is that it is a gathering of fantasy baseball experts that started in 1994, where the best analysts and writers battle it out on a yearly stage. Quite a sight to witness. I am attaching a link to the results of the auction.

https://www.rtsports.com/labr-nl-auction


SATURDAY

The morning starts with a quick recap of the NL-only LABR auction. Q&A session for the panel of participants and then onto some breakout sessions. There were several breakout sessions available about various topics and by different experts. Take your pick as you go through the day; I tailored my day towards pitching and data. Not a big surprise if you know me.


Naturally, I chose The Art Of Streaming Pitchers by Nick Pollack (Pitcherlist). A 45-minute breakdown from one of my favorite pitching experts. Plenty of great takeaways from this session: the reasoning for streaming, strategy by league type, the overall goals of streaming, how to pick your streamer, and warning signs to look for in a pitching streamer. Nick also reveals his record for last season's streaming picks.


Quick Notes from the session:

-Think of streaming pitchers as short-term, SPs under 20% owner and try to accumulate stats and not blow up your ratios

-Roto leagues = streamers are not good in April

-H2H leagues = compare needs to opponent before deploying, pickup option early, plan for the Saturday/Sunday starts

-Goal = have a core of 4-5 locked in SPs (in 12 team leagues) and 6 SPs (in 15 team leagues)

-Focus more on finding a streamer that lasts the whole year; not one and done

-Skillset to look for = Velocity, Pitch Usage, CSW, StStr% and Put Away Rate

-DLH = Disabled List Hangover; stay away from pitchers coming off IL


If you don't know who Jeff Zimmerman is, you're just sadly missing out on a stellar fantasy baseball mind. The Process: Integrating Valuations and Biases into a Winning Fantasy Baseball Formula is an incredible book. Buy it! Jeff also writes for Fangraphs, Rotowire, and a bunch of other fantasy baseball syndicates. Two-time TOUT Wars winner for H2H and Mixed Auction League as well. In this breakdown, Jeff takes us through the process of selecting the later starting pitchers. Some interesting analyses discussed on players Jeff likes if given a starting role, starting pitchers that have the job and why they need to be drafted, along with starting pitchers that he is out on for various reasons. I will throw a few names out there, and you can decide where they fall: Gausman, Voth, Mahle, and Happ.

One of the other fun parts to First Pitch Florida is there is baseball played at that time. So we all headed from Clearwater over to Steinbrenner Stadium in Tampa Bay. The game was Yankees vs. Tigers, so we got to check out Gerrit Cole and Matt Boyd. Luck was definitely on our side for the matchup.


Mr. CSW, Alex Fast, gives the breakdown on valuing and drafting saves. The big takeaway here was the dispersal of saves between teams from year to year. The pretty interesting part that stood out to me is how few MLB teams trust a closer from year to year. It doesn't appear like saves are becoming very reliant on closers to get 100% of the saves in a year. A fun exercise to try is to take out your top RP drafted, swap it with the best bat available, and then take a much later bat and swap with an RP. There is an excellent chance you didn't lose too many saves and picked up a ton of batting stats. In conclusion, don't draft an RP early unless the track record is there. If you do, wait till the end to grab the Kintzlers or Jiminezs of the world.


Concluding the evening is the AL-only LABR auction. New blood to LABR is Ian Kahn from Rotowire.com. Anyone want to guess the first player Ian nominated and bought? Mike Trout for $43. Click the link to see how the auction turned out. https://www.rtsports.com/labr-al-auction


SUNDAY

Much like Saturday morning, we began with the AL-only LABR participants chatting about their auction strategies. Yasiel Puig was taken in both the NL and AL-only auctions by the NFBC.


The Year In Tough Projections portion came next. Ray Murphy(Baseball HQ), Derek Carty(The BAT), and Todd Zola(Masterball) talk about the difficulties in projections. The guys talk about the challenges of projecting individual players, mostly younger ones, and some of the advanced metrics that are a bit harder to nail down. I never really put a ton of thought into how much gets put into the projections; park factors changing, weather at that time of year, aging curves, and so on. The hardest element is figuring our playing time and putting no manual adjustments into the system.


A couple of interesting takeaways:

-Hiura and Tatis Jr had lots of luck go their way

-The BAT doesn't like Arizona SPs

-Hard contact to pitchers isn't very sticky year to year

-BaseballHQ is high on Shogo Akiyama

-Masterball, park factors to Miami are misleading and will probably eliminate some hits


The next part of the day is breakout sessions time.


Statcast 101 & 201 with Andy Andres was real information. Andy walked us through some of the features on BaseballSavant, mostly the basic stuff like where to find the matchups that day, different leaderboards, and what metric indicators are a little more sticky than others. Discussions grew into the differences between SwStr% and Whiff%. What probably took up the majority of the discussion was BABIP vs. xwOBA. Linear weighting seems to be a more predictive stat. Start looking at xwOBA instead of BABIP, as it takes an enormous amount of events for BABIP to normalize. We didn't a chance to get into R coding, unfortunately.


Another spring training game was lined up for the afternoon. A wonderful day to be at the ballpark, it was in the 70s and we got to watch the Phillies vs. Orioles. John Means had his hands full with a Phillies lineup that included Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins. There were plenty of starters in the games on Sunday. The Mixed League LABR draft took place during the game but if interested here are the results. https://www.rtsports.com/labr-mixed-auction


CONCLUSION

If you are on the fence with if you want to attend a First Pitch, Florida or Arizona. I can't say it enough that you should go. You will meet so many other friendly fantasy baseball hobbyists willing to chat about all things baseball. The experts are so incredibly welcoming, stop any of them for a question, pick their brains about something you want to know more about, or just let them know how much you appreciate the content they produce. Trust me when I say you will leave First Pitch with a wealth of knowledge to help win your fantasy leagues and have a great time. I hope you enjoyed hearing about the event, and I will see you in Arizona.


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