FANALYTICS: One Month—Bringing it home, part 2

I have been playing in a monthly game since last summer. One of the more fascinating aspects of participating in this league is following how the perception of player value changes over time.

At the beginning of the season, the draft results looked pretty much like most other drafts. But when given the opportunity to do it over again at the beginning of each subsequent month, the results changed radically. Current performance naturally took on a larger role as the season progressed but I was astounded how high the sensitivity was to change.

Hot hands were elevated very quickly. Sometimes that worked out; sometimes not. In retrospect, when you only have to project performance over the upcoming four weeks, maybe the hot-hand mindset elevates your odds of success. Maybe the path to a one-month victory is to attempt to ride streaks.

Or maybe it's to count on regression. I don't know.

As we look forward to regular monthly leagues next year, this is important food for thought.

Here was the first round from each month in my league. Given some scheduling issues, we only completed five drafts, but the results are still interesting.

APRIL

1   Cabrera,M
2   Trout,M
3   Braun,R
4   Cano,R
5   Kemp,M
6   Verlander,J
7   Stanton,G
8   McCutchen,A
9   Kershaw,C
10  Tulowitzki,T
11  Strasburg,S
12  Price,D

A fairly typical pre-season draft, particularly for a group of owners that valued pitchers highly. Players like Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder were the more obvious omissions but none of them would end up being first-round caliber anyway. Pujols actually dropped to the 5th round given that he was still dealing with his foot issues on draft day.

Perhaps the most outwardly gutsy pick was Troy Tulowitzki at #10. This was actually a very astute pick. Tulo had an ADP of #12 in the NFBC pre-season rankings and #19 from Mock Draft Central. The only reason he came into the season that low was his health risk over six months. But taking a shot that he'd at least make it through April at full productivity was a very good bet.

Tulowitzki paid off by batting .308 with 6 HRs in April. Unfortunately, this owner followed up the Tulo pick with Josh Hamilton. He ended up finishing 8th.

MAY

1   Cabrera,M
2   Hernandez,F
3   Braun,R
4   Cano,R
5   Upton,J
6   Davis,C
7   Trout,M
8   Gonzalez,C
9   Pujols,A
10  Harper,B
11  Darvish,Y
12  Jones,A

One month later and there was already massive turnover. Only four April first-rounders made it back in May -- Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Robinson Cano and Mike Trout.

Trout dropped from 2nd to 7th after his 2 HR, 4 SB, .261 line in April. But returning as a first-rounder at all was a head-scratching testament to his staying power. Strong first-rounders like Matt Kemp (1 HR, 4 SB, .260) and Andrew McCutchen (3 HR, 6 SB, .247) had similarly down months and yet both dropped to the third round. Even Tulowitzki—who had a great April—dropped to the second round.

The big movers this month were April's biggest breakout stars—Justin Upton and Chris Davis. Upton jumped from his 3rd round April position; Davis skyrocketed from the 11th round. Early surgers Yu Darvish and Adam Jones also sneaked in.

I'm not sure what was going through the owner's head who grabbed Felix Hernandez with his 2nd seed pick. He ended up drafting pitchers in the first three rounds. He finished 8th.

JUNE

1   Cabrera,M
2   Davis,C
3   Trout,M
4   Braun,R
5   Cano,R
6   Tulowitzki,T
7   Gonzalez,C
8   Kershaw,C
9   Goldschmidt,P
10  Verlander,J
11  Brown,D
12  Votto,J

By this month, it appears that the early season volatility had settled down and current stats were driving the rankings. May's big gainers—Davis and Upton—took their divergent paths. Davis maintained as a first-rounder; Upton regressed back to round 3.

The only picks that seem somewhat speculative are #10 and #11.

While Justin Verlander was 6-4 with a 3.70 ERA, he was coming off a month in which his ERA was 6.41. I suspect the bet was on a June normalization to vintage levels.

Domonic Brown had 15 HRs and a .272 BA but was coming off a 12 HR, .303 month. Given his lack of track record at this level, a first round pick was probably a bit of a stretch. But here again, jumping on a streak is not an entirely bad play in a one month league. Brown did end up hitting 6 HRs and batting .278 in June, but it was a regression that probably did not merit a first round pick.

JULY

1   Cabrera,M
2   Trout,M
3   Cano,R
4   Davis,C
5   Segura,J
6   Ramirez,H
7   Kershaw,C
8   Scherzer,M
9   Reyes,J
10  Kipnis,J
11  Verlander,J
12  Harvey,M

Braun officially disappeared and June's top five became July's top four.

A bunch of outwardly knee-jerk picks this month...

Jean Segura surged to 5th, though admittedly, it would have been more notable had he gone this high in June. He did go at the end of the 2nd round that month after going in the 9th round in May. As we now know, Segura tanked in July and this owner finished 8th.

Jose Reyes had just come off the disabled list so this #9 pick seemed more hopeful than realistic. But again, it's all about catching lightning in a bottle for these short periods. Reyes hit 4 HRs, stole 6 bases and batted .312 in July—which has turned out to be his best month—so the pick was well-timed. This owner finished 4th.

Jason Kipnis batted .409 in June, with 4 HRs and 9 SBs; his seasonal line at that point was 12 HR, 19 SB and a .296 BA. I think it would have been more prudent to expect a sharper regression after a .409 month, and Kipnis did bat only .272 in July. This owner finished 11th.

And finally there was Matt Harvey, who by this time was firmly entrenched as a member of the new pitching elite (7-1, 2.00 ERA). He continued his A-list numbers through July but this owner finished 9th.

Four knee jerks. Two winners, two losers.

AUGUST

1   Cabrera,M
2   Trout,M
3   Kershaw,C
4   Darvish,Y
5   Davis,C
6   Scherzer,M
7   McCutchen,A
8   Tulowitzki,T
9   Cano,R
10  Price,D
11  Encarnacion,E
12  Goldschmidt,P

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this August draft was that 11 of the 12 players had appeared in the first round at some point earlier in the season. For four players—Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, David Price and Paul Goldschmidt—this would be only their second appearance. Most of the top half of the list had already become regulars.

Seven of these 12 players were first rounders back in March, though some of them took a more circuitous path back to this spot here in August. Davis was the only player who was an early surprise yet managed to get drafted no lower than 6th every month from May on.

Which were the eventual winning team's first round picks each month?

Month  Seed  Player
=====  ====  ===========
 Apr     7   Stanton,G
 May     5   Upton,J
 Jun     8   Kershaw,C
 Jul     6   Ramirez,H
 Aug     7   McCutchen,A

Interesting that all five winners came from mid-round seeds. Four of the five were hitters.

In April and May, both first round picks did not pan out over the course of the month yet that owner managed to win both times. That owner was me. I've finished in the second division in the three months since after picking Paul Goldschmidt (twice) and Chris Davis in the first round. For the record books, my finishes were 1st, 1st, 11th, 9th and 7th.

In a 12-team draft league, there will be a good amount of volatility, month-to-month. Still, you can't discount the impact of skill. This format does require a unique proficiency.

To wit... there is one owner in my league whose monthly finish was 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in the first four months. He finally nailed the league title in August.
 

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.