Articles by Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

Swinging Strike Rate Risks

About this time last year, I was pretty enthusiastic about projecting and drafting Luke Weaver. The 2014 first-round pick by the Cardinals was coming off of a relatively strong half-season in majors, preceded by an excellent campaign at Triple-A Memphis. He had a 3.88 ERA, but also had 72 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. I grabbed him (exceedingly early) in an annual Scoresheet Mock Draft that I’ve been doing for six or seven years (and for what it’s worth, the pick was panned by the room – each pick frequently draws a lot of intelligent comments from the room of high-level players). Much of the industry and my competition in the NFBC felt the same way. His final NFBC ADP was 109.97, with a range between 55 and 185 overall. I participated in a 15-team Draft Champions League comprised of industry members in January where he went at the 6/7 turn, and I was disappointed that I didn’t get my shot towards the back end of the seventh round.

But my outlook on Weaver changed after reading Alex Chamberlain’s “Finding Reasons to Doubt Luke Weaver” article on Fangraphs late in January. I met Alex at First Pitch Arizona in November of 2017 and am a big fan of his work. The gist of the article – as always, you should read the entire piece rather than rely upon my summary of it – was that Weaver’s 2017 28.6% strikeout rate was unsupported by the quality of his stuff, and the underlying stats. In particular, Alex was worried about Weaver’s swinging strike rate (SwStr%), chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) and contact rate on those pitches outside the strike zone (O-Contact%).

Alex’s article persuaded me, and I downgraded Weaver’s projection and consequently didn’t draft him anywhere, owning him only in one NL-only keeper league. And sure enough, that pessimism from Alex’s article was well-founded. Weaver’s strikeout rate dropped to 19.9%, his BB% jumped from 6.8% to 8.9%, his HR/9 rate jumped from 1.04 to 1.25, and more importantly for fantasy purposes, his ERA skyrocketed to 4.95 and he was out of the Cardinals’ rotation by the end of the season. He was included in the Paul Goldschmidt deal with Arizona and will likely get another shot to start there, but suffice to say enthusiasm for him has dropped, with his current NFBC clocking in at 339.14.

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League Accountability

We as an industry spend a lot of time reviewing our just-finished drafts, but while we’ll occasionally incorporate our experiences from those leagues in our other articles and definitely in discussions on radio shows and podcasts, we often don’t do league recaps. And those recaps that we do are usually from our expert league titles – nice victory laps, and fun to write/read, but usually low on substance. It’s not often that we give you the full picture though – how did we do in all of our leagues?

It’s not as if we’re purposefully cherry-picking, trying to add polish to our overall record. At least, I don’t think that’s the case with most everyone in the industry. Rather I think it’s more of a time allocation issue. We are in a ton of leagues, and many of us cover and play in multiple sports. So we move on to the next league, the next draft kit, etc…

When it comes to our advice, our recommendations, our ratings, we like to say it’s the reasoning behind it that matters. Process is important, we say. And it’s true. It is really important. But you know what else matters? Results! How did our practice translate in our leagues? And guess what, we probably will learn more from our failures than our successes, and each season provides us plenty chances to learn. I’m in 14 leagues this year – here are my results so far.

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Week 11 Rewatch Notes

Week 11 was a brutal week in many ways, leading off with Alex Smith’s gruesome injury. But lets take a look at what else happened in that game, and others on the early slate as I post my notes from the Game Pass Rematches. (I usually focus on the early slate games the most, as there are too many to follow closely during that slate, plus usually my Bengals are playing in that slot and I focus on them.)

Texans @ Redskins

Texans:

  • Jordan Akins had a nice third down conversion on the Texans first drive. His snap count isn’t high, but he could be more of the offense going forward. The Texans used a third-round pick on him this year.
  • Lamar Miller found plenty of room to run early in the first quarter.
  • Pump fake freezes the safety on the Hopkins touchdown.
  • J.J. Watt lost a sack due to defensive holding in the secondary.
  • Coutee was open on Watson’s 2nd quarter interception, but he couldn’t get any power on the throw.
  • HOU follows up their second INT with a sack, which ultimately leads to a missed field goal.
  • Alfred Blue getting a lot of work early in the third quarter.
  • Hopkins catch + fumble in the third quarter kills the first drive of the third quarter – pretty close call, reviewed, “.. the call stands …” – not a case of the call being confirmed.
  • Watson’s footwork was bad on both of his interceptions.
  • Twice had to settle for field goals after getting the ball inside the 10.

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Week 11 Pre-Observations

I’m doing this in part as an excuse to create a Sporcle Quiz for the first time, stealing Liss’s inspiration to do so, and because I only have a few quick takes looking at this week’s slate.

Survivor

You should read Chris Liss’s weekly Survivor Article for real analysis, including the math underpinnings for each week, but I have a few of my own thoughts.

  • This is the most difficult Survivor slate in recent weeks. After the carnage of the first few weeks of the season, it’s been pretty easy to coast along until last week, when the Jets, Eagles, Patriots and Falcons knocked out a third of the remaining entries in one of my double-elimination pools. The Saints are the biggest favorite on the board, at -8.5 points in most places, followed by the Chargers at -7.5. Making matters worse, the Saints are up against the defending Super Bowl Champs in the Eagles, who are essentially in a “must-win” game after falling to 4-5 last Sunday night. There are no other teams favored by six points or higher. The next two highest favorites are Pittsburgh on the road at Jacksonville, and Arizona (!) at home against the Raiders.
  • I’ve decided to rule out Arizona, for a couple of reasons. One, I can’t escape the feeling that taking them is akin to taking the Jets last week against the Bills – merely taking a team because of their opponent is not sound enough, not in a season where there don’t appear to be “special bad” teams like the Browns were last year, though the Raiders lately have put that theory to the test. But the Cardinals are just 2-7 in their own right, have scored the fewest points in the NFL this season so far (though they have a game in hand over the Bills, who score at a lower rate per game, but only barely!), and have been outscored by 101 points in total this year. Moreover, in my double-elimination pool, not a single participant has used them yet, both eliminated and among the 27 still alive. Thus, I think that their ownership rate will skew higher than 11.9% rate that they’re being picked across all pools at OfficeFootballPool.com.

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Knowing Enough … Update

Because I was traveling to Arizona over the weekend, I didn’t get a chance to update my latest forays into DFS hoops and hockey until now. I’ve had mixed results, more negative than positive, with a significant process fail on one slate and a question raised in game selection.

Basketball:

My last entry was posted on Halloween, and most of the night’s action was already complete by the time I posted, and very little changed after that. My adjustments improved the lineup over the straight up optimizer. So one question in process has already been raised – on nights when I feel strongly about a play or two, do I trust myself enough to go just with my adjusted lineup, or should I have mirror entries and trust the tools too? I’m well short of having enough data to decide that question. Anyhow, between the two sets of entries, I was down $14.20.

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Knowing Enough To Be Dangerous

When it comes to fantasy basketball and fantasy hockey, I know just enough to be dangerous to myself. I’m in one long-running league in each sport. The NBA league – the Snide Rotisserie League – dates back to 1997. I was in law school, and I started the league with my best friend from college, a few other college friends and a few law school buddies. We scored the league by hand and sent out a weekly report called “Snide Remarks,” where we’d comment on the games, about each other, and had recurring themes like the Kevin Johnson Injury of the Week (my favorite – Sega Thumb). Yeah, we were total nerds. Insert your own snide remark here …. It’s a head-to-head points league, starting just six players, both aspects remnants of how long ago we started it. So it’s not very representative of what the majority of the fantasy hoops universe plays.

My hockey league is the PHL (formerly the THL, but renamed after former RotoWire writer and league-mate Dan Pennucci, who suddenly passed away a couple of years ago). It originally was comprised of a bunch of RotoWire guys and LA Times guys, but has since morphed into being mostly RotoWire guys and friends thereof. It’s a keeper league (three players must be kept from each team), and also a unique format – head-to-head, where we play only when the NHL has seven or more games on a given night. So yeah – it’s also unique and not as deep as many of the leagues out there.

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Rewatch Notes

Each week I try to re-watch each NFL game that isn’t already a stand-alone game or that I wasn’t following as my primary game in real time, using NFL Game Pass’s Condensed version. I tried to glean insights that I’ve missed from merely following a game on the Grid Channel or Red Zone, either for the purposes of the show or podcast, or for my Weekly Value Meter. Instead of just jotting them down, I thought that it might be helpful to post them here as I go, too.

Seahawks @ Lions

Seahawks:

– After Rashaad Penny looked so good against the Raiders in the London game, I was surprised to see him still behind Mike Davis in the Seattle rotation. I’ve bought into the notion, promoted by RotoWire’s Mario Puig among others, that he’s a superior player, but at some point he has to see the field to be relevant for our purposes.
– Russell Wilson was doing a good job of throwing receivers open in this game – witness the first touchdown to Tyler Lockett.
– Twice David Moore had to make acrobatic, contested catches, including one that originally wasn’t ruled a catch but was successfully challenged.
– In fact, all three of the touchdown receptions were contested.
– Chris Carson always seems to fall forward and get the extra yard. He totally trucked a Lions tackler on his touchdown.
– This could have been worse – the Seahawks didn’t score on a 4th-and-goal from the 1, when Nick Vannett barely went out-of-bounds before catching what was thought to be a touchdown. Instead, it was Lions’ ball from the 1.
– The Seahawks converted a fake punt from their own 3 late in the game. It wasn’t supposed to be a fake necessarily – punter Michael Dickson actually was supposed to take a safety.
– Safety Bradley McDougald was not on the field, tending to a sore shoulder and an illness, when the Lions scored their second touchdown on a blown coverage. McDougald repeatedly drew the praise of analyst Mike Mayock during the broadcast.

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