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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Monday Night Observations

What a terrible game. The biggest plays were a TD pass by the running back, a fumble on a nicely executed inside run by a wide receiver, a two-point conversion return and a fumble-out-of-the-end-zone touchback. The Saints only TD drive was gifted by a ticky-tack pass interference penalty on an uncatchable ball too. At least the Panthers covered, but it was a brutal watch, and that was on the 40-minute condensed version.

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Week 15 Observations

I just have to laugh at some of my fantasy football teams. One top-seeded semi-final team lost Kareem Hunt two weeks ago and started both Aaron Jones and Keenan Allen. Its top scorers were Justin and Lamar Jackson. The team I lost to wasn’t great, either, but Derrick Henry and Jaylen Samuels were pretty much enough by themselves. The longer I play fantasy football and the more teams I own, the less I sweat it. Work the waiver wire, set your lineups, let the results play out how they will. 

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Saturday Observations

I had arguably my worst beat of the year in the first game with the Jets getting six against the Texans. They lost by seven after their normally reliable kicker missed two PATs, and that’s not counting the tack-on FG the Texans got when the Jets turned it over on downs with just enough time left.

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NFL Offensive Line Overview: Fantasy Playoffs Pt. 2

From pass protection to run blocking, every aspect of the modern NFL offense runs through the O-line. Aside from skill position players themselves, nothing has a larger impact on the outcome of a play call than the battle up front. In the Offensive Line Overview series, we look at which of the league’s 32 offensive lines are trending up and down.

Heading into the second week of the fantasy playoffs, lineup decisions become more tense than ever. The difference between a safe play and a smart one can determine everything about a matchup, especially when a league’s top teams go head to head. Information remains the key to victory, with savvy owners diving behind start-sit lists and projected points. In the interest of closing out the year strong, when things count most, let’s take a look at the state of offensive lines around the league.

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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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