All stats current through June 29.
Brand names are very powerful. Companies pay big money to develop them because they create loyalty and act as a shorthand signal for certain aspects and qualities. Brand-building is not a simple task; it is slow and costly.
However, once a brand-reputation is developed, it becomes “sticky.” That is to say that once people have a certain perception of a brand, it is hard to shake that perception, even if the underlying realities no longer reflect the reputation.
This is why struggling companies (see Circuit City) are often able to sell off their brand name rights (and why other companies want to buy such), and it is also why once-popular or high-quality brand names often retain their “value” despite a drop in the quality of the signaled product (at least in the short, and often medium, term).
Because brand names are really social/commercial means, they are powerful communicative tools. They are also, however, a great source of inefficiency in buying value. It costs more money to get the information/do the research up front and in the short term, but in the long run the dollar cost on non-brand products tends to be substantially lower despite comparable value.
Take, for instance, batteries. It costs roughly $5.00 per four pack of AAA or AA Ultra Alkaline batteries by the brand names (Duracell, Enegergizer), while the generic Ultra Alkaline brand at Walgreens costs $2.99 for four of the same. Did you know, however, that Walgreens’ batteries are made by one of the brand companies? Walgreens just pays to rebrand the batteries with its generic house label. Same production, different costs to consumer.
You need to do a little extra research to discover this, which itself is arguably a cost that offsets any short-term gains, but in the long run, this research pays off.
So what does this have to do with fantasy baseball? Like batteries, fantasy players build brand name reputations. We talk about certain players as being 20/20 guys, high-average hitters, etc.
These reputations usually reflect past production more than present/future production. How often do you hear someone say that player X has to bounce back? Sometimes that’s are correct and current numbers are depressed by poor luck, but sometimes poor present production is also the byproduct of skill erosion or other declines in peripherals that are attributable to more than just random noise.
Particularly, once we cross the fantasy-relevant statistical thresholds (for hitters, see this article, while for pitchers, see this article), it is pertinent to re-evaluate our preconceived notions, particularly if you want to capture that “Extra 2 percent” in fantasy.
Long introductions aside, let’s play blind resume. What follows are the statistics of an unnamed outfielder whose identity will not be revealed until the very end of this article. (Don’t cheat!). His stats come from the entirety of his tenure on his present team (over 1,000 plate appearances). Let’s dub him “Player X” for the purpose of this article.
First, Player X’s aggregate statistics. Over his time on his present team, Player X has hit a cumulative .254/.302/.398 (.700 OPS) that has been good for a wOBA of .306, which is 16 percent below average (84 wRC+).
Scaled per 650 plate appearances, Player X’s production rates per season come out to 18 home runs, 26.5 stolen bases, 82.5 runs, and 71 RBI. His fielding has been roughly league average over his career with his present team, during which he has amassed just under +1.50 WAR per 650 plate appearances.
Now, this player’s BABIP with his current team is only a cumulative .272, compared to a career BABIP of .310 and a current-team xBABIP of .325, but he is no spring chicken, and on the tail end of his prime (no longer in his 20s) at best. This player does not walk very much (approximately 6.5 percent walk rate), but also does not strike out very much (14.3 percent strikeout clip).
Knowing just the above, what is the most you would pay for this player at auction? (Assume a $260 budget, 12-team mixed league, with two catchers, corner and middle infielder requirements, and five outfielders.)
Would you rather have this person than Vernon Wells (on a .219 batting average, 30 home run, five stolen base, 93 runs, 80 RBI pace this year) or Jason Bay (.234 batting average, 12 home run, 18 stolen base, 80 run, 62 RBI pace)?
How about Angel Pagan (.250 batting average, seven home run, 35 stolen base, 78 run, 60 RBI pace), Bobby Abreu (.250 batting average, seven home run, 35 stolen base, 78 run, 60 RBI pace) or Torii Hunter (.242 batting average, 18 home run, five stolen base, 70 run, 82 RBI pace)?
Would you take him over Nationals outfielders Roger Bernadina or Michael Morse? Or how about even Laynce Nix? Or Pirates wildcard Jose Tabata (if healthy)? Would you trade Adam Dunn for him? Or Charlie Blackmon? On par with whom would you value Player X, who has produced an approximate .255 batting average, 18 home runs, 26.5 stolen bases, 82.5 runs, and 71 RBI “per season” (rated to 650 plate appearances)?
Make note of your answers to the above, and let’s dig a little deeper in to the month-by-month numbers. How do your value perceptions of Player X change, if at all, when I reveal his month-by-month production splits (NSB = Net Stolen Bases, or total steals minus caught stealing)?
Noting particularly that if you omit Months 03 and 04 from Player X’s production totals, his “cumulative” triple-slash line plummets to .242/.285/.357 (.642 OPS) with home run and stolen base rates per 650 plate appearances of 14 and 21.5 (6.5 NSB), respectively, now what say you of this player?
Would you still roster this player? What is the most you would pay for him on draft day now?
Try to guess the player.
If you guessed Alex Rios, then you are correct. You just got #Rongeyed.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments section below.