First Look Back

In this time of the fantasy baseball season, there isn’t much left to do. If you’re in contention, you are pretty much stuck with the team you have now (it’s worked well enough for you so far), but never be afraid to reach for that hot hitter and never ignore borderline guys like Vicente Padilla, who is a two-start pitcher facing the Mariners and A’s this week. Articles like this can help you with that. If you’re out of contention, there really isn’t anything left to do and you’re probably preoccupied with your football team anyway.

However, for a fantasy baseball addict like myself, the season never ends. It goes something like this:

image

As you can see, fantasy baseball is a year-round activity—the season never really ends. One season just leads to another, though you are certainly more active during the “regular season.” Even though the fantasy season is in full swing for those lucky and skilled enough, it is not too early to take our first look back on the season. Appropriately, we’ll start by reviewing this year’s first basemen in our “first” look. However, before we can review what the slugging first basemen did this season, we must first revisit the expectations bestowed upon them in the preseason.

Numbers

For this I will use Razzball’s rankings because their archives are easier to negotiate than some of the bigger sites, they give concrete projects besides just rankings, and they are a good fantasy baseball site in my opinion. Here is how the guys at Razzball projected the first basemen back in early January:

 pRank  Actual Rank     Player        pR       pHR     pRBI    pAvg
   1        1      Albert Pujols     110      40       115    0.300
   2        13     Prince Fielder    115      50       125    0.285
   3        7       Ryan Howard      100      50       140    0.275
   4       N/A     Travis Hafner     100      40       110    0.300
   5        4      Mark Teixeira     110      35       120    0.305
   6        11       Derrek Lee      110      30       115    0.290
   7        2      Lance Berkman     100      30       115    0.310
   8        5      Justin Morneau    90       35       110    0.275
   9        8     Adrian Gonzalez    90       33       105    0.280
   10      N/A      Paul Konerko     90       35       110    0.275
   11       18      Carlos Pena      85       22       80     0.260
   12      N/A      Todd Helton      90       15       90     0.315
   13       24     Carlos Guillen    95       15       75     0.300
   14       6      Kevin Youkilis    115      21       90     0.290
   15       23      Nick Swisher     95       30       100    0.275
   16       21      Mike Jacobs      70       30       95     0.285
   17       10     Carlos Delgado    70       28       95     0.260
   18      N/A      Adam LaRoche     70       27       100    0.265
   19       20      James Loney      95       22       95     0.315
   20      N/A     Casey Kotchman    80       22       80     0.300

As you can see, the top projected first basemen did not perform very well as a whole. Of the players ranked in the top five, only two remain. And from the top ten, there are six. Only one of the four players that dropped out of the top ten because of injuries, and that was Travis Hafner. The other three—Prince Fielder, Derrek Lee, and Paul Konerko—have had disappointing seasons with the exception of Lee, who is currently ranked 11th. The most telling stat from the table is that only six of the 20 players held or increased their preseason ranking

There is no encompassing reason for this lack of success, but it should be noted that as a group, first basemen have not produced this season to their standards. My guess is that this decrease in production is especially noticeable in first basemen’s home run totals. Here is a breakdown of each position’s average home run output in 2007 and then 2008:

 2007   Avg HR                   2008   Avg HR
   1B    20.88                     1B    19.23
   3B    18.00                     3B     15.5
   OF    16.70                     OF    15.24
   SS    12.03                     C     10.22
   2B    11.58                     2B     8.98
   C     11.57                     SS     8.06

Much to my surprise and slightly to my disappointment, first basemen have actually pulled away from the other positions in terms of home run power. I was very surprised at the results of this. It is important to note that the numbers for 2008 are not projected to the end of the season, so don’t compare between years per se.

Conclusions

Well, we found out that using a top pick on a first basemen this year was probably not a great investment. However, I have yet to run this type of analysis on the other positions, so for all I know more projected top 10 players could drop out … we will see. Those articles will probably come out when the season ends and stats are finalized; it just makes things easier. I admit this article was a bit premature, but at least now you know some of what’s to come in the offseason. Although as I mentioned before, the fantasy baseball season never really ends.

References and Resources

Thanks again to Razzball, I hope I didn’t make their preseason rankings look too bad. And I also used FanGraphs to get the average home run production by position.

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