In Praise Of Unsexy Balance

Fantasy gamers have a healthy appreciation for eye-popping statistical achievements like 40 HR or 30 SB, tempted by the allure of a batter whose contributions at the plate promise single category nirvana.

These statistical achievements, however, come at a cost.

A batter like Adam Dunn takes his fantasy team closer to the top of the league’s HR pack. A ballplayer like Ichiro Suzuki can use his swift feet to march his fantasy team up the steals race. Both of these players, and many others, have statistical downsides to their accomplishments. With Dunn, it’s poor average. Any team that rosters Dunn will need several bonafide average studs to balance his yearly flirtation with the Mendoza Line. As for Ichiro, any team that rosters him will need to have high-powered sluggers to make up for the outfielder’s woeful HR and RBI totals.

Maybe Dunn and Ichiro are a fantasy baseball love-match made in heaven. That’s one way to look at it, and certainly, a great deal of teams this summer will try rostering both as teammates.

That strategy opens up some risk, however. A team comprised of single-dimension superstars will face an upward hill toward success should any of his players suffer injury, disappointment, or any other misfortunes.

Instead, some may wish to pay more attention to the ramifications of negative value, and strive towards a balanced roster that’s a lot less sexy in its embrace of the average.

What’s average?

In a 12-team league, an average player might be expected to produce something along the order of 20 HR, 77 RBI, 81 R, 12 SB, and a .285 AVG.

A team comprised of players who each come close to these totals will typically go a long way towards wrapping up a fantasy title, become more resistant to injuries and disappointments, and allow teams to make changes as needed on the fly.

Here’s our All Star Team of Statistical Balance heading into the 2009 season:

C: Russell Martin
1B: Joey Votto
2B: Brandon Phillips
SS: Jimmy Rollins
3B: Adrian Beltre
OF: Hunter Pence
OF: Torii Hunter
OF: Jay Bruce

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Comments

  1. Dave R said...

    Great thought piece.  Inspecting the OFs in the lineup, it strikes me that perhaps there are superior, balanced players such as Carlos Beltran, Nate McLouth, and Corey Hart just off the top of my head.  Were Pence/Hunter/Bruce meant to represent the baseline talent level for that position?

  2. birk said...

    Dave, you’re right about Beltran, McLouth and Hart being superior, but I think he was trying to match each player to the average player of 20 HR, 77 RBI, 81 R, 12 SB, and .285 AVG.

  3. Paul Sporer said...

    I’m a big fan of the power-speed combos in early rounds like Sizemore, Granderson, McLouth, Beltran, Soriano etc… but you certainly can’t forget the guys that derive a great deal of their value from two categories like Dunn (HR & RBI).  I think you inappropriately pegged Ichiro as a one-category maven when he is actually very good in three: R, SB and AVG. 

    “Any team that rosters Dunn will need several bonafide average studs to balance his yearly flirtation with the Mendoza Line.”

    The keyword here is several.  You really don’t need several to offset Dunn unless you also have Cust and Jacobs, too.  The impact of one batting average anchor is vastly overrated these days which makes those three along with Giambi and Reynolds (and others) very good values since they can be had so late.  (Batting Average Anchors: Myth?)

  4. Adam said...

    I also agree about there being better balanced players out there.  Perhaps this is an example balanced roster for a fantasy team?  With the given roster, that seems to definitely be a possibility.

  5. Mark said...

    I’m curious where the “average” stat line came from. It specifies a 12 team league “average” player, but of course the “average” OF is going to have a better stat line than the “average” C. What’s the point in average all the positions together? If you have an OF with that average line listed above, he’s actually probably below average. If you have a C with that line, he’s above average.

    Anyway, I understand the gist of the article, but I think it would be more helpful and illuminating if that average stat line was explained in a bit more detail.

  6. Jon said...

    First thing that I noticed was how NL oriented the list was, I wonder if this is a fluke coincidence or something more to the NL and players at a the certain level.

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