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Monday, November 09, 2009
Jonathan Halket’s recent column has emboldened me. I have something of a rant to let loose as well, also aimed at “fantasy gurus.” Actually, this isn’t so much of a rant as it is a piece of advice to those who may read the results of all-“expert” drafts. So, heed the following sentence.
Internal politics and self-interest are involved in making picks in drafts whose results will be published on well-trafficked fantasy baseball sites.
Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not accusing any of these people of colluding, deliberately misleading their readerships, or any overtly conspiratorial behavior. What I am saying is simply that correctly identifying breakouts is seen as the type of accomplishment on which fantasy guru reputations are staked and grown in the mainstream fantasy community. Sensibly drafting a team of boring, but solidly matched and reliable veterans is not seen as sexy. Nobody exhibits a palpable aura of excitement when landing Bobby Abreu in their fantasy draft (except me, I love owning Abreu). For this reason, you will see many young, burgeoning stars, or stars-to-be get over-drafted in these all-expert leagues. Yet, this is something that people don’t seem to acknowledge in any meaningful way.
I remember watching a preview of the 2005 season in which a roundtable of pundits were making their MVP predictions. When it came to the AL, the usual suspects were thrown out there, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and so forth. Then, one guy nominated, in seeming sincerity, Bobby Crosby. Crosby was coming off of a Rookie of the Year season and appeared to have a bright future ahead. But, nobody could have truly thought of him as a viable MVP candidate.
Most astute observers don’t think anything of these instances. Personally, I figured the show’s producers had stipulated that one of the non-sacred pundits had to throw out a highly controversial, and somewhat unrealistic nomination just to drive discussion and for the purposes of saying something that everybody watching at home didn’t already know. That’s par for the course after all.
When a fantasy guru publishes the results of a draft in which he drafts Alexei Ramirez with something like the 35th pick in the draft, he’s not doing quite the same thing as the Crosby nominator, and it’s certainly not as choreographed and premeditated, but he is, to some degree, “making a statement.” In fact, he’s likely doing two things.
The first thing he’s likely doing is putting his money where his mouth is. He’s likely talked up this player in the run up to draft time, and he’s showing his readership that he truly believes. That’s laudable in theory, but often the guru has stretched to get the player in question, which gives a false impression of that player’s value (and maybe even that guru’s level of expectation for that player).
The second thing he may be doing—and this is the dangerous one—is falling victim to the experts’ echo chamber. Every year there are a few darlings of the “expert” community. For some reason that maybe Malcolm Gladwell can explain, but I can’t, these players start out as potential breakout stars and throughout the preseason ascend experts’ pre-draft ranks at a remarkable pace only to end up in a ridiculous position. Two good examples of this last year were Chris Iannetta and Chris Davis and they both busted.
It is the young possible-but-not-definite studs the experts are in fiercest competition for. And, in pursuit of these players and the potential glory associated with being able to lay claim to landing them, the gurus often outsmart themselves.
As a tangential point to this whole discussion I want to address one more thing you commonly see when these gurus post round-by-round recaps of their all-expert league drafts. Frequently, you will read the author of such columns make a comment along the lines of, “I thought I might be reaching a little here, but I really wanted this player and knew he wouldn’t be available at my next pick.” I don’t understand how that is a viable defense of the pick being discussed. Either you reached, or you didn’t. As I read them, these types of comments reinforce my point about gurus feeling they have to draft guys they talk up for purposes of accountability, even if that player doesn’t represent the best pick.
The way I see it is very simple. Generally speaking, I don’t like or dislike players themselves; the question is the price I’m willing to pay for a player. So, to say that I wanted player X, and I had to take him here makes no sense to me. At every price point or numbered pick in a draft, there are multiple players that are perfectly defensible choices on their own merits. Did you pick one of those players or not? In your mind, does the player you selected have as good a chance as anybody else out there at proving to be the most valuable player (at least to your team) among those currently available? If you want player X, but he’s not one of those players, it makes no difference if that was your last chance to draft that player, no? Am I missing something?
This whole semi-rant comes back to two main points.
One, it’s unwise to pay premium prices for potential. In the early stages of the draft you are investing in production, but you are also paying for reliability. That’s what a blue-chip stock is; a relatively non-volatile investment that history dictates will be a sound long-term asset.
Two, a player’s projected production or ADP doesn’t really mean anything in terms of determining whether you got value by acquiring that player. The only value you accrue is the difference between the overall production the player gives you and the price you actually paid for him. A “sleeper” is only a “sleeper” if he’s drafted as such. If you think player X is undervalued at 60, and you draft him at 30, he now has to produce at that level to be a sound investment for you. If he gives you 45th pick value, you were right about your initial read, but you still made a bad pick.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 3:28am
While Evan Longoria was only drafted one year after Ryan Zimmerman he has spent a few extra years in the minors. Zimmerman has three extra seasons in the majors and 1,447 more plate appearances. That makes it so much more interesting that the two posted such similar lines in 2009. Then when we look even deeper they match in plenty of their underlying numbers. They might be the ultimate version of 2009 Clones.
Name R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG BB% K% Ryan Zimmerman 110 33 106 2 .292 .364 .525 10.6% 19.5% Evan Longoria 100 33 113 9 .281 .364 .526 11.0% 24.0%
There were some doubts about Zimmerman after the torn labrum last season, but he came back even better than before. His SLG jumped more than 50 points from his best full season and his eye had improved with his best ever walk rate. He did have Adam Dunn behind him this year, which had to help him get some better pitches, but that doesn't really explain the better walk rate.
This year Zimmerman has cut down on his swing percentage going from a 43+% swing rate in his career to only 39% this year. This was beneficial in his swings out of the zone dropping to 21 percent. It will be interesting to see what he does with this going forward as the drop in swings has not improved his contact. His contact rate on pitches in the zone dropped to a career low of 87.1 percent.
He still has time to grow in his power, but a word of caution for his 33 homers this year is his 14 "just enough" homers according to HitTrackeronline. That is a 42 percent rate, which is far above the league average and a sign he could regress in 2010, but don't rule out his power growing as he ages toward his prime years.
Did the Tampa Bay Rays make the right or wrong choice by holding Longoria back longer then Washington did with Zimmerman? Probably not since he was a big contributor in their World Series appearance of 2008, but even if he had not signed such a team-friendly deal he would have had more of his prime years covered by arbitration.
Longoria had a few extra homers from last year, but that was with 35 extra games this season. Most of his numbers are very similar to last year, but with the added games played to increase the totals. The one number that took a step forward was his walk rate going from 9.3 percent last year to 11 percent. His OBP responded by going from .343 to a much improved .364.
His speed has continued to surprise as he only totaled eight steals in 205 minor league games. Now he has totaled more steals in 2009 then all his time in the minors. This would lead me to expect him to stay at or below this number, but with him yet to get caught stealing, either, I see no reason to slow him down.
You could call these players even in 2009 as they matched most stats, but Longoria had a few more steals and Zimmerman had a better batting average. They still have plenty of years before they even hit their prime, but I think Longoria has the track record to support the power numbers going forward. If these two are of similar value in your league then go with Longoria first with Zimmerman being a solid second choice. I don't think you can go wrong with either one, but would go with the one who has done this before.
This is not related to fantasy, but the elite defense of these two players has been amazing as well. They both totaled UZR/150 over 19 and that helped them match each other in WAR at 7.1 and 7.2. They really are clones this season. Perhaps only their contracts split them as Longoria has an extremely team-friendly deal with options out till 2015.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 3:04am
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