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Monday, December 07, 2009
Does hometown bias exist in fantasy baseball? If it does, this is obviously something you can use to your advantage when predicting where players will be drafted and when putting together trade offers.
Among casual fantasy players, it seems self-evident that hometown bias exists. However, most of us are in leagues that are pretty competitive. So, at that level, does this bias exist? It would be wonderful if there was some huge databank of fantasy drafts to study this, or if the folks at Harvard would add something like this to their implicit association study. However, neither of these are the case, so we’re left to think about this question anecdotally. So, I’m enlisting our wonderful and knowledgeable readers to chime in on this question because our collective anecdotal evidence has to be better than any of our individual anecdotal evidence.
First, let me offer a couple of thoughts about my experiences regarding hometown players. I live in Queens, New York and root for the Mets, I play in five leagues regularly and I’d estimate that approximately 80–85 percent of the participants in these leagues root for either the Mets or Yankees. Not all of the league participants live in New York City, but most do. Some are transplanted New York residents who have taken their team allegiances on the road. Others have moved to New York, and brought their attachment to their non-New York teams with them.
I am pretty successful when it comes to playing fantasy baseball, and I’ve noticed I rarely own hometown players. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Trying to observe the phenomenon of hometown fantasy bias in New York is a bit difficult, as there just happens to be an inordinate amount of elite fantasy talent on the Mets and Yankees. (Actually, this doesn’t just “happen to be,” the geographically disproportionate skew of talent clearly relates to New York teams’ payrolls.)
It’s hard to say somebody is guilty of using hometown bias to overdraft David Wright, Jose Reyes, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Johan Santana or C.C. Sabathia. And, I’m not sure I can even recall specific draft picks that I thought were egregious examples of hometown bias in my past league experiences. Still, the two statements remain true. I do very well in my leagues, which largely consist of Mets and Yankees fans. I rarely own Mets or Yankees. Intuitively, it just feels like there has to be something to this.
I don’t specifically try to avoid New York players, by any means. I just try to be objective as possible. I consider the stadium and teammates of a player when assessing his value, but at draft time I treat players almost exclusively as data sets. So, I do my best to just ignore whether a player plays for my team or not.
Frankly, there could be advantages to owning hometown players, so it’s only fair to mention them. Three of them strike me immediately.
It is easier to follow the developments regarding hometown players and you are likely to know more nuanced information about them. I’m not sure everybody knows how drastic Lance Berkman’s switch-hitting power splits are, but I’d guess that if you root for the Astros you do. It might be shocking to suggest it wise to platoon a player against left-handed pitching , when he sports a career OPS+ of 147 over more than 1,500 games, but if you’re from Houston, you’re probably nodding. Obviously, it is also easier to follow news regarding injuries and battles for playing time on your home team.
For some, it is just simply more fun to root for players they root for in real life. No matter how seriously we all take fantasy baseball it is supposed to be fun. However, there are counterarguments to the idea that owning hometown players makes fantasy baseball more fun. For one, part of the benefit of playing fantasy baseball is that it forces you to learn more about other players and other teams, thus increasing your appreciation for the sport in general. Also, the laws of relativity apply to fantasy baseball. As great as it was to own Santana and watch him jump out to a .5-ish ERA over his first five or six starts, it was equally disheartening watching him robbed of win after win, turn in many disappointing performances mid-season, and ultimately hit the disabled list. It hurt on two levels.
Considering your leaguemates may have hometown biases, it may also be easier to trade hometown players. Owners less familiar with “foreign” studs may not trust their value, especially when it comes to breakouts. Presumably, Kendry Morales’ hometown fans were conditioned to expect big things from him and became believers in his skills earlier than others.
These points having been stated, if hometown bias is real and you have to bump up your own team’s players to draft them, I hardly think the marginal advantage of being more easily able to follow the news about such players is enough to justify making that move.
So what are your experiences with drafting hometown players? Do you make a concerted effort to draft them, or to avoid them? Do you think hometown bias infiltrates the decisions your leaguemates make on draft day? And, finally, would you posit an inverse relationship between a fantasy player’s overall proclivity for drafting hometown players and his team performances, as a trend?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:59am
This weekend I spent a lot of time looking at Jason Bay. Over at Yawkey Way Academy I took a look at Bay compared to Pat Burrell at age 31. Then when deciding who to look at here I found 2009 Bay could have been swapped with Adam Dunn. We won't look at defense here, but it's safe to say Bay was safe from a Dunn comparison out there.
R HR RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bay 103 36 119 13 0.267 0.384 0.537 0.397 Dunn 81 38 105 0 0.267 0.398 0.529 0.394
As with defense we just have to address that Bay has better speed than Dunn. While Dunn has previously stolen as many as 19 bases, he was unable to steal any in 2009. That isn't why you would have Dunn on your team anyway, but the few extra steals didn't hurt. Bay has posted double digits for two years straight and the two years before his dismal 2007.
Before 2009 Bay had a better average and would avoid comparisons to Dunn, but in 2009 his strikeout rate jumped to 30.4%. That is what mostly accounted for the .267 average this year and with continued age Bay shouldn't expect to get better at making contact. Dunn, on the other hand, has always hacked away and his strikeout rate matched his career rate at 32.4%. His average improved with a BABIP at .326, which was up from his career rate of .294. This shouldn't last since he's in a neutral park after years in a huge hitters' park.
One of the biggest changes to put these two so close was the growth in walk rate for Bay. His career rate stands at 12.9 percent, but was at 15 percent in 2009 and helped post a solid OBP. I worry about his newfound ability to walk so much even though adding walks often comes with age. His swinging rates stayed at career levels for pitches in and out of the zone while he made less contact on all pitches. He walked more, though, with his lowest number of pitches seen in the zone. He only saw 48 percent of pitches in the strike zone, which from his career rate is more than 100 pitches less in the zone.
Since Bay is possibly changing teams it may make this comparison even more interesting. If he ends up in a lineup devoid of talent like Washington he could suddenly lose a lot of value with dropping run and RBI totals. He posted third-round value in 2009, but could he suddenly fall to seventh-round value like Dunn if he can't be counted on in these categories?
I don't think Bay has too much risk of seeing a lineup as bad as the Nationals and should maintain more value next year, but it is something to keep in mind. The other thing to be aware of, especially in keeper leagues, is that Bay might someday be pushed to DH. I know I said I would pass on defensive comparisons, but the truth is both Bay and Dunn should be DHs at this point in their careers. Bay is not as egregious as Dunn in the outfield, but his trend of posting UZR/150 numbers worse than -10 is costing his team. If either player ends up in a full-time DH spot they lose some value in your league. For 2010, though, Dunn holds a slight bonus with first base eligibility and outfield.
To their teams they add similar value offensively, but fantasy wise Bay is still the better bet. You have to pay for that, though, and you should be cautious until you know what team he is playing for. A move to a weaker offense or a pitchers' park would do serious damage to his value. If you drafted today, how much would you lower your expectations for Bay not knowing where he would end up?
Posted by Troy Patterson at 5:20am
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