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Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I'm not quite sure of the fantasy impact this group may have overall, but excuse me for being smitten with the current outfield group of the Oakland Athletics. With the off-season additions of Coco Crisp and the newly signed Gabe Gross, the A's are all making a conservative effort to make sure a fly ball does not hit the ground at Coliseum.
As offensive players, all four rank eerily similar overall. Going down the list the career wOBA leaderboard is: Rajai Davis .330, Gross and Crisp at .325, and Ryan Sweeney at .322. None of them flash much power with Gross having shown the most pop from the bat.
In 2009, Davis had an above average .354 wOBA fueled by a .360 OBP. Buyer beware, his .366 BABIP and average walk totals suggest that is likely to regress. What likely won't regress is his speed; Davis is fast. According to speed score, he is like Carl Crawford/Michael Bourn fast. We all know fast doesn't necessarily lead to steals, but in Davis' case it does. He was just one of seven players to steal 40 or more bags in 2009 and did so with a 77% success rate.
Crisp has the most experience of the group and also has the more attractive career slash line of .277/.331/.407. That said, he is far from an offensive machine. I wouldn't put to much stock in his .228 batting average of 2009 since he did have a torn labrum in his shoulder and his BABIP was just .247. Although he is creeping up in age, Crisp will give you 20+ steals should he get enough playing time.
Ryan Sweeney opened eyes in 2009 with his 4.1 WAR season. Take a completely average bat (wOBA .330 in 2009) and add +20 defense and that's how you become a 4 WAR player. An above average defender in center field, Sweeney is likely to become one of the better defensive corner outfielders in the game. However, his bat, as mentioned above, is completely average and his speed is nowhere near Davis or even Crisp for that matter. In 282 games at the major league level he has just 22 stolen base attempts.
Satchel covered Gross's value yesterday. Oh-so-average Gabe is the ideal fourth member of the Oakland quartet. Sightly more powerful than his new teammates, Gross is a .240 hitter who takes his walks; not very sexy to a fantasy player. He is adequate enough defensively in center field to fill in, but is a +10 defender in the corners. Should Oakland have an injury in the outfield, Gross can easily be inserted in the lineup, and with some defensive shuffling, the team wouldn't miss a beat.
Of course this average offense plus very good defense sounds good in terms of real world value, but none of the above is really music to the fantasy crowd's ears. Because of his stolen base ability, Rajai Davis is clearly the best option of the group. If you trust Coco Crisp to remain heathly over the course of the season, he can give you some value as he'll rack-up some decent plate appearances and swipe a few bases. Sweeney is the most average of the group, and Gross is basically an older Sweeney on the bench.
I wouldn't pay this group much fantasy attention in terms of drafting, however, their impact on defense to a team that has Ben Sheets, Mike Wuertz, Dallas Braden, Vince Mazzaro and Andrew Bailey (all career FB% around 40%) may prove to have a different kind of fantasy value.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Taking a trip over to Mock Draft Central and looking over their ADP report can yield some interesting topics for discussion. For today's article I scanned furiously for players with relatively large differences in their highest and lowest draft positions, assuming these were players people are confused about.
Keeping in mind it only takes a lone nut to exaggerate the disparity between a player's highest and lowest draft position, let's begin our inspection of these players.
Jason Bartlett | ADP: 101 | Earliest: 56 | Latest: 133 |
Bartlett's breakout 2009 campaign has perhaps been overshadowed slightly by his sometimes-double play-partner Ben Zobrist's even more impressive season. Putting the spotlight on Bartlett though, he had a truly remarkable fantasy season, hitting .320 along with 14 home runs and 30 steals from the shortstop position! I didn't even own him last year in any league and those numbers still make me excited!
As far as replicating the past season in 2010, it is unlikely Bartlett fully retains the jump in both batting average and home runs he experienced. A .300 average and high single digit homers are not stretches though, and if you miss out on the elite shortstops, there are much worse things you could do than pull the trigger on Bartlett in the eighth to 10th round. As you can tell from my wording, I am not thrilled with picking him here, but then again it is hard to get thrilled over any shortstop not named Hanley. There is no shame in taking Bartlett around his 101 ADP, but do not reach for him as some people have since those people most likely are not going to be properly reimbursed for their fifth-round investment.
Jason Bay | ADP: 26 | Earliest: 18 | Latest: 46 |
Over the past five years, Bay has been one of the most dependable hitters in baseball, both in terms of production and time on the field. He has played in at least 145 games in all five seasons, hit 30 home runs and stole 10 bases in four of the five, reached 100 runs and RBIs in four of the five, and has hit above .285 for three of the five. Dependability like that might not be the most appealing—fantasy owners tend to love the lure of the undefined ceiling compared to the well-defined one Bay drags along—but at least come the end of the season there is a good chance Bay will not be on the list reasons why you did not win a championship (if you do not).
Bay's raw stat line does not justify a second-round selection, but his decent production coupled with his dependability make a third-round selection understandable and warrant a fourth-round one. While it may be more fun to draft that indefinite upside player, winning fantasy players will also be able to identify when the safe production from the proven veteran is worthy of being owned.
Michael Bourn | ADP: 68 | Earliest: 51 | Latest: 107 |
Bourn is a player I covered in this article and based off his current ADP of 68, you can see he is being drafted earlier than I would like in most drafts. Unless I feel my team is super-light on steals coming out of the early rounds, Bourn is getting picked a round or two earlier than I would prefer, though in some drafts he is falling as far as the ninth round. If I am in a draft and Bourn falls past the sixth, chances are I will pounce on the opportunity to secure my team's elite standing in steals with him in the seventh.
Chone Figgins | ADP: 79 | Earliest: 46 | Latest: 115 |
Of the players I've highlighted so far, Figgins is the one I understand the most why he is on this list. First of all, he is far from your prototypical third baseman, generating most of his value from his feet rather his arms. Figgins is a great contact hitter and although another season of a .280s to .290s batting average is in store, can we expect another season of 40-plus steals? Even 30-plus?
Not promising are the several factors working against him. First off his age, 32, certainly makes him a good candidate for a regression in steals totals. Next his stolen base success rate has fallen each of the past three years—from 77 to 72 to 71 percent—meaning he is approaching that point where it is no longer valuable to his team for him to steal. And finally he is leaving the aggressive base running environment of the Angels and heading to the Mariners, who most likely will be more conservative with him on base. When all of these factors are put together, I start to get the feeling Figgins will be lucky to break 25 steals in 2010.
Overall, Figgins is not somebody I would to reach for in drafts and even around his current ADP I am extremely hesitant to draft what I think will be mostly an empty batting average.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:50am
When dismissing the skills or impact of a player with an impressive statistical profile, mainstream baseball pundits often like to quip: “This isn’t fantasy baseball.” Such an inane rambling is usually followed by some nebulously baseball-relevant and platitudinal comment indicating David Eckstein’s superiority to Adam Dunn, to take an arbitrary example. (These commentators fail to realize that indomitable will to achieve mediocrity is a category in my league, and that Darren Erstad is also kicker-eligible in my fantasy football league.) Though it is true that some players are more valuable assets to a fantasy team than they are to an actual baseball, this door swings both ways.
The mainstream media often acts like we fantasy junkies are the only ones beholden to stats. However, it wasn’t the fantasy community who clamored for Jimmy Rollins to be chosen as the 2007 NL MVP, when he posted an OBP only .01 above the league average. It wasn’t us swooning over his 20-20-20-20 season, ignoring the fact that he made 527 outs in the process of compiling those numbers. It’s not only us who are gaga for numbers; the mainstream baseball community and its pundits are too. Further, I’d attest that most astute fantasy players know more about statistical analysis than the average mainstream pundit and therefore are savvy enough to appreciate a player’s common baseball card numbers for what they are, and attach no greater significance to them than they merit.
We know what a 40-40 season from Alfonso Soriano is worth in our game. We know that many of players' real faults are beneficial to their fantasy value. Soriano, for example, was never anything resembling a top 10 player in the actual, physical sport of baseball. This was something I never debated, even as I drafted him multiple times in the first round of drafts in the early to mid-2000s. High-level fantasy players are very smart and we are able to recognize disparities in player values in various arenas. We understand that fantasy and reality is not an apples to apples translation.
We know that Ichiro’s unwillingness to walk helps add even greater weight to his stellar batting average. We know that Jimmy Rollins and Soriano can pad their counting stats by not taking walks (though they might be able to make up for that value by stealing more bases and scoring more runs if they did). Therefore, Jimmy Rollins is an elite, top 15-ish fantasy baseball player, or was so going into last season. However, Jimmy Rollins is not really that good.
Even in his MVP season, Jimmy Rollins was not, by any means, one of the 15 best players in baseball; he was the second-best middle infielder on his team, and the second- or third-best shortstop in his own division. However, Rollins is not the type of player who is the target of the “this is not fantasy baseball” criticisms. (Those criticisms are usually reserved for high-slugging, high-OBP players who hit below .280.) Quite the opposite, Jimmy Rollins is the subject of endless hagiography by the mainstream baseball press. So, the next time you’re hanging with Joe Morgan and he tells you what a great ballplayer Jimmy Rollins is, you should calmly remark to Little Joe that “this is not fantasy baseball.”
I didn’t just write this whole preamble simply to imply that mainstream baseball pundits are often blowhards who don’t know much at all about how players actually accrue “value” and to advertise the superior knowledge of people like you and me. OK, maybe I did. But, I’m supposed to make the columns somehow practically relevant to your fantasy experience, so let me attempt to do that.
The hype surrounding a player, even for fantasy purposes, is not created in a vacuum. Even a fantasy columnist is subject to the unavoidable swell of opinions about players and their abilities. Most of these interpretations are not in the context of fantasy baseball, and are not based on statistically sound analysis. A player’s popularity and reputation is something that affects many draft decisions. And, even if you are astute enough to minimize its impact, it may affect your league mates. Few phenomena are more exploitable in fantasy sports than the gap between perception and reality. And, contrary to the proclamations by many of the baseball talking heads, in my anecdotal opinion, often it is actually the same players who are overrated and underrated by them who are overrated and underrated in terms of, say, ADP.
The over- or under-valuing of players often plays out in terms of archetype.
The following is a woefully incomplete list of some of the things that go into a player being overrated, offensively only. Some are relevant to fantasy baseball and some aren’t.
The following is the inverse list, an incomplete list of either undervalued offensive traits or traits that are perceived as being more hurtful to a player’s value than they really are.
If you start to think about the players that fit these respective lists, you’ll probably reach the realization that many of the players who fit the first list are actually often overdrafted in your fantasy leagues: Ichiro, Rollins, Jeter (underperformed ADP several years before last year’s resurgence), perhaps Jacoby Ellsbury in the near future. Many of the players who fit the second list are often bargains: Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Nick Markakis (disappointed a bit last year, but has that unsexy, yet valuable game).
I see a few valuable ways to use this information. Least relevant to fantasy baseball, but perhaps most personally gratifying, you can paraphrase this argument to debunk baseless potshots from traditionalists as projections of their own biases and simultaneous statistical fascination and illiteracy. … Look at us; we love non-meaningful, arbitrarily selected, round numbers!
In terms of budgeting, either by dollar bid or draft position, looking at the player’s archetype (along with overall popularity) can often give insight into whom you can lowball and whom you may have to be willing to reach a bit for. If you have calculated actual dollar values of rankings, perhaps you might want to mentally add or subtract 10% from those values to get a more accurate view of the actual market. You want to avoid putting yourself in a position where you need to acquire a skill set that is overvalued by the market, but sometimes you can’t avoid it, especially when it comes to star players. It’s easier to build your supporting cast on the cheap than it is to get bargains on the high-ticket players.
Another important skill this concept relates to is being able to view the fantasy advisory industry though the looking glass. Since we are generally sabermetrically oriented, but also aware that the currency of fantasy leagues isn’t Win Shares Above Bench, we’re probably equally likely to miss by over-predicting the production of a Chris Davis as we are to over-predict an Alexei Ramirez. We have to engage in something of a two-step process where we try to determine the core competency of a player in terms of value, and then extrapolate that into the less sound signifiers and juggle overlapping but differing ontologies (as long as we’re talking about archetypes, we might as well through around some semiotic terms, right…)
Your individual leagues are all microcosms of this larger dynamic, in which various streams of external opinion mix with self-possessed knowledge to form an ecosystem of perception and value. In fantasy baseball, the profits are always most easily made on the disparity between the market value of a commodity and the actual value of that commodity (either objectively, or in the specific context of your team). The fact that teams have equal financial/opportunistic resources mitigates the potential for an owner who surmises these gaps incorrectly to compensate for that. Therefore, it is important to determine patterns relating to how your leagues value different skill sets and players, as well as to find out where your league mates get their information. Some fantasy sites are big and influential enough that they themselves can begin to create echo chambers for their perceptions. One thing that’s great about THT is that you get highly regarded expert opinion, but it is still niche enough that every single one of your league mates isn’t reading the same exact articles. (Though they should be, gosh darn it!)
To sample the tried and true feeding/teaching proverb, it is more valuable to know how your opponent thinks in general, than it is to know what he thinks about any given issue. In the economy that is fantasy baseball, only knowledge that is predictive in nature has any long-term value.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:27am
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