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Thursday, March 29, 2012
In real baseball, hacking is a bad skill to have. Hackers are generally worse baseball players (save for the lucky few, like Josh Hamilton) who carry low on-base percentages and diminished offensive value.
But fantasy baseball is called "fantasy" for a reason. We don’t care about real-life production. Sure, it's nice to say that your team is full of .400 OBP guys, but Daric Barton’s .393 OBP in 2010 was worthless to virtually all of you—even if you were in an OBP league.
This time of year, especially, its important to keep this in mind. Every spring, it seems like there are a dozen or so players who are set for a "big year" because they've revamped their plate approach and are now more disciplined hitters. While this will make them better real-life players, it isn't guaranteed to make them better fantasy players.
In fact, improved plate discipline can actually hurt your player’s value—significantly. I repeat: in fantasy, patience is NOT a virtue.
Take talented hacker Josh Hamilton for example.
Going in the third to fourth round in mixed leagues, Hamilton never gets enough credit for how much he hacks—and how much it helps his counting stats, batting average, and your team.
A prolific free-swinger, in 2011, he had the fourth highest swing percentage (57.1 percent), 11th highest O-Swing percentage (41.0 percent), and the highest Z-Swing percentage in the league (81.7 percent).
Regressing Hamilton's plate discipline characteristics and batted ball profile, the outfielder carried an expected line of .288/.357/.526 with 28 home runs over 650 plate appearances in 2011.
While conventional wisdom states that he would be more valuable if he could tone down that approach and get more selective, the opposite is true. If Hamilton were to instead adopt merely league average discipline at the plate (30.6 O-Swing percentage and 65.0 Z-Swing percentage), he would carry an expected .269/.376/.508 line with just 24.5 home runs. That's a drop of 3.5 home runs and almost 20 points in batting average.
Sure, his OBP improves and his walk rate goes up by almost five percent (7.0 percent to 11.8 percent), but that doesn’t matter in fantasy. Though he will earn a few extra runs from the OBP, that will be completely washed out—and then some—with the drop in home runs and batting average… and RBI as well.
Plugging the two Josh Hamiltons into the cleanup slot in Texas’ 2011 lineup, we regress the following overall lines:
Hacking Josh Hamilton: 98.5 R, 28.0 HR, 106.5 RBI, 9.5 SB, .2877 AVG
Disciplined Josh Hamilton: 101.5R, 24.5 HR, 93.7 RBI, 9.5 SB, .2694 AVG
Valuewise, these are two vastly different players. Hamilton the Hacker grades out at 4.77 points above average (12-team leagues) at FantasyPlayerRater.com, while Hamilton the Patient is worth 2.90 points. Both players are excellent, but that two-point difference is about the same as moving from Justin Upton (5.23 points as per Rotochamp projections) to Hunter Pence (3.35 points as per Rotochamp).
So, to all fantasy players, I say this:
LET ‘EM HACK!
Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, CarGo, Eric Hosmer, Ichiro, Mark Trumbo, Brandon Phillips, and anyone else with those care-free, free-swinging ways...
LET THEM HACK!
Before I ignite the fury of commenters everywhere, I would like to lay down one caveat: yes, it is a reasonable assumption that improved pitch selectivity will lead to a more efficient player—i.e. higher BABIP and higher HR/FB, which will even out the fewer balls in play.
However, for Hamilton to reach 28 home runs with his new approach, he would have to raise his HR/FB ratio from 16.4 percent to 19.3 percent—a huge gain. To get the batting average back, he would have to gain 40 points on his BABIP. Those are colossal improvements. And that doesn’t take into account that he may merely lose out on power or BABIP because he’s moving away from his natural tendencies and becoming a less aggressive hitter.
So, if your favorite manager starts talking about improve plate discipline leading to a breakout season for one of your players, think again—and get ready to use it against your competition.
Posted by Mike Silver at 6:44am
Diversifying your portfolio is one of the most basic tricks of the trade in the stock market. If you don’t bank too much on a single company’s success, but rather create a portfolio of varied, cross-industry stocks, the old adage says that you’ll succeed. In it’s most basic and unscientific form, is the same strategy worthwhile?
Pictured below are some pretty pie graphs of my draft breakdown thus far in 2012. I’ve drafted in five out of the seven leagues I’m participating in this year, and found myself building a core, generally, around a whole slew of different guys each time.
Is that a keen strategy—using my end game, and even centerpiece picks, on a variety of guys, assuring—in theory—the chances for success? Or, like in Vegas when you’re feeling good about a certain game or a certain line, should I have “whacked” a certain player, gone all-in, and drafted him in every single league (say, an Alejandro de Aza, Cory Luebke, or Carlos Gonzalez, all of whom I own in three out of five leagues so far)?
I own 16 percent of my hitters in more than one league, and 23 percent of my pitchers twice or more, for reference. But it all comes down to personal preference. Feeling a big year coming from Carlos Gonzalez like I do? Not so risk-averse? Bid him up in every league and put all your money where your mouth is.
My personal bend is to diversify my assets and simply look for the best deals where available. This draft season, I’ve found my strategy pretty straightforward and repetitive: draft a couple of studs, spend a good deal on pitching, but generally hold my money until the mid-range players come around and buy whomever I choose. Jordan Zimmermann and Cory Luebke, to a certain extent, fit that mold; I’m not targeting them, but they’re falling to me. I’m paying less for their value than what I should, and that, in it’s simplest form, is how to win any given league.
A couple of reminders when chasing a player you love:
What’s the difference?I’ve seen, by nature of participating in a good number of drafts over the past few weeks, a bunch of guys bid past the projected value of a player on a site like Yahoo, only to be pushed one number further and drop out. Sometimes—and this is what doesn’t work for me—the chat box will read, from the recently outbid, “I was willing to go (insert arbitrary number here) but wasn’t willing to go (insert arbitrary number plus another bid, usually $2) on him.” Err… If you’re willing to spend $27 on Clayton Kershaw, for example, but aren’t willing to spend $29 on him, you’re letting self-doubt rule the day. I’d put the likelihood that Kershaw’s actual value lies in the $27-$29 range at “very low.” What one is really thinking when they self-confirm their dropping out of the bidding is, I’d think, “Crap, maybe I oughtta spend my money elsewhere! Or let this guy or gal with a fat stack left burn some of their cash so I can have the most money left!” Don’t self-doubt, and don’t back down at such levels. Target your guys and go get ‘em.