They do not stand out in any one category, but these players contribute in all categories. Who are the players that offer the most consistently adequate production across the board, yet do not display flashing skills in any one of the five fantasy categories? I’ve taken a look at the 2009 season numbers to find these players—these kings of above-averageness.
I started with an arbitrary threshold of 400 plate appearances. Yeah, I hate those too, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere on what constitutes playing almost a full season. That left me with 222 players who amassed 400 PAs in 2009. Then I ranked the players number 1 through 222 in the five main hitting categories, I’m sure you know what they are—runs, home runs, RBI, steals, and batting average.
Anyone in the bottom 50 percent in any category got thrown out, and anyone in the top 25 percent of any category was tossed as well.
After first eliminating players by their run totals, I was left with 60 players, ranging from a slew of players with 72 runs just inside the top 50% to Skip Schumaker, Justin Morneau and Franklin Gutierrez, whose 86 runs were just outside the top 25%. For players with 400 plate appearances, Geoff Blum and Cesar Izturis got the fewest runs, with 34 each. They get eight runs per 100 PAs, compared to Albert Pujols, who gets 18 runs per 100 of his plate appearances.
Next the players outside the 25-50 percent range in home runs were dropped, leaving 15 players remaining. Hanley Ramirez headed a group of seven players with 24 home runs who were the first outside the top 25%. At least 15 home runs were required to be in the top half of home run hitters. Only one player with 400 plate appearances did not hit a home run in 2009, and not surprisingly that player was Juan Pierre.
Everyone’s favorite stat, RBI, was next. Required to be in the range was between 86 and 66 RBI. Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard continued their slugging ways in 2009, tying for the league lead with 141. Willy Taveras and his .259 wOBA accrued an astounding 15 RBI. Despite that total, he did not have the largest discrepancy between his run and RBI totals—that title belongs to Michael Bourn with his 97 runs and 35 RBI.
You guessed it, stolen bases are next. Less than 15 steals and more than five steals were the stipulations, and 60 players met them. Exactly 25 players with the required 400 PAs got zero steals in 2009, and 63 percent of players were in the single digits in steals totals.
Finally I came to batting average—a little weary at this point—but nevertheless managed to determine a .294 to .274 batting average were within the 25-50 percent range. The difference between the league-leader in batting average, Joe Mauer and his .364 average, and the league-laggard, Jason Varitek and his .209 average, is .155 points of average. Over 442 at-bats (which is the average of Mauer and Varitek’s at-bats) that difference equates to 69 hits. Yes, a lot.
Now for the question that should be on everyone’s mind: Has any player made it through all five cuts? The answer, thankfully, is yes. In fact two players have survived, one is Adam Jones and the other is Jeff Francoeur. Here is what these two player’s stat lines looked like this year:
+----------------+----+----+-----+----+-------+ | Name | R | HR | RBI | SB | AVG | +----------------+----+----+-----+----+-------+ | Adam Jones | 83 | 19 | 70 | 10 | 0.277 | | Jeff Francoeur | 72 | 15 | 76 | 6 | 0.280 | +----------------+----+----+-----+----+-------+
Interestingly Jones’ and Francoeur’s seasons followed opposite paths. Jones kicked off the season hot and finished May as one of the best hitters in baseball. From that point on, however, he cooled off significantly until his season ended in early September because of an ankle injury.
Conversely Francoeur got off to a slow start with Atlanta, at midseason was traded to the rival Mets in the swap for Ryan Church, and then proceeded to have his best two months of the season—August and September—in New York.
It is not my intention to draw any type of conclusions about these two players, like whether they are over- or under-valued. Generalizations of the sort are usually better handled on a case-by-case basis. What probably is true about these type of players is that they have slightly lower fade rates because they have multiple skills to fall back on if one falters.
And for those interested, the next closest player was Mike Cameron, who would have made the cut were it not for his .250 batting average. Oh well.