What on Earth happened?

At the end of each season I like to take stock of what went right and wrong with my fantasy teams and figure out where my strategy and approach needs mending. This season, in my home league I’ve committed two or three crucial errors that I hope not to repeat in the future.

My home league is a 12 team, 6×6 league with holds for pitchers and walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/SO) for batters as the extra stats. I’ve had some good luck and bad luck along the way and I’ve made a few trades that I think were pretty good. The first place team is performing lights-out and probably even without my errors I couldn’t have caught him, but I may have finished in the money at least.

I did pretty well in most of the categories but I am going to finish last in two: stolen bases and BB/SO. If I’d been middle of the pack in those two, I’d have been in much better shape. So what happened? I made three types of errors—all of them I already knew but didn’t think about them enough at draft time:

Error 1: The bigger they are, the heavier they fall.

Adam Dunn has been a starting outfielder for me for the whole season. He strikes out a lot, but in past seasons he also walked a lot. In 2009 his BB/SO was .665, which would have been good enough for first place all on its own in my league this year (of course this year is the year of the pitcher). But this year, his BB/SO is .402. Worse, since he strikes out so much, his .402 has had an outsize effect on my total ratio.

I’m not sure that I could’ve forecasted his plummeting BB/KO, but I should’ve been extra careful with him given that he was going to have a large impact on my overall stats.

Error 2: Good things don’t always come in pairs.

Jay Bruce is another fellow who’s been in outfield the whole year. After a 2009 that paired a wrist injury with a .222 BABIP, hopes were high for the young lefty. Indeed his batting average has rebounded nicely. But his BB/SO has not. In fact it has gone down.

The lesson here is that different skills don’t always develop at the same speed for the same player and rebounds in one area certainly don’t mean that they’ll rebound in other areas.

Error 3: One-dimensional players can quickly become invisible.

Rounding out my outfield to start the season was Julio Borbon and Matt Kemp with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gomez on my bench. I was hoping that Borbon and Jose Reyes would provide the bulk of my steals needs with Kemp adding a nice amount and Fowler and Gomez as potential backup/breakout players. As it turned out, Borbon couldn’t hit a lick and was not terribly successful at actually stealing a base even when he managed to get on base. Same with Kemp. Same with Fowler. Same with Gomez (he’s the only one of the four that doesn’t get caught stealing far too often).

I knew that Borbon, Fowler and Gomez were all risky. I had hoped that at least one of them would stick in his respective lineup. However, speed demons that can’t get on base easily lose playing time. I managed to quickly replace Borbon with Corey Hart as a free agent pick-up. Since Hart was basically free for me, it is difficult for me to look this gift horse in the mouth. He’s more than compensated in terms of overall value but alas wasn’t going to (and didn’t) help me in the stats that I needed to shore up – stolen bases and BB/SO.

I tried to trade Hart or Bruce and eventually even Dunn to mend my broken BB/SO ratio but all the good potential trading partners weren’t in a position to take a hit to their BB/SO ratio either. They were almost untrade-able but still too valuable to sit given what was available on the waiver wire. And that’s the thing about the BB/SO stat: it is the kind of stat that a player can be terrible in but still extremely valuable in the typical stats, essentially making the player irreplaceable but also poisonous.

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  1. Jonathan Sher said...

    A few observations:

    (1) Dunn’s bb-rate fell more than could have been anticipated outcome and is mostly responsible for the falling BB/SO ratio. While I would have expected some regression because he fared better in that area in 2009 than in his career, I don’t think anyone could have forecast the magnitude.

    (2) Bruce is another matter. While his BB/SO dropped this year it’s was still higher than in his last three years in the minors and his first in the majors — it’s the second highest in five years. His BA has rebounded because he was incredibly unlucky in 2009 as reflected in his BABIP. Your mistake may have been assuming that only the latter was prone to regression.

    (3) I got burned on Bourbon too, expecting some regression but not as much early on. He actually hasn’t hit that badly since a slow start – .292 after April – but he was caught stealing often early on and Ron Washington hasn’t given him much of a green light to run since—his attempts are way down. As for Gomez, he was high on my list of players to avoid like the plague. He had shown in 1,100 ABs that he is much more likely than not to killed BA and BB/SO. Fowler seemed like a reasonable risk on the bench and Kemp’s struggles weren’t expected, so other than taking Gomez, I don’t think you can beat yourself up too much.

    (4) I’m curious who else was on your roster. I made my share of mistakes in my first draft league this year but was fortunate to find a trading partner to boost what was then my weak category – BA; I traded to a team in bad need of HR and RBI’s Mark Reynolds, Pedro Alvarez and Brian Matusz (he’s an Oriole fan) for Ryan Braun. My BA has since risen to the top in the league, I still lead in RBIs and at worst I may drop a point or two in HRs. I was lucky to have a trading partner but also able to make the trade because I had an excess of thumpers.

    (5) I whiffed with some picks including Javier Vasquez, Borbon and Scott Sizemore. No way to avoid mistakes; you can only try to minimize the risk while maximizing the upside.

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