Welcome back to the second, and final, entry in this series for building a dominant fantasy baseball team. So far, we have discussed some basic principles of Fantasy Baseball, discussed the process of drafting and building, and got our feet wet in the wonderful world of stat lines.
So now we want to expand the view of a stat line a little bit further, and explain the relevancy of all those crazy acronyms, and how that affects the big picture.
A stat line is only as useful as the league you are in once the season begins. A stat line is also only as useful as one’s ability to read it properly.
At draft time, player stats from the previous year—and career stats—are an invaluable tool that helps an owner decided who they are going to pick up.
But once things get under way, the expanded stat line becomes crucial to an owner’s season.
When we look at a stat line, whether it be a box score or on a random stat site, we are more familiar with something that looks like this:
In certain Fantasy Baseball formats, such as Categorical, this is more than enough information to utilize each week. But one of the problems people tend to have, is how to use the information. In Categorical leagues, the idea is to get the most points for each category.
So let’s say coming into the week, your team is number one in RBIs and Homeruns, but lagging in the Stolen Base department. When we read these lines, and player advice, the object isn’t to just find the hottest player, but also to build that week’s team to preserve, and add, to each category in an attempt to not only come out on top at the end of the week, but also stay on top.
In a Points league, it’s a similar approach when reading stat lines, but factoring in the opposing teams your players will face, and the Parks they will play in, is a huge help.
For example: If you have to choose from Ryan Howard facing the Rockies in Coors field or Albert Pujols facing the Dodgers in Dodger stadium, the better choice (statistically) would actually be Howard—assuming they are facing pitchers of equal talent.
Why? If you add in the Park factor it shows itself to be true:
The likely hood of Howard having a better three game series than Pujols is pretty high as suggested by the numbers.
But what about all those other stats that we see in articles or on Sabermetrics sites, hey, come to think of it what in the blue hell is Sabermetrics anyway?
Well, first of all Sabermetrics is a whole different world that breaks down, literally, every possible stat you could think of objectively, using specific Mathematical formulas. Here’s a more formal definition:
Sabermetrics is a method of objectively analyzing baseball performance through statistics. The study relies on collecting records to develop conclusions and make predictions about players, teams and performances. Unlike batting average and other more traditional baseball statistics, Sabermetrics relies on measuring runs scored, on-base percentage and individual value.
The term Sabermetrics was coined by Bill James, a noted baseball historian and statistician. Derived from the acronym SABR, from the Society of American Baseball Research, Sabermetrics is an attempt at a system to determine which statistics are useful for which purposes. Over its history it has introduced many statistics into mainstream usage, such as: WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and OPS (on-base plus slugging).
Second of all, the expanded view of a stat line tells us a deeper story into the player’s current progress, tendencies, and why a great batting average isn’t really worth a dime if he isn’t driving in runs.
On a stat site such as baseballreference.com the expanded view of a stat line will include the following:
OBP- On Base Percentage- or the amount of time a batter gets on base vs. his plate appearances.
SLG- Slugging Percentage- or the total amount of bases divided by total plate appearances.
OPS- ON Base plus Slugging Percentage- or as the name says: the combination of OBS and SLG percents.
OPS+- An adjustment category that also factors in the players park
TB- Total Bases- or the accumulation of all bases including homeruns as follows:
Single=1, Double =2, Triple=3, Homerun=4
GDP- Double plays grounded into- How many times a player has hit into a double play; useful when tracking players on your watch list.
HBP- Self Explanatory
SH and SF- Track both Sacrifice hits (bunts) and sacrifice flys.
IBB- Intentional walks – or the amount of times a player has been purposely put on base.
POS - Lineup position- an invaluable tool in the sense that players typically perform better in certain positions. Eric Aybar of the Angles hit primarily in the 8 spot last year, and he was awful. Once he was moved into the leadoff spot, and sometimes the 2 or 3, his average and run production skyrocketed.
These stats tell us a bigger story; one that is expanded from a good batting average, for instance: If your player’s BA/POS is .346/8 (a .346 average while hitting in the 8 spot) and his RBI count is low, there are probably better hitting options out there, or on your roster. The low RBI count could be due to him hitting in the 8 hole, and not having many opportunities to drive in runs.
In Sabermetrics, there is a world of useful stats that are focused on specifics; most of which you won’t find in a traditional stat line. These unique stats are sometimes crucial to understanding a player’s overall worth.
Here’s a quick view at some that are used by BaseballHQ.com:
BB/9= Walks per 9 innings
H/9= Hits per 9 innings
K/9= Strikeouts per 9 innings
BABIP= Batting average on Balls in Play – A pitcher’s average on batted balls ending a plate appearance, excluding homeruns.
BB%= Walk Rate – Amount of plate appearances that results in walks.
CT%= Contact Rate – Percentage that measures how many times a hitter makes contact vs. AB.
RC/G= Runs created per game.
With these types of stats, an owner can get a better feel for specifics rather than guess what his player could do next. If your hitter has a high contact rate, and he is facing a pitcher who has a high H/9 count, the chances are that hitter is going to excel for you.
So how does one put it all together? It’s very simple.
Once you have a feel for your upcoming draft, and have a solid draft plan built on sound research, you can begin building your team from the ground up utilizing player knowledge, a bit of history, and sticking to your guns.
Once your team is built, you can ride the constant waves of streaks. You can exchange, add, or remove players via the waiver wire and your watch lists, and you can utilize your initial stats for lineup evaluation while utilizing advanced stat lines for a more formal and ideal one on one matchup.
Mix in some good old fashion research, and you’re on your way.
Fantasy Baseball is arguably the hardest Fantasy sport to learn and excel at. There are 162 regular season games, a constant torrent of player inconsistencies—not to mention the amount of players—and a constant flow of streaks that can hurt your team just as easily as it can reward it.
So take your time, have fun with it, and learn as much as possible. In time, you could be on your way to being the one owner no-one wants to face.