Player value and context

What’s a player worth? That’s the core question at the heart of every draft selection and ultimately how success is measured in fantasy baseball… the better your players, the better your team, the better your chances of winning. So obvious it needs little explanation.


Regular 411 listeners and readers of the blog know that I’m a big believer in projections (, not so much for trying to determine if, say, Brandon Phillips will hit 23 homers or 28, but for determining relative strengths and weaknesses of various draft approaches. Projections are also a valuable tool during the draft to determine how you stack up against your opposition.


However, figuring the projections is only a small step in the process of player valuation. What is a homer worth? What is a save worth? Is a 30-20 guy like Troy Tulowitzki worth more than a 20-30 guy like Jimmy Rollins? When is the right time to take one of them compared to a top starter or an elite closer?


 To determine the relative values of players, you need to know the value of their component stats, both in the context of other players, and in the context of your league.


Here’s a table showing the overall MLB totals in each of the basic 5×5 categories over the past 10 years:


YR        G          AVG     R          HR        RBI       SB        ERA     SV        SVO     WHIP

2009     2430     .262      22419   5042     21364   2970     4.32      1202     1790     1.39

2008     2428     .264      22585   4878     21541   2799     4.32      1184     1839     1.39

2007     2431     .268      23322   4957     22257   2918     4.47      1198     1795     1.41

2006     2429     .269      23599   5386     22491   2767     4.53      1201     1823     1.41

2005     2431     .264      22325   5017     21248   2565     4.29      1254     1837     1.37

2004     2428     .266      23376   5451     22248   2589     4.46      1230     1854     1.40

2003     2430     .264      22978   5207     21886   2573     4.40      1198     1763     1.38

2002     2426     .261      22408   5059     21332   2750     4.28      1224     1789     1.38

2001     2429     .264      23199   5458     22088   3103     4.42      1210     1785     1.38

2000     2429     .270      24971   5693     23735   2923     4.77      1178     1801     1.47


(SVO is included because it’s save chances we care about more than actual saves; wins are omitted because there is always one per game minus the extremely rare tie.)


For better context, here are those totals represented as per-game averages:


YR        R          HR        RBI       SB        SVO

2009     9.23      2.07      8.79      1.22      0.74

2008     9.30      2.01      8.87      1.15      0.76

2007     9.59      2.04      9.16      1.20      0.74

2006     9.72      2.22      9.26      1.14      0.75

2005     9.18      2.06      8.74      1.06      0.76

2004     9.63      2.25      9.16      1.07      0.76

2003     9.46      2.14      9.01      1.06      0.73

2002     9.24      2.09      8.79      1.13      0.74

2001     9.55      2.25      9.09      1.28      0.73

2000     10.28    2.34      9.77      1.20      0.74


To best illustrate the relative value of stats, look at batting average, which has declined from an overall MLB average of .270 in 2000 to just .262 this past season. Therefore, in simple terms, a player who hits .300 (as, say, Jason Kubel (below) did this year) is worth more today than he was 10 years ago, because the overall league average has set the bar lower. Look at runs per game, which has declined by nearly 10 percent in 10 years.


Similarly, Rollins’ 100 runs were more valuable to your fantasy team in 2009 than they would’ve been, all other things being equal, in 2000. Steals, on the other hand, have varied slightly from year to year but are essentially at the same level as they were in 2000, but homers have declined, increasing their relative value.


Knowing this overall statistical context is a critical first step in determining the relative values of players and helping to build an effective draft strategy. Next time we’ll take a look at league-specific context.






First I’d like to say exactly how much I love this site since I found it about a month ago. Its hard to get a proper fantasy baseball fix in the winter and this is just what the doctor order. Second, I don’t know if I agree with the above article. While you say that Kubel’s more valuable now than he was 10 years ago, the average average dipped in 02 as well and the numbers don’t seem to be trending in any particular direction (which I find interesting considering the implementation of ped policing, but that’s another topic). I would think observing these trends in season and adjusting your values of players accordingly would be more important than trying to project what seems like random fluctuations in the 5×5 MLB totals.

Miike and Cory who on the cleveland indians has the biggest up side and who is on the down side for the tribe in terms of fantasy vaule? Love the podcast and the show on sirius xm radio. Name:Kenny Hometown:Ohio

Eric, glad you found us! I think I may have been unclear… my point wasn’t that Kubel is more valuable today than he would’ve been 10 years ago, but rather, than the relative values of stats change based on context (year over year being one context). A .300 hitter today isn’t the same as it was in 2000, nor is a 30-homer hitter, because the league contexts are different now than they were then. I think this will be a lot more clear next week when I put it into a fantasy league context rather than MLB, which was just for illustrative purposes. Thanks for the feedback!


Kenny, the guy to watch next season is Carlos Santana, who is the reason the Tribe traded both V-Mart AND Kelly Shoppach… rookie catchers are a dicey investment (for every Geo Soto there’s a Matt Wieters), but Santana has the upside that could make him one of the top offensive catchers in 2010. Of course, with great upside comes great risk.🙂

Watch out for Chris Perez also, who could close if they can dump Kerry Wood, and Grady Sizemore, who I think will be undervalued and bounce back with strong all-around stats next year. And of course Matt LaPorta is a bigtime prospect who will play every day and has intriguing upside.

OTOH, I’d stay away from Jhonny Peralta. He’s had some nice seasons, but he’s very inconsistent, very undisciplined at the plate, and may lose SS eligibility. As a 3B he’s below-average.


Thanks for your earlier help Zach, but it leads to a larger question. Apologies for this longer email, but this will be my first year in an Auction for my Mixed 12 team keeper league and I am getting a headache trying to assess tactics. Hence all the posts on your blog. – – – – We have $260 budget, 22 man rosters and I expect all top bats to be kept. I am allowed 8 total keepers and I have already decided on: Braun $35, Utley $28, A-Rod $26, Greinke $14, Carpenter $5, Wainwright $9, Aardsma $1.
So I have to decide who to fill that final spot and options are: Cano $16, Werth $12, Choo $7, N.Morgan $1, Nolasco $15. Or I have an offer on the table to give up these spare parts and get Bartlett at $3. – – – I am trying hard, but failing to trade for Tulo at $14. Other possible trade targets are Jeter at $17, Morales $7 or Sandoval $12.

Kevin that is an awesome list of keepers. I’d go for Werth or Choo with the last spot, but keep working on deals, you have plenty to work with here. Enviable position to be in!


Cory –

Standard 5×5 I presum K’s are missing? Do you have those #’s and per game avgs????


BDH, omitting K’s was a pure oversight, sorry ’bout that! I’ll be posting those #’s in a league-specific context, rather than MLB totals, next week…


BDH, I looked it up for ya… in 2009 there were 13.8 strikeouts per game, compared to 12.9 in 2000, so the strikeout trend is definitely increasing.


Hey guys, love your work. I have a keeper question in an 11 team traditional 5X5 league. We keep 10 guys. I have:

V Mart
J Johnson
J Vazquez

I need to decide on my 10th keeper between Zobrist, Jurrjens and Billingsley. I am leaning towards Zobrist but he seems a little risky and I love Jurrjens promise. What do you think? Thanks!


I too am a bit skeptical on Zobrist but I still think you have to go with him. The 2B eligibility is a huge plus and there’s a decent chance you can get Jurrjens back in the draft. The same cannot be said for Zobrist.


I would appreciate an expert opinion. Which two would you rather have for the rest of their careers, HanRam/Teixeira or Pujols/Longoria? This is a H2H points keeper league. Thanks.


Normally I’d say HanRam/Tex due to the position scarcity factor and Ramirez’s elite across the board contributions. However, in a H2H points league, steals aren’t valued as much as they are in roto formats as it’s often more important to dominate the power categories. Go with Pujols/Longoria. This duo should post the better HR and RBI numbers.


Thanks for your insight Zach. I will keep Pujols and Longoria. By the way, do you see Alcides Escobar turning into the next Jose Reyes?

Thank you for your insight. I have Pujols/Longoria and was offered the other two. I’ll stick to what I have. By the way, do you see Alcides Escobar turning into the next great SS, i.e. Reyes (healthy of course) or Ramirez?


I think the Reyes comparison is a legit one. Throughout his Minor League career, Escobar has shown the ability to hit for a high average and steal a ton of bases. While the power has yet to materialize, the general consensus among scouts is that he could develop into a 12-15 home run guy. He still needs to improve his plate discipline (only 4 walks in 125 ABs last year) but there’s clearly a ton of upside here.


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