December 2009

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 (http://mlblogsfantasy411.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/kubel_hr31.jpgarchives/2009/03/latest_greatest_projections_-_march_4.html), 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.


kubel_hr.jpg 

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.

 

Thanks,

Cory

 

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