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April 9, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Small-Sample Numbers That Matter

by Craig Goldstein


Pretty much every article you’ve read between Opening Day and today has started with the caveat that there’s no point in drawing meaning from the statistics that are about to be presented, but then going ahead and presenting them anyway. In the end, the articles either draw a meaningless conclusion (they warned you at the beginning though) or waffle on what, if anything, any of their contents mean (nothing, they told you up top).

While I can only concur that the statistics that have been accrued since opening day (Salvador Perez has a 25 percent walk rate in six games, despite a career 4.5 percent walk rate) are at this point meaningless in a data sense, they are meaningful in that they matter to managers. I’m not going to draw any conclusions about a player’s evolving skillset or change in approach, so much as I am highlighting players who have either bought themselves or potentially cost themselves some rope, in the eyes of their manager. This has a very tangible effect in the fantasy world, especially in deeper leagues, where players who merely rack up at-bats are worth something.

Billy Hamilton, CF — Cincinnati Reds
One of the most divisive players in pre-draft rankings, Hamilton has a unique skillset that could impact the fantasy game (specifically roto leagues) in a way not seen since Vince Coleman. Even those who were high on the rookie acknowledged that the ultimate question was how dedicated first-year manager Bryan Price and the Cincinnati front office would be to using Hamilton in the event he struggled out of the gates, albeit hoping that this situation wouldn’t come to pass.

At this point, it’s passing before our very eyes. It’s only 18 plate appearances, but Hamilton is slashing .059/.111/.118 (that’s two hits, one walk), though he did stretch a routine single into a double with his blazing wheels. It’s clear that Hamilton can dig himself out of this hole, but the concern is that he has to dig at all. The upside in all of this? The Reds don’t have much of a backup plan at center field, as Roger Bernadina might be the best defensive option outside of Hamilton. The downside is that even with marginal improvement, Bernadina might be an overall upgrade at some point this season. We’re not close to that point yet, but given that we don’t know when that point is, those who bought early are surely feeling a little pressure right now. Oh, and he’s got zero steals to boot.

Charlie Blackmon, CF—Colorado Rockies
Almost a polar opposite of the the Billy Hamilton Experience has been the Charlie Blackmon Experience. Blackmon didn’t exactly distinguish himself this spring, a concern because the Rockies entered the season with six outfielders (this after shipping Dexter Fowler to Houston in the offseason). He wasn’t highly drafted, even in deeper/-only leagues but has exploded out of the gates with a .464/.467/.679 slash line, heavily impacted by his 6-for-6 game on April 4.

We’ve already seen the fruits of Blackmon’s labor, not only in the statistics he’s producing, but the Rockies optioned one of his main competitors for playing time in Corey Dickerson to Triple-A in recent days. Colorado appeared set to endure a season with a rotation in center field, flanked by Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, but they’re going to find it hard to get Drew Stubbs’ defense into the game if Blackmon can replicate even his 2013 numbers, which were stretched over 258 appearances (.309/.336/.467). It’s clear that this is a hot start with that six-hit game carrying considerable weight, but with a solid skill set beneath those superficial numbers, Blackmon’s hot start could have season-long impact.

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Buy... (04/09)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Buy... (04/09)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Auc... (04/14)
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The Lineup Card: Seven... (04/09)

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