CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
The BP Wayback Machine... (04/25)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Moa... (04/24)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (04/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (04/25)

April 25, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Move Along, Nothing to See Here (Probably)

by Mike Gianella

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Toward the end of April, something funny starts happening to fantasy baseball owners. After one week, nearly every fantasy player looks at the stats, looks at the sample size, and simply dismisses the numbers as the product of a good or a bad week. After three weeks, this mindset changes considerably.

For reasons I cannot comprehend, after about 20 games, fantasy owners start diving into the numbers and drawing conclusions about whether or not their players are going to have good years or bad ones. The difference between 25 plate appearances and 75 plate appearances isn’t significant—yet, in the minds of some, that 50-plat- appearance gap is the difference between an insignificant sample size and a reason to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming “Giancarlo Stanton, you’re killing me!”

As a sport, baseball lends itself to long memories when it comes to the history of the game and the achievements of the men on the field. But when it comes to the fantasy version of the sport, every April we’re like poor, addled Leonard in the film Memento: trying in vain to remember what happened last month or any time before that, using a carefully crafted series of tattoos and riddles in the hopes that we can divine what Matt Kemp was like before the dark days when he stopped hitting home runs entirely.

If fantasy players are bad when it comes to forgetting a player’s past, they’re even worse at remembering that we go through this exercise in absurdity every April. Over a 20-25 game period, some players are going to perform well above their career norms while others are going to perform well below those same benchmarks. This year is no different than any other campaign.

Table 1: Top 10 AL Hitters, April 2012

Player

April $

Prorate

Actual $

Final Rank

Salary

+/-

Josh Hamilton

$9

$66

$33

4th

25

8

David Ortiz

$7

$53

$19

43rd

20

-1

Edwin Encarnacion

$7

$52

$31

6th

16

15

Derek Jeter

$7

$48

$27

12th

19

8

Adam Jones

$7

$47

$30

8th

26

4

Paul Konerko

$6

$42

$21

34th

25

-4

Evan Longoria

$6

$40

$14

74th

32

-18

Mike Aviles

$5

$39

$15

67th

9

6

Ian Kinsler

$5

$39

$23

28th

30

-7

Josh Willingham

$5

$37

$24

27th

15

9


It could be argued without hyperbole that I follow player valuation more avidly than almost anyone in the world, but with the exception of Hamilton, the only other player from this list I remember having such a fast start is Konerko, and that’s only because I had him in one of my leagues. If they had a bar trivia category for fantasy baseball, we’d all struggle to come up with the answer to “Who were the top 10 fantasy hitters in April 2012?” (It would also be a sad world if they had a bar trivia category for fantasy baseball, and I’m glad that’s not the world we inhabit.)

To get the most obvious observation out of the way first, we know that the very best hitters on these lists are extremely unlikely to earn $50 or more. Earning over $50 in 5x5 is virtually impossible. Mike Trout’s incredible 2012 was good for $47 in AL-only, and that’s because he stole bases and hit for power. If you were counting on Hamilton to earn $66, you were a fool, but even if you were expecting a $40 season from him, you probably should have adjusted your expectations down even further. Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season was good for $40.

However, the takeaway that is useful here is that a strong start often leads to a profitable season. Nineteen dollars in earnings for Jeter in 2012 seemed fair; his strong April meant that chances were good that he was going to earn more. I never would have pegged Willingham as a $20-plus player in the preseason; his April made me change my mind.

Fantasy owners mistakenly focus on fast or slow starts to zero-in on “buy-low” or “sell-high” candidates. In my opinion, this is generally a waste of time. If you were in a league last year where you could convince someone that Ortiz was going to earn $53, stop reading this: You don’t need my help, unless by “my help” you mean the e-mail address of the village idiot you’re about to take to the cleaners. On the other hand, knowing that you have “x” amount of stats in the bank from a player is useful in terms of where you thought your team might finish overall. Obviously, Mike Aviles wasn’t going to earn $39, but knowing that you had almost half of what you paid for him in the bank was a good sign that Aviles was going to turn a profit for you—and give you more stats from Aviles than you thought you were going to get on Auction Day.

Table 2: Top 10 NL Hitters, April 2012

Player

April $

Prorate

Actual $

Final Rank

Salary

+/-

Matt Kemp

$11

$75

$24

35th

41

-17

Starlin Castro

$6

$43

$26

18th

28

-2

David Wright

$6

$41

$31

6th

27

4

Ryan Braun

$6

$41

$45

1st

40

5

Jay Bruce

$6

$40

$25

24th

29

-4

Carlos Gonzalez

$6

$39

$30

7th

40

-10

Jose Altuve

$6

$37

$24

36th

16

8

Bryan LaHair

$5

$36

$12

90th

11

1

David Freese

$5

$35

$22

40th

16

6

Chris Young

$5

$35

$9

112th

22

-13


The NL side of the pool didn’t have as many examples of “A good start will lead to profits” but three of these players—Braun, Gonzalez, and Kemp—were paid $40 or more, and it’s hard to profit off of a $40 player. Altuve and Freese are the examples of “These guys will do better than I thought based on their April stats.” Bryan LaHair is often cast as a failure, but if you paid $11 for him and got $12 back, you should have been okay with that, not unhappy (and you probably had someone fill-in for him at some point in the second half). April skews our perceptions in many different ways.

The above tables are merely one side of the April coin. A better question to ask yourself might be: Based on historical trends, what can or should I expect from this year’s slow starters?

Table 3: Ten Most Expensive AL Hitters, April 2012

Player

April $

Prorate

Actual $

Final Rank

Salary

+/-

Albert Pujols

$0

-$1

$27

11th

40

-13

Miguel Cabrera

$5

$36

$40

2nd

39

1

Robinson Cano

$2

$14

$31

7th

36

-5

Jacoby Ellsbury

$0

$0

$11

95th

36

-25

Adrian Gonzalez

$3

$19

$19

44th

35

-16

Jose Bautista

$1

$9

$16

60th

35

-19

Evan Longoria

$6

$40

$14

74th

32

-18

Curtis Granderson

$4

$32

$24

21st

32

-8

Dustin Pedroia

$4

$28

$24

20th

32

-8

Prince Fielder

$4

$27

$29

9th

31

-2

Few might remember Hamilton’s fast 2012 start, but nearly everyone remembers Pujols’ April struggles in Anaheim. Ellsbury played in all of seven games until an injury knocked him out of commission and ruined his season. I wouldn’t have pegged Cano as a member of the slow-starters club until I ran these charts. With many of these hitters, there is a fair amount of stability. Cabrera, Gonzalez, Pedroia, Fielder, and Granderson (to a lesser extent) all had fairly ordinary Aprils that didn’t foretell a fast or a slow start. 

Table 4: Ten Most Expensive NL Hitters, April 2012

Player

April $

Prorate

Actual $

Final Rank

Salary

+/-

Joey Votto

$3

$23

$21

44th

42

-$21

Matt Kemp

$11

$75

$24

35th

41

-$17

Ryan Braun

$6

$41

$45

1st

40

$5

Carlos Gonzalez

$6

$39

$30

7th

40

-$9

Justin Upton

$3

$18

$26

23rd

37

-$12

Troy Tulowitzki

$4

$25

$9

117th

37

-$28

Hanley Ramirez

$3

$20

$25

26th

36

-$11

Andrew McCutchen

$4

$25

$39

2nd

33

$6

Giancarlo Stanton

$1

$8

$27

14th

33

-$6

Matt Holliday

$2

$12

$29

10th

32

-$3


If you were looking for an exhibit on why you should be patient with your big-ticket investments, Table 4 delivers. With the exception of Tulowitzki, every hitter here earned at least $20, and seven of the 10 earned at least $25 in 2012. You had little reason to be disappointed by McCutchen’s April, but instead of putting up a $25 season, he was the second-best player in the National League. Despite slow starts, both Holliday and Stanton rewarded their owners’ patience with earnings near in the high-$20s.

However, the drawback is that nearly every hitter in this bracket took losses. Mirroring what I said about the fast-starting hitters, this is the biggest disadvantage of the slow start. If Upton had done last April what he’s doing this year, he might have earned the $37 he was paid. Instead, his April led to a big chunk of his fantasy losses. The same holds true for Stanton and Holliday.

The biggest lessons of these charts remains in the adjustments you will need to make in your preseason category estimates based on a slow or fast start. If you have the 2013 version of Giancarlo Stanton, don’t give up on him, but do dial back if you were expecting a 40-45 home run season. A slow start won’t destroy a player’s value, but it does have some influence. Likewise, if you have Justin Upton, it’s probably realistic to add a few home runs to your team’s preseason projection.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

Related Content:  Mike Aviles,  April,  Slow Start,  Bad Start

6 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
The BP Wayback Machine... (04/25)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Moa... (04/24)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (04/29)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (04/25)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Circling Back to The Holy...
Premium Article Monday Morning Ten Pack: The Season's Most D...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: September 23, 2014
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Wren's End
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Backing Off Backstop Pros...
Baseball Therapy: Will StatCast Cure Out Def...
Prospectus Feature: Colin Moran and the Matt...

MORE FROM APRIL 25, 2013
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Red-Hot Potential
Premium Article In A Pickle: Who'll Stop the Run?
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Thursday, April 25t...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Grande Finale
Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around the League: April 25, ...
Premium Article The Call-Up: Robbie Erlin
The BP Wayback Machine: There is No Divide

MORE BY MIKE GIANELLA
2013-05-09 - Fantasy Article Bullpen Report: Boston Blues
2013-05-08 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Ask the Experts
2013-04-29 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The Art of Trading
2013-04-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Move Along, Nothing to Se...
2013-04-22 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The Men in the Middle
2013-04-17 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Big Spending in FAAB Leag...
2013-04-15 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Searching for Value in Co...
More...

MORE FANTASY FREESTYLE
2013-05-01 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: A Fast Start for Slowey
2013-04-30 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Nate McLouth's Renaissanc...
2013-04-29 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The Art of Trading
2013-04-25 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Move Along, Nothing to Se...
2013-04-24 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Moar Payshints
2013-04-23 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Springing Into Action
2013-04-22 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The Men in the Middle
More...