November 20, 2009
First Base Rankings Review
We're handling the offseason's fantasy content a little differently this year, and with good reason. The plan is for me to go through all of the rankings I made in the preseason so that we can see what went right and what went wrong, and see what we, as a group, can learn about the process and how it should be improved for 2010's rankings. I think this kind of transparency will be healthy for the BP Fantasy Beat, as it will give me loads of time to think on my mistakes from 2009 and to judge them appropriately as legitimate errors in the process or see them for what they really were, which is something I, nor anyone else could not foresee-you know, the kind of stuff that happens in baseball hundreds of times a year, the kind of stuff that makes us love the game, but also screws up our fantasy teams.
In addition, I also want to start some discussion about what it is we should do about the lists themselves: Should the format change? Should it stay the same? Would you prefer something like star ratings and tiers, like those that Kevin Goldstein uses in his Top 11 Prospects list, or do you want to retain the basic 1-20 ranking system? For that matter, are 20 players at each position enough? Let's get all of these ideas out in the open now so that there's plenty of time to accommodate requests by the time ranking season rolls around. That way, I provide you with the service you ask for and still have time to do the things I plan on doing for you outside of that. Reply in the comments, ask me in chats, e-mail me, or talk to me via Twitter (@Marc_Normandin) over the next few months with your thoughts; I may not respond to all of you, but I will keep track of your replies for the purposes of 2010's rankings.
We'll start where I started this past February, at first base. One ranking at a time, we'll get through this-though I hope there's more that went right than went wrong, I haven't given it much of a look until now, so we're going to figure out what my batting average is at the same time. We'll do their 2009 ranking, their name, PECOTA forecast in parentheses, and their actual performance, along with my summary of their goings on. I'll also do my best to mention any sleepers I wrote about in other articles somewhere in the piece; that way, we can get a sense of everything outside of the rankings as well.
1. Albert Pujols (.339/.443/.609 PECOTA) .327/.443/.658: PECOTA picked up two-thirds of Pujol's slash stats, but missed out on his power surge. Still, I thought Pujols was the most important pick in the draft, and he did not disappoint. There is not a whole lot to say here; it's pretty obvious he's awesome.
2. Lance Berkman (.299/.402/.534 PECOTA) .274/.399/.509: Berkman struggled as a right-handed hitter this season, and it brought his overall line down. He also did not hit anywhere near as well on the road, and he slowed down as the season wore on. In actuality, his 2009 looks a lot like his 2007, so I may have been a little overzealous in thinking he could replicate 2008 when I ranked him this high. Injury issues may have also been the cause of some of his problems, so it's a little early to worry about Berkman in 2010; this ranking though, needs some work.
3. Mark Teixeira (.287/.379/.506 PECOTA) .292/.383/.565: Teixeira slugged .627 at home in the Yankees' new ballpark, which is why he ended up performing better than expected. He hit .272/.380/.502 in away games, which is pretty close to his forecast; given how early I put this first base list together relative to when we learned NuYankee may be a hitter's haven, I'm not too broken up about this ranking-all I would do differently is rank him second instead of third. Moments like this are why a tiered system may trump a straight out ranked system. There's much more meaning and context in tiers.
4. Ryan Howard (.270/.374/.547 PECOTA) .279/.360/.571: Howard's season was a little strange. He hit fewer fly balls per homer than in any year since 2004, but he hit more fly balls overall than last season to counter that. For most of the year, he was average at first base (though an average first baseman in 2009 was 33 points of EqA better than an average hitter, so he was still really good) but he turned it on in the second half and finished with a more impressive .314 EqA. If he's going to keep hitting for average, he'll keep his fantasy value up, so this ranking (or at least this area) still works for me.
5. Miguel Cabrera (.294/.369/.527 PECOTA) .324/.396/.547: His batting average was higher than projected, leading to the rise in the other two slash stats. Assuming the Tigers keep him to a two-drink minimum, he should be able to replicate at least his 2009 forecast in 2010.
6. Prince Fielder (.286/.380/.527 PECOTA) .299/.412/.602: PECOTA and I both thought he would improve on his 2008 campaign, which had seen his power numbers drop precipitously, but a complete reversal to 2007-level numbers again was not what I had in mind. I figured Fielder as an A-type at the position, but if he wants to slug .600 consistently, then I'm open to scaling that grade in the future.
7. Joey Votto (.289/.370/.514 PECOTA) .322/.414/.567: This one I'm pretty happy with, as I kept saying Votto was a very safe pick at first. He was basically the Justin Morneau of the NL, with the potential for better numbers than Morneau himself (hence my ranking him higher).
8. Adrian Gonzalez (.277/.356/.480 PECOTA) .277/.407/.551: From the previous rankings, I said, "He hit .308/.368/.578 last year on the road, and .304/.367/.560 away in 2006-08 combined. As it is, I like him better than his forecast, and potentially better than Votto's, even with Petco in the way." Again, no problems here.
9. Carlos Pena (.239/.359/.476 PECOTA) .227/.356/.537: I'm a little torn on this one. I was right about him beating out his PECOTA-projected power, but he still hit .227, so he ruined one category. On the other hand, he hit 39 homers, drove in 100 runs, and probably wasn't selected among the elite in many leagues, so all in all, he had a pretty great year. He definitely has more value in OBP/OPS leagues than in traditional scoring though.
10. Chris Davis (.259/.312/.490 PECOTA) .238/.284/.442: There we go! I was waiting for my first facepalm moment to show up, and here it is. Despite his strikeout issues, I thought his raw power and home ballpark would help him get over the hump, but things just got worse. Unlike Pena, he doesn't even get on base, so he's less help in an OPS-based league and no help in a traditional one. That said, he was much improved in the second half, hitting .308/.338/.496. Still, I should have given those whiffs a little more consideration to at least form a lower floor than I expected.
11. Justin Morneau (.281/.354/.475 PECOTA) .274/.363/.516: I said it once ("Being ranked 11th is not a knock against Justin Morneau; first base is just loaded with talent") and I'll say it again here. He did hit better than his forecast, but it seems like the entirety of first base (Chris Davis excepted) did that, which is why the position has an average EqA of .293. I would bump him into the top 10, but the next guy in line might be upset about that.
12. Kevin Youkilis (.275/.366/.475 PECOTA) .305/.413/.548: I wrote a piece saying Youkilis wasn't as good of a power hitter as he looked like, that Fenway Park had a lot to do with it. While true-he hit .321/.422/.570 at home-he pulled up the bottom end and slugged .521 on the road, so maybe there's something to his development as a hitter. He has been more aggressive of late, and he does a better job picking pitches he can crush; I stand by my original thoughts (not top tier, but still great), but I will also make note of his progress going forward.
13. Derrek Lee (.289/.369/.464 PECOTA) .306/.393/.579: I kind of wish Lee would make up his mind. Are you done hitting for power, or are you going to drive the ball into the bleachers consistently? You're killing me, Derrek. After two sub-.500 slugging years with a .513 in the middle, Lee nearly slugged .600 and posted his best season since 2005. While I'm annoyed I didn't have some miraculous premonition of this turnaround, it's hard to be too broken up by a guy on the downward slide rebounding for a big year. I'll delve into this in more detail when I do the actual rankings, but my instinct is to say this is the kind of season I should avoid getting worked up about.
14. Conor Jackson (.295/.373/.461 PECOTA) .182/.264/.253: Uh, whoops. Jackson picked up just 99 at-bats, got very sick, and had setbacks in rehab that kept him from reappearing. I would like to say I think he would have hit well enough to justify his ranking and forecast were he to play everyday, but we just won't know that until 2010 is rolling.
15. Carlos Delgado (.277/.355/.486 PECOTA) .298/.393/.521: Delgado didn't crack 100 at-bats either, but at least he hit before he went down. Assuming he's healthy in 2010, he should hit again, but I was really hoping to get some 2009 confirmation for his 2008 rebound. I guess we'll have to wait on that.
16. Adam LaRoche (.270/.353/.487 PECOTA) .277/.355/.488: You can thank his .311/.377/.538 second half for that eerily similar actual and projected line. He was a monster with the Braves, and it will be interesting to see how much of it was real and how much of it was just good timing on LaRoche's (and Atlanta's) part.
17. James Loney (.286/.347/.445 PECOTA) .281/.357/.399: Congratulations, James Loney! You may have played yourself out of the top 20 for 2010! From the rankings: "What is it about potential sluggers turning into mid-range first basemen for Los Angeles teams? Loney is starting to look like a better version of Casey Kotchman, but that's not enough in fantasy leagues that use both AL and NL rosters." That was when he was slugging .445, ergo…
18. Nick Johnson (.266/.410/.472 PECOTA) .291/.426/.405: I ranked Johnson this low due to injury concerns, but he ended up playing the whole year and then did not hit for power, so it came out the same anyway.
19. Casey Kotchman (.288/.353/.423 PECOTA) .268/.339/.382: He lost his job as a starter and was dealt to Boston to play as a backup. Kotchman had very little fantasy value to begin with, and he lost the last of it in 2009. Other options emerged during 2009 that will take his place, and had I done my list a little later during spring training, Kotchman would not have appeared at all.
20. Todd Helton (.291/.405/.449 PECOTA) .325/.416/.489: Helton was another hitter ranked low due to injury concerns more so than his performance, but he ended up both playing and hitting. If you took a flyer on him, congratulations, but I think the process was right here given his back troubles. Maybe I jumped the gun though.
My "Just Missed" players: Jason Giambi (.201/.343/.382) failed to give the A's the spark they needed offensively. Nick Swisher was done as a sleeper/rebound candidate at first (he was eligible there, as well as in the outfield) and he rebounded. Paul Konerko ended up returning to relevancy as well, hitting .277/.353/.489 after a disappointing 2008. To borrow a phrase from President James Dale, I got two out of three, and that ain't bad.
As for other sleepers, right before the season began, I singled out Kendry Morales as a breakout candidate, due to his winter league performance and spring training numbers. He ended up hitting .306/.355/.569 with 34 homers, so he will be on the 2010 list in a legitimate capacity, rather than as a last-minute addition.
That's one position down, and all things considered, the rankings weren't half-bad. Chris Davis was a miss, and injuries to some players mucked up their rankings, but overall it worked as a drafting guide. I think, given how close some player's performances were, that first base is proof a tiered value system would work better than pure rankings, but I want to hear what you have to say on the matter.