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Monday 22nd May 2017

I have been participating in a lot of football mocks as part of @rotobuzzguy This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. #MockDraftArmy of late, and the one thing that is certain is Wide Receivers are the focus. Antonio Brown goes first just about always, unless some miscreant like me decides he likes Todd Gurley more. But, even then, there is questioning among the drafters and readers and digesters of said draft.

It does make me wonder, though. I think back to the well documented tale of my first Tout Wars, when the league went 5x5 and the common wisdom was that this devalued Saves by adding Strikeouts as a category. For some reason, I did not buy into that logic, drafted two closers off the top by design, and won the league.

More recently, I remember not just doing baseball mocks, but even drafting knowing last March pitching was to baseball what ostensibly Wide Receivers are now to football as in plentiful, and full of potential points. Of course, the draft dynamics of football as opposed to baseball do make for different draft paths, for in football, two positions--Running Back and Wide Receiver--hold the bulk of point generating responsibility for maybe ten, as opposed to a baseball squad with eight position players and 23 players to draw potential points from.

But, when I hear all the cries for going Wide Receiver heavy, what I hear is the same voices who said Saves were devalued, and my response to that has always been, "Nonsense, points are points. It matters not from whence they came."

So, I wind up feeling sheepish about drafting Cam Newton in the fourth round of a mock, even when I suspect he could be among the top ten point generators in the coming season. And, especially in deference to the fact that Cam will likely touch the ball on every offensive snap that does not involve a kicker, while a WR might only see 20% of the result of those touches, I wrestle with what seems to be the contemporary logic.

As I have said before, it is not that I don't love, or even abide by stats. I love them with all their totally absorbing beauty. As in, I can stare at Ted Williams, or Willie Mays, or even Albert Pujols career numbers, season by season, for hours and find things that make me wonder.

I also understand that statistics, when extrapolated over one, or better many seasons, do give a true barometer of skill. But, what I wrestle with is baseball and football and basketball and tennis and golf and all the other sports are not actually played over the course of that macrocosm. Rather, each game is a microcosm of its respective season, which is in and of itself a microcosm of that larger career arc.

Well, since pitching seemed so deep this spring, I wondered just how different the pitching and hitting stats are at this point of 2016 as compared to last season, and here are the basics. Note that hitting stats from 2016 are current through the games of June 29. Data was then taken from a corresponding part of 2013-2015 and normalized so the games played are all equal.

 

 Category   2015   2016 
ERA 3.82 4.20
HR/9 0.96 1.15
K/9 7.64 8.05
BB/9 2.84 3.16
     

More whiffs this year, along with homers and walks per nine innings this year, and a higher ERA tells me maybe pitching was not so deep as projected, and as the owner of David Price and Sonny Gray in multiple leagues (where my teams are ok, but would be great if these guys pitch to those ephemeral projections), I kind of expected this.

What about hitters?

 Category   2015   2016 
AVG .253 .256
HR 2240 2869
Runs 9673 10497 
OBP .314 .322

So, more homers meaning hitting has improved, or pitchers are less effective, or some confluence of the two. Ultimately, though, this tells me there was no reason to favor hitters over pitchers any more than WR's over high scoring running backs and signal callers. As in, if Cam Newton averaged 25 points per game, why is he not an obvious first round pick? (I don't know the answer, but if you do, let me know.)

The other night I was driving home from band practice, listening to the Giants/Athletics game. The A's had a 1-0 lead early, but then fell behind 4-1, then moved ahead 5-4, then again fell behind 8-5, and when I got into my car to drive home, the score was Oakland, 10-9. In the time it took me to drive home, Oakland scored three more runs, making the score 13-9, but in the time it took me to simply lock my car, put my bass in the music room, and go into our bedroom to watch the end of the game, San Francisco banged out a pair of homers and got a runner on first. So, the tying run was at the dish when the game ended.

There are not statistical projections to account for that, any more than to project a 19-inning game in Toronto Friday, wherein Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney were called upon to pitch.

Truth is, one of the reasons I love baseball is because of incidents like the Giants/Athletics and Blue Jays drama. Another truth is the more this happens, and the older I get, the more I believe I will draft Newton in the first round and save Jordy Nelson for rounds two or three. 

You know?

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