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Saturday 24th Jun 2017

Part of my signature when I post on our forum is “I would rather be wrong for the right reason than right for the wrong reason.”  Well, lately, I have been wrong a lot, but at least it was for the right reason.  The bottom line is this game can be humbling at times.  Our primary job as an in-season manager is to do our due diligence and base on our decisions on the positive outcome with the greatest probability of turning out in our favor.  Then it is up to fate, but if you properly identify the favorable outcome with the greatest odds, over the long haul, you will be right more than you are wrong, and that my friends is all you can ask for.

Last week, one of my personal favorite fantasy hurlers, Ted Lilly, had a pair of road games on the docket.  Not only were they away tilts, but his opponents were Philadelphia and Colorado, two of the more prolific attacks playing in two of the more generous hitting venues in the league.  So what did I do?  In leagues where I had a viable alternative, I reserved Lilly for the week.  And what did Lilly do?  The veteran lefty hurled 11 frames, fanning seven while sporting a 2.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.  Oh yeah, he won a game as well.  Was I pissed?  Of course, but I did take solace that if I make this decision ten times, I will benefit far more than I suffer.

Tuesday evening, James Shields was scheduled to take the bump against a scorching Red Sox offense.  I have Shields in a daily transaction league that has a very reachable innings cap.  In leagues with innings caps, the category of strikeouts is really K/9 and you want to maximize every inning, so I made the decision to keep Shields inactive.  Of course, the veteran righty painted a masterpiece, spinning a complete game shutout allowing five hits, walking three and fanning five.  If this was a league without an innings cap, I likely would have rolled the dice since Shields was at home, but I opted to take the safe path and got burned.  But just like the Lilly decision, if I make this call ten times, I am pleased far more than I am disappointed.

I realize for some, part of the fun is making gut calls.  We all do, myself included.  In fact, I have been rather vocal lately that I am somewhat frustrated that what many call strategic roster management is nothing more than common sense or a gut call.  Let’s be honest, what I did with Lilly and Shields was nothing more than common sense.  Having either active would have been a gut call, in other words, pure speculation.

Granted, there are some decisions that boil down to a coin flip, but my philosophy is to go with the odds and manage accordingly.  I have used this analogy before, even though it is not a perfect metaphor.  If you are asked to predict a roll of a pair of dice, the “correct” answer is seven.  Anything else is pure speculation.  You are really going out on a limb if you guess two or twelve, not so much with six or eight, but anything other than seven and you are going against the odds.

What is the point of all this?  Some feel the only way they can win is to take a chance, after all, “what have I got to lose?”  I am even hearing my fantasy brethren advise people to go down that road.  Maybe if this is September and there is no other way, I can see it.  But we are not even halfway through the season.  I know, it is boring, almost automaton like, but the smart play is still to guess seven.  Those guessing snake eyes or box cars may hit occasionally, but over the long haul they will lose ground.  If you don’t believe, Google Las Vegas and check out the pretty pictures of all the big buildings with flashing lights and half dressed showgirls dancing.

If you have been reading this space since the spring, you are aware one of my crusades this season has been monitoring the improved pitching and applying that to fantasy baseball game theory.  Back when we were all drafting, I suggested it was no longer the smart play to wait on pitching as the undervalued pitching usually available in later rounds was now being properly evaluated and drafted accordingly.  In addition, there was a misperception with respect to the quality of pitching as many ignored the fact value is relative.  While the 50th ranked pitcher may have better stats now than in previous seasons, in a fantasy sense, they are still the 50th ranked pitcher.

The one catch in this whole thing gnawed at me as I was unsure how it would play out.  In short, historically, more valuable pitching emerges from the free agent ranks as compared to hitting.  This has always been a primary reason to focus on hitting and build pitching as the season progresses, which is opposite of how I approached things this campaign.  If the supply of valuable free agent pitching is still plush in the present landscape, that would cause me some pause with respect to focusing on pitching again next season, or at minimum, develop a plan to get the best of both worlds, taking advantage of the market inefficiencies with respect to recognizing pitching value, but also planning on embellishing the staff during the season.

Even though we are barely past one-third of the season, I thought I would take a look to see where the positive value is emanating from in terms of hitting and pitching.  To that end, I took the average draft position from the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and assigned the picks a dollar value based on a typical distribution of value.  I then compared that projected value to the value earned to date through May of the draft-worthy players.  Obviously, no conclusions can be drawn until season’s end, but it could be beneficial to spot-check what is happening to help decipher the eventual data.

But before we e get to that, I thought we should first take a step back and take a look at how pitching fared in the merry month of May, using the root skills of strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate.  Included is data from the past three April and May along with year ending stats for 2008 to 2010.


K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April/March 2011

7.09

3.28

0.91

May 2011

6.92

3.23

0.87


K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April/March 2010

7.13

3.66

0.95

May 2010

7.00

3.40

0.94

2010

7.13

3.28

0.96


K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April/March 2009

6.96

3.87

1.07

May 2009

6.88

3.47

1.01

2009

6.99

3.46

1.05


K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April/March 2008

6.41

3.64

0.90

May 2008

6.82

3.32

0.97

2008

6.83

3.39

1.01

As you can see, overall, pitching is still maintaining its elevated level.  The May strikeout rate dropped a bit, but pitchers walked fewer batters and more importantly, allowed fewer homers.  We will continue to monitor this as the season wears on, particularly the home run rate which tends to pick up as the weather warms.

Okay, back to our primary focus for the week.  Here are the percentages of value earned by the originally drafted hitters and pitchers.  The hurlers are broken into starters, set up and closers.


DRAFTED

TO DATE

PERCENT

HITTING

$2,593

$2,249

87%

PITCHING

$1,307

$921

70%

CLOSERS

$333

$234

70%

SET UP

$38

$46

121%

STARTERS

$935

$641

69%

I am going to let you in on a little secret.  Even though we are only two months in, that is pretty much the exact results usually observed at season’s end.  Again, it may be mere coincidence, but as someone who has been researching this for several years, I find it interesting the results look awfully familiar.

That said, we need to let the next four months play out.  It may simply be that some regression is on its way and some of the presently positively valued arms will get their comeuppance while the guys with track records will end up as they normally do.  But, if this is real, some drafting adjustments are in order.  If the emerging pitching is still bountiful, you need to plan to acquire some of this and not pay for everything in season.   This does not mean to wait on the front end, but maybe make adjustments in the middle and the end.

Much has been made of 2011 being the year of the pitcher.  Last week, we took a quick look at some reasons why and it was determined that pitchers are striking out batters at a similar rate to last season but are walking fewer and allowing fewer hits and homers.  This week, I thought I would break down some hit data in an effort to further elucidate what is happening.  I am going to use data from www.baseball-reference.com.  It should be noted that any time you look at hit distribution in terms of fly balls and line drives, there is a bit of subjectivity involved.  There is some recent advancement in this area which will tighten up the collection and make it more objective, but for now, we need to rely on the opinion of those tracking the games.  In addition, the data being used does not differentiate infield flies from outfield flies.

The purpose of this exercise is not to draw any conclusions but to look for trends to keep out eye on.  It is one thing to say pitching is better.  It is another to have a grasp of why.  If we know why, we have a better chance of applying that to our fantasy baseball research.

The area of focus is going to be what is leading to the decrease in hit and homers, comparing this season to the previous five campaigns.

Let us start with home runs.  Baseball Reference tracks the number of homers hit via a fly ball and via a ground ball.  The chart below presents the percentage of fly balls, the percentage of line drives, and the percentage of balls hit in the air that have left the yard.


2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

HR/FB

9.97%

9.02%

8.94%

9.48%

9.06%

8.28%

HR/LD

2.14%

2.33%

2.46%

2.15%

1.66%

1.70%

HR/(FB+LD)

7.24%

6.66%

6.65%

6.92%

6.47%

6.04%

 

Again, it is far too early to pass judgment on the 2011 season, but at least for now, power is down due to a lower percentage of balls hit in the air leaving the yard.  I realize this is not going to put me in the running for Sabermetrician of the Year Award.  I mean, do you really need a chart to figure out there are fewer homers because a smaller percentage of balls in the air are clearing the fence?  But sometimes it helps to see tangible evidence.  I will say this though.  A recent site essay suggested fly ball pitchers are not a bad thing if they strike out a bunch of hitters and do not walk many.  This potential trend is another reason not to get scared off by fly ball pitchers as they should benefit from the paucity of power a bit more than their ground ball brethren.

To be fair, there are actually two reasons why homers could be in decline.  The first was just demonstrated.  The second is that it is possible that there are fewer balls being lofted.  Let’s take a look:


2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Ground Balls

43.18%

43.09%

43.16%

42.80%

43.48%

44.08%

Fly Balls

35.83%

35.61%

35.59%

35.98%

35.47%

35.51%

Line Drives

18.65%

19.08%

18.99%

18.85%

18.74%

17.98%

Bunts

2.34%

2.22%

2.25%

2.36%

2.31%

2.43%

So much for that idea as the percentage of fly balls is quite consistent with the past five seasons.  But, there is one number that is worth monitoring and that is line drive percentage.  The key word is monitor because as suggested, it is far too early to suggest that improved pitching is resulting in fewer line drives, which in turn will lead to fewer hits.  At the very least, we see a concrete reason as to why batting averages are down as there are fewer line drives being struck, though this again is quite intuitive and not exactly ground-breaking research.

The area that intrigues me the most is BABIP data.  For those still not familiar with the concept, BABIP stands for batting average on ball in play.  I discuss its utility in this week’s KFFL mailbag.  Below is the BABIP per batted ball type.


2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Ground Balls

0.240

0.245

0.236

0.236

0.234

0.228

Fly Balls

0.140

0.135

0.142

0.138

0.138

0.139

Line Drives

0.728

0.723

0.718

0.724

0.718

0.715

Overall

0.301

0.303

0.300

0.299

0.297

0.289

 

With the continued caveat that the sample is still small, it can be noted that the BABIP of line drives and ground balls is better than the previous five seasons, resulting in a lower overall BABIP.  So not only are fewer line drives being hit, but defenses are converting more balls in play into outs, further reducing the number of hits.  Of course, this balances out the above comment about fly ball pitchers, since there is a possibility that worm-burning pitchers may benefit from this data.

Keeping in mind this is complete speculation, since the 2011 data could easily regress to historical levels, I think there may be an interesting explanation for this batted ball data that goes beyond pitchers inducing weaker contact.  I mentioned this notion a few years ago at a panel at First Pitch Arizona and it appears it may be coming to fruition and that is I hypothesized that with the improvement in video scouting, BABIP could be impacted.  In the extreme, look at all the players that now must hit into the “Williams shift”, named after the Splendid Splinter himself, Ted Williams.  Believe it or not, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz were not the first batters to be defended with three infielders on the right side.  Alternatively, an increase in athleticism may also be resulting in better defense.

Again, there is nothing here to shake the foundation of baseball research, but there are a few trends to follow in an effort to better evaluate player performance.  It will be interesting to track the HR/FB percent as the season progresses as well as line drive percent and BABIP, especially for ground balls and line drives.

Since we are about one-third through the season, I thought it may be fun to look at the top fantasy performers at each position.  The rankings are based on stats through Sunday’s games.  The dollar values are based on a 15-team mixed league and are not adjusted for positional scarcity.  Please keep in mind this is for entertainment purposes only, I am not looking to draw any conclusions from the data other than to point how whacked the early part of the season has been.  As a note to our Platinum subscribers, later this week, I will post value earned for April, May and year to date.  Please keep your eye on the announcement at the top of the home page for details.

Let us begin with the overall top-100 hitters:

RANK

PLAYER

5x5

RANK

PLAYER

5x5

1

Jose Bautista

$48

51

Corey Patterson

$19

2

Ryan Braun

$44

52

Placido Polanco

$19

3

Curtis Granderson

$40

53

Erick Aybar

$19

4

Matt Kemp

$40

54

Josh Willingham

$18

5

Jay Bruce

$37

55

Coco Crisp

$18

6

Jacoby Ellsbury

$34

56

Jhonny Peralta

$18

7

Adrian Gonzalez

$34

57

Jimmy Rollins

$18

8

Asdrubal Cabrera

$33

58

Elvis Andrus

$18

9

Lance Berkman

$31

59

Neil Walker

$18

10

Jose Reyes

$31

60

Russell Martin

$18

11

Miguel Cabrera

$29

61

Shane Victorino

$18

12

Matt Joyce

$29

62

Colby Rasmus

$17

13

Drew Stubbs

$28

63

Jayson Werth

$17

14

Joey Votto

$28

64

Alexei Ramirez

$17

15

Mark Teixeira

$28

65

Starlin Castro

$17

16

Prince Fielder

$28

66

Michael Brantley

$17

17

Robinson Cano

$27

67

Andre Ethier

$16

18

Paul Konerko

$26

68

Carlos Beltran

$16

19

Rickie Weeks

$26

69

Jason Kubel

$16

20

Andrew McCutchen

$24

70

Adam Lind

$16

21

Carlos Gonzalez

$24

71

Alex Avila

$15

22

Jeff Francoeur

$24

72

Mark Trumbo

$15

23

Melky Cabrera

$23

73

Seth Smith

$15

24

Michael Young

$23

74

Dustin Pedroia

$15

25

Adrian Beltre

$23

75

Yunel Escobar

$14

26

Brandon Phillips

$23

76

Darwin Barney

$14

27

Hunter Pence

$23

77

Ryan Ludwick

$14

28

David Ortiz

$23

78

Ike Davis

$14

29

Matt Holliday

$23

79

Shin-Soo Choo

$14

30

Ryan Howard

$22

80

Stephen Drew

$14

31

Gaby Sanchez

$22

81

Raul Ibanez

$14

32

Justin Upton

$22

82

Brian McCann

$14

33

Carlos Quentin

$22

83

Ichiro Suzuki

$13

34

Alfonso Soriano

$21

84

Vladimir Guerrero

$13

35

Howie Kendrick

$21

85

Laynce Nix

$13

36

Troy Tulowitzki

$21

86

Todd Helton

$13

37

Martin Prado

$21

87

David Wright

$12

38

Alex Rodriguez

$21

88

Brennan Boesch

$12

39

Ben Zobrist

$21

89

Ian Desmond

$12

40

B.J. Upton

$20

90

Chris Coghlan

$12

41

Chris Young

$20

91

Kelly Johnson

$12

42

Ryan Roberts

$20

92

Jose Tabata

$12

43

Alex Gordon

$20

93

Denard Span

$12

44

Adam Jones

$20

94

Travis Hafner

$12

45

Kevin Youkilis

$20

95

Bobby Abreu

$12

46

Michael Bourn

$20

96

Mitch Moreland

$12

47

Mike Stanton

$20

97

Wilson Betemit

$12

48

Johnny Damon

$19

98

Cameron Maybin

$12

49

Albert Pujols

$19

99

Hanley Ramirez

$12

50

Ian Kinsler

$19

100

Mike Aviles

$12

 

Yeah, that was the 2011 ADP.  There are about 4 or 5 players drafted in the first round that are thus far returning first round value: Ryan Braun, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Mark Teixeira.  Those of you who believe in positional scarcity are likely scuffling.  But, we still have plenty of season left.

Next, here are the top-15 catchers:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Russell Martin

$18

60

2

Alex Avila

$15

71

3

Brian McCann

$14

82

4

Miguel Montero

$11

103

5

Yadier Molina

$11

104

6

Jonathan Lucroy

$11

109

7

J.P. Arencibia

$10

115

8

Chris Iannetta

$10

117

9

Victor Martinez

$10

118

10

Buster Posey

$10

119

11

Ramon Hernandez

$9

124

12

Mike Napoli

$8

140

13

Matt Wieters

$8

133

14

Miguel Olivo

$6

150

15

Carlos Santana

$6

152

You could have won a few bar bets based on this list.

Here are the first basemen:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Adrian Gonzalez

$34

7

2

Lance Berkman

$31

9

3

Miguel Cabrera

$29

11

4

Joey Votto

$28

14

5

Mark Teixeira

$28

15

6

Prince Fielder

$28

16

7

Paul Konerko

$26

18

8

Ryan Howard

$22

30

9

Gaby Sanchez

$22

31

10

Albert Pujols

$19

49

11

Mark Trumbo

$15

72

12

Ike Davis

$14

78

13

Todd Helton

$13

86

14

Mitch Moreland

$12

96

15

Billy Butler

$11

112

As expected, a Cardinals first baseman is near the top of the list – just not the one everyone thought would be there.

How about the second basemen:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Robinson Cano

$27

17

2

Rickie Weeks

$26

19

3

Brandon Phillips

$23

26

4

Howie Kendrick

$21

35

5

Ben Zobrist

$21

39

6

Ian Kinsler

$19

50

7

Neil Walker

$18

59

8

Dustin Pedroia

$15

74

9

Darwin Barney

$14

76

10

Kelly Johnson

$12

91

11

Danny Espinosa

$11

101

12

Maicer Izturis

$10

116

13

Jed Lowrie

$10

120

14

Ryan Theriot

$9

128

15

Orlando Cabrera

$9

127

This is actually pretty representative of what was expected.

Next, the shortstops:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Asdrubal Cabrera

$33

8

2

Jose Reyes

$31

10

3

Troy Tulowitzki

$21

36

4

Erick Aybar

$19

53

5

Jhonny Peralta

$18

56

6

Jimmy Rollins

$18

57

7

Elvis Andrus

$18

58

8

Alexei Ramirez

$17

64

9

Starlin Castro

$17

65

10

Yunel Escobar

$14

75

11

Stephen Drew

$14

80

12

Ian Desmond

$12

89

13

Hanley Ramirez

$12

99

14

Mike Aviles

$12

100

15

Alex Gonzalez

$11

110

Lawr’s trust in the man he calls Droobs is paying off in a big way so far.

Here is what you have been waiting for, the cesspool otherwise known as third base:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Jose Bautista

$48

1

2

Michael Young

$23

24

3

Adrian Beltre

$23

25

4

Martin Prado

$21

37

5

Alex Rodriguez

$21

38

6

Ryan Roberts

$20

42

7

Kevin Youkilis

$20

45

8

Placido Polanco

$19

52

9

David Wright

$12

87

10

Wilson Betemit

$12

97

11

Alberto Callaspo

$11

107

12

Chipper Jones

$8

131

13

Greg Dobbs

$8

132

14

Adam Kennedy

$8

139

15

Casey McGehee

$7

143

 

Wow, just wow.

How about the top-50 outfielders:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Ryan Braun

$44

2

26

Coco Crisp

$18

55

2

Curtis Granderson

$40

3

27

Shane Victorino

$18

61

3

Matt Kemp

$40

4

28

Colby Rasmus

$17

62

4

Jay Bruce

$37

5

29

Jayson Werth

$17

63

5

Jacoby Ellsbury

$34

6

30

Michael Brantley

$17

66

6

Matt Joyce

$29

12

31

Andre Ethier

$16

67

7

Drew Stubbs

$28

13

32

Carlos Beltran

$16

68

8

Andrew McCutchen

$24

20

33

Jason Kubel

$16

69

9

Carlos Gonzalez

$24

21

34

Adam Lind

$16

70

10

Jeff Francoeur

$24

22

35

Seth Smith

$15

73

11

Melky Cabrera

$23

23

36

Ryan Ludwick

$14

77

12

Hunter Pence

$23

27

37

Shin-Soo Choo

$14

79

13

Matt Holliday

$23

29

38

Raul Ibanez

$14

81

14

Justin Upton

$22

32

39

Ichiro Suzuki

$13

83

15

Carlos Quentin

$22

33

40

Laynce Nix

$13

85

16

Alfonso Soriano

$21

34

41

Brennan Boesch

$12

88

17

B.J. Upton

$20

40

42

Chris Coghlan

$12

90

18

Chris Young

$20

41

43

Jose Tabata

$12

92

19

Alex Gordon

$20

43

44

Denard Span

$12

93

20

Adam Jones

$20

44

45

Bobby Abreu

$12

95

21

Michael Bourn

$20

46

46

Cameron Maybin

$12

98

22

Mike Stanton

$20

47

47

Torii Hunter

$11

102

23

Johnny Damon

$19

48

48

Sam Fuld

$11

105

24

Corey Patterson

$19

51

49

Carl Crawford

$11

106

25

Josh Willingham

$18

54

50

Nelson Cruz

$11

108

 

We can’t forget about the DH-only:

RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

David Ortiz

$23

28

2

Vladimir Guerrero

$13

84

3

Travis Hafner

$12

94

 

Next, the starting pitchers:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

Jered Weaver

$32

1

26

Cliff Lee

$13

35

2

James Shields

$31

2

27

Jhoulys Chacin

$13

36

3

Dan Haren

$30

3

28

Jon Lester

$12

40

4

Roy Halladay

$29

4

29

Brett Anderson

$12

43

5

Kyle Lohse

$27

5

30

Jeremy Hellickson

$12

44

6

Tim Lincecum

$26

6

31

C.J. Wilson

$12

45

7

Clayton Kershaw

$25

7

32

Jaime Garcia

$12

47

8

Josh Beckett

$24

8

33

David Pauley

$11

49

9

Justin Verlander

$24

9

34

Philip Humber

$11

50

10

Cole Hamels

$23

10

35

Josh Collmenter

$11

52

11

Jair Jurrjens

$22

11

36

Gavin Floyd

$10

53

12

Michael Pineda

$21

12

37

Justin Masterson

$9

55

13

Josh Johnson

$21

13

38

Zach Britton

$9

57

14

Alexi Ogando

$20

14

39

Jonathan Sanchez

$9

58

15

Shaun Marcum

$20

15

40

Ryan Vogelsong

$9

59

16

Trevor Cahill

$19

16

41

Jorge de la Rosa

$8

63

17

Felix Hernandez

$19

17

42

Kyle McClellan

$7

64

18

Ian Kennedy

$18

19

43

Paul Maholm

$7

65

19

Tommy Hanson

$17

20

44

Yovani Gallardo

$7

66

20

Josh Tomlin

$16

21

45

Kevin Correia

$7

67

21

Anibal Sanchez

$16

23

46

Charlie Morton

$7

68

22

CC Sabathia

$16

24

47

Chad Billingsley

$6

69

23

Gio Gonzalez

$16

25

48

Hiroki Kuroda

$6

71

24

David Price

$16

26

49

Logan Ondrusek

$6

72

25

Ricky Romero

$16

27

50

Daniel Hudson

$5

74

And we’ll finish off with the closers:

POS RANK

PLAYER

5x5

OVERALL RANK

1

J.J. Putz

$18

18

2

Craig Kimbrel

$16

22

3

Leo Nunez

$15

29

4

Francisco Rodriguez

$14

31

5

Joel Hanrahan

$14

32

6

Heath Bell

$13

34

7

Brian Wilson

$12

38

8

Ryan Madson

$12

39

9

Mariano Rivera

$12

42

10

Chris Perez

$11

51

11

Huston Street

$10

54

12

Jose Valverde

$9

56

13

John Axford

$9

60

14

Jordan Walden

$8

62

15

Brandon League

$4

92

So there you have it, a look at some values earned through the first two months of the season.

As you likely know by now, we are at the quarter pole of the season.  At this point every year, I make it a practice to go through each of my teams with an eye on the categories, as we are now at the point where the standings are reflective of how they may be at the end of the season.  That is, until now, I am not too concerned where I sit within each category as they are still volatile.  While they are still volatile, the relative distribution between standing places is now representative of how it will be at season’s end.

Here is what I mean.  I will use a couple of similar leagues as the example.  There are both 15-team mixed leagues with no trading, played mostly using NFBC rules. Our own Perry Van Hook runs them.  I took last season’s final standings and averaged them.  I then took this season average standings for both leagues, and normalized each category so there were the same number of each stats in each category.  Here are the results:

FINAL 2010 STANDINGS

BA

HR

R

RBI

SB

ERA

K

SV

W

WHIP

0.279

276

1103

1051

205

3.285

1479

120

110

1.200

0.276

259

1070

1011

188

3.398

1393

101

109

1.209

0.274

251

1060

1004

179

3.540

1322

92

106

1.239

0.273

250

1038

992

159

3.559

1286

88

104

1.257

0.272

244

1030

983

154

3.721

1273

82

101

1.274

0.272

233

1005

979

151

3.741

1235

73

100

1.282

0.271

232

996

961

146

3.779

1214

63

98

1.292

0.269

219

979

921

142

3.902

1204

60

97

1.297

0.268

215

943

907

133

3.906

1201

59

92

1.304

0.266

211

920

899

132

3.975

1187

49

92

1.307

0.264

211

918

890

118

3.999

1172

48

89

1.307

0.261

210

896

881

108

4.045

1169

46

88

1.315

0.261

202

870

865

103

4.092

1145

33

83

1.326

0.256

186

866

824

91

4.201

1111

13

81

1.345

0.252

146

784

687

86

4.552

920

2

58

1.397

NORMALIZED 2011 STANDINGS

BA

HR

R

RBI

SB

ERA

K

SV

W

WHIP

0.279

282

1072

1070

197

3.168

1472

109

118

1.126

0.272

263

1039

1057

180

3.421

1439

83

114

1.180

0.267

257

1031

1035

176

3.451

1325

75

112

1.205

0.264

249

1025

1016

168

3.504

1311

74

110

1.217

0.260

242

1021

993

148

3.523

1284

72

99

1.226

0.258

236

1004

987

144

3.575

1277

68

97

1.235

0.257

232

990

947

142

3.653

1269

66

95

1.248

0.256

232

988

914

140

3.663

1232

61

92

1.257

0.255

215

986

908

138

3.709

1211

59

92

1.275

0.254

205

963

881

131

3.823

1207

54

90

1.285

0.252

197

924

856

127

4.011

1135

52

88

1.298

0.250

195

893

848

112

4.054

1122

47

82

1.322

0.248

191

871

812

102

4.078

1108

45

77

1.373

0.242

188

844

783

97

4.441

1019

38

71

1.398

0.237

157

823

746

89

4.588

896

22

67

1.418

As you can see, the standings are pretty similar in terms of top to bottom distribution within each category.  Doing this exercise earlier in the season would have rendered the top to bottom distribution in the normalized standings to be more spread out.  The top team would be higher than last season, the bottom team lower.  Now, they are about the same.

Based on the above I do not want to draw any specific conclusions based on where I sit per category, other than I feel comfortable looking at some general trends which I will now describe.  These observations are all based on personal research and seem to hold true year to year.

The first category I look at is home runs.  While there are exceptions, year after year, homers prove to be the most important offensive category as champions rarely struggle in the category.  This maybe intuitive as each homer also results in a run and an RBI, not to mention a hit, but it is always nice when data supports intuition.  If I find myself in the bottom half of the homer category, I spend some time evaluating how I can improve that, since I know if I want to compete, I am going to have to do better.

The next category I check out is batting average.  I do not do it so much to see where I stand, but more so because a rise in average will almost always result in a gain in runs and RBI as well.  If I am doing well in runs and RBI but struggling in average, I am quite confident my offense will be strong since I have faith my average will climb.  However, if my average is decent but my runs and RBI are lagging, I am concerned.  The first thing I look at is my at bats total as compared to the rest of the league.   If I am not accruing at bats at the rate of others, I find the dead spots in the lineup and figure out how to upgrade them.  Sometimes you take for granted a player is getting a certain amount of playing time, but when you take a closer look, you discover he is short some at bats.  This exercise helps me catch those that I overlook while there is still time to do something about it.

With respect to steals, I do not get too concerned so long as I am somewhere in the middle.  Historically, steals are very bunched in the middle so it is usually fairly easy to manage the category to maximize points by adding another speed guy in to gain points if they are there and if they are not, you use that spot to help boost power.  It is still too early to manage in that manner, so I continue to play my best hitters unless I am really lagging in steals, in which case I look to get the most points with the least effort.   If two teams are ignoring steals, I make sure I have ample stolen bases to finish above them, but focus on really pumping up the other categories.

Turning to pitching, the most important factor to keep in mind is that it is NEVER too late to gain or lose points in ERA and WHIP.  Later in the season, I will in fact demonstrate that MORE points are gained or lost in ERA and WHIP towards the end of the season than any other categories.  But it is still way too early to worry about that.

The first trend I look for with pitching is where my ERA sits with respect to my WHIP.  More often than not, the two categories will be close, with a couple of standings points.  If the difference is greater than that, expect your ERA to be the category that corrects closer to your WHIP.  As such, if my WHIP is strong but my ERA is weaker, I do not sweat it since that should correct.  But if my ERA is very good but my WHIP is not so good, I am concerned since I am likely going to lose ERA points.

While it is a little too early to make this determination, eventually, if your ERA and WHIP are poor, you need to consider if it is better to start ignoring them and focus on wins and strikeouts or perhaps look to add some strong relievers in an effort to improve the ratios.  We will discuss this in more detail later in the season.

A mistake I often see made at this point in the season is managing closers based on where you sit in saves.  In my opinion, it is too early to do that.  While deployment of closers ultimately depends on the quality of the matchups for your starters, my general feeling is pile up the saves early on and worry about catching up in strikeouts and wins later using two-start pitchers if necessary.  Closers are so volatile, it is best to take advantage of the saves while you can.  You can always find two-start pitchers later if necessary.

In summary, even though the stats are distributed as they will be come October, there is still plenty of time to gain points across the board and elevate your squad into contention.  But it is not too early to make educated evaluations of how you need to go about accomplishing that.  That said, if you are strong in homers and WHIP, you are set up quite well for a fun and competitive summer.

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