With this being the final Fantasy Lookout of the baseball season, I thought it would be appropriate to summarize which statistics I find most relevant when it comes to evaluating players.
Remember these points, they will help you when you are planning for your drafts next year.
The key to evaluating pitchers does not start with their ERA. A pitcher’s ERA is based on a number of factors and is the result of both skill and luck. If you have to use one stat to gauge a pitcher’s worth, I would use WHIP, but once again, WHIP is driven by a number of peripherals. You have to look at the entire picture, all the stats combined together form the most complete story. With all stats, a larger sample size becomes for informative than a smaller one. Small sample sizes are more prone to outliers and stability and relevance of the numbers occur as the sample size grows.
Different types of hitters have different statistics that are key to their evaluation. The way you value a speed hitter is not the same way you value a power hitter.
Let’s break it down.
The most important peripherals are K-BB% and the pitcher’s batted ball profile. If you can limit your free passes and strikeout your fair share of batters, you are off to a great start. There is no fielder impact or luck involved when it comes to walks and strikeouts. You should look at first pitch strike rates along with swinging strike rates to gauge the sustainability of the K-BB%.
With respect to the batted ball profile, the line drive rate, hard hit rate, and soft hit rate are the most important. If you can minimize hard contact, damage will be limited. A strong groundball rate is nice, but it is not a must to be an elite pitcher.
Luck can also play a role. Looking at both BABIP and LOB% can give great insight into the sustainability of a pitcher’s ERA. BABIP is not all about luck since a high or low BABIP is impacted by a batted ball profile. However, once you account for the batted ball profile, a temporarily inflated or depressed BABIP may remain. Regression would suggest that this would normalize and that is what I mean by BABIP luck. LOB% is also a stat that may have a luck component. Batting average allowed with runners in scoring position can be a large factor in a pitcher’s LOB%, especially if it is drastically different than situations when runners are not in scoring position.
You also have to remember to put everything into context. A number on its own is not enough, you need to compare it to something. First, you should compare the statistic to the player’s past history. This will provide a reference point against a larger sample size and should help signal signs of potential improvement or future weakness. A comparison against the league average will also help provide colour, especially if you are looking at a number of different statistics.
To maintain a solid batting average, a hitter should have a few attributes. First, the will have a solid BB/K ratio. This is a great gauge of a hitter’s batting eye. There are a few free swingers out there that strikeout out a lot, yet find a way to maintain decent batting average; however, this is not the norm. Second, hitters with a sustainable batting average usually do not try to pull everything, they will use the entire field. Finally, a strong line drive rate accompanied with a strong hard hit rate usually leads to success. The one anomaly here has to do with the slightly built, speed players. These slap hitters may rarely hit the ball hard, but their legs allows them to turn balls put into play into base hits more often.
Home run hitter evaluation is its own beast. Here, you want a hitter that puts the ball in the air often, a strong FB% allows for the potential for more home runs since ground balls do not leave the yard. A hitter’s power is strongest when the pull they ball, a strong Pull% allows a hitter to maximize their strength. Average fly ball distance is also positively correlated to home runs, the farther a hitter tends to hit fly balls, the more likely the balls will leave the park. The top home run hitters also tend to have a solid Hard% along with a strong HR/FB ratio. All of the above factors, grouped together, determine if a hitter’s home run trend is sustainable or not.
BABIP, just like it was with pitchers, is driven by skill and may contain a luck component. Hitters with a high, sustainable BABIP will have a few characteristics. A low IFFB%, since popups are easy outs, allows a hitter to maximize their opportunity for base hits on their balls put into play. Since line drives and hard hit balls are more likely to land for base hits, a solid LD% and Hard% is a great help to BABIP. Home runs are not considered in play, so home run hitters may have a deceivingly low BABIP. Speed is a great asset when it comes to having a strong BABIP, legging out infield hits can provide a boost. Once all of the factors listed above have been considered, a hitter’s BABIP may still not make sense and that may be because of luck. Fantasy owners commonly assume an extremely high or low BABIP is completely explained by luck, this is just not correct.
Putting all of this analysis into context is similar as it was with pitchers. You need to compare a current season’s numbers with both that player’s history and also with league averages.
I hope everyone found the Fantasy Lookout column useful this year and had success this Fantasy baseball season. If you have any suggestions or ideas, feel free to state them in the comments section. We will be back throughout the offseason getting you guys ready for next year. Make sure you visit www.socalledfantasyexperts.com for all of your Fantasy needs all year round. For now, enjoy the playoffs and Go Jays Go!
Statistics courtesy of www.fangraphs.com
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