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Take a deep breath, calm down, it is going to be okay. Baseball is back baby! The wait is finally over.

With Opening Day behind us, it is now time to kick off a new season of the Fantasy Lookout. Every week we will do our best to analyze players, trends, and topics by focusing on the statistical side of things.

Since your draft is now a thing of the past, now we need to hit the books and concentrate on managing your assets.

We take a look at things from the surface, but with a little more digging, we will try to answer questions including: Is the hot/cold streak sustainable? Has there been a change in skill or is luck playing a role? Which statistics should be used to confirm a breakout? Is Player A really that different from Player B?

Since it takes about a month for 2016 data to become statistically relevant, this week, we are going to dig into a couple of macro trends that have received plenty of chatter as we rolled up to the start of the 2016 baseball campaign. We will then close things out with a look at park factors.

 

The Fantasy Lookout: The Trend is Your Friend

Stolen Bases: Where have they gone?

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Last year, the declining trend in stolen bases resulted in only 2,505 bags being swiped. That was the lowest total for a non-strike shortened season since 1974.

As Fantasy owners, you can look at this in one of two ways. First, since the aggregate amount of steals is down, the total amount of steals required to stay competitive in a roto league is also lower.

On the other hand, any player that can steal 30 bases, which only seven players accomplished in 2015, now has a larger impact on the category than they did in the past.

In summary, pay less attention to the category overall, while at the same time, increase the value of the top base stealers.

There are numerous situations involving speedsters that Fantasy owners should keep their eye on. Jarrod Dyson could return in late April and potentially slide into an everyday role. If Jonathan Villar can hold down the shortstop position for the Brewers all year, he could post a gaudy stolen base total.

The Reds sent Jose Peraza down to the minors to get him at-bats; however, if he gets recalled, his stolen base prowess can’t be ignored. Teammate injuries and/or playing time questions cloud the future of stolen base threats Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose, and Leonys Martin.

 

Starting Pitching: Man, that pool is deep!

The current trend of pitching and defense gaining the upper hand over the offenses has resulted in a starting pitcher pool that is both full of aces and deep throughout.

To put this into context, last year, among starters with at least 100 innings, the 50th best ERA was 3.63 and the 50th best WHIP was 1.24. In comparison, 15 years ago during the 2000 season, the 50th best ERA was 4.45 and the 50th best WHIP sat at 1.39.

The knee jerk takeaway from the deep pitcher pool is that you can wait on pitching since you can still pick up solid pitchers late in drafts. This line of thinking is not correct, since that means all of the top pitchers are being picked up by your opponents and you will be left in the dust in terms of the pitching categories.

Opposite to the stolen base conundrum, the bar to stay competitive in categories such as ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts is now much higher than it has been in the past.

 

MLB Park Factors: Who has the upper hand, pitchers or hitters?

When looking at park factors, a larger sample size is always better. For our purposes, let’s look at the past three years and use this data to determine which parks are hitter-friendly and which parks at pitcher-friendly. We will be using the data from ESPN.com and will consider both runs and home runs.

PARK NAMERuns3-yr Avg RankHR3-yr Avg Rank
Coors Field (Denver, Colorado)1.40311.2574
Fenway Park (Boston, Massachusetts)1.07420.84524
Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, Maryland)1.07231.2086
Miller Park (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)1.07141.2773
Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)1.06350.99914
Globe Life Park in Arlington (Arlington, Texas)1.05960.97715
Progressive Field (Cleveland, Ohio)1.04871.04912
Target Field (Minneapolis, Minnesota)1.04380.96016
Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)1.03890.83826
Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.)1.027100.84325
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)1.024111.2901
Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois)1.024121.11110
Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati, Ohio)1.022131.2515
Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario)1.022141.2017
Yankee Stadium (New York, New York)1.018151.2822
Comerica Park (Detroit, Michigan)1.014160.93919
Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas)1.004171.1678
Marlins Park (Miami, Florida)0.998180.72129
U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago, Illinois)0.984191.1159
Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri)0.974200.88622
Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)0.957210.91421
O.co Coliseum (Oakland, California)0.952220.83227
Turner Field (Atlanta, Georgia)0.944230.92220
PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)0.939240.82428
Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, California)0.916250.88622
Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)0.898260.94717
Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, California)0.897271.06311
AT&T Park (San Francisco, California)0.878280.68130
Petco Park (San Diego, California)0.862290.94318
Citi Field (New York, New York)0.861301.02313

 

A few things jump out. First, a park that is conducive to home runs may not necessarily be favorable to high scoring games in general. Examples include the home parks of the Mets, Dodgers, and Yankees.

On the other hand, the opposite scenario may also exist, where high scoring games may not be the result of primarily the long ball. Examples include the home parks of the Red Sox, Royals, and Nationals.

The impact of the marine layer is real, evidenced by the fact that six of the bottom nine spots in terms of runs scored belong to the California teams and the Mariners.

I was surprised at the amount of scoring that goes on in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Minnesota. This helped place the AL Central second in terms of average ranking among the divisions behind only the AL East. The rest of the division rankings had the NL Central third, followed by the NL West, NL East, and finally the AL West.

The park factors are useful when determining when to stream pitchers, whether or not to sit a pitcher on your roster, or even with your DFS decisions.

There are a few players that switched teams in the off-season that could be materially affected by a change in home parks. Positive impacts should come to Pedro Alvarez, Wei-Yin Chen, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Daniel Murphy, and Justin Upton.

Negative impacts to Khris Davis, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Corey Dickerson, Jake McGee, Ender Inciarte, Denard Span, Adam Lind, Alexei Ramirez, and Ian Kennedy should also not be ignored.

 

It is so good to have you back baseball, you were missed dearly. Next week, will have a full week of games to dig into. Until then, enjoy the games!

 

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com and www.espn.com

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