Playing the Name Game

Posted on 17 July 2012 by Daniel Aubain

We’ve all seen the fantasy baseball articles where the writer will compare one nameless player’s statistics to another nameless player’s statistics and then hit you with a ton of reasons why you should be looking past simple name recognition if you want to be winning your fantasy baseball league. And do you know why you see articles of this type all over the fantasy baseball blogosphere? Because they’re very helpful when evaluating your roster and the “who’s who” out there on waivers.

I’ll run through a few of my own comparisons (using standard 5×5 categories) for your fantasy baseball viewing pleasure and hopefully give you something to mull over as you assess your roster(s).

Player A: .275 BA (84/305), 48 R, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 12 SB
Player B: .292 BA (85/291), 42 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 1 SB
Player C: .249 BA (77/309), 48 R, 18 HR, 57 RBI, 5 SB
Player D: .279 BA (96/344), 59 R, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 15 SB

A quick glance at these statistics shows distinct advantages for one player over the others depending on which category you choose to compare but, overall, Yahoo! ranks these four players as having “similar” value; all four being separated by only 12 places in their rankings. To be fair, all four of these players qualify at the same fantasy baseball position for 2012: outfield.

Which of these four players would you guess is the most widely owned? Well chicks and fantasy baseball owners truly love the longball because Player C comes in at 97% owned yet has the lowest batting average of the group at .249. Player D is the least owned at 72% but leads this group in hits, runs and stolen bases. Player A seems to be the most balanced player in this group and, deservingly so, is also the highest ranked at #58 overall with a 93% ownership rate. Player B leads this group in batting average and RBI and eeks in at third place in ownership numbers at 73%.

Any idea of who all four of these players are yet? Drum roll, please. Player A is 58th-ranked Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves. Player B is 66th-ranked Jason Kubel of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Player C is 67th-ranked Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds. And Player D is 70th-ranked Alejandro De Aza of the Chicago White Sox.

My fantasy perspective: With ownership numbers of over 70% for each of these four players, they probably aren’t readily available on waivers in any league worth a damn at participating in here at the midway point. So let’s focus on what name recognition could do for you on the trade market. You’d probably think I was smoking something whacky if I offered you my Kubel for your Heyward in a deal. But think of the reverse for a moment. What if you owned Heyward or Bruce. You could possibly pry a Kubel or De Aza plus a second player from an owner who weighs a deal on name recognition rather than what truly counts in fantasy baseball…statistics! Obviously if your league is a keeper or dynasty format you may value certain players differently for their long-term value but the average fantasy baseball player ins’t in a league of these types. You may only have a few weeks left to make a trade in your league so start doing your homework. Now may be the time to trade away some of your “big name” players for multiple pieces to help you in your drive for a fantasy baseball championship.

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Player A: .246 BA (82/334), 46 R, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 12 SB
Player B: .269 BA (88/327), 41 R, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 10 SB

For comparison purposes again, I picked two players who qualify at the same fantasy baseball postion for 2012: third base. Player A also qualifies at shortstop. A quick look at the statistics of these two players shows each are within a close enough margin to deserve comparison. Only 14 players have accomplished a 10 HR/10 SB or better line so far in 2012 and each of these players fall into that rare group at the midway point. Player A is the 110th-ranked player on Yahoo! while Player B is close behind at 115th. So can you explain to me why Player A is owned in 98% of all Yahoo! leagues and Player B is only 51% owned? I can. Name recognition and “potential”. Have you guessed the players yet? Well, Player A is Hanley Ramirez of the Miami Marlins and Player B is Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres.

My fantasy perspective: Headly is a player possibly on the move before the July 31st Trade Deadline and now might be a good time to pick him up in fantasy baseball. If he is traded away from PETCO Park to a contender with a hitter’s park, his fantasy value instantly jumps. Come to think of it, a trade to any other team in any other park increases his fantasy value. HanRam, on the other hand, is probably NOT getting traded in real life (although the Marlins would be smart to explore all offers) but could bring in a haul if someone in your league believes he’ll have a big second half (I don’t). Play up that he was a second round pick with third base and shortstop eligibility. Unfortunately he’s been pretty awful lately (last 33 gmaes: .192 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI). If he gets hot, MOVE HIM!

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Player A: .286 BA (98/343), 43 R, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB
Player B: .299 BA (59/197), 29 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB

In over 40% LESS at bats, Player B is providing comparable  offensive numbers to Player A. Unfortunately, Player A was ranked 9th overall on Yahoo! to start the season, cost you a 1st round pick to draft him and is currently ranked 162nd while Player B was ranked 494th overall, went virtually undrafted and is currently ranked 170th. Yet Player A is 98% owned while Player B is just 53% owned. Any guesses who these two players are? Player A is Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox and Player B is Tyler Colvin of the Colorado Rockies.

My fantasy perspective: In no way am I suggesting that you should drop Gonzalez and pick up Colvin off waivers if he’s available. But what we see here is a fantasy owner handcuffed by Gonzalez and his struggles. There’s not a lot of people out there willing to trade away Gonzalez at this point because you’d probably wind up having to accept less than market value. And if that’s the case, why not simply hold on to him in hopes he heats it up in the second half while you’re trying to make a run at a title. Colvin, on the other hand, is a player who should see more real-world opportunities in Colorado and continue to provide fantasy value in the second half and should continue to see ownership numbers rise. If only the Rockies had the huevos rancheros to trade away Todd Helton and Jason Giambi. IF ONLY…

Winning at fantasy baseball is determined by which team accumulates the most statistics to earn the most points in categories that matter not by collecting your favorite players or the players whose names you hear on Sports Center the most (PS, if you watch ESPN for baseball news you’re doing fantasy baseball wrong). If you’re able to look at the numbers it takes to get back into the race or keep your team ahead of the pack while removing the personal connection we all have to our perception of a player’s value based on name and/or past performances then there are opportunities to be had to be successful in building and maintaining a winning team.

Were you able to guess any of these players’ names while you were reading this article? If so, which ones? Leave me a comment below or connect with me on Twitter @DJAubain to continue the conversation.

NOTE: All statistics quoted are accurate through games played through July 15th unless otherwise noted.

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