Monday, November 12, 2007

The Hardest Thing In Fantasy Sports

Today I'm going to talk about the part of fantasy sports that every fantasy player struggles with. It is not forming opinions on players early in the season.

Too often a player struggles in April and we are ready to cut him or trade him away for nothing. Even though for the past several years this player has proven himself as a dependable fantasy starter, after one month we consider him valueless.

On the flip side, too often a player who has never performed at the major league level kicks off the season with a bang and that annoying Yahoo! banner appears, "3950 people have added Overa Cheiver."

Don't be that guy. Understand that sample size is key to all statistics. The larger the sample size, the closer the results will be to the "actual".

Knowing this and acting upon this are very different. It is very, very, incredibly difficult to have confidence in a struggling player, and understand that an overacheiving player will not keep it up.

Think of Mark Hendrickson this year. His era through the 21.2 innings he pitched in the month of April - 1.66. Boy that didn't last. By just the end of may it was up to 4.17, and his end-of-season era was a lovely 5.21. You might be thinking to yourself, "what idiot would believe Mark Hendrickson could keep that up?" Well you'd be surprised how many people added him in leagues, and the quality players people gave up to get him.

Batters can also make turnarounds. Colorado Rockies 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins had the "good" type of them. Through the first two months of the season he was batting just .223 with 3 homers, 21 rbi, and a .632 OPS. Then magically the weather got hot, and so did he. In June Atkins batted .305 with 8 homers - almost tripling his total from the first two months. And he never slowed down from there, never batting under .300 in any other month. His end of season line was .301, (helped by that extra regular season game) 25 homers, and 111 rbi's. A very respectable season for someone who looked like the living dead the first two months of the season.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. There are players who start out slowly. . . and end slowly. Some players also begin quickly. . . and end quickly. Such players as Travis Hafner, Jason Bay, and Ervin Santana all had great 2006 seasons, underperformed greatly at the outset of the 2007 season, and continued to ruin expectations. Players like Carlos Pena, Brandon Phillips, and Curtis Granderson started hot, and ended so. I'd consider these players outcasts, phenomena, wonders of the universe or whatever you want to call it. The majority of players who under/over perform expectations will most often return to their career norms.

Of course, we have certain stats to explain why players aren't producing normally, e.g. BABIP, LD%, LOB%, etc. Sometimes, however, you just have to attribute it to being too early in the season.



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