BY ROB SHAW
When it comes to evaluating player performance and creating projections for the upcoming season, Bloomberg Sports takes several factors into account. Here’s a breakdown of four of the nine factors that allow Bloomberg Sports to offer the most accurate projections in fantasy sports while attracting more than 20 Major League teams to turn to the company for scouting and advanced analytical solutions.
The first factor to consider is ballpark. Over the last five years it seems like we have shifted back to the big ballparks that favor pitchers. That is certainly the case for Citi Field, PETCO Park, and Target Field. As a result, just about any Mets, Padres, or Twins hurler performs better at home than on the road.
On the other hand, there are power alleys in Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, and most definitely the Ballpark in Arlington. Fantasy managers want to invest in the pitchers from the large cavernous and the hitters in the bandboxes.
On that note, be wary of pitchers who thrived in pitcher’s parks such as Mat Latos and Heath Bell who now join more hitter-friendly confines and definitely invest in hitters such as Michael Cuddyer making the move from Target Field to Coors this season.
The next fantasy factor to keep in mind is durability. Fantasy managers expecting full seasons from Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, and Chipper Jones are playing against the odds. There are durable hitters out there such as Yadier Molina and Roy Halladay. Their durability is a fantasy asset since you know what to expect from them on a day-to-day basis.
Next, fantasy managers should consider the age of their players. Bloomberg Sports has found 26-31 to be the prime age for baseball players. A younger player should be approaching his peak, while older players are typically on the decline. It should not shock you that Ichiro, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez are slowing down with age.
Finally, fantasy managers should consider the impact of a long-term deal. It is very rare that the player delivers shortly after signing such a deal. While we hate to question motivation, we have noticed that stars such as Jason Bay, John Lackey, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth were not nearly as productive after signing long-term deals compared to the season prior to the negotiation. On that note, Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols may not be as safe as you thought.
For all nine Fantasy Factors visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Russell Branyan
After leading the Mariners in home runs in 2009 (31), few expected Branyan to do it again in 2010. Why? Because he started the season with a nasty back injury (and as a member of the Cleveland Indians). After a few months in Cleveland, he was re-acquired by Seattle. In 57 games, he has hit 15 home runs for the M’s which is (sadly) good enough for the team lead. He also leads the team with a .802 OPS.
Biggest Bust: Chone Figgins
There were plenty of choices here: Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez. But Figgins’ poor season comes with the biggest price tag. After signing a four-year deal in the off-season, Figgins is “hitting” .263/.344/.310 this year – a far cry from his career .287/.360/.376 line. He has just 24 extra-base hits in nearly 700 plate appearances and has rated as a below-average defender at second base. The one good thing from a fantasy perspective is Figgins stole 42 bases this season, though he still scored just 62 times in a historically awful Seattle lineup.
2011 Keeper Alert: Ichiro Suzuki
Even in what could be described as a down season for him, Ichiro, remained the Mariners’ top offensive weapon in 2010. His slash line dipped to .315/359/.394, but once again topped the 200-hit mark – becoming the first player in league history with 10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits. In addition to the hits, he also stole 41 bases and somehow managed to cross the plate 73 times – nearly 15% of the teams total runs scored. Another 200 hits and 40 steals should be doable for the great Ichiro in 2011.
2011 Regression Alert: Justin Smoak
As the big chip in the Cliff Lee trade, Smoak has been a disappointment in 2010. The young slugger is hitting just .201/.301/.364 in 356 plate appearances. On the plus side, he’s hit 13 homers in less than 400 plate appearances, and has found his stride in the last couple weeks of the season, hitting for power and showing a much better batting eye. He’s just too talented to be this bad next year, and he could be an excellent deep sleeper.
For more on Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.