BY ROB SHAW
With more than 20 of the Major League Baseball teams turning to Bloomberg Sports as a business solution, fantasy managers can rest assured that their fantasy teams are in good hands.
In a previous article, we focused on ballpark, durability, age, and contract status. Now the focus is on the remaining five Fantasy Factors.
In fantasy baseball, career trends are an important aspect to be considered when evaluating players. In essence, fantasy managers like investors have to know what’s a growing stock and what’s a mature stock. A player on the rise would be a growing stock and two examples are Baltimore Orioles rising stars Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Both players are in their mid-20s and have been improving their statistics consistently over the last few seasons.
On the other hand, Yankees veteran Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are far from their prime and have recently suffered their worst seasons of their legendary careers. It’s perfectly fine to invest in a player on the decline, as long as you are realistic about what they can produce in the upcoming season.
Next, luck is a Fantasy Factor that can help forecast performance. Using an advanced statistic: BABIP, it is possible for baseball fans to find out if a player had luck on their side or if it worked against him over a given period.
BABIP is the batting average for balls in play and takes into account whether a player enjoyed a higher percentage than usual of balls in play falling for hits. For instance, if a player offers a BABIP that is significantly higher than their career norm, it is often a safe bet that in the following period his performance will regress to the previous rate.
On the other hand, if the BABIP is abnormally low, it is safe to assume the player will have better luck ahead and his batting average and other statistics will improve. The statistic can also be used for pitchers when looking at BABIP against the opposition.
Next, team support is an important fantasy factor for hitters and pitchers. For hitters, it is a matter of whether they have players around them in the lineup that they can drive in and players who will drive them in. In other words, team support has a direct impact with RBI and runs. For pitchers, it’s a matter of having run support to earn wins, plus a solid defense behind them to keep runs off the board.
Strength of schedule is the next factor, and this is all about what ballparks and teams an opponent faces. Pitching in the AL East is no easy task for pitchers who have to deal with the Red Sox offense in Fenway Park, the Yankees offense in Yankees Stadium, and additional hitters parks in Toronto and Baltimore. On the other hand, the NL West calls home to several pitcher parks and limited offenses including in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
Consistency is a fantasy factor, as fantasy managers have to decide whether to gamble on a player who has great potential, but also great volatility. A player like Geovany Soto seems to alternate between good years, while Torii Hunter and Yadier Molina are examples of players who seem to produce consistent numbers every given season.
To see the Fantasy Factors in action visit BloombergSports.com.
By Eriq Gardner //
By R.J. Anderson //
To say Matt Wieters may have been a tad bit overhyped is more than fair at this point in the catcher’s career. Through the first 637 plate appearance of his career, Wieters slash line is a paltry .264/.322/.384. For the sake of comparison, Jason Kendall’s career line is .289/.367/.380. That’s counting some excellent seasons earlier in his career…but, still.
Everything about Wieters screams that he should be performing better than last year. His walk rate has increased nearly a full percentage point (from 7.3% to 8.1%), his strikeouts have declined (from 24.3% to 22.9%), and his ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average, an indicator of power hitting) has remained nearly the same (.124 to .115).
The elephant in the elevator is Wieters’ batting average on balls in play and batted ball profile. He’s hitting more groundballs than last year (roughly 5% more; or 47% total) and yet his BABIP has dropped nearly .100 points, to less .269 (league average is typically around .300).
Generally, putting the ball on the ground means more singles and fewer extra-base hits. Yet, that doesn’t always hold true when the batter isn’t fast enough to beat out close plays for infield hits. Wieters has all of four career infield hits; that lack of speed, combined with an unhealthy dose of poor luck, have been the culprits.
The reality of the situation is that Wieters’ hype has caused fantasy owners to hold on a little longer than they should. In keeper leagues, he’s well worth a hold.
But standard 12-team mixed league owners can probably find better options elsewhere. To name two: Angels’ catcher Mike Napoli’s already reached double-digit home runs, and Miguel Montero recently returned for the Diamondbacks and is mashing, while hitting in the middle of the Arizona lineup.
For more on Matt Wieters and other catchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
By Tommy Rancel
Catcher is arguably the most difficult position to draft in the major leagues; real world or fantasy. In fantasy, there are three tiers of catchers: Joe Mauer is alone at the top. Brian McCann and Victor Martinez make up tier two; the rest fall in line after that
Bloomberg’s Demand vs. Scarcity chart does a great job of illustrating this.
If you are not fortunate enough to land one of the elite backstops, selecting a catcher can be a difficult process. With that in mind, keep an eye on these names when selecting your 2010 fantasy catcher.
Position Rank: 5
When Diamondbacks’ starting catcher Chris Snyder went down with a back injury last summer, Miguel Montero made the most of his Wally Pipp opportunity. For the first time in his four-year career, Montero was given more 400 at-bats. He responded by hitting .294/.355/.478 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 16 home runs and 59 RBI. His .327 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was above the expected norm (around.300), but Montero has sustained a BABIP over .320 in each of the past two seasons.
Even if his batting average regresses to the .275 area, his power numbers pass the test. Montero’s .184 ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) was within his career average of .178 and his 12.7% home run-to-fly ball ratio (HR/FB) wasn’t far from his career number, 11.3%.
Montero goes into 2010 as the clear-cut starter for the Diamondbacks and could top 500 at-bats if Arizona can find a trade partner for Snyder. Another season with 15 to 20 home runs is well within reach.
Position Rank: 8
Like Montero, Chris Iannetta enters 2010 as his team’s clear number-one catcher, after being mired in a time-share for several seasons. The Rockies did sign Miguel Olivo to replace Yorvit Torrealba, but Iannetta received a three-year extension from Colorado, showing that he is the team’s first choice.
Iannetta hit just .228 last season. That was actually an improvement over his .218 mark in 2008, though still a huge drag on his fantasy value. Iannetta’s batting average on balls was just .245 in ’09 though, well below his .283 career mark and the league-wide of just over .300.
Despite the low batting average, his selective batting eye led to a healthy .344 OBP. Unlike his new teammate Olivo, Iannetta will take a walk. He walked 12.3% of the time last season, while Olivo took a free pass just 4.6% of the time.
In addition to getting on base, Iannetta has shown excellent power from the catcher position, his ISO topping .230 in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, his HR/FB of 14.0% matched his career number. Playing his home games in Coors field is an added bonus, but Iannetta’s home/road power splits show some balance: His home slugging percentage sits at .466, vs. .427 on the road.
The low batting average and BABIP make Iannetta a bounceback candidate in 2010. His impressive power from the catcher position makes him a good buy-low candidate in the late rounds of a mixed-league draft.
Position Rank: 10
Matt Wieters is no stranger to hype. That hype fizzled a bit when he got off to a slow start in 2009, though. During the first half of the season, he hit just .259/.316/.407 in 117 plate appearances. As his playing time increased during the second half, so did his production. Over the final 65 games of the season he hit .301/.351/.415 in 268 PA. This included a monster final month of the season, where he crushed the ball at a .333/.395/.486 clip.
Wieters’ .356 BABIP last season is likely to regress toward the .300 level. But the Orioles catcher can make up for it in other areas: He walked just 7.3% of the time while striking out 24.3% last season, numbers that are likely to improve given his superior minor league walk rate (14.7%) and strikeout rate (18.3%).
Wieters is not a true “sleeper” with an ADP of 96.5; however, that is 49 spots later than McCann, 72 spots later than Martinez, and 85 spots behind Mauer. Not yet in that upper echelon of backstops, Wieters’ late-season charge could portend a big season, turning the top catching trio into a fantastic four.
For more info on major league catchers including: player cards, position rankings, average draft positions, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.