Sunday, March 19, 2006

THE PASTIME by wikkidpissah


Aaaah, baseball. The most elusive of all sports in its enjoyment. Nothing more exciting in person or more boring on television. Less happens per minute at a baseball game than in any other sport, yet no sport is more longly or vividly remembered. Not gonna get all Ken Burns on you, but baseball is in my blood. And, strangely enough, the DNA of my passion comes from my mother. Dad is a farmboy who grew up to be a scientist – frivolity is only for conversation & to him few things are more nonsensical than ball sports. Mom, however, is a nut. She worked for Western Union in her single years and, for part of that time, sent out the WU wire reports for Boston Braves’ games. It was love at first sight. Virtually nothing has a greater capacity to send her into transports of delight than the sights, sounds, smells of the game. She dated ballplayers (Alvin Dark, Eddie Stanky) and, to this day, the dreamboat of her imagination is always a baller. The memory place to which I go, when I want to feel that nostalgic peace we occasionally need, is Mom ironing in front of a ballgame on TV. She let me take the subway to Fenway by myself years before she would relinquish autonomy to me in any other fashion. My Easter gift (I haven’t been a Catholic for almost 40 years, but we still give Easter gifts) to her every year is cable subscription to the Red Sox games which regular service doesn’t offer.

My love for the game deepened into a lifelong passion when I first discovered the weekly stats in the Sunday Globe. I had no patience (much to Dad’s chagrin) for mathematics or science as school subjects, but I could make numbers sing when it came to the esoterica of quantifying performance on the ball field with four columns of numbers in the paper. I have had my own sabermetric formulas as long as Bill James and still insist two or three of them to be better than anything he has published. Strangely enough, since I got a computer a couple of years ago, opening arenas for active use of such passive knowledge, I have lost the desire to compile this analog arcania. Perhaps fellow LOCKEROOM statnut Mr. Ellipsis can turn me onto programs where I can feed the box scores into my old equations.

At any rate, this space seeks & serves to invite, incite & excite you with my enthusiasms, as they pertain to Fantasy Baseball. A good start would probably be draft theory. My best stat (and, therefore, the one I most regret no longer compiling) is Positional Value Index. I would use five different statistical categories to create a single number that graded a batter’s performance. Then, I would average the top 25 performers at each postion and adjust each players Value Index for the median at their position compared to the median of all batters. Using 100 as a median for all positions, here is the average for each position the last year (2003) I worked the formula (each number traditionally fluctuated 2 pts in either direction each year):

C – 89
1B – 128
2B – 92
3B – 110
SS – 98 (usually the same as 2B, but ’03 was a BIG SS yr)
LF – 131
CF – 111
RF – 118
DH – 102

To explain it as simply as one can, 89 RBIs from a catcher is as valuable as 131 is from a left fielder. Another way to look at it would be that the 25th best 1st baseman gets more than the median (100) score, while only the top four 2nd basemen do. It can be far more complicated than that, but its not a bad yardstick. And a good yardstick is worth its weight in gold.

Just as running backs dominate the early picks in fantasy football, hitters should be at least 70 of the first 100 players chosen. The reason is the same and simple – the performance of hitters is at least twice as consistent and predictable as pitchers. By the same token, 20 or so of the 1st 30 pitchers chosen should be closers – easily the most consistent category of performers in the game. Matter of fact, if there was greater distance between 1st and 20th among top relievers, they would be far & away the most valuable players in FBB. No category can be dominated with so few & low choices as saves.

Next in importance during a draft is the value of speculation. Once you’ve locked up 8-10 solid players, it’s gamble time. Those whose goal is to have steady players at the end of their bench are destined to lose. Of the 250 or so players on rosters of the average FBB league, the bottom 50-70 are virtually interchangeable. At draft time, ALWAYS select a prospect over a journeyman – those types will be available on the WW each year. It’s the teams who yield a coupla of stars from 15th round or lower picks that win titles.

Lastly, embrace the idea of going the opposite direction from positional runs. If 8-9 catchers are selected in a round & you don’t have one yet, concede the position. For every player picked in a run, there is a better player in another position that has fallen to you. Carlos Guillen or Armando Benitez will ALWAYS help you more than Michael Barrett.

And there lies the key to the game. The key to success in fantasy baseball is as simple and exactly the same as in reality baseball and was solved for good & all by 19th Century baseballer Wee Willie Keeler: “Hit ‘em where they ain’t”. Play hard -

Back Friday with some studs & duds to consider for your draft.


Creek! said...

Carlos Guillen is a sissy.

wikkidpissah said...

that sissy brought me more titles in '04 alone than you've won alltime