Patience, Fantasy Grasshoppers

Grant Correspondent IApril 12, 2009

Daniel Larusso was a skinny kid from Jersey who was transplanted three time zones away on the West Coast.  Soon after moving to California, he was regularly beaten up by local ruffians.

Luckily for Larusso, his apartment complex handyman was a martial arts master who agreed to teach him self defense. 

But much to Daniel's chagrin, the Golden State sensei was reluctant to rush his relocated pupil's training.  Daniel first had to learn to wax on and off.

Like the teaching style of Mr. Miyagi, patience must be practiced in fantasy baseball.  You can't expect to take down the Cobra Kai dojo in the first week of the season.

Therefore I was shocked last Monday morning when I found a rival owner in a 12-team non-keeper public league had dropped Alex Rios for Atlanta upstart Jordan Schafer.

Rios had not even played an inning yet already had been discarded.

Was this owner a forecasting genius or impulsively mad?

At the risk of again being reprimanded for showing up late to work, I immediately consulted the true baseball oracle: the stat page.

While uber-prospect Jordan Schafer was the 99th player in the history of the game to homer in his first major league at bat, he has never clubbed more than 15 round trippers in a full season of farm system play.

In fact, last year Schafer only hit 10 home runs for the Braves Double-A affiliate and compiled a pedestrian .269 average.

However, following above said owner's logic, Schafer has tattooed two moonshots in a mere five games, thereby putting him on pace to crank more than 60 home runs.

Therefore in theory, picking up the young Brave at the expense of Rios seems like a good idea.  After all, Alex so far is batting slightly above the Mendoza Line and also coming off a "disappointing" 15 HR, 32 SB 2008 campaign.

But as Blood, Sweat, and Tears preaches "What goes up, must come down," Sir Isaac Newton proved the inverse to be true as well.

By this I mean baseball is a game of averages.  Statistics, through both droughts and hot streaks, have a way of settling back to their natural mathematical place.

For example, the Alabama-born Rios went deep 24 times in his 2007 breakout season.  Yet the next year that total dwindled to 15.  Fantasy owners were somewhat placated of the Toronto outfielder's lack of the long ball by his 32 stolen bases.

A closer study of the statistics, however, reveals the power outage to be a fluke.

In the first half of 2008, Rios hit four home runs while swiping an eyebrow-raising 23 bags.  But after the All-Star break, he stole only nine bases while crushing 11 homers in 70 less at bats.

Though a 20/20 season has hitherto been attained, such a milestone can reasonably be expected from Rios in 2009.

After this brief comparison of the two outfielders, was the aforementioned roster move unwise?

No, it was certifiably Arkham Asylum insane.  I look forward to trouncing this owner with Rios now occupying my utility position.

As a rational follow up question, what is to be learned from such a trigger-happy mistake?

Please do not lose faith in your veterans already.  I know the temptation of a shiny new rookie is always appealing, but in non-keeper shallow league formats, these urges must be fought off.

If you forecast Schafer to continue to produce at this level for the entire year, you will be sorely disappointed.  But relying on Rios to be a five-tool fantasy contributor is a safe bet.

To conclude, following the previous example of dropping an universally owned player for an undrafted novice is absolutely unwarranted this early in the season.  There are six months of baseball yet to be played.

Only patience will perfect the all-conquering crane style.