"'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'" - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
Daniel Okrent, the man credited with inventing fantasy baseball in 1980, once said, "I feel like J. Robert Oppenheimer having invented the atomic bomb. I mean, look what I’ve unleashed on the world."
A game that was started in 1980 by a few friends in a now-defunct Manhattan restaurant called La Rotisserie Français has exploded into a phenomenon that's enjoyed by millions today.
At the heart of fantasy baseball is statistical analysis. One can make the argument that if it weren't for fantasy baseball, advanced metrics wouldn't be as widely accepted as they are today.
For the fantasy baseball player, a principal understanding of statistical analysis is paramount in attempting to predict future performance. In this ongoing player forecast series, I'll analyze players using metrics that could best indicate what that particular player may do in the 2014 season.
Which brings me to the quote from Alice in Wonderland above. What better way to start this series than with the player than was ranked first by ESPN's Player Rater in 2014, Miguel Cabrera.
2013 was another banner year for the Detroit Tigers slugger. On the surface, Cabrera was spectacular again. He batted .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI.
The underlying skill set of Cabrera is basically everything you could want from a baseball player.
Firstly, Cabrera is amongst the elite in the game at pitch recognition. His batting eye (BB/K) came in at 0.96. In the last five seasons, Cabrera's contact rate ((AB-K)/AB) hasn't dipped below 80 percent. He also hit more line drives and fewer ground balls than in his Triple Crown season (granted, he logged 77 fewer at-bats.) Cabrera also sustained a higher Home Run to Fly Ball rate (25.4 percent) in 2013 than he has in his entire career.
He continues to see the ball well, making consistent contact while hitting the ball in the air with authority. The only knock on Cabrera's fantasy game is his complete uselessness in the steals department. But his extraordinary production in other areas sustains his value as a top pick.
The Tigers trade of Prince Fielder to the Rangers does take some protection away from Cabrera. However, Ian Kinsler at the top of the Tigers lineup could provide more opportunities for Cabrera to hit with men on base.
Some may point to the second half of 2013 to suggest Cabrera may be finally slowing down. Cabrera had offseason groin surgery after the injury was severely limiting his ability to hit for power in the season. He only hit one home run in the month of September.
Despite the injury, Cabrera is still one of the most durable and reliable fantasy options to build your team around. In snake drafts, you'll be lucky to snag him outside of the top five selections. In auction drafts, be prepared to bid north of $40 to acquire his services.
Expect more of the same in 2014 from Miguel Cabrera.
2014 Forecast: .332, 38 HR, 126 RBI, 100 R, 2 SB
All stats taken from Fangraphs.com unless noted otherwise.
You can follow John Otano on Twitter @MisterOtano.