For this article and more, take a peak at Baseball Professor.
We change pace today as we continue our recap of the 2009 season, switching from the light-hitting catcher position to focus on the behemoth’s of the fantasy world, first basemen. Make sure to check out our other stops along the way as we profile seven positions in seven days:
Second Base (Monday)
Third Base (Tuesday)
The table below gives you a quick recap of what we saw in 2009. All players are sorted according to PSR Rankings, our unique ratings system that takes into account both player performance and position scarcity. Once again paced by three-time MVP winner, Albert Pujols, first base was the highest rated position last season. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself.
CLICK HERE to take a look at a sortable list of 2009 stats, including the PSR Rankings.
MVP of 2009
Albert Pujols (STL) – Sir Albert turned in his best season since 2006, finishing first among first basemen in R and HR, second in SB and AVG, and third in RBI. There isn’t a more well-rounded fantasy contributor in the game, regardless of position.
Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder (MIL)
Comeback Player of 2009
Derrek Lee (CHC) – Many, myself included, thought Lee had nothing left in the tank. Instead, he kicked it into overdrive and had his best season since 2005, belting 35 HR, driving in 111 runners, and maintaining a .306 AVG. His season was good enough for seventh among all first basemen and 25th overall. Not too bad for a guy who was a mid-round draft pick back in March.
Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder (MIL)
Breakout Player of 2009
Kendry Morales (LAA) – Who needs Mark Teixeira when you have Kendry Morales? After spending parts of three seasons with the Big League club, Morales finally got his chance to play full-time in 2009 and he delivered. It’s not like this wasn’t expected, though. He averaged 89/.332/25/105/2 per 550 AB in his minor league career, which reflects his success at the Major League level. While I doubt he has the power to improve much on his HR totals, at 26 years old he should spend the next few seasons developing his already well-rounded game.
Honorable Mention: Mark Reynolds (ARI)
Most Disappointing Player of 2009
Lance Berkman (HOU) – After an absolutely terrible start to 2009 (10/.162/5/10/0 entering May) Berkman actually had a few good months, but finished the season with a 24/.278/7/25/1 second half. In all, he had his fewest HR (25) since 2005, fewest RBI (80) since 2000, and lowest AVG (.274) and fewest R (73) since 1999. How good was he expected to be? Let’s just say that in my league last season, he was traded straight up for Tim Lincecum in March and back then, it actually wasn’t that lopsided of a deal. What a difference a year makes.
Honorable Mention: Garrett Atkins (COL)
CLICK HERE for a sortable table of LUCK FACTOR RATINGS to see what players' performances in 2009 were legitimate and which may have had some luck involved.
As we did with Catcher, here’s what we’re looking at:
- When considering luck over a period of time, there are a few factors to look at. Two of the biggest are BABIP and LD% (line drive percentage).
- In general, line drives have a greater chance of finding open space and becoming hits than do fly balls or ground balls. This means players that hit more line drives tend to have higher BABIP.
- Also in general, a player’s BABIP equals their LD% plus 0.120.
- By looking at each player’s BABIP from 2009 and comparing it to their Expected BABIP (LD% + 0.120), we can get an idea of which guys caught some lucky breaks and which weren’t as fortunate. Anything over zero in the “Difference” column indicates the probability of some luck, and anything under zero vice versa.
- This is in no way a definite or absolute statistic. It is merely a barometer that can be used to analyze trends. What is considered a line drive in one ballpark may not be the same in another, and not all line drives are made equal. For our purposes though, it is useful when interpreted correctly.
Believe it or not, there are actually a few things we can infer from this data.
But first, a disclaimer: Just because a player has a bad season and bad luck (or vice versa) doesn’t mean they will return to their career norms next season. This is simply added information that you can use or disregard when making decisions, however players with extreme positive or negative values in the Difference column can reasonably be expected to regress back to the median.
First of all, players such as Ryan Howard and Carlos Pena had noticeably negative luck factors. This bad luck comes in the form of the defensive shift, though. An abnormal amount of their line drives are consistently converted into outs because the defense is positioned according to their trends. It is expected that for their careers they will continue to post negative luck factors, so for them these numbers are normal. Also, notice how Lance Berkman had a luck factor of .000 indicating that his poor numbers last season were an accurate reflection of his performance. Adrian Gonzalez actually had an incredible amount of bad luck last season yet still posted impressive numbers. If he is traded and ends up in a better lineup/ballpark in 2010, we can expect improvement in his numbers (particularly AVG, R, RBI). This prediction is a reflection of both the [hypothetical] better situation and the expectation that his luck should regress to the median. Conversely, this analysis indicates Mark Reynolds had an extreme amount of luck last season, which explains why his .260 AVG increased from .239 the year before. Now, it would be unfair to say that this improvement was all luck because Reynolds also possesses incredible strength and converts a larger-than-average amount of fly balls into HR (26.8% last season) which helps his AVG, but this is a statistic to at least make note of.
Take a look at the rest of the list and let us know what you think.