Numbers. Fantasy Baseball is defined by them. Standard 5x5 leagues use 10 of them. These 10 numbers are probably the most important numbers you will think about from March to September. But should they be?
Fantasy Baseball has come quite a ways in the last few years. Nowadays sabermetrics have given us new numbers with acronyms like wOBA, BABIP, xFIP, and LOB percent. These strange figures can be overwhelming to those who are unfamiliar with them.
Rather than try to teach you how to use advanced metrics, I defer to the geniuses at Fangraphs, who have given us an amazing dictionary that defines these numbers and how to use them. Just click through the dropdowns and give yourself a base of SABR knowledge.
The basis of “Finding the Mean” will be to highlight one hitter and one pitcher each week who are under or over performing based on their more advanced numbers. The concept behind the title is that, almost always, a player will naturally gravitate toward an average.
Our first player to look at this season is the guy I am completely all in on, more so than any other. He is Shaun Marcum. I will be trying for Marcum in every league this year (Even AL Only, I don’t care what the rules say.) All kidding aside, this guy was great last year for the Blue Jays. Let’s start by looking at some of his 5x5 contributions from last year.
He went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in the AL East last season. Not counting the Blue Jays, there were 3,092 runs scored in that division last season, an average of 773 runs per team. In comparison, the NL Central (not counting the Brewers) gave up 3,409 runs with an entire extra team. This comes out to an average of 681.8 runs per team. Almost 100 less runs per team. I think it is safe to infer from this that Marcum will have a much easier opponent to face each night.
To go along with his wins and ERA, Marcum had a fantastic 1.15 WHIP. He accomplished this by allowing less than two walks per nine innings while holding opponents to a .241 AVG against him. To put those numbers in perspective, Tim Lincecum walked over three batters per nine innings and had a .238 AVG against him.
The one 5x5 category Marcum isn’t completely dominant in is strikeouts. He had 165 in 195.1 innings last season, which comes to 7.6 per nine innings. Although not elite, these numbers are still completely serviceable.
The more advanced metrics seem to back up what the above numbers say. Marcum had a 3.64 ERA, FIP of 3.74, and an xFIP of 3.90. Differences of .1 and .26, respectively. As a comparison, lets look at David Price who is currently going 44 spots ahead of Marcum according to ESPN’s average draft results. Price had a 2.72 ERA, FIP of 3.42, and xFIP of 3.99. Differences of .7 and 1.27, respectively. This shows that Marcum’s ERA was not based on luck like Price’s but rather by skill.
The final advanced number I would like to highlight for Marcum would be his strikeout to walk ratio. This is a great primer to show a pitcher’s ability to stay in control. Last year Marcum’s K/BB of 3.84 was sixth in the majors behind only Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Josh Johnson. That is some pretty damn elite company.
My bold prediction for Shaun Marcum this year will be:
17-8, 3.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 180 K
Our hitter to profile this week is a guy that absolutely killed owners last year. Aaron Hill followed up his monster 2009, where he hit .288 with 36 homers, with an abysmal 2010 that found him and Mario Mendoza being mentioned in way too many of the same sentences. But, was his bad performance based on diminished skill or rather by luck?
Aaron Hill had a BABIP of .196. Everything about that number screams that his .083 drop in AVG was not his fault. The league average BABIP is right around .300 (and Hill’s is .288) so just exactly how bad is a .196 BABIP?
Here is why Fangraphs is the greatest website in the world. I took every Major League player’s seasons since 1913 (the earliest that Fangraphs has BABIP for players) and sorted the players by their respective BABIPs. The players had to have a minimum of 320 plate appearances in the season. This gave me 10,590 “seasons” worth of data.
Would you care to make a guess who was dead last in BABIP out of those 10,590? That would be 2010 Mr. Aaron Hill, who joined 1968 Curt Blefary (.198) as the only two players in the past 97 years who had BABIPs under .200.
Aaron Hill literally had the unluckiest season of ALL TIME.
Another reason I believe Hill will greatly increase his value is his home park. The Rogers Centre was eighth last year in total runs scored and fourth in home runs hit. If Hill gets back on luck’s good side he can take advantage of the same park that Jose Bautista hit 54 out of last season.
My bold prediction for Aaron Hill this year will be:
.275, 30 HR, 90 Runs, 90 RBI
Written exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com by Corey Herron. Corey is an Oil & Gas Landman who loves Fantasy Baseball like Charlie Sheen loves goddesses. You can find him on twitter @coherron.