Fantasy Baseball: The Relevance of Contact Rate

Jason Sarney Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2008

It's hard to say what the most important offensive statistic is in 5x5 standard roto-leagues.

Some may say power is the way to win a league, while others tend to load up on average and speed.

No matter what your strategy, one thing is for certain—guys who can be counted on as locks to bat over .300 are immensely valuable to your fantasy team.

Mind you, if a hitter bats over .300 in a season, they are not 100 percent locks to meet or exceed that total the following year. When looking at which .300+ hitters from last season are most likely to meet or exceed their total in 2008, I took a deeper look into players contact rate.

Contact rate is a simple formula which is really as easy as it sounds. At bats minus strikeouts divided by at bats.

(AB's-K's) /AB's

This basically means the percentage of times the particular batter makes contact with ball, whether they are successful in recording a hit or not. Take walks completely or hit by pitch out of this equation.

I analyzed this stat for the sole purpose of pointing out who has the best chances at batting over .300 in 2008.

First off, lets look at the top hitters from last season with at least 500 ABs. (The stats you see are batting average -at bats - contact rate.)

Magglio Ordonez RF DET .363 595 87 percent
Ichiro Suzuki RF SEA .351 678 89 percent
Placido Polanco 2B DET .341 587 95 percent
Matt Holliday LF COL .340 636 80 percent
Jorge Posada C NYY .338 506 81 percent
Chipper Jones 3B ATL .337 513 85 percent
Chase Utley 2B PHI .332 530 83 percent
Hanley Ramirez SS FLA .332 639 85 percent
David Ortiz DH BOS .332 549 81 percent
Albert Pujols1B STL .327 565 90 percent
David Wright 3B NYM .325 604 81 percent
Mike Lowell 3B BOS .324 589 88 percent
Vladimir Guerrero RF ANA .324 574 89 percent
Derek Jeter SS NYY .322 639 84 percent
Miguel Cabrera 3B DET .320 588 78 percent

You will notice I bolded Placido Polanco and Albert Pujols. I did so because they were the only two of the top 15 with a 90 percent contact rate. You'll also notice Cabrera and his 78-percent CR. Forget about him. This is a guy who once took a cut while being intentionally walked.

Since it is safe to project more of the same from the rest of the upper echelon of within this category, I wanted to look a bit deeper.

I wanted to see how many hitters in 2007 had both a batting average above .300 as well as a CR above 90 percent. This is not a long list. Based on these numbers, it would be a great indicator what to expect from them in 2008.

Placido Polanco 2B DET .341 587 95 percent
Dustin Pedroia 2B BOS .317 520 92 percent
Luis Castillo 2B NYM .301 548 92 percent
Orlando Cabrera SS CHW .301 638 90 percent
Carlos Lee LF HOU .303 627 90 percent
Albert Pujols 1B STL .327 565 90 percent
Jose Vidro DH SEA .314 548 90 percent

So what does this list tell me? It tells me to bank on Pujols and Polanco to do what they usually do. It also says that even though Carlos Lee barely hit over the mark at .303, I would safely say that average could increase in '08, maybe in the .310 range. El Caballo is a steal anywhere past mid round 2. If you are that last pick in snake style roto drafts, and Lee is on the board, you must select him.

Now do I draft Castillo, Cabrera, or Vidro any higher than normal because of their high CR and over .300 average? No, but it would be nice to scoop them up late to stash on my bench, if average is a latter issue for my team.

Last but not least, it tells me that Dustin Pedroia could be reaching higher batting numbers than last seasons .317 rookie campaign. And he can do it, for years. Hello, keeper.

Next up...finding out which hitters are not that likely to replicate their over .300 2007. I say not likely based on a CR of under 80 percent last year. I moved that AB minimum to 400 for this section, as each of the following should finish above the 500 at bat range in 2008.

Hunter Pence CF HOU .322 456 79 percent
Marlon Byrd CF TEX .307 414 79 percent
Mark Teixeira 1B ATL .306 494 77 percent
Curtis Granderson CF DET .302 612 77 percent
Ryan Braun 3B MIL .324 451 75 percent
B.J. Upton CF TB .300 474 68 percent

You may not find a bigger Ryan Braun fan than me. However...while I believe that his power and speed combo will more than prove his 2nd round worth, I am not banking on a .320+ or even a .310+ average through a full season from the National Leagues reigning Rookie of the Year. I just hope he stays above .300, because a full season doesn't guarantee it.

B.J. Upton had a terrible CR rate of 68 percent last year. A really terrible rate. He had the same CR percent as average killer Adam Dunn, who hit .264 in '07, pretty much matching his career high. The only other notable full time player who posted a CR percent lower than Upton was Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard, who came in at a 62 percent CR and a .268 average. Hey...you draft him for 50+ homers, not for his average, right?

As for Pence and Byrd, think more towards a .290 average rather than above .300. Since Teixeira and Granderson just slid in the .300+ club, I am going to say that this club denies both men membership in 2008. Barely.

After looking even further, I looked at some up and coming high average hitters. Take a look at the following few sleepers, all in between 300-450 AB's last season, and all looking at increased roles as full time contributors this season.

Casey Kotchman 1B ANA .296 443 90 percent
James Loney 1B LA .331 344 86 percent
Conor Jackson 1B ARI .284 415 88 percent
Andre Ethier LF LA .284 447 85 percent

Joe Torre has a nice crop of young talent ready to explode on the Left Coast, like Loney and Ethier. Loney will hit above .300 based on his 86 percent CR so don't think more AB's will drastically change that high .331 average from last season. Look for Ethier to make average his calling card, with modest stats in the other roto categories making him a solid overall fantasy player.

Major sleeper alert out for Conor Jackson, now that he will see many more AB's since Tony Clark is now in San Diego.

On the flip side, let’s look at some young hitters also looking at more playing time this season. Watch out for these poor CR hitters, even though they had respectable batting averages in '07.

Jeremy Hermida RF FLA .296 429 76 percent
Matt Kemp CF LA .343 292 77 percent
Josh Hamilton CF TEX .292 298 78 percent
Mark Reynolds 3B ARI .279 366 65 percent

I have to admit, I still like all of these hitters despite their low average projections. Come draft day, don't be fooled by these nice looking averages from a year ago. Not going to happen in 2008.
I love Hermida and Kemp this season for their overall 5x5 value, but averages of both will be closer to .275 then they are to .300.

Same goes for Josh Hamilton and Mark Reynolds. These guys will give you power, but expect averages topping off at .280. Not terrible, but not .300.

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