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Fantasy Baseball Basics

Complied by the RotoWire staff
RotoWire Writer


We've put together a collection of articles that aim to give you a basic understanding of fantasy baseball and advice on many basic subjects we've learned during our history. Below is an overview on our strategy for how we approach a fantasy baseball season in terms of analyzing players and how to draft a team.

Here are some other articles that have appeared on RotoWire which may be helpful on other aspects of the hobby:

Evaluating Hitters

What do we look for in a hitter when making our rankings and projections at RotoWire? We try to focus on three aspects: power, plate discipline and speed. A hitter who has command of the strike zone is going to put himself in a better position to have a higher batting average than a free swinger. Years of Sabermetric evidence also show these players have a higher ceiling as well. Home runs are a key category in any fantasy game, so we like to see growing home run totals. Remember that often minor league doubles turn into home run power when players age. Speed on the basepaths is also an important element in most fantasy baseball games - but an overrated factor in the real game. Here are the primary statistics we like to follow to determine a batter's skillset:

  • On base average - We generally like to see a batter above .350 and are worried when a batter is below .300. A low OBA means poor plate discipline and the batter's batting average is a risk to go lower.
  • Slugging average - We generally like to see a batter above .450 at a minimum and like to see true prospects hit above .500 in the minors (depending on park factors) and are worried when a batter is below .400.
  • Stolen Base Ratio - It's great when batters steal lots of bases in the minors or early in their careers. However, if batters are not stealing bases at above a 60% success rate they're likely costing the team runs and their stolen base attempts may be reduced in the future.

    You may note the statistics we don't pay too much attention to for a hitter:

  • Batting average - Statistical research has shown batting average has a lower relation to runs scored than on base average. Basically there are too many factors (fielding, ballparks) that can cause wild fluctuations in a hitter's batting average. Command of the strike zone is a better indicator of future batting average than previous trends in batting average alone.
  • RBIs - Runs batted in are too dependent on the hitters getting on base ahead of a batter in the lineup and the pure chance of opportunity for each at bat. A good hitter will produce RBIs if given a good spot in the order and on a team that can put runners on base.

    Evaluating Pitchers

    Try to focus on the pitcher's skills rather than his role. - While the RotoWire player updates and our closer grid will give you up-to-date news on whether a player has a spot in the rotation or as the closer, focus on his ability to strike batters out and keep the ball in the park. A key to finding bargains in any fantasy draft is picking inexpensive pitchers with strong skills who suddenly are thrust into a prominent role in the bullpen or rotation. Here are the key statistics we look at to determine which pitchers have strong skillsets.

  • Strikeouts - Strikeout pitchers have a better chance at success. - We like to see a pitcher who averages six strikeouts per nine innings (or .667 K/IP).
  • Control - While strikeouts matter, a pitcher can't be too wild. Look for pitchers with better than a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio. A pitcher can walk more batters if he's also striking more batters out, so focus on the ratio and not the total number of walks allowed.
  • Home runs allowed - While control is important, if a pitcher is allowing too many home runs that may indicate he doesn't have the stuff to fool batters. Therefore even having strong control won't matter. We like to see a pitcher allowing less than one home run per nine innings.

    If a pitcher has the above three attributes, he's a good bet for future success. You may note the statistics we don't pay too much attention to for a pitcher:

  • Wins, Losses & Saves - These statistics are dependent upon opportunity. A pitcher with a 4.00 ERA may win 20 games. Another pitcher with a sub-3.00 ERA may have a losing record. Plenty of pitchers with terrible skillsets can save games given the opportunity. Focusing on save percentage (saves vs. blown saves) may be better for closers, but how many times a pitcher gets a save opportunity is still a factor of how many times a team has a lead, how many times the manager choses a particular pitcher out of the bullpen, if the defense catches the ball and too many more factors to list them all.
  • Hits allowed - This statistic is too random, as our friends at BaseballProspectus.com have shown, as factors like the ballpark, team defense and bad hops are too big a factor. To quote a statistical study by author Voros McCracken: "There is little if any difference among major-league pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit in the field of play."
  • ERA - Similar to hits allowed, ERA also has 'noise' in relating to a pitcher's true skillset. While this noise may be less than hits allowed, we'd rather focus on the what a pitcher can control - the strike zone.

     

    Article first appeared 02/22/05