The Saber's Edge: Patience has Virtues. And Limits.

The Saber's Edge: Patience has Virtues. And Limits.

This article is part of our The Saber's Edge series.

Other writers and I have been preaching patience with early season stats. We have encouraged fantasy owners to not over react to early season stats until they reach a stable point. Well, the time has come when some stats start to come into play.

Truthfully, all the stats have been in play since the beginning of the season, but figuring out which stats to look at first can be a crap shoot. Don't let it be confusing by following a few simple rules.

#1 Bookmark these two articles.
One of the smartest writers in baseball, Derek Carty tackled this very subject for hitters and pitchers a few years back. These are still the two go to articles on the subject. A couple of articles are floating around from Russell Carleton on subject, but Carty's are better in his methodology and larger time frame used to collect the information (explained in articles).

#2 Understand what it means when a stat stabilizes and/or becomes reliable.
There are a lot of myths surrounding what it means when a stat stabilizes or becomes reliable. Some people think once a player reaches the stabilization point, the in season information is their true talent level. This is literally a half truth. At the stabilization point, half the player's value will be from his year-to-date information and half will be the league average. The stabilization point is a usable projection with only that season's information. A person can calculate a player's projected K% before the 100 PA

Other writers and I have been preaching patience with early season stats. We have encouraged fantasy owners to not over react to early season stats until they reach a stable point. Well, the time has come when some stats start to come into play.

Truthfully, all the stats have been in play since the beginning of the season, but figuring out which stats to look at first can be a crap shoot. Don't let it be confusing by following a few simple rules.

#1 Bookmark these two articles.
One of the smartest writers in baseball, Derek Carty tackled this very subject for hitters and pitchers a few years back. These are still the two go to articles on the subject. A couple of articles are floating around from Russell Carleton on subject, but Carty's are better in his methodology and larger time frame used to collect the information (explained in articles).

#2 Understand what it means when a stat stabilizes and/or becomes reliable.
There are a lot of myths surrounding what it means when a stat stabilizes or becomes reliable. Some people think once a player reaches the stabilization point, the in season information is their true talent level. This is literally a half truth. At the stabilization point, half the player's value will be from his year-to-date information and half will be the league average. The stabilization point is a usable projection with only that season's information. A person can calculate a player's projected K% before the 100 PA stabilization point, but the league average value would have more weight.

For example, hitter strikeout rate stabilizes at 100 plate appearances (minus HBP and IBB). If a player is at the magic 100 PA value with a 30% K% some people will say the player is at his talent level. Instead, at 100 PA the 30% is half the player's talent level and half is the league value (20%) which puts the player's estimated talent level at 25%. A player doesn't have to have the magical 100 PA before his talent begins to shine, but most of his projection will be the league average value before the stabilization point. Here is the talent level for the player at different PA thresholds assuming he maintains a perfect 30% K% at each level and the league average K% stays at 20%

PA: K%
10: 20.9%
50: 23.3%
100: 25.0%
200: 26.7%
300: 27.5%
400: 28.0%
500: 28.3%
600: 28.6%

The basic formula to follow is: Talent Level = (Occurrences (like PA) to Stabilize * current league rate + Occurrences from player * player's rate)/( Occurrences to Stabilize + Occurrences from player)

Putting in the values for 200 PA in the above equation a person gets: (100*20%+200*30%)/(100+200) = 8000%/300 = 26.7%

#3 Keep a general time line of when to check on stats
Well, Derek made it fairly easy in his article to find when to check on if a stat is stable, but I will make it even easier. Here are when various hitting and pitching stats approximately stabilize in a year with the start of the season assumed to be April 1st and ending on September 30st.

Pitchers
Stat: Stabilization Date
K: May 07
GB [MLBAM]: May 07
OF FB [MLBAM]: Jun 12
UIBB: Jun 30
IF FB [MLBAM]: Jul 18

Hitters
Stat: Stabilization Date
K: May 07
GB [MLBAM]: May 07
UIBB: May 25
HR: May 25
SBA%: May 25
IBB: Jun 12
OF FB [MLBAM]: Jun 12
IF FB [MLBAM]: Jun 12
HR (HR/FB): Jun 30
HR (HR/FB): Jun 30
HBP: Aug 23

The first item which really jumps out is the difference between number of stats which stabilize for hitter and pitchers. Pitchers basically just have strikeouts, walks, fly balls, groundballs and infield flies. About twice as many stats are available for hitters.

Right now we are getting close to the May 7th date so here are the values from certain players using their data so far compared to their 2014 value.
First here is the hitter groundball table. While groundballs may not seem like a great stat, it is available and does reveal some useful information.

Ben Revere - He has moved away from using his one usable trait, speed. He needs to put the ball on the ground and get as many bases as possible. Not this year. His GB/FB ratio has gone from 4.5 in 2014 to 2.6 in 2015. He has seen a bump in line drives, but his GB% needs to be pushing 60% for him to keep his value.

Elvis Andrus - He is another player who should be putting the ball on the ground as much as possible. For some reason he has decided to increase his FB% 10% points. He is not going to become a home run hitter (career 3.3% HR/FB%) so his fly balls are just going to be outs. He needs to quit swinging for an imaginary 280 foot fence and hit the ball on the ground.

Chris Carter - 2014 GB% = 27%, 2015 is 38%. There is zero reason for Carter to be putting the ball on the ground. None. If he want to turn his season around, he needs to put the ball in the air so he can use his one trait... power.

Now, here are the hitter projected strikeout rates.

Ben Revere - He shows up again, but this time as the player with the projected highest increase in K% (min 75 PA). Less groundballs and a higher strikeout rate. No wonder he is only hitting .216 this season.

Freddy Galvis - He seems to have made a real effort to increase his contact rate. His Contact% has jumped from 79% to 89% thereby dropping his K% from 23% to 7%. With the higher AVG, he is a playable option in 14 team or deeper leagues.

Now, onto the pitchers and their groundball rates.

Jake Odorizzi has gone from an extreme fly ball pitcher (30% GB%) to a league average ground ball pitcher at 43%. The difference is from more groundballs on his fastball (17% to 27%) and an increase use of this groundball inducing split finger fastball (21% to 33%).

Sonny Gray - He is the first every day starter on the list who has moved from being groundball heavy (56%) to league average (47%). Right now his curve and fastball are not generating the groundballs they did last season.

Finally, here are the pitchers and their strikeout rates. Note that relievers have not yet gotten close to the stabilization point so are off from their 2014 values.

Alex Wood - Oh where have the strikeouts gone? It looks like he isn't getting any swinging strikes on his curve and change compared to last season. Looking at his release points, he may have a tell with a big difference in release points.

James Shields - He is back. Way better than before. All his pitches are getting more swings.

We are finally getting to the point in the season when stats technically stabilize. A few stats are nearly reliable right now so some useful information can be drawn from them. Owners can now start getting an idea if a player's talent has changed for the good or bad compared to last season. It's time to get a jump on the competition and pick or move some inferior talent.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Zimmerman
Zimmerman writes analytics-focused baseball and football articles for RotoWire. He is a three-time FSWA award winner, including the Football Writer of the Year and Best Football Print Article awards in 2016. The 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champ, Zimmerman also contributes to FanGraphs.com, BaseballHQ and Baseball America.
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