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Stathead Sagas: What Hath Shaun Camp Wrought?

Jack Moore

Jack Moore is a freelance sports writer based in Minneapolis who appears regularly at VICE Sports, The Guardian and Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee, among others. Follow him on Twitter @jh_moore.

Houston, 55-106. Chicago (NL), 61-100. The season finale at Wrigley Field. October baseball at its finest.

Drama in the eigth inning. Leading 4-1, an error by center fielder Brett Jackson allows Jed Lowrie to second to start the inning. Matt Dominguez walks. Justin Maxwell steps up to the plate; a home run ties the game. Camp delievers an 88 MPH sinker -- typical setup man stuff -- for strike one. But he misses badly with an 80 MPH slider. Maxwell crushes it to left field, and the game is tied.

If you really care what happened next -- and I wager you don't -- you can figure it out pretty easily on this magical space we call The Internet. But there's a good chance at least a few of you had something riding on Maxwell's home run, directly or indirectly.

Cubs starter Travis Wood was the third-most added player in the Yahoo! fantasy game Wednesday, picked up by 15,449 teams for his season-ending start at home against the Astros. It is not hard to understand why. The Astros scored just three runs in each of the opening two games of the series. The Astros scored just 3.59 runs per game this season, worst in the major leagues. Chris Volstad held them to just one earned run (two total) on five hits and no walks in seven innings Tuesday. He struck out six. His ERA was lowered to 6.31.

Travis Wood was in line for the win. Then Shawn Camp happened. 15,449 teams -- likely all teams right in the thick of the rotisserie title race (or at least money-spot race) lost a win. Let's put that in perspective.

Above, we see a smoothed-out frequency chart (using moving averages) for the seven counting stats of the 5-by-5 game, taking data from five basic 12-team Yahoo leagues. What this tells us is the likelihood of a team being at a certain run, win, stolen base, etc. total. Multiply that number by three and you get the chance a team is within a point.

The axes here are uniform, and looking at the Wins chart in the top-left corner, we see by far the highest points on any of the charts ranging from roughly 78 to 88 wins. At the peak of the chart -- in the 80-85 win range -- is where we see the most bunching up, with about 6.6% of teams on that point or about 1-in-5 teams within one win.

The bunching of wins is only reinforced when we look at the standard deviations -- the expected variation -- in these statistics. Wins is by far the lowest at just 10, meaning 68% of teams are within 10 wins of each other and 95% are within 20; the next lowest stat (HR) checks in with a standard deviation of 25.

So, if you were one of the 15,449 Travis Wood owners who desperately needed a point and were sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack in wins -- not uncommon even for a good team, as the win is the most random of the fantasy statistics -- you're feeling it today. It probably cost you at least half of a roto point, and in the leagues where people were really scrambling for wins, it could end up being more.

In the five leagues sampled, each has a 3.5-point gap or smaller which will decide at least a spot in the money, if not first place. So no, what Justin Maxwell did to that Shawn Camp pitch probably won't matter to most baseball fans. But the impact was felt at least somewhere in the baseball world.