A couple-few days ago I wrote a piece for FanGraphs in which I attempt to classify the sorts of players to whom statnerds typically find themselves developing irrational allegiances. Mostly these are players who are overlooked by the mainstream media and who are productive in ways that are not entirely get-at-able|STAR| by traditional metrics. Although I'm not a scientist or even "all that smart," my sense is that the pleasure one derives from championing a lesser-known player is the sort of satisfaction one feels later on when said player becomes productive in a conspicuous way. This is less formally known as the I Told You So method of sporting fandom.
|STAR|Totally the Queen's English, I swear.
The same thing happens in fantasy sports. Excuse me for being presumptuous, but my guess is that you, the reader of this article, have found yourself acquiring the same one or two players on multiple teams year after year, always with the sense that he (i.e. the player) is on the verge of a break-out year. You don't necessarily know why you feel this way about the Joe Schmoe in question, you just find yourself "kinda liking him," and when he's available in Round 7 of a draft or, miraculously, just sitting there all innocent-like, you're feeling pretty stoked about it.
Here are five players I've often found myself picking up, with what I feel comfortable calling "mixed results":
Despite the fact that he's more infirm than that kid from the Secret Garden, Nick Johnson swings too sweet a bat and possesses too awesome an eye for me not to sweep him up. Last year, that was a Big Mistake. This year, however, despite not putting up great counting stats, Johnson's rate numbers have been excellent. Johnson has posted a wOBA of .368 on the season – including a .408 wOBA since joining the Marlins. I play in a linear weights-type league which rewards such trends and have therefore been very happy.
While I don't happen to have that Magic Book in front of me as I type these words, I believe this year's Baseball Prospectus says about Snyder something like, "He's the type of player who can be effective even while batting .230." Which, that was exactly the case last year, when Snyder posted a line of .237/.348/.452 over 334 ABs. The 16 HR and 64 RBI were nothing to shake a stick at, either (if you're the sort of person to go around shaking sticks as baseball stats, that is). Unfortunately, even Snyder can't survive the .202 AVG he's posted so far this year – which number has pushed his OBP and SLG down to .333 and .356, respectively. With Miguel Montero raking at the moment, Snyder isn't a great bet for reliable playing time in the near future. On the bright side, at least he hasn't gotten any foul balls in his manparts of late.
For years now, Myers has posted HR/F rates considerably above the league average of ca. 11|PERCENT|, giving up 15.9|PERCENT| in 2004, 16.8|PERCENT| in 2005, 14.3|PERCENT| in 2006, 14.5|PERCENT| in 2007, 15.6|PERCENT| in 2008, and 23.9|PERCENT| this year in 63 2/3 IP. While reason would suggest that this is merely the baleful effects of Citizens Banks Ballpark, my heart has always harbored a soft spot for Myers and, more specifically, his strikeout rates (consistently around 7.5 K/9) and walk rates (never too far above 2.5 BB/9). That he's injured now makes it a moot point, but were Myers ever to end up in a Progressive Field situation, I'd acquire him immediately. Then again, I'd probably acquire him no matter where he is.
For me, HIll will always be the guy who posted a 6.01 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, and 54.7 GB|PERCENT| in 97 1/3 IP in 2007 – good for a 4.16 tRA. Problem is, HIll has only pitched about 75 major league innings since then. Even when he has pitched the strikeout numbers have been lower, the walks higher, and the batted balls less ground-y. Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in late June and so probably won't be even a fantasy consideration till next summer. Guess who's gonna pick him up if and when he's available?