Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Dangers of Skimming in Unfamiliar Territory

posted by Jon Williams
I hope you had a great Holiday Season. Time to get back to work. Only six weeks until spring training!

There are different classes of fantasy sports enthusiasts. That isn't meant to belittle anyone but nevertheless I believe it to be true. One of the more common classes I like to call skimmers. The fans in this class recognize that new fantasy strategies and projecting techniques emerge everyday thanks to the great work of the sabermetrics-minded crowds at sites like fangraphs and the hardball times. They buy the latest edition of Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and Baseball Prospectus 2011 and believe they are developing an edge. But they aren't because they are at heart, skimmers.

Now, for most of the internet skimming is okay. In fact, for most of the junk on the internet skimming is recommended. Once you know that Britney Spears isn't wearing panties the rest of the story lacks importance. Am I wrong? But when we skim the articles at the saber sites we come away swinging unqualified statements like "extremely high or low BABIP numbers are always an indication of luck" or "ERA is a meaningless stat." I'm sure some of you can name a dozen more.

This kind of thinking will cause you to miss out on potentially useful players. In some leagues you might have avoided Jon Garland coming into the 2010 season based on a lousy 4.8 K9 and a 4.68 xFIP. But strikeouts accumulate and pitching in Petco was almost certain to improve his ERA. Those that took a chance lucked into not just a 3.47 ERA but also slightly better strikeouts stats as Garland posted 6.12 K9 last season. Garland may not be a great pitcher but in the right ballpark he can post a decent ERA. In most leagues ERA is the category that counts, not FIP or tERA.

Players do not have to be great or even good by modern evaluation standards to be very useful, even great fantasy players. In the last few weeks I've read a hundred different writers trash shortstop Alcides Escobar. They point out his lack of power and the fact that he doesn't walk much as his weaknesses but they fail to speak to his strengths. Escobar is an excellent contact hitter and a superior base stealer. Facts are his walk rate is improving and hitting near the top of the Royals lineup will probably be much more comfortable for him.

I spoke to a friend about Escobar last night. I said the Brewers made a mistake last season (I may have said it more colorfully) not allowing Escobar to run at will when he reached base. My friend quipped about his lack of on-base skills. I told him that the worst thing you can do to young players is to make them change their offensive style when they aren't ready. Especially the ones with an Escobar-like profile, they start trying to hit doubles, triples and homers because they know that they have a permanent Red Light.

So be certain you're getting the whole story and not skimming past the part that might reveal hidden fantasy baseball gold.

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3 Comments:

Blogger RyBegz said...

I would have to disagree with you I'm most aspects of your previous post. Similar to common stock of a company, there are really only two categories that fantasy baseball researchers use: fundamental and technical analysis. Fundamental analysis pertaining to fantasy baseball would include the team that the player plays for, the order in the lineup that the player is positioned to, the players age, etc. Technical analysis (which you state skimmers use) is essentially another word for sabermetrics and would include xBA ("real batting average mitigating external factors), BB% (percentage of walks to at bats) H% (considered to be the "luck" factor you perviously stated" PX ("real" power trends), and a plethora of other indicators. The fact that researchers that use these sabermetrics indicators are "skimmers" is not only incorrect, it is ironically the complete opposite. Using these tool can be cumbersome to calculate (publishers) and daunting to analyze (researchers) but the time and effort put forth is often beneficial. Inversely, the predictions crunched should not be viewed with precise accuracy. The author should not be shunned if Joey Votto launches 30 out of the park in '11 when his projected total was 33, rather the broad fact that his total would regress from '10 is the main focal point. Even Shandler himself states that even in the best case senerio his projections can only be right 30% of the time. Unfortunately, the stigma for researchers that are pro sabermetrics is that if the projections are not "dead on" they are deemed a failure. Rather they should be taken lightly, as a rough borameter to gauge a player's performance.

Personally, I use both of the publications you mentioned. I consider Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster as my reference for sabermetrics and the Baseball Prospectus as my tool for fundamental analysis. Yes, Baseball Prospectus has it's share of sabermetrics however reading the summaries of each player is very informative and often entertaining with comical relief to make the material digestable. When you published this I felt as though you launched a GPS guided bunker buster bomb right at my ideologies related to fantasy baseball because everything hit close to home. I use both publications as my main material for research and sambermetrics as my primary means of evaluations. I felt as though I should voice my own opinions. If their are any openings in any of the leagues you are participating in, it would be greatly appreciated if I can compete. (email rybegs10@hotmail.com)

P.S. While Escobar may hit in a better position in Kansas City, I again would have to disagree that he would have fared better in Milwaukee because of new manager Ron Roenicke tendency to be aggressive on the basepaths and will get more SBs and Run opportunities in the respected Brewers lineup.

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:18:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

test

Monday, January 10, 2011 at 1:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

For some reason your comment ended up in the spam box.

Honestly, I think you skimmed ny article. If you read it carefully you will see that I am not trashing shandler or prospectus, but rather those that buy them and then don't read them. They are both cherished sources for me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:02:00 PM EST  

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