Fantasy Sports R Us
Statesman Benjamin Desraeli once famously characterized all lies as “lies, damn lies and statistics!” That being said it must be acknowledged that stats, pernicious though they may be in Ben’s view, are the mothers milk of fantasy baseball. Without that mountain of individual performance data to wade through and evaluate every spring, on what other basis could we base our draft picks? Sense of humor? Political affiliation? Personal hygiene? I think not. And then, beyond every players overall stats, there is also a wide range of other data that can help guide our teams from April to September. For instance, there are stats that help us confirm what our eyes tell us about the effects various stadiums can have on performance.

There’s no question, for example, that we’d rather have our pitchers working as often as possible in spacious environs like San Francisco, San Diego, or Seattle as opposed to chucking and ducking in launching pads like Toronto, Texas or (gasp!) Colorado. Why even the great Kershaw’s ERA rocketed to 3.43 at Coor’s last year as opposed to his 1.83 everywhere else. The offensively challenged Giants could muster only 44 HR’s at home last year but flexed over 40% more muscle in road greys with 63 blasts. The hard hitting A’s managed a respectable 83 round trippers at home, despite its distant fences and endless foul territory, but obviously relished their road trips even more, hammering 103 into the seats.

And then there are the leagues themselves. The AL has long had the designated hitter while the NL has clung to the designated out, presumably to boost beer sales which, in turn, has boosted the use of the designated driver. With the added hitter, it figures the AL should have the higher average and it did last year- .256 to .251. Seems like a relatively small difference but it helped translate into an AL ERA average of 3.99 while the NL posted a 3.74.  The top five clubs in ERA, in fact, were all from the Senior Circuit (Baves, Dodgers, Pirates, Reds and Cardinals.) All other things being equal then, why not go with the NL pitcher and take advantage of his built-in ERA edge.

Back to the parks again where we find that the home/away batting average split for all the MLB was just .257 at home versus .250 away. But there were a few more significant splits within those numbers that just might have come into play when setting those weekly line-ups down the stretch.

                        HOME           AWAY
Colorado         .293               .246
Detroit             .300               .268
Washington    .271               .231
NYY                 .252               .234

But the most bizarre split by far was a reverse one and that belonged to those lovable Mets who posted a respectable .254 on the road but must have had one horrible reaction to home cooking, batting (and we use the term in the loosest term possible form here) at pathetic .219 at Citi Field. Pity the poor season ticket holder. Talk about the no bang for the buck! As for the foibles of the individual players sometimes a more detailed understanding of just who you’re dealing with might be a plus when setting those line-ups, especially when your player will be on foreign soil all week.

For instance, Dexter Fowler mirrored Colorado’s Jekyll/Hyde complex hitting .311 at home but just .214 away from Coors. On the other hand, consider that the Rockies backstop Willin Rosario belted .293 with 10 HR’s at home, but was equally impressive in thicker air, hitting .290 with another 10 HR’s on the road. Want to start Jarrod Saltalmaccia when the Sox are away all week? OK, but know that he was a .218 road warrior this year as opposed to .294 at Fenway. But wait, there’s more…

Anthony Rizzo was a respectable .252 at Wrigley, but just .215 in front of hostile fans. Wish I had known that a few months ago. On the other hand, budding star Kyle Seager had all he could do to muster .243/8 Hrs in spacious Safeco but bumped those numbers to .277/14 HRs when living in hotels. This suggests young Seager just might be a 30 HR slugger if he only wore his road uniform at all times, stayed in hotels for home games too, or was dealt to just about any other team, does it not? Facing a string of lefties this week? Then maybe the likes of the aforementioned Rizzo (.189 vs. southpaws) Brandon Moss (.200) or even Christian Yelich (.165) may not have been optional lineup choices this year. ‘Course, next season could produce better results. Nowhere to go but up, eh? And then, there are more than a few pitchers who consistently excelled at home but sometimes imploded elsewhere. A few examples…

                                                          HOME                                                                 AWAY
Kevin Correia          5-5 Win-Loss/3.35 ERA/1.24 Whip                   4-8 Win-Loss/5.24 ERA/1.65 Whip
Jason Vargas          6-2 Win-Loss/3.30 ERA/1.27 Whip                    3-6 Win-Loss/4.82 ERA/1.52 Whip
Kris Medlen             9-6 Win-Loss/2.26 ERA/1.18 Whip                   6-6 Win-Loss/4.04 ERA/1.27 Whip
AJ Burnett               5-4 Win-Loss/2.37 ERA/1.06 Whip                    5-7 Win-Loss/4.22 ERA/1.36 Whip
Francisco Liriano    8-1 Win-Loss/1.47 ERA/0.96 Whip                   8-7 Win-Loss/4.33 ERA/1.44 Whip
Kevin Correia           6-4 Win-Loss/3.06 ERA/1.05 Whip                  5-9 Win-Loss/4.77 ERA/1.49 Whip

I could go on, of course, but I can sense the glaze coming over your eyes. And while I’ve done what I hope is some helpful cherry picking here, let me wrap this up by recommending a pair of notable and very enjoyable reference sources for your winter reading pleasure. Already popular with many FSRU devotees, neither publication has yet released their 2014 editions but both should be on the shelves before New Years…

BASEBALL PROSPECTUS- Over 500 pages of team and player analysis, commentary and projections. Makes the ideal bathroom companion with wry observations like this view of KC management expertise, “When Jeff Francoeur is what is blocking Will Myers, your organization may have a talent evaluation problem.” In short, Metamucil without the fiber.

BASEBALL FORECASTER- Authorized by fantasy baseball titan Ron Shandler and his expert staff from Baseball, the FORECASTER offers nearly 300 densely packed pages of fantasy principles, tactics and individual player projections, each chock full of more than enough stats to make Disraeli spin furiously in his grave. It’s a tremendous asset and buyers guide for any fantasy enthusiast!

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