Chances are if you’ve been playing fantasy baseball for a few years, you have said or heard someone say that he/she is just aiming to finish in every category and that should take them to the promised land. In standard 12 team leagues, that would give them 10 points in 10 categories and it’s a rare instance where 100 points wouldn’t win the league. How do you put that benchmark in use while preparing for your drafts and auctions? Are you overvaluing or undervaluing someone’s contribution to the detriment of your team? I wanted to look at what something like 30 home runs or 20 stolen bases meant to the “Finish Third Theory” and which one was more valuable so I did a little math. I took the third place value over the past few years from the many leagues I’ve played in an came up with an average for 12-team NL, AL and Mixed (MX) leagues. Then I looked at how impactful a series of benchmark numbers were on that 3rd place total. Finally, I included the average you ideally want per roster spot to hit that total so you can have an idea how far above or under average your team is tracking towards that sweet spot.
I only looked at home runs, stolen bases and strikeouts because those are the most skill-based statistics and they best lend themselves to being projected year-in and year-out. Runs, runs batted in and wins are very team-based and situational. Of course the rate categories (OBP or AVG, ERA and WHIP) would be too difficult to study in this format.
What we see on the home run chart is that you have to build a foundation with this category. Just because you land Ryan Howard early doesn’t mean you can shuffle your attention elsewhere because you’ve got your power stud. The best part about home run studs is that they are contributing to three categories with their one skill. Only one of the top 10 home run hitters from 2008 failed to score at least 85 runs (Adam Dunn, 79) and all 10 had at least 100 RBIs. Pat Burrell and Jack Cust joined Dunn as the only players within the top 20 to score fewer than 85 while Cust was the lone top 20 entry to have fewer than 85 RBIs. Remember that you can never have too much power. Even in mid-season trade negotiations, you can pitch the fact that you’re offering help in three categories when offering a big slugger.
This is why I love power-speed combo players. Not only is my power base being built, but I’m getting HUGE contributions to my speed base at the same time. I understand that Wily Taveras is a huge contributor to the speed needed for third place, but he’s a virtual zero everywhere else. Jayson Werth, used here because he is in Taveras’ ADP range, brings 15% of the speed to the table AND 12% of the power. It’s not that Taveras is useless and would never wind up on a roster of mine, but his speed is often analyzed on its own with no regard for the detrimental impact of Taveras elsewhere. Give me Delmon Young 100 out of 100 times over Juan Pierre though the two are just one spot from one another in ADP. The lesson here is not look at speed in a vacuum and over draft the “all-speed” types. Meanwhile, seeing how impactful a top base stealer can be to the bottom line makes a case for Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Grady Sizemore as the top three fantasy values because of their plentiful across-the-board contributions. They are all bona fide first rounders, but all three deliver at least a quarter of the stolen base total needed for 3rd place while posting elite figures in at least TWO more categories.
For me, the biggest surprise here was how much a 150-strikeout pitcher can move the needle. With 10 or fewer available in most seasons, the 200-K guys are obviously highly sought after with good reason but missing out on them while snagging three of the 30 other 150+ strikeout guys is a very reasonable alternative. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that someone topping 200 strikeouts will be very valuable to your team because only one had fewer 16 wins and two posted an ERA higher than 3.49, but the catch is the risk associated with pitchers—also not a newsflash. The bankable 200-K guys (Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum) likely won’t find their way onto my roster because I’d rather add another 20 HR/20 SB guy in those early rounds. Don’t be afraid of that solid starter that gets just 6.0 K/9 because you falsely believe he doesn’t strike out enough batters to significantly improve the bottom line.