Deep League Debate: Elvis Andrus vs. Zack Cozart

USA TODAY Sports

You need to do our homework before drafting in 2014 or you could end up spending a lot more for a premium player whose stats just don't measure up to your investment.

A late-night chat between a league mate in one of my 20-team dynasty leagues and I the other day prompted me to write this post. We were arguing (read: having a nerdy, sabermetric discussion) about the relative value between the 2013 version of Elvis Andrus, whom he rosters, and the 2013 version of Zack Cozart, whom I roster. I have been examining how we fantasy managers can use advanced metrics to unearth offensive value in deep leagues, and recently posted on the Real Top 25 Overall Hitters in Fantasy 2014. Redraft owners especially need to read it.

At any rate, I was arguing that according to my favorite offensive indicators, namely wOBA and wRC+, two advanced metrics that measure overall offensive output, Andrus and Cozart had very similar years, which is the truth. I examined all the SS from 2013 with a qualifying number of PAs, according to Fangraphs, sorted by wOBA, and found 17 eligible players. Look who ended up close to one another:

Num Player G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
1 Troy Tulowitzki 126 512 25 72 82 1 11.10% 16.60% 0.229 0.334 0.312 0.391 0.54 0.4 143
2 Jed Lowrie 154 662 15 80 75 1 7.60% 13.70% 0.156 0.319 0.29 0.344 0.446 0.345 121
3 Ian Desmond 158 655 20 77 80 21 6.60% 22.10% 0.173 0.336 0.28 0.331 0.453 0.341 116
4 Jean Segura 146 623 12 74 49 44 4.00% 13.50% 0.129 0.326 0.294 0.329 0.423 0.329 107
5 J.J. Hardy 159 644 25 66 76 2 5.90% 11.30% 0.17 0.263 0.263 0.306 0.433 0.322 99
6 Yunel Escobar 153 578 9 61 56 4 9.90% 12.60% 0.11 0.281 0.256 0.332 0.366 0.311 100
7 Asdrubal Cabrera 136 562 14 66 64 9 6.20% 20.30% 0.159 0.283 0.242 0.299 0.402 0.307 95
8 Alexei Ramirez 158 674 6 68 48 30 3.90% 10.10% 0.096 0.309 0.284 0.313 0.38 0.304 86
9 Andrelton Simmons 157 658 17 76 59 6 6.10% 8.40% 0.149 0.247 0.248 0.296 0.396 0.303 91
10 Erick Aybar 138 589 6 68 54 12 3.90% 10.00% 0.111 0.292 0.271 0.301 0.382 0.299 90
11 Brandon Crawford 149 550 9 52 43 1 7.60% 17.50% 0.114 0.29 0.248 0.311 0.363 0.296 91
12 Elvis Andrus 156 698 4 91 67 42 7.40% 13.90% 0.06 0.312 0.271 0.328 0.331 0.296 78
13 Jimmy Rollins 160 666 6 65 39 22 8.90% 14.00% 0.097 0.288 0.252 0.318 0.348 0.295 84
14 Zack Cozart 151 618 12 74 63 4.20% 16.50% 0.127 0.285 0.254 0.284 0.381 0.289 79
15 Starlin Castro 161 705 10 59 44 9 4.30% 18.30% 0.102 0.29 0.245 0.284 0.347 0.28 70
16 Adeiny Hechavarria 148 578 3 30 42 11 5.20% 16.60% 0.072 0.27 0.227 0.267 0.298 0.251 53
17 Alcides Escobar 158 642 4 57 52 22 3.00% 13.10% 0.066 0.264 0.234 0.259 0.3 0.247 49

My friend, who is very knowledgeable on all things baseball and fantasy retorted that it was comparing apples and oranges. In our H2H, 6x6 league (incl. OPS), "there is no way that Cozart had as valuable a year as did Elvis," came the dissent. On the surface he was right. Elvis scored more runs (91 to 74), stole more bases (42-0), walked more (7.4% to 4.2%), and struck out less (13.9% to 16.5%).

But me being an Elvis hater-I couldn't help myself. I replied that Cozart tripled Andrus up in HR (12 to 4), out slugged Elvis (.381 to .331), and somehow managed to out wRC+ him as well (79 to 78). Look, I'll be the first to tell you that my friend had me beat. For dynasty league value there's no doubt that Elvis has more upside and probably just had a down year last year.

Here's the point though. For 2013, especially in a league that counts OPS, the respective value all comes down to where they were drafted (or how much money was spent). In one current set of 2014 projections Andrus is the #5 overall SS whereas Cozart is #16. (BTW, our Faketeams staff is getting ready to begin our 2014 Player Rankings soon...so stay tuned!) Checking over with the Fangraphs Staff Ottoneu site Elvis cost $13 at the beginning of 2013 while Cozart cost only $5. Yet, when we look at those numbers again, there is no doubt that Elvis was not worth the cost. Not last year. The perception of Elvis was better than the real thing.

This is yet another reason why it behooves you, fantasy manager, to begin looking at these advanced statistics instead of merely looking at what a player's counting stats were last year, or idly looking through ranking systems without understanding the way they are put together. If you don't, you'll be the one overpaying on draft day.

In my next couple of posts, I'll be exploring positional scarcity based on these same metrics. Opine below if you feel so inclined, or talk with me via Twitter (@agape4argentina).

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