Setting Up Spreadsheets

USA TODAY Sports

A look at how I start my draft prep.

Everyone has a process for preparing for a draft. Some people print out cheat sheets like they're possessed by Hexxus. Others buy more magazines than a 15 year-old pop star wannabe. Pages of stats, sleepers, busts and top prospects get riddled with highlighter marks and underlines and notes. Some people focus on the categories that count for points in their leagues, while others prefer to look more in depth. Some listen to podcasts and read internet articles. And some just go on gut, what they've seen on highlights or even name value.

The first thing I do when I'm ready to start preparing for the next season is set up spreadsheets. These spreadsheets help me because I'm able to have all of the stats that I use to evaluate players right in one spot. I'm able to sort and compare stats, perform analysis and what-if scenarios and rank players easily. I'm going to explain how I set up my hitters spreadsheets in hopes that you can use them as a template to help you prepare for your draft.

FanGraphs.com allows users to customize reports with any and all of the stats that are available on their website. If you're not familiar with FanGraphs, I suggest you consider getting familiar with FanGraphs. Check out the Custom Leaderboards the site offers. You can select the player pool(s) you want to include, filter on several criteria and pick and format the stats you want to evaluate. After you've selected your player pool and the stats you want to include in your file, you can export the table to Microsoft Excel to further manipulate it.

You may find it helpful to group the statistics into categories and list them across the top. This makes comparing and ranking easy as you are able to view stats next to each other and move them about freely in your workbook. Also, you can conditionally format the statistics to highlight values that are above or below average or whatever threshold or criteria you use to evaluate them.

Here's how I group the stats:

Standard

G

PA

H

2B

3B

HR

R

RBI

SB

CS

These are the standard counting stats that most people look at when discussing baseball statistics. I think Games are important to evaluate durability and, when it comes to counting stats, opportunity is a large part of the equation. Similarly, Plate Appearances gives you the total number of times a player is up to bat. I prefer Plate Appearances to At Bats because I like to consider the absolute total of number times a player has the chance to do something at the plate and then see what he does with them. It's also helpful when comparing players who walk a lot to players who don't, putting them on equal terms unlike At Bats. Listing Hits, Doubles and Triples in addition to Home Runs allows you to see the distribution of all Extra Base Hits. While most leagues count home runs and may not count Total Bases or Extra Base Hits, these stats are important when considering RBIs and Runs scored. Players with high Extra Base Hit totals are in scoring position more often and advance runners more than those who are primarily "singles hitters". Also, if a player's Home Run totals are down, take a look at the number of doubles and triples that a player hit to see if he may have just missed hitting a few more home runs. Lastly, I throw Caught Stealing in there because, although as fantasy players we only care about the stolen bases, success rate may help predict how much a player runs in the future.

Performance Indicators

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

I call this group "Performance Indicators" because these stats give us some insight into why the standards look as they do. BB% and K% tell us how many times a player walks and strikes out relative to how many time they're at the plate. I prefer them to totals because they allow me to compare them against other players. ISO is, essentially, a measure of a player's ability to accumulate Extra Base Hits. It measures a player's true power, not just the balls that fly over the fence. This is a good indicator of how much power a player displayed shown in one metric. The fourth component of my "Indicators" section is BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play. This basically calculates how many balls, out of the balls a player puts in play, fall for hits. BABIP may explain fluctuations in a player's Batting Average. One should expect a player with a BABIP that is out of line with his career BABIP to regress. It's important to compare a single season's BABIP to that player's career BABIP because different types of hitters typically have different BABIPs. For instance, players with speed tend to have higher BABIPs than slower players because they are able to turn more ground balls into hits. Also, players who hit more line drives will usually have higher BABIPs than those who hit a large number of fly balls.

Performance Measures

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

These five metrics are just as they're labeled, measures of performance. We use Batting Average to measure how many hits result in a player getting on base (not including errors). On Base Percentage adds Walks and Hit by Pitches to that. Slugging Percentage is simply total bases divided by at bats, attempting to show that all hits are not created equal. While these numbers can be helpful and may play a part in your league, they fall short of truly evaluating a player's offensive performance. Weighted On Base Average or wOBA is the best all-encompassing metric we have to measure this. You can read more about wOBA on FanGraphs (link below), but just know that it accounts for BB and HBP, assigns weights to them and to hits and considers SB and CS. wRC+ stands for Weight Runs Created (the + means that is it compared to league average) and is closely related to wOBA. It measures a players' total offense and converts it into runs, adjusting for park and league factors. This adjustment allows us to easily compare players who play in different situations or conditions.

Batted Ball

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

GB/FB

HR/FB

Batted Ball data tells us what kind of hits result when a player makes contact. This data is somewhat subjective in that it is determined by humans who track each hit and decide what type of hit it is based on trajectory, speed and other factors. This data is pretty simple to use and can be very helpful. For example, power hitters tend to hit more fly balls whereas speedy contact hitters usually have higher groundball percentages. Line drives are the type of batted ball that are most likely to become hits and, thus, LD% is often tied to BABIP and Batting Average. IFFB% digs deeper into fly ball percentage and shows how many fly balls are infield fly balls which can artificially inflate FB%. There are two main takeaways: you want to see power hitters with high FB% and high LD% should translate to high averages. This data can also be helpful in explaining changes in power numbers. HR/FB is a tool for measuring the sustainability of a player's power. The first thing to look at when a player's power numbers change is the FB%. If it is relatively normal, look at HR/FB to see if the change may have to do with either an increase or decrease in actual power.

Please keep in mind that everyone has their own ways of evaluating players and the preference for certain statistics is what makes fantasy baseball fun. If everyone looked at the same stats and felt the same way about them, it would be very difficult to make transactions or to hold an auction. These are the statistics I use and the way I use them. Use them as a reference for setting up your spreadsheet with the stats you like and that you find most helpful. Hopefully, this helps some of you prepare and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have or any feedback about your draft/off season prep.

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