Playing with stats: What was your Fantasy Average?

Layne Murdoch

The new stats are great and all, but aren't we used to looking for a .300? Let's look for a .300.

I'm weak. Intellectually, I get that batting average paints an incomplete picture of an offensive player. I know that on-base percentage, OPS+, wOBA paint a better picture of a player's offensive value, that ignoring walks and extra bases and all that jazz is all very Murray Chass-ian.

But .300 just looks so damn pretty.

See, I love the new era of statistical analysis. I'm constantly baffled by the people who insist that everything we need to know about baseball we knew in 1934, like the Wright Brothers made three planes and that was it for NASA. No, we should always be learning, always working to figure out better ways to understand what we love. Anyone who argues that ... well, they're wrong.

On the other side, though, is that I'm 30. I grew up with batting average. Runs batted in, wins, saves. Ask me what a good batting average is, and I say .300. 100 RBI, 20 wins, 50 saves. Ask me what a good wRC+ is, and you gotta give me a second. Is that one of the ones scaled to 100? Or is it like slugging percentage, you want .500? Maybe it's like standard OPS, with 1.000 threshold.

Look, I get the stat. I understand it. As much as a guy who didn't get past Calc 2 in college can, I understand them all. I'm just sayin', aesthetics, man. Aesthetics.

Along with that, I have a question for you. Who was more valuable in standard 5x5 fantasy in 2013: Elvis Andrus or Mark Trumbo? Trumbo crushed Andrus in home runs and RBI, but Andrus smoked Trumbo in average and stolen bases. Runs were close enough so as to make no difference. All things being equal, what was more valuable? We can ballpark it, personal-preference it. The various sites' player raters have quantified these values, but I gotta tell you, when I look at ESPN's and see that Miguel Cabrera's number was a 15.04, I don't have the first clue what that means. It's a number, sure, but it's not analogous to anything I've ever seen before.

So I've been playing with a system of my own for assigning a player one true, overall number for his 2013 fantasy value. "Miguel Cabrera was worth X." And I've scaled that number directly to batting average. So when you see that, for example, Pedro Alvarez scored .281 in fantasy value in 2013, you know what it means. Alvarez was good. He wasn't the best, but even with his low batting average and minimal steals, his run production kept his overall fantasy value high.

For hitters, this system isn't even that complicated. A 502-PA threshold is fine for batting-title consideration, but too strict for fantasy contributions, so I took every offensive player with at least 400 plate appearances a year ago, and calculated their average and standard deviations of production (thanks Excel!) at all five standard offensive fantasy categories. From there, it's a simple process of finding out how many SDs above or below the mean a player was in each category and scaling that to the mean batting average.

For example, Joey Votto scored 101 runs last year, while the average 400-PA guy scored 65.7 with a standard deviation of 18.05. That puts Votto slightly less than 2 SDs better than the mean in runs scored. The same number of SDs better than the mean batting average (.266) would give Votto a .324, so his "runs scored batting average" - and yes I have to work on a name for that - would be .324. He scored a .294 in home runs, a .280 in RBI, a .258 in stolen bases, and of course he had a .305 batting average. Since all five categories count the same in fantasy, then, it's as simple as averaging the five contributions, and in fantasy in 2013, Joey Votto was a .292 player.

This system isn't adding anything new to the world of fantasy. Everything that was true of Votto before I told you that number is true now. Just like WAR, the Fantasy Average (better name?) is little but a sorting tool. But it's one that should give a number to the varying forms fantasy contributions take.

So, again, would you rather have Andrus or Trumbo? My complete guess is that the majority would take Trumbo and his power and his RBI last year over Andrus and his speed and batting average. And in the end, they were very close. But according to Fantasy Average, Andrus contributed a .287 in 2013, while Trumbo was a .286. A minuscule difference to be sure, but if Trumbo would have been the overwhelming favorite, as I guess, then even a tiny win for Andrus is significant.

(***Like I said, I did this for every hitter with 400+ plate appearances in 2013. It was a simple, solid threshold. Yes, a .300 batting average in 600 plate appearances is more valuable than the same in 400. Ultimately, though, those contributions are similar enough as to be rendered comparable. The problem I've run into with my Fantasy Average, though, is the other side of the ball. I could not figure out how best to factor pitchers into this little game. If I set the minimum at, say, 130 innings, then I'm eliminating all relievers, and that's worthless. But if I make it 40, I'll be scaling a 40-inning ERA against a 220-inning, and those simply aren't comparable. If you have a suggestion for how to apply Fantasy Average to pitchers, toss them in the comments; I'm all ears.***)

((Or just tell me this whole system is dumb. It could be. But I find it interesting.))

Anyway, below is the Fantasy Averages for all 204 hitters with at least 400 plate appearances in 2013. I don't expect any huge surprises in the rankings here, but I do think it's interesting to see little tidbits like Andrus-versus-Trumbo:

Rank Player Fantasy Average
1 Miguel Cabrera .330
2 Chris Davis .325
3 Mike Trout .322
4 Paul Goldschmidt .319
5 Adam Jones .308
6 Andrew McCutchen .306
7 Hunter Pence .302
8 Carlos Gomez .300
9 Robinson Cano .299
Edwin Encarnacion .299
Alex Rios .299
12 Jacoby Ellsbury .298
David Ortiz .298
Alfonso Soriano .298
15 Freddie Freeman .297
16 Adrian Beltre .296
Matt Holliday .296
18 Jay Bruce .294
Matt Carpenter .294
Jason Kipnis .294
Jayson Werth .294
22 Josh Donaldson .292
Joey Votto .292
24 Shin-Soo Choo .291
Michael Cuddyer .291
Carlos Gonzalez .291
27 Daniel Murphy .289
28 Evan Longoria .288
Jean Segura .288
30 Elvis Andrus .287
Ian Desmond .287
Prince Fielder .287
Dustin Pedroia .287
34 Coco Crisp .286
Eric Hosmer .286
Mark Trumbo .286
37 Torii Hunter .285
38 Carlos Beltran .284
Troy Tulowitzki .284
Justin Upton .284
Ryan Zimmerman .284
42 Marlon Byrd .283
Alex Gordon .283
Shane Victorino .283
45 Adrian Gonzalez .282
Starling Marte .282
47 Pedro Alvarez .281
Allen Craig .281
49 Jose Bautista .280
Domonic Brown .280
Brandon Moss .280
Brandon Phillips .280
53 Ian Kinsler .279
54 Alejandro De Aza .278
David Wright .278
56 Mike Napoli .277
57 Manny Machado .276
Yadier Molina .276
Wilin Rosario .276
60 Yasiel Puig .275
Kyle Seager .275
Chase Utley .275
Will Venable .275
64 Brandon Belt .274
Yoenis Cespedes .274
Jed Lowrie .274
Jonathan Lucroy .274
68 Jose Altuve .273
Michael Brantley .273
Brett Gardner .273
Adam Lind .273
Victor Martinez .273
73 J.J. Hardy .272
Bryce Harper .272
Kendrys Morales .272
Alexei Ramirez .272
Carlos Santana .272
Ben Zobrist .272
79 Austin Jackson .271
Desmond Jennings .271
Leonys Martin .271
Martin Prado .271
83 Nelson Cruz .270
Josh Hamilton .270
Nate McLouth .270
Daniel Nava .270
87 Norichika Aoki .269
Billy Butler .269
Brian Dozier .269
Adam Dunn .269
Anthony Rizzo .269
92 Buster Posey .268
93 Chris Carter .267
Jon Jay .267
Chris Johnson .267
James Loney .267
Eric Young Jr. .267
98 Michael Bourn .266
Denard Span .266
100 Everth Cabrera .265
Dexter Fowler .265
Nick Markakis .265
Colby Rasmus .265
Jarrod Saltalamacchia .265
Nick Swisher .265
106 Joe Mauer .264
Andrelton Simmons .264
108 Jason Castro .263
Omar Infante .263
Howie Kendrick .263
Justin Morneau .263
Gerardo Parra .263
Salvador Perez .263
Nate Schierholtz .263
115 Chris Denorfia .262
Todd Frazier .262
Jedd Gyorko .262
Raul Ibanez .262
Adam LaRoche .262
Jose Reyes .262
Pablo Sandoval .262
Giancarlo Stanton .262
Matt Wieters .262
124 Erick Aybar .261
Asdrubal Cabrera .261
126 Matt Dominguez .260
Jhonny Peralta .260
A.J. Pierzynski .260
129 Zack Cozart .259
130 Stephen Drew .258
131 Carl Crawford .257
Mitch Moreland .257
Jimmy Rollins .257
134 A.J. Pollock .256
Albert Pujols .256
136 Andre Ethier .255
Chase Headley .255
Matt Joyce .255
Mark Reynolds .255
Ichiro Suzuki .255
Neil Walker .255
142 Juan Uribe .254
143 Alcides Escobar .253
Yunel Escobar .253
Brian McCann .253
Justin Ruggiano .253
Michael Saunders .253
J.B. Shuck .253
Drew Stubbs .253
150 Jason Heyward .252
151 Emilio Bonifacio .251
Starlin Castro .251
David Freese .251
Russell Martin .251
Justin Smoak .251
Dayan Viciedo .251
157 Nolan Arenado .250
Lorenzo Cain .250
Alberto Callaspo .250
Andy Dirks .250
Josh Reddick .250
Michael Young .250
163 Gregor Blanco .249
Ryan Doumit .249
Todd Helton .249
Trevor Plouffe .249
167 Kelly Johnson .248
Brett Lawrie .248
Marco Scutaro .248
170 Mark Ellis .247
DJ LeMahieu .247
Lyle Overbay .247
173 Brandon Barnes .245
David DeJesus .245
Dan Uggla .245
Vernon Wells .245
177 John Buck .244
Brandon Crawford .244
Pedro Florimon .244
Garrett Jones .244
Paul Konerko .244
182 Conor Gillaspie .243
Eric Sogard .243
184 J.P. Arencibia .242
Welington Castillo .242
Seth Smith .242
187 A.J. Ellis .241
David Murphy .241
189 Gordon Beckham .240
Nick Franklin .240
Mike Moustakas .240
192 Nick Hundley .238
Miguel Montero .238
194 Didi Gregorius .237
Josh Willingham .237
196 Dustin Ackley .235
Darwin Barney .235
Jeff Keppinger .235
199 Yuniesky Betancourt .234
Adeiny Hechavarria .234
Juan Lagares .234
202 Placido Polanco .230
203 Pete Kozma .229
204 B.J. Upton .225

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