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The Difference Between Mixed Leagues And Single Leagues

I have a queasy feeling in my gut.  In the off-season, that could be the result of any combination of fried food, ice cream, cookies and Splenda sweetened diet soda, but, in April, it is typically the result of a move I made, or decided not to make, in one of my single league format fantasy baseball leagues. 

For this particular case of April agita, I had to make a decision on using some of my Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) on Chicago White Sox CF Jerry Owens.  In addition to using 10% of my 2009 FAAB, I would have to waive Minnesota Twins utility infielder Brendan Harris.

With eligibility at 2B, SS and 3B along with a $1 salary in a league with heavy in-season trading, bailing and an in-season salary, Harris has some value.  Jerry Owens?  A 28-year-old who couldn't beat out a 31-year-old DeWayne Wise for the starting centerfield job despite a season as recent as 2007 where he swiped 32 bases in 93 games and provided everything White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen likes in a centerfielder - the threat of speed at the top of the order.

For the vast majority of the fantasy baseball participants, the energy devoted to making this decision is meaningless as neither player merits any energy beyond that it takes to scroll past the news update that Owens was recalled.  Why?  Because the fantasy hoards play 12-team 5x5 mixed league fantasy baseball.

I play in a 12-team AL-Only 4x4 keeper league, and Jerry Owens represents that most valuable of in-season commodities - the undrafted hitter with speed who gets the opportunity for regular ABs.

Now, my mental anguish that is manifesting itself physically as agita comes from the fact that Owens didn't win the Spring competition against an older player with no discernable lead-off skills.  Wise's OBP in parts of six previous major league seasons topped .300 once - in 2006 with the Cincinnati Reds when he had six plate appearances.  Owens is no Juan Pierre with a .321 career OBP, but he may as well be Ricky Henderson compared to Wise.

Additionally, adding Owens would mean waiving the aforementioned $1 Brendan Harris and spending a large chunk of my FAAB nine days into the 2009 season.  Harris was a league average hitting shortstop in 2008 with a 265/327/394 slash stat line versus the average AL SS line of 266/319/375.  With an injury-prone Joe Crede blocking Harris' ability to get full-time ABs, the buck plus multiple position eligibility makes Harris a potential contributor at some point in the 2009 season.

So what I am stuck trying to guess is whether Owens' potential for 20+ SBs is more valuable that Harris's potential to be SS-average and accumulate enough ABs to boost his counting stats to the point where their value surpasses that of the stolen bases from Owens.  To do this, I can easily plug a projection of each player's 2009 stats into an equation that calculates the overall dollar value of each.  Assuming all inputs are valid, this makes the decision easy.

Brendan Harris' projected 2009 dollar value is $7 and Jerry Owens comes in at a mere $3.  The decision is easy.  Despite a projected 26 SBs, Owens cannot overcome the ground he loses in HR, RBI and AVG to Harris.  I'd also preserve 10% of my FAAB and retain the player with more value and better position flexibility.

Intuitively, though, this result doesn't make sense.  In the auction, a player expected to get full-time ABs and steal 20+ would go for $15-25 while a utility infielder without any special hitting skills or full-time ABs would go for a $1.  While this market-based valuation could just as easily be wrong, there could also be a GIGO component working in the projection of stats, the calculation of marginal standings gain points and/or the category values of each standings gain point.

My projected stats came from a reputable outfit and had both players receiving a similar number of ABs with Harris hitting .263 versus Owens .211.  The question whether intuition wins or the GIGO rule (Garbage In Garbage Out) is applied comes directly from the determination of whether the expected AVGs are realistic because the difference in calculated value arises from the negative dollars Owens's "earns" hitting so poorly over so many ABs.

Will Owens receive more than 400 ABs if he hits .211?  Not likely.  He has already lost the job once for less damage than 400 ABs at .211 would cause.  I doubt anything has occurred to erase that decision from the minds of management.   Additionally, Owens has never hit worse that the .250 he hit last season in his brief stint with the White Sox.  This included all his minor league seasons, too.

If I accept the GIGO explanation for this particular decision, I can also soothe my dissonance by relying upon the expected market value of a player with Owens skill.  Armed with this, I will bid the $5 on Jerry Owens and waive a $1 Brendan Harris.  So goes the life in a single format league.