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Playing the Name Game Using ZiPS RoS Projections

Brian McCann is smiling because he knows that he's not one of the mystery players.
Brian McCann is smiling because he knows that he's not one of the mystery players.

Let's play the Name Game, which is of course that exercise where I present to you two statlines devoid of the names that trip fantasy players up.  We attach value to names, so much so that our judgment is often clouded even when we look at statistics.  This game can inform, so long as we don't go crazy and ignore context.

The Name Game is typically played with season-to-date statistics, but I was playing around with the ZiPs RoS (rest of season) projections and noticed a couple of things that I thought I would pass on.  Using a projection system makes sense inherently, especially if you trust the system, because in fantasy sports we are by necessity dealing in projection itself.  A good system (like ZiPS) will appropriately take past and in-season performance under consideration.  We can tinker a bit with the information we have, but for the most part the heavy lifting is being done for us. In this case, using forecasts makes even more sense.  You'll understand in a moment.

Let's jump in, shall we?  Both players are catchers.  No cheating!

Player 1 (ZiPS RoS): 286 PA, 39 R, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 1 SB (1 CS), .309 AVG, .396 OBP

Player A (ZiPS RoS): 217 PA, 25 R, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 0 SB (0 CS), .239 AVG, .367 OBP

Player 1 is pretty obviously the more desirable player here, but it's a relatively thin margin.  1 has the clear advantage in Runs and AVG, though that disparity is largely negated if you play in an OBP league.  RBI and SB are a wash, and Player A is projected for more power.  I'd rather have Player 1 in a vacuum, but as you must have figured out by now, the actual difference in value is much less than the perceived difference, meaning that in a vacuum you could sell Player 1 for Player A and another nice piece and come out on top.

The reveal is after the jump.

Player 1 is Joe Mauer (did I fool you with the photo?), which is why it made so much sense to use projections.  He's been activated from the disabled list today and will be immediately inserted into the lineup.  If you've been stashing Mauer on your roster, congratulations: you've just received an instant lineup upgrade.  You may have also inherited some trade bait, especially if he gets off to a good start. 

Player A is Chris Iannetta, owned in 14.2% of ESPN leagues.  Iannetta plays about 2/3 of his team's games, which is why he's projected to receive fewer plate appearances than Mauer.  If you own Iannetta, it can be a good strategy to handcuff another catcher to him, which is probably part of the reason that he can't find a way into fantasy owners' hearts.  Still, he's having a solid, bounceback season, and his limited usage means he's less likely to fade down the stretch. 

Please don't misunderstand the point of this article.  I'm not by any means trying to prove that Mauer = Iannetta.  The takeaway is that Mauer isn't really all that far removed from the rest of the catching class.  Don't be the guy that expects the star player with an rehabilitated leg to perform up to his expectations all the way until the end of September just because of his name.   If you own him, it might be wise to flip him for two or three mid-tier pieces that play more scarce positions, because while you can't find a Joe Mauer on the waiver wire, you can certainly find a few catchers there that will get you close.