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Moneyball for Fantasy Baseball - Undervaluing Players Who Kill You in One Category

When building our fantasy baseball teams, we'd love nothing more than to have every player contribute in every category. As a result, there are a number of players who fall further on draft day than they probably should. The most common player to fit this description are batters with extremely low batting averages. But if properly build into your team, they can provide better value than their draft position should dictate. The key to this is not trying to build the best overall team, but the one that will provide you with the most points in the standings.

Let's take a look at two pairs of players and their stats from 2010. Both sets of players have similar ADPs, but the statistics are decidedly different:

Player Position Round ADP H/AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Matt Holliday OF 3rd 27 186/596 95 28 103 8 .312
Mark Reynolds 3B 15th 143 99/499 79 32 85 7 .198
Combined 285/1095 174 60 188 15 .260

Now, let's look at a different pairing of players:

Player Position Round ADP H/AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Ryan Zimmerman 3B 3rd 25 161/525 85 25 85 4 .307
Carlos Lee OF 15th 144 149/605 67 24 89 6 .259
Combined 310/1130 152 49 174 7 .274

The difference between the two pairs of players' 2010 numbers is substantial. While the batting average was basically a difference of  between 15 and 17 hits, you would have picked up 22 runs, 11 home runs, 14 runs batted in, and 8 steals. How would these comparisons have turned out so far in 2011?

Player Position Round ADP H/AB R HR RBI SB AVG
Holliday/Reynolds OF/3B 3rd/15th 27/143 239/940 160 56 154 6 .254
Zimmerman/Lee 3B/OF 3rd/15th 25/144 256/911 107 30 134 7 .281
Difference 25 hits 53 26 20 -1 -0.024

Clearly, they aren't a perfect pair of examples, as Zimmerman missed more time this season than Holliday did, and Lee has performed worse than expected. But the idea holds true that if you're willing to forego some batting average, you can make up a lot of ground in the other categories instead.

The key to the strategy in my opinion is not whether or not you pick the right players, but to make sure you look at how your team is progressing in the draft and remember that just because the batting average is expected to be bad for one player, doesn't mean that they can't help your team.