Making Fantasy Reality
My friends and I are holding our 22nd fantasy baseball draft tonight at my house. Although the current format started in 1984, we actually began in the late 1970s when we drafted players to win certain hitting and pitching categories.
In our earlier format, I can distinctly remember taking Willie Wilson to lead the majors in stolen bases in his rookie season. That pick raised a few eyebrows among my competitors, but I was rewarded when he stole 46 bases and finished in a sixth place tie with Frank Taveras. Wilson only had 43 hits that year, meaning he accumulated more stolen bases than hits.
In any event, we switched to a more comprehensive 5x5 system in 1984. Dale Murphy, coming off back-to-back MVPs, was the first player chosen in that year's draft. We later added doubles plus triples (what we call troubles) and walks as statistical categories, improving the scoring so that the best baseball players were also the best fantasy players.
Although most of us come to the draft with spreadsheets in hand, it has always been our goal to design the scoring system in a manner that would identify the most valuable players as opposed to those formats that place too much emphasis on stolen bases and saves. With that in mind, we combined our walks and stolen bases this year into a new category -- dubbed additional bases.
In the past, we used walks plus hit by pitches as one category and stolen bases were ranked separately. Even though we weighted SB at half AVG, R, RBI, HR, DBL+TPL, and BB+HBP, they still seemed as if they had more impact in our league than real baseball. In our continuing efforts to dilute SB, we are including caught stealing as an offset and multiplying them by two to add a sense of realism to the value of net stolen bases. In this way, we are rewarding the most and penalizing the least efficient base stealers.
Our formula for additional bases is as follows:
BB + HBP + (.5*(SB-2*CS))
We recognize that net stolen bases are an extra base, but they do not carry the same value as a BB or HBP. Yes, they add an incremental base but no one has yet to steal first. Walks and hit by pitches are generally more valuable because they put runners on base and have the potential of moving other baserunners up 90 feet as well.
The leaders in additional bases are some of the best players in the game. Let's take a look at last year's top 20:
PLAYER BB HBP SB CS A/B
Barry Bonds 232 9 6 1 243
Bobby Abreu 127 5 40 5 147
Lance Berkman 127 10 9 7 135
Todd Helton 127 3 3 0 132
J.D. Drew 118 5 12 3 126
Carlos Beltran 92 7 42 3 117
Adam Dunn 108 5 6 1 115
Brad Wilkerson 106 4 13 6 111
Jim Edmonds 101 5 8 3 107
Jim Thome 104 2 0 2 104
Jeff Bagwell 96 8 6 4 103
Alex Rodriguez 80 10 28 4 100
Gary Sheffield 92 11 5 6 100
Eric Chavez 95 3 6 3 98
Brian Giles 89 4 10 3 95
Mark Bellhorn 88 5 6 1 95
Jorge Posada 88 9 1 3 95
Hideki Matsui 88 3 3 0 93
Rafael Palmeiro 86 6 2 1 92
Chipper Jones 84 4 2 0 89
Albert Pujols 84 7 5 5 89
Instead of being number one in stolen bases, Scott Podsednik shows up 25th in additional bases. Carl Crawford's and Juan Pierre's contributions are also minimized. Crawford is still a good player in our league, but he goes from being one of the top OF in most fantasy scoring systems to 26th best (according to my spreadsheet). Podsednik slides all the way down to 66th.
In the meantime, walking machines like Bobby Abreu, Lance Berkman, JD Drew, Adam Dunn, Brad Wilkerson, and Jim Edmonds become as valuable in our pool as in baseball. Importantly, Barry Bonds, when healthy, is the number one fantasy player rather than just being one of the ten best.
Our format also has the dual purpose of knocking down a player like Alfonso Soriano, who doesn't get as much credit for his stolen bases and gets dinged for his lack of walks. There is no way Soriano, who is a consensus first round pick in most fantasy drafts, will wind up on my team as I am quite certain that somebody will still overvalue his worth based on the so-called scarcity factor at his position.
Speaking of second basemen, the revised scoring system rewards a player like Mark Bellhorn. I have seen Bellhorn ranked anywhere from 14th to 21st at his position when, in fact, he was among the top half dozen most productive 2B in baseball last year.
When it comes to pitching, I am also proud to report that our league has halved the weighting for saves so as to dilute the value of relievers who show up in the ninth inning and are asked to preserve three-run leads. Unlike most fantasy drafts, a relief pitcher has never been selected in the first round in the history of our 21 drafts -- despite the fact that we have generally had 15 participants.
I've got the seven-year itch this time around. After winning our pool in 1995, 1996, and 1997, I have been relegated to no higher than second place and am coming off my worst season in memory. Winning back-to-back titles takes some doing because we re-draft our teams every year. I can't promise that I will win this year but rest assured Javier Vazquez won't be my second round pick tonight.