Blind Resumes

I have a friend who is quite successful at fantasy baseball despite not really being much of a baseball fan. He know the stars, loved Griffey Jr. as a kid, and will watch a playoff game here and there, but he doesn’t know the next-in-line closer or on-the-cusp prospects for every team. He doesn’t have associations with every player’s name and utilizes the numbers for his success. He posed an interesting question to me the other day: “have you ever thought of trying to draft your fantasy baseball team name-blind?”

I haven’t thought about it and I’m not sure I could pull it off even if I were interested, but it got me thinking about one of my favorite exercises to do with baseball: the blind resume. Presenting the numbers without the names can alter your perspective of a player oonce you learn the name. It’s not that names aren’t important, though. Knowing a player can offer context for the numbers and help improve your judgments of those numbers. But they can also muddy the water substantially.

Today, we are going to look at several pairs of players without the names associated. The point isn’t that one player is definitely better than the other, but rather that removing the names might actually improve your perception of the players in question. Sometimes the names make us lazy. A star-level player who isn’t quite performing up to his normal level will be given a longer leash while an unproven newcomer often needs to prove himself more to get credit for his performance.

I’m regularly in favor of staying the course with proven guys, but if you take it too far you might miss on the next big thing while eating the decline phase of your star. Again, these pairings aren’t meant to suggest that you should cut the better known player for the lesser known player (in fact, they aren’t even all known v. lesser known setups). In a lot of instances, the better known player is still performing just fine, but the lesser known (or sometimes just less-regarded even if they are widely known) player is performing better than or on par with the star suggesting they should perhaps be taken more seriously.

CATCHER

PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 380 0.264 44 14 59 0
Player B 305 0.301 39 8 37 5

This first one behind the dish isn’t a star v. lesser known, both guys tend toward the lesser known end of the spectrum, but Player A is on many more rosters despite a modest edge in overall value. The five runs, six homers, and 22 RBIs are almost entirely offset by the 37-point AVG gap and five SB difference between the two. Additionally, Player A is slumping while Player B has been rather consistent all season with an OPS in the .800s for three of the four completed months and a low of .742 which is still passable behind the dish.

Player A’s base skills – K and BB rates – are better than Player B’s, but B has better team context due to lineup and ballpark. I actually like Player A quite a bit and hadn’t given Player B that much thought so this exercise was useful for me even knowing the names. A lot of leagues are two-catcher setups so you won’t necessarily have to choose between the two, but even if you still want to keep Player A – whose identity is available at the bottom of this piece – you might also consider adding Player B to the fold.

FIRST BASE

  PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 417 0.245 54 19 57 1
Player B 422 0.284 45 12 73 0

This is more of a traditional star v. non-star breakdown. Our first guy was regularly going in the first round this year and he hasn’t quite lived up to the billing. He’s given some solid power, but his line ranks as just the 20th first baseman on ESPN’s Player Rater. Meanwhile, Player B was a forgotten veteran coming into the season.

An abysmal 2014 drained his fantasy value to nil as he didn’t even draw an ADP at Yahoo! or ESPN according to FantasyPros.  From 2009-2013, Player B averaged 30 HRs and 99 RBIs per 162 games with a .286 average. Extenuating circumstances hampered his 2014 and we’ve made bigger excuses for much lesser players. I don’t question Player A’s 98% roster rate at Yahoo!, but Player B’s is lagging at 79% even considering the immense depth of the position.

SECOND BASE

PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 427 0.271 54 11 44 11
Player B 387 0.279 49 7 39 14

This is a case of the shiny new toy vs. the crusty old vet. We have another case where I’m not down on Player A so much as I’m looking to prop up Player B some because he isn’t getting the credit he deserves for a strong season. Player A is rated 7th at second base and is on a roster in 94% of ESPN leagues while Player B sits just behind him at 8th, yet remains available in 38% of their leagues. Player B didn’t give us much reason to be interested coming into the season.

The position had some depth to it and he was pushed all the way down to the 23rd second baseman off the board after a miserable 2014 campaign. But perhaps we should’ve taken more notice when he ripped off six steals in May, along with a .306 AVG and couple homers. By the end of May, he was hitting .291 with those six steals and his teammates were running a bunch, too, so it looked like it could stick even though it was already three times as many as he had in 2014 and one fewer than he totaled in 2013-14 combined.

THIRD BASE

PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 431 0.275 45 11 46 3
Player B 358 0.301 45 9 48 4

Now we’re back on the do-I-want-Player-B-over-Player-A train? The lines suggest maybe you do even though the name value wouldn’t even allow you to consider it. And that’s one of the main points here: stripping away the name gives you a different view of the players in question. Sometimes we get stuck seeing a player through a particular lens, whether it’s rose-colored or overly negative, and taking a different view helps us better analyze what we’re seeing. It’s just another puzzle piece.

Player A was the seventh third baseman off the board this spring and Player B was an afterthought who half of you reading this had never heard of and never could’ve envisioned a scenario where he was the 9th-ranked third base at a very deep position. Player A had a sharp power drop in 2014 and it’s carried over to 2015 with .151 and .149 ISO marks, respectively. Player B is a 24-year old who isn’t toting any elite skills, but does enough everywhere to be an asset. He has a solid batted ball and neither his BABIP (.346) nor his HR/FB (13%) is so egregious that regression would collapse his numbers.

SHORTSTOP

PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 409 0.319 50 3 51 7
Player B 316 0.294 39 8 35 5

Here we have a case of the rising young star and a rising not-quite-so-young not-quite-a-star. Player A’s reputation in the fantasy community is sky-high and he is having a breakout season, but I think the perception of said season is higher than the actual output. Player B only recently acquired his full-time role so the fantasy community can get a little bit of a break, but he has been performing too well to be on just 47% of Yahoo! rosters and 55% of ESPN ones.

I realize Player A has nearly a 100-PA edge on Player B, but he’s five HRs back and just two SBs up despite the extra playing time. Pace each out to a full season and Player A is looking at 5 HR, 81 RBI, 80 R, and 12 SBs along with that .319 AVG, but Player B is right there with 15 HR, 64 RBI, 72 R, and 9 SBs in addition to his solid .294 AVG. I don’t necessarily prefer B to A, but both have some positional flexibility that would allow both in the lineup at the same time.

OUTFIELD 1

PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 420 0.302 42 8 57 11
Player B 389 0.269 45 8 47 18

This is star v. scrub. Player A was the 26th overall player taken on average (9th OF) after a massive breakout in 2014 and 30 games in it looked like he might even top that effort with 4 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R, 6 SBs, and a .348 AVG. He was pacing toward 22 HR, 119 RBI, 108 R, and 33 SBs with that .348 AVG. He has been a more pedestrian version of himself in the last 66 games with just 4 HR, 35 RBI, 22 R, 5 SBs, and a .281 AVG. He has only replicated his first 30 games despite 2x the games.

Player B was once a blue-chip prospect, but injuries and under-performance left him on the outside looking in even after a trade offered a shot at playing time. He only had seven hits in April, but three were homers. Still, a .175 AVG in the first month for someone with his track record made him easy to ignore. He has been quite solid since with a .281 AVG, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 41 R, and 16 SBs. He’s walking more and striking out less than his recent history, too. If you buy him for speed and take the power offerings as pure bonus, he’s a great asset for the middle of your outfield (some probably have him as their OF4 or OF5).

OUTFIELD 2

  PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 396 0.289 51 9 35 16
Player B 440 0.269 64 9 25 10

Listen, I love Player A. I hate to put him on a Wednesday blast like this, but I gotta do it. He might be a victim of his own success as a stunning rookie year has left expectations in the stratosphere for him every year since then. He’s never been bad, but his fantasy results have been all over the place as injuries have slowed him in some seasons, the power hasn’t shown up in others, and plain old bad luck seems to have played a role in his underwhelming production more than once.

Player B had some sleeper hype coming into the season, but it never inflated his value and so he was still an actual sleeper at the draft table as the 62nd OF off the board, just two spots behind Lorenzo Cain. That hype completely disappeared after an abysmal first two months of the season with a .631 OPS through May. It has been a much different story over the last two months as he has shown the high-end of that sleeper hype with a .297/.388/.497 line in 227 PA with 7 HR, 19 RBI, 34 R, and 8 SBs. He had 2 HR and 2 SBs through May.

This is another situation where I’m not suggesting that Player A needs to be cut or anything, but his reputation is higher than his current line while many likely haven’t noticed Player B because of that wretched start. In fact, that’s a big issue in the fantasy game. A disastrous April (let alone April and May) can really hold a season line down so sometimes it’s hard to see growth if you’re just perusing leaderboards and looking at season totals.

OUTFIELD 3

  PA AVG R HR RBI SB
Player A 386 0.216 36 15 51 0
Player B 309 0.280 39 12 37 1

Our final pairing features two veterans who have very different perceptions in the market. Despite the lines you see above, Player A is on twice as many rosters as Player B at both ESPN and Yahoo! while the two have a 22% split at CBS in favor of Player A who is at 69% (nice). The real kicker here is that Player B actually has the longer track record of performance yet the market has showed incredible patience with Player A.

I’m not completely averse to being patient with Player A as he is someone I’ve backed all year, but he should be kept in a reserve capacity right now in the hopes that he catches fire while Player B should definitely be starting ahead of him even though he doesn’t play every single day (he’s played in 97 of 106 games).  Player B had a down 2014, but compiled a .288/.362/.470 line in 4536 PA before that with an average of 18 HR and 73 RBI per season. Fourteen of the 25 outfielders ranked behind him on Yahoo! top his 23% roster rate.

The Answer Key.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and Content Director for OOTP Perfect Team. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

29 Comments
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Mickey Morandini
8 years ago

I love the concept, but who reads Fangraphs and makes decisions based on the stats here? Could K/BB rates, ISOs, and BABIPs explain some of the valuations seen here?

Mike
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

While I get what you’re trying to say you did, it would be a lot more useful to see whether a player’s production is sustainable when making such decisions. Also, you don’t have to leave out the additional categories just to make your point. It almost feels like you purposely left out K% and BB% in order to make a couple of these comparisons seem closer in some cases. Those stats could be included in addition to the ones you provided, Id think.

Also, it would’ve been nice to see a Justin Turner vs. any elite SS one. People are still sleeping on him.

Jovins
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

I definitely agree with Mickey. These stats are showing what players have done, which doesn’t help that much in predicting what they will do. I understand that you need performance in the categories that leagues count, but if a guy is running a grossly elevated BABIP or HR/FB, it’s unlikely he keeps it up, which would hurt the categories you need in your league.

Adrock
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

Yeah…no need to look at those other stats when you’re perusing for fantasy purposes. Maybe if you’re playing Ottoneu.

I only ever use K:BB ratio, and that’s a second level look. The stats you used are just fine.