Buying Generic: A Tale of Two 3B

Many times in life we convince ourselves to spend money on name brand items. The impact of this can be extremely wide ranging – look at the choices people make for where to attend college, what car to drive, what clothes to wear, or even what food to eat. Regardless of the area of life in which these choices are present, it is hard to ignore the impact that branding has had on our culture. While the choice to spend money on name brand items can be conscious or subconscious, it is usually extremely difficult to seperate out the inherent biases that people have toward specific products. (Try convincing a Pittsburgher they don’t need Heinz ketchup for example).

This brings me to Ottoneu. If someone asked me how to succeed at the format (besides knowing the rules well) I could go into any number of nuanced strategies that could helps someone be successful, but if I had to boil it down to an oversimplified piece of advice, I would probably tell them to “Buy the same things as other teams, while spending less money” or to rephrase, try to ignore the name brand items and buy generic instead.  Today, I want to look at a name brand item I see within Ottoneu, and a generic item I would be just as happy with.

Mr. Name Brand v. Mr. Generic
Mr. Name Brand 141 555 10.30% 26.50% 0.267 0.297 0.251 0.330 0.517 0.354 115
Mr. Generic 61 238 4.60% 19.30% 0.218 0.345 0.307 0.342 0.524 0.366 134

Which would your prefer? Mr. Name Brand or Mr. Generic?

Mr. Name Brand has certainly played more this season and has scored more total points (785 compared to 347). He walks more and his BABIP doesn’t appear inflated. Mr. Generic on the other hand appears to make more contact and has a higher wOBA and wRC+ than our name brand in question. Pick your poison.

I should acknowledge up front that if given the option to have both players at the same costs, I would definitely prefer the name brand until arbitration has past. This is not because I expect the production to be any different, but I expect the population of Ottoneu owners to lean heavily toward the name brand in question. Given this, I would expect the name brand to attract more money in arbitration (a positive this diverts money away from the rest of the players on your team) or to have more value in trades (perception of them is higher than the generic item by more than performance dictates it should be). However, after arbitration passes. I’ll be leaning generic.

This brings us to our reveal. Jake Lamb is Mr. Name Brand. Ryon Healy, he’s Mr. Generic.

Early this week, I found myself thinking about Healy and Lamb. Maybe it was Eno Sarris talking about the swing changes both have underwent, or  it may have been my constant perusing of Fangraphs leaderboards and noticing that Healy is actually a top-3 Ottoneu FGpt 3B over the past month. Maybe it was random chance. In any case, I found myself thinking that I actually liked Healy more than Lamb – which I wondered if I was alone on – so I took up a poll on the Ottoneu community.lamb-or-healy

It turns out I’m in the minority. I wasn’t surprised by this. Like I mentioned above, if heading into arbitration, I’d probably want Lamb. However, when looking at both of these players, I feel like I would buck perception and prefer Healy going into 2017. You could maybe even take your post-arbitration Lamb and trade him for Healy and save some money. There are plenty of options. None of this is meant as any slight against Lamb. I like him just fine, but I think perception is outpacing reality with him (when compared to Healy). A couple things I have noticed.

Batted Ball Profiles
Name BABIP GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
Jake Lamb 0.297 1.28 18.1% 46.0% 35.9% 6.4% 22.4% 44.3% 33.1% 22.7% 13.8% 46.3% 39.9%
Ryon Healy 0.345 1.12 19.6% 42.5% 38.0% 8.8% 16.2% 42.8% 32.2% 25.0% 21.7% 49.4% 28.9%

That’s about as similar a batted ball profile as you can find. Which was one of the main reasons I see Lamb and Healy as so similar. However, the main thing that sticks out to me is Lamb’s 22.4% HR/FB rate. Yes, he hit’s the ball very hard, but with a HR rate that high, to expect even slight regression would make him and Healy even more similar.

Plate Discipline
Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Jake Lamb 27.80% 65.70% 44.10% 52.70% 83.70% 72.60% 43.10% 53.70% 12.00%
Ryon Healy 34.50% 55.10% 43.70% 69.60% 88.30% 80.20% 45.00% 61.30% 8.60%

This is where the differences become a little more pronounced. While Lamb looks to be swinging at better pitches, Healy appears to be a much better contact hitter. I expect Lamb will continue to walk and strike out more, though Healy could certainly develop more patience as he matures, but I also see hope that Healy could run a strikeout rate under 20% while maintaining the power he has shown. One last piece of information.

Andrew Perpetua’s xStats
Name xAVG xOBP xSLG xBABIP xOBA xOBA+ Total BIP avg EV vertical horizontal
Jake Lamb 0.284 0.360 0.479 0.305 0.367 116 280 92.7 9.7 8.8
Ryon Healy 0.328 0.359 0.539 0.329 0.381 121 153 89.2 10 -6.3

If you have not already, you should check out Andrew’s work. It’s always full of useful information and he deserves a lot of credit. What you can see here is the expected stats based on Statcast information that is available. Once again, our name brand and generic appear pretty similar. What I would take away from this is that Lamb and Healy hit the ball pretty similarly. Healy does have a high BABIP and could certainly be ignored for that reason. but it doesn’t appear that it will regress too far. Lamb may hit for more power (playing in Arizona compared to Oakland will help that) but with his already elevated HR/FB rate, the likelihood is that the gap between the two will be lessened. If you only look at projection systems, you’ll probably want Lamb and miss on Healy. However, projections (while you should trust them) take some time to update and only looking at them will cause you to buy too late on pop-up guys like Healy (the most added player in Ottoneu over the past 7 days). While name brands can be great – and Lamb is no slouch – I would prefer to go generic in the offseason. It’s one of the easiest ways to “Buy the same things as other teams, while spending less money.”

We hoped you liked reading Buying Generic: A Tale of Two 3B by Joe Douglas!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

newest oldest most voted
Trey Baughn

This is great. Healy was the 22nd ranked prospect in Oakland’s system pre-season according to BA, which means he was essentially nameless, and I think that will play into his value heading into 2017. He’ll be overlooked without the name recognition and large sample size, so I’m glad you included the Statcast data. Lamb’s ballpark and LHH profile will always give him a slight market edge in value, but it’s nice to see these guys lined up head to head here for comparison. Healy has been the 3rd most valuable 3B over the past 30 days (just behind Beltre & Arenado), and he’s only owned in 68% of Ottoneu leagues right now.