Buying Generic: Aged Bias

On Wednesday, we took a look at two 2B who appear very similar while possessing vastly different average salaries throughout the Ottoneu universe. While Kipnis and Forysthe appeared nearly identical in many ways, today I want to look at two outfielders who are similar in several regards, but not nearly as identical as Wednesday’s test-cases.

2016 Results
Name 2017 Age Ottoneu Avg. BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Mr. Name Brand 27 $52.49 10.60% 29.80% 0.249 0.290 0.240 0.326 0.489 0.344 114
Mr. Generic 37 $14.72 8.20% 16.70% 0.215 0.253 0.246 0.322 0.461 0.335 109

One of the major differences between today’s Mr. Name Brand and Mr. Generic is their respective ages. Why is this important? If you’ve played Ottoneu (or any dynasty slanted format) for any amount of time, you will likely find that the majority of owners are biased against the aged. While age is typically viewed as a premium, this can be detrimental when pricing comes into play as owners will chase after the shiny, younger, new toys. Given the 10 year age difference between our name brand and generic option, it is likely that these two will never be considered in the same tier.

The $38 price difference across Ottoneu leagues also confirms this – and while age is not the only reason for this price gap – it should help us determine that Mr. Name Brand is priced as if he is one of the most elite players in Ottoneu. While both are power hitters, our name brand option displays otherworldly power, but also strikes 13% more than our generic option. He also had 40 points of BABIP on Mr. Generic. Let’s dig a little deeper.

xStats Differences
Mr. Name Brand 5.22 0.249 0.234 15 0.290 .318 -28 0.344 .351 -7
Mr. Generic 4.77 0.215 0.213 2 0.253 .306 -53 0.335 .367 -32

This is where things get interesting. Our $52 player actually over-performed his ISO by about 15 points in 2016. That .234 mark is actually 31st of all hitters with over 300 PAs in 2016. However, he also under-performed his expected BABIP by 28 points and as a results his expected wOBA was 7 points higher than his result, at .351. That’s still a good player, but nowhere near a $52 value. Our generic option seems to have hit for all the power he should, but where our name brand sacrificed 28 points of average on batted balls, he lost nearly 53 points on his expected batted ball performance. This was likely a major factor in his 32 point underperformance on his expected wOBA. Brass tax, Mr. Generic was nearly half a point worse per game by Ottoneu Fangraphs point standards, but that was with a large underperformance in his expected wOBA that should have bridged most of the gap. Final answers?

You’ve probably guessed from the crazy power numbers and releative youth that Giancarlo Stanton is our name brand. You’ve maybe guessed that Matt Holliday is our aged generic option. Off the top, let me say that I will definitely be paying more for Stanton than Holliday in 2017. However, I thought they were an apt comparison because I am finding myself lower on Stanton and higher on Holliday than many others who are playing Ottoneu.

2017 Steamer Projections
Giancarlo Stanton 146 624 28 41 0.269 0.364 0.557 0.921 0.384
Stanton pro-rated 121 505 23 33 0.269 0.364 0.557 0.921 0.384
Matt Holliday 130 558 25 23 0.271 0.357 0.469 0.826 0.354
Difference -9 -53 -2 10 -0.002 0.007 0.088 0.095 0.030

It’s not that I don’t like Stanton, I do… But I see more risk than typically comes with most players priced north of $50. “But he also has more upside than anyone else…” you opine. Yes, he does have immense upside. However, at $50 that upside is already priced in. In fact, it is very difficult for any player to have upside at $50. Trout and Kershaw; most others only have downside at that price. For Stanton, most of this projection has been in the form of a full season of playing time. Steamer doesn’t know he has suffered through injuries and projects a full season of 624 PAs. What I have done is given Stanton his pro-rated playing time totals based on his 6 full seasons in the majors – 121 games, and 505 PAs. The bottom row shows the difference between his pro-rated playing time and Matt Holliday. This is where things start to look more similar. No matter how you dice it, Stanton is likely to hit more home runs when looking at projections, and while his rate production is certainly more valuable than Holliday, I would not put it out of the realm of possibility that Holliday actually accrues more playing time in 2017. Add to that the change of venues (STL to NYY) for Holliday and I see reason for optimism on top of the $15 average salary he is currently being paid.

Average EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Matt Holliday 259 94.6 7.6 -1.1
Giancarlo Stanton 239 95.4 10.3 -0.6
Positive horizontal angles to right field, negative to left field.
Ground Ball EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Matt Holliday 136 95.2 -10.2 -9.5
Giancarlo Stanton 107 96.6 -11.7 -10.6
Positive horizontal angles to right field, negative to left field.
Line Drive EV and Launch Angle
 Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Matt Holliday 57 97.4 18.3 -1.4
Giancarlo Stanton 61 98.8 17.4 -3.2
Positive horizontal angles to right field, negative to left field.
Fly Ball EV and Launch Angle
Name Total avg EV vertical horizontal
Matt Holliday 52 92.9 36.2 15.1
Giancarlo Stanton 55 93.2 37.0 7.0
Positive horizontal angles to right field, negative to left field.

One of the main reasons I wanted to compare Holliday to Stanton is because their batted ball profiles are so similar. Nearly idential average velocities and launch angles for each batted ball type. However, what sticks out to me here is the horizontal and vertical launch angles on fly balls. As Eno noted earlier this week, fly balls hit between 21 and 36 degrees at 96+ mph produce home runs 55% of the time. While no player averages that production, Holliday and Stanton are as close as they come. However, neither would be considered a pull hitter, as they are both right handed hitters who tend to hit the ball toward right field (slightly less so in Stanton’s case). Of all players with 50 or more fly balls, Holliday is in the top 10 in horizontal launch angle – meaning he hits more fly balls to right field than most any other hitter. Why is this important? While this may be somewhat anecdotal, I believe that Holliday’s move to the Yankee Stadium with it’s short porch is actually one of the most favorable offensive environments for him. While Yankee stadium is typically an offensive upgrade for most hitters, Holliday’s opposite field approach appears to be made for that park. He hits the ball hard, he hits the ball at an almost ideal launch angle, he hits fly balls to right more than almost anyone else. This could be helpful in fighting off age regression. It doesn’t have to be that complicated. Stanton, on the other hand, is probably less bound by horizontal launch angles. When you hit the ball that hard, it doesn’t really matter which direction it goes as long as it’s between the foul poles.

Sometimes, it’s tricky to talk about Giancarlo Stanton. He has been a top prospect. He has been one of the best players in Ottoneu. He has been injury prone. He possesses unbelievable power. His upside is immense. These are all facts about Giancarlo Stanton. However, I do not believe that he is the name brand that Ottoneu owners are paying him to be. While projections see him as a $50 dollar player for 2017, I would take the under, and probably would not put him in the top tier of OFs – placing him behind Trout, Bryant, Harper, and Betts; who with little hesitation are all $45+ players. I would put Stanton at the top of the next tier of OF in the $38-$42 range. Our generic option, Matt Holliday, presents an arbitrage opportunity. With an average price of $15, I would comfortably pay above that and I imagine you wouldn’t have much trouble prying him away from teams at that price. When extreme ages come into play, owners often discount players prematurely.

This is also a lesson in buying generic goods. Unlike Wednesday’s Kipnis/Forsythe comparison who appear relatively equal, sometimes you lose value when going with a generic option. As I said earlier, Stanton is the better player likely posting higher rate stats and power totals that give him nearly unparalleled upside in Fangraphs points. However, he should be priced with injury risk that is currently not being reflected in the prices I have seen. At his average salary of $53, much likelier downside than upside exists. While it is likely that Stanton is probably being overpaid in the $5-$10 dollar range in your league, it is also likely that Holliday is being underpaid by $5-$10. Even with the $15-$20 talent difference, the money saved could help you elsewhere (and you’d get much more than Holliday in a Stanton trade). It is important to realize that sometimes generic players won’t yield full replacement of a name brand player. You certainly can’t count on always receiving more production from a lesser priced option, but sometimes you don’t need full replacement… Sometimes you just need enough.

We hoped you liked reading Buying Generic: Aged Bias by Joe Douglas!

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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

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I’d love to buy generic at every position. But there’s no trophy for finishing the draft with $100 more auction dollars than everyone else. Assuming each position has multiple generic value-picks, at some point you have to spend inefficiently to chase talent.

Can you maybe do a series on which positions in 2017 may not punish you as hard for chasing Brand Names?