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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Capitalizing on 'Risky' Players

A few days ago I pointed you to an article over at the Hardball Times that dealt with risk as a market inefficiency. The article mostly dealt with this concept for Major League Baseball, but the principle is very relevant to Fantasy Baseball as well.

A player who is considered an 'injury risk' is naturally less valuable than a player who might put up the same numbers but with more consistent playing time. Suppose two players hit .300 with 10 ABs per HR. One is an iron man who plays 162 games per year and the other is lucky to play in 100. Obviously the 162-game guy is going to be more valuable in trades and will be taken earlier on draft day. However, it might actually be a better move to draft the 100 game guy several rounds later.

For example, Barry Bonds is a fantastic player, but for a plethora of reasons could have been had in Round 15 in many 12-team expert league drafts. He is considered a risky player. He is 42 years old. He hasn't played more than 130 games in three years. He has had some trouble with injuries. He doesn't play in day games after night games. He has been the center of this whole steroid scandal. Instinctively, most people didn't want to draft Bonds too early. Good news for us opportunists. You easily could have drafted Barry Bonds in Round 14 and Moises Alou in Round 23 and now have your LF spot filled with a fantastic player and will get near 162 games out of the position. Play Bonds whenever he is in the Giants lineup and play Alou on the day games after night games and if Bonds is to get hurt this year.

By targeting good players who are undervalued due to injury concerns (or certain other reasons) and targeting a player in a later round as insurance/as a platoon-mate who is also undervalued, you can find yourself a very capable full-time player for a much lower price.

Another good example of this concept is Troy Glaus, especially in leagues where he is SS eligible. Glaus could have been had in Round 8 in many expert leagues. Ryan Theriot went undrafted in most leagues. While Glaus hasn't had a major injury in two years, there is still a stigma attached to him. For practical purposes, lets say that we only expect 130 games out of him this year. Lets say the remaining 32 will be filled by Theriot when Glaus is on the DL. Below is a rough estimate of their stat lines.

Glaus 130 450 113 30 87 85 1 0.251
Theriot 32 110 33 2 12 25 9 0.300
Combined 162 560 146 32 99 110 10 0.261

Now let's look at a possible stat line for Miguel Tejada, who was drafted in Round 3 in a lot of expert drafts.

Tejada 162 650 200 26 100 100 5 0.308

The only category Tejada is significantly better in is Batting Average. Of course these are rough numbers and this exact scenario might not have worked because Theriot wasn't expected to play full-time during the preseason, but I think you understand that this concept has its place in Fantasy Baseball Strategy.

A reader mentioned the other day that this theory has its limitations, which it absolutely does. That reader said that it is not always necessary to take on risk. In less competitive leagues, risk might not be needed in order to win. But in competitive leagues, taking on a risk like Troy Glaus or Barry Bonds might be a sound strategy.

There are also some risky players that should not be taken. An example of the type of player that wouldn't work well with this platoon approach is Ryan Freel. Freel is a player that I like a lot and drafted for several of my teams because I expected him to start every day. That thought went out the window with the emergence of Josh Hamilton.

Here is why it might be difficult to begin to use the approach mentioned above with Freel. His days off seem to come at random intervals. Unless you are willing to check the lineup cards as they become available, minutes before games are set to begin - which you definitely could do if you are dedicated to winning your league - it would be difficult to decide which games to bench Freel and which to play his platoon-mate. This actually becomes impossible if the player in question is on a West coast team whose games don't start until after his platoon-mate's games have ended.

Anyway, I think I've talked enough about this for now. Tomorrow I'll talk a little more and go over a few guys who might be good targets for the remainder of the year to employ this strategy with.


Unknown said...

TheRiot is a good one because he is multiple position eligible. When roster spots are scarce - especially those of us who chase saves - the supplemental player ought to fill in multiple slots.

Derek Carty said...

Exactly. Theriot can play 2B and SS in most leagues now and is eligible in LF and RF in some others. A guy like this is very valuable. Very good point.