The best way that I have found to come up with Fantasy Baseball projections is to take an existing statistical projection, and translate those numbers into fantasy value.
Projections that use statistical models free players from fantasy analysts who have biases against players; “I’ll never own player X again after last year”; “He won’t be able to produce on that offense.” These are mistakes I see fantasy analysts make all of the time, and in the former assertion analysts make assumptions about a player’s future performance based off of a meager sample size, and in the latter situation analysts attack a player’s team, which matters some but not as much as some would like you to think.
At the beginning of last year I took every statistical projection I could find (Zips, Steamer, Oliver, Marcel, FANS), averaged them together—statistical projections that aggregate a group of projections have proven to make forecasts on a particular topic 20% more accurate—and then translated those numbers into player rater value with the conventional means that rotisserie value is calculated. Last year the fruits of this labor produced Paul Goldschmidt and Adam Jones as top fifteen hitters when few other pundits had their pecking orders calibrated in such a way.
Because the only projection system that I could get a hold of at the moment is the Steamer projection, these numbers should not be the end all be all, but it is still interesting to look at why these rankings are constructed the way they are? Said another way, what do these projections see in player X from a statistical prospective, that qualitative forecasters miss the boat on?
Here are the Steamer batter rankings for the 2014 MLB season (These rankings are not adjusted for position, because I did not feel the desire to manually enter each player’s position into a spreadsheet for the next hour, but these rankings are still directionally correct):
[table id=8 /]
The top ten has some jarring projections in it, so lets take each player in the top ten and give a one-sentence quip as to why Steamer made their projection; let’s get inside the head of Steamer.
- He’s still Miguel Cabrera.
- …And he’s still Mike Trout.
- The platoon troubles Goldschmidt had at the infancy of his career were growing pains.
- The lineup around David Ortiz will be able sustain the level of runs and RBIs, while the average and contact ability should take a bit of a dip.
- The bounce back in speed is for real, and the dearth of steals in 2010 and 2012 were an aberration when placed next to Jacoby Ellsbury’s true talent level.
- There’s no reason to suggest that Andrew McCutchen will see a decline in numbers in the peak years of his career; sounds like a safe bet, but don’t bet on the 31 home runs that we saw in 2012.
- Adrain Beltre, and players of his physical profile—height, weight, handedness, and position—have durability over the course of their career.
- This was a down year for Prince Fielder, and the power/contact ability will rebound to a familiar level.
- Matt Holliday? I must have been drunk when I made this projection. But really, there is something to be said when it comes to this level of stability.
- Chicks dig the long ball. But more importantly, if Chris Davis’ HR/FB ratio regresses to where it was in 2012, he is still in line for a big year.
Devon Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter @devinjjordan.