A vs. B

Posted: July 21, 2011 in Fantasy Baseball

We are at the point in the season where the trends are largely corrected to the mean. What people have done to this point is fairly reliable. If they’ve been streaky, expect that to continue. If they have been better than expected, this is the part of the season where I start to buy in. That being said, let’s compare some stat lines, and I’ll tell you after who is who. I’m NOT saying the two players are of equal value, but should perhaps be closer together.

I know websites rank from this point forward in the season, but they are clearly downplaying some performances, and giving other players a serious benefit of the doubt. I used ESPN’s recently released Second Half Rankings as an example of the perceived gap between players.

Couple catchers. Player A was #206 in ESPN’s second half rankings. Player two was #294.
Player A- .269, 10 HR, 37 RBI
Player B- .281, 7 HR, 37 RBI

Player A is heavily hyped young catcher Matt Wieters. He was drafted among the top five catchers in many drafts this season. Player B is Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers.

Three first basemen of different ages. One was a top-25 overall pick in many leagues. One was a sleeper, but somewhat unknown value, and the third had two extremely opposite seasons in 2009 and 2010.

Player A (#32 in ESPN rankings)- .247, 18 HR, 74 RBI
Player B (#47)- .300, 18 HR, 55 RBI
Player C (#125)- .312, 17 HR, 52 RBI

Player one is Phillies’ bopper Ryan Howard whose average has never been a selling point, but he’s become more all-or-nothing in the last couple years. Player B is Adam Lind, who looked like a stud in 2009 and a dud in 2010. Player C is Michael Morse, who is having a career year, with little proof of a coming regression.

Moving on to second base. They are #55 an #126 in the ESPN rankings, and the gap is difficult to explain beyond one having a much longer and more distinguished career to this point, but this season they have been almost identical.

Player A- .278, 9 HR, 5 SB
Player B- .275, 9 HR, 6 SB

Player A is 30/30 club member Brandon Phillips who is 0 for his last 15. Player B is young Pirates second bagger Neil Walker.

These four third basemen are all over the map in the rankings (Nos. 22, 27, 99 and 123) and yet strictly from the stats it is difficult to say which is which.

Player A- .232, 11 HR, 1 SB
Player B- .281, 13 HR, 1 SB
Player C- .313, 9 HR, 2 SB
Player D- .225, 21 HR, 5 SB

Player A is many people’s second overall third basemen in their rankings, Evan Longoria. Maybe the guy is another year or two from being the top-10 overall player he is drafted as. Player B is Kevin Youkilis who might have the most stable numbers of the group. Player C is Pablo Sandoval, who already has a .330/25/90 season under his belt. And Player D is Mark Reynolds. The strikeouts will keep his average down, but the home runs are there and he can run, already with one 40/20 season in the books.

Another foursome at shortstop. This one includes Nos. 62, 78, 121, and 147 in the ESPN rankings, but the pedigree of the top two seem to be weighing heavily, more than the 2011 stats.

Player A- .277, 11 HR, 19 SB
Player B- .272, 9 HR, 3 SB
Player C- .287, 7 HR, 20 SB
Player D- .273, 14 HR, 0 SB

Player A is Jimmy Rollins, a mainstay around the top of shortstop rankings for close to the last decade. Player B is Alexei Ramirez, who has at least 15 HR and 13 SB in every major league season of his career. Player C is Erick Aybar who is still coming into his power potential, but is brilliant in the field and helps in multiple categories. And Player C is JJ Hardy who has been one of the best value picks at shortstop this year.

The first outfield comparison involves the guy some consider #1 overall in fantasy right now, he was #2 in ESPN’s rankings. And another powerful, fast outfielder who was #15.

Player A- 18 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB
Player B- 26 HR, 70 RBI, 18 SB

Player A is Ryan Braun and of course I left out his .320 batting average, which trumps Player B, Curtis Granderson‘s .272 spot. But eight home runs is a significant gap as well.

The second outfield comparison is between two guys that share one of the most valuable names in fantasy baseball. However, they were 44 spots apart in the ESPN list.

Player A- 15 HR, 47 RBI, 14 SB
Player B- 15 HR, 52 RBI, 22 SB

Again, I left out the averages because Upton brother A (Justin Upton) has a distinct advantage, but brother B (BJ Upton) might steal 15-20 more bases, so there is some error in perception between them.

As we move to starting pitching, these two players were 172 spots apart in the rankings (#33 and #205 overall). In other words, one was near the top, and the other was near the bottom of rankings that involved the top 250 players overall.

Player A- 2.90 ERA, 1.196 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9 , 126 ERA+
Player B- 2.64 ERA, 1.196 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9 , 145 ERA+

Player A is elite Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum, and of course his strikeouts add to the value. He has around 40 more than Justin Masterson. I’m not saying they are equal, but to be 172 spots apart on overall rankings… Lincecum is a top-10 SP, but Masterson shouldn’t fall out of the top-30. July 1 and 6 he had starts against the Reds and Yankees, two of the top offenses in baseball. Combined, 16 innings, 7 H, 11 K, ONE earned run.

Two pitchers that have battled some injuries. They were #36 and 128 in the rankings, almost 100 spots apart.

Player A- 108.2 IP, 2.73 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Player B- 95.2 IP, 1.98 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

Player A is young Braves’ ace Tommy Hanson who was pushing the top 10 among starting pitchers in the preseason rankings of many experts. Player B is Johnny Cueto who has been consistently solid since coming back.

Last starting pitching combo. One was ranked #159 and the other went completely unranked by ESPN experts. Both could see an innings cap this year, but neither is certain to be shut down.

Player A- 110.2 IP, 3.17 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Player B- 111.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Player A was top pitching prospect and Rays’ future ace Jeremy Hellickson and player B is Rangers’ surprising young starter Matt Harrison.

Two closers. One was considered the top reliever coming into the season, and is still valued as such by many. They were #130 and #204 in the rankings.

Player A- 17 SV, 3.73 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Player B- 17 SV, 2.68 ERA, 0.91 WHIP

Player A is Royals closer Joakim Soria who lost his job temporarily, earlier in the season. Player B is Fernando Salas, who took over after the bullpen turmoil the Cardinals went through early on. Both seem to have job security at the moment.

Finally, two closers who won’t be replaced anytime soon. One is the single greatest closer of all time. The other pitches for a team that hasn’t finished above .500 in two decades. They were #75 and #115 on the list.

Player A- 24 SV, 1.70 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Player B- 28 SV, 1.24 ERA, 0.92 WHIP

You know player A is Mariano Rivera. I’m just saying Joel Hanrahan has been pretty darn good too.

As I said at the start, I’m NOT saying all these players have the same value, but I am saying that we are far enough in the year to believe the numbers they are putting up. It may be time to stop banking on career expectations and start considering this year, and four months of production when valuing players. Be smart. You might be able to get the same numbers for a cheaper price.


  1. Great post. Masterson has really picked up the pace after a slow stretch and his early season hot streak.

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