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Are Stolen Bases Becoming Rare in Fantasy Baseball?

Posted by on Monday, January 01, 2007 (EST)

The 2006 fantasy baseball season had a number of fantasy magazines claiming speed was a scarce commodity, but RotoRank believes otherwise...

One of the biggest debates among fantasy experts this year is when to select the premiere stolen base threats during the 2006 season.  Owners seem to think that there is a shortage of stolen base threats this year, and they are assuming that they need to draft one of the top ten base stealers before round three, or risk being shut out of scoring high in the category.

I have listed the top 225 counts of each projected statistic for the 2006 season from my RotoRank Database to help everyone visualize the data. 

45 1 64 1
44 1 61 1
43 2 52 1
41 1 48 1
40 1 45 1
39 3 41 1
38 1 36 1
37 1 34 1
35 1 33 2
33 3 32 1
32 1 31 1
31 2 29 1
30 6 28 1
29 1 27 1
28 9 26 1
27 6 25 1
26 6 24 1
25 6 23 2
24 1 22 3
23 6 21 2
22 4 20 2
21 9 19 1
20 17 18 6
19 9 17 5
18 12 16 5
17 13 15 7
16 5 14 11
15 20 13 8
14 9 12 2
13 22 11 8
12 21 10 8
11 8 9 6
10 14 8 13
9 24 7 19
    6 18
    5 19
    4 33
    3 40
Average 18 Average 10
Median 17 Median 7
Mode 9 Mode 3
Std Dev 6 Std Dev 7

When you look at the numbers in the above context, you probably noticed that the top Stolen Base Hitter is the equivalent of 6 average stolen base hitters; where as, the top Homerun Hitter is almost the equivalent of 3 average homerun hitters. This can be an extremely misleading statistic; since it appears obvious that drafting a speedster early in the draft would appear to give you a huge advantage.

The problem with the theory that having a stud base stealer is essential to winning your league, is the fact that rotisserie baseball does not reward you for the margins of difference within each statistical category, but just the ranking of the total count of statistics your team accumulates during the season.

As an owner of a fantasy baseball team, your mindset should not be to have the most statistics in every scoring category; rather, it should be to have one more of each key statistic being scored than the rest of your competitors. If you are in a 10-team league, and you have 200 Stolen Bases, and the second place team in Stolen Bases has 130, you still only get 10 points in that category, while the other owner gets 9 points. The same point count would have been generated if you simply had 131 Stolen Bases, to the next highest stolen base count of 130.

In leagues where that are highly competitive, each of the statistical categories are usually very close near the end of the season, and a few extra RBI, Runs, and Hits will outweigh a dominant gap within any one statistical category.

Now lets convert the above tables into a set of ranges, and see how the two categories stack up.  

40+ 6 40+ 6
35-39 6 35-39 1
30-34 12 30-34 5
25-29 28 25-29 5
20-24 37 20-24 10
15-19 59 15-19 24
10-14 74 10-14 37
9 24 5-9 75
3-4 73

I find it very interesting that both categories have the same number of players who will have 40+ counts within their scoring category. Some people make look at the above charts and say that it still makes a strong case to draft a top base stealer early, because there are more difference makers near the top, as compared to Homerun Hitters who seem to be more fully balanced throughout the ranges. I, on the other hand, see that Homeruns are going to be a much tighter race, and it is likely that ten homeruns could mean as many as 5 points in a ten team league; where as, I'd expect to see the top stolen base teams to have substantial margins between their scoring levels, until you get near the bottom of the category.

If fantasy baseball only utilized Stolen Bases and Homeruns as scoring categories for hitters, I could see taking players like Scott Podsednik and Juan Pierre in the first or second round, but when you consider Runs, RBI, and BA into the mix, you can see why guys like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Vladimir Guerrero will likely be the top 3 players off the board in most mixed league drafts.

I still place a lot of value on players like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, and Chone Figgins, because along with their speed, they play in positions which have very few difference makers, but you'll have to hope the rest of the league is also placing a premium on speed during the draft, or you may end up holding 60 extra bags at the end of the season with a overall finish near the middle of the league.


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