In my Fantasy Baseball Prep 101, I told you how important statistics were. If you’ve played any fantasy sports, you know this. The Fantasy Baseball 101 course includes tidbits like home runs and RBI are closely correlated, with runs less closely correlated.
On the pitching side, a student who has graduated from 101 would know that a pitcher who allows less walks will perform better, not only producing a lower ERA but also a lower WHIP. When I finally understood the importance of WHIP, I was ready to graduate.
Fantasy Baseball 201 take it to the next level, as we look at some advanced statistics that can prove helpful in determining a player’s value. Predicting the future performance of a player is an imperfect science, but these metrics have proved helpful to some degree.
I asked my mentor, Todd Zola, of CreativeSports and Mastersball, what he thinks are the most important stats. Known in our industry as Lord Zola after winning numerous Tout Wars and Mixed LABR championships, the veteran analyst just shook his head.
“Everything is in context. A player deficient in one skill is strong in another. Nothing happens in a vacuum. My job is to evaluate 1500 players. Those with a pet metric narrow down their focused inventory. That’s smart – fewer players to dig into. I can’t do that.”
Zola is a busy guy, and he is committed to give his paying customer a bigger bang for their buck. But you probably don’t have the time or the skills to dig into all of the advanced metrics he does. Therefore, I want to simplify things for you and look at three.
One of the many statistics that the experts turn to in evaluating hitters is batting average on balls in Play (BABIP). BABIP measures a player’s batting average exclusively on balls hit into the field of play, removing outcomes not affected by the opposing defense.
BABIP can be used to evaluate both pitchers and hitters. The league average BABIP is around .300. Two examples are Clayton Kershaw, who finished the 2019 season with a lifetime .270 BABIP allowed. Mike Trout ended 2019 with a career .348 BABIP.
Another popular hitting metric that I like is exit velocity (EV), which measures the speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after a batter makes contact. This is tracked for all batted ball put in play in major league baseball — outs, hits and errors.
EV is fairly straightforward. It measures the average velocity of the ball off the bat. The average EV in the majors is 68 mph. However, exit velocity’s essential flaw is that it only factors in balls that are actually hit. You must also consider strikeout percentage.
The third stat I like is ground-ball rate, which measures the percentage of balls hit into the field of play that are characterized as ground balls. Each ball that is hit into the field of play is characterized as a line drive, a fly ball, a ground ball, or a pop-up
Ground-ball rate can be also used as a metric to evaluate both hitters and pitchers. Pitchers with high ground-ball rates have a tendency to allow fewer home runs. Likewise, hitters with higher ground-ball rates hit fewer home runs and make more outs.