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Baseball Stats, Fantasy Numbers and Parks

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/26/2008

There are a lot of fantasy baseball leagues and players around the country. Drafting and analyzing players on a day to day basis is an excellent tool for handicapping baseball games. The fantasy players need to examine each player’s stats and injury status to see whether they should be in the lineup or not. Players go into slumps, get hurt, or don’t necessarily match up well against a particular opponent on a given day, therefore they can be left out of the lineup by the fantasy manager.

Keeping up on players for fantasy leagues provides the manager with an excellent knowledge of individual players and how to best utilize them. Take a player like Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. On a team short on offensive talent, he’s an electric player, the 2006 Rookie of the Year. He hits in a key spot in the batting order, atop the lineup. It’s his job to get on base and create havoc on the base paths, disrupting pitchers with his speed. He does all that and more, hitting for power, too. A year ago after 31 games he was hitting .339 with 10 steals, 4 homers and 3 triples. He then missed a few games in April and the Marlins stumbled, but when he returned they started scoring runs again.

The fantasy player keeps daily tabs on the performance of players, but that can carry over and help you in your daily handicapping. If a player has a nagging injury, like a hamstring pull, the fantasy player would often know about that because they are tracking their small circle of players. Then it could be time for the manager to rest that player and bring in someone normally on the bench. Again, this helps the fantasy manager in handicapping because it better explains the reasons why a particular player is slumping or ineffective.

Therefore when you examine games from a handicapping perspective, you can better understand why a team is in a slump. If a great leadoff hitter like Hanley Ramirez is hurting, maybe the Marlin offense slows down for a few games, going 3 straight under the total, for example. Or if a pitching staff is forced to go with relievers of Triple AAA pitchers as starters because of a double-header, anyone tracking those players in a fantasy league would have a leg up on most handicappers.

I had a play on the Angels/Red Sox game under the total Friday partly because of a bunch of injuries to key offensive players on the Red Sox. World Series MVP Mike Lowell is still out with a sore thumb and reports were that a flu bug was running through the Red Sox clubhouse. Sure enough, the lineup was without Jason Varitek, Lowell and J.D. Drew. I ended up losing the wager by a half a run when 3 runs were scored in the ninth. The relief pitching let me down, but the analysis on the game was sound. The point is not to win EVERY wager, but to look for constant edges and grind out a profit.

Injuries to the Detroit Tiger bullpen continues to be a problem. Notice that now that the offense is hot, the Tigers are on an 8-3 run over the total. Another area where this can come into play is the ballpark. With so many new stadiums in baseball the last few years, it’s imperative to keep a daily count of how hitters and pitchers fare in these parks. We’ve seen relatively new stadiums in Seattle and San Diego with large outfields that have become excellent pitcher’s parks. When fantasy offensive players go into those parks for 3 games, for instance, their offensive production may tail off. Or, a pitcher making the jump from a good pitcher’s park to a home-run friendly field, like the Ballpark in Arlington, or the new parks in Cincy and Philly, would likely fare very differently.

For example, in 2004/05 Randy Johnson went from the NL to the AL, and his production diminished considerably the first half of the 2005 season. The same thing happened to Josh Beckett when he went from a pitcher-friendly NL park in Florida in 2005 to hitter-friendly Fenway in 2006, when his home runs allowed and ERA soared. The time spent in fantasy leagues can be very productive for handicapping purposes, as long as you now what to look for and how to use it.

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