Know that the fantasy baseball information I provide this year is going to be heavily influenced by Ron Shandler’s 2012 Baseball Forecaster. I will recommend the book to any fantasy baseball player.
Warning: It is statistics heavy that it will put some people into a trance. Others will be terrified. It also handles a lot of high level concepts and spends a lot of time speaking to fantasy veterans. If it’s your first rodeo, and you’re not a statistics major, you might want to start with a less complex source — or check out our take on the concepts in 2012.
I’m going to go over a few of the book’s broader points in this post to give you some of the baselines I will use in my 2012 predictions and to hopefully encourage you to purchase Shandler’s publication.
First and foremost, Shandler understands and flat out tells fantasy owners that they should use his book as a baseline and not as some sort of all-inclusive fantasy battle plan. He encourages readers to form their own opinions, much like Chinstrap Ninjas does, based on the concepts he introduces and explains. Baseball has so many statistics and potential indicators that the writers of the book could not scour through every one.
However, the book focuses on several key statistics. Because that is part of the book’s hook, I’m not going to go into great detail or reveal any of the secrets explained there. However, like I said above, the book’s influence will be seen throughout my rankings and projections in 2012.
For now, let’s go over a few general points from the first few pages of the Forecaster.
I went over the first point in my first baseball post of the year, but it’s worth quoting again: “Every player we add to our roster during the season means we’re eliminating one player we likely rostered through more careful analysis.” We will be conducting at least one Chinstrap Ninjas draft and hold league this year. Please let us know if you are interested by posting in the comments or emailing ep(at)chinstrapninjas.com.
Fighting, scraping, clawing for 5%
According to another section of the Forecaster, multiple sources have determined that the best outcome any prognostication system can achieve is about 70%. However, three-year averages adjusted for age are good enough to produce a success rate of 65 percent. So that means fantasy baseball experts are shooting to be more right about 5% of the players in the Major Leagues.
I want to put that five percent in context: There were 452 batters who had 100 at-bats last season and 325 pitchers who faced 150 batters (at least 50 innings pitched) in 2011. Five percent of 777 is about 39 players. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but if 10 of those players are unexpected top-20 performers and another 10 are complete busts, that can make a big difference for Chinstrap Ninjas readers.
Sleepers, busts and a flabby mid-section
However, a few paragraphs later, Shandler asks if it is really worth going all-in when predicting sleepers and busts.
I’m going to quote this part because I don’t want to mess it up. In the book, Shandler quotes another expert of fanalytics, John Burnson: “… No system is 100% reliable, and in trying to capture the outliers, you weaken the middle and thereby lose more predictive pull than you gain.”
In other words, attempting to predict sleepers and busts brings the reliability of the rest of the system down.
All of those revelations can be found in the first 12 pages of a 281-page book. I don’t make any money off the sales of the book, but I cannot recommend it enough. For fantasy baseball fanatics, especially the statistic geeks among us, this is an immense encyclopedia of awesome. Check it out if you can.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to eliminate sleepers and busts from our fantasy baseball predictions, but maybe there is a better way to present them.
For the mainstream sites, predictive correctness is probably a greater priority than it is for us. Most readers who find Chinstrap Ninjas are not looking for basic concepts. We welcome all kind of fantasy players, but we also know that many of our readers play in leagues that don’t follow the 5×5 industry standard. They already know where they’re ranking the top 20 shortstops, catchers and third basemen. What they’re looking for are “outliers,” as they are described in the Forecaster. At the least our readers are looking for prognosticators who can convince them to believe or not believe the sleepers and busts they’ve already predicted.
Should sleepers and busts be reflected in rankings and projections? Is it a better to have boring rankings/projections and warn people, “hey, this player might be a bust (or sleeper)?” Let us know in the comments.