Baseball is full of fans and players and men in suits who shout “tradition” until their lungs bleed. There’s a saying that if you are not improving you are getting worse because nothing ever stays the same. That ending should have an amendment: “except in baseball.”
While innovation in baseball moves along at the pace of a dead snail — the designated hitter was a good idea. Shut up — fantasy players don’t need to fall into the same pattern. In fact, I think the standard 5×5 should be assassinated. That’s right. Get rid of it. We don’t need homers and runs and RBIs and stolen bases or average. They are old numbers from ancient times.
Yes, these are the numbers the Baseball Writer’s Association looks at when they are thinking of electing people to the Hall of Fame. Then again, this is the same group of jackasses that haven’t allowed Pete Rose or Mark McGwire into the Hall. (Steroids were not illegal during McGwire’s career, and apparently everybody including Mickey Morandini used them. And Rose racked up all his best-in-MLB-history hits before getting caught betting on baseball).
No, there are significantly better numbers we, as fantasy players, can look at to determine value and production. If you run your own league, or if you have the influence to convince your commissioner, change things up this year. Don’t settle for an old system — that, quite frankly, uses what used to be the easiest-to-find stats — we’ve got computers and stats galore, let’s use them.
For years, I’ve run 10×10 and 12×12 leagues just because it adds so many more dimensions and makes fantasy owners look at players traditional 5x5s would laugh at. But, I’m afraid most of you will want to stick to the 5×5 format, just please change the categories. Here are my suggestions of statistics to replace the crusty, dusty traditional relics:
Replace Runs with runs produced
Runs produced adds runs and RBIs, then subtracts homers. At first glance, this penalizes power hitters, but they’ll get their due in the next two categories. Players are not home runs, excellent players get one once every 17 at-bats while the elite (50 homers) get one every 10. Teams need run producers game in and game out and if you’re scoring runs or driving them in it makes you more productive for the team.
Total bases replace average
This is my favorite change. If you make one change make Total Bases a category. Total Bases rewards doubles and triples hitters because players get one point for every base they reach on a hit. In other words, a triple is worth 3 points, a double is worth 2 and a home run is worth 4. So that guy who only has a .290 average with 12 home runs, but has 50 doubles and 10 triples is going to have significant value in TB.
Replace RBIs with OPS
OPS, for those of you who don’t know, adds a players on-base percentage and their slugging percentage. This stat takes into account the players who just get on base, They may only bat in the .270s, but they reach on walks and fielder’s choices, putting runners on the bags. That’s important. It also beefs up those power hitters from the total bases category above. Slugging percentage is the percentage of hits that go for extra bases.
*Before I go any further I know some of you “tradition” curmudgeons are thinking “but that rewards power hitters too much!” No more than your silly traditional 5×5, and it rewards a different kind of power hitter. It also de-glorifies the all-home run, high-strikeout guys, who are fantasy gods for some reason in the traditional 5×5.
K (Speaking of strikeouts) replaces home runs
Yep, we’ve rewarded the sluggers in the last two categories, now we taketh away. (Sorry, it’s Sunday). Why not have a negative category in here? The thing about strikeouts is, it does absolutely no good for your team. If you put the ball in play, you could reach on an error, or if the timing’s right drive in a run or two even if you get out. If you strike out, it provides no potential benefit to your team. And, in most cases, it fires up the opposing pitcher, players and fans. High-strikeout players need to be struck down.
Net stolen bases replaces stolen bases
This is a simple one. Stolen bases-minus-caught stealings. Stolen bases are great, but if someone gets the greenlight and gets caught half the time while trying to steal a base he takes ducks off the pond and puts another dot in the outs portion of the scoreboard.
Some other categories to think about for hitters: Fielding percentage — this is one of my personal favorites. If a player commits 20 errors he’s not as valuable as he should be for his team. Sacrifice hits — drive in a run on a sac fly or bunt a runner to second you’re taking one for the team, and helping it win.
Net wins replaces wins
Yep, wins-minus-losses, just like net steals. Go ahead and cry for the pitcher, “It’s not his fault the defense stinks!” It’s not his fault the team scored 16 runs in his last start either. Still, some teams rise to the occasion when a certain pitcher is on the mound (Sorry, Cole Hamels. That section was not for you). Keep the Win, just make sure we factor in when he has a less-than-quality start.
Net saves replaces saves
I bet there are few people that would argue that the well-paid three-out guys should be held accountable for their blown saves, so let’s move on.
K/9 replaces K
K/9 is an indicator that shows how many strikeouts a player gets per nine innings. While power pitchers retain their value with this category, it also opens the Ks category up for players who don’t rack up 200 innings every season. Because it is a percentage, a player who pitches only 60 innings a season could be as effective in K/9 as a power starter.
Yep, this one has to stay. Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched. There’s no better formula to determine if a player keeps runners from getting on base via his pitches.
ERA stays (reluctantly)
While ERA isn’t my favorite statistic, it’s the best indicator for runs allowed by the pitcher, and fielding errors are mostly factored out of the equation.
Some other categories to think about for pitchers: Holds — relievers who come in with a save situation, but are replaced by the closer before getting a save, get a hold. Innings pitched — if a pitcher stays in the game, he’s more than likely doing well. Typically, crap pitchers don’t rack up 200 innings. Quality starts — a great indicator for starting pitchers. Pitchers get a point if they pitch six innings or more and give up no more than three runs during a start.
Well, what do you think? Did I miss a category? Am I some kind of idiot for suggesting fantasy baseball needs to change? Let me know in the comments.