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How to Rate Hitters

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Hitter's Stats

You can have great tools (i.e. stat books & web sites), but if you don`t know how to use them, they are worthless. So, how do I evaluate hitters? First, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, I estimate their OBA + SlgA. For most players, that`s quite easy. The STATS Major League Handbook gives projections of almost every statistic you can think of for almost every player expected to start the season in the majors. These projections are based on a formula worked out by Bill James himself.

Need I digress to explain just who Bill James is? the man I hold responsible far more than anyone else for the exploding popularity of fantasy baseball leagues? the man who dared to test accepted baseball wisdoms and found enough leaks to sink a fleet of them? the man who entertained and inspired us with his words even more than his calculations?

The Major League Handbook stats need to be adjusted for park factors and injuries as a player`s  status changes. For the players without projections - mainly those who played in the minors the year before, I make my own projections. I just use what I learned from reading Bill James and Pete Palmer and trusting my own experience. If that player was in AA or AAA for most of the previous season, then my projection is well aided by the STATS Minor League Handbook thanks to their Major League Equivalence statistics. The MLE stats are what a player would have done in the majors based on what he did in the minors after adjusting for league and home ballpark. Then I consider his age and season-by-season record. Basically, the younger they are the more their stats will likely improve. The faster they shoot through the minors, the faster they will develop in the majors. Also, having a high BB:K ratio is a good sign they can progress.

Keep those projections in mind all season long. What a player does in spring straining and more importantly in April is quite valuable towards projecting what he will do for the rest of the season - sometimes. A player`s O+S is more likely to end up closer to their pre-season projections than what they hit early on - unless you have a very good reason to believe they are a changed player. Some examples of what those changes could be: steroids, injuries, a player with star potential suddenly getting it, a player not able to adjust to a major league salary. With such improved training techniques, it is getting harder to know if a player has had a lucky month or a lucky year, or has genuinely raised the level of his game.

The improved training techniques also seem to have extended peak career performance. When Bill James was telling us like it really was, age 27 was a typical peak season as it has been for 100 years. Without having tested my theory, I`d surmise that age has dramatically risen just over the last 10 years.

As a perpetual league player, the greater the chances of the player ending the season worth protecting, the more you have to consider his long range greatness. Age, speed, and defense are the biggest factors. Surprisingly, speedy guys generally age better than lumbering sluggers. Good defensive players are given more chances to keep their jobs and aren`t yanked to another position. It is less rare for a glove man to learn to hit than for a DH type to learn to field.

(SB - 2 x CS) indicates a hitter`s contributions as a basestealer, which even if very high, is a small compared to his O+S.

RBIs and Runs do help a hitter move a runner an extra base or allow a runner to take and extra base. I don`t bother looking at this stat, but I suppose it is just as important as base stealing in Scoresheet. 

As with RBIs and Runs, clutch hitting stats for an individual are of dubious validity in real life. In Scoresheet they are thankfully ignored.

A fielder`s range factor is a better indicator of his defensive ability than his fielding percentage. (Zone factor by STATS is the best. Since, Scoresheet uses Zone factors as part of their Defensive Ratings, their ratings are about as accurate an indicator of a player`s fielding as any available to us amateurs.) Statistically, I forget - a defensive rating point is equal to about 3 O+S points? That`s still fairly small if you compare the differences in O+S to the differences in the ratings at the same position. However, for reasons explained a few paragraphs up, I would still prefer those good defensive players.

A centerfielder`s defensive rating is 1.4 times more important in Scoresheet than any other player`s. Almost all my championships came when I employed two excellent centerfielders - just in case one was injured.

And don`t forget to compare a player to the 9th or 10th best player at their position to see their true value.

- John Carter