The Art Of The Steal In Fantasy Baseball
Also: Thoughts on How To Fix The Flawed Hall of Fame Voting Process
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Pregame Pepper - Big Papi Hall Of Fame Highlight Reel
Speed Rules – The Stolen Base In Fantasy Baseball
By Ray Kuhn
The stolen base is dying.
I’m not going to go crazy here and bog the article down with statistic after statistic illustrating it, because that is old hat at this point. We are watching the games and the lack of stolen base attempts is glaring.
Everything has taken on a statistical and analytical slant now, and it quite clearly illustrates the diminishing returns that the stolen base brings or is perceived to bring. That is especially true as we are in the age of the “three true outcomes” with the majority of at-bats ending in either a home run, strikeout, or walk. Using that thought process, it does make sense that the stolen base would be avoided at an increased pace as it’s simply not worth the risk.
As a fan, it does make me nostalgic as the stolen base attempt was exciting to watch and it adds a piece of strategy to the game as well. But as a fantasy baseball player, it makes me angry. And frustrated.
While stolen bases have gone down over the past few years, they still count just the same and are weighted equally with the four other hitting categories. The problem comes in though when there is a lot less of them available compared to home runs, RBI, and runs scored.
So how do we handle it? What do we need to do in order to be successful?
The first step in fixing a problem is acknowledging it, so at least we are on the right path. Everything we are going to look at here is based on National Fantasy Baseball Championship drafts from December 15th through January 22nd. That gives us 108 drafts of data to review and these are high-stakes drafts that generally set the market and are also the most aggressive in dealing with scarcity at any level.
With that being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Trea Turner has consistently been the number one pick in drafts this winter. Not only is Turner a good bet to lead the league in stolen bases, but he had dual eligibility in the middle infield (including second base which is generally weaker), has some power, and will be a part of one of the best lineups in baseball.
Through the first two to three rounds of the draft every player that can be counted for consistent stolen bases then comes flying off the board before you know it. And if you have any doubts about that being the case, Myles Straw is the perfect example of that.
No, Straw isn’t getting drafted that early. At least yet anyway.
Before you write me off as a loon, by no means am implying that it is or will be the case. But if you want Straw this season, he isn’t going to come cheaply. Within our sample size, Straw’s Average Draft Position is 129 with a wide range of selections; 90 to 234. If we go over the past two weeks, Straw’s ADP increases slightly to 122. By the time Opening Day comes, I would expect to see this number push closer towards 100 with new minimum picks being set regularly.
Now, it’s nothing personal against Straw, and I don’t want to pick on him, but this is the perfect example of how scarce and stressful stolen bases truly are.
Last season, Straw finished tied for fourth with 30 stolen bases and the three players ahead of him (Turner, Starling Marte, and Whit Merrifield) along with Cedric Mullins who was tied with the Cleveland outfielder, are all off the table before we get to the third round. So, for that point alone, it seems like we are getting a bargain with Straw in the ninth round.
But are we? And is it prudent?
Well, you have to get those stolen bases, so do we really have a choice?
The problem with Straw, and other speedsters, is that they could simply be too one-dimensional. Last season Straw hit .271 with just four home runs and 48 RBI while scoring 86 runs. The batting average works here, and the runs scored are nice, but to say Straw is one-dimensional and lacking power would be an understatement.
If Straw doesn’t run, then he is just another back end of the roster outfielder and certainly not a ninth-round pick. And even more seriously, if Straw isn’t picking up stolen bases, or gets injured or struggles and is forced out of the lineup, a large amount of your stolen bases goes with it.
Of course, you do run into that risk with any injury, but the greater the investment in a one-trick pony, the greater the risk is. And there is the issue of the other four categories that also need stats.
If you get Straw a few rounds later, then by all means, go for it.
Instead, I’d prefer to give back 10 or maybe 15 stolen bases and go after a few players that can replicate those stolen bases on a combined basis while picking up some power along the way.
In the 100 to 200 pick range, some names that jump out to me include Trent Grisham, Akil Baddoo, Amed Rosario, Robbie Grossman, and Kolten Wong. Again, they aren’t going to steal as many bases as Straw, but they will get you more than average and can get your production elsewhere as well.
If you want to go beyond pick 200, Nicky Lopez and Lane Thomas are two names that catch my attention.
By no means is the above a complete, accurate, or comprehensive list, but it is in alignment with my thought process. Stolen bases can’t be ignored and have to be targeted, but it has to be done responsibly. That’s not to say drafting Straw in the ninth round is irresponsible, because if it works, that certainly won’t be the case. But it’s not without risk and we shouldn’t forget how critical stolen bases truly are.
Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him on Twitter at @ray_kuhn_28 or firstname.lastname@example.org as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.
How To Fix The Flawed Cooperstown Vote
By Dan Schlossberg
At least there’s no electoral college involved.
That’s the best thing about the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame, which has more flaws than a 600-page bill from a Congressional committee.
In the last two years, the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) picked exactly one candidate – Big Papi – and came this close to striking out for the second year in a row.
Requiring electees to receive 75 percent of the vote but not requiring voters to fill out all 10 spaces on their ballot skews the vote.
Compounding the felony is the fact that the writers’ ballot had 30 names on it.
When any of the four rotating “eras” committees votes, ballots have only 10 spaces.
That means the Four Horsemen of Suspicion – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling – will be eligible for the Today’s Game ballot but will have to compete with more than 20 other candidates with impressive resumes.
To even the playing field, why not restrict the writers ballot to 20 names and increase the eras ballot to the same number?
In addition, why not apply the same logic to the Hall of Fame ballot that the BBWAA uses in its voting for Most Valuable Player? Simply require writers to fill out their Top 10 preferences, in order, when voting for Cooperstown. That would square with the MVP voting when incomplete ballots are discarded as ineligible.
Consider the carnage caused by the vote for the Class of 2022.
Six returned ballots were totally blank. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe voted for just one candidate, inexplicably choosing Jeff Kent as if he reached into a hat filled with 30 names and happened to pick one out.
“I stopped participating in the Baseball Hall of Fame vote in 2016,” wrote Jeff Schulz in The Athletic. “I had problems with the process, the volume of voters and a lack of clarity about what our mission was. The Hall entrusts members of the baseball writers association with the vote, but there was zero guidance about how, if at all, voters should factor in whether a player used performance-enhancing drugs. I asked a Hall representative whether we should consider evidence, either real or circumstantial. I asked whether we should ignore everything but the numbers. I was told there would be no guidance. So I stopped voting.”
All 10 BBWAA voters from The New York Post voted for both Bonds and Clemens, with Ken Davidoff penning a post-election column lamenting their twin rejections. He even referred to Bonds twice this week as the “undisputed” home run king even though the Hall of Fame already houses that man, somebody named Henry Louis Aaron.
Aaron, by the way, always insisted that the Hall of Fame should have no room for cheaters – from men who bet on baseball to those who inflated their records late in their careers by using performance-enhancing substances.
While Bonds and Clemens were cinch Hall of Famers before the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, their numbers got better as they got older. And not just a little better.
Both were suspected (though not suspended) but had trainers testify against them. Sosa, on the other hand, was suspended for using corked bats – cheating of another sort. And Schilling was chilling with his social media tirades against liberals and journalists.
With incumbent Hall of Famers on the panel of the Today’s Game committee, which represents the era 1998-2007, it’s possible they won’t even make the next ballot. The committee meets again in 2024, when the ballot should double to accommodate all the worthy candidates.
As in the “general” election, individuals need 75 percent of the vote (12 of the 16 panelists). It’s not impossible, since two veterans committees meeting last month named Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Buck O’Neil.
The election of Ortiz swells the Class of 2020 to seven and the Cooperstown roster to 340. But it’s a shame that such deserving candidates as Andruw Jones are still playing the waiting game.
Voters who say Bonds and Clemens deserve enshrinement because of their exploits before steroids should also discard the steep decline Jones suffered after age 30. A World Series star at 19, he won 10 straight Gold Gloves – a rare feat achieved by a handful of Hall of Famers – and provided plenty of power too. Analytics, historians, and colleagues consider him the best defensive center-fielder of all time.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books, including The New Baseball Bible, The 300 Club, Making Airwaves, and When the Braves Ruled the Diamond. His e-mail is email@example.com.