StrategyFebruary 4, 2004


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Slick Fielding
Without the Fancy Glovework

By Arlo Vander

One trend that we’ve been seeing a lot of recently is the use of untraditional fantasy scoring categories. Leagues are replacing batting average and wins with on-base percentage and net wins in an attempt to more accurately reflect the game. Similarly, stats such as holds, walks, or defense are being added in order to include aspects of baseball that have long been neglected.

Yet while owners in such leagues generally adjust their strategies and rankings to take most of these new categories into account, defense is all too often ignored. Many consider fielding percentage too random to predict or don’t want to pass on sluggers in order to draft players who make their living with their gloves . Yet if errors are added as a category in a 6×6 league, for example, they carry as much weight as home runs in the standings and need to be taken into account.

Errors

If your league has decided to add errors as a category, the first order of business is obviously avoiding players like Aramis Ramirez and Rafael Furcal who will be charged with a significant number of bobbled grounders and wayward throws over the course of a season. But there are also subtler means of gaining an advantage.

The simplest way to avoid making errors is not to have a glove like Ozzie Smith, but to never putt on that glove in the first place. Pencil in Edgar Martinez for your utility slot. Consider signing Frank Thomas or David Segui as your first baseman, knowing that they’ll play most of their games at designated hitter. And don’t overlook Matt LeCroy, who will qualify at catcher, but only put on a mask when Joe Mauer needs a break.

Even if you’re a baseball purist who hates the designated hitter rule, when it comes to lowering your error total, the DH can be your best friend.

Fielding Percentage

But what if your league uses fielding percentage instead of errors? A designated hitter won’t hurt your fielding, but he won’t be able to help, either.

Nonetheless, you can still take advantage of players who qualify at multiple positions. Dmitri Young, for instance, may not be a gold glove contender at third base (.849 fielding in 2003), but if you factor in the .985 mark he posted in left field, his total is a stellar .975, better than all but Joe Randa’s .980 at third base. Combine that mark with Young’s bat and you have a very solid 3B option.

Similarly, Miguel Cabrera won’t have to contend with too many smashes to the hot corner if he’s entrenched in Florida’s outfield. Mark Teixeira will also qualify at third, where his fielding percentage was a meager .811 in 2003, but is slated to play first base and should post significantly improved numbers.

There are plenty of opportunities to gain an edge in the fielding categories without drafting Cesar Izturis or Royce Clayton as your starting shortstop. Slick fielding doesn’t always require fancy glovework. Sometimes, as everyone who has ever seen the hidden ball trick pulled off successfully knows, a sneaky strategy works just as well.
 

As Fantasy Baseball Cafe’s editor, Arlo Vander is often more worried about spelling errors than his fantasy team’s fielding errors.

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