OpinionMarch 16, 2006


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Fantasy vs. Reality

By Gabe Smith

I have been a real baseball fan from the time I was little. I’ve always enjoyed the intricacies of the game more than any other major spectator sport. Growing up, I remember getting the sports page in the newspaper, and the first thing I’d look at was the box scores. The second was the transactions. It was always a dream of mine to one day receive the title of big-league GM.

While I don’t have the connections or background to ever reach such a position in real life, playing fantasy has given me the opportunity to “play one on TV” every year for a few months. One of the things that has bothered me is the difference in values for certain players in fantasy baseball in contrast to real-life baseball. In order to quantify some of these differences, I’m going to rank the top five or ten players (and other interesting findings) at each position using two measures from 2005: runs created per 27 outs (RC/27), the expected runs a team of nine of a given player would score in a game; and final fantasy ranks (as calculated by Yahoo! – maybe not the best ranking system, but good for comparison) of the players based on traditional 5×5 stats.

Catcher

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Jason Varitek1. Victor Martinez
2. Victor Martinez2. Jason Varitek
3. Joe Mauer3. Joe Mauer
4. Jorge Posada4. Jorge Posada
5. Greg Zaun5. Ivan Rodriguez

The big mover here is Zaun (ranked as the twelfth-best fantasy catcher), who was decidedly more valuable from a real-life perspective. But we are only talking about catchers here, so we’ll move on…

First Base

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Derrek Lee1. Albert Pujols
2. Albert Pujols2. Derrek Lee
3. Todd Helton3. David Ortiz
4. Jason Giambi4. Mark Teixeira
5. David Ortiz5. Richie Sexson
6. Carlos Delgado6. Paul Konerko
7. Mark Teixeira7. Carlos Delgado
8. Adam Dunn8. Adam Dunn
9. Paul Konerko9. Todd Helton
10. Chad Tracy10. Chad Tracy
11. Richie Sexson13. Jason Giambi
12. Nick Johnson19. Nick Johnson

The most interesting guys on this list are Helton, Giambi, Johnson, and Sexson. Helton, Giambi, and Johnson were by far more valuable in real life than in fantasy, and Sexson was the opposite. This goes to show that as disappointed as many of us (as fantasy players) were in Helton last year, he still had an outstanding year for the Rockies. Another surprise: I certainly would have never guessed that a team of Delgados would be more productive than a team full of fantasy stud Teixeiras.

Second Base

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Brian Roberts1. Alfonso Soriano
2. Chase Utley2. Chone Figgins
3. Jeff Kent3. Chase Utley
4. Placido Polanco4. Jeff Kent
5. Marcus Giles5. Brian Roberts
6. Alfonso Soriano6. Jorge Cantu
8. Chone Figgins7. Marcus Giles
13. Jorge Cantu10. Placido Polanco

Roberts was certainly a victim of missing 20 games, but there are some other very interesting observations from second base. I think most of us are smart enough to realize that Soriano is a much better fantasy player than he is in real life and that Kent and Utley are good no matter how you measure them. But who would have thought that a team made up of Polancos would outscore a team of Sorianos, Figgins, or Cantus? Certainly not me!

Third Base

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Alex Rodriguez1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Miguel Cabrera2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Morgan Ensberg3. David Wright
4. David Wright4. Morgan Ensberg
5. Aramis Ramirez5. Eric Chavez
6. Troy Glaus8. Troy Glaus
9. Bill Mueller18. Joe Randa
10. Joe Randa22. Bill Mueller

Most of the top six or eight under both ranking systems make a lot of sense. However, it is shocking to see guys like Mueller and Randa, arguably worse in fantasy than such notables as Brandon Inge and Adrian Beltre, fare so well in RC/27. It just goes to show that there are guys who you don’t want anywhere near your fantasy team in all but the deepest of leagues that would be tremendous additions to any real baseball team.

Shortstop

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Michael Young1. Michael Young
2. Jhonny Peralta2. Jose Reyes
3. Derek Jeter3. Jimmy Rollins
4. Felipe Lopez4. Derek Jeter
5. Miguel Tejada5. Rafael Furcal
8. Jimmy Rollins6. Miguel Tejada
9. Rafael Furcal7. Felipe Lopez
13. Jose Reyes9. Jhonny Peralta

The guys that stick out here are those that have fantasy values based mostly on their steals. Reyes (by many considered to be a pretty terrible player in real life), is a fantasy stud based on his runs and steals. You see him going in the third or fourth round of any 12-team draft. Yet the Mets would be statistically better off with David Eckstein, Bill Hall, or Russ Adams manning the six hole. On the other hand you have a guy like Peralta, who was a godsend for some of us lucky owners last year, who is even better statistically in real life. The Indians have quite a gem in Jhonny (although a guy can still wish his mom knew how to spell!).

Outfield

RC/27Fantasy Rank
1. Jason Bay1. Manny Ramirez
2. Vlad Guerrero2. Jason Bay
3. Manny Ramirez3. Andruw Jones
4. Brian Giles4. Gary Sheffield
5. Ken Griffey Jr.5. Miguel Cabrera
6. Miguel Cabrera6. Vlad Guerrero
8. Bobby Abreu7. Bobby Abreu
9. Jim Edmonds8. Carl Crawford
10. Gary Sheffield9. Ichiro
12. Geoff Jenkins11. Grady Sizemore
14. David Dellucci12. Carlos Lee
16. Andruw Jones16. Ken Griffey Jr.
21. Ichiro20. Brian Giles
22. Carl Crawford25. Jim Edmonds
26. David DeJesus26. Geoff Jenkins
27. Grady Sizemore34. Carlos Beltran
28. Carlos Lee (Emil Brown)35. David Dellucci
41. Carlos Beltran63. David DeJesus

There are some very interesting findings in the outfield. As bad as Beltran burned those who owned him in fantasy last year, he burned the Mets even worse. Guys like Jones, Crawford, and Ichiro are by far more valuable in fantasy than they are to their real teams. Brian Giles and Ken Griffey Jr. are in the top five for RC/27, but barely sniff the first ten rounds of a fantasy draft. Geoff Jenkins and the Davids (Dellucci and DeJesus) are very valuable to their respective big league teams, but certainly are not sexy fantasy picks. And you don’t see Emil Brown being picked in the fourth round of any draft, and yet a team made up of him would tie a team made up of Carlos Lees.

Doing some research into these differences has made me realize that my perceptions are most certainly a reality. Guys that I would draft in a heartbeat in the right place in fantasy I would want nowhere near my team if I was a Major League GM. And the opposite is true, I would love to put a real team together that includes the underappreciated Brian Giles, Geoff Jenkins, Jhonny Peraltas, Bill Muellers and Placido Polancos of the world. I guess you just have to get over the fact that fantasy and reality are two very different beasts, and you can learn to love both of them in different ways.

 
This is Gabe Smith's debut article for the Cafe. You can find more of his opinions on all things baseball - both fantasy and real-life - in the forums, where he posts as Big Pimpin.
 
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