He doesn’t always tell me stuff I didn’t know about but I always enjoy reading fantasy articles by guys who justify their player assessments and critiques with statistics.
It is pretty much common knowledge to Café regulars that the contract year is a myth. I don’t have any links to the threads but there have been plenty of threads with complete statistical analysis and proof that the contract year doesn’t exist posted here on the Café over the past years. Just do a search if you are relatively new to the café, haven’t seen the studies, or are a non-believer.
Anyway. On RotoMan’s newest column, http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/fanta ... oman061505 , he replied to a reader mail that based A. Beltre’s horrible season on having secured his contract.
Here is a cut and paste of it.
Reader wrote: Rotoman:
You wanna know why Adrian Beltre is tanking this year? Last year was his contract year. One of the most useful pieces of knowledge you can have when drafting a fantasy team...
RotoMan didn’t quite flame him, but I thought he put him in place quite nicely.
RotoMan wrote: Dear CM:
I actually have studied this. I’ve lined up similar players in similar situations and couldn't find one bit of systematic evidence that players in general perform better in contract years.
But I have a hard time arguing that this isn't true for some players. Motivation matters, and the recognition that the gravy train isn’t going to stop if you don't fly right has to figure in the resurgences for some players. Preseason training regimes, extra batting practice, better eating, etc, could all come into play if a player figured there was more on the line in a particular year. A contract year.
The problem is that psychological overcompensation has to figure in as well. A good deal of baseball is half-mental, as Yogi Berra might have said, and some guys want to do so well that they stop doing what has always seemed natural to them, and then they collapse in a big time slump.
The same phenomenon occurs with players who sign big money contracts. Some take the money as a confidence booster, some see it as a heap of obligation they can't possibly live up to. And the latter group falters.
From what I know about Beltre this last scenario seems the most likely explanation for his bad year, but he has also changed leagues, so he's having to adapt to a different set of pitchers, too. What I’m certain of is that Beltre wasn’t a slacker all those years leading up to last year, and nobody can simply turn on the level of offensive skill he showed in 2004 just because he wants to.
The net effect of contract years and post contract years is certifiably null, but that doesn't mean there aren't individual effects. Possibly.
Here are some of the players playing for 2006 contracts off to good starts this year: Ramon Hernandez, Tony Clark, Reggie Sanders, Jacque Jones, Johnny Damon, Brian Giles, Matt Morris, AJ Burnett, Joe Mays, Roger Clemens, Kenny Rogers, Jarrod Washburn, Todd Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Wagner, Braden Looper.
These guys aren’t doing so good: Mike Piazza, Kevin Millar, Travis Lee, Erubiel Durazo, Bret Boone, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Weaver, Jason Schmidt, John Thomson, Kevin Brown, Danny Graves, Octavio Dotel, Matt Mantei.
Mixed Bag: Richard Hidalgo, Paul Konerko, Preston Wilson, Matt Lawton, Kevin Millwood.
The challenge is to design a projection system that incorporates free agent status and better predicts this year’s success than a model that doesn’t include it. I’ve tried to find it, based on age or previous health, and couldn’t come up with anything useful. And clearly, my friend, you haven’t yet either.
But keep trying.
I got a good laugh out of that.