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Go Big or Go Home: The Mad Professor’s Rumination on Midsummer Statistical Trends, 2006-2016.

Damn, folks.  downloadNow Baton Rouge, Nice and Turkey?  Prayers and good thoughts for all.  Be careful out there.



It’s mid-baseball season, but not quite midsummer (That would be halfway between the June Solstice and the September Equinox.  It’s coming).  But, depending on your historical or astronomical reference, the dog days are here.  Some references say they run from 14 July – 5 September  (the second and third quarters of summer).  We usually associate the dog days with hot summer times when dogs just lie around because it’s hot.  Actually, they refer to the time when Sirius (the Dog Star) first rises above the horizon in the morning in the horse latitudes (roughly 30-38 degrees north) in the northern hemisphere.  We have the ancient Greeks and Romans to thank for this.  In the Odyssey, Homer actually refers to the onset of the dog days.

Football on GrassIn any event, for baseball fans, the dog days arrive essentially with the All Star game.  They bring renewed hopes for some.  For others, they signal the time to head to the newsstands and pick up the first fantasy football guides because your fantasy baseball season is over.

It is this period of time, along with the desire of Fanduel and Draftkings’ desire to turn Fantasy Sports into the equivalent of a lottery ticket purchase, that gave rise to DFS ad the flurry of controversy we read about in the last six months. So, we reflect on why we got ourselves into this mess last April and why we don’t just gamble on daily lineups.

GoldschmidtOne reason, as Ron Shandler has eloquently pointed out, is that in 80% of rotisserie leagues, the teams who will be in the money at the end of the year are already there by the end of April.  Heck, as he notes:  “Even 78 percent of Major League division winners are within three games of first place by May 1.”   So, unless you are in a head to head league or another shorter-term format than traditional, season-long rotisserie, there is no real point in looking to trade up for this season.  If you are 100 K’s out of first place in your league, Even Clayton Kershaw or Chris Sale might not be enough to get you up to the top spot over the rest of the season. Mike Trout or Paul Goldschmidt might have 20 HR left this season.  But if you are 40 HR out of first place and need 25 to bump up 3 spots in the standings, they do not offer much bang for the quantity of fantasy bucks you would have to shell out for them.

But they might help you out in this week’s H2H matchup.  3 extra HR or 10 extra K this week could be a difference maker in H2H, while 20 more HR between now and 1 October won’t help much.

Problem is, it will be extraordinarily difficult to acquire any real help right now in virtually any format (unless you are “lucky(?)” enough to be in an AL or NL-only league and are somehow positioned to snap up a stud who gets traded to your league before the deadline).   Really — how much of a fire sale are you willing to have to acquire Goldschmidt?  Even if you do, will he make a difference if you have to sell the farm to get him?

So, what to do besides turning to football?  Remember one of the key reasons we play fantasy and enjoy the ride:  look at the numbers and marvel at what’s going on.  We are in this as much for our love of the spot and its nuances as we are to kick our buddies’ butts.

Overall, 2016 has been a statistically significant season for numerous reasons.  Pitching and hitting are both strong.  So what’s going on?  What follows is some summary data from the league. I offer some thoughts and interpretations. Draw your own conclusions.  Don’t hesitate to comment. I’d love to hear your feedback.


.  Balls are leaving parks at a record pace.  As the following graph shows, the first half number of HR is way up. This year, we have 3,082 HR before the All-Star break.  The last time we were even close to this was 2006, when pitchers surrendered 2,942.  So, there are two ways to look at this.  Those of you who own Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer, Josh Tomlin, or Jered Weaver (all of whom have surrendered 21 HR) can either let them off the hook (because it is a hitter’s year) or you can hold these guys personally responsible for the extended HR derby. All data courtesy of our friends at FanGraphs (Apologies, btw for the years ending in .5.  This is the silly program’s attempt to keep the X axis balanced.  I mean, really.  Anyway, I’ll fix it next time.  Please don’t be offended. Moving right along…)


Scatterplot of HR vs Season


Strikeouts.  But, hang on.   While HR are up, so are Strikeouts.  This trend has been ongoing for some022815-MLB-Washington-Nationals-starting-pitcher-Max-Scherzer-PI_vresize_1200_675_high_68 time and continues this year.  While pitchers (led by Max Scherzer) are not mowing batters down as much as they were at this point in 2014 (21,935), the number of K’s (21,320) is still at historic heights.  These data do not contradict.  Numerous articles over the last several years have documented that hitters are willing to risk striking out while swinging for the fences.  So, we can guess that Robert Kennedy is the hitter’s muse:  “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”


Scatterplot of SO vs Season


Saves.  The number of saves this year (700) is down from its 2014 peak of 737.

Scatterplot of SV vs Season


Blown saves, however, show no particular logic and continue to follow an up and down pattern from one season to the next.

Scatterplot of BS vs Season


But the ratio of saves to blown saves (“svbs”) has dropped significantly this year — contradicting a 10-year trend.  This must mean something.  Talk among yourselves…


Scatterplot of svbs vs Season


Batting.  Batting average is up significantly.  After a steady decline from 2006-2011 and foundering for a couple of years, MLB batting average is at its highest (0.253) since 2009’s mark of 0.256. That is still not as high as 2006’s 0.264.  But still.  Will this continue?


Scatterplot of AVG vs Season


BABIP, however, is at its highest in 10 years at 0.299, after bottoming out at 0.288 in 2011.

Scatterplot of BABIP vs Season

In part, this may have to do with the LD%.  It continues its upward trends since 2010’s 18.5% mark to the current 20.8%.  That’s a nontrivial increase, but not enormous.  Look at the graph carefully — the axes obscure this.  Still, a two-point increase in LD% makes sense in the current baseball environment.


Scatterplot of LD% vs Season


The average fastball speed is at its highest ever. Batters are swinging harder than ever and the result is big outs and lots of HR. Go big or go home, indeed.

Overview. Ponderables.  OK.  This has been more of a baseball overview than a fantasy analysis.  But it does put your draft strategy in perspective.  Those counting stats matter more than ever.  Unless there is an influx of GB inducing pitchers, the budget for purchasing baseballs will continue to climb.  Clearly, for fantasy purposes,  HR and RBI matter more than BA and K, matter more than ERA.

More to come.  Best wishes to all.  Be careful out there…


(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej GarrCorey D Roberts, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday July 16th from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #64 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. This is a live broadcast and we take callers at 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the hosts. This week we will break down the NFC North from an NFL and fantasy perspective.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”


(Click the RED link to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: Join Corey D RobertsKyle Amore, and Coach Andy Macuga live on Sunday July 17th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #73 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host.

Kyle is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Andy is the Head Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California as well as a 4 year veteran in MLFB leagues.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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  1. Pingback: Midseason MLB analysis: Major League Fantasy Sports « Mark Rush

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