Explaining a Ranking Difference

As you are no doubt keenly aware, Eno has been furiously posting the RotoGraphs rankers’ position rankings over the past week. This is always an interesting and sometimes surprising exercise as I find players I didn’t think I liked ranked higher than the others, whereas guys I thoughts I liked are ranked lower. Trying to figure out why such was the case is the fun part. But rather than explain why each player I ranked differently was ranked at such spot (don’t worry, Pod’s Picks will soon be upon us!), I thought it would be helpful to explain the various general reasons a player is ranked dramatically differently than others rank that same player. Or, in simpler terms, what leads to a difference in ranking?

*The examples below are just that and not genuine commentary on the players discussed or my ranking of them.

Difference in Fantasy Category Projections

This is the most obvious. I project Anthony Rizzo to enjoy a major breakout season and swat 35 home runs, while Eno expects more slow and steady growth with a 26 home run projection. A difference in projection is likely what the majority of people assume when looking at players being ranked differently.

Difference in Playing Time

As a forecaster, I would argue that projecting playing time is actually harder than projecting skills. All the time we observe a player that we believe to be superior start the year in the minors or in a reserve role while an inferior player gets the majority of starts. While we could determine who should get more playing time, we’re not the managers making that decision. So it makes things difficult. Who wins the center field job in Colorado? How about the third base job on the south side of Chicago? I have an idea of who I think is the better player and should win, but that might not match up with what the manager and organization is thinking. So I might lean toward Corey Dickerson and rank him higher than others who are expecting Drew Stubbs to win the job.

Injuries also play a role in projecting playing time. I was the only one of the four of us to rank Troy Tulowitzki third among shortstops. The other three all ranked him first. Tulo has come to the plate more than 600 times just three times over his seven full seasons. He’s exactly who you think of when you hear the words brittle or injury prone. Obviously, my playing time projection factors in his injury history and could very well be below what the other three are assuming. So I don’t necessarily like Tulo less, I’m just picking a number out of a hat to use for his plate appearance projection and perhaps that number is lower. Because really, none of us have a clue how many games he’s going to play in 2014.

Valuation Methodology

This is often overlooked, but is important to understand. We all use different methodologies to value players. I’m no valuation expert and so could not possibly devise my own way to value players. Nor am I sure what method is the most accurate, if there is such a thing. So I use a method developed by Mastersball’s Todd Zola and it differs from the more popular SGP. The two methods are certainly similar enough to be certain one won’t value Tulo as the 10th best shortstop and the other the best! But they could definitely cause a difference of a couple of bucks and that could be enough to move a player several spots in the rankings.

Furthermore, the perception of some valuation methods is that one overvalues stolen bases, another batting average and maybe another saves. So you may see those flaws in action if someone like Ben Revere is ranked much higher using one methodology versus the others. It explains why two people could be projecting the exact same performance by a hitter, yet have slightly different valuations for that stat line.

The Projections of Other Players

This is more like a subset of valuation methodology. The system that I use (not sure about the others) accounts for the projections of every active player and the replacement pool (that is, the best players left after all the starters are drafted that are available to be added through free agency). So if I’m projecting every single player to steal 0 bases and Ben Revere to steal 100, well, Revere gets credit for producing 100% of the entire stolen base pool. Drafting him would automatically net you the maximum number of stolen base points! But if instead I projected everyone else to also steal 100 bases, then obviously Revere’s value takes a dramatic hit.

Similarly, if I simply project the majority of shortstops to perform worse than everyone else, then the same projection for someone like Jean Segura would value him higher, because his stats are being compared to a position with a lower replacement level than the other rankers are projecting. So, perhaps Segura is ranked second not because I am head over heels in love with him, but because I like the rest of the shortstops a bit less than those who ranked him fourth.

So as you can see, there are several possible explanations for why a player’s ranking differs between rankers. Sometimes it’s a combination of several factors and other times I can’t even figure out why I had someone ranked higher than the others. In fact, this happened several times when trying to explain the differences in my Pod’s Picks articles. So the next time you wonder why I ranked your favorite sleeper below everyone else, remember that it could be due to any of the above reasons, and not necessarily because I like him less than you do in terms of expected performance.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


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Javen
Member
Javen

Relatively new to Rotographs here. Has an article been written on how to value players based on the different scoring types (roto, points, H2H categories)?

Cybo
Guest
Cybo

You should learn to value players based on your league’s scoring settings instead of your league’s type (ie., H2H, roto). For example points leagues typically award points for BBs thus making high OBP guys more valuable than in a standard 5×5 scoring.

Some leagues like daily H2Hs you can take more risks on upside with players. Also guys with health concerns such as Tulo are easier to absorb if they do miss time. You can just grab the best available FA and take replacement level production at your SS spot until Tulo returns. In a weekly league Tulo’s health can hurt you a bit more as you’re stuck with him for the whole week he’s hurt before you can DL him.

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