Fantasy Awards: An Occasionally Dissenting Opinion

A few weeks back, the RotoGraphs staff covered the RotoGraphs Fantasy Awards, our look back at 2012 and a chance to recognize the guys who made or broke your fantasy season by being really good (or really bad) or by being really good and then being really bad (or being really bad and then being really good). When we voted, I think everyone looked at 2012 in a vacuum, focusing on price and production, but I would also guess that almost all the voters were in the mindset of a traditional 5×5 league when they voted.

Well, I wouldn’t be the ottoneu guy if I did that! Instead, I based my votes on the unique world that is the ottoneu FanGraphs Points format and, as a result, often found myself voting against the grain.

Let’s start with probably my biggest break from the rest of the voters – AL MVP. In writing up Mike Trout as the winner of this award, Eno Sarris wrote, “And (duh) nobody on the staff reached for this on.” Well, as Lee Corso would say, Not so fast, my friend! This nobody on staff voted for one Edwin Encarnacion. And you may want to call that a reach, but let’s compare:

Player Avg Salary Points Points/$
Encarnacion $4.07 1074.9 $264.10
Trout $15.04 1164.2 $77.41

Now the points per dollar argument is not 100% fair (a $1 player who scored 500 points is not a better value than either of these two), but that extra 89.3 points is not worth spending $11 on. No chance. Would I rather have Trout for next year? You bet. Do I think Trout is a better overall player and more valuable on a per game basis? Of course. But the MVP Award doesn’t consider those things. And one year, best value, going for a title, you would have been better off with Encarnacion than Trout.

The other awards where I differed greatly were the Turtle and Hare Awards (definitions here). I evaluated these awards using month-by-month ottoneu points, looking for the player whose first three months differed most from their last three. And in all four cases, I came out somewhere the rest of the pack didn’t.

For the AL Turtle, voting was all over the place, with 10 players getting at least one vote and five getting two or three votes. Here are the standings along with April-May-June and July-August-September points for each.

Player Votes 1st Half 2nd Half Jump
Ben Zobrist 3 426 502 76
Max Scherzer 3 357 542 185
Carlos Santana 2 257 485 228
B.J. Upton 2 258 502 244
Derek Jeter 2 407 509 102
Doug Fister 1 180 560 380
Yoenis Cespedes 1 274 521 247
Torii Hunter 1 308 472 164
Brandon Moss 1 113 390 277
Alex Rios 1 438 493 55

Doug Fister leaps off this table – his 560 second half points leads all the candidates, and his 180 first half points is second lowest, so it isn’t surprising that his jump from first half to second is head and shoulders above the rest. And that isn’t the only reason he got my vote. As of mid-season, I believe Fister would have been the easiest (other than probably Moss) to acquire via trade. Owners paid dearly for Santana, Jeter was already putting up a solid first half, Zobrist mashes for a MI even in a down year…but Fister isn’t a guy with a long track record, huge fans or anything else suggesting his trade value would be through the roof. You could have had him for less than the rest, and he would have given you more.

Moving to the Senior Circuit, the Turtle voting was almost as varied. This time nine players, rather than 10, got votes, and a clear favorite emerged: Kris Medlen. Let’s compare Medlen to the other eight vote-getters:

Player Votes 1st Half 2nd Half Jump
Kris Medlen 7 196 672 476
Rickie Weeks 2 250 496 246
Ryan Zimmerman 2 235 626 391
Adam Wainwright 1 415 546 131
Aramis Ramirez 1 383 602 219
Ike Davis 1 250 449 199
Carlos Gomez 1 165 420 255
Garrett Jones 1 238 470 232
Allen Craig 1 299 462 163

This time, two guys came to the forefront, statistically speaking – Medlen and Ryan Zimmerman. Based purely on the numbers, my vote probably should have gone to Medlen, but I chose to go with the Nationals 3B for three reasons: First, Medlen was putting up a perfectly reasonable season for a RP at that time and the major difference in his second half value was his usage, not an out-and-out change in production. Second, in April and May, Zimmerman put up 154 points to Medlen’s 146 – basically, for two months, Medlen was going point-for-point with Zimmerman despite being a RP and in this format that is no small feat. And third, at least in the leagues I was in, the teams who owned Medlen were not moving him. There was an expectation that he would get a shot to start at some point and while I don’t think anyone foresaw his stellar second half, he wasn’t being offered up at “buy-low” prices.

In retrospect, I probably should have voted the other way. Medlen made a bigger half-to-half jump and even if he wasn’t being offered as a true buy low, I still imagine most owners would have taken less for Medlen than for Zimmerman. I think this is closer than the 7-2 vote suggests, but I am willing to admit I may have gotten this one wrong.

I re-used the approach that identified the Turtles above to identify my Hares. Four players got votes in the AL:

Player Votes 1st Half 2nd Half Drop
Mark Trumbo 7 498 262 236
Josh Hamilton 4 604 434 170
Jose Bautista 3 540 63 477
Jason Kipnis 3 426 307 119

Trumbo, the clear winner in the voting, is not a bad candidate, and I can see an argument for voting him over Bautista on the basis that Bautista didn’t fall off – he got hurt. But the question isn’t “who was great and then sucked,” it’s “the best sell high.” And if you had both Trumbo and Bautista on your roster on July 1, you would have gotten way, way more value trading Bautista and more value keeping Trumbo.

I also think the way Bautista’s injury went made him an ideal candidate to sell. First he was just going to miss a few days, then a short DL stint. But it was a wrist injury and often hitters struggle upon return from wrist injuries. Sitting in the middle of a title race, I jumped at the opportunity to move Bautista and was rewarded handsomely. I added both Jay Bruce and Jason Heyward for Bautista. Yes, I will miss Bautista next year (pending any lingering wrist issues), but no one was getting this kind of return for Trumbo, and that makes Bautista an easy selection as the AL Hare.

As for the NL, the leading vote-getter again had seven votes, but the tail was much longer, with seven players getting some “credit”:

Player Votes 1st Half 2nd Half Drop
Carlos Beltran 7 548 319 229
Melky Cabrera 4 526 257 269
Carlos Ruiz 2 479 213 266
Matt Kemp 1 315 393 -78
Joey Votto 1 671 219 452
Bryan LaHair 1 362 110 252
Tyler Colvin 1 259 383 -124

Lots of good candidates here. The only one I really disagree with is Colvin, whose best month was August – not sure when you were selling higher on him than he produced that month. But, like Bautista, Votto stands out to me not only cause of the huge drop, but because of the value he would have garnered in a trade. Beltran was already outperforming expectations to such a level that many owners would have been unwilling to pay for fear of a drop off. Same with Melky – even before the suspension, there was enough skepticism about Cabrera’s ability to keep this up that I don’t think you would have been able to sell him for much. Votto, though, could have brought in a pretty penny and, at least for 2012, you wouldn’t have missed him at all.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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