Justin Morneau, RBIs and 1B Tiers

Justin Morneau checks in with an ADP of 20 in the latest rankings from Mock Draft Central. That makes him a mid-to-late second-round pick. However, it also ranks him as the sixth-best first base option for fantasy players. Should a fantasy owner really spend a second-round pick on the sixth-best option at a non-OF, non-P position?

Morneau has a first and a second-place finish in the MVP race in two of the past three years, thanks in large part to big RBI numbers. Those RBI numbers are obviously quite valuable in fantasy, but they have the disadvantage of being relatively unreliable. After having 130 RBIs in 2006, Morneau “slumped” to 111 in 2007.

It is always nice if big RBI men can buttress their fantasy case with consistent production in other categories. One of the big arguments for Ryan Howard is you know he is going to give you HR production. But with Morneau, we see inconsistent production in average and declining HR rates.

In 2006, Morneau had a FB% of 40.6 percent and his HR/FB rate was 16.4 percent. Last year those numbers were 37.6 and 11.2, respectively. After hitting six home runs in April, Morneau hit just 17 in the following five months.

Late in September, Morneau disclosed that he had been playing with a sore knee. It certainly could help explain the declining power production but it was not serious enough for him to miss a single game last year.

However, if you want something to feel optimistic about, Morneau underwent laser eye surgery in November. Perhaps a healthy knee from an off-season of rest and improved vision will allow Morneau to get back to his 34-HR, .321-AVG ways of 2006. Otherwise, you might want to hold off on drafting a bottom-second-tier first baseman with your second-round pick.

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23 Responses to “Justin Morneau, RBIs and 1B Tiers”

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  1. razor says:

    Don’t know all of the reasons for it (many theories), but far fewer HR’s were hit in MLB in 2008 than in 2006. In 2008 there were 2.01 HR’s/game, which was 9.4% less than in 2006, and the lowest since 1993 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

    So don’t we need to put some context out there with regards to Morneau’s (and everyone’s) HR/FB rates? It’s dropped some no doubt, but maybe not as much with regards of relativity to his peers.

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  2. Sean says:

    Morneau’s XBH were up overall last year. Lots of doubles. If the guy is producing a healthy number of XBH at the Metrodome then the RBI will be there even if the HR aren’t.

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  3. Nick says:

    With Mauer in front of him, he should get plenty of RBI opportunities.

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  4. Travis Hafner, et al says:

    The steroids epidemic makes statistical analysis extremely difficult. I don’t think you can compare the data sets from 2006 to 2008 with a straight face. The sample set of the past 15 years is tainted, and not as valuable for use in predicting future trends as the data from the 2009-2014 will be.

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    • Brian Joura says:

      Epidemic? When they first did testing in 2003 the range of positive tests was between 5 and 7 percent. That hardly qualifies as an epidemic.

      And why couldn’t we compare 2006 to 2008? There had been testing since 2003 – why would the 2006 numbers be suspect?

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  5. Jesus says:

    I suspect you to be a racist Mr. Joura. What do you have against Canadians Eh?

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  6. Travis Hafner, et al says:

    While only 5-7% of total MLB players tested positive, the % that tested negative was never released. The 104 players who tested positive were part of a random test; not everyone was tested.

    In reference to comparing 2006 to 2008, take a look at Travis Hafner’s career stats. Just because testing began in 2003 does not mean that it was effective. 2006 stats are tainted, though maybe a little less than 2003, I’ll give you that.

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  7. Brian Joura says:

    Well, if 5-7 percent were positive, isn’t it logical to assume that 93-95 were negative? Is there any other outcome other than positive or negative?

    SI said this about the 2003 testing:

    “The results of that year’s survey testing of 1,198 players”


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  8. Gotowarmissagnes says:

    There are 4 outcomes. True positive and false positive. True negative and false negative. In a sample of 1,000 players, if you get 100 positive tests, there will be about 90 true positives and 10 false positives. There will be about 810 true negatives and about 90 false negatives.

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  9. EricG says:

    Brian, interesting analysis. It does seem that Morneau’s not hitting for power like he used to… not sure if this is related to some change in his approach, or if it’s just that his skills are declining.

    Regarding your comments on his lasik surgery, I’d love to see an analysis on this. Has anyone ever studied to see if there have been statistically significant improvements in walk rate, contact rate, or any other stats that could be affected by improved vision after a player has had lasik done? Seems like something worth looking into!

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    • Kincaid says:

      This was brought up in an article David Golebiewski wrote on Denard Span: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/will-span-continue-to-spark-the-twins/

      According to poster larry, Matthew Namee has done some work on this (available only with a subscription to Bill James’ site) and found that lasik surgery tends to improve power (ISO) rather than plate discipline or contact rates, at least in the few cases of players who are known to have had the surgery. I haven’t seen the actual study, so I can’t vouch for the details or how statistically significant it is, but that’s the only work I’ve heard of on it.

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  10. Jesus says:

    Jesus sees what you do in front of your computer when you are not writing about baseball. Shameful Mr. Joura. Sinner.

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  11. Larry Yocum says:

    Haha, some very interesting comments on here.

    I think Morneau will get that homerun stroke back. He set a career high in extra base hits last year, even though they were going out at lesser rate, so he was still obviously driving the ball. That HR/FB% will come back up. Morneau has too nice of a swing that puts loft and drive on that ball. He has always been very streaky and mechanical and prone to slumps, so that knee definately could have been an issue. As long as he is healthy, I full expect him to crush it as he enters his age 28 season. A season in which most hitters establish career highs in HR’s.

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  12. Brownie says:

    I can’t believe that nobody mentioned that the players were advised prior to the steriod testing in 2003 and we still found 104 were on the juice.

    That testing was tainted from the start and we still found 104 who were too stupid to beat the system.

    As others have posted, Morneau had a pile of XBH’s last year, so to say his power is declining is simply wrong. He’s a great player and will post great numbers. I do however like the arguement about drafting the 6th best player at a position in the 2nd round. It’s interesting, but in the same breath, the top 3 third basemen SS’s and OFers are gone by pick 20. Probably the top 2 second basemen too (depending on the health of Utley). So does it matter? 4th best OFer or 6th best first baseman??? I’m not so sure it does. And I’m certainly drafting pure numbers like he will produce over the top catcher, closer, starting pitcher – in fact, I will NEVER draft the top catcher, SP or RP.

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    • Kincaid says:

      Yes, it’s a pretty huge difference between the 4th best outfielder (there are 3 times as many of them) and the 6th best first baseman.

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  13. Joe says:

    Morneau actually finished second and first in the MVP balloting in the last three years, didn’t he?

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