Players Who are Helping You Win

As those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen, I spend some time digging into the ottoneu data the last week or so, looking at which players are on the most winning teams. Basically, I was figuring out what percentage of teams a player was on were in each standings spot. This gave me all sorts of wonderful insights, including that 25% of Dioner Navarro owners are in 4th place or that Jake Marisnick is equally likely to be in 12th place as 3rd place.

But it also provided an interesting look into what players (and what kinds of players) are driving success.

Below is a chart of 20 offensive players and the average current spot in the standings of their owners. The twenty guys are made up of the top 10 point scorers in ottoneu leagues this year, some “high price, low production” players, some “low price, high production” players, and some players eligible at weak positions but producing like corner bats. The table also shows average price in FanGraphs Points Leagues and total points accrued this year (the standings are drawn across all ottoneu leagues).

Player Avg Place Avg Price Pts
Miguel Cabrera 3.9 $53.96 921
Chris Davis 4.0 $6.04 823
Adrian Beltre 4.3 $26.51 623
Shin-Soo Choo 4.6 $22.59 660
Paul Goldschmidt 4.8 $16.09 690
Carlos Gonzalez 4.8 $39.27 723
Mike Trout 4.8 $47.80 749
Kyle Seager 4.9 $6.11 565
Carlos Gomez 4.9 $5.40 561
Matt Carpenter 5.0 $6.56 603
Robinson Cano 5.0 $45.23 656
Josh Donaldson 5.0 $2.13 598
Jed Lowrie 5.1 $6.84 472
Jean Segura 5.2 $4.91 593
Manny Machado 5.2 $12.41 551
David Wright 5.3 $28.34 637
Starling Marte 5.6 $5.07 532
Ryan Braun 5.7 $49.39 361
Matt Kemp 6.1 $42.30 239
Jason Heyward 6.4 $30.06 281

A few interesting facts:

Miguel Cabrera is just otherworldly. Let’s keep in mind that everyone knew before the season he would be good. And that every team paid a premium for him. And that therefore the surplus value he can create should be limited. And that teams win leagues by maximizing surplus value. Despite all of that, no player is more likely to be on a first place team. Miggy=beast.

Chris Davis seems like the guy who SHOULD be atop this list, and he is obviously very close. But getting that kind of production for $6 will absolutely give you the cap space you need to add more stars and win the league.

There is lots of talk about Manny Machado, and with good reason. He is having a great year. But there is another 3B with MI eligibility in ottoneu on this list and ahead of him in all measures – lower price, more points, higher average standing – and that is Kyle Seager. Would I rather have the 21-year-old Machado than the 25-year-old Seager? For future value, of course. But, at least in ottoneu points leagues, the gap is closer than you think this year. Don’t sleep on Seager.

I put Seager, Carpenter, Segura, and Lowrie on the list because I was sure that getting solid, cheap production from your MI would be the key to success. And those guys are all doing well, but the guys atop this list are big corner bats (Choo’s foray into CF notwithstanding). Cabrera, Beltre, Choo, Goldschmidt, Gonzalez, and Trout are all giving you production you expect from positions you expect at maybe a slight discount, but they are still the guys most likely to be on winning teams.

We already knew this, but paying $30+ or $40+ for a stud player who provides you with no value (Heyward, Braun, and Kemp, I am looking at you) will put your team on the fast track to the cellar.

i thought Donaldson and his C eligibility would be higher on this list, but I wonder if his value is being dragged down by his being a free agent pick up? By the time he was being gobbled up in most leagues, the best teams already had solid lineups and may not have felt the urgency (or believed they had the room) to grab Donaldson. Instead, teams looking for a spark grabbed him and, while he has been undeniably awesome, a bad team+Josh Donaldson is probably still a pretty bad team.

Along the same lines, those cheap guys are great trade targets for teams selling, so Donaldson, Lowrie, Marte, etc. may have moved down the standings as top teams sent them away for bigger names and bigger results. Like, for example, Miguel Cabrera, who may be moving up the list for the same reason – a
bad team with Cabrera is probably happy to sell their $50+ star.

All in all, this data is not particularly useful. Getting Cabrera will not suddenly make you a first place team, nor will jettisoning Heyward. And I am not sure I have gleaned much here that will help me prepare for future seasons, as the lessons seem to be a) get good players, b) get cheap players who are good, and c) don’t pay a lot for guys will not be good or will get hurt. If there is anything actionaable here, it may be to put a priority on stability with your big expenditures – paying $60 for a sure thing in Cabrera is likely a better deal than taking a risk on Kemp or Heyward.

But it’s the All Star break, and the numbers are fun, and I think they are kind of interesting. I’m going to try to do something similar with pitchers for next week, and feel free to ask any questions (or suggest any theories!) in the comments.

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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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Seager has been a gift.