Your 2010 Replacement Players

While we use replacement level freely on the other side of FanGraphs, the idea of replacement level hasn’t exactly forced itself into fantasy baseball yet. I’m not sure why, because I’ve been using it successfully for a while. In fact, we all have, whether we realize it or not. If we didn’t use replacement levels, catchers, shortstops and second baseman would rarely be taken before the third round, yet we see them scattered amongst the top ranked players most years. To give you a better idea of the different strengths at each position, here are the players were valued at replacement level this year by my z-score rankings.

Catcher: Jason Kendall
Without the 12 stolen bases, Kendall wouldn’t even be close to replacement level. But, we do count those stats, and someone who could use an extra handful of steals wouldn’t mind having him hang around on their roster. The better example of replacement level is Ryan Doumit, who did it without relying on stolen bases.
Three Below: Yorvit Torrealba, Ryan Doumit, Ramon Hernandez

First Base: Ike Davis
Davis didn’t even get the chance to play a full season, yet turned out to be a somewhat useful player. A .265 average and about twenty homers with run and RBI counts around 70 do a very good job of illustrating how powerful this position can be.
Four Below: Buster Posey, Carlos Pena, Mike Napoli, Lyle Overbay

Second Base: Ryan Theriot
You couldn’t pick a better example of a replacement level second baseman, which is why I know the formula works. He did a decent job of scoring runs and stealing bases, but he’s not giving you anything else.
Three Below: Aaron Hill, Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval
Pablo had a pretty poor year, yet third base was so weak that he turned out to be a replacement level player.
Three Below: Jhonny Peralta, Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo

Shortstop: Starlin Castro
Castro makes sense, right? High average, but not a whole lot of counting stats. He was a very safe option, but nothing to get excited about.
Two Below: Erick Aybar, Jason Bartlett

Outfield: Ryan Raburn
Raburn hit some dingers, had a solid average, but didn’t contribute to the other counting stats. I’m surprised he’s this low, and if he stole another three or four bases, he’d be ranked five spots higher.
Three Below: Tyler Colvin, Jose Tabata, Josh Willingham

Starting Pitcher: Jonathan Niese
A WHIP above 1.4 killed Niese’s value, which was otherwise solid.
Three Below: Not Jason Hammel, Chris Volstad, Daisuke Matsuzaka

You’ll notice that relief pitchers aren’t listed, because it’s very hard to evaluate them. Do we include only players who recorded a save, or use a standard innings limit? Feel free to weigh in on that point below.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

15 Responses to “Your 2010 Replacement Players”

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  1. jss says:

    How can Posey be below replacement level hitting over .300 with power?

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  2. joe says:

    RP vary a lot year to year outside the top few.

    There’s a tier of consistantly good ones but even they aren’t very reliable year to year. (PApelbon, Broxton, Nathan)

    I just put them all in the same category of replacement level. Especially if you count holds.

    If you don’t count holds then just get warm bodies to get you saves. I went against Andy Behrens and took the worst closer of the year last year Matt Capps and it worked out fine. 42 saves.

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  3. WilsonC says:

    Regarding relievers,

    I don’t know if there is a meaningful replacement level for them. The way I look at relievers is this:

    For guys who are likely to accumulate any number of saves, there’s no such thing as a replacement level in most leagues, because anyone in a role to get a meaningful number of saves is likely to be owned quickly. While you can usually anticipate some setup guys drifting into saves over the course of a season due to changes in roles or injuries to closers, they can’t really be considered freely available talent because their saves are dependent on outside circumstances. It’s largely luck of the draw if you’re betting on a non-closer to start nabbing saves.

    For non-closers, it’s not the replacement level of relievers that are important, but rather, you need to look at which relievers have rate stats that are far enough above those of the replacement starters in order to be worth a roster spot. That makes it a bit quirky. For a starter, the replacement level is what you can rely on in the event you need to replace one of your starters for whatever reason, whereas for non-closer relief pitchers, it’s more a matter of whether they can pad your stats with superior rates despite lower innings totals. For that reason, I’d almost consider relief pitchers to have a floating replacement level, set to whatever the expected rates of a given pitching staff is.

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  4. Rob says:

    What league size do this replacement players apply to? The replacement level in a 10-team mixed league would seem to be much different than the replacement level in a 14-team NL or AL only league.

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  5. Brad Johnson says:

    I’m surprised to see Willingham in the below replacement level category. I assume that’s a matter of lost playing time? I only used him in our linear weights-y league where he was good enough on a per game basis that I was using him over Abreu and Bruce before he hit the DL. So I guess a more “normal” format might value him considerably less.

    -The A Team

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    • Jason B says:

      I was also surprised to see Willingham there, but the more I think about it the less surprised I am, given:

      (A) My league’s scoring system was more friendly to players like Willingham and so would make him look better than a standard 5×5. We used OBP rather than AVG, and OPS also, and he was stronger in those categories.

      (B) Having traded for him in June or July (at the peak of his prowess! I like to buy high on assets) he was pretty brutal, and oft-injured, thereafter. Stellar first half, a ‘lost’ second half ~ replacement level.

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    • Zach Sanders says:

      Yep, playing time is the biggest factor.

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  6. reader says:

    Your methodology is wrong. Correct calculation of replacement value for e.g. Willingham is to sum his value with a prorated per-game replacement value (representing the guy picked up when Willingham hit the DL) to account for lost time. Also you don’t say whether you account for e.g. utility or infield slots. Show your work please!

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    • Rob says:

      That methodology would be correct if you were trying to project for the season and knew that Willingham would only play X number of games before going on the shelf. But as a retrospective, full season stats have to all be treated the same, whether or not they were accumulated over 162 games or 50 games. Obviously Josh Willingham wouldn’t have been available as a “replacement” level player last year, but his full season stats ended up falling in line with what you would have expected from a replacement player.

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      • Choo says:

        For what it’s worth, I think you are both correct. Like a lot of modern rotoheads, I create my own projection set and use z-scores to generate player values. Ultimately, there are two values of equal importance:

        – Standard value (plain old dollar figures for individual players regardless of games played, PA’s, etc).
        – Rate based value ($/PA/G, $/L/R splits or whatever you prefer).

        You need both. Well, I need both.

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  7. Bobby A says:

    Do you mind sharing the formula, perhaps again? I wanted to check it out for OBP leagues. Thanks!

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