Fantasy Hitter Evaluation: Core Talents (Part 1)

I stated a while back that I will be working on a method to predict and evaluate player’s fantasy stats. I will be using both the player’s talent and outside factors and will also combine several data points to get the player’s final value. I will try to keep the explanation as simple as possible and let me know if you have any questions. Let’s start with hitters and once done with them, move onto the pitchers.


I didn’t want the process and results to be limited to just a standard 5×5 league. If a league was 4×4, 6×6 or 8×9 , the process to evaluate the players would be the same. To find out how common each category is in a fantasy league, I used data from CBSSportsline (thanks to Marc Normandin). They allow League Commissioners to see how often certain league categories are selected. Here is a list of the categories that at least 5% of the leagues in CBS used last year (any other category available at CBSSportsline is under 5%).

Name – % of Leagues that use that stat
Runs Batted In – 99%
Home Runs – 98%
Stolen Bases -97%
Runs- 86%
Batting Average -51%
Walks – 46%
Doubles – 45%
Triples – 45%
Singles – 43%
Strikeouts – 35%
Caught Stealing – 33%
Hit by Pitch – 32%
Hitting for the Cycle – 18%
Errors – 11%
Grand Slam Home Runs – 11%
Ground Into Double Plays – 9%
On Base Pct – 7%
Hits – 6%
Sacrifice Flies – 6%
Sacrifice Hits – 6%
Intentional Walks – 5%

First, some of these stats I will not even try to examine because of their rarity (hitting for the cycle and grand slams). The standard 5 categories take the top spots. AVG is the lowest of the 5 at 51%. I figured people may have moved onto OBP, but it is only at 7%. After the top 5, Walks, Ks, 1B, 2B and 3B are all in a row. These seem to show that about 40% of the leagues were points based. I will eventually go through all the categories, but for now I would like to concentrate on the following categories because of their limited number of inputs:

Runs Batted In
Home Runs
Stolen Bases
Batting Average
Walks (Batters)
Strikeouts (Batter)
On Base Pct

Looking at the inputs to each category, I wanted a few predictable stats to generate each subsequent stat. Here are the possible inputs into the above stats:

Surrounding Talent
Park Factors
Batting Order
SB Attempts/times on base
Manager SB Philosophy

HR, K and BB are all easy to figure out using the rate and projected PAs (PA estimation will be covered in Part 3 along with SB). The 3 rate stats of BB%, K% and HR/PA all stabilize fairly quickly in a season.

I am going to use PA, K%, BABIP and HR/PA to get AVG. Projecting a player’s BABIP is difficult. I am trying to find the best combination of seasonal BABIP and xBAPIP and career BABIP and xBABIP to get a good prediction. I will be using guesstimated values until I find a more predictable number.

The biggest leap of faith I had was taking the inputs to get an estimation for Runs and RBIs. I have a process that I find is both accurate and simple. I will cover it in my next article. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions until then.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

11 Responses to “Fantasy Hitter Evaluation: Core Talents (Part 1)”

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  1. Scott says:

    18% of CBS leagues use “hitting for the cycle”

    7% of CBS leagues use “On base percentage”


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    • David says:

      Lots of points based leagues give bonus points for nonsense “wow” events like cycles and shutouts and their ilk. Considering the suite of Singles/Doubles/Triples, etc … are in the mid 40%s (points leagues), that means about 30% of those do this.

      OBP being so low is somewhat surprising though. That’s more than 7:1 AVG:OBP. I’d hoped we’d moved beyond this. Blame it on society.

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  2. adohaj says:

    only 7% OBP is weird especially since the lower % for avg. I would think there would be more standard 5×5 but OBP subbed for AVG. At least that’s what my friends do.

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  3. cs3 says:

    How many other people besides myself feel like the best replacement for the Average category, is using both OBP and Hits?

    Seems like most leagues that ditch Avg just do a straight swap for OBP, but using both hits and obp gives a truer sense of a hitters value. and OBP and hits are also easily understood by even the most novice of baseball fans, so it shouldnt have any negative effect on the league like FIP or wOBA might.

    Granted, you need to come up with another pitching category if you want to keep it balanced, but thats not too big an issue

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  4. Andrew says:

    I’d like to see an applet which allows users to customize inputs based upon their league’s criteria. Every league is slightly different and any competent user could input their own values and have a list of players by fantasy value generated for them. I play in a custom points league and customization of any degree would be great, although I usually just take the solid analysis here and make mental adjustments for my league’s quirks.

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    • Geoff Buchan says:

      Shameless commerce plug: it’s not an applet, but the web site I’m building computes auction values customized to whatever scoring system your fantasy league uses. Take a look and contact me if you might be interested!

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  5. Wade8813 says:

    Even more glaring to me is that RBI is the #1 most used. I mean, BA isn’t a great stat, but it’s not terrible. RBIs is a terrible category. And somehow it’s MORE than other decent, popular categories like HR?

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    • Jay says:

      How is RBI a terrible category? Just because it isn’t directly predictive of a batter’s skill level doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun category for fantasy baseball. A roto league with WPA, wOBA, VORP, RC/27, and WAR would be pretty dull. I’d rather get excited when someone gets a bases-clearing double.

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  6. Bob Uecker says:

    I’d like to see BB/AB ratio used.

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  7. Jay says:

    So is my league the only one on CBS using OPS??

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  8. Todd says:

    Where’s SLG?

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