A question for discussion on rankings

Everybody prepares for drafts differently in the offseason. On one extreme there are the people who go all-out, creating models to predict player performance or using some other mathematically involved method to create their rankings. And on the other extreme there are the people who do very little to prepare, at most maybe purchase a magazine and have it open next to them while they draft.

In the middle of those two extremes are the people who spend some time creating personal rankings, probably from looking at last year’s stats—making adjustments based on age, playing time, and luck—and then creating a rough prediction for each player’s stats for the upcoming season. Today, I have a question for those people in the middle about how they come up with their rankings.

Do you think that when making your rankings if you looked solely at the players’ stats without any names attached, your rankings would look different than if you made them as you usually do, with names?

My feeling is that most people would answer yes to the above question. Some people at the beginning of 2009 just had this feeling about Matt Kemp and they knew that he would have a good year. Obviously these people were rewarded for bumping up Kemp in their rankings in this example, but had they felt the same way about Chris Iannetta then it would not have worked out so well. This leads me to my next question:

Do you think it is harmful to allow your instinctive feelings about certain players affect your player rankings?

Some will say “No, that is not such a bad thing” while others will argue vehemently against allowing irrational feelings on certain players take effect. Personally, I suggest that you use player names along with their stats to make rankings, despite knowing they would look different if the names were not attached.

Some people might call allowing a player’s name to affect your opinion of him an irrational bias, but I do not believe it necessarily is. There are many subtleties that are unique to each player’s situation—such as playing time or contract situation—that the numbers do not capture. By associating a player’s name with his situation and then adjusting your projections slightly based on feelings, I do not believe you are hurting your team’s chances of winning by any significant degree. You might even be helping.

So do not feel guilty about sliding James Loney up a few slots in your rankings if you feel he is in for a breakout 2010 campaign. For the most part you should have statistical backing to your rankings, but there is no problem in indulging in a few of those feelings of yours while making them.


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Detroit Michael
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Detroit Michael

For pitchers, I’m one of those people in the middle.  I want my subjective impressions to be included in the rankings so then during the draft or auction, I am not tempted to make further subjective adjustments based on who I like.

Paul Singman
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Paul Singman
Peter D it does not surprise me that you are more “hit or miss” with the young guys since by nature, because of their inexperience in the major league level, they are harder to predict. Generally speaking I would agree with taking proven guys early but every year there are a few Garrett Atkins’s, so ignoring other player’s upsides in fear of those players not developing as expected will ultimately cost you. As I tried to show with the Garrett Atkins example even the most proven of players sometimes don’t perform, in most cases because of injury. What you might… Read more »
Peter D
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Peter D
I’m generally one of those guys more in the middle, which works out fine with players who have a few seasons under their belt because I look at their stats season to season over their entire career and how it compares to the last season.  This usually gives me a fairly close projection on what the player will do for the upcoming season. However for those young players who have little major league experience I tend to look at their minor league stats.  My projections on these guys are generally hit or miss, while I was proud to say it… Read more »
obsessivegiantscompulsive
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obsessivegiantscompulsive
I totally agree. When I play the Yahoo Fantasy League, I start out with their ranking, then I start removing players that I either don’t care to own or think they had an outlier plus season the year before or think that they are headed for a downslide (particularly for players I think are injury prone). That automatically moves up the players I do like, a la what you noted in your article, and it has worked for the most part. Also, for the Giants players I particularly want, I jump them up a little bit more, and I ended… Read more »
Peter D
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Peter D
Lucky for me I didn’t rate Garrett Atkins very highly since I’m in a league that uses OBP, and his 08 numbers were not very good.  But I get your point.  That being said looking at my draft last season, I took Chris Davis over Kevin Youkillis in the 5th round, partially because (I may have read it here) that Youkillis would not repeat his power numbers due to a higher than expected home run to fly ball ratio.  This year, if it comes down a choice similar to this one, I’m going with the player with more experience. Of… Read more »
Andrew
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Andrew
Looking only at the numbers excludes tons of extra information.  Ignoring that information puts you at a disadvantage.  So long as the criteria you’re using to evaluate a player is rational, any extra information you can garner is an advantage over only looking at the numbers. The best evaluators are able to sift through both the statistical and the nonstatistical information to more accurately gauge a player’s expected production than their opponents. Let’s put a hypothetical example out there. Player A hit around .250 last year with 15 HRs in around 350 ABs.  The player in question didn’t offer much… Read more »
Derek Ambrosino
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Derek Ambrosino

One thing I don’t understand is when unproven younger players are taken ahead of archetypally similar, high quality veterans.

Peter said he took Chris Davis in the fifth round. I saw Adam Dunn slip in a number of drafts, and thankfullly I was able to get him late in a number of leagues. A few times, Davis was taken for Dunn. What would be a rationalization for this decision.

I mean, if all goes right for Davis, he’s Adam Dunn. So, why leave Dunn, the proven commodity, in favor of the guy who might be… Adam Dunn-like?

Andrew
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Andrew

@Derek

In the Davis/Dunn case, I guess people just expected Davis to be a .285 hitter, while Dunn would hit near his career average (.249 after this year).

In a more general sense, I guess people prefer shiny new toys to their old ones.

Paul Singman
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Paul Singman

Yup, Andrew, what you say in your first post is a good example of what I’m talking about in the article. Looking at more than the numbers may introduce some bias, but some of that is “good bias” if that makes sense.

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