Handling the least-considered category

Last week, I talked about selling players low.

One of big reasons why many people in fantasy leagues need to start selling low is because it’s getting more tough every day to sell high and buy low. A few years ago, even after the publication of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball,” a smart fantasy owner could steal players who were the victims of poor luck and had inflated ERAs or depressed batting averages. Not anymore. Jon Lester may have an ERA over 5, but if you make an offer for him, the other owner has likely seen all the notes about a high BABIP and low FIP.

The days of assymetrical information in the fantasy baseball marketplace are just about over, perhaps leaving successful owners in pursuit of new strategic edge towards success.

Well, almost over.

For whatever reason, I’ve found that many in fantasy leagues hate to think about the category of runs, even though almost all leagues count this category, and success in the category has been demonstrated in many statistical studies to show the highest correlation with overall success in fantasy baseball leagues.

Everyone looks at BABIP these days, but what about xR, or expected runs?

Indeed, by using an xR formula developed by Jim Furtado and later shown on this website to have good correlative merit, we can plug this year’s numbers to see which batters are getting lucky and unlucky on the runs front.

First, the unlucky bunch. Here are the 10 batters whose peripheral stats indicate they should be scoring more runs:

Name/Actual Runs/Expected Runs/Difference

Ichiro Suzuki / 23 / 37 / +14
Adam Dunn / 30 / 44 / +14
Prince Fielder / 35 / 48 / +13
Carlos Ruiz / 8 / 20 / +12
Russell Branyon / 33 / 44 / +11
Carlos Lee / 28 / 39 / +11
Victor Martinez / 37 / 47 / +10
Lyle Overbay / 20 / 30 / +10
Albert Pujols / 44 / 54 / +10
Shin-Soo Choo / 33 / 42 / +9

Next, the lucky bunch. Here are the 10 batters whose peripheral stats indicate they should be scoring fewer runs:

Jimmy Rollins / 34 / 20 / -14
Willy Taveras / 33 / 22 / -11
B.J. Upton / 36 / 25 / -11
Jerry Hairston / 34 / 24 / -10
Rafael Furcal / 29 / 19 / -10
Dustin Pedroia / 45 / 36 / -9
Emilio Bonafacio / 30 / 21 / -9
Orlando Cabrera / 28 / 19 / -9
Jody Gerut / 20 / 11 / -9
Fred Lewis / 33 / 25/ -8

Some people may object to this assessment of runs based on the notion that the category is a context stat, indicative of a manager’s decision about lineup position and the strength of a team’s offense.

Of course, some of that might be true. The formula does weight for the number of at-bats, but doesn’t measure the strength of a players’ teammates. Still, players in good lineups and poor ones populate both lists. Luck can certainly be a factor in run production.

We’d also point out as we did a month ago that many people in fantasy leagues offer or consider a trade in consult with a league provider’s player rater. Runs certainly get weighted in the calculation of a player’s value on these raters so it may help to know some context.

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I thought that xR gave the estimated runs scored by the team that were produced by the individual—in other words, a measure of the player’s impact on the team’s overall runs scored.  Is that the same thing as simulating the individual’s runs scored?  I didn’t think so…