Sabermetrics and Fantasy Baseball

Every year many fantasy baseball participants look to gain an edge over league opponents. Certain team owners try to accomplish this through the use of sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics are a set of alternative statistics that attempt to analyze players in the most objective way possible. Standard fantasy player statistics, such as a pitcher’s wins, are influenced greatly by teammate performance, stadium conditions and luck. The point of sabermetrics is to isolate those external factors and determine a player’s true talent level and potential.

Most sabermetric statistics are calculated using complex mathematical formulas. However, there are certain sites that do all of the work and make it available to everyone for free. Two of the best sites with sabermetric statistics are fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com.

Below are four examples of popular sabermetric statistics, along with brief explanations and their relevancy to fantasy baseball.

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP)
BABIP is the overall batting average against a pitcher, with home runs and strikeouts factored out. An average BABIP is considered to be around .300. Severe deviations from .300 can indicate that defensive play heavily influenced a pitcher’s performance.

A pitcher’s BABIP that is exceptionally higher than .300 means he was probably a victim of bad defense. BABIPs significantly lower than .300 are usually signs of pitchers benefiting from exceptional field play behind them. When analyzing fantasy players, it is best to remember that a pitcher’s BABIP will probably move back toward .300 at some point.

Home Runs to Fly Ball Ratio (HR/FB)
HR/FB is the ratio of how many home runs a pitcher allows for every fly ball that is hit against him. The average HR/FB for starting pitchers is about 10 percent. If this is much higher or lower, a certain external factor might be at work.

The primary variable when dealing with HR/FB is size of a pitcher’s home ballpark. Shorter fences will yield more home runs, while larger dimensions will create more fly ball outs. From a fantasy perspective, potential owners should keep in mind that a pitcher’s HR/FB usually gravitates back toward 10 percent eventually.

Contact Rate (CT%)
CT% measures how often a batter puts a ball in play by making contact and not striking out. A CT% of 90 or higher is considered a successful rate. Generally fantasy owners are advised to stay away from players with a CT% below 75.

There are certain players that may have high CT% despite poor season performance in the traditional fantasy baseball categories. This might be a case where the player consistently ran into good fielding, bad luck or even poor coaching decisions. When making a fantasy player choice, it might be best to first check a player’s career CT%

Runs Created (RC)
The RC category determines how many runs a particular hitter produces for his team. A player’s performance at the plate and on base are both used when figuring this statistic. Ultimately this quantifies a batter’s ability for maximizing opportunity, something that is really not measured by standard fantasy statistics.

Although the best overall hitters typically dominate RC numbers, some lesser-known players usually excel here as well. In 2010 Oakland’s Daric Barton finished in the top 35 with 97.6 RC, despite otherwise mediocre statistics. High RC totals can indicate future potential, making someone like Barton a possible “sleeper” pick for fantasy owners.