Fantasy Reality: Five peripheral stats to help identify baseball's elite
Of the fly balls hit by Alex Rodriguez last season, 22.7 percent became home runs. According to fangraphs.com, A-Rod had the fifth-best HR/FB in the major leagues. (Getty Images)
You don’t need a mathematics degree to understand how certain baseball statistics can predict a player’s fantasy value. Here is a handful of simple peripheral stats that determine player production, all of which can be found updated regularly at fangraphs.com:
BB/K: Walk-to-strikeout ratio
The ultimate test of plate patience. Albert Pujols, Dustin Pedroia and Chipper Jones dot last year’s top 10, so all types of hitters encompass this category. The walks invite more on-base opportunities, which permit more chances for steals and runs. A lower strikeout rate results in additional hits because more at-bats end up with a ball in play.
Look for: at least a 0.70 ratio
LD%: Line drive percentage
Line drives don’t directly indicate home run power, but they reveal how forcefully a batter is striking the ball. These types of batted balls have the greatest odds of resulting in a hit. Of the top 20 players in line drive percentage in 2009, 10 hit .300-plus and six more broke .280.
Look for: at least 18 percent
HR/FB: Home run per fly ball ratio
A certain amount of luck goes into hitting a home run, but the best sluggers take advantage of their fly balls by backing them with substantial power. Understand that hitting lots of flies isn’t necessarily enough. Seven of last year’s top 20 in HR/FB produced a fly ball percentage (number of batted balls that resulted in a fly) of less than 40 percent, including Alex Rodriguez.
Look for: at least 15 percent
GB%: Ground ball percentage
Pitchers want to keep batted balls on the ground so they don’t go into the bleachers. Simple enough, but it takes special command to keep pitches down in the strike zone, which elicit grounders. Five of last year’s 10 Cy Young finalists, including NL Cy Young winner Tim Linecum, ranked in the top 20.
Look for: at least 42 percent
HR/9: Home runs per nine innings
The clearest example of who represents pitching’s elite. Seven of last year’s Cy Young finalists comprised the top 17 by minimizing big mistakes such as home runs. Take away instant runs and the best pitchers will slow down offenses by fanning hitters, permitting ground balls and benefiting on occasion from good defensive plays.
Look for: 1.00 or lower