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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Catchers


Using The Bill James Handbook as my primary resource, I calculated the point totals for each player in the Catcher position based on the table I posted earlier.  

In 2009, I feel like there's going to be a number of new catchers entering the forefront.  For the most part, these players are those who were once in a platoon or are rookies/second-year players who finally reached the bigs.  In order to gauge what their "point-potential" may be for 2009, I created two new categories: "points per opportunity" and "points per plate appearance."  

Essentially, points per opportunity (pts/opp.) is the number of points each player makes when doing something ASIDE from making an out.  This statistic divides the total number of points by the hits and walks of a given player.  For me, this statistic is the SLG% of a points-based fantasy league.  You're able to see who does the most when they connect.  The average PTS/OPP. in this instance was 2.22.

Benjie Molina (2.22), Kenji Johjima (2.23), Ramon Hernandez (2.23), and A.J. Pierzynski (2.21) are all examples of an average player using this statistic.

While Johjima wasn't a starting catcher in my fantasy league last year, I'm surprised to see players who were (Molina, Hernandez, and Pierzynski) lumped in the same group.  What does this tell us?  Not that Johjima is going to bounce back... rather, that 2009 may represent a changing of the guard at catcher.

This isn't totally surprising to me.  The average age of starters at the catcher position has increased every year (I know, that sounds logical and stupid), rather than staying the same.  The reason that I suggest that it's not as "stupid" as it seems is due to the fact that older catchers should be breaking down and younger catchers should be taking their spots.  A couple things prevent this from happening.  First, there are longer contracts being signed by catchers.  In the list above, Johjima, Hernandez, and Molina are all examples of this.  Let's also not forget players like Jorge Posada, who signed a lucrative deal last off-season, and Jason Varitek, who's about to do the same.  Second, catchers are losing their offensive ability before their defense ability.  Exemplifying this are Pudge Rodriguez, the aforementioned Benjie Molina, and Jason Kendell.

Moving to our second and, in my opinion, more-telling statistic, points-per-plate-appearance (PTS/PA) we take a look at the OPS of points-based leagues.  This statistic shows us the number of points each player should accrue each time they step to the plate.  To find this number, I divided the points total of each player by their at-bats (AB) and walks (BB).

The average, in this case, was .74 PTS/PA.  Jeff Clement, Chris Snyder, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the three players who represented the "average" in this category.  Personally, I'm so happy about one of the names that this formula spit out.  If you're like me, you've considered Jarrod Saltalamacchia nothing but a long name and nothing else.  Year-after-year I see this guy drafted before the Ryan Doumit's and Chris Iannetta's of the league and can't help but scratch my head...  This statistic has justified what I've thought all along, "Salty's" nothing but an average player at this point in his career.

Toping this list is, not-surprisingly, Mike Napoli, who should get regular AB's for the Angels in 2009.  The problem with Napoli has never been his consistency at the plate... in fact, he's mashed whenever he's been healthy-enough to do so.  Bill James' projection reveals a .93 PTS/PA for Napoli.  To put that in perspective, the other players with a .93 PTS/PA are Manny Ramirez, Evan Longoria, and Chase Utley.  Household name much?

Of the top-tier of catchers, Brian McCann (.87) is the only player listed in the Top-5 (Russell Martin is #7, Victor Martinez is #14, and Jorge Posada is #13).  With this known, I would wait until Russell Martin is drafted to pick up McCann.  I say this because, I feel that people are beginning to sour on the injury issues surrounding Victor Martinez and Jorge Posada.  While both players bat in high-powered line-ups, I think their age and injury problems are enough to turn off a healthy portion of "informed" fantasy owners.

2 comments:

Ian H. said...

I think I remember Napoli being a really great second-half catcher. I picked him up in the last month of the fantasy season, and he did amazing things for my team. He will definitely be on my radar this year.

bfadds said...

Ian;

The most surprising part about Napoli is that he has wheels for a bigger guy. James projects around 13 stolen bases for him in 2009... which I find laughable, yet intriguing.

He wasn't on my radar before my excel sheet shot him back at me, but you can rest assured that I'm with you wholeheartedly on this one.