More and more techniques are being utilized in the attempt to somehow get the upper hand in fantasy sports. With points-based rankings being fairly commonplace and easy to access for even the most casual devotee, the search is on for methods that will give participants a more accurate measure of projecting how a player will do before the fantasy draft.
Beyond simply measuring the basic statistics from the previous season such as Home Runs, RBIs, runs, strikeouts, etc. and projecting those out into the next season, fantasy owners are looking at ever more obscure statistical data to provide insight into a player and whether they might be the impact performer that will make the difference for them next year. Mechanisms like Sabermetrics utilize more esoteric information, some of which have made it into popular usage while others are still only theoretically useful. But what statistics are we talking about here?
The first and most popular has grown from obscurity into a popular statistic to measure a player’s value, by real team owners as well as fantasy participants. This is called on-base-percentage (or OBP) or the player’s batting average plus the percentage of times the player gets on base through walks. In leagues that measure total bases (ever more popular) this is perhaps the most important statistic to determine offensive value.
Adjusted Production is a more obscure stat yet, a more complex version of OBP. This one is still very new, developed to compare eras and park environments, but the subtle differences here can make a contribution to player projections. Basically this statistic considers OBP divided by League Average OBP plus the Slugging Average divided by League Average Slugging. Then this factor is adjusted by a park factor. For example Coors Field on average has more hits and significantly more home runs due to the altitude (even after the usage of humidors). This is considered as part of this complicated stat, which could potentially be a real windfall for the fantasy team owner.
An equally obscure but quite useful statistic is ISO, or Isolated Power, which measures the amount of extra-base hits a player puts out compared to their number of at bats. This is superior to Slugging Average in differentiating players with similar home run and batting average numbers, providing support for detailed player ranking, the cornerstone of fantasy baseball success.
For pitchers, an increasingly popular statistic is strikeout to walk ratio. Self-explanatory, this statistic is critical in those leagues where pitchers lose points for walks (another increasingly popular variant) and is another one used quite a bit by MLB owners as well. There is also a very strong correlation between this statistic and pitching wins.
Another obscure statistic for pitchers that has become popular with MLB and fantasy owners is WHIP, or walks plus hits per inning pitched. This overall statistic determines how many people a pitcher puts on base, a better statistic than ERA to determine how much contribution a pitcher has to team success, and therefore wins. Most MLB fantasy leagues are not complex enough to make this as important to fantasy owners as it is to real owners, but some that penalize hits and walks or total bases allowed make this a critical stat. It also is a great indicator of how many wins the pitcher will have assuming he is backed by a solid offensive squad, and wins are big points in most leagues.
There are lots of other obscure statistics with dubious value for fantasy owners, things like Major League Equivalency (to project the stats of a Minor Leaguer into the Majors) or Stolen Base Percentage (good to evaluate players in MLB, not as helpful in fantasy) and many others. A great summary is at the Baseball Almanac web-site.
In baseball, where statistical mavens are rampant, there are more obscure statistical categories by far than any other sport, and the hard work done by web-sites and consultants for MLB teams can be a real bonus to fantasy owners looking to create that critical advantage.