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Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: An Introduction


Hello, fellow RotoBallers! Sabermetrics have become an integral tool for fantasy baseball draft prep, but a concise resource for understanding the basics can be difficult to find.

Over the next two months, this series will attempt to define and explain all of the metrics fantasy owners may find useful, citing examples of how to use them in the process. Multiple degrees in applied mathematics are not required to use advanced metrics effectively, and this will be a no-math zone. We also won't bring in some of the metrics that don't have as much fantasy relevance, most notably the fantasy-useless WAR, or Wins Above Replacement.

Instead, the focus will be on sabermetric statistics and ideas that are useful for predicting the standard stats the vast majority of fantasy leagues care about, such as batting average and home runs for hitters, and ERA and strikeouts for pitchers. If you're tired of finishing in the bottom half of your fantasy leagues, using these tools can give you a significant advantage on draft day and beyond. Here is a brief look at some of the concepts we'll be covering, as well as one central question we'll try to answer:

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The Basics

Concepts in this category are relatively common knowledge in the fantasy baseball community, so it's safe to assume that at least some of your rivals are using them. That said, you have to learn how to walk before you start running. If you're just getting into fantasy baseball, these articles represent a great entry point.

BABIP

What can a player do to influence his batted ball "luck?"

HR/FB

What is the best way to determine if a power breakout was real or a fluke?

Batted Ball Distribution

Grounders, fly balls, line drives: which one is the best for fantasy production?

Plate Discipline

Why should I care about plate discipline if I play in a standard 5x5 roto league?

FIP/xFIP

Is it possible to measure a pitcher's performance on his own merits, separate from his teammates?

BABIP (Pitchers)

Can we quantify the support a pitcher's fantasy production receives from his teammates?

Trickier Concepts

Concepts in this category seem easy enough, but involve some nuance that can trip newcomers up. Considering that interpreting advanced stats incorrectly is often worse than not using them at all, some fantasy owners limit themselves to just the concepts above. Of course, that means that you can start to gain a competitive advantage by reading the articles below.

Pull%

Are all pulled batted balls the same?

Batting Order

Which role is more valuable: the Yankees 8th hitter or Baltimore's cleanup man?

Pitch Info

How can we tell if a pitcher's repertoire shift supports his breakout?

Ballpark Factors

How much do ballparks really affect a player's fantasy stats?

MiLB Stats

Is my team's top prospect the next big fantasy contributor?

 

Statcast

If you've watched a baseball game recently, you've probably heard announcers waxing poetic on the exit velocity of a home run or an outfielder's route efficiency to a ball. Those singular events don't have much value in fantasy baseball, but Baseball Savant also compiles average statistics that give fantasy owners more info to work with than they have ever had before. This category is where you'll find most of the innovation in the space, as well as the biggest competitive advantages.

Exit Velocity

Who hits the ball with the most authority on a consistent basis?

Barrels

Why does adding launch angle make exit velocity into a more effective predictive tool?

Pitcher Statcast

Can pitchers really influence what happens once a ball is put in play?

Spin Rate

Do fantasy owners prefer to see a high spin rate or a lower one?

xStats

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Baseball Savant's projected BA and SLG?

 

Conclusion

Advanced stats can do a lot more than what's listed above, but these concepts are more than enough to help you start using analytics to make smart fantasy baseball decisions. You'll see Rotoballer analysts using the metrics above on a regular basis, so read some articles and get a feel for how to do your own analysis. Our site's live chat is also a great place to ask questions and solicit opinions from the fantasy community at large. Use the information above to dominate your leagues in 2020!

More Sabermetrics & Statcast for Fantasy Baseball