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Attempting To Prove Batting Average Is Useless In Fantasy Baseball, Too

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I hate when I have to listen to other people talk about their fantasy teams. So instead I'm going to be the one talking this time. And hey, maybe you'll find it interesting.

I also hate batting average. You know why. I especially hate having to spend time thinking about batting average in my main fantasy league. So this year I decided not to. I decided to dump the AVG category and focus on dominating the other nine. Here's how it worked out.

The league is a traditional 5x5, 10-team, AL-only keeper auction league with a $260 budget. Dumping AVG is a bit tricky, because it's tied not only to RBI, but also Runs (via OBP and batting order) and playing time (managers tend to bench players with really low AVGs.) But it's great for finding HRs and SBs on the cheap (hello, Russ Branyan).

Before getting to the auction, let me introduce my keepers. Price in parantheses is what I had their inflated value at based on my own calculations using hand-adjusted PECOTA projections and 30% inflation.

  • BJ Upton $8 ($32) - I'm wishcasting a 30/30 season. Don't spoil my party. .267 PECOTA-projected AVG
  • Carlos Pena $6 ($18) - Big power, low AVG, cheap. .239
  • Johnny Damon $20 ($24) - Here's a guy that doesn't fit into my strategy, meaning he's trade bait. He also wasn't below projected value and will probably come down a bit from an over-achieving 2008 season. .279
  • Jermaine Dye $15 ($25) - Another guy who's not a great deal, but still worth keeping. .271
  • James Shields $6 ($30) - Quietly one of the best five AL fantasy starters.
  • Zach Greinke $2 ($22) - Is it wrong to expect another year-over-year improvement?

Going into the auction, I had a desire to grab one or two more stud starters, not waste money on top closers and instead focus on closers-in-waiting, try out a lot of low-end starters with upside, and (obviously) target low-AVG hitters below value. Hitters first.

  • Alex Gordon $21 ($21) - I'm a sucker for top prospects who haven't yet lived up to their hype and that are actually a bit underrated. .257
  • Mike Napoli $14 ($21) - The Angels don't like his D, but his bat is way better than Jeff Mathis'. 20 HR and 70 RBI from a catcher is huge. .242
  • Jim Thome $13 ($16) - Ho hum. DHs tend to go a bit on the cheap side early in this league (perhaps rightfully so), as folks like to keep their UT slot open. .248
  • Russ Branyan $9 ($15) - I was mocked mercilessly for this one. Someone even accused me of reading USSMariner too much (is that a bad thing?) But he's going to be the big half of a 1B platoon, is good for 25 HRs, and throws in a handful of SBs to boot. .237
  • Jarrod Saltalamaccia $14 ($12) - This is too high. I had money to spend at this point in the draft and there weren't many good catcher options left that fit my low-AVG strategy. Mistake. .249
  • Nick Swisher $12 ($12) - I was under the assumption that Swisher was a near shoe-in to start in right field. Evidently that's not the case. He'll still find at-bats. .237
  • DeWayne Wise $1 ($8) - He's probably the slight favorite to start in center for the White Sox and could be a 15/15 guy in 2/3 of a season. .239
  • Asdrubal Cabrera $8 ($7) - Eh, I mishandled my middle infield. Everyone good was kept and I had too much money left to settle for $1 filler. .259
  • Jason Bartlett $10 ($4) - Hey, he's a Ray, so all I see is upside. I rationalize this one by telling myself that the projection systems don't know he was hurt last year. .257
  • Brandon Wood $3 (-$4) - Just a flier. If he manages to start for the Angels or gets traded, the HRs will be nice. You bet I'll be taking another MI in the reserve rounds. .228

And the pitchers:

  • Felix Hernandez $32 ($30) - He and Lackey were the last two stud pitchers left on the board, and I made the mistake of nominating Lackey first. Probably not a lot of value here, but I'm hoping he ditches the all-fastballs approach and lives up to his potential by working with the new, smarter Mariners' coaches.
  • AJ Burnett $26 ($25) - With the strikeouts, wins, and solid ratios, Burnett's actually a bit underrated. With his injury history, he's a bit of a gamble, but a solid one, as he should return positive value with 170+ IP.
  • Grant Balfour $8 ($13) - Troy Percival can't pitch and can't stay healthy. Izzy isn't the answer, Wheeler's overrated, and Balfour's a stud. Even without the closer role and saves, an $8 Balfour has value, and he's an exciting keeper investment.
  • John Smoltz $8 ($11) - Eh, I had some extra money to spend at this point. Any chance he's healthy enough to throw 120 innings?
  • George Sherrill $13 ($8) - Yeah, more money to spend. I actually don't like him over-exposed to righties, but Chris Ray isn't a lock to return healthy and effective. I needed some saves somewhere, although he won't be in my starting lineup if he's not closing.
  • Koji Uehara $6 ($6) - Looks like he'll get a shot in the rotation, although if both Ray and Sherrill falter, he has an outside shot at closing. The O's have a good offense and a good defense, so finding pitcher on that team with even a bit of talent is a good move.
  • Jeff Niemann $1 ($0) - Yeah, I'm infatuated with the Rays. But for a buck, I'll take a flier on a highly touted prospect.

I'm cautiously optimistic with my team. I definitely succeed in dumping AVG, but we'll see if I got enough of everything else. PECOTA projects I did, but you'll always get biased results by using the projection system you drafted from.

One mistake I made, which I've made for a couple years now (that's the definition of insanity, I hear), was avoiding spending money early. The league as whole spent more money than I anticipated both early in the draft and on the high-priced players. So while there are big deals later, spending $100 on single-digit players just isn't feasible. I needed to "waste" a few more bucks on one or two top-line players in order not to waste even more money later in the auction.

How'd I do? Do you think it's feasible to win by dumping average? Anybody I should target in trades? Feel free to use the comments for general strategy discussion about fantasy baseball.