In our quest to provide you with Fantasy Sports tools that enable you to make different decisions for your team, we’re always reading interesting takes on sports statistics. One of our favorite writers here is a guy named Joe Posnanski, who wrote a great piece towards the end of the 2009 baseball season. You can check it out here, but our favorite excerpt comes about halfway through:
I mentioned Bill James again … you know that he said he could throw 10 wildly unconventional ideas at me right off the top of his head, but he only actually mentioned one: The off-the-wall idea that maybe some team (say the Pittsburgh Pirates) simply decides that they will stop scouting and acquiring anyone who throws 90-plus mph. Just stop. You throw 95? Good for you, we’re not interested.
I will repeat: Bill wasn’t saying a team should actually do this. He was saying that a team COULD do this, though. I mean, seriously, what would happen? Let’s run a little thought experiment: You’re running the Pirates. And let’s say this was true:
50% of all potential big league pitchers who throw 95 mph will be good big league pitchers.
2% of all potential big league pitchers who throw 83 mph will be good big league pitchers.
I’m sure those percentages are way skewed — no way that half the 95-mph throwers are good big league pitchers, and I have no way of knowing about the 2%. But you can fill in any number you want … the point is we say there are 100 potential pitchers who throw 95, and in this scenario 50 of them will be good pitchers. OK, well, you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates. How many of those 50 do you think you’re going to get? You are competing against 29 other teams that also want guys who can light up the radar gun. The vast majority of those 29 teams have more resources than you do, more scouts poking and prodding those prospects, more money to sign them, more clout to draw them in, more status among players and their families and their agents.
So — my guess? You’re not getting any of those 50. Zero. Oh, you might get some of the 95-mph throwers who WILL NOT be good big league pitchers. And, sure, there’s a chance you could luck into one. But it would take luck. Best bet: A big fat zero.
No, look at the other side. There is much larger pool of pitchers to pick from who top out at 83 mph, or 81 or whatever. Say there are 500 of those. By this formula, 2 percent of them could pitch effectively in the big leagues — that would be 10 pitchers (maybe you don’t believe ANY of them will be good … we’ll get to that in a second). Now, you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates — what are the chances you would get any of those 10?
Well, again, I’m guessing here: But my feeling is that if you have decided to just stop looking at the 95 mph guys and focused ALL YOUR ENERGIES on these slow-throwing guys, well, I think the chances are pretty good that you would get some, most or even all of those 10 pitchers. Why? Because, generally speaking, other teams are not investing much effort in scouting people who top out at 83. They are not scouting those players, they are not making much effort sign those players, they’re not spending draft picks on those players. They simply do not VALUE those players. if you focus all of your effort on it — and you believe in what you’re doing — you will probably figure out which of those slow-throwers has the command, quirkiness, control or movement necessary to get big leaguers out. And if you choose to value command and quirkiness and control and utterly devalue the radar gun, you should be able to corner that market.
Now, there would be people who would say this is a pointless market to corner — that 83 mph pitchers is a dry well. Maybe that’s true. But MAYBE it’s not true. Maybe you can find a cool study that suggests an 83-mph fastball down and away is just as effective a pitch as an 94-mph fastball down and away. Maybe you can point to a collection of ineffective pitchers who can throw really hard (Exhibit A: The Kansas City Royals bullpen) and conclude that speed isn’t all that compelling when it comes to getting out big league hitters. Maybe you would do the math and find that the best slow-throwers would make a better staff than one filled with bottom-third hard-throwers.
Maybe. Look, this is only one idea, and nobody (and especially not Bill) is saying it’s a great idea. But what the heck, it COULD work. And if over the last decade you are the Pirates, the Royals, the Nationals, the Reds, the Orioles … what has worked for you?
What’s important about this is the idea that teams could adopt different strategies in order to change their future, but they often don’t. The same logic applies to fantasy baseball: in thinking about your draft strategies this year, it’s worthwhile to take the time to evaluate what your “normal” strategy is and to identify ways in which you can change it. Of course, we’ve got some ideas for you – our Draft Tool is the perfect way to kick your ass into a new way of thinking about your draft! Try it out for free here