ESPN Bottomline 2.0

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fantasy Owners: Don't Panic, It Is Only April

Set the barn on fire, slaughter all the livestock, and poison the wells. You are in the midst of being conquered and, for the moment, there is no hope in sight. 

But wait. Is that the sound of a friendly bugle? Are their reinforcements for our weary troops? Has the cavalry arrived to save us from certain destruction?

The answer is no, the cavalry has been here since the beginning.

It is the beginning of the fantasy season and you are sitting on the bottom of your league. You thought you had a good draft but key components are not living up to expectations. Josh Beckett has not turned out to be the ace you thought he was, Manny Ramirez may be showing his age and that sleeper pick who you absolutely knew would be setting the league on fire from the sound of the bell is languishing on the bench or in the minors.

Do not fear, intrepid fantasy owner. Remember the key to all statistical analysis (especially pertinent in baseball) – everything comes back to the mean.

The guy who is leading your league by a mile right now because he (for some reason no one can quite figure out) drafted and started Vernon Wells, Daric Barton and Dallas Braden? Yeah, he is not going to keep that up. 

There is a reason that the core statistics in baseball hardly ever deviate from their averages. Over the long run of the season the sample size becomes so large that the numbers cannot help but stay within similar ranges. Season over season and “average” major leaguer will hit around .265 with a .326 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage. If you have done your due diligence and have taken players who have career averages above those means then there is a good chance that they will eventually perform back to their historical value.

What does this mean? Do not go out and sell Victor Martinez just because he is batting .250 on April 14. It also means that you should look at players like Blue Jays reliever Casey Janssen have probably just gotten lucky to already have three wins in the first week and a half.

A closer look at Janssen. He has the league leading three wins, but he also only has three innings pitched with four strikeouts and two walks. On April 8 he came he came in to a game the Jays were losing 1-0, threw a scoreless inning then watched as Toronto scored three runs in the ninth for the win. The next night he allowed a run to the Orioles in the eighth but watched as the Jays scored a couple in the ninth to win 7-6. Two days later he pitched a scoreless seventh against the Orioles and watched his team score three in the eighth and one in the ninth for a 5-2 win.

The lessons here are that Janssen has pretty much been the lucky recipient of some cardiac comebacks by the Blue Jays. Considering the overall lack of talent on the Jays roster, the division they play in and the fact that two of those wins came against the equally hapless Orioles, you get the idea that it is not worth relying on early season indicators as recipes for season long success. Especially when it comes to middle relievers on bad teams.

Janssen is just pertinent example of early season sample size, not a viable fantasy option. There are not many fantasy owners (0.9 percent in all ESPN leagues) who actually own him.

There is a reason that owners in the elite Tout Wars fantasy leagues do not like to trade in the first month of the season. They have crafted, drafted and carved their teams with the hope and knowledge that they believe their players will perform. Why start trading away the Becketts, Martinezes or even Nate McLouths of the world for the (proverbial and literal) Janssens? It is probably not even worth to pick Janssen up on the waiver wire (where you will inevitably find him) because the likelihood that he wins three more games all season is probably quite low. Again: See middle reliever – Toronto Blue Jays.

Conscientious and cerebral owners who have a good pulse on their league can take advantage of the impulse owners who are in an early season panic. There are always bad owners who drafted well by some magic or luck who will be enticed by a trade of big names, say David Ortiz and Eric Chavez for Jason Heyward. If you can find one of those owners in your league, make the deal and do not look back.

Otherwise, it is only April. Remember that everything that rises must converge and exercise your patience.

Dan Rowinski is a Fantasy Baseball Columnist for If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at You can follow him on Twitter at Dan_Rowinski.

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