Fantasy baseball is great for a number of reasons. It gives you an easy reason to talk smack to your friends. It gives you something to look forward to every morning while you’re checking your e-mail and facebook. A 10-0 fantasy victory can be the difference between a good week and a great one, while a bad week has been known to force many to drink bank until their sorrows are sufficiently drowned.
Players on our teams can endear themselves to us forever by putting up numbers when we really need them. Fransisco Liriano is a perfect example for me. He helped me win my fantasy league way back in 2006 by putting up a 12-3 record with a 2.12 ERA with 144K’s in just 120 innings (Wow! He used to be good?). Tommy John surgery in the offseason took away his entire 2007 season and he emerged a completely different player in 2008. Decreased velocity and movement on his fastball caused his ERA to swell to a sub-par 4.50 and his K’s to drop significantly. He has provided very little fantasy value since his awesome 2006 season (besides throwing what was arguably the worst no-hitter in MLB history), yet I keep drafting him out of loyalty and the hope that he can regain his form.
Yet I digress. This blog ranks the top ten players who simply do more for the fantasy stat sheet than they do for their team. Quick note: a typical fantasy league keeps track of 5 hitting categories (runs, HR, RBIs, steals, and average), as well as 5 pitching categories (wins, saves, k’s ERA, WHIP). Without further ado, I present you the list!
10. Jose Bautista: This guy has put up some ungodly numbers during the past two fantasy seasons. In 2010 he hit 54 home runs and had 124 RBI’s (while hitting a modest .260). Whoever owned this guy last year must have felt like they hit the lottery. It came out of nowhere. His previous career high in home runs was 16, and it happened in 2006! In fact, more than a third of all of his hits were home runs. How could this happen? I have two theories. Theory 1: Roids. Theory 2: He just said fuck it, this team isn’t going anywhere playing in the same division as the Sox Yanks and Rays, I’m just going to swing for the fences every at bat and see what I can do for my fantasy owners. Personally I think it’s a combination of both. Regardless, the Jays finished fourth in the AL, and Bautista’s fantastic season is remembered only by fantasy owners and Sporcle fantatics.
9. Jonathan Papelbon: As a Red Sox fan this one pains me to admit, but it’s very true nonetheless. Once upon a time he saved 37 of 40 possible games, threw down a 1.85 ERA, and earned the Sox closer spot for the forseeable future. Since then his ERA has risen significantly and every save seems to turn into a nail-biter for Sox fans. He still has the fantasy worth because of his numbers in the elusive save category, which is why he made the list. However, no Sox fan who watches the games feels secure with a one run lead in the ninth and Pap in the game. For the love of God make Bard the closer.
8. Juan Pierre: All this guy does is attempt steals. I say attempt because his actual SB percentage is a lot lower than most of us would like to think (just 74% for his career). His average is decent but his pathetic slugging percentage (.363 for his career) suggests that all he does is hit singles. And then try to steal second. And then third. And he gets out a quarter of the time he attempts this. Luckily for fantasy owners, none of this matters. Pierre looks like he will continue to put up 60 SB’s for the rest of his career because that’s just what he does. So draft him if you need steals and nothing else.
7. Mark Reynolds: Reynolds put up a whopping 44 HR’s in 2009. Not bad right? Now for a stat not typically included in a fantasy matchup: 223 strikeouts. Are you kidding me? I could play a full season in the MLB and strike out less than this guy. I’m almost positive that when he goes up to bat he just closes his eyes and swings as hard as he can three times in a row. If he makes good contact, home run! If not, fuck it, same approach next time. It if gets you 44 home runs then good for you. Fantasy owners will certainly take it. Teammates and coaches might have a different reaction, but hey he’s in Baltimore now.
6. Daric Barton: Now before you go looking up his stats and saying “who the f is this scrub? He has absolutely no game. Nobody in their right mind would ever draft him in a fantasy league,” understand that I picked this guy for one reason only. Errors. This man has committed 8 errors in just 62 games. 8! In 62 games! That’s two more than anyone else in the league. You would at least think this guy would be moderately good at defense given that he provides literally nothing on the offensive end (.212 average, 0 home runs), and he STARTS. Upon consulting further stats I realized he plays for the A’s, and this makes slightly more sense. But come on man. I maintain that his fantasy value exceeds his real value because he actually loses games for his team. Seriously, with his numbers I would say that his abysmal defense creates more runs for the other team than his shitty average and (lack of) power on offense. This guy is a scrub, and is singlehandedly putting the A’s in the basement of the AL West. (I exaggerate).
5. Adam Dunn: See Mark Reynolds, but with more consistent power numbers and fewer strikeouts. Fantasy owners love this guy because you can always count on 40 home runs. True, he strikes out about 200 times a year, but once again, fantasy owners could care less. Draft him if you’re ready to sacrifice average for home runs and RBIs.
4. Alex Rodriguez: A consistent fantasy stud, A-Rod hasn’t put up fewer than 30 home runs since his breakthrough season in 1996. The knock on his real value here: except for a few streaks he has never been a clutch player. True, people’s expectations are through the roof from him. He’s looking like a serious competitor for the all time home run record. But if you watch the games you’ll notice that a lot of his stats come in garbage time in games that have already been won or lost. Let’s put it this way: I would be much more worried about A-Rod going deep in a game where the Yanks are losing 7-0 to the Red Sox with the bases empty (in fact this happened just the other night), than A-Rod driving home the runner on third in a 1 run game in the 9th. His stats are incredible, but they easily overstate his actual value to the teams he plays for. That’s why he’s on this list.
3. Carlos Zambrano: This guy is a character. I absolutely love watching him flip out on sportscenter during every game he pitches. He has been the ace of the Cubs staff for a few years now, putting up as many as 18 wins in a season. But it’s the intangible and character issues that knock his real value. My favorite recent Zambrano story: He leaves the game after pitching 7 innings of one run ball and a 2-1 lead. Closer Carlos Marmol proceeds to blow the lead and the Cubs lose 3-2. Now, any MLB pitcher would be frustrated, especially with the way the Cubs season is going. But Zambrano went off! Unfortunately footage is not available, but if you saw the sportscenter or know what he’s like in general, you can imagine. He called his team a “triple-A team” and “embarrassing”, and even went as far at to critique Marmol’s pitch selection. But at least he cares about his stats. He wanted that win! What kind of fantasy owner wouldn’t love a guy like that? So what if he antagonizes his teammates. Luckily, most fantasy baseball leagues don’t use an ejections stat. Quick footnote: I did play in a fantasy basketball league that kept ejections as a stat. Why? We may never know.
2. J.D. Drew: Sorry J.D. You are useless. Anybody that has been watching the Sox for the past five years knows what I’m talking about. Think A-Rod minus the consistent regular season numbers. J.D. Drew can’t hit a game winner to save his life. Maybe it’s because his emotionless face would break if he ever got excited about anything. He manages to hit 20 home runs and post a .280 average pretty consistently, so he’s not a completely useless fantasy asset (exculding his horrendous 2011 season thus far, on a record setting Sox offense mind you). But he’ll put up these numbers in the least useful time, leading management to think at the end of the year, Hey, JD put up another solid season, let’s continue to give him $14 million a year.
and number one is….
1. Troy Tulowitzki: I didn’t give Tulo the number one ranking in an effort to minimize his value to the Rockies. He is the best player on the Rockies, a team that always seems to string together a bunch of wins at the end of the year to make the playoffs or at least come close. And Tulo is usually the reason for the late push put on by this team. He steps up his game to another level when it counts most. But that’s why he’s on the list. Anybody who played in a fantasy league last year knows exactly what I’m saying. If you had Tulo on your team at the end of the year and you didn’t win, I don’t know what the hell you were doing. He could literally be playing on a team of hood rats and singlehandedly win you the fantasy playoffs. In september, the month of fantasy playoffs, Tulo hit .332 with 15 home runs, 31 runs scored, and 41 RBIs. So as good as he is in real life, his fantasy value is god-like. He wins leagues. That is all.