Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Facts Shmacks

"Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true. Facts, Shmacks." -Homer Simpson

As a wise man once described, facts (or more accurately, statistics) can be used to prove anything you want really. I, as a writer, can skew numbers in many ways to get the resulting conclusion that I desire the reader to come away with. This is done anytime you read a fantasy sports article. It is not always devious, yet the author will always describe the numbers that prove their point, and leave out the numbers that hurt it. They are still telling the truth, listing numbers that are completely true, yet leaving out the rest.

I am a numbers guy. I love statistics. I love finding that Ichiro Suzuki has a higher career batting average than Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial. Yet a number doesn't tell the full story. Nick Swisher has a higher career OPS than Rod Carew or Roger Maris. Now that sounds impressive. Good for Nick. However, Carew wasn't much of a power hitter and Maris was a poor on-base guy, meaning each player's OPS will be lower than you'd figure. Hence, Swisher is still nothing special. All three of them fall outside of the top 250 players.

Let's take a look at some other stats that are completely, 100% true and have some fun with numbers. Obviously baseball is the best sport for statistics, so let us start there.

Player X has had a 30 point drop in his on-base percentage from last year to this year. His slugging percentage has dropped 84 points and his OPS is down a staggering 114 points! Pretty bad year for this guy, right? Well the part I left out was that Player X led the league in all three categories in 2009 and still made the all-star team in 2010. Player X is Albert Pujols.

Okay, the new Player X is on pace to lose more games this season than he has in any season of his career. He has his lowest win percentage in half a dozen years. Yet this player also made the 2010 all-star team. When comparing a star's numbers to previous seasons, it is easy to make them seem worse than the situation merits, just because they have been so good in the past. In this case, Player X is Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay. If the Phillies weren't in such a funk, perhaps his win-loss record would better reflect his season. Heck, he already has two games where he pitched nine innings and did not get a victory.

Of course, this technique also works in reverse. Player X is having a career year. He has his lowest ERA and WHIP of any season, and the best winning percentage of his career. In 2010 he is also sporting his best home runs allowed per 9 innings ratio and is only two hundredths of a point behind his career best mark in strikeouts to walks ratio. However, these 'bests' are easy to reach when the rest of your career has been such crap. Player X, R.A. Dickey, has a record of 28 and 32 with a 5.02 career ERA. He is only 6-4 so far in 2010, yet it seems like he should be up for a Cy Young based on the stats given.

Now, as many of the prominent fantasy articles out on the web propose, who would you rather have between Player X and Player Y? Player X, with two months still to go in the season, is only two home runs behind his season total of last year. He is on pace for his highest RBI total since the turn of the century, and for his career, he has walked more times than he has struck out.

Player Y, on the other hand, is on pace to hit 20 fewer home runs this season than he hit in 2009. His batting average is down over 60 points from last year and his OPS is down 235 points! In 2010, he is on pace to strike out more times than any prior season of his career.

Obviously, based on the information given, anyone would choose Player X. Let me go through the exact same statistics now, but this time I'll divulge a little more detail. Player X has hit zero home runs on the season. He ended last year with a total of two. He has 33 RBI so far this season and hasn't knocked in more than 58 in any season since 2000. This player does walk more than he strikes out, yet he has only drawn more than 60 walks in a season once. He rarely strikes out, give him that.

Player Y has only had one season where he hit more than 13 home runs. That happened to be last year. In 2009 he also led the league with a .365 batting average and an OPS of 1.031. Player Y also has walked more than he's struck out in his career. His highest strike out total for any season is only 64.

Now who would you choose? Both instances describe the exact same players and give the exact same facts, just delivered slightly differently. In case you were wondering, Player X is Jason Kendall and Player Y is Joe Mauer. Aren't statistics fun?

With the NFL season starting next month, I'll give you two players to avoid for all your fantasy drafts. The first player to avoid is a running back, Player X. He has seen his yards/carry drop every season since his rookie year. He has only one career receiving touchdown. He has 39 career starts and 20 career fumbles. In fact, Player X rushed for more yards in a season in college than he ever has during an NFL season, even though the college football season is three games shorter.

The other player to avoid, Player Y, is also a running back. He recorded his lowest ever touchdown total last season even though he started 15 games. He finished with zero receiving touchdowns and his lowest yards/reception ever. His yards/carry in a season has never been within six tenths of the mark he put up his rookie year. And Player Y also rushed for more yards during a college football season than he ever has during an NFL campaign, even though he was playing in three fewer games.

Player X is three-time pro bowler Adrian Peterson and Player Y is two-time pro bowler Steven Jackson and that's a fact.

(Image taken from

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