From The Fantasy Oracle

Last Year Bias: Why Does 2013 Matter So Much?

Why does everyone focus 95 percent of their energy on 2013 results, and so little on everything else?

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We know what is right in front of our face. Follow me here on another one of my inane digressions. You have a perfectly lovely lover that you call your better half. She's away on business for a 10 days. You go out, a bit lonely on day eight, have three too many Long Island's, and find yourself hitting on the gal sitting right next to you. Hopefully you will stop short of ruining your life, there's no chance the blondie at the bar has more to offer than your special gal who will be back from her trip in a few days yearning to hold you close, but the temptation is inexorably pulling you toward a bad decision, right? Let me turn this toward discussion to the wold of baseball.

We focus far too much on what we see, or more accurately, what we have seen recently. Why does 2013 wipe out 2012? Better yet, why does an emergence in 2013 mean a guy with one year of elite production is now thought of, by everyone, as elite? Why does a guy who struggled in 2013, after years of success, all of a sudden stink? In both cases it is possible that the common thought on the players is accurate, we really have to go on a case by case basis, but I believe that the majority of folks may be missing the boat, only looking at 2013, thinking that tells them everything Folks that take that line of thoughts might be missing out on a few vital keys to success in 2014. Let's take some examples to heart.

Paul Goldschmidt is being taking in the top-5 in every draft out there, most of the time going in the top-4 and quiet frequently going 3rd overall behind Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. Goldschmidt was spectacular last season hitting .302 with 36 homers, 125 RBIs, 103 runs and 15 steals. I get the love. Still, the guy had 145 Ks and over his first 670 big league at-bats hit .278 with a .487 SLG. Are you really sure, based off 602 at-bats in 2013, that he's now a .302 hitter with a .551 SLG? Everyone is sure he is, even though we're talking about one season. I know he was a huge prospect who had all that success in the minors, but you're willing to bet the farm on a full repeat, which is what is needed if you're taking him in the top-5? Some cautionary thoughts. (1) Goldschmidt had a 79.4 percent contact rate in '13. The league average was 0.79. (2) He owns a .340 career BABIP and posted a mark of .343 in 2013, but that's a darn high rate that could slip a bit. If it does, he doesn't hit .300. (3) His 22.5 percent HR/F rate last year was huge (5th best in baseball). If things regress to his 18.9 percent career mark he will mostly likely finish with less than 35 homers. (4) So much of Paul's value depends on his work on the base paths. Paul is one of three men who have stolen 15 bases in back-to-back seasons, as a first baseman, in the 21st century. No first sacker has done it three straight years in that time. Don't forget that Goldschmidt was only successful on 68 percent of his attempts last season, a terrible rate. There's enough uncertainty here that people shouldn't blindly be listing him as top-4 option without giving it a second thought.

Chris Davis? I already wrote thousands of words on him that can be found in the 2014 Draft Guide. A sneak peak at what can be read there follows. It's asinine to think he will repeat his effort from last season yet he's going in the first round in nearly every draft. Why? It's because of his massive 2013 and the mistaken assumption that he will repeat that effort in 2014. I don't want to make it seem like I only help folks that purchase the fantastical 200 page Draft Guide, so a couple of key points. (1) In baseball history how many men have hit .285 with 195 Ks in a season? Davis is the only one. Ever. (2) From 2008-12 he averaged 26 homers per 150 games. In 2013 he hit 53 homers in 160 games. He basically doubled his career rate. (2) Davis hit 33 homers overall in 515 at-bats in 2012. In 2013 he hit 40 homers in 367 at-bats against righties. For more get The Guide and read the article, but let me just say this; it's crazy bonkers time to blindly call out Davis' name in the first round without giving serious consideration to the potential pitfalls of that decision.

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Yasiel Puig is immensely talented, there's zero debate about that. Still, is he worth a top-25 overall selection as everyone seems to think he is? You can read my full thoughts on him in his Player Profile, but try the following on for size. People are using his grand total of 104 big league games and 382 at-bats as the baseline for Puig as if he's a lock to at least match that rate of production in 2014 (if not improve upon that level of work). Fair? Hell no it ain't. Not only should everyone know that guys don't regularly hit .319 with a .925 OPS, but you should also know that 104 games simply isn't enough data to make a full accounting of a player. You do know that right? Might want to check out the Sample Size article I recently wrote. Regardless, anyone notice  that Puig hit .214 over his final 26 games? No one care about that?

This guy, who no one wants on their team, hit 28 homers with 30 RBIs in 2012 but everyone thinks  he's refuse now. How many 28/30 seasons have there been in the 21st century? There have been 26 such seasons. By the way, that list does not include names like Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones or Carlos Gomez. Still, those three players are all top-25 according to ADP. Where is B.J. Upton, the man I referenced at the start of this paragraph? He's lucky to crack the top-200. I'm not saying that Upton should be drafted alongside the others, you'd be bonkers to do that, but answer me this; why is Gomez everyone's favorite player and no one is touching BJ? It's only because of last season. Consider this:

Upton 2012: .246-28-78-79-31
Gomez 2013: .284-24-73-80-40

Upton is 29 years old.
Gomez is 28 years old.

Might want to read the Player Profile for Gomez where I talk about that batting average, which really seems to be the only difference (I'll also add this. I took Upon in the third round in a few drafts last season and people thought I was an idiot. This season people are drafting Gomez in the second as if that is where he should be taken without question. Really?).

Hanley Ramirez is a top-25 selection in every league this season. Everyone likes that, right? Last season I took Ramirez in the second round of the FSTA Experts Draft. There was a groan in the room. Everyone thought that I was nuts. Why is it that everyone thinks it's now a great move? 'Well Ray, HanRam hit .345 last season with 20 homers and 00 steals in 86 games so of course he is elite.' That's what I hear. Still, anyone bother to note that Ramirez has failed to play 95 games in two of the last three seasons? Of how about the fact that he hit .252 over 942 at-bats in 2011-12. EVERYONE has forgotten that fact. If we do the old standard in fantasy baseball and look at a three year time frame, do you know what HanRam hits? Try on .274 for size. For a guy who is a career .302 hitters are you really feeling that good about that? Or how about this? HanRam hit a homer ever 15.2 at-bats in 2013. From 2009-12 he hit one homer every 26.1 at-bats and from 2011-12 that number was 27.7. You really think he's keeping up last year's pace?

Have you read through the Austin Jackson Player Profile? Take a close look at the section labeled AVERAGE. It should cause you to rethink your position on Jackson.

Matt Cain falls in some folks eyes because of his eight wins and 4.00 ERA. As I pointed out in his Player Profile he pitched the same as he always had. Still, people are turning away from him this season.

Aaron Hill is going off the board outside the top-100. I'm fine with that. At the same time, I'm a bit surprised he's actually being taken as early as he is (I bet he might slip outside the top-150 in many a draft while Gyorko sometimes goes in the top-75). However, should he be drafted after a guy like Jedd Gyorko as he currently is according to ADP? Gyorko is younger and more exciting, but a few key points deserve to be noted. (1) Gyorko hit .249 last season. Hill hit .291 last year and has hit .298 over his last 248 games. (2) Gyorko struck out a ton leading to a 0.27 BB/K ratio. Hill has had a mark of 0.60 the last two seasons, double that of Gyorko. (3) Gyorko hit 23 homers last season. Hill only hit 11 but he was limited to 87 games played. He hit 26 home runs over 156 games in 2012. In fact, the last three times he's had 525 at-bats he's gone deep at least 26 times. Remember, Gyorko went deep 23 times last season. (3) Gyorko only got on base at a .301 clip. Hill has a .329 career OBP, not great, but over the past two seasons that mark is .359. (4) Gyorko only attempted two steals. Hill was held to one theft last year, but he stole 35 bases the previous two seasons when he was healthy.  Is Gyorko younger and more exciting? Without a doubt that's true. But what about everything else, other than a look at just 2014, seems to suggest that Hill is a much better fantasy bet?

As I started out saying, sometimes the 2013 effort of a player, in the stratosphere or down in the dirt, gives you an accurate picture of what to expect in 2014. However, in many instances, we're focusing too closely on what we saw in 2013 to the detriment of players that for this or that reason underperformed in 2014. Who's to say that those who excelled in 2013 won't suffer the same fate that those 2012 leaders suffered in 2013?


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