Player Projection Accuracy vs. Playing Time Reality

I’m not going to go into all the mathematics of how inaccurate projecting fantasy baseball player performance is. When it comes to fantasy baseball analysis and projecting player performance, I will simply tell you that the best of the best of the best are no more than 65% accurate at the end of the day. For more in-depth research on that, you can check out this link to a fabulous writing about this subject.

This article looks at the ZIPS projections, because truth be known, I don’t really see any significant difference in any of the top 200-300 player rankings when I evaluated the top 10 Google player projection rankings. So, I chose not to quibble over small differences in individual number projections, allowing me to focus on where the biggest projection misses were and identify why they missed their mark.

As you can obviously see by now, my theory was that the biggest misses in fantasy baseball projections stem from missing projected playing time estimates. ZIPS, and for the most the rest of the fantasy baseball prognosticators do a pretty good job of predicting where a player will fall in the overall ranks IF and I mean ONLY IF, said player gets to see the originally projected plate appearances.

I looked at ZIPS 2016 projections vs 2106 actuals from a crude standpoint and not a statistical viewpoint. I wanted to see where the ZIPS top 5 through top 100 compared to their corresponding player actuals. But, that would only be presenting a one-sided view, so I decided to reverse it and then look at the actuals to see where ZIPS projected those to be.

I looked at 2 counting categories at opposite ends of the spectrum;

Stolen bases – a look at player speed.

Home Runs – a look at player power.

The metrics I chose evaluated projected average vs the actual average along with actual average vs projected average in each of the categories. I placed the averages in buckets ranging from the top 5 to the top 100 rankings.

Below are the results for projections vs actual:

NOTE: Players with 0 actual numbers were omitted to provide better player to player comparisons.

You can quickly see that overall; ZIPS predictions are close to the 2016 actual results in both categories across all buckets. This might have you thinking that ZIPS projections represent an accurate projection system. However, you should note that we’re looking at the situation from the “here’s what I predicted versus here’s where they landed” perspective (a.k.a – prediction accuracy).

But what happens when view the situation from the opposite perspective and say; “here’s the actuals and here’s what we said they would do” (a.k.a. – prediction error).

Below are the results with plate appearances added for each category. The reason for this is because obviously, each category will have different plate appearance for their respective top 5 to top 100.

The numbers above clearly show how plate appearances impacted the projection accuracy. When we analyze the differences between projected and actual in both categories, we can get a clear visual picture of this impact as well.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m informing you of this after the season has begun. EXACTLY!!! Continue on, my friend, continue on.

Finding Players That Play – The Art of Winning Your Fantasy League

Make no mistake about it friends, you do not win your fantasy baseball league at the draft table. You succeed in fantasy baseball with effective in-season roster management. The previous section was designed to help you understand that while projections provide insight to player performance and you need to understand fully the window of expectation that your intended players fall into, it is playing time that dictates whether those predications will come true or not.

The two biggest questions you must answer are:

  1. How do you identify players expected to receive enough playing time to impact your team positively?
  2. How do you identify the right player to place into your starting lineups?

Below are my top tips for ensuring effective in-season roster management.

Doing Your Homework

You have got do your homework when it comes to winning your fantasy baseball league. In-depth analysis of player performance is crucial to you succeeding in winning your league. You need to be looking at player performances daily, and not just the players on your team.

A 26-week fantasy baseball is time consuming. Hopefully, you knew this when you signed up. If you didn’t, welcome to fantasy baseball. Now that you’re here, learning where to spend your valuable time is knowledge worth knowing. You need to be looking for positive and negative trends that will equip you to make the roster decisions that will help you win fantasy baseball championships.

Playing the Matchup Game

This strategy is not for daily lineup leagues only, although, if this is the type of league you’re in, pay particularly close attention. There are many sources out there for you to stay fully up-to-date on daily and weekly matchups.

In today’s baseball dynamic, platooning is becoming much more the norm than not. Make sure you’re paying close attention to matchups. If you do, you will have placed yourself in prime position to maximize playing time over your opponent.

Look at The Entire 40-Man Roster and Beyond

Let’s face it, you don’t have all the best players on your team! Last year, nobody had Trea Turner their opening day lineup. For that matter, not many, if any had him on their opening day roster. Same goes for Michael Fulmer, David Dahl and a host of others that contributed to many team championships.

Fact is, the players listed above were either warming the bench or not present on the teams’ 40-man roster at the beginning of the season. You need to be considering the bench players and prospects before they get their shot, so you can be ready to snatch them earlier than the other team owners.

Keep Your Ear to the Pavement

You can’t possess too much information when it comes to fantasy baseball. Baseball is a dynamic business and patience is not one of the virtues that managers and front-office personnel hold on dearly to. You are only as good as yesterday’s performance.

My favorite saying in fantasy baseball is this; luck favors the well prepared. By keeping yourself well informed to the baseball news around you place yourself in a well-prepared position. Every piece of news has the potential to help you make roster decisions that will help you bring home the championship.

I sincerely hope you found this article helpful. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, so feel free to leave any questions or comments below. Good luck in your upcoming fantasy league(s).

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Doug Lukas

A passionate fantasy baseball enthusiast with a love for statistics and data analysis.
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