All-Unlucky Team looking to rebound
Members could benefit from reversal of fortune in '07
Over the past five years, PROTRADE has mapped out every inch of the baseball diamond, charting the location of every batted ball and calculating the probability that -- given their distance, direction and velocity -- they'll become hits or outs. Using this information, we've set out to uncover the true batting average and slugging percentage of each player in the big leagues -- which is to say, performance absent luck. We call these measures "context neutral statistics," and for our money, they're the best way to evaluate a player's ability.
For example, according to our data, a hard-hit line-drive that travels 230 feet from home plate and is 30 feet from the left-field line will become a single about 85 percent of the time, a double 11 percent of the time, and an out just 4 percent of the time. If a player hits a ball with those characteristics and a defender happens to make an incredible play for an out, did the hitter really have a bad at-bat or was he just unlucky?
Being unlucky isn't a quality reserved for the scrubs of the league, as even the biggest stars in the game may be getting robbed of hits on a regular basis. Over time, this luck seems to even out.
With that in mind, here is PROTRADE's 2006 All-Unlucky Team, a group that could be in for even bigger and better performances this year -- even if every ball comes off the bat exactly the same way it did last season.
C: Mike Piazza Athletics
2006 stats: .283 AVG / .342 OBP / .501 SLG
PT stats: .308 AVG / .365 OBP / .563 SLG
Perhaps PROTRADE board member and Oakland general manager Billy Beane has been looking at the same data as our research department, as the A's new DH was one of the most unlucky hitters in baseball last season. While his .283/.342/.501 line is not too shabby, his context-neutral numbers (.308/.365/.563) might have fetched him a few more dollars in the free-agent market.
Piazza probably won't catch at all this season, meaning the health problems that have plagued him in the past may be a non-issue. Don't be surprised if the catcher-eligible Piazza is a top 5 performer at his position this year.
1B: Jason Giambi, Yankees
2006 stats: .253 AVG / .413 OBP / .558 SLG
PT stats: .270 AVG / .429 OBP / .623 SLG
Many fantasy owners see Giambi in pinstripes and worry that he will drag down their average, forgetting the fact that he batted over .290 for seven straight campaigns from 1996-2002. While his context-neutral .270 average from last season isn't going to help your team, it's much more manageable than the .253 average with which he dragged you down last season. Giambi had surgery on his wrist back in October and figures to have more strength this season, making him a solid fantasy play if you miss out on the top-tier first basemen.
2B: Josh Barfield, Indians
2006 stats: .280 AVG / .318 OBP / .423 SLG
PT stats: .297 AVG / .336 OBP / .453 SLG
As a rookie last season, Barfield put up a respectable line in the worst hitters' park in the bigs. You can blame San Diego's spacious PETCO Park for some of Barfield's bad luck, as the second baseman's batted-ball data suggests that he would have been hitting closer to .300 in average conditions.
J-Barf will likely thrive in the Cleveland offense, where he'll be more than capable of being a 20-20 threat with a solid average. Though you may have a chance to draft Barfield even if everyone else in your league has taken a second baseman, he's a solid sleeper to be top 5 at the position.
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
2006 stats: .277 AVG / .334 OBP / .478 SLG
PT stats: .289 AVG / .347 OBP / .510 SLG
J-Roll not only swiped 36 bags in 40 tries but also he also hit 25 bombs with 83 RBIs in 2006 on his way to being the year's third-best fantasy shortstop. The only complaint from owners was his lagging batting average, which dropped to .277 after two seasons in the .290 range. Rollins' context-neutral numbers suggest he should have made it three straight seasons near .290, as he was robbed of a number of hits along the way. More hits mean more runs and more RBIs, so don't be shy when taking Rollins as the third shortstop off the board because his stud season was no fluke.
3B: Garrett Atkins, Rockies
2006 stats: .329 AVG / .409 OBP / .556 SLG
PT stats: .339 AVG / .421 OBP / .636 SLG
The scary thing about seeing Atkins pop up on the unlucky list is that he was already one of the best hitters in the Majors last season. "Gatkins," as we like to call him, was the National League's only player ranked in the top 10 in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, runs, RBIs, hits and extra-base hits last season, an incredible feat, especially for someone who gets little national attention.
Hit-location data tells us that no player in baseball hit more fly balls over 380 feet than the UCLA alum, who had a knack for knocking them to dead center instead of over the wall. Our metrics suggest that the high batting average is here to stay, and judging by the wood he consistently put on the ball last season, we expect his home run total to make a solid jump this season.
OF: Carlos Beltran, Mets
2006 stats: .275 AVG / .388 OBP / .594 SLG
PT stats: .298 AVG / .411 OBP / .632 SLG
Beltran may have had his best offensive season as a pro last year, but his .275 batting average ended up below his career mark of .281. As a fantasy owner, you should focus on the fact that he set career best marks in homers (41), slugging percentage (.594), walks (95), BB/K ratio (0.96) and pitches per plate appearance (4.20).
Beltran is becoming a more patient hitter and absolutely pounds the good pitches he does see. Be thankful that he's falling to you at the end of the first round, as he should hit closer to .300 and be a top 5 player this season.
OF: Andruw Jones, Braves
2006 stats: .262 AVG / .363 OBP / .531 SLG
PT stats: .279 AVG / .380 OBP / .585 SLG
Andruw is coming off a monster year that fantasy owners overlook because of his weak .262 batting average, but his context-neutral average suggests that he was getting robbed more often than he should have been. Jones' .363 on-base percentage and 82 walks were his highest marks in the last four seasons, suggesting he may be laying off of bad pitches in his old age (still 29 somehow). Expect Jones to improve on his dragging average in 2007 and be one of the game's best power-hitting fantasy outfielders.
OF: Adam Dunn, Reds
2006 stats: .234 AVG / .365 OBP / .490 SLG
PT stats: .248 AVG / .378 OBP / .537 SLG
There is no more extreme example of the fantasy slugger with huge power and a horrible batting average than the Donkey. Dunn hit a paltry .234 with 194 whiffs last season, but any opposing pitcher can tell you that he cranks the ball when he does make contact. Unfortunately for the Reds, Dunn was launching balls right to the defense with a .278 BABIP that was well below his .291 career average. We don't expect the big fella to contend for the batting crown, but he'll probably be able to get that average over .250 this season.
SP: Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers
2006 stats: 4.08 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
PT stats: 3.15 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
In 2006, Bonderman did nearly everything a young pitcher needs to do to take his game to the next level. He raised his K/BB ratio as well as his strikeout rate, lowered his home run rate and increased his ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio, yet his ERA remained above 4.00. Our metrics say that wasn't his fault, as some poor defensive plays and seeing-eye singles kept him from moving into the top tier of starting pitchers. Expect Bonderman to make that leap this season, as his pure pitching numbers point to a season of 200-plus strikeouts, a mid-3.00 ERA and a WHIP in the 1.20s. Scoop him up in the middle rounds of your draft, and enjoy.
RP: Brad Lidge, Astros
2006 stats: 5.28 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
PT stats: 3.81 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Anyone who watched Lidge throw last season can attest to the fact that he was at times unhittable and at others a mere shadow of his former self. Our numbers say that he certainly had a down year in 2006, but not nearly as bad as the glaring 5.28 ERA that pops up on his player page.
Obviously, there isn't a lot of luck involved in a dramatically rising walk rate, but Lidge's home runs per fly ball rose dramatically, and his BABIP against was an absurd .354 despite the fact that his K rate remained one of the best in the game. It may be a stretch to expect Lidge to return to his dominant form of a few seasons back, but his nasty-looking ERA has him sliding down draft boards to the point where he'll probably have good value in 2007.
Be sure to check out which players make MLB's "All-Lucky Team" at PROTRADE.com: The Sports Stock Market. Through its stock market for sports and real-time valuation system, the PROTRADE community is changing the sports experience. Join in at PROTRADE.com to trade players in a real-time, 24/7 stock market, get unique news and analysis and reframe the way you watch your games. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.