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Monday, March 5, 2012

Recapturing the Glory

One of the greatest and most famous fantasy sports writers is a gentleman by the name of Ron Shandler.  Ron and his Baseball HQ are fantastic resources and come highly recommended by me and, well, just about everyone.

I just have this one small problem...

Ron has a saying that goes like this, "Once you display a skill, you own it."  I have heard this repeated (and usually credited) a bunch of times.  People love to talk about how since a guy has done something before he could always do it again...  Hope springs eternal.

There is our famous kernel of truth in there, but this is really just a lot of folly.  The kernel is that if a player has shown he can do something it is possible that there are reasons why he didn't do it before or since.  And, if you are a good enough detective and can build a case why he hasn't duplicated the skill yet you could get significant value in that player if he is able to recreate the skill.

The problem with this is that 9 times out of 10 you'll be chasing a ghost.  For example, it is true that Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs one year.  Since he displayed that skill, did he continue to own it?  No, of course not.  He never did it again.  Was there any track record or pedigree that you could point to that proved why it happened that one year?  Nope.  It was just one great year where he was locked in and really drove the ball.  How many years did Anderson get drafted higher than he should because people thought he might hit 40+ home runs one more time?

I'm looking for a track record, folks.  I want the repeated use of skills over long periods of time.  I want to grab a guy who showed what he could do as an amateur, continued to do that in the minors, and has manifested the skill in the show.  Over and over again.  Not just one time.

There are lots of ways you can get added value here, though.  Sometimes a player will hit a lot of doubles as a very young player and as their physical stature matures those line drives into the power alleys turn into more and more home runs. 

More frequently, a player will have a big season followed by a big injury.  If you can find evidence to show the big year wasn't a fluke the injury may mask the player's true value and create a buying opportunity for you.

Also, playing time and park factor weigh into this.  If an excellent hitter gets traded away from San Diego or in football a wide receiver signs as a free agent with a much better quarterback, you've got a better situation for that player which represents value for you.

That just shows that sometimes it isn't the guy who did some great thing once in his career that represents value for you, but rather the player who has improved their personal situation somehow.  That is where the value is.  The fact that that hitter hasn't played outside of Petco or the receiver hasn't caught balls from an All-Pro QB before will limit their draft day cost a bit and give you an edge on your competition.

Do your homework and think critically about the environment around a player.  Don't chase their ability to recapture the glory of a few years ago.