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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maholm: Two or Three Syllables?

Why do people persist in pronouncing "Paul Maholm" as "Paul Muh-ha-lum"?  That can't be right, can it?  And look, frankly, I didn't look it up either.  That would be for two reasons:  (1) I wasn't confident I could actually find the answer; and, (2) It's stupid.

You know what else is stupid?  Factoring in a player's name when determining their value.  Positively or negatively... It goes both ways.  You know what I'm talking about.

For years Derek Jeter was over-valued in fantasy baseball because of his name and who he plays for... the championships, the gold gloves, his charming smile and dreamy eyes.  Good fantasy managers don't get caught up in those things.  Great fantasy managers know when there is a shift, too.

For Jeter, the shift was this year.  As the ESPN podcast guys like to call it, "the hate had gone too far."  Somehow people stopped believing.  His name became a liability, but the fact is that even though he's an aging shortstop he will give you a BA around .300 and middling home runs and steals with the potential for very good runs and solid RBI.  Regardless of his name, he's still a solid shortstop option.

Nevertheless, he was dropped completely from draft boards everywhere.  He went from a perennial over-rated top 5 shortstop to everyone saying something like, "I don't know, is Jeter even top 12 anymore?  I mean, really... He's old."  The fact is that he has usually been in the 6-8 range among shortstops, including this year.

This happens all over the place.  A guy like Mark Teixeira still gets credit for the high batting averages he put up early in his career.  He's a career .281 hitter!  He always hits well.  Folks, he hasn't hit over .256 since 2009 and he's doing it again this year.  His name is over-valued.

Paul Konerko, on the other hand, seems to still be trying to build his reputation back from hitting .234 with 18 HR's way back in 2003.  Other than a dip in 2008, that dude has been phenomenal.  And the past few years he's been better than Teixeira.  Seriously.  I know the names cloud our judgement, but look at the stats.  He's a career .284 hitter and has averaged 29.5 HR's over the past 8 years.  Tex is a career .281 hitter with 36 HR per year over the past 8 years, but don't stop there.

How about the all-important past two years?  The HR's are nearly identical and Konerko's BA is more than 50 points higher.  Fifty!  And those are just the surface stats that we all could see plain as day before the season even started.  How did they get drafted?  You know the answer: Tex went about two rounds higher than Konerko is just about every draft.  It's based on his name, where he plays, endorsements, etc.  Our judgements get clouded.

Also, having a nickname versus not having a nickname just feeds the issue.  Okay, I don't have any proof... but we are talking about perception here, right?  Do you want to draft a guy named "Konerko" or do you want "Tex"?  C'mon, you want Big Tex, right?  Of course you do.

You also want CarGo and the Flyin' Hawaiian.

I'm not gonna lie, this is a tough one folks.  If we could we should just re-name everyone John Smith, build logical projections for all of them, and then just draft numbers.  If we could do that, we would all be better off.

And, truly, it gets even tougher in-season.  Right about now you're looking at the no-name guys on the waiver wire and wondering if they are for real as the has-been's on your roster drag you down.  It happens every year.

I suggest that you take a look at your under-performers one at a time and do a "prime profile" for them as well as a profile of their most likely replacement.  Look at their age, injury history, pedigree, and performance over the past two years (with discounted minor league numbers where necessary).  Build a likely projection for both sides.  Some of your under-performers are just off to a slow start and will rebound.  But some of them are nursing an injury or just trending downward as their career enters the twilight.

You might be surprised what you find.  Doing a few of these profiles as one-offs where needed is actually a lot easier than building logical projections for over 300 players before the season starts.  Have fun with it...  This is where great fantasy players are made.