Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fantasy Focus: The Disappearing 20-20 Hitter

Once upon a time, there was a simple formula for success in fantasy baseball.  Go after 4 or 5 "20-20" hitters early in the draft.  If they also had a solid BA, you got value in all 5 of the standard 5X5 categories.  Fill in with a couple of pure power hitters, a couple of pure base stealers and you were good.  There were not a ton of these much sought after players available, but enough that if you were reasonably aggressive, you had a good chance of getting at least 2 or 3, and if you got 4 or 5, you were sitting pretty in your league.

Over the years, the number of hitters who achieve this Holy Grail of hitting, has steadily declined.  Not only has the number achieving it declined, but the average HR and SB for each hitter has also declined.  I recently looked up 2011 on Fangraphs.  I ranked all the hitters in MLB for that season by HR's then looked to see which ones with more than 20 also had more than 20 SB's.  There were a total of 12:

Curtis Granderson-   41 HR, 25 SB.
Matt Kemp-              40 HR, 39 SB.
Ryan Braun-             33 HR, 33 SB.
Jacoby Ellsbury-       32 HR, 39 SB.
Ian Kinsler-               32 HR, 30 SB.
Justin Upton-             31 HR, 21 SB.
CarGo-                      26 HR, 20 SB.
Andrew McCutchen- 23 HR, 23 SB.
BJ Upton-                  23 HR, 36 SB.
Dustin Pedroia-          21 HR, 26 SB.
Chris Young-             20 HR, 22 SB.
Jeff Francoeur-           20 HR, 22 SB.

I did the same search for 2014 and found just 5 "20-20" hitters:

Todd Frazier-        29 HR, 20 SB.
Ian Desmond-       24 HR, 24 SB.
Carlos Gomez-      23 HR, 34 SB.
Brian Dozier-        23 HR, 21 SB.
Michael Brantley- 20 HR, 23 SB.

There were 4 "30-30" players in 2011 and Matt Kemp came within 1 SB of a 40-40 season.  There were no 30-30 players in 2014.  None even came close!

The implication for fantasy baseball players is that it may not even pay to try to acquire "20-20" players.  In 2014, my Savvy Vets fantasy baseball team had 2 of the 5, Desmond and Gomez and I did not have one of the better offenses in the league.  It is not even clear to me that if I had all 5, it would have been a good team!  If you want balance on the offensive side of your roster now, you probably have to mix and match power hitters with speed guys who will steal 30+ bases.  The alternative is to "punt" a category or two and try to maximize HR's which will also likely get you RBI's and possibly Runs or you can go for a BA/SB/Runs approach trying to win those categories a team full of speed guys.  The problem with punting on both sides, is it may be hard to find guys with good BA's that also are leaders in HR's or SB's

The disappearing 20-20 hitter:  one of the reasons why I found the last couple of seasons to be more challenging from a fantasy perspective.


  1. To take this fantasy back to Giants: Who might hit the 20/20 mark for the SF World Champions? Or one of them? The park reduces those dinger-totals, and the manager and team philopshy is to not run into out... so what have we got?
    Pence has gone 20/20 once 2013, and come close anther time (2010). We can probably pencil him in for 20+ homeruns though; he has hit at least 20 homeruns in 7 of his 8 seasons, only failing to hit that mark his rookie season in 108 games for 17 homeruns.
    Pagan? His career high in HRs is 11. Although, I think at one point he was the leader (or 2nd) in homeruns at Citiffield - which says something about that field and the Mets during its first couple of seasons.
    I'm pleased each time Posey knocks more than 20 HRs in a season. I expect more like 15-20 from him, but he generates a lot of power. Forget it on steals though.
    If Belt can stay healthy, we can see 20+ HRs from him, but again no chance for steals.
    McGehee's HR/162 Games is 15, which surprised me. I had forgotten about his power days in Milwaukee. Steals no chance, and we should expect the park effects to suppress his HR totals (as they probably have in Miami), but HRs are funny things, and if he has some good days in Arizona or on a road trip through the East, maybe he could pop 20+. I'm pretty excited about Casey haven taken another look at him.
    Starting LF Blanco may get to 20+ steals, and he has occasional pop, but (and i think I'm parroting DrB here) when he gets power hungry he seems to slump pretty bad.
    Only other chances for 20/20 are for crazy changes from Crawford or Panik, which none of us see happening. If either get above 10 in either category we'll be very happy.

    1. Good call on Blanco. There was a recent article in Fangraphs showing BA on different types of batted balls for individual players. Guess who had one of the bottom 10 BA's on flyballs? Yup, our Gregor Blanco! Dude seriously needs to take some hitting lessons from Joe Panik. LD's and GB's are where he has to stay to be successful.

      As for possible future 20-20 players, I would say the 3 to keep an eye on are Edie, Gustavo Cabrera and Johneshwy Fargas. Maaaaybe Mac Williamson? Carbonell might not be able to get to 20 HR's.

    2. That's a big vote of confidence in Cabrera's wrist. Cabrera and Carbonell are my "can't wait to see 'em play next season" picks. And maaaaaybe Mac.

    3. That is assuming Cabrera is fully health, which I do not know for sure.

  2. I'll just add that it is not obvious to me that if you had all 5 of the 2014 20-20 players on your fantasy team, you would necessarily have a good fantasy lineup. It would depend on who you put with it, but it's not a slam dunk, for sure.

  3. With all of the injuries that occur from basestealing I am not crazy about any of our players pressing that category. Too many jammed fingers in my opinion. Now, it is nice to see it happen on pitchers/catchers whom have poor caught stealing percentages. Other than that I have always crossed my fingers whenever I see it live. For a guy like Pence or Pagan to increase the chances of injury I am strongly against it. Just my take.

    1. Injury risk is just one of many reasons to be cautious about trying to steal bases. You definitely have to pick your spots and do things to maximize your chances of success. If you are not successful at least 70-75% of the time, you really are risking injury for no gain or even reducing your chances of scoring runs.

  4. We certainly don't want the Giants to be reckless on the basepaths, but we don't want them to be a passive station to station baserunning team either. A team that is wisely aggressive, or at least earns the reputation of being so, places pressure on defenses and leads to errors by fielders. The threat of a stolen base can distract the opposing battery and give the hitter at bat an advantage. Injury while stealing bases does happen, but that risk can be mitigated by teaching proper sliding techniques and discouraging the headfirst style. The pendulum of baseball philosophy may be swinging away from the power game to a more speed and defense approach and the Giants have shown they value defense, but haven't really adopted a very speed oriented team construction. Perhaps the signing of Carbonell is a sign they are trying to get faster.

    1. If you slide feet first, then you tend to get the ankle injuries. I don't think anyone here is advocating passive baserunning. What we are talking about her is prudent baserunning. There are other ways to avoid station-to-station baseball besides indiscriminate base stealing such as taking the extra base in front of basehits and of course, stealing when it is appropriate such as with 2 outs and a runner on first if you have someone on base who has a reasonable chance of making it.