In more than 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, I feel as though I have pretty much seen it all. I've participated in seasons where a pitcher with a 4.00 ERA was helping fantasy teams in that category and in others where the same statistic was a major hindrance. There have been seasons where 30-homer players were a dime a dozen and other years where they were coveted assets.
And there were years where a few players topped the 50-steal plateau, which would be fantasy gold in the current landscape.
The 2022 campaign has certainly thrown us some curves in terms of statistical shifts. We didn’t see it coming that scoring would be down significantly during the initial weeks of the season. Many managers are currently struggling to understand what constitutes typical production from a fantasy position player or pitcher, which leads me to today’s exercise.
I play in many fantasy leagues, which makes it easy for me to gather data for an article such as this one. Based on my 12-team leagues, here is the average production in each category that is necessary to currently rank at least 3rd among the 12 squads.
After all, fantasy managers who can sit in the top-3 in each category should win their league.
What you need to compete in the hitter categories
These stats are for two-catcher leagues, which I know isn’t the default Yahoo! format. But the second catchers on many of these squads are providing very little help.
By removing the typical statistics of a No. 2 catcher and then dividing the remaining statistics by the other 13 hitter lineup spots, we can see the stats that a typical hitter on a successful fantasy team has produced thus far:
Keep in mind that these are the average stats for each hitter. This means that if more than half of your hitters have exceeded these stats, you should be doing well offensively. It also means that hitters who fall slightly short of these stats can still be worth a roster spot, although those hitters are the ones you should work to replace.
Something else to note — the bottom-third of a competitive fantasy roster is typically a revolving door of red-hot players and those with favorable upcoming schedules. These players often won’t have long-term potential but can help in the moment.
The takeaway from this article is that any player who is meeting the statistics listed above should be considered a roster mainstay.
Finally, we need to understand that players come in all shapes in sizes. Some players will greatly exceed the thresholds in some areas while coming nowhere close in others. Fantasy managers will need to balance their team needs and find the right mix of players with various skill sets.
Here are a few hitters who have produced stats similar to the norms:
Ozzie Albies (6 HR, 20 RBI, 26 R, 3 SB, .251 AVG)
Bo Bichette (6 HR, 21 RBI, 19 R, 4 SB, .240 AVG)
Nick Castellanos (5 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R, 2 SB, .248 AVG)
Max Kepler (6 HR, 22 RBI, 20 R, 2 SB, .248 AVG)
Tyler Naquin (5 HR, 22 RBI, 19 R, 3 SB, .262 AVG)
Anthony Rendon (5 HR, 23 RBI, 15 R, 2 SB, .248 AVG)
What you need to compete in the pitcher categories
Now, onto the pitching side. This one is a little bit trickier, because of the varied roles within a pitching staff. Still, here are the team-wide numbers for a top-3 placement so far:
W: 26 (2.89 per pitcher)
SO: 370 (41 per pitcher)
SV: 24 (2.67 per pitcher)
The ratios listed above are surprising, as we can now see that a pitcher who has thus far produced a 3.50 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP has hurt a good fantasy team with his ratios. That fact is hard to wrap our heads around, as those ratios would have been excellent marks just a couple years ago.
Starting pitchers can still have value if they are a little bit over the ratio thresholds, as long as they contribute plenty of wins and strikeouts. But relievers should be well below the ERA and WHIP thresholds unless they are delivering plenty of saves.
Speaking of saves, we can see by the total accumulated so far that having two full-time closers and one other reliever who occasionally gets saves should be enough to succeed in that category.
Streaming starters is a necessary part of the plan to get ahead in wins and strikeouts, but this aggressive approach can lead to the occasional ratio blowup. For this reason, the set-and-forget starters in your lineup should be the ones who match or exceed the ratios listed above.
Hopefully, this article gave you some perspective on the stats that have been generated so far in an offensively deprived 2022 season. The league-wide levels of production could change as the weather warms up, which means that I will revisit this topic in the summer. But for now, at least we have an idea of what we should be looking for from our lineup members.