Maximize your at-bats

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s still interesting. I play in a standard 10-team, 10-category rotisserie league. I decided to compare my at-bats this year to this same point in time last year. I’m in 8th place with 47 points right now, whereas last year at this time I had just dropped out of 1st place with 69 points. I discovered I have averaged about 1.5 fewer at-bats this year than last.

I checked if there’s a correlation between at-bats and offensive statistics in my league. The results are presented below, and by results, I simply mean the data. It’s not a large enough sample to run a statistically relevant analysis. The data is sorted by number of at-bats ascending.

Offensive Pts Total ABs
43 5402
43 5314
25 5241
24 5231
44 5221
19 5209
30 5153
22 5118
18 5045
7 4735

My team is second from the bottom, with 5,045 at-bats. Although it isn’t a perfect correlation, it’s pretty clear that more plate appearances is better. I wondered two things:

1) How does one fall so far behind in at-bats?
2) Should I optimize my draft strategy for next year differently?

To answer the first question, I thought about my own team. I have been reluctant to let go of Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis for most of the year because although he doesn’t play full-time, he produces whenever he does play. To me, it was worth forgoing at-bats from him if he’s going to hit a home run every nine at-bats like he was doing in the beginning of the year.

I have also been plagued by the injury bug, but not what people consider the bad kind that sends your best guy to the disabled list. All my guys have dealt with day-to-day injuries, the main culprits being Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who flirted as a day-to-day guy for much of the year before he was actually sent to the DL for good. On the contrary, another owner in my league (who happens to be my dad) has dealt with the bad injury bug, the one that leaves Curtis Granderson, Clay Buccholz, Rafael Betancourt, Mark Teixeira, Desmond Jennings and Austin Jackson on the DL.

But is that really so bad? Although you’re losing a productive player to the DL, you at least you get the opportunity to replace him — at least you get plate appearances out of someone, which is better than no one. If you guy is stuck on the bench with a day-to-day injury, you have no opportunity to replace him on your roster and may have to forgo at-bats. For one day, it may not seem like a big deal. But what about 10 different guys missing three or four days throughout the year? Ten players times four days of four at-bats equals 160 at-bats missed. If your team hit .250 during the stretch and produced in only half of the at-bats, you miss out on maybe 20 runs, 20 RBI, a handful of home runs. Simply, you miss out on production with day-to-day injuries more than full-blown DL stints.

To answer the second question… Well, I can’t quite do that yet, at least not adequately. I think there is some merit to not just drafting the best players, but drafting a team that will maximize at-bats. Experts, of course, factor in injury discounts when valuing players in preseason rankings. But some players when healthy simply record more at-bats than others. Is it worth targeting primarily leadoff batters? When I succeeded in my league last year, I led the runs category while my team tanked in the RBI category (9th out of 10). Still, my team was quite successful, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I recorded more at-bats than most other teams. Unfortunately, I have no way of accessing that information now.

Anyway, just some quick thoughts. Have a good night.

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