Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bang the Gavel: The Mitchell Report's Impact on Fantasy Baseball

Over the past few days, I have received many inquiries about how the 409 page Mitchell Report will impact fantasy baseball in 2008. Here are some thoughts:

1. Players Named in the Mitchell Report will Likely be Underrated in '08. Many fantasy owners are going to predict a decline in the statistics of players named in the Mitchell Report. Don't be one of them. The findings in the Mitchell Report are distant in time, and they only focus on a few teams based on witness availability (Mets, Yankees, Orioles, Giants, Athletics). Therefore, the Mitchell Report is not likely to help predict the specific players that will lose their power or velocity next season.

2. Don't Trust Anybody Over 35. Before 1995, it was very rare to find a power surge or velocity increase in any player over 35. Recently, we have seen examples of both. However, most of the players experiencing a renaissance in the twilight of their careers were cited in the Mitchell Report for allegedly doping. Without assessing the merits of any individual allegation, I would move any player over age 35 down a tad my draft list. (Unless, of course, the player is a knuckleball pitcher such as 41-year old Tim Wakefield).

3. Stop Predicting Random Power Surges. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a great article yesterday analyzing the performance of players named in the Mitchell Report, explaining that many of the allegedly doping players were "journeymen," and that "[e]ight of the 33 all-stars named in the report were selected only in seasons after they reportedly began using performance-enhancing drugs." This analysis makes me skeptical about finding natural power surges of more than 10 home runs per season in any player over age 27. (They may happen on occasion, but not as frequently as we had been seeing.)

4. Go Bullish on Top Middle Infielders. When I began playing fantasy baseball in the late 1980s, the power differential separating the top middle infielders (e.g., Cal Ripken, Alan Trammell, Ryne Sandberg) from the rest of the pack (e.g., Tony Fernandez, Dick Schofield, Bill Doran) was dramatic. Then, over the past 20 years, middle-infielders that hit 15-20 home runs became a dime a dozen. My guess is that over the next few years, middle infielder home runs will decline substantially, save for the absolute elite.

5. Return of the Stolen Base (and the Defensive Catcher). With the three-run home run becoming less frequent, teams are beginning to return to playing small ball, and stolen bases are again on the rise. Expect this trend to continue into 2008. Also expect less offensive production out of the catcher position, as teams respond to the increased emphasis on the running game by employing more defensive-minded backstops. (This may explain the New York Mets' off-season obsession with trading for light-hitting Brian Schneider.)

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