Rotisserie by the Numbers: Mark Reynolds, Joe Saunders Deserve More Credit

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent IMay 4, 2009

Why do we always focus on the negative in fantasy baseball?

A guy wouldn’t turn down a date with Anna Kournikova just because she had an underwhelming tennis career—and you would never pass on an Emeril-made meal just because of the way he says "Bam!"

So why are good players often ignored in March drafts and auctions just because they have one flaw? That is a mistake commonly made by fantasy baseball owners. They overlook all the categories in which a player performs well and focus on the one category with below average stats.

I could not believe how two players lasted so long during my three drafts this year. It was like every owner blackballed them because they had all read the same magazine or website blasting the guys as not worthy because their one bad category outweighed their several good categories.

Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks

Yes, he swings and misses like he is the next Rob Deer (204 strikeouts in 2008). And yes, his batting average last year was closer to the Mendoza Line than the .300 line (.237). But is that batting average low enough that it could cost a fantasy team so much that Reynolds’ other numbers should be flushed down the toilet? Heck no.

Reynolds had 28 home runs, 97 RBI, 87 runs, and 11 stolen bases last season—good numbers across the board except for batting average. And he is only 25 years old, so you have to figure that he will improve. Maybe he learns to cut down on his swing and make more contact this season, which would lead to a higher batting average and more runs and RBI.

Well, no one factored any of this into Reynolds’ overall picture when my March drafts rolled around.

Reynolds went in the 20th round in one draft, behind such early-season stalwarts as Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, and Joel Hanrahan. A young slugger on the cusp of turning in a 30 HR, 100 RBI, 15 SB season being available after 195 players were selected? It is crazier than a Lou Piniella tirade.

Reynolds was not taken until the 15th and 18th rounds in my other two drafts. I blame myself for allowing this to happen, as I had stocked up at third early in these drafts and had no room at my fantasy inns for Reynolds.

The point is, while his below average batting average should have been factored into any draft decision, it should not have overshadowed his other above average accomplishments.

Did you pass on Manny Ramirez because he does not steal bases? Did you forget about Carl Crawford because he does not hit homers?

Reynolds is missing pitches less (26 Ks in 23 games) and hitting safely more (.267 average) while keeping up the power numbers (six homers and 13 RBI). There is no reason to think he cannot become one of the top six to 10 third basemen in fantasy baseball, and there is no reason why he should have been ignored by so many people in so many drafts.

Joe Saunders, Angels

His fastball is Jamie Moyer-like, and that makes Saunders useless to fantasy owners in the strikeout department (nine in 31.2 innings this year, 103 in 198 innings last year), but does that mean that his 17 victories in 2008 and his 3-1 record with a 3.41 ERA now should be discounted?

Somehow, Saunders gets batters out with his tricky array of slow curves and slower changeups. Why knock him for it? Enjoy the wins, low ERA, and WHIP that he gives you and get your whiffs out of your other starters and relievers.

Look at this interesting list of starting pitchers that were drafted before Saunders in one league: Oliver "The Plate is Over There!" Perez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Fausto Carmona, and Ian Snell.

They have three things in common—they all throw a lot harder than Saunders, they all had worse seasons than he did in 2008, and they all have gotten off to worse starts than he has in 2009. Yet Saunders lasted until the 20th and 22nd rounds in two respective leagues. The 17 wins must not have mattered. The microscopic strikeout totals evened that out.

The truth is fantasy owners think that Saunders got lucky last year. He does not miss many bats with his pitches, and fantasy people think that, eventually, he will allow more hits and runs because more of his pitches get put into play.

They are also under the misconception that Torii Hunter and the Angels’ stellar defense save Saunders’ bacon every game with spectacular catches. If you watched his outings, then you would know that more of his pitches get grounded weakly or popped up meekly than hit hard.

The numbers do not lie. Reynolds had 28 home runs and 97 RBI because he is a bona fide slugger. Saunders won 17 games and posted a 3.41 ERA in the hitter-happy American League because he is a frontline starter. They may not go about getting their numbers in the way that you want, but you can still count on them.

Let these two be lessons on why you should not be biased against one-category killers.


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