What Does a Great Season Look Like for a Fantasy Baseball Player?

When you protect a player in the fantasy baseball Keeper Draft you make a major investment. How do you know if you get a return on that investment?

For the past six years, the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League has used Baseball Monster to place a value on each player’s season-long performance. Player values are based on the standard score statistic, where a value of 0.0 is average. Anything positive is better than average, negative worse. As a general guideline, a value of 2.0 and above is very good, -2.0 and below, really bad. For a more detailed description of standard scores click here.

Today, we’re going to look at the top scores posted by players over the past six years. After all, this is the standard for your top picks.

Clayton Kershaw Has Set the Z-Score Standard

For the past six seasons, Kershaw has been the best player in our fantasy baseball league. He’s posted the top score in three seasons. Last year, Kershaw posted a score of 2.47, the best in league history. Here’s how that Z-score translates to baseball statistics.

Clayton Kershaw 2015
232.2 Innings Pitched, 27 Quality Starts, 11.64 K/9, 2.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP

That’s the best by a long shot. The second best season in league history was turned in by Jake Arrieta last year. Arrieta scored 2.198 with this stat line.

Jake Arrieta 2015
229 Innings Pitched, 29 Quality Starts, 9.28 K/9, 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP

Jake  Arrieta

Jake Arrieta

By using the Z-score method, we can compare Arrieta’s season to Kershaw’s to see which was more valuable. While the two seasons were nearly identical, Kershaw’s strikeout rate per nine innings was significantly better and it’s reflected in the final score.

Kershaw has three of the top four Z-scores in league history and he’s the only player to finish in the Top 30 five times. Starting pitchers have seven of the top 10 Z-scores and have shown they are a solid investment early in the draft.

Corner Infielders and Outfielders Dominate at the Plate

The top 20 hitter Z-scores have been posted by corner infielders and outfielders. The top performance by a hitter was turned in by Albert Pujols in 2010. He finished with the sixth best Z-score in league history, 1.790. That translates to these baseball stats:

Albert Pujols 2010
.414 OBP, 115 Runs, 42 Home Runs, 118 RBI, 14 SB, 76 Ks

Pujols and Mike Trout are the only two hitters to finish with the league’s top Z-score in a season. Trout accomplished it in 2012 with a 1.625 Z-score on the following stats.

Mike Trout 2012
.399 OBP, 129 Runs, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 139 Ks

The best performance by a middle infielder was the 1.214 Z-score by second baseman Ian Kinsler in 2011. It’s just the 50th highest Z-score in league history. A middle infielder has finished in the Top 30 just 19 times. That doesn’t mean middle infielders aren’t worth a keeper pick, they simply aren’t as likely to produce elite seasons like starting pitchers and corner infielders.

Finding Relief on the Mound

The best performance by a reliever was the 1.264 Z-score by Koji Uehara in 2013. He was the seventh-rated player that season. In the league’s six seasons, relievers have finished ranked in the Top 30 24 times. You are slightly more likely to receive an elite season from a reliever than you are a middle infielder. Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman have been the most consistent relievers, finishing in the Top 30 three times.

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