First off, you can thank Keanu Reeves for the idea of this post. I somehow watched the entirety of Little Buddha a long time ago and one line truly comes back to me from that movie over and over again when I begin ranking players for myself or trying to find value in drafts or in trade targets: The path is in the middle way. The line can be seen at about the 3:00 mark here in all it’s hairy, emaciated Keanu glory. It’s a reminder that baseball, much like life, takes a long time to play out. A player isn’t proven bad or good by a week, a month, or even a year of play. Underlying skill sets can be reached or breached to the over or under but it still does not change the underlying player themselves. Now snatch these pebbles from my hand, young grasshopper and we’ll begin the article…no I said from my hand, grasshopper. Unless of course I’ve somehow stumbled into the doctor’s office and need to turn my head and cough. If so, my insurance better cover this. Cue abrupt and awkward segue!
To delve into this philosophy, let’s look at a career .258 hitter in Dan Uggla. Despite hitting 31 HRs in 2009, he only hit .243 which had a drastic effect on his 2010 draft position. Uggla was actually going outside of the top 100 on ESPN’s player rater and ranking 12th among second baseman behind such 2B studs as Asdrubal Cabrera (before he’d ever hit more than 10 HRs in a season) and Aaron Hill (who has pretty much done nothing since his 2009 explosion). Uggla went on to post a career high in average at .287 to go with 33 HRs and 105 RBIs in 2010. You can guess what that did to his rankings. He was going in the 3rd round and was being ranked higher than Ian Kinsler. Uggla went on to have the lowest BA of his career in 2011. <sidebar> It was extremely hard to dig up that old info and I usually had to pull it from other websites referencing their rankings. It’s like ESPN doesn’t want you to know how badly they rank guys season to season. Meanwhile, Grey’s rankings are out there for the world to see from year to year. Funny that. <sidebar/end>
The whole point of that blast from fantasy baseball years past was to point out Uggla is who he is and has always been, regardless of what the numbers tell you. Guess what his average has been since the start of 2009? No, it hasn’t been .258, that just would’ve been so creepily perfect to the point that it was a lie. It’s been about .254, in line with his career average. He’s going in the 5th round or close to Brandon Phillips at this point. It still leaves him underrated for 2012 in my book, but is a lot more reasonable than taking him ahead of Kinsler or outside the top 100. If people had chosen the path of the middle way, there wouldn’t be a slice of unbridled enthusiasm for a good average to go between two pieces of pandemonium over a bad average and I wouldn’t be serving you this extremely messy allegory sandwich (with a hint of Wyld Stallyns). Holding this in mind stops you from buying into ‘Joe Mauer in the first round’ hype in 2010 or sleeping on Matt Kemp in 2011. Aiming for the middle way makes it easier to know a true value play when you see it, whether it’s via trade or in the draft and keeps you from going all Dennis Green on yourself. Most times, a player is who you thought they were. Draft and trade accordingly. Or crown your ass. Your choice.