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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 intoJoe 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.

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  1. Don’t let em off the hook!

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Elijah, ha, agreed!

  2. Mark Reynolds says:
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    I totally agree, and average is the best example of this. People let average effect their views on players way too much and the reality is that the difference between a .268 hitter and a .282 hitter over 6500 at bats for 13 or 14 hitters in a starting lineup is nothing, and that’s to say nothing of the unpredictability of the category.

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Mark Reynolds, Exactly. If you call someone a .260 hitter, you’re saying they could hit .280 or they could hit .240. It’s why I don’t get all crazy about a guy like Alex Gordon for this year. Good player, but could give you 18/12 and .280. Nice line but with where he’s being drafted, that is going to hurt.

      PS, any chance you could hit .240 for me this year, Mark? Would be nice.

  3. Peter says:
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    I’m an owner that snatched him in the 5th round. I’m a believer in trends. If you look at his average throughout his major league career, you’ll notice that its a roller coaster ride.

    2006 – 282 avg (above 250)
    2007 – 245 avg (below 250)
    2008 – 260 avg (above 250)
    2009 – 243 avg (below 250)
    2010 – 287 avg (above 250)
    2011 – 233 avg (below 250)
    2012 – ???

    Based on this breakdown, I believe Uggla will hit north of 250. When taking into consideration that this guy has consistent raw power, bats in the heart of the lineup, drives in runs, and walks a lot – well then you have an elite second baseman.

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Peter, Whether he hits above or below .250 this year, I feel you’re going to get good value for that 5th round pick.

  4. Sideshow says:
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    16 team league & I am #14. Know who is available & narrowed my decsion down to Fielder or H. Rameriz. Who would u take? I think Rameriz is back but that is just a risky guess.

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Sideshow, I prefer Fielder

  5. 3FingersBrown says:
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    Oregon Nut Cups, nice article although Alex Gordon and youngish players of his ilk are a little harder to figure – especially when they’ve got that #1 pick pedigree. Point that you made well is that it takes time to figure out who a player really is. Case in point Colby Rasmus last year – who I drafted embarrassingly early.

    Another thing to consider – BA is the most varied of stats I believe (I read it in THT or Fangraphs so there!). So many factors to consider – aside from the hitter’s prowess. What did we learn from Bull Durham? “Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is?”

    Don’t buy too much into average. Instead it’s more important to look at contact %, BB%, K%, LD % and so forth. Those numbers seem to be relatively steady compared to year to year flucuations in BA.

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @3FingersBrown, 100% agree on all things said (and I drafted Colby last year along with you so don’t feel too bad). It’s why I ignore BA when I go to draft. Too much variance to hang your hat on; let someone else draft Melky Cabrera because he hit .300 last year.

      It’s true about the young guys. I was speaking more from track record and how no matter what it is, people flip flop from year to year on the same guy despite having a good history to work from.

      Oh and I will try and have Colby on my team this year; where he’s going, he’ll be either a throwaway or gold. Feel like 20/10 and .240 is the floor with room for upside. I’m writing 2011 off as a lost year.

  6. Joel says:
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    Just had my draft, love my team. Got balance at all positions, although my pitching staff is littered with high risk guys that I drafted in the 7th round or later (Strasburg, Johnson, Beachy, Sale)… Anchoring this staff is Zach Greinke, my binky.

    I just got offered Robinson Cano for Greinke, League and Mike Adams.

    I have Brandon Phillips.

    You do that trade and don’t look back, right?

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Joel, How do I fail at submitting in the right place? Oy…

      H2H or roto? 12 team? 5×5? What does your roster look like?

      In a vacuum: Love Cano but if Strasburg, Johnson & Beachy are your 2~4, I’d have a hard time pulling the trigger on that trade.

  7. Oregon Nut Cups

    Oregon Nut Cups says:
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    H2H or roto? 12 team? 5×5? What does your roster look like?

    In a vacuum: Love Cano but if Strasburg, Johnson & Beachy are your 2~4, I’d have a hard time pulling the trigger on that trade.

    • Joel says:
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      @Oregon Nut Cups, Ah, apologies.

      10-team roto, yahoo-style

      C Mauer
      1B Gonzalez
      2B Phillips
      3B Beltre
      SS Cozart
      OF Ellsbury
      OF Bruce
      OF B.J. Upton
      UTIL Butler
      UTIL Markakis

      SP Greinke
      SP Strasburg
      RP Marmol
      RP League
      P Johnson
      P Beachy
      P Nathan
      P Sale

      Bench – Jim Johnson, Tim Hudson, Mike Adams, Matt Thornton, Ryan Howard (pending DL)

      • Oregon Nut Cups

        Oregon Nut Cups says:
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        @Joel, With that pitching staff, I don’t think you can afford the risk of it as nice as it would be. With it being a 10 team, you’ll want to watch the waivers for a Markakis replacement (His numbers are in decline and he’s starting the year hurt.) and for that out of nowhere pitcher to start the year. Keep those upside pitchers flagged to watch how March goes and be ready to pounce. You’ll definitely be able to trade from strength with saves but you’ll wanna do it for starting arms; your team doesn’t need another bat at this point.

        Oh and don’t get me wrong, you got yourself a solid team. Just a few tweaks over time is all you’ll need.

  8. Pops says:
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    Ended up with Boss Man Junior Upton in a twelve team head to head points league. The positives: he’s playing in a contract year and is turning the magical age of 27. The negatives: his propensity to be a batting average drain and failure to live up to all of that potential. Thoughts on Upton this year?

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Pops, I’ll take 20/40 any day and every day; I don’t weigh average much into my evaluation of players. Even ignoring the possible positives, you have a good player. Enjoy!

  9. Wake Up says:
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    Balance…that’s my mantra

    • Oregon Nut Cups

      Oregon Nut Cups says:
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      @Wake Up, Namaste

  10. PrinceRudyNasim says:
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    Uggla was saying how this is the 1st time in his 12 yr career that he is seeing everything so well so early. On top of that dude put on 20lbs of mucsle and is saying how he was going to drop 10 of it my end of spring. This guy could end up batting .280 or on the DL. Exciting shit to hear thoug

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