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Every year when draft day rolls around, we try our best to craft balanced fantasy baseball lineups. We look for certain hitters to fill specific roles. When we choose someone like Michael Bourn or Juan Pierre, we expect them to steal bases. If they don't, they haven't done their job. When we select Jose Reyes or Martin Prado, we expect to get a high batting average in return. Any power numbers these guys put up is simply icing on the cake.
Now, when it comes to players we drafted for power, we're actually looking for production in not one, but three fantasy categories: home runs, runs scored and RBIs. If a guy is clearing the wall on a regular basis, yet not really helping you in the latter two of those categories, then he's not pulling his weight. Meanwhile, a player like Adrian Gonzalez may be causing you to pull your hair out when it comes to his home run total this season (only nine overall, and just three in July), but considering he is only two RBIs out of the overall top 20 with 58, then perhaps it's not as bad as you might think.
A few years back, I created a stat called "wasted power" in an attempt to identify which players are truly helping their fantasy owners across the board in all three power categories, as opposed to simply racking up "empty homers" over the wall.
Take for example Josh Reddick. He may be currently tied for 15th overall in home runs with 21, but 16 of those blasts have been of the solo variety. That's a big reason that he's tied for only 67th in RBIs. All that power doesn't seem to have paid the dividends you'd expect from someone with that many round-trippers. Compare Reddick to Carlos Gonzalez, who is tied for eighth in RBIs despite hitting just one fewer homer.
The warning signs were there, in the form of wasted power.
By taking the run production of each hitter and dividing that by the number of home runs they have hit, we're able to come up with a raw number that tells us exactly how much a player's production has been affected by both his inability to drive in runners without the benefit of clearing the fences, as well as by his teammates' ability to get on base ahead of him in the lineup so that he's not constantly settling for solo shots.
Looking at the top culprits in this list (minimum eight home runs) yields the following names:
The lower the number, the worse a player's production in the three power categories, and the more "wasted power." In addition to Josh Reddick, we see some other "frustrating" players, like batting average parasites Adam Dunn and Russell Martin.
Carlos Quentin's appearance on this list should be no surprise. After all, he plays for a San Diego tam that ranks last in the National League in batting average and next to last in the majors in terms of runs scored. He doesn't have a lot of opportunity to drive in runs or get driven in himself.
The Chicago Cubs are the worst scoring team in the majors, so while Bryan LaHair has done his part to help that offense get going, his fantasy value takes a big hit as a result. Nine of his 14 home runs have been trips around the bases he's made by himself.
However, the raw number tells only half the story. After all, Jose Bautista is also on this list. Once his wrist issues are gone, if he continues to hit home runs at a pace of one per 12.1 at-bats, even at a lower "payout," you're still going to get a lot more out of him in terms of power going forward than Todd Frazier, who has a 5.0 raw-WP, but who hits a home run only once every 21.4 at-bats.
We need to adjust our numbers to factor in the frequency of power by multiplying our raw wasted power by each individual's HR/AB ratio. When we do this, we get a more accurate picture of exactly where we should look for our power needs.
Let's take a look at a list of the best and worst players in terms of adjusted wasted power, among hitters with a minimum of eight home runs. First, the tops:
Not a lot of surprises, as Allen Craig's name has been known to fantasy owners for quite some time. Perhaps the presence of Cody Ross might be surprising, given he's owned in only 84.1 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Compare that to J.J. Hardy, who has only slightly less ownership (82.2 percent) but far more wasted power, as you'll find in our bottom 20:
Other disappointments include the recently demoted Justin Smoak, as well as double-digit sluggers like Logan Morrison and Chris Young. Perhaps it is time to swap out some of these "wastes" for players who are making their power count a little bit more across the board like Ryan Doumit, Neil Walker or Torii Hunter.
Remember, one statistic never tells the whole story, but when you go looking for power -- the actual number of home runs a player has hit might be the most misleading one of them all.
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks: More than half of his hits in July have gone for extra bases, and there have been plenty of them. Before Tuesday night's 0-for-5, Goldschmidt was hitting .311 since the June page of the calendar was torn away. He's also gone 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts, which makes him far more rounded a fantasy player than most first basemen. He's simply crushing left-handed pitching, with a .790 slugging percentage versus southpaws, and he'll certainly continue to see his fair share of them the rest of the way playing in the NL West.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Since the All-Star break, Utley has hit only .222, but his OPS is .800 and he's scored seven runs and driven in seven more in those 10 games, three of which went extra innings. That's important, because it speaks to Utley's endurance after his lengthy absence due to a chronic knee injury. He's also attempted three steals, and although he was successful only twice, considering he attempted just one steal in the last 38 games of last season, we're more than optimistic that Utley feels better than he has in a long time.
Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians: After a 22-game hitting streak that ended on June 15, some people were ready to sell high on the outfielder. Then came a 10-game hitting streak from July 2 to July 15, when he hit .474 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Another lull, and more selling high ensued. Now he's got another four-game streak underway. Isn't it time we simply buy into the newly anointed cleanup hitter?
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees: After getting hit by a Felix Hernandez pitch, the outlook is not good for A-Rod. He may well miss the remainder of the season, but even if he does return to action, it's not likely to be for long. That's why we've dropped the third baseman all the way down to 109 in our rankings, trying to remain optimistic that the timetable for his return is sooner rather than later. With Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez as the men charged with filling in for Rodriguez, the whole Yankees lineup might take a small step down, as well.
Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves: It's hard to imagine Uggla playing any worse than he has in his latest slump. He's in the midst of a 3-for-29 (.103) slide and all three of those hits came in the same game. That's eight oh-fers in his past nine appearances. And yet, when you look back even further, it does get worse. In his past 40 games, the batting average sits at .115 and his slugging percentage is an anemic .177. He already has 113 strikeouts and is on a pace to well surpass his career worst 171 K's of 2008, assuming he doesn't get benched first.
Howard Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels: Last year when I filled in for Tristan, Kendrick was in my three down, as well. At that time I wrote that in his past 41 games, "he has just one home run, 16 RBIs and 17 runs scored." Let's check the numbers for 2012, shall we? In his past 41 games, he has just one home run, 14 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Kendrick is who he is, and he'll never be anything more. Looking at his .250 batting average since the break, we're afraid he might be much less.
Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers: With the Miami Marlins clearly in "sell mode," it's not too surprising to see them send off Ramirez to the left coast. Ramirez will leave a lineup that was ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored for one ranked only 12th. Injuries are a key factor in both teams' struggles. In Miami, the extended periods of time without Emilio Bonifacio and Giancarlo Stanton certainly didn't help Han-Ram's run production. Now in Los Angeles, he gets to "replace" Dee Gordon at shortstop and play with a once again healthy Matt Kemp. After a brief adjustment period (which is why I lowered his rank slightly for this week) I think Ramirez will rebound, especially on a team with something to play for.
The following players have become eligible at new positions -- it's 10 games to qualify at a new spot -- in ESPN standard leagues during the past week: Jayson Nix (SS), Mike Fontenot (3B), Jeff Baker (OF), Brandon Hicks (SS), Maicer Izturis (SS).
The following players are on track to earn new eligibility in the coming weeks: Miguel Cairo (8 games played at 1B), Michael Young (8 games played at 2B), Willie Bloomquist (8 games played at 3B), Wilson Valdez (9 games played at 3B), Robert Andino (8 games played at 3B), Scott Moore (8 games played at 1B and 3B), Alberto Gonzalez (8 games played at 3B), Mark Trumbo (8 games played at 3B), Justin Turner (8 games played at SS), Jason Donald (8 games played at SS), Tyler Greene (9 games played at SS), Pedro Ciriaco (9 games played at 2B), Steve Clevenger (9 games played at 1B), Eduardo Nunez (8 games played at 3B), Alexi Amarista (8 games played at SS), Danny Espinosa (9 games played at SS), Josh Harrison (8 games played at 2B) and Donovan Solano (9 games played at OF).