Perhaps no fact exemplifies the week-to-week volatility of baseball statistics than this: Only nine players earned their place in your lineup in both Rotisserie and points-based leagues in each of the first five weeks of the 2013 season.
That's not to toss cold water on these hot starters' efforts; they all rank among the top 10 performers for the 2013 season to date in both Rotisserie formats (as seen on our Player Rater) and points-based leagues. But when it comes to week-to-week consistency, each has exhibited a flaw, however small.
For Upton, it was his 3-for-20, zero-homer Week 5, which placed him outside the top 130 hitters on our Player Rater. Davis, meanwhile, was 4-for-18 without a home run in Week 5, also finishing outside that range. Both hitters' poor performances the past week classified them as "Stiffs" by the criteria used in this column. As for Darvish, he barely eked out a quality start against the Los Angeles Angels in his lone Week 2 start. He wouldn't have ruined you had you started him, but there were at least 90 better pitchers you could've used.
These measures -- or the phrase "Stiffs" -- might sound familiar to those who follow our Consistency Ratings, a longtime fantasy football feature that was introduced for fantasy baseball for the first time in our 2013 Draft Kit. Beginning today, and continuing on the first Monday of every month (save for Labor Day in September), we'll calculate the current season's Consistency Ratings to date to give you a sense of which players have been the most or least consistent from week to week.
Here's how the Consistency Ratings formula works: Using weekly statistics -- a "week" for these purposes equals one scoring period in ESPN's standard game, meaning "Week 1" ran from Sunday, March 31, through Sunday, April 7, despite that being an eight-day span -- we've graded players in Rotisserie leagues based upon how they scored that week on our Player Rater, or in points-based leagues based on the point total they accrued. For the latter, we used our standard-league points scoring system. For hitters, that's one point apiece per total base (1 for single, 2 for double, 3 for triple, 4 for home run), run scored, RBI, walk or stolen base, and minus-1 per caught stealing. For pitchers, that's one point per out recorded (or 3 per inning pitched) or strikeout, five points per win or save, minus-5 per loss, minus-2 per earned run and minus-1 per hit or walk allowed.
Now, here's how the grading system works:
A "Start": A player earns one of these in a given week by ranking on our Player Rater or scoring a point total that would've made the maximum cutoff for active roster spots at his position in a standard ESPN league. This means that he would've been one of the 10 best catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen or shortstops (one starter apiece at each times 10 teams), the 30 best corner or middle infielders (three starters apiece at each times 10 teams), the 130 best hitters overall (13 active hitters times 10 teams, meaning, at worst, he'd have filled your utility spot) or the 90 best pitchers (nine active pitchers times 10 teams).
A "Stud": This works similarly to a "Start," except that the standards are greater. The player had to be one of the top three catchers, top 10 corner or middle infielders, top 20 outfielders, top 25 hitters overall or top 30 pitchers.
A "Stiff": A player is graded this if his Player Rater ranking or point total for the week not only missed the "Start" cutoff, but missed it by such a wide margin that he'd have severely damaged your team's performance. We double the "Start" cutoffs to score this: This means the player finished outside the top 20 catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen or shortstops, the top 60 corner or middle infielders, the top 260 hitters overall or the top 180 pitchers.
These categories are tabulated, then converted into a "Consistency Rating" formula, which represents the percentage of the season's weeks in which the player was worth the "Start." This docks a player for missed time -- these missed weeks are tallied in a category called "Sat" -- and to answer the inevitable follow-up question as to why we dock for missed time: If the player is of no service to you during his missed time, why should he be credited with anything positive for it?
You can see the full 2013 Consistency Ratings in the chart at column's end. Before we get to that, however, let's tackle some of the more curious findings:
Catchers stink. No position -- except perhaps first base -- can be judged "rich" in terms of volume of consistent weekly performers, but when looking at the catcher position, the spot's inconsistency stands out. No catcher has earned his starting status in each of the season's five weeks, and every meaningful backstop has been a Stiff -- that's outside the top 20 at his position -- in both Rotisserie and points-based leagues in at least one of those five weeks.
Perhaps that makes sense if you consider the top-ranked catcher on our Player Rater, John Buck, places 35th; every other position has a player rated higher (relief pitcher Sergio Romo is the next-lowest, at No. 27). In points-based scoring, meanwhile, only Buck (47th, with 108 points) and Mike Napoli (22nd, with 124) rank among the top 50 players overall.
Now, it's worth pointing out that only eight catchers managed a Consistency Rating of 60 percent or greater in 2012, with Buster Posey (79.2 percent) and Joe Mauer (also 79.2) the only ones to top 70 percent. (Those are points-based ratings; Rotisserie Consistency Ratings are unavailable for 2012.) Couple that with the fact that players like Napoli and Buck currently pace the position, and volatility is clearly the name of the game behind the plate. Fantasy owners have generally been impatient with slow-starting catchers like Miguel Montero, Salvador Perez and Jonathan Lucroy. Keep in mind, however, that swapping out your catcher doesn't guarantee you any greater weekly reliability. Frankly, you might find yourself struggling through the same inconsistency, except with a catcher with less of a track record.
What is it about Pittsburgh Pirates closers? Heck, what is it about the Pirates as a team in the season's early weeks? Thus far, the team is on pace for a 51-42 first half, which if it holds up would give it a third consecutive season with a winning record at the All-Star break.
Closer Jason Grilli, like Joel Hanrahan before him, is a major benefactor; he is tied for the major league lead in saves and has actually ranked among the top 30 pitchers on our Player Rater in four of the five weeks to date. Remember, Hanrahan managed 49 saves, a 1.82 ERA and 1.01 WHIP combined before the All-Star break in 2011 and 2012. At the same time, let's not ignore that Hanrahan saved only 27 games with a 2.83 ERA and 1.35 WHIP after the break in those two years.
So is Grilli's success a matter of his own skills improvements, the Pirates' hot start leading to a greater number of save chances, or both? You have to ask yourself, what was behind Hanrahan's success? Then ask yourself, were the Pirates' late-season struggles in 2011 and 2012 more a product of Hanrahan's issues, or might Hanrahan's so-so numbers have been the result of the team's decline? They're all difficult to answer, but Grilli -- and his team -- thus far is following a similar pattern.
Rocky Mountain high? Not necessarily. Fantasy owners are familiar with the boost in offensive numbers that Colorado's Coors Field presents; one might assume that Colorado Rockies hitters might be more inconsistent than most, simply because they'd be less apt to have good weeks when they played entirely on the road. That hasn't been the case so far in 2013, as six Rockies hitters have a Consistency Rating of 80 percent or greater through five weeks. In addition, Rockies hitters are responsible for 15 "Stud" weeks, an average of three per week.
Breaking down the weekly schedules, consider that the Rockies spent exactly one week apiece entirely at Coors (Week 3) and entirely on the road (Week 2). In Week 2, two Rockies rated "Studs" in Rotisserie formats (Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler), while seven were "Starts" (Gonzalez and Fowler, as well as Wilin Rosario, Josh Rutledge, Todd Helton, Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki). In Week 3, to compare, three Rockies rated "Studs" (Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Rutledge), but only five rated as "Starts" (those three plus Cuddyer and Eric Young Jr.).
Using team hitting splits, the Rockies have averaged 5.73 runs per game with .295/.354/.493 triple-slash rates in 17 games at Coors thus far. On the road, meanwhile, they have averaged 4.88 runs per game with .276/.350/.451 rates. Granted, that's a noticeable difference, but those road numbers are hardly poor, rating them among the 10 best road teams in baseball. It looks as though this team is a lot more trustworthy on the road this year than anyone anticipated.
Consistency Ratings: 2013 Weeks 1-5
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating in Rotisserie leagues (Roto%), calculated as the percentage of the season's five weeks -- not weeks the player played, but total weeks on the MLB schedule -- in which his Player Rater standing registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have a Consistency Rating of 50 percent or greater in either Rotisserie or points-based formats in order to be included on the chart.