Making your own fantasy baseball projections is a lot easier than you might think. And I’m not talking about eyeballing players and saying, “I think he’ll hit about .280 and have 27 HR.”
You can create in-depth-advanced-statistic-driven fantasy projections for any player (is that too many adjectives strung together with dashes?). I’m talking, “Mike Trout will have 700 plate appearances, a 15% walk rate, 18% strikeout rate, a BABIP of .360, a 43%/21%/36% groundball/linedrive/flyball batted ball profile, and an 18% HR/FB rate, and that will lead to him hitting .324, 116 R, 91 RBI, 30 HR, and 37 SB.”
A little better than eyeballing projections, no? And I repeat, YOU CAN DO THIS YOURSELF. EASILY. All you need is some time, Microsoft Excel, and about $15.
Here’s How I Did IT
“There has to be a better way”, I thought to myself. I am not going to gain a competitive advantage over others in my league just by using the free cheat sheets and sleeper lists, widely available to everyone, from ESPN’s fantasy baseball homepage.
Rather than simply relying on someone else’s rankings (that couldn’t possibly take into account my league rules, tendencies, and keeper situations), I had to formulate my own rankings. Then I took the plunge and started using the free projections offered at sites like CBS, Fangraphs, and ESPN. I would then feed these projections into my own ranking system.
This gave me a little sense that I was developing an edge over my competition. I had figured out the statistics necessary to win the league. I had obtained projections of players and ranked them based upon that information. Now I could use this information to compose a team to accumulate the statistics needed to win.
But in the end I was still using a resource freely available to anyone else. And what if I disagreed with the projection system? What if Player X is projected for a full 600 plate appearances and I think he’ll only reach 400? Or what if I think Player Y was a fluke last year but the projection system gives him a favorable outlook?
Simply relying upon someone else’s projections is not the SFBB way. It was time to get my hands dirty.
Then The Realization Hit Me
If I wanted to truly get an edge, to deeply familiarize myself with the player pool, and to strengthen my understanding of baseball statistics, I had to create my own projections.
The task was daunting. I didn’t know where to begin. There is a lot of free fantasy advice available on the interwebs, but not much guidance about creating baseball projections. Any explanation I found was old, overly complicated, and intimidating.
And then I came across “Projecting X”, by Mike Podhorzer (click here if you’re interesting in purchasing the book).
I’m a huge believer in the book. I’ve used it to create my own projections, and I highly recommend it.
What I LikeD About The Book
- It’s concise and to the point. After reading the 35 pages of content, you’ll quickly be on your way to creating your own projections. We’re not talking about nights and nights of reading before you’re up and running.
- It’s actionable. In addition to information about how to develop the projections, Podhorzer gives you step-by-step instructions on how to create your own Microsoft Excel projection spreadsheet (the book does require Microsoft Excel).
- The instructions are very clear. Things like the exact cell to type a formula in and the specific formula to enter in each cell. Here’s an example, with a real screenshot from the book:
- The projections are driven by sabermetric statistics like BB%, K%, BABIP, GB%, FB%, and HR/FB%. Each statistic contains a short write up in the book about how predictable it is, how aging effects players, and links to other online resources to help further your understanding.
- Each projection is dynamically linked to playing time. I know what you’re thinking, “Dynamically linked??? Stop talking like a techie geek and speak English”. Alright, alright. I thought it might be helpful to demonstrate the power of dynamically linking your projections in a video, or you can keep reading. At a high level, each player’s projection is driven by two things – a playing time component (plate appearances or IP) and the skills components talked about in the last bullet. This is extremely helpful. Let’s say a player is injured during spring training and you expect him to be out 3 months. You can instantly cut the expected plate appearances in half and you’ll have fully updated projections in an instant. Find out a rookie makes the team out of spring training? No problem. Learn that a player is mired in a platoon? No problem. A few key strokes and everything is easily up-to-date.
- This is a great learning exercise. I learned A LOT by doing this. We learn by doing, isn’t that what everyone says? Getting your hands dirty looking at walk rates, strikeout rates, batted ball profiles, and home run rates, you learn a lot. You really start to see how all of these statistics mesh together to create the stat line for a player. When you enter a player’s estimated fly ball percentage and see it lead directly to a home run projection, it’s very enlightening.
- This understanding of how to create a projection doesn’t just come into play in the preseason. This will also be invaluable to you during the season. If a player is experiencing a power surge, you’ll be able to diagnose why. Is it because they’re hitting more fly balls? Is it because they’re getting lucky? What effect does aging play into thing? Going through this exercise will equip you with the skills you’ll need to make these player evaluations during the season.
What I Didn’t Like
So there is a lot to like. But I’m here to be honest with you. While this is the best instruction guide I’ve found, and I’ve gotten much more than $9.99 of value from my purchase, there are a couple of things you should know:
- The process is time consuming. The method outlined is to project an individual player at a time. Projecting X lays out the spreadsheet and formulas you need, but then it’s up to you to locate data for each player and use your judgment to create each projection. Once I developed an efficient system for these things (which I’ll share with you, keep reading!), I could project a player in about 2-4 minutes. That doesn’t sound like much, but do the math. If you are going to project 9 hitters and 5 pitchers for each MLB team, that’s 14 players. Multiplied by 30 teams is 420 players. Multiplied by 3 minutes per players is 1,260 minutes, or 21 hours. So it’s a project. A fun project. But it takes time. You could very easily focus your projections at the top of the fantasy rankings, work your way toward the bottom, and maybe pick and choose some interesting sleepers for the upcoming season. That might let you cut the time in half and still give you really valuable data to work with.
- There’s not a great method to project runs and RBI. This isn’t Podhorzer’s fault, he outlines great strategies for projecting individual skills. But R and RBI are very dependent upon team factors like the skill of other players in the lineup and where a player hits in that lineup. The approach for projecting R and RBI in the book is more subjective than the other components of the projections. It left me a little uneasy, because honestly, I don’t know if I trust myself to do an accurate job of using judgment to forecast these statistics. So I did tweak the suggested approach (again, I’ll share it with you, keep reading!).
Does It Work?
I’ve just completed my 2014 projections and this is the first time I’ve used the Projecting X methods. When I compare my own projections to other notable systems like Steamer and Oliver, they come out very much in line with these other systems.
I’m guessing Podhorzer uses his own methods when projecting statistics, and he performed favorably in Tom Tango’s “2011 Forcaster’s Challenge”.
It works. It’s the most detailed and well-documented approach I can find. I am very happy with the results.
The book is also available for sale on Amazon.com, so you don’t just have to take my word for it. A handful of readers have taken the time to rate the book. You can read the reviews here.
The System I Used
As I alluded to above, I think it’s important you develop an efficient system of moving through the player pool and developing projections for each player. Projecting X does a great job of outlining how to develop the projections, but it’s up to you to develop an efficient system.
Here’s what I mean. For each player, you need to look at some advanced metrics for the last three seasons. While these are very easy to locate at a site like Fangraphs, the simple acts of visiting Fangraphs and searching for a player might add 30 seconds for each player. And if you’re creating projections for 400+ players like I was, that adds another 3 1/2 hours to the process. Further, for some other statistics you need to calculate simple averages of the last three seasons that are not readily available on the Fangraphs pages. This could add another minute or more!
So, as you might expect, I took it upon myself to use Excel to speed this process up. I used the principles from this post and set up each player name so it is a clickable link that will go directly to the desired page on Fangraphs.
I also created a template that automatically calculates the averages of specific stats. All you need to do is copy a little data from Fangraphs and paste it into the template.
Finally, I also built the “Create Your Own Rankings” system around the projections, so that as soon as a projection is entered for someone, a ranking is immediately calculated. No separate ranking process necessary.
How I Projected Runs and RBI
I really want all my projection calculations to be playing time based so that I can type in one number for plate appearances and instantly have every number change accordingly. And as I mentioned before, I don’t know if I have the skill and objectivity necessary to accurately project R and RBI for players, so I needed another approach.
I turned to the one other projection system I know of that makes its instructions publicly available, Tom Tango’s Marcel system. I added calculations to my Excel template, so that when the Fangraphs data is pasted into the file, the R and RBI calculations kick out in a per plate appearance format. The benefit of this approach is that it calculates automatically and it’s completely objective.
The weakness is that it fails to account for changes in a player’s surroundings. If Player X used to bat 9th but has moved up to 6th, it won’t be reflected here. If he used to play on a weak NL West offense but has moved to Yankee Stadium, it won’t be reflected here. For scenarios like these, it may make more sense to use the Projecting X approach.
I SHARED MY EXCEL TEMPLATE AND APPROACH WITH MIKE PODHORZER HIMSELF
And he actually tested it out. Here’s what he had to say:
“I have been projecting players manually for over 10 years and it’s a massively time-consuming process. So I am always looking for ways to make the process more efficient and reduce the time it takes to project each individual player. Tanner’s Excel template is like a gift from the Fantasy Gods! His Excel skills are obvious and make me look like an amateur using the program. It truly takes the methods I shared in Projecting X to the next level and makes it easier than ever to become a master baseball forecaster.” ~ Mike Podhorzer
He liked it so much he has agreed to bundle Projecting X with the Excel template I developed and my own e-book documenting my approach, tips, and how to use the Excel template.
What’s The Benefit Of The Bundle?
Time. The bundle will save you hours and hours of time. The Excel template performs calculations for you. It links directly to each player’s Fangraphs page. It instantly gives a ranking for each player immediately after you’ve entered their projection.
Not to mention this is a projection model you can use every season for the rest of your fantasy baseball career. You’ll save time every season, giving you more time to focus on fine tuning your projections, rankings, and other draft preparation.
Here’s What Comes In The Bundle
You can see a video breakdown of the bundle here. The specific materials and features included are:
- Projecting X, by Mike Podhorzer
- The Excel file template which comes with:
- Over 800 pre-loaded player names updated for the 2014 season and all off-season moves through December 24th, 2013
- Clickable links that go directly to the necessary Fangraphs pages to make your projection process as efficient as possible
- A template to calculate averages necessary for Projecting X
- A calculation of R and RBI
- Tabs that automatically calculate player rankings as projections are input
- A detailed instruction manual to walk you through the process and how to use the Excel file
Thanks for reading. Stay smart.