ASK ROTOMAN: Mr. Consistent Choo vs. Wildman Gomez?

Dear Rotoman:

Which of these 2 outfielders would you rather have for 2014?

  Average HR SB Runs RBIs
Player A .284 19 20 97 60
Player B .277 21 38 76 67

Player A is Shin-Soo Choo.  Player B is Carlos Gomez.  These statistics are their averages over the past 2 seasons. Gomez has the advantage, perhaps, but if you extend the timeline to four years Choo is clearly superior.

Shouldn’t we value consistency more?

Dear Fantasy Assembly:

As you can see from the above signature, I cheated. You, Fantasy Assembly, didn’t write asking my advice. I happened upon your site today and was interested in your story about consistent players. Hat tip to Ray Flowers, too.

Not because you (and he) are necessarily wrong, but because I think if you frame the question differently (as they slyly do, in fact) you’ll see that you clearly don’t want consistent players.

Here’s why.

Let’s say everybody in your league knew the right price of every player. And let’s say that they price enforced so that every player was bid up to the exact right price. If every owner knew exactly what the player was actually going to, say you were drafting last year’s stats, then every team would pay $260 for $260 talent. You’re looking at a 12-way tie!

Of course, players aren’t predictable. They have good years, bad years, better and worse years. Sometimes it’s luck, good or bad, sometimes it’s injury or distraction. But in our experience some players are more consistent than others.

One guy may earn $24-$26-$27 over a three year period. An average of $26.

Another might earn $38-$15-$24, also an average of $26. Now, if the down year was due to injury, it would be tempting to say this guy is a $26 player, too. Or close.

On draft day, both players are taken for $25. A $1 bargain, their owners think, but what is likely to happen?

Mr. Consistency might lose a couple of dollars or earn a couple of dollars. Not bad, but fairly low impact.

On the other hand, the wildman could earn $15 or he could earn $37 or he could earn $27, depending on which year you land him. That obviously hurts if you catch the bad year, but championships are won with clusters of good years. A midseason look at how the Tout Wars teams who had last year’s biggest breakouts were doing showed that one big win was not enough to drive a team to the top.

So maybe spending par to buy consistent players to shore up your stats isn’t the right way to go. Maybe taking riskier guys, with a bigger swing of potential outcomes, gives you a better chance of winning. Sure, in years where it all goes wrong, you’ll get killed. But in the years when things go right, you’ll have a dominating team.

Now, Fantasy Assembly kind of nods to this way of thinking, when it suggests you buy some consistent players and then make your upside plays in addition. Which may be enough, but I’m just not sure. The logic suggests that if you get fair prices on the erratic guys, they’ll give you a better chance of winning than the consistent guys, who give you a better chance at fourth place.

Of course, one great challenge is figuring out who is truly inconsistent, but with potential (not on his way down).

Tilting wildly,