As the season begins to wind down it'll soon become time to look ahead to 2023. However, we first need to look back and reflect on 2022.
We'll start with analyzing the advance rates for Underdog Fantasy's MLB Best Ball contest "The Dinger." Essentially, the data below shows the percentage of teams who advanced to the playoffs (that began on August 22nd) compared to the number of times they were drafted (a total of 376 teams).
The table shows the top 20 advance rates for 2022, followed by some expanded thoughts on interesting names and the data as a whole.
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This one's obvious. Judge has been the story of the 2022 MLB season. He enters Wednesday hitting .310/.414/.692 with 57 homers, 116 runs scored, and 123 RBI. He has a shot at setting the single-season homer record for a Yankee in addition to possibly winning the triple crown.
The production adds up to a 206 wRC+, which is one of the top 25 offensive seasons in baseball history. The only players to ever finish a full year with a higher mark are Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, and Lou Gehrig.
Basically, if you drafted Judge in any fantasy league, best ball or season-long, you're probably doing pretty damn well.
The same can be said for the National League MVP favorite. Goldschmidt followed up last year's bounce back with an even bigger campaign. In doing so, he possibly booked himself a ticket to Cooperstown.
Goldy's year isn't garnering the same attention as Judge's. But if we look at the same single-season wRC+ leaderboard that shows Judge having a top-25 season, well, Goldschmidt is having a top-100 one, which is pretty insane to think about.
He's doing it through a simple change in approach:
Career fly ball%: 36.1%
2022 fly ball%: 42.1%
Career pull fly ball%: 22.5%
2022 pull fly ball%: 27.8%
Essentially, he's tapping into his power by hitting more fly balls than ever before. Additionally, he's also pulling more fly balls than ever before. Especially with the deadened 2022 baseball, pulling fly balls is the best bet for hitters to maximize power output.
We'll now shift to some macro-level analysis.
Those who were following along this past offseason likely ended up with Shane O'Mac in at least 1 fantasy league. He was one of my 3 breakout pitchers to target, and leading up to Opening day he was my must-have player in drafts.
I'm lumping McClanahan, Bassitt and Valdez together since they're the only 3 pitchers who had a top-20 advance rate. This is going to be a future article so I won't expand too much just yet, but what do you notice that they have in common?
For me, it's two things. First, they were drafted late. What this top-20 list doesn't have is any SPs who were selected early. Interestingly, there are hitters who were take early including Machado, Betts, J-Ram, etc.
Secondly, these 3 all pitch deep enough into games to accrue innings, wins, and quality starts. Through August 21st, which is when teams in "the Dinger" advanced to Round 2, these 3 arms were inside the top-20 in both innings and wins. As of today they're also inside the top-20 in quality starts.
Underdog's scoring system means we need our arms to A) not have workload limits and B) pitch deep into games.
In managed leagues we can more easily draft young, upside starters since we can bench them if they're having a start skipped. We can also drop them if they don't work out. For Underdog best ball, reliability is key.
The idea of punting early-round SPs in MLB best ball drafts will be further explored this offseason.
In addition to late-round starting pitchers, the other big picture topic I want to address from these advance rates is playing time. Underdog's scoring system for hitters is somewhat of a volume game. Obviously, hitters need to produce with the volume they receive, but plate appearances should absolutely be a factor in drafts. It differs from traditional 5x5 roto where batting average and stolen bases are king.
Here is the top 25 leaders in plate appearances through August 21st when the advance rates closed (apologies for my highlighter skills):
Again, this leaderboard is only sorted by plate appearances, not production. The other top hitters who helped best ballers advance were names such as Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, and Mookie Betts. Those guys are studs and were always going to be taken early.
The takeaway, then, is that when filling out our roster with middle and late round bats, we want to focus on playing time. This comes in the form of leadoff hitters (Nimmo) and hitters in a good lineup (Riley, Swanson).
Just like with the pitcher takeaways, I'll have more thoughts on this throughout the offseason.