MASTER NOTES: On the other hand...

Like many of you, I listen to and read a lot of fantasy baseball commentary. In my case, it’s either that or read essays on artificial intelligence and hi-definition TV written by my students.

Lately I’ve been noticing a goodly amount of advice being handed down, to the effect that if an impatient Giancarlo Stanton owner is offering to deal, we should all be pouncing.

This seems to be fairly obvious advice, like if you see a $100 bill lying on the ground, pick it up, hold it discreetly near your hip, whisper, “Uh, anyone lose a c-note?” And then go to the nearest bar.

Of course, if your league’s Stanton owner e-mails you, offering Stanton for Danny Valencia and a peanut butter sandwich to be named later, you should pounce.

But on the other hand...

Typically, any offer arriving over your electronic transom will be more like you get Stanton, but you give Corey Kluber, or you give Mookie Betts, or something like that. And that is by no means such a sure thing.

The Stanton advice is based on a premise, something stated explicitly, sometimes implied: That the slow-starting slugger (.197/.293/.409, 3 HR in 75 PA) will get back to his 2017 MVP form, whacking 50+ HR, scoring and driving in 120+ runs and hitting .280. And he might. Wouldn't be the first time.

Make the deal!

But on the other hand...

It sometimes helps to calibrate player expectations by looking at what a player has done over various spans of games. For instance, coming into 2018, Stanton had played in 986 big-league games, and in that time had amassed:

  • 969 18-game spans
  • 947 40-game spans
  • 912 75-game spans
  • And 827 160-game spans.

Since the 160-game span corresponds pretty neatly with a full MLB season, we can look at the range of outcomes Stanton has had in all of those spans, which lets us ignore the arbitrary division we call the “season.” A season is just a span of 160 games, right? So any 160-game span represents a possible “season”-length outcome.

And looking at all of these “season” spans shows that Stanton’s general level of HR production over any 160-game span is not in the high-50s. It’s around 42. (If you’re keeping score at home, the median HR production of all the 160-game spans was 42 and the average 43.) So even if you can get Stanton in trade, it seems overly optimistic to expect those 50+ HRs to make a return appearance—and that’s not counting the possibility of injury costing him PAs during this particular season-length span.

Don’t make the deal!

But on the other hand...

We have to accept that Stanton could hit 50+ HRs again for this season. As noted, he proved last season that 50+ is easily within his range of outcomes. In fact, Stanton has 93 separate 160-game spans with 50+ HR. Make the deal!

But on the other hand...

By far Stanton’s most common 160-game HR total was 37, which accounts for 103 of the outcomes, or 12%—the same as all his 50+ HR season-spans combined!

Don’t make the deal!

But on the other hand...

There’s been too much focus on Stanton’s 3 HR in 75 PA to start the season, which ignores or doesn't fully understand the variability inherent in a 75-PA span. For Stanton, although he amassed 75 this season in 16 games, 75 PA has been about 18 games’ worth—coming into 2018, Stanton had played in 969 spans of 18 games, averaging exactly 75 PA.

Two-thirds of Stanton’s 18-game spans had 3, 4, 5 or 6 HRs. His most common HR total was 5, which was the median, the average and the mode of all his 18-game spans. And when we know that we Stantons’ norm for 18 games is 5 HR, his current count of 3 HR doesn’t seem quite so dire.

Make the deal!

But on the other hand...

In those 18-game spans, he had just 3 HR or fewer 261 times, fully 27% of the spans. He had only 41 18-game spans with 7 or more HRs. 21%.

Don’t make the deal!

I could go on, and by now you probably worry that I might. So let’s just wrap up with the real obvious point in all of this: It’s too soon to project how many HRs Giancarlo Stanton will hit this season. Based on his past performance, and assuming he stays healthy enough to play 160 games, we should expect a HR total somewhere between 34, which would be a disaster for his owners, and 59, which would cause for celebration.

The most realistic expectation is something in low 40s. If that works for you, make the deal. On the other hand, if it doesn’t, enjoy your sandwich.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.