Playing With Numbers: Revisiting the Pierre Rankings

Good afternoon, boys and girls. It's time once again to visit our good friend Juan Pierre.

If you remember from our 2008 ESPN Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, we discussed in depth the difficulty in properly comparing apples to oranges when it comes to fantasy value. Our poster child for this problem was Juan Pierre. Certainly there is value in having him on your roster. His 29 stolen bases so far in 2008 should easily help to earn you several points in that category, but at what cost? He rarely hits a home run (only 12 in his nine-year career with his last one coming Sept. 18, 2006) and only once has his RBI total reached 50. So how would you begin to compare his value to that of say, Ryan Howard, who might contend for the home run title, but whose anemic .220 batting average is sure to drag you down in that category just as much, if not more than his power output helps you.

How do you quantify the fantasy value of a player who seems to excel at only one area of the game? The first thing to understand is that each statistic has a different inherent value. So far in 2008, there are 82 hitters who have double-digits in home runs. By contrast, there are only 35 players who have double-digit steals. So while Adrian Gonzalez's 21 home runs are certainly worth having, they haven't distanced you from the pack nearly as much as Brian Roberts' 21 stolen bases, since there are simply fewer steals to spread around. But at some point, the law of diminishing returns takes over. If you win the steals category in a 10-team league, you get 10 points. That's true if you win the category by only a single steal, or by 40 or by 400. You certainly need to maintain some stolen base production to keep your high standing in the category, but once your stolen base total has allowed your team to reach a plateau, then the value of each subsequent stolen base becomes less and less.