Playing with Numbers: Buy low, sell high with Runs Created

The trick to winning your fantasy league is to be prescient enough to figure out the exact moment a player will get hot and insert him into your starting lineup at the same time another player will get cold. Every player goes through hot and cold streaks during the course of a season, but by using several different players in the same roster spot, you can create a sort of "uber player" who maximizes performance by sustaining a season-long hot streak. With apologies to the Sylvia Brownes out there who may believe that such psychic precision is actually possible, this simply ain't gonna happen, my friend. No matter how long and hard you pore over the stats, there's no way to use them to accurately predict future performance with any degree of certainty, but that doesn't mean these stats have nothing to tell us.

Let's take another look at Runs Created, which we discussed a couple of months ago in this column. Runs Created is a concept developed by "Baseball Abstract" author Bill James that attempts to quantify a player's involvement in each run scored by his real-life team. Because a run scored is the only truly important stat to real baseball -- the team that scores the most runs in a given game wins -- determining how much each player contributes to scoring runs is a valuable tool for assessing a player's real-life value. James developed a formula that combined a player's ability to get on base, his ability to advance runners or himself further around the bases, and his opportunity to produce into one easy-to-read value: the number of runs a player has helped create throughout a season.