2012 Fantasy Baseball Guide: Understanding wOBA

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Let’s play a little game. No, not Candy Land. What a stupid game. I was recently shopping for a gift for a five year old and upon re-examining that game, I give it six thumbs down. It's too simple, even for five year olds. There are like 20 total spaces on the board. Kids are much too savvy for that crap in this day and age. Five year olds have tumbler accounts; they aren't easily tricked by the idea that candy equals fun. You didn't even get any actual candy from that game. Insurgency in Candy Land.

The game I want to play is called, “What Does wOBA Say?”

First off, what is wOBA? Well aside from being fun to say in your head and sing as a Shyne chorus (wOOOOOOBBBAAA, wwwwOOOOOOOOOOOOOBBBBBBAAAAAA) it's the latest attempt at a catch-all offensive statistic that weighs the outcome of hits based on their actual run value. Huh? Fine, smart people say wOBA best offensive stat. Slugging percentage and OPS equal world is flat. wOBA equals world is round.

Here's the 2011 wOBA formula from Fangraphs:

wOBA = (0.69×uBB + 0.72×HBP + 0.89×1B + 1.26×2B + 1.60×3B +
2.08×HR + 0.25×SB -0.50×CS) / PA

From a fantasy perspective, wOBA's biggest issues are it underrates speed, only giving a 25% weight to steals while subtracting caught steals at a 50% weight. It also fails to address RBIs and runs. However, wOBA does do a good job of easily showing which hitters will have good OBP, slugging and power numbers, which in turn should lead to RBIs and runs.

Great math lesson poindexter, get to the point, what is the game? Pretty simple, let’s look through Fangraphs projections comparing wOBA versus current ADP and see if we can identify some unappreciated hitters.

Matt Holliday .394 projected wOBA, 37.7 ADP - 8th in projected wOBA in 2012, tied with Adrian Gonzalez, one thousandth of a point behind Troy Tulowitzki. Projected .307/.387/.527 with 27 HRs, 100 runs, 115 RBIs. Drafters may be overemphasizing the loss of Pujols from the Cardinals line-up.

Kevin Youkilis .389 projected wOBA, 84.7 ADP - 10th in projected wOBA, right behind Holliday and Gonzalez. Projected .288/.392/.502 with 20 HRs, 90 runs, 100 RBIs. Fried chicken and beer effect? Injured for much of 2011, he's seen as a risk, but should be seen as a sleeper.

Lance Berkman .379 projected wOBA, 95.7 ADP - 20th in projected wOBA, one thousandth of a point after Giancarlo Stanton and ahead of Robinson Cano. Projected .283/.394/.487 with 24 HRs, 86 runs, 105 RBIs. Berkman's 2011 was a big bounce back year from a decline that started in 2009 and really showed in 2010. If you want to gamble you could get a guy in the 8-10 round range that might hit like a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

Logan Morrison .372 projected wOBA, 154.6 ADP - 24th in projected wOBA, two thousandths behind Ian Kinsler. Projected .277/.369/.490 with 22 HRs, 91 runs, 96 RBIs. Free LoMo! Definite sleeper potential here and he's being touted as such. Also, probably the best bet to answer you on Twitter.

Lucas Duda .366 projected wOBA, 230.3 ADP - 43rd in projected wOBA, sandwiched between Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson. Seriously. Remember wOBA doesn't respect speed (although, it does think it is Sandra Bullock's best movie). Projected .282/.362/.483 with 22 HRs, 84 runs, 87 RBIs. Hyped Mets second year player, a big time breakout candidate.

WOBA isn't perfect and it has limitations for fantasy purposes. But with the clock running out on your 10th round selection, as you debate the available hitters, you could do a lot worse than looking to wOBA as the tiebreaker.

For fun, here are 5 more high wOBA players.

Ike Davis .365 projected wOBA 45th overall, 179.9 ADP.

Brandon Belt .360 projected wOBA 53rd overall, 206.4 ADP.

Dexter Fowler .353 projected wOBA 67th overall, 230.3 ADP.

Justin Smoak .350 projected wOBA 77th overall, 239.9 ADP.

Edwin Encarnacion .347 projected wOBA 90th overall, 241.3 ADP.

Written by Ryan Coombs exclusively for Follow Ryan on Twitter @RMCoombs

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