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Injuries Create Draft Day Values:

Drew Dinkmeyer

With the news coming out of Phillies’ camp today that Brad Lidge’s balky knee will require a minor surgery that should keep him out 3-6 weeks, I thought it would be important to briefly touch on the impact injuries can have on draft day value. So far we’ve seen four significant injury announcements this spring and all four of them not surprisingly are to pitchers: Kelvim Escobar, Curt Schilling, Yovani Gallardo, and the aforementioned Brad Lidge. Whenever injury news comes out the player’s value immediately takes a hit. Thanks to the good folks over at MockDraftCentral.com we’ll use Yovani Gallardo’s most recent injury news as an example: Gallardo’s Average Draft Position (ADP) has dropped 18 spots from 115 to 133 over the last week. The 18-spot drop is between a round and a round and a half depending on league size and this happened in just one week’s worth of drafts. Obviously Gallardo’s value should drop as he’s unlikely to be ready for opening day and could miss up to a month of the season because of being behind in his throwing schedule, but how much should his value drop? Let’s take a look at the overall impact on his value:

Total Value

The impact of missing a month in the season for a pitcher is approximately 4-6 starts, so worse case scenario Yovani goes from a projected 33-35 starts to a projected 27-31 starts, an approximate decrease of 12% of his value on his “counting stats” (W’s and K’s). I stress “counting” stats because in classic categorical leagues counting stats represent two of the four categories a starting pitcher can help your team in (SP’s can’t impact Saves). So in reality only 50% of Yovani’s statistical contributions to your fantasy team are directly impacted (K’s and W’s). In ERA and WHIP, which are “rate” stats, the impact of Yovani’s injury is significantly less. If we estimate Yovani’s overall impact on a team’s ERA and WHIP (estimating a team total innings of approximately 1200), the approximate loss of 30 innings (missing 1 month) is just 2.5%. To put this in context if you have 1170 innings at a 3.50 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and replace those 30 lost innings from Yovani (a projected 3.43 ERA and 1.25 WHIP) with a league average starter, say 4.50 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, the projected differences look as follows:

Team with Yovani 3.49825 ERA,1.29875 WHIP
Team with league average starter 3.525 ERA, 1.3025 WHIP

As you can see, the differences in the impact between those extra 30 innings from Yovani and a league average starter are minimal and with some strong spot starting or through the use of middle relievers (another tactic I’m extremely in favor of and one we’ll discuss more in-depth in the future), these small losses can be mitigated even further. On the whole Yovani’s draft day value is being discounted 16.4% but the actual drop in overall production from his injury is far less. The real loss comes in W’s and K’s and if we assume a straight 12% drop in production in W’s and K’s (thanks to having 12% fewer starts) and a 2.5% drop in the impact of on ERA and WHIP, we can estimate a total value drop of closer to 7.5%. A 7.5% drop in value should only have resulted in a drop in ADP of about 9 slots. The overreaction to the news has created an even better buying opportunity for the young potential ace!

This buying opportunity, I believe, is even stronger in leagues that have playoffs at the end rather than season-long competitions. Yovani should be fresher towards the end of the season than he would be had he started healthy on opening day, this should help prevent late-season fatigue (always a concern for younger pitchers). I’d also note that the fact Yovani’s current injury isn’t to his arm, make a significant difference. Arm injuries early in the spring are usually a pre-cursor to some major problems, in these cases the drop in ADP is likely warranted (Escobar and Schilling come to mind immediately), but with Lidge and Gallardo the current injuries to their knees are fairly predictable in terms of estimating return and shouldn’t have a long-term effect on their chances of further injury during the season. So while some fantasy owners who were thinking of drafting Gallardo or Lidge may be disheartened by the recent injury news, I’m smiling and chomping at the bit! These slight injuries are deflating the draft value too much, and creating a sweet buying opportunity for the informed owner. For this reason, come April, this fantasy owner will be referring to the young Brewer ace as “My”-vani, because he sure won’t be “Your”-vani if you’re letting his stock fall by 16%.

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In our league (14 team 5x5 AL/NL standard scoring)we have a rule if you draft someone on the DL you have to eat his 0 stats while he occupies a roster spot. (also no bench spots)

I love your theory, but should our rule scare me from taking pitchers like Gillardo who aren't "supposed" to miss too much time?



Thanks for the question! Interesting set of league rules you've got there and it certainly does impact this strategy some. My guess is that it actually creates even better value for guys like Gallardo who aren't supposed to be out for a while. As you might be able to tell from my other entry on Middle Relievers I don't mind keeping innings levels low if the quality of innings i'm getting are tremendous. I think that's the case you're getting here with Gallardo. He's already resumed throwing and I feel like the estimates of him missing the first month are a bit high and it will actually be closer to two weeks. So I say draft him and hopefully get even better value because of your league rules.

Now, if this same discussion was about a guy like Lackey, who's now out till mid-May, my opinion would certainly change.

Hope that helps!

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