You want to find every possible advantage when you bet on baseball, so you want to track as many statistics as possible. Do you need to track statistics by position?
Random or Meaningful Statistics
Random statistics like outfielders and first baseman have higher slugging percentages than shortstops on average are not helpful when it comes to wagering. While the information is factual, it doesn’t help me make money on an upcoming game.
But what about if a catcher that also plays first base or the outfield hits better when they aren’t catching? Wouldn’t that information help you? That’s the kind of information I am looking for when I am getting ready to place a bet.
How to Use Baseball Statistics
You can use baseball statistics to play daily fantasy sports or to place wagers on upcoming baseball games.
While there are many dedicated gamblers who bet on baseball, the introduction of daily fantasy sports has renewed the interest in America’s pastime.
In some daily fantasy baseball contests you build a roster of players based on position. Players have to play a certain amount of time at a position in order to be eligible to be placed in that position’s slot in the lineup.
Sometimes this creates a situation where a player is eligible for more than one position or a player may be playing a new position but is still eligible for their old one. When this happens you may be able to get extra offensive production from your total lineup.
For example, if a strong hitting player is playing catcher early in the year but moves to the outfield when a hot rookie catcher gets promoted, the ex-catcher will more than likely still be able to play the catcher position. His offensive numbers are also likely to improve because playing the outfield is less stressful on his body than catching.
The way you can use defensive position to help you make good baseball betting decisions is by following which players are playing which positions on a daily basis. You also need to track how they perform offensively from each defensive position.
Catchers are the easiest to understand examples because of the strain and wear and tear of catching. But they aren’t the only players who do better or worse offensively at different positions.
Many players who are forced into playing a new position where they aren’t comfortable let the stress of the new position make them hit worse. This may not make much sense to a non-player, but I have seen it happen many times.
You also need to know one other thing about catchers that you may not know unless you track their individual statistics. Even though it is the toughest position to play from a physical standpoint, there are some catchers who hit better when they’re catching than when they play anywhere else.
They seem to see the ball better because they see the pitches from their own pitcher every half inning. This can help them lock in on the opposing pitcher’s pitches while they are batting.
Overvaluing Players Because of Position
I believe that the practice of overvaluing baseball players because of their defensive position started when rotisserie baseball leagues started getting popular.
What happens is when there are only a few good offensive options at a position it drives the perceived value of the best players at the position up. Simple economics dictate that as supply goes down the demand tends to go up.
The most common position for this type of overvaluing is shortstop. Rarely are there more than a few top offensive producers at shortstop. If there are 12 teams in a fantasy league and only four good offensive shortstops it drives the cost of the four best shortstops up.
Notice that I keep referring to this as overvaluing. What I mean is that often one of the better shortstops will end up costing more than an outfielder or first baseman that actually is a better offensive player.
To me, that is overvaluing the shortstops, but many participants disagree with me.
Just like when you are deciding which team to bet on or which players to use to build your daily fantasy baseball lineup, you have to consider all of your possibilities.
Can you use a lower valued shortstop in order to invest in a better second baseman and third baseman, or is your best shot shelling out the extra expense for a top shortstop?
Other positions that can create overvaluation of players include catcher and second base.
Is the Extra Effort Worth It?
Tracking the extra split in statistics by position does require extra work. If you’re a casual sports bettor or daily fantasy player you probably don’t need to worry about it.
If you bet on sports at a professional level, you probably want to at least consider tracking the extra stats. In a profession that has less than a half percent separating the long term winners from the long term losers, any edge may be enough to help you swim or keep you from sinking.
I always try to find out who is playing and what position they are playing before placing baseball bets. I don’t always know the exact statistics for players who aren’t in their normal positions, but I usually have a general idea.
Though this is going to show my age, as I was growing up my favorite player was Johnny Bench. He was a catcher but he also played third base, first base and in the outfield at times. He needed rest from catching but his bat was so good that instead of giving him too many days off the manager would have him play a game elsewhere now and then.
I never knew the exact difference in his statistics at the different positions but I know that his bat was still dangerous no matter where he played.
Defensive position does not directly affect offensive output for baseball players but there is still much you can use to help improve your odds. Whether you are betting on baseball games or daily fantasy baseball you can get an edge when you know what to track and how to use the information you gather.