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With roughly half the year in the books, Shohei Ohtani has put up the following numbers: 28 HR, 64 RBI, 55 runs, 11 SB, a .304 batting average, seven wins, 127 Ks, a 3.02 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. (Sadly, he has not, to date, recorded any saves.) If we double those numbers to prorate for a full year, it comes to a hitting line of: 56-128-110-22-.304 in 612 AB and a pitching one of 14-254-3.02-1.04 in 190.2 IP.
Where would a season like that stack up historically, for purposes of fantasy baseball? In other words, if you give him credit for all nine categories, how does 2023 prorated Ohtani compare to say 1921 Babe Ruth (59-168-177-17-.378), 1911 Ty Cobb (8-127-148-83-.409) or 1908 Ed Walsh (40 wins 269Ks, six saves, 1.42 ERA, .86 WHIP in 464 IP.)?
I went through this exercise pre-Ohtani (in 2013), and given my parameters (2012 AL-only baselines), came up with dollar figures for each player’s historic season. In that context, and with that methodology, Walsh was the most valuable player at $95 out of a $260 (23-man) budget, Cobb was worth $78 and Ruth $74.
Here’s a screenshot of the all-time team if you don’t want to click through the link:
You can see why Walsh would be so valuable because the minuscule ERA and WHIP are essentially doubled given his 464 IP, and 40 wins from one pitching slot is similar. But Ohtani would give Walsh a run for his money because he’s giving you hitting and pitching stats despite occupying only a single roster spot.
Put differently, if we value Ohtani as a pitcher at say $23 in that environment, we also have to add his hitting stats. For all other hitters, we first calculate replacement value, (say that’s 15 homers, 60 RBI, 60 runs, 5 steals, e.g.) and subtract those totals out from their stats. Because if you have a player who hits 10 homers, and the freely available ones on waivers, who could occupy that slot, average 15, his homers are actually a negative, not a small positive. Likewise, if you have a player that hits 40 homers, he’s only 25 over baseline.
Once we have the value-over-replacement, we can start seeing how many standard deviations above (or below) that each player is in each category and tally it up to form a total and then price those totals in dollars, based on the entire budget of the league.
But with Ohtani, assuming he keep him in a pitching slot, the replacement value of his hitting stats are zero because he is not occupying a hitting slot on your roster. He is putting up those stats while still allowing you to roster 14 other hitters! So if Ohtani hits 56 homers, that counts as 56 homers over the baseline. Any other hitter, one that occupies a hitting slot, would need to hit 71 homers (given a baseline of 15) to add the same value as Ohtani in that category. And if the baseline for RBI is 60, then Ohtani’s 128 RBI are like 188!
So if we give him $23 for his pitching, we’d need to add 71 HR, 188 RBI, 170 runs and 27 steals to that total plus some positive contributions in batting average. Ruth’s massive 1921, worth $74, is a good comp for the hitting, except with 12 fewer homers, 10 fewer steals, 20 fewer RBI and seven *more* runs. Ruth did have a .378 average to offset the other categories, so let’s call it a wash. But if we add Ruth’s $74 to Ohtani’s roughly $23 in pitching, we’re at $97, just ahead of Walsh.
Given that I used AL-only baselines (for God knows what reason in 2012), it’s a bit skewed because the replacement value for hitters would be a lot lower than the ones I used for Ohtani, but keep in mind the AL-only baseline jacked up the values of the old-timers too. The point is this isn’t close to exact, but nine-category Ohtani in 2023, prorated over a full year, would quite likely be the most valuable fantasy season of all time, even more than Ruth, Cobb and the pitchers in the dead-ball era transposed to modern’s day baselines.