The Electric Commentary

Monday, August 16, 2004

Shaun Alexander sucked in 2002! I have proof!

I had Shaun Alexander on my fantasy football team in 2002, and ever since then I've had a grudge against him. Why? He had two really good games, one against the Vikings in which he ran for over 200 yards and 5 touchdowns (in the first half, mind you), and one against the Cardinals in which he ran for 150+ yards and 2 touchdowns. Other than that he was horrible. It was infuriating to see your RB as a league leader on the strength of two games and continually lose because of his crappy 60 yard/no TD weeks, which were the norm. Yet some people (who haven't ever drafted Shaun in a fantasy league) maintain that Shaun is an elite NFL back.

The Football Outsiders to the rescue. They like nothing better than inventing new, more accurate football stats, and I think they have a winner with Running Back Batting Average. Basically, there is a lot to be said for consistency. A RB who consistently gains 4-5 yards will keep the offense out of third-and-long situations, where turnovers become much more likely. A RB who gains 1-3 yards but occasionally breaks out for a highlight reel 50-yarder can still be useful, but the offense will probably suffer in the passing game because of him. RBBA measures successful carries/attempts. Read the whole thing for more detail, as it is sort of complicated.

Looking at RBBA for 2002, we see that Shaun Alexander batted .220, ranking him 35th overall! For some perspective, the league leader in RBBA that year was Clinton Portis at .397, followed by Priest Holmes at .350. Shaun did manage to raise his average to .270 in 2003,and climbed to 18th place.

This stat is obviously not perfect, and different styles can be useful to different offenses, but Shaun's incredibly low ranking in 2002 explains exactly why he was such a bad fantasy player. You may want to check these lists out before you draft. If I had done so last year, I may have avoided Amos Zereoue (.194).

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