GM's OFFICE: The Mayberry Method's in-season relevance

It caught my eye in the midst of my daily page-hopping throughout our site here at BaseballHQ.com. Prodded by Ray Murphy’s GM’s OFFICE article last week, I linked over to Ross Stripling’s PlayerLink page to further examine for myself just exactly what is going on with him. (Full disclosure: I have no Stripling shares anywhere). 

It was there that this four-digit string stuck out to me:

5403

Of course, 5403 is Stripling’s Mayberry Method skills score. Given that the context of this portion of Ray’s article is musing about the relationship between shrewd late-draft and early-season acquisitions and overall fantasy team performance—at least here at mid-season—it got me thinking.

The Mayberry Method (MM), of course, is one of the many component skills tools here at BaseballHQ.com; a staple of our process-based approach to player evaluation both here on the site and in our Baseball Forecaster annual. No doubt many of you are familiar with it; if not (or if you need refresher) you can find a detailed examination/explanation and implementation tips at our Mayberry Method index page

I know for me, including MM in my preseason and draft prep work is a given. It’s an important part of the player’s profile in the Forecaster player boxes, and we run it prominently on each player’s PlayerLink page. Yes, the kicker of the Stripling score that I highlighted is that I realized at times it has very little—or no—influence on my in-season player pickup decision tree. Sure, I’m scouring the free agent lists in each of my leagues, opening up our PlayerLink pages to get a skills read as need be—but rarely do I make note of a player’s MM score before I make my FAAB. What happened after I noted Stripling’s 5403 nudged me to think that perhaps that should change. 

Once we move past the draft, we’re all looking for those early-season difference makers—in the past, the names Bellinger, Villar and Puig have been good examples. (It’s also a good time to point out that while I’ll refer mainly in terms of free-agent pickups in this article, the following points are also meant to apply to end-game acquisitions in drafts where the player penetration is very deep.) And while there’s no magic bullet as far as being able to identify these players, MM gives us an informative tool. 

For Stripling, for instance, the 5-4 combination of the first two digits indicate elite (for ERA) and near-elite (for K/9) skill levels for pitchers. As Ron Shandler reminded us in the introduction to the Forecaster and throughout our spring First Pitch Forums tour, in evaluating players, we’re all better off striking the phrase “there’s no path to playing time” from our vocabularies when evaluating players. We’re looking for skilled players first, and in true trust-the-process fashion, figure that those skills will eventually yield results once given enough playing time. And in many cases, the skills themselves will force their way into opportunity, rather than the lack of opportunity suppressing the skills. If we continue to really apply “draft skills, not roles” to our in-season management, we’re more likely to put our teams in better positions to complete.  

Out of curiosity, then, I looked up the MM scores of the other two main players Ray flagged as surprising—ones whose YTD value far surpassed their acquisition price. And (spoiler alert), it checked out:

Player         MM score  YTD R$
=============  ========  ======
Max Muncy         5033     $17
Brandon Nimmo     4525     $20

Here, we’re dealing with hitters, where the first three digits on the 1-5 scale are power, speed, BA . Through July 27, Muncy has clobbered 16 HR (in just 166 AB). Nimmo: 12 HR, 7 SB, .276 AB. Obviously, via their Mayberry scores, both Muncy and Nimmo certainly have come through and have been extremely impactful pickups.

How far does this go? I admit up front that the following is a non-scientific sample. But here’s a scan of some other 2018 “surprises” of different value levels:

Hitters          MM score
===============  ========
Eduardo Escobar    5055
Mark Canha         4423 
Mitch Moreland     4255 
Jesus Aguilar      5045
Austin Meadows*    3543
Dansby Swanson     3425

Pitchers         MM score
===============  ========
Hector Rondon      4520
Bud Norris         4531
Brad Boxberger     4530
Ser. Dominguez*    5520 
*2018 MLB debut

All of the above have at least one “5” or “4”—elite or near-elite skill level—in the categories mentioned above, and all have certainly exceeded their purchase price so far. Note that all the pitchers are relievers with saves value, making us wonder if using MM when looking at potential closers holds even more weight. But if we loosen the categories a bit, several starters who have over performed would fit into the “honorable mention” portion of this group:

Pitchers         MM score
===============  ========
Nick Pivetta       3403
Tyler Skaggs       3303
Mike Foltynewicz   2403

Caveats

Several things to mention in conclusion: 

  • Remember that this far from a heavily-vetted study. Exceptions abound: there are certainly other 2018 surprises who have outperformed their MM scores so far, as well as high MM-score reserve players whose skills have NOT materialized even though they were given the chance. 
  • And this is not to say when seeking out in-season roster additions, that your choices/bids should only be determined by MM scores. Like most of the BHQ tools, Mayberry needs to work in concert with the other evaluation methods (including the reality of MLB rosters and playing time). 
  • And lastly, as always, you need to tailor these evaluation methods to your league. Examples above include players with some and very little MLB experience—along with a couple rookies. Depending on your specific league, some (or all) of these players might not have been available. Context most certainly matters.
  • But the point is to be reminded that the Mayberry Method, so often something that I have personally sidelined a bit during my in-season work—can be a powerful part of your decision making. In fact if you already heavily use MM during the season, I'd love to hear your reflections on it in the comments below. 

Whatever your method, may you find all the second-half gems this season.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.