Advanced statistics, within the realm of sports, is a relatively new concept; therefore advanced statistics within fantasy sports is even younger than that.
The obvious introduction of advanced statistics to sports dates back to Bill James in the late 1970s. But it wasn't until the 1990s that teams started to take a look at them. Even more so it wasn't until general manager Billy Beane fully implemented them with the A's in 2001 that they took off in the mainstream.
Word on the street is that successful fantasy baseball players in the 1980s and ’90s were implementing these advanced statistics to win. But it wasn't until the past decade or so that these statistics have crept into the fantasy sports writing sector.
As most already know, advanced statistics help to better gauge the play of coveted fantasy stars. They also generally explain why a player might be unexpectedly struggling or playing far over their head, as well as suggest whether a player should regress or keep up an unexpected pace.
Naturally, the place to start is baseball, where these advanced statistics have been in use the longest.
Baseball has fewer variables than football and therefore is easier to use advanced statistics with.
Brad Evans of Yahoo! Sports says, "With fantasy baseball, if you’re not including some type of analytic in your articles and if you’re not on fan graphs then you’re living in the dark ages. It's more important for a baseball audience. It's more driven, as a whole, from statistics than it is from football."
But Evans also stresses that advanced statistics must be utilized effectively and that writers must consider their audience before getting technical in a manner that might be over their heads. "I'll be honest, a lot of the material is extremely dry … put lipstick on the pig, if you will."
It's important to remember that these statistics are to be used to explain why you are analyzing a player the way that you are. The statistics on their own will not suffice.
Although the use of advanced statistics in football occurred slightly later it has exploded just as much as baseball in recent years.
"The best way for the average user to start using advanced statistics is to start following the stat geeks on Twitter and reading their material,” says Allesandro Miglio of Pro Football Focus. “The guys at PFF are all good, but there are plenty of other sites doing great things like Football Outsiders and 4 for 4. Subscribe to their premium content and start looking through it for yourself."
A writer may not be a statistics type and therefore must default to someone who is. Find a content provider you enjoy and immerse yourself in their statistics. You don't need to understand how to do the math yourself, merely how to implement it into your writing and evaluations of players.
Thankfully, people who do have a mind for these statistics are providing this content to everybody. Sam Monson of PFF explains, "The bottom line is we're a player performance analysis site, and the more we can dispel the conventional wisdom and replace it with an accurate reflection of how players are playing, the better."
With vast access to these advanced statistics it's not necessary to fret over doing the math and stressing over the meaning. It's as simple as understanding how the statistics translate and how to utilize them within your work.
But all aspiring fantasy writers must remember that at the end of the day, it's not just about one or the other (statistics or the eye test). Eno Sarris of FanGraphs (a major baseball stats provider) expresses this best. "There's plenty of research out there that helps us understand how best to use statistics -- which statistics have predictive power, and which don't, for example -- while there isn't the same sort of body of research when it comes to athletically-based analysis,” says Sarris. “So, it makes sense to reach for the numbers, but we can't forget to continue using our eyes."