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Fantasy baseball: Would more categories make for a truer experience?

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Mark Ellis shortened up and rolled a grounder to the right side that, in other scenarios, would have been harmless.

But in this case, it moved his Dodgers teammate, Carl Crawford, to third base, allowing Matt Kemp to drive him in with what would have, in other instances, been a can of corn.

My first thought, naturally, was, “Why can’t my Brewers execute like Ellis just did?”

The inner dialogue that followed was an argument about whether or not “productive outs” could ever be a category in fantasy baseball.

After all, Crawford and Kemp might not have helped their owners, without Ellis’ 4-3 groundout.

I don’t know about you, but a big reason I play fantasy sports is to scratch an itch I’ll never feel: that of a pro team’s general manager.

Several years ago, my fellow NL-only managers and I drew a bit closer to the real thing, adding the “holds” category.

Before that, setup guys were generally unowned, only the premier ones generating impressive enough ERAs and strikeout rates to warrant a roster spot.

We’ve shuffled other pitching categories, once upon a time using WHIP. It went away, because some guys didn’t like a category being decided by a mere hundredth, at least to the naked eye. I tried to explain to them that WHIP goes far beyond the hundredths, and that everything is relevant, but it didn’t fly.

We currently use wins and losses, but I can’t help but wonder if we’d be better served dropping those categories and going with a more true measure of a pitcher’s performance: quality starts.

Way back in the day, one of our leagues was like 12x12, measuring just about every measurable. But I found doubles and triples categories to be easily compounded into OPS, which reflects both slugging and on-base percentage.

So, in some instances, there are ways to represent a facet of the game with one stat, rather than two, three or even four. If we can’t talk our fellow managers into WHIP, strikeout:walk ratio has to replace strikeouts, doesn’t it?

Some players are more hardcore than others. Some of you are reading this and thinking, “This guy’s gotta get a life.”

But one thing is almost universal: None of us are using pens and paper to track these stats like we were in the mid-1990s. So why not add more categories to reflect all aspects of the game of baseball?

I’d love to at least take a stab at a league that has categories for batters’ strikeouts, fielding errors, caught stealing and, yes, even productive outs.

(Side conundrum: One category I’d have a hard time adding is passed balls. I fear the range would be about 20-30, maybe 40 if someone drafts a knuckleballer’s catcher)

Until then, we’re still playing fake baseball. Just ask Joey Rowe, Oregon High School’s catcher, who tactfully blocked four pitches Wednesday in a sectional semifinal victory, one of them holding the potential tying run at third.

Neither productive outs nor blocked pitches will show up in the stats on MLB.com.

But if baseball-reference.com and my smartphone – which tells me where every pitch is thrown during a game and provides spray charts, for crying out loud – have taught me anything, it’s that there are no limits on what we nerds can do.

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