The old baseball saying is that a walk is as good as a hit, but that's not entirely true. For instance, if there are runners on second and third, you'd prefer your hitter bounce a base hit through the infield and drive in a pair rather than get a free pass that loads the bases and nets you a single fantasy point in many points league setups.
Perhaps a better way of spinning that old morsel of wisdom might be to phrase it like this: At least a walk is better than an out.
There are many hitters out there who are a liability in the batting average category in a 5x5 rotisserie league yet still manage to get on base regularly on a regular basis as a result of the free pass. Carlos Pena, ranked 34th among first basemen on the ESPN Player Rater, is a perfect example of a hitter who many fantasy owners want nothing to do with, as evidenced by his 61.1 ownerships in ESPN standard leagues, down 8.1 percent over the past week. But in points leagues, he is still a valuable commodity, thanks in large part to his being ranked third in the majors with 49 walks on the season. As a points-league owner, you must be careful not to judge players by rotisserie standards.
Rather than using batting average as a guide, might I suggest you take a closer look at those players who have a high on-base percentage relative to their batting average. If you're looking to improve your weekly fate, these are some guys who might not otherwise jump off the page yet could give you just enough of a boost in value to tip the scales in your favor:
At the other end of the spectrum, here are some players who have never met a pitch they didn't like. With no batter's eye to speak of, they're hitters who take points from your cookie jar with every strikeout yet give little back in terms of the base on balls. Caveat emptor!
Top 100 Overall Player
Note: AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds: Since June 6, the veteran second baseman has been on fire, with a .400 OBP and a 1.046 OPS. Even more impressive is the fact that he has driven in 12 runs over this stretch with only a single strikeout. That maximizes the run production without the lag that typically accompanies such a power surge. This week, Phillips plays three games in Cleveland followed by a home series against the Twins.
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: It's all relative, but after a three-week lull (from May 21-June 10) in which Braun hit a "pedestrian" .292 with a minus-5 net K/BB count, the reigning MVP is back in the good graces of his points-league owners. A six-game road trip saw the slugger crank four homers and seven RBIs, bringing his batting average above .315 for the first time since May 25.
Jason Hammel, SP, Baltimore Orioles: After a one-hit shutout versus the Atlanta Braves, Hammel saw his stock rise a bit, as any pitcher's would. In his seven wins, Hammel has an ERA of 1.69 and a 3.85 K/BB rate. But even when he loses or gets a no-decision, he strikes out just a couple fewer batters and keeps the walks at the same general rate. By avoiding the huge stinkers, he is keeping his consistency rating high.
Ivan Nova, SP, New York Yankees: It's hard to ignore his five straight wins, and while his home-road splits still lean heavily toward the away starts (3-2 record, 5.35 ERA at home; 6-0, 3.47 ERA on the road), that could be smoke and mirrors. There's no reason Nova shouldn't do just as well at Yankee Stadium, especially considering his batting average-against at home (.290) is still close to his road BAA (.284).
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers: After his lengthy stay on the disabled list, it's easy to forget how good Jackson was playing before his injury. Sure, he has been rusty in his eight games back, but he has driven in 10 runs since his return, and pitchers seem to be concerned; he has walked seven times in his past four games.
Ryan Dempster, SP, Chicago Cubs: Dempster has given up six home runs at home (and none on the road) and has an ERA there that is more than two runs higher than on the road, making Wrigley Field the primary reason he is just 3-3 this year despite a .201 BAA and 2.11 ERA. He has won his past three games, though, and is making a case for some other team to trade for him. If he can ditch the ivy, perhaps he'll rise even higher in these points-league rankings.
Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco Giants: Pagan has had three weeks of 10 or fewer fantasy points in the past five scoring periods. With just three extra-base hits in June to go along with a plus-12 K/BB count, if his OBP hasn't yet reached its ultimate resting point, it seems to have stagnated to the point where we're not sure it gets any higher the rest of the way.
Ricky Romero, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has scored 6.63 runs per game when Romero is on the mound, which is the primary reason his record stands at 7-1. In his past five starts, he has managed to go 2-0 even with a 5.59 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Plain and simple, batters are rarely missing when they swing at his pitches. That's a problem.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles: After a three-week surge that saw him average 25 points per week, Hardy has gone into a tailspin. Hitting just .225 since May 28, Hardy has walked just twice in that span, leaving his owners with a sad .244 OBP. All of that would be fine if some power came along with the package, but apart from a two-run blast on June 8, Hardy's pop has been nonexistent.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Miami Marlins: Since June 5, Ramirez has gone 6-for-41. What's troubling is that nine of those games came at home, where Han-Ram has hit .315 on the year. He is supposed to be padding his stats at home but is now slumping, and nine of his next 12 games are in Miami. Then he goes on the road for 13 of 17, and his batting average away from Miami is a sad .192.
Jason Vargas, SP, Seattle Mariners: On May 9, Vargas was 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA. Since then, he has gone 3-4 with a 5.24 ERA, allowing 7.4 hits per start and 10 home runs, with at least one in each outing. His lineup has bailed him out in each of his victories in this stretch. Seattle outscored the opposition 28-12 in Vargas' three wins. His point totals could be a lot worse going forward.
Ernesto Frieri, RP, Los Angeles Angels: Since joining the team in May, Frieri has gone 19 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. This past scoring period, he recorded three saves in three tries. So why is he pointing down? Well, it's the fear of Scott Downs eating into those save chances. Downs has been out with sore ribs but could return to action this week and split the closer duties.