Rickey Henderson's fantasy value

Has anyone had a better season than Rickey in 1985?


I haven’t done any research on this, but I’ve always liked the way he played, though I wasn’t paying much attention at the time.


Ever? Almost certainly. It depends on exactly what things are scored, but how about Babe Ruth in 1921. A .378 average 59 home runs 119 extra base hits, 457 total bases and reached base 379 times (those last records still stand today)

As OldGuy says, it depends on how your league scores. Also, it depends on who else is on your team. It’s possible to do very well in fantasy baseball without having any really huge stars, as long as your scoring types are well balanced. You don’t want too much of one thing and not enough of another.

In my league, for example, scores are calculated based on your league position in a variety of different stats. If you are coming first in a particular stat, you get 14 points (14 teams in the league), and if you are coming last in that stat, you get 1 point.

So, take one of Henderson’s most obvious advantages: stolen bases. If he’s the only guy on my team who can steal bases, then he could be a huge help to me. But if i have four or five other guys who can also steal bases, then Henderson’s base-stealing ability might not matter very much, because if i come first in the category, it doesn’t matter whether i win the category by 1 or by 50. If i’m leading by too much in one category, i look to trade one of those players for someone who has good stats in a category where i’m weak.

Obviously, Henderson was about far more than stolen bases, and his 1985 was certainly awesome. One area where it is a bit lacking, in Fantasy terms, is RBI. We can talk all day about whether RBI is a good stat, but the fact is that it counts in most fantasy leagues.

Another awesome year was Barry Bonds in 2001: .328/ .515/.863 with 73 HR, 129 runs, and 137 RBI. And 177 BB, which also count in some leagues, including mine (although i don’t think there’s any need to count both BB and OBP, as my commissioner insists on doing). His 2002 was about as good, although the HR total dropped a bit. A few of Bonds’ early years were awesome as well, with slightly less power, but more speed, giving him SB totals in the 40s and 50s to go along with his high average, high OBP, good SLG, and still excellent HR numbers.

mhendo-Your comments about Bonds’ early career make his decision to “juice” all the more disheartening. He didn’t NEED to, he was a “lock” HOFer anyway!

Here’s a really good list of the top 25 fantasy baseball seasons of all time (offense only). Henderson isn’t on the list at any point in his career.

In 1985, I *think *Henderson might have been the most valuable fantasy hitter, but it’s close between him, Don Mattingly, Ryne Sandberg, George Brett, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk (and maybe Willie McGee). Stolen Bases were readily available across the league in the 80s, making Henderson’s 80 not all that valuable. His 146 Runs are probably his most valuable asset. 24 HRs isn’t that big of a deal, as there are plenty of guys with 20 HRs that you could have gotten extremely cheaply.

Additionally, guys like George Brett, Ryne Sandberg, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk had the added benefit of playing positions (3B, 2B, C and C, respectively) that are a lot harder to fill with elite numbers than the OF. If we were to set up a mock fantasy league with 1985 numbers, I’d probably take Sandberg first, Brett second, then Henderson. But that’s offense-only. The best numbers out of 1985 were Dwight Gooden’s 24 W, 268 K, 1.53 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and that’s not even close, as that’s one of the best pitching seasons in the modern era.

Great read. It’s really freaking amazing how good Ruth and Gehrig were.

What’s interesting about this question is that this changes if you can transplant the season from 1985 to another era. Guys just don’t steal bases anymore, so a .314/24/80 season today is the #1 player in fantasy. 80 steals and 146 runs likely wins you both categories, without hurting any other category.

But in 1985, Vince Coleman had 110 steals, and 6 other players had 50+ steals. There have only been 7 players with 50+ steals in the last three years combined. While Henderson was likely the #1 player in 1985, his dominance wouldn’t have been quite so pronounced.

Billy Hamilton has 151 steals in his last 162 games. He is a ways from the majors but is a legimate prospect and of course ridiculously fast. I could see him bringing back the hundred steal season.

Wow, his last 10 games log shows a game with 5 stolen bases.

With the increased emphasis on power hitters in today’s game, I think managers have been backing away from stealing bases in favor of the big inning. It’s not so much player ability that has led to the thievery decline, but the way the game’s being played.

That said, if someone can steal 150 bases at a 85+% rate, I’m sure he’ll get a lot of green lights.

What is the cut-off that makes stealing bases worth it, anyway? I’ve heard 75% is where it breaks even for the team (i.e. causing an out 25% of the time cancels out gaining an extra base 75% of the time). It’s situational, I know, but is there a rough consensus general answer?

Eh, those numbers aren’t too different from Jose Reyes in his prime. He’d be Top 5, but he’s no runaway #1 pick.

The break-even point depends on some of the factors in your first paragraph. In a run-heavy environment, with high batting averages and lots of power hitting, the break-even point is high and you really want to be sure that your stolen base attempt will be successful. In lower-scoring environments, the break-even point is lower.

It also depends on the in-game situation, as well as the situation in the inning. It also depends on what base you’re stealing, as this Fangraphs article suggests. If you’re trying to steal third base with two outs, you’d better damn well be successful (88% of the time) or you’ll get an earful from your manager. On the other hand, if you try to steal third with 1 out, you only need a 69% success rate.