As I’m sure none of you know, I’m a Tampa Bay Rays fan. This team was supposed to be the best one Tampa had ever fielded. It’s not looking like that will be the case. With this bad season, everyone keeps complaining about how the Rays don’t draft hitters, or don’t develop hitters, or players in general, really. The other thing tossed around is that the team should just tank to try and get a top pick.
These complaints started to get me thinking, which of the big 4 American professional sports leagues features the best success rate? Is a top pick really going to yield a good player? I suppose success rate is measured by how long you play in your respective league.
What I’m doing is going back and looking at the first round of every draft (Thanks, Wikipedia) from each of the big 4 from 2000 to 2008. From there, I’m looking at the career of each pick and putting that player into one of four categories. Did Not Play (DNP) at the professional level, 1-3 years, 4-5 years, and 6+ years. If the player played even one game for a team, that counts as one season. Obviously, nowhere close to a perfect idea, but I’m just looking for a general idea here. I also added another category to include players that have been selected to an All-Star team or All-League selection (i.e. All-Pro for NFL). If the player makes either one (of both) of these during their career, it’s added. Doesn’t matter if they’re a flash in the pan, or a 13x All-Star.
When I first started this I thought that would be enough categories, now I’ve entered only about 7 (3 for NBA, 1 each for NFL, NHL, & MLB) sections worth of data, and I’m already realizing that it’s not enough. Alas, I’m too lazy to go back and change it. This is mostly for my own measure, anyway since I’m sure this study has been done several times by far more reputable people.
I know it’s incredibly early, and I don’t have the data in front of me, but off the top of my head, noteworthy things are:
- 2000 NFL Draft featured a ton of players that had extremely long careers, and made the Pro-Bowl
- So far, the NBA is averaging a little more than 19 players per season that go 6+ years in the league. This won’t be recorded, but two of the rounds I looked at had players still playing die. It also seemed like foreign players would come, play in the NBA for a little, and for whatever reason (I didn’t want to assume they weren’t good enough for da leeg) go back and play in the foreign leagues.
- 2000 MLB featured something like 45% of its draft picks never playing in the show. Several minor league lifers, and one guy that was apparently drafted 5 times. Adam Wainwright was in this draft. I didn’t know he was that….seasoned. Oh, and one guy named Boof. Terrific name.
- When I went through the 2000 NHL draft, I had no idea hockey players had such long careers. SO many of the players in that draft are still on teams, or were on teams last season.
That’s all I’ve got this early into it. I’ll post another article, along with the spreadsheet once I’m finished.