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Hit Rate Observer

So you want a starting pitcher who’ll get you a win. Which do you choose?

“A good one.” Yes—but pitchers who are good at getting wins might be less good at other things…

Let’s start here: Suppose you have a 4.50 ERA pitcher. How many wins can he be expected to get? I am sure we could run a calculation based on overall runs allowed and runs scored and get an approximate total for the season. However, since wins are accumulated by game, it may be fruitful to stick to that level. (For the discussion that follows, I will use ERA as our guide, though certainly RA would be a touch better.)

Now, a “W” is a matter of bookkeeping; it goes to the pitcher who was in the game when a team took its final lead. As such, the critical component for a starter to get the “W” is how long he lasts. Obviously, skill plays a role in that. And events don’t always correlate perfectly—in a blow-out win, a thriving pitcher might be pulled early to rest his arm, while in a losing but low-scoring affair, a manager may ride his ace. In general, though, the deeper into a game that a starter pitches, the better his chances for the Win.

So our scheme is two-step:

1. How deep into a game is our 4.50 ERA pitcher expected to go?
2. What is the win likelihood for a pitcher who goes that distance?

We can get an idea of the answer to the first question by looking at the aggregate ERAs of starters who pitched games of different lengths. We collected data from 2006-2009. The answer turns out to be neat:

Outs = 27 - (2*ERA)

That is, the expected number of outs is equal to 27 minus twice the starter's ERA. That’s a close re-statement of the trend line from this graph:

(Note: In this graph, the dependent variable is actually Outs Lasted; I’ve rotated the graph for our purposes.) By this rule of thumb, a 6.00 ERA starter would give us 15 outs (5 innings), a 0.00 ERA starter would go nine innings, and our 4.50-ERA guy can be expected to last six innings.

That answers the first part of our question. Now: All things equal, what’s the win likelihood for a six-inning start? Here are the numbers from 2006-09:

Win likelihood goes from roughly 1-in-4 in a five-inning start to greater than 9-in-10 (but well less than 100%) for a nine-inning start. (We removed the data points for 25 and 26 outs because there are so few examples.)

The graph is actually slightly better fit by an exponential curve than by a straight line:

A non-linear curve is reasonable: Holding a lead deeper into a game not only deprives the opponent of more chances to recover but also lets the starter hand off the game to his better relievers.

If we read a six-inning start from the trend line, we find that our 4.50 ERA starter has a 35.5% chance of getting the win. (This is not considering the efficiency of the two offenses or of the bullpen.)

That’s informative, but the exponential curve of our second graph has a deeper implication, which is that you really want a starter who can go deep into games, even if he also sometimes flames out. Consider two starts of a combined 14 innings: A starter who goes seven innings in each start has an expected total in the two games of 0.98 Wins, whereas a starter who goes five innings in one start but nine innings in the other has an expected total of 1.18 Wins—a fifth of a Win more. In fantasy, erratic genius pays.

Does this genius have an identifiable quality? What skill or skills are good for the long haul? To find out, we calculated the aggregate K/9 and BB/9 of all starters who reached X or more outs in a game:

The above is not a typical line graph; instead, the line here tracks the shifting skills exhibited in starts of increasing length. The path consists of 28 points—from 0 outs (shown by the orange dot) to 27 outs (shown by the green dot). Each point gives the strikeout and walk rates posted by starters who recorded that many outs or more. (The blue dot marks 21 outs—the end of the seventh inning.)

The graph has two sets of arcs. The main arc sweeps from the upper right to the lower left, from the first out to the last. There are a number of fascinating aspects. For one thing, there’s little distinction in strikeout rate from basically the start of the game to the seventh inning; at each step, we’re looking at 6.3-6.4 K/9.

In starts that last more than seven innings, strikeout rate does takes a turn—but lower, not higher. Starts that go into the eighth inning are characterized by an overall strikeout rate of just 6.2 K/9. And the rate in nine-inning starts is well below 6.0 K/9.

A higher strikeout rate is no help to going deeper into games. In fact, to reach a start longer than seven innings, it’s a downright hindrance. One reason is certain: Strikeouts cost pitches, generally more than the number required to post an equivalent number of non-K outs. We also wonder if, even apart from the ballooning pitch count, power pitchers lose control earlier in the game than do finesse pitchers.

What is important—far more important—for pitching deep into a game is a low walk rate. We can show this more clearly in a second graph, this one a straightforward plot of K/9 and K/BB versus Outs Reached:

In nine-inning starts, K/BB nearly eclipses K/9!

Now, there is some backwardness here: The data show that long starts are characterized by high K/BB, not that pitchers with high K/BB are fated to pitch long. Still, I think the point holds.

Fantasy leaguers love strikeouts. And it’s a fair point that a high strikeout rate can contribute to a high K/BB. However, these graphs say that a low walk rate deserves allegiance on its own. A walk rate under 2.0 BB/9 is a sign of not only control but also good health and, within a game, an absence of fatigue. And it’s the pitcher’s walk rate, not his strikeout rate, that determines whether he will stay in a game in which he is pitching well.

If you’re scouting for wins, you should leap at the chance to roster a starter with a 2.5 K/BB, even if he has a sub-6.0 K/9. What he costs in Ks, he could recoup in Ws.

(What about the second set of arcs? Those are the epicycles, the curious switchbacks in which strikeout rate creeps up and then suddenly drops. The drops mark the start of new innings. The decision to send a starter who has completed N innings back into the (N+1)th inning relies on factors other than his arm—whether the game is close, whether the bullpen is fresh. However, once a starter has been put in for another inning, then whether he survives to the end of that inning does depend, marginally, on his K rate.)

Posted by John Burnson at 1:52am (7) Comments

Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects - 5/1/09

My #1 goal as your fantasy minor league expert is to create the ultimate minor league resource for all of you keeper league players out there. What better way to do that than create a Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospects list? It's not just your typical Top 100; I am solely concentrating on cold, hard stats. Defense does not factor in, although superior defensive ability could certainly push a player up the minor league ladder and into the majors faster.

I have only gone in depth on my Top 10, as of now. This project is a major undertaking, but I hope to have many more players fully broken down along with an updated ranking for next week. After that I will be updating the rankings and projections every month so you can stay on top of the most promising players in the minor leagues.

I also plan on starting a monthly Q&A section. Send any and all minor league questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I will get to as many of them as I can.

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1. Matt Wieters / C / Baltimore / AAA / 5/21/86 / ETA: 2009
2009 Thoughts:
I’m not worried about his AAA numbers at this point. They will pick up. If you are in need of catcher help, save your waiver wire position for a June call up. Expect Wieters to immediately join the top tier of catchers.
Average Year Projection:
.296 / .393 / 28 HR / 30 2B / 3 3B / 102 RBI / 86 R / 89 BB / 93 SO / 3 SB / 2 CS
Prime Year Projection:
.338 / .445 / 40 HR / 35 2B / 4 3B / 122 RBI / 101 R / 103 BB / 78 SO / 4 SB / 2 CS
Notes:
4/30/09 - There’s not much more that needs to be said about Wieters. He’s a superstar. I fully expect the Orioles to use him in a DH role during his “off” days. The main comparisons I keep hearing are Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira. I look at him more as Mike Piazza with plus defense and the advantage of being a switch hitter. People forget about how much of a complete hitter Piazza was. Wieters has the same makeup, and should have a longer career. Fifteen years from now baseball historians will be arguing over who the best catcher of all time is: Johnny Bench, Yoggi Berra, or Matt Wieters.

2. Tommy Hanson / SP / Atlanta / AAA / 8/28/86 / ETA: 2009
2009 Thoughts:
Look for him to supplant the rotation spot of either Jo-Jo Reyes or Kenshin Kawakami in June, if the Braves can hold out that long. He will be a very useful starter in fantasy leagues. Don’t bank on ace-like numbers this year, but it’s possible.
Average Year Projection:
207 IP / 3.44 ERA / 1.24 WHIP / 16 W / 9 L / 199 SO / 191 H / 66 BB
Prime Year Projection:
224 IP / 2.62 ERA / 1.17 WHIP / 20 W / 7 L / 241 SO / 198 H / 65 BB
Notes:
4/30/09 - I may be overly optimistic, but this kid just seems to have the “it” factor. He’s 6 feet, 6 inches, 220 pounds with three big league pitches, including a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball. The Braves strike again. He will run into some control issues early in his career (most do), but I am fully expecting an ace career out of Tommy Hanson.

3. Matt LaPorta / OF/1B / Cleveland / AAA / 1/8/85 / ETA: 2009
2009 Thoughts:
The man is mashing at AAA. Expect him to be a full-time player after a June call up. He will give your team a great boost, a la Jay Bruce in 2008 and Ryan Braun in 2007.
Average Year Projection:
.282 / .368 / 31 HR / 28 2B / 1 3B / 105 RBI / 86 R / 80 BB / 124 SO / 2 SB / 2 CS
Prime Year Projection:
.308 / .399 / 42 HR / 31 2B / 3 3B / 129 RBI / 103 R / 91 BB / 112 SO / 3 SB / 2 CS
Notes:
4/30/09 - He’s not only the best power hitter in minor league baseball, but he has good contact skills and a strong eye at the plate. A true middle of the order hitter. He will be a passable defender at either left field or first base. He’s durable and a good clubhouse guy. Analysts are sleeping on LaPorta. He’s 24 already, but I’m not concerned. His prime is near.

4. David Price / SP / Tampa Bay / AAA / 8/26/85 / ETA: 2009
2009 Thoughts:
They will keep him down at AAA for as long as they can, but I’m expecting a June or July call up. He may go to the bullpen, as the big league rotation looks strong. I’m not counting on a big fantasy season due to the unpredictable situation.
Average Year Projection:
198 IP / 3.67 ERA / 1.30 WHIP / 14 W / 9 L / 182 SO / 189 H / 69 BB
Prime Year Projection:
212 IP / 2.85 ERA / 1.19 WHIP / 18 W / 8 L / 223 SO / 194 H / 58 BB
Notes:
4/30/09 - I'm slightly concerned about Price’s stamina. Control issues could keep him from truly succeeding at the major league level for a couple of years, but by the time he’s 26 or 27 I’m expecting a No. 1 pitcher to emerge. Some are concerned about a sore elbow he had in 2008. I’m not; his mechanics are solid. He’s a strong competitor with ideal size and a nasty fastball/slider combo. Playing in the AL East will ultimately hurt his fantasy appeal.

5. Madison Bumgarner / SP / San Francisco / A+ / 8/1/89 / ETA: 2011
2009 Thoughts:
If he continues to dominate, which I believe he will, a ticket up to AA is all his. And I can’t wait.
Average Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Prime Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Notes:
4/30/09 - I’m not afraid to admit it; I have a man crush on Madison Bumgarner. I love his work ethic. His secondary pitches will get better. They will have to if he wants to continue this level of dominance at the AA level. He possesses an easy arm action and strong mechanics. His plus fastball has great movement. His command is off the charts for a kid his age. He not only has ace potential, he has “best pitcher in all of baseball” potential. But because he’s so young and hasn’t seen competition beyond A-ball, I have to rank him below Hanson and Price at this time.

6. Mat Gamel / 3B/OF / Milwaukee / AAA / 7/26/85 / ETA: 2009
2009 Thoughts:
The man is off to a torrid start. Last year was no fluke. It’s hard projecting a call-up date for Gamel due to his defensive inadequacies, but he will be called up at some point as long as Milwaukee stays in the race. When that happens, expect a platoon situation at 3B where Gamel receives the bulk of the starts against right handers.
Average Year Projection:
.288 / .349 / 24 HR / 43 2B / 7 3B / 98 RBI / 92 R / 59 BB / 113 SO / 6 SB / 3 CS
Prime Year Projection:
.311 / .385 / 30 HR / 47 2B / 9 3B / 110 RBI / 100 R / 66 BB / 102 SO / 9 SB / 4 CS
Notes:
4/30/09 - Gamel sports an impressive, pure swing. He has progressed and gotten better at every stop he has made on his way up the minor league chain. I just feel like this guy can’t miss; his bat is too good. I view him as a poor man’s Chipper Jones, although I have serious doubts about his ability to stick at third base. A corner outfield position is in his future. But his bat and ability to spray the ball all over the field have me impressed.

7. Travis Snider / OF / Toronto / MLB / 2/2/88
2009 Thoughts:
Although he is having some success at the major league level, don’t expect anything more than a No. 4 outfielder provides in your average fantasy setup.
Average Year Projection:
.270 / .354 / 25 HR / 34 2B / 3 3B / 95 RBI / 83 R / 74 BB / 138 SO / 4 SB / 3 CS
Prime Year Projection:
.289 / .375 / 32 HR / 37 2B / 4 3B / 116 RBI / 96 R / 82 BB / 126 SO / 5 SB / 3 CS
Notes:
4/30/09 - I like the minor success he is having in the majors this year. It gives me confidence in his ranking. It will take a few years to reach his potential. He whiffs a lot more than I like, but he is a true professional hitter. His defense will play in left field, and that is a sigh of relief for many fantasy owners. I don’t see as much pure power as some are predicting, but I like him and feel safe with his major league prospects.

8. Chris Tillman / SP / Baltimore / AAA / 4/15/88 / ETA: 2010
2009 Thoughts:
Expect him to stay at AAA all season, to great results. But I’ll be watching to see how AAA hitters adjust to his stuff.
Average Year Projection:
195 IP / 3.76 ERA / 1.34 WHIP / 14 W / 9 L / 175 SO / 194 H / 67 BB
Prime Year Projection:
208 IP / 3.03 ERA / 1.24 WHIP / 16 W / 9 L / 204 SO / 199 H / 59 BB
Notes:
4/30/09 - He's really showing his potential with his move to AAA this year, and I’m impressed. He has a strong repertoire, even though it may not be elite. He has the history of good results that I love. He’s a big, strong kid with good mechanics. His intangibles and confidence really make me believe.

9. Jesus Montero / C/1B / NY Yankees / A+ / 11/28/89 / ETA: 2011
2009 Thoughts:
Expect him to stay at A+ Tampa throughout 2009, where he will continue to display his raw power potential and work on his catching skills.
Average Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Prime Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Notes:
4/30/09 - His hitting prowess is starting to come into full bloom. The Yanks want to keep him behind the plate, which will take time. Hopefully his bat won’t stagnate while it waits for his glove to catch up. But it could turn out to be time well spent, obviously. A year or two from now he could be sitting where Matt LaPorta is right now as the best power hitter in the minor leagues. Ultimately, his best asset is his youth, which could be a gift or a curse.

10. Mike Moustakas / 3B / Kansas City / A+ / 9/11/88 / ETA: 2011
2009 Thoughts:
I fully anticipate a call up to AA at some point, after a few months of mashing in Wilmington. Will KC try to get him some work at SS? I doubt it. 3B seems to be his fit.
Average Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Prime Year Projection:
Too early to tell.
Notes:
4/30/09 - The No. 1 skill that stands out to me, Moustakas has the quickest wrists in the minors. He makes good contact too, even though he has yet to see AA pitching. I’m watching and waiting for his eye and plate discipline to catch up to his physical bat skills, but he has lots of time to get things figured out. I wish the Royals would keep him at shortstop. I think he can play the position at a major league level. Fantasy owners share my sentiments.

11. Jarrod Parker / SP / Arizona / A+ / 11/24/88 / ETA: 2011
12. Lars Anderson / 1B / Boston / AA / 9/25/87 / ETA: 2010
13. Buster Posey / C / San Francisco / A+ / 3/27/87 / ETA: 2010
14. Justin Smoak / 1B / Texas / AA / 12/5/86 / ETA: 2010
15. Dexter Fowler / OF / Colorado / MLB / 3/22/86
16. Jason Heyward / OF / Atlanta / A+ / 8/9/89 / ETA: 2011
17. Rick Porcello / SP / Detroit / MLB / 12/27/88
18. Carlos Triunfel / SS / Seattle / AA / 2/27/90 / ETA: 2011
19. Jordan Zimmermann / SP / Washington / MLB / 5/23/86
20. Michael Stanton / OF / Florida / A+ / 11/8/89 / ETA: 2011
21. Angel Villalona / 1B / San Francisco / A+ / 8/13/90 / ETA: 2011
22. Logan Morrison / 1B / Florida / AA / 8/25/87 / ETA: 2010
23. Neftali Feliz / SP/RP / Texas / AAA / 5/2/88 / ETA: 2010
24. Kyle Blanks / 1B / San Diego / AAA / 9/11/86 / ETA: 2010
25. Gordon Beckham / SS / Chicago White Sox / AA / 9/16/86 / ETA: 2010
26. Colby Rasmus / OF / St. Louis / MLB / 8/11/86
27. Derek Holland / SP / Texas / MLB / 10/9/86
28. Pedro Alvarez / 3B / Pittsburgh / A+ / 2/6/87 / ETA: 2010
29. Brett Anderson / SP / Oakland / MLB / 2/1/88
30. Hector Rondon / SP / Cleveland / AA / 2/26/88 / ETA: 2011
31. Cameron Maybin / OF / Florida / MLB / 4/4/87
32. Andrew Lambo / OF / LA Dodgers / AA / 8/11/88 / ETA: 2011
33. Trevor Cahill / SP / Oakland / MLB / 3/1/88
34. Jeremy Hellickson / SP / Tampa Bay / AA / 4/8/87 / ETA: 2011
35. Jhoulys Chacin / SP / Colorado / AA / 1/7/88 / ETA: 2011
36. Tim Alderson / SP / San Francisco / A+ / 11/3/88 / ETA: 2011
37. Brian Matusz / SP / Baltimore / A+ / 2/11/87 / ETA: 2011
38. Brett Lawrie / 2B/3B/OF / Milwaukee / A / 1/18/90 / ETA: 2011
39. Carlos Santana / C / Cleveland / AA / 4/8/86 / ETA: 2011
40. Michael Bowden / SP / Boston / AAA / 9/9/86 / ETA: 2010
41. Austin Jackson / OF / NY Yankees / AAA / 2/1/87 / ETA: 2010
42. Brett Wallace / 3B / St. Louis / AA / 8/26/86 / ETA: 2010
43. Elvis Andrus / SS / Texas / MLB / 8/26/88
44. Jake Arrieta / SP / Baltimore / AA / 3/6/86 / ETA: 2011
45. Aaron Hicks / OF / Minnesota / EST / 10/2/89 / ETA: 2012
46. Daryl Jones / OF / St. Louis / AA / 6/25/87 / ETA: 2011
47. Aaron Cunningham / OF / Oakland / AAA / 4/24/86 / ETA: 2010
48. Tyler Flowers / C / Chicago White Sox / AA / 1/24/86 / ETA: 2011
49. Michael Saunders / OF / Seattle / AAA / 11/19/86 / ETA: 2010
50. Fernando Martinez / OF / NY Mets / AAA / 10/10/88 / ETA: 2010
51. Michael Inoa / SP / Oakland / EST / 9/24/91 / ETA: 2012
52. Eric Hosmer / 1B / Kansas City / A / 10/24/89 / ETA: 2012
53. Jordan Schafer / OF / Atlanta / MLB / 9/4/86
54. Brandon Erbe / SP / Baltimore / AA / 12/25/87 / ETA: 2011
55. Ethan Martin / SP / LA Dodgers / A / 6/6/89 / ETA: 2011
56. Martin Perez / SP / Texas / A / 4/4/91 / ETA: 2013
57. Andrew McCutchen / OF / Pittsburgh / AAA / 10/10/86 / ETA: 2010
58. Desmond Jennings / OF / Tampa Bay / AA / 10/30/86 / ETA: 2010
59. Freddie Freeman / 1B / Atlanta / A+ / 9/12/89 / ETA: 2011
60. Christian Friedrich / SP / Colorado / A / 7/8/87 / ETA: 2012
61. Jeremy Jeffress / SP / Milwaukee / AA / 9/21/87 / ETA: 2011
62. Gerardo Parra / OF / Arizona / AA / 5/6/87 / ETA: 2011
63. Wilfredo Boscan / SP / Texas / A / 10/26/89 / ETA: 2012
64. Jordan Walden / SP / LA Angels / AA / 11/16/87 / ETA: 2011
65. Alcides Escobar / SS / Milwaukee / AAA / 12/16/86 / ETA: 2010
66. Jairo Heredia / SP / NY Yankees / EST / 10/8/89 / ETA: 2011
67. Caleb Gindl / OF / Milwaukee / A+ / 8/31/88 / ETA: 2011
68. Wade Davis / SP / Tampa Bay / AAA / 9/7/85 / ETA: 2010
69. Wilmer Flores / SS / NY Mets / A / 8/6/91 / ETA: 2012
70. Daniel Bard / RP / Boston / AAA / 6/25/85 / ETA: 2010
71. Max Ramirez / C / Texas / AAA / 10/11/84 / ETA: 2010
72. Carlos Carrasco / SP / Philadelphia / AAA / 3/21/87 / ETA: 2010
73. Jose Tabata / OF / Pittsburgh / AA / 8/12/88 / ETA: 2011
74. Casey Kelly / SP / Boston / A / 10/4/89 / ETA: 2013
75. Nolan Reimold / OF / Baltimore / AAA / 10/12/83 / ETA: 2009
76. Ben Revere / OF / Minnesota / A+ / 5/3/88 / ETA: 2011
77. Jason Knapp / SP / Philadelphia / A / 8/31/90 / ETA: 2013
78. Zeke Spruill / SP / Atlanta / A / 9/11/89 / ETA: 2013
79. Michael Pineda / SP / Seattle / A+ / 1/18/89 / ETA: 2012
80. Matt Dominguez / 3B / Florida / A+ / 8/28/89 / ETA: 2011
81. James McDonald / SP / LA Dodgers / MLB / 10/19/84
82. Adrian Cardenas / 2B/SS / Oakland / AA / 10/10/87 / ETA: 2010
83. Lance Lynn / SP / St. Louis / A+ / 5/12/87 / ETA: 2012
84. Bud Norris / SP / Houston / AAA / 3/2/85 / ETA: 2010
85. Dayan Viciedo / OF / Chicago White Sox / AA / 3/10/89 / ETA: 2011
86. Jason Castro / C / Houston / A+ / 6/18/87 / ETA: 2011
87. Trevor Reckling / SP / LA Angels / AA / 5/22/89 / ETA: 2011
88. Yonder Alonso / 1B / Cincinnati / A+ / 4/8/87 / ETA: 2011
89. Aaron Poreda / SP / Chicago White Sox / AA / 10/1/86 / ETA: 2011
90. David Hernandez / SP / Baltimore / AAA / 5/13/85 / ETA: 2010
91. Brandon Crawford / SS / San Francisco / A+ / 1/21/87 / ETA: 2011
92. Kris Medlen / SP/RP / Atlanta / AAA / 10/7/85 / ETA: 2010
93. Phillippe Aumont / RP / Seattle / A+ / 1/7/89 / ETA: 2011
94. Dominic Brown / OF / Philadelphia / A+ / 9/3/87 / ETA: 2012
95. Gio Gonzalez / SP / Oakland / AAA / 9/19/85 / ETA: 2009
96. Josh Vitters / 3B / Chicago Cubs / A / 8/27/89 / ETA: 2012
97. Sean West / SP / Florida / AA / 6/15/86 / ETA: 2011
98. J.P. Arencibia / C / Toronto / AAA / 1/5/86 / ETA: 2011
99. Josh Lindblom / SP / LA Dodgers / AA / 6/15/87 / ETA: 2011
100. Tim Beckham / SS / Tampa Bay / A / 1/27/90 / ETA: 2012

Other players that I'm watching closely:
Gorkys Hernandez
Kyle Skipworth
Vance Worley
Dellin Betances
Todd Frazier
Jonathon Niese
Lou Marson
Trevor Harden
Cody Johnson
Daniel Duffy
John Jaso
D.J. Mitchell
Reese Havens
Wilson Ramos
Ross Seaton
Mike Carp
Dexter Carter
Mauricio Robles
Matt Maloney
Brandon Snyder
Brett Cecil
Yohermyn Chavez
Chris Carter
Kevin Mulvey
Jason Donald
David Huff
Michael Taylor
Reid Brignac
Brett Lorin

Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:02am (6) Comments

Waiver Wire

American League by Rob McQuown

Josh Anderson | Detroit | OF
YTD: .341/.386/.463
True Talent: .283/.332/.380
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .288 BA, 1.0 SB
Anderson's True Talent isn't so much different from Jacoby Ellsbury's, and Anderson has a ton of speed. Leyland wants Anderson’s glove in the lineup, so he should keep getting substantial playing time even when Thames returns, which could be two more months. Being unestablished, Anderson could play his way back to the bench, but it seems unlikely. He's no .350 hitter, but he could keep stealing 2 bases per week.

Russ Branyan | Seattle | 1B/3B
YTD: .333/.415/.614
True Talent: .243/.339/.485
Next Week Forecast: 1.0 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, .252 BA, 0.2 SB
Seattle used to have “Big Richie” Sexson, now they have Russell “Paul Bunyan” Branyan. There has never been much difference (other than batting side) between the two. Branyan’s five-hit game against Danks should maintain him in the lineup against LHP, so it's safe to count on more than the projected stats. Just don’t panic when Branyan goes into an 0-for-25-with-12-strikeouts slump. Because he will.

Asdrubal Cabrera | Cleveland | 2B/SS
YTD: .329/.434/.443
True Talent: .268/.343/.388
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, .265 BA, 0.5 SB
A personal fave, Cabrera is no longer a secret, but be careful about assuming that he'll steal bases! Of his 4 SB thus far, one was the back of a double-steal, another was against ailing Mike Redmond, and one was a sneaky steal of third base. Cabrera now has a total of 8 SB in 688 PA. His rate stats should end up somewhat better than his projection, and he has “filler” value as a tolerable middle infielder.

Scott Downs | Toronto | RP
YTD: 11.8 K/9, 14:0 K/BB, 0.84 ERA
True Talent: 8.3 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 3.03 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 1.4 Saves, 3.01 ERA
Since 2007, Scott Downs has been an outstanding reliever, and one of the scarce “2-way lefties” (.243/.321/.364 vs. RHB). His True Talent suggests not only that he can handle the closer job but also that he should be very good. Expect Downs to push Frasor out of the picture if he continues handling the pressure of closing well. And Downs is better than even odds to keep the role after Ryan returns.

Jose Morales | Minnesota | C
YTD: .349/.391/.419
True Talent: .253/.302/.353
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .252 BA, 0.0 SB
Although he’s worth considering only in AL-only leagues, Morales has hit every year in the minors in which he was healthy, and he batted over .310 the past two years in Triple-A. Between Redmond's shoulder and Mauer's back, expect Morales to keep his spot and keep getting AB. He won't homer or steal, but his very low K rate (5 K in 49 career PA, with a similar rate in the minors) augurs a decent BA.

Scott Richmond | Toronto | SP
YTD: 7.7 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 2.70 ERA
True Talent: 6.7 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.56 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 wins, 4 K, 4.51 ERA
Although the Jays seem to have found a Magic Pitching Formula, don't follow the lemmings who are chasing Scott Richmond! Okay, it's not quite that bad. The big Canadian is a great story, escaping the Indy leagues and striking out more than 7 batters per 9 IP. His fly-ball tendencies (39%+) will be okay in some parks, especially with Wells and Rios tracking balls. Unfortunately, the big offenses in the East are going to treat him rudely.

Kurt Suzuki | Oakland | C
YTD: .328/.377/.438
True Talent: .267/.335/.377
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .270 BA, 0.1 SB
Kurt Suzuki is the mad rage in fantasy leagues lately, though it's hard to see why. For AL-only leagues, he is already long gone, and will probably maintain about the same value. The A's offense will heat up some, and he'll add more R/RBI, but his AVG will drop from .328. For mixed leagues, he's just “filler”—nice to have for a weekend in Texas or the like. He does earn props for being durable.

Joel Zumaya | Detroit | RP
YTD: 3.0 K/9, 1:0 K/BB, 0.00 ERA
True Talent: 8.3 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.94 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.91 ERA
When healthy, Zumaya is an exceptional pitcher. He is throwing 100 MPH still (again), and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that he's the best closer candidate on the Tigers. Current closer Fernando Rodney's True Talent (8.6 K/9, 2.0 K/BB) is good, but an ERA over 5.00 may point to a lack of focus. Especially if you own Rodney—but even if not—now is the time to pick up Zumaya.

National League by Michael Street

Joe Beimel | Washington | RP
YTD: 3.7 K/9, 3.0 K/BB, 1.23 ERA
True Talent: 5.3 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 3.66 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a
When Beimel returns from the DL, he’ll be the Nats’ closer, but the stuff’s just not there. He doesn’t strike out guys (career 5.0 K/9) or display great control (3.8 BB/9), and on top of that, he’s a lefty. In Beimel’s favor, he tends not to give up home runs (career 0.7 HR/9, only 1 HR since 2007), and he’s in a scrambled bullpen situation. For those, he’s worth a gamble, but don’t be surprised if you get burned.

Jesus Flores | Washington | C
YTD: .267/.348/.400
True Talent: .248/.306/.397
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, .249 BA, 0.1 SB
The ceiling for Flores is high, but it’s not stratospheric, and for good reason: He has some pop, but he struggles against RHP (.639 OPS) and strikes out a ton (career 4.0 PA/K). Even with a .267 BA, his BABIP is an unsustainable .359. So either sell him high or ride his hot start, but don’t be fooled. Flores will be pretty good someday, but not just yet.

Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF
YTD: .290/.366/.452
True Talent: .275/.350/.419
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .275 BA, 0.5 SB
Fowler’s numbers look strong, but his OPS away from Coors (.682) is 250 points lower than at home (.936), and he’s splitting time with Ryan Spilborghs. Eventually, Fowler will be the guy to own, but expect streaky part-time performance for now, providing steals, BA, and decent power. A clear must-own in keeper leagues or for those with roster room; everyone else can wait until he’s a full-timer.

Braden Looper | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 6.5 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 2.45 ERA
True Talent: 4.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.32 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.1 IP, 0.4 Wins, 3 K, 4.19 ERA
The Brewers score runs behind Looper—he’s averaging 7 runs of support. But a sharp correction in ERA is in order, particularly with a 4.5 BB/9. Looper has benefited from pitching at the back end of the rotation, but he’ll eventually return to the #3 spot. He would benefit only the back end of a fantasy rotation, too, giving slightly above-average innings with few K and some extra Wins from MIL’s bats.

Joel Piniero | St. Louis | SP
YTD: 2.1 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 3.76 ERA
True Talent: 4.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.78 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 3 K, 4.44 ERA
4-0 Piniero demonstrates the arbitrariness of Wins. His expected ERA exceeds his real ERA by almost a full run, and those peripherals are awful. He’s a moderate ground-ball pitcher (1.65 GB/FB in 2008), so he’ll succeed if he keeps the ball down and the Cards play 'D' and hit behind him. Just don’t expect much more than a few extra luck-inspired wins, very few K, and a sub-par ERA.

Edgar Renteria | San Francisco | SS
YTD: .275/.351/.435
True Talent: .277/.335/.395
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .277 BA, 0.4 SB
With the way Renteria started this year (.138/.194/.172 through his first seven games), he had nowhere to go but up. Since then, he has hit .375/.457/.625. True Talent says the reality is in between. At age 33, Renteria will still show a bit of power, but he’s not going to steal bases, and if he exceeds his True Talent, it won’t be by much. Not a bad SS option, particularly in NL-only leagues, but not a great option, either.

David Ross | Atlanta | C
YTD: .321/.457/.643
True Talent: .240/.334/.427
Next Week Forecast: 1.1 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, .238 BA, 0.1 SB
Brian McCann goes down, and opportunity knocks—will Ross answer? Ross has always flashed power, but he just recently started taking walks (5.7 PA/BB in 2008, vs. 10.9 PA/BB in the prior five years). That trend has continued in the small sample of 2009, making him a decent bet to beat his True Talent. However, when McCann returns from the DL, Ross returns to backup duties, so he's suitable only as a short-term pickup.

Rafael Soriano | Atlanta | RP
YTD: 12.6 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 0.90 ERA
True Talent: 9.2 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 3.22 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 Saves, 3.37 ERA
Either Soriano or Mike Gonzalez could close for Atlanta, if either could stay healthy and consistent. If both could do it at the same time, Atlanta would have an awesome end game. Until then, Soriano will pick up the pieces for Gonzalez, as he has done twice already this season. With his strong peripherals, Soriano will be offered—and will earn—the occasional Save, but keep a DL spot free if you grab him.

True Talent and Next Week Forecast are taken from Heater Magazine.

Posted by THT Staff at 1:01am (0) Comments

Roster Doctor - 5/1/09

Welcome to THT Fantasy's Roster Doctor. If you'd like your team to be analyzed by one of our fantasy baseball experts, please send your full roster to this address. Also be sure to include your league's player pool (mixed, AL-only, NL-only), number of teams, scoring format (roto, head-to-head, points, etc.), categories, whether or not it's a keeper league, and any other pertinent information. If your roster is selected it will be analyzed in a future Roster Doctor column.

Player Pool: NL-only
No. of Teams: 8
Categories: 5x5, except on-base percentage replaces batting average and K/9 replaces just Ks.
Other Notes: Keeper League
Roster:

C - Brian McCann
1B - James Loney
2B - Mike Fontenot
3B - Casey Blake
SS - Stephen Drew
CI - Pablo Sandoval
OF - Matt Kemp
OF - Alfonso Soriano
OF - Nate McLouth
OF - Willy Taveras
OF - Randy Winn
BN - Cameron Maybin
BN - Luis Castillo
BN - Troy Glaus

P - Dan Haren
P - Derek Lowe
P - Paul Maholm
P - Rich Harden
P - Jair Jurrjens
P - Kyle Lohse
P - Brian Wilson
P - Manny Corpas

Unfortunately this is not a standard league, so I cannot do the "Honest Evaluation" technique Marco and I like to do but no worries, I can still evaluate your team. Keep in mind that everything with this team depends on whether you should be leaning toward "going for it" this year or planning for the future.

Looking at your hitters, you seem to have a nice young core centered primarily around Kemp, McCann, McLouth, Loney and Maybin. But then you also have another group of hitters close to or already at their time of fading into fantasy irrelevance, namely Bradley, Winn, Blake, and Tejada. Seeing how those hitters are less of impact players than the younger ones are, I would say you should be playing for today and should be competitive in the hitting categories for the next couple of years.

Your team is pretty light on power but makes up for it in runs and steals. In the RBI and on-base categories it seems above-average at best so your hitting is not top-notch but also could compete with the best teams if your role players like Bradley and Winn stay productive.

Moving on to your pitching, in short, it appears dominant. I like the irony of having the former A's one-two punch as your own, (I could not find an old A's commercial featuring the two of them) and Haren and Harden are both extra valuable in a K/9 league. Lohse, Jurrjens, and Maholm, although not strikeout kings, are solid ratio pitchers and round out your rotation nicely.

Right now you only have about one and a half closers—Corpas is the half of a closer—but in an NL-only league there are only 16 closers to be had, so you are not doing too bad there.

I would not mess up this team to much; it appears to be well balanced and competitive now with young players to keep it competitive in the future. The one thing I would do is drop one of your bench hitters, maybe Yadier because you can always plug Sandoval in at catcher if necessary and add a young pitcher. I am not sure who is available but James McDonald is an example someone I would look for, a young pitcher near or in the major leagues. I do not suggest you start this player right away, but consider them an asset for the future.

If there are no young pitchers available you like, then pick up a relief pitcher to help your ratios. I would rather have a guy like Aaron Heilman helping my ratios and adding in a few extra wins and Ks every few nights than Yadier rotting on the bench.

Other than that, all I can say is go for it this year. Talk to teams you see might be "sellers" later in the year, and look to make a push to take down the title this year. It is a possibility.

Posted by Paul Singman at 1:00am

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