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Friday, August 21, 2009
Billy Wagner is getting a lot of play in the media lately, but unless you're in a medium-to-deep NL (or AL)-only league, this former closer shouldn't be on your radar. FOX's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox have indeed claimed Wagner, which leaves just a few possible fantasy scenarios:
Posted by Derek Carty at 6:11pm
I introduced you guys to a couple new THT Fantasy writers last week, but we've added another new member of the team since then, so I thought I'd give him an introduction today. His name is Derek Ambrosino, and he'll be discussing keeper leagues with you guys every Monday. He's previously worked for MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), and you might also recognize him from our comments section writing under the name digglahhh (or, more recently, under his real name).
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:00am
In the sweep of human history, major-league baseball is, shall we say, a recent innovation. It’s not surprising, then, that we have a poor sense of the proper time scale for evaluating baseball talent. Only since a bunch of men met in La Rotisserie Française to draft mock baseball teams did what happened three years ago become more important to our survival than what happened yesterday.
Take hitters. Tom Tango’s Marcel system says that a hitter’s expected performance in one year is a function of his (and his league’s) numbers in the prior three years. One element of the algorithm is a weighting of 3/12 for the hitter’s performance in the earliest of those three years. There is no way that fantasy leaguers credit 25% of a hitter’s expected performance in 2010 to his numbers in 2007. (In truth, the full weighting is less than 25% since Marcel also calls for 1,200 PA of league-average stats. However, 3/12 is the fraction of the hitter’s portion contributed by that early year.)
Likewise, Marcel asserts that the latest of the hitter’s last three seasons contributes 5/12 (out of all the hitter’s numbers) to the next year. Propose to your leaguemates that less than 50% of a hitter’s expected performance in 2010 hinges on his play in 2009 and you’ll be laughed out of the room.
But those are the ratios per Marcel (and I’m sticking with Marcel here, granting that it is simple, because “simple” can still mean “smarter than us”). The past is prologue, but the immediate past is not the whole story. The point is not that just-closed history is immaterial but that only slightly mustier history fades too fast. I don’t know about you, but six months ago feels like three years ago to me.
What we would be really useful, for fantasy games, is a way to identify players for whom we have exaggerated perceptions—those are the rich buying and selling opportunities. One route would be to examine ownership levels in online leagues or aggregate rankings in mock drafts. However, simpler would be a programmatic approach.
To that end, we’ve created Near-Sighted Marcels (NSM's). NSM’s are simply Marcels with a more, ahem, human-like ratio of memories. In Near-Sighted Marcels, the remote past still counts, but the recent past counts much, much more.
What ratio of the past three seasons should we use? After careful (in human terms!) deliberation, we went with 80/15/5—that is, our internal projections for players are composed roughly of 80% of this year’s numbers, 15% of last year’s, & a sprinkling of the year before’s. That seems a fair (if humbling) allotment. (In the Comments, feel free to discuss the ratio that you would choose.)
Here is a comparison of the coefficients for both standard and near-sighted Marcel (ratios adjusted to 100):
By this light, humans judge the immediate past to be twice as relevant as does Marcel, but the prior year only 1/2 as much, and the outlying year only 1/5 so.
We generated both Marcels and NSM’s for 2010 for the current crop of hitters. We pro-rated the YTD numbers to a full season by multiplying by 4/3. We also expressed the ratio for NSM's as 9.6/1.8/0.6 so that the total magnitude (12) would be the same as with Marcels (5/4/3) and mesh with the injection of league-average PA.
Let’s stick to OPS. We’ll define “Sentiment” as a batter’s NSM OPS minus his Marcel OPS (so a Sentiment above 0 indicates a player who is regarded more favorably by humans than by Marcel).
The leader in Sentiment this year is Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett:
If you give this season a weighting of 80%, you anticipate an OPS for Bartlett of over 850. Now, Bartlett is having a stellar season, but Sentiment advises us not to get carried away by a guy who had a career 699 OPS in 1,700 PA entering this season, and who has hit as many home runs this season as he did for his entire career before 2009.
Among players with at least 300 PA, here are the leaders in Sentiment:
Say what you will about their maturation (and you will say it), these guys should be regarded with a dash of skepticism and off-loaded (for top dollar) with only seeming reluctance. Every thing that can go their way, has.
It’s harder to find laggards in Sentiment with more than 300 PA—depressed play usually means depressed playing time. Still, you could probably guess the big names: Giles, Ortiz, Cedeno, Ordonez, Renteria, Matsui, Upton (B.J.), Burrell, Atkins, Navarro. Guys who (as anyone is happy to tell you) are down to their last swings. If I had a rebuilding team, I would be scooping up these guys like souvenir cups (and at comparable prices).
It’s good to take stock of our limits. It’s even better if we can characterize those limits and play against them. As you plan your keepers for next season, remember those ancient eras when the year ended in an "8" or "7."
(Here is a link to a spreadsheet with both regular and near-sighted Marcels for all hitters with at-bats in each of the last three years.)
Posted by John Burnson at 2:30am
John Smoltz | St. Louis | SP/RP
YTD: 7.4 K/9, 3.7 K/BB, 8.32 ERA
True Talent: 7.8 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 4.04 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Smoltz bombed in trying to switch to an AL team in the toughest division in baseball, but his secondary ratios were about in line with TT predictions. Now that he's back in the NL, on a competitive team with a strong defense, he's definitely going to improve in ERA and wins. The Cards will start him fifth in the rotation for now, then move him into the pen, either in the playoffs or shortly before. That gives you a few starts with a decent upside from a guy who's still talented, extremely competitive, and knowledgeable about NL hitters. Definitely worth a gamble for a handful of wins and Ks in any league, but remember he's still recovering from shoulder surgery, so don't expect him to blow the doors off in ERA or IP—and a continued slide is a very real risk.
Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado | OF
True Talent: .264/.312/.421
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .253 BA, 0.5 SB
My WW partner Rob McQuown had suggested covering CarGo last week, but I wanted to wait a week to see if he could keep it up. As always, I shoulda listened to Rob, since Gonzalez was smoking hot, hitting .350/.391/.950 for the week. Some expect him to share time in CF with Dexter Fowler, but ultimately Colorado wants both starting at the same time. TT is pessimistic about Gonzalez continuing to put up such gaudy numbers and sees a substantial correction coming. I expect the truth is somewhere in between; let's not forget that Gonzalez was once a top prospect, and he may have finally figured it out. Don't think of him as a Coors Field product, as his OPS is 37 points higher in away games. He's a must-add for all NL leagues and 10-team mixed leagues in the short term, and those in keeper leagues should strongly consider holding onto him even after he cools off.
Vincente Padilla | Los Angeles | SP
YTD: 4.9 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
True Talent: 5.9 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Texas released Padilla, and the Dodgers grabbed him, after losing Kuroda to a horrifying Close Encounter of the Line Drive Kind. Moving to the senior circuit, with a pitcher-friendly park and good D behind him, would seem like the recipe for success for Padilla. But his run support is unlikely to change much (Los Angeles scores .06 more runs/game than Texas), and you're still looking at a guy with some pretty miserable TT skills. Padilla could only provide you with Wins, not Ks, and is a serious threat to your ratios (His 1.50 WHIP this year is consistent with his 1.46 and 1.63 from the past two seasons). Some look at him as a sure NL-only add, but I can only recommend him to those teams with a healthy lead in ERA/WHIP who desperately need one or two more wins.
Jonny Gomes | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: .242/.333/.465
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .239 BA, 0.2 SB
As I mentioned in last week's writeup on Wladmir Balentien, Gomes (Balentien's primary OF partner) runs hot and cold. Right now, Gomes is Hot Jonny. Thanks to a four-homer week that lifted his weekly line to .400/.471/1.267, owners are snapping him up. He's certainly worth a short-term add, as his production has stepped up his PT to nearly full time, but TT and his history tells you he's going to turn into Chilly Jonny soon enough. And, just as with Balentien, he will lose plenty of PT when Jay Bruce returns in the next few weeks. Ride him while you can in your NL league or 10-team mixed league, but watch for that dropoff coming and have a backup plan.
Angel Guzman | Chicago | RP
YTD: 7.0 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.72 ERA
True Talent: 8.0 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 3.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.66 ERA
The demotion of Gregg from the closer's role has everyone looking towards Carlos Marmol, but Piniella could also give Guzman a turn or two. That's no small consideration, given how much Marmol has struggled with his control this season (8.3 BB/9, 1.3 K/BB). Guzman's numbers are far stronger, and TT shows that he's performing just as expected, with a nudge up in Ks or down in ERA possible. Guzman's had health problems in the past (including TJS in 2007 and a DL stint this season for a strained triceps), but he's also been one of Chicago's best relievers. His superior ratios protect his downside, so don't be afraid to go against conventional wisdom and pick up Guzman to bring you Ks and a few saves—or a lot of them. Worth a roster spot in all NL leagues and 12-team mixed leagues, or if you're scrapping for every last save.
Chase Headley | San Diego | OF
True Talent: .259/.338/.414
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .257 BA, 0.2 SB
Every other Padres outfielder has gone through a hot streak, so why not Headley? That awful 2009 line isn't representative of the .333/.417/.444 numbers he put up over the last 25 games, his best stretch of the season. He's a former No. 1 prospect and their future 3B (he may already qualify there in leagues with low thresholds) and jumped from Double-A to the majors in 2007, so an adjustment period was to be expected. PETCO has been keeping him down—his OPS is 100 points higher on the road in 2009—and will always make him look worse than he is. An eventual keeper, Headley will probably come into his own in 2010. Until then, he's a good OF add for 10-team NL leagues or very deep mixed leagues; as a 3B qualifier, he's only got value in 14-team NL leagues.
Billy Wagner | New York | RP
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Mets activated Wagner from the DL on Thursday, and he will bring immediate help to a bullpen desperate for stability. Word is that he could even pick up a few saves, a good thing, since K-Rod is struggling, adding more than 2 runs to his ERA since July 1. But he's also been waived, so he could also end up in a team with playoff hopes and a weaker closer situation. But it's unlikely he'll throw many high-leverage innings regardless of his destination, since any team will use him carefully. He might bring you some Ks and saves; the good and bad news is that he's probably not going to pitch enough to hurt, or help, your ratios very much.
Jeff Baker | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .272/.331/.466
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .277 BA, 0.2 SB
Piniella named Baker his starting 2B this week, pushing Fontenot to the bench, and Baker's earned it with his hot bat, hitting .472/.513/.722 over the past nine games, and .338/.388/.554 with the Cubs. He's shown this kind of pop in the past, mostly against lefties (career .931 OPS vs. LHP, .708 vs. RHP), a trend that's continued in 2009 (.972 OPS vs. LHP, .697 vs. RHP). It's no coincidence that this nine-game binge has come against four lefty starters, but Lou seems ready to start him most of the time, not stick him on the short end of a platoon. Keep an eye on this going forward, as you might want to platoon him instead. True Talent's giving him a very good outlook for a MIF, particularly in the power department, and his TT line would make him the third-best 2B in the NL. That makes him an easy add in all leagues, so long as you watch his splits down the stretch.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Alex Avila | Detroit | C
True Talent: .241/.311/.358
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .241 BA, 0.1 SB
Oh, the nepotism! The son of assistant GM Al, Alex was taken in the fifth round in 2008 out of Alabama, where he just became a full-time catcher in 2008. But wait, this guy can play ball! He's burst into the Tigers' pennant race and wrested at least half the playing time already. After showing great hitting and on-base skills in the tough Midwest League in 2008, the Tigers vaulted him over High-A to Double-A. He didn't slow down at all, and even added power (12 HR) and a 44% CS% to his game. If the “True Talent” projection represents his ability now, it will soon be outdated. This guy is on the fast track, and not just due to his family ties.
Julio Borbon | Texas | OF
True Talent: .271/.308/.364
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .272 BA, 1.6 SB
Borbon is a good prospect, and even better for fantasy purposes, as he's stolen more than 50 bases in a minor-league season. Ron Washington already trusts him to run, as the eight SB in just 33 PA demonstrate. There's a crowded outfield situation in Texas, and a relatively pop-less hitter like Borbon doesn't fit the mold. So, now that Cruz is back, Borbon may see most of his appearances in pinch-running and defensive replacement roles, but is still worth a roster spot in deep AL-only leagues, and is a keeper to keep your eye on.
Doug Fister | Mariners | SP
YTD: 5.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 1.93 ERA
True Talent: 4.8 K/9, 1.2 K/BB, 5.70 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 W, 2 K, 6.55 ERA
Normally, when a pitcher has a BABIP that's not near .300, you can presume some measure of luck. But Fister's minor-league career has seen a .339 BABIP, an outrageously high total, and a good indicator that his junk and sub-90 “fastball” don't fool hitters, even minor-league hitters. But, as with Rowland-Smith, he's in a great place for him. His minor-league walk rate is just over 2 (2.11), and he induces enough ground balls to get double plays. Could aid WHIP for AL-only teams, despite the hits allowed.
Freddy Garcia | Chicago | SP
YTD: 6.2 K/9, 3.0 K/BB, 10.38 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Forget about Carlos Torres and Daniel Hudson—Freddy Garcia will be holding down the fifth spot for another 2-3 starts in Chicago until Jake Peavy takes his place atop the rotation. He didn't look nearly as bad as the stats indicate in his one start, and he was able to throw over 90. He's only worth worrying about in the deepest of AL leagues, but he'll get pulled early if he's getting hit, so it's unlikely he'll cause much harm.
Carlos Guillen | Detroit | IF/OF
True Talent: .276/.353/.431
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .277 BA, 0.4 SB
Guillen came back on July 24, and has hit .289/.373/.500 since. For the first couple weeks, he wasn't able to bat right-handed, but has started the past 14 games for the Tigers. He's not ancient—just 33 years old—and has peaked even better than this before, so it's not out of the question that he could have two excellent months to end 2009. His eligibility at 3b/1b/of makes him versatile, too. Someone to consider, even in mixed leagues.
Brandon Lyon | Detroit | RP
YTD: 6.3 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 2.84 ERA
True Talent: 6.1 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.78 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 Saves, 3.80 ERA
Brandon Lyon has an ERA about a point lower than the closer's, and picked up two wins and a save in August. But Fernando Rodney is still the closer. Both “True Talent” and xFIP indicate that it's a wash, with neither pitcher showing quite the skill level a team would like to have in their best reliever. Still, given the difference in ERA, and the fact that Rodney isn't great, Lyon is probably as likely as almost any setup man to move into a closer's role in September. Jim Leyland isn't known for his patience, after all.
Jayson Nix | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .236/.305/.394
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .231 AVG, 0.6 SB
In 2001, the Rockies thought Nix was worth a first-round pick. When he was hitting 67 extra-base hits (21 HR) and stealing 24 bases in the California League at age 20 two years later, he was regarded as an exciting prospect. My MLP system tabbed him as being a .270/.340/.425 hitter when he reached his prime years (based on 02-03 data). Well, as we all know, he took quite a detour! Expect the power to slide back down, but even with an awful IF/FB% of over 18%, his .232 BABIP should come up with more AB. A very good fielder by both reputation and (limited sample size) stats, there's no guarantee that Nix will lose the job when Getz returns. A good power/speed contributor for teams in AL Leagues that can afford a hit to AVG.
Ivan Rodriguez | Texas | C
True Talent: .263/.298/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .260 BA, 0.2 SB
As a Cubs fan, this author has a hard time imagining anything but heroics from the guy who slayed some Bears in 2003. But the 37-year-old version isn't the same, as True Talent indicates. Don't be shocked if he picks up the rate stats in Texas' friendly park, and the abundance of young catching options keeps him fresh. The rest will obviously depress his counting stats, but viewing him as “just a backup” would be a serious underestimation. Could be a surprisingly good second catcher in AL Leagues.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 2:00am
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