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Monday, August 31, 2009
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a trend I've noticed where people tend to pay too much attention to the current year's statistics and pay too little attention to what happened in previous years. Soon after, John Burnson introduced us to what he calls Near-Sighted Marcels, an attempt to quantify the propensity of owners to engage in this kind of thinking.
As I noted, though, there will always be exceptions. Sometimes, we don't place enough emphasis on this year's statistics.
Last week, I engaged in LABR NL trade talks with reigning champion Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN. Nyjer Morgan (pre-injury) was discussed, but Tristan didn't seem to buy into him as much as I did. When probed, I said that I'd peg Morgan as a $28 or $29 hitter, while Tristan thought he belonged in the low $20s (and at that, it would be "a pretty generous price"). Part of this was surely posturing, negotiating, trying not to show too much of his hand, but it was pretty clear our evaluations of Morgan didn't exactly match up.
He asked me if I would compare him to Juan Pierre in his prime, which I considered a pretty fair parallel, minus a few steals. I said that I saw Morgan as a no power, near-.300 hitter who can steal 50 bases and score 100 runs. That about sums up Pierre, except that he was able to eclipse 60 steals a couple times (Morgan was on pace for about 54 before he broke his hand).
I later found out that, in addition to the fewer steals we agreed upon, Tristan didn't think he deserved such a high batting average. He and fellow ESPN writer and LABR NL owner Nate Ravitz discussed the deals I had been negotiating with each of them on ESPN's Fantasy Focus radio show (the first five minutes of the 8/27 show, if you'd like to listen), and when Morgan came up, neither seemed to consider him a big batting average contributor (although Nate didn't see Morgan as too far removed from Pierre).
I maintained my position, though. I said that Morgan hadn't posted a batting average below .294 at any level in his career, and even more telling, improved his strikeout rate from 20 percent in 2008 to 15.8 percent this season. Because a hitter's strikeout rate is such a stable stat, the premise for my argument was based upon the fact that Morgan's 2009 strikeout rate is very important.
Intrigued by all this, I dug even deeper into the numbers on Morgan with some help from work Sean Smith did back in June. If I use the yearly weights Sean came up with for strikeout rate, we'd arrive at a 16.7 percent weighted (and regressed) strikeout rate for Morgan. If we assume this 16.7 percent strikeout rate, a three percent HR/FB, a 26 percent FB%, and a .340 BABIP, we'd expect Morgan to bat .288.
That's not as high as I had expected, but still pretty close to Pierre in his prime. In years when Pierre stole 40+ bases (2001-2008), his aggregate batting average was exactly .300. If we only look at years when he was over 50, as Morgan was on track to do, Pierre only batted .292 (although it's not really fair to pick and choose years like that).
Pierre was able to hit so high because he rarely struck out, so while it's a little early to declare Nyjer Morgan the next Juan Pierre, the comparison probably isn't as far fetched as some might assume, especially if Morgan posts another strikeout improvement next year.
As a side note, I said that I suspected Morgan's expected average would be a little higher, at least in the .290s. Why? Well, probably because I was placing too much emphasis on 2009! As I've said before, it's an easy trap to fall into, even when you know that a stat is very stable like strikeout rate is. Strikeout rate is one of the most stable stats there is, and even when a player makes a big jump like Morgan did, we can't just assume he'll keep up his single-year level. This is a complicated topic to say the least, picking out who is being undervalued and who is being overvalued based upon single-year stats.
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:37am
Last week, I began a series reviewing some players whose values have shifted substantially this year and may be on the keeper bubble, depending where that bubble is located, in strict draft leagues. You can view the first installment here.
For this edition, I’ve made a slight change to nomenclature. It was pointed out in a number of comments that a number of leagues go way deeper into the keeper pool than 60 players, so instead of qualifying the cutoffs subjectively as “shallow” and “deep,” I’m going to keep it objective and just label the cutoffs, “30-deep” and “60-deep.”
For those of you in much deeper pools, I’m considering doing a deeper version of this column sometime in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to suggest players and cut offs for discussion in the comment section.
And, away we go.
Chone Figgins does have a few things going for him. We know he can score a bunch of runs and steal a bunch of bases. His walk rate has also been trending upwards basically his whole career, which leads to more opportunities to steal bases and score runs. As of my writing this, only Albert Pujols has scored more runs and only four players in all of baseball have swiped more bases.
As for the bad news, Figgins has also been hurt two of the past three years and his skill set, especially his lack of power, leaves him victim to the whims of BABIP. Figgins traditionally brings an underrated attribute to fantasy teams in his versatility, but this year he has played third base almost exclusively, which means he will most likely lose his MI-eligibility next year. Granting health, he’s virtually guaranteed to be a stud in runs and stolen bases, and if luck is on his side he could be very helpful in average (especially because he’ll probably get 600 or more at-bats). However, he’s a total liability in the power categories, especially at a corner spot.
All things considered, he’s basically a poor man’s Ichiro with less attractive eligibility. As an MI, I could see keeping him in the 60-plus pool, but as a corner infielder, I couldn’t do it.
I’m a believer. Is there anybody who shouldn’t be? I thought coming into this year, and even more so coming into 2008, Haren was a great value because he was quite probably in the Webb, Sabathia, Halladay class, but his price was a bit lower. Well, that won’t be the case anymore. The walk rate had always been great, but the past two years it’s been incredible. Like Halladay, Haren is keep-able in a shallow pool, though personally, I don’t think I’d keep any pitcher other than Lincecum or Santana in a 10- or 12-team, three-keeper league. If you have a similarly worthy hitter, I’d recommend keeping the bat, but Haren is reliable to be elite.
Matt Holliday looked like he may have been this year’s Manny Ramirez before getting cold over the past two weeks. Still, his acquisition basically locked down a division championship for the Cardinals. The deal also freed a fantasy stud from the purgatory that is Oakland. I was very pessimistic when he went to Oakland because of the ballpark, the line-up, and their organizational reluctance to run and decided to just flat-out avoid him in 2009 drafts.
Those concerns are all things of the past. He won’t be the Holliday of Coors, but at 29, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a top-30 player for a few years to come. Hitting behind some guy named Albert doesn’t hurt either.
Every player has a career year, or even two. Torii Hunter is a very high quality major league baseball player who can boast a fine career. If you owned him this year, congratulations. He can often slip and become a very nice, affordable 20/20 type. Next year somebody will overpay. That person should not be you.
Sure, that’s a great ballpark to hit in and a great line-up to be a part of, but ditto Torii Hunter.
In April and May, we saw a glimpse of what Jones might become. After that scorching start, he’s been a mix of brutal (June and August) and pedestrian (July). To quantify this a bit more, as of my writing this, April and May represent 36 percent of Jones’ total games, but 49, 58, and 51 percent of his runs, homers, and RBIs, respectively.
When considering keepers, I often consider the worst case scenario. In order for me to feel safe about recommending Jones, I’d have to be able to foresee ways for Jones to maintain his value if the power and average drop. He hasn’t stolen more than three bases in a month. Between the unremarkable steal total and the awful strikeout-to-walk ratio, I see more red lights than green.
Jones could really break out next year or settle more firmly into being a complimentary player. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones re-enacts the disappointments of Alex Rios. I’d let somebody else find out who the real Adam Jones is.
Mauer is just a great young hitter. He has a great contact rate and good plate discipline. Perhaps this year’s power is a bit fluky, especially because his fly ball rate hasn’t changed drastically. Regardless, his relatively high doubles rate has previously indicated that the power potential is there. In his mid-20s, he’ll begin to show it. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 30+ homer seasons from Mauer, but 20 seems like a sensible neighborhood. He should also continue to hit .320+ like clockwork.
Even with all that optimism, I’m still wary of keeping catchers in shallow leagues for strategic reasons. If the worst-case scenario is ending up with the 10th-best catcher, I wouldn’t take him in the top 30. The deeper the league, the better the justification for keeping an elite backstop.
When Aramis has been on the field, he’s consistently produced at a level worthy of consideration inside the top 30 and has been drafted accordingly. However, even excluding this season, which has been highly compromised by injuries, Ramirez has only averaged about 140 games per season over the previous five. With a keeper pool of 50 or 60, he’s too good to dismiss, especially because third base isn’t as deep as it once was. Most important, 140 games of Aramis Ramirez will produce fifth round value. There’s too much risk for the shallow end though. Aramis Ramirez is in Chipper Jones territory, you should draft him expecting 480–520 at-bats.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:37am
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