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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Garrett Jones is among the most confusing players in all of fantasy baseball. Through 332 plate appearances in 2009, Jones has amassed 21 home runs with 37 walks, 72 strikeouts and a .305 batting average. But who is this player? At 28 years old, Jones is very far into his professional career, yet he lacks a definition as a hitter. Is he the late-blooming phenom he has portrayed this season, or will he be a future Quadruple-A flare-out?
Garrett Jones was drafted in the 14th round by the Atlanta Braves way back in the 1999 amateur draft. At 18 years old, the young, power-hungry lefty began his career in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League. Jones underperformed that season, hitting just three home runs in 170 at-bats, with a .241/.309/.312 line with 47 strikeouts. Jones repeated the level in 2000, yet, somehow, he managed to underperform his 1999 season, posting a .174/.242/.254 line, with no home runs in 138 at-bats, including 55 strikeouts and just 13 walks. After two underwhelming seasons, Jones appeared to be cooked.
Though giving up is never a good thing, at some point, when its obvious things just aren't going to work out, it's OK to quit. Inexplicably, Jones decided to keep plugging away at this baseball thing, repeating rookie ball for a third time in 2001. Again, he underperformed. Though he put up his "best" line of the three seasons, posting a generous .289/.333/.423 share, his lack of power (three home runs in 149 at-bats) and poor approach at the plate (nine BBs vs. 58 Ks) were more indicative of his true skills. In terms of peripherals, this was arguably the worst year of his career, and the Braves released him in May 2002 before he played in a game above rookie ball for them. The Twins signed him three days later and put him in Low-A.
Fast forwarding a couple seasons, 2004 was Jones' first taste of real success, as he reestablished himself as a player with major league potential. His previous stints at A-ball were lackluster, as he struggled with his batting average and strikeouts, while developing power. However, his first taste of Double-A was sweet, as he posted 30 home runs, with 98 strikeouts in 478 plate appearances. His .311/.356/.593 line showed his potential, but his lack of walks (28) continued to frustrate.
Jones was promoted to Triple-A in '05, where he would stay through mid-2009. Jones had moderate success, with a .244/.297/.445 line that year, including 24 home runs in 524 plate appearances. His .280/.334/.473 line in 2007 finally rid him of his batting average woes, though his power suffered.
In 2008, he logged 577 plate appearances, with a .279/.337/.484 line, including 23 home runs and 50 walks, against 98 Ks. This season was great for Jones' plate discipline: He cut down his strikeout rate to less than one per five plate appearances. In addition, he posted good power numbers while also upping his walk total to nearly one per 11 plate appearances.
In 2009, prior to his torrid stretch in the majors, Jones started the season repeating Triple-A for the fifth time after signing with the Pirates as a minor league free agent. In 296 plate appearances, he posted a .307/.348/.502 line, with 12 home runs against just 47 Ks, but only 18 BBs. For most teams, this would be enough for an emergency fill-in or late-season call-up. For the Pirates, this meant a starting job.
Though Jones' career line consists mostly of minor league appearances, his five partial seasons at Triple-A give us a good idea of the type of hitter Jones is. He is a moderate free swinger with good power potential, who has improved his contact abilities over the last few seasons. While his minor league performance record says he does not have the makings of an OPS stud, it does posit that he has the makings of a solid hitter.
But that still does not answer the question of whether Jones has "figured it out" or if he's just the beneficiary of a well-timed hot streak.
For that, we'll have to dig into Jones' batted ball and plate discipline indicators, where, surprisingly, there is quite a lot to like.
As a hulking slugger, much of his success is tied to his ability to hit home runs. This is tied to his ability to hit fly balls, and to send them over the fence when he does. With a 40.1 percent fly ball rate, as well as a 23.6 percent HR/FB rate, he shouldn't have any problem hitting for power in the majors.
However, though his flyball percentage sits at a sustainable rate, it would be prudent to exercise caution when dealing with his 23.6 percent HR/FB rate. Only the most elite home run hitters possess rates this high. Among the names in the 23 percent range are Ryan Howard (25.1 percent), Carlos Pena (23.8 percent), Adrian Gonzalez (22.5 percent), and Prince Fielder (22.2 percent). Especially when considering that he was never an elite home run hitter in the minors, expect a drop-off in performance. It is more likely that he will hit in the high-20s home runs than the 30s. It is possible, however, especially considering his swing, his 2009 power numbers, and, especially, his size. It is not often that a 6-4, 245-pound hitter does not hit for good power. Still, considering Jones' age and past performance, 2009 is more likely the hot streak than the rule, so don't expect too much.
But there is more to Jones than just power. He is a much better hitter than he is often given credit for. When judging the prospects of a career minor leaguer, especially those who light it up for years in Triple-A, their contact rates and line drive rates are very important indicators. Fortunately for Jones, he has not yet been susceptible to their pitfalls.
First off, his line drive rate of 18.9 is very close to league average, which bodes very well for his future. A low line drive rate would be very concerning, yet, he has been able to drive the ball. With his power, he can have great success with his current rate. Also encouraging is his very low pop up rate of just 5.6 percent. While this is almost certain to rise, it means that he is not making weak contact, isn't late on pitches, and isn't getting jammed. This is a very good indicator for a power hitter, as the best ones can drive inside pitches. If Jones isn't popping up, he isn't late on inside pitches. Instead, he is driving them.
Jones' plate discipline characteristics also give cause for optimism. Though he chases pitches a little too often (29.5 O-Swing%), he does use some discretion, as he is not a "true" free swinger, swinging at 48.2 percent of pitches he sees, a rate closer to the bottom third of the league. His contact rate, while not ideal, sits at 77.2 percent. Fortunately for Jones, this shouldn't give him any problems in the future as long as his rates does not decline. Should he drop back near 72.5 percent, where he was during his first stint in the majors in 2007, all bets are off. Based on his contact rate, zone percentage, and swing rate, it seems that his BB rate (11.2 percent) and K rate (24.7 percent) are right in line with their expected totals. There is a chance these rates could improve, though his zone rate bears watching next season. If pitchers throw more pitches in the zone, he will likely see fewer walks. This should help out with the strikeouts, however, so its not such a bad thing.
Another encouraging aspect of Jones' performance is his overall success against the major pitch types, especially compared to his 2007 performance. In his first stint in the bigs, he struggled mightily against fastballs (-2.28 wFB/C), sliders (-2.89 wSL/C), and change ups (-2.25 wCH/C). These comprised 85.1 percent of the pitches he saw that season. Needless to say, he did not make a curtain call in '08.
2009 has been another story altogether. He has more than cured his ails against fastballs, as they are now his favorite pitch (2.37 wFB/C). His performance against changeups has seen a similar success, as he smokes them as well (1.63 wCH/C). Sliders are no longer a problem either, as he is now slightly above average against them (0.32 wSL/C). Jones' overall approach at the plate is much better than in 2007, as he can now adjust to changing speeds, while also excelling against breaking pitches. For a developing hitter, it is now up to the pitchers to adjust, though it is getting harder to find weaknesses.
Still, despite all the optimism, there are mitigating circumstances. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Jones' 2009 line has been his large platoon split. Against righties, Jones has posted a .352/.445/.663 line in 227 plate appearances, with 15 home runs and a 34:44 BB:K ratio. Against lefties, he has posted a .212/.233/.465 line, in 102 plate appearances. While he has shown good power (six home runs), he has had awful success working the count and making contact, as evidenced by his 28 Ks against just three walks. This is particularly troubling for his fantasy prospects, as players who can't play everyday take a hit in weekly leagues and daily leagues with small benches.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Jones' performance, and it's the reason why people have trouble believing in him, is that his success screams of a hot-streak. Although his rate indicators are great, it is not often that a player morphs into a superstar when he hits the majors, especially not one who was still putting his game together in Triple-A. For this, you can't reasonably expect a repeat performance, though you can hope for the best ... and get paid off when the gamble works out in your favor.
Going forward, Jones looks to be a good play over what remains of 2009, as well as being a great sleeper candidate for 2010. His prospects are tied predominantly to his home run rate, his contact rate, and his ability to hit lefties. Contact problems tend to sink Quadruple-A hopefuls, though Jones may be an exception. This is the critical point to his success: If he can keep his contact rate steady, or with minimal losses, he will put the ball in play enough to continue hitting home runs and continue helping fantasy teams. In addition, his performance against lefties can be managed and his small sample size may mean that he is not as bad as his 2009 line states—just don't stake your season on it.
A 2010 season with high-20s home runs, around 10 steals, and a batting average in the .265-.275 range seems about right for Jones. This line is consistent with his profile, which yields a slightly above-average outfielder for 12-team mixed leagues. While it's still early to project next year's draft, he could be an incredible value for the price he may go for. His 2010 will likely make or break his career, but there are a lot of reasons to believe he will come out on top. The ingredients are there for success and if you watch the contact percentage and line drive rate, you'll be fine.
VOTE ON NEXT WEEK'S PLAYER PROFILE
Posted by Mike Silver at 1:58am
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
It’s the last week of the season. Are you fighting for first place in a money league? If you are, how much percentage of your winnings would you give to lock up first place?
Maybe the answer holds some clues toward how we should begin to approach fantasy team valuations.
In past decade, there’s been tremendous advancements in sabermetrics, forecasting services like PECOTA, and player evaluation punditry. We’re even getting close to figuring out the worth of individual players to fantasy teams using value-above-replacement metrics or the parallax method that THT’s John Burnson described this month.
But how about a fantasy team? How much is your team worth?
If you play in a money league, obviously it’s not worth the same as it was the first day of the season. If you invested $100 in a 12-team team league and you’re close to winning $1000, maybe your team is worth several multiples of what you first invested. Conversely, if you invested $100 and your team is languishing in last place, maybe it’s worth nothing.
Allow me to get fanciful for a moment.
Imagine a derivatives market where buyers and sellers of fantasy teams got together during the course of a season to sell futures contracts. Successful teams might look to hedge against unpredictable bad luck and injuries by selling a stake in their team. Unsuccessful teams might look to recover any investment by selling a share in their sinking team to speculators.
Maybe just as importantly, during the course of a season, a team’s fluctuating share price could be an indication of whether a fantasy owner needs to become more active making moves or sit back and let luck normalize.
Who knows whether an idea like this is actually feasible. Would there be enough liquidity in the market to actually get it off the ground? What sorts of information would an owner need to report about his teams so that others could properly analyze the team's financial prospects?
Those are just some questions:
But it’s an idea we think holds potential. Hell, if someone can offer fantasy sports insurance, a derivative market can't be that far away.
We’re curious to hear any innovation you’d like to see in the fantasy sports marketplace. Leave them in the comments section below.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 2:24am
As of yesterday, Adam Lind's 2009 season numbers look like this: .302 average, 90 runs, 32 home runs, 109 RBI, and one lonely stolen base. Lind has reached some remarkable totals this season, all the more impressive as this was his first full season in the majors.
Any player would say he's had a great season if he reaches the following plateaus: 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .300-plus batting average. Right now only six players in the major leagues meet all three criteria and they are:
That is an intimidating grouping of players, all big-name hitters except for Lind and Morales. Cabrera, Pujols, Braun, and Lee combine to have 16 All-Star appearances, two MVP awards, and two ROY trophies amongst them. At this stage in Lind's career he has none of those things, but that may change in the future.
Generally I'm a pretty humble guy but after re-reading my predictions of Lind at the beginning of the season, I am compelled to share their preciseness in hindsight. Here was my estimation of his power ability:
...we can expect Lind to hit outfield flyballs (OF FB%) at about a 30 percent rate, and have about 18 percent of those flyballs go for home runs. Over a season's worth of at-bats, hitting at those ratios Lind would knock about 30 home runs.
Spot on with the home runs, he is currently at 32 dingers. And here's what I said about his batting average potential:
Overall Lind does not have the best plate discipline but with his tendencies to hit lots of grounders and line drives, and fly balls that go over the fence, Lind is able to keep his BABIP relatively high, inflating his batting average. An average in the high .280s seems reasonable given his skill set, although he has the potential to push a .300 average.
I said Lind could push a .300 average and impressively he has done exactly that, currently sitting at .302. OK, enough bragging on my part. Either you owned Lind this season and enjoyed his production or you did not. That cannot be changed, so what matters is what will happen in the future.
It is hard to say this early where Lind will fall in 2010 drafts, but my prediction is he will be selected in rounds 5-7 in most standard, 12-team league drafts—in between where Curtis Granderson and Bobby Abreu were taken last year for some perspective.
Looking at Eriq Gardner's ridiculously premature mock 2010 draft back in August, we see Lind was taken with the 69th overall pick, which in a 12-team league would equate to an early sixth-round selection so that agrees with my initial feeling.
Whether Lind will justify that selection remains to be seen, though entering his age 26-27 season in 2010 there is little reason for pessimism. Simply put, Lind offers a power, batting average, and RBI combination that is boasted only by the elite hitters in baseball. Although it is too early to tell, I would not be surprised if Adam Lind found his way onto my fantasy teams next year, again.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:18am
Monday, September 28, 2009
Chase Utley became a boarder linefirst rounder in 2009 when he had hip surgery in the offseason. His hip was fine though this year and he even set a career high in steals. Down in Tampa Bay, though, Ben Zobrist had seen limited time in three years. This year he took off and forced himself into the lineup. He has split time between second base and outfield with one game at third and 13 at shortstop, so far. The question is can he be compared to the best second baseman in the game?
PA K% BB% AVG OBP SLG HR R RBI SB BABIP HR/FB% Chase Utley 664 19.4% 13.6% .289 .405 .519 31 110 91 23 .310 14.6% Ben Zobrist 565 21.3% 15.9% .286 .399 .518 24 84 79 16 .319 16.6%
I've tried to own Utley every season since 2004. Even as he sat behind Placido Polanco to start 2005, I stuck with him and he hasn't let us down yet. Sure 2007 was a bit tough as his homers fell and 2008 left concerns with the hip injury, but he's never really hard to own any season. Up until this year, there hasn't been anyone who can claim to be his positional equal, and after this year that should still be the case.
Utley has been solid in all five categories and has averaged the stat line of 29 HR, 11 R, 107 RBI, 15 SB and .297 AVG since 2005, when he became the regular starter. This year he has continued to put up this line, but added to his speed. Put another way, the best second baseman got even better.
Even Hit Tracker thinks things are getting better as his "just enough" homers stands at 16%, which is far below the league average. Could Utley not only continue this next year, but even get better? If everything looks so nice for Utley next year then how might anyone catch him as the top second baseman?
Entering 2009 Zobrist had uncertain playing time and was not expected to get any shortstop playing time. He was coming into a crowded outfield, but had made a great showing to end 2008 and was a solid sleeper. The big question was whether his newfound power was for real.
With an injury to Akinori Iwamura early this year, Zobrist found himself playing at second base. The new position eligibility completely changed his value and made him an immediate pickup. The surprising part was he got even better than his strong finish from a year ago. His walk rate was a very welcome addition this year as his OBP stayed around .400 almost all year.
His value to the Rays has been almost as much as to fantasy teams this year. Just looking at WAR right now among positional players, he ranks behind only Joe Mauer in the AL. That takes into account his very good defensive ability, but still his .397 wOBA shows how good his offense has been.
There is always an amount of skepticism when players break out like Zobrist has, but other than an addition of some power he has shown these skills before. His walk and contact rates all look good and he is currently averaging 22 homers every 162 games played for his career. This should be viewed as a basement for next year, but he has definitely improved his power and next year he looks like he could push for 30 homers.
Zobrist has matched Utley this year in his AVG, OBP and SLG. He hasn't quite gotten the 30 home run power yet, but he is also 100 PA short of Utley. He will be entering 2010 with a lot more expected value than he did this year, but he still has some more to add next year. Perhaps comparing him to Utley is a bit over eager at this point, but the stat line shows how close they have been in the playing time they have gotten.
Looking over the draft done by Eriq Gardner at his site you can see Zobrist went in the 5th round while Utley was the 4th overall pick. I think it's clear we have another case of value to be found and a solid pick in 2010.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:05am
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Here is the situation to something you should always look for: Annoyingly your backup outfielder is getting the day off (meaning his team has a game, he is just not playing because of a platoon or for rest) on the same day one of your starters is also getting the day off. The two players are Curtis Granderson and Jonny Gomes let's say.
You might think it doesn't matter whether you sit both, start Granderson and bench Gomes, or start Gomes and bench Granderson but the best thing to do is start Gomes in this situation. Playing in the National League, Gomes has a better chance of entering the game late as a pinch-hitter. Also if it is ever between two AL or two NL players, choose the faster one since he would have a better chance of entering as a pinch-runner.
The little things add up.
Posted by Paul Singman at 12:41am
Saturday, September 26, 2009
One of the greatest ironies of fantasy baseball is that regardless of how much attention is paid to drafting the best team, making shrewd and opportunistic trades, and aiming praise and vitriol and your studs and busts, many close races wind up in the hands of retreads, unknowns and disappointments. Occasionally, draft savvy and the stars will align to enable an owner to coast to the finish line. More often, however, an owner’s team puts that owner in contention down the stretch, and then the final month is governed by an entirely different paradigm, one where interests are narrowed and long-term goals take a backseat to short-term gains. The last week of the season is the epitome of this bizzaro world.
Perhaps the single most skewed dynamic of the season’s end is the drastic spike in the amount of spot starting that goes on. Owners who need to make up counting stats will aggressively stream starters in leagues with daily roster rotation. For owners who are chasing, one of the goals should be to force those ahead of you to react to your strategies. He who initiates engagement often has the advantage, as one always aims to act as opposed to react. For those trying to fend off challengers, it is wise to be judicious and prudent about the extent to which they alter their strategy to counter their opponents’. I spoke a bit more about this in the comments section to Eriq Gardner’s article earlier this week.
By now the battle lines have likely been drawn. Many owners have either initiated or have been pulled into spot-starting wars, leaving many of our seasons on the shoulders of the Francisco Lirianos of the world. Seeing as how (in non-keeper leagues) just about all pitchers are dropable, it’s important for owners to make the most of their roster spots and remaining innings. Even the studliest pitchers on playoff-bound teams are dropable, as the lack of pennant races imply that the final starts for many of these hurlers will be of the “tune-up” variety.
In some leagues, spot-starting runs so rampant that teams that are slowest to act are left to either choose from the worst among the possible options or pick up their better options more than 24 hours in advance. It is important to have as many active pitcher slots as possible if wins or strikeouts are what you are invested in at this point. If you can’t find palatable starting options, load up with relievers. If you aren’t in it, you can’t win it.
To the extent that there can be any long-term thinking at all going into the final week, let’s take a look at teams who face all below-league-average offenses in the last week of the season, and teams that face only above-league-average offenses. Obviously, all of the usual caveats apply including, park factor, handedness, and incentive.
At this point, strategy fully trumps player evaluation. Best of luck to all!
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:05am
Friday, September 25, 2009
Last week, we described a new method for deriving fantasy values. First, some loose ends:
Readers will note that we spoke of “the last drafted player” and “the pool of draft-worthy players” without saying how we knew who these players were. The approach we favor is running thousands of Monte Carlo simulations of fantasy leagues—simply casting players onto rosters with no care for balance or value. Our base metric is something that we call Weight on Winners (WOW)—the frequency with which a player appears on the winning club. The higher the frequency, the greater the value. Note that, because our simulated leagues do not enforce a budget, we cannot turn these frequencies into dollar values; however, the frequencies should reveal the rankings of our players, so that we can pluck out the top 108 players or the 10th-best player or whomever.
Here were the steps for this study. We simulated a 12-team, standard-5x5, mixed-league contest. There are 108 total pitching slots. The average price of a slot (given a $260 budget and 23 slots on both sides of the roster) is $11.30.
1. Find the pool of potentially valuable pitchers.
For best results, the competition between our simulated teams should approximate the true level. We don’t want to consider every player who threw at least one pitch. On the other hand, we also do not want to unfairly exclude someone who, even in limited play, can have an impact.
We resolve this dilemma by tossing every pitcher into a simulation of a couple thousand leagues and finding the lowest IP total among the top 108 players. Every pitcher below this threshold is essentially given a grade of “Incomplete” and ignored in later steps. It is not fair—either to the player or to owners—to treat ultra-short seasons as if they are on the table. Nobody is weighing Chris Carpenter versus Andrew Carpenter.
At this point in the season, the threshold is 30 IP. Pitchers with slightly higher workloads who look to have a crack at the top 108 include Claudio Vargas (1.93 ERA in 37 IP), Randy Choate (3.62 ERA in 32 IP, 5 Saves), and Sergio Romo (3.94 ERA in 32 IP but 2 Saves and 5 Wins). A notable miss is Neftali Feliz, who has only 28.1 IP, but he is bound to top 30 IP by season’s end.
You can see from the above trio that our method appreciates value in a variety of configurations: low ERA; moderate ERA but Saves; unremarkable ERA but Saves plus Wins. These choices fall out of the simulation naturally; we didn’t have to “do” anything other than set up the parameters.
2. Find the top 108 pitchers.
We take all pitchers who survived the cut in Step 1 and simulate another couple thousand leagues to get the true top 108. Recall that our $11 slot is one that can freely float among any of these players.
Not surprisingly, Zach Greinke took the top spot; simulated teams with Greinke won 35% of their leagues. Tied for second place at 30% were Dan Haren and Tim Lincecum. Chris Carpenter, Felix Hernandez, and Javier Vazquez formed a 3rd tier at 27.5%, followed at 26% by the first closer on the list, Jonathan Broxton.
3. Identify the $1 pitchers.
Recall that we are going to be introducing $1 players onto our rosters. Now, we don’t want to put too much weight on the particular player in the 108th position—he might happen to be a beast in one area, which would bias our findings. Moreover, we may need to swap in multiple $1 players, and it would be better not to re-use one guy.
So we’ll draw our $1 players from a pool of 12—the last six draftable (#103-108), plus the first six non-draftable (#109-114). In alphabetical order, here are the $1 players for this study:
IP W Sv ERA WHIP K Bergesen 123 7 0 3.43 1.28 65 Breslow 65 7 0 3.46 1.09 50 Condrey 39 6 1 3.20 1.17 23 Johnson Ji 67 4 8 4.05 1.32 49 Kawakami 152 7 1 3.92 1.33 102 Masset 70 5 0 2.56 1.04 65 Morales F 38 3 7 3.05 1.30 40 O’Day 55 2 2 1.80 1.00 53 Palmer 114 10 0 4.03 1.34 65 Peavy 87 7 0 4.05 1.18 97 Troncoso 79 4 5 2.75 1.39 52 Zambrano 154 8 0 3.91 1.43 138
Again, there’s a good mix of players there.
So we’ve defined our $11 slot (the pool of the top 108 pitchers) and our $1 slot (the pool of 12 end-rounders). All that’s left is to run the experiment that we outlined last week. We’ll start with a straight version of Roster #1 (Halladay plus eight free-floating slots) and then replace one, two, and three of the floating slots with $1 players. Roster #2 is fixed with nine free-floating slots.
We submitted each two-team league (four versions) through 2,000 runs of our program and tracked the winning percentage of Halladay’s team at each stage.
Did we obtain Halladay’s value? No. Or, we don’t think so. Here’s the graph:
Nice curve, but you can see that it crosses the 50% mark well before we would expect it to. Based on this graph, Halladay’s roster would meet Roster #2 after replacing only 1-3/4 of Halladay’s $11 slots with $1 slots. This equality puts Halladay’s projected value at about $18. For a guy with 15 Wins, 193 K, and a 3.01 ERA in 221 IP.
We can get a slightly more customary valuation for Halladay if we extrapolate from only the first two points on the graph—that is, from a state with zero forced $1 slots to a state with one. Doing so raises Halladay’s estimated value by $3, to $21. Still probably $6-$10 below his real value, if standard valuation methods are to be believed.
What gives? We glean a clue from the line’s curved nature. By our hypothesis, each substitution of an $11 slot with a $1 slot should have led to the same $10 drop in Halladay’s value. But the slide here is not linear but exponential. Each added end-rounder degrades Halladay’s roster ever faster.
The notion of synergy among roster picks is not new. We know, for example, that once you get one super-speedster, additional super-speedsters have declining worth to you because you need only so many SB to seal the category. Ditto for anything that you’ve already bought enough of.
This study suggests that you can also have too much of nothing. Recall that the price of a player is $1 + the marginal price of his marginal worth. A pure $1 player, then, has no marginal worth. When you add a $1 player, you are giving up a chance to gain ground on the leader.
That wouldn’t be such a bad thing—if you had an infinite number of slots. But slots are precious. In fact, a case can be made that not all slots are created equal. For example, if you had a roster of Roy Halladay by himself, there would be a tremendous amount of value in simply adding a second slot. On the other hand, if you had a roster with 19 slots, the 20th would barely raise your interest.
Have we mislabeled our slots? For Halladay to merit a higher price, either the $11 slot needs to be re-priced upward or the $1 slot needs to be re-priced downward, so that the wage gap between the two slots is more than its current $10. Can we justify that? We'll keep you posted.
Posted by John Burnson at 5:00am
Michael Aubrey | Baltimore | 1B
True Talent: .247/.298/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .247 BA, 0.0 SB
We hopped into our Wayback Machine to dig up the goods on Michael Aubrey. Back to the days when he was considered a “can't miss” prospect ... back to the days when he was healthy! He was the 11th pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of notables such as Aaron Hill, Carlos Quentin, and Chad Billingsley. He started his pro career in full-season Single-A ball the same year, making such a mockery of the Sally League that he started his first full season of pro ball in High-A in 2004. He also destroyed that level, earning a quick promotion to Double-A. That's when the injuries began. He missed about 360 games between the second half of 2004 and 2007. He missed time again in 2008 but finally made it to Triple-A. In 2009, he was hitting .290/.323/.436 before his call-up, and he even managed to play in 101 games. Though slow, he's a good defender and Trembley likes him. He's going to play the rest of this year and might be a good deep sleeper pick in AL-only leagues for next year—there's no telling when “hidden” talent will re-emerge on a guy who's missed so much time.
Fausto Carmona | Cleveland | SP
YTD: 5.5 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 6.89 ERA
True Talent: 5.4 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 4.82 ERA
Time for another round of, “How Desperate Are YOU?” The Indians expected to contend but quickly saw their season fall apart, and expected No. 2 starter Fausto Carmona's a big part of the reason why. He's not throwing 95 mph any more, but his fastball still averages about 93 mph this year. And he's inducing 54.2% grounders. But that's about it for any good news ... his control has deserted him entirely, and there's no reason to think it will come back this season, if ever. He's walked 5.4 batters/9 IP, and when he's thrown strikes, he's allowed a career-high 18.6% LD%, and just a 2.8% infield fly%, indicating that batters are teeing off. Anyway, TT projects him to have a sub-5.00 ERA, and getting to pitch at home against the O's could help him tonight. But, really, picking him up is a last-ditch effort to get someone who was once good, and is assured of getting his starts.
Brett Gardner | New York | OF
True Talent: .261/.340/.361
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 0 RBI, .264 BA, 0.4 SB
Two months ago, we anticipated that Gardner's OBP would stay above the TT level (which was .341 at the time), and it has. Expect him to see a LOT of playing time as the Yankees make sure that their starting outfielders are as healthy and rested as possible for the playoffs. The Yankees will face some good catchers (KC and TB), but Gardner is fast enough to steal anyway, and could make a difference in that category.
Alex Gonzalez | Boston | SS
True Talent: .248/.300/.391
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 2 Runs, 3 RBI, .255 BA, 0.1 SB
Gonzalez has hit .321/.333/.607 in 60 PA at Fenway this year, and Boston plays 6 of 9 at home, with the other three being at New York. For his career, he's shown no preference for facing LH or RH pitching, but everyone's shown a preference for Cleveland's pitching this season, and the Indians and Blue Jays are the two home series. Don't expect miracles, but he'll play every day, and could hit a couple more HR.
Mark Hendrickson | Baltimore | SP/RP
YTD: 5.3 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.37 ERA
True Talent: 5.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.60 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 7 K, 4.92 ERA
Moved into the rotation to replace Matusz, Hendrickson can be expected to start for the rest of this year, as the team faces Cleveland, TB, and Toronto. His True Talent projection looks promising, but only pick him up in a pinch (and hope for the best!), as he's been much better in relief due to his L/R splits (.268/.311/.397 against as RP, .317/.378/.596 as an SP; tOPS+ splits of 75/113 vsL/R).
Daniel Hudson | Chicago | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.38 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.5 Wins
Daniel Hudson “blew up” the True Talent projections, his minor-league stats were so awesome this year (147.1 IP, 105 H, 166:34 K:BB, just five HR at four levels). Entering the 2008 college season, Hudson was all the buzz, expected to be a high-round pick, but he had an off year, and slipped to the White Sox in the fifth round. You could say he's rebounded nicely in '09. He reaches 94 pretty effortlessly now, and his slider should become devastating, as it was in the minors. He's typical in terms of GB% and FB%, and should be considered a prime Rookie of the Year candidate for 2010, even if the Sox delay his call-up two months to avoid arbitration, which is a possibility.
Ryan Raburn | Detroit | OF
True Talent: .264/.331/.456
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .266 BA, 0.2 SB
Lost in the shuffle of the Detroit outfield has been former utilityman Ryan Raburn, who has blasted 14 HR and stolen five bases in about half a season's worth of PA. He's used in a pinch sometimes but has appeared in all but three Tigers games in September. A nice source of homers in AL-only leagues, and he's good enough to play against LHP in any format, if you have daily moves.
Matt Thornton | Chicago | RP
YTD: 10.7 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, 2.65 ERA
True Talent: 9.5 K/9, 3.2 K/BB, 3.19 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a Saves, 3.25 ERA
Matt Thornton is the White Sox closer, and he should be great at it. There's even some talk that Jenks won't be brought back in 2010, though it's premature for that. Thornton is arguably the best lefty reliever in the game now and one of the hardest-throwing—clocking in with an average fastball velocity well over 95 mph. He should be immediately considered a top closer down the stretch, even with the typical caveats about the last three outs being harder to get. Trading Joe Borchard for this guy was highway robbery by Kenny Williams.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Juan Francisco | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Francisco succeeds with a hack-and-slash approach, like Vlad Guerrero or Pablo Sandoval, but without their mad contact skills (he's got a 75% rate in the minors, vs. 86-87% for Vlad and Kung Fu Panda). When Francisco does make contact, however, the ball goes a long, long way. The Reds want to see if the 22-year-old can maintain the momentum he started when he hit .359/.384/.598 with five 2B, one 3B and five HR in 99 ABs for Triple-A Louisville. NL keeper league owners will want to watch him carefully in the last few weeks, and he makes the perfect power gamble for non-keeper owners. At this point in the season, those ratios are awfully hard to budge, so his BA won't hurt you much, but those extra HRs and RBIs could be the thing to put you over the top. If nothing else, you can watch him knock some tape-measure shots like the 423-foot jack he launched in his second career AB.
J.D. Martin | Washington | SP
YTD: 4.5 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.21 ERA
True Talent: 6.6 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.48 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.1 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.27 ERA
Martin's given up two ER in each of four September starts, winning three of them, no small feat given the team that's behind him (he won the three games by a total of four runs). He's also given up at least one home run in all but one 2009 start of more than 4.0 IP, giving him an ugly 1.7 HR/9 on the season. That plus his low K and K/BB ratios shows you that Martin's been walking a tightrope and could plunge off at any moment. His start last night against the Dodgers may be those stats catching up with him: five ER in three IP. It's the 26-year-old's first season in the bigs, despite a good minor league career (61-31, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP), a testament to his problems with durability and health. You've got to be pretty hard up to want to start him, so we'd advise a healthy dose of caution, even if his last start should come against the hapless Mets.
Mike Fontenot | Chicago | 2B
True Talent: .267/.341/.423
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .271 BA, 0.1 SB
Fontenot's True Talent line would have made him the No. 8 2B in the NL, but he's clearly not getting there this season. Since Jeff Baker supplanted him as the starting 2B, he's gotten a handful of September starts, hitting .440/.483/.560 for the month. It's likely too little, too late to get the keystone spot back from Baker this year, just as it won't be enough to reach those TT levels. But those in NL-only leagues 14 teams and deeper can take the chance on him picking up a few more starts, or perhaps a pinch hit or two, in the next week. Most of us, however, can just leave him out on the wire.
Chris Narveson | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 8.8 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.85 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 9 K, 4.98 ERA
Technically a rookie, Narveson has been a pro for 10 seasons, and in his last start, he put up one strikeout for each of those seasons, becoming the first Brewer rookie to do that in ten years. He struggled in the beginning of 2009, was demoted to Triple-A, and has looked good since returning, with a 2.00 ERA in 27 IP, though only three of his 10 appearances have been starts. He could get two more starts down the stretch as Milwaukee wants to look at him for 2010, and True Talent tells you he's got the stuff to succeed. The Brewers' rotation isn't set, but he's most likely to see his next start in Coors Field, which may be a good reason to steer clear of him. He's a good gamble for Ks and a possible win, but a gamble that's better in an NL-only league 10 teams or deeper.
Oscar Salazar | San Diego | UT
True Talent: .269/.321/.437
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .256 BA, 0.1 SB
In spite of those glowing 2009 numbers, Salazar's done it mostly off the bench since being traded from the Orioles. Now that Kouzmanoff is battling back and calf injuries, and with Edgar Gonzalez done for the year, Salazar's gotten more PT in September. He's responded by hitting .256/.396/.512 for the month, a pace he's largely sustained, so he might be for real. He sports a 84% contact rate this year, consistent with his career MLB numbers, as is his .77 BB/K ratio. While he's probably not a late bloomer, he's been hot enough thus far that there's no reason he can't sustain this for another week. Worth a shot in nearly all leagues, especially those where he's got multi-position eligibility, since he's played at least one game at every position but CF and C.
Hong-Chih Kuo | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 10.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 2.28 ERA
True Talent: 9.9 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.19 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.08 ERA
What's that? You're all out of starts in your leagues, or up against the IP cap? Might I suggest the Hong-Chih Kuo? It's excellent this season. Actually, Kuo has been excellent whenever he's been healthy, and 2009 is no exception. The "healthy" part, as ever, is the problem. He's right where True Talent says he should be, and is sure to bring you some Ks without much damage to your ratios. He's got an outside chance at a save, if LA decides to rest Broxton for the playoffs, but he's got value regardless. Good for NL leagues of any size, as well as most mixed leagues.
John Maine | New York | SP
YTD: 5.8 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 4.13 ERA
True Talent: 7.4 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.16 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.4 Wins, 5 K, 3.70 ERA
Since coming off the DL with a weak shoulder, Maine has pitched fairly well, most recently putting up five shutout innings against Washington on Sunday. His strikeouts are down, and his walk rates have climbed each of the past four seasons, making him a fringy pitcher even when he's healthy, as True Talent shows you. Given the team behind him and the restrictive pitch count he's on, don't expect much from Maine. But he's scheduled to face the Marlins on Saturday, and their roster hits .187 against him, so he's not a bad gamble as far as spot starts go. He's a worthy gamble in NL-only leagues deeper than 10 teams, or anyone who's desperate for one more win.
Tyler Colvin | Chicago | OF
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
The Cubbies have said they'll take a long look at Colvin, once one of their top CF prospects, in the last week of the season. A first-round pick in 2006, he's developed slower than hoped, and getting Tommy John surgery last November didn't help. But he bounced back strong in 2009, hitting .300/.334/.524 in Double-A—his third season at Double-A. Hence the "slow development" label. He's a good hitter but needs to work on his batting eye—he slipped to .36 BB/K his season after .44 last year, neither of which is that great, but his 80% contact rate shows he knows how to put the barrel on the ball. Chicago's had trouble with a certain cantankerous RF of late, and Colvin projects as a possible lefty-hitting corner OF, which explains why he'll be getting so much PT down the stretch. He's someone to watch for keeper leagues, but not likely to bring much value, given that he skipped a level and doesn't possess any one dominant, "must-have" skill.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, September 24, 2009
South Atlantic League
Hitter of the Year
Kiel Roling / 1B / Colorado Rockies
Roling racked up a league leading .331 batting average, .593 slugging percentage, and .994 OPS for first place Asheville. He will have problems adjusting to better pitching, and his bat has plenty of holes, but Roling put together an enormous season worthy of hitter of the year.
Pitcher of the Year
Dexter Carter / RHP / San Diego Padres
I won't hold the late-season trade against him. Carter was part of a great group of Sally League pitchers, and first place Kannapolis wouldn't have been the same without him. His strong ERA and WHIP were a product of his elite strikeout rate and intimidating presence on the mound.
Best Hitting Prospect
Derek Norris / C / Washington Nationals
Norris was considered for Hitter of the Year, but it was difficult handing him the award due to Hagerstown's league-low 25 wins. Yet, with his powerful bat on display, Norris carried his team offensively in stretches, and, by most accounts, was a solid receiver behind the plate. He still has much to prove, but has the talent and statistical backbone to back up the hype.
Best Pitching Prospect
Jordan Lyles / RHP / Houston Astros
I will give a shout out to Martin Perez, as he spent most of the year in the Sally League, but Lyles showed a tremendous amount of polish that caught me by surprise. He might just be the best high school pitcher from the 2008 draft.
Hitter of the Year
Kyle Russell / OF / LA Dodgers
It's difficult to fathom why the Dodgers left Russell in the Midwest League all year long, as his age and skills pointed toward loftier goals. But that's exactly what they did, and Single-A Great Lakes benefited greatly from Russell's league leading .545 slugging percentage and 26 home runs.
Pitcher of the Year
Kenn Kasparek / RHP / Seattle Mariners
No other pitcher in the Midwest League meant more to his team than Kasparek. He was old for the league, but Clinton rode his right arm and league-leading 2.41 ERA as far as they would go. Kasparek deserves his place in the sun.
Best Hitting Prospect
Brett Lawrie / 2B / Milwaukee Brewers
Lawrie has the quickest wrists in the minor leagues, and some of the best raw power that the Midwest League has to offer. His aggressive promotion to Double-A Huntsville is a great indicator of Milwaukee's high opinion of his potential. Jaff Decker also deserves recognition for his stellar season and terrific plate discipline.
Best Pitching Prospect
Simon Castro / RHP / San Diego Padres
Castro somewhat quietly put together a great building block type of year. He bumped up his control of his electric fastball a notch, and his talent-laden Fort Wayne team was the beneficiary. San Diego is hoping for another step in the right direction next season, as his pure velocity would be a rare commodity in any organization.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 2:12am (1) Comments
Jayson Werth has put together another fantastic season, which comes on the heels of his breakout 2008. Some fantasy commentators are now slotting him near Curtis Granderson in their Average Draft Position rankings for next year. Since Granderson went around the 61st pick (in CBS Sportsline rotisserie drafts) whereas Werth went around 157th this year, that is quite a promotion. Certainly Werth has delivered better value this year. Of course, the real question is what we should project him for next year.
For reasons that will become clear later in the article, the best way to value him for next year would probably be to project his stats using a projection system like Chone or Marcels. Another way to show his value is by using heuristics: comparing one player to another player whose value is easier to grasp.
Werth represents a certain type of player that I think is very difficult to project using any method. He's already 30. He's only had two seasons with fantasy-worthy output, so any Marcels-type projection system which takes three years of data is going to penalize him (perhaps rightly) for a very bland 2007. During the past two seasons, he's shown a wide-variety of—but not especially stable—set of skills and propensities.
His batting average, walk and strikeout rates are stable. He strikes out quite a bit, though he does draw he share of walks. He hasn't been as successful stealing bases this year but the decline in stolen bases is primarily due to fewer attempts. He's hit many more home runs this season, resulting in more runs and RBIs.
So Werth is one of those coveted power-speed outfielders. He's never going to be compared to Carlos Beltran or Matt Kemp, but we have to find a home for him somewhere. Obviously no two players are exactly the same (though Troy Patterson finds some couples that are awfully alike), and even if they have been very similar, past performance is no guarantee of future verisimilitude. But the task remains: whose old clothes will better fit Werth next season: Eric Byrnes or Granderson? (Or perhaps Aaron Rowand, Milton Bradley, or Michael Cuddyer?)
Again, none of these players are perfect fits: Byrnes stole anything he could while he was healthy, but then suffered a set of injuries. Granderson's two years younger than Werth. Rowand, who also had one of his best years roaming the Phillies' outfield, has never put together back-to-back solid seasons. Bradley has playing time issues for a variety of reason, but also has hit for a better average (some years). Cuddyer has never been a great source of stolen bases.
When doing casual similarity heuristics, it is very easy to pick the winner of the "Who is Werth most like?" beauty contest by dismissing (or just not considering) other candidates for "easy" reasons. Byrnes' injuries and perhaps chemically aided performance rumors might disqualify him from the contest. Bradley is a headcase and Werth is not, so perhaps Uncle Milton should be out. And so on ... But by doing so, we do lose some potentially valuable cautionary tales.
If pressed, I'd say Werth falls closer to Cuddyer than Granderson. Cuddyer and Werth are the same age. Actually, even though Cuddyer and Werth both have elevated HR/FB rates and could be due for a fall in home runs next season, Cuddyer might be the better bet to maintain his power. Hittracker.com has Cuddyer on the leaderboard for the Golden Sledgehammer Award, a measure of average true home run distance, whereas Werth leads the NL in home runs that were "just enough" to go out (though some of this may come from being in a home park where those kinds of fly balls can go out as home runs). We shouldn't expect a resurgence in stolen base attempts now that Werth is sliding a bit further down "the razor blade of life".
More globally, I hope this also illustrates why using (or making your own) systematic projection system has value. You needn't follow it slavishly. But, by using averages instead of case-studies, it can summarize the useful information that all of the Rowands, Bradleys, Byrnes, Grandersons and Cuddyers have while washing out some of the differences.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 2:20am
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Clay Buchholz has certainly had his share of ups and downs since entering the league in 2007. A stud pitcher with a great pedigree, he had been showing off his stuff for years in the minors. He was a major flop in 2008, however, and has since struggled at times in 2009.
Clay Buchholz was drafted 42nd overall in 2005, though he was very much a top-five talent. Due to a computer-theft scandal at his high school in Lumberton, Texas, Buchholz was given the loving moniker "Laptop" by Boston fans. This caused him to drop more than 30 picks, leaving him to be taken in the supplemental round by the Red Sox.
Buchholz impressed right out of the gate in '05, throwing 41.1 innings for Lowell in Low-A ball, with 45 strikeouts against nine walks. Buchholz built upon this performance in 2006 as he put up 140 Ks in 119 innings against just 33 walks between Low-A and High-A. Not bad for a 21-year-old. As a result of this stellar performance, Clay was ranked the No. 2 Boston prospect, 51st in the majors.
While 2006 was certainly an incredible season, with a 4.24 K:BB ratio and 10.58 K/9 ratio, Buchholz topped even that in 2007. Before being promoted to the big club late in the year, he was able to post an incredible 171 Ks in 125.1 IP while ceding just 35 walks between Double-A and Triple-A. This included a ruthless 116 strikeouts in 86.2 innings in double-A. As a result, Boston decided it was time to promote the 22-year-old to Boston, where he posted 22 strikeouts in 22.2 IP with 10 walks. Clay also recorded the first no-hitter of his career that season. Needless to say, the pundits were impressed, as Buchholz went into 2008 ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Boston system and fourth-best in MLB.
2008 was not as kind to Clay as years past, however. He started the season as Boston's No. 5 starter, only to be sent down after 76 innings, recording 72 whiffs but 41 walks. The bright prospect struggled with everything under the sun: His pinpoint command abandoned him, he yielded a 14.7 HR/FB rate and he had a .366 BABIP. His ERA was a very poor 6.75, though his FIP was at least an acceptable mark for a fifth starter at 4.82. While his struggles at the major league level were a bit disconcerting, he was able to recreate some of that old spark in the minors, as he went on to post a 61:18 K:BB ratio in 58.2 IP. Not quite the Clay of old, but not post-apocalypse Homer Bailey, either.
Then, in 2009, 24-year-old Clay Buchholz had to show to the viewing public, and fantasy gamers, whether he is a major league pitcher or ex-prospect. The results have been mixed and his performance indicators may be a little misleading, but there may yet be some magic in the young right-hander's arm.
When analyzing the performance of a pitcher, the first place most people look is ERA and FIP. Comparing the two usually gives the fantasy manager a good sense of whether the player will trend up or down. Buchholz currently sports a 3.49 ERA against a 4.29 FIP, which usually hints to a player trending downward toward his lower FIP. This seems about right, as his home run rate is within normal ranges, at 10.6 percent HR/FB but his BABIP is very low at .282. This is especially surprising given Boston's defensive struggles this season, as they have had one of the worst defensive efficiencies in the league this year, according to Baseball Prospectus.
As a result, Clay Buchholz seems to be dead in the water. With a poor K rate (5.82 K/9) and a less-than-ideal walk rate (3.84 BB/9), Buchholz is going nowhere: His ERA is an aberration and his career will probably take him to the annals of fifth starter-dom.
Yet, there is much to like about Clay Buchholz's performance—especially his plate discipline characteristics—that say there may be something to this pitcher.
First is his groundball percentage. Any pitcher who can create a 54.5 percent groundball rate can survive in the MLB, provided they have a positive strikeout to walk ratio. Even Lenny DiNardo has been able to carve out a career for himself based on nothing more than a love for groundballs. So, here's the first pro for Buchholz: He can keep the ball on the ground, thus controlling home runs.
Second is his excellent contact percentage. Though groundballs are a pitcher's best friend, whiffs are the true diamonds in the relationship. Any pitcher who can create swings and misses will have success in MLB. Surprisingly (especially after seeing that paltry K/9 ratio), Clay is actually pretty good at missing bats. His 78.3 percent contact rating is very good and places him in the range of Zack Greinke (77.7 percent), Johan Santana (78.3 percent), and Jered Weaver (78.5 percent). Buchholz's command of the strike zone is also improving, as his Zone percentage is up 1.2 percent this year, at 51.5 percent and his first strike percentage is up 2.2 percent to 61.9.
In all, Buchholz looks much better than his current strikeout line, as a player with his rates of contact, O-Swing, Zone percentage, and F-Strike % are more indicative of around 7.5 strikeouts per nine, not 5.82. His walk rate looks to stay relatively steady, though it could drop slightly into the mid 3s per nine instead of 3.84.
Buchholz is a great player to bet on for the remainder of the season and the future. With good peripherals, upward trending strikeout rates, and increasing velocity, Clay Buchholz can help any team in need of some pitching down the stretch. What may be more exciting, however, is how he profiles for next season. Due to his low strikeout rates, Clay is almost assured to go in the late rounds of the draft—and may go undrafted in some formats as well. In this case, be sure to take a flier on Buchholz as he could reward you with excellent numbers for a very low price. Most managers will profile him as a fifth or sixth starter at best, when he should play more to a 3/4 with upside. For this season, expect him to post an ERA somewhere around 3.9 with a WHIP around 1.35.
If you're planning on watching him for next year, follow his walks very closely. If he can bring that BB rate under 3 per nine, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. Be ready when he does it.
Posted by Mike Silver at 3:27am
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
During the preseason, in a fantasy baseball roundtable, THT’s Derek Carty asked this question:
What do you think has a greater impact on one’s ability to win a fantasy baseball league: player evaluation or strategy?
Most of the responders seemed to believe that evaluation was the more crucial skill. However, if the question was adjusted to consider just the final two weeks of the season in a tight, competitive fantasy league, would the responders adjust their answers?
I hope so.
Most competitors in most leagues are out of competition by now. With only a dozen or so games to go, player evaluation is mostly directed at recapping the season or discussing the next one. Football has started, and many fantasy enthusiasts have directed their efforts in that direction.
But if one is lucky enough to be involved in a close, thrilling finish, there can be an enormous amount of strategic gamesmanship involved.
In some leagues, we witness variants of old game theory problems including “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Chicken:” What’s the other person thinking I’m thinking? If your team and your closest competitor are locked in a tight struggle for both ERA and strikeouts, for example, it helps to know if you’re competitor is going to aggressively make a lot of starts to chase strikeouts or conservatively protect ERA. Otherwise, making a lot of starts without your competitor doing the same could put ERA at risk.
In other leagues, we might see competitors unwittingly measure the economic advantages and disadvantages of hoarding. If you hold a dominant position in steals, for instance, and nobody else in your league can come close to touching you in that category, does it make sense to hold onto a speedster like Michael Bourn or release him for needed help in other categories? What if your main competitor has room for points growth in steals and is No. 3 on waiver wire priority? Do you take the risk of letting him have your player?
The final few weeks of the season can be the time of the year when competitors pursue wild strategies. For example, a team focused on maintaining a small lead in a ratio category like AVG, ERA, or WHIP above all else may pare down their active roster to the bare minimum.
Conversely, a team desperate for a few wins as the maximum innings limit approaches may attempt to grab as many spot starters as they can on that final day they reach—and surpass—the innings limit. (Most fantasy service providers will allow a fantasy team to go above the maximum amount of innings that final day.)
Let’s not forget pleading and nudging as an appropriate strategy. In Tout Wars AL this year, Mike Siano of MLB and Lawr Michaels of Creativesports.com are in a tight battle and Siano is browbeating other owners in the league to put their best foot forward.
Almost everything is fair when a title is on the line. But pay attention to the strategy involved.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 3:56am
After putting up a .363/.453/.451 line in his junior year at Texas A&M, Cliff Pennington became the 21st overall pick of the 2005 draft. Equipped with speed and good on-base ability, Pennington was a perfect fit for his drafting team, the Oakland A's, who were in need of an insurance policy on the still unproven Bobby Crosby.
Pennington proceeded to rise up the rungs of the metaphorical minor league ladder, despite producing middling numbers in Single- and Double-A ball. Coming into 2008, expectations had been severely lowered for the former first rounder, and the question now became whether he would ever make the major leagues and become, at most, a utility infielder instead of "is he the next star A's shortstop?"
Pennington did nothing to improve upon those low expectations in the first third of 2008 in Double-A, batting .260 with 0 home runs. The silver lining was total of 20 steals and a 1.08 K:BB ratio, apparently enough of a lining for the A's to promote Cliff to Triple-A.
In Triple-A Pennington played what could be described as well for the first time in his professional career, as he batted .300 with an impressive .430 on-base percentage—the result of him walking in nearly one-fifth of his plate appearances. The power was still non-existent, but nobody complains about a .300 hitting shortstop with speed and decent fielding ability.
For his efforts, the A's promoted Cliff to the majors for the final month of the season. He was replacing the injured Mark Ellis at second and, true to his role, played at replacement level.
Pennington started 2009 at Triple-A knowing the A's did not see him as their shortstop of the future. In the 2008 amateur draft they selected shortstops Jason Christian in the fifth round, high-schooler Nino Leyja in the 15th round, and gave 28th-round pick Dusty Coleman over-slot money. Plus, over the offseason the A's opted to give Orlando Cabrera four million dollars to play short for them instead of Pennington.
Had he known the A's would also go on to draft Grant Green, a shortstop, with the 13th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, he might have given up hope of ever starting in the major leagues again. But things were meant to be.
At the 2009 deadline, the A's traded Orlando Cabrera to the Twins (for a shortstop prospect, of course) and called up Pennington. He was coming up after a sleep-inducing second run at Triple-A in which he batted .265/.345/.367. The 27 steals were there, but Cliff was looking like he was the next definition of replacement level.
Surprisingly, Pennington has played above replacement level in his 46 major league games this year—1.2 wins above to be more specific. He has batted .290 with seven steals and four home runs, which is a lot by his standards.
With his solid production, it is becoming more and more likely Pennington will enter the 2010 season as the A's starting shortstop. It is nice to think that he could possibly maintain this level of production over a full season—which would equate to a .290 average, 14 home runs, and 24 steals—but that is unlikely.
More likely, based on his 1,562 minor league at-bats, is a .260-.270 average with four to eight homers and 20 steals. Also keep in mind batting late and in the A's lineup will lead to few run and RBI opportunities.
Overall Pennington can be decent AL-only shortstop next year if drafted late, but should be looked as only a stopgap for one or two years before the A's find somebody else to fill the role.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:26am
Monday, September 21, 2009
In last week’s article, I looked at how Yahoo’s preseason top 50 have performed this season. Not surprisingly, the overall reliability of the rankings were low and it's logical to presume the the reliability of the rankings from 51-100 would not be better.
For me, many of the toughest draft or keeper decisions arise when evaluating players in the 51-100 range. By that part of the draft, the sure things have already been taken, so managers often use pre-rankings to differentiate between players. So, let’s take a look at how Yahoo did predicting the performance of this segment of players.
So, what conclusions can we draw from this?
Finally, I want to expand a bit on a disclaimer I made in the comments section of the first part of the pre-rank analysis. I don’t really know what a laudable success rate would be for pre-ranking. A 42 percent success rate when picking the top 100 players may actually be very good. Further, this analysis was somewhat crude, and there are many alternative ways to evaluate the pre-rankingss. For example, I could have analyzed ranking by position, or used “within 25 slots of the pre-rank” as the criteria for “success.” The greater point of interest is that it seems there hasn’t been much of a formal movement to promote accountability for pre-rankings by fantasy heavyweights like Yahoo.
The goal of this (mini-) series was to give fantasy baseball players perspective on the amount of credence to pay to pre-ranks, not to bash Yahoo’s performance. Because fantasy baseball is very unpredictable, it would be unfair to judge Yahoo's pre-rankings based solely on success rate; as long as the rankings are independent and based on sound reasoning, they can add value for fantasy players. Sites like The Hardball Times may not always be correct either, but we do strive to meet the same standard of sound reasoning and independent analysis. And with that, it seems like a perfectly opportune time to plug The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 because that's the type of content you can expect from the good folks here.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 1:04am
The wins are less than the typical total for a Cy Young winner, but as the times change seasons like Tim Lincecum's get more attention. Lincecum pitches for the worst offense in baseball and Zack Greinke's Royals are not far behind, as they rank sixth from last in wOBA. On the defensive side Lincecum gets much more help with a 4.4 UZR/150 behind him, while Greinke has to contend with the third worst defense in baseball. First lets look at the numbers to see how they match up.
IP ERA W K K/9 K/BB HR/FB BABIP LOB% xFIP Zack Greinke 210.1 2.14 14 224 9.58 5.09 5.00% 0.314 79.40% 3.27 Tim Lincecum 207.1 2.3 14 244 10.59 4.14 5.40% 0.301 77.20% 2.84
Anyone need not look further than Joe Posnanski's blog each day for the daily update on Greinke's run to the Cy Young. He really has been dominant this year with one of the top K/BB rates in the league at 5.09. He has always been a solid pitcher, and has improved numbers in each of his seasons. The result his that he has now reached elite status despite playing on a poor team.
His K/9 has gone up every season since 2005, when he threw a 5.61, to his current 9.58. This gain has made his solid walk rate that much more impressive as it started around 2.0 and gone to 1.88 this season. Only four other pitchers this season have a K/BB over 5.0; Roy Halladay, Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez. He is also ranked 86th of all time in K/BB for a single season. He has elite numbers this year and truly Cy Young material.
If Greinke has to contend with such a poor defense, why is his xFIP so much higher than Lincecum's? He has been having a bit of luck on home runs so far. He holds a HR/F of five percent despite a career rate of 8.9 percent. That's a bit of a jump, but since Kauffman Stadium depresses homers we can expect him to have an ERA that is lower than his xFIP most seasons. Greinke can drop his home run rate by continuing to up his groundball rate, which has increased to 40 percent this season.
The Freak is only getting better and it seems only health could slow him down at this point. He has a solid strikeout rate of over 10.0 per nine innings and has even improved his walk rate, decreasing it by almost a full walk per nine innings. His K/BB is a great at 4.14, but the extra strikeouts really help him relative to Greinke.
His loss in fastball speed is a bit concerning, as he's gone from 94.1 mph to 92.5 mph over the course of the season, but he has relied less on it this season. he is throwing the change-up more and getting very good results. His change-up value per 100 pitches is up from 1.23 in 2008 to 5.05 in 2009. This makes sense as he has a 10mph split between fastball and change and hits the zone with all his pitches well.
Ground balls are up this year for Lincecum, and with such a good defense behind him, he's managed to hold his BABIP at .301. He is also doing a good job of keeping fly balls in the park, with a HR/FB of 5.4 percent. This is fairly normal for Lincecum, as he pitches in a lot of NL West parks, which tend to depress homers. His career rate is 6.3 percent a look at him and Matt Cain shows they can maintain lower HR/FB numbers in San Francisco. This is one of the faults of xFIP; FIP, which has Lincecum at 2.22, seems like a better tool to project a pitcher like Lincecum.
Lincecum had to be scratched this month because of back spasms, but has since made an impressive start against the Colorado Rockies. His numbers looked good and he struck out 11 hitters in seven innings. The Giants are nearly eliminated and should be winding down Lincecum and limiting his innings. While many speculated that his previous workload could cause him to deal with injuries this year, he has once again totaled over 200 innings and is contending for another Cy Young.
If you have to pick between these two you are the envy of your league. In keeper leagues they are at the top of the heap for pitchers, but come with limited upside for wins. When it comes time to pick between the two I have to go with Lincecum. He has superior K/9 and GB% numbers, and also has a better defense behind him and better track record for a HR/FB. In no way do I think Greinke will take a huge fall, but he isn't quite at Lincecum's level right now.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 12:39am
Friday, September 18, 2009
parallax n. : The apparent displacement of an object caused by a change in the position from which it is viewed.
Generating dollar values for fantasy players can be tedious. A common approach is to sum the stats above replacement level in a category and then divvy up those stats among a portion of the total budget and add up the contributions for each player. That’s doable, but there are challenges. For one thing, there are wrinkles to handling rate stats like BA and ERA and “clumpy” stats like saves and steals. Also, there is something unrealistic about treating categories as freely floating when there are obvious dependencies, such as between home runs and RBIs, or ERA and wins.
There is another approach. This one has its own challenges, including a longer time to derive the values, but it sidesteps the bumps with the usual method, and it’s easily tailored to many formats.
The key is to look at fantasy value from a different angle. Suppose that Roy Halladay is valued at $30 in your league. It’s true this says that Halladay’s stats are “worth” $30. But you could re-state this to say that paying $30 for Halladay neither helps nor hurts your odds of winning. If you get Halladay for less than $30, then your odds of winning go up, and if you pay more than $30, then they fall. But paying $30 neither raises nor reduces your odds; if it did, then $30 would be the wrong price.
So we have turned a statement of value (“Halladay is worth $X”) into a statement of probability (“Drafting Halladay at $X neither raises nor lowers your odds of winning your league”). Why is this good? Because now, to find the value of a player, we need only to find the price at which ownership of the player doesn’t alter your odds of winning. There are no other calculations—no defining of the spread of player stats, no breakdowns of categorical value.
Note that this method works in fantasy because we have a fixed budget. In the real world, things are looser—there is no price at which owning C.C. Sabathia “hurts” your odds of winning. However, real businesses are in the business of maximizing profits, and C.C.’s salary can surely hurt those.
So we have the bare bones of an approach. Let’s create a two-team league. (In this exercise, we’ll stick with pitchers, so that we don’t have to worry about accommodating multiple positions.) On one roster, we’ll put our player of interest—in this case, Roy Halladay. Halladay always appears on this roster. The other eight slots on Roy’s roster, and all nine slots on the other one, are open:
Roster #1 Roster #2 ============ ========= ROY HALLADAY Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher PitcherThe open slots will be randomly filled with 17 distinct pitchers (no duplication within or across rosters.) After populating the rosters, we will determine the side that “won,” based on whatever categories we have in our league, and behaving as if these were the only two teams in our league. For example, in standard 5x5 roto league, there would be five categories—wins, saves, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Finishing first in a category in our two-team league is worth two points, and finishing last is worth one. We’ll repeat this exercise 1,000 times for various roster configurations and track the winners.
(Why do we need to track only two rosters, even if our real league has more teams? Because each Halladay-less roster is identical. Suppose that there are 10 other rosters like Roster No. 2. Each is indistinguishable from Roster No. 2, because all rosters draw from the same pool. If we can balance Halladay’s roster with Roster No. 2, then we’ll also have balanced Halladay’s roster with the other rosters. A one-in-two chance of beating Roster No. 2 equates to a 1-in-12 chance of beating the league.)
Our ultimate aim is to make Halladay expensive enough that his team wins exactly half the time. “That’s swell, but you have no dollar figures. So you can’t turn your probabilities into prices.” And that’s true. We need points of reference.
How many points? Perhaps as few as two. If we have two points of reference, we might be able to adapt the method of parallax, which is used by astronomers to determine the distance to stars. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, because we don’t have two points of reference.
But we do. For any fantasy league, there are two statements that we can say with certainty (both statements require us to identify the draft-worthy pool of pitchers—we’ll tackle that later):
1. The last drafted player is worth $1.
2. The worth of a slot that freely floats among all draft-worthy players is the average price spent on that slot. If owners in a 12-team league historically spend $99 on nine pitchers, then a pitching slot that freely floats among all 108 draft-worthy pitchers is worth $11.
Now, in a real auction, you can’t draft a “freely floating” slot. However, in our simulation, we can—in fact, in our diagram, each slot labeled “Pitcher” is exactly that. In a particular run of the simulation, the slot could be worth $1, or it could be worth $50. But the expected value of the slot is $11. (Actually, it is slightly less, since one pitcher—Halladay—is not available. But $11 works for our purposes.)
Armed with our two points of reference, we can employ parallax. Here’s the approach: Roster No. 2 will never change—it will always contain nine freely floating pitching slots. For our first 1,000 runs, Roster No. 1 will also be the same. Over time, though, we’ll swap free-floating slots (worth $11) for the last drafted player (worth $1). Each switch means a drop in value of $10 for Halladay’s team.
Eventually, we’ll reach a point at which Halladay’s roster wins only half the time. Since the odds are the same, the total value of each team must also be the same. We know the value of Roster No. 2 ($99), and of the non-Halladay slots on Roster No. 1 (either $1 or $11), so it’s easy enough to solve for Roy’s value.
If we replace all eight floating pitchers, we could end up with a graph like this (not real numbers):
Here, when Halladay is paired with eight freely floating pitchers, his team wins more than 75 percent of the time. However, when he’s stuck with eight $1 pitchers, he wins only about 15 percent of the time.
To find Halladay’s value, just read off the point at which the trend line crosses 50 percent. In this case, that’s around 3.5. So Roster No. 1 would be balanced with Roster No. 2 if 3-1/2 slots worth $11 were replaced with the same number of slots worth $1. Ergo, Halladay is worth $35.
That’s the idea, anyway. Will it work?
NEXT WEEK: Will it work?
Posted by John Burnson at 4:00am
Yorvit Torrealba | Colorado | C
True Talent: .257/.315/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .254 BA, 0.1 SB
It's kind of surprising to see any starting catcher still out there on so many waiver wires, particularly one who's getting so much PT of late. Torrealba has supplanted Ianetta as Colorado's regular backstop of late, even though he's not been hitting any better (.276/.339/.356 in September). Tracy clearly must like the way Yorvit's handling the rotation—but whatever the reason, you can pick up a few more counting stats if you need a catcher, since he's so readily available. True Talent shows you he's about where he should be in his ratios, making him best suited for 15-teams NL leagues. Just remember that Tracy could also change his mind back at any time, and put Ianetta back in, but he's unlikely to do so while the team's pushing toward the playoffs.
Rafael Betancourt | Colorado | RP/CL
YTD: 9.5 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 2.70 ERA
True Talent: 8.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.49 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.20 ERA
Huston Street's not much closer to returning, and Franklin Morales has started to falter with more exposure, as I expected he might, surrendering three ER in his last two outings. Betancourt swooped in to snatch the save the second time Morales got into trouble, and could get another look, particularly if Morales struggles again. Betancourt has done far better with Colorado than he did with Cleveland, mostly by controlling his walks, dropping from 4.4 to 1.9 BB/9, and has been a very good reliever in every situation but the closer's role in his career. Street should still be back at some point, so Betancourt's a longshot no matter how you slice it, but saves are saves, and he might pick up one or two more. He's still going to collect some strikeouts, too, and if True Talent sees a bit of a correction, it shouldn't be much. As save gambles go, he's better than most.
Ian Desmond | Washington | MIF/OF
True Talent: .225/.286/.348
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 0 Runs, 0 RBI, .216 BA, 0.1 SB
The Nats are taking a look at Ian Desmond, a mid-level prospect who's got more leather than wood in his repertoire, though you wouldn't know that from his YTD line. Obviously, that screams "small sample size," representing just 18 PAs, and he's going to slide closer to his True Talent levels the more he plays. In the minors, however, his power (.477 SLG across two levels) and improved plate approach (.51 BB/K, vs. .39 in six minor-league seasons) came together nicely this year. He also pushed his contact rate from .78 to .80, so he's seeing the ball better and getting good wood on it, making some improvement to be expected. He averaged a bit over 20 SBs in the minors, so he'll swipe a bag now and then, too, despite average speed. Unless he defies expectations and keeps mashing, he's good for only part-time work down the stretch, so only the deepest of NL leagues will find any value here; similarly deep NL keeper leagues might stash him away for 2010 if they need a MIF who might prove to be a skosh above replacement level.
Billy Buckner | Arizona | SP
YTD: 7.4 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 6.79 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Buckner's secondary stats should have led to a better ERA, but he's given up lots of longballs (1.7 HR/9) and hits (11.9 H/9) this year, which tells you how hittable he's been. Since returning to the bigs in September, he's shown a sharper curve ball, which he needs to use to succeed, and has put together two good back-to-back starts, with 12 Ks vs. four BBs, two ER and 14 Hs in 13 IP. He'll keep getting starts down the stretch, as will plenty of other Baby Snakes, so you can expect less-than-stellar defense and offense behind him. He should keep collecting Ks but could hurt your ratios, as he's been prone to meltdowns this year, and wins could be hard to come by, too. That makes him a moderate-risk-to-moderate-reward play, something to keep in mind if you want to roll the dice with him in your deep NL league.
Kazuo Matsui | Houston | 2B
True Talent: .266/.320/.374
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .261 BA, 0.8 SB
Kaz picked up his 2,000th career hit on Aug. 15, earning him membership into an elite Japanese baseball honor society. As often happens when players are trying to reach a milestone, Matsui was pressing to reach the mark and hit poorly. A week later, he loosened up and started on a tear that's seen him hit .321/.360/.488 with nine extra-base hits and seven SBs in the three weeks since then. True Talent shows you he's still short of expectations, so that hot streak might last a little while longer, and it's important to note that five of those steals have come in the last week. Though he has occasional health issues, Matsui's been playing in nearly every game for the past several months, and should continue to do so, barring injury. Though his TT levels peg him as a worthy addition best suited for NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams, shallower leagues can ride him for as long as those SBs and XBHs continue.
Blake Hawksworth | St. Louis | RP
YTD: 3.9 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 2.36 ERA
True Talent: 5.2 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.96 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 4.90 ERA
Owners have given Hawksworth some love lately because of his four wins out of the 'pen, but vulture wins (or Hawk wins?) are hard to predict. What's easier to predict is a surge in his artificially low ERA, which has been helped by a ridiculous .236 BABIP—his FIP is 3.72, and his xFIP is 4.39. True Talent not only confirms that his ERA should rise, it shows that his shaky command is right on target, as is his lack of dominance. This is a guy who gets by on his control—he's most often compared to Jeff Suppan, whom I covered last week—so he walks a fine line between good and bad, and one day hopes to slide into the back of the Cards' rotation. There are relievers you can count on for strikeouts or ratio control (or both), where the occasional win or save is a bonus. Chasing vulture wins is foolish when that's the only expected return, and that's why Blake Hawksworth should stay on your waiver wire, no matter what league you're in.
Luke Gregerson | San Diego | RP
YTD: 11.0 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 2.81 ERA
True Talent: 8.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.84 ERA
As a nice contrast to a reliever like Hawksworth, consider someone like Gregerson. Though the Punch-and-Judy Pads only managed to deliver Gregerson one relief win this season, he's delivered them plenty of Ks and very few BBs. He's done that throughout his short minor league career, with 10.2 K/9 in three seasons, mixing in a decent fastball with a much better slider. He'll give back a bit of that ERA, according to True Talent (his xFIP is just 2.84), but those strikeouts should continue. And he's much less likely to pick up many vulture wins with the Padres hitting behind him, but he's picked up 25 holds, if your league counts that. Even if yours doesn't, Gregerson makes a good roster addition for teams that are approaching their start/IP cap, or have already done so, NL-only league or not.
Josh Thole | New York | C
True Talent: .245/.317/.335
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .242 BA, 0.0 SB
Jerry Manuel likes Thole's patient approach at the plate, and wants to hit him second, in front of David Wright, a good place to be. And Thole could be a good fit, as he's shown an outstanding eye in the minors (1.06 BB/K in five seasons) and an excellent 88% contact rate. He hasn't advanced higher than Double-A because his catching skills are still developing, but the Mets aren't too concerned with that right now, having lost eight of their last nine games fielding their Quadruple-A squad. Expect him to play at least 60% of the time in these last few weeks, and more than that if he keeps hitting—just don't expect him to hit for much power (.375 SLG in the minors, peaking at .427 last season). That makes him an NL-only option for deeper leagues, or for disappointed Mets fans (are there any other kind this year?) whose fantasy teams have also given up for the season.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Daric Barton | Oakland | 1B
True Talent: .250/.347/.395
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .251 BA, 0.1 SB
Hitting .292/.381/.458 since his return, Barton is playing (almost) every day and showing exactly the sort of hitting skills that were long expected of him. True Talent thinks it's mostly illusion, but his seasonal BABIP is just .271, and can be expected to show some rise, though he's slow and hasn't hit the ball particularly hard. Especially in an OBP league, he could make a nice addition for the last few games.
Kyle Davies | Royals | SP
YTD: 6.3 K/9, 4.8 K/BB, 5.27 ERA
True Talent: 5.9 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 5.18 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 W, 3 K, 5.91 ERA
When your YTD ERA is 5.27, and your BABIP is .285, it's very likely you're not a good pitcher ... and Davies isn't good. After this weekend, the Royals face Boston, Minnesota (twice), and the Yankees, so anyone not named Greinke is a questionable play to begin with. He'll be just 26 years old in 2010, and has proven to be very durable, so maybe there's hope for him in the future, but definitely someone to avoid in 2009.
Mark Ellis | Oakland | 2B
True Talent: .259/.323/.404
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .257 BA, 0.5 SB
For his career, Mark Ellis has hit about .285/.350/.450 combined in August-October, and he was at it again this year until a rough series against Texas. Bad news for him is that the team faces LA, Texas, Seattle, and LA again. Seattle and Texas are both top three in run prevention, while LA is below-average on the season, but has a 4.27 ERA since the break, and a 2.56 ERA in September. The final series of the season may be Triple-A-quality pitching, as the Angels organize their rotation for the playoffs, but all-in-all, we'd avoid Ellis, historical trend notwithstanding.
Freddy Garcia | Chicago | SP
YTD: 6.2 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 4.41 ERA
True Talent: 6.4 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 4.57 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 W, 4 K, 4.57 ERA
Not really Freddy Garcia news, but Jake Peavy is starting tomorrow, finally, after recovering from a liner off his elbow in the minors. Garcia gets the Royals, Tigers, and Tigers again, if the rotation stays the same. Detroit has scored 4.61 runs/game this season, compared to a 4.81 league average, and they are marginally worse against RHP (.326 OBP vs .338—AVG and SLG almost identical). Freddy allows his share of fly balls, so the chance is there for an M-Cab-aided disaster, but for an AL-only league, this is a pretty good pitcher to be able to add this late. The Royals start should be good, and his 88 mph tomfoolery might even get him a couple quality starts against Detroit.
Esteban German | Texas | UTIL
True Talent: .270/.347/.374
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .271 BA, 0.2 SB
German is a devastating leadoff hitter ... in Triple-A. Saving his career by posting a .419 OBP with 35 SB for the RedHawks after a dismal .245/.303/.338 performance in 2008, he's been useful for the Rangers with Michael Young being injured. Young is going to try to play, but if he's hurt worse than the team is letting on, look for some exposure for German, who can still steal a base per week given the PA.
Kevin Jepsen | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 7.6 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 4.56 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.81 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 5.32 ERA
You don't hear much about ROOGY's in bullpen roles, but Jepsen's split stats would qualify him, as they are the mirror image of typical LOOGY stats (.358/.413/.432 against LHB, .202/.250/.236 vsR). Kevin Jepsen looks like a closer and has the upper-90s velocity typical to that role. With Brian Fuentes having problems with RHB (.372 OBP, .463 SLG), Mike Scioscia has stated that Jepsen will be in line for some situational saves. Also, this is a guy to keep a close eye on for 2010 and beyond—his fastball/cutter combo already makes him playable, and when (if) his rebuilt arm re-learns the control of his nasty curve, he could be truly exceptional.
David Purcey | Toronto | SP
YTD: 8.6 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 6.32 ERA
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.99 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 W, 5 K, 4.34 ERA
Way back in 2001, the M's offered their 20th-round pick, David Purcey, a huge $1 Million bonus to sign. He turned them down, and stayed healthy enough in college to become the 16th overall pick in 2004. Needless to say, much was expected of this pitching talent, but injuries derailed his train to Toronto. Finally, his 2008 showed just enough promise (8.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9) that there was some optimism again. As can be seen from the True Talent line, there's still enough here to not give up hope, though a 47.3% career FB% suggests a pitcher ill-suited for pitching in the AL East.
Ryan Sweeney | Oakland | OF
True Talent: .277/.338/.393
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .278 BA, 0.4 SB
In their irrelevance, few have noticed that the A's have been hitting well of late—.294/.364/.461 in September. Right Fielder Ryan Sweeney has been a big part of that, crushing the ball for a .360/.421/.500 September line. There's a lot of data supporting the modest TT projection, but—like Barton—he was more highly regarded as a prospect than his results have indicated. Also, like Barton, he is soft in the roto categories—homers and SB. But he should be one of the better batting average aids available at this point, if that's what a team needs.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 2:00am
Thursday, September 17, 2009
New York-Penn League
Hitter of the Year
Neil Medchill / OF / NY Yankees
No one player stood out from the crowd in 2009, but Medchill represented the stabilizing force in a Staten Island lineup that helped the team finish with the second best record in the league. His advanced base running instincts and .551 slugging percentage were too much for the league to handle.
Pitcher of the Year
Jose Alvarez / LHP / Boston Red Sox
Hudson Valley's Alexander Colome could make a strong case, but Alvarez's league-leading 1.52 ERA and 0.84 WHIP leave little doubt. The division winning Lowell Spinners would not have been the same without him.
Best Hitting Prospect
Ryan Westmoreland / OF / Boston Red Sox
Boston threw an enormous signing bonus at Westmoreland, and to show his gratitude he has done nothing but impress. Westmoreland brings a little bit of every tool you could possibly want in an outfielder, and his impressive plate discipline has taken me completely by surprise. He is ready for full season ball and may find his way into my off-season Top 100 list.
Best Pitching Prospect
Kyle Lobstein / LHP / Tampa Bay Rays
Lobstein's short season debut was about as good as could be expected, and averaging a strikeout per inning is an encouraging sign. His potential isn't through the roof, but his versatile repertoire could add up nicely for a Tampa team flush with starting pitching.
Hitter of the Year
Ryan Wheeler / 1B / Arizona Diamondbacks
Wheeler was the standout player from last place Yakima's lineup. He led the league with a .999 OPS and .461 OBP, and finished second in the league in both batting average and slugging percentage. His 37 walks against just 28 strikeouts was the icing on the cake.
Pitcher of the Year
Robbie Ross / LHP / Texas Rangers
In the early part of the season, no pitcher in all of baseball had more eye-popping strikeout numbers. His strikeout rate dwindled late in the year, but his stats stayed true; the most impressive of which is his 17 walks over 74.1 innings, a great feat for a 20-year-old.
Best Hitting Prospect
Brett Jackson / OF / Chicago Cubs
While I may not be a believer in Jackson's upside, it's hard to ignore his draft status and 2009 debut stats, as small a sample as it may be. He has a bit of that attractive power/speed combination that every team looks for, and it will be those numbers that carries him up the minor league ladder.
Best Pitching Prospect
Robbie Ross / LHP / Texas Rangers
With Ross we have this year's first instance of a league's top prospect putting up the league's most dominating performance to boot. He doesn't have the ideal frame but he does have above average velocity and an excellent mix of pitches. His command is tremendous for a player of his age.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 2:46am (0) Comments
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Freddy Garcia presents a rare opportunity for both fantasy owners and MLB GMs to partake in the thrill of raising the dead.
Freddy Garcia is no new phenomenon in fantasy baseball. The hurler is a holdover from the '90s, a vestige of days gone by when dial-up modems and the United States Postal Service ruled the world. The man is a vet, no, a grizzled vet, in every sense of the word. He has struggled with shoulder injuries since 2004, yet continues to chug on, though his arm is being held together by sheer will power, grit and duct tape. Garcia has not played a full season since 2006, throwing all of 101.2 IP over parts of the last three seasons.
Yet, despite all this, Garcia continues to produce ... when healthy. 2009 is no different.
When assessing the health of a starter, there are a few key indicators to watch for. One, of course, is velocity. When a player is hiding an injury or has lingering effects from surgery or a previous DL stint, he often sees a reduction in velocity. Fortunately for Garcia, his velocity is right where he left it in 2006, his last full season in the majors. While this is a good sign that he has recovered well from his latest shoulder escapade, this does not mean that he is back to form from his days in Seattle. In the early 2000s, when Garcia was at the best of his career, he was sitting in the 91 mph range (with a season at 93 mph in 2002). His arm has not been the same since 2006, when he dropped 2 mph on his fastball from 91.4 in '05 to 89.3 mph in '06. The Garcia of 2009 sits at 88.5 mph. While not the Garcia of old, a 0.8 mph drop in velocity is not much to be concerned about, considering all his arm has been through.
The second, and often more important, indicator is his command ratios. Even if a pitcher has a decrease in velocity, hitters will not be able to slug his stuff until he starts leaving it over the plate or getting into lots of hitter's counts ... and then there's the walks. Even with diminished velocity, should Garcia be able to control the strike zone and keep his walk totals down, he should be a relatively effective pitcher. Luckily for him, he has been able to do so, as his 2.83 BB/9 and 56.3 first-strike percentage are right in line with his career averages.
So where does this leave Freddy Garcia?
With below-average velocity but above-average command, Garcia should be in relatively good hands. He's not a keeper, so what really matters is what he'll be able to provide for the stretch run in the next few weeks. His shoulder should be able to hold up. So, what does he have left? We should be able to find some hints in his rate statistics.
When fishing for information on a pitcher's strikeout and walk profile, three important characteristics tell the tale: batter swing percentage, contact percentage, and pitcher zone percentage. These three indicators go a long way in reporting how patient batters are with a pitcher and how hard the pitcher is to hit. This season, Garcia has put together a 43.2 percent swing percentage, a 74 percent contact percentage, and a 49.3 percent zone percentage.
The zone percentage is not ideal, as it is low for a starting pitcher. This means that Garcia is frequently missing the plate, leading to more hitter's counts and more walks.
His swing percentage is also low, which exacerbates his problems commanding the zone. If batters are not offering at pitches, especially with the number he is throwing outside the zone, Garcia is almost assured to give up lots of walks.
But the money maker, contact percentage, is an excellent 74.0 percent. This actually piqued my interest as I was evaluating Garcia. While this season is the best he has had on record since this stat became available in 2002, Garcia has always had very good contact percentages, with a career rate (since 2002) of 77.5 percent.
It almost seems as if Garcia is pulling a trick on all of us.
Since 2002, Garcia has posted a 2.59 BB/9 along with a 6.66 K/9. Those are the numbers of a control pitcher who doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff. However, with a 77.5 contact percentage since 2002, Garcia should have been striking out far more batters than this, with seasons possibly in the 8s and 9s K/9. Factoring in his other plate discipline attributes, Garcia profiles more as a pitcher who strikes out 8 batters per nine innings, while walking 3-4. This is not at all the Freddy Garcia we have grown accustomed to, however.
So where does this leave us? On the one hand, questioning how a pitcher ever had such a profile but was never able to strike out 8 batters per nine innings. On the other hand, fascinated and curious that maybe Garcia is one of those pitchers who really does pitch to contact, despite having stuff to strike out batters.
With just over two weeks left in the season, feel safe to play Freddy Garcia. He is owned in very few leagues at the moment, so you have the opportunity to get a quality pitcher for nothing off the waiver wire. There is no reason to believe that his shoulder cannot hold up over his next few starts and he will certainly be able to deliver quality starts, a good ERA, and a few wins. While sample size is an issue when considering Garcia's 2009 performance to date, his steady velocity, F-strike rate, and contact rates all bode well for his future.
Expect Garcia to continue to pitch to contact as he has done throughout his career. While this won't be great for your strikeout numbers, it will help with the WHIP and ERA. Garcia's current 3.33 FIP seems low and is more a reflection of his low HR rate, currently at 6.5 percent HR/FB. From here on out, he should be able to provide an ERA in the high 3s, at around 3.80, with a WHIP around 1.30. All told, Garcia rates as a slightly below-average starting pitcher. However, when you can get him for nothing on the waiver wire, he becomes quite the asset. Start him with confidence. This reclamation project could end up acing his test, or at least passing.
Posted by Mike Silver at 2:39am
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Angels manager Mike Scioscia does not feel comfortable handing the ball to closer Brian Fuentes 100 percent of the time anymore. In his first year as the Halos' closer Fuentes has turned out a mediocre season and after posting a 5.40 ERA in seven September appearances, a few saves will fall Kevin Jepsen's way according to Scioscia. With Jepsen a right-hander and Fuentes a lefty, Jepsen's opportunities figure to come when primarily righties are due up in the ninth.
The casual glancer at Jepsen's season stats will be left unimpressed, but upon closer inspection you will notice that they were tarnished by a rocky April. After some final seasoning in the minors Jepsen was recalled in June, and since July has been absolutely dominant. In 32 appearances (34 innings) since July, Jepsen has a microscopic 1.57 ERA with an impressive 34 to 9 K:BB ratio.
Even if you do not need the few saves Jepsen might get by the end of the season, his ratio assistance might be worth the add alone.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:18pm
Ever since Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was called up to the major leagues in 2006, I’ve enjoyed a love/hate relationship with this player. I became one of the first in fantasy leagues to pick him up. A few weeks later, during that 2006 season, I became one of the first to drop him.
Two years later in 2008, Kemp started to show more consistency at the plate and earned regular at-bats. I traded for him and he was unbelievably productive for my team. In the midst of a championship run, however, I decided to cash him in by trading his keeper value for a bevy of superstars who helped me win a title.
At the time, I had Alex Rios on my team and noted the amazing similarity in the statistical profile of Kemp and Rios. Last year, Kemp had 18 HR, 35 SB, 93 R, 76 RBI, and a .290 BA. Meanwhile, Rios had 15 HR, 32 SB, 91 R, 79 RBI, and a .291 BA. The two were virtual clones.
This season, Kemp has taken a monumental leap forward whereas Rios has totally lost the good will of the fantasy community.
The Dodgers outfielder is approaching a 25-35 season with a batting average over .300. He’s been tremendously valuable, and fantasy pundits from Ron Shandler to RayGu have started to hype him as a viable top-five player overall going into the 2010 season.
Not so fast, I say.
I believe there are several reasons to still be slightly cautious about Kemp going forward. Obviously, Kemp is still young (he’s turning 25 next week so happy birthday, Matt) and has the ability to improve—a factor that no doubt counts in his favor. Yet, I see Kemp as being the type of player who carries far more risk than many people acknowledge.
Strikeouts/Batting Average: This season to date, Kemp has struck out 126 times and walked 48 times in 593 plate appearances. His strikeout rate (23.4%) is very high and his walk rate (8.2%) is below average. With a .305 BA, it’s evident that he’s getting quite lucky on balls in play (.362). Throughout his career, Kemp has maintained a high BABIP and according to the xBABIP calculator, he’s due a .337 xBABIP. Still, that’s 25 points of good luck in the average department. How would Kemp look if he only sported an average in the .270/.280 range?
Troubles versus right-handed pitchers: Kemp has some of the most noticeable handedness splits in all of baseball. One of the major factors behind his success this season has been utter domination of left-handed pitchers. He’s hitting .381/.451/.669 versus lefties compared to just .283/.335/.452 against righties. A closer look at the splits reveals a very good batting eye versus left-handers (16 strikeouts to 15 walks) and a horrible batting eye versus right-handers (110 strikeouts to 33 walks). His splits suggest room for some regression downward against righties, unfortunately. Opposing managers would also be wise to either avoid pitching left-handers against him or, when they do, walk him intentionally. After all, Kemp rarely steals when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound.
Power: Kemp hit 18 HR last year. Currently, he’s got 23 and counting. Many scouts projected he’d have 40 HR upside and the growth trends are encouraging. Still, his Isolated Power percentage is only .195—the territory of Hunter Pence, Mike Cameron, and Marlon Byrd. Furthermore, as long as he remains a member of the LA Dodgers, he’ll have to battle the power valley that is Dodger Stadium, particularly unkind to right-handed sluggers.
Speed: As mentioned above, Kemp is on a path toward surpassing 35 SB this season, an extraordinary achievement for a player who is 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds. Players measuring those dimensions aren’t typically speed demons and when they do surpass 30 SB, as Alex Rodriguez did in 1998, it tends to be followed by a few years of more moderate steals production. In 2006, Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein wrote this about the then-prospect outfielder: “At 230 pounds, Kemp’s plus speed could dissipate quickly.” Reportedly, Kemp showed up to spring training this year in excellent condition, and his success rate on the base-paths this year (81%) show no cause for concern, yet we’ve likely seen the best from Kemp in the steals department.
Positional scarcity: People will disagree about the level of depth next year at outfielder, but in my mind, it’s pretty deep. For instance, take PECOTA’s No. 1 most comparable player to Matt Kemp—Hunter Pence. He won’t go in the top seven rounds, in all probability. With batting average regression and less speed, Kemp could easily fall back into Hunter Pence/Alex Rios/Corey Hart territory. These players will carry about as much upside but a lot less risk thanks to depressed valuations. Kemp, on the other hand, has become a fantasy darling and that could be reason to stay away.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 4:28am
I would imagine that one of a ballplayer's hardest games is his first major league one. Therefore, I find it impressive whenever a player does well in his first game.
Ian Desmond did just that in his first major league game on Sept. 10, when he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Since then Desmond has gone 6-for-11 to start his major league career hitting the ground running. Let's take a look at how he got here and what we can expect of Desmond in the future.
Desmond was a third-round pick out of a Florida high-school back in 2004 and was slow to develop out of the gate being so young.
Prospects young for their level are at first forgiven for underachieving, but after 2008 Desmond was 22 and coming off a disappointing campaign at Double-A. He did show some pop and a little speed but still frustrated with a .250 batting average and poor plate discipline numbers. Prospect guru John Sickels had this to say of Desmond after the 2008 season:
I thought he was capable of better, but Double-A transition has exposed flaws.
Evidently, coming into 2009 expectations were significantly lower than in past years. Sickels dropped him from the 12th-best prospect to the 20th-best in the Nationals system and 2009 had the looks of a make-or-break season for Ian Desmond.
With the pressure on, he delivered.
As you can see in both Double-A and Triple-A, Desmond improved his production across the board. In this B-Pro interview, he attributed his success to reducing stress and not letting a bad at-bat affect his later ones.
However he accomplished it, it is hard to ignore the surprising success Desmond found in his first taste of Triple-A action. The possibility remains that his 2009 numbers are more of a fluke than his true talent, but given where I'd expect him to be taken in 2010 drafts—in the double-digit rounds—it might be worth the risk of investment to assume his gains are real.
Desmond may have the skill set to be a major league regular, but not every player with the skills to be a regular gets the appropriate playing time (ahem, Seth Smith). Right now Christian Guzman is the Nationals shortstop, although they reportedly do not want Guzman as their shortstop next year.
This plays well for Desmond's hopes; the better he does now to end the season, the less of a chance the Nationals go out and spend money on another shortstop. If given a full season of at-bats, Desmond could hit in the .270 range with around 8-13 home runs and 20 steals. Obviously he could also do much worse, but that inherent risk only makes him available later, making the possible reward sweeter.
The picture of Desmond's 2010 will become a lot clearer after the offseason is over and Spring Training begins, so for now Desmond is simply someone to keep on your radar. In NL-only and deep (16+) mixed leagues he can also be someone to possibly add for the rest of the season, though his playing time situation is currently supported by pillars of sand (read: unstable).
Drafting shortstops early worked out remarkably poorly this year, so next year drafting a sleeper-type late like Desmond might be a more attractive option. For now, let's welcome Ian Desmond to the big leagues and see if he's got what it takes to stick around.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:53am
As the season finishes, there are the usual injury question marks lingering around prominent players for next year. Grady Sizemore, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb and half of the Mets are each keeper candidates whose values are hazy because of injuries. In the past, if you gambled on Albert Pujols' elbow or Chase Utley's hip, you won. If you bet on Justin Duchscherer or Ervin Santana this year, you lost. Since sizable discounts are often applied to players with injury risks, any informational advantages would be very valuable. Sabermetrics to the rescue?
I'm not a medical doctor, but I know a few things about statistics. And yet, when it comes to my own valuations for players with injuries, I often base my forecast for games missed due to injury on innuendo, rumor, and now personal experience. "Sabermetrics" (i.e. the use of the Law of Large Numbers) is not very useful because, when it comes to injury forecasts, the numbers aren't large enough. Why? Here are several reasons followed by something that I've learned through personal experience.
1) There are too many different kinds injuries and players. (Or alternatively, not enough players getting injured). If all injured players only had a sprained ankle, we'd have a large sample of past histories to use. We could look at how that injury affects speed, power and pitching statistically using averages. Unfortunately, there are lots of different injuries (and lots of grades of injuries—tear, partial tear, sprain, etc...). This complicates things.
2) Historical data isn't that helpful. Simply put: Tommy John's post-surgical recuperation was a lot different than players undergoing "his" surgery these days. Only the very recent past is helpful. For instance, Utley's post-surgery performance was the main data point for forecasting Alex Rodriguez's post-hip surgery performance. It doesn't help that we're trying to forecast both recovery time and post-recovery performance.
3) Information is sketchy. Utley's surgery was helpful for forecasting A-Rod's because we knew exactly what A-Rod's problem was and exactly what procedure was going to be performed. I'm a bit iffy on Sizemore's lower abdomin. There are often players who limp into the offseason (all puns intended)—Alfonso Soriano this year is one likely example. These types of players are big candidates for a surprise spring training visit to the hospital.
This isn't to say that we can't take some averages—for instance, I think it is safe to say that most injuries affect pitchers more than hitters. But it does mean that we should be prepared for a lot of variance and, therefore I think, many temptations to make "eyeball" adjustments based on hearsay and personal opinion. Which isn't to say personal opinion is useless.
This summer, I've been recovering from broken ankle for the past four months and I've learned a lot from my sample size of one. I've learned (from my orthopedist) that physical therapy speeds up recovery time but doesn't change the end result—no amount of legwork is going to make my ankle 100% again (though I'm not quite sure what 95% of an ankle means). I've learned that healing takes a long time and getting old stinks. If I was a baseball player, I'd still be in my "prime years," but I felt the effects of this surgery a lot more than I did eight years ago when I had my last one.
All this means that I'm still going to use a rule-of-thumb adjustment to the values of players with injury concerns. Only this time around, due to the, perhaps excessive, coloring of my recent experience, I'll be more conservative than I have been in the past.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 3:06am
Monday, September 14, 2009
It’s hard not to be influenced by pre-ranks. A novice owner may simply defer to authority. An owner use a pre-ranking to confirm a preference for one player over another. And even the savviest of owners may be taken aback if there is a large chasm between their opinion of a player and his pre-ranking.
This week I want to dive into the volatility and accuracy of Yahoo pre-ranks and see if there’s anything we can learn relating to keeping or drafting highly pre-ranked starters, closers, and position players. In most of my keeper leagues, we don’t declare keepers until relatively soon before the season begins. That means pre-ranks are up already and may be a tool one uses when making decisions.
How reliable are those rankings? Are they more reliable for batters, starters, or relievers? Here, I’ve decided to take a snapshot of Yahoo’s top 100 players coming into the season and what the current top 100 actually looks like. This is hardly scientific, as it is only one season, which isn’t even complete yet. But, let’s see if there are any clear trends that emerge.
For 2007 and 2008, I can’t access the pre-ranks, but here’s the final composition of the top 100 for each year:
Here are some trends that emerge from the data:
At some point, the pre-ranks start to become nearly meaningless. Next week, I’ll delve into the 51-100 segment of the list, where presumably the bulk of the variation occurs, and explore whether the pre-ranks are a viable tool at all once decisions start to get a little more difficult.
Let me also add two quick notes before I close. First, I chose to remove players who didn’t perform at top-100 level because of injury, being that injury is a constant every year that is more or less random depending on the particular player. Two, if anybody has information about the year-to-year volatility of fantasy production for pitchers vs. batters, that would make a great companion resource to this piece.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:01am
Last week there was a comment request to do a Clone Wars on Adam Lind and Andre Ethier. I had recently reviewed Ethier when comparing him to Raul Ibanez, so I substituted Kendry Morales, another .300 average, 30 home run, 100 RBI player.
R HR RBI SB AVG BB% K% HR/F% BABIP Adam Lind 80 28 97 1 0.301 8.80% 19.40% 16.50% 0.330 Kendry Morales 73 30 98 1 0.307 7.10% 19.60% 18.20% 0.332
When 2009 began it looked like Lind was going to be spending much of his time at DH and might soon lose his outfield eligibility. This would be a bit of a loss for his value, but with Travis Snider's early struggles, the left field spot opened up and he has already gotten into 54 games at left field. He'll at least hold on to outfield eligibility for another year, but his defense out there won't keep him there long. His UZR/150 currently stands at -14.8, though Snider hasn't shown much defensively either, with a UZR/150 of -12.7 in 51 games (small sample size caveats apply, of course).
His BABIP this year is .330, which is higher than his career rate of .319. However, this is his first year with real playing time, he has increased his line drive rate from 18 percent to 20.6 percent. He also has had a large spike in his power. All signs indicate that he should have a high BABIP so far this year, but could regress in the future.
Looking at his HitTracker data it looks like Lind's power is for real. He has only five "just enough" homers, which better than average. This suggests his power is still growing and 2010 could be another big year for Lind. His home run scatterplot also demonstrates his ability to hit for power to all fields on
One other thing to note is that his splits show he still is much stronger against right-handed pitchers. His batting average is respectable against both, but against lefties his walks and power drop. It isn't a big enough split that he shouldn't start full time, but on his career his OPS does drop from .855 against right handers to .722 against lefties.
Lind is looking to enter 2010 as a top 10 outfielder, but even if the power is for real there are some possible regressions in average. He also looks like someone headed to a DH spot more often and could eventually lose is outfield eligibility.
In 2008, Morales struggled and was behind Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira on the depth chart. The Angels tried to re-sign Teixeira for 2009, but so far Morales' production means that the Angels haven't lost much. Morales has posted a .381 wOBA Morales to date, compared to Teixeira's .392. Unfortunately his walk rate is closer to Lind's than Teixeira's by a good margin.
This season, Morales also has a raised BABIP above his career rate, but unlike Lind his line drive rate has decreased this year. His power numbers are obviously up, but he does have a higher number of "just enough" homers. He has 10 "just enough" homers, which is 33 percent of his total homers. That is above the league average and a possible sign that he will regress next year.
As a switch hitter he has also been much better against righty pitchers with a .871 OPS and dropping to .721 against lefties. Both have risen this year at .971 versus righties and .778 versus lefties. Much like Lind he has trouble getting walks against lefties, but also not so bad he needs to be platooned.
Here are a couple guys who should finish with 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a batting average around .300. These two are extremely similar even when you look at their peripherals, but there are a few numbers that make Lind look like the better offensively of the two. His power numbers and line drive rate are better. Lind's eligibility in the outfield also makes him a better choice. Eleven first basemen have 30 homers and Miguel Cabrera is at 29 right now. Only five outfielders are at 30 or more with four others including Lind at or above 27. Lind should be the better value, but both will still be good players in 2010.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:20am
Friday, September 11, 2009
Edwin Encarnacion | Toronto | 3B
True Talent: .261/.346/.447
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .260 BA, 0.0 SB
Understandably, “EE” is on a lot of transaction wires, as owners are trying to shed the dead weight. So far, he's been nothing short of a complete disaster for the Jays, on both sides of the ball. We don't think there's a great reason to expect an immediate turnaround, but it also wouldn't be shocking to see a two-HR game, launching him into a September-long hot streak. Very high risk, but upside is playable in most formats.
Chad Gaudin | New York | SP/RP
YTD: 8.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.81 ERA
True Talent: 8.1 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.40 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.11 ERA
He's not overly tall, and his “heat” comes up around 90 mph. He's very long odds to get Cy Young votes, ever. He's not even a master at thwarting the running game (27-10 against lifetime), or inducing grounders (44%). But his career ERA is 4.53 in 578 IP, and he's just 26. It's simply baffling how he keeps getting treated like a “free resource.” It will be interesting to see what free agency brings him—this season should keep his three-year IP average at about 140/year. TT projection tells you what you need to know. Playing for the Yanks will increase win potential, though endangering the rate stats. Some of our comments following an earlier WW mentioned Gaudin with some additional points.
Chris Getz | Chicago | 2b
True Talent: .258/.321/.352
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .260 BA, 0.2 SB
We visited Chris Getz before, making the comparison to Adam Kennedy. But Getz is stealing bases much more prolifically than AK did. And since July 9, he's hit .313/.375/.409, going 11-1 on SBA. We still think the rate stats will line up with Kennedy's in the end (.276/.329/.390 career), but he now has 23 SB in 387 career PA. We doubt he'll continue quite that roto-delight rate of theft, as it's about twice his minor-league rate (and his OBP was higher in the minors). But it's difficult to picture him having fewer than 30 SB in 2010.
Austin Jackson | New York | OF
YTD: .300/.354/.405 24-4 SB-CS(AAA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
With his team up 1-0 in the Triple-A playoffs, don't expect Jackson for a couple weeks. And with CF in decent shape for the Yanks (.273/.337/.414 season line combined), it's hard to envision Jackson getting much time, though he should be similarly adequate if he does. The real question is how much he is worth as a keeper. He was explosive to start '09, hitting .324/.389/.452 before the break, with 15 SB. But he was so bad in July/August that even a hot September hasn't really restored his stat line. As a 22-year-old at Triple-A, the opposite would have been more expected. We think he is almost a lock to earn $5-plus in “normal” AL-only formats in 2010, and $10-plus thereafter, as a five-category contributor.
Felix Pie | Baltimore | OF
True Talent: .270/.329/.429
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .266 BA, 0.5 SB
May 29 was Pie's 166th career game, after which his career line was .216/.281/.326 in 385 PA. But he got a pinch-hit double his next game and hasn't looked back, hitting .317/.380/.537 since (137 PA). He was a career .299/.355/.470 hitter in the minors, and that's consistent with his TT projection. But he's always been a low-percentage base thief, and has stopped running this year altogether. In AL-only leagues, you have to respect the PT boost with Jones being out, but he's not overly exciting for mixed leagues.
Landon Powell | Oakland | C?
True Talent: .216/.304/.378
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .220 BA, 0.0 SB
Powell is a better hitter than that TT projection suggests. He's lost huge chunks of time to injuries over the years. This, combined with the usual rigors of catching, beat down his BABIP artificially in 2008. The thing TT does capture is that he's patient and has good power, as noted from how high the OBP and SLG are, given such a tiny BA projection. Seems likely to follow Ramon Castro's path of showing tantalizing offense from the “2” position, yet having injuries and perceptions keep him as just a No. 2 catcher instead.
Robinson Tejeda | Kansas City | SP
YTD: 11.6 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 3.21 ERA
True Talent: 8.9 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.26 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 6 K, 4.52 ERA
Good news for glass-half-full people in KC, in a season where they seemed to deliberately avoid debuting players while giving playing time to bad veterans. Tejeda seems to have finally found a home for his mid-90s fastball and almost Marmol-ian lack of control in the bullpen. He's allowed just 54 hits with KC ... in 2 seasons! (92.2 IP) But leave it to the run-amok Royals to mess with one of the few things that was working, moving him back to the rotation. At least it's a move that has very good upside, but we're thinking it's more likely to leave the half-full glass cracked.
Dan Wheeler | Rays | RP
YTD: 6.4 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, 3.55 ERA
True Talent: 7.3 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.70 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a Saves, 3.70 ERA
One might think that having a closer collapse (Howell since Aug. 1: .375 OBP and .569 SLG allowed, 3 BS, 3 L) would open the door for the guy with a WHIP that starts 0.8. And Wheeler did indeed get a save in that period. But Maddon seems to be taking an “if it ain't broke” approach to Wheeler, and it's almost as likely that the extra SP will end up closing if he does give up on Howell. Wade Davis did strike out six in his first two IP, after all.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 3:59am
Juan Uribe | San Francisco | UT
True Talent: .252/.298/.419
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .246 BA, 0.1 SB
Uribe's a very streaky hitter, and that streak is hot right now. He's hitting .303/.361/.758 on the month, and has started the last 15 games as a result. Uribe's other benefit is his flexibility—depending on your league's eligibility restrictions, he could qualify at 2B, SS, and 3B. Clearly, he's most valuable at those MIF spots, but realize that his numbers are going to drop again, which is what happens when you've got a career .29 BB/K ratio. His Achilles heel is that BA, which is how he'll hurt you. He's worth riding while you can, but be ready to dump him at the first signs of trouble, as SF has other options and he'll be back on the bench. True Talent tells you he's gonna fall off the table at some point, and he's still a good SS play in 12-team NL-only leagues when that happens, but he's got to be in the Giants' lineup to be of value to you.
Jeff Suppan | Milwaukee | SP
YTD: 4.3 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 5.05 ERA
True Talent: 4.7 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 6 K, 4.94 ERA
Soup's an easy punching bag for fans of Brewers (and financial common sense), since he's making $12.5M for the sort of awful numbers you see here, and will make that same sum in 2010 for what's likely to be similar production. True Talent's got him pretty much nailed, with perhaps a few more Ks to be expected down the stretch. Milwaukee's a formidable offensive club, so he's more likely to pick up a win than other similarly subpar pitchers, but he's still only managed six wins this season. If you've got him on your roster, you'd better be an NL owner in at least a 14-team league, since he's not worth the risk otherwise. Innings eaters are nice, but you'd like a better return on your ratios than this.
Daniel Murphy | New York | 1B/OF
True Talent: .262/.322/.406
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .265 BA, 0.3 SB
Murphy has hit two home runs this month, bringing his SLG over .400 for the first time since May. That should tell you plenty about his 1B value, but he should also qualify in the OF, where he'll bring your team a touch more. He's actually got halfway decent speed—20 SBs in 259 minor-league games—but his spot in the middle of the Mets' order hasn't given him the chance to run. At 24, he's young enough to still develop more power and speed, and he's hitting .273/.306/.454 in the second half. Just note that the surge has brought him right around his True Talent numbers, so he's not going to suddenly go through the roof. No matter where you put him in your lineup, he's an NL-only player, where his versatility makes him suitable for 15-team leagues.
Clayton Richard | San Diego | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.88 ERA
True Talent: 5.2 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 5.26 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.1 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 5.73 ERA
Rob and I discussed Richard in the comments soon after his swap, but I figured it was time for another look. Since coming to a different team, stadium and league, Richard hasn't been so great. His numbers have declined across the board, with the rise in HR/9 from 1.0 to 1.4 perhaps the most surprising drop from a guy who moved from The Cell to PETCO. Most worrying has been the spike in walks, from 3.7 to 5.2 BB/9, which has more than offset the uptick from 6.7 to 7.0 K/9. That's all led to a rise in ERA from 4.65 to 5.40, which isn't what's supposed to happen when a player moves from the AL to the NL. He's only logged two quality starts out of his eight turns on the mound from the Padres, and seems to be getting worse with each one. In spite of all that, True Talent tells you he's got even farther to fall. He's got talent and should turn it around next year, but he's not someone you want on your roster in 2009, unless you're in a deep NL-only league—and desperate.
Ronnie Belliard | Los Angeles | 2B/3B
True Talent: .269/.327/.410
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, .263 BA, 0.1 SB
There's something about wearing Dodger blue that brings out the best in some guys. The Belly has been hitting .314/.333/.543 since putting on a Dodger uni, but that's in only 10 games. He's been helped by the injury to Casey Blake, who should be back fairly soon, so keep that in mind if you want to ride Ronnie while he's scorching. Also realize that he's struck out 8 times in those 10 games, against just one walk, and that will catch up with him soon. A short-term addition in NL leagues, Ronnie's fun to watch when he's slugging, but he's headed for the bench as soon as Blake's hamstring heals up.
Wade LeBlanc | San Diego | SP
YTD: 3.5 K/9, 0.7 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
True Talent: 6.7 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 9 K, 4.79 ERA
Don't let that YTD line fool you, as it's dragged down by two bad outings early in the season, when he racked up 7 ER in 4.1 IP. LeBlanc was promoted from Triple-A Portland at the end of August, and has looked good in two of his three starts since then. Though he doesn't have anything better than a great change-up, LeBlanc succeeds with fantastic control (3.41 K/BB in minors) and even manages a fair share of strikeouts (8.3 K/9 in minors). He's a well-regarded arm in their system—Baseball America only ranks two other SD pitchers higher—and he could have a promising future. Remember that he still pitches for San Diego, so the wins will be few and far between, but he's not a bad play for ratios and occasional Ks. Deep NL keeper leagues should have him on the outside of their radar screens, and he'll be a good 2009 addition to NL-only leagues 10 teams and deeper.
Felipe Paulino | Houston | SP
YTD: 8.3 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 6.34 ERA
True Talent: 7.3 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.17 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.3 Wins, 5 K, 4.62 ERA
If Paulino hadn't missed all of last season with a bad shoulder, we'd all be talking about him a lot more. He's got a heater that has touched triple digits and a solid curve, but is still crafting a third pitch, which he'll need to be a successful starter. His struggles to find that pitch led to an ugly 6.0 BB/9 in the minors, but his 7.5 K/9, 0.3 HR/9, and 7.8 H/9 all added up to a 3.12 ERA in Triple-A. In the majors, he's bounced between the rotation and the pen this season, and has had some bad luck as a starter, winning just one of his 13 starts despite some occasionally good outings. In his past two starts, he put up almost identical lines—6.0 IP, 2 ER, with 6 K in one start and 7 K in the other—but he lost them both. He's been susceptible to the HR, with 1.9 HR/9 this season, and gave up three longballs in those last two starts. That makes him a risk to explode your ratios, even if his Ks are tempting. NL owners in 15-team leagues can use him with moderate confidence, while other owners who want to gamble will face a high-risk/high-reward situation.
Cameron Maybin | Florida | OF
True Talent: .253/.335/.403
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .249 BA, 0.2 SB
He's back in the majors, and Maybin looks much improved after his stint in the minors, where he hit .319/.399/.463. His plate discipline improved to .65 BB/K (from a career .51), something he's carried over to the majors, as he's got five BBs and four Ks in his six starts since returning, hitting .350/.462/.750 in that span. His value's in his speed and, while he has yet to swipe a bag since coming back, he will. That weekly projection is only based on a 20% PT share, but he's bound to get more than that while he's hot, and those numbers will be stronger. Teams needing SBs (and who doesn't?) should grab him now, particularly in keeper leagues, while others can hold off unless they're in NL leagues 14 teams or deeper, since his BA and power aren't that impressive ... yet.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Hitter of the Year
Brady Shoemaker / OF / Chicago White Sox
Nobody stood head and shoulders above anyone else this year in the Appy League. But Chicago's new 19th round pick posted a .351 batting average and 1.011 OPS while displaying his power hitting prowess with 21 doubles and nine home runs in just 205 at-bats.
Pitcher of the Year:
Christopher Masters / LHP / Atlanta Braves
No other pitcher in the Appy League can touch Masters' top to bottom stat line domination. He posted a 9.44/1 strikeout to walk ratio and allowed just one home run over 69.2 innings on his way to a 1.42 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
Best Hitting Prospect
Jiovanni Mier / SS / Houston Astros
Mier is one of my favorite players from the 2009 draft. His skill set reminds me so much of Tim Beckham, yet Beckham will always get the hype associated with being a No. 1 pick. Mier has the glove to stay at shortstop and the bat speed to one day be an impact player in the big leagues. He has some hard work in front of him, though.
Best Pitching Prospect
Matt Hobgood / RHP / Baltimore Orioles
Hobgood was a bit of a surprise selection by Baltimore at No. 5 overall in the 2009 draft. He doesn't seem to possess the pure, electric stuff that some of his fellow first round picks have, but Baltimore has displayed a great eye for talent in recent years. And if Baltimore's sees enough in Hobgood to select him at No. 5, who am I to judge? He will have to prove himself to me, but my eyes are open and firmly locked on this kid's right arm.
Hitter of the Year
Brian Cavazos-Galvez / OF / LA Dodgers
The Pioneer League lived up to its reputation as a great hitter's league in 2009; and nobody was more impressive than Cavazos-Galvez. The Dodgers farmhand put his full arsenal of tools on display with 29 doubles, 18 home runs, and 16 steals in 295 at-bats. His .325 batting average, .979 OPS, and 63 RBIs were icing on the cake.
Pitcher of the Year
Chris Balcom-Miller / RHP / Colorado
Balcom-Miller, Colorado's 2009 sixth round pick, was untouchable this year, as far as Pioneer League standards are concerned. There isn't another pitcher in any rookie league that posted the relative stats that this kid did. His eye-popping stats are too numerous to mention here, but looking at his 4-0 record, 1.58 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts over 57 innings gives you a good feel for the type of year he had.
Best Hitting Prospect
Bobby Borchering / 3B / Arizona
Borchering has the type of all-around hitting prowess that scouts drool over. He does everything well at the plate, but it will be his ultimate power production that solidifies his prospect status.
Best Pitching Prospect
Eric Arnett / RHP / Milwaukee
Milwaukee's 2009 first round pick has the look of mid-rotation starter with his above average movement, velocity, repertoire, and control. He was a safe pick, and a good pick, in the late first round. One could make a case for Wily Peralta, but I think Arnett has immediately become Milwaukee's best pitching prospect.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:57am
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
This week I’m going to delve a bit deeper and look at some players who project to be drafted outside next year's top 50. These players were seen as pretty reliable producers but have disappointed this year. Some of these players may have even been drafted in the top 50 this season. I believe all the players discussed here are good bets to bounce back, to varying degrees. Without speculating on potential keeper structures out there, suffice to say that although these players did not produce to their draft positions this year, if you were able to acquire them on the cheap, they may be worth considering going into next season.
You may notice a trend in that the position players discussed in this article are better counting numbers producers than they are percentage players. This is not a coincidence and should be considered yet another lesson in being cognizant of the peripherals underlying a player’s superficial star-level production. Beware of the reliability of poor percentage players.
Hamels is having, superficially, a pedestrian season to say the least. Those who drafted him in the early rounds ahead of the likes of Dan Haren have been kicking themselves all year, and his perceived value has likely taken a hit as a result.
While I was a bit worried about Hamels coming into the season because of his injury history and the ballpark he pitches in, those issues haven’t been his undoing. Hamels looks to be on pace to toss around 200 innings again, and his K, BB, and HR rates are all almost identical to last season’s. Frankly, Hamels has been the victim of BABIP. Hardly shocking, Brad Lidge has also blown two wins for Hamels; 10-8 would be a lot prettier than 8-8.
Hamels still has what it takes to be an ace, and his performance this year has been a lot closer to the Hamels we have come to expect to see than his numbers indicate.
Hart looked to be reliable 20/20 outfielder with the potential to a emerge as true stud. This year he got off to a mediocre start and then had his season derailed when he was sidelined due to an emergency appendectomy.
Hart has a pretty reliable track record throughout his young career though. He should be considered a four- to five-category contributor and his outlook going forward should remain strong.
Hitting in an order with the likes of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can only help, but Hart is a free agent after this season, so keep an eye out for where he ends up.
Although this season has been something of a disappointment for his owners, I’m not ready to give up on Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez kind of reminds me off Alfonso Soriano; especially in the sense that his fantasy potential is much higher than his actual potential. But, that’s what we’re supposed to care about here, right?
I thought Alexei was a little bit overhyped coming into this season and I view his “disappointment” as being a bit more of a recalibration of expectations than an actual failure. Taking this season at face value, the picture changes a bit. It’s hard to really label a season that looks to end in the vicinity of 20/20, 80/80 with a neutral batting average as a failure for a second-year middle infielder. Ramirez still has very strong fantasy potential, and a few circumstantial factors hampered this season as well.
First, Ramirez got off to a terrible start. Second, he seems to have something of a contentious relationship with Ozzie Guillen. Guillen has been displeased at times with Ramirez’s defense, effort, approach at the plate, or the way he puts the dishes away. It's always something. Now, granted, most of these things are legitimate criticisms of Ramirez, but Ramirez has been benched at times, shuffled around in the order, and in general been at the mercy of Guillen’s whims. Originally pegged as a No. 2 hitter, Ramirez has played more time in the seventh, eighth, and ninth slots. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of his runs scored came when hitting second, even though that accounted for only about half of his PAs.
Gordon Beckham is a natural SS, so who knows what the offseason holds for Alexei and the White Sox. If Ramirez is able to ingratiate himself to Ozzie and move himself toward the top of the order, or if he finds himself in a different situation next season, Ramirez could conceivably provide production not too dissimilar to Brandon Phillips.
Rios has been somewhat enigmatic over his career. Many thought 2006 was the beginning of great things for him and he pretty much delivered in 2007. Then, in 2008 we saw the power take a step back, but he was able to make up for that, in terms of overall value, by swiping a career high 32 bags. This year has been considered a disappointment for Rios. The Blue Jays agreed, and now he’s in Chicago.
Like Ramirez, this season hasn’t been as bad for Rios as it looks at first glance. First of all, he’s been victimized by a terrible BABIP even though his GB/FB/LD percentages haven’t changed all that drastically from years past. His strikeout and walk rates are in line with his career averages too. So, the .250 batting average is surely misrepresentative of his performance at the plate. Since Rios does not walk very much, that has jettisoned his OBP to the point that it is difficult to score a lot of runs. Rios should still wind up hitting around 20 homers and stealing about 25 bases.
While it seems clear that his ceiling isn’t as high as we had once thought it may be, Rios is still 28 years old, and I don’t see his long-term prospects as being much different coming into next year as they were coming into this year. Expect at least a moderate rebound.
In 2007 and 2008, James Shields had two key assets that pegged him as a great value among fantasy pitchers, strong peripherals and low name recognition. This season, Shields may have taken a step backwards, but not as far as his superficial numbers may indicate. All things considered, Shields is basically still showing the same overall skill set that made him a valuable asset over the previous two seasons.
One of the strengths Shields has been able to boast is a very low walk rate. In ’07 and ’08, he walked 1.5 and 1.7 batters per nine, respectively. This season that rate has risen to just above 2, which is still a very strong number. What has really bitten Shields has been a higher BABIP than the past two years. He’s already given up more hits this season than he had in either of the previous ones, despite having more thrown more than 20 fewer innings. Part of this is a result of Tampa’s defense not being as strong as it was last year, but part of it is also due to luck. His home run rate is in line with what it has been throughout his career as well.
The one element of his game that is mildly concerning is his strikeout rate, which has fallen again and now sits at just about league average. One other point of note is that Tampa Bay has Shields locked up for several years, which restricts his prospects of getting out the AL East.
However, I’m confident that Shields has what it takes to rebound in his upcoming age 29 season. Ratcheting the strikeouts back up would be great, but even if he floats around seven per nine, Shields should be in line for a favorable regression.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 2:03am
Jonathan Sanchez is the pitching equivalent of the three-true-outcomes hitter: He matches eyepopping strikeout rates with equally huge walk rates. While Sanchez is a wild, fireballing young lefty, there is more than meets the eye when delving into his rate statistics.
Sanchez began his career in 2004 as a 27th-round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants. Though he arrived with little fanfare, Sanchez quickly rose through the ranks, registering as San Francisco's sixth-best prospect in 2006, before peaking as the system's second-best and MLB's 59th overall in 2007. Sanchez backed up these lofty prospect rankings with stellar performances in A-ball in 2005 and a three-level season in 2006 culminating with a stint with the big club. His 2005 season really put him on the map, as he posted 166 punchouts against 39 walks in 125.2 innings. His overall minor league career line boasted an incredible 333 strikeouts in 252.2 innings (11.9 K/9) while walking just 98 (3.5 BB/9) over parts of three seasons.
Sanchez brings a quality three-pitch mix to the mound featuring a 91-92 mph fastball, 81-82 mph slider, and 83-84 mph change-up. Through his tenure in the majors, this repertoire has been one of the hardest in the MLB to hit, as the hurler has amassed a career 75.3 percent contact rate over 388.1 innings through parts of four seasons.
The major leagues haven't been all fun and games for Sanchez, however.
While Sanchez has been one of the hardest pitchers to hit since his premier in 2006, he has also had some painful struggles with his command. From the get-go in 2006, he gave batters little reason to swing the bat, walking 5.18 batters per nine (23 BB in 40 IP). This rate has never dipped below 4.00 in his career, as his best showing was in 2008, when he walked "just" 4.27 batters per nine innings. This trouble with walks has been the theme in the pitcher's young career, as is the story with many lefties with exceptional stuff. Word gets out quickly that they cannot command the zone and they have problems getting batters to chase pitches off the plate and struggle with walks. Randy Johnson is probably the best example of this. The Big Unit struggled with his command until 1993, his age 30 season, after posting walk rates of 6.8 BB/9 and 6.2 BB/9 in 1991 and 1992, respectively, a period which spanned 411.2 innings. While high walk totals are nothing to scoff at, they are not unheard of.
But if there was ever a redeeming quality in fantasy and major league baseball, it is the ability to miss bats—and Sanchez has this in spades. His strikeout rate has been off the charts since 2007, as the pitcher is the proud owner of a career strikeout rate of 9.41 K/9, including 10.02 K/9 this season and 10.73 K/9 in 2007. Ever wonder how a pitcher can throw a no-hitter? Don't let the opposition put the ball in play. If you can get 10 outs per 27 via the K, the chances are much higher for a no-no. Don't be surprised if Sanchez throws another one in the next couple seasons.
But there is more than just high strikeout and walk totals that make Sanchez such as interesting pitcher. In reality, he is not nearly as wild or doesn't have as little control as his numbers make it seem. His command ratings are not far from league average, so it is a bit surprising that his walk rates have been so high over the last two seasons.
Sanchez's primary indicators of control, being his Zone percentage (48.5 percent, a little lower than is desirable) and F-Strike percentage (59.2 percent) are right around league average. Sanchez seems to have fallen victim to a stigma of being "wild," as hitters are less inclined to swing at his offerings, evidenced by his low Swing percentage (43.5 percent). This, coupled with a very low contact rate (73.0 percent), means that at-bats against Sanchez tend to drag on longer, resulting in more walks, as well as strikeouts. It would be beneficial to Sanchez if batters would swing more, meaning fewer walks. Still, he does benefit from the additional called strikes.
Overall, Sanchez looks to be a good candidate for improvement over the rest of this season and for years to come. His expected strikeouts are still phenomenal, around 9.6 K/9, while his walk numbers should improve a lot from this season, as his rates are more indicative of a pitcher who allows 4.0 BB/9, not 5.
As it stands, Sanchez is performing right around where he should, with a 4.03 ERA, close to his 3.83 FIP. His WHIP of 1.35 is reasonable as well, though it could climb closer to 1.40, but not above that. If Sanchez can make the aforementioned improvements in his walk rates, he could see his ERA drop to the low 3.8s and his WHIP improve to around 1.30. Either way, Jonathan Sanchez is an above-average fantasy pitcher for 12-team mixed leagues, worth about 1-2 points above average. Not too shabby for a hurler who has been left to rot on waiver wires across the fantasy landscape. Grab him if you can; you won't be disappointed.
Posted by Mike Silver at 12:13am
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Here's the link to this week's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable, hosted by RotoAuthority. The question:
Have you ever quit on a fantasy team of yours? If so, what were the circumstances? If not, how were you able to maintain your motivation even after you had no chance?
I tackled the question for THT this week, discussing a league I'm playing in this season.
Posted by Derek Carty at 12:52pm
Aaron Hill became a popular pick in 2008 after he hit 17 homers the year before. Then his power fell in the limited time he saw before dealing with-post concussion symptoms from colliding with teammate David Eckstein. This year, Hill has gone beyond every expectation and powered out 31 homers so far.
While Hill is experiencing a breakout, the fans in Minnesota are getting what they always expect from Justin Morneau. He has always had the ability to hit 30 homers along with a solid average, but this year he has started to walk a lot more and added a solid OBP to his attack.
Name GP AB R HR RBI SB CS K% BB% BABIP HR/F P/PA Aaron Hill 134 582 82 31 91 4 2 15.3% 5.2% 0.290 14.9% 3.5 Justin Morneau 128 483 83 29 97 0 0 17.0% 12.5% 0.288 17.3% 3.7
Another MVP award based on RBI totals in 2006 led to Morneau being a perennial top-five pick at first base. His totals were always solid in all categories except for steals. Since then he has been fairly solid, but has often fallen slightly below expectations in one of his categories. This year Morneau has put up 2006 numbers but added to his walks.
His strikeout rate has been solid over the years with slight ups and downs, but at a career level of 16% he has good contact skills. The change has been in walk rate the past few years going from 8.2% in 2005 and 2006 to 9.8% in 2007 and 10.9% in 2008. He again made very strong strides in 2009 by walking in 12.5% of his plate appearances.
Even with the increase in walks, his OBP is still not a career high. Thanks to a BABIP of only .288, his average and OBP are lower than they could be. This isn't all bad luck though with a LD% that has fallen to 16.2%. His line drives have fallen before, so I don't expect this to be a continued drop in BABIP.
He has small fluctuations, but Morneau is one of the more reliable choices at first base since 2006.
It's not much of a surprise that looking at HitTracker you find Aaron Hill is tied for the AL lead in "just enough" homers. His power growth went beyond any owner's wildest expectations and with 12 homers being "just enough," he has a 39% rate. That is way above the league average and calls for a regression in power. His HR/F rate has also shown his amazing power growth going from 8% in his breakout 2007 year to the 14.9% he is at this year.
Hill has trouble getting on base and his walk rate on his career stands at 6.7%. With a .335 career OBP his run totals have always dragged his value down. This year he is on pace to top 90 runs for the first time, but if he's unable to continue to hit 30 homers going forward he will likely return to 80 runs.
His speed on the bases has also hurt his value. He has only topped 4 steals once before and his speed score for his career is only 4.0. This has been lower this year at only 2.7 and has surely cost him several more runs. This lack of speed has also likely been part of the reason for his low BABIP this year, which is at .290 and only .311 on his career.
Not many leagues use OBP as a category, but ignore it at your own risk. Hill needs more runs to really get the most value, but just doesn't have the skills. Expecting less in all categories next year except his average is not encouraging for next year.
We can see pretty clearly that Morneau may have equal numbers to Hill this year, but Morneau is the more consistent player and more likely to repeat these numbers again. Hill has the advantage of second base eligibility, but these two won't be clones next year for sure based on the numbers. Looking at Fantasy Ball Junkie's 2010 very early Fantasy baseball draft we see Aaron Hill going in the fifth round. He also went right behind Ben Zobrist who I would recommend as the much better pick with five solid categories and a great OBP to back it up.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 2:01am
Today is the Sept. 8. Labor Day weekend is behind us, the kids are back to school, there's a new found briskness in the air (in New Jersey at least), and the baseball regular season is in its home stretch. Most teams have about 25 games left to play until postseason baseball begins.
With that finite number in mind, let's run through some numbers and see what we can expect over those 25 games.
Most starters will mostly likely get four or five more starts in before the season's end. Some will get more—like CC Sabathia last year with the Brewers—and plenty will get less. I'll say on average starting pitchers will get four more starts; or you will start them in your lineup four more times. And I'll also say those pitchers will average six and one-thirds innings per start, which is about league average.
As I'm sure is known, better pitchers will generally have longer outings. This chart has probably been produced a million times, but here are the innings pitched per start numbers for every pitcher with at least 100 innings thrown in 2009 compared to their ERA:
Following the dotted green line will show you the reverse correlation. If you want to get detailed, you can project seven innings a start for your elite pitchers and six innings for pitchers with ERAs over 4.00, but for now I'll stick to six and one-third for everyone since that 2.22 ERA pitcher of yours should only be expected to average seven innings a start if he will continue to pitch at a 2.22 ERA level. Otherwise, he should get the innings per start of his rest of season projection, not that anyone can reasonably predict what will happen over a mere four starts.
Anyway, 4 X 6.333 is 25.333 or, rounding down, 25 innings. So you can expect your starters to pitch about another 25 innings from now till the end of the season. Let that number give you a perspective on how selective you should be when deciding between sitting or starting a pitcher as you approach your league's maximum innings limit.
Twenty-five multiplied by your number of starting pitchers and you'll get approximately how many more innings of work your starting pitchers will give you if you start them every time. Depending on how far over or under your limit you project should determine how selective you are with playing your starting pitchers.
Relievers must also be taken into account. Closers and the best relievers (i.e. the ones owned on fantasy teams) pitch, on average, one inning every 2.34 games. That means we can expect relievers to pitch about another 10 to 11 innings before the end of the season.
Again, multiply 10 by the number of relievers you start, and add that to your projected starter-innings pitched total to get your very own, custom rest of season innings projection. If you are currently on pace to finish above or below your league's max innings limit, use these numbers to help you decide how many starters and relievers is best for you to carry.
Even if you have to sit decent pitchers because you are projected to overshoot, remain hesitant to drop those pitchers since then you are providing free talent to other teams who may have been smart enough to stay below the limit pace and will benefit from your cuts. Do not keep too many pitchers languishing on your bench either, though, if you are in that situation.
All in all, the most important thing is to maximize your limits, and if you did not do a great job of planning in the beginning of the season, at least now formulate a plan of how you will use your pitchers from now till the end of the season.
Posted by Paul Singman at 12:35am
Friday, September 04, 2009
Michael Brantley | Cleveland | OF
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Brantley was 46-5 in stolen base attempts at AAA. Essentially, that's all that needs to be said about him, but it's also nice that he doesn't strike out, with a Ct% near 90% in Triple-A. Just pretend his Triple-A batting average says .310, since there's no way his stats support a continued .288 BABIP. He has a GB% of 49%, LD% of 21%, bats lefty, has speed to burn, and the aforementioned Ct%. His great speed reportedly hasn't translated into good defense, which could take a bite out of his playing time going forward, but we expect Eric Wedge to get a long look for himself in September. Should be worth 1-1.5 SB/week.
Wade Davis | Tampa Bay | SP
YTD: 7.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 3.40 ERA (AAA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
If you lost track along the way, this is Entry No. 932 in the Rays' Endless Stream of Studly Starters. Davis will get the ball Sunday, and should be claimed in formats where young players can be kept. As far as how good he'll be, he's probably on a par with Tillman and Matusz of Baltimore, but has the advantage of facing the O's instead of the Rays. Only mess with him for 2009 if you are desperate, and/or you have an awful pitcher active who needs to be replaced.
Brian Duensing | Minnesota | SP
YTD: 6.6 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 3.81 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 5.29 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.0 IP, 0.6 Wins, 6 K, 5.25 ERA
Sometimes rotation member Duensing's ERA is pretty much all fluke. His quality of batters faced is just .260/.329/.423 (95th OPS in AL among 50 IP pitchers). His BABIP is low (.284), his HR/FB% is low (7.8%). He does have things working for him, in that the Metrodome has one of the lowest park factors in the AL (93), and he's excellent at preventing the running game (1-2 on SBA against). Expect him to gradually get better for four more years, peaking around age 30. Not much help in 2009, though.
Akinori Iwamura | Tampa Bay | 2B
True Talent: .274/.349/.387
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .270 BA, 0.4 SB
There's really not much to say about Iwamura, except that pre-injury he was stealing a lot more this year (8 SB so far in just 193 PA). He won't hurt even a mixed-league team, but he won't help much, either. The talk of the Rays potentially declining his option is folly, assuming he shows himself to be 100% healthy. There are plenty of teams that could use him (after a sign-and-trade) at his option price of $4.5 million.
Brandon McCarthy | Texas | SP
YTD: 5.9 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.61 ERA
True Talent: 6.2 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 4 K, 4.30 ERA
We won't pretend to understand exactly how the new “Ryan System” works in Texas, but it's certainly showing more promise than the old towel-tossing that Tom House used to use. But McCarthy has brought his xFIP DOWN to 5.39 this season, and he's still a flyball pitcher in Texas. So, there's no real reason to worry if you don't get him, but he's probably worth a play in road games against the offensive offenses of Seattle and Oakland.
Jeff Manship | Minnesota | SP
YTD: 3.8 K/9, 1.0 K/BB, 3.75 ERA
True Talent: 5.1 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 5.69 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 10.1 IP, 0.6 Wins, 6 K, 5.64 ERA
A 14th-round pick in 2006, his 2007 experience in A and high-A had people talking, but he's always been regarded as having very little upside. Still, he's good at inducing ground balls (over 48%), and could be innocuous in AL-only leagues for his home games, at least. Only worth consideration in AL-only leagues, but the Twins are a good organization on which to have pitchers, so expect him to out-perform his indicators.
Kameron Mickolio | Orioles | RP
YTD: 9.2 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 2.84 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.43 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 Saves, 5.16 ERA
Mickolio came over from Seattle, so he must be good, right? Well, he does some things well, but he chose a bad time to have a “tired arm.” With a fastball that averages over 95 mph when his arm is healthy, the only concern about this power reliever is whether he can throw strikes. Lowering this rate to 3.3 BB/9 in Triple-A this season is a promising beginning, and one more meltdown by Johnson could lead to Trembley “kicking the tires” in September to see if Mickolio is a road-worthy closer for 2010.
Sean Rodriguez | Tampa Bay | INF
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Out of the frying pan, into the fire for Rodriguez. It may be easy to hit at Salt Lake, but .300/.400/.600 (approx) translates pretty well from any Triple-A park. You can never have too many good shortstops and starting pitchers, and it's not surprising that the Rays are emulating the Angels in that. Rodriguez was always considered a “will do” defensive shortstop, so he's probably going to play second base, where he's expected to be a big asset with the glove. That means he will only become viable with an injury or a trade ... just like the “frying pan” he left in Anaheim.
Carlos Torres | Chicago | SP
YTD: 7.8 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 3.86 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
The Sox season may be forfeit, and few in Chicago were watching the “Crosstown Classic,” but Carlos Torres pitched his way into Geoff Blum Folk Hero status by shutting down the Cubs yesterday. He isn't really considered a top prospect, but he had a great Triple-A season, and has earned a rotation slot until (if) Peavy's elbow heals from the liner that hit him. Someone to avoid if you're playing conservative, but he had a 9.1 K/9 in Triple-A, so his junk is deceptive enough to miss bats, and adding a full-time SP with 7.5 K/9 potential at this point in the season could help certain fantasy teams.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 3:59am
Juan Gutierrez | Arizona | CL
YTD: 8.3 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 4.10 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.98 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 1.2 Saves, 5.18 ERA
With closer Qualls done for the year, Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has said he'll go with a committee, but Gutierrez is considered the committee chairman. He's got a live fastball but has had control problems in the minors, with a 3.5 BB/9 dragging his control ratios downward. This season, he's declined to 4.1 BB/9, which is not a good trait for your endgame specialist to have. Excitement over his 2.86 ERA in 22 IP since July 1 must be tempered by his 4.9 BB/9 and 1.1 K/BB over that same span, so he's not a lead-pipe lock at closer by any means. Esmerling Vazquez and Clay Zavada are ready to step in should he falter, though Arizona's not going to bring that many save opportunities whoever's collecting them. Grab Gutierrez if you need more saves, but keep these problems in mind. He might overcome them under pressure—or they might make him implode.
Buster Posey | San Francisco | C
YTD: .325/.416/.531 (minors)
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Behind Matt Wieters, Posey is the best catching prospect around, and he's now in the big leagues, after just two years in the minors. Like Wieters, he's revered for his all-around skills, though he's still developing as a receiver. Despite his good SLG, Posey's not considered a true power hitter, but he brings great bat speed, and his .97 BB/K ratio in the minors shows his excellent plate discipline. For now, he's with the club as an insurance policy, so he's not expected to start unless Bengie Molina or Eli Whiteside gets hurt. Molina's battling a sore quad, however, making this not as unlikely as it seems. Posey's undoubtedly gone in NL keeper leagues, and possibly mixed keeper leagues, too—snatch him up if he's not, since catching prowess like this doesn't come around very often. He'll hold almost no value this year, barring injury to either catcher in front of him, so non-keeper leagues should watch him as advance scouting for next season's draft.
Jose Contreras | Colorado | SP
YTD: 7.0 K/9, 2.0 K/BB, 5.42 ERA
True Talent: 5.8 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.92 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 Wins, 4 K, 4.34 ERA
Chicago had seen enough of Contreras, and it's not hard to see why: In six August starts, he made it to the sixth inning once, coughing up 30 R (21 ER) and allowing opposing hitters a .867 OPS. His core ratios are relatively good, but he's creating problems with his walks (3.5 BB/9, his highest total since 2004), putting extra runners on base that he can't afford. Moving to the NL will help him somewhat, and his splitter might help him succeed to Coors Field. Even if he flourishes with his new team, he's not going to have more than one or two starts unless Aaron Cook (whom he was brought in to replace) suffers a setback. The strikeouts and chance for a win are what should draw you to Contreras, not the ERA. Tread carefully here, and take a gamble in deep NL-only leagues if you're desperate.
Brandon Allen | Arizona | 1B
True Talent: .221/.278/.405
Next Week Forecast: 0.8 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .218 BA, 0.3 SB
Allen's calling card is power, and 20 HRs and 24 2Bs this season in the minors earned him a call-up to the rebuilding D-backs, where he will start nearly every day. What he doesn't have right now is a good eye at the plate, as you can see from his .37 BB/K ratio in the minors (improving to a .59 this year) and the 15 Ks vs. 3 BBs he's amassed in 11 MLB games. True Talent tells the same story, making him a good add for teams needing power, so long as they can also absorb the hit to BA. Arizona's sputtering offense will also cut down on his RBI opportunities, particularly since he's hitting sixth or seventh, making him a fairly one-dimensional addition. NL leagues 16 teams and deeper can probably find a spot for him regardless, while only the deepest of mixed leagues should consider him.
Franklin Morales | Colorado | CL
YTD: 9.1 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.93 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 5.15 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 4.48 ERA
Morales stepped into the closer's role while Huston Street nurses biceps tendinitis, an interesting choice for a pitcher with one career save (in the minors). Street isn't expected to be out for long, but this is an ailment that can linger; Frank Francisco of the Rangers hit the DL earlier this year with the same problem. Can Morales hold his own? He's rebounded from a 2008 during which he gave up ground in virtually every category, ground that he's gained back this year. He still struggles with walks (3.8 BB/9 in 2009, 4.2 in career) and his 1.2 HR/9 this year is a career high. He's cured that gopheritis in the past three months, though that's an illness that tends to return. He also had two August meltdowns where he gave up a total of 5 ER in 2.1 IP, and True Talent sees more regression coming. These, and the heat of a wild card chase, are all reasons that the Rockies will try to bring back Street ASAP. Morales should probably gobble up a few saves before Street returns, but if Street's out for longer, Morales may not look all that appealing finishing Colorado's games.
J.J. Hardy | Milwaukee | SS
True Talent: .265/.328/.436
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .261 BA, 0.0 SB
The good news for Hardy is that he's back in the bigs. The bad news is that the Brewers waited just long enough to activate him that he won't get free agency for another year. They did that to make him a more appealing trade chip, meaning they'll give him PT down the stretch, but Alcides Escobar should still get most of the starts. Hardy's not going to reach those True Talent numbers, but nobody else saw this kind of crash coming, either—some guys just have a lost season, like Hardy's doing now. He'll recover to his former levels, but it won't be with Milwaukee, and it won't be in 2009. Part-time play and dramatically diminished performance make him only valuable for the deepest of NL leagues, and even then, he doesn't offer much. NL keeper owners considering rostering him for next year's almost certain bounceback should remember that the inevitable trade could take him to another league.
Tim Redding | New York | SP
YTD: 6.0 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.70 ERA
True Talent: 5.8 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.34 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.1 IP, 0.3 Wins, 3 K, 5.39 ERA
Redding has been an average, unspectacular arm for eight seasons, putting up some fair-to-middling ratios—6.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9 and a 5.01 ERA—and a subpar 36-54 record. Those were good enough to make him the latest victim to step into the crumbling Mets' rotation on August 22, where he promptly reeled off three solid starts, giving up just 5 ER in 18.1 IP for a 2.45 ERA, with 15 Ks and 6 BB. Of course, New York's Quadruple-A offense didn't help him much, giving him just one win in those three starts. Any pitcher can get hot, of course, and Redding is still hamstrung by the Mets' offense and defense. He'll also shift back to the bullpen when the rehabbing John Maine returns, giving him just one or two more starts. Roll the dice if you must, but he's a high-risk, low-reward option best used in NL leagues 14 teams and deeper.
Drew Stubbs | Cincinnati | OF
True Talent: .228/.304/.362
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .226 BA, 0.8 SB
Another up-and-coming Reds OF, Stubbs is a speed threat who's somehow walking into homers in 2009. This is a guy who slugged .363 this year in Triple-A and .401 in four minor-league seasons—but he also swiped 121 bags in that time, including 46 this year. That's what should perk fantasy owners' ears up, in spite of only 3 SBs in 15 games thus far. The other concern with Stubbs is his strike-zone judgment, reflected by his .51 BB/K minor-league ratio and 20 Ks against only 3 BBs in the bigs. That's going to catch up with him eventually, as True Talent shows, so keep that in mind if you want to grab him. He's got a clear path to PT, so he'll stay in there nearly every game, and those SBs give him value, particularly at this point in the season. Overall, his OPS marks him only for 15-team or deeper NL leagues, but if you need steals bad enough and can handle the diminishing BA returns, he could be a worthy addition to almost any league.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 1:00am
Thursday, September 03, 2009
With closer Huston Street out for the foreseeable future with biceps tendinitis, Rockies relievers will get the chance to earn some rogue saves. Lefty Franklin Morales was the first beneficiary, earning a save Tuesday night after a clean ninth inning. The right-handed Rafael Betancourt also figures to get some save opportunities, most likely when the due up batters are predominantly righty.
Both relievers are having good seasons with ERAs around 3.00, striking out a batter an inning and limiting hits.
Posted by Paul Singman at 11:04am
In my last article, I talked a little bit about end of season strategies. That article focused mostly on maximizing innings in standard Yahoo rotisserie leagues, where the cap is set at 1250. Obviously, not all leagues are created equal, and while this is true and the math may change, the underlying concept remains intact.
A fellow THT Fantasy writer, Derek Ambrosino, posted some good points regarding spot-starting in the comments section of that article. Unfortunately, my computer decided to stop working the next day, so I wasn’t able to comment or reply. After reading that post by Derek though, I realized that my article was a bit incomplete, so I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to not only elaborate on that article, but to add to some of the points Derek raised. Some of my thoughts may conflict with his, but this article shouldn’t be viewed as a rebuttal or argument by any means. Rather, it should be taken as a discussion to further promote thoughts and ideas within fantasy baseball, and I hope you guys add your $0.02 in the comments section.
One of the strategies I love to use throughout the season is right in line with the last point Derek made regarding the use of top-tier relievers (not necessarily closers). This is a strong piece of advice and a sound strategy, and I get the impression that not all owners employ it. Guys like Michael Wuertz (6 wins and 84 strikeouts in 64.1 innings), Ryan Madson (5 wins and 64 strikeouts in 64 innings) and Hideki Okajima (5 wins and 49 strikeouts in 53.2 innings) will not only help accumulate strikeouts, but will pick up occasional wins (and saves), all while not destroying your ERA and WHIP. In other words, these types of relievers help eat-up innings in an efficient way. So if you find that you have some time between spot-starts, considering adding a high-end reliever to fill some of that dead time.
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I tend to be behind in my innings count mostly because I tend to focus on hitting in the first few months of the season. My drafts tend to be hitting heavy, and I have absolutely no problem exchanging pitching for hitting. A reason for this is because, as Derek mentions, pitchers will pitch every fifth day and hitters will hit every day. But another reason why I think it’s often easier for owners to trade pitching for hitting is the idea that quality pitching is more abundant and easier to find than quality hitting.
(This is also the driving force behind hitting heavy drafts or early draft rounds being hitting heavy. And I won’t talk about that here, because then we’d have to start talking about devising a value system that balances pitching and hitting properly according to league settings.)
So if we run with that idea, that pitching is generally easier to find, then it seems that the focus for most of the season should be on hitting.
Admittedly, I’ve never experimented with spot-starting throughout an entire season. The majority of my spot-starts occur towards the end, when I want to ensure that I will reach the maximum number of innings pitched allowed by the league. Derek does bring up a good point, in that by spot-starting early on, the chances of finding a Cliff Lee or Jarrod Washburn increases. I’m just not sure if this type of discovery is a direct result of spot-starting or if it is more a matter of simply being attentive to the occurrences in the major leagues and being active in your fantasy league.
The reason I say this is because when I decide to add or start a pitcher early on in the season, it’s because I deem the expectation of success to be relatively high. And in order for that expectation to be high, that pitcher needs to have a certain minimum set of tools or skills. And how do we usually assess skill level? We usually use history to help predict future performances, right?
So while there might not be a single league where Jarrod Washburn is available at this point in the season, it seems just as likely that there wasn’t a single league in which a team spot-started Washburn against the Twins in his first game or against the Angels in his second game. Likewise, I can’t imagine anyone even considered spot-starting Cliff Lee in either of his first few starts last season either. Washburn, like Lee, wasn’t expected to pitch as well as he has this year, but that expectation has since changed as we now have a little more history to work with. And if we did add Washburn (or Lee last year), it was most likely because we noticed the string of quality starts he had already put together and, then from that point on, we decided that he was good enough to warrant a roster spot.
One last thing I’d like to add is that while the pool of available pitchers may be stronger earlier, that doesn’t necessarily mean that quality pitchers can’t be found on the wire in the latter portion of the season. This will depend on the format and quality of a league, but I’ve found that in many leagues, the teams at the bottom will eventually give up, where the number of transactions will decrease as those teams begin to realize that they are no longer in contention for a finish near the top. This obviously increases the likelihood that you will be able to add and drop as you please. Also, owners may become impatient with players who haven’t performed up to par without realizing that those bad performances could mostly be attributed to bad luck. Generally speaking though, I think Derek is right in that the pool is more plentiful at the start of the season. But whatever the situation may be, the aforementioned situations can and do arise, and and quality pitching can usually be found at any point in the season.
As Derek mentioned, many of the real-life teams juggle their lineups towards the end of the season. While this may slightly decrease the overall chances of accumulating wins, I think there are cases where it can help as well. These lineup shuffles also include minor-league call-ups of prospects that may be competing for a spot in the rotation for the following year. Now, I don’t know if there is any statistical evidence that supports this, but there is at least the idea that it takes some time for hitters to adjust to pitchers they are seeing for the first time (probably a fallacious cliche?). This could be used to your benefit, but I’d imagine there’s quite a bit of variance and risk involved with spot-starting late season call-ups. Obviously, the prospect has to have some potential to begin with, but this strategy may have some merit. And again, remember that at the end of the season, a fantasy team has already accumulated a good number of innings, so a poor start shouldn’t have as much of an impact on the rate categories. So opening up or widening the criteria for starting might not be a bad idea.
For example, I might now be OK with the idea of adding Jorge De La Rosa even for a spot-start at Coors Field. The number of potential strikeouts might now outweigh his 4.93 ERA at home. (And I compared this idea to tournament poker in my first article, and the idea is that at various points of a tournament, a player might sacrifice some long-term value or positive expected value for a greater immediate benefit, like knocking a player out of the tournament to move up the money ladder or to increase the chances of winning the tournament. This idea applies here.)
What are your thoughts on the strategy and timing of spot-starts?
Posted by Marco Fujimoto at 3:05am
Gulf Coast League
Hitter of the Year
Eury Perez / OF / Washington Nationals
Coming off an outstanding 2008 Dominican Summer League debut, Perez has cemented his position as one of Washington's more exciting young prospects by finishing the year with a 27-game hitting streak on his way to winning the GCL batting title. His all-around offensive game was on display as well, with three home runs, five triples, and 16 stolen bases in 181 at-bats.
Pitcher of the Year:
Matt Fields / RHP / Toronto Blue Jays
Sure, Fields is 23 years old and doesn't have much overall upside, but lets give the man his moment in the limelight. Over 51.2 innings of work, Fields put together a ridiculous set of stats, including a 1.22 ERA and an otherworldly 0.79 WHIP.
Best Hitting Prospect
Kelvin De Leon / OF / New York Yankees
Yankees fans love when their team shells out big bucks for Hispanic teenagers. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't. In De Leon's case, the future looks bright. He has thus far justified the Yankees' seven-figure bonus, and his loaded tool box should have him competing in full season ball next year.
Best Pitching Prospect
Adrian Salcedo / RHP / Minnesota Twins
I haven't seen Salcedo pitch, but from everything I hear, no one in the Gulf Coast League even comes close. Right now he sits in the low-90s with his fastball, but with his ideal frame, wiry athletic ability, and relatively clean mechanics, his potential is through the roof. And for his age, his command is borderline freakish.
Hitter of the Year
Cody Decker / 1B / San Diego Padres
Decker was a man amongst boys in more ways than one. A 22-year-old is usually expected to dominate a rookie league, but never in this fashion. We would all like to see more walks and less strikeouts, but Decker lead the league in doubles, home runs, RBIs, and finished third in the league in batting average, the only "blemish" on his triple crown bid.
Pitcher of the Year
Carl Webster / RHP / LA Dodgers
Webster was a giant bright spot on an otherwise sub-par group of AZL Dodgers. He struck out more than a batter per inning while posting a 2.08 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. On top of that, the control issues that he experienced last year in the Gulf Coast League may be well behind him, as he walked only 15 in 60.1 rookie level innings.
Best Hitting Prospect
Mike Trout / OF / LA Angels
Fellow Angels first round pick Randal Grichuk deserves to be mentioned, but Trout's superior contact skills give him a slight edge. Trout isn't a superstar waiting to happen, but he has a bit of power, has a bit of speed, and has a very advanced approach at the plate. In the long run, I think Trout turns out better than Grichuk.
Best Pitching Prospect
Fabio Martinez Mesa / RHP / LA Angels
He doesn't have much more than an electric fastball right now, but that should carry him for awhile. His secondary stuff and control are very much a work in progress, but he has a real feel for a curve ball and seems to have the work ethic to turn it into a plus pitch.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 3:01am (0) Comments
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
While the Oakland Athletics don't have a lot to be excited about this time of year, sitting 15 games under .500, they have plenty to be thankful for: the makings of a good young rotation, with Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Gio Gonzalez, and, most importantly, Brett Anderson.
Brett Anderson was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round in 2006. Following an excellent 2007 in South Bend and Visalia (120.1 IP, 125 K, 21 BB), Anderson left the D-Backs for Oakland as part of the Dan Haren trade. The lefty continued his dominance in 2008, posting 80 Ks against 18 BBs in 74 IP at High-A Stockton, followed by 38 Ks against 9 BBs in 31 IP for Double-A Midland.
Anderson has always had excellent stuff, with a four-seamer that sits at 92-93, an 89-90 mph two-seamer, a low-80s curveball, mid-80s slider, and low-80s change-up. Anderson's repertoire has always been good enough to get swings and misses, but his calling card is his command. In the MLB, command always trumps stuff, but when a pitcher combines the two, he becomes deadly. Anderson did this all throughout the minors, with an aggregate 243:48 K:BB (5.06:1) ratio.
Dazzling performances, a great pedigree, and a 36th overall prospect ranking by Baseball America meant that Anderson was on the fast-track to the bigs. After breaking the camp with the big team in April, the Double-A to MLB jump seemed a little extreme. While Anderson certainly had the stuff, polish, and command to perform in the MLB, skipping Triple-A is nothing to scoff at. While anecdotes often point to Double-A being the primary testing ground for position players, the Triple-A vetting process can be just as important, especially for starting pitchers. Oftentimes, hurlers with huge strikeout numbers in the low minors falter when they reach Triple-A and the majors. But, hey, these were Billy Beane's A's, and they can do anything. So, Big Brett made the jump, err, took the plunge, to the Oakland starting rotation.
So, on to 2009. Anderson has made quite the name for himself this season. While posting a less-than-ideal 4.42 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, his peripherals have been much better than his current line. While the command and strikeout numbers aren't quite the same as his minor league stats, they leave a lot to be excited about.
Through 146.2 innings, Anderson has struck out 119 batters and walked just 41. His command left the minors in tact, as a 2.52 BB/9 is great for any level of MLB experience, especially a rookie. The Ks have taken a hit, somewhat, sitting at 7.30 K/9, which is about average for a 12-team league. Anderson also features some slight groundball tendencies (1.31 GB/FB), which could be aided by an increased use of his two-seamer (7.2 percent usage).
Nothing in Anderson's performance record jumps out as being particularly lucky or unlucky (other than his ERA). His BABIP sits at .309 and his HR/FB% sits at 11.0 percent, both of which could lower somewhat, though not much. Oakland's defense won't be helping him with the BABIP, however, as their .683 defensive efficiency ranks very poorly at 26th in the MLB.
His ERA has should rebound quite a bit, however. His current 4.42 ERA is shown to be quite high by both FIP (3.96) and tRA (3.93), as well as my own metric, which expects a 3.86 ERA from here on out. His WHIP seems to be more in line with his actual performance, at 1.30, though I have it at 1.28. The 0.02 difference is nothing to write home about, however, and should be wiped away by any chance variation or measurement inaccuracies that should occur.
The one knock on Anderson this season, however, has been his contact percentage. While 83.3 percent is decent, it is a little higher than is ideal and is a sign that his strikeout numbers may be a bit higher than they ought to be. As a result, his 7.30 K/9 seem a little high and should be closer to the mid-6s than the low-7s. His walk rate seems to be right where it should be, given his proclivity to hit the strike zone (50.3 percent zone percentage) and his ability to get ahead in the count (58.3 percent first strikes). If anything, 2.52 BB/9 may be slightly lower than expected, as the peripherals seem closer to the 2.7 range. Still, it's a great walk rate for any pitcher, especially a young one.
Anderson's combination of excellent peripherals and average results put fantasy owners in a very fortuitous position. Most leagues have passed their trade deadline, so unless you are in one that is still trading, you need to check your waiver wire and see if Anderson is available. If your league is still trading, and you could use some pitching help, see if you can pry him away from an unsuspecting owner. If so, he will be quite the asset.
Assuming Anderson is capable of living up to his expected ERA improvement and doesn't fall lower than 6.5 strikeouts per nine, he should be just about league average for a starting pitcher in 12-team mixed leagues. If he's available in your league, he will be a welcome addition and should be worth 1-2 points above replacement level over the course of a full season.
If you employ a league average starter at the fifth and sixth rotation spots, you've got quite a good rotation. Don't let Anderson slip through your fingers. He might be that valuable final piece in your 2009 championship run.
Posted by Mike Silver at 1:59am
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Two weeks ago, I posted a 2010 fantasy baseball mock draft here. Obviously, it’s a little early to be talking about next season, but one thing that stood out to me is that Joe Mauer went in the third round.
I feel this is much too low for the Twins backstop. In fact, I believe he deserves serious consideration as the top pick overall. After all, he might be this season’s fantasy MVP.
Whether you find this statement ridiculous or not may depend on your view of weighting value according to position. Over the years, positional weights have been measured in various ways (VORP, WARP, Win Shares, etc.) but in terms of fantasy, here’s how I’d describe it: If your catcher outproduces your competitor’s catcher by 10 HR, your competitor has to field a lineup that outproduces your lineup by 10 HRs at the other positions just to stay even.
As of Sunday, here’s Joe Mauer’s line on the season: 25 HR, 79 RBI, 77 R, 3 SB, and a .367 AVG
How extraordinary is this?
Well, let’s compare Joe Mauer to the 11 other most-owned catchers in CBS Sports fantasy leagues: Victor Martinez, AJ Pierzynski, Mike Napoli, Kurt Suzuki, Jorge Posada, Brandon Inge, Miguel Montero, Bengie Molina, Russell Martin, Matt Wieters, and Ryan Doumit.
These 11 players averaged these totals as of last Sunday: 13 HR, 52 RBI, 47 R, 2 SB, and a .271 AVG
Joe Mauer has outproduced the average catcher in a 12-team league by 12 HR, 27 RBI, 30 R, 1 SB, and 96 points in batting average.
Ask most people who is the fantasy MVP in 2009 and undoubtedly the answer is Albert Pujols.
I also compared Pujols’ numbers to these 11 first baseman: Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Justin Morneau, Adrian Gonzalez, Derrek Lee, Joey Votto, Carlos Pena, and Lance Berkman.
Pujols outproduced his peers on average by 12 HR, 22 RBI, 28 R, 11 SB, and 32 points in batting average.
Close, but Mauer has got a very slight edge.
Consider the fact too that all of Pujols’ peers were owned from day one this season. In contrast, many fantasy teams didn’t get the best from Brandon Inge, Miguel Montero, and Kurt Suzuki. Instead, they suffered through disappointing returns from Geovany Soto, Chris Iannetta, and Ramon Hernandez. Mauer’s edge over the average catcher in a fantasy league grows.
Even more extraordinary is the fact that Mauer didn’t play his first game of the season until May 1. But owners of Joe Mauer probably were playing someone else, and even if that temp produced a modest line in April like 2 HR, 9 R, 9 RBI, these are stats that can be counted towards Mauer’s owner’s ledger.
Many people involved in fantasy baseball tend to dismiss catchers the way that people involved in fantasy football dismiss kickers. But to see a player outperform his positional peers to this degree demands notice.
Joe Mauer may be the most valuable player in baseball this year, and so it raises the forthcoming question—why wouldn’t you take this player entering his Age 27 season with one of the first few picks?
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 3:35am
Opposite to last week's "Bigger in September" Part 1 and Part 2, this week we are looking at some players who figure to lose some of their fantasy relevance.
The Rockies are immersed in another fingernail-biting playoff race and Chris Iannetta seems to be moving forward at such a slow pace with his development, he may have stopped moving altogether. With patience running thin at Iannetta's continued struggles, Yorvit Torrealba figures to receive a large potion of the starts at catcher.
Iannetta can basically be cut in most leagues if he has not been already. See you next year, Chris.
Geovany followed his Rookie of the Year winning campaign with this year's disaster of a season. Since Soto is batting .212 through 300 plate appearances, the Cubs are looking to give backup Koyie Hill his fair share of playing time over the final stretch.
However, as Aaron Gleeman points out, "a struggle for Soto is more or less Hill at his best" so expect any playing time loss for Soto to be relatively transient as he regains at least some of his former self.
This young, "athletic" pitcher transitioned well to the leap from Double-A straight to the majors, pitching worthy of a 4.12 xFIP in 150 innings. Those 150 innings are a career high and A's management does not want to lean too heavily on their promising young lefty, especially as they sit in fourth (out of four) in the AL West.
Expect him to receive only a couple more starts until getting shut down for the year. Same goes for Trevor Cahill, by the way.
When the White Sox took on Rios' $60 million contract, I am sure they did so with the intention of playing him. However, 50 at-bats later over which he has only 10 hits, it is looking likely Rios will split time with a man the White Sox signed early in the season for near league minimum: Scott Podsednik.
Now, do not exaggerate my words; Rios will still see plenty of at-bats. But Rios is looking like a prime example of what Eriq was talking about in this article last week. Scrutinize your roster and consider making the possibly tough decision of cutting Rios a la J.P. Ricciardi.
After being rushed to the majors due to a slew of injuries to the D-backs outfield, the 22-year-old Parra turned some heads batting .320 at the end of his first month in the majors. Parra has since come down to Earth with his hitting numbers, but his current .285 average, five home run, five steal batting line is solid nonetheless for NL-only leagues.
Sometimes it is about being in the right place at the right time—as Parra was at the beginning of the season—however, now he is in the wrong place in the crowded Arizona outfield. With Chris Young, Justin Upton, Ryan Roberts, Trent Oeltjen, and Alex Romero vying for playing time, Gerardo Parra may be squeezed out of enough of his own playing time to warrant his dropping in most leagues.
Over to you
Any other players primed to lose playing time? I won't be offended if you tell me in the comments.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:11am
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