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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
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