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Sunday, January 31, 2010
Down to two suitors, Orlando Cabrera chose the Cincinnati Reds offer of one-year and $4 million dollars ($3 million base + $1 million buyout) with an option for a second year over non-shortstop offer the Colorado Rockies had on the table. Cabrera, 35, will join his fifth team in the last four seasons. He will team with Paul Janish at the position once held by Barry Larkin.
Once a perennial 3 WAR player, O-Cab was worth less than win this past sesaon as his watched his range (and in turn his UZR) plummet. The Reds are hoping that his -15.3 UZR in 2009 was an outlier after averaging above average marks over the previous seven seasons. I would normally agree with this theory, but he is pretty long in the tooth at the short stop position and I've heard a knee injury may have been involved.
Offensively, Cabrera has been below average over the course of his career. Sure, he’ll hit between .275-.290 on an annual basis, but that’s pretty much the extent of his offensive value. He walks under 7% of the time and his career slugging percentage is under .400. Playing in the Great American Sandbox will help, however it probably won’t boost his .123 ISO enough to make him a power threat at shortstop. He was never much of a stolen base threat to begin with, and has seen his steals decline from 20 to 19 to 13 over the past three seasons.
That said, if you look at his main competition, Paul Janish, Cabrera’s offensive numbers look like Hanley Ramirez in comparison. Small sample size rules apply, but Janish has a career slash line of just .205/.290/.292 in 128 career games. Looking at his minor league numbers, Janish hasn’t posted an OPS over .715 in any level above A-ball. In nearly 600 innings at shortstop last season, he did prove to be a very good defensive player. Personally, I would like to see Drew Sutton given a real chance, but I don't get paid enough to make those decisions.
The Reds will have to choose between Cabrera’s nearly average bat and Janish’s nearly pitcher-like slash line. Janish is probably a safer bet defensively, but a larger sample size is needed. If at all possible I would avoid both players on my team; however, Cabrera might be worth a flier in a deep NL-only league.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:10pm
Friday, January 29, 2010
Carlos Quentin | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats: .236/.323/.456
“Staying healthy is not a skill at which Quentin excels,” this author understated in GP2010. An oddity about Quentin's injuries is that none of the major ones have derived from his huge HBP totals—a self-inflicted hand injury ending his 2008, followed by a mysteriously slow-healing foot problem in 2009, and even going back to his Tommy John surgery in 2003 and his labrum and hamstring issues in 2007. Oft-injured players like Quentin are such a tease for fantasy owners. Is he really a Schleprock, who can be expected to continue finding varied new ways to get hurt? Or is it really just a matter of the dice coming up “craps” twice in his three “full” major-league seasons? Even with the injury in 2008, he contributed mightily.
First off, Quentin's a guy who is going to help in a setting where OBP matters, so Sabermetrically friendly fantasy leagues and sim games are contexts where his offensive contributions will be fully appreciated. Some may see that his walk totals aren't exactly overwhelming, and while he makes good contract for a slugger (career Ct% over 82%), he really is skilled at leaning into pitches. He ranks 75th on the active HBP list, and has just 1,422 PA to his credit. If he manages to get 600 PA, the extra 25 HBP (or so) will vault him into top 50 territory, and his HBP:PA ratio is 8% higher (38% vs. 30%) than active leader Jason Kendall ... and HBP is definitely a stat that (statistically) keeps going up with age. So, anyway, don't dismiss him as a low-OBP guy based on the fact that he walks under once per 10 PA, and is unlikely to hit over .300.
The other aspect of run production is slugging, and Quentin has a career slugging of .491, which is good-not-great, considering the parks he's played in. But then again, his ISO is .237, which—thanks to the P-I tool at baseball-reference.com—is the 28th-best ISO among active players with 1000+ PA. As a player who hits a lot of fly balls, distributed in a manner which leads to a lot of homers in US Cellular field, there's really no reason to expect his ISO to drop, and (here's that qualifier again)—if healthy—his age 27 season could even see growth in this area. So, the question is really whether he can lift his .254 career batting average. Not a fast runner at his best, the foot problems were responsible for a lot of the 2009 BABIP depression (.223 on the season). The fly balls, however, are taxing on BABIP, and he may “deserve” some of the .258 career BABIP he's compiled. That said, that's an extremely low figure for a guy who hammers the ball with such authority. Expect to see this rebound to around his 2008 figure of .280, and his batting average to likewise climb back into the .280 range.
In summary, health is the issue with Quentin. It would be easy to take a “confident” stance that he's going to get nearly 600 PA and put up nice triple-crown stats (e.g. .280-35-90), and that looks good in the postseason reviews if it happens. And it's certainly a good possibility, perhaps moreso than most people think. But he still should be viewed as a player to take in a “bargain” round (or at a “bargain” auction price), or else a bit earlier by a team that needs some breaks to contend anyway (due to inferior keepers).
Alex Rios | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats (Overall): .247/.296/.395
2009 Final Stats (Chicago): .199/.229/.301
Kenny Williams became the laughing stock of the Internet blogging community when he spoke out about how “disappointing” some players were to him in 2009. But the team was one game out on Aug. 5, and after splitting a pair with LA, had upcoming series with non-contenders CLE, SEA, OAK, KC, and BAL before facing a meat grinder of Boston, NY, and MIN. That the Sox went from four games over .500 to two games over .500 in that stretch before the Boston series was not aided by the fact that Alex Rios joined the team on Aug. 12. The theory was that Rios only needed to play like he's played for over 3,000 PA in the past, and the White Sox would realize a big upgrade to their gaping hole in CF. No, in this we have to take exception to our fellow bloggers and suggest that Kenny Williams had every right to be disappointed with the ridiculously poor stats his new center fielder put up.
Projecting Rios could be a case study in the “statistical sample size” vs. “what have you done for me lately” aspects of performance expectations. On the “lately” side, only the last 10 games of 2009 gave any inkling of hope (he hit .333/.400/.556 in 40 PA). But while we know that 10 games is a “throwaway” sample size, could it be that the entire 2009 is also? BABIP is shown to track with career BABIP, and Rios still sports an excellent .323 career BABIP, due to his line-drive hitting ways (before 2009), good speed, and decent power. So, do we assume that his BABIP will rebound to the .320 range? His BB% and ISO were down a little in 2009 (5.8% vs 6.6% career BB% and .148 ISO vs .163 career ISO), but nothing that seems out of place from a random fluctuation. And his contact rate remained virtually unchanged (though he struck out more after coming to Chicago). About every projection which will be published for Rios will combine these two aspects in some manner ... usually by weighting the most recent season much more highly than previous seasons, but not excluding those priors, either. In general, the “long view” tends to be right much more often than not, and with most of his core indicators staying similar to career numbers, Rios should rebound to somewhere near his career norms, which are quite useful. On top of that, the ballpark should aid his numbers somewhat, compared to Toronto. It seems likely that he will be undervalued on draft day in many—if not all—leagues.
Josh Hamilton | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .268/.315/.426
It may seem contradictory to be bullish on Quentin and bearish on Hamilton, but that's how we see it this season. This author has been resisting trade offers for him in a keeper Strat-O-Matic league, so it's not like we're writing him off totally, but for fantasy purposes, he's too likely to miss time to be a front-line option. Further, back injuries can often sap a hitter's power, and he underwent two “root-nerve injections” in his back and ended the season not being able to play. His past personal problems—and the indications that he'd struggled with them again recently—wouldn't necessarily be a reason to stay away, but given the severe consequences if things get out of control again, his likelihood of having a career-ending “event” happen has to be considered higher than most players. Add in that hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo is now in Chicago, and the risk factors just keep compounding.
Now that we've scared off anyone with any risk aversion tendencies whatever, this is still Josh Hamilton, arguably one of the most gifted natural hitters of our generation. The .304–32–130 season he posted in 2008 wasn't a mirage or a fluke (though the RBI total has to be considered lucky). Even though the park factor in Texas has been declining in recent years, it's still a nice place to hit. So, if he's sitting there in the later rounds, and it's a choice between a “safe” pick like Franklin Gutierrez or him, it could be better to go with the “upside” guy and presume you can figure something out from “replacement level” players if something bad happens. This is a classic case of a guy having much more value in shallow leagues than in deep ones, however ... since “replacement level” is so much stronger in shallow leagues.
Franklin Gutierrez | Seattle | OF
2009 Final Stats: .283/.339/.425
Gutierrez is a runaway leader in the “outfield fielding runs” category in those roto leagues which use fielding. For the rest of us, the terse synopsis back in July still applies: “Nobody in Cleveland is surprised that Franklin Gutierrez is dominating the CF defensive stats this year (.986 RZR, 60 OOZ plays, both tops among CF qualifiers). With the [...] rotation needing all the flycatching support it can get [...], his job is virtually slump-proof. [D]on't expect a star, but for AL-only leagues, just playing every game has value."
As with former M's center fielder Mike Cameron, Gutierrez faces a tricky situation in terms of maximizing his value. Playing in a park with a huge outfield (like Seattle) saps his power, and expecting more than his 18 HR from 2009 seems optimistic. Yet, parks with smaller outfield territories reduce the influence he can have on the pitching stats. At least in his first year, his “home cooking” outweighed the “big park” effect, and he actually posted an excellent .386 OBP at home (.317/.386/.443). His good speed translated into 16 SB in 2009, and he can be expected to again have about that many in 2010. All-in-all, he seems like one of the more likely hitters to put up carbon-copy numbers in 2010.
Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
2009 Final Stats: .241/.328/.419
A high-school outfielder is drafted for his bat, and is considered the best HS hitter in the draft, yet falls outside the top 10. He reaches the majors at a young age, and posts eye-popping stats in a meaningless sample size and gets a serious “buzz” going about his future. The next year, he disappoints, despite getting on base about a third of the time. The strikeouts, many fear, are going to seriously limit his potential. Despite the obvious similarities to Jeremy Hermida, Travis Snider's situation is somewhat different. Hermida was “pretty good” at High-A and Double-A at ages 20 and 21. Snider was “pretty good" at Double-A at age 20, and has done nothing short of embarrass Triple-A pitching since then, hitting .337/.431/.663 in 204 PA there in 2009 after 70 great PA in 2008. Perhaps more important, his contact percentage (Ct%) at Double-A was 77%. We're not talking Dustin Pedroia here, but for a 21-year-old with limitless power and good plate discipline to have a Ct% that high against Triple-A pitching is a great sign.
Then, of course, came the regular gig in Toronto. Snider was so awful against LHP (20 K in 40 AB!) that he wasn't used against some tough lefties. He did draw five walks, get hit by two pitches, and even lay down a couple bunts, so he managed a .333 OBP against southpaws despite all the whiffs. The good news from the struggles against lefties is that he slugged .448 vs RHP, which is inching toward the power a team wants from a corner outfielder. At 21, there's every indication that number will skyrocket upward. And if he's bombing RHP, he'll get every chance to work on his approach vs LHP. Whether or not he will have an epiphany along the way and suddenly turn into a two-way hitter is not clear, but even if he stalls out as a should-be platoon guy, a la Jason Kubel (.240/.314/.356 career vsL), there's little doubt that he'll hurt righty pitching badly enough to be a valuable contributor both to the Blue Jays and to fantasy teams for years. Expect significant growth in 2010, but temper expectations a bit, as he'll still be just 22 years old.
Scott Sizemore | Detroit | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .308/.389/.500 (AA-AAA)
Sizemore is an interesting case. He's a “grindy” player who has overachieved what was expected. Scouts don't think much of him, and he's even ranked 10th in the thin Tigers organization in BA's 2010 list. One knock on him is that he plays no part of the second base position well enough to acquit himself at the major league level, so his bat is going to have to carry him (let this be a warning to those considering drafting Tigers pitching). Then the scouts watch his game and don't see the standout batting skills they want, other than an adequate ability to hit for average. On the flip side, his “overachieving” makes him a favorite with coaches, and the stats he's put up (he has hit for average, some power, drawn walks, and even stolen a few bases) make his projections come out just fine, if somewhat pedestrian. He's a bit of an “older” prospect, but just made his pro debut in 2006 and didn't stall out at any level, having his best half-season at Double-A in 2009 to earn his promotion—and likely earn Polanco his ticket out of Motown. It would not be surprising to see him falter somewhat in 2010, but become sort of a late bloomer a la Mark DeRosa. It's unclear how much rope he'll be given, though the Tigers don't appear to have any other reasonable options at the position.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00pm
Carlos Ruiz | Philadelphia | C
2009 Final Stats: .255/.355/.425
Philadelphia bought out the remaining years of Ruiz's arbitration with a three-year, $8.5M deal that includes a $5M option for 2013. This allowed Ruiz to cash in on a career year, and fortunately for the Phillies, the secondary skills behind that spike look somewhat sustainable, and only mildly influenced by luck.
As often happens in these spikes, Ruiz's up 2009 looks better because of a down 2008, when he hit just .219/.320/.300, thanks to a .237 BABIP and 4.9% HR/FB rate, both below normal for him. In 2009, his much-improved line was helped by a .266 BABIP and 8.1% HR/FB, much closer to expected levels.
On top of this, he improved his hit trajectory over 2008, when his GB rate rose to a career high with 54.3% and a 16.8% LD rate sunk to a career low. Even a catcher like Ruiz, who has average wheels (he's 120th among 209 1000-plus AB hitters in the past three years in 3B/H), will suffer from that kind of GB rate. It's also going to lead to fewer fly balls and (hence) HRs, which happened in 2008. In 2009, he went in the other direction, with a career high of 39.1 FB% and an 18.7 LD% that is only second to his small-sample 2006 19.4% rate. This also puts him pretty much exactly in line with the NL average in these areas.
Hitting the ball along a better trajectory is tied closely to seeing it better, something Ruiz has shown consistent improvement on since his debut. After starting with a BB/K rate of 0.63, it's risen all the way to a very judicious 1.21 last season. That comes entirely from his walk rate, which has also steadily climbed up to the 12.1% he posted in 2009, since his K% has hovered at around 12%, pointing to another solid skill Ruiz possesses: his contact skills. Check out the mini-browser to see that very sweet CT rate locked at 87-88%.
Normally, this kind of skill set would project a much higher BA for Ruiz, but with average footspeed, he's not going to leg out that many singles, and his focus on power—note that 1.67 Bash rate—is going to have him swinging for the fences more than driving for gaps in the defense. Still, that kind of contact-batting eye package means I wouldn't be surprised if he beats that BA projection.
Even if he doesn't, Ruiz is going to help you in OBP, as that improvement in the walk rate clearly foretells, and the CT rate will keep his BA in a decent range for catchers, if not a bit better. With the bar being so low for catchers, particularly in the Mauerless NL, Ruiz is still a guy you can count on for above-average production. Unfortunately for you, his great postseason, rebound year, and strong second half conspire to make other owners aware of his value, as that Sentiment shows. So beware of overpaying for a catcher who's a second-tier option, at best.
Hunter Pence | Houston | OF
2009 Final Stats: .282/.346/.472
Pence was arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, and the Astros gave him a huge raise from $464K in 2009 to a tidy $3.5M in 2010. He didn't offer a tenfold improvement over 2008, though he did bounce back from a down year of .269/.318/.466 in 2008. Despite a30-point boost to OPS, Pence's counting numbers were largely unchanged from 08-09, with a few more SBs and a few less runs and RBIs from an Astros lineup that ranked 14th in the NL in R/G.
A midseason swoon in July and early August diluted a strong start from Pence, who also had to adjust to batting everywhere except leadoff, eighth and cleanup in that inconsistent Astros lineup. He spent much of his time in the five- and six-hole, which isn't the best place to develop a guy with a decent power-speed package. But he strikes out way too much (20% career) and walks too little (7%) to hit in the first two spots in the order and he's not going to slide into the third or fourth spot with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee on the team, so he will likely remain there for the near future.
Pence has still stabilized his CT and H rates, no doubt why the GP and most other projections keep him in the same neighborhood for 2010. His rising GB rate is fine for a guy with speed, and an elevated HR rate somewhat compensates for the lower FB rate that results. It's also Exhibit A as to why he's not going to suddenly start cranking out 30+ HR seasons—note that if he nails his GP prediction for 2010, it'll be the third straight 25-HR season.
This moderate power production makes him a poor fit for the five- and six-holes, batting order positions that dampen another category he could contribute in: steals. With lumbering base-cloggers like Lee and Berkman in front of him, Pence isn't going to get many SB opportunities, where he could be boosting his fantasy value. Not that Pence has done much to leverage his speed. Though he's hit double-digits in steals each of the past three years, he's also been caught an increasing number of times each year, leading to a 54 SB% last year that's well below his 72% three-year average.
It seems, then, that WYSIWYG with Pence: decent power, adequate steals, and a good, but not great, BA. His BB/K rate peaked at .53 in 2009, showing some improvement over his 0.27 in his rookie year, and his CT rate is also league average. As for the lineup around him, there's little but maturing young players like Pence and Bourn to improve the Astros' offense, which essentially swapped Miguel Tejada for rookie Tommy Manzella and Geoff Blum for Pedro Feliz, an overall downgrade.
This all points to a very moderate outlook for Pence, who is as unlikely to post MVP numbers as he is to suddenly drop through the floor—although his batting eye and contact rate indicate the latter is the more likely of the two extremes. He's one of those names that still retains some cachet from his great rookie year (note the fat H% behind that performance), so other owners may go out on a limb for him. Don't do the same—as cliche as the saying has become, Pence is what he is; don't pay for more than that $21 prediction.
Bengie Molina | San Francisco | C
2009 Final Stats: .265/.285/.442
Among the Flying—er, Catching—Molina Brothers, Bengie is the one with pop (Yadier is the best all-around, and Jose is the shy one). He doesn't bring a whole lot more to the table than that power, but for fantasy owners, having a catcher who delivers nearly 20 HRs and around 80-90 RBI can be enough. His BA is never going to threaten .300 again (2008 was a combination of a spike in H% and a crazy blip in CT%), thanks to a walk rate that's slid from awful to nonexistent in the past four years (2005 was the last year he walked 20+ times).
His strikeout rate, once consistently around 10%, dipped below 8% in 2008, then shot up to almost 14% in 2009, but that's not the most worrisome trend for Molina. His FB rate has ratcheted up from 38% in 2006 to 53% in 2009, while his HR rate has fallen over the same period. Bengie's obviously changing his swing, turning it into the all-or-nothing uppercut that Charlie Brown made so infamous in Peanuts.
All-or-nothing is looking like what you might expect from Molina going forward, which (again) isn't such a bad thing, fantasy-wise. The concern in San Francisco (and therefore for fantasy owners, too) will be Buster Posey, the guy whose seat Molina's holding. They think Posey's too green to start out 2009 behind the plate, so he'll start the year in Triple-A, but he could start edging Molina out sooner rather than later. If Molina struggles or gets hurt, or if Posey quickly rounds into form, it might be much sooner. By the end of the year, Molina might be in a time-sharing situation.
Another consideration is where Molina might hit in the order. He spent nearly all of 2009 in the cleanup spot, which helped him drive in Pablo Sandoval. The Giants signed Aubrey Huff to be their cleanup hitter in 2010; if they stick to that, Molina loses a spot and has a hitter who (if you recall my article two weeks ago) is likely to struggle in that spot. If Bruce Bochy sticks to his guns and keeps Huff in the four-hole, Molina could see fewer RBI oportunities; if Molina owners are lucky, Bochy will do the right thing and slot Huff behind Molina.
GP sees a slight drop in Molina's production and value, based in part on diminished PT from his uncertain role at press time. He's going to beat those counting numbers—and that roto value prediction—in 2010, but he may not crack $15. The 2009 Giants ranked 13th in runs scored, and the 2010 version could be a bit better, depending on things like Sandoval's development, the production of newcomers Huff and Mark DeRosa, and the health of Freddy Sanchez's shoulder.
Those will all factor into that potential value increase, which you need to keep in mind when bidding on the Molina With Power. His dingers and RBIs are worth paying for, but a 35-year-old whose swing is slowly morphing into Charlie Brown's isn't the best place to invest extra dollars from your budget.
Doug Davis | Milwaukee | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.5 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.12 ERA
Remember at the fifth-grade dance when you were too shy to ask any of the really hot girls to dance, so you waited until the end of Survivor's "The Search Is Over" to find a partner, and the only one left was the kinda homely Tamara Hordinsky, the girl who lived down the street from you since first grade, but she was at least not as drop-down ugly as Agatha Pickston, and you held loosely to Mary's shoulders for the last agonizing thirty seconds or so, just so you could say you did what you said you were gonna do and dance with a girl?
OK, maybe that was just me. Me and the Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin. He swore up and down that he'd bring the Crew two starters this offseason, and grabbed Randy Wolf right off. Then he waited until the barrel was almost empty before signing Doug Davis to a one-year deal for $5.25M with an option for a second year. And Brewers fans may find themselves awkwardly embracing Davis the way I did Tamara Hordinsky those many years ago, waiting desperately for the dance to be over.
But at least Melvin signed someone, right? And Davis is, well, someone. If you can say something nice about Davis, it's that he's been consistent and healthy—consistently and healthily average. Except for thyroid cancer in 2008 (and let's face it, who can blame him for that?) Davis has pitched 190+ IP and started 33+ games every season since 2004, racking up a 62-68 record, with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, in that span. He struck out 7.2 per 9 IP but also walked 4.1 per 9, which is why his WHIP is such a whopper (say that one five times fast!).
Still, he's a lefty teams can count on to take the mound every fifth day and soak up innings without being too awful. He brings strikeouts, and has tried to keep the ball down in the zone (he had a 47% GB rate in '07 and '08, which slipped to 43.1% in '09), staying on the edges of home run tolerance, right around league-average for 10% HR/FB. As he's aged, he's also relied more on his curve and cutter than his fastball—he used to bring the heat about half the time with Milwaukee but now throws it about once every four pitches, making up the difference with those other two pitches.
That's a sure sign of an aging pitcher learning to pitch and not just throw (not that Davis could ever bring the heat), and it's also why his strikeout rates have been gradually dropping. He'll bring that durability and handful of strikeouts to Milwaukee, where he'll likely slot in behind Gallardo and Wolf. GP projects him for a similar season in 2010, with an ERA around league average, a half-decent K rate that's offset by the poor walk rate.
Milwaukee has a defense in signing Davis: It's a small-market team without the money to sign a real stud like Ben Sheets (though they may regret the $4.75M more they could have spent on a guy with some upside to him). Don't let yourself fall into the same trap, waiting till the end of the draft, only to add Davis to your roster for $1—and getting the -$2 return GP predicts. Sometimes it's better to just forget about Tamara and Agatha altogether and just wait until the next song.
Octavio Dotel | Pittsburgh | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.8 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.32 ERA
One of the big offseason questions in Pittsburgh—particularly after the departure of the intermittently effective Matt Capps to Washington—was the identity of the new closer. With few likely internal options ready for prime time, they inked Dotel to a one year deal worth $3.25M, with a team option for 2011. Dotel hasn't closed since 2007, when he went 11 of 14 in save opportunities with the Royals, with the line you see in the mini-browser.
Since then, he's served as one of Chicago's late relievers, doing a bit of setup work but appearing just as often in the sixth and seventh frame, particularly in 2009. Ozzie Guillen wisely kept him out of tight games the more he saw him, because Dotel's become what you might call a Three True Outcome pitcher: in his tenure with the White Sox, 45% of the batters who faced him ended up with a walk, strikeout or home run.
Considering that two of those three outcomes are anathema to a late-game reliever, particularly a closer, you should be as skeptical as Guillen of Dotel's ability to shut down the opposition. His strikeout numbers are quite nice, consistently above 10 K/9 the past three seasons, but his HR/9 is also consistently above 1 (peaking at 1.61 in 2008), and his BB/9 has risen from 3.52 to 5.20 since 2007.
The home run numbers are a bit of luck and a bit of pitching style. 2008 happened partly because of a really unlucky 16.7% HR rate, while 2009 saw him come a bit under average with a 9.0 HR/FB%. HR rate is particularly harmful to a flyball pitcher, which Dotel has always been, as you can see from those G/F rates in his mini-browser. That's why his ERA is always a threat to rise, and what makes him a dicey closer, both for Pittsburgh and your fantasy squad.
The best scenario for a guy like this is (1) a friendly park, (2) a bullpen that will allow him to enter the game with a clean slate, and (3 a manager who doesn't want to bring him in without a clean slate. Dotel has all of those in Pittsburgh, or at least two: PNC is a fairly good park for pitchers, John Russell only brought Matt Capps in for one-inning save situations in 2008 and 2009, and the Pirates further bolstered their 'pen with the signing of Brendan Donnelly.
So if there's anyplace that Dotel can succeed (other than a ballpark the size of Manhattan), it's in Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn't pay a huge price for him, and you shouldn't either. He'll give you Ks and saves, but your ERA and WHIP might get a little bruised in the process.
I'll get back to more reader requests next week, but please leave more in the comments field below. And don't forget to check out the new index, where you can look up all the players I've covered in the offseason—and hold my feet to the fire when the regular season starts.
And if you like the mini-browsers and the writing, don't forget to pick up a copy of the Graphical Player 2010, with more stats and writeups from the best writers on the web!
Posted by Michael Street at 1:59am
Thursday, January 28, 2010
On January 22, 2010 the Cincinnati Reds made an under the radar signing of Jose Arredondo to a Major League contract. The biggest reason this signing flew under the radar, among others, is that Jose Arredondo will be missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery he'll be having this month. Another likely reason this deal hasn't been well covered is due to the fact Francisco Cordero is already the closer in place in Cincinnati. All that said, the Arredondo signing is one that should be of interest depending on your league's format.
Jose Arredondo was a very useful reliever during the 2008 season for the LA Angels of Anaheim, and was being referred to by some as a closer in waiting. Arredondo's LIPS ERA for the 2008 season was 3.67 and his DIPS WHIP was 1.25, rather solid for a rookie reliever pitching in the more difficult league. Arredondo was unable to repeat his 2008 performance last year. Arredondo's LIPS ERA jumped to 4.34 and his DIPS WHIP to 1.46. The question that now arises is why the jump in his LIPS ERA and DIPS WHIP, was it due to injury, or was he simply less effective? Well according to fangraphs player page for Arredondo his average fastball velocity dropped from 93.7 MPH to 92.4 MPH, his slider velocity dropped from 85.4 MPH to 84.9 MPH, his slitter dropped from 85.2 MPH to 83.9 MPH, and his changeup velocity remained almost identical as it was 84.4 MPH in 2008 and 84.5 MPH in 2009. While none of those velocity drops are staggering, they are of note, and could help explain his regression.
Another problem, which without question hurt Arredondo was a jump in walks per nine innings (BB/9) from 3.25 in 2008 to 4.60 in 2009. His groundball ratio (GB%) also regressed from 51.2% to 44.2% which likely hurt his LIPS ERA and DIPS WHIP as well. It remains to be seen how Arredondo will recover from TJ surgery, and how long it takes him to rehab. Fantasy owners can be thankful that Arredondo is expected to (or perhaps has had, though I haven't been able to find anything) surgery in January. That means even if he takes the full twelve months to recover and rehab, he'll have a few months to display good health before most fantasy drafts.
Those fantasy gamers who play in deeper leagues, or in leagues that use holds, should keep tabs on Arredondo's rehab this season. Early next year the first things I'll be keeping tabs on are where his velocity is, what his walk rate is, and what his groundball ratio is. If Arredondo is able to keep his GB% around 51.2%, as it was in 2008, he'll have a reasonable shot at managing the perils of his homeballpark (12.3% greater rate of home runs per flyball according to David Gassko's Ball Park Factors). If he can keep the ball in the yard, he should also enjoy the fruits of the move from the AL to the NL, which in the least should help his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). In conclusion, Jose Arredondo is a player I'll be keeping tabs on this year with the intention of scooping him up in 2011 if healthy.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 4:03pm
1. Jordan Lyles / SP / Lyles dominated in 2009 by pumping the strike zone with his low-90s fastball. He has strong movement and command in that fastball, while his curveball and change-up are promising but works in progress. He is a legit ace prospect but still has much to prove.
2. Jiovanni Mier / SS / Mier was one of my favorite prospects in the 2009 draft. The first things that jump out are his defense and overall confidence. He has some advanced plate discipline and the potential for a bit of power. His baserunning instincts will yield steals. He may never be a star, but he still has room to grow. If nothing else, he has the intangibles to be a strong big-league shortstop.
3. Jason Castro / C / Castro put together a very solid full-season debut in 2009. When he was drafted, I thought he would be nothing more than an above-average major league catcher if everything worked out. I still feel that way, but, so far, everything has worked out—and it hasn't been an accident. He is close to the big leagues and has proved himself in my eyes.
4. Sammy Gervacio / RP / Gervacio has a terrific slider that he uses just as much as his fastball. He is Houston's closer in training, and if he improves his command he will reach that level.
5. Tanner Bushue / SP / Bushue has a long way to go with his secondary offerings, and he has a history of injuries, though none of them have been serious. But he seems to use little effort to generate his low-90s heat. His short Gulf Coast League stint was impressive, and it will be fascinating to see how he adjusts to being a full-time pitcher.
6. Ross Seaton / SP / Seaton's fastball hasn't been as good as advertised, but he has shown strong consistency with his control. Even though it is early, his strikeout numbers are a concern. He has a long way to go with all of his offerings, but 2009 was a decent debut.
7. Jonathan Gaston / OF / Gaston's bat came alive in the California League, where many bats seem to hit their peak. He has immense power due to his all-or-nothing swing, which has resulted in cringe-worthy strikeout numbers, but his saving grace could be his patience at the plate. He also has some sneaky baserunning instincts to work with. Gaston will be playing Double-A ball in 2010, and a lot of eyes will be on him as he tries to prove that 2009 was not a fluke.
8. Brad Dydalewicz / SP / Dydalewicz will never be an ace, but the young man put together a strong Sally League debut. He has good sink to his pitches, inducing a strong groundball rate. With better control and an uptick in his strikeout rate, he could have a middle-of-the-rotation future.
9. Chia-Jen Lo / RP / Working out of the bullpen, Lo combines a mid-90s heater with a developing curveball and change-up. His command is lacking, and if he is going to live up to his potential one of his secondary offerings needs to become a dependable weapon.
10. Jay Austin / OF / Austin has some strong tools, highlighted by his raw, plus speed. He has a quick, compact swing, but almost no power to speak of. His swing and speed make me think the top of the order could be in his future, and he has a good amount of time to get there, but he has a long, long way to go.
1. Jarrod Parker / SP / For Parker, everything hinges on a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery. Before the surgery he was one of the more dominant pitchers in the minor leagues. Parker has, of course, been severely downgraded, but he still fits in near the bottom of my top-100 list and at the top of Arizona's top 10.
2. Brandon Allen / 1B / Allen had a terrific 2009 minor league season, proving that his 2008 breakout was not a fluke. Yet his brief major league debut and Arizona Fall League performance were lackluster to say the least. Which hitter will we see in 2010?
3. Ryan Wheeler / 1B / Arizona did a fantastic job restocking a failing farm system in the 2009 draft, as seven of the next eight players are from that draft. My favorite of the group is the fifth-rounder Wheeler. He murdered the ball over a half-season, and if he picks up where he left off he could move fast.
4. Bobby Borchering / 3B/1B / Borchering draws offensive comparisons to Chipper Jones for his plus bat speed and emerging power. He debuted in the rookie Pioneer League and looked like anything but Chipper Jones, with his head-scratching plate discipline and cringe-worthy contact skills. He has likable tools but plenty to learn.
5. David Nick / 2B / Nick showed everything you could possibly look for in a high school second baseman making his professional debut. He showed more power and speed than most were expecting, and his patience and contact skills have been very solid for a high schooler. I'm intrigued. What will he do for a followup?
6. Mike Belfiore / SP/RP / Belfiore looked like he had a raw but promising arm coming into the 2009 draft. He was selected earlier than I was expecting, but his numbers have justified his sandwich-round selection thus far. I'm not sure if he is a starter or a reliever, but he has great sleeper potential.
7. Wade Miley / SP / Miley's 2009 was a disappointment of sorts, as his arm doesn't have much projection left and his numbers were sub-par. But Miley induces ground balls and has a plus pitch with his curveball. With improved command he could move quickly and eventually settle in as a solid mid-rotation starter.
8. Chris Owings / SS/2B / Draft reports spoke highly of Owings' intangibles, game knowledge and natural instincts. And he showed off his quick, compact stroke and workable speed during his Pioneer League debut. But his plate discipline has looked awful and he doesn't project to have much power.
9. A.J. Pollock / OF / Pollock has plus contact skills, good gap power and above-average speed. But his plate discipline and lack of home run power will ultimately hinder him, leaving me thinking that he is nothing more than an average outfielder one day.
10. Marc Krauss / OF / Krauss has a great, natural eye at the plate, with above-average bat speed and the potential for average power. He doesn't have the tools to be a star, but he could move quickly through the system and turn into an average corner outfielder.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:10am
Lots of high-skilled players get big discounts due to injury concerns. Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, and Mike Lowell are just a few of the candidates for the sale rack. The big question is: Just how much of a discount should you apply to these types of players?
Some projection systems, like CHONE and Marcel, forecast playing time (in games or plate appearances). Expected playing time figures heavily in these systems' forecasts for the players' counting stats. The more the system expects the player to play, the more runs it expects the player to score (everything else equal, of course).
It is well known that, for fantasy purposes, one should add in the contributions of a replacement-level player when computing a player's value. So, a player that is forecast to score 100 runs in 100 games is worth more than a player forecast to score 100 runs in 162 games. Why? Because you'll be able to play a replacement player for at least some of the games that the 100-game player is forecast to miss. That player's going to score some runs too.
This is one reason why "real-life" baseball valuation stats, like Wins Above Replacement, figure value relative to a replacement player. Of course, since replacement levels in fantasy are so dependent on how deep your league is (in number of teams, bench size and number of positions used), these kind of replacement-level calculations are usually left up to the user.
The temptation is to do something like the following: Let's say the generic replacement-level player in your league is projected to earn 0.3 RBIs per game. Next, you take, say, CHONE's forecast of 72 RBIs in 122 games for Mike Lowell. Then you compute the expected RBIs from drafting Lowell as 72 + .3 x (162-122) = 84.
Unless you're in a daily league (and probably even then), it is unrealistic to expect to be able to replace Lowell in your lineup the minute he gets injured. So you'd like to apply a discount—maybe instead of assuming the replacement player plays 40 games, you assume he plays only 30 games for you.
I'd argue that the discount that you should apply to injury-concern players should vary a great deal depending on the player (and the injury). John Smoltz may be projected to start 20 games while Sheets is projected to start only 19, but I think you should apply a bigger discount to Smoltz, particularly in weekly leagues. Why? Because Smoltz is far more likely to have a start unexpectedly skipped, giving you a big fat zero in his spot for that week. Whereas Sheets is likely to be already comfortably nestled in your DL spot for the bulk of the starts that he might miss. Same thing applies for Chipper Jones versus Alfonso Soriano.
Pure speculation: If you're looking for some hidden value, I think the players that are catastrophic injury concerns, like Sheets, may give you a little extra profit over players like Harden, who are more likely to have nagging injuries. I bet that lots of fantasy players discount too heavily players that are at risk for season-ending injuries versus players that are given lots of extra days off.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:20am
After spending eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Jon Garland will suit up for his forth different team in the past two seasons, and his third National League West team in the past 12 months. After watching Garland eat innings for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers last season, the San Diego Padres signed the veteran right hander to a one-year deal worth at least $5.3 million dollars ($4.7 base + $600k buyout) with a mutual option for 2011. I'm not sure the deal improves the Padres much, but the consensus is you can pencil him for 200 innings of league average pitching which is good for at least 2.5 WAR. That makes the deal a value, but his true value to the San Diego franchise may come at the trade deadline if Jed Hoyer can flip him to a contender for a prospect or two.
Garland is pretty unspectacular as far a peripheral stats. His career K/9 is a paltry 4.72, while his career BB/9 is around three. He has battled home run issues throughout his career illustrated by a HR/9 of 1.12 that is fueled by a HR/FB of 10.7. Obviously a move to the spacious Petco Park will alleviate some of that which would make Garland slightly more attractive.
As mentioned above, his greatest asset is his ability to eat innings. Garland will give you 32-35 starts and between 190-210 innings without breaking a sweat. With the durability comes more chances to win games and he has posted double digit win totals for eight straight seasons.
A groundball pitcher, Garland is going to need some help up the middle. The Padres current trio of of middle infielders: David Eckstein, Everth Cabrera and Jerry Hairston Jr. are not exactly defensive wizards. Cabrera was rated below average in his first major league season after average metrics in the minors. Hairston Jr. has been a pretty good second basemen over the course of his career and he could steal some playing time from Eckstein, who struggled at the position last season; this would be Garland's best bet.
Overall, I would expect the Garland to remain relatively status quo. He won't help at all in terms of strikeouts, but 12 wins, 200 innings and an ERA in the 4-4.5 is likely. The home runs should subside a bit in Petco, however, there's no guarantee that San Diego will be his home at season's end.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 4:19am
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Here we go with Part 3 of my Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame trilogy. Here’s your late pass to Part 1 and Part 2. And, if you didn’t like this series, then rejoice because next week I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming.
Class of 2006
The 2006 class starts of strong with three inductees.
Right off the bat, we’re presented with a tough case. Orel Hershiser had an exceptional run from 1984–89. He averaged 16 wins and 167 strikeouts per year, finished in the top three in ERA in the National League four times and provided very good WHIP numbers. Over this same stretch, he led the league in innings pitched three times, including in his signature 1988 campaign. Hershiser was likely the best pitcher in fantasy baseball in 1988 (edging out David Cone) and likely the third-best fantasy pitcher in 1985 (behind Dwight Gooden and John Tudor). 1986 was a poor season for Orel, which really would have hurt owners who would have invested highly coming of ’85. But, excluding that season, Hershiser put up ERA+ numbers of 133, 170, 131, 148 and 148 in his run. Had Hershiser posted slightly better strikeout rates during this run, I would have been a lot more definitive. But I’m giving him a tentative vote of yes anyway. Unlike other peak-based starting pitcher candidates, Hershiser also can claim a handful of useful seasons outside his prime. The same can not be said for guys like Fernando Valenzuela or Dave Stewart.
As long as we’re talking about peak value, allow me to cast as emphatic a vote as possible for Albert Belle. First of all, Belle has a statistically compelling argument for the actual Hall of Fame and he was an even better fantasy player, where his surliness and defensive ineptitude don’t matter at all. Belle was simply a monster who did not miss games. His career was basically a time-machined version of Ralph Kiner’s, and he had many seasons that looked to be straight out of the 1930s. Joey Belle, take your place among the fantasy greats!
Will Clark was a very good, borderline-great player. He boasts that incredible 44 win-share 1989 season and a career line of .303/.384/.497 (137 OPS+) over almost 8,300 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he was a better real player than a fantasy player. Too infrequently did he post gaudy run, HR, RBI totals, and by the mid '90s, he was having trouble staying healthy. It’s a shame that I can’t vote for him because Will the Thrill was a special player whom nobody really talks about anymore. Aesthetically, he also had one of the most beautiful swings you could ever imagine. Find footage of the 1989 NLCS if you don’t believe me.
Dwight Gooden’s 1985 is one of the best pitching seasons of all time. That season, Gooden notched his third loss of the season May 25 and did not pick up his fourth until Aug. 31, winning 14 straight decisions along the way. On Aug. 11, George Vescey of the New York Times wrote an article entitled “Gooden: Death and Taxes.” Unfortunately, Doctor K had only two great seasons and a handful of useful to good ones. Many still debate whether it was Gooden’s drug use or the Mets’ overuse of him (and Mel Stottlemyre’s insistence that he learn a splitter) that ultimately ruined his career. Those discussions are academic though; Doc is on the outside.
The third inductee of this class is John Wetteland. Wetteland was simply a closer who distanced himself from his peers by doing everything you want a closer to do consistently, for a good seven or eight seasons. Wetteland did not miss seasons, and routinely put up 30–45 saves, WHIPs around 1.00, strikeout rates of over a batter per inning, and very good to outstanding ERAs. Wetteland was a money in the bank top-tier closer, and while we can debate the value of closers (and related draft strategies), being one of the best at your position for an extended run is worth recognition.
Class of 2007
Cal Ripken, Jr
This puts forth another strong class, with four players earning induction and a number of honorable mentions.
Cal Ripken’s durability and power from the shortstop position before it was en vogue makes him an easy choice. Not much to see here. Although, it is worth noting that Ripken never stole any bases and hit above .275 only seven times from 1982–98. So Cal was certainly not without his shortcomings from a fantasy standpoint.
Tony Gwynn posted a lot of seasons that looked similar to what Ichiro does nowadays … except Gwynn posted them in the mid-'80s. In the context of his era, he hit more homers and drove in way more runs than Ichiro though. People also tend to forget that in Gwynn’s prime, he could really run. Once the '90s rolled around, Gwynn had a tough time playing full seasons, but he always produced when in the line-up. In the middle of '90s Mr. 5.5 posted some really gaudy batting averages (from 1993–97, he hit no lower than .353) and even became something of a power threat and RBI-man. Another subtle piece of Gwynn’s value is that his reluctance to walk made his batting average very heavy when he played full seasons.
No steroids discount for Big Mac. And, no explanation necessary. Dude averaged 61 homers and 135 RBIs for over a four-year stretch while actually being a batting average contributor. This was in addition to plenty of other valuable campaigns in the earlier part of his career. Why am I still talking, I said no explanation necessary.
No dice for two-time Cy Young Award winner Brett Saberhagen. The key to getting maximum value out of Saberhagen was to only draft him in odd seasons. Saberhagen followed up both Cy Young seasons with sub-.500 records. His 1985 actually capped off a six-year stretch in which American League Cy Young winners had sub-.500 records the following season. Clemens put a dramatic end to that streak after capturing the award in 1986 and going back-to-back in ‘87. Frank Viola attempted to revive the trend after winning it in 1988, and Saberhagen followed suit again in 1989. Bob Welch obliged the following year, but then Clemens played party pooper once again.
Jose Canseco was an awesome blend of power and speed and I anticipated he’d earn my vote. After looking at the records to refresh my memory, he surprisingly gets denied. 1986 and 1987 were nice power seasons for Jose. He put up those numbers while also making a contribution in runs and steals. But his batting average prevented him from being truly elite. Cansco missed most of 1989 with an injury, but ’88, ’90, and ’91 was his prime. 1988 was an all time great fantasy season: 120/124, 42/40, .308. Canseco finished out his career with a combination of useful to very good (’94, ’98) seasons. All things considered, he only spent three seasons as a first-round player, had a disjointed career and was injury plagued.
No Mile High/Coors discount for Dante Bichette in fantasy baseball, but it takes more than a four-year run during the height of the offensive boom to earn my vote. Still, Bichette’s prime was pretty damn nice.
A player who I will induct off a short prime, though, is Eric Davis. Davis went 20/20 seven times, including ridiculous back-to-back 27/80, 37/50 campaigns. Davis had that Bo Jackson quality to him that allowed him to do things athletically that left you completely in awe. Unfortunately, Davis’ career was derailed when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997. Davis returned from treatment and actually hit a game-winning home run in the ALCS that season (despite going only 4-for-23 in that postseason). Davis followed in 1998 with his last impressive (and mostly full) season, fantasy or otherwise. Very few athletes, even among the best in the world, are blessed with the talent Eric Davis was. I, for one, wish we had been given the chance to see him do even more.
Class of 2008
The 2008 HOF class is a dream for any borderline candidate who had been struggling to reach that 75 percent threshold. That season, the electorate granted Bruce Sutter the honor of being a Hall of Famer. I came close to mirroring them by voting for a borderline reliever, but, in the end, I held strong.
Robb Nen almost earned my vote. At his best, Nen was similar to Wetteland, and even more valuable from a fantasy perspective. He just had one or two too many seasons that were good, but not great. But, actually, that’s not even what did him in because it’s possible that because of a better strikeout rate, his good but not great seasons were better than Wettland’s good but not great seasons. What killed Nen was that he had two seasons in the middle of that run in which he posted virtually league average ERAs. I just don’t give closers that much slack. Nen is a hero to the San Francisco Giants fan base though, and deservingly so. Nen heroically pitched through incredible pain, a torn labrum and rotator cuff, after the 2002 All-Star break. He willfully sacrificed any hope of a further career in order to not abandon his teammates, who needed him down the stretch. He spent hours and hours taking treatment just to pitch a single inning when he was needed, and then spent even more hours dealing with the excruciating pain from having done so. This ESPN article from 2005 covers the whole situation a lot better than I can in a paragraph or so, and is highly worth the read.
Chuck Knoblauch looked like he was on pace for enshrinement in the mid-'90s, but then it all fell apart when he plagiarized Steve Sax by developing a bizarre inability to throw to first base, as a second baseman. Personally, I find the Mackey Sasser iteration of this disorder even more amusing.
Class of 2009
The class of 2009 sees two players receive the golden ticket.
Rickey Henderson would be on the Mount Rushmore of the fantasy era. He had so many amazing campaigns, it’s mind-boggling. Henderson’s ’85 is in the argument for best single (offensive) fantasy season ever (.314 BA, 146 R, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 80 SB). Additional contenders include Eric Davis ’87, Larry Walker ’97, A-Rod 2007, among others. There’s really nothing to say about Rickey. In 1990, the man led the league in stolen bases and OPS; has anybody ever done that before? I don’t even know. (I do know Joe Morgan led in OPS in ’75 and ’76, and finished second in steals both years.)
What do you get when you combine an arbitrary fascination with round numbers and an irrational overvaluing of a traditional, but not very telling, indicators of production? I should have specified that we’re talking about offense here, because some of you guys said people raving about Jack Morris being the winningest pitcher of the '80s, right? OK, limit it to offense, now what do you get? Of course, the gaggle of nimrods who think it is significant that Mark Grace has more hits in the '90s than any other player. Congrats, Mark, over the span of 10 arbitrary selected seasons you accumulated more of a nebulously positive, but non-descriptive statistic than any other player. Cool, I guess. I mean, seriously, Mark Grace was a very good ball player (an awful broadcaster though), but can we put this piece of trivia to rest as having any actual meaning, please? Here, how about this, who had the most hits during the '80s? See, you don’t even know. See how dumb this is! (It was Robin Yount, by the way.)
Cognizant of the fact that over the course of this exercise I haven’t seen a whole lot of starting pitchers who have really blown me away, I’m going to vote for David Cone. Cone had a better career than several pitchers who are in the Hall of Fame. He often struggled to post gaudy win totals but more than made up for it with his strikeouts. He fanned more than 200 six times, including a three-year run from 1990-92 during which he averaged 242 per season. He was solid to very good in the WHIP department and very good to elite in the ERA department. Cone had multiple seasons in which he put it all together and was awesome and many seasons outside those in which he was still a very nice asset to any fantasy team.
Matt Williams was a very good player. He had a couple of monster seasons and a lot of very good ones. No dice.
If you did not play fantasy baseball in the mid-'90s, please do me a favor. Look at Mo Vaughn’s numbers in his prime. Now, look at the leader boards over those same seasons. Those seasons really weren’t all that impressive, right? That’s how out of whack things had gotten.
Greg Vaughn hit 50 and 45 home runs in consecutive seasons. These seasons were during Mo Vaughn’s prime. See what I mean?
Class of 2010
Roberto Alomar deserves a vote for his wide-ranging skill set and his duration as a top-tier second baseman. Alomar was a true speedster in his youth, who was mainly a run scorer and batting average help. As his game evolved, he ran a little less and hit for more power. Firing on all cylinders, Alomar was a five-category stud at a middle infield position. He had his best seasons in ’93, ’96, and ’99–2001. There’s less outside of those years than one might be inclined to think, but positional depth works in Robby’s favor.
Barry Larkin was a better player than Alomar, but his game wasn’t as fantasy friendly, and he was too frequently hurt. I support Barry for the actual Hall of Fame all day, but have to take a pass here.
Martinez was an amazing hitter, but his discipline cost him true elite RBI-man status. He was a batting average deity and, at times, a prolific run scorer, but his power totals weren’t great for his era, he stole no bases, and he spent most of his prime either as util-eligible only, or util- and CI-eligible, but lacking actual first or third base eligibility, depending on your league’s specs and settings.
Ellis Burks does not get my vote, but look at his 1996 season. Seriously, this era was whacked, and when you played at Coors it was like a true video game. How many players who had a 392 total base season got two Hall of Fame votes when they appear on their first (and only) ballot?
Another testament to the era, Eric Karros was 30/100 for about six seasons, but that just made him another first baseman.
Here’s a nifty little exercise to put some things in perspective regarding how arbitrary the historical record can be sometimes. Ask people if they think Roy Oswalt is at least on a borderline Hall of Fame pace. Now tell those same people to look at the analogous portion of Kevin Appier’s career. Moral of the story, Kevin Appier was a damn good pitcher for almost a decade.
Throughout this exercise there have been players who I almost didn’t even bother to look up who surprised me as to how close they actually were to getting elected. The perception/reality dichotomy was probably never stronger than in the case of Ray Lankford. In Part 1 of this series, Kirk Gibson got my vote on a very similar career, numbers-wise. Fast forward to the offensive explosion and such a career almost goes uninvestigated. I do suspect that Ray Lankford spent a considerable length of time as a top-50 player though, and I would have had no idea.
So, let’s see where we stand right now, through 16 classes.
Number of players elected: 29
Number of players elected who have been eliminated for real HOF consideration: 11
Members by position:
SS: 1.5 (Yount is really split)
3B: 4 (including Molitor)
This exercise encompassed 16 “classes” and resulted in 29 elections; a rate of about two inductees per year seems reasonable. As I predicted, the earliest classes resulted in fewer elections because of players’ primes crossing over into pre-fantasy era seasons.
Further, the ratios of inductees by position seems reasonable. Roughly 2.5 position players to each pitcher, and 11.5 infielders to 9.5 outfielders. Some might balk at a one to one ratio of closers to starters, but frankly the '80s lacked dominant starters, as evidenced by actual Hall of Fame balloting results, while the best of the '90s (namely the big four, plus guys like Glavine, Schilling, Mussina, Brown, etc.) have not come up for election yet. I could see being criticized for letting too many closers in, but as of yet I don’t regret any of those votes.
As I mentioned in Part 1, this exercise was a lot harder than I expected. I thought I’d be able to just take cursory glances at players’ stats and make definitive determinations on the fly. I was wrong. I kept true to the idea of not engaging in any advanced mathematical/statistical analysis, but it would have helped for many cases. It would be wonderful to have some sort of tool that evaluates players against their peers. The dream would be some sort of model for each category that used the OPS+ scale and compared players to production averages of, say, the top 20 players at their position (maybe 60 or 70 for outfielders).
This exercise also really put into perspective the obscene inflation in offensive stats that took place over a period as short as a decade. A player like Ray Lankford was putting up seasons that, at face value, would have been first-rate 10 to 15 seasons prior. In 1982, Dale Murphy won his first of his consecutive MVPs with a season of 113/36/109/23/.281 (and also played Gold Glove centerfield). In 1998 Ray Lankford didn’t appear on a single MVP ballot or even make the All-Star team, posting 94/31/105/26/.293.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:04am
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
It's tough enough to analyze pitchers from one year to the next. Analyzing a pitcher who hasn't thrown a major league pitch in over a year is that much tougher. Yet here we are talking about new Oakland A's starter Ben Sheets. After sitting out the 2009 recovering from an elbow injury, Sheets has signed with the Oakland A's on a one-year deal that figures to pay him upwards of $10 million dollars.
The A's are taking a calculated gamble here. Any time we talk about Sheets the injury question is in play, but for now I'm going to just go off of what we know. When healthy, there is no question that he possess top of the rotation, 4-5 WAR stuff. Similar to the Matt Holliday trade of a year ago, if the A's aren't contending mid-season, I could see Billy Beane flipping Sheets to a contender for even more prospects.
Career wise, he strikes out over seven batters per nine while walking under two. He has been prone to the long ball at times, but that's what makes Oakland the perfect choice for him; especially considering the reported alternative of signing with AL West rival Texas.
A pretty neutral pitcher for the most part, Sheets has had fly-ball rates in the 40 percentile in each of his last four seasons. Add in a career HR/FB of 9.5% plus a career HR/9 of 1.01 and choosing to pitch your home games in the pitcher friendly Oakland Coliseum over the home-run haven in Arlington seems like a wise decision. Also keep in mind the spectacular A's outfield defense that employs three center fielders in Coco Crisp, Ryan Sweeney and Rajai Davis and we have an excellent pairing of abilities.
It's fitting that the Oakland mascot features an elephant because I've been ignoring the injury elephant in the room. Anyone expecting 200 innings from Sheets is being unreasonable. He has not hit the 200 innings mark since 2004 and over the last four seasons has averaged about 150 innings per. I think this is a fair bench mark for Sheets considering the A's medical staff think he's healthy enough to sign.
I don't know if Sheets can be considered a "sleeper" due to his past success, but all things considered he is likely to have a really good season (health assumed) by the bay without the draft hoopla of a Zack Greinke or Felix Hernandez. Reports out of Oakland say that Manager Bob Geren has already tapped Sheets for the A's opening day start. With a 1-2 punch of Sheets and Brett Anderson, the A's just made the interesting AL West even more intriguing.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:52pm
The Cubs made what's likely to be their final major position player acquisition earlier today, reportedly coming to an agreement on a one-year deal with outfielder Xavier Nady. Nady seems likely to become Chicago's fourth outfielder and the right-handed part of a right field platoon with Kosuke Fukudome. He missed all of last season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he posted the best numbers of his career in his last healthy season.
Nady, 31 for next season, was coming off of four consecutive seasons of above average offensive production, peaking in 2008 with a .374 weighted on-base average and a 4.0 WAR split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees. Once a top prospect in the San Diego organization, Nady seemed to take some legitimate steps as a hitter in 2008. He emerged with good power, hitting 25 home runs and posting a .205 ISO, and he also set career high marks in walk rate and walk-to-strikeout ratio.
A big catalyst for Nady's improvement may have been a change in his approach in the plate, as he became more geared towards hitting the ball in the air beginning with the 2007 season. He hit about 45% of his batted balls on the ground during the 2005-2006 seasons, but that mark dropped closer to 39-40% in 2007-2008. This coincided with a major increase in his line drive rate, from 17.0% in 2006 to 24.6% in 2008. The change in approach would seem to help to explain the increases in Nady's BABIP and power output, as he began to get under the ball more and take advantage of his solid power.
What seems most likely to hold Nady back is health. In Chicago's outfield, which has numerous question marks, Nady would seem likely to get 400-500 at-bats necessary to be a fantasy option, especially because he's capable of filling in for Derrek Lee at first base if necessary as well. He's a guy that could be appealing, given that he's a good batting average guy with HR/RBI upside as he'd likely bat in the 5-7 range in Chicago's lineup. Although he's never been particularly durable, his only season with over 515 plate appearances was 2008, and there surely will be questions surrounding Nady's elbow for next season. But Nady appeared to take a very legitimate step forward in 2008 as a hitter, so if he's healthy going into 2009, which is obviously a big question mark, then there's reason to believe that he could be a pretty solid late-draft option for NL-only leagues.
Posted by Satchel Price at 1:27pm
Let's say you are in a draft and with your first-round pick you select second baseman Chase Utley. Not a bad choice, I've seen it done plenty of times before. That the remaining second basemen become much less valuable to your team is a concept most people understand.
The extent that the remaining second basemen drop in value depends on your league settings—whether there is only one second base roster spot or multiple positions you could stick a second baseman (e.g. a middle infield spot) is the determinate. And obviously the more positions you can stick a second baseman, the less each available second baseman drops in value to you. Only to you.
In the short term, most people are aware of this drop in value in drafts. I know this because rarely do you see someone take two second basemen early in a draft. Even when there are more than two spots to play second basemen on your roster, most people will hold off on a second one until at least the middle rounds, and when there are only two spots for second basemen (2B + Util spot) most people will not even take a second one.
Whereas people understand this in the short term, when it comes to putting together a full draft people forget that who you draft in the first round affects even who is most valuable to your team in the last round. I hate throwing the term value around like a curse word in a painfully unfunny Bob Saget comedy stand-up, so let me give you something more tangible to grasp.
Let's say you are about to start a draft. At this point you know next to nothing about how it will end up looking—you don't even know what pick you are going to have yet. All you have are your positional rankings and a list of sleepers to target at the end. Your top three sleepers are a shortstop, an outfielder and a pitcher.
Although you should not completely base your first few rounds on who you think you might will grab in the later rounds, it does make sense for your first three picks to not be a shortstop, outfielder and pitcher. You might draft a player from one or even two of these positions in the early rounds—if there is a great outfielder out there in the second round, go get him—but understanding how that affects the rest of your draft is important.
So you go into the drafting looking to target a first, second or third baseman early. The draft begins and you get your first and third baseman early, but a good second baseman eludes you as the draft heads into the dreaded middle rounds. With no second baseman on your sleeper list you'd be comfortable with in a starting gig, now is the perfect time to "reach" on a second baseman in the middle rounds, say Jose Lopez in the eighth round. Sure it might not be the best pick and sure his ADP is almost 30 picks later, but with the special need you have the pick is more than defensible.
Now, you do not want all of your middle-round picks to be this sort of defensive type, but if you are going to reach at some point on a player, reaching in this situation can be called ideal.
I understand that the concept discussed in this article is not something most people don't know, but I do believe it is something people should be more consciously aware of in drafts. Understand that your late round targets affect your first round targets, and who you actually get in the first rounds affects the value of certain players later in the draft. Any position that gets lost in the shuffle can excusably be targeted in the middle rounds and when you chain the parts of a draft together in this way, you will put yourself in the best position to get the most out of a draft.
Ultimately, though, it is the individual players themselves who determine how good a draft was.
Posted by Paul Singman at 10:25am
Monday, January 25, 2010
Beyond the Boxscore is continuing the fantasy league it started last year. Unlike a regular league, this league uses real life player salaries to draft a team on an approximately 50 million dollar budget, and the only stat category is Fangraph's WAR.
Personally I am not a fan of leagues like this so I won't be participating, but with the kinks from last year worked out I think it will be a fun league for those who like the salary setup. As an added bonus, based off the comments, it looks like a good group of respected writers will be involved in the league. If you are interested, check it out.
Posted by Paul Singman at 10:32pm
Two years after being traded from Baltimore to Houston, Miguel Tejada returns to the Orioles on a one-year contract worth six million dollars. Baltimore is basically getting the same 2.5 WAR player they dealt away. Sure, he's aged four years in the two seasons since his departure, but the production is similar.
In his last season as Orioles' shortstop, Tejada hit .296/.357/.332 (.799 OPS). This past season with the Astros, he hit .313/.340/.455(.795 OPS); the difference in wOBA is just one point. One thing that has changed is Tejada's patience or lack there of.
Never one to take many walks to begin with, Tejada posted back to back career lows in terms of walks taken. After setting the bar low at 3.6% in 2008, Miggy walked just 2.8% of the time in 2009. Coinciding with the decrease in walks is an increase in hacks. Tejada swung at pitches outside of the zone nearly 33% of the time in the past two years, up nearly 8% over his career number.
Tejada has also lost some power since his days in Oakland. Whether that is a natural regression or something else, I'll leave that for you to decide. What we do know is Tejada went from a .200 ISO/.500 slugger to a .150 ISO/.450 hitter. Although he is a former MVP in the American League and has played in the AL East before, he is sure to miss playing his home games in Minute Maid Park. Last season he hit .343/.367/.512 at home, but just .283/.313/.395 on the road. Still, he should welcome a return to Baltimore since he has hit very well in Camden Yards, owning a slash line of .321/.370/.505 in 340 games at the ballpark.
After spending over 16,000 innings at shortstop, Tejada will be asked to slide over to third base; something he was reluctant to do during his first stint in Baltimore. He seems receptive to the move now, and defensively it's likely the right choice for him as well as the team. That said, his value at the hot corner diminishes quite a bit from shortstop, although he will have remaining eligibility at his former position.
Within his own division he is the fourth best third basemen behind Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre. From there he is still behind names like: Michael Young, Brandon Inge and Chone Figgins. Nonetheless, Baltimore has a good lineup, and one would figure Tejada to hit somewhere between 5-7 in the lineup. The opportunities to drive in some runs in a talented lineup in addition to holding shortstop eligibility make him worthy of a later-round flier.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 6:00am
Alright guys, prepare yourselves for stat overload. I'm about to introduce 12 new stats that will help us better understand pitchers. Now I know that 12 sounds like a lot, but don't worry too much — most of them are related to stats you're already familiar with and/or come in pairs. I'll explain everything as plainly as I can (while leaving enough of the guts in there for people who care), and if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
Where we're at
As it stands now, many fantasy analysts are starting to make use of stats like BABIP and HR/FB, but the analysis often goes something like, "Player A has a .315 BABIP and 15% HR/FB. He is getting unlucky and both will regress toward league average." There's nothing wrong with this — it will usually be correct — but I think we can take things a little further. After all, not all pitchers should be expected to post an exactly league average BABIP or HR/FB or LOB%.
For example, a pitcher's home park will effect his HR/FB, so a guy throwing half his games in Coors should be expected to have a higher HR/FB than a guy who plays in PETCO. We also know that ground balls become hits at a higher rate than fly balls, so groundball pitchers should be expected to have a higher BABIP than flyball pitchers. These are the kinds of things that my new stats will try to account for. So, without further ado, here they are:
12 new pitching stats
xBABIP: While we often say that a pitcher has little control over his BABIP — and this is true — they do not relinquish all control. Most importantly, we know that a pitcher has a lot of control over his groundballs and flyballs, a good amount of control over his pop-ups, and little control over his line drives. To calculate xBABIP, we first neutralize line-drive rate and adjust the other three rates accordingly (like we do to calculate xGB%). Then we assume a league average rate of hits on all types of batted balls. Add up those hits, and we can calculate an expected BABIP.
What we'll see is that extreme GB pitchers have higher xBABIPs and extreme FB pitchers have lower xBABIPs (while also realizing that guys who induce a lot of pop-ups will have low xBABIPs too). This past season, for example, GB'er Aaron Cook had a .314 xBABIP while FB'er Jered Weaver had a .291 xBABIP.
xHR/FB: This is calculated very simply by using park factors. We assume a 50/50 home/road split for the pitcher, a neutral road schedule (HR/FB park factor of 1.00), and account for the pitcher's home ballpark's HR tendencies. It is very important to note, as I have in the past, that even if a pitcher calls an extreme HR park home, his expected HR/FB will still remain pretty close to neutral. The xHR/FB for Rockies pitchers, for example, was just 12.39 percent in 2009 (with a league average of 11.18 percent).
Analysts often like to credit deviation further from the mean than this to a pitcher's home park, but that simply is not the case (unless the pitcher has thrown a disproportionate number of games at home, and even if he has, that shouldn't be expected to continue going forward). Simply put, HR park factors are not quite as extreme as most seem to believe.
xLOB%: Of the three main 'luck indicators,' LOB% has the most room for skill-based variation. This is because LOB% is actually an exponential function. To put it simply, if Pitcher A allows hits at a 24 percent rate and Pitcher B allows hits at a 30 percent rate, once men reach base, more of them will score on Pitcher B because he is more likely to give up hits to begin with. His hits will be clumped closer together. As such, LOB% has a fairly strong relationship with the rate at which batters reach base.
xLOB% is calculated using a regression formula derived from BAA and BB%. Now, of course, BAA is subject to extreme variation since it is largely comprised of BABIP. So instead of using actual BAA, we use xBAA, which accounts for the pitcher's actual K rate (as with hitters, the more Ks, the fewer opportunities for hits) and his xBABIP. What we end up seeing is that good pitchers end up leaving more runners on base (Tim Lincecum: 75.6 percent) while bad pitchers let more score (Jeremy Sowers: 68.1 percent) than league average (71.9 percent).
R/HR and xR/HR: HR/FB has become a common stat for measuring a pitcher's luck with home runs, but it doesn't tell us everything. For example, a pitcher can have a seemingly lucky 4 percent HR/FB but could actually have experienced bad luck with HRs if he was unfortunate enough to have given up all of his HRs while the bases are loaded. On average, about 1.4 runs score per HR, but not all pitchers allow them at this rate (some justifiably, some as a result of luck). R/HR tells us how many runs actually scored per home run allowed while xR/HR tells us how many runs should have scored (the process for this is a little complicated, but I'd be happy to explain for anyone interested).
Home Run Runs per Fly Ball (HRR/FB) and expected Home Run Runs per Fly Ball(xHRR/FB): Absolutely my favorite of this new crop of stats. A mixture of HR/FB and R/HR, HRR/FB tells us how many runs scored on home runs per outfield fly. xHRR/FB, naturally, tells us how many should have scored. You can consider this a super-powered HR/FB since it not only accounts for how many HRs are allowed but also the total damage done by the HRs, which is what truly matters. Ten solo home runs do just as much damage as five two-run homers, which is something HR/FB doesn't capture on its own.
Run Support (RS) and xRun Support (xRS): These two stats are just what they sound like. Run Support is the number of runs that a starting pitcher's offense scores in games that he pitches. xRun Support is the number of runs per game the pitcher's team scores in all games during a season. Since pitchers have little influence over how well their offense performs in games that they pitch, we should expect the offense to perform at its usual level each time the pitcher takes the mound.
Bullpen Support (BS) and xBullpen Support (xBS): Very similar to the Run Support stats. BS measures how well the pitcher's bullpen performs in games he pitches and xBS measures the bullpen's performance during all games.
xWins (xW): While many fantasy analysts call Wins a fickle stat — and they're right — they aren't wholly unpredictable. Axioms like "don't chase wins" or "draft skills" are thrown around often, and while one can be successful by simply following this advice, I feel as though we can do a little bit better. And if we can do better, why shouldn't we?
Essentially, xW uses Bill James's Pythagorean Theorem to estimate the expected number of games a pitcher should have won. Using this formula, I plug in the pitcher's LIPS RA (weighted by his IP per game), his xBS (weighted by the IP the starter doesn't pitch per game), and his xRS.
This gives us the number of games the SP's team will win on days he pitches, and from there we calculate the percentage of those games he should get credited for the Win based upon how deep into games he goes (pitchers who last into the eighth inning are far more likely to receive a win than those who only last four or five innings — there's more time for his offense to score runs. The small problem here is that unlucky pitchers won't go as deep into games as they should, and visa-versa for lucky pitchers, but I haven't accounted for this yet).
Now I'm not saying that all of these stats are perfect, and they all assume randomly sequenced events (which may or may not be a 100 percent fair assumption) but I do think that they largely serve our purposes and are certainly better than making mental estimations (as we all currently do) or simply assuming everyone will be league average. Again, if you have any questions, absolutely feel free to let me know. Tomorrow, be on the lookout for an article centered around Ricky Nolasco that will make use of these stats, so you can see them in action.
Prior work done on the subject
EDIT: Thanks to Will Larson for bringing to my attention that prior work has been done on some of these topics. Will created his own versions of xW, xBABIP, and xLOB% that can be found here.
THTF's own Paul Singman also did work on the link between BAA and LOB% here.
David Appleman also created a basic xBABIP formula here.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:00am
Sunday, January 24, 2010
If you haven't heard, the Minnesota Twins will be moving to a new stadium in 2010, an outdoor park they'll call Target Field. We don't know how wind and atmospheric effects will play yet (which can be very important), but the fences at least look like they'll be more hitter-friendly (h/t Yahoo!'s RotoArcade). The Metrodome deflates HR/FB by 8.2%, so perhaps Target will be a little closer to neutral.
It's very tough to make predictions for new parks, but I feel as though this is all important to note, nonetheless. At the very least, we should bump our expectations for Twins hitters' power up just a bit since 1) absent other information, we'll do best by assuming neutral park effects and 2) the information we have on the new stadium does nothing to make us think it'll be worse than the Metrodome.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:21pm
Saturday, January 23, 2010
In a rare transaction that I actually like from Dayton Moore, the Royals have signed outfielder Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract worth $3 million dollars with a mutual $6 million dollar option for 2011. The move keeps Ankiel as a resident of Missouri as he trades in his St. Louis red for Kansas City blue. It's a move that further explains (or not at all) Moore's "process." Ankiel, a potential 2.5-3 WAR player will make the same salary as new teammate, Jason Kendall.
Jokes aside about him also being the second most talented pitcher on the staff, Ankiel stands a good chance to bounce back from an awful 2009 season. Since becoming a major league hitter in 2007, he has flashed above average power and been a solid defensive outfielder especially in the corners. Of course, Kansas City plans to play him in center field where he has been below average.
In 2007 and 2008 he posted ISO numbers near .250; however, that dipped all the way down to .150 this past season. He battled a variety of injuries in 2009, but if healthy, I would put him closer to those previous seasons than the latter. Also take note of his regression worthy 8.9% HR/FB which should like be nearly double that figure.
With David DeJesus, and the recently added Scott Podsednik in the mix, it seems that Ankiel will man an outfield position to be named later on most days. This pushes Jose Guillen to the designated hitter spot. Health is a concern, and you never know what the Royals are actually going to do, but I could easily see 20-25 home runs for Ankiel with some opportunties to drive in runs. Remember, it was only two years ago when Guillen drove in 97 runs while hitting .264/.300/.438 for KC. He is worth a shot in an AL only league or a deep mixed league if you're looking for some cheap power and some extra RBI.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 8:27am
Friday, January 22, 2010
Last night I participated in my second mock draft of the offseason (the first was for Rotoworld Magazine) with a good compilation of websites represented. Baseball Digest hosted the draft and Kevin Orris of Fantasy Pros 911, Ivar Anderson of Fantasy Gameday, and our own Troy Patterson were some of the participants. Having the experience of one mock draft behind me, I did find this one much easier to get through so mock drafts certainly are not a complete waste of time if you take them seriously and take something away from each one.
Below is my team listed, and clicking this link should show you the full results of the draft.
Round 1 — Chase Utley
Round 2 — Justin Upton
Round 3 — Felix Hernandez
Round 4 — Roy Halladay
Round 5 — Curtis Granderson
Round 6 — Chone Figgins
Round 7 — Josh Johnson
Round 8 — Joakim Soria
Round 9 — Geovany Soto
Round 10 — Jason Bartlett
Round 11 — Rafael Soriano
Round 12 — Jorge Cantu
Round 13 — Brett Anderson
Round 14 — Frank Francisco
Round 15 — Colby Rasmus
Round 16 — Mark DeRosa
Round 17 — Alcides Escobar
Round 18 — Julio Borbon
Round 19 — Dexter Fowler
Round 20 — James Loney
Round 21 — Matt Thornton
Round 22 — Jesus Flores
Round 23 — Justin Duchscherer
Round 7 — Having taken the dominant duo of King Felix and Halladay in round three and four I thought I would hold off on starting pitching for a little longer, but Josh Johnson was too tempting in the seventh round. I believe he is as good as any pitcher in the league but is misrepresented with his current ADP around 80. If I'm looking for a good SP value in the seventh/eight rounds of drafts Johnson is a good guy to target.
Round 9 — Even though this was a two catcher league, taking Soto here was a mistake. After the elite catchers go, there is a definite middle tier with guys like Russell Martin, Kurt Suzuki, Jorge Posada, and Miguel Montero that start getting taken around pick 100. There is not much to distinguish among these backstops, so I would rather take the catcher that falls through to the 11th/12th round than start the catcher run as I did in this draft with Soto in the ninth round.
Round 13 — The word is out on Brett Anderson and even though his ADP is currently listed as 236 at Mock Draft Central, I believe it will fall below 200 sooner than later. This kid had a tremendous rookie season at age 21 and his sophomore season should be similar, if not better. I had the pleasure of seeing him pitch in person and although I am not a professional scout by any means, for what it's worth I was thoroughly impressed. He mixes his full arsenal of offerings well and was fooling hitters all night, and drawing weak contact when they did connect. If you are looking for someone whose ADP will be higher come next offseason, Anderson is a great bet.
Round 19 — Fowler did not have the greatest of rookie seasons batting .266 with four home runs and 27 steals, though he did do a lot of things well. He has a good all-around fantasy package that makes him my current outfielder of choice in the later rounds of drafts. I got him at pick 220 and his current ADP is 260, so he is a good fourth/fifth outfielder to round out your outfield rotation.
That's all for now. Any more mock drafts I participate in I'll be sure to share my thoughts in a similar post.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:08pm
I know that this isn't exactly big news in the short-term, but for dynasty or keeper leagues, it's worth noting. Oakland Athletics outfield prospect Grant Desme, rated No. 6 on our own Matt Hagen's Top Ten Oakland A's prospect list, has announced that he's leaving baseball to "pursue the priesthood", according to a report by Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
Desme, 23, was coming off of a huge 2009 season, split between Single-A and Single-A advanced, in which he hit .288 with 31 home runs, 68 extra-base hits, 40 steals and an overall "triple-slash" line of .288/.365/.568 in 552 plate appearances. He was regarded as the organization's best outfield prospect before the acquisition of Michael Taylor earlier in the offseason. He was expected to start the season in Double-A, but it now appears that his career as a baseball player is over.
Posted by Satchel Price at 1:37pm
Max Scherzer | Detroit | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.2 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 4.12 ERA
1. Mark Prior 2003: 2.13
2. Jake Peavy 2005: 2.22
3. Frank Tanana 1975: 2.55
4. Jake Peavy 2004: 2.87
5. Pedro Martinez 1996: 2.91
6. Dwight Gooden 1984: 3.01
7. Jim Maloney 1963: 3.16
8. Mark Prior 2005: 3.19
9. Max Scherzer 2009: 3.33
10. Tim Lincecum 2008: 3.33
Strikeouts have been typically higher in recent years, but it's still significant that only 30 times has an ERA qualifier of seasonal age 24 or less posted a K/9 rate of 9.0 or more, and Scherzer's 2009 was the 26th-best. Arguably much more important is that only eight pitchers had lower BB/9 rates than Scherzer among those 30. (see top 10 above)
So, Scherzer is a young pitcher, throws hard, posted a historically significant strikeout rate, and has a great pedigree going back to at least college, when he was regarded as one of the nation's top arms. Why would Arizona even consider trading this guy for Edwin Jackson, whose second-half performance looked remarkably similar to his performances before his “breakout” first-half in 2009? Well, we can be pretty sure it wasn't because he was reading The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, and fangraphs.com (which he reportedly does). “Pitching for FIP” was already trendy for most pitchers before the term was popularized, since it involves striking people out, not walking batters, and keeping the ball down ... and every pitcher knows that K's are $$, and the other two elements any pitching coach reiterates anyway. The only real worry with Scherzer is his “sloppy” delivery, and the thinking by many that he'll end up in the bullpen.
For a one-year fantasy pick, Scherzer should be great. As mentioned last week with Valverde, the Tigers may have lost some defensive ability with their offseason moves, but they still won't be butchers. And the park difference for Scherzer should more-or-less make up for the league shift. Add another year of maturity, and there's little reason to expect anything other than a solid 200-IP season with good strikeout numbers and a very good ERA and WHIP. The Tigers don't have much offense, but with the White Sox apparently trying to collect the guys on the bottom of the WAR rankings, and KC still searching for its first clue, he should log his share of wins. We're not even slightly worried about his delivery. It may increase his chance of breaking down, but all pitchers are fragile, and some guys with suspect deliveries stay consistently healthy, while some guys with picture-perfect deliveries (a la Mark Prior) break down for no apparent reason. The difference in “chance to get injured” for one season is not something which would cause us to worry.
David Aardsma | Seattle | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.1 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.52 ERA
The old saw is that pitching is all about confidence. And few things can inspire confidence in a pitcher like seeing a Grand Canyon-sized ballpark with an outfield patrolled by the likes of Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro. And all but scrapping his breaking pitches and throwing heater after heater (87% of the time, per fangraphs.com, in 2009) worked wonders for him. A lofty flyball percentage of almost 54% kept things exciting, but most of those went to die in the gloves of the rangy outfielders in spacious Safeco.
It's not unheard-of for relievers to become dominant after overcoming control problems in their youth, a la Bobby Jenks and Matt Thorton of the White Sox, or another former Mariner, J.J. Putz. But, there are also plenty of examples of one-year wonders, pitchers like Derrick Turnbow, who posted a career-best 3.2 BB/9 at age 27 (he was over 4.5 BB/9 in the minors), only to revert to his wild ways and succumb to injury woes. Considering that Aardsma was this author's No. 1 “Miss” of the 2009 season, in terms of projecting players, as he was ridiculed with the monicker “BB-rdsma,” it would be easy to assume that he's going to be another Turnbow story. And the fact that he only allowed four HR in all those fly balls (4% of fly balls were homers) does suggest some correction in the stats. But we're not going to sell short the value of confidence here. And defense. And a big ballpark. Look for him to be a solid middle-of-the pack closer again in 2009.
David Price | Tampa Bay | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.2 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.42 ERA
Similarly to Matt Wieters, there was probably no way David Price could have lived up to his hype. But how do we evaluate him now? The (primarily or wholly) formulaic forecasting done by various sources such as BIS (The Bill James Handbook, CHONE, Marcel, and GP) all seem to indicate that WYSIWYG—a pitcher with an ERA around 4.5 or just under (his xFIP was 4.49 in 2009). But the “Fans” polling at FG suggests a reasonably dramatic improvement in 2010, to an ERA of well under 4.0.
When I began writing this, I assumed that Price had seen tougher-than-average competition in 2009. But it turns out it was even tougher than I'd guessed. The first query I did on the BP “Pitcher Quality of Opposition” was with 120 IP minimum, and he's tops on that list, with an average opponent OPS of .776 in 2009. And there were 108 such pitchers in MLB, going all the way down to a .707 mark against. Also, his second half was far better than his first half, when he was—essentially—just getting his feet wet in the majors. In the second half, his batting line against was a very good .241/.296/.380. Not to jump to any conclusions, but that's a lot better batting line than fellow lefty and Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee sports for his career. And Lee's frequently been near the bottom of the AL Quality of opposition listings (during his AL seasons, of course).
The last two “linked” fangraphs.com stories about Mr. Price (August and September) talk about “missing groundballs” and “missing sliders,” but this is a guy who held his own in baseball's toughest division in his rookie season, and showed development over the year. His velocity on his fastball averaged almost 93 mph. For fantasy purposes, the quality of opposition won't get any easier, especially with some noted RH bats who hit lefties joining the division in Beltre, Cameron, and Atkins. Now, we were the first to roll our eyes at the over-hype status Price had, but we see him as a great candidate to “break out,” even with the adverse setting. He'll probably be better to own in a simulation-game context, one which adjusts for things like opposition strength, ballparks, etc. And we're not suggesting he'll be a No. 1 or even No. 2 fantasy starter for a team trying to compete in all 10 categories, but he could be a good No. 3, and in some leagues he won't be “priced” as such (no pun intended), due to his “disappointing” 2009.
Neftali Feliz | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 11.3 K/9, 4.9 K/BB, 1.74 ERA
GP 2010 starts off about Feliz, “He is the greatest thing ever. No, really.” At the risk of falling into the same “trap” as people did with David Price a year ago, Feliz really has shown enough to be considered among the best pitchers in baseball already, and he'll be just 21 on opening day! Now, extrapolating “he's the best” to fantasy results is more problematic. He went backward in innings in 2009 missing some time with a minor injury and logging just 108 IP after 127 IP the year before. And don't expect the Rangers to take chances—if he adds 40 innings in 2010, it would be a shock; a total under 140 is more likely. And some more bullpen time is a possibility, though the organization will give him every opportunity to be a rotation anchor instead. Anyway, while he really is awesome (without cheapening the word), it's very possible that he won't be a pitcher to target in a 2010 fantasy draft. It will all depend on how others view him.
Billy Butler | Kansas City | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .301/.362/.492
Few things are more rewarding for an organization than seeing a highly regarded first-round pick round his game into shape and become a star. Many of the game's best hitters entered the draft out of high school, and were known to have a high likelihood of being middle-of-order hitters even at such a young age. Butler was one such player, and that he fell to 14th in the 2004 draft is a symptom of ever-present concerns over his defense. But hit he can, and he'll be just 24 in 2010. His second-half stats were particularly good, as he raked at a .314/.385/.540 clip.
The reports out of KC were that Butler was becoming a much better fielder this year at first base, but his +/- and UZR show a slight decline, though there wasn't much data before 2009. First base defense is very tricky to measure, so we're going to assume that the “lyin' eyes” reports are at least as valid in this case, especially since the sample size isn't huge nor does his defense rate out as being horrible (just below average at -7 runs/150). Whatever it is, he's entrenched at 1B, as the organization believes he's fine there and there really isn't anyone else (yes, we know that Kila Ka'aihue is rotting away in Triple-A like some leftovers from a great restaurant that Dayton Moore forgot he had in the fridge). If the Royals didn't have the idea that “upgrades” including Yunieski Betancourt, Scott Podsednick, Josh Fields, and Chris Getz were what they needed, it would be easier to get excited about Butler. But, playing in obscurity, he may come cheaply on draft day; just remember that he won't get the runs or RBI of a player on a better team, even if he hits .310 with 30 HR, which is distinctly possible for him.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Dan Uggla | Florida | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .243/.354/.459
Florida had dangled Uggla most of the winter, knowing that he would soon be too expensive for them, but they didn't get any takers and refused to trade him just to get rid of him. This was a wise decision, though it left them facing arbitration, which they escaped by signing him to a one-year, $7.8 million deal this last week. This doesn't make him a Marlin forever, or even for 2010, as Florida is expected to continue shopping him around—now, however, the other team at least knows how much it might hurt their payroll to take on the Sluggin' Ugg.
2009 was more ugh than slug for Uggie, at least in the first half, when his .768 OPS and .429 SLG were his worst half-season performances in his four-year career. He redeemed himself somewhat with an .867 OPS and .496 SLG in the second half, but some owners might have given up on him by then.
The resulting season was actually good for a 2B: his third straight season of 30+ HRs and around 90/90 in R and RBI. It ranked him third behind Chase Utley and Brandon Phillips among full-time NL 2B, though the $11 return in mixed leagues was likely far less than some owners paid. But forward-looking owners, particularly in keeper leagues, have to wonder if that first-half skid was a brief bad patch or signs of an impending collapse.
Uggla is a very streaky hitter; his OPS can fluctuate month-to-month by as much as 600 points, as it did between May and July in 2008, though 2009 was much steadier, with a mere 200-point shift from the first two months of the season and August. That's to be expected from a hitter whose contact rate has been at or below 74% in the past three years—2008 saw him plummet to a career-low 68%.
What has helped Uggla has been his improved plate discipline, evidenced by the rising walk rate you see in his mini-browser. That gives him extra value in OBP leagues, and could portend a similar improvement in his K%, which has stuck in the low 20s. If he did, that would undoubtedly mean cutting back on his all-or-nothing swing, which would diminish his calling-card power.
So take that BA tradeoff for the HRs it brings, and sit tight if Uggla looks uggly again early on in 2010. If you've owned him before, you know it's a rough ride, and patience is the watchword. Owners who have stuck with him have been rewarded with the roto values you see in the mini-browser.
In 2010, Uggla's fate may further be affected by the team he's with; there were rumbles of shifting him off 2B into the OF, and if he's traded to a new team, they could make the same move. His value is a lot less if he's not a MIF, so 2010 could see another sharp downward shift in his value as measured by position qualification.
Keep that sentiment in mind, too, since other owners in your league might have been turned off by his up-and-down 2009, and you could find some value in their reluctance, as long as you also remember the $14 GP projection. He might earn you a few more dollars, since a hot streak is as likely as a cold one for a guy like this, but he's not going to blow the roof off, either. Look for value and a slight rebound, but don't bust the budget on him, either.
Todd Helton | Colorado | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .325/.416/.489
Reports of Helton's demise were greatly exaggerated. After a 2008 in which he dropped below .400 in OBP for the first time since the last century and below .400 in SLG for the first time in his MLB career, people figured age had finally caught up with the 34-year-old. Yeah, right. In 2009, Helton answered those critics by rebounding nicely, pushing him above a .900 OPS and into 26th in the NL in roto value.
But for all that, he's not the power hitter he once was. His SLG was his third-lowest since his rookie year, and he hasn't been north of .500 in that department since 2005. That's because he no longer hits more than 40% fly balls, and doesn't turn more than 10% of them into home runs—those haven't happened since '06 and '05, respectively. His walk rate has trended downward, too, with 13.8% also his lowest rate since '99 (though how many free-swingers would kill for a "career low" like that?).
And of course, his back was healthy last season, something that bothered him all of 2008, if not before that. The mini-browser shows the effect that had on his hit and contact rates, both of which returned to career norms in 2009; he seems to be healthy again. Backs are troublesome things, especially with increasing age, so those problems could recur, and there's no way to predict that.
Otherwise, Helton's skill set is as solid as ever: a BB/K ratio consistently above 1.2 for the past six years (and a none-too-shabby 1.03 before that), a line-drive rate averaging around 25%, and a career contact rate of 88% (91% on pitches in the strike zone). Helton's due to slowly slip into the West over the next several years, but he's under contract to the Rockies through 2012, and it seems a crime to imagine him anywhere else.
He'll hopefully play in a Colorado jersey for as long as he wants to, and he should have a similarly open door on your fantasy team. Colorado's 2010 lineup should be as productive as the 2009 version, when it was the second-best in the NL, putting ducks on the pond for him to drive in. Depending on your league, his diminished power makes him better as a CIF than a starting 1B, but fewer guys in the league are a better bet to bolster your BA while still contributing in R and RBI.
His days as a top-25 roto producer are gone, as his GP projection indicates, so don't overbid on days gone by. Think of him as a municipal bond from Omaha: perhaps a bit boring because of the modest returns, but those returns are virtually guaranteed (barring acts of God), limiting your exposure, so long as you don't sink your whole budget into him.
Tommy Hanson | Atlanta | SP
2009 Final Stats: 8.2 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 2.89 ERA
Hanson's arrival was one of the most-anticipated debuts on the planet, and he didn't disappoint. His first outing—a six-ER, three-HR shelling at the hands of the Brewers—was his worst showing of the season, and he rebounded to win his next four starts, not giving up a run in three of them and holding his opponents to a .217 BA. Amazingly, despite his late June 7 debut, he ranked 25th in roto production among NL pitchers. The Age of Hanson has arrived.
So why the pessimistic GP projection? For one thing, the GP scoring system looks for performance and consistency at the major league level, and (in John Burnson's words) is "doubtful of distinguished performance from newcomers, and from players with only one MLB season. ... These players are often inadequately tested, and those who post impressive debuts often have luck to credit more than skills."
Really? From Hanson, rated Atlanta's top prospect by Baseball America, and in anyone's Top 25 at the start of 2009? Rob McQuown on the AL side says that he's heard Hanson called more valuable than Roy Halladay, and bound for a better career than Dave Stieb, one of the best pitchers of the 1980's. Well, don't believe the hype—or not yet, anyway.
For starters, you can look at his 3.94 xFIP, showing that he wasn't pitching nearly as well as his ERA indicates. Digging a little deeper, his 3.2 BB/9 is outside the acceptable range, while the .280 BABIP and 7% HR/FB indicate a fair amount of luck there. An 80 LOB% might be the best indicator of luck; starters with a rate this high tend to lose more than a run of ERA in the succeeding years.
Unlike Randy Wells and J.A. Happ, both of whom benefited from a fair dose of luck (and elevated LOB%) in 2009, Hanson has the skills to do well in spite of this. He's got four plus pitches, including an excellent fastball and slider, and keeps the ball down, meaning his HR/9 should always stay a little low. But the walk rate is still troubling, and that luck's going to even out. GP might be a bit too pessimistic, but every projection I've seen pushes his ERA well north of 3, and most have his WHIP above 1.2.
The defense behind him will be mostly the same in 2010, with Melky Cabrera (-1.6 UZR in 2009) an upgrade in LF over a leadfooted Garret Anderson (-11.8 UZR), while Troy Glaus will still be learning a new position at 1B, and a probable downgrade from the Casey Kotchman/Adam LaRoche that combined for a 4.5 UZR last season.
Obviously keeper owners will want to ride out the correction, but redraft owners can let others overpay for Hanson's 2009 numbers. He's solid, he'll pick up Ks and deliver a good ERA, but I'd be surprised if he was in the top 25 of NL roto producers in 2010. Sophomore slumps are cliches for a reason, and you should expect one from Hanson.
Adam LaRoche | Arizona | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .277/.355/.488
Caught between the Diamondbacks and the Giants, LaRoche chose the Snakes, landing on his fourth team in three years. That six-game hiatus in Boston seems unfair to count, just as this peripatetic itinerary seems unfair to a guy who's hit .274/.348/.494 in that spell, averaging 25 HRs and 84 RBI.
Those aren't amazing numbers, especially after his 2006 season, when he clubbed .915 OPS, with 38 2Bs, 32 HRs and 90 RBI, but they're still awfully solid. Only his position makes him seem so expendable, along with his performance since that '06 peak. He hasn't crested 30 HRs since then (his best was just 25), though the doubles have kept coming (he's averaged 37). In many ways, LaRoche seems like a guy who's never gotten his props, and teams playing Hot Potato with him haven't helped his development and confidence, either.
Neither has his inconsistency: LaRoche is the poster boy for slow starters. He improves his career OPS 130 points in the second half, while rising steadily from a .660 in March and April to a peak of .933 in August. As often happens in statistics, the arc isn't that smooth year-to-year: 2009 saw him start out with an un-LaRoche-like .916 OPS in the seasons' first two months before plunging to .502 in July (when he bounced from Pittsburgh to Boston to Atlanta). It was tough sledding, and his inconsistency is no doubt both cause and effect of his life as a human pinball. That's also why owning him requires a Zen-like patience in the early months of the season, when it seems so tempting to swap him for the fantasy equivalent of a bag of practice baseballs.
What's odd about LaRoche's bipolar tendencies is that his underlying skills have remained steady—the "Skills" section in his mini-browser shows remarkable consistency in his CT% and BB%, while his 38 H% in 2006 is part of the story behind that spike. The other part of the story is his HR rate, which was 21% in 2006, about 6% better than his usual season; that coincided with his first season of hitting more than 40% fly balls to drive up Atlanta's hopes for future returns. Instead, he's cruised along at a FB% in the 40-43 range since then, explaining his 20-25 HR output.
Luck—or at least the appearance of it—can also explain his slow start. Along with the OBP splits above, his career BABIP also rises steadily month to month, from .243 in the first month of the season to .362 in the last month. BABIP isn't entirely a measurement of luck; it also measures hit trajectory, since line drives are going to fall for hits more often than any other trajectory. So you might believe that LaRoche get luckier as the season goes along (in which case he'd better be buying bushels of Powerball tickets in September), but the more likely explanation is that he takes a while to get going over the season, hitting the ball harder with each successive month.
Now that he's with the Diamondbacks, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that he's in power-friendly Chase Field, which could stretch some of those doubles into dingers. A new start with a team lacking a 1B standout in the minors could give him the jolt of confidence he needs. LaRoche's signing led almost immediately to a DFA for Eric Byrnes, indicative of Arizona's commitment to LaRoche, at least initially. Adjusting to a new team is clearly not a problem with LaRoche, and hitting coach Jack Howell and bench coach Kirk Gibson might help him to a hot start.
The bad news: he'll probably hit fifth, providing protection for the whifftastic Mark Reynolds, who could cut down on his RBI opportunities. And while the Diamondbacks don't have a clear-cut first sacker breathing down LaRoche's neck, they do have other options. Conor Jackson, who should be at full strength in 2010, is expected to shift to LF, but he can still play both positions, and Gerardo Parra could push him for playing time in the outfield. Brandon Allen is Arizona's 1B backup plan—if he can bring his batting eye up to par with his power, he could also keep the pressure on LaRoche.
The key here will be the patience of A.J. Hinch with LaRoche's inevitable slow start, as well as the performance of Allen, Parra, and CoJack. Hinch showed in 2009 that he was willing to promote young players over struggling veterans, and he liked running out different lineups. LaRoche, with a .200 OPS split against righties, could slide into a platoon rotation with Jackson, or wind up in the familiar role of trade bait for another team.
Fantasy owners can bet that LaRoche will eventually reach the numbers in his GP projection, assuming he is in both Arizona and in their (and your) starting lineup. He's a classic trade target to grab from impatient owners, or to wait and see if he hits the waiver wire in April. If you do take him for 2010, you should have a backup plan for the first few months of the season—or a good Zen mantra to keep your blood pressure down.
Drew Stubbs | Cincinnati | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.323/.439
Losing Jay Bruce to a wrist injury brought the first rumbles that the Reds' CF Of The Future would be called up from Triple-A, but it wasn't until Willy Taveras went down a month later that Stubbs made it to the bigs. When he did, people wondered what took the Reds so long: Stubbs cranked eight dingers in 196 PAs (after just three in 472 Triple-A PAs in 2009), swiped 10 bags and added a 7.6 UZR in just 42 games.
Going into 2010, the Reds CF Of The Future seems to be their CF Of The Present. With no real competition from above (only Dusty Baker could ever see Taveras as an obstacle to Stubbs' advancement) or below (the other young CF prospect, Chris Dickerson, is likely slotted into LF and has had problems staying healthy), the job should be his in spring training and beyond. But his 2009 performance is a great example of small sample size, since some of those trends aren't likely to be sustainable.
Stubbs has decent power potential, but it's not the jaw-dropping kind brought by fellow Reds prospect Juan Francisco, or even the relatively (next to Francisco) modest power of Bruce. Stubbs makes good contact and has excellent speed, so those 94 doubles (and 16 triples) in the minors come as much from his feet as his hands. The .480 SLG he posted in limited time (84 PAs) at Triple-A at the end of 2008 evaporated upon more prolonged exposure in 2009—he hit only one more Triple-A homer in 2009 in 472 PAs.
The same is likely going to happen to his homers in 2010. He's got the bat speed and the ability to make solid contact that will eventually translate into home runs, but those are a year or two away. Consistent contact is more of an issue with Stubbs. The one aspect of his minor-league career that did show itself in last year's debut was his strikeout rate: his 27.2 K% with the Reds is almost exactly in line with his 27.3% in the minors.
That K rate has improved each year of his development thus far, so it should continue to do so in the majors, but it's not going to happen overnight. That means the BA is going to suffer, which will probably always be the case with him. GP doesn't see much for him in 2010 in either BA or power, with a level of freshman pessimism similar to that expressed with Hanson above.
But note that all of the projections on Fangraphs except Marcel concur with GP's modest power projections, and only Bill James sees him with category-sealing SB numbers. Still, speed, as they say, never slumps, and Stubbs should steal bases—as long as he can get there in the first place. And as long as he's got the playing time, which is a big factor in that GP projection.
Shawn Weaver, GP's Cincinnati writer, has split the CF time among Stubbs, Dickerson, and Taveras, which may certainly happen if Baker continues to favor veterans (particularly punchless ones like Taveras, still signed at $4M through 2010) or if Stubbs struggles. The other wild card is Francisco, who will be shifting to LF in Triple-A after Rolen's two-year extension. Though he's got farther to go than Stubbs in development, and shows even worse strikeout tendencies, it's possible that Francisco pushes Dickerson to CF and a struggling Stubbs to the bench, or even Triple-A.
There's a lot of moving parts here, and banking on a high-strikeout kid isn't the best way to spend your budget. If he snags the full-time job and keeps mashing, he'll beat that GP projection easily, particularly the roto dollar number. But he is much more likely to struggle, which could cut into his counting stats significantly. His speed and potential makes him a worthy gamble, especially in keeper leagues, but restrain yourself and let someone else overbid on that 196-PA sample.
For more of this kind of statistical knowledge and team commentary, grab your copy of Graphical Player 2010 today!
And leave any player suggestions in the comments field below. Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month!
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, January 21, 2010
After losing their ace, John Lackey, the Los Angeles Angels filled their empty rotation spot with Joel Pineiro on relatively fair contract worth two-years and $16 million dollars. Pineiro, coming off one of the best years of his career, posted double digits wins for the first time 2003. His win total of 15, as well as his 3.49 ERA, was the second best of his career, and by far the best numbers we've seen from the right-hander since his Seattle Mariner days.
His ERA was nearly in line with his 3.68 xFIP, but LIPS ERA had him about 4.0 in 2009. Under the tutelage of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, a known proponent of the ground ball, Pineiro saw his GB% shoot up over 60% last season. That said, if you are expecting bigger and better things from Pineiro next season, you are likely to be disappointed.
He is moving from the NL Central to the AL West. This means he is trading games against the Astros and Pirates for games against the Rangers and highly improved Mariners. The home ball park factor change is rather neutral and his ground ball tendencies actually match up well with the Angels middle infield group of Erick Aybar, Mazier Izturis and Howie Kendrick. Despite the upgrade in defense, there are a few things working against Pineiro moving forward.
Of qualified starters, Pineiro's 4.42 K/9 was third worst in the Major Leagues. His contact rate was nearly 88% and he induced a swinging strike less than 6% of the time. On the other hand, his walk rate was excellent as he handed out just 27 passes in 214 innings, but a 1.14 BB/9 is unlikely in 2010.
Thanks to his new found love for sinkers, Pineiro was able to keep the ball in the yard at an impressive clip (0.46 per nine); however, that may be a little too impressive. His HR/FB rate was just 6.5% which is nearly five percent under his career average; that number is due for some regression. Looking at his batted ball data, his .297 BABIP might be a tad low for all the ground balls, but certainly not something that stands out as a fluke. In addition to his BABIP, his LOB% might regress, but only slightly.
Unimpressive K rates and a regression-likely home run rate are not encouraging things when you factor in the move from NL to AL. Nonetheless, Pineiro is still a decent option for fantasy players. He is relatively healthy and surpassed 200 innings last year. His ground ball ability and the Angels middle infield seem to be a good marriage of talents. He should post double digit wins, and keep the walks to a minimum, but the low strikeout total is a turnoff and the likely home run correction is a bit of a concern.
Posted by Tommy Rancel at 7:30pm
In case you missed it, today we unveiled four terrific new writers for our revamped Buy On The Rumor blog. To get things started, I'll point out a few things from the past few weeks that I found particularly noteworthy. (Note that all quotes come from MLB Trade Rumors).
Brian Bruney told Bill Ladson of MLB.com that he wants to close for the Nationals in 2010. Bruney will have to compete with newly acquired Matt Capps for the role.
Bruney wants to close, and so does Eddie Guardado. Despite whatever perceived question marks surround Capps, it would be foolish to let Bruney or Guardado compete with him for the job, much less take it from him. Despite this, it does appear that Capps will have to compete for the job, but I'd draft him with relative confidence. Even if someone else comes out of Spring Training with the job, it shouldn't last long.
The Pirates inched closer to an agreement with [Octavio] Dotel last night...
With Capps gone they don't have a clear closer, and Dotel would receive a serious boost from this signing, which seems imminent. One guy who has received almost no play this off-season, though, has been Joel Hanrahan. His unlucky 2009 and public perception don't meet his skill level. A potential late-round steal if the Pirates don't end up signing a Dotel and still worth owning in some leagues even if they do — Dotel is far from a sure bet to stay healthy.
The Orioles need help at the infield corners, and they've contacted the agents for a long list of free agents: Carlos Delgado, Hank Blalock, Joe Crede, Nick Johnson, Ryan Garko, Garrett Atkins, and Mike Jacobs.
They ended up signing Atkins, but the fact that they were in talks with so many other CIs and that they're looking for yet another CI shows that they're probably not ready to give prospect Josh Bell playing time to start 2010, as some thought could be the case at one point. A mid-year call-up looks like the best case scenario, though without any time at Triple-A, we may be waiting until 2011 to see him.
Ed Price of AOL FanHouse... reports that the Angels are telling people there's a significant chance they deal an infielder, likely [Maicer] Izturis. Price says Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood sound "untouchable."
Am I the only one who finds this a little strange? Untouchable? Really? The Angels have had so many chances to give Wood a serious look over the years and they constantly bypass him. It might be that they just don't like his particular skillset, but I'm going to be wary of drafting him unless the Angels make a lot of room and make it clear that he's their guy. Then again, they've held onto him for this long, so they must like something about him.
[Ben] Sheets topped out at 92 mph on Tuesday...
A lot is being made of Sheets's encouraging throwing session, but 92 doesn't sound all that impressive to me (and some sources say it was 91). He usually averages over 93, so topping out at 92 means he was probably averaging around 90. It's still January, but since 2002, his lowest average speed was 91.7 in 2003 (when his K/9 was just 6.4). Add in his rising BB/9 over the past couple years (not to mention the declining K/9) and Sheets looks like an AL or NL-only pick to me, at least for right now.
The A's acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Sogard from the Padres for Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham.
Bad news for Dallas McPherson, a sleeper favorite of mine. And given the re-signing of Jack Cust as well, it also isn't great news for Jake Fox, who is probably looking at part-time at-bats, at best.
Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets that Valverde has offers from the Tigers, Cardinals, and one other team.
He signed with the Tigers (bad news for Joel Zumaya, who was never really a good fantasy option anyway), but the fact that the Cardinals were in on him is interesting. Ryan Franklin really doesn't have the skills of a closer, and he's not one of the better bets to last the year. Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan are two guys to keep an eye on.
Brown says the Tigers and D'Backs "are in" [on Valverde], so they've presumably made two of the offers.
Also interesting that the D'Backs were in on him. Chad Qualls is plenty good enough to close, but the D'Backs don't seem entirely convinced. Their name has been floated around, albeit quietly, in closer talks this winter. I'd have no problem drafting Qualls, but his margin for error might be a little smaller than other closers. Given the choice between him and an equally-talented closer, I'll take the other guy.
Posted by Derek Carty at 11:53am
Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates and free agent reliever Octavio Dotel agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal, adding a veteran power arm to the team's inexperienced bullpen. Given that the Pirates non-tendered incumbent closer Matt Capps earlier in the offseason, it seems likely that Dotel will be Pittsburgh's closer next season, given the lack of experienced alternatives.
Over the years, Dotel hasn't changed much as a pitcher, in spite of numerous injuries during the middle part of the decade. He's always been a fastball/slider pitcher, using the two pitches to put up monster strikeout rates, but he's had issues over the years with his control and keeping the ball on the ground. After three injury-plagued seasons during which he bounced around with four different teams, Dotel signed a two-year deal with the White Sox before the 2008 season, and managed to stay healthy enough to pitch over 60 innings in each season. His fastball velocity has declined over the years, and while he still gets good movement on it, it's no longer the elite pitch that it was during his prime.
Dotel showed some clear signs of decline in 2009, though, which are certainly worth noting. In 2008, he posted the fourth lowest contact rate among pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched, but last season he fell to 28th among the same group of players. His walk rate, fly ball rate and line drive rate all went up a solid amount in 2009, while he saw drops in his strikeout rate (not surprising given the increase in contact allowed) and fastball run value (according to FanGraphs' pitch values). There weren't any major apparent changes to his stuff, at least according to Pitch F/X data, but realistically the only reason that Dotel's ERA improved from 2008 to 2009 was good luck, as his HR/FB decreased substantially and his strand rate increased by nearly five percent.
Doc Oct isn't exactly one of the best relievers in the game, but his strikeout rate was ninth in the majors among pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched, and there's little reason to expect any regression there, as his 10.83 strikeouts per 9 innings in 2009 was actually below his career mark, and down from the 12+ marks that he posted in 2007 and 2008. Dotel is likely to see some regression in his ERA from last season, his 4.08 LIPS ERA indicates that he was a bit lucky with balls in play last season, but moving from a hitter's park in the AL to a neutral park in the NL should definitely help to offset some that.
Presuming that Dotel gets the closer job, which is almost a certainty at this point, he could very well be capable of providing 30-35 saves, and a healthy number of strikeouts, making him a potential bargain for both fantasy players and the Pirates alike, when you consider that guys like Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon are getting multi-year deals worth $5 million or more annually.
Posted by Satchel Price at 10:32am
Sorry the comments were off on my article on Monday. I didn't realize until now. Anyway, they're back on now if you guys would like to head back over there and discuss anything. There's also some good stuff over at The Book Blog about it.
Posted by Derek Carty at 6:24am
1. Yonder Alonso / 1B / Alonso does a lot of the little, overlooked things that you expect in a future star. But his questionable home run power leaves me wondering how bright his star can be. He has a great shot to be an above-average first baseman, however, and still possesses strong upside.
2. Mike Leake / SP / Leake's game is all about mixing his pitches to keep hitters off balance and using his sharp movement and command to his advantage. He doesn't look like much, but he is a future No. 2 starter who should move quickly.
3. Aroldis Chapman / SP / Chapman gets immense hype with his plus fastball and advanced repertoire, but I have come away unimpressed after nearly every video I have seen of him. His command is awful at times and he gives off an immature vibe. And, remember, he is 21, not 17. The upside is undeniable, but he needs to grow up fast before I buy in.
4. Juan Francisco / 3B / Francisco carries a big stick to the ballpark, including legit above-average power potential for a third baseman. His athleticism has evened out at higher levels and his approach at the plate still needs a lot of work, but he continues to improve year after year.
5. Travis Wood / SP / I got caught up in Woods' 2009 numbers, and, as a result, he is turning into the biggest over-rank on my current top-100 list. I have had an entire offseason to re-evaluate the list. Expect him to drop from the top 100 when my next update is released, but his control took a giant leap forward last year and his change-up is a true plus offering.
6. Todd Frazier / OF / Frazier's gap power is impressive, and he uses his above-average speed very well when stretching singles into doubles. I question how far his home run power and base-stealing ability will carry him in the majors. He seems like an ordinary, average outfielder unless his home run power takes off.
7. Chris Heisey / OF / From a current skills and performance perspective, Heisey is a very similar prospect to Frazier. Heisey is nearing his prime, however, and doesn't have much upside left. I think we're looking at a prime of a .270 batting average and 15-20 home runs.
8. Matt Maloney / SP / Maloney continues to perform well level after level and has nothing left to prove in the minors. He has a nice repertoire but below-average velocity to work with. He should settle in nicely as a positive back-of-the-rotation presence.
9. Devin Mesoraco / C / Mesoraco's athleticism has petered out as his body has filled out and he has adjusted to full-time catching. He has some power and plate discipline, but his bat has holes and, even though the journey of a high school catcher adjusting to pro ball is a long one, his bat has taken longer to develop than expected. His injury history is concerning as well. He's still one to watch, but his stock continues to fade.
10. Brad Boxberger / SP/RP / Boxberger's command is a head-scratcher of a question mark, as one expects college players to have more polish. It's hard to tell whether his future lies in the rotation or out of the bullpen, but Boxberger has a strong three-pitch mix that will aid him as he feels out his role.
1. Pedro Alvarez / 3B/1B / Alvarez has the makeup of a middle-of-the-order mainstay, warts and all. His power potential is through the roof, and he's patient enough at the plate to make it work in the majors. Like most big league sluggers, though, he has contact issues at times. So, we're not dealing with the next Pujols here. His defensive position has turned into a question mark, although I think he can be average defensively at third base.
2. Tim Alderson / SP / With his peripheral numbers struggling as he ascends the minor league ladder, maybe I promote Alderson a bit too much. But he is just 21 years old, has a great frame and, despite lacking ace stuff, has the makeup of a No. 2 starter.
3. Tony Sanchez / C / Make no mistake, Sanchez was an overdraft at No. 4 overall in the 2009 draft. But his initial numbers have been very impressive, and he has the skills necessary, both at the plate and behind it, to be an above-average big league catcher.
4. Brad Lincoln / SP / Lincoln may finally be all the way back from his injury-plagued beginnings. He features a terrific fastball/curveball blend with improving command. Expect him to nail down a full-time big league rotational spot at some point in 2010.
5. Robbie Grossman / OF / Grossman is a five-tool talent, and his 2009 Sally League performance gave us glimpses. His speed is an asset, his power isn't much now but has legitimate upside judging by his swing, and his patience is advanced. Holding him back, though, are the massive holes in his swing, which are even more concerning when you consider the lack of power he produced in 2009.
6. Brett Lorin / SP / Lorin has a mammoth presence on the mound and a plus curveball to back it up. At 22 years old in 2009 he didn't advance beyond Single-A, however. Is something holding him back? I don't see a reason why he shouldn't be put to the test in 2010.
7. Jose Tabata / OF / Am I the only one that is no longer impressed with Tabata's upside? His Arizona Fall League performance was tremendous, but his home run power and base-stealing ability are ho-hum. Plus, I'm really starting to question whether he has the plate discipline for the big leagues.
8. Victor Black / SP/RP / Black's slider has the makings of a plus offering to go with his mid-90s fastball. His command and endurance are two huge question marks on his resume, however. Pittsburgh will give him every opportunity to start.
9. Brooks Pounders / SP / For a high schooler, Pounders has a tremendously advanced arsenal at his disposal. He doesn't have much velocity, and may never have anything more than average velocity when all is said and done, but he has the potential for a great change-up and plus command.
10. Daniel McCutchen / SP / Pittsburgh has put together a deep system, as Starling Marte and Rudy Owens were tough cuts to make. I have been a McCutchen fan for a few years now and felt obligated to include him, despite his advanced age. He has nothing left to prove and has the look of a strong back-of-the-rotation starter.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am
Hey everyone. I've got some exciting news today as we announce a refreshed version of our Buy On The Rumor blog and introduce four new writers into the THTF mix.
When we first introduced our Buy On The Rumor blog, I said that much of what we offer at THTF comes in the way of theory or strategy or even player analysis, but when Marlon Byrd signs with the Cubs, we don't currently have a medium to convey our thoughts about it. The idea behind Buy On The Rumor was to provide this medium, to provide a way for us to get across succinct analysis about today's developments in the world of baseball. It would allow us to communicate with you quickly, in an easily accessible format, and provide THTF's insights into current events. As you've probably noticed, though, BOTR hasn't been very lively this off-season, but that's about to change.
Today, I'm proud to introduce four great new writers to the THT Fantasy team. These four writers will frequent our Buy On The Rumor, posting their thoughts on player transactions and rumors and whatever else they feel is important. In no particular order, let me introduce you to the new BOTR team:
As always, if any readers have any comments, thoughts, or suggestions, don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail. We're here to provide you with the things you want, and we can only guess at what those things are unless you let us know directly.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:00am
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This is Part 2 of my Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame trilogy. The ground rules have been laid out in Part 1, so let’s jump right into it.
Class of 2001
Andy Van Slyke
Five inductees in this class sets a new single season high.
Dave Winfield is a shoo-in. Although relatively “boring,” his run was unquestionably great. He provided above-average batting averages and appeared regularly in the league leaders in homers, RBI, and runs. Sometimes he contributed useful steals totals to boot. Despite his peak beginning before 1980, he kept up this elite level of production for a good dozen FBHOF-eligible seasons. Frankly, it mystifies me how many fans see him as a “compiler.” Winfield was an absolutely elite baseball player, and one of the most remarkable athletes of his generation; he was drafted by the NFL and NBA in addition to MLB.
Kirby Puckett was a batting average monster who usually offered very helpful homer, RBI and runs totals. He had three absolutely awesome fantasy seasons; ’86, ’88, and ’92. From ’86 through ’95, he was probably at home in the top 30 or so fantasy players, even in his less impressive seasons. That’s enough of a balance of peak and career value to earn my nod.
Donnie Baseball really tests my stated preference for peak in this exercise. His fantasy career is nearly unworthy of mention outside of ’84 – ’89, aside from two roster-worthy campaigns in ’92 and ’93. His run from ’84 – ’87 was pretty amazing though, and while there were other legitimate power producing corners, few also hit over .330 over a four-year stretch. A four-year run as a probable first-round player is enough to earn my vote.
Dave Stewart had four really noteworthy seasons, punctuated by his averaging 21 wins per season over that span. He was also a horse, racking up 260-plus innings a year throughout that run. Unfortunately, his strikeout totals and ERA marks over that same stretch were good, but not outstanding. He had very little outside of those seasons to fill out his resume. He gets a thumbs down, but a tip of my cap.
Lou Whitaker is one who, like Willie Randolph, has more Hall of Fame support than many realize. For me, he just misses the cut in a pretty strong class. He produced very good run totals and some very respectable homer totals for a middle infielder of his era. He rarely accrued meaningful stolen base totals and was basically batting average neutral. Though the skill sets are different, I would guess that his value in his era was similar to that of Brian Roberts in his. He is something of a tough omission for me.
Kirk Gibson was basically the Bobby Abreu of his era, quiet, unsexy, and just super valuable. He was good for very good run totals, an above average batting average, 80 – 100 RBIs, and 50 – 60 combined homers and steals every year for five seasons. While a balanced set of skills is less valuable than it is normally thought to be in actual baseball, five-category contributors are gold in fantasy baseball. I can see that a quick glance at his numbers might provoke debate with my choice here, but I’m willing to wager that those who played fantasy baseball in Gibson’s heyday will rush to defend this choice.
Before looking at his numbers, I thought I’d support Parrish. Surprisingly, when I did, my opinion soured. He was a great source of dingers at a thin position, but his other counting totals weren’t much more than good and he was semi-regularly a batting average liability.
Tom Henke gets my vote. Henke got his career started a bit before closers with gaudy numbers became ubiquitous. He posted high saves totals along with elite rate stats, and struck out batters like it was going out of style for eight consecutive seasons.
HoJo falls short for me. To get in on a stretch of five or six years, they really have to be amazing. Johnson did have two absolutely fantastic seasons in ’89 and ’91, but that wasn’t enough to tip the scales for me.
Class of 2002
Following 2001’s record-setting election, 2002 pitches a shutout.
I’m actually going to go out on a limb here and not vote for Andre Dawson. He was basically done as a difference-making basestealer by 1983. His putrid on-base skills resulted in unimpressive runs totals. He also eclipsed 25 homers three times after ’83.
I thought Trammell would earn my vote as well. But upon looking at the numbers, I’m not biting. Trammell had an absolutely sensational season in 1987, and probably a second-round season in ’86. Otherwise, he probably has no Top 25 seasons to speak of.
Class of 2003
The class of 2003 offers two inductees as well as some players who didn’t earn my vote, but are worthy of careful consideration.
Steady Eddie Murray was a force in Major League Baseball for more than 15 seasons. He was also somewhat surly and menacing looking and black, this is presumably relevant to people like Dan Shaughnessy who concludes, contrary to what empiricism would dictate, that Murray and Rice were better and more feared hitters than Edgar Martinez. Really, there’s nothing much to say about Murray, so I figured I’d use the space to attack a Boston charlatan whose goal is to promulgate absurd sports-related notions with the intent to provoke discussion and dissent, thereby increasing his own popularity through hyperbole and sensationalism as opposed to the more conventional and honorable approach of dedication to mastering one’s craft.
Who were we talking about again? Ah, yes. Eddie Murray. Here’s my favorite tidbit on Murray. In what almost appears an attempt to caricature his own consistency of excellence, from ’81 – ’84, he posted the exact same 156 OPS+. Mr. Murray, please stroll leisurely and unobstructed into your spot in the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame.
There’s also not that much to say about Ryne Sandberg. He was an elite fantasy second baseman for most of his career. From ’84 – ’92, he hit better than .300 seven times, scored at least 100 runs six times, hit 20 or more homers five times, drove in more than 80 runs five times, and stole no fewer than 15, but as many as 54 bases in a season. In 1985 he went .305/113/26/83/54! In 1990, he posted a line of .306/116/40/100/25. Ryno probably had as a stranglehold on the top spot at second base in the fantasy game of his era as Chase Utley continues to hold in his. Sandberg earns an easy yes.
Lee Smith was a very solid relief pitcher for a long time, but he lacks a run of truly standout seasons. He posted very nice and consistent saves totals and often offered a very nice strikeout rate. In extrapolating his value however, I see more of a prolonged Bobby Jenks than a Joe Nathan. So, Smith does not earn the nod.
Fernando Valenzuela was a very tough omission for me. I strongly considered giving him my vote on the strength of a high peak. But, unlike the people of Southern California in 1981, I was able to resist Fernando-mania. At the end of the day, Valenzuela provided great strikeout numbers and tossed a ton of innings. However, he only won more than 15 games three times (though his 13 in the strike-shortened 1981 season should be mentioned), posted ho-hum WHIP numbers, and did not eclipse a 141 ERA+ throughout his run, which included several campaigns in the 100 – 120 range. I may get skewered for saying this, but frankly without the hype, Javier Vazquez has basically put together a similar run, a bit longer and a bit flatter.
Brett Butler was a very good major league baseball player. Though he’s probably most well-remembered for being one of the best bunters of the last 50 years, he had many other skills, including speed (though he posted some very ugly SB/CS ratios) and great on-base abilities. Surely, Butler helped a lot of fantasy teams in his day, in the runs, batting average, and stolen bases departments specifically. But, his contributions didn’t reach a level meriting induction.
When thinking about this exercise, I dreaded one player more than any other — Vince Coleman! Here he is, the firecracker-tossing speedster who freely admitted that he had no idea who Jackie Robinson was. If I wasn’t writing this at 8:30 in the morning, I’d run to the liquor cabinet and pour myself a glass of Scotch to sip on while I mull this over. Since it is 8:30, bourbon will have to do.
This is the one case I really felt I had to do at least a little mathematical diligence for. I wasn’t comfortable just guesstimating the value of Coleman’s steals in his time. I’m focusing on 1985 – 1987, as that encompasses the vast majority of Coleman’s case. If these three seasons are as impressive as it may seem on paper, then ’88- 90 should probably bookend it well enough to provide cause for Coleman’s election. I looked into the stolen base rates over those years and compared them with 2007 – 2009. From ’85 – ’87, Major League Baseball averaged about .8 steals per game. (There was a huge disparity in favor of the NL in terms of steals per game, which would actually weaken Coleman’s relative case in NL-only formats, as there were far more relative steals to go around.) Over the last three seasons there’s been approximately .6 swipes per Major League game. So, to put Coleman’s totals from ’85 – ’87 in today’s perspective, we can reduce them by 25 percent. This adjustment has him averaging 81.5 steals per season over than run. This is still a truly elite total, but when coupled with virtually no homers or RBIs, and an often weighty albatross of a batting average, some of the luster of those campaigns begins to chip away. His strong runs totals are really the only other positive in Coleman’s case.
It is worth noting that in ’85, ’86, and ’87 respectively, only four, four and three other players stole as many as half of the bases Coleman did. The other side of total steals is the nature of the distribution of those steals, especially among fantasy-relevant regulars. Since I have to look at so many players in this exercise, I’ve stopped short of seeing if there is any key insight to be gained from analyzing the distribution of steals. I’m confident in giving Coleman the thumbs down without further exploration. In fact, I hypothesize that such an activity would actually further weaken Coleman’s case because there were so many other truly outstanding fantasy assets at the same time who provided considerable speed contributions, including Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines, to Sandberg Eric Davis, Paul Molitor, and Darryl Strawberry.
Danny Tartabull deserves more consideration than many might think. He had a number of 30-plus homer seasons and eclipsed 100 RBIs five times. The run scoring context was beginning to pick up a bit in the late ‘80s into the early ‘90s though, so 30/100 wasn’t exactly what it was a half-dozen seasons prior. Tartabull missed time regularly, though, and had he been able to amass those additional 100 ABs per season, he would have had some really nice campaigns and made a good case for himself.
Mickey Tettleton provided a lot of pop with catcher eligibility. His batting average was consistently awful, though, and his runs and RBI totals don’t stand out. He’s worth a mention, but not a vote.
Class of 2004
The 2004 class boasts three inductees and not too many marginal candidates.
“In Canada, PM used to stand for Prime Minister, but now it stands for Paul Molitor,” or something extremely similar remarked the wizard of wordsmithing, Tim McCarver, during the broadcast of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Thirteen years later, my girlfriend wore this shirt to her 26th birthday party. I’m very conflicted with Molitor; he’s difficult to evaluate. He had all kinds of positional eligibility throughout his career, having played the outfield, first base, second base, and third base, in addition to DH-ing. (He also played some short pre-1980.) He regularly posted very good batting averages and awesome runs totals. He also had many seasons with rather pedestrian homer and RBI totals. He stole more than 500 bases in his career, but only swiped 40 or more four times. I’m going to give him the nod on the basis of his regular presence on the leaderboards in runs, batting average and stolen bases. But, this is nowhere near a no-brainer.
Eck earns my vote for his run from ’88 – ’92. He posted inhumane rate stats, bolstered by averaging more than a strikeout per inning and averaging 44 saves over that same period.
Dave Stieb was one of the top pitchers of his time, but rarely gets talked about. From 1981 – 1990, he won more than 15 games six times, had an ERA better than 80 percent of his league eight times (leading in ERA+ twice), made sporadic appearances on the strikeout leaderboard, and was a mainstay on the WHIP board. However, it is with true hesitancy that I give him my vote. I believe that a player rater would bear out Stieb’s consistently top-tier value. I think Stieb was most likely at the back end of the top starting pitcher tier for a considerable length of time.
Juan Samuel was Alfonso Soriano-esque. With a few more seasons remotely similar to ’84 – ’87, he would have had a fairly decent shot.
Cecil Fielder’s peak was too short to earn serious consideration, but I’m sure anybody who owned him in 1990 or 1991 was very glad to, especially since he came out of nowhere in ’90.
Class of 2005
Wade Boggs gains entry. But, like Molitor, his candidacy isn’t as strong as I thought it was going to be. Boggs was an absolute beast in the batting average and runs departments. Throughout his peak, though, he hit double-digits homers only once (a seemingly anomalous 24 in 1987). In many respects, Boggs is similar to Ichiro, who I also consider overrated for fantasy purposes. Boggs was an even batter bet than Ichiro to hit .350 and was a better run scorer than Ichiro. However, Boggs was a corner infielder and Ichiro is an outfielder. Boggs also didn’t steal bases while Ichiro contributes very well in that category. Boggs did contribute in the RBI category in some campaigns and was probably neutral in others. Ichiro is actually a liability in the RBI department most seasons.
One other interesting similarity is that, anecdotally, both Ichiro and Boggs have been identified by their teammates as among the best batting-practice home run hitters around. This has led many to believe that both players could have hit more homers, but were unwilling to suffer the presumed drop in batting average that would accompany such a change in approach. This seems plausible and similar claims have been made throughout history about a number of different players. Ty Cobb homered twice in a game allegedly just to prove to others that he “could,” but chose not to emulate Ruth. Regardless, Boggs hit .363 the year he launched 24 homers, so it doesn’t appear that the supposed either-or dynamic to his approach advanced by these third-party theorists necessarily existed. Another fun fact about Boggs is that over a 162-game stretch of the Red Sox schedule (Boggs played in 160 of them) from June of 1985 through June of 1986, Boggs hit .400.
For a span of nine seasons, from 1983 – 1991, Darryl Strawberry averaged 31 homers and 22 stolen bases a season. In the heart of than run, from 1984 – 1988, he missed averaging 30/30 for over a five-year span by less than one steal (29.2). He turned in pretty good to very good RBI and runs totals from season to season, and offered a relatively neutral batting average. Strawberry most likely spent the mid- to late-'90s as a first-round draft pick. Congrats Darryl, this small piece of redemption is yours!
Jeff Montgomery is one of the more forgotten high-caliber closers of his era, and he often posted great ERAs and saves totals. He didn’t accumulate strikeouts at a particularly high rate, and his WHIP was very inconsistent.
Mark Langston merited some consideration as well. He led the AL in strikeouts three times in a span of four seasons (he was injured the other one) and fanned 190 or more seven times in his career. He also posted several wins totals in the mid-teens, and a smattering of strong ERA totals. His WHIP numbers were often way too high for an elite pitcher, though, and he put it all together too infrequently.
So, let’s see where we stand right now, through 11 classes.
Number of players elected: 19
Number of players elected who have been eliminated for real HOF consideration: 6
Members by position:
SS: .5 (Yount is really split)
3B: 4 (including Molitor)
It looks like I may be shortchanging middle infielders, which may lead me to rue my snub of Lou Whitaker. However, it is too early to worry about these things because random distributions in regard to talent waves at positions and retirement dates haven’t begun to work themselves out yet. In other words, all patterns thus far are not yet significant or predictive.
Nearly a third of the players I elected have been officially snubbed by the actual Hall of Fame (and Mattingly will not make it, but officially remains on the ballot, so he’s not included in the six).
Several players fared better than I would have predicted they would, including Kirk Gibson who I didn’t think I’d be voting for at all, and Dave Stieb whose candidacy I knew would merit close consideration, but was initially pessimistic about. On the flip side, I thought I’d be electing Dawson and Trammell, and to a lesser extent Valenzuela.
As I deal with more close calls, I am even more appreciative of the amazing reservoir of stats we have for the real sport and the level of assurance they provide me when I make similar determinations for actual Hall of Fame worthiness. The dearth of similar, but fantasy-specific metrics, makes this exercise rather difficult and somewhat uncomfortably subjective. As a result of that, I may be erring on the side of conservatism. Again, the case of Whitaker comes to mind.
Good riddance, Vince Coleman. I’m sure I will encounter other tough cases, but perhaps none that will perplex me more than Vincent Van Go.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:29am
If you have ever been in the position where you are giving advice to someone, you know it is always easier to "play it safe" and advise them to take the less risky route. Whether it be an investor telling you to put your money into mutual funds instead of individual stocks or even a football coach telling his team to punt on fourth-and-one instead of going for the first down; the safe route allows the person giving advice to escape any added blame in the event of something bad happening.
Of course, the result of giving safe advice is avoiding the spotlight—you cannot become the hero or the goat, and many people are fine with that fate. Not everyone feels the need to become the next Bill Belichick, and people who write about fantasy baseball are no exception.
A large part of what fantasy experts do is evaluating what players are good values, and by value I'm referring to their production versus where they can be drafted. More often than not you will hear a fantasy baseball expert pull out his favorite line: "While Player X should put up decent numbers I would not pull the trigger on him where he is currently being drafted, especially when Player Y can be drafted five gazillion picks later." By saying this patented phrase our expert has accomplished two important goals: 1) He has given what appears to be useful advice and 2) He has absolved himself of any risk related to the drafting of these players. Sure, the Player Y could bust, but since you made such a small investment in him it is insignificant.
Now, sometimes a fantasy expert gives the advice to hold off on a player in a certain position for one that can be had later, and the advice is sound. However, when an expert repeatedly says this, following his advice in an actual draft would leave you pickless in the eighth round and desperately awaiting the arrival of the 20th round so you can fill your roster with Alcides Escobar and Scott Sizemore galore. Unfortunately, you do have to select players in those difficult middle rounds, so not every pick you make can be bursting with value throughout a draft.
To help you through those rounds, you need more than just the expert who plays the value game, you need someone who is willing to absorb some risk with their advice and tell you not who to avoid, but most importantly who to take. In the past I admittedly have been guilty at times of always deferring to a player that could be drafted later, but this year one of my goals will be helping people through that 10-round stretch—from round six to 15—in drafts that I think is not only the most crucial, but also the most ignored.
Anyone can draft a competent first few rounds and the sleepers for ends of drafts are almost universally spelled out by the time drafts occur. The middle rounds are where any skill you possess in drafting will shine—where the risk of investment is still high enough and the skill of the players is decreasing quickly enough that make it the critical point in any draft. If there is going to be a part of the draft you skimp on preparing for, the middle rounds should be last on your list.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:02am
Monday, January 18, 2010
The writing was on the wall last season for Carlos Beltran when he was confined to exercising in a pool for a significant part of the year. All of the symptoms - right knee pain with weight bearing, pain with any type of jogging or running, cutting and pivoting, swelling - all screamed to an articular cartilage problem. The "bone bruise", as it was diagnosed, was actually Osteoarthritis (OA). Bone bruises are painful much in the same way as OA, but they get substantially better given enough time. OA really does not.
It is now announced that he underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee today - a surgery that will certainly sideline him for three months, and in most cases for people who have this done, longer. It is interesting to note that Beltran went with his own physician - Dr. Richard Steadman (Colorado), who is one of the foremost leaders in microfracture surgery anywhere.
Could he be back in three to four months? Sure he could, but it is not likely. Every knee is different, and depending on the location of the cartilage defect, the size and the depth of the defect, recovery could be different. Not to mention that each individual deals with injury differently, and perceives pain differently. There's really no easy answer.
Beltran should miss the entire Spring Training schedule, but it really would not surprise me if he struggled with his rehab and has this linger into May or June. I say this due to the chronic nature of his knee pain and the fact that with any chronic, painful condition, what once were normal movement patterns can become quite altered (compensatory gait, altered balance and motor skills/proprioception about the joint).
Even if he does come back this season, what are the chances that he will have the same speed, agility, and explosiveness that has made him a fantasy mainstay for so many years? We already know that he is not a lock for a high batting average (although he has had a couple .300-plus seasons), and his stolen base totals are now going to be on life support. He has also had a three-year decline in his SLG%, ISO, and HR totals, and has become more of a ground ball hitter, as evidenced by his three-year increase in GB%.
I am ignoring him completely in all draft formats, unless it is an NL-only league with a couple of DL spots for stashing.
Posted by Chris Neault at 4:51am
As I'm in no way affiliated with James himself, the projections, or Baseball Info Solutions, there were some things I wasn't entirely clear on and some questions I couldn't answer. Luckily, a member of the BIS team who works on the projections (Ben Jedlovec) read the article and was kind enough to offer an explanation for some of the things I and the THTF readers noted. I'll post his two e-mails in full.
And here's the second one:
So there you have it. Some insight into the thought process behind the Bill James system from someone working on the inside.
Given what Ben says about the inner-workings of the Bill James system, it appears that the projections for most veteran players should indeed be comparable between projection systems (at least as far as any projection system goes — they all assume a slightly different league average from each other). The James system might only seem more optimistic because: 1) they actually are optimistic about some rookies, 2) the run environment is inflated because a lot of veteran bench-type players don't get projected, and 3) the run environment is further inflated (over previous seasons) because the system doesn't attempt to forecast injuries, opting to give a relatively higher number of players a full season of at-bats.
Whether or not this means we actually can compare, say, Alex Rodriguez's Bill James projection to his CHONE projections isn't 100 percent certain — we'd need to run some tests, as we would with any other fantasy baseball theory — but I think Ben provided us with some very interesting food for thought.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:36am
Friday, January 15, 2010
Waiver Wire Offseason
Jose Valverde | Detroit | RP
2009 Final Stats: 9.3 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 2.33 ERA
“Papa Grande” is the sort of guy the term “closer” conjures images of. He's a flamethrower who is so intimidating, he appears to be a fire-breather as well. He's had a WHIP under 1.2 and a K/9 over 9 for three straight years now. He frequently hits 98, and his fastball averages almost 96 mph. The fast gun in Comerica should help him hit triple digits on occasion. His split-finger fastball ends many an at-bat with a demonstrative celebration from the emotional closer.
As a fantasy owner, it's good to note that Comerica—and some other AL Central parks as well—should contain many of his numerous flyballs. And his arm has been very healthy for three years, with the time missed in 2009 being due to a calf injury that he showed he was over. The over-sized contract Detroit lavished on him should insure that unless he's hurt, 100-mph-throwing Joel Zumaya won't displace him as closer, even if Zumaya is 100%.
The only reasons to be cautious at all with Valverde are that he'll be facing AL hitters now, which should be less of a transition for a closer than for a starter or middle reliever (since, presumably, NL teams don't let their pitchers bat against closers), and the walks. Valverde's control improved in 2008 but reverted back to his career norm in 2009. He's susceptible to his emotions, and if things aren't going well, he can get wild, leading to even more trouble. But, he's a closer, and has a closer's short memory. Expect him to be among the best “second-tier” closers in the AL in 2010.
Joel Zumaya | Detroit | RP
2009 Final Stats: 8.7 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.94 ERA
In short, the Valverde signing reduced to almost nil the chance of having a late (or cheap) pick of Zumaya turn into something advantageous. With his shoulder going “pop” in July, and a visit to Dr. James Andrews for surgery in August, he was already a bit of a longshot. We love the talent he has, and before he “popped” his shoulder, he was exceeding 100 mph with regularity in 2009. But we're going to keep this short and assume that even if is “healthy” in 2010, his control won't make it back until 2011 at the earliest. Without saves to prop up his value, he has almost no fantasy significance.
Vladimir Guerrero | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .295/.334/.460
You know that the bar is set very high when a player can hit almost .300, post a 106 OPS+, and people are talking about him in hushed tones as if he has some fatal disease. Well, nobody really knows what to make of Vlad's knees, but his B-R “Similar Batters through [age] 34” list is pretty imposing, with four HOF members already, and guys like Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas, Manny, Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, and Rafael Palmeiro on it as well.
There are some striking differences between “Big Hurt” and Vlad, but both have serious knee problems, and while Thomas wasn't the same at ages 35+, he still managed to amass 2500 more PA with a .265/.382/.518 batting line after his age 34 season. Now, Vlad's moving to Texas, and statistically, that doesn't show up as a big upgrade in ballpark for him, and with Rudy Jaramillo happily in Chicago (no doubt awaiting Lou's retirement), the “magic potion” for hitters in Texas may have lost its “magic.” But, at the very least, there should be no reason to downgrade Vlad after the move. And while it's obviously smart to exercise caution here, don't forget that even without the steals, Vlad has the ability to be a very good 4-category player ... and he could be a huge bargain, as people are already writing him off as a goner.
Robinson Tejeda | Kansas City | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 10.6 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 3.54 ERA
Picking up starter-eligible pitchers can be a good strategy, spending almost nothing to amass a “pitching staff” that can win three of the four “standard” categories. Anyway, back in September, we offered this “crack” about the Royals and Tejeda:
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 two 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.
Well, the four starts he made from that date onward gave us more of the same ... just 11 hits allowed in 20.1 innings, with SIXTEEN (16) walks and three homers! Using the great P-I feature at B-R, Marmol is in fact the leader in H/9 over the past two years among pitchers with 100+ innings, and No. 2 is—you guessed it—Tejeda. Clearly a guy who has walked 5.2 batters per 9 innings isn't a prime candidate for WHIP help, and unless a league uses strange categories, it's hard to envision him being helpful in fantasy in 2010, or beyond.
Matt Palmer | Los Angeles | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 5.1 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 3.93 ERA
We're sticking to our guns on this one. The peripherals are right, and his 2009 performance is the aberration. Palmer is a great story, and maybe a movie could be made, and he did have a nice K/9 rate in 2008 in Triple-A, despite his 1.5 WHIP, so he's probably not worthless in an MLB context. But for fantasy purposes, he's going to bring pain and suffering, and not the joy of an 11-2 season with a sub-4 ERA again. He's currently about sixth in the Angels rotational depth, but he's much more likely to be used in low-leverage relief work (meaning he gets left in to take a beating) and emergency starts.
Zach Miner | Detroit | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 6.0 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.29 ERA
Remarkably, Tejeda, Palmer, and Miner were the next 3 ERA+ guys who are Starter-eligible relievers in 2010. Miner is another mediocre pitcher who, like Palmer, would require quite a few breaks to be a useful fantasy asset. He remained about the same against LHP in 2009, but righties solved him in a big way, teeing off for a .302/.381/.503 batting line. The BABIP can be expected to come down a little bit from the .314 he posted, but he's somewhat of a groundball pitcher (around 47% career), and ground balls have higher BABIP implications than flies. All in all, just consider it a warning to stay away.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here..
Posted by Rob McQuown at 3:59am
Aubrey Huff | San Francisco | 1B/OF
2009 Final Stats: .241/.310/.384
Needing a 1B with some pop in his bat, preferably a lefty, the Giants signed Aubrey Huff to a one-year, $3M deal this week. According to manager Bruce Bochy, Huff will hit fourth and play most of the time, largely at 1B and possibly in LF. This would be a change from his role in 2009, and the Giants clearly hope they're going to get better results, too.
Huff's .253/.321/.405 start with Baltimore in 2009 wasn't awful, but it was underwhelming, so Baltimore shipped him to Detroit in mid-August. The Tigers said they wanted another, more versatile bat, since Huff could play the outfield as well as either corner spot. Instead of exploiting his versatility, however, manager Jim Leyland inexplicably mired Huff in the DH spot, platooning him with Marcus Thames, even though Thames had only shown a .047 OPS platoon split on the season.
In Leyland's defense, Thames had shown a larger split in the past, and Huff wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball, either. Huff played in just 28 of the Tigers' 45 remaining games, hitting .189/.265/.302, and Detroit lost the first-place spot it had when he arrived, finishing a game back of first-place Minnesota and 9.5 games behind wild card Boston. This wasn't all Huff's fault, of course (Thames hit .254/.347/.305 over the same span), but his dismal production didn't help, either.
A variety of factors came together to make Huff's 2009 look worse than it actually was. First was luck, as his .198 BABIP was well below his career .292 BABIP (.297 from 2006-8). Huff's HR%, which has hovered just over 10% in his career, dropped to 9.3% in 2009 with the O's and a career low 6.5% with the Tigers. That bad streak is only accentuated by the favorable 2008 numbers he had. He brought home the Silver Slugger in 2008, thanks to a .304/.360/.552 line—but that can be explained by a 14.3% HR rate and a .310 BABIP.
His venue in Detroit was a problem, too. His BABIP in Comerica last season was .228, which looks like more bad luck, except that fits precisely with his career BABIP in that stadium. His HR rate could have also been hurt by Detroit's home park, too, since he had one HR and three 2Bs in 72 PAs there in '09.
As you can see from the GP mini-browser, most of his other numbers, particularly plate discipline and contact percentage, have remained steady. That suggests Huff's core skills are intact, but that (absent other streaks of good or bad luck) you should expect a line more like 2007 than either '08 or '09—which is almost exactly GP's predicting for him.
For those looking for a bigger rebound, remember that Huff is changing teams, ballparks and leagues—his 261 PAs of .250/.272/.341 baseball with the Astros in 2006 are the sum of his full-time NL experience. Keep in mind also that 2009 was the first time since 2006 that he'd played the field more than he'd DHed, which might have worn him down, explaining that weak second half. Since Bochy plans to play him in the field so much, this could prove a further problem for Huff's chances in San Francisco.
Bochy will have Travis Ishikawa (.261/.329/.387 in 2009) in case Huff falters, and GP actually sees both players as having virtually identical seasons (.255/.325/.424 for Ishikawa). That means San Francisco may have dropped $3M for a guy who's about as good as the lefty 1B they have. That, and the fact that they're happy to land a cleanup hitter who should deliver a .440 SLG, says a lot about the free agent market, if not the bad choices of the Giants. Don't make the same mistake; Huff should only be a starter in deeper NL-only leagues.
Brett Myers | Houston | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.4 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 4.84 ERA
Houston inked Myers to a one-year, $5.1M this week, including an option for 2011. Josh Shepardson beat me to the punch in his very nice piece in Buy on the Rumor on Sunday, but I'll add my .02 here.
Because he lost most of 2009 to a bad hip, Myers' numbers for last season aren't a real measure of his worth. Because he's bounced from starting to closing since 2007, it makes both '07 and '08 harder to judge, too. But the mini-browser is still a picture of a guy with some skills to offer the Astros, if he can survive the squeeze of Minute Maid Park.
Myers is a power pitcher with a two-seamer and a four-seamer that combine with a very nice curve to produce some good strikeout numbers. But his pitches aren't so good that opposing hitters don't get a hold of one now and again and rip it over the fence. Check that HR rate on the mini-browser: He hasn't dipped below 1.2 HR/9 since he was a closer in '07, and his career average is 1.4. This is further reflected in his HR/FB ratio, which has always been elevated (15.5% career). In 2009, that ballooned to a whopping 24.3%, a sure indication that his stuff was way off.
But his ERA will be higher than other power pitchers as a result of this tendency, even when he's healthy. As Josh points out, Myers will move from one hitters' park to another; his career HR/9 in Minute Maid is 1.2 in just 22 IP, a fairly good indication that we should expect the same from him in Houston. Myers compensates for those homerriffic tendencies by inducing groundballs (47.3% GB rate career), which makes the defense behind him that much more important—and ERA that much dicier to predict.
That's another problem, as he'll be going from a good defense in Philly (27.9 UZR in 2009, fourth in the NL) to a below-average one in Houston (-17.7 UZR, tenth in the NL). Houston's defense will be different in 2010, swapping a -13.9 UZR Miguel Tejada for (most probably) Tommy Manzella (no minor-league UZR available), who is expected to be a significant upgrade. And they've brought Pedro Feliz (5.3 UZR) to replace Geoff Blum (0.3 UZR). That will be an improvement, but it will still be a step down from what he had in Philly.
So what can we expect from Myers? That GP projection reflected his uncertain role and destination at press time, so his K and IP numbers are low for a starter, while his K rate is a tad higher. The ERA and WHIP feel about right, though perhaps a bit on the low side because of that diminished defense; wins will also be harder to come by with Houston (14th in the NL in runs scored) than they were in Philly (first in the NL in runs scored).
That makes Myers a decent mid-rotation fantasy option who will deliver the Ks for you (expect a rate somewhere in the high 6s and low 7s) while bruising your ERA now and then and bringing about 10-15 wins.
Adam Dunn | Washington | 1B-OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.398/.529
Dunn has been Old Reliable in fantasy (and real) baseball, delivering 40 HRs, 100 RBI, 100+ BBs, and 160+ Ks nearly every year between 2004 and 2009. The first exception came in 2006, when he only drove in 92; the second came in 2009, when he managed a "mere" 38 HRs. Sadly, you could see him pressing for this milestone down the stretch: after his 38th longball (preceded by a 5-25 run since HR No. 37), he whiffed 12 times in 37 ABs, hitting just .108 in those eleven games.
That production ranked Dunn 24th among NL batters in standard roto leagues, thanks to the .249 career BA he also consistently brings. He's much more valuable in saber leagues, as those walks give him a .398 career OBP, but he still brings plenty to the plate to any league due to his steadiness and predictability.
Even better, he's cut back on those whiffs since tickling 200 Ks in '04 and '06, when his K rate crested 28%. He still hovers in the 25+ neighborhood, but you've got to take improvement where you get it, particularly since he's done it without losing ground in the other areas. And, as you might expect, cutting back on the Ks helped his BA rise from .244 from '02-'06 to .256 since then.
Many of us thought his move last season from Cincy to Washington, in a less friendly ballpark surrounded by a weaker lineup, would hurt him significantly. But Dunn was as strong as ever, improving over his 2008 stats in nearly every area.
You can see the elevated H% in the mini-browser that contributed to some of that improvement. Dunn's longball swing has always produced a higher H%, and 2009's H% was helped by his 21% LD rate, his highest since 2006. He's also consistently brought high HR/FB rates, but his 21.1 HR% in 2009 was in line with his career 22.4%, so luck wasn't the whole story of his season. What we're seeing is a slight uptick made more pronounced by his relative downer of a 2008, when his H% was 35, and his GB% with the Reds was a career-worst 37.2%.
The wonderful thing about Dunn is that he makes us commentators seem so smart by being so reliable—2008 was a down year only because of the slight drop in BA and SLG, as he hit all those other marks listed above. His consistency and his health (Dunn's thumb cost him 41 games in 2003 and his knee cost him 6 games in 2007, the only times he's been on the DL in his career) make him one of the better choices in fantasy.
But that predictable value isn't always that impressive, partly because of the BA drag on your lineup. Like the Christmas package from your grandma that you know will contain another sweater, you know what you'll get in Dunn—even if it's not exactly what you want. Count on him for another year like the one you see at top, with a BA in the .260s, around 40 HRs, 100 RBI, 100 BBs, and 150+ Ks. The Nationals lineup around him is somewhat improved, as Ryan Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan continue developing, while Elijah Dukes gets another chance to make good on his promising talent; continued growth should boost his R and RBI production.
That makes Dunn a great bet to finish in the same mid-20s neighborhood in the 2010 roto rankings; his value is dropped a bit if he loses OF eligibility in your league, but he's still someone who stands on the edge of elite status in standard roto, an edge he crosses over in saber leagues.
J.A. Happ | Philadelphia | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 2.93 ERA
Happ was one of the better surprises in the Philadelphia lineup, as he blossomed from a young arm of the future to a pitcher of the here and now, earning second place in RoY balloting. He started the year with strong bullpen performances, then switched places with starter Chan Ho Park when the Korean righty struggled. The move turned out to be great for both of them, as Park shaved nearly 4.7 runs off his ERA and 0.6 off his WHIP, and Happ merely continued to excel.
He finished ranked 26th among NL pitchers in roto value, leading to that close RoY voting, where he finished ahead of Tommy Hanson, who is generally regarded as a much better talent. But looking behind his 2009 numbers are a few signs that a correction is coming.
The biggest of these signs is the 85% strand rate in 2009, well north of where it should be and a good indication that his ERA was artificially deflated. His 3.0 walk rate sits right at the edge of acceptability, even if it's improved over his previous years (both '07 and '08 are relatively small samples), and his strikeout rate is also on the border of Joe Average.
The other place he sits on the borderline is in hit trajectories; that 2009 0.9 GB/FB ratio you see in the mini-browser puts him right near the flyball-pitcher threshold. Citizen's Bank Park is a tough place for that kind of pitcher to flourish, and he was right about league average with a 9.6% HR/FB rate. Any unlucky rise in that rate in 2010 doesn't bode well for a flyball pitcher, even a fringe-y one.
He also saw a bit of luck in 2010, as he was helped by a rather low .270 BABIP, and (as noted in the Myers writeup above), Happ undoubtedly benefited from the strong Philly defense. That defense will, with the exception of Feliz, return in 2010; his outfield defense is, with the exception of Raul Ibanez, very strong, which is important for a flyball pitcher (even a marginal one).
The overall portrait, then, is a young pitcher with borderline skills who nonetheless succeeded in 2009, making him an excellent candidate to give some of those gains back in 2010, especially at Citizens' Bank Park. He'll also be better scouted, and more exposure could reveal further flaws.
He's still a good pitcher for the middle or end of your fantasy rotation, but he won't really rack up the strikeouts, and the potential for an ERA explosion is a fuse waiting to be lit. Let other owners be taken in by his moderately lucky 2009 and don't go the extra dollar—hold firm on that GP $8 projection. Don't expect to see Happ ranked anywhere near this high in 2010.
Kelly Johnson | Arizona | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .224/.303/.389
One of the bigger disappointments for fantasy owners and Braves fans, Johnson fell off a cliff in 2009. Two straight seasons of OPS in the .800 territory plummeted to below .700, and Martin Prado took the keystone job from Johnson when he hit the DL. Cut loose by the Braves, Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks, who are willing to pay $2.35M to see if he can regain those gaudy MIF numbers in 2010.
Some of Johnson's disappointing 2009 can be written off to wrist tendinitis, which landed him on the DL for 20 days in July; it most likely had been bothering him for even longer before that. This is supported by the fact that he hit .261/.358/.493 after that point, but Prado was hitting even better, so Johnson only started 12 of the remaining 38 games, despite such improvement.
Furthermore, that hit rate in his mini-browser shows a big drop in his H% in 2009. Despite a rise in his contact rate, that's more than enough to account for his BA losses, and the wrist injury would certainly account for the power outage. At 28, Johnson is far too young to experience significant age decline, and he's been in the league too long for pitchers to suddenly find massive holes in his swing.
Arizona should be a great place for him to regain his confidence, as Chase Field is much more hitter-friendly than Turner Field, and Arizona has few legitimate contenders to that spot. Ryan Roberts and Rusty Ryal got some PT at the keystone last year, and both are better as bench players, while their best minor-league second baseman, Mark Hallberg, is a year away at best.
He should also hit leadoff, a spot Arizona has long had a problem filling, as Chris Young lacks the patience and Stephen Drew lacks the speed for that spot. Johnson's no speed demon, either, but he could crack double-digits in steals on an Arizona team that has become more focused on the SB under A.J. Hinch. The GP projection is based on PT play (175 PA), so you can follow its ratio predictions, but bump up his counting stats and value predictions accordingly. Note that low Sentiment score, too, a sure sign that other owners will be bearish on Johnson.
So many signs point to a rebound that Johnson is someone you should be able to grab at a bargain price. He's the kind of player who can contribute in nearly every category, without blowing the doors off of any of them, making him an excellent addition to your lineup. Don't go crazy, but don't be afraid to risk an extra buck or two on Johnson if he's still within your budget. You won't be sorry.
If you like these projections and mini-browsers, don't forget to get a jump on your competition by picking up a copy of Graphical Player 2010. You'll get the full browser for each player, as well as insightful commentary from the best baseball writers on the web.
And leave your player suggestions in the comments below. As I inch closer, I'll keep counting down the top 2009 roto producers, adding in recent signings and reader requests each week.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, January 14, 2010
1. Starlin Castro: Castro has a full tool shed to work with, including quick wrists that aren't hitting for much power now but should support average power as his body fills out. At just 19 years old, his plate discipline is a long way off, but he's slick and consistent with his glove already and projects as a defensive asset at shortstop.
2. Josh Vitters: It's tough to know what to make of Vitters at this point. His plate discipline has been hugely disappointing and his overall performance the definition of inconsistent. But he's just 20 years old and a good defender, and you could make the argument that his all-around bat projects a plus asset, including more home run power than I originally thought.
3. Brett Jackson: I was not a believer in Jackson's upside heading into the 2009 draft, but the initial numbers show more power and sneakier speed than I was expecting.
4. Jay Jackson: Jackson's fastball/slider combination is above average but not overwhelming. A third pitch would be a nice touch, but his stellar endurance will make sure that whatever repertoire he settles on will be put to use as a member of the starting rotation.
5. Hak-Ju Lee: The $1.15 million dollar signing bonus Chicago gave Lee in 2008 is looking like a strong investment in the early going. Lee has the ability to be great defensively, his speed is elite, and his bat looks fairly advanced for a 19-year-old.
6. Kyler Burke: Burke has a solid mix of skills, and he put everything together to tear up the Class-A Midwest League in 2009. He has a lot more to prove, as he was a bit on the old side for A-ball, but his career is off to a nice start.
7.Andrew Cashner: Cashner has a slick fastball/slider combination, but it seems better suited out of the bullpen at this point. Giving the bullpen idea further legs, his command comes and goes and his endurance is questionable to say the least. If I were a betting man, I would say his future lies as Chicago's setup man.
8. Chris Archer: Archer's control needs work, but he has a potent fastball/curveball combination and has produced a successful Midwest League season.
9. Chris Carpenter: I was a big fan of Carpenter heading into the 2008 draft, but his post-draft numbers were a turn-off. 2009 was an uneven but successful season, raising his stock as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter.
10. Ryan Flaherty: Considering that Flaherty turned 23 years old halfway through 2009, his Single-A season didn't do much for me. He showed more power than expected, which I want to see more evidence of against better competition, but the rest of his offense was ho-hum.
St. Louis Cardinals
1. Shelby Miller: Miller was a steal at No. 19 overall in the 2009 draft. His fastball has projection, his curveball could quickly turn into a plus offering, his mechanics are top-notch for a high schooler, his frame is athletic, and his endurance is enviable. It's hard to find faults.
2. Lance Lynn: Lynn has an intimidating presence on the mound, but he's not a big swing-and-miss kind of guy. He has a strong four-pitch mix and solid sinking action in everything he throws. He has a good chance to be a mid-rotation starter.
3. Jaime Garcia: The Tommy John surgery appears to have been a success, and Garcia hasn't missed a beat. He never had an overpowering fastball to begin with, but the sinking action remains. His groundball rate and plus curveball could turn him into a mid-rotation mainstay.
4. David Freese: Freese appears to be in line for St. Louis' starting gig at third base in 2010. The organization's confidence in him raises his stock. He won't be anything special, but with his average plate discipline and potentially above-average power, his bat should play at third base.
5. Allen Craig: Craig's position may have finally been settled as left field, and he has a strong enough bat to stick there. With his poor plate discipline I have to question his overall upside, but a .270 batting average with 20-25 home runs seems plausible.
6. Robert Stock: I think Stock has a future behind the plate. His defense will develop, and his arm is as good as it gets. On offense, there is a lot to question, but his raw power is for real, as evidenced by his Appy League debut.
7. Anthony Ferrara: Ferrara joined the Cardinals organization with an injury history, but it appears to be behind him. He has a nice three-pitch mix and has good projected endurance. There is a lot to like in his live left arm, but a lot to prove.
8. Daryl Jones: Jones is an athletic outfielder with average contact skills and plate discipline. I've been a big supporter of his for a while, but his power has yet to develop. Without power he doesn't have a major league future.
9. Pete Kozma: It may be impossible for some to comprehend, but I think we have reached a point where Kozma is actually underrated. He provides a solid glove at shortstop, some workable plate discipline and contact skills, and some sneaky instincts on the base paths. He's not a star in the making and will never live up to the first-round expectations, but a long career as a serviceable shortstop or utility infielder could be in his future.
10. Eduardo Sanchez: Sanchez's stuff is good, but it does get a bit overrated. What separates him from the other relief prospects is his at times sharp, but inconsistent, command. Yet, at just 20 years old, his control will get even better.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:00am
Today I have a "can do" energy. Earlier in the off-season, I ranted about how often fantasy gurus use "if" and "but" to give a politician's non-answer answer to a difficult question. These answers appear to be informative, but upon closer inspection end up meaningless. In this article, I'm going to rant about the opposite: how often gurus vastly overstate the likelihood of many events.
As we get closer and closer to fantasy draft season, the popular type of discussion will be "is Player X a first-round draft pick?" Obviously, to be first-round-worthy, a player must be one of the very best baseball players in the world. So, superlatives come naturally when describing these men.
When making our case for, say, Jose Reyes to be a first-round pick, it seems important to not only discuss what is likely to happen according to some projection or forecast that we have, but also to talk about what MAY happen. "He's projected to steal 40 bases, but we know he could easily steal 70 or 80 this season (especially if he is healthy)."
I heard one expert on a podcast say that he felt Justin Upton was a first-rounder, adding that he probably had a 20 percent chance of being the NL MVP next year. 20 percent! There is only one player in baseball that warrants that kind of percentage, and he plays first base for the Cardinals. If every first-rounder had an equal chance at the MVP and no other players had a shot, that still means that each first-rounder has less than a 20 percent chance (12 players, two awards). Never mind that as often as not the MVP is won by the lowly Joe Mauers of the world. (By the way, I often pick on folks from this podcast, not because I dislike it. On the contrary, it is one of the few that I enjoy listening to.)
Don't get me wrong—what a player CAN do is important. What a player is EXPECTED to do—which is a function not only of what he can do, but how LIKELY he is to do it—is the most important. But, since in fantasy a player's upside is also important (but, particularly in the case of potential first-rounders, not nearly as important as his expected or projected forecasts), we care also about what he can do.
The problem and the danger is CAN can mean anything. If you've ever had the pleasure of chatting with someone who just had his/her first quantum physics class, he/she will often tell you that "there's a chance that we are both really in Siberia right now." This is technically somewhat true, only extremely unlikely—like one in a chugillion (made up number that is impossibly large). The same on a slightly less cosmic scale holds for fantasy advice. "He could steal 70 bases" can mean one in 20 or one in five.
There are lots of theories about why people tend to think rare events are far more likely to occur than they actual are—Prospect theory, Robust Control, etc. In the case of the fantasy gurus and even our general selves, I have a simple theory:
When we think to ourselves or attempt to justify our valuations to others, we naturally talk about what a player can do—as we should. But it seems small to say that the reason why we think Upton is worth the seventh pick overall is because he has a 4 or 5 percent chance to put in an MVP-type season. No one thinks they should get out of bed for that. So instead we start throwing around big numbers like 20 percent.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:20am
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Yesterday, the Rangers' signing of Ranger-killer Vladimir Guerrero became official as the two sides completed the $5 million (plus incentives) deal agreed upon earlier in the week. Guerrero figures to DH for Texas, leaving the outfield to be roamed by Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon and Nelson Cruz in left, center and right, respectively.
Most negatively affected by the signing is now fourth outfielder David Murphy, who will be regulated to irregular playing time in the outfield or at DH. While before the signing he may have made a nice late-round pick with power potential, his fantasy relevance appears to have evaporated with Vlad on board. Keep in mind, though, that he is playing behind two of the riskier players in baseball in Vlad and Josh Hamilton, who will be replaced by Murphy during their missed time.
Despite an excellent health record over his 12 major league seasons, I believe Vlad's health can no longer be counted on. His swing, in several ways, is similar to Gary Sheffield's swing. Both players pull lasers when they make solid contact, and both players' bodies also end up in contorted positions when they swing and miss. When these two players get fooled by a change-up, they show it with their jerking necks, whipping bats, and twisted torsos.
It came to me as no surprise when Sheffield had shoulder and wrist injuries towards the end of his career and it would be no more of a surprise if Vlad developed shoulder problems because of his aggressive swing, or if his aging knees finally give way in the near future.
Putting the potential for lost playing time aside, Vlad does still harbor tremendous baseball hitting abilities. His last three seasons in an Angel uniform look like this:
Not more than two years ago he was posting monster seasons with .300+ batting averages and close to 30 home runs, and even in a career-low year hampered by injuries he managed to still hit near .300 with 15 home runs. Keep in mind that the move to Arlington Ballpark should benefit his overall line slightly and batting in the heart of the potent Ranger lineup should keep his run and RBI totals satisfactorily high. With normal age regression and a degree of rebound expected, Vlad could certainly produce a season with a .290s batting average and 20-25 home runs if he remains healthy for most of the season.
The most troubling aspects of Vlad's 2009 season in my opinion are his walk and strikeout rates. His strikeout rate has been creeping back up to the level it was at when he first broke into the league, though it is still relatively low to league average 20 percent, and his walk rate was a career low in 2009. Although he has the deserved reputation as a free-swinger since he usually leads the league in swinging at balls outside of the zone, Vlad has throughout his career always been able to draw walks at an above average 10 percent rate. In more than one season in his career he has even drawn more walks than he struck out—a feat typically reserved for more patient players. Last season, however, his walk rate was halved to about five percent and while it could rebound back to where it had been, consider it a possible warning sign for continued decline.
Overall Vlad should still post decent fantasy numbers with a batting average perhaps in the high .280s with around 20 home runs and peachy run and RBI totals so long as he avoids any major injuries. Regardless, he is not going to be somebody I will especially target in drafts, and even if he falls to the final rounds there is a chance I still pass up on him because something to keep in mind is that he will be losing his OF-eligibility and will become a DH-only player. There is just something unappealing about a DH Vladimir Guerrero that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, one I want to avoid.
In AL-only leagues, of course, he holds value and there is a point where I would pull the trigger on him, though it is too far away from the season to say exactly where. In most mixed leagues, however, my feeling is that even in the last round I would have a hard time picking the roster-constricting Guerrero over some of the other players who might be available then.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:03am
Monday, January 11, 2010
When I was offered this column, I was asked whether I felt I could offer useful recommendations regarding player evaluation. I said that I felt I was adequately, but not exceedingly qualified to do that, but what I really wanted to do was talk nonsense. We settled on a mix of the two, and I think I’ve been giving too much potentially useful information recently; it’s time for something irrelevant to next season, and fun!
Less than a week ago, the Hall of Fame voters elected a player to the Hall who boasts a lower career OBP than Brad Ausmus, while denying entry to a pitcher who had an overall better, but less storied, career than Nolan Ryan. Even with this group as peers, Jay Mariotti was able to find a way to have his idiocy stand out. Hey, the uniquely gifted are often able to rise to the top no matter what!
I’ve seen a few attempts at putting together a fantasy baseball Hall of Fame, but they seemed pretty half-assed, which is fortunate because if the bar was set any higher, this column probably wouldn’t meet it. I’d like to simulate fantasy Hall of Fame voting, year-by-year. We’ll be evaluating players only in terms of their fantasy numbers, you know doing what people like Murray Chass think us round-earthers do all the time anyway.
Here’s how I’m going to approach this. If we consider Danny Okrent’s 1980 league as the generally accepted inception of fantasy baseball and adhere to the rule of the real Hall of Fame that stipulates players must play 10 seasons to be eligible, that means we can begin considering players for the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame when they appear on the 1995 Hall of Fame ballot. This means they’ve played 10 seasons, starting from 1980.
Like the real HOF, the bar for inclusion will be somewhat subjective. I am not going to determine some formula and then elect the top 2 percentile of scorers. I’m simply going to go down the ballot year by year, list the candidates and mention who I would vote for. Hopefully, the subjectivity element helps to get our readers involved in the discussion. I really do hope this – for your sake too, since I’ve decided I can milk a couple of weeks of columns out of this idea by chronicling this thought experiment in installments.
Players will be listed in order of their support for the actual Hall of Fame. Let’s take a look at the inaugural class.
Class of 1995:
So, Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Matthewson, and Johnson this was not.
The only player in the inaugural class who would earn my vote is Mike Schmidt. (It is logical that the first few classes will be small because I can only count seasons beginning from 1980, which means that for the first few years I will be discounting chunks of players’ primes while considering their decline years.) Even though Schmidt’s prime began long before 1980, and 1988 and 1989 were not fantasy relevant seasons, Schmidt is an easy choice. He won three MVPs in the '80s. He led his league in homers six times in the decade, RBIs four times, and even paced the league in runs once. He also only hit below .277 once from 1980 – 1987 and contributed double-digit stolen bases three times. Simply, Mike Schmidt was a first round draft pick for the vast majority of the '80s.
I did not vote for Jim Rice and find that kind of funny. I was ardently anti-Rice for the Hall of Fame. But, as a fantasy player all the arguments against Rice as an actual player are moot. He would have regularly been an elite fantasy contributor. Alas, too many of his best seasons were before 1980. Were his 1977-1979 seasons eligible for consideration, I would have voted for him. They aren’t so I didn’t.
Allow me a quick rant here. Ironically, traditionalists often castigate us numbers geeks for looking at players’ Hall of Fame candidacies, and legacies in general, as if they were fantasy players. Rice is one of many examples for which the exact opposite of the charge is true. The inability to see past the surface stats and evaluate the context is what eventually led to his election. Traditionalists like to project their own inadequacies on us heliocentric believers.
Class of 1996
This class looks particularly weak. In fact, the actual Hall of Fame did not induct a single player this year. I voted for Quiz, though not without giving it a fair amount of deliberation. The massive knock against Quiz’s value is that he barely struck out anybody. He also only has about six really solid seasons as a closer. But, that run was pretty damn good. He led the AL in saves five times out of those six seasons and consistently posted extremely valuable ERAs. He racked up 12 wins in 1980 and came close to double-digit wins two other times over those six years. What really buoyed his value to me, though, was that he routinely tossed 130 or so innings, making those rate stats incredibly heavy.
I may live to regret this vote, but that’s one thing that is really fun about doing this exercise this way. I have little hindsight; I’m setting the standards without precedent. Early in this exercise though, I am thinking that the fantasy Hall of Fame will value peak performance more than the actual Hall does. A six-year peak with very little else surrounding it is not good enough for the actual Hall of Fame, but especially when it comes to low-volume stats like saves and steals, short but very high peaks will likely be rewarded handsomely here.
I will avow right here to not compound my mistakes. If I subsequently rue my vote for Quiz, I won’t allow myself to vote for other similarly (un)deserving candidates because I mistakenly voted for Quiz.
Shout out to John Tudor’s 1985 season, by the way. He was nowhere near earning my vote, but Tudor made his owners extremely happy in 1985. He put up one of those seasons that are so stark in terms of value expected to value produced that owners are able to win leagues on the strength of it.
Class of 1997
Ken Griffey, Sr.
Nobody earns my vote in another seemingly weak class. Dave Parker was a true five-category contributor in his prime, but he had most of his best seasons before 1980 and never stole more than 12 bases in his fantasy Hall of Fame eligible seasons. He made appearances on fantasy category leader boards, but I don’t think he separated himself enough from his peers to earn my vote.
I am a big fan of the Cobra though, and as a Mets fan thank him for playing a key role in prompting some incredibly bizarre events in a Cincinnati, New York game on July 22, 1986. In the ninth inning, Parker dropped a routine Keith Hernandez fly ball, which allowed the trailing Mets to tie the game and force extra innings. A Darryl Strawberry ejection in the sixth and a brawl in the 10th left the Mets shorthanded on players. This was one of the two brawls, Golden Glove Boxing Association member, Ray Knight was involved in that year (the other was with the Dodgers’ Tom Niedenfuer). In this one, Knight landed one of the best punches you’ll ever see in a baseball brawl square to the jaw of Eric Davis. As a result of this, from the 10th inning on both Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell were on the field simultaneously, alternating between pitching (based on match-up) and playing right field. Howard Johnson hit a three-run homer in the 14th to ice a Mets win in a game that should get regular airplay on ESPN Classic. Parker also homered in this game. By the way, Todd Worrell pitched and played another position in the same game four times in his career. Not surprisingly, as I remember Davey Johnson, when asked about his Orosco-McDowell platoon, remarked that Whitey Herzog was the inspiration behind the idea. (OK, so ends my audition for writing on the other side of the site too.)
I also struggled with Dwight Evans. Many think Dewey is a true Hall of Famer, and some may think he should have earned my vote here too. In the end, I didn’t pull the trigger though. He had some very good seasons in the '80s and made very valuable contributions in runs, homers, and RBI several times. But, his best seasons were somewhat spread out (which is a frustrating trait for players in the eyes of fantasy owners) and he had a number of solid, but unspectacular seasons in that run as well. Dewey’s impressive defensive resume and superior on-base skills don’t help him here, and I’d be more inclined to vote for him for the actual Hall of Fame. Dewey is another example of the backward charges of the traditionalist electorate. Converse to Rice, the electorate relying too heavily on his counting stats (evaluating him like a fantasy player) obfuscate his noteworthy defensive value and superior on-base skills.
Class of 1998
Gary Carter’s career as a fantasy worthy catcher was probably over after 1987. And, his prime began three seasons before 1980. This unfortunate timing precluded him from being a lock. Additionally, we all know his defense doesn’t count.
However, he did make six appearances on the NL leaderboards for RBIs and home runs from 1980 on. He was also extremely durable and reliable during that run. Carter was a known, elite quantity at the catcher position. He earns my vote.
Blyleven, the better-than-Nolan pitcher I made reference to earlier, is unfortunately a victim of timing. Too many of his best season came pre-1980 and he was rather inconsistent through the first part of the decade. As much as it pains me to leave him off the ballot, I must.
Jack Clark was a much better player than he was given credit for and a better candidate than Andre Dawson for the 1987 MVP award. He’s also one of five players who hit 25 homers in a season for five or more different teams – the satisfaction of fellow dork-dom for anybody who can name the other four in the comments section….But, he doesn’t earn my vote.
Willie Randolph also has a fair amount of supporters for the actual Hall, but he was a far better real player than a fantasy player, so he gets no consideration here.
Pedro Guerrero did have some really valuable seasons, but doesn’t pass muster. He was also hurt too often to be a reliable yearly stud.
Brian Downing had a very interesting career and made some owners incredibly happy in 1982, as he would have retained catcher-eligibility from the previous season. If he would have caught just often enough to retain eligibility throughout the mid-'80s, he would have had a shot.
Class of 1999
Here we have our first very strong class.
I will somewhat begrudgingly vote for Nolan Ryan. He led his league in strikeouts four times post-1979 and finished in the top 3 five more times. However, he only made two appearances on the leaderboard for wins in that time period, seventh in his league both times. He only appeared four times on the ERA board, though he did lead the league twice. He did remarkably well in showing up on the WHIP leaders though, showing up eight times as his wildness had been worked out by this stage of his career. He wasn’t the workhorse he once was in this era though; he only made four post-1979 appearances in the top 10 for innings pitched in his league. The strikeouts and the WHIP are enough to sell me though.
George Brett is a historically great player, but he was kind of Chipper Jones-ish when you look at only his post-1979 seasons. He had great rate stats, and contributed substantially in four categories. (Pre-1982, he stole bases too!) But, by 1983 you could really only expect 125 games per season. Still, the combo of Brett and a replacement would have been elite (like A-Rod this past season). Brett was just too damn good not to be included.
Robin Yount did it all, a true five-category stud who would have been shortstop-eligible through 1985. Subsequent, he became an outfielder, which would have hurt his value a bit (unless you were playing in a league that differentiated between outfield positions, because he was a very good center fielder). Yount was also rather durable, though his overall production did fluctuate a bit year-to-year. The trivia tidbit for Yount is that he has the uncommon distinction of having won two MVPs playing different positions, one as a shortstop and one as a center fielder. …Kind of like Derek Jeter. Oh wait, he hasn’t been moved from short yet AND he hasn’t won an MVP. Sportsman of the Year doesn’t count? Actually, I love Jeter, I kid only to break of the monotony of this Bill Simmons length column.
I did not vote for Carlton Fisk because he had some gaping holes in his fantasy resume. He was fairly unreliable and inconsistent from 1980 on. He missed large chunks of seasons, often posted very damaging batting averages, did not put up the run totals we should expect from an elite catcher, and had few great seasons. I have no problem with him in the actual Hall of Fame, but things like the remarkable physical achievement and value being able to catch more than 2,200 games while posting a career 117 OPS+ just isn’t really relevant for this Hall.
Dale Murphy earns my vote on peak value. From 1982 through 1987 he was probably a first-round value four or five times. He played no fewer than 159 games and could be counted on for 35-plus homers, 100 runs and RBIs or more and .285-plus batting average and anywhere from a helpful to truly impactful stolen base total. I’d also likely vote for Murphy for the real Hall of Fame based on peak value.
George Bell is worth an honorable mention, but was more of what mouth-breathers like to call, “Hall of Very Good.” He did have a few seasons that were, in their context, probably similar to some of Juan Gonzalez’s better campaigns. But, I don’t think he had enough of them. He’s a strong AL-only Fantasy Hall of Fame candidates. (Notice how my entirely fictional institution is now developing offshoots?)
Nobody else is really worthy of consideration here. Though it’s worth mentioning that young Frank Tanana was a damn good pitcher, and people often seem to be unaware of that.
Class of 2000
We end the first group of classes with another blank ballot.
Goose Gossage didn’t have enough great seasons to earn my vote.
Jack Morris was a well-above average pitcher with nice strikeout totals and win totals. He was extremely reliable and very valuable as a fantasy asset throughout his post-1979 career. But, right now I am protecting the standard with this vote. Morris was rarely elite and as I mentioned earlier, I think we’re going to see a greater emphasis on shorter, higher peaks, and less reverence for longer runs of being a tier-2 player when this exercise is said and done. Maybe his candidacy will be re-evaluated by the Veteran’s Committee in time. (This institution has made-up bodies too, not just made-up offshoots.)
I am very glad Willie Wilson’s 82-steal season missed the cut off. Wilson had only two seasons of more than 50 stolen bases and very paltry appearances on the leaderboards for runs and batting average. I have successfully avoided having to give serious thought to speed monsters who have no place in the regular Hall of Fame until next column, in which I’ll have to deal with Vince Coleman in the class of 2003.
So, let’s see where we stand right now, through six classes.
Number of players elected : 7
Number of players elected who have been eliminated for real HOF consideration: 2
Members by position:
SS: .5 (Yount is really split)
This is harder than I expected. And, I can see how the writers make mistakes without the benefit of hindsight. I tried to really simulate voting as if I was looking at each ballot year by year, so six seasons in the canvas is still pretty blank. Good-but-truly great starters, relievers, and speed guys will continue to give me problems, I predict. Not surprisingly, these are the types of players who we regularly seem to have problems projecting value and draft position for.
Subconsciously, I know that my perceptions of these players as actual Hall of Fame candidates affect the way I view them too. Rice, Bell, Evans… they may be better candidates than I think they are. It’s hard to be objective without running detailed analyses of standard deviations from positional average performances year-by-year. But, I actually wanted to do this exercise without having done that work to more accurately simulate what early Hall of Fame voters were experiencing.
Finally, I am not old enough to have played fantasy baseball in the era of Bell’s prime. So, I don’t have the benefit of being able to say, “Oh yeah, Bell was a top-15 pick every year” just as a useful anecdote.
Still, this has been fun and I look forward to part two and I hope you do too because there will be two more future columns of this. Oh, and by all means, flame away!
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:20am
Sunday, January 10, 2010
When Brett Myers became a free agent this off-season, and it became clear he wouldn't return to the Phillies, one almost had to believe he'd be moving to a better home ballpark for supressing home runs. Apparantly that won't be the case for Myers in 2010 though, as he's inked a one year contract with the Houston Astros. After Myers signed his one year deal, I immediately dove into The 2010 Bill James Handbook to take a peek at the park indices portion. After taking a look at the index for Houston's Minute Maid Park and Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park it became evident that Myers was essentially moving to a carbon copy of his former employer's home ballpark. Both ballparks are significantly more favorable to right-handed power hitters than neutral ballparks are, and each allows more home runs on the whole than a neutral ballpark. Surprisingly, both ballparks do reduce home runs to left-handed batters in comparison to neutral ballparks. What does this mean for Myers? Well unfortunately for him it probably means he'll continue to post a home run per flyball ratio (HR/FB) above the league average, which will in turn likely hurt his ERA.
The good news for Myers is that he appears to understand the perils of allowing fly balls, and thus has pitched predominantly to groundball contact (Myers' career ground ball ratio (GB%) is 47.7 percent, while his flyball ratio (FB%) stands at 32.2 percent for his career). Myers has also historically helped his own cause by posting a solid strikeout rate at 7.50 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) for his career, and limiting the free passes with a 3.14 walks per nine innings (BB/9) for his career. One thing working against Myers is that his strikeout rate does appear to be dropping, though it is hard to gauge exactly how significantly coming off an injury smeared 2009 campaign, and a 2007 season in which he spent much of the year closing. In Myers last healthy season as a starter, 2008, he posted a K/9 of 7.72, a drop-off from his 2006 season's K/9 of 8.59. A relatively safe projection for Myers 2010 K/9 is likely something just north of 7.0, but not much higher until he shows reason to believe otherwise.
Those preparing to project Myers production for the 2010 season should have an easy go of it, as it will probably fall in line with his most recent seasons with the Phillies. The ease of projecting Myers 2010 production is likely bad news for those hoping to draft a talented pitcher at a reduced rate this season. Myers appears likely to post an ERA significantly north of his true pitching skills, which will at least in part likely be illustrated once again by a large gap in his ERA and xFIP (xFIP is explained thoroughly here ). The likelihood of Myers striking out 150+ hitters if he eclipses 190 innings pitched makes him someone worth drafting after 60 or so starting pitchers go off the board, but his poor ERA and only serviceable WHIP will likely mean he shouldn't be drafted higher than that. If Myers is able to stay healthy all season, and continues to post numbers he has control of in line with his career norms, his free agent status and where he ultimately signs will be of interest going into 2011. Until then though, he appears to be a talented starting pitcher who will be held hostage by a launching pad home ballpark.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 9:23pm
Friday, January 08, 2010
Adrian Beltre | Boston | 3B
2009 Final Stats: .265/.304/.379
Well, much has been written about Adrian Beltre across the Internet, as the M's fans seem to be very vocal in the baseball analytical community and he's been a prime example of a ballplayer who has been under-appreciated by “mainstream” sources. Over at Baseball Daily Digest, there was an article entitled, “Why Your Team Should Sign Adrian Beltre” (written before he signed), and the latest at fangraphs.com concludes with “Adrian Beltre could be your fantasy team MVP in 2010.” And, while people are clearly stating upside scenarios, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about Beltre's future in Beantown.
Mike Lowell has hit .295/.350/.479 in his four years as Boston's third baseman, so it's easy to forget that he was considered a “salary dump” in the Josh Beckett trade, as he had a big contract and was coming off a .236/.298/.360 season with major health concerns. Well, Beltre is hoping to reprise the Mike Lowell Story in Boston, coming off his own miserable season and also having major health concerns. Unlike Lowell, Beltre's hit chart is a bit more distributed, and unless he changes his approach to pull the ball more often, he can't be expected to gain quite as much from playing home games in Fenway as Lowell did, but escaping Safeco (where he has hit .252/.305/.408 in his career) should be beneficial. And the Red Sox are clearly banking on the fact that his awful .179/.299/.232 career line in Fenway Park has to do with the small sample size (just 16 games) and good pitching of the Red Sox.
From a fantasy perspective, it's appropriate to have some measure of caution here. It's too easy to look at the poor stats in Safeco, apply the standard “Fenway Factor” to his hitting stats, and reach conclusions such as, “He could be your fantasy team MVP.” Well, he could be, of course, but Garrett Jones was probably the MVP of some fantasy teams in 2009; planning for that to happen before the season still wouldn't have made much sense. Likewise, Beltre's contract should speak to the fact that nobody is really certain about his health at this point. A $9 million contract, with a $5 million player option for a Boras client who is a slick-fielding infielder in his prime? We're not saying he won't be healthy, but consider Boras' track record. Would he settle for that if he was sure Adrian was healthy? And third basemen with arm problems can go down the tubes pretty fast—just look at Eric Chavez and Hank Blalock. Also, projecting overall stats to explode for guys leaving bad hitting environments can be a dicey proposition. Khalil Green slugged .500 in his road games from 2005-2007, for example. Now he's looking for an invitation to spring training.
In short, we like the overall risk/reward balance with Beltre. And third base in the AL in 2010 is going to be a position filled with all sorts of question marks. Some crazy Scoresheet owner took Jhonny Peralta in the fourth round of a mock startup draft recently, for example—underscoring the positional scarcity (though with a very ill-advised reaction to it). If Beltre's health returns, so should his power, and in that lineup that should mean heaps of RBIs. His batting average should no longer be a problem, as he's always had decent contact skills for someone with his power (under 22% K% for his career). But keep in mind that 2009 did happen, and he might not be back as a force in 2010.
Phil Hughes | New York | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 10.0 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 3.03 ERA
In a good reader suggestion from last time, the idea of reviewing relievers who qualify as SP for 2010 was mentioned, a la J.P. Howell last year. Now, Hughes faced 158 batters as a starting pitcher in 2009, allowing a batting line of .276/.361/.507. That wasn't what the Yankees and their fans were expecting from the former elite prospect. But, taken under Mariano's “wing” in the bullpen, Hughes had an Andrew Bailey-esque transformation, taking to the relief role like he'd been born to it. The talent which had been spotted in him since before he was drafted poured out as he gained a couple more ticks on his fastball, not having to pace himself for the long game.
The move to relief resulted in a staggeringly good .172/.222/.222 batting line against him in relief—in 193 PA. And, to make matters worse for batters, this wasn't even accompanied by some freakishly low BABIP. .257 is low, to be sure, but not overly so, and not for someone who is dominating at that level. He was best in “high-leverage” situations (allowing just .200/.268/.247 against), and FWIW, allowed a .059 batting average in two-out-RISP situations. In short, he was the Mariano Rivera of the eighth inning.
From afar, it seems illogical to think that the Yankees might mess with something that worked this well. Obviously, “Plan A” for a good young arm is to have him become an excellent starting pitcher, shutting down the other team for 200 innings per season. But if a guy can pitch in high-leverage situations for 1/3 of that much, and perform far better, that's almost as useful. In November, Cashman came out and said that Hughes would be transitioning back to the rotation. But then he traded for Javier Vazquez, and the expectation is that Hughes and Joba will now battle for the fifth starter spot, though it's unclear if trying to get Hughes into the rotation is an attempt to “fix something that ain't broke.” If he relieves, he can still be used as an SP in 2010, and he should be great for ratios in a “punt wins and strikeouts” strategy, but it may be a couple/few years before he has any major fantasy impact ... unless your league uses holds, of course.
Casey Kotchman | Seattle | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .268/.339/.382
Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus editorialized at the time that the trade of Kotchman for LaRoche by Atlanta was the worst deadline trade last year. That's the sort of mystique Kotchman carries still. Kotchman has a great baseball (first) name, is the son of a scout, has a swing that has always made every scout drool and plays great defense at first base. And he didn't just look like a good hitter, he mashed minor-league pitching, while striking out in less than 10% of his at bats. Expectations for him as a first-round pick were somewhere in the Mark Grace to Will Clark range for his career. Hey, everyone loved him, even performance analysts like Joe Sheehan. And why not, with a glove that should save a few runs per year and a .324/.406/.492 career minor-league batting line?
The problem we have here is that Casey hasn't been able to hold a job since “graduation” from the minors. Sure, he still has that glove, racking up 18 runs saved the past three years according to UZR, without even playing full-time. And he doesn't strike out against MLB pitchers (under 10% of his PA for his career). Kotchman will be 27 next month. And, for a while, it was easy to be optimistic about Mighty Casey. He hit well in limited action back in 2005, then missed 2006 with mono. Then, he appeared to “break out” in 2007, raking to the tune of .296/.372/.467 in his first “full-time job”. Even his 2008 was easy to write off as “one of those things,” despite a poor .272/.328/.410 batting line. After all, there's no real reason for him to have just a .273 BABIP, is there?
Well, things got even worse in 2009, and though Adam LaRoche has a history of second-half heroics, getting traded while arb-eligible for two months of LaRoche isn't a highlight on a guy's resume. Getting traded again after the season for a guy who was DFA'd in August was even worse. But Seattle's new GM has shown a consistent pattern of building the team with “defense first,” and Kotchman seems to be the starter in Seattle now. Seattle fan Dave Cameron, in discussing the fact that Safeco shouldn't hurt lefty power, notes, “[Kotchman] won’t have to hit 400+ foot shots to get them out to right in Seattle. But he’s going to have to hit 350+ foot shots more regularly than he has.”
Kotchman has a career batting line now of .269/.337/.406. His OPS+ is 95. These are obviously not acceptable numbers for a first baseman in this era, even if he could field like Keith Hernandez (in his prime, not now). He does have a “normal” platoon split, hitting a slightly better .267/.337/.414 vsRHP, so some edge could be gained by platooning him (perhaps with Lopez if/when Ackley arrives to play second base). We're going to go on a limb and presume that the high Ct% will again push his batting average into the range of helpful fantasy stats, even in a mixed league context. Expecting good runs, HR, or RBI numbers would be too much, but we think he'll hit enough to keep his job and get 600+ PA, which should help him exceed almost all projections.
Brandon Morrow | Toronto | SP?
2009 Final Stats: 8.5 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 4.64 ERA
We're not going to add a lot to the 11/13 summary, as Morrow hasn't changed since then, but we wanted an excuse to post the GP graphic. But the one factor that needs to be mentioned in big, bold letters, is that he's in the AL East now, and won't pitch for Seattle's great defense in their great park, either. Boston and New York have built offenses based on a philosophy of patience, and that's not good news for a man who struggles with his command. Morrow still has the core talent to be good, but his likelihood of being useful to a fantasy team has been lessened, as in Seattle he might have been able to carve out a decent career walking the tightrope between walks and strikeouts, but not likely in Toronto. Unless he's showing some huge improvement in control in the spring before you draft, he's not a very appealing fantasy prospect for 2010.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here..
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Shane Victorino | Philadelphia | OF
2009 Final Stats: .292/.358/.445
The Flyin' Hawaiian has spent the past three years slowly getting better in every area but SBs, so much better that you might not miss them as much. It's hard to see exactly where those swipes went in 2009, as he set career highs in doubles and triples (his 13 three-baggers led all of baseball). He was dealing with a few lower-body injuries (hip, knee) during the season, and it's possible those held him back, particularly since he never went on the DL and played through them.
The good news is that the rest of his skills remain as good as, or better than, they have been, as you can see from his GP mini-browser. His contact rate is edging ever closer to 90%, extremely valuable for a guy with his wheels, and the rising walk rate is a testament to his improving patience. Though his home run total is his lowest since 2006, those other extra-base hits have kept his SLG and Bash steady; they also indicate that there's nothing wrong with his speed, at least once he's in motion.
Depending on your league and roster, those missing SBs might not be so important, in which case Victorino can help you in plenty of other ways. The contact rate and plate discipline should keep his BA strong, if a bit shy of .300, and hitting in front of guys like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth should keep his run total high.
His rising power and the potent Phillies lineup allowed him to also set a career high in RBI, something GP says should continue in 2010. With his SB total likely to remain in the mid-20s, Victorino will remain one of those players who will help you in nearly every offensive category, without putting you over the top in any of them (unless your league counts triples).
That all-category assistance puts Victorino in some solid comp territory, something else that's evident from the mini-browser: Guys like Andre Ethier, Nick Markakis, and Adam Lind are fine company to keep. He's sure to go early in leagues that tally steals, but Victorino shouldn't be ignored in any league. He ranked 28th in 2009's NL roto rankings, and his solid skill set and good injury history make him a safe bet to reach that same level in 2010.
Matt Holliday | St. Louis | OF
2009 Final Stats: .313/.394/.515
Almost as big a story as last year's Colorado post-Hurdle turnaround was the post-Oakland turnaround of Colorado's former left fielder. After 93 games of .286/.378/.454 baseball with the A's, Holliday was traded to St. Louis, where he nearly outhit Albert Pujols, notching a .353/.419/.604 batting line the rest of the way.
This week, St. Louis inked Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million deal that will lock him up for most of the new decade, and through the rest of his peak years. The question is, of course, how productive will he be? And were the Cards suckers to pay Holliday so much on the basis of 235 ABs?
His core skills in Oakland were still solid, as he put up a .83 contact rate and a .79 BB/K, a level of patience a tad better than he'd shown in the NL. You can't say that Oakland's home field gave him fits, either, since he hit .286/.383/.494 there. His adjustment probably came from two other causes: AL pitchers and a weaker lineup around him. Studies have shown that batting order doesn't make as much of a difference as most people think (though I wonder if any of those studies included someone hitting behind Albert Pujols).
The argument in favor of AL pitchers seems more likely—looking at his splits on Fangraphs, his plate approach was fairly consistent across leagues, though he swung at all pitches about 5% more often with St. Louis, and made contact on pitches outside the zone about 8% more often in the AL.
More significant might be the fact that he saw 10% more cheese in an A's uniform than he did with St. Louis, which isn't surprising, since he clobbered NL fastballs (2.45 RAA per 100 fastballs in the NL, vs. 0.18 on the same metric in the AL). Of course, he hit every kind of NL pitch, with the exception of changeups, better than in the AL, something that's obvious from the league split.
AL pitchers worked him differently, probably because he hadn't seen them as much; as a result, Holliday hit them quite differently. In Oakland, his 15.9 LD% was the lowest in his career, as was his 39.0 FB%. That resulted in another career high, a 13.3 infield fly percentage, as well as a career-low 9.7% HR/FB. He just wasn't making good contact, a clear sign that AL pitchers were keeping him off balance.
Those trends reversed themselves for the most part when he came to St. Louis—his HR/FB% shot back up to 16.7%, his LD rose to 17.3% (still below his career average of 19.7%), and that ugly IFF% sank back to a more reasonable (but still elevated) 9.0. The only trend that remained steady was the elevated FB%, which rose 0.6 percentage points in the NL.
That's not such a bad thing for a guy who converts 16% or more of those to HRs, and it may be consistent with him hitting fourth in the lineup, after mostly hitting third for the past several seasons in Colorado. You might argue that a guy with a consistent contact percentage in the upper 70s and a BB/K rate in the .60-.70 range already had a more slugger-like mentality. His .353 BA with St. Louis wouldn't seem to indicate this, but we're still dealing with a 235-AB sample space.
It's certainly a trend to watch, but for now, rest assured that Holliday's 2010 value should remain very solid. St. Louis is betting that he'll retain that value for quite a long time; I'm not quite so optimistic, but I do like this signing for the short-term. He's going to have plenty of men on base, and if a few of those longballs fall short of the wall for a sac fly or two, he should still collect the RBI.
Matt Klaasen makes an excellent point at Fangraphs that the deal is just an average one for St. Louis, and may hurt them in the long haul, but for now, fantasy owners have to love where Holliday landed in 2010 and beyond. His half-season in St. Louis ranked him merely ninth among 2009 NL hitters in roto production—he's sure to be higher than that over a full season in 2010.
Chad Qualls | Arizona | RP
2009 Final Stats: 7.8 K/9, 6.4 K/BB, 3.63 ERA
People said that Qualls wasn't suited to be a closer, since he relies on a sinker-slider combo to get groundballs, which isn't a typical endgame repertoire. When you want an out in the ninth, you'd much prefer a strikeout to the uncertainty of a ball hit into play (or over the fence if that sinker hangs). Qualls responded to that criticism by putting up those numbers you see up above, including that awesome K/BB percentage.
The only reason he ranked so low in 2009 roto value (31st among pitchers) comes from the 24 measly saves he collected. Nobody thought the D-backs would be so utterly hopeless, and Qualls did well with what he was given, blowing just five saves on the year. The capper (quite literally) to Arizona's lousy 2009 came when Qualls went down with a dislocated kneecap that tore a ligament on the final out of a game on Aug. 30.
Interestingly, the D-backs had dangled Qualls on waivers a few days before, hoping to work out a deal to get some prospects for the rebuilding mode they suddenly found themselves in. Qualls' knee didn't hurt Arizona's season, but it might have kept him with the club. He went under the knife to repair the tendon, but he's expected to be at full strength for spring training.
Arizona offered him a contract rather than non-tendering him, so he'll remain with the team. Will he still be the closer when he does? And will he still be the same kind of closer?
There were some rumors about the D-backs bringing free agent Jose Valverde back to the club and shifting Qualls back to a setup role, but it's unlikely they will be able to do so for Valverde's asking price, and he's the only potential threat to Qualls' job. Nobody stepped up in Qualls' absence, and new signee Bob Howry will slide into the setup role, perhaps in conjunction with lefty Clay Zavada, but neither are serious closer contenders.
Assuming he is healthy in time for 2010, and that the knee has no lingering effects on his mechanics, Qualls should bring the same 2009 skills to the table. That low walk rate may not continue, but the rest of his toolbox looks solid. The only mildly disconcerting part of his 2009 performance was a pronounced platoon split. After dominating lefties over his career (their OPS is almost 100 points lower against him than RHB), their OPS was suddenly 90 points better. This is probably a blip more than a trend, but if it continues, you might see Zavada come in and face some of those tough lefties.
In general, however, most projections (GP included) see him with very similar numbers. The team around him is going to be better than the 2009 model—Arizona's been bolstering the bullpen in the offseason, and their starting pitching should be even better with the return of Brandon Webb. That improvement should increase his 2010 save totals, which will increase his roto value, too.
About the only thing Qualls won't bring you is strikeouts, and the penalty for a hanging sinker is often a longball (particularly in Chase Field), so his ERA is never going to be in the awesome range. But he's a very good closer, someone who can be overlooked by bigger names and faster fastballs, as indicated by the 27 drop in GP's Sentiment. You might sneak Qualls in under the radar for owners frightened of Arizona's 2009 performance, his relatively low ranking, or his knee injury.
Francisco Rodriguez | New York | RP
2009 Final Stats: 9.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 3.71 ERA
A lot of things went wrong with the Mets' season, and K-Rod's dropoff seemed like the least of their worries. Given the serious cabbage ($37M) they shelled out to him in that three-year deal, however, perhaps they ought to be a bit more worried. K-Rod still averaged a strikeout an inning in 2009, but that K/9 was his lowest level since 2003. And his walk rate, which had been elevated three of the past four seasons, cracked the 5.0 BB/9 plateau for the first time. That's what combined to produce that awful control ratio, the lowest of his career.
You could write this off to a change in leagues, which certainly had something to do with it, as did pitching for a team that finished the season 22 games below .500. But there are other areas of concern with K-Rod—as you can see in the mini-browser, that K/9 trend continues a four-year slide, and Fangraphs shows that's happened alongside a rising trend in his xFIP.
Fangraphs also shows that he's increasingly relying on his changeup (he's using it more than twice as much as he did in 2007), coming at the expense of his breaking ball. His hard curve has been one of his key pitches, and while this might mean he's learning to use his change more effectively, it might also point toward elbow pain.
His line drive and fly ball rates were also elevated last year; in isolation, this might be a statistical blip, but in context with these other signs, it's cause for concern. One of the knocks on K-Rod has always been his violent and unorthodox delivery, which makes trainers wince and Dr. Andrews rub his hands at the prospect of another payment on his yacht. The Mets have become notorious for hiding injuries, and they might be doing the same thing with their star closer.
GP and most other predictions see his numbers settling down a bit in 2010, but it's hard to see K-Rod as elite anymore. He'll still collect strikeouts and pull down an ERA in the 3.00 range, and (unless he's nursing an injury) he'll keep saving games for the Mets. Like the D-backs, it's hard to imagine the 2010 Mets stinking up the joint the way they did in 2009, so he should increase his 35 save total, too.
As surprising as it might be to see K-Rod ranked this low in 2009 (30th among pitchers), he'll remain in this same neighborhood in 2010—note that GP projects his worth as just $1 more than Chad Qualls. His days of $20+ returns are behind him. Keep that in mind on Draft Day, and don't overpay for a guy with so many red flags, even if they seem like small ones.
Delwyn Young | PIT | 2B-OF
2009 Final Stats: .266/.326/.381
I covered Delwyn during the regular season Waiver Wire shortly after the Pirates traded away Freddy Sanchez and it seemed like Young might have a shot at 2B or as a fourth OF. As I wrote then, Young's value is centered on his moderate power, making him best as a 2B, not as an OF.
Now that Pittsburgh signed Akinori Iwamura, however, it looks like Young might be a backup 2B and OF, diminishing his fantasy value significantly. The Pirates may like his bench versatility, but his chances of getting regular PT will be slim, barring injury or blockbuster trade. He doesn't have the glove or speed to play center, pushing him to the corners in the OF, where he'll be stuck behind Garrett Jones in RF and Lastings Milledge in LF.
As I discussed last week, there's the possibility that Garrett Jones might shift to 1B if Jeff Clement tanks, which would open up RF for Young. This hardly seems like a good move, however, for either Pittsburgh or fantasy owners. Young provides a smidge of value in BA and power as an NL-only MIF for deep leagues, but he's no starting RF, not even for the pitiful Pirates.
As you can see from the GP mini-browser, Young's skills are below average in most areas, with a contact rate in the same fringey range where his 6% walk rate already resides. If you want a portrait of an adequate benchwarmer, look no further. His projected $8 value was due to the fact that the Iwamura deal didn't go down until after we went to press, which is why his comps look (relatively) gaudy. Interestingly, Aki is among those comps, but I think Iwamura has a much more promising outlook, with superior contact skills and speed.
We'll most likely see Young battle a slightly younger Brandon Moss in spring training for a roster spot, and Young's ability to play a serviceable 2B could be the difference-maker between the two. But unless he's got a starting position at the end of spring training, he doesn't belong on your fantasy roster.
We'll keep going with the countdown next week, along with any other players you might want to see. And if you like the mini-browsers you see, they're just a taste of what you'll find in the Graphical Player 2010, where Rob McQuown (of AL Waiver Wire fame) and I are associate editors.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
Thursday, January 07, 2010
1. Stephen Strasburg: Perhaps the best college pitcher of all time, Strasburg brings unheard of hype and ability to a Washington organization desperate for a shot in the arm. He is the best pitching prospect in baseball and will challenge Atlanta's Jason Heyward as my preseason No. 1 prospect in baseball.
2. Derek Norris: Despite his high strikeout rate, Norris has the bat of a future All-Star. The most unheralded aspect of his season was the 90 walks he drew in 437 at-bats. His defense is on track for the majors, but needs some work. If he repeats his performance in 2010, we may be looking at a top-10 prospect in all of baseball. But he does need to do it again if he is going to win me over.
3. Danny Espinosa: Despite some holes in his swing, Espinosa has a bit of everything you look for in a shortstop, including above-average power and the glove to match.
4. Christopher Marrero: Marrero has a nice bat, but nothing about it sticks out, especially as a first baseman. He is still young, and with further progression Washington could have a major league asset at first base.
5. Drew Storen: I was surprised to see Storen go as high as he did in the 2009 draft, but his first 37 minor league innings opened my eyes. There is even talk that Washington may turn him into a starter, which would raise his value immensely, but his change-up needs refinement if that is going to happen. There is a lot to like. More than I initially thought.
6. Ian Desmond: Desmond has some workable power and base-stealing ability, but neither skill be will anything more than average in the majors. His defense is his best strength, and his average bat will make sure he has a long, solid career as a major league shortstop.
7. Eury Perez: Perez has flashed his potential at every stop he has made. His bat seems very advanced for his age, his speed will be a weapon, and he has even shown some unexpected power.
8. Destin Hood: With his raw tools, Hood was one of my favorite players selected in the second round of the 2008 draft. Not much has materialized as of yet, which is concerning for me, but he is very young.
9. Michael Burgess: Burgess has plus power, but not much else to go with it. His strikeout rate is troublesome and may be his downfall. Future refinement could be in the works, so it's not time to give up on him yet.
10. Marcos Frias: Scouting reports are tough to come by on Frias, but his numbers are hard to ignore, forcing my bullish outlook. Based off of the brief video and scouting reports I have on him, I am going to take a shot in the dark on a young man with a live arm.
1. Alcides Escobar: Escobar will have a long career in the major leagues based on his Gold Glove potential at shortstop alone. His bat continues to make progress every year, but his limited power will put a cap on his bat potential. He could become a .300 hitter, however, and his speed will be an asset. If defense carries any weight in today's game, Milwaukee may even have an All-Star on its hands.
2. Brett Lawrie: While he hasn't found a permanent position yet, Lawrie's bat will play anywhere. He has plus bat speed and a consistent, powerful swing. He will turn 20 by the time the new season hits, but his bat is refined beyond his years. He could be a top-10 prospect in all of baseball by this time next year.
3. Caleb Gindl: I have a hard time finding people who agree with me on Gindl. The scouting reports and his body type are strikes against him, but he has some sneaky speed, thunder in his bat, and a great work ethic. His 2010 Double-A season could be his mainstream breakout.
4. Jonathan Lucroy: Lucroy is another under-the-radar Brewers prospect, but he brings a strong combination of skills to the ballpark. His defense is adequate behind the plate, leaving his bat—namely his superb plate discipline and average power—as his calling card. He could be a future above-average catcher.
5. Eric Arnett: The scouting reports aren't off the charts, but Arnett has great sinking action in his repertoire and has a history of missing bats. His command needs some work, but he has a great shot to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
6. Zach Braddock: Braddock posted a quietly dominating 2009 out of the pen, and his slider is a plus offering. It will be interesting to see whether he is destined to work out of the back end of the bullpen or whether his durability concerns are behind him and the rotation in his future.
7. Angel Salome: Salome is an odd prospect in that if he can't play catcher, his size and skill set will not lend themselves to any other position. Yet, he works hard at his defense, and if catcher remains in his future, and everything works out right, his bat, which is inconsistent right now, could be exceptional.
8. Mark Rogers: It remains to be seen whether Rogers' injury history is truly behind him, but 2009 was a promising stepping stone. What keeps me coming back is his electric fastball that, despite the injuries, still sits comfortably in the mid-90s.
9. Wily Peralta: Peralta has a great fastball but little else to work with. His command and delivery are also works in progress, but his strong 2009 stats are a great jumping-off point.
10. Jake Odorizzi: Cody Scarpetta was a tough cut, but Odorizzi has a vast repertoire that I can't turn down. Milwaukee has been cautious with him thus far, but I can't wait to see his full-season debut.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Adrian Beltre's move from Seattle to Boston should be one that benefits both he, and his fantasy owners in 2010. Adrian Beltre recently inked a one year deal with the Boston Red Sox with a player option for 2011, which means he will no longer be playing half his games in the nightmare for right-handed power hitters that is known as Safeco Field. Safeco Field is amongst the most difficult ballparks for right-handed power hitters to hit home runs in, and Beltre was no exception. Beyond home runs being limited to right-handed hitters in Safeco Field, doubles and batting average in general are according to Bill James' park indices which can be found in The 2010 Bill James Handbook. Just taking a peak at Beltre's triple slash lines from 2007-2009 at Safeco, .252/.304/.399, and on the road, .287/.331/.488, as compiled by Dan Budreika at Fangraphs, it is next to impossible to argue that Safeco Field didn't severely hamper Beltre's ability to produce as a batter. Couple Beltre's move away from the unfriendly confines of Safeco Field with a move to Fenway Park and you are likely looking at a recipe for success. Fenway Park is the most favorable home ballpark for slugging doubles in all of Major League Baseball since 2007 according to Bill James park indices. On top of being the best doubles park from 2007-2009, Fenway Park was also slightly better then neutral for right-handed batters in batting average and home runs in 2009.
While it is likely Beltre won't hit in the heart of the order as he did in Seattle, the move from Safeco Field should more then offset a drop in the order. It is also possible that being slotted lower in Boston's lineup may still result in more runs batted in for Beltre then he had in Seattle, as he may hit shortly after high on-base percentage sluggers Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew. Overall, Beltre's move from Seattle to Boston via free agency should go noted by fantasy gamers when it comes time to put together draft rankings and cheat sheets, as well as for those deciding on keepers in deep keeper or dynasty leagues, AL-Only leagues or deep leagues in general. It is possible that Beltre may crack the back end of the top ten third baseman for the 2010 fantasy season in 5x5 mixed leagues with his move to Boston. It seems entirely possible Beltre could post a 5x5 line of 80-28-90 .285 with 11 stolen bases, which would make for quite the useful fantasy line at a top heavy position.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 11:22pm
Chris Davis seemed to be on the up and up. With a blazing rookie season that included 17 home runs in 80 games, Davis was expected to lead his owners to fantasy glory. Instead, his game collapsed, as soaring strikeout rates brought down his overall line. Finally spared the embarrassment, Davis was sent down to Triple-A to work on his swing. After being called up in late August, Davis recovered somewhat but still struggled to find his form.
Still, while Davis' slump seemed to come out of nowhere, it was something that all of us could have seen coming. In reality, he's been this kind of player throughout his professional career—a powerful hacker who struggles with strikeouts, showing little to no plate discipline.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2006 by the Texas Rangers, Davis began his career for Spokane at Low-A later that season. The hulking 20-year-old had a good showing there, blasting 15 home runs in 253 at-bats, on his way to a .277/.343/.534 line. His plate discipline was less than optimal, with just 23 walks against 65 strikeouts (25.69 K percentage). Still, his power and projectability meant plenty of room for optimism, as Davis was promoted up the ladder for 2007.
The 2007 season was a big one for Davis. Starting out at High-A Bakersfield, he registered 386 at-bats, slugging 24 home runs. However, he struggled mightily at controlling the strike zone, walking just 22 times to go along with 123 punchouts (31.86 K percentage). Despite his struggles with plate discipline, Texas promoted Davis to Double-A Frisco to finish the season. Here, he displayed exactly the type of raw power that scouts were so excited about, mashing 12 long balls in just 109 at-bats. His poor plate discipline improved somewhat, as Davis worked 13 walks against 27 strikeouts (24.77 K percentage). With the type of raw power and tools displayed by Davis, he shot up the prospect hierarchy, registering second in the Texas organization and 65th in MLB. The sky officially the limit, Davis looked toward 2008 with an eye on improving his plate discipline while maintaining his power stroke.
Davis started the 2008 season at Frisco in a repeat of Double-A. He looked like much the same player as he had been since 2006: tons of power with a poor approach. Logging 186 at-bats, he mashed 13 home runs with just 13 walks and 44 strikeouts (23.65 K percentage) before his promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma. There, he continued his power-hitting ways, with 10 bombs in 111 at-bats, with lots of strikeouts (26.13 K percentage) and few walks. Still, Texas needed help at the dish and the organization promoted Davis, hoping he was ready for Prime Time.
The results were mixed. His overall line was much more than could be expected from a rookie (.285/.331/.549) and his power was superb (17 home runs in 295 at-bats). However, he was very much the same batter he had been in the minors, walking just 20 times but logging a whopping 88 strikeouts (29.8 K percentage). In addition, his triple slash line was aided significantly by a huge .353 BABIP that seemed destined to come back to earth. In 2009, his season came crashing down.
Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Davis. Things started off very poorly and never really got on track. A poor .200/.273/.429 April was followed up by an even worse .189/.238/.442 June. His .202/.256/.415 line before the break caused him to be sent down to Triple-A on July 6. After the dust settled on the year, Davis finished with a .238/.284/.442 line including 21 home runs in 391 at-bats. Not what owners expected.
While there were reasons to be down on his production, there are some reasons to be optimistic. First, it is encouraging that his problems this past season can be very easily isolated—at least statistically—meaning that, if next year is a rebound year, it should be easy to recognize.
There were really two problems that hurt Davis’ production in 2009 as compared to 2008. The first was his relative drop in BABIP, which declined from .353 to .327. Though still high, it isn’t unreasonably so for a player who posted a .361 BABIP in his minor league career consisting of 1,210 at-bats. Still, a drop in BABIP of 25 points would have lowered his 2008 batting average to .268.
Likewise, an increase in BABIP to .353 in 2009 would have brought his lowly .238 batting average to a poor—but at least tolerable—.252. That’s Step One.
Step Two, and the far more troublesome development, is the precipitous decline in his contact rate on pitches inside the strike zone. Other than his BABIP, this was nearly the only facet of Davis’ game that did not improve from 2008. Every other measure of his game took a step forward last season—even if that is not saying much for a player with such poor plate discipline.
Still, Davis was able to improve his selectivity at the plate, improving his O-Swing percentage by 3.2 percent (37.3 percent O-Swing in 2008 versus 34.1 percent in 2009) and increasing his Z-Swing percentage by another 3 percent (72.5 percent in ’08 to 75.5 percent in ’09). This corresponded with a drop in his overall swing percentage by about a full percentage point (54.3 percent in ’08 versus 53.4 percent in ’09). In addition, though his contact percentage dropped by almost five whole points (68.1 percent contact rate in 2008 versus 63.2 percent in 2009), his O-Contact rate was virtually stable, increasing by just 0.1 percent.
Meaning that his drop in contact rate was caused, primarily, by two factors. The lesser of the two factors was the drop in his Zone percentage by 1.6 percent (48.2 percent in ’08 versus 46.6 percent in ’09). This, when taking into account his free-swinging ways, was actually a negative development, as most batters who see fewer pitches in the zone can turn this into more walks. Davis, unfortunately, could not. The second factor—and the one that is far more troubling—was his enormous drop in his zone contact rate of more than 8 percentage points (79.1 percent in ’08 versus 70.8 percent in ’09). This absolutely obliterated his contact percentage, with some gruesome results, which were seen in his 38.4 strikeout percentage—second in the league only to the incomparable Mark Reynolds. Ouch.
But that does not close the book on Davis. The fact that he was still able to put up the power numbers that he did is quite impressive—given his prodigious strikeout rates. Many players, when struggling with such strikeout totals, significantly alter their plate approach and lose much of their power. That Davis did not is encouraging for his power output.
The key for Davis in 2010 will be to recapture at least some of his ability to make contact with pitches inside the zone. He has one of the worst combinations of poor plate discipline and poor contact skills in the league. Until he rectifies these problems, he will struggle to put up any sort of tolerable batting average. For next season, watch his Z-Contact rate and his O-Swing Percentage. If he is able to raise his Z-Contact rate to his ’08 levels and continue to drop his O-Swing Percentage, he could be able to again crack the 30 percent strikeout barrier. This would be a great benefit to his batting average and could bring it back up to the .260s—given that the power is still there, which it should be.
For the 2010 season, don’t expect too much from Davis. A 30-35 home run season with a batting average in the .255-.265 range seems likely, though his OPS may not reach far above .800 due to his lack of walks. In the end, it all rests on that contact rate. If it can get up near the 70 percent range, then he is a good player to target in a midseason trade. If it can somehow get higher than that number, it could be a very good year. Still, temper your enthusiasm, as Davis proved last season that he has serious difficulties hitting major league pitching. He’s worth drafting as an upside play, but don’t be shocked if he annihilates your batting average as he did in 2009. Feel free to draft him, but do it late and with caution—he's a well below-average option at first base. And please, don't pin your home run hopes to his lumber. He'll hurt you in nearly every other category.
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Posted by Mike Silver at 4:55am
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
As fantasy players we have a tendency to adore the strikeout and generally speaking, I agree with that adoration. After all, strikeouts are one of the four categories starters on your fantasy team can contribute to, and strikeout ability is a fundamental aspect of any good pitcher's skill set. If a pitcher is going to get lit up, I'd rather he get rocked a Rich Harden-style four runs in five innings with eight strikeouts than a Fausto Carmona-style blockbuster of five runs in six innings with just one punchout.
Having said that, there are certain pitchers who are able to use guile, command, their defenses—everything except overpowering stuff—to get batters out and be successful at the major league level. Tom Glavine is the poster child for that type of pitcher I suppose.
Because of our fascination with the strikeout pitcher, sometimes pitchers who can still help our fantasy teams with solid ratios and win totals get overlooked. Below I will highlight three pitchers I feel will fit that description in 2010, and despite their mediocre strikeout numbers may be worth a spot in your fantasy rotation.
Rowland-Smith is a 26-year-old (will be 27 for the 2010 season) pitcher for the Mariners and was born in Australia. He came up through the Mariners system primarily as a reliever and was converted to a starting pitcher in the middle of the 2008 season. In 253 career innings pitched from 2007 to 2009 he has a 3.62 ERA despite a 4.28 FIP and even uglier 4.78 xFIP.
Rowland-Smith is the type of pitcher who I can see consistently beating out his FIP numbers because he is currently situated in the perfect environment for him. He is primarily a flyball pitcher in Safeco, a home run-depressing park, and in front of one of the best defensive teams in the major leagues with Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro in the outfield, and Jack Wilson and Chone Figgins in the infield.
Despite having the skill set of a pitcher with an ERA in the mid-4.00s, Rowland-Smith can instead be expected to have an ERA around the 4.00 mark. Couple that with something around 10 wins and 100 strikeouts and you have yourself a pitcher I would not mind drafting in the last round of a draft, a place you can reasonably expect to find him.
Duchscherer is not a guy with blowaway stuff and as the joke goes, he throws "slow and slowerer." In the same article former A's catcher Jason Kendall said:
I remember when I was a kid, hearing my Dad (former big-league catcher Fred Kendall) saying some guy had such good control you could catch him in a rocking chair. I wasn't sure what it meant then, but I do now. That's what it's like catching Duke.
Rocking chair or not, Duchscherer is someone who has proven himself a successful major league pitcher both as an elite reliever from 2003-06 and as an All-Star starter in 2008 when he posted a 2.54 ERA in 140 innings of work. Granted that season was buoyed by an unsustainable .240 BABIP, but even with normal regression most agree he would have finished the season with a still-great ERA in the mid-3.00s.
Duchscherer is playing in a similar situation to Rowland-Smith, with a defense that projects to be very good-to-elite behind him and in a definite pitcher's park. The one thing holding him back is his health, both mental and physical. In 2007 his season was cut short by hip surgery, in 2008 he spent two stints on the DL due to biceps tendinitis and more hip problems, and he missed all of 2009 due to elbow surgery, back problems, and clinical depression.
Although he is well-rested and appears primed for a strong return to the majors, once a player is a large injury risk, he remains always an injury risk. I am confident in Duchscherer's abilities when on the field, the trick though, is keeping him there every fifth day. Therefore I would not draft Duchscherer earlier than the last few rounds of a draft, and conveniently he should be available there in most drafts.
The third and final pitcher, Feldman is another converted starter who can provide fantasy value despite low strikeout numbers. As a 26-year-old, Feldman experience a breakout season in 2009, racking up 17 wins with a 4.08 ERA in 190 innings of work. A change in arm slot from a side-arm delivery to a three-fourths slot allowed for more sink on his fastball and the development of a
devastating cutter that ranks as one of the best in the majors are seen as the reasons for his 2009 success.
Feldman was the recipient of some luck in the form of a .275 BABIP and a 9 percent HR/FB rate in home run-happy Arlington, so his 2010 ERA might rise a few points to around the 4.25 mark. However, the groundball tendencies of Feldman should help reduce the ill effects the Arlington ballpark has on its pitchers, and also the up-the-middle tandem of Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler is beneficial to any groundballer.
Overall with the strong Ranger offense providing him with good run support and subsequently a high win total, Feldman should provide fantasy owners with enough value to make a lat- round selection of him in a draft worth the minimal investment.
Strikeout pitchers may look especially appealing to fantasy owners, but that should not mean that pitchers who find other means of getting batters out should be ignored entirely since there are the few who succeed without generating tons of Ks. Strikeout pitchers, though, will always remain the most valuable and desirable to fantasy owners.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:16am
Monday, January 04, 2010
As this is my first column of 2010, it seems fitting to offer some resolutions for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. I'll omit a long preamble for a change and get right into them.
I will play in fewer leagues this year than last year. Last year, I participated in five leagues and it was a little much. One of the five is a co-ownership scenario and frankly I let my attention slip a little bit knowing my buddy was there to keep an eye out. My partner is extremely capable, but this whole dynamic was folly for a different reason. The co-ownership league is pretty high stakes and I actually prioritized other leagues over that one because the other four were under my account while the last one was under my buddy’s. So, every time I wanted to toggle into that league, I’d have to sign out of my account and into the other. I know this is really only the most minor of impediments but, in practice, I often resented having to jump back and forth between accounts to manage the other team. While you may be tempted to decide that I am the laziest person alive for actually voicing this gripe, I’d assert that this dynamic is not all that different from the dieting rule that dictates one should never bring the bag of chips to your seat; if you actually have to get up and refill the bowl, you often won’t bother.
The lesson here for all is that in a co-ownership scenario, the owner whose account the league is under should take primary responsibility for running the team. (This was actually the case in my scenario as I’m the “secondary owner” anyway.)
You may be tempted to outsmart this phenomenon and register a separate, third, account for a team with a co-ownership set-up. I’d advise strongly against that, as that would create a situation in which neither owner has “home field advantage.” It’s a lovely, equitable thought on paper, but would be counterproductive in practice.
I will shorten my leash on underperforming veterans. This is a tricky one for me, because as I’ve said many times I like boring older players as value picks and I think I display admirable restraint with the “drop” button. However, sometimes I do hold on to a player too long because I am seduced by his past.
I can’t stress enough that I think it is better to err on the side of caution in the higher end versions of this situation, such as a 2009 David Ortiz. But the real downside of holding a player too long is that it minimizes your chance of acquiring one of those waiver-wire gems that come out of nowhere every year.
Last year I held onto Garrett Atkins and Aubrey Huff long past their expiration dates. I’d like to continue to more finely calibrate my senses when it comes to such situations. To do this, I have to do a better job of realizing when I am beginning to repeat bad habits.
I will not be scared off of last year’s first-round busts. Provided no red flags emerge over the next few months, Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Grady Sizemore are all totally legitimate and sensible first-round picks. One or more of them may slip outside the top 10 or 12. I hope they do in my drafts.
It seems like the top four are pretty set going into next year: Albert Pujols; Hanley Ramirez; Alex Rodriguez; and Ryan Braun. After that, things look pretty open, with players like Chase Utley, Matt Kemp, Tim Lincecum, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, and Prince Fielder all having plausible claim to a first-round selection. Reyes, Wright, and Sizemore still have arguments over any of the players outside that top four.
I will re-evaluate second-tier middle infielders. Last year, I was rather skeptical about the draft positions of many of the second-tier middle infielders and this led me to something of a stars and scrubs approach to filling out my middle infield. I wasn’t sure players like Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Brandon Phillips, Stephen Drew, and Chone Figgins were worth their pre-ranks or ADPs. I tried to nab Brian Roberts in a few leagues as I was pretty certain what he would produce and what I was willing to pay for it, but he went a tad early for my taste a few times and I was forced to wait and hope I could grab a slipping Derek Jeter or an overlooked Jose Lopez. Thankfully, I only got stuck with Jhonny Peralta in one league, though I had targeted him several times. In some leagues I simply spent my first pick on Jose Reyes or Chase Utley. I was right on more of those players than I was wrong. Drew was a total bust and Phillips and Pedroia were not top 25 players. Cano outperformed though and Figgins provided solid value and more than 40 steals, which is important as it seems fewer middle infielders are contributing strongly in the speed department these days. Of course, Figgins will not be middle-infield eligible this year.
This year I think we’ll see Pedroia and Phillips fall to a point at which I’d be much more willing to buy. Jeter’s price will be through the roof though, so I’ll stay away from him. Lopez and Dan Uggla look like they will still be bargains though and Reyes and Jimmy Rollins might be as well. Further, depending on the price, I don’t think I’ll be all too afraid to hitch my cart to the horse named Aaron Hill.
As has been mentioned by some of the readers, it looks as if the complexion of the entire infield is changing from a fantasy perspective. The once stacked third base position is now rather thin, while the middle infield positions are becoming deeper. However, a waning supply of middle infield speed is leading managers who miss out on the elite middle infielder speedsters to look to the outfield to supply more of their speed needs. This seems to drive up the value of corner outfielders capable of tossing in some swipes. Value middle infielders like Lopez and Uggla don’t provide any steals, meaning that those 15 or 20 steals from a Braun or Matt Holliday are that much more important to the balance of your team.
What are your resolutions for the upcoming fantasy baseball season?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:47am
While 2009 was a career year for Marco Scutaro we won't know until next season what he can really be. His season made him and the younger Yunel Escobar two of the top 10 shortstops in fantasy baseball last year. With Escobar being only 27 this season, he will be much more trusted to put up another season like this if not better in 2010. So far they have been drafted at replacement level in 12-team leagues according to MockDraftCentral going, on average, as the 11th and 15th picked shortstops, respectively. Let's see if one or both might be getting undervalued for next year.
G PA AB R HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BB% K% Scutaro 144 680 574 100 12 60 14 5 90 75 0.282 0.379 0.409 0.789 13.60% 13.10% Escobar 141 604 528 89 14 76 5 4 57 62 0.299 0.377 0.436 0.812 9.70% 11.70%
Scutaro has never topped 600 PA before 2009 (came close in 2008 at 592) and his numbers include a lot of time as a pinch hitter. This is a more difficult approach and his numbers before have shown this. His walk rate has varied but even at his worst it was around 9 percent. Last year though he dropped his swing rate to 34.5 percent as he saw the lowest number of strikes per pitches seen. Even if pitchers attack the zone against him in 2010 you know he can still get on base by taking a walk.
Looking at Escobar, he hasn't quite shown an ability to have the elite walk rate similar to Scutaro even with a similar number of strikes seen. This isn't a terrible thing though as his 9.7 percent is one of the best among shortstops. He does make up for this by swinging more than Scutaro and making good contact. This has resulted in a better strikeout rate and the two players posted the best BB/K rates among shortstops.
For the first time in his career Scutaro hit double-digit homers, but his overall power numbers look fairly consistent. His career ISO is .119 and only rose to .127 in 2010. There was a rise in his fly ball rate to 43.6 percent, which could help explain his slight power increase. As a right-handed hitter moving to Fenway, he should continue to post SLG numbers near .400.
If we move on to Escobar, we can see he also has a bit more potential for power. His ISO dropped in 2008, but he has a career rate of .125. Since he is only going to be 27, you can see him adding even a bit more power next year. This again gives Escobar a slight edge as he can out slug Scutaro in 2010.
Speed and Baserunning
Overall, looking at their speed score of 4.2 for Scutaro and 3.8 for Escobar they get around the bases fairly well, but Scutaro found some extra steals last season. He topped double-digit steals last year and was caught five times. That isn't a great rate, but his move to Boston shouldn't concern you as they didn't seem to hold their players back in 2009. The Red Sox as a team stole 53 more bases than the Blue Jays.
This is one place Escobar still has some work to do. His success rate was only 55 percent and very similar to his career rate of 50 percent. It looks like Escobar should be held back on the basepaths, but it's unlikely the Braves will do that.
Roster and Lineup
Sometimes it's not always the player you draft, but what team they play on. So far we can see that these two are close, but even batting at the bottom of the Red Sox lineup, Scutaro should see similar chances to Escobar in counting stats. If Escobar sees more time in the No. 2 spot he'll have the lead in runs and fall in RBIs. On the other hand, in the fifth or sixth spot he would probably get more RBIs. Either way, Scutaro is expected to bat somewhere behind J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. It's highly unlikely he sees only 227 plate appearances with runners on next season the way he did this year.
In the end it's an edge to Escobar for sure and with youth on his side that makes sense. Still, you shouldn't be afraid to take Scutaro just a few rounds later and have adequately filled your shortstop position. He has earned his time as a starter in the majors as well as a fantasy starter for your team.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 4:33am
Friday, January 01, 2010
J.P. Howell | Tampa Bay | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.7 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.84 ERA
When fans and batters alike seen Howell throw his weak stuff up there, images turn more toward John Tudor or Jamie Moyer than toward Billy Wagner or Scott Thornton, but that's not a typo in his strikeout rate. And, changing speeds and locations like a featherweight boxer, he's able to KO batters with guile and deception. Right-handers were particularly vulnerable to his bag of tricks in 2009, as his changeup seems to befuddle them with regularity.
Howell is a good candidate to introduce “Sentiment” from the Graphical Player 2010. Sentiment is a calculated stat, not some sort of poll of fantasy owners. As noted in GP, it's “founded on the notion that people's perceptions are driven largely by the most recent performance.” So, a guy like Howell has one of the higher “Sentiment” ratings in the book, at +43, as his 2009 saves pushed his value much higher than it had been in previous years.
The primary knock on Howell was that when he was “promoted” (mainly due to attrition) to the closer role in 2009, he blew 8 saves while only recording 17, an awful rate. Since as long as Soriano remains healthy, it will be a moot point, it's not crucial to figure out whether he's one of those rare pitchers who suddenly turns into a pumpkin when the inning strikes 9, or whether he's just a victim of bad luck and small sample sizes. For the purposes of 2010 value, rest assured that his blown saves weren't due to hitters figuring out his stuff. In save situations, he held batters to a line of .167/.310/.292 against. How they managed to spoil 8 of his 25 save chances is a matter of bad luck, and the fact that he wasn't really used as a “closer” all that often, despite the high number of save chances. A good example is his “blown save” on June 7, when he entered the game up 3-1 with the bases full of Yankees in the bottom of the 8th/1 out, and walked Cano, allowed Posada to reach on an error, gets a groundout allowing a run to fall behind before the Rays tied the game in the 9th, preventing him from taking an “L”.
Some guys just “know how to pitch”, and Howell fits that mold. He's not a fantastic WHIP asset as some setup relievers are, since he chooses to use his pinpoint control to “nibble”, rather than to avoid walks. The result, however, is that he racks up some amazing strikeout rates for his pedestrian velocity, and in general should keep runs scored down, so he should continue to have nice ERAs. His likely usage pattern won't help his fantasy value much since he won't get many opportunities to “vulture” wins, though he's likely still the first option if Soriano gets injures.
Rafael Soriano | Tampa Bay | RP
2009 Final Stats: 12.1 K/9, 3.8 K/BB, 2.97 ERA
Everything Mariners fans feared when this talented pitcher was traded for Horacio Ramirez came to pass in Atlanta. The often-brittle Soriano amassed over 160 inning in his 3 years in the National League, and posted a WHIP under 1.0 while showing now problems handling the 9th-inning role. While in Seattle, he'd shown a large home-field bias toward friendly Safeco Field, but he has been so good that even his road stats aren't bad at all. At first blush, the Rays are getting a pitcher whose K/9 as a reliever is over 10.0 in his career, while his BB/9 is under 3.0. Before 2009, he was moderately HR-prone, but with a career WHIP of 1.0, who cares? And why was everyone thinking that the Braves should be worried they might get “stuck” with such a late-inning monster after arbitration?
We're not going to advise against Soriano, though his injury history makes him a better pick for a team which needs a few breaks to compete than or one which is a heavy favorite and needs more “solid” players. He's failed to reach 15 innings in 3 of the past 6 years, though it's easy to forget that after seeing him in 2009. And the AL East is a far worse pitching environment than any he's ever had to deal with, so expect more of the homers and more WHIP and ERA, too. Remember how rudely Josh Beckett was treated in his first year of exposure to the AL East, posting an ERA over 5. If Soriano tries to challenge hitters as much as he did in the past, he could have a similar learning curve.
Curtis Granderson | New York | CF
2009 Final Stats: .249/.327/.453
Before the trade to New York (see: “hype”), Curtis Granderson could have been the poster boy for undervalued players in the 2010 draft/auction season. GP sums that up with a -50 Sentiment, which is about as bad as things can get for a guy who doesn't lose his job (for perspective, Andy Sonnanstine was -58). With the trade, instead, all his flaws seem to be whitewashed, and people are predicting things like a 40-homer season for him, thanks to the new park. For a fantasy player, there's certainly a lot to be excited about for a guy coming to a great hitter's park and likely batting 2nd (against RHP) in the game's best lineup.
Through the 2006 season, most people were commenting on how much faster Granderson was than his stats showed. Well, his 2007 season showed how right people were, as he racked up an amazing 23 triples to go with his highly-efficient 26-1 SB-CS record. Since 2007, though, his various speed indices have dropped. His triples went down to 8 in 2009, his SB-CS have averaged 16-5 the past two seasons, and his range in CF has declined. And don't expect his SB totals to rise in NY. In both Florida and New York, Girardi has highly favored his leadoff hitters for steal opportunities (and his primary PR - Gardner or Amezaga), while the #2 hitters don't steal nearly as much (a stark illustration of this is Damon going from 29 SB to 12, while Jeter went from 11 to 30 as they flip-flopped roles between 2008-2009).
As far as hitting goes, the new park should really help Granderson. Expecting him to keep up his .818 slugging there is far-fetched, but while most players experience about 4% better performance at home, Granderson's career line at Comerica was just .261/.334/.451, as opposed to .284/.353/.516 on the road. Aside from a minor injury in 2008, Granderson has been remarkably durable, playing 158+ games in 3 of his 4 full seasons. He should be expected to be able to play 155+ plus games in 2010. But “able to play” may not mesh up with “play”, as Granderson also has a well-publicized problem hitting LHP, compiling a career line of just .210/.270/.344 against southpaws. Of course, that means his vsR stats are that much sicker, so maybe fantasy owners would prefer that he not start against LHP, rather coming in as a PH against righty relievers instead. All-in-all, he's a fine fantasy player, though his dwindling steals and vulnerability to LHP keep him from being a bona fide superstar.
Nick Johnson | New York | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .291/.426/.405
Stated bluntly, almost all the other 29 teams should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the Yankees to sign this guy for the relatively modest sum of $5.5 million (with a mutual option for 2011 at the same price). Even if one assumes – reasonably - that his defense has deteriorated with the injuries, and his 2009 UZR (-5.6 runs) is more accurate than using a larger sample size (+3.7 UZR/150 career, for example), he was still worth over $15 million in “free agent dollars”, per fangraphs.com. Unless a fantasy team is in such solid shape as to want to avoid injury risk at all cost, ignoring him on draft day may be almost as shameful to a fantasy team.
Yes, we know that his walks (and HBP) don't help your fantasy team. But even with a BASH (Bases per hit) of under 1.4 in 2009 (from Graphical Player 2010), Johnson was valuable for his batting average, runs, and RBI. Consider that his career BASH is 1.64, and that he'll be in the midst of the great Yankees hitters, and he could end up with 100 runs and 100 RBI with just 20 HR in 140 games played. And when he's healthy, he has one of the best batting eyes around, which he's able to use to be an asset in batting average as well. There's clearly a lot of risk here, and he plays the deepest position in the game, but this is a player who has the possibility to provide a lot of “swing” in the standings, when considering his performance-to-price potential.
Ervin Santana | Los Angeles | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 5.03 ERA
Ervin was written up already this post-season, but I wanted to do share the GP graphic from him, since he was on my mind. I was invited to participate in a 24-team Scoresheet league with other “media” folks from various outlets around the country. It is quite an honor, and I'm indebted to the opportunities granted me by Baseball Daily Digest and The Hardball Times which made it possible. I mention this because my “initiation” to the league was being called an idiot (in somewhat more polite terms) by another league member after I traded Gallardo to King Kaufman for Aramis Ramirez and Ervin Santana (and 2 other players I probably won't keep). We have to cut to 10 keepers, so superstars are at a premium. So that really puts the pressure on the determination of whether a player is in the 240 best (minor leaguers don't count against the 10-keeper quota). Scoresheet also has a slight AL/NL modification for pitchers, to account for the 8- vs. 9-man lineups. To me, the only real question with Santana is health, and I'm a sucker for recent performances when it comes to health. The Angels expert for GP (David Saltzer) notes that his elbow appeared healed, his velocity was up, and he should be expected to throw 200 innings in 2010, with 15+ wins a possibility. These are all consistent with the Waiver Wire observations I had on 10/23, and I think he's a player who is very likely to be a draft-day bargain in many leagues.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here..
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am
Garrett Jones | Pittsburgh | OF
2009 Final Stats: .293/.372/.567
There might not be a bigger fantasy enigma in 2009 than Garrett "Where'd That Come From?" Jones. I covered him as #2 on my "2009 Misses" list and Mike Silver called him "the most confusing player in fantasy baseball." It's hard to improve on Mike's thorough breakdown, but I'll summarize my thoughts here.
After 11 seasons in the minors—five of them at AAA—Jones put together his first .500+ SLG above AA in 2009, earning a July promotion to Pittsburgh. Then, the guy who had a career .33 BB/K in the minors and 19 total SBs over the past four years somehow learned the strike zone (.53 BB/K) and swiped 10 bags (plus 14 at AAA).
These are the real puzzles, since the power was always there for Jones. Despite his poor SLG, he'd managed to increase that stat each of the previous four seasons at AAA, topping out at .484 in 2008. He'd cranked 30+ 2Bs and 20+ HRs in each of his full minor-league seasons over the same span (he only hit 13 HR in 2007, the year he was briefly called up to MIN, but he still swatted 32 doubles).
So while those 21 HRs and 21 2Bs in 2009 were more than expected, they're not a complete surprise. Mike Silver points out that Jones' absurd 22.8% HR/FB puts him in elite territory, where he's unlikely to remain. That makes GP's prediction of 24 HR feel just about right, even if it's only 3 more than he hit in 2009—everything about his sudden power production screams "hot streak" and "small sample size," so you've got to expect some regression.
The steals are the bigger mystery, but they declined in each month he was in MLB, dropping from 5 in July to just 1 in September. Though he's had a few steals in the past, guys just don't suddenly discover this kind of speed. The dropping steal numbers more than likely came because he's an unfamiliar face and a veteran player—he saw his opportunities and took them.
His only 2-SB game, against Houston on July 7, is a good example of this. It was only his seventh start of the year, and the Astros had only seen him on base once, when he'd reached with a double the day before. On July 7, he reached base in the second inning, didn't steal and was forced out on an Adam LaRoche DP ball.
When he reached in the seventh inning on four straight balls from Brian Moehler, Jones knew that Moehler was concentrating on throwing a strike. When he took a big lead and the righty ignored him, Jones stole second without a throw. He reached again in the eighth and stole on the second pitch, with the team leading 6-2. A better throw from Pudge would have nailed him, however; the ball beat him to the bag, but was well on the 1B side and flew into RF. One steal from smarts, and one from luck—here, too, those 9 SBs predicted by GP feel just about right.
What about the batting eye? Remember he was hitting #3 in front of Ryan Doumit or Lastings Milledge, who combined for 86 Ks and 14 HR in 500 ABs. Who would you rather pitch to? 8 of the 40 BBs against Jones were of the intentional variety, with seven of those coming in the last month of the season, when his power was clear. There's no indication, of course, of the "intentional unintentional walk," but it's very likely that Jones' walk rate (and hence his batting eye) had a lot to do with the Pittsburgh lineup around him.
In 2010, Jones has certainly earned himself a starting spot, though it may be at RF or 1B, depending on how Jeff Clement performs at the latter position. He's going to spank some home runs and, if the Pirates can get baserunners on in front of him, he should knock them in. Given the signing of Akinori Iwamura and the further development of Andrew McCutchen, those runs should be there for Jones to cash in on. He should also hold onto some of his gains in BB/K, but expect a BA much lower than .293, based on his sub-.80 contact skills.
Silver also points out his other Achilles' heel: his severe platoon splits. In the minors, his OPS was 120 points better against RHP, a gap that widened to 348 in 2009. Since this isn't expected to change, it's possible that Jones could be on the heavy side of a platoon at some point unless he turns that around.
About the only thing I don't agree with in Mike Silver's writeup is designating Jones as a "sleeper." Plenty of owners will be paying attention (and paying hefty chunks of their budgets) to get him. Don't fool yourself that a repeat of 2009 is in the works, but pay for the $15 player you see projected in the GP mini-browser. If he only qualifies at 1B in your league, his value could drop further, since he's only a serviceable CIF option, not a starting 1B, in all but the deepest of NL-only leagues.
Randy Wells | Chicago | SP
2009 Final Stats: 5.7 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 3.05 ERA
Wells was another pleasant 2009 surprise, for his owners and Cubs fans alike. Few analysts expected much from Wells, who wasn't even listed in most fantasy guides, and the ones that did list him were dismissive, at best. Like Garrett Jones, he seemed destined for a life in the minors, having spent seven seasons there, without ever impressing above AA.
But when Chicago needed another starter, they looked at Wells' AAA record thus far and thought, "Why not?" He'd put up a 3-0 record in 5 starts, with a 2.77 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, both the best ratios he'd had at AA or above. So they called him up in early May and he reeled off four solid starts, with a 1.80 ERA, 23 Ks and 7 BB in 25 IP.
All of us stood up and took notice when he brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning on his fifth outing against the Braves before leaving with a 5-1 lead in the top of the eighth. (He still couldn't collect his first win after the Cubs' pen fell apart and coughed up the lead, however.) Wells continued to hold our attention throughout the season, and ended ranked sixth in Rookie of the Year balloting for his impressive performance.
Like Jones, however, he's unlikely to repeat this level of performance again, and much of 2009 seems driven by luck. His core skills diminished as the year progressed—his WHIP grew each month, with September's ugly 1.47 somehow producing a 3.03 ERA, his second-best of any month in 2009.
While his .320 BABIP might indicate luck wasn't a factor, the telling stat here is his unsustainable 81% strand rate in Sept/Oct. Wells was very lucky in his last six starts of the season, just as he had been all season long, when he had a 79% strand rate. He had baserunners, more and more of them as the season went on, but they just didn't score; that will change in 2010.
Beyond his statistics, it's wise to think of the entire package. As my counterpart Rob McQuown points out in his GP2010 writeup, Wells is a converted catcher just six years into the changeover to the other end of the battery. That means his arm is relatively fresh, but his "pedestrian velocity" (Rob's great words) means there's not much room for error.
This means when Wells' luck gives out in 2010, he won't have the stuff to overcome it. He's good at inducing groundballs, with a 46% GB rate in the minors that also grew as he progressed, so he's unlikely to be punished by the longball—but when his luck turns around, Wells could be facing Death By Singles, which is just as detrimental to both ERA and WHIP (moreso to the latter).
As with Jones, you should moderate your expectations heavily for Wells in 2010. GP's 4.24 ERA and 1.40 WHIP predictions seem extremely fair, and point clearly to that $4 price tag. Wells is an average pitcher who had an amazingly above-average season in 2009; those of us who ignored or disparaged Wells before the 2009 season will feel vindicated when he regresses to predictable levels over the long term.
Let someone else in your league believe in Wells' 2009 season, but you should look elsewhere to fill out your pitching staff. Wells will be a decent option at the back end of your rotation as a late-round pickup—anyone who drafts him earlier will regret their unwarranted optimism.
Tim Alderson | Pittsburgh | SP
2009 Final Stats (minors): 5.5 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 3.93 ERA
Rob asked me to write up Tim, who hasn't accrued enough MLB PT to earn a GP writeup, and I talked a bit on Tim's future in the comments from that week. Since then, I've had some time to read more about him, including the rather glaring omission from my comments that he's no longer with the Giants (oops!).
Alderson was the price the Giants paid to pry Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates late last year, which is a good move for Alderson's career in some way. Though he's going to start 2010 in the minors, he could be ready for the big show by midseason and, with so many other great young starters already in the Giants rotation, it was hard to see him finding a spot.
Instead, he moves to a pitching-hungry club who are trying to restock their farm system, particularly in the pitching department—remember, this is the organization that signed two pitchers who'd won a baseball reality show in India! Alderson should face little opposition to advancement, and the promotions will be ready when he is.
The question for the 21-year-old is, when will he be ready? From an age perspective, it's not often that a kid gets to the bigs before he can legally drink, and Alderson isn't as skilled as Clayton Kershaw (who recently did so). Alderson hasn't pitched above AA yet, and when he made the transition to the Pirates organization, he stumbled making the adjustment, giving back gains in nearly every statistical category.
And even when he's on his game, his numbers haven't been eye-popping. Since graduating to AA, Alderson hasn't cracked 6.0 K/9, but his control has been outstanding enough to offset the diminished strikeouts. The downside of being around the strike zone has been his hit rate: he's also started giving up more than a hit per inning since advancing into AA.
His repertoire is still developing, as he works on a change to complement his curve and low-nineties fastball, both of which are plus pitches without being dominant. What helps him is how he uses them, pinpointing them in the zone to produce ground balls at a 46% rate. Since he stands 6'7", he's got a great downward plane on his pitches that should continue that groundball trend.
The downside of the trade for Alderson is the move from an organization that knows how to crank out young pitchers to one that seems merely to chew them up. Pittsburgh has had some fairly talented young arms in the past several years, but Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, and Tom Gorzelanny have had nothing more than one good season (if that). Granted, they made it to the majors—which says something—and joined some perfectly awful teams when they did, but none have ever reached the promise that they once showed.
Alderson could change that with the strong base begun with the Giants, and he's already got the control that other young pitchers struggle to develop. I'd watch his minor-league season next year and see how much of that sticks. Pittsburgh's desperate enough for pitching that they could call him up in 2010, but 2011 is when he should truly arrive and produce. Deep keeper leagues can roster him, but the rest of us can stand safely on the sidelines to see how long it takes for him to realize his substantial potential.
Stephen Drew | Arizona | SS
2009 Final Stats: .261/.320/.428
Except for Mark Reynolds and Felipe Lopez and some surprising minor-league callups, pretty much the entire Arizona starting lineup disappointed in 2009, as if crappy hitting was a virus they all caught and couldn't shake. Drew wasn't the worst of them—Chris Young would have given his eyeteeth for Drew's season—but it's definitely a huge step backwards from Drew's 2008.
But those expectations are part of the problem. Drew's .291/.333/.502 in 2008 was driven by an elevated 35% hit rate and 9.1 HR/FB%, just as 2009 was moderated by a 31% hit rate and 5.9% HR/FB. As with his core numbers, the truth for Drew is most likely somewhere in the middle, and 2009 had its share of contributing factors to hold him back.
In 2009, he was hindered early by a strained hamstring that kept him off the field for about three weeks, and he took another two weeks to get back into a groove after returning in early May. Then he ripped off a fourteen-game hit streak to bridge May and June, raising his batting average sixty-three points. He did this again between July and August, collecting a knock in eighteen of nineteen games, this time lifting his BA fifteen points.
Then, he hit just .243/.293/.376 the rest of the way, possibly due to Arizona's lost season. The Diamondbacks, mired in fourth or fifth place in the NL West, just looked lost. They never could figure out their 1B position, Young scuffled in the outfield, while Justin Upton was either inconsistent or injured.
Drew was a fixture atop the lineup, hitting .301/.352/.541 out of the leadoff spot (but just .238/.294/.359 in the two-hole, where he played slightly more often), but the guys hitting behind him were an ever-changing kaleidoscope of players and production levels. Even Arizona's best hitter, Mark Reynolds, was the ultimate all-or-nothing producer, delivering a home run or a strikeout in a whopping 43% of his ABs.
No wonder Drew had trouble with his own consistency. The fact is that his basic skills didn't change: his 84% contact rate remained strong and his 8% walk rate also improved over 2008. After his slow, hamstring-slowed start, he hit .274/.330/.450, which happens to be almost identical to his GP projection for 2010. And an 780 OPS SS is well above average, but hardly elite. Drew's got the skills to draw a walk and pop the longball now and again, but 2008 was an outlier as far as his ceiling goes.
With the recent signing of Kelly Johnson, Drew may have lost his leadoff spot (or not, depending on how you think KJ might do in 2010, a topic I'll address in a few weeks), which could diminish Drew's R production, if not his overall batting line. One of the problems with Drew is that he's not a great fit for any lineup spot—not enough speed for leadoff, not enough power for the heart of the lineup, and too much talent to hit sixth or lower. The only great fit for Drew is in the two-hole, where Gerardo Parra was extremely productive in 2009.
Wherever he hits, Drew is still a valuable shortstop who should improve on his 2009 performance, particularly if the D-backs around him have a bounceback year, too. You can exploit your fellow owner's shortsightedness (indicated by that 5 point drop in Sentiment in his GP mini-browser) by making a savvy bid for Drew, but that $14 projection looks right on target, so don't go too much beyond that figure. Drew should be good, but not that good.
Be sure and leave suggestions for other players you'd like me to write up in the comments. I'm starting with our countdown of 2009's top roto producers next week, but I'm saving a spot for requests each week.
And don't forget to pick up a copy of Graphical Player 2010, where these mini-browsers are just a part of the valuable fantasy info you'll find.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am
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