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Friday, May 17, 2013
The Daily Grind provides daily match-up advice for tinkerers and daily fantasy players. I welcome advice to help make this column more effective, including notice of impending weather events, new injuries, and changes to platoon situations. Ownership rates are from Yahoo!
The daily picks are a mixture of Daily League specific advice and information for the more typical fantasy owner.
Pitcher (to start): Jeanmar Gomez is the best available starter today, which is not a good thing.
Pitcher (bum): However, there are plenty of bad starters to sift through.
Jordan Lyles, Rick Porcello, Vance Worley, and Burch Smith all look particularly exploitable. In addition to those names, Brandon Maurer is opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez in a probable slugfest.
Hitter (power): Lucas Duda has a nice match-up against Edwin Jackson.
Garrett Jones will see Lyles while Daniel Nava will face Worley.
The Giants seem to directing some frustration at Brandon Belt despite solid performance. I expect Brett Pill to see starts against lefties, although I suppose we'll find out tonight.
Hitter (speed): Lorenzo Cain has a solid match-up against Jarrod Parker.
Chris Denorfia should start against Gio Gonzalez.
Pitcher (to start): I would usually recommend Hector Santiago, Marco Estrada and Justin Grimm, but they face the Angels, Cardinals, and Tigers respectively. So I'm avoiding them.
I mention them because I can't point at anybody else without it being a pure gamble. If you want that gamble pick anyway, it's Juan Nicasio against the Giants. But don't credit/blame me for the results.
Pitcher (bum): Joe Blanton has looked lost at times this season. The White Sox aren't a difficult match-up, but they're good enough to cause trouble.
Erik Bedard has yet to settle in this season. He's been unusually prone to walks and home runs—a bad combination.
Chris Capuano has a tough assignment against the Braves.
The Orioles are throwing the always talented TBA.
Hitter (power): Ervin Santana gives up some home runs, which makes it a good day for Seth Smith and Brandon Moss.
Brandon Belt ought to be owned more frequently than 33 percent. A game against Nicasio is likely to help his numbers.
Chris Johnson should like batting against Capuano.
Jonny Gomes finally sees a mid-tier lefty - Scott Diamond
Hitter (speed): Eric Young Jr. or Charlie Blackmon against Tim Lincecum might produce a steal or two.
Word on the street is that expanded replay could hit the shelves as early as 2014. The game will be poorer for it. You can't tell, but that was biting sarcasm.
Minnesota, Atlanta, and Chicago have possible thunderstorms in the forecast.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:41am
Strength of Schedule (SOS) is a concept usually reserved for discussions about football. That is largely because football has only 16 games per season, and therefore the variance between the easiest schedule and hardest schedule is quite large. Over a 162 game season, that disparity becomes much smaller, which is why now, 40 games into 2013, is the perfect time to gauge schedules in baseball—right now, there is a huge disparity between the best and worst quality of competition faced among specific players.
In fantasy baseball leagues, being aware of that disparity could lead to enormous advantages in valuing players much more accurately than your league mates, because at this point, strength of schedule just isn’t something the average baseball owner factors in. This week, I’m going to focus on the hitters with the best and worst SOS in certain metrics, and next week I will write up the pitchers.
Note: All of the data used in this article is from BaseballProspectus.com, and only includes hitters with a minimum of 75 Plate Appearances.
Nate McLouth, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and the rest of the Orioles lineup:
Baseball Prospectus has a metric called Opponent Slugging (oppSLG), which is the aggregate slugging average of all the pitchers faced against a hitter. The Orioles have nine of the top 20 performers in oppSLG so far this season. Basically, Baltimore as a team has faced pitchers who have given up an inordinately high slugging percentage so far this year, so all of the power-performances on the team must be taken with a slight grain of salt.
I still buy into Adam Jones, Chris Davis and even Nate McLouth as legitimate fantasy performers, but their power production pace might dwindle the rest of the year. That is particularly true in the cases of Chris Davis (11 HR, .659 SLG) J.J. Hardy (7 HR, .396 SLG) and Manny Machado (5 HR, .541 SLG).
The Blue Jays Lineup vs. the Tigers Lineup
At this point in the season, all of these opponent-gauging metrics seem to come in team-wide waves. One of those stats is Opponent On Base Percentage (oppOBP), which measures the aggregate On Base Percentage of all of the pitchers a batter has faced for the year. The Blue Jays have six of the 10 lowest oppOBP’s in major league baseball, and nine of the bottom 18, whereas Detroit actually has six of the top seven performers in the statistic.
The truth of the matter is the Blue Jays have just faced one of the hardest pitching schedules in baseball so far this year, and the Tigers have faced one of the easiest. Players like Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera have all been adversely affected by that fact, and players like Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter have all been greatly helped by it.
For example, the difference between Lawrie’s oppOBP (.298) and Torii Hunter’s (.330) makes the 100 point disparity in their OBPs more understandable—Hunter has faced significantly worse competition than Lawrie.
While the ratio of how much oppOBP affects a player’s actual OBP isn’t one to one, a shrewd fantasy owner should acknowledge that it has some tangible effect and downgrade some of what Hunter has accomplished this year, while upgrading what Lawrie has done. Both oppOBP and oppSLG should be used as a general tool to modify a player’s value slightly rather than to overhaul it entirely.
Buy Low On: Buster Posey
Posey has managed a .286/.391/.508 triple slash so far this season. The most impressive part of that is certainly the slugging percentage, as Posey is among the bottom thirty in oppSLG. Most fantasy owners are disappointed that Posey only has 5 homers so far this year, but I think that number should spike the rest of the way and owners will be thoroughly satisfied. Posey has also both increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate, so he is maturing as a hitter plate discipline-wise despite some bad luck. Now is a prime opportunity to buy low on the guy who is still clearly the best catcher in Major League Baseball.
Sell High On: Coco Crisp
Coco Crisp is tied for the tenth highest oppOBP in baseball. The reason I’ve singled out Crisp from that list as a sell high candidate is that his skillset in particular benefits greatly from facing a lot of high on base allowing competition. Speed-first guys are extremely prone to having value inflation due to their fluky OBP’s, and Crisp seems like a prime example of that phenomenon.
See, stolen bases are all about opportunities, and logically, the more a player gets on base, the more opportunity they will have to steal bases. So not only did Crisp’s value get inflated in the form of a higher batting average, more runs, and a higher OBP, it also gets inflated (disproportionately so) because Crisp now has significantly more stolen bases than he normally would have up to this point in the season. I still like Crisp, but his pace of eight stolen bases in 25 games is completely unsustainable, and I’d project his .375 OBP to regress to around his career norm of .330. If you can still get top 50 player rater value for him, I would pull the trigger on moving Crisp.
Posted by Moe Koltun at 2:44am
Baseball is funny. Fantasy baseball is especially funny.
Sometimes you're a quarter of the way into the season, all of your teams are in first place, all is right with the world, the sun in shining, the gods are smiling upon you, you're walking tall and feel like a million bucks, and then you happen to notice on twitter that David Price (a key cog on your dynasty team) felt something in his triceps, and then felt it again, and then came out of the game. And then seemingly all at once you think to yourself:
Oh god this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, how could this happen to me? And to David? Poor, sweet David. I wonder if there's anything I can do to help. Would chicken noodle soup help? I have no idea, I'm not a doctor. It always makes me feel better, I guess. How would I even get chicken noodle soup to him? The mail? Delivery? Is he a spaghetti man? Egg noodles? Fusilli? THIS IS A COMPLETE DISASTER. TAKE ANYONE BUT POOR, SWEET DAVID. TAKE ME! TAKE. ME.
Like I said, baseball is funny.
Unfortunately for certain fantasy baseball writers (hey, that's me!) injuries are a part of the game, and they're part of what bring us together here. Dumpster diving is necessary because you always need a Plan B. Even if Plan A is David Price, who has been really durable and just plain great the entire time you've had him on your team. Plan B. You need one. Before we look at some potential Plan B guys today, let's recap a few of our past subjects.
Recent Waiver Wire honorees Mitch Moreland, James Loney, and Will Venable were all among the most added players on CBS this week. Each can provide value in the right circumstances (those circumstances being that you need help, and not a savior).
John Lackey continues to be a very useful pitcher, despite his tough start against the Rays this week, and is still owned in just 34 percent of CBS leagues. He's out there, and he's undervalued.
Matt Garza is making potentially his last rehab start as this is being written, and could rejoin the Cubs early next week.
Let's start today's coverage with Scott Kazmir, since nobody seems to be doing much of that these days.
Scott Kazmir | Cleveland Indians| SP | ESPN: 20.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 23 percent; CBS: 65 percent
YTD: 2-2, 5.33 ERA, 5.58 FIP, 3.87 xFIP in 25.1 innings pitched
ZiPS Projection: 4-7, 5.80 ERA in 73 innings pitched
Kazmir received all kinds of press last week after he spun a pair of gems against Minnesota and Oakland, and as a result was CBS' most added players last week, jumping from 22 percent to 64 percent. I'm not here to recommend him, though, for a few reasons:
1. He's still a pretty extreme flyball pitcher (getting just 36.5 percent groundballs right now) and one who has seen a career rate of 9.5 percent of them leave the yard. It's worth noting that his home run rate is more than twice his career average right now, so a likely drop in that will improve his 5.53 ERA and 5.58 FIP close to his xFIP of 3.87. But still, those are not great numbers.
2. His control has been better, but we're still just looking at a sample of 25.1 innings pitched, and I'm not ready to buy that he's made significant strides there.
3. Because he gets a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks, and because that gets his pitchcount high early, he has a tough time pitching deep into ballgames. In points leagues, this is a real problem.
4. His strand rate right now (82.2 percent) is high, even for a guy who strikes out as many batters as he does.
Recommendation: He's one of the hot topics this week, and his strikeout totals might be pretty at times, but my hunch is his ERA, walks, and lack of innings will make him much less useful to fantasy owners than he will be in real life to the Indians. There are better options available in your league right now. Pass.
Eric Chavez | Arizona Diamondbacks | 3B | ESPN: 1.8 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 5 percent; CBS: 7 percent
YTD: .310/.376/.536 in 94 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .284/.347/.480 in 262 plate appearances
Hey, remember this guy? Would you believe me if I told you he was still just 35 years old? (Yes? Okay, well, good. It wasn't a trick statement or anything, he's 35 years old).
Chavez has to be on everyone's short list for "most frustrating/sad career paths." From 2001-2006, in his Age 23-28 seasons, he racked up 29.1 wins above replacement, combing stellar defense with an offensive profile you dream about. He hit for average, he walked, he hit for power. He accrued plenty of runs and RBI and was just generally a fantasy monster. Then injuries set in. He missed half of 2007 and then played just 122 games combined over the following four seasons. Last year he got his health more or less in order (certainly by his standards, at least) and was able to play in 133 games for the Yankees. He wasn't the monster he once was, but Chavez was sneakily good for New York, putting up a .360 wOBA while posting a strong batting average, walk rate, and ISO.
This year, Chavez has been able to play in 29 of the Diamondbacks 41 games, and is mostly just sitting against lefties. When he's in the lineup, he's been hitting cleanup, and producing at the plate just like the good old days. He is quite literally the biggest injury wild card you could ever have, but his .387 wOBA is worth the gamble. If he stays healthy, this pickup could solidify a championship run. If he adds another in a long line of injuries, well, at least you gave it your best shot.
Recommendation: It's hard to believe a guy with an OPS north of .900 is so widely available at this point of the season, but it's likely the fantasy market isn't buying what Chavez is selling because it's been burned so many times before. Add him now and ride the wave.
Munenori Kawasaki | Toronto Blue Jays | 2B/SS | ESPN: 0.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 3 percent
YTD: .235/.337/.279 in 83 plate appearances
ZiPS Projection: .257/.311/.311 in 402 plate appearances
Let's be clear, this is pretty deep digging for fantasy purposes, and Kawasaki is not going to help you (like, at all) in terms of batting average or power. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about what he can do, which is walk, steal bases, and potentially score runs when he's in the lineup (against right-handed pitching, mostly) while Jose Reyes is on the shelf.
In 83 plate appearances this year, Kawasaki has a very strong walk rate of 13.3 percent. There's a lot to like about his plate discipline numbers, including a very low O-Swing% of 18.7 percent, and an incredible contact rate of 94.4 percent. Essentially, he's not swinging at anything outside the zone, and is making contact with pretty much everything he does offer at. With the amount he's getting on base, he's been able to steal five bases, and has only been caught once.
Recommendation: Kawasaki is not a game breaker by any means, and his value will probably evaporate completely when Reyes returns, but in the short term he can provide some value to teams desperately needing middle infield help.
Posted by Jack Weiland at 2:43am
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