May 23, 2013
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008
There is still a bit of speculation at this point and it isn't official yet, but it looks as though Matt Holliday has been traded to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith. This could end up being the biggest trade we see all off-season, and it has significant fantasy ramifications for a number of players. In part one, we'll look at how this affects the Athletics as a team and the player who they are acquiring, Holliday.
Fallout: The A's
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this trade is Joey Devine with Huston Street heading out of town.
After a rough 2008 in which he lost hold of the closer's role, I had originally speculated that Street would be kept until the mid-point of the 2009 season (to build his trade value) and then dealt around the deadline, but apparently his value wasn't too low if the A's are acquiring Holliday for him.
This bodes extremely well for Devine, who had a tremendous season and looks to be the closer of the future in Oakland. To the delight of fantasy owners, that future could begin as soon as April. Check out his stats from this year:
| YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | LIPS_ERA | DIPS_WHIP | K_9 | BB_9 | xGB% | BABIP |
| 2008 | 24 | 42 | 45.7 | 0.59 | 3.24 | 1.05 | 9.66 | 2.96 | 39 | 0.221 |
He'll have to worry about Brad Ziegler, but Ziegler really doesn't profile as a closer and would be better suited for a setup role. The hype around this trade means Devine could go overlooked in the media for a while longer, so those in keeper leagues might want to consider picking him up or trading for him before he starts to get attention.
Ziegler also gets a bump in value as he'll have one less reliever to worry about if the A's do consider him a legitimate ninth inning option.
Justin Duchscherer is the only A's starter who can be 100 percent confident he has a rotation spot next spring, but the departure of Smith means that Sean Gallagher, Dana Eveland, and — even more so — fringy guys like Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, and Josh Outman are that much more likely to earn a rotation spot. It also potentially opens up a spot for a younger guy like Brett Anderson or Trevor Cahill at some point in 2009.
Gio has a great chance of claiming a spot, and he will be a very interesting guy to watch this year. He posted an MLE of a 8.2 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 at Triple-A this year and has a career 45 percent ground ball rate.
The last thing we must consider is what this moves tells us about Oakland's future plans. Very rarely will Oakland acquire a big name (especially one in a contract year); usually they're dealing them off. Does this move signal that Oakland thinks they can win in 2009, or was it simply a value trade? Some see Carlos Gonzalez as overrated, Smith was a pretty clear sell-high candidate this off-season, and a Street deal was quite likely if the return was adequate.
If it's the former (Holliday could add three or four wins, so it very well could be), we could see Oakland add another couple solid, major league talents, meaning younger guys who have yet to establish themselves as regulars or have struggled (think Daric Barton, Travis Buck, Eric Patterson, maybe Ryan Sweeney) could potentially be pushed into a bench role.
Or, Oakland could very well see this as a move that could help them this season, but if it doesn't pan out they'll be able to get something at the trade deadline as good (if not better) than what they just gave up (meaning they wouldn't necessarily add more players during the off-season).
A third option would be Oakland immediately spinning Holliday off, though I think that's a little less likely.
Fallout: Matt Holliday
Following this trade, some analysts might tell you that Holliday's production will suffer because of his extreme home/road split. They'll double his road line and call it a day. This is shoddy analysis, though, and the correct way to measure his "Oakland talent" is to use his full set of data (home and road) and adjust it according to park effects. Luckily for us, we have a very intricate park-adjusted metric in True Home Runs, so let's check out how Holliday's power figures to play in Oakland.
If you're new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I'm using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player's talent, so it's well worth a couple of minutes to learn them.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | COL/OAK tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
| 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 602 | 34 | 29 | 21 | 18 / 14 | 16 | 5.7 | 32 |
| 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 636 | 36 | 25 | 20 | 14 / 12 | 12 | 3.4 | 35 |
| 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 539 | 25 | 17 | 19 | 13 / 12 | 13 | 0.0 | 30 |
I have a very hard time advising against a player as good as Holliday, but True Home Runs just doesn't seem to like him all that much. He seems to be on a bit of a decline in the years most players are hitting their peak. I have two potential explanations for why this is happening.
The first is a loss of Raw Power (the number of fly balls per 100 that are hit 420 feet or further in neutral weather conditions). Back in 2006, his furthest ball was hit 465 feet, and he hit six past 440 feet. In 2007 his longest was 460 and he hit two past 440. In 2008, however, his longest was just 417, a monster drop-off. It could be sample size-related, random fluctuation, or he could have been playing through an injury. I don't have an absolute answer for you (no one does), but a bounceback is possible.
The second thing I wanted to note is that Holliday's home run power used to be to all fields. In 2006, he was blasting 440-450 foot shots to left field. In 2007, he still hit them out there, but not at that distance. In 2008, almost all of his homers were to center (check out his HitTracker page to see what I'm talking about). Because the centerfield fence is deeper than left and right field, it is more difficult to put up such high quantities of home runs (especially if your raw power is in decline). I don't know if this was a change in approach or just chance variation, but it certainly isn't a positive sign.
As far as Oakland goes, there was a four point difference in tHR/FB in 2006, but over the past two years there hasn't been much of a difference. They are still well below his actual HR/FB, though, so fantasy owners should be very cautious with Holliday.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
| 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 602 | 0.326 | 0.313 | 82 | 0.354 | 0.348 | 21 | 14 | 17 |
| 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 636 | 0.340 | 0.306 | 80 | 0.380 | 0.358 | 20 | 14 | 20 |
| 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 539 | 0.321 | 0.293 | 81 | 0.361 | 0.344 | 22 | 17 | 26 |
Holliday is clearly a great contact hitter, mostly as a result of his extraordinary BABIPs. Even with the expected power drop, Holliday's True Batting Averages are still quite good. They aren't, however, likely to be as good as most will assume. Marcels expects some regression in his BABIP, and the move to the AL and Oakland should certainly affect it further. This means that his final batting average next year should probably be expected to be around .285, assuming his power doesn't bounce back. There's certainly upside there (with the BABIP and home runs), but it's not the most likely scenario.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% |
| 2004 | 24 | Rockies | 400 | 3 | 6 | 0.239 | 6 | 50 |
| 2005 | 25 | Rockies | 479 | 14 | 17 | 0.264 | 12 | 82 |
| 2006 | 26 | Rockies | 602 | 10 | 15 | 0.256 | 9 | 67 |
| 2007 | 27 | Rockies | 636 | 11 | 15 | 0.266 | 8 | 73 |
| 2008 | 28 | Rockies | 539 | 28 | 30 | 0.295 | 16 | 93 |
Holliday exploded in the steals department in 2008, but it would be a mistake to bet on bet on a repeat in 2009. It was driven by all three of our stats, the first being Stolen Base Opportunity rate (SBO%). He reached first base more often due to an increase in walk rate, which is very possible to sustain. The Stolen Base Success rate (SB%), though, was a career best and well above what he's done in recent years. That should regress.
Perhaps the biggest regression could be in Stolen Base Attempt rate, though. The A's don't like to steal bases, and unless they think Holliday's 2008 success rate is for real, he'll get caught too often for Oakland to let him run much. Oakland was 19th in baseball this year in steal attempts (but that was boosted by speed demon Rajai Davis), and they were dead last in 2007 and 4th to last in 2006.
Overall, Holliday is a guy I'll be staying away from in 2009. His market value will drop as he moves away from Coors, but it likely won't fall far enough for me to warrant taking him. I have a hard time betting against a guy who has enjoyed so much success, but I'd also have a hard time taking him over a guy who's indicators are more solid.
Posted by Derek Carty
This is the second in a two-part series examining the trade of Matt Holliday
to the Oakland A's for (most likely) Huston Street
, Carlos Gonzalez
, and Greg Smith
. This could end up being the biggest trade we see all off-season, and it has significant fantasy ramifications for a number of players. In part two, we'll look at how this affects the Rockies as a team and the players who they are acquiring. For part one, click here
Fallout: The Rockies
The first guy we need to mention is Manny Corpas
. With Brian Fuentes
almost certainly leaving via free agency, Corpas was a great bet to start 2009 closing for the Rockies. With Street on board, however, Corpas could be pushed back into the eighth inning role. There is talk that the Rockies could spin Street off, though, so keep close tabs on this. There's also talk that Corpas has been told he'll close regardless, so don't go moving him down your draft board yet. This situation could clear itself up over the next few days.
Another guy whose value takes a hit is Ryan Spilborghs
, a personal favorite of mine who I wrote a little about in this year's Hardball Times Annual
. This trade changes my evaluation of him just a bit. Many Rockies fans thought Holliday would be traded for a top-notch starting pitcher — certainly not the case here. This would open up a spot for Spilborghs, who could lead off, score 100 runs, bat over .300, hit 20 home runs, and steal double-digit bases.
With Gonzalez coming over in the trade, though, that might not happen. My hope is Gonzalez starts in the minors, but he could still get called up mid-season. Hopefully Spilly establishes himself by then. Also, there's still hope Willy Taveras
gets traded this off-season, which allow both Spilborghs and Gonzalez to play and ensure the lead-off spot is open.
Since Smith should be assured of a rotation spot, this trade hurts the value of guys like Jorge de la Rosa (if tendered), Glendon Rusch
(if re-signed), Jason Hirsh
, Greg Reynolds, and Franklin Morales
, who will have to battle for the #5 spot (Aaron Cook
, Ubaldo Jimenez
, and Jeff Francis
occupy the first three). de la Rosa clearly deserves the spot, so I'd put the rest at a bigger disadvantage. Even if one of the others wins the spot out of Spring Training, it shouldn't be long before they lose it.
Fallout: Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith
While the switch to the National League should have a positive effect on these pitchers (Street and Smith), having to pitch in Colorado will definitely suppress those effects. Looking at park effects, according to StatCorner
, there is very little difference for walks and ground balls. There is, however, a noticeable difference in strikeouts and a big difference in HR/FB. Here are the 2008 lines for these two pitchers, illustrating the applied park effects:
| AGE | LAST | IP | ERA | LIPS_ERA | OAK/COL K/9 | BB/9 | xGB% | OAK/COL HR/FB |
| 24 | Street | 70.0 | 3.73 | 3.64 | 8.87 / 8.38 | 3.47 | 37 | 7.8 / 10.1 |
| 24 | Smith | 190.3 | 4.16 | 4.78 | 5.25 / 4.96 | 4.11 | 35 | 7.9 / 10.2 |
Strictly as a result of park effects (meaning the league change isn't included), they would each see a small-ish decline in K/9 and a huge spike in HR/FB. Smith can't afford to lose anymore strikeouts, and he isn't anything more than a late-round NL-only pick.
Street's value is still kind of up in the air since the Rockies could trade him off again. If he stays with the team, it really shouldn't change much. He'll be closing, same as he would be, and his stats shouldn't change too drastically. He has a 6.1 percent career HR/FB, showing that he likely has some control over it, and moving to Coors does take a bit off of his value. As a closer, though, fantasy owners shouldn't be relying too heavily on his ERA, so as long as he gets a chance to close, he should be fine.
Gonzalez is a mixed bag. The move to the National League, Coors field, and a solid lineup is obviously a positive. The problem is that he might not actually get to play in those conditions. Instead, he could be sent to the minors or could be platooned, something that was much less likely in Oakland. I already talked about Spilborghs, but he would be a smarter choice for the Rockies than Gonzalez, at least for right now, and is greater competition than someone like Aaron Cunningham
or Chris Denorfia
If he does get playing time, though, he could have some fantasy value. He has some speed and should be allowed to run more in Colorado than he was in Oakland. He also has shown flashes of power at lower levels of the minors and consistently posts high BABIPs. He strikes out a lot, limiting his batting average value, but if he winds up leading off for the Rockies, he'd could have great value in runs and good value in steals and homers.
Posted by Derek Carty
Amidst the Matt Holliday
to Oakland speculation storm yesterday, the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins agreed to a trade that also has some fantasy implications. The Nats will send Emilio Bonifacio
and a couple of Class-A prospects to the Fish for Josh Willingham
and Scott Olsen
Fallout: Josh Willingham
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
| 2006 | 27 | Marlins | 502 | 26 | 18 | 18 | 12 | 10 | 4.1 | 37 |
| 2007 | 28 | Marlins | 521 | 21 | 18 | 14 | 12 | 11 | 2.6 | 38 |
| 2008 | 29 | Marlins | 351 | 15 | 14 | 15 | 14 | 14 | 0.0 | 37 |
If you're new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I'm using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player's talent, so it's well worth a couple of minutes to learn them.
Sorry guys, the version of HitTracker I'm using doesn't have National Park in there, so I can't translate the numbers for you. We can still look at his Park Neutral HR/FB (nHR/FB) and get a good idea about his power, though.
As you can see, Willingham's power level in 2006 wasn't for real. His nHR/FB was 8 points lower than his actual HR/FB, which promptly fell in the following year. His nHR/FB has been on the rise, though, topping off at a solid 14 percent in 2008 to go with a steady outfield fly rate.
Willingham isn't anything special, power-wise, but he can provide at least solid value with 20 or so homers given 550 at-bats.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
| 2006 | 27 | Marlins | 502 | 0.277 | 0.263 | 78 | 0.308 | 0.311 | 16 | 15 | 22 |
| 2007 | 28 | Marlins | 521 | 0.265 | 0.260 | 77 | 0.310 | 0.311 | 20 | 19 | 22 |
| 2008 | 29 | Marlins | 351 | 0.254 | 0.249 | 77 | 0.291 | 0.289 | 19 | 18 | 19 |
While Willingham has decent power, he will hurt you with his batting average. He has a below-average contact rate, and his BABIP (and mBABIP) fell below average as well in 2008. What you see is essentially what you get here, as his True Batting Averages match his actual batting averages pretty well.
Willingham has no speed to speak of, so you're essentially getting a .250 hitter with 20 HR power.
The Nats have said they'll use him as an outfielder, which means his overall value will take a hit. The team already has Lastings Milledge
, Elijah Dukes
, Austin Kearns
, Wily Mo Pena
, and Willie Harris
(underrated, terrific defense) occupying spots on the outfield depth chart. He'll likely start, but his job will be less secure than it was in Florida. He batted mostly fourth (when healthy) in a pretty potent Florida lineup this year, and even if he bats fourth for the Nationals his RBI and run value will likely take a hit.
Fallout: Scott Olsen
| YEAR | AGE | LAST | G | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | DIPS WHIP | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% |
| 2005 | 21 | Olsen | 5 | 20.3 | 3.98 | 3.84 | 1.43 | 9.30 | 4.43 | 0.44 | 40 |
| 2006 | 22 | Olsen | 31 | 180.7 | 4.04 | 3.95 | 1.32 | 8.27 | 3.74 | 0.36 | 44 |
| 2007 | 23 | Olsen | 33 | 176.7 | 5.81 | 4.73 | 1.57 | 6.78 | 4.33 | -0.17 | 40 |
| 2008 | 24 | Olsen | 33 | 201.7 | 4.20 | 4.75 | 1.38 | 5.04 | 3.08 | -0.41 | 38 |
Olsen was once a very promising pitcher, but he is on a four-year decline. He showed nice promise after given a cup of coffee in 2005, and after his 2006 season he looked like a prime breakout candidate for 2007. He went the opposite direction, though, as his K/BB Run Impact fell into the negatives, his ground ball rate dropped, and his LIPS ERA climbed into the high 4.00s.
This past year, his strikeout rate fell below league average as his ground ball rate fell even further. He did improve his control, but Olsen just doesn't seem like someone fantasy owners should care much about anymore.
I suppose the potential will always be there for him to turn things around (he is still just 24 years old, after all), but he won't be drafted until the second-half of NL-only leagues this year. This trade shouldn't change that. If anything, his value decreases just a little.
, the two teams had nearly identical RZRs (.827 to 8.25) but Washington got to more out-of-zone balls (457 to 396).
Last year's Bill James
Handbook (sorry, I haven't picked up my 2009 copy yet) put Dolphin Stadium at a HR Park Index of 91. ESPN
put Nationals Park (new in 2008) at 94 this year. The sample size is small there, though, and if we were to regress it to the mean, the difference would get a little larger.
The Marlins scored 770 runs this year compared to Washington's 641, but if the Marlins continue clearing house and the Nats make a big signing or two (which is being rumored), the gap could close quickly.
I guess the summary is that, weighing all these factors, Olsen's value stays relatively the same. He is still a below-average pitcher with little fantasy value who won't really be helped or hurt too drastically by the trade.
Fallout: Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio's value takes a huge hit with this trade. While he was a legitimate option to start at second base for the Nationals, he now has Dan Uggla
ahead of him on the depth chart. Florida is insistent they won't trade Uggla, so unless they change their tune, Bonifacio figures to spend most of the season in the minors or on the bench.
He would be an interesting sleeper if he gets some playing time as he has great speed and could get you some cheap steals. He doesn't have much power, though, and strikes out to often to help much with batting average.
After trading Mike Jacobs
last week, this trade continues to emphasize the Marlins' commitment to deal off their players whose contracts are getting larger. Right now, the two main guys this affects are Kevin Gregg
and Jeremy Hermida
. If Gregg is traded, his value likely drops. If Hermida is traded, it'll depend on where he goes. He'd likely benefit from a trade to most teams in the league at this point.
As yet another power hitter is being removed from the team's lineup, guys like Uggla and Hanley Ramirez
lose a bit of value since they'll be driven in a little less frequently. If Hermida ends up going, there would be little left of this offense aside from Uggla and Hanley. There's talk Hanley could be moved to the third spot in the order, which might actually hurt him. He'll grab a few more RBIs at the expense of some runs, and in that spot might not be allowed to run as often.
This trade helps the value of Andrew Miller
a lot. He was sort of the odd-man-out at the end of 2008 once he returned from injury, and the departure of Olsen frees up a rotation spot for him. Scouts love his raw talent, but his numbers have not been impressive yet. He'll be interesting to watch, but he's no more than a high-risk speculative pick on draft day.
It might not have been necessary, but the trade of Willingham all but assures Cameron Maybin
of a starting spot in 2009. I'm still not sure he's major league ready, but the potential is there. I'd be more inclined to wait until 2010 on him, though.
The outfielders I mentioned earlier (Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Harris, Pena) are all affected by this trade since another outfielder with a reputation for being pretty good is thrown into the mix. Milledge is the safest of the bunch, followed by Dukes, and I won't be changing their values too much. The other guys all need to be concerned and will likely start the season on the bench, if they aren't traded (which could actually be a good thing for their value).
Posted by Derek Carty
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Over the past few fantasy seasons, we've seen a number of pitchers increase their fantasy value. Some of these improvements have been flukes (hello, Oliver Perez
), and some of them have showed that their new talent level was legitimate and warranted a pretty high draft slot. If I were to name some of those folks offhand, I'd come up with guys like C.C. Sabathia
, Aaron Harang
, Dan Haren
, and James Shields
. These are pitchers who had what I'd call "breakout" seasons: seasons in which they improved dramatically and sustainably.
It would be an enormous advantage to have some insight during a draft into who might be a breakout candidate, as before their coming out party they'd likely still be available by the 150th or 200th pick. And going forward, they won't be around that late for many years.
If we're going to objectively determine who might be a breakout candidate in 2009, we first need to objectively determine what a breakout season is. Going back to 2002, I downloaded statistics on all pitcher-seasons in which a pitcher amassed over 100 innings. It seemed like a good number in order to minimize small sample size issues, include only starters, and allow for some variability in pitcher health over the course of the analysis. Choosing 200 innings would give me seasonal lines in which I was more certain of true pitcher talent, but it would eliminate some pitchers who managed as many as 30+ starts—by all accounts, a total that any GM should be happy to get out of a starter.
How can one best measure whether a pitcher's true talent has changed from season to season? There are a number of statistics one could choose from, but I decided on FIP
. It's important to note that just because a pitcher had a significant change in FIP from year to year, does not mean his fantasy value changed. A bad FIP one year with a few lucky wins is certainly as good or better than a solid FIP the next year with some tough losses and no-decisions. On the whole, though, pitchers who show a repeatable improvement in FIP will be good bets to have significantly higher fantasy value as well.
Knowing that I wanted to look at FIP, I decided to select all pitchers who met the following criteria:
1. pitched 100+ innings in three consecutive years
2. showed a FIP improvement from the first year to the second of at least .30
3. showed a FIP improvement from the first year to the third of at least .30
4. maintained a FIP of 3.99 or better during the second and third year.
In plain words, the first qualification ensures the pitchers are starters with at least a minimum measure of durability. The second qualification ensures that pitchers improved by a substantial amount, and the third qualification ensures it wasn't a fluke and that they maintained this improvement the year after. The final qualification ensures that the improvement put the pitchers among the elite in the big leagues, and can be a big asset to a fantasy team going forward. A pitcher who meets all four qualifications is one that I'd define as having had a "breakout" season during the second of those three seasons. They showed lasting, noticeable improvement that put them at the highest level among their peers.
Examining the breakouts
Applying those criteria to the aforementioned sample (seasons since and including 2002), I get the following list of players:
Not bad, right? I actually think the criteria I established ended up working pretty well. The four examples that came to my mind are there, and with the exception of Pavano and maybe Doug Davis
, I think this is a very good list of pitchers who have turned themselves into stars over the last few years. C.C. Sabathia would actually appear twice, showing us that he's perhaps not once, but twice establish new levels of excellence. However since his first breakout year looks like a result of one down year in 2004, I decided to only include data from his second breakout, in which he reached a substantially lower FIP than he'd ever had even before that down year.
So in examining this list, I am reminded that there are two primary ways to be an elite starter in the majors: strike a bunch of guys out and keep the walks down, or keep the ball on the ground and in the park. To account for this, I'll divide the group into two subcategories: those who get more than 50 percent ground balls, and those who get less. This will help me examine how
these players managed to get better.
Our ground ball group of Webb, Wang, Carpenter, and Hudson show an average of a 5 percent smaller strikeout rate in their breakout year, and merely one additional percentage point of batted balls being ground balls. What is the source of their improvement then? It appears to be their walk rate, which improved by 26 percent in their breakout year.
As for the classic strikeout pitchers, their breakout seasons show a 14 percent increase in strikeout rate, a 16 percent decrease in walk rate, and no meaningful change in rate of ground balls.
Over the past six years, there have been two types of breakout pitchers: high ground ball pitchers, and high strikeout/low walk pitchers. Groundball pitchers, though a small group, have reached new levels of performance by reducing their walk rate by over 25 percent. The rest of the breakout pitchers showed significant improvements in both their strikeout rate (14 percent increase) and their walk rate (16 percent decrease). In the second and final installment of this series, I'll take a look at the collective pitching lines of these pitchers in the year prior to their breakout. I'll then match that up to pitching lines from 2008, and try to come up with a list of potential fantasy sleeper picks and breakout candidates for 2009.
Posted by Michael Lerra
Friday, November 14, 2008
To say that Chris Carpenter
’s career since 2003 has been a whirlwind of heartbreak would be a mammoth understatement.
In 2003, he had right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, then missed the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox due to nerve irritation arising from compression in his right biceps muscle.
The next couple of seasons were considerably more positive. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005 with a 21-5 record and 213 strikeouts in 241-plus innings. But his workload in 2005, followed by another heavy-volume season in 2006 (22-plus IP), was likely a major factor in the physical problems he has faced since.
He lasted only one game into the 2007 season before succumbing to right elbow pain and subsequent Tommy John
surgery. Attempting to return in 2008 about 12 months after his operation (at the early end of the normal 12-15 month return time frame), Carpenter again lasted only a short period (three games, 14 IP) before a triceps strain (later found to be a teres major strain) shelved him for the balance of the season.
The offseason brought news of nerve compression in his shoulder, primarily to the musculocutaneous nerve. Could this be the same problem that causes him to miss the Series in 2004? It sure sounds similar—especially since this nerve serves the biceps muscle, the very same muscle that apparently caused his nerve irritation in 2004.
As a result of his symptoms, surgery was being considered as an option to release the nerve from its compression. But after Carpenter received four opinions from various specialists, it was decided that he would not have the surgery because there was no guarantee that it would alleviate his symptoms. In addition, the specialists felt that the risks were too great.
It was then determined that Carpenter needed ulnar nerve transposition surgery, which is performed at the medial elbow, and is often done during a Tommy John surgery. The surgery was performed on Nov. 4, by Dr. George Paletta. The team said Carpenter’s elbow surgery was not expected to “interfere with or prolong” his current shoulder therapy and rehabilitation.
I look back to earlier in the 2007 season, when there was concern that he had ulnar nerve irritation, and wonder if there was anything that could have been done then to address this situation. Obviously, you never want to rush into an invasive surgical procedure, but if there is smoke there is usually fire. Extinguish the fire if it is present.
Outlook for 2009 and beyond
Carpenter is among the highest of injury risks in fantasy drafts for 2009 and for the years beyond. The biggest concern is that he has dealt with numerous pitching arm/shoulder injuries over the past five seasons. In addition to having a labrum repair, he has suffered nerve irritation (from many locations) as well as muscle strains that are likely in part due to secondary muscle weakness from the nerve involvement, as well as time spent sidelined.
Once nerve tissue is inflamed or scarred, it is highly reactive to becoming aggravated once again. Since it is likely that there are some areas of nerve compression in his shoulder, I find it hard to imagine that Carpenter will be able to make it through any meaningful volume of outings in 2009. I will not be drafting him in any mixed league, but NL-only managers might want to gamble on him as an end-of-the-rotation type starting pitcher.
Posted by Chris Neault
There has been quite a bit of movement in the closer market over the past few days, so let's take a look at the ramifications of these moves.
- Salomon Torres announced his retirement. Torres saved 28 games for the Brewers last season, and with a $3.75 million team option, most assumed the Brewers would bring him back and he could begin 2009 as the closer.
- It seems that Trevor Hoffman and the Padres have cut their ties. Early in the offseason, most assumed Hoffman would either re-sign with the team he's been with for 15 years or retire. Now, it looks as though he'll be signing elsewhere.
- The Florida Marlins traded Kevin Gregg to the Chicago Cubs for pitching prospect Jose Ceda. A Gregg trade was expected, but now we know where he's going and how it affects those involved.
Let's check out how these moves affect your fantasy plans.
With Torres gone, the Brewers could go after a free agent closer or trade for one. Doug Melvin, however, recently had this
to say: "We're not going to spend a big chunk of money on a closer. We've found closers in the past. You usually don't find that out until later (in the offseason)."
However, the other guys who were in the mix in 2008 (Eric Gagne
, Guillermo Mota
and Brian Shouse
) are all free agents, leaving us to wonder who will close in 2009. There was a good article at Brew Crew Ball
highlighting the candidates.
The three front-runners seem to be David Riske
, Seth McClung
and Carlos Villanueva
. These were the three guys Melvin mentioned
: "We're going to have to retool the bullpen a little bit. We have Riske back, McClung back, unless he goes into a starting role, and then Villanueva. We do have some holes to fill, but we had holes last year to fill, too." The Gazette
also said that "Melvin mentioned hard-throwing right-hander Seth McClung as an internal option to try as closer."
Let's take a quick look at these three candidates:
None are awe-inspiring, but Villanueva is clearly best (though McClung took a big step forward this year after pitching just 12 innings in 2007 and then coming over from the Rays last offseason). Riske took a nose-dive this year, though his leverage index (1.30) topped Villanueva's (1.18) and McClung's (0.61). Riske wouldn't last long in the role, although Villaneuva probably could survive if given the opportunity.
I'll go on the record as saying my choice would be a guy we haven't mentioned yet: Mark DiFelice
(9.0 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 in 189 Double- and Triple-A innings). Todd Coffey
would be another option. He's never been great at the major league level, but he has been great in the minors over the past couple of years and induces a lot of ground balls. Joe Bateman
also has a very good minor league record and makes for a solid darkhorse candidate.
Another option for the Brewers would be to sign a low-priced free agent, a la Gagne last off-season. Given how many potential closers seem to be available this offseason, it wouldn't be a surprise to see someone like Hoffman or Brandon Lyon
forced to settle for a cheap contract. The Brewers haven't had problems going with risky or unproven closers in the past, so unless a situation like this occurs, one of the in-house options we discussed figure to begin the year in the role.
Following Hoffman's departure, the Padres have two real options: acquire a new closer or give the job to Heath Bell
. Since money seems to be very tight for the Padres, since Bell is an excellent reliever, and since the Padres surely know this, giving the job to Bell seems the most likely scenario. Adding another quality reliever (and assuming him as a closer) could help the bullpen as a whole and shouldn't be ruled out, but it's unlikely the Padres could acquire someone better than Bell for the pennies they're willing to spend.
Let's check out Bell's numbers:
| YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | WHIP | DIPS WHIP | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% |
| 2004 | 26 | 17 | 24.3 | 3.33 | 2.33 | 1.15 | 1.03 | 9.99 | 2.22 | 1.14 | 45 |
| 2005 | 27 | 42 | 46.7 | 5.59 | 3.23 | 1.48 | 1.29 | 8.29 | 2.51 | 0.59 | 48 |
| 2006 | 28 | 22 | 37.0 | 5.11 | 3.83 | 1.68 | 1.35 | 8.51 | 2.68 | 0.64 | 56 |
| 2007 | 29 | 81 | 93.7 | 2.02 | 3.04 | 0.96 | 1.09 | 9.80 | 2.88 | 0.93 | 58 |
| 2008 | 30 | 74 | 78.0 | 3.58 | 3.81 | 1.21 | 1.24 | 8.19 | 3.23 | 0.38 | 46 |
He had a bit of a down year in 2008, but he has a very good record and would still be plenty good enough to close games even if he puts up the exact same numbers as in 2008. He is 30 years old now (blame a poorly run New York Mets organization for not giving him an opportunity sooner), so big improvements shouldn't be in order, but Bell looks like a great keeper and an excellent sleeper for 2009.
Following the acquistion of Gregg, the Cubs announced that they wouldn't be re-signing Kerry Wood
. That leaves the closer's role vacant, with Gregg and Carlos Marmol
as the two options to fill it. Most of the early reports are saying that the Cubs want Marmol to close with Gregg joining guys like Jeff Samardzija
, Angel Guzman
and Neal Cotts
in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Marmol is vastly superior anyway and is the correct choice. Gregg was solid enough in 2007, but he wasn't nearly closer material in 2008 and should work in a seventh- or eighth-inning role for the Cubs. This trade destroys his value. He could have closed if he had stuck with the Marlins, or he could have closed if he were traded to another team (like the Mets, who might have just dodged a bullet)
Let's quickly check out Marmol's numbers:
| YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | LOB% |
| 2006 | 23 | 19 | 77.0 | 6.08 | 5.63 | 6.90 | 6.90 | -0.64 | 28 | 0.270 | 70 |
| 2007 | 24 | 59 | 69.3 | 1.43 | 3.22 | 12.46 | 4.54 | 1.29 | 30 | 0.264 | 91 |
| 2008 | 25 | 82 | 87.3 | 2.68 | 3.18 | 11.75 | 4.23 | 1.10 | 31 | 0.174 | 78 |
He was awful in 2006 (mostly as a starter), but has been excellent over the past two seasons after converting full-time to a reliever. His strikeout numbers are enormous (big enough to compensate for his below-average control and extreme fly ball tendencies) and he's entering his prime, so Marmol looks like an excellent fantasy selection next year. Also, while we're still looking at small samples, his BABIP and LOB percentage have been excellent over the past two seasons. If those turn out to be repeatable, he should easily be able to beat his LIPS ERAs (which are still very good in and of themselves).
He's received lots of hype in the past, so it'll be interesting to see where he gets drafted now that the closer's role seems to be his.
This one is pretty straightforward. A Gregg trade was expected, and seeing as how the team let Matt Lindstrom
close in his absence last year (and even let him continue closing once Gregg returned from the disabled list), he is the obvious favorite heading into 2009. While his ERA was almost identical to 2007, his skills experienced a big-time regression. Take a look:
| YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | LOB% | HR/FB |
| 2007 | 27 | 71 | 67.0 | 3.09 | 8.33 | 2.96 | 0.52 | 46 | 0.333 | 73 | 2.9 |
| 2008 | 28 | 66 | 57.3 | 3.14 | 6.75 | 4.08 | -0.17 | 49 | 0.335 | 76 | 2.0 |
Lindstrom had a great rookie campaign in 2007, but he took a big step backward in 2008. The strikeout rate went down and the walk rate went up, resulting in his K/BB Run Impact falling into negative territory. The low HR/FB rates are nice to see, but at just 124.1 innings, it's far too early to call it a repeatable skill.
He's the guy to own at the start of the year, and he receives a big value boost from this trade, but unless changes are made, he won't be able to keep the job all year. If the Marlins realize this, they could sign a cheap veteran (think maybe Rafael Soriano
or Jason Isringhausen
) to compete with him or as a backup plan.
Jose Ceda goes (the return for Gregg), is a guy scouts really like and who has posted big strikeout numbers but whose control has been lacking. Marlins GM Larry Beinfest said that "Jose is a big, strong kid with a real live arm. We think he can help us in the back end of our bullpen in the very near future, if not right away." If Lindstrom struggles and Ceda makes strides with his control, he's a guy to keep an eye on in the second half of 2009.
Posted by Derek Carty
A couple of notes: (1) It is helpful for our authors to know your league setup (number of teams, roster spots, any other important specifics), so if you'd like to raise the chances of getting your question answered and receiving a good answer at that, please include that information in your e-mail. (2) Though we'll consider any question, we prefer general questions that might be useful to our other readers. Those questions are also more likely to get answered, though again, we encourage any question you would like to ask.
And now, on to the mailbag!
For a keeper league, are any of these guys worth a gamble?:
It depends on the type of league we're dealing with and how the keeper system works. In a mixed league (unless it is very deep), I would have to say that none deserve consideration. Even in an "only" league, Sosa, Hirsh and Hennessey are simply too poor to consider keeping, so they are out of the question for any kind of mixed league. For the other guys it would depend on the individual circumstances. If you absolutely had to keep one guy, Murton would likely be my choice. He's got solid potential but is far from a sure thing. In a deep mixed league, again depending on the exact situation, he might deserve consideration.
- Derek Carty
What do you think of Chris Davis going forward? In particular how do you see his BA playing out next year given that we have a half season of MLB experience and data to add to his minor league stuff. Hit me with some sabermetrics. I looked up his stats on him on your site, which is cool, but I don't really know how to interpret yet.
I have him in a freezer league (10 team 4X4 AL only, freeze six guys per team). I can freeze him for free this year and decide next year if I want a long-term contract. I'm in love with his power potential, but I'm afraid he's going to hit .250 because of his contact rate. I think he's a no-brainer compared to some of my other bottom end freezer options (Damon, Aviles, Shields). I figure there's a decent chance he's the best of that group next year, but with added potential value of a long-term big-time power guy (which we're short on with Ellsbury/Upton/Rivera/Granderson as other freezers). I don't think I can pass on him. I'm really not big on SP, so though I love Shields I'd be unlikely to freeze him over any of my other bats.
Also: What do you think for N. Cruz and Aviles next year? They're both guys we could freeze, but expect we can probably get them back in the draft.
Everything you said about Davis is true. He has fantastic power potential but has definite batting average risk. I see no reason why Davis can’t keep putting up big power numbers. However, he has a few indicators that would suggest there is batting average downside. Davis struggles to make contact. which is one of the most important indicators for batting average.
Also, Davis had a 25.5 percent line drive rate and .351 BABIP. It will be quite difficult for him to keep these numbers up and thus his batting average will likely regress next year. With that being said, Davis should be considered as a keeper. As you said, the group of players you are considering keeping doesn’t have great power numbers. If you decide to keep Davis,, you could also go after a high batting average like Placido Polanco to balance out the batting average risk with Davis. What you also need to consider is that Davis will most likely be eligible for third base next year.
In the end, though, it depends on your risk preference. Are you willing to accept the batting average risk and limited sample size that Davis brings? Or would you rather face the risks that Shields brings as a pitcher?
Finally, I would say no for sure for Aviles. Aviles probably isn’t going to perform as well as he did last year. When it comes to Cruz, everyone is going to be looking for the next Ryan Ludwick next year and Cruz could be a popular target. However, we need to remember that the chances of picking a specific player to break out like Ludwick are very low. If you feel that you can get a good return for Cruz in a trade, it might be worth considering keeping him. Otherwise I would rate Cruz a distant third behind Shields and Davis.
- Victor Wang
How horrible is Mark Reynolds? Will he every stop the strikeouts?
Cory, to be concise, most likely no, he will not strike out less next season. And for this reason alone, his fantasy value will remain low because of the .239 batting average he puts up. You can play around with any of the more advanced plate discipline statistics mentioned in this article
. But all of them say the same thing: He is too aggressive a swinger for someone who makes contact as little as he does.
The one thing he could do to lessen the amount of strikeouts he gets without actually increasing his contact skills is to swing much less. So instead of his current 47 percent swing percentage, he could drop to the Jack Cust level of 38 percent. I still, however, see no reason why he will stop striking out next season at the rate he does, except that perhaps he does not want to set the strikeout record again.
- Paul Singman
What do you hear about Bobby Abreu going to the Cubs? What round would you project him at?
I have not heard/read any rumors regarding Abreu and his potential homes for next season, at least nothing solid. I believe he has filed for free agency, and according to Rotowire, its not clear if the Yankees will try very hard to re-sign him. That being said, I'm not convinced the Cubs really have a need for a 35-year-old, defensively challenged right fielder. (I believe John Dewan's +/- system ranked Abreu as the second worst right fielder in 2008), as two larger concerns are finding an adequate center fielder and filling in the hole in the rotation, since Ryan Dempster also has filed for free agency.
If the Cubs do sign Abreu, I think it would be safe to say that they are trying to win now, since their lineup won't be getting any younger with this addition. But again, I haven't heard anything that's worth betting on...
As far as fantasy goes, I don't think Abreu's value will drop considerably just because he is out of New York. I'm not the biggest believer in lineup protection, so I'm not too concerned about his performance from that aspect. He is awfully consistent, and pretty durable (150-plus games each season since 1998), so unless he moves to a place like PETCO or Dodger Stadium, I'd expect the consistency to continue.
I can't answer ihat round I would take him in, since that depends on the format of the league, but generally speaking, I would rank him slightly below guys like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios.
- Marco Fujimoto
It's early, but I'm thinking about optimal parameters for my league's setup next year.
C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF, UTIL
Categories: HR, RBI, NetSB, OBP, SLG | K, W, IP, ERA, WHIP
GS max: 162
I am in leagues this season that do not differentiate between OFs, so I am unsure if Yahoo! or ESPN has accurate positional designations, and how difficult it is to play one player in each slot. It seemed as though a good portion of my free agent pickups this past season were outfielders, but I'm not sure whether that was just natural variance or whether the fact that there was no difference between OF slots just made me feel as though there were more of those pickups. (It didn't help that the league I was most active in had five starting OF slots).
I am aiming to give hitters and pitchers roughly equal value, so I have nine starters of each, as well as three counting stats and two rate stats for each. I enjoyed the generic pitcher slot much more this season than strict starting and relief slots. The tight bench aims to prevent an overabundance of swapping pitchers out for spot starts, as does the max games-started limit. The tight bench also makes the league a bit more difficult overall.
The stats I've chosen give a much more realistic sense of value to players' statistics; I think 10 categories is a good number as opposed to eight. I have thus included RBI and wins—while not the best indicator of player value, they do have some relevance and are counting stats (I got burned using too many rate stats in the league I formed this year). Net steals also give a much more realistic sense of how a player is helping his team.
Any thoughts on the parameters of this league would be appreciated.
(This question was of quite a bit of interest to our authors, so we're publishing two responses.)
John, interesting that you bring up league settings. They often go overlooked and can make for a much better league so long as you make reasonable variations of traditional 5X5 scoring. I especially like the net steals category which, as you said, better shows how a player's steals helped or hurt his team. Dustin Pedroia (20 steals, 19 net) rightfully becomes worth about the same as Chone Figgins (34 steals, 21 net).
Without a runs category, I am concerned that leadoff guys might become a bit undervalued, as they do not get as many RBI. I know you want to keep the same number of rate stats for both hitters and pitchers, but I would consider changing OBP and SLG simply to OPS---a combination of both--- and then making Runs the fifth hitting category. I don't think there is necessarily a correct answer here, but I would consider the change.
I like having innings pitched as a category since it makes having a roster of elite set-up men to win WHIP and ERA much less valuable, but I see then saves were left out. As unimportant a stat saves are, I find they are one of the more fun fantasy categories to compete in. Without saves, I can also see the RP market getting annoyingly saturated. If you willing to go 6X6, my suggestion is to keep OBP and SLG as you have it, and then to add runs and saves as sixth categories. If you decide to scrap innings pitched as a category, make sure you set a high minimum innings pitched limit as well.
- Paul Singman
The challenge in structuring fantasy baseball (and, for that matter, and group competition) is in ensuring that as many players as possible can enjoy the experience. And for most of these players, enjoying the experience involves some sense that they could, on any given day, beat any other team.
In every league, there are casual players and there are folks like us, who live, breathe and sleep fantasy baseball. We look at stats and we're already coming up with our draft board even though the 2008 season has been over for maybe 11 days. If the folks who put the most time and nerdly effort into it were the ones who won the league every year, it would quickly cease being fun for the more casual players.
I'm convinced that this is why fantasy leagues run by Yahoo and other websites have put in a number of measures to help ensure parity in the leagues. The biggest of these is the head-to-head structure, in which results are laughably luck-induced. A second factor is the presence of some pretty good preseason rankings. Yahoo's "O-rank" in particular, is frustratingly similar to my preseason draft board each year. Assuming my projections are good, this mutes my advantage in player valuation over other managers—they can spend 10 seconds looking at O-rank to make their choice, and be on just about equal footing to me, who spent 10 hours combing various projections.
And that's my main point about your league. For better or worse, you've substituted categories like runs and batting average, which are subject to a lot of season-to-season variation in each player, for OBP and SLG, which are much more stable. Whereas a savvy fantasy baseball player will be able to identify "lucky" and "unlucky" seasons that a player has in batting average and adjust his valuation of that player accordingly, OBP and SLG tend to have less variation from year to year. The top 10 last year will be pretty similar to the top 10 this year. You can't really say that about BA.
So in short, I like your league settings because I think they come closer to measuring the true value of a player. On the other hand, my one piece of advice is that the categories you've chosen probably will help some of the otherwise weaker managers perform pretty well. Which is great for parity and for having them want to play again next season... but not as good for helping your chances of winning the league and securing bragging rights!
- Michael Lerra
Posted by THT Fantasy Mailbag
Monday, November 17, 2008
|James Loney celebrates with his team after Game 3 of the NLDS. Will drafting him improve your fantasy team's prospects for a 2009 championship?(Icon/SMI)|
Over the past few weeks, I've discussed some players who I believe over performed in 2008. In my next few articles, I'd like to discuss some who I believe underperformed in 2008 and who should be undervalued going into 2009.
Today, we'll talk about Dodgers first baseman James Loney
. Check out his fantasy line from this past year:
| YEAR | AGE | AB | BA | HR | RBI | R | SB |
| 2008 | 23 | 595 | 0.289 | 13 | 90 | 66 | 7 |
This is a solid line, but he doesn't really seem to excel in any one category, and as a first baseman, is rather unspectacular. Let's check out some more advanced stats to see how things could change next year, though.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% |
| 2006 | 21 | Dodgers | 102 | 4 | 3 | 12 | 9 | 9 | 0.0 | 36 |
| 2007 | 22 | Dodgers | 344 | 15 | 9 | 16 | 10 | 9 | 1.1 | 32 |
| 2008 | 23 | Dodgers | 595 | 13 | 22 | 8 | 14 | 14 | 0.0 | 31 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+If you're new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I'm using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player's talent, so it's well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.
Many people considered Loney's power this year a disappointment. In just 344 at-bats in 2007, he pounded 15 long balls, making him a popular speculative pick this year. In 250 additional at-bats, though, Loney hit two fewer
home runs. I suspect a lot of fantasy owners, in re-evaluating this post-hype Loney, will see this drop-off, see that he didn't show much power in the minors, and conclude that Loney is simply a 12-15 home run player.
This might not be the case, though. While Loney only hit 13 home runs in 2008, True Home Runs thought he should have hit 22. That's quite a difference, and a very favorable sign for 2009.
We do need to take note that his tHR/FB was just 10 percent in 2007, and the jump to 14 percent in 2008 is based on a one-year sample size. While Loney didn't post big power numbers in the minors, he was generally young for each level he was at (i.e. 21 and 22 years old at Triple-A). So while we need to temper expectations a little bit, it is certainly possible that Loney did experience a legitimate breakout in 2008 (which went unnoticed due to some bad luck), and at age 24 it will simply continue this pace.
This is the scenario fantasy owners should hope for, and one that would likely make Loney significantly undervalued in 2009.
There is one more reason to take pause, though. Loney doesn't hit a lot of fly balls to begin with, and if we split up his batted ball stats to include fliners (which are balls that are borderline flyballs/line drives), we see that he took a step backward in 2008:
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | OF FB% | FL% | LD% | IF FB% | GB% |
| 2006 | 21 | Dodgers | 102 | 30 | 9 | 9 | 3 | 49 |
| 2007 | 22 | Dodgers | 344 | 27 | 11 | 15 | 5 | 42 |
| 2008 | 23 | Dodgers | 595 | 21 | 19 | 13 | 3 | 44 |
Without including fliners, his outfield fly rate was steady from 2007 to 2008 (32 and 31 percent, respectively). When we refine our stats, though, we see that many of those 2008 flies were actually fliners, meaning they were closer to being line drives than true fly balls. Since fliners only go for homers at rate of 5 percent (and outfield flies at 12 percent), you can see why this change could hurt his power if it continues.
This could be the result of slight change in his swing (either intentional or unintentional), or it could just be random fluctuation. Overall, though, the power downside for Loney is essentially his 2008 numbers. He probably won't hit fewer than 11 or 12 homers, but his upside is 25 home runs, which very well could be worth chasing. We'll make a final determination on that at the end of the article.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
| 2006 | 21 | Dodgers | 102 | 0.284 | 0.299 | 90 | 0.284 | 0.312 | 12 | 23 | 31 |
| 2007 | 22 | Dodgers | 344 | 0.331 | 0.303 | 86 | 0.352 | 0.339 | 22 | 20 | 33 |
| 2008 | 23 | Dodgers | 595 | 0.289 | 0.307 | 86 | 0.320 | 0.323 | 22 | 39 | 23 |
Loney had a tremendous rookie year in 2007 with a .331 batting average. This was largely driven by an inflated home run rate and an excellent (though not that
lucky) BABIP. True Batting Average saw him as a .303 hitter, and this improved to .307 in 2008. There was a drop in his mBABIP, but the favorable True Home Run numbers (which we discussed above) helped push his tBA up.
When dealing with young players, it's also important to look at their minor league BABIP track record since Marcels (and therefore mBABIP) doesn't take minor leagues into account. In 2006, Loney's Triple-A BABIP was a ridiculous .404 in 366 at-bats. If we convert this to an MLE, though, it falls to a more reasonable .341. In 2007, his MLE BABIP was .294 in 233 at-bats (here, we should note that his contact rate and power were out of line with what he had done previous and what he's done since, so it's possible he wasn't himself, either due to injury or some other reason).
So while there may be some upside for Loney as he matures as a hitter, his Marcels BABIP seems to have him about right. If you want to ignore his 2007 minor league BABIP and include his 2006 one, you might get away with bumping his 2008 mBABIP up to .330, which would cause his tBA to rise to .313. Plus, as he approaches his prime, that BABIP only figures to rise.
It's unclear how other owners will view Loney's contact skills, but we should look upon them favorably. He probably won't bat .331 this year, but he should easily be able to eclipse .300, well-above his 2008 figure.
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | SB | SBA | SBO% | SBA% | SB% |
| 2006 | 21 | Dodgers | 102 | 1 | 1 | 0.198 | 5 | 100 |
| 2007 | 22 | Dodgers | 344 | 0 | 1 | 0.269 | 1 | 0 |
| 2008 | 23 | Dodgers | 595 | 7 | 11 | 0.246 | 7 | 64 |
Loney didn't do much running at the major league level until this year. He managed to steal seven bases, but he didn't do it very efficiently, succeeding on just 64 percent of his attempts. Luckily for Loney, though, manager Joe Torre
likes to let his players run, often finding his teams in the top 5 for stolen base attempts. He's let his team attempt 160 or more steals three years in a row and has averaged 155 attempts since 1994. Because of this, Loney could very well steal five to 10 bases again this year, even if he's thrown out just as often as he succeeds.
Loney's minor league history looks very much like his 2008 campaign in terms of steals (single digit successes mixed with quite a few failed attempts), so as long as Torre gives the okay, I'd imagine Loney would be comfortable attempting 10-15 steals. The only word of warning comes from his 2007 season: manager Grady Little
attempted a lot of steals that year (187) and during his career, but Loney only attempted one.
The usual disclaimer still applies here: we're looking at a small-ish sample and some year-end data that may not actually be measuring exactly what we're looking for. Once more rankings start coming out we'll have more to look at. For now, here's what Loney's value is shaping up as:
CBS Sportsline Expert Draft No. 1
: 14th 1B (121st Overall/R11)
CBS Sportsline Mock Draft No. 1
: 15th 1B (125th Overall/R11)
Mock Draft No. 1
: 16th 1B (116th Overall/R10)
: 16th No. B (134th Overall)
: 19th 1B (82nd Hitter)
Yahoo! Big Board
: Not Listed - Outside Top 11 1B (Top 107 Overall)
The general impression of Loney seems to be a .300+ hitter with 12-15 home run power and the ability to steal a few bases. As a first baseman, this isn't super-valuable, and means most people will use him as a corner infielder. No one above saw Loney as a top 12 first baseman, sometimes even taking guys like Chris Davis
and Conor Jackson
ahead of him.
While I'd prefer to get him in round 12 or 13, if an 11th-round pick is needed, Loney still deserves serious consideration. He should hit at least .300—most likely higher—and may well be turning into a legitimate power threat. The sample size we're looking at is somewhat small, but the numbers we have are favorable and he's at a good age for progression. Batting fourth or fifth should allow him to drive in 100 runs if the power spike turns out to be for real, and 75 or 80 runs would come along with it (this number could rise if he starts walking more).
Worst case scenario is a line like .290-12-80-60-0 (ignoring the possibility of injury). Best case is a line like .310-25-110-80-10. Even if Loney hits the worst case scenario, you're really not losing much value with an 11th round pick. If he approaches the best case line, though, he is a steal. If you're looking to take risks, or at least looking to mix some high-upside guys into your draft plan, Loney would be a nice choice.
Posted by Derek Carty
For this article I was originally planning to write about value picks for next year. One of the guys I was planning to include was Nick Swisher
. However, some recent discussion
has caused me to question whether Nick Swisher will be undervalued for next year. Typically a guy with Swisher's past season would be a great value target for the following year. I'm not sure if this applies to Swisher, though.
None of Swisher's skills were out of line of what we would expect him to produce. However, he had a very low BABIP of .249 for the year. Usually when a player puts up a BABIP that low there is some bad luck involved. In the past, most people would look at that .219 batting average and avoid Swisher in their fantasy drafts. That would allow some more savvy owners to pick a guy like him up for cheap and get solid production.
It seems to me, though, that this is not the case with Swisher. It seems like most people understand that Swisher likely had some bad luck last year and has a pretty good chance of bouncing back this season. In fact, it appears that some people think that since Swisher had some really bad luck this year he's due for some really good luck next year. However, that is a topic
for some other time. People appear to better understand concepts like regression to the mean and looking at more than just a player's last season. So what does this mean for the future of projections?
I feel like the situation with Swisher is proof that we are at a point of diminishing returns when it comes to projecting offensive rate stats. There is only so much more improvement left in that area for projection systems. Not only that but people are better understanding the concepts that go into these projection systems. However, variance projection is an area where improvement would be very beneficial for fantasy owners. While projections like the one linked above and for PECOTA
give a range of outcomes, these ranges have not been empirically tested. Therefore, I have to question their reliability.
So what if the fantasy market is becoming more efficient and guys like Swisher can no longer be considered as sleeper targets? Where can we find some good value picks? One class of players would obviously be guys who take the next step and show a change in their true talent. For example, this would typically be a younger player who has a lot of talent but hasn't put everything together like Delmon Young
A second class of players could be those that you're gambling will stay healthy despite past injury problems. These would be players who have shown a track record of past success but may have had recent injury problems.. For example, this past year Milton Bradley
and Justin Duchscherer
would be examples of this. For next year, someone like Gary Sheffield
or Brad Penny
could be a potential target.
In conclusion, players with good skill sets but bad luck may no longer be undervalued like they would in the past. There are two main types of players where I see potential for looking at for sleeper picks. The first type is the kind every writer likes to project in spring training. These are the breakout players, the usually young guys ready to take the next step. The other kind are players with a past history of high playing time variation, typically due to injury. So while you may not be able to count on a guy like Nick Swisher as a sleeper pick this year, there are other places you can look. However, these players are ones that projection systems may struggle with, requiring you the owner to make some more subjective judgments.
Posted by Victor Wang
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It's November and every hitting position already has been recapped. Don't think I forgot about the men on the mound; their turn is right now. Let's start with that chart, slightly modified:
| Year | SPs | ERA | FIP | WPA/LI |
| 2004 | 91 | 4.24 | 4.30 | 0.574 |
| 2005 | 99 | 4.04 | 4.12 | 0.469 |
| 2006 | 88 | 4.34 | 4.35 | 0.582 |
| 2007 | 89 | 4.17 | 4.30 | 0.722 |
| 2008 | 97 | 4.08 | 4.18 | 0.531 |
In a majority of the hitters' charts, 2006 was a great offensive year, with 2007 and 2008 below it in terms of production. That trend is reflected in the pitchers' stats, whichever one you focus upon. The one major outlier is under WPA/LI, which is WPA with the Leverage aspect removed, in 2008 when a .200 point reduction in the stat occurred. Remember that a lower ERA and FIP
is better while inversely a higher WPA/LI is better. Both ERA and FIP agree that pitchers have gotten better over the last couple of years; why WPA/LI disagrees I would like to know.
I'd like to find someone out there who thinks starting pitchers have gotten worse over the last few years, because the position is as deep as it has ever been. The number of pitchers in 2008 who threw at least 150 innings, had an ERA at or below (the arbitrary) 3.75, and compiled at least 150 strikeouts was 24. The same number in 2007 is 21, and just 12 in 2006. Whether you consider that manipulating the data or not, if you looked for yourself it would be tough to argue that the starting pitcher position has gotten shallower
over the past three years.
To me, that means I will take pitchers late in drafts. I know that there so many philosophies on when to select pitchers in drafts or how much money to allocate for them in auctions. Whatever I suggest with be agreed upon by some people and disagreed upon by many others. Therefore, I am not going to go into as much detail as I did in the other reviews on my general drafting strategy when it comes to pitchers. What I will say is that I never draft elite pitchers. Players you will never find on my team after a draft: Johan Santana
, Jake Peavy
, Brandon Webb
, or any other pitcher typically taken in the first five rounds. I laugh when someone takes a pitcher in the first round, but again, that is just my opinion. Let's move onto those risers and fallers.
Some pitchers who were "risers" in 2008 have been talked about ad nauseum already. I'll create a little list of those pitchers and then talk more in-depth about more less-noted pitchers:
came out of nowhere to post a 3.58 ERA in 2008. The 26-year-old certainly gets his share of strikeouts, at 7.88 per nine, but most impressive was Nolasco's control. His BB/9 was 1.78, good for 10th in the majors! I took a quick glance at his minor league walk rates and while they were good, they were never that
good, and pitchers' walk rates usually do not go down as they move up in the minors. Nolasco had a great season, but I question whether he will be able to replicate his success.
|With more walks than strikeouts, Fausto needs to spend more time looking at the strike zone than his glove. (Icon/SMI)|
had the tough job of dueling it out with Josh Hamilton
, with whom he was swapped for in the offseason, and Volquez at least made it competitive with a 3.21 ERA and more than 200 strikeouts.
It is important to note that Volquez perhaps became fatigued as the season wore on; there is a dramatic difference between his first and second half splits. His first half ERA was 2.29 and his second half ERA was more than two points higher at 4.60. I'm not such a strong believer in second half splits, but for a young pitcher under Dusty Baker who saw a significant workload increase—as Volquez did—it is something to keep your eye on.
One-year wonder Fausto Carmona
was terribly awful in 2008. Not much of a strikeout pitcher even in 2007, Carmona survived by keeping his walk totals down and inducing ground balls. In 2008, the screws completely came off. His already low strikeout rate dropped to 4.33 per nine innings and his BB/9 rate rose to 5.22(!), meaning he gave up more walks than he got strikeouts. Simply inexcusable.
had a somewhat disappointing season: His ERA rose from 3.27 to 4.03 in 2008. An article by Peter Bendix at Fangraphs a couple of days ago
shows how literally nothing changed between Beckett's 2007 and 2008 peripheral stats. Expect his ERA to hang out closer to 3.27 than 4.03 in 2009.
After three years of a 3.70-3.80 ERA, Aaron Harang
's ERA shot up a full point to 4.78 this past season. What stands out is the full loss of a point in K/9, the half-point gain in BB/9, and the increasing number of fly balls he is allowing. I don't think an ERA under 4.00 can be expected from Harang anymore, but I also do not agree with those who think Harang's ERA with be close to 5.00 next year either. Low to mid 4.00s sounds about right to me.
had teased fantasy owners for several years from 2004 to 2006, posting great K/BB ratios, and yet he could never get his ERA below that 4.00 mark. In 2007, Vazquez finally accomplished that feat (something he did regularly earlier in the century when in 2007 his ERA dropped to 3.74). But then he went back to disappointing again in 2008: His ERA jumped back up to 4.67. Give me a crystal ball and I might tell you what Vazquez's ERA will be in 2009, but even that would be risky.
Hypothetical situation: a 25-year-old second overall pick who has compiled a 3.74 ERA through his first 399 career innings pitched. This pitcher sounds excellent, right? Right. The player I am referring to is Justin Verlander
, selected ninth among starting pitchers in this year's drafts. Verlander outplayed his xFIP in both 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 it caught up to him and his ERA rose to 4.84. As is a common theme among pitchers on this list, Verlander saw his K/9 level fall and his BB/9 level rise significantly. I have reserved emotions about 2009.
Posted by Paul Singman
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