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Monday, August 03, 2009
Coming into 2009 Michael Young was a shortstop in decline moving to a corner infield position. He still has value as a shortstop, but many expected his value to collapse for 2010 and beyond.
Pablo Sandoval was a sleeper coming into 2009 with the potential for catcher eligibility. He has yet to get his five games at catcher, but has supplied very good numbers at the corner infield positions in his first full year. How similar are this weeks clones and what can their differences tell us?
Name GP AB R HR RBI SB CS K% BB% BABIP HR/F P/PA Micheal Young 99 400 58 16 47 7 2 16.50% 8.30% 0.356 14.20% 3.7 Pablo Sandoval 98 403 44 16 63 4 2 15.40% 6.80% 0.347 16.20% 3.4
Moving to third base made Young a forgotten player this year. He has never had an OPS over .900 in his career, getting to .899 in his 2005 season. That was also the last time he topped 20 homers. Since that year his power has dropped and his strikeout rate has gone from 13 percent to 16.5 percent.
His ability to hit line drives has always been one of his better skills, with a career line drive rate of 24.9 percent. This drives a .341 BABIP, which allows him to maintain a .350 career OBP even though his walk rate is not elite. Unfortunately BABIP fluctuations from season to season lead to drops in his OBP and has limited his run totals. He has averaged 99 runs in per 162 games in his career.
While his runs totals are limited, his five category numbers have been extremely consistent. His production is great at shortstop, but at third you need more than an above average, five category guy. You need a power bat. His return to his 2005 level of production has made him a viable option again. He won't be an RBI option, even with 20-plus homers this year since he bats in the two and three slots in the lineup, but he can be a solid fpir category guy at the hot corner.
Defense isn't usually a big factor in fantasy decision, but poor defense forced Young to move to third. So far it has worked out, but his defense at third has been poor as well. He has a -13.9 UZR/150 so far at third this year and a career -13.5 UZR/150 at short stop. With the money owed he isn't going to the bench and his offense this year has more than made up for this, but if the offense falls up his playing time could be troublesome going forward.
So many saw Sandoval as the huge sleeper who could get catcher eligibility by the end of May. Someone who could hit .300 and with 20 homers at catcher is always a valuable commodity, but there was concern that he might not play enough at catcher. He likely won't get the two games he still needs to get eligibility in most leagues this year and is unlikely to play as a catcher in the future.
Surprisingly, he has remained valuable, with a line of .324/.372/.551 so far this year. The contact numbers look very much like Young's so far. He makes good contact and could use some work on his walk rate, but his solid BABIP has helped make him a .300 hitter.
His power is still growing, but as a groundball hitter he will have trouble topping 30 homers in AT&T Park. He has a groundball rate of 46.9 percent this year, which is very similar to Michael Young's career rate of 45.3 percent. Sandoval won't be leaving San Francisco any time soon, but playing in the NL West has to limit his power numbers.
Sandoval has become a fan favorite this year and looks like an established member of the Giants lineup for the next four to five years. He has a body that might not age very well—he has been called "22 going on 30" by Dave Cameron—but has earned him the nickname "Kung Fu Panda."
They may look alike this year statistically, but Sandoval has the better chance to maintain his numbers and value worthy of a third basemen. Young is going to be a very risky pick next year at third base, while Sandoval should be a solid top 10 option. For the rest of 2009 though, they look fairly equal, with Young getting more runs and Sandoval getting more RBIs.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 12:33am (0) Comments
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Twelve-team, head-to-head, non-auction, five-keepers-per-season league with the following offensive categories: R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS.
My questions center around Mark Reynolds. Almost every single one of his peripherals suggest that his numbers are due for a significant drop-off, most notably homers, average, and, consequently, OPS. I'm currently in fifth place and, while I could certainly make a late-season run, the chances of winning my league outright are not great at this point. With the trade deadline looming and Reynolds' value at an all-time high, should I ship him off for a more consistent, top-notch keeper, or stash him away until next season in the hopes that his talent is actually as good as his fantasy stats currently indicate?
If this question isn't appropriate for the Roster Doctor column, please feel free to send it to one of your esteemed colleagues who might be interested in providing his/her opinion.
C Russell Martin
1B Ryan Howard
2B Brian Roberts
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Miguel Tejada
OF Adam Dunn
OF Nelson Cruz
OF Juan Rivera
UT Jimmy Rollins
UT Russell Branyan
BN Ian Stewart
BN Josh Willingham
BN Seth Smith
(Pitching categories are W, SV, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP.)
SP Javier Vazquez
SP Johan Santana
SP Jered Weaver
SP James Shields
RP Huston Street
RP Brian Fuentes
RP Leo Nunez
RP Kiko Calero
P Octavio Dotel
P Daniel Bard
BN Joe Blanton
BN Jorge de la Rosa
DL Jordan Zimmermann
DL LaTroy Hawkins
If you think that your chances of winning are slim or none, then, given that your league lets you keep five players at no cost (in terms of salary or draft picks), you should try and get the best five players that you can possibly trade for. Package players. Empty your roster of all non-keeper but valuable players. Do anything to get the best five that you can.
As it presently stands, your roster has many borderline keeper candidates. Certainly Howard and probably Santana are two to keep. I'd throw Rollins in as a keeper. Then, unless your particularly high on either Martin or Roberts, you'd probably keep two of Cruz, Dunn and Reynolds. Of the three, Reynolds is the one that is probably most overachieving this year.
As you rightly noted, his home run to fly ball rate at 25 percent is high enough to make you cry. But even if he regresses to Adam Dunn's 21 percent level, he'd still match Dunn in home runs. Both Reynolds and Cruz give you stolen bases. Reynolds runs more often than Cruz, but gets caught more often as well. So Reynolds' green light may turn pinkish. Surprisingly, each of them has batted for a relatively high average this year. In the end, I'd probably keep Reynolds or Cruz over Dunn (depending on health).
I would certainly see what you can get in the trade market for each of those three players. At this point in the season, owners in a position to win should be willing to trade overall value for help in particular categories. So, look for owners that need help in certain categories and pitch your offer accordingly. Perhaps one team needs power and is willing to give up an Ichiro Suzuki or even a Carl Crawford to get it. This doesn't just apply to those three players either. Vazquez could really help a team in need of strikeouts and might give you a Joe Nathan in exchange.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 1:55am (3) Comments
A 162-game baseball season is a marathon. Unfortunately, among the millions who participate in fantasy baseball, a good portion are sprinters who run out of steam at midseason and tend to limp toward the finish line.
Can we blame them? By August, fantasy leagues are populated with team owners who have no hope of finishing first. Meanwhile, there’s more important things to attend to—like watching crazy YouTube videos or the start of the football season.
Unfortunately, orphaned fantasy teams create havoc. In Head-to-Head leagues, some teams may get into the playoffs and others may miss out on the basis of scheduling luck. In rotisserie leagues, a non-competitive team is liable to give away free points and influence the final standings.
The advent of keeper leagues was supposed to offer some salvation to the sin of negligence by promoting ongoing attention to one’s team. Sleep in September and potentially miss out on a call-up who might help a team rebound the following season. But most keeper leagues tend to exacerbate the problem with so-called “dump deals,” whereby out-of-competition teams trade their superstars for better keeper prospects. Once a team has forfeited their best players, they become even more unlikely to pay attention during the final weeks of the season.
Last week on THT Fantasy, Jonathan Halket covered the controversies surrounding dump trades, but for all the acrimony these trades inspire, I believe the larger issue was missed. Dealing with issues like fairness and free markets is all good and fine, but are we sure that fantasy baseball has set up the right kinds of incentives to drive market participants toward the finish line?
In the last couple of years, I’ve advocated change in the leagues in which I participate. My goal has been to minimize the controversies entailing the fairness of trades, to create a system that isn’t too rulebook onerous, and most importantly, to approach the problem as any good economist would—by focusing squarely on incentives.
Right now, in most leagues, there’s no incentive to compete for many teams. Right now, in many keeper leagues, there’s no incentive for those who find themselves out of competition to hold onto star athletes. That’s the target for improvement.
Here are examples of changes we’ve made in my leagues.
I participate in a 20-team H2H keeper league. Each team has a 30-man roster and an additional reserve list of minor league players. With approximately 760 players on rosters, you wouldn’t expect to find any singular team in this league fielding All-Stars at every position, but thanks to the emergence of “dump deals,” that’s exactly what’s happened in past years.
So we decided to change things this past offseason by instituting a new incentive system. Every team that misses out on the playoffs competes in a consolation tournament. The winner of this tournament gets an extra keeper. In addition, similar to real-life Major League Baseball’s Elias Rankings on free agents, teams in my fantasy league are allowed to cash in superstars at the end of the season for picks in the league’s minor league draft. Of course, in order to have a good shot in the consolation tournament and in order to take advantage of consolation draft picks, teams need to hold onto superstars—not dump them in any trade.
I also participate in a 16-team roto keeper auction league. Similarly, dump deals used to bedevil this league and many teams lost interest.
So we decided to offer any “out of money” team that improves its standing after the All-Star break a discount on a player’s keeper price. For example, Team X buys Albert Pujols for $33. Team X is in last place at the All-Star break. Instead of trading Pujols for Jason Heyward, Team X keeps Pujols and has better luck in the second half, improving his points total by 33 percent. As a result, Team X gets to take 33 percent off the price of any of his keepers. So if Team X wants to keep Pujols, the salary is only $22, making the Cardinals All-Star a phenomenally attractive keeper. This also mirrors real-life baseball, as many free agents become more likely to sign contracts with teams showing competitive fight.
So far, the discount keeper rule has been a wild success. The consolation tournament and draft pick exchange rules have only had moderate impact. We’re still tinkering around the edges to get things right.
If there’s a takeaway here, it’s this: If a dispute comes up in your league, make sure you examine the root causes of the dispute. There are too many legislators and lawyers in leagues, but not enough economists. Considering fantasy baseball is a stats-obsessed endeavor, that’s ironic.
On another note, I’m holding the first mock draft of the 2010 season. I’m doing this in order to help teams sort through prospective values as they look to trade this year with next year in mind. I’m even giving away a prize. If you are interested in participating, find details on my Website.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 1:59am (7) Comments
The baseball statistics available freely online have advanced greatly over the past few years. As fantasy players, it is important to keep up with the research going on in the "real" aspect of baseball and continually try to apply it to fantasy baseball.
One of the leaders of the movement, FanGraphs, now has Pitch Type Linear Weights that show the pitches individual pitchers are better at throwing, and which pitches individual batters are better at hitting. (Click here for the accompanying explanation article by Dave Allen.) Taking at quick glance at Mark Teixeira's FanGraphs player page shows the following information:
The numbers on the left of the divide show in total how many runs Teixeira has earned hitting fastballs, which for 2009 has been 24.3 runs. On the right side, where the column headers have a "/C" after them, the numbers show how many runs a player earns on a certain pitch per 100 pitches. For Mark Teixeira in 2009, that number is 2.5 runs per 100 fastballs.
For these stats I believe 0 is average, positive means a player is good at hitting that pitch, and negative means the batter struggles with the pitch. Messing around with the leaderboards will help give you a relative context of how good a 2.5 wFB/C is.
Although extremely interesting, keep in mind the numbers are not perfect. The pitch classifications FanGraphs uses are not manually adjusted and no tests have been done to my knowledge on the stability of the pitch value numbers. Also the methodology behind the values is still somewhat of a work in progress, but nevertheless they can still used for fantasy purposes.
Most simply, when deciding which batter to start of two, besides looking just at the skill and handedness of the opposing pitchers, you can also check out the pitches they are better at throwing and the pitches your batters hit better.
For example, let's say you own Cody Ross who has pretty consistently hit change-ups well throughout his career. Some nights he starts for your team and other nights he sits one out. Let's say tonight the Marlins are playing the Astros and Wandy Rodriguez is pitching. Taking a look at his Pitch Value numbers, he historically has a below-average change-up and still throws it somewhat often at 10 percent of the time.
Tonight, then, would be a time to make sure Ross is in your starting lineup because of the increased possibility of him pounding one of Wandy's change-ups out of the yard, or at least what FanGraphs—as provided by BIS—is classifying as a change-up.
In terms of importance, I would rank this below matching up handedness and skill of the opposing pitcher, simply because I do not really know how effective mixing and matching batters to pitchers by individual pitch is. Unfortunately, I did not invest the time yet to find out, so for today that question will be left unanswered.
Instead I'll leave you with what is possibly new idea and if it's not new, feel free to tell me in the comments how you have been using it.
Posted by Paul Singman at 2:03am (11) Comments
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Every August I start to fully break down the statistical season. The results lead to multiple awards and accolades, but none more prestigious than minor league player of the year. Most Augusts bring a handful of monster seasons to light, but this season has been different. Standout starting pitchers have been promoted to the majors at an alarming rate, and the elite position players have been hit with injuries. Those circumstances result in a cut in production. It will be tough to pinpoint just one player this year.
The candidates for minor league player of the year:
Matusz dominated Single-A competition, prompting a bump up to Double-A Bowie. A dominant stint there solidified his status among the game's top prospects. Over eight starts in the Eastern League Matusz went 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA. In a surprising move, Baltimore brought him up to test his stuff against big league competition this week. If he stays in the big leagues for the rest of the year he will lose rookie status. And, unfortunately, when it comes to awards season, it may be hard to justify handing the minor league player of the year award to a young man that has only pitched 113 innings over 19 starts. He is the front runner, though.
Montero will miss the rest of the season, but his impact has been felt. He won't win, due to the injury cutting into his stats, but he deserves the recognition. He has been playing the toughest position on the field, and been making progress in that regard, while his offense has ascended to a tremendous level. Perhaps most impressive of all, this 19-year-old has just 47 strikeouts in 347 at-bats.
Jennings' tremendous talent has materialized in 2009. The walks and steals are up, and so is his lead-off hitting potential. He reminds me so much of Dexter Fowler, but Tampa Bay is hoping that his power potential is even higher than Fowler's. Yet his power is not fully there right now, and that will hinder his shot at award season hardware. But he was recently promoted to Triple-A Durham, and if the stats keep pouring in he could win by default.
Various injuries have hindered Heyward's statistical season, but when he has been on the field few have matched his production. The Braves' young star may find himself at the top of this list if he can put together a monster August, which is certainly within his capabilities. I have been hankering for more steals out of him, but his power, contact skills, and plate discipline leave little room for complaint.
Madman successfully carried over his unreal Single-A performance from last year. High-A San Jose didn't provide much of a challenge, but Double-A Connecticut has at least slowed down his utter dominance. He has a 2.01 ERA over 76 innings there, but his strikeouts are down and his walks have trended upward. The young man just turned 20 years old and has been fantastic, but not the shoo-in minor league MVP some were expecting. Not unless his strikeout rate goes through the roof, which is unlikely this late in the season.
Still in the picture:
Posted by Matt Hagen at 3:20am (8) Comments
Friday, August 07, 2009
Adrian Beltre | Seattle | 3B
True Talent: .262/.308/.415
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .253 BA, 0.6 SB
As with other third basemen with “bad wings” (Chavez, Rolen, etc.), there's a huge concern about whether Beltre's power will return, limiting the team's deadline options, and a yellow flag for fantasy teams. Still, he's a career .270/.325/.455 hitter, and has actually been stealing bases. For his career, he's hit just .249/.304/.405 in Safeco, as is to be expected for a righty power bat. The everyday role makes him valuable in AL-only leagues, but not very.
Neftali Feliz | Texas | RP/SP
YTD: 10.6 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 3.52 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Neftali Feliz burst onto the Major-League scene like a Texas Tornado. Not that he's a secret—when Nolan Ryan gushes about a guy's stuff, that's a big deal. But six Ks in his first 3.1 IP have this career starter poised to stage a K-Rod or Bobby Jenks-style coup of the closer's role down the stretch. As for his long-term role in keeper leagues, it's unclear, but he's a guy to get either way. Breaking down in 2009 doesn't suggest great stamina, though he's shown the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games in the past. In a pen role, his fastball has averaged almost 99 mph (AVERAGE!) so far, and he's probably just doing hitters a favor at this point when he shows his other two pitches.
Howie Kendrick | Los Angeles | 2B
True Talent: .291/.328/.423
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .291 BA, 0.6 SB
Back in '06, Kendrick was coming off his second consecutive .400 OBP, .600 SLG season in the minors. There were huge concerns about his (virtually non-existant) walk rate, but still many saw him as a future batting-champ contender. When he hit .322 in 2007, he was on his way, right? The injuries have sapped his skills to the point where his TT line isn't much different than Maicer Izturis now, and he's nowhere near Maicer's equal on defense. With another two-time .600-in-minors-slugger, Sean Rodriguez, just demoted, Howie's playing time seems more secure, and he's hit .451 since a three-hit game on July 11, so glass-half-full owners who need a second baseman can pick him up in any format. Still a viable keeper.
Casey Kotchman | Boston | 1B
True Talent: .283/.353/.429
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 0 Runs, 0 RBI, .285 BA, 0.0 SB
While on the theme of ex-Angels phenoms, why not spotlight Boston's new defensive replacement, Casey Kotchman? The “weekly forecast” is a bit light, since Boston will try to get him into the lineup whenever possible, and their team offense is great. There's a slim reason to be optimistic about his offense, in that his spray chart shows when he pulls the ball it's on the ground, but when he goes the other way, it's often a fly ball—which is perfect for abusing The Monster (a la Wade Boggs). Obviously not a mixed-league player, don't be surprised if he's “OK” in deeper AL leagues.
Justin Masterson | Boston | SP
YTD: 8.5 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 4.32 ERA
True Talent: 7.3 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 4.33 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.0 IP, 0.4 W, 5 K, 4.36
Masterson is actually throwing harder in 2009 than he did last year (up to 92+ on his average fastball). That's resulted in a slightly lower GB%, but he's still flirting with 50%. Skills-wise and opponents-wise (i.e. Not AL East), he's one of the better pitchers to own in the AL now, and worth a pickup in any format. But Cleveland doesn't have any reason to push him, so expect a lot of 5- and 6-IP outings as he reacclimates himself with the SP role. The Cleveland relievers have been so criminal this season, they belong in another sort of “pen,” which will lead to fewer wins and more runs charged to Masterson.
Brian Matusz | Baltimore | SP
YTD: 8.9 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 1.55 ERA (AA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
This is how it's supposed to work when teams draft quick-to-majors polished college pitchers. Matusz throws harder than most such guys, explaining his fourth-overall draft status and $3.5 million bonus in 2008. As long as he maintains his excellent control of his devastating curve, he won't be much fun for opposing hitters. As usual, the fact that his division contains some offensive powerhouse teams makes him a dicey fantasy proposition, however. Expect at least 2-3 rough outings the rest of the way. How he responds to those will determine whether he's just another struggling rookie, or worthy of owning in AL-only leagues (and spot starts for mixed leagues). Don't overspend.
Josh Reddick | Boston | OF
YTD: .277/.352/.520 (AA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
It would be easy to dismiss Josh Reddick for 2009 based just on his good-not-great Double-A stats. But Portland is a tough place in which to hit (especially for power), and two of his hard-hitting teammates there raved about how well this guy could rake. Obviously, there's no clear role for Reddick in Boston if both Drew and Bay are healthy, but they haven't been. And Reddick's arm is so good that it will have to be tempting for Francona to consider him ahead of Brian Anderson. For example, in his 167 RF games, Reddick has racked up a mind-boggling 37 assists. Before this season, he profiled as a Garrett Anderson sort of high-average/decent SLG run producer with limited OBP, but has exchanged some hits for walks and more ISO (and more K's) this year.
Josh Roenicke | Toronto | RP
YTD: 10.6 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 3.52 ERA
True Talent: 8.2 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.51 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 Saves, 5.00 ERA
Sure, Roenicke just turned 27, but this is an instance where lack of experience improves the outlook. His pro debut was in 2006, and he blew through the minors in just 159 IP. He's touched 100 on guns before, and normally works well into the upper 90s. He's your standard two-pitch, big-body flamethrower, and has lowered his walk rate every year of pro ball—to just 1.9 BB/9 this year in AAA. It's unclear why Cincy thought he was expendable, but we're going to trust Toronto's track record with pitcher evaluations here. Has a good chance to be the closer in 2010.
Carlos Santana | Cleveland | C
YTD: .283/.407/.530 (AA)
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
“The Next Vic Martinez”? Switch-hitting Carlos Santana has outgrown Double-A. Suffice it to say that he should be owned in keeper leagues, and don't be surprised if he's a good option in September. He won't have Martinez's batting average, but has power and on-base to spare. Wyatt Toregas hit Double-A pitching last year, and was “OK” at Triple-A this year. All three of Shoppach, Toregas, and Marson are probably in the mold of “great backup” or “marginal starter” quality catchers. There are several teams who could use one of them.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 1:59am (5) Comments
Eugenio Velez | San Francisco | 2B/OF
True Talent: .266/.314/.398
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .262 BA, 0.6 SB
Schierholz’s injury opened the door for another youngster there, and Velez has made the most of it, with a 10-game hit streak since his recall, with a .419/.457/.558 line. True Talent is pessimistic that he’ll be producing at an acceptable level in all areas but steals (which he has yet to do in his recent hot streak), and he may not keep that starting gig when Schierholz returns. If he does, his best value for you is at 2B (if he qualifies there with nine games played), since his low power numbers won’t drag so much while you try to pick up those all-important steals. If you want to ride his hot bat in the outfield, that’s your choice, but he’s best suited as a MIF in NL-only leagues 15 teams and deeper, depending on how badly you need those SBs.
Lastings Milledge | Pittsburgh | OF
True Talent: .277/.345/.425
Next Week Forecast: 0.6 HR, 3 Runs, 3 RBI, .274 BA, 0.8 SB
Milledge is back in the bigs, and ready to prove himself again. He can bring power and speed, but has been struggling with strikeouts, which he didn’t improve upon in his stint in Triple-A (.55 BB/K ratio). Pittsburgh’s young offense is proving better than advertised, and if Milledge can stick near the top of the batting order, he could finally fulfill his promise. Right now, he’s struggled a bit (.542 OPS in 25 PAs with Pittsburgh) but he should prove to be a good add for 8-team NL leagues and mixed leagues 13 teams and deeper. Keeper leagues of almost any size should also consider him for his power/speed potential.
Yusmeiro Petit | Arizona | SP
YTD: 7.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 5.81 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 4 K, 5.25 ERA
Petit’s reeled off two starts in a row without surrendering a run, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning last time out. He racks up the strikeouts but also gives up fly balls (45.9 FB%), which often turn into homers at Chase Field (9 of the 12 longballs he’s surrendered have come at home). Keep that in mind going forward, although that one-hitter was at home against Pittsburgh. True Talent sees an improvement in ERA with a fairly consistent K rate down the stretch; if only Arizona could get him a few more wins. That makes him a good play in a 12-team NL league or mixed leagues 15 teams or deeper.
Will Venable | San Diego | OF
True Talent: .245/.309/.369
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 2 Runs, 1 RBI, .243 BA, 0.2 SB
Venable looks like another Kyle Blanks, with five homers in his past seven games and a .481/.517/1.037 line. But he’s never shown much pop in his career, so this is clearly an anomaly, and True Talent tells you it won’t last. He needs to cut down on strikeouts to have any value—his BB/K is 0.26 in 2009—which he done during his recent binge, so it won’t be long until opposing pitchers find the holes in his swing. His eventual contributions are pretty fringe-y, but there’s nothing wrong with hitching a ride to see how long his hot streak lasts. Particularly with part-time play, he’s going to settle into an NL-only mold, offering value in very deep leagues of 16-plus teams.
Tom Gorzelanny | Chicago | SP
YTD: 7.3 K/9, 2.6 K/BB, 3.38 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.71 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 11.2 IP, 0.7 Wins, 8 K, 4.70 ERA
The trade to Chicago earned Gorzo an instant call-up to fill in for Ted Lilly, so (barring a setback) he’s expected to give two starts, at which point he’ll likely head back to the ‘pen or AAA. He looked very good in his one Chicago start, but his True Talent predictions are just above borderline and he’s never been a strikeout guy, so he needs to control walks to succeed. He’s walked 3.1 per 9 in AAA this season, which is just outside acceptable range, and the Cubs are playing well, so he may get the offense to win. If you need a couple of starts from a borderline pitcher with a good shot at a win, roll the dice with Gorzo, but keep his short shelf life in mind.
Ryan Roberts | Arizona | 2B/3B
True Talent: .247/.326/.388
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .243 BA, 0.3 SB
With the trade of Felipe Lopez, Roberts slid into a platoon with Augie Ojeda at the keystone. The D-backs know that Ojeda’s just an average utility guy, Roberts is a lefty and Hinch likes his scrappy approach, so he’s going to take the bigger chunk of the platoon, and could increase his PT if he continues to hit well. He’s not going to suddenly turn into Ian Kinsler, and he’s too old to show us any new tricks, but he did hit .275/.374/.449 in seven seasons in the minors, so he’s got a little pop and can even swipe a bag or two (46 minor-league SBs and five so far this year). True Talent sees him giving back some of those gains, but even if he only hits his projections, he’s deserving of a roster spot in 14-team NL-only leagues and the deepest of mixed leagues.
Pedro Feliciano | New York | RP
YTD: 8.2 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, 3.07 ERA
True Talent: 7.9 K/9, 2.3 K/BB, 3.45 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.23 ERA
At this point in the year, good closers and setup men are hard to come by, but Feliciano has been one of the steadiest and most-used relievers in baseball, with the stats to prove it. His recent 3 ER, 0.1 IP outing was significant in part because it was the first time he’d give up more than 1 ER in 23 appearances. Even better, True Talent doesn’t see much of a regression coming from this non-situational lefty. He’s an outside possibility to close games if K-Rod goes down, but mostly he’s going to bring in Ks at a decent clip while stabilizing your ratios. He’s probably not available in leagues that count holds, but he makes better roster filler for a fantasy team in contention than a starter with a chance at disaster.
George Sherrill | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 8.9 K/9, 3.0 K/BB, 2.32 ERA
True Talent: 8.9 K/9, 2.2 K/BB, 3.47 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 Saves, 3.25 ERA
If you had Sherrill before the trade, you probably dumped him, but like Feliciano, he’s not a bad play for keeping your ratios down. Plus, Broxton has looked strong after a cortisone shot at the All-Star Break, but those wear off, and that toe might come back to haunt him again. The Dodgers traded for Sherrill for a reason—to give them extra Broxton insurance and to keep their bullpen steady—and that’s the same reason you’d want him on your team. He’ll pick up holds, perhaps the occasional save, and deliver good strikeouts and strong ratios regardless.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (0) Comments
Monday, August 10, 2009
Given his status as a former MVP, it seems odd to say that Justin Morneau is having a breakout season, but with a ZiPs projection for career highs in home runs, runs, RBIs and batting average, he is having his best year yet. Just a five hour drive away in Milwaukee, his fellow first basemen Prince Fielder is also having a great season. He won't be topping his 50 home run season from 2007, but an OPS over 1.000 has him as one of the best at the position again.
Name GP AB R HR RBI SB CS K% BB% BABIP HR/F P/PA3 Prince Fielder 110 396 69 27 98 2 2 24.50% 15.90% 0.335 19.90% 4 Justin Morneau 109 416 74 28 91 0 0 16.60% 12.20% 0.302 19.50% 3.6
His value sky rocketed in 2008 and many blamed his "fall" to 34 homers on things like his diet change, but hitting 50 home runs is a big challenge. He is a solid bet to reach 40 homers this year and finish with the best batting average of his career.
Looking at his strikeout rate you can see he has become more of a hacker each year. Since posting a 21 percent strikeout rate in 2007, he recorded rates of 23 percent in 2008 and 24.5 percent this year. This has been balanced by a significant climb in walk rate, going from 9.4 percent in 2006 to 13.6 percent (2007), 12.5 percent (2009) and 15.9 percent (this season). This has pushed his OBP to a career high of .419, but that and his batting average of .303 are supported by a career high BABIP of .342. Expect his average and OBP to drop some before 2009 is over, but still be career highs.
His power has started to settle at the 20 percent HR/F level, which makes him a very good bet for 40 homers given his 45 percent flyball rate. He should be around 40 homers for the next few years, but as with most large first basemen you must be concerned about a quick decline.
While he had a great 2006, Morneau did not deserve the MVP that year. However, this season, he could top 130 RBIs and 39 home runs based on his ZiPS projections, which would actually beat his 2006 numbers. His wOBA is over .400 for the first time in his career, though it is still not at an elite level. This has a lot to do with his low OBP and walk rate. His walk rate has increased to 12.2 percent this year, but it is still far from great. His career OBP stands at .353, which trails Fielder's career mark of .379.
Morneau's limitations in getting on base have dragged his runs totals down. Even in his 34 homer season in 2006, he only scored 97 runs, and he has never topped 100. He isn't a horrible run scorer, but in comparison to other first base options he could be better. It is worth noting that Morneau has a shot at his first 100 run season this year, but again, he could be scoring a lot more runs if his walk rate were better.
According to MockDraftCentral.com you could have grabbed Morneau at pick 19 and Fielder at 24. They have supplied top 10 stats this year, making them well worth their draft slots. They play a power position so any down numbers could really hurt their value, but their worst seasons so far have still held very good value.
These two will continue to rank as top five first basemen year in and year out. I would prefer Fielder between the two, as his OBP makes him likely to score more runs. His rising strikeout rate is concerning, but not damaging to his value yet. Both should go in the first two rounds next year, with Fielder being a stronger bet to hold his superb value.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 1:51am (0) Comments
We've reached the point where UZR/150 is being talked about during Braves broadcasts, HR/FB is being discussed during Diamondbacks broadcasts, and everyone and their mother seems to be using them for fantasy, even if they're not always using the best available or even using them correctly. We're even seeing mainstream sites like CBS and ESPN make mention of once-nerdy stats like BABIP (okay, maybe our continued use of such succinctly-named acronyms as BABIP does still qualify us as nerds).
And judging by a lot of the comments we get here at THT Fantasy, it seems that a good chunk of our readership plays in leagues with owners who are savvy to these more advanced kinds of stats and analysis. There is one concept, however, that not all fantasy owners (or even analysts) appear to fully grasp. And when we notice this sort of thing, it often creates an opportunity for us to get a leg up on our competition.
A possible inefficiency?
What am I talking about? Placing too much emphasis on this year's statistics. I've been seeing this all too often recently, both among my leaguemates and on other sites. I imagine that this is partially due to ignorance and misunderstanding and partially due to human nature.
Most humans are results-driven. Even when we try to use our intellect and stay objective, we often find ourselves looking for ways to explain and justify what has happened, engaging in a form of confirmation bias in the process (for an example of this, see nearly every analyst on earth's reaction to David Ortiz's slow April and May). And because what has just happened is fresh in our minds, we pay more attention to and often place more emphasis on this than on things that have happened months or years in the past. After all, what's happening right now must be truer than what happened last year, right? Wrong. This kind of thinking, I believe, can lead to some faulty conclusions among fantasy owners and analysts.
Why is this thinking incorrect?
My underlying reasoning is based on two things: (1) the importance of utilizing all the information we have about a player and (2) regression to the mean.
Because most all players of interest have been around for a while, we have more than just data from 2009 to work with. While 2009 data is certainly most relevant, seeing as it's most recent, it is incorrect to ignore all the data from previous years entirely. Instead, logically, we should put more emphasis on 2009, less on 2008, even less on 2007, and so on. This isn't a concept many people would intuitively argue with (I don't think, anyway), but in the heat of the season and perhaps out of laziness or lack of sufficient thinking, people will often ignore previous years or at least put too little emphasis on them.
My second point is something called regression to the mean, which has received quite a bit of play around the internet recently. MGL put this concept very succinctly a couple weeks ago:
Anyway, no one mentions the obvious so far. Any player who posts a better than average number in any category for one year or for 100 years is EXPECTED to do worse in any other time period you look at, even if that player’s true talent never changes.
This might sound crazy if you're new to the concept (or maybe even if you're not), but it is indisputably true. To elaborate, read this except from David Gassko's piece from last week:
The important thing to remember is that statistics are just a sampling of an athlete’s true ability; actually, they’re less than that since that true ability constantly varies. But even if we forget about that variation, no number of plate appearances will tell us exactly how good that player is. At a trillion plate appearances, we might have to go out many, many decimal points before the player’s sample numbers and our best estimate of his true talent diverge, but eventually they would.
Because all we have to work with is a sample of a player's true ability, there will always, always be a non-zero chance that any player in baseball is no different than any other player. The chances might be one-in-a-million (or more), but there is a very real, non-zero chance that Barry Bonds was no better than Neifi Perez.
What we must also understand is that every stat stabilizes at its own rate. Some stabilize very quickly, while others take several years. If we use this year's data for some stats, we won't go too wrong, but if we use it for others, we could be way, way off. Batting average, for example, is a stat that takes a long time to stabilize. The terrific Pizza Cutter estimated that it takes roughly 1,000 plate appearances for batting average to stabilize.
Let's look at Ichiro Suzuki, who has posted an incredible .365 average in 472 MLB plate appearances in 2009. If this is all we knew about Ichiro and nothing else, we would be most accurate in guessing his batting average going forward by assuming that he is 32 percent likely to continue hitting at his current rate and 68 percent likely to hit at league average. That would leave us with a weighted expectation of just .298. That's how much pull regression to the mean can have if all we do is look at this year's statistics.
And that brings us back to my first point: the importance of utilizing all the information we have on a player. For almost all players, we have several years to look at, and those years tell us that Ichiro is probably not a sub-.300 hitter. We have over 6,000 PAs prior to this year for Ichiro, which tells us quite a bit about him. In fact, by using all of these PAs in our estimation, we'd be safe in assuming a split of 86 percent Ichiro, 14 percent league average. That would give us a batting average estimation of .324, which is not too far off from Ichiro's career .333 average.
Let's take a look at a few recent examples of placing too much emphasis on this year's stats from some notable fantasy baseball sites. Please do not take this as a shot at any of these sites. I have great respect for each of them, and I'm simply citing these as examples to show how easy it is, even for the best of us, to fall prey to this kind of thinking (and many more sites than just these three do it).
With the Oakland A's last week dealing their best hitter, Matt Holliday, Cabrera was left in a horrible offense in a horrible hitter's park. In Minnesota, he'll be playing in what ranks this season as the AL's best park for offense.
Park factors are one stat that you will go terribly wrong with if you use single-year factors. If we look at David Gassko's park factors (which take multiple years into account and include proper regression to the mean), we see that Minnesota's Metrodome should have a park factor around 100.6 (ever so slightly higher than league average), a far cry from the 2009 factor of 119.2 cited in the article. Because of how regression to the mean works, the Metrodome's running projection would be higher than 100.6 at this point in the season, but it will still be pretty close to neutral.
Here's another one:
With 50 K in 44.1 IP, [Andrew] Bailey throws gas and for the most part, has been able to keep his control in check. His ERA has been helped by a [.250 BABIP], so it will continue to move closer to his 3.73 [ERA estimator of choice]. But the overall skills package from a 25-year-old who barely made the team is impressive. He'll need to keep tabs on his FB rate (47%), but the spacious Oakland park is forgiving in that regard (-11% RS). The challenges of negotiating the closer role over a full season are still ahead, but from the limited data set we have, Bailey seems well-prepared for the task.
This one comes from a highly respected site which usually adds a qualifier for small sample sizes, which makes it a very good example of how easy it is to fall victim to this kind of thinking. No doubt Andrew Bailey has been terrific this year (3.19 LIPS ERA to this point), but we must realize that we're dealing with a guy that no major projection system pegged for any better than an ERA in the low 5.00s at the start of the season. In Double-A last year, he didn't even strike out a batter per inning and he walked 4.6.
Granted, Bailey was a starter for most of his minor league career, but just because he's pitched like a 3.73 ERA pitcher for 44.1 MLB innings this year does not mean we should expect him to regress to (or "move closer to") a 3.73 ERA. Instead, we should expect him to regress to whatever that 3.73 expected ERA changes his running projection to (adjusted for his move to the bullpen, of course), probably something in the mid-to-high 4.00s. This article was published at the end of June, and even after we've seen Bailey's innings total climb to 62.0 , we still only see ZiPS (5.82 preseason projection) project a 4.64 ERA for the rest of 2009.
One more example:
Cordero made just one appearance this week, chucking two scoreless innings against Colorado in an eventual extra-innings loss. Co-Co has a 1.70 ERA on the season, but his xFIP (4.01) tells a different story. The righty has posted his lowest full-season K rate (7.65) since 2000. A .238 BABIP and 4.9 HR/FB rate have hidden the overt signs of decline, but batters are making more contact and swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone.
Has Cordero declined? Yes, but probably not as much as the 7.65 K/9 indicates. ZiPS pegs him for 9.8 the rest of the way and Heater concurs (for the most part) at 8.9. Heater's rest-of-season ERA projection is 3.17, much better than his 4.01 xFIP.
The irony of it all
What's ironic about all this is that most people have moved past using last year's data to pick their players on draft day. Most people are perfectly comfortable using preseason projections—which weight seasons in a declining fashion and include regression to the mean—yet when the heat of the season takes hold, it somehow changes things and makes us feel like we can explain away swings that are occurring in a small sample size (and, yes, four months is a small sample size for most stats, and for all stats in some sense).
Taking advantage of this inefficiency
So what can we do as fantasy owners if we notice our opponents falling into this pattern? Trade away players who are having career years and acquire those who are underperforming, especially if they are of the right age. If a player is having a career year at age 27, the other owners will be much more likely to buy into it than if the player was 37. Pitchers will probably be better than hitters to trade away since things like contact rate and home runs are relatively stable in comparison to ERA or even ERA estimators. Of course, this is all easier said than done.
Taking full advantage of this means finding players who your opponents could realistically believe have taken a legitimate step forward and will maintain it, yet based on sound statistical principles shouldn't be expected to (at least not fully). A few guys like this might be Joe Mauer, Edwin Jackson, and Luke Hochevar. On the flip side, you could try to acquire players who your opponents could realistically believe have taken a step backward. This might include players like Chris Young (the OF), Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin, and Garrett Atkins.
And of course, this won't apply to every player who is overperforming or underperforming. For some players, their history will be too ugly or the player will be too old for even the best 2009 stats to overcome in the minds of fantasy owners. No matter how good Jason Marquis's 3.49 ERA or 3.98 FIP look, he's been too bad in the past and is too old for someone to think that this is his new talent level. At 35 years old, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone convinced Johnny Damon is now a 32 HR hitter.
What do you guys think? Agree with me? Have you noticed your leaguemates engaging in this kind of thinking? What players make good buy or sell targets? And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:00am (25) Comments
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
As we head towards the home stretch of the fantasy season, let's take a look at some players who can help you make a final push in the standings, or maintain your lead.
Speed is always a valuable fantasy commodity and adding a speedster to your team when there are several teams only a few steals ahead of you in the standings can help you gain some much-needed easy points. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is looking like he is primed for a great finish to the year and if he continues to get on base at a good clip, the steals should come easy.
As an added bonus with his .173 Iso, he also adds some power into the mix—albeit not home run power but solid gap power that leads to plenty of RBI and run opportunities. A piece of trivia for you: Gonzalez's first seven major league hits were all doubles and that either ties or is the record, someone can check me on that.
When he matures more as a hitter, Gonzalez should be a consistent .300 hitter given his ability to maintain a high BABIP (although definitely not as high as his current .370 rate, think .330-340) and his decently low Triple-A strikeout rate of about 17 percent. So far through his major league time with the A's and Rockies, however, Gonzalez has played more like a .260 hitter than a .300 one. He makes contact with about 75 percent of pitches he swings at (81 percent MLB average) leading to his unacceptable 26 percent K rate.
It is very possible he does hit for a good average the rest of the season because if you look at his strikeout rate over the three months he's played in the majors, you'll will see the obvious negative (in a positive way) trend:
That August number is through just seven games, but even still the trend is extremely promising. Gonzalez can reasonably be expected to hit .280-plus without having to rely on an inflated BABIP, which makes him an even more attractive option.
With the way the Rockies outfield situation played out, Seth Smith now looks to be getting the short end of the stick and may very well be reduced to a pinch-hitter specialist again. It is unfortunate either Hawpe or Smith did not get traded (because the Rockies ended up being contenders) because I still very much believe in his skills. If players move around in the offseason, Smith could end up being be a great sleeper for next year, but that's a ways away.
If you missed out on Everth Cabrera, a player to keep an eye on is Rockies Triple-A second baseman Eric Young. Take a look at his ridiculous minor league stolen base totals:
There is no guarantee Young will make it to the majors this year, but if he does and is given playing time he is a must add for a lot of teams. As he has steadily risen up the minors he has maintained a batting average of .290 or above, so he would not be a batting average killer either. Unfortunately the Rockies are most likely not going to give Young a chance this season, but you never know.
For those not too keen on waiting, there is a player named Rajai Davis who is playing as I expect Young would and is in the majors right now. In 22 games since the All-star break, Davis is batting .354 with 10 steals. He won't keep that batting average up, but a .280 average with another 10-15 stolen bases the rest of the way is quite valuable and reasonable.
Former Mariner prospect-now Cincinnati Red Wladimir Balentien is on a hot streak filling in for the injured Jay Bruce in right field. With nine hits and five walks in his last six games, Balentien is playing rather impressively, though just one of those hits was a home run. In deep mixed leagues and NL-only leagues Balentien is worth a flier to see if he can recapture the glory of his 2007 Triple-A campaign. Until the past week, Balentien has always looked clueless at the plate in the majors. Maybe that is changing.
It is official, Alex Rios is going to the White Sox for his contract and nothing else. Some people are now turning to Travis Snider, expecting him to finish the season strong.
He is currently mashing the guts out of the ball in Triple-A and may hit for some power in the majors if called up, however, here are two reasons I would stay away from the 21-year-old: 1) He most likely will not get called up until the end of August because the Jays want to get rid of potential Super 2 eligibility. 2) He is still striking out at an alarming rate in Triple-A, meaning he is not plate disciplined enough yet to hit for a respectable average in the majors. An average above .270 would greatly surprise me.
Gio Gonzalez tends to be very hit-or-miss with his starts, but lately has been more hit than miss. In six starts since the beginning of July, Gonzalez has gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in four of them. The strikeouts come easily thanks to a devastating curve at the rate of about one per inning. Wins won't come as easily pitching for the A's, although their lineup has looked somewhat revitalized lately, even with the loss of Matt Holliday.
Sometimes Gonzalez is very hittable or wild or both, and gets lit up like onion volcano at Mt. Fuji. But other times he is dominating, and lately he has been his dominating self often enough that he is worth picking up by those looking for a high-reward pitcher.