December 12, 2013
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
In fantasy baseball, risk-takers abound. But before we throw them all into the same boat, let’s illustrate a difference—there are those who like to play the lottery and then there are those who like to play the stock market.
Lottery players have a very high probability of coming up short but typically don’t stake much investment in their gambles. Stock market players, on the other hand, are willing to put a lot more on the line with a smaller probability of coming up short.
Here’s an example.
I participate in a league where I’ve been bouncing between second and sixth place for the last few weeks. The most competitive categories are ERA and wins. Right now, my team leads most of my competitors in those two categories, but the margin is extremely small. Problem is, in order to catch up to the first place team in the league, I’d need to make a major move in steals, and now my team is being offered Carl Crawford and a good reliever for one of my team’s best pitchers, Adam Wainwright, and a player who was projected to have about three times as many steals as he currently does. Do I do the deal?
Regardless of the answer, my team would be making a risk. Accept the deal as any stock market player would and risk a ton of points in the pitching categories—My team might finish in first, but there's a small chance it could finish in sixth place.
Reject the deal as any lottery player would and gamble on some lower possibility for making up the points differential with the first place team—My team might still finish in first, but more probably second or third.
Behavioral economists have had fun through the years studying different choices on uncertain outcomes. Although this is a realm of study loosely tied into game theory, I’m unaware of any researcher who has taken time to analyze fantasy sports competitions. Instead, they’ve gravitated to games like poker and blackjack and even game shows like “Deal or No Deal.”
Most of the studies I’ve seen seem to indicate that the vast majority of people behave like lottery players when making risky decisions. They prefer wherever possible to avoid the possibility of big losses even if they forsake optimal odds. On the other hand, there’s something in economics that’s coincidentally called “prospect theory,” whereby people evaluate potential gains and losses depending on some psychological reference point. For example, two teams in two different leagues with the exact same trade offer on the table as the one described above might come to different outcomes based on one team having achieved early setbacks and late success versus the other team having achieved early success and recent setbacks.
I also think something like this is good to keep in mind when making an offer to another team. You may believe you are making one that serves the rational interests of your trading partner, but are you selling an equity to someone who prefers a lottery ticket? Are you marketing a low-probability chance to win millions to a team less fearful of losses? Understand someone’s tolerance for seeking or avoiding risk or aptitude for measuring gains and losses and you may begin to get a sense about how to trade with them.
And oh yeah … I took the deal.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 2:58am (0) Comments
This week, it's THT Fantasy's turn to host the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. The question we asked (thanks to commenter Bookie for giving us the idea last time around):
Have you ever "pitched” or “marketed” a player in a trade and changed a potential trading partner's opinion about the player? Or, conversely, have you ever had you own opinion about a player changed by an opponent's pitch? Or could pushing a player actually have a negative effect and make a deal less attainable?
As fantasy baseball players, I'm sure we've all had trade negotiations before, but honestly, have we ever truly changed our potential trading partner's mind about a player?
Tommy Landry — RotoExperts
Sure, I've pitched players on multiple occasions. That works great with novices, but experienced players (like in all my leagues) see right through it. Personally, I have strong opinions and no one will change that in most cases, unless I simply haven't been paying attention to a particular guy. In fact, when I go to look at the numbers to evaluate if I'm being oversold on someone, that's a critical point in our ability to close a deal. If it appears they're playing games, game over.
Patrick Cain — Albany Times Union
I never try to offer my bait first as I feel it instantly makes the guy less desirable. Instead I'll propose something in writing with a guy just slightly as productive. Then try to get the opposing manager to counter with who he sees as a slight upgrade aka the guy I actually want to unload. This is best when working with guys that aren't stars. This year in my auction I took both Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Eventually I did need to move Cabrera so I was willing to be forthright with him.
I can't say an opposing player has changed my mind. I have changed others' opinion, but doing that is a case-by-case example.
I never try to change another owner's mind about a player. My pitches simply state the facts with an emphasis on how the suggested transaction would benefit both of us. I find that the savier owners will get defensive when you question their judgment on a player or suggest that they may not understand how to rate a player properly. Instead I simply sell the facts. For example, last off-season I traded Carlos Gomez (at $21 in a 12tm, 5x5 AL-only League) to another owner for a cheap Joba Chamberlain (he was also a serious Red Sox fan which helped) by selling him on a few very true facts - that despite his poor batting the skills the Minnesota Twins were still heavily invested in the future of Gomez, and that he would continue to steal bases at every opportunity and finally that 40 stolen bases, even with a .240 batting average would be useful on the right fantasy team.
Adam Ronis — Newsday
I was able to pitch a trade recently. There was a lot of discussion going on back and forth for quite some time with many different combinations. I was acquiring Prince Fielder as part of the multi-player deal and was sending back Joey Votto to take Fielder's roster spot. I was telling the owner how I wouldn't be surprised Votto might put up better numbers in the second half than Fielder. He seemed to get sold on that because he never proposed Votto in one of the deals; I did. I also had to push Aaron Harang hard since at the time he had just five wins and had to convince the owner that wins are determined by a myriad of factors often beyond a their control. He was pushing for Wandy Rodriguez or Matt Cain, but I wasn't going to do it.
Mike Podhorzer — FantasyPros911
Considering I have made a whopping one trade all season in three leagues, if I ever did successfully change a potential trading partner's opinion about a player, it has departed my memory at this point! Maybe I have been successful at one time in the past, but I really cannot recall. I personally can't stand the whole marketing of a player though. I know the stats, I know the current situation and league standings, I have my own opinion. I couldn't care less what you want to throw out at me and it has never changed my mind in the past, nor do I expect it to change my mind in the future.
In fact, it actually annoys me when owners tell me about who they are offering like I am some newbie who just learned about this game of baseball this year. Because of this, I rarely try marketing my players in trade offers or making comments when I offer a trade though the website. If I did try to pitch my players, I am inferring that my trading partner does not know the players, does not have an opinion himself, does not know where his team needs help or have a clue where he sits in the category standings. That is just insulting, in my opinion. To be honest, if I was ever able to change someone's opinion on a trade, that might be a sign that I need to replace this owner for my league next year!
Mike Silver — The Hardball Times Fantasy
My response would be that pitches are pretty difficult because of the element of suspicion. I don't know for sure if I've ever influenced anyone. I think pitches can help, because they've affected me before, but they never get me to completely revamp my opinion of a player. I've found that you can cast doubt or slightly improve an opinion, but nothing too substantial.
For the readers, your trade partner will always be suspicious of you, so any way to upgrade your credibility is helpful. Be careful of saying too much and make sure that it is framed in a way that the trade seems mutually beneficial. I don't think I've ever thought less of a player because of a pitch. In my experience, the only time it's been hurtful is when it looks like you're trying to dump someone (I made this mistake with Andrew McCutchen this year) either by proposing them multiple times or pushing too hard.
There are a couple scenarios that I think can help readers:
One is for a person who is particularly guarded against trading with you (think of your personal rival in your best league, or Billy Beane with the Red Sox and Kevin Youkilis; I know you've all read Moneyball). I have a fantasy rivalry with my friend Phil in one of my most important leagues. Whenever he suggests a player to me, it upgrades my opinion of the player, but because I know that he wants said player, I become so guarded that it substantially raises my asking price.What would probably work in that situation would be to use a decoy.
First, suggest a lower priority player, then, if you've anticipated the response correctly, you'll have an easier time with the player you really want (because the other person will think that they're not getting worked over or are not giving up too much). These scenarios will always be difficult to deal with, but it will help somewhat.
Another scenario is one that helped me get Lester this year. I asked an owner "what will it take to get Jon Lester?" (while he was slumping, of course), and he listed off a few players. When you know who a different owner likes, it is easier to boost their opinion of that player. This won't lower their asking price, but it should help a lot in preventing them from having doubts about whether the offer is fair. This should increase the likelihood that the offer sticks and that they don't raise their asking price.
Other than that, I've had relatively limited success with pitches, unless you're trading with someone who is really new. In my experience, you can't try to hit home runs, you have to let the trade come to you.
Eriq Gardner - THT Fantasy
EDIT: After reading this post, our own Eriq Gardner had some interesting follow-up ideas that I thought deserved to be shared with everyone:
Interesting that changing a non-novice opponent's mind is perceived as a foolish endeavor by experienced hands. I wonder if that means by extension that a willingness to keep an open mind is perceived as a liability.
Personally, my goal in making a trade offer and pitching a rationale never is to change someone's mind. If that happens, great. But if someone comes back to me and says something like, "No, I can't do that deal. I believe an ace pitcher is more valuable than any hitter," I'm happy to work inside that framework and explore a very different deal that sends a very good pitcher for a more valuable hitter. My goal is to execute a trade that improves my team and I'm more than willing to accept someone else's logic and appear to change my own stance in the interest of that goal.
Interestingly, there have been times when a team witnesses my change of stance and begins to question their own logic, going back to the first offer. I guess one should only practice what they preach.
As I sort of expected, the participants agreed that changing any non-novice opponent's mind about a player is hard to do, at least to any significant extent. What do you guys think? Have you ever been successful in doing this?
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:30pm (6) Comments
The season is quickly winding down, but we've still got a lot going on at THT Fantasy. This week, I'm proud to introduce you to two new members of the THTF team.
The first is Mike Silver, who you may know from his work at MVN's Statistically Speaking blog. Mike will be doing player profiles and analysis for us. He'll officially introduce himself to everyone tomorrow, but he sneaks into the action today by tackling this week's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable question, proposed by THT Fantasy.
The second "new" member of the team should actually be a very familiar face for everyone. Your friendly neighborhood psychologist, Marco Fujimoto (who needed to take a leave of absence for personal reasons) is now back and ready to go. You'll start seeing his work every other week starting next Thursday.
Finally, because most fantasy baseball trading deadlines will have passed by next week, the Roster Doctor will be going into hibernation. I'd like to thank everyone who submitted their roster for consideration, and hopefully we were able to help some you improve your teams and bring you a step closer to a fantasy baseball championship.
Posted by Derek Carty at 1:31pm (0) Comments
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The past two seasons around this time, I've discussed keeper league strategies for acquiring cheap closers. As I did last year, I'll simply copy and paste the underlying theory behind the strategy, changing a few examples to make it feel current.
Closers in keeper leagues
All keeper leagues are different, but if you are in one where your league-mates make a habit of keeping top closers, this strategy will be especially good for you.
In these leagues, when auction day or draft day rolls around, the number of closers will be limited. Those who haven't kept a top closer will be bidding against each other for the left-overs ... the second tier closers. By default, their price will rise, quite possibly above their raw value. This can trickle down the list of closers until Fernando Rodney (to take an example from this year) is being auctioned for some crazy amount, like $12.
So how do you avoid this? Do you simply punt saves? Do you overpay for a closer? I hope you won't have to do either, that this draft day inflation won't happen. The intelligent owner, though, will prepare—just in case—read the market come draft day, and decide on a course of action.
If you're out of the running this year, the stats you accrue over the remainder of 2008 make no difference to you. You shouldn't have your keepers set in stone yet, although you definitely should have a good idea who they will be. You could, theoretically, drop every player you don't intend to keep, tank, and it wouldn't make an ounce of difference. Of course, I don't advocate this; this type of behavior skews league results. It certainly would anger the rest of your league if you drop a $49 David Wright because you decide he's too expensive to keep. Might even get you kicked out before you make your run for the title in 2010!
Knowing this, feel free to drop any overpriced, old, or otherwise unkeepable players (within reason) and pick up some that fall into the next category: middle relievers with the inside track for a closing job. The owners in your league who are in it for this year might be ignoring these guys since they can't afford to waste bench (or even active) roster spots. Since you are concerned with next year, however, take the inside track while you can. Any advantage you can get is one worth pursuing, and there are several to be gained this time of year while many of your opponents don't have the flexibility to make moves you can if you're out of the race.
When Kerry Wood gets auctioned for $15 next year, you might be sitting on the Brewers' newly anointed closer, Todd Coffey, for $1. The great news is that it won't cost you anything in the short term because you're already out of it! How's that for value?
Of course, there's no way to predict who will be closing next year for certain, but you don't have to. If you're out of it, you just need to play the odds a little bit. Pick up five guys from the next list and, come March, if any of them have been promoted, decide to make that guy a keeper. That'll show the guy who's keeping Joe Nathan for $15.
Last year's results
As I've said in years past, this plan is far from fool proof. If these guys were guaranteed dominant closers, there's a good chance they'd be closing already. Some of them do have the right stuff, though, and if they are given the opportunity to start 2010, they could run away with the job.
Last year, of the 21 guys who made the list, four (Heath Bell, Huston Street, Frank Francisco, and Matt Lindstrom) opened the year as their team's closer (and two more inherited the job for some portion of 2009). This isn't a great raw percentage, but I think that's more the nature of the beast than anything else (and I did give strong recommendations to Bell and Street).
+------------------+------+---------------------+ | Name | Team | Current Closer | +------------------+------+---------------------+ | Koji Uehara | BAL | Jim Johnson | | Chris Ray | BAL | Jim Johnson | | Chris Perez | CLE | Kerry Wood | | Ryan Perry | DET | Fernando Rodney | | Brandon League | TOR | S. Downs/J. Frasor | | Matt Thornton | CHW | Bobby Jenks | | Mike Gonzalez | ATL | Rafael Soriano | | Carlos Marmol | CHC | Kevin Gregg | | Daniel Schlereth | ARZ | Chad Qualls | | Nick Massett | CIN | Francisco Cordero | | Several Options | COL | Huston Street | | Todd Coffey | MIL | Trevor Hoffman | | Mike DiFelice | MIL | Trevor Hoffman | | Mike Adams | SD | Heath Bell | | Joel Hanrahan | PIT | Matt Capps | | Chris Bootcheck | PIT | Matt Capps | | Jorge Sosa | WAS | Mike MacDougal | | Garrett Mock | WAS | Mike MacDougal | | Tyler Clippard | WAS | Mike MacDougal | +------------------+------+---------------------+
Chad Qualls was a trade candidate this year, and if he goes in the offseason, the team could turn to any number of players. Jon Rauch would have been next this year, but he's not really a long-term option (or very good, for that matter). Daniel Schlereth has been called a closer-of-the-future, though his control is a problem and he might still be a year or two away from really dominating. Clay Zavada and Juan Gutierrez might be darkhorse options. I might say Schlereth is the favorite, but there are stronger alternatives on other teams.
Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez are both free agents, and the team could easily re-sign at least one of them. If Soriano leaves and Gonzalez stays, he's the closer. If both leave, the team probably doesn't have any in-house options they'd be comfortable handing the job to.
Jim Johnson has inherited the role from recently traded George Sherrill, and he could just as easily start next season in the role. There is a sect of fans who believe Japanese import Koji Uehara could actually open 2010 as the closer, though, and he certainly would be expected to thrive if he did. He closed in Japan, and with so many good SP arms, it might make sense for the O's to put him in the role. A very interesting play since Johnson is surely owned, although Chris Ray is still around and was a candidate to close this year had Sherrill struggled. Kam Mickolio and Cla Meredith have also been discussed as darkhorse options.
Kevin Gregg is a free agent at year's end, and if the team lets him walk like they did withKerry Wood, Carlos Marmol could finally get his chance to close. Despite his control issues, his LIPS ERA is still an OK 4.28. Of course, he could still be owned from this season's draft. Angel Guzman might be the choice if it isn't Marmol.
Chicago White Sox
Maybe a long-shot, but Bobby Jenks could be a trade candidate. If he goes, I'd have to take Matt Thornton as my choice for his replacement.
Francisco Cordero's name came up at the trade deadline, and if he is moved in the offseason, Nick Massett makes a strong case to replace him. Jared Burton could be a darkhorse.
Kerry Wood hasn't been very good this year, and combined with his big contract he might not be the easiest guy to trade. The Indians didn't rule it out in the middle of this year, although the changes he's made could have been suggested by the team to keep him healthy (meaning they might not be too disappointed with his season). They did acquire former Cardinals closer-of-the-future Chris Perez this year, and although he has poor control, he could close at some point. Former closer Jensen Lewis could be a darkhorse.
Huston Street is still arbitration-eligible after the season, but Colorado might not want to pony up the cash to keep him. If the Rockies trade him, in-house options include Manny Corpas, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Daley, and possibly Franklin Morales. Jhoulys Chacin would be a long-shot. His future is likely in the rotation. This is a pretty murky situation. I'd probably go Corpas, Morales, Betancourt, Daley, in that order.
Fernando Rodney will be a free agent, and if he doesn't return, the team will be loaded with replacement options. Ryan Perry was drafted to be their closer of the future, but his control has been pretty awful. I'd probably call him the favorite with Bobby Seay, Freddy Dolsi, and (of course) Joel Zumaya as other options. Brandon Lyon could also be an option if he doesn't leave via free agency.
Jose Valverde is a free agent, and it might be more likely the team resigns him or looks externally because they don't have very many solid in-house options. LaTroy Hawkins? He's a FA too. Felipe Paulino? Good numbers, closer-ish stuff, but poor surface numbers for a backwards organization. Best to stay away from this situation.
Trevor Hoffman will be a free agent, and retirement probably isn't out of the question. Either way, there's no guarantee he's staying in Milwaukee after a strong 2009 campaign. This team doesn't have a history of forking over big bucks for a closer. Todd Coffey might be the pick here, even if Mike DiFelice is the better pitcher (albeit a non-conventional closer-type). Coffey had been discussed as a closer-of-the-future type in Cincinnati, and he's putting up a very nice 2009.
Matt Capps is not having a good season, and there was talk mid-season of trading him. Unless he implodes or is traded in the offseason, he'll still start 2010 as the closer, but if he is traded, I see two candidates who might be able to take the job and run with it. Paul talked about Chris Bootcheck the other day, and the team didn't acquire Joel Hanrahan for nothing. They've got a smart front office now and probably realized he was unlucky, and it wasn't but five months ago we were all calling this guy an undervalued fantasy closer. He's got good stuff, good numbers, and might be the best speculative choice here.
It looked like the Pads could trade closer Heath Bell at the deadline this year, and they may explore that option again in the offseason. If he goes, Mike Adams would be a fitting option. The team could go younger with Luke Gregerson or Greg Burke, but Adams was the speculative add this season, and the team wasn't afraid to give a 31-year-old Heath Bell the job this season (of course, they also didn't have two other legitimate options). If it isn't Adams, I'd take Gregerson over Burke.
Ryan Franklin has been good this year, so there's no real reason to expect him to not open 2010 as the closer. If he is, for whatever reason, traded or (more likely) struggles to open 2010, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan could be options to replace him.
Both Scott Downs and Jason Frasor were trade candidates this year, and if both are traded this offseason, Brandon League is a solid option to replace them. Jeremy Accardo could also be in the picture.
Let's face it. Mike MacDougal is not going to last (and I mean, like, past next week), so who will be closing in Washington to start 2010? If they don't look externally, it could be whoever closes out 2009 for the team. Right now, that might be Jorge Sosa, who actually put up good numbers at Triple-A this year. The team has said in the past that they view Garrett Mock as a closer-of-the-future type, so he could also be considered, and Tyler Clippard was mentioned as a potential replacement should MacDougal falter. Overall, I'd avoid this situation unless I have few options.
Kiko Calero, Mike Gonzalez, Octavio Dotel, Brandon Lyon, and Billy Wagner are guys who will be free agents who could be cheap options for teams looking for a closer.
Teams in the market for closers
In several of the above situations, I noted that the current closer is a solid pitcher who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Whether the next guy on the depth chart enters 2010 in a position for saves may depend on whether the current closer gets a better offer elsewhere.
I thought that it would be a good idea to see which teams could be looking externally for a closer. The more teams that will be (and the more money they have), the better the chances for all of those "next in line" types (as well as those listed in the "free agents" section) to be closing next April.
Here is a list of teams that might be looking for a closer.
Not as many teams as last year, and not as many who figure to be strong suitors. Detroit and Milwaukee never seem to want to go big on a closer; Washington might not have the cash; and Baltimore, Texas, Tampa Bay are more long-shot types with solid in-house options to rely on. Florida could be active, but probably more-so in the trade market than in free agency. That just leaves Atlanta and Houston, who could simply resign their current options.
This probably doesn't bode to well for guys who need their current closers to ship off. With few teams probably willing to dole out the big bucks, they might opt to stay with their current teams, especially if they're willing to accept a home-town discount.
There are few obvious choices this year as most of the situations are quite murky (although maybe that's the case any year). Here are five guys I might take if I had to pick right now:
I don't like picking Sosa because of his history, but he makes some sense since he could prove himself to the team by the end of 2009. I kind of wanted to pick Ray or Uehara in Baltimore, but there are so many options there that it's tough to back just one horse (especially since Johnson could simply keep the job). I had a similar dilemma in picking Hanrahan, but even if he doesn't open 2010 with the job, he might be one of the best speculative setup men options. Massett and Adams were also in consideration simply because they'd be strong options to succeed if they got the job.
Disagree with my choices? Did I miss someone entirely? Did you use the strategy last year? Any thoughts, questions, or comments, leave 'em below.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:09am (6) Comments
B.J. Upton represents everything that is exciting and flawed in fantasy baseball. While tantalizing owners with his incredible power-speed potential, he has frustrated managers and doomed teams to the cellar with a terrible 2009.
Fantasy managers in 2007 waited with baited breath for Upton's first full season. He did not disappoint, posting a stellar .300/.386/.508 line to go along with 24 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 548 plate appearances. Nothing stood in his path to fantasy stardom, except the lingering concern of his lofty strikeout numbers, sitting at 154 for the season. Still, Upton seemed destined for stardom.
B.J.'s 2008 season was a bit human for this fantasy Superman, as his power all but disappeared, dropping to just nine home runs in 640 plate appearances, coupled with a drop in batting average to .273. This was partially made up for by a substantial increase in stolen bases, however, as his swiped bags total rose to 44.
While 2008 was nothing to write home about, Upton's stellar postseason, as well as a rumored shoulder injury, reminded owners of his tremendous latent power potential and ultimate upside.
Fast forward to August 2009. Upton's season has been an unmitigated disaster. His triple slash line sits at a pathetic .237/.312/.359. Hardly the type of player who breeds fantasy glory. Further, the rumored power surge never arrived, as Upton has hit just seven home runs in 477 plate appearances.
Upton has been completely lost at the plate this season, as evidenced by a decline in almost every meaningful secondary statistical indicator. The center fielder has posted three-year lows in the following categories: line drive percentage, walk rate, strikeout to walk rate, and HR:FB percentage. His contact percentage sits at 75.6 percent, down from 80.5 percent in 2008. His timing is way off, as evidenced by the fact that he has completely forgotten how to hit change-ups (Upton's run value per 100 change-ups: 2008: +1.71, 2009: -1.15).
In regards to this season, there is not much that can be done. Yes, he could turn it around in the final two months to help a team win a title, but he is not a player you should bet on. Winning fantasy titles is as much about superstars as it is about solid, consistent contributions. At this point, you must replace Upton if you haven't already.
For those in keeper leagues, Upton seems to be at a crossroads in his career. Upton can become one of two players, with either one being just as likely.
On the one hand, he could become Carl Crawford with more power and slightly fewer steals. Upton has shown that he can steal 40-50 bags and hit 20-plus homers. There were few fence scrapers among his 2007 home runs, so the power seems to have been real.
However, his unrelenting issues with strikeouts may turn him into the next Mike Cameron, albeit with less power. In the last three years, Upton has struck out at rates of 32.5 percent (2007), 25.2 percent (2008), and 29.6 percent (2009). Assuming the K-rates and middling power hold, Upton will never hit over .270. While he may have hit .300 in 2007, this was a complete BABIP mirage, as his balls in play average stood at .399. That's right, .399.
In a more realistic 2008 (realistic being relative, as his BABIP was still quite high), his .351 BABIP led to a .273 batting average. This .270 range is much more indicative of Upton's batting average potential, as no one who strikes out in 25 percent of their at-bats can hit .300 unless they can club over 30 home runs. If you're one to expect him to drop the K-rate, don't. Anyone who swings just 40 percent of the time with just an 80 percent contact rate will struggle with strikeouts. Patience is a virtue, but too much can be a vice.
If you find yourself in a one-year league, trade or bench Upton. Even if he does turn it around, by the time you trust him again, the year will over.
If you're in a keeper league, there are a few scenarios that could be beneficial.
First, if you are low in the standings, hold onto him and see if he can show some signs of progression in the last two months. This could be enough for you to keep him for next year or deal him to someone who will give up a worthy keeper. DO NOT CUT UPTON, especially if you are out of the race. There is still enough time in the season for him to make a case for next year.
If you are near the top of the league in the standings, know that Upton still has a lot of believers. Try to find an owner who needs a keeper and see if you can deal for a good player who can put you over the top.
In short, Upton has very little to offer this season. He's already been brilliant as well as disgraceful, so even a two-week burst doesn't mean he's figured out his woes. Think about it, at what point will you actually be willing to trust him in your lineup?
For keepers, the B.J. Upton Brand still has a lot of value, although his prospects for the future have taken a considerable hit. If you want my opinion, I think he'll eventually approach the star everyone predicts, posting multiple 20-40 seasons, albeit with low batting averages. However, it's up to you to decide whether it's worth finding out, in case he actually becomes the next Mike Cameron.
Posted by Mike Silver at 2:23am (6) Comments
Thursday, August 13, 2009
If you haven't already heard, a man crush of mine, Jordan Zimmermann, is having Tommy John surgery. We're all hoping for a speedy and successful recovery. All you Top 100 followers, take note. This procedure will drop him completely from the Top 100 list, which will be updated next week. That's why it's always a bigger risk to invest in a pitcher rather than a position player.
Last week, I brought you the nominees for Minor League Player of the Year. Lets visit the other end of the spectrum, shall we? Here are your nominees for Most Disappointing Player of the Year.
Everyone had high hopes for the hard-throwing Jeffress. His velocity was through the roof. His control ... not so much. But we all did have those high hopes, didn't we? Well, Jeffress fell flat on his face, in more ways than one. His walk rate gave the Brewers' front office nightmares, and his extracurricular activities even more so. Jeffress is currently serving a 100-game suspension for testing positive for an illegal substance. One more suspension means a lifetime ban. Jeffress went from being one of the more raw, talented pitching prospects in the game to a guy that wouldn't even make an appearance on a Brewers top prospect list.
Donald was featured on many publications' top 100 list at the beginning of the year, and rightfully so. His 2008 performance pointed toward a young man with solid big league tools, including a solid glove at shortstop, average contact skills, average plate discipline, a bit of pop in his bat, and speed enough to contribute a handful of steals. All in all, his tools equaled out to an above average major league shortstop. This year, he has had a hard time staying above the Mendoza line and his power production has nose-dived. He was traded to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee deal, which means the Indians must see something in him. But in another month he will be 25 years old and finishing up a cringe-inducing Triple-A season. I don't see much to like anymore.
Skipworth's stat line says it all. Every bit of it makes me shake my head. Well, except for the seven home runs over 264 at-bats, which is a good sign for a 19-year-old catcher. I always have to keep his age in perspective, otherwise there is absolutely nothing there to like. This former first round pick is going the wrong way. The next Max Sapp, perhaps? There is still time to turn it around.
I really thought this would be Main's breakout campaign. Unfortunately, the young man took a step backward. While he is playing in the California League, a notorious hitter friendly environment, there is no excuse for a kid with his stuff putting up 45 strikeouts and 36 walks over 54 innings of work, not even the strange, undiagnosed illness he has suffered through. But there is still potential, of course.
Moustakas has not taken the step forward that everyone expected. His contact skills are still a question mark, his patience at the plate a liability, and his baserunning skills a work in progress. Combine that with his now permanent move to third base, and you have yourself a disappointing year. But the wrist speed and power are still present, and they will carry his reputation going forward.
Still in the picture:
Posted by Matt Hagen at 3:07am (9) Comments
Friday, August 14, 2009
Trent Oeltjen | ARI | OF
True Talent: .268/.318/.399
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .268 BA, 0.7 SB
Arizona sent Chris Young down to Triple-A this week, bringing up Oeltjen, a nine-year minor league veteran with a career line of .293/.358/.410. He has steadily improved in his last three years at Triple-A, reaching a .300/.358/.505 level in 2009, which earned him that long-awaited call-up. He's crushed in his brief time in the bigs, but that's not going to continue, and True Talent's not the only reason. Conor Jackson and Eric Byrnes are due to return soon, and Justin Upton could come back around the same time, so Oeltjen's basically auditioning for a fourth OF spot on the team. All of this makes him only worth a short-term pickup in the deepest of NL-only leagues.
Anibal Sanchez | FLA | SP
YTD: 7.1 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 5.55 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.7 K/BB, 4.53 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 5 K, 4.82 ERA
One of Florida's promising young arms, Sanchez is due back soon from the minors, where he's been rehabbing a sprained right shoulder. He says he's ready now and has tickled the mid-90s with his fastball, so expect him to start sometime next week. His early season stats are a bit inflated as he was battling those shoulder problems, but True Talent shows his peripherals are right on target. His career has been marred by injuries, including surgery on that same right shoulder, so handle him with care. But the talent is there, and he'll deliver Ks as well as wins from a Florida club that has won 13 of its last 21 and 5 of its last 6. If he does well in his first start, he'll be a good roster addition for nearly all NL-only leagues and mixed leagues of at least 12 teams.
Alcides Escobar | MIL | SS
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Milwaukee's housecleaning this week cleared the way for Escobar, their top prospect, to make his mark. He's a wizard with the glove but has been working on his hitting in order to reach the majors. In 2009, he hit .297/.346/.412 in the minors, with 42 SB, showing you his real fantasy value—speed. His batting eye needs more work, although his 0.5 BB/K this season in minors was an improvement over his .34 career mark, and it's the reason he'll start out at the bottom of the batting order (he hit ninth in Macha's LaRussa-esque lineup on Thursday). He's likely to struggle initially getting on base, which will affect his SB numbers, and he won't collect as many runs until he can hit leadoff. Hardy remains in the wings if he struggles, further diminishing his value. But teams with a need for speed aren't going to find any better waiver wire opportunities to collect steals at this point in the season, making him a good add in almost any league. Just keep in mind his probable BA drag, diminished power and runs.
Oliver Perez | NY | SP
YTD: 8.7 K/9, 1.1 K/BB, 5.97 ERA
True Talent: 8.2 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 4.78 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 12.0 IP, 0.7 Wins, 11 K, 4.52 ERA
How bad do you need strikeouts? Enough to take Perez's 8.2 BB/9 and ERA that floats around 5? Enough to pray for a win from the Quadruple-A Mets? Perez has given up only seven ER over his past four starts, dishing out 26 Ks over 21.2 IP, but he didn't pick up a win. That's about what you should expect from Perez, who's also prone to disastrous starts, like the two seven-plus ER starts he had in April. The good news is that he's been looking better of late; the bad news is that for Perez, looking better isn't hard to do—this is the first month his ERA has dipped below 7.00. Maybe you see that glass as half-full and see continued improvement—he's got to lose over a run to match his TT projection, after all—but he's unlikely to prove worthy of the gamble. Let's hope you don't need Ks this bad.
Angel Pagan | NY | OF
True Talent: .263/.323/.410
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 4 Runs, 3 RBI, .258 BA, 0.9 SB
Shortly after Carlos Beltran hit the DL, Pagan became New York's everyday CF and leadoff hitter, and he's been about the only thing Mets fans have been able to count on, outside of David Wright and being below .500. Particularly of late, Pagan's been getting on base at a good clip and scoring runs, even getting a handful of extra-base hits. Cory Sullivan has started in the past couple of days, as punishment from Jerry Manuel for poor play from Pagan, but Pagan should be back there soon. He's still not going to bring a ton of value, but he's not a bad pickup for his combination of moderate power and speed. His best value is in NL-only leagues 15 teams or deeper; teams in other leagues can try to snag a few steals from him, but be warned: He's only swiped four bags in his last 28 starts.
Madison Bumgarner | SF | SP
YTD: 7.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB, 1.97 ERA (minors)
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Heads up, keeper owners: Bumgarner is coming. Though he's currently at Double-A, rumors persist of this 20-year-old lefty's imminent call-up, and you'll see him in September (if not sooner) as either a starter or reliever. His fastball is so nasty that he's had to work only recently on a good peripheral pitch, settling on a slurve instead of his inconsistent curve. He's got poise, power, good health, and can even hit (.429/.500/.857 in 9 PAs this year). On any other club, he'd be a sure ace, but there's some guy named "Lincecum" in his way to that honor. If your keeper league doesn't allow minor-league pickups, get your finger ready on the mouse for when he gets that call-up; if you can take minor-leaguers (and he's still available), now's the time to get him. You won't be sorry.
Wladimir Balentien | CIN | OF
True Talent: .234/.301/.408
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .230 BA, 0.2 SB
One of the lesser names to switch leagues before the trade deadline, Balentien was swapped by Seattle after they DFAed him, finally tired of waiting for his power to develop. He's only 24, but his 0.38 BB/K in the minors declined to a 0.27 in the majors, and his .368 career SLG in the bigs couldn't make up for that. He's competing for time with Jonny Gomes, who is both older and very streaky—his 3-HR night on Thursday followed a 4-for-27 stretch—so Balentien could eat up more PT as August progresses, but Bruce is due back in September, which should push both Balentien and Gomes back to the bench. That .357/.455/.500 with CIN makes Balentien look juicy, and he could be worth a short-term flier in very deep NL-only leagues, but he won't give you very much for very long.
Bobby Parnell | NY | SP/RP
YTD: 7.3 K/9, 1.6 K/BB, 3.94 ERA
True Talent: 6.3 K/9, 1.3 K/BB, 5.18 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 5.2 IP, 0.3 Wins, 4 K, 5.19 ERA
Parnell is the latest to toe the Rubber of Death for the Mets, filling in while Mike Pelfrey left to take care of his wife. He's going to get another chance to start tonight, which could determine whether he sticks in the rotation or not, and thus what kind of value he might have for your team. His average stats make him suitable only as a fringe-y starter, so watch this next outing carefully. He's a well-regarded prospect in the Mets system, so he's got the skills, but his long-term outlook sees him coming out of the bullpen. Consider him a gamble for NL-only leagues 15 teams and deeper, or as a pick-and-stash for deep keeper leagues.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (16) Comments
Trevor Bell | Los Angeles | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 6.75 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
A rocky 2008 in the California League—including a temporary move to the bullpen—dropped Bell's prospect status to almost non-existent. For people in deep leagues, it's good to remember that “survival” for a pitcher in the California League can often be a sign of great talent, as it's just that difficult to pitch there. Bell doesn't have “great talent,” and he's about as far from being truly ready as Sean O'Sullivan, and not quite as good. Either is a better choice than Matt Palmer, however. Only in desperation in AL leagues.
Marlon Byrd | Texas | OF
True Talent: .281/.341/.446
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .280 AVG, 0.2 SB
How's that for a player matching his “True Talent” prediction? Well, there's not much to add about Byrd. What you see is what you get, rate-stat wise. We're going to avoid joining the people who've picked him up lately, while various other Rangers have been nicked and missing time. Chris Davis is a likely callup, and it's hard to see Byrd continuing to get playing time against RHP in September. The “Next Week” numbers should be safe to assume, though.
Rajai Davis | Oakland | CF
True Talent: .261/.319/.362
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .260 BA, 1.8 SB
Hearkening back to the days of “Whitey Ball” (about which THT's Dan Fox did an interesting writeup back in 2006), metrically aware teams are suddenly “re-discovering” the value of speed and of defensive outfielders. Anyone who's seen Rajai track flies has to wonder how RZR/OOZ rate him as below average (.922 RZR, 30 OOZ plays in 436 innings), and the BIS +/- system has him as only the 14th-best CF. Yes, this is a fantasy column... Davis is a marginal hitter, as shown by TT, and his ability to make a defensive impact will determine how many at bats—and thus stolen bases—he gets for a fantasy team. So, it's good to know that at least the popular-if-flawed UZR system loves his defense, and he's probably a safe bet to keep getting PT as long as he doesn't go into a prolonged slump.
Derek Holland | Texas | SP
YTD: 7.5 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 5.04 ERA
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.2 IP, 0.2 W, 4 K, 6.36 ERA
Over at Baseball Daily Digest, I had some observations on the Rangers leading the league in run prevention this season. Part of the reson is that they appear to be intent on keeping their talented pitchers. Holland's fastball averages 93 mph this year. He's still a young pitcher with a crappy home park, so fatigue may wear him down, but for a guy who was expected to begin the year in Double-AA to have allowed a batting line of just .190/.272/.306 in the past month is impressive, even if starts against Seattle, Oakland, and KC are in there. Expect hiccups, but this guy is for real. Don't be surprised if his ERA is almost 2 points under that TT projection the remainder.
Jake Peavy | Chicago | SP
YTD: 10.1 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 3.97 ERA
True Talent: 9.3 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 3.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a
We're of a split mind on the Peavy trade at Heater, as John Burnson hated the deal, while yours truly jumped on the White Sox bandwagon based on it. Peavy has that sort of polarizing influence. He has a career Home ERA 1.0 points better than his road ERA, compared to a typical value of 05. He's a flyball pitcher coming to a park that allows homers. And those are the parks that caused him road ails in the NL—17 HR allowed in Chase Field, a .500+ slugging in both Coors and Wrigley—and which Kenny Williams is banking both money and cheap talent on him being able to reverse. On the plus side, his career OBP against is under .300, his K/9 rate is 9.0, with a fantastic 3.1 K:BB ratio. Non-pitchers have hit just .243/.311/.393 against him, and if you believe in “clutch” pitching, he's been better in the second half and much better in “high leverage” situations (just .215/.285/.314 against). Personally, this author would put every FAAB $ available down on Peavy and not have any reservations. But be warned that many smart people think otherwise.
Cliff Pennington | Oakland | SS
True Talent: .232/.319/.315
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .231 AVG, 0.5 SB
Before people start thinking about former Athletic Ryan Ludwick, and other top prospects who dropped off the grid for a few years only to rebound and rake, Pennington was primarily a defensive prospect years ago. Out of nowhere he posted a .426 OBP in 2008, and stole 47 bases between '08 and '09 in Triple-A (711 PA)—bringing back memories of Esteban German's minor-league stats. He is unlikely to ever post a great OBP, but he brings the speed and defense that the new (or is it “old school”) Billy Beane seems to be coveting now.
Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
True Talent: .250/.317/.424
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Sharp roto players everywhere lit up their transaction lines grabbing Travis Snider when Rios was claimed on waivers away from Toronto. But Randy Ruiz was recalled. What happened? Suspicions are that the Jays are trying to avoid letting Snider qualify for “Super Two” arbitration status, which would at least mean they haven't cooled on him. He's hitting .325/.421/.650 in Las Vegas. Expect him to be up in September and never go down again. He may not be the mega-star many were projecting, but don't read too much into that TT projection, either.
Junichi Tazawa | Boston | SP
YTD: 10.8 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 4.05 ERA
True Talent: 9.6 K/9, 3.5 K/BB, 3.27 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.5 W, 7 K, 3.38 ERA
ESPN—sometimes seemingly the Red Sox flagship station—would love nothing more than to see Tazawa thrive. He turned down an offer worth millions more from Texas because he wanted to be on a team with Dice-K, and by most accounts would have been a first-round pick if he'd been in the U.S. draft, or the first overall pick in Japan. So, when ESPN columnist Keith Law suggests that he's a No. 3 starter if his control stays at its best, some yellow flags go up. Before jumping in with both feet based on that “True Talent” prediction, consider that he struck out under 8 batters per 9 IP this year between Double-A and Triple-A, and his fastball usually comes in around 90 mph. A similar Yankees pitcher, Ian Kennedy, also had good K/9, K:BB, and FIP rates in the minors. Tazawa might be good, but the TT line is an upside.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 2:01am (11) Comments
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
In the last month of the season, fantasy owners (especially in rotisserie leagues) often find themselves desperately looking for help in a particular category. Perhaps the most frustrating standard category to find yourself behind in is wins. Wins are notoriously hard to predict because the correlation between wins and pitcher ability is much less than that of, say, strikeouts or ERA. I know of some fantasy purists who prefer not to use it as a scoring category at all. That said, if wins is a scoring stat in your league and you're behind in it, perhaps there is a small way to tilt the odds in your favor by using American League pitchers instead on their National League counterparts.
Why are AL pitchers more likely to record a win? Well, the longer into the game a pitcher pitches, the more likely he is to record a decision and, in particular, a win. Thus, AL pitchers are less likely to finish an inning that they've started but also more likely to start any given inning. Both are due to the fact that pitchers bat in the NL.
AL pitchers are taken out of the game for pitching reasons only. NL pitcher may be taken out or kept in the game for batting reasons. A manager may take out an NL pitcher early because his turn to bat came up and it was advantageous to pinch hit for him. Alternatively, though, a manager might keep an NL pitcher in longer if he was due to bat in the next half-inning, so as to avoid a double switch or wasting a relief pitcher. The former effect would tend to mean AL pitchers pitch more while the latter would tend to mean less. As it turns out, using data from 2008 on starting pitchers, AL pitchers pitch longer and are thus more likely to record a win.
These are data from non-interleague games only. AL starting pitchers win 37 percent of the time they start whereas NL starting pitchers win only 33.5 percent: basically AL starters are 10 percent more likely to win than NL starters. (For those wondering, this difference is "statistically significantly different"—the same is true for all the other differences, except for the probability of losing a given start.) Unsurprisingly, AL starters strike out fewer batters (and of course have a higher WHIP and ERA), so the higher win percentage does not come for free.
AL starters are much less likely to finish an inning that they started, but they still pitch more innings and face more batters than their NL brethren. (Note: I was not able to tell if a pitcher started an inning but did not record any outs.) AL pitchers even pitched about one more pitch per start. For what it is worth, a simple (probit) regression of wins on whether or not the pitcher finished his last inning of work tells us that pitchers that finish their last inning are much more likely to record a win. I haven't reported the regression's results here because regressions imply causation and I would want to control for many more effects before I'd be comfortable with the numbers.
Apparently, NL pitchers are much more likely to come out of the game early for a pinch hitter than they are to stay in the game to avoid a double switch. Even though they face an easier lineup, they don't pitch as far into games as AL pitchers. Oddly enough, in interleague games, NL starters pitch longer in AL parks than in NL parks whereas AL starters pitch longer in NL parks than in AL parks. Nevertheless, if you are desperate for wins in the final weeks of the season, everything else equal, pick up a Yankees or a Angels starter rather than one from the Dodgers or Phillies.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 2:42am (1) Comments
Brad Lidge and Matt Capps: two closers pitching so poorly, you might suspect some other team is paying them to lose games. Except no one would pay the Pirates to lose, besides perhaps their own fans wanting to get the first overall pick in next year's amateur draft, despite it being Strasburg-less.
Capps has a 6.41 ERA for the year and a 10.71 ERA for the month of August. "Mr. Perfect" last year, Lidge is no better with a 7.27 ERA for the season and an 8.44 ERA in August. It must be those hot summer days, global warming perhaps—a process currently being sped up by the heat generated from the friction off Neftali Feliz's fastball.
The Pirates have no real replacement for Capps. Yeah, Chris Bootcheck is not happening and neither is Jesse Chavez, Jeff Karstens, or Evan Meek—but why not Joel Hanrahan? He seems at least stash-worthy to me at this point.
He has closing experience, however limited, and also is showing some signs of effectiveness, like a 10.01 K/9 rate. The walks are manageable and you could certainly blame luck for some of his problems—no one deserves a .432 BABIP except perhaps the guys tossing meatballs at the Home Run Derby. And that's with a bunch of small children roaming the outfield.
Still, the Pirates have incentive to keep Capps as closer: To keep his trade value this offseason as high as it can be.
Unlike Capps, Lidge does have a no-brainer replacement in Ryan Madson. Madson has been excellent all year, except in June when he was—of course—filling in as closer for an injured Lidge. The problem the Phillies have in replacing Lidge is they do not want a bullpen in a state of flux while in contention, and certainly not in the playoffs.
Still, you can only sit complacent for so long until the flame of blown saves burns down the match and starts to sear your fingers. Ouch.
My point is that Capps and Lidge might be decent trade targets for those whose deadlines have not yet been passed. If you're desperate for some saves and don't want to trade away much to acquire one, see what it will take to get disgruntled owners to part with one of them. They will probably just be happy to have the nuisance off their hands.
For those who do own Lidge and Capps, you have to hang onto them. You don't currently have to start them, especially if you are engaged in more of an ERA and WHIP battle than a saves one. But if Mike MacDougal can get five saves in one week, Lidge and Capps could easily do the same. Both have good enough track records that over the final month-and-a-half of regular season they can pitch well enough to keep their jobs and get some saves along the way.