May 21, 2013
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Thursday, September 17, 2009
New York-Penn League
Hitter of the Year
Neil Medchill / OF / NY Yankees
No one player stood out from the crowd in 2009, but Medchill represented the stabilizing force in a Staten Island lineup that helped the team finish with the second best record in the league. His advanced base running instincts and .551 slugging percentage were too much for the league to handle.
Pitcher of the Year
Jose Alvarez / LHP / Boston Red Sox
Hudson Valley's Alexander Colome could make a strong case, but Alvarez's league-leading 1.52 ERA and 0.84 WHIP leave little doubt. The division winning Lowell Spinners would not have been the same without him.
Best Hitting Prospect
Ryan Westmoreland / OF / Boston Red Sox
Boston threw an enormous signing bonus at Westmoreland, and to show his gratitude he has done nothing but impress. Westmoreland brings a little bit of every tool you could possibly want in an outfielder, and his impressive plate discipline has taken me completely by surprise. He is ready for full season ball and may find his way into my off-season Top 100 list.
Best Pitching Prospect
Kyle Lobstein / LHP / Tampa Bay Rays
Lobstein's short season debut was about as good as could be expected, and averaging a strikeout per inning is an encouraging sign. His potential isn't through the roof, but his versatile repertoire could add up nicely for a Tampa team flush with starting pitching.
Hitter of the Year
Ryan Wheeler / 1B / Arizona Diamondbacks
Wheeler was the standout player from last place Yakima's lineup. He led the league with a .999 OPS and .461 OBP, and finished second in the league in both batting average and slugging percentage. His 37 walks against just 28 strikeouts was the icing on the cake.
Pitcher of the Year
Robbie Ross / LHP / Texas Rangers
In the early part of the season, no pitcher in all of baseball had more eye-popping strikeout numbers. His strikeout rate dwindled late in the year, but his stats stayed true; the most impressive of which is his 17 walks over 74.1 innings, a great feat for a 20-year-old.
Best Hitting Prospect
Brett Jackson / OF / Chicago Cubs
While I may not be a believer in Jackson's upside, it's hard to ignore his draft status and 2009 debut stats, as small a sample as it may be. He has a bit of that attractive power/speed combination that every team looks for, and it will be those numbers that carries him up the minor league ladder.
Best Pitching Prospect
Robbie Ross / LHP / Texas Rangers
With Ross we have this year's first instance of a league's top prospect putting up the league's most dominating performance to boot. He doesn't have the ideal frame but he does have above average velocity and an excellent mix of pitches. His command is tremendous for a player of his age.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 2:46am (0) Comments
Friday, September 18, 2009
Daric Barton | Oakland | 1B
True Talent: .250/.347/.395
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .251 BA, 0.1 SB
Hitting .292/.381/.458 since his return, Barton is playing (almost) every day and showing exactly the sort of hitting skills that were long expected of him. True Talent thinks it's mostly illusion, but his seasonal BABIP is just .271, and can be expected to show some rise, though he's slow and hasn't hit the ball particularly hard. Especially in an OBP league, he could make a nice addition for the last few games.
Kyle Davies | Royals | SP
YTD: 6.3 K/9, 4.8 K/BB, 5.27 ERA
True Talent: 5.9 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 5.18 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 W, 3 K, 5.91 ERA
When your YTD ERA is 5.27, and your BABIP is .285, it's very likely you're not a good pitcher ... and Davies isn't good. After this weekend, the Royals face Boston, Minnesota (twice), and the Yankees, so anyone not named Greinke is a questionable play to begin with. He'll be just 26 years old in 2010, and has proven to be very durable, so maybe there's hope for him in the future, but definitely someone to avoid in 2009.
Mark Ellis | Oakland | 2B
True Talent: .259/.323/.404
Next Week Forecast: 0.7 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .257 BA, 0.5 SB
For his career, Mark Ellis has hit about .285/.350/.450 combined in August-October, and he was at it again this year until a rough series against Texas. Bad news for him is that the team faces LA, Texas, Seattle, and LA again. Seattle and Texas are both top three in run prevention, while LA is below-average on the season, but has a 4.27 ERA since the break, and a 2.56 ERA in September. The final series of the season may be Triple-A-quality pitching, as the Angels organize their rotation for the playoffs, but all-in-all, we'd avoid Ellis, historical trend notwithstanding.
Freddy Garcia | Chicago | SP
YTD: 6.2 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 4.41 ERA
True Talent: 6.4 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 4.57 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 W, 4 K, 4.57 ERA
Not really Freddy Garcia news, but Jake Peavy is starting tomorrow, finally, after recovering from a liner off his elbow in the minors. Garcia gets the Royals, Tigers, and Tigers again, if the rotation stays the same. Detroit has scored 4.61 runs/game this season, compared to a 4.81 league average, and they are marginally worse against RHP (.326 OBP vs .338—AVG and SLG almost identical). Freddy allows his share of fly balls, so the chance is there for an M-Cab-aided disaster, but for an AL-only league, this is a pretty good pitcher to be able to add this late. The Royals start should be good, and his 88 mph tomfoolery might even get him a couple quality starts against Detroit.
Esteban German | Texas | UTIL
True Talent: .270/.347/.374
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, .271 BA, 0.2 SB
German is a devastating leadoff hitter ... in Triple-A. Saving his career by posting a .419 OBP with 35 SB for the RedHawks after a dismal .245/.303/.338 performance in 2008, he's been useful for the Rangers with Michael Young being injured. Young is going to try to play, but if he's hurt worse than the team is letting on, look for some exposure for German, who can still steal a base per week given the PA.
Kevin Jepsen | Los Angeles | RP
YTD: 7.6 K/9, 2.7 K/BB, 4.56 ERA
True Talent: 7.1 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 4.81 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 5.32 ERA
You don't hear much about ROOGY's in bullpen roles, but Jepsen's split stats would qualify him, as they are the mirror image of typical LOOGY stats (.358/.413/.432 against LHB, .202/.250/.236 vsR). Kevin Jepsen looks like a closer and has the upper-90s velocity typical to that role. With Brian Fuentes having problems with RHB (.372 OBP, .463 SLG), Mike Scioscia has stated that Jepsen will be in line for some situational saves. Also, this is a guy to keep a close eye on for 2010 and beyond—his fastball/cutter combo already makes him playable, and when (if) his rebuilt arm re-learns the control of his nasty curve, he could be truly exceptional.
David Purcey | Toronto | SP
YTD: 8.6 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 6.32 ERA
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.99 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 W, 5 K, 4.34 ERA
Way back in 2001, the M's offered their 20th-round pick, David Purcey, a huge $1 Million bonus to sign. He turned them down, and stayed healthy enough in college to become the 16th overall pick in 2004. Needless to say, much was expected of this pitching talent, but injuries derailed his train to Toronto. Finally, his 2008 showed just enough promise (8.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9) that there was some optimism again. As can be seen from the True Talent line, there's still enough here to not give up hope, though a 47.3% career FB% suggests a pitcher ill-suited for pitching in the AL East.
Ryan Sweeney | Oakland | OF
True Talent: .277/.338/.393
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, .278 BA, 0.4 SB
In their irrelevance, few have noticed that the A's have been hitting well of late—.294/.364/.461 in September. Right Fielder Ryan Sweeney has been a big part of that, crushing the ball for a .360/.421/.500 September line. There's a lot of data supporting the modest TT projection, but—like Barton—he was more highly regarded as a prospect than his results have indicated. Also, like Barton, he is soft in the roto categories—homers and SB. But he should be one of the better batting average aids available at this point, if that's what a team needs.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 2:00am (0) Comments
Yorvit Torrealba | Colorado | C
True Talent: .257/.315/.385
Next Week Forecast: 0.4 HR, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, .254 BA, 0.1 SB
It's kind of surprising to see any starting catcher still out there on so many waiver wires, particularly one who's getting so much PT of late. Torrealba has supplanted Ianetta as Colorado's regular backstop of late, even though he's not been hitting any better (.276/.339/.356 in September). Tracy clearly must like the way Yorvit's handling the rotation—but whatever the reason, you can pick up a few more counting stats if you need a catcher, since he's so readily available. True Talent shows you he's about where he should be in his ratios, making him best suited for 15-teams NL leagues. Just remember that Tracy could also change his mind back at any time, and put Ianetta back in, but he's unlikely to do so while the team's pushing toward the playoffs.
Rafael Betancourt | Colorado | RP/CL
YTD: 9.5 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 2.70 ERA
True Talent: 8.4 K/9, 2.9 K/BB, 3.49 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.20 ERA
Huston Street's not much closer to returning, and Franklin Morales has started to falter with more exposure, as I expected he might, surrendering three ER in his last two outings. Betancourt swooped in to snatch the save the second time Morales got into trouble, and could get another look, particularly if Morales struggles again. Betancourt has done far better with Colorado than he did with Cleveland, mostly by controlling his walks, dropping from 4.4 to 1.9 BB/9, and has been a very good reliever in every situation but the closer's role in his career. Street should still be back at some point, so Betancourt's a longshot no matter how you slice it, but saves are saves, and he might pick up one or two more. He's still going to collect some strikeouts, too, and if True Talent sees a bit of a correction, it shouldn't be much. As save gambles go, he's better than most.
Ian Desmond | Washington | MIF/OF
True Talent: .225/.286/.348
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 0 Runs, 0 RBI, .216 BA, 0.1 SB
The Nats are taking a look at Ian Desmond, a mid-level prospect who's got more leather than wood in his repertoire, though you wouldn't know that from his YTD line. Obviously, that screams "small sample size," representing just 18 PAs, and he's going to slide closer to his True Talent levels the more he plays. In the minors, however, his power (.477 SLG across two levels) and improved plate approach (.51 BB/K, vs. .39 in six minor-league seasons) came together nicely this year. He also pushed his contact rate from .78 to .80, so he's seeing the ball better and getting good wood on it, making some improvement to be expected. He averaged a bit over 20 SBs in the minors, so he'll swipe a bag now and then, too, despite average speed. Unless he defies expectations and keeps mashing, he's good for only part-time work down the stretch, so only the deepest of NL leagues will find any value here; similarly deep NL keeper leagues might stash him away for 2010 if they need a MIF who might prove to be a skosh above replacement level.
Billy Buckner | Arizona | SP
YTD: 7.4 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 6.79 ERA
True Talent: N/A
Next Week Forecast: N/A
Buckner's secondary stats should have led to a better ERA, but he's given up lots of longballs (1.7 HR/9) and hits (11.9 H/9) this year, which tells you how hittable he's been. Since returning to the bigs in September, he's shown a sharper curve ball, which he needs to use to succeed, and has put together two good back-to-back starts, with 12 Ks vs. four BBs, two ER and 14 Hs in 13 IP. He'll keep getting starts down the stretch, as will plenty of other Baby Snakes, so you can expect less-than-stellar defense and offense behind him. He should keep collecting Ks but could hurt your ratios, as he's been prone to meltdowns this year, and wins could be hard to come by, too. That makes him a moderate-risk-to-moderate-reward play, something to keep in mind if you want to roll the dice with him in your deep NL league.
Kazuo Matsui | Houston | 2B
True Talent: .266/.320/.374
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 Runs, 2 RBI, .261 BA, 0.8 SB
Kaz picked up his 2,000th career hit on Aug. 15, earning him membership into an elite Japanese baseball honor society. As often happens when players are trying to reach a milestone, Matsui was pressing to reach the mark and hit poorly. A week later, he loosened up and started on a tear that's seen him hit .321/.360/.488 with nine extra-base hits and seven SBs in the three weeks since then. True Talent shows you he's still short of expectations, so that hot streak might last a little while longer, and it's important to note that five of those steals have come in the last week. Though he has occasional health issues, Matsui's been playing in nearly every game for the past several months, and should continue to do so, barring injury. Though his TT levels peg him as a worthy addition best suited for NL-only leagues deeper than 12 teams, shallower leagues can ride him for as long as those SBs and XBHs continue.
Blake Hawksworth | St. Louis | RP
YTD: 3.9 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 2.36 ERA
True Talent: 5.2 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.96 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 4.90 ERA
Owners have given Hawksworth some love lately because of his four wins out of the 'pen, but vulture wins (or Hawk wins?) are hard to predict. What's easier to predict is a surge in his artificially low ERA, which has been helped by a ridiculous .236 BABIP—his FIP is 3.72, and his xFIP is 4.39. True Talent not only confirms that his ERA should rise, it shows that his shaky command is right on target, as is his lack of dominance. This is a guy who gets by on his control—he's most often compared to Jeff Suppan, whom I covered last week—so he walks a fine line between good and bad, and one day hopes to slide into the back of the Cards' rotation. There are relievers you can count on for strikeouts or ratio control (or both), where the occasional win or save is a bonus. Chasing vulture wins is foolish when that's the only expected return, and that's why Blake Hawksworth should stay on your waiver wire, no matter what league you're in.
Luke Gregerson | San Diego | RP
YTD: 11.0 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 2.81 ERA
True Talent: 8.5 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.82 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 0.0 Saves, 3.84 ERA
As a nice contrast to a reliever like Hawksworth, consider someone like Gregerson. Though the Punch-and-Judy Pads only managed to deliver Gregerson one relief win this season, he's delivered them plenty of Ks and very few BBs. He's done that throughout his short minor league career, with 10.2 K/9 in three seasons, mixing in a decent fastball with a much better slider. He'll give back a bit of that ERA, according to True Talent (his xFIP is just 2.84), but those strikeouts should continue. And he's much less likely to pick up many vulture wins with the Padres hitting behind him, but he's picked up 25 holds, if your league counts that. Even if yours doesn't, Gregerson makes a good roster addition for teams that are approaching their start/IP cap, or have already done so, NL-only league or not.
Josh Thole | New York | C
True Talent: .245/.317/.335
Next Week Forecast: 0.1 HR, 1 Runs, 1 RBI, .242 BA, 0.0 SB
Jerry Manuel likes Thole's patient approach at the plate, and wants to hit him second, in front of David Wright, a good place to be. And Thole could be a good fit, as he's shown an outstanding eye in the minors (1.06 BB/K in five seasons) and an excellent 88% contact rate. He hasn't advanced higher than Double-A because his catching skills are still developing, but the Mets aren't too concerned with that right now, having lost eight of their last nine games fielding their Quadruple-A squad. Expect him to play at least 60% of the time in these last few weeks, and more than that if he keeps hitting—just don't expect him to hit for much power (.375 SLG in the minors, peaking at .427 last season). That makes him an NL-only option for deeper leagues, or for disappointed Mets fans (are there any other kind this year?) whose fantasy teams have also given up for the season.
True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.
Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (0) Comments
parallax n. : The apparent displacement of an object caused by a change in the position from which it is viewed.
Generating dollar values for fantasy players can be tedious. A common approach is to sum the stats above replacement level in a category and then divvy up those stats among a portion of the total budget and add up the contributions for each player. That’s doable, but there are challenges. For one thing, there are wrinkles to handling rate stats like BA and ERA and “clumpy” stats like saves and steals. Also, there is something unrealistic about treating categories as freely floating when there are obvious dependencies, such as between home runs and RBIs, or ERA and wins.
There is another approach. This one has its own challenges, including a longer time to derive the values, but it sidesteps the bumps with the usual method, and it’s easily tailored to many formats.
The key is to look at fantasy value from a different angle. Suppose that Roy Halladay is valued at $30 in your league. It’s true this says that Halladay’s stats are “worth” $30. But you could re-state this to say that paying $30 for Halladay neither helps nor hurts your odds of winning. If you get Halladay for less than $30, then your odds of winning go up, and if you pay more than $30, then they fall. But paying $30 neither raises nor reduces your odds; if it did, then $30 would be the wrong price.
So we have turned a statement of value (“Halladay is worth $X”) into a statement of probability (“Drafting Halladay at $X neither raises nor lowers your odds of winning your league”). Why is this good? Because now, to find the value of a player, we need only to find the price at which ownership of the player doesn’t alter your odds of winning. There are no other calculations—no defining of the spread of player stats, no breakdowns of categorical value.
Note that this method works in fantasy because we have a fixed budget. In the real world, things are looser—there is no price at which owning C.C. Sabathia “hurts” your odds of winning. However, real businesses are in the business of maximizing profits, and C.C.’s salary can surely hurt those.
So we have the bare bones of an approach. Let’s create a two-team league. (In this exercise, we’ll stick with pitchers, so that we don’t have to worry about accommodating multiple positions.) On one roster, we’ll put our player of interest—in this case, Roy Halladay. Halladay always appears on this roster. The other eight slots on Roy’s roster, and all nine slots on the other one, are open:
Roster #1 Roster #2 ============ ========= ROY HALLADAY Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher Pitcher PitcherThe open slots will be randomly filled with 17 distinct pitchers (no duplication within or across rosters.) After populating the rosters, we will determine the side that “won,” based on whatever categories we have in our league, and behaving as if these were the only two teams in our league. For example, in standard 5x5 roto league, there would be five categories—wins, saves, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Finishing first in a category in our two-team league is worth two points, and finishing last is worth one. We’ll repeat this exercise 1,000 times for various roster configurations and track the winners.
(Why do we need to track only two rosters, even if our real league has more teams? Because each Halladay-less roster is identical. Suppose that there are 10 other rosters like Roster No. 2. Each is indistinguishable from Roster No. 2, because all rosters draw from the same pool. If we can balance Halladay’s roster with Roster No. 2, then we’ll also have balanced Halladay’s roster with the other rosters. A one-in-two chance of beating Roster No. 2 equates to a 1-in-12 chance of beating the league.)
Our ultimate aim is to make Halladay expensive enough that his team wins exactly half the time. “That’s swell, but you have no dollar figures. So you can’t turn your probabilities into prices.” And that’s true. We need points of reference.
How many points? Perhaps as few as two. If we have two points of reference, we might be able to adapt the method of parallax, which is used by astronomers to determine the distance to stars. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, because we don’t have two points of reference.
But we do. For any fantasy league, there are two statements that we can say with certainty (both statements require us to identify the draft-worthy pool of pitchers—we’ll tackle that later):
1. The last drafted player is worth $1.
2. The worth of a slot that freely floats among all draft-worthy players is the average price spent on that slot. If owners in a 12-team league historically spend $99 on nine pitchers, then a pitching slot that freely floats among all 108 draft-worthy pitchers is worth $11.
Now, in a real auction, you can’t draft a “freely floating” slot. However, in our simulation, we can—in fact, in our diagram, each slot labeled “Pitcher” is exactly that. In a particular run of the simulation, the slot could be worth $1, or it could be worth $50. But the expected value of the slot is $11. (Actually, it is slightly less, since one pitcher—Halladay—is not available. But $11 works for our purposes.)
Armed with our two points of reference, we can employ parallax. Here’s the approach: Roster No. 2 will never change—it will always contain nine freely floating pitching slots. For our first 1,000 runs, Roster No. 1 will also be the same. Over time, though, we’ll swap free-floating slots (worth $11) for the last drafted player (worth $1). Each switch means a drop in value of $10 for Halladay’s team.
Eventually, we’ll reach a point at which Halladay’s roster wins only half the time. Since the odds are the same, the total value of each team must also be the same. We know the value of Roster No. 2 ($99), and of the non-Halladay slots on Roster No. 1 (either $1 or $11), so it’s easy enough to solve for Roy’s value.
If we replace all eight floating pitchers, we could end up with a graph like this (not real numbers):
Here, when Halladay is paired with eight freely floating pitchers, his team wins more than 75 percent of the time. However, when he’s stuck with eight $1 pitchers, he wins only about 15 percent of the time.
To find Halladay’s value, just read off the point at which the trend line crosses 50 percent. In this case, that’s around 3.5. So Roster No. 1 would be balanced with Roster No. 2 if 3-1/2 slots worth $11 were replaced with the same number of slots worth $1. Ergo, Halladay is worth $35.
That’s the idea, anyway. Will it work?
NEXT WEEK: Will it work?
Posted by John Burnson at 4:00am (34) Comments
Monday, September 21, 2009
The wins are less than the typical total for a Cy Young winner, but as the times change seasons like Tim Lincecum's get more attention. Lincecum pitches for the worst offense in baseball and Zack Greinke's Royals are not far behind, as they rank sixth from last in wOBA. On the defensive side Lincecum gets much more help with a 4.4 UZR/150 behind him, while Greinke has to contend with the third worst defense in baseball. First lets look at the numbers to see how they match up.
IP ERA W K K/9 K/BB HR/FB BABIP LOB% xFIP Zack Greinke 210.1 2.14 14 224 9.58 5.09 5.00% 0.314 79.40% 3.27 Tim Lincecum 207.1 2.3 14 244 10.59 4.14 5.40% 0.301 77.20% 2.84
Anyone need not look further than Joe Posnanski's blog each day for the daily update on Greinke's run to the Cy Young. He really has been dominant this year with one of the top K/BB rates in the league at 5.09. He has always been a solid pitcher, and has improved numbers in each of his seasons. The result his that he has now reached elite status despite playing on a poor team.
His K/9 has gone up every season since 2005, when he threw a 5.61, to his current 9.58. This gain has made his solid walk rate that much more impressive as it started around 2.0 and gone to 1.88 this season. Only four other pitchers this season have a K/BB over 5.0; Roy Halladay, Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez. He is also ranked 86th of all time in K/BB for a single season. He has elite numbers this year and truly Cy Young material.
If Greinke has to contend with such a poor defense, why is his xFIP so much higher than Lincecum's? He has been having a bit of luck on home runs so far. He holds a HR/F of five percent despite a career rate of 8.9 percent. That's a bit of a jump, but since Kauffman Stadium depresses homers we can expect him to have an ERA that is lower than his xFIP most seasons. Greinke can drop his home run rate by continuing to up his groundball rate, which has increased to 40 percent this season.
The Freak is only getting better and it seems only health could slow him down at this point. He has a solid strikeout rate of over 10.0 per nine innings and has even improved his walk rate, decreasing it by almost a full walk per nine innings. His K/BB is a great at 4.14, but the extra strikeouts really help him relative to Greinke.
His loss in fastball speed is a bit concerning, as he's gone from 94.1 mph to 92.5 mph over the course of the season, but he has relied less on it this season. he is throwing the change-up more and getting very good results. His change-up value per 100 pitches is up from 1.23 in 2008 to 5.05 in 2009. This makes sense as he has a 10mph split between fastball and change and hits the zone with all his pitches well.
Ground balls are up this year for Lincecum, and with such a good defense behind him, he's managed to hold his BABIP at .301. He is also doing a good job of keeping fly balls in the park, with a HR/FB of 5.4 percent. This is fairly normal for Lincecum, as he pitches in a lot of NL West parks, which tend to depress homers. His career rate is 6.3 percent a look at him and Matt Cain shows they can maintain lower HR/FB numbers in San Francisco. This is one of the faults of xFIP; FIP, which has Lincecum at 2.22, seems like a better tool to project a pitcher like Lincecum.
Lincecum had to be scratched this month because of back spasms, but has since made an impressive start against the Colorado Rockies. His numbers looked good and he struck out 11 hitters in seven innings. The Giants are nearly eliminated and should be winding down Lincecum and limiting his innings. While many speculated that his previous workload could cause him to deal with injuries this year, he has once again totaled over 200 innings and is contending for another Cy Young.
If you have to pick between these two you are the envy of your league. In keeper leagues they are at the top of the heap for pitchers, but come with limited upside for wins. When it comes time to pick between the two I have to go with Lincecum. He has superior K/9 and GB% numbers, and also has a better defense behind him and better track record for a HR/FB. In no way do I think Greinke will take a huge fall, but he isn't quite at Lincecum's level right now.
Posted by Troy Patterson at 12:39am (2) Comments
In last week’s article, I looked at how Yahoo’s preseason top 50 have performed this season. Not surprisingly, the overall reliability of the rankings were low and it's logical to presume the the reliability of the rankings from 51-100 would not be better.
For me, many of the toughest draft or keeper decisions arise when evaluating players in the 51-100 range. By that part of the draft, the sure things have already been taken, so managers often use pre-rankings to differentiate between players. So, let’s take a look at how Yahoo did predicting the performance of this segment of players.
So, what conclusions can we draw from this?
Finally, I want to expand a bit on a disclaimer I made in the comments section of the first part of the pre-rank analysis. I don’t really know what a laudable success rate would be for pre-ranking. A 42 percent success rate when picking the top 100 players may actually be very good. Further, this analysis was somewhat crude, and there are many alternative ways to evaluate the pre-rankingss. For example, I could have analyzed ranking by position, or used “within 25 slots of the pre-rank” as the criteria for “success.” The greater point of interest is that it seems there hasn’t been much of a formal movement to promote accountability for pre-rankings by fantasy heavyweights like Yahoo.
The goal of this (mini-) series was to give fantasy baseball players perspective on the amount of credence to pay to pre-ranks, not to bash Yahoo’s performance. Because fantasy baseball is very unpredictable, it would be unfair to judge Yahoo's pre-rankings based solely on success rate; as long as the rankings are independent and based on sound reasoning, they can add value for fantasy players. Sites like The Hardball Times may not always be correct either, but we do strive to meet the same standard of sound reasoning and independent analysis. And with that, it seems like a perfectly opportune time to plug The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 because that's the type of content you can expect from the good folks here.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 1:04am (3) Comments
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
After putting up a .363/.453/.451 line in his junior year at Texas A&M, Cliff Pennington became the 21st overall pick of the 2005 draft. Equipped with speed and good on-base ability, Pennington was a perfect fit for his drafting team, the Oakland A's, who were in need of an insurance policy on the still unproven Bobby Crosby.
Pennington proceeded to rise up the rungs of the metaphorical minor league ladder, despite producing middling numbers in Single- and Double-A ball. Coming into 2008, expectations had been severely lowered for the former first rounder, and the question now became whether he would ever make the major leagues and become, at most, a utility infielder instead of "is he the next star A's shortstop?"
Pennington did nothing to improve upon those low expectations in the first third of 2008 in Double-A, batting .260 with 0 home runs. The silver lining was total of 20 steals and a 1.08 K:BB ratio, apparently enough of a lining for the A's to promote Cliff to Triple-A.
In Triple-A Pennington played what could be described as well for the first time in his professional career, as he batted .300 with an impressive .430 on-base percentage—the result of him walking in nearly one-fifth of his plate appearances. The power was still non-existent, but nobody complains about a .300 hitting shortstop with speed and decent fielding ability.
For his efforts, the A's promoted Cliff to the majors for the final month of the season. He was replacing the injured Mark Ellis at second and, true to his role, played at replacement level.
Pennington started 2009 at Triple-A knowing the A's did not see him as their shortstop of the future. In the 2008 amateur draft they selected shortstops Jason Christian in the fifth round, high-schooler Nino Leyja in the 15th round, and gave 28th-round pick Dusty Coleman over-slot money. Plus, over the offseason the A's opted to give Orlando Cabrera four million dollars to play short for them instead of Pennington.
Had he known the A's would also go on to draft Grant Green, a shortstop, with the 13th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, he might have given up hope of ever starting in the major leagues again. But things were meant to be.
At the 2009 deadline, the A's traded Orlando Cabrera to the Twins (for a shortstop prospect, of course) and called up Pennington. He was coming up after a sleep-inducing second run at Triple-A in which he batted .265/.345/.367. The 27 steals were there, but Cliff was looking like he was the next definition of replacement level.
Surprisingly, Pennington has played above replacement level in his 46 major league games this year—1.2 wins above to be more specific. He has batted .290 with seven steals and four home runs, which is a lot by his standards.
With his solid production, it is becoming more and more likely Pennington will enter the 2010 season as the A's starting shortstop. It is nice to think that he could possibly maintain this level of production over a full season—which would equate to a .290 average, 14 home runs, and 24 steals—but that is unlikely.
More likely, based on his 1,562 minor league at-bats, is a .260-.270 average with four to eight homers and 20 steals. Also keep in mind batting late and in the A's lineup will lead to few run and RBI opportunities.
Overall Pennington can be decent AL-only shortstop next year if drafted late, but should be looked as only a stopgap for one or two years before the A's find somebody else to fill the role.
Posted by Paul Singman at 3:26am (0) Comments
During the preseason, in a fantasy baseball roundtable, THT’s Derek Carty asked this question:
What do you think has a greater impact on one’s ability to win a fantasy baseball league: player evaluation or strategy?
Most of the responders seemed to believe that evaluation was the more crucial skill. However, if the question was adjusted to consider just the final two weeks of the season in a tight, competitive fantasy league, would the responders adjust their answers?
I hope so.
Most competitors in most leagues are out of competition by now. With only a dozen or so games to go, player evaluation is mostly directed at recapping the season or discussing the next one. Football has started, and many fantasy enthusiasts have directed their efforts in that direction.
But if one is lucky enough to be involved in a close, thrilling finish, there can be an enormous amount of strategic gamesmanship involved.
In some leagues, we witness variants of old game theory problems including “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Chicken:” What’s the other person thinking I’m thinking? If your team and your closest competitor are locked in a tight struggle for both ERA and strikeouts, for example, it helps to know if you’re competitor is going to aggressively make a lot of starts to chase strikeouts or conservatively protect ERA. Otherwise, making a lot of starts without your competitor doing the same could put ERA at risk.
In other leagues, we might see competitors unwittingly measure the economic advantages and disadvantages of hoarding. If you hold a dominant position in steals, for instance, and nobody else in your league can come close to touching you in that category, does it make sense to hold onto a speedster like Michael Bourn or release him for needed help in other categories? What if your main competitor has room for points growth in steals and is No. 3 on waiver wire priority? Do you take the risk of letting him have your player?
The final few weeks of the season can be the time of the year when competitors pursue wild strategies. For example, a team focused on maintaining a small lead in a ratio category like AVG, ERA, or WHIP above all else may pare down their active roster to the bare minimum.
Conversely, a team desperate for a few wins as the maximum innings limit approaches may attempt to grab as many spot starters as they can on that final day they reach—and surpass—the innings limit. (Most fantasy service providers will allow a fantasy team to go above the maximum amount of innings that final day.)
Let’s not forget pleading and nudging as an appropriate strategy. In Tout Wars AL this year, Mike Siano of MLB and Lawr Michaels of Creativesports.com are in a tight battle and Siano is browbeating other owners in the league to put their best foot forward.
Almost everything is fair when a title is on the line. But pay attention to the strategy involved.
Posted by Eriq Gardner at 3:56am (3) Comments
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Clay Buchholz has certainly had his share of ups and downs since entering the league in 2007. A stud pitcher with a great pedigree, he had been showing off his stuff for years in the minors. He was a major flop in 2008, however, and has since struggled at times in 2009.
Clay Buchholz was drafted 42nd overall in 2005, though he was very much a top-five talent. Due to a computer-theft scandal at his high school in Lumberton, Texas, Buchholz was given the loving moniker "Laptop" by Boston fans. This caused him to drop more than 30 picks, leaving him to be taken in the supplemental round by the Red Sox.
Buchholz impressed right out of the gate in '05, throwing 41.1 innings for Lowell in Low-A ball, with 45 strikeouts against nine walks. Buchholz built upon this performance in 2006 as he put up 140 Ks in 119 innings against just 33 walks between Low-A and High-A. Not bad for a 21-year-old. As a result of this stellar performance, Clay was ranked the No. 2 Boston prospect, 51st in the majors.
While 2006 was certainly an incredible season, with a 4.24 K:BB ratio and 10.58 K/9 ratio, Buchholz topped even that in 2007. Before being promoted to the big club late in the year, he was able to post an incredible 171 Ks in 125.1 IP while ceding just 35 walks between Double-A and Triple-A. This included a ruthless 116 strikeouts in 86.2 innings in double-A. As a result, Boston decided it was time to promote the 22-year-old to Boston, where he posted 22 strikeouts in 22.2 IP with 10 walks. Clay also recorded the first no-hitter of his career that season. Needless to say, the pundits were impressed, as Buchholz went into 2008 ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Boston system and fourth-best in MLB.
2008 was not as kind to Clay as years past, however. He started the season as Boston's No. 5 starter, only to be sent down after 76 innings, recording 72 whiffs but 41 walks. The bright prospect struggled with everything under the sun: His pinpoint command abandoned him, he yielded a 14.7 HR/FB rate and he had a .366 BABIP. His ERA was a very poor 6.75, though his FIP was at least an acceptable mark for a fifth starter at 4.82. While his struggles at the major league level were a bit disconcerting, he was able to recreate some of that old spark in the minors, as he went on to post a 61:18 K:BB ratio in 58.2 IP. Not quite the Clay of old, but not post-apocalypse Homer Bailey, either.
Then, in 2009, 24-year-old Clay Buchholz had to show to the viewing public, and fantasy gamers, whether he is a major league pitcher or ex-prospect. The results have been mixed and his performance indicators may be a little misleading, but there may yet be some magic in the young right-hander's arm.
When analyzing the performance of a pitcher, the first place most people look is ERA and FIP. Comparing the two usually gives the fantasy manager a good sense of whether the player will trend up or down. Buchholz currently sports a 3.49 ERA against a 4.29 FIP, which usually hints to a player trending downward toward his lower FIP. This seems about right, as his home run rate is within normal ranges, at 10.6 percent HR/FB but his BABIP is very low at .282. This is especially surprising given Boston's defensive struggles this season, as they have had one of the worst defensive efficiencies in the league this year, according to Baseball Prospectus.
As a result, Clay Buchholz seems to be dead in the water. With a poor K rate (5.82 K/9) and a less-than-ideal walk rate (3.84 BB/9), Buchholz is going nowhere: His ERA is an aberration and his career will probably take him to the annals of fifth starter-dom.
Yet, there is much to like about Clay Buchholz's performance—especially his plate discipline characteristics—that say there may be something to this pitcher.
First is his groundball percentage. Any pitcher who can create a 54.5 percent groundball rate can survive in the MLB, provided they have a positive strikeout to walk ratio. Even Lenny DiNardo has been able to carve out a career for himself based on nothing more than a love for groundballs. So, here's the first pro for Buchholz: He can keep the ball on the ground, thus controlling home runs.
Second is his excellent contact percentage. Though groundballs are a pitcher's best friend, whiffs are the true diamonds in the relationship. Any pitcher who can create swings and misses will have success in MLB. Surprisingly (especially after seeing that paltry K/9 ratio), Clay is actually pretty good at missing bats. His 78.3 percent contact rating is very good and places him in the range of Zack Greinke (77.7 percent), Johan Santana (78.3 percent), and Jered Weaver (78.5 percent). Buchholz's command of the strike zone is also improving, as his Zone percentage is up 1.2 percent this year, at 51.5 percent and his first strike percentage is up 2.2 percent to 61.9.
In all, Buchholz looks much better than his current strikeout line, as a player with his rates of contact, O-Swing, Zone percentage, and F-Strike % are more indicative of around 7.5 strikeouts per nine, not 5.82. His walk rate looks to stay relatively steady, though it could drop slightly into the mid 3s per nine instead of 3.84.
Buchholz is a great player to bet on for the remainder of the season and the future. With good peripherals, upward trending strikeout rates, and increasing velocity, Clay Buchholz can help any team in need of some pitching down the stretch. What may be more exciting, however, is how he profiles for next season. Due to his low strikeout rates, Clay is almost assured to go in the late rounds of the draft—and may go undrafted in some formats as well. In this case, be sure to take a flier on Buchholz as he could reward you with excellent numbers for a very low price. Most managers will profile him as a fifth or sixth starter at best, when he should play more to a 3/4 with upside. For this season, expect him to post an ERA somewhere around 3.9 with a WHIP around 1.35.
If you're planning on watching him for next year, follow his walks very closely. If he can bring that BB rate under 3 per nine, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. Be ready when he does it.
Posted by Mike Silver at 3:27am (0) Comments
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Jayson Werth has put together another fantastic season, which comes on the heels of his breakout 2008. Some fantasy commentators are now slotting him near Curtis Granderson in their Average Draft Position rankings for next year. Since Granderson went around the 61st pick (in CBS Sportsline rotisserie drafts) whereas Werth went around 157th this year, that is quite a promotion. Certainly Werth has delivered better value this year. Of course, the real question is what we should project him for next year.
For reasons that will become clear later in the article, the best way to value him for next year would probably be to project his stats using a projection system like Chone or Marcels. Another way to show his value is by using heuristics: comparing one player to another player whose value is easier to grasp.
Werth represents a certain type of player that I think is very difficult to project using any method. He's already 30. He's only had two seasons with fantasy-worthy output, so any Marcels-type projection system which takes three years of data is going to penalize him (perhaps rightly) for a very bland 2007. During the past two seasons, he's shown a wide-variety of—but not especially stable—set of skills and propensities.
His batting average, walk and strikeout rates are stable. He strikes out quite a bit, though he does draw he share of walks. He hasn't been as successful stealing bases this year but the decline in stolen bases is primarily due to fewer attempts. He's hit many more home runs this season, resulting in more runs and RBIs.
So Werth is one of those coveted power-speed outfielders. He's never going to be compared to Carlos Beltran or Matt Kemp, but we have to find a home for him somewhere. Obviously no two players are exactly the same (though Troy Patterson finds some couples that are awfully alike), and even if they have been very similar, past performance is no guarantee of future verisimilitude. But the task remains: whose old clothes will better fit Werth next season: Eric Byrnes or Granderson? (Or perhaps Aaron Rowand, Milton Bradley, or Michael Cuddyer?)
Again, none of these players are perfect fits: Byrnes stole anything he could while he was healthy, but then suffered a set of injuries. Granderson's two years younger than Werth. Rowand, who also had one of his best years roaming the Phillies' outfield, has never put together back-to-back solid seasons. Bradley has playing time issues for a variety of reason, but also has hit for a better average (some years). Cuddyer has never been a great source of stolen bases.
When doing casual similarity heuristics, it is very easy to pick the winner of the "Who is Werth most like?" beauty contest by dismissing (or just not considering) other candidates for "easy" reasons. Byrnes' injuries and perhaps chemically aided performance rumors might disqualify him from the contest. Bradley is a headcase and Werth is not, so perhaps Uncle Milton should be out. And so on ... But by doing so, we do lose some potentially valuable cautionary tales.
If pressed, I'd say Werth falls closer to Cuddyer than Granderson. Cuddyer and Werth are the same age. Actually, even though Cuddyer and Werth both have elevated HR/FB rates and could be due for a fall in home runs next season, Cuddyer might be the better bet to maintain his power. Hittracker.com has Cuddyer on the leaderboard for the Golden Sledgehammer Award, a measure of average true home run distance, whereas Werth leads the NL in home runs that were "just enough" to go out (though some of this may come from being in a home park where those kinds of fly balls can go out as home runs). We shouldn't expect a resurgence in stolen base attempts now that Werth is sliding a bit further down "the razor blade of life".
More globally, I hope this also illustrates why using (or making your own) systematic projection system has value. You needn't follow it slavishly. But, by using averages instead of case-studies, it can summarize the useful information that all of the Rowands, Bradleys, Byrnes, Grandersons and Cuddyers have while washing out some of the differences.