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Thursday, January 21, 2010
1. Yonder Alonso / 1B / Alonso does a lot of the little, overlooked things that you expect in a future star. But his questionable home run power leaves me wondering how bright his star can be. He has a great shot to be an above-average first baseman, however, and still possesses strong upside.
2. Mike Leake / SP / Leake's game is all about mixing his pitches to keep hitters off balance and using his sharp movement and command to his advantage. He doesn't look like much, but he is a future No. 2 starter who should move quickly.
3. Aroldis Chapman / SP / Chapman gets immense hype with his plus fastball and advanced repertoire, but I have come away unimpressed after nearly every video I have seen of him. His command is awful at times and he gives off an immature vibe. And, remember, he is 21, not 17. The upside is undeniable, but he needs to grow up fast before I buy in.
4. Juan Francisco / 3B / Francisco carries a big stick to the ballpark, including legit above-average power potential for a third baseman. His athleticism has evened out at higher levels and his approach at the plate still needs a lot of work, but he continues to improve year after year.
5. Travis Wood / SP / I got caught up in Woods' 2009 numbers, and, as a result, he is turning into the biggest over-rank on my current top-100 list. I have had an entire offseason to re-evaluate the list. Expect him to drop from the top 100 when my next update is released, but his control took a giant leap forward last year and his change-up is a true plus offering.
6. Todd Frazier / OF / Frazier's gap power is impressive, and he uses his above-average speed very well when stretching singles into doubles. I question how far his home run power and base-stealing ability will carry him in the majors. He seems like an ordinary, average outfielder unless his home run power takes off.
7. Chris Heisey / OF / From a current skills and performance perspective, Heisey is a very similar prospect to Frazier. Heisey is nearing his prime, however, and doesn't have much upside left. I think we're looking at a prime of a .270 batting average and 15-20 home runs.
8. Matt Maloney / SP / Maloney continues to perform well level after level and has nothing left to prove in the minors. He has a nice repertoire but below-average velocity to work with. He should settle in nicely as a positive back-of-the-rotation presence.
9. Devin Mesoraco / C / Mesoraco's athleticism has petered out as his body has filled out and he has adjusted to full-time catching. He has some power and plate discipline, but his bat has holes and, even though the journey of a high school catcher adjusting to pro ball is a long one, his bat has taken longer to develop than expected. His injury history is concerning as well. He's still one to watch, but his stock continues to fade.
10. Brad Boxberger / SP/RP / Boxberger's command is a head-scratcher of a question mark, as one expects college players to have more polish. It's hard to tell whether his future lies in the rotation or out of the bullpen, but Boxberger has a strong three-pitch mix that will aid him as he feels out his role.
1. Pedro Alvarez / 3B/1B / Alvarez has the makeup of a middle-of-the-order mainstay, warts and all. His power potential is through the roof, and he's patient enough at the plate to make it work in the majors. Like most big league sluggers, though, he has contact issues at times. So, we're not dealing with the next Pujols here. His defensive position has turned into a question mark, although I think he can be average defensively at third base.
2. Tim Alderson / SP / With his peripheral numbers struggling as he ascends the minor league ladder, maybe I promote Alderson a bit too much. But he is just 21 years old, has a great frame and, despite lacking ace stuff, has the makeup of a No. 2 starter.
3. Tony Sanchez / C / Make no mistake, Sanchez was an overdraft at No. 4 overall in the 2009 draft. But his initial numbers have been very impressive, and he has the skills necessary, both at the plate and behind it, to be an above-average big league catcher.
4. Brad Lincoln / SP / Lincoln may finally be all the way back from his injury-plagued beginnings. He features a terrific fastball/curveball blend with improving command. Expect him to nail down a full-time big league rotational spot at some point in 2010.
5. Robbie Grossman / OF / Grossman is a five-tool talent, and his 2009 Sally League performance gave us glimpses. His speed is an asset, his power isn't much now but has legitimate upside judging by his swing, and his patience is advanced. Holding him back, though, are the massive holes in his swing, which are even more concerning when you consider the lack of power he produced in 2009.
6. Brett Lorin / SP / Lorin has a mammoth presence on the mound and a plus curveball to back it up. At 22 years old in 2009 he didn't advance beyond Single-A, however. Is something holding him back? I don't see a reason why he shouldn't be put to the test in 2010.
7. Jose Tabata / OF / Am I the only one that is no longer impressed with Tabata's upside? His Arizona Fall League performance was tremendous, but his home run power and base-stealing ability are ho-hum. Plus, I'm really starting to question whether he has the plate discipline for the big leagues.
8. Victor Black / SP/RP / Black's slider has the makings of a plus offering to go with his mid-90s fastball. His command and endurance are two huge question marks on his resume, however. Pittsburgh will give him every opportunity to start.
9. Brooks Pounders / SP / For a high schooler, Pounders has a tremendously advanced arsenal at his disposal. He doesn't have much velocity, and may never have anything more than average velocity when all is said and done, but he has the potential for a great change-up and plus command.
10. Daniel McCutchen / SP / Pittsburgh has put together a deep system, as Starling Marte and Rudy Owens were tough cuts to make. I have been a McCutchen fan for a few years now and felt obligated to include him, despite his advanced age. He has nothing left to prove and has the look of a strong back-of-the-rotation starter.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:20am (11) Comments
Friday, January 22, 2010
Dan Uggla | Florida | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .243/.354/.459
Florida had dangled Uggla most of the winter, knowing that he would soon be too expensive for them, but they didn't get any takers and refused to trade him just to get rid of him. This was a wise decision, though it left them facing arbitration, which they escaped by signing him to a one-year, $7.8 million deal this last week. This doesn't make him a Marlin forever, or even for 2010, as Florida is expected to continue shopping him around—now, however, the other team at least knows how much it might hurt their payroll to take on the Sluggin' Ugg.
2009 was more ugh than slug for Uggie, at least in the first half, when his .768 OPS and .429 SLG were his worst half-season performances in his four-year career. He redeemed himself somewhat with an .867 OPS and .496 SLG in the second half, but some owners might have given up on him by then.
The resulting season was actually good for a 2B: his third straight season of 30+ HRs and around 90/90 in R and RBI. It ranked him third behind Chase Utley and Brandon Phillips among full-time NL 2B, though the $11 return in mixed leagues was likely far less than some owners paid. But forward-looking owners, particularly in keeper leagues, have to wonder if that first-half skid was a brief bad patch or signs of an impending collapse.
Uggla is a very streaky hitter; his OPS can fluctuate month-to-month by as much as 600 points, as it did between May and July in 2008, though 2009 was much steadier, with a mere 200-point shift from the first two months of the season and August. That's to be expected from a hitter whose contact rate has been at or below 74% in the past three years—2008 saw him plummet to a career-low 68%.
What has helped Uggla has been his improved plate discipline, evidenced by the rising walk rate you see in his mini-browser. That gives him extra value in OBP leagues, and could portend a similar improvement in his K%, which has stuck in the low 20s. If he did, that would undoubtedly mean cutting back on his all-or-nothing swing, which would diminish his calling-card power.
So take that BA tradeoff for the HRs it brings, and sit tight if Uggla looks uggly again early on in 2010. If you've owned him before, you know it's a rough ride, and patience is the watchword. Owners who have stuck with him have been rewarded with the roto values you see in the mini-browser.
In 2010, Uggla's fate may further be affected by the team he's with; there were rumbles of shifting him off 2B into the OF, and if he's traded to a new team, they could make the same move. His value is a lot less if he's not a MIF, so 2010 could see another sharp downward shift in his value as measured by position qualification.
Keep that sentiment in mind, too, since other owners in your league might have been turned off by his up-and-down 2009, and you could find some value in their reluctance, as long as you also remember the $14 GP projection. He might earn you a few more dollars, since a hot streak is as likely as a cold one for a guy like this, but he's not going to blow the roof off, either. Look for value and a slight rebound, but don't bust the budget on him, either.
Todd Helton | Colorado | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .325/.416/.489
Reports of Helton's demise were greatly exaggerated. After a 2008 in which he dropped below .400 in OBP for the first time since the last century and below .400 in SLG for the first time in his MLB career, people figured age had finally caught up with the 34-year-old. Yeah, right. In 2009, Helton answered those critics by rebounding nicely, pushing him above a .900 OPS and into 26th in the NL in roto value.
But for all that, he's not the power hitter he once was. His SLG was his third-lowest since his rookie year, and he hasn't been north of .500 in that department since 2005. That's because he no longer hits more than 40% fly balls, and doesn't turn more than 10% of them into home runs—those haven't happened since '06 and '05, respectively. His walk rate has trended downward, too, with 13.8% also his lowest rate since '99 (though how many free-swingers would kill for a "career low" like that?).
And of course, his back was healthy last season, something that bothered him all of 2008, if not before that. The mini-browser shows the effect that had on his hit and contact rates, both of which returned to career norms in 2009; he seems to be healthy again. Backs are troublesome things, especially with increasing age, so those problems could recur, and there's no way to predict that.
Otherwise, Helton's skill set is as solid as ever: a BB/K ratio consistently above 1.2 for the past six years (and a none-too-shabby 1.03 before that), a line-drive rate averaging around 25%, and a career contact rate of 88% (91% on pitches in the strike zone). Helton's due to slowly slip into the West over the next several years, but he's under contract to the Rockies through 2012, and it seems a crime to imagine him anywhere else.
He'll hopefully play in a Colorado jersey for as long as he wants to, and he should have a similarly open door on your fantasy team. Colorado's 2010 lineup should be as productive as the 2009 version, when it was the second-best in the NL, putting ducks on the pond for him to drive in. Depending on your league, his diminished power makes him better as a CIF than a starting 1B, but fewer guys in the league are a better bet to bolster your BA while still contributing in R and RBI.
His days as a top-25 roto producer are gone, as his GP projection indicates, so don't overbid on days gone by. Think of him as a municipal bond from Omaha: perhaps a bit boring because of the modest returns, but those returns are virtually guaranteed (barring acts of God), limiting your exposure, so long as you don't sink your whole budget into him.
Tommy Hanson | Atlanta | SP
2009 Final Stats: 8.2 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 2.89 ERA
Hanson's arrival was one of the most-anticipated debuts on the planet, and he didn't disappoint. His first outing—a six-ER, three-HR shelling at the hands of the Brewers—was his worst showing of the season, and he rebounded to win his next four starts, not giving up a run in three of them and holding his opponents to a .217 BA. Amazingly, despite his late June 7 debut, he ranked 25th in roto production among NL pitchers. The Age of Hanson has arrived.
So why the pessimistic GP projection? For one thing, the GP scoring system looks for performance and consistency at the major league level, and (in John Burnson's words) is "doubtful of distinguished performance from newcomers, and from players with only one MLB season. ... These players are often inadequately tested, and those who post impressive debuts often have luck to credit more than skills."
Really? From Hanson, rated Atlanta's top prospect by Baseball America, and in anyone's Top 25 at the start of 2009? Rob McQuown on the AL side says that he's heard Hanson called more valuable than Roy Halladay, and bound for a better career than Dave Stieb, one of the best pitchers of the 1980's. Well, don't believe the hype—or not yet, anyway.
For starters, you can look at his 3.94 xFIP, showing that he wasn't pitching nearly as well as his ERA indicates. Digging a little deeper, his 3.2 BB/9 is outside the acceptable range, while the .280 BABIP and 7% HR/FB indicate a fair amount of luck there. An 80 LOB% might be the best indicator of luck; starters with a rate this high tend to lose more than a run of ERA in the succeeding years.
Unlike Randy Wells and J.A. Happ, both of whom benefited from a fair dose of luck (and elevated LOB%) in 2009, Hanson has the skills to do well in spite of this. He's got four plus pitches, including an excellent fastball and slider, and keeps the ball down, meaning his HR/9 should always stay a little low. But the walk rate is still troubling, and that luck's going to even out. GP might be a bit too pessimistic, but every projection I've seen pushes his ERA well north of 3, and most have his WHIP above 1.2.
The defense behind him will be mostly the same in 2010, with Melky Cabrera (-1.6 UZR in 2009) an upgrade in LF over a leadfooted Garret Anderson (-11.8 UZR), while Troy Glaus will still be learning a new position at 1B, and a probable downgrade from the Casey Kotchman/Adam LaRoche that combined for a 4.5 UZR last season.
Obviously keeper owners will want to ride out the correction, but redraft owners can let others overpay for Hanson's 2009 numbers. He's solid, he'll pick up Ks and deliver a good ERA, but I'd be surprised if he was in the top 25 of NL roto producers in 2010. Sophomore slumps are cliches for a reason, and you should expect one from Hanson.
Adam LaRoche | Arizona | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .277/.355/.488
Caught between the Diamondbacks and the Giants, LaRoche chose the Snakes, landing on his fourth team in three years. That six-game hiatus in Boston seems unfair to count, just as this peripatetic itinerary seems unfair to a guy who's hit .274/.348/.494 in that spell, averaging 25 HRs and 84 RBI.
Those aren't amazing numbers, especially after his 2006 season, when he clubbed .915 OPS, with 38 2Bs, 32 HRs and 90 RBI, but they're still awfully solid. Only his position makes him seem so expendable, along with his performance since that '06 peak. He hasn't crested 30 HRs since then (his best was just 25), though the doubles have kept coming (he's averaged 37). In many ways, LaRoche seems like a guy who's never gotten his props, and teams playing Hot Potato with him haven't helped his development and confidence, either.
Neither has his inconsistency: LaRoche is the poster boy for slow starters. He improves his career OPS 130 points in the second half, while rising steadily from a .660 in March and April to a peak of .933 in August. As often happens in statistics, the arc isn't that smooth year-to-year: 2009 saw him start out with an un-LaRoche-like .916 OPS in the seasons' first two months before plunging to .502 in July (when he bounced from Pittsburgh to Boston to Atlanta). It was tough sledding, and his inconsistency is no doubt both cause and effect of his life as a human pinball. That's also why owning him requires a Zen-like patience in the early months of the season, when it seems so tempting to swap him for the fantasy equivalent of a bag of practice baseballs.
What's odd about LaRoche's bipolar tendencies is that his underlying skills have remained steady—the "Skills" section in his mini-browser shows remarkable consistency in his CT% and BB%, while his 38 H% in 2006 is part of the story behind that spike. The other part of the story is his HR rate, which was 21% in 2006, about 6% better than his usual season; that coincided with his first season of hitting more than 40% fly balls to drive up Atlanta's hopes for future returns. Instead, he's cruised along at a FB% in the 40-43 range since then, explaining his 20-25 HR output.
Luck—or at least the appearance of it—can also explain his slow start. Along with the OBP splits above, his career BABIP also rises steadily month to month, from .243 in the first month of the season to .362 in the last month. BABIP isn't entirely a measurement of luck; it also measures hit trajectory, since line drives are going to fall for hits more often than any other trajectory. So you might believe that LaRoche get luckier as the season goes along (in which case he'd better be buying bushels of Powerball tickets in September), but the more likely explanation is that he takes a while to get going over the season, hitting the ball harder with each successive month.
Now that he's with the Diamondbacks, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that he's in power-friendly Chase Field, which could stretch some of those doubles into dingers. A new start with a team lacking a 1B standout in the minors could give him the jolt of confidence he needs. LaRoche's signing led almost immediately to a DFA for Eric Byrnes, indicative of Arizona's commitment to LaRoche, at least initially. Adjusting to a new team is clearly not a problem with LaRoche, and hitting coach Jack Howell and bench coach Kirk Gibson might help him to a hot start.
The bad news: he'll probably hit fifth, providing protection for the whifftastic Mark Reynolds, who could cut down on his RBI opportunities. And while the Diamondbacks don't have a clear-cut first sacker breathing down LaRoche's neck, they do have other options. Conor Jackson, who should be at full strength in 2010, is expected to shift to LF, but he can still play both positions, and Gerardo Parra could push him for playing time in the outfield. Brandon Allen is Arizona's 1B backup plan—if he can bring his batting eye up to par with his power, he could also keep the pressure on LaRoche.
The key here will be the patience of A.J. Hinch with LaRoche's inevitable slow start, as well as the performance of Allen, Parra, and CoJack. Hinch showed in 2009 that he was willing to promote young players over struggling veterans, and he liked running out different lineups. LaRoche, with a .200 OPS split against righties, could slide into a platoon rotation with Jackson, or wind up in the familiar role of trade bait for another team.
Fantasy owners can bet that LaRoche will eventually reach the numbers in his GP projection, assuming he is in both Arizona and in their (and your) starting lineup. He's a classic trade target to grab from impatient owners, or to wait and see if he hits the waiver wire in April. If you do take him for 2010, you should have a backup plan for the first few months of the season—or a good Zen mantra to keep your blood pressure down.
Drew Stubbs | Cincinnati | OF
2009 Final Stats: .267/.323/.439
Losing Jay Bruce to a wrist injury brought the first rumbles that the Reds' CF Of The Future would be called up from Triple-A, but it wasn't until Willy Taveras went down a month later that Stubbs made it to the bigs. When he did, people wondered what took the Reds so long: Stubbs cranked eight dingers in 196 PAs (after just three in 472 Triple-A PAs in 2009), swiped 10 bags and added a 7.6 UZR in just 42 games.
Going into 2010, the Reds CF Of The Future seems to be their CF Of The Present. With no real competition from above (only Dusty Baker could ever see Taveras as an obstacle to Stubbs' advancement) or below (the other young CF prospect, Chris Dickerson, is likely slotted into LF and has had problems staying healthy), the job should be his in spring training and beyond. But his 2009 performance is a great example of small sample size, since some of those trends aren't likely to be sustainable.
Stubbs has decent power potential, but it's not the jaw-dropping kind brought by fellow Reds prospect Juan Francisco, or even the relatively (next to Francisco) modest power of Bruce. Stubbs makes good contact and has excellent speed, so those 94 doubles (and 16 triples) in the minors come as much from his feet as his hands. The .480 SLG he posted in limited time (84 PAs) at Triple-A at the end of 2008 evaporated upon more prolonged exposure in 2009—he hit only one more Triple-A homer in 2009 in 472 PAs.
The same is likely going to happen to his homers in 2010. He's got the bat speed and the ability to make solid contact that will eventually translate into home runs, but those are a year or two away. Consistent contact is more of an issue with Stubbs. The one aspect of his minor-league career that did show itself in last year's debut was his strikeout rate: his 27.2 K% with the Reds is almost exactly in line with his 27.3% in the minors.
That K rate has improved each year of his development thus far, so it should continue to do so in the majors, but it's not going to happen overnight. That means the BA is going to suffer, which will probably always be the case with him. GP doesn't see much for him in 2010 in either BA or power, with a level of freshman pessimism similar to that expressed with Hanson above.
But note that all of the projections on Fangraphs except Marcel concur with GP's modest power projections, and only Bill James sees him with category-sealing SB numbers. Still, speed, as they say, never slumps, and Stubbs should steal bases—as long as he can get there in the first place. And as long as he's got the playing time, which is a big factor in that GP projection.
Shawn Weaver, GP's Cincinnati writer, has split the CF time among Stubbs, Dickerson, and Taveras, which may certainly happen if Baker continues to favor veterans (particularly punchless ones like Taveras, still signed at $4M through 2010) or if Stubbs struggles. The other wild card is Francisco, who will be shifting to LF in Triple-A after Rolen's two-year extension. Though he's got farther to go than Stubbs in development, and shows even worse strikeout tendencies, it's possible that Francisco pushes Dickerson to CF and a struggling Stubbs to the bench, or even Triple-A.
There's a lot of moving parts here, and banking on a high-strikeout kid isn't the best way to spend your budget. If he snags the full-time job and keeps mashing, he'll beat that GP projection easily, particularly the roto dollar number. But he is much more likely to struggle, which could cut into his counting stats significantly. His speed and potential makes him a worthy gamble, especially in keeper leagues, but restrain yourself and let someone else overbid on that 196-PA sample.
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Posted by Michael Street at 2:00am (12) Comments
Max Scherzer | Detroit | SP
2009 Final Stats: 9.2 K/9, 2.8 K/BB, 4.12 ERA
1. Mark Prior 2003: 2.13
2. Jake Peavy 2005: 2.22
3. Frank Tanana 1975: 2.55
4. Jake Peavy 2004: 2.87
5. Pedro Martinez 1996: 2.91
6. Dwight Gooden 1984: 3.01
7. Jim Maloney 1963: 3.16
8. Mark Prior 2005: 3.19
9. Max Scherzer 2009: 3.33
10. Tim Lincecum 2008: 3.33
Strikeouts have been typically higher in recent years, but it's still significant that only 30 times has an ERA qualifier of seasonal age 24 or less posted a K/9 rate of 9.0 or more, and Scherzer's 2009 was the 26th-best. Arguably much more important is that only eight pitchers had lower BB/9 rates than Scherzer among those 30. (see top 10 above)
So, Scherzer is a young pitcher, throws hard, posted a historically significant strikeout rate, and has a great pedigree going back to at least college, when he was regarded as one of the nation's top arms. Why would Arizona even consider trading this guy for Edwin Jackson, whose second-half performance looked remarkably similar to his performances before his “breakout” first-half in 2009? Well, we can be pretty sure it wasn't because he was reading The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, and fangraphs.com (which he reportedly does). “Pitching for FIP” was already trendy for most pitchers before the term was popularized, since it involves striking people out, not walking batters, and keeping the ball down ... and every pitcher knows that K's are $$, and the other two elements any pitching coach reiterates anyway. The only real worry with Scherzer is his “sloppy” delivery, and the thinking by many that he'll end up in the bullpen.
For a one-year fantasy pick, Scherzer should be great. As mentioned last week with Valverde, the Tigers may have lost some defensive ability with their offseason moves, but they still won't be butchers. And the park difference for Scherzer should more-or-less make up for the league shift. Add another year of maturity, and there's little reason to expect anything other than a solid 200-IP season with good strikeout numbers and a very good ERA and WHIP. The Tigers don't have much offense, but with the White Sox apparently trying to collect the guys on the bottom of the WAR rankings, and KC still searching for its first clue, he should log his share of wins. We're not even slightly worried about his delivery. It may increase his chance of breaking down, but all pitchers are fragile, and some guys with suspect deliveries stay consistently healthy, while some guys with picture-perfect deliveries (a la Mark Prior) break down for no apparent reason. The difference in “chance to get injured” for one season is not something which would cause us to worry.
David Aardsma | Seattle | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.1 K/9, 2.4 K/BB, 2.52 ERA
The old saw is that pitching is all about confidence. And few things can inspire confidence in a pitcher like seeing a Grand Canyon-sized ballpark with an outfield patrolled by the likes of Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro. And all but scrapping his breaking pitches and throwing heater after heater (87% of the time, per fangraphs.com, in 2009) worked wonders for him. A lofty flyball percentage of almost 54% kept things exciting, but most of those went to die in the gloves of the rangy outfielders in spacious Safeco.
It's not unheard-of for relievers to become dominant after overcoming control problems in their youth, a la Bobby Jenks and Matt Thorton of the White Sox, or another former Mariner, J.J. Putz. But, there are also plenty of examples of one-year wonders, pitchers like Derrick Turnbow, who posted a career-best 3.2 BB/9 at age 27 (he was over 4.5 BB/9 in the minors), only to revert to his wild ways and succumb to injury woes. Considering that Aardsma was this author's No. 1 “Miss” of the 2009 season, in terms of projecting players, as he was ridiculed with the monicker “BB-rdsma,” it would be easy to assume that he's going to be another Turnbow story. And the fact that he only allowed four HR in all those fly balls (4% of fly balls were homers) does suggest some correction in the stats. But we're not going to sell short the value of confidence here. And defense. And a big ballpark. Look for him to be a solid middle-of-the pack closer again in 2009.
David Price | Tampa Bay | SP
2009 Final Stats: 7.2 K/9, 1.9 K/BB, 4.42 ERA
Similarly to Matt Wieters, there was probably no way David Price could have lived up to his hype. But how do we evaluate him now? The (primarily or wholly) formulaic forecasting done by various sources such as BIS (The Bill James Handbook, CHONE, Marcel, and GP) all seem to indicate that WYSIWYG—a pitcher with an ERA around 4.5 or just under (his xFIP was 4.49 in 2009). But the “Fans” polling at FG suggests a reasonably dramatic improvement in 2010, to an ERA of well under 4.0.
When I began writing this, I assumed that Price had seen tougher-than-average competition in 2009. But it turns out it was even tougher than I'd guessed. The first query I did on the BP “Pitcher Quality of Opposition” was with 120 IP minimum, and he's tops on that list, with an average opponent OPS of .776 in 2009. And there were 108 such pitchers in MLB, going all the way down to a .707 mark against. Also, his second half was far better than his first half, when he was—essentially—just getting his feet wet in the majors. In the second half, his batting line against was a very good .241/.296/.380. Not to jump to any conclusions, but that's a lot better batting line than fellow lefty and Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee sports for his career. And Lee's frequently been near the bottom of the AL Quality of opposition listings (during his AL seasons, of course).
The last two “linked” fangraphs.com stories about Mr. Price (August and September) talk about “missing groundballs” and “missing sliders,” but this is a guy who held his own in baseball's toughest division in his rookie season, and showed development over the year. His velocity on his fastball averaged almost 93 mph. For fantasy purposes, the quality of opposition won't get any easier, especially with some noted RH bats who hit lefties joining the division in Beltre, Cameron, and Atkins. Now, we were the first to roll our eyes at the over-hype status Price had, but we see him as a great candidate to “break out,” even with the adverse setting. He'll probably be better to own in a simulation-game context, one which adjusts for things like opposition strength, ballparks, etc. And we're not suggesting he'll be a No. 1 or even No. 2 fantasy starter for a team trying to compete in all 10 categories, but he could be a good No. 3, and in some leagues he won't be “priced” as such (no pun intended), due to his “disappointing” 2009.
Neftali Feliz | Texas | SP
2009 Final Stats: 11.3 K/9, 4.9 K/BB, 1.74 ERA
GP 2010 starts off about Feliz, “He is the greatest thing ever. No, really.” At the risk of falling into the same “trap” as people did with David Price a year ago, Feliz really has shown enough to be considered among the best pitchers in baseball already, and he'll be just 21 on opening day! Now, extrapolating “he's the best” to fantasy results is more problematic. He went backward in innings in 2009 missing some time with a minor injury and logging just 108 IP after 127 IP the year before. And don't expect the Rangers to take chances—if he adds 40 innings in 2010, it would be a shock; a total under 140 is more likely. And some more bullpen time is a possibility, though the organization will give him every opportunity to be a rotation anchor instead. Anyway, while he really is awesome (without cheapening the word), it's very possible that he won't be a pitcher to target in a 2010 fantasy draft. It will all depend on how others view him.
Billy Butler | Kansas City | 1B
2009 Final Stats: .301/.362/.492
Few things are more rewarding for an organization than seeing a highly regarded first-round pick round his game into shape and become a star. Many of the game's best hitters entered the draft out of high school, and were known to have a high likelihood of being middle-of-order hitters even at such a young age. Butler was one such player, and that he fell to 14th in the 2004 draft is a symptom of ever-present concerns over his defense. But hit he can, and he'll be just 24 in 2010. His second-half stats were particularly good, as he raked at a .314/.385/.540 clip.
The reports out of KC were that Butler was becoming a much better fielder this year at first base, but his +/- and UZR show a slight decline, though there wasn't much data before 2009. First base defense is very tricky to measure, so we're going to assume that the “lyin' eyes” reports are at least as valid in this case, especially since the sample size isn't huge nor does his defense rate out as being horrible (just below average at -7 runs/150). Whatever it is, he's entrenched at 1B, as the organization believes he's fine there and there really isn't anyone else (yes, we know that Kila Ka'aihue is rotting away in Triple-A like some leftovers from a great restaurant that Dayton Moore forgot he had in the fridge). If the Royals didn't have the idea that “upgrades” including Yunieski Betancourt, Scott Podsednick, Josh Fields, and Chris Getz were what they needed, it would be easier to get excited about Butler. But, playing in obscurity, he may come cheaply on draft day; just remember that he won't get the runs or RBI of a player on a better team, even if he hits .310 with 30 HR, which is distinctly possible for him.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.
Posted by Rob McQuown at 4:00am (11) Comments
Monday, January 25, 2010
Alright guys, prepare yourselves for stat overload. I'm about to introduce 12 new stats that will help us better understand pitchers. Now I know that 12 sounds like a lot, but don't worry too much — most of them are related to stats you're already familiar with and/or come in pairs. I'll explain everything as plainly as I can (while leaving enough of the guts in there for people who care), and if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
Where we're at
As it stands now, many fantasy analysts are starting to make use of stats like BABIP and HR/FB, but the analysis often goes something like, "Player A has a .315 BABIP and 15% HR/FB. He is getting unlucky and both will regress toward league average." There's nothing wrong with this — it will usually be correct — but I think we can take things a little further. After all, not all pitchers should be expected to post an exactly league average BABIP or HR/FB or LOB%.
For example, a pitcher's home park will effect his HR/FB, so a guy throwing half his games in Coors should be expected to have a higher HR/FB than a guy who plays in PETCO. We also know that ground balls become hits at a higher rate than fly balls, so groundball pitchers should be expected to have a higher BABIP than flyball pitchers. These are the kinds of things that my new stats will try to account for. So, without further ado, here they are:
12 new pitching stats
xBABIP: While we often say that a pitcher has little control over his BABIP — and this is true — they do not relinquish all control. Most importantly, we know that a pitcher has a lot of control over his groundballs and flyballs, a good amount of control over his pop-ups, and little control over his line drives. To calculate xBABIP, we first neutralize line-drive rate and adjust the other three rates accordingly (like we do to calculate xGB%). Then we assume a league average rate of hits on all types of batted balls. Add up those hits, and we can calculate an expected BABIP.
What we'll see is that extreme GB pitchers have higher xBABIPs and extreme FB pitchers have lower xBABIPs (while also realizing that guys who induce a lot of pop-ups will have low xBABIPs too). This past season, for example, GB'er Aaron Cook had a .314 xBABIP while FB'er Jered Weaver had a .291 xBABIP.
xHR/FB: This is calculated very simply by using park factors. We assume a 50/50 home/road split for the pitcher, a neutral road schedule (HR/FB park factor of 1.00), and account for the pitcher's home ballpark's HR tendencies. It is very important to note, as I have in the past, that even if a pitcher calls an extreme HR park home, his expected HR/FB will still remain pretty close to neutral. The xHR/FB for Rockies pitchers, for example, was just 12.39 percent in 2009 (with a league average of 11.18 percent).
Analysts often like to credit deviation further from the mean than this to a pitcher's home park, but that simply is not the case (unless the pitcher has thrown a disproportionate number of games at home, and even if he has, that shouldn't be expected to continue going forward). Simply put, HR park factors are not quite as extreme as most seem to believe.
xLOB%: Of the three main 'luck indicators,' LOB% has the most room for skill-based variation. This is because LOB% is actually an exponential function. To put it simply, if Pitcher A allows hits at a 24 percent rate and Pitcher B allows hits at a 30 percent rate, once men reach base, more of them will score on Pitcher B because he is more likely to give up hits to begin with. His hits will be clumped closer together. As such, LOB% has a fairly strong relationship with the rate at which batters reach base.
xLOB% is calculated using a regression formula derived from BAA and BB%. Now, of course, BAA is subject to extreme variation since it is largely comprised of BABIP. So instead of using actual BAA, we use xBAA, which accounts for the pitcher's actual K rate (as with hitters, the more Ks, the fewer opportunities for hits) and his xBABIP. What we end up seeing is that good pitchers end up leaving more runners on base (Tim Lincecum: 75.6 percent) while bad pitchers let more score (Jeremy Sowers: 68.1 percent) than league average (71.9 percent).
R/HR and xR/HR: HR/FB has become a common stat for measuring a pitcher's luck with home runs, but it doesn't tell us everything. For example, a pitcher can have a seemingly lucky 4 percent HR/FB but could actually have experienced bad luck with HRs if he was unfortunate enough to have given up all of his HRs while the bases are loaded. On average, about 1.4 runs score per HR, but not all pitchers allow them at this rate (some justifiably, some as a result of luck). R/HR tells us how many runs actually scored per home run allowed while xR/HR tells us how many runs should have scored (the process for this is a little complicated, but I'd be happy to explain for anyone interested).
Home Run Runs per Fly Ball (HRR/FB) and expected Home Run Runs per Fly Ball(xHRR/FB): Absolutely my favorite of this new crop of stats. A mixture of HR/FB and R/HR, HRR/FB tells us how many runs scored on home runs per outfield fly. xHRR/FB, naturally, tells us how many should have scored. You can consider this a super-powered HR/FB since it not only accounts for how many HRs are allowed but also the total damage done by the HRs, which is what truly matters. Ten solo home runs do just as much damage as five two-run homers, which is something HR/FB doesn't capture on its own.
Run Support (RS) and xRun Support (xRS): These two stats are just what they sound like. Run Support is the number of runs that a starting pitcher's offense scores in games that he pitches. xRun Support is the number of runs per game the pitcher's team scores in all games during a season. Since pitchers have little influence over how well their offense performs in games that they pitch, we should expect the offense to perform at its usual level each time the pitcher takes the mound.
Bullpen Support (BS) and xBullpen Support (xBS): Very similar to the Run Support stats. BS measures how well the pitcher's bullpen performs in games he pitches and xBS measures the bullpen's performance during all games.
xWins (xW): While many fantasy analysts call Wins a fickle stat — and they're right — they aren't wholly unpredictable. Axioms like "don't chase wins" or "draft skills" are thrown around often, and while one can be successful by simply following this advice, I feel as though we can do a little bit better. And if we can do better, why shouldn't we?
Essentially, xW uses Bill James's Pythagorean Theorem to estimate the expected number of games a pitcher should have won. Using this formula, I plug in the pitcher's LIPS RA (weighted by his IP per game), his xBS (weighted by the IP the starter doesn't pitch per game), and his xRS.
This gives us the number of games the SP's team will win on days he pitches, and from there we calculate the percentage of those games he should get credited for the Win based upon how deep into games he goes (pitchers who last into the eighth inning are far more likely to receive a win than those who only last four or five innings — there's more time for his offense to score runs. The small problem here is that unlucky pitchers won't go as deep into games as they should, and visa-versa for lucky pitchers, but I haven't accounted for this yet).
Now I'm not saying that all of these stats are perfect, and they all assume randomly sequenced events (which may or may not be a 100 percent fair assumption) but I do think that they largely serve our purposes and are certainly better than making mental estimations (as we all currently do) or simply assuming everyone will be league average. Again, if you have any questions, absolutely feel free to let me know. Tomorrow, be on the lookout for an article centered around Ricky Nolasco that will make use of these stats, so you can see them in action.
Prior work done on the subject
EDIT: Thanks to Will Larson for bringing to my attention that prior work has been done on some of these topics. Will created his own versions of xW, xBABIP, and xLOB% that can be found here.
THTF's own Paul Singman also did work on the link between BAA and LOB% here.
David Appleman also created a basic xBABIP formula here.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:00am (29) Comments
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Let's say you are in a draft and with your first-round pick you select second baseman Chase Utley. Not a bad choice, I've seen it done plenty of times before. That the remaining second basemen become much less valuable to your team is a concept most people understand.
The extent that the remaining second basemen drop in value depends on your league settings—whether there is only one second base roster spot or multiple positions you could stick a second baseman (e.g. a middle infield spot) is the determinate. And obviously the more positions you can stick a second baseman, the less each available second baseman drops in value to you. Only to you.
In the short term, most people are aware of this drop in value in drafts. I know this because rarely do you see someone take two second basemen early in a draft. Even when there are more than two spots to play second basemen on your roster, most people will hold off on a second one until at least the middle rounds, and when there are only two spots for second basemen (2B + Util spot) most people will not even take a second one.
Whereas people understand this in the short term, when it comes to putting together a full draft people forget that who you draft in the first round affects even who is most valuable to your team in the last round. I hate throwing the term value around like a curse word in a painfully unfunny Bob Saget comedy stand-up, so let me give you something more tangible to grasp.
Let's say you are about to start a draft. At this point you know next to nothing about how it will end up looking—you don't even know what pick you are going to have yet. All you have are your positional rankings and a list of sleepers to target at the end. Your top three sleepers are a shortstop, an outfielder and a pitcher.
Although you should not completely base your first few rounds on who you think you might will grab in the later rounds, it does make sense for your first three picks to not be a shortstop, outfielder and pitcher. You might draft a player from one or even two of these positions in the early rounds—if there is a great outfielder out there in the second round, go get him—but understanding how that affects the rest of your draft is important.
So you go into the drafting looking to target a first, second or third baseman early. The draft begins and you get your first and third baseman early, but a good second baseman eludes you as the draft heads into the dreaded middle rounds. With no second baseman on your sleeper list you'd be comfortable with in a starting gig, now is the perfect time to "reach" on a second baseman in the middle rounds, say Jose Lopez in the eighth round. Sure it might not be the best pick and sure his ADP is almost 30 picks later, but with the special need you have the pick is more than defensible.
Now, you do not want all of your middle-round picks to be this sort of defensive type, but if you are going to reach at some point on a player, reaching in this situation can be called ideal.
I understand that the concept discussed in this article is not something most people don't know, but I do believe it is something people should be more consciously aware of in drafts. Understand that your late round targets affect your first round targets, and who you actually get in the first rounds affects the value of certain players later in the draft. Any position that gets lost in the shuffle can excusably be targeted in the middle rounds and when you chain the parts of a draft together in this way, you will put yourself in the best position to get the most out of a draft.
Ultimately, though, it is the individual players themselves who determine how good a draft was.
Posted by Paul Singman at 10:25am (11) Comments
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Here we go with Part 3 of my Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame trilogy. Here’s your late pass to Part 1 and Part 2. And, if you didn’t like this series, then rejoice because next week I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming.
Class of 2006
The 2006 class starts of strong with three inductees.
Right off the bat, we’re presented with a tough case. Orel Hershiser had an exceptional run from 1984–89. He averaged 16 wins and 167 strikeouts per year, finished in the top three in ERA in the National League four times and provided very good WHIP numbers. Over this same stretch, he led the league in innings pitched three times, including in his signature 1988 campaign. Hershiser was likely the best pitcher in fantasy baseball in 1988 (edging out David Cone) and likely the third-best fantasy pitcher in 1985 (behind Dwight Gooden and John Tudor). 1986 was a poor season for Orel, which really would have hurt owners who would have invested highly coming of ’85. But, excluding that season, Hershiser put up ERA+ numbers of 133, 170, 131, 148 and 148 in his run. Had Hershiser posted slightly better strikeout rates during this run, I would have been a lot more definitive. But I’m giving him a tentative vote of yes anyway. Unlike other peak-based starting pitcher candidates, Hershiser also can claim a handful of useful seasons outside his prime. The same can not be said for guys like Fernando Valenzuela or Dave Stewart.
As long as we’re talking about peak value, allow me to cast as emphatic a vote as possible for Albert Belle. First of all, Belle has a statistically compelling argument for the actual Hall of Fame and he was an even better fantasy player, where his surliness and defensive ineptitude don’t matter at all. Belle was simply a monster who did not miss games. His career was basically a time-machined version of Ralph Kiner’s, and he had many seasons that looked to be straight out of the 1930s. Joey Belle, take your place among the fantasy greats!
Will Clark was a very good, borderline-great player. He boasts that incredible 44 win-share 1989 season and a career line of .303/.384/.497 (137 OPS+) over almost 8,300 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he was a better real player than a fantasy player. Too infrequently did he post gaudy run, HR, RBI totals, and by the mid '90s, he was having trouble staying healthy. It’s a shame that I can’t vote for him because Will the Thrill was a special player whom nobody really talks about anymore. Aesthetically, he also had one of the most beautiful swings you could ever imagine. Find footage of the 1989 NLCS if you don’t believe me.
Dwight Gooden’s 1985 is one of the best pitching seasons of all time. That season, Gooden notched his third loss of the season May 25 and did not pick up his fourth until Aug. 31, winning 14 straight decisions along the way. On Aug. 11, George Vescey of the New York Times wrote an article entitled “Gooden: Death and Taxes.” Unfortunately, Doctor K had only two great seasons and a handful of useful to good ones. Many still debate whether it was Gooden’s drug use or the Mets’ overuse of him (and Mel Stottlemyre’s insistence that he learn a splitter) that ultimately ruined his career. Those discussions are academic though; Doc is on the outside.
The third inductee of this class is John Wetteland. Wetteland was simply a closer who distanced himself from his peers by doing everything you want a closer to do consistently, for a good seven or eight seasons. Wetteland did not miss seasons, and routinely put up 30–45 saves, WHIPs around 1.00, strikeout rates of over a batter per inning, and very good to outstanding ERAs. Wetteland was a money in the bank top-tier closer, and while we can debate the value of closers (and related draft strategies), being one of the best at your position for an extended run is worth recognition.
Class of 2007
Cal Ripken, Jr
This puts forth another strong class, with four players earning induction and a number of honorable mentions.
Cal Ripken’s durability and power from the shortstop position before it was en vogue makes him an easy choice. Not much to see here. Although, it is worth noting that Ripken never stole any bases and hit above .275 only seven times from 1982–98. So Cal was certainly not without his shortcomings from a fantasy standpoint.
Tony Gwynn posted a lot of seasons that looked similar to what Ichiro does nowadays … except Gwynn posted them in the mid-'80s. In the context of his era, he hit more homers and drove in way more runs than Ichiro though. People also tend to forget that in Gwynn’s prime, he could really run. Once the '90s rolled around, Gwynn had a tough time playing full seasons, but he always produced when in the line-up. In the middle of '90s Mr. 5.5 posted some really gaudy batting averages (from 1993–97, he hit no lower than .353) and even became something of a power threat and RBI-man. Another subtle piece of Gwynn’s value is that his reluctance to walk made his batting average very heavy when he played full seasons.
No steroids discount for Big Mac. And, no explanation necessary. Dude averaged 61 homers and 135 RBIs for over a four-year stretch while actually being a batting average contributor. This was in addition to plenty of other valuable campaigns in the earlier part of his career. Why am I still talking, I said no explanation necessary.
No dice for two-time Cy Young Award winner Brett Saberhagen. The key to getting maximum value out of Saberhagen was to only draft him in odd seasons. Saberhagen followed up both Cy Young seasons with sub-.500 records. His 1985 actually capped off a six-year stretch in which American League Cy Young winners had sub-.500 records the following season. Clemens put a dramatic end to that streak after capturing the award in 1986 and going back-to-back in ‘87. Frank Viola attempted to revive the trend after winning it in 1988, and Saberhagen followed suit again in 1989. Bob Welch obliged the following year, but then Clemens played party pooper once again.
Jose Canseco was an awesome blend of power and speed and I anticipated he’d earn my vote. After looking at the records to refresh my memory, he surprisingly gets denied. 1986 and 1987 were nice power seasons for Jose. He put up those numbers while also making a contribution in runs and steals. But his batting average prevented him from being truly elite. Cansco missed most of 1989 with an injury, but ’88, ’90, and ’91 was his prime. 1988 was an all time great fantasy season: 120/124, 42/40, .308. Canseco finished out his career with a combination of useful to very good (’94, ’98) seasons. All things considered, he only spent three seasons as a first-round player, had a disjointed career and was injury plagued.
No Mile High/Coors discount for Dante Bichette in fantasy baseball, but it takes more than a four-year run during the height of the offensive boom to earn my vote. Still, Bichette’s prime was pretty damn nice.
A player who I will induct off a short prime, though, is Eric Davis. Davis went 20/20 seven times, including ridiculous back-to-back 27/80, 37/50 campaigns. Davis had that Bo Jackson quality to him that allowed him to do things athletically that left you completely in awe. Unfortunately, Davis’ career was derailed when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997. Davis returned from treatment and actually hit a game-winning home run in the ALCS that season (despite going only 4-for-23 in that postseason). Davis followed in 1998 with his last impressive (and mostly full) season, fantasy or otherwise. Very few athletes, even among the best in the world, are blessed with the talent Eric Davis was. I, for one, wish we had been given the chance to see him do even more.
Class of 2008
The 2008 HOF class is a dream for any borderline candidate who had been struggling to reach that 75 percent threshold. That season, the electorate granted Bruce Sutter the honor of being a Hall of Famer. I came close to mirroring them by voting for a borderline reliever, but, in the end, I held strong.
Robb Nen almost earned my vote. At his best, Nen was similar to Wetteland, and even more valuable from a fantasy perspective. He just had one or two too many seasons that were good, but not great. But, actually, that’s not even what did him in because it’s possible that because of a better strikeout rate, his good but not great seasons were better than Wettland’s good but not great seasons. What killed Nen was that he had two seasons in the middle of that run in which he posted virtually league average ERAs. I just don’t give closers that much slack. Nen is a hero to the San Francisco Giants fan base though, and deservingly so. Nen heroically pitched through incredible pain, a torn labrum and rotator cuff, after the 2002 All-Star break. He willfully sacrificed any hope of a further career in order to not abandon his teammates, who needed him down the stretch. He spent hours and hours taking treatment just to pitch a single inning when he was needed, and then spent even more hours dealing with the excruciating pain from having done so. This ESPN article from 2005 covers the whole situation a lot better than I can in a paragraph or so, and is highly worth the read.
Chuck Knoblauch looked like he was on pace for enshrinement in the mid-'90s, but then it all fell apart when he plagiarized Steve Sax by developing a bizarre inability to throw to first base, as a second baseman. Personally, I find the Mackey Sasser iteration of this disorder even more amusing.
Class of 2009
The class of 2009 sees two players receive the golden ticket.
Rickey Henderson would be on the Mount Rushmore of the fantasy era. He had so many amazing campaigns, it’s mind-boggling. Henderson’s ’85 is in the argument for best single (offensive) fantasy season ever (.314 BA, 146 R, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 80 SB). Additional contenders include Eric Davis ’87, Larry Walker ’97, A-Rod 2007, among others. There’s really nothing to say about Rickey. In 1990, the man led the league in stolen bases and OPS; has anybody ever done that before? I don’t even know. (I do know Joe Morgan led in OPS in ’75 and ’76, and finished second in steals both years.)
What do you get when you combine an arbitrary fascination with round numbers and an irrational overvaluing of a traditional, but not very telling, indicators of production? I should have specified that we’re talking about offense here, because some of you guys said people raving about Jack Morris being the winningest pitcher of the '80s, right? OK, limit it to offense, now what do you get? Of course, the gaggle of nimrods who think it is significant that Mark Grace has more hits in the '90s than any other player. Congrats, Mark, over the span of 10 arbitrary selected seasons you accumulated more of a nebulously positive, but non-descriptive statistic than any other player. Cool, I guess. I mean, seriously, Mark Grace was a very good ball player (an awful broadcaster though), but can we put this piece of trivia to rest as having any actual meaning, please? Here, how about this, who had the most hits during the '80s? See, you don’t even know. See how dumb this is! (It was Robin Yount, by the way.)
Cognizant of the fact that over the course of this exercise I haven’t seen a whole lot of starting pitchers who have really blown me away, I’m going to vote for David Cone. Cone had a better career than several pitchers who are in the Hall of Fame. He often struggled to post gaudy win totals but more than made up for it with his strikeouts. He fanned more than 200 six times, including a three-year run from 1990-92 during which he averaged 242 per season. He was solid to very good in the WHIP department and very good to elite in the ERA department. Cone had multiple seasons in which he put it all together and was awesome and many seasons outside those in which he was still a very nice asset to any fantasy team.
Matt Williams was a very good player. He had a couple of monster seasons and a lot of very good ones. No dice.
If you did not play fantasy baseball in the mid-'90s, please do me a favor. Look at Mo Vaughn’s numbers in his prime. Now, look at the leader boards over those same seasons. Those seasons really weren’t all that impressive, right? That’s how out of whack things had gotten.
Greg Vaughn hit 50 and 45 home runs in consecutive seasons. These seasons were during Mo Vaughn’s prime. See what I mean?
Class of 2010
Roberto Alomar deserves a vote for his wide-ranging skill set and his duration as a top-tier second baseman. Alomar was a true speedster in his youth, who was mainly a run scorer and batting average help. As his game evolved, he ran a little less and hit for more power. Firing on all cylinders, Alomar was a five-category stud at a middle infield position. He had his best seasons in ’93, ’96, and ’99–2001. There’s less outside of those years than one might be inclined to think, but positional depth works in Robby’s favor.
Barry Larkin was a better player than Alomar, but his game wasn’t as fantasy friendly, and he was too frequently hurt. I support Barry for the actual Hall of Fame all day, but have to take a pass here.
Martinez was an amazing hitter, but his discipline cost him true elite RBI-man status. He was a batting average deity and, at times, a prolific run scorer, but his power totals weren’t great for his era, he stole no bases, and he spent most of his prime either as util-eligible only, or util- and CI-eligible, but lacking actual first or third base eligibility, depending on your league’s specs and settings.
Ellis Burks does not get my vote, but look at his 1996 season. Seriously, this era was whacked, and when you played at Coors it was like a true video game. How many players who had a 392 total base season got two Hall of Fame votes when they appear on their first (and only) ballot?
Another testament to the era, Eric Karros was 30/100 for about six seasons, but that just made him another first baseman.
Here’s a nifty little exercise to put some things in perspective regarding how arbitrary the historical record can be sometimes. Ask people if they think Roy Oswalt is at least on a borderline Hall of Fame pace. Now tell those same people to look at the analogous portion of Kevin Appier’s career. Moral of the story, Kevin Appier was a damn good pitcher for almost a decade.
Throughout this exercise there have been players who I almost didn’t even bother to look up who surprised me as to how close they actually were to getting elected. The perception/reality dichotomy was probably never stronger than in the case of Ray Lankford. In Part 1 of this series, Kirk Gibson got my vote on a very similar career, numbers-wise. Fast forward to the offensive explosion and such a career almost goes uninvestigated. I do suspect that Ray Lankford spent a considerable length of time as a top-50 player though, and I would have had no idea.
So, let’s see where we stand right now, through 16 classes.
Number of players elected: 29
Number of players elected who have been eliminated for real HOF consideration: 11
Members by position:
SS: 1.5 (Yount is really split)
3B: 4 (including Molitor)
This exercise encompassed 16 “classes” and resulted in 29 elections; a rate of about two inductees per year seems reasonable. As I predicted, the earliest classes resulted in fewer elections because of players’ primes crossing over into pre-fantasy era seasons.
Further, the ratios of inductees by position seems reasonable. Roughly 2.5 position players to each pitcher, and 11.5 infielders to 9.5 outfielders. Some might balk at a one to one ratio of closers to starters, but frankly the '80s lacked dominant starters, as evidenced by actual Hall of Fame balloting results, while the best of the '90s (namely the big four, plus guys like Glavine, Schilling, Mussina, Brown, etc.) have not come up for election yet. I could see being criticized for letting too many closers in, but as of yet I don’t regret any of those votes.
As I mentioned in Part 1, this exercise was a lot harder than I expected. I thought I’d be able to just take cursory glances at players’ stats and make definitive determinations on the fly. I was wrong. I kept true to the idea of not engaging in any advanced mathematical/statistical analysis, but it would have helped for many cases. It would be wonderful to have some sort of tool that evaluates players against their peers. The dream would be some sort of model for each category that used the OPS+ scale and compared players to production averages of, say, the top 20 players at their position (maybe 60 or 70 for outfielders).
This exercise also really put into perspective the obscene inflation in offensive stats that took place over a period as short as a decade. A player like Ray Lankford was putting up seasons that, at face value, would have been first-rate 10 to 15 seasons prior. In 1982, Dale Murphy won his first of his consecutive MVPs with a season of 113/36/109/23/.281 (and also played Gold Glove centerfield). In 1998 Ray Lankford didn’t appear on a single MVP ballot or even make the All-Star team, posting 94/31/105/26/.293.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:04am (4) Comments
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Lots of high-skilled players get big discounts due to injury concerns. Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, and Mike Lowell are just a few of the candidates for the sale rack. The big question is: Just how much of a discount should you apply to these types of players?
Some projection systems, like CHONE and Marcel, forecast playing time (in games or plate appearances). Expected playing time figures heavily in these systems' forecasts for the players' counting stats. The more the system expects the player to play, the more runs it expects the player to score (everything else equal, of course).
It is well known that, for fantasy purposes, one should add in the contributions of a replacement-level player when computing a player's value. So, a player that is forecast to score 100 runs in 100 games is worth more than a player forecast to score 100 runs in 162 games. Why? Because you'll be able to play a replacement player for at least some of the games that the 100-game player is forecast to miss. That player's going to score some runs too.
This is one reason why "real-life" baseball valuation stats, like Wins Above Replacement, figure value relative to a replacement player. Of course, since replacement levels in fantasy are so dependent on how deep your league is (in number of teams, bench size and number of positions used), these kind of replacement-level calculations are usually left up to the user.
The temptation is to do something like the following: Let's say the generic replacement-level player in your league is projected to earn 0.3 RBIs per game. Next, you take, say, CHONE's forecast of 72 RBIs in 122 games for Mike Lowell. Then you compute the expected RBIs from drafting Lowell as 72 + .3 x (162-122) = 84.
Unless you're in a daily league (and probably even then), it is unrealistic to expect to be able to replace Lowell in your lineup the minute he gets injured. So you'd like to apply a discount—maybe instead of assuming the replacement player plays 40 games, you assume he plays only 30 games for you.
I'd argue that the discount that you should apply to injury-concern players should vary a great deal depending on the player (and the injury). John Smoltz may be projected to start 20 games while Sheets is projected to start only 19, but I think you should apply a bigger discount to Smoltz, particularly in weekly leagues. Why? Because Smoltz is far more likely to have a start unexpectedly skipped, giving you a big fat zero in his spot for that week. Whereas Sheets is likely to be already comfortably nestled in your DL spot for the bulk of the starts that he might miss. Same thing applies for Chipper Jones versus Alfonso Soriano.
Pure speculation: If you're looking for some hidden value, I think the players that are catastrophic injury concerns, like Sheets, may give you a little extra profit over players like Harden, who are more likely to have nagging injuries. I bet that lots of fantasy players discount too heavily players that are at risk for season-ending injuries versus players that are given lots of extra days off.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:20am (5) Comments
1. Jordan Lyles / SP / Lyles dominated in 2009 by pumping the strike zone with his low-90s fastball. He has strong movement and command in that fastball, while his curveball and change-up are promising but works in progress. He is a legit ace prospect but still has much to prove.
2. Jiovanni Mier / SS / Mier was one of my favorite prospects in the 2009 draft. The first things that jump out are his defense and overall confidence. He has some advanced plate discipline and the potential for a bit of power. His baserunning instincts will yield steals. He may never be a star, but he still has room to grow. If nothing else, he has the intangibles to be a strong big-league shortstop.
3. Jason Castro / C / Castro put together a very solid full-season debut in 2009. When he was drafted, I thought he would be nothing more than an above-average major league catcher if everything worked out. I still feel that way, but, so far, everything has worked out—and it hasn't been an accident. He is close to the big leagues and has proved himself in my eyes.
4. Sammy Gervacio / RP / Gervacio has a terrific slider that he uses just as much as his fastball. He is Houston's closer in training, and if he improves his command he will reach that level.
5. Tanner Bushue / SP / Bushue has a long way to go with his secondary offerings, and he has a history of injuries, though none of them have been serious. But he seems to use little effort to generate his low-90s heat. His short Gulf Coast League stint was impressive, and it will be fascinating to see how he adjusts to being a full-time pitcher.
6. Ross Seaton / SP / Seaton's fastball hasn't been as good as advertised, but he has shown strong consistency with his control. Even though it is early, his strikeout numbers are a concern. He has a long way to go with all of his offerings, but 2009 was a decent debut.
7. Jonathan Gaston / OF / Gaston's bat came alive in the California League, where many bats seem to hit their peak. He has immense power due to his all-or-nothing swing, which has resulted in cringe-worthy strikeout numbers, but his saving grace could be his patience at the plate. He also has some sneaky baserunning instincts to work with. Gaston will be playing Double-A ball in 2010, and a lot of eyes will be on him as he tries to prove that 2009 was not a fluke.
8. Brad Dydalewicz / SP / Dydalewicz will never be an ace, but the young man put together a strong Sally League debut. He has good sink to his pitches, inducing a strong groundball rate. With better control and an uptick in his strikeout rate, he could have a middle-of-the-rotation future.
9. Chia-Jen Lo / RP / Working out of the bullpen, Lo combines a mid-90s heater with a developing curveball and change-up. His command is lacking, and if he is going to live up to his potential one of his secondary offerings needs to become a dependable weapon.
10. Jay Austin / OF / Austin has some strong tools, highlighted by his raw, plus speed. He has a quick, compact swing, but almost no power to speak of. His swing and speed make me think the top of the order could be in his future, and he has a good amount of time to get there, but he has a long, long way to go.
1. Jarrod Parker / SP / For Parker, everything hinges on a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery. Before the surgery he was one of the more dominant pitchers in the minor leagues. Parker has, of course, been severely downgraded, but he still fits in near the bottom of my top-100 list and at the top of Arizona's top 10.
2. Brandon Allen / 1B / Allen had a terrific 2009 minor league season, proving that his 2008 breakout was not a fluke. Yet his brief major league debut and Arizona Fall League performance were lackluster to say the least. Which hitter will we see in 2010?
3. Ryan Wheeler / 1B / Arizona did a fantastic job restocking a failing farm system in the 2009 draft, as seven of the next eight players are from that draft. My favorite of the group is the fifth-rounder Wheeler. He murdered the ball over a half-season, and if he picks up where he left off he could move fast.
4. Bobby Borchering / 3B/1B / Borchering draws offensive comparisons to Chipper Jones for his plus bat speed and emerging power. He debuted in the rookie Pioneer League and looked like anything but Chipper Jones, with his head-scratching plate discipline and cringe-worthy contact skills. He has likable tools but plenty to learn.
5. David Nick / 2B / Nick showed everything you could possibly look for in a high school second baseman making his professional debut. He showed more power and speed than most were expecting, and his patience and contact skills have been very solid for a high schooler. I'm intrigued. What will he do for a followup?
6. Mike Belfiore / SP/RP / Belfiore looked like he had a raw but promising arm coming into the 2009 draft. He was selected earlier than I was expecting, but his numbers have justified his sandwich-round selection thus far. I'm not sure if he is a starter or a reliever, but he has great sleeper potential.
7. Wade Miley / SP / Miley's 2009 was a disappointment of sorts, as his arm doesn't have much projection left and his numbers were sub-par. But Miley induces ground balls and has a plus pitch with his curveball. With improved command he could move quickly and eventually settle in as a solid mid-rotation starter.
8. Chris Owings / SS/2B / Draft reports spoke highly of Owings' intangibles, game knowledge and natural instincts. And he showed off his quick, compact stroke and workable speed during his Pioneer League debut. But his plate discipline has looked awful and he doesn't project to have much power.
9. A.J. Pollock / OF / Pollock has plus contact skills, good gap power and above-average speed. But his plate discipline and lack of home run power will ultimately hinder him, leaving me thinking that he is nothing more than an average outfielder one day.
10. Marc Krauss / OF / Krauss has a great, natural eye at the plate, with above-average bat speed and the potential for average power. He doesn't have the tools to be a star, but he could move quickly through the system and turn into an average corner outfielder.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:10am (0) Comments
Friday, January 29, 2010
Carlos Ruiz | Philadelphia | C
2009 Final Stats: .255/.355/.425
Philadelphia bought out the remaining years of Ruiz's arbitration with a three-year, $8.5M deal that includes a $5M option for 2013. This allowed Ruiz to cash in on a career year, and fortunately for the Phillies, the secondary skills behind that spike look somewhat sustainable, and only mildly influenced by luck.
As often happens in these spikes, Ruiz's up 2009 looks better because of a down 2008, when he hit just .219/.320/.300, thanks to a .237 BABIP and 4.9% HR/FB rate, both below normal for him. In 2009, his much-improved line was helped by a .266 BABIP and 8.1% HR/FB, much closer to expected levels.
On top of this, he improved his hit trajectory over 2008, when his GB rate rose to a career high with 54.3% and a 16.8% LD rate sunk to a career low. Even a catcher like Ruiz, who has average wheels (he's 120th among 209 1000-plus AB hitters in the past three years in 3B/H), will suffer from that kind of GB rate. It's also going to lead to fewer fly balls and (hence) HRs, which happened in 2008. In 2009, he went in the other direction, with a career high of 39.1 FB% and an 18.7 LD% that is only second to his small-sample 2006 19.4% rate. This also puts him pretty much exactly in line with the NL average in these areas.
Hitting the ball along a better trajectory is tied closely to seeing it better, something Ruiz has shown consistent improvement on since his debut. After starting with a BB/K rate of 0.63, it's risen all the way to a very judicious 1.21 last season. That comes entirely from his walk rate, which has also steadily climbed up to the 12.1% he posted in 2009, since his K% has hovered at around 12%, pointing to another solid skill Ruiz possesses: his contact skills. Check out the mini-browser to see that very sweet CT rate locked at 87-88%.
Normally, this kind of skill set would project a much higher BA for Ruiz, but with average footspeed, he's not going to leg out that many singles, and his focus on power—note that 1.67 Bash rate—is going to have him swinging for the fences more than driving for gaps in the defense. Still, that kind of contact-batting eye package means I wouldn't be surprised if he beats that BA projection.
Even if he doesn't, Ruiz is going to help you in OBP, as that improvement in the walk rate clearly foretells, and the CT rate will keep his BA in a decent range for catchers, if not a bit better. With the bar being so low for catchers, particularly in the Mauerless NL, Ruiz is still a guy you can count on for above-average production. Unfortunately for you, his great postseason, rebound year, and strong second half conspire to make other owners aware of his value, as that Sentiment shows. So beware of overpaying for a catcher who's a second-tier option, at best.
Hunter Pence | Houston | OF
2009 Final Stats: .282/.346/.472
Pence was arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, and the Astros gave him a huge raise from $464K in 2009 to a tidy $3.5M in 2010. He didn't offer a tenfold improvement over 2008, though he did bounce back from a down year of .269/.318/.466 in 2008. Despite a30-point boost to OPS, Pence's counting numbers were largely unchanged from 08-09, with a few more SBs and a few less runs and RBIs from an Astros lineup that ranked 14th in the NL in R/G.
A midseason swoon in July and early August diluted a strong start from Pence, who also had to adjust to batting everywhere except leadoff, eighth and cleanup in that inconsistent Astros lineup. He spent much of his time in the five- and six-hole, which isn't the best place to develop a guy with a decent power-speed package. But he strikes out way too much (20% career) and walks too little (7%) to hit in the first two spots in the order and he's not going to slide into the third or fourth spot with Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee on the team, so he will likely remain there for the near future.
Pence has still stabilized his CT and H rates, no doubt why the GP and most other projections keep him in the same neighborhood for 2010. His rising GB rate is fine for a guy with speed, and an elevated HR rate somewhat compensates for the lower FB rate that results. It's also Exhibit A as to why he's not going to suddenly start cranking out 30+ HR seasons—note that if he nails his GP prediction for 2010, it'll be the third straight 25-HR season.
This moderate power production makes him a poor fit for the five- and six-holes, batting order positions that dampen another category he could contribute in: steals. With lumbering base-cloggers like Lee and Berkman in front of him, Pence isn't going to get many SB opportunities, where he could be boosting his fantasy value. Not that Pence has done much to leverage his speed. Though he's hit double-digits in steals each of the past three years, he's also been caught an increasing number of times each year, leading to a 54 SB% last year that's well below his 72% three-year average.
It seems, then, that WYSIWYG with Pence: decent power, adequate steals, and a good, but not great, BA. His BB/K rate peaked at .53 in 2009, showing some improvement over his 0.27 in his rookie year, and his CT rate is also league average. As for the lineup around him, there's little but maturing young players like Pence and Bourn to improve the Astros' offense, which essentially swapped Miguel Tejada for rookie Tommy Manzella and Geoff Blum for Pedro Feliz, an overall downgrade.
This all points to a very moderate outlook for Pence, who is as unlikely to post MVP numbers as he is to suddenly drop through the floor—although his batting eye and contact rate indicate the latter is the more likely of the two extremes. He's one of those names that still retains some cachet from his great rookie year (note the fat H% behind that performance), so other owners may go out on a limb for him. Don't do the same—as cliche as the saying has become, Pence is what he is; don't pay for more than that $21 prediction.
Bengie Molina | San Francisco | C
2009 Final Stats: .265/.285/.442
Among the Flying—er, Catching—Molina Brothers, Bengie is the one with pop (Yadier is the best all-around, and Jose is the shy one). He doesn't bring a whole lot more to the table than that power, but for fantasy owners, having a catcher who delivers nearly 20 HRs and around 80-90 RBI can be enough. His BA is never going to threaten .300 again (2008 was a combination of a spike in H% and a crazy blip in CT%), thanks to a walk rate that's slid from awful to nonexistent in the past four years (2005 was the last year he walked 20+ times).
His strikeout rate, once consistently around 10%, dipped below 8% in 2008, then shot up to almost 14% in 2009, but that's not the most worrisome trend for Molina. His FB rate has ratcheted up from 38% in 2006 to 53% in 2009, while his HR rate has fallen over the same period. Bengie's obviously changing his swing, turning it into the all-or-nothing uppercut that Charlie Brown made so infamous in Peanuts.
All-or-nothing is looking like what you might expect from Molina going forward, which (again) isn't such a bad thing, fantasy-wise. The concern in San Francisco (and therefore for fantasy owners, too) will be Buster Posey, the guy whose seat Molina's holding. They think Posey's too green to start out 2009 behind the plate, so he'll start the year in Triple-A, but he could start edging Molina out sooner rather than later. If Molina struggles or gets hurt, or if Posey quickly rounds into form, it might be much sooner. By the end of the year, Molina might be in a time-sharing situation.
Another consideration is where Molina might hit in the order. He spent nearly all of 2009 in the cleanup spot, which helped him drive in Pablo Sandoval. The Giants signed Aubrey Huff to be their cleanup hitter in 2010; if they stick to that, Molina loses a spot and has a hitter who (if you recall my article two weeks ago) is likely to struggle in that spot. If Bruce Bochy sticks to his guns and keeps Huff in the four-hole, Molina could see fewer RBI oportunities; if Molina owners are lucky, Bochy will do the right thing and slot Huff behind Molina.
GP sees a slight drop in Molina's production and value, based in part on diminished PT from his uncertain role at press time. He's going to beat those counting numbers—and that roto value prediction—in 2010, but he may not crack $15. The 2009 Giants ranked 13th in runs scored, and the 2010 version could be a bit better, depending on things like Sandoval's development, the production of newcomers Huff and Mark DeRosa, and the health of Freddy Sanchez's shoulder.
Those will all factor into that potential value increase, which you need to keep in mind when bidding on the Molina With Power. His dingers and RBIs are worth paying for, but a 35-year-old whose swing is slowly morphing into Charlie Brown's isn't the best place to invest extra dollars from your budget.
Doug Davis | Milwaukee | SP
2009 Final Stats: 6.5 K/9, 1.4 K/BB, 4.12 ERA
Remember at the fifth-grade dance when you were too shy to ask any of the really hot girls to dance, so you waited until the end of Survivor's "The Search Is Over" to find a partner, and the only one left was the kinda homely Tamara Hordinsky, the girl who lived down the street from you since first grade, but she was at least not as drop-down ugly as Agatha Pickston, and you held loosely to Mary's shoulders for the last agonizing thirty seconds or so, just so you could say you did what you said you were gonna do and dance with a girl?
OK, maybe that was just me. Me and the Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin. He swore up and down that he'd bring the Crew two starters this offseason, and grabbed Randy Wolf right off. Then he waited until the barrel was almost empty before signing Doug Davis to a one-year deal for $5.25M with an option for a second year. And Brewers fans may find themselves awkwardly embracing Davis the way I did Tamara Hordinsky those many years ago, waiting desperately for the dance to be over.
But at least Melvin signed someone, right? And Davis is, well, someone. If you can say something nice about Davis, it's that he's been consistent and healthy—consistently and healthily average. Except for thyroid cancer in 2008 (and let's face it, who can blame him for that?) Davis has pitched 190+ IP and started 33+ games every season since 2004, racking up a 62-68 record, with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, in that span. He struck out 7.2 per 9 IP but also walked 4.1 per 9, which is why his WHIP is such a whopper (say that one five times fast!).
Still, he's a lefty teams can count on to take the mound every fifth day and soak up innings without being too awful. He brings strikeouts, and has tried to keep the ball down in the zone (he had a 47% GB rate in '07 and '08, which slipped to 43.1% in '09), staying on the edges of home run tolerance, right around league-average for 10% HR/FB. As he's aged, he's also relied more on his curve and cutter than his fastball—he used to bring the heat about half the time with Milwaukee but now throws it about once every four pitches, making up the difference with those other two pitches.
That's a sure sign of an aging pitcher learning to pitch and not just throw (not that Davis could ever bring the heat), and it's also why his strikeout rates have been gradually dropping. He'll bring that durability and handful of strikeouts to Milwaukee, where he'll likely slot in behind Gallardo and Wolf. GP projects him for a similar season in 2010, with an ERA around league average, a half-decent K rate that's offset by the poor walk rate.
Milwaukee has a defense in signing Davis: It's a small-market team without the money to sign a real stud like Ben Sheets (though they may regret the $4.75M more they could have spent on a guy with some upside to him). Don't let yourself fall into the same trap, waiting till the end of the draft, only to add Davis to your roster for $1—and getting the -$2 return GP predicts. Sometimes it's better to just forget about Tamara and Agatha altogether and just wait until the next song.
Octavio Dotel | Pittsburgh | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.8 K/9, 2.1 K/BB, 3.32 ERA
One of the big offseason questions in Pittsburgh—particularly after the departure of the intermittently effective Matt Capps to Washington—was the identity of the new closer. With few likely internal options ready for prime time, they inked Dotel to a one year deal worth $3.25M, with a team option for 2011. Dotel hasn't closed since 2007, when he went 11 of 14 in save opportunities with the Royals, with the line you see in the mini-browser.
Since then, he's served as one of Chicago's late relievers, doing a bit of setup work but appearing just as often in the sixth and seventh frame, particularly in 2009. Ozzie Guillen wisely kept him out of tight games the more he saw him, because Dotel's become what you might call a Three True Outcome pitcher: in his tenure with the White Sox, 45% of the batters who faced him ended up with a walk, strikeout or home run.
Considering that two of those three outcomes are anathema to a late-game reliever, particularly a closer, you should be as skeptical as Guillen of Dotel's ability to shut down the opposition. His strikeout numbers are quite nice, consistently above 10 K/9 the past three seasons, but his HR/9 is also consistently above 1 (peaking at 1.61 in 2008), and his BB/9 has risen from 3.52 to 5.20 since 2007.
The home run numbers are a bit of luck and a bit of pitching style. 2008 happened partly because of a really unlucky 16.7% HR rate, while 2009 saw him come a bit under average with a 9.0 HR/FB%. HR rate is particularly harmful to a flyball pitcher, which Dotel has always been, as you can see from those G/F rates in his mini-browser. That's why his ERA is always a threat to rise, and what makes him a dicey closer, both for Pittsburgh and your fantasy squad.
The best scenario for a guy like this is (1) a friendly park, (2) a bullpen that will allow him to enter the game with a clean slate, and (3 a manager who doesn't want to bring him in without a clean slate. Dotel has all of those in Pittsburgh, or at least two: PNC is a fairly good park for pitchers, John Russell only brought Matt Capps in for one-inning save situations in 2008 and 2009, and the Pirates further bolstered their 'pen with the signing of Brendan Donnelly.
So if there's anyplace that Dotel can succeed (other than a ballpark the size of Manhattan), it's in Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn't pay a huge price for him, and you shouldn't either. He'll give you Ks and saves, but your ERA and WHIP might get a little bruised in the process.
I'll get back to more reader requests next week, but please leave more in the comments field below. And don't forget to check out the new index, where you can look up all the players I've covered in the offseason—and hold my feet to the fire when the regular season starts.
And if you like the mini-browsers and the writing, don't forget to pick up a copy of the Graphical Player 2010, with more stats and writeups from the best writers on the web!
Posted by Michael Street at 1:59am (13) Comments
Carlos Quentin | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats: .236/.323/.456
“Staying healthy is not a skill at which Quentin excels,” this author understated in GP2010. An oddity about Quentin's injuries is that none of the major ones have derived from his huge HBP totals—a self-inflicted hand injury ending his 2008, followed by a mysteriously slow-healing foot problem in 2009, and even going back to his Tommy John surgery in 2003 and his labrum and hamstring issues in 2007. Oft-injured players like Quentin are such a tease for fantasy owners. Is he really a Schleprock, who can be expected to continue finding varied new ways to get hurt? Or is it really just a matter of the dice coming up “craps” twice in his three “full” major-league seasons? Even with the injury in 2008, he contributed mightily.
First off, Quentin's a guy who is going to help in a setting where OBP matters, so Sabermetrically friendly fantasy leagues and sim games are contexts where his offensive contributions will be fully appreciated. Some may see that his walk totals aren't exactly overwhelming, and while he makes good contract for a slugger (career Ct% over 82%), he really is skilled at leaning into pitches. He ranks 75th on the active HBP list, and has just 1,422 PA to his credit. If he manages to get 600 PA, the extra 25 HBP (or so) will vault him into top 50 territory, and his HBP:PA ratio is 8% higher (38% vs. 30%) than active leader Jason Kendall ... and HBP is definitely a stat that (statistically) keeps going up with age. So, anyway, don't dismiss him as a low-OBP guy based on the fact that he walks under once per 10 PA, and is unlikely to hit over .300.
The other aspect of run production is slugging, and Quentin has a career slugging of .491, which is good-not-great, considering the parks he's played in. But then again, his ISO is .237, which—thanks to the P-I tool at baseball-reference.com—is the 28th-best ISO among active players with 1000+ PA. As a player who hits a lot of fly balls, distributed in a manner which leads to a lot of homers in US Cellular field, there's really no reason to expect his ISO to drop, and (here's that qualifier again)—if healthy—his age 27 season could even see growth in this area. So, the question is really whether he can lift his .254 career batting average. Not a fast runner at his best, the foot problems were responsible for a lot of the 2009 BABIP depression (.223 on the season). The fly balls, however, are taxing on BABIP, and he may “deserve” some of the .258 career BABIP he's compiled. That said, that's an extremely low figure for a guy who hammers the ball with such authority. Expect to see this rebound to around his 2008 figure of .280, and his batting average to likewise climb back into the .280 range.
In summary, health is the issue with Quentin. It would be easy to take a “confident” stance that he's going to get nearly 600 PA and put up nice triple-crown stats (e.g. .280-35-90), and that looks good in the postseason reviews if it happens. And it's certainly a good possibility, perhaps moreso than most people think. But he still should be viewed as a player to take in a “bargain” round (or at a “bargain” auction price), or else a bit earlier by a team that needs some breaks to contend anyway (due to inferior keepers).
Alex Rios | Chicago | OF
2009 Final Stats (Overall): .247/.296/.395
2009 Final Stats (Chicago): .199/.229/.301
Kenny Williams became the laughing stock of the Internet blogging community when he spoke out about how “disappointing” some players were to him in 2009. But the team was one game out on Aug. 5, and after splitting a pair with LA, had upcoming series with non-contenders CLE, SEA, OAK, KC, and BAL before facing a meat grinder of Boston, NY, and MIN. That the Sox went from four games over .500 to two games over .500 in that stretch before the Boston series was not aided by the fact that Alex Rios joined the team on Aug. 12. The theory was that Rios only needed to play like he's played for over 3,000 PA in the past, and the White Sox would realize a big upgrade to their gaping hole in CF. No, in this we have to take exception to our fellow bloggers and suggest that Kenny Williams had every right to be disappointed with the ridiculously poor stats his new center fielder put up.
Projecting Rios could be a case study in the “statistical sample size” vs. “what have you done for me lately” aspects of performance expectations. On the “lately” side, only the last 10 games of 2009 gave any inkling of hope (he hit .333/.400/.556 in 40 PA). But while we know that 10 games is a “throwaway” sample size, could it be that the entire 2009 is also? BABIP is shown to track with career BABIP, and Rios still sports an excellent .323 career BABIP, due to his line-drive hitting ways (before 2009), good speed, and decent power. So, do we assume that his BABIP will rebound to the .320 range? His BB% and ISO were down a little in 2009 (5.8% vs 6.6% career BB% and .148 ISO vs .163 career ISO), but nothing that seems out of place from a random fluctuation. And his contact rate remained virtually unchanged (though he struck out more after coming to Chicago). About every projection which will be published for Rios will combine these two aspects in some manner ... usually by weighting the most recent season much more highly than previous seasons, but not excluding those priors, either. In general, the “long view” tends to be right much more often than not, and with most of his core indicators staying similar to career numbers, Rios should rebound to somewhere near his career norms, which are quite useful. On top of that, the ballpark should aid his numbers somewhat, compared to Toronto. It seems likely that he will be undervalued on draft day in many—if not all—leagues.
Josh Hamilton | Texas | OF
2009 Final Stats: .268/.315/.426
It may seem contradictory to be bullish on Quentin and bearish on Hamilton, but that's how we see it this season. This author has been resisting trade offers for him in a keeper Strat-O-Matic league, so it's not like we're writing him off totally, but for fantasy purposes, he's too likely to miss time to be a front-line option. Further, back injuries can often sap a hitter's power, and he underwent two “root-nerve injections” in his back and ended the season not being able to play. His past personal problems—and the indications that he'd struggled with them again recently—wouldn't necessarily be a reason to stay away, but given the severe consequences if things get out of control again, his likelihood of having a career-ending “event” happen has to be considered higher than most players. Add in that hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo is now in Chicago, and the risk factors just keep compounding.
Now that we've scared off anyone with any risk aversion tendencies whatever, this is still Josh Hamilton, arguably one of the most gifted natural hitters of our generation. The .304–32–130 season he posted in 2008 wasn't a mirage or a fluke (though the RBI total has to be considered lucky). Even though the park factor in Texas has been declining in recent years, it's still a nice place to hit. So, if he's sitting there in the later rounds, and it's a choice between a “safe” pick like Franklin Gutierrez or him, it could be better to go with the “upside” guy and presume you can figure something out from “replacement level” players if something bad happens. This is a classic case of a guy having much more value in shallow leagues than in deep ones, however ... since “replacement level” is so much stronger in shallow leagues.
Franklin Gutierrez | Seattle | OF
2009 Final Stats: .283/.339/.425
Gutierrez is a runaway leader in the “outfield fielding runs” category in those roto leagues which use fielding. For the rest of us, the terse synopsis back in July still applies: “Nobody in Cleveland is surprised that Franklin Gutierrez is dominating the CF defensive stats this year (.986 RZR, 60 OOZ plays, both tops among CF qualifiers). With the [...] rotation needing all the flycatching support it can get [...], his job is virtually slump-proof. [D]on't expect a star, but for AL-only leagues, just playing every game has value."
As with former M's center fielder Mike Cameron, Gutierrez faces a tricky situation in terms of maximizing his value. Playing in a park with a huge outfield (like Seattle) saps his power, and expecting more than his 18 HR from 2009 seems optimistic. Yet, parks with smaller outfield territories reduce the influence he can have on the pitching stats. At least in his first year, his “home cooking” outweighed the “big park” effect, and he actually posted an excellent .386 OBP at home (.317/.386/.443). His good speed translated into 16 SB in 2009, and he can be expected to again have about that many in 2010. All-in-all, he seems like one of the more likely hitters to put up carbon-copy numbers in 2010.
Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
2009 Final Stats: .241/.328/.419
A high-school outfielder is drafted for his bat, and is considered the best HS hitter in the draft, yet falls outside the top 10. He reaches the majors at a young age, and posts eye-popping stats in a meaningless sample size and gets a serious “buzz” going about his future. The next year, he disappoints, despite getting on base about a third of the time. The strikeouts, many fear, are going to seriously limit his potential. Despite the obvious similarities to Jeremy Hermida, Travis Snider's situation is somewhat different. Hermida was “pretty good” at High-A and Double-A at ages 20 and 21. Snider was “pretty good" at Double-A at age 20, and has done nothing short of embarrass Triple-A pitching since then, hitting .337/.431/.663 in 204 PA there in 2009 after 70 great PA in 2008. Perhaps more important, his contact percentage (Ct%) at Double-A was 77%. We're not talking Dustin Pedroia here, but for a 21-year-old with limitless power and good plate discipline to have a Ct% that high against Triple-A pitching is a great sign.
Then, of course, came the regular gig in Toronto. Snider was so awful against LHP (20 K in 40 AB!) that he wasn't used against some tough lefties. He did draw five walks, get hit by two pitches, and even lay down a couple bunts, so he managed a .333 OBP against southpaws despite all the whiffs. The good news from the struggles against lefties is that he slugged .448 vs RHP, which is inching toward the power a team wants from a corner outfielder. At 21, there's every indication that number will skyrocket upward. And if he's bombing RHP, he'll get every chance to work on his approach vs LHP. Whether or not he will have an epiphany along the way and suddenly turn into a two-way hitter is not clear, but even if he stalls out as a should-be platoon guy, a la Jason Kubel (.240/.314/.356 career vsL), there's little doubt that he'll hurt righty pitching badly enough to be a valuable contributor both to the Blue Jays and to fantasy teams for years. Expect significant growth in 2010, but temper expectations a bit, as he'll still be just 22 years old.
Scott Sizemore | Detroit | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .308/.389/.500 (AA-AAA)
Sizemore is an interesting case. He's a “grindy” player who has overachieved what was expected. Scouts don't think much of him, and he's even ranked 10th in the thin Tigers organization in BA's 2010 list. One knock on him is that he plays no part of the second base position well enough to acquit himself at the major league level, so his bat is going to have to carry him (let this be a warning to those considering drafting Tigers pitching). Then the scouts watch his game and don't see the standout batting skills they want, other than an adequate ability to hit for average. On the flip side, his “overachieving” makes him a favorite with coaches, and the stats he's put up (he has hit for average, some power, drawn walks, and even stolen a few bases) make his projections come out just fine, if somewhat pedestrian. He's a bit of an “older” prospect, but just made his pro debut in 2006 and didn't stall out at any level, having his best half-season at Double-A in 2009 to earn his promotion—and likely earn Polanco his ticket out of Motown. It would not be surprising to see him falter somewhat in 2010, but become sort of a late bloomer a la Mark DeRosa. It's unclear how much rope he'll be given, though the Tigers don't appear to have any other reasonable options at the position.
Here is a 16-page preview of Graphical Player 2010. You can order the book from Acta Sports here.