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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Fantasy baseball beat
This past Sunday in my friendly yet competitive Head-to-Head home league, I found myself in a tight race with one of my friends in our match-up. With the pitching categories split, the winner was going to be decided by a couple of close hitting categories. These two categories—hits and OBP (I didn't choose the categories)—were actually tied coming into the Sunday Night game featuring the Mets vs. the Cardinals.
My friend had zero hitters on his team participating in the game while I had two hitters. And they weren't just any two hitters; they happened to be Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes, the best hitter in the game and certainly a very good one. Surely I thought I would get at least one hit out of the two of them and without asking for too much, perhaps a walk thrown in to win OBP as well.
In a rare showcase of hitting incompetence from my two batters, Pujols went 0-for-5 and Reyes 0-for-4, leaving me with a disappointing loss for the week and on the receiving end of some Monday-morning smacktalk. While I am not going to attempt to calculate the odds both hitters fail to reach base in the same game, I can tell this was a rare feat—somewhere around 5 percent likely—making it a definite bad beat in fantasy baseball terms.
I'm not sure if the THT Fantasy readers are sadistic enough to keep track of the bad beats that have happened to them, but if you have experienced something "sick" in a league feel free to share it along with any brags as well in the comments.
Poker and fantasy baseball
For those of you unfamiliar with the origins of the title of this article, the phrase is used in a popular sub-forum of Two Plus Two, a Website dedicated to everything poker-related with a vibrant (albeit sometimes unwelcoming) community. While myself or THT does not endorse gambling in any fashion, I am enjoying the merging of the two communities occurring in the CardRunners Experts League in which Derek is participating.
I will forgo jumping into the "Intuition vs. Quants" discussion, having laid out where I stand on the issue at the moment already but instead comment on the nature of the two communities themselves.
The poker community operates quite nicely being fairly consolidated in which the route to gaining credibility is quite straightforward: become a winning player. In fantasy baseball it is much harder to distinguish oneself as a "winning player" and with sample sizes so small over a fantasy baseball career (it takes a full year for one sample), even the most methodologically sound player could fail to win a league for years.
Usually I side with parity and cringe when I hear people say Tiger or Federer winning every match is good for the sport, but the emergence of a dominant fantasy player would certainly be good for fantasy sports in general. The problem is no one has the ability to predict player performance with such greater accuracy than anyone else to ensure victory or top finishes and even if someone could, it is unlikely he/she would use the advantage to dominate fantasy leagues.
I suppose my point is that the fantasy baseball community will largely remain as is—a scattered collection of Websites that for the most part ignore each other. Most sites are indistinguishable in terms of quality of content; or better put, people are not at the end of the season reviewing the advice given by each particular site to distinguish the most helpful ones.
And despite as much of a fantasy baseball hero Derek Carty (or anyone else) might be to you, it remains unlikely that he will ever be able to gain the same sort of widespread reputation that a Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey has in the poker world.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:18am (7) Comments
So, the fantasy universe, or at least a small subset thereof, has recently been somewhat abuzz over debate between Rotowire/RotoSynthesis' Chris Liss and some of the poker pros/options trader folks in the CardRunners league. Derek Carty has already graciously offered as series of links that allow us rubberneckers to brief ourselves on the debate. Always up for sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, I’d like to offer my take on things and fan the flames like Suge Knight at the Source Awards.
Essentially the debate comes down to this: Bill Phipps and his ilk think that the fantasy gaming community has not optimized pricing of stat lines. Chris Liss feels that even the best projection models are so inaccurate at predicting such stat lines that the ability to translate those stat lines into dollar values with perfect accuracy is either minimally advantageous, or the source of illusionary confidence, which only serves to reinforce the cognitive dissonance that bad projections can somehow be corrected by superlative valuation. Liss feels there are too many inputs and the game is too organic and the fantasy draft too dynamic for a model to be ideal. Instead he prefers to trust his ability to “thin slice” on the fly after copious preliminary cramming sessions. Phipps (and Carty) fail to understand how optimizing an additional tool couldn’t help. Of course, Phipps and crew have not revealed their model, so any assertions about what inputs and variable it does and does not attempt to address are presumptuous.
I actually think that this discussion is not as complicated as it seems to be. But more importantly, I also think it is a bit premature, as we lack the tools to really test either approach under the rigor of either the scientific method or the weight of tens of thousands of repetitions. Finally, I think the question of who is right may actually depend on how one defines success. There’s also some cultural baggage involved about the “expert” archetypes that is probably at play here too.
So, let me get to work at jumping into a gun fight among strangers with a pocket knife. I think I’ll make my points in the form of questions. (It seemed to intimidate Jeopardy contestants to the extent that the format is no longer even followed!)
Does it confer an advantage to have a tighter model for converting stat lines into dollars?
This one seems self evident—of course it does.
Liss argues that the advantage is marginal because the inputs are flawed in the first place and, perhaps even more importantly, the environment in which you use them is dynamic. The available player pool (and ergo the supply of different stats from different positions) changes.
To me, neither of these counterarguments actually refute the premise that it is ideal to have as accurate a translation tool as possible. Liss argues that he doesn’t need a translational tool because the whole process is fluid, like speaking a language in rapid, unscripted conversation. Well, I don’t fully buy that.
I have a fairly robust and unconsciously competent command of the English language, but that doesn’t mean that I never have trouble expressing myself as accurately and articulately as I wish, especially within the context of rapid, unscripted dialogue. And I wouldn’t dream of sitting down to write a dissertation without the full of arsenal of reference books (translation: aids) at my disposal.
A tool that can accurately reflect the value of a composite stat line is valuable, even if that stat line has a component of uncertainty and that value is set in a vacuum that doesn’t fully reflect the evolving dynamic of the draft room. The point to remember here is that this is just a starting point. Liss’ point about the dynamism of the draft process is important, but all that means is that if you want to optimize your odds when playing blackjack, you should know raw odds of your hand beating the dealer’s (partially hidden) hand and should be counting cards, too.
Sure, fine, so how does having an accurate pricing model in a vacuum preclude Phipps from counting cards as well, and modifying the model to reflect the ever changing supply? It doesn’t. Owner A just took somewhere between 55–75 stolen bases out of the pool by buying Ellsbury; all remaining lines therefore get adjusted. You could either do this in your head, or through a computer. I fail to understand why the human brain has any intrinsic advantage at modifying value of remaining players on the fly.
The real question here is whether the owner using the computer model is aware of how reliable (or unreliable) the projections are and has sufficiently corrected for that in his model.
How much advantage does a better conversion/translation tool confer during the draft?
Well, this is the question of whether Phipps is a good card counter or not. Or, to add another analogy here, having the best feel of what raw materials should cost will not necessarily make you the most efficient builder.
So, in addition to the elastic supply and demand in a fantasy draft/auction setting, one must assemble value in the correct way. The efficiency of correct pricing can quickly evaporate if you make errors in estimating how much of each material you need to build your structure. In a fantasy league, margin of victory is meaningless, so the holy grail is to get maximum value distributed with maximum efficiency, which is to win every category by a single unit. However, more likely is that you wind up with surplus bricks but are woefully short in mortar; at that point is doesn’t matter if your whole lot of materials is appraised for more than anybody else’s lot, or if bricks are more valuable per unit than mortar. The surplus bricks are worthless to you and unless you can turn them into something else, you lose.
The point here, and I don’t think either of the parties would dispute it, is that even with better translational skills, other knowledge gaps can drastically mitigate the (marginal in the first place, according to Liss) benefits derived from optimized pricing. To say this another way, to retain the advantage of the optimized pricing model, either the model must have the capacity to process this dynamism built in, or its user must be able to thin slice these developments as well as Chris.
To be fair to Liss’ argument, it bears emphasis to repeat explicitly that he does not fully deny the advantage of optimized pricing, though he is skeptical. He just thinks that such an advantage is small in relation to the other knowledge areas from which one could derive an advantage. And that’s why the poker pros aren’t yet ready to compete with the fantasy pros; they’re scraping the margins of the math game, while the “genius" drafters are honing their ability to predict sea changes in specific commodities. And, frankly, in an important sense, I agree.
How do you beat an expert gamer in a math game?
Let’s start with one basic premise of game theory and one fact about computer programming, neither of which are fields in which I’d consider myself an expert. Game theory dictates that you never want to alter your play in a manner that will cause a poorly playing opponent to react in a way that will probabilistically improve his play. Computer programmers note that one of the most difficult things to program a computer to do is to generate random numbers; what often appears to be a random string is really just a very small string within a much longer string, for which a pattern exists.
And, while we’re at it, let’s throw in the good ole Voltaire quote: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Now, I will offer my theory about how I would go about playing one of these poker pros, in poker, were I given the opportunity. I’m a decent card player. I don’t play at casinos much, but I have a fairly good grasp of math, probabilities, and can do fairly complicated computational math in my head … even while drinking scotch—alcohol tolerance is an unheralded skill for the informal poker night warrior. Basically, I’m just good enough to know how badly everybody else at the table is playing and complain about it. Yeah, tons of fun, I am!
But I would not attempt to play like this were I to play out a discreet trial with a table of experts. By playing my best, all I would be doing would be to ensure that I am playing an inferior version of the game that they are playing. Instead, what I would do is to try and make myself seem like a bigger wild card while still retaining a semblance of objectively correct strategy, Sure, I’m mitigating my own capabilities but mitigating my opponent’s even more because he/she has more to lose by minimizing things like the ability to predict my hand by the betting patterns I make.
To continue the strained analogy and bad metaphor theme, what I’m doing is attempting to turn this basketball game into a 3-point shooting contest, which is the way Cinderellas most commonly knock off high seeds. I may think I’m actually a better post player (the percentage play) than I am a 3-point shooter, but the gap between my post skills and my opponent’s is greater than the gap in our 3-point shooting skills.
In a way, what Chris is saying is don’t leave me open uncontested from behind the arc because I will knock ‘em down all day if you don’t put a hand in my face. I’ll take the vig (lower percentage shot) for the trade off that I get to pick my shot and get open (you don’t go the extra dollar), and if I’m shooting as well as I normally do, you’re going to have to make a whole lot of turn-around seven-footers to outscore me. Further, you’ll actually miss some of your twos as well because I’m defending the paint while you are not even bothering to defend the line.
Liss’ argument is that the fantasy pros inside game is good enough that the quants don’t have room for a huge advantage, meanwhile Liss and crew will easily out shoot the poker pros from 3. And, as tempted as I might be to put my money on a single quant versus any of the single geniuses, when you break them into fields, I think the odds are that ones of the geniuses wins more often than not. More on this in a minute.
How do we judge who performs the best in a fantasy league, and what is the goal when developing your team?
Now, we get to my real question.
Two of the analogies mentioned throughout this debate were chess and stock market. These were chosen as examples to reflect subjects for which processing power was the linchpin in figuring things out and where the inputs were just so numerous and diverse that a model was nearly impossible to build at all. There’s one other difference between chess and the stock market, one which fantasy baseball actually marries though, resulting in a difficult to resolve question.
In chess, you are playing a one-on-one game, in which you must simply beat your single opponent; there’s one winner and one loser. To succeed in chess you must win way more often than you lose. In the stock market, you are really competing with the field to call yourself successful. You don’t ever need to have the biggest day, or week, or month of any other trader, you just need to win more than you lose and be consistently profitable over time. In fantasy baseball, you play against the field, but there is only one winner. This dynamic affects the appetite and rational tolerance for risk.
I don’t think a model-based approach will necessarily be risk-averse. In fact, I think a good model will aim to be risk appropriate. But, as long as a quant is competing against a field of “genius” sharps, it seems plausible that nearly every season several of the geniuses will take on what objectively derived and rational models will deem too much risk and one or more will hit on a bunch of those picks and win by outperforming the market. My biggest fear about the quant approach is that it’s a path to being a perennial runner-up.
I have no doubt that the quants will “get their money in good” with high frequency even right off the bat. They could do this just on the strength of math even if they didn’t know much about baseball. But that doesn’t mean they will win the league outright with any consistency. If you are playing against an opponent who sees a second-place finish and a last-place finish as the same exact thing, how do you consider that in a model?
I question whether the genius drafter and the quant are actually competing strategies, or discreet paradigms, one being a road to perennial contention but smaller margins for over or underperformance, and the other being more volatile in terms of range of outcome, but more anecdotally successful. And this is the question that begs the elephant-in-the-room meta-point; how do we judge success in the fantasy baseball arena?
If Liss and Phipps were to play out 20 seasons and (pretending that is a statistically significant sample size), Liss has five championships with an average finish of 3.8, while Phipps has only two championships but an average finish of 3.2, who is the better player? Phipps has higher batting average, Liss the better slugging percentage.
Until we answer that question, I’m not sure we can form viable opinions on the relative merits of the genius and quant strategies. Perhaps some insight lies in what the market wants out of its experts. From whom would you rather take advice, the guy who consistently exploits the market inefficiencies and beats it on the margins, or the guy who swings for the fences and connects more of than the other sluggers but still makes more wrong decisions than the consistent margins guy? Rationally, I think we want the quant. But, culturally, I think we romanticize the genius.
Back to the topic at hand for a second, I think one of the intriguing questions here is whether the quants remain fully agnostic as they nurture their genius tendencies. The poker analogy is kind of like reading players: “You know, I think that guy is bluffing and I can tell not by his betting patterns, but by his body language.”
Certainly, card-playing quants are open to integrating that form of insight, so why wouldn’t they be open to saying, “You know what, Justin Upton has shortened his stride this preseason and it is really helping him handle those pitches on the outer half, and since the statistical projection model doesn’t factor that input, I think his baseline is actually his 70th percentile season based on their projections, so I’m going to bump the price I’m willing to pay for him.” (Totally made up scouting evaluation by the way; I know nothing about Upton’s stride length.)
Anyway, my biggest question in this overall debate is how are we to know who is right? Certainly, who wins this single league—one trial that takes seven months to complete—is not really telling of anything. How many times would quants and geniuses have to play out a single season before the results have meaning? So, until we have simulators that can simulate the minds of five guys like Phipps and five guys like Liss, play out thousands of drafts before a single season and mimic their in-season managerial styles, how do we separate luck from skill? Even further, we’d then have to do the same year after year to determine whether the trends in the first set of trials were due to variance, and if so whether there’s any trend within the variance that either player may be consciously or unconsciously exploiting.
I believe it was Mike Podhorzer, who popped in on Derek Carty’s article, who once wrote a piece back at Fantasy Generals about what constitutes an “expert,” and performance was not one of the metrics he used, quite correctly I think. Sure, an expert will outperform the mathematical probability of winning his league over the long haul, but that bar is low and the trials one completes, even in a lifetime of fantasy gaming, are relatively few. If I play a 12-team league for 24 years and win three times, do I pass that bar? Was that my skill or luck? Instead, Mike focused on factors like intellectual independence, internal consistency of reasoning, etc. as criteria. So, while the genius vs. quant debate is fascinating, let’s remember that experts exist in both camps and that a few seasons worth of anecdotal performance will provide very little insight into the relative merits of the approaches.
There is one tool that I wish would be developed that would help advance our ability to test some of our theories, or even just to add perspective. I wish Yahoo, ESPN, CBS Sportsline and the other main fantasy sports providers adopted a census option of sorts that would feed and build a database. When you set up your league, you can choose whether you want the data tabulated as part of the census, and what that feature would do is record your league’s settings and bank its results with leagues with identical settings. So, therefore you would develop a database of mixed 14-team leagues with this exact roster structure. Users could then search that database to find things like what categorical benchmarks you’d have to target to aim for 11s across the board.
At one point in the quant vs. genius debate, the question came up about the stratification tendencies of categories. Do home runs tend to cluster relatively tighter than steals? I don’t know; I can only look back at my past leagues’ standings and guess. But, if I have access to the aggregate data of hundreds of thousands of leagues played with the same settings, it’s much more likely that the trends that emerge are meaningful.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:24am (14) Comments
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We're less than three weeks into the season, but let's peek at the saves leader board. Leading the pack with six saves (as of Wednesday afternoon) are David Aardsma, Jon Rauch and Matt Capps. After them, with five saves, are Francisco Cordero, Mariano Rivera, Fernando Rodney and Ryan Franklin. With the exception of Rivera, these are not the elite closers. Joe Nathan aside, guys like Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez are way down the list.
Surely the elites are going to get their saves eventually. Small samples reign in the early part of the season. But the likes of Rauch, Capps and Aardsma may very well keep pace or outpace them. Of course, they may not.
I've banged on often about how I think the "don't pay for saves" mantra is oversold. In any decently competitive league, really good closers are not overvalued and underwhelming closers are not undervalued. Just because each season, guys like Rauch end up getting 35 or more saves doesn't mean that the elites are overvalued. Sure, Kevin Gregg might turn out to be a really cheap source of saves. But the same was said about the man he replaced—Jason Frasor.
In fact, even this early in the season we can already see how risky low-end closers are.
Mike Gonzalez was put on the DL for poor performance. He'll probably get another bite at the apple when he comes back, but he'll be on a very short leash.
Jason Frasor's already lost his closer's job, at least for now. So has Frank Francisco. Neftali Feliz has Francisco's job but could easily lose it back to him if his performance is either too bad (and he goes back to more middling relief) or too good (and they make him a starter).
Chad Qualls has looked shaky and may lose his job if a viable replacement can be found. Ryan Madson probably will lose his closer's role once Brad Lidge is healthy. Likewise for Franklin Morales yielding to Huston Street. Trevor Hoffman may finally have hit a wall.
Matt Lindstrom and Octavio Dotel, and to a lesser extent Leo Nunez and Chris Perez, have performed well enough to bury rumors in a shallow grave. In other words, at the very least their performance so far hasn't made their closer position more tenuous. But an egregious cold streak could leave them in the cold, and if they had a trip to the DL, a pretender could easily grab the throne.
So just with the above cases we have 11 teams with somewhat or very uncertain closer situations. Even if you handcuff these closers with their backups, there are costs. For one, you have to waste a reserve spot on the backup. I have Francisco and Feliz as well as Capps and Drew Storen on one of my fantasy teams (fortunately Storen is in the minor league slot). For another, you'll miss out on saves in a weekly league whenever the switch comes midweek. I had Rodney in one of my leagues sitting in reserve. He got three saves before I was able to start him. I got a few more out of him, even this week, but already by Wednesday he's out of the closer's role. Rivera owners have no such waste.
The thing about saves and the closer spot is that it isn't as special as it is made to be. Personally, I think baseball teams would be a lot better off treating the ninth inning as just a slightly more important inning and not the be-all-and-end-all for relief pitching. It is pretty clear that the team would be better off pitching its best reliever in the seventh inning if the bases were loaded and Albert Pujols was at bat rather than wait for Brendan Ryan to bat in the ninth.
From a fantasy perspective, it is also pretty clear that there are a bunch of suitors who could leap into a closer's role if given the opportunity—that is, there are many pitchers as good as the marginal closer. I'm thinking of pitchers like Scott Downs, Daniel Bard, Cla Meredith, Matt Thornton, Rodney and Carlos Villanueva, who if given the opportunity and maybe a bit of luck could convince a fickle manager that they deserve the role.
There are only a few closers with the reputation and the track record (and perhaps the contract) hefty enough to be sure to keep their closer role no matter the setup man behind him. Joe Nathan is going to have his role back next year, no matter what happens in the meantime. Rivera and Rodriguez are safe, as is Papelbon (most likely). But you only have to witness the amount of chatter that blossomed around how Rodney might remain the closer even after Brian Fuentes comes back to see that very few closers are completely safe.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:40am (0) Comments
From Dan Hudson to Chad Jenkins, I'm providing major league projections for those with enough Double-A experience and 2010 expectations for 15 of the top pitching prospects in baseball. View my thoughts on other prospects at my always-updated Top 100 Prospects list.
Dan Hudson / SP / Chicago White Sox
Hudson is Triple-A Charlotte's best arm. It will be difficult for Chicago to keep him away from the majors. Expect them to cave in by July.
198 IP / 4.40 ERA / 1.33 WHIP / 13 W / 12 L / 163 SO / 194 H / 69 BB
210 IP / 3.91 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / 15 W / 12 L / 181 SO / 197 H / 66 BB
Matt Hobgood / SP / Baltimore
Fresh out of high school, Hobgood will call Single-A Delmarva home in 2010.
Tim Alderson / SP / Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh should continue to allow Alderson to face off against the best that the Eastern League has to offer. Some late-season Triple-A time, and possibly even a start or two in the majors, would be a nice reward for a job well done.
193 IP / 4.51 ERA / 1.38 WHIP / 11 W / 12 L / 146 SO / 191 H / 76 BB
203 IP / 4.04 ERA / 1.33 WHIP / 13 W / 12 L / 161 SO / 195 H / 75 BB
Casey Crosby / SP / Detroit
Crosby's season has yet to get off the ground due to a bone bruise, but a combination of Advanced-A and Double-A work is upcoming.
Jarrod Parker / SP / Arizona
There is talk that Parker could be back from Tommy John surgery sometime around the All-Star break, but I wouldn't count on it. I expect him to be shelved for the entire season, but he could be ready to pitch again by the time fall league play starts up.
Chad James / SP / Florida
Florida should play it slow and keep James in Single-A Greensboro for his first full year.
Chris Withrow / SP / LA Dodgers
Withrow is in Double-A Chattanooga now and should see Triple-A Albuquerque before the season is up.
Manuel Banuelos / SP / NY Yankees
Expect the Yankees to move Banuelos one step at a time, and that means he will spend 2010 in Advanced-A Tampa.
Tim Melville / SP / Kansas City
The Carolina League seems to be a good test for Melville at this stage, but I could envision a couple of Double-A starts toward the end of the year.
Aaron Crow / SP / Kansas City
I was expecting Crow to have to earn his way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but he was rewarded with that opportunity out of spring training. The Texas League is a good level for his age. Expect him to remain there for the rest of the season.
Trevor Reckling / SP / LA Angels
The Angels continue to be aggressive with young Reckling. It shows a tremendous amount of faith in his abilities. A full, stable year playing for one team, Triple-A Salt Lake, is a good thing.
185 IP / 4.72 ERA / 1.45 WHIP / 11 W / 12 L / 145 SO / 189 H / 80 BB
196 IP / 4.26 ERA / 1.38 WHIP / 13 W / 12 L / 160 SO / 193 H / 78 BB
Kyle Gibson / SP / Minnesota
With his recent injuries seemingly behind him, Gibson could move fast, starting in Advanced-A Fort Myers and culminating with a stop in Triple-A Rochester.
Ethan Martin / SP/RP / LA Dodgers
Martin won't be in the California League for long. Double-A Chattanooga is up next and should provide a strong test.
Aaron Miller / SP / LA Dodgers
Miller has ascended to the California League, and he should join Chris Withrow and Ethan Martin in Double-A Chattanooga by midseason.
Chad Jenkins / SP / Toronto
Jenkins has debuted in Single-A Lansing. He should ascend steadily, finishing up the year with a couple of starts in Double-A New Hampshire.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:19am (0) Comments
Friday, April 23, 2010
This happens every year. A handful of players start hot and owners around the fantasy world start adding them at a ridiculous pace. Some of those players turn out to be Ben Zobrist. One even turned out to be Albert Pujols once upon a time. Usually, they end up being Chris Shelton.
With Oliver's "Rest of Season" projections making their working debut, I figured it was time to take a closer look at the 10 most added players over the past week in ESPN leagues. As usual, I'll use the Tango calculations to determine general values of players.
Jose Guillen (plus 65 percent)
For better or for worse, the Kansas City outfielder is a pretty well-known commodity. He has nearly 6,000 major league plate appearances to his name, and has alternated between barely useful fantasy asset to completely useless. In his good years, he'll get you 20-plus homers and drive in about 85-95 runs, and score about 80 more. Nothing to turn your nose up at in many leagues but hardly worth getting excited over either. When he's not good, however, he doesn't do much but take up space and drag down your batting average. Before a single pitch was thrown, the numbers suggested he'd come in around the 182nd-best offensive player. Olivers sees about 15 more homers and 57 more RBIs, which would make him about the 190th-best offensive player.
Ricky Romero (plus 46 percent)
I don't know exactly how Oliver works (I'm merely reporting its results), but I get the impression that it's probably too early for anything to change its mind much. That said, Oliver was really down on Romero to start the season and it has improved its outlook somewhat. Of course, in Romero's case that means adjusting its projected ERA down from 5.62 to 5.20 and bringing his projected K/9 rate up from 6.39 to 6.57. Both sets of numbers obviously represent a significant dropoff from his current 1.57 ERA and 8.61 K/9 rate. I get the sense that there's probably a decent market out there for Romero and he seems to fit the classic sell-high model.
Kevin Gregg (plus 34 percent)
It should come as no surprise that the Blue Jays' new closer is among the most added players in baseball. All indications are that he has the closer's job for as long as he can handle it, thus making most of the projections moot. Oliver has him at seven saves the rest of the way, which is probably way off. Even if he barely meets Oliver's projected line of 4.23 ERA and a K/BB ratio of about 2:1, he'll end up with at least 20 saves and maybe a bunch more. He managed to save 23 games last year despite playing for a bad team, posting a worse ERA (4.72) and a slightly better K:BB ratio (9.31:3.93).
Scott Podsednik (plus 32 percent)
Remember what I just said about it being too early for Oliver to change its mind? Well, the speedy Kansas City outfielder may be the exception. At the start of the season, Oliver projected him to be about the 135th-best offensive player, or barely worth owning. He now projects around 87th, largely on the strength of an improved outlook on stolen bases (Oliver projects 19 more after projecting just 20 at the start of the season) and batting average (up to .289 from .271). My personal biases steer me away from players like Podsednik, but if he's still available for pennies on the dollar he's worth a gamble.
Ivan Rodriguez (plus 31 percent)
The Washington catcher pretty much falls into the same category as Guillen for me. Rodriguez is now three full seasons removed from the last time he was relevant from a fantasy perspective. He's hitting .444 with a .600 SLG right now. Obviously, he's not going to come anywhere near that. Oliver actually seems to think he's merely accumulating his stats early, downgrading his overall rating from 231 to 238 since the start of the season. He projects at a .255 batting average and a .370 SLG. I doubt he has much value on the open market. If you have him, ride him as long as he's hot and then find a realistic longterm solution.
Cameron Maybin (plus 30 percent)
I at least understand this one. The Marlins' one-time top prospect is finally hitting, and providing hope that he can attain the glory that has so far eluded him. Oliver is not so optimistic, projecting a .256 batting average the rest of the way, which is actually a tad lower than what it predicted at the start of the season (.258). Oliver also projects nine more homers, 53 RBIs and 11 stolen bases, which are fine numbers, I suppose, but won't make him worthy of a roster spot. There's probably not much to lose by holding onto Maybin on the off chance that he really has figured it out.
Josh Willingham (plus 29 percent)
Of all the players on this list, the Washington outfielder projected the best numbers at the start of the season. Oliver's projections slapped him with the 118th-best offensive numbers. I imagine his track record is keeping his strong start from boosting that projection. The reality is that Willingham's most useful fantasy season came during his first full year when he was largely eligible at catcher, even though he only caught a total of 14 innings. Back then, his 26 homers and 74 RBIs were quite a bounty. He's essentially put up very similar numbers ever since but lost his catcher eligibility. This is all just a long way of saying that Oliver's projected line the rest of the season (16 homers, 60 RBIs, .257 batting average) should really come as no surprise despite his .592 SLG 15 games into the season.
Alex Gonzalez (plus 27 percent)
At the start of the season, the Toronto shortstop projected as the 22nd-best shortstop option. After a five-homer, 11-RBI, .627-SLG start to the season, Oliver projects him to finish out as the 26th-best option. Basically, Oliver seems to suggest that Gonzalez's best days are well behind him (from a seasonal standpoint, at least). The projections have 12 homers and 57 RBI (which isn't bad, actually), but say he'll hit .242 and steal two bases the rest of the way. Hope you got the most out of that start.
Brad Penny (plus 24 percent)
While the St. Louis pitcher was mostly ignored at drafts (he's still barely owned in over half of leagues), Oliver was quietly projecting a perfectly adequate season. A 4.67 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in about 170 IP was the projection. Those numbers are actually lower now (4.45 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) after a 2-0 start in which he's allowed a total of three earned runs in 21 innings. What should make his start especially intriguing is that Oliver projected those numbers while also projecting a K/9 of 5.56, which is almost exactly what Penny's been doing so far (5.57). To me, this suggests a promising start (factoring in some obvious regression).
Mike Pelfrey (plus 23 percent)
Like Penny, the Mets pitcher was basically ignored on draft day, as he's still owned in less than 25 percent of leagues. Unlike Penny, Oliver was not even a little optimistic with Pelfrey (predicted 4.94 ERA, 1.54 WHIP). Pelfrey's start has helped revise those numbers downward (4.76 ERA, 1.50 WHIP), but still not quite in ownable territory.
Posted by Jeremiah Oshan at 4:31am (3) Comments
Aaron Harang | Cincinnati | SP
YTD: 6.23 K/9, 2.50 K/BB, 8.31 ERA
True Talent: 7.7 K/9, 3.42 K/BB, 4.77 ERA
Simply put, the surface stats for Aaron Harang this season are brutal. Taking a glimpse at his underlying stats it's easy to see (for those not jaded by owning him thus far) that he's had rather unfortunate luck working against him. Harang has opened the season with a jaw dropping 23.1 percent HR/FB, a number not sustainable even if he were throwing underhand. He's also had an awful strand rate of 52.5 percent as well as a .333 BABIP (though his career mark is .317 so not nearly as astoundingly out of the ordinary as his other poor luck stats are). The positives for Harang thus far are that he's inducing 40.0 percent groudballs and limiting the free passes, 2.49 BB/9. His strikeout rate is a bit on the low side at 6.23 K/9, but given that his velocity is actually up a bit on both his fastball and slider, I'd anticpate that number to go up since his stuff, so to speak, appears fine. Once some of Harang's underlying stats begin to normalize I'd expect a starter who produces value by posting an ERA in the high threes/low fours with 150 or more strikeouts.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Brad Penny | St. Louis | SP
YTD: 5.57 K/9, 4.33 K/BB, 1.29 ERA
True Talent: 5.5 K/9, 1.93 K/BB, 4.08 ERA
St. Louis Cardinals' fans, and fantasy owners of Brad Penny have been treated to a nice start to the 2010 season. While I'm not suggesting Penny will continue to post a sub 1.50 ERA, I do believe he'll post a useful fantasy season. Penny has opened the season by demonstrating pin point control with an awesome 1.29 BB/9 to go along with a great GB% of 54.0. His strikeout rate, as usual, leaves a bit to be desired at a modest 5.57 K/9, but when taken with the rest of the package is acceptable. Given the volatility of wins, it is tough to peg anyone as a safe bet for wins. However, because Penny works deep into games he seems a safe bet for decisions, and since he has an offense featuring Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday it's a reasonable guess a healthy number of his decisions will be positive ones. Oliver's True Talent projection seems fair, with a tad bit of upside on those projections possible.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Juan Gutierrez | Arizona | SU
YTD: 9.00 K/9, 1.75 K/BB, 6.43 ERA
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.71 K/BB, 5.01 ERA
Juan Gutierrez appears in this week's Waiver Wire edition for one reason, and one reason only, saves speculation. Chad Qualls has struggled to open the 2010 campaign for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and given his lack of track record as an end game stopper, one has to imagine his leash is rather short or non-existant at this point. While the D-backs may opt to go full closer-by-committee if they remove Qualls from the role, I'd guess Gutierrez will be given a crack at manning the job on his own. Gutierrez features a typical late inning relievers repertoire of power fastball (95.0 MPH average velocity so far) as well as a low-80's slider, but also features a curveball and changeup that he threw a combined 12.5 percent of the time last year. For a player who doesn't induce many groundballs (career 37.0 percent and a ridiculously low 11.8 percent GB rate to open 2010) he doesn't strike a ton of hitters out either, only a career mark of 8.06 K/9. The only value to come from Gutierrez this season will likely be in the form of saves, but for those desperately scrambling to pick some up, he may be worth rostering. He doesn't fit all rosters given the potential damage he'll likely do to a team's ERA and WHIP, but those who can stomach some ugly saves may want to speculate and stash Gutierrez in the event he takes over for Qualls.
Recommendation: Should be watched in 12-team mixed leagues, owned in some 14-team or larger leagues, and most medium to large NL-only leagues.
Edward Mujica | San Diego | RP
YTD: 9.58 K/9, 5.5 K/BB, 2.61 ERA
True Talent: 7.6 K/9, 3.15 K/BB, 4.20 ERA
Edward Mujica is a pitcher who may be of great value to some fantasy gamers depending on their league's settings. Mujica is a unique relief pitcher in that he owns starting pitching eligibility. For those playing in leagues that specify between starting SP's and RP's, and especially those that also count holds, Mujica could serve as fantasy gold this season. To open the 2010 season Mujica is posting a career best 9.58 K/9, following a 2009 season in which he posted a career best 7.30 K/9. While the sample is small thus far, Mujica's upward trending K/9 may not be fool's gold. Mujica has stated that he is throwing his splitter more this season, mixing it in to both left handers and right handers, and according to fangraphs linear weights has been using it more effectively. The flyball tendencies of Mujica would normally be a turn off to most, but given that he plays half his games in the spacious PETCO, may play to his advantage if it means more strikeouts from working up in the zone. If Mujica is able to continue to limit the free passes and rack up strikeouts, he may lend himself to being useful to more fantasy owners as he is pegged to throw 75.0 innings by Oliver's True Talent forecast, and if those innings are filled by a sparkling strikeout rate, useful ratios, some vulture wins and multiple inning saves, Mujica could be a hidden gem for 2010.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger leagues, most large NL-only leagues.
Colby Rasmus | St. Louis | OF
True Talent: .232/.316/.395
A former upper echelon prospect who graduated to Major League Baseball rookie in 2009 is opening the 2010 season with quite the follow up thus far, yet isn't as widely owned as one might expect. Colby Rasmus is clubbing the ball thus far this season and perhaps even more importantly is showing off the discerning eye (18.2 percent walks) that impressed many during his minor league career. Rasmus isn't in the same elite class of prospect as other recent OF top prospects such as Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, but that doesn't mean he's not a bit of a budding star himself. Rasmus doesn't come without questions, such as will he be able to hit lefties this season, and he does likely have bumps in the road still as he's striking out at a 31.8% clip, but hitting behind high OBP sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should help ease the frustration of those bumps in the road for his fantasy owners. Rasmus possesses the raw talent to post top 50 OF numbers this season, and I expect him to do just that. Those in leagues where he's already rostered should wait with fingers crossed hoping he has a poor stretch of strikeouts and balls hit at fielders in the next week or two and swoop in dealing for him. One buy low period has already passed as Rasmus followed up an 0-15 stretch from April 11 through April 17 with a modest four game hit streak, slugging two home runs and one triple in the last game of that streak. Don't make the mistake of missing out on the next potential opportunity to acquire him.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 10-team or larger five OF mixed leagues, most 10-team three OF mixed leagues with a bench, all 12-team or larger three OF mxed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Corey Hart | Milwaukee | OF
True Talent: .271/.327/.446
In 2007 and 2008 Corey Hart treated owners to 20/20 seasons, and the thought going into 2009 was more of the same. Unfortunately for those that drafted Hart more of the same did not follow. Hart finished the 2009 season with a slash line of .260/.335/.418 with only 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Coming into 2010 it appeared little should be expected of Hart given his poor 2009 season, the acquisition of Carlos Gomez and the signing of Jim Edmonds. Hart currently finds himself in a three headed platoon of sorts for two spots, which means he may be unrostered in your league, or easily acquirable. The reason for my optimism for Hart stems from his walk gains last year that have extended and been furthered to open 2010. In 2009 Hart posted a 9.1 percent walk rate, a career best, and has posted an even better 12.1 percent walk rate to open the 2010 season (small sample size cautions apply). In understanding the importance of walk rate to Hart look no further than the stolen base category. Already in 2010 Hart has stolen two bases, in spite of the fact that his current batting average is .250 and his BABIP is an unlucky .259. If Hart is able to post a walk rate of over 10.0 percent when he sees his BABIP normalize and his batting average increase accordingly, he should steal more than 20 bases. Not only should current and prospective fantasy owners be excited about Hart's stolen base totals, but his current ISO of .222 points to potential for greater than 20 home run power (he has two home runs thus far). In order for Hart to maintain his currently high ISO he'll have to hit more fly balls, however, as he's chopping a ton of balls into the ground and posting a 55.2 GB rate. His HR/FB (22.2 percent) is not sustainable. That said, conversion of ground balls into fly balls should offset a dip in his HR/FB rate. As the season progresses I'd expect to see Hart take over the bulk of the playing time in the three headed platoon between given his superior talent, age, and upside.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger five OF mixed leagues, and all NL-only leagues.
Akinori Iwamura | Pittsburgh | 2B
True Talent: .270/.346/.377
The 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates feature a poor offensive squad, but even poor teams can produce useful fantasy players, and Akinori Iwamura should be just that. Iwamura is currently batting atop the Pirates order and demonstrating a keen eye, offering at little outside the strike zone and walking 13.6 percent of the time in the early going. Iwamura doesn't offer a great deal in terms of power potential, but 10-15 HR's may be achievable if there is any truth behind his 15.4 percent HR/FB rate. More likely, Iwamura tops out at 8-10 home runs though in my opinion. While he doesn't offer much power upside, he may offer some speed upside. One benefit to batting at the top of a bad lineup is that the potential exists for him to get the green light to run and get in scoring position when he's able to get on base. Given Iwamura's solid LD rate and walk rate I'd expect him to post an OBP north of .350. If he's allowed to run he may post 15 or more stolen bases this season, which by itself would be useful if slotted in a middle infield spot in deep leagues. However, modest HR and SB totals aren't the whole story with Iwamura, who is a career .273 hitter with a career 20.1 percent LD rate. I would expect Iwamura to post a batting average in the .285-.290 range this year and score upwards of around 85-90 runs. A total package of 80-10-50 .280 10 would be of significance to deep leaguers, and I'd expect more.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 10-team mixed leagues that use a MI, all 12-team mixed leagues or larger that use a MI and all NL-only leagues.
Steve Pearce | Pittsburgh | 1B
YTD: Currently in Triple-A
True Talent: Projected to see no Major League playing time by Oliver
In 2007 Steve Pearce slugged his way from Single-A to the Majors and gave hope to the Pirates that he may be a useful piece of their future. After struggling in limited playing time in 2008 and 2009 he looks like nothing more than a Quad-A player who will shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors for the remainder of his career. Early showings, or lack thereof, from Jeff Clement and Bobby Crosby at 1B, an embarrassing Pirates offense, and a nice start to the 2010 season in Triple-A, as well as the recent memory and presence of another suspected career minor leaguer (Garrett Jones) may be the perfect storm that allows Pearce to get a last extended look from the Pirates this season. Pearce has opened 2010 in Indianapolis posting a jaw dropping slash line of .396/.484/.736 with 12 extra base hits, two of which are home runs, and an impressive 9:8 BB:K. If the Pirates opt to look for a shot in the arm in the short term, I'd suspect they call up Pearce before starting the arbitration clock on top prospect Pedro Alvarez. If Pearce is called up, he may be capable of contributing to deep NL-only leaguers depending on where he is slotted in the Pirates order, and just how many at bats he receives. Pearce is a shot in the dark at this point, but is just the type of player worth keep an eye on in the deepest of leagues. Most likely many owners have forgotton about him or labeled him a failed marginal prospect after only 378 Major League plate appearances scattered over three seasons, so you likely have time to wait on him actually receiving a call-up before rushing to the waiver wire to add him.
Recommendation: Should be watched in medium to large NL-only leagues and owned in large NL-only leagues with extremely deep benches.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 7:06am (3) Comments
Posted by David Gassko at 7:43am (0) Comments
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Mike Leake is a player I find very interesting at this point in the season. We all know that he's the first pitcher in a very long time to skip the minors entirely, and despite being a top draft pick, he isn't said to have top-notch stuff. In addition, his 2010 resume is quite strange. He has a 3.92 ERA, courtesy of two seemingly dominant (though lucky) starts and one seemingly terrible (though unlucky) start:
+-----+----+---+----+-----+ | IP | ER | K | BB | GB% | +-----+----+---+----+-----+ | 6.2 | 1 | 5 | 7 | 33% | | 7.0 | 3 | 3 | 5 | 62% | | 7.0 | 5 | 5 | 1 | 70% | +-----+----+---+----+-----+
The combination of these three starts has left Leake with an unspectacular 5.7 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9. His 3.92 ERA might be enough for owners in some leagues to buy into him, but his 4.78 xFIP could leave owners in savvier leagues passing on Leake. Still, I feel as though this Reds rookie has some very redeemable qualities.
First, while he's been called a "No. 3 starter," scouts seemed to really like him, especially his pitchability and his command. Some even like his raw stuff, like prospect expert John Sickels, who had this to say when Leake was drafted:
While some might consider Arizona State RHP Mike Leake an overdraft at eighth overall, I don't; I think that's an excellent pick. He has very good stuff, and his excellent pitchability makes it all play up.
The slider is insane, getting more than 5 inches of horizontal movement. Very few pitchers are able to generate that kind of movement on their sliders. It's probably not quite at the level of a Zack Greinke or CC Sabathia or Jake Peavy, but it is quite good (and in terms of actual effectiveness, it's generating 22 percent whiffs—roughly what Greinke got on his last year). His curve also seems to be a bit of an underrated pitch, generating between 5 and 10 inches of both vertical and horizontal movement.
The combination of good stuff paired with the scouts' raves about his pitchability tells me that, yes, Leake does indeed appear to be ready for the big leagues despite not having thrown a pitch in the minors yet. His stuff is very conducive to generating ground balls, and his secondary offerings should allow him to post an above-average strikeout rate. Because scouts have always made note of his stellar control, and because he showed this during his most recent outing, I'm not going to freak out about the 5.7 BB/9 thus far. He's also been able to find the strike zone at a slightly above league average rate thus far (49.7%), which should only improve and, at the very least, paints a rosier picture than his BB/9 does.
Oliver sees Leake posting a 3.68 ERA the rest of the way, and while that might be a little optimistic, an ERA around 4.00 (with significant upside) certainly seems attainable. I bought Leake during the first week of the season in both LABR and Tout Wars, and I'll continue to start him and expect good things. While I'd take a guy like Colby Lewis over Leake, you might have a hard time finding a better under-the-radar pitcher available on your mixed league waiver wire. And if he's still somehow available in an NL-only league, go get him now.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:17am (8) Comments
While we, as fantasy players, are told and try not to overreact to frustratingly slow starts by some players, when the real managers and general managers of those players begin to react in terms of playing time, we must adjust expectations accordingly. Even if you think Kila Ka'aihue will bat .300 with 20 home runs given a full season of at-bats, when the Royals management does not want to see him in the majors, there is nothing you can do.
So, with that in mind, here are some players whose playing time situations you should be aware of:
Brett Gardner—The Yankees' play-hard left fielder is spotlighted here first because I wrote praising words about his abilities back in March and thus far he has lived up to my word. Batting .330 with nine steals already, Gardner is providing elite speed without sacrificing average.
Much ado was made about my statement that "although Gardner is slated to bat last in the Yankee lineup, batting ninth in that lineup will provide similar run and RBI opportunities to batting second in many other lineups." Gardner has been productive in the runs department with 12 despite batting last, and the interesting news to share is that Gardner will see some time in the second slot in the lineup moving forward, which truly is a goldmine with Jeter in front and Teixeira and A-Rod behind.
If batting second is something that sticks with manager Joe Girardi, Gardner could end up being one of the best value picks of 2010 drafts.
Chris Coghlan—Last year's ROY looks like he lost all of the tools that led to his award-winning rookie campaign. Gone is the plate discipline, the solid gap power, and the Emmy-nominated contact ability. Although no one should believe those tools are lost forever, the Marlins have no choice but to take action with their .357 OPSing left fielder. For the time being, Brett Carroll will be the beneficiary of some extra at-bats, but Carroll is not much of a threat long term.
Mike Stanton—the Marlins' home-run-hitting machine of a prospect, not the retired relief pitcher—is currently lurking at and tearing up Double-A simultaneously. At a mere 20 years of age though and with no experience above Double-A, it is my opinion that Florida's management will let Stanton establish himself more in the minors before exposing him prematurely to major league pitching. In other words, in non-keeper and dynasty leagues, Stanton is not a body to stash on your bench.
Blue Jays blooming
Brett Wallace—The Jays hoped to get a lot in return for trading Roy Halladay, and Wallace was a major part of that "a lot." A player the Blue Jays have actually targeted since his high school days, Wallace is currently taking advantage of PCL pitchers, batting .292/.387/.662 with seven home runs in 18 games. Wallace projects to play first base in the majors and looking at what the Jays currently offer at first—the terribly struggling Lyle Overbay—methinks Wallace is not far away from his first big league at-bats. And in Ike Davis-like fashion, Wallace could similarly produce right off the bat.
Turmoil in the Rockies
Seth Smith—It is amazing how much one day can change your opinion of a player. Before April 25, Smith was a player who, although I believed could be productive, did not seem to have enough regular playing time to gain any momentum and was batting only .194. Then after April 25—a day on which Smith blasted two home runs and Brad Hawpe landed on the DL—my confidence in him was reignited.
Smith should see fairly regular playing time over the next few weeks and if he continues to produce while Dexter Fowler's struggles continue, the playing time dynamic in the Rockies outfield could shift heavily in Smith's favor even after Hawpe returns. Even in fairly shallow mixed leagues, I would pickup Smith for the following few weeks with the possibility of keeping him for the entire season if things work out. A .280s-.290s batting average with 25 home runs is not out of the question for him.
Clint Barmes—Save for his 2008 campaign, this Rockies middle infielder has been below average with his bat since joining the majors regularly in 2005. So far in 2010 Barmes has been well below average, prompting the Rockies to call up Triple-A second baseman Eric Young Jr. to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere.
I say to the delight of fantasy owners because while Young should not provide much batting value to an actual baseball team, he can steal boatloads of bases to help your fantasy team greatly. An average above .270 would be pleasantly surprising, but somewhere in the .260s range seems most likely for him. All that matters for Young, though, is playing time and steals, and plenty of them.
Carlos Beltran—The updated bad news is that his knee is not healing well and he is unlikely to return by the end of May. A June or July return is now what's expected though there have been grumblings about him possibly missing the whole season. Good news for Angel Pagan owners, I suppose.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:37am (2) Comments
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Josh writes in:
"My main questions right now include (1) who should I pick up to fill an empty bench spot in FAAB (potential replacements noted below); (2) should Seth Smith and/or Everth Cabrera be starting in place of any of my current starters; (3) do I still have more SB than are probably necessary to get my 12 points in the category, and if so, what should I trade for now and who should I trade; (4) who are my potential keepers here? I paid at value for most everyone I think, but Maybin, Posey, and Nathan stand out as potential keepers.
Here are the league rules:
12-team mixed league, standard 5x5, 24-man starting roster. Hitters: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, Ux2. Pitchers: SP x 5, RP x 4, P x 1. Five bench spots, two DL spots. Five Keepers, salary increases by $5 to keep for next year. $265 salary. Must have between 135-175 Games Started. Weekly FAAB $100 for the year; I've got $65 left. Players picked up by FAAB have a salary of the winning FAAB bid."
C AJ Pierzynski ($12) (price is high because of FAAB bid)
1B James Loney ($8)
2B Placido Polanco ($10)
3B Michael Young ($9)
SS Ryan Theriot ($3)
CI Martin Prado ($5)
MI Orlando Cabrera ($1)
OF Nyjer Morgan ($6)
OF Juan Pierre ($14)
OF Bobby Abreu ($11)
OF Alex Rios ($12)
OF Cameron Maybin ($3)
U Chris Coghlan ($6)
U Julio Borbon ($6)
SP Roy Halladay ($31)
SP Josh Beckett ($27)
SP Javier Vazquez ($11)
SP Ricky Nolasco ($17)
SP Jonathan Sanchez ($12)
RP Jonathan Papelbon ($14)
RP Chad Qualls ($8)
RP Jose Valverde ($7)
RP Octavio Dotel ($7)
P Bobby Jenks ($9)
B Hiroki Kuroda ($2)
B Buster Posey ($2)
B Everth Cabrera ($15) (price is high since I spent FAAB on him)
B Seth Smith ($1)
B EMPTY (due to recent trade, potential replacements for next week's FAAB include: David DeJesus, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Sweeney, Jeremy Hermida, Orlando Hudson, Mark Teahen)
DL Miguel Montero ($10)
DL Joe Nathan $3 (picked him up in FAAB as a potential $8 keeper next year)
Welcome everyone to the first Roster Doctor of the season. We're starting off the year with an interesting case from Josh. Josh has deliberately punted RBIs and home runs in favor of the other batting stats and, most importantly, pitching. This is a pretty darn bold approach to his league—rarely do owners choose to punt two categories in a 5x5 league.
First off, this strategy is much easier to pull off (initially) in an auction league. In a draft league, it'd be harder (but very possible) to amass that pitching staff.
Still the strategy is a tightrope. I think the team has a good chance to sweep the stolen base and average categories. Runs will be slightly tighter, but a high score should be fairly certain. The team is a dead lock to finish last in the punted categories. The problem as far as batting scores is that at least one or two of the teams that do well (say, finish in the top three) in home runs is likely to finish very high in runs. Sluggers score runs too. If they're balanced in average and speed, then Josh's team is going to have to make up at least five or six points and quite possibly as much as 10 in pitching to win.
Fortunately this team is very strong in pitching. I'd think it will do very well in strikeouts and saves. Wins are famously tough to game. I'm also guessing that the team is hurting in the ERA category right now—Halladay obviously helps, but Beckett and Vasquez haven't pitched in yet. Obviously if they don't come around, Josh is in some hot water. It doesn't help that most or all of Josh's closers aren't going to lower his team's ERA and WHIP by a lot.
I would recommend the following (answering some of Josh's questions):
If you [Josh] judge your lead in stolen bases to be insurmountable, I would look to trade someone like Maybin, who might hurt you in batting average. But only do this if you find the right piece. One possible piece is a steady starting pitcher with less sex appeal who will help with the rate categories if necessary. I'm thinking someone in the Justin Duchscherer, Tim Hudson or Andy Pettitte mold, though given their relative productions I doubt you could pull off this trade for now. In any case, if Smith keeps some playing time, he might be worth starting over Maybin if the matchups are right.
I would take advantage of Prado's MI eligibility and try to find a corner infielder on the market—a Ty Wigginton perhaps—and use the bench spot to sit Orlando Cabrera. Or you could drop Cabrera and use the bench spot to pick up either Dejesus or Teahen. I would go with them since Dejesus might be a nice replacement for Maybin if he struggles and you don't have much depth at CI, so Teahen would help well there and fits in with your strategy.
I would also monitor your saves lead closely. If you're doing well there, you might want to consider trading one of your shakier closers, like Dotel or Qualls, to a team desperate for saves and willing to overlook any pain they may cause to rate stats.
Sadly, I think it is too early to start worrying about keepers. Nathan may indeed be a potential value for next year, but I wouldn't let that lead you to drop an important piece for this year if you need the DL spot. His keeper value depends on when you have to choose your keepers; you may not want to keep him if you have to make the choice in October, when there's still likely to be a question mark over his comeback. As for Maybin and Posey, whatever data you get from this year is likely to play a large role in determining their value for next year, so it is way too early to let keeper considerations guide you too much.