May 19, 2013
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Thursday, July 01, 2010
Stats fall into one of two categories: a rate state (e.g. ERA) or a counting stat (e.g. home runs). The conventional wisdom is that it is much harder to make up ground in rate stats than in counting stats. This is probably truer for pitching stats than hitting stats.
Counting stats are the product of rate stats and opportunities. Take the following arithmetic identity: Home runs equal home runs per plate appearance times the number of plate appearances.
HR = HR/PA * PA
So, there are two ways to up your home runs: have a player hit more home runs per plate appearance or have the player appear more often at the plate. For mixed leagues that aren’t extremely deep, most starting batters play full time, so there’s little margin to increase your players’ number of plate appearances. So catching up in offensive counting stats basically means finding players with better rates.
For pitching categories, life is a little different. You can stream two-start pitchers to increase your innings pitched, making advances in counting stats like strikeouts and wins (of course, likely at some cost to your rate stats). You can also shift to using more starters (or more relievers) to get more strikeouts (or saves).
Likewise, the category’s leader can make life tougher for you in some of the rate stats by switching to, for example, low-innings relief pitchers who will have less of an effect on ERA and WHIP. Again, this kind of strategy works better with pitchers than batters—relief pitchers can still help with saves, but there aren’t any (mainstream) counting stats that low-at-bat batters can help with. Moreover, there are generally more rate pitching stats than rate hitting stats. That said, this is an end-game strategy and not one that I’d recommend a category leader adopt more than a few weeks from the end of the season (if at all).
What does this mean for you now, midway through the season, if you’re trying to play catch-up in a rate or counting stat? At this point, I would think of rate stats and counting stats as the same and not be more despondent if I were lagging in one kind or the other. If you need to make up ground in a counting stat like strikeouts, look for pitchers with high K/9s and do not yet start streaming two-starters.
Moreover, with any kind of stat, look at the leaders. Have they gotten lucky? Ubaldo Jimenez’s owner is probably sitting pretty in your league, but even Jimenez’s ERA is likely to return somewhat to earth, and so will his owner’s.
Right now, rate stats and counting stats are the same still. Don’t give up on competing in a rate category just because it is a rate category. Just as important though, don’t forget that a counting category is still largely one of rates. If you want to hit .270 for the year and you’ve hit .260 for half a season, you’ll have to hit .280 for the second half. Ditto in counting stats: If you’re 10 home runs behind your targeted leader halfway through, you’ll have to hit at a rate that gives you 20 more home runs for the second half of the season in order to catch the leader (assuming his team stays at the same rate).
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 6:30am (0) Comments
Thomas Joseph, SF. Joseph was a boom-or-bust type of pick when he was drafted, and he is still a teenager, but I was expecting a much better debut from a young man I rated just outside my preseason Top 100. His slugging percentage is the biggest head-scratcher in his stat line.
Dishonorable Mention: Jesus Montero, NYY
Yonder Alonso, CIN. Many of the prominent college hitters selected in the first round of the 2008 draft have graduated to the major leagues, making Alonso's struggles stand out even more. He is a patient hitter and is sporting a solid contact rate for a wannabe power hitter. But there's just one problem with that approach: Where's the power?
Dishonorable Mention: Brandon Snyder, BAL
Dustin Ackley, SEA. I have never been a big believer in Ackley, but Seattle selected him No. 2 overall for a reason. Plate discipline only gets you so far. He was drafted for his power/speed combination, which hasn't translated to this point.
Dishonorable Mention: David Nick, ARI
Josh Vitters, CHC. I have been selling on Vitters for a couple of years now, with only his draft status and the tenacious insistence of Cubs supporters leaving me hope. Nothing has changed this year. He is still undisciplined at the plate with marginal power.
Dishonorable Mention: Matt Dominguez, FLA
Tim Beckham, TB. Beckham was a big overdraft in the 2008 draft due to his bare-bones skills and boom-or-bust outlook. Even still, we were all expecting signs of improvement in 2010. But his bat is still littered with holes, undisciplined and lacking power. To be fair, though, his glove is getting better.
Dishonorable Mention: Jiovanni Mier, HOU
Michael Taylor, OAK. Taylor was brought in to eventually give Oakland a sorely needed power boost. Yet his game has taken a step backward in Triple-A at the age of 24. That's not a good sign for a player who had many experts suddenly jump on his bandwagon last year.
Aaron Hicks, MIN. Hicks hasn't been as bad as his numbers appear on the surface. He is showing power development and great plate discipline for a 20-year-old. Yet, for as much hype as he gets, he is still playing in Low-A Beloit and barely treading water.
Fernando Martinez, NYM. Mets fans are always insistent on Martinez, but I wonder if his 2010 campaign is finally casting some doubt. His approach at the plate is grossly undeveloped, and, at this point, it is pertinent to question whether it will ever develop. The power potential is still there, of course, but where are the results?
Dishonorable Mention: Tyson Gillies, PHI, Jaff Decker, SD, and Robbie Grossman, PIT
Trevor Reckling, LAA. I have always been mildly enamored of Reckling due to his array of pitches, yet he is getting away with less and less as he climbs the ladder and may end up as nothing more than a junkballer at the major league level. Improvement starts with ball location. He's up in the zone and missing the corners right now. But, on the plus side, ball location is a problem that 21-year-olds have battled and conquered before.
Dishonorable Mention: Hector Rondon, CLE, Aaron Crow, KC, Tim Alderson, PIT, and Eric Arnett, MIL
Posted by Matt Hagen at 6:40am (5) Comments
Friday, July 02, 2010
Trevor Hoffman | Milwaukee | CL | 38 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 8.25 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 6.00 K/9, 1.45 K/BB, 20.3 GB percentage
True Talent:3.93 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.75 K/BB
I won't be the first to point out the possibility of Trevor Hoffman re-inheriting his closer gig, as Scott Pianowski discussed the possibility on June 30 in a piece over at Yahoo. However, whether I'm the first to address it or not, the point remains the same: With the Brewers sitting nine games out of the National League Central lead, and eight games out of the Wild Card, they won't necessarily have to use their best reliever to close games. Right now, Hoffman sits four saves shy of 600 for his career, and with the Brewers playing for essentially nothing at this point, if I were going to recreationally gamble I'd say the odds are in Hoffman's favor for getting every opportunity to reach 600 career saves.
The question then becomes, how desperate are you for saves? In spite of Hoffman's seven consecutive scoreless appearances recently (all in low-leverage situations, I'll add), his xFIP for the month of June still sits at 4.22, his K/9 is only 7.88 (though Hoffman hasn't been a huge strikeout reliever anyway) and his BB/9 is at 3.38. Outside of the possibility of racking up a few saves, there is little (and by little I mean nothing) that makes Hoffman a worthwhile own. All that said, those in need of saves in roto leagues are fighting for every point they can get, and it may be worth speculating on Hoffman getting a crack at the closer role again.
Recommendation: Should only be owned by save desperate owners in mixed leagues of 12 or more teams, and most NL-only leagues.
Joel Hanrahan | Pittsburgh | RP | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 13.22 K/9, 4.00 K/BB, 36.6 GB percentage
True Talent: 4.58 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 2.2 K/BB
Joel Hanrahan has been nothing short of extraordinary in the Pirates bullpen this season, especially from the start of May until now. While Hanrahan's ERA isn't tremendous, his xFIP of 2.91 better illustrates just how good he's been this season. Sporting a 13.22 K/9, thanks in large part to career bests in outside-the-strike-zone swings (30.5 percent O-swing) and swinging strike percentage (14.0 percent SwStr%), and currently handling the eighth inning for the NL Central cellar-dwelling Pirates, Hanrahan is the likely heir to the closer throne if Octavio Dotel gets dealt. Since the calendar has flipped to July, and the deadline is approaching, now is the time to scoop up Hanrahan and hope the Pirates flip Dotel to a contender in need of bullpen help.
Recommendation: Should be watched closely in all leagues, should be owned in 14-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Tom Gorzelanny | Chicago (NL) | SP | 7 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.14 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 9.29 K/9, 2.24 K/BB, 44.4 GB percentage
True Talent: 4.42 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 1.91 K/BB
Thanks to Carlos Zambrano melting down and drawing a suspension and demotion from the rotation, Tom Gorzelanny once again finds himself (rightfully) in the Cubs' starting rotation. Gorzellany's 3.76 xFIP seems like a reasonable ERA projection going forward (thus mid-3's to low 4's). With a career-best 31.2 percent O-swing and and a career-best-tying 10.5 percent Swstr%, it should come as no surprise that Gorzelanny is racking up strikeouts at better than a batter an inning, and with a spike in innings coming with the move from the bullpen to the rotation, those in need of strikeouts while not torching their ratios should give Gorzelanny a look. In addition to his strong strikeout rate, Gorzelanny is also inducing ground balls at a useful 44.4 percent rate, meaning he should be able to keep the home run damage to a minimum when the weather warms up at Wrigley Field.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and most 14-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Lastings Milledge | Pittsburgh | OF | 3 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .268/.323/.386
I don't mean to pick on the Pirates, but considering their spot in the standings, it seems likely that their outfield will feature Jose Tabata in left field, Andrew McCutchen in center and Lastings Milledge in right for much of the remainder of the season, with Ryan Church seeing less time going forward, thus they can see if Milledge is a long-term fit in their outfield plans. Milledge's season triple slash and nearly nonexistent home run (one) and stolen base (four) totals make him rather unappealing to those who haven't paid attention to his June. Milledge hit .329/.405/.500 in June, and given his pedigree (I'm a sucker for pedigree, in case that isn't apparent at this point) as well as a season (2008) in which he slugged 14 home runs and stole 24 bases under his belt, I believe the speed and pop will come.
Also masked in what looks like another mediocre year from Milledge is his growth in walk rate. For the season Milledge is walking 9.3 percent of the time, a new career best if the season were to end today. While looking at his O-swing, Swstr% and other swing data doesn't reveal what the cause of his walk increase is, the fact that he is walking more is promising for stolen base chances and run scoring opportunities.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Pat Burrell | San Francisco | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .230/.341/.406
Pat Burrell's move back to the National League appears to be just what the doctor ordered for his career. In the month of June, Burrell's triple slash was .338/.405/.615 and he ripped five home runs and posted a solid 11-to-15 walkout-to-strike ratio in 74 plate appearances. The biggest concern for me, up until today (July 1), was playing time for Burrell should he slump. Those concerns were somewhat alleviated with the news of Bengie Molina being dealt to the Texas Rangers.
With Molina being dealt from behind the plate, the Giants will now play Buster Posey at catcher the majority of the time, freeing up first base for Aubrey Huff to play more often. Even with one party dealt from the log jam, Burrell's leash isn't limitless as long as Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez are healthy, forcing Juan Uribe into a super utility role. If Burrell were to struggle greatly enough, the Giants could feature a lineup with Pablo Sandoval manning first base more often, Uribe playing third base and Huff sliding back into one of the corner outfield positions. Those looking into adding Burrell and those already owning him hope that won't be the case, but it is something to keep in mind.
The reason for owning Pat the Bat remains the same as it has in years past: home runs. Given Burrell's high strikeout rate, maintaining a batting average in the .260s is likely a ceiling, and the floor is about what he did in Tampa Bay. Regardless, his power has played well thus far in AT&T Park, and until he slows down, he remains ownable for those looking for some extra round-trippers.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues (at least while he's hot).
Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
True Talent: .261/.348/.394
Yes, for those wondering, that is egg on my face after declaring last week that a Dexter Fowler call-up from Triple-A Colorado Springs didn't appear imminent. Fowler's promotion to the parent club further muddies an already murky outfield picture, and with the exception of Carlos Gonzalez, could hurt the value of all other parties involved (yes, that includes Brad Hawpe, in my opinion).
Coming into this season, Fowler's calling card was his speed (27 stolen bases in 2009), and while he only stole one base in his time in Triple-A, I believe his contributions in stolen bases remain his greatest asset to fantasy owners this season, and should prove fruitful in whatever time he's able to receive. For a non-slugger, Fowler's strikeout rate of over 26 percent in 2009 and 2010 is higher than one would hope for, but it's at least partially offset by his solid walk rate of over 13 percent for 2009 and 2010 combined. Considering Fowler's ability to mash lefties since donning the Rockies cap, he'll almost certainly be getting the majority of playing time over Seth Smith when southpaws are on the hill. Unfortunately for Fowler, for the time being, he will almost certainly have to wait to show his stuff against righties, as Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez all hit orthodox pitchers quite well. Fowler is a reasonable watch in most leagues, but not the most valuable own unless in a deep league, or in a league with deep benches (this being the ideal situation since Fowler could be used exclusively when lefties are on the hill; it's not practical in shallow bench leagues, however).
Recommendation: Should be watched in 12-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders and owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:40am (9) Comments
I'm not sure why, but it seems as though every one of my articles features at least one Blue Jay. I don't even like the Blue Jays, so I'm not too sure where this Canadian bias is coming from. Maybe I subconsciously like them. Oh well. At this point, I'm sure you are as tired of hearing about how much I like Brandon Morrow as I am about tell you how much I like him. Over his past 49 IP, he has only allowed 16 ER and has a 46:16 K/BB, all while maintaining a respectable GB%. Even if Morrow's walks inflate back to their norm rate, he's a quality pitcher. I, myself, can only imagine the possibilities if he keeps the walks in check.
On a separate note, OBP league players should really check in upon the availability of Matt Joyce.
All stats current through at least June 30, 2010.
Jose Bautista watch (06/22-06/28): .304 AVG, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership is back up to 96.0% in ESPN leagues. A good week (after two terrible ones) for Bautista owners!
Erik Bedard | Seattle | SP | 11.5% ESPN Ownership
YTD: Has Not Pitched
True Talent: 3.60 ERA, 8.90 K/9, 2.65 K/BB
Two and half seasons after the trade that keeps on giving was struck between the Orioles and Mariners, Bedard has gone from a must-own pitching commodity to a late-round injury spec pick in fantasy baseball drafts. Whereas Brandon Webb, who has not pitched since April of 2009 and might not even pitch until August, if at all this season, was rated top 100 by ESPN and top 200 by Yahoo entering the season, Bedard, who is on pace to return July 6, was not ranked top 200 by either service. Even MDC ranked Bedard almost a full 100 picks lower.
The question is why?
Over the course of their respective careers, both Webb and Bedard have substantially similar FIPs—Bedard's is 3.55, whereas Webb's is 3.50. The xFIP gap is much more noticeable and and Webb's favor—3.32 to 3.88—but Webb also pitches in Arizona and boasts a career 13.2% HR/FB rate, whereas Bedard plays in spacious Safeco and has posted a HR/FB% just over 9% in the 30 starts he's made for the Mariners (also, 8.8% HR/FB% career). Further, for fantasy purposes, Bedard is a plus-quality strikeout source (career 8.77 K/9), whereas Webb's K/9 is merely above average and Scott Baker-esque (7.26, career). The quality of their WHIP is not substantially different either, though Webb's 1.24 mark is much better than Bedard's 1.32 (though Bedard's numbers over the past few years indicate that it's a strong bet that he will post a WHIP under 1.30 if he returns healthy).
All in all, you see two very quality, useful fantasy pitchers—each valuable in his own right. Webb offers more ground balls and fewer walks than Bedard, but Bedard strikes out more, plays in a more spacious park and has baseball's best outfield defense behind him. A quality outfield defense may trump a quality infield defense because fly balls and line drives have higher xISOs and xOBPs than ground balls.
So why is Webb owned in over 40% of fantasy leagues on ESPN.com, whereas Bedard is owned in a measly 11.5%? Bedard is on track to come back Tuesday, whereas Webb hasn't even faced a live batter yet and won't likely return until mid-August at the earliest. Apparently people have forgotten that Bedard accumulated a 2.82 ERA (3.55 FIP/3.72 xFIP), 5 Ws, 90 Ks and a 1.19 WHIP in 83.0 IP before injuries derailed his season. In fact, in 30 starts as a Mariner between 2008 and 2009, Bedard accrued 11 Ws and 162 Ks in 164 IP with a 3.24 ERA and 1.26 WHIP (<1 hit per inning) to boot.
CHONE pegs Bedard as a 3.48 ERA/3.64 FIP pitcher with more than a strikeout per nine upon return. Let's say he throws ~80-90 IP. That would equivocate to the approximate and alleged remaining innings limit the Nationals have placed upon young stud Stephen Strasburg. Of course, Strasburg is infinitely healthier and more valuable than Bedard, but if people are willing to pay the bank for only 80 more innings of Strasburg, it is so unreasonable to say a plus-quality starting pitcher like Bedard isn't worth something for the same set of innings?
All signs point to go for Bedard. His velocity while rehabbing in the minors is right where it should be (low-90s), as is his strikes-per-total-pitches rate (aka Zone%: 63% in the minors versus 54% for his MLB career). Further, he's had no major set backs and just pitched 80+ pitches in his most recent minor league outing. In short, Bedard is ready and you will regret not having him.
Recommendation: Must own, immediately, in all formats. Bedard, who only has a mutual option for 2011, is not being paid too much this season and will likely be on the move to a contender (Mets? Dodgers?) before the trade deadline, and upon such, his value will only improve.
Brett Wallace | Toronto | 3B (though he will gain 1B eligibility at some point upon reaching the majors) | 0.1
YTD: .301/.363/.507 (AAA-Las Vegas numbers)
True Talent: .252/.306/.401 (with upside)
After being traded for Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay (kind of), Wallace has moved across the diamond from 3B, where his defense was highly suspect, to 1B for Toronto. So far this season, Wallace has done what he does best for the Jays' Triple-A affiliate, mashing an .870 OPS to the tune of a .301/.363/.507 triple slash with 14 HR over 330 PA. That's much better than his trade counterpart Michael Taylor, who has only put up a .250/.319/.386 line with a complete power zap (.192 career ISO in the minors). With Lyle Overbay, a 1B in the twilight of his career, struggling to post a .700 OPS with his.234/.317/.383 triple slash line, it is very possible that Jays fans might see Wallace make his major league debut sometime by August (especially if they can sucker another team into taking Overbay).
However, fantasy owners and Jays fans should be cautious with their expectations for the 24-year-old 1B. Though Wallace is raking and has the minor league career line (.303/.377/.486) to back up his current production, Wallace plays in the hitter-friendly PCL. Per Minor League Splits, Taylor's league/park/luck neutralized MiLB line is "only" .297/.360/.497 with 13 HR over the same sample. However, it is Taylor's MLB translation that is more concerning. MLS thinks his current PCL line is only worth a .239/.289/.389 (.678 OPS) line in the majors, which is actually an offensive downgrade from Overbay's current pace of production.
CHONE is more optimistic than MLS, but still pessimistic overall, pegging Wallace's current prospective level of production at a .252/.306/.401 (.707 OPS) MLB line. Wallace, who has a career minor league ISO of .183, will likely mature into a consistent 20-25 HR hitter with decent average/OBP skills over time, but he's still quite young at 24 and has plenty of "seasoning" left to do.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only keeper leagues and probably mixed-league keeper leagues too. In non-keeper formats, he is likely not of value unless slotted in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole upon promotion.
Russell Branyan | Seattle | 1B, DH | 4.8% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .255/.335/.500 (my approx. ROS projection)
You wouldn't know it based on his ownership percentage, but Branyan is again on pace for a 30 HR per 600 PA season. With 11 HR in just under 200 PA (18.1 PA/HR), Branyan's advanced age (35) is not getting in the way of his power (17.3 PA/HR). Surprisingly enough, the reigning all-time Three True Outcomes champion is posting a career "low" strikeout rate (28.7%) while walking at his lowest clip since the end of last decade (8.5%). Nonetheless, Branyan's wOBA currently sits at a robust .361 (26% above average).
Though Branyan, who has a team-friendly option for 2011, was recently dealt to the Mariners, spacious Safeco Field should be of no concern for prospective Branyan owners because (1) Branyan is a lefty pull hitter (and Safe Co. really only kills the righties, per the Bill James Handbook), (2) Branyan is averaging ~394 feet per home run this season and he averaged about 415 feet last season, and (3) Branyan proved that Safeco is no match for him last season (.269 ISO, 31 HR in 505 PA for Mariners in 2009).
The only real concern for Branyan owners will be the AVG/OBP (depending on the type of league you play). For leagues that use AVG, Branyan may be a toxic asset, a la junk bonds from 2008. Even with tons of power, Branyan's career .236 AVG could do some real damage to a team's bottom line, as any 2008 Adam Dunn owner will attest. On the other hand, OBP league players should be less concerned. Thanks to a usually strong BB%, Branyan has always posted league-average or better OBPs despite anemic AVGs.
Hence, the linch-pin, should you own Branyan inquiry is as follows: what will his rest of season AVG look like?
The ZiPS Rest of Season projection for Branyan says he is likely to post a .230/.324/.461 line for the rest of the season (with 11 more HR in 203 PA). If that is the case, then Branyan is ownable in AL-only and OBP-format leagues, but likely a dangerous proposition for mixed league owners unless they are either power-starved or at the bottom of the barrel in AVG to begin with. However, while ZiPS does consider in-season performance, there is a heavy weight toward career numbers in the ROS calculation.
THT's xBABIP calculator pegs Branyan's current batted ball profile as capable of a .305 xBABIP. By contrast, Branyan's current BABIP is only .308. Hence, if Branyan maintains his current batted ball rates, K% and BB%, it is very plausible that he sustains a ~.260 AVG for the rest of the season. If that is the situation, then Branyan moves from a fringe mixed league option to palpable/borderline must-own 1B/CI.
Final note >> Over his last 171 games, Branyan has a .254 AVG with 42 HR, 104 RBI, 90 R and 2 SB.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only formats and deeper mixed leagues with CI requirements. Branyan should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues as well.
Bengie Molina | Texas | C | 37.7% ESPN Ownership
True Talent: .265/.305/.400
In many ways, the recent Bengie Molina-for-Chris Ray (plus Michael Main) swap makes no sense for the Rangers. Their current catching tandem for the Rangers (which primarily consists of Matt Treanor (.308 wOBA) with sprinkles of former top prospect Max Ramirez) has combined to hit .213/.310/.355 (.293 wOBA) this season. By contrast, Bengie Molina has struggled to muster up a .257/.312/.332 (.284 wOBA) line, which is worse than either Treanor (who at least, in contrast to Molina, has average defense) or Rangers catchers as a whole. Further, the Rangers were suckered into giving up a prospect to avoid taking on Molina's remaining salary.
In real life, this trade, which frees up the backstop for Buster Posey and 1B for Aubrey Huff, is an obvious win for the Giants. But we don't play in the real world. We play in a fantasy world from our mother's basement. Thus, let's look at how this trade will affect us fantasy nerds.
B-Mo, as he is called by no one, is a career .263/.313/.398 hitter at Texas. The fact that most of these ABs came from his "prime age years" on the Angels means Molina's prospects for success on the Rangers is more limited than salivating. Sure, it is true that Molina seemed to "develop his power stroke" only after he left the Angels, but that power, as evidenced by his .074 ISO, is noticeably absent this year. Further, even if the move to the Arlington were to enhance Molina's power value, he would also be facing stronger pitching competition overall in the junior circuit.
Hence, my conclusion is thus: Even if Molina has some rebound in power and steals, significant playing time from the Rangers' mediocre catching depth (which used to be touted as much less mediocre, if memory does serve), his slowing lumber (pessimistic power projections), complete allergy to walks (no Rs) and putrid 0.9 speed score (no SBs) are all signs which point to "no thank you." Additionally, the Rangers, unlike the Giants, have plenty of better offensive options to plug into the heart of their batting order and thus Molina is substantially unlikely to return his 80+ RBI "glory days."
In the words of my favorite storm trooper, "move along."
Recommendation: It is my regret to inform you that due to the lack of C depth in AL-only formats, Bengie Molina must be owned in such leagues. That's also true of dual-catcher leagues. However, mixed leagues without dual-catcher needs can avoid Molina like the plague.
Dallas Braden | Oakland | SP | 28.4% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 3.83 ERA, 5.55 K/9, 42.4% GB%, 3.63 K/BB
True Talent: 3.90 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.40 K/9, 38.5% GB%, 3.25 K/BB
Before his perfect game, Dallas Braden was a nobody, a bee in A-Rod's bonnet (more of the feud here). Thereafter, he was an overrated nobody. Almost 60% of Yahoo players who happened to own Braden on the day of his perfect game did not start him; his ownership numbers temporarily spiked following "el perfecto," but he's still owned in less than 29% of ESPN leagues.
Fantasy owners generally do not like Braden, and you can't really blame them. His strikeout rate is unsexy (5.5 K/9) and he's entirely too hittable, having surrendered 96 hits in 94 IP. Still, Braden is a useful fantasy commodity. Thanks to pinpoint control (1.53 BB/9, 62.9% F-Strike% compared with a 58.5% MLB avg) and an average groundball rate, Braden has quietly backed up his 3.83 ERA with a 3.88 FIP/4.06 xFIP. Further, despite his general hittability (el perfecto excepted), Braden has managed to post a useful 1.19 WHIP because he is more stingy about giving out free passes than a Kerasotes-owned movie theater when the damned projector breaks for 10 minutes midway through "X-Men 2" ... sorry, as you can tell I'm still bitter about that incident.
Back to the point, Ws (thanks to the anemic Oakland offense) and Ks excepted, Braden has proved to be a useful fantasy commodity this season. He's by no means the centerpiece of any fantasy team (and if he is, you have some serious pitching issues), but Braden is nonetheless worth a stream for favorable matchups or even a bench spot in deeper mixed leagues with higher pitching limits (1,500+).
The back of one's fantasy pitching rotation is about solidifying your overall ratios, not category padding. To that end, Braden has value. Despite what A-Rod thinks.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most AL-only formats, quite ownable and stream-worthy in mixed leagues.
Fausto Carmona | Cleveland | SP | 23.4% ESPN Ownership
YTD: 3.68 ERA, 4.73 K/9, 58.6% GB% 1.5 K/BB
True Talent: 4.80 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 60.0% GB%, 1.15 K/BB
Irrespective of what any baseball "expert" told you entering this season, Fausto Carmona's resurgence this season was nothing short of unexpected.
Entering this season, with 2007's "breakout" excepted, Carmona never really experienced much MLB success entering 2010. In 2008 his FIP was 4.89 and in 2009 it was an even worse 5.36. Despite strong groundball tendencies (career 60.8 GB%) Carmona's xFIP numbers are just as ugly as his ERA in 2008 and 2009 (5.13 and 4.98 xFIPs, respectively).
Carmona's big problem from 2008 to 2009 was a complete and utter lack of command. Whereas he walked only 2.55 batters per nine in 2007, Carmona's BB/9 doubled in the following seasons (while the K/9 remained uselessly below average). Carmona's 2007 command was not even supported by anything substantial other than a slightly above-average Contact%: his F-Strike% was below average in 2007 and his Zone% was merely average. Hence, Carmona's ballooned walk numbers in 2008 and 2009 were less decreased control and more expected regression.
Not this year, however. Carmona's back! He's got a 3.68 ERA and 7 W through the end of June. All praise ESPN?
Not so fast. Despite the "return to form" for Carmona this season, many of his numbers are far from confidence-inspiring, and he's actually still performing well below his 2007 levels. Though Carmona's throwing more strikes and first-pitch strikes than last season, each of those rates is below average and below Carmona's 2007 rates. This late into his career, it might be about time to push Carmona's 1.6 minor league BB/9 out of our minds. Further, Carmona is boasting a career-low 6.2% swinging strike rate and a 58.6% groundball percentage, which, while still robust and well above average (in fact, it is top 5 in the MLB amongst pitchers with 50+ IP this season), is below his 60.8% career rate and 2007 rate of 63.5%.
All of these factors add up to a 4.52 xFIP, which indicates that turbulent times are ahead for Carmona. As fellow THT Fantasy writer Derek Ambrosino pointed out earlier this week, useful, but unsexy, pitchers/hitters who have value and who would almost surely be snatched up by another team are often difficult to trade, even as a throw-in. Hence, it is hard to say "trade Carmona to someone who needs pitching" and realistically expect success on that front. Rather, it is important to, as Ambrosino points out, evaluate Carmona's opportunity cost based on his realistic ROS projections. ZiPS says a 4.83 ERA with 6 W is likely what's in store for Carmona's future, and Cleveland's lack of infield defense and Carmona's peripherals seem to substantiate that projection.
If you tell me that you can't find an ERA better than 4.83 on the waiver wire, then you are a dirty liar—even if you play in an AL-only league. Let Carmona implode on someone else's team. Trust me, someone will pick him up. Just don't pass up a more valuable and available guy like Russell Branyan for the sake of keeping a trade chip time bomb around.
Recommendation: He will be owned in both AL-only and probably mixed league formats for the time being, but he really shouldn't. Carmona is a fringe spot-starter at best.
I also wanted to cover Jake Fox this week, but I honestly would only repeat what I said about him a few weeks ago, and he's only hitting .143/.250/.143 (.200 wOBA) on the Orioles, which is somehow worse than what he did for the A's (thanks to a 43% K%) and hardly an upgrade over Garrett Atkins' .214/.276/.286 (.258 wOBA). I guess the Orioles just can't catch a break with buy-low acquisitions this year.
I'll leave you with a "question of the week." Who will accrue more Ks, in toto, this year: Stephen Strasburg, Michael Stanton or Mark Buehrle? Fill out the comment section below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 10:05am (10) Comments
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Sorry I haven't been around lately ... World Cup fever has taken ahold of me something fierce. I've been getting up at the crack of dawn and watching soccer until my eyes glaze over and that has left me precious little time to look at spreadsheets and crunch numbers for Twisting Oliver. Hopefully, you've missed me and I'll do a better job of making more regular appearances now that the World Cup schedule has been dialed back significantly.
Anyway, I figured with All-Star teams being announced this week—and baseball hitting the official halfway mark—that this would be a good time to do something straightforward like pick Oliver's second-half All-Star teams. I will choose both American and National league squads but won't allow myself to be constricted by the need to find players from all 30 teams.
Instead, I'll pick starters, one backup and one intriguing trade target for each position (three outfielders, five starting pitchers and two relievers).
I'll start with American League this week and do the National League next week.
Mike Napoli: We're still overestimating his playing time (no other catcher is projected to surpass his 327 plate appearances), but at least he's the full-time starter for now. So, you do have to take his numbers with a grain of salt. Still, Oliver is projecting 18 homers, 45 runs and 54 RBIs with a totally acceptable .272 batting average from here on out. Believe it or not, using the Tom Tango formula, that would put him a significant tick above Joe Mauer in overall value.
Joe Mauer: In something I'd deem a rather significant surprise, the Twins catcher comes in a somewhat distant second in projected value. (It's also worth noting that they are way ahead of No. 3 Victor Martinez.) Mauer's numbers certainly aren't bad (eight homers, 42 RBIs, 43 runs and a .322 batting average) and considering he's projected to garner the same number of plate appearances as Napoli, probably a tad more realistic.
Matt Wieters: I'm sure a lot of people have started to give up on the man who was supposed to be the Orioles' savior (he's now below 60 percent ownership in ESPN leagues), but Oliver still thinks his season is salvageable. Oliver projects him to be the fifth-most-valuable catcher with seven homers, 32 RBIs, 31 runs and a .282 batting average.
Miguel Cabrera: There really isn't any AL competition for second-half starter as the Tigers first baseman is far and away Oliver's favorite going forward. His 60 projected RBIs are the most in baseball. Those will go along nicely with his 19 projected homers, 48 projected runs and .314 batting average.
Mark Teixeira: Oliver definitely considers the crop of NL first basemen to be significantly better, but the Yankees first baseman won't exactly disappoint. His 17 projected homers, 55 RBIs, 47 runs and .284 batting average leave him as just the sixth-ranked player at his position overall, although quite a bit better than the No. 3 AL 1B, Justin Morneau.
Billy Butler: As you'd probably expect, most of the players Oliver likes at this position are the big names. The Royals 1B is the closest thing. His projected 44 RBIs and .297 batting average are his biggest strengths.
Robinson Cano: Even before Dustin Pedroia's injury was taken into account, the Yankees 2B was the better projected finisher. His 12 projected homers, 49 RBIs, 41 runs and .300 average would be acceptable no matter what position they were coming out of.
Ian Kinsler: There is always an inherent injury risk with the Rangers 2B, and we seem to have taken that into account with our projection (his 258 projected PAs are the lowest of any 2B in the top 20), but he still comes in as the No. 2 player at his position (once you also account for Pedroia's injury). Despite somewhat limited playing time, Oliver projects eight homers, 32 RBIs, 10 steals and 35 runs.
Aaron Hill: Easily one of the bigger disappointments of the year, Oliver still thinks he can put together a decent finish, highlighted by 11 homers and 42 RBIs. He's a little two-dimensional in that sense, but you could do a lot worse if you're looking to upgrade.
Alex Rodriguez/Evan Longoria: There might not be two players at the same position that Oliver projects so similarly. In almost all the standard 5x5 fantasy categories, they are nearly indistinguishable. A-Rod gets the slight edge with three more projected steals (six to three). They are both projected to hit 16 homers, drive in around 50 (49 for Rodriguez; 53 for Longoria), score about 45 runs (46 for A-Rod; 45 for Longoria) and hit about .280 (.279 and .281, respectively).
Michael Young: The Rangers 3B has quietly had a very good fantasy season and Oliver projects that to essentially continue. None of the numbers really jump out (seven homers, 38 RBIs, 38 runs and a .299 BA), but they are solid across the board.
Derek Jeter: I don't know about you, but I just keep waiting for the Yankees SS to hit the wall. Oliver certainly doesn't seem to think it will be now. He wouldn't even be the backup on the NL side, but those six homers, 35 RBIs, 39 runs and .294 BA are good enough to start in the AL.
Elvis Andrus: Oliver's outlook for the Rangers youngster has steadily improved to the point that he's almost pulled even with Jeter in overall projected value. That's mainly on the strength of those 18 SBs and 41 runs, but the .274 BA doesn't hurt.
Alexei Ramirez: Not exactly a breakout candidate or a bonafide sleeper, he's the kind of guy many owners just don't get excited about. Those eight projected homers and 37 RBIs are nothing to sneeze at, though, and could probably be had relatively cheap.
Ichiro Suzuki, Nelson Cruz and Ben Zobrist: Whatever I may have said about Ichiro in my first column, you can totally ignore that. I'll just say my calculations were bad and were properly derided. In any case, Suzuki's projected .322 BA is tied for the best in baseball and his 11 steals give him a nice boost in the value department. Cruz, who is now healthy, is expected to pick up where he left off with a closing kick of 16 HRs, 47 RBIs, seven SBs and 41 runs. Zobrist takes over for Shin Soo-Choo, who's projected well but won't come close to meeting his playing time projections if he misses six to eight weeks as believed. Zobrist has rebounded nicely from a slow start and should continue along at his current rate, with 11 projected HRs, 41 RBIs and seven SBs.
Nick Markakis: You can do a lot worse than this for a fourth outfielder and he's actually been pretty decent since a horrible first few weeks. Oliver doesn't foresee him magically regaining his power or anything (just eight more HRs) but it does seem him picking up the RBI pace (40 more) and continuing to hit for a decent average (.294).
Carlos Quentin: The White Sox outfielder's batting average (.229) has really dragged down his value, but his power is still there. If Oliver is right and he can essentially maintain his power numbers (projected 15 HRs, 45 RBIs) and get his average up just a bit (.253) he'll be considerably more valuable.
Colby Lewis, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez: If you've been following this column, you no doubt realize that Oliver is in love with Lewis. Nothing he has done up to now has dissuaded Oliver from that point of view as it projects a 7-3 record, 3.05 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 86 Ks. Greinke is projected to toss more innings (104 to 94) and strike out more batters (98), but is not quite as strong in WHIP (1.16) and ERA (3.34). Sabathia is in essentially the same boat (3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 91 Ks). Verlander's value is mainly derived from his strikeouts (110) as his WHIP (1.24) and ERA (3.60) are not as impressive. Fernandez comes in just a hair ahead of teammate Cliff Lee, mainly as a result of more strikeouts (96 to 76), but a higher ERA (3.34 for Felix; 3.07 for Lee) and higher WHIP (1.21 and 1.11, respectively).
Max Scherzer: This is the player I'd target for acquisition as his disastrous start has already shown signs of being forgotten. His projected ERA of 3.74 and 1.25 WHIP won't win categories, but are plenty good enough when you consider his projected K/9 rate of 9.15.
Jose Valverde and Rafael Soriano: Oliver doesn't seem too high on any of the AL relievers, but both of these guys are certainly solid. Valverde is projected to come back to earth, but that 3.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 8.68 K/9 are still the best projected numbers for AL relievers. Soriano's rate numbers are actually better (3.32 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.47 K/9), but is beaten out because of IP projections (32 to 37).
Posted by Jeremiah Oshan at 3:29am (2) Comments
With the All-Star break fast approaching, time is running out for dramatic changes to your team to make that second-half push in the standings. Especially in leagues with trade deadlines, your role as the general manager of your fantasy team is diminishing with the latter half of August and September being more a time for managerial decisions, such as deciding who to start and making small roster tweaks.
As Derek Carty recently demonstrated with his "Trade-A-Palooza" in the Card Runners league, trades are the easiest way to make significant alterations to your fantasy roster. Derek is lucky to be in a league with a high commitment level from the other owners, nearly all of whom are still open to and actively looking for ways to improve their teams.
Not all of us are so lucky.
I am sure more than a few people reading this article are in leagues with owners who have either abandoned the league completely or would rather watch re-runs of Everwood than entertain trade offers from you. Simply talking to these owners is viewed as a privilege and obviously that puts you at a significant disadvantage from the start in the negotiations. Unless the offer blows them away they probably aren't accepting and you can be certain a counter-offer will not be sent back.
The question is, should you even attempt to reach out to one of these owners?
It is certainly worth an initial try. Maybe they will be so annoyed by your attempts to trade that they will accept any reasonable offer simply to appease you. However, I would be wary of crossing the line from inquiring to pestering someone into a trade. You don't want to be that guy and if someone simply refuses to trade, I suppose that is their right.
The next question is, if the best deal you can achieve is one that is somewhat lopsided in the other person's favor but still helps your team because of a special need, should you accept?
The answer obviously depends on the specific players and how badly you are lacking in the specific category, but in general you should hold off until you feel you have exhausted all other possible options on any trade where you are accepting less in return simply because of the other owner's initial reluctance to trade. Even your teams do not match up as well, talking to more emotionally invested owners is a lot less frustrating and will probably lead to more fruitful results.
The best remedy for avoiding this type of situation altogether—and it is easier said than done—find a better league.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:40am (0) Comments
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
JW writes in:
In the past week, I’ve slid from a very competitive tie for third place, with about 96 points, to sixth place and 86 points. Help!
12-team -- mixed -- keeper league - 25-man rosters.
11 active position players (positions listed below; 162-game max) -- eight active pitchers (three SP, two RP, three P; 1,500 IP max)
6 bench spots -- 3 DL slots.
Roto scoring in 7x6 categories – traditional 5x5, plus OBP, SLG, and HLD.
Keeper and draft format:
We keep up to 8 players for up to 3 years after drafting. We have “straight” keeper rules, by which I mean that you keep up to 8 without players without regard to draft position – those are the first 8 players on your roster. For each player less than 8 you keep, you get a selection in a supplemental round in our serpentine draft.
For example, if you keep only 6, you get a first-round pick, then a supplemental pick, then a second round pick, then an extra pick in a second supplemental round, and so on.
C - Mike Napoli
1B - Adam Dunn (1 - meaning, I can protect him through 2011)
2B - Martin Prado
3B - Evan Longoria (1)
SS - Yunel Escobar
IF - Pablo Sandoval (2)
LF - Adam Lind (2)
CF - David DeJesus
RF - Jay Bruce (1)
UTIL - Hunter Pence (0)
BN - Kelly Johnson
BN - Julio Borbon
BN - Nyjer Morgan
DL - Kyle Blanks
SP - Ubaldo Jimenez
SP - Tommy Hanson (2)
SP - Adam Wainwright (2)
SP - Dan Haren
SP - Colby Lewis
RP - Huston Street - CL
RP - David Aardsma - CL
RP - John Axford - CL
RP - Aaron Heilman - CL
RP - Mike Adams - MR
RP - Matt Guerrier - MR
RP - Sam Demel - MR
DL - Rich Harden
CURRENT STATUS OF THE PATIENT:
No surprise, I’m ripping up most of the pitching categories:
W: 12 points (64)
K: 12 points (711)
WHIP: 10 points (1.23)
HLD: 10 points (35)
But . . .
Saves – three measly points – I have 25 on the season.
R: 6 points
HR: 6 points
RBI: 2 points
SB: 6 points
AVG: 4 points
OBP: 2 points
SLG: 5 points
Treatment to date
I’ve been working on trading my SP strength for an elite hitter with an “old” contract, especially on teams that look like they might be rebuilding.
My most recent example -- I offered Ubaldo (who has full keeper eligibility) and a choice of Nyjer Morgan/Julio Borbon for Ryan Braun (who is in his last year of his contract) and a choice of either Andrew Bailey/Ryan Franklin. That manager – who is currently well behind, in 10th place – AND who needs pitching help – counteroffered Curtis Granderson (who is in the last year of his contract) and another RBI-producing outfielder (I forget who). I turned that down because, in my view, 3.5 years of Ubaldo does not equal even 1/16 of 3.5 months of Granderson.
Note that only about half the managers trade much, and those that do ask for way too much – back before Napoli was playing every day, one guy offered me Buster Posey for Evan Longoria. Sheesh.
1) What can I do, especially to get a closer?
2) Which of my underachieving bats should I cut bait on? Lind?
3) Which overachievers (Prado? Johnson?) should I try to sell high on?
4) What is your opinion on this trade offer?
Either Justin Smoak or Gabby Sanchez (1B)
Billy Wagner (RP)
My gut reaction is that I’d be overpaying for a closer who is about to retire and seems to be on the cusp of an injury. That said, I like Smoak, but am afraid that given my need for power as it is, I’d be an idiot to sell Dunn.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too, especially if your leaguemates aren’t game for trading. You can’t play for this year without sacrificing something for next year. Right now, the causes of your offensive woes are mainly: Sandoval and Escobar’s collapse in power (ISO of .046), the sharp fall in BB%/K% from Dunn and Lind - Lind in particular is swinging at more pitches out of the zone and making contact less often, and the fact that many of your performing players play for weak teams which hurts their RBI and runs totals.
You look to be in a slightly better position for saves going forward. Street and Axford should be decent sources of saves for the rest of the season. Heilman is not likely to stick in the closer’s role and I doubt that Demel is going to be his handcuff.
I’m not sure where you are with respect to the innings limit, but you seem to have a nice balance of starters, middle relievers and, now, closers. You have three closers that you can start every week and a fourth in Heilman that you can start for now and make up lost ground in holds and the other counting pitching stats later when Heilman loses the job.
So, I would not trade Dunn and Adams away for Wagner plus one of those first basemen. You need Dunn’s guaranteed production in your lineup. If you can get something decent for Johnson, I would give it a try, but I think that ship has mostly sailed. You should think about using your bench to try to pick up players who might gain in value shortly. Borbon is still an example of that. So might be Tyler Colvin or Corey Patterson. I wouldn’t overvalue Granderson, giving your league’s scoring system.
In a rational world, I would think about using Lind or Sandoval as trade bait. You might find an owner with entirely reasonable (but still perhaps hopeful or optimistic) projections for them to return to last year’s form next year. You seem to feel they might do that too, which is great, but you need to trade on that hope if you want value for this year. If you can’t get something decent though (Sandoval for Paul Konerko?) then you’ll have to hope they improve this year.
I think you can definitely afford to trade Jimenez, though I imagine he’s lost some trade value in the last couple of weeks. See what he’ll bring in offensive players. Go for one stud rather than a bunch of filler - probably Braun is too much to hope for, but maybe an Alex Rios-type player.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 4:09am (5) Comments
There are two paths for a set-up type pitcher to inherit the role of closer, discounting injury, which is often difficult to predict and therefore generally not viable for speculation. A closer can either implode and lose his job on the basis of his performance, or, at this point in the season especially, he can be traded to a different team where he will be expected to perform a non-closer relief role.
What’s interesting is that these two reasons for losing a job are almost mutually exclusive prior to the trade deadline. Non-contending teams with non-spectacular closers who don’t project as necessary parts of the team’s future often put these players on the trading block to help contending teams looking to solidify their relief corps. Some of these pitchers are severely underperforming, but in order to retain maximum trade value, teams are reluctant to strip the mediocre closer of his job. This is actually rather curious, as it presumes that other teams won’t see past these players’ roles and realize the caliber of pitcher the player in question is. Nonetheless, my point here is that while David Aardsma or Kerry Wood may actually be in danger of performing at a level that could precipitate a loss of job, they are really not threatened to lose their job based on performance because their respective teams are committed to keeping their trade value as high as possible. So, while Wood may actually qualify under both poor performance and trade candidate, that doesn’t actually make him much more likely to lose closer status than, say, Matt Capps, for whom only trade-ability is an issue.
When choosing between potential heirs to a closer job an owner is faced with many questions to guide his course of action. Which current closer is most likely to lose his job? Do any of the potential heirs have value without a closer job? Does the potential heir have additional competition from his own team to inherit the role? Normally, decisions are made on some combination of the subjective answers an owner derives from these questions.
But how does that decision-making process change when an owner owns one of the imperiled closers? And, to what extent should that influence the decision making process? Let me give you a real life example.
In my shallow mixed league, I’m struggling for saves. I own Aaron Heilman and have a roster spot to play with. A few days ago, I picked up Sam Demel, but I really wanted to pick up Brandon League instead. On Sunday, Heilman entered a tied game in the eighth inning (and promptly surrendered a two-run dinger to Matt Kemp), which really tripped the alarm in terms of his job security. I need saves and I’m ready to dig through the bottom of the barrel for them, so the “who is the most likely player on the wire to get saves soon” criterion is pretty much trumping all the others when it comes to making these decisions. However, I was really tempted to add League anyway because I’m not sure if I’m in position to be hedging my bets, especially by owning two questionable commodities in the league’s worst bullpen. Plus, I worry that Chad Qualls may re-enter the mix.
In this decision, there are essentially two closer jobs at stake. By picking up Demel, I’m hoping to ensure that I will net ownership of the Arizona closer. At the same time, the ceiling of these two roster slots is one closer. Had I just held on to Heilman and picked up League (or dropped Heilman for Demel and picked up League), my ceiling would be two closers from two roster spots. However, the floor for those two roster spots would drop from (hopefully) one to zero.
To get back into the race, I need to find an “extra” closer, and to do so I need to be aggressive and embrace risk. In this case, the risk would be that Heilman generally keeps the Diamondbacks’ closing job throughout the year. That would allow me to spread my chips across the table and hopefully hit on a player like League too (Evan Meek, Chris Perez, and other likely heirs are already owned). I’d love to spread my chips, but Sunday convinced me the likelihood of Heilman’s implosion is much higher than Aardsma’s trade – high enough that I have to hedge my bet.
As a side note, I’m not willing to trade for saves at this point because so many jobs may soon be in flux that I’m scared to bet on half the market and because I’m holding out that I can address this need for free on the wire by capitalizing on a player personnel shake-up. Our trade deadline extends further than MLB’s, so if I have to pay for saves I’ll wait until that’s my only option, even if that raises the prices a bit. This is a calculated risk on my part. However, if you are willing to embrace risk, this may be a very good time to trade for an imperiled closer at a discount rate.
Back to the question at hand, if you own an imperiled closer should you buy insurance or double down? I think the answer to this depends on context.
If you’re strong in the saves department, I think it might be a good idea to give additional privilege to the question of which pitcher among you choices is the best overall player. It’s often difficult to speculate who and who will not be traded; every year many names are brought up and several of them invariably stay put.
If you’re weak in that category, then I’d advise you take the biggest risk you can justify. I really wanted to be able to justify passing on Demel, partly because he’s a virtually unknown quantity himself, but I think sound judgment prevailed over fanciful thinking.
Many tough decisions regarding closers will be made at this point in the season and while none of us can predict the future, what we can do is strive to make decisions that are most justifiable within the context of our needs. I urge you all to establish what level of risk is most appropriate for your situation before determining your course of action.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:29am (1) Comments
Friday, July 09, 2010
As we eclipse the halfway mark of the 2010 season, most everyday players have eclipsed the 200-PA threshold (many even the 250- and 300-PA thresholds) by which we can start drawing some statistically significant conclusions about various hitters' 2010 season. In forecasting players for the second half, we can make statements about K%, BB%, LD%, GB%, and FB% (and maybe even HR/FB%) without having to fret too much someone screaming "sample size! sample size! sample size!" in our ears.
All stats current through at least July 4
Jose Bautista watch (06/29-07/05): .261 AVG, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership is sitting at 79% in Yahoo. A mediocre week for Bautista owners.
Matt LaPorta | Cleveland | OF, 1B, DH | 15% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .275/.360/.510
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, C.C. Sabathia was traded to the Indians in exchange for power masher Matt LaPorta. In 417 AB/496 PA between rookie ball (28 PA), A-ball (102 PA) and Double-A (266 PA) for the Brew Crew prior to being traded, LaPorta smacked 32 home runs with only 93 K's and 53 walks. "Fizzling" thereafter, LaPorta "only" hit a combined 26 HR between Double-A (67 PA), Triple-A (393 PA) and the majors (198 PA) for the Indians split between 2008 and 2009, posting a .188 ISO and .327 wOBA (101 wRC+) in the majors.
Entering this season, LaPorta was a popular sleeper pick, though many were concerned about LaPorta's playing time when the Indians signed Russell Branyan to a criminally cheap contract late in the offseason. Playing time concerns exacerbated as Branyan returned from injury and LaPorta batted .217/.288/.250 in April and .212/.281/.308 in May with a combined 1 HR, 4 2B and 7 RBI over 123 PA. LaPorta kept the K% in check (24 K to 112 AB), and it was nice to see a resurgent BB% in April and May (9%) after a 6.1% posting in the majors in 2009, but the lack of power had many, including Mark Shapiro, concerned. LaPorta was shipped down to the minors for more marinating and Branyan continued to do that voodoo that he does so well.
Lost in the shuffle, largely overcast by the Carlos Santana machine, was LaPorta's pure mashing in Triple-A after being demoted. In a mere 67 AB, LaPorta destroyed minor league pitching to the tune of .373/.462/.657 with 5 HR and 11 BB. Per Minor League Splits, that type of hitting is worth a .333/.410/.551 MLB equivalent line. The Indians took notice, trading Branyan for a pair of (middling) prospects and recalling LaPorta to play 1B full time (rather than bouncing him around between LF/1B/DH).
Post-Branyan LaPorta has been nothing short of spectacular. In the 10 games since being recalled, LaPorta has hit .333/.412/.767 with 4 HR, 9 RBI and 5 R in 34 PA. MLS pegs LaPorta's minor league career numbers at a .248/.322/.439 MLB-equivalent level of production, but that seems to be more the floor than the ceiling for LaPorta and a verification of his power. Prior to his recall, some commentators with quick trigger fingers were ready to write LaPorta off as just a "could be" hitter with some pop—after all, the man has been around at least three years. However, LaPorta barely has 350 MLB PA to his name, and what we are seeing now might only be the tip of the iceberg of his potential.
In his ability to both slug and make average contact, LaPorta is a rare power hitter. Whereas most hitters with minor league ISOs upward of .250 tend to strikeout 30% of the time or more (Howard, Davis, et al.), LaPorta's K% is a mere 21.3% in his brief major league career and below 25% in the minors. This, combined with average-or-better walking abilities, gives LaPorta .280+ AVG/.370 OBP upside.
Given his OF/1B eligibility, LaPorta could make a major splash in the second half for fantasy owners in need of power/OBP and who have an open spot at UTIL/1B/OF. Further, the AVG upside makes LaPorta more than just an interesting play for those in need—it makes him a moderate-risk, high-upside guy for those looking to solidify their offensive stats. Sure, he won't run much (3.2 career speed score), but LaPorta may be the kind of hitter Kendry Morales was in the second half last season. He's just that good.
Plus, as an added bonus, his fantasy owners can change their team name to "LaPorta Potty."
Recommendation: Must own in all formats, especially AL-only.
UPDATE: LaPorta had a nasty collision with Elvis Andrus on July 5, which may sideline him for a while.
Kila Ka'aihue | Kansas City | 1B, DH | 0% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .250/.250/.250 (MLB) // .310/.477/.597 (AAA)
True Talent: .260/.390/.450
Mired in the Kansas City mess that is Dayton Moore's "process" are several plus-quality minor leaguers. This should not be surprising because, even if you are terrible at drafting, if you have a perennial top-five pick, it is exceedingly difficult to continuously mess up the draft. Moore seemingly attempted to do just that this year by drafting Christian Colon, a high-contact shortstop with an allergy to walks and a mediocre power (and career) upside, fourth overall. (From what I hear, think Alexi Ramirez with less power and more walks.). A few weeks ago, I took a look at "former" uberprospect Alex Gordon, age 26, who has kept on mashing to no avail since. There is also, of course, 2008's top pick, Eric Hosmer, age 21, whose strong walking skills (13% BB% this season), intriguing power upside (.198 ISO this season) and poor defense profile him as the stereotypical 1B/DH type.
Then there's this other guy, Kila Ka'aihue, a 26-year-old 1B/DH by trade, who has posted walk rates north of 12% in every minor league stop with a .207 career minor league ISO to boot. I am utterly convinced Dayton Moore hates him. Though the Royals, as a team, have a barely above average .338 OBP this year and are not dead last with their .403 SLG, they have been the bottom-feeders of major league baseball in OBP/SLG/wOBA since at least 2004. Still, they refused to give Kila "I walk a lot, even though I am not old" Ka'aihue his fair chance. Rather, the Royals tried to solve their wOBA woes by bringing in Mike "I don't know how to walk" Jacobs (for Leo Nunez, who has been a serviceable closer for the Marlins), who hit a handful of homers (19) but posted a sub-.300 OBP along the way for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, Kila, mired in a "down year," posted a "pathetic" .252/.392/.433 line with 17 HR in 555 PA for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate, getting a 25-PA cup of coffee to placate stats nerds everywhere.
Kila is currently back to his power-hitting ways, mashing 16 HR in half as many PA as last season while posting a .310/.477/.597 line for the Omaha Royals. Minor League Splits says such a performance is worth an MLB-equivalent line of .249/.384/.433 (.817 OPS) with 10 HR in 245 AB. Still, Kila Monster, the true pride of Hawaii, gets no love and is wasting away his prime years of youth proving that he has nothing to prove in the minors.
There's a clear logjam at 1B/DH in Kansas City, with grandpa/Red Giant Jose Guillen and youngster Billy Butler, who is just starting to come into his own as a hitter, sticking around right now and Eric Hosmer on his way. Moore has never really given Kila and chance, and it's quite likely that he'll need a change of scenery in order to stick in the majors. Kila could provide a quality trade chip for the Royals, as his MLB-equivalent .814 OPS would rank top 10 among DHs (meaning there's 20+ teams that could use his production, not to mention cost-controlled talent) and middle of the pack amongst MLB first basemen. Personally, I would love to see the Cubs acquire the second incarnation of the Greek god of walks. (And maybe Alex Gordon, too; in exchange, the Royals can have Josh Vitters and Tyler Colvin.)
In terms of immediate fantasy impact, Kila is more of a keeper league player at the moment. The 1B/DH logjam in KC makes Kila's short-term playing time possibilities near nil. However, Kila is a minor leaguer worth monitoring. He may be an injury away from the majors, though Alex Gordon will likely be first in line for promotion. Though it's unlikely that Kila will be on the move at the All-Star break—his lack of MLB experience makes him more offseason trade fodder (for impact talent loading, as Moore has the Cubs' sense of team building)—stranger things have happened.
Whenever and however it happens, Kila needs the chance to prove to casual fans what we stats nerd already know: Kila has a lot of talent.
Recommendation: Kila Whale should be owned in both AL-only and mixed-league keeper formats. Though immediate playing time concerns limit his short-term value, you should free up an AL-only and deeper mixed-league bench/starting spot for Kila when he gets his next cup of coffee.
Michael Brantley | Cleveland | OF | | 7% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .280/.345/.370
First, Grady Sizemore went down. Then went Asdrubal Cabrera. Shin-Soo Choo super-sprained his thumb a week ago, and now Matt LaPorta might see a DL stint after colliding with the elbow of Elvis Andrus. Though injuries have not stifled the middling Indians this season nearly as badly as they have the Red Sox or Phillies, the Indians are currently without four of their five best players, and three of those players either have missed or will miss significant time this season.
Though Indians fans can give up hope for the 2010 baseball season (not that there was particularly much to begin with, though I pegged them as the dark horse to win the AL Central), fantasy owners might do well to take a second look at Cleveland and its slew of young talent.
Above, I profiled Matt LaPorta, and previously I explained why you must own Carlos Santana. Now, it's time to take a brief look at Michael Brantley.
A former Brewer taken in the seventh round of the 2005 amateur draft, Brantley was shipped to Cleveland as the infamous PTBNL in exchange for C.C. Sabathia (who would later have to leave the Brewers and sign with New York because there was not enough food in Milwaukee to feed both C.C. and Prince Fielder). Though he utterly lacks power (his scouting report on The Baseball Cube rates his power as a Juan Pierre-like 12/100), Brantley has shown a keen ability to walk (10+% BB% in every minor league stop) and make plenty of contact. Brantley's speed plus heavy groundball hitting (career 55.2% GB%) have lead to a high average (.302) and even higher OBP (.388) in the minors.
When Sizemore went down last season, Brantley was given his first shot in the majors, producing a .313/.358/.348 line with 4 SB (50% CS, however) in 28 games. Though Brantley cracked the Opening Day roster this season, he struggled through his first 40 PA, posting a .156/.229/.188 triple slash line, which led to a Triple-A demotion to clean up a crowded outfield. An injury or two later, and that once-crowded outfield has turned into a job opening.
Brantley is currently hitting .332/.405/.427 with 11 SB (6 CS, 68.5% success rate) for the Columbus Clippers. Minor League Splits credits this production with a .294/.356/.370 MLB equivalent, though his career production is more mellow. As a guy who can get on base and run (160 SB in under 2,500 PA), Brantley is an intriguing outfield option for those in need of speed and AVG (and maybe R's, if he's slotted ahead of Carlos Santana).
Be cautious with Brantley in leagues that use net stolen bases, however. Though Brantley has plenty of wheels and will provide the Indians with quality outfield defense, his speed has not yet translated into smart baserunning in the majors. Though his minor league success rate is encouraging (160/199, 80.4%), Brantley's been caught in 5 of 9 attempts thus far into his major league career. That should change as Brantley develops into a league-average (or better) hitter over time, but consider yourself warned.
Recommendation: Brantley should be owned in AL-only leagues, moving to must-own status if slotted in the No. 1 or No. 2 hole ahead of Carlos Santana. In terms of mixed-league value, Brantley is a quality bench player in 12-plus-team, three-outfielder leagues, and a fringe fourth outfielder for five-outfielder leagues.
Brennan Boesch | Detroit | OF | 72% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .270/.310/.475
In my major league debut for THT, I had harsh things to say about Brennan Boesch's .380/.392/.676 triple slash line, .310 ISO and 2.9% BB%. Though his numbers have come down a bit since, Boesch is still hitting .341/.394/.594 on the year with an improved 8.0% BB% and impressive .253 ISO with 12 HR and 47 RBIs to boot through his first 251 MLB PA. This warrants a second look.
Boesch currently has the third-highest BABIP in the majors among hitters with 250+ PA, with a lofty .384 mark. Per THT's xBABIP calculator, Boesch's batted-ball profile pegs him as a .303 BABIP hitter. If we adjust Boesch's current MLB line to account for the .303 xBABIP, optimistically assuming all subtracted hits were only of the single variety, Boesch's current .341/.394/.594 (.988 OPS) triple slash line falls to .280/.339/.533 (.872 OPS) . Still a useful line.
SLG: Though he began his minor league career in 2006 without much power, Boesch found his power stroke last season in Double-A and has not lost it since. According to scouting reports, Boesch profiles as a quality power hitter. By all accounts, Boesch's 25+ HR pace may be legitimate; especially when you consider that he is averaging 413 feet per home run.
AVG: Though he hits for power, Boesch is not much of a strikeout guy. He's kept his K% in check around 20% for his minor league career, and that's just about what he's doing in the majors. Maybe a sub-25% K% will stick; if so, Boesch may provide some consistent head-to-head production value for owners and post an AVG in the .270s.
OBP: OBP leagues should be cautious, as Boesch's career-high BB% in the minors was 7.8% in 111 PA in High-A. I don't trust that 8.0% walk rate.
Assuming the power is legit, I'd peg Boesch as a .270/.310/.475 kind of hitter. That's Mike Jacobs/Marcus Thames territory. There's obviously some value to be had with Boesch, but it comes more in fantasy than in real life (which may limit his value long term). Then again, perhaps he'll prove me wrong (again) and maintain an improved plate approach. We'll see what his second-half stats look like.
Given Boesch's 72% ownership, the forgoing was more of a confirmation piece for current owners/apology to prospective owners than a specific recommendation.
Recommendation: A must-own hot bat in AL-only leagues who should be owned in deeper (12+ team/5 OF) mixed leagues. Just keep an eye on his month-to-month stats.
Daniel Hudson | Chicago (AL) | P | 2% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: 3.47 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 3.48 K/BB (AAA)
True Talent: 4.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.40 K/BB
Jake Peavy's detached muscle in his shoulder (which will likely end his 2010 season) clears a rotation spot for top Sox pitching prospect Daniel Hudson. Hudson, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft, has compiled a 2.90 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with a 43.5% GB% and a 364/87 K-to-BB ratio in 310.1 IP for his minor league career. Minor League Splits equivocates this production into a major league FIP of 3.94.
Hudson has been relatively successful in the upper minors. Over 117.1 Triple-A innings between this year and last, Hudson has accrued a 3.38 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a 132/40 K-to-BB ratio. A note of concern, however: For the season, Hudson's Triple-A GB% has dipped to 40.7%. This may be a sample size issue, but this is the third consecutive year that Hudson has burned fewer worms than the last (falling from 50+% in 2008), and the Cell is not one of the better places in the league to lose groundball tendencies. (Per THT's "top secret" HR/FB% data, U.S. Cellular Field ranks second overall, behind only Citizens Bank Park, in HR/FB exaggeration with a 21.3% inflation index).
Let's take the above 3.94 MLB-equivalent FIP as the baseline for Hudson's MLB projection. Assuming he takes over the role of fifth starter and goes an average of six innings per outing, he would have at most 15 opportunities to start a game for a max innings output of 90. Given that he has already thrown 93.1 innings in the minors this year and only 147.1 innings last year, let's pretend the White Sox care about long-term pitcher durability and innings totals and cap his season total innings at 177.1. That number would put Hudson approximately within the 30-inning range of the Verducci Effect and limit him to 84 IP in the majors this year. If Hudson does indeed throw 84 innings, he would allow, again assuming a 3.94 FIP, about 36.77 runs to score.
Right now, the White Sox are on pace to play ~1,444.1 innings of defense with team UZR total of -19.18 per 162 games. Assuming that Chicago's second-half defensive production remains constant, that would give the team a Runs Above Average Allowed per Inning (RAAA/INN) rate of approximately 0.0147. Per 84 innings of play, that would allow an additional ~1.11 runners to score compare with what the league-average defense would allow. If we add this to Hudson's defense-neutral runs allowed, supra, we get 37.88 runs allowed.
Finally, we look at park effects. Per Baseball Reference, U.S. Cellular Field has a park effects index of 8%, meaning total offensive output at the park is exaggerated by 8%. Since the Sox only play half their games at the Cell, we'll use a 4% index. This increases Hudson's theoretical runs allowed total from 38.01 to 39.40 (per 84 IP), yielding a 4.22 ERA.
Personally, I would peg Hudson's ERA over/under for 2010 slightly lower, between 4.00 and 4.20. He has demonstrated above-average control in the minors (2.5 MiLB career BB/9, 3.1 Triple-A) and a keen ability to miss bats (6.9 MiLB career H/9, 7.9 Triple-A plus 10.6 MiLB career K/9, 10.1 Triple-A). Hence, a sub-1.30 WHIP, provided the walks stay in check, would be entirely plausible in my estimation. K/9 might be a more fickle thing to predict. Minor League Splits pegs his career numbers as worth an upper 7's rate (7.69) and his Triple-A numbers in the low to mid-8's (8.67 for 2010). Given his consistent ability to whiff hitters in the minors, I would not be at all shocked if he posted a strikeout per inning. Still, I err on the side of conservatism and say he will post a K/9 somewhere between 8 and 9.
Juan Pierre, Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, Omar Vizquel and a struggling Gordon Beckham aside, the Sox still have three offensive juggernauts, who should provide plenty of run support, between Rios-Konerko-Quentin. Hence, my final over/under line on Hudson (which you can adjust based on your own IP beliefs) is 84 IP, 5 W, 4.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 79 K.
Recommendation: If you had Peavy, you need Hudson. With Erik Bedard back, Hudson might be the last reliable AL-only infusion of starting pitching talent until September call-ups. If you are in mixed leagues, the same rule applies, though you might still be able to get Edinson Volquez or Jordan Zimmerman (or maybe even Brandon Webb) down the line.
Joshua Bell | Baltimore | 3B | 0% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .250/.310/.420
With Garrett Atkins gone as gone could be from Baltimore, the team has decided to promote its most recent return on the Erik Bedard theft: Joshua Bell, who was acquired from the Dodgers, who are more than happy with Casey Blake (so happy that they gave up Carlos Santana for him), for George Sherrill. After fizzling around in High-A ball for the Dodgers between 2007 and 2008 (combined .244/.328/.412 line), Bell sizzled in 2009 in Double-A ball split between Baltimore and Los Angeles to the tune of a .298/.379/.529 triple slash line with 20 HR in 446 AB. Bell, who posted an .885 OPS with the Dodgers' Double-A team and an .899 OPS with that of Baltimore, accomplished this feat of talent with a .342 BABIP, 21.3% K% and 11.8% BB%.
Prior to promotion, Bell was hitting .265/.310/.453 in Triple-A, flashing good power (.188 ISO) for the hot corner but decreased patience (5.8% BB%) and more whiffs (26.2% K%). Minor League Splits equivocates this kind of production into a less-than-encouraging .241/.277/.405 line, which is better than his cumulative minor league MLB OPS equivalent of .611.
Bell may be Baltimore's third baseman of the future, but his Triple-A numbers through the first half indicate that he's not yet ready for major league play. Minor League Splits is even bearish on his MLB-equivalency production from Double-A last season, declaring it worth only a .235/.299/.384 triple slash line (sub-.700 OPS). Given the Orioles' young team and current floundering in the basement of the AL, it's quite possible that they will give Bell quite a long leash to learn to play at the pro level this season. However, until the young caterpillar shows signs of metamorphosing into a butterfly, he's nothing I can recommend.
If you are in need of 3B help and must have an Orioles player, I suggest you elect a look at Jake Fox, who is hitting .345 with 2 HR since the calendar flipped to July. Fox won't light the world on fire in OBP leagues (in fact, he'll likely post a below-average OBP thanks to his extreme allergy to walks (career 5.5% BB% in the majors, 6.9% in the minors)), but he's got legitimate pop (.235 minor league ISO, .185 MLB ISO) with some AVG upside.
Oh wait, wasn't this supposed to be a Joshua Bell post?
Recommendation: Unless slotted in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole consistently, Bell is unownable in either AL-only or mixed leagues. In keeper leagues, I'd consider him as a trade chip.
Marc Rzepczynski | Toronto | SP | 1% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: 6.35 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 11.12 K/9, 7.00 K/BB
True Talent: 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.75 K/9, 2.50 K/BB
Let the Toronto bias continue! Entering 2010, I had seven bold names on my list of sleepers to consider: Phil Hughes, Francisco Liriano, Colby Lewis, Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Kris Medlen and Marc Rzepczynski. Between my auction and draft money leagues, I acquired all but one of those players (Liriano) at some point this season. So far, six have paid off. With a recent promotion and Jesse Litsch's recent struggles, it is time for the seventh player on that list, Rzepczynski, to step forward and make me look like a genius.
As a guy with groundball plus strikeout talents, Jonathan Sanchez All-Star pitcher Marc Rzepczynski, who I had stashed in my DL slot until May in every league, is the kind of pitcher I am perpetually infatuated with (for evidence, see my continuous write-ups and appraisals (via my blog or THT AL Waiver Wire columns) of Brandon Morrow, Gio Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa, Justin Masterson and, sadly, Andrew Miller). To go with a ridiculous 61.1% minor league career groundball rate and 9.5 K/9, Rzepczynski has exhibited average control (3.5 BB/9) and palatable results (3.38 ERA and 3.25 park/luck-neutral minor league FIP). Of concern has been Rzepczynski's hittability in the minors (8.4 hits per nine against hitters who are generally inferior to MLB hitters) and WHIP (1.32), but the guy might be the heir to the Brandon Webb throne with upside to spare. I've even given him the nickname "The Repo Man", in honor of his double-play-inducing abilities. Hence, I'll forgive these minor flaws, though you'll have to forgive me for blindly ignoring that fact that Minor League Splits says his overall minor league career is only worth a 4.38 FIP (though this is inflated heavily by a poor 52-IP showing in Triple-A this year while rehabbing a broken finger).
Last year Rzepczynski got his first taste of major league play, and the results were as good as one could expect. In 61.1 IP (11 games started), The Repo Man accrued a 3.67 ERA/3.70 xFIP through a steady diet of ground balls (51.2%, top 20 among all starting pitchers who threw 50+ innings last season) and strikeouts (8.80 K/9). The WHIP (1.32) and walks (4.40) remained a noticeable concern, but the 25-year-old pitching machine seemed poised to break out (or at least have a quality season) in 2010.
Then, of course, the finger injury happened, and Rzepczynski pitched much less effectively in Triple-A than he ever had previously in his career (4.33 park/luck-neutral MiLB FIP, 7.51 K/9), though he still kept the ground balls rolling (50%) and the walk rate in check (3.22). When Marcum went down, the Jays recalled Rzepczynski from Triple-A, and he "rewarded" them this week with 5.2 innings of 4 ER, 7 K, 1 BB, 8 GB/16 BIP baseball. Needless to say, his (SAMPLE SIZE!) 2.40 xFIP after one game is more than half his current ERA of 6.35.
Bright skies lie ahead (overall, long term) for those who take low- to medium-risk, high-reward gambles. Rzepczynski's recent Triple-A struggles are of course concerning, but the talent is unquestionably there, and the only thing seemingly standing between Rzepczynski and glory is whether or not he keeps the walk rate in check. Given his minor league track record, I'll take that gamble (though, as my blogmate The Bright One likes to point out, I'll probably start hating Rzepczynski by next season or as soon as he starts proving to everyone else just how good I know he is).
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only formats. Should be owned in mixed leagues, especially those with innings limits in excess of 1,400.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 6:40am (17) Comments
Jordan Zimmermann | Washington | SP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: 4.53 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.0 K/BB
About this time last year Jordan Zimmermann was turning in a stellar rookie season posting a 9.07 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 43.5 percent groundball (GB) rate all good for a 3.39 xFIP, then his season was derailed by injury. Zimmermann's 2009 campaign was cut short when he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Because of the surgery, Zimmermann has been unable to throw a pitch at the major league level.
On July 3 Zimmermann was able to throw his first rehab start, tossing two scoreless innings and hurling a mid-nineties fastball. He has since followed that up with another rehab outing on July 8 in which he went three innings striking out five. In the five innings he's thrown for High-A Potomac, he's allowed zero runs on three hits while walking no hitters. It is likely that he will spend the remainder of July, and perhaps some of August building up his pitch count before an eventual call-up to the Nationals roster. That said, now is the time to grab him while he's available in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 12-team mixed leagues and all larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues
Jason Motte | St. Louis | RP | 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.16 K/9, 3.45 K/BB, 40.5 GB
True Talent: 4.11 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.62 K/BB
As most already know, Ryan Franklin had a near historic blowup (in terms of WPA, not context) on July 6, more can actually be read about that implosion in an article by Jack Moore over at Fangraphs. While that doesn't necessarily immediately clear the way for Jason Motte to take over as closer, as Franklin has 15 saves to just one blown save, but it does open up a wider opening should Franklin have another meltdown, or multiple meltdowns, in the near future.
Motte's control has improved tremendously since last year while simultaneously improving his strikeout rate, a recipe for success. His improved strikeout rate is a byproduct of more swings at pitches outside the strike zone (O-swing) this season, a greater swinging strike rate (swstr%), less contact on pitches outside the strike zone (O-contact) and batters making less contact on all of his pitches (contact %). Motte's xFIP is 3.48, so his ERA may regress a bit, but considering his minor league track record of success, his success in a cup of coffee in 2008, and his experience in 2009 allowing him to adjust to major league hitters, I believe Motte will exceed Oliver's true talent projection going forward. Whether or not Motte is able to wrestle the closer gig away from Franklin will likely hinge on his continued success, but also some Franklin failures, regardless, Motte's high strikeout totals and solid ratios make him useful in some non-hold leagues as it stands.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all leagues, should be owned in some 12-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Evan Meek | Pittsburgh | RP | 25 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 0.94 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.25 K/9, 3.38 K/BB, 52.0 GB
True Talent: 3.67 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.73 K/BB
Last week I featured Joel Hanrahan in this article, and declared that I believed he's be the favorite to step into the closer gig for the Pirates should Octavio Dotel be traded. I stand by my assertion that Hanrahan will take the closers gig in that event, but due to also reasonable possibility that Evan Meek could fill the closer role, I decided I'd cast some light on his season thus far.
Meek's surface numbers look sexier than Hanrahan's with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP, and his All-Star accolades also make him a more, "known," commodity to the common fan/fantasy player. While it may be obvious Meek's dental floss thin ERA and WHIP are luck aided, he has been quite good and not simply getting entirely lucky. Meek has been able to post a 3.25 xFIP for the season, in large part thanks to posting a solid strikeout rate, pounding the strike zone (2.44 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground. On the luck side of the ledger, Meek's HR/FB is just 5.3 percent and for a groundball pitcher his .235 BABIP is simply not sustainable over the long haul.
While I stand by Hanrahan as my handcuff of choice, there is an argument to be made for owning Meek as a handcuff as well, as is now illustrated above. The point of handcuffing Dotel may become moot if the Pirates don't deal him before the trade deadline, at the same time, if Dotel is unable to be dealt the possibility remains that the Pirates remove Dotel as the closer since enhancing his trade value by using him in the ninth will no longer be of significance. In case beating a dead horse hasn't made the point entirely clear, I do not believe Octavio Dotel will be closing games for the Pirates after the MLB trade deadline regardless of whether he's dealt or not.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all leagues, should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Madison Bumgarner | San Francisco | SP | 13 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.14 K/9, 3.00 K/BB, 47.0 GB
True Talent: 3.49 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 2.38 K/BB
Despite Madison Bumgarner's solid three starts since his call-up and his well known prospect status, he is only owned in 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues, something I found surprising given the infatuation of many with potential, "next big things." Bumgarner is far from a finished product, but there is a lot to like about what he's done in his three starts this season, namely the fact he's pounding the strike zone (2.05 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground. Unfortunately, not all is rosey in those three starts as he isn't striking out a ton of batters largely due to just a 6.2 percent swstr% and an 87.0 contact%.
The thing that excites me the most about Bumgarners starts has been his positive run values, and usage of all four of his pitches. He is using his fastball 60.6 percent of the time and mixing in his slider 23.6 percent of the time, his curveball 9.9 percent of the time and his change-up 5.9 percent of the time. Also promising for Bumgarner continuing his success at the major league level is that his average fastball is in the low-90's, which will help him much more than soft tossing in the mid to upper-80's last year, as was well covered, and fixed thanks to a mechanical adjustment early this year in Triple-A.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues and all larger mixed leagues, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Homer Bailey | Cincinnati | SP | 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.28 K/9, 1.95 K/BB, 39.2 GB
True Talent: 5.26 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.64 K/BB
Homer Bailey's 2010 season has not gone as well as those who speculated on him in drafts would have hoped. Thankfully for those still stashing him on their fantasy team DLs the season isn't lost yet, and there are reasons for optimism. Bailey's fastball velocity this season has taken a step back from 94.4 MPH in 2009 to 92.7 MPH this year as has the velocity on each of his other offerings. Hopefully the loss of velocity can be explained away by his shoulder strain, and will be regained with his current rehab and strength training.
In spite of the lost velocity, Bailey was able to see a spike in his O-swing from 22.6 percent in 2009 to 26.9 percent this year, an uptick in his swstr% from 7.9 percent in 2009 to 8.5 percent this year, and also started hitters off with more strikes than last year, 55.7 percent in 2009 to 60.0 percent this year. As you might have guessed with Bailey's improvements this season, his 5.51 ERA has been a bit unlucky in comparison to his 4.69 xFIP. Bailey's largest problem has been allowing too many fly balls and relying more heavily on his worst pitch, his splitter, according to Fangraphs' pitch usage and run value info. Bailey's pedigree will continue to get him looks from myself as well as others, and his strong finish to last year makes me believe he has it in him to succeed at the major league level, making him a good low-risk DL stashee in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Should be stashed on the DL in some 14-team or larger leagues, should be owned in some medium sized NL-only leagues and all deep NL-only leagues.
Gaby Sanchez | Florida | 1B | 35 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .270/.347/.419
Gaby Sanchez isn't your prototypical slugger first baseman, meaning his low ownership isn't a complete surprise. Billy Butler has illustrated in recent season's that doubles hitting first baseman who are able to post useful counting stats and a good average can be of solid value, especially in leagues using a corner infielder. Because Sanchez isn't a swing for the fences hitter, he's able to keep the strikeouts in check (16.9 K%), which helps the cause for him maintaining a useful batting average. Also helping Sanchez case for keeping his batting average north of .290 is his 19.7 percent LD rate.
Sanchez has been slotted second in the Marlins lineup for the majority of the year, where his solid walk rate and OBP, have helped allow him post a useful run total and even swipe three bags. As long as he is healthy, Sanchez has a chance to post a useful, if not first baseman conventional, 90-20-80 eight stolen base .290-.300 final line.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team mixed leagues or larger using a CI position, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Neil Walker | Pittsburgh | 2B/3B | 6 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .243/.289/.410
Since his last inclusion in the NL-Waiver Wire, Walker has added 2B eligibility, making him a nice utility player who can be slotted at 2B, 3B, MI and CI, which is quite helpful for deep leaguers. Walker's current 22.0 percent strikeout rate is high for a player who hasn't shown an ability to slug the ball (6.0 HR/FB) and isn't walking a great deal (5.8 percent BB rate). In spite of his shortcomings, Walker is lining the ball at a useful 18.2 percent clip and lofting the ball (50.5 FB rate), thus making the most of his low HR/FB rate. Walker's .291 average is unsustainable and aided largely by a .347 BABIP, but a .270 average isn't out of the question if he's either able to see his HR/FB rate go up (possible given age and decent raw power) or turn some of his fly balls into line drives and ground balls.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using MI and CI slots, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Felipe Lopez | St. Louis | 2B/3B/SS | 25 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .284/352/.389
Felipe Lopez has been quietly useful as the leadoff hitter for the Cardinals this season. As has been the case over the last few seasons, Lopez's home run (5) and stolen base (5) totals have been pedestrian, but useful. His total package is the type that fantasy owners are typically looking to upgrade from, but are helpful glue guy type numbers that are necessary to winning fantasy championships. Lopez should be counted on to continue to post his current runs scored and stolen base paces as long as he's able to continue to walk at a healthy 9.6 percent rate. Everything in Lopez underlying rates suggests that what you are seeing is what you can continue to expect to get, thus if his current stat package is of use in your league, he should continue to produce at this rate going forward.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI, and all 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Jason Giambi | Colorado | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .222/.338/.422
Currently filling in for an injured, and DL'd Todd Helton, Jason Giambi should be of use for those looking for a quick power fix. In spite of limited playing time, Giambi has shown his typical strong walk rate, 17.1 percent, and continues to loft the ball, 52.0 percent FB rate. Giambi's 7.7 HR/FB rate is low in relation to his career mark, and even as recent as his 2008 mark. While I don't expect his HR/FB to match his high career marks, seeing is around 12-14 percent with regular playing time seems reasonable. The Rockies have slotted him cleanup, further adding to his appeal as he'll have some golden opportunities to drive in runs hitting in the heart of the order.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a CI, should be owned in medium and larger NL-only leagues while Helton is out.
Dexter Fowler | Colorado | OF | 13 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .264/.353/.402
A repeat visitor to the column this week, Dexter Fowler has torn the cover off the ball since being recalled from the minors, and is still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues. In July Fowler is posting a 23.5 percent walk rate, a slash of .480/.606/1.000, and has drilled two doubles, four triples, and one home run. Most importantly for Fowler is that he's started every game since being recalled on June 29. Common sense would suggest that as long as Fowler continues to produce, he'll continue play against both right-handers and left-handers. By this time next week I'd expect Fowler's ownership to go up significantly, otherwise I may have to lazily include him in the column again, you've been warned (joking).
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.