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Monday, July 12, 2010
Those who have been hanging around these parts for a while might remember my article from this time last year about the "Home Run Derby Hangover Effect". That article has received a lot of attention recently from our friends Rob Neyer at ESPN, Tom Tango at The Book Blog, and Aaron Gleeman at NBC (thanks guys). Last year, I couldn't find any evidence that a "Home Run Derby hangover effect" existed. Today, I thought I'd take another stab at finding it.
The Home Run Derby hangover effect
As a quick introduction, allow me to quote myself from last year:
For years now, we've heard how players who participate in the Home Run Derby screw up their swing or tire more easily in the second half of the year. It's gotten to the point where players are declining invitations to the Home Run Derby in droves.
This year, we witnessed a huge uproar from New York fans and sportswriters when Robinson Cano announced he would be participating in the Derby. The problem, of course, is that we've yet to see a single piece of credible evidence to support such backlash.
A second look
For our second look at this effect, I decided to take all the Home Run Derby participants since 2001 and put them into one bucket. Then, I'd fill another bucket with similar players who could have participated in the Derby but, for whatever reason, did not.
I matched each player up with a "similar" player individually (and manually), although my criteria weren't anything super-rigorous. I tried to define "similar" as players who had a similar first half, were of a similar age, played the same position, and had the same type of skills, where possible. The only players I removed from the study were Barry Bonds (2001 and 2002) and Albert Pujols (2009), because comparable players didn't seem to exist. Of course this is all subjective and somewhat arbitrary, but I thought it would make for an interesting article.
+-------+----------+----------+------+----------+----------+------+ | | Derby Participants | Control Group | +-------+----------+----------+------+----------+----------+------+ | Year | 1H AB/HR | 2H AB/HR | Diff | 1H AB/HR | 2H AB/HR | Diff | +-------+----------+----------+------+----------+----------+------+ | 2009 | 14.0 | 15.6 | 1.6 | 13.9 | 15.8 | 1.9 | | 2008 | 16.7 | 23.4 | 6.7 | 16.8 | 17.1 | 0.3 | | 2007 | 17.1 | 17.2 | 0.1 | 17.1 | 15.3 | -1.8 | | 2006 | 13.9 | 15.2 | 1.3 | 13.9 | 16.7 | 2.9 | | 2005 | 17.0 | 17.7 | 0.8 | 17.0 | 16.4 | -0.6 | | 2004 | 14.7 | 16.0 | 1.3 | 14.8 | 14.7 | -0.1 | | 2003 | 13.5 | 16.7 | 3.2 | 13.5 | 15.1 | 1.6 | | 2002 | 13.6 | 16.3 | 2.7 | 13.3 | 16.2 | 2.8 | | 2001 | 12.5 | 11.9 | -0.6 | 12.6 | 17.7 | 5.1 | +-------+----------+----------+------+----------+----------+------+ | Total | 14.7 | 16.2 | 1.5 | 14.7 | 16.0 | 1.3 | +-------+----------+----------+------+----------+----------+------+
What we see is that the Home Run Derby participants and our control group have identical first-half home run rates and nearly identical second-half home run rates. They differed significantly in 2008 (Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, Chase Utley, and Grady Sizemore all had steep declines), but that's the only real outlier here. On the whole, we again find that the Home Run Derby has no effect on a player's second half. And with more than 20,000 at-bats in each bucket, our sample size is pretty large.
Of course, there are some caveats to this:
Generalizing to all players: This study looks at the participants on the whole. We are dealing with human beings, though, each having their own unique swings and physiologies. It's entirely possible some players are affected by the Derby, even if the overall effect is small (or non-existent).
Derby participants: There might be some additional selection bias in who participates in the Derby. If a player is legitimately affected by the Derby, he is less likely to participate in future years and thus will be included in the study only once.
Steroids: A study like this necessitates using many years, since we have only eight sample points per year, but in doing so we look at years when guys like Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro were playing. Can we really say that the effects in these years will be the same as those in 2009?
So where has this theory come from?
While the theory doesn't appear to be true, we're still likely to hear about it from the mainstream media over the next few hours and days. Why do some in the media seem to believe this? Here are a few possible reasons:
Selection bias!: Those selected to participated in the Derby likely overperformed in the first half, so second-half regression to the mean is viewed by the uninformed as a decline rather than what it actually is—mere normalization.
2008: As noted earlier, 2008 seemed to "prove" the theory in a big way, and it was just two years ago, so people are going to remember.
Raw totals: Because the true 50 percent mark often occurs a couple of weeks before the All-Star break, "first half" totals can look inflated if compared directly to "second half" totals.
The media: Many love to use anecdotal evidence. For every 2005 Bobby Abreu there are 10 2009 Nelson Cruzes, but those pushing the "Derby effect" mention only Abreu.
Outspoken players: Reporters are a lot more likely to listen to players than look at numbers, and when players start blaming the Derby for second-half struggles, it's an easy story to run with. Also, the players that do speak out have incentive to do so. If they have a poor half-year, that could hurt when it comes time to sign a new contract. Whether the Derby actually affected their swing or not, it makes sense to use it as an excuse for poor numbers.
Snowball effect: Once players start talking and complaining, it makes other players less likely to want to participate and draws more attention to the situation, creating a snowball effect.
So what does this mean for the participants in tonight's 2010 Home Run Derby?
Absolutely nothing. I wouldn't worry at all if you own one of these guys, and you might find it easier to acquire one if his owner is worried.
Posted by Derek Carty at 3:01am (5) Comments
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Chase Headley | Peak on: May 7 | Line at the time: .330 AVG, 2 HR, 8 SB—Despite his PETCO home, Headley was considered an undervalued hitter by more than a few people this offseason. That he started the season off lightning-quick only reaffirmed the genius of those who drafted him and made him a desired commodity to those who did not.
As it turns out though, the true geniuses were the ones who dumped Headley on another owner when his value was at its apex at the end of April, because since then he's been a nobody. Since then he has batted .239 with four home runs and three steals in around twice the at-bats, transforming his owners from expecting multi-hit games to being happy with a 1-for-4 effort.
Over the rest of the season he may hit for a slightly better average—think .270s—but not even Alfred Borden could make his power game appear and it seems the steals binge in April was a one-month wonder. You had your chance to flip this guy for value in April; now that window is likely closed and while there are worse options at the hot corner than Headley, he is the definition of mediocre at the moment.
Ty Wigginton | Peak on: May 16 | Line at the time: .320 AVG, 12 HR, 0 SB—It took Brian Roberts all of four games to seriously injure himself and in his absence emerged Wigginton, who did a great impersonation of Roberts in April circa 2005. To the disgust of people who did not jump on his bandwagon everywhere, Wigginton continued his hot hitting ways all the way till mid-May, the one time at which one might have been able to net actual valuable players for him in a trade. Not too close to when you added him, and the production was certainly there.
Since that fateful day in May, Ty has batted a laughable .206 with just two more home runs to his two-lettered name—quick, someone notify Dan Brown.
Kelly Johnson | Peak on: April 29 | Line at the time: .320 AVG, 9 HR, 0 SB—A change of scenery was all Kelly needed it seemed, when at the end of April after his first month as a D-back he nearly led the league in OPS. Well, perhaps he needs a constant change of scenery because once the desert scene got more than a month old, Johnson started playing to the level one would expect from someone with his name.
I hope that if you owned him, you gave Johnson a virtual change of scenery since following April he has batted .261—a number that would be significantly lower were it not for a scorching start to July—with four home runs and a welcomed eight steals. The rest of the way he should bat for a solid .270s average with just mild pop and a handful more of stolen bases.
Over the final two weeks before the All-Star break Johnson devolved into a singles machine, but at any moment I can see him breaking out with a string of home runs and doubles. Even though I placed him in this article highlighting players you should have traded earlier, Johnson could be a solid producer the rest of the season.
Vernon Wells | Peak on: April 30 | Line at the time: .337 AVG, 8 HR, 1 SB—If you were to plot the monthly graph of Wells' OPS onto a green background and place a black ballplayer silhouette in front, it would look a lot like the mirror image of the Fangraphs logo.
Wells started the season blasting home runs and doubles down the left field line and every month thereafter has done so less and less, culminating with his current July performance of zero home runs. Owning him is misery at the moment; trading him in April would have been pure bliss.
Austin Jackson | Peak on: May 9 | Line at the time: .371 AVG, 1 HR, 6 SB—The Rookie of the Year chants have all but subsided for this Jackson, whose anomalous BABIP propelled him into the position of the major league hit leader after his first month in the big leagues. Since then Jackson has cooled off, batting .249 yet curiously his BABIP hasn't dropped below the .400 mark. Infield hits and his line drive-and-grounder based batted ball profile suggest he would have a high BABIP, but his current .415 mark is beyond reasonable.
With further regression to his BABIP, the future does not look bright for Jackson or his owners, who missed a golden opportunity to trade him back in early May.
It is always difficult to trade away the hitters we own who begin the season on a tear because the ego inside us likes to think we "called" this breakout happening. Meanwhile, often it is simply the result of a lucky or unsustainable start to the season for those players and the most helpful course of action for your team is to trade the overperformers for players whose skill sets deem they should play better in the future.
Having said that, it is much harder to swallow trading away players you thought would regress but end up playing well throughout the whole season than to hang onto overperformers once they stop overperforming. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.
And as always, the players I missed—since admittedly this list is far from comprehensive—I'd like to hear about in the comments as well.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:03am (11) Comments
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I have a confession to make; with a few choice exceptions, I don’t understand humungous eight-, 10- or 12-player trades. I don’t want to paint these moves with a broad brush, but often times it seems like the owners involved in these trades are trading just to trade. A few weeks ago, in my admittedly lowest caliber league, the following trade went down:
Team A gave up:
to acquire, from Team B:
My first three reactions to seeing this were, in order: What the hell is going on here?; I think Team B got taken; and I’m really tempted to make a post on the message boards asking each owner to explain, in detail, why each thinks this was a good trade in the context of their own teams and the overarching strategy behind making the deal.
I mean, how do you even evaluate trades of this size with so many high-quality players involved? Is there really a point to putting Cliff Lee in an 11-player deal that nets you back Halladay? If Team A took Lee out of the deal and Team B took Halladay out, would the teams all of a sudden not be agreeable to the swap? I understand that there is a difference in value between the two, but it just seems kind of unnecessary.
When attempting to evaluate trades like this, I find myself trying to group either similar players or shared positions and either identifying relative advantages or canceling out whole portions of the trade like I’m crossing out long terms in an equation. So, here I’d start by saying that I’d rather have Lee and Weaver than Halladay and Rodriguez, for example. But, this is where it gets messy. How heavy is that advantage; how evenly matched does the rest of the trade have to be for me to be want to make the trade? It seems like the tendency in evaluating deals like this is to round off value – these three pieces are basically equal in value, basically being the key word.
I’m not going to spend a whole paragraph waxing philosophical about why people engage in these massive trades. To be sure, some are well thought out and sensible when subjected to scrutiny and others are whimsical and indicative of an owner's desires for novelty.
The piece of practical advice I’d like to give is that the more players involved in a deal, the harder it is for an owner to properly evaluate it. So, perhaps it’s worth it to try this tactic to attempt to fleece others.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:05am (11) Comments
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Pedro Alvarez, despite his early struggles, is ownable and should at least be on your radar screen for the very idea that he could blow up in the second half. If your third base situation is shaky right now grab Alvarez and plug him in if he gets hot or when the match-up seems right.
Alex Avila continues to essentially split time with Gerald Laird behind the plate. Avila has the look of a good professional hitter, but the time share and unimpressive stat line render him unownable in my book.
Brennan Boesch has been one of the biggest surprises of the year, but I don't expect him to keep up the pace. The power is relatively legit, but the batting average should tumble. If possible, sell high.
Reid Brignac continues to find playing time where he can, but is still nothing more than an emergency middle infield option in deep leagues for the second half.
Jason Castro is the future in Houston, but won't be a very useful fantasy option this year unless you're just looking for batting average, which he might be able to provide if you subscribe to the "play the hot hand" theory on catching.
Starlin Castro was promoted much too soon and is nothing more than an emergency shortstop in my book.
Francisco Cervelli doesn't have much fantasy value, despite taking over as the everyday catcher for the most dangerous lineup in baseball. He might be a useful plug-and-play guy if his batting average climbs, but the serious lack of power means he will always be a second-class citizen.
Ike Davis will be a useful back-up first baseman if your everyday man goes down, but I wouldn't count on him to help you win a championship. But he does have a chance to break out, as I've been proven wrong about him to this point, and does possess more upside than fellow rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
Ian Desmond will remain a low end fantasy starter at shortstop. He has exceeded my expectations, plays his part and should remain useful.
David Freese should continue to be a strong emergency third baseman when he returns from the disabled list. Nothing more.
Jason Heyward is the type of hitter who I expect to get better and better. Don't worry about the thumb injury. I rate Heyward as a solid No. 2 outfielder for the second half of the season.
Austin Jackson continues to be a useful third outfielder, and does have some power upside, but I fail to see him truly taking off during the second half.
John Jaso is finally getting some of the respect he deserves. I have been a fan of his for a few years now, with his age always being the deterrent. It seems like Tampa Bay has turned over the full-time catching duties to him, and he is in his prime. Jaso is a darkhorse candidate to be a good late-season option for your catching deprived team.
Matt LaPorta is a hitter I'm still following closely. I might be still man-crushing a bit, but I'm expecting improvement and for him to become at least a marginal first base or corner infield option for the second half.
Jonathan Lucroy is garnering an early following in Milwaukee. He is a try-hard, do-everything catcher that has pretty much taken over the everyday job. Don't ink him into your lineup yet, but he's one to watch. He's a guy to turn to if injury strikes your current everyday catcher.
Buster Posey looks like an obvious starting fantasy catcher from here on out. I expect the home run power to cool off a bit, but he will be an asset for your championship aspirations at a difficult position to fill.
Gaby Sanchez has put together a fine season thus far. He is and will always be a decent yet unspectacular first baseman. You can start him but should always be looking to upgrade.
Carlos Santana continues to do what he does best and is a legit No. 1 catcher for the rest of the season.
Mike Stanton is another young stud that was simply promoted too quickly. I expect him to improve and become a marginal outfield option, but it also wouldn't surprise me to see Florida send him back to the minors for the remainder of the season. Bottom line, I'm not buying.
Michael Saunders is finding the going difficult in the majors and I have tempered my expectations accordingly, but the guy has obvious upside. Some have dismissed him, but I say keep an eye on him. He is a breakout candidate for the second half and could boost your chances of a championship.
Justin Smoak is a first baseman who I have ranked higher in the second half than fellow rookies Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. Smoak has loads more upside than the other two. I will be the one jumping at any sign of a breakout.
Jose Tabata doesn't belong in the majors at this point and won't be owned on any of my teams. The guy has been hyped and has some upside, but you would be wise to stay away this year.
Dayan Viciedo is off to a fast surface-level start, but don't go crazy. He can't make my Top-100 cut for good reason. His overanxious nature at the plate will catch up with him quickly. He's worth keeping an eye on, because I have been wrong before, but don't lose sleep if your rival snatches him up.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 4:47am (10) Comments
Friday, July 16, 2010
Sean West | Florida | SP | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: In Triple-A
True Talent: 5.67 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 1.29 K/BB
West has an arm that intrigues me as we enter the second half of the fantasy season. Last year West compiled 103.1 innings for the Marlins, posting a 4.93 x, which would be of little use to fantasy owners going forward if I didn't think he could improve upon that. As you'd probably guessed, I am expecting West to improve on last year's 4.93 x. West has spent the entire 2010 season in Triple-A and has pitched quite well. The former top five prospect in the Marlins farm system in both 2008 and 2009, according to Baseball America, has posted a solid 46.4 GB rate, 7.62 K/9, 2.40 BB/9, all good for a 3.95 F (impressive considering he's pitching in the PCL, notorious for being hitter friendly) according to minorleaguesplits website.
With the Marlins looking like sellers at this point, the potential exists for West to replace Nate Robertson or Alex Sanabia in their rotation. Because of West's experience at the major league level last year, I'd expect him not to be overwhelmed this go-round, and think he is capable of posting numbers similar to his Triple-A rates. Owners in keeper and dynasty leagues in which West is a free agent should give serious consideration to adding him. Even those in deeper yearly leagues should see some value from West in the second half, even if it is just a matter of using him in favorable match-ups.
Recommendation: Should be watched in 14-team mixed leagues or added by owners exceeding their IP limit who are looking to play favorable match-ups going forward. Should be owned in medium to large NL-only leagues.
Vicente Padilla | Los Angeles | SP | 17 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.04 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.73 K/9, 5.40 K/BB, 37.0 GB
True Talent: 4.49 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.50 K/9, 2.21 K/BB
I have a hard time buying into Padilla, given his track record of being a bad to mediocre pitcher. Regardless, Padilla's posting fantastic numbers, and should be owned while he's playing well. The strikeout-to-walk rate that Padilla is posting right now is elite, and the only fly in the ointment is his 37.0 GB rate (career 46.2 GB rate). That said, he's an 83 percent unowned starter, and a lone flaw of allowing too many fly balls should not keep him from being nearly universally owned while he's playing well.
Looking at Padilla's spike in strikeouts, fly ball rate, and swings at pitches outside the strike zone (O-swing, 30.6 percent this year versus 20.9 percent for his career) I'd venture to guess Padilla may be working up in the zone and out of the strike zone. I'll warn that the first guess is speculation on my part, and if anyone has actual evidence for or against my hypothesis, please post it in the comments below.
Looking further at Padilla's numbers, I see little that has changed. Padilla still throws his fastball more than 70 percent of the time while using both a slider and curve ball (combined) roughly a quarter of the rest of the time and showing his cutter and splitter (combined) only about five percent of the time. Further surprising me when looking deeper at Padilla's numbers is that his swinging strike rate of 7.3 percent is actually lower than his career mark of 7.7. While I don't believe Padilla's sterling numbers will continue to glisten as they have thus far, I do believe he is worth owning in all but the shallowest of leagues until he shows signs of regressing back to his previous form.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Ross Detwiler | Washington | SP | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: In Double-A after surgery to repair a torn hip flexor
True Talent: 5.64 ERA, 1.62 WIHP, 5.6 K/9, 1.33 K/BB
Detwiler has the feel of a forgotten bright prospect in Washington thanks to some guy named Stephen Strasburg and a rehabbing Jordan Zimmermann. Detwiler opened the season on the 60-day DL after having hip surgery to repair a torn hip flexor. He was activated after the 60 days and optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. There, Detwiler has pitched quite well posting a 3.19 F and a 48.6 GB rate according to minorleaguesplits. His K/9 is a bit low at 7.17, but respectable, but is helped by his fantastic 2.11 BB/9.
It is easy for people to forget that just three years ago Detwiler was a first round pick (fourth overall) out of Missouri State University and was rated as highly as Washington's top prospect in 2008 and second best in 2009. The lefty has a good deal of upside, and while there is no guarantee he'll be promoted to the parent club this year, there is a good chance he will be, based on the Nationals current spot in the standings and Detwiler's status as a part of their future. Like West, Detwiler saw time pitching in the majors last year, and should have less growing pains thanks to that experience.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team mixed leagues or larger and watched in all deep leagues, should be owned in deep NL-only leagues.
Samuel Demel | Arizona | RP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.25 K/9, 5.50 K/BB, 52.9 GB
True Talent: 4.23 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.67 K/BB
The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen has been a mess, and if have followed baseball even remotely this season that is not news to you. Like many other prognosticators, I've been unable to accurately peg a closer in the Diamondbacks bullpen. I don't feel so bad because neither has their manager. For those who don't need saves, avoiding the Diamondbacks bullpen is probably the best route, but for those in need of some down the stretch run I'll take another stab at pegging a potential saves source and suggest adding Demel.
Demel appears to be the best person for the closer gig. He's been a groundball machine, has a K/9 of greater than eight and is limiting the walks. Unfortunately, Demel is being used in low-leverage mo- up innings while manager Kirk Gibson shuffles among Chad Qualls, Aaron Heilman and Juan Gutierrez, perhaps better known as the three stooges.
As one commenter pointed out when I anointed Heilman as a source of saves and saves only previously in an NL Waiver Wire column, Heilman is terrible. Qualls has been the victim of a great deal of bad luck, but the surface stats look ugly, and he is a free agent at season's end, so he's a good bet to be traded or used in a non-closer capacity while Gibson tries to determine if he has a future closer on his roster. Gutierrez is a young flame-thrower, but he allows a lot of flyballs and walks too many batters to feel comfortable with him as an end game stopper. Thus, Demel appears to be the best in-house candidate to take the closer gig long term eventually, (starting sometime this season, I hope). While nothing is imminent in terms of Demel taking the job, he should be of use in ratios and strikeouts while minimizing innings pitched for owners over their IP pace at this point.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team mixed leagues or larger by owners in need of saves, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Logan Morrison | Florida | 1B | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: Has spent entire season in minors.
True Talent: .283/.359/.447
The Florida Marlins are likely to be sellers as the trade deadline approaches, and that bodes well for Morrison seeing playing time in Florida this season. With Gaby Sanchez performing well at first base, the Marlins have had Morrison playing left field in Triple-A of late, and plan on having him play there four days a week. If the Marlins decide to trade off major league talent, Cody Ross and Dan Uggla immediately come to mind. If either is dealt, Chris Coghlan stands a good chance of being moved from left field to take over the dealt player's position, leaving left field open for Morrison.
Morrison has a great deal of raw power, but his swing lends more to hitting doubles than home runs. Working in Morrison's favor, though, is his strong eye (37:29 BB:K) and ability to hit for a high average (.308 in Triple-A). With such strong on-base skills, Morrison's transition from Triple-A to the majors should be much smoother than free swinging fellow prospect Mike Stanton's. Owners in deep leagues should be paying close attention to Morrison and snap him up when promoted if in need of batting average help and some cheap but modest counting stats.
Recommendation: Should be watched in all deep mixed leagues and stashed in some, should be owned in deep NL-only leagues.
Carlos Beltran | New York (NL) | OF | 69 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .292/.376/.484
Beltran is likely owned in all competitive or semi-competitive leagues, but his return to the Mets Thursday night warrants mentioning. The Mets plan to slot Beltran in the cleanup spot, but are unsure of how many days a week he'll be able to play, according to Rotowire. Also worth noting is that he's wearing a brace that doesn't allow full range of motion and could limit his base stealing. Given the importance of having a strong base in driving the baseball, and the questions surrounding both Beltran's playing time and base stealing ability, I'd suggest shopping him somewhat aggressively.
The market for players returning from serious injury is often rather dry, but an owner in a head to head league near the top of the standings, or one in the bottom of the standings hoping to throw a Hail Mary to get back into the playoff hunt, may be willing to pay a reasonable price for Beltran. I'm not sure what Beltran should fetch; that will vary greatly from league to league.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues using only three outfielders, should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Eric Young Jr. | Colorado | 2B/OF | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .242/.310/.328
Young is in the midst of a rehab assignment, but is a likely call-up to play some second base while Clint Barmes fills in for Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Young is an absolute burner on the basebaths and has strong on-base skills, which should allow him many stolen base opportunities. Once Young is promoted, if he's able to wrestle everyday at-bats away from Jonathan Herrera, he becomes a must-own in all but the shallowest of leagues as he'll immediately be among the best base stealers in the majors.
Recommendation: Should be stashed on the DL in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Alex Gonzalez | Atlanta | SS | 81 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .243/.283/.397
Much as with Beltran, the inclusion of Gonzalez in this week's piece is to note a significant development for an NL player. In Beltran's case, I discussed his return from injury, in Gonzalez's case he's switching leagues, as he was dealt to the Braves from the Blue Jays. For those in NL-only leagues, this is a significant trade, since a new name is now available to your player pool. While I say the trade is significant, I don't believe Gonzalez to be a strong contributor the remainder of the season and caution those in NL-only leagues to keep the FAAB bids to a minimum or those with a high waiver priority to rethink using it.
Simply put, Gonzalez' home run production in 2010 has been extremely lucky, as was discussed at length by Jack Moore over at fangraphs. Gonzalez will be moving from a home run-favorable ballpark in the Rogers Centre to a ballpark, Turner Field, that actually reduces home runs, a recipe for disaster for a player whose value this season has been tied to his home run total. When, not if, Gonzalez' career best HF/FB rate regresses to a more normal total, he will be of little use to owners in all but the deepest of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned only in 14-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Nate McLouth | Atlanta | OF | 31 percent Yahoo! ownership
True Talent: .247/.337/.429
A fantasy darling as recently as parts of last year, and all of 2008, McLouth is now largely unowned due to his putrid start and the fact he's currently on a rehab assignment. While the timetable for his return is uncertain, it appears that he should be back shortly. McLouth's 2010 season has been forgettable so far: His ISO sits at a career worst .106, he has only three home runs in 205 plate appearances and he is posting a career worst strikeout rate of 27.1 percent. Why in the world am I suggesting owning this guy then?
Well, for starters, his career-worst strikeout rate looks somewhat flukey. McLouth's O-swing hovers around 21 percent, as it has the last few seasons, his contact rate is better this year than last, and he even has a lower SwStr% this year than last. The only conclusion I can gain from that is that McLouth has been the victim of more called third strikes.
Another reason for optimism is that McLouth's BABIP is a career worst .221 and his HR/FB rate is less than half of what it has been the past two years in spite of the fact he's in his prime power years. It remains to be seen how much value McLouth will have the remainder of the season, but all hope is not lost, and I'd be willing to take a flyer in leagues where I had some roster flexibility. He has much more upside than your typical outfielder available in over 65 percent of leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:47am (5) Comments
I hope everyone enjoyed the All-Star break. I'd like to give a quick thank you to everyone who sent me fan mail this past week. My ego always appreciates it and I hope that my advice was helpful. For the benefit of all, I created a top 50 rest of season fantasy starters list (with the help of blogmate SexyRexy) during the All-Star game.
Though I am happy that the NL finally spanked those DH-using wussies, I doubt that winning the All-Star game gives the winning team any sort of advantage in the World Series. If anything, assuming that "home field advantage" in any way matters, the opposite may be the case. Think about it. The World Series is broken up 2-3-2. A series can last 4, 5, 6 or 7 games. If the series is four games long, the advantage is a push at 2-2. If the series goes to five games, the advantage goes to the loser of the All-Star game. If the series is six games long, it's again a push at 3-3.
It is only if the series extends to Game Seven that the advantage is in favor of the All-Star game winner. However, to the best of my knowledge, it is rare for World Series match-ups to extend to Game Seven. Over the past decade, the only match-up that did was the 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees World Series. Hence, Bud Selig's "making it count" may have an adverse effect on the winning team. Perhaps instead the World Series should be broken up 2-2-1-1-1. But then you gotta worry about jet lag, I suppose. Besides, why does "it count" if the best players; e.g., Alex Rios and Andrew McCutchen ("McClutchen" as I call him) are all too often left off the roster? Rant complete. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Also, in memory of George Steinnbrenner, I present you with this classic Seinfeld moment He's firing Billy Martin from heaven now. R.I.P.
All stats current through at least July 14.
Jose Bautista watch (07/06-07/11): .250 AVG, 2 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership is up 2 percent, to 81 percent, in Yahoo leagues following a solid week for Bautista owners.
Cliff Lee | Texas | SP | 98 percent Yahoo Ownership
YTD:2.64 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7.27 K/9, 15.17 K/BB
True Talent: 3.30 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.30 K/9, 5.20 K/BB
After four teams in 12 months, Cliff Lee has likely found a "permanent" resting spot for the remainder of his contract: Texas. After an almost deal to the Yankees for Jesus Montero (plus others), Lee was dealt last minute to the rangers for Justin Smoak (plus others). Last week, I projected Lee's rest-of-season ERA in four parts (click here to read parts 1 and 2 and click here to read parts 3 and 4). I followed that up by projecting his prospective rest-of-season WHIP. I won't duplicate the argument here, but a summary of my projection ranges are as follows: an ERA between 3.13 and 3.70 and a WHIP between 1.00 and 1.06. Since 2008, Lee has been a bona fide ace and he's worth every penny a contending team in need of pitching paid.
Obviously, at almost 100 percent ownership, Lee is not available on waivers. The purpose of my argument and Lee's inclusion here is that it is worth acquiring his services from an owner who may be concerned about his move away from Safeco and the Mariners' defense to the Ballpark at Arlington. True story, however: The Rangers' defense is even better. Thus, if Lee is available, even if you don't buy him at a discount (let's say market value), it is worth pursuing a fantasy ace who would otherwise be unavailable.
As an interesting side note, I pondered the question of what Lee's second half would look like in pinstripes and his second half numbers if he had pitched for the Yankees.
Recommendation: Provided you are not in an NL-only league, it is worth paying at least the value that the Rangers did to acquire Lee's services for your fantasy team, provided you are solid in strikeouts.
Chris Carter | Oakland | 1B/DH | 0% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .234/.343/.486 (Triple-A)
True Talent: .230/.330/.470
A few months before the "trade that keeps on giving" (Erik Bedard) happened, Dan Haren was dealt in classic Billy Beane fashion for a gaggle of prospects. Some (Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, Aaron Cunningham) were traded, others were cut (Dana Eveland). Pitcher Brett Anderson has shown flashes of brilliance when healthy. This deal led to Matt Holliday who led to Brett Wallace, who has struggled in the minors this season, who led to Michael Taylor (who has struggled even more). Even if Taylor does not pan out for Oakland, Brett Anderson alone, who still has 4-plus seasons of cost-controlled time for the A's, made the deal worthwhile for Beane.
Yet there was still another player in that Haren deal, a player who will likely make the trade a big win for Beane when all is said and done: Hot Dogger Chris Carter, (no, not Chris_Carter the creator of the X-Files).
Carter, a 24 year old 1B/DH type with a thunderous bat (.253 MiLB ISO), a lot of patience (12.9 percent MILB BB rate) and the contact skills of Adam Dunn (31.2% MilB K%), has been absolutely tearing up Triple-A. Despite a .236 batting average, Carter is getting on bases 34.4 percent of the time with a .255 ISO. With 22 homers and 19 doubles over 87 games (387 PA), there is no doubt that Carter can hit for power. Of course, the high strikeout rate (31.2 percent) and lack of wheels to leg out grounders is a concern, but if Dunn can succeed, why not Carter?
With Jack Cust no longer hitting home runs, the A's have a team ISO of .120, tied for the third lowest in the majors this season. When Coco Crisp is your current team leader in ISO, needless to say you might need an infusion of power. Carter may be that infusion, especially with the A's out of contention for 2010 and gearing up for 2011.
Minor League Splits (don't ask me why he is listed as Vernon Carter) pegs Carter's current performance as worth a mere .200 AVG/.685 OPS with a .203 ISO and .242 BABIP. With a lack of speed and half your balls in play being of the flyball variety, clearly BABIP won't be one of Carter's specialties. However, I think MLS underrates Carter's ability to drive the ball with authority (20.2 percent LD rate. I'd peg Carter as being able to post a batting average somewhere between Dunn at the worst (.230s) and Carlos Quentin's true talent line (mid-.270s).
I won't even try to defend him as an average hitter, but if Mike Stanton gets plenty of fantasy love, there is no reason that owners can't be equally giddy about Carter, who will likely end up in the middle of the lineup (RBI opportunities), getting on base plenty (run opportunities and hitting plenty of home runs. Owners in need of power and RBIs who can forgo batting average (or have had batting average forgone for them) should keep a keen eye on Carter. Daric Barton is currently standing between him and the majors, but Barton's health is by no means guaranteed.
Recommendation: Should be monitored in AL-only, must be owned in keeper leagues, and passable in mixed-league formats.
J.P. Arencibia | Toronto | C | 0% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .320/.370/663 (Triple-A)
True Talent: .265/.310/.500
Before Matt Wieters, before Buster Posey, before Carlos Santana. there was J.P. Arencibia. (OK, maybe that is an overstatement because Santana came first and Wieters was also drafted in 2007.) A first- round pick by the Blue Jays in 2007, Arencibia tore up the minors in 2008 (.298/.322/.527 in 537 PA split between High-A and Double-A ball) only to flounder in Triple-A in 2009 to the tune of .236/.284/.444. With the impending departure of incumbent catcher Rod Barajas, Arencibia did not make much of an argument for himself during his second full minor league campaign and the Blue Jays had to acquire "stopgap" John Buck with the hopes than Arencibia would turn things around in 2010. Arencibia responded by doing just that.
Over 328 PA in Triple-A this season, Arencibia is hitting .320/.370/.663 (1.033 OPS) with a league leading 25 homers. Though walking has never been Arencibia's strong suit (5.1 percent MiLB BB rate), he is drawing a career high rate of free passes this season (7.6 percent). Of course, the Blue Jays hope he maintains and develops further patience, but given his prodigious power from behind the plate (.230 MiLB ISO), I'm sure the organization can forgive a below average walk rate a la Chris Davis.
Per Minor League Splits, Arencibia's current Triple-A line translates into a .255/.297/.497 (.794 OPS) MLB triple slash line with a rate of 35+ HR per 650 PA. That's about the same output the Jays are currently getting from Buck Buck (.808 OPS, .230 ISO). However, with Buck signed for only 2010 and the young, cost-controlled Arencibia waiting in the wings to take over in 2011, the Jays may be tempted to give the young catcher some significant playing time to refine his game in the majors, perhaps at first with incumbent Lyle Overbay continuing to struggle.
Catcher is always a weak fantasy position and I often suggest simply ignoring it (preseason, I said that if you are in a mixed team league, where the average 10th overall drafted catcher was Ryan Doumit, you might as well wait because catchers get such comparative minimal PA time that AVG isn't a significant factor and because all catchers hit ~10 HR with 50 R/RBI). However, with such a quality infusion of catcher talent (especially in the AL) this season, you'd be remiss to ignore free waiver wire talent. Arencibia might not hit for the type of AVG that young Posey (NL) or Santana (AL) might, but he'll provided at least as much as power.
Recommendation: Must own in keeper formats and a close eye should be kept on him in all AL-only/mixed-league formats. Arencibia becomes a must-own commodity upon promotion.
Yunel Escobar | Toronto | SS | 45% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .295/.370/.410
Despite being worth +10 WAR for the Braves between 2007 and 2009, Atlanta has shipped Escobar (and Jo-Jo Reyes) to Toronto for overpeforming SS Alex Gonzalez (sub-.300 OBP this year, career .299 wOBA vs a career high .341 mark this season (based on career best .497 SLG)) and a few middling prospects. This move probably has less to do with a half-season of BABIP/ISO struggles as it does with
So far this season, Escobar has disappointed his fantasy (and real life) owners by posting a .238/.334/.284 (.291 wOBA, 79 wRC+, .046 ISO) following a solid .299/.377/.436 (.357 wOBA, 120 wRC+, .136 ISO) campaign in 2009 that saw Escobar continue to develop this double digit HR power while maintaining above average defensive skills. Though Escobar's power is at a career low and way down from last year (.136 ISO) or even 2008 (.113 ISO), there are really no reasons to be concerned about him. At least not yet.
Below the surface, Escobar's plate discipline peripherals have been solid in 2010 and are actually improved in comparison to last year (career best 12.3 pdercent BB rate and a solid 11.9 percent K rate due to more contact and less swings at pitches outside of the zone). Clearly BABIP (.270, .319 xBABIP, .316 BABIP career) has had a substantial effect on his triple slash line.
Escobar has only accumulated only 301 PA in 2010. Per sample size research for hitters, the only stats from which we can start to draw statistically significant conclusions from after 300 PA are Swing% (improved), contact rate (improved), strikeout rate (impoved), line drive rate (lower, but still solid at 18.4%), walk rate (improved), P/PA, home run rate and HR/FB% (down, as Escobar has 0 HR this season). It takes 500+ PA to draw conclusions about a player's OBP/SLG/OPS and 550+ PA to draw conclusions about ISO.
Hence, we can really only say the following: Yunel is getting better in his approach at the plate, which is a positive sign for him improving as a hitter and rebounding substantially in the second half. Escobar's "power outage" has no substantial statistical significance yet and fantasy owners should not yet be overly concerned for Escobar's rest of the season production or for his future value in keeper leagues. Escobar's power-based value has clearly taken some hit, but if you drafted Escobar for his "power upside" you kind of deserve Escobar's 0 HR slap in the face. For the rest of the season, if Escobar only hits 3 or 4 homers instead of 5-7, it is not exactly a huge loss.
All in all, I think this move makes little long term (or short term) sense for the (contending) Braves, who are trading an established SS with above average defense, above average offense and three more years of team control at arbitration prices for an overperforming single-season SS stop gag (Gonzalez) with a 2011 option, a AA player with reserve MI upside, and a reliever with 8th inning potential.
From a fantasy perspective, Yunel Escobar becomes a must-own player in AL-only formats, where the quality SS pool is very thin. I think Erick Aybar, who I lauded a few weeks back is still a better SS option, but where Aybar is unavailable Escobar deserve an immediate (and perhaps total) FAAB bid for all AL-only owners in need of a SS (especially those who owned Alex Gonzalez, against who I think Escobar is an upgrade for the rest of the season).
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only, must own in deeper mixed leagues (MI-requirement), and should be owned in 10+ mixed team leagues.
Brandon Morrow | Toronto | SP, RP | 27% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: 4.86 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 9.99 K/9, 2.36 K/BB
True Talent: 4.10 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 9.50 K/9, 2.35 K/BB
Apparently, if I go more than a month without talking about Brandon Morrow, I'll die. Hence, I need to talk about Brandon Morrow (again) for a minute, if only because no one is listening. Perhaps I need to yell louder (hey, that's how laws in this country get passed, no?).
In an attempt to try and not rehash too much, so I'll stick with the bullet-points: lots of strikeouts, control issues, good groundball rate. These three factors have led to a promising xFIP at times with a horrible WHIP and ERA inconsistency to boot.
As I noted last month, Morrow has been increasingly keeping the walks in check. Over the past month, this trend has continued. In the last 30 calenday days, Morrow has a 3.75 ERA (3.78 xFIP) with a 37:12 K/BB ratio over 36 IP. Thanks to better control, Morrow has been going deeper into games, giving owners more innings, more strikeouts and less peptic ulcers. Unfortunately, Morrow's F-Strike% over the last 30 days is only 51.9% (58.6% MLB average), which is below his season mark of 53.8% and career mark of 54.1%. As I will soon reveal in an upcoming post, a 1% change in F-Strike% generally sees a corollary 0.647% decline in BB/9. As his F-Strike% is down this season (and recently), we can only realistically expect Morrow's control to regress somewhat going forward and hope it does not regress too much (or that he starts getting ahead of hitters early more often).
I still stand behind my continuous claims that Morrow will post a very high 3's/low 4's ERA with a 1.35-1.45 WHIP and good strikeout numbers for the rest of the season. However, given Morrow's continuous flashes being less wild, it's more probable now than before that he beats my rest of season projections going forward.
Must own in AL-only, should be owned (for spot-starting) in mixed league formats.
Chris Davis | Texas | 1B, 3B | 9% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .280/.330/.510
Last month, I extensively explained why Chris Davis deserves a
Recommendation: Must own in all AL-only and mixed league formats.
Justin Smoak | Seattle | 1B | 10% Yahoo Ownership
True Talent: .280/.390/.430
I have continuously pegged Justin Smoak as a Derek Lee a la 2007 hitter. Even with the move to Safe Co. I stand behind those projections. To date, Smoak's elite patience has carried over from the minors to majors at 13.4% BB. Though many have lauded his power potential, Smoak only posted an ISO around .150 in his MiLB career. Sure, he is only 24 and has room to grow, but I am always more conservative when it comes to expectations. Hence, at least for now, I peg him as a 20-25 HR hitter, not a 30+ guy. Safe Co., per everything I've ever read, really only "zaps" the power of right handed hitters (see Adrian Beltre). Smoak is a switch hitter who hits better left-handed (.743 OPS, 193 PA) than as a right-handed batter (.479 OPS, 90 PA). Since Smoak mostly and bestly (yes, that is a made up word) hits from the left side, concerns about stagnant power development or power outages should be of relatively little concern. If he does not hit 30 it won't be because of Safe Co. (almost all of his HRs this year are to left field).
On a final note, Smoak's batted ball profile, which is just starting to become statistically significant as he crosses the 300 PA plateau, pegs him with a .307 xBABIP (per THT's xBABIP calculator). That is well above his current .276 BABIP and if Smoak can cut his current 24.7% K% down a bit to his minor league rates (at least until he develops a power stroke), he could see a strong AVG (and bigger OBP) turn around in the second half.
Recommendation: If you had use for Smoak before the Cliff Lee trade, there is no reason to abandon ship. Otherwise, the majority of Smoak's 2010 value will come in OBP leagues (though he might also provide some good AVG value too going forward). In 5x5 leagues, Smoak is really only useful, at least for the moment, in deeper mixed leagues with CI needs and AL-only formats, though being in the middle of the lineup is always a R/RBI plus.
Scott Baker | Minnesota | SP | 80% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: 4.87 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.84 K/9, 5.00 K/BB
True Talent: 3.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.00 K/9, 5.00 K/BB
With such a high ownership rate, Baker is likely not available on the waiver wire. However, due to his 4.87 ERA on the season and 5.04 ERA over the past 30 days, he may be available via trade. If so, you should pounce immediately. Over the past 30 days, Baker posted a 10.98 K/9, a 0.30 BB/9 and 2.72 xFIP which is well below his more oft noted (but less telling) 3.44 FIP. On the season, Baker is posting a career low FB% (41.5%) and career high GB% (35.1%), which always bodes well with less home runs . . . especially when you pitch half of your games in a pitcher's park in front of an above average defense (even with Kubel periodically playing OF). On the heels of a career best K/9 and BB/9, Baker's season xFIP currently sits at a career-best 3.71, though his FIP, distorted by a career high 12.1% HR/FB rate, is only barely below 4.00 (at 3.98). You might be able to pry Baker from frustrated owners and non-believers for a cheap cost. I recently shipped Jaime Garcia and Adam LaRoche for Chris Davis and Scott Baker in one of my deeper money leagues. Take my advice: make the investment now, it'll more likely than not pay off dividends in the second half.
Also, as a pre-emptive note, Scott Baker's SwStr% is down this year from last, despite the uptick in K/9. However, over the past 3 seasons, Baker's SwStr% has been elite (in excess of 10%) and there is no reason his K/9 should have been sub 7.5 (or even sub-8, for that matter) in 2008 or 2009.
Recommendation: Must own, must acquire in all AL-only/mixed league formats. Scott Baker is a top 40 rest of season starter.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 10:21am (9) Comments
If you have the old version of the xWHIP calculator (anything before v.1.4.3), please download the new one (available through the link below), as it will give you the most accurate projection.
I am forever locked in Mortal Kombat for the souls of sports fans everywhere. Statistics are my science and 'the immeasurable character of men' is the obsolete religion of blind faith. My job is to prove that God doesn't exist and that athletes are merely cold, metal machines with no hearts or souls.
Earlier this week, I projected Cliff Lee's prospective rest of season WHIP. The formulaic process of calculating his xWHIP got me thinking and I spent the (entire) morning creating an xWHIP calculator (visually based on the THT xBABIP Quick Calculator). If you would like a copy of the program, you can download the xWHIP calculator by clicking here. The password to utilize the excel sheet is soto18.
Explanation of the xWHIP CalculatorAccording to Gameday data, circa 2005-2010, BABIP by batted ball type is general broken down as follows:
I've taken the above numbers and paired them with a formula that normalizes a pitcher's line drive percentage to 19% and spits out remaining balls in play (BIP) data. The calculator also features a defensive adjustment so that you can account for a pitcher's team defense. The defensive adjustment operates under the assumption that all "saved hits" were of the singles variety.
Below is a picture of the xWHIP calculator. The numbers plugged into the model for the picture are those of Tom Gorzelanny through July 17, 2010.
The grey cells are for data you should input. The green cells feature the xBIP data per IP. The blue and orange cells feature xWHIP and xHit calculations. The data cells are pre-formatted to visually round all numbers to keep the sheet clean, though cells will retain the full value of any number entered.
On a final note, I would like to give a special thank you to Derek Carty, who (possibly unknowingly) helped me create this xWHIP calculator.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 3:49pm (37) Comments
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The title of this article says it all. If you are not in first place and want to do everything possible to get yourself into first place, now is the time to start making those final trades to put yourself in a position to climb the standings throughout August and September.
If you are in a keeper league, the market to acquire players that can help you now is more defined. Trading away future talent for players who can help you in the present is a simple strategy that people have been using, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, for a long time. Even fantasy baseball banners fly forever.
In non-keeper leagues however, making such trades is impossible since every owner is, or at least should be, trying to win this year. Therefore your angles for trades that help your team now are more abstruse (not to be confused with obtuse).
One possible way is to use inception and try to implant the idea in other owner's heads that they should trade you their best players; but as the people who have seen the movie Inception can attest, it can get extremely complicated. Looking into simpler options, the simplest and most effective way to improve your team through trading is to trade any unnecessary depth on your roster.
Depth is a luxury and luxuries are not something you can afford if you want to extract maximum value out of all your players.
For example, as you may already know from our Twitter feed, I recently traded Chase Headley with Gio Gonzalez as a throw-in for Colby Lewis in the Yahoo F&F League. Earlier in the year I was more hesitant to trade Headley—partly because he was batting over .300 with steals coming in impressive bunches—but also because he was the only player on my team besides Ryan Zimmerman with third base eligibility. If Zimmerman fell victim to one of his nagging hamstring injuries, I wanted the "luxury" of having Headley ready to substitute instead of whoever was available in free agency.
However, now with the season heading towards its climax, I understand that it is much more important to have Colby Lewis help my team gain points in the pitching categories than have Headley throw in the occasional hitting contribution but mostly serve as insurance to Zimmerman. If Zimmerman gets hurt, I probably won't have a chance at winning anyway so, even though I'm putting myself in a riskier situation, the potential reward justifies the risk.
What you have to do, the sooner the better, is take a look at your own roster and try to identify players who aren't getting utilized fully but are attractive enough to fetch in return players who can be better utilized on your team. Even if it stretches your team thin in certain areas, making such deals will give you the best chance to win come September.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:23am (1) Comments
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The mid-summer classic is now behind us and the next, and more important, milestone to us fantasy managers is the trade deadline. The MLB trade deadline is important, as it will result in playing time shake-ups, shifting of roles, and newfound contextual advantages or disadvantages. Fantasy league trade deadlines are often scheduled a few weeks after the MLB trade deadline. Of course, the incessantly repeated mantra of the trade market is to buy low, but with less than half the season remaining, should we believe our underperformers will still turn it around?
In some cases, I think we should continue to have faith, while in others, perhaps, we just need to recalibrate our expectations and think of these players not as buy-candidates, but sunken costs. Let’s look at a few players who I don't believe in any more and some who I do.
I was fairly high on Hill coming into the season and I put my money where my mouth is. I drafted him twice, at picks Nos. 51 and 52 respectively. In a third league, I also traded Hunter Pence for him.
Hill’s advanced numbers are a total mess, rife with peculiarities. First off, he’s the proud owner of a .187 BABIP, which is a good .100-plus points below his career mark. Although that might give prospective investors a sense of optimism, this largely due to a putrid 9.3 percent line drive rate (his career rate is 19 percent), along with a career high 54 percent fly ball rate. Despite the increased fly ball proclivities, his homer/flyball rate has regressed closer to 2007 level than that of 2009.
There’s definitely more than luck at play here. It’s always possible he regain his form—I’d settle for the 2007 version at this point, but as long Hill continues hitting the ball this way, I’m disappointed to predict that we are in for more of the same. With a bit of luck in terms of having runners on and some flyball carry, his final homer and RBI numbers could look respectable, but I don’t expect a significant rebound in the batting average department.
Maintaining the status of fantasy stud while striking out nearly 40 percent of the time is a very difficult line to walk. Reynolds hits so few balls in play that he is especially prone to the wiles of BABIP, for he has fewer chances that anybody for anomalous swings to even out over sample size. Like Hill, Reynolds is sporting a career low line drive percentage (12.9 percent) and a career high flyball percentage (59.6 percent). Reynolds is therefore sporting a .272 BABIP, which doesn’t sound so low until you realize that his career BABIP is .332. Reynolds’ profile has always been that his contact rate is terrible, but when he connects, he hits the ball so hard that his balls become hits with an outlying frequency. That’s not exactly happening this year.
Further, while Reynolds still has prodigious power, his homer to flyball rate has dropped to a merely impressive 18.9 percent from and absurd 26 percent last year. (Joey Votto is at 25 percent this year, by the way, and, according to FanGraphs, appears to have not popped out on the infield all season.)
The other hit to Reynolds’ value is that he has attempted a mere seven stolen bases this season, far behind his pace of 33 attempts last season. Tacking on 10 more swipes over the rest of the season would help owners recoup some of the price of investment. All in all, the power numbers will still be close to what you should have expected, but don’t expect the average to climb back to the .260 range.
Jason Bay looks like a different hitter this year than he has been in years past. Not only are his actual power numbers down, but so too are his walk and strikeout rates. Perhaps Bay is attempting to modify his game a bit to the spacious confines of Citi Field by becoming more of a contact and line drive type hitter (his line-drive rate is the highest it’s been since 2005).
Regardless, it doesn’t look like Bay is going to bounce back as a big power threat, at least not this season. He’s homering at a rate half that of his next most meek season, 2007. With the return of Carlos Beltran, Bay is being pushed down to sixth in the Mets order, but this shouldn’t really affect Bay’s value. His RBI chances aren’t likely to suffer, as the core of the Mets order should continue to be strong and he remains the drop off between the (relatively) fearsome hitters and the lesser batters in his order, so I don’t expect a significant change in his run scoring pace.
Panda started the season off on fire, but has since chilled and is yet to thaw. The most troubling thing about him is tremendous dip in his ISO as compared to last year. Despite a sharp downturn in homer rate, Sandoval does look to be the same type of hitter he was last year. Ground ball, line drive, flyball, walk and strikeout rates all match up. The problem with that is that is Sandoval’s BABIP is a not totally illegitimate .298. Last season, his BABIP was .350, which is a bit high for players with such notoriously poor plates discipline. As a matter of comparison, Vladimir Guerrero’s career mark is .318, while Alfonso Soriano stands at .306.
In any case, I think we should expect a moderate bounce back from Sandoval. Perhaps more than the yet-to-be-resolved BABIP mystery, what is needed to boost Sandoval’s value back to where we thought it would be is an increase in his homer rate. Last year, that number stood at 14 percent, while this year it is down to an anemic 5.3 percent. Doubling that rate would still peg him below last year’s pace, but had he just done that we’d see a batting average in the mid .280s and a 20 HR/90 RBI pace. One way or the other, I think Sandoval is a better buy low target than Hill, Reynolds or Bay.
The other uncertainty that merits mention with Sandoval is his spot in the batting order. Sandoval has literally started a game in every position in the order except first and last. Getting himself right at the dish would reinstate him as a mid-order fixture.
I’ve been hearing a good amount of talk about Jayson Werth having a disappointing year. But the truth is that he isn’t having all that different of a year from last. His ISO, walk and strikeout rates are all similar to 2008 and 2009. His line-drive rate is down a bit and his fly ball rate is up a tick, but nothing all too out of the ordinary. Basically, the two main differences are that considerably fewer of the balls he hits in the air are leaving the yard and he’s not running with much frequency, despite a sweet OBP in the .370s.
I doubt the stolen bases pick up dramatically, but it is totally possible that he goes on a homer binge, and if he does, a single two-week hot streak could put him right back on pace for final numbers in the range of what most Werth owners should have been expecting. Werth is still a fine buy-low candidate in my mind, especially because you aren’t really buying as low as perception may seem to indicate.
Like Werth, Markakis isn’t having as radically a different season from previous campaigns as the chatter would seem to indicate. In terms of the glamour stats, Markakis is experiencing a down year; he’s not scoring runs, hitting homers or driving in runs – at all. He’d pretty much have to pick up his pace significantly to get to David Wright 2009 numbers. This is a pretty bad place for a proven player and preseason consensus top 50 draft pick. But all is not tragic for Markakis.
His walk rate has rebounded from last season when he was derailed on his path toward truly elite on-base skills. His ISO also isn’t all that far removed from prior seasons when he was about a 20-home run player. Further, his trajectory composition isn’t all that different from years past, and actually most similar to 2007 when he burst onto the scene, making a significant sophomore leap.
So, what’s the problem here? It looks to me like the answer to that question might be doubles. Markakis has always been an elite doubles hitter, but this year he is leading the league and is on pace for more than 50. Some years, more doubles become homers than others. Of course, the other problem is his teammates. There’s absolutely no reason why a player who has spent the entire year hitting second or third in his lineup, and who possesses a .389 OBP and .839 OPS should be sitting on 40 runs scored and 31 knocked in. Baltimore is third to last in team OBP and second to last in team SLG, and we all know that you don’t get to 100 runs scored or driven in by yourself.
Markakis still makes a good buy-low candidate, especially in keeper leagues. He may only score and drive in 70 runs or so this year, but I’d make a quite substantial bet that he won’t repeat those numbers for many years.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:57am (3) Comments
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Disclaimer: I am no stats-creation expert (I consider myself more of a reader/applier), but with the help of some of the THT staff (special shout out to Jonathan Halket, Derek Carty and Dave Studenmund) I have created/compiled the data below. You can access comparative peripheral data by clicking here and the three year pitching data by clicking here. Let me know if you notice an error.
Since Fangraphs made its swinging strike percentage data publicly sortable a few weeks ago, I have pondered how changes in swinging strikes (SwStr%) affect changes in strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). Similarly, I pondered the correlation between getting ahead of batters (F-Strike%) and walks issued (bases on balls per nine). Logically, it would seem that an uptick in SwStr% and F-Strike% should result in some respective increase in K/9 and BB/9. To confirm this suspicion, I took a sample of all major league pitchers who tossed 70-plus innings in a single season from 2007-2010 and graphed both their SwStr% to K/9 and F-Strike% to BB/9. The resulting data are pictured below (click to enlarge):
SwStr% to K/9:
F-Strike% to BB/9:
As the graphs indicate, the two data sets seem correlated and a deeper look into the numbers reveals that there may be some causal effect. The SwStr% to K/9 data set has a coefficient of determination (R-Squared) of ~.700, while the F-Strike% to BB/9 data has an R-Squared of ~.409. Absolute relation, however, is not what intrigues me most. What I am more curious about is how changes in one component stat might affect the other—the elasticity of the data. In other words, if Pitcher X is garnering more swinging strikes and getting ahead of batters, by how much could one expect his K/9 and BB/9 to change? To answer this question, I determined the correlation coefficient of the logarithms of each data set. Here is how the elasticity, when graphed, looks (click to enlarge):
The elasticity correlation between SwStr% and K/9 is 0.838436 and the elasticity correlation between F-Strike% and BB/9 is -0.64652. In other words, a +1.19 percent change in a pitcher's swinging strike rate generally sees a corollary +1.0 percent increase in K/9. Likewise, a +1.55 percent increase in a pitcher's F-Strike percentage generally sees a corollary -1.00 percent change in BB/9. I also did the diligence on BB/9's relationship to Zone%, but there turned out to be no significant statistical correlation relationship between the two, oddly enough.
Yet, plenty of major leaguers are showing polar tendencies in 2010 compared to 2009. On one hand, Cole Hamels' SwStr% is at a career low and down from last season, and yet his K/9 is at a three-season high. On the other side of the spectrum, Tim Lincecum is garnering more swinging strikes than last season (on par with 2008) and yet his K/9 is down for the second straight season.
Perhaps this observation is merely a correction from a "lucky" BB/9 in 2009 or an "unlucky" K/9 in 2009. To verify the validity of expected changes matching up with actual changes, it is important to double-check a player's absolute SwStr% and F-Strike% on the season. If he's got a 10+ SwStr% and he's striking out eight-plus guys per nine, but last year struck out only six guys per nine with a slightly higher swinging strike rate, it is entirely plausible to conclude that 2009 (not 2010) is the fluke and thus the expected change rate might be misleading. This is just an extra step one will have to take with my data for the time being (absolute rates are provided in my data sheet under "raw data").
Using the above information, I have created an Excel spreadsheet of all pitchers in 2010 who pitched at least 70 innings in 2009 and 70 innings through June 26 this season and mapped out their changes in K/9, BB/9, Zone%, F-Strike% and SwStr%. In my spreadsheet, I have not only mapped out the changes in these stats this season compared to last year, but I have also created a column for expected changes in K/9 and BB/9 based on changes in the component stats (SwStr% and F-Strike%).
There is also a column which compares expected changes in K/9 and BB/9 to the player's actual changes. A negative number in the difference columns indicates a player's actual change is below his expected change and a positive number in the difference column indicates that a player's actual change is above his expected change.
The purpose of the data is to help fantasy owners mine for second half gold. The information is far from perfect, but it should give fantasy player some sense of which guys should see regression/improvement in their WHIP and strikeouts in the second half and aid in smart trading. An informed decision is a smart decision and the key to winning a fantasy league is economizing resources and mining for value.
Now that I've explained what I've done and what my data mean, let me present the sortable and usable data. You can download my Excel sheet by clicking here.
For those who just want a quick look at the top/bottom 35 pitchers, you can check out the sorted screen shots below:
Top 35 starting pitchers who are "underperforming" in K/9:
Bottom 35 starting pitchers who are "overpeforming" in K/9:
Top 35 starting pitchers who are "underpeforming" in BB/9:
Bottom 35 starting pitchers who are "overpeforming" in BB/9:
Enjoy. Post your love/hate in comments.