May 26, 2013
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Friday, July 30, 2010
Joe Saunders | Arizona | SP | 11 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.62 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 4.77 K/9, 1.42 K/BB, 42.8 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.47 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.71 K/BB
Joe Saunders was recently acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a package sending Dan Haren to the Angels. Little changes with Saunders' value, in my opinion, even moving from the American League to the National League. Saunders is essentially the worst type of fantasy starter, an innings eater who doesn't strike out many batters and posts bad ratios, but, hey, he's a winner baby, look at his 2008 and 2009 wins totals! Seriously though, any time a pitcher's value is entirely tied to his win-loss record, one should look elsewhere, and in this case, the look elsewhere rules apply.
For the season Saunders isn't missing many bats, as his swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) is just 6.2 and his K/9 sits at a paltry 4.77. Making matters worse for Saunders, as if they aren't poor as they stand, his groundball rate sits at just 42.8 percent, which is 3.7 percent below his career 45.9 GB percentage. While Saunders makes the move from the American League to the National League, he also moves to a new home ballpark that inflates run scoring more than his previous home ballpark, thus expecting an improved ERA may be a foolish hope. At this point, Saunders is ownable only in the deepest of leagues, and his inclusion in this week's article is merely to point out that he's changed leagues.
Recommendation: Should only be owned in larger than 14-team mixed leagues with high innings pitched limits and large NL-only leagues.
Jason Hammel | Colorado | SP | 20 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.77 K/9, 3.06 K/BB, 44.3 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.61 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 2.56 K/BB
With yet another solid month under his belt, it is surprising to see Jason Hammel available still in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Hammel may not be the sexiest name brand pitcher, but his solid GB rate and good strikeout rate make him a mus- own in all medium to large leagues. Toss in the fact that he limits his walks, 2.54 BB/9, and that his 3.72 xFIP pegs him as a bit unlucky, there is no excuse not to buy in to what Hammel is selling. I will concede that Hammel's improved K/9 is a bit surprising given his lower SwStr% and higher contact rate against this year, but as long as it stands at, or around, its current rate, he is a must-own.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues, all 14-team or larger mixed leagues and all NL-only leagues.
J.A. Happ | Houston | SP | 35 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 1.76 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 5.28 K/9, 0.75 K/BB, 34.0 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 1.8 K/BB
As with Saunders, mention of J.A. Happ in this week's article should be considered a notice of his trade, not necessarily an ownership endorsement. Happ was quite the lucky pitcher last year, and that has continued in a very small sample size this season. Regardless, his luck will run out if he continues to post low strikeout rates, doesn't induce more ground balls, and continues to issue as many free passes as he has thus far this season. Happ moves from one hitter-friendly park to anothe, pitching his home games at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately for Happ, he also now has the equivalent of a Quad-A squad trying to offer run support for him.
Happ has given little reason for optimism the remainder of the season, as he's struggled even in Triple-A and seen an increase in his walk rate from last year to this year, without a corresponding spike in strikeout rate. The seemingly lone bright spot for Happ switching senior circuit clubs is that he has no obstacles preventing him from sticking in the rotation the remainder of the season. A few weeks ago I speculated Happ may be a worthwhile add in deeper leagues, but I have re-adjusted my thinking and believe he is more along the lines of a watch in deeper leagues until he shows reason to expect useful fantasy performances start to start. Best case scenario would appear to be him turning into a spot starter in soft match-ups. Worst case, he's awful in all appearances.
Recommendation: Should be watched in deeper leagues at this point and owned in large NL-only leagues.
Logan Morrison | Florida | 1B/OF | 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .333/.333/.556 (9 AB's)
Oliver ROS: .285/.363/.447
An injury suffered by Chris Coghlan in a shaving cream pie accident has opened the door for a Logan Morrison promotion to the Marlins. The length of time Coghlan misses remains unclear; it has not been decided whether he needs surgery (which would shelve him six to eight weeks) or whether he'll be able to play through the injury and return sometime at the end of August. Regardless, Morrison should see everyday at-bats. Morrison opened the season as the No. 2 prospect in the Marlins system, and top-20 prospect in all of baseball according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
All Morrison has done is rake in the minors, and his Triple-A slash line in 238 ABs this year was .307/.427/.487 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs and a juicy 48 to 35 walk-to-strikeout rate (BB:K). According to minorleaguesplits MLE calculator, Morrison's slash would translate to .255/.349/.389. For a player who has a line drive stroke, awesome raw power, and a discerning eye, I'd tend to side with a slash closer to Oliver's than his MLE line.
In his first two games Morrison has been slotted second in the Marlins lineup, behind Hanley Ramirez, and in front of Dan Uggla, which should result in a healthy number of RBI and runs scored if he's able to translate his high batting average and awesome OBP skills to the major league level. Expecting big home run returns would be foolish: In spite of his awesome raw power, his swing doesn't currently lend itself to lofting the ball for home runs.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues and all NL-only leagues.
Domonic Brown | Philadelphia | OF | 23 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .667/.500/1.000 (3 AB's)
Oliver ROS: No projection
Morrison was not the only top-20 prospect to be promoted to his parent club this week. In fact, he wasn't even the most heralded top-20 prospect. That honor was bestowed upon Domonic Brown. Brown was promoted to replace an injured Shane Victorino in the Phillies outfield. Brown did nothing but mash the ball in Double-A and Triple-A this season.
In 236 at bats at Double-A Reading Brown slashed .318/.391/.602 with 16 doubles, three triples and 15 home runs while posting a 29 to 51 BB:K and stealing 12 bases, all good for an MLE of .259/.317/.466. After ripping the ball in Double-A, he was promoted to Triple-A where in 107 at bats he posted a slash of .346/.390/.561 with six doubles, one triple, five home runs with an eight to 23 BB:K and stealing five bases which was good for an MLE of .300/.339/.471.
My guess is that Brown's actual slash with the Phillies will fall somewhere between his Double-A MLE and his Triple-A MLE, which coupled with his tantalizing power and speed combo makes him a game-changer down the stretch run. Because Brown hadn't played a game at the major league level, I'd guess his low Yahoo! ownership has to do with him still being on waivers in leagues that require a player to play a game at the major league level before being available, rather than owners sleeping on him.
If you are fortunate enough to be in a league where he's still available, and has cleared waivers, add him immediately, even shallow leaguers, as his five-tool skill set has a chance to get hot and play well down the stretch run. I wouldn't expect his transition to the majors to come without some hiccups along the way, but he's well worth speculating on even in shallow re-draft leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Josh Thole | New York (NL) | C | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .272/.338/.359
Josh Thole, part of a trio of catchers on the Mets' roster that includes Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco, should see an uptick in playing time as Barajas hit the DL retroactive to Sunday for a mild strained right oblique. Thole has yet to display much home run power even going back to his time in the high minors, but that shouldn't dissuade owners in deeper two catcher leagues from owning Thole as a second backstop.
Thole has done a tremendous job of squaring pitches up, with a 21.9 percent line drive rate, and taking walks—15.9 percent walk rate—which have lead to a juicy .351 average and a .455 OBP. He has also been great at putting the ball in play with a 90 percent contact rate, and not chasing pitches out of the zone, offering at only 18.3 percent of those pitches. . While I'm not suggesting Thole will maintain his current slash, I can easily see him posting an average over .300, and with an increase in at-bats that makes him quite useful as a second catcher in deeper leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all 12-team or larger mixed leagues using two catchers while Barajas is out (and longer if he gets the bulk of the at-bats down the stretch), and all NL-only leagues.
Miguel Tejada | San Diego | SS/3B | 61 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .286/.320/.403
Barring league approval, Miguel Tejada will be switching leagues as the Orioles have agreed to trade him to the San Diego Padres. Because he still holds shortstop eligibility, Tejada will be of use to NL-only owners looking to fill either a SS or MI spot. The years of Tejada being a universally owned difference maker in leagues of all league sizes are long gone, and this season further proves that.
In shallow to medium sized mixed leagues, there is little to be excited about with Tejada, given his allergy to ball four, his 3.5 walk percentage, and his feeble noodle bat producing a 0.92 ISO. Those in deeper leagues may have use for a guy who will see everyday at bats, and has a shot at posting a solid, albeit hollow, batting average thanks to a line drive rate of 19.2 percent. Oliver's slash line seems reasonable for the rest of the season, so use that as a baseline, and understand he may quite literally hit zero home runs the rest of the year, as he's now playing in homer hell (PETCO) for half his games, and slugged only seven home runs in 428 plate appearances to date anyway.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team or larger mixed leagues using a MI position and in all NL-only leagues.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 2:40am (4) Comments
On Wednesday, I posted an (entirely self-serving) article over at the CardRunners site, which could be summed up as half whining about my bad luck and half praising myself for entirely rebuilding my roster to compensate. In other words, nothing you'll find interesting.
One of the commenters on my post, however, was leaguemate Chris Liss of RotoWire. One of his comments in particular stuck out, so I wanted to repost it here and then respond:
Dave Cameron had a good post about randomness in which he used the clearly random example of the NFC winning 14 straight coin tosses to illustrate that Dan Haren's .350 BABIP could in fact be dumb luck and not have any cause, e.g., bad mechanics, tipping pitches, etc. that people tend to ascribe in those situations. And that's entirely true. BUT—it's also wrong to assume that his .350 BABIP must be dumb luck. It might well be, and it might not be. There could be a problem with his location, mechanics, etc. that partially or entirely explains it.
I'll absolutely agree with Chris that what may look like bad luck can—sometimes—be a legitimate problem. What often goes unnoticed is that part of what we "sabr" folk consider statistical regression to the mean is, in actuality, players making adjustments. If a player truly is tipping his pitches, he's either going to be out of the big leagues before we can see him "regress" or he's going to make the necessary adjustments to stick around long enough for us to actually see him "regress." Of course, that's not all that regression to the mean is—part of it truly is just mere statistical theory in the mold of Dave Cameron's coin flip analogy — but it is definitely a part.
The Haren example
In Chris' comment, he says, "I think a mistake that a lot of the sabr community makes is to assume that bad pitcher BABIP is always bad luck, or bad HR/FB rate is always bad luck. Sometimes, there is something wrong." While this is absolutely true, Chris has made it seem (at least to me) that the instance where "something is wrong" comes along more often than it actually does, or more often than we're truly able to identify it.
Perhaps he's just taking this stance because he perceives the guys on the other side of the argument to hold the polar opposite view, and his actual views are more balanced, but I think, in this instance, Chris is overstating how often the "there is something wrong" scenario actually occurs. To continue using Haren as our example, let's lay out what we know:
Given these known facts—six full seasons!—you're going to need to show me some very compelling evidence that Haren will not regress. That's not to say that the evidence doesn't exist, just that if we're not buying into a Haren regression, we're either being extremely foolish or we have some very convincing evidence at our fingertips. It's entirely possible he's tipping pitches or is having trouble with his mechanics, but the odds of him regressing are simply too great to ignore if we don't have proof to the contrary.
The one other thing we need to consider is that if Haren is indeed tipping pitching or struggling with his mechanics, it's highly unlikely that it would only manifest itself in his BABIP. Analysts will often say that BABIP is all luck, but that's not really the case. If we were to put a Little Leaguer on the Diamondbacks and allow him to throw 200 neutral-luck innings, I guarantee you he's posting a BABIP above .500. BABIP is in large part luck given that the pitcher in question is a bona-fide big leaguer.
In the case of the Little Leaguer, that .500 BABIP is going to come along with an 0.0001 K/9 and a 15.0 BB/9. He's not a legitimate big leaguer, so a high BABIP is expected. Haren, though, is posting monster strikeout and walk numbers. Guys who post monster peripherals don't consistently have high BABIPs. It just doesn't happen. I defy you to show me one example in the history of baseball of a pitcher with a 9-plus K/9 and sub-2 BB/9 but whose BABIP stayed over .350 in the long run.
And even if we're only talking about the short-term here, if Haren's high BABIP is a result of tipping pitches or doing something that bona-fide big leaguers can't get away with, it's highly unlikely that he'd also have peripherals worthy of a 3.32 xFIP—because those problems would affect his other numbers too! While it might be "wrong to assume that his .350 BABIP must be dumb luck," it's highly, highly probably that it is dumb luck. Unless you can show me evidence that it isn't.
More musings on luck and randomness
This ties in with another of Chris' comments on the CR post:
I will take issue with one premise though that I think is not entirely true—when your players play worse or better than they have historically that is not bad luck... it seems like people are alleging that buying a breakout player is dumb luck. It's not. Maybe you couldn't predict the extent to which he'd break out, but for example, as loathsome as it is for me to give Eric any credit, he deserves it for rostering Josh Hamilton. And he's entitled to whatever massive numbers Hamilton puts up even if he didn't specifically foresee them because that was part of the bargain he made when he bought him—that possibility.
Without getting too heavily into this (I disagree that players over or underperforming projections is completely independent of chance), I wanted to delve just a bit into distinguishing when we are truly predicting breakouts and when we're merely getting lucky—and deciphering one from the other is no easy task.
I think fantasy analysts—and I'm implying no one in particular here—sometimes fall into a confirmation bias trap of seeing their breakout picks pan out and automatically calling it a success, even if the original analysis supporting the pick was shotty.
While I'm picking on Chris (kidding; I'm not really picking on Chris), one example of a breakout player that jumps to mind is Ricky Romero, who Chris drafted and has trumpeted his success with. Not to imply that the analysis was "shoddy" here (I don't know what Chris' analytical process with Romero was), but if we're going to take credit for predicting Ricky Romero's breakout, I think we need to make it clear why we thought he would break out. And it needs to be more than just "the ground ball rate last year really jumped out at me." Dana Eveland had a better GB percentage than Romero last year, but he hasn't broken out (quite the opposite, actually).
Again, this isn't meant to be a shot at Chris in the slightest. I've made it clear in the past that I have a lot of respect for Chris, and he is the one winning the CR league right now. I'm quite sure there was more to it with Romero than just "he has a good groundball rate." I would be interested in hearing about it, though.
My point is that I think we, as fantasy analysts, should be held accountable for our analysis and predictions. Or at the very least, we should need to explain our reasoning if we take credit for predicting a breakout.
For those interested, I'll be appearing on RotoWire's radio show today at 11:30 am EST to talk with Chris Liss about these sorts of things.
Posted by Derek Carty at 4:35am (31) Comments
In my other article today, I mention a discussion that's going on in the comments section of a post I made to the CardRunners site. In it, RotoWire's Chris Liss gets to talking about luck, randomness, BABIP, and how what we often consider to be luck may not be luck at all. His most concrete claim sounded interesting to me, and I wanted to test it:
In fact, Todd Zola sent me BABIP data by count—and BABIP goes up reliably as the count gets more hitter favorably—like .315 on 3-0, and .285 on 0-2. It's .305 on the first pitch. So let's say a guy like Haren (or Aaron Harang or Dave Bush) gets a rep as an extreme strike thrower—then batters might swing more often at the first pitcher, rather than take a pitch and get behind. So there, the pitcher's BABIP would change not bad on luck, for example.
The "BABIP by count" argument
While it's absolutely true that BABIP differs by count, I didn't think the overall effects would be very large. To test this, I used the MLB GameDay files to pool all the data since 2008 and came up with average BABIPs by count:
+-------+-------+ | Count | BABIP | +-------+-------+ | 0-0 | 0.311 | | 0-1 | 0.300 | | 0-2 | 0.288 | | 1-0 | 0.311 | | 1-1 | 0.310 | | 1-2 | 0.294 | | 2-0 | 0.322 | | 2-1 | 0.314 | | 2-2 | 0.301 | | 3-0 | 0.336 | | 3-1 | 0.312 | | 3-2 | 0.316 | | All | 0.306 | +-------+-------+Caveat: There may be some selection bias in calculating league average BABIP by count. That is, perhaps the BABIP for 3-0 counts is too high because poor pitchers reach 3-0 counts more often than good pitchers do. This shouldn't change our overall impression of the effect, though, because even if there is significant bias, all we'd likely see is the BABIP by count clustered closer to the overall BABIP league average of .306.
From here, I came up with an "expected count-based BABIP" (xcbBABIP —that's catchy) for everyone who's thrown a pitch in the PITCHf/x era. To do this, I looked at how many balls in play each pitcher allowed by count and assumed a league average BABIP (for that count) for all of those balls. After adding it all up, here are our 2009 leaders (300 BIP to qualify):
+------+-------------+---------+--------+ | YEAR | LAST | FIRST | xBABIP | +------+-------------+---------+--------+ | 2009 | Harden | Rich | 0.3003 | | 2009 | Hendrickson | Mark | 0.3012 | | 2009 | Lohse | Kyle | 0.3014 | | 2009 | Hanson | Tommy | 0.3015 | | 2009 | Tallet | Brian | 0.3018 | | 2009 | Sabathia | CC | 0.3024 | | 2009 | Nolasco | Ricky | 0.3026 | | 2009 | Weaver | Jered D | 0.3027 | | 2009 | Holland | Derek | 0.3029 | | 2009 | Wellemeyer | Todd | 0.3033 | +------+-------------+---------+--------+
And our trailers:
+------+------------+----------+--------+ | YEAR | LAST | FIRST | xBABIP | +------+------------+----------+--------+ | 2009 | Zambrano | Carlos | 0.3125 | | 2009 | de la Rosa | Jorge A | 0.3114 | | 2009 | Meche | Gil | 0.3112 | | 2009 | Bush | David T | 0.3104 | | 2009 | Stammen | Craig N | 0.3103 | | 2009 | Morton | Charlie | 0.3100 | | 2009 | Carmona | Fausto C | 0.3098 | | 2009 | Suppan | Jeff | 0.3097 | | 2009 | Redding | Tim | 0.3096 | | 2009 | Santana | Ervin R | 0.3094 | +------+------------+----------+--------+
So it appears that that the extent of the "BABIP by count" effect is about 0.006 points of BABIP in either direction, at the extremes, and that's without any regard for repeatability or regression (and if you'd like a quick idea about that, I found a pissantian 0.01 r-squared for pitchers with at least 400 BIP in adjacent years from 2007-2010).
I don't think we can rightfully claim that this "BABIP by count" effect is to blame for any truly abnormal-looking BABIPs. The enduring effects of it seem minimal at best and completely insignificant at worst.