December 5, 2013

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## Monday, August 02, 2010

A few weeks ago, I debuted the xWHIP calculator on the internet. Since, I have constructed an Excel sheet, with the invaluable help of Dave Studeman and Brian Cartwright, of the major leagues' xWHIP leaders and losers (minimum nine games started) using the xWHIP formula. This spreadsheet omits defensive adjustments; with 156 players in the sample, inserting them would be too labor intensive. To manually make the defensive adjustment from my xWHIP calculator formula, use the following formula: ((team UZR/team total IP)*the individual pitcher's IP)/0.49. This defensive adjustment assumes that all hits saved or allowed by a team's defense would be singles.

The xWHIP tool is explained in detail in the link provided (see previous paragraph), but here's a quick recap.

The xWHIP calculator is based on the notion that different batted ball in play (BIP) types each have a unique expected BABIPs (xBABIP). The four BIP types are ground balls (GB), line drives (LD), outfield fly balls (OFFB) and infield fly balls (IFFB). Per Gameday data, circa 2005-2010, xBABIP for each BIP-type is as follows:
• Popups: .008
• Ground balls: 0.237
• Outfield fly balls: 0.269
• Line drives: 0.733
This data includes home run rates, which is why the OFFB xBABIP is so high. If you take home runs out of the equation, the xBABIP for OFFBs and LDs fall to .174 and .727, respectively.

Given that line drive rates for pitchers tend to normalize around 19 percent over large enough samples, my xWHIP formula is based on a normalized BIP format. xWHIP essentially keeps GB/FB and IFFB/OFFB ratios intact and applies them to an expected BIP distribution with a normalized line drive rate. xWHIP is very similar in theory to Derek Carty's DIPS WHIP, only the calculator itself also accords for defensive metrics.

Any questions? No? Good. Now let's move on to the purpose of this post.

Plugging all the relevant information into an Excel spreadsheet of starting pitchers with at least nine starts in 2010, I calculated the defensive independent xWHIPs of 156 major league players. I compared these player's xWHIPs to their actual 2010 WHIPs to determine which pitchers have the highest prospects for luck-based improvement/regression down the stretch. This data should aid all fantasy owners in need of WHIP-solidification or WHIP help down the stretch.

It should be noted that the walk rate used for my xWHIP calculator is not merely BB or BB/9. The xWHIP formula in my spreadsheet uses a modified walk rate (mBB/9), which essentially subtracts intentional walks (IBB) and adds hit batsmen (HBP) to the cumulative walks total (BB). I have long advocated that WHIP be tabulated using a pitcher's modified walks total (BB-IBB+HBP); traditional walk rates are misleading in looking at a pitcher's actual control and WHIPiness (a new word I invented/copyrighted).

Here, then, I present to you the (defense independent) xWHIP leaders (top 30):

The elite xWHIP guys largely consist of the major leagues' top aces. Stephen Strasburg, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay lead the way as the only three major league pitchers with an xWHIP below 1.10. You also see such expected names as Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright and my boy Kris Medlen. However, there are plenty of surprising names in the xWHIP leaderboard: Vicente Padilla (1.21), Dallas Braden (1.26), and (most surprising to me) Jeff Francis (1.29 xWHIP).

And of course, there are the xWHIP losers (bottom 30):

At the bottom of this list, we find plenty of the major leagues' struggling pitchers: Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Charlie Morton, Carlos Zambrano, etc. However, we also find a few semi-surprising names (given their 2010 successes), like Fausto Carmona (1.50 xWHIP) and C.J. Wilson (1.48 xWHIP) just outside the bottom 30). More or less, however, guys at the bottom of the xWHIP list also have terrible actual WHIPs.

Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 2:13am (3) Comments

## Roster Doctor on keeper trades

Chris writes in:

I'm in a 12-team mixed keeper league with the standard 5x5 roto scoring, with the exception of OBP instead of AVG.

We can keep two players while surrendering the draft round they were selected in. I have:

Buster Posey (Undrafted)
Francisco Liriano (18th Round)
Justin Upton (7th Round)
Colby Rasmus (Undrafted)
Stephen Strasburg (14th Round).

I was given an offer of Ryan Braun for Posey. I need to trade away some of this talent because I'm in second place with a small chance at first. I don't want to finish the season with all of this keeper value unexploited. Whom do I keep? Trade? Undrafted players are kept by surrendering the last-round pick. Thanks.

Roster:
Geovany Soto C
Ike Davis 1B
Juan Uribe 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Justin Upton OF
Colby Rasmus OF
Jason Kubel OF
Carlos Pena Util
David Wright Util
Michael Bourn BN
Buster Posey BN
B.J. Upton BN
Dustin Pedroia DL

CC Sabathia SP
Francisco Liriano SP
Francisco Rodriguez RP
Ryan Franklin RP
Alfredo Simon P
Johnny Cueto P
Drew Storen P
Aaron Heilman P
Zack Greinke BN
Max Scherzer BN
Stephen Strasburg DL

Chris - I think you are absolutely right to look to sacrifice some of next season’s value in order to win this season. Always do whatever it takes to win this season if you’re in a position to capture the trophy. What you must decide (since I don’t have the information) is where you are best placed to make up points on the leader.

Braun could certainly help you, replacing Rasmus or Kubel in your outfield (note: if you’re unable to pull off the trade, I’d think about playing Posey over Rasmus or Kubel or Soto now anyway, depending on the matchups). I’d just make sure that there are points to be had in your league in home runs or RBIs or maybe OBP. (Also, Pena is much better in your league, with OBP, obviously.)

Another strategy you may want to consider instead, or in tandem, is to trade, say, Bourn to a distant rival for peanuts if that team is in a position to steal some points (all puns intended) from the first-place team. Your bench players can be helping you win by playing for other teams. (Actually, if you can really spare the starter, you could do the same with him, too.)

Also, I’m guessing there are probably more than a few owners willing to consider trading this year’s talent for next year’s hopefuls. Braun is great, but you also have a decent-sized hole at first base. There are quite a few upgrades over Ike Davis, especially if you need help in OBP. Maybe you can pry loose Mark Teixeira or Miguel Cabrera, for instance, instead. You can still keep Davis in the lineup in the Util spot if you feel like it.

Finally, if you had unfettered choice over which keeper to trade for a “Braun”, I would choose Rasmus. Upton, even with his already high draft slot, should be worth enough next year to make keeping him pay off; and in any case, you’ll need him for the rest of this season. Liriano is actually turning in a quietly good season (after so much hubbub was made of him in the Spring Training, not enough is being written about how good a season he is actually having). And Strasburg, well, even with his recent DL stint, I think he’ll be worth a 13th round pick next season. But if you get an owner willing to trade you even more than Braun for him, I would consider it. Right now, if I were drafting for next year, I’d peg him at no better than a sixth- to seventh-round pick. We know he is quality, but we don’t know if he is quantity.

Posted by Jonathan Halket at 4:47am (7) Comments

## How do we know we’re right?

I enjoy sticking my nose where I haven’t been asked to, and I also enjoy not having to develop my own concepts for my column, therefore, I think you guys can anticipate what time it is. That’s right, it’s time for unsolicited commentary on the Card Runners-rooted discussion du jour from the other Derek!

Seriously, I’d like to touch on some of the more abstract issues raised around identifying and claiming success for identifying breakouts that were raised in Derek Carty’s post, and the comments section thereof, last week.

The role of intuition in identifying breakouts

Both Eric Kesselman and Chris Liss imply that deeply engaged baseball or fantasy baseball fans are subject to strong gut instincts about players that are difficult to put in the context of objective analysis. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually agree. By definition, a break out is a player who is redefining his past profile by making a quantum leap in terms of translating his skillset into production. So, while it is entirely reasonable to expect to be able to study development patterns and elemental metrics to identify those who are more likely to “break out,” the spirit of what is happening in a break out – a player doing something he’s never done before – is difficult to predict by betting on pattern and trends alone.

But, before proceeding, it is important to ask what our intuition about certain players really is. In the outset of Blink, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of an art curator who is unsure of the authenticity of a sculpture that would be highly valuable were it to be determined authentic. At this point, an accomplished artistic scholar views the piece and despite performing no tests, and without giving detailed reasons, determines the piece a fake. The owner of the sculpture brings in experts, and basically enacts the full CSI treatment, which generally points to the piece being authentic. Subsequently, new information is unearthed confirming the work as a fraud. (Forgive me if my retelling of this anecdote is a bit off, as it was many years ago that I read the book and have just realized, after attempting to reread it, that I must have leant it to somebody who never returned it.)

The point Gladwell makes, and the predominant, recurring theme of the book, is that people are actually rather good at “thin slicing” very complicated, multi-faceted sets of information. I think this notion is generally applicable to the discussion at hand, but it does come with many caveats.

For one, every Tom, Dick and Harry is not qualified to have these insightful intuitions. If Eric Kesselman has a strong intuition about a poker hand, or Chris Liss has a strong intuition about Ricky Romero, these are things that shouldn’t be causally dismissed just because the objective evidence supporting the intuition is not entirely robust enough to support the claim. But, if some fly-by-night fan, analyst or leaguemate determines so-and-so is in for a sophomore slump, or Joe Prospect “has all the tools,” these are not real intuitions. They’re the messages inside fortune cookies.

Second, these intuitions are relatively rare, very strong and their originators are uncharacteristically casual and committed to their prognostications. By general pre-ranking consensus, I over-drafted Nelson Cruz in just about every league I could. You know what? I didn’t hesitate on that selection or experience buyer’s guilt or remorse at all. There were other players who I rostered many times, but most of those were value plays. Nellie Cruz was me thin slicing. I simply drafted Cruz expecting him to blow many players drafted before him right out of the water. (Pro-rated, he has!)

Third, we must be honest with ourselves about these intuitions. We can’t fall victim to confirmation bias by constructing a revisionist history and we must recognize that these intuitions are not always foolproof. I have a few pitchers I feel this way about every year. This past year, one of those players was Jonathan Sanchez. Was I right? Kind of. Meanwhile, I was able to nab David Price in a few leagues too. Did I have the magic feeling about Price? No, I just thought that he had an extremely high ceiling, making him a wise gamble at the prices I paid. Last year, I owned Josh Johnson in every league I played in. But I’m far from perfect. I’ll be the first one to tell you about the season (or two) I walked around with my chest out thinking I got over on everybody, and couldn’t wait to see the league scratch their heads as they watched my John Patterson mow down the National League.

Fourth, as both Derek and Mike Podhorzer note, we must examine our successes and determine whether they are really out successes within the context of our predictions. Right now, Cruz is hitting .330 and benefiting from stratospheric .370-ish BABIP. Cruz may well indeed go on to finish the season hitting comfortably above .300, but as high as I was on him, I don’t think I could honestly take credit for predicting that. I say that for two reasons. One, we don’t know if it is legitimate. He had a curiously low BABIP last year, and is sitting on a curiously high BABIP this year, so it is not really even clear who the real Nelson Cruz is as a hitter for average. Two, I wasn’t anticipating a batting average above .300. When drafting him, I just simply said to myself, this is going to go 35/30, maybe even 40/30.

Under the specific conditions above, I’m willing to respect and consider the divine intuition phenomenon, and not dismiss is outright simply because it may be difficult to present fully within the framework of a “business case.”

How do we know when we’re right?

When can we legitimately claim victory when it comes to predicting a break out? This is a very difficult question. In the comments section of Derek’s article, Mike Podhorzer says:

Tell me why you expected a player to perform the way he has that proves you “right” and then I will determine if you deserve credit or not based on your answer.

But, even then, how do we know? Many voices in the fantasy community predicted this year would mark a break out in the power department for Billy Butler. What was the foundation of this hypothesis?

Well, it sort of looked like this; Butler is beginning to enter his mid-20s and has showed promise and progress thus far in his development as a real threat at the plate. Last year, he had a fine season and hit a respectable 21 homers while posting a solid but unspectacular 11.8 HR/FB. He did hit 51 doubles, though, and it is reasonable to project that, at his age, Butler becomes stronger and converts more of those doubles to homers in 2010. He seemed to really find his power stroke in the second half of 2009 and we should expect this trend to continue and intensify in 2010. Sound about right?

Well, what happened? Butler is hitting the ball almost exactly the same as he was last year. As I write this, his 2010 BABIP is identical to his 2009 mark. His LD/GB/FB distribution is within 1 percent of 2009 rates for each batted-ball type, and his HR/FB ratio is down by about a third.

Let’s imagine that the 30-homer pace Butler prediction came true, though. How would we know we were correct even if the performance fit our hypothesis? Basically, what would have happened would be the same thing that has happened, but in reverse. His batted-ball type distribution stays largely the same, as does his BABIP, but his HR/FB go up from about 12 to 16, instead of down to 8. Basically, with the exception of one column in a spreadsheet evolution, stagnation and devolution would look pretty similar in Butler’s case. Further, we know this key column is prone to yearly swings. So, if Butler did appear to take this step forward, how are we to know that he won’t take a step back the following year? At what point can you say this is the real Butler and I predicted this?

It’s very difficult to make these determinations as players are developing, which is when break outs are most likely. We have come to know who Albert Pujols really is, but the inverse side of that certainty is that we also know that Pujols is extremely unlikely to drastically over-perform or under-perform consensus expectations, which is what having a break out is really all about.

My point here is that as the body of evidence mounts that enables us to more confidently ascribe any seasonal performance to a player’s “true talent” the less likely that player becomes to “break out.” So, when we predict something and it comes true, we can’t be so sure it wasn’t due to luck. And, when we finally have enough information to establish a solid baseline for our predictions, the players have aged to the point where breakouts are unlikely.

My approach when it comes to giving credit for predicting breakouts is a bit simpler. I don’t really stress individual cases much at all. I determine a fantasy prognosticator’s aptitude the same way I would a weatherman’s (meteorologists? Are the TV weathermen actually meteorologists or just the TV-friendly spokespeople for the real scientists in the back room?). I look at somebody’s track record. I presume that if your reasoning is sound, you will make more picks that turn out correctly. Sure, some might turn out correctly for the wrong reasons, but so too will some come out incorrectly despite being equally well thought out. It’s certainly interesting to hear any particular analyst’s in-depth opinions on the players they are particularly high or low on, but what really matters over the course of time is track record.

Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:14am (6) Comments

## My dynasty rankings: The top players under age 25

I have often been asked how the most recent crop of minor league up-and-comers compares with the best of the youngsters already in the majors. There's no better way to express my thoughts than to give you a black-and-white listing of the best players in baseball under age 25.

1. Evan Longoria / 3B / Tampa Bay. Longoria has some strong competition, but for my money, he's the best third baseman in baseball and the top fantasy pick at his position in every league format, let alone a dynasty league.

2. Justin Upton / OF / Arizona. It's hard to believe that Upton is still only 22 years old (for another week or so). Like Longoria, Upton sports the triple threat that creates a fantasy superstar: power, speed, and batting average. Longoria gets the slight No. 1 nod due to the position scarcity.

3. Jason Heyward / OF / Atlanta. Heyward and Upton sport comparable skill sets, and I would argue that Heyward has even more power potential. Heyward is in the midst of a fine rookie season, propelling him up this board, but he has further steps to take before anyone even dreams of taking him ahead of Upton.

4. Stephen Strasburg / SP / Washington. Strasburg has been a revelation, exciting the entire baseball universe. His only negatives (and it's more stigma than personal faults) are the long-term team surrounding him in Washington and the fact that injuries can derail a young pitcher's career more so than a position player.

5. Felix Hernandez / SP / Seattle. Hernandez quietly has a Hall of Fame career brewing and he's just 24 years old. He has the ability to be a Top-5 fantasy pitcher every year for the next decade.

6. Clayton Kershaw / SP / LA Dodgers. Kershaw is a special talent who seems to get better with each passing year. His command still comes and goes at times and may be the fault that ultimately keeps him one peg below Strasburg and King Felix.

7. Colby Rasmus / OF / St. Louis. Rasmus is another five-tool outfielder who is progressing nicely. But when all is said and done, I don't think he will have the career that Upton and Heyward will have.

8. David Price / SP / Tampa Bay. His command is a work in progress and he plays in the rough-and-tumble AL East, but I have no problems labeling Price an ace in this his first full year in the big leagues.

9. Yovani Gallardo / SP / Milwaukee. Gallardo doesn't have the velocity of the pitchers in front of him, but he gets his strikeouts with his fear-inducing curveball, one of the best in the business. He has the makeup of a long-term ace.

10. Carlos Santana / C / Cleveland. The leg injury notwithstanding, at this early stage I am projecting Santana to be a 30-home-run hitter in his prime, which is fantasy gold at catcher. His batting average and tremendous walk rate will be assets as well.

11. Tommy Hanson / SP / Atlanta. I have a lot of faith in Hanson being the next great Atlanta ace. After all, he did end the year No. 2 on my 2009 Top-100 list. With another step up in his development, he will be right there with the best pitchers in baseball.

12. Matt Wieters / C / Baltimore. I might be a bit thickheaded, but Wieters' early major league struggles aren't dissuading me much. I do have Santana ahead of him, however, which is noteworthy. But the potential to be a .300/30 hitter is still there. It's just much less of a sure thing.

13. Mat Latos / SP / San Diego. Petco is a pitcher's park, and Latos will take full advantage for as long as he can. He isn't just a product of his surroundings, however. He is a legit ace at just 22, with room to grow. I just worry about his injury history continuing to pile up.

14. Mike Stanton / OF / Florida. Stanton absolutely has a chance to be one of the best power hitters in baseball, but he is oh so young with much to prove.

15. Billy Butler / 1B / Kansas City. Butler appears to be a perennial .300 hitter, but the home run pop is still not all there. I am counting on it developing, however.

16. Carlos Gonzalez / OF / Colorado. I have never been a big Gonzalez fan, but wow, he has really taken off in 2010. I was thinking 15-20 home runs would be his prime maximum, and here we are in early August and he's thinking about 30. His walk rate is paltry and I'm not sold on the power being an annual mainstay, but give the young man credit.

17. Buster Posey / C / San Francisco. Posey, at times, has been hitting like a man possessed. But make no mistake, he is not the next Joe Mauer, and he has benefited from being able to split his defensive duties between catcher and first base. Full-time catching duties take their toll.

18. Madison Bumgarner / SP / San Francisco. Bumgarner got off to a slow start in 2010, but he quickly picked up the pace. I would say he has matured nicely this year. The future is bright, but there are more lessons to be learned.

19. Phil Hughes / SP / NY Yankees. The hype did not destroy Hughes. The Yankees may have found themselves a long-term ace who they don't need to pay \$25,000,000 a year. Hughes isn't quite there yet, but his electric stuff sure is.

20. Jesus Montero / C / NY Yankees. With everyone else on this Top-10 graduating to the big leagues, that leaves Montero as my early favorite for No. 1 prospect in 2011. It's hard to believe considering his early struggles, but he has turned his season around and possesses superstar potential in his bat.

Just missing the cut:
21. Andrew McCutchen / OF / Pittsburgh
22. Jay Bruce / OF / Cincinnati
23. Brett Anderson / SP / Oakland
24. Jeremy Hellickson / SP / Tampa Bay
25. Bryce Harper / OF / Washington
26. Johnny Cueto / SP / Cincinnati
27. Desmond Jennings / OF / Tampa Bay
28. Mike Moustakas / 3B / Kansas City
29. Brian Matusz / SP / Baltimore
30. Martin Perez / SP / Texas

Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:06am (32) Comments

## Waiver Wire: AL, Week 18

No poignant introduction this week. Too busy moving. Hopefully you got my late night tweet earlier this week about Jeremy Hellickson in time to add/start him.

I debated writing about Hellickson this week, but the Rays' starting rotation is full enough already and the frugal franchise is likely to keep him in the minors as long as possible. Hellickson may re-emerge on the Rays later in 2010 to be a postseason reliever, but is very unlikely to make more than one or two spot starts down the stretch.

All stats current through at least Aug. 4.

Jose Bautista watch (07/26-08/01): .500 AVG, 5 HR, 8 R, 13 RBI, 0 SB. His ownership is up 3 percent this week, to 86 percent, in Yahoo leagues. Yet another great week for Bautista's owners.

Alex Gordon | Kansas City | 3B, OF | 18 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .218/.306/425
Oliver ROS: .250/.352/.417

With a career line of .320/.437/.577 (1.014 OPS) in the minors with 48 homers and 69 doubles in 235 minor league games (1,061 plate appearances), Alex Gordon has little left to prove in the minors. However, with a career triple slash line of .248/.330/.416 (.746) in 357 major league games, he has plenty to prove to fantasy owners (and the infallible Dayton Moore).

The former top prospect has destroyed Triple-A for his career (.315/.441/.560) and it should come as no surprise that he smashed its pitching to the tune of .315/.442/.577 upon a demotion earlier this year. Per Minor League Splits that kind of performance is worth a .258/.361/.444 (.805 OPS) major league equivalent line. Fittingly, since his re-reinstatement with the Royals on July 23, Gordon has an .808 OPS.

Gordon's positives outweigh the negatives. Though neither Oliver nor MLS thinks that Gordon will hit for average, (despite a 4.7 career speed score, a 20 percent MLE line drive rate and a 19.5 percent career LD razte in the majors), Gordon knows how to draw a walk (14.6 percent minor league BB rate) and hist for decent power (.180 major league equivalent minor league ISO). With Alberto Callaspo shipped to the Angels, Gordon should get plenty of playing time and a chance to prove himself once and for all in 2010.

Gordon, formerly a third baseman, has been playing left field since his demotion and call-up. One of the Royals' top prospects, Mike Moustakas (hitting .328/.380/.635 split between Double-A and Triple-A this year), is a third baseman and quickly on the rise through the Royals farm system.

The Royals also have prospect Eric Hosmer (hitting .347/.418/.572 cumulatively between High-A and Double-A this season) training to play first and Billy Butler currently occupying time at 1B/DH. Plus, the Kila Whale, Kila Ka'aihue, is hitting .319/.463/.598 in Triple-A this season and has a first base/DH body type (though Kila may never be a playing time threat with Dayton Moore around). Hence, Gordon's future may be blocked at the hot corner (3B), the slow corner (1B) and everywhere in between (left field/DH, if Hosmer moves to the outfield).

This means that Gordon's opportunity to prove himself in the majors is now (at least in Kansas City). Who knows what kind of incentive such an intangible can bring... especially when you are incredibly talented. Over the past seven days, Gordon has absolutely mashed, hitting .318/.375/.773 with three homers, five runs and six 6 RBI over 24 plate appearances. Given his minor league upside (.805 OPS!), Gordon is likely worth a roster spot considering the lack of depth at third base this season. (The league average third baseman has an OPS of .751 this season). Heck, he's even OF eligible.

Recommendation: Gordon should be owned in all formats.

Matt Capps | Twins | RP | 87 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.64 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.36 K/9, 2.08 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

For the hefty price of expendable catching prospect Wilson Ramos (see Mauer, Joe), Matt Capps is the new Twins closer. Though Jon Rauch had pitched well enough as the Twins' first half closer (2.97 ERA, 21/25 in saves opportunities), his peripherals tell a darker story (4.34 xFIP). xFIP of course is not the best metric to measure relievers—unlike starters, relievers get used in variable leverage situations and appear for limited innings against any given team in any given game, giving them an added layer of statistical noise. However, the 1.50 xFIP-ERA differential is too big to ignore.

After a down season in 2009 (see HR/FB percentage), Capps has been strong in 2010. HIs 2.64 ERA is sexy, his 3.53 xFIP is enticing, and despite a 1.34 WHIP, Capps is 27-for-31 in save opportunities in high leverage situations (1.63 gmLI, top 25 among all MLB relievers with 20-plus innings pitched this season). In a Joe Nathan-less time for Minnesota, Capps is worth the FAAB bid by owners in need of saves this season in AL-only formats. However, due to the Nathan's expected return in 2011, Capps' post-2010 value in keeper leagues will be severely limited unless he's traded in the offseason. If you planned on keeping a reliever this offseason, Capps is not your man.

Nonetheless, given Minnesota's history of longer-than-average leashes, Capps should make a strong splash for AL-only teams down the stretch. Sorry Rauch owners, but you knew that experiment was uncertain when you signed up.

Recommendation: Capps should be owned in all formats. He is a top-15 closer.

Coco Crisp | Oakland | OF | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .237/.309/.405
Oliver ROS: .255/.325/.377

Despite hitting only .191/.270/.292 in July, Coco Crisp was nonetheless quite valuable for fantasy owners (top 150 player in fantasy) last month. Why, you ask? Largely because he went 10-for-11 in stolen base attempts with 14 runs. Crisp was hurt most of the first half and came off the DL only June 22, so it is understandable that he's been flying under the radar the last 30 or so games. However, I am putting you on notice.

Despite a less-than-inspiring .713 OPS, there are signs of inspiration in Crisp's limited 2010 showing. For one, he is currently posting a career high mark in ISO at .168. The statistically relevant plate appearance threshold of ISO for hitters is approximately 500 PA, so one should not read too much into Crisp's current power output. However, it indicates that he is hitting the ball well enough, despite the poor average.

Crisp has a career BABIP of .305, which is well above his current .280 mark on the season. However, he has a career line drive rate around 19 percent, and he's clipping clippers at only 13.9 percent through his first 150 PA of 2010. LD percentage also becomes statistically significant for hitters around the 150 PA mark, so perhaps there are some concerns about Crisp's game. However, with a 9.5 speed score and increased 52.5 percent GB rate, Crisp is taking full advantage of his skill set. Per the THT xBABIP calculator, Crisp's current batted ball profile is worth a .327 xBABIP. Adjusting Crisp's current triple slash line (.237/.309/.405) to reflect his xBABIP, all the while pessimistically assuming that all additional hits would be singles, we get a much prettier .273/.340/.440 (.781 OPS) fantasy/real life line.

Crisp has only a moderate steals history (career high mark of 28 set in 2007), but he's been running much more often and much more efficiently in the last few seasons. This is evidenced by two statistics. First, since 2008, Crisp has attempted a stolen base 32.15 percent of the time he's been on base, versus the 17.25 percent mark for his career. Second, he has been successful in 81 percent of his attempts since 2008, much higher than the 75 percent mark for his career.

Though Crisp is hardly a spring chicken at age 31, he's been refining his speed-based game over the past few (injury riddled) seasons. If he can stay healthy, few players in the majors can rival Crisp's surprising wheels (9.5 speed score on the season). If Crisp can swipe 14 bags on the season with a .309 on-base percentage, just imagine his SB potential with a 34 percent OBP. His stolen base potential could be a difference maker down the stretch (again, assuming health).

Recommendation: Crisp should be owned in all AL-only and fove-outfielder mixed league formats. He is a bench-worthy player (spot starter on Mondays/Thursdays) in 12-team, three-outfielder mixed leagues.

Edwin Jackson | Chicago (AL) | SP | 52 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.97 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 7.00 K/9, 3.88 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9

Despite a relatively successful 2009 campaign, I was quite bearish on Edwin Jackson the fantasy (and real life) pitcher this offseason. At best, I pegged Jackson's upside at a 4.06 ERA mark with a 7.36 K/9 and horrible WHIP (in the 1.50 range). For the most part, he hasn't disproved my prediction. Over 141.1 innings pitched this season, Jackson has accrued a K/9 of 7.00 with a WHIP of 1.49. Of course the 4.97 ERA is well above my 4.06 projection, but that preseason ERA projection was Jackson's ceiling in my estimation. However, he has not been nearly as bad as his numbers might indicate.

Jackson's poor luck has not come on the fly ball. His HR/FB mark of 10.5 percenty is not particularly unlucky, especially at Chase Field, which inflates the average HR/FB rate of its pitchers to 11.64 percent. Where Jackson has been unlucky has been on his percentage of runners scored.

Logically, the more baserunners a pitcher gives up, the more runs he is likely to forfeit. Nonetheless, a pitcher's left-on-base rate tends to neutralize around 71.5 percent over time, fluctuating based on the defensive posture behind him. Jackson's 2010 mark is below the league average mark of 71.9 percent this season, at 68.3 percent, although the Diamondbacks are a top-five defensive team in baseball (per both team UZR/150 and collective UZR). Hence, Jackson's likely had some bad luck with some big innings.

Further, he's had some bad luck on balls in play. While his career BABIP is .311, his BABIP this season is higher at .322. Per my updated xWHIP calculator formula (on version 1.3 now), Jackson's xWHIP is much lower than his actual season WHIP, at 1.39.

Of course, this xWHIP projection is based on pitching in Chase Field in front of the Diamondbacks' elite defense. Following July 31, Jackson now pitches in the Cell (1.213 HR/FB park factor index, which is worse for pitchers than Chase Field's 1.058 mark) in front of the White Sox (negative team UZR). Needless to say, Jackson's xWHIP for the White Sox will be higher than 1.40 and likely closer to the 1.50 mark he's been posting thus far this season.

Jackson's had a decent season buried under his bad luck. He's improved his groundball rate to his 2005-2006 level at 50.9 percent. Though he's regressed somewhat in control (3.03 mBB/9 [(BB-IBB+HBP)/IP*9] last season, 4.08 mark this season), he's still inducing plenty of strikeouts (18 percent in 2009 and 2010) with an above-average swinging strike rate (9.6 percent). The results, however, a 4.23 xFIP, are still below the major league average (4.15). The move to the Sox does little to improve Jackson's value.

Hence, just as in the offseason, I cannot give the stamp of approval for Jackson. He's not even much of a spec pick or back-of-the-rotation guy for a fantasy team (at least in my book). It baffles me why Kenny Williams got him, unless misled by the Nationals' supposed interest in him. Jackson is no John Danks or Gavin Floyd. Alas, that topic of conversation is for another day.

Recommendation: Avoid Edwin Jackson in all formats (even AL-only).

Clay Buchholz | Boston | SP | 82 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.59 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.32 K/9, 3.73 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.71 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9

Of all the pitchers in the junior circuit, Clay Buchholz is the one whose true ability I have the most difficulty assessing. When he debuted in 2007, his stuff was simply electric. Though he was pretty wild (3.97 BB/9) and did not induce many ground balls in his minute 22.2-inning stin, Buchholz struck out 25 percent of the batters he faced and tossed a no-hitter. He was likewise in 2008, punching out 20-plus percent of the batters he faced in 76 innings of work, though free passes were a problem (4.86 BB/9). Buchholz flashed an additional talent in 2008, one he had shown plenty oa f in the minors: worm burning (47.7 percent GB rate.

In 2008 and 2009, Justin Masterson and Buchholz dominated the Red Sox farm system with plentiful strikeouts and ground balls to offset their walking ways. For his minor league career, Buchholz has a K/9 north of 10 and a groundball rate of 47.7 percent. Per Minor League Splits, his minor league record is worth a major league equivalent K/9 of 7.78 and a groundball rate of 47.3 percent. Those numbers seem solid enough to offset an MLB-equivalent 3.80 BB/9.

In 2010, Buchholz seems to have put it all together. He has a 2.59 ERA, plenty of wins (11) and 1.23 WHIP. However, there are deeper signs of concern which indicate he is a sell high candidate.

For one, Buchholz is continuing a trend of declining strikeouts in the majors. His swinging strike rate has been constant around 10 percent for his career (8.5 percent is the major league average), but he has whiffed barely 17 percent of the hitters he has faced over the past two seasons. Buchholz's strikeout rate has been below the major league average (~7) for two seasons running, with a 6.65 mark in 2009 and a 6.32 mark in 2010.

The sabermetrician in me thinks Buchholz will regain his strikeouts long term—after all, SwStr% and K/9 are highly correlated. However, considering that we are now in August, I have my concerns about how Buchholz will perform for the rest of the season. His current xFIP is an Edwin Jackson-like 4.26, but the Red Sox have an elite defense (at least when healthy). Hence, I think that Buchholz can continue to post a high 3 ERA the rest of the way out. Though that kind of an ERA is well enough, given his hefty xFIP-ERA split (>1.50), I would consider moving Buchholz for a better player for your final run at the fantasy title as we approach September (and your league's trading deadline).

I would not trade him in a keeper league, however. To the contrary, I would use the declining strikeouts and poor walk rate as leverage to buy low on him for future seasons.

Recommendation: In all formats, Buchholz is a sell high candidate for 2009, but a buy low candidate in keeper leagues.

J.P. Arencibia | Toronto | C | 2 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .304/.360/.640 (AAA)
Oliver ROS: .220/.259/.411

A few weeks ago, I took an extensive look at J.P. Arencibia. There is not much new to say about him (.242/.286/.477 MLE performance in Triple-A, per Minor League Splits), but with John Buck headed to the DL, the Blue Jays have promoted Arencibia to the majors. Fantasy teams that burst into flames when Carlos Santana went down last week (not that he was doing much, with a .232 average over the last 28 days ... unless you are in an OBP league (.378 OBP) should acquire Arenciba immediately.

Recommendation: Arenciba must be owned in AL-only formats, should be owned in most mixed leagues. He has top 10 catcher upside.

Luke Scott | Baltimore | 1B, OF | 44 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .285/.350/.569
Oliver ROS: .256/.333/.483

Nothing about Luke Scott has changed, but he is still swinging a hot bat at the moment. Since returning from the DL on July 19, Scott has belted eight home runs while batting .333. Scott's 17 RBI and 11 runs over this 16-game span is also impressive. If you ignored me two weeks ago when I warned you Scott was ready to go on a tear, heed me now. Scott may have some hot thunder left in his bat and a short-term gamble is well worth the risk. He should not be available on the waiver wire of two out of every three leagues, but he is. Scott's dual eligibility is merely gravy on the mashed potatoes and owners in need of power should employ Scott's services immediately.

Recommendation: Scott should be owned in all formats.

Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 6:06am (12) Comments

## Waiver Wire:  NL, Week 18

Dan Hudson | Arizona | SP | 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.56 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.85 K/9, 1.50 K/BB, 27.9 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.03 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.18 K/BB

After the Diamondbacks dealt Dan Haren for a package that was widely met with criticism, they traded Edwin Jackson for a package that included Dan Hudson, a deal that was much better-received. While Hudson moves from one hitter-friendly home ballpark to another, he should be aided by switching leagues. Hudson's pedigree immediately makes him a player of interest even in re-draft leagues. Those in dynasty and keeper formats should be especially stoked about the change of leagues.

While the sample size is small, it should be concerning in the short term that Hudson's groundball rate stands at 27.9 percent, and he pitches in a home run-friendly home ballpark. On the promising end of the spectrum are his Triple-A numbers: 93.1 innings pitched, 3.47 ERA, 31 walks, 108 strikeouts and a more promising 40.7 GB rate, all good for a 3.67 FIP. Once Hudson makes the necessary adjustments to pitching to major league hitters, he should be of value in strikeouts, and post at least non-damaging ratios.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 14-team or larger mixed leagues. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.

Joel Hanrahan | Pittsburgh | CL | 23 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 12.65 K/9, 4.79 K/BB, 35.8 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 2.3 K/BB

In the wake of Octavio Dotel being dealt from the Pirates to the Dodgers, Hanrahan closed the door on the first save opportunity that has presented itself since. It appears that unless he falters, he should be the closer with Evan Meek handling the eighth inning duties. Before inheriting the closer role, Hanrahan was of value and ownable in deeper leagues just based on his awesome strikeout rate. Now that he's in line to rack up saves, even poor teams like the Pirates provide save opportunities, and he has a chance to post top-15 closer numbers, so he's a necessary own in all leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Drew Storen | Washington | CL | 35 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 2.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.64 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 37.5 GB
Oliver ROS: 3.87 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 4.6 K/9, 2.66 K/BB

Coming into the 2010 season, Storen was the closer of the future for the Nats, and midway through the 2010 season he is also the closer of the now. All is not rosy for Storen; his walk rate is a bit high at 3.82 BB/9, he's currently striking out less than a batter an inning and his GB rate leaves something to be desired. Storen has been a bit lucky in posting his 2.45 ERA as his xFIP stands at 4.31.

On the bright side, Storen uses a nice three-pitch mix with a show-me change-up, and is able to get a solid number of swings on pitches outside the strike zone at 33.6 percent. Saves are saves, so owners who need some should be willing to take some of the lumps that are likely to ensue for Storen until he's able to see an increase in his strikeout rate and/or a decrease in his walk rate.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Jake Westbrook | St. Louis | SP | 8 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.58 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5.39 K/9, 1.78 K/BB, 54.4 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 5.1 K/9, 1.72 K/BB

Remember Brad Penny circa 2009, post-Boston? Well Jake Westbrook fits the mold of this year's B-Penny version 2.0. Westbrook doesn't own an elite skill set, hence his wide availability, but he does enough well to keep an eye on him, and own him in deeper leagues.

Westbrook pounds the strike zone (3.03 BB/9), induces tons of ground balls, and should even see a spike to his modest 5.39 K/9 switching leagues. Given the fact that his skill set already matches what Dave Duncan looks for in his pitchers (keep walks in check, induce ground balls), it seems unlikely he'll see a huge boost from the Duncan effect that has helped less talented scrap heap pitchers in the past.

Those who are nearing their innings pitched limits and need some strikeouts should take a pass, but those without innings limits, or innings to burn, should keep an eye on Westbrook. He's got a chance to post useful ratios, chip in some strikeouts, and receive a large number of decisions (not necessarily wins given the volatility of them) based on his ability to work late into games.

Recommendation: Should be owned in some 14-team mixed leagues. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.

Brett Wallace | Houston | 3B | 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .300/.417/.300 (12 plate appearances)
Oliver ROS: .264/.332/.421

Once considered a blue chip prospect, Brett Wallace's status has faded a bit as he's once again been dealt, this time from the Blue Jays to the Astros. Wallace's value in fantasy will almost entirely hinge on whether he remains at third base or if he's shifted across the diamond to first base (where he's been playing to open his Astros career). Wallace's power potential appears to be mid-20s home run type, with a solid average, which puts him in Lyle Overbay prime territory, making him useful, but not a future fantasy star.

Wallace's surface stats looked good in Triple-A this season, but what's hidden is that he played in an offensive-friendly home ballpark and league (Pacific Coast League). His Triple-A slash was .301/.359/.509, and his MLE was a disappointing .239/.277/.389. He's worth a look in deep leagues given the fact scouts like his bat, and while MLEs are helpful, sometimes it is beneficial to trust the tools and scouting aspect of prospecting.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues using a MI. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.

Juan Francisco | Cincinnati | 3B | 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .143/.143/.143
Oliver ROS: No projection

Juan Francisco is not likely to be a useful player this year in re-draft leagues unless Scott Rolen misses extended time. After being called up by the Reds, he is in this week's article as a heads-up to dynasty and deep keeper league owners.

Francisco is still a free swinger, with 14 walks and 69 strikeouts in 269 Triple-A at-bats, but his power is legit with 16 home runs. He was also age appropriate for his level, just 23 years old, and should grow into even more power. Because he's a third basemen with pop, he certainly warrants owning in dynasty leagues where owners have an open roster spot or simply want to take a flyer on some youth. Francisco's Triple-A slash was .286/.326/.569 which was good for an MLE of .250/.279/.474.

Recommendation: Should be watched in deep leagues in the event of Rolen missing time. Should be owned in deep NL-only leagues. Good speculative add in dynasty leagues for power.

Rick Ankiel | Atlanta | OF | 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .262/.319/.456
Oliver ROS: .232/.290/.415

While it's easy to pick apart what Ankiel isn't, what Ankiel is a source for, when he's healthy, is home runs. He continues to walk less than owners would like, just a 7.1 percent walk rate and strike out too much at 32.0 percen. That said, his ISO sits at .194, which is solid, and only a few ticks below his .201 career mark. Further hurting Ankiel, however, is his continued inability to hit lefties, and his spike in ground ball rate this year (50.7 pedrcent this year compared to a 40.2 percent career mark).

Ankiel's HR/FB is actually up a bit this year at 18.2 percent compared to 14.9 percent for his career. If he's able to turn some more of his ground balls into fly balls he could be a sneaky source of home runs. Those in leagues with daily lineup changes will also be able to minimize batting average damage by sitting him against leftiesa .

Recommendation: Should be home run speculative add in 12-team mixed leagues or larger using five outfielders. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.

Ryan Ludwick | San Diego | OF | 67 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .281/.341/.476
Oliver ROS: .257/.324/.459

Now that Ludwick calls PETCO his home ballpark, he sees his fantasy value take a steep nosedive. Ludwick's value is largely derived from his ability to hit the ball out of the park while posting a decent batting average. Unfortunately for him, he's going to have a much more difficult time doing that now. One and a half years removed from a career year in 2008, in which 19.9 percent of his fly balls left the yard, Ludwick's true HR/FB rate appears to be 10.0-12.0 percent, a number sure to drop with his new digs.

Because Ludwick hits so many fly balls, 48.0 percent this year and 47.7 percent for his career, he's still able to generate a useful number of home runs even with a mediocre HR/FB rate. Unfortunately for Ludwick, many more of his fly balls are likely to turn into outs in the spacious PETCO, which will not only hurt his home run total, but also likely significantly impact his batting average. Those who own Ludwick should probably try to sell him, as he's still ownable given his lineup spot in San Diego and with it the opportunity to post useful run and RBI totals, but not nearly as useful as prior to the trade.

Recommendation: Should be owned in most 12-team mixed leagues or larger using five outfielders. Should be owned in all NL-only leagues.

Posted by Josh Shepardson at 6:04am (6) Comments

## Nick Swisher has real reasons to be happy

 Swisher (right) leading an aerial celebration after a Yankee win. (Icon/SMI)

Nick Swisher is a naturally affable fellow. That doesn't mean he avoids sadness and frustration when he struggles; trust me, he felt plenty of that in 2008 while in Chicago. Earlier this season when Swisher hit a home run against the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen said, "Good for him. Enjoy it. I wish he could do it for me, he was a very horse(bleep) player for me." Now re-read that quote in Guillen's accent for added comedic effect.

That does mean, however, that Swisher truly enjoys it when the going's good. And right now, the going is certainly good for Nick Swisher.

Starting off of the field: Earlier in the season Swisher became engaged to Joanna Garcia. A quick Google image search should confirm why he should be happy and you jealous about this news. More importantly, on the field he is on pace to have his most productive season to date, passing the 3.7 WAR he accumulated back in 2006, a season in which he blasted 35 home runs despite batting just .254.

In a Joe Morgan-pleasing move, Swisher has transformed his approach at the plate resulting in fewer walks and more hits. Last week at FanGraphs David Golebiewski did a fine job documenting the changes in Swisher's approach, which can be summed up as: more aggressive.

The reason Swisher is benefiting so much from his new-found aggressiveness is because this season he is doing significantly more damage with the balls he puts in play. An increase in line drives partially explains this and the other part, as Mr. Golebiewski notes in his third chart, is due to more of his grounders and liners falling for hits.

With no other information, we couldn't be sure whether Swisher is hitting the baseball more sharply—and therefore should be expected to have more of his balls in play become hits—or whether he is simply getting lucky. Whenever HITf/x data becomes available, it should be able to separate the luck from skill but for now you will have to rely on my eyewitness account.

As someone who watches his fair share of Yankees games, it does seem like Swisher is truly making solid contact more often than before. So even though some regression should be expected next season following his breakout campaign, expectations should not be lowered much since it is more of an increase in skill, not luck, that has cause Swisher's impressive 2010 performance.

If you were smart enough to jump on this jolly bandwagon cheaply before this year began, Swisher should make for a good keeper and keep the laughs coming next year too.

Posted by Paul Singman at 1:35am (0) Comments

## Sacred cows make the best burgers

Fantasy trade deadlines are either fast approaching or have already come and gone. For keeper leaguers who still have some time left to deal, the time has come for some of us to make a tough decision. Should we continue to compete for this year, build toward next; are we buyers or sellers? Many have already made this decision, but I’m among many others mired in limbo and now unable to postpone this decision any longer.

One of my leagues is a simple, shallow mixed league. It’s a draft league that allows you to keep your top five players. Nothing fancy, no price inflation, just whoever you choose to be your top five guns. I’ve spent considerable time in just about every slot between first and sixth in the standings this season. Currently, I’m occupying sixth place. My team has been treading water recently and though an ascent back to the top of the standings is not unfathomable, it is unlikely and seems to appear more so each day.

Each season is unique and this season, in this league, I’m experiencing the closest title race I’ve ever seen. Over the past two weeks, there have been no more than seven points, and as few as three separating the top five teams in the league. At one point last week, there was a three-way tie for first, and the team that has held the top spot for the majority of the season is now sitting in fifth... until tomorrow, when the leaders will likely rearrange themselves once more.

I’ve made my decision; I’m going to be a seller. This decision was based on two core reasons. First, there are a number of teams in front of me. While the amount of points I’m behind isn’t insurmountable, there are just too many teams I have to compete with for each point. This also means it will be difficult to settle into a lesser money slot. Second, the context of the standings really sets up a seller’s market. With so many teams in the mix and so closely packed, adding multiple quality assets for one superstar might very well give a team the inside track to the top. Flags fly forever, and checks get cashed only once.

So, from now until Friday, I will be pushing hard to add the single best player I possibly can for my two best non-keepers. I’m starting at the top; I’m coming for Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and the likes.

And, I urge my leaguemates and those in similar positions to very seriously consider these kinds of offers. The top players very rarely change hands in this league, but when you take a step back and think about fantasy baseball, teams play out each season hoping to be in a position to have a chance when the stretch run sets in. There’s no guarantee that there will be a next year to speak of. If you’re in a close title race and you don’t commit to trying to win it all, you will likely regret it.

In leagues around the country, people like me are going to be looking to make deals that will alter the balance of power at the top of the standings right in time for the stretch run. Don’t get sucked into the entitlement effect. For sure, nobody should be giving away their top talent for anything but premium, price-gouging rates, but when somebody offers you exceptional value, you must be willing to sacrifice a sacred cow to eat the meal of a lifetime.

Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 4:05am (1) Comments

## The candidates for minor league MVP

J.P. Arencibia / C / Toronto. Arencibia, at this point, has to be the front runner for 2010 Minor League MVP. He did what he could to help an under-talented Las Vegas 51s team reach respectability by combining Pacific Coast League-leading or near-league-leading offensive numbers across the board with a respectable year's work behind the plate. He's ready for the majors, and Toronto agrees, which may give other candidates a chance to catch up.

Domonic Brown / OF / Philadelphia. Brown's home run total finally materialized to the point where he was considered one of the more dangerous all-around hitters in the minor leagues. Most impressive of all has been his .327 batting average and .980 OPS. He still has work to do, but it appears Philadelphia has other plans for him as they attempt to chase down a pennant.

Randall Delgado / SP / Atlanta. Delgado may have hit a wall with his recent Double-A promotion, which will diminish his case, but there is no disputing the incredible job, especially May through the middle of June, that he did in the Carolina League. At just 20 years old he looked unhittable at times.

Jeremy Hellickson / SP / Tampa Bay. Hellickson enjoyed a consistently excellent and healthy Triple-A season. The big-league club has called upon his services, so his minor league season may be set in stone, but there is no denying that he pitched the best over the long haul of any pitcher in the higher levels of the minor leagues.

Eric Hosmer / 1B / Kansas City. Hosmer is one of the more refined hitters in minor league baseball. His home run numbers might hold back his MVP chances, but, then again, the power in his bat has come alive since his Texas League promotion, with nine home runs over 97 at-bats.

John Lamb / SP / Kansas City. Kansas City's farm system, for the most part (Aaron Crow), enjoyed widespread success from multiple top talents, not just the guys on this list (William Myers). So, the big-league club does have something to hope for. The most surprising results have come from Lamb, who is now looking for unrivaled success at his third stop of the year, among the big boys of the Texas League. The talent has always been there, but he is one of the few young pitchers who is able to do something with it.

Mike Moustakas / 3B / Kansas City. Moustakas obliterated the Texas League over a 66-game stretch before receiving a Triple-A promotion. Since then his bat has cooled. How he adjusts to Triple-A pitching over the final month of the season could make or break his MVP chances.

Michael Pineda / SP / Seattle. Pineda's injury history had plenty to do with it, but before the season started I made the statement that Seattle had the worst crop of minor league arms in baseball. One potential ace can change that in a hurry. His strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP alone give him a valid argument for MVP. His 3.67 Pacific Coast League ERA and fly ball rate aren't dropping jaws, however.

Mike Stanton / OF / Florida. Stanton won't win my minor league MVP award, but he deserves recognition for putting up ridiculous numbers over the first two months of the season, leading up to his big-league promotion. If only Florida would have played things conservatively and bumped him up to Triple-A, instead of the majors, for a couple months worth of seasoning, then he might be bringing home the hardware.

Julio Teheran / SP / Atlanta. Teheran has cruised through A-level ball and is now holding his own as a 19-year-old in the Southern League. My gut tells me that if he continues to prove himself with another month's worth of quality Double-A starts he will take home the top prize.

Mike Trout / OF / LA Angels. Trout's torrid start has leveled off, and his California League promotion has gone so-so, but his .362 batting average, .454 OBP, and 45 steals over 312 Midwest League at-bats have put him among the game's top prospects.

Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:06am (9) Comments

## Waiver Wire: AL, Week 19

A few of us at THT are going to do a Keeper League mailbag ask-and-answer article. Email questions (and league details) to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you want to have your Keeper League questions answered "by the experts" (hey, if ESPN gets to call themselves such, why not us?).

Just a few days and one Lollapalooza weekend's worth of shows after I declared that Jeremy Hellickson would not be in the Rays rotation, Wade Davis (who I was going to write about for this week) gets a shoulder injury. As a result, Hellickson slides right into the rotation's No. 5 role and I look like a moron. The fickle life and health of a major league starting pitcher, right?

All stats current through at least Aug. 10.

Jose Bautista Watch (Aug. 2-8): .250 AVG, 2 HR, 6 R, 5 RBI, 0 SB. A very solid week for Bautista, whose ownership rate is up 5 percentage points to 91 percent in Yahoo leagues.

Jeremy Hellickson | Tampa Bay | SP | 12 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 1.29 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 8.36 K/9, 1.29 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.93 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

If it weren't for Stephen Strasburg, Hellickson might have been the most exciting/hyped pitching prospect of the 2010 season. Ranked the 20th best prospect in the majors by Baseball America heading into the season, Hellickson did nothing but live up to (and exceed) his hype this year. Over 117.2 Triple-A innings for the Durham Bulls, Hellickson posted a robust 123:35 K/BB ratio (3.51), surrendering only five home runs. Those numbers are good enough for a 3.13 park/luck neutral Triple-A FIP and a pole vault into top five prospect status in Baseball America's midseason prospect rankings.

Per Minor League Splits, Hellickson's 2010 Triple-A performance is worth a 3.47 MLE FIP, which, though already strong, should play well in front of a neutral HR/FB park (0.999999 factor over the past four seasons, per THT's top secret park factor data) and the major leagues' second best defensive posture (+32.9 cumulative team UZR). If one can find a chink in Hellickson's armor, it is his neutral groundball/flyball tendencies (41.7 percent MLE GB rate). However, given Hellickson's high strikeout potential (career 9.8 MiLB K/9) and solid control (career 2.1 MiLB), a lack of superior worm burning ability should be no impediment to prospective success.

Hellickson made his major league debut last week against the Twins, the team with the third best wOBA mark in baseball (.343 team mark). Hellickson managed to hold his own just fine, posting seven strong innings of two earned run baseball with six strikeouts to two walks. With an impending DL stint for Davis, Hellickson came up Tuesday and pitched seven innings of two-hit, no-run baseball against Detroit, striking out seven and walking no one.

Hellickson is likely to pitch next against the Rangers, the A's, the Red Sox, Toronto and the Red Sox again (if Davis andJeff Niemann stay injured through September). Not exactly the easiest of match-ups for an inexperienced pitcher. The Rays do play the Orioles twice in that span, but the "every fifth game" approach to figuring out prospective match-ups indicates that Hellickson will not likely see action against the Orioles until the last week of the season (and only if he lasts in the rotation that long).

Regardless of his upcoming schedule, Hellickson's minor league numbers, pedigree, and MLE numbers (per MLS) indicate that he is a pitcher worth starting. Oliver seems to agree, pegging Hellickson as capable of a sub-4.00 ERA, a strong WHIP and above average strikeout numbers. My own (and less than scientific) zFIP calculations (an xFIP calculation which incorporates park factors) based on MLS's MLE data has Hellickson pegged for a 3.62 ERA. He may not strike out as many hitters as Strasburg, but his potential is just as tantalizing for AL-only owners in need of pitching help down the stretch. Mixed leaguers should also pick up Hellickson where available. I know I've said this before, but Hellickson likely is the last great infusion of waiver wire talent (not just AL talent) . . . especially where pitching is concerned.

Where Hellickson is not available on the waiver wire for cheap pickup, I offer a word of caution. I am not sure what kind of innings limit Rays manager Joe Maddon has in mind for Hellickson. An abbreviated innings limits could severely limit Hellickson's value, so trading for him has its risks. The +30 rule (see the Verducci Effect) for pitchers under 25 indicates a health-conscious team with pitching depth might cap Hellickson at five or six more starts this season (especially if that team plans to use him out of the bullpen during a postseason run. Hence, I would trade for him with caution.

Recommendation: Hellickson must be owned in all eligible formats.

Brandon Morrow | Toronto | RP, SP | 37 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.45 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 10.67 K/9, 4.03 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.32 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 4.6 BB/9

One month and one 17-K almost no-no bid since I last covered him and Morrow has barely seen an uptick in his Yahoo ownership numbers (up from 27 percent). This despite the fact that Morrow (a) now has won four straight starts, (b) leads all major league starters in K/9, and (c) has a 2.96 ERA, a 40:10 K/BB ratio and a 1.02 WHIP in the second half (27.1 innings). Perhaps many leagues have tight IP limits (I often see 1,200-1,300 in public leagues). Perhaps the majority of the fantasy world reads my weekly AL advice column (in Week 15, I cautiously pointed out that Morrow's improved control has come on the heels of a decreased F-Strike percentage). Whatever the reason, Morrow's "should be owned" status (at least for the purpose of strikeouts and spot starts) is getting overripe.

Over his last 27.1 innings, Morrow has done a much better job at getting ahead of hitters. His 57.8 percent F-Strike rate in the second half is still a smidge below the major league average (58.9 percent, though Morrow pitches in the DH-using AL), but it is much improved compared to both his career (54.4 percent) and the 30 days preceding the All-Star break (51.9 percent). Given the relationship between a pitcher's F-Strike percentage and BB/9, Morrow's improved contro, makes much more sense (and inspires more confidence).

In 2010, Morrow has posted the following consistent/elite K/9 numbers by month: 10.61 (April), 10.24 (May), 9.27 (June), 9.78 (July), 16.33 (August). He also has posted xFIPs of 3.85, 4.36, 3.46, 4.20 and 1.74 respectively. Though Morrow's WHIP may never be close to elite (1.37 in 2010, 1.43 career), his elite strikeout talent and above average ERA upside are far too alluring to ignore. When I started writing for THT a few months ago, Morrow (along with Justin Masterson) was a moderate risk/high reward sleeper in my book. He's done nothing since to diminish his potential and in fact, gotten better. How he is not owned in at least 60 percent of leagues at this point is baffling.

The market works in mysterious ways. It does not always perform efficiently. Economists label large deviations as market failures. George Soros make billions on the European currency market in the '90s exploiting one such market failure. While I cannot promise that kind of profit or return on your investment, I would nonetheless label Morrow's ownership rate as a market failure. Morrow could pay huge dividends for the mere cost of your worst rostered player. He's the Jonathan Sanchez, circa last year, of this year. Don't let a poor, deflating start to the season deter you. Morrow is worth owning and you should own him.

Recommendation: Morrow is a must-own AL-only player and should be owned in most mixed leagues, especially those with larger innings pitched limits (>1,400).

Brian Matusz | Baltimore | SP | 11 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 5.08 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.02 K/9, 3.51 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.52 ERA, 1.41 WHIP 7.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Four-plus months into the season and fantasy owners seem to have forgotten the name of Brian Matusz. I can't say I much blame them. A former top 10 prospect just one year ago (ranked one slot behind teammate Chris Tillman), Matusz has been a disappointment for fantasy owners in 2010. In 125.2 big league innings this season, Matusz has a 5.08 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP (thanks largely to 135 hits surrendered) and a 98:49 K/BB ratio (2.00). With below average control (3.51 BB/9, 3.32 MLB average) and the 12th lowest groundball rate (35.9 percent) among all pitchers with 100-plus innings this season, it is no surprise to see Matusz struggling (4.76 xFIP).

Scott Pianowski of Yahoo Sports likes Matusz as a possible post-hype sleeper down the stretch (and in 2011) worth watching based on a few useful turns of late. However, a quick glance at Matusz's pitching splits by month reveals that he has hardly done any improving worth noting.

Matusz has posted a strikeout rate of 6.00 or lower in three of the five months of the season (May, June, and so far in August). His best strikeout month (July, 9.45 K/9) came paired with an equally pungent walk rate (7.20). Though Matusz has shown solid control in April, June and August, his BB/9 by month has been wildly inconsistent (2.93 in April, 3.75 in May, 2.54 in June, 7.20 in July, 1.50 in August). One thing about Matusz has been relatively consistent, however: His GB/FB ratio has remained below 1.00 in every month except May. Correspondingly, Matusz has posted a below average xFIP in every month of the season (including August, the only month on the season where his xFIP has been below 4.45).

Though Matusz posted solid numbers in Single-A and Double-A for the Orioles in 2009 (a combined 3.02 MiLB FIP with a 120:32 K/BB over 113.2 IP), Matusz clearly needs more fine tuning (and perhaps some time in Triple-A) before becoming a mainstay in the AL East (at least if he is to succeed long term). Per Minor League Splits, Matusz's brief minor league resume is only worth a 4.43 MLE FIP. Plus, Baltimore's offense is pitiful—only the Mets, Padres, Pirates, Astros and Mariners have lower team wOBAs. Thus, there will be little run support and a low probability of wins to go with his poor prospective WHIP/ERA and league average strikeout rate. Hence, at least for now, Matusz really isn't a guy worth keeping . . . or monitoring, for that matter.

Recommendation: Matusz is not ownable in either AL-only or mixed league formats.

Daisuke Matsuzaka | SP | 46 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.09 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.58 K/9, 4.27 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.31 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.7 K/0, 4.2 BB/9

On the surface, Dice-K is having a nice comeback season. After battling injuries and ineffectiveness (5.76 ERA/4.83 xWHIP) in 2009, Dice-K returned from the DL to the Red Sox on May 1 and has pitched 103.1 innings of 4.09 ERA, eight-win baseball with a decent strikeouts total (87). However, a deeper look at the numbers reveals a less than resurgent season for the veteran pitcher from Japan.

Though, Dice-K's control this season (4.27 BB/9) has rebounded some from his inexcusably wild ways in 2008 (4.55) and 2009 (5.05), his walk rate is still almost a full walk per nine over the league average (3.32) and significantly worse than he had over 204.2 innings in his over-hyped 2007 campaign (3.52). Furthermore, his K/PA is on a gradual decline—from 23 percent in 2007 to 21.5 percent in 2008 to 19.6 percent in 2010. The decline in strikeout ability, however, is made most apparent in Dice-K's swinging strike rates (SwStr%) by season: 10.6 percent6, 9.8 percent, 8.3 percent, 7.5 percent (2007-2010, chronologically). To add insult to injury, Dice-K's groundball rate on the season is a career low 32.1 percent (his career rate of 36.7 percent is not much better).

The result of Matsuzaka's perpetually disappointing outings has been a putrid 4.80 xFIP this season. With Dice-K reaching the 500 batters faced plateau, his season sample of statistics is becoming significant. It is time for his owners (almost half of Yahoo leagues have own) to start worrying.

Or is it?

A look at Dice-K's seasonal splits by month indicates that if you omit his awful May (5.77 ERA, 25:21 K/BB ratio) from the sample, he has been a much better pitcher than his seasonal peripherals would have you believe—numbers that justify the 4.09 ERA on the season. Since June 2, Dice-K has pitched 69 frames with a 62:28 K/BB ratio (a 2.21 mark, Dice-K's best showing since 2007), allowing only 26 total runs (25 ER, 3.26 ERA) to cross home plate. Though Dice-K's groundball rate since May is less than inspiring (34.7 percent), his K/PA is 21 percent and his walk rate is 3.65). If you factor in Fenway's four-year park factor for home runs (0.87891959, per THT's top secret park factor data) in the traditional xFIP equation (a measure I oft term zFIP), Dice-K's post-May numbers are worth a 4.47 expected ERA mark.

Though that number is below average, the context of Dice-K's plus-strikeout rate, average WHIP "upside," Boston's elite (when healthy) defense, and the Red Sox's still good-enough offense makes Dice-K an intriguing enough option to either spot start or stream against teams not named the Yankees, Rangers, Rays or Twins.

Don't let Dice-K's poor season peripherals fool you. He's a fine back-end fantasy starter—especially in AL-only formats—and should either be available on the waiver wire of your league (or on the cheap in a trade).

Recommendation: Dice-K is a borderline must own starter in AL-only leagues and is bench worthy for spot starts in mixed leagues.

Carlos Delgado | Boston | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: DNP in the first half, rehabbing a hip injury
CHONE ROS: .258/.326/.454 (no Oliver ROS available)

To hit for power, a major league hitter needs contact and torque. Torque is largely derived from turn and extension. Extension is largely upper body (shoulders and wrists), while turn comes from the hips/obliques and lower body. Injuries to a hitter's hips/obliques, shoulder, wrists and quads (in that order) tend to destroy power the most. Hence, you might note my skepticism about the prospective fantasy value of a power hitting first basemen who is almost 40 years old, has not played baseball in over a year and is rehabbing a severe hip injury that sidelined him in 2009 and the first half of 2010.

Just look at what a shoulder injury did to Geovany Soto's age 26 season. Delgado, of course, might prove me wrong. In his prime, Delgado was one of the most underrated hitters in baseball (see this chart). However, 2008 may have been Delgado's last gasp. Notice the several-year decline prior (2004-07). Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs thinks the Red Sox would be best suited to use Delgado as the right-handed pitching mashing half of a platoon with Mike Lowell. If that happened, Delgado's prospective fantasy value would be diminished even further.

Recommendation: Delgado is unownable in mixed league formats, but AL-only owners should keep an eye on his minor league league numbers in Pawtucket and monitor his prospective lineup positioning.

Juan Pierre | Chicago (AL) | OF | 58 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .266/.339/.304
Oliver ROS: .273/.324/.323

Though some were big on Juan Pierre heading into the season, I saw him as nothing more than a Scott Podsednik clone with less speed. Of course, if Pierre (.266/.339/.304) were hitting like Scott Pods (.304/.349/.390) this season, perhaps Chicago fans would be less disappointed with yet another disappointing performing from a trade-acquired outfielder.

Despite the low average, however, Pierre has posted a surprisingly average OBP this season (.339) thanks to the second highest walk rate (6.7 percent, still below the MLB average) of his career. As a result, Pierre has had plenty of opportunities to steal bases (58 attempts) and has been relatively successful (75.9 percent). Ozzie Guillen has also been unflinchingly patient with Pierre and a result, his leadoff positioning has produced a fruitful 64 runs in front of Alex Rios and Paul Konerko.

A look at Pierre's monthly splits reveals that he has been relatively consistent with the stolen base output: nine in April, 10 in May/June/July, five so far in August. If he keeps up his current pace, Pierre could provide 15-plus down the stretch. Only 36 of the 278 hitters who have accrued more than 200 plate appearances in 2010 have 15 or more stolen bases.

On the season, Pierre has a career low .286 BABIP to go with his career worst .266 average. THT's xBABIP calculator, however, pegs Pierre's speed and batted ball profile as worth a much higher .342 xBABIP. If we adjust his 2010 triple slash line to reflect his xBABIP line, pessimistically assuming that all additional hits (+23) gained would be singles, we find that Pierre's line improves to .309/.393/.352. That huge OBP boost would do wonders for Pierre's stolen base potential (though I have a theory that struggling speedsters tend to steal more often to compensate).

Pierre's second half largely reflected his true (xBABIP-based) talent on the season. Over 124 PA, he is hitting .296/.377/.352 with a 12:15 SB/SBA ratio (80 percent). How he is not owned in even 60 percent of fantasy leagues is baffling, especially considering that his 44 steals lead the major leagues and those 64 runs scored. Pierre is an elite stolen base machine and if you need to make up some stolen base ground, you should add him immediately (or buy him on the cheap from an owner who likely undervalues him).

Recommendation: Pierre is a must own asset in all qualifying fantasy formats (though his real life value is somewhat marginal).

Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:12am (3) Comments

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