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Wednesday, September 22, 2010
When I started here at THT Fantasy, there were a few things I told myself I wanted to avoid doing with this column. No. 1 was recounting “cool story, bro” tales from my own leagues. This week, I’m going to break that constraint, but I think it will be worth it because this story is not only one for the ages, but it actually touches on several topics that have been discussed in THT Fantasy columns over the past year.
This past week I was involved in a semi-final match-up of a H2H league. I was matched up with the league champ, who basically ran wire-to-wire on the strength of an unstoppable pitching staff and good enough offense. This owner is also one of my best friends. He got out to an early lead in the week, but by the weekend I had fought back and had taken a very tenuous 8-4 lead by Sunday morning.
Now, this league allows real-time drops and adds, so you pick players up for the day they play, and you can add and drop players up until their game starts. I know some readers dislike daily transactions, much less day-of transactions, but I think this feature adds an element of real managerial strategy. This is the first time I’ve played with this feature, and as somebody who often relies moderately on streaming starters, I’m certainly going to lobby for keeping it next season. Essentially, I think it takes daily transactions to its logical conclusion; if you have to pay attention on a daily basis, why not just make it real time?
So, back to Sunday morning. I am holding leads in all the pitching categories (the league is 6x6 –traditional 5x5, plus OPS and K/BB). I have large leads in the counting pitching categories, a decent advantage in ERA, and small advantages in WHIP and K/9. Here’s where the chess maneuvering comes into play.
I play softball on Sunday mornings, my adversary sleeps until he looks at the clock and feels embarrassed to be 30 and still asleep at that hour. …That’s the way to spin it if I want to feel superior. He might recount this fact as, “Derek starts drinking before I wake up.” Both of these assertions are fair. Either way you look at it, I knew I was going to have to set my line-up before he would. When I walked out the door at around 9 a.m., I had left my lone starter scheduled to pitch that day, Brett Myers, on the bench. He had a tough match-up against a potent Reds offense and I felt the need to protect my rate stats.
I spent a bit of time asking myself whether my opponent would go on an all out add/drop binge, potentially wrecking his staff for the season, in order to take a shot at supplanting me. I would have in his shoes, but I wasn’t so sure he would. He’s generally conservative and I thought his more likely course would have been to just try to outpitch my team, granting me the wins and strikeouts categories, while hoping to take the edge in WHIP and K/BB. While I was being passive in one sense, I was also saying that I wasn’t going to give the lead back to him; he was going to have to earn it by his players performing well.
I got home at about 3:30 p.m., after playing a double-header that started late and consisted of two extra-inning games, plus stopping off at the bar that sponsors us to watch the first half of the 1 p.m. football games. My opponent was supposed to meet me at my place to watch the Jets, Pats game at 4 p.m. On my way home, I was reminded of an article written here a year or so ago about fantasy sports in the age of the smart phone. I wondered what my opponent had done strategy-wise, as I thought about my Blackberry sitting at home on my dresser. When I got home, I found that he picked up a flood of pitchers and was coming after me, kamikaze style, with all his might. At this point, I realized that he was really on my heels in strikeouts and had a chance to tie me in wins. The rate stats were about where they were in the morning, still in my favor, but within one blow-up of tipping to him. I also noticed that Myers pitched very well and his seven scoreless innings, five Ks and imminent win would have been all I needed to sew up a win. No time to look back though, I decided I needed a handful of Ks because my opponent still has another pitcher going at 4 p.m. My options were limited, and I chose Chris Naverson over Doug Fister, mainly because I’m just basing my decision on who is more likely to give me five strikeouts. I’ve pretty much calculated that if I can maintain that category, I should win.
At commercials of the Jets game, we’re switching over to the Brewers at the Giants on the Extra Innings package (he owns Zito). Naverson is getting shelled. He records only 1 strikeout, giving me almost no cushion and torpedoes my K/BB in the process (walking 4). That category tips. We’re now at 7-5, in my favor. Zito leaves the game with my opponent trailing me by 2 Ks; Naverson had already hit the showers.
My opponent has succeeded strategically though. He controlled the action. He had less to lose and he acted first and put me in a position where I had to make a decision under compromising circumstances. This is underdog art of war 101; kudos to him.
The day continues. The Jets are winning and we’re queueing up the Texans and Redskins on the computer feed. (We’re actually both Giants fans.) We have offensive players still going. OPS flip-flops, settles at a tie and then tips slightly in his favor. Hong-Chih Kuo, who he owns, comes in and pitches two innings in an 11-inning affair with the Rockies. Kuo records three Ks. My opponent has now overtaken strikeouts, WHIP,and K/9. There’s only one game left in the evening and I am down 7-5. Things are looking bleak. I own Manny Ramirez, but he’s not in the evening’s line-up. I trail slightly in OPS and am behind my two RBIs.
…But, wait; we have real time add-drops. Are there any outfielders in that game who are unowned? I can drop Manny for one of those players and hope to eclipse my opponent in OPS. He owns Juan Pierre, and if I don’t make a move, he’ll just bench Pierre, keep his OPS ahead of mine and win. Now I decide I’m going to control the action. I have my choice between Casper Wells and Brennan Boesch. I choose Wells; he’s hot and I get the righty-lefty match-up with Danks on the mound for the Sox. Plus, I get to make a Kids reference, as I pick him up, I slur, “the dopest ghost around!” (Rest in peace, Justin Pierce, and Harold Hunter, for that matter.)
Top of the seventh, one on, Wells at the dish. Could it really be? Uh huh. Put it on the board, yyyeeesss! Well, I’m sure Hawk didn’t say that when the “bad guys” homered, but I’m unaware of a signature home run call offered up by the Detroit broadcasters. Anyway, my last minute pick-up has paid off. I’ve tied the RBI category, and taken the lead in OPS. I’m up 6-5. Champagne would be in order, but the New York Giants are in the process of inducing a vomiting fit. This is the craziest pick-up fortune I’ve had since I was propelled from third to second place in a big money league in 2008 on the second-to-last day of the season by pair of homers by desperation pick-up, Josh Anderson. Josh who? Yeah. Exactly.
Anyway, my glory lasts about 40 minutes, because two innings later, Pierre delivers an RBI single to break the tie. We’re back to 6-6, and that’s how the week ends. The tie-breaker in this league was not home runs, as I think it is in many H2H leagues, but rather seasonal H2H record, which is in my opponent’s favor. So, just like that, it’s over. I take a second to bask in the irony of me, a full SABR convert, pulling out OPS, only to lose in the RBI category… at the hands of familiar whipping boy, Juan Pierre, no less.
This was certainly one of the most exciting days in my history of playing fantasy sports. I’ve won money on the last day of a season and lost money on the last day. I sat with a friend for the last game of a season only to see us finish in a dead tie in a roto league, with a number ending with three zeroes on the line. But, no day had more ups and downs, back and forths than this past Sunday. It was a match-up that was compelling just like a well played real game is, and it served as a reminder of how fun fantasy sports can be.
On the surface, this is just a self-indulgent story about my league – an abuse of my privilege as a columnist. But, if you look deeper there are several important themes and lessons to be gleaned from this story. For one, the way you set up a league creates all kinds of opportunities for strategy and game play. The same-day transaction feature makes this whole episode possible. If we had to have made our moves Saturday night, I would have just seen what my opponent had planned to do, pitched Myers and made whatever other waiver-wire moves I felt I needed to in order to counter his strategy. The days play out passively – no Naverson implosion points swing, no short-lived heroics from the dopest ghost around.
This anecdote also speaks to the potential advantage of the smart phone. Had I had my Blackberry with me, I could have checked the league sometime between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and given myself more latitude to react to my opponent’s strategy.
Finally, this series of events points to the importance of forcing your opponent to make a decision. By sitting Myers, I told my opponent to “come and get it," refusing to allow him to profit from my player’s play. He took the challenge with full vigor and put the pressure on me, forcing me to take what I knew was a bad, but in my mind necessary, risk. I can’t emphasize this enough; my opponent put me in a position where I found it necessary to gamble on what I thought were fairly poor odds.
This is one of my most important pieces of advice to those of you who find yourselves behind in the these semi-final, and final match-ups. Radically adjust your strategy if you must, but force your opponent to have to react to you. When leading, your nature is understandably to be more cautious and passive. This is perfectly logical, when a person is winning under an existing system, he or she is inclined to support the continuance of the status quo. Revolution that topples the existing order of things does not happen from the top, it must happen from the bottom. And, with everything on the line, there is no tomorrow. You may lose on your terms, or on your enemies, but winning is only possible on yours.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:18am (6) Comments
Thursday, September 23, 2010
At the end of each season I like to take stock of what went right and wrong with my fantasy teams and figure out where my strategy and approach needs mending. This season, in my home league I've committed two or three crucial errors that I hope not to repeat in the future.
My home league is a 12 team, 6x6 league with holds for pitchers and walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/SO) for batters as the extra stats. I've had some good luck and bad luck along the way and I've made a few trades that I think were pretty good. The first place team is performing lights-out and probably even without my errors I couldn't have caught him, but I may have finished in the money at least.
I did pretty well in most of the categories but I am going to finish last in two: stolen bases and BB/SO. If I'd been middle of the pack in those two, I'd have been in much better shape. So what happened? I made three types of errors—all of them I already knew but didn't think about them enough at draft time:
Error 1: The bigger they are, the heavier they fall.
Adam Dunn has been a starting outfielder for me for the whole season. He strikes out a lot, but in past seasons he also walked a lot. In 2009 his BB/SO was .665, which would have been good enough for first place all on its own in my league this year (of course this year is the year of the pitcher). But this year, his BB/SO is .402. Worse, since he strikes out so much, his .402 has had an outsize effect on my total ratio.
I'm not sure that I could've forecasted his plummeting BB/KO, but I should've been extra careful with him given that he was going to have a large impact on my overall stats.
Error 2: Good things don't always come in pairs.
Jay Bruce is another fellow who's been in outfield the whole year. After a 2009 that paired a wrist injury with a .222 BABIP, hopes were high for the young lefty. Indeed his batting average has rebounded nicely. But his BB/SO has not. In fact it has gone down.
The lesson here is that different skills don't always develop at the same speed for the same player and rebounds in one area certainly don't mean that they'll rebound in other areas.
Error 3: One-dimensional players can quickly become invisible.
Rounding out my outfield to start the season was Julio Borbon and Matt Kemp with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gomez on my bench. I was hoping that Borbon and Jose Reyes would provide the bulk of my steals needs with Kemp adding a nice amount and Fowler and Gomez as potential backup/breakout players. As it turned out, Borbon couldn't hit a lick and was not terribly successful at actually stealing a base even when he managed to get on base. Same with Kemp. Same with Fowler. Same with Gomez (he's the only one of the four that doesn't get caught stealing far too often).
I knew that Borbon, Fowler and Gomez were all risky. I had hoped that at least one of them would stick in his respective lineup. However, speed demons that can't get on base easily lose playing time. I managed to quickly replace Borbon with Corey Hart as a free agent pick-up. Since Hart was basically free for me, it is difficult for me to look this gift horse in the mouth. He's more than compensated in terms of overall value but alas wasn't going to (and didn't) help me in the stats that I needed to shore up - stolen bases and BB/SO.
I tried to trade Hart or Bruce and eventually even Dunn to mend my broken BB/SO ratio but all the good potential trading partners weren't in a position to take a hit to their BB/SO ratio either. They were almost untrade-able but still too valuable to sit given what was available on the waiver wire. And that's the thing about the BB/SO stat: it is the kind of stat that a player can be terrible in but still extremely valuable in the typical stats, essentially making the player irreplaceable but also poisonous.
Posted by Jonathan Halket at 1:04am (1) Comments
With my month-long statistical projection project complete, I have found it necessary to reassess the rankings once again. After all, the numbers don't lie. Click here to view the baseball season's final installment of the Top-100 list.
19. Stephen Strasburg / SP / Washington / This Update: -17
Tommy John surgery isn't what it used to be, but it still leaves Strasburg's future in limbo. I have removed his statistical projections due to the uncertainty surrounding his health, but his ranking doesn't tumble far. After seeing recent Tommy John surgery success stories like Jaime Garcia, Jake McGee, and teammate Jordan Zimmermann, hope remains justifiably high for baseball's most hyped pitcher of all time.
26. Logan Morrison / OF/1B / Florida / This Update: +8
Morrison's .300/30 potential would play at any position, but his seemingly permanent move to the outfield gives his fantasy outlook a serious jolt.
31. Brett Lawrie / 2B/3B/OF / Milwaukee / This Update: +9
Lawrie didn't set the world on fire in 2010, but he quietly became one of the more respected hitters in the Southern League, all while playing second base.
33. William Myers / C/OF/1B / Kansas City / This Update: +9
There is no sense in holding back the Myers love at this point. He posted an outstanding debut, showing no weakness in his bat and leaving little concern about his offensive future. Where his defensive future lies is another story.
58. Danny Espinosa / SS / Washington / This Update: +15
Espinosa's great finish to the International League season and carry over to his major league debut is worthy of heightened respect. His ability to play a good second base increases his chances of sticking in Washington for good.
67. Jaff Decker / OF / San Diego / This Update: -14
Decker's year finished up strong, before yet another trip to the disabled list. I was also expecting him to cut down on his strikeouts this year. His stock finally takes the hit that it should have took halfway through the season.
71. Hank Conger / C / LA Angels / This Update: +25
After projecting Conger's skill set and stats to the majors, I now realize he has been undervalued all year. His projected ability to hit for a respectable average and solid power in the majors propels his stock past the likes of Devin Mesoraco, Jason Castro, and Tony Sanchez.
75. Manuel Banuelos / SP / NY Yankees / This Update: +8
His fastball and size are strikes against Banuelos, but the success he had in the second half of the season, after missing the first half, was unexpected to some degree. He even had a successful three-start audition in the Eastern League at the age of 19. He deserves this bump up the board.
77. John Lamb / SP / Kansas City / This Update: -8
Maybe I went a little overboard in my praise for Lamb, as his late season seven start Texas League outing brought his 2010 campaign back to earth. Make no mistake, the 20-year-old player took a giant leap forward this year.
79. Aaron Hicks / OF / Minnesota / This Update: +8
After criticizing Hicks for the past two years, it's time to give him props for producing a solid season in the Midwest League. We're all expecting much, much more in 2011.
83. Reid Brignac / SS/2B / Tampa Bay / This Update: +9
Brignac quietly produced some decent power numbers for a rookie middle infielder adjusting to the big leagues as a part-time player. A solid future is in store.
84. Christian Colon / SS / Kansas City / This Update: +7
After signing, Colon joined the Carolina League for a half-season of work. He didn't blow 'em away, but he showed that he belongs and may be closer to the majors than many expected.
85. Tanner Scheppers / SP/RP / Texas / This Update: -9
Scheppers' season fell apart over the last month of the season. His lack of endurance and history of arm trouble may prevent him from starting long term.
86. Jemile Weeks / 2B / Oakland / This Update: +7
Weeks had another ho-hum year, but his future stat projections point toward a strong big-league career. If only he could stay healthy and put his power potential on display.
87. Lonnie Chisenhall / 3B / Cleveland / This Update: -16
As a third baseman Chisenhall's numbers aren't exciting, and his future projections point toward an average major league career. Unless his power takes off, but there isn't much evidence of more power to come.
88. Jason Castro / C / Houston / This Update: -9
Overall, Castro had a sub-par year, but showed enough to think that Houston will rely on him as their catcher from here on out.
97. Tony Sanchez / C / Pittsburgh / This Update: -15
Sanchez dealt with multiple injuries in 2010 and never got a chance to get going. The real disappointment lies in the fact that he never got a chance to play in Double-A. He is expected to take part in the Arizona Fall League, however, giving him a chance to make amends.
98. Aaron Miller / SP / LA Dodgers / This Update: -14
Miller's control isn't where it needs to be and showed that he wasn't ready for the Southern League.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 1:06am (12) Comments
Friday, September 24, 2010
All stats current through at least Sept. 18.
Michael Brantley | Cleveland | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership
MLS MLE: .298/.361/.390
If I told you a speedy outfield prospect was on pace for a .295/90 runs/35 stolen base season over the past two months, most people in need of speed would pounce on this "Juan Pierre Lite" — especially in AL-only formats where the player pool is shallower. Yet, for some reason, Michael Brantley remains available in 90 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Brantley was a supplementary piece who came to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal in 2008. He's shown himself plenty capable of getting on base in the minors (11.8 percent walk rate, .388 OBP) with plenty of speed to threaten (46/51 in stolen base attempts in 2009). Though Brantley struggled early in the year as a quasi-utility outfielder for the Indians (36 PA), he hit plenty in Triple-A: .336/.411/.445.
Minor League Splits turns this performance into a .298/.368/.390 line—no pop, but plenty of average for 5x5 standard Roto leagues with plenty of on-base for runs and stolen base production. Though Brantley's walk rate has somewhat evaporated at the major league level (6.8 percent), he's still been getting on base at an average .335 clip in August and September, which has allowed him to accrued 20 runs and swipe eight bases in 155 PA.
After hitting .291 in August, Brantley is hitting .307 in September. Owners in need of runs, batting average and/or stolen bases should take note and immediately plug and play Brantley into their lineup—especially owners who relied on my fill-in's advice to pick up Coco Crisp last week, only to find him injured days later...
Recommendation: Brantley is a solid outfielder for mixed league teams with five-outfield spots and a quality pick for deep mixed (14+ teams) and AL-only leagues.
David Murphy | Texas | OF | 24 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .272/.335/.441
There is an old adage that (insert deity name here) never closes a door without opening a window. The door here is Josh Hamilton, who has missed 15 days and counting with a bruised ribcage. With the Rangers so far ahead in the AL West standing, they have no incentive to rush the AL MVP front-runner back onto the field and risk a playoff-sidelining injury. Hamilton's production this year has been nothing short of spectacular (.361 AVG, .449 wOBA, 31 homers, eight steals, 94 runs, 97 RBI over 130 games) and his presence is surely missed by owners pushing for a league title (especially in H2H leagues) down the stretch.
However, there is an open window here—David Murphy. Murphy, a quasi-full time player a la Marlon Byrd 2008-2009, picked up right where Hamilton left off. He's hitting .285/.353/.442 with 11 home runs and 13 steals on the season (438 PA), but it's his past 28 days that really shine: .326/.383/.500 with three HR, three SB, 11 runs and 15 RBI (94 PA). Those numbers are even better in Josh Hamilton's recent absence: .333/.385/.563. .
Murphy's always been a useful offensive player (career .280/.341/.459 with a .347 wOBA) with pop (.178 ISO) and average (but useful) wheels (22 stolen bases over past 258 games), so his valuable contributions as of late should come as no big surprise. Murphy's fantasy value has mostly been limited over the past three seasons by a crowded outfield (Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Byrd plus other temporary pieces like Andruw Jones), which bred playing time issues.
Given the few games remaining on the season, the Rangers' divisional lead, Murphy's hot bat and Hamilton's lingering injury, the Rangers are likely to give Murphy an everyday outfield job (which should likely be his over Julio Borbon anyway) for the remainder of the fantasy season.
Murphy has the pedigree (17th overall pick in 2003) and major league experience (.347 wOBA, 1,524 PA) to back up his current performance (.353 wOBA). The fact that he is available in just over 75 percent of leagues is absolutely insane. He will likely add at least a long ball or two and a stolen base to your bottom line over the final 10 games of the season while being handed plenty of RBI-producing opportunities while batting in the core of a very good offensive lineup.
Recommendation: Murphy should be owned in all mixed and AL-only leagues. He is a strong third outfielder and and decent-enough second outfielder option for mixed formats with 12-plus teams.
Jhonny Peralta | Detroit | SS, 3B | 41 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .260/.318/.415
My fill-in last week begrudgingly covered Peralta and made you aware of what he's done recently, but I want to drive the point home (especially to owners with an ailing Hanley Ramirez). After a lackluster 2009 and first-half of 2010, most fantasy owners probably assumed Peralta was burned out and done. His shortstop days of 20 homers, RBI production and a .275 average days seem a distant memory of the past.
However, when the Tigers traded for Peralta in advance of the July trading deadline, he seemingly found his old spark and has provided plenty of shortstop-eligible value since. (Also, since the Tigers have played Peralta at short for some 35 games, he'll retain both shortstop and third base eligibility in 2011.)
Since going to the Tigers, Peralta has posted a .260 average (not the worst, but definitely not beneficial), but that low batting average has come with seven homers, 19 runs and 31 RBI in 46 games. That is a full season pace of about 23 HR/70 R/100 RBI—very akin to his 2005, 2007-2008 glory day numbers. Given Peralta's SS/3B eligibility, he is at worst a versatile and useful bench player for plug-and-play for the remaining off-days in the season. At best, he is a Band-Aid for Hanley owners who have no clue when/if he will return to day-to-day action with the Marlins out of contention.
Recommendation: Peralta is a must-own player in AL-only formats and a should-be-owned player in mixed leagues— especially deeper ones with middle infielder requirements.
Kyle Drabek | Toronto | SP | 3 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.50 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 7.50 K/9, 4.50 BB/9
ROS Forecasts N/A, 5.17 MLS MLE
With only a few games remaining in the season, a lot of out-of-contention teams have shut down their young and talented pitchers to keep arms fresh and healthy. Case in point: Brandon Morrow, who has been providing fantasy owners with a nutritional source of Vitamin K all season long (food metaphor!). This has closed some doors to fantasy owners making a playoff push, but it also opens up opportunities, largely due to the expanded rosters of September. With some pitchers shut down or with teams far out of contention, many teams are handing over starting duties to some young and talented arms. Case in point: Kyle Drabek.
Right now, Drabek is known as "the guy Toronto got for Roy Halladay." However, given his Double-A performance over this (2.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 47.7 percent GB rate) and last (3.64 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) season combined (258.1 IP, 3.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 208:99 K/BB ratio), he may eventually (2012?) become a solid No. 2 starter with upside for the young and talented Jays rotation.
Minor League Splits is a bit bearish on Drabek's MLE FIP in both 2009 and 2010 (5.17 both seasons), but that is mostly due to control issues (3.4 BB/9 in Double-A), which plague most young pitchers. However, as a strong bright spot, Drabek has shown talent in inducing a good number of batters to ground out while getting a decent amount of others to whiff (20 percent K rate in his minor league career).
Drabek likely needs some time in Triple-A to refine his stuff, work on control and hone his overall abilities, but he was solid enough (though hardly spectacular in limiting baserunners) for a 22-year-old with no experience above Double-A in his major league debut against the Orioles last week (6 IP, 5 K, 9 H, 3 BB). Most encouraging about Drabek's performance was his limited-sample batted ball profile: he induced 11 ground balls to a mere four flyballs and three line drives.
Drabek's next turn is going to come against the anemic Mariners offense in spacious Safeco field, but he should still have a start or two left in him thereafter. If Drabek gets a turn against the Orioles in this weekend's series, I would strongly consider a stream. Otherwise, I'd keep him tucked away as a prospect you know in the future, as the Jays' series thereafter are against the Yankees and Twins. I would not want to start most pitchers (let alone such an undeveloped one) against either of those offenses (both are top three in the majors in team wOBA).
Recommendation: Drabek makes an interesting keeper option, but his prospective 2010 value is very limited. I would strongly consider deploying him against the Orioles and sitting him against the Yankees/Twins.
Justin Masterson | Cleveland | SP, RP | 8 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.64 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.94 K/9, 3.73 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.26 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9
After a season of frustrating peripheral-outcome splits, Masterson has finally strung together an extended series of starts since the beginning of August which demonstrate why the Indians acquired him in the Victor Martinez deadline deal last season. After a perennial spot on the AL Waiver Wire series, it is finally time that I get to say "I told ya so" to all my friends who scoffed at my Masterson love all (pre)season.
Since the calendar flipped to August, Masterson has pitched 53 innings of 15 ER (2.55 ERA), 39:20 K/BB baseball. The low strikeout rate over this period (6.62 K/9, 7.38 career) would be normally be disconcerting, but given Masterson's usually high propensity for walks (3.87 BB/9 in 2010 before August, 3.95 career), league average control is a very positive sign of improvement. That's especially so since the ground balls keep on coming (elite 50 percent groundball rate over this period, though the worm burners have been even higher (55 percent) in his past four starts).
Masterson's past four starts have been particularly dominant. Over the past 25 IP, Masterson has compiled a 1.08 ERA (three ER), a 0.88 WHIP and a sparkling 22:4 K/BB ratio. One of those starts even came against the mighty Twins (Sept. 12: seven IP, one ER, six K, no BB). Masterson is likely to get a shot at two among the Royals (this weekend), the White Sox and the Tigers as the regular season winds down. He's even held his own quite nicely against lefties over the past two months, a problem that has plagued Masterson for his career.
Given Masterson's enormous potential (elite groundball rate, above-average strikeouts and 4.00 xFIP/ERA) and hot hand, I would rate him as one of the best AL pitching options to stream from the waiver wire as the season closes. Few others are able to do what Masterson is capable of, let alone would any such talented AL pitchers be so widely available.
Recommendation: Masterson is deployable in all AL-only and mixed league formats in need of a few extra innings
Ryan Rayburn | Detroit | 1B, 2B, OF | 53 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .266/.332/.463
The calendar flipped to September a few weeks ago, but apparently nobody told hot bat Ryan Raburn. After hitting .308/.357/.606 with eight homers and 21 runs and RBI in 27 August games, Raburn has followed up with an even better September line: .386/.453/.667 with three homers, 11 runs and 12 RBI over 16 games.
Given Raburn's premium lineup placement, super-utility standing (1B/2B/OF eligible), and continuous second-half production, I'd be willing to gamble on his bat over the final days of the season—especially if I have use for roster flexibility (or Jay Bruce). In fact, between Raburn and Peralta, you'd have all eligible fantasy positions, short of catcher, insured against last-minute injury or off day plug-and-play.
Raburn is the AL's answer to Neil Walker, only with more power and less batting average. He's useful and if you don't need him, someone else likely does. There is no reason that half of Yahoo leagues are not paying attention to a man who is screaming "look at me" at the top of his lungs with a baseball bat.
Recommendation: Must own in AL-only leagues, should be owned in all but the shallowest mixed-league formats.
And with that said, I bid everyone a fair adieu. Good luck in your final days of fantasy. I hope you have enjoyed reading my advice this fantasy season (and Jose Bautista watch, while it lasted) as much as I have enjoyed giving it to you. I hope you will return often in the offseason to read the plethora of quality material that THT churns out daily, Monday through Friday. xWHIP 2.0 should debut sometime in the offseason, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, keep using the latest version of the original xWHIP Calculator.
Let me also take this time to give a very special thank you to Derek Carty and the THT team for bringing me aboard this year. If you have not already, let me recommend that you order aTHT 2011 Annual: there will be tons of amazing material in it.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 4:56am (8) Comments
Joe Blanton | Philadelphia | SP | 26 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.04 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.83 K/9, 3.21 K/BB, 42.8 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.60 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.00 K/BB
Joe Blanton has a start against the Mets tonight (Sept. 24), which is too late to add him in Yahoo! leagues, but he also appears lined up for a turn against the Washington Nationals, if the Phillies don't juggle starters down the stretch.
For the season Blanton has two no-decisions and an ugly 6.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 12 innings pitched against the Nationals. Digging deeper, though, you'll see he's had poor luck. In those two starts he's walked only two batters while striking out 16. Since the All-Star break, Blanton has struck out 71 batters in 80.2 innings while walking only 20.
Those in need of help in a head-to-head playoff match-up or those with innings to work with in roto leagues looking for a cheap win or some strikeouts without damaging their ratios should turn to Blanton for his start against the Nationals. He's currently available in 74 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but it would be wise to add him as far in advance of his match-up as possible, as other owners may be planning ahead as well.
Recommendation: Should be added by owners in any size league in need of pitching help in a head-to-head match-up or those in need of pitching points with innings to work with in roto leagues.
Craig Kimbrel | Atlanta | RP | 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 0.59 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 17.61 K/9, 2.73 K/BB, 37.5 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.31 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 1.00 K/BB
Simply put, Craig Kimbrel is a strikeout machine. He has struck out 30 batters in 15.1 innings. Since his recall from the minors at the end of August, the walk issues he had early in the season have disappeared (one walk in seven innings), while the strikeouts have remained high (15). He has struck out at least two batters in six of seven appearances and has picked up a win and a save.
Owners in roto leagues with few innings left before reaching their cap who need every strikeout they can get should add Kimbrel in the hopes of a few more electric appearances. He might luck himself into a win or a save as well, adding gravy to his already fantastic strikeout upside.
Recommendation: Should be added by owners in need of strikeouts with limited innings-pitched resources.
Chris Narveson | Milwaukee | SP | 9 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.25 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.17 K/9, 2.24 K/BB, 40.6 GB
Oliver ROS: 4.44 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.50 K/BB
Chris Narveson is in line to start against the Florida Marlins on Saturday with another likely turn against the Mets to wrap up September, making him a potential nifty add. Narveson has just one start against the Marlins, which wasn't all bad since he struck out eight in 5.2 innings. Unfortunately for him, that's where the good ends in that turn: He allowed five earned runs on six hits with two walks and a home run. With such a small sample against the Marlins, little can be definitively said about Narveson against them.
Against southpaws, the Marlins appear to be a middle-of-the-road team. Their ,255/.323/.408 line ranks tied for 17th in the majors, tied for 16th and tied for 13th respectively in the triple slash categories. His likely turn against the Mets appears even juicier looking at their numbers against left-handed pitching. On the season, the Mets slash just .249/.315/.380 against lefties which is, "good," for tied in 23rd place in batting average, 25th in on-base percentage, and tied for 23rd in slugging.
David Wright crushes lefties, andJose Reyes has a career .303/.353/.443 line and a slash of .313/.358/.391 this year, but beyond those two Ike Davis is the lone wild card so to speak. Davis has hit .313/.376/.473 against his same-handed counterparts this season in 112 at-bats, but has struck out a whopping 34 times. Also, in 191 minor league at bats against lef -handers he has hit .267/.329/.377, making him significantly less intimidating than Wright and Reyes.
Looking at Narveson's solid post-All-Star break numbers of 67.2 innings, 4.26 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 52 strikeouts to 20 walks (2.60 K/BB) leads me to believe he can be serviceable for those looking to pick up a win, some strikeout help and not damage their ratios to close out the year. Narveson isn't a must-add in all league sizes, but depending on your spot in the standings or match-up, he could help.
Recommendation: Narveson is a case-by-case gamble. Those looking to throw aHail Mary to pick up categories could do worse than to add Narveson. Those in tight ratio battles either in head-to-head or roto leagues will need to use their best judgment.
Carlos Gomez | Milwaukee | OF | 4 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .238/.288/.351 (16 SB and 2 CS)
Oliver ROS: .240/.289/.348
Carlos Gomez is strictly a speed play. He has five stolen bases in just 28 September at-bats. Since Sept. 13, Gomez has seen the bulk of the playing time in center field over his counterpart, Lorenzo Cain. From Sept. 13 through Sept. 21, Gomez has nine hits in 26 at-bats, good for a .346 average. He hasn't walked at all in those games, but he has also kept his strikeouts to a minimum, going down to strike three only three times.
Those in head-to-head leagues should look at him only if stolen bases are a swing category, as he offers almost no other value. Those in need of stolen bases to pick up points in roto leagues need to scoop him up immediately, as he's capable of stealing bases in bunches.
Recommendation: Should be added by owners in need of stolen bases, regardless of league size and type.
Ike Davis | New York (National League) | 1B | 28 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .254/.332/.422
Ike Davis is scorching in September. He has 78 plate appearances this month in which he's hit .354/.449/.585 with a 12:14 walk:strikeout rate. He has also slugged six doubles and three home runs in the same time frame. He remains a widely available option for power numbers down the stretch, and shouldn't hurt, and could in fact help, batting average. Davis has been a useful contributor in runs and RBIs this month, and should remain so as long as he is raking and getting on base. If you need some pop, and can't afford to gamble on average, Davis might just be your man.
Recommendation: Should be added by owners in need of pop in 12-team or larger mixed leagues in which he's available.
Pat Burrell | San Francisco | OF | 10 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .232/.338/.414
Pat "The Bat" Burrell is an even more widely available power option than Davis. However, his .233/.377/.535 September line illustrates that he carries batting average risk. Burrell is a notoriously streaky hitter, so he's capable of going on a heater that can carry your fantasy squad down the stretch, but also runs the risk of going Titantic-like and sinking your squad with an ice cold stretch. In just 53 plate appearances this month he has drilled four home runs and has tallied another six dating back to his 109 August plate appearances, good for 10 home runs in his last 162 plate appearances.
Those not deadlocked in average in roto leagues who could use a few dingers should add Burrell immediately. Those in head-to-head leagues need to more carefully weigh the average risk he presents before adding him and add or pass accordingly.
Recommendation: Should be added by owners in 10-team or larger mixed leagues using five outfielders in need of home runs (who have wiggle room in batting average).
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 4:52am (0) Comments
Monday, September 27, 2010
This is the first time I have played in a fantasy league with a cap on innings after which no stats count — traditional rotisserie leagues have a minimum number of innings to prevent owners from playing it safe with only a couple of top starters rounded about relievers.
I was such a stranger to an innings cap that I didn't pay it much heed until the start of August, when I noticed Yahoo projected my pitching staff to finish close to 100 innings over the 1,250 cap. If I continued to use the staff as I had, I would hit the cap in the first two weeks of September.
At that point I began to spot-start my pitchers, using them in games in which they were more likely to win because of the opponent and the opponent's starting pitcher. That strategy has worked well -- while I missed a few gems because a starting was on the bench, I've missed a lot more losses and no-decisions, quite a few of the higher scoring sort. Spot starting has also enabled me to move ahead of the pack in saves, securing third in that category, and lowered my ERA and WHIP.
I thought I had squeezed all the strategy out of the innings cap until I noticed that some teams were finishing with a few more innings than 1,250. I scratched my head, then checked the rules and found this:
"All players active on the day a maximum is reached will receive credit for their stats."
That explained the extra innings and it also opened the door to one final strategy I am using today and tomorrow.
At day's end Sunday I had 1,228 innings, leaving me with 22 more before the cap. Looking at the probably pitchers for the week, I had Brett Anderson going Monday and the trio of Mat Latos, Wandy Rodriguez and Jonathan Sanchez going Tuesday. Between the four I would almost certainly go over the 22 innings on Tuesday, giving me four starts the final week.
But I could do better.
Checking free-agent starters I found a slew of them as is always the case in a mixed-league setting with only 14 owners. I could safely add a second starting pitcher Monday and still use my two closers without hitting 22 innings. And that would place me about five innings short of the cap for Tuesday, allowing me to load up again.
So for Monday I picked up Kevin Slowey who will be pitching in Kansas City against Kyle Davies and for Tuesday I went with Randy Wolf facing the Mets in Citifeld and Anibal Sanchez against the Braves in Atlanta — though I will keep an eye on my WHIP before deciding to go with Wolf and Sanchez.
That gives me up to seven starts the final week and two days with two closers despite having only 22 innings left. By contrast, my nearest rival both overall and in winds has 51 innings left but only five or six scheduled starts. He could follow my approach and negate my advantage, of course, but I suspect he may not.
Posted by Jonathan Sher at 4:38am (6) Comments
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Players picked in round 20 and later have a less than 1 percent chance of making it to the major leagues. And if the odds are not less than 99-to-1, it is still an incredible feat for any player drafted so late. It is even more amazing, then, that the Pirates produced three major league starters from their round 20 through 29 picks in the 2000 draft, two of whom were All-Stars for a season and the other had a near All-Star-caliber season.
These three players are Jose Bautista (round 20), Nate McLouth (25), and Ian Snell (26). Snell and McLouth had their outburst season in 2007 and 2008, respectively, but Bautista, the player we will be focusing on today, is experiencing his breakout season now in 2010 and ending it in spectacular fashion.
In a new era of baseball where 40 is the new 50 in terms of home run totals, Bautista's 2010 season is summed by the gratifying gaudiness of his 52 (and counting) home runs. Each additional homer Bautista hits—an altogether common occurrence—seems a slap in the face to conservative thought about player projections. While hitting home run number 40 (video), Bautista outwardly revels in the glory of the moment, displaying an enthusiastic arrogance that would have warranted more backlash had it not been Jose Bautista in 2010 on the Blue Jays. It surely has been fun to live the path of the unlikely home run champion vicariously through him.
Had I owned him on one of my fantasy baseball teams this year, it would have been even more enjoyable. Especially because in most leagues it did not require a draft pick, but merely a willingness to experiment to have him.
One can see why little was expected from Bautista based on his past few seasons, consisting mostly of high .230s batting averages and mild pop—the kind even Mark Ellis can sometimes achieve. The fact people must learn to accept is there is no way to paint Bautista's season as reasonable or likely since it is the exact opposite—unreasonable and unlikely. Clearly something changed in his swing or something clicked in his head that allowed him to make solid contact with the baseball far more often than he had before.
It is, however, interesting to look back to 2009 and see how his 10 home runs over the season's final 30 games, a signal that perhaps this change in mechanics occurred before the 2010 season began (and a rate to which he has remained remarkably close in 2010), intrigued almost no one. In ESPN drafts, he was not in the first 260 players selected, which is as deep as their ADP numbers go. Certainly there are numerous players in the 200s he should have been targeted over, though I do believe even if he was valued appropriately he would still be a last-round pick at best, given his numbers at the time.
Even though the end results are pretty, Bautista did struggle through parts of this season, starting with the beginning. After April, Bautista was batting just .213 with four home runs and was still unowned almost universally. It wasn't until a seven-game stretch in May, over which he hit six home runs, that people started to take notice. After finishing the month on a strong note, thanks to Jeffrey Gross' great chronicling of his season, we know his ESPN ownership reached 100 percent in late May.
Then came June. Throughout June, Bautista batted a mere .179 with four home runs, which were hit in two multi-homer games. In the other 23 games that month, he went homerless. Despite his struggles, most people found reason to hang onto Jose; his ownership rate never dropped below 90 percent in this darkest hour of his season. His 20 home runs were near the league lead, but his .228 average was also near the league bottom. For their patience (or laziness) in keeping him, people were rewarded in July with a Pujolsian eruption that has yet to subside and left owners of Albert Pujols wondering whether the two players had switched, if only for a moment.
Since July Bautista has batted .299 with 32 home runs in 75 games. Obviously maintaining a rate for half-a-season is much easier than a full one, but it is noteworthy to point out that for half the season Bautista has hit home runs at nearly the rate Barry Bonds did during his record-setting 73 home run campaign. Overall his current 106 R, 52 HR, 118 RBI, 8 SB, .264 AVG line ranks him sixth among hitters this year, with that batting average sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the other fantasy league leaders. The last player to be ranked remotely as high with an average below .270 was Ryan Howard in 2008 when he overshadowed his .251 average with 48 homers and 146 RBI.
While everyone can agree Bautista has had a tremendous 2010, opinions are bound to be polarized regarding his value in 2011. I suspect he will be selected quite high in drafts since every draft is likely to have at least one believer who expects 40+ homer production again. I don't intend to make it sound like such totals are out of the question either—anything between 25 and 40 would not surprise me. I know I do not have any particular insight into what his power numbers will look like next year, so I will leave that range wide on purpose.
If Bautista is picked as highly next year as I envision—around picks 20-40—I do not imagine drafting him in any leagues. I am far from pessimistic about him though, and will be hoping for a similar slump to start the season, after which I would be willing to "buy low" on him and hope for a subsequent power outburst. All of this is many months away though, so for now I plan to simply enjoy the final week of Bautista's renegade season.
Last season I wrote the same article of admiration on fellow Blue Jay Adam Lind and I also could have honored Aaron Hill in the same fashion. Hill and Lind have followed up by having underwhelming seasons to say the least, but both are capable of bouncing back to being highly productive players again. It is frustrating to see Bautista's, Lind's, Hill's and Vernon Wells' most productive seasons separated by the dimension of time, but if the stars align for these four talented teammates in 2011, baseball may see one of the most impressive power displays by a team in recent memory.
Whether all of this offensive firepower can render the Jays meaningful in the bloated AL East is a discussion for elsewhere.
Posted by Paul Singman at 4:55am (12) Comments
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I must make a confession regarding the column you are about to read. If this column was a car, I’d be selling it as “salvaged.” See, it was in an accident earlier this week. I initially wrote my column on Monday evening, but did so without visiting THT that day. After I got home from work and attending an opening of a new bar in Manhattan on Tuesday, I came home figuring I’d read over my piece, make a few tweaks and submit it. Well, while I was not looking at the road, my column crashed into Jonathan Sher’s. I had written a quick column to make sure all the readers were aware of the Yahoo innings cap loophole. Tuesday evening I discovered that Jonathan had done that already. So, what follows is a bit of residual discussion about that issue, and my own exploration of a potentially imminent gut check.
I may try to pull this extra innings strategy off in my highest stakes league. I’m currently sitting in third place, 3.5 points out of the lead. I’m trailing the team ahead of me in strikeouts by 12 and could make up two more points with three wins. The problem is that I don’t know how much room I’ll have in the rate stats and the fourth place owner is right on my heels. If I try to go for broke and the move explodes in my face, I could knock myself out of the money altogether.
The other dynamic that will make things interesting is that the fourth-place owner is the most aggressive owner in the league, and he has less to lose than I do. So, I know he’ll make things interesting by taking advantage of this loophole – I know he knows about it because he’s done it before. …And, he’s the guy ahead of me in Ks, so I’m not sure I can even take that point if he goes all out on this strategy too.
I can’t be sure how many others in the league may be going for this. The fifth and sixth place owners are close enough that a late run could give either or both of them legitimate shots at usurping the final money slot.
Right now, I’m thinking that my strategy might be to beat my opponents to the punch and shoot my load on the second to last day of the season, so that I get my pick of the free-agent pitchers and leave the rest of the teams to fight it out on the last day. Doing that would mean that I’d go over my innings a day early, and thus sacrifice a day’s worth of potential closer production. I do have an outside shot at making up another point in saves, so I’ll see where I stand in a few days.
I’m hoping to avoid being stuck in a gut-check situation, where I’d have to decide whether to risk the smaller prize for a chance at the jackpot. I like to think that if I felt I had a decent chance at making it big, I’d put it on the line. At the same, I like to think that I’d have enough discretion to make a decision that is within the bounds of reasonably prudent risk assessment, which basically means that if there were a blinking neon sign advertising l95 percent odds against my profiting from the gamble, I’d abstain.
If I were a true quant, I could really model this. If my league pays out at 6.67 times entry fee for first place, 3.67 times for second, and 1.67 times for third, what probabilities for each outcome would have to exist to dictate that I don’t risk it? Investors build and use models like this all the time. Then, I could try my best to quantify the actual probabilities. I guess this is, in some ways, a question that defines one’s commitment to the ways of the quant. Can we assume that the quant with the deepest running conviction would cease to go after the top prize if the model insisted that it was slightly “irrational?”
But should we be striving to act rationally now anyway? This question gets interesting if you think about how to present this decision. If you look at in the sense of would you bet X dollars with a certain set of odds that you will win 6.67, other odds that you will win 3.67 times your money, other odds that you will neither lose nor win money, and a final set of odds that you will lose your money, it sound much more reasonable to use a model and just choose the most rational option. But fantasy baseball isn’t an investment, or at the very least it is not just an investment. There’s glory, enjoyment and trash-talking privileges on the line here. When you think about it in the greater social than mathematical context, it seems that anything except walking head on into a speeding bus is a “rational” risk.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:14am (7) Comments
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I'll admit it, sometimes I obsess over certain prospects. And sometimes I concentrate too much on the prospects in my top 100. So I hope this little article makes amends. If your favorite unheralded prospect isn't mentioned, don't feel bad. There are a lot of noteworthy prospects in this game.
Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado. Reliability has been the main issue holding back Rosario. He also needs a lot of work defensively, which will push back his ETA, but, as a catcher, his home run power is rare and could really stand out if he ever gets the opportunity to catch full-time at Coors Field.
Chris Archer, SP, Chicago Cubs. Archer has a solid three-pitch mix. His velocity has crept upward a notch this past year, but, more importantly, his overall command has increased. While his curveball has its moments, he doesn't have a plus pitch, which will limit his upside, but he makes a strong case to be Chicago's No. 1 prospect heading into 2011.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Philadelphia. No hitter in A-ball was hotter during the first two months of the season than Singleton. He cooled considerably the rest of the way and has plenty to work on when it comes to controlling the zone against good breaking stuff and anything up in the zone.
Dellin Betances, SP/RP, NY Yankees. For obvious reasons, the Yankees placed injury restrictions on Betances this year. He responded in dominating fashion, even adding a good looking change-up to his plus fastball/curveball combo. But how will he respond with the restrictions removed? Does he have the endurance to last late into games?
Zach Britton, SP, Baltimore. For many minor league followers, Britton is near the top of the heap when it comes to pitching prospects. I am less convinced, but always impressed with the results he generates, as he is one of the best in the minors at inducing ground balls. He just doesn't have the stuff to be a fantasy behemoth.
Chris Dwyer, SP, Kansas City. Dwyer has a bit of everything you look for in a solid pitching prospect, including results. Although, without plus velocity or an out pitch, his upside may be limited. But he does have youth on his side, so radical development is still possible.
Jarred Cosart, SP, Philadelphia. The sky is the limit for Cosart. The command and velocity of his fastball will carry him for awhile, and may put him over the top, but his currently raw secondary stuff will be key in his development. But, then again, if his mechanics don't improve none of it will matter.
Brandon Allen, OF/1B, Arizona. Allen's plate patience took a step up this year, and his power, while not elite, remains the best aspect of his game. I still worry about his contact ability handicapping him for good. If his move to the outfield is permanent it will help his numbers stand out.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/SS, Detroit. Castellanos has the raw tools necessary to be a dangerous overall hitter one day, his powerful frame being the most prominent and obvious. From what I've seen, though, his swing is long and clunky right now, and who knows where he will end up defensively.
Carlos Perez, C, Toronto. Everyone likes what they see in Toronto's young up-and-comer. As a catcher, the tools are there across the board to be a major league asset one day, but he doesn't have one skill that stands out above the rest and doesn't have elite potential despite the success he is having at a young age.