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Monday, January 03, 2011
Overspending for Players in 2011
Ted Williams once said, “If I was being paid $30,000 a year, the very least I could do was hit .400.” This quote is really amazing to me because it not only shows the kind of character this Hall of Fame hitter had, but it also draws attention to the fact that $30,000 was an extraordinary amount of money back then. Most Americans could barely make it on this kind of scratch today. We are too busy with our iPhones and Hummers and blinded by our LED 3D TVs to recognize that the paper in our pockets is becoming more and more worthless. To me, that is also what’s beautiful about being an American. We live in a time where information is everywhere. Anything you want, you can have. No luxury is too great or too small if you have the means to obtain it. Spending drives the economy, and likewise, spending will drive your fantasy team. As we enter a new year and a new time of life, let’s let the nation’s economy handle itself for the day and concentrate on better understanding our fantasy baseball economy.
Since every fantasy writer in the business likes to generate lists of “value guys,” “waiver wire gems,” and “bargain bin all stars,” I will go against the grain, channel that American spirit, and give you my list of guys on which to overspend. These are players I feel are so undervalued by the masses that you would be foolish not to pay more for their services.
2011 Overspending List (no particular order)
The Stud: Ryan Braun. He is currently being drafted about 13th overall according to Mock Draft Central. He’s been drafted as high as seventh. I argue that I would draft him fifth behind Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Joey Votto. I believe in Tulow, but not quite enough to rank him ahead of Braun. Carlos Gonzalez is the best bet to go 30/30 next year, but I feel his strikeouts and free swinging will make that batting average dip eventually.
Here are the facts, Ryan Braun has the eighth-most home runs of any major leaguer in history through his first four seasons. He had a down year and still posted an elite line of 101/25/103/14/.304. He is the picture of consistency, and I believe that his home run to fly ball ratio of 14 percent was an aberration. Once you examine his second-half split, you see the reversal back to 17 percent which is closer to his career average. The speed dropped a little and so did his stolen base opportunities, but double-digit steals should still be expected. The Brewers will be better in 2011, and assuming Prince Fielder stays put, Ryan Braun is my favorite for National League MVP, bad boy.
The Question Mark: Madison Bumgarner. The fact that this guy is getting drafted after Paul Maholm on average, makes me sick. Guys like Jhoulis Chacin, Randy Wells, Tim Stauffer are all being taken ahead of this young gun. I can’t wrap my brain around that information.
Madison is not going to be a 200-strikeout pitcher, but he’ll pound the zone with a fastball that is regaining velocity (up from an avg 89.2 to 91.3), a plus slider and change, and his newly added curveball. He has elite control with 2.2 walks per nine innings which should help him keep his WHIP down. Only Verlander, Billingsley, Lincecum, and Weaver were better than Bumgarner through September/October according to Fangraph’s WAR data. He’ll pitch as a four on a World Series winning rotation and has the make-up of a future ace. I personally love the fact that he struggled in the minors, dealt with it, and regained his top prospect status. Guys with those intangibles make for great pitchers who are great for many years.
The Guilty Pleasure: Mike Moustakas. I know I’m going to get flack for this selection in my overspend list, but I wanted to include him because he’s not being drafted at all. I understand that the Royals are in no hurry to expose him to the terrors that await him in that line up, but he will press them to give him a chance at the hot corner after a coasting through 100+ at-bats in Omaha. Whether the Royals wait until June 1 is not important. If you are in a deep league with a decent bench or any kind of keeper league, I would not let Moustakas slip off your radar as he’ll cost much more in free agent bidding or waiver priority.
He has an extremely large ceiling, well worth a last pick. Dismiss his line 94/36/124/.293 through Double-A and Triple-A in 2010 which is quite impressive. Please concentrate on his MLE’s of 72/25/95/.289. Only rivaled by Dominic Brown in all the minors last year, these MLE’s are stellar and point to the readiness of his bat. Thanks to Alex Gordon and Scott Boras we’ll have to wait but get your popcorn ready this guy has a chance to be huge.
The Ace in the Sleeve: Max Scherzer. There’s lots to like about Max Scherzer. He has two differently colored eyes. He throws a great fastball that averaged at 93.2 mph last year. He faced adversity and became a better pitcher (see Bumgarner). After a stint with the Mud Hens, Scherzer returned to the Tigers rotation with some of the most dominant stuff in all of baseball. His ERA of 2.74 and dominance of 10.17 (k/9) after the recall made for many a chin to drop. He is a big, strong 26-year-old right hander. His raw skills have never really been in question, but his consistency has. His WHIP will creep up at times, but all signs point to a 200+ strikeout season with a 3.50 or so ERA. He is being taken as a 210th pick, and my amazingly bold prediction is that he strikes out more hitters than that draft position. Don’t be caught looking.
Here’s my final soapbox. The real problem we face as our society has grown older, we have lost our wisdom. Ted Williams had it together. He understood that with great amounts of money comes greater amounts of responsibility. A fiscally responsible fantasy manager will always beat a whimsical free spender, but a fiscally responsible, whimsically wise spender is the greatest of them all.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 1:06am (25) Comments
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
All rise. The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is now in session. You may be seated. If you are reading this, I certainly hope you didn't actually stand up and sit down on those commands. If you did, then chances are you are either very impressionable or you are an obedient dog who can read. Either way, there is no need to be formal at this moment. I am the presiding Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, an independent, expert dispute resolution service for fantasy baseball leagues.
Fantasy Judgment is comprised of a five-person panel of expert judges who impartially render professionally-written decisions resolving any and all issues, disputes and conflicts that arise within fantasy baseball leagues. It is a virtual court (although I will hold court in person for the right price) where members of a fantasy baseball league can air their grievances and obtain a neutral, third-party opinion on how to resolve such dilemmas.
I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you and let you know that I will be contributing a bi-weekly column that focuses on various issues that commonly arise in fantasy baseball leagues. The most common types of disputes are over trades where people challenge the fairness and equality of deals made between league members. I would estimate that 80% of the cases submitted to Fantasy Judgment are trade disputes. The other 20% of cases vary from a wide range of topics, but I don't want to give out those examples now. I need to whet your appetite and make you come back for more. I am thinking of names for this recurring column, and the one that resonates well with me right now is "The Verdict."
The world of fantasy baseball dispute resolution combines both fantasy sports and the law. I am a lawyer, so that is extremely helpful when doing legal analysis. But the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment does not cite blackletter law in its decisions. We are trying to build a body of work where a ledger of fantasy sports jurisprudence can become a standard reference for any fantasy sports player to utilize. Writing a recurring column called "The Verdict" will allow me to present various fact patterns, hypotheticals, and scenarios of issues within leagues in a way that will allow you, the audience, to decide whether to agree (concur) or disagree (dissent) with the Court's ruling. I will also be sharing with you some of the decisions issued by the Court as they happen.
In order to give full disclosure, I must tell you that Fantasy Judgment requires payment in order to receive a formal written decision. There are two different pricing options - either $15.00 per individual dispute, or $100.00 for the unlimited season package. We dedicate a lot of time and effort into writing the decisions and analyzing the issues presented, so it is impossible to consider doing the work pro bono.
That being said, I want to create an environment with this column that will promote discussion, debate, questions, answers, advice and information. I want to educate you about how to handle certain situations internally to try to maintain the integrity of your league. I want to share with you the reasons why neutral, third-party dispute resolution is the fairest and most economical way to ensure that all parties' best interests are taken into consideration. I want to enlighten you as to why there is a need and desire for such a service now as compared to ten years ago. The whole point of this is to be honest with everyone and their expectations, and that there are reasons why it is worth paying for such a service.
For some background, allow me to tell you the story of how Fantasy Judgment came into existence. I am the Commissioner of my 18-team, head-to-head fantasy baseball league that has existed since 1999. In 2008, I was the proud owner of C.C. Sabathia , who had a magical run down the stretch with the Milwaukee Brewers. On Sunday, August 31, 2008, it was the final day of the week in my league's wild card playoff round. That day, I was driving home from a bachelor party with my best friend, who also happened to be my opponent that week. We were listening to the Brewers vs. Pirates on XM radio because Sabathia was pitching and our matchup was close heading into Sunday.
That infamous day, Sabathia would go on to throw a complete-game, one-hit shutout in which the only blemish on the scorecard was an infield hit by Andy LaRoche on a ball that Sabathia bobbled and threw too late to first base. When LaRoche reached first, the announcers questioned the official scoring, saying that it should have been an error on Sabathia. He would go onto the finish the game without allowing another hit. After the game, Brewers' manager Ned Yost stated that he would be protesting the official scoring to Major League Baseball requesting they change the hit to an error, thus giving Sabathia credit for a no-hitter.
In my fantasy baseball league, a no-hitter is worth 50 points. Also, when scores or statistics were modified, they were retroactive to when it actually happened. So I told my friend that if the league changed the official scoring, it would change the scores of our fantasy game. We later heard that Major League Baseball would be reviewing all of the evidence presented and make its decision later that week. Because of this delay, I had to make a decision on how to handle the next round of the playoffs since the result of my game was not conclusive yet. The winner of my game would be playing the Co-Commissioner, so he had a vested interest in the result, as well.
Given that all parties involved were not neutral and the fact there was precedent in how retroactive points were applied, I felt comfortable autonomously making a decision even though my own team was directly involved in the dilemma. I decided that both I and my opponent would submit lineups against the Co-Commissioner for the semi-final round and play concurrent games that week. If the league ruled that the official scoring would be changed to a no-hitter, then I would get credit for the 50 points and win the game. If the league ruled that the official scoring would remain as a one-hit shutout, then I would lose the game, since that was how the result stood.
Either way, the winning team would continue its game against the Co-Commissioner and the losing team would have its game removed. I also decided that if no decision was made by the end of that week, I would accept the loss and remove myself from the playoffs. I believed this was the fairest way to handle the situation without unduly prejudicing anyone else. Unfortunately, my Co-Commissioner and a few other league members took exception to the fact that I autonomously made the decision when it directly involved my own team. In the end, Major League Baseball upheld the official scoring and Sabathia was not given credit for a no-hitter. I kept my word, accepted the loss, and removed my game from the playoffs.
Because of the backlash I received from this decision, I wondered if there was a third party who could have intervened and made the decision independently. I did some research and found that there were a couple websites out there that performed dispute resolution services for fantasy sports leagues. I was not overly impressed with these websites or companies, and I believed that I could perform these type of services myself given my experience in fantasy sports and my background as an attorney. In 2009, I created Fantasy Judgment and focused a lot of time and energy on promoting it based on who we are and not just smoke and mirrors. I felt it was imperative to give full disclosure as to who is making the decisions and why we are qualified to do so. That type of transparency did not exist with the other websites I found.
Now I look forward to sharing with you the ins and outs of fantasy sports dispute resolution. I am open to questions, comments, suggestions and recommendations for issues and topics to discuss. My goal is to help you enjoy your fantasy baseball experience in a league that is free from drama and conflict. But, like anything else that involves money, sports and competition, there will always be drama and conflict in some capacity. It is just a matter of how you handle it that will help maintain your league's integrity and protect your sanity.
Court is now adjourned.
Posted by Michael Stein at 5:01am (4) Comments
NOTE: THE ORIGINAL RELEASE OF THIS FILE HAD A TRANSPOSITION ERROR IN THE FORMULA. IT HAS BEEN FIXED AS OF JANUARY 8, 2011. I GREATLY APOLOGIZE FOR THE PROBLEM. PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE UPDATED FILE (link below). THANK YOU.
A few months ago, I debuted the first version of the expected WHIP (xWHIP) calculator, which took a pitcher's batted ball distribution and, in determining an expected number of hits, calculated that pitcher's expected WHIP. The tool was tinkered with and refined until version 1.4.3 was released and that, until now, has been the primary xWHIP tool available. xWHIP 1.4.3 overexpected WHIP a bit, but was otherwise pretty solid. Especially for relative comparison purposes, xWHIP 1.4.3 was a useful fantasy tool.
Not long ago, I was introduced to a fellow stathead by the name of Martin Alex Hambrick. He had done some number tinkering similar to what I had done independently with the xWHIP calculator, and he had an idea. He brought that idea to my attention, and from it a new formula for expected xWHIP was born.
Alex's idea was that a pitcher's actual innings pitched (aIP) are as much the by product of luck as expected hits (xHits). The theory is that a medley of defense, umpires, errors, random luck and the like skew the length of innings. The pitcher, for example, does not particularly control dropped third strikes by his catcher.
This idea is somewhat captured in the K% (K/TBF) and BB% (BB/TBF) movement of sabermetrics that rejects K/9 and BB/9 because the length of innings is largely out of the control of the pitcher, thereby skewing both K/9 and BB/9. Accordingly, we began work on a new denominator for xWHIP that incorporated an expected innings (xIP) total based on a pitcher's outs-creating events.
With this idea in mind, we began work on a new xWHIP calculation. Law school delayed my work on a final formula until this week, but with "way too much time on my hands" (i.e., any lawyers out there need a law clerk for the summer?), I finally got around to hammering out a reliable formula and user-friendly interface, calibrated to Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) data.
The current formulation for expected innings is as follows:
xIP = ((K*1.000075)+((BB-IBB+HBP)*0.00016)+((0.808)*GB)+((0.278)*LD)+((0.992)*IFFB)+((0.745)*OFFB)+(0.020099*(BB+HBP+xH)))/3
The coefficients in the above formula represent the expected outs by event rate. You might notice the two percent adjustment applied to both modified walks (BB-IBB+HBP) and expected hits (xH). That figure represents a ten-year average outs-per-runners-put-on-base rate (ORB). ORB encapsulates the ten-year league average pickoff and caught stealing rates.
Because catcher defense and a pitcher's pickoff talents are difficult to measure, and also not widely available, using a league average rate helps make the calculator more accessible. The final xWHIP figure should be mentally modified based on one's own perception of a catcher's pickoff ability or a pitcher's pickoff ability. If Jason Varitek is the catcher, you might want to raise the pitcher's calculated xWHIP, while the opposite would be true for those pitchers handled by Yadier Molina.
Alex is working on a simplified "Quick xWHIP" formula that simplifies the xWHIP calculation even further, to the point that you could do it on a calculator. He'll tell you more about that (and the accuracies of both xWHIP 2.0 and Quick xWHIP) in a (near-) future post. All I can say for now regarding the calculator's accuracy, at least to some degree of certainty, is two things. First, xWHIP works best—that is to say, it is most predictive—when you use multi-year data rather than year N-1 data. Second, the R^2 of the data seems to be solid for a predictive state.
Someone once told me (or maybe I just read it somewhere) that an R^2 of .30-.35 is strong for a predictive stat, while a .60 or greater R^2 is what is required of an evaluative stat. Using 2007 xWHIP 2.0 to predict 2008 actual WHIP resulted in an R^2 of .34 amongst the 78 pitchers who faced a minimum of 500 batters, compared to an R^2 of .26 for 2007 actual WHIP. Likewise, using 2008 xWHIP to predict 2009 actual WHIP resulted in an R^2 of .36 amongst the 80 pitchers who faced a minimum of 500 batters, compared to an R^2 of .30 for 2008 actual WHIP.
Strangely, however, using 2009 xWHIP to predict 2010 xWHIP amongst the 82 pitchers who accrued 500+ total batters faced merely resulted in an R^2 of .15 (compared to a .14 R^2 for 2009 actual WHIP). Maybe I crunched the 2009-2010 data incorrectly. Maybe this is a sample size issue. Maybe not. As I mentioned above, Alex will supply more details on the accuracy of xWHIP 2.0 shortly.
I also tinkered some with the expected hits formula, but the changes are relatively minor and hardly warrant discussion. The important thing to note about the new xWHIP tool is that it is now calibrated per the past five years of BIS data rather than Game Day. I have done this because I believe that Fangraphs utilizes BIS, not Game Day, as their source for ball in play (BIP) data. Accordingly, this should make the tool more accurate for the average user. Most of the data stood relatively stable, but here are the new expected hits by batted ball types:
You can download the new xWHIP tool, version 2.0, by clicking here. The password to utilize the xWHIP tool is still "soto 18" and the batted ball data you will need to plug in can be found at Fangraphs.com.
Picture below is a screenshot of the xWHIP 2.0 tool, which was used in my Zack Greinke forecast article. For explanatory purposes, this screenshot has the 2010 numbers of Roy Halladay plugged in.
As the instructions on the tool indicate, the gray cells are for data you should manually input. The magenta park factor cell is also a manual data cell, though the number should be left at "1.00000" unless you have the relevant park factor HR/FB index figure. You should not enter any data into any of the blue, green or yellow-orange cells.
The green cells feature the line drive-regressed expected-ball-in-play data. The yellow-orange cells display the expected innings, expected hits and expected WHIP for the pitcher, irrespective of defense. If you enter data into the Team Innings Pitched and Team UZR gray cells, then the blue cells will display a crude defensive adjustment to the expected hits total, assuming uniform defense and that all saved hits would be of the singles variety. All of the data cells are pre-formatted to visually round all numbers to keep the sheet clean, though cells will retain the full value of any number entered.
I also included a cell for xWHIP 1.4.3, calibrated from Game Day to BIS, in case people wanted to know a player's expected WHIP using expected hits and actual innings, rather than expected innings.
On a final note, I would like to give a special thank you to several of my THT colleagues who have been invaluable in the creation of the xWHIP 2.0 tool. Without the assistance of Derek Carty, Dave Studemund, and Harry Pavlidis, none of this would have been possible. I apologize to each of you for my incessant e-mailing in attempt to work out the mathematical kinks in the formula.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:04am (15) Comments
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
As a product of the fantasy generation, my calendar is divided up into two distinct seasons. March through August is devoted completely, 100 percent to rotisserie baseball. The early part of September can be a little confusing, with the start of the football and the end of the (fantasy) baseball season coinciding, but by the middle of the month, my full attention has been hijacked by the crazed beasts of the gridiron, and is typically held hostage through the end of the year.
That leaves a two-month window between January and February for me to relax, read a book or two, and spend some much-needed quality time with the wife. Yeah, right. And let my competition get a two-month head start on their prep work? I don't think so. Shunning evenings on the couch watching Boardwalk Empire for evenings in front of the computer studying xFIP is how trophies are hoisted and bragging rights are earned.
There are plenty of ways to get wet, but in this space, I want to specifically use the Oliver projections in the THT Forecasts as our springboard into the fantasy world. If you're unfamiliar with Oliver, creator Brian Cartwright has a must-read article explaining all the intricacies. Put in ultra-simplistic terms, it's a full-featured player projection system that uses a weighted mean of the previous three seasons, adjusted for age and park factor, and regressed to the mean.
Oliver's predictions shouldn't be viewed as the gospel truth, but rather as a tool by which to judge, compare, and dissect particular players and their fantasy prospects for the upcoming season. Consider this initial offering a dipping of the toe into the batter pool. Next week we'll get in up to our waist in pitchers, and the week after, we'll jump headfirst into the deep end. For now, though, here's a player at each position whose Oliver projection randomly caught my eye upon first glance.
One last note: I've used Tom Tango's formula of HR + SB + (H -.27*AB) + R/3 + RBI/3 to assign a position rank based on Oliver's projections. It's a widely-used, effective gauge of 5x5 value, and when applied to Oliver, shows a big-picture view of who the computer likes and who it doesn't.
2009: .287 AVG/35 R/9 HR/43 RBI (385 PA)
2010: .249 AVG/37 R/11 HR/55 RBI (502 PA)
2011 Oliver: .266 AVG/62 R/16 HR/66 RBI (543 PA)
When Wieters was called up in 2009, he was supposed to be an MLB-ready backstop with good pop and a guaranteed .300 average in his back pocket. Instead, he's struggled to keep his average above .250, and the power has failed to befit a man once hyped as "God in Cleats." Perhaps "Kurt Suzuki in an Orioles Uniform" would have been a more appropriate moniker.
Oliver Thinks...the Suzuki comparison is spot on. According to the Tango formula, Oliver values Wieters as the 9th-ranked catcher, right behind the balanced, but unspectacular, Suzuki. Even with an anticipated power increase, Wieters won’t fulfill expectation until the BA migrates north of .280, at the very least.
I Think...a full explosion is still possible, but mainly because I just spent an inordinate amount of time re-familiarizing myself with Wieters' drool-worthy minor league numbers (32 HR/.343 AVG in 578 AB). He made some positive strides last year, walking a bit more, striking out less, and improving his overall contact rate by 5.2 percent. He even decreased his Swinging Strike percentage (SwStr%) to 7.2, a big drop from the 10.5 number he posted in '09.
The gains, though, failed to show up in his end numbers, primarily due to a BABIP that plummeted nearly 70 points, from .356 in '09 to .287 in '10. Assuming the BABIP normalizes somewhere between the two and he continues to make small strides in his approach, the Oliver line seems like a reasonable floor to pencil in for Wieters.
2009: .306 AVG/86 R/34 HR/108 RBI (622 PA)
2010: .290 AVG/29 R/11 HR/38 RBI (211 PA)
2011 Oliver: .292 AVG/59 R/22HR/73 RBI (446 PA)
After a remarkably consistent 2009 season that saw him exceed nearly every expectation, Morales followed it up in 2010 by doing something at the plate no player in recent memory has been able to accomplish – though to be fair, not many have attempted to fracture their fibula while celebrating a game-winning grand slam.
Oliver Thinks...the Baseball Gods have it in for Morales. Taking into account his injury-shortened year and the lone full season of MLB production on his resume, Oliver projects him at only 446 plate appearances (407 AB), predictably stifling his counting numbers, and placing him just outside the top 15 at the position.
I Think...based on the data, it's understandable why Oliver is concerned about durability, but considering the freakish nature of last year's injury and the lack of past ailments, the worry seems unwarranted in this specific case. Last year, albeit in only two months of action, Morales showed no signs that his 2009 season was a fluke, and if you extrapolate the projections out to 500 AB, you'll see Oliver agrees, showing 27 HR, 91 RBI, and 73 runs. That kind of production would sandwich him firmly between Justin Morneau and Kevin Youkilis in the rankings, which seems just about perfect.
2009: .243 AVG/84 R/31 HR/90 RBI (668 PA)
2010: .287 AVG/100 R/33 HR/105 RBI (674 PA)
2011 Oliver: .266 AVG/81 R/32 HR/97 RBI (619 PA)
Uggla has four straight 30-homer seasons, and, despite hitting in the middle of mostly mediocre Marlins lineups, he's never driven in fewer than 88 runs in his career. At a second base position light on depth, and even lighter in power production, Uggla's consistent bopping looks extremely appealing.
Oliver Thinks...even if you factor in a 20-point drop in BA, the only second baseman more appealing than Uggla is Chase Utley. That may have something to with the system's preference towards players with greasy, slicked-back hair, or maybe it's a sign Oliver hates all things related to New York (Robinson Cano) and Boston (Dustin Pedroia). Either way, Uggla projects as the only two-bagger to top 30 homers (as he was last year), and the only player north of 90 RBI (only he and Cano hit that total in '10).
I Think...it's hard to argue that a 30/100 season won't happen if Uggla manages to play more than 145 games, which he's done every year of his career. Personally, I'd still take Cano and Pedroia over him, mostly because a healthy batting average – even a .266 mark – can't be counted on out of Uggla. In five seasons, he's been total feast or famine, finishing with an average below .245 twice, and above .280 twice.
Considering all his peripherals held true to form last year, with the only notable difference coming in a BABIP 28 points above his career norm, it's logical to conclude 2011 won't feature the type of average that leads to the elite standing Oliver is suggesting.
2009: .330 AVG/79 R/25 HR/90 RBI (633 PA)
2010: .268 AVG/61 R/13 HR/63 RBI (618 PA)
Oliver 2011: .299 AVG/77 R/21 HR/86 RBI (598 PA)
There wasn't a bigger disappointment, both literally and figuratively, than Sandoval in 2010. After being drafted as a top-five guy at third base, he was nearly unownable, especially in H2H leagues, where he provided a .336 average and nine homers in the months of April and August, but hit just .231 with four long balls in the other four months combined.
Oliver Thinks...Sandoval will, at long last, embrace the philosophy of "diet and exercise" during the offseason, and hopefully stop swinging at so many crappy pitches. Well, Oliver doesn't use those words exactly, but they’re certainly implied, because the only way the average bounces back to .300 and the power creeps into the 20-plus range is if he makes both a priority.
I Think...I'm sketched out by the thought of drafting him as a top-five player at 3B again, which Oliver indicates is a good idea. Last year his already inflated O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside the strike zone) jumped from 41.7 to 44.6 – with only Vladimir Guerrero embodying the "nose to toes" approach more than Pablo. Even more disconcerting, the percentage of pitches Sandoval swung at inside the zone dropped from 83.0 to 78.9, while his contact rate stayed static at 82%.
This indicates he was swinging at more bad pitches and fewer good ones, while making the same amount of contact—a recipe for declining batting average if I’ve ever seen one. I’m not quite ready to write him off as a cautionary tale of unchecked excess, but it’ll take a noticeably trimmer Sandoval, accompanied by glowing reports of a more restrained approach at the plate, before I’m willing to jump back on the Panda’s back.
2008: .297 AVG/113 R/16 HR/68 RBI/56 SB (763 PA)
2010: .282 AVG/83 R/11 HR/54 RBI/30 SB (603 PA)
Oliver 2011: .280 AVG/78 R/9 HR/51 RBI/24 SB (511 PA)
After an injury-marred '09 campaign, Reyes saw his production return exactly to the level it was prior to the calf injuries. Well, almost exactly. His stolen base total dropped to a very pedestrian 30, down from the 56 he pilfered in his last healthy season.
Oliver Thinks...age, injury, and a lack of walks will again prevent him from being an upper-echelon base stealer. Even if you take out the injury concerns and extrapolate Oliver's projections to 700 PAs, 33 SBs are all you get.
I Think...if Reyes stays healthy all year, he's still capable of a 50-stolen base season. Big “IF,” though. Last year he missed nearly all of training camp and the first week of the season with a thyroid issue, and dealt with an oblique strain that caused him to miss half of July and hindered his running ability when he did return. When Reyes was ailment-free he was very effective, swiping 29 of 36 bags outside of July, but the lack of attempts is of notable concern.
After averaging 80 attempts between 2005-08, he only registered 40 last season. You can chalk some of that up to injuries, but the plummeting walk rate, which fell to 5.5%, by far the lowest number he'd produced since '05, had as much to do with it as anything. Obviously, fewer walks equal fewer opportunities to steal bases. Oliver thinks that number will bounce-back to 7.2% in 2011, and if it does, and he stays healthy, the speed is still blazing enough to return Reyes to elite status. As it stands, he ranks a distant third at the disturbingly weak SS position.
2009: .267 AVG/103 R/36 HR/119 RBI/10 SB (638 PA)
2010: .259 AVG/48 R/6 HR/47 RBI/10 SB (401 PA)
2011 Oliver: .263 AVG/72 R/22 HR/75 RBI/8 SB (544 PA)
Bay, fresh off a 36 HR/119 RBI season, was one of the worst hitters in baseball last season. In 95 games – his season was mercifully ended by a concussion in July – the 32-year-old managed to hit a home run in just four contests, finishing with a whopping six on the year, and his ISO fell from .269 to .144.
Oliver Thinks...similar to David Wright, Bay's power will return in his second season in Citi Field. Not to his Red Sox levels, but enough so that he's draftable as a third outfielder in 12-team leagues.
I Think...it's been proven that Citi Field wasn't the sole culprit for Bay's steep decline, though what was, I still have no idea. His K:BB ratio was pretty close to his career norm, and nothing was askew with his batted-ball numbers, either (other than his career-low 5.1% HR/FB, of course).
The only thing worth noting was an elevated swing percentage, particularly on balls outside the zone, but it's hard to tell if that was the result of a change in approach, or simply the byproduct of frustrated hacking that often accompanies prolonged slumps. Unless his skill set completely deteriorated on the flight from Boston to New York, Bay is an excellent bounce-back candidate you'll be able to purchase at a bargain-basement price.
Posted by Chris Ryan at 4:02am (5) Comments
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Cincinnati Reds: Top 10 Prospects
1. Aroldis Chapman / SP/RP / Chapman's fastball is already legendary. Combine it with his slider and he has the makings of an elite closer. The polish on his change-up in 2010 was surprising and may be the deciding factor between bullpen and rotation. I like him a lot, but the indecision regarding his role leaves me cold.
2. Devin Mesoraco / C / Mesoraco had a dynamite season thanks mainly to a shorter, quicker swing than he has shown in the past. His defensive potential is nothing to sneeze at, either, offering Cincinnati an all-around potential future asset at a premier position.
3. Yasmani Grandal / C / Despite what some are saying, Grandal is a solid defender in my book. From a catching perspective, he has power and plate discipline to spare, but I have my doubts as to whether he can make enough consistent contact to hit for a respectable average.
4. Yonder Alonso / 1B/OF / Alonso's stock has dipped this year. The home run power simply isn't where it needs to be. It's now safe to question his All-Star potential, but he does many things well and looks the part of an above-average first baseman.
5. Yorman Rodriguez / OF / It's rare to see a hyped, athletic teenager put his tools to work and immediately produce results. He literally has everything you want in an outfield prospect. We'll just have to wait and see how his pitch recognition and plate discipline translate to full-season ball.
6. Billy Hamilton / 2B/SS / Hamilton is an athletic young infielder who showed a better plate approach than anyone expected for his age. He has speed to burn and some power upside that hasn't presented itself yet.
7. Kyle Lotzkar / SP/RP / Cincinnati continues to be cautious with Lotzkar. Once turned loose, he has above-average velocity on his fastball and two promising secondary pitches.
8. Cody Puckett / 2B / Second base looks like Puckett's permanent home, and the power he showed in 2010 could turn him into a solid asset for Cincinnati. Whether or not his power or speed will show up as he advances through the farm system remains to be seen.
9. Todd Frazier / OF/3B/1B / Frazier's power and speed continue to play and could aid him on his way to becoming an average outfielder. But his strikeout rate spiked to scary levels in 2010. Trend or learning experience?
10. Juan Francisco / 3B / I thought about handing Juan Duran the No. 10 spot, Brad Boxberger has a lively arm, and Neftali Soto showed signs of life, but I finally decided on Francisco. Francisco's walk rate could destroy him, and his defense is shaky to say the least, but his power is an asset that separates him from the rest.
Cincinnati Reds: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)
1. Jay Bruce / OF
2. Aroldis Chapman / SP/RP
3. Homer Bailey / SP
4. Johnny Cueto / SP
5. Mike Leake / SP
6. Devin Mesoraco / C
7. Yasmani Grandal / C
8. Yonder Alonso / 1B/OF
9. Travis Wood / SP
10. Yorman Rodriguez / OF
Pittsburgh Pirates: Top 10 Prospects
1. Jameson Taillon / SP / Taillon is the best high school arm I've seen in awhile. He has everything going for him, including size, athleticism, velocity, poise, and the makings of an outstanding arsenal.
2. Tony Sanchez / C / Injuries derailed Sanchez's promising 2010 campaign. His upside is somewhat limited, but he has the intangibles and on-base ability, and he does all the little things you look for in a strong catcher.
3. Stetson Allie / SP / Allie had perhaps the best pure power arm of any high school hurler in the 2010 draft. But that's where the comparisons to Taillon stop. For now. He has huge upside but a long way to go to get there.
4. Rudy Owens / SP / A left-handed starter with plus command of an average repertoire is a tough asset to come by. He doesn't have an out pitch, but is a strike thrower who has a chance to settle into the middle of Pittsburgh's rotation one day soon.
5. Luis Heredia / SP / Pittsburgh has done a marvelous job of adding some premium young ace-caliber pitchers to their system. Heredia fits the mold due to his tender age, exciting fastball, and feel for his secondary offerings.
6. Jeff Locke / SP / Locke brings a similar profile to the mound as Owens. Locke doesn't have quite the velocity or strikeout track record, but he does know how to pump the strike zone and has a solid shot to be a successful big leaguer.
7. Andrew Lambo / OF / It is becoming harder and harder to believe in Lambo's upside, as his power numbers continue to go backward and his plate approach remains a negative. But I have been a Lambo supporter for awhile now, and I'm not completely giving up yet.
8. Robbie Grossman / OF / Grossman was one of my favorite sleepers of the 2008 draft, but his pitch recognition is holding him back. He is hacking way too much, which is even more concerning due to his minimal power numbers. The immense talent is still present, but I'm itching for better results.
9. Justin Wilson / SP/RP / Wilson opened some eyes by consistently sitting in the 93-95 mph range during the Arizona Fall League. His curveball is inconsistent but could become a plus offering down the road. His command is holding him back at this point and may relegate him to the bullpen soon.
10. Chase D'Arnaud / SS / Bryan Morris, Tim Alderson, Victor Black, and Brooks Pounders should not be forgotten, but I like D'Arnaud at No. 10. He plays strong defense, has a decent approach at the plate, a bit of power, and good speed. He has a shot to be an average major league regular.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Top 10 Players Under Age 26 (as of 4/1/11)
1. Pedro Alvarez / 3B
2. Andrew McCutchen / OF
3. Jameson Taillon / SP
4. Neil Walker / 2B
5. Tony Sanchez / C
6. Jose Tabata / OF
7. Stetson Allie / SP
8. Rudy Owens / SP
9. Luis Heredia / SP
10. Jeff Locke / SP
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:01am (11) Comments
Friday, January 07, 2011
Other 2011 fantasy rankings by position:
Catcher || First Base || Second Base || Shortstop || Third Base || Corner and Middle Infield
To remind everyone: These rankings are based on position eligibility. Players who are eligible at multiple positions will be ranked in comparison with others at each relevant position. You will also note asterisks next to the names of certain players. These indicate health risks. Health concerns have been taken into consideration, as have expected talent and expected playing time to yield expected production.
Position eligibility and evaluation criteria for these rankings are explained here.
Rank Player Team Oliver Slash (2011)** 1 Ryan Braun Brewers .307/.367/.533 2 Matt Holliday Cardinals .301/.380/.500 3 Josh Hamilton* Rangers .301/.360/.501 4 Carlos Gonzalez Rockies .288/.340/.508 5 Carl Crawford Red Sox .287/.341/.426 6 Matt Kemp Dodgers .270/.328/.454 7 Jason Heyward Braves .308/.393/.539 8 Justin Upton Diamondbacks .291/.372/.536 9 Nelson Cruz* Rangers .272/.341/.504 10 Shin-Soo Choo Indians .294/.387/.480 11 Andrew McCutchen Pirates .277/.357/.448 12 Alex Rios White Sox .265/.313/.408 13 Jayson Werth* Nationals .261/.361/.460 14 Ichiro Suzuki Mariners .309/.351/.392 15 Jay Bruce Reds .265/.336/.486 16 Mike Stanton Marlins .283/.359/.623 17 Jacoby Ellsbury* Red Sox .266/.324/.359 18 Hunter Pence Astros .270/.324/.445 19 Drew Stubbs Reds .232/.306/.354 20 Curtis Granderson* Yankees .246/.324/.433 21 Andre Ethier Dodgers .278/.356/.485 22 Torii Hunter Angels .273/.346/.441 23 Domonic Brown Phillies .271/.336/.449 24 B.J. Upton Rays .244/.338/.394 25 Chris Young Diamondbacks .238/.320/.420 26 Colby Rasmus Cardinals .259/.338/.467 27 Jose Bautista Blue Jays .239/.347/.478 28 Grady Sizemore* Indians .250/.342/.453 29 Manny Ramirez* Free Agent .272/.371/.463 30 Nick Markakis Orioles .280/.358/.424 31 Brett Gardner Yankees .256/.353/.345 32 Carlos Beltran* Mets .278/.362/.447 33 Shane Victorino Phillies .267/.332/.413 34 Vladimir Guerrero Rangers .284/.332/.449 35 Desmond Jennings Rays .261/.335/.382 36 Jason Bay Mets .254/.352/.457 37 Adam Jones Orioles .271/.318/.429 38 Bobby Abreu Angels .257/.348/.404 39 Vernon Wells Blue Jays .272/.324/.446 40 Jose Tabata Pirates .298/.351/.422 41 Corey Hart Brewers .271/.327/.463 42 Ben Zobrist Rays .256/.361/.418 43 Juan Pierre White Sox .273/.329/.323 44 Carlos Quentin* White Sox .252/.339/.480 45 Angel Pagan Mets .278/.331/.417 46 Delmon Young Twins .292/.330/.464 47 Michael Bourn Astros .254/.325/.331 48 Travis Snider Blue Jays .263/.329/.470 49 Lance Berkman* Cardinals .262/.374/.443 50 Luke Scott Orioles .252/.331/.454 51 Nick Swisher Yankees .249/.346/.443 52 Coco Crisp Athletics .268/.338/.401 53 Logan Morrison Marlins .286/.376/.452 54 Hideki Matsui Athletics .253/.339/.412 55 J.D. Drew Red Sox .243/.350/.423 56 Aubrey Huff Giants .265/.339/.448 57 Michael Cuddyer Twins .270/.340/.449 58 Matt Joyce Rays .240/.340/.445 59 Rajai Davis Blue Jays .275/.316/.374 60 Carlos Lee Astros .259/.305/.412*Assuming health (which means assuming the amount of health I expect from them), being tendered a contract.
**Oliver's 2011 projections have been updated. Most of the projections are essentially similar, but for the most up to date projections, subscribe to THT Forecasts by clicking here. If you are unsure of whether to subscribe to THT Forecasts, you can read about why I love THT Forecasts by clicking here
For those of you who caught the unfinished version of this list in my third basemen rankings two weeks ago, I apologize for the overwriting error. The numbers here represent my present-sense rankings after some tinkering.
These rankings place a premium on balance and counting stats over batting average. Outfielders tend to be the most balanced fantasy players, providing the most speed/power combination of any position. Balance is the key to a successful fantasy baseball campaign because it simultaneously fills out categories and diversifies risk. While some like to invest in single-stat commodities with higher upside, I will take two more balanced players.
For example, some might draft a few power guys (e.g., Nick Swisher) and a few steals guys (e.g., Juan Pierre) to collectively fill out their total production. This is unwise in my view for two reasons.
One, it takes up precious roster space, which—unless you are in a deep bench league—should be used for utility players, speculation picks and backup plans. Moreover, in the specialization approach to fantasy baseball, you put a lot of stock in individual players. If Jacoby Ellsbury was your steals guy last year, for example, you were ruined before May. An injury to a single player in the specialization approach can jeopardize your season, especially if his specialized skill set is hard to replace on the waiver wire. After all, how many of the top producers in steals and home runs are sitting on the waiver wire as back-up options?
If you draft for balance, however, even if balance sacrifices upside, you mitigate the risk. If a 15/15 guy goes down, you can likely find a 10/10 guy to replace his production while he is on the DL. Furthermore, the total amount of category you lose by that single injury is less because you've distributed your team's total stats per category among the players on your team. Accordingly, balance is a smart choice unless you are in shallow leagues or have an "all-or-nothing," high risk/reward, all-eggs-in-one-basket approach to fantasy baseball.
This mindset in mind, these rankings become more clear. In addition to balance, I put a premium on the counting stats. I view batting average as too volatile to predict accurately, and while I do not ignore it, I do not draft for it. That is why you might view some batting average outfielders as ranked "too low" on this list. Feel free to adjust them accordingly or argue their case in the comments.
Missing from these rankings are several names that I like: Chris Carter (.250/.339/.489), Josh Willingham (.253/.358/.456), Julio Borbon (.272/.319/.346), Denard Span (.276/.356/.371), Kyle Blanks (.261/.349/.452), Lastings Milledge (.263/.319/.375), and Ryan Kalish (.255/.331/.401). I could not justify including any in the rankings due to some perceived flaw, such as serious playing time concerns (Carter, Kalish, Millege), health concerns (Willingham, Blanks), or the team's dynamics and the player's unrefined skill set (Julio Borbon and base stealing). I also wish I could include Nolan Reimold (.244/.329/.399), but he's a pure wild card at this point.
I have some players ranked quite high here that I personally would not draft. Guys like Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Luke Scott, and Brett Gardner are certainly valuable, but they are too "specialized" for my tastes. I owned Ichiro last year and while his batting average was useful, I learned just how much an underperforming (or injured) specialized talent can affect your team's bottom line. Instead, I'd rather take the balance approaches of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Chris Young and Angel Pagan, even if they individually offer less of a production ceiling overall.
I know that five players in particular seem controversial: Desmond Jennings, Domonic Brown, Manny Ramirez, Grady Sizemore and Carlos Beltran.
With respect to Jennings and Brown: Both are "unpolished" rookies who underwhelmed in their brief September call-ups last season. Each, however, offers fantastic upside, has nothing left to prove in the minors, will be an Opening Day outfielder for his team, and has produced impressive major league equivalent batting lines.
Without a doubt, Jennings is a "Carl Crawford of the future" type*. He is the reason the Rays were able to so comfortably let Crawford walk without bidding more than an offer of arbitration for 2011 to the departed free agent (now a Red Sox). In the minors, Jennings stole 171 bases in 204 attempts over 420 games, producing an .824 OPS on the heels of a 10.6 percent walk rate and doubles power. While Jennings' touted power potential (15-20 home run capability) has yet to materialize, he is still only 24 and one of baseball's best prospects. He's a career .299 hitter in the minors, and I would not be shocked to see Jennings hit for a .280-plus batting average with five to 10 home runs, three-plus stolen bases and over 100 runs from atop the Rays' lineup (with upside to spare). Even better is the high floor given his skill set of walking, hitting for average and foot speed.
*I recently had to downgrade Jennings value, as the Johnny Damon signing is expected to bump him down to Triple-A to start the season.
Like Jennings, Brown is an incredibly talented hitter. He's the prospect the Phillies refused to trade for either Cliff Lee (the first time they got him) or Roy Halladay. Given those expectations, Brown's .257/.257/.355 line over 70 plate appearances last season was disappointing. Nonetheless, Brown is a talented hitter with more upside than Jennings, albeit less polished, as evident by his splits against same-handed pitching in the minors.
After putting up a minor league career line of .296/.373/.464 with 48 home runs to 89 stolen bases over 424 games, Brown demonstrated himself capable of 20+/20+ production with a strong batting average. Oliver expects a .271/.336/.449 line from Brown in 2011, while Bill James expects 25+/25+ production next season with a batting average around .290. My expectations for Brown are high, given his high ceiling (and high perceived floor).
The last three names—Ramirez, Sizemore, and Beltran—all come with their own blend of risk and upside. Manny is currently unemployed, going on 39 years old, hates playing day games and has been a perpetual injury risk. Irrespective of the injury risk and lack of employment, however, Ramirez has been quite fantasy-productive when he takes the field, especially in OBP leagues, and a move to the DH role should help preserve his health and keep him playing in those "tiring" day games. Over the past two seasons, Manny has averaged a .295 batting average, 20-plus home run production per 150 games, and good run/RBI rates, while posting OBPs north of .400. Reliable four-category production is rare and while deploying Manny as your first or second outfielder would be unwise, he makes a strong third or fourth outfielder risk that should be complemented with a backup option.
Both Beltran and Sizemore present big gambles. As recently as two seasons ago, both were perpetual top-20 fantasy picks. They were as safe and balanced and production as could be. Beltran was a lock for a .280-plus batting average with 25 or more home runs, 15-20 stolen bases and 100 run/RBI production from the middle of the Mets' fearsome offensive lineup. Sizemore was a perpetual 30/30 lock. In recent memory, however, both have been injured toxic assets.
For two years in a row, Sizemore burned those who took high-risk gambles on him (even last year, he cost me $18 via auction). Over the past two seasons, Sizemore has played only 139 games, over which he hit 18 home runs, stole 17 bases, and hit well under .250. Even injured, however, he still produced 88 runs and 77 RBI from atop the Indians' relatively weak lineup. Furthermore, Sizemore is only 28 years old and reportedly recovering well from his injury. While you should not pay top or even medium dollar for Sizemore, he remains a strong bounce-back player for 2011 if healthy, easily capable of top 30 production. His ranking here reflects my expected production, not his expected price tag. Do not spend more than $5 at auction.
Like Sizemore, Beltran could provide large dividends to those who gamble on him. Beltran has played 145 games over the past two seasons and while his polar BABIPs (.352, .275) in each of the past two seasons has caused wild batting average fluctuations (.325, .255), he has nonetheless been cumulatively productive while playing injured (a combined 17 home runs, 14 stolen bases). Now 33, Beltran's production ceiling, especially in light of his injuries, is lower than it was a few years ago. Nonetheless, Beltran has shown himself 20/20 capable while playing injured. Barring DL stints, Beltran should approach or exceed a 20/15 line in 2011, with a decent batting average to boot. He'll likely cost just as much as Sizemore, but offers less risk/reward potential.
As always, leave your love hate in the comments.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:00am (55) Comments
Monday, January 10, 2011
Once upon a time in the Land of Celine, there lived a man whose legend was that of myth and ancient lore. He roamed the frigid dirt to the North but his story resonated to all who would listen. This great warrior’s spirit lies in the Ruthian power that exploded from his core. Many a rival quaked in fear as no man could contain him nor could they explain him. His name is Jose Bautista, and there is only one Jose. This is the story of my failed quest to find the 2011 Reincarnation of the Great Jose Bautista...
In all seriousness, this task was rather lofty, and I expected to fail. We’ll look at the ramifications of the Jose Bautista 2010 season later. As we begin to critique my failures, I want you to understand the parameters I set for myself as I began this journey. I first tried to dissect Jose’s season and determine some characteristics that could identify a future Jose. I came up with four Jose-like breakout indicators:
1. Age 28+: I included all players over age 28 in this pool, but I tried to concentrate on the guys who were one strikeout away from playing for the Yomiuri Giants.
2. Change in approach (swing, discipline, stance, etc...): This can be a fun statistically undefined tactic, but we all love to watch the newswire with bated breath, waiting to see who gained weight, who lost weight, who got LASIK, who got Kevin Long to fix his swing (for all you Jeter lovers out there), and who is just doing a total overhaul.
3. Second-half power upswing (eight or more home runs in either August or September in 2010 or an ISOP of .280+): I love second-half stat increases. The hope these bring are always intriguing whether they actually point to future success or not.
4. Post Non-Hype Breakout: These are guys who lack the pedigrees of the Jay Bruces and Matt Wieters of the world.
First of all, I could not find one player who met all three character traits, only furthering my hypothesis that Jose Bautista circa 2010 was a one-time event. I did, however, find several players who met two or three of the criteria. These are my favorites of the list.
Age 28+, second-half power upswing: Vernon Wells.
It pains me to bring Wells to this list. To say the least, I’m not a fan. With no other options that aren’t stud level, I arrive at Vernon Wells. He started off 2010 with a .330 BA/9 HR month and ended with a .298 BA/8 HR month. Everything else in between wasn’t eye opening.
He was finally healthy and his power was notching in as the highest of his career. If his HR/FB ratio were to rise from 15 percent, 35 home runs are possible. According to MockDraftCentral, he’s going 98th overall. That’s fair but definitely not as low as Jose last year. Additionally, Vernon is a well known and hated entity. Well, maybe that’s just me. Vernon will not sneak up on anyone like Bautista did in 2010, and I think that’s a good thing.
Age 28+, change in approach: Jason Bay.
Prior to his season-ending concussion, Bay was tinkering with his swing, and now that he’s missed a significant amount of 2010, he’ll have to do a complete overhaul. Few had a worse season than Bay in 2010. Expectations were high and he more than failed to deliver. I think he’ll work hard this offseason and regain some of that power. I like him in this list because he represents a Josesque value at a 177 pick (MDC). Like Vernon, he has already established himself, but with a good, HEALTHY spring, he could offer you some power even if he calls Citi home. I’d say a safe .270 BA/20-25 HR/80+ RBI line would be reasonable, but he’s no “Jason” Bautista.
Age 28+, change in approach, second-half power upswing: Curtis Granderson.
Granderson may be the most fun guy on the list. All his indicators line up with that of Bautista sans his well established reputation as a solid fantasy player. Curtis struggled through 2010 until he worked with Kevin Long to “quiet” his swing. As The New York Times reported in August, Long was attempting to compact Granderson’s swing into tighter movements. This resulted in a nine-home run month of September. He still has the potential for 30-plus home runs and 30-plus steals, but he is also valued as such with a sixth-round draft position (MDC). He can’t realistically be considered a comparison to Jose Bautista, but the similarities are still fun to recognize. Who knows? With Yankee stadium, any given left-handed hitter could go for 50. Obviously, I’m kidding.
Age 28+, with second-half power upswing, post non-hype breakout: Ryan Raburn. Ryan had eight home runs in the month of August and followed that up with another five in September. Both months he hit over .300. Ryan Raburn represents a very interesting play and has the closest story to Jose Bautista’s. He didn’t change his approach, and he is still in a battle for playing time with Brennan Boesch.
I like Ryan Raburn, and he played 15 games at second, which could give him more fantasy value for 2011. If given 500-plus at-bats, I still couldn’t see more than 30 home runs. I will be watching the Tigers' spring training games, and if Ryan’s success carries over into the spring, he will get my Jose Bautista Reincarnation Award for 2011.
Lastly , I would like to address the experts and analysts. I have researched, observed, recorded, and disseminated Jose Bautista’s stellar year and cannot find one reason to dismiss a repeat. His second half may very well be one of the greatest legitimate power displays in baseball history. He hit .284 BA/33 HR/72 RBI in the second half. His ISOP was .357, almost 60 points better than Miguel Cabrera at second with .294. According to Hittracker online, he had the most “no doubt” home runs at 19.
I know the knocks that he doesn’t spray the ball around and he’s only done it for one year. But if Alex Gordon were to hit 54 home runs and have the sabrmetrics that Jose has then he’d be the no. 1 pick. I know there’s no way he maintains his 22 percent home-run-to-fly-ball ratio. I also know there’s little chance at 54 homers in 2010, but I think he replaces some home runs with batting average.
Both Baseball Prospectus and Ron Shandler have his adjusted batting average for 2010 in the .330 range. That’s nasty considering he only hit .260. My projection is .275 BA/40 HR/110 RBI. When everyone else passes, I will be jumping in, bad boy. Feel free to leave your Jose in the comments section, or if you don't like my Joses then you can tell me why.
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 1:06am (12) Comments
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A week ago Josh, Jeffrey, and I debuted our dynasty rankings and the discussion afterwards was informative. Based on what I gathered from that discussion, I've updated my original 25 and added seven more players to expand the list to 32. Below is my original list and new list side-by-side.
Just a quick reminder this is a list of the top players aged 25 or younger.
First off, why 32? Because it gets harder and harder to rank players in this format as the type of player polarizes into two general groups—less exciting MLB regulars (Gordon Beckham, Pablo Sandoval) and players farther away from the majors (Julio Teheran, Bryce Harper).
Speaking of Harper, I found it nearly impossible to rank him given his unique potential. I will say that if I do not feel so strongly about my chances to contend for the next two years, I would probably flip most of the players ranked in double-digits for him.
Going back to why I stopped at 32, relievers such as Neftali Feliz and Aroldis Chapman should be ranked soon, and reliever value is not something I wanted to make a decision on.
Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Jake McGee, Kenley Jansen, Chris Sale, and probably a host of relievers I'm forgetting are not far behind them.
So let's look at what changed in my new list compared to the old. I agree with Jeffrey and a few of the commenters—Felix Hernandez is in a class of his own and deserves that ranking. Plus, there is no chance the Mariner's offense is worse than it was last year.
I moved Strephen Strasburg up all the way to fourth. Yes, he will miss most—likely all—of 2011, but talent like his is worth waiting for. What scouts call command is usually the hardest thing for pitchers to regain after Tommy John surgery and he had unbelieveable command pre-surgery, so I think he will find his feel again.
Agreeing with commenter "PAU," I moved the contact-challenged Justin Upton and Mike Stanton below Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce. McCutchen is a true five-tool star and will look very similar to Carlos Gonzalez once CarGo's batting average regresses some this year.
Upton I dropped all the way to 14 because his expected projection is not beyond Buster Posey's or Carlos Santana's enough to overcome their catcher value. Upton has the prospect-hype, the tools, and, at 23, a small window of youth in baseball years to improve, but like his brother, B.J., I see him as more of a tease than a turn-on with his actual production. I like Zach Sanders' write-up of Upton on Fangraphs from a few months ago.
I agree with the masses and flip-flopped Mat Latos and Clayton Kershaw. The two are projected for similar numbers but Latos' innings jump makes him a slightly higher risk.
Mike Trout is the only player without Double-A experience on this list, but I believe his potential justifies the ranking. He unquestionably has speed, stealing 56 bases between the Low-A and High-A levels. He also displayed solid plate discipline and projects to have decent power. His performance in Double-A this upcoming season will be telling, but if I own, for example, David Price in a league, I'd take the bet that Trout succeeds before his stock potentially rises higher come this time next year.
Three new players cracked my top 25: Matt Wieters, Daniel Hudson, and Billy Butler. Two years ago Wieters would have been near the top of this list, but after two mediocre MLB seasons his stock has taken a hit. His monstrous 2008 season in the minors should not be completely forgotten, though, and he has shown enough promise in the majors to make me cautiously optimistic about his future.
In his first year starting in the majors, Hudson delivered on his potential, particularly in Arizona. I don't know how close he was to making Josh and Jeffrey's lists, but I wrongly overlooked him on mine.
Especially at first base, Butler's production won't stand out, but dependability has its place in fantasy baseball. With Butler you can sleep easily to a .300+ average and 20 homers.
Freddie Freeman is a similar player to Billy Butler—think .290 average with mild power. He is just 21, so there is potential for improvement, but at the very least he should be a useful player. He should get plenty of MLB playing time this season as he is slotted as the Braves' starting first baseman for 2011.
Jhoulys Chacin had a fantastic rookie season, though I am wary of him experiencing a setback in 2011. At just 23, there is time for him to sharpen his control and command.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:02am (34) Comments
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Think of beginning your fantasy baseball prep as starting a workout program after you’ve been totally inactive for a few months (or longer). Before you get into the heavy lifting, you first have to warm-up, stretch a bit. That’s what we did last week with a few hitters, and now we'll loosen up with a few pitchers.
As we inch closer to April, we'll start focusing in on specific types of player, and adding more weight as we go, but for now, here's a brief, and admittedly random, look at a few hurlers whose Oliver projection caught my eye upon first glance.
As will be the case throughout, I've used Tom Tango's formula of 2*W + SV + K/5 + IP - (H + BB + ER)/2 to assign a position rank based on what Oliver projects for the upcoming season.
For an in-depth explanation of the Oliver Projections, make sure to read creator Brian Cartwright's write-up. And if you haven't already, don’t forget to purchase the THT Forecasts to gain access to all the projections, along with many other useful tools to help you dominate your league in 2011.
2009: 2.96 ERA/0.99 WHIP/9.4 K/9
2010: 3.72 ERA/1.18WHIP/8.8 K/9
2011 Oliver: 3.20 ERA/1.12 WHIP/8.5 K/9
After altering his delivery, refining his slider, and learning how to pound the strike zone in Japan, Lewis came back to the U.S. a completely different pitcher than when he left in '07. The result: a World Series appearance, and a plaque on his mantle proclaiming him the "2010 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper of the Year." Or there should be anyway.
Oliver Thinks...he can be even better this season. Lewis' end totals last season were predictably higher than what he posted abroad, but the skill-set translated nicely. Lewis was among the elite in terms of his K/9 (8.8) and finished with a K/BB ratio (3.0) that ranked in the top 25 of starting pitchers.
I Think...Oliver's infatuation with Lewis, which began prior to last year and proved spot-on, is well founded. Nothing was out of line with his BABIP in 2010, and his FIP (3.55) and xFIP (3.93) were both under four. His strand rate was on par with the league average, and his brilliant postseason (1.72 ERA in four starts), proved his arm is capable of handling 200 innings, and then some. He was also remarkably consistent, completing six innings in 24 of his 32 starts, and only giving up more than four runs on three occasions.
His posted FB% of 44.9 is a bit worrisome considering the homer-friendly environs of Arlington, but his HR/FB rate was a pretty normal 8.2 last year, and it was even lower at home (6.6) than it was on the road (9.3). According to the Tango ranks, Lewis comes in as the 11th-best starting pitcher on the board, and while I think that may be a tad high, a second consecutive top-20 finish seems entirely possible.
2009: 4.30 ERA/1.52 WHIP/7.1 K/9
2010: 3.73 ERA/1.29 WHIP/7.5 K/9
2011 Oliver: 4.45 ERA/1.45 WHIP/6.8 K/9
Romero was brilliant over the first month of 2010, posting a 2.25 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9 in his first five starts, but his numbers returned to the realm of the reasonable, and he posted a 4.03 ERA/1.36 WHIP from May on. Still, for a 25-year-old pitcher in the toughest division in baseball, his second season can only be considered a success.
Oliver Thinks...we're more likely to get the 2009 version of Romero than the 2010 model. Despite his lofty draft status (sixth pick in the 2005 draft), Romero's minor league numbers were so unimpressive (4.42 ERA/1.47 WHIP/7.0 K/9 in 430 minor league innings) that many fantasy owners remain skeptical about his big league ceiling. Apparently, so does Oliver.
I Think...I believe in Romero more than most. His xFIP was nearly identical to his ERA last year (3.75 ERA to 3.73 xFIP), and, by almost all measures, he made positive strides as a sophomore, despite a BABIP that registered 31 points lower. Already an extreme groundball inducer, Romero ever-so-slightly improved in that department, drawing grounders 55.2% of the time, one of only nine players with a number above 55%. His K/BB saw a healthy bump, from 1.78 to 2.12, and his HR/FB ratio declined from an inflated 12.8% in '09 to a more tolerable 9.4% in 2010.
Pitching in the AL East does him no favors, but if he can take another small step in his development. and limit the major blowups – he allowed 35% of his total earned runs in just five starts – Romero looks destined to far outperform his Oliver projection.
2009: 3.23 ERA/3.40 WHIP/8.2 K/9
2010: 2.30 ERA/1.11 WHIP/9.1 K/9
2011 Oliver: 3.29 ERA/1.19 WHIP/8.1 K/9
Johnson finished 2010 with an NL-leading 2.30 ERA, and from the start of May to the end of July, there wasn't a pitcher in the fantasy universe as dominant as the hulking righty. He posted a 1.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 during that stretch, and at one point reeled off 13 straight starts without surrendering more than two runs, though with the Marlins sputtering at the plate, he only managed to record seven wins. August got a little bumpy, and he was shut down in early September with a balky back, but in the end, nobody was complaining.
Oliver Thinks...J.J. isn't an SP1 in 12-team leagues. Even if you take the THT Forecast for innings pitched (195 instead of the 175 Oliver projects), Johnson only comes in as the 16th-best starting pitcher, sandwiched between Tommy Hanson and Roy Oswalt.
I Think...Johnson has better chance to finish as the top pitcher in the game than outside the top 20. His xFIP (3.15) was 85 points higher than his ERA last year, which was an expected discrepancy considering he posted a league-low 4.2% HR/FB. That ratio will definitely rise in 2011, but with a career number of 7.1%, don’t look for it inflate too much, giving him room for regression while still being able to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA.
As for the rest of his numbers, his K/9 increased from 8.2 to 9.1, thanks in large part to a 2.5 point jump in his Swinging Strike percentage (SwStr%), which at 11.8% was good for the third-highest mark in the league. Also positively, his BB/9 decreased from 2.50 to 2.35, marking the second straight season he's seen his strikeouts head north, while his walks went south. Entering his physical prime, the only thing holding Johnson back is a potentially hindered win total, but even that won’t be enough to stop him from being an SP1 in all formats.
2009: 1.71 ERA/0.84 WHIP/10.2 K/9 (at Arizona State)
2010: 4.23 ERA/1.49 WHIP/5.9 K/9
2011 Oliver: 3.52 ERA/1.21 WHIP/7.5 K/9
Bypassing the minors completely, Leake proved worthy by posting a 2.22 ERA and 1.23 WHIP through his first 11 starts. Then he ran smack into the wall in June, and watched his ERA inflate until he was sent to the bullpen in August.
Oliver Thinks...he'll take a significant step forward in his second year, lowering his ERA 71 points, his WHIP 28 points, and increasing his K/9 from 5.9 to 7.5, which, if you extrapolate those projection out to the THT Forecast for IP (190), places him firmly in the top 30 of SP.
I Think...the optimism is understandable – Leake induced ground balls at a 50% clip, and after issuing 12 free passes in his first two starts, only allowed 35 in his final 20 outings, good for a 2.5 BB/9 that would have ranked in the top third among qualified pitchers. BUT, his BABIP of .317 was above the league norm, and his HR/FB ratio was quite high at 13.2%. That can be explained away partly by his groundball tendency and home ballpark, but it was still three points higher than any other Reds pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched. He also failed to strike out more than six hitters in any outing, and only surpassed five Ks three times.
One could argue his expansive repertoire, good control, and knowledge of his craft are sure to lead to better numbers, and that after the league adjusted to him last year, it's his turn to make the adjustments. I wouldn't necessarily argue against those points, but considering the plethora of quality starting options in Cincinnati right now, there's a decent shot Leake isn't even in the rotation at the beginning of the season. Obviously, the situation will remain fluid right up until the end of spring training, but I have a hard time envisioning he's anything more than a matchup play in 12-teamers in 2011.
Posted by Chris Ryan at 5:01am (2) Comments
A belated Happy New Year, folks. I was off last week fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to miss more article deadlines. Let’s start 2011 with something nice and potentially incendiary.
I’m just going to come out and say it – I don’t fully understand why most high stakes, competitive, and expert leagues are conducted in the head-to-head (H2H) format. There, I said it. I’m not trying to be a contrarian or an iconoclast; I just don’t see any fundamental superiority of the H2H set-up compared to the rotisserie (roto). To be fair, I understand how some of the H2H dynamics are entertaining and motivating, but, frankly, I think it’s plainly obvious that such a system is inferior for determining a league winner.
The most important thing to understand about the H2H and roto set-ups is that there is no fundamental difference between the two in terms of measuring player production. The head-to-head dynamic of a H2H league is artificial and contrived. There is no meaningful, direct, competition between two teams who are matched up with one another in any dueling sense. The competition aspect exists solely as a contrived binary, and is achieved by limiting the more fundamental and omnipresent rotisserie scoring dynamic. That is to say, the H2H format is is a roto league divided into several incomplete competitive universes and time periods, that's all. You are still playing a roto league, but only competing with a sliver of the league. From such limited comparisons, the system then extrapolates and awards wins. It turns raw production into victories and ensures that there will always be the same number of wins and losses to go around, and necessitates they get distributed in a certain way.
Essentially, all the H2H format is doing to the game is increasing the likelihood of “bad beats” and decreasing the likelihood that the best owner with the best team emerges victorious. This is done both by forcing teams to compete only against a single team at a time and by slicing the season randomly into chunks of small sample sizes, increasing the likelihood of random variation.
In fantasy football, the frustration of outscoring most of the teams in your league in a given week only to have lost to the best performing team in the league is well known. Given the general nature and schedule of fantasy football, it seems inevitable that the game overwhelmingly embrace this league structure dynamic almost as a necessary evil. But, it doesn’t seem as logical for fantasy baseball—the stats geeky fantasy underbelly of the already stats-obsessed real sport—to embrace such a probabilistically-flawed model. Why are the same folks who read in-depth articles about the mathematical chops behind xFIP voluntarily injecting additional randomness into their fantasy experience?
Some folks claim to like the H2H scoring style because it mimics the one-team-versus-another aspect of actual baseball games. But I don’t think it embraces much of the mano-y-mano aspect real sports do at all. Granted, one can argue the outcomes of actual games aren’t always reflective of which team is actually superior, any more than a weekly fantasy match-up does, but the dynamic of a real game consists of physical players reacting to the actions of those on the other team. There’s a seamless back-and-forth, a cause and effect, a chess match. In what ways does H2H fantasy baseball allow a manager to square off against a competing manager in ways that don’t exist in roto-style fantasy baseball? I guess you can play the two-start pitchers over stronger one-start pitchers, but just about every other strategic decision exists in roto leagues as well. Yes, H2H makes more of the nuanced microtrend—pick up waiver wire hitter on Colorado road trip, add lopsided handedness split player in your line-up when the match-up is in his favor. But such strategies are there for the taking in roto leagues as well, and within the H2H paradigm, their outcome is just that much more prone to randomness that doesn’t jibe with a larger statistically-significant truth. It seems that anything that can be done on a strategic level in H2H can be done on a macro scale in roto.
Why create worthless production and preclude the stockpiling of value? The second homer beyond your opponent’s total, and all subsequent homers in a scoring period, are valueless in a H2H league.
Why submit to a playoff system that lets 20 weeks of dominance ride at full value over 5% of the trial length?
Why take the care to select wise, sensible, and balanced categories only to see that punting one or more of them is a viable strategy? Punting categories in H2H leagues can work, while winning roto league with a “1” in any category is a tall order.
I’m not trying to be overly judgmental here; I truly don’t understand why one would prefer H2H to roto in any high stakes, highly competitive, or expert league. The H2H structure is an equalizer of opportunity that forces sharps to give away a considerable portion of their edge.
As I mentioned earlier, I understand the non-structural appeal of the H2H league. Roto leagues may lead to more deadbeating, as deficits can become insurmountable, or at least seemingly so, early on. I understand that the trash-talking dynamic of a league may be enhanced by the H2H format. But, these points underscore the reason I distinguish expert, highly competitive, and high stakes leagues throughout this article. Such leagues shouldn’t require what is essentially a gimmick to artificially restrain competition and embroil passions and attentiveness.
As previously mentioned, some will defend H2H on the basis that it more accurately mimics a sport. But, fantasy baseball is not the simulation of a sport. Round-robin H2H is a perfectly logical to organize a baseball simulation game, like Strat-o-matic. Fantasy baseball, however, is a puzzle-solving challenge that plays out in real-time based on real-life events. The most just way to determine who is best at it is to allow players to set themselves up into different universes of competition and to compete openly, completely against all others in the universes they construct.
The issues of true skill versus performance and the maddening and mysterious cloud of sample size never sets; such is the fascinating, yet infuriating cellular level of the most beautiful pastime of all. Amid the ever-frustrating, perpetual motion machine that is uncertainty of baseball and our never-ending quest for the game’s Rosetta Stone, why willfully infuse external variables into the experience if you don’t need to do so a motivational tactic? Simply, what is to gain?
Obviously, I was being facetious about my resolution up-top. But, I did slip a bit toward the end of 2010 in keeping up with comments, so I will try to be better at that in 2011. I have a feeling the article should generate its share and I’m truly curious as to everybody’s opinion on this matter.