December 10, 2013
And here's the full roster.
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
Or you can search by:
THT E-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Since cruising up through the minor leagues from '02 to '05, Brandon McCarthy's major league career hasn't been the storybook picture of success many envisioned. For the past six years McCarthy has battled numerous injuries and frustrating ineffectiveness even when healthy, and this offseason found himself (by choice) on the free agent market where he scooped up an incentive-laden one-million dollar deal. Despite his turbulent career to date, here are a few reasons why McCarthy might finally settle down this season and be productive.
The new environment
The team that signed him this offseason was the Oakland A's, who I'm sure you know, are a great organization for any pitcher to pitch for. For starters they play in a spacious ballpark that will be a stark contrast to the homer-happy White Sox, Rangers, and various PCL-League stadiums to which he is accustomed. It also should help that Billy Beane's newly-targeted "market inefficiency" is defense, which one might call a pitcher's best friend. Then, throw in the fact that the A's seem to be able to churn out successful pitchers as if factory-manufactured, and I think it is apparent McCarthy is situated nicely in Oakland.
The one caveat here is his feeble grasp on the fifth spot in the A's rotation. Common opinion is that McCarthy is the frontrunner for the job, though Rich Harden, Josh Outman, and Bobby Cramer are all talented pitchers with degrees of success in their past. My opinion? With his recent injury, Harden is simply too laughably-unendurable to warrant any sort of starting gig, and, lthough a nice story, Cramer is a longshot to outperform the others this spring. The aptly named Outman is, I feel, the biggest threat to win the rotation spot over McCarthy.
After making his way through the Phillies farm system, Outman was flipped to Oakland in the Joe Blanton deal and proved his worth in 67 major league innings, going 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA, a 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 2009. His elbow subsequently succumbed to Tommy John surgery; it is reported he is finally healthy and throwing well. So competition exists for McCarthy, though the his inside track to the final rotation spot, combined with the likelihood that one of the A's other starters will suffer an injury, makes me confident he will have opportunities to start this season.
His recent performance
McCarthy's career picture is not pretty, but recent performances offer encouraging signs. In a mere 56 innings in Triple-A last year he impressively limited his walks to 1.8 batters per nine. Granted, it is a small sample and he was 26 years old, I felt it was a good showing for a guy just trying to reappear on the map. McCarthy proceeded to make four starts in winter league ball and all reports indicate he looked and felt great there. Now in spring training McCarthy is off to a quick start, pitching three solid innings against the Rangers last Friday. There is a lot more baseball to be played before any decisions are made, though McCarthy has to be feeling confident at the moment.
Understandably OLIVER is not overly-confident in McCarthy, projecting a modest 4.30 ERA and 6.0 K/9 rate in 110 innings. For what it's worth, the Bill James forecasts are more optimistic with a 3.65 ERA and slightly elevated 6.7 K/9 projection. Mean projections are not supposed to be bold though, so I was not expecting any sort of confirmation from either of those sources.
The major factor I've left out so far is McCarthy's injury history. Although never having surgery performed on his shoulder, he has missed a lot of action with what is called "micro stress fractures in the back of his shoulder blade." There is no determining whether McCarthy will be able to overcome his injury-ridden past, but at least his draft day price accounts for the risk.
McCarthy is not one of the first 393 players picked in Mock Draft Central drafts thus far. In my 12-team mixed home league I grabbed him in the 24th round, so he certainly is a last-round flier in mixed leagues. In the Card Runners League (12 team, AL-Only, auction) Derek participates in McCarthy sold for a final price of $3, which indicates there was some added interest in him from some very smart people (ooh la la). And for one last data point, he was not nominated in a 12-team mixed auction that Jeff Gross recently participated in.
Not everyone may share my optimism for McCarthy, and I certainly agree with the projection systems that a fairly boring season is what's most likely for him. However, I do feel he has a better chance of realizing his upside than most of the other pitchers picked (or not) around him.
What is that upside exactly, you may be asking? Personally I don't think it is overly important to put specific numbers to it, but if it makes you happy: 135 IP, 11 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 105 K.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:30am (2) Comments
This past weekend, I flew to Arizona to participate in the 18th annual League of Alternate Baseball Reality (LABR), the longest running expert league in existence. If you recall, I won this league two years ago, becoming the youngest champion in history, and am looking for another title in 2011. My draft didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I still think I should be a contender. Take a look at my roster and see what you think. Keep in mind that this is a 13-team, 5x5, NL-only league with a $260 budget.
LABR NL roster
Pos Player Price C Chris Iannetta $10 C Chris Snyder $6 1B Brett Wallace $8 2B Clint Barmes $6 3B Juan Uribe $15 SS Ryan Theriot $14 CI Miguel Cairo $1 MI Skip Schumaker $9 OF Mike Stanton $27 OF Seth Smith $16 OF Carlos Gomez $16 OF Marlon Byrd $14 OF Gerardo Parra $5 UT Juan Miranda $4
Pos Player Price SP Tim Lincecum $27 SP Clayton Kershaw $25 SP Chad Billingsley $19 CL Jonathan Broxton $14 CL Joel Hanrahan $15 RP Mike Adams $3 RP Sergio Romo $3 RP Nick Masset $1 RP Matt Belisle $1 SP Vicente Padilla (DL) $1 BN Wade LeBlanc -- BN Alex Sanabia -- BN Jason Marquis -- BN Aaron Cook -- BN Chien-Ming Wang -- BN Ramon Ramirez --
View the full results of the auction here.
This was my second expert draft of the year (Cardrunners AL was the first), and I'll be participating in three more in the coming weeks. Let me know what you think of my roster in the comments.
Also, for those who haven't heard yet, I'll be resuming writing a (more or less) weekly article here at THT shortly, but I'll also be doing some work for a few other places this season. Because of this, I've introduced my own website, DerekCarty.com, so that you can keep track of everything I'll be doing, learn more about me, and see some of my most prominent work compiled in one place (I'd highly recommend reading through some of it if you're new to THTF). It won't have much in the way of original content, but it will link to all of my work around the web, radio interviews I do, and I will be posting my expert league rosters there one day before I put them up here at THT. Be sure to check out the blog section to keep track of everything I'm doing.
Posted by Derek Carty at 5:31am (32) Comments
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Third base is full of veteran options, and there aren't a lot of rookie options, either.
Brent Morel looks to be the only rookie third baseman with a good shot at a starting job right out of the gate, but there isn't any home run upside here, leaving his value as an injury replacement at best.
Mike Moustakas is the hot corner rookie to watch. Just like fellow Kansas City farmhand Eric Hosmer, Moustakas is capable of tearing up Triple-A pitching and has only Mike Aviles to contend with in the majors. It wouldn't surprise me to see him in the running for American League Rookie of the Year. Anyone with a need at third base when June hits should not be shy about grabbing this bat.
Lonnie Chisenhall has a lot to prove still, but has the talent to make his mark on Cleveland's lineup by midseason. He has more upside than Morel.
Matt Dominguez is the only other third baseman I could see turning heads. I'm not a fan, but his defense is an asset, and his bat still has potential. He has more upside than Morel, too, and only has Wes Helms and his lack of development holding him back.
Looking at some young non-rookies, Pedro Alvarez has a chance to lay waste to his average draft position. He has special power potential. David Freese and Danny Valencia aren't being counted on to start, but both could be fine injury replacements if the time comes.
Outfield is usually a position where rookies can make an impact across the league, but there isn't a lot of advanced talent with an obvious window of opportunity this year. Guys like Eric Hosmer, Chris Carter, and Yonder Alonso might successfully transition from first base, but they were talked about in part one of this series.
Domonic Brown is the hot rookie that everyone wanted to take a shot on, but his hand surgery should temper expectations. Don't reach for him in the middle rounds. If he's there late in the game, take your shot.
Desmond Jennings is next in the rookie outfield pecking order, but will likely start the year in Triple-A. Just like any top-50 prospect who is one step from the majors, keep your eye on him. A hot start that leads to a midseason promotion could land you a key piece to a championship run.
That doesn't leave much else. Michael Taylor, Andrew Lambo, and Josh Reddick are part of a group that seem to be age- and experience-appropriate for this list but are long shots to get any extended big league playing time. Nick Weglarz could push his way to the majors, where he should prove to be a better real-life player than fantasy asset, but his power could surprise.
Turning to some young non-rookies, I have a good feeling about Colby Rasmus this year and have him ranked higher than everyone I have talked to. You're out of your mind if you're ranking the likes of Shane Victorino, Corey Hart, and even Andre Ethier ahead of Rasmus.
I am buying into a Jay Bruce breakout season. Mike Stanton seems to be ranked about right. The home run power could be huge, but he is still very young and could suffer prolonged cold streaks.
Adam Jones isn't getting the attention he deserves. His prime is near, and he has the talent to rake. I am finding myself to be a big Jones investor in my early drafts.
On a side note, Baltimore is my surprise pick to make some noise in the American League, yet their division is so tough I have them finishing fourth with 83 wins. By the way, I reserve the right to change that win total a bit as the season approaches.
How about a couple other guys not getting enough love: Dexter Fowler and Logan Morrison. There are second- and third-year former top prospect outfielders every year who break out. Jones, Fowler, and Morrison are prime candidates this year.
Add a tier-one stud to those three, or even tier-two if the value isn't there, and I would feel very comfortable with that outfield heading into the season. Plus, you allow yourself to invest in sure things at shallower positions by taking Jones, Fowler, and Morrison late.
You should keep Cameron Maybin on speed dial as well, if he goes undrafted, to give yourself another breakout candidate if an injury hits your current crop.
Listen to me, here I am giving away all my draft strategies. Pitchers are next week.
Posted by Matt Hagen at 5:10am (5) Comments
Friday, March 11, 2011
Josh Shepardson and I just wrapped up a 42-minute podcast covering various auction strategies, their logic, their weaknesses, and when they work best and worst. We also explore ways to disrupt the drafting strategies of others. For those looking for an auction strategy primer, this podcast should be a useful tool. Click here to download the auction strategies podcast (it is currently hosted for free on MediaFire).
Here is a rundown of the topics addressed in our podcast:
Auction draft strategies
Quick addendum note to the podcast: Whenever playing "stars and scrubs," you generally have to avoid injury risks.
In an auction, no matter what strategy you employ, it is important that you, above all, remain flexible and adapt to the market at all times.
What are some of your favorite auction strategies and why? Sound off in the comments below!
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 4:06am (20) Comments
Monday, March 14, 2011
It's Monday, March 14, 2011. The trees in my back yard have full bloomed. The smell of pollen is filling my nostrils as we speak. It's 70 degrees outside, and there's a crisp wind pushing my receeding hairline to the forefront of my head. My wife is whispering sweet nothings in my ear, and the little ones are frolicking like little ones do.
What, you may ask, am I thinking about? Well, I'm thinking whether I should use Jeremy Hellickson as my relief pitcher in a points-based league where saves don't seem to have enough importance to trump the value of a starting pitcher. Pretty pathetic, huh?
This is that time of year. Every tree, every perfect day outside, and every time I see my kids playing, I think about fantasy baseball. The drafting season is the best time of the year for me, and I hope it finds you all happy and ready to draft. Let's get to the projections for numbers 101-150 in the top 300 head-to-head rankings.
101. Neftali Feliz 4 87 38 2.68 1.24 102. Brian Wilson 5 92 45 2.84 1.24 103. Elvis Andrus 81 3 40 29 0.258 104. Heath Bell 6 80 36 2.31 1.18 105. Adam Lind 65 27 82 0 0.265 106. Drew Stubbs 76 25 71 31 0.249 107. Jonathan Papelbon 5 74 36 3.12 1.23 108. Gordon Beckham 75 17 80 7 0.281 109. Brett Anderson 13 178 0 3.69 1.19 110. Jose Tabata 83 9 57 33 0.285 111. Jeremy Hellickson 15 189 0 3.75 1.21 112. Brett Gardner 90 2 40 49 0.279 113. Andrew Bailey 3 61 31 1.97 1.09 114. Brian Roberts* 80 9 51 24 0.276 115. Roy Oswalt 12 171 0 3.84 1.2 116. Jason Bay 84 26 84 10 0.275 117. Aaron Hill 75 25 82 3 0.263 118. Mariano Rivera 3 45 33 2.71 1.04 119. Nick Swisher 85 27 93 0 0.278 120. Madison Bumgarner 13 176 0 3.29 1.16 121. Vernon Wells 79 27 83 10 0.270 122. Chad Billingsley 16 178 0 3.45 1.27 123. Starlin Castro 88 10 66 17 0.300 124. Ike Davis 80 22 80 6 0.280 125. Colby Lewis 15 199 0 3.61 1.2 126. Martin Prado 91 12 60 3 0.298 127. Matt Wieters 61 14 67 0 0.280 128. Joe Nathan 4 81 40 1.98 1.08 129. Chone Figgins 82 1 39 40 0.273 130. Ryan Dempster 15 201 0 3.89 1.27 131. Ricky Nolasco 13 189 0 3.98 1.27 132. Ian Desmond 86 14 70 21 0.281 133. Kelly Johnson 83 20 78 9 0.276 134. Michael Bourn 85 2 38 53 0.268 135. Geovany Soto 59 18 75 0 0.276 136. Carlos Beltran 79 25 79 10 0.278 137. David Ortiz 85 27 93 1 0.261 138. Derrek Lee 80 19 69 2 0.282 139. Carlos Quentin 78 29 88 5 0.273 140. Ian Stewart 78 28 70 7 0.264 141. Juan Pierre 81 0 41 48 0.275 142. Chris Perez 6 69 33 2.83 1.17 143. Jonathan Broxton 5 89 31 3.19 1.26 144. Huston Street 4 74 36 3.51 1.25 145. Ryan Franklin 7 69 29 3.77 1.28 146. Neil Walker 86 14 72 10 0.294 147. Tim Hudson 16 121 0 3.02 1.19 148. Travis Snider 64 28 66 7 0.262 149. Casey McGehee 74 24 77 2 0.279 150. Angel Pagan 88 18 71 26 0.289
Due to popular demand—or rather a few eager souls' requests—I am releasing the entire Top 300 Head-to-Head rankings excel spreadsheet:
In it you will find that the Top 150 players will have projections. The remaining 150 should have projections up in the next two weeks. Sorry for the delay, but as you all know this time of year is extremely busy. Hopefully, the list will suffice the early drafters as we commence drafting season. I would also point your attention to Jeffrey Gross' postional rankings.
Points of Interest (Discord):
Neftali Feliz: Notice the lack of starting pitching stats. Much to my own disappointment, the Rangers announced this past Friday that Feliz would remain in his role as a closer, and apparently, he was in favor of the decision. So dreams of his fastball stretched over seven consecutive innings of work have been dashed for the moment.
Maybe next year we'll get to see Aroldis Chapman's fastball as a starter. Feliz adapted well to closing in 2010, so another year of service should only bolster one's confidence in him as a top-tier fantasy closer. His delivery is as effortless as it gets, and he has shown the ability to thrive in high-pressure situations in Arlington.
Brett Gardner: He can run extremely well, and the Yankees finally gave him a chance to show that to the world. He had some trouble in the second half, seeing his overall line plummet.
I like to have one big-time steals guy on my roster, especially if I did a poor job balancing my stat categories. I don't think Gardner translates as well to a points-based or roto league quite as well as the standard H2H league. His ability to swipe multiple bases in a week without hurting your batting average as bad as say a Chone Figgins or Michael Bourn gives him a decent value. He can also rack up the runs in a potent offense.
I'm not sure if I would draft him unless I needed his specific talents. Personally, I'd rather have a guy like Angel Pagan, who is much further down this list.
Joe Nathan: I know my projections are lofty for a guy fresh off as serious an injury as Nathan had in 2010, but I don't see his risks as great as some. Before Sunday's collapse, he hadn't surrendered a run all spring. He hasn't ever had issues like this before. All reports that I've read on his velocity and movement are saying that he's coming along fine.
This is the year you can take advantage of Nathan's injury and get a top-tier closer at a middle-tier price. Some will be scared off, but you would look like a fool if you didn't at least give him a glance come draft day. I will.
Angel Pagan: I made this list before I really started to develop my man-crush on Pagan. Prior to 2010, he was always seen as a gap-filling fourth outfielder. I have had trouble breaking that same feeling from my own psyche.
Recently, I got the chance to sit down and watch a Washington Nationals/New York Mets spring training game, and I walked away thoroughly impressed with Mike Morse and Pagan. Pagan was fluid around the outfield and even smacked an opposite-field home run. I was so impressed with his demeanor that I've seen his stock rise meteorically on my own lists. If I were to redo my 300 rankings today, you may have seen Pagan closer to the 100 range rather than the 150s where I have him currently.
Matt Wieters: I still believe in Weiters, just like I still believe in Alex Gordon. He's had enough time to figure things out on the pro level. If he stumbles out of the gate in 2011, you will find my opinion of him grow tired, and you may hear a different tone in my writing. As of now, I still think he has all the talent and tools to really flourish in 2011. Feel free to return to these pages and let me know how I fell victim to the lure of the top prospect that alway tantalizes but never delivers.
Good luck drafting, everyone. If anyone has questions, please feel free to comment or send me an email. I want the people that visit my pages, and The Hardball Times in general, to be the most knowledgable, successful group of fantasy players in the game. We'll all win our leagues and brag that it was this discussion that fostered the championships. Here is the Top 300 excel spreadsheet in case you missed it earlier in the article:
Posted by Ben Pritchett at 5:10am (15) Comments
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
One of the most important aspects of playing fantasy baseball is a team owner’s ability and skill at making transactions and adding free agents before and during the season. In most cases, the team you draft is not the team with which you will ultimately end up. Undoubtedly, regardless of how many teams are in your league or how many roster spots are required, there will always be players that go undrafted and emerge as viable fantasy options later on. The key to success in a fantasy baseball league is the ability of teams to make those moves at the right time. But the analysis of whether a transaction is good or not will be left for another day. Instead, this edition of "The Verdict" takes a deeper look into the various procedures for how transactions are processed.
For some background, I have been the commissioner of an 18-team, head-to-head, points league since 1999. For the first 10 years of the league, team owners would submit their add/drops to me and I would process them. All transactions had to be submitted to me by a certain time, and then I would manually go through the lists and figure out who got who. In the event two teams claimed the same player, the team with a worse win-loss record or on the short end of a tiebreaker would have the rights to that free agent. Upon moving my league to CBS in 2008, the free agent process was handled automatically with a waiver priority order based on overall record. Generally speaking, the process of handling transactions this way worked.
The reason for handling transactions in this manner was obvious: to help the less successful teams get better and make the league more competitive since they had a better chance of obtaining the best free agents. However, this also had the detrimental effect of penalizing the more successful teams and preventing them from bettering their team as well.
In 2010, I decided to even the playing field and change the way transactions were handled by implementing a free agent auction bidding process (“FAAB”). I assigned an arbitrary budget for everyone ($250) where each team could bid on available free agents. The team that bid the most money on a player was awarded him, regardless of where that team stood in the standings. This afforded the best teams and the worst teams the same opportunity to make improvements while not handicapping or penalizing anyone else. It also required people to make strategic decisions on how they wanted to spend their fake money. Despite being met with some skepticism and trepidation, my league members enjoyed this new process and have embraced it.
As the commissioner of the league, FAAB made my life infinitely easier since I no longer had to manually handle any aspect of doing add/drops. The bidding process is completely blind, so no one will know what you have bid on a player. This means, in theory, that you could spend $25 on a free agent when no one else even bid $2 on that same player. But that is the nature of the process, and I personally approve of the fact that the process is entirely blind. It really adds another element of strategy and competition when pondering what the appropriate value of a free agent is in the context of your league and fellow league members. Since the bidding process is completely blind, I didn’t have to worry about any improprieties when I made my own transactions. As a word of advice for you fellow commissioners: anything you can do to remove ANY semblance of impropriety is beneficial. This means relinquishing control over certain things that can be handled automatically.
Another positive aspect of FAAB is the fact that it does provide checks and balances to prevent teams from dominating the entire process. Once a team wins a bid on a free agent, that team is then moved to the bottom of the waiver order. This means that they would essentially lose a tiebreaker to another team bidding the same amount on another free agent. Of course, if a team chooses to bid enormously high on multiple free agents in the same week, then they would win all of those players. But that is a conscious choice by a team to spend their money in such a way.
No matter what format or style your league uses, transactions are going to be an important factor. How you choose to handle transactions is also one of the most critical decisions a commissioner can make because it has a significant effect on all league members and the way they play the game. The verdict is that implementing an auction process to bid on free agents is the fairest, most efficient, and most thought-provoking manner in which to handle transactions. If your league has never tried it before, it is something you should seriously consider.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:04am (16) Comments
Like many of you, my countdown to draft day is in full effect. Only 11 days from today I will sit down with some of the best in the industry and draft my NFBC main event team. I’m literally like a child awaiting Christmas morning. If draft day doesn’t get you completely pumped up, maybe you should consider another hobby. Months of hard work, research and preparation are all culminating in four hours of raw emotions. You’ll experience joy, excitement, heartbreak, anger, anticipation and hopefully—if you’ve prepared well enough—satisfaction and pride. This truly is one of my favorite days of the entire year.
While most of the fluff and hoopla of spring training should be taken with a grain of salt, there are a few important things to take note of. Injuries, no matter how small, should at least be given some of your attention, especially from players who are perennially facing some sort of ailment. Minor spring injuries can often linger or lead to bigger problems throughout the season. The impact this has on your draft board depends on how risk averse you may be.
Another thing that I focus on during these spring games is open position battles. Again, one of the most important keys to success is to maximize your potential at-bats during the season. If you can choose the player on the right side of a platoon or time share, or one who could blossom into a full-time role, then you are ahead of the game.
From what I have observed thus far in spring training, here are a few players whose draft stock has risen or fallen on my personal draft board.
Brian Roberts: I may be harboring some personal resentment here due to the fact that his back injury helped derail my season last year, but this spring feels eerily similar to last. Reports out of Baltimore have Roberts going for another MRI this morning to determine just how serious the injury is and how long he may be sidelined. Last year, it seemed like every week there was a new report out that the injury wasn’t as serious, and that he would soon resume baseball activities, yet that never seemed to materialize until the end of the season. This is one situation that I would avoid completely on draft day, regardless of how far he falls.
Dan Johnson: Many had Johnson pegged as a sleeper heading into 2011, basically being handed the starting first base job in Tampa. However, he’s hit just .160 this spring and looks lost at the plate. With Ben Zobrist having the ability to play first base as well, the Rays could conceivably play Matt Joyce full time in right field and send Johnson back to Triple-A for more seasoning. I would look elsewhere for corner infield options.
Justin Duchscherer: Another often-injured player who’s heading for yet another MRI later this week. Pass.
Lance Berkman: I like the Big Puma as much as the next guy, and even thought that he could be a decent value hitting behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in that Cardinals lineup. The problem is that he hasn’t played the outfield since 2007 and has yet to play there this spring because a sore elbow won’t allow him to throw the ball. I still think he could be a good value late in drafts, but until he shows me he can play the field, he’s moving down the board.
Johan Santana: Whether he says the reports are true or not, any report saying that he may miss the entire season can’t be considered good news. For those who planned on taking Santana with a late-round pick in the hopes that he would give you a half-season’s worth of his normal studly numbers: with the way the Mets organization has handled injury situations in the past, I would be very wary of gambling on him returning and being effective this season.
Chipper Jones: Just when you thought Larry Wayne was going to hang it up, he worked out rigorously during the offseason to recover from his injury and looks like the Chipper of old swinging the bat this spring. There is no way that you can count on him for more than 130 games this year, but at his current ADP he still has a lot of value in mixed-league drafts. Personally, I have moved him up my board at least a round or two.
Mike Morse: I know that there are four outfielders (Morse, Roger Bernadina, Nyjer Morgan and Rick Ankiel) competing for two spots in the Nats outfield, but Morse is running away with the job in left field. He has flat-out raked since day one this spring, hitting nearly .500 with five home runs already. If he can manage to keep the job all season, 20-plus home runs seems within reach, which is tremendous value for a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Joe Nathan: I know that he got roughed up a bit in his last outing, but he was perfect in his first three. The most important thing to observe here is that he appears to be healthy and his velocity is back. This was one of the elite closers in the game for several years before the injury, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he regained that form in 2011.
Erik Bedard: Another guy with injury history, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Draft cautiously, but he has extreme upside for a late-round starting pitcher gamble.
Jordan Zimmermann: He was already higher on my draft board than most places I’d seen. Then he went out and showed he’s fully healthy and recovered, has improved velocity, and has gone out and thrown 11 scoreless innings to start the spring season. Yeah, he’s going to be on a few of my teams this year.
These are just a few of the players who have moved up or down on my board in the last couple of weeks due to spring performances or injury concerns. If you have any questions at all that you want answered before your draft, leave them here and I would be happy to offer my insight and advice!
Posted by Dave Shovein at 1:05am (6) Comments
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Many of us involved in the fantasy baseball world picked up our love of the sport through our humble beginnings in youth baseball. And while many of us probably don't remember many outcomes, hits or web gems from this time, it still is a time that for many of us had a great deal of influence on the person that we have become today. The one thing that I'm pretty sure we all DO remember from this magical time is one simple philosophy. The KISS philosophy.
When you began as a youngster this probably stood for "Keep it simple, silly." Then as you evolved into grade school ball and lower level Select, the phrasing may have been altered slightly to "Keep it simple, stupid." And alas as you graduated to what you now know was the highest level of competition you would ever play, the motto was drilled into your head as "Keep it simple, s---head." And while the final emphasis of the phrase may have changed, the meaning behind it was resoundingly similar and memorable. Don't overthink things. Do what feels natural. Go with the flow. This is a lesson that we have all benefited greatly from in our adult lives. Well at least I have (for the sake of the article let's pretend you have as well).
Well I have taken this philosophy to live by, and I have applied it to the game of Daily Fantasy Baseball. Last week's article provided you with some basic principles of the game. I've taken these principles a step further this week for you. But don't worry, I've made it as simplistic as I can for you knuckleheads. I've even used the acronym K-I-S-S to emphasis my key points. If you can comprehend these four points, then you should be well on your way to the success I've been promising to deliver in this brand new world I play in. Also included are some easy-to-read lists, making the knowledge absorption a breeze. So let the all-important lesson begin...
K Ks (strikeouts): The almighty strikeout is of the utmost importantance both for pitchers and hitters. It is one of the essential scoring elements for both sides. The top-tier of Daily Fantasy players can probably tell you the K/9 ratio of the top 12-15 starting pitchers in the game. They can also probably tell you who the 12-15 hitters are with the most Ks. That's how important this is. Let me break down the true importance of the statistic for both hitters and pitchers:
HITTERS - The main difference between the daily game and the season-long league relating to strikeouts? Well, they are simply much more devastating in the daily game. In season-long fantasy baseball it makes no difference how a player records an out (at least in typical leagues). Daily fantasy on the other hand it makes a huge difference. Let's take Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder for example. They hit .261 and .260 respectively for the 2010 season. So in a season-long league the batting average component for these two is almost identical. Their strikeout numbers, however, are not so similar. Dunn struck out an astounding 199 times during the season while Fielder amassed only 138. And Fielder had 20 more at-bats than Dunn did. Why so important, you ask? Because in the daily y game many sites actually give negative points for strikeouts. So that's the lesson to be learned here. If the site you choose to play on is one that does, you may want to think long and hard before picking players that are whiff prone.
(Top 10 strikeout leaders in 2010)
(3B) Mark Reynolds 211
(1B) Adam Dunn 199
(2B) Rickie Weeks 184
(1B) Adam LaRoche 172
(OF) Matt Kemp 170
(OF) Austin Jackson 170
(OF) Drew Stubbs 168
(OF) B.J. Upton 164
(3B) David Wright 161
(1B) Carlos Pena 158
The strikeouts these guys pile up are dangerous and, if they don't hit a HR or at least get an extra base hit, they my wind up putting up an ugly score for you. Try your best to avoid these strikeout-prone guys, except on days where they have very favorable match-ups. More will follow on that.
PITCHERS: You love the K more than life itself when it comes to the starting pitcher in Daily Fantasy Baseball. In typical league formats you only get to pick one or two pitchers to represent you on any given day. You need to make the pick(s) count. Every single league rewards fantasy pitchers for strikeouts. In this way, it is much like the season-long game. But the importance is all the more magnified when it's all on the line every, single day. You want to go with the guys that are going to score you points by making batters swing and miss. These strikeouts, coupled with a good outing as far as runs allowed, are the kick-start you need to being successful on that day. The most relevant stat to tracking the guys who are going to score big in Ks from outing-to-outing is K/9 ratio. So let's take a look at the pitchers that helped with this the most over the course of 2010.
(top 10 K/9 ratio in 2010)
Tim Lincecum 9.79
Jon Lester 9.74
Yovani Gallardo 9.73
Jonathan Sanchez 9.54
Francisco Liriano 9.44
Jered Weaver 9.35
Clayton Kershaw 9.34
Mat Latos 9.21
Josh Johnson 9.11
Cole Hamels 9.10
These guys are the kings of the K. They will rack up huge point totals for you on days they pitch. As a daily fantasy player you are also going to want to target these guys on good match-up days. Track the teams who are struggling and that strikeout frequently. Match them with these lights out pitchers and you will be on your way to striking fantasy gold. Or you can probably win some cash if thats the monetary device you prefer.
I Investment return: As I described in my initial article "A Whole New World" the standard game-type for daily fantasy is salary cap. Every player comes with a price tag. The job of the player is to determine whether the conditions of the day, such as match-ups, home/away, splits and other such stats are ideal and will maximize the return for this price.
Some players believe in the hot streaks. Others are all about the past performance in certain places, or against certain teams or pitchers. There is no exact formula for determining the optimum player for that day. But with that being said, the top players in the game will do the research and give themselves the best chance for success.
This is where projections can be helpful. A daily player who succeeds doesn't just look at a guy and some random stats and plug him in, thinking he will play well. A successful player comes up with a number that he thinks that player can obtain based on the statistics and daily factors he finds to be the most relevant. Tough decisions are going to have to be made on a daily basis. Maximizing your money is smart in any aspect of human life, but it takes work to do it successfully.
Let me end this portion of the article with an example. Albert Pujols. He is an absolute stud. But certain factors will justify paying his extremely high price tag some days, while other days he may not be such an attractive option. Here is his stat line over the past three seasons at PNC Park in Pittsburgh: 99 games, .404 AVG, 16 extra base hits, 23 RBI. That is a stat line that justifies taking him against the Pirates. Now at Dodger Stadium over that same time period his line is 31 games, .161 AVG, 3 XBH, 3 RBI. This is a small sample size, yes, but it shows that the chances of success can differ greatly for the same player based on different situations. Monitor these situations. Get a feel for what variables seem relevant and which ones seem coincidental. Once you can get a good grasp on this you will have a firm understanding of how to get the most out your investment in the salary cap format. Do some smart spending.
S Starting lineups: What? Starting lineups. Oh yeah you better believe it. If you don't have some free time for about a half hour before the first games of each day begin, DO NOT start playing Daily Fantasy Baseball. This is when the lineups are released. The two most popular, easiest (not to mention free) sites to find the announced starting lineups for the day are Rotoinfo.com and Rotoworld.com. This is a stop you have to make every day. This is where you can find the cheap fill-ins. It is also where you can figure out that Derek Jeter has strep throat and is out. It is the key to giving yourself a chance for the day. A guy also might get a surprise move up in the lineup, giving him a better chance at success.
An example that could happen this year would be if Peter Bourjos of the Angels got a nod at leadoff, since he usually bats ninth. Extra at-bats equal extra chances, and especially if it's a stolen base threat, an extra chance at points. In this world it is key to be one step ahead of the guy in front of you. And if you want to win you can never, and I mean NEVER, be behind him. Knowing the starting lineups is so simple, yet I cannot emphasize enough the essential nature of verification.
S Small stadiums: Some stadiums give up dingers and are easy to hit in. In others, you and I could go out there and throw a quality start. With the difference in dimension, climate, and quality of stadiums these days, one must know where the favorable and terrible places for a ball player to get stats are. What are the pitchers parks? What are the hitters parks? Well there are links to find this stuff out (crazy, huh?)
MLB park factors (courtesy of ESPN)
You can find many more stats involving ballparks at other websites such as THT favorites Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
And the 'X' Factor - You didn't think I would end this after just the standard KISS did you? You all will come to learn that I'm much more classy than that. I'm the guy every woman and weak fantasy player dreams of. So, to go along with what I'm sure was the just the best KISS you've ever had, you also get the universal symbol for kiss the good old X. You know like XOXO. And the X in this particular scenario is the X-Factor. The most important thing that sets daily fantasy apart from standard season-long. That X-Factor is... the weather. That's right good, ol' Mother Nature. When you're playing for such high stakes on such a short time-frame this is the one element of fantasy that becomes magnified a thousand times every day.
You know how people bring up the weather to start a light conversation with someone they meet? Not in our world. In our world we discuss rain percentage chances, hour-by-hour forecasts and other such meteorology more than some people discuss who to put in their will. A variable such as weather has never, and probably will never be, included in season long fantasy strategy. But when the daily fantasy world becomes really big, which current players are convinced it will, you may see some very odd weather related fantasy strategy pop up. Things like best draining fields, most talented grounds crews and rainouts by month will all be calculated and monitored. I'm telling you, this is how serious the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball really is.
So watch the weather, consider the four K-I-S-S principles, and soak up all this knowledge. More to come next week.
Thanks for reading. Or should I say. Smooches?
Kevin "KC" Cearnal
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 5:19am (2) Comments
This past weekend, I got married. Fantasy trades were made between guests at the wedding. I’ve now written about said trades at said wedding. So, here’s my question, can I write the whole shindig off as a business expense now?
One of the many marriages that must take place on the baseball diamond is that of a team’s starting rotation and its bullpen. Or, in another marital analogy, drafting a starter is like marrying him, and his bullpen makes up the in-laws. The dynamics of a team’s relative strengths in its pen and rotation, along with its offensive prowess don’t just go a long way to determine how many games that team wins, but it also help to determine to whom those wins are credited.
When considering starting pitchers, of course the ideal intersection of these dynamics is a strong starter who is bolstered by a solid pen and flanked by a powerful offense. Jon Lester is basically the poster child for this dream scenario. But, when everything isn’t lined up so neatly, there are other trends we may expect to see. So here are a couple of fantasy-oriented observations about the intersection of starters, relievers, and offenses in 2011.
A reliever on the Yankees will flirt with double-digit wins
This point was brought up on Josh Shepardson and Jeffrey Gross’ auction strategy podcast, which I highly recommend, by the way. The podcast briefly mentions the strategy of building an ace starter out of multiple elite (and cheap) middle relievers (a strategy I love and reference often). During this conversation, it was noted that it’s a good bet that either Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain will win a bunch of games in 2011. I wholeheartedly agree. Relief wins can be difficult to predict, but the anatomy of a double-digit win reliever situation is present in the Bronx. In place are is a weak back end of a rotation and a highly potent offense. This means there are likely to be a lot of Yankee games decided in innings six to eight.
Chamberlain may be the more likely of the two to pitch more than one inning in an outing and therefore may have a greater vulture win potential than Soriano, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Soriano racked up his share of wins too. We also began seeing the Yankees giving Mariano Rivera a handful of nights off last season, and I would expect Soriano to get those opportunities as well. I think Soriano is very worth owning, even as a middle reliever. It seems reasonable for him to notch a half dozen each of wins and saves while posting his usually sterling rates stats, including K/IP.
Good starting pitching efforts on the South side will be rewarded
I’m not totally enamored with any of the starters for the White Sox, but they do have a few things going for them, namely a solid offense and a quite strong bullpen core. Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain should equal 250-300 solid bullpen innings. Ozzie Guillen’s tendency to let his pitchers go deep is a fickle fantasy mistress; on the one hand he gives his starters every chance to get their decisions, but on the other it seems like no manager is more willing to let his starters really take a beating than Ozzie. Of course, Chicago’s starters also have to contend with a homer-friendly home park, but in terms of upside in the wins category, John Danks probably has a much of it as any pitcher in his tier.
Oakland is a nice place to pitch
I think the A’s are going to be one of those teams that performs pretty well in 2011 and surprises a few people. They quietly were a .500 team last year (underperforming their pyth by four games) and the young team should continue to improve in 2011. While the Rangers remain the front-runner in the AL West, Seattle projects to be fairly awful again this year, and I actually expect another sub .500 season from the Angels, especially if Kendry Morales starts the season on the DL and misses significant time again. This leaves Oakland with a fairly weak division, a favorable home park, a very good defense, and— especially with the news that Andrew Bailey should be okay—a very strong bullpen. Yes, they are offensively challenged, but all the other ingredients are there.
Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden don’t strike out enough batters to interest me as anything more than stronger shallower league streaming options, but Brett Anderson should be solid and Gio Gonzalez could be a stud in the making. If you’re looking for a young pitcher with the potential to make a huge leap into truly elite status, a la Ubaldo Jimenez, I’d consider Gio as one of the better bets. It helps to have advantages beyond the things you can control.
Arizona will be where quality starts go to die… again
Last year, Arizona’s bullpen was especially bad. At around the All Star break, I remember reading that they were on pace to break the record for worst bullpen ERA of all time, or something. To be blunt, they’re going to stink again. J.J. Putz provides them with a legitimate closer type, but ironically, on a bad team, that may be the worst way to use him; you’re basically giving your best reliever the fewest innings of any core member of your bullpen. Oh, and he’s an injury risk too. Combine this bullpen situation with a launching pad of a home park and a just generally bad team, and you just have multiple forces conspiring against Arizona’s pitchers. With Gio Gonzalez fetching similar prices to Daniel Hudson, I’d much rather bet on Gio, and when it comes to $3-$4 pitchers, I can think of a dozen I’d rather try my luck with than Ian Kennedy.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:28am (12) Comments
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I have put together top-tier pitching staffs in previous years without even drafting a single pitcher among my first ten picks. It can happen. Breakout candidates are ripe for the picking every year in the middle to late rounds, and this year is no different.
The only rookie who fits into that category is Jeremy Hellickson, and really he is the only draft-worthy rookie around. He has big upside and was able to put it on display late last year. But he has an injury history to think about and, with all young pitchers, he could wear out toward the end of the year as he approaches 180 innings or more.
Mike Minor heads up the next tier of rookie pitchers. He looks like the frontrunner for Atlanta's No. 5 job and has a great minor league pedigree. I'm not sold on his strikeout numbers sticking around, but he's definitely worth a look if gets off to a hot start.
Kyle Drabek looks like a safe bet to open the year in Toronto's rotation. He has good stuff but questionable control, and his minor league numbers haven't been as dominant as you would like. He could take off, but I will wait and see.
Jordan Lyles and Michael Pineda are two potential aces who play for ball clubs in desperate need of their services. But we won't see these guys in the majors until at least June. Either one could explode in the minor leagues and face a promotion that rivals the likes of Tommy Hanson or Stephen Strasburg of previous years.
In order of upside potential, Mark Rogers, Zach Britton, Andrew Oliver and Dillon Gee are among a group of advanced pitchers who have a good shot at some major league rotation time if an injury strikes.
And that leaves Jarrod Parker, who is hoping to put Tommy John surgery behind him. His upside is still immense, so he's a lottery ticket worth keeping an eye on.
This crop of relief pitchers has the potential to make a bigger impact than any other position.
Craig Kimbrel is the closest rookie to a closer job at this point. The only concern I have are his past command issues, but I'll be all over him in the late rounds. He has to iron out his control, but Kimbrel has the talent and the job opening to finish the year as a top-5 closer. For real.
Jake McGee doesn't have Tampa Bay's closer job yet, but he has the potential to not only nail down the job early on this season, but put up some great numbers across the board.
Like Tampa Bay, the White Sox have a closer-by-committee setup at the moment, but Chris Sale is the most talented option and, like McGee, a high upside late-round addition.
Aroldis Chapman might be the most talented pitcher among this group of extremely talented relievers, but he doesn't have the opportunity of the others thanks to Francisco Cordero. Where he's being drafted, I'm letting him go this year.
Jordan Walden and Tanner Scheppers are two more talented relievers worth mentioning. Both have a shot at closing if injuries hit.