December 6, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Friday, July 01, 2011
Vernon Wells| Los Angeles (AL)| OF|52 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .266/.318/.449
While Wells' contract makes him an undesirable player to roster in the real world, it's his ugly hitting line on the year that would make most fantasy gamers shy away. However, a look at the numbers he's compiled since he returned from the disabled list in June paints a different picture of Wells, and suggests he is closer to last year's version than the putrid early season one.
His batted ball data for the month are right in line with his 2010 season, and while his HR/FB rate is due to regress, he still should provide ample power to those in need. On the negative side, he has been an embarrassment when it comes to drawing walks, and he's striking out significantly more than he has throughout his career. Never the owner of a standout walk rate, Wells has always been able to make up for it by making better than league-average contact and posting a respectable strikeout rate.
If he hopes to improve on his average and have sustainable success the remainder of the year, he'll need to have a more discerning eye at the plate, swing at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, and take fewer empty swings. All those things are reasonable expectations of a healthy Wells when considering his record. Oliver's rest of season slash looks like a spot-on projection, but Wells' 2010 season is a reminder that there is some upside beyond it. In leagues that roster 60 or more outfielders, third-to-fourth outfielder production seems about right from Wells going forward.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most medium sized mixed-leagues, all large mixed-leagues and all AL-only formats.
Eric Hosmer| Kansas City| 1B|45 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .272/.332/.423
Hosmer serves as a cautionary tale of just how difficult it is to stand out as a first baseman in fantasy baseball. That said, he's been far from overmatched at the major league level.
The first thing that stands out when combing over his numbers is his gigantic split difference between facing right-handed and left-handed pitching. Against right-handed pitchers he's hitting .292/.338/.479 with all five of his home runs. As you can guess looking at his combined line, he has been a wreck against southpaws, hitting just .204/.259/.204 with zero extra base hits. At this point, sitting Hosmer against lefties is the best way to optimize his fantasy contributions.
Promising for his long term success is that while he hasn't hit left-handers well, he isn't striking out at an alarming rate against them and he is able to draw walks as well. For him to make those improvements he'll need to quit hitting worm burners at such a high clip (56.8 percent groundball rate against left handers) and curb his propensity to pop the ball up (23.1 percent infield flyball rate against left handers).
A blue-chip prospect making his major league debut at the age of 21 makes keeper league and dynasty league owners salivate. Those in redraft leagues need to assess things a bit more closely. If an owner is kicking down your door hoping to cash in on his potential, dealing him may prove to be of greatest value. Conversely, those in deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats are probably better served holding out hope he can make some in-season adjustments against southpaws and tap into a bit of his upside while making the most of his current abilities (i.e., hitting right handers).
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest formats that use a corner infield and utility roster spot.
Lonnie Chisenhall| Cleveland| 3B| 10 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: No projection
After his strong spring, I was quite bullish on the Indians' top prospect, Lonnie Chisenhall. Things have changed a bit since then; his numbers in Triple-A haven't been the most inspiring and his MLE is an ugly .225/.308/.348.
Regardless, third base lacks talent, and Chisenhall has the tools required to make an impact should things click. Most scouting reports on him that I've read conjure up images of a Michael Young type player if things break right, meaning high teens-to-low 20s home run power with an average in the .300 range. Like Hosmer, Chisenhall has been a awful against left-handed pitching (.200/.282/.360). Unlike the Royals, the Indians look unwilling to allow their youngster opportunities in the early going to work through his biggest shortcoming: They sat him in his first opportunity to start against a southpaw in the majors when they faced Zach Duke on Wednesday.
Being a highly touted prospect with third base eligibility is a good way to get a look in fantasy leagues. Hitting in the bottom third of the order is likely to suppress his run and RBI totals, but should he succeed there's potential for him to move up into a better spot in a struggling Indians lineup. As with most young players, warnings are in order that he may struggle out of the gate. Thankfully, the cost of owning him is minimal in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and by minimal I mean the worst player on your roster. At that cost, he's worth speculating on.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most leagues that use a corner infield and utility roster spot, and benched against left-handed pitching until he shows an aptitude for hitting them.
Desmond Jennings| Tampa Bay| OF| 11 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .279/.372/.457 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: .263/.333/.393
Playing the guessing game of when the Rays will promote a top prospect seems to be a yearly necessity for fantasy owners. This year the promotion-guessing game involves speedster Desmond Jennings. Speedster isn't the only adjective that can be used to describe Jennings this year, as he's seen a spike in his pop as well. He's striking out more this season (14.6 percent K/PA in 2010, 19.1 percent K/PA) but in turn has seen his isolated power jump from .115 in 2010 to .179 and has 10 home runs in just 325 plate appearances. To put things into perspective, those 10 homers are just one short of his high mark for a single season, 11 in 577 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2009.
The Rays are very much in the thick of the playoff chase, and could stand to improve upon the current left field situation, which involves starting Sam Fuld, Justin Ruggiano and Johnny Damon when he's not designated hitter. Jennings, considered by most to be the long-term answer to replacing Carl Crawford, would be a logical choice to upgrade the position.
It's a bit perplexing that with the calendar flipping to July Jennings is still left to beat up on minor league pitching when he could help the parent club. Having received a cup of coffee in September last season, he should be due up anytime now. His skills are ideal for the fantasy game as he's capable of popping the occasional home run while stealing bases in bunches. Owned in more leagues than the already promoted, and previously highlighted Chisenhall, the cat is out of the bag on Jennings, so if you want to assure yourself of his services for the stretch run you'll have to grab him now before his promotion or run the risk of being beaten to the wire after he's called up.
Recommendation: Should be stashed in all leagues of all sizes with deep benches, by owners in need of stolen bases with bench flexibility, and in most deep mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Edwin Jackson| Chicago (AL)| SP| 38 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.13 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.78 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 44.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.32 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9
Jackson is a great example of a pitcher who has been a bit unlucky, but not necessarily as much as his 0.84 run difference between his ERA and xFIP would suggest. E-Jax is once again posting a strong strikeout rate while keeping his walks in check. Unfortunately his biggest problem still plagues him, and that's the lack of a quality third offering to neutralize left-handed batters.
Primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, Jackson is still rarely throwing his change-up, and unlike in his time with the White Sox last year, it is providing a negative run value when he does turn to it. Left handers have hammered him this season, hitting .298. Complicating matters for him is that right handers are also hitting him relatively hard, posting a .277 average. Some of both averages can be blamed on a .347 BABIP, which is already in the process of regressing, but only so much should be expected—his career mark is .310 and batters are ripping line drives at a 25.1 percent rate.
The question at this point is why hitters are teeing off on him. Is it random variance, poor luck, bad pitch sequencing, less effective pitches or something else? I don't have an answer, but I'd guess some combination of all of the above. His pitch velocities are fine, and one of his best starts of the season came in his most recent turn, so health doesn't appear to be an issue.
His finish to 2010 and his occasional gem performances this year make Jackson worth monitoring in medium-sized mixed leagues and rostering in most larger ones. A tilt back toward last year's near 50 percent ground ball rate would go a long way in enhancing his effectiveness and fantasy appeal. For now, E-Jax is a decent option against right-handed heavy lineups, and weaker lineups in general.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats, and added in shallower formats for match-ups against lineups lacking left-handed firepower.
Carlos Villanueva| Toronto| SP/RP| 14 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.15 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 6.03 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, 38.5 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.97 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
Throughout his time with the Brewers, Villanueva was asked to serve as a swing man at times. This season, his first with the Blue Jays, opened with him in the bullpen but has since seen him shifted to the rotation. What's notable about the change is that he's been fairly effective as a starter this year, sporting a 4.01 xFIP, 5.01 K/9 and, most impressively, a 1.52 BB/9.
Villanueva is a four-pitch pitcher who may be able to see a slight uptick in his strikeout rate, though not likely to his career mark of 7.80 K/9, which is heavily influenced by his time in the bullpen. His strikeout rate as a starter is 5.75 K/9 and should serve as a barometer for expected future performance. However, if he's able to creep that up over the 6.00 K/9 mark, he goes from intriguing match-up play to rosterable starter in a number of leagues. Those looking for reasons to believe he can take that step up in strikeout rate should look no further than his swinging strike rate and contact rate against, which are roughly league average, and the league average K/9, which sits at 6.98.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats with a high innings limit, and monitored in those same formats with a lower innings cap.
Rich Harden| Oakland| SP/RP| 7 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.52 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 14.09 K/9, 3.52 BB/9 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: 4.05 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9
Featured here a couple weeks ago, Harden has since thrown two rehab starts and is slated to be activated from the disabled list and start against the Arizona Diamondbacks today. Most reports of his rehab starts say his fastball velocity is there. Keep an eye on the radar gun readings after his activation. Harden is a recognizable name, thus any signs of life will almost certainly trigger a frenzy of additions. Owners in need of pitching help who have bench flexibility would be wise to beat the masses and stash him while evaluating his early starts.
Recommendation: Should be added and stashed on the fantasy baseball disabled list prior to his activation in all leagues in which owners have the flexibility to drop a player.
Jake McGee| Tampa Bay| RP| 8 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 5.14 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 2.57 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, 29.6 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.38 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9
Considered a threat to take the closer role in Tampa Bay, McGee hasn't exactly done that. After he struggled in seven innings at the major league level this season, the Rays optioned McGee to Triple-A Durham, where he has since flourished. In 29 innings he has struck out 33 batters while walking just six and induced more ground outs than fly outs. Kyle Farnsworth has been fantastic closing games for the Rays, so it is unlikely McGee will do more than vulture a handful of saves in a best case scenario. Regardless, high-strikeout relievers capable of putting up useful ratios are a valuable commodity for propping up low strikeout starters like Jair Jurrjens. Not a great option for all league types and sizes, McGee should be monitored in leagues wheer non-closer relievers hold value.
Recommendation: Should be monitored and potentially scooped up upon promotion in leagues where non-closer high strikeout relievers with solid ratios are of value.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 5:11am (8) Comments
Hello NL Waiver Wire readers. I’m pinch-hitting for Jeff Gross this week. While Jeff often pours extensive statistical analysis into these columns, which we all appreciate, I’ve focused my comments a bit more on the circumstantial realities surrounding this week’s slate of players, as role and opportunity are worth buying as well as skill set.
Daniel Murphy | Mets | 1B, 2B, 3B, OF | 28 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .287/.339/.450
Every year a few super utility men emerge. Daniel Murphy’s 2011 fantasy value is in the tradition of Mark DeRosa and Omar Infante. Murphy is a Swiss army knife positioned in the middle of the Mets order and he’s been raging hot over the past week and a half: .454, seven runs, a homer, 11 RBI over his last eight games.
With middle-infield eligibility, Murphy deserves a look at second base or as a fourth or fifth outfielder in all standard 12 team leagues and even some shallower leagues. One of the understated advantages of owning a player like Murphy is that he gives his owner added roster flexibility for trading purposes.
Recommendation: If you need middle-infield or outfield help in standard depth to slightly shallow leagues, Murphy is your man. If you need pieces and have a solid but not spectacular middle infielder you think you can cash for your needs, pick up Murph, move your middle infielder, and watch as your team barely skips a beat.
Javy Guerra | Dodgers | RP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5.29 K/9, 1.8 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.87 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, .9 HR/9
Oliver doesn’t like Guerra much, and I can’t say that I do either, but with news that Jonathan Broxton is shut down for three weeks and possibly more, the financial mess that the Dodgers are in, and the fact that Hong-Chih Kuo doing nothing to distinguish himself since his return, Guerra looks like the best bet to gobble the few save opportunities the Dodgers generate over the next month and possibly beyond. Of course, there may be threats from his own team, but Guerra has sort of defaulted himself into a closing job for the time being.
Recommendation: As much as it pains me to say it, Guerra should be owned in all leagues. We have no idea how this situation will shake out, but obscure players with sketchy track records and questionable skills emerging as closers is not exactly foreign to the world of baseball.
Freddie Freeman | 1B | 30 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .271/.328/.439
The Braves prospect has posted a totally respectable rookie slash line. Oliver sees much of the same to come but is optimistic about an increase in counting stats. Freeman has batted in several different spots in the order but has been given some starts in the clean-up spot recently. All in all, there are few players with his ownership rate who hit in the middle of competent offenses.
Freeman has also seen his line drive rate rise over the course of the season and I expect his to finish with number similar to Gaby Sanchez’s from last season.
Recommendation: Freeman deserves to be owned in standard 12-team mixed leagues
Cody Ross | Giants | OF | 9 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .270/.326/.461
After getting off to a horrendous start, 2010 postseason hero Cody Ross, has quietly turned in a .848 OPS May, followed by a .850 OPS June. Locked into the fifth spot in the order, Ross has the opportunity to be a legitimate run-producer the rest of the way. Ross’s resume boasts back-to-back 20+ homer seasons in Florida in ’08 and ’09 and a history of being completely rosterable in 12-team mixed formats.
This season, Ross is also sporting his highest walk rate and BB/K ratio of his career. Further, the power dip we saw in 2010 (regular season) may have been a product of a change in approach. A career flyball hitter, Ross began hitting considerably more balls on the ground. In 2009, when Ross hit 24 homers roughly one in nine of his fly balls went for homers. In 2010, that number fell only to roughly one in 10. This would have meant a difference of 24 to 20 homers from 2009 to 2010 had Ross hit fly balls at the same rate. Instead, the increased grounder frequency left Ross with only 14 round-trippers.
This year, Ross’s flyball rates are back around his career peak. The homer rate has dipped a bit, partially due to his home park, but the indicators of fantasy value are moving in the right direction.
Recommendation: Ross should absolutely be owned in NL-only leagues and is worth a look in leagues that roster 50 or more outfielders.
David Hernandez | Diamondbacks| RP | 6 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 3.65 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 10 K/9, 1.86 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.79 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, .1.74 K/BB
Okay, raise your hand if you actually believe in the Arizona Diamondbacks?
I don’t really have a whole lot to say about David Hernandez because his inclusion here is based largely on circumstance. If the D-backs fall back to Earth and disappear from the NL West race (okay, Rockies, feel free to turn it on at any time now), J.J Putz is one of the closers with the best chance of being traded to a “buyer” due to his performance and the fact that he’s only on a single year deal.
By default, Hernandez would most likely assume the role of closer should Putz be traded. Putz is also a constant injury risk and any time he starts getting roughed up a few outings in a row (he’s been scored upon in five of his last nine outings) one can’t help but wonder if there is arm pain that may boil over into an actual injury at some point.
Recommendation: NL-only leaguers should monitor Arizona’s situation closely. Hernandez is especially worth stashing for NL-only Putz owners
Buy-low candidate of the week:
Chase Utley | Phillies | 2B | 96 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .281/.380/.492
After spending a week in May getting his sea legs back, Utley spent June being something bordering on Chase Utley, putting up a .875 OPS and a combined 24 runs and RBI in 23 games. While those are not vintage Utley numbers and there is no guarantee we will see the 2005-2009 Utley this year, he is a top 15 middle infielder pretty much at his worst.
Utley is playing regularly and seems ready to keep his motor running. His first full month back didn’t generate a huge buzz, but he’s quietly revving his engine. If he turns the corner and puts up a one five-homer week, your chances of acquiring him will disappear. So, if you’re interesting in acquiring, the time to get him is now.
The blemishes to be wary of regarding Utley are a decreased line drive rate and a career high flyball rate. The problem with the increased flyball rate is that his HR/FB rate is down severely when compared with his career norm. How much of this is Utley still getting acclimated to major league pitching and how much of this is his body’s response to injury? That remains to be seen, and that is part of the gamble one takes when acquiring Utley.
However, I don’t want to overstate the role of potential power in Utley as a fantasy asset. The power potential is what made him able to compete for first round selections with the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun, but Utley will have ample opportunities to rack up runs and RBIs regardless.
I guess Utley does not exactly represent a buy-low candidate, as it’s uncertain whether he’ll get better than what we’ve seen so far. I’d say he represents a buy-now candidate; the uncertainty is your opportunity to roll the dice if you’re so inclined (as I’d be).
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 6:10am (1) Comments
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
A-Holes & Pujols v. Mad Cow Disease
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ALL-STAR FANTASY BASEBALL LEAGUE
Decided June 27, 2011
Cite as 3 F.J. 44 (June 2011)
A rotisserie fantasy baseball league called the Southern California All-Star Fantasy Baseball League (“SCAFBL”) is a mixed NL-AL non-keeper league comprised of 12 teams utilizing the standard 5×5 scoring categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the five categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; and (5) stolen bases. For pitchers, the five categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; and (5) saves. Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.
The SCAFBL operates under a written Constitution which outlines all of the league’s rules and guidelines. Each league member was provided with a copy of the Constitution prior to the league’s draft which took place on March 27, 2011. Included in the rules are provisions regarding the process and method of inputting transactions, including add/drops, placing players on the disabled list, and making trades with other teams. The SCAFBL employs an auction bidding process for free agents where each league member was allotted $100 to use in bidding for available players throughout the season. The following represents a condensed and concise summary of the pertinent Constitutional language that governs the transaction process:
• Each team is given a budget of $100 to use on players available on the waiver wire.
• Teams are restricted to a maximum of five transactions per week.
• All bids on free agents must be made before the conclusion of the final Sunday night game of the week.
• Teams must make their transactions in conformity with the league’s roster and lineup requirements.
• The bidding process will be managed, controlled and administered by the CBS Sports internal commissioner service.
• The bidding process is blind and no team shall have access or knowledge of other teams’ bids.
• The SCAFBL commissioner shall not have access to other teams’ bids.
On Saturday, June 25, 2011, A-Holes & Pujols placed a bid on free agent Dustin Ackley (2B-SEA) for $12 using the CBS Sports free agent auction bidding process. As his corresponding move, A-Holes & Pujols sought to drop Ben Francisco (OF-PHI). A-Holes & Pujols made no other free agent auction bids or any other transactions for the remainder of that week.
As usual, the free agent auction bidding process was run by CBS Sports on Sunday night, June 26, 2011. Once the auction was complete, Mad Cow Disease (also the SCAFBL Commissioner) was awarded Dustin Ackley by winning the auction with a bid of $14. As a result, A-Holes & Pujols’ bid for Ackley was denied and Francisco remained on their roster.
On Monday, June 27, 2011, A-Holes & Pujols sent out an email to the entire league accusing the Commissioner of abusing his power and outbidding him for Ackley. The basis for A-Holes & Pujols’ contention is the allegation that the Commissioner has access to everyone’s bids and can manipulate the system where he can outbid any team for a free agent he so desires.
In response to this email, the Commissioner emphatically denied such accusations and reminded the league of the provisions laid out in the league’s constitution (which are also delineated above in the Factual Background). A majority of league owners responded to the emails as well, affirming the Commissioner’s decree and lashing out at A-Holes & Pujols for the undeserved accusations. A-Holes & Pujols still refused to accept this explanation and requested a league vote to resolve the issue. The Commissioner rejected this request, so A-Holes & Pujols have contacted the Court to rule whether the Commissioner’s acquisition of Dustin Ackley should be upheld due to his alleged capability to see all competing bids.
(1) Should the Commissioner’s acquisition of Dustin Ackley be upheld?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is a strong advocate for the concept of codified Constitutions to more efficiently govern fantasy sports leagues. See John Doe v. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 21, 22 (October 2010). Having a written league constitution or charter helps ensure that “all league members are aware of the rules and guidelines in place, and it shifts the burden onto the league members to read, understand, and adhere to the rules that are delineated.” See Shawn Kemp is My Daddy v. Fantasy Basketball League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 24, 25 (October 2010). Here, the rules explicitly stated what the procedures are for the FAAB process, including the fact that the bidding is blind and not even the Commissioner has access to other teams’ bids. Not only were they delineated by the Commissioner in the league’s Constitution, but they are also the fixed settings set forth by CBS Sports in their League Commissioner package. See Green Eggs & Hamels v. Megan Fox is Hot, 3 F.J. 4, 6 (April 2011).
The Commissioner does subject himself to added scrutiny simply by having rule-making power and access to the league’s internal structure and settings. However, those who choose to participate in a fantasy league run by a Commissioner should presumably have implicit trust and faith in that Commissioner—otherwise it would be foolish to entrust one’s money and time in a fantasy league run by someone that is not trustworthy.
Here, the Commissioner is also a league member, which is often the case. As Commissioner, he must make decisions that are in the best interests of the league. However, he is also entitled to manage his team to the best of his ability and try to win. The Commissioner is subjected to the same rules that apply to everyone else, including the provisions of the free agent auction bidding process. The Commissioner is allotted the same budget as the rest of the league, and he must go through the same bidding process as everyone else. Additionally, there is no way for the Commissioner, or anyone else in the league, to have access to other people’s bids pursuant to the settings that were input. Any bid placed by the Commissioner is as blind as A-Holes & Pujols, and every other member of the SCAFBL.
Further, there is no way for a team to track when another team actually makes their bid. A-Holes & Pujols stated that he placed his bid for Dustin Ackley on Saturday, June 25. It is unknown when Mad Cow Disease placed his bid. Irrespective of that, it simply does not matter when the bids are placed so long as they are placed prior to when the auction runs, which is typically just after 1:00 AM EST. At that point, the only thing system cares about when running the auction is who bid more for a certain player. Based on the blind bids placed on Dustin Ackley, Mad Cow Disease won the auction and successfully acquired the Mariners’ young second baseman.
A-Holes & Pujols went to the rest of the league to appeal this. The Commissioner, despite being involved in the situation, denied A-Holes & Pujols’ request for a league vote on the issue. The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment advocates for league Commissioners to have a certain amount of authority and autonomy to run and administer fantasy sports leagues. See FlemishUSA v. League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 35, 36 (October 2010). In this case, the Commissioner appropriately ruled on the issue by denying the request for a league vote, and instead adhered to the clearly established rules and guidelines that govern the league and the FAAB process.
The league’s FAAB rules clearly demonstrate that Mad Cow Disease (a.k.a. the league Commissioner) properly acquired Ackley. The Court hereby upholds the Commissioner’s decision and rules that the subject transaction should be upheld.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Posted by Michael Stein at 5:21am (12) Comments
Thursday, July 07, 2011
This week I wanted to discuss the sites and games I've been playing regularly this daily fantasy baseball season. I won't go as far as to say these are the sites you should be playing. But I will say that the following four sites (and their subsequent game types) are really, really awesome and you should give them a look.
Below you will see the site name, my own game selections, a link to the site's scoring model and the individual key to success you need to start winning at that fantasy site.
The fun on this site begins on the home page, where you are greeted by some of the best looking referees I've ever seen. When you finally break your stare from this, you will find a multitude of different games and buy-ins available. My new favorite game here is the Homerun Derby competition. You can play head-to-head or in large groups, and the sole scoring method is, well you probably guessed it, home runs. These games last a week and can be a fun, easy way to find some added excitement in the baseball world. Make sure you give these a shot.
Other site highlights include both low and high buy-in tournaments almost every day. These tournaments are tough to do well in, because of the large number of competitors and tough competition, but they can pay off in a big, big way. If you are looking for some good risk/reward action, accompanied by excellent live scoring and genuine fun, Draftstreet may be the site for you.
Key to success: The utility spot is the key if you want to win consistently on Draftstreet. Unlike most sites, Draftstreet allows you to pick two hitters who aren't limited to positional limitations. This allows you to pick the top players for the day, even if they play the same position. It gives you a lot of flexibility when making lineup decisions, but it can also spell disaster if you miss on the two guys that you can custom pick. Find the right players at the right prices for those spots, and you are well on your way to consistent success on Draftstreet.
The ultimate daily fantasy baseball tournament paradise. It features multiple large field tournaments every single day. My favorite of these tournaments is the Friday Daily Fantasy Baseball Championship (DFBC) qualifier. This tournament has a price tag of $10, and can be entered multiple times. The winner each week qualifies for an end-of-season tournament that pays out more than $50,000. That's enough convincing for me, and I hope for you. I'm all about these large payout opportunities and the excitement level when following these tournaments is unbelievable. Come spend a Friday night on FanDuel and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Key To success: Pitching is the difference between winning and losing regularly on FanDuel. You need to pick a pitcher who is going to get a win that day, because that stat carries seven points with it. That is equivalent to a two-run homer for a position player. Make sure you review the betting lines for the day, giving yourself a great shot at getting this win. If you do, you have given yourself a significant leg up on your competition.
This site doesn't get as much publicity as some of the others, but it has unique game types and good competition, which keeps me coming back. I typically play the head-to-head contests on this site, but what I like is that you can easily place your head-to-head team into the 50-man, $2 buy-in tournaments that are available daily. I don't even have to re-enter my lineup. I can simply place the same lineup in as many competitions as I would like, saving me both time and hassle. If you are all about convenience, Sportsgeek may be your spot to play.
Key to success: The bullpen. That's right: Sportsgeek is the only daily fantasy site I've run across that allows you to pick not only a starting pitcher, but also a team bullpen. This adds a unique dynamic to the game. It takes some getting used to, and you are sure to run across your fair share of bullpen implosions. But once you get accustomed to picking a bullpen, and learn how to do it properly, it is a fun way to play daily fantasy. Come give it a try, and see if you can predict the end of a game on the mound as well as you can the beginning.
This site launched only a few months ago, but already has emerged into an industry leader. Why? Well for one thing, it is being run by one of the co-founders of EA Sports Video Games. You know, that little company that invented and programmed the Madden franchise. Check out an interview with site founder here. Needless to say, these guys really know what they are doing, and it is reflected in their site's layout and games. A sleek design and easy-to-use interface are just a few aspects of the site that keep me coming back. One of the unusual features, is that Daily Joust awards badges for milestones in your daily fantasy endeavors. This is a cool way to track your progress as you play. It's like your own personal trophy case.
Key to success:Persistence. The competition here is probably the most difficult in the industry, because the site is almost exclusively populated by daily fantasy's best players. If you are looking for a difficult challenge, and want to increase your skill level quickly, try your hand at this site. But approach with caution; you will not find a profit easy here. But even so, it is a fun site to play on because of its cool design and features. Don't be scared!
I hope that this article encourages you to spread your wings and try some new sites and games. There are so many game types to choose from, so do your best to find one that you feel you can consistently win at. Find a scoring model that suits your style and preparation properly, and you may find yourself building up quite a large bankroll quickly.
If none of these sites or games look like the type for you, or if you're looking for something uber-specific, please do let me know. I can find it for you, or at very least point you in the right direction.
See you next time.
Posted by Kevin Cearnal at 1:49am (3) Comments
Friday, July 08, 2011
All stats current through July 7.
Javier Vazquez | Marlins | SP | 25 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 5.64 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 6.25 K/9, 1.82 K/BB, 32.2% GB%
Oliver ROS: 4.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.75 K/BB
What a fall from grace Javier Vazquez's steep and sudden decline has been. A notorious and perpetual sabermetric darling for his career, the prototype for Ricky Nolasco always put up great peripherals that never seems to match his surface stats. Some, if not most, of the gap may have been ballpark and defensive effects, however.
From 2004 to 2008, Vazquez, a flyball pitcher by trade, played in some pretty offense-inflating and home run-inflating ball parks in front of some of baseball's poorest defenses. In 2004, he played for the Yankees, who collectively posted a major league-worst team UZR total of -75.9 runs.
The 2005 season was no different, as Vazquez pitched for the third-worst defensive team in baseball, the Diamondbacks, whose -48.8 team UZR hardly offset the environmental effects of a park that used to bolster offense much more half a decade ago than it does now.
And then, of course, Vazquez famously pitched for the White Sox at US Cellular Field, one of baseball's most home run-inflating ballparks, between 2006 and 2008 before the team traded him away for Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge. (Hey, at least it's more than what they got when selling Nick Swisher, who they gave up Gio Gonzalez (again) to acquire).
Though Vazquez had a solid season of results for the Sox in 2007 (15 wins, 3.74 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 213 strikeouts over 216.2 innings pitched), his results overall were largely poor (627 innings of league-average 4.40 ERA baseball) and "unclutch" (-3.80 Clutch rating between 2006 and 2008).
Vazquez's tenure on the White Sox only saw his bad-park, bad-defense meme continue. From 2006 to 2008, perhaps largely because of Jermaine Dye (aka "Life To Flying Things"), the White Sox's -80.5 cumulative team UZR ranked fifth-worst in baseball ahead of only the Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Pirates.
Regardless of the results, from 2004 to 2008 Javier Vazquez's underlying peripheral performance remained strong and ranked well amongst his peers. Not only did his peripherals indicate a better-than-his-results pitcher, but Vazquez was also one of baseball's most durable.
From 2004 to 2008, Vazquez's innings pitched total of 1041.1 ranked ninth overall amongst all pitchers who played at least one game during that span. Only Johan Santana (currently on the DL), Brandon Webb (currently on the DL), Roy Oswalt (currently on the DL), Mark Buehrle, Livan Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Jon Garland (currently on the DL), and Carlos Zambrano (currently on the DL) pitched more innings during that span.
Over those 1041.1 innings, Vazquez punched out 939 batters while only walking 273, for an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.44 (2.00 MLB average). Amongst the 153 pitchers to toss 400 or more innings between 2004 and 2008, Vazquez's 21.4 percent strikeout rate (16.7 percent MLB average) and 8.12 K/9 rate both ranked 18th overall, while his 6.2 percent walk rate (7.6 percent MLB average) was the 29th lowest. His 1.26 WHIP was also 26th-best in the majors.
Despite posting the 34th-worst groundball rate (39.6 percent) amongst this sample of pitchers, Vazquez's nonetheless owned the 27th-lowest xFIP (3.85 xFIP, 87 xFIP-) of those 153 pitchers.
In 2009, then, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Vazquez was one of baseball's best pitchers. Not only did he move from the DH-laden American League to the senior circuit, a move that tends to cause a pitcher's K/9 rate to spike by +0.57, and his ERA to decrease by approximately 0.41, but for the first time in his career, Vazquez was pitching in a offense-neutral park that slightly suppressed home run production in front of a middle-of-the-league defensive team.
As might be expected, Vazquez had a career year, producing a career-best 9.77 K/9 rate, a career second-best 1.81 BB/9 rate, and a career-best xFIP and FIP (both 2.77) that were only slightly below his career-best ERA of 2.87. Vazquez rewarded fantasy owners with 15 wins and career-best 1.03 WHIP.
Among the 130 pitchers who threw 100 or more innings in 2009, no one posted a lower xFIP than Vazquez, not even Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, whose 2.83 xFIP was the only other xFIP in baseball below 3.00 that season. Vazquez's 9.77 K/9 rate ranked sixth-best in the majors amongst all pitchers with 100 innings in 2009, his walk rate was eighth-best, and his 5.41 K/BB ratio was second only to demi-gods Roy Halladay (5.94) and Dan Haren (5.87).
Not to humble brag, but as someone who drafted Yovani Gallardo, Dan Haren, and Vazquez that season (not to mention acquiring Zack Greinke in early April), you can imagine my productive year in fantasy. Alas, I digress.
Not only was Vazquez a great pitcher in 2009, but his 219.1 innings (32 starts) that year continued his legacy of durability. That year marked his 10th consecutive season of 32 or more starts, averaging 216 innings per campaign over that span and failing to top the 200 innings mark only once with a "mere" 198 innings in 2004.
Though 34 years old entering the 2010 season, few, if any, pitchers seemed more durable with better stuffs—especially on the free agent market—and the Yankees took notice. They shipped off quality starting pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino (and Melky Cabrera) to the Braves in order to give Vazquez a second-chance at proving New York and the AL East was not "too tough" a place for him to pitch.
Vazquez's flyball tendencies and New Yankee Stadium's first year home run-happy exhibition indicated that Vazquez was unlikely to duplicate his 2009 success for New York's Bronx Bombers in 2010, but a strikeout rate above eight batters per nine, a sub-4.00 ERA, and top-notch K/BB ratio were to nonetheless be expected. No one could have predicted what happened next, as the wheels to came off—fast. Even Andruw Jones' meteoric fall from grace took a couple of seasons to occur.
Not only did Vazquez's move from the NL back to the AL—and from Turner Field to New Yankee Stadium—cause some regression, but Vazquez completely came apart as a pitcher. His average fastball velocity, which consistently sat between 91.1 MPH and 91.8 MPH from 2005-2009, plummeted to 88.7 MPH in 2010. In only one start, in fact, did Vazquez's fastball even average 90.
Fastball velocity is highly correlated to strikeout rates, ERA, FIP, and batting averages against, so perhaps Vazquez's loss of 2.5 MPH of stink off his cheese (food metaphor!) explains his then-career-low 6.92 K/9 and career-worst FIP/xFIP marks. However, walk rates are not very affected by changes in velocity, so there must have been something else at play, perhaps a hidden injury (Vazquez ultimately did spend time on the DL in 2010) if we are to explain a career-high 3.72 BB/9.
At the least, with a 5.64 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over a near career-low 157.1 innings, the Yankees did not get what they bargained for by giving up Vizcaino. So they let him walk and wisely did not offer arbitration.
Now there were several teams out there this preseason willing to give Vazquez another chance, given his history, on various one- or two-year deals. Dave Cameron showed us that history indicated it was unlikely for Vazquez's fastball zip to return, and that perhaps we all underestimated the wear-and-tear that over 42,000 pitches and 2,647.1 innings had taken on Vazquez's arm over 13 seasons.
Nonetheless, despite all the red flags, the Marlins were willing to give Vazquez—who wanted to rebuild his stock and felt comfortably familiar with the Marlins organization—a flier on a one-year, $7 million deal that was reportedly lower in both years and money than what other teams were willing to pay.
That history brings us to this season, where Vazquez has produced a 5.64 ERA, a career-worst 1.56 WHIP, and 4.62 xFIP to date in an era where the league average pitcher has an ERA, FIP, and xFIP all in the high threes. This investment has hardly paid off thus far for the Marlins, as Vazquez's strikeout rate (6.25 K/9) has continued to decline, while his walk rate (3.43 BB/9) remains inflated.
Despite all this ugliness and recent history, however, there are several reasons for the Marlins and frugal fantasy owners to find solace in Vazquez in the second half.
First and foremost, Vazquez's velocity (2011 average to date is 89.5 MPH), which is still down below his career rate of 90.9 MPH and his 2005-2009 velocity range, is up from last year. More importantly, however, his fastball velocity has been averaging in the low 90's his past five outings. Recent fastball velocity tends to become relevant and reliable very quickly (after about three outings), so this could be a great sign for Vazquez the rest of the way.
In addition to a rekindled fastball of late, Vazquez also has rediscovered his control over his past 10 outings. Since May 9, Vazquez has tossed 54 innings and only walked 12 batters (and of those 12, only 10 were unintentional) for a walks-per-nine rate of 2.00 on the button. Meanwhile, Vazquez has punched out 46 batter (7.67 K/9) for a 3.83 K/BB rate that accords with Vazquez's 2004-2009 performance.
While walk rates take approximately a year and a half to stabilize, unintentional walk (half a season) and strikeout rates (one-fifth a season) stabilize much faster. Vazquez's full season unintentional walk rate of 2.92 this season is not too far off his career rate of 2.55, and a substantial improvement over last year's disaster rate of 3.89.
Vazquez remains an unashamed flyball pitcher this season (32.2 percent groundball percentage in 2011, 34.9 percent in past 10 years), but if we plug his past 10 starts worth of data into the latest version of the xWHIP Calculator, calibrated to the 2011 run environment, we get a good picture of the quality of his recent performance:
Noting that the eFIP and xWHIP league averages are approximately 4.00 and 1.33, respectively, it is clear that Vazquez has performed substantially more like his former self of late than his season ERA/WHIP or even past 10 starts ERA/WHIP (4.83/1.35) indicate.
Vazquez may not be one of baseball's thirty best pitchers anymore, and thus no longer an ace, but if he can continue his recent performance, a sub-4.00 ERA and strong WHIP with good strikeout totals could be in the cards. And if Hanley Ramirezcontinues to play like his former self as he has of late (past 12 games: 16-for-45, five walks, three HR, one SB, 12 RBI, nine runs), then a healthy wins total could also be coming for the disgraced starter.
Unless you are in a deep (14-plus teams) or NL-only league, chances are that Vazquez is available for free (or a $1 FAAB bid) in your league's free agency pool. While I cannot recommend starting him just yet, he is certainly worth the pickup for your bench and worthy of the type of monitoring that would require a compelling government interest.
Vazquez is likely a matchups-only play at the moment (though it is worth noting that most of his recent ten outings came against offense-heavy teams), but is equally as rosterable as, if not more so than, Rich Harden.
Keep a close eye on Vazquez after the All-Star break. He could be a second-half Josh Beckett- or Bartolo Colon-like value.
Recommendation: Javier Vazquez should be owned in NL-only leagues and at least bench-owned in 12-plus-team mixed leagues. Ten-team mixed leagues can ignore Vazquez for now, but should monitor his next five starts closely.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:12am (8) Comments
Ross Detwiler | Washington | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (AAA): 4.53 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 6.49 K/9, 1.97 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 5.03 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 1.42 K/BB
Detwiler was recalled from Triple-A this week, and in his first start in the majors this season came away with the win. Holding the Cubs to four hits in five-and-one-third innings with one strikeout was enough to make his record 1-0. However, Detwiler, a former sixth overall pick, will likely spend the rest of the season in the bullpen.
This year in Triple-A he took a major step back, seeing his strikeout rate drop from the 8.0-9.0 range into the 6.0s and his hitability increase. Still, it was not long ago Detwiler was tearing up the lower levels of the minors, and while he's never had the same success against Triple-A or major league hitters, his new-found bullpen role may help him develop the ability to do so.
Recommendation: Should be avoided in all leagues but watched in NL-onlys if he succeeds as a reliever.
Bobby Parnell | New York (NL) | RP | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.66 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11.03 K/9, 3.22 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.59 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 1.94 K/BB
Parnell is currently mowing down batters like a Husqvarna does to overgrown shrubs and has replaced the resurrected Jason Isringhausen as the Mets' set-up man. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is no guarantee to be traded, but the rumors have been swirling, and if a trade were to be realized, owning Parnell beforehand would be ideal.
Recommendation: Should be owned in NL-only and deep mixed leagues if you have an available roster spot. Can be owned in any league in which you are saves-desperate with no better options.
Mat Gamel | Milwaukee | 3B | 0 percent Yahoo owned
YTD (AAA): .321/.380/.577
Oliver ROS: .267/.332/.444
Gamel has an impressive minor league career to his name, one he improved upon this year in 321 Triple-A plate appearances, most notably by crushing 18 homers and dropping his strikeout rate to 16.4 percent. In spite of these minor league numbers, Gamel has nothing to show for it in the majors, or at least nothing worth showing.
Now enter Casey McGehee into the picture, the man who never posted an OPS over .776 in the minors but, despite that, has been miraculously productive as the Brewers' starting third baseman the past two years. Finally, in his third year in the bigs, though, McGehee seems to have lost his "Like Mike" shoes and looks like the player we thought he would be.
As a result, Gamel has been getting at-bats recently at third (and first during interleague play) but has done nothing to shake his Quad-A label, collecting a mere three hits in 22 at-bats. Because of his notorious bad defense, Gamel will have to overperform at the plate to eventually steal regular playing time in the field.
So the landing strip is quite narrow for Gamel but—air traffic controllers forbid—if he ever figures it out at the plate, he could be a nice option at a position worn thin by injury.
Recommendation: Should be rostered but not started in NL-only and mid-to-deep mixed leagues.
Zack Cozart | Cincinnati | SS | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (AAA): .313/.361/.463
Oliver ROS: .249/.298/.389
Jeff Gross profiled Cozart two weeks ago in this column, and I'm merely highlighting him again since he got the call to the majors yesterday. Word on on the street is he is likely in line for regular playing time over Edgar Renteria and the rest of the Reds' shortstop motley crew.
Recommendation: Should be owned in deep mixed leagues and NL-only leagues. Can be owned in shallower mixed leagues in which you are weak at SS.
Mike Cameron | Florida | OF | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .243/.319/.424
Florida is a good place to spend the twilight of your life I've been told, and maybe it can be a good place for Cameron to spend the twilight of his career. Or at least better than Boston was. He figures to get playing time while Chris Coghlan is out for another couple weeks and then to settle into some sort of platoon role. There is some pop left in his bat, and he could be a better add than some of the fringe prospects people will get more excited about.
Recommendation: Can be owned in NL-only leagues and ignored in all but the deepest mixed leagues.
Editor's pick of the week:
John Buck | Florida | C | 36 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .252/.303/.440
The player the frugal Marlins lavished with an $18 million contract over three years has disappointed so far in the first of those years, but who's to say he can't be a .260 hitter with double-digit homers the rest of the way? He could be a top-five catcher going forward, and if you are looking for someone who can make an impact from a boring spot, Buck is a good player to take a shot on.
Recommendation In shallower leagues where he is unowned and you are not rocking one of the elite options, he could be worth an add.
Posted by Paul Singman at 5:11am (0) Comments
Charlie Furbush| Detroit| SP/RP| 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.52 K/9, 3.42 BB/9, 37.1 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 5.28 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Furbush was lights out in Triple-A this year, and has shown signs of being a potential fantasy contributor in his brief time in the majors. Most of his time has come in the bullpen, so it remains to be seen how his stuff will fare against hitters as a starter, but he was able to strike out five in four-and-two-thirds innings in his first start Monday.
He was not a particularly highly touted prospect coming into the year, so I'm a bit bearish on his lon-term viability. Working in his favor is that he's not a soft-tossing southpaw (91.3 mph average velocity on his fastball), and he features three other pitches. He's also getting hitters to swing through pitches at a higher rate than the league average, which helps support his useful strikeout rate, while pouring first pitch strikes with great regularity.
Those hoping to get another look at him as a starter will have their chance on Saturday when he faces the Kansas City Royals. Even in deep leagues, he's no more than a pitch-and-ditch until he gets a bit more work under his belt. If he had a greater pedigree, I'd suggest being more proactive, but in this case I'm unwilling. That said, his minor league results warrant that he at least be acknowledged and placed on watch lists. Those in AL-only leagues have less leeway, and probably would be wise to jump on him now.
Recommendation: Should be monitored in large mixed-leagues and owned in some AL-only leagues.
Brandon McCarthy| Oakland| SP| 5 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.37 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, 48.4 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.94 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
A somewhat surprising early season contributor, the revamped Brandon McCarthy was ditched by many teams when he went to the disabled list with a stress reaction in his throwing shoulder. Prior to his start on Monday, he hadn't pitched in a game since May 18, but you'd never know it by the results. He threw six-and-two-thirds innings of two earned run baseball, walking just two and striking out five. He didn't miss many bats in the early going, but he made up for it by sporting a dental floss-thin walk rate and keeping the ball on the ground.
If he's able to stay healthy, a big if for a player who has missed as much time as he has in his career, he should be a solid source of ratios. He'll need to be supported by a group of starters with above average strikeout rates or offset by a high-strikeout reliever, but that's no reason for him to be available in as many leagues as he currently is.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, most large mixed-leagues, and all AL-only formats.
Scott Sizemore| Oakland| 2B/3B| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .270/.340/.418
Clearly all Scott Sizemore needed to flourish was a change of scenery!
Okay, so not so fast—small sample size warning is in order—but he has been rock solid since the A's acquired him. Armed with second base and third base eligibility, having a pulse and flashing any signs of success is all one needs to pique the interest of owners in leagues using middle infield and corner infield roster spots. His BABIP and HR/FB are both unsustainable and due for regression, but he should be a solid reserve who can be plugged in at the hot corner, keystone position or middle infield spot.
Those wondering what to expect from him going forward could use his 2010 MLE as a starting point—a .295/.376/.471 slash with high teens pop and a handful of stolen bases with regular playing time. Kevin Kouzmanoff could eventually press him for playing time, so keep an eye on his play in the Pacific Coast League, but for now ride the hot hand.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues using a middle infield position, all large mixed-leagues using a middle infield position and all AL-only formats.
Ben Revere| Minnesota| OF| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .278/.322/.337
Revere has showcased his speed in Minnesota, stealing 10 bases, but his average lags far behind his minor league marks. His upside in the average category makes him potentially more than a one-trick pony speedster, but he's a non-contributor in the power department. Recognizing his strengths, and weaknesses (in this case literally a "weakness") he doesn't chase many pitches and takes a high contact approach pounding the ball into the ground and spraying line drives.
Filling in for injured center fielder Denard Span, Revere may find himself on the pine shortly after the All-Star break. Considering the uncertain timetable associated with concussions, it is anyone's guess when Span he will return, though. With speed always in demand to some degree, it is a bit perplexing to see Revere available in so many leagues. He's not flashy, but those in need of stolen bases could do a lot worse than turning to him for a boost.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners in need of stolen bases in large mixed-leagues and AL-only formats.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 5:51am (3) Comments
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
At approximately the midway point of the regular Major League Baseball season, I’d like to offer some sensible reminders to fantasy owners. Owners, at times, have a tendency to overestimate how wide the divide is in some categories. At the same time, owners also may underestimate how difficult it might be to catch up, or ascribe magical powers to the calendar. I’m going to devote today’s column to some level-headed—but non-revolutionary—advice about assessing leads and deficits.
First off all, at the mathematical middle of the season (or thereabout), all deficits are theoretically conquerable in a team-to-team sense. If the first place team in homers outpaced you by 30 longballs over half the season, it’s equally possible to outpace them by 30 over the second half of the season. If you have to catch up .35 ERA points, you have as much time to erase the deficit as it took for to amass it. So, time isn’t exactly your opponent’s extra man—not yet. One of the main differences in these examples is that, in order to overcome stark offensive deficits, a profound change of personnel is more likely necessary; and there’s more room to scratch, claw, and poke via strategy on the pitching side.
Let’s look at some general axioms.
Judge yourself by true pace, not points
If you are 80 innings ahead of the innings cap while everybody else is even (while this is a bit extreme, I don’t dismiss the strategy outright), but are only 40 strikeouts ahead of the 4th place team in the category, you are not really winning this category—despite what your points total may tell you. If you are over the innings pace, it is time to start thinking about maximizing efficiency with your pitchers, if not about trading arms. You may want to play match up with your weaker starters to maximize wins, or you may even want to drop your weakest two starters outright (or trade them for modest assets) and, instead, roster elite middle relievers who are more efficient in the wins and Ks on a per inning basis. If you are to assume that most competing teams will come in around the innings cap, benefiting strictly from maximizing opportunity is not a long term option.
At the same time, if you are 50 innings behind the innings cap pace but have sterling win and strikeout per inning efficiency, don’t just assume that you will close the gap. You need to develop a plan as to how you are going to fill those extra innings; are you going to spot start, trade, drop bench bats and add more relievers? You can’t assume that you will continue to accrue stats at your team’s established rates if you are relying simply on filling your roster with free agent pitchers—though you can get great production from the waiver wire if you start early, slowly and steadily adding an extra start or two per week. Pick your match-ups carefully and start sooner than others, so the pool for spot starters is less competitive. As a final reminder, remember that if you’re behind the pace in innings pitched, that means your rate stats are fragile, relative to other teams’ numbers. Therefore it will be easier for your new additions to affect your rate stats, for better or worse.
Don’t prematurely count yourself out of offensive rate stat categories
Two years ago, Eriq Gardiner posited, "Don’t give up on batting average just yet", and this is more easily understood if average is thought of as a counting stat rather than a rate stat. I think this is valuable perspective. To climb the summit of a .10 pt. midseason batting average deficit, it may really come down to amassing 30 more hits than your opponent from a dozen players over the course of 80 games. This is without even considering the possibility of your opponent helping you by dropping in average himself (though, of course he could gain as well).
Sometimes owners don’t fully grasp how rate stats can be so tenuous. Let’s take a realistic hypothetical to hammer this point home. Assume your team is hitting .265 and you’re chasing a team hitting .275. To reach that mark, you’d have to hit .285 the rest of the way. Let’s take a look at how small a difference that really is when you distill it from the team setting to the individual. Suppose that at the approximate midway point of the season, both of your teams are averaging 280 ABs per your 13 active roster spots.
80/280 = .286
77/280 = .275
74/280 = .264
We’re talking six hits per player over nearly 300 ABs. Now, let’s take a look at the effect of two teams simply having mismatched outliers on their respective rosters. Right now Adrian Gonzalez has a BABIP of .394 (+.75 vs. career), while Adam Dunn has one of .234 (-.58 vs. career). Now, let’s imagine that Team A and B both have a .275 cumulative average from their 12 non-1B roster spots, but team A banked on A-Gonz, while Team B went with the Big Donkey. How much would that single difference affect the batting average of these two rosters as a whole?
Team A: 924/3360 + 128/362 = 1052/.3722 (.2862)
Team B: 924/3360 + 43/269 = 967/3629 (.2665)
From this experiment, you can see that a .10 point batting average difference could be largely attributed to BABIPs that belie career norms, and therefore that such a gap can potentially be nearly erased simply by the expected regression of the rates. If Adam Dunn hit .86 points above his career AVG the rest of the way, to meet his career .243 BA, and Adrian Gonzalez his .63 points lower than his career average the rest of the way to even out with his, that alone would erase the near entirety of the current difference in team AVG.
Clearly, reality is not so simple and neat, and there are plenty of variables beyond the simple random variations in distribution of outcome that underlie these two players’ numbers, but the essential point remains. When you crunch the numbers, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
Midseason is an arbitrary and largely insignificant milestone
The All Star break provides some downtime, and therefore serves as an inflection point for fantasy team owners. Being close to the mathematical middle of the a full season’s games helps put players’ stats into perspective, but the fact that we are now at midseason doesn’t actually mean anything for your players, their upcoming performance, or the future of your team.
A player is not destined to bounce back in the second half because he had a poor first half, and a player is not “on pace” to hit 30 homers because he has 15 at the halfway point. The statistical truths, mathematical underpinnings, and regressions to the mean that underlie the probability of outcomes going forward are unaware of the date on the calendar. Yes, players performing at outlying rates of production should be expected to regress to their career norms, but the fact that we have crossed the threshold from sunrise to sunset does not inherently mean such will occur or signal the beginning of such effects.
While it may have sounded like I’m distancing myself from the paragraphs above, I’m just simply emphasizing that what is most likely to occur is that which underlying peripherals support. A player shouldn’t be presumed to hit 15 homers in the second half because he did so in the first. Rather, his homer projection is still best formed by weighing his historical performance (of which the first half is a part, but just a part) and core indicators like flyball rate, HR/FB, and the like.
Much like the case of false dominance in pitching categories, don’t rely on the superficial stat totals to determine the core “pace” at which your team is progressing. At the same time, don’t look at a fledgling team and count on regression alone to ensure its dramatic resurgence. Don’t watch, act. Rationally.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:09am (7) Comments
Friday, July 15, 2011
Nate Schierholtz | San Francisco | OF | 10 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .274/.325/.434
Schierholtz ended the first half of the season in Jeterian fashion with a 4-for-4 performance and has been arguably the best performer in a struggling Giants outfield. As a lefty he is being shielded from exposure to left-handed pitchers, but in the past Schierholtz has shown the ability to hit lefties, so if his role expands in the second half to that of an everyday player, he does not necessarily need to be platooned.
Recommendation: Should be owned in mid-to-deep mixed leagues and NL-onlys. Can be considered for shallower mixed leagues based on your team's outfield and overall hitting situation.
Cody Ross | San Francisco | OF | 7 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .271/.328/.454
Keeping with the theme of Giants outfielders, Ross has had a fairly productive season at the plate but absolutely crushes lefties to a .917 OPS. Despite their lack of production at the plate, Andres Torres' and Aaron Rowand's gloves keep them in the lineup often enough to make Ross a platoon player. In non-weekly leagues Ross can be a surprisingly valuable player to own, even though his overall line might not look as impressive.
Recommendation:Should be owned in any league when you can platoon him and owned in deep mixed leagues and NL-onlys regardless of whether you can platoon him.
Aroldis Chapman | Cincinnati | RP | 40 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 4.57 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 13.29 K/9, 1.45 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.75 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 9.8 K/9
I am admittedly late to the Chapman party as it has already been a month since he's been recalled from the minors after struggling horribly with control in the beginning of the season. Since his promotion Chapman has been scarily dominant. In 8.2 innings, he has given up two hits and two walks, and struck out 17 batters. That's a WHIP of 0.46 and a K/9 of 17.7 for those keeping score. As just a relief pitcher his value is limited but personally, I've never been more excited to own just a reliever before.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues, especially any league with a relatively strict innings cap (something like 1,300 and less).
Tommy Milone | Washington | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership (not yet in player universe)
YTD (AAA): 3.15 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 9.35 K/9 15.3 K/BB
Oliver ROS: 4.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
Milone in Triple-A this year has been filthy—striking out over a batter an inning while walking less than one per nine. According to John Sickels, Milone is not your typical pitching prospect, featuring a mid-80s fastball and various offspeed pitches as opposed to blazing heat. Milone has shown the ability to dominate batters despite his lack of "stuff," instead employing strong command and molecular accuracy.
Even though the Nationals rotation is surprisingly sturdy from top-to-bottom, an opportunity will arise for him to join the rotation without the need for injury to strike one of their starters since Jordan Zimmerman has a 160-inning cap placed on his season total. So far Zimmerman is at 115, meaning after seven or eight more starts he is likely done for the year and Milone can step in and strut his stuff.
Recommendation:Owning Milone in any league without minor league rosters is still premature but he can be picked up in any league as Zimmerman gets close to 160 innings later in the season.
Paul Goldschmidt | Arizona | 1B | 0 percent Yahoo ownership (not yet in player universe)
YTD (AA): .312/.432/.624
Oliver ROS: .262/.331/.499
When Juan Miranda just isn't cutting it at first base, it is nice to know you have a prospect like Paul Goldschmidt in the minors. Goldschmidt has erased any doubts about his impressive 35-homer, 40-double season last year in Single-A by adding another 25 home runs in Double-A this year while also nearly doubling his walk rate to 17 percent and significantly cutting down his strikeout rate to 19 percent.
As a competitive team, the D-backs cannot play the "prospect service time" game in good conscience knowing that Goldschmidt could be helping the major league club make a push into the playoffs right now. Interestingly in Triple-A the D-backs have another solid prospect at first in Brandon Allen, so when they call someone up to replace Miranda, which is certain to happen soon, Goldschmidt won't even necessarily be given the call.
However, Allen has been given major league chances before and mostly disappointed so Goldschmidt is right now considered the more likely of the two to get the next chance despite his lack of experience.
Recommendation: Should be added in NL-only and mid-to-deep mixed leagues when he is available to be added.
Posted by Paul Singman at 12:26am (1) Comments
Felipe Paulino| Kansas City| SP/RP| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.31 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 8.47 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 47.5 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.50 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Featured here before, Paulino has been able to sustain the promising changes to his controllable skills since being dealt to the Kansas City Royals. His surface stats have been strong—3.38 ERA and his 1.27 WHIP is better than league average—but it's a number of his other stats that have me excited. His K/BB rate has jumped to 3.75 thanks to paring down his walks and still striking out a high number of batters. He has also maintained a batted ball profile that tilts in favor ground balls.
His strikeout rate and power stuff have always made him slightly intriguing, but it's positive changes to his first pitch strike rate, and walk rate and his different pitch type usage that are finally allowing him accentuate his positives. The change to his usage is less reliance on his fastball, and a preference to turn to his slider, curveball and change-up more frequently. More off-speed and breaking pitches have helped bump up his outside strike zone swing rate (o-swing) and his swinging strike rate in general, all things that will help him continue to rack up strikeouts. Paulino is nearly universally unowned, something that savvy owners in need of strikeouts should take advantage of.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium sized mixed-leagues, most large mixed-leagues and all AL-only formats.
Kyle Gibson| Minnesota| SP| 0 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.17 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.97 K/9, 2.29 BB/9 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: 4.55 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Kyle Gibson has pitched quite well in Triple-A this season, even if his ERA and WHIP would indicate otherwise. Gibson has struck out almost exactly one batter per inning, walked few hitters and induced roughly two times as many groundouts as flyouts. While they are different types of pitchers, and they pitched in different leagues, Michael Pineda's high ERA in Triple-A last season should serve as a caution against placing too much weight on that stat.
Regardless of whether the Twins make a second surge and climb back into the AL-Central race, or fall out of it and become sellers at the deadline, there are plausible scenarios where a rotation spot could open up for the youngster prior to roster expansions in September. Pitching in a favorable home ballpark, Gibson has a chance to be helpful down the stretch in spite of his lack of experience and the growing pains typically associated with being green behind the ears.
Recommendation: Should be monitored, but not necessarily stashed at this moment.
Chris Sale| Chicago (American League)| RP| 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.47 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 9.41 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 46.9 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.25 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
The well-covered White Sox bullpen woes of April did not spare Chris Sale. Quietly though, he's turned his season around. Sergio Santos has cemented the closer gig, so from a saves perspective, barring injury, the best case for Sale is a few vulture saves to spell him. Nonetheless, striking out a high volume of hitters, not walking the world, and inducing more ground balls than fly balls is a good way to make yourself a valuable reliever in deep leagues. His strong performance in June and July has allowed him to regain the trust of manager Ozzie Guillen, so those in holds leagues where he's not rostered should scoop up the lanky lefty. As long as Sale is able to control his pitches and pound the strike zone, feel free to roster him in deep leagues as an option to prop up low strikeout yet useful starters.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most leagues that use holds, some large mixed-leagues, and some AL-only leagues.
Travis Snider| Toronto| OF| 26 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .256/.317/.427
It's likely no player has had more words written about him in this column than Travis Snider. I hope this endorsement leads his to sticking on rosters a bit longer. The Blue Jays coaching staff and front office are pleased with the adjustments he made after being demoted to the minors. The results have been promising since his recall as well. He's hitting .367/.387/.667 this go-round with six doubles and one home run in 30 at bats. It's a bit discouraging to see that he's struck out in nearly one third of his at bats (nine strikeouts), but all things considered, the production has been there, and he looks to be a stable member of the lineup going forward.
The owner of a .208 ISO last season, Snider has some power potential he's yet to fully display this year. Toss in his suddenly fleet feet (five stolen bases in the majors and another seven in the minors) and manager John Farrell's propensity to let his players run, and you now have a player who can chip in to stolen base totals in addition to flexing his muscles at the plate with the long ball. Owned in just over a quarter of Yahoo! leagues, expect to see that number sky rocket thanks to Snider's former blue chip prospect status.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Michael Trout| Los Angeles (American League)| OF| 27 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .273/.336/.413
Last week's notable exclusion as a result of a promotion immediately following my article submission, Mike Trout makes a second debut, one to Waiver Wire a week after his first major league appearance. The Angels were aggressive with a player a number of scouts and prospect gurus, including Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, consider the best prospect in baseball. They had him skip Triple-A after just 341 Double-A plate appearances, all coming this season. His MLE of .276/.346/.455 points to a player who is ready. A little anxious, possibly pressing, he's chasing 40 percent of pitches thrown outside the strike zone. However, he's struck out only once in his first 10 plate appearances, so he's making contact at a high clip. Unfortunately, when you're chasing so many pitches, that contact isn't necessarily good contact.
Trout's most valuable fantasy tool is his speed. He stole 28 bases in Double-A this season and was caught stealing eight times. Should his on-base skills come around quickly at the big league level, expect to see him make an instant impact in the stolen base category. He also flashed some power, sporting a .210 ISO and hitting nine home runs. Pay for the speed now; if the power shows itself this season, consider that gravy.
It's quite likely that if he struggles, the Angels send him back done to the minors for further seasoning and re-insert Peter Bourjos. For now, take a chance on this special 19-year-old and hope he sticks and shows why so many people are salivating at the thought of watching this explosive player blossom.
Recommendation: Should be universally owned given his immediate stolen base upside.
Jason Kipnis| Cleveland| 2B| 1 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: .311/.385/.502 (Triple-A)
Oliver ROS: .262/.325/.433
It looks like the Cord Phelps experiment at second base has run its course, so expect to see Jason Kipnis in short order. Phelps may prove to be a useful utility player over his career, but it's no secret Kipnis is the man the Indians expect to see on the lineup card at second base for years to come.
A converted outfielder, he has to prove before being promoted that he's capable of handling the position defensively, as the stick is ready. Reports are fairly good on his adjustment to the position, and with the Indians in the thick of things and getting negative WAR production from Orlando Cabrera, second base would be an obvious upgrade internally. The MLE on his 2011 production is .263/.336/.443, making for a reasonable expectation upon promotion. What that slash doesn't show is that he is also a moderate home run and stolen base threat, having hit 11 home runs and stolen 11 bases in his 355 Triple-A plate appearances.
A great player to own in deep keeper and dynasty leagues, Kipnis is capable of making a splash at middle infield down the stretch in re-draft leagues as well. Those with the roster flexibility, and a need at second base or middle infield, would be wise to beat the masses to the wire and stash him now. Once he's promoted and hyped on the various platforms that cover fantasy baseball, it will be a mad dash to the wire to add him, so save yourself the headache and stress.
Recommendation: Should be monitored in all leagues that use a middle infield position. Should be stashed in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.