December 11, 2013
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Monday, August 01, 2011
The trade deadline often represents an opportunity for savvy fantasy managers to gain some ground against their opponents. However, this July 31 turned up few opportunities to steal value off the waiver wire. Below is a first glimpse at potential fantasy impact.
Like interleague play, AL-only leagues won the trade deadline.
The biggest deadline boost is Ubaldo Jimenez, whom the Colorado Rockies swapped to the Cleveland Indians. Jimenez owners have been disappointed in 2011. He's lacked the dominance displayed in 2010, posting a frown-worthy 4.46 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.
Hidden behind those numbers, he's quietly posted solid peripherals. His walk and strikeout rates are nearly identical to 2010's rates. His FIP and xFIP are 3.54 and 3.56, respectively (3.10 and 3.60 in 2010). Statistically, there's reason to be hopeful Jimenez can recapture ace numbers. AL owners should go all-in on him.
Colby Rasmus also hit the AL waiver wire back on July 27. Chances are he's already cleared waivers in most AL-only leagues, but if you still have a chance to acquire him, go for it. His potential five-category skill set can help almost any team.
Mike Adams was acquired by the Texas Rangers to support Neftali Feliz. He'll remain an elite source of holds, although his ERA and WHIP may suffer in the move from Petco Park to Arlington, TX. The Rangers probably view him as the closer in 2012 when Feliz joins the rotation. That's a long way off, but it is useful information in certain keeper leagues.
On the prospect front, the Mariners acquired Trayvon Robinson. He possesses a skill set similar to Colorado's Dexter Fowler (albeit with some power), so it will be interesting to see how the M's fit him into their plans. Managers in keeper leagues may want to take a flier since he has some pop and speed at his disposal.
The Athletics acquired Fangraphs darling Brandon Allen. He'll join their collection of quadruple-A first basemen/ outfielders. The A's will hope Allen can catch on back in the AL. Only the deepest leagues need worry about him.
NL-only leagues didn't acquire any major players, but several options could help fill out a roster.
The Pirates's acquisition of Derrek Lee may provide the best opportunity. Lee still is capable of reaching base frequently and showing some occasional power. His presence, along with fellow trade deadline acquisition Ryan Ludwick, should help the Pirates get more production out of their first baseman and corner outfielders. Andrew McCutchen might benefit most with more RBI opportunities and better hitters to drive him in.
The Cardinals snatched up a pile of potentially useful players in the Rasmus trade. As noted above, waivers have already been processed for these guys in most leagues. Edwin Jackson will join the rotation. He's capable of occasional runs of dominance, interspersed with bouts of ignominy. Prospective owners will just have to cross their fingers. If you don't need him, you're unlikely to regret allowing a rival to snap him up. Then again, Dave Duncan can work miracles.
Also joining the Cardinals are Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, and Corey Patterson. Rzepczynski is a solid swingman who could pick up a decent number of holds. Dotel will help perform setup man duties for the Cardinals. If Fernando Salas should stumble, Dotel could move from a holds source to the closing gig. Patterson will serve mainly as a backup when the Cardinals' outfield is at full health. Keep in mind that strange things can happen on Tony LaRussa-run teams.
Brad Ziegler joined the Arizona Diamondbacks and has an outside shot of finding himself some save opportunities. Holds leagues will appreciate his presence.
The Giants added Orlando Cabrera from the Indians to provide depth at second base. He may platoon with Mike Fontenot.
The Rockies picked upAlex White as part of the Jimenez trade. White is a nice pick up for the Rockies. He's a groundball pitcher who also features some swing-and-miss stuff, not unlike his new teammate Jhoulys Chacin. He's currently on the 60-day disabled list with a finger injury, but he recently threw a 25- pitch bullpen and will probably return later this year. He's a nice guy to stash on the disabled list if you have the open slot.
The Rockies also acquired a player to be named later, supposedly Drew Pomeranz. Owners in keeper or dynasty leagues should wait patiently for Pomeranz to be named.
Despite a rough return from the disabled list, The Red Sox went out and acquired the perpetually-injured Erik Bedard. The report from Bedard's recent aborted outing was that his encouraging 94 MPH velocity was mixed with suspect control. Fantasy owners should be wary of buying into Bedard the Red Sock. Moving from Safeco and the AL West to Fenway and the AL East won't make anything easier for him.
Speaking of injury prone players, Rafael Furcal joins the busy Cardinals. With Furcal, it's always a story of health. Hitting in a lineup with Pujols and Holliday is added bonus.
The Phillies filled a big hole in their lefty-heavy lineup by acquiring Hunter Pence. He will be asked to fill the void left by Jayson Werth over the offseason. If he bats fifth behind Ryan Howard, his runs scored and RBI numbers may suffer.
Not to be outdone, the Atlanta Braves added Michael Bourn to fill their hole in center field. The switch shouldn't affect much offensively since Bourn isn't much of an on-base threat. Most of the gain will come defensively.
Carlos Beltran was the early splash. He's a huge upgrade for the Giants and helps all the players around him. Pablo Sandovalshould enjoy the biggest boost from his presence. The Giants' offense is a pitiful thing, and Beltran won't have the pleasure of hitting with Jose Reyes or David Wright in San Fran.
Fellow former Met, Francisco Rodriguez joined the Brewers last week. Yesterday he got the infamous vulture win after blowing the save in the eighth inning. John Axford has a stranglehold on the closer gig, so K-Rod is reduced to holds and those vulture wins.
Analysts often joke that Brian Sabean loves aging veterans. He did nothing to dispel that critique this year by acquiring utility man Jeff Keppinger in addition to Beltran and Cabrera.
The Rangers acquired Koji Uehara from Orioles. He could compete with Adams for save opportunities in a post-Feliz bullpen. For now, more holds.
For their part, the Orioles got role players Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for Uehara. Davis has big-time power but may not ever catch on long-term at the big league level. Hunter is hard to use in all but the deepest formats.
Mike Aviles joined the Red Sox. He'll likely split time with Marco Scutaro. If he can wrest the starting gig away from Scutaro, he'll become a hot commodity.
The Tigers strengthened their rotation and bullpen by adding Doug Fister and David Pauley. The trade does little to alter their value. Fister should win a few more games now, but otherwise they're unexciting options in most leagues. Fister is employable but needs to be coupled with an elite strikeout guy like Tim Lincecum.
The Mariners made out well, grabbing Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush from the Tigers. Wells should find more playing time in Seattle and has some upside in deep formats. Furbush is a little harder to get a read on, although he should like Safeco.
Phillies prospect Domonic Brown appears to be the odd man out after the Phillies acquired Pence. He'll return to Lehigh Valley to work on his pitch recognition and outfield route running. John Mayberry, Jr. and Ben Francisco will find playing time hard to come by so long as Raul Ibanez stays hot.
Astros outfielder Jason Bourgeois will probably take Bourn's place as the leadoff hitter. He remains an elite sources of steals and little else. The few Astros hitters worth employing got harder to own without the support of Bourn and Pence.
Kyle McClellan will move to the bullpen now that the Cardinals have acquired Jackson.
While picking up Rasmus, the Blue Jays dealt veteran outfielder Patterson and also shed Juan Rivera, so Travis Snider and Eric Thames should continue to see plenty of action. Both players should be owned in a wide range of formats.
With Ludwick moving on, the Padres will lean more heavily on Chris Denorfia and Will Venable. Denorfia is a nice replacement-level player in semi-deep leagues and Venable can steal bases in bunches so long as he reaches base.
The Rangers have built a dangerous bullpen. Their starting rotation gains a small boost since they're more likely to hold on to their wins.
Dodgers shortstop prospect Dee Gordon is no longer blocked and should get a full-time look now.
Furcal will probably push Cardinals's shortstop Ryan Theriot to second base and Skip Schumaker to the bench.
Posted by Brad Johnson at 5:12am (3) Comments
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
In one of the more minor trades of this trading season, the A's and D-backs reached an agreement to send Brad Ziegler to the desert in exchange for the jilted Brandon Allen and a lefty reliever. More interesting than the opportunity this presents to Mr. Allen, who once again was sent to the minors, is the opportunity this trade creates for the recently called-to-the-majors Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona's new primary first baseman.
Currently Goldschmidt is making smithereens of Double-A pitching, cranking out an unparalleled .306/.435/.626 line. His 30 home runs are ten more than the next highest bidder in the Southern league. And maybe most impressively, he's showed great improvement in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeout rate to an acceptable 20 percent for a player with his power.
Even though Goldschmidt has relatively little minor league experience for a prospect reaching the majors, it is important to keep in mind that he did his time in college and is currently a month shy of turning 24—making him mature compared to the likes of Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman. So although its easy to perceive him as a raw, unproven talent, I think to do so underrates his maturity and potential readiness to face big-league pitching.
Scouts are not gushing over Goldschmidt the same way they do other top prospects due to his lack of athleticism. And with his lack of a first-round pedigree he's been mostly proving doubters wrong as opposed to believers right for most of his minor league career. Still, for me Goldschmidt is likely the most exciting prospect to be called up till the end of the season. In pretty much any league I'm using my waiver claim, or my FAAB dollars, or my whatever to get him on my team for the final two months of the year.
In his first at-bat Goldschmidt just got a hit. Now it's your move.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:08am (1) Comments
Evaluating trades in a keeper league is quite different than in a non-keeper league. The motivation to build for the future is a justifiable reason to trade away current talent for prospects. But where is the line drawn in terms of what is best for the league? Some people argue that trading established talent unfairly affects the balance of the league for the current season, even if the deal is made for players who will help the other team in the future. That is the first part of the case below. The second part deals with a league commissioner who took matters into his own hands in evaluating the subject trade and changed the rules without providing any notice to the league that he was doing so.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on this case.
SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
Winners v. Seven Shades of Shite
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE MORITZ LEAGUE
Decided July 30, 2011
Cite as 3 F.J. 97 (July 2011)
A rotisserie fantasy baseball league (hereinafter referred to as “Roto league” or “The Moritz League”) that was formed in 2005 and utilizes Yahoo’s fantasy baseball platform seeks an evaluation of a trade made between two teams within the Roto league. This is a 12-team, mixed, auction keeper league where each team has a $300 salary cap to draft 21 players and can have a maximum of three DL spots on the roster. Each team in the league pays an entry fee of $75.00 in which the total amount of money collected is later distributed to the winning teams. Teams are permitted to retain up to five (5) players during each off-season in perpetuity so long as the team is willing to pay the player’s salary and tax (explained below). Of these five players, a maximum of two players may be kept with a draft value of under $10.00 from the previous season. Any undrafted players added during the course of the season shall be considered to have a draft value of $1.00. Each player that is kept is subject to an inflation tax based on the previous year’s draft value as follows: $1 - $10 = $2 tax; $11 - $25.00 = $6 tax; and $26 or more = $5 tax. Each team is limited to making 45 transactions per season.
The Moritz League is a customized 7x7 roto league using the five standard scoring categories plus two additional categories to determine the standings and prize money. For offensive players, the seven categories are: (1) batting average; (2) homeruns; (3) runs batted in; (4) runs scored; (5) stolen bases; (6) doubles; and (7) on base + slugging percentage (“OPS”). For pitchers, the seven categories are: (1) wins; (2) earned run average; (3) WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched); (4) strikeouts; (5) saves; (6) innings pitched; and (7) hits surrendered. Statistics are cumulative throughout the course of the season and there are no head to head games contained within the Roto league.
There is no formal league Constitution in place to govern the league. However, the specific rules and guidelines of the league are stated within the league settings on Yahoo, as well as the league’s message boards. The procedure in place for approving or rejecting trades was set by the Commissioner to be a league vote, which has been the custom and practice of the league since its inception in 2005. According to Yahoo’s settings, rejecting a trade requires 1/3 of the league to vote against it (4 out of 12). There is also a 48-hour window for trades to be reviewed and then approved or rejected.
The Seven Shades of Shite (“SSS”), currently in 11th place, have made a trade with the Winners, currently in third place. SSS traded Cliff Lee (SP-PHI) to the Winners in exchange for Stephen Strasburg (SP-WAS). When the Commissioner initially received notice of this trade, he immediately thought it was inequitable due to SSS only receiving an injured pitcher with no current contributions and diminished future value. He also received two emails from other league members protesting the validity of this trade. Without knowing whether the requisite four votes against the trade were made to veto the deal, the Commissioner, without providing notice to anyone, changed the Yahoo settings for trade approvals from “league vote” to “commissioner decides” and subsequently rejected the trade.
The Commissioner emailed both Winners and SSS explaining that he had to reject the trade because it was inequitable. He reasoned that SSS did not obtain sufficient value, and that Cliff Lee’s keeper price ($5) was low enough to negate the argument of future financial obligations. The Commissioner did provide the two teams the options of either consummating the trade after the season was over (which is technically not allowed), or restructuring the trade to make it more even.
After receiving several protests and criticisms for taking such action, the Commissioner then changed the Yahoo settings back to “league vote” for trade reviews. Both SSS and the Winners have challenged the Commissioner’s denial of the trade, irrespective of whether the league would have approved or denied it.
(1) Should the trade between SSS and the Winners be upheld and approved?
(2) Should the Commissioner have unilaterally changed the settings and procedures for reviewing trades from league vote to commissioner approval?
I. SHOULD THE TRADE BETWEEN SSS AND THE WINNERS BE UPHELD AND APPROVED?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment typically favors individual fantasy sports participants and teams’ ability to make moves, transactions, and trades. The standard of review has been that people pay money to purchase a team in a league, draft their team, and manage it accordingly. Whether success is bred from that individual’s decision-making is purely left to some skill, luck, dedication, and savviness. The Court also acknowledges that the analysis for evaluating trades is much different in a keeper league than a non-keeper league. A trade that may look uneven or lopsided on its face may receive a different opinion when it is involved in a keeper league. The reasons for this are obvious, but must be restated. In a keeper league, teams that are having unsuccessful seasons are more likely to continue to pay attention and make moves that will set themselves up for better success in the following season. They can do this by acquiring young talent that is not under contract within the league, or by dumping salary (assuming it is an auction league) and allowing greater financial flexibility to sign key players in the next season’s draft. In non-keeper leagues, there is no rationale for thinking ahead, nor is there any need to stockpile young, inexpensive talent. See Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 33 (June 2010).
Another factor that the Court must always consider is whether there is any collusion or under-the-table dealings going on between teams. The Commissioner has conceded that there is no suspicion or allegations of collusion between the teams. Given that this is not at issue, the Court will not consider it in its analysis.
At first glance, the trade of Cliff Lee for Stephen Strasburg looks uneven when viewing the deal in a vacuum. On one hand, there is a former Cy Young Award star pitcher on arguably the best team in baseball who contributes significantly in all major pitching categories except saves. On the other hand, there is a former #1 overall draft pick who took the league by storm before suffering an injury and undergoing Tommy John surgery. However, that former #1 pick is already doing rehab and is scheduled to return to the big leagues within the next month. This is a classic case of trading current superstars for future stars in a keeper league. Regardless of Strasburg’s injury and inexperience, he is considered a star player because of his innate talent and tremendous potential. Of course, Cliff Lee is an established star pitcher with a more limited projected upside only because he is nine years older than Strasburg. The Court has no issues with the idea of trading superstar players so long as the package in return is equitable and makes sense given the needs of both teams. See 4 Ponies v. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 29 (June 2011).
While Lee is certainly a valuable fantasy baseball pitcher, his recent playoff domination has overshadowed his pedestrian regular season performances since 2008. Since winning the Cy Young in 2008, Lee has a combined record of 36-29 (including his victory on July 30, 2011) with an ERA of approximately 3.10. In that time frame, he also has 525 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.12. These numbers are impressive, but they are not deserving of over-evaluation. Furthermore, he is 32 years old and does have a history of back injuries. That is not to say that he won’t be successful for years to come pitching in Philadelphia, but the risk is a reality and age is a factor. As he gets older and naturally loses velocity, some of his pitches will remain in the strike zone and can be planted in the stands instead of being routine outs.
Strasburg certainly lived up to the hype in 2010 when he was called up by the Washington Nationals. He dominated several of his starts and put up impressive fantasy numbers before being shut down with an elbow injury. He, like many other pitchers, underwent Tommy John surgery and seems to be all but recovered within a year. He is scheduled to return to Washington sometime in August 2011, and reports from the organization are that he is being clocked in the mid-90’s on his fastball. When healthy, Strasburg possesses unlimited potential to dominate fantasy categories similar to Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander.
When analyzing the fairness and equity of a trade, the Court will consider each team’s individual needs to assess whether the trade subjectively made sense from each team’s perspective. See Cajon Crawdads vs. Carson City Cocks, 1 F.J. 41, 42 (June 2010) (upholding a trade for Jason Bay because of the Carson City Cocks’ desperate need for a starting outfielder due to the demotion of Cameron Maybin). This trade involves the even exchange of starting pitchers. As a result, there were no specific positional needs by either team. The next part of the analysis centers around the particular categorical needs by each team. Since Strasburg is currently on the DL and rehabbing in the minor leagues, he is not likely to have much of an impact categorically for SSS this season. On the other hand, the Winners will be in a better position to improve its standing in various pitching categories with the addition of Lee.
In terms of keeper league status, this is where the only viable arguments can be made in determining that there is equal value. A trade such as this epitomizes why there is a different standard of review for trades made in keeper leagues as opposed to non-keeper leagues. See Smittydogs v. Moneyball, 1 F.J. 32, 34 (June 2010). The reason teams in keeper leagues trade established stars in exchange for young, cheap talent is to rebuild for the future and sacrifice the present. See Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 92, 96 (July 2011). In defense of making this trade, SSS submitted the following arguments to the Court in support of his position:
“I extended a trade offer to the Winners based on what I believe was a good valuation of Strasburg in the context of a keeper league. Strasburg is out for having Tommy John surgery, not a shoulder issue. There is a high success rate for pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery. Strasburg is throwing simulated games, and is rumored to return to the Nationals' rotation in late August. A $1 salary would allow me to keep him stashed on my bench for the next 4 years for a $2 tax per year. He has the potential to dominate in ERA, WHIP, W, K and Hits Surrendered. In contrast, Lee, at $5, would be a $7 keeper next year. He has only two years left under the $2 tax after which he jumps to $6 per year. Lee is 32 years old. Lee or Strasburg hold zero value to me in the context of this season since I'm out of the race. The decision was based purely on keeper value in a dynasty context. In my opinion Strasburg for Lee in a keeper league near the trade deadline is a fair trade. I do not think that it makes sense for me to evaluate a player's contribution to my stats this year.
The Winners have also made a submission to the Court in support of its position.
“In a keeper scenario, it is difficult to ascertain the value of a particular player because you can't just evaluate their current in-season performance. Future value has to be taken into account. This is why owners (including Brent, who bought injured Adam Wainwright at auction for $1 and has stashed him in one of his DL spots this year) spend bucks at the end of a draft on players injured or in the minors. It's why teams do not spend their waiver claims in order to be the first one to have a shot at guys like Jason Heyward, Eric Hosmer, or Mike Trout (players claimed off waivers or free agency carry a keeper value of $1). The league has no limit on how long a player can be kept, so having a $1 player is extremely valuable not just within the current year, but for many years to come.
The Court has always held that the approval or rejection of a trade is based purely on its fairness, free from collusion, and in the best interests of the league. Whether a trade is intelligent or popular will not be part of the analysis. See 4 Ponies v. Beaver Hunters, 3 F.J. 26, 27 (June 2011). The virtue of a trade is measured in both quantifiable criteria and subjective needs of the teams involved. See Carson City Cocks v. Stud Muffins, 3 F.J. 23, 24 (May 2011). While this trade may have its share of detractors and critics, it is certainly justifiable from both parties based on their respective submissions. It is not up to the Court to make assumptions about what a particular team’s motivations are when making a trade. See Road Runners v. Urban Achievers, 3 F.J. 47, 50 (June 2011) (holding that the main criteria for evaluating a trade is its inherent fairness, not whether it was an intelligent decision by a league member to make the deal). Rather, the Court’s role in this jurisdiction is to evaluate the objective merits of a deal and ensure that the integrity of the league is maintained. See Victoria’s Secret v. C-Train, 2 F.J. 32, 35 (October 2010).
Here, a trade was proposed and agreed to between two teams on the opposite ends of the standings. That in itself does not present an issue. The concern expressed by the Commissioner and several other league members is that the trade itself is not equitable or fair, and that it disrupts the integrity of the league by essentially giving the Winners, currently in third place, a windfall by acquiring an ace pitcher in Cliff Lee for an unknown future asset. However, this goes to the heart of why people opt to do keeper leagues. It is the exact type of roster management that keeper league team owners must consider when faced with the reality that there is no longer any hope for success in the current season. If Cliff Lee was traded for an unknown, obscure prospect with pedestrian statistics, then perhaps these arguments would have merit. It is true that Strasburg is coming back from major elbow surgery. However, several pitchers have made full recoveries from Tommy John surgery over the past few years and have performed even better than before the operation. There is no reason to think that Strasburg will not overcome the injury and fulfill his potential. The Court already knows what he is capable of given his limited body of work in 2010. Given that, the Court sees no problem with the subject trade and recommends that the league approve it. The trade was made without the specter of collusion and a benefit was provided to both teams. Using this criteria to objectively evaluate trades will help maintain the integrity of the league and allow teams the freedom to manage their rosters how they see fit.
II. SHOULD THE COMMISSIONER HAVE UNILATERALLY CHANGED THE SETTINGS AND PROCEDURES FOR REVIEWING TRADES FROM LEAGUE VOTE TO COMMISSIONER APPROVAL?
The Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment is consistently presented with questions about a league commissioner’s powers to enact, enforce, and modify rules within the league. In most instances, the Court will side with the commissioner assuming the commissioner’s motives are benevolent and it is in the best interests of the league overall. See Afraid of Change v. Fantasy Football League, 1 F.J. 11, 12 (September 2009). It goes without saying that being the commissioner of a fantasy sports league is a thankless job because of the duties and responsibilities that one must take on only to be met with criticism and second-guessing. Commissioners are constantly under more scrutiny than the other members of the league simply because of the power and authority that is granted with such a position. As such, league commissioners should be cognizant of the perception of whatever decisions they make because they will be analyzed under a very thick microscope. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011).
Because being the commissioner requires an inordinate amount of extra time spent on the league to effectuate rules and handle any administrative issues that arise, the Court advocates for league commissioners to have a certain amount of authority, autonomy and discretion to run and administer their leagues accordingly. See Flemish USA v. League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 35, 36 (October 2010) (holding the league Commissioners are entitled to arbitrarily make decisions that do benefit the league as a whole).
Here, the Commissioner of the Moritz League has run the league since 2005 operating under the same guidelines and procedures with respect to reviewing trades. Despite the fact there is no league Constitution, the rules and guidelines have essentially become common law due to their longevity and consistency. There were no conversations on the league message boards or any other correspondence that the Court is aware of discussing the need to change the trade review process, let alone the Commissioner’s ability to do so. Without providing any advance notice, the Commissioner autonomously went into Yahoo’s settings and changed the manner in which trades were approved. This action was met with stern opposition from several members of the league. When a league commissioner ignores complaints or differences of opinion from a majority of the league members, it is likely he is not considering what is best for the league in general. See America’s Team v. The 1987 Denver Broncos are Cartman’s Father, 3 F.J. 51, 53 (July 2011) (holding that a league commissioner’s credibility is endangered when he steadfastly refuses to consider logical and meritorious complaints). Fortunately for the Commissioner of the Moritz League, he recognized what he had done and changed the settings back.
The Court recommends that the Commissioner issue a written apology to the league simply stating that his actions were benevolent in nature even though he was procedurally improper in his actions. As a protective measure, the Commissioner can offer certain suggestions to ensure such an event does not take place again. One example includes the creation of a league Constitution which would include language encompassing all possible scenarios that require decisions or judgments. Barring extenuating circumstances, such as avoiding a league mutiny or dealing with a real life scenario that somehow affects the league, Commissioners should never change the established rules or procedures of a league in mid-season. League commissioners should enforce all rules and guidelines consistently. If the Commissioner makes an exception for someone, it should be explained thoroughly why such an exception to the rules exist. See Machine v. Fantasy Football League Commissioner, 2 F.J. 1, 3 (September 2010). Here, no explanation was provided before the Commissioner made his decision. As a result, the Commissioner should not have changed the league settings dealing with how trades are reviewed in the middle of the season.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Posted by Michael Stein at 1:07pm (5) Comments
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
At the All Star break, I wrote a column ensuring readers that it was too early to give up on rate stats. After all, halfway through the season, all you need to do to counteract a poor first half is to be as good as you previously were bad over the same duration of time.
Well, that was then, and this is now.
This week marks the two-thirds point of the season. If you haven’t made traction in the rate categories in the 27 games between midway and two-thirds, the window of opportunity to do so is far more closed than it is open.
At the midway point of the season, if your team was pitching to a 3.70 ERA, but you were targeting a 3.60 mark to contend, all you would have had to do was to pitch to a 3.50 mark the rest of the way in order to outperform equally as well as you underperformed. However, a mere four weeks or so later, the relative weight of your established rates—as compared to the remaining opportunity to counteract it—is already quite imbalanced. Now, you’d have to pitch to a 3.40 mark; outperform your target by twice what you’ve underperformed thus far to achieve that same .10 reduction in your stats.
Your individual situation should dictate whether you should continue to chase better rates. But, be advised, you should remain reasonable when considering the scope of possible gains.
While we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that, although your current stats are anchored by prior performance, your likelihood for drastic loss of ground may be greater than the likelihood of drastic gain of ground. This is due simply to margin of error, or range of possible outcome, which skews toward the underperformance side. Last night, for example, I watched Jason Isringhausen detonate what would have otherwise been a wonderful pitching day for me in my main league. I got two great rate stat outings from Zack Greinke and Jhoulys Chacin (even though his bullpen blew his win), but Isringhausen’s surrendering of a grand slam to Mike Stanton in his only inning pitched ballooned my staff’s ERA above 4.00 for the whole night.
The range of possible outcomes just goes much further on the “Oh No” side than it does on the “Cha-Ching” side. Even a perfect game wouldn’t cancel out accruing Zack Britton’s outing against the Yankees in the ERA column, so the express train to the landfill is always more accessible than the Concorde to Paris It’s this same margin for error idea that made it impossible for Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson to have beaten Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season ERA+.
In some cases, it may be advisable to keep fighting the uphill battle, and in others it may be wise to stop worrying about the rate stats, move away from considering what you could possibly achieve if everything went right, and concentrate on achieving the moderate gains you can truly encourage by consolidating assets. It is said that being broke can be liberating in certain ways (and for limited intervals), and the same can be said for being Batting Average or WHIP destitute.
Perhaps, there are actually more points to be gained by shamelessly chasing wins, strikeouts, or home runs than there are in trying to rebound sunken rates. Regardless of the scenario, in most cases, it is inadvisable to hold off on such a decision any further. Be aware that if you are going to attempt to rescue bottomed-out rate stats at this point in the season, adding one elite player probably won’t do the trick. Most likely, you need to develop a plan for restructuring a substantial amount of your roster, a plan that includes major overhauls and complimentary tweaks.
In my main league, I’m actually in the process of doing the inadvisable and sort of fence-sitting at the moment. But what I am doing is beginning to put pieces in place for a restructuring—the ones that don’t actually hurt much—so that if I do decide to flick the switch, I won’t be Lucille Ball grabbing chocolates off the conveyor belt and stuffing them in her bra.
I’m currently bringing up the rear in ERA, lower-mid pack in WHIP and about eight points out of third place, the last spot that returns real money. Fourth returns about half my entrance fee and I’m jockeying with another team each day for that position. I’ve had some interesting trade propositions that ask me to give up some of my best assets to improve right now. This is an interesting dynamic, given that I know how difficult it would be to get back into the ERA race.
I’ve determined that it is not worth it for me to give up major value to moderately improve my chances at the small fourth place prize, even though the team with which I’m jockeying would be the first I’d pass in ERA. The prize just isn’t big enough and there is about a 50/50 chance I beat that team out anyway. I have one deal in the works that will get me David Price without giving up much offense, which I’ve determined is a low risk move. However, adding David Price to my staff, even if I drop my worst pitcher to do so, isn’t enough to get me back into the rate stats categories. The only way I’ll be able to lower my ERA the .15 - .2 points I need to flirt with mid-pack, and therefore third place, is to radically restructure my team. I’d have to trade for one of five or so pitchers, as well as integrate some elite middle relievers into my rotation (right now they’re squeezed out by a host of scrap heap low tier closers). Both Jered Weaver and Cliff Lee are obtainable, but I’d have to give up core keepers to get them, and I remain unconvinced doing so is the right move—at this moment, that is.
I still have about two weeks until my trading deadline, so I’ve been preparing. I’ve added Koji Uehara, and I’ll trade for David Price. These are pieces that might help me a bit and are the complementary pieces to a larger move, should I choose to make one.
In addition to any strategic planning, I know I’ll also need luck. So, I’m liberating myself in the short term and putting myself in a position to benefit from a radical move in the mid-term. For the next 10 days, I’m going to operate with a nothing to lose ERA mentality; I’ll pitch all my pitchers in tough match-ups, chase wins, and even spot start if I see a match-up I like. If I happen to benefit from some favorable outcomes, or get gifted some slippage by the third place team or the teams directly in front of me in ERA, then I’ll go all in with a radical endgame strategy, giving up some of my best blue chips to ride the wave. But, if it all goes south, I’ll live to fight another battle next season, and possibly pull out a few bucks anyway.
Now, you may criticize my strategy. If you were claim that I’m setting myself up for a too little, too late scenario, and that I’m failing to act decisively and boldly, those might be fair assessments—only time will tell. I am, in fact, somewhat known for these kinds of moves. I came within 1.5 points of winning the league last year, after declaring that I was rebuilding with about 60 games left in the season, but then benefiting from some luck, swinging a bunch of deals and attacking some pressure points in the standings.
In my regular NBA fantasy league, I traded for Lebron James, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, and Andre Iguodola all within a week of the trade deadline because I decided that I’d win the league if I won assists. I did win, but didn’t overtake first place until game 79 of the NBA season. The previous NBA season, I did something similar and lost the league by two points, in the midst of a tremendous surge, having waited one week too long to make my moves.
But, as is nearly always the seminal point here, the idea is to have a plan. I’ve thought about what I need to get where I want to go, honestly assessed what would be needed to get there and determined the costs I’m willing or unwilling to pay to for different increments of improved odds of success.
Winning a fantasy baseball league is like solving a complex equation with many variables, so at this stage—or really any stage—shaking things up or changing course with a real plan an unacceptable strategy. You may choose to act boldly, or you may choose to tip toe around while you get your ducks in a row, but whatever you do, you must act with purpose.
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:30am (1) Comments
Friday, August 05, 2011
Jeff Niemann| Tampa Bay| SP| 34 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 7.02 K/9, 2.30 BB/9, 44.2 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.07 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Many words have been spewed in this column discussing Niemann's recent performance, yet in spite of his continued dominance his ownership level remains relatively low. Pitchers going on hot streaks for a handful of starts are nothing new in the world of fantasy baseball, but perhaps it is time to start re-evaluating Niemann.
Since the start of July, he has been nothing short of spectacular in 34 innings of work with a 9.00 K/9, a 2.38 BB/9 and 53.2 percent groundball rate. Most likely some of those numbers will regress, but even a small regression in all three rates would make for a promising pitcher going forward. Niemann has worked his way up from a pitch and ditch starter in favorable match-ups to a player who should get a little rope before being cut should he stumble in a start or two.
Recommendation: Should be near universally owned and his strong surface stats are supported by his most controllable rates.
Mike Adams| Texas| RP| 36 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 1.29 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 9.18 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, 44.3 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.00 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Likely already owned in mixed leagues where relievers of his ilk have value, Adams finds himself highlighted this week for AL-only leaguers. Since 2008 Adams has been one of the best relievers in baseball, striking out oodles of hitters in addition to walking few. His debut with the Rangers couldn't have gone much worse, but consider that a blip on the radar or simply an off night and consider him an elite reliever even with the change of home ballparks from spacious Petco to launching pad Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Those hoping to lower their ratios every bit they can, while also maximizing strikeouts per inning used toward yearly innings caps should add Adams. Neftali Feliz hasn't been the dominant stopper he was last season, so the possibility of vulture saves exists, but be aware Koji Uehara was also brought into the mix at the trade deadline.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues where elite non-closer relievers are of value.
Erik Bedard| Boston| SP| 50 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.57 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 41.7 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.93 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9
Bedard's trade from the Mariners to the Red Sox is a mixed bag for his value the rest of the year. The positive is that he's no longer backed by the putrid Mariners offense that ranks last in the league in runs scored, and instead backed by the run scoring juggernaut Red Sox who lead the league in scoring. The negative is that Safeco Field, a ballpark notorious for suppressing runs and home runs, is no longer his home. He's now in Fenway home, a ballpark that enhances run scoring and suppresses home runs less.
Should he remain on schedule for each of his next three starts he'll face Minnesota on the road, Tampa Bay on the road and Oakland at home. Those teams, in order, rank 20, 14 and 24 in runs scored, making it a fairly soft immediate future with only his home start coming at a ballpark that favors hitters.
Bedard is one of the few starting pitchers who averages almost a strikeout-per-inning and is able to put the ball in the strike zone with regularity and can be had for cheap or free in most leagues. Owners in need of pitching help where he's already owned should look to deal for him as a "toss-in," type player, understanding he's more valuable than that. Expect to see his ownership rise as playing even moderately well on the Red Sox or Yankees typically has the strange effect of ballooning ownership percentages of fantasy players.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues, and added for favorable match-ups in those leagues as well.
Matt Harrison| Texas| SP| 52 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 3.08 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 5.69 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 46.4 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.43 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
Harrison is a league average-ish pitcher who is outperforming his underlying stats this year. With such a low strikeout rate, his reliance on the ball finding gloves makes him a risky start regardless of opponent. That said, his next three turns come against Seattle, Oakland and Chicago. All three offenses rank amongst the league's worst, and he is backed by the third highest scoring offense. In short, owners looking to stream for some wins could do worse than gambling on Harrison in leagues where he's available. Don't expect much beyond that, and understand anytime you add a pitcher in the mold of Harrison the possibility exists of a messy start.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners desperate for wins in medium-to-large mixed-leagues and AL-only league owners.
Hideki Matsui| Oakland| OF| 29 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.357/.443
Few hitters have been hotter than Godzilla since the start of July. In his last 27 games, or 112 plate appearances, he has hit a blistering .385 with 17 runs scored, three home runs, and 23 RBI. His control of the strike zone has also been masterful during that stretch: He has 14 walks, none intentional, to just eight strikeouts. His home ballpark is likely to keep his home run total down as it is hell on left-handed power, but he should be a solid contributor in three of five standard scoring categories.
Surprisingly he is exhibiting a reverse platoon split this season hitting left handers harder than right handers, so don't make the same mistake former A's manager Bob Geren made early in the season sitting him against southpaws. Owners seeking some outfield help should add Matsui in leagues in which he's available.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium-sized mixed leagues and all large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Eric Hosmer| Kansas City| 1B| 49 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .280/.333/.436
First base is the home to some of the best hitters in the real game and fantasy game, and while Hosmer hasn't performed at their level, he has made an impressive debut for the Royals. His home run power has been a bit lackluster for his position, but that is largely because he's hitting 47.7 percent of his balls in play into the ground. What should be noted is that his groundball rate is inflated greatly by his struggles against left-handed pitchers, against whom he has a 58.4 percent groundball rate. All his home runs have come against right-handed pitchers, and his slash is much more befitting a first baseman against them: .308/.360/.534.
Owners able to bench him against southpaws will reap the full benefits of a hitter who clobbers righties and is still working to iron out the kinks against his same-handed counterparts. Outside of a tough June, Hosmer has been everything the Royals and fantasy owners could have hoped for. Not good enough to be a starting first baseman in most leagues yet, he is good enough to slot at corner infield or utility in most leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia| Boston| C| 24 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .242/.312/.418
Salty is almost certainly owned in all competitive two-catcher leagues, but is now starting to creep on the radar of some single-catcher leagues as well. A switch hitter, Salty has fared considerably better against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching both this year and for his career, making him a candidate to bench by fantasy owners when southpaws toe the rubber. Unfortunately for Salty, he cedes playing time to Jason Varitek semi-frequently, since Josh Beckett works with Tek exclusively and most of Andrew Miller's starts have also featured Varitek as his battery mate. Those who don't care to micro-manage would be wise to pass on Salty, but those willing to put in the extra effort can expect to get better than average production from the suck hole fantasy position that is catcher.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all two-catcher leagues, and most single-catcher formats as well.
Josh Willingham| Oakland| OF| 21 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .258/.362/.470
For most of the season, Willingham has struck out at a rate significantly greater than his career mark and recent season rates, and his average has suffered because of it. July was the first month that Willingham hit over .250, hitting .324, and as you'd expect, that was mostly because he cut his strikeouts back to just 15.4 percent of his at-bats.
A cheap source of power year-to-year, that hasn't changed this season for The Hammer as his ISO sits north of .200 and he has 16 home runs in 354 plate appearances. If he's able to keep his strikeouts in check, he has a chance to help power-starved owners while not being a total drag on average. August hasn't started off well with five strikeouts in 13 plate appearances, but the sample size is way too small to get worked up about yet. Keep an eye on that rate as the month goes along, but proceed as if he made the necessary adjustments in July to help him get back to closer to his career mark.
Recommendation: Should be owned by those in need of power or outfield help in large mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Chris Davis| Baltimore| 1B/3B| 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: No projection
Chris Davis has been freed! No longer shuttling between Triple-A and the majors for the Texas Rangers, Davis calls Baltimore home. Baltimore's decision to trade Derrek Lee to the Pirates has freed up playing time at first base the remainder of the season for Davis.
Now he must get to work on shedding a Quad-A label he has picked up. Feasting on pitching in the Pacific Coast League, he has nothing left to prove in the minors, but much to prove in the majors. An all-or-nothing hitter, Davis strikes out often, but also offers light tower power. If that profile sounds familiar to those who follow the Orioles, that's probably because they employ a similar player who mans third base, Mark Reynolds. Reynolds isn't a perfect fit for what Davis could be if he is able to figure it out at the big league level because he doesn't walk as frequently as his teammate, and he should hit for a higher average thanks to more solid line drive contact.
He may be just another failed prospect who mashes against minor league pitchers in the same vein as Brandon Wood, or he could be a late bloomer. That question probably won't be answered this year, but there should be more support one way or the other after he plays daily down the stretch. If you're hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, his 2008 debut should serve as a reminder he is capable of just that.
A benefit of being a part-time player and reserve early in the season for the Rangers is that he was able to pick up third base eligibility in Yahoo! leagues. Even though he won't be playing there the rest of this year, that won't prevent fantasy gamers from starting him there in their virtual lineups.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners in need of home runs who have wiggle room in batting average, regardless of league size.
Posted by Josh Shepardson at 2:03am (7) Comments
All stats current through at least Aug. 4.
Jason Bourgeois | Astros | OF | 18 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .288/,326/.386, 12 SB
With Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger shipped out of Houston, the Astros no longer have any excuse to keep this speedy slap hitter out of their lineup. I profiled Bourgeois two months ago, likening him to Rajai Davis with a little more batting average, but fewer runs and RBI opportunities. For those in need of late-season speed who can stomach a two-category only player (such as me in the Hardball Times league, where a relative gain of 10 stolen bases would put me in second or third place), Bourgeois is your man. He's hardly owned right now, but that will change as starts running with regular playing time.
Recommendation: Bourgeois should be owned in any mixed league employing 50 or more outfielders and by owners in need of elite speed.
Derrek Lee | Pirates | 1B | 36 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .269/.353/.452
Lee was probably washed up heading into the season, but just in case we weren't sure, his time in home run-friendly Baltimore probably convinced the few who still needed convincing. In 85 games (364 plate appearances), Lee batted .246/.302/.404 (.310 wOBA, 91 wRC+), launching 12 home runs with a 12-year low .159 ISO (.213 career mark). Baltimore's park factors for right-handed batters this year indicate that Camden Yards bolsters wOBA by about five percent and home run production by 23 percent. By contrast, PNC Park has depressed right-handed wOBA production by 2 percent, and suppressed home run production by 27 percent. In other words, Lee's subpar performance is likely only to get worse, barring luck or some unexpected change in approach. Do not be surprised if his exciting two-homer debut for the Buccos ends up being his best game as a swashbuckling Pirate.
Recommendation: Lee is only a lukewarm NL-only fantasy player who must be avoided in all but the deepest mixed formats (the Pirates do not offer enough run/RBI production opportunities to make him worthwhile in most leagues).
Ryan Ludwick | Pirates | OF | 27 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .267/.342/.448
Everything I said about Lee above can essentially be copy/pasted about Ludwick, only Ludwick never really had much of a "track record," while Lee was pretty awesome for a half-decade or so. The move from Petco Park to PNC actually hurts his power potential even more, and is almost as bad as Busch Stadium. To paraphrase my favorite storm trooper, nothing to see here; move along.
Recommendation: Mixed leagues can safely drop Ludwick, while Ludwick owners in NL-only leagues should consider shopping him by hyping the classic "outta Petco line."
Luke Gregerson/Chad Qualls | Padres | RP | 20/1 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: Gregerson 3.11 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 6.93 K/9, 47.5% GB% || Qualls 3.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5.33 K/9, 53.3% GB%
Oliver ROS: Gregerson 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 || Qualls 2.57 ERA, 1.18, 6.7 K/9
With Mike Adams (a flyball pitcher now with Texas, beware, Adams owners) gone, Gregerson and Qualls are the clear successors to Adams' "holds" throne. Before this year, I would have said Gregerson is the best source of holds on the Padres if Adams were traded, but Gregerson has not been himself this year, and Qualls has rekindled his 2008 and 2009 self. I expect the Padres to split eighth-inning duties between the pair, but neither is particularly ownable to slot as a non-closing relief pitcher in most leagues that do not value holds in the standings because neither is striking out guys (and both are walking too many) this season. I say that full cognizant of Gregerson's 13 percent swinging strike percentage and recent run of strikeout outings. I'd rather have Chris Sale or Sean Marshall.
Recommendation: Ownable only in (deeper?) holds-utilizing leagues.
Paul Goldschmidt | Diamondbacks | 1B | 1 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .274/.346/.531
As I warned last week, Brandon Allen was not a long-term solution for the Diamondbacks. Though I expected Allen's tenure to last with the big league club through at least mid-August, maybe even September, it seems the Diamondbacks are yet again playing first baseman roulette by sending Allen to the Athletics in a deal to land them Brad Ziegler, freeing up the many roadblocks that once stood in Goldschmidt's path to playing first in the majors.
If there are two things Goldschmidt is good at, it's hitting for power (minor league career ISO of .303, 83 home runs in 315 games) and taking a good number of walks (12.6 percent). Those strengths, however, come with a clear flaw that plagues many hitters of this prototype: the strikeout. In 1,387 minor league plate appearances, "Goldschlager" struck out 327 times (23.6 percent).
Goldschmidt's walk rate is strong enough that his walk-to-strikeout rate (53.5 percent) is above the 50-percent mark (meaning he walks more than half as much as he strikes out), which is good for a power hitter, but minor league strikeout rates tend to increase at the major league level, while minor league walks rates tend to stay flat or decline slightly. Encouragingly, Goldschmidt did slice his strikeout rate down to 20 percent this year while more than maintaining his elite walk rate (17.9 percent). Goldschmidt has not played above Double-A, however, so as encouraging as these leaps forward are, they must be taken with a grain of salt.
As a keeper, Goldschmidt is elite. He probably will not ultimately hit for "Mike Stanton Power," but he could easily be a perpetual 30 home run, .350+ on base, threat down the line. For the short term, however—meaning this year and next—Carlos Pena's 2011 is probably the expectation, with a .250/35-homer pace (Dan Uggla-ian) being his reasonable upside. First base has been getting relatively weaker as a whole in recent years, so while those numbers may not have stacked up last decade, they project as strong corner infield numbers in our modern era.
Oh, and he hit a home run off Tim Lincecum.
Recommendation: Goldschmidt must be owned in NL-only leagues and should be owned as a corner infielder in leagues with 12 or more teams.
Dee Gordon | Dodgers | SS | 4 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .258/.301/.324, 9 SB
In the same article I profiled Bourgeois a couple of months ago, I also covered Dee Gordon, who has been called up and figures to get pretty regular playing time with Rafael Furcal now a Cardinal. I still do not think Gordon is ready as a major league hitter, but his speed is legit and if he hits .280 with a .330 on-base, he could swipe 20 or more bags over the next two months. Frugal speed seekers take notice.
Recommendation: Gordon is a solid middle infield option for mixed league owners in need of speed, and is an overall upgrade over Erick Aybar.
Tyler Colvin | Cubs | OF | 5 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .231/.277/.422
Tyler Colvin is not a good baseball player. Despite his being a first-round draft pick, some have claimed that he was picked by the Cubs so early only to skim signing money to lure Jeff Samardzija away from a career in football, something every Cubs fan (and hopefully GM Jim Hendry) deeply regrets. Before 2009, Colvin was a total bust. He struck out a lot and walked very little. Then, two years ago, Colvin developed a little bit of pop (but nothing else). But even with that pop, Colvin does not project as a useful player, unless you think the late career of Mike Jacobs was "useful."
Despite blasting 20 home runs in 395 at bats for the Cubs last season, Colvin batted only .254, struck out 25.3 percent of the time, and got on base less than 32 percent of the time. In the minors this year, repeating Triple-A, Colvin has not improved to even the level of a Quad-A hitter, slashing .261/.275/.493 in Triple-A with more home runs (seven) than walks (five) over 50 games.
With Kosuke Fukudome out of town*, Colvin has been called up but should be avoided, perhaps even in NL-only leagues, for two reasons. The first is that Colvin is terrible. The second is that he is not playing much, and may not get full-time playing time down the stretch.
This is true, in turn, for two reasons. The first reason is that manager Mike Quade is trying to win to save his job. The second is that Brett Jackson will likely be a September call up. Jackson, who is talented and has a concrete future with the Cubs (especially if he learns to cut down the 30-plus percent strikeout rate), will likely get most of those "let the youngsters show us what they can do since we're so desperately out of the race" right field at bats.
Recommendation: Colvin can be avoided in all formats except NL-only, where, tragically, almost everyone with a pulse has value.
Tommy Milone | Nationals | SP | 0 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD (AAA): 3.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.23 K/9, 12.00 K/BB
Oliver ROS: N/A
Jordan Zimmerman has four starts left on the season before the Nationals are going to shut him down. That means that he will be done before September, and with Jason Marquis also gone, the Nationals with have a clear hole in their rotation that will not be filled by Stephen Strasburg (at least not until early- or mid-September). Lost in the excitement of Strasburg's return, however, has been the strong season of the likely "plug" for that hole, Tommy Milone.
Milone is a southpaw who stands at barely six feet with a mediocre fastball in the 80s. His stuff is not exciting by the account of most scouts, but his control is Greg Maddux, which more than makes up for the lack of a Randy Johnson slider. In 86 minor league games (81 as a starter) and 485.1 innings, Milone has walked only 78 batters (4.0 percent rate, 1.45 BB/9). That control has improved as Milone has moved up in the organization. Last season, spent entirely at Double-A, Milone walked only 1.3 batters per nine, while this year at Triple-A, Milone has walked only 2.1 percent of the batters he has faced.
Oh, and a byproduct of pinpoint control? A good ability to get batters to swing and miss. Milone's minor leauge strikeout rate is a Dan Haren-like 21.8 percent, and that number has remained relatively stable in the upper minors (9.2 K/9 at Double-A in 2010, 8.5 K/9 at Triple-A in 2011).
All in all, Milone projects well at the major league level. His performance at Double-A last year projected as a major league-average 4.07 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 7.4 K/9, but this year Milone has solidified himself as a legitimate prospect and potential No. 2 starter type, with a strong MLE: 3.54 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.7 K/9.
I will certainly be buying Milone as a sleeper next year, but he will arrive sooner than that. This is someone you'll probably want to own if you need some quality innings down the stretch.
Recommendation: Milone is ownable in 12-team mixed leagues, though likely as a spot/stream starter in moderately sized or shallow formats.
Stephen Strasburg (Rehab) | Nationals | SP | 27 percent Yahoo ownership%
Oliver ROS: 2.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 10.1 K/9
Strasburg is set to begin his rehab assignment within the week. As noted with Johan Santana in last week's NL Waiver Wire article, the rules of baseball allow a player to be on rehab assignment for only 30 days (at least involuntarily), so we might expect Strasburg back in the majors by Sept. 10 if the Nationals still intend to use him briefly at the major league level this year. You'll get maybe 20, 25 innings tops (three starts?) out of Strasburg, and he'll be rusty, but given his high strikeout potential, blazing fastball, and control, you'll want to take the risk. That's so particularly if you have another starter getting shut down or if you play in head to head leagues, where you most certainly won't want an opponent owning him.
Recommendation: Stash him now, before someone else does.
Josh Johnson | Marlins | SP | 71 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 1.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 8.35 K/9, 2.80 K/BB, 51.0% GB%
Oliver ROS: N/A
Last week, reports indicated that Johnson was done for the season, having experienced routine setbacks. Now, however, Johnson has resumed his throwing program and could possible return, barring additional setbacks, before the end of the season. I would not bank anything on it, sacrifice anything of value to gamble on him, or cut a useful DLed player to make this move, but if you have an open DL spot and can stash Johnson "pain-free"—i.e., without cutting a player you have a use for—I might take a flier on Johnson if both Santana and Strasburg are owned. You will not get many starts out of Johnson—maybe three or four if we're lucky—but he's one of the best when he's on the mound, and you'll want to own him (particularly if his match-ups are favorable).
Recommendation: Johnson is a good DL-stash in head-to-head leagues and deeper mixed leagues.
As always, leave the love/hate in the comments below.
Posted by Jeffrey Gross at 5:47am (6) Comments
Monday, August 08, 2011
Ian Kennedy, prior to this year, seemed like a footnote on a major trade, the one that dealt Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson to Detroit and Curtis Granderson to the Yankees (and Edwin Jackson was involved of course). Kennedy seemed like an okay pitcher in real life, with a 4.33 FIP last year, but hardly someone for your fantasy roster. He didn't strike out many batters, though his strikeout rate was solid, and he walked a little too many batters in 2010. Of course those numbers were a great improvement on his horrible stint with the Yankees in 2008.
And then this year happened: Kennedy now is 13-3 with a nice looking 3.17 ERA and a 3.54 FIP and 3.5 xFIP. How's he done it?
Well he's kept his K rate basically the same while dropping his walk rate by basically 25 percent, and dropped his home run rate a little too (though his groundball rate has practically stayed the same; he's still a fly ball pitcher quite clearly). But is this improvement real? Lets look at his pitches to find out.
Kennedy seems to throw four pitches: a fastball (he may throw more than one, it's hard to tell, but the breakdown of fastballs has remained the same over the years), a change-up, a cutter/slider, and a curveball. The fastball has barely changed over Kennedy's last three seasons (2008, 2010-2011), coming in at around 89-90 mph, with not much tailing action (but no cutting action) and a normal amount of rise for a four-seam fastball. It's not a pitch that strikes one as likely to get really impressive results unless Kennedy shows amazing control.
The change-up comes in at 10 mph slower and has similar not-impressive horizontal movement. The pitch does have three less inches of rise than the fastball, giving it a minor sinking action, meaning that batters expecting the fastball who get the change-up not only will be swinging early, but probably a little over the top of the ball. Kennedy throws this pitch the same amount to lefties and righties, around 15 percent of the time.
Kennedy then has two breaking balls, a cutter/slider and a curveball. In 2008, neither of these pitches had good velocity and neither had super impressive movement (though the curve did have an impressive amount of sink.) Since coming back up to the majors in Arizona, Kennedy has found velocity on both of these pitches: the curveball's is up to 77 mph on average from 73 in 2008, while the cutter/slider's velocity has been at 85.6 this year, up from 83.3 last year and 81.8 the year before. The cutter/slider's movement doesn't stand out for a slider, but at 85.6 mph as a cutter, the pitch would seem pretty solid.
Now Kennedy's usage of his pitches has changed a little bit from last year: Kennedy still relies a ton on his fastball, throwing it 60 percent of the time against both lefties and righties and he still throws the change-up a similar amount against both types of batters. Where he's changed is in his usage of his breaking ball: Last year, Kennedy relied on his curveball as his primary breaking ball against both types of batters, with the slider/cutter barely being used. This year, Kennedy uses his curveball as his primary breaking ball against left-handed batters, while the slider is his primary pitch against Righties.
Kennedy's best pitch is his change-up, which gets swing-and-misses an amazing 20 percent of the time. And his slider and curve have improved this year into useful pitches (last year, they were not good pitches at all).
But the real improvement has come in Kennedy's fastball. That fastball is being called for a ball only 29.2 percent of the time, down from 33.5 percent last year and 37.3 percent in 2008. And this change is very easily explainable: Kennedy is simply hitting the strike zone more often. Check out the numbers:
2008 Fastball strike zone% - 46.65.
2010 Fastball strike zone% - 51.21.
2011 Fastball strike zone% - 55.90.
Kennedy's not aiming the pitch differently— he throws it away away away to both lefties and righties—but he's been more able to get the pitch within the strike zone. And thus instead of batters taking these pitches for balls, they're being forced to swing, and batters have been able only to foul off these extra pitches within the zone. Trading called balls for foul balls is a win for a pitcher in any scenario.
A few times in this column we've seen a walk rate improvement that's pretty inexplicable, The pitchers were hitting the strike zone in the same frequency as before and getting called pitches for balls just as often, but just weren't giving up the walks. Those pitchers' walk rates we expect to regress.
But Kennedy isn't one of those guys: His walk rate improvement is easily explainable, and if he can keep up this accuracy—which seems quite probable—then he can sustain it. You should not feel like Ian Kennedy is a heavy danger to regress too much.
Posted by Josh Smolow at 1:03am (0) Comments
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Below is my best guess as to who will be pitching the ninth for American league teams next season. Some teams—like the Yankees—were easy to predict and for others—like the Jays, Mariners, and Twins—it was difficult, so it is more important to read the blurb that follows rather than just the one name I listed. Feel free to share any insight I failed to mention in the comments for the greater good. National League will come next week.
Angels — Jordan Walden — Walden has been effective in his first year as closer, though has a surprising number of blown saves, seven, for his 2.80 ERA. That is most likely just poor timing rather than a flaw in Walden, but it is a small red flag. He's under team control for five more years so he isn't going anywhere soon.
Athletics — Andrew Bailey — When healthy Bailey is an elite closer but he has often struggled with his health, landing on the DL three times in the past two years with throwing arm injuries. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time and the A's are likely to keep their Jersey-bred flamethrower. In the event of a serious injury or an unexpected trade the A's have Grant Balfour under contract for another year, plus a club option for 2013. Fautino De Los Santos, who possesses the typical closer makeup, could also find himself in a closer's role somehow if he improves his control.
Blue Jays — Frank Francisco — The Jays have one of the messiest bullpens in all the baseball land so there were multiple names I could have chosen here. Remember the Jays gave up Mike Napoli to get Francisco so I am skeptical they will let him walk after a down year in which he maintained solid peripherals. Still there is a club option on Rauch that could be picked up, a Casey Jannsen that has closer potential, and countless potential in-house and free agent options. I don't see the Jays throwing one of the youngsters the responsibility of closing to start the season so Francisco makes a nice potential bridge to one of them, most notably Joel Carreno or Danny Farquhar.
Indians — Vinnie Pestano — The horrible 26/20 strikeout-to-walk ratio of Chris Perez is starting to catch up to him and he's allowed eight runs in his last ten appearances with two blown saves. The Indians are clearly in win-now mode with the acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez so I believe they will skip the niceties and let Vinnie Pestano try his hand at closer, if not this year, then sometime early in 2012. Tony Sipp is also a potential saves candidate, despite his left-handedness.
Mariners — Brandon League — League was retained at the trade deadline so he's either in the Mariner's plans for next year or the right offer just did not come along. League has pitched well enough to deserve a closer's role but the M's might not want to spend around five million on a bullpen arm. It is also difficult to know their front office's plan for David Aardsma and free agents this offseason. Maybe they will sign Jonathan Broxton, who knows.
Orioles — Kevin Gregg — Gregg has somehow performed adequately as the closer this year despite a WHIP on the wrong side of the 1.50 mark. He is under contract for $6 million to continue increasing the number of heart failures in the greater Baltimore area with dramatic bases-loaded jams next season. When Gregg becomes unbearable sometime next season, Jim Johnson seems perfectly capable of handling the job with less sweat.
Rangers — Mike Adams — Neftali Feliz has struggled to say the least in the closer's role this season with plently of walks and blown saves and not too many strikeouts. With Adams brought in at the deadline, I expect the Rangers to make the still young Feliz a starter next year, for real this time.
Rays — Kyle Farnsworth — The Rays have a club option on Kyle Farnsworth and I see no reason for that not to get exercised. He's exceeded all expectations and looks much better than Jake McGee.
Red Sox — Jonathan Papelbon — The lastest I've read indicates the most likely place Papelbon goes is nowhere in his first year of free agency. Papelbon has shown his best this year but not many teams are looking to overspend on a closer this offseason and Boston can afford to make its fanbase happy by retaining him. Daniel Bard will keep his role as Robin if Paps stays, though he is the obvious replacement if Papelbon does manage to leave the town.
Royals — Joakim Soria — There are grumblings of Soria joining Aaron Crow in moving from the bullpen to the rotation in 2012, but those are mere grumblings. Still, Kansas City all of sudden has one of the most exciting young bullpens with Louis Coleman and Greg Holland having Kimbrel-and-Venters-esque rookie years. Either of those two arms seems capable of handling the ninth so maybe, just maybe Dayton Moore will finally decide to try something bold and put Soria in the rotation.
Tigers — Jose Valverde — Valverde has been "perfect" this season in terms of converting saves with 32 out of 32 converted this season. Regardless there is much controversy surrounding his nine million dollar club option that may or may not be optioned. My guess is it will be picked up despite Valverde's 34 years of age and increasing showing of it with a declining strikeout and ever-increasing walk rate that now sits at 4.74 BB/9. If it isn't, Joaquin Benoit or Al Alburquerque will look to step into Valverde's shoes.
Twins — Joe Nathan — Nathan's 12.5 million dollar option won't be exercised but Nathan likes Minnesota and will probably re-sign with the Twins for less money. From there Nathan could keep the closer role, Glen Perkins could get a shot, or the Twins could sign someone from outside the organization. Jim Hoey is the in-house option to keep an eye on.
White Sox — Sergio Santos — Santos has managed to earn some respect from Ozzie Guillen by pitching brilliantly in his second year in the majors. Expect the White Sox bullpen situation to be much less complicated than it was at the beginning of this season with Santos as the clear-cut closer.
Yankees — Mariano Rivera — Mariano will be 42 years old in 2012 but there's no sign of aging in his stats. So far this year he's been as good as ever and short of a certain Mayan prediction bearing true, 2012 figures to be more of the same. I've actually met Mariano and shook his hand and I swear it felt human, but every year I can't help but wonder.
Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the details on player contracts.
Posted by Paul Singman at 9:21am (4) Comments
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
At this point in the season, many of you are hunkered down, determined to identify your path to those three extra points that might mean the difference between cashing in and walking away an also-ran. I’m assuming you have read your fair share of strategy pieces and projections about who may be due for a turnaround in the coming months, who stands to lose playing time, and who may be shut down early. So, let’s take a break from that and lightheartedly commiserate—or celebrate, as the cased may be—around some of the idiosyncrasies unique to fantasy baseball.
Early in the season, the following occurrences are things you laugh off or don’t think much of but, down the stretch, even mundane strokes of luck can be excruciating or exhilarating, depending what side of the outcome you’re on and your desired result. Obviously, we hate seeing a five-RBI game on our bench or bullpens blowing our starters’ should-be wins. But, we’re geeks here, right? So, I’m going to get a little more esoteric with these.
The closer blown-save-win
How many times have you seen it, a closer comes in with a one- or two-run-lead, gives it up, but then benefits from his team scoring in the following inning, only to accrue a win. There are so many ways this can be either welcomed or cursed. Early in the season, I think these outcomes are quite welcome, as I enjoy seeing players accrue production in categories in which that aren’t expected to in the early going. Plus, a one-inning, one ER outing that nets you a win is a pretty efficient way to accrue one. However, later in the season your production needs often become more specialized. You expect players to know their roles and give you the production you need from them. Sometimes you’re in no-man’s land in Ws, but in a heated saves race, or vice versa. The blown-save-win can steal your heart or crush your soul.
On a related note, have you ever found yourself cursing one of your speedier players for getting an extra base hit, and therefore compromising their likelihood of stealing a base? No, Coco Crisp, how are you going to help me get the three steals I need today if that ball you just hit soars over the outfield fence?
The surprise DNP
I’ve been plagued all year by a run of bad luck surrounding a very specific kind of DNP, and frankly it’s gone beyond amusing and is rapidly becoming maddening. Here’s what happens—please tell me that some of you daily move leaguers have had this happen to you too. So, you think you’re being shrewd, you’ve read all the sound advice on the Hardball Times about maximizing your at bats and turning over your roster and you’ve decided to drop a replaceable middle reliever to add an extra bat for Thursday’s shortened game slate when you have empty roster spots. Great plan, right? You’re totally willing to see that player go 0-4 with zeroes across because, hey, you all picks can’t be winners.
But, what actually happens?
That player is given the day off! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times this has happened to me this season in my highest stakes league. It doesn’t seem to matter who I pick up—old players, young players, lefties scheduled to face righties, day games, night games—no matter who I pick up, he’s getting an off day!
Here’s the flip side peeve to this dynamic. Sometimes you’re responsible enough to actually check line-ups around the time games are beginning, and some of those times you find that one of your starters is getting the day off. Wonderful. You replace him with your bench player. The system works... But then, the inserted bench player goes 0-4, and the resting regular comes in to make a pinch hit appearance and drive in a pair with a key late inning double. This is positive behavior getting negatively reinforced and it makes me prone to unleashing long strings of impressively creative profanities.
The golden error
You get home after a long day of work, grab yourself some dinner, and sit down in front of the TV or computer to catch up what’s going on in the world of Major League Baseball. Aha, Gio Gonzalez is on the hill in Oakland—you know that because your closest rival owns him—and your eyes widen with satisfaction as you seen the A’s down 6-0 in the third inning. “I’m gonna gain some ground,” you start to chant silently—but jubilantly—as you navigate yourself intently toward the box score giddy with expectation. But, when you reach into the stocking, you retrieve a giant lump of coal! Five of those six runs came unearned in the first. Damn the arcane run and unearned designation!
Now, you’ve taken to composing a several page manifesto about the superiority of advanced pitching stats that you’re planning to post on the league message board. Bonus points for added scoring rule absurdity if the golden error that enabled all those runs to be unearned was charged to the pitcher himself.
Doubleheaders are a pain, and while they offer the opportunity for daily leaguers to pick up a player who may get eight to ten ABs in a single day, the promise of the doubleheader is often illusionary, like most get-rich-quick schemes. First of all, if you’ve suffered a rain out, the double header is a make-up game for your player, not an extra one.
Second of all, raise your hand if you’ve had this happen. You have a quality starting player ready to play, but a potential replacement on your bench is scheduled for a doubleheader. So, you defer to the higher volume of opportunity and play the guy with two games available to him, only to see him play only one of the two and not produce. Rainouts create a dynamic where fantasy managers often get punished for making the correct decision, and are therefore a source of frustration for me.
What are some of the situational anomalies and statistical quirks that make up your fantasy baseball pet peeves?
Posted by Derek Ambrosino at 5:13am (5) Comments
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Recently, someone in one of my fantasy leagues proclaimed that he felt David Wright was overrated*. His claim was that Wright never returned his draft day value, that he never lived up to expectations, that he is a perpetual injury risk, and that he was not worthy of a top 10, let alone first round, pick.
*This statement was made amidst trade talks, so perhaps the comments need to be taken with a grain of salt in light of the inevitable "all my players are awesome, while all of yours have some marked flaw" back-and-forth that predicates trading.
Naturally, I dismissed these claims as outrageous, but in trying to trade Wright at various points this season, I have perpetually encountered concern about his production potential and value as a real life and fantasy asset. It leads to me wonder whether Wright is being undervalued, or whether I have put the man who has been on each of my squads since I began playing fantasy on a nostalgic pedestal.
The first thing one might notice upon glancing at Wright's player stats page is his 162-game average pace numbers: 27 home runs, 22 stolen bases (to six caught stealing, for a 78.6 percent success rate), 103 runs, 107 RBI, .303/.382/.513 (.895 OPS, .386 wOBA, 137 wRC+).
While Wright has never played 162 games in a season, he did average 155.8 games between 2005 (his first full season as the Mets' starting third basemen) and 2010, including his concussion-shortened 2009 season (144 games played). From 2005 to 2010, Wright thrice played 160 games, appearing in 154 of the Mets' contests in each season other than 2009. In fact, Wright's first disabled list stint came in 2009, after he was beaned in the head by a 94 mph Matt Cain fastball—something you can hardly call a "chronic" health issue. Back problems are always a worry, but this is the first time Wright has had one, and his disabled list stint this year was only the second of his career.
So much for being a perpetual injury risk.
And what about his production? Is it overrated? Wright has exceeded the 162-game pace noted above only once in his career, in his 2007 30/30 campaign, but has produced at an elite level each season of his career.
Between 2005 and 2010, Wright hit fewer than 26 home runs only once—in 2009—and he stole 15 or more bases each of those six seasons. His career low batting average entering this season was .283, while it was only once under .300 before 2010, when he posted a .293 batting average in his inaugural season (2004).
In terms of Wright's relative value, among the 128 players to accrue enough plate appearances between 2005 and 2010 to qualify for at least one batting title, Wright's value over the average player value ranks fifth overall, with a 5.70 Z-Score. Only six players had a Z-Score of five or higher, and the four guys ranked ahead of Wright—Albert Pujols (8.91), Alex Rodriguez (6.72), Miguel Cabrera (6.23), Matt Holliday (5.73)—were undeniably better from 2005-2010 (though position was not considered for these crude Z-Scores). Furthermore, If you combine his partial 2004 season with his 2011 partial season (125 games played), Wright's composite line would be 23 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and a .283 batting average.
Perhaps it is unfair to combine Wright's first and last seasons, as he has been a different hitter since his injury, striking out more frequently and hitting for a little less power. Nonetheless, Wright's composite 2010 and 2011 numbers (212 games) are still quite strong. Since the beginning of 2010, Wright has hit .280/.354/.491 with 38 home runs and 28 stolen bases. That prorates to a 27.5 home run, 20.5 stolen base rate per 155 games played. Furthermore, Wright's walk rate of 10.7 percent in this span is not too far off his career 11.2 percent mark (11.8 percent 2011 mark).
Thus, even with "diminished" batting average and slightly down power (Wright averaged 29 home runs a season between 2005 and 2008, hitting 30-plus in 2007 and 2008), Wright's level of production has not diminished so far as to call his present production disappointing. Citi Field's effects must also be considered, as the park robbed Wright of at least six home runs in 2009.
Let's be realistic/pessimistic for a moment, and presume that Wright's present pace represents most of his true talent line going forward, and that his "true talent" line was "only" a .280/25/15 pace. Let's also ignore positional value, despite the scarcity of production at third base this season. How do those numbers stack up in fantasy?
From 2005 to 2010, only four players averaged 25-plus home runs and 15-plus stolen bases per season: Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Chase Utley and Wright. That is exclusive company.
More specifically, from 2005 to 2010, there were 57 individual seasons of 25 home runs and 15 steals, or just under 10 per season (some seasons had a couple more, some a couple less, but no season had more than 12 players hit 25/15). Of these 57, only 12 players owned more than one, while only three players (A-Rod, Soriano and Wright) could lay claim to three or more. Wright is the only player to post five 25/15 campaigns over that six-year span.
Even more interestingly, only 24 of those 57 25/15 campaigns involved a player posting a batting average of or above .300. Of those 24, four were turned in by Wright. If we try to stack "present Wright" batting average in the mix, he would still have a better batting average than 16 percent of our sample. You can investigate more 25/15 trends from 2005 to 2010 by clicking here (Excel file).
Balance is an underrated asset in fantasy baseball. Diversification, rather than absolution, mitigates risk by reducing the effect of disappointment by any single player. A squad of fantasy players that average 15+/15+ is just as capable of competing for a fantasy title as a team built with one- and two-trick ponies like Juan Pierre and Ichiro Suzuki. Brad Johnson's fantasy squad in The Hardball Times Fantasy League this year, and my various teams in other leagues, are living, present day testaments to this. The real difference between the two constructs is that the 15+/15+ team's first place dreams are probably not sunk when any single player goes down. Compare the effects of losing, and problems with replacing, a dud like Pierre (50-60 expected stolen bases) to replacing a random 15+/15+ player when the average major league hitter averages something like 12 home runs and nine stolen bases.
So what does this all mean? It means that Wright is not overrated. He is routinely one of only 10 players a season that you can bank on hitting 25 home runs and stealing 15 or more bases, while hitting .280 with batting average upside. In addition to elite production, Wright plays at one of baseball's increasingly premium fantasy positions—third base.
While his declining defense may be a concern for Mets fans, most fantasy formats do not consider defense, and there are no signs that Wright is ticketed to move off the hot corner. He is currently on pace for 25 homers and 25 steals per 155 games this season, and has been red hot since returning from the disabled list. All this after a bounce-back power season last year (29 home runs) after a disappointing longball output in 2009, which was arguably deflated by both park effects (Citi Field has since undergone substantial changes) and a fluke concussion caused by a man whose skill eludes sabermetricians.
So next time someone in your league tries to tell you David Wright is overrated, tell them they are wrong. Heck, try and trade for him if this myth is that permeating.
Here is how all 57 25/15 campaigns stack up per their 5x5 Roto Z-Scores (positional value ignored, Wright's seasons bolded):