Confessions of fantasy baseball addict: Who is really the back-up closer in Kansas Cityby Eric Hinz
April 27, 2009
Single league format fantasy baseball leagues, henceforth known as AL-only and NL-only leagues, have proven to be less popular than their younger, more prolific mixed league cousins. Whether this is good or bad is a question of personal taste, as each has its pluses and minuses.
When playing in an AL- or NL-only leagues, one is compelled to know more about every team than one does playing in a mixed league. Exactly who cares about Darin Erstad (anymore) or the necessity of rostering Angel Berroa? How you answer that question is a good predictor of whether you prefer mixed leagues or AL- and NL-only ones.
I want to know about both players and make roster decisions based on each. That is why I prefer AL- and NL-only leagues. The rationale behind adding, reserving, waiving and keeping players of Erstad’s and Berroa’s ilk will be the weekly focus of Confessions of a Fantasy Baseball Expert.
For what it's worth, Erstad’s value derives from the possibility of Michael Bourn repeating as the hitting version of Shawn Chacon (a one-category player whose additional category contributions are complete negatives) and the Astros proclivity for veteran players regardless of on-the-field production.
2004 Shawn Chacon: 35 Saves, 7.11 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 1 W, 52 K
2008 Michael Bourn: 41 SBs, .229 AVG, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 57 Runs
Friday afternoon brought the announcement, signalled by the previous eight day’s of non-use, that Kansas City Royals’ closer Joakim Soria will miss at the next three to five days to rest shoulder discomfort. While this sent mixed leaguers looking to add Juan Cruz, the AL-only player had to dig deeper as Cruz was taken at the draft as was everyother likely back-up closer.
The challenge presented to the AL-only player is finding the next next in-line closer. This is difficult because most peripheral statistical analysis has already identified the reliever most likely to succeed and become the closer at the first opportunity. Hence, Juan Cruz and his 12.8 K/9 is typically enough. Missed by most fantasy leaguers was Cruz’ declining GB%. The complement, in the geometric sense, of a declining GB% is an increasing LD%/FB%, neither of which are positives for any pitcher much less one who is supposed to preserve wins in the 9th inning.
As one can see, 2009 has continued the trend with early concerns in an increased HR/G and HR/F.
Year Tm LD% GB% IF/F K/G BB/G HR/G *HR/F P/PA LOB% 2004 ATL 20.20% 44.60% 10.30% 9 3.9 0.9 11.60% 4 82.50% 2005 OAK 19.20% 45.50% 17.10% 8.2 5.3 1.2 17.20% 3.8 54.40% 2006 ARI 22.90% 39.90% 9.40% 8.3 4.4 0.66 7.90% 4 72.50% 2007 ARI 18.50% 34.80% 7.90% 12.9 4.8 1.04 11.30% 4.3 74.80% 2008 ARI 15.70% 26.90% 6.50% 12.8 5.6 0.9 8.10% 4.6 83.60% 2009 KC 28.60% 28.60% 22.20% 6.5 5.2 1.3 15.40% 4.4 89.30%
So the question is who is next in line? I know this is unanalytical, but Kyle Farnsworth is dismissed out of hand. As a Yankees fan, I know he is reliable for just one thing: a home run at the wrong time. As a matter of fact, the two taters Farnsworth has served this season both resulted in Royals losses.
There exist two additional options that playing in an AL-only league would force one to explore. Both are failed starting pitchers who arrived in Kansas City via horrible environments for starting pitchers. RHP Jamey Wright arrived via free agency after being converted to relief pitching by the Rangers last season, while Robinson Tejada came to Kansas City after Texas gave-up on the then-26 year-old when couldn’t strikeout enough batters to overcome some atrocious control (5.9 K/9 versus 5.1 BB/9).
Tejeda offers the the one peripheral skill most fantasy leaguers desire in a potential closing find: a high K/9. For Tejeda, the move from the rotation to the bullpen had a gamma rays exposure-like effect on his strikeout rate. As a starter, he struck out a fewer than six per nine innings. Once he went to the bullpen, that rate skyrocketed to more than 10 per nine innings with the early 2009 results showing an astronomical 16.3 per nine innings!
That would typically be enough to tilt the typical owner into deciding to add Robinson Tejeda from the free agent pool in a saves gamble. But hold on! Tejeda has not managed to get any control of his walk rate in his move to the bullpen. Apparently, that gamma rays exposure had the same effect on Tejeda as it did on Bruce Banner: incredible strength with minimal control! Nevermind the distressing GB%.
Year Tm Lg LD% GB% IF/F K/G BB/G HR/G *HR/F P/PA LOB% 2005 PHI NL 20.90% 35.70% 13.70% 7.4 5.3 0.52 5.10% 4 75.60% 2006 TEX AL 17.50% 37.10% 10.50% 4.7 3.7 1.17 9.10% 3.8 75.00% 2007 TEX AL 14.30% 35.00% 13.80% 5.9 5.1 1.45 12.30% 3.9 64.40% 2008 TEX AL 30.00% 25.00% 11.10% 5.3 6.6 1.33 12.00% 4.7 46.50% 2008 KC AL 17.70% 34.40% 19.60% 10.1 4.7 0.74 8.70% 4.1 66.10% 2009 KC AL 0.00% 16.70% N/A 16.3 9.8 0 0.00% 4.4 88.90%
This leaves Jamey Wright as the logical free agent saves gamble from the Kansas City bullpen. Jamey Wright has one particular skill that makes him the attractive option to close in the event Joakim Soria’s shoulder is more serious than the team is currently letting on. Wright has a GB% in excess of 60 percent.
In addition, his K/9 was an acceptable 6.1 in 2007. So far in 2009, Wright has upped that to 7.1 and decreased his BB/9 from last season’s 3.6 to 1.2. This is the kind of statistical discovery that makes fantasy owners’ days!
Year Tm LD% GB% IF/F K/G BB/G HR/G *HR/F P/PA LOB% 2004 COL 22.30% 49.80% 17.60% 4.4 4.8 0.86 11.40% 3.8 77.20% 2005 COL 20.30% 52.70% 7.10% 5 4 1.08 13.30% 3.5 66.90% 2006 SF 18.40% 58.10% 8.30% 4.5 3.7 0.92 15.30% 3.5 66.80% 2007 TEX 17.20% 54.80% 11.90% 4.6 4.8 0.7 10.00% 3.8 75.70% 2008 TEX 19.60% 61.90% N/A 6.1 3.6 0.51 9.60% 3.8 61.20% 2009 KC 13.00% 65.20% 20.00% 7.3 1.2 1.22 26.90% 3.2 107.10%
Right now, you’ve got one of two reactions depending on your fantasy format preference. Either you feel you have lost 10 minutes of your life that you can never recover or you are readying to click over to your fantasy league website(s) to add Jamey Wright.
Eric writes about the fantasy baseball, mixed and single league formats, at Fake Teams seven days a week and welcomes questions, comments and criticism via email.
<< Return to Article