Waiver Wire: AL

Trevor Bell | Los Angeles | SP
YTD: 6.8 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 6.75 ERA
True Talent: n/a
Next Week Forecast: n/a
A rocky 2008 in the California League—including a temporary move to the bullpen—dropped Bell’s prospect status to almost non-existent. For people in deep leagues, it’s good to remember that “survival” for a pitcher in the California League can often be a sign of great talent, as it’s just that difficult to pitch there. Bell doesn’t have “great talent,” and he’s about as far from being truly ready as Sean O’Sullivan, and not quite as good. Either is a better choice than Matt Palmer, however. Only in desperation in AL leagues.

Marlon Byrd | Texas | OF
YTD: .281/.321/.469
True Talent: .281/.341/.446
Next Week Forecast: 0.5 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, .280 AVG, 0.2 SB
How’s that for a player matching his “True Talent” prediction? Well, there’s not much to add about Byrd. What you see is what you get, rate-stat wise. We’re going to avoid joining the people who’ve picked him up lately, while various other Rangers have been nicked and missing time. Chris Davis is a likely callup, and it’s hard to see Byrd continuing to get playing time against RHP in September. The “Next Week” numbers should be safe to assume, though.

Rajai Davis | Oakland | CF
YTD: .294/.367/.422
True Talent: .261/.319/.362
Next Week Forecast: 0.3 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, .260 BA, 1.8 SB
Hearkening back to the days of “Whitey Ball” (about which THT’s Dan Fox did an interesting writeup back in 2006), metrically aware teams are suddenly “re-discovering” the value of speed and of defensive outfielders. Anyone who’s seen Rajai track flies has to wonder how RZR/OOZ rate him as below average (.922 RZR, 30 OOZ plays in 436 innings), and the BIS +/- system has him as only the 14th-best CF. Yes, this is a fantasy column… Davis is a marginal hitter, as shown by TT, and his ability to make a defensive impact will determine how many at bats—and thus stolen bases—he gets for a fantasy team. So, it’s good to know that at least the popular-if-flawed UZR system loves his defense, and he’s probably a safe bet to keep getting PT as long as he doesn’t go into a prolonged slump.

Derek Holland | Texas | SP
YTD: 7.5 K/9, 2.5 K/BB, 5.04 ERA
True Talent: 6.8 K/9, 1.8 K/BB, 5.90 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 4.2 IP, 0.2 W, 4 K, 6.36 ERA
Over at Baseball Daily Digest, I had some observations on the Rangers leading the league in run prevention this season. Part of the reson is that they appear to be intent on keeping their talented pitchers. Holland’s fastball averages 93 mph this year. He’s still a young pitcher with a crappy home park, so fatigue may wear him down, but for a guy who was expected to begin the year in Double-AA to have allowed a batting line of just .190/.272/.306 in the past month is impressive, even if starts against Seattle, Oakland, and KC are in there. Expect hiccups, but this guy is for real. Don’t be surprised if his ERA is almost 2 points under that TT projection the remainder.

Jake Peavy | Chicago | SP
YTD: 10.1 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, 3.97 ERA
True Talent: 9.3 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 3.61 ERA
Next Week Forecast: n/a
We’re of a split mind on the Peavy trade at Heater, as John Burnson hated the deal, while yours truly jumped on the White Sox bandwagon based on it. Peavy has that sort of polarizing influence. He has a career Home ERA 1.0 points better than his road ERA, compared to a typical value of 05. He’s a flyball pitcher coming to a park that allows homers. And those are the parks that caused him road ails in the NL—17 HR allowed in Chase Field, a .500+ slugging in both Coors and Wrigley—and which Kenny Williams is banking both money and cheap talent on him being able to reverse. On the plus side, his career OBP against is under .300, his K/9 rate is 9.0, with a fantastic 3.1 K:BB ratio. Non-pitchers have hit just .243/.311/.393 against him, and if you believe in “clutch” pitching, he’s been better in the second half and much better in “high leverage” situations (just .215/.285/.314 against). Personally, this author would put every FAAB $ available down on Peavy and not have any reservations. But be warned that many smart people think otherwise.

Cliff Pennington | Oakland | SS
YTD: .326/.367/.457
True Talent: .232/.319/.315
Next Week Forecast: 0.2 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, .231 AVG, 0.5 SB
Before people start thinking about former Athletic Ryan Ludwick, and other top prospects who dropped off the grid for a few years only to rebound and rake, Pennington was primarily a defensive prospect years ago. Out of nowhere he posted a .426 OBP in 2008, and stole 47 bases between ’08 and ’09 in Triple-A (711 PA)—bringing back memories of Esteban German‘s minor-league stats. He is unlikely to ever post a great OBP, but he brings the speed and defense that the new (or is it “old school”) Billy Beane seems to be coveting now.

Travis Snider | Toronto | OF
YTD: .242/.292/.394
True Talent: .250/.317/.424
Next Week Forecast: n/a
Sharp roto players everywhere lit up their transaction lines grabbing Travis Snider when Rios was claimed on waivers away from Toronto. But Randy Ruiz was recalled. What happened? Suspicions are that the Jays are trying to avoid letting Snider qualify for “Super Two” arbitration status, which would at least mean they haven’t cooled on him. He’s hitting .325/.421/.650 in Las Vegas. Expect him to be up in September and never go down again. He may not be the mega-star many were projecting, but don’t read too much into that TT projection, either.

Junichi Tazawa | Boston | SP
YTD: 10.8 K/9, 4.0 K/BB, 4.05 ERA
True Talent: 9.6 K/9, 3.5 K/BB, 3.27 ERA
Next Week Forecast: 6.2 IP, 0.5 W, 7 K, 3.38 ERA
ESPN—sometimes seemingly the Red Sox flagship station—would love nothing more than to see Tazawa thrive. He turned down an offer worth millions more from Texas because he wanted to be on a team with Dice-K, and by most accounts would have been a first-round pick if he’d been in the U.S. draft, or the first overall pick in Japan. So, when ESPN columnist Keith Law suggests that he’s a No. 3 starter if his control stays at its best, some yellow flags go up. Before jumping in with both feet based on that “True Talent” prediction, consider that he struck out under 8 batters per 9 IP this year between Double-A and Triple-A, and his fastball usually comes in around 90 mph. A similar Yankees pitcher, Ian Kennedy, also had good K/9, K:BB, and FIP rates in the minors. Tazawa might be good, but the TT line is an upside.

True Talent and Next Week Forecasts courtesy of Heater Magazine.

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  1. ecp said...

    Why is it that everybody wants to talk about pitchers with caveats about who they were pitching against?  You talk about Derek Holland’s impressive line for the last month but throw in the comment about “even if starts against Seattle, Oakland, and KC are in there.”  The fact of the matter is he couldn’t get through five innings against two of those teams (Oakland and KC), both of which found him hittable enought to get four runs and and hand him losses in the process.  So there is no point in even bringing up his opposition.  Or was your point meant to be that his line would be better had he pitched better against the lousy teams?

  2. Rob McQuown said...

    ecp –

    That’s a good point about Holland’s struggles against those two teams.  My point was that he faced easier-than-normal competition.  In a marathon, a runner may post better times on stretches involving uphill grades, for whatever reason (expending more effort and more than compensating?) and then have worse times in the downhill areas.  But statistically, the downhills will benefit runners, and the uphills will slow them down.  Same thing with home field advantage or strength of opposition metrics for ballplayers.

    Maybe if Holland had been facing the Yankees instead of the Royals on July 25, when he clearly wasn’t having one of his best outings, he would have gotten knocked out in the 2nd instead of the 5th.  Maybe he’d have allowed even MORE hits and walks and homers than he did to KC.  Or maybe the KC batters were just *hot* that day.  We can’t know.  But we do know that the players on KC – in general – are a lot less skilled at producing run-aiding events than those on the Yankees.

    In general, I think it’s over-reacting to treat any small sample size with too much import, so, inasmuch as we’re going to focus on a short period like a single month, it’s important to figure out the contributing factors to that stat line.  If your point is that over one month the *noise* is much more significant than any strength-of-opposition effect, I’d have to agree. But that’s not a reason to skip using more of the available data instead of less.

  3. Bill B. said...

    I was surprised: Snider stayed in the free agent pool in both of the leagues I’m in.

    I’m hurting for OF help, with Adam Lind, Andrew McCutchen, and Josh Willingham (Justin Upton on the DL) on my Crashburn Alley roster. I’m keeping my eye on Snider.

    Hopefully no one in my league is reading this. tongue laugh

  4. ecp said...

    Rob, my point wasn’t to skip using available data.  Frankly, I just wasn’t sure how much “homework” you had done before you made the statement.  It seemed like you were saying, “well, he had a great month, but maybe we should take it with a small grain of salt because he cruised against a lot of lousy teams” when in fact he didn’t.

    I guess I’m not a fond lover of automatically assuming that you will dominate and defeat the bottom feeders, because (to use the two teams you used for an example) on any given day the Royals just might beat the Yankees.

  5. Rob McQuown said...

    re: “I guess I’m not a fond lover of automatically assuming that you will dominate and defeat the bottom feeders”

    This I agree with.  I only mentioned it because I believe that some toning-down of the overall accomplishment needs to be considered.  I looked into opposition strength somewhat in the BDD article (meant to link it above, it’s http://www.baseballdailydigest.com/blogs/2009/08/11/rattling-the-sabr-upside-down-season/).  Rangers have had easier opposition this year, in general, but it’s in the -7 to -10 OPS range compared to league average of 765 OPS, not an automatic domination by any means.

    The funny thing is I was worried about going *too* overboard hyping him up with a closing line of, “Expect hiccups, but this guy is for real. Don’t be surprised if his ERA is almost 2 points under that TT projection the remainder.”

    RAJAI DAVIS NOTE: For those interested, the Dan Fox article can be found at http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/whitey-ball/

  6. Michael Street said...

    I think what most impressed me about Tazawa has been his poise. Not only does he face tremendous off-field pressure from Japanese fans and in adjusting to American culture, he’s being thrown into a pennant race in the most heated rivalry in baseball in its toughest division.

    Remember, this guy was pitching at the *semipro* level in Japan last year—in 2009, he’s endured an international firestorm over his refusal to participate in the NPB draft, been a part of a multi-team MLB bidding war, rocketed through two minor league levels (in two different states, no small thing for a Japanese player), and emerged in the midst of the aforementioned pennant race.

    After losing an extra-inning game against the Yankees in his debut, in his first start, he beaned Miguel Cabrera to load the bases, then induced inning-ending double-play grounders *twice,* only to see his infield fail to turn them.

    Despite this, and the donnybrook between Youkilis and Porcello that had Tazawa sitting on the bench for a good 30 minutes and took away the inner half of the plate (both benches were warned after the beaning), he managed to rebound from that 3R (1 ER) first inning to blank Detroit (a very hot team) for the next four innings, improving with each inning he threw.

    His skills may not be over-the-top impressive, but this kid’s got it going on between the ears, which is half of the battle for starting pitchers. Whether his stuff will continue to get MLB batters out as he gets scouted more, he’s shown he’s got the mental composure to stick.

  7. Looksy said...

    “ESPN—sometimes seemingly the Red Sox flagship station—would love nothing more than to see Tazawa thrive.”

    A shame that you feed this meme on a quality website.

  8. alskor said...

    “ESPN—sometimes seemingly the Red Sox flagship station—would love nothing more than to see Tazawa thrive.”

    Is this a joke?

    “So, when ESPN columnist Keith Law suggests that he’s a No. 3 starter if his control stays at its best, some yellow flags go up.”

    No, seriously, is this a joke?

    “A similar Yankees pitcher, Ian Kennedy, also had good K/9, K:BB, and FIP rates in the minors.”

    Ian Kennedy was miscast as a control pitcher. He was just a soft tosser with ok stuff and above average control – NOT great control. His walk rates were never that great in the minors (Career: 2.8/9). Compare to Slowey(1.4/9), Sonnanstine(1.4), etc… Tazawa actually has the plus control a notch above Kennedy – and more impressive considering he’s adjusting to America and American baseball. I guess its an apt comparison in that Tazawa might actually be what people *thought* Kennedy was.

  9. Rob McQuown said...

    My position on Tazawa is that the bold “True Talent Projection” of 9.6 K/9, 3.5 K/BB, 3.27 ERA for the remainder of 2009 is optimistic.  With Fenway as a home park, that would put him in contention for best starting pitcher in the AL, and however good he is, he’s not *that* good.

    Good additional feedback, folks. Thanks for the comments.  Obviously, with a young pitcher who has less than a full minor-league season of experience, multiple stances are possible. 

    As clarification, I didn’t mean to be dismissive of his skills.  I did want to impress that expecting a 3.27 ERA, 10 K/9 with under 3 BB/9 in 2009 is not my position.  My comments are always written with the “True Talent” level as a backdrop where it’s available, since a lot of good work went into honing those.

  10. ccmoo said...

    Thanks for the interesting debate on Tazawa/Kennedy. Agree with others on the ESPN whine. A lazy analytical device – and not true, to boot. THT is better than that.

  11. Rob McQuown said...

    Okay, I’ll comment on the ESPN quip, since it is germane to interpreting my evaluation of Tazawa. 

    I didn’t mean to rip ESPN or Keith Law.  I live in Chicago, and there’s a disproportionately high percentage of Red Sox games selected for the ESPN games here.  From my perspective, that network very much favors the Red Sox – I expressed this by saying that they sometimes seem like the Red Sox flagship station – this was overstated, yes, but the effect is objectively true in some measure – at lest in this market.

    In that vein, I would expect ESPN to express a much more glowing endorsement of the guy if it was likely he had a shot to be a true top-of-rotation pitcher.  For Keith Law to suggest he’s a #3 starter, *IF* he maintains his best control is damning with faint praise from my perspective.  Mr. Law has not been reluctant to add commentary that a player has “upside” when he believes it to be true.  Whatever one may think of Keith Law, positive or negative, he is established enough as an expert that I feel confident that considering his opinion on a player adds value to any assessment.

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