Waiver Wire: AL, Week 16

Last week I published a new fantasy tool: the xWHIP Calculator. Though the xWHIP calculator is intended for good, it can be used for evil and manipulating unexpecting fantasy owners. Consider it another tool in your tool chest of economizing your fantasy team along with the xBABIP Calculator and xFIP.

Though the calculator is based on Tom Tango’s (proven) research, the xWHIP calculator has not itself been statistically tested for “accuracy” and it may contain a few kinks (though I am fairly certain I have worked them out). If anyone out there wants to do the statistical proof diligence (p-tests, t-tests, or whatever), I would be more than happy to post said verification research on The Hardball Times to your credit. Otherwise, if you notice a mathematical problem with the calculator, please email me at
with the subject "xWHIP Calculator."

Also, in case anyone cares, my birthday is July 29. Feel free to wish/bless me accordingly in the comments.

All stats current through at least July 21.

Jose Bautista watch (07/12-07/18): .154 AVG, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 0 SB (only 14 PA). His ownership is up 2 percent, to 83 percent, in Yahoo leagues.

Jayson Nix | Cleveland | 2B, 3B, SS | 4% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .221/.293/.419
True Talent: .250/.335/.440

Two months ago, when Mark Teahen went down with an injury, I did a quick and dirty analysis of former first round pick Jayson Nix, noting that he "is a guy with good walking skills, decent (if not above-average) power and below average contact skills." Soon thereafter, Chicago gave up on Nix after he had hit .163/.268/.245 over a measly 57 PA.

Cleveland has since reaped the rewards of the White Sox's impatience: He has batted .253/.309/.517 with six homers over 95 PA. To be fair, I am a misguided Jayson Nix fan, having defended the man as being better than Alex Rios on more than one occasion during the offseason. However,I did make amends and label Rios as 2010's big post-hype sleeper on March 16.

Alas, I digress.

Due to his early season struggles with the White Sox and limited playing time, Nix is still batting around the Mendoza line overall on the season. This, as evidenced by a sub-5 percent ownership rate, has led most owners to ignore him. However, Nix's current BABIP is .237 on the season and his xBABIP is much higher at .278. If we adjust Nix's current batting line to reflect his xBABIP, pessimistically assuming that all additional hits would be only singles, his triple slash line improves to .244/.315/.421 (.736 OPS)

Though these figures indicate that Nix is likely to see some AVG/OBP/SLG improvement for the rest of the season, I feel they underestimate his true BABIP talent. xBABIP, per the THT xBABIP calculator, uses stolen bases as a factor to measure speed and Nix has none this season, despite having 10 last season in 290 PA and 114 over 3,660 PA in his minor league career.

Using Nix's major league career numbers (507 PA) to get a better read on his true BABIP talent, the xBABIP calculator says that Nix is a .299 BABIP hitter. Adjusting Nix's current batting line to reflect this .299 xBABIP, again assuming that all additional hits would be singles variety, we get a .255/.334/.425 line, noting that this adjustment underestimates power.

Between injuries, "underperforming reliables" and general positional scarcity, SS/2B is an incredible thin position in 2010 and those who have had their original MI knocked out by injury or ineffectiveness should take note of Nix's presence and playing time in Cleveland. Batting average aside, Nix offers HR/SB upside and enticing lineup positioning (second) for runs to boot. Sure, the Indians' 2010 season is over, but the club is likely going to continue running Nix out there every day in front of Carlos Santana (.435 wOBA), Matt LaPorta and Shin-Soo Choo (when he returns). Consider this your final notice.

Recommendation: Jayson Nix should be owned in all AL-only leagues and mixed leagues with MI requirements.

Matt Thornton/J.J. Putz | Chicago (AL) | RP | 60%/25% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: 2.58 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.97 K/9, 3.05 BB/9 (Thornton) // 1.50 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 10.50 K/9, 1.50 BB/9 (Putz)
Oliver ROS: 2.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 (Thornton) // 3.70 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 (Putz)

Following yet another blown save for Bobby Jenks on July 22, Ozzie Guillen is likely to remove ol' pink beard from the closer's role. A few weeks back, I analyzed the White Sox closer depth chart. Though it likely still goes Thornton-Putz-Santos (in that order), I have a gut feeling that Ozzie might turn to Putz instead of Thornton.

First, Putz has more of that "invaluable closing experience" that managers love to love. Second, Putz is a righty while Thornton is a lefty, a traditional no-no for closers. Billy Wagner and Mike Gonzalez excepted, how many left-handed closers can you name? Thirdly, Putz has pitched better. Though both players have pitched phenomenally so far, Putz (2.46 xFIP, 1.50 ERA) has the better peripherals and results, albeit marginally, compared to Thornton (2.52 xFIP, 2.58 ERA).

If possible, I would pick up both players off the waiver wire. One is sure to close games for the White Sox for the immediate future and both pitchers are completely ownable in even deep mixed league formats. Putz and Thornton, like Hong Chih-Kuo and Takashi Saito in the NL, are ratio stabilizers who add Ks and the occasional win, but more importantly help balance out the ERAs/WHIPs of volatile high upside starters like Edinson Volquez (NL), Brandon Morrow and, heck, even Daisuke Matsuzaka (if you enjoy playing with fire). As of this writing, the White Sox have not announced that they will replace Jenks, but the writing is on the wall. Pounce now if you need saves (or just some good pitching with innings to spare).

Recommendation: Both Thornton and Putz are must-own players in all formats.

Scott Sizemore | Detroit | 2B | 3% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .206/.297/.289
Oliver ROS: .254/.321/.387

With incumbent third baseman Brandon Inge out for a while, the Tigers have recalled infielder Scott Sizemore from the minors. Despite the rumors to the contrary, I think that the Tigers are going to slide jack-of-all-trades Carlos Guillen, who I looked at last month, across the diamond like many a second baseman before him (see also 2008). This would likely place Scott Sizemore, who batted .329 in Triple-A, back at second.

Sizemore's first cup of coffee (115 PA) in the majors earlier this year was less than inspiring (and very like Grady Sizemore a la 2010). With a strikeout rate north of 25 percent and an ISO sub-.100, Sizemore struggled to the tune of .206/.297/.289 with a .268 BABIP which is low, but not so far below his .302 xBABIP that translating his line would improve his slash line much.

Though Sizemore can seemingly drive the ball well (23.5 percent LD rate in the majors, 22 percent in the minors this season) and takes his share of walks (11.1 percent minor league BB rate), his ISO in the minors is just under .150 and he is striking out way too much as of late (23 percent this season in the minors, 26.8 percent in the majors) for a guy with league-average power. Granted, Sizemore has a sub-18 percent strikeout rate in his minor league career, so there is a distinct possibility that Sizemore will have an improved consistency in the future.

However, if Sizemore is going to succeed in the majors, he will need to keep those strikeouts in check (or develop more power). Bad drafts and trades have left the Tigers thin on options to replace Inge. Hence, it is likely that the Tigers will give Sizemore a longer leash than before—at least while Inge is out. Minor League Splits pegs Sizemore's 2010 Triple-A performance as worth a .288/.344/.435 (.779 OPS) major league equivalent line. If Sizemore keeps the the strikeouts in check, I do not doubt he can perform at that level.

The Tigers are solid in the center of their line-up at the moment, so Sizemore's value, beyond just the strikeouts, will hinge upon two questions. First, where in the line-up will he bat? Second, will Sizemore continue the trend of swinging for the fences at the expense of stealing bases? The answers to these questions will be revealed this weekend. Monitor the situation closely, especially if you are in need of 2B/MI assistance (and Guillen is unavailable).

Recommendation: Should be owned in AL-only leagues, fringe MI option for (deeper) mixed leagues.

Luke Scott | Baltimore | 1B, OF | 13% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .285/.355/.549
Oliver ROS: .253/.332/.471

In one of my first AL Waiver Wire pieces, I profiled Luke Scott. Scott is what I call a 90-10 player, a roto-only productive hitter who is incredibly streaky and whose his numbers come in binges separated by huge droughts. Like Alfonso Soriano, when Scott gets hot, look out. When he gets cold, abandon ship.

Not much has changed about his game since I covered him in week 8. However, he is starting to get hot again. Since returning to action on July 19 (he was on the 15-day DL), Scott has six hits in his last 12 AB (.500) with two homes, three runs and four RBI. Last season, Scott hit eight homers in the 10 games (18 RBI, 10 runs) following a return to action from the DL in May, so this kind of post-injury hotness is not unheard of. If you have room in your OF/UTIL spots I'd pounce now, while the porridge is still warm. Just be prepared to abandon ship when someone turns on the A/C.

Recommendation: Must-own in all formats when hot. Thereafter, cut him loose.

Chris Perez | Cleveland | RP | 35% Ownership
YTD: 2.41 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.71 K/9, 4.58 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 4.22 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 4.6 BB/9

Cleveland is another closer situation is turmoil. With Kerry Wood ineffective and back on the DL, Chris Perez is getting a second third fourth chance at ninth-inning duties. Though his stuff is generally electric (career 9.40 K/9) and though his ERA is shiny (2.41 in 2010), there are reasons to be suspicious of Perez this year and perhaps use him in a pluck-and-trade role rather than closer stopgap.

First, Perez is seeing both a drop in his swinging strike rate (from 9.4 percent to 8.1) and K/9 (from 10.74 to 7.71). This comes on the heels of a three-year declining ground ball rate, which is now only barely above 30 percent. Perez also has seen an increase in wildness (4.58 BB/9 up from last year's 4.26 mark), though he is getting ahead of batters more often this year compared to last. F-Strike% and BB/9 have a polar relationship, so the "regression in control" may either be the result of unlucky calls or indicate that last year's "improved" BB/9 rate may have been the fluke. Regardless, Perez's peripherals are not pretty; his xFIP is a career-worst 5.08.

Unfortunately for Indians fans/fortunately for people speculating for saves, the Indians do not have many better options in the pen to close, meaning Perez may stick around with the job (at least while Wood is out). Of the team's relievers, only Frank Herrmann has an xFIP below 4.00 and only Herrmann and Rafael Perez (4.28 xFIP) have xFIPs below 4.60.

Herrmann (19 IP in the majors) has the best minor league track record (FIP of 3.87, though the MLE is 5.25) of any of the pitchers in Cleveland's weak bullpen, but he does not have "the big stuff" that managers generally love in closers. Hence, the closing job is likely Perez's job to lose and, given the state of the team's bullpen, relinquishing that position may be like failing gym: difficult to achieve. However, this possible job stability may not be worth the bumpy road ahead. If you can get Perez and flip him in a deal, it is worth the acquisition. If you need saves, let's just hope you have a good pitching core to balance out the Chris Perez experience.

Recommendation: While closing, Perez is a must-own pitcher in all formats.

Austin Jackson | Detroit | OF | 45% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .289/.396/.461
Oliver ROS: .266/.319/.374

Austin Jackson is an enigma to me. On one hand, he has absolutely no power (.105 ISO), strikes out entirely too much (28 percent K rate and walks very little (6.8 percent). On the other hand, he is clipping line drives like crazy (28 percent line drive rate), has the devil's feet (7.6 speed score, eighth best in the majors among hitters with 300+ PA, 16/19 in stolen base attempts) and uses said speed to the full extent of the law (47.7 percent GB rate. Though Jackson may not have the profile of a plus-quality OPS or wOBA guy, his 2010 numbers do give him a good xBABIP profile, with a .348 mark.

However, this .348 xBABIP is substantially below his current (and MLB-leading, by a long-shot) .426 BABIP. Though Jackson is currently producing a valuable .309/.361/.415 (.776 OPS) triple slash line, if we adjust his current line to reflect his xBABIP and optimistically assume that all hits subtracted would be only singles, Jackson's line tumbles back to Earth to the tune of .253/.310/.359 (.668 OPS). Jackson may be in store for a terrible second half, especially if that line drive rate starts to come down a bit. In my estimation, that level of risk, given only R/SB upside (which can easily be replaced on the waiver wire), is not worth buying or holding. If you currently own Jackson, consider shopping him around. If you do not own him, well, I would not recommend it.

Recommendation: Should be owned (begrudgingly) in AL-only formats, sub-fringe option in deeper mixed league (12+ team, 5 OF).

Cliff Pennington | Oakland | SS | 20% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .270/.342/.395
Oliver ROS: .236/.319/.321

While the shortstop position (especially in the AL) has been incredibly thin and under-productive this season, Cliff Pennington has been a bright spot for owners in need of value. Unlike his AL West counterpart Elvis Andrus, Pennington has been efficient on the basepaths (15-for-17 in stolen base attempts) and is getting the green light. Though Pennington's average (.270) is not as pretty as Andrus' (.280), Pennington is getting the job done with enough runs production (40) out of the shortstop to make his average serviceable enough. Pennington's xBABIP currently projects at .309, which is right in line with his current .316 mark. Hence, what you see is likely what you get.

While Pennington is by no means an elite option at shortstop, he is still serviceable enough to be top 12 at the position with top 10 potential (yes, shortstop is really that thin this year). If you are in need of MI/SS help and Erick Aybar is not sitting in free agency, I suggest you take a quick look at Pennington. He may not be the shortstop you deserve, but he might be the shortstop you need. Gotta love Batman references.

Recommendation: Must own in AL-only formats, should be owned in mixed leagues with 12+ teams or MI requirements.

Jack Cust | Oakland | OF | 4% Yahoo Ownership
YTD: .289/.396/.461
True Talent: .236/.366/.427

Last week, I took a veiled shot at Jack Cust's power outage. In response, Cust hit two homers this past week and now has four in the past 10 games after hitting only two total in the 42 prior games. Though he is on pace for only a 20 HR complete season (600 PA), Cust is posting the highest batting average of his career (.289) thanks to a career-best line drive rate (24.8 percent) and a career low strikeout rate (32.2 percent). Unfortunately, that strikeout rate is still astronomical and Cust's BABIP sits at a career high .384 mark (ignoring seasons with five or fewer PA).

Cust's current batted ball profile pegs him as a .321 xBABIP hitter. Not much of that BABIP value is coming off his career best line drive rate, as Cust has an elite career line drive rate of 21.9 percent. If we adjust Cust's batted ball profile to reflect his 21.9 percent career LD rate, his xBABIP falls only to .320. If we adjust Cust's current batting line to reflect his xBABIP, graciously assuming all lost hits would be singles, Cust's triple slash line falls to .253/.370/.463 (.832 OPS), which is in line with his career line of .244/.376/.456 (.832 OPS).

Though Cust's true talent on the season does not much exceed his career production, his numbers this year represent career second-bests for fantasy owners looking for some pop/RBI in Oakland. For the first time since 2007, Cust may reward owners with a .250+ BA with decent power/RBI to boot down the stretch. While that kind of average won't help you, it won't nearly as much kill you as a .230 would. Just ask Carlos Pena owners.

Recommendation: Should be owned in AL-only formats, a worthy option in 5 OF mixed leagues and for teams in need of a power/RBI boost.

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Next: Waiver Wire:  NL, Week 16 »

Comments

  1. Jim G. said...

    I don’t see Guillen shifting back to 3rd. He was terrible there. And he’s doing a decent job at 2nd. Also, Sizemore got some time in at 3rd while in Toledo since he was sent down. Why? I’m not sure, but it seems prudent now.

    Finally, the following people would like to wish you a happy birthday:

    Brian Fuentes, B.J. Ryan, George Sherrill, Sparky Lyle, Dan Plesac, Steve Howe, Randy Myers, Norm Charlton, Mitch Williams, John Rocker, Eddie Guardado, Arthur Rhodes, Dave Righetti, Tug McGraw, Jesse Orosco, John Hiller, Kevin Saucier and Wilbur Wood.

  2. Jim G. said...

    Ack! He was on my list and I forgot to type him in.
    I also remembered Willie Hernandez, Al Holland, Tippy Martinez, Tom Burgmeier, Mark Davis, Mike Stanton, Craig Lefferts and Gary Lavelle.

  3. Jeffrey Gross said...

    1) Chris Rongey is the devil
    2) I meant to write “Thornton” not Jenks, so I was wrong in name, not handedness
    3) I dropped the food metaphor thing a month ago. Too hard to come up with them on my own :(
    4) “To Boot” is the best way to say “In Addition”. Boots are awesome, don’t hate.

  4. ducat2 said...

    Jeffrey,
    The link to the XBABIP calculator is nonfunctional.
    Good stuff as usual!!!
    Happy Birthday.

  5. TBO said...

    Though your call to Rongey was epic, my analysis of the call may have been my best work yet

    You said that Jenks is a lefty. Pretty sure you meant Thornton, but i’ll take this opportunity to point out that you have never actually watched baseball with your eyes

    Also, all your posts may not contain a food metaphor, but they certainly contain the words “to boot”

  6. Paul C. said...

    In leagues that substitute OBP for Batting Avg, would you put Cust in the must-own category?  He seems to be hitting HRs again.

  7. Jeffrey Gross said...

    @Paul,

    yes, he’s that much more valuable in OBP leagues. Cust will post a .360+ OBP with plenty of pop. I think he’s hit 2 or 3 since I wrote this

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