Hello boys and girls. I’m Adam Kaplan your substitute host for this week and fellow Game Of Inches blog author along with Jeffrey Gross. This week Jeff is not lying on his death bed, but being a productive member of society doing a lot of writing for his law school. So while your original host Johnny Carson is temporarily away, I’ll be your David Letterman for this week.
Before I begin: I this far you’re in the playoffs, or atop the standings in your roto league, it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie. You don’t want to pull a Joe Girardi and overmanage your team (For the purposes of this analogy we’ll say 2008 Girardi, not 2009). You should just trust what got you to this point. And on that encouraging disclaimer, let’s begin!
All stats are current through at least Sept. 13.
Chris Sale | Chicago (AL) | RP | 5 percent Yahoo ownership.
YTD: 0.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 12.06 K/9, 5.74 BB/9
MLS MLE: 8.45 FIP, 1.50 WHIP, 18.00 K/9, 7.50 BB/9
Like most White Sox bullpen guys this year, Chris Sale throws hard, with an average fastball velocity of 96 mph in the majors. This has translated to plenty of strikeouts (21 in only 15.2 innings). The walks are outrageously high (10 in 15.2 innings) but as a reliever and a high strikeout pitcher, those walks can be easily masked (see Carlos Marmol and The Joker’s bank robbery crew. Masks. Get it? Never mind).
Along with those high strikeouts comes a decently high propensity to get ground balls with a 46.9 GB percentage and a 1.15 GB/FB percentage. High strikeouts + a lot of grounders = fantasy (and I guess reality) success. This is Sabermetrics 201 (I teach the advanced class).
I view the fact that Sale has not given up a home run as a bad sign. I know it’s the Gambler’s Fallacy to say someone “is due,” especially in baseball, but Sale still has a decent propensity for fly balls and I don’t really trust any pitcher with a decent fly ball percentage (currently 40.6 for Sale) who calls The Cell home (it’s second among major league parks in home runs given up. And unfortunately I don’t have access to super secret THT data about fly ball suppression and such, so I have to go off what ESPN’s Park Factors tell me. Also, Paul Konerko is not the only one hitting those dingers).
So I think Sale will give up at least one home run before the year ends and with the small sample he will pitch on the year, I expect that ERA to go up. But how bad is it really to have your ERA go up from .57 to 2.00? Just ask Ubaldo Jimenez; he’s good with it.
However, the reason I mention Sale is because everyone who plays fantasy has to go after the ever-elusive “save” category. And I know some of you might be tempted to pick up Sale because you recently saw he got a save. Well don’t be fooled. Sale has two saves on the year and one of them came last Friday against Kansas City.
As a White Sox fan, I was actually watching this game (and being pissy, too, because going into the eighth inning the ChiSox were down and in a “close” race with the Twins.) Because the Sox were down in the eighth they had Sale (the lefty) and Scott Linebrink (the righty) warming up. Linebrink pitched a scoreless eighth and the White Sox (because let’s face it, it’s the Royals bullpen) just kept on hitting singles to take the lead 4-3 going into the ninth. However, because Sale was already warmed up (and is very good and J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks were injured/unavailable) Ozzie Guillen just had his young’un pitch the last inning for the save.
However, now that Putz is healthy (and Jenks is injured/bad at pitching right now), I think Putz gets the most saves from the White Sox from here on out (and has only 10 percent Yahoo! ownership). And if Jenks ever comes back (and I think he will), I think he gets save opps over Putz and Sale.
Recommendation: A pickup only if you’re extremely desperate for saves and Putz is unavailable.
Coco Crisp | Oakland | OF | 39 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: .273/.338/.435 with 30 SB
Oliver ROS: .264/.332/.395
As a favor to Jeff, I’ll say that if you’re looking for speed he will tell you that you should pick up Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley (9 percent Yahoo ownership, .282 BA with four SB and one homer in the past 30 days. Jeff wants me to point out that he’s on an extrapolated full season pace of a .285/35 steal/100-run season with eight homers and 60 RBI in the second half). However, if Crisp is available on the wire, I would choose him first. Not only do I think Crisp steals more bags with a higher average along with hitting more home runs, but Crisp is currently fifth among outfielder’s on Yahoo!’s player rater over the last 30 days over Brantley who is 52nd.
Crisp already has 30 swiped bags with only two caught stealing. And despite what we all read in Moneyball like a decade ago, Billy Beane is letting his players run (especially when you’re running as effectively as Crisp is this year. See: Rajai Davis. Crisp also has a neutral .300 BABIP (.306 career) so I expect his .273 batting average (.277 career) to stay relatively put. Sure it’s nothing special, but at this point in the year (especially for Roto leagues) the small sample size makes his average moot.
Crisp also has eight dingers to go along with his stolen bases. Like Jacoby Ellsbury lite (minus a rib injury). Now, realistically, I don’t know how many home runs we can expect out of him in the few weeks left of playing time (what I’m saying is that it’s such a small sample size) but I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits one or two to go along with average (batting) average and high stolen base potential.
Recommendation: A must-add in all AL only leagues and deeper mixed leagues and an add in shallower leagues where you’re looking to make up ground in stolen bases.
Brian Duensing | Minnesota | SP | 41 percent Yahoo ownership
YTD: 2.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.21 K/9, 1.85 BB/9
Oliver ROS: 3.77 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
As a White Sox fan, I’d hate to give props to anyone in Minnesota, but I’m not a hate-ah and will give props when props are due. And props are due to Duensing of the Twinkies. Sure his K/9 is Mark Buehrle-esque bad, but his control and low walk rate are fantastic. Another thing Duensing has in common with Buehrle: I have to look up how to spell their last names correctly. As Kevin Costner said to Tim Robbins in Bull Durham, “Strikeouts are fascist” and Duensing must have taken that sentiment to heart. So if you’re in a points league that heavily favors strikeouts, maybe Duensing isn’t your best option, but I think he’ll be great in the other three main pitching categories.
I give all Minnesota Twins pitchers an extra boost for playing in the extremely pitcher friendly Target Field (at least in 2010). This year, Target Field ranks last in home runs given up—fewer home runs than Safeco, Petco or any other “co” parks. Add to that Duensing’s extreme worm-burning tendencies (51.7 GB percentage) and low fly ball tendencies (32.5 FB percentage) and you have a recipe for a low ERA and WHIP. (Side note: I also have a good recipe for homemade pizza).
Lastly, Duensing has an awesome, Morneau-less offense to give him run support and every team’s former closer in Minnesota’s bullpen to help give B-Dawg (I just made up that nickname, you like it? Yeah, me neither) some wins. In nine games started (and 49 games total). Duensing already has eight wins, three of which came within the past 30 days and ranks 10th among all starting pitchers within the past 30 days.
Now Duensing’s ownership has gone up significantly, so if he’s not available in your league I recommend his teammate Nick Blackburn (17 percent Yahoo ownership, 1.71 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 5.77 K/9 the past 30 days) or fellow AL Central pitcher Rick Porcello (38 percent Yahoo ownership, 3.51 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 4.61 K/9 the past 30 days)
Recommendation: A must add in all leagues.
Marcus Thames | New York (AL) | OF | 9 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .252/.317/.459
I want you to stare at what Thames has done this year. Look at that triple slash line. Stare at it like one of those Magic Eyes you had when you were a kid (But not as hard as Ethan Suplee did in Mallrats). He’s hitting over .300 with an OPS of .900 (.389 wOBA). He’s got David Wright power this year (.219 ISO) and a career .245 ISO. This was a man who in 2006 hit 26 home runs for the Tigers in only 390 plate appearances and hit 25 home runs in 342 PA in 2008. This is a guy about whom we all keep saying “this guy can’t keep it up” and yet continues to prove us wrong time and time again.
His only flaw is playing time, but with an “injury” to Lance Berkman (I guess in New York being bad at offense is an injury), Thames is getting consistent playing time as the Yankees DH (and they’re smart in not keeping him on the field with his -4.1 fielding rating this year). Add to this ISO that Thames calls home the best park in the league for hitting home runs (although this I do believe has to do with the fact that the Yankees are just an extremely talented team) and you’ve got success.
I will admit that his .369 BABIP scares me a little bit. But at this point in the season, I’m not worried about BABIP. If this were June I would tell you (like I said for Austin Jackson—that turned out well) that Thames’ batting average is going to take a huge hit. But with only a few weeks to go, I think Jackson and Justin Morneau have proved to us this year that guys can sustain good fantasy numbers (like batting average) with seemingly unsustainable peripherals.
I believe in my heart (and I know this seems extremely blasphemous and counter intuitive from a “stats guy”) that sometimes your true talent will prevail despite bad peripherals, and I think Thames’ case is one of them. For this year. I believe Thames will have at least a .280 batting average the rest of the way with five to seven home runs. If you’re looking for some cheap power, there might be better guys out there, but I think Thames will provide you nice power along with runs, RBIs and a better batting average than most power guys in free agency.
Recommendation: A must-own in all AL-only leagues and in deeper mixed leagues and an own in shallower leagues if you lost a Josh Hamilton or your top outfielder and are scrambling. (Although no one in the waiver wire is going to replace what Josh Hamilton has done for you).
Russell Branyan | Seattle | 1B | 11 percent Yahoo ownership
Oliver ROS: .239/.327/.484
Speaking of power guys with a bad batting average…
I think one of the lines in the new XX “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials should be “In the midst of a fantasy baseball playoff win, he once started Russell Branyan.” This is a guy who I picked up early in free agency last year when he hit 19 homers and .303 before July. Now while it was obvious that Branyan’s batting would decline (and it did), his power never did. He had a .269 ISO last year and has a .249 ISO this year. Man has pure raw power.
I’m going to play a game with you. Name me the three players who lead all players with 10 HR over the past 30 days. The first player to come to your mind should have been Jose Bautista (the dude just leads all players in HR). The second player should have been Albert Pujols because the dude is just a machine (Why didn’t you eliminate them, Albert?). The third player, well considering I’m asking you this in the middle of my Russell Branyan piece, yes it’s Branyan (or at least it was when I initially wrote this piece. At this point, Troy Tulowitski now leads all players with 11 home runs, Bautista has 10, and Branyan is tied with Jay Bruce in third with 9).
Now I know Branyan also has a .228 batting average and the fact is that Branyan is going to have a Carlos Pena-eqsue batting average, but if you’re in a roto league, the small sample size for the rest of the year will not affect your average. Although if you want Branyan type power without the batting average dent, might I suggest Jim Thome (.308 BA with 8 Homers over the past 30 days; 17 percent Yahoo! ownership).
At this point Jeff and I are on a mountaintop screaming about the awesomeness of Branyan. If you don’t want to own him, that’s cool. No no no, it’s okay. You go on with your team. I mean, I’m only here to give you advice. Whatever. Be that way. That’s cool.
Recommendation: Not ownable for head to head owners who want to preserve their batting average, but a must own for AL-only teams, deeper mixed league teams, and all owners in desperate need of home runs.
Jhonny Peralta | Detroit | 3B, SS | 42 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .261/.320/.418
Jeff told me to write about Jhonny Peralta. Personally, I think there are better guys out there (in particular his teammates Don Kelly, 4 percent Yahoo! ownership, and Brandon Inge, 1 percent Yahoo! ownership, who both qualify at third base along with Peralta) if you need some last minute pop and counting stats and who are more likely to be available in your league. But since this is Jeff’s world and we all just live in it, let’s discuss Peralta.
Since being traded from the Indians to the Tigers, Peralta has decreased his strikeouts and increased his BB percentage, ISO, BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA and any other abbreviation statistic you can think of, all while keeping his BABIP constant. In exactly 200 fewer plate appearances, Peralta has exactly as many home runs in Detroit as he does in Cleveland (seven). His crappy fielding has even slightly improved from -2.5 to now -0.4. He’s essentially hitting the same number of line drives, fly balls, ground balls, etc., but his HR/FB percent increased from a meager 5.6 rate in Cleveland to (practically) a major league average of 12.7 percent. I guess everything in Cleveland is lifeless. I can understand why LeBron left. Although according to Peralta’s former teammate Shin-Soo Choo, it’s still better than South Korea. I guess.
Peralta has been the fifth best third baseman and the fourth best shortstop in Yahoo over the past 30 days and there rationally is no reason why Peralta can’t keep it up. But I never was a Peralta fan (even when he was fantasy gold a few years ago) and I personally don’t like him now. But Jeff owns him in both fantasy leagues (12 and 11 mixed leagues respectively with no MI or CI slot) we’re in together, so take that for what it’s worth.
Recommendation: Ownable in all leagues (as per what Jeff would say)
Thank you to THT and Jeffrey Gross for letting me write this piece, thank you for reading, and good luck to everyone down the stretch and in your fantasy playoffs.
Adam Kaplan is a 23-year-old law student (and White Sox fan) who currently resides in DeKalb, Ill. He currently writes for the Game Of Inches blog at gameofinches.blogspot.com under the pseudonym Sexy Rexy (yes an ironic pseudonym for a baseball writer). He has never written for the Daily Illini or Northern Star. You can reach him by email at
or by comment at http://www.gameofinches.blogspot.com.