Waiver Wire Offseason: AL

Dustin Pedroia | Boston | 2B
2009 Final Stats: .296/.371/.447

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The “mini-browser” is one portion of Graphical Player 2010 that is NOT “graphical,” but fantasy players love it! Looking at Pedroia’s entry, the most critical info is right across the top: position, name, playing time, and projected value in roto dollars and fantasy points both. Then, below, you see comparable players at the position, very useful if you’re in the midst of a draft and get sniped (having just completed an expert mock draft, the feeling is quite familiar as this is being written). And, for convenience, data lines (including some standard stats and also core skills metrics) from the player’s previous 4 seasons and any minor-league stops in the current season.

Back to Pedroia, he didn’t win another MVP, so maybe he should be ignored? This time last year, experts were taking him with all sorts of crazy early picks in drafts and mock drafts. This year, he didn’t even win another Gold Glove, even though the guy who did is moving to third base, while Pedroia’s organization was thrilled enough with his range to seriously contemplate a move to shortstop before signing Scutaro and ending those discussions.

For 2010, we like Pedroia’s chances of adding on to 2009 quite a bit. The only worry point is that 700 PA in a projection doesn’t leave much room for a player to miss time. That’s obviously not been a worry for Pedroia, but playing second base can be hazardous and the odds may catch up with him someday. His BABIP was under .300 in 2009, which is surpisingly low for a guy who is fast and hits the ball with as much authority as Dustin does. Expect that to bounce back over .310 (career mark of .313), and his batting line to top .300/.370/.450 fairly easily. His incredible hand-eye coordination allows him to post tremendous contact percentages (just 146 strikeouts so far in his career, a total Mark Reynolds could top by August), while still allowing him to swing for power.

It seems safe to assume that Boston will provide a run-rich environment for Pedroia again, even if Bay leaves … the park is great for hitting, and guys like Youkilis, Martinez, and Drew are good at both phases of offense (getting on base and driving runners in), so Pedroia’s stat sheet should be quite full. It’s not clear where all of him, Ellsbury, and Scutaro will bat, but he’s almost a lock to be 1 or 2 again. His SB total should decline from 20 (slightly reduced PT and 20-8 success rate should lead to reduced attempts), but expecting 15 is still very reasonable … he did attempt 28 last year, after all.

Josh Beckett | Boston | SP
2009 Final Stats: 8.4 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, 3.86 ERA

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Remember back a few years ago, when people were calling this guy “the best pitcher in baseball”? Many experts would tick off the top starting pitchers, and his name would be among the elites. It was sort of maddening to anyone who paid attention to park effects, since he’d posted only a 118 ERA+ before coming to Boston (very good, yes, but far from overwhelming). Amazing what one great game and one good game against the Yankees in a World Series can do for a guy’s reputation, eh? Well anyway, he has posted the same ERA+ since coming to Boston, and his postseason results have been more in line with his regular-season results than with previous heroic levels. So, it’s easy to forget that Beckett is still plenty good. A 116 ERA+ in Boston probably understates just how good he’s been, since his first season was one of “adjustments” (which any Sawx loyalist will insist was his hard-headed refusal to stop trying to force his fastball past people). He gave up a 5.01 ERA that first year in Fenway, and it wasn’t a mirage, as his xFIP was 4.70. Since then, he’s posted xFIP scores of 3.56, 3.35, and 3.53. And while a 3.50 ERA isn’t special, xFIPS don’t have as much variance, and 3.53 this year was good for fifth in the AL. And he’s been pounding the strike zone, bringing his BB/9 all the way down to 2.0 over the past three seasons. Formerly a seemingly constant threat to go on the DL with some non-severe-sounding injury (usually a blister), Beckett shrugged off his injury in 2008 to log 170 innings and has been over 200 each of his other three years in Boston. Throwing strikes can help with those IP totals!

There’s a slight yellow flag with Beckett and his worse second-half performance, as he allowed 15 HR en route to a .458 slugging allowed, but that seems highly likely to be part of the typical undulations of statistics. He was still throwing strikes (.305 OBP against despite a higher-than-usual .307 BABIP), and he was still averaging over 94 mph on his fastball. Instead of worrying about it, we think the positives far outweigh the slight risks. Beckett appears to be a pitching coach’s poster boy, a guy who threw hard enough that he could have remained stubborn about not studying to become a more cerebral pitcher. But he didn’t. Maybe the 5.01 ERA in 2006 was his wake up call, but whatever the reason, he’s much more of a “pitcher” now than he was … and he still has the heat when he needs it. With this great offense behind him, that makes him a perennial threat for 20 wins, a sub 1.2 WHIP, and as good of an ERA as you can hope for while calling Fenway “home.”

Jonathan Papelbon | Boston | RP
2009 Final Stats: 10.1 K/9, 3.2 K/BB, 1.85 ERA

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Did you hear that one about how Boston is going to trade Papelbon and let someone else close? Ha! Papelbon isn’t “The next Mariano Rivera,” but if Boston has learned anything from chasing New York all these years, it has to be an appreciation for a great closer (will an appreciation for Hall-of-Fame shortstops come next?) Papelbon isn’t regarded as a “team unity” guy, rather more aloof and even “mercenary,” or so the reports go. But, like all great closers, the man has icewater in his veins, and—if anything—becomes even more focused in the most stressful situations. Is this hard to believe after after his four-hit/two-walk debacle against the Angels in Game 3 of the ALDS? Well, we like sample size here, and that thrashing brought his career postseason ERA up to 1.00, and his WHIP up to 0.815. Sure, these are short of Mighty Mario’s marks of 0.77 and 0.773, respectively, but we’re still believing in the 17 straight scoreless postseason outings as being more significant than the one “problem game.”

For standard fantasy purposes, owners don’t care how many saves a guy blows, just the saves total and the other four pitching stats (to a lesser extent). Unfortunately, Boston is in a lot of higher-scoring games, so the save opportunities aren’t what you’d hope for from a 100-win team’s closer. But you have to win the game to have any chance at a save, and so Papelbon should be right around the 40-save total again, given all the winning Boston plans to do.

Papelbon remains arguably the best choice in closers in fantasy drafts. As can be seen from his mini-browser page, he’s worth $21 in AL-only leagues, and he’s worth $22 in mixed leagues, as high as any closer with 60 IP projected (Broxton is valued higher due to his 80-IP projection). We wouldn’t strive to draft him a “round early” since his walk rate rose to over three per 9 IP (from 1.0 in 2008), but we also don’t think there’s a good argument against taking him in the first wave of closers, perhaps starting the wave by selecting him. After all, with the big walk increase in 2009, his WHIP still remained under 1.0 (.961).

NOTE: For those who like OPS, here are Papelbon’s raw OPS scores by leverage situation (thanks, B-R):
High Leverage: .186/.291/.256 = .547 OPS
Medium Leverage: .262/.311/.262 = .573 OPS
Low Leverage: .229/.273/.422 = .694 OPS

BONUS: Jon Lester | Boston | SP
2009 Final Stats: 10.0 K/9, 3.5 K/BB, 3.41 ERA
Bonus Mini-Browser for John Lester, reviewed on 10/30.

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Graphical Player 2010, order now! Here is a 16-page preview of the book. You can order the book from Acta Sports here..

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Comments

  1. Steve @ MLBFP said...

    Hi Rob. Any chance of the Graphical Player being available electronically, say in a .pdf???  I like having my baseball info portable, you know?

  2. Rob McQuown said...

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for reading.  We find it’s better for the readers to have the book available only in print format.

    Rob smile

  3. R M said...

    What’s with the Lester projection?  Improved velocity, higher K rate, and 2 straight years of great performance isn’t enough to make you guys think he is legitimate?

  4. Rob McQuown said...

    re: Lester -

    Hey, good question.  As people who’ve read this column in the past will attest, I’m not one to blindly stand behind a projection system, if I think there are circumstances which can improve the precisions.  And (from the link above to the 10/30 WW), I wrote: “By request, we’re discussing what to expect from Jon Lester. The short answer is: Expect more of the same. [...] he’s a very good bet to have an ERA under 3.5, and a WHIP under 1.3, both of which he’s accomplished each of the past two seasons.

    So, you could say that I agree with you to an large extent.  I think the park will prevent him from being a Cy Young candidate unless he has a statistically outlying season, but I do think that the projection system is being a bit too conservative. 

    Remember, as always, that projections are “expected value” outcomes, and with any pitcher, there’s a reasonably high chance of the pitcher providing almost nothing of value due to injuries, and those have to be calculated into the expectations… so most pitching projections are probably better viewed as being 80% likely to be on the “somewhat negative” side, but something like 5-10% likely to be on the “very positive” side (depending on how you define such things).

    Rob smile

  5. Joel said...

    “Amazing what one great game and one good game against the Yankees in a World Series can do for a guy’s reputation, eh?”

    That seems incredibly unfair since going into that Yankees series he had already 26.1 innings, 2.75 ERA, 28K’s, .76 WHIP including a Game 5 shutout against the Cubs facing elimination. Maybe his reputation was already on the uptick before that Yankees series began.

    Other than this minor quibble and I understand you were trying to make a smarmy attempt at humor with a throwaway line, I enjoyed your article.

  6. Rob McQuown said...

    Joel – thanks for the comment and the kind words.  I addressed the “reputation” comment in today’s article.

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