A much-needed break from writing culminates with the kickoff of March in today’s Daily Dose. I absolutely loved putting together the Starting Pitcher Guide, but there was no doubt it was laborious. So I just needed a break from punching the keys for a bit. I’ve got a lot of things to share, so let’s get started:
First off, a huge “thank you” to everyone who has downloaded the SP Guide and made it, in my opinion at least, a resounding success thus far. It has topped 1,000 downloads in less than a week and the feedback has been pleasing. I did read through and try to edit the typos and such, but I did miss a few. I’m going to run through again and fix those, but I think (hope) it doesn’t take away from the analysis in the work. Unfortunately, that’s part of the price of admission with a self-published labor of love, but the ones I found weren’t overly egregious and hopefully I can be granted a little leeway.
Another sincere “thank you” for making my first chat a success, too. I was blown away by the activity and a chat I wasn’t sure would last 30 minutes ended up going three hours. I’m planning another one soon after there has been time to digest the book a bit and foster some questions after digging into the material. I’m more than open to debate on the rankings and analysis. I’d be foolish not to be, of course. The only thing I would ask is that you come prepared with more than just “I don’t like this guy!” There were some great debates in the first chat, most of which centered around Dan Haren.
Some of these links are a little older, but I wanted to share them just the same:
Scott McKinney over at Royals Review did an amazing piece on the success & failure rates of top prospects. This is especially important to Royals fans in light of their wave of immense talent on the cusp. The simple fact is that several guys in this can’t-miss class for the Royals will in fact miss. They may not miss completely, but they will be elite starter prospects who turn into relievers or stud middle of the lineup of hitters who spend a year or two starting before becoming part-timers struggling to get 400+ at-bats. The trick is guessing which ones. Now, this isn’t the end of the world, Royals fans. It’s a fact of life, but the upside is that the Royals have so many quality prospects that even with the failure rates, they should still turn out several useful big leaguers that will be a part of their next winning team.
Baseball America has released their annual Top 100 prospects list and it’s free to view over at their site. The Royals have three in the Top 10, five in Top 20 and nine in the entire list. I believe that is a record and like I said, that bodes well for the Royals even though four or more will fail to meet expectations. When you take the buckshot approach, the high failure rate hurts a lot less.
Royals Review is the gift that keeps giving as the now viral Jason Kendall blow up is hilarious and worth checking out again even if you’ve already heard/read it. When in doubt, rewind yourself.
This piece about some of the best names in baseball history was the first piece I’d ever read by SB Nation’s Jon Bois. I was instantly a fan and he may have topped his “best names” piece with an excellent series that has just kicked off called “Letters from Spring Training”. He has done the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics so far. The content is remarkably funny and the hidden gems for me were the taglines under the letterhead, so don’t skip over those. They change with each letter.
As the sabermetrics movement slowly advances across the baseball landscape, one of the more popular next-level stats is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). As it gains steam, the definition and usage has become a bit bastardized and it has essentially been boiled down to a “luck factor” whereby pitchers automatically gravitate to .300 and hitters set their own over time, but generally fall in the .300-ish area as well. That’s not exactly true and ESPN’s Tristan Cockroft does an excellent job putting together a primer on BABIP. Not all BABIP is created equally and not all pitchers HAVE to regress to .300. This is especially important in light of judging the 2010 performances of pitchers. It’s a must-read.
Kevin Kaduk’s headline says it all: The new MLB Network ad is all sorts of awesome:
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a profile piece on Bill James, one of my absolute favorite subjects. Like so many of this generation, the writing of James took my love and thirst for baseball to another level. I still read the Historical Baseball Abstract before bed at various times.
Speaking of James, his protégé (if that phrase is fair) Rob Neyer was interviewed by Erik Hahmann of DRaysBay. For those baseball fans and writers who maybe didn’t catch James Fever and try to soak up all things James to satiate their love for baseball, then it’s likely that Neyer stands atop or at least very near the top of the list of influences on fandom or raison d’etre for writers. His recent move from ESPN to SBNation caused quite a stir in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere as many wrote of what he meant to them in their relationship with baseball.
Whether a fantasy baseball player or just a baseball fan, you should peruse Will Carroll’s Team Health Reports over at Sports Illustrated.
There was a Francoeur Fest today as Joe Posnanski, Craig Calcaterra and Sam Mellinger all wrote about Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur. A lot of it centers around just how likable the guy is regardless of the fact that his skills on the field don’t quite measure up. I remember back in 2006 watching a Spring Training game on ESPN with the Atlanta Braves playing who knows who and they showed a lot of interview footage of Francoeur, both alone and alongside Chipper Jones. This was on the heels of Francoeur’s 70 game rookie debut in which he tore the league up hitting .300/.336/.549 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 274 plate appearances.
I remember really liking just about everything Francoeur had to say and seeing him as one of the game’s next great stars. I tabbed him as a breakout candidate that season and scooped him up wherever I could. He didn’t quite live up to expectations though he did hit 29 home runs with 103 runs driven in, so I wasn’t totally bummed from a fantasy perspective, but the .260 average and alarmingly bad .293 on-base percentage were a sign of things to come. Still, I just enjoyed so much about him as a person that I figured he would iron things as a 23-year old in 2007 and then get his star career going.
He was better in 2007 trading 10 home runs for 33 average points and, more importantly, 45 on-base points. I definitely thought he breaking through, but at age 24 he sunk badly lowering every significant number on his stat line. Since then, he has yet to post another league average season according to OPS+ (72, 93, 85). I’m not the least bit surprised that he is still eminently likable and for that reason alone, I continue to root for him, though I’ve long since learned my lesson about allowing him to fill a precious outfield spot on my fantasy baseball roster.
With an unsettled back end of the rotation, the Yankees have allegedly been in talks with the Twins to acquire Francisco Liriano. As a Tigers fan, I would love to see this happen. The Yankees has some excellent prospects to offer up in return so the Twins might profit in the future, but for the here & now David Brown believes this would decimate their 2011 chances for the Central title. I completely agree, especially in a tight division with my beloved Tigers as well as the South-Siders of Chicago.
Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano have released their annual All-Overrated and All-Underrated teams for the 2011 season. They have some similar choices and there is also an accompanying Fantasy 411 podcast now available in iTunes which no doubt goes into detail why they picked who they picked (I’ve not yet listened, saving that for my drive to softball tonight).
Lucky Crumpler has put together a great piece surrounding auction strategies and tactics over at Advanced Fantasy Baseball.com. It’s comprehensive and thorough, a must-read for auction veterans and beginners alike. AFB is run by Jon Williams and he does an excellent job so I’d recommend the site as a whole, but Lucky’s piece is a great jumping off point if it is your first experience with the site.
I absolutely despise those awful truck commercials with Dennis Leary where the words are inexplicably on the screen so I probably shouldn’t like Kanye West’s All of the Lights video which uses the same tactic multiple times AND cut out Nicki Minaj’s verse, but alas I do. It probably has something to do with the fact that I love the song and the truck commercials don’t have Rihanna wearing this:
Knowledge Bomb: Today’s KB addresses someone I missed in the Starting Pitcher’s Guide. Now you’re probably wondering how, with 546 pitchers profiled, I actually MISSED someone, but I went back and forth on this guy before ultimately passing him over. Now it appears as though he could finagle some starts. It still seems highly unlikely that he would win a starting job in the Cubs rotation, but here are my thoughts on him just the same:
Andrew Cashner (Age in 2011: 24, Highest Level in 2010: MLB) – Cashner blazed through AA and AAA en route to the majors with his best performance to date albeit in just 57 innings. His control was very sharp (2.4 BB/9 after 3.8 in ’09) and his strikeout rate jumped to better than one an inning (9.3 K/9). The Top 100 prospect according to Baseball America only relieved in the majors, throwing 54 innings in 53 appearances with modest results. His ERA and WHIP were high thanks in part to a gaudy 5.0 walk rate and unfairly elevated 15.7% HR/FB rate (league average is 9%), especially considering he had a 48% groundball rate.
He maintained his near 1 K/IP rate from the minors striking out 8.3 batters per game. He doesn’t figure to have a bead on a rotation spot with the Cubs’ 1-5 pretty well set barring injuries, but he started in 39 of his 43 minor league appearances and with his three-pitch arsenal, that is something that remains in the cards. For now, he could be a valuable $1 middle reliever in deeper NL-Only leagues with his high strikeout potential (though only if the control comes way down and his luck evens out on the HR/FB rate), otherwise keep an eye out for injuries or severe underperformance that would open up a potential spot for Cashner in the Cubs rotation.
If you feel anyone else was left out of the book that really SHOULD have been included, please let me know and I will give my thoughts on them. There were some guys on the cusp that I thought had even weaker cases than Cashner so I left them out.