Archive for August, 2011

Wednesday: 08.31.2011

Top 15 Starting Pitchers for 2012: 10-1

Continuing the top 15 for 2012, let’s go 10 to 1:

10. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels – While I was higher on his teammate Haren, I wasn’t down on Weaver by any stretch still ranking him 14th and believing almost entirely in his newfound strikeout ability.  Alas the strikeouts were a bit fraudulent (back down 7.5 K/9), but he has improved tremendously on his 2010 rate stats.  His league-best 2.28 ERA continues a three year trend of improvement while his 1.00 WHIP marks a fourth straight year of improvement.

Last year’s 3.01 ERA was greeted with a 3.32 xFIP and 3.15 SIERA suggesting he great, but not quite that great, but this year’s mark is met with great skepticism as shown by his 3.73 xFIP and 3.52 SIERA.  A 6% rise in LOB%, a 2% dip in BABIP and a 3% improvement in HR/FB rate have all combined to deliver the gaudy ERA figure.  He is on pace to finish top three among starting pitchers this year, but I don’t think it is sustainable so while I will remain high on him as a top 10 guy, I’m not sold as top 5.

9. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays – In each of his three full seasons, Price has improved his strikeout and walk rates reaching 8.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in his 191 inning so far this year. The 2007 #1 overall pick is panning out about as well as you could hope for a top pick.  In his first full season you saw the skills, but the results were so-so.  He bounced back with improved skills and great results, though they were a bit undeserved.  And finally this year his skills have ticked up yet again and the results are good, but looking at his xFIP & SIERA, they could be even better.

I have Price 9th, but I understand taking him a bit higher based on his potential for more because while the upcoming guys have unimpeachable track records, but they have plateaued a bit.  He has two and 2/3rds (threw 128 IP in 2009) seasons under his belt and his talent is unquestioned, but his age and lean track record land him below these upcoming veterans.

8. Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels – Haren is kind of the forgotten ace these days.  Maybe it because he is boring as a 30-year old with absurdly strong skills and consistency.  He has gone 216 innings or more yearly since 2005 and he’s easily on pace to do the same again this year.  Outside of his debacle of a first half last year, he has posted a 3.33 ERA or better in four of the last five years.  Even if you include last year’s 3.91, he has still been an above average pitcher.  He is on pace to win his league’s K/BB title for the third time in four years (the “off” year was last year’s 4.0) by topping 5.0 with ease and hitting 5.9 in 2009 and 2010.

I love his reliability and lengthy track record.  Add in that he usually goes a cut below these guys he is included with and it is easy to be sold on Haren as your #1 pitcher.  The only downside is that despite logging no fewer than 33 starts in each of the last six years and on pace for a seventh, he has yet to top 16 wins despite how good he has been yearly.  Since this is a ranking of fantasy viability, wins matter and it is why I have him ninth, down two spots from his preseason rank.

7. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants – Remember when there was mass hysteria over Lincecum earlier this season?  Let me refresh your memory.  In a four start stretch from May 27th to June 11th, Lincecum pushed his ERA from 2.06 to 3.41 walking seven across the final two starts of that stretch and five during the outing just after the run.  Since then he has been one of baseball’s best with a 1.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 93 innings.

He is backed by an anemic offense that caps his otherwise substantial fantasy value.  He won 18 during his first full season, but he hasn’t topped 16 since so they gaudy strikeout rate is merely putting him back on par with someone who can be relied on for wins yet with a slightly lesser strikeout rate.  However, he does have a 2.78 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 850 innings over the last four seasons so I can deal with getting wins elsewhere.

6. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees – The definition of “workhorse”, Sabathia is about as bankable as a pitcher gets.  After a couple seasons of skills erosion, he has roared back with a huge 2011 including a full strikeout more than last year up to 8.6 K/9 and his best walk rate since 2008.  Sabathia’s penchant for going deep into games combined with the backing of a perennially prolific offense have led to win totals of 19, 21 and 18 (and counting) during his three seasons with the Yankees.  While he will likely opt out of his current contract to improve his financial standing, it will almost assuredly come from the Yankees leaving that win potential high.

5. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies – If you don’t like the Phillies for some reason, you might want to quit reading now because as you may or may not have noticed this is our first Phillie in the list, but hardly our last.  Like Lincecum, there was some panic surrounding Lee earlier this season.  After all, he ended April with an ERA of 4.18 and a month later it was only down to 3.94 after he closed the month allowing 6 ER in 5.3 innings.  That said, his skills were nearly flawless and I couldn’t recommend buying him enough.  Most fantasy managers weren’t selling, but those who were regretted it.

Since May 31st, he has gone 10-2 in 14 starts spanning 106 innings with a 1.78 ERA, 0.92 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 5.1 K/BB.  Without the benefit of a “Since 5/31” leaderboard, I am willing to bet he is no worse than the second-best pitcher in baseball with only a certain Detroit Tiger possibly outclassing him in that timeframe.

4. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – When it comes to this top 5, there is virtually no separation between the group because it so hard to decide who is more great.  At this point it becomes personal preference.  I went back and forth between Kershaw and Lee for these two spots.  Do you prefer a proven track record or someone on the come up who could legitimately improve or possibly regress due to age and a lack of experience (by comparison)?

Kershaw has been one of just a few bright spots in LA this year with his excellent season on the mound.  His stuff is so filthy that it is hard to believe we have already seen the best of the 23-year old.  He is pacing toward his third straight season of 7.0 hits per game or less allowed including a 6.3 in 2009 that was MLB’s best.  He is also on track for his third straight season of more than a strikeout per inning, but this year he took a major step forward in control resulting in a 4.2 K/BB.

Unlike with hitters, I’m often willing to lean toward the older player when it comes to pitching, but you can’t deny how great Kershaw is at the ripe age of 23 and given that this is him merely meeting and exceeding the hype he got in the minors and early on in his major league career, I expect more greatness from the young southpaw in 2012.

3. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – The Phorgotten Phillie.  A lot of the attention this year has gone to Lee and teammate Roy Halladay leaving Hamels somewhat neglected given how well he has done.  He is every bit an ace yet he is viewed as a cut below the other two.  I don’t quite see it that way and didn’t before the season, either.  I had Hamels fourth overall this March ahead of Lee and Jon Lester among others and he has backed that up with an excellent season.

In the second half of last year he displayed a never-before-seen groundball skill that I thought, if legit, could transfer him into a bona fide fantasy ace made better by the fact that he wouldn’t have fantasy ace cost as somewhere between the 13th and 17th arm off of the board.  His secondary numbers show that his 2.58 ERA is almost entirely deserved with a 2.90 xFIP and 2.80 SIERA backing up his entrance into fantasy acedom.

2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – There is no denying how great Verlander’s season has been and he has finally emerged as a true fantasy #1, but this is still just his first season with an ERA under 3.37 and WHIP under 1.16.  The strikeouts, the sheer volume of quality innings and the no-hit stuff literally every fifth day are incredible assets he does possess, but one fantastic year isn’t enough to remove the king from his perch atop the starting pitcher list.

His ability to go deep into just about every game he is in has allowed him to pile up 17+ wins in five of six seasons, but I want to see another season of consistently excellent outings before I give him the top spot.  As a diehard Tigers fan, I have long been aware of Verlander’s potential for a season like this, but I remained puzzled by how it continually eluded him.  He is finally having it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the start of a series of them.

1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies – I don’t care if he is going to be 35 years old next year.  He was 34 this year and he is on track to put up his fourth straight sub-2.80 ERA season.  He has topped 1.4 BB/9 once since 2004 and hasn’t been above 1.3 in the last three years.  The strikeout boost everyone was expecting to come last year never really panned out, instead arriving this year as he upped his mark for the third straight year to 8.7 K/9 (the gains were incremental in 2009 and 2010).

He is getting older, there is no denying that fact, but you also can’t deny the fact that is somehow getting better at the same time.  He is already on pace to improve his strikeout, walk, home run and hit rates (as well as his WHIP) and there is an outside shot that he could actually improve on his 2.44 ERA from last year, too.

I can’t see any legitimate reason to remove him from the top spot when he continues to perform like the best pitcher in baseball.  Sure, he is 4th on ESPN’s Player Rater for SPs this year, but you don’t put a guy #1 expecting him to finish there yearly, rather you put a guy #1 because there is a damn good chance he will be the top guy and his floor is also significantly better than everybody else’s.

Monday: 08.29.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 22

Despite just four wins in 11 starts, the picks from last week went well.  All but three went 6+ innings and of the ones who didn’t, two didn’t allow any runs and the third won his game and struck out six batters.  In case you missed last week’s picks, I mentioned that as we approach starts and innings limits in leagues these picks will become more selective.

Obviously some teams are protecting ERA and WHIP and while it is hard to move them much this late in the year, one risky blowup can be costly.  Sure it is costly to have an 8 ER, 2 IP outing in June, too, but you have three-plus months to fix it.  Not only are we running out of time, but moving the needle on these rate stats is tough unless your league’s standings are incredibly tight.

If I do make any riskier than usual picks, I will make sure they are denoted so you can assess it based on your league and your standings.  I have one in mind which is why I even make this point in the first place.

TUESDAY:

Doug Fister (DET v. KC) – If you are in a fierce strikeouts race, I would pass on this one, but otherwise he has been golden since joining the Tigers.  Or maybe not.  He has notched 17 strikeouts in his last three starts (19.7 innings).  I still wouldn’t blindly trust a three start stretch over the rest of his career which shows him as a pitch to contact, control artist.  If you are looking for solid rates and a solid win potential, then make the move for Fister.

Javier Vazquez (FLO @ NYM) – If you are in a fierce strikeouts race, I would pounce on this one, but otherwise Vazquez has been an ERA and WHIP asset with wins in short supply as a part of the pathetic Marlins.  He has a 3.00 ERA and an 0.94 WHIP in 33 August innings.

WEDNESDAY:

Programming Note: This has nothing to do with spot starter picks, but Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren are going toe-to-toe in Seattle on Wednesday and it should be a great watch.

Ted Lilly (LAD v. SD) – He’s been on fire of late, especially in August (2.20 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in 33 IP) so let’s ride the hot hand against a weak team.

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. COL) – I didn’t believe at first, but then he started missing some bats and the success was a lot more believable.  He has had some misses just as any pitcher will, but otherwise he has become a reliable mid-rotation arm.

THURSDAY:

Jacob Turner (DET v. KC) – This would be the risky selection for the week.  It’s a boom or bust pick, but the boom would include everything: strikeouts, 6-7 innings and a chance at a win.  It is merely his second MLB start so this pick isn’t for the faint of heart or the teams with tenuous holds on their ERA & WHIP spots.

Chien-Ming Wang (WAS @ ATL) – Some may find this one risky, but I think it’s a WYSIWYG type of pick.  He won’t strike many batters out, but he can help your ratios.

FRIDAY:

PASS – some potentials like Ivan Nova, Ross Detwiler & Aaron Harang, but all too risky for September

SATURDAY:

Mike Minor (ATL v. LAD) – I’m riding this train the rest of the way out.  The win and strikeout potential combined with the ratio floor not being too low is worth rolling out throughout September.  The only downside in this particular start is that it is against Clayton Kershaw which limits the win potential a bit.

Brandon McCarthy (OAK v. SEA) – Solid arm with a few bumps in the road, but up against a weak opponent at a friendly home park.

Anibal Sanchez (FLO v. PHI) – Another risk pick in addition to Turner.  His talent is immense, but he has struggled mightily since the break (5.05 ERA) despite a strikeout per inning and a 4.6 K/BB in 46 innings.

SUNDAY:

Kevin Slowey (MIN @ LAA) – Close out the week with one more riskbox.  I am a huge Slowey fan, but he has slowly (no pun intended… OK, it kinda was) worked his way back having only returned on August 19th.  The Yankees and Orioles knocked him around, but he dominated the White Sox.  The Angels don’t really scare me as an opponent, but with Slowey working out the kinks there is inherent risk with this start.  If you’re desperate in the final day of your H2H league, go for it.

Other Sunday Hail Marys for H2H Only – Randy Wells, Erik Bedard, Edwin Jackson and Freddy Garcia.  I would only recommend these guys if you need to make up ground in the last day of your H2H match.  Bedard and Jackson are Trolling regulars, but they have tough matchups which is why they are listed here instead of regular recommendations. 

I’ve got the top 10 pitchers of the 2012 top 15 left and another piece on starting pitchers near completion for later this week.

Saturday: 08.27.2011

Top 15 Starting Pitchers for 2012: 15-11

Back in late June, I presented my first run at a top 15 for 2012 and as I looked back on the list two months later, I don’t hate it.  There will be changes in the next iteration, but I don’t think it was reactionary to the 2011 season through three months while at the same time accounting for some of the emerging stars from this season.  I will post a second run through of that list soon, but today I wanted to perform the same exercise with starting pitchers.

As we head into September, there is a lot of talk around a pitcher who might be an MVP candidate, not to mention ridiculously deep candidate pools for each league’s Cy Young.  The Year of the Pitcher, Part II has continued in earnest after a hot start to the season with each league lowering its as compared to last year.  As it stands right now, both leagues are toting sub-4.00 marks for the first time since 1992.

The American League’s tenuous grasp there at 3.98 makes it unlikely that the leagues will set 20-year lows, but at 3.98 and 3.85, respectively, there is a good chance the leagues will improve on last year’s 4.14 and 4.02 marks.  Better overall pitching mitigates the impression that some of the year’s surprising performances has made, but the environment can’t change the fact that the top level performances are incredibly stunning.

With a commitment to the fast start that has consistently eluded him (career 4.75 ERA in April), Justin Verlander has taken center stage as the league’s breakout superstar at starting pitcher.  His stuff has never been questioned, but it has been as sharp as ever and seemingly getting better as the season wears on.  Talk of him as an AL MVP candidate has started to pop up, though the list of worthy candidates might be too long for him to pull off the feat for the first time since 1992 when Dennis Eckersley inexplicably won both by a landslide despite deserving neither.  At least if Verlander did it, his case would be airtight for both.

In the National League, Roy Halladay has hardly ceded his perch atop the league checking in behind only Clayton Kershaw in most rankings, but the bar has been set so high for him that a 2.56 ERA/1.05 WHIP season with an improved strikeout rate (8.6, up from 7.9) and no change in his league-leading walk rate (1.1) has been more expected than impressive.  Make no mistake, he is still jaw-dropping and amazing, but Kershaw is right there matching him in innings (190 apiece) then besting him in ERA (2.51), WHIP (1.02), strikeouts (9.8) and wins* (16 to 15).

*Since we’re talking about fantasy value, wins matter.  I’m not using them to say Kershaw is, has been or will be a better pitcher, but the miniscule edge does add to his lead in overall fantasy value. 

As with my top 15 overall players for 2012, I don’t plan on overreacting to anything we have seen in 2011 counter to a player’s history.  They will be credited for it, of course, just not overly so.  An example of this would be Ian Kennedy.  He ranks 12th on ESPN’s Player Rater among starting pitchers and while I was high on him this year (ranking him 41st and in tier 2), I still undershot the mark.  His significant flyball tendencies combined with a park conducive to home runs had me feeling he’d be good, but not great.

He’s been great.  In part due to the fact that he cut his HR/FB rate from 10.8% last year to 9.0% this year.  His xFIP of 3.62 and SIERA of 3.48 are more in line with what I had him down for and as such, he will be ranked accordingly and not in this top 15 for 2012.  So who actually made the first cut?

15. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds – His 2.03 ERA has been remarkably impressive, but he hasn’t backed it with skills conducive to such a mark.  However, I firmly believe he has the talent to do consistently post a mid-3.00 or lower ERA.  This year he has had a significant spike in groundball rate (53%) combined with a barrage of good fortune (5.6% HR/FB rate & .226 BABIP) leading to the shiny ERA that is nearly two runs lower than his xFIP and SIERA.

His hefty groundball rate earns some of the HR/FB and BABIP goodness, but not that much.  Beyond that, his strikeout rate has dipped from 6.7 to 5.8 while his walk rate ticked up to 2.9 per game.  He still has strikeout stuff (as evidenced by his 7.2 K/9 in the last month) but he is learning how to combine it with his newfound groundball abilities.  If he can combine the two, he could legitimately acquire an ERA around this year’s 2.03.

I will admit right away that there were several candidates for the 15-spot so I wouldn’t be surprised if Cueto is bumped out in subsequent iterations.  That said, he has definitely improved his stock.  I will know more after I watch more games of Cueto and the other contenders this offseason, for now he gets the nod.

14. Matt Cain, San Francisco – He continues to significantly out-produce his xFIP totals, but it’s not like his peripherals are a complete mess, either.  His dwindling home run rate is something to behold bottoming out at a barely-visible 3.9% this year (down from 7.4% last year and having never topped 8.4%).

His strikeout rate has been remarkably steady since 2007 fluctuating between 7.1 and 7.7 in the five year period while his walk rate is on a three year decline since 2008.  His groundball rate has climbed to a career-best 41% this year, an interesting development if it sticks.  He has already notched six strong years under his belt yet he will be just 27 years old in 2012.

13. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox – If his 2011 feels like a disappointment, it is only because it seems like everyone had him as their preseason favorite for American League Cy Young and he has “only” been the 11th best pitcher in his league according to the ESPN Player Rater.

When compared against more realistic expectations, he has remained an excellent fantasy option.  His ERA peaked after a June 7th start when he gave up three in six innings and bumped it up to 3.98, but since then he has posted a 2.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 in 73 innings of work.

12. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays – This was my guy for 2011, I loved his prospects to pay huge dividends coming off of an abysmal seasons results-wise yet toting a rock solid skill set ripe for a major comeback.  As someone who never jumps on the superstar pitchers in snake drafts because of their cost, I rely on Shields types to make up ground and he did not disappoint.

In fact, he impressed beyond even my lofty expectations.  It’s no fluke, either.  His skills remain elite and he might finally put together a few consecutive seasons commensurate with those skills.  The only thing that might change for 2012 is his zip code.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rays deal him.  I’m not sure any destination would remove him from the top 15 while a favorable move might bump him up a spot or two.

11. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – For anyone wondering what’s “wrong” with Hernandez, and there has been talk of it on podcasts, radio shows and in articles at various sites, I’d answer with a resounding “nothing!”.  His ERA has risen more than a run from 2.27 last year to 3.37 this year, but his base skills have been nearly identical.  His strikeout rate has actually bumped up from 8.4 to 8.8 while his walk rate has moved up a mere 0.3 to 2.8 this year.

His xFIP totals the last two years are almost exactly the same.  Last year he was at 3.14 and this year he is at 3.16, so looking only at his ERA and WHIP as compared to last year and trying to squeeze a narrative about how much the Mariners’ lack of success is wearing him down is foolish.  They were god-awful last year, too, and he had an amazing season.  He has been the same, only a little less fortunate.  The only reason he is down here is because that team is so pathetic.  Predicting wins is very difficult, but it has become quite clear that they are far less plentiful for pitchers in Seattle.

I’ll have 10-1 up next.

Friday: 08.26.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 21 Weekend

Some pitchers worth streaming into your lineup during the weekend:

SATURDAY:

Erik Bedard (BOS v. OAK) – Hurricane Irene could wash this game out, but I liked him in Texas earlier this week so at home against Oakland is a no-brainer.

Ross Detwiler (WAS @ CIN) – Consider this one more for the risky types.  He’s been great so far this year and I really like him, but he is going into Cincinnati so if you’re protecting ERA and WHIP, then pass.  However, if you’re desperate and don’t mind a solid gamble, then proceed.

SUNDAY:

Bud Norris (HOU @ SF) – Strikeout pitcher gets the Giants in AT&T Park, auto-start.

Cory Luebke (SD @ ARI) – His ownership rates have finally ticked up, but snap him up anywhere he is available.  I won’t count this on the overall results because his ownership is pretty high, but not high enough in my opinion.

Thursday: 08.25.2011

Upcoming

I’m working on my top 15 starting pitchers for 2012 piece, similar to my top 15 overall piece from mid-June.  I have my fantasy football draft tonight so if I don’t get to post after that, look for it tomorrow.  I will also post something during the weekend in addition to the Trolling the Wire weekend picks for week 21 and the week 21 results/week 22 picks piece on Sunday night.  With content being lighter down the stretch, please feel free to reach out on Twitter if you have any lineup or strategy questions.  That’s always been an option, but since I’m covering fewer things, I’d definitely recommend that as well as checking out the material from me and my colleagues over at RotoHardball.com

Monday: 08.22.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 21 Monday-Friday

Trolling the Wire is back!  As we head down the stretch, inning caps and start caps are likely on the horizon for anyone who has been spot starting for most or at least significant parts of the season.  With that in mind, the Trolling picks the rest of the way will be more focused.  There will be less risk taking and the composite skills profile will be a bigger consideration instead of making significant tradeoffs (high strikeout guy with a less than stable skillset elsewhere).

Here are the week 18 results, which were an absolute abomination by the way:

MONDAY:

Erik Bedard (BOS @ TEX) – Texas remains a bit of a lion’s den, so this certainly doesn’t seem like a risk-averse pick, but Bedard has displayed strong skills there despite poor rates.  I would rather better on skills along with an increased chance for a win with the Boston lineup and defense than worry about an inflated ERA in a 26-inning sample.  (ESPN-52%, Y!-47%, CBS-86%)

TUESDAY:

Bartolo Colon (NYY v. OAK) – He has dominated the lowly A’s this year.  (E-44%, Y-46%, C-83%)

Mike Minor (ATL @ CHC) – Better late than never, right?  I pegged Minor for a big 2011 season, but I didn’t factor in his losing the 5th-starter job to Brandon Beachy, who ran with his opportunity.  Minor has looked strong in his return to the majors, especially with the strikeouts.  (E-3%, Y-9%, C-41%)

WEDNESDAY:

Tim Stauffer (SD @ SF) – The Giants lineup has been one to pick on all year even with pitchers far lesser than Stauffer.  (E-33%, Y-53%, C-76%)

Javier Vazquez (FLO v. CIN) – The Reds aren’t complete pushovers, but Vazquez has been dominant the last two months with a 2.45 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 70 innings.  His composite numbers look bad because of the horrid start, but he has been his 2009-self for a legitimate portion of the season.  (E-33%, Y-53%, C-76%)

THURSDAY:

Edwin Jackson (STL v. PIT) – He has a 4.45 ERA with the Cardinals, but it is almost entirely due to the sacrificial lamb outing in Milwaukee when he was left out there to take one for the team and gave up eight earned runs.  Apart from that start, he has a 2.88 ERA in four other starts.  I like him against the Pirates.  (E-24%, Y-44%, C-76%)

FRIDAY:

Ted Lilly (LAD v. COL) – It has taken him much longer than I anticipated, but he has finally had a nice stretch of starts commensurate with his skills (2.45 ERA, 0.85 WHIP in 26 Aug. IP).  Home runs have been his issue all year and throughout a lot of his career to be honest so if this game was in Colorado, I’d pass, but in Chavez-Ravine I like it.  (E-45%, Y-52%, C-58%)

Josh Collmenter (ARI v. SD) – Twice this season he had back-to-back ugly starts and both times he bounced back with a string of nice starts.  He was smashed to close out July and again on August 5th, but he has rebounded with two nice starts and I like him for a third this week.  (E-21%, Y-32%, C-43%)

Weekend picks later this week.

 

Saturday: 08.20.2011

Roster Management Down the Stretch

As we close out the final week-plus of the August, roster management is the key to success, especially for roto managers.  Obviously roster management is key throughout a season, but I wouldn’t make such a blatant statement without expounded on it, either.  As you peruse your standings daily, you have to make realistic judgments on the points you can still gain and where they can be gained.  With the limited amount of time left in the season, every at-bat or inning pitched is even more crucial than it was back in April or May.

That, of course, is because there is less time to come back and gather the points you need for success.  I stress these points because of what I am about to say: the points you can gain and categories in which you can gain them might mean that it is smarter to play a lineup that doesn’t include the best overall players.

For some this may sound like common sense and for others this may sound like a contradiction over something I have said before.  I often say, “Never bench your studs”, but that is in regards to benching an ace pitcher in a hostile environment or against a tough team or sitting a big bat because of back-to-back series against San Francisco and Philadelphia or any pair of pitching-laden teams.

So my NBYS mantra is entirely independent of these late season scenarios when you are trying to win your league or at least move up in the standings for a higher cash spot if first place isn’t in reach.  With your overall studs like Matt Kemp and Curtis Granderson to name a pair, they are playing all the time no matter what because regardless of what category you need help in, they can deliver.  However when you start to get into the more specialized players, you may have a better bench option even if their overall talent doesn’t quite match.

A lot of these examples will come on the offensive side of things.  If your standings have stratified to where 10 stolen bases can get your six points while you are locked in position in home runs and RBIs in that you can’t catch anyone nor are you close to being caught, then it makes sense to sit Nelson Cruz for Ben Revere even though you would normally never make such a move.  It won’t always be a Cruz-type that you have to sit down, but if your other outfielders are Granderon, B.J. Upton, Michael Brantley and Desmond Jennings, then Cruz is the obvious because he contributes least to the stolen base cause.

The decision won’t always be so cut-&-dried which is why you have to do the work and figure out the optimal lineup to maximize your points.  That starts with being honest about where you can realistically gain points and where you might be susceptible to losing them.  Be conservative with your estimations, there is no value to inflating them because you will just end up disappointed when they don’t come through.

The hardest stats to project and to move are the rate stats: batting average, ERA and WHIP so unless things are really tight in your league, it is unlikely that there will be a ton of movement even with more than a month left in the season.

If trades are still in play, you should make moves the same way you would with roster moves in that you don’t always have to get the most talent back in a trade if that talent doesn’t help you win.  Keeper leagues are an extra wrinkle to consider and there are too many different scenarios to give any specific advice there, but in redraft leagues you could trade a guy like Cruz from our earlier example for a nice haul that would help your stolen bases cause and then some since he is such an impact player.

As always, it is still remarkably difficult to chase wins because of how fickle they can be and while I would still focus on pitcher skills, I can understand paying more heed to a team’s offense, defense and bullpen (three elements that contribute significantly to whether or not a pitcher wins) as we come down the stretch.  I still wouldn’t value Ivan Nova over Felix Hernandez even though Nova has one more win in seven fewer starts with an ERA nearly a run higher, but I could definitely see valuing a C.J. Wilson much closer to Hernandez now than you would’ve back during draft season in March.

This final stretch is when a lot of fantasy leagues are won because fantasy managers get lazy with their teams, even if they are in contentions.  They start to focus on football, especially those who play fantasy football and have their draft in late August/early September.  Take advantage of the diverted focus and continue to put max effort into your title hopes or quest to finish in or higher in the money spots.

The extended vacation and lack of posting was unplanned and I appreciate those who reached out.  I should’ve mentioned it on the site and let everyone know I wasn’t quitting the site or anything.  At any rate, content will continue through to the end of the season.  As we wind down the 2011 season, the posting schedule won’t be daily, but still three to four posts a week (down from the six during first four months of the season.

Friday: 08.19.2011

I’m Alive

Despite the extended vacation, I am very much alive & well.  Look for new pieces all weekend.  I apologize to those of you who thought I just vanished, I should’ve updated the vacation post, but it was a bit unexpected in terms of how long it lasted.  New content this weekend: guaranteed!

Friday: 08.5.2011

Vacation

This post would’ve been more appropriate a few days ago, but I am on vacation this week which is why I haven’t been posting much.  Look for more next week.  Sunday Twidbits will finally return, too.

Tuesday: 08.2.2011

Fantasy Impact of NL Players Moving to AL

Fantasy Impact of NL to AL Guys

I’m going to take a look at the guys moved all around during the deadline, but only from the fantasy angle.  So it is less about judging the team’s front office on the returns whether short or long term, but rather about how these players can have fantasy impact for you in the next two months and beyond (for prospects).

Ubaldo Jimenez (COL to CLE) – There is a lot of talk about much Jimenez has struggled this year which is expected because comparing his 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP from 2010 to his 4.46 and 1.37 marks this year tells us he has been significantly worse.  But has he really?  The one significant cause for concern is the drop in fastball velocity from 96 MPH to 93 MPH.  Velocity drops are often an indicator of trouble, but beyond that there isn’t a great deal of difference in Jimenez’s profile.

He has a 2.3 K/BB rate for the third straight with virtually identical components to last year’s: 8.69 K/9 & 3.74 BB/9 in 2010; 8.63 K/9 & 3.73 BB/9 in 2011.  I don’t usually go two places after the decimal point, but I wanted to show just how close it has been.  His xFIP and SIERA are remarkable steady over the last three years with xFIPs of 3.59, 3.60, and 3.56 this year while his SIERAs are 3.77, 3.68 and 3.56 this year.

I realize most leagues don’t use xFIP or SIERA but the point is that he is pitching better than his ERA suggests.  The big differences are a career-high .312 BABIP (.280 and .271 the last two years) and severe struggles with men on base leading to a career-worst LOB% of 67% (74% and 77% the last two years; league-average is around 72%).

Another concern for many is his moving from the NL to AL as it is a league generally tougher on pitchers due in large part to replacing the pitcher batting with a designated hitter.  I would theorize that the change in park factors from Coors Field to Jacobs Field (shut up, Flo from the insurance company) would mitigate the league difference.  Coors Field significantly plays up 1B, 2B, 3B and HR while Jacobs Field plays essentially neutral or pitcher-heavy to all eight (each category for righties and lefties) except left-hander home runs (107 park factor, which is still an improvement from Coors’ 113).

This is the prize of the trade deadline for AL-only leaguers and if you need an arm then you need to take your chances on Jimenez.  He leaves a massively under-performing and disappointing team in Colorado for a pennant race in Cleveland which can only help.  At the very least, I think it would be a neutral factor.  His K/9 when slotted into the AL leaderboard is 6th-best so he is even better in 5×5 leagues.  The velocity drop may in fact be problematic, but his profile says there isn’t a reason for grave concern.  He could be a game-changer down the stretch for any team capable of real traction in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.  Wins are always a crapshoot, but there is no denying that the Indians have been sticking around for four months and this kind of big time trade could spark the whole team.  Or not.  Don’t chase wins.

Colby Rasmus (StL to TOR) – The Blue Jays earned raved reviews for plucking Rasmus from the Cardinals for what amounts to a pile of parts since Edwin Jackson wasn’t really a Jay except in passing.  I do think it was a nice pickup for the long term especially in light of what they gave up, but for the rest of 2011 it might not make that much of a fantasy impact.  Since the potential is there, I understand putting a significant portion of FAAB on him and even encourage it, but you have to be prepared for it to not work out.

The simple fact is he is regressing by the month.  After an .867 OPS in April, he has fallen to .777 then .684 and then most recently .544 in August.  A player of his caliber is unlikely to show up on the wire throughout the remainder of the season so take a chance on the upside if an offensive spark is what you’re missing.  Last year he ended the season on a very high note with a .318/.403/.514 line and four home runs, 12 RBIs, 19 runs scored and two stolen bases in 107 at-bats in September.  Let’s hope this fresh start rejuvenates him and gets back to the Rasmus we saw in 2010 and the first month of 2011.

Mike Adams (SD to TEX) – His move in home ballpark is just about the opposite of Jimenez’s, but as a short reliever there is less chance that it will greatly impact his rock solid skills profile.  He strikes out more than a batter per inning (9.2 K/9), doesn’t walk anybody (1.7 BB/9) and induces a decent amount of groundballs (46%) so I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to excel despite the move to a hitter’s park in the more hitter-friendly league.

As a reliever, it’s not like he was facing pitchers in the 7th and 8th innings anyway.  He is worth a few bucks as the last man on your pitching staff and might be worth even a few extra bucks if you’re in dire need of saves and don’t mind speculating.  Rangers manager Ron Washington has publicly soured on Neftali Feliz a bit and while that might just be his way of motivating him, he might also be looking for a reason to make a change (even though it’s his fault Feliz is there in the first place when he should be in the rotation).

Kosuke Fukudome (CHC to CLE) – Those in OBP leagues take note, Fukudome has gotten on base at a 36% or better clip all four years in the majors and 37% or better in each of the last three years.  That’s really ALL he does, though.  He has three home runs and two stolen bases on the season.  I understand that leadoff is hardly a run-producing spot in the lineup, but despite more than 300 plate appearances there, Fukudome has 12 RBIs.  The next worst is Austin Jackson with 24.  Of course a lot of that goes on the Cubs and their anemic offense, but he has never had more than 60 RBIs in a season.  He should be looked at as a 4th or 5th outfielder at best.

Brandon Allen (ARI to OAK) – This feels like a pretty typical Oakland pickup, doesn’t it?  Allen has thwarted AAA quite handily alas he is headed back there for now, but many suspect the A’s will give him a legitimate shot to see if they finally have a first basemen who is fantasy relevant (sorry, Daric Barton).  Allen has only gotten 65 games spread out across the last three years and while his line is a meager .213/.325/.404, he does have eight home runs and 27 RBIs, numbers that pace out to 27 and 91 in 600 at-bats.  A dollar reserve player in leagues where reserves are applicable, otherwise keep an eye out for his return to the majors which should happen at some point this year.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,350 other followers