Posts tagged ‘Jose Bautista’

Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 RF – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Rightfielders Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host Eric Byrnes, and special guest to the series Bill James. In the LF review I mentioned my issue with MLB Network lists including guys who weren’t slated to play the particular position next year and we have a few of those on in rightfield with Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton and Ben Zobrist.

I included Upton in left and Hamilton in right because that’s where they are going to play and the change for Upton was known when they presented the show because they discussed Upton’s trade to Atlanta. And I listed Zobrist at second base because that’s where he was slated to play this year before the Rays brought Kelly Johnson aboard. For those unaware, Johnson wasn’t a Ray when the 2B lists were unveiled.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10RFlists

I told ya Andre Ethier was going to be on all most of these lists.

The Shredder

Apart from our three known differences that occur on every list as outlined above, Ethier is the split between lists. It was tough leaving him off. In the end, I went with Jayson Werth because of his all-around game and how good he looked upon returning from injury. Jay Bruce was a bit underrated at 10, though had I included Upton and Zobrist, he’d have been at least seventh for me so the difference between The Shredder and me looks bigger than it would’ve been with Bruce.

My inclusions they didn’t list: Werth, Josh Reddick, and Josh Hamilton

Eric Byrnes

If given the option, I’d have bet all of my money on Byrnes listing Hunter Pence. Pretty easy bet, though, right? It’s not a terrible listing, especially at 10. Overall, I really like his list to be honest as I did with his leftfield list. He gets a lot of crap from the baseball community, especially on Twitter, but I don’t think he’s so bad. My friends over at Productive Outs cannot stand him. Perhaps it’s the Spiccoli-esque way he speaks and that dialect is often viewed as just generally stupid, especially in California where both live. That’s just speculation on my part. I just think that Byrnes is actually one of the better player-analysts on the network, even if you think the bar is really low.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Werth, Hunter, Reddick, and Hamilton

Bill James

Bill, Bill, Bill. Jeez. I mentioned in the LF review that James’ lists have really puzzled me and this one was no different. Stanton at 6???? Sheesh. I was so focused on that ranking that I barely paid attention to the Alex Rios and Nick Markakis inclusions, neither of which I like that much. My fanboydom aside, how is Stanton sixth?

My inclusions he didn’t list: Werth, Swisher, Hunter, Reddick, and Hamilton

Brian Kenny

In fairness, I chastised Kenny in the LF review for including Carlos Quentin, who played just 86 games a year ago, only to then include Werth on my list in his 81-game season. The difference as I see it is that Werth played half a season after three straight 150+ game seasons where Quentin has rarely even been within 20 games of 150. We both had Werth on our lists, a move I obviously support. I don’t have any major quibbles with Kenny’s list this time around outside of Markakis and that’s not even a major quibble. He had consideration, but the position was just too deep to find room for him. In fact, he’d be third behind Ethier and Norichika Aoki on the honorable mentions.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hunter, Reddick, and Hamilton

Coming up this evening: my first base and catcher lists!

Tuesday: 01.29.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 24 Days – Jose Bautista

Only 24 days until live game action…

With 30 days to go, I started profiling a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

JOSE BAUTISTA

It will be a quicker countdown entry today which actually works out quite well because Bautista isn’t someone in dire need of a deep-dive analysis. We know he is a power stud coming off of his two amazing full seasons of MLB-leading home run totals in 2010-2011 plus another 27 in 92 games during an injury-shortened 2012. The common analysis after 2010’s insane breakout was that his HR/FB was aberrational to his career levels so he was sure to come down. The problem with analysis isn’t projecting regression after an amazing season, it’s the certainty with which it’s done.

Granted this is easier to do in hindsight, but I’ve always had an issue with guaranteeing regression on a new level of performance. Again, it is a safe bet gravity being what it is and all, but speaking in absolutes has no real upside. He was “sure” to regress in 2011 and while he gave back 11 home runs, he added 42 points of batting average up to .302 and 68 points of on-base percentage up to .447 while actually improving his HR/FB rate from 21.7 to 22.5 percent. What changed to yield the performance is the first question you should ask before instantly declaring it will regress and moving on.

For example, his 2011 batting average stood out almost as much as his 2010 home run surge. After all, his flyball-heavy batted ball profile isn’t exactly conducive .300 batting averages. Of the 74 players to hit .300 or better since 2010, only Bautista did it with a flyball rate north of 45 percent. Only three others were at 44 percent. The average of the set was about 35 percent and 60 players were on the other side of 40 percent.

His .260 in 2010 was just above league average (.257) and his .241 last year wasn’t too far from league average (.255) so what happened in 2011? First off, he shifted the mix on his batted balls a bit taking from the flyballs and adding to both the line drive and groundballs. Secondly, he just smacked the ever-living-piss out of the ball year long, especially compared to league average.

bautista2011bbavg

His .309 BABIP compared to the league mark of .295, but given his batted ball profile compared to league average, it isn’t out of bounds to suggest he also had some good fortune. But when you barrel up the ball and smack rockets all over the place, you’re bound to create some of your good luck.

His dip back down to .241 last year wasn’t terribly surprising as he took a bit from 2011’s line drives and padded his flyball rate again back up to 49 percent. His batted ball profile as it stands over the last three years is far more conducive to .250 batting averages than .300 ones so prepare yourself for that and take anything else as an added bonus.

The worst part about last year’s left wrist injury that effectively ended his season in mid-July is that he had just ripped off nine and 14 home run months in May and June after a mere three in April. While he’d only had one in 12 July games, I was really eager to see what he had in store for us during the dog days of summer.

Over his three year explosion into superstardom, Bautista has posted a composite HR/FB of 21.6 percent, fourth in baseball behind Giancarlo Stanton (25.8), Mike Napoli (23.1), and Ryan Howard (22.3), but his 50.6 flyball percent and 15 percent infield flyball rate are the highest among anyone in the top 30 of HR/FB rate. What that tells me is that he’s selling out for power all day, every day. The 15 percent infield flies are likely a lot of “just missed” missed pitches that fall harmlessly into the shortstops glove on the back of the infield and contribute to his .256 BABIP during that time which is second-lowest among the top 10 in HR/FB (Andruw Jones .244) and third-lowest overall (Carlos Pena .251).

That is the long way of say that all the data suggests that 2011’s .302 really was an aberration and likely one of epic proportions. To repeat the feat, he will likely need to dramatically shift his hit profile or find the double rainbow for a second time. I have seen Bautista go as high as the late-first round. I’m not vehemently opposed to the idea as long as you realize you’re investing in a pure power source and not trying to rationalize the pick by saying, “well, he’s only a year removed from a .302 average so I have that upside, too.”

Sure, technically you do as one a skill is displayed it is owned (Shandlerism!), but you also have to understand the probability of said skill returning once gone and with Bautista, as his skills are currently constructed, chances are scant. There have been just 10 seasons of 40+ homers the last three years and he owns two including the best (54) and third-best (43) and he was on pace for a third which would’ve extended his 12 home run lead over Miguel Cabrera (124 to 112) for the most in the majors during that span. So if you are drafting him for that bankable power and understand his deficiency with batting average, then by all means proceed with your pick.

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 Rightfielders Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall”. They will air both the left and right field shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

I felt I was getting a little verbose on these lists given that they’re really just about having some off-season fun, so I’ve cut the explanations down a bit on these.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

My first HM was 11th on my list and I’m fairly certain he will be on every list during the RF episode. He is just too big of a name and I think his bat will carry the day with the MLBN folks. Andre Ethier just missed for me. While not a premium defensive position, it’s an important one and quality defense can have a big impact so he came up just short despite a great bat.

I really wanted to find a way to get Norichika Aoki into my list, but it just wasn’t feasible. His MLB debut was a bit under the radar, but it was quite strong as he displayed bits of all five tools, the speed perhaps being the most surprising as he’d notched just eight stolen bases in Japan in 2011.

THE LIST

10. Jayson Werth (WAS) – I saw enough from Werth in 2012 in his half season that I would take him over Ethier right now. It won’t be a popular opinion, but he looked great after returning from his broken wrist and I expect the power to tick back up after an offseason rest and shift back into the heart of the order where he can sell out for it a bit more.

9. Torii Hunter (DET) – The power dipped from a consistent low-20s homer total to just 16 last year, but he shifted his value distribution to batting average by hitting .313. If his plan is to have another .389 BABIP en route to a big offensive season, he’ll want to reassess. His defense remains excellent so he can afford some regression at the dish and remain a force in rightfield.

8. Nick Swisher (CLE) – Mr. Consistent hasn’t veered from his stretch of excellent seasons but once back in 2008 when he was with the Chicago White Sox. Of course we all thought his power would explode moving from Oakland’s cavern to Chicago’s bandbox and instead he was just a bust with them. That’s well in the past and he’s been great ever since. He’s leaving the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, but his splits show that his power plays everywhere.

7. Josh Reddick (OAK) – Rarely does a guy breakout offensively with a big 32-home run season and end getting more pub for his defense, but that was Reddick’s 2012. He tied Jeff Francoeur for the major league lead with 10 kills including three dummies who thought it’d be a good idea to run on him from second on a flyout with fewer than two outs. Idiots. If he can improve his offensive profile and add to the home runs, he will shoot up this list next year.

6. Carlos Beltran (StL) – His career hasn’t been appreciated nearly enough. Thankfully it’s not over and he remains one of the best in the game at his position even at 36 years old. He is still a multi-faceted threat with only batting average lacking from the five tool profile, and even that was present in 2011 when he hit .300 on the button for 142 games. Such an amazing player.

5. Jay Bruce (CIN) – I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of Bruce, but it’s coming. He still has 40+ homer potential and at 26, he is just entering his physical prime. He also plays a pretty rightfield, especially in the throwing game.

4. Jose Bautista (TOR) – He was just hitting his groove when he got injured for the remainder of the season. He had a 14 homer June putting his season back on track poised for a huge summer, but he’d only play 14 more games the rest of the way. By the way, this is the injury concern built into his ranking. He’d probably be a slot or two higher if he’d play 150 in 2012.

3. Josh Hamilton (LAA) – Since I only honorably mentioned him in the centerfield list, I decided to include him here on the rightfield list. I’ve written plenty about him this offseason both after he signed in LA and in the aforementioned CF list.

2. Jason Heyward (ATL) – There are a lot of “J” named rightfielders. He’ll probably take the top spot on a lot of lists tonight which I can’t really argue with, but I prefer someone else (obviously). Remember when everyone (hyperbole) gave up on Heyward in 2011 labeling his 2010 a fluke and his prospect status busted? Cool brains. He was 21. He could reasonably have another down in the next year or two before settling at an elite level. As I’ve said a million times here, prospects don’t grow in a linear fashion. For the record, I don’t think he’ll have that lull in 2013. I think he’s a borderline late-first round pick in anything bigger than 10 teams.

1. Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) – 23 year old with 80 grade power + 80 arm = baseball porn. Oh, and this:

giancurtis

Tuesday: 07.19.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Outfield, Part 1

Outfield has a lot of great centerpiece players that would be worth giving up any un-keepable entities you have to in order to land them.  In fact, a number of them are “arm & a leg guys” meaning, of course, that they will cost you an arm and a leg.

You have to give something to get something and as long as you aren’t blowing up your team completely (e.g. trading a few expiring contracts/high-priced un-keepables AND some guys you were planning on keeping), then they are worth it.  Situations will vary depending on league format & keeper rules, but don’t overdo it just to get one guy or you may be worse off than you were before you got him.

Based on talent, age and the likelihood of studs on a cheap contract, outfield is the best position in this Keeper Building Block series to find your truly elite cornerstone.  The first 7 or 8 guys fall into that category and while all won’t be cheap in your league, several should be giving you options.  And it is likely that at least one of them is on a contender and hopefully you the missing puzzle pieces for them to seal a title and be willing to give their star.

There are several more OF building blocks than at any other position, so I broke it up into two pieces.

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

Third Base, Addendum

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – See the third basemen piece for info on Bautista.  He is almost certainly on a cheap contract and it’d take just about any viable piece you to get him, but it might be worth it if you still have a few keepers around him.  His value is much, much higher at third base, but since he qualifies at outfield, I made sure to list him here.

Carlos Gonzalez (COL, 25) – When a season of .287 with 22 HR, 27 SB, 88 RBI & 100 R is your come down season from a career year, you are an elite player.  Plus he is getting better month-over-month so he just might improve those paces.  Either way, he still ranks 26th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater and 8th amongst outfielders.  His 2010 breakout came on the heels of an 89 game debut in Colorado that went well (.284/.353/.525, 13 HR & 16 SB), but still left him with a reasonable average draft position (ADP) of 120.  So he is either on a minor league contract or a regular one that is no doubt affordable.

Andrew McCutchen (PIT, 24) – I am pleased to have this burgeoning star locked up for two more years in my NL-Only league for just $15.  He is a dynamic, five-category (his .279 isn’t elite, but the league-high is .272 and my team average is .262 so he is definitely a positive contributor in that category) stud who appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.  Next year will likely be his first full season in a run production lineup spot (third or fourth) and that should allow to knock in 100+ runs for the first time in his career.  That is if he doesn’t increase his pace of 98 this year and make 2012 his second stab at the century mark.  He is the face of the budding Pirates franchise and he can be the same for your fantasy team.

Mike Stanton (FLO, 21) – This kid is incredible.  He hit 22 home runs in 100 games (hitting one every 16.3 AB) and while the lofty strikeout rate (31%) made it clear that batting average would be a challenge, the power was undeniable.  He has made incremental gains on his power (HR every 15.8 AB and .267 ISO up from .248), his strikeout rate (down to 28%) and walk rate (up from 8.6% to 9.2%, OK so that is essentially the same) putting him on pace for 34 home runs and 96 RBIs… at 21 years old!

If there is one concern, it’s slight and it’s his age combined with the strikeout rate.  His inexperience and lack of contact could lead to prolonged slumps as he continues to grow.  It doesn’t dissuade me from targeting him, but keep it in mind.  In most keeper leagues, he will be on a minor league contract which is no doubt much cheaper than his actual value and with power on the decline league-wide; he should be a premier target.

Jay Bruce (CIN, 24) – He is essentially a look into Stanton’s future on some level, a pure power hitter with batting average liability.  Bruce doesn’t have the strikeout woes that Stanton does, but they profile similarly.  As a 21 and 22 year old Bruce hit 21 and 22 home runs in 413 and 345 at-bats, respectively.  His walk rate has steadied at 10% the last three seasons and while his BABIP-influenced.281 batting average (.334 BABIP) from 2010 hasn’t held (.265 w/.293 BABIP), the .265 he has posted doesn’t hurt too much in this low-offense environment of 2011.  I have him and Stanton pretty close, but I gave Stanton the edge because he likely cheaper and he is three years younger.

Jason Heyward (ATL, 21) – The ideal situation would be finding Heyward on a contender because his 2011 has been a disappointment (have I mentioned that young talents, no matter how good, don’t improve linearly?) due at least in part to injury.  There is a bit of concern around his massive groundball rates (55% and 58% in his two pro seasons) and how that affects his power potential, but the kid is 21 and even when he is underperforming it is easy to see while watching him that he is a special player.

Colby Rasmus (STL, 24) – Generally when a guy needing a “change of scenery” is thrown around, it is an excuse for his struggles when the truth is that he probably just isn’t as talented as originally believed.  However with Rasmus, I think it is one of the few cases where the change is necessary.  Rasmus has a permanent front row seat in manager Tony LaRussa’s dog house and it seems to have finally crept on the field full time and affected his play.  Instead of aiding his first place Cardinals with a season that builds on his strong 2010, Rasmus looks out of place and appears to pressing with increasingly worse numbers month-to-month:

April: .301/.392/.476

May: .253/.370/.407

June: .213/.268/.416

Generally teams don’t discuss trading mid-20s talents like Rasmus alas his name has come up in some preliminary rumors as we near the trade deadline.  I have no doubts that he can flourish out from under LaRussa’s thumb and his modest 2011 output might allow you to get a discount via trade.  Or he could be a primary reason why you’re building for 2012 already.  If it is the latter, sit tight with Rasmus.

Thursday: 07.7.2011

Keeper Building Blocks: Third Base

If you thought things were sparse elsewhere on the infield, wait until you see what third base is offering for potential keeper building blocks.  Before the season started, I saw third base as easily the second-worst position on the diamond behind shortstop.  There has been some nice improvement in the middle tiers of shortstop to the point where you could reasonably make a case that the two have now flip-flopped.

If it weren’t for Jose Bautista qualifying at third base, the position would be in really big trouble.  It is still a troubled wasteland primarily because it started thin and has since been ravaged by injuries.  Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo  Sandoval, Martin Prado, Scott Rolen, David Freese and Placido Polanco have all missed time due to injury this year.  All but Polanco have hit the disabled list, while Polanco is currently day-to-day with back pain that has been troubling him for a month and has no doubt impacted his modest output this year (.274 batting average, a category you draft him to excel in).

Catchers

First Base

Second Base, Addendum

Shortstop

I came up with six potential candidates, though one will take an arm and a leg (literally) to pry away from a leaguemate:

Jose Bautista (TOR, 30) – Yes, this of course is the arm & a leg guy.  He is probably no more than $10 in any league depending on how free agents are acquired and how their contracts work and when you couple that incredible price with the fact that he has been arguably the best player in the game (Matt Kemp’s speed might put him #1), you have a helluva price tag.  Unless it requires several of the keepers you were planning on for 2012, it might not be a bad idea to pay the hefty price to get Bautista.  It would take a unique set of circumstances to acquire him from a leaguemate, but given how cheap he should be in keeper leagues, you have to take a shot.

Pablo Sandoval (SF, 24) – The Kung Fu Panda is back after a rough season in 2010 and if it weren’t for his missed time on the disabled list, he probably would have made a serious run at the starting third base gig for the NL All-Star team.  He should still be cheap from any initial contract in your league, but if for some reason he was on the open market this March, he is probably still at a fair keeper price given the reaction to his modest output last year (.268/.323/.409 with 13 HR, 63 RBI).  The most games he can play this year is 121 and yet he is still on pace for 21 home runs, not bad considering he hit 25 in 153 back in 2009.

Adrian Beltre (TEX, 32) – He was coming off of a down season in 2009 which caused his value to be depressed even as he headed into Boston last year.  Thus he could be on a nice contract in your league.  This won’t apply to all leagues, but I had to include him just in case.  He will be a bit older, but he’s got great power at a scarce position.  That’s keeper-worthy.

Martin Prado (ATL, 27) – Nothing against Prado, but when he is our fourth potential keeper at third base, you know it is thin.  He has definite value, but it is tied to his batting average which can suffer in a year due to luck.  I just think we might have the next Placido Polanco on our hands, which isn’t bad, but hardly a great building block.  Remember, Polanco had back-to-back double digit home run seasons at 27 & 28 years old sandwiched by seasons of nine at 26 and 29.

Mike Moustakas (KC, 22) – In a dynasty league, he probably moves up a spot or two on this list, but even when building a keeper list during a lost season, I’m still gunning to win the very next season so I have him down here because there is no certainty he will be all that fantasy relevant in his second season.  We saw ups & downs in his minor league career and I suspect we will see the same as a big leaguer so at 23 next year, we might see more growing pains than fantasy-worthy production.  But like I said, dynasty leaguers who can keep him forever might want to invest in him over a Beltre or Prado.

Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE, 22) – Even though he will be the same age as Mous next year, I think he will be more fantasy relevant, but his ceiling isn’t as high.  He doesn’t profile to have game-changing power and of course there is still the fact that he cannot hit lefties worth a lick.  He is someone to look at for AL-Only and deep mixed league players.  I don’t think he is someone you want to invest in as a keeper for 10 & 12-team mixed leagues right now.

I don’t think I forgot any deserving candidates, but please feel free to let me know if you think I have made any egregious omissions.

Wednesday: 07.6.2011

Practicing Patience: How Much Is Enough?

Being patient has got to be the most difficult trait for a fantasy baseball manager to exhibit year in and year out.  The difficulty is born out of the internet age where you have instant access to every single pitch going on in any game and with that the ability to alter your lineup on a daily basis (in many leagues, there are still plenty of leagues that limit teams to weekly moves).  Of course just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean you have to take it, but still many fantasy managers see their team wallowing near the bottom of the standings on Tax Day and feel the only appropriate measure is to start tinkering or worse, making wholesale moves.

Others think they have exhibited enough patience if they wait until the calendar at least flips a month over to May.  Still some have a mid-May mark mapped out while some use Memorial Day as a demarcation point.  How long do you wait on a struggling player?  The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no universal answer.  One guideline that has gained steam comes from Cory Schwartz over at MLB Network and MLB.com and it is to take the 26 weeks of the season, subtract the player’s round you drafted him in and that is how many weeks you should wait into the season before even considering a cut.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but for those who struggle with an exact date, this is a quick measure that can help you make the difficult choice.  There are far too many variables at play to give a definitive answer.  Another major factor is your league’s free agent pool.

Often to roster a new guy, somebody has to leave.  There will invariably be roster-worthy guys in your free agent player pool whether they went undrafted and have now acquired some playing time that they are doing well with or they have been called up from the minor leagues and have the talent to make an impact.  Every team has those last few rounds worth of picks that are often fliers and sleepers and they should probably be your first gone if you feel you *must* take a chance on a waiver player hoping that he is the next Jose Bautista.  But even that isn’t always a great idea.  More on those types later.

What I really want to focus on right now is the good players and how much patience they deserve in a given year.  In most cases, 80-85% of your early round picks (say 1-12 or 1-15, assuming 12 team leagues here) are spent on guys with significant track records spanning three-plus years of work.  How long do these guys deserve to be rostered before you cut bait for a flavor of the week? Waiting until mid-May or Memorial Day sure feels like a long time, but is it?

Through Memorial Day of this season Nick Markakis had a .249/.316/.324 line with four home runs, 17 RBIs and four stolen bases.  As a career .297 hitter, he was well below expectations in the category you expect him to excel in.  He was starting to turn up on a lot of waiver wires.  An outfielder hitting .249 with mediocre production everywhere else just isn’t that enticing.  But is that really a large enough sample to turn your back on a 9th round pick?

His home run totals have declined yearly since 2007 and at 27 years old there likely isn’t about to be a massive turnaround for him in that area.  His pace after May 31st was 14 which is actually an increase from last year so that wasn’t on the list of reasons to drop him.  If you had misguided expectations about his power, that is on you.  Meanwhile his 14 stolen base pace would actually mark a four-year high.  The major issue, without question, was that he wasn’t delivering in his best category.

But do you cut a guy with 3202 at-bats (his total after Memorial Day 2011) because he has underperformed his career mark in batting average for 7% (213) of them and that 7% just happens to be at the beginning of a baseball season making it look worse?  Looking at it on a season-only level, he had expired about 33% of his expected at-bats with a .249 average.  Again, it feels like a lot, but he still had two-thirds of the season to get back on track.  He would need to hit .322 over his remaining 67% of at-bats to reach the career mark of .297, does that sound feasible for a guy with 3341 at-bats of .297 batting average under his belt?

Many of you probably realize how this is turns out.  Markakis hit .351 in June with 12 multi-hit games (out of 25), a 19-game hitting streak from June 8th-30th and just four hitless games in the month.  Only two of his five games in July have been hitless while the other three are all multi-hit games including a 5-for-5 effort on July 3rd.  He is hitting .294/.340/.386 while still pacing for 14 home runs and stolen bases.  He’s the 34th rated outfielder at ESPN despite runs scored and driven in paces that don’t reach 70.

In 10 and 12-team leagues, the waiver pools are deep and while I often encourage fantasy managers to practice extreme patience, especially with their studs, it would have been tough to blame someone who gave Markakis one more week after Memorial Day before making a decision.  That was his only lull in the month with all four of his hitless games coming in that week as he went 3-for-24 pushing his average down to .236 for the year.  I bet he was cut a lot in the eight day period from May 31st to June 7th, just before he went on his torrid pace.  Can you blame somebody, though? According to Schwartz’s guideline, with Markakis going anywhere between the 8th and 10th rounds, he should’ve been held until the 15th-17th week area.  Memorial Day week was only week nine, way too early to even consider a cut.

For me, he is this year’s Wandy Rodriguez.  Last year Rodriguez just didn’t look good through mid-June.  He posted a passable 3.65 ERA in April, but that came with 5.1 K/9 and 1.8 K/BB rates.  The strikeouts ticked up a bit in May and June (6.5 & 6.8), but his strikeout-to-walk rates held firmly below 2.0 at 1.8 and 1.6 for the months.  After a June 18th start against Texas during which Rodriguez was ripped for six runs in three innings, his ERA was at 6.09 (the worst since his second start when it was 6.10) in 75 innings.

Overall, 75 innings isn’t a major sample, but it was 38% of his expected inning total and in the “Year of the Pitcher”, Wandy managers watched as several viable starters were picked up by their leaguemates while they held onto the struggling Rodriguez.  A friend of mine asked if he should cut Rodriguez (I honestly don’t remember for who) after that June 18th start.  He is chronically impatient and I encouraged him to hang on through May and early June, but after that implosion I gave him my blessing figuring he had waited long enough.  Whoops.

Rodriguez would allow more than three runs just once in his remaining 18 starts as he posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB in 120 innings as one of baseball’s best pitcher.  His season ERA landed at 3.60 which was an increase from 2009’s 3.02, but in the grand scheme it was about eight extra earned runs which is negligible for a nine man fantasy staff.  Did my friend and other fantasy managers who cut bait in mid-June wait long enough?  Rodriguez wasn’t an elite arm of the Halladay-Lincecum class coming into 2010, but he was certainly in that second or third tier depending how strict you are with your #1s.  Using the Schwartz Method, he should have been held until week 16 or so.  June 18th was in week 11.

Obviously given his league format, a 10-team mixed league, I thought he was patient enough.  I think I would have green-lit his move in a 12-team league, too (by the way, the Schwartz Method is tailored to standard 12-team mixed leagues).  This is why there isn’t one standard answer.  It all depends on league size, league rules and who is available.  This is more of a thought exercise than a piece filled with answers.  My stance is and always will be to error on the side of too patient, especially with your better, more proven players (i.e. guys with legitimate three-plus year track records).

It isn’t just about being patient with your best, though.  What about your sleepers?  You spend all winter crafting your lists and poring over the numbers to find your late round gems only to dispatch them to the waiver after a slow month.  I understand they are more expendable than someone like Markakis or Rodriguez because they were your 20-something round pick, but why even draft them if you aren’t going to give them a reasonable chance to prove you right?

Take James McDonald for example.  He had a strong second half with his new team last year after a midseason trade and many (including myself) liked him for a breakthrough season under the radar in Pittsburgh.  He was available very late in just about any league (even NL-Only leagues unless you encountered an owner or two who felt the same way and pushed the bidding or draft position up a bit).

He was toting a 7.66 after April with more walks than strikeouts.  Even allowing for the fact that his stretch run in 2010 was a sample size of just 64 innings, it was still much larger than the 19-inning sample many used as grounds for cutting him after his April 21st start where he was bombed out for eight runs in just three innings.  He has a 2.95 ERA in 73 innings since April 27th.  In fairness, the WHIP is very high at 1.49 due mostly to his walks, but he has delivered a strong 7.2 strikeout rate.  He was almost certainly your final pitcher selected so it wouldn’t have tanked your season to see things through for more than 20 innings or even ideally at least 60-65.

What about Erik Bedard?  It has never been about talent with Bedard, only health.  You knew the Mariners were going to ease him into things in an effort to get as much out of him as they can considering how injury-riddled his Seattle tenure has been thus far.  He didn’t go more than five innings in any of his first four starts and carried a 7.71 ERA into his April 27th start.  Home runs were destroying him (seven allowed in four starts including two in each of his first three).  His HR/FB rate was 16%, odd for a guy who only once topped 9% in his career (12% in 2007).

Over the next two months, from April 27th to June 27th, he posted a 1.77 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 K/BB in 71 innings.  You took a flier him obviously recognizing his talent and the low cost on draft day.  Why not see it through more than four starts at the beginning of the season?  I am not saying everyone cut him, but I can speak to his availability being significant because he featured in Trolling the Wire for his May 8th, 25th, June 1st and 5th starts and I don’t recommend anybody that isn’t widely available (50% or more) at all three of the major outlets.

So we have run the gamut here.  From star-level players to young sleepers to injury risk talent and the one conclusion I think we can come to is that Tax Day, May 1st and May 15th are all out as viable “patience points”.  Tax Day was never viable… never, ever, ever, but I guarantee you some names will hit the wire two weeks into next season that will end up being major contributors for a different team in your league.  As for May 1st and May 15th, I just don’t know how you can reasonably say that they are legitimate samples from which to make a decision as large as cutting a player.

Your league format will play a role, but even then I think only May 15th should be the only those three early dates to come into play because if your league’s waiver wire is that deep, it is still going to have talent in mid-May so you can least hold out that long before making major cuts that could come back to hurt you.  What everyone needs to understand is that even mid-May or the end of May simply might not be long enough when you are dealing with all single digit and early double digit round picks.  That should sound like “no duh” advice, but playing in a wide variety of leagues year in and year out, I see guys released who have no business being on waiver wires before the first day of summer.

Just this year I saw a fantasy manager, who prides himself on being patient, cut Markakis on June 9th to get out in front of the latest prospect, Anthony Rizzo.  Guess who that idiot was?

 

Me.

Wednesday: 03.23.2011

2011 Bold Predictions-Part 1

One of the more exciting things to think about as the season approaches is which players are going to have the break through seasons?  Who are going to be this year’s Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Jose Bautista or David Price, Jaime Garcia and Ubaldo Jimenez?  For the past few years I have tried to answer that question with “Bold Prediction” columns over at Fanball.  I could’ve sworn I posted at least the 2009 iteration here, too, but I can’t seem to find after an extensive search.

I’m hardly the only one undertaking this task as Ron Shandler and crew have their Longshot Caucus over at BaseballHQ.com and Matthew Berry has his You Heard Me! piece over at his page on ESPN.  I believe he will be releasing that soon and it’s always a fun read.  Both are, in fact.  Hopefully I am able to deliver to that end as well.

In case you don’t remember from previous versions over at Fanball, the bold predictions column isn’t a bunch of aimless predictions, but rather it looks at a player’s whole profile, in the pros and minors, and tries to project out some best case scenarios for them.  These aren’t surefire bets, they are longshots that need a myriad of factors to go right if they are to happen.  You should reasonably expect between 15% and 20% of them to come to fruition.  The point is to get you thinking outside of the box(score) and not focus so much on what we’ve seen, rather entertain what we could see.

I am not going to have the Brady Anderson 50 home run season-type prediction in here because nothing in his profile would’ve told me that was possible so I wouldn’t project it.  Some of these may be “duhs” to you which simply means you’re already looking at possible outcomes beyond what we’ve seen to date.  In the end if there is a prediction you agree with and it causes you to go the extra buck on a guy and outperforms his cost, but doesn’t necessarily meet the exact figure in the prediction, it’s still a win (i.e. I had Gio Gonzalez projected for 175 Ks last year coming off of a season in which he had a near-6.00 ERA.  He finished with 171 and a 3.23 ERA.  If you bought in, you certainly profited significantly).

Some of the other calls from last year include:

  • Shaun Marcum will pick up right where 2008 left off
  • Luis Valbuena will hit 18 HR and steal 18 bases
  • Juan Pierre will steal 70 bases
  • Kelly Johnson will hit 21 HR and .300
  • Manny Ramirez will hit 40 HR
  • Nate Schierholtz will hit .320 with 15 HR
  • Ubaldo Jimenez wins 20 games
  • Billy Wagner will save 40 games (“And might very well be the league’s best closer.”)
  • Mike Stanton will hit 17 HR
  • Mike Jacobs will hit 35 HR
  • Lastings Milledge will hit 20 HR, steal 20 bases
  • Joey Votto will hit 35 HR, drive in 120 runs

That’s a decent sample of wins and losses.  As you can see, some were incredibly far off the mark by October, but you could have envisioned a scenario where they came true and you wouldn’t have have been utterly baffled as to how like you probably were after Ben Zobrist’s 2009 line of .297, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 91 R and 17 SB.  Yes, I highlighted some of the big wins there.  I definitely did not have a 58% success rate as this sample of 12 might lead you to believe.  In fact, I went 18-for-73 yielding a 25% success rate.  Let’s see if we can top that for 2011:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles:

J.J. Hardy hits a career-high 33 home runs – A bum wrist (and other various bumps & bruises) have sapped his power the last two years after a pair of mid-20s home run seasons in Milwaukee back in 2007 and 2008.  He moves to a very hitter-friendly ballpark and he is reportedly finally 100% healthy and clear of the wrist issues.  He is in the midst of his prime and I’m buying the clean bill of health.  He is going very late in fantasy drafts at the most scarce position on the diamond.  If you out on the “studs” at short in an AL-Only, wait on Hardy.

Zach Britton pitches 120+ quality innings at the big leagues – His absurd sinker and devastating slider are major league ready while his changeup is catching up quickly.  He will almost certainly start the season in AAA, but he shouldn’t be there long.  The O’s rotation is hardly stable as it currently stands so once the Super 2 Deadline passes, he should be inserted into the big league rotation where I think he will be an instant success.  “Quality innings” is a bit vague so to clarify, I’m thinking he can net a 3.50ish ERA (give or take .15 for random variance) with 6.5 K/9 and 2.0+ K/BB.  The strikeouts will rise as he gains experience, but he will utilize that sinker to induce a ton of groundballs as he gains his feel for the big leagues.

Nick Markakis finally has the .300-30-100 season – I made this one last year and I’m headed to the well again.  I was only off by 18 home runs and 40 RBIs last year!  Joking aside, he is just too good of a player to be hitting 12 home runs in a season.  A 30-home run season would be seven higher than his previous career high and 10 more than his last three seasons.  He is still at the front end of his prime so don’t rule out an explosion that would shock the narrow-minded.

Jake Fox’s regular season home run total won’t match his Spring Training total… – … because he’s not good.  He has eight as of this writing and even if he doesn’t hit another one this spring, he still won’t top that figure in the 2011 regular season.  Don’t waste your money.

Boston Red Sox:

Jacoby Ellsbury hits .320 with 16 HR – The speed will be there, too, but with a career high of 70 there is nothing that would be all that bold.  If he met this projection, he would be a Carl Crawford-lite.

Jon Lester posts a 2.50-2.75 ERA with 24 wins en route to an AL Cy Young – I had too many wins-based predictions for pitchers last year which was dumb because I’m always beating the “skill doesn’t always translate to wins” drum so I was leaving the projection in the hands of the offenses, defenses and bullpens when I was really trying to comment on the pitcher’s skill.  I included the 24-win mark in Lester’s prediction because I think he has the appropriate backing of offense, defense and bullpen to reward his increasingly excellent skill.

New York Yankees:

Alex Rodriguez hits 52 home runs – It’s hard to really predict anything that can reasonably be considered bold with A-Rod, but he’s 35 years old and has back-to-back 30 home run seasons leading many to believe he is firmly into his decline phase.  There is some skill erosion, but the decline is much smoother with transcendent players like A-Rod and I think he has at least one more MVP-type season in him.  He is a bona fide bargain at a very thin position as he goes mid-to-late second round in many leagues.  The best part about A-Rod, other than the fact that he’s finally healthy again, is that there’s a very high floor so why not invest?

Nick Swisher hits 38 home runs – He’s actually getting better the deeper he goes into his prime and though he hasn’t topped 29 in the last four seasons and 38 would be a career-high, the potential is there especially in that park.  He’s another guy with a high floor having played 150+ games each of the last five seasons.  The batting average isn’t quite the risk that many make it out to be as his .219 season in 2008 is now the clear outlier of his career.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Evan Longoria hits .324-41-133 – No, I’m not among those freaking out about his 11 homer  drop from 2009 to 2010.  After all, his OPS dropped a whopping .010 to .879.  This guy is a superstar and as such he will have some truly excellent seasons in his career.  I am looking at his age 25 in 2011 as the first such season.  All three figures would be career highs and while it wouldn’t necessarily come out of nowhere as he’s a clear first round pick, it would definitely be a profit-laden season.  Some outlets have questioned his mid-first round status, but I think it’s justified even if he “just” repeats 2010 because third base is so lame after the star cut.

James Shields posts a 3.25 ERA – His base skills actually showed significant improvement in 2010 yet his surface stats were the worst of his career because of an atrocious 1.5 home run rate.  He’s not a flyball-heavy pitcher, in fact he’s had a sub-40% flyball rate each of the last three years, yet when someone got a hold of one it was gone.  His skills are just too damn good for a 5.18 ERA or even the 4.14 ERA from 2009. I’m seeing a major course correction.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Ricky Romero shaves nearly a full walk off of his control rate and takes his ERA below 3.00 – I could see the strikeouts rising up above eight per game, but I’m not betting on it just yet as he seems to understand that inducing groundballs is the more efficient way of pitching.  I love that he has the groundball and strikeout in his arsenal.

Travis Snider completes his Adam Lind Path to Stardom – I hope he doesn’t take every step Adam Lind has after Lind’s 2010.  Both had a strong call up, then regressed in their true rookie season and bounced back to average in another half season of play.  Lind followed it up with an explosive 2009 hitting .305 with 35 HR and 114 RBIs.  I’m not sure Snider will hit .305, but he could also top the 35 homers that Lind hit.  I think a big season is in the offing and he’s two years younger than Lind was during his ascension.  Put Snider down for .270 and 38 bombs.  His RBIs will be determined by batting order.

Brandon Morrow improves his walk rate and cuts over a run off of his ERA – With his incredibly electric stuff, Morrow could accelerate his progression with improved command.  Regardless of how much he can improve his walk rate, I think there is a legitimate ceiling on Morrow’s 2011 because the Jays will cap his innings.  I could see the cap ending up somewhere around 175.  In a surprise announcement today, he will start the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.  Hopefully this curbs his value a few days before one of the biggest draft/auction weekends of the season.  As I mentioned re: Kevin Slowey yesterday, don’t draft for April.  If anything, take advantage of any inherent discount brought on by his missing a start or maybe two.

Next Up: AL Central

The goal is to put these up throughout the day tomorrow.  I didn’t realize how lengthy they were going to get as I originally intended to go AL/NL in a two-parter.  That would’ve been too long (that’s what she said) so I’m breaking it up by division.  I will also have my Middle Reliever Guide out this week.  I was hoping for today, but again this project expanded a bit more than I expected.

Friday: 02.4.2011

Daily Dose – February 4th

A quick dose today as we prepare for snow here in Austin.  Yes, snow.  It’s still something of a novelty here, but it’s not all that rare as we’ve had snow a couple of times in the last few years.  Of course it will still paralyze the city and no one will have any clue how to drive in it.  By the way, we are looking at 1-2 inches… yep, that’s enough to paralyze the city.  OK summer, you can come back anytime now.  HURRY!!!

Beyond the Boxscore’s Daniel Moroz (@CamdenCrazies) put together a great piece on the worst 30 home run seasons in baseball.  I was sad to see that Curtis Granderson made the list for his 2009 season, but at least he was one of the “best”.  It is pretty stunning how awful the worst of the bunch was in overall value (or severe & utter lack thereof).

One of the biggest questions in fantasy baseball circles this offseason is around the projections of Jose Bautista for 2011.  After his insane breakout 54 home run season, everyone is interested to see if it was a total flop or if he is a legitimate top power hitter in the league now.  Jon Paul Morosi (@jonpaul) has piece out explains why he thinks Bautista shouldn’t be ignored.  As for his fantasy value, expectations are the key.  If you are looking for another 54 home runs, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed, but if you want 32-36 with 105-115 RBIs, a decent batting average and a great on-base percentage (some leagues use OBP), then Bautista is your guy.  He’s not Brady Anderson 2.0, folks.

Royals Authority writer Nick Scott (@brokenbatsingle) asks whether it was the year of the pitcher or the year of the smaller bat?  An interesting query that takes an in depth look at how a small change could’ve had a significant impact.  Scott makes clear that the bat change was likely a contributing factor to the decreased offense we saw in addition to other theories floated as opposed to a singular reason.

Oh no!!  One of my favorite players went to one of my least favorite teams.  Lastings Milledge has joined the Chicago White Sox, hated rival of my beloved Detroit Tigers.  I can’t believe Milledge is already in “minor league contract” territory.  I love that guy and I really thought he was going to be awesome.  I guess at 26 he can still have a career resurgence (or I guess it would be a career surgence in his case).  As author Satchel Price points out in a Milledge comparison, this proves that while their farm system may be baseball’s best, the Royals front office remains horribly inept when it comes to free agent signings.  I’m pulling for Lastings as long as he doesn’t rip my Tigers.

I’m not sure when this became available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if NBC saw Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness go viral and then decided to make it into a poster they could sell for $19.95.  Parks & Recreation just might be the best show on TV right now and it’s due in large part to Ron Swanson.

Not only is Parks & Rec hilariously awesome, but it also features the lovely Rashida Jones who I have been a huge fan of since Boston Public back in 2000.  She was in some things after BP, but I don’t recall seeing her again until 2008 when she was on a pile of crap show called Unhitched which was also on FOX.  I watched it strictly because of her.  Since then she had a recurring role on The Office and I’d say that really set her career in motion with movies roles (I Love You, Man, The Social Network) and P&R all coming shortly after her Office arc.  She’s awesome:

The new book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won has drawn mixed reviews from what I have read on Twitter.  I’ve seen some say it’s fantastic and a must read while others question the methodology behind some of the studies.  It’s on my list to read, but I’m waiting for it to come out in iBooks so I can use my iTunes giftcard to get it.  That’s more information than you need, but I can’t recommend it one way or another right now, but I can recommend this New York Times article on the Freakonomics blog where the authors answer questions about the book.

With Spring Training (thankfully) drawing nearer, Alex Remington of FanGraphs wonders if the Grapefruit League may soon become a relic thanks in large part to the sprawling stadium locations in Florida that pale in comparison to cluster, convenient facilities in Arizona.  Having been to both sites (Arizona for the Fall League only), it’s hard not to see Alex’s point.  When I went to see my Tigers in Lakeland, it wasn’t easy to plan on hitting other games.  The only other venue I made it out to was Tampa to see the Yankees and that was 45 minutes away.  It’s just a much better set up in Arizona.

Even though I’m more of an SVU fan myself, this statistical breakdown of the first 10 seasons of Law & Order is fantastic.  I always enjoy stuff like this if for no other reason than to respect the effort put into such a creation.  The author ends with his rendition of the famous L&O sound which he put down as “Ka-CHUNG”.  I’ve never heard that way, for me it’s always been “Dun-Dun!”

It was a sad day for Amanda Rykoff (@amandarykoff) as Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.  Though she took the news pretty hard, she mustered enough energy to put together a Farewell for the Yankee legend.  I’m about as far from a Yankees fan as you can get, but Pettitte was always one of the Yankees I liked as he helped me in multiple fantasy seasons.  I don’t think he’s Hall of Fame despite a great career.  It has nothing to do with the HGH issue, I just don’t think his body of work merits a Hall plaque.

And those who quote his or any other Yankees’ accumulated postseason numbers (most innings, most wins, whatever…), just stop.  That has more to do with circumstance than it does any significant skill.  Pettitte was strong in the playoffs, I’m not denying that don’t quote me accumulation stats as reasons why he should be in the Hall.  There just isn’t a HOF case for him.  Not now.  Not ever.  He will get more consideration than he deserves both because he is a Yankee and because of the postseason success, but in the end I think the writers will do the right thing and leave him out.

It’s hard not to laugh when Justin Bieber booed essentially just for being Justin Bieber as he is here:

And spare me with this idiot crying.  Shut the hell up, clown.  (Hat tip to Sharapova’s Thigh [@sharapovasthigh] for the video.)

Blog recommendation: If you’re a baseball fan and you’re not reading Buster Olney’s (@Buster_ESPN) blog daily then you’re missing out.  It is behind the Insider pay wall, but ESPN has made that well worth it in the past few years.  Olney, Keith Law (@keithlaw) and Chad Millman (@chadmillman) alone make it worth the money, but that’s far from all of the valuable material you get with it.  You can get Insider for $26 and it comes with a subscription to ESPN Magazine.  That’s a pretty great deal.  No, ESPN did not pay me for this plug.  I just think it’s a great product.  And if you’ve followed me on Twitter for any amount of time, you know I’m not afraid to tear into the Worldwide Leader when they deserve it (which is often).

Programming Note: I doubt anyone really cares, but since I write this at night I’m going to start dating it for the following day.  A lot of times I’m not finished until after midnight anyway and it just feels kinda weird promoting a piece dated as yesterday even though it’s only a few hours old when I post the link on Twitter in the morning.  So basically there will be no Daily Dose for February 3rd as this one will be the for Friday February 4th.

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