Posts tagged ‘Mark Teixeira’

Thursday: 02.7.2013

Top 10 1B – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 First Basemen Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, former MLB first baseman Sean Casey, and special guest Bill James. Throughout the series, I’ve had some issues with their inconsistency regarding guys with multi-eligibility. I felt they set a precedent with the initial show by placing Shin-Soo Choo among the centerfielders. That will be his 2013 position so I figured that’s how they’d operate moving forward, but instead they’ve been all over the map.

There were no such issues at first base. In fact, there was very little disagreement among which 10 players should be included. Rankings were different, but I only had one difference with three of the four lists and just two with the fourth.

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

top101Blists

The Shredder

My only real issue here is that Mark Teixeira is a bit high for me. I’m sure it’s the reputation of his exemplary glove. And it is good, but his bat is now one dimensional as he has become a .250ish hitter. His walk rate is on a 3-year downswing, too, eating into his OBP. He’s just not the superstar he once was back in his mid-20s. I was thrilled to see my boy Allen Craig get so much love. In fact, this is lowest he was rated besides my #9 ranking. I think I was trying to self-censor myself and make sure I didn’t overrate him.

My inclusion they didn’t list: Freddie Freeman

Sean Casey

This might be the best list of the entire series! Of course I only say that because it is arguably the most similar to mine that we’ve seen. We matched our top four and the only big divergence was that he rated Craig much higher which of course I’m more than OK with. Adam LaRoche over Freeman is completely defensible.

My inclusion he didn’t list: Freeman

Bill James

I’ve had the biggest issues with James’ lists throughout this series. I think he’s made some terrible picks and knowing his background, I can’t figure out how he’s coming to the conclusions. First base was no different. Anthony Rizzo is really better than Edwin Encarnacion and Craig? After 87 games? Really, Bill? C’mon. How on earth is Joey Votto third? This is just one of those where it’s not really an opinion thing. All of the data, which you’d think he favors, points to Votto easily being the best 1B right now. I was pretty geeked when I saw that James was going to be a part of the series, but it’s been a total dud for me. His reasoning is often shoddy (again, massively surprising given who we are talking about here) and he’s just all over the map.

My inclusion he didn’t list: Craig and EE … seriously, c’mon Bill.

Brian Kenny

He listed Craig fourth. He wins life!

My inclusion he didn’t list: Freeman

 

Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 First Basemen 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 catcher and first base 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.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

Youngsters Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo were close, but #10 on the list beat em out because of his two full years of big time production.

Dear Lord, please don’t let the MLBN guys list Ryan Howard.

THE LIST

10. Freddie Freeman (ATL) – I think so forget that the sweet-swinging lefty is just 23 years old. He has back-to-back 20-homer seasons and showed improvement in both his walk and strikeout rates from year one to year two improving both by about two percent. His continued ascent makes the loss of Chipper Jones easier to swallow for that offense (not to mention the addition of the Upton Bros) and the best may well be on the way as early as 2013.

9. Allen Craig (StL) – The purpose of these lists is to explore the position right now and project forward for the 2013 season. As such, Craig makes my list. His skills are plentiful and already in place, but he needs to stay healthy which I think he will do in 2013 and show subsequently show everyone what a beast he is with the bat. Those paying attention have already seen the 141 OPS+ the last two years, but that’s only been in 733 plate appearances, a full season of dominating will earn him the attention he deserves.

8. Mark Teixeira (NYY) – He is likely to rate higher on everyone’s list on the show tonight, but that’s based solely on name value. The shift (not be confused with MLBN’s The Shredder) has eaten his batting average and it isn’t coming back. He’s been under .260 the last three years and barring a change in approach, I just don’t see him coming back to the levels we were used to in his 20s when he hit a combined .290, topping .300 three times. His OPS has declined yearly since 2007. He’s still good, but no longer great.

7. Paul Konerko (CHW) – He sputtered to the finish line in 2012, but he’s far from done, even at 37 years old. Despite the down second half, he still finished with the 6th-best OPS+ among first basemen qualified for the batting title. Konerko has at least another big year in his bat, if not maybe even 2-3 seasons.

6. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR) – He may not repeat his 2012 breakout that saw him pop 42 bombs, but he’s far from a power fluke. He had a 162-game average of 27 homers for the three years leading up to last year so we had definitely seen glimpses of greatness within his game. Of course Cory Schwartz, Jason Collette, and Matthew Berry have seen the greatness since E40 was in teeball.

5. Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) – I’m extremely high on Goldschmidt as evidenced by this ranking, but I think he’s slated for a big 2013. He’s got a great all-around game bringing big power (43 doubles, 20 homers), a good batting eye (10% walk rate), and speed which is rarely seen from the position (18-for-21 SB success rate). He has 30-35 home run upside, too, which could start to shine through as early as 2013 in his age-25 season.

4. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD) – When your down season is a .299-18-108 season, you’re a damn good ballplayer. That was Gonzalez’s 2012 and while it isn’t what we’re used to (he averaged .306-33-106 from 2009-2011), it was hardly bad. Throw in the trade to LA and I think he’s being slept on a bit. My only major concern is the plummeting walk rate that has gone from 18 percent in 2009 to 13, 10, and then just six percent last year. Thankfully his strikeout rate has held firm between 16 and 16.6 percent in that span. He is still a star.

3. Prince Fielder (DET) – First base is always a position with offensive stalwarts, but I wonder if Prince ever looks things over and shakes his head that even with his numbers he isn’t the unquestioned best at his position. He has missed one game in the last four seasons. Though he peaked at 50 home runs in his second year, he has hardly struggled in the meantime. He is still averaging 36 per season since that 2007 breakout along with a .290 average and 111 RBIs. Plain and simple, he is one of the best the game has seen and he has plenty more in store.

2. Albert Pujols (LAA) – Remember when his career was over in April? And how he probably wasn’t going to make the Hall of Fame in early May? It was an uncharacteristically slow start for The Machine, but the panic button was smashed to bits by far too many people especially since he’d just done something similar in 2011. He is still unquestionably one of the game’s best players and I wouldn’t even quibble with someone giving him the top spot, but for me it was easily…

1. Joey Votto (CIN) – The torch is passed. Yes, he only played 111 games last year thanks to an injury, but he still led first basemen in fWAR at 5.9 among those with 450+ plate appearances. He won his third straight OBP title in the National League and second MLB-wide title in three years. Despite playing just 111 games, he still clubbed a career-best 44 doubles. If he had gotten the 625 plate appearances he normally gets in a season, he was on pace for 58 doubles which would’ve been one shy of Todd Helton’s 59 in 2000, the most in the integration era (since 1947).

I really should do these during the week so I don’t smash four posts (two reviews, two new lists) onto the site in a matter of hours. I’ve just been so deep in the SP guide stuff that by the time Friday hits, I’m like “Oh man, I gotta get my top 10 stuff done”.

Friday: 02.11.2011

Daily Dose – February 11th

A link-less, abbreviated Dose heading into the weekend as I drop some first base-related knowledge bombs on y’all:

Knowledge Bomb 1: A couple days ago, I released my top 25 catcher rankings to kick off my positional rankings.  Let’s continue our way around the diamond and head over to the ultra-deep first base.  On the offensive side of things, first base is hands down the deepest position with several superstars and plenty of talent to go around.  The best way to utilize the depth is to also grab your corner infielder (in leagues that use the spot) from this pool.  Some feel that the depth at first base allows you to wait on the position altogether, but I don’t think that is the right play at all.

I think you should be ready to double and perhaps triple dip (1B, CI, DH) into the plentiful bounty of first base.  There are other strategies to be employed, but my feeling is that with the excess of power potential at the position compared with the dwindling power supplies in the league at large, why not maximize the position and its four-category contribution: power (HR, RBI, R and AVG as each HR contributes a hit, too)?

Even if you played up position scarcity and chose a shortstop in the first round and an outfielder in the second round (it’s thinner than you think, folks), you will still have stud potential available in the next two or three rounds.  Let me show you what I mean (guys who have dual-eligibility at first base aren’t going to be included in the actual top 25 as they don’t have nearly the value at first that they do at their normal position.  That means there won’t be any Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, etc.. Kevin Youkilis will show up because he won’t start the season with 3B eligibility after playing just 2 games there last year.):

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Kevin Youkilis
  6. Adrian Gonzalez
  7. Prince Fielder
  8. Adam Dunn
  9. Ryan Howard
  10. Kendry Morales
  11. Justin Morneau
  12. Paul Konerko
  13. Billy Butler
  14. Derrek Lee
  15. Gaby Sanchez
  16. Adam LaRoche
  17. Aubrey Huff
  18. Ike Davis
  19. Carlos Pena
  20. Lance Berkman
  21. Kila Ka’aihue
  22. Justin Smoak
  23. James Loney
  24. Daric Barton
  25. Matt LaPorta

Overvalued: Ryan Howard – this one is relative as I still think he is plenty valuable as a major power source, but I’m not sure he returns to his truly elite power self as some of the warning signs are to be taken seriously.  He’s been going off the board as the 5th or 6th first baseman in a lot of industry mock drafts that I have seen and his ADP (average draft position) is 6th and 7th at Mock Draft Central and Couch Managers, respectively.  I’ve got him 9th, so it’s not a huge dip, but I wouldn’t make him down for 40-140 automatically in 2011.

Undervalued: None – no one being seriously overlooked, at least not by more than a slot or two which isn’t enough to get up in arms.  There is some value at the position because the depth pushes some guys down, but no one is being criminally passed over in lieu of lesser options.

Target: Kendry Morales – Yes, he is coming off of the big leg injury, but that isn’t something that will sap his power or hamper him at all this year.  He had a breakout 2009 and was in the midst of an excellent follow-up in 2010 when the accident happened, I expect him to pick up right where he left off and continue as one of the best first basemen in the league.  Even if you already locked up an elite first baseman in the first or second round, there would be nothing wrong with coming back in the fifth round and slotting Morales’ 30-home run power into your corner infield spot.

Best of the Rest: Adam Lind – he doesn’t yet qualify at first base in standard league formats, but as his assumed position for Opening Day, your league may allow you to draft him there.  Even if that isn’t the case, he will earn his eligibility there quickly and he has elite power potential with the ability to hit .275+ yet he is going behind LaRoche and Pena (who he is a rich man’s version of) according to current ADP numbers.  If he were first base eligible right now, I would slot him between Konerko and Butler.

Rookie to Watch: Freddie Freeman – He strikes me as James Loney-esque right now lacking enough power to be a starting first baseman.  He could be a .280 hitter with mid-teens power, though, which is still worth rostering even in mixed leagues given the late round cost attached.  He’s really the only rookie 1B with a chance to start in 2011.

Knowledge Bomb 2: There were 13 first basemen to hit at least 20 home runs and drive in at least 80 runs:

  • 10 of the 13 scored 85+ runs
  • 5 of the 13 scores 100+ runs
  • 6 of the 13 hit .290+
  • 10 of the 13 hit .260+ (a .260 AVG will cost a team just .002 in team AVG over a full season)
  • 4 of the 13 chipped in 7+ stolen bases (Votto [16] & Pujols [14] doubled the contribution)

Knowledge Bomb 3: Check out the home run season totals at three key thresholds broken down by position:

Few leagues use each outfield position individually, but even if I had lumped all three together the point of first base’s power prowess would have still held.  You need three to five outfielders in all leagues whereas you need just one first baseman (but could feasibly roster up to three with corner and DH).  First base is the only elite power source on the diamond.  If you leave your draft or auction with Billy Butler (who I really like, so don’t get me wrong there) as your starting first baseman, you have messed up and you will likely be struggling for power all year long.

I will reiterate that you needn’t take a first baseman in the first or even the second round to cash in on the power surplus.  So if you wanted to go shortstop and third baseman to attack some of the scarcity around the infield, that would be a feasible strategy and you would still have plenty of power first basemen available to you in the third and fourth rounds.  However, if you’re looking at a blank 1B spot on your roster in the back end of the fifth round, chances are you are well behind your leaguemates at the position.

Tuesday: 02.8.2011

Daily Dose – February 8th

I can’t believe how close pitchers and catchers are to reporting.  Baseball season is right around the corner, I can feel it!!  It’s the only thing getting me through this awful cold weather.  Let’s hit the dose for Tuesday:

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Tosh (@danieltosh) since he was an unknown comic doing Taco Bell commercials years ago.  I saw him at the local comedy club around that time and the next time he was in Austin, I was one of the three comics who got to open for him.  Once I heard he was going to have a show, Tosh.0, I didn’t really care what it was going to be about, I knew I’d watch it.  I have not been disappointed as it’s easily one of, if the funniest show on TV.  As much as it makes me laugh on a week to week basis, this clip might be my favorite of all-time:

A while back, Unreality Magazine did a piece covering the 10 Hottest Girls in TV Comedies.  I figured it was a pretty good idea for a column.  While I disagree with some inclusions and the order, it is hard to argue with the content otherwise.  Alison Brie and Katrina Bowden were far too low given that they actually excel in both the hotness and the comedy whereas some were included merely because they are very pretty and part of comedy shows even if they aren’t particularly funny themselves.

No arguments for the picture of Kaley Cuoco they used as she looks great there, but anyone who watches Big Bang Theory knows that that particular picture is definitely Ms. Cuoco at her peak.  I’d have had a bit further down the list despite the fact that she’s pretty funny on BBT.  By the way, I’m sure I’m one of many, but I was saying that the eldest daughter on Modern Family looked like a younger Mila Kunis from the very first moment I watched the show.  It’s a pretty easy link so I’m not trying to suggest I started it or anything.  Any time you are getting compared to Mila Kunis, you know you’re awesome.

A pair of tweets about two of the best Cleveland Indians players had to give fans some hope for the upcoming season.  Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) tweeted that Grady Sizemore is running and taking swings with April 1st, Opening Day for the Tribe, not out of the question.  Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians Twitter feed (@tribeinsider) tweeted that Carlos Santana has been cleared for batting practice and catching activities.  Olney mentioned that Santana is a bit ahead of Sizemore in the rehab process.

Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) created a sweet picture of Albert Pujols’ spray chart from last year.  Click on the picture itself and it enlarges to about 3x the size.  He also did one for Carlos Gonzalez last month.  I’m a sucker for infographics like this which is why I can’t get enough of Craig Robinson’s work over at Flip, Flop, Flyball.  If you’re familiar with Robinson’s work, you might want to pre-order the FFFb book due out in July.  Hell, even if you’re not familiar with it, you’ll love it once you click the link and you’ll still want to pre-order the book.

ESPN is running a series of columns grading each team on their offseason grouped by division.  Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) and Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) have done the first four (East & Central) and I’d assume they’re going to do the whole series.  Crasnick covered the American League East and Central while Stark had the National League East and Central.

Sticking with the Worldwide Leader, they have been posting videos from their Fantasy Baseball Summit a few weeks back and it could be (read: most definitely is) because I’m kind of a dork, but I’m loving them.  They started with a Mark Teixeira v. Kevin Youkilis debate and have since released clips on Jayson Werth, Joe Nathan and Adam Wainwright.  The Wainwright clip is especially interesting and I suggest everyone in mixed or NL-Only leagues take a look.

One thing I really enjoy about John Sickels’ Minor League Ball site are his series articles.  The ones I can think of off the top of my head that he does are Crystal Ball, Prospect Retro and Career Profiles.  He’s been doing a lot of reader request Career Profiles of late and I recommend you check them out: Eric Chavez, Francisco Liriano, James Loney, Rickie Weeks and Jayson Werth are just a few that I really enjoyed.  You can look through the rest here and find players that interest you most.  In addition to Project Prospect, who I mentioned yesterday, Sickels’ site is another must-read for anyone interested in the minor leagues.  Whether you already consider yourself a prospect maven or you’re interested in becoming one, his stuff is great.

Twitter Recommendation: CNBC sports business report, Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell), is an absolute must-follow on Twitter.  Don’t let the sports biz moniker deter you either, he covers more than just sports and posts tons of interesting facts and great links about a wide variety of topics.  If I could only pick five people to follow on Twitter, Rovell would easily earn a spot.

Knowledge Bomb: Be careful with stats, they can be dangerous.  Houston Astros third baseman Chris Johnson came out of nowhere last season to put up 94 games of fantasy goodness including 11 HR, 52 RBIs and .308 AVG.  Some will look at his line and think that a full season will bring about even better numbers for the 26 year old in 2011.  In fact, I’ve seen him being trumpeted over Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez based on one stat: OPS.

In his 362 plate appearances, Johnson posted an .818 OPS.  Make no mistake, that’s a pretty solid figure especially for an unknown like Johnson.  Not many think he can repeat next year (including me), but those that do have dangerously wielded that .818 OPS around like a sword.  In his 386 plate appearances, Alvarez “only” had a .788 OPS, 30 points away from Johnson.

While OPS is a useful stat for quick and dirty catch-all production estimations, not all OPS marks are created equally.  The problem here is that OPS brings batting average into the equation so a fluky batting average, like Johnson’s which was powered by a .387 BABIP, can artificially boost one’s OPS.   Alvarez had just a .256 average which cut deep into the OBP end of OPS.  But when you go second level and look at the Isolated Power of each, Alvarez clearly has the brighter future based on their first 90+ games.

Isolated Power is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average.  Alvarez popped a .205 IsoP, 5th among National League third basemen.  Johnson had a .175 mark, good for 9th.  Alvarez probably won’t hit .300 in 2011, he may not even top .270, but as Johnson’s luck regresses his average will sink and he may end up struggling to stay above .270 himself.  Without the batting average advantage, you start comparing the two in runs scored, driven in and home runs and Alvarez wins a walk.

Alvarez has legitimate 25 home run power already with the potential for more while Johnson is a middling power contributor who will likely top out in the mid-teens.  He’s one to avoid for 2011 as his 2010 numbers, including his OPS, will undoubtedly inflate his value to a level that won’t be commensurate with his performance this year.  If you want a bargain at the thin hot corner, talk up Alvarez’s down average and strikeout tendencies and then swoop in and take him and reap the hefty rewards.

Pitchers and Catchers report in five days…

Wednesday: 02.2.2011

Daily Dose: February 2nd

I woke up this morning to something you don’t often (ever?) see in Austin, TX: rolling blackouts.  It’s Coldpocalypse  2011 here in Central Texas and it sucks.  No, it’s not as bad as the feet of snow being dumped on the Midwest and Northeast, but it’s all about context.  I don’t live in those places for a reason.  I hate cold weather and so 15 degrees with a wind chill of 0 is my own personal winter hell.  Oh for those who don’t know, I grew up in Detroit where obviously I went through plenty of blistering winters.  The fact is I lived there from 0-14 and you just don’t have the same disdain for inclement weather at that age that you do as an adult.

I can’t fathom how anyone would rather be cold than hot.  Give me 100 any day of the week over 40, much less teens.  Sure, sometimes the sweltering heat can be annoying, but it doesn’t instantly put me in a bad mood like freezing cold.  I think heatwaves can cause rolling blackouts, too, but since I have never experienced them in the summer, I will forever associate them with awful cold weather, increasing my utter disdain for winter temperatures.

OK, enough of my frozen tears as I’m sure plenty of you reading this have 9 ThermaCare wraps on your back to alleviate the uncontrollable pain sustained shoveling 23 inches of snow out of your driveway.  Time for the Daily Dose.

One of my favorite articles every winter is the List of 12 by Cory Schwartz (@schwartzstops) from MLB Network’s Fantasy 411 TV show and podcast.  Schwartz developed the list years ago (the original iteration had 12 guys if you can believe that) as a way of identifying potential breakouts in the upcoming fantasy season.  It’s not as simple as being on it makes you a breakout candidate, which is why Schwartz analyzes each of the 15 arms on this year’s list.  There are some very enticing names on the list including Jason Hammel and Shaun Marcum.  I’m worried that Marcum’s offseason trade to Milwaukee may raise his profile a bit when he would otherwise be an overlooked gem.

I swear I’m not a Baseball Prospectus fanboy.  You’re going to have to trust me on that, but I could understand how it might look that way with so many of their links popping up in the first two editions of the Daily Dose.  It was quite fitting on that on National Signing Day, they unveiled a talent-laden recruiting class of their own.  If you’re not already a subscriber, today should be your impetus.

Obviously there is a lot of great free content out there, but your money would be well invested in a BP subscription.  Congrats to entire new group of writers over there, but specifically my good friend Jason Collette (@jasoncollette), who I have known for years and Sky Kalkman (@Sky_Kalkman), who I’ve known virtually for some time as we are both  members of the Rotojunkie message.

One of the debuts was from Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) who took the devil’s advocate approach to prospects by looking at what could go wrong in 2011.  He looked at five Kansas City Royals prospects first.  The Royals are widely regarded as the best system in baseball right now and Parks looked at the five best in their organization, so he was getting at the best of the best and making sure you don’t get too caught up in the hype and understand that it might not pan out as planned right away.

It’s one thing to be a pretty face.  It’s quite another to be a very pretty girl who also happens to be absolutely hilarious and that’s what ESPN’s Michelle Beadle (@ESPN_Michelle) pulls off regularly.  Most recently it was in this excellent Super Bowl Ad video.  Lots of girls are pretty, Michelle is attractive because she seems to offer much more than her looks.  Oh yeah, she’s also from Texas and her birthday is just a day before mine (Oct. 23rd).

Speaking of pretty girls, AskMen has released their Top 99 Women of 2011 and Mint.com does a great job breaking down the list in a series of interesting ways.   I definitely don’t agree with their #1, Blake Lively.  She’s definitely pretty, but not #1 pretty.  Scarlett Johansson remains my #1 with my #2 matching AskMen’s, Mila Kunis.  I was happy to see that brunettes overwhelmingly dominated the list proving what I’ve known for some time: they are just better than blondes.  I’m glad to see they wedged Emma Stone in there with her strawberry blonde/reddish hair as opposed to her natural blonde look which doesn’t look natural (or good) at all.  I couldn’t help but laugh when they listed someone named Whitney Port as a notably absent “A-Lister”.  I thought A-Listers were people that everyone knew?  I had to Google this no-talent hack to find out exactly why I had no clue who she was: she’s an MTV “reality” person.  Who are your favorites on the list?  Any major snubs in your opinion?

I have long detested “reality” TV if for no other reason than the completely idiotic name.  It couldn’t possibly be less real if it tried yet this name has inexplicably stuck.  I was thrilled to see the czar of this genre, Mark Burnett, agree with my sentiment recently:

Muttered the man seated behind me: “Um, it’s a reality show.”

No it’s not! says Burnett. “I hate the word ‘reality.’ I think it’s just a made-up word by journalists. What the hell has it got to do with reality? Reality is me standing here right now. Let’s face it: None of the shows are reality. They’re not really marooned on the island in Survivor. [laughter] But the feeling’s real. They’re not really applying for a job with Donald Trump. I mean, who would?” [more laughter]

IMDB.com released part one of a four-part documentary on the making of The Social Network.  I love behind the scenes looks into things so I was really interested in this documentary especially because I really enjoyed the movie back in October.  My only real problem is that for some reason Rooney Mara, the girl who played Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in the opening scene, is being getting so much attention for her innocuous scene.

I’m so sick and tired of hearing how great she was in her 9 seconds of screen time.  I was surprised she wasn’t up for Best Actress in the Oscars after hearing everyone talk about it.  I’m sure most of it is just to build hype for her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it didn’t make the gushing any less nauseating.  She didn’t steal her scene let alone the movie.  It was standard Sorkin dialogue that she executed well enough, but the hype to performance ratio is off-the-charts.

Podcast Recommendation: First off, I feel like not enough people listen to podcasts.  They are excellent.  They are a much better version of sports radio (mainly because there are no commercials).  Whether you’re new to podcasts are a savvy veteran, you have to subscribe to The Jonah Keri Podcast.  I dare you not to get the theme song stuck in your head after hearing it once, but beyond that it’s just a brilliantly done show.  He gets amazing guests including writers, announcers, bloggers, ballplayers and other podcasters and while most are sports-centric, he isn’t just focused on one sport.  He did a Hall of Fame week back in January where he did five days of shows including ones with Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven.  Keri has put together arguably the best podcast going and yet it’s all of 21 episodes old.

As I noted yesterday, I’m a 2K sports guy.  Of course, since I have an Xbox360, it isn’t 100% by choice, but I’ve been happy with their improving baseball series the last few years.  In the interest of equal time, though, here is the MLB 11: The Show trailer

Knowledge Bomb: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis is likely to fly a bit under the radar in drafts and auctions this year as he not only failed to meet the high power expectations of him (12 HR in 2010), but he fell off significantly from his 2009 figure of 18.  Mix in weak counting stats (60 RBI, 79 R) thanks to an anemic Orioles offense (613 runs, 27th in MLB) and it was a tough season for the 26-year old.  But don’t forget his primary category where he counted to be a high impact producer: batting average.  Markakis hasn’t hit below .291 in any of his five seasons and delivered 629 at-bats of .297 goodness last year.

If you replace 550-600 ABs of a fantasy team’s batting average with Markakis, it is worth three batting average points.  That may not sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about one guy impacting a 6500 at-bat sample by three points, it is significant.  Replacing Mark Teixeira, who had an atypical batting average year in 2010, with Markakis would have been worth four batting average points.

When you are looking to build your batting average, the high volume of at-bats is just important as the average itself.  In the last three years only Markakis and Ichiro Suzuki have managed a .290 or better average in 595 or more at-bats.  You don’t have to necessarily build for batting average when taking one of these guys, they can be your insurance policy to roster a low-average, high-power type like Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds or Carlos Pena who all come at a bit cheaper because of their unappealing batting averages.

Tuesday: 01.25.2011

Three Questions – Seattle Mariners

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

Will Justin Smoak start to look like the guy who was the centerpiece in a deal for an ace?

Smoak, a blue chip prospect coming up through the Rangers’ organization, drew rave reviews in three minor league seasons ranking 13th (2010) and 23rd (2009) on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list the last two years.  He was being compared to former Ranger Mark Teixeira, likely due to the easy surface comparison of switch-handedness, a deft eye at the plate, first round draft status and first base positioning on the diamond.  It will be tough to find out how apt those comparisons were as Smoak is now a Seattle Mariner.

His career started off with a whimper in 275 plate appearances with the Rangers, but he still showed the ability to draw walks with a 105-point split between his batting average and on-base percentage, although both lagged with the latter topping out at .316.  His 8-home run total wasn’t horrible either.  Across a full season, that projects to the low-20 power Smoak was projected for in his young career.  Results on the whole were slightly better in Seattle (93 OPS+ v. 79 in Texas) though they came at the expense of his batting eye as the difference in average and OBP dwindled to 48 points.

As the centerpiece return for the M’s in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers the expectation for Smoak to hit Teixeira likely won’t go away, however the capacity to do so will be seriously diminished in his home park of Safeco Field.  According to StatCorner.com, Safeco Field has a park factor of 91 on home runs for left-handed batters and just 84 for righties.  For the uninitiated, anything below 100 favors pitchers.  So for 81 of his games, Smoak is going to be playing in an environment that eats away at his ability to do the thing fantasy owners need most out of a first base/corner infield option, hit for power.

Factor in the historically bad lineup which has no chance but to improve but will still struggle and you’ve got a player bringing very little to the table in terms of production.  If the low-20s was Smoak’s ceiling for the early part of his career in Texas, then 15-17 is the new ceiling playing in Seattle.  Combine that with below average runs scored and driven in totals and you have waiver wire fodder in most league formats.  He will get drafted because of his name and because of his hot September (.340/.421/.580, 3 HR, 9 RBI), both of which are factors that will price me out for sure.  I don’t need a hit before I pass this Smoak.

Where do I draft Ichiro now that he’s 37 & stuck in that lineup?

I am less concerned about the age than I am his awful supporting cast who last year cashed in Ichiro’s .359 on-base percentage for a whopping 74 runs.  SEVENTY-FOUR!!!  He hit .315 with 214 hits and scored 74 runs.  We have already seen within his early-to-mid 30s that Ichiro isn’t aging normally.  He continues to be an age-defying star and there is no reason to bet that he drops off the table suddenly in 2011.  As I have mentioned many times before, I would be careful subscribing to these trends, but he has an on-off trend with his batting average that is schedule for an on year.  His last four years in order have been .351, .310, .352 and .315 meaning if the trend held he would be in for another transcendent batting average year that can carry a fantasy team.

On-off trends are hardly the statistical work of Baseball Prospectus and company, but maybe he dedicates himself in a different way during the offseason of those “down” seasons to come back and have another huge year.  Flimsy at best, so don’t use it as the reason to draft him.  Draft him because he hits .300+ in a ton of at-bats with 35+ stolen bases.  Unfortunately he cannot be counted on for runs until further notice, but he is a stud in two categories.

In a recent “Experts” Draft held over at CBS, he went at the top of the 5th round.  I might be more prone to take him in the back of the 4th round when all of those picks were being wasted on starting pitchers, but it’s inconsequential to say he is late 4th instead of an early 5th round pick.  Anywhere in that pick 40-60 range suits me just fine.  The age is scary to many so you may even be able to hold off until the 6th round or get a few dollars shaved off of his auction price.  When you are dealing with superstar once-in-a-lifetime players, things like natural age progression and mistrusting the stats is how you get burned.  He is as solid as they get in this game on unpredictability.

Is there anyone besides Ichiro worth caring about in this lineup?

Yes, there is some hidden value.  Off the top, I would be willing to bet on a Chone Figgins rebound.  The price is likely to be ripe for a profit as his .259 average left a sour taste in the over-reactionary populace of fantasy baseball while you are smart enough to wade through the belly-aching and see a guy who still stole 42 bases and hit much better from June on (.280) after entering the month with a .211 average.

But for the purposes of this question, I would like to shift your attention to the former AL West foe who was brought to the Mariners to provide some punch to their lineup, Jack Cust.  You may recall about 500 or so words ago I lamented Safeco Field and what it does to a hitter’s power.  However the “hitter” in that example is a mere mortal when it comes to power hitting, he is no Jack Cust.  Cust’s power isn’t to be stifled by cavernous stadiums whether in the Bay Area or the great Northwest.

Cust popped a .501 slugging percentage in McAfee Coliseum, his former home in Oakland, which has a home run park factor just a point higher at 92 for lefties than his new home.  This means his power won’t be stifled, just as the power of the guy whose shoes he is filling, Russell Branyan, wasn’t during his two stints with Seattle.  Cust has a legitimate shot to replicate Branyan’s 31 home run season from 2009 and he certainly doesn’t cost what 31 home runs should (went 29th round in the aforementioned “Experts” League) so put a star next to him on your draft list.

Tuesday: 01.20.2009

Top 24 First Basemen: 12-1

Here is the completion of my top 24 first basemen for 2009.

Part 1

12. Carlos Pena, 31, Tampa Bay Rays – There was a group of people that believed Pena would be a flop after his huge 2007 season. After his first half, they were looking spot on, but he became a catalyst for the Rays’ second half run en route to a 20 home run performance. Pena is your regular WYSIWYG kind of guy and you can just about bet on .250/30/100 for the foreseeable future. OBP leaguers give Pena a boost with his stellar walk rate increasing his value markedly. Pena is the kind of guy that is skipped over round after round because there isn’t much perceived upside with him, but 2007 proved that he can get on a roll and have a top tier season.

11. Derrek Lee, 33, Chicago Cubs – EVERY capsule about Lee this season immediately references 2005 and I’m afraid I can’t break the trend. That season is now clearly an outlier that will never be reached again. He might still have another 30-home run outburst in his bat, but realistically he’s a mid-20s home run hitter with big average and big runs & RBIs totals. He used to be a perennial double-digit basestealer, but his past two full seasons have yielded just six and eight, respectively. Still, you like the added steals from an unexpected source. Lee’s name usually combines with memories of 2005 to take him off the board well before he should so make sure you avoid that pitfall and don’t pass up better production with lesser names.

10. Joey Votto, 25, Cincinnati Reds – He had a Derrek Lee-lite season last year with depressed totals in runs scored & driven in thanks to his spot in the lineup and a lesser lineup than Lee’s Cubs. He actually bounced all around the lineup, but the 7-hole was his home most often. He will assuredly move up this season which will allow him to be the full version of Lee, but likely cheaper since he isn’t as well known… yet. What makes him better than Lee is that he is on the upswing while Lee has plateaued. With a great home stadium, he should still manage the mid-20s power despite such a high groundball rate (44%). The upside is a .300-90-30-100-10 season so don’t be afraid to go the extra dollar to get him.

9. Adrian Gonzalez, 27, San Diego Padres – Can you imagine if he was still in Texas? Instead he’s stuck in the anti-Coors which severely caps his ceiling. After hitting 21 home runs through June, he managed just 10 across July and August as the Padres played 32 of their 55 games at home. That said he is still a bankable 30-100 hitter with a nice batting average. He has dropped yearly against lefties which keeps him from a perennial .300, but his .280 is still quite useful. It appears as though the fences will be moved in at Petco which can only help Gonzalez in his quest to tame the stadium, but pay for 30-100 and if you get the 2008 bonus again, enjoy it.

8. Kevin Youkilis, 30, Boston Red Sox – Here is why I don’t think the 13 home run increase from Youk was a fluke: his walk rate fell by 3% and I believe a lot of that was him going for solid pitches that he ended up being able to do a lot with earlier in the count. Known as the Greek God of Walks, I think in past seasons he was waiting for the perfect pitch or just taking a walk. To wit, he had 15 home runs after a 1-0 count against just seven in 2007. I feel like another 25+ home run season rests on Youk’s shoulders as he decides whether or not he wants to take that approach again this season. As part of that lineup, his counting stats will be excellent as well. He’s one to chase.

7. Justin Morneau, 28, Minnesota Twins – The home runs per flyball rate dropped well off of his career norms so it cut into the home run totals, but the 97 runs, 129 RBIs and .300 batting average helped alleviate the sting. This is a guy that is getting better and becoming an elite producer at first base as seemingly no one notices. With three straight seasons of 590+ at-bats owners can have confidence that he will always be out there for them. With a correction in the hr/f rate, he could repeat the 2008 season with six or seven extra home runs.

6. Prince Fielder, 25, Milwaukee Brewers – The 50 home runs from 2007 was supported by an unsustainable hr/f rate (24%). The 46% clip at which he hit flyballs was unprecedented before and unmatched after which also aided the drop in home run output. Even still, Fielder is a legitimate power source nearly guaranteed for a mid-30s home run output with a real shot in any given year to get back to 50. To have full seasons of 28, 50 and 34 home runs entering your age 25 season is truly remarkable. It is not unrealistic to imagine sustainable growth, but set your expectations for 35-110 to prevent yourself from overpaying.

5. Lance Berkman, 33, Houston Astros – Don’t bring up Berkman’s name around head-to-head fantasy players. He had a disgusting .365-72-22-68-12 first half of the season followed by a dismal .252-45-7-38-6 second half. That enormous drop-off prevented Berkman from reversing a declining home run trend that started back in 2006. Don’t buy the 2008 speed for 2009, but this is still an excellent skillset capable of .300-30-100. He will offer 6-8 stolen bases and should score at least 100 runs with Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence behind him. The second half might have left a sour enough taste in your league to depress Berkman’s value relative to other studs, bid accordingly if you’re in such a league.

4. Mark Teixeira, 29, New York Yankees – He has plateaued at 30-100 since the monster 43-home run season back in 2005, but combined with a reliable .300 average and a ton runs makes him an elite commodity. Heading to New York should bode well for both the runs scored and runs driven in totals, while the new Yankee Stadium remains an unknown in terms of its affect on home runs. His new residence is likely to drive the price up, but don’t get caught up in the hysteria and treat like anything but the 4th-best first baseman in the league. It doesn’t get much more reliable than Teixeira so there is nothing wrong with making a part of your team’s foundation.

3. Ryan Howard, 29, Philadelphia Phillies – Howard is as elite as it gets when it comes to power production. The batting average has left something to be desired since the MVP campaign, but when you are getting those home run and RBI totals, it is hard to complain. A sharp drop in walk rate didn’t help much when he was in prolonged slumps, but that should return in 2009. He is quite streaky so H2H-leaguers beware when bidding. The fact of the matter is he has 58, 47 and 48 home runs in his past three seasons with a ton of RBIs and about 100 runs scored per as well. All of that without being a complete liability in batting average helps make Howard one of the best of the game.

2. Miguel Cabrera, 26, Detroit Tigers – If I put Cabrera ahead of Albert Pujols, it would look like little more than homersim, so I avoided the temptation. Well that and I’m not entirely sold that he belongs there so I wasn’t going to do it just for the sake of doing it. He absolutely dominated the league in the second half of 2008 and it clear that he is fully acclimated to the American League now. What is the ceiling for this guy? He has increased his home run and RBI totals yearly since 2006 and he could be headed for another jump after last year’s 37/127 effort. Make no mistake; he is a late first round talent for 2009.

1. Albert Pujols, 29, St. Louis Cardinals – Who can you say about Pujols that hasn’t been said? He is just so amazing year after year. He hasn’t put up especially gaudy home run and RBI titles the past two seasons, but the insane batting average he posts yearly separates him from the pack. He hasn’t hit below .330 since 2002 including last year’s .357. I love Hanley Ramirez as much as anyone else, but I have no qualms with making Pujols the #1 overall pick in a scratch draft. It is frightening to think that he could actually improve on last year and get back to 2006 levels. Letting him go any deeper than fourth overall is a crime and at fourth, that owner is getting a steal.

al-1b
top-24-1b nl-1b

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,350 other followers