Archive for May 24th, 2008

Saturday: 05.24.2008

Player Focus 5.25.06

Phenom Upton Struggling at the Plate
The Arizona Diamondbacks came out of the gates absolutely on fire this season and it was due in large part to the play of Justin Upton. Upton was destroying the ball leading to five home runs and 15 runs batted in. The struggles from his 2007 cup of coffee was seen merely as growing pains, Upton had arrived. Whoops. I think that’s why they say it’s a marathon not a sprint. Upton has been a disaster in May hitting just .224. He has struck out in 45% of his at-bats and has just one home run.

The silver lining to an awful May is that Upton has garnered 17 walks good enough for a .388 on-base percentage. From the available data, it looks like he is simply waiting too long in hopes of getting his pitch. On 3-2 counts, he has 14 walks and 12 strike outs. He is hitting just .042 in that situation as well. When he is first pitch swinging, he is hitting .500 and a strong .474 on 1-0 & 1-1 counts combined. It stands to reason that he needs to once again be aggressive in order to get out of his slump.

Duchscherer Chucks Eight Scoreless, Nets 4th Win
The 2007 season was a lost one for Oakland A’s pitcher Justin Duchscherer. Injuries shut him down after just 16.3 innings work. Prior to that, he was a bullpen ace for the A’s in three straight seasons. From 2004-2006, Duchscherer worked 237.7 innings with a 2.80 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He struck out 7.4 batters per nine with a 3.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. During this past offseason, the A’s decided that Duchscherer would be a bigger asset to them in their rotation.

After all, they had jettisoned their ace (yet again) to Arizona for a cornucopia of pieces and there was a ton of uncertainty after Joe Blanton and oft-injured Rich Harden. Duchscherer threw a 5-inning pearl on April 4th against the Cleveland Indians but then missed the next three weeks before throwing another strong 5 innings against the Seattle Mariners on April 26th.

Duchscherer improved to 4-3 and dropped his WHIP below 1.00 with eight shutout, one-hit innings against the Boston Red Sox tonight. It’s incredible to think that a pitcher with a 2.16 ERA and 0.98 WHIP would be a 4th starter. Of course, that’s merely his position in the rotation—The Duke has clearly been one of the best A’s pitchers. As the season wears on, it’ll be interesting to see how many quality innings the A’s can get out of an arm used to going about 80 innings per season. With six quality starters (Blanton, Harden, Duke, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith and Chad Gaudin), the A’s will have the flexibility to ensure they maximize their rotation. If you assumed that Duchscherer was good for 160 innings this season, he’d have 119 left in the tank. Giving him an average of 6 per would leave him with 19 more starts. Now that is hardly scientific. Fact is, that no matter how much I love The Duke (I own him in every league I can), I know that he isn’t likely to reach the 100s in innings due simply to fatigue as opposed to performance. For now, I’ll enjoy the ride.

Votto Blasts 10th; Drives in 4 More
We all know that Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker isn’t particularly bright. He runs arms ragged (usually for no reason) and makes awful personnel decisions. Take for example the fact that rookie phenom Joey Votto started just 20-of-29 games for the Reds in April. After all, you have to get Scott Hatteberg in the lineup. I don’t mean to hate on Hatteberg. He has a tremendous eye with a career .362 on-base percentage and 59 more walks than strikeouts (562 to 503), but 12-home run power out of first base is unacceptable. Votto a hit a quarter of that total in one game earlier this month and with his 10th home run of the season tonight in San Diego, he is establishing himself as a full-time major league ballplayer.

Not only does Votto the typical run-production skills needed at corner infield, but with 40 stolen bases in his past two seasons down in the minors he has shown that he can run a bit if needed. That speed is more likely to show up in 1st-to-3rd movement and hustling out an infield single here and there than it is in the stolen base column. He could threaten double-digit totals, but I’d be surprised to see him match that 20 stolen base average from 2006-2007. Generally, a rookie with a line like Votto’s would be setting himself up for Rookie of the Year contention, but the National League has some stiff competition for that hardware this season and it comes from the same team. Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto and Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome are both bonafide contenders for the award, with Soto the early leader. Award winner or not, Votto has been great thus far and could possibly set a career-high in home runs this season (22 in both 2006 and 2007 with Chattanooga & Louisville, respectively).

Saturday: 05.24.2008

Player Focus 5.24.08

Sheffield Tops Mendoza Line; Hits 3rd HR
Gary Sheffield has been pretty awful this season as he topped .200 for the first time since May 13th. He hit his third home in a 1-for-5 effort on Friday night. Despite his colossal struggles (his average has been over .222 one time this season: .286 on 4.8.08), he is still seeing the ball very well as evidenced by his .336 OBP.
Usually that wouldn’t be an OBP to get excited about, but a 134-point difference between batting average and on-base percentage is strong. I am a huge believer in sample sizes so I fully realize how little three games means, but it isn’t completely useless when judging a potential forthcoming surge. Sheffield represents a decent buy-low candidate at this point. He is likely to come very close to last year’s totals though probably fewer than the 22 steals he had in 2007. If he does match 2007 in the run production categories, he is set to accumulate 22 home runs, 66 RBIs and 91 runs scored while hitting for a .286 batting average. He is currently on pace for 10 stolen bases and I think he hits that or maybe 2-3 more.

Uggla on Pace for 51 HRs
Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla is absolutely dialed in. With a 2-for-4 effort on Friday that included his 15th home run, he is now hitting a white-hot .414 with 11 HRs and 22 RBIs in May. Uggla’s sophomore season delivered more power than his great debut, but a 37-point drop in batting average cut deeply into his value.

This pace will slow considerably and right now might be the prime time to try and sell Uggla for maximum value. His strikeout rate is up yet again, currently creeping on 30% and players simply can’t perform at the highest levels in the game when they’re missing the ball this much. See also: Reynolds, Mark.

In the 19 games that Reynolds reeled off his 7 home runs, he struck out 32% of the time. Starry-eyed owners started discussing his 40-HR potential and dreaming about him as a low-priced keeper for years to come. Since the 7th HR, Reynolds is hitting .182 (14-for-77) and striking out 40% of the time. Uggla is unlikely to have such a precipitous drop because he has proven he can succeed with a high strikeout rate, but it’s going to be much closer to the .270-30-90 projections (give or take) than his 51-HR pace. If a legitimate selling opportunity exists in your league, you owe it to your team’s success to entertain it.

Cano’s Buy-Low Opportunity Slipping Away
Speaking of streaking second basemen, Robinson Cano is rebounding nicely from a terrible April. He is hitting .313 and has matched or exceeded his April totals in HR, RBI, SB and R in 39 fewer at-bats. A look at the peripheral numbers identified Cano as a remarkably buy-low opportunity during April and even for the opening days of May. A 7-game hitting streak from May 4th to 12th brought him to the cusp of the Mendoza Line. A 4-for-4 effort on May 14th brought the average to .205 and with another 4-for-4 game today, he is up .232 and likely off the block in most leagues.

If for some reason the owner of Cano will trade him at a discounted rate, you should still pounce. Cano is a bona fide .300 hitter and should end the season with 18-20 home runs, as well. At 25 years old, he has yet to his “prime”, but he already has three very productive season under his belt. If you have a hole 2B, don’t be afraid to pay regular price for his services, but definitely lean on his .232 average and sub-.300 on-base percentage to get his owner to drop the price.

Saturday: 05.24.2008

The Last Hurrah…

This is it, folks. This is my last and hopefully best effort at blogging consistently. Let me step back first.

I love writing. I love baseball. And I really love writing about baseball, specifically fantasy baseball. I wrote 11,000 words about starting pitchers before the season started. I wrote several thousand more about effectively using middle relievers on your team. I have nearly 17,000 posts on a fantasy baseball message board.

This isn’t a horn-tooting bragfest, rather I am merely displaying that my desire to write about baseball isn’t in question. Without researching, I think I had started or re-started blogging approximately 4,938 times. Again, that’s merely a guess. Well you know what? I’m tired of failing. So here we go.

What you can expect is baseball, baseball and more baseball. I may veer off into other topics from time-to-time, but I’m not betting on much else but baseball being found in this space. And the writing will have a decidedly fantasy slant to it as well. I’ll have player analysis, subject-specific articles like the pitching ones I referenced earlier and other hodgepodge fantasy baseball items. (I have always wanted to use hodgepodge legitimately and it looks like I just did.)

I am not getting back into blogging for any other reason than the fact that I truly enjoy researching and writing about the game of baseball. I will continue to post at Rotojunkie, but most of the article-length posts will appear here instead of over there. By the way, if you’re uninitiated with Rotojunkie‘s message board, I strongly suggest taking a look.

I’m not going to lay out a whole series of expectations that I would likely fail to meet. Instead, I’ll let you know that some days you might find 4-5 posts and then there will be days I don’t post. In order to deliver some regularity, I am hoping for a minimum of 5 posts per week.

Already, let’s get this (re)started…