Archive for July, 2008

Saturday: 07.19.2008

Off for the Weekend

I won’t have much time this weekend to get anything done on Saturday and might not be able to get anything up until later Sunday evening, either. A new post will be up Monday at the latest.

Friday: 07.18.2008

Another Handful of Predictions

Yesterday I offered some predictions for every team in the American League and today I’ll look at the National League:

National League East
Atlanta Braves – Slugger Mark Teixeira will mash another 13-15 home runs from now until season’s end giving him a fourth straight 30-HR season. This is filed under Atlanta because that’s obviously where he is right now. Though despite the prevailing thought that Atlanta is going to get rid him, there are also reports to the contrary… Maligned outfielder Jeff Francoeur will catch fire for a good month and a half at some point in the 2nd half and still end up with >20 HRs.

Florida MarlinsCody Ross continues to hit well with eight home runs and a .280+ batting average in the 2nd half. Don’t forget that he hit 12 home runs and had a 1.064 OPS in 173 at-bats last year… Outfielder Jeremy Hermida turns it up in the 2nd half, as he did in 2007, and posts .800+ OPS… Scott Olsen will frustrate owners with his inconsistency, but post a second half ERA right around the 3.84 he put together prior to the break. Spot-starting or cutting your losses on Olsen after a string of shaky starts is a bad move. Ride him until October…

New York Mets – To hear some talk about his season, you’d think that Johan Santana was 4-11 with a 4.50 ERA instead of 8-7 with a 3.10 ERA. He was blown up a bit by the Reds in his first post-break start and I think it opens up a prime buy-low opportunity (low relative to Johan). I like him for a sub-3.00 ERA with 10 wins… John Maine should rack up some wins, but at a >4.00 ERA cost to your team… Carlos Beltran quietly put up a solid first half, but things will get even better in the second half with a .900+ OPS and a 25 HR-25 SB tally.

Philadelphia Phillies – With that high-octane offense, Pedro Feliz is left to do his thing in obscurity and he’ll match his first half output with another 12 home runs from here on out… The surprise in that Phillies’ offense has been the fact that Jimmy Rollins is having a pedestrian season by his standards. He won’t reach his 2007 heights of excellence, but an .850+ OPS in the second half is in store… Brett Myers will return from his stint in the minors and give the Phillies a sub-4.25 ERA in their rotation.

Washington Nationals – The season has been a pretty huge bust from an offensive standpoint as it seems anytime someone starts producing for the Nats, he gets hurt shortly thereafter. Austin Kearns finally appears to be healthy and should enjoy a solid, if unspectacular second half with eight home runs and a .750+ OPS… Who would have thought that the Nationals would have four rosterable starting pitchers? Jason Bergmann, John Lannan, Odalis Perez and Tim Redding have been legit middle/back of the rotation starters. Lannan and Bergmann will be the best bets out of that group going forward.

National League Central
Chicago Cubs – Two of the biggest surprises for the Cubs this season have been Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto. Dempster moved back to the rotation after serving as a closer for several years and has produced great results with a 3.25 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. That said, I suspect he’ll get bumped around the rest of the way to the tune of a 4.00+ ERA… Soto has also been amazing with 16 home runs and a .876 OPS in his debut campaign. His second half won’t be as fruitful as he will post <.800 OPS.

Cincinnati Reds – This was supposed to be a breakout season for Edwin Encarnacion and a strong second half will allow him to deliver on that preseason promise. He will set a career high in home runs with his next one and he has .293 or better in every month but May, so he is going to get the average above that career .272 mark. An .800+ OPS and 10+ HRs are in store for EE the rest of the way… With a completely dominant first half, Edinson Volquez all but assured himself a great season, but non-keeper leaguers should sell high as Volquez is going to start getting punished for that colossal walk rate (4.3p9). He will have an ERA north of 4.00 in his remaining starts.

Houston Astros – Starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez hasn’t COMPLETELY fixed his home/road splits issues, but he has greatly improved them and it’s benefited him very nicely with a 3.31 ERA/1.29 WHIP in 81.7 innings. Expect more of the same the rest of the way with a <3.50 ERA as the new ace of the Astros. Hunter Pence has been maddeningly inconsistent this year, but his end of season numbers will look alright come October. Look for a second half .800+ OPS and 10 home runs.

Milwaukee BrewersPrince Fielder set the bar pretty high for himself with 50 home runs last year which is why his 16 HR and .845 OPS from the first half is “disappointing”, but he will make amends with a .950+ OPS and 20 home runs from here on out… Dave Bush is putting it all together lately with his very strong recent stretch. His first half numbers of 4.39 ERA/1.15 WHIP resemble the 4.41 ERA/1.14 WHIP season totals from 2006. He could be amazing if he strand some runners (just 66% LOB% this season) and that’s why owners looking at his WHIP expect great things. The LOB problem has always been an issue and given his lengthy record with it, he will be turning back into a pumpkin before too long. Sell high.

Pittsburgh PiratesXavier Nady is a classic fade player with an OPS 98 points lower after the break in the past three seasons (.831 to .733), but I have a feeling he’s poised to stay strong during this second half with an .875+ OPS. An .875 mark would still be a 30-point drop, but definitely within reason and good enough to avoid that perennial fade… One thing you can usually count on is a good batting average from Freddy Sanchez which makes his .230 from this season all the more disappointing. He will get right in the second half with a .300+ AVG from here on out… This next one is a gut feeling with absolutely no statistical backing behind it, but I think Ian Snell will have a sub-4.50 ERA the rest of the way. I know 4.50 is hardly Cy Young material, but considering that he is currently at 5.83, it’s a marked improvement.

St. Louis Cardinals – Though not expected back until August, Adam Wainwright is going to give his fantasy owners a strong homestretch push with a <3.25 ERA and six wins… Several people seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop with respect to Ryan Ludwick‘s Cinderella season, but I don’t think he’s going to fade. He’s got another 15 home runs and a .900+ OPS in the tank.

National League West
Arizona DiamondbacksChris Young‘s follow up to a great 2007 season has been a pretty big bust despite 13 home runs thus far. He will make some necessary adjustments to enjoy a .900+ OPS and 15+ HRs the rest of the way… Chris Snyder, recovering from a testicular fracture (OUCH!!), is expected back next week and I think he will double his home run total to 14 by season’s end.

Colorado Rockies – It’s been a decidedly different season for the Rockies after their surprise appearance in the World Series last year, but they are still just seven games out. Ubaldo Jimenez has developed into a good starter with declining ERAs in every month of the season. He will be a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher and pair with Aaron Cook for a legit 1-2 punch in Denver… Brad Hawpe has been great since coming back from the disabled list with 12 home runs in 129 at-bats. I expect him to grab 15 more home runs the rest of the year.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Despite seemingly loaded with talent, the Dodgers have been completely anemic on offense this season. Look for the offense to heat up during the dog days of summer with Matt Kemp clubbing 10+ HRs, Jeff Kent slugging 12 of his own and Andre Ethier with another 10 while all three post a better than .800 OPS.

San Diego Padres – Speaking of anemic offenses, the Padres fit that classification as well despite how great Adrian Gonzalez has been this season. Scott Hairston and Kevin Kouzmanoff have displayed some power of their own, but I like Khalil Greene, usually a reliable power threat if nothing else, to muscle up for 12+ home runs and rookie phenom Chase Headley to smack eight or more as well. They could put together a little run if they bats heat up. No one has done anything to establish themselves out West, so perhaps the Padres turn around their 2008 season and challenge a little bit.

San Francisco Giants – Some are labeling this team a surprise team, but they are 40-57 so despite how great their top three of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez have been on the mound, this is still a pretty weak team. Ray Durham has already been dealt to Milwaukee and Randy Winn may be out very soon as well since this team has no need for the veterans. I think they’ll get some youthful exuberance and play some near .500 ball with their trio of starters notching eight wins apiece. Eugenio Velez is back up and I think this time he’ll deliver and steal 15+ bags.

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Thursday: 07.17.2008

A Handful of Predictions…

Today kicked off the unofficial 2nd-half of the baseball season, after all most teams have played nearly 95 games meaning the “real” split was two weeks ago. I’ve never had a problem labeling the post All-Star Break portion of the season as the second half. It’s colloquially accepted that the second half begins when the All-Star Break wraps up. OK, so that’s out of the way… sorry, you’re never getting that 30 seconds of your life back and I feel wholly responsible.

I’ll do the American League today and the National League tomorrow. Without further ado, a handful of predictions for the entire league:

American League East
Baltimore OriolesAdam Jones enjoys a very formidable second half and joins teammates Nick Markakis (.892), Aubrey Huff (.875), Brian Roberts (.864) and Luke Scott (.809) in the .800 OPS club for 2008. Last year only Markakis and Roberts hit the mark and Roberts barely squeezed in with his .808… Closer George Sherrill‘s ERA will be north of 4.50 by season’s end, though he’ll end the season approaching 45 saves. He has a dominant strikeout rate with 9.8 per nine, but the 5.4 walks per nine is simply atrocious.

Boston Red Sox – Slugger David Ortiz has been shelved with a left wrist injury since June 1st, but he’s expected to return this weekend. Look for him to mash from here on out and end the season with 30 home runs. I know, wrist injuries don’t usually bode well for power hitters, but Ortiz will buck the trend… I was high on Daisuke Matsuzaka coming into 2008 and his results have been a mixed bag including a DL-stint. He was absolutely trashed upon return from the DL (7 ER in 1 IP), but he’s been brilliant since despite 16 walks in 23.3 innings. His luck bank will run out as he delivers a >4.00 ERA for the rest of the way yet still wins 17+ games.

New York YankeesJoba Chamberlain will lead the Yankees’ staff during the 2nd half as he throws a sub-3.50 ERA and racks up 10 wins while the Yankees charge hard for the wildcard… During that charge, the much-maligned Alex Rodriguez posts a >1.050 OPS with 20 home runs.

Tampa Bay Rays – Everyone’s feel good story fell on hard times right before the break and inspired several “the-sky-is-falling” articles that pronounced their Cinderella run over or severely harmed. It is not. They are legit and I don’t think they’ll just fade, though they’ll have to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs. Carl Crawford will do his part in that run with an .800+ OPS and 10 home runs… Future Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria does his part as well with 14+ home runs completing his best Ryan Braun imitation… Starter Andy Sonnanstine continues to rack up wins and drops his ERA near 4.25 by season’s end.

Toronto Blue Jays – Workhorse starting pitcher Roy Halladay completes five more games this season for a total of 12, the most since Randy Johnson finished the same amount way back in 1999. No team even notched that many in all of the 2007 season… Despite three straight months of rising ERAs, A.J. Burnett, whether with or without Toronto, posts a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out… Alex Rios‘ power outage has been a disappoint to all of his fantasy owners, but he has tried to make up for it with 23 stolen bases. He will continue to run at a solid clip, but he will also hit 10+ home runs after the break.

American League Central
Chicago White SoxGavin Floyd collapses in the 2nd half and ends up with an ERA nearing 4.50… Outside of an amazing June, Nick Swisher has been a colossal bust for the White Sox despite the expectations that he’d have a breakout season in that ballpark. While he won’t mean the expectations from the preseason, he’ll end up with >25 home runs and a batting average approaching .260.

Cleveland Indians – It’s not entirely his fault, but Ryan Garko‘s failure deliver on expectations of a very strong season have helped lead to a rather anemic offense in Cleveland. He can’t single-handedly change their fortunes, but he’ll do his part with an .800+ OPS… Matt LaPorta gets a mid-August callup that leads to 12+ home runs.

Detroit Tigers – On May 19th, Justin Verlander was 1-7. He will end the season with 15 wins and an ERA south of 3.75 as the Tigers’ stopper in their playoff chase… Curtis Granderson lost almost a month to injury, but has picked up right where his amazing 2007 season left off and he’ll finish the season with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases… Miguel Cabrera dominates American League pitching for the remainder of the season and ends the season with more than 30 home runs and a .300 average.

Kansas City RoyalsAlex Gordon isn’t Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria, that much is evident by the fact that he still hasn’t completely figured out in the majors. The expectations of him were at least as high if not higher coming into his rookie season last year, but even still he’s hardly chopped liver. A 10-home run 2nd half gives him a 21-home run season and gets some of the critics off of his back for a hot minute… Golden child teammate Billy Butler has absolutely sucked this year despite some lofty expectations yet he continues to get a pass. Watch him continue to scuffle and end the season with fewer than 10 home runs.

Minnesota Twins – I wrote these out prior to the news on Thursday night that Francisco Liriano‘s agent was considering filing a grievance against the Twins for leaving his client in the minors despite looking like he’s completely back from Tommy John surgery and ready to contribute for the Twins again. Not knowing how that will play out could impact how soon Liriano is called up whether he deserves it or not. That said, I’ll stand by the prediction that he comes up and throws 75 innings of sub-4.00 ERA.

American League West
Los Angeles Angels – Throughout May, you could find several articles and message boards around the internet declaring the end of Vladimir Guerrero‘s career. He had 6076 at-bats as one of the game’s BEST hitters, yet these idiots were ready to write him off after less than 200 (he had 199 by the end of May). Sample size people. Vlad the Impaler is going to continue mashing with a ridiculous second-half that sees him post a .900+ OPS with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs… The Los Angeles rotation will end with three 15-game winners, and one of them will be John Lackey.

Oakland AthleticsJack Cust will end the season with 30+ HRs and Rajai Davis will end the season with 20+ SBs, yet the two will combine to hit <.235… I’ve made it clear before that I am a HUGE Justin Duchscherer fan and I placed him on SEVERAL of my fantasy baseball teams this spring (in the draft/auction, not just as a waiver pickup), but the realist in me says he is in for a 4.00+ ERA in 2nd half. He’s already pitched 36 more innings than he did in the past two seasons combined and he’s riding a very beneficial (read: lucky) hit percentage and runners-left-on-base percentage. Both of those will raise the ERA as they normalize. By the way, I really want to be wrong on this one as Duchscherer has helped me so much this season… Newly acquired Sean Gallagher will off-set the Duke’s “mediocre” 2nd half with a sub-4.00 ERA in the Oakland rotation.

Seattle Mariners – There hasn’t been much to celebrate about for the M’s in 2008. And to think, I predicted them to finish 2nd in the West. At least Felix Hernandez is starting to reach the expectations unfairly placed on him the past few seasons… Jeff Clement will post a >.800 OPS with 10 home runs in the 2nd half… Brandon Morrow and Sean Green continue their 1st half success and give the M’s a very formidable back-end of the bullpen. This is hardly a bold prediction, but I wanted to give M’s fans something realistic to expect from here on out.

Texas Rangers – Offense comes easy in Texas, especially in the summer, regardless of who is playing there. It seems to happen without trying when Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Michael Young are in the lineup. The Rangers will have three 100-RBI seasons this year as two of the above join Hamilton… They will also have no one with 75+ innings posting a sub-3.50 ERA.

Tomorrow, the National League…

Wednesday: 07.16.2008

Surfing the Web…

Here are some of the things currently piquing my interest on the web:

  • SkyKing162’s blog, Baseball w/a Hint of Lime has become a regular stop on my morning read around the web. Agree or disagree, I’m always going to be drawn to baseball blogs that thoughtfully back up the assertions made by the authors. Sky does it and does it well over at Lime. This blog made the cut for the right-hand side links.
  • Mike Fast‘s Fast Balls is another well thought out bastion of baseball analysis. Fast utilizes PITCHf/x data for sharp, detailed breakdowns of the game’s pitchers. He has become a regular contributor at Hardball Times, too, which gives him all the “street cred” he needs. Fast’s blog joined Sky’s on the right side of the page as well.
  • Speaking of HBT, the site’s Sal Baxamusa posted a biting article about the fallacy of using a half-season’s worth of production to determine a player’s value. Baxamusa reaffirms why you wouldn’t overpay for Cliff Lee or dump Robinson Cano for a song.
  • I like to just aimlessly surfing around from site to site and it leads to something that is really interesting. For me, it happens all the time. I’ll be using Google Image Search and find the right picture will lead me to a blog with a great article that leads to another site that becomes a staple in my daily reading, etc… The latest case of this phenomenon came when a few hops across the baseball blogosphere led me to a Trade Value Chart by FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron. I haven’t finished entire piece so I can’t speak to the overall quality just yet, but I’m recommending based on the first two entries I’ve read and the simple fact that I love the concept.
  • Tuesday: 07.15.2008

    Middle Reliever Hotsheet: Volume IV

    For those of you that know it from the message board, you’ve seen previous volumes of the Middle Reliever Hotsheet, but for many others this may be your first look. It has been two months since I last did an update and I don’t have any particular reason behind why I waited so long to do another one, but it’s basically a comprehensive look at the best middle relievers in baseball for the current season. Before the season, I covered the Middle Reliever Methodology, which is really just the utilization of middle relievers in various quantities to counter stockpiling mediocre or below average starting pitchers just because they are in the rotation.

    Determining who the best will be from year to year has proven difficult and nearly as volatile as their parent subset of closers. You needn’t look any further than Rafael Betancourt‘s disastrous 2008 season for proof of this volatility. However, some of the success stories from last year, specifically Heath Bell, have proven to be solid bets once again this season. Anyway, I digress. I put together the MRH to update the middle reliever landscape so that those using the method will know where to look for their next diamond in the rough. Oftentimes players are held onto because of name recognition when better options exist (see: Broxton, Jonathan & Marmol, Carlos). But even when those established middle reliever names are performing, there still may be equal or better options available at a hugely discounted rate and that’s really the benefit of this strategy: top-flight production at a replacement-level cost. Bell & Hideki Okajima have paid dividends for their owners this season, but they were two of the hottest targets with Betancourt, whereas a Kyle McClellan or Matt Thornton was (or still could be) had for nothing as a waiver-wire pickup.

    Volume IV turns in the lowest count of “Top Non-Closers” since I started doing this back in April with nine. I’ll show those nine in the charts that follow this writing, but for now I am going to look at some relievers that don’t meet some of the requirements for middle reliever stardom, but have skills that point to potential excellence going forward from now until the end of the season:

    (numbered, but in no particular order)

    1. Joel Peralta, Kansas City Royals – Peralta has seven strikeouts per nine and just 1.3 walks per nine in his 28 and 2/3 innings pitched for a Royals bullpen with some solid parts in it. OK, what’s the catch? A 5.65 ERA is enough to get Peralta overlooked in the search for a reliable middle reliever. His penchant for the blowup has done in the 32-year old. He has given up two runs in seven of his 23 appearances and that’s just not going to cut it. The quality peripherals point to talent, but perhaps he lacks that mental edge necessary in relieving.

    2. Manny Delcarmen, Boston Red Sox – On May 27th, his ERA was 5.14. A month later, his June 27th clean inning had lowered the ERA to 3.27, but then he allowed six runs in his next three appearances spanning an inning and a third bringing the ERA back up to 4.72. That’s the long of saying that he is like Peralta in his gas can-like tendencies that balloon an ERA in a moment’s notice. His strikeout rate is at a healthy one per inning, but the walk rate is a tad high at 3.4.

    3. Sean Green, Seattle Mariners – Usually the attention goes to J.J. Putz when you’re talking about the Mariners’ bullpen, but he’s been rendered ineffective due to injuries this season which left the door open. Unfortunately for Green, Brandon Morrow and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings walked in and snapped up the available attention. That doesn’t mean that Green hasn’t been awesome. In fact, he has a 2.72 ERA despite the fact that he was dumped for nine runs in 13 innings during May (6.23 ERA). Green’s 53 innings are tied for 6th among relievers making his tiny ERA, solid 1.21 WHIP and quality 8.2 K/9 rate that much better.

    4. Chad Durbin, Philadelphia Phillies – Until Brett Myers was recently sent down to the minors, the Phillies had the same starting rotation all season long. This gave their bullpen a steadiness in roles that has no doubt contributed to their success. Durbin has been the link from those starters to the sweet back-end of the bullpen headlined by Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero. He has the most innings of any non-starter on the Phillies, but given his previous time as a starter the Phillies know they can stretch him out a little bit. He hasn’t disappointed with a 1.89 ERA and 7.4 K/9 in his 52.1 innings.

    5. J.P. Howell, Tampa Bay Rays – Though prone to a walk (4.3 BB/9), it is due more to stinginess than a lack of control (6.0 H/9). This stinginess has suited Howell quite well as he’s become a true middle relieving ace for one of baseball’s best teams in 2008. He strikes out nearly a batter per inning (8.7 K/9) and has yielded a meager 2.68 ERA in his 57 innings (3rd-most amongst relievers). He is the least likely of these five to be available in your league, but he is the perfect anchor for a team using the MR Method.

    To the charts we go:

    You should aim to land one of the “Nifty Nine” found on the right if you’re employing the MR Methodology on your team. They represent the middle relievers with best, most complete skills to date. And given that we’re at the midpoint of July, sample size issues are eliminated from the equation meaning these are rather sturdy bets for at least the balance of the ’08 season.

    The following two lists present the top skills in power and control regardless of anything else. These are just your premier flamethrowers and pinpoint control artists absent filters of innings pitched except that they reside in the top 200 relievers in terms of workload.

    Finally, we filter down the top strikeout and walk rates based on workload. Using the top 200 innings-loggers, we get an average of 36 and a 1/3 innings which is what I used as the requirement to make either of these lists.

    And finally, a look at how some combos of middle relievers have performed against some of the best starting pitchers in baseball:

    Monday: 07.14.2008

    All-Star Break Updates

    I will be updating with some pieces during the All-Star Break, but tonight was just too hectic for me to sit down and hammer out one of the ideas I have on tap. Look for something tomorrow & Wednesday, though. Thanks for reading.

    Sunday: 07.13.2008

    Post-All Star Break Producers, Part II

    Yesterday I posted Part I of a two-part piece on some historically strong performers in the 2nd half. For the study, I looked at post All-Star Break numbers from the years 2005 to 2007 and picked out the instances of players posting an .850 OPS or better. From there, I took the players that did it more than once and isolated them. The group that pulled the hat-trick were in yesterday’s list, while today will cover the remaining bunch that did it two out of three times. In the upcoming chart, you will see the three-year totals and averages for the 43 players that had an .850 or better OPS in two out of three seasons, meaning the season that they didn’t make it is factored in, too.

    The email response to the first portion was great and I really appreciated it, thought some readers point blank asked what they are supposed to do with the information. You don’t have to do anything with it if you don’t want to, but it can be used for reference when entertaining trades for a stretch. It is by no means wholly predictive so don’t blindly follow it to the point of taking a bad trade because you think Player X is going to have a bust out second half. But if you are deciding between a few players, this information might lead towards the right guy to help your team from here until October. The Elite 16 list was filled with stars, but there were plenty of stars not listed meaning maybe you trade some stars you currently own for these ones that have shown a penchant for stepping it up during the dog days of summer.

    The second list is decidedly less star-laden meaning you could find some real value by acquiring some of these players at a severely discounted price. Some of the players on the list are already having great seasons (Jason Bay, Milton Bradley, Adrian Gonzalez), but some others have seen their stock tumble based on a horrific first half (Robinson Cano, Matt Diaz, Todd Helton). Baltimore’s Luke Scott is having a breakout season of sorts due in large part to his job security, but if he holds to his usual pattern, he’s in for an even bigger 2nd half which would truly make 2008 a breakout season for him. He has the biggest pre to post All-Star Break delta in OPS at 261 points! Speaking of opportunity as a breeding ground for breakout potential, second to Scott in OPS improvement is recently traded Matt Murton. He should get a chance in Oakland to repeat his 194-point OPS improvements after the break especially given the fragility of Ryan Sweeney and suckiness of Emil Brown & Travis Buck. He’s batted second in back-to-back evenings since being recalled on July 11th.

    Some other potential gems exist in the form of Carlos Delgado, Travis Hafner, Paul Konerko and Adam LaRoche. Althought Delgado and LaRoche have both been strong in July, so the window to acquire them cheaply might be closed.

    Feel free to share your tales of trading for some of these guys as Steve from Iowa did via email. Steve sold high on BbP favorite, Justin Ducscherer in a deal that landed him Matt Holliday. Steve dealt Duchscherer and Bill Hall for Holliday. Like I said, Duchscherer is a huge favorite of Baseball by Paul, but this is an amazing deal for Steve.

    Saturday: 07.12.2008

    Post-All Star Break Producers, Part I

    I’ve never done crack, but I imagine that the withdrawals from quitting the stuff are similar to what I suffer through during the All Star Break. While likely not nearly as dramatic, I suspect many others search for ways to keep themselves engaged, but occupied. This naturally leads back to your league’s homepage in search of ways to shore up the weaknesses for the stretch run. The dust has settled on the “first half” (technically the 81-game mark hit weeks ago) and every fantasy owner should know full well what they need to get to their desired result.

    Is your team in need of offense? I have compiled a group of players that have shown a propensity for second half excellence in the past three seasons by registering an .850 or better OPS in at least two of the three seasons. Of the 59 players that qualified, 16 of them completed the hat-trick and the names within that list are unlikely to surprise many. In fact, the entire list is rather star-laden but that doesn’t render it useless. We know that stars are supposed to perform, but if you’re acquiring the high-dollar players from a team dumping and looking at 2009, this list will guide you towards the players you are likely to get the most gains from during the last 2 1/2 months of the season.

    I will start with the upper echelon of players. As I mentioned, this group gave .850 or better in each of the three seasons studied (2005-2007). In fact, the lowest three-year average in OPS is Jeff Kent‘s .911. By and large, this group of players will represent the guys you ought to be targeting for the second-half surge. Some of them are in the midst of otherworldly seasons already so a continuation of their post-All Star Break mashing could lead to some record-breaking totals.

    Here is a detailed look at the group sorted by OPS. The far right column is their difference in OPS from before to after the All Star Break. The 3-year average column directly below each player is their total line divided by three… pretty self-explanatory stuff there!

    Seeing David Ortiz & Ryan Howard top the list should please owners of these guys quite a bit. For Ortiz, it was a painfully slow start followed by an injury currently shelving him that his derailed his season while Howard had delivered little more than raw power until the beginning of July. Even at his worst (like a .234 batting average), Howard’s power production makes him rosterable in just about any format. He is already turning things around in July with both the power (seven home runs in 10 games) AND the batting average (.375, 15-for-40). The time to buy low has probably vanished by now, but he should still be a superstar target, especially if he can be had at ANY amount of discount.

    The usual suspects round this list though Kent has been rather “blah” so far this season. The Dodgers could really, really use a hot summer from him considering their lineup’s immense struggles. If he achieves his average output from the past three seasons, he will be very close to last year’s final numbers and that’s pretty darn good for a 40-year old second baseman.

    Moises Alou might be done forever with his latest injury likely sidelining him for all of 2008. He is (was?) a truly amazing hitter that would get the job done whenever he was the lineup. Unfortunately, at age 42, his body is just not holding up anymore. I decided to leave him on the list essentially to pay homage to his greatness because I knew he wasn’t going to be a viable target for fantasy owners in the 2nd half of 2008.

    Tomorrow I’ll post the remaining 43 players on the list. It is the group of players that reached the .850 OPS or better mark two out of the three seasons I looked at for this study. That list contains top-flight superstars, mid-level semistars, average players and somewhat scrubby players that you might be able to pick up off the heap and speculate on to see if they continue their post-All Star Break hitting trend.

    Saturday: 07.12.2008

    ESPN MLB Standings

    I wish I could customize the sizes of these!!

    [clearspring_widget title=”ESPN MLB Standings” wid=”4720c4525c0c19ff” pid=”48784123ec4af697″ width=”153″ height=”300″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

    Edit to add: I CAN customize the sizes and even though it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, it is now in the sidebar, folks!!

    Friday: 07.11.2008

    ESPN MLB Team

    Testing Widget—ESPN might’ve finally done something that doesn’t suck!

    [clearspring_widget title=”ESPN MLB Team” wid=”472a171df0a00ab5″ pid=”48783d80f6029e6b” width=”300″ height=”387″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

    Edit to add: Yep, this definitely doesn’t suck as it’s not java-based so it can actually go into WordPress sidebars… except it’s too wide. I rarely say this, but it’s not ESPN’s fault & they finally did something cool!!