Archive for August, 2008

Thursday: 08.28.2008

Baseball’s Power Outage: Revisited

Nearly three months ago, I took a detailed look at the power outage happening in baseball. Initially, I set out to see if it was real or perceived. As I did my data research and put the column together, I saw that it was quite real, at least through two months of the season. With another three months in the books, I wanted to see if things had normalized over the summer or if the 2008 season as a whole is just going to end up as a down year for power. At the end of that initial piece, I briefly mentioned how a lot of the wall-scrapping home runs had thrust instant replay onto the table as an item for discussion. Now, it’s a reality.

Concentration
For fantasy baseball players, this can be key. Are the same reliable players knocking their allotment of home runs while the periphery is to blame for the drop or is it a fundamental decrease that is negatively impacting the masses? Two months in, the concentration of home runs at the top wasn’t wildly different from the previous four seasons which gave credence to those in the camp of the power outage being judged on too small of a sample. Now with five months in the books, there is a larger body of work to judge from, especially when looking at the leaderboards.

Interesting stuff here. There are fewer with 30 or more, but that gap is made up for two-fold in the 25+ home run hitters. With a dead heat over the last two seasons of hitters with 15 or more home runs, it’s the minor contributors that have fallen off or disappeared all together. You look at Carlos Quentin and see a nice emergence, but he replaces a trio of Alex Rios, Jimmy Rollins and B.J. Upton who all experienced huge power drops this year. For fantasy players, there is still a nice reliable base there at the top with few names coming as a major shock, but now instead of getting 10-12 from your bit players, those totals are still staying within the upper crust of players like Rios, Carlos Guillen and Jeff Francoeur.

By Month
In the first column, I showed the month-over-month home run totals from 2004 to this season. Through May, the home runs hadn’t fallen much off of the average from those previous four seasons. April’s total was 99% to the average while May checked in at 95%. April was up from 2007 while May’s figure was just six away from 2007. Here is how it has gone since May:

The June-July patterns were similar to April-May in that June was almost 100% of the average while July had a small dip off of the pace. Both June and July beat out last year’s totals including a significant edge in July. At first glance, August looks like a huge outlier. Of course, there are still four days worth of home runs headed towards that total. The current pace would end the month around 888. If pace is held, then August will check in at 95% of the four year average. So while the 2008 season is off the pace at large, home runs haven’t really gone down in massive quantities. The 2004 and 2006 seasons skew the averages up by a healthy margin. If August holds pace and September doesn’t fall off too much from the average, then the 2008 season will end right in line with 2005 and 2007 with respect to home runs.

It seems that rumors of the home run’s demise were greatly overstated. Of course, a definitive look at the 2008 power numbers will be done this Fall after everything is wrapped up.

Monday: 08.25.2008

Extended Weekend…

Not the kind of extended weekend I enjoy as I was out of work sick today. I’m just resting this evening so I’ll be back with a post tomorrow.

Friday: 08.22.2008

Updated Numbers for Unsung/Star Comparison

I had compiled the data for the All-Value team some time before posting the second half, so I decided to update both sets and show the stats & 5×5 dollar values of the players in question:

Thursday: 08.21.2008

The Unsung Heroes of 2008, Part II

For some reason, I did the entire infield except shortstops. That was not at all intentional, but they will be included with the outfielders and designated hitters in this part two. For those that may have missed the initial portion of this article, I am basically looking at the most unsung heroes of the 2008 season and comparing them against the elite talents at each position. It isn’t necessarily to slam the stars or suggest that stars are useless, instead it shows that there are gobs of value the middle-to-late rounds of drafts & auctions. I often use elite talents that are having elite years so as to further prove that I’m not just out to make the stars look bad. Without further ado, let’s dive into part two:

Shortstop
Stars: Let’s kick this off with perhaps the best fantasy player of them all in 2008: Hanley Ramirez. A light RBI total is the only thing keeping him from holding the #1 overall spot in Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball, but even still he rates 6th. He is on pace to trade some of that plus speed for more power as he looks to top 30 home runs for the first time in his career. He has also gained a ton of plate patience with 70 walks already this season after just 52 all of last year. He isn’t a great shortstop, but that isn’t a problem in fantasy baseball. For now, he is the preeminent middle infielder in the game and he’ll be just 25-years old in 2009.

The other star might be year’s biggest disappointment and he finds himself in this article because he was a no-doubt first rounder in almost every league. Jimmy Rollins might have the most disappointing season following an MVP season in the history of the game. Hmm… maybe I will research that. His brilliant 2007 was hardly an anomaly so even with a natural regression, no one could have predicted this kind of fall from grace. He remains a legitimate speed threat and should end the season nearing 40 bags, but he could feasibly end with fewer than double-digit home runs and he won’t come anywhere near his 3-year average of 127 runs scored and 77 runs batted in.

Unsungs: The pickins are slim at shortstop outside of the superstar crop, but these two gems were undoubtedly late round/waiver pick ups. Jhonny Peralta has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Cleveland Indians. He is on pace for a career year in runs, home runs and RBIs. He was showing an upward trend in taking walks, but has cut that total severely this year and it’s worked for him. It’s not a complete parallel, but perhaps he is experiencing a similar effect to Kevin Youkilis in that he’s performing better by being less patient.

The other value shortstop is a guy who showed some flashes of his ability last year, but never really put it all together for more than a few weeks at a time. Stephen Drew is on pace for career highs in four of the five standard roto categories. His three stolen bases would be six off of his 2007 total, but given the great strides everywhere else, we can overlook that for now. Though he has added 45 points to his batting average, his OBP has risen a meager 12 points because of a sharp drop off in walks much like Peralta. This saps up a decent amount of value in OBP leagues, but Drew was acquired for peanuts after his 2007 in all formats. He’ll enter next year as a 26-year old and should regain some of plate patience while hanging onto the counting stats gains as well. He should be a prime target for keeper league players with an eye on 2009.

Outfield
Stars: I didn’t necessarily align two players for each outfield position, instead I just took six outfielders for both stars and unsungs without regard for left-center-right. The time off will depress the counting stats a bit, but Matt Holliday has been every bit as good as he was during last year’s magical season. He has added speed and batting average to make up for the almost 100 fewer at-bats that will stifle the runs scored a little and the RBIs by a healthy margin. His insane tear since the All-Star Break has actually made it possible for him to maybe reach his home run total from a season ago. How weird is this? Holliday’s home-road splits in home runs and RBIs match his pre-post ASB splits: 14 HR/51 RBI home & pre-ASB; 10/22 road & post-ASB. That is one of the stranger coincidences I’ve seen in a sport filled with statistical oddities. Holliday is second to Lance Berkman only because of the time off for injury and he has been light years better down the stretch which is especially helpful for head-to-head players.

For OBP-leagues, Grady Sizemore is my top outfielder for 2008. His average sits at .267, but with 80 walks already, he has a .381 OBP. He is a home run away from 30-30 and a huge September could put him in the elite 40-40 club. If he doesn’t raise his average over the final month of the season, he could be undervalued (relative to other star players) coming into 2009, but I’d happily take him in the top five. Seven more hits would give him a .280 average and get critics off of his back, but those seven hits would barely dent a team’s overall batting average meaning even at .267 it’s not nearly the problem that some want to make it. If you’re in a league with me and you want Sizemore, you’d best bring your pocketbook or have a higher draft pick than me in the first round.

Though he is in for another power drop, Carlos Beltran is having a solid-if-unspectacular season thus far. In fact, it is only the power total that is off from last year. But being on pace for nearly 70 more at-bats from last year is what boosts the other totals by comparison to 2007 so when comparing the two seasons in-depth, it is clear that 2008 was a pretty legit downer for Beltran. Now on the wrong side of 30, the decline shouldn’t be a huge surprise. By the same token, this kind of complete season from a 31-year old is still impressive.

Alex Rios doesn’t have an excuse like Beltran for his relatively poor 2008 season considering he is 27-years old and should be entering his prime and not exiting it. Instead of building on three straight increases in home runs, Rios will need a huge September to even reach his three-year average of 17. He has held his overall value by pacing for a 124% gain in stolen bases from last year. With only modest declines in runs, batting average and runs batted in, Rios’ 2008 will likely boil down to a trade of power for speed. The reason it will almost assuredly end as a disappointment is because of the expectations of big power/moderate speed weren’t met. This perceived disappointment could depress Rios’ 2009 value and make him a strong buy-low candidate.

His team is the story of 2008 and though they couldn’t have done it without him, Carl Crawford is still not living up to the expectations of his owners. As bankable a speed commodity as they get, Crawford won’t be able to hide behind a DL-stint as an excuse for his weak output in stolen bases. The injury only adds a degree of certainty to the potential for Crawford to drop not only in steals but also batting average, runs, home runs AND runs batted in. Ouch. From a borderline 1st rounder depending on league size, the 2008 season has been a colossal failure. That said, this is by and large the anomalous season of Crawford’s career and age 27, he should NOT be written off or judged wholly off of this tough season.

Rumors of his demise during the early part of the season were greatly overstated as Vladimir Guerrero showed that he is far from done as a formidable fantasy outfielder. A .219 average/.260 on-base in May stirred up the critics, but I don’t care if he had hit .100 that month because it was 96 at-bats. Anyone who is going to write off a career .322 hitter over 6517 at-bats because of 96 crappy ones is an idiot. Plain and simple. That low month will likely snap his streak of .300+ average seasons that he has maintained throughout his entire career, but he should still 30-100 and hit around .290. Don’t rule out the potential for Vlad to repeat his June and his .375 again and reach .300 after all. He is just an amazing hitter and should be treated as such until further notice.

Unsungs: The most obvious name on this list is where I’ll start. If you know anyone that is telling you they expected this kind of season out of Carlos Quentin, punch them in the face. I drafted Quentin in two leagues, one of which was a mixed league, and I didn’t expect anything CLOSE to what he has done. In fact, I remember the conversation with my Dad where I told him I’d be thrilled with 15-80 from Quentin in what I thought would be a much-improved White Sox lineup. The last time Quentin topped 20 home runs was 2005 in AAA-Tucson. He is on pace for 45-124. While the breakthrough season is definitely a surprise, it is more because of the rapid onset of stardom as opposed to the stardom itself. Remember, Quentin was a very highly touted prospect coming through Arizona’s system. From a preseason value-to-season output ratio, can anyone even touch Quentin?

Perhaps Ryan Ludwick would be close to Quentin that ratio but he displayed his power potential with 14 home runs in 300 at-bats last year. This year he has become a full-timer and now he, too, is chasing down a 40-home run season. Ludwick as a power source has been pretty well known for some time, it was merely opportunity that prevented him from capitalizing at the major league level, but the .306 batting average has been a remarkably pleasant surprise. He turned 30 in the middle of the season so while he might not be a long-term building block, he likely won’t be a one-year wonder either.

In the digital age, secrets rarely remain so for very long. Nate McLouth was the new-age kind of sleeper that has so much sleeper status that he is no longer a legit sleeper. He is still providing TREMENDOUS value for his fantasy owners, but his strong totals in only 329 at-bats last yera combined with his being an expert favorite meant that few were surprised when his name was brought up on draft/auction day. His only downside to 2007 was a weak .258 average, but at .275 this year he erased his one negative. He will turn 27 after the season meaning he is just entering the upswing of his career. Likely under contract in keeper leagues after his 2007 breakout, he is a tremendous target for those looking to build a foundation for 2009 and beyond.

Until July, McLouth was part of very strong outfield that included Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, both of whom could feasibly be included on this list. Given Bay’s past superstar status, Nady joins his former teammate in the list of unsungs. He has matched or exceeding his counting totals from 2007, but added a robust .327 average despite 15 fewer at-bats and five more weeks left in the season. A perennial second-half fader, Nady’s success is due in large part to his bucking of that trend with a 1.043 OPS since the All-Star Break against a .902 beforehand. It looks like Nady has finally put it all together for an entire season. He will be 30 before year’s end, but with a full-time job, he’s one of those steady 25-85 contributors that you need to supplement your star power with to win championships.

One wasn’t enough. J.D. Drew gives the unsung group its full allotment of Drews. I didn’t realize that Drew was already 33-years old. I guess since he has topped 500 at-bats just once in his career, I haven’t seen him play enough to realize he has been around for 11 seasons. In OBP-leagues, Drew has been a beast. That’s not to say his .280 batting average has been trash by any stretch, but he has hit just .209 since the break while posting a .395 on-base during the same stretch. Without a strong burst to end the season, he will likely fall off the list when the final iteration comes out in October/November because of how poorly he has done after the break, but I’m rewarding him for his body of work this season which includes 19 home runs and a .408 on-base percentage.

I am a huge fan of Rick Ankiel. I have been from day 1 so even though I saw the flaws in his approach last year, I was bought into the power potential. He is on pace for an 80-30-80 season and while it hasn’t been anything to write home about, he has increased his plate discipline this season. Underdog stories just seem to find success in St. Louis and Ankiel is a shining example given his incredible journey back to the big leagues. As a power hitter, there is little concern for the fact that he will turn 30 in the middle of next year as that skill loves tenure. He will never be a #1 outfielder, nor even a #2, but he’s a strong #3 with a bankable skill set.

Designated Hitter
Star: With a horrid April and just six games played in June & July combined, it’s been a lost season for David Ortiz. Do you want to know how you can identify a superstar? Their lost seasons result in a 20 home runs and 80 runs batted in. Though off by his standards, Ortiz is still carrying a .373 on-base giving him legitimate value in OBP-leagues especially for teams that were able to weather the storm of his almost two-month absence. Given a clean bill of health, even a 33-year old Ortiz is a superstar to be sought after.

Unsung: Speaking of clean bills of health, Milton Bradley would kill for one. Of course even with the nagging injuries that sidelined him from time-to-time this year and will keep him from just his second 500 at-bat season in his nine years, it’s still a minor miracle that Bradley’s played at all after ripping his knee up in a freak incident during which his own manager tackled him to keep him from beating up an umpire. His career year isn’t surprising from a talent standpoint, that’s always been a known commodity, but that he has stayed out of trouble and remained relatively healthy is the eye-catcher from Bradley in 2008. OBP-leaguers have enjoyed Bradley’s career year even more as he’s posted a .445-mark and could top 90 walks despite the time missed.

And there it is. My take on the best values of 2008 with a look at some superstars to gain context as to how strong the breakout seasons have been. With a month+one week left in the season, there could be some changes before the final list is published, but I like how the first version came out.

Thursday: 08.21.2008

I’m back

I’ll finish the All-Value list tonight. I’ll also have a reliever update coming up. The trip to Dallas to see the Tigers play the Rangers was awesome.

Tuesday: 08.19.2008

Tigers Win!! Tigers Win!!!

After over 5 hours at the ballpark, I am beat. After threats of a rainout all day, the game went off without a hitch. We got there as soon as the gates opened and snagged a boatload of autographs! There was a huge play in the game where Chris Davis banged a double off the wall. Magglio Ordonez grabbed the ball and tossed a relay to Placido Polanco who promptly got it to Brandon Inge for the tag out at home of Gerald Laird. The best part of that play was that Inge tossed the ball to my sister on the way back to dugout. She has since given it to me.

I probably won’t post something in depth until Wednesday since we’re going to the game again tomorrow, but this picture sums up how amazing my night was:

Saturday: 08.16.2008

The Unsung Heroes of 2008

Though we still have a month and a half left in the season, I am fairly certain that putting together a group of the most unsung players to perform well this year is safe. I will probably post a final version of this same list in October or November, but here is how it is shaping up midway through August.

A lot of these lists that attempt to look at value or sleepers or hidden gems or whatever you want to call them end up becoming lists of the best seasons as if we didn’t know those were valuable number sets. I am trying to avoid that with this piece. What I am looking at is a comparison, by position, of players that were highly touted and those much less so. The purpose behind this isn’t to bash on some stars having an off season. In fact, several of those in the comparison are having brilliant years, rather the idea was to point out constructing a team is made more within the middle & end rounds of a draft/auction that it is with the star power. Plus this also serves as some good ol’ fashioned back-patting. These gents deserve a hand for their excellent performance and I am here to give it to them.

For this exercise, I took two underdog-types and two stars from each position (six total OFs instead of LF-CF-RF and only one DH) and compared the stat lines through August 15th. Yes, there is some cherry-picking here obviously, but as I mentioned I am not out to prove that star players aren’t necessary or anything silly like that. I picked mostly first and second rounders on the star side and I wasn’t afraid to pick Albert Pujols or Matt Holliday and throw them in here. I just wanted to see how the rag-tag group holds up against the creme de la creme.

Catcher
Stars: It would have been easy to pick Victor Martinez on the star power side, but I also think it’d have dented the credibility of this piece since he’s missed most of the season. I did pick two of the 4M-Catchers for the star power with Joe Mauer and Russell Martin. Mauer, for all of the amazing real baseball talent and value has, remains one of the most overrated fantasy baseball commodities in the league. It’s not that he doesn’t perform, in fact his value comes in arguably the most underrated category: batting average (or on-base percentage in some leagues). He has notched double-digit home runs and 80+ runs batted in once in the past four seasons and he’s pacing to miss both marks again this year. Given his usual cost, it’s tough to justify sinking that much money into modest production even if it as a painfully thin position.

If I am spending high on catcher (and 9 of 10 times, I’m not), then the money or draft pick is being invested in Martin. When speaking of 5-category production, the numbers of Hanley Ramirez come to mind which might make Martin’s 5-category offerings seem meager. They’re not. Again, the context of being a catcher is a very important factor. He is a little off of his 20-20 (actually 19-21) numbers from last year, but .290-90-15-70-15 is something we haven’t seen from a backstop other than Martin since Jason Kendall‘s 2000 season.

Unsungs: There is a field from which to pick from after you get past the 4Ms with Martin, Martinez, Mauer and Brian McCann and there were several strong candidates to fill these two slots. For the first spot, I picked Geovany Soto. He was a strong sleeper candidate in many circles and he hasn’t disappointed. He is on pace for 24-92 and a .286 average. He can also take a walk so his on-base is at a robust .365. He burst onto the scene with a 26-home run season in AAA Iowa after never reaching double-digits in six previous minro league seasons. He will be a high dollar acquisition in non-keeper leagues next year, but for now he is the most unsung catcher of the season.

Colorado’s Chris Iannetta is a classic post-hype sleeper after failing to bring his minor league success to the bigs in short stints during 2006 and 2007. Now, still just 25, he wrested the job from Yorvit Torrealba and he is now enjoying a breakout season. His raw numbers are good enough on their own, but considering he’s got 32 Runs, 14 home runs, 49 RBIs and a .270 AVG/.376 OBP, but when you see that he has done it all in just 237 at-bats, it’s hard not to be even more impressed.

Below each discussion is a stat-box comparison that includes the standard 5×5 categories in fantasy baseball as well as a dollar-value for each player:

First Base
Stars: Let’s start off with the gold standard: Albert Pujols. There may be no more valuable player in the entire league this season depending on when your league had its draft or auction. Concerns over Pujols’ elbow and the potential for it to take several games from his season severely depressed his value (severe being relative to his usual value) on draft day and thus, since he has put up the kind of Pujolsian numbers we’ve come to expect when health is assured. He is on pace for 31 home runs, which is one fewer than last year and 18 fewer than two years ago, so it’s safe to say that the elbow is probably in some pain. It hasn’t affected his ability to hit, just hit it very far.

The other choice for the stars section doesn’t have any problems hitting it very far. Ryan Howard has rebounded from a brutal start and has 33 homers and 103 RBIs this season. His .235 batting average has cut into his overall value despite that incredible power. If he continues to struggle with batting average, he’ll fall into the Adam Dunn zone in standard leagues. He is pacing to 43 home runs, shaving another four off of 2007’s total which was 11 away from his MVP season of 2006.

Unsungs: If I want a no-average, power-hitter then I’d rather acquire Mike Jacobs, at least he’s open about being a batting average anchor with a .263 career average. He is a bit off that career pace at .246, but he also has a career-high 25 home runs and counting. Coming into the season, some pundits wrongfully characterized the Florida Marlins lineup as a one-trick pony (Hanley Ramirez), but I liked it with Jeremy Hermida, Jacobs, Cody Ross, Dan Uggla and Josh Willingham in the mix. Willingham has missed a lot of time, but Jorge Cantu has filled that void. At any rate, the depth of the lineup has opened up things for Jacobs to have a career year.

Kevin Youkilis gained notoriety well before he reached the bigs for his tremendous plate discipline. He was known as the “Greek God of Walks” after a 70-walk season in 59 games way back in A-ball during the 2001 season. He had a .512 on-base because he had a .317 batting average with those walks. He continued talking walks throughout his minor league, but never really displayed the usual power you like from a corner infielder. Since becoming a full-time in 2006, he has increased his power output yearly including his 2008 breakout that has him on pace for nearly 30 home runs. His walk totals are dwindling year-over-year since 2006, but he was quoted as saying that he was letting a lot of great pitches go by the wayside in order to garner that walk. He has now started to mash the ball in early counts: .469/.469/.876 with 10 HR and 27 RBI in 113 at-bats during 0-0, 0-1 and 1-0 counts.

Second Base
Stars: It’s been a “Tale of Two Seasons” for Chase Utley. After hitting 25 home runs before the All-Star Break, he has just five since. In fact, you could say it’s been a tale of two months considering that he had 18 home runs and 47 RBIs during April and May. Perhaps the Home Run Derby Monster got to Utley. Either way, he is going to finish with a tremendous season as the elite second baseman in all of baseball. He has definitely justified his early round/high dollar cost to fantasy owners.

Robinson Cano, however, has not. Three straight seasons of four-category production combined with the fact that he would be just 25 years old this season had expectations sky-high for Cano, but the season has been a complete bust. He hit .151 in April with just two home runs as his stock plummeted to a career-low, but he bounced back with a .295 average in May, but still just two home runs. He continued to hit the ball in June and July with .287 and .327 averages respectively, but he has yet to hit more than three home runs in any particular month.

Unsungs: It doesn’t get much more unsung than Mark DeRosa. He started the season looking over his shoulder to see if Brian Roberts would be brought in from Baltimore and even then he has still had to fight for every scrap of playing time he has received. That motivation and drive has resulted in a career year. Owners have come to expect a solid level production with a ton of position flexibility and he has once again delivered. He already has a career-high in home runs with 14 and could top 100 in both runs scored and runs batted in. I would be surprised if he was a double-digit investment in many leagues yet he’s returned $20 in value.

The reigning Rookie of the Year is now making a bid for this year’s Most Valuable Player. Dustin Pedroia does not put up the kind of flashy numbers you would expect from an MVP candidate whether considering real or fantasy baseball, but huge batting average and runs scored totals can be very underrated. Despite his hardware from 2007, he wasn’t a hugely sought after commodity this spring thus offering huge earnings against his cost. Pedroia’s big season will give him prominence on the fantasy landscape entering 2009, while DeRosa will likely continue to toil in relative obscurity.

Third Base
Stars: Fewer things say star power more than third base in New York. Alex Rodriguez and David Wright have continued their brilliance again in 2008. They have combined for 50 home runs, 167 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases while hitting .301. Known for being huge power sources, the New York duo earn their huge price tags by adding average and speed to that incredible power. Even more amazing is that A-Rod is pacing to register is lowest at-bat total (504) since 1999 after missing time to injury earlier this season. A full season of numbers might have landed A-Rod back-to-back MVPs regardless of a playoff berth for the Yankees. Wright, meanwhile, hasn’t displayed the same type of speed he did a season ago, but he’s still been a 5-category superstar worth every bit of his draft day cost.

Unsungs: The guys mentioned here had both fallen on the fantasy radar after a decline in production, though one significantly more so than the other. Jorge Cantu had a slim shot at a starting gig with the Florida Marlins at an unsettled third base thanks to the void left by Miguel Cabrera. He has taken this opportunity to channel his 2005 season that saw him hit 28 home runs and drive in 117 runs. He is currently on pace for 27-89 as well as 92 runs scored. In leagues where he was actually rostered at the draft/auction, he probably has a double-digit price tag in a scant few. You would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

The power has never been in question for Troy Glaus, but his health from year-to-year is always a concern. He is on pace for almost 700 plate appearances during his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals and he has been able to put up a very nice season. He could reach 30-100 by season’s end, but more importantly is that his .275 average is no longer than the anchor its been the past seven years hanging around .250 more often than not.

Next up: the outfielders & designated hitters.

Wednesday: 08.13.2008

Home Run Derby Curse?

I doubt it’s anywhere near as strong as the Madden video game cover curse, but it seems that some home run derby participants in recent years have prolonged power outages immediately following the event. My study that follows wasn’t terribly in-depth or scientific. It was spurred because the Tigers are playing losing to the Toronto Blue Jays this week and I thought about Alex Rios‘ lack of home runs since participating in last year’s contest. Those memories also called to mind the first real collapse I remember and that was of Bobby Abreu. He not only participated in the 2005 event at Comerica Park, but he owned the sucker. He hasn’t been the same power threat since.

The problem with the instances is that they are too few to represent a trend yet and there is no way of figuring out who it might get next. Lance Berkman was in his 4th derby this year, but he never collapsed following the derby as he has this season. Did he collapse because of the derby this year? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer on that front.

At any rate, Berkman and fellow competitor Dan Uggla are in the throes of a potential home run derby-induced power outage with a combined five home runs between them since the All-Star Break after mashing 55 prior to the Midsummer Classic. Below, I look at five other recent cases of Post-Home Run Derby Syndrome (PHRDS—pronounced “Freds”):

Garret Anderson, 2003 – While Abreu is who I remember first noticing the syndrome impacting, it looks like Anderson was his predecessor! In that 2003 season, Anderson hit 29 home runs. He hasn’t topped 20 in the five seasons since, coming no closer than within 12 to that 2003 mark. The 2003 season was the fifth season in a row with 21+ home runs including a 35-home run campaign and back-to-back 29s. Granted, Anderson has battled injuries and of course, Father Time since that Home Run Derby victory, but power is an old-person skill and he has topped 500 at-bats twice.

Bobby Abreu, 2005 – The year he won that Home Run Derby in Detroit marked his seventh straight season of 20+ home runs. He even mixed in seasons of 30 and 31. He was a bona fide superstar with his 5-category production. If you played on-base percentage in your league, he was worth even more as he routinely topped .400 bolstered by 100+ walks in each of those aforementioned seven seasons. Since that fateful night, he has 52 home runs over 3.5 seasons (about 15 per). He, like Anderson, is obviously getting older, but still power is a skill you usually carry until retirement if it’s something you displayed prominently during your prime. Plus he has continue to run, hit for high average and draw tons of walks so he isn’t battling injury and his skills haven’t just left him. PHRDS claims another!

David Wright, 2006 – Wright struggled after the break of that 2006 season and then went homer-less in April to open 2007, but after that he was pretty much back on track. As a superstar still awaiting his prime, he beat PHRDS, but it’s as rare as Magic Johnson and his AIDS. I include Wright mainly to give hope to the Rios owners out there worried about their wannabe star, who is now in his prime and could struggle to reach double-digit home runs this season.

Alex Rios, 2007 – This case of PHRDS just snuck up on me! I saw Rios fizzle after the break last year, it impacted several of my teams since I absolutely love the guy. Instead of diagnose a case of chronic PHRDS, I attributed it to Alex being Alex as he perennially fades after the break (his OPS is 112 points lower after the All-Star Break from 2005-2007). No he didn’t have a staph infection to fall back on and it briefly crossed my mind that it might be PHRDS, but as an avid Rios supporter, I was in sheer denial. Even this past winter, as I prepared my lists and forecasts, it again crossed my mind that perhaps Rios was in the clutches of PHRDS and might not be the 25+ homer breakout I wanted him to be in 2008. I shouldn’t have ignored that little voice that was screaming at me.

To you Berkman and Uggla owners that have dropped points in home runs and RBIs since the break, I feel for you. Watching a family member suffer from PHRDS as it controls their central power system is heartbreaking. You just want to go out to that mound and lob one in there for them to send 400 feet the other way, but you can’t. You just have to hope and pray that it will go into remission. Berkman is no spring chicken at 32 while Uggla is 30 raising the same age concerns that plagued the first two sufferers of chronic PHRDS. I do believe that both can pull themselves out the proverbial fire; Berkman because he is an amazing hitter that can & will make necessary adjustments when he not going right and Uggla because he corkscrews himself into the batters box about three inches on nearly every swing… but honestly, who knows. We’ll just have to visit daily and monitor their vitals. PHRDS is a cruel, cruel bitch and takes away fantasy titles and gobs of cash along with your favorite player’s power.

Tuesday: 08.12.2008

Madden ’09

The newest version of Madden football for Xbox 360 came out today… see you on Wednesday!! 🙂

Monday: 08.11.2008

The Next Tier: 2009

I woke up to a couple of emails asking me who’s knocking on the door of the first round, so I’ll cover a second group that I really like again in 2009. It is another group of 12 that could represent the second round, but they won’t be in any particular order. (Note: no pitchers are included as I usually leave them to their own listing. When I do a composite Top 50 or 100, pitchers will be included)

The guy mentioned all but once in the six emails I received about the list was Matt Holliday and I completely understand. The guy is a beast, but the uncertainty surrounding his whereabouts for 2009 have me reticent to place him in that first tier. From 2005-2007, the difference in OPS between home & away was almost 300 points. This year, it’s just over 200. He’s hardly a shmuck outside of Coors Field, but he definitely gains a boatload of his value from making his home there. If and when he’s guaranteed to play 2009 in Coors Field, he’ll jump into that top level.

Many are quick to say Lance Berkman can’t sustain what he is doing this year, but I don’t believe that to be true. First of all, he’s well off of his torrid pace from the late spring/early summer so he’s pacing to a .333-128-31-109-20 season right now. The speed is only real anomaly in this bunch and it’d be wise to pay for a max of 10 steals and enjoy anything else as gravy. Meanwhile the rest of the stat line is plenty attainable. With one home run and five double since the All-Star Break, it is looking like the Home Run Derby has claimed another victim. He’s a bankable .300-100-30-100 and that’s very valuable.

Speaking of reliable numbers, Berkman’s teammate Carlos Lee is as steady as they get. The speed dipped a bit this season, but prior to 2008 he had logged five straight double-digit SB seasons. Meanwhile, there probably isn’t a steadier .300-100-30-100 trend-line on the market. He will turn 33 during next season, but age doesn’t sap the skills he has proven to own since joining the elite ranks.

Basically an outfield version of Brandon Phillips right down to the inability to take a walk, Corey Hart is another across-the-board talent you love to have in your lineup. Some plate patience would give him several more chances on base to push that stolen base total above 30. He will be 26-years old at the beginning of next season, his third full one in the majors, and he should be ready to bust out completely.

Are you getting tired of seeing five category guys yet? Sorry, I just love laying the foundation for a fantasy team by getting a good bit of everything. Nick Markakis is on pace to raise his OPS by nearly 40 points from last year by season’s end and the huge increase in plate discipline (already more walks than all of last season) points to a superstar in the making. He will be 25-years old next year and he might be ready to reach that 30-home run plateau. Keeper league rebuilders would be well-served to do all they can to make Markakis their anchor.

It’s impossible not to be disappointed by the utter collapse of B.J. Upton‘s power this season. In his final season of second base-eligibility, many believed a 30-home run season was in order after he whacked 24 in 474 at-bats last year. Instead, he’s become a punchless speed demon showing a surprising amount of plate patience. He could top 50 stole bases, but will struggle to reach double digits in home runs while almost assuredly walking 100+ times. I think lingering shoulder pain has sapped his power and it won’t fully return until 2009. He will turn 24 in 10 days and should be undervalued heading into 2009. A 20-30 season is very possible.

It is tough to follow up a 50-home run/119-RBI season and barring a huge August/September surge, Prince Fielder‘s encore will be somewhere in the 35-95 range. Make no mistake that there is nothing wrong with that, but undoubtedly a disappointment to his fantasy owners. He is just getting going though and if his value takes even the slightest bump due to this season, then you need to be ready to pounce. He has similar run production to Ryan Howard without being the horrific batting average anchor.

There was/is no bigger bust in 2008 than the reigning National League MVP, Jimmy Rollins. Like Upton, his power disappeared. Unlike Upton, he has a much stronger track record of the power making the disappearance more startling. He, again like Upton, is almost assuredly playing through nagging injuries that go unnoticed by the fans yet tremendously impact a player’s numbers. His speed hasn’t faded and he hit .286 or better in every month except June so you can be confident in a 2009 rebound. He is another former first rounder that is almost sure to be undervalued which just creates a great opportunity for his 2009 owners. Don’t be the shortsighted one at the table that focuses too heavily on a disappointing 2008 campaign.

His first season in his “prime” didn’t go according to plan for Carl Crawford and now he’s going to miss some time with a hand injury further damaging his 2008 totals. His problem this year were the declines in speed and average. He doesn’t blow you away with his R, HR and RBI totals, but the given 50-.300 is where sets himself apart. Even if he were playing, he was only pacing to 34-.273. That Rays offense should get even better in 2009 and Crawford will be a beneficiary as well as a catalyst to that success. He might not be a 50-base stealer anymore, but he could be headed for 100 runs, 20 home runs and 100 runs batted in if he settles in at the 3-hole behind Upton and ahead of Evan Longoria.

Don’t tell Adrian Gonzalez that he plays in a pitcher’s paradise. Enjoying a breakout season this year, Gonzalez is establishing himself as a reliable .285-30-100 first baseman despite playing half of his games in the cavernous Petco Park. Granted, he does a lot more damage on the road so you could only imagine what he’d be if he played in a neutral or hitter-friendly yard. He’ll be 27 early in the 2009 season and he isn’t terribly flashy, but his kind of consistency is great as he has one sub-.800 OPS month in his past seven and just four in his last 15. The potential for 35-120 is there as his 2008 pace shows, but the lack of a huge downside gives him underrated appeal.

My pick for the 2008 NL MVP was shipped back to the AL before he had a chance to make a miraculous run to prove me right, but Mark Teixeira is another reliable that does pretty darn well even in “disappointment” seasons. Everyone is waiting for the 40-home run season again and he would have likely given us another one last year had he been able to get the 644 at-bats he had during the 43-HR campaign of 2005, but his 30-105 in less than 500 at-bats was sufficient. Two common themes amongst this group have been 5-category guys and reliable production. Big Teix is the latter to the point where you can add .285-100-30-100 to your team’s bottom line once you acquire him. He is even a bigger stud in OBP leagues because he knows how to draw a walk.

I have gone round and round with myself about whether to put Derrek Lee, Carlos Beltran or somebody else all together here in the last spot. I know Lee isn’t a 40-home run hitter like his 2005 season, but at this point I’m not sure he’s a 30-home run hitter, either. Meanwhile, Beltran is pacing for a huge power drop in 2008. He is 11 off of his 2007 total despite almost 70 more at-bats. When you’re putting up 35-25 or 40-20, it’s easy to overlook a .275 batting average, but not when you’re headed for 20-25. If Milton Bradley could stay healthy, I would have no reservations about putting him here… alas he can’t. If we were talking strictly OBP leagues, entertaining the idea of Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn here would be a no-brainer… alas we’re not. I’ll go with someone I advocated heavily this past off-season, Alfonso Soriano. At 32, he is hardly old and his pace of .299-70-28-76-15 in 399 at-bats is just amazing. Hitting leadoff eats into the RBI totals, but it is tough to find flaws in 100-30-80-25.

Enjoy!