Archive for April, 2010

Friday: 04.30.2010

April Showers

(This is an abridged look at an article appearing at OwnersEdge.com)

We close the book on the first month of the season tonight and there is one pervasive feeling among many fantasy owners right now: panic. There is nothing worse than seeing your hitters on the highway (hitting something in the .100s) or worse yet with a bingo number (something beginning with an “0”), though no full time hitters are in the bingo range. In the internet age of fantasy baseball where you are able to track your team realtime, it’s easy to get caught up in every at-bat and overreact to someone’s rough start.

I’d like to present a list of players ranging from bona fide stars to late round sleeper-types from 2009 who had an awful April only to turn it around and deliver the kind season we all expected, or even better, exceed expectations. If a look at this list doesn’t make you realize you need to give early round picks Grady Sizemore (.192, 0 HR) and Carlos Lee (.177, 0 HR) as well as young sleeper types Julio Borbon (.194, 4 SB) and Nolan Reimold (.193, 1 HR) more time to perform how you expected back in March, then nothing will.

Players with .150+ OPS Difference from April until End of Season

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Players with <.150 OPS Difference from April until End of Season

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Monday: 04.19.2010

Kyra Sedgwick is Your Friend

The common refrain you hear from those owners who choose to punt saves is “saves will come into the league”. This is in reference to the volatility of the closer position causing new, previously unheralded guys to be thrust into the role and availing the league of another save source. Of course these owners generally assume they will somehow automatically collect these saves and as such they feel justified in their strategy. Regardless of your league’s pickup process (waivers, FAAB, fastest-finger), no one can guarantee that they will the benefactor of the new saves that invariably enter the league. I am not saying you absolutely can’t win with the strategy, but I don’t think it’s a good one at all.

The amount of turnover we have already seen among closers this year (Texas, Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland, Minnesota, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado and Philadelphia) have the punters out in full force collectively sticking out their tongue as if to say, “This is why I don’t pay for saves!!!” I actually believe this volatility hurts their case and gives merit to paying for saves. Of those eight teams who have had a closer change due to ineffectiveness or injury, only two (Minnesota & Colorado) had top tier closers and both of them went down to injury. Injury doesn’t prove a theory like punting saves. Grady Sizemore’s injury last year doesn’t create a rash of outfield punting. In season management is hard enough without purposely adding the ridiculously stressful task of chasing saves to your agenda.

And I’m not sure why paying for saves has such a negative connotation as if the top closers are costing you a 2nd round pick or something. The top three, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton and Mariano Rivera, had an average draft position of 63-64-65 (note: I’d actually rank them Broxton, Rivera then Papelbon), which lands you in the 6th round. Of course, they aren’t the only quality closers, either. Some of my favorites coming into 2010 included Heath Bell (9th rd), Joakim Soria (9th), Jose Valverde (11th) and Andrew Bailey (12th). I also liked Billy Wagner a lot (12th), but he definitely had and I guess still has injury risk. Another thing often overlooked with the best closers is that they aren’t just one-trick ponies. My group of six averaged 34 saves, a 2.19 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 80 K in 67 innings of work. That takes your back of the rotation starter with a 4.50 ERA/1.35 WHIP down to a 3.77/1.25 guy. And that’s just the peripheral benefit. Obviously the gaudy save total and job security is why you select one of them in the first place instead of punting or selecting a Matt Capps-type bottom tier guy.

Depending on which podcasts or publications you listen to/read, you will hear different opinions on closers. Some experts swear by locking down top guys while others allegedly refuse to pay for saves. I don’t think you can really build a solid case for the latter as I’ve outlined. But if I had to give one reason why I believe that investing in the closers is valuable is because this game is about mitigating risk and I can’t think of anything more risky than putting your production in an entire category (as well as an impact in three others) on the fate of a FAAB bid or waiver order or whether or not you are the first one at the computer when news breaks of the latest closer going down. Wouldn’t you rather have just drafted Jonathan Broxton and supplemented him with guys like Jon Rauch or Chris Perez who could be had for next to nothing despite being first in line for a job/closing for sure for six weeks? Obviously those two wildcards worked out, but there were a host of others you could’ve rolled the dice on once you secured an elite guy. And even if you wanted to just go with your ace closer and then a highly skilled middle reliever or two while playing the wire for new saves, that’d be fine. At least you’re not purposely taking a zero in 1/5th of the pitching categories. That’s just silly.

Wednesday: 04.14.2010

Pete Rose and His Birthday

Today is Pete Rose’s birthday as they mentioned on the Baseball Today podcast with Eric Karabell and his guest Mark Simon, also of ESPN. Simon is a big time stats guy who is part of ESPN Research and also contributes to their new “The Max Info” blog, a must read. A quick sidenote: things like the TMI blog, Buster Olney’s blog, Jason Grey’s blog, Jayson Stark’s blog, Chad Millman’s blog and a host of other great stuff make paying for the ESPN Insider access WELL worth it.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Simon brought up that Rose was a meager 8-for-39 (.205) on his birthday which is interesting on several levels. First off, Rose is of course the all-time hits leader so to see him go 8-for-39 in a sample is surprising, even though it is tiny and completely arbitrary, but Rose is the kind of guy you could see getting amped for his birthday and having some big day. Secondly, how did Rose only manage 39 at-bats on his birthday in a 24 year career with a mid-April birthday assuring that the season is in full swing each year? I’m glad you asked.

Baseball statistics are rife with quirks and amazing oddities that go a long toward making it my favorite game and Pete Rose’s birthday performance is just another on the long list of things. Take a look at his season-by-season April 14th results:

YR TM APR 14 RESULT ROSE RESULT
1963 CIN PIT 1 CIN 0 Rose 1-for-5
1964 CIN No Game
1965 CIN No Game
1966 CIN No Game
1967 CIN HOU 8 CIN 2 Rose 1-for-4
1968 CIN No Game
1969 CIN No Game
1970 CIN CIN 6 SD 1 Rose 0-for-3
1971 CIN CIN 8 ATL 3 Rose 0-for-4
1972 CIN Seas. hadn’t started
1973 CIN CIN 3 SF 0 Rose 2-for-5
1974 CIN No Game
1975 CIN LA 5 CIN 2 Rose 0-for-3
1976 CIN No Game
1977 CIN No Game
1978 CIN CIN 8 HOU 4 Rose 1-for-3
1979 PHI No Game
1980 PHI No Game
1981 PHI No Game
1982 PHI NY 8 PHI 1 Rose 0-for-4
1983 PHI No Game
1984 MON PHI 4 MON 3 Rose 2-for-4
1985 CIN NY 4 CIN 0 Rose 1-for-4
1986 CIN No Game

In 13 of the 24 seasons Rose played, his team just happened to have an off-day on his birthday and one other time, the season hadn’t started. What are the chances of that?! Only twice did he play in back-to-back seasons on his birthday. And only twice did he have a multi-hit game on his birthday. In four of the 10 games, he was hitless altogether. His teams were 4-6 on his birthday, I wonder how many times they covered the run line.