Archive for May, 2011

Monday: 05.23.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 8 Tuesday-Friday

I am doing a great job at picking starters who end up involved in rainouts.  Of course, half the league gets rained out nightly so I guess that’s not too surprising.  Tuesday was a total washout with Rick Porcello and Jordan Zimmermann getting wiped out, but I went back to the well with both on Sunday and it went quite well (14.3 IP, 2 ER, 8 K).

I pound this one home time and time and time again, but the week 7 Trolling picks accentuate perfectly just in case you still don’t believe: you cannot chase wins… ever.  Twelve starters threw 78 innings with a 2.89 ERA and 1.21 WHIP yet netted just two wins.  TWO!  It wasn’t a necessarily an ill-begotten ERA, either, as the group had a solid if unspectacular 6.1 K/9, but a very strong 2.5 K/BB.

We will still aim for skills first and foremost, but hopefully we can pull a few more wins with this week’s picks.

MONDAY:  Found here.

TUESDAY:

Chris Narveson (MIL v. WAS) – He has spent most of May chiseling away at an ERA that was heavily damaged by a 7 ER in 2.3 IP outing, but now it’s at a very respectable 3.44 thanks to a really strong month.  Again, I know you can’t pick and choose starts, but if you remove that outlier, you see a 2.34 ERA in eight starts with a strong 7.9 K/9.  Of course, leave it in and the strikeout rate remains the same and the ERA above average, even in the very heavy pitching environment of 2011.

Charlie Morton (PIT v. ATL) – This is still a tough nut to crack with his just over 1 K:BB rate (1.12), but the insane groundball (62%) masks some of the K:BB shortcomings.  He has three really weird starts with five walks in each and just one or two strikeouts (five total), but he has a 3.50 ERA in 18.3 innings with two wins during the starts.  In his last two starts, he has five Ks in each with 14 and 17 groundballs, respectively.  He’s facing a team with 21st ranked OPS on the heels of losing one of their best hitters in Jason Heyward.  He has succeeded against much better teams including two complete games at Cincinnati (1 ER total).

WEDNESDAY:

James McDonald (PIT v. ATL) – He has really picked it up in May with a 3.18 ERA in 23 innings along with 24 strikeouts.  Still a little inconsistent, but the favorable matchup (6th-most Ks in MLB) helps.

Erik Bedard (SEA @ MIN) – I’ll simply reiterate my Sunday Twidbit on Bedard: “After posting an 8.56 ERA in first 3 starts, Erik Bedard has a 1.97 ERA & 0.97 WHIP in last 5 w/7.3 K/9 & 2.4 K/BB.”  Plus he has 18 K in his last 13 IP and he gets to face Minnesota in a pitcher’s ballpark.

Mike Minor (ATL @ PIT) – I love the skills of this kid and he’d have probably gotten a shot sooner had he been on rotation when they needed the spot starts that eventually went to Julio Teheran.  He has better than a strikeout per inning in 53 innings at AAA-Gwinnett and just 2.4 BB/9 leading to a near-4.0 K/BB.  He had nearly identical skills in 41 major league innings last year (9.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 3.9 K/BB) and I think he has a chance to be a high-impact starter the rest of the way.

THURSDAY:

Ryan Vogelsong (SF v. FLO) – His huge, albeit surprising, skills are holding strong with a 2.9 K/BB rate in 33 innings.  He has also added in some luck so the 1.93 ERA will almost certainly rise a bit, but I’d be surprised if there was a total implosion as long as he maintains the skills hold.

FRIDAY:

Scott Baker (MIN v. LAA) – The Hold List is coming apart at the seams with Brandon McCarthy on the disabled list and Baker struggling in his last three with a 7.04 ERA, though he does have 21 Ks in 15 innings.  While a 4.12 ERA might have been usable 2-3 years ago (in fact, Baker’s 4.37 in 2009 netted a 100 ERA+), it’s below average now which costs Baker his HL spot.  That said, I’m going to use him for this matchup because the skills are still strong (2.8 K/BB power by 9.1 K/9) and his main weakness (home runs) isn’t a particular strength of the Angels (17th-most in baseball w/38).

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Monday: 05.23.2011

Sunday Twidbits: May 22nd

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Cin –  Jay Bruce is 12-for-26 w/3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R in his last 7; hitting .319 w/7 HR in May. Hope you were patient thru slow April (.237, 4 HR).

Cle –  Asdrubal Cabrera has 200% more HRs (9) than last yr (3); topped last yr’s RBI total (29 in 97 G) w/his 31st in his 44th gm.

Cle2 –  A.Cabrera is the latest member of the Paul Sporer Year Early Team; loved him for a breakout. I’m tellin ya, my ’11 rosters=’12 cheatsheets

Cle3 –  Josh Tomlin has the largest ERA-FIP disparity in MLB. He will implode bc .175 BABIPs & 85% LOB%s don’t last. Trade now… for anything.

NYM –  Carlos Beltran hitting .281/.380/.534 is = or > career #s & on pace for 28-88. Scared of inj? Trade for full value as #s warrant nice return.

NYY –  Brett Gardner was hitting .145 on Apr 28 & popping on wires; hitting .369/.455/.492 w/14 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB and 1 HR since.

NYY2 –  Gardner (cont.) – Cut guys after 62 AB & you deserve to lose… regardless of lg. format.

Hou –  With Astros O exceeding expectations, Michael Bourn‘s value is higher than usual. Elite SBer (59 pace), but also on pace for 100 R.

Tor –  Need Ks but can afford a bit of an ERA hit? Buy Brandon Morrow. He’s -0.10 on ERA, but huge in Ks, espec. if cat. is bunched in your lg.

Tor2 –  Jays getting .186/.242/.291 at 3B w/25th-worst D. Brett Lawrie & his .346/.403/.633 line w/11 HR, 29 XBH & 9 SB CAN’T be far off. Speculate.

TB –  Might consider selling Jeremy Hellickson & his wobbly 3.18 ERA. Built upon sub-2.0 K/BB, .250 BABIP & 6% HR/FB (43% FB); 3.81 FIP = danger.

TB2 –  Hellickson (cont.) – If you’re contending in kpr lg w/cheap Helly, even better to trade bc you could net an absolute mint.

Flo –  Leo Nunez has been arguably baseball’s best closer this yr. in a yr when it’s been espec. rocky. His skills last yr. predicted future success.

Tex –  Elvis Andrus was 32-47 SB last yr. along w/.301 SLG causing some to sour on the 22 y/o SS. He’s 15-15 SB & on pace for 55, 3 < than Hanley.

Phi –  Dom Brown punished AAA SPs going .341/.431/.537 in 11 G. Could be worth spec in offense-starved ’11 despite sub-.200 car. avg (in 66 AB).

Det –  DET bullpen is toting a 6.03 ERA w/only Valverde doing well. Schlereth has 3.00 ERA, but sub-1.0 K/BB & 6.58 FIP. Need Benoit to compete.

Pit –  Andrew McCutchen is hitting .311/.378/.554 in May w/3 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R & 3 SB. Slow April is behind him.

Was –  Jason Marquis has rejoined us on Earth in May w/6.26 ERA; control has left him (3.1 in May; 1.3 in Apr). I never believed, no reason to now.

Bal –  Nick Markakis is hitting .329 in May & .433 in last 7. .278 OBP (B.Roberts-.273) out of leadoff spot has stifled RBI opps during stretch.

Col –  Jhoulys Chacin has carried ’10 skill over (same K/BB), added a ton of GB (47% to 59%) & become COL ace. ERA might tick up a bit from 2.66.

Mil –  Jonathan LuCroy isn’t widely owned at any outlet yet has an .863 OPS w/4 HR & 18 RBI in 100 AB; .320 AVG WILL sink, but pwr worth spec.

LAD –  Don’t let a pair of stars fool you, LA is a must-start against for even your marginal SP. NL’s worst offense in May; 2nd-worst all yr by R.

Chw –  Matt Thornton has allowed 1 ER in 5.3 IP across 6 APP in May. Santos has just 1 meltdown, but mark my words: Thornton will close again in ’11.

StL –  Jaime Garcia‘s emergence & rise of Yadier Molina, Jon Jay & Allen Craig on O has more than made up for Waino loss; resulting in NLC lead.

KC –  May has brought Jeff Francoeur‘s descent into Francoeurdom (.239); though HRs stick & could lead to 6yr high. Has real value in pwr-less 11.

Atl –  Remember when Nate McLouth was “back”? Was hitting .287/.384/.417 thru 5/4. Hitting .143/.226/.196  w/1 HR, 1 RBI & 4 R since.

Atl –  If McLouth has a 30+ G stretch of .287 during the season, no one bats an eye, but to start seas. some think it means more. It doesn’t.

LAA –  Jordan Walden has labored thru May (6.75 ERA in 8 IP) w/3 BSv, but also 3 SV & 9 K. Only lefty Scott Downs has excelled, but unlikely for role.

Oak –  Trevor Cahill has allowed >2 ER just once. K rate has come back down (6.3 K/9 in May), but still capable of big K gm (5-7-1-6)

SF –  Remember worrying about Tim Lincecum? Velo is highest in 3 yrs (93), ERA career best (2.06), allowed 0-1 ER in 6 of 10 GS. Remains elite.

Sea –  After posting an 8.56 ERA in first 3 starts, Erik Bedard has a 1.97 ERA & 0.97 WHIP in last 5 w/7.3 K/9 & 2.4 K/BB. Widely available.

SD –  SD has 4 RP w/21+ IP of 1.16 WHIP or better and 2.6 K/BB or better. Doesn’t incl. Bell & Gregerson. Expect major activity at trade deadline.

Min –  Jason Kubel is the only Twins player with 50+ AB w/an OPS over .708 which also means he’s the only one w/an OPS higher than Joey Bats’ SLG!

Ari –  Ryan Roberts is on pace for 25 HR, 21 SB, 81 R and 74 RBI yet still not fully owned. Check your wire. Better than 1.0 K/BB is impressive, too.

Chc –  Matt Garza has used massive K & GB surges (11 K/9, 48% FB-both car. highs) to post solid 3.72 ERA, but HR correction (2.4 HR/FB%) will sting.

Chc2 –  Garza has a sky-high BABIP (.362) bc of terrible IF defense, but regression of BABIP & LOB% will only balance HR/FB at best. Hold, don’t buy

Chc3 –  After another big April, Kosuke Fukudome doing his usual slide back. .226 in May with 1 (!!!) RBI. He had 2 in April. That’s hard to do.

Bos –  Some people hate owning DH/U-only guys so David Ortiz & his 32 HR pace (& .294 AVG) could be had at a nice price. Inquire.

Sunday: 05.22.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 8 Monday

I’ve only got a time for a very quick post before heading to bed (I’m beat), but I wanted to get Monday’s selections out.  I’ll post Week 7 results and Tuesday-Friday picks tomorrow.

MONDAY:

Jason Vargas (SEA @ MIN) – Vargas has become a really nice spot starter that many still don’t believe in for some reason.  Sure, he’s not a great pick if you’re chasing wins.  But if you’re chasing wins then you’re not paying attention anyway.  You look for the best possible scenarios for strong starts and let the wins fall where they may.  There is just too much randomness tied to the stat to get caught up in chasing them.  The Minnesota offense has been absolutely disgusting this year so while Vargas is usually more of a home-road play (leaning home), this is a prime road start for him.

Bartolo Colon (NYY v. TOR) – Colon is three-time pick on Trolling and he been amazing having posted a 1.57 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 10 K/BB in 23 innings of work.  Further accentuating my point about chasing wins, he has just one win in the three outings.  He is still widely available in ESPN and Yahoo! leagues with ownership rates under 35% while his CBS mark has risen to 73%.  Of course that still leaves 17% and a lot of those are probably leagues where streaming pitchers is a viable strategy.

Keep An Eye On: Josh Outman (OAK) – I was a big fan of Outman’s back in 2009 when he was in the midst of a breakout before succumbing to injury that cost him all of 2010.  He is back with the A’s and starting on Monday in Los Angeles and I recommended keeping him on your watch list.  His minor league numbers are ugly as home runs and walks plagued him leading to a 4.78 ERA, but his 7.2 K/9 is right there in line with the 7.1 we saw in ’09.  He was a bit fortunate back in ’09 with a .233 BABIP, but his massive flyball tendencies are less damaging in his home park so at the very least he could become a nice matchup play for his home starts.  If you’re in a super-deep league looking for pitching and have a spot, he might be worth stashing ahead of the curve.

Week 7 results and the rest of the week tomorrow.

Friday: 05.20.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 7 The Weekend

With interleague play firing up tonight, it throws an interesting wrench into matchup plays since the rules are going to be different for one team in each game.  That said, I would hope an American League pitcher isn’t completely thrown off of his game just because he has to bat a couple times and the DH shouldn’t obliterate a National League pitcher in a one game sample if he’s anywhere close to a worthwhile arm.

Let’s take a look at the weekend picks.

FRIDAY:

Erik Bedard (SEA @ SD) – It might be too late for you to pick him up, but I want to add him with Brad Penny and Ryan Vogelsong to the Friday picks.  I’m not sure why he wasn’t originally included.  He’s pitching well and gets a start in San Diego, it doesn’t add up much better than that.

SATURDAY:

Clayton Richard (SD v. SEA) – Can’t chase a win here even against the Mariners as the Padres have to face Michael Pineda so run scoring will be even tougher than usual for the Padres.  Richard is an ultimate matchup play to be used exclusively at home almost regardless of opponent.  He has excelled against Cincinnati and Philadelphia at home while getting a reprieve for a terrible outing against Pittsburgh where he allowed seven but just one earned.  He has a 1.71 ERA at home; 7.27 on the road.

Joel Pineiro (LAA v. ATL) – I will reiterate what I said when I recommended him for Monday: I wouldn’t mess with him too often in innings cap leagues because of his meager strikeout rate, but he is an overlooked asset with legitimate value in the right league type.  He turned in a quality outing against the A’s going seven allowing three, but striking out just three.  Atlanta has been good this year on the whole, but they’re toting a .654 OPS on the road (22nd-ranked).

SUNDAY:

Tim Stauffer (SD v. SEA) – Can’t chase a win here even against the Mariners as the Padres get to face Felix Hernandez so run scoring will be MUCH tougher than usual for the Padres.  He was toting a meager 4.5 K/9 in his first four outings, but has struck out 6 or 7 in his last five totaling 33 in 30 innings (9.9 K/9).  Combine that with his improved walk rate of 2.1 BB/9  and now he has a career-best 3.7 K/BB.  He has held most of his groundball gains from last year (55%) with a 52% rate which all adds up to a great skill set.  He could reasonably shave a sizeable chunk off of his 3.81 ERA going forward.  I would roster him immediately.

Jordan Zimmermann (WAS @ BAL) – His ownership rates are higher than most of the recommendations on Trolling the Wire, but there are still lower than they should be, at least in my opinion (70% or below across all three major outlets).  His strikeout rate in his first five starts was a remarkably disappointing 4.2 K/9, which was worrisome because strikeouts were a significant part of his value coming into the season.  In May he has struck out 21 in 18 innings across three starts bringing his season mark up to 6.6 and rising.  He has a great 2.1 walk rate pushing his strikeout-to-walk rate above 3.0.  He has a mediocre at best 4.13 ERA, in fact it’s below average, but his FIP is 2.67 thanks to a 59% LOB% that is 13% below the average.  With these skills, Zimmermann has a good chance to become an above average pitcher the rest of the way.

Rick Porcello (DET @ PIT) – He was slated for Tuesday, but rained out.  He is going Sunday so I’ll keep him as a recommendation especially since his draw improves getting the Pirates instead of the Blue Jays.  And in case you missed it, here is what I said about in Sunday’s piece: After allowing 10 runs in 10 innings in his first two starts, he has allowed just seven in the next 32 innings across five starts (1.99 ERA) with a passable 5.9 K/9.  More importantly, he has a 3.0 K/BB walking just seven.  His walk and groundball rates have held from last year while he has added more than a full strikeout per game to his rate.  A 3.65 xFIP and 3.76 FIP suggest that his 3.67 ERA is completely legitimate.  Buy with confidence.

Results for Week 7 and Week 8’s Monday-Friday picks coming up Sunday evening.

Thursday: 05.19.2011

Prospect Spotlight: Jemile Weeks

Earlier this week I discussed the Oakland A’s and why they ought to consider moving Andrew Bailey if and when he comes back healthy and pitches like we are used to seeing.  They are at .500, just a game out of first powered almost exclusively by their great pitching, both starters and relievers.  Moving Bailey for the right bat would be an excellent upgrade to their lineup, but the 23rd-ranked offense (by runs) needs more than one move to make them a legitimate contender.

I mentioned that another move can be made from within the organization and I was referring specifically to second base prospect Jemile Weeks, brother of Rickie Weeks.  The 2008 first round pick out of the University of Miami has really struggled to stay healthy as a pro which has slowed his progress a bit, but he has been healthy so far this year showing why he was a first round pick and leading to his best season yet 29 games in.

Hip and leg issues have limited to just 77 and 80  games in his two full seasons as a professional.  When he is on the field, he shows an all-around game including speed, discipline, a quick bat and more power than you would expect from someone who is 5’9 and 160 pounds.  His stolen base numbers don’t suggest massive speed, but that is certainly tied to the hip and leg issues.

His .325/.418/.467 line includes 10 extra base hits and 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot.  I asked Ben Badler from BaseballAmerica.comwhat he thought of this production from Weeks and he said it’s “what he’s capable of when healthy.  [He] has to show he can stay that way still.”

Weeks at AFL 2009 (Photo courtesy of Amanda Rykoff)

His ceiling doesn’t quite have the near-30 home run power like his brother, but in exchange for that he shouldn’t have the same strikeout issues that does Rickie does which often drain his batting average.  Badler and colleagues compared Weeks to Ray Durham in this year’s handbook and Durham was a mid-teens home run hitter and a career .277 hitter so that fits the trade of power for batting average as compared to Rickie.

It’s only 29 games of elite production, but it’s health not talent with him so there shouldn’t be a fear that the bottom will fall out on his stat line.  He wouldn’t even need to be playing this well to merit a call up when you consider the “production” the A’s are getting at second base right now.  Mark Ellis has a gawd-awful .204/.229/.279(!!!) line in 147 at-bats with no home runs, 11 RBIs and 4 stolen bases.  He has had some pretty decent years in the past and he was never at risk of losing his job because he was an elite defender.  Maybe he is hiding an injury because he looks completely lost at the dish.

His defense is still strong, but the bat is just so bad that no amount of quality defense can offset the hit their lineup is taking primarily because Ellis isn’t the only gaping hole in their set of nine.  And at 34, he isn’t going to be a major part of their future so it is time to get the 24-year old up and into the lineup.  Weeks’ defense isn’t up to Ellis’ caliber, but it’s passable especially if he is contributing with the bat.  I asked Adam Foster of ProjectProspect.com what he thought of Weeks and he said, “[He] is off to a hot start.  I think he’ll cool off a bit, but if the A’s want an offensive upgrade at 2B, he is certainly an option.”

If you have an open bench spot, I would definitely speculate on Weeks in an AL-Only league and possibly in deeper mixed leagues if I really needed a middle infield boost in my lineup.  The A’s certainly do so they shouldn’t hold Weeks back too much longer as they are clearly contenders in that AL West with their ridiculous pitching.  A lot of times these call ups happen without warning so if you grab him early, he will be very cheap which is also good insurance because if it doesn’t work out for some reason then you can cut him with minimal damage to your FAAB budget.

Wednesday: 05.18.2011

We’re Going Streaking!

Carlos Pena is in the midst of one of his famous Pena Power Pushes with five home runs in his last 12 games.  He has a .368/.490/.789 line during the stretch with 9 R, 11 RBI and 10 BB.  I’m sure many of his fantasy league owners didn’t get all of or any of this stretch as they were frustrated by the .157/.286/.171 line prior to the run.

Of course if you know anything about Pena then you know you have to sit through these kind of slumps so if you draft him then the onus is on you to practice extreme levels of patience.  Since emerging as a prolific and consistent power hitter in 2007, he has been possibly the streakiest home run hitter in the game.

  • He had 10 streaks of 10+ games without a home run from 2007-2010:
    • 10 – 3 times
    • 11 – 2 times
    • 12 – 2 times
    • 13 – 1 time
    • 18 – 1 time
    • 19 – 1 time
  • He had 12 streaks of 5+ home runs where he hit at least one every other game:
    • 5 in 6 games
    • 5 in 10 games
    • 5 in 11 games
    • 6 in 5 games
    • 6 in 8 games
    • 6 in 10 games
    • 6 in 10 games (followed by an 18-game cold streak, his longest of ’08)
    • 6 in 11 games
    • 7 in 6 games
    • 7 in 13 games (followed by an 11-game cold streak, his longest of ’09)
    • 7 in 13 games (preceded by a 13-game cold streak, his longest of ’07)
    • 9 in 11 games

The 21-game homer-less streak he started this season with is his longest since his rise to prominence, but it was also injury-related as he was dealing with a thumb injury so that only compounded things for a guy who is naturally inconsistent.  Morale of the story: if you are willing to take the risk of drafting him, set it and forget it.  Secondary morale: NEVER draft him in a H2H week.  He will kill you three weeks at a time before finally winning one by himself.

Carl Crawford is hitting .290 in 62 May at-bats notching a hit in 13 of his 15 games.  There hasn’t really been much else yet (2 SB, 4 RBI, 7 R), but considering the fact that he hit .155 for entire month of April his owners will take any glimmer of hope that their first round (or second round at latest) pick is ready to perform like one.

Drew Stubbs has reached base in his last 10 games posting a very strong .349/.440/.535 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 SB, 7 BB and 9 R in 43 at-bats.  He was a target sleeper for many, namely Matthew Berry of ESPN and Cory Schwartz of MLB.com, being tabbed as potentially this year’s Carlos Gonzalez.  So far he has lived up to the billing pacing for a season of .279 batting average with 27 home runs, 77 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 54 stolen bases which would no doubt make him one of the best fantasy players in all of baseball.  He is currently rated 5th on ESPN’s Player Rater and checks in 8th overall in Yahoo!’s ranking.

Before hitting the disabled list with an injury, Victor Martinez had a .250/.292/.417 line and hadn’t hit a home run in 12 games as the Tigers were an underwhelming 8-9.  He has torched the place since coming back from injury hitting .415/.489/.683 with 7 XBH (including 2 HR), 14 RBI, 9 R and 6 BB in 41 at-bats.  His surge places him 3rd among catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater behind teammate Alex Avila.

Martin Prado has reached base in 20 straight games dating back to April 26th including hits in 19 of them.  He was hitting .240 before the run, but going .360/.394/.551 w/4 HR, 17 RBI, 13 R, 5 BB, 3 CS in 89 AB has brought him to .296/.338/.450 which is just a tick below his career marks while his 117 OPS+ is right in line with his career 116 given the down hitting environment of 2011.

Perhaps Alberto Callaspo is the oasis you are looking for in the third base wasteland.  It was pretty weak before the season started and a rash of injuries might have taken it past shortstop as the worst fantasy position on the diamond.  He is available in a lot of leagues, too: CBS: 60%, ESPN: 49%, Y!: 32%.  In his last 12 games he is hitting .391/.404/.522 w/11 RBI.  Only 2 R and 0 HR & 0 SB, but again, it’s awful at third base so beggars can’t be choosy.  He is hitting .309 on the season and on pace for 75 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez is positively destroying the competition in his last 10 games to the tune of a .386/.429/.932(!) line with 7 HR, 16 RBI and 12 R in 44 at-bats.  He was hitting .250 exactly a month ago; he is hitting .327 now.

Rajai Davis has surged since returning from injury with 10 stolen bases and 10 runs scored in 15 games.

Mike Trout is living up to the prospect hype following his 2010 breakout, especially in his last 10 games: .357/.417/.643 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, 5 BB in 42 AB.  Of course, he has been raking all year long hitting .315/.400/.569 with 6 HR, 17 XBH, 17 RBI, 17 BB so he is almost making it difficult on himself to have a stretch that actually stands out.

The Kansas City Royals have already called up two of their best prospects in Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy, who makes his major league debut on Wednesday night.  Could Mike Moustakas be next?  There isn’t quite the natural opening that there was for both Hosmer and Duffy as Mike Aviles is playing well and even if you were to suggest moving him to second base, they still have Wilson Betemit.  That hasn’t stopped Mous from letting his bat make a bid for a call up as he has posted a .394/.474/.909 line in his last nine games with 9 XBH (4 HR), 12 RBI, 10 R, 1 SB, 5 BB and just 3 K (24 in his other 26 games) in 33 at-bats.  Man, perhaps even Dayton Moore can’t mess this up.  What a ridiculous crop of talent.

Dustin Ackley is also making a strong bid to get called up, but unlike with Moustakas in KC, the Mariners can definitely use his bat… and how.  Ackley is white-hot in his last 10 going .463/.540/.707 with 2 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, 8 BB, 5 K in 41 AB.  During the streak he has one 0-fer and seven multi-hit games.  His season line is now up to .280/.399(!)/.445.  He has 33 walks against just 25 strikeouts.  Given their anemic offense and his brilliant control of the strike zone, it might be time to speculate on Ackley in leagues where he is available and would be useful (this wouldn’t include 10 team mixed leagues) such as any AL-Only league and deeper mixed leagues with a bench.  I would definitely speculate in any OBP league that fits these size criteria because at the very least he will draw walks as soon as he reaches the bigs.

Next time, I will look at some pitchers in the midst of a hot streaks.

Wednesday: 05.18.2011

Mazzaro’d

By now you are familiar with the disastrous outing that Kansas City Royals pitcher Vin Mazzaro suffered through last night.  He threw 2.3 of the worst innings in baseball history yielding a jaw-dropping 14 runs on 11 hits and three walks.  Anyone that plays fantasy baseball had one thought once they saw the line: “Holy crap, who has him??” and then they scurried off to their league’s website to see if anyone took the beating.  Of the AL-only and mixed leagues I am in, only one team had him rostered and he was on the reserve roster, thankfully for them.

But what if he wasn’t?  What would it feel like to be Mazzaro’d?  It sure as hell wouldn’t have been good, but you don’t need me to tell you that.  Let’s take a look at how it would’ve affected the 13 teams in my 5×5 mixed league:

Yikes, that is horrible.  On average it did 0.30 points of damage to an ERA with just under 400 innings.  Coincidentally, my team is the one that took biggest hit (Team 1) thanks to my league low in innings of 329.  I didn’t include the WHIP damage because it was exactly the same for 12 of the 13 teams at 0.03.  Team 13 with its huge innings cushion would have suffered a hit of 0.02 to its WHIP had it been Mazzaro’d.

After seeing the average of 0.30 ERA damage, I wondered how many scoreless innings each team would need to get back to their starting ERA pre-Mazzarofication.

On average the teams in my league would need about three and a half straight shutouts to get de-Mazzaro’d.  There is no way you would get that in a row immediately after this beating, but even spreading it over the remainder of the season, you would need some fanciful pitching to get out from under that microburst of destruction.

We have seen the damage that getting Mazzaro’d does to the whole numbers on the ERA and WHIP, but what kind of hit would a team have taken to their point total?

A pretty wide range of damage done depending on team.  One team would have suffered no wholesale damage to their point total from the Mazzaroing.  That is kind of incredible.  The damage is still done the ERA and WHIP, though, it is just that the placement in the standings for that team was fortuitous enough not to cause any immediate harm.  Team 11, doing pretty well with 18 points between the two categories, would have suffered a major hit losing six points in the two categories.  Can you imagine losing six points in two categories in a single night on May 17th?  Most league standings are stratified enough that you wouldn’t see that kind of movement this late barring some crazy stuff like a Mazzarolation.

So was anyone Mazzaro’d in your leagues?  If so, how much did it sting them?  How many points did they lose that night and did they instantly cut Mazzaro even before the next transaction period?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@sporer).

Tuesday: 05.17.2011

On Andrew Bailey

 catbird seat

–noun (Informal)

an advantageous situation or condition:

His appointment as acting dean put him in the catbird seat.

A team that is just a game over .500, one game out of first place and in third place in their division isn’t often said to be in the catbird seat, but you could make a case that the Oakland A’s are in fact there.  The A’s have the best pitching in all of baseball when measured by ERA (2.75) and the best in the AL when measured by FIP (3.19) and xFIP (3.49).  Their bullpen ranks very well, too, checking in third and fifth in baseball by ERA and FIP and tied for 14th in xFIP.  The best part about their pitching is that they have the 2nd-most innings pitched in baseball, but their bullpen has the second fewest (by a third of an inning to Philly).

Their advantageous situation comes in the fact that they are succeeding this much despite their ace closer, Andrew Bailey, not having logged a single inning this year.  In fact the fill-in closer, Brian Fuentes, has been one of their worst relievers to date (4.19 ERA, modest 7.0 K/9).  Their bullpen is in for significant improvement when Bailey returns which is expected at the end of May.  He slots in at closer and everyone else moves down a peg (or out in Craig Breslow‘s case as he is the worst reliever to date statistically speaking).

But what if he doesn’t return?  Bailey has hardly been the bastion of health during his three year career and while the results when in have been excellent, he has three different DL stints for three different parts of his body (back, right elbow, right forearm) making him a constant risk.  The prospect of using Fuentes as their closer for the whole season is probably unsettling for the Athletics’ brass.  He has a history of home run issues which is about the worst thing for a closer.

He has avoided them this year with a 0.5 HR/9, but that’s thanks to a 3.3% HR/FB rate which is highly unlikely to stick considering he has a 55% flyball rate.  The home ballpark definitely masks some of it, but I doubt the park will cover him ALL year.  He has already notched three losses, a blown save-win and an ugly save where he allowed two hits and a run (a Dirty Fuentes if you will–full credit to Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz of ESPN).  And that is with just the one home run on his record.  As that HR/FB rate regresses to the mean, it could get really dirty.

Enter the catbird seat.  Their AAA closer in Sacramento is a name you might be familiar with, Joey Devine.  He makes Bailey look like Cal Ripken Jr. with an injury track record longer than Paris Hilton’s STD test results.  But he is healthy right now and mowing down the competition with 12 shutout innings during which he has struck out 17, walked one and allowed just four hits notching three saves and three wins.

If you will recall, the last time he pitched in the majors was 2008 for the A’s and he was excellent in 45.7 innings.  He had a miniscule 0.59 ERA, microscopic 0.83 WHIP and elite-level 3.3 K/BB rate powered by his 9.7 K/9.  He is a major talent who could definitely wrest the closer’s role away from Fuentes should Bailey miss more time than expected.  Or his & Bailey’s health and performance could facilitate a trade for the A’s to shore up their woeful lineup.

It is unlikely that they could flip Devine for a game-changing piece, but a healthy Bailey (who is only signed through 2011 according to Cots combined with the fact that the Billy Beane brass has never been tied singling out a closer and making him the unquestioned guy in the role) could probably net a useful bat especially as several wannabe contenders have a hole (or five) in their bullpen (Reds, Angels, Cardinals, Rockies, Brewers, both Sox, Rangers, Dodgers and Tigers all rate 16th or worse in bullpen ERA).  And six of those teams (Cardinals, Reds, Yankees, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox) are among the top 10 in runs scored adding to the potential for a trade fit.

The Reds look like a strong fit because they have an aging (36) closer in Francisco Cordero whose strikeout rate is dwindling rapidly (12.2 K/9 in 2007 down every year to 6.1 this year) and their heir apparent, Aroldis Chapman, would walk Vladimir Guerrero… repeatedly.  Couple that with their abundance of bats with no place to play, namely Chris Heisey, and trading seems to fit.

In addition to Heisey, the Reds also have Fred Lewis and Jonny Gomes (though he is a platoon player on the short end as righties kill him) at the major league level.  But if they wanted to keep Heisey and the A’s had no interest in Lewis or Gomes (which would be smart), their AAA team has two strong candidates the A’s would be wise to covet: Yonder Alonso and Juan Francisco.

Alonso is a first baseman they are trying at left field simply because he is blocked by the reigning MVP Joey Votto, but their best deployment of him is probably in a trade.  He is carrying a .331 average .916 OPS in 130 at-bats for AAA-Louisville and for his career he has nearly 600 plate appearances of .848 OPS at AAA suggesting he is ready for .

I appreciate Daric Barton’s ability to take a walk as much as the next guy, but a team can’t compete with a  .293 SLG out of their first baseman.  That’s so disgustingly bad that I’m sure 64% of you will go check his stats just to make sure it’s not a misprint.  The A’s could keep Alonso in the outfield, but that would put him in Josh Willingham’s spot or require moving Willingham to rightfield.  You can’t take his bat out of the lineup, though, because his .405 SLG actually qualifies as a power bat in the Oakland lineup.  I guess they could put Alonso in left and then Willingham in for Barton (Willingham has played 3 games at 1B.  Letting him learn on the fly would still be better than having to suffer Barton’s bat even though Barton is a plus defender), but that would only be an option if they decided that Alonso was a major value-add in left.  I can’t speak to his defense in the outfield at all.

Francisco is primarily a third baseman which just so happens to be another power position from which the A’s are getting ZERO power.  Kevin Kouzmanoff has an OPS (.591) that you would like to see as a SLG from one of (if not more) of your power positions of 1B, 3B, LF and RF.  His .351 SLG would make a nice OBP for crying out loud.  Francisco is a 24-year old top 10 prospect in their organization from whom big things are expected, but even the .295/.356/.400 production from his 59-game sample in the majors the last three years would be better than anything Kouz can deliver at this point.

The Reds also have a multi-positional Todd Frazier in the midst of a breakout at age 25 on their AAA team so the options run deep.  With as many holes as they have in their lineup, a singular trade won’t completely turn around Oakland’s offense, but it would be a big step in the right direction.  Plus they are doing pretty well overall despite their scrub lineup so maybe one bat would make a world of difference.  They have also some options on their own AAA team that could boost the lineup.  I’ll cover that at a later date.

Of course before any of this Bailey trade talk can come to fruition, he needs to come back and prove his health as well as show the kind of excellence we have seen from him in the past two years.  If he doesn’t, the A’s won’t have as much leeway to trade bullpen arms for help in their lineup, but with Devine surging and a major league bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball so far, they don’t need Bailey to return to succeed.  They are in a strong position either way, but obviously Bailey returning to greatness is the ideal scenario for them to maximize their time in the catbird seat.

Monday: 05.16.2011

Mark Grace Pokes Fun at Hong-Chih Kuo’s Anxiety

In the 8th inning of Sunday’s Diamondbacks-Dodgers game, color guy Mark Grace takes a few jabs at Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo for recently hitting the disabled list due to anxiety.  Grace’s partner, Daron Sutton, appears (to my ear) to be a bit uneasy with the ribbing, but in my judgment doesn’t do enough to dissuade Grace from the path he is headed down.  I have listened to these two a lot in the past (and generally enjoyed them, I might add) and I know they have a close enough relationship to where they can tell one another anything including “knock it off” if one is getting a bit out of line.

I felt this would have been one of those times.  What do you think?  Let me know on Twitter (@sporer) or in the comments.

Daron Sutton: Hong-Chih Kuo, to be specific, placed on the DL for an anxiety disorder.

Mark Grace: What was the problem? Making too much money?

DS: I don’t think so.

MG: Playing major league baseball for a living… that’s high anxiety… man, I dunno if I’d be able to handle that.

DS: Well you actually did.

MG: (softly) That’s what I’m saying.

http://www.facebook.com/v/10100797704974710

(h/t to @HJBosch21 for letting me know about it.  I wasn’t watching this game at the time & I’d have been watching Vin if I was.)

Monday: 05.16.2011

Sunday Twidbits: May 15th

On the Sunday before last, I started something called MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Starting with yesterday’s, I will post each week’s Twidbits here at paulsporer.com for anybody who misses them on Sunday and just for a quick and easy reference later on instead of having to scroll through my feed days later.  They are grouped by the Sunday game matchups.

KC – Mike Montgomery was thrashed on Sat – 11 R (8 ER) in 4.3; 25 BB in 42 IP

Det – Brad Penny has 1 BB in last 20 IP; career high 54% GB in ’11

Sea – Brandon League‘s last four ERA has gone from 2.08 to 7.31 3: IP, 10 ER

Cle – Cleveland scored a lg high 141 R in Apr (5.4/gm). Their OPS is down from .791 to .670 in May & they are scoring 3.6 R/G. Easy w/Oct. plans.

StL – Chris Carpenter has allowed 40 H in last 4 starts; Josh Johnson has allowed 32 in 8 starts

StL 2 – Albert Pujols is hitting .302 w/6 HR and 20 RBI in the last calendar month

Cin – The Reds C combo (Ramon Hernandez/Ryan Hanigan) has 8 HR, 27 RBI & .321/.373/.526 line; hands down the best backstop production in baseball.

Cin 2 – Drew Stubbs has been Matt Kemp-lite: R 30/23, HR 7 ea., RBI 20/25, SB 13/12, AVG .276/.336

Phi  – Buoyed by a return in his BABIP, Jimmy Rollins is hitting .279 along w/a career high .362 OBP, but last yr’s power outage remains (.377 SLG)

Atl – Martin Prado has 8th-most RBI in baseball (27); far & away the most for a leadoff hitter (Brian Roberts, 19)

Flo – Florida’s Gaby/LoMo 4-5 combo is hitting .332/.418/.572 w/12 HR, 37 RBI & 32 R even w/LoMo playing just 17 G so far.

Was – Jayson Werth‘s .232 AVG is the best qualifying AVG on Wash. Only one Nats hitter w/80 AB holds an OPS over .752 (Nix, .892).

Bal – SSS caveats, but JJ Hardy has two 6 G set this yr. .200/.294/.400 in his 1st, then .435/.480/.696 since returning. A must-add at thin SS.

TB – Ben Zobrist only has 1 HR, 2 RBI since his crazy DH on Apr 28th, but he’s hitting .360/.468/.540 w/6 2B and 11 BB.

NYM – Carlos Beltran has matched or exceeded performance from ’10 in 64 G playing just 37 so far in ’11. Same R, 2 more 2B, 1 more HR, 3 fewer RBI

NYM 2 – Most importantly, Beltran’s .294/.384/.587 line is well above last year’s .255/.341/.427 line.

Hou – After four 6 IP starts (Apr 9-26), Bud Norris has gone 7+ in last 3 in an effort to keep his fate away from NL’s worst ‘pen (5.25 ERA).

Pit – Jose Tabata has 21 walks in 147 PA (14.1%) & is just 7 away from ’10 mark of 28 in 441 PA. 45 SB pace is legit as AVG will rise soon, too.

Mil – Ryan Braun is pulling out of 15-gm minislump (.193)-hitting .389/.522/1.056 w/2 HR, 10 RBI & 6 R in last 5 gm.

Tor – Jose Bautista has 7 HR in last 30 AB; .400/.486/1.167 w/11 RBI, 9 R… Bondsian treatment upcoming? TOR #4s have .734 OPS, 20th in MLB

Tor 2 – More Bautista, his .868 *SLG* would be the 17th best *OPS* in the AL. :drool: He’s prob <$5 keeper in most lgs.

Min – Minnesota’s .617 OPS is easily a league worst; 6 batters w/75+ PA have better *SLG* (Bautista, Berkman, Morrison, Sizemore, R.Hernandez & Granderson). Joyce’s .615 is close.

SF – Just two healthy regulars (Sandoval on DL) w/70+ PA have an OBP above .316 (Posey .347, Burrell .350).  Alas, elite pitching staff has propelled them atop tough division (-2 run diff.)

Chc – Kosuke Fukudome‘s trend of hot April followed by precipitous drop in May is holding to form. His OPS has drop .130 pts; he’s empty OBP.

LAA – Scioscia has split time equally b/w Hank Conger (.788 OPS) & Jeff Mathis (.499 OPS) & while it’s sub-optimal, it’s better than expected.

Tex – Adrian Beltre‘s power is intact w/same ISO as ’10 (.233), but disgustingly low .218 BABIP is holding his AVG to .252; target for AVG upside.

SD – Will Venable on pace for 45 SB, but empty otherwise. Rise in MLB SB (0.67/G v. 0.61 in ’10) makes him less valuable, even w/high pace.

Col – Seth Smith hitting .250 v. LHP (up from ugly .154 clip in 55 PA last yr), but he’s still best deployed in daily lgs v. RH starters.

Chw – Alexei Ramirez is once again heating up after an ugly April w/.790 OPS in May. Career .840 OPS in June (.820)/July (.860)… buy immediately.

Oak – Batting 3rd often Conor Jackson may chase down a line near his 06-08 peak, maybe: .290, 10 HR-65 R-65 RBI-12 SB. *Cheap* AL-only usefulness.

Ari – Ugly .233 BABIP is saddling Chris Young w/.219 AVG & masking improved K rate & career-best ISO. Regression will improve SB opp; buy now.

LAD – Apart from Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier, the rest of the Dodgers are hitting .230/.282/.320. They’re tied w/Bautista w/16 HRs in 1057 AB!!!

Bos – A month ago Adrian Gonzalez was hitting .244 w/1 HR & 7 RBI; since then .357 w/8 HR & 27 RBI, leads AL in RBI & on pace for 36 HR.

NYY – Despite Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada & Nick Swisher being useless, NYY is pacing the lg w/859 RS (41 more than BOS).