Archive for January, 2013

Friday: 01.25.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 28 Days – Hanley Ramirez

Only 28 days until live game action…

OK, so the first actual Grapefruit or Cactus League game doesn’t take place until February 22nd, but the Red Sox are splitting up their squad and playing a couple of colleges on February 21st so we’re just 30 days away from organized professional baseball. So why not a countdown of this final, grueling winter month that includes some fantasy analysis?

Obviously my primary focus at this site is on pitchers and you’ll get quite a bit of my analysis on them in late February when the SP Guide drops, thus I was thinking of something surrounding hitters. With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

HANLEY RAMIREZ

After the unmitigated disaster that was 2011, it wasn’t going to take much for his 2012 to be considered a rebound and it was yet he was still a disappointment. While he wasn’t going 2nd overall like 2011, he still only dipped to 20th average draft position with a high of 12 and low of 26 according to Mock Draft Central. His 20-20 season with shortstop and third base eligibility wasn’t bad, but it didn’t earn that draft position back. ESPN’s Player Rater had him 63rd overall and 42nd among batters.

The problem was that there was virtually no rebound in his paltry .243 batting average from 2011. It went up to .257, but that’s barely a dent (8 hits over a 600 AB season) and he posted the second-worst BABIP of his career at .290 (up slightly from 2011’s .275). His batted ball profile was actually somewhat conducive to a batting average increase as he added 2.5 percent to his line drives, which have the best chance to become hits. His flyball rate rose continuing a three-year trend, and those are least likely to become hits. While his flyball rate only ticked up by 1.2 percent, his infield flyball rate jumped four percent and those are all but guaranteed outs.

His BABIP based on batted ball was league average all told (he was a little low on line drives, but high on grounders & flies) so we shouldn’t be too surprised that his .257 batting average was essentially on par with the league’s .255 average as a whole. He might’ve smoked a few more at-‘em balls than normal, but nothing that would leave you saying he was quite unlucky for the performance he was delivering on the field. Batting average is really what kept his 2012 from being a “Hanley” season considering 2009 and 2010:

hanley3year

Based on my rough math estimations, a .300 average would’ve boosted Ramirez to a tie for 11th among batters in the player rater with Adam Jones and vaulted him to 18th with Jones in the overall.

“Well ya, but he was playing a lot in that cavernous monstrosity that can gives your eyes an STD if you watch too many home Marlins games!”

*Bzzz* Try again.

Ramirez raked in Marlins Stadium as did the other two superstars on that team:

homemarlins

It appears that Ramirez’s batting average issues for 2012 fit under the Occam’s razor principle: he just wasn’t good enough. No logistical pretzels about this BABIP or that venue. He simply didn’t hit the ball well enough to earn a .300+ average. I mean, we’re really only talking about a hit a week here. Another 26 hits would put right at .300 (actually .2996688, but I think MLB would go ahead and give it to him) and that feels like a lot, but there are generally around 26 weeks in the season.

Where is going to get those hits in 2013? Ideally off of southpaws. For his two-plus seasons (92 G in ’11) from 2009-2011, he hit .305 off of lefties with a .339 BABIP. Those figures dropped to .263 and .293 in 2012. It wasn’t just one problem area either; they just handled him better than ever before. Though up and in and down and away do stand out a bit when comparing the two samples:

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Ramirez remains a hot commodity for several reasons:

  • He has a track record of excellence so the potential to return to those levels is still present.
  • He is still on the right side of 30, adding to the likelihood of the first point.
  • He has dual eligibility at the hardest spot to fill (SS) and another premium infield spot (3B)
  • His “down” seasons are still 20-20 seasons with 92 RBIs. Well down seasons without injury.

Ramirez is solid “buy” target for 2013, even as a second round pick (though his ADP is a ludicrous 42 in early drafts** over at Mock Draft Central making him a huge bargain if that holds, but I doubt it will). High floors are a market inefficiency and they can sometimes be more important than a high ceiling for an early round pick. Especially if you subscribe to the notion that you can’t win your draft in the early rounds, but you can lose it.

**ADDENDUM

In the mock drafts I’ve done to date, Hanley has gone as follows:

  • 23rd overall in a 15 tm mixer w/OBP instead of AVG
  • 27th overall in a 15 tm mixer w/OBP instead of AVG
  • 21st overall in a standard 12 tm mixer
  • $31 dollars in a 14 tm auction standard 5×5

In other words: ignore that ADP because there is very little chance you’ll get him at that price.

Don’t forget the countdown continues on the weekend! 

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 Leftfielders Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall***”. They will air both the left and right field shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

This is not a fantasy list!!

***I will not be doing a top 100

I felt I was getting a little verbose on these lists given that they’re really just about having some off-season fun, so I’ve cut the explanations down a bit on these.

The leftfield list was one of the easier ones as the 10 came pretty easily to me. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will not be included because they were included on the centerfielder list. We saw MLB Network put Shin-Soo Choo on the centerfielder list as well, so they’re going with where guys are expected to play in 2013 thus you won’t see Martin Prado on the list, either, as he will now play third base for the D’Backs. Nor will you see Desmond Jennings as he shifts over to center to replace B.J. Upton. Oddly enough, MLBN was counting new position for guys like Choo and Aroldis Chapman yet they still included Trout with the CFs and he is slated to play left with Peter Bourjos in center.

HONORABLE MENTION

Jason Kubel (ARI) is the only leftfielder who was close for me. His NL debut was impressive, but he just missed out as he lags a bit behind defensively and his bat was good, but not overwhelmingly so.

THE LIST

10. Alfonso Soriano (CHC) – A punching bag for many fans, Soriano hasn’t been the 40-40 guy from his Washington season, but he’s not exactly Vernon Wells, either. In fact, by fWAR he’s earned $98.5mm ($5mm/WAR) on the field while being paid $97mm. Even if you don’t buy the defensive gains, he’s been a plus-hitter for five of six seasons with the Cubs.

9. Melky Cabrera (TOR) – How much do you think PEDs helped Melky? And do you think he’s taken them consistently for two years? Those are the two questions to be asked when analyzing him. I lean toward “some, but not overwhelmingly so” and “no”, so he makes my list. I doubt he’d be the 2012 version of himself even if he kept using, so look at 2011 as a guidepost for his performance.

8. Brett Gardner (NYY) – Speculating a bit here since Gardner missed most of 2012, but when he plays he does everything except hit for power. He plays incredible defense, has game-changing speed, and he’s the Van Gogh of walks—he draws ‘em like crazy!

7. Josh Willingham (MIN) – Staying on the field has been the only real issue with Willy during his career and he’s improving in that avenue improving his games played from 114 in 2010 to 136 and 145 the last two years. Regardless of how often he plays, he’s always raked at the dish and done so enough to cancel out his below average defense.

6. Yoenis Cespedes (OAK) – What an incredible debut! I don’t think anyone saw that coming. He was the commensurate five-tool player hitting .292 with a .505 slugging percentage, playing elite defense in left using his arm to terrify runners into staying put, and stealing 16 out of 20 attempts while also taking extra bases at an above average clip. Imagine if he tops 130 games this year.

5. Justin Upton (ATL) – New to both his team and his position, Upton was finally traded after approximately 212 years of speculation. The potential is overwhelming, but we need to see it more consistently and since we don’t yet, he lands lower than you probably would’ve expected to see him.

4. Matt Holliday (StL) – Only two LF, both regarded among baseball’s best, have topped him with the bat at the position. He pairs the first-rate bat with better defense than you think. Unless you think he plays good-not-great defense boosted by his solid arm and ability to freeze runners.

3. Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – He’s failed to repeat that stunning 2010, but he hasn’t exactly been a slouch in the meantime and his rising walk rate bodes well for his late-20s. He’s yet to play more than 145 games in a season which only make his three straight 20-20 (all w/22+ HR) seasons that much more impressive.

2. Alex Gordon (KC) – The unquestioned best leftfielder in the game defensively speaking whether you trust the metrics or simply use your eyeballs. Mind you, that’s not the only reason he rated this well, he’s also come around big time with the bat including an MLB-best 51 doubles last year. Took him a while, but he’s finally paying dividends on the savior tag that was slapped on him before the ink dried on his contract in 2005.

1. Ryan Braun (MIL) – Duh-doy!

Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 RP – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host and human bobblehead (click that & also see below) Mitch Williams, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were a bit annoying. For one, they did what I feared they might do: lean far too heavily on closers. One list had exactly zero middle relievers and the maker of said list is a huge surprise. I know these lists are for s’s & g’s and despite how it may read, I’m not getting that worked up over it, I’m just trying to have some fun as we move closer toward real baseball!

HumanBobble2

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10RPlists

The Shredder

I’ll say straight out front that The Shredder did much better with the relievers than with starters. I’ll also admit that Grant Balfour was a nice pick. I probably didn’t give him enough consideration. The dude hates letting guys hit the ball (4.9 H/9 last year), misses a good amount of bats (25% K rate), and Oakland has the perfect stadium for his flyball tendencies. That adds up to a helluva reliever. My love for strikeouts probably kept Jim Johnson and Eric O’Flaherty off of my list or it was just the overwhelming amount of depth at the position making it nearly impossible to whittle it down to 10. O’Flaherty has been insane the last four years with a 1.95 ERA and like a 2 million percent groundball rate. Seriously, it’s been 55-57-56-66(!!) percent the last four years meanwhile he has struck out 20% or more guys in three of the four years so he isn’t completely incapable of bat-missing. I was also impressed that The Shredder didn’t overrate Jonathan Papelbon and gave Koji Uehara some big love. All told, this was probably my favorite list because they gave middle relievers deserved love and their differences from my list were pretty strong. That said, Motte was a huge miss.

My inclusions he didn’t list: David Hernandez, Joe Nathan, David Robertson, and Jason Motte

Middle relievers: 4 (Kenley Jansen isn’t starting the year as the closer)

Bill James

Bill, Bill, Bill. You’re my dawg, but Papelbon #2?? No, just no. I pretty much blocked out everything else at that point: the inclusions of Motte and Nathan, the Rodney love, the Sergio Romo exclusion, all of it was forgotten for better or worse because the godfather of sabermetrics and objective analysis threw Jonathan Papelbon second on his list of relievers RIGHT NOW showing a clear bias toward his Red Sox (for whom Bill works as an advisor). John Axford was a little high for me, but his inclusion isn’t too problematic. This is a dude who fans 30% of the batters he’s faced for three years running. He gave up a quarter of his 2012 runs (36) in three games with a trio of three-run outings from June 10th to July 29th. And he was also saddled with a 19% HR/FB rate, it’s probably not a bad idea to bet on some improvement for 2013.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Romo

Middle relievers: 1 (and maybe two if Ryan Madson closes for LAA) 

Mitch Williams

Everyone else worked under the assumption that Aroldis Champan is going to be a starter (primarily because he is), but not ol’ Bobbles. OK, so you’re trying to make a big call, but why not just work under the same conecit everyone else did and add a disclaimer that you have Chapman second and think he’ll be closing by Memorial Day or something? Apart from that, his list isn’t too bad despite five disagreements between us. It’d really only be four without the Chapman thing because as he mentioned in the video linked in the opening, Motte was his #11. Finally, someone gives Robertson some attention, which he richly deserves.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Nathan, Motte, Jansen, and Romo

Middle relievers: 3

Starting pitchers: 1

Brian Kenny

How could you do this to me, Brian? You’re my boy, blue! The critical thinker himself, Mr. Next Level Stats who firmly believes the closer mentality is garbage (I don’t fully agree, btw) chimes in with ZERO middle relievers in his list. Or maybe one with Ernesto Frieri, but he’s an assumed closer in many circles at this point. I’m not suggesting you should shoehorn non-closers in if you don’t think they belong, I’m just wondering how he thinks they don’t belong?! Papelbon at 4? Are Soriano and Johnson really better than all middle relievers? He pointed out multiple times how Mitch had more middle relievers than James only to come to the table with a goose egg himself. I was surprised for sure!

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Jansen (all 4 of my MRs of course)

Middle relievers: 0

I’ll reiterate once more that I know these are just fun and any exasperation I show is reasoned exasperation. I’m not taking these lists too seriously or cultivating hate for any of the panelists. I truly enjoy this series quite a bit and I’ve had fun agonizing over my own lists.

Friday: 01.25.2013

Productive Outs – Ep. 34 (feat. Paul Sporer)

The brilliant minds behind Productive OutsRiley Breckenridge and Ian Miller (REAL rockstars!! Thrice, Kowloon Walled City), were kind enough to invite me on for some spoken words and it was wondrous. If you’re not familiar with the Productive Outs Tumblr (which I linked at the beginning of this post), their Twitter feed, or their Prodcast, then your life isn’t as good as it could be just yet. These are two of my favorite people whom I’ve yet to meet in real life and I commend all of their doings to you. 

Thursday: 01.24.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 29 Days – Carlos Santana

Only 29 days until live game action…

30: Desmond Jennings

OK, so the first actual Grapefruit or Cactus League game doesn’t take place until February 22nd, but the Red Sox are splitting up their squad and playing a couple of colleges on February 21st so we’re just 30 days away from organized professional baseball. So why not a countdown of this final, grueling winter month that includes some fantasy analysis?

Obviously my primary focus at this site is on pitchers and you’ll get quite a bit of my analysis on them in late February when the SP Guide drops, thus I was thinking of something surrounding hitters. With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

CARLOS SANTANA

If you just randomly poll some fantasy baseball managers asking them how Carlos Santana did in 2012, I think you’ll end up with answers suggesting it was a “down” or “poor” season. After all, he did drop nine home runs from his 2011 total, but the perception is likely built around the fact that he ended June with a .220 batting average and 673 OPS. It wasn’t so much that he got off to a poor start, either, he had an 863 OPS in April, but May and June were complete washouts as he put a 592 mark during the two months clearly playing at far less than 100 percent health and the concussion at the end of May certainly didn’t help.

In fact, from the concussion date (May 25th) to the All-Star break, he hit .172 with 527 OPS. With that in mind, how much more impressive are his final numbers of a .252 batting average and 785 OPS? The four days off served him well and he hit .281 with an 887 OPS the rest of the way. Throughout the year he continued to take his walks, but it felt like it was passivity during his May-June slump and he was missing worthwhile pitches opting for the free pass instead. That is based on probably 10-12 games of watching the Indians including some series against my Tigers so if you don’t want to lock that down in stone, I understand. Just letting you know what I saw.

Despite losing essentially two months where he was playing, but struggling majorly, Santana still had a very nice season. He sustained his OPS by raising his on-base percentage to account for the drop in slugging percentage. And he had just three fewer runs batted in despite 49 fewer plate appearances. Lost in the shuffle was the improved strikeout rate dropping from 20.2 to 16.6 percent while lightly boosting his walk rate from 14.7 to 14.9 percent.

Going into 2013, Santana is part a very deep catcher pool and analysts can’t seem to agree exactly where he belongs. There is plenty of established star power at the position with a handful of up-and-comers poised for breakouts, too. For me, he is an easy top three behind no more than Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, but the early rankings have him anywhere from two to seven:

It looks like drafters are following Steve Gardner at USAToday the most early on as his current average draft position has him as the seventh backstop off the board. In an OBP league, he’s easily behind only Posey, but most leagues still use batting average where he has a bit of a deficiency against righties. He is a switch-hitter who fares better against lefties, but he isn’t exactly crushing them, either. He had a .272 average against them last year which isn’t too far from his .278 career mark against southpaws.

An attribute to consider with Santana is his first base & DH playing time. It allows him to get those extra plate appearances that other catchers won’t accumulate and keeps some of the wear-and-tear off of him. This has allowed him to join Joe Mauer as the only two catchers with 600+ plate appearances the last two seasons. Meanwhile his 658 from 2011 is the second-highest total from a catcher since 2006 topped only by former Indian Victor Martinez who had 672 in 2009 with Cleveland and Boston.

Speaking of Martinez, he is another guy who deserves a boost because of playing time. He should still be catcher-eligible in any league worth its salt because of his 26 games there in 2011 when he last played and he won’t have to crouch at all in 2013. He should be the exclusive DH for the Tigers with maybe a couple of 1B starts mixed in to give Prince Fielder the proverbial half day off.

A healthy Santana can bring a .275-90-30-100 season to the table. And yes, I do think he can reach 100 RBIs with Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Nick Swisher ahead of him in the lineup.

Thursday: 01.24.2013

On Upton

Well, that was rude of you Atlanta & Arizona! I was working on something outlining the teams that would have a legitimate trade package worthy of Justin Upton for the Diamondbacks, but they went ahead and traded him this afternoon. I imagine that happens a lot to baseball writers. They plan something and they’re working on it then circumstances change to render it irrelevant. The trade for those unaware sends Upton and Chris Johnson to Atlanta for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury. And at long lost the D’Backs ditch that scrub Upton. Their eagerness to trade Upton was absolutely absurd, but they got what they wanted and he’s gone. He joins brother BJ Upton in the Braves outfield with Jason Heyward making a ridiculous trio for the NL East contender.

The trade happened about 5 7 hours ago so there is already a ton written about it. I don’t have anything particularly to special to add. I love it for Atlanta, Upton still has superstar potential and it’s never a bad idea to add superstars. The brothers give them right-handed pop to split up Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann (once he returns). Arizona got a nice return, I guess. At least it wasn’t centered around Julio Teheran. Not because I dislike Teheran, but because a blue chip pitching prospect is the last thing they need, even after trading Trevor Bauer. It’s just been a horrible off-season for Kevin Towers and Co. over in the desert. Methinks a meddling owner is behind a lot of this, though.

Want me on the trade? Go here:

Wednesday: 01.23.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 30 Days – Desmond Jennings

OK, so the first actual Grapefruit or Cactus League game doesn’t take place until February 22nd, but the Red Sox are splitting up their squad and playing a couple of colleges on February 21st so we’re just 30 days away from organized professional baseball. So why not a countdown of this final, grueling winter month that includes some fantasy analysis?

Obviously my primary focus at this site is on pitchers and you’ll get quite a bit of my analysis on them in late February when the SP Guide drops, thus I was thinking of something surrounding hitters. With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

DESMOND JENNINGS

Always a tantalizing prospect, the Rays slow-cooked Jennings to the tune of 1004 plate appearances in Triple-A including 397 in 2011 despite the fact that his predecessor, Carl Crawford, had left for Boston via free agency that offseason. When he finally came up that year, he hit the ground running with a 1000 OPS in his first 175 plate appearances which included eight homers, 20 RBIs, 14 SBs, 24 runs scored, and 19 walks. He was doing everything.

Regression, which was probably inevitable, hit and hit hard as he shaved nearly 200 points off of that OPS down to 805 with a .162/.259/.253 line in his final 112 plate appearances. He still scored 20 runs and maintained his 11 percent walk rate, but the hot start caught up to him a bit and since the production came in two so distinct halves of amazing and crap, it generated discussion. It would be an interesting experiment to (travel back in time and) mix up the distribution of his production to small ups and downs that eventually land on the 805 OPS and see if it generates a different discussion. I’m sure it would.

He followed it up with a 2012 that looked more like the 112 PA sample than the 175 PA sample. He was a viable power-speed combo, only one of five players to reach or top 13 home runs and 31 steals*, but the walk rate fell nearly three percent to 8.2 while the strikeout rate remain steady at 21 percent. His home total was well off the 2011 pace which would’ve seen him hit 20 had he amassed the same 563 plate appearances he got in 2012. The doubles and triples held essentially even for those curious. So what happened?

*the other four were Mike Trout, teammate B.J. Upton, Carlos Gomez, and Jason Kipnis. All but Kipnis lapped him with either a lot more home runs or steals (or more of both in the Trout & Gomez cases). 

It is a bit too simplistic to just say that his home run per flyball rate regressed and that ate up his home runs. To a degree, that is exactly what happened, but without digger deeper it isn’t a helpful bit of information. He actually hit a larger percentage flyballs in 2012 moving from 35 to 38 percent and improved his line drive rate by 2.5 percent up to 20.1 percent.  Both of those factors can be good for a power spike, but the flyball contact was far less effective in 2012 as his infield flyball rate nearly doubled from 9.4 to 18.1 percent.

In his short 2011 sample, his flyballs hit off the inner third of the strikezone yielded a 5-for-12 (.417) mark with all five hits leaving the yard. He hit .297 (11-for-37) off the inner third as a whole in 2011. In 2012, he hit just four home runs off the inner third accounting for all four of his flyballs hit in nearly twice as many tries as he went 4-for-23 (.174). He still did plenty of damage off the inner third as a whole going 26-for-76 (.342), but pitchers got better at jamming inside to limit the damage to mostly singles (15 of the 26 hits). He wasn’t turning on those inner third meatballs like this one from 2011:

djennings

It’s one thing to drop your HR/FB rate because you are crushing warning track shots on gusty days or hitting the base of the wall for doubles and triples, but Jennings saw his HR/FB rate evaporate and shift into infield flies, the least successful contact a batter can make thus aiding a 61-point drop in slugging percentage and 47-point drop in isolated power (slugging minus average).

At 26, he is just about to enter his prime and doing so with 874 plate appearances under his belt should give him enough of a base to work from to make adjustments in order to fulfill his immense promise. The potential and youth will keep his price high, but the payoff is massive and even the downside was at least somewhat palatable despite massively underperforming his cost (51st ranked OF; 23rd most expensive) thanks to the steals.

He was the 92nd player drafted last year and his 2012, though under expectations, hasn’t really deterred anyone as he is tracking at 90th overall early on this winter. The composition of my team to that point would determine whether or not I’m willing to pay that eight round price tag.

If I have a foundation of guys with three-four years of track record, maybe Robinson Cano in the first, Adrian Beltre in the second, plus a Billy Butler, Cole Hamels, you get my point, proven veteran rocks; then I’d be more inclined to take Jennings. If you have team centered around Andrew McCutchen (just the one transcendent first round year), Jason Heyward, and Chase Headley, then you should probably go with Austin Jackson or Alex Rios who are being drafted 88th and 91st, respectively.

Tuesday: 01.22.2013

Top 10 SP – Review

On Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Starting Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host John Smoltz, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were interesting and perhaps unsurprisingly, I had more gripes with this list than I have any of the previous ones.

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10SPListsThe Shredder

Let’s start with the list that comes from their objective machine they call “The Shredder”. Kenny suggests that it is cold and calculated in its evaluation relying heavily on the most recent season, but also not forgetting track record. I have to call heaping amounts of BS on it. It just doesn’t add up. First off, it you’re focusing on “RIGHT NOW”, then how does Roy Halladay still finish fourth? There has to be a lot of subjectivity used to get him there. But that’s far from the most egregious infraction.

If this is supposed to be the most objective tool relying on data only for projection analysis, how does Chris Sale not only make the list, but finish ahead of Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, and reigning Cy Young winner David Price? It had to rely heavily on track record (or pure subjectivity) to get Halladay that high, so then track record would send Hamels and Price rocketing past Sale. Meanwhile, Sale wasn’t better than them last year, either.

Strasburg is probably skewed because he threw just 160 innings, but he was so stellar in that allotted time that it is still a surprise to see him so low. Plus, since I think they had to finagle things to get Halladay that high, surely they could’ve just done the same to get Strasburg into a more reasonable slot. Whatever the case is, I’m done believing that The Shredder is purely objective on any level. And if it is coming to these conclusions based on the data it is being fed, it’s broken and Master Splinter does in fact need to take over.

Maybe I got too caught up in Jered Weaver’s peripherals when leaving him out because I didn’t even give him an honorable mention. I recognize the fact that he is a damn fine pitcher, but I am a strikeout whore and looking over the numbers again I think I focused too much on the plummeting strikeout rate and not enough on his incredible ability to keep runners off the bases, specifically by preventing hits. I still think six is a little high, but I can see how he would fit nicely at 10 bumping the NL version of him (Matt Cain) up to nine and Gio Gonzalez getting moved to an honorable mention.

My inclusions they didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and R.A. Dickey

Bill James

Without treading over well-worn ground too much again, I just can’t see how on a “RIGHT NOW” list James saw fit to put teammates Cliff Lee and Hamels so far below Halladay who is 36 and coming off of an injury-marred season. Plus there’s the fact that he and the Phillies were going to start discussing an extension, but worries about his shoulder scared them off a bit. I still love Halladay as an undervalued fantasy commodity, but as the #4 pitcher right now, I’m a bit more skeptical.

James was the only one to list C.C. Sabathia which I think says more about the depth at the top of the pitching heap than anything else. I certainly don’t fault James for including him nor would I have faulted any of the other participants. He was basically tied with Adam Wainwright on my list at that 13/14 spot, but I gave Waino the mention because I honestly thought CC would appear on most of the lists and didn’t need the extra love.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain, Gonzalez, and Dickey

John Smoltz

Smoltzie’s list was close to being my favorite list but including Sale at the expense of Lee was just too much to overlook. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if Lee wasn’t 11th, just the inclusion of Sale over many more deserving (at least in my estimation) candidates is tough for me. I’m not anti-Sale overall, just when it comes to ranking him this high among the best pitchers right now. Another big season in 2013 could elevate him onto my list next winter, but he hasn’t done enough to pass enough all of these guys just yet.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Gonzalez, Dickey, and Lee

Brian Kenny

I guess by sheer virtue of the fact that we had the most matches (eight), Kenny’s list should be my favorite, but it boggles my mind how he could wind up with Price at nine. Apart from that, our lists are pretty close on the matches we had usually off by just a spot, maybe two, and we had three direct matches (JV, Strasburg, and Hamels). He was adamant about getting Dickey on his list and was the only one to do so which obviously I support, but I just kept coming back to the Price thing. If you go off of mostly last year, then Price has to go above Weaver (and obviously Halladay) and even when you factor in track record, it’s not like Price is without one. You’d have to weigh track record pretty heavily to Halladay above Price which I thought went against the conceit of these lists.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Cain and Gonzalez

All in all, I know these lists are still just fun and filled with opinion (yes, even yours Shredder), but I can’t make sense of it sometimes when arguments supporting guys contradict where you rated them or others.

I’ve still got my reliever review upcoming and then the LF and RF lists are due this week before Friday night’s airings.

Monday: 01.21.2013

2013 Starting Pitcher Guide Announcement

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It is with great excitement that today I announce details regarding the 2013 Starting Pitcher Guide. This is the sixth year of the guide and it has grown exponentially since that first iteration which actually started on a message board (the now-defunct Rotojunkie.com which has morphed into RJ Bullpen). In the 2008 debut, I ranked 100 guys (or 112 if you consider “12 Under 30” add-on) in about 11,000 words growing to last year’s 400 player/76,000 word epic that spiked download count by 2x over 2011 and was even mentioned by Bill Simmons on his podcast. We’re ready for another step forward in 2013.

The first big piece of news related to the 2013 Guide is the addition of Doug Thorburn (Twitter) as a contributor. Doug is my colleague over at Baseball Prospectus and does some of the most amazing work on the site analyzing pitcher mechanics. He has also co-authored a book with Tom House on the mechanics of pitching. He has worked at the National Pitching Association (NPA), too, adding yet another impressive notch on his pitching resume (and those are just the highlights!). Both this 2008 interview with him at BP (before he started working there) and his latest article on Gio Gonzalez are free to view.

Take a look at the Gonzalez piece especially because that will give you a feel for what he will be contributing to the guide (and because it’s amazing). In addition to an essay on pitch mechanics to help us better understand them he will also be contributing a series of Mechanics Report Cards similar to the one you saw in the article. The report card list will be hand-selected by Doug with each team being represented by at least a couple players, though some teams will have a more robust offering. There will also be insight attached to the report cards crystalizing the information found within the card. We are still fleshing out some details, but this gives you a general idea and the one thing I can promise is that it will be awesome.

The next big news is the addition of bullpen coverage! Closers, for better or worse depending on your view, are a big part of fantasy baseball and having a firm handle on how to evaluate those who have a beat on the role as well as (and perhaps more importantly in some cases) those who might end up in the role can be extremely helpful to your success. It will also create an avenue to discuss the Middle Reliever Methodology that I have long been a fan of utilizing, especially in AL/NL-Only auction leagues.

Essays are returning to the 2013 guide! In 2011, the front of the guide contained a series of essays on various pitching-related topics, but they were absent a year ago. They are coming back with a vengeance this year with the only difference from 2011 being that I will be writing all of them (except for Doug’s pitching mechanics one, obviously). Topics will include strikeouts, prospects, bold predictions (often found here yearly, but this time tied to the guide), and park factors, plus much more. I have some other ideas, but they aren’t as set in stone so I’ll go with “plus much more” instead so you can dream about what might be included (you’re welcome!).

Projections are returning for 2013! Last year was my first attempt at putting together a projection set and it went well so I’m going to do it again this year. The ERA ranges will be used again spanning four to seven earned runs. I think it gives a better idea of what I’m expecting out of the pitcher, plus it covers a bit of luck on both ends. The ranges aren’t too wide over 185-200 innings and that’s another reason I do it. When you see 3.29-3.60, it feels quite significant, but it’s a seven run difference or one every five or so starts.

Of course this is all in addition to the player capsules you’ve grown accustomed to year in and year out. There isn’t a set number of capsules and there won’t be an announced number ahead of time so I don’t paint myself into an unnecessary corner by excluding someone to stay under an arbitrary round number. Instead, I’ll just say that it will likely be a number between 400 and 600. I have over 700 names on the initial list to be pared down as some situations became clearer and some low upside far-from-the-majors minor leaguers are eliminated.

Like last year, the focus will be on plentiful profiles of those with the most impact and upside, so Jason Hammel is going to get more attention than Carlos Martinez (Cardinals prospect at Double-A), but Martinez is going to get more attention than Nick Blackburn. Hammel is impacting 2013 and Martinez is impacting 2014 & beyond for dynasty/keeper leaguers. Blackburn, by costing the Twins $5.5 million dollars this year, is only impacting their ability to buy a free agent better than Kevin Correia. Blackburn isn’t even on the 40-man roster. That’s a foolproof sign that your signing has gone awry.

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With the continued enhancements to a product you’ve hopefully already come to enjoy, we are moving to a very affordable pay model. The guide will available in late-February just in time for the fantasy season and is available for $12.

The guide comes via email in PDF form.

Order now!

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Questions & comments can be directed to thespguide@gmail.com

Monday: 01.21.2013

2013 Starting Pitcher Guide Now Available

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Full details on the 2013 Starting Pitcher Guide

With the continued enhancements to a product you’ve hopefully already come to enjoy, we are moving to a very affordable pay model. You can order for $12! The guide, which comes via email in PDF form, is now available.

We now have a sample entry available for you to peruse so you have an idea of what you’re getting in the 2013 Guide. Click below to see both mine and Doug’s thoughts on Oakland A’s youngster, Jarrod ParkerDownload the Sample Here.

Available Now

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Questions & comments can be directed to thespguide@gmail.com