Archive for February, 2014

Wednesday: 02.19.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Doug Fister

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. Next up is budding star Doug Fister, joining the National League for the first time in his career after an off-season trade from Detroit. The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

Doug Fister (30 years old) – Fister was already someone climbing up my draft board as the Tigers completely revamped their infield defense which stood to benefit him greatly. Instead, he gets traded to the NL where he will face pitchers and play behind a solid infield defense with his elite groundball rate.

The 2013 Tigers had baseball’s third-worst team runs saved on the infield at -34 with only the shortstops turning in a positive score, thanks no doubt in large part to the trade acquisition of Jose Iglesias. The Nats weren’t exactly four Orecks out there, but their -6 is a vast improvement and right around the middle of the pack at 17th. In 2012, they delivered an 8, good for 11th, while the Tigers had a -19 that left them fifth-worst.

Fister was hurt more by the 2013 iteration, posting a career-high .332 BABIP en route to a 9.9 H/9 and 1.31 WHIP. His .287 BABIP on groundballs was well above the .240 league average and accounted for 17 extra hits on his ledger. He entered 2013 with a .215 BABIP on groundballs, so 2013 definitely stood out like a sore thumb and a lot of it can be attributed to the shoddy defense surrounding him.

His strikeout rate was a useful 18.1 percent, just off the 18.9 percent league average, but when paired with the 54.3 percent groundball rate it becomes more than palatable. Facing pitchers alone should push him back above average. Hell, he had a 20.4 percent rate in 2011 without the benefit of flailing starting pitchers so we could realistically see him push into the low-20s in his new environs. The biggest gains are to be had with that WHIP.

A 1.31 was not fitting of his skillset, nor was the 3.67 ERA to be honest, but the former was far more egregious. If you put him at league average on that groundball BABIP and remove those 17 hits, his WHIP drops to 1.23. Get really frisky and put him at his .215 career groundball BABIP that he brought into 2013 and you’re slicing 26 hits off and all of a sudden he has a 1.18 WHIP. With 1.06 and 1.19 marks in 2011 and 2012, the upside is evident.

I think Fister is due for a huge season and it’s going to make the returns that Detroit got back look even worse than they did at the consummation of the trade. In a lot of drafts, he’s falling outside of the top 40 starters, offering tremendous value. Buy in bulk!

reportcard-fister

Fister made tremendous improvements to his balance last season, skyrocketing from a 40 grade in the 2013 SP Guide. He maintained a stronger vertical position and completely corrected the pronounced back-side lean during his stride phase, which had positive ripple effects on his posture by minimizing his glove-side tilt. The tall right-hander sets up on the third-base side of the rubber before initiating an extremely closed stride that directs his motion toward the on-deck circle.

Fister is throwing from an extreme angle when he reaches release point, such that he has to throw across his body in order to hit targets behind the strike zone, especially when his catcher sets up on the inner-half to left-handed hitters. Some pitchers have a naturally-closed stride, but the fact that Fister’s drag foot finishes miles away from the centerline indicates that he is going against signature.

It will be interesting to see if the Nationals address the issue, given that they made similar adjustments with Gio Gonzalez when he came aboard, with excellent results. But Fister arrives in Washington with a far superior walk rate, and the Nats may decide that if it ain’t broke, they won’t fix it.

 fister-dt

The guide is emailed to your PayPal address after purchase. I send them out in batches, usually with a pretty quick turnaround. At most, it’ll be a few hours, but I’m usually all over it!!

As always, you can email me or reach out on Twitter with questions or comments.

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

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Monday: 02.17.2014

Monday Radio

I’m doing a couple of radio spots on Monday. First off, I’ll be joining Brian Kenny on NBC Sports Radio at 10:02 AM central to discuss Max Scherzer’s contract negotiations and the Tigers, in general. And then at 11:30 AM central, I’ll be on SiriusXM with Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss talking pitchers. You can listen online at both websites and if you don’t have SiriusXM, you can sign up for a free trial.

The SP Guide will likely be hit upon during both spots. It is available now!!!

Edit: I’ll be joining Kenny at 9:35 AM central on Tuesday!!

Monday: 02.17.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Marco Estrada

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. Next up is Marco Estrada. The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

Marco Estrada (30 years old) – Another trip to the DL, this time for two months, cost Estrada a chance at his first full season in 2013. After something of a breakout season in 2012, he was given a rotation spot with the chance to put up 30+ starts, but a strained left hamstring cost him essentially all of June and July limiting him to 21 starts and 128 innings. A strained right quad cost him a month in 2012 plus he spent most of April in the bullpen so he ended with just 138.3 innings that season. He has done some fine work in his two 70 percent chunks of seasons, though, fostering excitement for the late-bloomer assuming he can finally stay on the field all season.

The ballpark is a poor fit for the heavy flyballer and the downside of that was seen within his first half when he posted a 5.32 ERA in 69.3 innings thanks in large part to a 1.8 HR/9 including 10 homers allowed in six April starts. Home runs accounted for 14 of the 18 earned runs he allowed that month. Oddly enough, his most damaging outing was his first of May when St. Louis smashed him for eight earned, needing only one home run to do so. Over the final two months of the season, he posted a 0.77 HR/9 en route to a 2.15 ERA in 58.7 innings along with 56 strikeouts and just 11 walks, showing the upside locked in that right arm.

Is it just a matter of coincidental sequencing or is there something about his early season command that leaves him particularly susceptible to the longball? In 2012, he had a 1.9 HR/9 in 51 innings during the first half, though he was actually fortunate to escape with just a 4.06 ERA (4.33 FIP). Then in the second half, he was down to 0.72 in 87.3 innings and had a 3.40 ERA (2.77 FIP). His 24.3 percent strikeout rate and 5.4 percent walk rate over the last two seasons definitely fuel the dreams of big upside, especially if he could figure out the home run issues.

He could improve the home run rate, but it isn’t exactly horrible command so much as it is his flyball tendencies and a homer-friendly ballpark. So while the ERA may remain north of 3.50, he will likely also continue to post WHIPs that belie such an ERA. Throw in the excellent strikeout rate and Estrada is still someone to target. We still haven’t seen a full season, so plan for about 160-170 innings until he shows he can make his 30+ turns.

reportcard-estrada

Estrada’s mechanics are horribly inefficient, with D-level grades or worse in every subject of his report card, and his scores put him at the very bottom of the class of pitchers who are penciled in as MLB starters this season. Estrada looks like a marionette whose strings are intertwined, limiting his flexibility as well as his efficiency.

His torque is minimal, as it appears that there is a chord connecting his front hip to his lead shoulder that encourages rotation in close proximity to foot strike, and only an immense upper-body twist allows him to create a semblance of separation. There is also an invisible string that connects his arms to his lift leg at the start of his delivery, and it looks as if his arms are lifting the front leg as he raises the arms over his head. He is imbalanced along all three axes, and his spine-tilt is excessive to the point of approaching the Gallardo-approved floor of a 20 grade.

 estrada-dt

The guide is emailed to your PayPal address after purchase. I send them out in batches, usually with a pretty quick turnaround. At most, it’ll be a few hours, but I’m usually all over it!!

As always, you can email me or reach out on Twitter with questions or comments.

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

Thursday: 02.13.2014

2014 SP Guide Available Now!!

This year’s book runs over 123,000 words covering 384 starting pitchers across MLB’s 30 organizations in 351 glorious pages! Those of you who have purchased before will likely note that the editing on this year’s edition is unquestionably the best ever. The credit there goes to Darren Schienbien, who did a remarkable job editing the chapters. He willingly read every chapter ahead of time and fixed my many errors. He won’t be reading this opening essay before I publish, though, so I’m sure there’ll be 18 mistakes.

Doug Thorburn is back with his amazing pitch mechanics grades and this year he’s added a ton more. I believe he’s at least tripled his workload from last year. For those who might be new to the guide, when you see a mechanics report card, that signifies that start of Doug’s work. All of the writing before that is mine and then the card and capsule (and pictures to outline his points in many instances) belongs to Doug.

We aim to make the guide something that is not only valuable for fantasy baseball folks, but also handicappers and just good ol’ fans who want to be more informed about the game that they’re watching. While there is plenty of talk about a round to draft in or dollar amount to pay, the bulk of the content works on non-fantasy levels, too.

Last thing before I let you get to it: the tiered rankings will be sent out separately because they don’t translate well into Word. Look for an Excel file in your inbox very soon. It will also include bullpen coverage. I have purposely spaced the book itself and the tiered rankings because I want the content to be leveraged more than any list. The “why” of how I feel about these pitchers is way more important than whether they are #24 or #28 on a list.

The guide is emailed to your PayPal address after purchase. I send them out in batches, usually with a pretty quick turnaround. At most, it’ll be a few hours, but I’m usually all over it!!

As always, you can email me or reach out on Twitter with questions or comments.

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

Wednesday: 02.5.2014

2014 SP Guide Delayed Release

This is never a fun announcement, but the 2014 Starting Pitcher Guide will be delayed from the February 5th (today) release date. In order to deliver a product I’m happy with and that is worth the hard-earned money y’all are paying, this is a necessary step.

The turning point was my computer corrupting a pair of chapters when it blue-screened and restarted. My computer has flashed the blue screen before, but then simply restarted and everything that was open was brought back to its last save point. I may have lost a paragraph or two in Word or a set of tabs in Chrome, but for the most part it was just an inconvenience. Well this time it was the nightmare scenario. Anyway, rewriting the chapters plus the work remaining made today too difficult and I didn’t want to rush to the finish line. All that said, even without the chapters lost, it was looking like the date would be tough to make so I won’t pin it all on the lost chapters. I picked the date arbitrarily and I probably shouldn’t have been so aggressive.

“Jeez Paul, don’t you know to under-promise and over-deliver?!”

Anyway, I know this will be upsetting to some (all?) of you, but we’re still on track to come out WAY earlier than last year’s early-March release date with the best SP guide yet. Everything will be ready to hit your inbox by February 12th. If any of you have a draft in that time and want your money back for an order, please let me know here and I will facilitate that. In fact, if you want it back for any reason, that’s fine and I can accommodate you, but I promise that you will be happy with the 2014 product if you don’t mind waiting a measly extra week.

It will be the best, most cleanly edited offering yet and I will continue posting samples from now until the release date at both PaulSporer.com and PaintTheBlack.com to hopefully tide you over.

 

The guide’s release date will still be the earliest ever, coming out nearly a month earlier than the 2013 iteration.

The guide will be released on February 12th!

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!