Archive for ‘Daily Dose’

Tuesday: 04.5.2011

Daily Dose – April 5th

I spent almost my entire weekend (considering Thursday-Monday the weekend here since I was off from work) watching baseball games and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  If you follow me on Twitter, you saw my jam-packed schedule of games.  I also wrote up the six divisions of my season preview as well as the awards, but I took plenty of notes on the games I was watching and I’m just going to share them in a bullet point rundown since some of them are now several days old.

  • Try to trade for struggling openers (Jon Lester, Ubaldo Jimenez, David Price, Shaun Marcum, Wandy Rodriguez, Ryan Demspter)… prey on early panic.  I know it sounds crazy, but you might be surprised at the colossal overreaction of some owners, even to one start.  If you could get any those guys on any sort of discount, I would jump on it.  They will all be fine.

 

  • Despite what the numbers might suggest Carlos Carrasco’s start was better than you might think.  He was charged with seven runs on 10 hits, but five of the runs and seven of the hits came in the first two innings.  He settled down very nicely with back-to-back 3 up/3 down innings in the third and fourth.  A walk was his only blemish in the fifth before a little trouble in the sixth followed by the hook in the seventh after he gave up a hit with two hits.  If you own him, hang in, brighter days are ahead.

 

  • His counterpart in that game, Edwin Jackson, was a bit uneven throughout the game, but the Indians only cashed in against him in the second inning and he ended the day with seven strikeouts in six innings allowing just two earned on five hits, but four walks.  There will be more starts like that throughout the season where he treads a fine margin and better lineups will punish him, but he will also have dominant nights where he’s nearly unhittable, too.  Patience (and probably some Pepto) is the key with Jackson as he gets settled in.

 

  • Carlos Marmol was soooo filthy throughout the weekend, especially in his debut on Saturday.  He looked to be in midseason form.  Struggled a bit on Sunday giving up two runs and though all the damage wasn’t his fault, he did start it off with a walk.  Everyone wants to freak out over the walks, but they will only become a major issue if and when he stops allowing the fewest hits per nine among closers.

 

  • I watched all of the Chris Tillman and Kyle Drabek debuts and they were as impressive as the box scores suggest, but just as you can’t get too down about the aces who have stumbled out of the gate, you can’t get too up about hot starts from unexpected sources.  Tillman was in my favorite pitchers list for this year, so I’m thrilled with the debut, but it’s just one start at this point.  Nothing is proven or disproven in the first weekend.

 

  • At least equally impressive and perhaps more so was the debut of Zach Britton as it was his major league debut.  The movement of his pitches so sick.  His control was better than advertised, but all scouting reports suggest that it is his final hurdle to climb.  He is going to have ups & downs, but someone who can keep the ball down and miss bats like him is going to have success.

 

  • Brandon Belt saw 27 and 28 pitches on Thursday & Saturday, respectively.  He hit a mammoth 3-run shot off of Chad Billingsley in between the two games on Friday.  He only went 2-for-13 in the four game set, but had four walks, too.  An impressive debut series for the rookie despite not piling up a ton of hits.

 

  • Jorge de la Rosa looked excellent against Arizona before a blistered middle finger ended his night early.

 

  • Trevor Cahill had an uneven outing and though the 8 Ks were nice, maybe this is why he isn’t a strikeout pitcher because he couldn’t keep his command in order from batter-to-batter resulting in 4 BB and 105 pitches in 4.7 innings.

 

  • Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are positively locked in.  Even in the at-bats when they weren’t knocking it out of the park, they were battling and hitting the ball the hard.  This is especially key for Teix who is a well-documented slow starter.

 

  • Did anyone expect anything less from Nick Blackburn after how much I destroyed him all weekend on Twitter?  If I were in Vegas, I’d have definitely bet on him to go out and kill it.  It won’t hold up.

 

  • Loved seeing Jaime Garcia destroy the Padres Sunday.  I’m deathly afraid of Ryan Theriot’s impact on his numbers this year because he’s so bad defensively and Garcia is such a heavy groundball pitcher, but for Sunday it didn’t matter.

 

  • Josh Johnson and Dan Haren were among the few aces who opened up the season on a high note.  Johnson’s value fluctuated this preseason depending on how worried your league was about his potential injury risk.  So far so good for those who invested.

 

  • I wish it could be like this every weekend, but there just isn’t the time, unfortunately.  Here are the games I have watched since Opening Day through the weekend:
  • Thursday: Det/NY, LA/KC, SD/StL, SF/LA
  • Friday: Hou/Phi, Bos/Tex, Ari/Col, Tor/Min, NY/Flo, LA/KC, Sea/Oak, SF/LA
  • Saturday: Det/NY, Chw/Cle, Bal/TB, Hou/Phi, NY/Flo, Ari/Col, Sea/Oak
  • Sunday: Det/NY, Bal/TB, SD/StL, Sea/Oak, SF/LA
  • That many games probably should have generated more notes, but the season preview was pretty exhaustive so just wanted to watch and absorb a lot of the  games, especially my Tigers although they didn’t perform too well.  Plus, I dropped a lot of thoughts on Twitter.

 

  • A couple of great commercials I saw about 8 million times weekend:

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Wednesday: 03.16.2011

Save Opportunities According to Team Performance

This will serve as the 3/16 Daily Dose

There may not be a more polarizing subject in terms of how to approach it in fantasy drafts than relief pitching.  Some hold firmly to the mantra of “Don’t Pay for Saves” while others advocate doubling up on stud closers as early as the 4th and 5th rounds.  Still others play it by ear and kind of mix the two nabbing a reliable guy in the 7th/8th round and supplementing him with upside plays who might get saves, low end guys with the job right or punting a second one altogether and playing the wire during the season.

I think a lot of league variables go into deciding which is best for you in your setup.  One adage that always strikes me is the discounting of closers on worse teams (regardless of talent) because “they will get fewer opportunities” than the guys in better overall situations.

That isn’t an outlandish statement taken at face value.  It makes very good sense in a practical manner, but there have been several beliefs in baseball that seem viable enough on the surface and are accepted as truisms until further review blows them out of the water.  This one has always struck me as one that might not hold up against the numbers after digging into it.  So I decided to do the digging.

I just thought that with at least 65 wins per team each year, even the low end closers were getting enough opportunities to convert a healthy number of saves on par with those on the best teams.  Also, a worse team is likely playing closer games and a lot more of their 65 wins are probably coming down to the wire as opposed to those of a 90-win ballclub.   Essentially, I was worried that the disparity in opportunities between the best and worst teams may have been overstated.

Conversely, a team winning 87-90 games and up is likely to have a much better entire bullpen than the bottom feeders lending credence to original theorem because they wouldn’t blow leads in the 6th-7th-8th innings leading up to their stopper.  So there’s a balance between the good teams winning by 4+ runs more often against their overall better bullpen holding otherwise tenuous leads in the middle innings more frequently than the lesser teams thus creating more chances for their closer.

What do the numbers tell us?

Win Percentage

(The data set used is from 2005 through 2010.)

Let’s take a look at the average save opportunities on a real basic level of win percentage split between teams over .500 and teams under .500:

Win Percentage Data Pts Avg. SVO
.500+ Win Pct. 95 62
sub-.500 WP 85 58

On a macro level, the theory holds true that closers on better teams will indeed average more attempts.  The four attempt split isn’t drastic, but again this is a high level view so I’m not sure it tells us all we need to know.

Sticking with this split for another moment, how do things look from a conversion rate standpoint?

Win Percentage Blown Opps Close Rate
.500+ Win Pct. 1774 5919 70%
sub-.500 WP 1797 4895 63%

This goes back to the point I made above in support of the theorem that the better bullpens as a whole will generate more leads for closers thus leading to more saves.  We see a stark difference in the split here with the sub-.500 teams not only blowing more saves, but doing so with more than a 1,000 fewer opportunities.

Wins

Getting a bit more granular now, let’s look at how things breakdown at four different levels going by 10s until 70 and then using sub-70 as one level:

Wins Data Pts Avg. SVO
90-100 41 64
80-89 61 61
70-79 48 59
<69 30 55

Now we are really seeing where a good surrounding team can make a significant difference opportunity edge.  This only makes Joakim Soria’s two 40+ save seasons all the more impressive considering how much his team hamstrung him.  He has closed out 91% of his saves for his career and was at a 93% clip in the two 40+ seasons.

Yet another step down gives us our best look at how things stratify within the standings:

Wins Data Pts Avg. SVO
92-100+ W 31 64
87-91 W 32 62
82-86 W 27 61
76-81 W 31 59
70-75 W 29 59
69 or fewer W 30 55

The conclusion to this point fully supports the basic theory that closers on better teams (or perceived to be better since we can’t know how the season will play out) are likely to receive more opportunities from their team than those at or near the bottom of the standings.

I am thinking of doing a part 2 of this piece.  I want to take a look at things at the player level.  These numbers so far aren’t completely useless, they confirm an adage that has been in play for some time, but they also take into account all save opportunities including those blown by the non-closer before the 9th inning.

What can individual data tell us about this adage?  It would stand to reason, based on what we have seen so far, that guys like Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan should be getting more opportunities than Soria or someone like Chad Cordero when he was in Washington.  Is that how it plays out or do we see opportunities tied more to team type where someone like Brian Wilson notches more opps than a Rivera because his team not only wins, but plays closer games because they aren’t led by their offense?

For now while we do have evidence that the better teams offer more save opportunities on average, I would be careful not to use it as an a primary factor for closer selection.  I would still focus entirely on the skill of the pitcher well before this opportunity factor came into play.

Soria, who I continue to mention since he is the best example of a great closer on a terrible team, deserves to be at or near the top of the closer rankings for 2011 regardless of how pitiful the Royals will be this season.  Don’t take a less skilled player on a better team (Francisco Cordero, for example) just because they might notch upwards of nine more opportunities over the season (and there’s no guarantee for that again because this data takes all save opportunities into account).

Tomorrow: My Closer Tiers for 2011

Tuesday: 03.15.2011

Why Joe Mauer Isn’t the Top Catcher in 2011

This will serve as the 3/15 Daily Dose (Ed. note – I’ve got time for one post a day right now, so it’s either a feature like this or the DD).

Catcher is always a tricky spot in fantasy baseball.  It’s usually pretty thin putting a premium on the studs, but that is counterbalanced by the fact that even the studs are guaranteed to miss time by not catching at least a day and sometimes two each week.  There is a firm ceiling on a catcher’s output because of those built-in days off plus the significant risk of more missed time due to injury.

Despite all of that, Joe Mauer remains the consensus top catcher and usually goes very early.  Whether people are still salivating over that MVP season from 2009 and hoping it will return (only for a full season this time instead of five months) or they just want to get the perceived best player at a perceived scarce position who will at the very least give you a major boost in an oft-forgotten or at least generally mishandled category (batting average).

First things first, catcher isn’t as scarce as conventional wisdom suggests.  It’s not superstar-laden, but the upper crust (8 or 9 guys spread across two, maybe three tiers) is thicker and the mid-to-late round options contain about 10 or so guys who don’t vary much in their overall value.

The point of this article is less about scarcity and more about that perceived top option.  I have nothing against Mauer.  Despite being a Tigers fan with the Twins as one of our chief rivals, I really like the guy.  I actually want him to become the guy he was in 2009 and I was convinced he would be for most of the 2010 offseason until March hit and I came to my senses and backed off in the nick of time (a lot of it had to due with reading some convincing pieces, namely by Ron Shandler).  I still think he’s capable of being truly elite when it comes to power and pure hitting, but until he shows it that 2009 season is a major outlier.

When I posted my catcher rankings back on February 9th, I had Mauer first.  In fact every single one of the seven offseason magazines I sheepishly admit to having bought (Borders giftcard + addiction to fantasy baseball = win!) did, too.  I have thought long and hard about it and I’m making a change.  This is not home team bias driven, but I think Victor Martinez should be the top catcher for 2011.

Before I get into why, I want to clarify that this doesn’t mean you have to draft him first.  I think he will have the most value, but you will still see at least Mauer go before if not Brian McCann, Buster Posey and maybe even Carlos Santana, too.  Be careful, though, catcher is a position that tends to go in runs so if you see Mauer go, it is probably time to pounce on Martinez if you’re on board with my thoughts.

The reason I like him as the top catcher is the obvious one: he’s not going to be catching much at all.  The problem with catchers is the position.  It’s a grueling position that inherently wears guys down and cuts into their offensive value in a myriad of ways, most of which I already covered.  The general degradation of their bodies as the season progresses just eats into their value.

The Tigers are planning to play Martinez at DH most days, catcher every once in a while to spell Alex Avila and some first base when Miguel Cabrera needs a partial day off and moves to DH.  Speaking of Cabrera, if a worst-case scenario came to fruition for the Tigers whereby they missed Cabrera for any amount of time due to his off-the-field issues, then that would just mean more time for Martinez not catching as he is the primary backup at first.

So what does not catching do to his value?  We have a glimpse of it in the form of his 2009 season.  He caught 85 games and played first for another 70 logging a career high 155 games and essentially matched the production in line with his best seasons.  Coming at age 30 for a catcher, that’s impressive.  His OPS+ was 126, 3rd-highest of his career (130 as a 26 year old, 129 at 28).  He hit .303 with 23 homers and 108 RBIs (2nd-best HR, RBI totals and 3rd-best AVG of his career).

In the 2011, his split between games catching and not catching will be much greater which should result in another 150+ games played and could even yield career-high production.  I think we could see as much as a 7-10% increase of his production from 2009 season with the bulk of his catching duties removed from his plate combined with the fact that he is still in his prime (although 32 years old is generally regarded as that final year of the prime).

Just using the low end of that increase yields a .324 average, 25 home runs, 116 RBIs and 94 runs scored, which would no doubt lap the field in terms of catchers.  In fact, unless Mauer repeats his 2009, Martinez with “just” a .300-20-100- season is better than Mauer at .330-10-80.  Mauer’s batting average advantage offers .002 more to the bottom line over Martinez, but Martinez more than makes up that difference with 10 more HRs and 20 more RBI.  Martinez has three 20-100 seasons; two included a .300+ average.  He also had .302-20-79 last year in just 127 games.

Consider also that power is drying up recently making his 20+ ability all the more valuable, especially since it doesn’t come with the deficiencies found in a Mike Napoli 20-homer season (granted, V-Mart costs more than Nap, too).  Mauer’s batting average boost is nice, there is no denying that, especially since he is capable of .350 in any given season, but Martinez is hardly a liability there and he often logs more at-bats than Mauer.  Mauer has yet to reach 540 at-bats in a season while Martinez has four such seasons, three of which topped 560.

For as great a hitter as Mauer is, he has yet to rack up 100 RBIs in any given season, either.  Martinez has three such seasons.  I’m struggling to see why Mauer is an unchallenged #1 at the position.  The batting average impact is undeniable.  His “worst” season in the last three was last year’s .327, but compared to Martinez the advantage isn’t as glaring.  Apart from 2009’s explosion of 28 homers, he has reached double digits just once (13, 2006).  Same with topping 85 RBIs, only 2009’s 96 fit the bill.

Instead of betting on what Mauer can be, why not invest in what Martinez already is?  There is too much risk tied up in catchers already before you even get into the personal situations of each, but then you look at Mauer with his injury history combined with the underwhelming production save the one star category.

Looking at Martinez, you’re alleviating a great deal of the risk associated with catching by getting a catcher-eligible DH/1B, combining that with a proven track record of power production at a position lacking it (just four 20+ HR hitters in 2010; more than four just once since 2003 [2009]) with a guy still in his prime.  Adding it all up, you have a new #1 atop the catcher rankings.  Martinez is your guy if you want to go with catching early.

Thursday: 03.10.2011

National League Pitching Prospects List

This will serve as the 3/10 Daily Dose

It’s time for my prospect rankings for each league and I want to throw out a few points before I get to today’s National League list:

o   I’m new to prospecting.  This is my first ranking of prospects as I’ve spent the last two years getting better at it before finally diving in this year.  Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein, John Sickels, Jason Collette, the BA folks (Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, John Manuel, etc…) and Adam Foster are all much more seasoned, just to name a handful whose work I enjoy.  I stand 100% behind the work, but this isn’t yet an area of expertise for me.  I wouldn’t necessarily be eager to suggest anything is an area of “expertise” for me, but I’m much more in my element discussing major leaguers right now, but I want to get better at prospecting so it’s time to start ranking.

o   I have seen a handful of these guys live, though the bulk of my experience with them comes from reading extensively and watching video online.

o   There aren’t individual player capsules here, those are all in the Starting Pitcher Guide.

o   The ceiling is a best-case scenario as I see it.

o   The ranking combines the best-case scenario with how likely they are to reach it.  This means someone might project with a higher ceiling, but be less likely to reach it and thus rank below someone with a lower ceiling who is closer to it.

o   This doesn’t slant toward 2011.  It’s all encompassing.  In other words, don’t use it in your re-draft fantasy leagues and get upset with me if Arodys Vizcaino doesn’t throw 120 innings for you later this summer.  It’s meant more for leagues with minor league rosters of any size and dynasty leagues.

RK Player TEAM ETA Ceiling
1 Julio Teheran ATL 2012 1
2 Jameson Taillon PIT 2014 1
3 Mike Minor ATL 2010 2
4 Jarrod Parker ARI 2011 1
5 Shelby Miller STL 2012 1
6 Simon Castro SD 2011 1
7 Jordan Lyles HOU 2011 2
8 Jenrry Mejia NYM 2010 1
9 Randall Delgado ATL 2012 1
10 Tyler Matzek COL 2013 1
11 Zach Lee LAD 2013 1
12 Casey Kelly SD 2012 2
13 Trey McNutt CHC 2012 1/Closer
14 Arodys Vizcaino ATL 2013 1
15 Trevor May PHI 2013 1
16 Stetson Allie PIT 2014 1/Closer
17 Matt Harvey NYM 2013 1
18 Zack Wheeler SF 2013 1
19 Brandon Beachy ATL 2010 3
20 Jarred Cosart PHI 2014 2
21 Christian Friedrich COL 2011 2
22 Tyler Skaggs ARi 2013 2
23 Chad James FLO 2013 2
24 Cory Luebke SD 2010 3
25 Brody Colvin PHI 2014 1
26 AJ Cole WAS 2014 2
27 Chris Withrow LAD 2012 2
28 Rubby de la Rosa LAD 2013 1
29 Brad Hand FLO 2012 3
30 Mike Foltynewicz HOU 2014 2
31 Luis Heredia PIT 2014 1
32 Chad Bettis COL 2014 3
33 Jesse Biddle PHI 2014 2
34 Juan Urbina NYM 2014 2
35 Jay Jackson CHC 2011 3
36 Lance Lynn STL 2011 3
37 Juan Nicasio COL 2013 2
38 Sammy Solis WAS 2012 3
39 Aaron Miller LAD 2012 3
40 Hayden Simpson CHC 2013 2
41 Carlos Martinez STL 2014 1
42 Daryl Thompson CIN 2008 3
43 Ethan Martin LAD 2013 2
44 David Holmberg ARI 2014 3
45 JJ Hoover ATL 2012 3
46 Pat Corbin ARI 2013 3
47 Mark Rogers MIL 2010 3
48 Tyrell Jenkins STL 2015 2
49 Bryan Morris PIT 2011 3
50 Brad Boxberger CIN 2012 3

I’ll be hosting a chat soon to discuss both this and more of the Starting Pitching Guide. Plan for next Thursday, but I’ll definitely post the details ahead of time. In the meantime you can reach me on Twitter or Facebook if you have questions about this list.

Friday: 03.4.2011

No Daily Dose for March 4th

Finished off what was a good week with a horrible day and I just don’t feel much like writing.  I did get some stuff done on my lunch break at work toward the completion of those posts I referenced in the upcoming schedule from today’s earlier post.

I don’t usually post on the weekend, but I may on this weekend.  At the very least I’ll have time to complete a lot of those upcoming pieces making next week a big one.

Thursday: 03.3.2011

Daily Dose – March 3rd

I feel like days should extend to 26 or 27 hours in late February then into March as there is just so much going on.  I’ve got nearly 30 hours of podcasts to catch up on and the oldest one is about a week old so it’s not like I’ve let it accumulate.  My Read It Later app is bubbling over with content.  My “to do” writing list has plenty to take care of on it.  My book list is growing (and adding another next week when Jonah Keri’s Extra 2% comes out).  The release of MLB 2K11 is next week.  Plus I’ve got a 30 Clubs in 30 Days (Kansas City) on the DVR as well as some Spring Training baseball I’d like to check out.

And all that is before fantasy draft prep which will begin in earnest next week as keeper lists start to roll in.  Jeez.  So much to do and so little time.  Especially when you factor in my regular job and sleeping.  Oh well, no need to complain.  It’s better than being bored out of your mind.   February to Opening Day is one of my favorite times of the year despite the fact that I hate winter weather.  It’s not really that bad in Texas plus it’s usually done by the beginning of March.

Ian Casselberry has a very perceptive post on willful ignorance and how it is oftentimes downright annoying.  I deal with the dismissiveness of Twitter a lot when discussing sports with people.  They always say some derivation of “I don’t care who’s eating a sandwich on their couch” as if that’s all you can find on Twitter.  Yes, it started as essentially a place of Facebook statuses, but it’s become SO MUCH more.

Yet despite how often they dismiss it as useless, they come to me just as often for news on trade deadline action and various other breaking news because they know I’ll read about it on Twitter well before it’s up on ESPN.com.  For some of the dissenters, I’ve watched them morph from Twitter hater to Twitter user.  Instead of rubbing it in, I just nod to myself quietly.  As Ian says, it’s not for everybody, but anyone dismissing it as useless out of hand has no idea what they are talking about and comes across as pretty stupid.

Are you trying to curb your enthusiasm for your baseball team, but struggling to do so as you read countless glowing and optimistic reports about them from Spring Training?  Grey Papke does the dirty work for you with his “Why Your Baseball Team Sucks” piece.  It’s a perfect dose of reality to temper your expectations for the upcoming season.

After reading up more on the Zach Sanders piece I shared yesterday on Fantasy Value Above Replacement, I realized it is essentially an extension of something our friends at FB Junkie threw out earlier last month with “Why Not Fantasy VORP?”.  So if you read FB Junkie’s piece back on February 1st, use Sanders’ as a fleshing out of their notion behind fantasy value.

Justin Bopp of Beyond the Boxscore has put together an easy to use Baseball Stat Acronym Pronunciation Guide.  I disagree with the BABIP as I just say it like a work “Ba-bip”, but otherwise he’s pretty spot on.

Sticking at BtB for a moment, Chris Spurlock has offered a great article covering in detail the changes to the bats in college baseball and making it easily digestible whether you’re a math novice or hardcore mathlete.  As mentioned in the article, this should be good news for MLB, primarily from a scouting angle.  While it would suck if it really hurt the college game which is a niche sport already, I am glad it is an improvement for MLB.  Prospect scouting will still be an inexact science rife with failure even at the high end of the draft, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus I’ve always been someone who enjoys a 3-2 game, so a lowered offensive output in the college game won’t keep me away from following my Longhorns and watching them live a couple times a year.

Ray Guilfoyle of FakeTeams released his catcher rankings today and there were some surprises to be sure.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with his ranking of the top guys, one thing remains clear to me: catcher has some depth to it.  Sure there are still stars at the top, but if you miss out on the Mauers and Poseys, you’re not toast.

Mike Fast from Baseball Prospectus has a cool piece up (for free) looking at the accuracy of Baseball Info Solutions pitch locations.  If you like second, third and even fourth level baseball analysis, in other words really detailed stuff, then you’ll love Fast’s work.  This particular piece has a stunning revelation about the data and specifically it’s usage at FanGraphs.

The San Diego Padres are going to have a tough time replicating their 2010 success (success being relative here as they fell short of the NL West crown on the last day of the season despite leading for quite some time throughout the season) with the loss of their one great hitter Adrian Gonzalez, but there is reason for optimism in the future.  John Sickels breaks down their top two pitching prospects, Simon Castro and Casey Kelly (acquired in the Gonzalez trade), in his Prospect Smackdown series.

This one is nearly a month old, but it got put on the back-burner once I went into full SP guide mode there in early-to-mid February, so in case you missed Jon Weisman’s look at the upcoming “Moneyball” movie, I suggest you take a read.  I have been in the minority with him in that I have been very excited about the movie from the moment I heard it was being made.  It’s gone through a lot, but I think it can be good.  I hadn’t thought of the links to a very popular 2010 movie that Weisman mentions in the piece.  I’d love to see it emulate the success of that film, but even if it doesn’t I think it can be a success in its own right.

One of the best guys over at CBS as far as I’m concerned is Al Melchior.  He’s definitely a stats-heavy guy which is something I inherently lean toward (though he favors taking pitching relatively early so we disagree heavily there), but also the interactive graphics used in his pieces at CBS are fantastic.  The latest is one on positional scarcity and it has a really fun chart to play with at the bottom.  Al is part of the CBS podcasts, too and they just recently finished their positional previews.  They have moved onto Sleepers and Breakouts.  I’d presume that a Busts episode is next as each of the positional podcasts had a Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts portion within it.

One of my favorite things of the fantasy preseason is articles where industry members participate in a mock and then do a write up on their team with the thought process behind each pick.  I find them more helpful than just seeing a list of where everyone went.  In fact, I find the latter next to useless as the flow of a draft, while not as dynamic as that of an auction, is still dynamic nonetheless and it’s hard to get a feel for why things happened without some commentary.  Cory Schwartz participated in a mock picking from the 9-spot and breaks down his draft for us.

Come Chat Tonight: I am still planning on a hosting a chat here at paulsporer.com soon, but tonight I will be chatting at Rotojunkie at 7 PM Eastern.  It will have a pitcher tilt to it of course, but as with my first chat here at the site, I will answer anything fantasy baseball-related.

Baseball Apps: Need to get your iPhone and iPad baseball ready for the season?  Take a look at these baseball apps that should get you well equipped to enjoy the season on the go.

You’ve No Doubt Seen This: But just in case, the baseball fan flowchart is a funny image floating around the blogosphere and Twitterverse.

Remember When…Lance Johnson was a triples machine?  From 1991-1996, Johnson led the league in triples for five of six seasons and hit 12 in the off year (1995, when he had an absurd power surge with 10 HR after never topping 3 before).  I was upset when he left the AL before the 1996 season (10 team AL-Only league) because he had a career year including 50 stolen bases, 117 runs scored, .333 average and 69 RBIs, all career highs.  His nine homers were close to a career high.

It’s purely coincidental that the first two of these segments happen to be about Chicago White Sox, but “One Dog” was a key cog of my early fantasy teams (probably explains why I didn’t win any titles as a kid) and again because I watched a lot of WGN when the Tigers weren’t on, I was very familiar with Johnson and the Sox.

Despite playing three fewer seasons, Johnson has one more career triple than Kenny Lofton (117 to 116).  I found that pretty surprising, but Lofton only had two double-digit seasons in triples and they were 11 years apart (league-high 13 in ’95 and then 12 in ’06).  Of course Lofton has nearly twice as many stolen bases (622/327), nearly four times as many home runs (130/34) and had a significantly higher success rate on the base paths (80%/76%), though both were really good.

Knowledge Bomb: Here is an absurd statistic from Mike Axisa about Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.  Absurd might even be an understatement.  It’s just unfathomably great.  Are you ready for this?  You may have already seen it, but it resonates even on second and third viewing:

 

As Scott Van Pelt & Ryen Russillo say on their radio show, “let that soak in your mentals for a minute”.  That’s so amazing.  Only another 160 saw a 2-0 count.  Maddux was just not a fan of getting behind.  He only retired in 2008 so he is still a few years from getting on the Hall of Fame ballot and while it’s already a joke, the HoF voters would thoroughly embarrass themselves yet again if they made Maddux sit through another round of voting instead of putting him in on the first ballot.

Wednesday: 03.2.2011

Daily Dose – March 2nd

Between MLBN’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days series back up and running (Hazel Mae FTW… even with that grill!), my podcast list bringing 7-10 new episodes a day (and several days it’s closer to 13-14) and the ever-annoying trend of some (way too many) people on Twitter finding it necessary to give play-by-play of games (Spring Training games at that, though it’s not acceptable in season, either), this is one of my favorite times of the year.  Yes even despite how incredibly annoying that last one is, at least there is baseball action to annoyingly tweet about even if it doesn’t count yet.

Let’s dive into today’s Dose:

Something I found bothersome coming out of the 2010 season was the labeling of Matt Kemp’s season as a bust.  No, it wasn’t elite, first round caliber which is where he was drafted in many leagues, but 28 HR, 89 RBI, 19 SB, 82 R and .249 AVG seasons aren’t busts.  The runs stats and batting average were down a healthy bit from 2010 (15 runs scored, 12 driven in and nearly 5% on the batting average), but busts don’t play 162 games with a career high in home runs and finish a steal short of 20-20.  Even if he was your first round pick.  So in other words, shut up about it already.

The batting average would cost a team .005 points on the team average against a .300 hitter with 600 at-bats which is meaningful, but his offerings in the other four categories break even at the very least and likely result in a net gain.  Busts are guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, an early round pick who played 18 games.  Or Aaron Hill who dropped 10 home runs, 40 RBIs and 8% (!) off of his batting average from 2009.  Those are busts.  Not Matt Kemp.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has a piece on Kemp and how he is working to improve on his shortcomings that hurt him last year.  I think Kemp is a buy in 2011 because if 2010 represents a bust then sign me up 10 out of 10 times.  Joking aside, he’s almost certainly going to be undervalued and power-speed combos are always appealing.

The folks at Fantasy Ball Junkie started an 8-part series going position-by-position to judge how machines (projection systems) are comparing to crowds (media draft data) in player valuation.  Catchers came out yesterday and are linked in the first sentence and the first base analysis came out today.  By the way, FB Junkie is a great site I recommend bookmarking or getting into your RSS reader or however you consume sites on a day-to-day basis.  A lot of insightful fantasy baseball-related work there daily.

Zach Sanders, contributor to the 2011 SP Guide, has to put out a thought-provoking series on Fantasy Value Above Replacement over at RotoGraphs.  It’s a three part series (one, two, three) that has generated over 100 comments, too.  The comments are as valuable as the material presented by Zach.  You may not agree with everything Zach has here (and I don’t), but it makes you think and I like that.  And the commenters bring up some really great questions and flesh them out together.  Sky Kalkman does some especially great work within the comment sections.

Jesse Mendelson is doing his team pitching previews over at The Fantasy Fix if you’re looking for even some more thoughts on the arms of 2011.  They check in well under 73,000 words so you won’t have to carve out nearly as much time to absorb the worthwhile information.

Am I the only one who remember last spring’s love affair with Ryan Raburn that started off so horribly (under the Mendoza Line until June 23rd) that no one who drafted him was around for the remarkable second half surge that has once again led to him becoming the sleeper du jour?  No one wants these sleeper projections for him to be right more than me, a Tigers diehard, but I’m not getting how not only is everyone back on the bandwagon but that no one is even speaking about the unmet hype from spring 2010.  Brad Evans from Yahoo is the latest and he has one helluva projection for the Tigers’ new leftfielder (for now).

Viva El Birdos has an extensive piece on Jaime Garcia. They believe he is an ace in waiting.  It’s an interesting case that can be made.  I think it depends on your definition of “ace”, but whether I agree with that actual term for Garcia or not, he is definitely someone I’m bullish on for 2011 and beyond.  Here is my capsule on him from the SP Guide:

Jaime Garcia (24, MLB) – While he lacks the track record, razor-sharp control and overall talent of teammate Carpenter, Garcia does possess the two most important cogs of Carpenter’s appealing profile: groundballs (56%) and strikeouts (7.6 K/9) and he comes at a third of the cost in most leagues. His skills portend more of a low-to-mid 3.00s ERA and the evening out of his luck showed that (3.52 second half ERA), but this is still a stock to buy heading into his sophomore campaign. A 180 inning season with a 3.50ish ERA, 1.30ish WHIP and 140 strikeouts is very good. The worsening defense with the departure of Brendan Ryan will hurt a groundballer like Garcia, but improved control after getting 163 innings under his belt isn’t out of the question either, which would help offset Ryan.

The pressure has ramped up 200% since the beginning of Spring Training after losing Adam Wainwright to a season-ending injury and watching Chris Carpenter limp off the field with a bum hammy (though that appears to nothing more than a few day issue).  Hopefully he doesn’t succumb to pressure and realizes he can only go out there and pitch every 5th day, he can’t do his part AND make up for Wainwright.

Podcast Recommendation: The guys over at Beyond the Boxscore recently posted episode 7 of their podcast this week with several recognizable guests.  Dave Gershman and Matt Klassen team up for weekly baseball extravaganza.  If you like long-form podcasts centered around baseball, then this is up your alley.  Though I’m not a fan of the weekly bumper music, it’s certainly not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the content found within the show.

Seven episodes in the co-hosts are still working out some kinks and getting their flow down, but I think it improves weekly and will be humming along nicely by Opening Day.  Plus, it’s an hour and a half-plus of weekly baseball talk,  who doesn’t want that???  I prefer the long-form podcast style, though it’s certainly not for everyone.  I have the luxury of working from home two days a week and love having hour-plus podcasts to fill the air while I work.  Before Opening Day sometime I will put together a list of the baseball podcasts I listen to in case you’re missing some of them and want some more listening material.

Remember When: This is a new feature of the Dose where I will randomly reminisce about players from the 80s and 90s.  Some will be well-known, others will be ridiculously obscure, but hopefully you will enjoy the memories.  Let’s start off with Jack McDowell.  It’s been 16 years since he was fantasy-relevant and 18 since he was fantasy elite, winning the 1993 AL Cy Young Award.  He capped off his career with four forgettable seasons going 21-19 with a 5.27 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in just 328 innings with Cleveland and Anaheim.  But he had plenty of quality seasons and golden moments leading up to that descent.

Twice a 20-game winner (’92 and ’93), McDowell went 98-58 in the six season stretch from 1990-1995 five of which were with the White Sox and the other with the Yankees.  He had a 3.54 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 6.4 K/9 (2.3 K/BB) in 1374 innings.  In ’91 (15) and ’92 (13) he led the majors in complete games and again led the AL in ’95 (8).  He “only” had 10 complete games in his Cy Young season, but led the majors with four complete games.

He never had gaudy strikeout totals (6.2 K/9 for his career), but still he only once posted a sub-2.0 K/BB and that was in his first full season back in 1988 (1.2 thanks to just 4.8 K/9).  He spent the following year in the minors adjusting his mechanics due to an arthritic hip (Baseball-Reference.com).  He broke out the year after and enjoyed a strong six year peak, but was out of baseball by 33 years of age.

I remember McDowell leading my mom’s fantasy team to a title in that ’92 season and she decided to keep him for ’93 which paid off handsomely of course, but didn’t result in another title.  I always liked Black Jack as a kid especially because we had WGN and I saw plenty of White Sox games.  I will freely admit that as a kid, I actually liked Hawk Harrelson.  Hey, I was a kid, give me a break… he gone!!!

Knowledge Bomb: The top five outfielders in home runs from 2008-2010 are as follows –

  1. Adam Dunn – 116
  2. Ryan Braun – 94
  3. Jayson Werth – 87
  4. Carlos Quentin – 83
  5. Jose Bautista/Nick Swisher – 82

The games played for those five in order is 475, 466, 449, 360, 402/453.  Quentin did his damage in a helluva lot fewer games.  Point being as outfield remains thin again yet in 2011 and power dries up a bit more each year, Quentin is a pretty underrated asset to address to points of scarcity in the fantasy market.  ADP’s are dangerous to use as a bible as they have limited value, but Quentin is the 46th OF off the board with an overall ADP of 188 (16th rd in 12-team leagues).  He needs to show he can go more than 130 games in a season, but even if he does just put up another 130, you’re looking at 25 home runs and 80 RBIs.

Tuesday: 03.1.2011

Daily Dose – March 1st

A much-needed break from writing culminates with the kickoff of March in today’s Daily Dose.  I absolutely loved putting together the Starting Pitcher Guide, but there was no doubt it was laborious.  So I just needed a break from punching the keys for a bit.  I’ve got a lot of things to share, so let’s get started:

First off, a huge “thank you” to everyone who has downloaded the SP Guide and made it, in my opinion at least, a resounding success thus far.  It has topped 1,000 downloads in less than a week and the feedback has been pleasing.  I did read through and try to edit the typos and such, but I did miss a few.  I’m going to run through again and fix those, but I think (hope) it doesn’t take away from the analysis in the work.  Unfortunately, that’s part of the price of admission with a self-published labor of love, but the ones I found weren’t overly egregious and hopefully I can be granted a little leeway.

Another sincere “thank you” for making my first chat a success, too.  I was blown away by the activity and a chat I wasn’t sure would last 30 minutes ended up going three hours.   I’m planning another one soon after there has been time to digest the book a bit and foster some questions after digging into the material.  I’m more than open to debate on the rankings and analysis.  I’d be foolish not to be, of course.  The only thing I would ask is that you come prepared with more than just “I don’t like this guy!”  There were some great debates in the first chat, most of which centered around Dan Haren.

Some of these links are a little older, but I wanted to share them just the same:

Scott McKinney over at Royals Review did an amazing piece on the success & failure rates of top prospects.  This is especially important to Royals fans in light of their wave of immense talent on the cusp.  The simple fact is that several guys in this can’t-miss class for the Royals will in fact miss.  They may not miss completely, but they will be elite starter prospects who turn into relievers or stud middle of the lineup of hitters who spend a year or two starting before becoming part-timers struggling to get 400+ at-bats.  The trick is guessing which ones.  Now, this isn’t the end of the world, Royals fans.  It’s a fact of life, but the upside is that the Royals have so many quality prospects that even with the failure rates, they should still turn out several useful big leaguers that will be a part of their next winning team.

Baseball America has released their annual Top 100 prospects list and it’s free to view over at their site.  The Royals have three in the Top 10, five in Top 20 and nine in the entire list.  I believe that is a record and like I said, that bodes well for the Royals even though four or more will fail to meet expectations.  When you take the buckshot approach, the high failure rate hurts a lot less.

Royals Review is the gift that keeps giving as the now viral Jason Kendall blow up is hilarious and worth checking out again even if you’ve already heard/read it.  When in doubt, rewind yourself.

This piece about some of the best names in baseball history was the first piece I’d ever read by SB Nation’s Jon Bois.  I was instantly a fan and he may have topped his “best names” piece with an excellent series that has just kicked off called “Letters from Spring Training”.  He has done the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics so far.  The content is remarkably funny and the hidden gems for me were the taglines under the letterhead, so don’t skip over those.  They change with each letter.

As the sabermetrics movement slowly advances across the baseball landscape, one of the more popular next-level stats is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP).  As it gains steam, the definition and usage has become a bit bastardized and it has essentially been boiled down to a “luck factor” whereby pitchers automatically gravitate to .300 and hitters set their own over time, but generally fall in the .300-ish area as well.  That’s not exactly true and ESPN’s Tristan Cockroft does an excellent job putting together a primer on BABIP.  Not all BABIP is created equally and not all pitchers HAVE to regress to .300.  This is especially important in light of judging the 2010 performances of pitchers.  It’s a must-read.

Kevin Kaduk’s headline says it all: The new MLB Network ad is all sorts of awesome:

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a profile piece on Bill James, one of my absolute favorite subjects.  Like so many of this generation, the writing of James took my love and thirst for baseball to another level.  I still read the Historical Baseball Abstract before bed at various times.

Speaking of James, his protégé (if that phrase is fair) Rob Neyer was interviewed by Erik Hahmann of DRaysBay.  For those baseball fans and writers who maybe didn’t catch James Fever and try to soak up all things James to satiate their love for baseball, then it’s likely that Neyer stands atop or at least very near the top of the list of influences on fandom or raison d’etre for writers.  His recent move from ESPN to SBNation caused quite a stir in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere as many wrote of what he meant to them in their relationship with baseball.

Whether a fantasy baseball player or just a baseball fan, you should peruse Will Carroll’s Team Health Reports over at Sports Illustrated.

There was a Francoeur Fest today as Joe Posnanski, Craig Calcaterra and Sam Mellinger all wrote about Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur. A lot of it centers around just how likable the guy is regardless of the fact that his skills on the field don’t quite measure up.  I remember back in 2006 watching a Spring Training game on ESPN with the Atlanta Braves playing who knows who and they showed a lot of interview footage of Francoeur, both alone and alongside Chipper Jones.  This was on the heels of Francoeur’s 70 game rookie debut in which he tore the league up hitting .300/.336/.549 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 274 plate appearances.

I remember really liking just about everything Francoeur had to say and seeing him as one of the game’s next great stars.  I tabbed him as a breakout candidate that season and scooped him up wherever I could.  He didn’t quite live up to expectations though he did hit 29 home runs with 103 runs driven in, so I wasn’t totally bummed from a fantasy perspective, but the .260 average and alarmingly bad .293 on-base percentage were a sign of things to come.  Still, I just enjoyed so much about him as a person that I figured he would iron things as a 23-year old in 2007 and then get his star career going.

He was better in 2007 trading 10 home runs for 33 average points and, more importantly, 45 on-base points.  I definitely thought he breaking through, but at age 24 he sunk badly lowering every significant number on his stat line.  Since then, he has yet to post another league average season according to OPS+ (72, 93, 85).  I’m not the least bit surprised that he is still eminently likable and for that reason alone, I continue to root for him, though I’ve long since learned my lesson about allowing him to fill a precious outfield spot on my fantasy baseball roster.

With an unsettled back end of the rotation, the Yankees have allegedly been in talks with the Twins to acquire Francisco Liriano. As a Tigers fan, I would love to see this happen.  The Yankees has some excellent prospects to offer up in return so the Twins might profit in the future, but for the here & now David Brown believes this would decimate their 2011 chances for the Central title.  I completely agree, especially in a tight division with my beloved Tigers as well as the South-Siders of Chicago.

Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano have released their annual All-Overrated and All-Underrated teams for the 2011 season.  They have some similar choices and there is also an accompanying Fantasy 411 podcast now available in iTunes which no doubt goes into detail why they picked who they picked (I’ve not yet listened, saving that for my drive to softball tonight).

Lucky Crumpler has put together a great piece surrounding auction strategies and tactics over at Advanced Fantasy Baseball.com.  It’s comprehensive and thorough, a must-read for auction veterans and beginners alike.  AFB is run by Jon Williams and he does an excellent job so I’d recommend the site as a whole, but Lucky’s piece is a great jumping off point if it is your first experience with the site.

I absolutely despise those awful truck commercials with Dennis Leary where the words are inexplicably on the screen so I probably shouldn’t like Kanye West’s All of the Lights video which uses the same tactic multiple times AND cut out Nicki Minaj’s verse, but alas I do.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I love the song and the truck commercials don’t have Rihanna wearing this:

Knowledge Bomb: Today’s KB addresses someone I missed in the Starting Pitcher’s Guide.  Now you’re probably wondering how, with 546 pitchers profiled, I actually MISSED someone, but I went back and forth on this guy before ultimately passing him over.  Now it appears as though he could finagle some starts.  It still seems highly unlikely that he would win a starting job in the Cubs rotation, but here are my thoughts on him just the same:

Andrew Cashner (Age in 2011: 24, Highest Level in 2010: MLB) – Cashner blazed through AA and AAA en route to the majors with his best performance to date albeit in just 57 innings.  His control was very sharp (2.4 BB/9 after 3.8 in ’09) and his strikeout rate jumped to better than one an inning (9.3 K/9).  The Top 100 prospect according to Baseball America only relieved in the majors, throwing 54 innings in 53 appearances with modest results.  His ERA and WHIP were high thanks in part to a gaudy 5.0 walk rate and unfairly elevated 15.7% HR/FB rate (league average is 9%), especially considering he had a 48% groundball rate.

He maintained his near 1 K/IP rate from the minors striking out 8.3 batters per game.  He doesn’t figure to have a bead on a rotation spot with the Cubs’ 1-5 pretty well set barring injuries, but he started in 39 of his 43 minor league appearances and with his three-pitch arsenal, that is something that remains in the cards.  For now, he could be a valuable $1 middle reliever in deeper NL-Only leagues with his high strikeout potential (though only if the control comes way down and his luck evens out on the HR/FB rate), otherwise keep an eye out for injuries or severe underperformance that would open up a potential spot for Cashner in the Cubs rotation.

If you feel anyone else was left out of the book that really SHOULD have been included, please let me know and I will give my thoughts on them.  There were some guys on the cusp that I thought had even weaker cases than Cashner so I left them out. 

Tuesday: 02.15.2011

Daily Dose – February 15th

I have been so engrossed in SP Guide work that I haven’t been reading much on the ‘net or scanning my Twitter for the best pieces, so today’s Dose will be a little light.  The book has been priority #1 with my time off from work so while it has cut into my time dedicated to the Daily Dose, I think you will find that it is well worth it upon its release.

I finished the Kansas City Royals today and I must say that even accounting for the attrition they will undoubtedly suffer, their system is still overflowing with ridiculous pitching talent.  It’d be a minor miracle if all four of the lefties (Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer) panned out 100% as expected, but they have at least seven other high-ceiling youngsters coming through their system ready to step in for anyone who falters.  It would take an epic collapse and absurd string of bad luck for this not to pan out well for KC.  There are no guarantees of pennants and World Series appearances, but a rise from the depths of the AL Central is very likely for this once proud organization.

I will be appearing on Joel Henard’s (@joelhenard) Baseball Daily Digest Fantasy February podcast Wednesday evening at 6 PM Central.   There will be plenty of starting pitcher talk as we preview the book and discuss some second and third level options for you to look at as you prepare for your drafts.

I referenced a couple of tweets about Indians stars Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana last week, but here is a piece by their MLB.com beat reporter Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) covering things in much greater detail.

FanGraphs has purchased a fantasy game that they are rolling out for a special $9.99 price for the rest of this month.  I met the creators of the game at BaseballHQ.com’s First Pitch Forums in Arizona back in November and I was definitely intrigued by it.  I’m going to see if I can get a league together as I would prefer to play with friends as opposed to be part of a league of strangers.  If you’re looking for a more detailed, intense fantasy baseball experience, this could be right up your alley.

ESPN unveiled their 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit recently.  It’s a little light on analytical content, especially compared to what seemed to be a robust fantasy basketball guide, but I think they will be adding to it throughout Spring Training.

If you enjoy good baseball analysis on a wide variety of topics delivered straight to your inbox, I recommend Joe Sheehan’s Newsletter. He hasn’t asked me to or paid me to promote the Newsletter, but on the heels of his fantastic breakdown of the Albert Pujols contract negotiations, I figured I would let y’all know about it just in case you’re not already subscribing.  It’s $29.95 for a minimum of 180 editions (more if his time permits) and after subscribing last year, I can honestly say it’s well worth the price.

CBS Sports hosted a 12-team AL-Only Auction among industry insiders and posted the results for our viewing pleasure.  With the deep rosters (7 reserves), things got pretty thin with that many teams drawing from a 14-team pool.  If this were a league being played out, I think I’d have a problem with the league size, but as an instructional device, I think it works just fine.

A host of different strategies employed and some very interesting player costs , too.  I liked Jamey Eisenberg’s stars & scrubs approach on its face, though I think he may have incurred too much risk with his particular set of stars as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are both coming off of injury-shortened seasons and Alex Rodriguez may be descending into the twilight of his career.  I really liked Scott Pianowski’s (@scott_pianowski) team as a whole as he mixed quality stars (Shin-Soo Choo, Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Joakim Soria and Derek Jeter) with high upside cheap guys (Derek Holland, Marc Rzepczynski, Johnny Damon and Juan Rivera to name a few).

Finally, having watched IBM’s computer Watson positively destroy two of Jeopardy’s best players ever, Eriq Gardner at Fantasy Ball Junkie wonders aloud if a computer could compete in a fantasy baseball league.  It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if a computer held its own given how amazing technology is these days and getting better by the second.

Monday: 02.14.2011

No Daily Dose – February 14th

I’m neck deep in the Starting Pitcher Guide right now and I want to keep that momentum going.  I have barely taken breaks to eat much less do anything else.  Still plenty of work to be done, but is it really work if you enjoy doing it?!  I’ll get a DD posted tomorrow, so check back.