Archive for ‘Roster Management’

Monday: 07.30.2012

10 Injured Pitchers on the Way Back

It seems like somebody or somebodies of consequence succumb to injury daily during the dog days and wind up on the disabled list. Subsequently that puts a strain on waiver wire availability as we see fewer and fewer attractive options.  Some leagues will always have someone worthwhile, but others are riddled with retreads and those who are actually getting hurt because roster space becomes too precious to hang onto the disabled.  As Roy Oswalt has proven once again tonight (8 ER on 11 H in 5.3 IP), pitching at anything less than 100% is difficult, even for a former star.

With that in mind, understand that these arms may deliver nothing of value once they return (if they return) to the hill.  However, as we end the final third of the season, taking chances on upside can be the difference between winning a title and not, securing a money spot or waiting for a check in October that isn’t coming.  Here are 10 pitchers in various states of disrepair and of various talent levels who could be had for free in a good number of leagues (or at a discount via trade) and end up delivering some high quality innings for you.  Keep in mind that some of these guys are still quite some time away, so plan accordingly to that end.

Brandon McCarthy

Out Since: June 19th w/shoulder injury

Status: Literally just started his rehab start as I’m typing this

Availability: On 44% of rosters in Yahoo!; 46% in ESPN

He was hoping to avoid a rehab start altogether, but it wasn’t to be so he’s starting for Sacramento tonight (Monday evening) and if all goes well then he should take his turn with Oakland later this week.  If you think the injuries for McCarthy have been frustrating for you as a fantasy manager of him, try actually being him.  I imagine it is especially trying to get in a groove only seemingly every time off the DL only to keep going back on a few weeks later.

When on the field, he has been straight-killin’ it this year with a 2.54 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 78 innings.  He was white-hot before hitting the DL the most recent time with a 1.35 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 20 innings across three starts.  Strikeouts aren’t really his thing (usually ranging 6-6.5, which is average to slightly below depending on year), but thankfully neither are walks (2.2 BB/9 this year after an amazing 1.3 last year).  Love that park, plus the sweet-swingin’ A’s might line him up for a few more Ws, too.

Brandon Morrow

Out Since: June 11th w/oblique injury

Status: On rehab assignment touching 95 MPH

Availability: On 78% of rosters in Yahoo!; 55% in ESPN

Two things have plagued Morrow as a starter: walks and injuries.  He has been improving yearly with the former including a huge step forward in 2012 (2.8 BB/9; 8% BB rate) and appeared to be ready for a full-fledged breakout season before the oblique sidelined him back in June.  After fanning just 12 in his first four starts (27 innings in all), he fanned a much more Morrow-esque 55 in 51 innings spanning eight starts.  Check your wire if you have roster space as he is out there in some league, but most likely you’ll have to see about netting him at a discount* via trade.

*admittedly that discount is probably shrinking now that he is on rehab

Jaime Garcia

Out Since: June 5th w/shoulder injury

Status: Started his rehab on Monday w/2.3 scoreless

Availability: On 38% of rosters in Yahoo!; 29% in ESPN

Before finally hitting the DL in early June, Garcia labored through a pair of ugly starts, the latter of which he probably never should have made as he had already been skipped in the rotation after the shaky outing against the Phillies on May 26th.  In fairness, it’s pretty easy for me to say that now and the Cardinals were working with a helluva lot more information than I have now or did at the time.

I don’t think Mike Matheny would’ve let his guy go out there if he thought it would eventually put Garcia down for two months.  If you discount the Houston implosion right before the DL, Garcia was essentially having his 2011 season again.   Now is the perfect time to scoop Garcia up on the sly, especially if you have a free DL spot dying to be utilized.

Shaun Marcum

Out Since: June 14th w/elbow injury

Status: Looking to start a rehab this weekend; could be dealt during waivers deadline in Aug.

Availability: On 68% of rosters in Yahoo!; 64% in ESPN

Don’t ask me how/why he is on so many more teams than these other three.  I guess it could be his strong strikeout totals (8.4 K/9, 23% rate) that standout above the other three (especially since Morrow got a late start on his) while his ERA, WHIP and walk rate are in the neighborhood or better than them as well.  But still, I’m surprised so many have held on as there wasn’t much good news throughout July.

Things are looking up now and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports speculates that he could be a waive trade candidate.  That would surprise me.  There might be around $2.5 mil owed to him depending when he hit waivers, but that’s it as he is set to be a free agent this winter so surely some wildcard contender would claim him to block a trade to their opposition if he came available.  For our purposes, his venue doesn’t much matter, as long as he is back on the field there is bound to be some worthwhile production.

Ted Lilly

Out Since: May 23rd w/shoulder injury

Status: Started his rehab Sunday and will probably need a couple outings (results)

Availability: On 42% of rosters in Yahoo!; 37% in ESPN

Lilly had developed one of the most stable skillsets in the games the last several years, but unfortunately those skills have tumbled significantly in 2012.  Of course, it’s also been a tiny eight game sample and his numbers are heavily influenced by outings of six and five walks in Houston and in Arizona so it’d be a bit premature to bury him.  Meanwhile, he has enjoyed success (3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) in spite of the 5.7 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB in 49 innings. I would still take a shot on a healthy Lilly in 12 team leagues or higher.  I think he is still a spot starter at best in 10-teamers so no need to rush out and get him before he gets back to the Dodgers.

Brett Anderson

Out Since: June 5th, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery

Status: Has made 2 rehab starts has a few more slated in AAA before heading to Oak.

Availability: On 4% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

One of the brighter young pitchers in the game, Anderson fell victim to the Slider Monster who ate his elbow up after he threw the pitch a career-high 40% of the time in his 83 innings last year.  He is working his way back from Tommy John and could be this year’s Tim Hudson, who put together seven strong starts down the stretch in 2009 in his return from TJS.  Jordan Zimmermann was OK in his seven starts in 2010, but better in a real-life aspect than a fantasy one.  Stephen Strasburg was unreal in five outings a year ago, but he’s on a different level than those other guys.

The issue for Anderson is where he fits into the rotation, especially with McCarthy on the way back.  Of course neither McCarthy nor Bartolo Colon are models of health so I’m sure the situation will work itself out by the time Anderson is officially back.

This next group of guys are a good further away, so I’m just putting them on your radar to either make a note about or stash in deep leagues if they’re available and you desperately need pitching.

Jeff Niemann

Out Since: May 14th w/broken leg

Status: Threw a bullpen, simulated gm on tap followed by rehab; looking at late-Aug. return

Availability: On 3% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

Coming back from a non-arm injury gives Niemann a leg up on the others listed, but he is still looking at a late-August return so there won’t be much time for him to contribute once he is back.  He was in the midst of following up his strong second half from 2011, too, before the freak accident with the broken leg derailed his 2012.

Tim Stauffer

Out Since: May 14th w/elbow injury

Status: Threw a bullpen last week, rehab forthcoming & return slated for late-Aug.

Availability: On 8% of rosters in Yahoo!; 19% in ESPN

Stauffer appeared to be getting his career, one plagued with injuries, back on track after a breakout season at age 29 in 2011 that saw him throw 186 strong innings with a 3.73 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.  Injuries limited him to just 14 innings from 2006-2008, including a completely missed season in 2008, so even working his way back into effective relief was a win for Stauffer.  Hopefully he gets back in time to make 6 or 7 starts to close out the season especially since 15 of their 26 September games are in Petco Park.

Jhoulys Chacin

Out Since: May 1st w/pectoral muscle injury

Status: Made it through his first rehab pain-free; slate back mid-Aug.

Availability: On 16% of rosters in Yahoo!; 5% in ESPN

Even when he makes it back, how much can he be trusted in that park the way it’s playing this year?  With the margin for error virtually non-existent in Coors Field these days, his elevated walk rate is especially treacherous (4.3 BB/8 career; 5.5 this year).  When he’s on, he can be a big strikeout guy, but at 24 he is still very much a work in progress.  This is more for keeper leaguers who are playing with an eye on 2013 as I wouldn’t trust my contending ratios to Chacin in Denver coming off of injury.

Rubby de la Rosa

Out Since: July 31st, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery

Status: Slated for rehab in return from Tommy John

Availability: On 0% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN

It remains to be seen whether or not he will pitch in the majors at all in 2012 and then if he does, his role is undecided.  He could just get his feet wet as a reliever, though his long-term outlook remains in the rotation so this would be another one for keeper leaguers with an available spot for a highly talented youngster.  I am a huge fan of this 23-year old going forward, but he might not pay major dividends until 2014.

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Wednesday: 07.18.2012

The All Legitimate Team

Content has been light this week as I prepare for a job interview.  Might sound weird as a standard interview is usually a 20-30 minute Q&A.  This one is a 3-hour extravaganza, my third round with this company in which I’ll be presenting a demo so that’s why this is the first piece of the week.   I’ll have plenty the remainder of the month including a planned top x SP list after the trade deadline.  I’m not sure if I’m going to go 50, 100 or >100.  I’m waiting until the trade deadline is completed because I don’t want to do some detailed list I’m proud of only to have it change drastically if 7-10 pitchers change locales.

I gave you the Hail Mary Team last week and now I’ve got a team of players who had great first halves whom I believe in and would have no problem targeting via trade which would essentially be “buying high” or simply holding onto them the remainder of this year as opposed to getting out from under a potential regression.  I am not going to go in-depth with the reasoning as I did on the Hail Mary team in large part because their numbers speak volumes for the player.

HITTERS

Catcher – Yadier Molina – I covered him in depth at the end of June and he hasn’t slowed down since with three more bombs in the subsequent 10 games.  Plus this isn’t an out-of-nowhere season, he’s been building up to this for years save a 2010 blip.

First Base – Allen Craig – Yes, I am going to list the entire Cardinals team.  The return of Lance Berkman has some freaked that Craig will lose gobs of playing time, but I just can’t see how the Cards could bench their best hitter statistically (specifically by OPS+) for any more than a day here and there.

By the way Berkman is right on Craig’s heels for that OPS+ title on the team at 152 (Craig is 154) so he is hardly the one headed to the pine, either.  Honestly, they should just take the defensive hit and put Craig at 2B.  His bat is so far ahead of Daniel Descalso’s that it would be worth it.  Maybe see if Craig has another off-day mixed in soon and then pounce in hopes of catching someone a bit fearful.

Second Base – Jason Kipnis – Through 124 games of his career, he is pacing toward a .275-101-24-91-33 line.  That’s incredible regardless of position, but definitely gets an added bit of greatness at second base.  He is one of those cases where his ranks in things like OPS, wOBA and wRC+ don’t tell the story of his fantasy value.  Robinson Cano is first in those and first in 2B fantasy value, but Kipnis if around fifth or sixth in those stats yet second in fantasy value because obviously his R, RBI and SB contributions aren’t encapsulated in those metrics.

Shortstop – Asdrubal Cabrera – Kip’s double play mate is putting a season comparable to his 2011 breakout in terms of pure production (OPS, wOBA, wRC+), but his fantasy value is down thanks in large part to evaporation of his speed component.  After matching his career-high with 17 a year ago, he’s down to just two this year and a horrible rate at 2-for-5.  Having swiped 17 in 2009, maybe he only steals in odd-numbered years.  Beyond that, he is a safe bet for power production at short.

Third Base – Todd Frazier – I composed this list prior to Joey Votto’s injury, but now Frazier’s inclusion is even more of a no-brainer since his path to playing time is no longer reliant upon Dusty Baker realizing how cooked Scott Rolen is, at least temporarily with Votto done for 4-6 weeks (and we all now how lame injury estimates have been this season).  Frazier has one of the better home run rates among batters with 210+ plate appearances (he has 212).  His rate is on par with the likes of Adrian Beltre and Yoenis Cespedes and he’s tracking ahead of Carlos Gonzalez.

Outfielder – Austin Jackson – An improved approach, advancing power and inclusion on a strong offense leading to plenty of runs scored (8th highest total in baseball despite playing 69 games… of course, Trout is 2nd in 69 games so there’s that) make Jackson a reliable, yet unspectacular option.  I watch him day in and day out and I’m a complete believer.  I was an early adopter here as I legitimately saw differences in his approach back in April.  I know that’s sort of a backpat, but I’m proud that my amateur scouting eye appears to be progressing, plus if you listen to the podcast, you know I’m not above a backpat or 12, lol.  I try to do it tastefully!  He’s unspectacular in that he doesn’t do any singular thing extremely well (‘cept defense, which doesn’t count in 99.8% of leagues).  He’s quite Chooish in that respect.  More on that in a bit.

Outfielder – Shin-Soo Choo – It’s been a bit!  Choo is back.  After a disastrous 2011 that included an embarrassing off-the-field event with a DUI and an injury-marred poor performance on field, he is back to being the steady .300-20-20 guy.  He actually isn’t pacing to hit any of those marks, but I’m using that as more of a descriptor since it paints a cleaner picture than .296-18-18.  Batting leadoff, he has traded some RBIs for runs, just as you would expect with that kind of move.

Outfielder – Josh Willingham – When you put up 29-98 on Oakland in 136 games, a move to Minnesota isn’t scaring anybody in terms of production.  His power plays anywhere and the perception of Target Field eating up all power is a bit misguided fueled by the struggles of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer there.  It dominates lefties, but its 95 home run park factor for right-handers isn’t awful.  Below average sure, but not suffocating like Oakland’s 82 factor.  A trade out to a contender would seemingly only help matters.

Outfielder – Jason Kubel – A little nicked with a hamstring, but set to avoid the DL and return Wednesday night.  I didn’t love the signing this winter if only because they had a perfectly capable outfielder in Gerardo Parra who was less of a bat than Kubel, but a much better fielder.  Kubel’s bat has always intrigued me and return of his 2009-level batting average has made him a very strong outfield contributor who does everything but run.  As a lefty, his move from Target Field to Chase Field (114 LH HR factor) has been a huge boon.

Outfielder – Tyler Colvin – Let me qualify this a bit.  With this “team” of players, I have been endorsing their current level of production or at least a reasonable facsimile (90-95%) of it.  I feel the same way about Colvin’s power which is what earns him a spot on this list, but his .294 batting average is definitely susceptible to plummeting.

He is an incredibly free-swinger which can work quite well especially in somewhere like Coors Field, but he can go ice cold, too, as he did in pretty much all of 2011.  He hasn’t been a complete product of Coors (.833 OPS on the road) which definitely helps, but having half of his games in Coors keeps his floor at a palatable level.

PITCHERS

Several of the pitchers to make this “team” were covered in my 24 to Target piece a while back, so I’ll reference you to that piece for the likes of Johnny Cueto, James McDonald and Cole Hamels who are all part of this team (what, Hamels? WEIRD!!!!).  Here are the other six candidates:

R.A. Dickey – Duh.  I’m not breaking ground here, is anyone not bought in on Dickey?  Despite giving up five in three of his last four outings, I’m not particularly worried and maybe it presents a better opportunity to buy if the guy who has him is skittish.  He still had a 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 K/BB in those games.

Gio Gonzalez – I didn’t include him in the 24 to Target list because I didn’t want to just litter it with studs because you’re going to pay a pretty penny with stud arms like that in the trade market.  That I said, I do believe in his step forward this year and I think there is even more to his game as he continues to refine his control.

Chris Capuano – A sleeper-type for me coming into the season, he has exceeded expectations and I see no reason he can’t remain incredibly effective for the duration of the season.  Home run suppression is the key between Capuano having a solid ERA and a great one.  He’s at a career-best 0.9 HR/9 resulting in a career-best 2.75 ERA.  Though his ERA is nearly two full runs lower than last year’s effort, I don’t think he is a complete fluke you should be fearful of in trade talks.

Ryan Dempster – I don’t think he’ll maintain his scoreless innings streak the rest of the season or even pitch at a 1.86 clip for his ERA, but he has a great base of skills that have been remarkably consistent and even seen a nice uptick this year so he should be a bankable starter with a low-3.00s ERA or better the rest of the way.  Obviously a deal to a contender should improve his chances to scoop more wins, too.

Vance Worley – WHIP is the “runs scored” of pitching.  I think it gets overlooked by many.  If it’s incredible, like sub-1.00 great, then it is noticed and same on the opposite end of the spectrum if it’s at 1.40ish or higher, but anything in between is kinda igored.  Not by everyone, but it certainly doesn’t stand out like wins, ERA and strikeouts.  Worley’s WHIP is his downside right now at 1.38 while everything else has been pretty solid (wins are light, but that’s because Philly has been broken for most of the year) and worth buying in on.

You can’t just chalk his WHIP up to a .315 BABIP and call it bad luck.  A lot of that is the fact that hitters can square his sub-90s heater up and get a good rip (evidenced by his 26% line drive rate) so if those aren’t at-‘em balls that the defense can turn into outs, his WHIP will be susceptible.  I think he can chisel it down a little bit to around 1.30, so if WHIP is a sore spot, then this isn’t someone for you.  But I think he’s a legitimate, bankable mid-level starter as his regression from 2011’s breakout is about what I figured we’d see.

Mark Buehrle – As a strikeout-lover, I rarely invest in Buehrle types especially inning or start cap leagues, but you cannot deny how incredibly consistent he has been throughout his career.  Now in the generally easier league with a pitcher’s park for half of his games, he has been able to post his best ERA since 2005 thanks also to some improvements in his skills.  He isn’t flashy and you don’t want to invest if strikeouts are your need obviously, but otherwise he is your guy.

Thursday: 07.12.2012

The Second Half Hail Mary Team

Your team sucks.  Way to go, idiot.  You are wallowing near or at the bottom of the standings with seemingly no hope.  It’s a redraft league so you don’t even have the option of trading for the 2013 which can be a fun exercise once you realize a season is lost.  So what do you do with the second half?  Hint: ignore your team and start looking for sleepers who will definitely fail in fantasy football is not the answer.  No, the answer is you throw conservatism out the window and chuck some Hail Marys to see if you can make a run.  Cross-sport reference!!!!

As dire as the situation may look now, there is time.  It’s not exactly the halfway point, four teams have played 87 games and all but two have (Washington & Kansas City at 83 & 84, respectively) played 85 or more, but a lot of baseball is still going to be played.  There will be plenty of Cinderella stories in October about a team that was buried at the All-Star Break only to surge through the standings in the dog days of summer en route to an improbable victory.  Let’s make that your story.

Presenting the Hail Mary Team for 2012.  This group of strugglers contain a ton of upside if they can reach previously established heights in the coming months.  Honestly, if you are one of the teams looking up at most of the league in your standings, you probably have a couple of these guys on your team.  They came into the season with elevated expectations and have failed to meet them for a bevy of reasons.  Their price tags have lowered (and if they haven’t, just pass, because there’s no sense paying full price) and with nothing to lose, they could be your ticket to a much better slot in your standings.

CATCHER Carlos Santana

He’s been wretched this year after a great 2011 season.  And it’s not just the concussion that sidelined him near the end of May as he was horrible in that whole month leading up to the injury (.233/.314/.344).  The concussion may be exacerbating the situation, but it’s just been a rough go since a solid .262/.417/.446 line April suggesting that maybe something other than the concussion is in play.  Nevertheless, this is a power force at a scarce position who can be a big time run producer if he gets back to the guy we saw in his first 201 games spanning part of 2010 and all of 2011: .244/.362/.459 with 33 HR and 101 RBI.  Brian McCann got some consideration, but his surge before the break (.421, 4 game HR streak w/11 RBI) likely allayed the fears of many and ate into any discount you could’ve gotten previously.

FIRST BASE – Ike Davis, Eric Hosmer

Both guys have been hot of late, but such wretched starts have their overall lines still in shambles resulting in their appearance on waiver wires in shallower leagues and making them available for little more than a song in leagues where they are on a roster.  Davis has a very healthy .294/.351/.635 line with 7 HR and 28 RBI in the last month so his price might be one of the higher ones on this list comparatively speaking, but I’d be willing to pay it as long as it still represented a discount against preseason expectations.  He’s been a bit Dan Uggla-esque circa 2011 where the batting average was just awful, but the power was still present.  I’m not sure he’s going to run off a 33-game hit streak like Uggla did, but who cares?

Hosmer ripped off a 3-hit game in Yankee Stadium in late May, his first of the year, and that seemed to be something of a turning point for his season.  From that game on: .289/.352/.430 with 4 HR, 19 RBI and 7 SB in 165 plate appearances.  He is still toting a .231/.299/.371 season line, though, which is why he still qualifies for this team.  Like Davis, he will be on the higher end of the cost spectrum among this list of players, but he should still be available at a sharp discount compared to the preseason which is what makes him a worthy Hail Mary target.

SECOND BASE – The Weekeseseseses, Rickie & Jemile

The Brothers Weeks have been awful this year lending to the decimation of the second base this year which could’ve been a plentiful position had players met or at least been near expectations.  Surges from Aaron Hill, Neil Walker, Jason Kipinis and Jose Altuve are only masking failures of the brothers, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Ackley instead of adding depth.  Back to these two, though, with Rickie first.

Injuries have always been a problem as he has just one season with more than 129 games played, otherwise he has usually performed quite well as long as he is on the field.  Until this year.  Even a depressed offensive environment can’t mask his woes as he checks in just under the Mendoza Line at .199 with just 8 HR and 6 SB in 81 games.  He hit 20 HR in 118 games last year, so even doubling his current output would be short of expectations.  He’s running at the same clip as last year, but he’s not really a speed asset these days anyway, that’s his brother’s area of expertise.

Speaking of Jemile, he has been an abomination thus far.  Imagine he were even average, the A’s might be above .500.  As it is, they are right at the mark and his return could help them stay there or exceed the level going forward.  The real bummer is that his poor half has overshadowed the huge gains in walk rate (up from 5% last year to 11% this year) paired with a small improvement in strikeout (down 1% to 13%).  If Dee Gordon can lead baseball in stolen bases (30) with a .280 on-base percentage, Weeks should have more than 12 with a more palatable .312 OBP.  He is an easy target if steals is a category where you’re severely lagging.

SHORTSTOP – Alexei Ramirez

When Ramirez ended up April with a paltry .498 OPS, some may have seen that as a prime buying opportunity as he routinely takes a while to get going.  Over his career, April is easily his worth month checking in with a .561 OPS compared to .721 or better in every other month peaking with .822 in July.  He sputtered to a .581 mark this May.  He improved to .678 in June so he is progressing, but not nearly as rapidly as usual.  In a scant 7-game sample for July, he is at 1.057 so maybe he finally ready to let loose.

The power has been noticeably absent throughout with just two home runs.  He has run a bit more to help alleviate a bit of the damage checking in with 10 SB, three more than all of last year in a full season.  He has long been one of those guys who is much better as a fantasy asset than as a real life one with only one season over 99 OPS+ (104 as a rookie).  He had become a bankable 15-70-10-80 with an average around .270.  It will take a helluva rally to get there this year, but if he just performs to the levels we have seen in the past, he will be a positive asset at shortstop at a nothing cost.

THIRD BASE – Ryan Zimmerman

I was surprised the other day when I heard some fantasy analysts dismissing him as a non-entity.  The basic premise was essentially that he’s never been any good so why are folks still hung up on him?  That’s just crazy talk.  He was excellent in 2009-2010 and was tracking toward another great season last year when injuries cut it short.  He hasn’t been good this year and I think injuries are a big reason again as he had a DL stint back in late April through early May and then he took a while to get going once he was back.

I’ll grant that he isn’t the sturdiest guy around.  That seems to come with territory when dealing with defensive stalwarts like Zimmerman, but he is definitely a damn fine hitter capable of big numbers.  In fact, he has been hot of late starting with a Coors Field trip (always a nice remedy for a hitter) totaling 14 games in all during which he has hit .333/.394/.683 with 5 HR and 18 RBI.  He has a 1.003 OPS with 3 HR in the non-Coors part, so don’t worry that he is Brandon Mossing us.  His bottom line is still gruesome (.694 OPS) enough that the price won’t be too steep.

OUTFIELD – Cameron Maybin

Proponents of Maybin’s are pointing toward last year’s second half dash to the finish that saw him swipe 28 bases after the break with an improved .268 average (up from .259) and hoping he has another such run (pun fully intended) in him.  The talent is there in glimpses, but those are all too brief because even when he’s hitting the longest home run in Chase Field, he’s still only carrying a .212 average.

Ichiro Suzuki

This is probably just the decline of a 38-year old former star, but it’s hard not to look at his 39 SBs from just a year ago and dream of him stealing 20+ in the second half.

Shane Victorino

He has been a far cry from what we expect in the slugging department thanks to a precipitous drop in triples as he has just two after leading baseball two of the last three years and notching 10 in the third of those seasons.  Aside from that, he hasn’t been awful save a little batting average misfortune.  I think the perception of his struggling is stronger than the truth of it as he already has as many steals (19) as he did in all of last year and his eight homers are just off of last year’s pace.  Try to prey on the trade rumors swirling about and his benching the other day for not liking his slot in the order as well as the general Phillie malaise that has seemingly stunk up every non-Hamels entity.

Bes Jond Unnings and D.J. Jupton

Paired together for obvious reason, Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton have been colossal disappointments this year, though like others in the list they have run enough to stem the tide a bit on their being fantasy sinkholes.  Both have 15 SBs, impressive more so for Jennings coming in eight fewer games, but both are still on the wrong side of .680 OPS to date.  It looks even worse if you extend back into September for Jennings as he jumped off a cliff after a blazing hot run from late July through August.

Meanwhile, no one is expecting anything batting average-wise from Upton, but what is with the power outage?  He’s been around a 20 HR hitter the last two years which combined with his speed and 80ish runs driven in and scored made the batting average plenty palatable.  He’s now on pace for 13, down 10 from last year, but he can string together some 4-5 HR months and rally to or above 20 if he’s right.  Both of these Rays have plenty of upside that make gambling on them easy, especially at a discount.

Nelson Cruz

He has been lying in wait just ready for a Cruzian streak.  It may be bubbling up near the surface, too, as he entered the break with three multi-hit games including four doubles, but no homers.  When he gets hot he can carry a fantasy team so he is an easy inclusion even though he hasn’t been as rotten as the others with a 99 OPS+.  You may have to package one of your few worthwhile assets to get him and someone else on this list.  It could pay major dividends with a monster like Cruz.

PITCHING

Tim Lincecum

Duh.  Just look at the track record, I don’t really need to tell you why he’s a Hail Mary candidate.

Dan Haren

Currently injured making it a nice time to strike.  For the purposes of this exercise it also helps that he was terrible for five starts (8.67 ERA) before finally hitting the DL with a balky back.  His brilliant track record and the glimpses of greatness this year when healthy make it clear that he is still someone worth targeting.  The rest will hopefully get him back to 100% and he will return to his previously established level of excellence.

Rickey Romero

Let’s be honest, he didn’t really earn a 2.92 ERA last year from a skills standpoint. He still got the 2.92 ERA and I’m sure it helped many a fantasy team, but expecting that this year would’ve been silly.  Similarly, he isn’t a 5.22 ERA pitcher, either.  The skills have deteriorated this year without question, but not 5.22 deterioration.  His control is all out whack with a career-worst 4.7 BB/9.  That points to a potential mechanical issue which hopefully can be identified and corrected.

Unfortunately, the bubonic plague is sweeping across the Toronto rotation so injury could be an issue, too, but he doesn’t seem to be laboring or hurting when I view his starts with my amateur scouting eye.  A 3.50 ERA from a workhorse who will put himself in position for decisions (and ideally wins given their stout offense) can go a long way toward fixing your flailing staff.

Derek Holland

We saw last year, specifically in the second half and playoffs, what he can do when he is click.  His skills are in line with last year’s save a bit of home run trouble which has no doubt led to his inflated 5.05 ERA.  He quietly came off the DL just before the break and had a quality start, strike quickly before he strings a few together and saps up any discount via trade or starts getting scooped up off the waiver wires.

Doug Fister

The infield defense has struggled as planned and Fister has been a prime casualty, but that isn’t the only factor as a 17% HR/FB rate has led to a 1.2 HR/9 rate.  That factor should regress, especially for a groundball artist (2.2 GB/FB ratio), and that will cut into his 4.75 ERA.  Completing the Hail Mary pass would be a tightening up of the defense allowing him to pitch to a level on par with his skills which would be around 3.45 or better.

Francisco Liriano

Personally, I don’t think he should be trusted, but we are talking Hail Marys here.  He has a 3.12 ERA and a strikeout per inning in his seven starts since returning to the rotation.  We know the upside he has when everything is going perfectly.

Ubaldo Jimenez

Is he the next Liriano after his fall from grace last year?  Probably so, but like Liriano he is streaking in his last seven with a 2.93 ERA and 44 Ks in 46 innings.  In fact, they both started their streaks on June 5th so they are even more similar this year.  They both have ace upside.  Doesn’t mean they’ll will reach it, but the chance is there.

Ervin Santana

He likes to throw a stinker season in every once in a while to keep everyone honest I guess, but his capability is a commodity as proven in three of the previous four years from 2008-2011.  Unsurprisingly home runs were his issue in 2009, too, so figuring that out will be the key to his potential success going forward.  He doesn’t quite have ace potential because he peaks around 6.8-7.0 K/9, but with the Angels clicking, he can run off a bunch of wins with quality ratios if he gets himself figured out.

Clay Buchholz

Another guy I don’t really buy into, but people I respect do and besides, I’m trying to fix your crappy team not mine.  Even including the thrashing he suffered right before hitting the DL, he had 3.35 ERA and 5-1 record (including 4 straight Ws) in eight starts whittling his ERA from 9.09 to 5.53 in the process.  He is currently sitting on the DL with terrible bottom line numbers making now the best time to strike if you are interested.

Monday: 05.14.2012

Trolling the Wire Notes

I just wanted to post a quick message letting you know that you can now find the Trolling the Wire picks in the sidebar before an accompanying post is put out.  In fact, there won’t always be an accompanying article outlining the reasoning behind the picks (like these two last week), but  I will at the very least post the picks in list form similar to how it appears in the sidebar since the sidebar isn’t always easily accessible in mobile formats.

If you have questions about someone I would urge you to comment on that post, tweet me @sporer or email me.  The reason that there won’t usually be an article anymore is because I want to dedicate more time to the other content like the pitcher breakdowns or “best pitches of the month” stuff you have seen this year.  By no means did I want to sacrifice Trolling as it is very popular and I think very useful, too, so this is the best way to still distribute it in my opinion.  Not to mention, I utilize a lot of the same guys and it gets a bit repetitive finding ways to tell you that Edwin Jackson should be on your team.

The picks are listed in order of confidence so if you have a choice between the 1st and 4th listed on your waiver wire, I like the 1st listed more.  I’ll include a guy if he’s 30% or more available at a primary outlet (ESPN, Y!, CBS) when I post.  For example, Max Scherzer might seem crazy, but he’s only 70% owned at ESPN and 65% at Yahoo! so he makes the cut.  I don’t suspect we’ll see him available too much longer, but for now he should be plucked.

Friday: 05.11.2012

Trolling the Wire – Weekend Edition

Here are the weekend selections:

SATURDAY

none

SUNDAY

Jeff Samardzija (CHC) – He’s been excellent this year without question.  I was skeptical when he debuted with a gem, felt justified for that skepticism when he followed it up with a pair of 5 ER outings, but now can’t help but be impressed by his last three outings during which he has yielded just 2 ER in 21 innings.  He also has 23 strikeouts in those three starts with a pair of wins.  (@ MIL)

A.J. Burnett (PIT) – He followed up his disastrous outing against the Cardinals with eight strong (2 ER) striking out 10 and walking just one.  He was left out to dry in that meltdown, but I don’t think it completely ruins his season.  Not only can be useful for your fantasy team the rest of the way, but it isn’t a stretch to suggest he finishes the season with a sub-4.00 ERA.  Let’s say he’ll go about 175 innings this season after missing a pair starts at the outset.  He’d only need to be a 3.64 ERA pitcher in his remaining 151 innings to finish with a 3.96 ERA for the season.  He’ll be fine.  (vs. HOU)

Edwin Jackson (WAS) – If you participated in Trolling last year, then you aren’t surprised to see Jackson here.  He was the most often recommended spot starter here last year.  To read/hear some write/speak about him, I can’t help but find him underrated.  You would think he has had a 4.50 ERA in the last three years as opposed to two sub-3.80 seasons along with a 4.47 one.  And in that latter one, he surged late posting a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts with the White Sox.  This year he has his best peripherals ever with a 7.9 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9 which is a major improvement over anything he has ever done.  (@ CIN)

Jonathon Niese (NYM) – A pair of 4 BB starts bookend his 6 outings thus far raising his walk rate, but otherwise his peripherals are still sharp while his xFIP continues to suggest his ERA should be lower.  A trip into the cavernous Marlins Stadium seems like a nice remedy to get back on track after an OK start in Philly.

 

Thursday: 12.22.2011

Trolling the Wire: Final Season Rundown

If you came to this site with any regularity during the baseball season, you likely saw plenty written about my weekly spot starter choices.  Every week throughout the season, I scanned the free agent pool of standard mixed leagues for the best starting pitcher matchups available.  Not every starter was going to be available in every league so I tried to provide as many quality options as possible.

Every Sunday I reviewed the previous week’s selections to see how they turned out.  Some crashed and burned horribly, but many others soared and offered above average performances that would have no doubted aided your team.  Week 18 was especially disastrous as my 16 picks posted an abysmal 6.27 ERA  and 1.50 WHIP in 93 innings notching just four wins.  That is pretty awful.

First off, the 16 picks were easily a single week high as I averaged 11 over the season and for that many picks to result in such poor numbers means more than one imploded.  In fact, just one of the 16 had an ERA below 4.03 (Cory Luebke in his second start of the week) while four starters had an ERA of 10.29 or worse with the biggest offenders being Gavin Floyd (10 ER in 2.7 IP) and Derek Holland (4 ER in 1.7 IP).  Oddly enough, the group still produced 6.4 K/9 and a 2.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the 1.7 HR/9 probably did them in.

Thankfully the picks closed out the season with great strength.  Three of the last four weeks saw the pick set post an ERA of 2.86 or lower and in the “off” week, the picks still yielded a plenty usable 3.93 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.  So let’s take a deeper look at how everything shook out in the season of spot starters.

I made a total of 264 picks over 23 weeks with 254 of them actually pitching.  The other 10 were either skipped, rained out or injured.  The entire group managed a 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 1561 innings of work while striking out 1182 (6.8 K/9) and walking 463 (2.7 BB/9) yielding a 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  With 85 wins, the group won 33% of their starts.  I didn’t keep an exact win-loss record and I’m sure a large percentage of the remaining 169 starts were no decisions.  They also allowed 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

With their body of work, the group essentially splits up into eight 195-inning pitchers from which you would have gotten the same 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but also 11 wins and 148 strikeouts.  In other words, they were a group of Jhoulys Chacins.  Chacin was 11-14 in 194 innings with a 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 150 strikeouts.  Other strong comps include Jaime Garcia (195 IP, 13 W, 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 156 K) and Ted Lilly (193 IP, 12 W, 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 K).

So the average sampling of the 254 spot start selections yielded you a Chacin, Garcia or Lilly.  A random sampling of the 33 starts (1561 IP ÷ 254 starts x 33 = 195 IP) could obviously return a performance better or worse than those comps, but as an average that is pretty solid.

Let’s look now at the pitchers most frequently picked and how they did when selected.  Edwin Jackson was the Spot Starter of the Year having been picked 12 times.  I have long been a fan of his and after watching him for an entire year in Detroit, I liked him even more.  I was happy to see him breakout with the Tigers not only because that is my team, but also because I knew he had it in him.

His skills have improved in the years since, but the results haven’t always been there to match.  The same went for me when I picked him as a spot starter.  Despite finishing the year with a 3.79 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, I picked him for 76 innings during which he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.49 WHIP with five wins.  His 6.8 K/9 and 2.6 K/BB during the 76 innings are right in line with his season-long 6.7 and 2.4 rates.

Two other pitchers surpassed double digits in terms of times picked: Tim Stauffer (11) and James McDonald (10).  Stauffer offered 71 strong innings with a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while McDonald was similar to Jackson in his 56 innings with a 4.17 ERA and 1.48 WHIP.  Stauffer matched Jackson’s five wins, but McDonald netted just a pair.  It was another Padre who stood alone with nine starts.  Cory Luebke needed one fewer start to match McDonald’s 56 innings while his 3.21 ERA and 1.07 WHIP were among the best numbers for any pitcher.  Despite the strong numbers, he won just three of his nine starts.

Of the 86 pitchers who were picked in all, 17 were picked five or more times including the four covered above.  Those 17 pitchers threw 786 innings (50% of the total) pitching to a 3.37 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 44 of the 85 wins.  The king of that bunch was Javier Vazquez, who posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in five starts.  He would have made more appearances in the recommendations, but his availability surged at points during the season and he just wasn’t on the wire in enough leagues.

The worst of the five-plus start bunch was Derek Holland.  Despite his breakout season, I had horrible luck when picking him as he was totally boom or bust.  I mentioned his four earned runs in less than two innings (21.18 ERA) earlier, but he also had outings of 7 ER in 5.3 IP and 5 ER in 5 IP which contributed to his 5.45 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 38 innings across seven starts.  He did give us three gems, though, including two 7 IP/1 ER starts down the stretch (September 14th and 20th).  I would be surprised if he found on the waiver wire of too many leagues from the start of 2012.

Here is the five-plus start bunch sorted by innings:

Poor Doug Fister.  He throws 45 excellent innings with a 2.58 ERA and 1.01 WHIP yet didn’t have a single win to show for it.  Despite how horrid the Seattle Mariners were for the year, they had three starters on this list and all three delivered fantastic numbers despite netting just three wins in 17 combined starts.

There were 17 other starters who were selected at least three times this year.  Here they are with just their times selected:

The rest of the breakdown saw 16 pitchers picked twice and 36 picked just once.

Obviously this strategy requires a specific set of league rules to pull off, but assuming your league doesn’t have stringent transaction or innings limits and allows daily moves, then this is a strategy that can be of significant value.  The upshot is that instead of spending early picks of the stud aces like Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum or Cole Hamels, you continue to build your offense into a juggernaut.  There will still be plenty of pitching in the middle rounds to start your rotation, but then you leave your last pick or two to fill out the rotation and those will be your stream slots for spot starters.

I will run this again in 2012, so for those of who you enjoyed it this year, it will be back.  For those of you who want to try it out, you will have a shot to use my picks if you’d like.

Saturday: 08.20.2011

Roster Management Down the Stretch

As we close out the final week-plus of the August, roster management is the key to success, especially for roto managers.  Obviously roster management is key throughout a season, but I wouldn’t make such a blatant statement without expounded on it, either.  As you peruse your standings daily, you have to make realistic judgments on the points you can still gain and where they can be gained.  With the limited amount of time left in the season, every at-bat or inning pitched is even more crucial than it was back in April or May.

That, of course, is because there is less time to come back and gather the points you need for success.  I stress these points because of what I am about to say: the points you can gain and categories in which you can gain them might mean that it is smarter to play a lineup that doesn’t include the best overall players.

For some this may sound like common sense and for others this may sound like a contradiction over something I have said before.  I often say, “Never bench your studs”, but that is in regards to benching an ace pitcher in a hostile environment or against a tough team or sitting a big bat because of back-to-back series against San Francisco and Philadelphia or any pair of pitching-laden teams.

So my NBYS mantra is entirely independent of these late season scenarios when you are trying to win your league or at least move up in the standings for a higher cash spot if first place isn’t in reach.  With your overall studs like Matt Kemp and Curtis Granderson to name a pair, they are playing all the time no matter what because regardless of what category you need help in, they can deliver.  However when you start to get into the more specialized players, you may have a better bench option even if their overall talent doesn’t quite match.

A lot of these examples will come on the offensive side of things.  If your standings have stratified to where 10 stolen bases can get your six points while you are locked in position in home runs and RBIs in that you can’t catch anyone nor are you close to being caught, then it makes sense to sit Nelson Cruz for Ben Revere even though you would normally never make such a move.  It won’t always be a Cruz-type that you have to sit down, but if your other outfielders are Granderon, B.J. Upton, Michael Brantley and Desmond Jennings, then Cruz is the obvious because he contributes least to the stolen base cause.

The decision won’t always be so cut-&-dried which is why you have to do the work and figure out the optimal lineup to maximize your points.  That starts with being honest about where you can realistically gain points and where you might be susceptible to losing them.  Be conservative with your estimations, there is no value to inflating them because you will just end up disappointed when they don’t come through.

The hardest stats to project and to move are the rate stats: batting average, ERA and WHIP so unless things are really tight in your league, it is unlikely that there will be a ton of movement even with more than a month left in the season.

If trades are still in play, you should make moves the same way you would with roster moves in that you don’t always have to get the most talent back in a trade if that talent doesn’t help you win.  Keeper leagues are an extra wrinkle to consider and there are too many different scenarios to give any specific advice there, but in redraft leagues you could trade a guy like Cruz from our earlier example for a nice haul that would help your stolen bases cause and then some since he is such an impact player.

As always, it is still remarkably difficult to chase wins because of how fickle they can be and while I would still focus on pitcher skills, I can understand paying more heed to a team’s offense, defense and bullpen (three elements that contribute significantly to whether or not a pitcher wins) as we come down the stretch.  I still wouldn’t value Ivan Nova over Felix Hernandez even though Nova has one more win in seven fewer starts with an ERA nearly a run higher, but I could definitely see valuing a C.J. Wilson much closer to Hernandez now than you would’ve back during draft season in March.

This final stretch is when a lot of fantasy leagues are won because fantasy managers get lazy with their teams, even if they are in contentions.  They start to focus on football, especially those who play fantasy football and have their draft in late August/early September.  Take advantage of the diverted focus and continue to put max effort into your title hopes or quest to finish in or higher in the money spots.

The extended vacation and lack of posting was unplanned and I appreciate those who reached out.  I should’ve mentioned it on the site and let everyone know I wasn’t quitting the site or anything.  At any rate, content will continue through to the end of the season.  As we wind down the 2011 season, the posting schedule won’t be daily, but still three to four posts a week (down from the six during first four months of the season.