Posts tagged ‘Chris Narveson’

Wednesday: 05.25.2011

Do You Want S’Morse?

Ham Porter: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?

Smalls: Some more of what?

 

When it was announced in mid-March that outfielder Michael Morse was in line to win a job with the Washington Nationals, he became a darling sleeper for many.  He popped 15 home runs in less than 100 games last year (98) with a solid .289/.352/.519 line in 293 plate appearances.  A simple extrapolation made him a mid-30s home run hitter with 600 at-bats.  Of course, it’s not always that simple.  You couldn’t just pencil him in for 34 home runs assuming that he would keep mashing at the same rate over a full season of work.  However, even accounting for some regression, a new power source was available.

Sometimes there are players who work best in limited doses and when they finally win a full-time job, they are overexposed.  Ryan Raburn seems to prove this yearly as his strong second halves win him a job for the following year where he falls on his face, loses the jobs, plays sporadically through the early summer before turning it on after the All-Star break, earning a full-time job around or just after the trading deadline and restarting the cycle in earnest with insane August and September numbers.

Morse took his full-time job and gave owners a .182 average by Tax Day (April 15th for the uninitiated) and just .211 by the end of April.  He had just one home run, nine runs driven in and four scored with 21 strikeouts against four walks.  It wasn’t going well and though it was just 71 at-bats, it was his first 71 with a full-time job out of Spring Training so doubt among even he’s biggest believers began to creep in.

That’s always a bad idea but we see it yearly, especially with unproven guys.  People get so hyped about a guy and they psyche themselves into his best case scenario, but then give the guy less than 100 at-bats to prove himself before putting him on the chopping block.  It isn’t just with those without a track record, you will see fantasy owners questioning firmly established semi-stars because they get off to a bad start.

Admittedly, Morse’s start was rough and kind of tough to swallow, but in the offense-starved environment we are playing in these days, his power potential still had value and again, we are talking about 71 at-bats!  He had a stretch last year from July 24th to August 26th where he posted a .198/.233/.321 line with three home runs, eight driven in, nine scored, 21 Ks and three walks in 81 at-bats.  Despite the stretch that was eerily similar to his April this year, he still managed the .289/.352/.519 line that made him a preseason favorite.

Morse has come back in phases.  His playing time dwindled a bit, but instead of sulking and letting his season get completely away from him, he got better.  (Truth be told, he may very well have sulked, but what he definitely didn’t do was get worse and have what was supposed to be a big season for him spiral out of control.)

First he has repaired his batting average going 12-for-30 (.400) from May 2nd to 22nd still with just a homer, two ribbies and a run.  You can only do so much in 30 at-bats, but he piled up hits with four multi-hit games and zero 0-fers in the six games he did start.  Then Adam LaRoche hit the disabled list opening a prime playing time opportunity for Morse at first base and in the four games starting at first, he has matched his power output from his 23 games during April.

He has gone 7-for-17 (.412) with three home runs (in three straight games), eight runs batted in and four scored .  His season line is up to .281/.303/.447.  He’s not walking nearly as much (3.3% against 7.5% in ’10) as he did last year and he is striking out a lot more than he did last year (29% against 24% in ’10), but we are still dealing with a 114 at-bat sample and he’s just now getting into a groove.

I often make the point that you have to be patient with your guys early on and this isn’t necessarily any different.  Where it is different is the type of player.  If you want to overreact on Carl Crawford and sell low on him, be dumb and do it, there’s a strong chance you will very much regret it by season’s end if not the All-Star break.  Same goes for more of a semi-star guy like John Danks.  Freak out because of an 0-7 record and elevated ERA and ignore the 608 innings of work that suggest he’s a very good in this league (and that fact that there isn’t a significant skills change within his profile so far this year).

But on someone like Morse or whomever your pet sleeper was this year, why cut bait early?  What is there to gain?  If you trade him, you’re definitely selling way low because you don’t even believe in him at this point.  You might get out from under a struggling star and still get fair market value opting to pass the risk (and potential reward) on for peace of mind, but you’re no doubt getting 50 cents on the dollar to trade Morse when he’s hitting .226 on April 26th.

The question is, did something really change from mid-March through those 71 at-bats taking you from believer to non-believer?  If When the answer is no to that question, the next one is, “then why are you giving up?”  In most leagues where you rostered someone like Morse, what is going to be available to replace him?  Robert Andino (hit .348 in 46 April at-bats; hitting .264 after 91 at-bats)?  Gerrardo Parra (.297 in 64 Apr. ABs; .269 after 134)?  Aaron Rowand (.294 in 85; .246 after 148)?

Fill in a random slug who had a hot week or 10 days but lacks any real potential instead he just satiates your need to get a Mendoza Line bat out of your lineup so you can feel like you’re making an impact on your roster late in April.  Michael Morse might not hit .280-something this year.  He strikes out a helluva lot which eats up batting average potential, but over the course of 162 games he is almost certain to get into at least 135+ games barring injury and with his raw power he should hit the 20+ home runs you were hoping for back in March.

So whether it’s a Morse who started slowly but is course correcting of late or a Chris Narveson who you liked as a sleeper and loved until April 25th when he got lit for seven in 2.3 innings (only to rebound before his latest hiccup…) or a Brandon Belt who got all of 52 at-bats to prove himself (Brian Sabean: the fantasy owner?) before getting sent down to AAA (where is straight up raking), if you aren’t going to give your sleepers a legitimate opportunity to pan out (at least mid-June give or take, especially if they’re adjusting to a new role) then don’t even both drafting them.  You’re wasting your own time.  You’re not allowing for any of the ebbs and flows that come with a 6-month season.

Stick with crusty old vets who you can set your watch to.  Some will emerge from year to year and you may get lucky with an Aubrey Huff and Paul Konerko on the same team, but their name recognition won’t send you running for the panic button at the faintest hint of a 2-for-25 stretch.  Mostly they will just kind be what they are and you can focus on in-season management instead of trying to win big at the auction/draft.  That isn’t necessarily a losing strategy, especially if you’re a nifty trader and good waiver wirererererer.  You’re just doing yourself a favor and cutting out the potential for horribly preemptive moves that you will almost certainly regret by midsummer.

Do you want s’Morse?  If you want power, then the answer should be yes.

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Monday: 05.23.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 8 Tuesday-Friday

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

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

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

MONDAY:  Found here.

TUESDAY:

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

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

WEDNESDAY:

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

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

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

THURSDAY:

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

FRIDAY:

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

Tuesday: 03.22.2011

18 of My Favorite Pitchers for 2011, Part 2

Here is the second half of my favorites for this year:

Part 1

10. Kevin Slowey – Without a spot in the rotation his value is going to plummet, but it’s a buying opportunity.  Don’t draft solely for April.  It’s a 6-month grind and skills almost always win out.  Slowey has more talent than Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing, but to start the season both will have rotation spots while Slowey will work out of the bullpen.  Slowey will be an afterthought even in AL-Only leagues and I would be more than willing to slot in him as your 8th or 9th pitcher for a few bucks and wait for him to win a spot that he deserves.  A 4.6 K/BB rate doesn’t lie.  He’s long been one of my favorite pitchers and a poor decision by Minnesota at the beginning of the season isn’t going to change that.

11. Tim Stauffer – The former #4 pick overall took a while (29 y/o in 2011), but it looks like he’s finally paying dividends on that lofty draft status.  He plays in the perfect park for pitchers, showed a major uptick in groundballs last year (up to 55%) and has seen his team add strong middle infielders (Jason Bartlett & Orlando Hudson) to field those grounders adding up to a potential breakout season.  There is a slight premium on anyone in PETCO for obvious reasons, but Stauffer seems to be firmly entrenched off the radar in most standard drafts.  He went for $8 in NL Tout Wars and could easily return twice that when you consider what PETCO did for someone with lesser skills than Stauffer in Jon Garland.

12. Chris Narveson – His near-5.00 ERA from 2010 (4.99 in 168 IP) is sure to scare most away, but he pitched much better than that.  He doesn’t have the groundball tilt I usually like out of my pitchers, but with Milwaukee’s horrendous infield defense, that might not be such a bad thing.  He has nice base skills, the next step is learning to work with runners on so he can strand a few more guys.  Part of that is cutting down the long balls, too.  I think he takes a step forward in 2011 and ends up as one of those $1-3 glue guys instrumental in a team’s success.

13. Bud Norris – Like Narveson, his skills were better than his 4.92 ERA indicates, but many will pass based on that figure and the team name on his jersey.  I’d caution strongly against that as Norris has the kind of stuff that “out-of-nowhere” seasons are made of starting with his 9.3 K/9 rate being overshadowed by unimportant factors.  Are you one of those owners dying for an upside pick?  Norris is your guy.  The lofty strikeout rate is matched with an average groundball rate and a BABIP and LOB% combo worse than league norms that could be in for positive regression.  Even if he doesn’t take that major step forward this year, his sub-$5 price tag is at worst an even investment with all of the strikeouts.

14. Carlos Carrasco – We could have a budding Sporer Trifecta of Excellence (patent pending) profile on our hands.  It was only 45 innings of work last year, so temper the expectations a bit, but he had a 7.7 K/9 with an elite 57% groundball rate and his changeup was the best pitch in his arsenal.  This is a 3-time top 54 prospect (2007: 41, 2008: 54, 2009: 52) according to Baseball America so the pedigree is there, too.  Like Norris, his jersey will have some shying away or ignoring him completely, but his first full season in the majors could be a big one.

15. Derek Holland – It seems like I have been touting Holland for so long that he should be older than 24.  Alas, he doesn’t even have 200 major league innings under his belt yet here I am again espousing the virtues of this man’s abilities.  He started to come together in a 57-inning sample last year, but the loss of Cliff Lee opens an opportunity for him to finally prove it over a full season.  Although the sample was tiny, it was nice to see him greatly improve on 2009’s ugly 1.7 HR/9 down to 0.9 a season ago.  That’s about the limit for him if he is to have that breakthrough season many see as a possibility.  He’s one of those popular sleepers so be careful if his value gets too high in your league.

16. Jason Hammel – Similar to several guys on the list whereby he has above average base skills, but is missing one ingredient that keeps him from legitimate success.  For Hammel, it’s an ability to work with runners on as he his LOB% actually got further from league average 2010 leaving him with an ERA a half run higher despite improved skills.  You could easily be looking at $10+ profit out of Hammel if leaves a few extra men on base and continues or improves his already impressive skill set.

17. Chris Tillman – Remember when Tillman was the 22nd-ranked prospect in all of baseball?  It was alllll the way back in 2009.  He then proceeded to dominate AAA for 97 innings posting a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 9.2 K/9 and a 3.8 K/BB.  Later that season he was knocked around in 12 starts in his major league debut resulting in an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.55 WHIP.  The skills were nothing like his minor league pedigree at 5.4 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB.  It was essentially rinse & repeat for 2010 with 121 strong innings at AAA then 54 ugly ones in the majors.  He turns 23 on Tax Day this year.  Too often the fantasy community gives up on top prospects if they don’t set the world afire right away a la Ryan Braun or Jered Weaver.  This is a post-hype play going for as little as a dollar in some AL-Only leagues who could end up as a tremendous keeper for 2012 and beyond.  Worst case is he is still not ready in 2011 and you cut bait with little invested.

18. Ross Detwiler – This is my biggest spec play of the bunch.  I just think there could be something here with Detwiler.  He has 278 innings of minor league success suggesting he is better than the 106 innings of major league work thus far.  He is the left-handed Tillman with less fanfare and a few years older (OK, I guess there are a enough differences to make that a bad comp).  Point being he showed enough in the minors to be something of a top prospect and though he hasn’t put it all together at the major league level yet, there is reason to believe he still can and will.  Furthering his spec play status is the fact that he’s not going to have a rotation spot on Opening Day, but the four surrounding Jordan Zimmermann are neither bastions of health, nor particularly skilled at pitching so he will get a shot at some point.  If he doesn’t win a bullpen spot, just monitor him.  But if he does make the team out of camp, he could be a high strikeout $1 reliever as he bides his time for a rotation chance.

So there they are, my favorite 18 for 2011.  There is something in here for everyone regardless of what kind of league format you play in.  I guess the only thing missing is minor league prospects, but I posted 50 from each league just a few weeks ago, so you know who I like there.  I know it’s a big draft/auction week for everybody so I’m trying to get as much material out as possible for your last minute prep.  I have a draft tonight, but hopefully I can get another piece up shortly after it finishes.