Posts tagged ‘Nick Markakis’

Tuesday: 02.5.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 17 Days – Alex Gordon

Only 17 days until live game action…

With 30 days to go, I started profiling a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.

Just under the wire! It’s still Tuesday for me. I went to dinner with my podcast co-host and long-time friend Jason Collette and I was pumping out SP Guide work all afternoon so the Countdown got short shrift until after dinner.

Stupid sidenote: the last four Countdown entrants have first names that start with “A”. Isn’t your life better now?

ALEX GORDON

Drafted with the second overall pick in 2005, Alex Gordon was tabbed as the savior of the franchise almost immediately. He was a mix of George Brett, Ryan Gosling (not yet a mega-star, but he’d done The Notebook so throwing him into the mix was betting on the come back then), and a unicorn. He started his pro career in Double-A and obliterated the league in 2006 vaulting himself to the top of the prospect heap heading into 2007 according to Kevin Goldstein and #2 overall according to Baseball America.

He wasn’t even Gosling circa “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” posting an uninspired .247/.314/.411 line in 601 plate appearances. It got better in 2008, but only because he had set the bar so low. Things actually got worse in 2009-2010 resulting in trips back to the minors in each season where he ended playing 30 and 75 games, respectively, split across a few levels. A hip injury in 2009 cost him three months and that was sandwiched by quadriceps and thumb injuries in 2008 and 2010 that both required time on the disabled list. He was not only failing to live up to the lofty expectations, but through 2010 it was hard not to see him as a bust. He’d had a career 95 OPS+ in 1642 PA.

It all turned around in 2011. He finally stayed healthy again and not only had his best season yet (not a difficult feat given what he’d done to date), but also had a legitimate star-level season. He registered a 7.1 bWAR and 6.9 fWAR in his first full season as a leftfielder, having switched over from third base. He proved to be not only adequate out in left, but exemplary as his 12 kills doubled the next best from a leftfielder (Gerardo Parra, 6) and led all of baseball as he narrowly edged teammate Jeff Francoeur by one.

Finally.

Last year’s follow was a bit off the pace, about a full win at both sites, but still a star level offering. Gordon has hit .298/.372/.478 the past two years in 1411 PA with 37 home runs and 96 doubles, including an MLB-best 51 last year. Are his 37 home runs a disappointment? When he was expected to become Georygos Brettunicornling, I think many were looking at 30 bombs a year. Brett only averaged 17 during his career with a 162-game average of 20, but he never struck out (career 7.8% K rate) so Gordon was supposed to trade those Ks for more homers. It took Brett 9196 PA to strikeout out 634 times; Gordon has fanned 641 times in 3053 PA. Different eras and Gordon isn’t Brett so I’m not holding him to that standard, just showing the incredible gap.

In the midst of his prime at age-29 with back-to-back seasons of 45 and 51 doubles, some are still expecting a home outburst as there is an adage that believes a player with a ton of doubles could start translating some of them into home runs with some added strength and/or a bit of good fortune. The thinking being that with 45+ doubles, several are banging off the wall and just missing their exit from the yard. It’s not a terrible notion, but it’s not a birthright if you are a big doubles hitter, either.

Looking at Gordon’s 2011 with 45 doubles and 23 home runs, there are 79 players with seasons of 45+ and 23 or fewer, but only 12 others including Gordon to have pulled off the feat more than once.

gordon1

Hey, it’s George Brett! Gordon is fulfilling the expectation after all! What does this group of players have in common? They never really translated the doubles into an abundance of home runs. Brett’s 30 in 1985 are highest of anyone in that group and he didn’t do it after either of his 45 double seasons. The second name on that list is the one that rings truest when I think about Gordon.

In fact, when I was making my list of which players I wanted to cover for the countdown, I was thinking about Gordon and trying to come up with who he reminded me of after his two big seasons in a row and I kept coming back to Nick Markakis and Shin-Soo Choo. There is nothing with that as both as high quality MLB players. Markakis had run off six straight full season of well above average play (117 OPS+) before being limited to just 104 games last year.

The bottom is that the home runs aren’t coming, not at the quantity that was expected of him as a prospect. He’s going to live in the 15-20 range and may have another season or two where he pushed 25, but barring a major change in his approach, 30 just isn’t happening. He is the prototypical line drive hitter with gap-to-gap power. His line drive rate hit a career-high at 25 percent last year and has lived at or north of 20 for his entire career save that 2009 washout. His flyball rate is on a four year decline hitting a nadir of 32.7 percent a year ago, a far cry from his career-best 47.6 back in 2008.

After spending 172 of his last 312 games as a leadoff hitter, he is currently slated to hit third again with Lorenzo Cain leading off. Hopefully this switch doesn’t prompt Gordon to unnecessarily change his approach thinking he has to be “the man” and go for power in that spot. His work in the 3-hole has been 101 points worse from an OPS standpoint than his leadoff work (883 to 782) and 64 points worse in slugging percentage (.501 to .437).

He needs to stick with his approach from 2011-2012. The move to third in the batting order puts 100+ RBIs into play even if he only hits 14 home runs again. That would be a career high by 13 RBI (2011). Meanwhile he could still score 100 as he did in 2011 (101) provided he maintains or improves his 10 percent walk rate. I think he still viewed as an overall disappointment by some which depresses his fantasy price. Current NFBC draft data has him as the 94th guy off the board, inexplicably behind teammate Eric Hosmer. Don’t be afraid to pay for Gordon, especially at this current discounted rate, but even for a little more should your league price him higher. What he lacks in home run power, he makes up in batting average and runs scored, the two most underrated categories in standard 5×5 leagues.

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Wednesday: 07.6.2011

Practicing Patience: How Much Is Enough?

Being patient has got to be the most difficult trait for a fantasy baseball manager to exhibit year in and year out.  The difficulty is born out of the internet age where you have instant access to every single pitch going on in any game and with that the ability to alter your lineup on a daily basis (in many leagues, there are still plenty of leagues that limit teams to weekly moves).  Of course just because the opportunity is there doesn’t mean you have to take it, but still many fantasy managers see their team wallowing near the bottom of the standings on Tax Day and feel the only appropriate measure is to start tinkering or worse, making wholesale moves.

Others think they have exhibited enough patience if they wait until the calendar at least flips a month over to May.  Still some have a mid-May mark mapped out while some use Memorial Day as a demarcation point.  How long do you wait on a struggling player?  The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no universal answer.  One guideline that has gained steam comes from Cory Schwartz over at MLB Network and MLB.com and it is to take the 26 weeks of the season, subtract the player’s round you drafted him in and that is how many weeks you should wait into the season before even considering a cut.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but for those who struggle with an exact date, this is a quick measure that can help you make the difficult choice.  There are far too many variables at play to give a definitive answer.  Another major factor is your league’s free agent pool.

Often to roster a new guy, somebody has to leave.  There will invariably be roster-worthy guys in your free agent player pool whether they went undrafted and have now acquired some playing time that they are doing well with or they have been called up from the minor leagues and have the talent to make an impact.  Every team has those last few rounds worth of picks that are often fliers and sleepers and they should probably be your first gone if you feel you *must* take a chance on a waiver player hoping that he is the next Jose Bautista.  But even that isn’t always a great idea.  More on those types later.

What I really want to focus on right now is the good players and how much patience they deserve in a given year.  In most cases, 80-85% of your early round picks (say 1-12 or 1-15, assuming 12 team leagues here) are spent on guys with significant track records spanning three-plus years of work.  How long do these guys deserve to be rostered before you cut bait for a flavor of the week? Waiting until mid-May or Memorial Day sure feels like a long time, but is it?

Through Memorial Day of this season Nick Markakis had a .249/.316/.324 line with four home runs, 17 RBIs and four stolen bases.  As a career .297 hitter, he was well below expectations in the category you expect him to excel in.  He was starting to turn up on a lot of waiver wires.  An outfielder hitting .249 with mediocre production everywhere else just isn’t that enticing.  But is that really a large enough sample to turn your back on a 9th round pick?

His home run totals have declined yearly since 2007 and at 27 years old there likely isn’t about to be a massive turnaround for him in that area.  His pace after May 31st was 14 which is actually an increase from last year so that wasn’t on the list of reasons to drop him.  If you had misguided expectations about his power, that is on you.  Meanwhile his 14 stolen base pace would actually mark a four-year high.  The major issue, without question, was that he wasn’t delivering in his best category.

But do you cut a guy with 3202 at-bats (his total after Memorial Day 2011) because he has underperformed his career mark in batting average for 7% (213) of them and that 7% just happens to be at the beginning of a baseball season making it look worse?  Looking at it on a season-only level, he had expired about 33% of his expected at-bats with a .249 average.  Again, it feels like a lot, but he still had two-thirds of the season to get back on track.  He would need to hit .322 over his remaining 67% of at-bats to reach the career mark of .297, does that sound feasible for a guy with 3341 at-bats of .297 batting average under his belt?

Many of you probably realize how this is turns out.  Markakis hit .351 in June with 12 multi-hit games (out of 25), a 19-game hitting streak from June 8th-30th and just four hitless games in the month.  Only two of his five games in July have been hitless while the other three are all multi-hit games including a 5-for-5 effort on July 3rd.  He is hitting .294/.340/.386 while still pacing for 14 home runs and stolen bases.  He’s the 34th rated outfielder at ESPN despite runs scored and driven in paces that don’t reach 70.

In 10 and 12-team leagues, the waiver pools are deep and while I often encourage fantasy managers to practice extreme patience, especially with their studs, it would have been tough to blame someone who gave Markakis one more week after Memorial Day before making a decision.  That was his only lull in the month with all four of his hitless games coming in that week as he went 3-for-24 pushing his average down to .236 for the year.  I bet he was cut a lot in the eight day period from May 31st to June 7th, just before he went on his torrid pace.  Can you blame somebody, though? According to Schwartz’s guideline, with Markakis going anywhere between the 8th and 10th rounds, he should’ve been held until the 15th-17th week area.  Memorial Day week was only week nine, way too early to even consider a cut.

For me, he is this year’s Wandy Rodriguez.  Last year Rodriguez just didn’t look good through mid-June.  He posted a passable 3.65 ERA in April, but that came with 5.1 K/9 and 1.8 K/BB rates.  The strikeouts ticked up a bit in May and June (6.5 & 6.8), but his strikeout-to-walk rates held firmly below 2.0 at 1.8 and 1.6 for the months.  After a June 18th start against Texas during which Rodriguez was ripped for six runs in three innings, his ERA was at 6.09 (the worst since his second start when it was 6.10) in 75 innings.

Overall, 75 innings isn’t a major sample, but it was 38% of his expected inning total and in the “Year of the Pitcher”, Wandy managers watched as several viable starters were picked up by their leaguemates while they held onto the struggling Rodriguez.  A friend of mine asked if he should cut Rodriguez (I honestly don’t remember for who) after that June 18th start.  He is chronically impatient and I encouraged him to hang on through May and early June, but after that implosion I gave him my blessing figuring he had waited long enough.  Whoops.

Rodriguez would allow more than three runs just once in his remaining 18 starts as he posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB in 120 innings as one of baseball’s best pitcher.  His season ERA landed at 3.60 which was an increase from 2009’s 3.02, but in the grand scheme it was about eight extra earned runs which is negligible for a nine man fantasy staff.  Did my friend and other fantasy managers who cut bait in mid-June wait long enough?  Rodriguez wasn’t an elite arm of the Halladay-Lincecum class coming into 2010, but he was certainly in that second or third tier depending how strict you are with your #1s.  Using the Schwartz Method, he should have been held until week 16 or so.  June 18th was in week 11.

Obviously given his league format, a 10-team mixed league, I thought he was patient enough.  I think I would have green-lit his move in a 12-team league, too (by the way, the Schwartz Method is tailored to standard 12-team mixed leagues).  This is why there isn’t one standard answer.  It all depends on league size, league rules and who is available.  This is more of a thought exercise than a piece filled with answers.  My stance is and always will be to error on the side of too patient, especially with your better, more proven players (i.e. guys with legitimate three-plus year track records).

It isn’t just about being patient with your best, though.  What about your sleepers?  You spend all winter crafting your lists and poring over the numbers to find your late round gems only to dispatch them to the waiver after a slow month.  I understand they are more expendable than someone like Markakis or Rodriguez because they were your 20-something round pick, but why even draft them if you aren’t going to give them a reasonable chance to prove you right?

Take James McDonald for example.  He had a strong second half with his new team last year after a midseason trade and many (including myself) liked him for a breakthrough season under the radar in Pittsburgh.  He was available very late in just about any league (even NL-Only leagues unless you encountered an owner or two who felt the same way and pushed the bidding or draft position up a bit).

He was toting a 7.66 after April with more walks than strikeouts.  Even allowing for the fact that his stretch run in 2010 was a sample size of just 64 innings, it was still much larger than the 19-inning sample many used as grounds for cutting him after his April 21st start where he was bombed out for eight runs in just three innings.  He has a 2.95 ERA in 73 innings since April 27th.  In fairness, the WHIP is very high at 1.49 due mostly to his walks, but he has delivered a strong 7.2 strikeout rate.  He was almost certainly your final pitcher selected so it wouldn’t have tanked your season to see things through for more than 20 innings or even ideally at least 60-65.

What about Erik Bedard?  It has never been about talent with Bedard, only health.  You knew the Mariners were going to ease him into things in an effort to get as much out of him as they can considering how injury-riddled his Seattle tenure has been thus far.  He didn’t go more than five innings in any of his first four starts and carried a 7.71 ERA into his April 27th start.  Home runs were destroying him (seven allowed in four starts including two in each of his first three).  His HR/FB rate was 16%, odd for a guy who only once topped 9% in his career (12% in 2007).

Over the next two months, from April 27th to June 27th, he posted a 1.77 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 8.6 K/9 and 4.5 K/BB in 71 innings.  You took a flier him obviously recognizing his talent and the low cost on draft day.  Why not see it through more than four starts at the beginning of the season?  I am not saying everyone cut him, but I can speak to his availability being significant because he featured in Trolling the Wire for his May 8th, 25th, June 1st and 5th starts and I don’t recommend anybody that isn’t widely available (50% or more) at all three of the major outlets.

So we have run the gamut here.  From star-level players to young sleepers to injury risk talent and the one conclusion I think we can come to is that Tax Day, May 1st and May 15th are all out as viable “patience points”.  Tax Day was never viable… never, ever, ever, but I guarantee you some names will hit the wire two weeks into next season that will end up being major contributors for a different team in your league.  As for May 1st and May 15th, I just don’t know how you can reasonably say that they are legitimate samples from which to make a decision as large as cutting a player.

Your league format will play a role, but even then I think only May 15th should be the only those three early dates to come into play because if your league’s waiver wire is that deep, it is still going to have talent in mid-May so you can least hold out that long before making major cuts that could come back to hurt you.  What everyone needs to understand is that even mid-May or the end of May simply might not be long enough when you are dealing with all single digit and early double digit round picks.  That should sound like “no duh” advice, but playing in a wide variety of leagues year in and year out, I see guys released who have no business being on waiver wires before the first day of summer.

Just this year I saw a fantasy manager, who prides himself on being patient, cut Markakis on June 9th to get out in front of the latest prospect, Anthony Rizzo.  Guess who that idiot was?

 

Me.

Monday: 05.23.2011

Sunday Twidbits: May 22nd

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s a simple exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.

Cin –  Jay Bruce is 12-for-26 w/3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R in his last 7; hitting .319 w/7 HR in May. Hope you were patient thru slow April (.237, 4 HR).

Cle –  Asdrubal Cabrera has 200% more HRs (9) than last yr (3); topped last yr’s RBI total (29 in 97 G) w/his 31st in his 44th gm.

Cle2 –  A.Cabrera is the latest member of the Paul Sporer Year Early Team; loved him for a breakout. I’m tellin ya, my ’11 rosters=’12 cheatsheets

Cle3 –  Josh Tomlin has the largest ERA-FIP disparity in MLB. He will implode bc .175 BABIPs & 85% LOB%s don’t last. Trade now… for anything.

NYM –  Carlos Beltran hitting .281/.380/.534 is = or > career #s & on pace for 28-88. Scared of inj? Trade for full value as #s warrant nice return.

NYY –  Brett Gardner was hitting .145 on Apr 28 & popping on wires; hitting .369/.455/.492 w/14 R, 11 RBI, 3 SB and 1 HR since.

NYY2 –  Gardner (cont.) – Cut guys after 62 AB & you deserve to lose… regardless of lg. format.

Hou –  With Astros O exceeding expectations, Michael Bourn‘s value is higher than usual. Elite SBer (59 pace), but also on pace for 100 R.

Tor –  Need Ks but can afford a bit of an ERA hit? Buy Brandon Morrow. He’s -0.10 on ERA, but huge in Ks, espec. if cat. is bunched in your lg.

Tor2 –  Jays getting .186/.242/.291 at 3B w/25th-worst D. Brett Lawrie & his .346/.403/.633 line w/11 HR, 29 XBH & 9 SB CAN’T be far off. Speculate.

TB –  Might consider selling Jeremy Hellickson & his wobbly 3.18 ERA. Built upon sub-2.0 K/BB, .250 BABIP & 6% HR/FB (43% FB); 3.81 FIP = danger.

TB2 –  Hellickson (cont.) – If you’re contending in kpr lg w/cheap Helly, even better to trade bc you could net an absolute mint.

Flo –  Leo Nunez has been arguably baseball’s best closer this yr. in a yr when it’s been espec. rocky. His skills last yr. predicted future success.

Tex –  Elvis Andrus was 32-47 SB last yr. along w/.301 SLG causing some to sour on the 22 y/o SS. He’s 15-15 SB & on pace for 55, 3 < than Hanley.

Phi –  Dom Brown punished AAA SPs going .341/.431/.537 in 11 G. Could be worth spec in offense-starved ’11 despite sub-.200 car. avg (in 66 AB).

Det –  DET bullpen is toting a 6.03 ERA w/only Valverde doing well. Schlereth has 3.00 ERA, but sub-1.0 K/BB & 6.58 FIP. Need Benoit to compete.

Pit –  Andrew McCutchen is hitting .311/.378/.554 in May w/3 HR, 12 RBI, 13 R & 3 SB. Slow April is behind him.

Was –  Jason Marquis has rejoined us on Earth in May w/6.26 ERA; control has left him (3.1 in May; 1.3 in Apr). I never believed, no reason to now.

Bal –  Nick Markakis is hitting .329 in May & .433 in last 7. .278 OBP (B.Roberts-.273) out of leadoff spot has stifled RBI opps during stretch.

Col –  Jhoulys Chacin has carried ’10 skill over (same K/BB), added a ton of GB (47% to 59%) & become COL ace. ERA might tick up a bit from 2.66.

Mil –  Jonathan LuCroy isn’t widely owned at any outlet yet has an .863 OPS w/4 HR & 18 RBI in 100 AB; .320 AVG WILL sink, but pwr worth spec.

LAD –  Don’t let a pair of stars fool you, LA is a must-start against for even your marginal SP. NL’s worst offense in May; 2nd-worst all yr by R.

Chw –  Matt Thornton has allowed 1 ER in 5.3 IP across 6 APP in May. Santos has just 1 meltdown, but mark my words: Thornton will close again in ’11.

StL –  Jaime Garcia‘s emergence & rise of Yadier Molina, Jon Jay & Allen Craig on O has more than made up for Waino loss; resulting in NLC lead.

KC –  May has brought Jeff Francoeur‘s descent into Francoeurdom (.239); though HRs stick & could lead to 6yr high. Has real value in pwr-less 11.

Atl –  Remember when Nate McLouth was “back”? Was hitting .287/.384/.417 thru 5/4. Hitting .143/.226/.196  w/1 HR, 1 RBI & 4 R since.

Atl –  If McLouth has a 30+ G stretch of .287 during the season, no one bats an eye, but to start seas. some think it means more. It doesn’t.

LAA –  Jordan Walden has labored thru May (6.75 ERA in 8 IP) w/3 BSv, but also 3 SV & 9 K. Only lefty Scott Downs has excelled, but unlikely for role.

Oak –  Trevor Cahill has allowed >2 ER just once. K rate has come back down (6.3 K/9 in May), but still capable of big K gm (5-7-1-6)

SF –  Remember worrying about Tim Lincecum? Velo is highest in 3 yrs (93), ERA career best (2.06), allowed 0-1 ER in 6 of 10 GS. Remains elite.

Sea –  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. Widely available.

SD –  SD has 4 RP w/21+ IP of 1.16 WHIP or better and 2.6 K/BB or better. Doesn’t incl. Bell & Gregerson. Expect major activity at trade deadline.

Min –  Jason Kubel is the only Twins player with 50+ AB w/an OPS over .708 which also means he’s the only one w/an OPS higher than Joey Bats’ SLG!

Ari –  Ryan Roberts is on pace for 25 HR, 21 SB, 81 R and 74 RBI yet still not fully owned. Check your wire. Better than 1.0 K/BB is impressive, too.

Chc –  Matt Garza has used massive K & GB surges (11 K/9, 48% FB-both car. highs) to post solid 3.72 ERA, but HR correction (2.4 HR/FB%) will sting.

Chc2 –  Garza has a sky-high BABIP (.362) bc of terrible IF defense, but regression of BABIP & LOB% will only balance HR/FB at best. Hold, don’t buy

Chc3 –  After another big April, Kosuke Fukudome doing his usual slide back. .226 in May with 1 (!!!) RBI. He had 2 in April. That’s hard to do.

Bos –  Some people hate owning DH/U-only guys so David Ortiz & his 32 HR pace (& .294 AVG) could be had at a nice price. Inquire.

Wednesday: 03.23.2011

2011 Bold Predictions-Part 1

One of the more exciting things to think about as the season approaches is which players are going to have the break through seasons?  Who are going to be this year’s Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto and Jose Bautista or David Price, Jaime Garcia and Ubaldo Jimenez?  For the past few years I have tried to answer that question with “Bold Prediction” columns over at Fanball.  I could’ve sworn I posted at least the 2009 iteration here, too, but I can’t seem to find after an extensive search.

I’m hardly the only one undertaking this task as Ron Shandler and crew have their Longshot Caucus over at BaseballHQ.com and Matthew Berry has his You Heard Me! piece over at his page on ESPN.  I believe he will be releasing that soon and it’s always a fun read.  Both are, in fact.  Hopefully I am able to deliver to that end as well.

In case you don’t remember from previous versions over at Fanball, the bold predictions column isn’t a bunch of aimless predictions, but rather it looks at a player’s whole profile, in the pros and minors, and tries to project out some best case scenarios for them.  These aren’t surefire bets, they are longshots that need a myriad of factors to go right if they are to happen.  You should reasonably expect between 15% and 20% of them to come to fruition.  The point is to get you thinking outside of the box(score) and not focus so much on what we’ve seen, rather entertain what we could see.

I am not going to have the Brady Anderson 50 home run season-type prediction in here because nothing in his profile would’ve told me that was possible so I wouldn’t project it.  Some of these may be “duhs” to you which simply means you’re already looking at possible outcomes beyond what we’ve seen to date.  In the end if there is a prediction you agree with and it causes you to go the extra buck on a guy and outperforms his cost, but doesn’t necessarily meet the exact figure in the prediction, it’s still a win (i.e. I had Gio Gonzalez projected for 175 Ks last year coming off of a season in which he had a near-6.00 ERA.  He finished with 171 and a 3.23 ERA.  If you bought in, you certainly profited significantly).

Some of the other calls from last year include:

  • Shaun Marcum will pick up right where 2008 left off
  • Luis Valbuena will hit 18 HR and steal 18 bases
  • Juan Pierre will steal 70 bases
  • Kelly Johnson will hit 21 HR and .300
  • Manny Ramirez will hit 40 HR
  • Nate Schierholtz will hit .320 with 15 HR
  • Ubaldo Jimenez wins 20 games
  • Billy Wagner will save 40 games (“And might very well be the league’s best closer.”)
  • Mike Stanton will hit 17 HR
  • Mike Jacobs will hit 35 HR
  • Lastings Milledge will hit 20 HR, steal 20 bases
  • Joey Votto will hit 35 HR, drive in 120 runs

That’s a decent sample of wins and losses.  As you can see, some were incredibly far off the mark by October, but you could have envisioned a scenario where they came true and you wouldn’t have have been utterly baffled as to how like you probably were after Ben Zobrist’s 2009 line of .297, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 91 R and 17 SB.  Yes, I highlighted some of the big wins there.  I definitely did not have a 58% success rate as this sample of 12 might lead you to believe.  In fact, I went 18-for-73 yielding a 25% success rate.  Let’s see if we can top that for 2011:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles:

J.J. Hardy hits a career-high 33 home runs – A bum wrist (and other various bumps & bruises) have sapped his power the last two years after a pair of mid-20s home run seasons in Milwaukee back in 2007 and 2008.  He moves to a very hitter-friendly ballpark and he is reportedly finally 100% healthy and clear of the wrist issues.  He is in the midst of his prime and I’m buying the clean bill of health.  He is going very late in fantasy drafts at the most scarce position on the diamond.  If you out on the “studs” at short in an AL-Only, wait on Hardy.

Zach Britton pitches 120+ quality innings at the big leagues – His absurd sinker and devastating slider are major league ready while his changeup is catching up quickly.  He will almost certainly start the season in AAA, but he shouldn’t be there long.  The O’s rotation is hardly stable as it currently stands so once the Super 2 Deadline passes, he should be inserted into the big league rotation where I think he will be an instant success.  “Quality innings” is a bit vague so to clarify, I’m thinking he can net a 3.50ish ERA (give or take .15 for random variance) with 6.5 K/9 and 2.0+ K/BB.  The strikeouts will rise as he gains experience, but he will utilize that sinker to induce a ton of groundballs as he gains his feel for the big leagues.

Nick Markakis finally has the .300-30-100 season – I made this one last year and I’m headed to the well again.  I was only off by 18 home runs and 40 RBIs last year!  Joking aside, he is just too good of a player to be hitting 12 home runs in a season.  A 30-home run season would be seven higher than his previous career high and 10 more than his last three seasons.  He is still at the front end of his prime so don’t rule out an explosion that would shock the narrow-minded.

Jake Fox’s regular season home run total won’t match his Spring Training total… – … because he’s not good.  He has eight as of this writing and even if he doesn’t hit another one this spring, he still won’t top that figure in the 2011 regular season.  Don’t waste your money.

Boston Red Sox:

Jacoby Ellsbury hits .320 with 16 HR – The speed will be there, too, but with a career high of 70 there is nothing that would be all that bold.  If he met this projection, he would be a Carl Crawford-lite.

Jon Lester posts a 2.50-2.75 ERA with 24 wins en route to an AL Cy Young – I had too many wins-based predictions for pitchers last year which was dumb because I’m always beating the “skill doesn’t always translate to wins” drum so I was leaving the projection in the hands of the offenses, defenses and bullpens when I was really trying to comment on the pitcher’s skill.  I included the 24-win mark in Lester’s prediction because I think he has the appropriate backing of offense, defense and bullpen to reward his increasingly excellent skill.

New York Yankees:

Alex Rodriguez hits 52 home runs – It’s hard to really predict anything that can reasonably be considered bold with A-Rod, but he’s 35 years old and has back-to-back 30 home run seasons leading many to believe he is firmly into his decline phase.  There is some skill erosion, but the decline is much smoother with transcendent players like A-Rod and I think he has at least one more MVP-type season in him.  He is a bona fide bargain at a very thin position as he goes mid-to-late second round in many leagues.  The best part about A-Rod, other than the fact that he’s finally healthy again, is that there’s a very high floor so why not invest?

Nick Swisher hits 38 home runs – He’s actually getting better the deeper he goes into his prime and though he hasn’t topped 29 in the last four seasons and 38 would be a career-high, the potential is there especially in that park.  He’s another guy with a high floor having played 150+ games each of the last five seasons.  The batting average isn’t quite the risk that many make it out to be as his .219 season in 2008 is now the clear outlier of his career.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Evan Longoria hits .324-41-133 – No, I’m not among those freaking out about his 11 homer  drop from 2009 to 2010.  After all, his OPS dropped a whopping .010 to .879.  This guy is a superstar and as such he will have some truly excellent seasons in his career.  I am looking at his age 25 in 2011 as the first such season.  All three figures would be career highs and while it wouldn’t necessarily come out of nowhere as he’s a clear first round pick, it would definitely be a profit-laden season.  Some outlets have questioned his mid-first round status, but I think it’s justified even if he “just” repeats 2010 because third base is so lame after the star cut.

James Shields posts a 3.25 ERA – His base skills actually showed significant improvement in 2010 yet his surface stats were the worst of his career because of an atrocious 1.5 home run rate.  He’s not a flyball-heavy pitcher, in fact he’s had a sub-40% flyball rate each of the last three years, yet when someone got a hold of one it was gone.  His skills are just too damn good for a 5.18 ERA or even the 4.14 ERA from 2009. I’m seeing a major course correction.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Ricky Romero shaves nearly a full walk off of his control rate and takes his ERA below 3.00 – I could see the strikeouts rising up above eight per game, but I’m not betting on it just yet as he seems to understand that inducing groundballs is the more efficient way of pitching.  I love that he has the groundball and strikeout in his arsenal.

Travis Snider completes his Adam Lind Path to Stardom – I hope he doesn’t take every step Adam Lind has after Lind’s 2010.  Both had a strong call up, then regressed in their true rookie season and bounced back to average in another half season of play.  Lind followed it up with an explosive 2009 hitting .305 with 35 HR and 114 RBIs.  I’m not sure Snider will hit .305, but he could also top the 35 homers that Lind hit.  I think a big season is in the offing and he’s two years younger than Lind was during his ascension.  Put Snider down for .270 and 38 bombs.  His RBIs will be determined by batting order.

Brandon Morrow improves his walk rate and cuts over a run off of his ERA – With his incredibly electric stuff, Morrow could accelerate his progression with improved command.  Regardless of how much he can improve his walk rate, I think there is a legitimate ceiling on Morrow’s 2011 because the Jays will cap his innings.  I could see the cap ending up somewhere around 175.  In a surprise announcement today, he will start the season on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.  Hopefully this curbs his value a few days before one of the biggest draft/auction weekends of the season.  As I mentioned re: Kevin Slowey yesterday, don’t draft for April.  If anything, take advantage of any inherent discount brought on by his missing a start or maybe two.

Next Up: AL Central

The goal is to put these up throughout the day tomorrow.  I didn’t realize how lengthy they were going to get as I originally intended to go AL/NL in a two-parter.  That would’ve been too long (that’s what she said) so I’m breaking it up by division.  I will also have my Middle Reliever Guide out this week.  I was hoping for today, but again this project expanded a bit more than I expected.

Tuesday: 03.22.2011

Walking the Walk

Have you ever wondered how much analysts follow the advice they dole out?  I get curious sometimes when I’m listening to various podcasts or reading different sites.  In case that is something you have wondered about me, I wanted to share some information from a 15-team mixed league draft I just completed.

All told, I drafted five of the pitchers from the list of 18 favorites for 2011:

Chad Billingsley (95th overall, 7th round)

Ricky Romero (176th overall, 12th round)

Edwin Jackson (245th overall, 17th round)

James McDonald (296th overall, 20th round)

Tim Stauffer (326th overall, 22nd round)

I had a few others queued up and watched as they were swiped right before I could take them.   Of the many interesting picks throughout the draft, one that is pertinent to this discussion was Brandon Morrow being taken 101st overall (7th round).  Remember what I said about him yesterday, “I think he is getting a little trendy raising his value, but that doesn’t dissuade me.”

Going that early does dissuade me.  I like him a lot, but I have my limits.  Notable names taken shortly after him that I value higher include: Shaun Marcum, Wandy Rodriguez, Colby Lewis, Brett Anderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Romero.  And that was just in the subsequent two rounds.  In a 15-team draft, you will have to extend out at times to get your target, but that was a bit egregious as far as I’m concerned.

Even though there is a near-100% chance nobody cares, here’s how my whole team turned out.  I picked 5th and it’s a hold + saves league otherwise standard 5×5 categories:

C – J.P. Arencibia

C – A.J. Pierzynski

1B – Billy Butler

2B – Omar Infante

3B – Evan Longoria

SS – Derek Jeter

CI – Gaby Sanchez

MI – Danny Espinosa

OF – Shin-Soo Choo

OF – Ichiro Suzuki

OF – Jay Bruce

OF – Nick Markakis

OF – J.D. Drew

UT – Adam Lind

BE – Juan Uribe

BE – Mark DeRosa

BE – Bill Hall


P1 – Chad Billingsley

P2 – Ricky Romero

P3 – John Lackey

P4 – Edwin Jackson

P5 – James McDonald

P6 – Tim Stauffer

P7 – Aroldis Chapman

P8 – Mike Adams

P9 – J.J. Putz

BE – Rick Porcello

BE – Randy Wells

BE – Jordan Walden

BE – Bobby Jenks

Miguel Cabrera was available at 5, but I went with Longoria because third base dries up in a hurry and I didn’t think Ryan Zimmerman would make it back to me in the 2nd round (I was right, he went 5 picks before me in that round).  I was going to build my infield with Dustin Pedroia in the 2nd round, but he went the pick before more so I shifted to outfield with Choo.  The same exact thing happened in the 3rd round as I was looking infield again with Jose Reyes and he went three picks before me so I shifted again to the outfield.

I think the depth/scarcity of outfield is consistently misperceived in these leagues with five outfield spots.  I do think there is some scarcity within the position in that middle area so I decided to build a beastly outfield since I covered the two scarcest positions very well (Longoria) and pretty well (Jeter).

I trust myself enough with pitching that I can work with this group and on the wire to put together a strong staff.  I would rather have enough offense at the outset and have to work on the pitching aspect than vice versa.  Consider one team that has Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, Tommy Hanson, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Marmol, Brian Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon giving them the makings of a tremendous staff, but a severely lagging offense after Miguel Cabrera including an outfield “highlighted” by Brett Gardner along with Franklin Gutierrez, Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce and Seth Smith.

That’s just one example, of course.  But I got “my guys” on that pitching staff and if they perform as I expect/hope, I may not have to do much work on the wire, anyway.

Wednesday: 02.2.2011

Daily Dose: February 2nd

I woke up this morning to something you don’t often (ever?) see in Austin, TX: rolling blackouts.  It’s Coldpocalypse  2011 here in Central Texas and it sucks.  No, it’s not as bad as the feet of snow being dumped on the Midwest and Northeast, but it’s all about context.  I don’t live in those places for a reason.  I hate cold weather and so 15 degrees with a wind chill of 0 is my own personal winter hell.  Oh for those who don’t know, I grew up in Detroit where obviously I went through plenty of blistering winters.  The fact is I lived there from 0-14 and you just don’t have the same disdain for inclement weather at that age that you do as an adult.

I can’t fathom how anyone would rather be cold than hot.  Give me 100 any day of the week over 40, much less teens.  Sure, sometimes the sweltering heat can be annoying, but it doesn’t instantly put me in a bad mood like freezing cold.  I think heatwaves can cause rolling blackouts, too, but since I have never experienced them in the summer, I will forever associate them with awful cold weather, increasing my utter disdain for winter temperatures.

OK, enough of my frozen tears as I’m sure plenty of you reading this have 9 ThermaCare wraps on your back to alleviate the uncontrollable pain sustained shoveling 23 inches of snow out of your driveway.  Time for the Daily Dose.

One of my favorite articles every winter is the List of 12 by Cory Schwartz (@schwartzstops) from MLB Network’s Fantasy 411 TV show and podcast.  Schwartz developed the list years ago (the original iteration had 12 guys if you can believe that) as a way of identifying potential breakouts in the upcoming fantasy season.  It’s not as simple as being on it makes you a breakout candidate, which is why Schwartz analyzes each of the 15 arms on this year’s list.  There are some very enticing names on the list including Jason Hammel and Shaun Marcum.  I’m worried that Marcum’s offseason trade to Milwaukee may raise his profile a bit when he would otherwise be an overlooked gem.

I swear I’m not a Baseball Prospectus fanboy.  You’re going to have to trust me on that, but I could understand how it might look that way with so many of their links popping up in the first two editions of the Daily Dose.  It was quite fitting on that on National Signing Day, they unveiled a talent-laden recruiting class of their own.  If you’re not already a subscriber, today should be your impetus.

Obviously there is a lot of great free content out there, but your money would be well invested in a BP subscription.  Congrats to entire new group of writers over there, but specifically my good friend Jason Collette (@jasoncollette), who I have known for years and Sky Kalkman (@Sky_Kalkman), who I’ve known virtually for some time as we are both  members of the Rotojunkie message.

One of the debuts was from Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) who took the devil’s advocate approach to prospects by looking at what could go wrong in 2011.  He looked at five Kansas City Royals prospects first.  The Royals are widely regarded as the best system in baseball right now and Parks looked at the five best in their organization, so he was getting at the best of the best and making sure you don’t get too caught up in the hype and understand that it might not pan out as planned right away.

It’s one thing to be a pretty face.  It’s quite another to be a very pretty girl who also happens to be absolutely hilarious and that’s what ESPN’s Michelle Beadle (@ESPN_Michelle) pulls off regularly.  Most recently it was in this excellent Super Bowl Ad video.  Lots of girls are pretty, Michelle is attractive because she seems to offer much more than her looks.  Oh yeah, she’s also from Texas and her birthday is just a day before mine (Oct. 23rd).

Speaking of pretty girls, AskMen has released their Top 99 Women of 2011 and Mint.com does a great job breaking down the list in a series of interesting ways.   I definitely don’t agree with their #1, Blake Lively.  She’s definitely pretty, but not #1 pretty.  Scarlett Johansson remains my #1 with my #2 matching AskMen’s, Mila Kunis.  I was happy to see that brunettes overwhelmingly dominated the list proving what I’ve known for some time: they are just better than blondes.  I’m glad to see they wedged Emma Stone in there with her strawberry blonde/reddish hair as opposed to her natural blonde look which doesn’t look natural (or good) at all.  I couldn’t help but laugh when they listed someone named Whitney Port as a notably absent “A-Lister”.  I thought A-Listers were people that everyone knew?  I had to Google this no-talent hack to find out exactly why I had no clue who she was: she’s an MTV “reality” person.  Who are your favorites on the list?  Any major snubs in your opinion?

I have long detested “reality” TV if for no other reason than the completely idiotic name.  It couldn’t possibly be less real if it tried yet this name has inexplicably stuck.  I was thrilled to see the czar of this genre, Mark Burnett, agree with my sentiment recently:

Muttered the man seated behind me: “Um, it’s a reality show.”

No it’s not! says Burnett. “I hate the word ‘reality.’ I think it’s just a made-up word by journalists. What the hell has it got to do with reality? Reality is me standing here right now. Let’s face it: None of the shows are reality. They’re not really marooned on the island in Survivor. [laughter] But the feeling’s real. They’re not really applying for a job with Donald Trump. I mean, who would?” [more laughter]

IMDB.com released part one of a four-part documentary on the making of The Social Network.  I love behind the scenes looks into things so I was really interested in this documentary especially because I really enjoyed the movie back in October.  My only real problem is that for some reason Rooney Mara, the girl who played Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in the opening scene, is being getting so much attention for her innocuous scene.

I’m so sick and tired of hearing how great she was in her 9 seconds of screen time.  I was surprised she wasn’t up for Best Actress in the Oscars after hearing everyone talk about it.  I’m sure most of it is just to build hype for her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it didn’t make the gushing any less nauseating.  She didn’t steal her scene let alone the movie.  It was standard Sorkin dialogue that she executed well enough, but the hype to performance ratio is off-the-charts.

Podcast Recommendation: First off, I feel like not enough people listen to podcasts.  They are excellent.  They are a much better version of sports radio (mainly because there are no commercials).  Whether you’re new to podcasts are a savvy veteran, you have to subscribe to The Jonah Keri Podcast.  I dare you not to get the theme song stuck in your head after hearing it once, but beyond that it’s just a brilliantly done show.  He gets amazing guests including writers, announcers, bloggers, ballplayers and other podcasters and while most are sports-centric, he isn’t just focused on one sport.  He did a Hall of Fame week back in January where he did five days of shows including ones with Tim Raines and Bert Blyleven.  Keri has put together arguably the best podcast going and yet it’s all of 21 episodes old.

As I noted yesterday, I’m a 2K sports guy.  Of course, since I have an Xbox360, it isn’t 100% by choice, but I’ve been happy with their improving baseball series the last few years.  In the interest of equal time, though, here is the MLB 11: The Show trailer

Knowledge Bomb: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis is likely to fly a bit under the radar in drafts and auctions this year as he not only failed to meet the high power expectations of him (12 HR in 2010), but he fell off significantly from his 2009 figure of 18.  Mix in weak counting stats (60 RBI, 79 R) thanks to an anemic Orioles offense (613 runs, 27th in MLB) and it was a tough season for the 26-year old.  But don’t forget his primary category where he counted to be a high impact producer: batting average.  Markakis hasn’t hit below .291 in any of his five seasons and delivered 629 at-bats of .297 goodness last year.

If you replace 550-600 ABs of a fantasy team’s batting average with Markakis, it is worth three batting average points.  That may not sound like a lot, but when you’re talking about one guy impacting a 6500 at-bat sample by three points, it is significant.  Replacing Mark Teixeira, who had an atypical batting average year in 2010, with Markakis would have been worth four batting average points.

When you are looking to build your batting average, the high volume of at-bats is just important as the average itself.  In the last three years only Markakis and Ichiro Suzuki have managed a .290 or better average in 595 or more at-bats.  You don’t have to necessarily build for batting average when taking one of these guys, they can be your insurance policy to roster a low-average, high-power type like Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds or Carlos Pena who all come at a bit cheaper because of their unappealing batting averages.

Thursday: 01.27.2011

Three Questions – San Francisco Giants

With the 2011 Starting Pitcher Guide slated for next month, I have a jam packed volume covering all the ins and outs of starting pitching in the 2011 season for your viewing pleasure.  Of course that doesn’t do much to address the offensive side of things so I decided to start this “Three Questions” where I will cover some key offensive issues for each of the 30 teams.  There will be more content here dealing with offense, but this is the beginning.

I paid a lot for Pablo Sandoval last spring, WTF?

Yeah that was a tough one to swallow.  He certainly didn’t come close to expectations, but at the same time he wasn’t the season killer he is made out to be, either.  Season killers are multiple month injuries on April 12th.  You can overcome guys who underperform expectations, but still play 152 games.  Plus it isn’t like his season was a complete & utter disaster, he had streaks of excellence mixed in, namely his April and August where he posted 1.008 and .907 OPS marks, respectively.

In many leagues, Sandoval’s down season (.268/.323/.409 w/13 HRs) will actually create a buying opportunity as owners overreact to what essentially amounts to a sophomore slump at age 23.  Most guys aren’t even in the big leagues at 23 and Sandoval has 1400+ plate appearances under his belt.   We have seen the best of Sandoval and we have seen the worst of Sandoval and with his price being driven by the latter, now is the time to invest.  In the SiriusXM/FSTA Draft during their conference out in Las Vegas on Monday, he was taken in the 8th round (101st overall) of a 13-team mixed league.  Last year he was a 3rd-4th round pick.

Third base is still pretty thin so his value won’t completely plummet, but I would consider that 8th round value to be the high end of where he will go in drafts so you might be able to get him a few rounds later depending on your league.  Once you get past the top 10 of Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Pedro Alvarez, Martin Prado, Michael Young and Casey McGehee then I think Sandoval is just as good of a pick as the other guy.

He won’t offer nearly as much power as Mark Reynolds, but his overall profile is much more stable.  He doesn’t carry the age/injury risk of Scott Rolen & Chipper Jones and factoring in reasonable improvement regression, he should be better than them even if they manage to stay healthy.  Bottom line is you should pay for a guy hitting .300 with 18 home runs and 75+ runs scored and driven in, but be willing to go the extra buck or two for the potential he has as a 24-year old still coming into his own.

Andres Torres was a prototypical fantasy All-Star last year, what about 2011?

At 33, we’re not dealing with a growth profile here.  Torres’s 570 plate appearances last year eclipsed his career total by 115 spread across parts of five seasons.  That said, he gave us a taste of 2010 in 170 plate appearances in 2009 when he had six home runs and six stolen bases along with eight(!) triples.  After an amazing July, he sputtered down the stretch no doubt suffering some fatigue from his first whole season.  For 2011, it is going to be all about cost.

I’m confident he can put together another solid power/speed season as a “glue guy” for any fantasy team, but is the price tag going to be that of a glue guy or second tier fantasy star?  Early returns are mixed.  His ADP (average draft position) at one popular mock draft sites is off the charts ridiculous.  He is checking in as the 35th outfielder off the board (116th overall) ahead of guys like Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones, Carlos Lee, Vernon Wells and Nick Markakis.  While I said I don’t doubt he can repeat 2010, drafting him ahead of those guys means he has to repeat for me to get proper returns on my investment.

In the industry draft I mentioned earlier, he went in the 20th round (250th overall) which actually hits the other end of the spectrum as a great value.  I doubt he will go that late in most drafts, but anything before 15th-16th round is really ramping up the risk on your end.  He is a great story who has overcome his ADHD to have success in the big leagues, but you still have to remember he is a 33-year old strikeout machine with solid speed in a lineup that is still only decent at best.

Look for a .260-76-12-55-22 line which has value, but let your team construction dictate if he is a fit or not.  If you have a lot of high risk/high reward youth on the team, then Torres is a great stabilizing vet who’s downside isn’t  going to kill you.  But if you have a veteran-laden team on offense, then bet on the upside of a Travis Snider or Logan Morrison before taking a low ceiling Torres.

Is there anyone off the radar who could make an impact for the reigning Champions?

Yes there is and it is someone who has already been covered in depth here, first baseman/left fielder Brandon Belt, who was my favorite player to watch that Arizona Fall League back in November.  As presently constructed, the Giants lineup is essentially Posey, Sandy and Six Old Dudes.  Now those old dudes came through huge last year, especially in the playoffs and helped bring home a title, but older players aren’t bastions of health.  Injuries create opportunities which is where someone who is just about ready for the big leagues, like Belt, comes into play.

The reason Belt now has left fielder attached to his defensive description is because first base, his normal position, is pretty well sealed up for the time being.  Aubrey Huff parlayed his excellent 2010 season into a deserved contract and though he is 34, he has averaged 152 games per season since his age 26 season.  In that time, he has played fewer than 150 just once.  That said, age is fickle.  But the real opportunity could come in left field where Pat Burrell was something of a savior for that lineup in 96 games last year but is neither young (34), agile (-39.7 career UZR) or super healthy of late (122 & 120 GP the last 2 years).

Belt was a breakout prospect last year crossing three levels before heading to Arizona where he continued to stay hot.  Only 13 of his 136 games came at AAA-Fresno so he will start the 2011 season down there to get some more seasoning so he isn’t someone who should be drafted as anything other than a minor leaguer right now, but don’t be surprised if he earns an early summer call-up to spark that offense.

Make no mistake that the Giants won the World Series because of their pitching and that remains their overwhelming strength for 2011.  The offense is far from perfect and the veterans will have to produce with Posey if the team expects to contend out west and if not, GM Brian Sabean will have to find guys who can with Belt being the best minor league option for the Giants.

Monday: 01.25.2010

Is Markakis Overrated? Not So Fast.

There was a piece yesterday at AOL Fanhouse by an RJ White suggesting that Nick Markakis is overrated based on his average draft position (ADP) of 49th overall and 12th amongst outfielders. He’s surrounded by Adam Lind (43rd) ahead of him and a group including Josh Hamilton (51st), Curtis Granderson (53rd), Adam Dunn (54th) and BJ Upton (58th) shortly after him. His career highs are .306, 106 R, 23 HR, 112 RBI and 18 SB. All but the runs and average came in 2007 while the other two were in 2008. Last year was his worst in the last three, but he still managed a .293-94-18-101-6 line.

I used to be driving the bandwagon that this guy was overvalued and I’d tell anyone who would listen. My biggest issue was that I didn’t see him (and still don’t) getting back to that 18-stolen base level anytime soon and yet many of his profiles on websites and in magazines kept hearkening back to that 2007 total implying it was bound to come back that season. I came around on him when I noticed something this fall. I plugged Markakis’ lows from AVG-R-HR-RBI into Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index looking for occurrences of players reaching each of those thresholds in the last three years. The line, by the way, is .293-94-18-87. A line I don’t think many would consider AMAZING by any stretch but recognize as solid.

The results are what brought me back to Markakis’ side. In addition to Markakis, only Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday have hit those numbers or better in each of the last three seasons. Only David Wright and Alex Rodriguez have done so twice while 21 others have done it once. It’s hard to put a price on that kind of consistency, especially in this game we play let alone on the field for the Orioles. In Mr. White’s article he touts the merits of Carlos Lee (68th) and Andre Ethier (71st), two fine outfielders, as markedly better picks than Markakis. How do they stack up to Markakis? For Lee, he discusses how he is just as capable of hitting .300 as Markakis while maintaining more power (though he recognizes the 4-year decline for Lee). What he misses is that Lee is 33 and likely to continue that decline or plateau for a year or two more while Markakis is 26 years old and entering his prime. It’s not at all unreasonable to believe that Markakis will return to the low 20s or even begin to set new career highs. Another miss from Mr. White is the runs scored column. In 2008, Lee scored just 61 runs but could be given a pass having played just 115 games, but in 160 games last year he managed just 65. I’ll grant that the category is more of a team-dependent one than individual, but it still counts and a 30-run split is significant. I’d bet on the Baltimore lineup before the Houston one if for no other reason than the growth of Matt Wieters thus giving the edge to Markakis in runs scored again.

Ethier is a different matter whereby he matches up better with Markakis statistically, but he also proves my point about Markakis’ power totals likely jumping up in the coming season. To wit, Ethier hit 11, 13, 20 in his first three seasons (spanning ages 24-26) before exploding for 31 last year. His AB/HR in that period was 31.1 and then 19.2 in 2009. Markakis has hit 16, 23, 20 and 18 in his first four seasons (spanning ages 22-25) with an AB/HR of 30.7. With Ethier’s power boost came a sizeable drop in batting average. He averaged .299 for three years before hitting .272, a total of 17 hits based on his 2009 at-bat total. Markakis has hit .298 the last four seasons, but it’s not out of the realm that a power boost would also come at the cost of some batting average. The two were neck-and-neck in runs and RBIs last year, but it was Ethier’s first season topping 90 in both. This is where Markakis’ consistency comes into play again as he’s scored 90+ each of the past three seasons and been below 100 RBIs just once with 87 in 2008.

I think Ethier stands up vs. Markakis, especially 22 picks later. But that brings up one of my least favorite things about ADP comparison articles: lack of context. Twenty-two picks seems like a lot, but Markakis at 49 is the beginning of the 5th round while Ethier at 71 is the end of the 6th. If you have that 49th pick, you drafted first overall giving you 1, 24, 25, 48, 49, 72, 73. Your only chance at Markakis, Ethier and even Lee is that 49th pick based on ADP so the ADPs of Lee and Ethier are irrelevant at that point. When judging the three on their statistical merit alone, I think Lee gets removed from contention based on age-induced decline. Now you’re comparing an ultra-consistent 26 year old entering his prime with an in-his-prime 27 year old who just showed the excellence he is capable of with a career year in 2009. It’s a pick ‘em at that point. The important thing to note is that draft trends suggest that a pick in the top of the 5th is likely your only chance at one of these guys. The other may fall to you with the last pick of the 6th, but it’s a risky bet.

Markakis definitely isn’t being overrated at this juncture in the mock draft season so much as he has been the preferential pick to a host of other comparable outfielders. I’d certainly recommend against Mr. White’s recommendation of taking Lee or Manny Ramirez (62nd) for age-related reasons while Ethier is a coinflip and a reasonable case can be made for either. Among the other in proximity not mentioned by Mr. White, I’d take Markakis over Hamilton and Michael Bourn (64th) without question, I’d take Granderson before Markakis and Dunn, Upton and Nelson Cruz (67th) would depend on my team makeup at that point in the draft. Markakis doesn’t have a standout category like Dunn’s power, Upton’s speed or Cruz’s healthy mix of both, but he also doesn’t have a gaping deficiency like Dunn’s average, Upton’s average and RBIs and Cruz’s runs scored and batted in totals. I think it is that lack of a standout category that causes some to believe Markakis is overrated as evidenced by the fact that Mr. White only looks at his power as compared to Lee and Ethier.

This game is about the balance between accumulating value and mitigating risk whenever possible making a guy like Markakis a strong, but unheralded and often underrated pickup on a team. Not only does his consistent track record alleviate risk, but there is also a viable upside that could come to fruition this season and increase the value of the pick thereby covering for some of the risk that will invariably reside on your roster. Not every pick, in fact not many picks will draw the oohs and ahhs from your leaguemates and make you feel like the smartest person in the room, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad picks or reaches.

Wednesday: 05.27.2009

Around the Diamond – 5.26.09

Transcript from Tuesday’s show:

Podcast can be found here: http://sporer.podbean.com/
or in iTunes under Baseball by Paul*

* – there are two Baseball by Paul listings because I used to have the podcast at MyPodcast.com, but they blew up so I had to move it and start anew.

Note – I said “best well run” re: the Red Sox organization… sounds weird to hear it now. Not sure it’s proper grammar.

FIRST BASE
First base is well known as a power position in the lineup. Many teams have one of their best hitters manning first base and it isn’t necessarily important that they man it well on the field so long as they swing a sweet stick in the middle of the lineup. The Major League average SLG at 1B is .490 so far this season (it was .463, .464 and .488 the past three seasons), yet 14 teams are below that mark. Worse yet is that 9 teams are below .450 including four below .410. San Francisco is getting a .290 SLG from their 1B—nice work there by Travis Ishikawa and Rich Aurilia. Even Emilio Bonifacio has a .304 SLG.

SECOND BASE
Jayson Nix
banged his 3rd and 4th home runs of the night, but even more notable is that his brother also hit his 4th of the year. Cincinnati’s Laynce upped his average to .287 with a 2-for-4 effort that included that 4th home run. I’m sure the DiMaggios-Joe, Dom and Vince-pulled off the feat a few times in their career. As I’m sure Cal and Billy Ripken did SEVERAL times! OK maybe not. Billy had 20 home runs in 3015 ABs spanning 12 seasons.

SHORTSTOP
Jason Bartlett
is headed to the disabled list along with his double play partner Akinori Iwamura, who will actually miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The Rays are M*A*S*H unit right now with a quarter of their 25-man roster disabled. Bartlett is probably the most damaging loss at this point. He has been amazing at the dish including a 1.127 OPS in May, which is best among all shortstops and 9th in the majors.

THIRD BASE
Garrett Atkins
was rumored in potential trade talks this offseason, but now it will be next to impossible to get much in return thanks to his awful start to the 2009 season. His disgustingly bad May in which he has a .399 OPS have sunk his season totals to .190/.273/.293. How does such a potent run producer just fall off at age 29, especially playing half of his games in such a favorable home park? His 2B, HR, RBI, BB, AVG, OBP and SLG totals are all in a three-year decline. He’s relatively young so he might not be toast, but a slide like this in this era can only lead to one question: did he have “help” during the 2006-2007 heydays? Who knows, but something is seriously wrong with Garrett Atkins.

CATCHER
Joe Mauer
has the May Triple Crown right now with a .444 batting average, 11 HR and 31 RBIs. He has done so with fewer AB than any of the other HR leaders in the top 10 except ARod (7 in 58 AB). In fact, he’s actually got a Quadruple Crown when you factor in his 25 runs scored. He has been just brilliant. And he’s not the only one. According to Noah Coslov of MLB.com’s Twitter, the Twins have homered in 9 straight games. The last time they accomplished such a feat was a 12-game streak all the way back in July of 2002. During yesterday’s broadcast, Detroit Tigers announcer Dan Dickerson said “The Royals are Detroit’s closest competition in terms of games back, but any Tigers fan knows it’s the Twins you always worry about.”

OUTFIELD

I won’t complain too much because the Detroit Tigers are off to a great start, but remind me again why THEY are paying Gary Sheffield to hit .291 with a .430 OBP and .535 SLG for the Mets? He hit his 5th home run tonight and he appears to be in quite a groove. I realize he was bringing very little to the table in Detroit except for a logjam for ABs and I don’t really object to getting rid of him, just wondering if there wasn’t a better way available to where Detroit doesn’t eat the ENTIRE $14 million while he plays and plays well for another team.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Kansas City Royals might be the top suitor for Jeff Francoeur if the Braves shop him. Question 1: why WOULDN’T the Braves shop him? Question 2: why would the Royals be their top suitor? I know the answer is because Dayton Moore, their GM, is a former Braves guy, but c’mon—Francouer just isn’t that good. And I actually like Frenchie, I’m just being honest. Question 3: Rosenthal mentions that the Red Sox are known to have an eye on Francoeur. The question once again is WHY? I thought the Red Sox liked to acquire good players. They are one of the better run teams so this one perplexes me unless Theo & Co. are seeing something beyond his awful numbers.

PITCHER
Jason Berken
made his major league debut for the Baltimore Orioles tonight and fared alright. He went five allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three. He picked up the win as his offense supported him well with 3 HR off of Ricky Romero en route to a 7-2 thrashing. Berken is one eight starting pitchers to rate in the top 15 for the Orioles organization according to the Minor League Analyst put out by the guys over at BaseballHQ.com and the second one up to the majors this year. Brad Bergesen was the first and he has been beat up in seven starts so far with a 5.49 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. The three best are still in the minors and they are all off to very strong starts. Chris Tillman is the closest at AAA-Norfolk and he is 5-0 in eight starts with a 2.13 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Jake Arrieta is at AA-Bowie and he has a 4-2 record in eight starts with a 2.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 11.8 K/9. And Brian Matusz (I think it’s pronounced: Muh-twos, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is 3-2 in nine starts with a 2.68 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 10.8 K/9.

If these arms pan out for the O’s, the future will be very bright with three of their lineup centerpieces already established in veteran Brian Roberts and youngsters Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Prospect Nolan Reimold has impressed early on with three home runs, the latest of which came tonight. And their top prospect overall, Matt Wieters, is set to debut Friday. That said, they have no legitimate pitching on their major league roster outside of maybe Jeremy Guthrie, so while it would be unreasonable to expect ALL eight prospects to pan out entirely, they definitely need half of them to be prime contributors to their future especially because they are stuck with the unfortunate curse of playing a division that seems like it will never have a down period.