August 2005

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Baseball > Football

I loved Dayn Perry's column today at Baseball Prospectus.  It sickens me to see all this NFL hype each year just as baseball careens toward the playoffs.  Football is more violent than baseball, for sure.  But it's definitely not more exciting.  Perry says it best:

"All of this is a long-winded way of saying: I can't begin to fathom how any football fan can say baseball is boring. In baseball, we have more action, no halftime, an infinitely better in-person experience, cheaper tickets, prettier girls and better weather. It's often said that football is made for TV. In my mind, that has more to do with the fact that it's a crashing bore from the stands than it does with any native telegenic merits. Whatever the case, most of America disagrees with me."

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MLB Free Agents 2006: Rafael Furcal

Ah, Rafael Furcal.  Overrated, underrated, or somewhere in-between?  How should you handle this man when it comes to 2006?

Furcal is playing almost exactly on par with what Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection system expected.  BP thought Furcal would hit .274 with 12 HR and a .337 OBP.  In fact, he's currently hitting .276 with 11 HR and a .341 OBP.  Not bad. 

The only area in which Baseball Prospectus missed the mark was stolen bases.  Furcal has 38 swipes and could get that number up to 50 if he really wants to.  What PECOTA didn't take into account is that 2005 is Rafael Furcal's contract year.

Furcal will easily set a career high in steals this year, and that can only help in the dollar sign department.  After 2004, Edgar Renteria was coming off a .287-10-72 year, adding 17 steals to the equation.  Unlike Furcal, Renteria does have an awesome season under his belt - he hit .330-13-100 with 34 steals in 2003. 

Since Furcal is three years younger than Renteria, he can be expected to match Renteria's four year, $40 million dollar deal.  The players' defense is probably comparable.  It also doesn't hurt that Furcal has been on fire since July. 

So which team will pony up the cash for baseball's third-best shortstop?  The Diamondbacks and Cubs seem to be the most likely suitors.  The Cubs' interest obviously hinges on the Nomar Garciaparra situation.  We just can't see Dusty playing Ronny Cedeno every day, so the Cubs should end up with one of the two. 

What kind of year should you expect out of Furcal in 2006?  With Ray Durham circa 1999 high on his comparables list, an uptick in power is not out the question.  Think maybe 20 homers on the high end.  We expect Furcal to back off on the thefts and end up with 30 steals, tops.

Unfortunately there are only a handful of 20/30 threats from the shortstop position, and Rafael Furcal is one of them.  If he starts be a more selective, consistent hitter, he may be able to hit .300 as well.  Be ready to go up to $20 on him in your auction this spring.   

Check out all the Roto Authority MLB Free Agents 2006 articles.  You'll find speculation and rumors concerning Johnny Damon, A.J. Burnett, Trevor Hoffman, Brian Giles, B.J. Ryan, and more.   

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Second Half Sleepers - Cincinnati Reds

The Roto Authority would like to start off with a note about the Seattle Mariners pitching rotation.  Aaron Sele's much-needed demotion in addition to Ryan Franklin's steroid suspension today means a spot is wide open for 19 year-old Felix Hernandez.  We've spoken about him many times before, so go pick him up if he's out there.  We're not alone in our enthusiasm - blogger Zachary Geballe considers the promotion of King Felix to be "the most anticipated debut in team history."  Thursday should be an interesting day at Comerica to say the least.

On to our Cincinnati Reds Second Half Sleepers.  What to make of the team's crowded outfield?  Dan O'Brien refuses to alleviate the logjam with a trade.  Sean Casey is a nice guy and all that, but he needs to go.  The Reds made the mistake of extending Casey's contract through '06, so barring a winter trade Adam Dunn won't be shifting to first anytime soon.

Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. will continue to play every day.  Perhaps the Reds expected the problem to fix itself with a Griffey injury, and we wouldn't bet against that.  Only keep Griffey on your team as a fifth outfielder, and don't pay anything to get him.  He's just too brittle.  Dunn is a franchise player and a star, but his batting average won't impress you in fantasy baseball.  It's not a problem in real life as Dunn gets on base frequently.  In fantasy, you have to decide if the 45 homers are worth the .250 average.

How does a fantasy baseball owner deal with Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena?  He acquires Pena and doesn't let go. Kearns had a resurgent July, but it was only 33 at-bats.  He's injury prone and the .315 average he flashed in 2002 was an aberration. 

Wily Mo Pena sits at .263-13-35, and now is the perfect time to acquire him if you're playing for 2006.  Pena looks like a young Albert Belle at age 23, and he just needs a touch of seasoning and some playing time to realize his potential.  He has keeper written all over him - don't miss the boat.

On the pitching side, only Aaron Harang is worth considering.  Besides the lack of wins, there's nothing not to like about Harang's 2005.  And the wins are certainly no fault of Harang's.  The only cause for concern is an impending injury.  Harang has some elbow issues last year, and this will be his first 175 inning season.  He's a solid guy for the back of your rotation but don't rely on him.

Rock N' Roto:  Looking for the perfect summer album you've never heard?  Pick up Caviar's self-titled album from 2000.  This Chicago group will make you chuckle with clever lyrics and rock you with eleven tracks that all could've been smash radio hits.  Cutting guitars, samples, and electronica make for a very original and fun rock album.  Check some choice lyrics from "Goldmine" over at Under The Radar if you don't believe me.

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Rock N' Roto

You may have noticed a new feature here at The Roto Authority.  You see, in addition to baseball, we love to listen to great rock n' roll.  So, we're going to start phasing in some recommended listening we like to call Rock N' Roto.  Check a few of these bands out, download a few tracks, and discover some new tunes today.

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Fantasy Baseball Advice: Duke Nukes 'Em

Three weeks later, it's time to revisit Pittsburgh prospect Zach Duke.  On the heels of yet another dominant victory, we'll look at just how sustainable the 22 year-old's success will be.

When we last spoke of Zach Duke, we implored you to pick him up immediately.   The Roto Authority was singing his praises after two excellent starts to begin his major league career.  We did caution that his ERA would certainly not remain near  1.93.  In a way, we were right:  Duke's ERA now stands at a miniscule 0.92 after 39.1 innings pitched.  Duke struck out just two in today's annihilation of the red-hot Braves, but his performance was still excellent. 

We expected the strikeouts to come back down to Earth, but we also expected the ERA to ascend to the 3.50 range.   Duke has been stingy with the hits and walks, and it's paid off so far.  Throwing out his rain delay game, Duke is averaging 107 pitches per game.  Despite Duke's age, Lloyd McClendon is not giving him the quick hook.  Expect Felix Hernandez's debut this Thursday in Seattle to be much the opposite - he will be limited to 80 pitches and is no lock to stay in the rotation. 

So what to do with Duke from a fantasy baseball perspective?  What can we expect from him in the future? 

Let's turn to Baseball Prospectus's forecasting system, PECOTA, for some estimates.  PECOTA foresaw a 3.28 ERA in 133 innings from Duke as a best case scenario, that is, his 90th percentile projection.   He can do that while maintaining pretty much the same strikeout and walk rates.   An ERA in the 3 range is a reasonable projection for 2005.

What about a long-term projection?  PECOTA sees Duke's top comparables as Mark Buehrle, Rick Wise, and Tommy John.   Duke should be happy to be mentioned in the same breath as these guys at the tender age of 22.  So you're looking at a durable pitcher with an ERA below 3.50 for at least the next five years.  Wins may be hard to come by on a team like the Pirates. 

Should you "sell high" on Zach Duke?  It depends.  Duke's 0.92 ERA and perfect record are obviously over his head.  Still, he's yet to have a bad start and many teams will still be facing him for the first time.  He could easily finish the year 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA.  Even if the success is fleeting, what pitcher could give you better numbers?  Not very many.

Don't deal Duke for a pitcher unless you receive a bona fide young ace, such as Rich Harden, Mark Prior, or Johan Santana.  Since these deals are unlikely, consider an up-and-coming can't miss position player.  David Wright and Miguel Cabrera come to mind.  Position players are more reliable and less susceptible to injury, so if you consider yourself a shrewd pitching evaluator, deal Duke for one of these types.  Names like Jeff Francoeur might seem tempting, but you need top-line proven talent to pull the trigger.

Rock N' Roto: Today we are recommending an obscure, rocking album from the band Ozma.  Ozma's 2001 album Rock and Roll Part Three features eleven power-pop tracks reminiscent of Weezer, back when Weezer rocked.  The album features the best baseball song ever recorded, the aptly titled, "Baseball."  Expect plenty of keyboards and vocal harmonies.  This blogger is right - "Baseball" may well be one of the best ten songs you've never heard. 

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Farnsworth Fallout and King Felix

As with every week, The Roto Authority has penned a new article over at Addict Fantasy Sports.  It deals with the let-down that was the trading deadline and the possible call-up of a young phenom.   

Farnsworth Fallout and King Felix

Check it out!

Also, respected blogger/author Aaron Gleeman has a nice summary up of what few significant trades were made right before the trading deadline. 

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