May 2008

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Roundtable: Buyer's Remorse

This week's fantasy roundtable asked which players we drafted in March and now regret.

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Pick Up Colon?

Bartolo Colon's Red Sox debut last night was a success, though the Royals have the second-worst offense in the AL according to OPS.  Is he worth a mixed league pickup?

David Golebiewski of The Transaction Guy looks at Colon's start using pitch F/X data.  Sounds like his fastballs were sharp, and his secondary stuff was nothing special.  Colon is experienced and can at least pick up some wins against inferior offenses.

Next on the docket for Colon: the Mariners, Orioles, and Mariners again.  The Mariners rank 11th in OPS; the Orioles are 8th.  I'd probably use Colon for all three starts.

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Is Daniel Cabrera For Real?

It's easy to write off Daniel Cabrera as a fluke, because he's burned us so many times in the past.  How many years has this guy been a breakout candidate?  Has he finally arrived?  To the numbers...

67.1 innings (3rd in AL)
10 starts (T-3rd in AL)
6.73 IP/start (8th in AL)
3.48 ERA (18th in AL)
3.44 component ERA (18th in AL)
1.17 WHIP (11th in AL)
5 wins
4.6 expected wins
5.48 K/9 (28th in AL)
3.21 BB/9 (29th in AL)
1.71 K/BB (31st in AL)
7.35 H/9 (6th in AL)
.234 BABIP (3rd in AL) vs. .270 team BABIP (best in MLB; .286 was best in '07, .282 in '06)
1.20 HR/9 (36th in AL)
15.0% HR/flyball (44th in AL)
57.5% groundball rate (3rd in AL)

Cabrera has been successful so far for two reasons: groundballs and a low rate of hits allowed.  He has typically been a groundball pitcher, though never to this extent.  The low H/9 and BABIP cannot last; furthermore, the Orioles defense is highly unlikely to maintain their team BABIP.  Cabrera, Jeremy Guthrie, and much of the bullpen have benefitted from this.  It won't last.

Cabrera has changed his profile from a high strikeout/walk pitcher to that of a low strikeout groundball pitcher.  He really improved his command in May, posting a 6.66 K/BB in four starts.  The new Cabrera is better than the old, no doubt.  He's going deep into games now.  Also to his credit, his HR rate is due to decrease.

Cabrera remains a sell-high candidate, because his ERA and WHIP will get worse as more hits drop in.  I wouldn't say he's "arrived," but he's transformed himself into a useful back-end fantasy pitcher.

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Groundball Leaders

It's important to follow the game's groundball masters.  Sometimes when we look at pitching peripherals we look at various basic stats but forget the groundball rate.  Here are the current leaders:

  1. Fausto Carmona - 68.0%.
  2. Brandon Webb - 65.4%.
  3. Aaron Cook - 60.1%.
  4. Roy Halladay - 59.5%.
  5. Tim Hudson - 59.4%.
  6. Daniel Cabrera - 57.5%.
  7. John Lannan - 57.1%.
  8. Derek Lowe - 56.5%.
  9. Chien-Ming Wang - 56.2%.
  10. Ubaldo Jimenez - 55.9%.
  11. Jose Contreras - 55.7%.
  12. Ryan Dempster - 55.1%.
  13. Edinson Volquez - 53.9%.
  14. Mark Buehrle - 53.6%.
  15. Andy Pettitte - 53.3%.

Out of the top 15, 11 have an ERA below 4.00.  The groundballs help explain why pitchers with questionable strikeout rates can still be effective.  Then you have a guy like Volquez, with a K/9 above 10 and a groundball rate near 54%.  That combo is not going to result in many hits or homeruns.  Felix Hernandez and Chad Billingsley are two other young hurlers with a similar if less pronounced profile.

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RotoAuthority League - Best Pickups Last Week

The RotoAuthority mixed league has no transaction limit, leading to tons of turnover at the back end of rosters.  Let's take a look at some of last week's best moves, in my opinion.

  • Ms. Behavin' picks up Joey Devine.  I don't place a ton of value on middle relievers, but I do appreciate this move.  Not only has Devine been ridiculous for Oakland thus far, but he could be in the mix for saves if Huston Street is traded or injured.
  • Greek God Of Walks picks up Jason Bergmann.  Bergmann has ugly ratios due to hits and HRs allowed, but he also sports a 21:4 K/BB ratio.  He dominated the Mets last time out and should be a nice source of Ks all year.
  • Los Genius picks up Edwin Jackson.  E-Jax has a subpar K/BB ratio, and it doesn't match his 3.29 ERA.  But he can get some Ks and that potential is shining through more and more.
  • Men With Wood picks up Jose Guillen.  Guillen tells us he started slow because he showed up to camp fat.  Nice.  No reason he can't hit at last year's pace from here on out, making him a useful 4th or 5th OF.
  • Ms. Behavin' picks up Jose Contreras.  He's not getting Ks, but he's quietly fifth in the AL in groundball rate.  He has a new cutter and some say the old forkball is back.

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Smoltz Setback

You know what the recent John Smoltz setback says to me in fantasy baseball language?  Go pick up Mike Gonzalez.  The plan is still to bring the lefty back from Tommy John surgery later this month.  If he's any kind of decent, I think he moves ahead of Manny Acosta for saves in Atlanta.

Acosta's K/BB is ugly and he's been used in plenty of non-save situations since being named the closer by default.  Gonzalez has the closer pedigree from Pittsburgh.

Maybe Gonzalez never gets a save opp.  Rafael Soriano's outlook seems positive, and he could be back next week.  But you never know; Gonzalez is worth a pre-emptive pickup if you have the bench space and are struggling to get saves. 

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Triple A Hitters To Watch

Who's rocking Triple A these days? Let's take a look.  These guys could have a fantasy impact within the next few months.  I am going to pass on the Quad-A types, though.

  • Jeff Larish, 1B, DET: .293/.389/.622 with 14 HR in 164 ABs.  Baseball America loves his raw power and ranked him sixth among Tigers prospects.  It's not impossible to imagine injuries or ineffectiveness opening a door for Larish somehow. Of course, he's currently blocked by Miguel Cabrera.
  • Jay Bruce, OF, CIN: .363/.392/.669 with 10 HR and 8 SBs in 160 ABs.  The Reds outfielder needs no introduction.  His debut should come in June, but who knows whether he'll mash from the get-go.
  • Mike Hollimon, 2B, DET:  .259/.355/.657 with 11 HR in 108 ABs.  If Placido Polanco goes down, Hollimon could come up and display some power.
  • Ian Stewart, 3B, COL: .289/.384/.645 with 12 HR in 152 ABs.  A Garrett Atkins trade would create an opening for Stewart.
  • Mike Aviles, 2B, KCA: .345/.372/.638 with 7 HR in 174 ABs.  Baseball America sees him as an offensive-minded 2B, though he's behind Alberto Callaspo and Mark Grudzielanek on the depth chart.
  • Dallas McPherson, 3B, FLA: .284/.388/.590 with 12 HR in 134 ABs.  OK, so McPherson isn't a prospect anymore.  And Jorge Cantu playing tolerably in Florida.  But Dallas may still have that 30 HR power so keep an eye on him.  Maybe the Giants will acquire him.

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Season-To-Date MVPs

Which players have had the most roto value at each position?  I used the player rater at ESPN to find out.

C - Geovany Soto.  With his huge power numbers, Soto has supplanted Brian McCann atop the catcher rankings.  We thought he'd be good, but not this good.  Ryan Doumit will soon lose his #3 ranking to Russell Martin due to injury.

1B - Lance Berkman.  Berkman has more than double the value of the next best 1B, Derrek Lee.  He's a Triple Crown contender if he can beat Chipper in AVG.  And seven steals??  Just piling it on.

2B - Chase Utley.  Holding strong.

SS - Hanley Ramirez.  He's moved past the injured Rafael Furcal to take his rightful spot.  Furcal may return Wednesday.

3B - Chipper Jones.  Holding strong.

OF - Aside from Berkman - Nate McLouth, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin.  Quentin was a brilliant waiver wire pick for many teams this year.  The streaky Pat Burrell dropped all the way to 18th.

SP - Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, Shaun Marcum.  Runners up: Edinson Volquez, Ervin Santana.  Cool to see ERA leaders Lee and Volquez matching up tomorrow.  Odds of a 12-10 slugfest?

RP - Joakim Soria.  Knocks Jonathan Papelbon off his perch.  I have shopped Soria a bit and people don't seem to appreciate him because he doesn't have the name value yet.

I am curious - do you have any teams with many of these players?  Who has the most of them?  I had a team with Hamilton, Soria, Volquez, and Lee but I decided to swap Lee for Alfonso Soriano a week ago.  In my keeper league I have Berkman, Quentin, and Furcal.

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Odds and Ends

A few assorted links today...

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True .300 Hitters

Ron Shandler and Co. have determined that true .300 hitters post a contact rate of 86% or better and a walk rate of 11% or better.  Contact rate is defined as (AB-K)/AB.  For our purposes I'll relax the standards to 85% and 10% and see what we can find.  (Interesting side note, Fantasy Sports Ventures just purchased Baseball HQ for over a million bucks.)

Chipper Jones 91.1% 11.4% 0.418
Lance Berkman 87.8% 13.9% 0.388
Rafael Furcal 88.8% 12.3% 0.366
Albert Pujols 89.9% 22.5% 0.355
Sean Casey 93.1% 10.8% 0.345
Ryan Theriot 89.9% 11.7% 0.336
Conor Jackson 92.3% 10.5% 0.331
Joe Mauer 92.0% 12.4% 0.328
Blake Dewitt 87.4% 10.3% 0.320
Brian Schneider 85.9% 10.3% 0.318
Hideki Matsui 86.3% 10.1% 0.317
Yunel Escobar 85.4% 11.4% 0.313
Brian McCann 91.9% 10.5% 0.309
Derrek Lee 86.0% 10.3% 0.305
Carlos Guillen 85.4% 11.9% 0.292
Skip Schumaker 88.0% 10.7% 0.289
Todd Helton 87.2% 15.8% 0.284
Jacoby Ellsbury 88.9% 13.3% 0.282
Alberto Callaspo 94.1% 12.1% 0.275
Scott Podsednik 85.7% 13.8% 0.265
Gregg Zaun 88.3% 10.8% 0.262
Brian Giles 87.8% 14.9% 0.259
Edwin Encarnacion 85.0% 11.4% 0.259
Frank Catalanotto 86.0% 11.9% 0.256
J.J. Hardy 86.6% 10.5% 0.254
Mark Teixeira 85.2% 12.3% 0.254
Cesar Izturis 94.4% 10.4% 0.250
Rich Aurilia 85.7% 10.1% 0.245
Luis Castillo 89.6% 13.5% 0.245
Mark Ellis 88.2% 10.9% 0.242
Ryan Garko 86.3% 10.3% 0.234
Kevin Millar 85.8% 10.2% 0.230
Alfredo Amezaga 86.7% 10.0% 0.229
Shannon Stewart 88.7% 11.6% 0.227
Josh Bard 86.2% 10.7% 0.216
Scott Hatteberg 88.6% 13.2% 0.205
Chin-lung Hu 87.0% 10.0% 0.204
Doug Mientkiewicz 92.9% 11.1% 0.196
Jason Giambi 85.1% 17.6% 0.188
Maicer Izturis 93.3% 10.6% 0.187
Jamey Carroll 85.2% 10.4% 0.185

You can see many nice buying opportunities here with guys like Encarnacion, Hardy, Teixeira, and Garko.

I'm not seeing much on the sell high side of the ledger.  These guys have CRs below 80% and walk rates below 7% but are hitting at least .287, but I still like most of them:

Greg Dobbs 78.8% 5.3% 0.327
Matt Kemp 72.8% 4.8% 0.309
Jeremy Hermida 76.3% 6.4% 0.298
Clete Thomas 77.0% 4.5% 0.295
Adrian Gonzalez 78.4% 6.8% 0.290
Hunter Pence 77.6% 6.4% 0.287
Ryan Braun 79.9% 4.6% 0.287

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