June 2008

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Seth McClung Analysis

Seth McClung has made four starts this year.  Here are the results:

4 starts
21.6 innings
5.42 IP/start
4.57 ERA
1.29 WHIP
5.82 K/9
2.91 BB/9
2.0 K/BB
8.72 H/9
1.25 HR/9

Nothing spectacular here, though his last two efforts have been strong.  You may recall that McClung started 15 games as recently as 2006, and he was awful.  To his credit, his control seems much improved.

But if you want real in-depth pitching analysis, you have to go to Josh Kalk (who has contributed excellent work here at RotoAuthority in the past).  Kalk examined the new McClung with pitch F/X data and likes what he sees.  I wouldn't pick him up in mixed leagues quite yet, but he's someone to watch.


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Expected Wins

Baseball Prospectus has an enjoyable stat called Expected Wins.  Definition:

Expected win record for the pitcher, based on how often pitchers with the same innings pitched and runs allowed earned a win or loss historically (this differs from how it was computed, which was a more complicated, theoretical calculation).

This stat can be used to find flukes and buy low opportunities.  Here are the players who really don't deserve as many wins as they have:

NAME W E(W) Win Diff
Mike Mussina 10 5.5 4.5
Brandon Webb 11 6.7 4.3
Cliff Lee 10 6.5 3.5
Joe Saunders 10 6.8 3.2
Chad Gaudin 5 1.9 3.1
Aaron Cook 10 7.1 2.9
Mark Hendrickson 7 4.2 2.8
Vicente Padilla 8 5.2 2.8
Daisuke Matsuzaka 8 5.3 2.7
Andrew Sonnanstine 7 4.6 2.4
Ricky Nolasco 7 4.6 2.4
Ted Lilly 7 4.8 2.2
Micah Owings 6 3.9 2.1
Braden Looper 8 6.0 2.0

By BP's metric, pretty much no one should have more than seven wins right now.  Mussina is the biggest offender; his 4.27 FIP is actually worse than last year's 4.11.  But all you hear about is his resurgence.  If he was 6-5 with a 4.27 ERA, would you look at him differently?  That's the type of performance you should expect moving forward.

Conversely, these players have gotten the short end of the stick and might be buy low opportunities:

NAME W E(W) Win Diff
Ubaldo Jimenez 1 4.3 -3.3
Jeremy Guthrie 3 6.0 -3.0
Odalis Perez 2 4.7 -2.7
Adam Eaton 2 4.6 -2.6
Aaron Harang 3 5.6 -2.6
Greg Maddux 3 5.6 -2.6
Matt Cain 3 5.6 -2.6
Shawn Chacon 2 4.5 -2.5
Joe Blanton 3 5.5 -2.5
Jeff Francis 2 4.2 -2.2
Shaun Marcum 5 7.2 -2.2
Shawn Hill 1 3.1 -2.1
John Danks 4 6.1 -2.1


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Spot Starters For This Week

Here are some pitchers to consider picking up this week.

Tuesday

  • Nick Blackburn vs. Mariners.  His last start was decent.
  • Braden Looper vs. Royals.  Looper is rolling, but he may already be rostered.

Wednesday

  • Darrell Rasner vs. Padres.  He's facing Jake Peavy, and was bombed last time out against Oakland.  So it's a risky move.
  • Joel Pineiro vs. Royals. 
  • Oliver Perez vs. Angels.  Always a roll of the dice with Perez.

Thursday

  • Kevin Slowey vs. Nationals.  Coming off a strong start.
  • Todd Wellemeyer vs. Royals.  Very risky one, he may not be healthy.

Friday

  • Adam Eaton vs. Angels
  • Jorge Campillo vs. Mariners

Saturday

  • Nate Robertson vs. Padres.  Solid spot start here.
  • Kevin Correia vs. Royals.  He was rolling in April before his injury.
  • Brett Myers vs. Angels.
  • Jair Jurrjens vs. Mariners.

Sunday

To be added in the future.


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A Look At Jorge Cantu

Today's guest article comes courtesy of Jason Collette of RotoJunkie.com.

Every year there seems to be two or three players that come out of nowhere to surprise fantasy owners to the delight of the owners who took that ever-popular late-round flier or dollar days gamble back in March. Most of the time, this strategy involves staring at the supporting skills from the previous season recalling the player’s former hyped status. A great example of this is Carlos Quentin. He was given up for dead in a lot of leagues after disappointing owners with his play in Arizona after the hype surrounding him during his collegiate days as well as during his time in the Arizona farm system. In fact, in my local A.L. league, Quentin indeed went in dollar days this year. An old adage out there says once you display a skill, you own it. Players can slump for long periods, even entire seasons, but if that player once showed a high walk rate, good speed, or solid power indicators for a decent sample size, they could do it again. You will recall Quentin was a disciplined hitter during his prospect days with developing power. For those owners that focused on those past skills and plucked Quentin at the end of drafts this year, they have been richly rewarded this year with his performance.

While that strategy is a somewhat safe play, the more frequently used strategy by owners is to try to find a name of a player that once did something half-way decent when positional scarcity is at its ugliest in drafts. Skills be damned, just finding a player that has a modicum of talent is a blessing in the 22nd round of a standard single league draft. This is how a team ends up with a Miguel Olivo this year or J.P. Howell – two guys that most owners had way down their draft lists after awful 2007 performances. It turns out Howell just needed to work out of the pen to shine (hat tip to Baseball HQ’s Ron Shandler who actually called for him to be the Rays closer this past offseason and predicted the 2008 success) while Olivo has apparently made a deal with the devil. While those two players have been strong dollar days value, the true gem of the 2008 season has to be Jorge Cantu.

Cantu had an interesting career up until this year. Signed as a 16 year old by the Rays, he spent most of his early years as a middling shortstop with bad range and a bad arm. I can remember seeing him play in the Southern League many nights in Orlando as he struggled to hit anything with authority. That all came to an end after the 2003 off-season as Cantu exploded in Triple A with a huge power season that earned him a late season promotion to Tampa where he slugged .462 in 173 at bats mainly thanks to twenty doubles that made up nearly all of his twenty-three extra base hits. Cantu attributed his newfound power to spending the winter working on his father’s farm along the Mexican border eating Mongolian beef. Whatever the reason, the Devil Rays and their fans were not complaining and 2005 was a breakout season for Cantu as he hit .286 with a .497 SLG% mainly as a second baseman. His numbers were good despite some rather awful plate discipline. His patience at the plate was never strong during his prospect years, but it was particularly awful in 2005 as Cantu put up a 3% walk rate on the season. On the plus side, he displayed the best contact of his career as he only struck out in 14% of his plate appearances compared to the 25% rate he had put up in 2004.

The expectations for Cantu the following season were high and he failed miserably. Cantu is a terrible defender, but when he hits, all is forgiven. In 2006, he did not hit or field well as he hit .249 with a .698 OPS in 413 at bats. He doubled his walk rate, but returned to his strikeout problems and saw his power numbers drop across the board. 2007 was more of the same and after the dramatic drop-off, many began to speculate that the Mongolian beef must have been injected with Winstrol or something out of the BALCO labs. After juggling Cantu between Durham and Tampa, the Rays jettisoned him to the Reds where he did very little and was released this past offseason.

Cantu signed with Florida as they were desperate to fill a roster after trading away Miguel Cabrera and not having a homegrown solution for the problem. Cantu went on to have a productive March and earned a spot on the 25 man roster. All he has done since then is put up the best production of his career. At press time, Cantu owns a .296 batting average with an .878 OPS. In looking at the supporting stats, Cantu owns a solid 7% walk rate, has reduced his strikeout rate to 18%, and has taken the Dan Uggla approach to hitting in Miami by going fly-ball heavy. Pundits say the park is pitcher friendly and flyballs go to die there, but Uggla has made it work and Cantu is doing the same. In the previous four seasons, Cantu owned flyball rates of 34%, 37%, 38%, and 33%; this year he owns a 45% rate. That has helped him hit 42% of his balls in play for extra base hits which include seventeen doubles and fourteen homers.

While those numbers are nice, there are a couple of causes for concern. Cantu’s current BABIP sits at .316 but his xBABIP is 31 points lower at .285. He will have a tough time maintaining that .296 batting average going forward as his LD% is a low 16%. Cantu will have to continue to hit balls off or over the wall to maintain a high batting average.

I am a big proponent of maximizing value and avoiding holding onto a player too long. I own Johnny Cueto in two leagues and wonder what I could have traded him for last month after watching him wreck my ERA and WHIP over these last few weeks. Although I do not own Cantu since I am a bitter Rays fan, if I did, I would be maximizing his value in my league. Odds are, 99% of you picked Cantu up somewhere after the 20th round if at all, or spent one or two dollars in an auction. He has already far exceeded your expectations and given you terrific production at this point in the season. The power numbers could continue as his HR/FB rate is at his career average, but the combination of high fly-balls and low line drives and the fact the humid Miami summer is just getting started make me very skeptical of Cantu’s first half success continuing in the second-half.


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RotoAuthority League - Best Pickups Last Week

This feature is written by Jeff, owner of the Volvo Stationwagons.

6/11 – Los Genius picks up Brandon Morrow
Morrow was immediately picked up after J.J. Putz left the Mariners’ Wednesday afternoon game with an elbow injury.  Putz was placed on the DL on Friday, and despite the fact that an MRI showed no structural damage his return date is still uncertain.  Morrow picked up the save Wednesday afternoon and will get the opportunities as long as Putz is out.

6/12 – Greek God of Walks picks up Chris Duncan
Albert Pujols is out for a few weeks, and Duncan was called up to take Adam Wainwright’s spot on the Cardinal roster.  He’s struggled this year (enough to get sent down to Triple A) but still has 48 HR in 921 career PA.  That’s roughly 30 HR potential over a full season; he could be a short-term sleeper with regular starts at first base, free of the pressure of playing the outfield.

6/13 – Santa’s Magic Janitor picks up Kelly Shoppach
With Victor Martinez likely out about a month, Shoppach finally gets some regular playing time.  The power potential is there; Shoppach hit 48 HR playing for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox in 2004-05, but he hasn’t risen above the backup role in Cleveland.  Any regular catcher with some pop has potential in the RotoAuthority league, where the likes of Jason Kendall, Kurt Suzuki and Kenji Johjima are on active rosters.

6/13 – Philly Cheez Puffs picks up Ryan Spilborghs
With Willy Taveras (aside from last night) and Scott Podsednik struggling mightily, Spilborghs and his .405 OBP are likely going to get a regular shot batting leadoff for the Rockies.  While Spilly doesn’t have the SB potential of the other two Colorado center fielders, he ought to score plenty of runs batting atop a lineup that has Matt Holliday back and Troy Tulowitzki returning very soon.


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Roundtable: Injury Surprises

This week's roundtable question:

What injured pitcher and hitter do you think will pleasantly surprise owners when they return later this season?

Our answers can be found here.  I debated going with Clint Barmes for the hitter, by the way.  Who are your picks?


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Prospect Review

Welcome to my debut here on RotoAuthority.  For those who don’t know me, my name is Eric Stashin and I run Roto ProfessorI will be checking in here once a week with an update on a few prospects from around the league.  If there is anyone specific you’d like to read about, please feel free to drop me a line at estashin@rotoprofessor.com.  I will do my best to cover all of the requests as quickly as possible. 

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the first few prospects:

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals – A former 22nd round draft choice, Garcia entered the season ranked as the team’s fourth best prospect by Baseball America, and the team’s top starting pitching prospect.  He started the season in Double A and absolutely dominated there, going 3-2 with a 2.06 ERA over 35.0 innings of work.  He struck out 41 batters, walked 16, and didn't give up a home run.

Once promoted to Triple A, things have been much the same.  He has gone 3-2 with a 3.16 ERA over 42.2 innings.  Overall he’s 6-4 with a 2.67 ERA over 77.2 innings, striking out 79 and walking 27.

With Adam Wainwright being placed on the DL and being replaced by Joel Pineiro, at least temporarily, you have to think that it is only a matter of time before the team turns to Garcia to get a few starts.  With Clayton Kershaw up in the majors and David Price (a future topic of conversation) still at least a few months away, Garcia has just as good of a chance as anyone to be an impact pitcher for fantasy owners.  He certainly has the chance to excel at the Major League level, once given a chance.  You have to like his strikeout to walk ratio and the fact that he has been able to keep the ball in the yard (4 HR allowed in 77.2 innings).  If those stats translate to the majors, it will mean a lot of success for him. 

Long-term keeper league owners should definitely be looking to grab him now, as I think he’ll be making an impact before too long.  Once he gets a chance in the majors, I would take a chance on him in yearly leagues as well if you are in need of pitching.

Thomas Diamond, Texas Rangers – Once part of the vaunted DVD trio of pitching prospects (joining Edinson Volquez and John Danks), he is now the only one left pitching for the Rangers organization.  He’s also the only one not pitching in the Majors, but part of the reason is the Tommy John surgery he underwent last season.  At one time, Diamond was considered by some to be the best prospect of the three, so there is every chance that he could still develop into a top of the rotation pitcher, or at least pitcher for the Rangers at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Given what we have seen from Francisco Liriano recently, I don’t think it is fair to expect him to join the Rangers any time before late in the season, and even that may be too much to ask. 

He has made 4 starts at Double A since returning from the injury, going 1-1 with a 6.88 ERA over 17.0 innings.  Those numbers are obviously ugly, and part of the problem is that he has walked 13 batters.  He also has struck out 21, however, a number that should at least intrigue fantasy owners.  At Double A in 2006, he struck out 145 batters in just 129.1 innings.  He has a live arm and is certainly worth keeping an eye on for the future.

Given the success that the other two DVD starters have seen, there’s no reason to think that Diamond can’t follow suit.  I’ll update his progress again later on in the season, but 2009 could be the year that he not only gets his first taste of the Majors, but makes an impact for fantasy owners.



Looking For Strikeouts?

Today we have a guest article written by Brett Greenfield of Fantasy Phenoms.

Strikeout rate (K/9) is the most telling stat when looking for strikeout pitchers.  It's logical that if you were to pitch 300 innings you'd strikeout 200 batters if you were halfway decent.  But the best strikeout pitchers and the ones you want on your team are those who maintain the highest K/9 ratios. They usually strike out a batter per inning or more.

Because maintaining the high ratio is important, we'll be looking at the pitchers with 60+ innings pitched so far in 2008.  Here's your current top 10 and their respective K/9 ratios:

Edinson Volquez - 10.67
Chad Billingsley - 10.06
Randy Johnson - 9.47
Josh Beckett - 9.46
Jonathan Sanchez - 8.96
Tim Lincecum - 8.93
Ted Lilly - 8.77
Javier Vazquez - 8.68
A.J. Burnett - 8.67
C.C. Sabathia - 8.57

Of this group, Burnett, Lincecum, Vazquez, Billingsley and Beckett all finished in the top 15 in K/9 ratio last year. They are no surprise.

Burnett makes one of the best targets right now. He's been quite unlucky with the amount of runners scoring that reach base. Because he's in a contract year and has maintained his dominant strikeout rate, he could be acquired cheaply.

Johnson may be a surprise to some, but in limited time last year, he actually had a K/9 ratio of 11. He's doing it again and remains a cheap source of strikeouts while healthy.

Sabathia was at 7.80 last year and is up almost a full strikeout. He'll contend for the league lead in strikeouts if he logs 240+ innings like he did in 2007. He's playing for a Santana-like contract.

Lilly was ranked 28th last year so he's a bit higher than normal. He happens to be the second cheapest course of strikeouts to Johnson though.

It's not fair to compare Sanchez to his 2007 stats. He made only four starts and pitched mostly in relief. He did, however, strike out 62 batters in 52 innings. It will be interesting to see how he holds up.

Volquez's success shouldn't come as a surprise to many. He struck out 166 batters in 144 minor league innings in 2007. He made a few starts with Texas last summer and struck out 29 batters in 35 innings. Think about Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. They both came from AL clubs and upon switching to the Reds of the National League, took full advantage of facing the pitcher 3+ times a game. Harang has gone on to strike out 200 batters in each of his last two years with the Reds and is on pace to make it three.  Lilly enjoyed the same success since he left the Blue Jays for the Cubs. Expect Volquez to keep up this rigourous pace and contend for the NL strikeout crown.

I'll leave you with a few starting pitchers who, despite having logged fewer innings, have K/9 ratios that make them worth watching. You may want to go so far as to add them if you are looking for strikeouts.

Jo-Jo Reyes - 8.40
Jason Bergmann - 8.79
Wandy Rodriguez - 7.75
Manny Parra - 7.65
Randy Wolf - 7.65


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Control Changes

Today I've decided to chart pitchers who've seen their walk rate change drastically compared to '07.  I'll do a minimum 50 IP each year, hence Dontrelle Willis' absence.

Improved Control

NAME BB9_08 BB9_07 Diff
Chad Gaudin 2.25 4.52 -2.27
Brian Burres 2.87 4.91 -2.04
Livan Hernandez 1.56 3.48 -1.92
Cliff Lee 1.54 3.33 -1.79
Brett Tomko 1.96 3.63 -1.67
Ervin Santana 1.91 3.48 -1.57
Carlos Villanueva 2.65 4.17 -1.52
Jesse Litsch 1.41 2.92 -1.51
Kyle Lohse 2.13 3.54 -1.41
Carlos Zambrano 2.82 4.20 -1.38
Todd Wellemeyer 2.81 4.10 -1.29
Andrew Miller 4.24 5.48 -1.24
Daniel Cabrera 3.56 4.76 -1.20
Adam Wainwright 1.96 3.12 -1.16
Roy Halladay 1.05 1.92 -0.87
Jamie Moyer 2.16 2.98 -0.82

Worse Control

NAME BB9_08 BB9_07 Diff
Tom Gorzelanny 6.52 3.03 3.49
Fausto Carmona 5.90 2.55 3.35
Oliver Perez 6.20 4.02 2.18
Tom Glavine 5.01 2.88 2.13
Jeremy Bonderman 4.54 2.48 2.06
Miguel Batista 6.00 3.96 2.04
Daisuke Matsuzaka 5.34 3.52 1.82
Barry Zito 5.43 3.80 1.63
Ian Snell 4.52 2.94 1.58
Mark Hendrickson 3.60 2.13 1.47
Erik Bedard 4.26 2.82 1.44
C.C. Sabathia 2.76 1.38 1.38
Chris Young 5.00 3.75 1.25
Felix Hernandez 3.68 2.46 1.22
Kyle Kendrick 3.03 1.86 1.17
Jeff Suppan 4.12 2.96 1.16
Jeff Francis 3.71 2.63 1.08
Bronson Arroyo 3.67 2.69 0.98
Tim Wakefield 4.00 3.05 0.95
Ubaldo Jimenez 4.91 4.06 0.85
Justin Verlander 3.84 2.99 0.85
Chien-Ming Wang 3.50 2.66 0.84
Shawn Hill 3.14 2.31 0.83
Gil Meche 3.39 2.58 0.81


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Pick Up Morrow

Brandon Morrow got the save today for Seattle; J.J. Putz left the game with a barking elbow.  Unfortunately Morrow was already owned in all of my leagues.  He's actually shown tolerable control this year.




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