July 2008

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Next Year's First Round

What will the average first round look like in 2009 drafts?  To review, here's how it often played out in March of '08:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Hanley Ramirez
  3. David Wright
  4. Jose Reyes
  5. Matt Holliday
  6. Jimmy Rollins
  7. Miguel Cabrera
  8. Chase Utley
  9. Ryan Howard
  10. Albert Pujols
  11. Prince Fielder
  12. Ryan Braun
  • Eight players will probably remain in the top 12: A-Rod, Hanley, Wright, Reyes, Holliday, Utley, Pujols, and Braun.
  • Rollins, Cabrera, Howard, and Fielder are out on account of their less-than-amazing seasons. 
  • Howard should finish with 40 HR and 125 ribbies, but the .240 AVG will be hard for drafters to ignore.  He'd have to crank that up to at least the .260s to sniff the first round again.
  • Based on reasonable preseason rankings, Fielder never belonged in the first round.
  • Cabrera didn't really hit his stride until July.  I could see him surging to finish close to last year's .320-34-119-91-2.  But like Howard, perception of his slow start may push him out of the first round.
  • Lance Berkman could be a new addition, on account of a .340 AVG, 120 runs, and 20 steals.  Can he repeat any of those numbers though?
  • Will Ian Kinsler be 2009's Rollins?  Will Josh Hamilton get in with a 135 RBI season?  Other candidates to sneak in: Grady Sizemore, Brandon Webb.

My projected first round for 2009:

  1. Hanley Ramirez
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. David Wright
  4. Jose Reyes
  5. Chase Utley
  6. Ryan Braun
  7. Albert Pujols
  8. Matt Holliday
  9. Ian Kinsler
  10. Lance Berkman
  11. Josh Hamilton
  12. Brandon Webb

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RotoAuthority League - Best Pickups Last Week

This feature is written by Jeff, owner of the Volvo Stationwagons.  Jeff will be off next week, but will do a double feature after that.

7/22 – RotoAuthority picks up Joel Hanrahan
Tim was the quickest on the draw after the Jon Rauch trade, and his speculation of Hanrahan proved to be accurate (though he initially thought Saul Rivera was the man).  While the Nats are fairly awful and probably won’t generate too many save chances over the rest of the season, Hanrahan has been a pretty solid pitcher, posting average ratios and a K/9 of nearly 10.

7/24 – Volvo Stationwagons trade Jimmy Rollins to Dizzy Llamas for Brandon Webb
The Stationwagons finished the month of May atop the ERA and WHIP categories, but has struggled mightily ever since, falling all the way to 9th in each in tightly-bunched races.  Additionally, the Wagons had fallen all the way to 10th in W, and desperately needed another impact starting pitcher, having ridden their weaknesses all the way down to 3rd place overall after spending most of June atop the standings.  Enter the 2nd-place-overall Llamas, who led the league in W and had ratios in the top half, but needed an impact bat at a MI position.  The Wagons lead the league in R, HR, and SB, so losing Rollins hopefully shouldn’t hurt too badly with Alexi Casilla slotting into the MI position.  As one of the participants in the trade, here is my opinion: Rollins was underperforming slightly based on his inflated draft position, so getting a highly durable, quality SP in return when selling a bit low on my first round draft pick makes this particular owner feel pretty good.  This one could be one of those trades that benefits both teams, allowing each team to become a bit more balanced in their pursuit of Tim at the top of the standings.

7/24 – Los Genius picks up John Grabow
Grabow was picked up immediately after the trade that sent Damaso Marte to the Yankees.  Incumbent closer Matt Capps should return from the DL before the end of the season, and there is no clear favorite for saves at the moment, but Grabow should most likely figure into the mix.  However, he is a career lefty specialist and the Pirates could choose to go with the right-hander Tyler Yates to close games.

7/24 – Los Genius picks up Jim Johnson
Continuing with the save speculation theme, Johnson gets the call off the waiver wire in the hopes that a George Sherrill trade will open a closer position in Baltimore.  Johnson has been very hard to hit this year, allowing only 34 hits in 56.1 IP, despite only a 29/23 K/BB ratio.  If Sherrill is traded, Johnson could be first in line as he has seen a lot of eighth-inning setup duty lately, with veterans Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford seeing more specialized roles.

7/25 – Men With Wood picks up Tyler Yates
As mentioned above, the Pirates’ save mix could end up being pretty ugly until Matt Capps returns.  The journeyman Yates could be the last man standing if the Pirates choose not to use their best lefty specialist (Grabow) in the closer’s role.  Yates is a risky play even in the closer’s role, having walked 121 batters in 215 career major-league innings.  A save is a save, though, and if Yates gets the opportunities he’ll be worth the pickup.

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Expected Wins

Once again, let's take a look at Baseball Prospectus' "expected wins" stat.  The RS column refers to the pitcher's run support ranking among those with 80 IP, out of 129 pitchers.

First, the hard luck pitchers:

Greg Maddux 3 7.5 -4.5 121
Jason Bergmann 1 5.1 -4.1 129
Aaron Harang 3 6.1 -3.1 128
Matt Cain 6 9.0 -3.0 124
Greg Smith 5 8.0 -3.0 125
Jarrod Washburn 4 6.9 -2.9 102
Zach Duke 4 6.8 -2.8 78
Shawn Chacon 2 4.8 -2.8 87
Jeremy Guthrie 6 8.5 -2.5 114
Shaun Marcum 5 7.5 -2.5 106
Brett Myers 3 5.5 -2.5 81
Oliver Perez 6 8.3 -2.3 31
Adam Eaton 3 5.3 -2.3 116
Odalis Perez 3 5.3 -2.3 84
Edwin Jackson 5 7.2 -2.2 38
Joel Pineiro 3 5.2 -2.2 96
C.C. Sabathia 6 8.2 -2.2 88
John Danks 7 9.1 -2.1 111
John Lannan 6 8.0 -2.0 126
Tim Wakefield 6 8.0 -2.0 82
Ubaldo Jimenez 6 8.0 -2.0 105

Perez and Jackson can't complain about run support, but they still got the shaft.  The Nationals are represented three times, so that should tell you something.  Still, Tim Redding has been immune.  Odd to see two Phillies on the list, isn't it?  Strong offense, good bullpen.

Next up, the lucky ones:

Mike Mussina 13 8.6 4.4 51
Vicente Padilla 11 6.6 4.4 6
Brandon Webb 13 9.3 3.7 70
Livan Hernandez 10 6.6 3.4 5
Andrew Sonnanstine 10 6.8 3.2 50
Gavin Floyd 10 6.8 3.2 14
Joe Saunders 12 8.9 3.1 111
A.J. Burnett 11 8.0 3.0 64
Andy Pettitte 11 8.1 2.9 42
Ted Lilly 10 7.1 2.9 30
Bronson Arroyo 9 6.3 2.7 8
Mark Hendrickson 7 4.3 2.7 83
Daisuke Matsuzaka 11 8.3 2.7 34
Aaron Cook 12 9.5 2.5 57
Ricky Nolasco 10 7.5 2.5 45
John Maine 9 6.5 2.5 7
Edinson Volquez 12 9.6 2.4 28
Cliff Lee 13 10.7 2.3 26
Kyle Lohse 12 9.7 2.3 48
Josh Beckett 9 6.9 2.1 11
Kyle Kendrick 8 5.9 2.1 1
Carlos Zambrano 11 9.0 2.0 18

Some of these guys will win 17, 18 games and have inflated draft positions in '09.  In general it's nice to pitch for the Red Sox, though don't tell that to Wakefield.  If the Rangers had any halfway decent pitching we'd see more than Padilla on this list.

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Johnny Cueto = Next Year's Lincecum?

Johnny Cueto is a dead ringer for Tim Lincecum.  Let me count the ways:

  • Under six feet tall
  • Average fastball over 93 mph
  • Burst on the scene with much fantasy and real-life fanfare, and then were somewhat forgotten
  • Play for smaller-market teams
  • Rookie ERA of 4+
  • Strong rookie strikeout rate but less than ideal control

Lincecum was being picked 121st on average in March of this year.  That's the 11th round, right around James Shields, Rich Hill, and Brad Penny.  That's what happens with a promising arm coming off a good but not great season (with the exception of Felix Hernandez, who still went in the 8th).

CHONE, ZiPS, and RotoAuthority implored you to pick Lincecum, projecting a sub-3.30 ERA with tons of strikeouts.  I wouldn't go that far with Cueto, who plays in a tougher ballpark and has struggled with the longball.  However, Cueto's 16.0% HR per flyball rate is bound to come down.  We thought the same about Felix Hernandez, A.J. Burnett, and Derek Lowe last year and did they indeed regress to normal rates in '08.  Plus, Cueto has better rookie-year control than Lincecum did.

Cueto pitched 161.3 innings in '07, so hopefully Dusty Baker cuts him off before 190 this year.  That shouldn't be a problem; even 190 innings might mean 33 starts for Cueto.

I'd like to start up the Johnny Cueto Bandwagon for 2009.  This is a guy you can probably get in the 10th round, where many interesting starters reside every year. 

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Starters To Buy

Here are a few starters with ERAs over 4.00 that caught my eye:

  • Kevin Millwood, Rangers.  You'll have to first wait and see if that groin heals up.  But Millwood has not pitched like a guy with a 5.23 ERA and ghastly 1.72 WHIP.  He has solid strikeout, walk, and home run rates in 106 innings.  It's the 12.3 hits per nine innings and .376 BABIP that's killing him.  That should clear up a bit so consider him as a spot starter once he returns.
  • Cha Seung Baek, Padres.  He's an interesting spot start in PETCO.  Baek has a sparkling 3.5 K/BB, showing fine control in 48 innings.  He's keeping the ball in the yard too.  Like Millwood, he has only hits/BABIP to blame for a 4.66 ERA.
  • Gil Meche, Royals.  He gets overlooked because his overall numbers are plain.  However since the beginning of May Meche has a tidy 3.58 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 2.5 K/BB.
  • Sean Gallagher, Athletics.  He's got a 4.20 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, but fine peripherals and good stuff to support it.

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Rauch Traded; Pick Up Hanrahan

WEDNESDAY: The Washington Post says Hanrahan will get first crack.  He's got a fine K/9 of 9.86, but has shown poor control with a 4.85 BB/9.  The walks have come down a bit lately; he's worth owning in all leagues.

TUESDAY: Jon Rauch has been traded to the D'Backs.  Who closes for the Nationals now?

This should come down to Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan.  Both righties have been solid this month.   Hanrahan has the higher strikeout rate; Rivera the superior control.

Hard to say which guy gets it - pick up both if you can.  Otherwise lean toward Hanrahan.  An interesting dark horse would be Jason Bergmann, but he's set to start.

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BABIP, Anyone?

Time to take a look at the best and worst pitchers in regards to BABIP, which stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play. We've also got ISO against in there; league average is around .150.

Here are the low BABIP guys to worry about:

Justin Duchscherer 0.213 2.80 0.099 1.87 0.88
Gavin Floyd 0.219 1.62 0.188 3.52 1.20
Shaun Marcum 0.228 3.19 0.140 2.65 1.00
Tim Wakefield 0.230 1.81 0.154 3.69 1.16
Armando Galarraga 0.234 1.84 0.166 3.41 1.20
Cole Hamels 0.241 3.69 0.169 3.11 1.01
Joe Saunders 0.248 1.88 0.137 3.05 1.14
Scott Olsen 0.249 1.42 0.186 3.84 1.29
Daisuke Matsuzaka 0.251 1.35 0.109 2.65 1.38
Dave Bush 0.252 2.54 0.194 4.39 1.15
Ryan Dempster 0.252 2.18 0.111 3.05 1.16
Dan Haren 0.256 4.96 0.115 2.58 0.95
Justin Verlander 0.259 1.83 0.114 3.95 1.24
Adam Wainwright 0.259 3.10 0.161 3.14 1.09
Scott Feldman 0.263 1.08 0.190 4.80 1.37
Jorge Campillo 0.263 3.25 0.134 2.83 1.05
Zach Miner 0.264 0.86 0.092 3.91 1.42
Oliver Perez 0.264 1.51 0.153 4.36 1.43
Greg Smith 0.266 1.44 0.130 3.79 1.32
Matt Garza 0.267 2.27 0.120 3.68 1.20

On the other hand here are the high BABIP guys:

Jorge De La Rosa 0.376 2.58 0.197 6.71 1.62
Kevin Millwood 0.376 2.11 0.136 5.23 1.72
Shawn Hill 0.374 1.70 0.165 5.83 1.75
Clay Buchholz 0.372 1.89 0.123 5.88 1.71
Ian Snell 0.370 1.31 0.173 5.83 1.88
Andrew Miller 0.359 1.60 0.132 5.63 1.66
Bronson Arroyo 0.350 2.31 0.213 5.71 1.59
Jeremy Sowers 0.345 1.32 0.234 7.33 1.85
Livan Hernandez 0.345 1.96 0.162 5.29 1.58
Darrell Rasner 0.344 2.56 0.172 4.97 1.51
Nate Robertson 0.344 2.34 0.176 5.69 1.54
Barry Zito 0.339 1.03 0.148 5.62 1.79
Brett Tomko 0.338 3.08 0.216 6.97 1.53
Miguel Batista 0.336 0.95 0.207 6.89 1.96
Zach Duke 0.335 1.44 0.167 4.92 1.60
Jo-Jo Reyes 0.335 1.76 0.166 4.95 1.53
Sidney Ponson 0.335 1.56 0.121 3.88 1.56
Carlos Silva 0.334 2.65 0.173 5.62 1.46
Brad Penny 0.333 1.31 0.139 5.88 1.60
Aaron Harang 0.332 3.18 0.211 4.76 1.40

Not gonna lie - there's a lot of crap in there.  Keep an eye on Buchholz though.

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RotoAuthority League - Best Pickups Last Week

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

Short week this week, not a whole lot of add/drop moves, but a couple of trades took place…

7/19 – Ms. Behavin’ picks up Nomar Garciaparra
Since he came off the disabled list on the 4th of July, Nomar has hit .333 with 3 home runs (.642 slugging) and 10 RBI in 14 games.  And given Joe Torre’s penchant this season for starting veterans over younger players (see: Jones, Andruw), Nomar could see plenty of playing time in the short term.  He started at shortstop and batted fifth in the Dodgers’ lineup on Sunday.  So while he’s not at his ridiculously productive late ‘90s best and still is very injury-prone, you could do a lot worse than a healthy Nomar Garciaparra at your MI position. 

7/19 – Men With Wood trade Delmon Young, Juan Pierre, and Jonathan Broxton to Ms. Behavin’ for Adam Dunn, Michael Bourn, and Octavio Dotel
This trade exchanges resources that appear to address each team’s weaknesses.  The Men With Wood sit atop the RotoAuthority league standings in the SB category, while Ms. Behavin’ finds herself first in RBI and second in HR.  Exchanging Dunn and Bourn for Young and Pierre seems to give the Wood a bit more pop while giving Ms. Behavin’ a tiny bit more speed. 

However, each team is taking a bit of the gamble; Pierre currently sits on the DL, while Bourn sits on the bench in favor of Darin Erstad.  It seems the two OF given up by Ms. Behavin’ are a bit more valuable, which is where the exchange of relievers comes in.  (Both teams are in the bottom half of the league in saves.)  Broxton currently seems to have a tiny bit more value due to Takashi Saito’s injury opening the door for Dodger saves, despite the fact that as discussed last week in this piece, Dotel is a strikeout machine.  Despite a fair bit of uncertainty with several of its components, this trade appears to benefit both teams at the moment.

7/20 – Los Genius trades Alex Gordon and Jonathan Sanchez to The Urine Troubles for Chris Davis and Grant Balfour
Gordon has struggled mightily this season for the Genius, so he is shipped off to the Troubles with Sanchez on an upside play for the youngster Davis, discussed in depth on this site, as well a saves candidate in Balfour.  To me, the key to this deal is Sanchez, who has quietly been the Giants’ second-best starting pitcher, posting an excellent 9.5 K/9 while racking up lots of wins in June during the team’s solid month.  His ratios leave a bit to be desired, though, which appears to be the reason he’s going from a high-strikeout team with poor ratios (11th in ERA, 12th in WHIP, 1st in K) to a team with solid ratios but few strikeouts (2nd in ERA, 2nd in WHIP, 11th in K), so in theory that portion of the move will likely benefit both teams. 

With the Troubles leading the league in saves, Balfour is expendable as merely a fill-in for Troy Percival for the Rays.  So at this point my gut tells me that the Troubles get the better end of this deal, as Gordon appears to be just as likely as (if not more than) Davis to have a productive second half of the season, and Sanchez provides a very good source of K and W for a team that can afford the ratio hit for a half-season.

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8 Ways Avoid Teams Quitting Your Fantasy League

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's someone quitting on a fantasy league midseason. If you can't put in 5-10 minutes a day for it, don't sign up in the first place.  Nonetheless, quitters are inevitable. 

I am in all kinds of leagues - one with my old coworkers, one for this site with $100 buy-in, an experts head to head league, a keeper league with friends.  In all of them, at least one team has completely stopped trying.  The guy won't set his lineup, doesn't replace injured players, and generally doesn't check on the league at all.  How can this travesty be prevented?  I've devised eight tactics.

1.  Make it a keeper league.  This is a pretty obvious way to ensure everyone maintains interest in the league all year long.  Just like in real baseball, the lousy out-of-contention teams can trade off expensive stars for affordable youngsters.  This is more easily done if the draft is auction rather than snake draft style.  The more keepers you allow, the more flexibility for poor teams to stockpile prospects.  My league allows a healthy ten keepers.

2.  Require a decent cash buy-in, and give prizes for the first three or four finishers.  I suggest at least a $60 buy-in.  Then you've got $720 to work with.    $460 for first place, $200 for second, third gets their money back.    Even if the first place team runs away with it, you might have a gaggle of teams fighting for second and third.

3.  Give cash prizes to monthly winners.  If your provider tracks leaders by month, you can dole out small cash prizes ($20 maybe) based on that.  The previous incarnation of Fanball used to accomodate monthly stats; I'm not sure if any services do now.  Monthly prizes can provide a little extra incentive.

4.  Choose head-to-head over rotisserie style.  I am not a fan of H2H leagues.  A standard roto league already has plenty of luck involved, but with H2H you are slicing up the season 26 times into weekly matchups.  I acknowledge that H2H has its own strategies, and it can certainly keep a person invested just for bragging rights over another team. 

5.  Kick out the worst four teams each year.  If you've got enough people vying to be in the league, you can give the boot to x number of teams at the bottom of the standings while keeping the rest for next year.  If it's the bottom four, this might create a battle to stay out of 9th place.  We are trying this in the RotoAuthority league this year.

6.  Periodically publicize the league results, with trash talk.  This has worked well in one of my H2H leagues.  Weekly matchup results are analyzed on a blog, and losers are good-naturedly insulted.  Plus, it's always good to randomly mock a league member for a bad drop or trade.  They'll remember that, and strive to prevent future embarrassments.  Public shaming is useful, but be aware that trash talk can very easily cross the line and create animosity.

7.  Don't play in a league with strangers.  For your league, try to recruit friends, family members, coworkers, or other acquaintances.  If you see league members in person regularly, they might feel ashamed about quitting on the league.  If you join a random Yahoo league, people will have no such qualms.

8.  Seek out league members who aren't always busy.   The number one reason people give for quitting on a fantasy league is that they just didn't have time to manage their roster.  Some people are truly busy, while others just pretend to be.  It's a lot easier to say this than to admit they drafted a lousy team and lost interest.  When possible, opt for people with a little time on their hands - college students, freelancers, coworkers at a laid-back job, retirees.  If a prospective owner never has time to hang out because of work/family/whatever, they probably won't have time for a fantasy league either.

Anyone have any other ways to keep all teams in the league invested until the very end?

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Disabled Pitchers To Watch

The following hurlers are both on the DL in at least one of my waiver wires.  Consider them in mixed leagues.

  • Matt Capps, RP.  Capps is set to return in early September from right shoulder bursitis.  The smart play by the Bucs would be wait until '09, but you never know.  Not sure if he'd bounce right back into the mix for saves.
  • Dustin McGowan, SP.  McGowan won't need shoulder surgery, and theoretically could return in mid-August.  Again, the smart move would be to shut him down.  But keep an eye on it.
  • Chien-Ming Wang, SP.  With no setbacks, Wang could return in September and snag a few starts.  He's out with a foot injury.
  • Jeff Francis, SP.  Never been a big Francis fan in mixed leagues.  But, he's aiming for a July 29th return from shoulder inflammation.
  • Tom Glavine, SP.  Ditto for Glavine - barely mixed league material.  He has no timetable, anyway.
  • Brad Penny, SP.  He could return next month from a shoulder injury.  If Clayton Kershaw is up and going strong, Penny could be a dark horse for saves.
  • Rafael Soriano, RP.  He could be back from his elbow injury in a few weeks, but is still shaky.  He'd have to be healthy and effective for a while to supplant Mike Gonzalez.
  • Phil Hughes, SP.  Still doesn't have a timetable to return from his rib injury.  Late August is possible though.
  • Chris Carpenter, SP.  Could return in August from Tommy John.  We presume he'll have some rust.
  • Orlando Hernandez, SP.  He could be back in August, though the Mets don't really have a rotation spot for him.
  • Yovani Gallardo, SP.  A September return from his ACL tear is unlikely but hasn't been ruled out.
  • Chris Ray, RP.  He could return from TJ in September, but probably won't get saves if George Sherrill is around.
  • Jason Schmidt, SP.  Still rehabbing in the minors, he's hasn't looked good.  I would pass.
  • Anibal Sanchez, SP.  Expected to rejoin Florida's rotation on July 28th following labrum surgery.  Pretty shaky pickup.
  • Noah Lowry, SP.  He's not even throwing yet after his forearm nerve injury.
  • Carl Pavano, SP.  Just kidding.

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