July 2008

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Disabled Hitters To Watch

Some quality hitters are residing on mixed league waiver wires.  They're there because they're currently on the disabled list.   Let's see if we can find any gems.

  • Rafael Furcal, SSFurcal feels great after back surgery.  He could be back in late August, giving you a full month of production at a scarce position.
  • Frank Thomas, DH.  He is expected to take batting practice this week and could return from his quad injury in early August.
  • Hank Blalock, 3BHe could return Friday as the Rangers' starting first baseman after all kinds of maladies and setbacks.
  • Gerald Laird, C.  He should return from a hamstring injury by month's end.  He was raking in June prior to the injury.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, 3B.  He could be back next week after rehabbing his shoulder.
  • Three injured speedy guys: Dave Roberts, Julio Lugo, and Luis Castillo.  All three are questionable enough where I would not do a pre-emptive pickup though.


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Regression Kings

Dave Cameron's latest post at FanGraphs names five pitchers very likely to experience regression in the second half.  These names should be very familiar to RotoAuthority readers.

At this point, it seems that the cat is out of the bag with BABIP (and to a lesser extent, home runs per flyball).  Too many fantasy leaguers know about this stuff.  I wouldn't say it's exactly mainstream, but most good competitive leagues have at least several members who follow it.  We need something new to stay ahead of the pack.  Any ideas?

Anyway, if you're looking for pitchers whose WHIPs will almost certainly rise, just check out the BABIP rankings.  That stat is at least somewhat buried at ESPN.com (plus it's called BIPA for some reason).  Also, your home run per flyball leaders.


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RotoAuthority League - Best Pickups Last Week

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

7/8 – Philly Cheez Puffs picks up Hiroki Kuroda
This pickup came on the heels of two consecutive outings in which Kuroda did not allow an earned run after coming off the disabled list in early July.  He pitched decently in his next start for the Cheez Puffs, allowing 3 runs in 6.1 innings with 5 K.  With the Dodgers’ division full of struggling offenses, Kuroda could be a boost to the Puffs’ already-solid ratios. 

7/9 – Ms. Behavin picks up Octavio Dotel
Dotel recorded his first save of the season right before Ms. Behavin’ picked him up.  While his role as closer for the White Sox may be only temporary, if at all, Dotel is still a great source of K – he’s at a scorching 12.8 K/9 in 2008 and even 11.0 K/9 for his career.

7/11 – Ms. Behavin’ picks up Ben Francisco
Francisco has been a waiver-wire bouncer this season, going back and forth on various team’s rosters – he’s made two appearances on the Greek God of Walks, and one on the Cheez Puffs.  However, with all the injuries to the Indians’ lineup, Francisco has found his way into the third spot, ahead of the red-hot Jhonny Peralta.  As a result, Francisco is off to a great start in July, batting .343/.425/.600 through Saturday’s game, with a whopping 12 runs in 9 games.

7/13 – Volvo Stationwagons picks up Brett Myers
Myers made his third minor-league start in the Phillies’ organization on Sunday, and should be called up to the Phils soon after the All-Star Break.  While Myers struggled mightily with the longball at the major-league level this season, he has only allowed 1 HR in his 20.1 innings in the minors, while striking out 22.  If the minor-league assignment indeed helped clear his head, Myers could be a solid addition for the second half.


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Roundtable: Unconventional Strategies

This week, I get to host the roundtable.  My question:

Do you have any fantasy baseball strategies that buck the conventional wisdom? 

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Brett Greenfield, Fantasy Phenoms: My pitching strategy bucks conventional wisdom.  It is conservatively managed.  Damage control wins when it comes to pitching.  I go an entire season without starting any pitchers when they are in Coors or Philadelphia or when they play the Mets, Red Sox or Yankees.  I had the Tigers in that grouping earlier this year but since have abandoned them as a part of that elite group.  I will preface this odd strategy by noting that I draft six SP with the highest K/9 ratios possible and four closers.  Since most leagues start nine, I go with four closers and whichever five of the six top starters have the best matchups each week.

By eliminating the potential to get destroyed by some of the best and deepest hitting offenses or get shafted by pitching in an extremely small ball park, my team's ERA and WHIP remain the lowest in the league.  Add four closers to the mix and that trend holds even truer.  By starting five high strikeout pitchers, despite lower inning totals due to benching my stud pitchers in the aforementioned conditions, and starting less pitchers per week than other teams because I start four closers, I still remain atop the league in strikeouts.

Adding to the strategy, I usually wait until May to find some extremely poor offenses in very good pitcher's parks.  This year, San Diego and San Francisco are the two I've chosen.   I'll basically have no qualms about starting any pitcher in one of those parks.  Those two teams' offenses are so awful and their parks so big, that it is a rare feat to get shelled in those parks against those lineups.

When a pitcher tosses seven innings, gives up two runs and strikes out six batters against the Red Sox, Mets or Yankees or in Philadelphia or Colorado, and they are not in my lineup, I know I haven't missed out.  No one start can make your season.  And starts like that in those conditions are a rarity.  Since several bad starts CAN break your season (ERA and WHIP), I laugh when other owners start  pitchers in places that I don't and then get shelled and see their ERA and WHIP skyrocket.

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Patrick DiCaprio, Fantasy Baseball Generals: In auction leagues I think the whole concept of "value" is completely subjective and do not use it at either the top or the bottom of the player pyramid. I simply target a player or group of players that I want and go get them, almost regardless of price. When we have a "value" of $20, for example, what we are really saying is that based on a particular projection system, the player is likely to produce a range of values, probably somewhere between $15-$25, and even then the actual production will be within that range probably 70% of the time at most.  As a result sticking to the figure of $20 is foolish. It is a balancing act of the subjective probabilities that I assign to the various possible values. I will be happy to go higher than $20 depending on what probability I think the player has of producing higher or far higher than that.

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Jason Collette, RotoJunkie: I continue to draft more young players than any one team should. I know older players are typically more stable but the odds are against older players (32+ yrs old) having better seasons than the year prior while young players can often exceed projections while in that 26-31 yrs old range.

When I put together my own draft charts, I red flag anyone over 32 years of age and use those names only during dollar days or to spend someone else's cash who will take the risk. There are inherent risks by relying upon so many young players who have yet to establish a stable baseline of skills, but the upside outweighs the risks in my book. I employed the strategy to the extreme in my local NL and AL leagues (no players above age 31 on either team) and I am in first place in both competitive leagues.

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Rudy Gamble, Razzball.com: I tend to be a counter-puncher who takes whatever the opponents give him.  I stick to my player valuations and see how each league plays out.  Here are some areas I tend to break out from the pack:
 
1) I tend to value top starters higher and will draft them earlier than most.  That worked out well in two leagues where Santana and Haren have paid off as 1st and 5th round picks and hurt me in a league where I took Peavy and Harang.
2) I like having at least 3 closers on my team through the end of July.  If I can snag some off waivers, great.  You can always trade closers.
3) I place less value than most on middle infielders.  Utley and Hanley are worthy of 1st round picks wherever they play.  Looking at this year, I can't think of a middle infielder drafted in the first 8 rounds - short of Hanley, Utley, Kinsler, and maybe Phillips - has paid off.  Jeter, Tulo, Rollins, Reyes, Upton etc.   My luck has been mixed though in finding bargains.  Kelly Johnson, Jhonny Peralta, and Orlando Hudson have been solid.  Khalil Greene has just khalilled one of my teams.
4) I place less value on the speed aspect of guys who aren't locks for 30+ SBs.  I'm talking about Granderson, Braun, Wright, Rios, etc.  I've seen too many guys go from 25 to 10 SB to place much value on potential (see Jason Bay last year).

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Zach Piso, Rotonomics: My conventional bucking would be to ignore all advocates of "wait to trade" strategies. Every year some analysts will argue that it takes a solid two months of feeling before you can reasonably move a struggler. This makes little sense to me, if only because player liquidity (how easily a player can be moved/how highly a player is valued by your leaguem ates) should influence his ADP. Often I will draft a player who I don't truly want, planning on flipping him quickly and plugging a sleeper into his then-empty slot. Until I make that move, that sleeper on my bench has no value to me, while the starting "name brand" player has only marginal value to myself but inflated value to my league mates. And that value will deflate if only because of any relative surplus, so it's best to make trades early, with a bonus of establishing trade partners for later in the season.

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Rob Reed, BaseballGeeks.com: Not really.  Simple, conventional wisdom of relying on past statistics as the best evidence of future success and doing my best to avoid trying to look smart by drafting the "sleeper du jour" has generally made me successful.  Perhaps my opinion of avoiding the top tier catchers in serpentine drafts might seem by some to be unconventional, but I look like a genius with this philosophy this year.

Also, it seems that conventional wisdom in fantasy baseball is becoming very "sabermetric." And, I guess it could be said that I am mostly against THIS conventional wisdom (if we are to call it "conventional" just yet) mainly because of selfish reasons.

I mean, sabermetrics reminds me a lot of piano lessons when I was 8 years old.  I wanted to play piano.  But, I wanted it to be fun.

So, when piano lessons evolved away from numbers next to the note telling me what finger to use and now, some 30 years later, when my fantasy analysis required that I break out the calculator, it just got less fun for me.  In the case of the piano, I outright quit after six weeks.

This being said, I am a curious proponent of the Contact Rate and the BABIP (thanks to some wise calculator crunchers like Patrick DiCaprio) in sorting out the lucky from the unlucky.  As a result, I included these sabermetrics in my player ranking system at PlayerTrack so that a computer does all the number crunching for me, and I can leave the pocket protector at home and my delusion of "coolness" somewhat intact.

Still, I resolve to leave the ground-ball-percent, fly-ball-propensity, coefficient-of-jockstrap-friction factors to folks like my evil piano teacher.

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Tim Dierkes, RotoAuthority.com:  I am comfortable drafting a player well before his Average Draft Position indicates he will go.  Often that means two to four rounds before the player's ADP.  Value is value - go back and look at how many players don't justify their ADP.  If you have a talented player like Tim Lincecum and you think he's worth much more than his ADP, make sure not to miss out on him.  If that meant taking him in the 5th or 6th round last March, that's fine.  On the same token, feel free to pass on a player even if ADP tells you he's a bargain but you don't agree.


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Josh Johnson's New Ligament Works

Check out this blog post from Marlins beat writer Juan C. Rodriguez.  It seems that Josh Johnson is throwing several mph faster post-Tommy John than he was before.  He gave up three runs in five innings in his first start back last night.  He also whiffed six and walked no one.

All the experts and injury gurus will tell you to avoid Johnson this year, and that's a logical stance.  But in mixed leagues with deep benches and unlimited transactions...you don't need to be so discerning.  Just make the move, maybe bench him for a few starts if you feel conservative.  At any rate, Johnson is a quality sleeper for '09.


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Corpas Vs. Buchholz

According to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, Rockies closer Brian Fuentes is likely to be traded this month.  Fantasy owners are desperate to determine whether Taylor Buchholz or Manny Corpas would get first crack at the closer job.

Renck explains:

O'Dowd made it clear Corpas would be given another shot to close before Buchholz. Buchholz has developed into a solid setup man, but the Rockies don't want to push him too quickly — he began the year as a secondary seventh-inning guy — and risk stunting his growth.

So, that's what the Rockies are thinking.  If you have to choose between Corpas and Buchholz for saves, take Corpas despite his inferior numbers.  Corpas at least strung together nine scoreless appearances until last night.  You have to wonder how long his leash will be though.


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Eyeing Francisco Liriano

Francisco Liriano is unavailable in many leagues.  But you may still find him in shallow leagues or leagues with small benches.

The 24 year-old former phenom currently has a 3.80 ERA in 15 Triple A starts.  He has a 7.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.  Not bad, but not the absurd rates he put up in Triple A pre-TJ: 11.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.

Good news: he's rattled off 13 scoreless innings, whiffing 16 and walking two in that period.  For more information, we turn to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.  Kevin Oklobzija says Liriano is overpowering hitters with his three-pitch repertoire of fastball, slider, and changeup.

I was concerned about Liriano's velocity - his fastball averaged 94.7 mph in '06, but just 90.4 in the Majors this year.  I asked Oklobzija about that.  His response:

From what I've seen, and heard from folks with the club, he's maybe in the 92-93 range on a consistent basis.  More importantly, he's willingly throwing his slider again.

Sounds pretty good, even if he's not vintage Liriano.  We may have to wait until '09 for that, though he should be somewhat effective this year.  The only problem is that Livan Hernandez has pitched decently in his last four starts.  The other four starters have all been strong, so there's no imminent path for Liriano to return to the bigs.


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Target Thornton For White Sox Saves

Sox Machine has the rundown on the battle to close in Bobby Jenks' absence:

Barring an outrageous matchup (three straight lefty-mashing righties), Thornton, a.k.a. Easy Heat, should be first in line with the ninth inning rolls around, with Dotel next in line.  At this point, Linebrink should be working the seventh.


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Roundtable: Pitching Mistakes

This week's roundtable question:

What do you think the biggest mistake fantasy owners make in handling their pitcher’s throughout the season?

Our answers can be found over at RotoProfessor.


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Plate Appearances Per Home Run

How about a simple metric to measure power production?  Let's check out who needs the fewest plate appearances per home run.  I've also added a column indicating how many homers that player would hit over 600 plate appearances, at their current pace.  Minimum: 50 plate appearances.

NAME PA/HR PA HR HR/600
Russell Branyan 10.0 110 11 60.0
Marcus Thames 11.5 184 16 52.2
Mike Napoli 14.1 169 12 42.6
Dan Uggla 14.4 331 23 41.7
Alfonso Soriano 15.5 232 15 38.8
Adam Dunn 15.8 347 22 38.0
Mike Jacobs 15.8 284 18 38.0
Mike Cameron 16.0 224 14 37.5
Cody Ross 16.0 240 15 37.5
Matthew Joyce 16.2 81 5 37.0
Alex Rodriguez 16.3 294 18 36.7
Chase Utley 16.4 393 24 36.6
Lance Berkman 16.8 369 22 35.8
Ryan Howard 16.8 386 23 35.8
Jim Edmonds 17.0 136 8 35.3
Pat Burrell 17.0 357 21 35.3
Jason Giambi 17.1 308 18 35.1
Adrian Gonzalez 17.7 389 22 33.9
Ryan Braun 17.7 372 21 33.9
Rick Ankiel 17.9 322 18 33.5
Grady Sizemore 18.0 395 22 33.4
Chase Headley 18.0 72 4 33.3
Albert Pujols 18.1 325 18 33.2
Mark Reynolds 18.2 328 18 32.9
Jermaine Dye 18.3 347 19 32.9
Ryan Ludwick 18.3 311 17 32.8
Jayson Werth 18.3 220 12 32.7
Milton Bradley 18.5 315 17 32.4
Chipper Jones 18.6 334 18 32.3
Craig Monroe 18.9 151 8 31.8
David Ortiz 18.9 246 13 31.7
Josh Willingham 19.0 152 8 31.6
Hanley Ramirez 19.1 401 21 31.4
Carlos Quentin 19.2 364 19 31.3
Carlos Lee 19.3 366 19 31.1
Ryan Doumit 19.4 194 10 30.9
Eric Hinske 19.5 253 13 30.8
Jim Thome 19.6 314 16 30.6
Ian Stewart 20.0 60 3 30.0
J.D. Drew 20.0 320 16 30.0
Chris Iannetta 20.1 181 9 29.8
Evan Longoria 20.2 323 16 29.7
Josh Hamilton 20.6 391 19 29.2
Luke Scott 20.6 289 14 29.1
Adam Lind 20.7 62 3 29.0
Joe Crede 20.7 311 15 28.9
Scott Hairston 21.2 254 12 28.3
Aubrey Huff 21.2 360 17 28.3
Shawn Riggans 21.3 85 4 28.2
Cliff Floyd 21.3 128 6 28.1
Jonny Gomes 21.5 129 6 27.9
Jason Bay 21.8 370 17 27.6
Brad Hawpe 21.9 285 13 27.4
Gabe Gross 22.0 154 7 27.3
Manny Ramirez 22.2 355 16 27.0
Miguel Olivo 22.2 200 9 27.0
Brian McCann 22.3 334 15 26.9
Jack Cust 22.3 334 15 26.9
Geovany Soto 22.6 339 15 26.5
Adrian Beltre 22.6 362 16 26.5
Ryan Church 23.1 231 10 26.0
Ryan Raburn 23.3 93 4 25.8
Mike Lowell 23.3 303 13 25.7
Prince Fielder 23.3 373 16 25.7
Jason Kubel 23.7 284 12 25.4
Chris Coste 23.7 166 7 25.3
Carlos Pena 23.8 286 12 25.2
Ronnie Belliard 23.9 167 7 25.1
Kelly Shoppach 23.9 167 7 25.1
Vladimir Guerrero 23.9 334 14 25.1
Aramis Ramirez 23.9 359 15 25.1
Mark Teixeira 23.9 383 16 25.1
Frank Thomas 24.0 72 3 25.0

  • Anyone notice Thames hit 10 HR in June?  He's slumping so far this month.
  • Soriano could be a bit of a sleeper next year.  I can see him slipping to the third round given an injury-plagued '08.  But his legs should be fully recovered and he could blast 40 bombs again.
  • Edmonds is worth owning in mixed leagues, just sit him against lefties (as the Cubs will).  The pace seen above refers only to his Cubs stint.
  • Strange to say, but I'm a bit disappointed by Braun's 34 HR pace.  More than a bit disappointed by Fielder's.  I just traded Cole Hamels for Prince in one league, nonetheless.
  • Werth is a sleeper for '09.  Burrell might leave the Phillies and Werth could play full-time.  He even steals bases.
  • Iannetta has arrived.


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