August 2008

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Keeper Analysis

Kevin writes in asking for keeper help.  He is in a 5x5 roto league and is allowed ten keepers from the following:

Justin Duchscherer
Jorge Campillo
Aaron Harang
Ricky Nolasco
Manny Parra
Jered Weaver

Billy Wagner
Adam LaRoche
Adrian Gonzalez
Brandon Phillips
Miguel Cabrera
Troy Tulowitzki
Carlos Quentin
Curtis Granderson
Nate McLouth
Nick Markakis
Lastings Milledge
Victor Martinez
Jason Bay

Here's who I'm taking right off the bat: Markakis, Quentin, Cabrera, Gonzalez, McLouth and Phillips.  Those six are just no-brainers for me.  Quentin has been ridiculous, so even without more evidence I can't even consider excluding him.  I also love the well-rounded abilities of McLouth, so he's in even if it's only been one season.   Phillips is an easy choice even in an off-year.

The final four will come from the following: Harang, Duchscherer, Nolasco, Tulowitzki, Granderson, Martinez, and Bay.  Duchscherer looks pretty flukey, and I can't see him staying healthy next year.  Nolasco, while solid, is the type of pitcher you can typically find on the waiver wire.  Harang - question marks with health and performance after logging tons of innings in 2006-07.

So it looks like I'm keeping nothing but position players.  I am skeptical of Tulo, but I feel that he's worth hanging on to.  I think Martinez can come back healthy and Bay/Granderson will remain solid.   If I could trade an outfielder plus a pitcher for a catcher, middle infielder, or corner infielder, I'd look into it.  Or, perhaps an outfielder can be traded for a quality starter with no health questions, like James Shields.

Here's the lineup:

C -
C - Victor Martinez
1B - Adrian Gonzalez
2B - Brandon Phillips
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
3B - Miguel Cabrera
CI -
MI -
OF - Nick Markakis
OF - Carlos Quentin
OF - Curtis Granderson
OF - Jason Bay
OF - Nate McLouth
DH -

If Cabrera's 14 games don't qualify him at third, he's the CI and you're in the market for a 3B.  Clearly the keepers I've chosen leave little outfield flexibility, so trading one for a starter should be explored.  As you can see, I just don't like keeping starters based on one good season.


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Fantasy Football, Anyone?

You may recall Mike Silver from such fantasy leagues as the RotoAuthority Silver League.  Silver is back once again just in time for fantasy football season.  I won't be involved, because I know nothing about the sport.  But I wanted to pass this along so a competitive, trustworthy money league can be formed.

Here are the details of the league:

  • $100 buy in
  • 12 team, h2h
  • Lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 WR/RB, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST, 5 bench
  • Draft date: August 24th, 2:30pm CST

If you are interested, leave your email address in the comments.  Also, Silver will answer questions in the comments. 


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When Command Isn't Enough

Strikeout to walk ratio is often touted as the #1 stat by which to judge a pitcher.  However, we find examples every year of high K/BB guys whose fantasy stats don't quite measure up.  18 pitchers have K/BB ratios over 2.5 but ERAs over 4.00 this year:

NAME K/BB ERA WHIP MPH
Kevin Slowey 4.75 4.21 1.10 89.8
Josh Beckett 4.62 4.08 1.20 94.4
Randy Johnson 3.93 4.24 1.29 90.8
Andy Sonnanstine 3.58 4.40 1.31 86.8
Roy Oswalt 3.29 4.56 1.41 92.4
Javier Vazquez 3.20 4.74 1.37 91.4
Aaron Harang 3.18 4.76 1.40 89.8
Derek Lowe 3.15 4.10 1.25 88.8
Jesse Litsch 3.11 4.46 1.33 89.1
Andy Pettitte 2.97 4.34 1.35 88.6
Jason Bergmann 2.89 4.13 1.30 89.8
Greg Maddux 2.88 4.17 1.25 83.5
Dave Bush 2.79 4.50 1.13 88.5
Jered Weaver 2.59 4.37 1.30 89.9
Ted Lilly 2.58 4.35 1.34 87.0
Bronson Arroyo 2.57 5.55 1.51 88.2
Carlos Silva 2.55 5.92 1.50 90.0
Johnny Cueto 2.50 5.00 1.36 93.3

These 18 underachievers averaged 89.6 mph on their heaters this year.  26 pitchers had K/BB's of 2.5 or better and a sub-4.00 ERA.  The average fastball velocity of that group: over a full mile per hour higher at 90.7.  Is this meaningful?  Beats me.  But it sure is interesting.  Makes you think Beckett, Oswalt, and Cueto could post sub-4.00 ERAs next year.  It also makes you skeptical of Justin Duchscherer, Jorge Campillo, Mike Mussina, and Shaun Marcum, none of whom average even 87 mph. 

If you are trying to distinguish between strong K/BB guys, fastball velocity is a useful point of data.  I get it from FanGraphs.  I search for the pitcher and then scroll down to Pitch Type.  The average fastball velocity is in parentheses under FB.

HR rate is another huge differentiator between the two groups.  The sub-4.00 group averages a 0.58 HR/9.  The above-4.00 group averages 1.24 HR/9.

I've also created one more group, those with a K/BB ratio under 2.5 but at least 2.0.  They also have a HR/9 below 1.0.  Most of these pitchers are already having great seasons.  Matt Cain stands out as one pitcher who is slightly unappreciated in fantasy leagues.  He has almost put it all together: tough to hit, plenty of Ks, low HR rate, average fastball velo of 92.5.  If Cain's control improves, he'll be elite.  It may have already - his BB/9 was just 2.72 from May to July.


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Keeper Analysis

Just a warning - I received tons of keeper emails, so unfortunately I won't be able to get to many of them.  Anyway, let's kick it off.

Melissa writes in with a 10 team 6x6 roto league (quality starts and doubles being the extra stats).  She is allowed six keepers from the following list:

Mark Teixeira
Jimmy Rollins
Ryan Braun
B.J. Upton
Nick Markakis
Adrian Gonzalez
Josh Beckett
Chad Billingsley
Jamie Shields
Justin Verlander

Solid group!  I have to admit I have little experience with the 6x6 format.  Seems like a good pitcher or slugger should get plenty of quality starts and doubles anyway, so it shouldn't change things drastically. 

  • Braun is a no-brainer for me, a first-round five category monster.
  • I love five-tool players; they make it really easy to balance a team.  I am taking Markakis.
  • Even with a down year Rollins is a huge asset at shortstop.  He's in.
  • Shields is reliable and proven; I'll take him.
  • I tend to lean toward dependable early-round sluggers, so I'll take Teixeira.
  • That leaves one slot left.  I have to choose between Upton, Gonzalez, Beckett, Billingsley, and Verlander.  To me it was between Upton and Beckett.  Both are having off years compared to '07, but have still provided value.  With Upton losing his 2B eligibility, I will go with Beckett.  With his peripherals he could easily be in the mid 3's with 13-14 wins.  Upton also has question marks in the batting average and power categories.
  • So, the keepers are Braun, Markakis, Rollins, Shields, Teixeira, and Beckett.


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RotoAuthority Picks Your Keepers

Judging from the reader suggestions, you want more posts about keepers this time of year.  I'm up for that.  Email me your keeper situations and I'll try to pick a representative handful each week to diagnose.  Be sure to include the league type, number of keepers, and candidates for consideration.

By the way, I've been doing a much better job keeping the Fantasy Baseball Closers post up-to-date.  Check it out.


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Pick Up Denard Span?

I have to admit, I hadn't given Twins right fielder Denard Span much consideration.  But I read this post by Dave Cameron today - it appears Span's on-base ability is for real (and there was never any doubting his speed).  As Cameron says, Span is flying under the radar because he plays for the Twins.

In Triple A this year, Span attempted a steal more than 30% of the time he was on first base.  He's at 16% in the bigs so far, which will hopefully rise as he becomes a better baserunner.

Michael Cuddyer's return next week might affect Span's playing time, though.  Logic says Span moves to center field with Carlos Gomez going to Triple A or the bench.  But we know the Twins aren't always logical.


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No Restrictions For Greinke

Zack Greinke owners may be concerned that he'll face a 152 inning cap this year, since he pitched 122 in '07.  However, the 24 year-old did toss 183 innings back in '05. 

I asked Royals beat writer Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star whether the team is contemplating shutting him down early.  He said, "Greinke said there are no plans to back him off."  So, I guess that's that unless the team springs it on him a month from now or he shows signs of fatigue.


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Trading Injured Players A Tricky Situation

It is always a risk to make a deal involving an injured player.  I experienced this personally in the RotoAuthority league this year, as I swapped Cliff Lee for a recently-DL'd Rafael Furcal on May 13th.   Furcal hasn't played a single game for my team, while Lee has a 3.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, and 8 wins in 93 innings since our trade.

There were no ethical issues with the Furcal deal - Los Genius and I had access to the same information at the time of the deal.  At that time, Furcal was expected back on May 21st.  He ended up having back surgery on July 2nd, and will return in September at best. 

On the other hand, if you acquired Rich Harden on the cheap when he hit the DL on April 10th, you'd have been rewarded with a 2.19 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, and 5 wins in 90.3 innings since.  If you're a gambler, acquiring injured players is high risk, high reward.

In the RotoAuthority Silver League, a situation developed involving John Maine.  I won't get into the he-said, she-said.  But it sounds like Joel Hanrahan was offered for Maine.  At the time of the offer Maine was known to be ailing but not yet on the DL.  He hits the DL, then the offer is accepted.  The league chose to veto the trade.

Simple solution: don't allow the league to veto trades.  I completed a deal earlier this year with Mike Silver, where I sent him Conor Jackson for Yovani Gallardo.  In Gallardo's next start he tore his ACL.  Bad luck for me, but it would've been wrong to overturn the deal even if it was still in the approval period.  As I've said, I find it ridiculous that most leagues have owners vote on each other's trades.  This another reason why.


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Innings Caps

Let's look at some starters and their possible innings caps this year.  Who might be shut down early?  We'll assume teams will be reluctant to extend their young starters more than 30 innings past the previous year's total.  Of course, the rule may not apply to some of these pitchers. Greinke, for example, tossed 183 innings in '05 and may be able to handle that kind of workload.

Some of these pitchers will switch over to shutdown risks as the playoff picture clears up.

  • Cole Hamels.  Cap: 220.  Pace: 230 plus playoffs.
  • Jeremy Guthrie.  Cap: 205.3.  Pace: 221.  Shutdown risk.
  • Tim Lincecum.  Cap: 207.3.  Pace:  216. Shutdown risk.
  • Ervin Santana.  Cap: 214.3.  Pace: 217 plus playoffs.
  • Zack Greinke.  Cap: 152.  Pace: 204. Shutdown risk.  I asked Royals beat writer Bob Dutton about this one, so we may have a more definitive answer soon.
  • Jon Lester.  Cap: 193.  Pace: 203 plus playoffs.
  • Paul Maholm. Cap: 207.6.  Pace: 207.
  • Ricky Nolasco.  Cap: 85.  Pace: 205 plus playoffs.
  • Scott Olsen. Cap: 206.6.  Pace:  198 plus playoffs.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez.  Cap: 215.  Pace: 201.
  • Joe Saunders.  Cap: 223.6. Pace: 206 plus playoffs.
  • Chad Billingsley.  Cap: 177.  Pace: 201 plus playoffs.
  • Nick Blackburn.  Cap: 178.6.  Pace: 195 plus playoffs.
  • Edinson Volquez.  Cap: 208.6. Pace: 193.
  • Jair Jurrjens.  Cap: 173.3.  Pace:  195. Shutdown risk.
  • Gavin Floyd.  Cap: 206.6.  Pace: 194 plus playoffs.
  • John Danks.  Cap: 169.  Pace:  190 plus playoffs.
  • Jered Weaver.  Cap: 207.  Pace: 184 plus playoffs.
  • Johnny Cueto.  Cap: 191.3.  Pace: 188.
  • Brian Bannister.  Cap: 215.6.  Pace: 187.
  • Greg Smith. Cap: 152. Pace:  187. Shutdown risk.
  • Mike Pelfrey.  Cap: 182.6.  Pace: 187 plus playoffs.
  • Zach Duke.  Cap: 153.3.  Pace: 184. Shutdown risk.
  • Dana Eveland.  Cap: 67.6.  Pace: 182. Shutdown risk.
  • John Lannan.  Cap: 189.3.  Pace: 184.
  • Edwin Jackson.  Cap: 191.  Pace: 184 plus playoffs.
  • Matt Garza.  Cap: 205.  Pace: 190 plus playoffs.
  • Jonathan Sanchez.  Cap: 105.6. Pace: 179. Shutdown risk.
  • Todd Wellemeyer.  Cap: 110.3. Pace: 186 plus playoffs.
  • Manny Parra.  Cap: 163. Pace: 175 plus playoffs.
  • Shaun Marcum.  Cap: 189. Pace: 180.
  • Armando Galarraga.  Cap: 191. Pace: 186 plus playoffs.
  • Luke Hochevar.  Cap: 194.6. Pace: 170.
  • Joba Chamberlain.  Cap: 146. Pace: 139 plus playoffs.
  • Clay Buchholz.  Cap: 178. Pace: 160 plus playoffs.
  • Sean Gallagher.  Cap: 146.3. Pace: 165. Shutdown risk.
  • Clayton Kershaw.  Cap:  152. Pace: 164 plus playoffs.
  • Scott Kazmir.  Cap: 236.6 . Pace: 171 plus playoffs.
  • Wandy Rodriguez. Cap: 212.6. Pace: 156.
  • Rich Harden.  Cap: 56.6.  Pace: 171 plus playoffs.


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Caution On Liriano

Francisco Liriano finally returned to the Majors, tossing six innings with five strikeouts to beat the Indians.  However, both Dave Cameron and Aaron Gleeman caution that he is still not the Liriano we saw in '06.

Liriano's average heater remains 3.7 mph down from '06, though his slider is still tough.  Liriano gets the Royals Saturday, and even with diminished abilities he might be able to handle them.  A lot of fantasy leagues have trade deadlines approaching; Liriano owners may want to shop around for a more reliable player in non-keeper leagues.


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