November 2008

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Home Run Per Flyball Leaders

Today we'll take a look at this year's home run per flyball leaders.  This rate is supposed to regress toward 10%, but every year many pitchers benefit by posting lower rates.  But before we get into the 2008 leaders, let's examine those who topped the list in '07.  Did these players see their HR/flyball rate go up or down in '08?

  1. Brad Penny - 4.7% - went up
  2. Chris Young - 5.0% - went up
  3. Kelvim Escobar - 6.0% - didn't pitch
  4. Chien-Ming Wang - 6.4% - went down
  5. Tim Hudson - 6.6% - went up
  6. Matt Cain - 6.7% - went up
  7. Jake Peavy - 6.7% - went up
  8. Adam Wainwright - 7.0% - went up
  9. Roy Halladay - 7.3% - went up
  10. Jon Garland - 7.4% - went up

Tons of injured pitchers among the '07 leaders for some reason.  But more importantly, all but one of the active pitchers saw their HR/flyball go up the following year.

Now let's look at the '08 leaders:

  1. Cliff Lee - 6.0%
  2. Tim Lincecum - 6.5%
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez - 6.9%
  4. John Danks - 7.1%
  5. Mike Pelfrey - 7.2%
  6. Daisuke Matsuzaka - 7.5%
  7. Dana Eveland - 7.5%
  8. Ryan Dempter - 7.6%
  9. Ben Sheets - 7.6%
  10. Justin Verlander - 7.9%

Holding all else equal, we should expect these pitchers' HR rates (and therefore ERAs) to rise in 2009.  Keep that in mind on draft day.  Other notable pitchers with abnormally low HR/flyball rates include Joey Devine, Matt Lindstrom, Jonathan Broxton, Brad Lidge, Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Chris Volstad, Kevin Gregg, Grant Balfour, Bobby Jenks, Anthony Reyes, B.J. Ryan, Joba Chamberlain, Rich Harden, C.C. Sabathia, Brad Ziegler, Francisco Rodriguez, Dustin McGowan, Andrew Miller, and Justin Duchscherer.

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A Look At Travis Snider

Today let's take a look at Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider.

Snider was drafted 14th overall out of high school in 2006.  He ascended very quickly, starting 2008 in High A ball and making it to the Majors.  Only 20 years old, he hit .301/.338/.466 in 80 big league plate appearances.

More importantly than his brief Major League stint, let's look at Snider's Major League Equivalent.  This is a translation of his minor league work in Major League terms.  That line: .277/.358/.485.  23 HR in 480 ABs.  In a way, that's what we might've expected if he spent all of 2008 in the bigs.  Would've been a phenomenal rookie season for a kid so young.

Scouting-wise, Baseball America loves Snider.  They say he has the tools to hit for average and power, but has below-average speed. 

Much like Jay Bruce in 2008, Snider's '09 opportunity is in question.  At present, the Jays are undecided at left field and DH.  However, they could sign a DH-type and continue trying Adam Lind in left.  Assuming Lyle Overbay stays, Snider could be in line for more Triple A seasoning (he's only had 18 games at the level, and keeping him there for a few months could delay free agency by a year).

Last spring Bruce was drafted in the 27th round on average, so in a 12-team mixed league you could've waited til the reserve round or picked him up midseason.  It figures to be a similar situation for Snider, and he's not the double-digit steal threat Bruce was.  Snider is certainly a top keeper, a guy who could hit .300 with 30 HR in 2010.  But for '09, he seems like more of a 20 HR type with playing time questions.  Worth a flier, nothing more in non-keeper leagues.

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Closer Review

All kinds of recent closer movement...

  • Kevin Gregg joined the Cubs, and it seems likely that Carlos Marmol gets first crack at the closer job.  Gregg could still see a few saves, but Marmol is a far superior pitcher.  Gregg's walk problems may catch up to him.  On a related note, it wouldn't be surprising to see Jose Ceda getting saves in Florida within a few years.
  • The Rockies acquired Huston Street, and I believe Manny Corpas loses value with the move.  Corpas was the clear favorite to close there.  Of course, Corpas could still win the job or Street could be traded.  But if Dan O'Dowd wisely hangs on to Street until at least midseason, he'll want to pump up his value with saves.
  • Keep an eye on Jeremy Affeldt.  If he goes somewhere without a firm closer, it'd be a good career move.  He's definitely capable of pitching the ninth inning.  Juan Cruz seems a bit less capable, but he could get a shot.
  • Trevor Hoffman, Kerry Wood, and Brian Fuentes are all free agents unlikely to return to their old teams.  All probably seek closing jobs, and Fuentes is certain to get one.
  • Brandon Lyon, Chad Cordero, Jason Isringhausen, Eddie Guardado, and Eric Gagne may not get another crack at the ninth.
  • Salomon Torres hung 'em up, so Milwaukee has an opening.
  • J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenks could be dealt, but they'd probably both still close.

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Will KC Help Mike Jacobs?

The Royals acquired Mike Jacobs to provide power at first base in 2009.  Can Jacobs match his 32 HR from 2008?

For lefthanded hitters, Dolphins Stadium inflates homers by 5%.  Meanwhile, Kauffman Stadium deflates lefty homers by 14%.  So, the ballpark switch alone could cost Jacobs three bombs (all else being equal).

Of course, all else isn't equal.  Jacobs goes to the harder league, and he's 28 now.  Without engaging in any real math, I'm comfortable knocking him down to 25 HR.  Throw in the weak AVG and there's not much here.  Quietly, Josh Phelps might be able to do the same thing for the Giants if he gets the playing time.

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ZiPS Analysis

ZiPS projections are up for the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs.  A few possible sleepers for 2009:

  • Angel Salome, C.  .277-11-51-48-2, but Jason Kendall has the starting job.
  • Yovani Gallardo, SP.  3.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP.  Could slip due to a lost '08.  I'm a bit disappointed by the WHIP projection.
  • Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Manny Parra have definite upside for sleeper fantasy seasons.  Yes, even Braun (he could hit 50 HR).
  • Ryan Ludwick, OF.  ZiPS is a believer, calling for 31 HR if Ludwick can reach 538 ABs again.
  • Rick Ankiel, Ludwick, and Adam Wainwright are the upside picks. A sub-3.00 ERA for Wainwright, perhaps?  35 HR for Ankiel in his walk year?
  • Geovany Soto, C.  Another big year projected: .294 AVG, 25 HR, 91 RBI.
  • Tyler Colvin and Sean Marshall have a bit of upside - 20 HR is possible for Colvin (somehow given full playing time), and Marshall could find his way to a sub-4.00 ERA.

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