April 2009

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BABIP, Anyone?

Minimum 15 innings pitched.  Those benefitting from low BABIPs so far this year:

Jonathan Sanchez 0.182 1.42 0.175 2.60 1.27
Tim Wakefield 0.184 1.42 0.048 1.86 0.97
Jeff Karstens 0.190 0.89 0.333 5.40 1.40
Brian Tallet 0.204 1.88 0.182 2.95 1.09
Chris Volstad 0.207 1.83 0.145 2.70 1.16
Dan Haren 0.214 7.20 0.089 1.54 0.74
Kevin Millwood 0.216 2.75 0.123 2.13 0.97
Edwin Jackson 0.221 2.63 0.150 2.25 1.03
Ted Lilly 0.227 2.67 0.241 3.80 1.10
John Danks 0.230 2.25 0.122 2.74 1.09
Yovani Gallardo 0.232 2.88 0.116 3.71 1.01
James Shields 0.233 1.55 0.198 3.74 1.22
Jarrod Washburn 0.238 2.43 0.160 3.42 1.10
Rick Porcello 0.241 3.67 0.214 4.50 1.17
Scott Kazmir 0.242 1.42 0.159 3.97 1.32
Koji Uehara 0.243 2.33 0.187 4.56 1.14
John Maine 0.246 1.25 0.128 5.40 1.34

These WHIPs will not be maintained.  Use extra caution on those with low K/BB ratios.

Here's a look at those with high BABIPs/bad luck:

Todd Wellemeyer 0.451 2.17 0.105 6.14 1.95
Joe Blanton 0.429 2.86 0.270 8.41 1.97
Carl Pavano 0.417 3.20 0.250 9.50 1.89
Dana Eveland 0.408 1.00 0.048 5.95 2.08
Cole Hamels 0.407 3.75 0.311 7.27 1.79
Tim Lincecum 0.404 5.00 0.129 2.96 1.27
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.404 1.12 0.105 7.58 2.11
Ricky Nolasco 0.398 2.44 0.187 6.92 1.69
Andy Sonnanstine 0.397 1.88 0.155 7.78 1.83
Adam Eaton 0.397 2.63 0.176 7.17 1.73
Jon Lester 0.394 3.71 0.147 4.88 1.50
Shane Loux 0.391 0.83 0.071 6.61 1.96
Justin Verlander 0.388 3.78 0.179 6.75 1.54
Aaron Cook 0.387 1.00 0.247 8.35 2.13
Matt Harrison 0.367 0.75 0.196 7.89 2.08
Vicente Padilla 0.366 1.88 0.189 8.27 1.84
Yusmeiro Petit 0.365 1.63 0.246 8.62 1.98
Javier Vazquez 0.362 4.86 0.097 2.63 1.21

These guys might be considered buy-low candidates, if they have high ERAs and strong peripherals.  Individual thoughts:

  • Wellemeyer leads baseball in hits allowed, but he's improved his control.
  • Nolasco leads baseball in earned runs.  His K rate is still fine, but he's lost his amazing control from last year.  I don't know if he's hiding an injury, but otherwise he looks like a nice buy low.  His owner might not be able to get past that 6.92 ERA.
  • Lester: walks down, Ks way up.  This is good.  He has a fluky-high 18.8% HR per flyball rate coupled with the .394 BABIP.  I would try to get him on the cheap.
  • Verlander: same story.  Go get him.

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Popular Adds

Let's take a look at the most popular additions in ESPN leagues.

  • Mike Lowell.  It wouldn't be the first time Lowell crushed expectations.  He's already racked up 22 ribbies.
  • Ryan Franklin.  Nine scoreless innings and the closer job in St. Louis.
  • Scott Downs.  A similarly excellent performance and a closer job for Downs.  Waiver wire diligence can pay off for saves.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera.  He's hitting .323 with three steals.  I'm not quite ready to raise expectations but I don't oppose the pickup.
  • Yadier Molina.  A decent-hitting catcher is so hard to find, especially with a lot of top guys struggling to start 2009.
  • Dexter Fowler.  Five swipes in a game will get you picked up, even if they were against Chris Young.  Fowler seems like a ROY candidate, and needs to be owned.
  • Jarrod Washburn.  Had his first rough start of the year last time out.  Chances are he's the same old Washburn.
  • Jason Kubel.  Off to a blazing 15 RBI start, no reason not to put him in your OF.  He did hit 20 HR last year.
  • Wandy Rodriguez.  I liked Wandy coming in, but I didn't expect a 1.69 ERA.  Zero HR won't last, but his 47.5% groundball rate is a career best.  The 5.91 hits per nine innings isn't close to sustainable.  Wandy is obviously worth owning but you might consider shopping him around just to see what's being offered.
  • Nyjer Morgan.  You have to love 16 runs and 6 steal with a .321 AVG. 

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Roundtable: Hill vs. Kendrick

This week's roundtable question:

Whom do you prefer for the remainder of the year, Aaron Hill or Howie Kendrick?

I submitted my answer on April 22nd, by the way.  Check out everyone's answers over at Fantasy Pros 911.

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Pirates Have Best Rotation In Baseball

The title for the best rotation in baseball right now goes to the Pirates, with a 3.02 ERA in 113.3 innings and 18 starts.  Not coincidentally, the Bucs have the lowest team BABIP at .259.  Previous BABIP leaders: .290 for the Rays in '08, .295 for the Cubs in '07, and .287 for the Padres in '06.

Let's take a closer look at the pitchers and see what's sustainable.

  • Paul Maholm - 2.03 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 26.6 innings.  Maholm also had an excellent spring.  But his K rate is dangerously low (3.38 per nine), and his .256 BABIP and 0.0% HR per flyball rates are unsustainable.  His control has improved, but his groundball rate has slipped from 53.6% to 46.5%.  Mahom's xFIP: 5.16.  He is a sell candidate.
  • Zach Duke - 2.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP.  Another guy with a worrisome K rate at just 4.85 per nine.  Still, that's better than last year and his control is excellent at 1.82 per nine.  Duke sports a .289 BABIP and 8.19 hits per nine innings, which I think will increase.  Still, with that kind of control his WHIP may remain helpful once the hits come back.  The 3.8% HR per flyball rate is not sustainable.  Groundballs are down from last year.  Duke has a 4.69 xFIP. 
  • Ross Ohlendorf - 3.24 ERA, 1.12 WHIP.  Since he has good stuff,  I figured Ohlendorf might be for real before I looked more closely.  It doesn't appear that way though - he's rocking a .267 BABIP and a 3.6 K/9.  On the plus side, I'm digging the control and the 51.9% groundball rate.  Ohlendorf has a 4.72 xFIP.  The Pirates should be happy with the progress on control and groundballs, but for fantasy baseball it's hard to predict a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out.
  • Ian Snell - 4.50 ERA, 1.73 WHIP.  The one guy without BABIP help needs it the most, given a 5.73 BB/9.  The .313 BABIP might come down and the 17.2% HR per flyball should.  But his Ks are down and the ugly control has been a problem for a while now.  His xFIP is 5.45.
  • Jeff Karstens - 3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP.  The team's fifth starter only has two starts, so we'll hold off on the analysis.

Bottom line: enjoy it while it lasts.  The numbers don't reveal any fantasy studs in the Pirates' rotation.

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Three Pitchers I Liked

At the beginning of the year, my fantasy rosters were littered with these three pitchers.  They were my favorite late-round picks.  Was I right to give up on them already?

  • Manny Parra, Brewers.  I was hoping the hard-throwing lefty might find better control than last year's 4.07 BB/9.  Instead he's regressed to 5.59 in the early going.  His K and groundball rates are both down.  It's only 19.3 innings, but Parra has not shown progress yet. 
  • Kenshin Kawakami, Braves.  Kawakami always had excellent control in Japan, with a 1.9 BB/9 last year.  With a 4.57 BB/9 this year, that has not translated.  We can expect his 23% HR per flyball rate to come down, and the 7.5 K/9 is nice.  But I hadn't envisioned Kawakami as a WHIP-killer.  Meanwhile, Koji Uehara is doing what I thought Kawakami would (and Koji's in the AL East).
  • David Purcey, Blue Jays.  Purcey is kind of like Parra - an intriguing lefty with a nice K rate, a guy you hope will make a leap in the control department.  The Ks are there at 10.0 per nine, but the 6.1 BB/9 will not fly.  Purcey's had bad luck with a high .358 BABIP but good luck with a 4.6 HR/flyball.

Also, I have to comment on Adam Eaton.  His strikeout, walk, and HR rates are spectacular, yet he's been bruised by a .458 BABIP and dangerously low 22.9% groundball rate.  He's had one good start out of three.  Would you dare pick him up?

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ERA Destruction: Matt Lindstrom

Our sympathies tonight for Matt Lindstrom owners.  The Marlins' closer entered an easy three-run save situation, and was battered around by the Phillies to the tune of 7 ER and 7 baserunners in two-thirds of an inning (including a Shane Victorino grand slam).  If you lost ten points in the standings tonight, this might be why.

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Popular Drops

Let's take a look at ESPN's most-dropped players this week.

  • Huston Street.  Not only did he lose the closing job to Manny Corpas, he'll be limited to middle relief.  There are better options if you're vulturing for saves.
  • Chien-Ming Wang.  Dropped after three ridiculously bad starts.  Even in March, Wang was a bad fantasy pick for a mixed league given the lack of Ks.
  • Jordan Schafer.  His line: .269-2-3-7-0.  Nothing really changed here, but Schafer was an impulsive pick for many after he hit two home runs in the first three games.  He's playing pretty well overall but has surprisingly not attempted a steal yet.
  • Xavier Nady.  Nady should be back in May; he avoided surgery on his elbow.  There's talk of platooning him when he returns.  The injury was unexpected, but Nady had no business being chosen in the 14th round in the first place.
  • Chris Carpenter.  Carpenter should be back anywhere from mid-May to mid-June due to his oblique tear, and many fantasy owners are giving up on him.  I'm in the "Keep Carpenter" camp unless you really need that roster spot.  I'd feel differently if it was an arm injury.
  • Alex Gordon.  Another solid player dropped due to injury.  Gordon will be out until at least late June due to hip surgery.  I'm less-inclined to stash him than Carpenter, but I'd consider it.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez.  Three starts, two of 'em stinkers.  He's the same WHIP-killer, but if you can stomach that he may still end up with 175 Ks.
  • Hideki Matsui.  I dropped Matsui in a couple of leagues, with the revelation that he had his knee drained on April 16th.  Put him on your watch list in case he shows signs of life within the next few weeks.
  • Randy Winn.  Slow start: .204-1-4-6-3.  He had a rough April last year too, and remains capable of knocking 4 HR and swiping 5 bags in a given month.
  • Joe Martinez.  More of an NL-only pick, we wish him in the best in his recovery.
  • David Patton.  Ditto on the NL-only for the Cubs' Rule 5 pick.
  • Cameron Maybin.  Slow start: .214-1-1-6-1.  Juan C. Rodriguez provides analysis.  This guy could still win Rookie of the Year, but bench him or just keep him on the watch list for now. 

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BABIP, Anyone?

Time for another installment.  The lowest BABIPs, minimum 10 innings pitched:

Andrew Bailey 0.053 6.50 0.091 0.87 0.39
Anthony Reyes 0.118 0.50 0.366 5.73 1.27
John Danks 0.148 1.86 0.073 0.75 1.00
Jonathan Sanchez 0.154 1.22 0.231 3.97 1.32
Edwin Jackson 0.158 2.60 0.178 2.14 0.81
Chris Carpenter 0.179 4.50 0.027 0.00 0.70
Ted Lilly 0.179 5.50 0.326 3.86 0.94
Joe Saunders 0.180 1.17 0.114 2.18 0.92
Brian Tallet 0.182 2.00 0.244 4.26 1.03
Jeff Karstens 0.194 0.57 0.167 3.60 1.40
Kyle Lohse 0.197 4.00 0.108 2.57 0.76
Kevin Millwood 0.203 3.50 0.051 1.17 0.78
A.J. Burnett 0.213 1.89 0.149 3.20 1.12
Tim Wakefield 0.213 1.14 0.036 3.00 1.13
Paul Maholm 0.215 1.00 0.042 0.87 0.97
Brett Myers 0.216 3.00 0.355 5.03 1.22
Bartolo Colon 0.216 2.00 0.136 3.86 1.03
Glen Perkins 0.219 3.00 0.035 1.50 0.83
Brandon McCarthy 0.222 1.56 0.297 4.76 1.41
Trevor Cahill 0.222 0.38 0.102 2.60 1.44
Jarrod Washburn 0.224 4.25 0.105 1.71 0.86
Dan Haren 0.229 5.67 0.076 1.89 0.79

I typically red-flag anyone with a low BABIP, nice ERA, and a K/BB under 2.0.  So Danks, Sanchez, Saunders, Karstens, Burnett, Wakefield, Maholm, McCarthy, and Cahill fit this description so far.  We're talking about two starts in some cases though so there's really not enough to draw conclusions. 

Those experiencing bad luck so far:

Joe Blanton 0.455 3.67 0.217 9.00 2.00
Todd Wellemeyer 0.453 2.00 0.111 5.29 1.94
Dana Eveland 0.439 1.00 0.061 7.36 2.32
Tim Lincecum 0.439 3.83 0.138 3.86 1.53
Cliff Lee 0.400 1.75 0.169 6.75 2.00
Vicente Padilla 0.400 2.20 0.203 9.64 2.00
Ricky Nolasco 0.396 4.00 0.210 6.60 1.60
Carl Pavano 0.395 3.25 0.296 9.69 1.69
Matt Harrison 0.395 0.56 0.200 8.44 2.44
Aaron Cook 0.395 1.50 0.333 10.22 2.11
Jon Lester 0.388 4.75 0.169 5.50 1.44
Zach Miner 0.382 1.20 0.302 8.10 2.10
Joel Pineiro 0.381 1.25 0.229 5.40 1.80
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.375 1.23 0.107 6.00 1.87
Kevin Slowey 0.371 6.00 0.253 5.89 1.64
Sidney Ponson 0.365 1.00 0.111 7.04 1.96
Justin Verlander 0.364 2.86 0.227 7.88 1.56
Carlos Zambrano 0.354 2.22 0.208 5.21 1.58
Brian Bass 0.353 2.00 0.468 10.45 2.03
Felix Hernandez 0.353 3.33 0.083 4.26 1.32

I'm not worried about Lincecum, Nolasco, Lester, Verlander, or Felix.  I doubt their owners are looking to sell at this point anyway.  How to use the ISO against stat: if it's around .150 or less, it means the guy is not giving up an abnormal amount of extra base hits.  So looking at Felix, those extra hits dropping in are singles.

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What The Hell Is Wrong With...Geovany Soto?

First up in our What The Hell Is Wrong With...series, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto.  The 25 year-old catcher has two hits in 24 plate appearances on the young season.  Granted, the Cubs' season is less than 7% over.  But, Soto has been a complete non-factor in fantasy baseball so far.

First off, Soto's WBC appearance threw off his preparation.  He fell behind in his hitting prep and put on some pounds, according to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald in March.  On April 7th, Soto left the Cubs' game against the Astros due to shoulder soreness/discomfort.  He said it wasn't the first time he's had this type of discomfort.  The MRI came back clean, and Soto returned on the 12th as a pinch-hitter.

Soto set the bar pretty high with his Rookie of the Year numbers - .285-23-86-66-0 in 494 ABs last year.  That's an expectation of about 4 HR and 14 RBI per month.  His worst month last year was July; he posted a .740 OPS and still managed 4 HR and 11 RBI.  You hate to see a catcher get off to a slow start, since you expect to see their best numbers in the first half before they get worn down.

Soto typically was drafted in the sixth round this year, after Russell Martin and Brian McCann among catchers.  I sprung for him in the fifth round of the RotoAuthority league, with Martin, McCann, and Joe Mauer already off the board.  Victor Martinez went in the sixth round, and that pick is working out well for Philly Cheez so far.  (By the way, Cult of Personality snagged Yadier Molina in the 23rd and Brandon Inge was an April 1st free agent pickup by Volvo Wagon Dynasty). 

All of that might be interesting (at least to me) but the bottom line is that with Soto and other slow starters, draft position and the stats so far are sunk costs.  He's on your roster, there's nothing better out there, and you have to wait and hope he starts hitting in May.  At least we have an explanation for Soto's April.  Baseball Prospectus has his Collapse Rate at 16% - basically the chance that his offense decreases by 20%+ compared to his established performance.  I think Soto will be fine, and it's just a matter of catching up after the WBC.

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Roundtable: Cold Starts

The question for this week's roundtable, from Patrick Cain of the Times Union:

What "cold" starts are most concerning to you? Who would you be looking to trade before their value plummets even further? What makes you convinced that this isn't just a slow start to 2009?

Click here to read our answers.

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