May 2009

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Sunday Matchups

The Ben Francisco thing worked out well, so here are a few more examples of hitters seemingly owning pitchers (for Sunday).

  • Pedro Feliz vs. John Lannan: 7 for 12, 1 HR.
  • Scott Podsednik vs. Zack Greinke: 11 for 23, 3 2B.


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Mailbag: Liriano, Nolasco, Ortiz, Rays Pen

Digging through the ol' mailbag...

After yet another bad showing by Francisco Liriano, would you drop him? He has lost pretty much all trade value, but I just do not want to jump the gun considering Liriano, Jon Lester and Scott Baker (dropped earlier this week) were supposed to be my anchors. I feel Lester will bounce back; Baker appears to be a lost cause but I cannot figure Liriano out. - Kevin

I wouldn't have dropped Lester or Baker.  Lester has a 3.88 xFIP, while Baker has a 3.5 K/BB ratio.  As for cutting Liriano, well, it depends on who you'd pick up.  But yes, I would seriously consider it.  At this point Liriano is no better than, say, Jorge De La Rosa.  Lefties with control problems are a dime a dozen, but at least De La Rosa has velocity and a 9.4 K/9.

Tim, what is your take on the struggles of Ricky Nolasco and David Ortiz?  - Michael

I didn't see it coming in either case.  It's easy to keep repeating that Nolasco's peripherals are strong, but a 9.07 ERA is a 9.07 ERA and that is brutal on a fantasy team.  On the other hand, a .395 BABIP is not something that is going to last.  For those with 150 IP, the highest BABIP last year was Ian Snell at .360.  And Snell's BABIP is a normal .305 in 2009.  It would not surprise me to see Nolasco take a few minor league starts and come back strong.  He's on many waiver wires right now...the cost of stashing him is minimal.

My guess is that Big Papi has a DL stint in his future.  He's been so awful this year that a complete 180 is hard to envision.  Again, dropping him depends on who you are picking up, but I would not be starting Ortiz.

Just wondering if any of the players in the mix of the Rays closing situation are worth picking up? I'm on the wavier wire for a closer and am contemplating dropping Rafael Soriano...is it worth it? - Joliet Jake

I would hold on to Soriano rather than dive into the Tampa Bay mess.  Mike Gonzalez's job is safe, but Soriano is the better pitcher right now and he is also racking up Ks.  You never know, Gonzalez could get hurt.  In the Rays pen, you have to wonder if J.P. Howell could get a look.  He's a southpaw, but he's actually pitching poorly against lefties and well against righties.  Longer-term I expect the Rays to trade for someone, so follow the rumors.

So what exactly can we infer from BABIP? - Tom

What I am trying to do with the BABIP posts is determine which starting pitchers have been lucky or unlucky.  I know it's not ALL luck or random, but abnormal BABIPs tend to get back into the .290-.310 range.  The current top 3 in BABIP: Lester at .375, Tim Lincecum at .358, and Kevin Slowey at .354.  I take that to mean that all three will see their WHIPs come down (via fewer hits), if they keep pitching at the same level.  On the flip side, the WHIPs of Yovani Gallardo (.231), Matt Garza (.233), and Brian Tallet (.236) will increase to some extent.  (I'm not saying to sell on Gallardo...a 1.07 WHIP might be 1.19 from here on out, something like that). 


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Monitoring Jordan Zimmermann

Nationals rookie Jordan Zimmermann is available in a lot of mixed leagues, as his ERA found its way to 6.35 after an ugly May 17th start against the Phillies. It was Zimmermann's fourth consecutive slow start.  But just when I'd completely counted him out, he put up a 7 inning, 1 ER, 7 K gem against the Orioles.  That's a team that hits righties pretty well.

Zimmermann's numbers so far:

41 innings
5.71 ERA
3.80 xFIP
1.41 WHIP
1.35 Expected WHIP
8.56 K/9
2.63 BB/9
3.25 K/BB
1.32 HR/9
19.7% HR/flyball rate
38.1% groundball rate
10.10 H/9
.351 BABIP vs. .324 team BABIP

So if Zimmermann had a 3.80 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with 39 Ks in 7 starts, would he be on any waiver wires?  Not many.  But it seems that that's what we should expect from here on out, especially as he gets acclimated to the Majors.  Zimmermann is stuck with the Nationals' defense, but his BABIP should still come down as should his HR/flyball rate.

Zimmermann starts against the Mets today, a team ranked 9th in the NL with a .737 OPS against righties.  While he's stuck dueling with Johan Santana, the Mets' depleted lineup won't have Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, or Carlos Delgado.  It looks like he'll get the Giants next time out, so I'm willing to give him a look in mixed leagues.  I just have to find the patience to stick with Zimmermann after his next lousy start.


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Responding To Lame Trade Offers

Jon Williams of Advanced Fantasy Baseball posted a list of "ten fantasy baseball trade secrets" yesterday.  Here's #6:

If you get an offer you don't like, don't freak out, just make a counter offer. I read about poor reactions to trade offers all the time. Reacting with anger or any excess emotion over a bad offer is really just a waste of time. It also creates bad will with an owner who may have just honestly misjudged the value of a player. If you present a counter offer you create a dialogue which could lead to a trade that is much better than the one you refused. But don't try to out bad offer him, suggest a fair trade that would actually help your team and his. You may end up making your league stronger by doing this.

Jon makes a great point here.  I violated this rule recently in the RotoAuthority league.  I'd just lost my MI, Rickie Weeks, for the season.  Andrew of A Century Of Misery offered me Ryan Theriot, Placido Polanco, and Jim Thome for my second baseman, Brian Roberts.

This was one of those trade offers that doesn't even require thought - an instant rejection.  I'd be hard-pressed to make any trade giving up a star to get three lesser players, and I'd be trading a top 3 second baseman for three guys who, in my opinion, are waiver bait in a 12-team mixed league.

But Andrew and I had been able to hammer out a deal in the past, where I sent him Jose Valverde for Bobby Abreu on April 15th.  And that happened after he'd rejected the same offer a month prior.  Instead of getting a trade dialogue going, though, I slammed the door by trying to "out bad-offer" him.  I offered Coco Crisp, Casey Blake, and LaTroy Hawkins for Carlos Lee, and our trade talks ended.  Jon was right - my response was a waste of time and I missed out on a chance to find a deal that worked for both sides.


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Ultimate Matchup Test

I know there have been studies saying batter vs. pitcher matchup data doesn't have any predictive value until it reaches a pretty large sample.  Or, maybe a tiny edge if the results are lopsided in the matchup.

Well for tomorrow I present the ultimate test: Ben Francisco vs. Andy Sonnanstine.  Francisco is 6 for 7 with 4 HR, a double, and a walk against Sonny.  Will he keep it up with a couple more extra base hits?


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Expected WHIP

WHIP can be a tricky category in fantasy baseball, because it can be so deceiving.  Look at Kevin Slowey.  He has a 1.39 WHIP right now - not helpful.  But we know Slowey has a .361 BABIP, which is expected to come down toward the Twins' team BABIP of .303.  So can we determine what Slowey's WHIP would be, if he had the Twins' .303 BABIP instead?  That is what I set out to find with Expected WHIP (disclaimer: this stat might already exist somewhere, I haven't checked).

We know the formula for BABIP.  So if we insert the team's BABIP (calculated as 1 minus defensive efficiency) and solve for hits, we get the "expected hits" the pitcher should have allowed. Combine that with his actual walks and divide by innings pitched and we have Expected WHIP (eWHIP from here on out).  By the way, the Brewers lead baseball with a .275 team BABIP.  Thank your defenders, Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush, and most of the bullpen.

Running the numbers on Slowey, we find that with his team's .303 BABIP and his own incredible control, his eWHIP is 1.21.  Pretty big difference.  Here's the hard-luck leaderboard:

NAME BABIP Team H eHits WHIP eWHIP Diff
Ricky Nolasco 0.395 0.320 66 56 1.81 1.57 -0.24
Felipe Paulino 0.398 0.326 43 36 1.97 1.73 -0.24
Kevin Slowey 0.361 0.303 73 63 1.39 1.21 -0.18
Jon Lester 0.384 0.322 68 59 1.61 1.44 -0.17
Todd Wellemeyer 0.347 0.297 63 54 1.67 1.51 -0.16
Manny Parra 0.329 0.275 51 44 1.71 1.56 -0.15
Scott Olsen 0.366 0.324 60 54 1.90 1.76 -0.15
Tim Lincecum 0.376 0.312 54 46 1.24 1.10 -0.14
Carl Pavano 0.373 0.324 62 55 1.50 1.36 -0.14
Cole Hamels 0.357 0.304 50 44 1.39 1.26 -0.14
Andy Sonnanstine 0.352 0.314 63 57 1.66 1.53 -0.13
Shane Loux 0.355 0.315 52 47 1.72 1.59 -0.13
Joe Blanton 0.345 0.304 57 52 1.67 1.55 -0.12
Matt Harrison 0.330 0.292 68 61 1.54 1.41 -0.12
Scott Kazmir 0.358 0.314 60 54 1.95 1.83 -0.12
Jamie Moyer 0.344 0.304 68 62 1.78 1.65 -0.12
Aaron Harang 0.325 0.290 69 62 1.31 1.20 -0.10
Randy Johnson 0.352 0.312 53 48 1.57 1.46 -0.10
Jason Hammel 0.364 0.331 51 47 1.69 1.59 -0.10

What a difference of handful of hits makes.  Turns out Slowey, Pavano, Hamels, and Harang should be in much better shape.

Now for the flip side...whose WHIP looks much better than it should be?

NAME BABIP Team H eHits WHIP eWHIP Diff
Matt Palmer 0.211 0.315 28 39 1.18 1.50 0.31
Lance Cormier 0.228 0.314 27 37 1.06 1.35 0.29
Tim Wakefield 0.245 0.322 50 65 1.31 1.56 0.25
Jason Marquis 0.264 0.331 59 73 1.29 1.51 0.23
Chris Volstad 0.239 0.320 50 64 1.13 1.36 0.23
Josh Outman 0.235 0.314 32 41 1.24 1.47 0.23
Joe Saunders 0.249 0.315 53 66 1.16 1.37 0.22
Matt Garza 0.241 0.314 43 56 1.15 1.37 0.21
Jered Weaver 0.249 0.315 49 61 1.07 1.27 0.20
Edinson Volquez 0.213 0.290 32 42 1.29 1.49 0.20
Shairon Martis 0.27 0.324 52 62 1.36 1.55 0.19
Scott Feldman 0.233 0.292 35 43 1.16 1.34 0.18
John Maine 0.253 0.311 42 51 1.39 1.57 0.18
Aaron Cook 0.28 0.331 51 60 1.44 1.61 0.17
Dan Haren 0.25 0.313 48 58 0.90 1.07 0.16
Brian Tallet 0.236 0.289 44 53 1.27 1.44 0.16
Jair Jurrjens 0.26 0.313 50 60 1.18 1.34 0.16
Doug Davis 0.26 0.313 54 64 1.27 1.43 0.15
Jeremy Guthrie 0.281 0.326 65 74 1.40 1.55 0.15
Derek Lowe 0.267 0.313 52 61 1.18 1.33 0.15
Brian Bannister 0.282 0.324 39 45 1.29 1.43 0.15
Ross Ohlendorf 0.242 0.284 49 57 1.13 1.27 0.14
Mark Buehrle 0.287 0.328 57 65 1.17 1.31 0.14
Barry Zito 0.265 0.312 50 58 1.32 1.46 0.14
Kyle Davies 0.28 0.324 48 55 1.35 1.48 0.14
Kevin Millwood 0.248 0.292 59 68 1.15 1.28 0.14
Koji Uehara 0.286 0.326 50 56 1.20 1.33 0.12
Anthony Reyes 0.294 0.324 40 45 1.64 1.76 0.12
CC Sabathia 0.268 0.305 60 68 1.14 1.26 0.12
Yovani Gallardo 0.231 0.275 42 49 1.07 1.19 0.12
Chris Jakubauskas 0.282 0.309 49 54 1.45 1.57 0.11
Brett Myers 0.267 0.304 59 65 1.34 1.46 0.11
Randy Wolf 0.249 0.286 51 58 1.12 1.23 0.11
Fausto Carmona 0.291 0.324 56 62 1.66 1.77 0.11
Ted Lilly 0.255 0.294 49 55 1.10 1.21 0.11
Trevor Cahill 0.281 0.314 52 57 1.54 1.65 0.11
Johnny Cueto 0.253 0.290 47 53 1.04 1.14 0.11
Dave Bush 0.242 0.275 51 57 1.11 1.21 0.10
Jarrod Washburn 0.275 0.309 47 52 1.21 1.31 0.10
Scott Baker 0.27 0.303 50 55 1.28 1.38 0.10
Rick Porcello 0.261 0.294 42 47 1.25 1.35 0.10
Jeff Niemann 0.285 0.314 51 56 1.53 1.63 0.10
Jonathan Sanchez 0.276 0.312 36 40 1.56 1.66 0.10
Josh Geer 0.268 0.294 42 46 1.22 1.31 0.10
Brett Anderson 0.285 0.314 49 53 1.41 1.51 0.10
Josh Johnson 0.286 0.320 58 64 1.10 1.20 0.10

Might be some sell-high opportunities in here.  Volstad has a 1.13 WHIP, but you know he's pitched more like 1.36.

Your eWHIP leaderboard:

NAME WHIP eWHIP Diff
Zack Greinke 0.91 0.99 0.08
Roy Halladay 1.03 1.02 -0.01
Justin Verlander 1.11 1.04 -0.06
Dan Haren 0.90 1.07 0.16
Johan Santana 1.05 1.09 0.04
Tim Lincecum 1.24 1.10 -0.14
Javier Vazquez 1.14 1.12 -0.03
Zach Duke 1.08 1.12 0.05
Jake Peavy 1.10 1.14 0.04
Johnny Cueto 1.04 1.14 0.11
Chad Billingsley 1.19 1.15 -0.05
Joel Pineiro 1.21 1.18 -0.03
Erik Bedard 1.13 1.18 0.05
Yovani Gallardo 1.07 1.19 0.12
Edwin Jackson 1.10 1.19 0.09
Wandy Rodriguez 1.13 1.19 0.06


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HR/Flyball Rate

From The Hardball Times:

Research has shown that about 11% to 12% of outfield flies are hit for home runs. For pitchers, significant variations from 11% are probably the result of "luck," but for hitters the HR/flyball stat is more indicative of a true skill (hitting the ball hard!).

OK so then who's been victimized by an unlucky HR/flyball rate?  Check out the leaderboard:

  1. Brett Myers - 28.7%
  2. Randy Johnson - 27.6%
  3. Cole Hamels - 26.6%
  4. Scott Baker - 23.0%
  5. Rich Harden - 22.4%
  6. Braden Looper - 22.0%
  7. Chris Volstad - 20.8%
  8. Roy Oswalt - 20.7%
  9. Jeff Suppan - 19.0%
  10. Armando Galarraga - 18.9%
  11. Jon Lester - 18.8%
  12. Joe Blanton - 18.8%
  13. Bronson Arroyo - 17.8%
  14. Dave Bush - 17.0%
  15. Livan Hernandez - 16.9%
  16. Francisco Liriano - 16.8%
  17. John Lannan - 16.6%
  18. Trevor Cahill - 16.6%
  19. Doug Davis - 16.5%
  20. Ross Ohlendorf - 16.4%

Cross-checking this list with our BABIP leaders, we find that Lester has been extremely unlucky.  Alex Speier at WEEI has a nice analysis of his early struggles.  Johnson and Blanton also appear on both lists.


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Facing Weak Offenses

Last week's recommendations worked out surprisingly well, so let's do it again.  I like to stick to the NL for my spot starts, so we'll focus again on the Padres, Giants, and Diamondbacks' opponents.  By the way, don't have the knee-jerk assumption that the Nationals can't hit.  This year they are third in the NL with 5.02 runs scored per game.

  • Tuesday: Braves rookie Kris Medlen takes on the Giants, but unfortunately draws Tim Lincecum.  Medlen's debut against the Rockies did not go well, but he's a decent gamble.  The Padres and D'Backs face off on Tuesday.  Max Scherzer will be owned, but you could try San Diego's Kevin Correia again.  He's quietly tossed three quality starts in a row.
  • Wednesday: The D'Backs will use Billy Buckner against the Padres.  He had a strong start against the A's, and his last few in Triple A were good too.  Worth considering.  The Braves send Kenshin Kawakami against the Giants, and I'd definitely use him the way he's been throwing this month (2.63 ERA, 24 Ks in 24 IP).
  • Thursday: Nothing for you; the Braves are using Derek Lowe against San Francisco and the other two teams are off.
  • Friday: Kyle Lohse takes on the Giants coming off an excellent effort against the Royals.  Lohse can handle weak offenses typically.  The Padres are at Coors against Jason Marquis; I'd pass.
  • Saturday: It's Joel Pineiro against the Giants; he's on a roll and is worth trying.  Jason Hammel takes on the Padres, and I'd pass again with the game being at Coors.


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BABIP, Anyone?

Time for this week's installment.  Minimum 30 IP. 

Those being helped by low BABIPs:

NAME BABIP K/BB ISO ERA WHIP
Matt Palmer 0.202 1.38 0.138 4.26 1.14
Edinson Volquez 0.213 1.45 0.156 4.25 1.29
Brian Tallet 0.217 1.57 0.204 4.47 1.24
Matt Garza 0.221 1.96 0.137 3.50 1.09
Jered Weaver 0.225 3.23 0.155 2.59 0.97
Ted Lilly 0.233 3.58 0.204 3.35 1.04
Randy Wolf 0.234 2.42 0.156 2.72 1.07
Tim Wakefield 0.236 1.30 0.101 3.59 1.25
Lance Cormier 0.238 1.71 0.088 2.10 1.07
Chris Volstad 0.240 2.65 0.185 3.64 1.12
Scott Feldman 0.241 1.58 0.112 4.04 1.18
Johnny Cueto 0.243 3.08 0.130 2.35 1.01
Jair Jurrjens 0.245 1.60 0.108 1.96 1.13
Dan Haren 0.246 6.22 0.084 2.09 0.86

Those on the other side of the coin:

NAME BABIP K/BB ISO ERA WHIP
Tim Lincecum 0.389 4.13 0.088 3.75 1.31
Jon Lester 0.388 3.38 0.212 6.51 1.62
Ricky Nolasco 0.382 2.92 0.232 7.78 1.68
Jason Hammel 0.373 2.22 0.164 4.60 1.72
Andy Sonnanstine 0.371 1.71 0.209 7.36 1.79
Carl Pavano 0.370 3.20 0.171 6.33 1.55
Gavin Floyd 0.367 1.52 0.160 7.71 1.87
Scott Olsen 0.366 1.61 0.268 7.24 1.90
Jordan Zimmermann 0.365 2.91 0.203 6.35 1.50
Justin Masterson 0.365 2.50 0.105 4.57 1.43
Kevin Slowey 0.365 8.75 0.201 4.50 1.44
Todd Wellemeyer 0.359 1.29 0.158 5.87 1.74
Scott Kazmir 0.358 1.21 0.179 7.69 1.95
Josh Beckett 0.357 2.00 0.149 5.85 1.66
Shane Loux 0.355 1.00 0.121 5.40 1.72
Cole Hamels 0.354 4.22 0.261 4.95 1.40

  • Long-term, Slowey is going to help your WHIP.  And I have to keep beating the drum for Lester and Nolasco, who probably deserve ERAs around 4.00 right now.


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Replacing Rickie Weeks

So, you just lost Rickie Weeks for the season.  It's a bummer, and you aren't going to find anyone who can match his numbers on the waiver wire.  But don't spend too much time sulking - you knew Weeks was injury-prone when you drafted him.  Let's get on with the matter of replacing him.

  • Orlando Cabrera has been lousy in every way this year.  He is getting acclimated to a new team again, and he supplied value last year in the form of a .281 AVG, 93 R, and 19 SB.  And that was despite a few really bad months last year.  So O-Cab is worth considering if you can take the hit in power.  Akinori Iwamura is another who can give you AVG, R, and SB.
  • Mike Fontenot hit 4 HR in April, but he's been M.I.A. in May.  The Cubs want his left-handed power and infield glove, so they'll keep hoping he breaks out of the slump.
  • Sometimes, like with Rick Porcello, you have to ignore the projections and pay attention to the talent.  Maybe Elvis Andrus is the same way?  He's only 20, and he's having a decent May.  He sometimes bats second in the Rangers' high-powered lineup and has the potential to steal 30.
  • Edgar Renteria, once he returns to the lineup later this week, could be a guy like O-Cab who at least gives you OK counting stats.
  • Alberto Callaspo never strikes out, so he really may be able to hit .300.  But he doesn't do much else.  Cristian Guzman is available in some shallower leagues; he is the more proven version of Callaspo.
  • Ben Zobrist's numbers are quite good, assuming he finds playing time.
  • I have a league where Kelly Johnson and Placido Polanco are available (I dropped KJ for Guzman).  I liked both 2Bs in the preseason and the season is only 1/4 over.





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