August 2009

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Roundtable: Ubaldo Jimenez

This week's roundtable question, courtesy of Patrick DiCaprio:

"I predict that Ubaldo Jimenez will be a top seven fantasy pitcher in 2010. Will I be right?"

Check out Fantasy Pros 911 to read our answers.  What do you think?

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Gregg Removed From Closer Role

Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced early this morning that he plans to make late innings changes, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago TribuneKevin Gregg's West Coast implosion is the perfect fantasy opportunity - it's time to add Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, or both if you can.

The Cubs have tried to maintain Marmol as the setup man all year long, despite a maddening 52 walks in 56.3 innings.  Guzman has far better control, though his strikeout rate has been mediocre in recent months.  Here's how I see it: Piniella will probably soon announce an inclination toward Marmol, even though Guzman makes more sense.  This may not be a fantasy dilemma for you, as Marmol is already owned in many leagues.  So just add Guzman and see what happens.

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The Worst Closers In Baseball

The trade deadline came and went with only one closer, George Sherrill, losing his job.  Which was a shame, since Sherrill was having a fine year pitching the ninth for Baltimore.  Aside from injuries, those looking to vulture saves for the remaining 30% of the season have to hope a closer loses his job due to ineffectiveness.  With that in mind, let's look at some flawed stoppers.  The sample for this post includes the 30 active closers, with both Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson representing Texas and Jason Frasor and the injured Scott Downs repping Toronto.

Worst ERA

  1. Brad Lidge - 7.29
  2. Matt Capps - 5.97
  3. Kerry Wood - 4.73
  4. Brian Fuentes - 4.23
  5. Bobby Jenks - 4.03

Worst WHIP

  1. Brad Lidge - 1.76
  2. Matt Capps - 1.75
  3. Mike MacDougal - 1.52
  4. Kerry Wood - 1.38
  5. Francisco Rodriguez - 1.34

Most Hittable (Hits Per Nine Innings)

  1. Matt Capps - 12.19
  2. Brad Lidge - 10.50
  3. Chad Qualls - 9.45
  4. Bobby Jenks - 9.00
  5. Scott Downs - 8.65

Worst Control (Walks Per Nine Innings)

  1. Mike MacDougal - 6.04
  2. Francisco Rodriguez - 5.40
  3. Brad Lidge - 5.36
  4. David Aardsma - 5.09
  5. Fernando Rodney - 4.41

Lowest Strikeout Rate

  1. Mike MacDougal - 4.13
  2. Ryan Franklin - 6.34
  3. Jim Johnson - 6.36
  4. Francisco Cordero - 7.35
  5. Trevor Hoffman - 7.36

Highest HR Rate

  1. Brad Lidge - 2.14
  2. Matt Capps - 1.91
  3. Kevin Gregg - 1.84
  4. Kerry Wood - 1.58
  5. Leo Nunez - 1.39

Worst Save Percentage (Excluding those who spent time in setup roles)

  1. Brad Lidge - 75.0%
  2. Kerry Wood - 75.0%
  3. Jose Valverde - 78.9%
  4. Kevin Gregg - 81.5%
  5. Francisco Rodriguez - 82.8%
  • Lidge has been brutal, but he was lights-out last year and he's earning $11.5MM.  Should his knee issues surface again, Ryan Madson would get a look.
  • MacDougal, with his 0.68 K/BB ratio, somehow has a 2.54 ERA and is 11 of 12 in save opportunities.  Proving once again that almost any reliever is capable of piling up some saves.  We heard Jim Riggleman would try a committee with MacDougal, Beimel (who has since been dealt to Colorado), and perhaps Sean Burnett, but it never really happened.  Should MacDougal's smoke and mirrors approach stop working, perhaps Ron Villone and Jason Bergmann would be considered the team's current setup guys?  Tyler Clippard has a big strikeout rate despite a 90 mph heater.
  • If the Pirates want to give Capps a break, they could try "closer of the future" Joel Hanrahan.  Capps is the victim of a .384 BABIP and 17.6% HR per flyball rate.
  • As for August trades, we can't rule out waiver claims on pricey guys like Wood and Cordero (however unlikely).  I'm thinking Chris Perez and Nick Masset for backup closers on the Ohio teams.

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Has Luke Hochevar Figured It Out?

It's been an up-and-down season for 25 year-old Royals pitcher and former #1 draft pick Luke Hochevar.  He lost the team's fifth starter battle out of spring training to Sidney Ponson, of all people.  He was very good in eight Triple A starts, posting a 1.50 ERA and quality peripherals outside of a less impressive 6.8 K/9.  Hochevar posted a strong groundball rate in the minors, in keeping with his 51.8% mark in the Majors in '08.

Many fantasy leaguers targeted Hochevar when he inevitably replaced Ponson for a May 12th start against a weak-hitting Oakland club.  The A's, of course, annihilated Hochevar.  After another demotion and call-up he seemed to have things going in early June, shutting out the Reds mid-month.  Those who picked him up at that juncture saw him get bombed by the D'Backs in his next start.  The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hochevar trend continued in July, with a 22 K/0 BB two-start run followed by another stinker.

So here we are.  Through it all, Hochevar has nice peripherals with a 6.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.  HRs and hits have been a problem, with these underlying stats: a 16.7% HR/flyball rate and .294 BABIP.  The BABIP is fortunate, given the Royals .326 mark.  As for the 14 HR allowed in 88.6 innings, that rate figures to come down.  Hochevar's 4.44 xFIP seems appropriate, as compared to his 5.38 ERA. 

More information to muddy the picture: Hochevar is "tinkering with a split-finger fastball," according to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.  The split could potentially replace his changeup as he refines it.  I am also intrigued by that 13 K, 0 BB effort against the Rangers, as was Joe Posnanski.  I think Hochevar is worth a mixed league pickup, and I wouldn't worry about playing the matchups (he's due to get the Tigers, Twins, and Indians next I believe).  Just throw him out there - aside from Jonathan Sanchez, he might be your best bet for Ks on the waiver wire.

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Newfound Control

Let's take a look at the starting pitchers who have improved their control the most in 2009.  The number represents the reduction in the pitcher's walk rate from '08 to '09.

  1. Barry Zito - 1.62
  2. Justin Verlander - 1.30
  3. Joel Pineiro - 1.21
  4. Ubaldo Jimenez - 1.14
  5. Tim Lincecum - 1.02
  6. Ted Lilly - 0.91
  7. Jason Marquis - 0.90
  8. John Lannan - 0.90
  9. Edwin Jackson - 0.87
  10. Felix Hernandez - 0.80
  11. Javier Vazquez - 0.79
  12. Jarrod Washburn - 0.69
  13. Zack Greinke - 0.63
  14. Kevin Correia - 0.57
  15. Jorge de la Rosa - 0.55
  16. Matt Cain - 0.51
  17. Johnny Cueto - 0.43
  18. Scott Feldman - 0.39
  19. Dan Haren - 0.38
  20. Mark Buehrle - 0.37

Aside from Buehrle, every pitcher on this Top 20 list reduced his ERA as well.  So the question is: how can we detect these improvements early and pounce on those who improve their control in 2010?  The pitcher's April walk rate improvement could be a sign, as it was with Zito, Verlander, Lannan, Cueto, Jackson, and others on this list.  But it didn't play out for others like de la Rosa, Marquis, and Feldman, so consider this just a theory.  Besides, some of these pitchers were never waiver bait, so they'd have to have been draft day pickups.

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Mailbag Questions?

Hit me up at with your questions for the mailbag or ideas for topics to cover on the site.  We'll probably resume with a more regular posting schedule come September, but there will be content in the meantime.

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