March 2011

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Reader Leagues

Please use the comments section of  this post to set up leagues with other RotoAuthority readers.


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2011 RotoAuthority League Draft Results

The RotoAuthority League drafted last night.  As usual with this group, I came away with a team that I'm not in love with.  My team is Bitch School (a different Spinal Tap reference than last year.  Had to change it up after finishing fifth with Smell The Glove).

League member Jonathan put together this spreadsheet showing all the picks.  The sheet highlights which players went early or late compared to average draft position.  From Jonathan:

Aggressive Picks
The following players were taken at least two full round BEFORE their listed "Earliest Pick Selected" by MDC. Not surprisingly half of the players are closers.

Potential Values
There were a lot of players taken after their ADP. Here is everyone taken in the top 200 who fell at least FIVE FULL ROUNDS.


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Closer Report

The latest on the closing situations for all 30 teams...


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Draft Position Tools

Today we've got a pair of draft position tools that might help you plan for your draft.

Jeffrey Gross of A Game Of Inches and The Hardball Times compiled a spreadsheet showing a player's Mock Draft Central index ranking (not his Average Draft Position), Yahoo ranking, and ESPN ranking, as well as the variance among those three sources.  It's interesting to pick out players with a high variance.  For example, Dan Haren is ranked #57 in MDC but #89 in Yahoo.

Kelly Pfleiger of Fantasy Gameday has his Average Draft Position and Scarcity Report available, a great tool that you can report about at the link.


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30 Starting Pitchers To Watch

Last year our list of 25 starting pitchers to watch included Francisco Liriano, Mat Latos, Phil Hughes, Max Scherzer, Ervin Santana, Colby Lewis, and Ian Kennedy.  Our criteria was that the pitcher had to have been going in the 13th round or later in a 12-team mixed league at the time of writing, which was March 17th.  Note that this filter removes Dan Hudson, Ricky Romero, Wandy Rodriguez, Brandon Morrow, Colby Lewis, and Neftali Feliz.  Anyway, how about some names for 2011?

  • Josh Beckett, Red Sox.  You have to like Beckett in the 16th round; his SIERA was 3.84 last year and he's backed by a good offense.  If his control returns and his HR/flyball and BABIP come down, I don't see why another '07 or '09 is out of reach.
  • Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals.  He managed to give up eight home runs in 31 innings last year after coming back from August '09 Tommy John surgery.  Otherwise the numbers looked good, and Zimmermann is back to being the intriguing pitcher he was after his '09 rookie season.
  • Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers.  Not an exciting name, and you worry about him reaching 190 innings again, but the numbers were fantastic across the board last year.
  • Ted Lilly, Dodgers.  He's homer-prone, but still keeps the WHIP down and gets Ks.
  • Mike Minor, Braves.  I can envision an ERA under 4.00 with a strong K rate, if he gets the fifth starter job.
  • Bud Norris, Astros.  We did some cherry-picking with Norris last month; he had an intriguing 13-start stretch last year.
  • Homer Bailey, Reds.  Not unlike Norris, there were injury issues but you can cherry-pick a very interesting stretch from his '10 season.  Post-hype sleeper.
  • Jeremy Hellickson, Rays.  You might have to spring for him in the 13th or 14th round, but even with 185 innings I see big things.
  • James Shields, Rays.  He had a 3.57 SIERA, and has a lot in common with Beckett in terms of their 2010 seasons.
  • Edwin Jackson, White Sox.  Very strong 75 inning stint with the White Sox; maybe Don Cooper showed him something.
  • Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks.  He'll give up some home runs, but still has value in most categories.
  • Brett Anderson, Athletics.  Aside from the injury concern, I didn't like the dip in Anderson's K rate.  You can probably find safer choices, but maybe he'll slip a few rounds in your league.
  • C.J. Wilson, Rangers.  Won't help your WHIP but could whiff 180.
  • Phil Coke, Tigers.  He will need to find a way to get righties out.
  • Jake Peavy, White Sox.  One of many health gambles worth taking late.
  • Javier Vazquez, Marlins.  He doesn't need to be the Vazquez of '09 to provide value.
  • Brian Matusz, Orioles.  We've seen the cherry-picking, though the hype is starting to grow.
  • James McDonald, Pirates.  Might be homer-prone, but will have a long leash in Pittsburgh and may at least give you Ks.
  • Ricky Nolasco, Marlins.  The ERA has to catch back up one of these years...interesting peripheral kings Nolasco and Vazquez are in the same rotation.
  • Jonathan Sanchez, Giants.  Another example of sacrificing WHIP for Ks.
  • Phil Hughes, Yankees.  I can see another step forward here.
  • Brett Myers, Astros.  File him under boring but useful.
  • Gio Gonzalez, Athletics.  Can provide Ks, gets groundballs, walks too many.
  • John Lackey, Red Sox.  Finished strong, and could be a good pick if he does better against lefties.
  • Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies.  Big-time strikeout numbers as a rookie; needs to find-tune the control.
  • Madison Bumgarner, Giants.  I can see a better K rate this year.
  • Gavin Floyd, White Sox.  Had the best groundball rate of his career last year.
  • Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies.  See Chacin, Sanchez, Wilson, Gonzalez.
  • Erik Bedard, Mariners.  Who knows if guys like Bedard and Brandon Webb will hold up, but the risk is tiny.
  • Travis Wood, Reds.  Might be homer-prone, but the ratios should be helpful.
  • This list isn't meant to be comprehensive - there are at least a dozen more undrafted starters to monitor closely for mixed leagues.  Let me know who you like in the comments.


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Closernews On Twitter

Preseason reliever rankings are nearly pointless in fantasy baseball, as so much of the value depends on the pitcher's role.  If your league has a first come, first served free agent policy, you can stock up on closers just by being quick on the draw.  Twitter is the perfect medium for dispending instant news, and that's why I created @closernews last year.  As advertised, closernews is all about dishing out the latest on closers and their backups.  If your league counts saves, follow us today!


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Position Battles: Angels Closer

In what appears to be a wide open competition, the Angels have five candidates trying to win the closer's job this spring. Manager Mike Scioscia has hinted at a closer-by-committee to begin the season, saying recently that "any one of five guys have the ability to get the last out of the game." But it's quite possible that somebody emerges with the job by the time the season starts. I'll be keeping a close eye on this competition, along with over 50 other position battles that I've identified, over at MLBDepthCharts.com. Let's take a look at the contenders.

Tale of the Tape

Fernando Rodney vs Scott Downs vs Hisanori Takahasi vs Kevin Jepsen vs Jordan Walden

Rodney: 33 years old, $5.5MM salary 2010 stats: 4-3, 4.24 ERA, 68 IP, 70 H, 35 BB, 53 K, 14 Sv, 21 holds 2011 Outlook: Slight favorite 

The right-hander took over as the team's full-time closer after Brian Fuentes was traded to Minnesota in late August and proceeded to blow saves in four of 12 opportunities. Rodney also gave up at least one run in 8 of 17 games during that stretch. So it's easy to understand why his manager has not anointed him as the team's closer for 2011. He is the most experienced of the group, by far, with 84 career saves and had a solid first half of the 2010 season (4-0, 3.57 ERA in 38 games) so it appears he could still have a slight edge at this point.

Downs: 34 years old, $5MM salary 2010 stats: 5-5, 2.64 ERA, 61.1 IP, 47 H, 14 BB, 48 K, 26 holds 2011 Outlook: Underdog, more likely to fill setup role with an occasional save opportunity

The veteran has been among the top left-handed setup men in baseball over the past few years and was rewarded this offseason with a three-year, $15MM deal to join the Angels. Aside from 2009 when he saved nine games for Toronto, Downs hasn't been given much of a chance to close out games. He's likely to stick to his typical role, trying to hold a lead or keep a game close in the 7th or 8th inning. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see him get a chance to save a few games when the opponent has more than one tough left-handed batter due up in the 9th. In case you're wondering, lefties hit just .152 (12-for-79) against him last season.

Takahashi: 35 years old, $3.8MM salary 2010 stats: 10-6, 3.61 ERA, 122 IP, 116 H, 43 BB, 114 K, 8 Sv 2011 Outlook: Underdog, more likely to fill various roles with an occasional save opportunity

His versatility may have been one of the main reasons the Angels snatched him up with a two-year, $8MM deal this offseason. But it could also work against him in this competition. The left-hander, who started 12 games for the Mets last season, saved eight games down the stretch as the team's closer, and finished with 10 wins and 122 IP, is capable of filling many roles. He can work multiple innings, make a spot start, come in to face a tough left-handed batter (lefties had .217 BA against him in '10), set up, or close. Takahashi isn't going to strike fear into opponents with his high 80's fastball, but he mixes in a very good change up along with a slider, cutter, and curveball. Not your prototypical closer, which is probably why he's usually going to be overlooked with the game on the line in the 9th.

Jepsen: 26 years old, est. $440K salary 2010 stats: 2-4, 3.97 ERA, 59 IP, 54 H, 29 BB, 61 K, 27 holds 2011 Outlook: Underdog, more likely to continue in setup role 

He appears to have the stuff to be a closer (mid-90's fastball, low 90's cutter, good curveball) but he'll have to be more consistent with his command if he's to be trusted with a 9th inning lead. His 4.4 BB/9 is actually a tad better than Rodney's while his 9.3 K/9 is much better. But it's his lack of experience (1 career save) that puts him behind in this competition. 

Walden: 23 years old, est. $414K salary 2010 stats: 0-1, 2.35 ERA, 15.1 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 23 K, Sv, 6 holds 2011 Outlook: Underdog, more likely to begin in middle relief role with chance to win job later in the season

Converted to relief just last season, Walden was called up to the majors in August after spending most of the season in Double-A. Scioscia threw him right into the fire and the rookie responded with 23 Ks, six holds, and one save in his 16 big league appearances. For those of you that are impressed by this kind of stuff, the right-hander averaged 98.9 mph with his fastball during his stint with the Angels and reportedly hit 102 mph on the radar while in the minors. Once he proves that he can command his fastball-slider repertoire on a consistent basis, he'll be trusted with the ball late in games and could eventually take over as the full-time closer sometime in 2011. 

Final Word

Instead of aggressively pursuing a free agent closer, such as Rafael Soriano, the Angels chose to invest their money in improving the overall depth of their bullpen, spending $23MM on Downs and Takahashi. Baseball games can just as easily be won or lost in the 7th and 8th innings so we don't know at this point if the Angels will come to regret their decision. It's hard to name a successful team, however, that has gotten by with a bullpen-by-commitee for very long. My guess is that they lean on Rodney early on, with Downs getting an occasional save opportunity, while they ease Walden into the role. If Rodney struggles, look for more Takahashi. Without that 'go-to guy' in the 9th, it's hard to have confidence in the Angels going into 2011. They're living dangerously, if you ask me.



2010 Pitches Thrown

Last time I tried to determine whether throwing a lot of pitches correlated with injuries, I didn't come up with a firm conclusion.  However, I'm still interested in seeing who threw the most pitches over the last few years.  I acquired the regular season data from Baseball Prospectus and added playoff data from Baseball-Reference.  I didn't add any minor league data, so if one of these guys spent any time in the minors the last few years please let me know in the comments and I'll adjust.

2010

  1. Tim Lincecum: 3983
  2. C.C. Sabathia: 3899
  3. Roy Halladay: 3885
  4. C.J. Wilson: 3843
  5. Matt Cain: 3824
  6. Dan Haren: 3749
  7. Justin Verlander: 3745
  8. Felix Hernandez: 3731
  9. Jered Weaver: 3713
  10. Colby Lewis: 3693
  11. Ubaldo Jimenez: 3600
  12. John Lackey: 3599
  13. Ryan Dempster: 3596
  14. Cole Hamels: 3585
  15. Randy Wolf: 3575
  16. David Price: 3566
  17. Ervin Santana: 3561
  18. Jonathan Sanchez: 3560
  19. Chris Carpenter: 3549
  20. Cliff Lee: 3526

2009

  1. C.C. Sabathia: 4134
  2. Cliff Lee: 4111
  3. Justin Verlander: 3937
  4. A.J. Burnett: 3921
  5. Ubaldo Jimenez: 3788
  6. Adam Wainwright: 3723
  7. Felix Hernandez: 3632
  8. Jered Weaver: 3628
  9. Joe Blanton: 3503
  10. Jon Lester: 3500
  11. Zack Greinke: 3477
  12. Doug Davis: 3470
  13. Josh Beckett: 3470
  14. Cole Hamels: 3468
  15. Edwin Jackson: 3466
  16. Dan Haren: 3460
  17. Randy Wolf: 3456
  18. Tim Lincecum: 3439
  19. Matt Garza: 3421
  20. Bronson Arroyo: 3407

2009-10 combined

  1. C.C. Sabathia: 8033
  2. Justin Verlander: 7682
  3. Cliff Lee: 7637
  4. Tim Lincecum: 7422
  5. Ubaldo Jimenez: 7388
  6. Felix Hernandez: 7363
  7. Jered Weaver: 7341
  8. Roy Halladay: 7277
  9. Dan Haren: 7209
  10. Matt Cain: 7186
  11. A.J. Burnett: 7133
  12. Adam Wainwright: 7079
  13. Cole Hamels: 7053
  14. Randy Wolf: 7031
  15. Zack Greinke: 6922
  16. Jon Lester: 6857
  17. Edwin Jackson: 6824
  18. Matt Garza: 6792
  19. Bronson Arroyo: 6767
  20. Ryan Dempster: 6755 


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