June 2014

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RotoAuthority League Update: Fantasy All-Stars, Pitchers Edition

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

In keeping with last week's theme, let's take a look at the fantasy All-Star pitchers in the RotoAuthority League. Once again, it's all about profit as opposed to overall production.

Johnny Cueto

Owner: A Century of Misery

Investment: Round 16 pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $34

The most profitable pitcher on the season is also the top pitcher overall thus far. Clearly my best draft pick, Cueto is the main reason I'm in the top half of the standings at this point. When he's been healthy, the Reds right-hander has always been effective; the problem has been staying on the mound. The injury risk is likely the reason he slipped all the way to Round 16 on Draft Day, the equivalent of a $6 investment. Well, this year he's been plain filthy and earned a whopping $34 assuming a 70 / 30 hitting / pitching split, good for a $28 profit.

Scott Kazmir

Owner: A Century of Misery (acquired from The Bombers in exchange for Matt Lindstrom)

Investment: Round 19 Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $23

As you'll notice shortly, this is the only other top pitching value that was actually drafted. (More on that in a minute.) The Bombers grabbed Kazmir in Round 19 of the RotoAuthority League Draft, a mere investment of $3. The Athletics left-hander was effective last season in a limited sample size, but he's showing that was no fluke at all. I've made quite a few trades this season, some of which I regret. However, I was able to exploit the premium placed on closers in this league and ship Matt Lindstrom to the Bombers in exchange for Kazmir. Needless to say, that's been one of the biggest heists in the league thus far.

Tim Hudson

Owner: Spirit of St. Louis

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $22

Dallas Keuchel

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

Jason Hammel

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

Kyle Lohse

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

Mark Buehrle

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $15

Francisco Rodriguez

Owner: The Jewru (acquired from Men With Wood in exchange for Sonny Gray)

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $15

Garrett Richards

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $14

As I mentioned, Cueto and Kazmir are the only top pitching values that were actually taken on Draft Day. For brevity's sake, let's group the rest of the top pitching values together. The names don't matter; it's the larger point as to what this indicates about how fantasy owners should approach pitching going forward. Let's take a minute to recap how the fantasy landscape has changed the past decade. When DIPS theory was not yet mainstream, sabermetric nerds like myself could more easily find undervalued starting pitchers. Flash forward to today, though, and it's just not as easy. When one couples this reality that the average fantasy baseball manager is more informed with the fact that pitching continues to be more dominant, we just can't wait on pitching anymore.

Still, more so than in the case of hitters, pitchers have so much that is out of their control. Due to the volatility of pitching performance then, it still makes sense to gamble on pitchers to fill out your staff in the endgame. Along those same lines, spend that FAAB money early and often on starting pitchers dispaying good skills in April, even in small sample sizes. In summary, gone are the days when a fantasy owner could hold out on starting pitching; however, there will always be tremendous pitching values that go undrafted in leagues due to the volatility of the position.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: June 13-19

Folks, it's time for some naval-gazing.  I'm currently sitting 10th of 12 teams in my most cherished fantasy league, the one run in one form or another since 1999 with all of my old hometown buddies.  Since a poor finish here will doom me to months of taunting, it's high time to figure out what's going wrong.  Well, besides injuries, but 'complaining about injuries to your fantasy team' ranks somewhere between complaining about a bad beat in poker or whining about your great putt lipping out of the cup.

I've covered a few of my players in this space already, namely guys who are underachieving in one particular category (like Matt Holliday's lack of homers) or guys who essentially just had one bad month and one good month (like Homer Bailey or Jed Lowrie) but really, the root of the problem stems from a few guys at key positions who simply aren't carrying their weight.  Let's look into these players to see if you or I should keep hoping for a turnaround or if enough is enough...

* Where's The Power, Mauer?  I think we can all agree that Joe Mauer's 28-homer season in 2009 was a total anomaly, given that the Twins catcher first baseman has only 79 homers in the other 4717 plate appearances of his Major League career.  The days of expecting Mauer to provide a huge homer boost from your lineup's C spot are over, yet his high average, RBI totals and runs scored provide more than enough incentive to make him one of the very first catchers taken in any fantasy draft.

Now, however, not only has the power cratered, but the rest of Mauer's hitting ability is seemingly going down the tubes as well.  Mauer took a .263/.342/.336 slash line into Friday's play, all of which project as career lows over a full season, and Mauer has produced only two homers and 15 RBI over 263.  Ironically, just as the Twins made Mauer a full-time first baseman in order to keep him healthy enough to stay in the lineup, Mauer's bat has gone as cold as....well, Minnesota.

Before looking at the metrics, I wondered if Mauer was simply trying to do too much now that he was playing first, and his problems stemmed from trying too hard for homers in order to fill the stereotypical 1B power role.  This doesn't appear to the the case, however, as Mauer is actually getting the ball in the air less than he ever has; his 19.1% fly ball rate would also be a new career low while his 54.6% ground ball rate would be his highest (over a full season).  Mauer also has a .324 BABIP, so it's not a question of him being particularly unlucky with those extra grounders.

There are lots of catchers who put up middling offensive numbers but "they're good for a catcher" and thus you put up with having such a third-tier guy in your fantasy lineup.  But for Joe Mauer to sink to such levels?  And frankly, he isn't even putting up good numbers "for a catcher" given that his 89 wRC+ is topped by a whopping 18 other catchers with at least 130 PA.  If you're in a league that doesn't count last year's positions and had Mauer listed as a first baseman from day one, he has below replacement-level and not been worth having on your fantasy roster.

Unfortunately for me, I was forced into actually using Mauer at first for much of this season due to injuries to Joey Votto and Mark Teixeira.  On draft day I took Mauer, Carlos Santana and Jonathan Lucroy with the logic that I could either trade from depth later or simply rotate them all between my C/1B/Utility slots, yet while Lucroy has been terrific, the other two have been duds.

For my specific situation, I can afford to drop Mauer since ultimately right now I'm just using him as a glorified backup catcher.  That said....how can you just outright release Joe Mauer??  Heck, even my mother still busts out "well played, Mauer" as a wisecrack every once in a while, that's how much of a cornerstone star this guy has been for the last several years. 

Is he really finished at age 31?  He wouldn't be the first longtime catcher to drop off a cliff after he hit his thirties, but still, Mauer's contact rates are still relatively normal and that average could shoot up 30 or 40 points and suddenly things wouldn't look so bad.  Mauer does have a .771 OPS against righties, but his .501 OPS against southpaws is killing his overall performance.  Absolutely bench Mauer against left-handed starters for the time being and hopefully your backup (while probably not a Lucroy) can help carry the load until Mauer gets back on track.  Catcher is such a thin spot that dropping Mauer isn't an option at this point.

* Hill Of Beans.  This has been a pretty rough season in Arizona, needless to say, and Aaron Hill's performance is one of the many reasons why the Diamondbacks are struggling.  Both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs rate Hill as a below replacement-level this season, as the second baseman has only a .246/.292/.393 slash line to go with six homers, 31 RBI and 20 runs scored.

If you're a Blue Jays fan, you've seen this movie before.  Hill was one of the worst everyday players in the majors from Opening Day 2010 to virtually until the day he was traded (August 23, 2011) from Toronto to Arizona, bottoming out with just a 56 wRC+ over his last 429 PA as a Blue Jay.  Fortunately for Hill, he turned things around in the desert and posted an .878 OPS in his first 33 games as a Snake, followed by a .298/.359/.501 performance in 2012-13.  Hill wasn't just back in form, he was arguably the second-best second baseman in the game.

So what changed?  Hill is both swinging at more strikes and swinging more in general this season than in the previous two years, plus swinging more often at pitches outside the zone (32.6%, up from 29.3% in 2013) and swinging less at strikes inside the zone (59.5%, down from 61.9% in 2013).  This extra aggression in swinging at balls is hurting his patience at the plate, as the gap between his walk rate (5.3%) and his strikeout rate (17.3%) has never been wider in his entire career, even during his rough period with the Jays.

Hopefully it won't take another trade to shake Hill out of his slump, as even though Tony La Russa won't be afraid to shake up the D'Backs roster, moving Hill at this point doesn't seem too likely for a team that still has eyes towards contending in 2015 (not to mention the fact that the D'Backs would be selling very low on a valuable asset).  Should you or I trade him off our fantasy rosters?   

I was as optimistic as anyone about Hill when the season began but now I can't shake the hunch that 2014 will just end up being a lost year for him.  Nagging shoulder and ankle injuries haven't helped Hill's cause and while these knocks could be a partial reason for his struggles, he was already hitting poorly when these injuries surfaced in mid-May.  If you have a second base backup in place (or someone like Tommy La Stella is still available on your waiver wire), I'd bite the bullet and try to move Hill elsewhere.  You won't be getting his full value back, obviously, yet try trading Hill for another under-performing player like...

* Put Your Lights On.  Carlos Santana has the second-lowest (.197) BABIP of any qualified hitter in baseball, so when an accomplished batter like Santana is getting so little batted-ball luck, that itself is almost reason enough to predict a turnaround.  Combine that with the fact that Santana's contact rates are close to career norms and he's walking almost as much as he's striking out, and BOOM...where do you sign up?

Of course, it may not be that simple.  Santana's miserable .175/.337/.315 line can't be totally attributed to BABIP when you consider that he's hitting the ball with less authority than ever before.  The Indians catcher/first baseman third baseman has only a 12.4% line drive rate this season, the third-lowest of any qualified hitter in baseball.  With a 49.7% ground ball rate that is well above his 43.3% career average and that aforementioned buzzard's luck with BABIP, it's essentially been a year full of routine groundouts for Santana.  (Oh, if only he could hit against his own team's terrible infield defense.)

The huge drop in line drive rate is troubling yet just because doesn't not hitting line drives doesn't mean that you're not hitting the ball well.  Several players in the bottom 16 of line drive rate are enjoying tremendous seasons (Yasiel Puig, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Jones, Alex Gordon, etc.) so it's not the be-all and end-all of quality batting.  Santana does have seven homers, 22 RBI and 25 runs, so he's roughly on pace to post his usual counting stats.  With a boost of even 40 or 50 BABIP points, Santana could suddenly be having a pretty normal campaign.

Like Mauer, Santana switched positions this season but the Tribe ex-catcher had an even bigger transition to make in moving to third base for the first time since he was a Dodgers farmhand in 2008.  Let's just say that Santana is still getting used to the move --- he has a -43.8 UZR/150 at the hot corner this year.  By comparison, Miguel Cabrera had "only" a -19.9 UZR/150 at third last season, so as bad as Miggy was, he was basically Brooks Robinson compared to Santana.  In any case, the Santana third base experiment might be coming to an end, as Santana has only played 3B once in his last 13 games.  The red-hot Lonnie Chisenhall suddenly looks like a viable everyday option for the Tribe at third, so Santana is likely to find himself in more familiar terrain at either 1B or DH, with the odd start at catcher in a pinch.

I'll predict that with the stress of playing third removed, Santana gets back to his old self over the last few months of the season.  If and when he gets going, I'll feel more comfortable in selling low on Mauer if need be, and getting Santana regular utility at-bats (Votto is my starting 1B and Encarnacion is my starting 3B).  With everyone healthy and with me making some canny managerial lineup maneuvers, I just might be able to save my fantasy season yet!  And by save, I mean finish in, like, seventh.



Closer Updates: Dbacks, Mets, Rays, Royals, Tigers, Tribe, White Sox

Welcome back to another edition of Closer Updates. Similar to last week, there’s been minimal movement in the closer landscape over the past seven days. However, there is always plenty to report – so keep reading for some injury updates and position battles.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Reliever Brad Ziegler (2.62 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) got the call on Sunday rather than closer Addison Reed and many thought that Reed’s job was in danger. Although Reed has struggled slightly this season (29.1 IP, 16 saves, 3.99 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), manager Kirk Gibson insisted that Reed was still the closer. Ziegler does, however, appear to be the first option to replace Reed if he keeps struggling.

Chicago White Sox – With Matt Lindstrom still on the disabled list, Ronald Belisario remains the White Sox top option. Lindstrom, who was injured and received surgery in late May, rejoined the club this week but remains months away from appearing in the big leagues. Look for Belisario (4 saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in the last two weeks) to continue getting the save opportunities unless Daniel Webb (2.03 ERA, 1.39 ERA, 6.7 K/9) or Jake Petricka (1.59 ERA, 1.24 ERA, 6.1 K/9) knock him of the closer’s perch.

Cleveland Indians – Although manager Terry Francona has resisted the urge to name a closer, Cody Allen remains the Tribe’s top choice in the ninth inning. John Axford has been pitching well over the past month (0.79 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and certainly has a chance to earn some more save opportunities late in the season, but he’ll have to pitch awfully well to dethrone Allen (5 saves, 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP in the past two weeks).

Detroit TigersJoe Nathan continues to struggle as the Tigers’ closer, but manager Brad Ausmus continues to repeat that he’s “not even considering” pulling Nathan from the role. While Joba Chamberlain (3.29 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 10.2 K/9) is clearly the next in line, Nathan appears to have a bit of a leash despite the fact that: (a) he leads the MLB in blown saves (4), he has allowed multiple runs in five of his last eight appearances, and (c) he possesses a 7.04 ERA.

Kansas City RoyalsGreg Holland has been dominant this season (18 saves, 1.46 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 13.9 K/9), as expected. However, his consistency may not have allowed enough light to shine on Wade Davis, who is posting an excellent season as a reliever (1.27 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 14.6 K/9). While some have thought that Davis’ performance proves that Holland is expendable, others think that the Royals might be looking to get something back for Davis closer to the trading deadline.

New York Mets – The ninth inning seems to be cursed in Queens. Despite a revolving door of closer candidates this season, the Mets might still be searching for their man. Jenrry Mejia, the current closer-du-jour, has given up at least one run in his last three appearances. If he doesn’t fall into a rhythm soon, Jeurys Familia (2.78 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.1 K/9) will get the chance to close.

Tampa Bay Rays – After signing a two-year deal with Tampa this past offseason, Grant Balfour was poised for another strong year as an AL closer. But...Balfour’s horrendous start has cost him the job (9 saves, 6.46 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 8.0 K/9) and Rays manager Joe Maddon has been forced to go with a closer-by-committee approach with Jake McGee (1.53 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 10.4 K/9), Joel Peralta (4.08 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.4 K/9), and Juan Carlos Oviedo (2.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.0 K/9). It's important to note though thata Maddon does expect that Balfour will return to form and close games later in the season.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Stock Watch: Waiver Wire Special Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about trading for the last couple weeks—in fact, I think it’s been on everyone’s mind here at RotoAuthority. Nothing wrong with that—there’s no more significant way to improve your team than by swinging a trade—but maybe you need a break from constant advice about how to get rid of the few players you drafted still on your roster. So today on Stock Watch, we’re going to take a short break from trade advice and look a little deeper into the waiver wire.

Oh, and if he’s somehow available in your league…pick up Gregory Polanco!

Shallow Leagues (30-50% Owned)

Jon Singleton (48%) has two homers and a .200 average so far. So…not much has changed since he took over first for Chris Carter, I guess. It’s a good thing that he isn’t hitting that well, because if he was he wouldn’t still be grabable. Grabbable? You couldn’t pick him up. 

Marlon Byrd (47%) isn’t the most beautiful bird in the sky (I had to), but his numbers (nine homers, .263 average) stand out next to those around him. Of course, if you don’t like him, there are plenty of fish in the sea of shallow leagues. (fish…Marlon…marlin…ooookay.) Puns aside, Byrd does look better than his immediate contemporaries.

Tanner Roark (46%) has been a pretty solid all-around contributor for Washington. Chances are he can help your WHIP and Wins, in particular. 

Dexter Fowler (44%) is still doing a little of everything. I’m gonna make the early call that the Astros won the trade that brought him in, since it looks like he can hit .280 outside of Coors. 

Speaking of Astros, I normally make a point of ignoring their pitchers, but Collin McHugh (42%) has 60 K’s in 54.1 IP, and Houston isn’t so bad that they haven’t been able to manage any wins for him. Like Dallas Keuchel before him, McHugh looks like he might have some real fantasy value. Where do the Astros find these guys?

If your format makes it easier to stash minor leaguers than DL players, Taijuan Walker (41%) definitely needs to get picked up. Actually, he should probably be picked up anyway. 

Adam Lind (40%) still seems to deserve more ownership, though even I’m starting to wonder if he’s going to hit for any power.

Kendrys Morales (34%) must’ve been working out, or playing t-ball, or something, because he’s already got a game played and a batting average. He was always fantasy-viable, so hurry and pick him up while your opponents assume he’s playing extended spring training or something. Just because he didn’t land with Texas doesn’t mean he shouldn’t land in your CI slot (at which he is eligible, at least in the ever-flexible Yahoo! format). 

Garrett Jones (34%) is playing pretty good baseball too, proving that shallow leaguers everywhere already have their 1B, CI, and Util slots already filled. Actually, leagues this shallow probably aren’t using that CI position, are they? That’s why they’re shallow…. 

Juan Francisco and Adam Dunn (both 32%) are useful as homer-only players off your bench, though if you’re relying on them to play everyday, your league is probably deep enough that they’re already owned…by you. 

No, there are no middle infielders or catchers that I want to pick up at this level of ownership. Why? Because in shallow leagues you don’t have any business relying on players from the weaker positions. Also, there aren’t any good middle infielders, and I pretty much assume that shallow leagues are one-catcher affairs and that you've got that one covered on your own.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

Trevor Bauer (29%) is generating serious strikeouts (35 whiffs in 28.2 IP) without completely destroying your WHIP (1.29). If that’s the category you need, make this move.

Bartolo Colon (29%) may not have attractive season stats, but you have to love his control. 

Brad Miller (29%) has shown some recent signs of improvement. He’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re hurting at short. If you’re really hurting.

Danny Santana (27%) is off to a red-hot start. I have no idea if he’s for real, but he plays three positions and I’m willing to drop a fringy player to keep him on my team just in case he keeps producing at anything close to this level. Actually, he doesn’t even have to come all that close, since he’s hitting a ridiculous .364 in 77 AB.

B.J. Upton (27%) has provided some of his old power and speed (5 homers, 10 steals). If you want to take chances with your batting average, you could do worse than Upton.

Corey Dickerson (25%) should be getting more playing time. He’s worth a chance, though most people expect him to be overexposed in a full time role.

Gerardo Parra (23%) does a little of everything. I mean, really, a little. But still—it’s better than doing none of anything, right?

I actually just dropped James Loney (21%), who hasn’t been helping my batting average like he’s supposed to. (Mostly because I had Joey Votto come off the DL, actually.) But he’s been a pretty consistent batting average guy, and I do expect him to pick it back up over the course of the season. He’s still hitting about .280, and ought to end up between there and .310 by season’s end.

Marcus Stroman (20%) pitched quite nicely against St. Louis last time out, and Toronto seems willing to trust him to work things out at the Major League level. Could be a real gem. 

Denard Span (20%) is holding his average up still, and with nine steals, is managing some decent speed too. Better than your fifth OF, almost guaranteed.

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned)

In deep leagues, decent pitchers on good teams are hard to find, but if you need wins, I still suggest Jaime Garcia (19%) because he fits just that description. 

Kolten Wong (19%) has turned up his game since returning to the Majors, and he’s contributing eight steals on the season. Probably worth your MI slot.

Brock Holt (16%) has been hitting very well in replacement of Will Middlebrooks. So far, it’s mostly come in batting average, which may or may not be believable. But at this level, you know you can’t wait to believe a player is for real to pick him up. 

Josh Harrison (15%) has also been putting up some very nice numbers, with a little power, a little speed (really, a little), and a solid average. As a bonus, he’s eligible at second and third in Yahoo! leagues, as well as his OF position. How much playing time he continues to receive now that Polanco is coming up is, however, still uncertain.

Tommy Milone (14%) isn’t going to be a strikeout pitcher anytime soon, but he’s decent, and comes with the help of a good team and a friendly ballpark. Expect decent Wins and ERA. 

Mike Aviles (13%) plays all three premium infield positions and doesn’t hit that badly. 

Chris Owings (12%) stubbornly refuses to become bad: he could approach a 15/15 season. At shortstop. 

Josh Tomlin (11%) is still rocking a sub-1.00 WHIP. Always good with control, so far he’s managed not to allow too many hits either. He could be a nice pickup.

Jacob deGrom (10%) keeps pitching well, with nearly a strikeout per inning and a decent WHIP.

Kevin Gausman (7%) is finally looking like he might be able to deliver on his promise.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: What to Do with Albert Pujols?

Last week, I got into a comments debate about Albert Pujols with a reader known only as “Tom.” We went back and forth on Pujols’ value, his outlook for the rest of the season, and whether or not a particular trade involving a number of high profile players makes sense. At one point I--harried with the huge demands of being a big-time fantasy expert (or was it my day job?)--promised to put off finishing my analysis of Albert Pujols. 

Well, Tom, here’s your answer. Since this is RotoAuthority Unscripted, I promise to go into this article and my investigation without cherry-picking the evidence to fit my original recommendation—I’ll go where the facts lead me. As best as I can understand them. Also, I promise not to make this a particularly well-organized article. I take the “unscripted” label very seriously.

For those of you not old enough to remember, Albert Pujols was once among the greatest players to ever live, spending 10 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, with lows of 32 homers, .299 batting average, 99 RBI, 99 Runs Scored, and 143 Games Played. Seriously, those are the worst numbers he put up in the decade from 2001-2011. So…you could say that things have changed somewhat, as Pujols has only exceeded those career lows in one stat since moving to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (Is that even still their name? Can’t we just go back to California Angels?) He drove in 105 RBI in 2012. It’s been a story of ageing, huge paydays, dropping BABIP’s, bad defence, the inability to run, and plantar fasciitis. Maybe LA isn’t for everyone.

So, that’s the past, but it’s an important backdrop to what’s going on with Pujols now, because your fantasy team isn’t locked into a hundred ten-year contract with him, and his play this year hasn’t been unambiguously good or bad. So, is he someone to trade for or someone to trade away? And what can we really expect to see from him for the next four months?

 Here’s the Pujolsian line thus far in 2014.

Runs

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

OBP

SLG

35

15

35

2

.245

.304

.486

 And here are some of his slightly-farther-under-the-hood numbers.

BB%

SO%

ISO

BABIP

7.0%

12.6%

.241

.226

So his production has been pretty ambiguous: the power is there (15 homers ties him for 8th in MLB) but he’s killing you in average and probably worse in OBP. His ISO is pretty good for the “New Albert” (starting 2011), and actually fits into the lower range of the earlier, better part of his career. His BABIP, however is by far the worst of his career and marks the third year in a row of decline.

Nice! We can chalk Albert’s struggles up to some bad luck, assume that his average will bounce back and be happy that it hasn’t hurt his power in the meantime. Right?

With a mid-career player, or one who hasn’t been hobbled by injuries that line of thinking would work just fine. But that’s not what we have. There are two other serious possible explanations for Pujols’ BABIP troubles, neither of which recommend him very well at all: one or more important skills has permanently regressed due to age; he remains injured, perhaps chronically so, impacting one of those “important skills.” In the bad-luck scenario, Pujols is an easy trade for candidate. In the other scenarios, he may well be someone you should be shipping off your team…or maybe still trading for, if the price and your expectations are low enough.

Let’s take a look at some of Pujols’ batted ball data, and see how this is happening.

 

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

2014

1.14

15.9

44.9

39.3

20.2

17.9

Career

1.02

18.9

41.0

40.1

13.1

18.7

 Once again, we’ve got a seriously mixed bag here. I’ve bolded the three most interesting numbers. The first is his line drive percentage—it’s way down from his career numbers—so that’s actually pretty easy to see as the cause of his BABIP troubles…but it leaves the answer unknown: is it down due to skill diminution or bad luck? Where have those line drives been going?

Straight up in the air it turns out: his popups (IFFB’s) are far above his career norms, and even far above his more recent, less illustrious years. So that’ll kill your BABIP right there, hitting a bunch of popups instead of liners. I’ve always heard that popups are just a hair off of flyballs, so maybe the increased infield flies are the result of Pujols trying for more power on every swing…just a guess, so don’t bank on that one. It is worth noting, though, that his previous highest IFFB rates came much earlier in his career, in higher-power years.

The last number to stand out significantly is that HR/FB rate that’s actually pretty close to his career norm. That’s a big deal because this rate is by far the highest that he’s posted as an Angel. If he has changed his approach to get more power, it’s working. 

In our comment debate, Tom mentioned that Pujols’ flyball distance is about ten feet less than his career norm. I assume that rate is counting infield flies among the flyballs—so I think we’ve found our culprit for the statistical oddity of shorter flies and more homers at the same time. All those popups. We may be back to the drawing board if the flyball distance doesn’t count IFFB’s though. I honestly couldn’t find that information, so if you know, I’ll be happy to be shown the light, either way. 

Pujols has been hot and cold this season: he was a fantasy monster to start the season, putting up huge numbers in March/April, and he’s cooled a fair bit since then. In particular, Pujols’ strikeout rate shot up and his homers went way down. It’s too early to say if the strikeouts are a one-month aberration or a trend. Nine homers in a month, however, is probably just something to be happy about and not expect every time out. Most of his other indicators were pretty similar, however, including his BABIP: .237 in March/April and .241 in May. (Things aren’t off to such a good start in June, either, but we’ll let that go for now).

The elephant in the room is still that BABIP, with it’s thinly veiled suggestion of debilitating injury. Pujols certainly doesn’t look so great running, and his defence isn’t exactly what it used to be, but he’s played in 61 of the Angels’ 62 games, 47 of them at first base. It’s entirely possible that his foot is still bothering him…but less possible to prove. As far as placing odds on his health for the rest of the season…well, I wish I could, because I’d be a lot better at fantasy baseball if I had that kind of clairvoyance.

Pujols has had one killer month and one less-than-awesome month, and—by the looks of it—he’s done a bit of self-reinvention. If he doesn’t still have the skills to be baseball’s best all-around hitter, he’s concentrating on power, even at the cost of more whiffs, more popups, and a lower batting average. The results are there in the home runs, and with a good lineup around him, you can expect them to be there in RBI and Runs Scored as well. 

After taking another look at Pujols, I feel less confident that he’ll be doing much to drag his average up into levels that help you out. I do suspect that he’s lost something when it comes to his hit tool. That said, I also suspect that he’s run into some good, old-fashioned small sample luck: a .226 BABIP is really low, and I think it will go up a bit, brining his .245 average in to a more palatable level. 

I also think his power is pretty real: the homers are serious, and they’re not just the most important part left in his game, they’re also the most important fantasy category. Now, before you have me down as predicting that he'll keep up with his early homer pace and have 45 homers under his belt by the season's end, I'll admit that his HR/FB rate has probably also gotten some small sample luck--just the good kind. 

But even if Pujols only manages five homers per month for the rest of the season (his low end this year), he'll still end up with about 35 bombs--that's pretty good. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if it were even a little better than that. Given the leaguewide diminishing levels of power, getting a serious homer source should be a high priority for just about everybody. Pujols may have just one thing left, but he’s got the one thing we all need the most. That, combined with getting a good deal based on his recent slumping, seems to make him a strong trade for candidate. I’d pull the trigger on a Pujols deal. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t deal him away for the right price either….

 

 

 



RotoAuthority League Update: Fantasy All-Stars, Hitters Edition

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 4 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

We've reached that time of the season when fans vote for whom they would like to see play in the All-Star Game. Now clearly the value of a player in real baseball can be quite different from his worth in fantasy baseball. You didn't come here for advice on how to fill out your All-Star ballot, though. Accordingly, let's see which players have been the fantasy All-Stars in the RotoAuthority League. As usual, it's not about overall production but rather profit relative to the investment.

Catcher

Devin Mesoraco

Owner: Brewsterville Bruins

Investment: 24th Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $16

It's easy to forget that Mesoraco was viewed as a top prospects just a couple years ago, ranking 16th on Baseball America's Top 100 list in 2012. With everyday playing time, the post-hype sleeper is flourishing this season with 9 HR despite spending time on the DL. The talented Reds backstop has been worth $16 so far this season on a paltry Round 24 investment. Mesoraco narrowly beat out Miguel Montero in the midst of a bounceback campaign as well as breakout performer Derek Norris.

First Base

Michael Morse

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

After struggling miserably last season, Morse has bounced back in a big way this season with 13 HR entering the weekend. Power is down yet again this season, and it's become the toughest tool to find on the cheap in today's depressed run environment. Fortunately for Commissioner Tim Dierkes, Morse cost a measly free agent pickup. Hitting in the heart of a solid Giants offense, Morse has performed at a $20 level. It's no wonder, as Morse leads all of MLB in batted ball distance. Barring injury, this should continue all season long.

Second Base

Brian Dozier

Owner: Cobra Kai

Investment: 22nd Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $30

If you invested significantly on second base this season, you're probably disappointed thus far. While Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Kipnis have failed to live up to expectations, others like Dozier have far exceeded their Draft Day investments. Cobra Kai found a gem in Round 22 with this fantasy darling. No, the Twins second baseman won't help in the AVG category, but Dozier entered the weekend as one of just three players with double digits in both HR and SB. With a patient approach, he'll also rank among the league leaders in runs this year. As it turns out, Dozier just barely beat out another second baseman, but I've opted to place him at shortstop. That leads us to our next Fantasy All-Star...

Shortstop

Dee Gordon

Owner: The Bombers

Investment: 18th Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $32

The top value at shortstop is also the second-best at the position overall, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki. Few players this spring garnered as much preseason hype as Billy Hamilton. Fantasy pundits all around suggested that Hamilton could win you a category on his own. Well, as it turns out, Gordon is doing just that, and he's eligible at both SS and 2B to boot. I, for one, certainly didn't see thing coming. We all knew Gordon was fast, but I never thought he could hit around .290. In effect, no player has been more valuable to a particular category than Gordon has in the SB column. The Bombers turned a $4 investment into a first-round performer to date.

Third Base

Todd Frazier

Owner: Smell the Glove

Investment: 21st Round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $21

Like Morse, Frazier is capable of hitting the ball far on a consistent basis. Tim Dierkes spent the equivalent of $2 on Frazier, who's turned nearly a $20 profit so far. The Reds third baseman has good pop and plays in one of the top offensive ballparks. I actually think this is for real; at the very least, this looks like a top ten 3B going forward. Frazier narrowly beat out MVP candidate Josh Donaldson.

Outfield

Charlie Blackmon

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: Free Agent Pickup

Current 5 X 5 Value: $35

The award for best free agent pickup to this point in the season goes to Guitar Masahiro with his early grab of Blackmon. Like Dozier, Blackmon is already in the double digits for both HR and SB. With offense continuing to dwindle from one season to the next, yet Coors Field providing otherworldly park factors, speculating on Rockies hitters may be the best place to look for preseason sleepers. Along with Blackmon, Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado have also turned a profit for their fantasy owners. Heck, Corey Dickerson has been helpful, and he can't even crack the lineup everyday.

Nelson Cruz

Owner: The Jewru (acquired by A Century of Misery in exchange for Madison Bumgarner)

Investment: 12th Round pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $42

Cruz entered the weekend as the top player overall on the ESPN Player Rater. He's the only player in the game in the top five in both hard-hit contact and batted ball distance. Simply put, Cruz is locked in at the plate right now. The Jewru cashed in on his $10 investment by trading him to me for Mad Bum a couple weeks ago. That's certainly a steep price I paid to acquire the services of the Orioles slugger. At this point, though, I'm convinced this hot start is for real. While fantasy experts constantly recommend Buying Low, it seems to me that Buying High has become the real opportunity to make a good deal in today's market.

Melky Cabrera

Owner: Guitar Masahiro

Investment: 24th round Pick

Current 5 X 5 Value: $27

Let's see, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera. I know I've heard those names linked together previously. Look, we play this game to win, plain and simple. I really could care less what kind of person any player on my roster is; it makes no difference to me what life decisions he's made. At the end of the day, it's all about value. Well, fantasy owners are missing the boat on the single greatest market inefficiency in today's Roto game: "post"-PED users. Maybe Cruz or Cabrera is still artificially enhanced, but I don't really care; only the numbers matter to me. Cruz and Cabrera are enjoying career years; David Ortiz and Jhonny Peralta continue to be productive. So here's the deal - next spring, make a list of every player who's been linked to PED use. No, this won't serve as your Avoid list; quite the contrary, this will form your Target list.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: June 6-12

I'm often asked how I started working at Roto Authority, and it all started when they took me in the ninth round of the 2011 Baseball Writer Draft.  Frankly, I was pretty ticked about falling all the way to the ninth round, though it was due to signability issues --- I took some bad advice from my agen...uh, um, er, ah, advisor and asked for a $1.5MM signing bonus.  This was obviously way above the slot price, as even second-round fantasy baseball writers aren't offered more of a bonus than two boxes of Raisin Bran and a Jeremy Sowers rookie card.  Still, our two sides were able to find middle ground and here I am, enjoying my time in the fantasy website big leagues.

Here's the latest trio of players whose metrics aren't reflecting their actual performance....

* Adams (c)An't.  Usually when I note that a player is being buoyed by his peripherals, that's a hint that you should move quickly to sell high before said player comes back to earth.  In this case, however, it'll be a bit tricky for you to trade Matt Adams since that the Cardinals first baseman is currently on the 15-day DL with a tight calf.  This is one of those injuries that could see Adams come back as soon as he's eligible in mid-June, or it could nag for long after his 15 days are up, so for starters, downplay the injury as much as possible to fellow owners.  "He's fine!  Calf injuries are a breeze!  I tore both of my calves yesterday and still completed that marathon!"

If you approach your fellow manager hat in hand and humbly pretend that you "know you're selling low on Adams," you can still pick up a decent bench piece or maybe a third outfielder or fifth starter in exchange.  Your rival might think he's gotten a steal, while you've emerged with something in return for a player who seems primed for some big regression in the second half.

"Regressing from what?" you might ask, and you have a point.  Adams has three homers, 17 RBI and 16 runs over 202 PA, not exactly big power numbers for a fantasy first baseman.  He's slashing an impressive .325/.337/.474 yet there are a few issues with that slash line.  For instance, that SLG isn't translating into homers.  That OBP is almost entirely built on the batting average, given Adams' 2.5% walk rate.  And as for the batting average, Adams is being heavily carried by a .390 BABIP, the second-highest of any qualified hitter in baseball.  Unless he keeps up that absurdly high BABIP for the entire season, Adams isn't bringing much to the fantasy table.

Come on, you've always secretly considered yourself to be the fantasy equivalent of Pat Gillick when it comes to swinging trades anyway.  Challenge yourself by shopping Adams around to anyone in your league with a lack of first base depth and seeing if, despite Adams' injury, someone will bite.

* Jed ZeppelinJed Lowrie just endured a pretty lousy month of May, and in one of my leagues, a manager responded to this slump by releasing Lowrie outright.  Not a benching, not a sell-low trade, but an outright dropping.  Needless to say, this caused something of a frenzy on the waiver wire as an informal poll of league managers (as indicated in a message board post titled "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??!!") suggested that eight of the other 13 of us all put in bids for Lowrie's services before he was snapped up by the dude with the highest waiver priority.

Basically this item is just for the sake of more public shaming of my league rival, as most managers wouldn't dream of releasing a player with eligibility at both shortstop and second, usually bats second in a powerful Oakland lineup, walks more often than he strikes out and carries a .245/347/.380 line with four homers, 24 RBI and 32 runs scored.  Those aren't the best stats in the world, but consider that Lowrie's production was dimmed by a .200 BABIP.  His red-hot start to the season was generated by only a .313 BABIP in April, so it's not like he was getting overly lucky when he was hitting well, either.

Lowrie's contact rates are all up from last season and he still only has a .263 overall BABIP, so there's plenty of evidence to suggest that his batting average is due to rise again.  Don't be like that one guy in my league, since there's no reason Lowrie should be availa...wait, he's only owned in 65% of Yahoo leagues?!  What the what, people?!  Pick him up for, at the very least, your bench right this minute!

* Young And Restless.  Poor Chris Young has had so much bad injury luck over the last several seasons that frankly, I have to just tip my cap to all of the good fortune that's come his way in 2014.  The veteran righty signed a minor league deal with the Mariners just before the season started and has thus far enjoyed a successful comeback year, posting a 3.27 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a Major League-low 6.5 hits/9 over his 63 1/3 innings.  Heck, he's even regained the title of Most Prominent Player Named Chris Young from a certain Mets outfielder

Okay, now sit back, Young's good numbers come with a zillion caveats.  Young is benefiting from Safeco Field in a major way, as he has a 1.89 ERA (and a .142 opponents' batting average!) in five home starts as opposed to a 4.80 ERA in six road appearances, five of them starts.  Young has the second-lowest BABIP (.188) and eighth-highest strand rate (82.8%) amongst all qualified starters.  He is generating only a 25% ground ball rate, yet is also only striking out 4.26 batters every nine innings.  That nice 3.27 ERA is instantly belied by a 5.40 FIP, 5.74 xFIP and 5.90 SIERA.  According to Fangraphs, Young isn't even performing at the level of a replacement player given his -0.1 fWAR (Baseball Reference is more generous, giving Young 1.2 rWAR).

Whew!  It's like the baseball gods took all of Young's luck from his last six injury-riddled years and filtered it all into his 2014 campaign.  While I wish the guy nothing but the best in his career revival, I also have to warn fantasy owners to stay away.  His peripherals are all so absurdly out of whack that I can't even recommend him as a "start only at Safeco" type of streaming pitcher since once the regression happens, it could get ugly.  Definitely keep Young on your bench for his start in Tampa Bay tonight and hope the Rays don't hit him hard enough to inflate his numbers and hurt your chances to sell high on him.  Then again, wait, am I counting on the 2014 Rays to actually play well?  That's asking a lot.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Cards, Mets, Orioles, Pirates, Tigers, Tribe, White Sox

After a fairly quiet week on the closer front, we’ll take a quick peak at a few of the unstable bullpen situations. We’ll also scope out the scene to see if any pitchers might be on the hot seat soon…

Baltimore Orioles – Newly appointed closer Zach Britton only appeared twice in the past week, converting both save opportunities. Setup man Darren O’Day also pitched well over the same time frame (3.1 IP, 38 pitches, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K), but Britton has been strong enough to keep his grip on the ninth inning.

Chicago White Sox – After assuming the closer title, Ronald Belisario has been underwhelming in the past week (2.0 IP, 27 pitches, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K). After a pattern of alternating saves with blown saves, Belisario is far from the ideal candidate. Skipper Robin Ventura may eventually pull him from the gig if Daniel Webb, Scott Downs, or Jake Petricka performs well enough. All things considered, Belisario is semi-safe for now.

Cleveland Indians – Although former closer John Axford is itching to take back his old job, Cody Allen has been very effective in the role (4 saves in the past week). Unless Allen feels fatigue from being overused, he should continue to keep Axford and Bryan Shaw in setup roles.

Detroit Tigers – Believe it or not, Joe Nathan’s inconsistency has put in him hot water with manager Brad Ausmus. With noticeably lower velocity and poor control, Nathan’s season has been a disappointment thus far (6.86 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 8.6 K/9). If these struggles continue, look for Joba Chamberlain (2.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.7 K/9) to get the occasional save opportunity.

Houston Astros – Despite earning the job weeks ago, Chad Qualls hasn’t had too many opportunities to earn saves. However, Qualls has been effective over the last two weeks (2 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0.20 WHIP, 9.0 K/9) and seems to have the job in hand. If he struggles, newcomer Kyle Farnsworth (who has two holds in the past week) should get the next chance to close.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Even though many believed that manager Mike Scioscia would alternate between Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri, it seems that Frieri has earned his way back into the circle of trust. While Smith should remain an elite relief pitcher option, expect Frieri to continue to get first crack at save opportunities.

New York Mets – In the past week, three different players have earned a save for the Mets (Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Carlos Torres). Mejia remains the closer to own in Queens while Familia and Torres should fight over save opportunities arising from any Mejia unavailability.

Pittsburgh Pirates – After splitting save opportunities with Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli has returned to the ninth inning with fervor and gusto. In the past week, Grilli has earned four saves and returned to his dominant self (4.0 IP, 64 pitches, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K).

St. Louis Cardinals – While Trevor Rosenthal still holds down the ninth for the Cards, former closer Jason Motte is slowly returning to form. In the past week, Motte has not allowed an earned run in four appearances (3.2 IP, 45 pitches, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 K) and may be worth stashing if Rosenthal wears down as the season progress.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Stock Watch: Short-Term Gains

Sometimes you need to look at the big picture with a player, to see his numbers in the context of his current season, his recent-years trends, and even his entire career arc. 

Specifically, that time is draft day. It isn’t today. That’s why—like last week—we’ll be putting on some short-term blinders and looking at short-term trends, hoping for short-term gain. Basically, we’re taking the title of this column literally and playing the fantasy stock market. Fortunately, we (probably) can’t tank the world economy if we screw up. 

But to be on the safe side, we’ll emphasize the waiver wire instead of telling you to trade every player on your team for Edwin Encarnacion

Trade For 

Albert Pujols looked like he was back in April—but he’s rocking just a .216 average for (essentially, it’s the last 30 days anyway) May. I’m still more encouraged by Pujols showing us good play than I am a lousy average, but his owner might be getting antsy. Looks like a good opportunity to me.

What’s up with Buster Posey? I almost tried to trade for him and maybe I should have. Unless you find out about an injury, trust stars to return to their starry level and make offers on them when they slump. 

Masahiro Tanaka is showing absolutely no sign of slowing down. Sometimes it takes  another trip around the league for that to happen (I keep thinking about Dontrelle Willis for some reason, but that can’t possibly be fair), but I’m more encouraged by the sustained success. Match up with an owner looking to sell high if you need premium pitching.

Evan Longoria is too good a hitter to keep up a powerless, sub .270 average, right? Right. Take advantage.

It appears time to admit that John Lackey is good again.

Xander Bogaerts is hitting the ball very well and is worth thinking about if his owner hasn’t already started to depend on him. 

After an atrocious April, Khris Davis has hit six homers and batted nearly .300 over the last month. Which one is the real Khris? It probably won’t take that much to find out…. 

Alcides Escobar has outstolen Billy Hamilton 10-9 in the last 30 days. That’s got to count for something.

Trade Away 

I was offered the chance to deal Chris Sale, and maybe I should have taken it: you get offered good stuff for pitchers with 0.50 ERA’s in the last month. Actually, I was offered Tim Hudson, and if I took that trade, I’d fire myself from RotoAuthority. Incidentally, I don’t blame the other owner for offering the deal—Hudson is a great trade away candidate too. 

Ian Kinsler’s .308 average and five combined homers and steals really isn’t that great—but with other second basemen underperforming or only just returning from injury, those numbers start looking pretty good. Deal him before his bettors straighten out. 

Nelson Cruz has 12 homers in the last 30 days, which would be impressive if Encarnacion wasn’t doing what he’s doing. Actually, it is impressive. Cruz is a high-quality fantasy player (as in, better than his real life value), but he isn’t this good. But it’s plausible, you know? Plausible enough for you to get good stuff back for him.

You absolutely have to trade Shelby Miller. Seriously, look up his advanced stats. Get him off your team. 

Chris Archer looks like he’s pitching good. If you don’t look at his WHIP. Maybe a trade partner won’t? Hey, it’s worth a shot.

It’s obvious enough, but George Springer is literally the perfect trade candidate: super prospect (check), double-digit homers in the last month (check)…uh, actually that’s all there needs to be.

Pick Up
Shallow Leagues (30-50% Ownership)

Drew Pomeranz (48%) is so far justifying all of us who’ve been suggesting him. Keep it up, Drew.

Mike Leake (45%) has been pitching pretty hot lately, (2.14 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). I can’t get excited about anyone with his low levels of strikeouts, but the short-term value could be there until he runs colder.

Trevor Bauer (32%)—now that’s someone I can be excited about (21 K’s in 16.1 IP). Not that his ERA (4.41) or WHIP (1.47) recommend him, but if you’re in need of counting stats….

Marcell Ozuna (46%) has powered five homers this month. That’s a lot better than most on the waiver wire—and better than most in my own outfields….

Jon Singleton (45%) is totally the headliner of this club. Well worth picking him up; though be warned that he isn’t a Springer or an Oscar Taveras-quality prospect.

Lonnie Chisenhall (41%) has given us the best month of his Major League life (I assume—I didn’t care enough to look it up), and the remotest chance that this is a sign that he’ll be a playable third baseman going forward means he should be owned. 

This isn’t a pickup recommendation, it’s just amazing: Jonathan Villar (39%) has an OPS of .343 in the last month. That’s straight-up amazing. And there’s no way that’s worth those five steals. Cut him. 

Adam Lind (39%) has batted .375 in the last month, mostly since returning from the DL. Well worth your CI slot.

Derek Jeter (34%) is offering an empty .280 average. That’s actually pretty good for a shortstop.

Medium Leagues (20-30% Ownership)

Ryan Vogelsong (30%) has been an all-around quality pitcher for the last month’s worth of starts. He’s done this before, so there could be something useful here. But be ready to let him go at the first sign of trouble, because when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad.

Jason Vargas (29%) is actually putting up similar numbers to Bauer, but the high-K’s, high-WHIP fits less well with his history, making the walks/hits scarier and the K’s less enticing.

Bartolo Colon (28%) has pitched pretty well this month and still has more starts than walks on the season. Hey, low-K guys look more exciting the deeper your league….

Jaime Garcia (26%) probably won’t keep striking out a batter per inning, but halfway decent Cardinals pitchers seem like a great source of potential wins.

Seth Smith (29%) continues to rake in a platoon role. You can use that, honest.

David Murphy (23%) and Gerardo Parra (20%) are both hitting decently well in  more or less full-time roles. 

Deep Leagues (Less than 20% Ownership)

Bronson Arroyo (17%) is separated from Leake in uniform but not in spirit, as he too is pitching well without getting strikeouts. Henderson Alvarez (16%) also appears cut from the same cloth, and is also riding a wave of recent success.

Roenis Elias (14%) might be settling in nicely, with a decent strikeout rate and a 1.15 WHIP. 

Tommy Milone (12%) is on fire, with a 0.66 WHIP and a 1.67 ERA. Of course, he can’t generate strikeouts either, but pitching for the A’s has brought him three wins. His situation recommends him to better season-long success than most.

Gavin Floyd (10%) and Josh Collmenter (9%) are getting surprisingly good results lately.

Jake Odorizzi (7%) has a pretty extreme strikeout total (37 K’s in 25 IP) and a WHIP that actually hasn’t been that bad lately (1.24).

Omar Infante (14%) isn’t hitting at all—but at least he’s healthy.

Denard Span (13%) is a great value at this ownership level: he’s batting over .300 with four steals in the last month. (Hey, I didn’t say he was a star, did I?)

Conor Gillaspie (12%) and Gordon Beckham (12%) are hitting quite well for the White Sox, with Beckham even knocking four homers. And I'd given up on him years ago....

Matt Dominguez (12%) has been surprisingly steady, with an average that doesn’t kill you and a bit of power.

John Jaso (12%) is the hot hitting catcher of the day. You never know how long it’ll last, but what if you just devoted your catcher slot to whoever happens to be on a hot streak? Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

Michael Saunders (11%) is giving us one of those months that remind us why he sometimes got drafted in past years. It won't last, but it doesn't really have to, does it?



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

We’ve gotten far enough into the season that you ought to know if your team is a good one or a bad one. Not sure? Check your place in the standings because the results of the first couple months are probably pretty reflective of what’s likely to happen in the next ones. Even if they’re not, you’ve banked those wins and losses, or those category surpluses and deficits. So, it's time to face reality.

Give yourself a nice pat on the back if you’re among the 8.3% of fantasy players currently winning their league, allow yourself a warm feeling of satisfaction if you’re close enough to think you can take that slot over in the summer, a grim but determined smile if you know you can’t take over first, but have your pride to play for…and I’d suggest a healthy does of delusion if your team is languishing at the bottom of the standings. Realism does you no good in redraft leagues. 

Like most of us, I’m living in more than one of those categories, and today we’ll take a look at what’s worked out well…and what’s dropped me into the bottom of the standings. I’m playing in five leagues this year, but one is a draftless keeper league and another is a wacky points league in which four or five pitchers are taken in the first round every year (and it doesn’t usually torpedo the teams that do it). So analyzing those squads won’t do you much good.

Since I draft by the rankings I give you (with a healthy does of impulse and intuition thrown in), my performance each year is a decent enough way to identify whether or not my fantasy advice as turned out well. So, if you paid any attention to the draft advice I gave in the preseason, know that I’m sailing or sinking with you….

So, what has made two of these teams go mostly right and one go very, very wrong? Let’s take a look, using the opportunity to let the results judge my draft advice. 

RotoAuthority Silver League: Old Hoss Radburn
3rd Place, 12 points back
Standard 5x5 categories, roto scoring format. High quality competition with a serious buy-in. Team named for the great 19th century pitcher, the all-time leader in wins in a season. Also the leader in arm burnout and heavy drinking. 

I’ve already traded away my best player on this team: Giancarlo Stanton. (Yes, I finally worked out the details of that deal. Yes, I am now very nervous. Yes, the owner of the team I traded with has already renamed his team to reflect the fact that he has Stanton.) He’s been a beast, offering great value outside the first round and giving me some surplus power. Since his teammates have played much better than expected, he’s been more helpful than even I projected in the Runs and RBI departments. So that’s nice. 

I ranked Jose Altuve just outside the elite second basemen. He’s been even better than I imagined, with 20 steals already. 

David Ortiz and early waiver wire pickup Todd Frazier have helped out my power numbers despite not getting as much production as hoped for from my first two picks: Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto

My pitching staff has survived injuries from Chris Sale (who I was actually lower on than most, so not too much self-credit for taking him) and Hyun-jin Ryu. I’ve also survived my way-too-optimistic outlook on Matt Cain. Why? Because Ian Kennedy and Josh Beckett have rocked. Especially Kennedy. I’ll take some credit for calling that one, because if a San Diego career revival had been truly self-evident, he would have been a much earlier draft pick. The traded-away Scott Kazmir (who I had definitely ranked much higher than most) was also a big help.

Oddly enough, when I entered negotiations to swap Stanton for Kershaw, I was down in ERA and WHIP…after a week of back-and-forth offers, those became a strength and now Runs and RBI are my worst categories. A thin outfield (I’m using Carlos Quentin, Seth Smith, and Junior Lake) means I may continue to face trouble in the counting stats. 

MLBTR Staff/Friends/Family League: Wade Blasingame LLC
10th Place, 43.5 points back
Standard 5x5 categories, plus holds and OPS; roto scoring format. High opposition quality (Tim Dierkes is currently leading us), low buy-in. Team named for a real ballplayer and the greatest fictional attorney ever—who is also named for the ballplayer.

My top two picks are really dragging this team down, which is too bad because I was stoked to get Adrian Beltre and Adam Jones on the same team. I saw Jones as a near first round OF (heck, I took him 5th overall in the RA mock) and Beltre as the obvious number two at 3B. My hopes in this league are tied to these players bouncing back, and I have to admit that I think they will. (See, self-delusion helps.) 

My offense is also taking hits from losing Carlos Beltran to poor play followed by serious injury, as well as Mark Trumbo’s injury. Both were players I plugged in the preseason, so I’ll take the blame if they’re hurting you too.

Brian McCann is my primary catcher, and he’s really hurt my average. He was an RA favorite, so sorry about that. The homers have been good, though, so you're welcome. 

On the plus side, Alexei Ramirez and Brian Dozier have both been so good they’ve been added to Yahoo!’s “Can’t Cut List.” I can’t take credit for either, though: while I thought they were worth going for, I certainly didn’t predict anything like what’s happened. To be honest, I don’t feel super-confident about either going forward, especially Ramirez.

The good news is that I just snagged Jon Singleton off the waiver wire. You should do the same. 

I can’t believe that my only bad team is the only one I don’t have Matt Cain on. I did, however, spend some time with both Anibal Sanchez and Cole Hamels stashed on my DL. Stephen Strasburg and Kennedy are also helping this squad out, and I think my starting will be a strong suit…but for now I’m dead last in Wins and low in ERA and WHIP. Thank you to the since-dropped CC Sabathia, John Axford, and friends. 

Yahoo Public League: Red Right Ankles
4th Place, 16 games back
Standard 5x5 categories, head-to-head format. I’m not running away with it, so the opposition must be pretty good. I blame it on the auction format weeding out the totally inexperienced. Free, which means the teams at the bottom have probably quit. Team named for Curt Schilling and an unrelated (I presume) Decemberists song. 

Looking at my lineup for this squad, I’m not totally sure why I’m doing passably well. Lucky matchups maybe? This is another team suffering from my Adam Jones-affinity. Another favorite of mine, Aaron Hill, has been a drag on this team (or, at least, not the star I expected). Everth Cabrera has killed me with his average, Evan Longoria (who I paid a ton to get) hasn’t hit at all, and Wilin Rosario has yet to outhit the injured guy he replaced off the waiver wire.

This is, however, another David Ortiz winner (is it too early to claim triumph for the ageless DH who’s eligible at 1B?), and it’s gotten nice production from mid-rounder Anthony Rizzo and late-rounder Brandon Moss. So, my strategy of abandoning average for power hasn’t killed me. Okay, so I also picked up George Springer and enjoyed the fruits of his superpowered May.

On the pitching side, the awesomeness of Adam Wainwright (for whom I felt buyer’s remorse at his high-but-now-very-worth-it price tag) and Strasburg has offset the continued Matt Can experience (um…sorry about that) and Sanchez is now a valuable contributor, so I feel good about my starters going forward.

This team is, perhaps, proof of why you should pay more than the bare minimum for saves: I bid aggressively on every low-end closer I could get my hands on, thinking quantity would beat quality. The only reliever I got in the auction to still have a job is Casey Janssen.

Or maybe it’s proof that you should never pay for saves, since I’ve picked up three supposed closers from the waiver wire anyway (Zach Britton, Jenrry Mejia, and Hector Rondon). Go figure. 

Some Concluding Remarks

So, looking at some of the players I felt strongly enough to actually draft or bid on, there’s been a mixed bag: Wainwright and Strasburg have been great…but Sanchez was hurt and Cain has been awful. And hurt. David Ortiz has provided power, but Adam Jones is disappointing. Ian Kennedy was a sneaky-good call, as was Scott Kazmir. But I made other suggestions that I’ve already dropped and forgotten, so it’s not like they were all winners. Aaron Hill and Everth Cabrera haven’t helped us, but Brandon Moss and Jose Altuve sure have.

I could go on…but I won’t. Frankly, I’m hoping that you’ll take the simplistic explanation that I’m doing pretty well in two out of three leagues—‘cause two out of three ain’t bad.





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