Chicago Cubs


Ryan Dempster Examined

Ryan Dempster, typically undrafted in mixed leagues, had a massive season in 2008.  He was ninth in baseball with a 2.96 ERA, and added a 1.21 WHIP, 17 wins, and 187 strikeouts.  Dempster had been mostly a reliever since 2003.  Let's take a closer look at his season.

2.96 ERA
1.21 WHIP
17 wins
15.7 expected wins
206.6 innings
6.26 innings per start
8.14 K/9
3.31 BB/9
7.58 H/9
.283 BABIP vs. .295 team BABIP
0.61 HR/9
7.6% HR per flyball rate
48.1% groundball rate

Trying to take a stab at manually projecting Dempster for next year, let's go with these rates: 7.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 8.3 H/9, 0.85 HR/9.  Basically I am just trying to be conservative, especially with his hit and home run rates. 

If I plug in those numbers I get something in the neighborhood of a 3.80 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.  Kind of in the range of Gil Meche this year. You'd like to see your mixed league team as a whole post an ERA around 3.70, a WHIP around 1.25.  So guys like Dempster or Meche are mostly helping you in wins and strikeouts, though ERA can vary wildly.


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Kosuke Fukudome's Hot Start

Josh Kalk has been doing great work studying PITCHf/x data.  Check out his blog here and Hardball Times contributions here.  Josh decided to examine Kosuke Fukudome's hot start in a guest post for RotoAuthority.com.  His post follows.

Kosuke Fukudome has taken the league by storm starting off hitting .328/.444/.463.  He was billed as a combination of Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui and he has lived up to that so far.  But Jason Kendall has also started off batting .345/.400/.483 so the question for fantasy owners remains, should you sell high on Fukudome or hold to him?

The first thing to look at is Fukudome's BABIP, which is a lofty .396 right now.  While I expect him to end up with a BABIP that is above league average his is almost certainly at least a little over his head right now.  Still, even with a small correction down he would be a solid addition to any fantasy roster.  The main question is will the league catch up to him as the year goes on?  This is where his PITCHf/x data really comes in handy.  Here is a look at every tracked fastball Fukudome has faced:

Kosuke_fukudome0_2 

The first thing to notice on this plot is that Fukudome rarely swings and missed at a pitch.  One the other hand look at how many pitches he is fouling off.  Many of those fouled pitches came with two strikes as Fukudome was protecting the plate.  This is where the Ichiro comparisons come from.  Unlike Ichiro look at home many balls Fukudome takes for a strike.  Early in the count Fukudome is generally content to wait for his pitch.  I have overlaid the MLB defined strike zone but as you can see here, the umpires tend to give the pitcher a few more inches on corners.  This patience has allowed Fukudome to walk 14 times compared to just 13 strikeouts.  This is an excellent sign and I fully expect this to continue thought the year.  How does Fukudome handle off speed pitches?  Here is all the change ups thrown to Fukudome:

Kosuke_fukudome4

Again Fukudome rarely swings at pitches outside the strike zone.  For a full breakdown you can look at his player card here.  The standard approach to a left handed batter is hard stuff up and in with soft stuff down and away.  But if you don't throw those pitches for strikes Fukudome just isn't swinging at them.  So how should pitchers go about pitching to him?

In my opinion the way to attack Fukudome is get ahead early.  While Fukudome will jump on a get me over curve if you make a quality pitch in the strike zone early in the count he will more than likely lay off.  Once ahead, instead of trying to get him to chase pitches away I would bust him in with fastballs.  While most left handers love pitches low and in Fukudome seems to prefer the ball middle away.  In fact, with two strikes he will very often try to go the other way even with a ball inside.  So bust him in with those fastballs when you get two strikes.  If you absolutely need a strikeout then a ball down will probably be more effective than a ball outside.

All signs point to a very good year by Fukudome.  The first key to success to hitting is swinging at strikes and Fukudome clearly has that down.  Because of his patience Fukudome is seeing a huge amount of pitches which greatly increases the chances of a pitcher making a mistake.  When he gets that mistake Fukudome isn't swinging and missing either.  It would take a huge offer to pry Fukudome from my roster if I am a fantasy owner.



Time To Worry About Rich Hill

After just two starts, one of which was solid?  Yes.  Because that's the Cubs.  Hill, whose problems often seem mental, always seems at risk of being pulled from the Cubs' rotation.  Given the presence of Jon Lieber, it's a very real possibilityTed Lilly has been worse than Hill this year, but Lilly is paid far too much to be pulled.  Plus, Hill had a severe case of the yips in Spring Training.

Despite being one of Hill's biggest supporters for a couple of years, I am concerned that he could become a major fantasy bust this year.  If you own him, there's nothing you can do right now. 

There's something to be said for giving some extra weight to a pitcher's "stuff" during your draft.  Normally I don't, instead trusting my dollar values.  But my gut says that I'd rather have the bat-breaking repertoires of Felix Hernandez and Johnny Cueto over the 89 mph heaters of Lilly and Hill. 


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2008 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Kosuke Fukudome

As an unknown commodity, Kosuke Fukudome is not getting enough respect in fantasy leagues in my opinion.  He's being drafted around the 14th round, but looks like a poor man's Bobby Abreu to me.  And Abreu goes in the fourth round.

I have Fukudome at .281-18-85-93-10 in 550 ABs, a $10.44 value.  But if he bats third and posts a .400 OBP, there's reason to believe he could top the RBI and run projections.  And Fukudome himself projected 15-20 swipes.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him as a top 20 outfielder, but he's going 41st among them.  My biggest concern is that he doesn't match the 18 HR projection.


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2006 Chicago Cubs Schedule

The Cubs are usually the last team to put out their schedule, and it's not out yet.  I guess they want to build suspense.  Nonetheless, Al from Bleed Cubbie Blue took on the project of determining the Cubs 2006 schedule based on ones that have already been released for other teams.  Reminds me of one of those word problems from 4th grade.  Man, I hated those.  Anyway, thanks Al!  Follow the link to check it out.


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Team By Team - Chicago Cubs

Brian Giles to the Cardinals rumors swirl about, but at the moment The Roto Authority will uncover some second half sleepers from the Cubs. 

Jeromy Burnitz is exceeding expectations and Sammy Sosa with a .275-17-54 line so far.  Burnitz has another ten homers left in him as a Cub, so pick him up if you need a fill-in outfielder.

Nomar Garciaparra is due back on Friday.  Don't be surprised if you get 10 HR and 30 RBI from Nomar in August and September.  We might see a bit of a Frank Thomas/Chipper Jones syndrome, where the batting average suffers a bit and the homers increase.  Garciaparra is a nice gamble if he's been dropped in your league and you're relying on the likes of Juan Uribe.

Jerome Williams and Rich Hill are a couple of starting pitcher sleepers if you need someone in the back of your rotation.  Both should give you an ERA around 4, but Hill is riskier.  Along with that risk comes a strikeout per inning.  Choose based on your needs.  Also consider that Williams's spot is more secure, and Hill might be traded by the end of the day. 

Right now, Kerry Wood has more value to the Cubs than to your fantasy baseball team.  With the success of Ryan Dempster, Wood looks to be no more than a setup man.  Without saves and with few innings, Wood is not someone you want to trade for.  However, if you're out of the race and can give up a non-keeper (like a Todd Jones) then deal for Wood.  There's a decent chance he closes full-time in 2006 and could be lights out.  Just don't retain Wood or any closer at a high price.  Contrary to popular belief, Kerry Wood still would have plenty of fantasy value as a starter, as outlined in a previous article.

For further reading, Baseball Prospectus's John Erhardt has an excellent take on the Cubs' new-look bullpen after the additions of Wood and Scott Williamson.



MLB Trade Rumors: Manny Ramirez

The latest trade rumor whipping the baseball world into a frenzy involves Manny Ramirez.  The Roto Authority thinks it's simply a case of huge trade withdrawal.  When the biggest name on the market is A.J. Burnett, a #2 starter at best, there is a craving for a Manny blockbuster.  But that's half the fun, and the Red Sox truly are exploring a Manny Ramirez trade, so let's have a look at the possibilities.

We all know that Ramirez is a bona fide superstar, well on his way to 600 home runs in his career.  He's a lock for 40 HR, 120 RBI, and a .300 average every year.  The Red Sox paid dearly for the production, and Ramirez is due $57 million for 2006-2008.  Manny is at .275-28-92 this year, numbers that would make a pretty good entire season for most players.  There are two months left in the season for Manny to wreak havoc. 

So, what team could possibly afford Manny's $57 million and has a gaping left field vacancy?  The Chicago Cubs, of course.  The Cubs also have the young talent to draw him in - Rich Hill, Felix Pie, Matt Murton, and Corey Patterson could all be part of a package.  Theo Epstein certainly wouldn't mind getting Murton back after Hendry swiped him.  Imagine a 3-4-5 combo of Derrek Lee, Manny Ramirez, and Aramis Ramirez.  Not that the Cubs need power, but still.  History is on the Cubs' side, as Hendry and Epstein worked out the Nomar Garciaparra blockbuster right before the deadline in 2004. 

The problem with this dream scenario for Cubs fans?  Manny wants out of Boston because he wants more privacy.  Clearly he won't get that in Chicago.  Other possible destinations, like New York, offer the same obstacle.   





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