RotoAuthority Unscripted: Waiver Wire Wayback

It has been a terrible week for injuries, I know. My teams are riddled with little red DL markers too: the likes of Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Josh Beckett have all hit the shelf, among others—Beckett perhaps for good. But I’m not here to talk about their replacements--though I suppose pitching for the Dodgers can’t be a bad situation for newly-acquired Roberto Hernandez (fka Fausto Carmona, not to be confusted with the onetime Devil Rays closer from a long time ago). Anyway, I’m not, partly because you’ll be getting a pitching edition of Stock Watch tomorrow and partly because I did an injury replacement piece here last week.

But Beckett’s injury got me thinking. He was someone I advocated for pretty early on in the season, and I felt (and still feel) pretty good about that call. But I started wondering: how else did I do?

So today we’ll take a look at some of my most useful suggestions from early April…and yeah, we’ll chuckle over my other ideas too.

Most of my suggestions came from editions of Stock Watch, though there’s a particularly embarrassing entry in this column describing why you shouldn’t give up on Alejandro De Aza or Alfonso Soriano. Yeah, I hope you missed that one. If you didn’t, you’ll have to search for it, ‘cause I’m too embarrassed to link to it. Self-evidently, that one counts as a big swing-and-a-miss.

Homer Picks

We’ll start with the good, including plugging this article’s inspiration, Josh Beckett, for the first time on April 26. I went from skeptic to owner and the team I got him on is my best this year. Coincidence? Maybe. Drafting Jose Altuve doesn’t hurt….

I was a little behind on fellow Dodger Dee Gordon: he was already owned in 38% of Yahoo! leagues when I advised picking him up in the first week of April. Again, I had been a skeptic.

I feel good about advising Justin Morneau early on too, though only shallow leaguers got to enjoy the suggestion. I’d say Colorado has been good for the slugger: he’s hitting .321 with 13 home runs.

Shallow leaguers also got my advice to take Miguel Montero, which I think remains good advice.

It was a quick mention, but I can still take credit for suggesting the resurgent Phil Hughes, and you know I’ve been plugging Jose Quintana all year. I also advised a few other pitchers who hadn’t even started yet: Tim Hudson, Drew Smyly, and Rick Porcello. Hudson, in particular, would have made you happy if you’d taken him.

He’s not a superstar, but if you grabbed Marcell Ozuna off the waiver wire in the season’s first week, I bet you’re glad you did. 

It wasn’t until the second week of the season (too late for me) that I jumped on the Melky Cabrera bandwagon. But since he was still available in 68% of leagues, better late than never I guess.

The second week is also when I came around to this year’s true waiver wire superstar: Charlie Blalckmon. Like Cabrera, he was taken in 42% of leagues already, so I can’t take credit for discovering him so much as passing news of him on.

I was a little bolder with Mike Morse, who was owned in less than a quarter of leagues when I plugged him on April 9. His recent performance hasn’t been awesome, but he’s delivered plenty of value to his owners.

Jon Niese is kind of the pitching equivalent to Morse: despite the fact that things haven’t been great recently, you’ve still benefited from having him on your team for the good times.

Jake Odorizzi has had his ups and downs, but if you’ve been playing him since early April are you happy? I’m guessing you are. 

I didn’t want to write good things about Alcides Escobar after getting burned so bad in 2013, but if you picked him up when he was only 28% owned, you got a better shortstop than most of us have.

Whiff Picks

I was a big fan of Grady Sizemore’s comeback, and a hot (ish) first week convinced me there was something there worth picking up. Maybe his current stint with the Phillies will work out, but in the meantime this one is a black eye for me.

The worst part about advising Sizemore? I did it two weeks in a row. I did the same with Dustin Ackley, who’s MI eligibility will no longer be fooling me into thinking he’s a bargain.

Suggestions of Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso would have been good to miss in the season’s first week.

I really though Dan Straily would get straightened out—and I really didn’t think the A’s would send him to the minors and then trade for three pitchers in July.

For some reason, I also thought Brandon Morrow would be relevant again. Why?

Seeing some decent control, I got pretty excited over Tyler Skaggs. It didn’t last and now the former top prospect is heading for Tommy John surgery. Classic swing-and-a-miss!

I also thought I was starting a worthwhile bandwagon for Ryan Ludwick (3% owned at the time), but he hasn’t gotten the playing time and hasn’t performed well enough to deserve it.

I think Martin Perez got injured right after I suggested picking him up. Nice.

Seriously suggesting Ike Davis and Mike Olt seems pretty silly now, but the true whiff here is that I gave Lucas Duda only passing mention after Davis went to Pittsburgh.

Also shameful: around the end of April I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel for for Mike Moustakas. Turns out it was nothin’ but a burglar’s torch (What? No one else listened to the rest of the songs on the “Centerfield” album?).

I seemed to think early on that Corey Hart was a good idea. Rest assured, I no longer think that.

Well, I’m pleased enough and a bit surprised that my suggestions have done as well as they have—at least that my April ideas have. Hopefully a few of these guys made it on to your team, because that injury problem I mentioned in the intro? The best time to solve it was in April when you built your team’s depth.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: August 8-14

Big news from my own fantasy team's front this week --- I traded Mike Trout.  It was a nervy deal for obvious reasons, as while I pulled back Doug Fister, Ben Zobrist and Jayson Werth in the 3-for-1 swap, you always hate giving up the best player in fantasy (and, let's face it, real) baseball.  My rotation and middle infield needed help, however, and between this trade and my being the lucky duck to snag Javier Baez on the waiver wire, my middle infield situation went from Jed Lowrie, Enrique Hernandez and DJ LeMahieu to Lowrie, Baez and the Zobocop.  Besides, Trout was on the cover of Sports Illustrated a few months ago, so the cover curse should be kicking in any minute now.

Here are this week's players whose production doesn't quite pass the smell test in terms of their peripheral numbers...

* Fist Of Fury.  So naturally I checked out the advanced metrics on my new purchases before making my big Trout trade, and generally liked what I saw.  Zobrist is having a nice year overall and while he hasn't returned to his prime power levels, he's hitting the ball much better than last year.  Werth is doing basically what I expected of him, as his inexplicable 2013 power surge is settling back down to his usual levels but he's still producing good offensive numbers overall.

Fister was the worry, and it's a sign of how poor my staff otherwise was that I'm semi-rolling the dice on this one.  On paper, Fister has lived up to preseason expectations that he would thrive pitching in Washington, as he's delivered a 2.49 ERA and 11-3 record over his 16 starts.  Peripheral-wise, the Fist may be punching above his weight class.  His 3.73 FIP, 3.69 xFIP and 3.77 SIERA hint that his ERA could be due for a boost, he isn't recording many strikeouts (5.68 K/9) and he's being aided by a .270 BABIP and an 83.5% strand rate.

Now the strikeouts were expected, since Fister has always been a ground-ball pitcher (49.3% GBR, 48.9% this season).  What raised my eyebrows, however, was that contact rates on both pitches inside and outside the strike zone are markedly up from his rates in 2012-13.  His 33.6% fly ball rate is also well above his FBR 25.4% FBR from 2012-13 and while that 48.9% grounder rate is still very good, it's also a drop from 54.3% last season.  Nationals Park has been one of the league's tougher stadiums for home runs over the last seasons, and this might be what's helping keep Fister's fly balls from turning into big flies.

That said, it's not like he'll be going to a new home stadium anytime soon, and Marlins Park and Citi Field are also pretty forgiving stadia for a flyball-prone NL East starter.  I'm holding my breath and hoping that Fister can overcome his shaky advanced metrics, though if you don't feel like taking the plunge and trading for him, I wouldn't blame you (especially not if it's part of a package for Trout.)

* Indigestion Due To OverEaton Some good news and bad news for Adam Eaton.  The bad news is that when I run this post through the Baseball Reference player name linker, his name is still automatically linked to former Padres righty Adam Eaton, who hasn't pitched since 2009.  I propose that we refer to these players (who aren't related) using old-timey British vocabulary style in order to tell them apart, so the ex-Padre can be Adam Eaton the Elder and the White Sox outfielder can be Adam Eaton the Younger. 

Anyway, onto the good news for Eaton the Younger, as he's finally received some playing time this season to count as a qualified player.  This is no small feat given how he's been plagued by injuries both major and minor over the last two seasons; in 2014 alone he's been dealing with a bad hamstring, sore legs, a bad wrist and a jammed middle finger.  And man, maybe I shouldn't even be bothering writing this entry given that Eaton hurt his back after running into the outfield fence and missed yesterday's game because of his latest knock.  Still, this all being said, Eaton is now a qualified player, so I can officially warn you away from having him on your roster due to his massive BABIP.

That's a .367 BABIP, to be precise, tied for third-highest in the majors among (hey!) qualified players.  Eaton has quietly been one of the better hitters in baseball over the last couple of months, hitting a cool .355/.425/.477 with 27 runs scored and seven steals over 222 PA.  His power numbers are barely worth mentioning (zero homers and 17 RBI) over that stretch yet Eaton's fantasy value is derived from how he can help you in the other three of the offensive categories in 5x5 leagues.

The BABIP, however, casts a shadow over that batting average.  Eaton is also only 12-for-20 in steals all season, so what should be his calling-card statistic has been mostly held in check, likely due to his leg problems.  He might still be quick enough to beat out a few grounders and thus keep that BABIP above the average, yet some regression is inevitable, and with no power, a sure-to-drop average and only decent run and steals potential, you're suddenly looking at a player who is hurting rather than helping in the majority of your regular categories.  That's not worth a starting outfield spot unless you're really hard-up for steals or average and simply want to ride Eaton until his hot streak finally winds down.  If you know of such a hard-up owner in your league and you own Eaton, I'd try to sell high now and reap the benefits.

* If The Shoe Fits... Matt Shoemaker has already been a nice find for fantasy managers who took a chance on the 27-year-old righty, as constant injuries to the Angels' regular starting five have gotten Shoemaker a regular turn in the Los Anaheim rotation.  He's pitched well this season and if he's still available in your league, I suggest you grab him quickly since the Shoe might start Making your roster feel very....uh, footloose?  This analogy may have gotten away from me a bit.  ("No, keep going!" -- Rex Ryan)

If anything, Shoemaker could be primed for even better results in the weeks ahead.  Shoemaker's 4.02 ERA is all right, but the advanced metrics say it should be much lower given his high strikeout rate (8.55 K/9), low walk rate (1.75 BB/9), high BABIP (.321) and slightly-inflated 73% strand rate.  If the 4.02 ERA doesn't float your boat, how does a 3.24 xFIP or 3.22 SIERA sound? 

The one giant caveat for Shoemaker is that he looooooves pitching in Angel Stadium as evidenced by his 6.16 road ERA (over 30 2/3 IP) and his 2.86 home ERA (over 56 2/3 IP).  It's a red flag, true, but maybe it's just more of an orange flag given that he's pitched as home twice as much and his road ERA is inflated by one brutal eight ER/four innings outing on June 27 in Kansas City.

Am I saying it's worth picking up Shoemaker and ignoring those home/road splits?  Shoe betcha!  (I'll stop.)  He's a nice pickup if you're looking for some rotation help and while I'd keep him limited to home starts for now, one good road outing would be enough for me to slot him into my fantasy rotation.




Closer Updates: Giants, Mets, Rangers, Rays, Tigers, White Sox

After a few weeks of exploring the All-Star Game and trade market, we’re back to focusing on those usual suspects – pesky closer battles and teams utilizing the closer-by-committee approach. Of course, there is some of the same old stuff, with a few suggestions as to who might snag you a stray save in the coming weeks.

Chicago White Sox – With a ragtag group of relievers in Chicago, Jake Petricka has emerged as the short-term solution at closer (7 saves, 2.09 ERA, 1.27 WHIP). Although Nate Jones is out for the rest of the year with Tommy John surgery, Matt Lindstrom is expected to return from injury soon and could immediately challenge Petricka for the job. Javy Guerra (3.45 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) and Ronald Belisario (6.23 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) are outside threats as well.

Detroit Tigers – According to some reports, former closer (and blown save artist) Jim Johnson has just been signed by the Tigers. With the recently acquired Joakim Soria struggling (12.27 ERA and 3.27 WHIP with Detroit) and Joe Nathan (6 saves, 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in the past month) only improving slightly, Johnson is the perfect fit for this dysfunctional bullpen. The most promising solution to their ninth inning woes could be Joba Chamberlain, who has pitched better than most of the bullpen (2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and has some closing experience (7 career saves).

New York Mets – Another bullpen that has suffered its own share of growing pains this season resides in Queens. Mets’ fans must be happy that Jenrry Mejia has emerged (over Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, and Carlos Torres) as a dependable option in the ninth inning. With a 3.66 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 16 saves, Mejia might just be able to start getting comfortable in the role.

San Francisco Giants – When Sergio Romo lost the closer’s role in Frisco, many thought that it wouldn’t be long before he took back the ninth. However, Santiago Casilla has been strong (1.23 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over the past 30 days) in Romo’s stead. With Jeremy Affeldt (1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) and Jean Machi (1.68 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) both pitching very well, Romo’s return seems that much tougher.

Tampa Bay Rays – After some dispute a while back, Jake McGee has emerged as the closer in Tampa (12 saves, 1.44 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). Despite Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta in the bullpen, Brad Boxberger has been making some strides this season (1 save, 2.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) and turned a few heads. If the Rays fall out of playoff contention (they’re 9.5 games back from the division lead now), Boxberger might be able to snag a save opportunity or two moving forward.

Texas Rangers – With Soria in Detroit, Neftali Feliz has inherited the closing gig and pitched well in the role (3 saves, 3.18 ERA, 0.88 WHIP in the past two weeks). Shawn Tolleson (3.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) and Neal Cotts (3.38 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) are the current setup guys and benefit the most from the Soria trade – especially if you’re searching for holds. Each will get some save opportunities too if Feliz isn’t up for the job, with Cotts likely the first candidate.

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: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 2—Hitters

Even as Major League trades just get more complicated, we fantasy owners are hurtling towards our more concrete trading deadlines—probably around August 17th, but check the rules for each of your leagues. Last week, we discussed players to target if you need to add upside to your squad—or if you need to eliminate risk. Today, we’ll simply take a look at some hitters who shouldn’t be impossible to wrest from the clutches of your opponents who offer help in the five standard categories.

A note for all those offering August trades: don’t waste time trying to get the perfect deal, or trying to “win” a trade. Fill in your needs for a cost you can afford. That’s it. 

Average

With a .300 average, Daniel Murphy is a pretty valuable second base option—but his speed hasn’t matched last year’s numbers and he isn’t such a superstar that he shouldn’t be available. First baseman Justin Morneau’s .307 mark is sustained by a very reasonable .317 BABIP, so he’s a good candidate to keep hitting for average in the last part of the season. Kurt Suzuki has gotten a lot more attention this year than in the past, thanks in large part to a .305 batting average; his is also buoyed by a reasonable enough .325 BABIP.

Nick Markakis isn’t a premium name, and his .288 average doesn’t jump off the page—but it does come in a lot of at bats, giving it extra weight thanks to his spot in the order, playing time, and small number of walks. You could say the same things about Ian Kinsler (also a .288 average) and Hunter Pence (.291).

If you need some steals with your average, Ben Revere offers 30 of the former while batting .303. Alexei Ramirez (17 steals, .288 average), and Denard Span (23 steals, .296 average) are other good choices for speed and batting.

Howie Kendrick (.283) and Jonathan Lucroy (.307) are reliable choices who always seem to help in this category.

Off the waiver wire, think about Conor Gillaspie (21% owned in Yahoo! leagues, .317 average) and James Loney (23%, .290). Even Derek Jeter (41%, .277) has something left to offer.

Home Runs

These three near-stars offer nice power numbers at the expense of average: David Ortiz (26 homers), Brandon Moss (23), and Josh Donaldson (23). All three are batting .251 or under. Of course, Chris Carter blows them all out of the water, with his .216 average and 22 homers. He may be available on your waiver wire too.

Marlon Byrd (21 homers) is underrated. Albert Pujols (21) has been disappointing. Lucas Duda (20) has snuck up on people. Carlos Santana (20) has felt like a disaster. Chris Davis (18) has been a disaster. Khris Davis and Evan Gattis (17 each) weren’t given high expectations before the season. What do all these guys have in common? You ought to be able to trade for them, despite the fact that they’re likely to contribute in homers for the rest of the season.

Jimmy Rollins and Jhonny Peralta (15 homers each) haven’t been that good—until you remember that they play shortstop. At second base, Neil Walker (16) and Luis Valbuena (10 homers in just 317 AB) make good trade targets.

Off the waiver wire, some usual suspects are still available: Mark Reynolds (17% owned, 19 homers), Mike Zunino (17%, 17), Juan Francisco (15%, 16), Colby Rasmus (21%, 15), Dayan Viciedo (8%, 13), Mike Moustakas (16%, 13), and Matt Dominguez (9%, 13). Needless to say, all these guys will be giving you serious trouble in batting average. That’s why they’re free.

Runs

In this category, Pence (79 runs), Anthony Rendon (79) and the much-slowed Brian Dozier (78) top the runs charts. Actually, Dozier is tied with Mike Trout, but good luck landing that fish in a trade. (What?) These (probably) attainable sluggers are scoring more runs than driving them in: Antony Rizzo (75), Brett Gardner (71), Freddie Freeman (70), Kinsler (70), Span (70), Melky Cabrera (70), and Matt Carpenter (69).

Some more players who ought to help out by scoring runs include Kendrick (62), Christian Yelich (61), Elvis Andrus (59), Kole Calhoun (57), Desmond Jennings (57), Adam Eaton (55), Markakis (55), Austin Jackson (54), and Ben Zobrist (54). Each of these players has totaled quite a few more runs than RBI on the season. What does that tell us? Simply that they’ve been hitting in the part of the lineup that allows them to cross the plate more often, as opposed to plating others.

Since getting on base should lead to more runs, think about these high-OBP players when going after this category: Mike Napoli (.381 OBP), Seth Smith (.382), Santana (.374), Adam LaRoche (.373), Casey McGehee (.371), Matt Holliday (.370), Lonnie Chisenhall (.368), and Gillaspie (.368)

RBI

Adrian Gonzalez (72 RBI) stands out as a guy who’s knocked in a lot of runs despite a relatively low homer total (15) and a pretty marginal batting average (.259). Good lineups help, don’t they? Donaldson (78), Pujols (70), Yoenis Cespedes (67), Justin Upton (64), Morneau (63), Torii Hunter (62), and Jayson Werth (62) all know something about good lineups too.

Kyle Seager (67), Ian Desmond (66), Miguel Montero (59), Starlin Castro (59), and Kinsler (59) offer nice RBI power at premium positions. 

Sluggers Duda (62) and LaRoche (56) are relatively unheralded, while Holliday (58) and Evan Longoria (57) are contributing RBI despite otherwise disappointing seasons. All four can make pretty good trade targets.

Stolen Bases 

After this year’s Big Three of steals, Revere leads the league with 30, but Rajai Davis and Eric Young (26 apiece) aren’t far behind. With the David Price/Austin Jackson trade, expect Davis to get more playing time and more chances to steal. Young is probably on your waiver wire, but that’s just because he can’t really hit.

Span and Alcides Escobar (23 steals each) can hit though. (I can’t believe I just wrote that, after what Escobar did last year.) Elvis Andrus and Starling Marte (21 each) also belong in the steals and a little hitting category. Rollins (22) and Jose Reyes (20) are higher caliber hitters, so they’ll cost a bit more.

Jarrod Dyson (22 steals) is barely owned—he’s on teams in just 2% of Yahoo! leagues. So there’s no excuse if you need speed. (Never mind that he doesn’t really play all that often.)

It’s worth noting that needing steals isn’t that bad a problem to have; these guys tend to be pretty available.

Good luck filling out your category needs through trades. We’ve got one final installment of this series coming up next week; after that Stock Watch will be shifting into our post-deadline coverage, concentrating on waiver wire players.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: Replacing the Irreplaceable--Goldschmidt and McCutchen

Maybe someday, years from now, this will be remembered as the day Javier Baez made his debut. Maybe someday, while he’s giving his Hall of Fame induction speech after having led the Chicago Cubs to several World Championships, you’ll think back on this day with a tear of gratitude in your eye—grateful that you read this and remembered to scurry over to your fantasy baseball website and pick him up, that you got in on the ground floor of Baez’s career because you read this column.

Or maybe not. But if you haven’t checked it yet, go check your site just in case. Baez might still be there.

Okay, that’s done and you're back. Which is good, because this column isn’t about Baez; that was just a public service announcement.

In the last couple days, we’ve had several star players either hit the DL or get the bad news that they won’t be coming back from the DL this season. Or both. How do you replace Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Cliff Lee, or Matt Cain? Well…you don’t. But technically you have to try. And frankly, it might be tough to replace what you hoped to get from those “star” pitchers, even if it won’t be any trouble replacing what you actually got from them. And I know you didn’t draft Gonzo without his backup in mind, so I’m not going to worry too much about him or the hurlers. The big hits are Goldy and McCutch.

We’ll take a look at similar—albeit lesser—players that could be available via trade or the waiver wire to help you recoup some of your production. 

If you don’t have these guys you can skip today’s column…except that anyone who can stand in for Goldschmidt and McCutchen can probably play just fine on your team anyway. So don't touch that dial....

Replacing Paul Goldschmidt (broken hand: out at least 8 weeks)

“Realistically, he’s done for the year.” –Manager Kirk Gibson

19 HR/75 R/69 RBI/9 SB/ .300 AVG/.396 OBP/.542 SLG 

Good luck finding another slugging first baseman with some speed…though you could try swinging a trade for Todd Frazier (16 SB), but then he’s been arguably better than Goldy and plays third base, so good luck with that. Jose Bautista is another high-end possibility to replace Goldschmidt’s production (five surprising steals even).

Chris Carter is one of only four first basemen (Goldy included) with more than one steal in the last month, and he’s knocked eight homers in that span. As a plus, he’s only owned in about half of fantasy leagues, so he might be on your waiver wire.

Lucas Duda (68% owned in Yahoo! leagues) is still available in the shallowest leagues and may be easier to pry away from his owner than others. We’ve thrown the speed away at this point, though. Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira make decent trade targets as well; they’ve delivered some nice power, but don’t expect much out of the average category.

For waiver wire searchers, Juan Francisco (15% owned) and Mark Reynolds (17% owned) might be available, though you’re going to really be hurting in average if you go that route.

A final, unorthodox choice could be Daniel Murphy, who produces not in power but in speed (11 steals) and average (.296). Of course, he's currently manning someone’s second base slot, so that might make him more expensive than most single-digit-homer first basemen.

Full disclosure: CBS.Sports’s Scott White put out a whole column on this topic, but I promise I didn’t read it until I wrote the above. He’s got some ideas I didn’t think of, so go check it out. Subscription required…I think? 

Replacing Andrew McCutchen (oblique: perhaps 3-4 weeks)

17 HR/64 R/67 RBI/17 SB/.311 AVG/.411 OBP/.536 SLG

The bad news is that power/speed outfielders who hit for average don’t grow on trees. That’s why we picked this one in the early half of the first round. The good news is that there might be more such players in the outfield than at first. 

A pretty good comp is Hunter Pence, who’s going 15/10 in homers and steals and batting .289. Breakout All-Star Michael Brantley has maybe been even better than McCutch, with 16 homers, 12 steals and a .322 average, as has Charlie Blackmon—14 homers, 20 steals, and a .296 average. Okay, maybe not better. Quieter breakout player Brett Gardner has 15 homers, 18 steals and a .284 average, so similar-ish players aren’t quite as hard to find as I’d expected. Carlos Gomez 15 homers, 22 steals, and a .291 batting average is another star-level guy you could look to. Another  Hmm…Pence is looking easier and easier to trade for….

I tried to look for a true power/speed threat without the corresponding good batting average to keep the trade price down—kind of what B.J. Upton used to be—and the closest I could come was Desmond Jennings (9 homers, 13 steals, .240 average). Actually, Curtis Granderson (13 homers, eight steals, .220 average) was closer…no, he’s been pretty much the same, but with his number dragged down by a worse April. This position isn’t what it used to be…year ago. 

How about some cheaper options? McCutchen’s teammate Josh Harrison has five homers and five steals this month and has flashed good skills in both categories. If you want a buy-low candidate, Jay Bruce has 10 each of steals and homers…but the average isn’t there on good years. Shin-Soo Choo is another buy-low guy who profiled as a McCutchen-lite last year…and has thus far been a bench outfielder…lite.

Drew Stubbs is having a resurgent year that just won’t seem to quit (five homers, four steals, a .363 average this month) and is available in most leagues (just 17% owned). If Gonzalez misses time, Stubbs’s play should be even safer. Rookie Arismendy Alcantara (14%) has shown some power/speed ability and is still on plenty of waiver wires. Those in very deep leagues might want to consider Grady Sizemore (6%), who’s smacking the ball well for his new Phillies squad.

To all of us that just lost McCutchen or Goldschmidt there isn’t much to say…other than at least you probably couldn’t have lost both first-rounders, right?




RotoAuthority League Update: Midsummer Trades

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 isn't one of them.

It's been awhile since we took a look at the trades in the RotoAuthority League. The owners haven't been as hyperactive as they were in April and May, but there were still several deals processed in June and July.

06/03 - Men With Wood agrees to trade Corey Dickerson to Brewsterville Bruins for Trevor Bauer

At the outset of June, Men With Wood and Brewsterville Bruins exchanged a couple of players who have received a good deal of praise in the fantasy community. The Bruins have gotten the better end of this deal in retrospect, as Dickerson has been highly productive this summer. Some may view the Rockies outfielder as a Sell High candidate; however, no player in the game has a higher xBABIP. As long as he can get at-bats, Dickerson is a legitimate fantasy option in Mixed Leagues.

06/13 - Brewsterville Bruins agree to trade Justin Verlander and Pedro Alvarez to A Century of Misery for Doug Fister and Martin Prado

Looking to discard Verlander from their roster, the Brewsterville Bruins actually had some trouble finding a taker for the Tigers right-hander. Maybe I'm the sucker in the league because I proved to be the one who took on the struggling ace. Since this deal, Fister has clearly been the more valuable pitcher from a fantasy perspective, and now Alvarez may be a bench player. Here's one I regret in hindsight.

06/23 - Smell the Glove agrees to trade Jonathan Papelbon and Michael Morse to The Bombers for Jason Heyward and Kole Calhoun

Prior to the trade deadline, there was speculation that the Phillies might ship Papelbon out of town. Commissioner Dierkes may have had that in mind; in reality, though, the primary objective here was to boost his offense, as his pitching has been superb. Ironically, it's been Calhoun and not Heyward who's proven to be the true prize of this trade. The Angels leadoff man has been quietly productive since returning from the DL and emerged as a solid OF3 in Mixed Leagues.

07/10 - Brewsterville Bruins agreed to trade Devin Mesoraco to A Century of Misery for Gregory Polanco

In need of a power bat, I chose to move the uber-hyped Polanco for a catcher enjoying a breakout campaign in Mesoraco. I was ecstatic to make this deal at the time, and I expect it to continue to look prudent going forward. Given that the Bruins got the better of the Verlander deal, this helps me sleep a tad easier.

07/16 - Guitar Masahiro agrees to trade Curtis Granderson to Smell the Glove for Joe Smith

Yet again, Commissioner Dierkes dealt a closer in preparation for the MLB trade deadline. In this case, that move proved to be truly prescient. After all, just a couple days later the Angels traded for Huston Street, relegating Smith to a setup role. After a slow start, Granderson has been decent for the Mets. Sure, he doesn't help in the AVG category, but a .230 in today's game isn't as disastrous as it was five years ago.

07/16 - Pulling Brzenk agrees to trade Jose Bautista and Derek Norris to Brewsterville Bruins for Alex Rios, Sean Doolittle, Casey Janssen, and Oscar Taveras

Looking to make up ground in the saves category, Pulling Brzenk acquired a pair of closers in Doolittle and Janssen along with a couple of struggling bats in Rios and Taveras. In return, the Bruins landed a pair of All-Star power bats. You have to admire the effort of this squad as it seeks to avoid the boot from the league. The Bruins may not be invited back next season, but they're certainly not going down without a fight. If only every fantasy manager put forth this type of effort in all of our leagues...

07/28 - Guitar Masahiro agrees to trade Mark Trumbo to A Century of Misery for Alex Gordon

Last week I chose to Buy (Very) Low on the struggling Trumbo, who clearly has been subjected to a good deal of misfortune this season. I had high hopes for Gordon this season, but he's been underwhelming up to this point. With Billy Butler also struggling and Eric Hosmer now on the DL, the Royals offense will struggle to score going forward. In short, this is a classic exchange of underperforming players each owner is tired of seeing on his roster. With only two months remaining, we're really just throwing dice at this stage in the game anyway.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: August 1-7

We're officially into the dog days of summer, as I wore sandals yesterday.  Big step.  Let's look into the advanced metrics to see which players may fade in the summer heat and which players may heat up in the, um, heat.  Really should've consulted my thesaurus for that last sentence but still, onto the peripherals!

* Stone Cold Austin.  New Tigers hurler David Price was obviously the big wheel of the huge three-team blockbuster between Tampa Bay, Detroit and Seattle yesterday, yet Austin Jackson is a pretty notable name also on the move, now plying his trade as the new Mariners center fielder.  With Jackson's name in the headlines, let's look ahead to see how he'll fare hitting at Safeco Field...

...poorly!  The answer is poorly.  Sorry to be so anti-climactic.  It's a simple answer since virtually every hitter struggles at pitcher-friendly Safeco, and Jackson is likely no different.  On the plus side, bringing in the fences at Safeco prior to the 2013 season helped increase batting totals to right and center field at the ballpark, and while Jackson is a right-handed batter, his spray charts over the last three years indicate that he can line the ball all over the field, while most of his flies (though none of his homers) go to right field.  This means that Jackson should still be able to find the holes just as well in Seattle as he did in Detroit (career .357 BABIP) and keep up his production for the season.

So why is that a 'poorly'?  Because Jackson has been secretly pretty mediocre this season, batting .273/.332/.398 over 420 PA with four homers, 33 RBI, 52 runs and nine steals.  That works out to a barely above-average 101 wRC+ for the season, and that's despite his usual excellent BABIP showing at .334.  Jackson's RBI total will drop since he'll be hitting leadoff in Seattle after spending a large chunk of his season hitting further down in the Tigers batting order, and yet despite being the leadoff man, I'd still expect his run total to drop given that the Mariners lineup is significantly weaker than Detroit's.  So that leaves fantasy owners with an outfielder who suddenly isn't really delivering at any of the 5x5 categories and is absolutely not worth a spot in an everyday lineup.

I'd be shopping Jackson heavily if I had him on my roster.  He'll end up in the 20-steals range but that's not nearly enough for him to count as a "speed guy" who you can stick in your lineup and just suffer his low overall batting totals for stolen bases alone.  The bottom line is, going to Safeco Field won't hurt Jackson's 2014 fantasy production since there wasn't much there to begin with.  You should've been shopping him weeks or even months ago.

* Lack Attack.  Speaking of players who switched teams yesterday, what are the Cardinals getting from their new right-hander?  As it turns out, they're almost literally getting an average starting pitcher.  Here are John Lackey's stats this year as compared to the league average pitching totals, going into Thursday's action...

Lackey: 3.60 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, 3.52 SIERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, .298 BABIP, 73.7% strand rate, 46.9% grounder rate

The League: 3.79 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 3.71 SIERA, 7.73 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9, .296 BABIP, 73% strand rate, 45.2% grounder rate

First of all, this is definitely a sign that hitting stats are in decline since Lackey is having a pretty good season, yet it's basically just the norm across Major League Baseball.  But look at those numbers --- aside from almost one fewer walk per nine, Lackey's numbers are virtually identical.  It bodes well for the Cardinals that he's done this in a hitter's paradise like Fenway Park, so moving to the National League should (if anything) improve Lackey's numbers.

Lackey's 2014 stats are also very close to what he did in 2013, with the only real difference peripheral-wise being a drop in fly ball rate (35% to 31.6%) and he's using his fastball much more often and his slider much less often now than he did last season.  Suffice it to say, it seems like Lackey has found a consistent groove since he finally got healthy, and I'd expect that to keep going as he moves to his new team.

If you're in one of the 24% of Yahoo leagues where Lackey is still available, I'd pick him up as a very useful addition to the middle-to-back end of your fantasy rotation.  His 11-7 record is nothing to sneeze at already, and playing on a better team could get Lackey up into the range of 16 or 17 wins.  You could say he isn't *lacking* in any category, though that would such a lame pun that it's not even worth using as an ironically bad pun...uh, like I just did.  Rats, too late.

* Conman.  This entry on Conor Gillaspie is about six weeks overdue, as I was originally going to write about the White Sox third baseman's breakout season back in June.  This was right in the midst of an overall tough month for Gillaspie, a 'June swoon' if you will, and I figured that the regression was already taking place and my recommendation to avoid picking him up was just piling on the poor guy.  As if sensing my pity and getting offended by it, Gillaspie proceeded to post a .341/.426/.573 line with four homers, 11 RBI and 17 runs in 94 July PA going into Thursday afternoon's tilt with Detroit. 

So, thus chastened, I'm finally getting avoid to writing about Gillaspie as the calendar turns to August...and I'm still recommending you avoid trading for him or, if you already own him, to sell high.  Gillaspie does have something of a pedigree --- the Giants drafted him 37th overall in 2008 and he has a few solid minor league seasons to his name --- so his breakout isn't a total shock, and he could be going into his prime as he just turned 27 years old. 

This all said, I can't avoid that glaring .369 BABIP staring me right in the face.  Gillaspie's season-long .321/.375/.459 slash line is being heavily buoyed by that BABIP, and should that batted-ball luck turn, he can't fall back on much power; his four July homers were his only long balls of the season.  While 500 career PA (his total going into 2014) is admittedly a small sample size, Gillaspie's advanced metrics don't point to any particular reason why he's hitting so well in this season as opposed to his forgettable first few seasons in the bigs.  Gillaspie's walk, contact, strikeout and swing rates are all basically the same as his career averages, so I'm forced to conclude that BABIP is the only real answer to his great production.  Either that or else someone mistakenly called him 'Cole Gillespie' for the millionth time, causing him to snap and channel all his frustration into crushing baseballs.

By this point Gillespie....er, GILLASPIE might be having one of those magical BABIP-fueled Chris Johnson-esque kind of seasons, yet still, I'd bet on some regression before the season is out.  His big year is flying under the radar (he's owned in only 20% of Yahoo leagues) so this could be a case where you pick him up off the waiver for the sole purpose of using him as trade bait.  If you've been riding Gillaspie since he started heating up in May, congratulations, it's time to cash in your chips and move him for a more established third baseman.




Closer Updates: Trade Bait & Bullpen Check-Ins

With the trade deadline just a few hours away, plenty of changes could still be ahead for baseball this season. Saves-seekers might be pushing their luck, however, if they expect several major bullpen shakeups before the deadline comes. After the earlier Huston Street trade and Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri swap, it might be a quiet afternoon. Just in case, we’ll explore a couple of names that have been floated as trade bait and discuss a few other bullpen situations who utilized the closer-by-committee approach not too long ago.

--

Joaquin Benoit – Even though the Padres have already dealt Street, they may not be done dealing and Benoit’s name keeps coming up after a strong start to the season (1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP). If he’s moved before the trade deadline, Dale Thayer (2.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) will likely get the first opportunity to close in San Diego.

LaTroy Hawkins – When Hawkins was first signed, many thought that it would be temporary and a different closer would be manning the ninth in the Mile High City before season’s end. However, most thought that the Rockies closer of the future was Rex Brothers (4.57 ERA, 1.62), who has fallen well below expectations thus far. Adam Ottavino is making a strong case (3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) and could just beat Brothers in grabbing the first save opportunity if Hawkins is dealt.

Jonathan Papelbon – Although Papelbon’s name has been floated a few times, he has made it clear that he will not pitch for a team that does not intend to have him close. He has good numbers on the season (25 saves, 1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) and the Phillies are willing to absorb some of his contract, but it’s still unlikely he’ll be moved. If that does happen, Ken Giles (0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) has the early need on that particular scramble for the ninth.

Chad Qualls – Another popular name is down in Houston and many believe that Qualls could be a dependable setup guy given his strong numbers (11 saves, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.1 K/9). If he’s moved, it’s unclear exactly how the Astros bullpen will shake out. However, Qualls is somebody who might be able to provide value in a reliever role and could even continue to be a strong closer if given the chance elsewhere.

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Chicago White Sox – This bullpen has been a roller coaster this season, with a number of different relievers sitting in the closer chair. After an injury to Zach Putnam (3 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), Jake Petricka has become king-of-the-hill over Ronald Belisario (5.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) and Javy Guerra (2.81 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). Like Putnam, Matt Lindstrom (6 saves, 3.3 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) is also working back from injury and could wrestle the gig away shortly after being activated from the disabled list (assuming he returns to form).

Houston Astros – Qualls settled into the closer role nicely and provided a surprising amount of stability for the H-town bullpen. If he’s dealt, they could spiral into oblivion again and fast. Josh Fields (4.08 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), Jose Veras (6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP), and Tony Sipp (2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) are all potential options, but nothing it set in stone. Jesse Crain is rumored to be returning to the mound soon, but it’s questionable where he pitches this season. Stay tuned… if you dare.

Oakland Athletics – After the Jim Johnson debacle this season (7.14 ERA, 2.06 WHIP), the A’s struggled to find their closer. Luke Gregerson (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) had a few chances early and many expected Ryan Cook (2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) might inherit the gig at some point. However, Sean Doolittle took the job and seems to have no intention of giving it up (16 saves, 2.59 ERA, 0.64 WHIP).

Tampa Bay Rays – With a motley crew of saves contenders, many did not know who would emerge from the battle for the ninth inning in Tampa. Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour both had solid resumes (95 career saves combined), and so did young right-hander Brad Boxberger – who has pitched quite well in 41 appearances this season (2.11 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). In the end, Jake McGee emerged as the guy and has been strong this year (12 saves, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP).

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: Fantasy Trading Deadline Part 1—Risk and Reward

 There’s a trading deadline coming up and it’s not July 31.(Okay, that one’s coming up too.)  But what I’m talking about is your fantasy league’s trading deadline. The last day for trades in my various Yahoo! leagues is August 17; in a custom CBS league we have all the way until the start of the playoffs in early September. But whatever it is, you really don’t want to be the team that notices a need, goes to make a trade offer…and only then discovers that it’s late August and trading is over. What? Like I’m the only one who’s ever done that...? 

We fantasy baseball players don’t have the luxury of the August waiver-trading period to make the deals we couldn’t get done before the deadline, so I’m going to spend the next three weeks going a little off-format on Stock Watch to discuss trade scenarios.

This week, we’ll focus on what types of risk you should take on depending on your format, your team’s place in the standings, and your goals for the season. In the next two weeks we’ll get a little more specific with trade targets that will help you in each category. 

Not a Zero-Sum Game Anymore

In the beginning of the season, you pretty much just want to get the most value you can out of a trade—quite possibly at the other team’s expense. Those days are over. I’m not the first fantasy pundit to suggest that you don’t need to get more value than your trading partner does to win a trade—you just need to make a trade that helps you in the right ways. So maybe trading Jose Abreu for Rajai Davis and a closer is what you need to do—that’s fine, make it happen if it makes you better. 

(The exception to this is when trading with teams right next to you in the standings—but those offers don’t tend to come up all that often anyway.)

Even if you should (and probably can) get better stuff for your star players than the hypothetical trade above, it’s important to remember that it is (at this point) perfectly okay to trade greater players for lesser ones if the needs you have are filled. You can let your leaguemates scoff if you like, but making one opponent improve relative to your own team for the chance to improve yourself relative to the other ten is usually a pretty good idea. Just don’t make that trade with the team you’re fighting for first place…or eleventh.

Playing with Risk: Evaluating Your Format, Standings, and Goals

In the future, I’ll be breaking players down by category, but today I’m going to talk about risk—should you be trading it away, or trying to pile as much as you can onto your team? By risk, I don’t mean just downside but the magnitude of the upside/downside split. Are you in the position where you need to put everything on the line? Or do you just need to make sure you don’t slip any further in the standings and out of a playoff slot…or out of the league, RotoAuthority League-style? 

I’ve got teams in just about every category: I’m first in one, tenth in another, and slugging it out in three more. So I’ll be taking different approaches in my various leagues. Sitting in first, I’m going to be ditching my highest downside players, even if they do have good upside. Ideally, I’ll be able to ship them to someone low in the standings for steady-Eddie types.

For my tenth-place team, I’d love to be the one shipping out those steady-Eddies who weren’t enough to keep me form the bottom half of the standings for some guys with high upside; any downside they offer can only drop me two slots in the league! My middle teams will need a more nuanced approach and may need a bit of risk in some categories and a bit of safety in others. But we’ll check that out in the coming weeks.

Before sending out your last three weeks of trade offers, you’ve got to know what you’re playing for. In my tenth-place team, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m not going to make an epic comeback and win it all. But I can probably save myself some embarrassment by moving a few places up the standings to end it in a respectable position. So I’m going for that.

Head-to-head formats can make things more complicated: do you make some high-risk moves, knowing that they could pay off with the biggest September? Or do you shore up your chances of just getting into the playoffs and cross your fingers? I’m guessing that’s going to depend on your league’s payout formula….

Upside Plays: Pitchers

The first guy who jumps to mind is Cliff Lee.  It could go terribly wrong…or he could be a carry-your-team staff ace. Other unproven pitchers who’ve been aces so far seem to fit this mold as well: Garrett Richards, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber,  and Tyson Ross. They seem real enough to trade for, but have short or spotty enough track records that you can’t feel totally secure in them.

Overachievers and underachievers alike add upside to your team: Johnny Cueto , Julio Teheran (especially with his recent struggles), Ian Kennedy, and Josh Beckett seem like they should have high error bars on their rest-of-season performance. Same for guys that have been relatively disappointing or inconsistent, or changed roles during the season or spent time on the DL, like Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, and Tim Lincecum

Finally, out-of-nowhere (or out of somewhere previously terrible) guys add upside. Think of Jesse Chavez, Alfredo Simon, Phil Hughes, Jake Odorizzi, Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Marcus Stroman, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Young. Tim Hudson kind of counts too, though where he came from wasn’t bad…just not all that useful in fantasy. 

Safe Choices: Pitchers

If you need to hang on to your gains and play it safe, you can do more than just trading away the pitchers above. Think about trading for serious aces (you know who you are, guys) or for steady-good types like these: Jered Weaver, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Madison Bumgarner. You’ll note that there aren’t nearly as many safe choices on the pitching side—well, that’s part of pitching. One of the safest things you can do, actually, is trade pitching for hitting.

Upside Plays: Hitters

This year has featured some impressive breakout stars and the rest of the season will be spend sorting out which ones are for real and which ones have holes in their swings. Guys like Jose Abreu, Michael Brantley George Springer, Jose Altuve, Nelson Cruz, Todd Frazier, Victor Martinez, Dee Gordon, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Brian Dozier, and Corey Dickerson come to mind as high-impact guys who still have downside, whether it’s from nonexistent track records like Abreu, horrible track records like Gordon, or being an old guy playing better than ever like Martinez. 

As with pitchers, you can always bet on underperformers to bounce back when you’re going out and actively adding upside to your squad. Consider some of these guys who could return to glory in the final months of the season: Chris Davis, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Jason Kipnis, Dustin Pedroia, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Joe Mauer, Matt Kemp, Mark Trumbo, Josh Hamilton, Alexei RamirezMarlon Byrd, Carlos Santana, and Carlos Beltran

There are plenty of hitters offering upside that they haven’t shown this year…or who’ve shown more than they probably really do have to give, so use the above list as a jumping-off point on your trade list and not as a restriction.

Safe Choices: Hitters

Trading for bona fide stars is almost always a safe choice, and it’s even safer at this point of the season. But top-tier superstars aren’t the only guys who offer steady production. Think about these guys: Hunter Pence, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Jayson Werth, David Ortiz, Kyle Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Alex Gordon, Aramis Ramirez, and Rajai Davis.

I suppose we could argue about who’s “safe” and show isn’t—maybe you think Ramirez will get hurt again, or that Moss is sufficiently established as not to be a risk—and that’s fine. The important thing is making the trade that fits you, that fits your team.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: Trade Deadline Rundown

The next couple days are always some of my favorite in baseball. Maybe it’s just my short attention span, but I love it when players are changing teams and rumors are flying around like crazy. No wonder I became an MLBTradeRumors.com addict...during the Trade Deadline and the Winter Meetings I refresh RA’s parent site several times an hour if I’m sitting in front of a computer. 

And you should too.

No, not just because I’ve been tasked with driving up MLBTR’s traffic (I’m pretty sure they don’t need my help with that this time of year), but because you can be out there making deadline trades of your own. When a player is about to change value, that can be the best time to get him on your team…or off of it. And if you’re the one making the better guess than your opposing managers, you’ll find yourself getting tidy little value deals along the way.

Just think what would have happened if you’d offered peanuts for Jake Peavy last week. Well, you’d have endured a mediocre first start, but still, it’s easy to see how Peavy goes from sitting on deep league benches to being an interesting pitcher, just by changing uniform. Presumably, his cost will be a little higher now that he’s officially a Giant. (Or he might still be on your waiver wire, if your league isn’t that deep.)

So regardless of whether or not Peavy was a big enough fish for your fantasy league to fry, your team might be ready to benefit from some other subject of trade deadline rumors. 

David Price

Price is by far the biggest name getting floated in trade rumors this deadline, but is he even on the move? With the Rays winning ballgames, it’s looking more and more like he’s staying in Tampa Bay. That’s fine with me, though, because he’s in a good park with a better-than-their-record-so-far team. So not getting traded is good news for Price owners (or future owners), but so are his top trade destinations: the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Mariners. I see this as pretty much a no-lose situation.

Of course, his current owner might think so too and he may not come at a discount, but the uncertainty surrounding his situation might knock his price down a little. (For once, pun unintended.) Trade for Price.

Ben Zobrist

Zobrist is likely to follow Price out of town or stay with him (see the link above). As a Swiss-Army player, he comes in pretty handy, but he hasn’t been awesome with the bat. I haven’t seen many specific rumors about Zobrist, but the Giants have come up

I see this as a good time to trade away Zobrist. Though other owners might be getting interested in the idea of Zobrist going to a friendlier park, there remains a good chance he stays with the Rays. With the Giants the only known suitor, I’m not sure Zobrist will really gain value on the 31st

Jon Lester

I'll admit, in the first draft of this article, I overlooked Lester--I just didn't really believe the Red Sox would put their ace on the market. But the rumors are picking up and it's time to face the reality: Boston believes in logic. With a mediocre supporting cast and a tough ballpark, most other teams would be good news for Lester. Watch the rumors, but since the Mariners are in play, the could be a great trade for candidate. The only real downside is that he stays where he is.

John Lackey

Like Lester, the Sox are getting calls on Lackey (see the link above). Same situation, different player: almost any trade would probably be a ballpark upgrade, so go ahead and trade for Lackey too.

Cole Hamels

The Phillies kept saying they won’t trade Hamels. Given their history, I believed them. Now we hear that he is available, but with a huge asking price. With the Dodgers interested, I'm intrigued, and I think that the mere possibility of Hamels getting to play for a good team will intrigue the other owners in your league too...but the Phillies' history makes me think they won't find a buyer. Hamels is plenty good enough to trade for, but if you really want value, trade him away to someone willing to pay like he already plays for the Dodgers, or Mariners, or whomever. But keep an eye on him--he'd have a ton of value as a Dodger....

Cliff Lee

Having just returned unimpressively from the disabled list, most commentators are expecting Lee, who has a significant no-trade clause, to be traded sometime in August. Lee is already a great buy-low candidate, so the chance that he suddenly gets better run support, better defense, or a friendlier ballpark is icing on the cake. It is well worth noting, though, that Lee is a very risky option at this point, making him a great fit if your team needs a huge shot in the arm—but not so much if you’re just looking to shore up a good spot in the standings.

A.J. Burnett

Burnett has been a pretty marginal fantasy starter this season (hopefully you ignored my advice at draft time—I wish I had), but the Trade Deadline offers the hope that he’ll get dealt to a good situation. Too bad San Diego isn’t interested. Check out the Hamels link for the latest Burnett rumor I could find—which doesn’t get very specific. Watch the veteran righty's rumors closely. If there’s talk of him going to Los Angeles (either one) or Seattle, he becomes very interesting—a good home park can do wonders for a pitcher. But with the Giants and A’s probably not in the market for Burnett, most of the possible suitors won’t do much to help Burnett’s ERA and WHIP. I’d trade him away while the rumors are flying. If he does move into a favorable situation, you probably won’t have lost out on that much.

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy was just sidelined with an injury, so we’ll have to see how that shakes out. While the Padres would need to be overwhelmed to deal the bounce-back pitcher (who they control through next season) his injury probably makes that less likely. That’s actually good new for Kennedy owners, since there’s really no better place for him than San Diego. I’d probably hold Kennedy, but I don’t think I’d trade for him until we know more about his injury (which appears to be minor). 

Bartolo Colon

Colon isn’t the most exciting name in fantasy, but I would try to sneak him into a trade offer while the real-baseball coverage makes him sound better than he is. New York is a nice ballpark to pitch in, and I don’t suspect he’ll end up in a better place—even if he gets more run support. If Colon is dealt it will likely be after the market for better pitchers shakes itself out.

Matt Kemp

Kemp’s name has come up in talks with the Mariners, which is never good news for a hitter. Unless he’s coming from Dodger Stadium. Parks aside, trading the Dodgers’ supporting cast for the Mariners’ isn’t so good. These talks seem like kind of longshots, given Kemp’s contract, but it could happen.  I’d consider trading Kemp away if you get someone who thinks he might end up as a Yankee or an Oriole or something.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera’s name has come up in connection with the Blue Jays, which would be a nice situation for the current Indians’ shortstop. I would wait for that one to gain a little more traction, but he could expect a bump in production in Canada. Tentatively, I’d trade for him. Also, I’d get ready to pull the waiver wire trigger on Francisco Lindor.

Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowtizki is showing up in trade rumors, abetted by an appearance at a Yankees game. Given his injury and his face-of-the-franchise status in Colorado (and his very friendly contract), I suspect there’s more smoke than fire to these rumors. Certainly any trade outside of Colorado is bad fantasy news for Tulo owners, so I’d consider offering a trade for the injured shortstop…but I’d wait a little longer on the medicals before offering it.

There are plenty more players who could be on the trading block in the next few days—especially relievers on losing teams. You know where to keep up with the action for trades (MLBTR obviously), and don’t forget @CloserNews on Twitter for everything relating to the many relievers who’ll probably be changing uniforms in the upcoming days.




RotoAuthority League Update: Standings Rundown

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.

It's been a month since we last analyzed the standings. Let's see how things have changed over July.

The Favorites

1. E-Z Sliders 94

2. Men With Wood 88.5

E-Z Sliders have moved up a dozen points over the last five weeks to vault into first place. When you take a look at this owner's roster, it's no wonder why this club has risen to the top. Jose Altuve has been the most valuable hitter over the past month while David Price has been the best pitcher; yes, both studs are members of this roster. In addition, Adrian Beltre, Jacoby Ellsbury, Max Scherzer, and Jon Lester continue to be excellent while Torii Hunter and Neil Walker have been particularly helpful lately. In short, this owner has no worries about finishing in the top two, at the very least. Meanwhile, just like seemingly every other year, Men With Wood is still right in the thick of things. We already knew Mike Trout was elite, and now we know Carlos Gomez is as well. Anthony Rizzo has made the leap to stardom while Sonny Gray and Tyson Ross are rising up next season's SP rankings with every start. On paper, I still have to give the edge here to E-Z Sliders, but Men With Wood could easily make up this deficit with a hot week.

The Race for Third Place

3. Smell the Glove 77.5

4. Guitar Masahiro 75

5. Pulling Brzenk 74

Well, well, well. Guess who's shot up the standings over the past month? None other than our Commissioner, Tim Dierkes. The Commish's squad, Smell the Glove, has jumped from seventh place all the way to third in five weeks. Tim's staff has been truly fantastic led by an estalished ace in Cole Hamels and pair of newly anointed studs in Corey Kluber and Garrett Richards. Guitar Masahiro is holding strong but will need Troy Tulowitzki to get healthy soon to make a run at the title. It doesn't hurt to own Clayton Kershaw, though. Lastly, this is a zero-sum game; it's only logical that just as Smell the Glove has made a double-digit net gain of points in the standings, Pulling Brzenk has made a move of similar magnitude in the opposite direction. This owner has unfortunately been hit by the injury bug lately with Edwin Encarnacion, Starling Marte, and Gerrit Cole all on the DL.

Just Hoping for an Invitation Next Year

6. A Century of Misery 63.5

6. Spirit of St. Louis 63.5

8. The Jewru 56.5

9. The Bombers 55.5

10. Cobra Kai 50

11. Brewsterville Bruins 45.5

12. Gramma Nutt Crushers 36.5

A month ago, I pointed out that I didn't consider my team to have the ceiling to win the league. Well now, we're getting to the point where I don't know if my team even has the upside to finish in the money. I still feel relatively comfortable I can escape the bottom four, though. I also speculated that the Bombers could shoot up the standings due to a low innings total. Well, that shows how much I know, as that squad has fallen about fifteen points to the bottom four. On the other hand, Spirit of St. Louis has been able to make up significant ground and can breathe a tad more easily at the moment. Finally, Cobra Kai, Brewsterville Bruins, and Gramma Nutt Crushers don't seem to be making much progress in the standings. At this stage in the game, it will be interesting to analyze the tactics of these owners as they look to make up any points possible to avoid the boot from the league.

Standings as of Saturday, July 26th




Closer Updates: Trade Rumors Edition

The closer scene started firing on all cylinders shortly after the All-Star Game last week and, now that the trade deadline is fast approaching, things continue to heat up. In the matter of a few days, we’ve seen several big names floated and two dealt. This week, we’ll explore some closers who have been rumored as trade bait and take a deeper look at two recent big bullpen deals.

Joaquin Benoit – After H. Street was traded to the Halos, most thought that Benoit would take over as the Padres’ closer. However, San Diego may still be keen on disassembling their bullpen and Benoit could also be moved after a strong season (1.99 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 10.4 K/9) and experience closing (38 career saves). If he’s moved, Dale Thayer (1.99 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.9 K/9) should take over for the Padres.

Steve Cishek – If the Marlins start to turn to rebuilding mode again this season, they very well may start with Cishek (23 saves, 3.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.8 K/9). After earning the job in 2012, he’s been quite steady in the role (72 saves) and can be a solid closer or setup guy for a playoff contender. If Cishek is gone, expect A.J. Ramos (2.06 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 10.1 K/9) to take the ninth for Miami.

Jonathan Papelbon – Several rumors have surfaced that the Phillies are interested in moving Papelbon, but there hasn’t been too much interest despite a strong season (23 saves, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP). Considering that the Phillies are said to be willing to eat some of his contract, Papelbon’s name will continue to be a popular one. If that happens, the Phils will likely turn to some combination of Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, and/or Antonio Bastardo in the ninth.

Chad Qualls – Despite Houston’s troubles, Qualls has had a strong season (11 saves, 1.78 ERA, 1.02 WHIP). Apparently several teams have been calling and he could be traded for prospects before too long. If that happens, look for the Astros’ bullpen to fall into disarray. There are a number of candidates to close (including Jose Veras, Josh Fields, and Tony Sipp), but that horse race will need some time to sort itself out.

Joakim Soria – It looks like Soria will be headed to Detroit to challenge the struggling Joe Nathan. He’s been solid this season with the Rangers (17 saves, 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 11.3 K/9) and should help stabilize the Tigers’ bullpen immediately. Although he may not be slotted into the closer role tomorrow, he should wrestle the gig from Nathan in short order. In Texas, look for Neftali Feliz (2.61 ERA, 0.77 WHIP) or Neal Cotts (3.35 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 10.5 K/9) to contend for the newly available save opportunities. Feliz should have the initial edge considering his past experience closing games (74 career saves).

Huston Street – After struggling to find a dependable closer, the Angels followed up their Frieri-for-Grilli swap with a move for Street, who has been excellent this season (25 saves, 1.03 ERA, 0.77 WHIP). Look for Joe Smith to transition back to a setup role while Jason Grilli is pushed farther from the ninth inning.

Koji Uehara – If the Red Sox shift to sell mode, Uehara might be one of the first to go after a strong start to the season (20 saves, 1.58 ERA, 0.75 WHIP). He has been a stud for Boston over the past couple of years and could improve nearly every bullpen in baseball. If the 39-year-old moves, Edward Mujica could be the next in line to close at Fenway (43 career saves). Another name to keep an eye on is Junichi Tazawa, who is an outstanding setup guy (2.52 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.4 K/9) and has been more dependable than Mujica thus far.

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.




The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 25-31

The original Abbott & Costello "Who's On First" routine is an absolute masterpiece of comic confusion and cannot possibly be duplicated.  That said, my recent attempt at explaining the WAR metric to my 66-year-old dad was at least in the ballpark.  While my dad didn't quite grasp the statistical process that goes into calculating WAR, he seemed pretty on board until I fired up the all-time fWAR leaderboard and revealed that Roberto Clemente, his favorite player ever, had "only" the 34th-best fWAR ever.  He could naturally handle Willie Mays or Henry Aaron being ranked ahead of Clemente....but Chipper Jones, Wade Boggs and A-Rod or basically anyone who played after 1980?  Nope, that soured him on the metric altogether. 

Let's delve into the advanced metrics to see which fantasy players are or aren't worth your time as some leagues approach their own trade deadlines...

* EdLose.  A pitcher with an 8.09 K/9 and a 3.94 ERA would fit pretty nicely into most fantasy rotations, and in a just world, Edwin Jackson would be owned in way more than only three percent of Yahoo leagues.  Unfortunately for Jackson, I'm starting to think he celebrated signing his big Cubs contract in the 2012-13 offseason by joining a local theatre production of The Scottish Tragedy and saying the lead character's name on an hourly basis.  (Note: I don't believe the Cubs' "billy goat curse" yet I totally believe the Scottish curse.  My English degree strikes again!)

For the second straight year, Jackson's peripherals are greatly outperforming his actual ERA.  The Chicago righty owns a 4.29 FIP and 3.94 xFIP following last night's outing against the Padres, yet he has a whopping 5.68 ERA to show for it on the ledger.  He's plagued by a .345 BABIP and a 64.6% strand rate, though some of Jackson's problems are also due to a 3.89 BB/9 and a ground ball rate that's down almost 10 percent from 2013.  Hitters are also scorching the ball against Jackson, as his 26.3% line drive rate is the highest of any qualified starter.

I'm guessing there isn't any rush to add Jackson in your league, yet just in case you noticed his ERA/xFIP discrepancy and thought he was just unlucky and due for a correction, don't outsmart yourself.  Jackson should be performing better than he is, yet he has enough red flags in his performance that even if his ERA and xFIP lined up, he'd still be someone I'd hesitate to use as anything more than a streaming starter.  This said, I'll change my tune if the Cubs employ a "two negatives make a positive" strategy and stage a production of Macbeth at Wrigley Field to shatter all the curses at once.

* The Rich Gets Richards.  Speaking of line drive rate, looking at the league-wide table reveals a correlation between high line drive rates and high BABIPs, which isn't a surprise.  There's a tendency to think of a high BABIP as meaning that a pitcher is just getting a lot of dribblers get through the infield, yet naturally a hard-hit ball is going to have a better chance of finding a gap in the defense than a weakly-hit ball.  The trick, naturally, is to somehow make those liners to be basically the only types of balls that are falling for hits against you, which Garrett Richards has done during his breakout season.

Richards' 21.8% line drive rate ranks him 24th among all qualified starters, yet thanks to a .263 BABIP, his tendency to allow hard-hit balls hasn't stopped him from posting a 2.62 ERA.  He can thank a good Angels defense and some plain ol' good luck for that, yet Richards has helped himself by drastically cutting down on his homers (4% homer rate in 2014, down from a 9.3% career average) and posting a 9.11 K/9 that dwarfs his previous career-best 6.27 K/9.

While the nice BABIP and the 76.3% strand rate both indicate some overachievment, Richards' advanced metrics (2.65 FIP, 3.21 xFIP) still reveal that he's having a heck of a season.  I think it's safe to say at this point that he's the real deal for fantasy purposes, and the only red flag I could see is if he starts to tire as he racks up the innings.  The Angels apparently aren't planning to rest him down the stretch, so if you're more worried than they are about Richards holding up through September, this might be a good time to sell high.

Fun fact: I had a seeming first base overload of Joey Votto, Mark Teixeira and Adam LaRoche a couple of months ago in one of my leagues, and I was shopping any of them for a quality starting pitcher.  Another manager offered me Richards straight up for LaRoche and I pooh-poohed the offer, figuring that Richards was something of a flash in the pan.  Instead I took a seemingly more stable pitcher and traded LaRoche for....Andrew Cashner.  Yikes.  Let this be a reminder to not take my fantasy advice as a rock-solid guarantee, folks.   Even Babe Ruth struck out once in a while.  Yes, that's right, I regard myself as the fantasy writer equivalent of Babe Ruth, though it's mostly based on hot dog consumption.

* BOOM!  Rios-ted!  I'll be the first to admit that there can sometimes be a disconnect between fantasy stats and real-life peripherals, simply because four of the basic 5x5 categories are pure counting stats.  Alex Rios' 2014 season is a nice example of this disconnect.  Rios is drastically short on power (four homers and 42 RBI) this year but otherwise, his 16 steals, 41 runs and .299 average over 397 PA makes for a pretty decent year, right?  He's even ranked as the 98th-best fantasy player in the game, according to Yahoo.

In actual fact, there are way more than only 97 guys more valuable than Alex Rios in 2014.  In Fangraphs' eyes, he's barely better than average with a 103 wRC+ and 0.8 fWAR, and while that fWAR score factors in a subpar defensive performance, keep in mind that Rios' offense has been boosted by a healthy .360 BABIP.  Were it not for this huge slice of batted-ball luck, Rios could be seen as a player on the decline in his age-33 season rather than a guy frequently mentioned as a midseason trade candidate.

Rios is no stranger to wild swings in performance, of course.  From 2007 to 2012, Rios posted these full-season fWAR totals: 5.0, 5.4, 0, 3.4, -1.1, 4.3.  If you had Rios in a keeper league throughout that stretch, he must've tested your last nerve.  Last season saw Rios earn 3.1 fWAR, though his wRC+ was only 104 as his value was boosted by a somewhat incredible 42 stolen bases; players usually don't post their best base-stealing numbers when they're 32.  Rios hasn't been as dangerous on the basepaths this year, however, as while he has 16 steals, he's also been thrown out nine times.

In short, it's a confusing time to be an Alex Rios owner.  Should you overlook the power outage and sell while the getting is good, or should you hang onto a player who (as noted) isn't really hurting you that badly from an overall fantasy perspective?  You obviously want more power from a starting outfielder yet Rios is still scoring some runs and he'll end up in the 25-steal range. 

My RA colleague Andrew Gephardt cited Rios as a strong sell-high candidate under the logic that his offensive numbers could really crater if the Rangers trade him to a team in a less hitter-friendly ballpark.  Given that Rios' home/road splits are pretty even, I'd argue that a real-life trade could actually be great for Rios' fantasy value --- a change of scenery to a contending team might heat up his bat, not to mention the fact that he'd be escaping the Murphy's Law fog that seems to have devoured the Rangers' season.  I'd hang onto Rios past the July 31st trade deadline but we get deeper into the August waiver period and no trade appears to be on the horizon, that's when I'd try to move him in a fantasy deal.  Hopefully that BABIP can stay sky-high for a few more weeks to keep him attractive to a fellow manager.




Stock Watch: Cross Your Fingers

Starting next week, I envision this column getting pretty trade-suggestion heavy, between speculating about real-life trades and their potential impact on fantasy values and our own fantasy trading deadlines, which start showing up quicker than I think—probably mid-August for most of us.

So let’s take a little time to enjoy the subtler flavors of the waiver wire, just for a little. While we’re at it, let’s try and keep ourselves concentrated on the subgroup of players who’ve actually been good in the last month. This is the part of the year when you grab who you can and you cross your fingers that good play is more than an aberration. Sometimes it even is.

Shallow Leagues (Under 50% Owned)

I mentioned Dellin Betances (48%) yesterday, but seriously, if you have room for any non-closer, you have room for Betances. Even in shallow leagues, keep him in mind, especially if you’re starting to punt saves or needing to reduce your innings pitched. 

Speaking of relievers, Santiago Casilla (48%) hasn’t allowed an earned run on the month, but has notched five saves and recently put out a fire started by Sergio Romo. Pick him up. (Not Romo…pick up Casilla.)

All-Star super-utility-man Josh Harrison (45%, plays three positions) hasn’t hit that much over the last month, but he has managed seven steals. His multi-position eligibility makes him all the more useful in shallow leagues, I would think.

Danny Salazar (44%) started yesterday, but as of this writing (before yesterday’s start) it was unclear whether or not he’d be staying in the Bigs. Check out the latest news before dropping someone good for him, but don’t let him stay unowned for long, unless you see he's headed straight back to the Minors.

Stephen Vogt (39%) has hit over .370 in the last month getting playing time behind the plate, at first, and in the outfield. The A’s are the quintessential example of “better than the sum of their parts” and their players can make your fantasy team that way too. At least, if you have daily changes they can….

Kolten Wong (39%) is in the middle of a crazy-hot streak right now, batting over .350 with five homers and three steals. He seems like an up-and-down kind of player so far…so enjoy the up times with him.

Jacob deGrom (39%) has just rocked the last month: 2.10 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 25.2 IP. Ride the lightning. 

Chris Young (36%) has actually been striking people out lately; he’s managed 27 K’s in his last 31 IP, all while keeping his WHIP at an even 1.00. 

Carl Crawford (35%) has not hit, but a sense of duty reminds me to inform you he’s off the DL and has stolen two bases since returning to play. Buywer beware.

Charlie Morton (34%) has also struck out more people than usual lately (30 in 33 IP), and allowed just a 0.91 WHIP. 

Medium Leagues (20-30% Owned)

I mentioned Jake Odorizzi (29%) yesterday, since he’s so good for your strikeouts, but even over the course of a pretty good last month (3.09 ERA), he’s still killing WHIP’s with a 1.50 mark. Ouch.

Marcus Stroman (29%) looks very, very good. He’s got a sub-1.00 WHIP, an ERA under 2.30 and nearly a strikeout per inning over the last month. This young pitcher is the guy to target in this section.

Wade Miley (27%) has been pitching extremely well too: 32 strikeouts in 32.2 innings, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.07 WHIP.

Chris Carter (26%) has smacked six homers in the last month and become a batting average machine. Okay, so he’s hitting about .270 on the month, but for him, that’s…well, I never thought it would happen.

Omar Infante (26%) is hitting over .350 on the month, so he’s regressing to his normally nice mean batting average. I’ll take it, and I’ll take the recent hot hitting in its own right.

Odrisamer Despaigne (25%) finally has a couple strikeouts, but his rate is still ridiculously low. As are his rate stats. I don’t know what his deal is, but I’ll use a roster spot to see if it’s even close to real. Even if it’s not, there’s always PetCo Park.

Danny Santana (24%) is back from the DL. He’s not doing much, but he’s still shortstop eligible and therefore interesting—and that’s before we talk about second and outfield.

Edinson Volquez (24%) has put up a great ERA over the last month and gotten four wins for his trouble…but he isn’t generating the strikeouts. That worries me, but maybe it shouldn’t, since he was never all that good when he was striking people out. Jeff Locke (23%) can tell a similar story, but he’s never generated whiffs.

David Freese (23%) is having a hot month, but rising tides raise all boats—even Mr. Freeze—or something like that. Anyway, Freese’s hot month is good for the Angels, and the Angels’ hot play is good for Freese’s numbers. A hot player on a hot team is just the sort of thing you want contributing to your team.

Remember Chris Coghlan (23%)? No? I can’t believe you! Well, apparently he’s back, and hitting .333 with three homers and three steals. And playing third. I’m intrigued, I’ll admit.

Denard Span (21%) continues to hit a bit (.301 average) and steal some bases (four). That seems pretty useful, right?

Deep Leagues (Under 20% Owned) 

Lorenzo Cain (20%) has snagged six bags in the last month and continued to hit good enough to survive in your lineup.

James Loney (19%) has hit .301 in his last month…which is pretty much what he does. I’m truly inclined to think that boring-but-reliable batting average is worth more than 19% ownership.

Trevor Bauer (17%) isn’t helping you in WHIP (but he’s better than Odorizzi!), but deep leaguers ought to take a chance on a guy with his history of promise and a solid 3.13 ERA and 28 strikeouts in his last 31.2 IP.

When we last checked in on Conor Gillaspie (17%) he had just hit his first homer of the year. Now he’s up to four. It hasn’t been long since I mentioned him in this column. I don’t know if his homer swing was missing, but it really does help to know that he’s got one, at least. Just a .280 average on the month, though. Way to disappoint us, Conor. 

Arismendy Alcantara (15%) should be owned immediately. Immediately! The dude’s already got three steals in just 35 at-bats, plays a middle infield position, and is an actual prospect with real-life promise. And his competition is Darwin Barney. Pick him up.

Brandon McCarthy (9%) is off to a pretty good start in New York, and he’s striking out almost a batter per inning over the last month. I’m still not excited about his batted-ball profile in Yankee Stadium, but I guess it can’t be much worse than it already is.




RotoAuthority Unscripted: I Bet You Didn't Know Day

Last night I was up way too late writing this article and it occurred to me that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. In fact, I couldn’t really think of anything truly notable to say. And that’s when it hit me: it was time for another “I Bet You Didn’t Know Day,” wherein I peruse the various leaderboards, statistics, and assorted metrics and look for things that surprise me. Then I hope that they surprise you too. But even if the nuggets of baseball strangeness that I uncover don’t merit more than a raised eyebrow and a muttered, “I’m gonna check that out myself,” they should amount to something that actually matters for the health of your fantasy baseball team.

Except for this one: Billy Hamilton grounded into a double play. It doesn’t really matter—but it is pretty impressive. Well played, whichever team pulled that one. Well played.

Some More (Mostly) Relevant Thoughts on Speed

Hamilton also leads baseball with 15 caught stealing—six more than second-place Dee Gordon—but his 38 steals still leave him with a success percentage over 70%, so I guess he isn’t in line for a red light anytime soon. 

With 41 swipes, Jose Altuve is the only other player with more steals than Hamilton (bringing that number to two more players than anyone predicted). But Altuve’s only been caught three times. (That’s a 91% success rate, if you’re counting at home.)

Elvis Andrus has 20 steals already, which is pretty nice—but they come with nine times caught. With so many years of high CS totals, I guess you shouldn’t worry much about Andrus getting the red light. Unless Texas ever changes managers….

Charlie Blackmon is the surprise All-Star of the year so far, but if he’s not on your team, you might not have known he’s swiped 18 bags so far. Another surprise base stealer (not to mention, surprise All-Star) is Todd Frazier, who’s got 15.

As always, remember to lower the minimum plate appearances requirement whenever you sort by stolen bases: Eric Young, Rajai Davis, Jarrod Dyson, and James Jones are all in the top 20 in the category but won’t appear on any searchable list that demands the player be qualified for the batting title.

Brian Dozier has just a single steal in the last 28 days, and just four between June and July. That’s after posting six in each of the first two months. So maybe don’t trade for him expecting speed.

Some Thoughts on Pitching

WAR is far from a perfect proxy for fantasy value. It’s too predictive, and too good an indicator of real talent. But, just for fun, can you name the top ten starting pitchers in fWAR? If you can’t, prepare to raise a skeptical eyebrow, as the list is graced by Corey Kluber (3rd), Garrett Richards (7th), Jose Quintana (9th and making my incessant suggestions to pick him up sound pretty smart), and Phil Hughes (6th). Yes, that Phil Hughes. Go ahead and tab over to your league's waiver wire just to check and see if any of these guys are still unowned in your league. Believe me I’ll wait. 

If it wasn’t late already, I’d be checking too.

Alfredo Simon is tied for the league lead in wins with 12. If you watched the All-Star game, that probably doesn’t surprise you. If you watched the All-Star game, then maybe you will be surprised that the guy’s got a 5.05 K/9. Whether he comes back to earth or not (and he will), you don’t want that on most fantasy teams.

Speaking of K/9, you won’t be surprised to hear that the three leaders in the stat are Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg. (If you are, you’re in the wrong game, and probably the wrong website. No, wait…let’s not be exclusive. Stick around, check it out. You’ve got time for a new hobby, right? I promise it won't become life-consuming.) Anyway, you might be surprised to hear that the next name on the list belongs to Jake Odorizzi, who owns a 10.34 K/9. Admittedly, his BB/9 of 3.48 gives him some trouble, but he’s providing a surprising amount of value for a guy who feels like a fringy player. 

It seems to me that pitchers are showing more control than they used to: only four qualified starters are walking over four batters per inning. (Though most of the Cubs are close.) So be strict on you pitchers in the WHIP category. (You can add your own joke.)

Dellin Betances has 88 strikeouts. That’s 23 more than the next best reliever, Sean Doolittle. It’s good for 62nd among starters, which is pretty impressive considering that he’s pitched about half as many innings as the guy ahead of him (Wily Peralta). 

The scary thing is that, while Betances has a very nice 13.58 K/9, it is just blown out of the water by Aroldis Chapman. He’s whiffing 18.30 batters per nine innings. Which, yes, is just over two per inning. Uh…wow.

Do you know who the leader is in Holds? (No.) Do you care? (Probably not, but you should, because these guys turn into closers sometimes.) Anyway, it’s Brad Ziegler, with 26. He’s been a closer before, so he’s someone to remember for this season, and in the future. Tony Watson, Will Smith (not the actor—I think), and Tyler Clippard are the only others over 20.

The top two pitchers in blown saves are Luke Gregerson and Bryan Morris* (six and five, respectively). Both have ERA’s under 2.10. No wonder they abbreviate blown saves “BS.”

*Actually Morris is tied with a bunch of people. But they didn't exactly fit the comment.

Back to Hitting, Briefly

Michael Brantley’s fifth-place .326 average is fueled by a pretty-normal .325 BABIP. Don’t confuse it with teammate Lonnie Chisenhall, who is getting the same average out of a .367 BABIP.

Victor Martinez now has a below-average BABIP of .296. He’s hitting .322, good for 8th in baseball. The next highest-ranked player with a sub-.300 BABIP is Erick Aybar (45th), who’s batting .283. Which is still kind of impressive.

Hey, I told you it would be brief. Tune in next time for more surprises…unless we do something different.





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