Ike Davis and Appreciating OBP *UPDATED*

April 19, 2010

I never thought I’d put “Mike Francesa” and “interesting” together in the same sentence but a Mad Dogless Mike had former Mets GM and all-around nincompoop Steve Phillips on his WFAN radio show this afternoon, to talk about Mets rookie 1B Ike Davis. Davis got the call this afternoon and he’ll be debuting at first and hitting 6th for The Mets tonight against The Cubs. What peaked my interest in the exchange was the talk of how On Base Percentage is more greatly appreciated than ever before (“due to Billy Beane and the whole Money Ball phenomena,” said an audibly bitter Phillips) and how the ability to tell a ball from a strike, is “the 6th tool,” to use when evaluating a players skills.

Appreciating the batter’s eye is ancient history to anyone who cares about baseball, let alone has a fantasy team. I don’t really like to play in a league without OBP, since I understand how Batting Average only really tells a small part of the hitter’s story. It feels foolish and inauthentic to simply use AVG, when there are plenty of useful players who may not be hitting, but are still getting on base. Isn’t the object of the game – to not get out? What Francesa and Phillips (and most of the baseball media) fail to acknowledge is that “Moneyball” has nothing to do with OBP in particular. Billy Beane was simply looking to take advantage of market inefficiencies when constructing a team on a limited budget. Now that smart front offices (most with far deeper pockets) have caught on to OBP, “Moneyball” is moving on to the next undervalued facet of the game, defense. I don’t expect these guys to grasp that kind of higher thinking but I thought today’s conversation was a nice start.

One guy who’s playing “Moneyball” right now is Yankees DH Nick Johnson. Johnson is hitting an anorexic .158 on a 6 for 54 drought. His OBP however, is currently .402. Not all together unexpected in such a small sample size, especially when you consider Johnson’s switch back to the AL. If you’d like to see why Johnson is hitting at such a poor clip, you need not look any further than his .217 BABIP. But lets not get crazy now. The old guys just got that OBP was imporant. We don’t want to throw too many numbers at them. Well Francesa brought up Johnson, in regard to the changing perceptions in baseball towards OBP. In spite of the anemic AVG, the New York media is not getting on Johnson, Francesa said, due in large part to the newly found appreciation of OBP. Speak for yourself, but ok, that’s cool. Johnson isn’t in fact terrible because his AVG currently is. Of course, Francesa immediately undid any good will he may have garnered from me, by comparing Davis to Jason Heyward, since both display a good eye (Davis BB 11.2% of the time in 233 AA PA last season) and Heyward’s probably the only rookie he can name. Welcome to New York, no pressure kid.

I think Davis projects fairly similarly to Johnson. Perhaps he doesn’t have as great a command of the plate as Johnson, but he projects a little more pop. I’m not sure about his glove, but Davis did look like The Mets best 1B back in Spring Training. That’s not saying a great deal, but it might be enough for Jerry Manual to keep his job for a couple of weeks, if Davis provides a spark. Davis is worth a flyer in deep leagues and could make an impact in 12 team leagues, particularly if you use OBP.

*Note: I think the comparison that Keith Hernandez made during last night’s game was perhaps more accurate. John Olerud’s rookie season, compare somewhat favorably to Davis’ minor league numbers. It’s tough judge Davis on his past as he suffered from a strained oblique muscle last season, which he blames for sapping his power.

Mike Axisa, over at Fangraphs disagrees, point to Adam LaRoche as a better comparison. What do you think?

Davis went 2-4 with an RBI in his first game. Nice first game!

Good luck Ike. You’re going to need it.

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Week 2 Review: Floyd And The Damage Done

April 19, 2010

I woke up Sunday morning, trailing 4-7 in my H2H league, with a few categories still up for grabs. Poor starts earlier in the week by Big Z and Gavin Floyd set me back, but I still felt good about my prospects of still pulling out a win against The Men On A Mission. I trailed by a Win and a Quality Start and a little bit of WHIP, with Hamels going against The Fish, Wainwright up against The Mets and Floyd facing the The Indians. Three starts, three wins, three quality starts in the bag, right? Well thinking like that is why I don’t bet anymore. Well ok, maybe one more bet…

The Phils bats went quiet in support of Hamels. Got the QS there, but no W. Encouraging nonetheless, as Hamels made his best start of the young season. Floyd on the other hand threw up an epic stinker, against a decidedly bad Indians team. Floyd allowed seven runs before being chased in the 2nd without even getting an out. Forget about WHIP. Not quite what I planned when I drafted him in the 9th round. As Stephen Colbert would say, “Floyd, you and Z are on notice!”

That left me with Wainwright, the same guy that I watched crush my dreams in ’06 with that mighty curve that sent The Mets packing and The Cards off to win a World Series. Yeah it’s an ugly route to go but playing with your heart will get you last place. Anyway, by the second inning I was cursing my TV as Wainwright was coughing up a crooked number and it seemed my team would go down without a fight. Alas, Wainwright held the line, kept The woeful Mets bats at three runs and managed to go the entire game for the victory! A bit of redemption for Ryan Ludwick, with the game-winning home run that almost erased the memory of his prior day’s idiocy. Nice way to end the week. A little disappointing the way I started off the week on fire, but we got the W and that’s what counts.

Notable players for week 2:

The Captain, Derek Jeter continues to defy naysayers with his stellar play atop the vaunted Yankee lineup. 11/22 with 5 runs scored, 3 dingers and 7 RBI. He’s currently the 16th ranked player in Yahoo, tops amongst SS.

Casey McGehee has been huge for me in the absence of Aaron Hill. Since picking him up last Sunday, he’s hit 10/22 with a 5 runs, 2 jacks and 6 RBI while posting a .519 OBP. Not bad for a replacement utility guy. With Hill possibly returning at the end of the week, there’s no way I can ditch this guy. Looks like Baby Jete’s going to get kicked to the curb, unless I can make a move…

Over in The Big Ballers League, “Whaddya know” Robbie Cano has been smacking laser beams all over The Stadium. The two jacks he laced on Jackie Robinson night were a nice touch to honor his namesake. I can easily see Cano breaking career highs in HR and RBI this season, vaulting him into elite 2B status alongside Utley.

Cameron Maybin looked awful in the first series against The Mets this season. 3 K’s against Johan will do that to you. Well he’s had a much better run of things this week and he looks like The Marlin’s centerfielder is on track. On base at a .412 clip, Maybin had a homer, 6 runs scored, 3 RBI and 2 steals for the week. With a move up to the lead-off slot, he should get more opportunities to use his modest speed a little more. Look for 20 – 25 steals by years end.

Kevin Correia, ace of the often-ridiculed Hodge-Pad‘s staff, came through big for both of my teams this week. In 11 1/3, he posted 2 wins, 11 K, a 1.59 ERA and a tidy 1.15 WHIP. With my H2H team getting healthy, I want every reason to send Correia packing, but he’s pitching too well to even consider that. Go out there and throw kid. Don’t worry, you’ve got a job.

So a wild and woolly week ended and another begins. As of this writing, The Uptown Hamfighters sit at 13-9-2, good for 2.5 games out of first place. In the Big Ballers League, The Harlem Hangovers are currently tied for first with 107.5 points. So far so good.

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Streams Of Thought – Week 3 Two Start Pitchers

April 19, 2010

Here are three names that might be of interest to owners in deep leagues. This is not at all an endorsement of general rosterability, but more like a “hey check out these guys, they might be rosterable in a shallower league soon,” kind of jump off. Of the three, Fister is still available in The Big Ballers League and I own the next two. So I got that going for me. Which is nice. Tread these waters at your own risk!

Doug Fister could be soon known for something other than his awesomely pornotastic surname. Will you have the cojones to ride Fister to victories at home against the hapless Orioles and on the South Side against the ChiSox? I know it’s tough to send him up against John Danks but the Pale Hose have been having trouble at the plate and the O’s are going with Brad Bergeson, who was rocked in his first start. Mister Fister is coming off of 8 shutout innings against the A’s in his last start. With the best D in baseball grabbing everything behind him, Fister looks like a solid streaming option for deep leagues this week.

I’m feeling Pelfrey this week but you already know that if you’ve been following along. Hopefully I was just over-reacting in my outrage over his Save in Saturday’s 20 inning marathon in St. Louis. He’s facing Z-Man and The Cubbies on Monday, followed by a visit from Tommy Hanson and The Braves. Could go either way. I do however have tickets to Saturday’s game and The Mets are 24-6 in the last 30 regular season games I’ve seen live.

Once upon a time, Brett Myers was a pretty good pitcher. Derailed by problems on and off the field, Myers caught a major case of suckitis before being shipped over to the woeful Astros in the off season. A power pitcher with a career 7.49/3.13 K/BB rate, the homer has always been his undoing. At home for both of his starts, Myers faces two decent match-ups in The Marlins with Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm and The Pirates. Don’t expect two Wins out of Myers, however. That would imply that the Astros can actually muster up a couple of runs.

After an inauspicious beginning to my streaming ways, I think I’m off the streams for a bit. You know how that goes. I’ve got a good feeling. Like Jimmy The Greek. I might surprise myself (hey self… BOO!) and actually have one of these guys left on my roster by weeks end.

For a comprehensive rundown on all of the probable two-start pitching match ups for the week, check out The Roto Professor.

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A Strange Day Indeed

April 18, 2010

Every now and then Baseball gives us a day that makes you realize you really haven’t seen it all. It was as though the ghost of Doc Ellis paid the game a visit today and dropped a couple of sugar cubes in the punchbowl.

As Dave Cameron at Fangraphs so elegantly put it, Baseball Is Amazing.

Ubaldo spat hot fire at The Bravos on his way to the first No Hitter in Rockies history. I really wish Fox or MLB would have cut to the game. Don’t we have split screens and what not in the future? The Dexter Fowler catch in the 7th was incredible. Hopefully his glove will keep him in the lineup, because his bat is swinging like it wants out.

The Mets win over The Cards was one of the most bizarre games I’ve ever seen. Mr. Larussa,  July 4th, 1985 called. Rick Camp says he’s available to pinch hit. Both managers should be fired for the way that game was managed. Larussa, at least, was managing for October. He could have cared less if his team won.

Jerry Manuel was managing for his life and hopefully it doesn’t cost Mike Pelfrey his career. All I could think of was an Aaron Harang extra inning appearance in ’08. His career hasn’t been the same since. Pelfrey only went one inning, but it was one inning too much for my stomach. Oh by the way, WHY IN GOD’S NAME is Castillo bunting against super-futility guy/turned reliever Joe Mather?! Ryan Ludwick played like he was on acid. I felt like I was too after that game. Lost in the madness and mayhem was the scintillating duel between Johan and Garcia.

How about a game in a half in Boston? Two walk off Pirate wins in a row? Livan Hernandez tossing a complete game Shutout? “It’s my scene and it’s freakin’ me out!”

Enjoy this great short commemorating Doc Ellis’ psychedelic day.


Welcome To Jaime Town

April 17, 2010

Hey-oh! I went there. Did that one take you back to the 80’s? Well Jaime Garcia (pronounced “Hy-mie,” hence the title) got all Hot Tub Time Machine on The Mets today, channeling master corner-painter, John Tudor, with excellent command over an assortment of pitches. Today young Jaime, making his third career start – second since coming back from TJ Surgery – out-Johaned Johan, going seven scoreless before leaving the game with the score tied. Walking two and striking out five, the lefty kept Mets batters off balance all day, inducing little but weak contact. In fact he allowed just two hard hit balls all day. The Mets only hit came off of him as soon as Tim “No-Hitter-Ruiner” McCarver acknowledged the No No, prompting Angel Pagan to loop a broken bat single into center. He doesn’t over-power anyone, but Garcia hides the ball very well, hits his spots and gets ahead of hitters. That’s that magic Dave Duncan pixie dust at work I tell ya!

Needing a Win, WHIP and a QS, I threw Garcia out there for a spot start against the punchless Mets. Now it’s looking like this guy is for really real and I’m going to have some interesting decisions to make when Fuentes and Hill get healthy and come off the DL.

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Fantasy Breeds Strange Bedfellows

April 17, 2010

“It’s a sick sick world, so what do you do kid?” – “Sick Sick World,” Rancid

That chorus wafted through my mind last night as I saw Chris Carpenter shut down my beloved Mets last night, on the way to a 4-3 Cardinal victory at Busch. I have Carpenter in my 15 team league and at that moment, my team had collected one lone Win in about 80 some-odd innings of work. Oh it gets worse for a Mets fan. I have Cardinal’s rookie lefty, Jamie Garcia going today against Johan. Oh wait, what’s that? I’m not feeling dirty enough… how about Adam Wainwright on Sunday? Yeah got him too. I need wins from that trifecta. This weekend I’m singing, “beat the Mets, beat the Mets, head to the park and…” I feel like Harvey Keitel in “The Bad Lieutenant,” betting on The Dodgers in a fictional playoff series against his home team.

Some readers might not be old enough to remember that in the 1980’s the St. Louis Cardinals were The Mets most hated rival. At the age of 10, I was throwing garbage and hurling insults at Cards fans brave enough to visit Shea. I was a young, rabid Cardinal hater, frothing at the mouth at the very mention of the name Whitey Herzog. My father fueled the hatred, telling me a story about how he once asked Stan “The Man” Musial for an autograph before a Giants game at The Polo Grounds. Stan replied, “you look like one of the fat cows on my farm.”

Fuck you and your 3,630 hits Stan.

***CORRECTION***

My father called to correct me. Musial ignored him when he asked for an autograph. It was actually Cardinals infielder Solly Hemus who had insulted him.

Well fuck you and the horse you rode you rode in on too Solly

That rivalry had a good run. This was before the six division realignment, that now has The Cards playing in the NL Central. The Cards played in the NL East and year after year, they would go down to the wire with The Mets, usually getting the better of them. It was tougher than seeing The Phillies win these past few years. At least The Phils have a murderers row of hitters and a couple of big time arms. I don’t blame the Mets players for not being good enough, it’s managements fault for assembling such a flawed team and still pay out the 3rd highest payroll in baseball. With all the incompetence the various cabals in the Flushing front office has displayed, I can feel comfortable saying that The Mets aren’t going to win the NL east this year. If you’re the ’10 Mets, you look at the names and say, “lets try for the wild card guys.” Well in the ’80s there was no Wild Card. You beat the Cards or you go home in October, and I couldn’t understand how we didn’t finish ahead of those guys in ’85 or 87. Of course The Bulldog did us in 88 and after that it was down hill.

I’d always marvel at how those Cards managed to win. The Mets always looked like the better team, top to bottom. St. Louis had one home run hitter in Jack Clark for fucksake and a bunch of speedy guys! Pitching? Look at this starting five from ’87: An injured Tudor’s your ace??? Danny Cox? Matthews? Magrane? An over-the-hill Bob Forsch? Are you kidding me? They didn’t have phenoms like Doc or Darryl, or household name All-Stars like Mex or Kid. The Wiz is a Hall of Famer for his glove, not his bat. They had nothing that could compare to Pujols. The Cards just won a lot with solid D, fleet and aggressive feet and consistent pitching. You can say they were very similar to Scioscia’s Angels. Mets injuries and off the field shennanigans did them ultimately, but it was maddening to see this Cards team deliver clutch hits, make great plays and win tight ball games, over and over again. Pendleton’s homer off of McDowell in ’87 still haunts me. I brought that inbred hatred with me to Shea during the 2000 playoffs as I delighted in watching The Mets crush St. Louis on their way to The Series. I expected to see the same thing in ’06, watching from the stands as The Mets grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory in games 2 and 7 of the NLCS. Just swing the bat Beltran! Now Adam Wainwright’s the ace of my keeper staff.

The Mets had just won it all in ’86, running away with The East. This was the sort of team that’s supposed to win year after year, we felt. The Mets felt it too, but too many injuries and too many parties helped derail that dream. Aside from the feeling that “we should be killing those guys,” that Mets fans felt, there was a genuine animosity between the two teams. This wasn’t good natured ribbing like J-Roll and Beltran traded a few years ago. Just about every series between these teams provided each clubhouse with more bulletin board fodder. “I think they’re a little scared of us now,” Carter said. “The Mets are pond scum,” Whitey so famously said. These teams didn’t just want to win. They wanted to beat each others brains out in the process and we fans felt that intensity.

So here I am with three Cards starters going this weekend. I need Wins. I got one last night as The Mets bullpen spoiled a splendid start by ’06 hero Oli Perez. I think I’ll get two more before Wainwright’s game on Sunday is over. My pops always told me to bet with your head and not with your heart. This is a guy who had The Bills in Super Bowl 25. Grey Albright, the genius behind Razzball calls it “fucking your step-sister,” when you’ve got your fantasy guys going against your favorite team. This weekend, I’m running a train on my step-mom. To quote Lou Reed, “I feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive,” much like The Bad Lieutenant. If my Cards pitchers don’t perform, you might see something like this…

*WARNING NSFW*

For the record, Bad Lieutenant director, Abel Ferrara is a Yankee fan. Figures.

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Finding A Balance

April 16, 2010

I’m going to cover some basics today. Since friend of TTO, Tim gave a shout today on his music blast, I imagine I may get some curious visitors who may not be as deep in the fantasy game as some. I don’t want to scare anyone away with talk of BABIP or FIP or prospects from far away lands, so lets look at some basics of fantasy baseball. Maybe a few people who enjoy baseball, but aren’t into fantasy will dig a little primer. Well here it goes.

When constructing fantasy rosters, it’s common for owners to pick players in the draft that compliment one another’s skill sets. The object of this strategy is to fill their rosters will a variety of players, the sum of which should add up to balanced offensive numbers. The classic example is drafting Ichiro and then coming back to draft Adam Dunn. These two players are diametric opposites. Dunn is the reigning god of Three True Outcomes: HR, BB or K. No speed but awesome power. Ichiro swings at and hits everything. He has modest power but steals his share of bases. Dunn the classic cleanup hitter who will drive in runs while hitting in the middle of the order. Ichiro bats lead-off, there-by getting the most plate appearances in the Mariners lineup. Batting first, he’ll score many more runs than he will drive in. Simple enough. I like to play in a league that counts On Base Percentage. This places even more value on a guy like Dunn. He may only be a career .249 life time hitter for average, but because he walks to much he gets on base at an astounding .384 OBP. Ichiro on the other hand, carries a lifetime .332 Batting Average, but his free swinging amounts to only a .377 OBP – less then Dunn’s.

Going down my roster, I have some similar analogies in my lineup. Free swinging Giant, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, who I like to call “Fat Ichiro.” Of course he has more power then Original Recipe Ichiro, but being a big boy, won’t steal too many bags. He’s a free swinger in the Vlad Guerrero (post-Montreal) mold. Nick Swisher is like Dunn-lite. Good pop, K’s a ton and will take a lot of walks. These sorts of player pairings allow the varied player-types to fill holes in your production, so that you don’t find yourself ahead a lot in one category and failing miserably in others. Some owners will intentionally gear their teams towards extremes, in an attempt to overwhelm the opposition in one category, while “punting” others. I don’t feel punting offensive categories is a viable strategy in mixed team leagues, 12 teams or shallower, but could be used advantageously in larger leagues where you’ll be rostering many more replacement level players (or worse). I’m going to stick with 12 team or fewer strategies here for simplicities sake.

Now lets apply this idea towards our pitching staff. When selecting pitchers, I like to use the same principle that I apply to building my offense. In my experience, it seems the balance principle is not as regularly followed for pitching as it is for hitting. I frequently face teams who are heavy on strike-outs but will have inflated ratios (ERA and WHIP) and vice-versa. Of course your ace starting pitchers should produce across four categories (in a standard 5×5 game), much like many of the heavy hitters who will be drafted early on. When we go a little deeper down the line though, you’ll have to make choices between pitchers who’s skills will translate into production in one category, but perhaps a deficiency in another. Many of those high strikeout, power pitchers that you’ll find available later on in a draft will walk a lot of people. That’s sort of how it goes in baseball. Guys who throw gas, Yankee’s A.J. Burnett for example, tend to give up a higher than average amount of walks. Of course there are always exceptions, but I’ll use A.J. to describe a certain type of pitcher.

Last year A.J. sent 8.48 batters per nine down on strikes, while giving 4.22 batters per nine free passes. Both of those numbers are well above the league averages of 6.99 K/9 and 3.46 BB/9. I know from viewing that A.J. is “effectively wild.” He’s a guy who’s pitches have such great movement, that they’ll often end up outside the strike-zone. When A.J. is on, his ball breaks late, making batters swing at a ball that suddenly moves. A patient hitter can exploit his lapses in command and draw a walk, while more aggressive hitters are more likely to go down flailing. So Burnett K’s a lot of guys and BB’s a lot of guys. Along the way he finished with around league average ratios of 4.04 ERA and 1.40 WHIP (BB + Hits/9). One knows from watching him, he can be dynamite some days or a disaster on others.

In Bizarro World, White Sox lefty, Mark Buerhle is A.J.’s opposite. In fact A.J.’s thin and clean shaven, while Buerhle’s a big guy with a beard. See, just like that Star Trek episode! I’ve already raved about Buerhle here before but I’ll do it again since he’s pitching today and I need a big win tonight. The dependable Buerhle is a control freak, who doesn’t strike many guys out (4.43 K/9 1.90 BB/9 in ’09). If A.J.’s that fast sports car that’s fun to drive, but will sometimes break down and cost you a lot of money, Buerhle’s a Honda Accord. Nothing flashy but easy to drive and he’ll be on the road a long time. So long in fact that Mark Buerhle’s pitched more innings than anyone since 2001. Admittedly, a fact like that doesn’t mean much more than the guy’s dependable and not terrible, but we like dependable and not terrible. Buerhle strikes out far fewer batters than the league average pitcher, so he’s going to hurt us a bit there. His ERA and WHIP however are pretty damn good for a guy you’ll find hanging around hours into your draft, waiting to get picked: 3.84 ERA and 1.25 WHIP last year. Now if you take the two of these guys and squish them together, you get a sort of super-pitcher, like “The Thing With Two Heads,” except they’re both white! What you get is a nice balance and balance wins.

Hopefully that balance will pay off tonight, as Buerhle tries to shut down the woeful Indians again. I need a well pitched game tonight from the lefty, since the highly volatile Carlos Zambrano, blew up my ERA and WHIP yesterday with another less than satisfactory performance. I’ll give him a Mulligan since the wind was blowing out at Wrigley yesterday but Big Z better get his act together or he’ll be riding the fantasy pine!

So to sum it up: When you’re building a better fantasy team, select players who’s numbers work together in tandem and you’ll get the most out of your picks. Don’t get too caught up in balance that you over-look serious bargains you might find, just keep it in mind. I’ve found a pleasant by-product of this plan is that you’ll often end up with some players who might be seriously under-valued by other owners but compliment your squad perfectly.

Because I can’t help myself…

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