Welcome To Splitsville Part 1

July 13, 2010

Reprinted from an article that I originally wrote for Advanced Fantasy Baseball

It’s common knowledge in baseball today that hitters generally find it easier to bat against pitchers of the opposite hand. It’s easier for the hitter to pick up the pitch as it leaves the pitchers hand and most breaking balls will break into the center of a hitter’s field of vision, rather than away from it. When a team’s roster allows, managers regularly deploy platoons to gain the upper hand on the day’s opposing starter.

Ever since Bob “Death To Flying Things” Ferguson (how’s that for a great nickname?) first took to hitting from both sides of the plate, back in the formative days of our pastime, players and managers alike have understood the advantage that a hitter has when facing a pitcher of the opposite hand – even if teams were not actively platooning players to get the most out of this advantage until years later. According to Bill James’ essay, “A History Of Platooning,” featured in “The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball” the first manager known to utilize the lefty/righty platoon was Detroit Tigers manager, Bill Armour, who juggled catchers to take advantage of their handedness in his final year in The Bigs, 1906. As roster size expanded and the dead-ball era waned, managers such as John McGraw and later Casey Stengel would popularize the strategy and make it common practice in modern baseball.

In deeper fantasy baseball leagues, owners often roster players whose splits are extremely weighted to one side or another. With awareness of these splits, astute owners can make daily lineup decisions (if league rules allow of course) just as real managers do to get the most out of their players strength and minimizing their weakness.

In keeping with this week’s All-Star theme, I present to you my position player picks for the 2010 all-left/right-splits team, based on a pool of players who are generally rostered on approximately 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo. So without further ado, or a profanity-laced Ichiro speech, here are some guys to consider platooning when the opportunity arises.

Note: In a one catcher league, I would not recommend rostering two catchers unless one is also playing another position and his currently catcher eligible.

Part One: Vs. Lefties

C: Ivan Rodriguez (20% owned) The man who’s caught the most baseball games in history has shown slightly more aptitude hitting left-handers over his career. In 2010 however, his splits are quite notable in an admittedly small sample size. Against lefties, Pudge has raked to the tune of a .383/.413/.500 line in 63 PA, while posting a pedestrian .263/.291/.346 triple slash against righties in 166 PA.

1B: Gaby Sanchez (34% owned) In his first year as a starter in Florida, the 27 year old first baseman is showing surprising hitting prowess against both lefties and righties. His .285/.347/.434 line against right-handers is nothing to sneeze at for a guy who you probably took a late-round flyer on or possibly even picked up off of waivers. Against lefties however, Sanchez has raked up a gaudy .350/.416/.563 line in 89 PA. He’s good enough to start every day in my league, but against lefties he’s been money.

2B: Clint Barnes (47% owned) With a .289/.337/.496 career line against lefties versus .247/.290/.384 against righties, The Rockies middle infielder has always displayed lefty-heavy splits. Seeing more playing time since Troy Tulowitzki has been on the shelf, Barnes has used the opportunity to display even more extreme splits this year. Against lefties Barnes has gone .304/.371/.430 in 89 PA while posting a pedestrian .238/.301/.386 against right-handers.

SS: Orlando Cabrera (45% owned) We may not find more extreme splits than those of the the Cincinnati Reds shortstop. Cabrera has been stellar against lefties – .344/.394/.427 in 105 PA and absolutely awful against righties – .207/.241/.291 in 272 PA. I wouldn’t roster him with your team, but you have him in a very deep league, I’d pair him up with another SS capable of hitting righties well, such as Mike Aviles or Omar Infante – both of whom hit right handed but do their best work against hurlers coming from the same side.

3B: David Freese (20% owned) In his first full year in the majors, Mr. Freese was offering the Cardinals and fantasy owners alike surprisingly solid offensive numbers through the first three months of the season, before hitting the DL on June 28, with a deep ankle bruise. He’s hit lefties at a .357/.416/.457 clip in 78 PA, while posting a respectable .271/.339/.382 against righties. You’re likely to want more out of your hot corner, but paired with Chase Headley (who can only seem to hit right-handers), you have a potent 3B duo that can do damage.

OF: Cody Ross (41% owned) With an honorable mention to Rajai Davis – who’s 27 steals makes him pretty much an every day player on most rosters even with his struggles against righties. Ross makes for a good platoon candidate, going .303/.354/.513 with three of his seven homers coming in 82 PA against southpaws. His power numbers are markedly improved facing lefties, as he’s hit 40 career jacks against lefties and only 39 against righties in more than twice as many plate appearances.

OF: Dexter Fowler (13% owned) Since coming back to the big club from AAA, the Rockies outfielder has been a huge spark for the resurgent Rox. With only 773 PA in the majors since debuting with a cup of coffee in 2007, we’ll use his entire MLB resume here to find that Fowler’s noticeably more effective against lefties with a .314/.388/.462 line versus the paltry .221/.338/.354 he’s posted against righties. At 24, Fowler’s still young though and his recent success leads me to believe he’ll close that gap enough to give him full-time playability in 12 team mixed leagues.

OF: Lastings Milledge (3% owned) Once thought to be a “can’t miss” prospect, Milledge has just about disappeared off of the fantasy radar the past couple of years. In 2010 however, Milledge makes an appearance on my all splitsville team. While righties are still giving Lastings a hard time (.255/.297/.327 in 177 PA) the 25 year old has found his stroke against the southpaws going .318/.431/.518 in 102 PA. Notably, he’s hit all three of his homers against lefties and perhaps even more telling he has a 17/11 BB/K ratio, a lot better than the lousy 8/36 BB/K split that he’s posted against righties.

UTL: Jeff Francoeur (27% owned) Free swinging Frenchy has always hit lefties much better (.302/.345/.484 in 924 career PA versus an anemic .256/.297/.406 in 2341 PA against righties). With Carlos Beltran returning to Flushing to roam centerfield, it seems that the sizzling hot Angel Pagan will slide over to right and form a potent platoon with Francoeur. With the switch-hitting Pagan wielding a better bat from the left side of the plate, Francoeur will be relegated to taking his cuts against lefties, who he’s pounded this season (.348/.403/.449 in 77 PA). In deeper leagues where he might rostered, this could be used to a fantasy owners’ advantage by pairing him with a righty killers like Pagan or David DeJesus.

No this isn’t an NL only team, that’s just how it worked out. I assure you that when we see who’s carrying the righty heavy splits, you’ll see some A.L. players. Tomorrow, I’ll flip around and swing from the other side in Part Two…

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Bloops and Bleeders: Midsummer Night Dreams

July 7, 2010

This week, we find the newly renamed “Don’t Fuck DeJesus,” ascending in the standings, thanks to big contributions from Adam Wainwright and a piece-meal pitching staff that features Jason Hammel, Trevor Cahill, Kris Medlen and Jaime Garcia. Along with the resurgent play of Rockies speedster Dexter Fowler and the continuing surprise that is Brew Crew Basher, Corey Hart, my team finally seems to be kicking into gear and rising in the ranks. This week my boys face-off against the “My Boomstick,” the team to which I traded Nelson Cruz, Aaron Hill and Matt Wieters, in exchange for Jayson Werth and Buster Posey some three weeks ago. Since the trade my team has gone 23-10-3, while my trading partner has flailed with a 11-23-2 record, dropping below me in the standings by a game. It’s not as though Werth or Posey have been gangbusters. Both have been contributing, but neither have gone nuts while on my team. The move did allow me the space to reacquire Fowler last week, who I drafted, only to drop him due to his poor play this spring. Now Fowler is doing what I thought he could (4 triple in this past weekend’s series versus The Giants?! Hey Dex, stop at first and get me some steals!) and I seem to have the lead-off/stolen base threat that my team so needed. The players I traded have struggled, as the three have done little for “My Boomstick,” aside from the recent improvement from Weiters – who would have been on my bench anyway, with Carlos “Smooth” Santana swinging serious stick for me behind the plate. I have little doubt that Cruz will get hot again, but I’d rather have a healthy Werth any day.

So it seems like a case of addition by subtraction has pushed my team up the standings, while this weeks opponent juggles playing time between a bunch of mediocre players who bare the “potential” label like a scarlet letter. I’m actually a little bit sorry to see the guys I moved doing so poorly, since it’ll make any further trades with my opponent more difficult in the future. Don’t worry, I won’t lose any sleep over the deal though.

I’ve been working putting more effort into actually generating an income, instead of focusing so much on baseball lately, but I’m still following the game as closely as ever. So while I’ve been working, what’s been happening in baseball land?

*NOTE* I’m not going to get caught up in All-Star Game shennanigans  – like how Omar Infante gets picked for the team and Joey Votto doesn’t – as it’ll get me ranting and raving about how much I hate the idea that the Midsummer Classic should decide home-field advantage in the World Series.

The Cliff Lee sweepstakes seem to be in full gear, with the Twins reportedly offering prospects Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos for what might amount to a three month rental of the former Cy Young award winner. Today, Peter Gammons reported that the Rays have tossed their hat into the ring and that a three-team deal might be in the works, which would ship disappointing all-hustle-team captain, B.J. Upton off and net the A.L. East contenders the stud pitcher. The Mets, Yanks, Phils and Reds have also been said to have been talking with the Mariners about acquiring the 31-year old lefty. Stay tuned, since where ever Lee goes, his fantasy value is expected to rise – at least as far as W’s go.

Another player possibly on the move is Hart, who sounds like he may be headed to San Francisco. The Brewers need major league ready starting pitching and the Giants have plenty of that. If the Brewers are to resign Prince Fielder, it looks unlikely that they’ll want to shell out the kind of money Hart is likely to earn through arbitration. Hart is making $4.8 million this season and that number is likely to go up in light of the monster year that he is enjoying. As a Hart owner, I’m not particularly excited about the idea of the outfielder calling pitcher-friendly, AT&T Park his new home. I do however also own Kung-Fu Panda and Posey, so their value would increase should the Brewers slugger be inserted into that weak Giants lineup.

The aforementioned Dexter Fowler has put up video game numbers since his return from AAA gulag on June 29th. After going 0-8 with 2 BB and 4 K against San Diego, in his first two games after his recall, Fowler went crazy against The Giants this weekend. Over the four game set, Fowler collected a 10-16 line with 7 BB, 4 K, along with 7 runs scored, 3 RBI and 2 SB. I was very high on the 24 year old outfielder coming into this season and drafted Fowler in the 16th round back in March as a low-cost speed source, but dumped him in May when his poor play lead him to the bench and ultimately back to the minors. A resurgent Fowler is just what the Rockies – as well as my fantasy team  – could use at the top of the lineup.
The Cleveland Indians and fantasy owners alike took a big blow, when the dynamic Shin-Soo Choo hit the DL on Sunday, after spraining his thumb while attempting a diving grab in Oakland on Friday night. MRI results showed that Choo’s thumb was more damaged than originally thought and that the team leader in batting average (.286), homers (13), RBI (43) and OBP (.390) may need surgery. Word now is that Choo will be out until September. This conspiratorially-minded writer wonders if Choo’s injury is a just a ploy to avoid having to fulfill his duties in the South Korean military – sort of like when that black dude in “Platoon,” stabbed himself in the leg to get his ass out of Vietnam. Ok, not really. I just thought that would be funny sub-plot to what looks like a rather sad end to Choo’s season. Young speed merchant, Michael Brantley was recalled and is starting RF in place of Choo, while leading off for the Tribe.

Jake Peavy left the game in the 2nd inning of tonights match-up between the ChiSox and the Halo’s. After delivering a pitch to Mike Napoli, Peavy appeared to be in pain as he shoot his right arm. Peavy headed for the dugout before manager Ozzie Guillen even had a chance to reach the mound and check on him. Doesn’t look good for Peavy – or my opponent this week, who owns him.

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Head To Head Strategy – The Numbers Game

June 23, 2010

An interesting topic came up over on the Razzball comments today, where you can frequently find me talking baseball and trading zingers with the best writers and most knowledgeable readership in the fantasy game. The question regards the validity of punting pitching categories in a head-to-head league. Regular commenter, Mr2Bits posed the following question this morning:

Anyone ever punt pitching categories, specifically QS/W and K’s? Seems as though I’m going against a guy who has 6 more starts than I do this week and is already 3 for 3 on QS. I’ve reached my IP pitched min and he has no closers so I’d only need about 3 more saves to be safe (already have 2). Guess winning 3 out of 5 categories is better than possibly losing more.

I’m in a similar position this week. My opponent is carrying 11 starters right now, compared to my seven. Two of his guys are going twice, while only Jaime Garcia is scheduled to make two starts this week. That’s 13 starts against my eight. My opponent should gain easy victories in wins, quality starts and strike outs this week by virtue of sheer volume. On the flip side however, I have four closers to his two, my pitching has been very solid as of late and his has been rather shaky. This leads me to believe that it’s likely that I’ll take ERA, WHIP and saves. Playing in a league that has an 80 transaction limit, I’m already up to 42 moves after doing a ton of streaming in the early going of this year. Instead of continuing to burn through transactions, I’d like to be able to save them until the stretch run, in case I’m in really dire straights and need to do some heavy duty streaming to win. Thankfully, it seems that I have finally found a good core group of arms, as the recent success of Jason Hammel, Kris Medlen and Trevor Cahill has stabilized my dubious rotation. Garcia, who I grabbed up early on in the year, has continued to perform as well and has even cut down on his walks lately, improving my WHIP along the way. I won’t get too excited about these young guys though, as I know that things can change fast. A steady, veteran arm is definitely needed for a playoff push. Overall though, I’m happy with my current roster after the big Cruz trade and waiver additions of Felipe Lopez, Angel Pagan, David DeJesus and Johnny Damon, there aren’t any pitchers available on waivers right now that I would want to roster over one of my current players.

So the game plan this week is to run quality over quantity and hope that my opponent will continue his poor pitching, while my hurlers keep faring well. If all goes right for me, I should at least get a split of the six pitching categories. With a little luck, I might even be able to steal wins from him, as I’m currently ahead 1-0. Doubtful but possible. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, I have faith that my offense can win all but the stolen base category, as my opponent has a team full of burners. Runs will be close, but I’m currently up by five. Interestingly enough, we’re tied at three homers a piece. I have little doubt that I can take him in jacks though as I have a rather power heavy team – we’re second in the league with 112 bombs, only one behind the leader. With all said and done, I think this strategy gives me a good shot at taking the week overall.

This isn’t a case of punting a category as much as a strategic decision to play my opponent rather than the schedule. Trying to go toe to toe with him in the pitching counting stats would be a fruitless endeavor – wasting transactions by dropping talented players for mediocre pitchers who may not even get me the victories I want. Worse than that, going that route could possibly blow up in my face and lead to a pitching blow out by inflating my ratios.

We’ll see how it pans out. The Patties are managed by a shrewd owner, who will stop at nothing to beat me. I’ve taken four straight match-ups from him, dating back to the beginning of last season and including my victory in the 2009 finals. So far so good as I enter play today up 7 – 2. When this week is finished, I’ll be sure give an update with the final tally.

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Mad Max Beyond Tiger Dome

June 1, 2010

With his 14 strikeout effort in Oakland yesterday, Max Scherzer showed his naysayers (myself included) that he’s still capable of displaying the same filthy stuff that got fantasy owners giddy two seasons ago. I along with many other fantasy baseball writers who will remain nameless, left Max for dead on the waiver wire after his May 14th debacle against the Red Sox. Yesterday Mad Max returned for payback, gunning down A’s hitters as though they were a leather-clad motorcycle gang in the Aussie Outback. There’s no silver lining here folks, only schadenfreude in watching this years version of the one that got away. That 14 K outing was most strikeouts thrown by a pitcher in under six innings since 1920 for a little perspective. I should have done my due diligence instead of acting off of raw emotion and giving Scherzer the boot. Now I’ll get to watch him perform for another owner. If I end up losing this thing because of this move, it’ll be tough to talk me down off of the ledge.

Other apocalyptic happenings from around the league…

As everyone knows by now, Roy “Mr. Perfect” Holiday perfect-plexed Florida bats on Saturday night, throwing the 20th Perfect Game in baseball history. I watched the last three innings of the game, and I can’t remember seeing a pitcher so surgically dissect a lineup. Halladay hardly broke a sweat. He looked like he could have gone another perfect nine.

Albert Pujols showed and proved, giving the finger to ESPN Hindsighter and snapping out of his recent power outage with three jacks on Sunday. It was just a matter of time before El Hombre got it going. I’m happy to have grabbed up Cards lead-off man Felipe Lopez in my 12 team league, as he stands to benefit from a Pujols power surge.

Derek Jeter ended his torrid May on a sour note, leaving yesterdays game in the 7th inning with a strained hamstring. Jeter was hit in the leg with a pitch earlier in the 11-2 victory over Cleveland, but continued to play, going 2 for 3, before getting lifted for a pinch runner after the leg tightened up. After a sizzling end to the month that saw The Captain go 12 for 27 (.444) with 6R/1HR/4RBI/1SB/ and a .483 OBP, lets hope this isn’t a serious issue going forward.

Another scalding hot Yankee bat belongs to right fielder Nick Swisher. While Jeter wasn’t available for comment after leaving today’s game, according to MLB.com, Swish offered,

“I bet you $1 million he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,” Swisher said to a group of reporters. “He’s tough. He’ll be back.”

Hopefully D.J. took Swish up on that bet. Swisher went nuts in May, with a strained bicep no less and enters today’s action with a .317/.395/34 R/9 HR/28 RBI/0 SB line on the season, good for 44th best in our 6×6 format according to Yahoo. While Swisher’s average may regress some, he is a .249 lifetime hitter after all and that bloated 25.2% liner rate and the .368 BABIP (career .280) scream unsustainable, the Yankee lineup offers ample opportunity for the switch hitting, TTO hero to rack up plenty of counting stats.

Ubaldo Jimenez continues his domination of opposing batters, upping his record to an MLB best 10-1 to go along with a sub-atomic .78 ERA, out-dueling a shaky Tim Lincecum in a 4-0 Rockies victory in San Francisco. While the defending two-time NL Cy Young winner continued to struggle, Jimenez once again made his claim for this years honor. Jimenez’ arsenal of high-90’s heat and plus breaking stuff has made batters looked silly all season long but a 3.58 xFIP suggests that Jimenez should ultimately come down to Earth somewhat in the coming months. Not including yesterday’s game, he carries a garish 91.7% LOB and has only allowed one homer over 71 1/3 innings of work. Expect that number to rise with the temperatures as we head into summer.

Kendry Morales might be done for the season after the mother of all boneheaded injuries, suffered Saturday during his walk-off granny celebration. Who’s on first for the Halo’s? How about Mike Napoli? Or Robb Quinlan? Or Mike Ryan? Well all three have seen time at first since Morales went down. Good times ahead in Anaheim of Los Angeles.

We might have to change Sunglasses At Night’s nickname to The Hitman, as Corey Hart he’s been slapping The Sharp Shooter on NL pitchers in recent weeks. Launching his 13th homer of the year yesterday, his current ZiPs forecast projects 27 HR/ 92 RBI/ 9 SB for the season. Not bad for a guy I got on waivers two weeks ago.

If you say his name like someone from the midwest, he sounds like a hokey Vegas magician. Angel Pagan has been sort of magical for the Mets this year and he’s really been picking it up as of late. .360/.385/5 R/1 HR/ 2 RBI/ 4 SB in the last week. Leading the team with 2 WAR, Pagan should continue to see steady playing time as there has not yet been a time-table set for Carlos Beltran’s return to the Met outfield.

Brandon Morrow has been the starting equivalent of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn this season, posting an 11.7 K/9 and 5.76 BB/9 entering last nights start against Tampa. In the 3-2 victory, Morrow shut down the Rays, not by missing bats as one might expect, but by diplomatically giving his defense some work. I suppose he watched “Bull Durham,” again and decided that “strikeouts are fascist.” In seven innings, Morrow only had one K, while allowing two walks and only three hits for the W.

Buster “Pocket Full Of” Posey went 0-4 today against the above mentioned Ubaldo, in his first hitless game since getting the call on Saturday. He’s garbage. All rookies shudder at the awe inspiring power of soon-to-be-unleashed Carlos Santana. Kneel before Zaun!

I’m being facetious of course, but I do like Santana over Posey this year and in the long term and not because I own Santana. He has the more advanced eye of the two young catchers, which should translate best into immediate impact in the Majors. Two days before Posey was called up, I received a trade offer of Posey and Pirates prize prospect (and Washington Heights native) Pedro Alvarez for Santana. If that were a keeper league, I’d have taken it, but in a redraft I believe the Indians backstop will be the most valuable fantasy producer this year of the three.

With Posey up and the calendar turning to June, the Carlos Santana watch is in high gear. While no one questions if his bat is Major League ready, Jensen Lewis gives Santana a thumbs up for his work behind the plate. We should be seeing Santana in the next week or two.

A final note. With both Kevin Correia and Hisanori Takahashi getting lit up in the Padres 18-6 victory over the Mets in San Diego, I find my pitching ratios so inflated, that I decided to dump Takahashi and pick up Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn, who gets starts on the road against the punchless Mariners later today and The A’s on Sunday. I figure if I’m going to chase counting numbers, I should grab Blackburn, who might possibly provide two W’s and QS by weeks end.

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