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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Bizarro World: Where’s Panda?

June 7, 2010

We’re a third of the way through what has been a historically crazy season of baseball. From extremes of perfection and incompetence to umpires gone wild and a new crop of fantastic rookie pitchers, I dare even the games most knowledgeable experts to try and predict what will happen in the remaining four months of the season. I double dog dare you! Grady Sizemore worthless. Jose Bautista leading the bigs in bombs. Jaime Garcia staking a claim to NL ROY honors. Cries of “replay!” from every mountain top, seas boiling, rain of toads, dogs and cats living together as Yogi would say, “Who’d have thunk it?” Here’s a little round up of what’s been going down are the diamond…

Ken Griffey Jr. had a fantastic career that came to an end 23 years to the day from when the Seattle Mariners first drafted him. Whether at the plate or gliding across the outfield, Griffey was as close to a fucking rock star as baseball had in the 90’s. Injuries cut short his claim to the all-time homer crown, but in an age of ‘roided out freaks, Junior took the high road and accepted his body’s natural limitations. Had he been so deranged as to jack himself up like The Hulk, he probably would have out-banged Bonds. Thanks for the memories Griff, we’ll see you in Cooperstown.

Props to Bruce Bochey from putting his best hitter in the eight hole on Saturday night. It stands to reason that a guy like Panda, who swings at everything, would prosper with the pitcher hitting behind him. That’s sarcasm. Sandoval was back hitting third today and went 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored in todays 6 – 5 Giants win over the Pirates. Sandoval’s been scuffling lately, largely due to a .306 BABIP, handcuffed to a paltry 15.5% LD rate. Last year those numbers were .350 and 18.6% respectively. His power has dropped as well, from a .226 ISO last season to a pedestrian .145 ISO coming into Sunday. While that sounds grim, his .59 BB/K rate isn’t far off of the .63 he posted in ’09 and his contact rate remains high at 82.4% versus 82.6% in the last campaign. While he may not reach 25 homers, like last season, his average should pick up with runs and RBI to go with it. If I could do it again, would I have kept Sandoval? No. However I’m not looking to dump him as he should still prove to be a solid contributor in the remaining two thirds of the season.

Kevin Correia isn’t right. Padre manager, Bud Black isn’t worried, but I am. His latest debacle in Philly cost me dearly in my H2H league. Little surprise here actually. How could he be right after the recent death of his brother? I can’t imagine being able to maintain the focus needed to perform at the major league level, while dealing with such a catastrophic loss. After the 2008 season, much was written about how the death of his father affected Pedro Martinez‘ pitching perhaps more than the injuries he was recovering from. Having lost people close to me, I know how hard it can be to put on a mask of sanity and go out one’s business. Since returning to the mound after the tragedy, Correia’s only had one Quality Start and he walked six in that game. I’m giving Correia one more start, next week against a soft Mariners lineup. We’ll see where we go from there.

Buster Posey is good at hitting baseballs. Not this good however. I see him as a .290 hitter at season’s end and that may be generous. Drawing only his first walk as a 2010 Giant today doesn’t bode well. If I owned Posey in a redraft league, I’d sell while his value is at it’s peak.

Hey Tex, it’s June. You can start hitting now…

I’m really really happy that I traded Nelson Cruz for Kevin Youkilis in the Big Ballers League.

I’m shocked that Armando Galarraga is still on waivers in the BBL. Does a guy have to throw a perfect game to get some respect? I was pretty surprised to pick up Dallas Braden off of waivers this week too after he was dropped. I’m thinking of taking Galarraga over Hisanori Takahashi, who’s been dreadful in his last two starts against the less than intimidating Padres and Fighting Fish. The gracious Galarraga isn’t as good as he was last week against Cleveland, but he showed some positive signs in 2008. Gotta be worth a flyer in a league so deep!

Mike Stanton will bring his minor league leading HR power to The Show this week, showing either Cody Ross or Cameron Maybin to the pine. Maybin’s been a disappointment and it’s easy to see why he’d be benched. After being the centerpiece of the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis (who made his presence felt in his D-Backs premiere this weekend) to Detroit however, I feel the Marlins have to give Maybin every shot to succeed. Hopefully for The Harlem Hangovers, I’m right, but Ross has definitely been the one deserving of playing time.

Jaime Garcia continues to throw Quality Starts as he dances between raindrops. I’m not looking forward to his crash back to Earth.

Kevin Gregg’s best chance to keep his closer job involves not pitching. Nobody in the Blue Jay pen seems to want the gig, so Gregg keeps it by default.

Harlem Hangovers fall to 92 points, down to 5th place. Lima Time Forever loses 7 – 4 and finishes the week 15 games under .500, tied for second to last place. It’s not looking good. Changes are in the wind.

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Perfection *

June 2, 2010

Congratulations to Armando Gallaraga for 28 up and 28 down. Hopefully MLB will have a pow-wow and overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call. The time has come. Replay now.

Props to Bless You Boys for the shot.

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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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What The Hell Happened To Max Scherzer?!

May 16, 2010

There hasn’t been a more stunning fall grace in the early going of 2010, than the horrible start that Max Scherzer is off to pitching in Motown. An integral piece to the deal that saw Le Tigre receive Action Jackson. send Baby Grand to NY and Edwin Jackson out west to ‘Zona, Scherzer has been a massive disappointment so far and this angry fantasy owner has had enough! *stomps foot*

The former 11th overall pick of the 2006 draft posted impressive numbers in his first full season in the Diamondback rotation last year and just about everyone figured he’d at least take a lateral step this season, his first in the AL. Facing a DH instead of a pitcher never helps a pitchers numbers, but I figured that might be mitigated somewhat by the spacious dimensions of his new home ballpark in the Motor City. With a 3.87 FIP and 9.19/3.33 K/BB per 9 rate over 170 1/3 innings, Max’s peripherals were better than the modest 9-11 4.12/1.34 line he posted in his 30 2009 starts. With numbers like those, I was more than happy to drop $7 on the young fire-baller on auction day, in hopes of snagging a cheap strike out source with a ton of upside.

Fast foward a month and a half and I’ve just thrown Mad Max onto the scrap pile in the Big Ballers League, to let him be a headache to another fantasy owner. His numbers are eye-popping, toss the laptop across the room bad: 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA 1.67 WHIP and only 26 K’s in 42 innings. It’s hardly a matter of luck in spite of the unfortunate 58% strand rate and .327 BABIP against (last year he saw hits fall in at a .323 clip). He’s getting hit hard and often, to the tune of nine jacks and a 22% LD rate. With his BB/9 up slightly to 3.43, he isn’t walking many more batters, it’s simply a matter of him not missing bats: Down to only 5.57 K/9. Swallow that for a second. This guy had 9.19 K/9 last season. In what kind of god awful bizarro world do we live in, where a top prospect can turn into a heaping bowl of awful seemingly overnight? On a team flush with high K starters and needing an extra bench bat, I just couldn’t stomach his awful pitching anymore.

“I thought Max Scherzer was better.” – Jim Leyland

Me too skip. Well we need not look any further than the power pitchers sudden lack of power. After averaging 93.6 MPH on his heater last season, that number has dropped to a below league average 91.7 MPH through his eight starts this year. Suddenly that plus heat is getting smacked on a regular basis as his contact rate has jumped to 81.1% from 76.9% and his percentage of swinging strikes has fallen to 7.4% from 10.6%. A further investigation of his PitchFX data tells us that his secondary pitch, a slider, has fallen in velocity as well but it has also been markedly straighter, breaking markedly less than last year. This is particularly troubling in light of the reservations that the D-Backs had about his history of arm problems. Sliders are said to be the most arm-damaging pitch that a pitcher can throw and it seems that there is a fair amount of evidence to believe that Scherzer is pitching through some arm problems. I’ll quote David Golebiewski, who’s quoting himself.

The most likely reason is that Arizona doubts Scherzer’s long-term health and viability as a starting pitcher. To recap his extensive injury history since 2006: shoulder and biceps tendinitis in ‘06, shoulder inflammation in 2008, shoulder fatigue and tightness in 2009. His health certainly bears watching, especially considering that Scherzer’s innings total increased from 109 in 2008 to 175 in 2009 (major league innings plus one rehab start).

When asked if Scherzer’s rotation spot is in jeopardy, Leyland responded, “That’s nothing I’d discuss on television after a tough loss. But it’s a good question, a legitimate question.” Armando Galarraga, who’s been pitching well at AAA Toledo (4-2/38K/3.92ERA/1.20WHIP in 41.1 IP) was just called up to the big club and will start today at home against the Red Sox.

NOTE: Shortly after finishing this piece early Sunday morning, I read on Rototimes that Scherzer was sent down to AAA.

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