Stealing Signs: Good Reads From Around The Web

May 15, 2010

In honor of The Philistines and their eagle eyed coach, Mick Billmeyer, I’m going to steal a few notable links from around the baseball blogosphere in an effort to get a few cheap hits.

  • Eriq Gardner at Fantasy Baseball Junkie leads off with a great piece, breaking down the various types of trades that occur in fantasy baseball.
  • Stephan at Razzball threw down a fantastic article breaking down Minor League ballpark factors. Take a look at where the prospects are playing before deciding whether or not to buy into the hype! Read Part One before Part Deux, or so I’m told.
  • Mets fans, don’t hold your breath for Roy Oswalt to be coming to Flushing this season. Mike Puma (that can’t be his real name. Is he a porn star? A mercenary?) of the NY Post says the Mets have enough reservations about eating the $1.8 million owed to replacement player extraordinaire Sarge Jr., let alone taking on the additional $15 million Oswalt is owed this season. Now that I’ve cited The Post, I’m going to go pull up The World Weekly News (“The world’s only reliable news”) to find out where LeBron James will end up next.
  • If you’re wondering what I’m doing inside on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, perhaps you should pay a visit to Fangraphs to read Carson Cistulli’s series entitled, “Why We Write.” Me? I’ve taken up baseball writing to justify my anti-social behavior to my friends and family. Oh and as Ice Cube perhaps said best, “I’m only out for one thing: the pussy, the money and the M-I-C.”
  • Derek Ambrosino dropped science as usual over at THT Fantasy. Part one of his series, “What Should Fantasy Baseball Be About?” was posted last week, discussing the cause and effect of league parameters and the arguments for and against the legitimacy of streaming. Part two, where he digs into keeper league dump trades was just posted for your reading pleasure.
  • Speaking of pleasure, I’ve recently began reading, “The Yankee Years,” Joe Torre’s memoirs of his era in pinstripes, written with Tom Verducci. I’m thoroughly enjoying the read so far, thanks D! Gotta love that “Clueless Joe,” headline that the NY Daily News ran after his first press conference as Yankee Manager. I knew he was the players union rep but I never realized one of my all-time favorite players, David Cone, took such a large leadership role in that mid-90’s Yankee clubhouse. As a Mets fan with plenty of schadenfreude, I’m looking forward to reading about the Kevin Brown years of Torre’s tenure.
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Starlin Castro Says Viva La Rookie Revolucion!

May 8, 2010

Since a hellacious birthday bender that started at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, I’ve been busy dealing with a lot of non-baseball related activities in the past few days, leaving me with precious little time to deliver my baseball gospel lately.

*Shakes fist at Obama, Freemasons, The Federal Reserve and the Dominican guys who start working at the lumber yard across the street from my apartment by hollering like lunatics at 6AM*

Never fear my fair fantasy-minded sphere-itans, so long as I have three fingers, I’ll continue with this site in whatever capacity I can.

Some of the stranger things going on in the baseball-o-sphere…

Newly called up Cubs rookie SS, Starlin Castro premieres with a bang! How’s 2-6 with a HR, Triple and six RBI (an MLB record for a debut game)!? His homer made him the third youngest player to ever hit one out in his debut. Meaningless, but cool regardless. A preseason Fangraphs piece by Bryan Smith drew an interesting comparison between the 20 year old Cuban SS and former Cardinal and Padre SS, Gary Templeton.

Recently released Eric Byrnes resurfaces to play beer league Softball. Gotta admire the guy’s sense of humor and ability to make lemonade out of lemons. Of course that’s not too hard when you’re still being paid $11 million. So he gets to drink for free too?

Speaking of drinking RoJo Johnson, AKA Will Farrell involved in some minor league zaniness in Nashville. Nice how he brings his own six pack. Gotta love the Ryan-esque headlock beatdown at the end of his appearance!

What a shock! Milton Bradley bugged the fuck out and was placed on the “you’re too crazy to play baseball list,” by The M’s. Intriguing potential power/speed outfielder, Michael Saunders got the call to replace “Mr. Sensitive” – which awesomely enough, a good buddy of mine just got tattooed on his chest.

47 year old Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a complete game shutout tonight, as The Phils blanked The Bravos 7-0. The 2-hit gem made Moyer the first pitcher to throw shutouts in four different decades.

Ike Davis rocked Flushing tonight with 2 dingers off of Dirty Sanchez (who had not allowed a HR yet this season) and made an insane catch in the 9th inning. Similar to a catch he made a few weeks ago, I’m starting to think that Ike is part feline, by the way he has a habit of landing on his feet.

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Blowing Smoak?

April 23, 2010

This was supposed to be Chris Davis‘ break-out year. The experts touted him, tantalized by the thought of his monstrous power, nestled in that potent Rangers lineup. So many fantasy owners followed suit in spite of a lifetime .302 OBP and 6.1%/34.6% BB/K rate. Sorry guys but I have to share a little schadenfreude, since now I know I’m not the only miserable fantasy owner in my leagues this week. I guess it was inevitable. If you carry a line of .200/.265/.311, you’re not going to stick around in the majors too long. And that’s with a .300 BABIP no less! The Texas Rangers waited and waited for Chris Davis to develop into a solid hitter. After another 0 for day, The Rangers decided they couldn’t wait anymore.

Enter: *POOF* Justin Smoak! (How’s he do that?!)

Ranked the #13 prospect by Baseball America, the switch-hitting first baseman has been absolutely pwning the PCL with a line of 326/.500/.587 and a gaudy 16/6 BB/K ratio. That said, I’ve been hearing comparisons between Smoak and former Ranger, Mark Texiera for a couple of years now and frankly, I’m not buying it. The power numbers just aren’t there to make such lofty projections. While he may not have a ton of pop (10 HR in 464 2009 AA & AAA PA) Smoak does possess the sort of advanced plate discipline that should keep him out of severe slumps and keep him in the Texas lineup for a long time to come. Since Arlington is a homer haven, Smoak’s power should get a little boost playing at home.

Rotoworld dropped the story at 11:15 PM apparently. I heard the news, while on Razzball, about an hour later. In the Big Ballers League, he was gone by 12:03 AM. Gotta move quick to catch Smoak!

I don’t think I’m going to make a claim on him in my Keeper League, as my corners are deep and I have Carlos Santana waiting for his call up. Smoak looks like an excellent pickup in that format however, as I suspect he will develop his power and turn into a solid hitter and on base machine. I really do want to take him though, just to stick it to Davis’ owner… like Pinella stuck it to me yesterday. Yeah I’m still bitter.

Welcome to the bigs kid. Don’t go blowing Smoak up our asses now.

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Next In Line…

April 21, 2010

A few quick notes about some high profile prospects, who are not “The Last In line,” like Ronnie James Dio:

  • Giants prime-time pitching prospect, Madison Bumgarner has seemed to regained the form that earned him a ton of hype over the past couple of seasons. In his last start, Bumgarner’s velocity had improved greatly, reaching into the low-90’s, rather than topping out in the 80’s, as he had been doing in his previous starts this season. Giant’s GM, Brian Sabean claims that Bumgarner’s struggles had a lot to do with his spending the off-season preparing for his wedding, rather than preparing for the 2010 season where he was expected to be S.F.’s 5th starter. Todd Wellemeyer has been awful so far in the starting role so Bumgarner getting back on track is fantastic news for the Giants and fantasy owners in 16 team keeper leagues that might own Bumgarner.
  • 2008 saw Armando Galarraga emerge as a fantastic sleeper for fantasy owners, as he posted 13 Wins and a 3.73 ERA over 178 1/3 IP. With a FIP of 4.88 in ’08 however, it was plain to see that Galarraga would take a step backwards in ’09. After a predictably forgettable campaign last year, the 28 year old righty began this season in AAA, where he has been pounding the K zone at eye-popping rates (18/1 K/BB with a 1.96 ERA in 3 starts). If he keeps this up, you can bet that The Tigers will find a place for him if one of their starters falters.
  • Cleveland’s stud catching prospect Carlos Santana, collapsed in agony after fouling a ball off of his leg in a AAA game this afternoon. Scary stuff for the promising young backstop, who should be getting the call up to Cleveland some time in late May to early June. Also scary for fantasy owners like me, who have already hitched a lot of hope on the kid. Santana is currently mashing Independent League pitching to the tune of .727 SLG. Early reports say that Santana is not seriously hurt. With Lou Marson and Mike Redmond hitting a combined .125 with 1 XBH so far, Santana has a clear path to an everyday catching job when he arrives in the bigs.
  • Chris Davis is still swinging at everything and what he is hitting is not leaving the yard. In 40 PA’s this season, the Texas 1B has actually swung at slightly more pitches outside the zone, than he did last season (34.4% O-Swing % currently, 34.1% in ’09). While it’s a small sample size, it’s a bit alarming, especially when you consider that the young slugger has yet to hit a HR. As Justin Smoak keeps progressing, it looks more and more likely that he will be replacing Davis at first sooner, rather than later. On Saturday, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote:

“Chris Davis is off to a terrible start that is a lot like his start in 2009… Meanwhile, Smoak is off to a strong start in Class AAA, hitting .300; he drew a walk on Friday night in Oklahoma City’s victory over Memphis, his 10th this season, in nine games; he’s got just three strikeouts, and four extra-base hits.


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The Lineup Card: Baseball Reads From Around The Triple Dubs

April 20, 2010

Interesting reading from around the baseball world:

  • When New York Magazine isn’t sipping Champagne with Astors and giving the mayor hand-jobs for gentrifying NYC, it’s now talking about… defensive metrics?
  • Derek Carty at THT sums up the “Intuitions vs. Quants,” debate, ongoing at the Cardrunners League site. Fascinating discussion between fantasy baseball experts and poker pros, going at it mano y mano in a high stakes fantasy league.
  • Roto Rob says that help is on the way for the Houston Space Monkeys. A peek at some young guys who are primed for take off.
  • Eriq Gardner has something to say about the folly of “Buy low/sell high” advice.
  • The incomparable Grey Albright at Razzball brings the heat on the regular. Today he made a Willie McGee ugly joke that had me spitting up my morning coffee.
  • The Wall Street journal is an interesting place to find a good piece on Jerry Manuel’s rather strange usage of Frankie Rodriguez, during Saturday’s 20 inning marathon in St. Louis.

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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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Carlos Santana Wants Us To Listen How His Rhythm Goes

April 15, 2010

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’m a bit giddy right now after plucking Cleveland Indians stud catching prospect Carlos Santana off of waivers the other day in the Big Ballers League. All guitar player jokes aside, Young Senior Santana might be arriving soon to rock Cleveland in a big way. Listed as Baseball America’s 10th best prospect in the game and the 3rd best catcher behind Jesus Montero and Buster Posey, Santana is a switch-hitting masher, with a good eye and a fairly clear path to the majors in the very near future. Essentially, he’s being looked at as the second coming of V-Mart.

What was that you heard? The sound of 14 other fantasy owners smacking themselves in the head. This is a two catcher league after all and even a lotto ticket is better than a lot of the scrubs being rostered in the C slot. I was shocked to find him on the wire. With all of the virtual ink he’s been receiving lately, I knew he wouldn’t be around long.

Not long after picking him up, I was offered Buster Posey and Anibal “sometimes dirty” Sanchez for the Indians prospect, which I declined. From what I read, in the long term, Posey and Santana might be a toss up. Posey’s more of a contact hitter, while Santana has more pop. The Giants however are winning now, with newly reupped Bengie Molina doing his thing behind the plate. You don’t mess with a good thing behind the plate, especially when your team is built on young pitching. I can’t see Posey playing much this year if it’s fairly tight in the NL West, which I think it will be. Santana on the other hand should prove to see playing time, sooner rather than later if Lou Marson continues his futility at the plate. Even if Marson does hit, he may ultimately be shipped off because of Santana’s impact bat.

I’m really hoping for good things from Santana this season. The Harlem Hangovers could really use some pop and it’d be nice if he could soften the blow of losing Montero a bit. I’d be happy with a similar line as Wieters last season. When the time comes, I’m totally slapping Abraxas on the turntable and dropping a hit of acid to enjoy his debut.

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