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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MistaBernadina, Mista Roger Bernadina

June 17, 2010

While he isn’t a stuffy, suit wearing, white-bread office drone, you can say that Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, is cut from a particular mold of player. Bernadina has little pop and won’t hit for a ton of average but he runs well and should net you a few steals in exchange for a waiver flier without really hurting your ratios. He’s your basic speed model, playable when he’s hot, SAGNOF option. Since he’s shown a decent walk rate through out his minor league career, I picked him up in the Big Ballers League while searching for some outfield depth. Just in time it seems, since Bernadina hit his second homer in the past three games and threw in a steal for good measure tonight. Would I roster him in 12 team mixed? Not quite yet, but as Mr. Selaticia from Metalocalypse might say, “We shall wait and see…”

What else is going on around the league?

With his first homer in the bigs, Jose Tabata stole the thunder from Pedro Alvarez‘s MLB debut yesterday. I don’t expect many more from the speedy rook, but I’m looking forward to deploying him as a speed option in my 12 team mixed keeper. Actually, the steady John Danks (8 IP 2 ER 6 K 3 BB), struggling Carlos Quentin (2-4, 2 RBI)  and the ChiSox were the story, beating the Pirates 7-2. The Heights’ own Alvarez, the most anticipated young Buc to come up in the game since Barry Bonds, went 0-2 with a BB, a K and a run scored.

Another, slightly more accomplished Pedro was making some news yesterday as Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro was said to have started up preliminary talks with future Hall O’ Famer, Pedro Martinez‘ agent about having him rejoin the Phils after the All-Star break. While it breaks my heart to think about Pedro again pitching for those inbred douche-nozzles in Philly, I’ve always loved watching Pedro work and look forward to seeing him later in the season. As talks heat up and old Pedro comes out from under the mango tree to get into fighting shape, I’d say he’ll soon be worth a flier as the chatter picks up, on the chance he can contribute like he did last year down the stretch.

The fallout from the Conor Jackson for Sam Demel blockbuster continues. In his Oaktown premiere, Jackson batted lead-off and went 2-3 with a BB and a run scored in the 6-2 loss to the Cubbies. Meanwhile, the Diamond Backs sent Demel out against the Red Sox for some mop-up duty in the 6-2 Sawx victory. Demel threw a clean inning, striking out Mike Cameron in the process. I have absolutely no confidence in Aaron Heilman keeping his newly appointed closer gig. His numbers may seem alright on the surface, but he’s got a 4.52 xFIP next to his low 2.83 ERA. Heilman’s never passed the eye-ball test for any Mets fan who’s had the misfortune to witness his many spectacular meltdowns during his time in Flushing. The man’s just not good in a big spot. Demel has had outstanding numbers in the minors and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him closing in the not too distant future. Hoping I’m right about Heilman, as I put in a FAAB bid on Demel in the Big Baller’s League, as he was just added to the Yahoo player list.

The Mets keep winning on the strength of solid starting pitching. Two lesser known hurlers who’ve stepped up are knuckle miester, R.A. Dickey and young lefty, Jonathan Niese. 36 year old Dickey has been a huge surprise for the Flushing faithful, logging four wins and four QS over his 5 starts. Currently holding a 4-0 record with a 2.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and a 24/10 K/BB split, I’m expecting a blow up somewhere down the road, but he remains a solid streaming option, especially in the friendly confines of Metco Park. I don’t trust knucklers for fantasy purposes, but Dickey throws his fastball a little harder than your average float-baller, clocking in at an average of 84.2 MPH. If his fastball can remain effective, he could continue to keep hitters off balance and induce weak contact (49.5% GB and 9.4% IFFB rates in 2010), which we like.

As primarily a two pitch, fastball-curveball chucker, Niese struggled in his limited time with the big club through ’08 and ’09, before having surgery to repair a torn hamstring last August. Reemerging with an effective cut-fastball as a third pitch and a tad more zip appearing on the fastball, Niese has stepped up, as an effective back-end starter for the Mets this season. In 11 starts (64 1/3 IP) Niese has a line of 4-2, with a 3.64 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and a 48/21 K/BB split. Since returning from the DL, after suffering a strained hamstring, Niese has come back stronger than ever. Over his last three starts, Niese is 3-0, coughing up only 4 ER in 25 innings (including a 1-hit gem of the Padres that saw Niese face one above the minimum 27 batters) while striking out 15 and walking only three. Niese induces a lot of grounders (50% of batted balls he’s given up have been hit on the ground) and few homers (.7 per 9 IP) and currently carries a somewhat unfortunate .331 BABIP against. Look for that number to come down and Niese to remain a nice streaming option for 12 team leagues.

Dave of Jesus has been performing miracles in K.C., with that gaudy .329 BA and .403 OBP. While he’ll give you nice ratios, DeJesus is basically Freddy Sanchez in the outfield, with a few more counting numbers. I like to think of him as FraGu-lite. That’s not bad if it fills your needs, but as Grey at Razzball said, “the downside is no upside.” One ray of hope for the son of man is that he’s in his walk year and could conceivably be moved by the Royals, as they once again start thinking about next year. I’m going to hazard a guess and say the Bravos would be buyers, since Nate McClouth has been god awful. The Sawx might bite too, since they’ve suffered numerous OF injuries and are currently looking up at the Rays and Yanks in the A.L. East standings. When I asked Grey if he thought DeJesus might be worth adding to in my 12 team mixed league, his response was something to the effect of, “then you’d be stuck watching Royals highlights.” Needless to say I didn’t add him, going for Angel Pagan instead.

So that’s it for now. Next entry, I’ll take a look at a major trade that I made a few days ago in the 12 team mixed keeper league…

In the mean time, enjoy this classic Del video…

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Bloops and Bleeders: Stolen Baby Edition

June 10, 2010

Wow, I didn’t realize Pittsburgh’s newest lead-off man, Jose Tabata, thought SB stood for “Stolen Baby.” Yowza! Credit Grey from Razzball for that one. As I said previously, he’s fast and gets on base, so if you need a speedy outfielder go get him. Here’s a run down on some other goings on going on in the baseball mundo both real and fantastic.

I offered a trade of Nick Swisher and Jaime Garcia to SD (not to be confused with wrestler S.D. Jones) from my keeper league, in exchange for Justin Verlander. The response was priceless:

“this is actually a decent offer, but I love Verlander and I think I’ll need him going nuts down the stretch. I’ll take a look and maybe propose something more skewed to only help me.”

I appreciated your honesty Sean.

Delmon Young lost some weight, got in better shape and has looked like an improved player this season. Fortunately, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

“Second base seems like it’s in left center when I get to first sometimes,” he said. Where did it seem last year? “I never really got on base until September, he said, so I couldn’t tell you.”

Thanks J.D. for that one. For more Delmania, check out Dave Golebiewski’s piece on the former can’t miss prospect’s reemergence.

With G.M. Kenny Williams waving the white flag on the South Side, the ChiSox are open for business. A few of the high salary names bandied about as possible trade bait are Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzinski, Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink. Jake Peavy says that if the pale hose look to rebuild, he’ll ask for a trade. That doesn’t seem likely though as Williams was quoted as saying:

“If we do something it will be along the lines of shuffling the deck with the expectation that we’re going to add impact guys to win,” said Williams, adding: “I have to listen. It’s not that I want to, but I’m not blind.”

From the sound of it, Williams hasn’t really given up on this year and Peavy’s is owed $33 million over the next two seasons with either a $4 million buy out or another $22 million in 2013. There aren’t many teams that are willing to come up with that kind of scratch, so he’d be very tough to move regardless.

Another front line pitcher who’s name is appearing frequently in trade rumors is Cliff Lee. With the Mariners mired in last place and showing little signs of life, it’s expected that they’ll deal the former Cy Young winning lefty at some point before the July 31 deadline. Of course the Yankees are the first team who’ve been mentioned as a destination for Lee. The Yanks however say they have no intention of going after a starter, in spite of having the prospects (Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Austin Romine) that could bring in such a quality arm.

Needing a bat to replace DH Nick Johnson, who shockingly is spending his Yankee cash on the DL, The Yankees are said to have scouts looking at Lance Berkman. Berkman would be a nice fit in that lineup but he is making $14.5 million this year, which might be a stumbling block to any move for the Big Puma. It seems like Puma and fellow Astros stalwart Roy Oswalt, are not long for Houston, which is about as much of a surprise as Johnson getting hurt.

While the Yankees are usually the first team mentioned when other teams make their top-tier talent available, the Mets as usual are setting their sights a little lower. Such illustrious names as Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie and Jake Westbrook have been said to be scouted by Queens’ Finest. Exciting stuff for Mets fans. Don’t expect to see any deal coming out of Flushing until we approach the July 31 trade deadline, when prices will drop.

St. Louis added some depth to their battered pitching staff today, by reacquiring Jeff Suppan who had been recently waived by the Brewers. The Cards will pay Suppan the prorated minimum, while the Brew crew get the pleasure of picking up the rest of the $10.5 million they owed the disappointing pitcher. After a successful run in St. Louis from 2004-2006, culminating with a starring role in their post season surge (Mets fans remember that well), Suppan signed with Milwaukee for 4 years and $42 million, then the richest contract in team history. Perhaps Dave Duncan can sprinkle his magic pixie dust on Suppan and turn him back into a serviceable hurler.

One pitcher that I left out of the last rookie round-up is Madison Bumgarner. With Todd Wellemeyer-wiener making a preemptive leave from his start today in Cincy with a strained quad, we may see the highly touted lefty arriving in San Francisco soon. Word is Wellemeyer may need a trip to the DL. Bumgarner posted a nano-tastic 0.94 ERA in May, but has come back to Earth in his two June starts. On the year, he’s 6-1 with a 3.13 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 47K/20BB in 69 innings at AAA Fresno. I wrote a little already about the 20 year old’s return to form after a poor spring and the addition of a cutter to his repetoire. Bumgarner’s numbers look nice on the surface, but his BB/K rate isn’t great and he’s got a 3.99 FIP. Expect that number to jump if he’s called up. While he might be a asset in deep leagues, I don’t see him as more than a streaming option in 12 team mixed right now.

Note: Madison Bumgarner was suspended three games and fined for blowing up at an umpire during his Monday loss. He’ll serve his suspension tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, making him eligible to pitch by the next time Wellemeyers turn in the rotation comes up, next week against Baltimore.

Because everyone loves to mock failure, I’ll leave you with this video from last night of Oakland outfielder, Matt Carson face-plant into the wall from yesterday’s 7-1 Angels win over the A’s.

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Stephen Strasburg Leads The Rookie Parade

June 10, 2010

…And on the eight day, God created Stephen Strasburg and he was very good. As baseball followers know, the Capitol City phenom made his first entry into Baseball’s history books last night with a scintillating 14 strikeout, zero walk victorious debut against the hapless Pirates. The first overall pick of last year’s draft exceeded all expectations, gunning down the Pittsburgh batters with prodigious power, precision and a maturity perhaps never before seen in a pitcher so young. Across the Maryland border, Matt Wieters scoffed at another player being The Chosen One and immediately got three hits in defiance.

While Strasburg worked his magic before a rabid D.C. crowd (nice to see that kind of excitement in Washington) another youngster was making a splash a short trip up I-95 in Philidelphia. Mike Stanton premiered with the Florida Marlins after decimating AA this year. The hulking outfielder who lead all of minor league baseball in homers with 21 in 52 games, picked up three singles in five plate appearances in the Fish’s 10-8 loss to the Phillies.

But wait, there’s more! You may have missed the above players in your league, or whiffed on Heyward, Jaime Garcia or Leake, but don’t cry with one eye like the Indian in the old PSA. there are more rookies who’ve just arrived, or on the way, who can help your fantasy teams this season. Here are a few…

Jose Tabata made his big league debut for Pittsburgh against Washington tonight, going 2 for 4 with a run scored and a steal. Good timing for the Pirates, since everyone’s still talking Strasburg. Tabata lead the International league in stolen bases and contributed a 42R/3HR/19RBI/25SB/.318/.385/.436 line in 247 PA at AAA Indianapolis. His base stealing prowess is something of a new development, but Tabata has always displayed an advanced plate discipline, which sets apart the good speedy guys from your average fast whoshisface.

Brad Lincoln made his debut the above mentioned game for the Buccos tonight and had a rather inauspicious start to his major league career, surrendering five runs on two BB, seven hits and a homer, while striking out three in six innings to take the loss. Lincoln, the 4th overall pick in the 2006 draft had solid numbers in AAA prior to his arrival in the show, going 6-2 3.16/.99/14BB/55K in 68 2/3 innings of work. He’s not more than a streamer in 12 team right now, but keep an eye on the kid.

While we’re talking Pirates, we can’t pass up an opportunity to mention hometown hero in the making, Pedro Alvarez, who I hope to see with the big club soon. The red hot Washington Heights native has picked up his numbers and currently posts a line of 37/11/48/3/.283/.374 over 246 PA. Expect Andy LaRoche to be traded and hard-hitting young slugger to move on up to the big time soon.

Jake Arrieta makes his first big league start tomorrow against the Yankees. The O’s 2008 5th round pick out of Texas Christian University (so he’s got god on his side, along with Matt Wieters) has been almost Strasburg-like in his domination of AAA hitters, going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 34/64 BB/K split in 73 innings before being pegged as a human sacrifice, so Jeremy Guthrie can get an extra day of rest. The Baltimore Orioles saw how Washington lined up Strasburg against the weak hitting Pirates and said, “Pfft. That’s too easy. We want our young star in the making to have a challenge!” So Arrieta gets to have his young spirit horse crushed by the Bronx Bombers in their series finale tomorrow. Way to ease a kid into the show Charm City.

Carlos Santana is still in AAA, which hurts my heart. It’s like having Christmas come late. Only worse, because I have money the on the pagan celebration falling on Jesus’ birthday. C.S. Smooth keeps making AAA pitchers wish they were never born with nary a peep about an arrival date in Cleveland. Oh he’s raking by the way, to the tune of 36R/12HR/47RBI/6SB(!)/.314/.447 (best in the minors)/.580

Andrew Cashner got his call to the bigs last week, as Epic Beard Lou and the Cubbies continue to throw shit against the wall to see what sticks in the bullpen. Not to say Cashner’s shit by any means. To the contrary, by Cubs 2008 first round pick (19th overall) was dynamite in AA and AAA before being sent to Chi-Town. Over the two levels, Cashner racked up an impressive line: 6-1/15BB/59K/2.05 ERA/.95WHIP in 57 innings (9 starts in 11 appearances). Cashner’s racked up four scoreless innings in the majors so far and looks to be in line to become the Cubs setup man, which would mean closer if Marmol screws the pooch.

Matt Carson had a cup of coffee in Oakland last season, as well as this past April, getting one start before being sent back to AAA Sacramento. Down on the farm he went 25/6/19/9/.293/.362 in 138 PA before getting recalled today. Carson who turns 29 next month, started in center tonight, going 0-3. The Swiss Army Knife of an outfielder is an under the radar kind of player, who can do a little bit of everything. If you asked me before the season, which Oakland outfield prospect would make an impact in 2010, I’d have gone with Michael Taylor. The more heralded outfielder and presumed heir-apparent in center has struggled however and if Carson makes his presence felt, he can have some value for the A’s and fantasy owners alike.

Mike Moustakas has been such a hit in the Texas League that he got a burger named after him. With Stanton making the jump from double at to the majors, and Moustakas hitting at a similarly ridiculous clip at AA, could the Royals bring their young third base prospect up sooner rather than later? Moustakas certainly deserves to be promoted as much as anyone as he’s put up some gaudy numbers with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals: 35/13/49/.368/.441 in 177 PA. Somewhere Alex Gordan waits above the stage, like the Phantom of the Opera (or Park if you will) waiting for the curtain to fall. The former 2nd overall pick of the 2005 draft has had his difficulties in the bigs but is currently leading the PCL in OBP at 1.196, since getting sent down early last month.

Which newcomers do you think will make an impact in the final two thirds of 2010?

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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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All Things Considered: Pitchers BABIP

June 2, 2010

No this isn’t a discussion of current affairs or high-minded political talk, spoken by white people in turtle-neck sweaters. I don’t aim that high here at TTO. Instead good sirs and madams (do any chicks aside from my mom read this? That’s a rhetorical question) is a little nugget of knowledge to keep in the back of your melon as you scour the wires or scan your opponents rosters in search of a pitching upgrade.

Forgive me if this is old hat to you, but I’m not going to claim to be a sabermetric whiz. In fact I’ve only really just started drinking the Kool-Aid heavily over the past year or so. By now, most successful fantasy owners have incorporated a multitude of sabermetric statistics into their player evaluation tool-kit though and it seems that their popularity grows by the day. Metrics such as BABIP, FIP, GB%, LD%, BB/K, and others are commonly thrown around by writers on even the most mainstream of baseball sites. These numbers however, are often displayed with little context with regard to what other factors may be at work.

Lets look at a pitchers BABIP against. BABIP commonly referred to when we talk about a player being lucky or unlucky. While an individual pitcher’s BABIP can vary wildly from season to season, we will usually find that a league average BABIP for pitchers lies between .290 and .300. One starting pitcher who has underperformed the expectations and displays a higher than normal BABIP is Edwin Jackson. Yes, I am cherry picking an example, but I wanted to use a player that has underperformed but at the same time, might still hold value in some league. After a successful 2009 campaign, followed by a trade from Detroit to Arizona, Jackson is currently holding a line of 3-6/6.03 ERA/ 1.44 WHIP and 60 K over 68 2/3 innings of work. In spite of that atrocious ERA, his FIP is a slightly more palatable 4.49 due to his high K rate (7.86 K/9) and only slightly inflated walk rate of 3.28 BB/9, in contrast to his career low 2.94 BB/9 from last season. What has been really hurting Jackson is the 15.2% HR/FB rate along with a low 63.6% strand rate. Obviously giving up a ton of bombs while runners are on base is a recipe for disaster, ask his teammate Dan Haren.

Well that’s all well and good, but what about his BABIP? I’m glad you asked disembodied italicized voice! His .324 BABIP seems rather high, right? If we look at that league average number of approximately .300, and his career mark of .310, yes it is higher than should be expected. However we are missing a crucial piece of information here, that I’ve only begun delving into myself this season. If BABIP is the batting average for all hits that do not leave the park, than it stands to reason that a pitcher’s BABIP will be markedly effected by the defense behind him. Lets look at the top five teams as far as BABIP against:

1. SF Giants: .271

2. TB Rays: .272

3. SD Padres: .279

4. NY Yankees: .284

5. OAK A’s: .285

Notice the numbers for the top teams are well under that .290 – .300 range. These are teams that have been not only pitching well, but playing good defense too. If we look at team ratings for fielding range (the number that would most effect BABIP, since if a batted ball falls in for a hit, usually that means a fielder failed to get to it), we’ll notice that the top five teams are in order: Tigers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners. Neither the Yanks, A’s or Rays made that list, but two of those three teams aside from the Yankees carry a positive Range Rating.

Lets back up and take a look at the bottom five on the team BABIP against list:

26. CHI White Sox: .314

27. PIT Pirates: .322

28. AZ Diamondbacks: .322

29. HOU Astros: .329

30. MIL Brewers: .346

Those are some pretty sorry pitching staffs right now. Interestingly enough, Edwin Jackson’s .324 BABIP is right about at his team’s average, despite of the Snakes fielders doing a good job of getting to batted balls – Note: The outfield defense is a lot better than the infield, so Jackson’s improved groundball rate may actually be hurting him. Regardless, the entire D-Backs pitching staff has been pretty unlucky to go along with being downright bad. An MLB worst 67% LOB rate would confirm that. D-Backs pitchers are allowing a whopping 19.9% of batted balls to be driven for liners, tied with the Reds for 2nd worst in baseball, behind only the hapless Brewers. So ‘Zone pitchers are getting somewhat unlucky but at the same time getting hit hard, compounding problems even more. To further illustrate this, Diamondback pitchers are allowing an astounding 15.2% of flyballs to leave the yard, worst in the league by a lot. That should normalize some, but they play in an extreme home-run hitters park, so you have to expect an elevated HR rate. The Pirates are the next worst team, with an 11% HR/FB rate. Now granted, a lot of this damage has been done by what may be the worst bullpen in baseball, but front line starters like Jackson and Haren have done their share of sucking too this season.

So the moral to this story is, if you really need that sort of thing, don’t just glance at a pitchers numbers and say, “he’s due for regression,” or “he’ll improve,” without looking a little deeper. The numbers need context. I took a long look at Jackson’s last week when his owner ditched him. At first look, I saw a guy who’s due for improvement, which he may well be in some small part. His xFIP is a healthy 3.90 due to K, BB and normalized HR rates. I didn’t bite though, as there are too many factors at play working against Jackson, namely an extreme hitters park with a terrible bullpen to follow him. He may give me K’s, but I believe he’ll provide little else going forward.

To find out team-wide metrics, go to Fangraphs, hit the “Teams” tab and select the stats you want. Simple as that!

For more on Edwin Jackson, check out this enlightening piece by Dave Golebiewski at Fangraphs.

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Lima Time Forever

May 23, 2010

Baseball lost a colorful and talented character today as Jose Lima died of a heart attack at the age of 37. “Lima time” took over Houston for a couple of years, marked by a scintillating 1999, which saw Lima win 21 games and go to the All-Star game for the Astros. Lima who made his home in Los Angeles, brought his fine, control pitching and joyful exuberance to the Dodgers in 2004, drawing top billing in Hollywood for one magical late summer run. As part of that division champion winning team, his solid season was ultimately capped by a five-hit complete game shutout of the Cardinals in the Nation League Divisional Series.

Lima’s celebrations on the mound were the stuff of legend and his persona was larger than life. He lit up clubhouses and made friends wherever he played, from his start with the Tigers in 1994 to stints in various independent leagues from his Native Dominican Republic to California’s Golden Baseball League. after last playing in the Majors as a Met in 2006. He loved to chat with reporters, fans or anyone else within ear shot, making him a fan favorite where ever he pitched and irritating hitters who didn’t care for his swagger. A talented Merengue singer from the Santiago region of The Dominican Republic, who would just as soon talk music as talk pitching, Lima even got to sing the national anthem at Dodger Stadium before a game in 2004. Lima was a man with a big heart, who lived life to the fullest and never lost sight of the fact that he was incredibly lucky to be able to make a great living playing a game.

According to ESPNDeportes, Frank McCourt, the owner of the Dodgers, released a statement saying that Lima had rejoined the organization in the last month as a member of their alumni organization. “He was committed to making appearances in the community on behalf of the team, including an upcoming musical performance at a Viva Los Dodgers event this summer,” McCourt said.

I never got a chance to see Lima pitch in person, but I enjoyed watching him pitch on TV plenty of times. He was the sort of pitcher that you weren’t quite sure how he got hitter out, but seemed to will his way out of trouble all the time. Seriously irritating to see him shut your team down, but always incredibly entertaining, I once named a fantasy baseball team, “Stop… Lima Time!”

Enjoy some videos of Jose off the mound. Here’s one of him hanging out in LAX, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” (to which he admittedly doesn’t know the lyrics) with his teammate, shot last year, while he was a member of the Long Beach Armada.

Lima Time back home in D.R.

We’ll miss you Jose.

“Everyone will remember Jose for his antics on the mound,” said former Astro Craig Biggio, a teammate of Lima’s, according to the team’s website. “But he was a tremendous teammate and a great competitor. It’s a big loss for the Astros baseball family.”

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