Welcome To Splitsville Part 2

July 16, 2010

Originally published on Advanced Fantasy Baseball. Stats current as of the All-Star break.

…Continued from Part One

Here’s the rest of my 2010 All-Splits team for players owned by 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo.

Vs. Righties

C: John Jaso (6% owned) Although he’s cooled considerably since May, the 26 year old catcher came seemingly out of nowhere to perform admirably behind the plate for the Rays. Jaso has put together nice numbers against righties, going .295/.412/.397 in 177 PA, while struggling against lefties in limited action. Interestingly enough, Jaso’s MiLB Splits are pretty even throughout his five years on the farm. With enough plate appearances against big league lefties (since returning from injury, the struggling Kelly Shoppach has been getting a lot of appearances against southpaws), Jaso might be able to prove he’s deserving of a full-time gig.

1B: Lyle Overbay (4% owned) It seems like you could pencil Overbay into this list every year and still somehow he manages to hold down a full-time job in Toronto. The veteran first baseman has always done better against right-handers (.264/.353/.443 in 269 PA so far in 2010) while doing little against lefties, but that split is even more dramatic this season as he’s stunk it up to a tune of .192/.232/.308 so far. With first base so rich in talent, there’s no reason to have to roster Overbay outside of the deepest of leagues. If you do however (maybe you own Kendry Morales and Todd Helton, both shelved with injuries), you’d do well to sit him against lefties or platoon him with a guy like Daric Barton or Adam Rosales.

2B: Omar Infante (9% owned) The man who may forever be known (through no fault of his own) as the worst All-Star selection ever is the only 2010 All-Star to also make my All-Splits team. The jack-of-all-trades has been consistently mediocre from both sides of the plate through out his nine years of mostly part-time, MLB play. This season however, the right-handed Infante has shown infinite prowess if not power against righty hurlers, posting a .364/.384/.447 in 138 PA in while disappearing against lefties in limited time (.262/.303/.311 in 67 PA). If he receives regular playing time, I would expect that gap to close quite a bit before season’s end.

SS: Wilson Valdez (3% owned) Wait, what? Yeah I put Valdez on this list, what of it? That’s how shallow SS is and the 32 year old journeyman plays in a hitter’s paradise. While starting in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins at short and now Chase Utley over at second, Valdez has proved useful against righties (.283/.300/.449 with all 4 of his HR in 133 PA), while doing next to nothing against southpaws. Outside of a hot streak, I don’t think he’s rosterable in 12 team mixed, but I did have him for a cup of coffee on my 15 team mixed league a few weeks ago.

3B: Chase Headley (45% owned) The Padres every day third baseman started off like a ball of fire in April, only to come back down to earth with a thud in May and June. He’s been picking it up again lately however, and remains solid against right-handed pitching going .306/.351/.427 with 5 of his 6 homers in 251 PA. His weakness against left-handers remains glaring however, as he’s been shut down to the tune of .197/.258/.248 in 129 PA. His sneaky speed makes you want to pencil him in every day in case he swipes a bag, but his ineptitude while facing lefties removes that option unless you like zeros. Cavernous Petco Park saps his power and that weak Padre lineup does him no favors either, so unless you’ve got another 3B eligible guy to platoon him with, I’d stay away from Headley in all but deep leagues.

OF: Hideki Matsui (37% owned) Godzilla is a shell of the player he was a few years ago with the Yankees and he’s been absolutely dreadful against lefties this year – .188/.224/.366 in 107 PA. Against righties however, Matsui can still hit and he’s put up a useful .281/.381/.408 line in 231 PA. Consider him rosterable in deeper leagues, when platooned with an outfielder who can rake lefties like Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur or Cody Ross.

OF: J.D. Drew (44% owned) The captain of my all-splits team, J.D. Drew is the epitome of a platoon player – when healthy, of course. Drew demolishes right-handers with a .315/.400/.586 line, along with 9 of his 10 home runs in 210 PA. Conversely, he’s atrocious against lefties, going .185/.265/.235 in 91 PA. If you’ve got Drew on your team, platoon him or else!

OF: David DeJesus (50% owned) The Royals outfielder is quietly having a very nice year all around – 45 R/5 HR/ 36 RBI .326/.395/.460 and his career splits aren’t that far apart, however this season he’s really shined against right-handers, going .344/.403/.478 in 275 PA. I’ve currently got him in my 12 team mixed league and I sit him against lefties in favor of Dexter Fowler, since his .272/.372/.407 line with little pop or speed in 95 PA doesn’t offer much in that format. DeJesus has been mentioned in trade talks with the Red Sox, where I see him in a platoon with Mike Cameron, once Jacoby Ellsbury gets back, which would certainly help his counting numbers against righties.

UTL: Angel Pagan (50% owned) Currently the Mets leader in batting average (.315), Pagan will get the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Jeff Francoeur, once Carlos Beltran gets back. His speed makes him playable every day right now, but if you can afford to, it’s best to platoon him to take advantage of his splits. Against lefties Pagan has been pretty underwhelming with a .273/.309/.386 line in 96 PA. Facing righties though, Angel has been heavenly, belting out it out at a .335/.398/.512 clip. Platooned with a lefty killer and you’re looking at steady production in the second half.

I’m ending my list here, but there are lots of other players around, who if platooned properly can provide your fantasy team with a nice lift. Who do you think are some other players who could have made the Splitsville All-Stars?

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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…


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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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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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.

…It Was The Worst Of Times

May 15, 2010

So while I’ve been busy pursuing gainful employment of various sorts, The Uptown Ham Fighters have been busy sucking it up over in my 12 team mixed head-to-head keeper league. While we entered this week the only team to have won four out of five weeks, we were also one game below .500, due to a Week 3 1-10-1 ass-kicking at the hands of My Boomstick. As we enter the weekend stretch for Week 6 things have really gone south however, as we now trail The Mountain Cats 12 zip! I can take a beat down or two, but a sweep might just push this manager over the edge into Billy Martin punching out his pitcher nutzo territory! Now before I do anything rash and before it’s a dead corpse, lets bring this patient to the roster doctor and try to figure out a course of treatment.

Here’s the team as it’s presently composed. We’ll first look at the frosty bats:

The first major issue of course was Nelson Cruz landing on the DL with a bum hammy. He was absolutely raking when he was injured and it’s not easy to make up for the loss of such a big bat. Filling the hole over the past week, I had Corey Hart and then Nate Schierholtz. Hart did little aside from a lone HR in Boomstick’s absence. Nate The Ok provided me with a Run Scored on Sunday, which gave me a win in the category, but other than that he had little impact over the past week. Now mind you, this is isn’t to say that neither of these guys will be decent fantasy contributors, but in head-to-head, it’s often necessary to play a guy with a hot hand or tailor your lineup to fit your teams immediate needs.

What are some other culprits of our recent woes? Well for one, my team is pretty damn slow overall. Like mummy slow. I had to change that.

The one recent addition I made to the lineup is Alcides Escobar, who was acquired off of waivers, while Reid Brignac was dropped. Considering Brignac was sitting against lefties, this small lateral move made to address The Ham Fighters lack of team speed. While Escobar has been off to a slow start, a lot of that is due to an abnormally low BABIP of .253 entering play today. With his speed, he’s projected to have a BABIP of around .320 to .330, so I expect correction in that department as the season progresses. Leading me to more optimism is Esco’s 6.6%/13.5% BB/K rate. While this needs to improve for him to really blossom at the Major League level, it’s actually an improvement over the BB/K numbers he posted (3%/14.4%) in his limited time last season. What has really been missing from his game is his speed. The highly touted speedster has yet to swipe a bag, being caught once. This obviously alarmed his previous owners enough for them to let him go. I see Alcides picking up the SB pace however, as he gets more comfortable in the bigs. It doesn’t help that he’s hitting in the 8th hole, with a pitcher behind him, in Milwaukee. I can see him moving down up in the order as his bat heats up though, and I’m still hopeful that he can end the season with over 20 steals, while not killing me with his bat.

Aaron “Benny” Hill and Carlos “Live In San” Quentin have both been disasters so far, but I’m not pressing the panic button on those two yet. Both have slumped hard, but still can provide a lot of pop and it doesn’t take a power hitter long to snap out. I learned that lesson with Derrek Lee, last season, as he may have been my most valuable player in the 2nd half. I also learned this the hard way, by dropping a somewhat slow starting Kendry Morales. That obviously didn’t work out well. Quentin’s still walking and making hard outs, so it’s just a matter of time until he snaps out as he currently has a .180 BABIP, which is better than only Aramis Ramirez in all of baseball. The entire White Sox team has been hitting poorly, so there’s nowhere to go but up on the South Side, which should lead to nice counting numbers for Quentinsity. Hill has been a little more troublesome, due to another balky hamstring. Perhaps I should change my name to the Hamstring Fighters! He’s another guy with a ridiculously low BABIP and solid (in fact career high) BB rate, so I’m not going to get nuts. His power has certainly come down from those heady ’09 numbers, but I’m hoping that should improve as long as he stays healthy.

Derek Jeter and Pablo Sandoval are two guys who’ve hit hard time recently, but both are outstanding hitters and I’m sure they’ll perform at or around their career norms as we progress into the season. With .259/.306 and .238/.291 BA/OBP lines respectively over the past month, needless to say that both of those guys are a lot better. Jeter went 3 for 29 over the last Yankee road-trip. While his walks are down, I don’t expect this kind of lousy hitting to continue. In the case of the Kung-Fu Panda, we have a player who’s yet to reach his potential I believe. His counting numbers are hampered only by his home park and the dubious supporting cast around him, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t exceed 20 HR and at least match the 90 RBI he knocked in last season. His biggest asset is his BA, which of course is a result of him hitting just about everything hard. With a contact rate of 83.8%, that BA will definitely improve.

As for players who’ve outperformed their projections, Austin Jackson has to top that list. You can’t throw a rock without hitting his gigantic .481 BABIP, which has caused every fantasy writer in the blogosphere to simultaneously hit the “Sell!” button, tearing a rip in the space-time continuum. That number leads all of baseball now, so Jackson will undoubtedly slow down his Cobb-ian pace. He’s going to need to continue to adjust in order to maintain success as his luck evens out. I’m pretty confident that he can do that but not so much to be a .300 hitter at year’s end. Maybe .290 though, which would make me very happy.

Another guy who’s been absolutely mashing is Casey McGehee. I picked Ty Wiggy Jr. off of the scrap heap when I first saw him producing in The Brewers 5 slot, shortly after the start of the season. Figuring he should be knocking in runs in his sleep, he’s done a lot more than that though as he’s currently leading my team in RBI and tied in the lead for HR. Pretty nice numbers for a guy who everyone (myself included) pegged for schmo on draft day. I don’t see him sustaining his .323 BA but he’s walking at a career high 11.9% clip, so he should continue to get on base. It’s hard not to like that .245 ISO, hitting behind The Hebrew Hammer and Prince, so it’s easy to see him cracking 100 RBI at years end, even with some regression factored in. There may in fact not be much regression in order for McGehee. His .333 BABIP matches the number he posted AAA back in ’08, so I feel that this guy might be capable of sustaining a pace, not far off from his current one.

The X-Factor here of course is Carlos Santana, who hasn’t been great since fouling a ball off of his knee back a few weeks ago. With a little luck, the young catcher will feel alright by the time he’s called up, which should be within the next month or so. That frozen roster spot has cost me some numbers and it would be nice to have another solid bat in the lineup.

On the other side of the ball I have a pitching staff with a a few issues and a lot of question marks. Check it out.

Lead by Adam Wainwright and his devastating curve, I’ve got a couple of guys in Gavin Floyd and Kevin Slowey, who have really underperformed. Floyd’s peripherals suggest major improvement’s on the way as his numbers are just not nearly this bad. A 4.16 FIP, along with .371 BABIP against and sorry 57.7% LOB rate tell us he’s been seriously unlucky. Combine that with a BB/K rate of 3.69/7.38, an improved GB rate of 47.6% (up from 44.3% last season) and a .92 HR rate, down from .98 and you see a pitcher who is doing things right but getting poor results. With a tough schedule and little run support from the ChiSox lineup, we’re bound to see Floyd get much better results before long.

Kevin Slowey on the other hand has been an enigma, seemingly incapable of getting past the 5th inning. His increased walk rate has been alarming and he’s getting hit hard, so those guys are scoring, leading to some early knock outs for the Minnesota starter. While I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, I would have to think that Slowey’s still recovering from the complex wrist surgery that he endured last September.

While Cole Hamels may never be a fantasy ace, he’s striking out batters at a career high pace. The bad news is he’s also walking more batters (3.30 per 9) and allowing more dingers (1.44 per 9) than ever before. Hopefully he can get that HR rate down, because his BABIP of .372 tells us that better days are ahead for Hamels.

Mark Buerhle has been less than stellar, also giving up more walks than usual. He’s had to endure some awful offensive support as well as a brutal run of games against the AL East, so I’m on the fence as to whether or not to keep sending Buerhle out there. The five straight hits he gave up to the hopeless Royals this evening give me even more reason to worry.

On the positive side, we have Jaime Garcia and Wade LeBlanc, two young lefties who’ve seen tremendous success in the early going of 2010. Garcia has just been magnificent and has shown little signs of slowing down. LeBlanc, like the rest of his Padre cohorts, has been doing a lot of LeBlanking of opposition hitters. While he’s left a very high, 87.8% of baserunners on, he’s also been the victim of an inflated .356 BABIP.

Kevin Correia has been pitching pretty well in spite of only throwing one quality start so far. We can only wish for the best for the Correia family in light of the tragic loss of his younger brother, Trevor Brent Correia. He goes against The Dodgers tomorrow in his first start since returning from the bereavement list.

2/3 of my budget bullpen has been effective with surprisingly stellar performances by Jon Rausch and Kevin Gregg. Brian Fuentes on the other hand has been pretty shaky, but I knew that he’d be trouble when I drafted him. Hopefully he can save enough games to keep his job. If he doesn’t, I’ll be back playing that familiar game of closer musical chairs.

So that’s it for this exhaustive recap of The Uptown Hamfighters season to date. If you’ve made it this far, kudos. I know there is little less exciting than hearing someone bitch about their fantasy teams but perhaps you have some of these guys and you’re wondering what to do with them. I obviously need some guys to play the way they are capable of playing, but I do feel that if they do, I may only be an arm away from turning this thing around. In fact, I may already have that arm in Kris Medlen, who’s been moved into the Braves rotation in place of the injured Jair Jurrjens. I can also use another speedy guy and have been actively going after Brett Gardner. If I can’t get Gardy, I’m confident that I can find someone else off of waivers or via trade. In the mean time I’ll call this week a wash, hope that I can just avoid a sweep and look forward to getting it together next week.

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Hitting The Cut-Off Man: Existentialist Edition

April 28, 2010

“He who fights with monsters should be careful least he thereby becomes a monster. When you stare at the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Nietzsche was addressing the human condition, man’s struggle for self-determination and enlightenment. Old Freddy could just as easily been talking about baseball though because such is the price of hedging your bets players of ill repute and dubious integrity. Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t proud of when we’re struggling for our very fantasy existence in deep leagues.

The Uptown Ham Fighters are struggling to find their way in the absence of two monsters that I drafted. One monster was the maleficent Carlos Zambrano, who I need waste no more virtual ink on here. What stares back at me in the void in strikeout production, which I hope to address at some point. The other, more terrifying (to opponents and now myself) monster was Nelson Cruz. With his absence, I stare into the abyss that are my waiver wires and here are a few uber-menchen who stare back at me.

There was a time not long ago when Andy LaRoche was actually a somewhat ballyhoo’d (he was hip hip  hoorayed as well) prospect believe it or not. Between two season in AA and AAA for The Dodgers, LaRoche averaged .300 BA/.400 OBP lines while hitting a modest 37 HR over those 818 PA. He’s never projected as a power guy, which hurts his value at 3B, but he’s always displayed a major league eye. Perhaps in his 27th year LaRoche will put his skills together and approach the .285 – .290 BA level that he’s capable of. I know he’s carrying an inflated .459 BABIP into today, but I’m going to give him a run while he’s hitting well, as his 9.8%/15.6% BB/K rate are encouraging and he’s posted 10 hits in his last 18 PA. With big time prospect, Pedro Alvarez waiting in the wings down in AAA, there’s little future for LaRoche in a Pirate uniform. The Pirates would love to get something of value for LaRoche in a trade, so they’re going to run him out there and hope he can increase his stock by hitting well. I think he can do just that and give me the little boost in BA that I need.

Another face that stares at me from the void is that of Pinella’s Spring Training favorite, Tyler Colvin. Colvin’s a 25 year old rookie who came into the league with little hype, but now finds himself pushing both Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano for playing time in The Cubs outfield. While Colvin has displayed some pop in the early going, he’s also has a 27% K rate. Fortunately for him, he’s also walking at an 11.6% clip, but those K’s will have to go down if he is going to make a name for himself. He’s currently hitting .324 with a ridiculous .378 ISO in the early going of 2010, but will that change as those numbers are buoyed by a .375 BABIP. If you’re going to play a hot hand, I suppose you could do worse, but I’m not buying.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea that stretches into the distance beyond the Rightfield wall, stands a Giant named Nate Schierholtz. While his numbers have hardly been gigantic through his young career, Nate The Ok (as opposed to The Great) has been a pretty decent contact hitter. With an 85.9% contact rate and a 29% O-Swing rate (percentage of pitches swung at outside the zone) so far in 2010, Nate’s cut down on his K’s (15% down from 20.4%) and been selectively hacking at the plate and it’s paid off as he carries a .300 BA, held aloft by his .353 BABIP going into today. He won’t show much pop, being a left handed hitter in AT&T Park and he’s been buried deep in the 8th hole in the S.F. lineup, which never helps, but The Giants lineup will change with whoever possesses the hot bat and Schierholtz won’t be getting on base with a pitcher behind him much longer. Look for a shift down in the order soon, increasing his value as an BA helping outfield option in deep leagues, such as the Big Ballers League, where he was snagged moments before I could take him yesterday.

As far as that noxious void in starting pitching that Zambrano took with him to the bullpen, I’ve taken to trying to stream starters against my opponent this week, since I am definitely out-classed in that area. With an impending loss in ERA and WHIP, I’m focusing my starting pitching on winning Wins, K and Quality Starts. With Saves up in the air, I might be able to win the counting categories.

After Grandpa Moyer‘s predictably lackluster effort in S.F. last night, I’m going with the old “Hodgepads at home” mantra that Grey at Razzball professes. That sees me throwing Padre lefty, Wade LeBlanc out there against The Brew Crew at Petco Park. A former 2nd round pick by San Diego back in 2006, LeBlanc carried a 8.3/2.4 K/9 split in 462 2/3 Minor League innings, with short rather unspectacular call-ups to the show in 2008 and 2009. In his first two starts in 2010, LeBlanc has allowed only one run in 11 innings, with a 10/4 K/BB ratio and no homers. With few better options in the days to come, I’ve got to hope for the best as LeBlanc looks to Leblank The Brew Crew in the cavernous confines of Petco.

NOTE: Schierholtz went 5-5 with 3R/1RBI/1BB in S.F.’s 7-6 loss against The Phils this afternoon.

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