Welcome To Splitsville Part 1

July 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part One: Vs. Lefties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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