My Last Fantasy Baseball Web Log…

heyward land…or not (most likely not). But, who knows really which way whither life will wind?

But I’m certainly taking a massive step back this year. In fact, the only thing I aim to write this year has been completed and is included in the Fantasy Fix draft guide, which you should totally purchase here and/or: http://www.thefantasyfix.com/2014-fantasy-baseball-draft-guide/. My portion is 7 pages and thousands of words on 31 (or more?) of the most interesting relief pitchers for fantasy baseball (all types of leagues too: standard, holds, innings limit, K/9, etc.).

Of course, you may say I’ve been done writing for near 6 months now and that’s probably right. My last column was actually about Scott Feldman on July 2, 2013. I had thought my last column was about Bud Norris (before the Orioles traded for him). It’s kind of weird that my last two articles were about one former and one new Astros pitcher both of whom hurled for the O’s toward the end of 2013. [Read more...]

O’s Betting on Another Texan Cast-off (sort of)

Photo credit: stokedisrad

Photo credit: stokedisrad

Since 2011, the Orioles have acquired Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Taylor Teagarden from the Texas Rangers.

In using Strop to acquire Scott Feldman, who pitched in Arlington from 2005-2012, the O’s are betting on another player the Texas Rangers really didn’t want—he was simply a free agent signee of the Cubs last offseason.

In 2013, Feldman has a 3.46 ERA, 3.93 FIP and 3.97 SIERA for a 1.1 fWAR. The American League ERA is 4.07, the Baltimore Orioles team ERA is 4.43.

Of course, Feldman is experiencing success in the ERA department that he hasn’t before (career 4.66 ERA) and is moving to the American League East in a hitter’s park. So, while his performance this season looks nice, it’s unclear how much it will help the Orioles.

From 2010-2012, Feldman pitched 297 innings in Texas with a 5.15 ERA, 4.27 FIP and 4.31 SIERA. He was worth 3.9 fWAR. He relieved during some of that time, but just for 30 or so innings. As a starter (248.2 IPs), Feldman posted a 5.43 ERA, 4.40 FIP and 4.29 SIERA. Feldman did show marked improvement last year in 123 innings, so there is a case to be made that he is a new and improved pitcher now.

Feldman, in all likelihood, will not be the 3.50 ERA pitcher he was in Chicago – he doesn’t strike anyone out, doesn’t get a ton of groundballs, and will allow his fair share of HRs. He doesn’t walk too many batters which limits the gopher ball damage. The best case scenario for fantasy baseball owners  is Feldman wins some games behind the O’s high powered offense and puts up a 4.25 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, with minimal K’s.

Jake Arrieta is a reclamation project for the Cubs. I imagine they’ll try to give him as many starts as possible the rest of the season to see if they can make anything out of him. If that fails, he could be an intriguing bullpen arm. In fact, both he and Strop could find themselves in the catbird seat for closing duties once something happens to Kevin Gregg. There is little to no talent in the Cubs pen (depending on how you view Carlos Villanueva) and I would take the two former O’s over anyone else  if I were betting on the most saves from a Cubbie now through the end of 2014. This makes Arrieta and Strop decent dynasty league considerations.

[Read more...]

Fantasy Baseball Go Get or Trade ‘Em: Bud Norris

Photo Credit:  AmazingGreis

Photo Credit: AmazingGreis

Bud Norris has the 41st best ERA (3.39) among qualified pitchers this season. He has the 69th best WHIP (1.48). These things, as the cool kids say, do not compute.

Making matters a bit murkier for Norris is an astoundingly small K% (14.9%) and K/9 rate (5.74). These are wretchedly below his career marks – and far below MLB average standards. This leads one to wonder how he’s put up such a solid ERA. It’s not BABIP luck (he has a .323 BABIP) or a mutant strand rate (75%). It is, mostly, that he has stifled HRs, posting a 5.9% HR/FB rate compared to his 11% career mark.

One would think, when the balls start clearing the fence, Norris will be totally unusable.

Not so fast my friend. While the HR/FB rate might regress, his K% should progress. Norris has a 9.4% swinging strike rate, which should portend more K’s than he is putting up. From 2010-2012, the 21 qualified pitchers with a swinging strike rate between 9.1% and 9.8% averaged a 7.6 K/9 rate and 20.2 K%.

So far, this season, Norris has averaged nearly 93 MPHs on his fastball and 85 MPHs on his slider – the two pitches he throws over 75% of the time. Last season his velocity was nearly identical. His slider was a bit faster in 2011, but not in a huge way. In addition, with a similar repertoire, Norris has a career 10.5% swinging strike rate and has gotten ahead of hitters this season far more than normal.

Given there isn’t a ton of variance in what and how hard Norris has been throwing, expect the K’s to come back in a good way. He should be good for an 8.35 K/9 rate, which could get him to 102 K’s ROTW.

His ERA will likely take a bit of a pounding as the HRs come back (4.35 ERA ROTW), but his WHIP will actually be better with fewer balls in play (1.39 WHIP ROTW).

In short, if you need K’s, Norris is a good pitcher to acquire. However, if you are looking to safeguard ratios, Norris might be someone to trade and hope someone is hypnotized by that shiny ERA.

The Elvis Andrus Rule

elvis-andrusFor some time, I’ve been bizarrely intrigued by Elvis Andrus. Once, he appeared to be the next Jose Reyes, a 100+ run, 40+ steal, fantasy behemoth. While he has been a sturdy fantasy performer, he has often put together great first halves that were never a prelude to greatness. For whatever reason, people seem unaware that Andrus does a Jekyll and Hyde routine in the first and second halves of the season:

Split

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

SB

CS

BA

OBP

TB

1st Half

328

1413

201

347

46

15

81

20

.279

.347

444

2nd Half

276

1192

142

285

44

10

42

23

.270

.337

370

Andrus has been caught stealing more times in the second half despite 36 less attempts—both the lack of attempts and success are disconcerting. With pretty close on base rates, the logical conclusion is that the rigors of a season wear Andrus down.

Last week, prompted by a tweet from Matthew Pouliot, I began to wonder if there is a league wide decline in SB attempts and/or success rates for a certain type of players – and whether that is exploitable in fantasy baseball. Basically, are there other Elvis impersonators out there?

The crux of what I found:

  • Bulk SBs and attempts went down in the second half by a decent amount. A lot of that came from the players who barely reached high rate thresholds (11 SBs, 16 SB attempts), suggesting that more marginal players who stole or attempted in large numbers (for the first time) likely won’t do so in the second half.
  • That said there is always safety in numbers: the stalwarts (B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Drew Stubbs, Ichiro, Juan Pierre, and Michael Bourn) who steal at great rates hold speed value from the first to the second half far better than any other group.
  • Since 2010, 30 times a player emerged in the second half with 16 or more stolen base attempts while not doing that in the first. In addition, 19 times a player stole 15 or more bags in the second half while not stealing that many in the first (only three of these attempted 16 or more steals in the first half).
  • So, if you are trying to make up SBs in the second half, it makes sense to target two groups of players:
  1. The absolute leaders in SB attempts/bulk SBs from the first half or
  2. Injured stars and potential break-out younger players.

Basically, going for players who have little track record in accumulating SBs over a long period will likely not give you enough to catch up.

The Details

[Read more...]

Do Blown Saves Tell us anything for Fantasy Baseball?

Photo Credit:  newsetaflickr

Photo Credit: newsetaflickr

To try and ascertain whether blown saves have a negative impact on saves and/or value, I pulled every relief season since 2009 and sliced and diced the data, mostly sorting by quantity of blown saves and looking at how relievers performed after blowing a lot of saves.

The short of what I found is that, at least recently, blown saves don’t tell us much about the future value of a given reliever. One reason for this is, perhaps, poor relievers aren’t given an opportunity to accumulate many blown saves and get a hook quite quickly and are easily replaced, so they don’t appear in (large-ish) samples.

[Read more...]

Mister Fantastic: Addison Reed’s Exceptional Elastic Arm

Photo Credit: Brule Laker

Photo Credit: Brule Laker

In the 2013 Relief Pitcher Guide, I wrote this about Addison Reed:

Aside from a low strand rate (68.5%), high BABIP (.323) and somewhat low K/9 rate (8.84), Reed lived up to his sleeper status. While the K/9 rate was lower than projections, his 22.7 K% was above average – and he did well in getting ahead of hitters with a 66% first strike rate. He showed even more command in a 7.6 BB%. Basically, his 2012 ERA is going to make Reed a huge discount on draft day. There is a legit chance Reed is the most valuable reliever in the AL this season, as he is capable of a 2.70 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 70+ K’s.

As noted, it does appear he is being discounted. Anecdotally, in the fantasy baseball writers mock drafts I’ve done, Reed has gone toward the back tier of closer candidates. Reed was the 153rd pick in a recent 20 team industry draft behind Jim Johnson, Joel Hanrahan, Sergio Romo, Greg Holland and others and just a few picks before Huston Street, Tom Wilhelmsen, Grant Balfour and Jonathan Broxton. Indeed, several rankings have Reed anywhere from the 14th reliever to 20th off the board. At Mock Draft Central, Reed is about the 189th player selected and 23rd RP behind Steve Cishek (who I like), Broxton, Street, Jason Grilli and others.

Unlike some other hurlers, Reed has a decent amount of job security (and little chance of being traded)—Matt Thornton has gotten old/injured, Jesse Crain is injured again and Matt Lindstrom isn’t the greatest pitcher in the world.

Reed just has to handle the second half better and he’ll be a closer dynamo. In the second half of 2012, Reed posted a 17.2% HR/FB rate, which seems a tad high for a reliever with his stuff. His elevated HR rate probably had a decent say in his slightly low strand rate and explains why his FIP, xFIP, etc. are all lower than his ERA.

As the season went on, Reed simply struggled. If you look at Brooks Baseball, Reed began getting hammered on his fourseamer toward the end of the season and suffered a miserable August. For his career, batters bat .308 with a .465 slugging percentage on his fourseam, but, in August last year, they posted a .450 average and .800 slugging percentage. He also got less whiffs on his heater and saw slight declines in his velocity as the season progressed. Not surprisingly, his K% in the second half dipped below 20%.

Quite simply, Reed, facing the highest workload volume of his young career, broke down toward the end of the season. That said, he did improve his walk rate (although that might have to do with him being more hittable) and increased his ground balls (a positive development if it continues for his home ballpark) in 2012’s second half.

Reed also had far better strike-out and walk rates in the minors and maintained some solid first-strike rates in the majors in 2012 (66%). With a full MLB season under his belt, Reed should better be acclimated to the dog days of summer and getting major league hitters out.

Lastly, if you take his one disaster outing away (0.1 innings with six earned runs allowed), you’re looking at a far better ERA with Reed (it would drop to 3.82). The likelihood that a closer would be allowed (or even capable) of giving up 6 runs in an outing seems pretty small.

Certainly, Reed has the background of success to build upon a solid debut season. Fantasy owners who reach a tiny bit for Reed could be rewarded with one of the better relief seasons in the American League this year.

2013 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Guide [Updated 3.15]

Photo Credit: LiveResistance

Photo Credit: LiveResistance

I’ve updated the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Guide . I have edited the sections on:

  • Grant Balfour
  • Luke Hochevar
  • Aroldis Chapman
  • Chris Perez
  • Ryan Madson
  • Carlos Marmol
  • Frank Herrmann
  • Fernando Rodriguez
  • Craig Breslow

You’ll get about 42,000 words on mostly relievers and how they might fit into saves, holds, K/9 and other types of leagues.

For cliff notes, check out here and here, which focused on some sleeper candidates  including Rhiner Cruz, Kelvin Herrera, Carter Capps, Esmil Rogers, Junichi Tazawa, Jake McGee, Tommy Hunter, Cory Burns, A.J. Ramos, Fernando Salas, Josh Edgin, Nick Vincent, Brad Brach, Zach Stewart, Chris Leroux, Raul Valdes, and Adam Ottavino. I also went into some potentially volatile bull pen situations and which relievers might gain value in head-to-head leagues here.

Please, if you spot typos, bring them to my attention (via Facebook [friend me], Twitter or the comments section). I’m horrible at editing myself and have no friends I hate enough to torture by forcing them to edit this tome in a truncated timeline.

The up-to-date guide is herehttps://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw2uHKTMUOAnSzJGazFmSndLTTg/edit

2013 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Guide [Updated 3.7]

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Photo Credit: Keith Allison

I’ve updated the 2013 Relief Pitcher Guide and made it free to everyone via the Fantasy Fix. I have improved on the Trevor Rosenthal, Derek Lowe and Jenrry Mejia sections.

You’ll get about 42,000 words on mostly relievers and how they might fit into saves, holds, K/9 and other types of leagues.

For cliff notes, check out here and here, which focused on some sleeper candidates  including Rhiner Cruz, Kelvin Herrera, Carter Capps, Esmil Rogers, Junichi Tazawa, Jake McGee, Tommy Hunter, Cory Burns, A.J. Ramos, Fernando Salas, Josh Edgin, Nick Vincent, Brad Brach, Zach Stewart, Chris Leroux, Raul Valdes, and Adam Ottavino. I also went into some potentially volatile bull pen situations and which relievers might gain value in head-to-head leagues here.

Please, if you spot typos, bring them to my attention (via Facebook [friend me], Twitter or the comments section). I’m horrible at editing myself and have no friends I hate enough to torture by forcing them to edit this tome in a truncated timeline.

The up-to-date guide is here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw2uHKTMUOAnRldpUXRtejhJOUk/edit?usp=sharing

2013 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Guide [Updated]

Photo Credit: Brule Laker

Photo Credit: Brule Laker

I’ve updated the 2013 Relief Pitcher Guide and made it free to everyone via the Fantasy Fix. You’ll get about 42,000 words on mostly relievers and how they might fit into saves, holds, K/9 and other types of leagues.

For cliff notes, check out here and here, which focused on some sleeper candidates  including Rhiner Cruz, Kelvin Herrera, Carter Capps, Esmil Rogers, Junichi Tazawa, Jake McGee, Tommy Hunter, Cory Burns, A.J. Ramos, Fernando Salas, Josh Edgin, Nick Vincent, Brad Brach, Zach Stewart, Chris Leroux, Raul Valdes, and Adam Ottavino. I also went into some potentially volatile bull pen situations and which relievers might gain value in head-to-head leagues here.

As the constant with bullpens is volatility, this guide will be updated as often as I can and is necessary (for trades, injuries, etc.). March might be an incredibly busy month for me, but continue to check back at the various places it is published: http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/ and http://www.thefantasyfix.com/.

Please, if you spot typos, bring them to my attention (via Facebook [friend me], Twitter or the comments section). I’m horrible at editing myself and have no friends I hate enough to torture by forcing them to edit this tome in a truncated timeline.

The up-to-date guide is herehttps://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw2uHKTMUOAnczhsemJHY3NOUjQ/edit

Beware the Hype Machine: Paul Goldschmidt

Photo credit: Sports Crazy

Photo credit: Sports Crazy

At the tender age of 24, Paul Goldschmidt batted .286/.359/.490 with 20 HRs and 18 SBs (against just three caught stealings). He scored and knocked in 82 runs in just 145 games. This followed up a somewhat impressive debut in 2011, during which he socked eight dingers in just 48 games.

However, there is a reason Goldschmidt only played 145 games last season: he can’t hit righties that well. For his career (520 plate appearances), Goldschmidt has batted .262/.333/.436 against righties in total and has fared worse against righty starting pitchers (.246/.316/.415).

Goldschmidt had the 37th most plate appearances against lefties last year (201). The guys he trailed were either top of the order players who see more at bats or lefties who face LOOGYs more often. Sure, Goldschmidt might see a few more lefties in 2013, but it’s hard to see him getting as many plate appearances against southpaws as someone like Adam Dunn (215), Angel Pagan (224), Ichiro (237), Shin-Soo Choo (242) or Michael Bourn (257). If he can’t get more than 10-15 additional plate appearances against lefties (and that might be a stretch given his noted platoon split), he’ll have to improve against righties to have a comparable season to 2012.

Goldschmidt was shielded nicely against righties by the Diamondbacks last season: he tied for the 118th most plate appearances against righties. He is behind several catchers and a few part-season players (Daniel Murphy, Desmond Jennings, David Murphy, etc.). Clearly, the Diamondbacks were good at maximizing his plate appearances to ensure he faced lefties – however it’s hard to imagine the team producing more lefty opportunities. In addition, you can make the case that the Diamondbacks already see him as a quasi-platoon guy.

Still, a young player entering his early prime who has already hit 20 HRs in a partial season should be due for an improvement, right?

Well, exactly how is he going to improve with his batted ball profile: 36% fly balls and 15.6% HR/FB rate? If those numbers stay the same, you can’t expect an increase in HRs.

Let’s give Goldschmidt a little credit for progression and better taking advantage of his home ball park. Over the last three seasons, I pulled every qualified player who posted a fly ball rate between 36-46% and a HR/FB rate between 16-20%. There were 17 of these players. Over the three years, they average 80 HRs (so roughly 27 per season). Albert Pujols (40% FBs, 17% HR/FB rate), Prince Fielder (36.6% FBs and 19.3% HR/FB) and Ryan Braun (36.7% FBs and 18.5% HR/FB) led the way in terms of mass HRs.

For the most part, this group is supported by guys with FB% above 41.1%. They have the fourth most, sixth most, eight most, 10th most and 11th most HRs of the groups. If we remove them from the equation we get 26 HRs per season.

Still, the HRs have also been unnaturally held down by some injured players. If we remove recent call-ups or guys who didn’t play full seasons, we’re left with six reasonable proximities to an enhanced Goldschmidt (FB% from 36.6 – 40.8% & HR/FB rates from 16.9 – 19.5%). This group averaged 32 HRs per season – not bad. So, if Goldschmidt can hit a few more fly balls and a good bit more leave the park, you’re looking at 30+ HRs. This is by far the glorified projection, i.e., what would happen if everything goes right and a little luck goes his way.

However, what if Goldschmidt doesn’t improve? There are six players with a FB% between 36% and 37.9% and HR/FB rate between 14% and 16%: Lance Berkman, Alex Rodriguez, Matt Holliday, Rickie Weeks, Kelly Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman.

Holliday could be an interesting comparison to Goldschmidt. Since 2010:

Name HR HR:Games SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG FB% HR/FB
Holliday

77

.18

15

10.9%

16.9%

.216

.333

.302

36.9%

15.7%

Goldschmidt

28

.15

22

10.5%

24%

.209

.337

.278

36%

15.6%

If the power isn’t a lock, you’re relying on 20 SBs for value. Well, he stole 13 in 2011 and 5 in 2010. In short, we have no clue what kind of steals Goldschmidt is going to accumulate. Banking on anything over 12-15 seems silly.Both Holliday and Goldschmidt are close when it comes to HRs per game, BB%, BABIP, FB% and HR/FB rate. Certainly Holliday is aging and Goldschmidt is on the upswing of his career, but Goldschmidt strikes out a good bit more, which mitigates the better contact he gets (Goldschmidt has a far better line drive rate). If Goldschmidt doesn’t improve, you’re looking at Matt Holliday, who has averaged 26 HRs over the past three seasons and that isn’t special for a first baseman. Ten first basemen hit 25+ HRs last season; 14 1Bs hit 25+ HRs in 2011; and 12 1Bs hit 25+ HRs in 2010.

Lastly, it took a .340 BABIP to sustain a .286 batting average last season. He put some good contact on pitches, but hasn’t shown this sort of BABIP at any level. In addition, a .340 BABIP is pretty hard to maintain – just 19 qualified hitters have a .340 or better BABIP since 2010. In addition, if he is going to pack on the fly balls for power, he’s going to have to give up some of those line drives. So, if you get your HRs, it’s going to come with his batting average going down.

There are certainly scenarios that aren’t a leap of faith where Goldschmidt bats .285 with 32 HRs and 20 SBs. However, there are far more reasonable scenarios in which Goldschmidt continues to struggle against righties, gets fewer and fewer at bats, and ends up with a .275 average, 26 HRs and 12 SBs. Those are still good numbers, however they aren’t overly exceptional for a first baseman and certainly no better than a poor projection for Edwin Encarnacion. Heck, Josh Reddick hit 32 HRs and stole 11 bases last season. Carlos Beltran hit 32 HRs and stole 13 bases; Chase Headley went 31/17; B.J. Upton went 28/31; Jason Heyward went 27/21; Aramis Ramirez went 27/9; Aaron Hill went 26/14; Hanley Ramirez went 24/21; Jimmy Rollins went 23/30; Yoenis Cespedes went 23/16; Bryce Harper went 22/18; etc.

Basically, 25/15 guys aren’t that few and far between and you can get them at shallower positions. Drafting Goldschmidt, who is unproven, over most of the above and several others confuses me.

Even if we take his most optimistic projections from Fangraphs: 29 HRs, 105 runs, 109 RBIs, 15 SBs and .284 average, is he that exceptional? Last season, those would put him 27th in HRs, sixth in runs, seventh in RBIs, 47th in SBs and 51st in average. Considering the runs/RBIs seem a tad ridiculous and they are his only top 25 output, perhaps he isn’t a top 25 hitter, let alone player.

If we give Goldschmidt a more conservative, but still above average projection—85 runs, 29 HRs, 105 RBIs, .275 average and 12 SBs—how does he stack up against first basemen last season (who had 20 plate appearances)? Fifth in runs, ninth in HRs, fourth in RBIs, 18th in average and fourth in SBs. The average clearly hurts and, at best, you can make an argument that he is the fifth best first baseman. Is the fifth best first baseman worth a top 20 pick? That’s up to you.