I don’t know about you, but I hate getting hurt. I mean, I really hate it when I get hurt. The occurence is far from rare in my life; I’ve had surgery on my left elbow (bone spur), left knee (torn meniscus) and right shoulder (torn labrum) twice. Hell, I even have a metal anchor keeping the loose flap of cartilage down in my shoulder. It wasn’t until recently that learned how to keep a lot of recurring pain away.
With fantasy baseball, though, you start hating it when other people get hurt, namely the big studs on your roster who you drafted early. Last year, I took Jose Reyes as my first-round pick (fourth overall) and not only did Reyes go down for the rest of the year in early May, the rest of my team resembled the Mets M*A*S*H-unit: Ian Kinsler, Nate McLouth, Roy Oswalt, Aramis Ramirez, Joey Votto and so-on and so-on. Now this year, I already had seen Brett Anderson and Miguel Montero miss most of the year when the worst news hit on Thursday:
Colorado SS Troy Tulowitzki was placed on the DL with a fractured left wrist. Expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. My reaction?
Yeah, I guess you could say I was not terribly pleased with that news. But this is a point in the season that can determine whether or not you are, in fact, a good fantasy owner: a top player on your team in a shallow position goes down with a long-term injury. What do you do? How will you recover…if at all?
First things are first: who got hurt? If the answer is a first baseman or outfielder, you’ve got plenty of secondary options available. But, if the player in question is a shortstop or catcher, things get very difficult. Not only are there very few reliable options available in the free agent pool, but if you were to explore a trade for a replacement, the person you’d try to bargain with can command a higher-than-normal asking price. Simple supply-demand logic.
To combat this problem, you have to anticipate the catastrophic injury before it happens–and with injury-prone positions like catcher and shortstop, it would behoove one to do so. Every week or so, look through the free agent pool at the positions in question and add whichever players look interesting to your scout team or watch list. As the season goes on, if some players’ production tails off, don’t think you’re obligated to keep them on your watch list. I find that if you remove the failing players and keep the ones who are succeeding, you eliminate unnecessary options that could make you over-think your decision, make you hesitate and eventually lead you into selecting a regrettable choice.
Another thing to keep in mind is to lower your expectations for your replacement player, whether you’re activating him from the bench or picking him up out of the free agent pool. As in the case of Tulowitzki, you almost will certainly not find another shortstop capable of posting an OPS north of .850. The focus should be on finding a player who has shown a history of–and gives you a legitimate reason to believe–putting up above-average numbers. Then there are the usual splits you hopefully already consider when making any personnel move: how Player X does in such-and-such a month? Is Player X a first-half or second-half player? Who is batting ahead and/or behind Player X in the order? You get the picture.
Lastly, consider how much time your injured stud will miss. If he’s on the 15-day DL and not expected to stay beyond that amount of time, picking up a flavor-of-the-week won’t hurt you. But if the fallen soldier in question is set to miss a month or two of action, target more players who have a history of sustained production.
Will there be some compromise involved? Of course. Are you sorely lacking in one category or another? That would certainly come into play during the decision-making process. Also, consider where you are in the standings. If you’re far ahead or way behind, your decision probably won’t carry as much weight as it would if you were a game out of the playoffs or were holding on to first place by a thread.
- C: Carlos Santana — 5-for-6, HR, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 3 BB, K, R
- 1B: Justin Smoak — 7-for-14, 2 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBI, BB, 2 K, 4 R
- 2B: Chase Utley — 6-for-14, HR, 3B, 2B, 7 RBI, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 R
- 3B: Chipper Jones — 5-for-9, 0 HR, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, SB, 3 R
- SS: Jose Reyes — 4-for-13, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, K, 3 R
- OF: Andrew McCutchen — 2-for-8, 0 HR, 3B, RBI, 5 BB, 2 K, SB, 6 R
- OF: Josh Hamilton — 9-for-15, 0 HR, 3B, 2B, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 4 R
- OF: Carl Crawford — 7-for-13, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB, 2 CS, 5 R
- UTL: Matt Holliday — 8-for-12, 4 HR, 2B, 8 RBI, 0 BB, 2 K, 4 R
- SP: Felix Hernandez — W, CG, QS, 9 IP, R, 5 H (no XBH), BB, WP, 9 K, 116/81 P/S
- SP: Carl Pavano — W, CG, QS, 9 IP, R, 4 H, 0 BB, HR, HBP, 2 K, 105/76 P/S
- SP: Jake Peavy — W, SHO, QS, 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 107/71 P/S
- SP: Cliff Lee — W, SHO, QS, 9 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, WP, 7 K, 110/79 P/S
- RP: Billy Wagner — 3 G, 1-0, 2 SV, 3 IP, 0 R 2 H, BB, 4 K
- RP: Jose Valverde — 2 G, 2 SV, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K
- Bench: Miguel Montero – C, Ryan Howard – CI, Dustin Pedroia – MI, Corey Hart – OF, Torii Hunter – OF, Max Scherzer – SP, Josh Johnson – SP, CC Sabathia – SP, Jonathan Papelbon – RP
- OF Nelson Cruz (15-day DL, torn left hamstring; continuing rehab program … may return for June 22-24 series vs. Pirates)
- 3B Aramis Ramirez (15-day DL, left thumb contusion; began rehab on June 19 with Class A Peoria … eligible to return Wednesday, June 23)
- SS Troy Tulowitzki (15-day DL, broken left wrist; out until late July-early August)
- SS Erick Aybar (day-to-day, torn right meniscus; doubtful for June 22-24 series vs. Dodgers … plan of action unknown)
- OF J.D. Drew (day-to-day, strained right hamstring)
- OF Carlos Gonzalez (day-to-day, jammed left knee; missed games on June 18-20)
- OF Austin Jackson (day-to-day, back spasms; missed games on June 18-20)
- RP Bobby Jenks (day-to-day, soreness; held of out Sunday’s game … White Sox would not disclose further information about Jenks’ condition)
- SS Derek Jeter (day-to-day, bruised heel; held out of Saturday’s game, but returned on Sunday)
- C Jorge Posada (day-to-day, hairline fracture in right foot; questionable for June 22-24 series vs. Diamondbacks and possibly beyond)
- SS Hanley Ramirez (day-to-day, tight right hamstring; left Saturday’s game and sat on Sunday … status for June 22-24 series vs. Baltimore unknown)
- 3B Alex Rodriguez (day-to-day, hip; manager Joe Girardi said team will be cautious with Rodriguez during June 22-24 series vs. Diamondbacks)
- RP David Aardsma is NOT hurt or anything, but his wife is expecting their first child any day now (congrats, D & A!), so he may abruptly leave during the middle of game. Also, if his performance isn’t what it usually is, realize that there may be more pressing matters on his mind, so don’t go cutting him on a whim.
I’m starting to believe that the Blue Jays have it in for The Men Who Laugh, I really do. I draft Adam Lind in the third round and he performs like someone taken in the 30th round. I pick up Jose Bautista as he’s starting to get hot, cut him when he cools down a little, then he goes bonkers the very day I release him for Travis Snider (who gets DL’d the very next day). I hesitate for a day on Ricky Romero and miss out on one of the best pitchers in the AL. Now, I cut a then-slumping John Buck on Monday morning and he proceeds to score 27 points this week while I start Ivan Rodriguez (2 pts) and sit Miguel Montero (24.5 pts).
Still, I managed to pull out a come-from-behind victory, thanks in part to McCutchen and Neftali Feliz, who as a closer, outscored all but one of my opponents players. You know what they say: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
One of the most perplexing things about baseball is how some players quickly emerge into the forefront without any prior warning or hype. The poster boy for this is, and probably forever will be, Albert Pujols, who burst into the big leagues in 2001 after being drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. The odds of that happening again are just a little bit more likely than Ronnie James Dio (a Yankees fan) going on the OzzFest tour this summer, but there usually are one or two players who put on a good show out of the blue.
Well, in this case, out of the Blue Jays. This year’s best out-of-nowhere (OON) player probably is Toronto 3B/OF Jose Bautista, who somehow has hit 14 home runs to tie Paul Konerko for the Major League-lead despite maxing out at 16 homers in 117 games in 2006 with the Pirates.
Bautista shares a common theme with most OON players (with Pujols being a major outlier) in that he’s closer to 30 (29, to be accurate) than he is to 20, much like Vinny Castilla (27), Luis Gonzalez (30), Jayson Werth (29) and Ben Zobrist (27)*. Not only that, but each of these players saw a decrease in their strikeout percentage (however small it was) in their breakout season as opposed to the season before. But this is where Bautista’s case takes a unique turn.
With all of the above-metioned players, their breakout seasons featured solid, respectable ISO’s (ISO – isolated power, helps measure a player’s raw power) with figures ranging from .208 (Gonzalez) to .246 (Zobrist). Bautista, on the other hand, flies well above this level as his ISO today stands at an incredible .327, third-highest in baseball behind Andre Ethier‘s .352 and Konerko’s .340. To give you a better idea, Pujols’ career ISO is .292, and every time Pujols’ ISO was higher than .300, he hit at least 43 home runs (four seasons total).
The next stat trend (BABIP) is a little more strange. During their breakout seasons, most of these batters–along with many other similar players–posted BABIPs (measures how well a batter hits when he makes contact,or, the efficiency of a defense turning batted balls into outs) north of .310, with the lone exception in our case being Gonzalez and his .262 BABIP. Bautista’s BABIP is an abysmally low .230, 47 points below his career average! Not only that, but his line drive-percentage has dropped (15.1 career to 13.4 in ’10) while his fly ball- and HR/FB percentages have spiked (43.6 – 52.0, and 11.5 to 21.2, respectively). Such rates are rarified air, usually traveled by players like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.
The last thing that jumped out at me was his plate discipline. According to his player page on FanGraphs.com, Bautista is swinging at far more pitches outside the zone and making less contact on those swings. Conversely, he’s swinging at fewer pitches inside the zone, but connecting on those swings at a much higher rate.
So what gives? What can we make of these trends that seemingly pull us in different directions? This morning, I was looking through Buster Olney’s daily blog and saw he wrote about a possible explanation for Bautista’s emergence. Here’s a clip from that entry:
“In the midst of last season, Dwayne Murphy, the Jays’ first base coach at the time, talked with Bautista on the bench about starting his swing a little sooner. ‘There was something in the way he told me,” Bautista recalled. “He worded things differently, in a way I could understand.’
“So Bautista began working on starting his swing sooner. Until that point in his career, Bautista began his swing mechanics — the lift of his front foot, the cocking of his hands — as the opposing pitcher drew his pitching arm through his motion. What Bautista began to do is start his hitting mechanics just as the pitcher started: Bautista began lifting his front foot as the pitcher’s motion began, as if in sync.
“The benefit did not come immediately. The whole thing felt awkward, and Bautista struggled to feel comfortable. ‘I had some days when I felt even worse,’ Bautista said.
“…on Sept. 10, 2009, Bautista smashed a double and a homer and felt much better. Soon, he could not imagine how he had ever hit with his old swing.”
This revelation about a change in batting stance brings me back to Gonzalez in 1998. Before, Gonzo used to have a fairly normal batting stance that produced respectable, but not incredible results. It was during this time that he gradually opened his stance up so that his hips at the start of his stance were on an angle pretty much between the mound and the first base-foul line. From 1998 to 2005, Gonzalez was one of the best hitters in baseball, batting .295/.385/.523 with 247 home runs, 345 doubles and 845 RBIs in one season with the Tigers and eight with the Diamondbacks.
So am I saying Bautista is the next Gonzalez? Not quite, since after all, we’re not even though the first full year of the change and haven’t seen if pitchers have figured out how to exploit whatever weaknesses this approach may have. But, I will say this: the only other third base-eligible players putting up more points than Bautista are Kevin Youkilis and Evan Longoria. Only Ryan Braun is ahead of Bautista in production amongst outfielders. That doesn’t just make Bautista a must-own, he is a must-start-now.
* (note – These players were chosen at random and do not constitute an expected range of performance. They only serve as recent comparisons; points of reference rather than absolute gospel.)
This is a new section I’m going to put in all W.M.‘s from now on, letting people who weren’t able to follow games this weekend know who incurred any injuries between Friday and Sunday. The type of injury, if known, will be listed and anyone placed on the 15- or 60-day DL during this time span will be listed first and in bold. All listing will be in alphabetical order. And since this is a new section, it will probably have a couple tweaks here and there until it can be at its most useful format.
- Homer Bailey (tightness in right shoulder — 15-day DL)
- John Maine (right shoulder weakness — 15-day DL)
- Brad Penny (strained right latissimus dorsi — 15-day DL)
- Ivan Rodriguez (strained back — 15-day DL)
- Jimmy Rollins (strained right calf — 15-day DL)
- Carlos Gonzalez (strained left wrist)
- Denard Span (bruised right shoulder)
Bringing this article back full circle, I have a confession to make: I am a complete idiot, rock-head, dope and whatever else you can throw at me that’s fit to print. You know how I just spent the majority of this post espousing the hitting wonder that is Jose Bautista? You do?
Well, I had him and I released him a week and a half ago for Travis Snider.
Who went on the DL the very next day.
The fact that I won this past week is an absolute miracle, given I started an outfield of Carlos Gonzalez (ugh), Garrett Jones (meh) and Denard Span (yay…aw, crap) while Tommy Hanson laid a nice little stink bomb that cost me 11 points. And yet, somehow, I’m 4-3 despite having the fewest home runs and third-worst slugging percentage in my 12-team mixed league.
Just goes to show you that even the so-called “experts” can also double as those people you see trying to push a door open when it clearly reads “pull.”