Tagged: Vladimir Guerrero

Weekend Matters, June 14

This past weekend was practically the perfect storm for fantasy owners in keeper leagues. Not only did ballyhoo’d pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg make his encore appearance on Sunday against the Indians, but the top hitting prospect (Florida’s Mike Stanton) and the top catching prospect (Cleveland’s Carlos Santana) also enjoyed a productive first weekend in the big leagues.

Every few years or so, there seems to be a huge bumper crop in top-flight rookies. 2006 had a ridiculous year that included the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman and Justin Verlander (to name a few). There were a couple guys named Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki who topped eventual interlopers like CC Sabathia, Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins and Adam Dunn in 2001. And with Jason Heyward, Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Justin Smoak and Neftali Feliz having major impacts in the game during their freshman campaigns, 2010 is looking to be very similar to ’06 and ’01.

For now, though, let’s take a look at how these three uber-prospects fared this past weekend. And just a word of warning: these three players have not been in the big leagues for very long, making for small and unreliable sample sizes. The numbers may eventually prove to be accurate, but there simply is not enough Major League data to make solid guesses/estimates. Proceed with caution!

Santana

Carlos Santana 1.JPGAs much as Indians fans may be missing Victor Martinez at the plate (though him behind it is another matter, altogether…), this kid isn’t too bad himself. While his debut wasn’t much to write home about (0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored on June 11 against the Nationals), he exploded in Game 2 by going 2-for-4 (first hit: double) with a home run, three RBIs and a run scored, then got a hit and a walk off Strasburg on Sunday. And one of the best parts about his first three games is that he has yet to strike out.

(Now watch him go on a horrid, Mark Reynolds-like stretch where he whiffs once every three at-bats.)

In all seriousness, though, one of Santana’s better qualities is his discerning eye. Starting in 2006, Santana’s walk rate in the Minor Leagues improved every season. His strikeout rates have been a little more mercurial, but have never topped 20 percent over a full season. This is good news for fantasy owners in leagues that value walks and/or on-base percentage because in an Indians lineup that has just Shin-Soo Choo as it’s lone legitimate threat, it would be safe to say that Santana will encounter his fair share of walks, since the 24-year-old backstop has clearly demonstrated he has power from both sides of the plate.

Now three games is an awfully small sample size to judge how Santana’s skills will translate at the big league-level (a hurdle all three of the featured players will encounter), but so far, the numbers Santana is providing don’t seem to be out of line with his skill set. He’s only swung at 29.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone (comp: Vlad Guerrero leads baseball by offering at 49.5 percent of pitches outside the zone), and when he does swing at pitches inside the zone–55 percent, BTW–he puts the bat on the ball 90.9 percent of the time, so it seems as if he’s making good decisions at the plate, so far.

Stanton

Mike Stanton 2.jpgDoes this guy have rotten timing to make a debut or what? The same day he goes 3-for-5 with two runs scored and almost gets the go-ahead hit, the guy at the end of this list not only makes his MLB debut, but decides to strike out over half-a-dozen batters in less than 100 pitches. This past weekend wasn’t that bad, either: 4-for-10 with a triple, a double, four RBIs, three walks, four strikeouts, two steals and two runs scored in three games against a tough Tampa Bay pitching staff.

And keep in mind this: he won’t be able to buy a drink until just before this Thanksgiving. There is little debate about Stanton’s power. After clubbing 89 bombs in 323 Minor League games (13.4 HR/AB), people would have possibly started talking about his hitting exploits the same way they talk about Chuck Norris “facts.”

Stanton’s biggest flaw, though, is his propensity for strikeouts. Throughout his Minor League career, Stanton struck out 371 times in 1,392 plate appearances, which comes out to him striking out in 26.7 percent of his PAs. 2008 was especially harsh for the Marlins’ 2007 second-round draftee, when he collected 153 whiffs in 540 plate appearances (28.3 percent). Obviously, this is a big red flag because even though he will get his home runs (and they will come), all those missed swings will greatly hold back his batting average and, in turn, limit his batting average and RBI opportunities.

There is plenty of hope on the horizon, though. The majority of those strikeouts came while he was just a teenager and after initially struggling in his first go-around in Double-A Jacksonville last season, Stanton made the necessary adjustments to boost his batting average from .231 to .311 at the time of his call-up. His strikeout rate fell from 99/341 (29 percent) in 2009 to 53/238 (22.3 percent), while his walk rate bumped up from 31/341 (9.1 percent) to 44/238 (18.5 percent). He also is not only an outfielder–limiting the amount of wear and tear on his body–but he is also a highly-rated defensive outfielder, too.

Many scouts and analysts say that right now, Stanton projects to be a Ryan Howard-type player from the right side: a ton of power to go with a ton of strikeouts. But, if he continues to improve on his plate discipline and you add in the element of speed (he already has two steals and a triple, and is considered one of the best overall athletes in the game right now), keeper league Stanton owners may have one of the most valuable players not named Heyward.

Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg 2.jpgC’mon, did you honestly think I’d make it to the end of June without looking into the kid. I mean, The Associated Press only compared him to Walter Johnson after his historic start last Tuesday. Thankfully, some of the hysteria has died down a little, especially after the more realistic outing he had yesterday against the Indians. Yes, his fastball hits 100 mph and “drops” to the upper-90s late in the game. Yes, his changeup can clock in at 91 mph (somewhere, Jamie Moyer just suddenly felt sad and doesn’t know why). And yes, his curveball would probably make Bert Blyleven jealous. But just for a moment, let’s go beyond that and see how Mr. Precedent gets things done.

In my hapkido (a Korean martial art) class, my master constantly preaches about how technique is “the ability to control your opponent.” Controlling his opponent is what Strasburg–and every other pitcher, for that matter–sets out to do in every at-bat, and that starts with throwing first-pitch strikes. Through two games, Strasburg pumps in a first-pitch strike 61.7 percent of the time, an astounding rate for a young power pitcher. Just to serve as frames of reference, only 30 eligible starters have higher FPS rates (Cliff Lee leads the Majors with a 71 percent mark) and names such as Sabathia, Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver and David Price lag behind Strasburg’s mark.

All these strikeouts are great, for the fans, the TV ratings and fantasy owners of Strasburg, but we all know what happens when great young arms quickly pile up the whiffs. Probably no one knows this better than Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, who, as skipper of the Cubs back in 1998, witnessed both the meteoric rise and fall of Kerry Wood within a span of 14 or so months. Riggleman told Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell that while the strikeouts are nice, “it’s better to get three outs on 12 pitches than three strikeouts on 18 pitches.” Of course, this was said prior to Strasburg’s first start, when he had his cake and ate it, too.

Of the 36 outs Strasburg has recorded in his big league career, 22 were via the strikeout, nine on groundouts and five on flyouts. It would be impossible to expect the San Diego State alumnus to routinely rack up double-digit strikeout games without breaking the 100-pitch barrier, so for this year and possibly next, fantasy Strasburg owners (especially keepers) should go against their nature and hope he doesn’t collect too many K’s. Simply put, Mr. Precedent won’t turn 22 until the end of July and his body isn’t yet conditioned to handle a Major League season yet. Fewer strikeouts mean fewer total pitches he uses and less stress he will put his arm under.

But then again, his stuff is just soooooooooo good that he doesn’t even have to try to get the strikeouts. They will just simple come.

Roster Matters

Lineup card 2.jpgAnother new addition here at The Fact of the Matter. This will list 24 players (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, three OFs, DH/UTL, four SPs, two RPs, nine bench players) who I felt did the best between the previous Friday-Sunday period. I mean, this is Weekend Matters, right? But, as a caveat, I may not include players who had one really incredible day and were either mediocre or flat-out bad the other two days. If you feel anyone was egregiously left out, please, by all means, voice your concerns!

Injury Matters


  • Injuries.jpgSP Rich Harden
    (strained gluteus muscle, 15-day DL; put on list on Saturday)
  • 2B Orlando Hudson (wrist, 15-day DL; may return for June 15-17 series vs. Colorado)
  • SS Jimmy Rollins (calf, 15-day DL; starts rehab assignment on June 15 … may return for June 18-20 series vs. Minnesota)
  • RP Huston Street (shoulder, 15-day DL; continuing rehab assignment with Triple-A Colorado Springs)
  • SP Edinson Volquez (right elbow, 60-day DL; begins rehab assignment on June 17 with Class A Dayton)
  • 3B Chipper Jones (finger; doubtful for June 15-17 series vs. Tampa Bay … whispers of retirement after season?)
  • 2B Brandon Phillips (tight right hamstring; missed Sunday’s game … questionable for June 17-19 series vs. LA Dodgers)
  • 3B Alex Rodriguez (hip; claims to be unrelated to ’09 surgery, questionable for June 17-19 series vs. Philadelphia)
  • SS Troy Tulowitzki (strained groin on Saturday; available to play on Tuesday)
  • 1B Kevin Youkilis (back spasms, HBP near right elbow Saturday; missed Sunday’s game)
  • C Miguel Montero returned from 15-day DL on Saturday.

– ME

Alphabet Soup in a Numbers Game

Hey everyone, I apologize for the gap in entries. As everyone knows, sometimes life can get in the way every once in a while. That and the martial art of hapkido has some rather painful techniques for the fingers & thumbs. Ouch. I think the length and depth of this entry should make up for it, though.

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For about 99 percent of fantasy leagues, there are only a few set of statistics that we care about. For hitting, it’s usually batting average (BA), home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), runs (R) and stolen bases (SB). On the mound, it’s the earned run average (ERA), walks-plus-hits by innings pitched (WHIP), strikeouts (K), wins (W) and saves (SV). Nothing earth-shattering with that. The problem we all encounter is trying to find and acquire those players who can give us the best overall production before anyone else can find them.

This is partially the reason why we have sabermetrics: to accurately gauge a player’s true value and estimate his most likely levels of production in the future.

Albert Einstein.jpgThe problem with all these new-fangled stats and metrics is two-fold: one, there’s about a million different statistics to choose from and two, many of them employ formulas that would give Albert Einstein–let alone Albert Pujols–a strong migraine. After playing fantasy baseball for almost 10 years now, even I still have trouble trying to figure out how to come up with a player’s VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) and what constitutes a good figure.

And that’s the biggest dilemma for most fantasy players: they are too intimidated by the complexity of these metrics to understand them, give up and hope they make the right personnel decisions. When it comes to making my roster choices, I’ve narrowed it down to six categories I feel most comfortable with. Now, these aren’t necessarily the absolute best categories to use, but it all comes down to what an individual feels most comfortable with. So here we go…

(All stats accurate on morning of June 2. Also of note: some of the leaders of these stats are not very surprising. The goal of giving you this information is to help you in waiver-wire decisions or in judging whether a trade is in your favor or not. You should know by now that some times the smallest, seemingly most insignificant transactions hold major implications for the rest of the season…and your team’s chances of making the playoffs.)

Strikeout rate (K%) & walk rate (BB%)

This will probably be the easiest out of all of the statistics I will show you. Quite simply, it measures how often a batter strikes out or walks based on his total plate appearances. While you can usually tell if a full-time player strikes out/walks a lot just by looking at his numbers, it’s more difficult to tell with batters who have far less playing time, or during the first part of the season, where everyone is trying to figure out what level everyone else is at.

For me, it allows me to figure out who is more prone to long slumps and who can still provide value, in terms of steals and runs, when they aren’t hitting well. 

Highest K% — BB%

  1. Mark Reynolds (39.6) — Chipper Jones (20.3)
  2. Colby Rasmus (36.4) — Kevin Youkilis (19.1)
  3. Will Venable (36.0) — Josh Willingham (18.8)

Lowest K% — BB%

  1. David Eckstein (2.7) — Adam Jones (2.3)
  2. Jeff Keppinger (5.2) — Aaron Rowand (3.0)
  3. A.J. Pierzynski (6.4) — Ryan Theriot (3.2)

 


Vladimir Guerrero 2.jpgO-Swing Pct. (O-Sw%) & Z-Swing Pct. (Z-Sw%)

These stats are fairly straight-forward, too–how often does a batter swing at a pitch outside or inside the strike zone–but it carries more weight than the previous metric. Batters who tend to have higher O-Sw percentages are the ones who expand their strike zone, therefore increasing the likelihood of putting themselves in pitcher-favorable counts, making poor contact and/or striking out. In short, this shows how well-disciplined a hitter is.

The caveat here is that not all pitches inside the strike zone are very hittable and not all pitches outside the strike zone are unhittable.

 

Highest O-Sw% — Z-Sw%

  1. Vladimir Guerrero (50.4) — Josh Hamilton (80.9)
  2. Pablo Sandoval (43.3) — Guerrero (80.8)
  3. Jeff Francoeur (43.2) — Francoeur (80.5)

Lowest O-Sw% — Z-Sw% 

  1. Daric Barton (15.1) — Brett Gardner (43.4)
  2. Bobby Abreu (15.3) — Abreu (48.9)
  3. Marco Scutaro (15.6) — Elvis Andrus (49.8)

Contact rate (Ct%)

Once again, here’s another verrrrrry easy stat to understand (noticing an underlying theme here?). But just for the point of stating the obvious, this stat measures how often a batter makes contact with the ball on every swing. Now that wasn’t too hard, was it? And the leaders…

Highest Ct% — Lowest Ct%

  1. Juan Pierre (96.3) — Reynolds (63.5)
  2. Luis Castillo (95.8) — Justin Upton (69.1)
  3. Scutaro (95.4) — Ryan Howard (69.7)

OK, Player X almost always makes contact on every swing while Player Z looks like he’s up at the plate with half a broomstick. So what? Well, Mr. You’re-So-Smart, if you notice the pattern of player types at each end of the list, you’ll notice that this significantly impacts two major fantasy categories: runs and RBIs.

First, you’ll see that the guys at the top of the Ct%-leaderboard are mostly table-setters: the guys whose incredible ability to put the bat on the ball is their primary reason for gainful employment. In most instances, the guys who make more contact stand a better chance to get on base, swipe a few bags (provided they have the speed and awareness necessary) and score runs! The players at the bottom of this barrel are, for the most part, the hard-hitting run-producers who sacrifice a controlled, accurate swing for a faster, more powerful and less-accurate hack in order to drive the ball.

If your team is greatly lacking in runs scored, start looking for any free agents who swing and miss less than 16 percent of the time (86 Ct%) and (don’t forget!) bat in front of players who can reliably drive them in. Should your team be deficient in RBIs, take the opposite approach. And should you find a player who combines both a high Ct% and a favorable figure of the next stat, well, you better not let him go…at least without getting someone at least just as good in return.

Isolated power (ISO)

Corey Hart 1.jpgMost of us know that a guy with high slugging percentage is the guy you want if you’re looking for home runs, RBIs and total bases. But SLG is flawed in two ways: one, guys with high batting averages pumped up by lots of singles (see Suzuki, Ichiro) can sometimes appear to be semi-sluggers, or players mired in slumps will overly defleat their SLG. Secondly, SLG treats a triple the same way as a double or a home run when, in fact, a triple is more the result of a player’s speed rather than power. ISO helps whittle away some of the mitigating factors that go into SLG.

Now here comes the hard part, the first formula of the entry. The simple version is taking the SLG and subtract the BA from it: ISO = SLG – BA (ex: .658 – .347 = .311, Miguel Cabrera). The more advanced formula goes a little like this (remember, do the work inside the parenthesis first: ISO = (2B + 3B + (HR*3)) / AB (ex: 10 + 3 + (10*3) = 43 / 164 = .262, Jason Heyward).

As far as gauging a an acceptable figure, a slightly above-average ISO falls somewhere between the .175-.200 mark while an average figure is around .150-.175 or so. The leaderboard I’m showing you is from FanGraphs.com, which uses the traditional formula.

Highest ISO — Lowest ISO

  1. Jose Bautista (.344) — Ryan Theriot (.029)
  2. Corey Hart (.331) — Pierre (.030)
  3. Justin Morneau (.313) — Castillo (.035)
  4. Miguel Cabrera (.311) — Andrus (.038)
  5. Scott Rolen (.302) — Gordon Beckham (.042)

Batting Average, Balls In Play (BABIP)

Ubaldo Jimenez 1.jpgWhen this stat was first introduced, most people assumed that this would be a great tool in assessing a hitter’s value. But when the stat was explored a little more closely, it was revealed that there are way too many variables involved with this stat to have any strong corelation to a hitter’s performance. Buuuuuuuuut, this new metric did have its usefulness with pitchers and team defense.

In its essence, BABIP demonstrates how effectively a defense can turn balls hit in the field of play into outs, and in a round-about way, how difficult it is for a batter to make solid contact against a pitcher. This cuts out obvious things such as home runs, strikeouts and walks. The way you get this figure is pretty similar to getting a batting average, only with a couple wrinkles: BABIP = (H – HR) / (AB – K – HR + SF) (ex: [45 – 1 =] 44 / [268 – 70 -1 +0 =] 197 = .223, Ubaldo Jimenez).

The lower the number, the better it is for the pitcher and the higher, the better for the batter, with a league average hovering around the .300 mark. Rule of thumb (tntried to find a cleaned-up Boondock Saints link for that term, but couldn’t get one!) is that if a pitcher’s BABIP is either extremely low or high, he’s gone through a fairly (un)lucky stretch and is due for a return to the mean later on that season or the next. And should you notice one of your pitchers sporting a really nice BABIP, but is walking more and striking out fewer batters than usual, much like the second-ranked starter on the following list, it may be time to see if there are any takers for this particular hurler.

Highest BABIP — Lowest BABIP, Starters

  1. Justin Masterson (.404) — Jimenez (.223)
  2. Brian Matusz (.359) — Tim Hudson (.225)
  3. Zach Duke (.359) — Livan Hernandez (.229)
  4. Gavin Floyd (.355) — Jason Vargas (.236)
  5. Wandy Rodriguez (.351) — Matt Cain (.237)

Highest BABIP — Lowest BABIP, Closers

  1. Chad Qualls (.476) — Jose Valverde (.159)
  2. Bobby Jenks (.450) — Mariano Rivera (.182)
  3. Brian Wilson (.424) — Manny Corpas (.186)
  4. Heath Bell (.387) — Jonathan Papelbon (.196)
  5. Matt Lindstrom (.372) — Rafael Soriano (.218)

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

The last stat for the day is probably also one of the more telling when it comes to pitching. You know how you see a pitcher’s ERA and you absolutely know that he is much better/worse than what it says? Well, this nifty metric helps trim away the grizzle and fat. Basically, what this stat does is eliminate the things pitchers cannot control and zeros in on the things he does: strikeouts, walks, home runs and hit batters (similar to the “Three True Outcomes” for hitters). The formula, though, is a little difficult to digest, though: FIP = (13*HR + 3*(HBP + BB – IBB) – 2*K) / IP +3.10

I’ll give you a minute to process that jumble of letters, numbers and other doo-wackies.

Javier Vazquez 1.jpgOK, done yet? Good. Now I would absolutely love to tell you how the creator of this stat, “Tom Tango” (yes, that is an alias), but I just don’t think I have the requisite brain power to figure that out. The good thing about this stat is that it operates at the same scale as ERA; someone with a 3.00 ERA is really good, someone with a 4.25 is OK and someone with a FIP above 6.00 is probably Javy Vazquez as a Yankee.

Highest FIP — Lowest FIP, Starter

  1. David Huff (6.01) — Roy Halladay (2.39)
  2. David Bush (5.66) — Francisco Liriano (2.41)
  3. Rich Harden (5.56) — Jimenez (2.62)
  4. Wade Davis (5.49) — Josh Johnson (2.69)
  5. Freddy Garcia (5.41) — Adam Wainwright (2.73)

Highest FIP — Lowest FIP, Closer

  1. Trevor Hoffman (9.06) — Jonathan Broxton (0.63)
  2. Papelbon (4.98) — Matt Thornton (1.08)
  3. David Aardsma (4.40) — Wilson (1.43)
  4. Francisco Cordero (4.34) — Carlos Marmol (1.79)
  5. Qualls (4.19) — Bell (1.98)

Well, hopefully you were able to get some useful information out of this. Like I said before, there are a lot of other statistics out there, and some may be easier to understand for some more than others.

 

– ME

Balancing Passion and Reason

There’s a reason why people play fantasy baseball: they love the game.

It probably started back when we were playing tee-ball and collecting baseball cards, trying to trick a friend into trading his Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card by saying that Melido Perez was actually a hitter and that 4.61 ERA was actually a .461 batting average (A hidden impetus for fantasy baseball? And no, that scenario didn’t happen to me.). We all want to prove to our buddies–and even total strangers–that though we don’t have the physical skills to play Major League Baseball, we know what a good one looks like, what kind of numbers he’s supposed to put up and that we can find the good ones better than you.

Fantasy Draft 1.jpgNow, as many (but not all) of us are long past college, the love of winning gradually crept into the picture. Where before a live fantasy draft might have looked like a frat party at the end, now you have what you see at the left: a bunch of guys (be it geeks, dorks, nerds, jocks, etc…) with their bleary eyes glued to either a laptop, print-out or magazine with a couple half-full beverages and an untouched pizza sitting on a table in the middle of the herd.

That has happened because we know there are many statistical markers and traits that, most of the time, signal whether or not a particular player is going to break out. We analyze these patters, study the player’s history, look at the environment he will be playing in and try to make the best possible decision from all this information.

But at some points during the draft, and far more often during the season, the passion comes back out, refusing to be caged in. That part makes you create certain “rules” you abide by when deciding which player you draft or pick up off the waiver wire. For me, I steadfastedly refuse to acquire any player currently on the Boston Red Sox or who was part of the 2004 team (take a wild guess as to who my favorite team is, and it isn’t the Cardinals). I mean, if you have these players on your team, you want to be able to root for them to do well, correct?

Yet that passion may cause some problems for you down the road. Let’s say that I had Adrian Gonzalez and with my team in the thick of the playoff race in late July, he gets traded to the Red Sox. Now you find yourself in a sticky situation: you desperately want to win this season, but at the same time, you cannot possible stomach the possibility of wanting someone on the Red Sox to do well. What now? This is where you can use passion to your favor, with said passion being someone else’s.

Every league has at least a couple “homers” in their ranks: guys who blindly go after almost anyone on their favorite team, even if a particular players makes Nick Johnson look like the second coming of Lou Gehrig. If you have a player who you absolutely want no part of, you must do two things:

  1. Pretend that it doesn’t even bother you (if the level of your rooting interests are not known) and keep any and all reactions bland & the same as if the one player was traded to a different team.
  2. Find that “homer” in your league and make him your new buddy.

Vladimir Guerrero 1.jpgThe point? You want to rob him blind, of course! Now if the player you’re trying to give away is a first-round talent like Gonzalez, that makes negotiations much easier than if he were someone you picked up later on in the draft, like say (for argument’s sake) Vladimir Guerrero. The objective is to tantalize the “homer” so much that he would give up just about anyone to obtain the player you’re dangling in the wind.

Casually mention about the year Player X is having to the “homer.” Remark about how fortunate you were to draft or pick him up. Ask the “homer” if his biggest regret from the draft was not selecting this guy? Then you drop the hammer:

You can have Player X, if you want.

Play it coy, but let it be known that for this player, you need someone from him that can produce A, B and C for you in return. Let the homer throw an offer out there, appear mildly interested, but then say it’s going to take a little bit more. Rinse & repeat, but always make sure you have his interest level up. Eventually, you should be able to have him offer up a package that is in your favor.

Now every once in a while, you have an incredible offer just fall into your lap like manna from the fantasy gods. It happened not just once to me (I got Paul Konerko in return for Barry Zito, straight up. You just HAVE to make that, especially in a points league.) but twice, though the second instance was too good to be true, which is something all fantasy owners should be aware of.

I was offered the great Zack Greinke for Tommy Hanson…and Rafael Soriano. Initially, I nearly jumped out of my skin to accept that deal. But I hesitated, and I’m glad that I did. Thankfully, the reason in me got up and smacked the passion in the back of its head. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details and stats, Greinke and Hanson are (value-wise) pretty much the same pitcher. Greinke may give you a lower WHIP and more quality starts (if applicable), but Hanson has the luxury of pitching in the NL, creating better opportunities for more strikeouts and he plays on the Braves versus the Royals (read: more wins).

Oh, and I’d also be giving up the fifth-best closer without a useful player available to replace him.

The moral of the story is this: ALWAYS DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE DOING A DEAL! The numbers don’t lie, but it’s up to you to find them and interpret them correctly.

Hanley Ramirez 1.jpgLastly, as I climb up on my soap box, you always want to have players you can root for on your roster. It’s more fun that way. But let’s say you have the pleasure of owning someone like Hanley Ramirez on your roster, who’s quickly becoming the poster child for immaturity and self-centeredness among today’s athletes. This is just my personal opinion, but I feel that if you think a particular player is someone you personally wouldn’t want to be associated with, you are under no obligation whatsoever to keep him.

Oh, but he was my top pick, you say? Shouldn’t have to matter. If Ramirez (or whoever is creating your minor moral dilemma) was a first pick or high pick, that gives you all the more leverage to get high-quality players back in a trade.

Some of the unofficial rules of fantasy baseball are useful, but others, like never sit your top players, for example, I feel will end up hurting a team in the long run. Like the title of the post says, it’s all about finding the proper balance between your passion and your reason. When you achieve that, you won’t automatically walk away with a league championship, but it’ll certainly help improve your chances.

 

– ME

Weekend Matters, May 17

Another weekend down and one more to go before Memorial Day Weekend. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. So here…we…go.


Joker 1.jpg
Barren Haren?

For the last three years, Dan Haren has been the quiet ace in baseball: always putting up top-flight numbers but getting little notoriety for his efforts. For the last three years, he’s gone 45-27 with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 8.37 K/9 and a microscopic 1.79 BB/9 rate. I don’t know about you, but those numbers ain’t too shaby. This year, though, Haren has been completely out of character, as you can easily tell from his last start on Sunday against the Braves.

That tidy little ERA is up to 4.83 and his WHIP has ballooned to 1.37. He’s walking nearly one whole extra batter this year (2.3) compare to 2009 (1.5) and his H/9 shot up from 7.5 to 10.1. How does that happen? According to FanGraphs.com, there hasn’t been any real change in the velocity of his pitches–though he has either apparently stopped throwing his slider or there is no information available regarding that pitch. So where does that leave us?

Well for one thing, hitters are making more contact off of him. Batters are hitting .255 off Haren for his career, but that number jumps to .285 this season. One culprit is an abnormally high BABIP (.357 – 2010, .302 – career). Look a little deeper and you’ll see that the kind of contact batters are making isn’t necessarily bad for Haren. This year, batters hit line drives on just 17.6 percent of batted balls (career – 19.9), ground balls 47.7 percent of the time (career – 44.6) and fly balls 34.7 percent of the time (career – 35.6). And finally, Haren’s opponents are actually making less contact than before when they swing, putting the bat on the ball 73.1 percent of the time, compared to his 78.7 lifetime mark.

Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that Haren has simply been really, really unlucky so far this season. It happens. This is one of the reasons why stats like ERA (and especially W-L) can be so tricky when trying to properly value pitchers. So, if I were you, I would make it a priority to buy low on Haren and hope that his owner doesn’t have the same insight or patience that you do.

Leadoff Men: the Brave and the Prado

Martin Prado 1.jpgWhen a team has hitters like Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann in their lineup most of the time, it would be fair to say that they should be one of the better offenses in the league. Yet, the Atlanta Braves have the fourth-highest OBP in the NL but have scored just the ninth-most runs. Something like that happens when your leadoff hitters are batting a collective .183/.272/.294. For the first six weeks of the season, manager Bobby Cox couldn’t find anyone useful to put in at the top spot of his lineup card. That was until this past Friday, when he tried Martin Prado.

The result? Prado went 6-for-14 (.429) with two home runs, six RBI and two runs scored as Atlanta took two of three games from Arizona. He may not draw too many walks (just a 6.5 percent walk rate this year), but he also doesn’t strike out that much, either (14.2 percent). His .354 BABIP may appear high, but his career mark of .309 suggests that this isn’t unsustainable.

And with the already-fearsome Heyward batting behind him, pitchers will be even less inclined to get fancy with the 26-year-old Venezuelan and give him more fastballs to hit. When you take that into account that Prado is also eligible at 1B and 3B, and you have an extremely valuable and flexible asset on your fantasy roster…should you own him, of course.

 

Resurgent Rangers

A year ago, Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton were on different teams but placed in the same group: injured sluggers who have already seen their better days go by. The two of them combined to hit 25 home runs last year when in 2008, they belted 27 and 32 long balls each, respectively. Now, they are key parts in a Texas offense that I feel is the most explosive in baseball (yes, even more so than the Yankees or the Phillies). If you would like to disagree, let me put this lineup in front of you:

  1. Elvis Andrus
  2. Michael Young
  3. Hamilton
  4. Guerrero
  5. Nelson Cruz
  6. Ian Kinsler
  7. Justin Smoak
  8. Max Ramirez
  9. David Murphy

Josh Hamilton 1.jpgWhile you try to find the hole in that lineup, let me tell you the biggest reason why Guerrero and Hamilton have improved so much this year: they’re healthy (duh). When Guerrero’s back and knees are right, he’s able to have healthier swings (and less prone to strikeouts, whiffing at just 10.7 percent this year as opposed to 14.6 percent last year) and put more power into those swings (his line drive rate has risen from 18.3 percent in ’09 to 20.2 percent in ’10).

Hamilton–though he’s in a bit of a slump (1-for-13, 9 strikeouts in last three games)–just looks like he’s healthier and playing better. Will he be a .300-plus hitter and one of the five-best outfielders in the game? Maybe, but it’s far from a guarantee. But will he provide plenty of extra-base hits and RBIs for both the Rangers and your fantasy squad, as long as he’s healthy? Without a doubt.

 

– ME

(Note: later on today, I’ll add on a little news about what’s going on with my main fantasy team, The Men Who Laugh.)