Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stream Team - Week 11

Every week we'll take a look at less-heralded starting pitchers that have favorable weekend match-ups.

The spot starters available this weekend for interleague play are a little shaky but let's give it a shot.

Friday, June 13th
Kyle Kendrick: Kendrick is at St. Louis on Friday facing off against the other Kyle. The key to thsi match-up is the absence of Pujols. Kendrick isn't good for much (or anything really) but not having to face Pujols will allow him to potentially sneak in a win here. The ERA and WHIP might be ugly, but if you are hurting in the win column there are worse plays than this one (maybe not - I really hate this pick).

Saturday, June 14th
Wandy Rodgriguez: Home against the Yanks. This is a tough one. Wandy has been briliant in his last two outings (0 ERs), but he will be facing a lot of hot hitters in this match up. Way-Rod is usually magic at home though and I can see a Quality Start from him in this one.

Sunday, June 15th
Dana Eveland: A familiar theme in this space is targeting inept offenses. I've been burned a couple of times this year picking against the Giants but let's try it again anyway. Eveland was a little wild in his last two starts but was still able to pitch himself out of jams. Don't expect him to go much further than 5.0 innings here but a W is certainly attainable.

Last Week's Results: 3-0-0, Season Total: 13-9-2
Darrell Rasner: L, 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 Base Runners, 4 Ks (Tough-luck loss but a help in ERA and WHIP)

Cha Seung Baek: ND, 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 9 BR, 2 Ks (Quality Start was helpful in WHIP)

Phil Dumatrait: W, 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 6 BR, 3 Ks (Gets the W and helped in WHIP)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can't Predict Wins

Most fantasy owners know by now that you should not chase wins on draft day. Despite this common knowledge, every league has owners who will take a Chien-Ming Wang four rounds too early.

Just in case you are one of those people, take a look at the list below. On it you'll find the top 12 leaders in Wins for 2007. Next to their names you'll see their 2007 Win total, 2008 Wins to date, and their 2008 ratio of Wins to Game Starts.

1) Josh Beckett: 20 Wins ('07), 6 Wins ('08), 55%
2) Fausto Carmona: 19 Wins ('07), 4 Wins ('08), 40%
3) C.C. Sabathia: 19 Wins ('07), 3 Wins ('08), 23%
4) John Lackey: 19 Wins ('07), 2 Wins ('08), 40%
5) Chien-Ming Wang: 19 Wins ('07), 6 Wins ('08), 46%
6) Jacke Peavy: 19 Wins ('07), 4 Wins ('08), 44%
7) Justin Verlander: 18 Wins ('07), 2 Wins ('08), 15%
8) Kelvim Escobar: 18 Wins ('07), Injured in 2008
9) Brandon Webb: 18 Wins ('07), 11 Wins ('08), 85%
10) Carlos Zambrano: 18 Wins ('07), 8 Wins ('08), 57%
11) Tim Wakefield: 17 Wins ('07), 4 Wins ('08), 31%
12) Jeff Francis: 17 Wins ('07), 2 Wins ('08), 15%

A few things should stick out when looking at these numbers. First of all, only two pitchers on the list (Webb and Zambrano) have a good shot at remaining in the top 12 in Wins for 2008. Beckett and Wang have a decent shot at making the list but to do so they'll have to win at least 50% of their remaining starts.

Let's say that those 4 pitchers each finish 2008 with at least 17 Wins and are amongst the MLB leaders. That still is only 33% of last year's top 12.

Our advice: Ignore Wins when evaluating pitchers on draft day. You'll be able to draft much more effectively if you look at statistics such as K/9, DIPs, etc.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stream Team - Week 10

Every week we'll take a look at less-heralded starting pitchers that have favorable weekend match-ups.

Last week I gave myself an ultimatum: Get back on track such that I'm picking useful spot starters 66% of the time, or else. So far so good. Last week I did just that. Let's see if I can keep rolling along.

Friday, June 6th

Darrell Rasner: Rasner was my lone dud last week. He is still available in over 40% of ten team leagues and that number will likely get smaller after his next start. He is scheduled to face the Royals on Friday. Everyone knows that the Royals have the worst offense in the AL. In fact, their 218 runs scored is good for worst in the entire major leagues. Look for Rasner to rebound from his last outing and get a W.

Saturday, June 7th

Cha Seung Baek: Baek is set to face off against the Mets at home. He has only faced Carlos Delgado (0-2) so this will be a first look for the NY bats. Given the Mets road record (13-17) and the fact that this game takes place in spacious Petco Park, I like Baek to give up no more than three runs here. If the Padres can get on base in front of red-hot A-Gonz then Baek could be in line for a W. Not to mention the fact that O. Perez will be walking the ballpark all night.

Sunday, June 8th

Phil Dumatrait: Let's go with the hot hand here. The D-Back's lineup is pretty good (especially against lefties) but Dumatrait has been solid in his last few outings. His latest was a tough luck loss to Way-Rod and the Astros. Look for Dumatrait to put up a Quality Start in this one.

Last Week's Results: 2-1-0, Season Total: 10-9-2

Todd Wellemeyer: W, 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 8 Base Runners, 4 Ks

Josh Banks: W, 9.0 IP, 0 ER, 6 BR, 5 Ks (Got to love the CGSO)

Darrell Rasner: L, 5.1 IP, 4 ER, 10 BR, 5 Ks (The Ks were nice but this one is a L)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Equivalent Average - Revisited

About a month ago, we took our first look at Equivalent Average (EqA). As a quick refresher, EqA attempts to measure total offensive output by considering batting and baserunning stats with adjustments for home park, team pitching and league offensive level. It is considered a useful metric because it includes all aspects of offense and it can be used to estimate runs scored, which is a good indicator of overall production for fantasy purposes.

The formula for EqA is calibrated so that it resembles batting average. Raw EqA, calculated first, equals (H + TB + 1.5*(BB + HBP + SB) + SH + SF) divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH + SF + CS + SB). Raw EqA is then adjusted for league difficulty so that the league average for EqA equals .260. For a detailed analysis of EqA and it's usefulness, see Baseball Prospectus' article explaining the calculation here.

When we last checked on May 1st, here were the EqA leaders in each league:

American League
1. Eric Hinske - .339
2. Carlos Quentin - .339
3. Manny Ramirez - .332
4. Carlos Guillen - .330
5. Casey Kotchman - .329
6. Josh Hamilton - .320
7. Adrian Beltre - .317
8. Milton Bradley - .315
9. Hideki Matsui - .314
10. Magglio Ordonez - .314

National League
1. Albert Pujols - .392
2. Chipper Jones - .378
3. Chase Utley - .369
4. Pat Burrell - .366
5. Rafael Furcal - .349
6. Derrek Lee - .347
7. Josh Willingham - .345
8. Connor Jackson - .342
9. Ryan Ludwick - .340
10. Lance Berkman - .339

Coming into today's action, here are the leaders (50 plate appearance minimum):

American League
1. Josh Hamilton - .334
2. Milton Bradley - .334
3. Alexi Casilla - .323
4. Howie Kendrick - .320
5. Carlos Quentin - .319
6. Ramon Vazquez - .317
7. Alex Rodriguez - .314
8. Jack Cust - .314
9. B.J. Upton - .312
10. Hideki Matsui - .310

National League
1. Lance Berkman - .391
2. Albert Pujols - .383
3. Chipper Jones - .382
4. Rafael Furcal - .349
5. Chase Utley - .347
6. Ryan Ludwick - .347
7. Josh Willingham - .344
8. Pat Burrell - .336
9. Nate McLouth - .333
10. Jason Bay - .332

Once again, the numbers in the National League are far and away better than the American League figures. Josh Hamilton's AL leading EqA of .334 would barely crack the top 10 in the NL. Second place holder Alexi Casilla's .323 would be good enough for just 14th overall in the NL. 7 of the top 10 AL players weren't in the top 10 last month. This was expected though, as we saw names last time that just didn't belong. With more plate appearances under their belt, the AL list of leaders is starting to contain the names that we'd expect. Of note among the AL leaders is Alexi Casilla. Casilla is hitting .326 with 2 HRs and 15 RBIs since being recalled in mid-May. Surprisingly, the speedster has only 2 SBs, a number he should imporove on over the remainder of the year. He's certainly someone worth keeping an eye on if he's available in your league - especially if you're looking to bolster SBs and average. Ride him while he's hot.

The NL leaders contain no surprises...almost. Ryan Ludwick has certainly caught the eye of fantasy players. He's hitting .323 with 13 HRs and 43 RBIs. Coming into the year, Ludwick was expected to be a platoon player against lefties in a crowded St. Louis outfield, at best, but he capitalized on Chris Duncan's slow start and took over the job completely. He's been hot all year, but was still available in most leagues through the middle of May. Also nice to see Jason Bay back up among the leaders in any category after a miserable 2007 season.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Transient Power Revisited

Back in April we took a look at a few players who had inordinately high HR/F ratios. We stated that the power surge for each of these bats was going to slow down over the next month. Let's take a look to see how they have fared since April 25th.

Hanley Ramirez: HR/F ratio dropped by 14.0%. Has hit only 2 HRs in past 32 games (compared to 7 in his first 23 games).

Casey Kotchman: HR/F ratio dropped by 15.8%. Has not gone yard since (stuck at 6 HRs)

Josh Willingham: Injured. He only played two games since our post.

Gary Matthews, Jr: HR/F ratio dropped by 9.3%. He has hit only 2 HRs in his past 30+ games.

Yunel Escobar: HR/F ratio dropped by 5.6%. Same as Matthews; 2 HRs in his past 30+ games.

The top 50 players in HR/F at this point look largely legit. Guys like Jack Cust, Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, etc. can and will all sustain a high HR/F rate. There are still a few though that I think will see a slow down in power. Here are four guys in the top 50 that I think are due for a regression.

Ryan Ludwick: He is sporting a 25.1% HR/F rate to go along with his 13 HRs on the year. He has done this before: In 48 PA back in 2005 Ludwick had a 25.6% HR/F rate. That is too small of a sample size from which to draw a conclusion. In 339 PA last year he had only a 13.7% HR/F rate. He will likely end up on the south side of a 20.0% HR/F rate and will probably hit 12 or less HRs from here on out. His name doesn't carry a lot of weight so I don't really see him as a sell high. You might just have to ride him out.

Adrian Gonzalez: A-Gonz has been one of the most under appreciated studs this season. He has 17 HRs and 54 RBIs through 59 games. His HR/F rate stands at 23.3% and his previous season high is 16.9%. This could be the breakout year for A-Gonz so I'm not expecting a huge power drop-off. He is, however, not likely to hit HRs at a higher clip than his current pace. Analysis: Enjoy the top 25 production from this player drafted barely inside the top 100 picks.

Aaron Rowand: It may seem like I dislike Rowand a lot. I'll leave that where it is.
He is currently sporting a 20.1% HR/F rate and has 8 HRs on year. His previous high came all the back in 2004 when he had a 15.0% HR/F rate. I would not expect Rowand to hit more than 7 or 8 more dingers on the year.

Ryan Church: Sure, pick on the concussed guy. Yeah, it's easy to do but in this case it is justified. He did go yard in his first game back but I don't see the power lasting. He has a 23.8% HR/F rate. His previous high was 18.0% in 2006. He has 10 HRs on the year right now. He'll probably finish with 20-23 HRs. Not bad production, but if there is an overzealous Met fan in your league I'd see if there is a fit.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Great Joba Debate

Coming into the year, the Yankees drove their fans and fantasy players crazy by dropping hints that they were considering moving Joba out of his 8th inning setup role and into the rotation. Speculation increased further once they couldn't land Johan Santana in the offseason. Cautious of Joba throwing too many innings, they decided it was best to start the season with him as their primary setup man to Mariano Rivera. But, poor performances & eventual trips to the DL for their 4th & 5th starters, Ian Kennedy & Phil Hughes, created a void in the rotation and an opening for Joba that was just too tempting to pass up. So it was announced last week that super setup man Chamberlain would begin stretching out so he could enter the rotation. There are many opinions about this move in both the fantasy and real sports worlds. Even here at Pseudo Sports there are differing opinions. That could only mean one's time for an old-fashioned faceoff.

Mike - Bad Move
Last year's performance by Joba will never be matched. Let's get that out of the way from the start - what he did last year was off the charts in terms of performance and injecting life into a struggling Yankee team. In 21 appearances, he had a ridiculous 0.38 ERA and 34 Ks in just 24 innings. Opponents hit just .145 off him and he had great control (just 6 walks). Even with the high Ks, he only needed 14.3 pitches per inning. So far in 2008, Joba's thrown 23 2/3 innings and has racked up 30 Ks with a 2.28 ERA. Opponents are hitting .190 off him and he's required slightly more pitches per inning - 17.

While he's given up a few more runs, his numbers so far have been solid. However, the big difference this year is that he's been mixing in more of his pitches. Last year, he was strictly a fastball/slider pitcher. Since the beginning of May, he's been showing his curveball and a changeup. While it's rumored that these pitches are as good as his slider (more so for the curveball), he still doesn't have the feel for them like he does the slider and the fastball. Last year, hitters swung and missed at his slider nearly 75% of the time. He's not getting that same success rate with the other pitches just yet. He also can't throw his curve for strikes at the same frequency. This is evident in the fact that in almost the same amount of innings pitched, he's walked almost twice as many batters, 11, as he did last year.

So what does this all mean for the success of the Yankees and Joba's impact in the fantasy world? For one, he can't come out firing bullets the same way he does when he comes out of the bullpen, knowing that he only has to deal with 1 or 2 innings at most. He also has to deal with the fact that he will be facing hitters more than once a game. It's an obvious fact, but it goes a long way. Because of this, he will be forced to display more of his arsenal every inning to mix things up. And because these pitches aren't as dominant, it will lead to more overall pitches at best, and more contact/hits at worst. Combine this with the fact that he will be on strict pitch counts and it's hard to see Joba as anything more than a 5 or 6 inning pitcher. This is not something easily absorbed by any team, but this could be especially troubling for the Yankees. Without Joba's presence, the Yankees bullpen in front of Mariano is average, at best. Mike Mussina is already one 6 inning pitcher on their staff, and it's hard for any team to deal with 2 at the same time. Add to this that Mussina is scheduled to follow Joba in the rotation, and the Yankees have to hope that they have big leads in the games they pitch since the bullpen is going to have to throw a minimum of 3 innings a night for 2 nights in a row. This can also trickle down and have a negative impact on Wang, Pettite & Rasner.

A spent bullpen will lead to more blown leads and it's a hard trend to stop unless your staff as a whole can eat innings. The hope is that Joba will be able to ease into the starter's role & in short time, be able to get his strength up so that 100 pitches won't be an issue. All this while hoping he can bring his same dominating stuff to the role. This would allow him to be fresh in October and set them up for a post-season run. The failure of the Yankees in recent Octobers has been the lack of a dominant, frontline starter. They're making the move in the hopes that Joba can be just that. But this move is coming at the expense of the bullpen in more ways than one. And as we are about to post this, the new 8th inning man for the Yankees, Kyle Farnsworth, just took the loss against the Twins.

Chris - Good Move
The move to the rotation is a good one for both the Yankees and Joba's fantasy owners. The bottom line is that Joba is more valuable to all parties involved if he is getting 15+ outs per game rather than 3-6. Joba is no stanger to the starting rotation. In college Chamberlain made 32 starts. He maintained a 3.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with a 2.91 BB/9 and a healthy 10.07 K/9. In 15 minor league starts he posted a 2.45 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with a 2.76 BB/9 and an even healthier 13.79 K/9. The talent and ability to start games and pitch well is there.

Mike makes a good point regarding Joba's expected innings pitched per start. It will certainly take a few starts to get to the 6.0 inning range and there is no guarantee that he will pitch any deeper than that. This might limit his win potential, as it does with guys like Pedro Martinez and Chris Young. But from a fantasy perspective wins aren't the only valuable contribution from a starter. A K/9 rate over 10.0 is more useful over a larger number of innings, and the same goes for stellar ratios. This is a big win for fantasy owners.

As for the state of the Yankees 'pen, that's a different story. They will need to go out and get an arm to help out in relief. Brian Fuentes is the name that is spoken about the most. Fuentes would be a good fit but he would not be able to replicate Joba's numbers. But he wouldn't have to do that. Maybe Edwar Ramirez will step up and fill the 8th inning role. There is no requirement to have one specific guy for the 8th inning. A mix and match approach may work even better than having defined roles for one specific inning. The key here though is that it is much easier to find an arm for the bullpen than it is to find a potential front-line starting pitcher.

And the million dollar question - what if he fails? Well, if Joba fails as a starter, so what? He goes back to the bullpen and resumes 8th inning duties. If you have a talent like Chamberlain you need to extract the most value from him. The way to do that is to use him in such a way that he dominates over as many innings as he can. Stretching him out and trying him in the rotation is the logical move.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

24/7 Baseball News Source

If you are looking for the latest news on your favorite MLB teams and players you should check out Major League Report. The site is maintained by the guys over at MLB Front Office and they do a great job with news updates.