Friday, December 23, 2011

Even more news - Dec 23 - Beltran signs, Gio trade, Danks

Nationals get Gio Gonzalez send Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and A.J. Cole and top catching prospect Derek Norris to Oakland : Wow do the Nationals think they will compete in 2012?  Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh but I'm a big fan of Peacock's and I think this was a bit of a steal by A's GM Billy Beane.  I see what he's doing (once again) trading developed major league talent for high upside starters who could be better down the road.  In acquiring Gonzalez, the Nationals are certainly much improved right away.  This gives them an outstanding young core of stud in the making Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and Gonzalez all of whom are under contract and the age of 27.  Still, the A's acquired three of the top 10 prospects in the Nationals system.  Norris is one of the highest rated catchers in the minor leagues, Peacock is a major league ready starter and Cole boasted a 4.5 K/BB ratio as a 19 year old!  

Carlos Beltran signs a two year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for $26 million: Another fresh off the press deal.  Beltran obviously is not going to replace the loss of Albert Pujols but he will certainly help bridge the gap.  The World Champion Cardinals will need all of the offense they can get.  Beltran's fantasy value will be neutral moving to the new Busch Stadium from San Francisco.   

Rebuilding White Sox sign John Danks to a 5 year, $65 million dollar deal: You can never be completely sure of the motivation of a team.  The White Sox fresh off of dealing their 28 year old closer Sergio Santos for a Jays prospect, then give major dollars to their 26 year old lefty.  Danks would have been a fine bargaining chip for a team that was starting from scratch.  Instead, it appears Chicago is simply re-tooling?  Despite a 4.32 ERA, Danks suffered no skill set backs in 2011.  Locking him up for $13 million per season might turn out to be decent value for the White Sox.

Twins sign Jason Marquis to a one year deal ($3 million)

Somehow, Marquis has had MLB success.  I don't see his skills as worth a major league contract though.  What he does well, is generate a ton of ground balls (career 50.4 GB%).  What he does poorly is everything else.  His career K/BB ratio is 1.5!!  That's scary especially moving over to the hitter friendly American League for the first time in his career.  Stay far away in fantasy leagues next season.

Baseball News - Dec 22 - Aoki won by Brewers, Kubel to D'backs

Just in time for the holidays we've got plenty of MLB trades and signings to discuss.

Norichika Aoki to the Brewers:   Aoki is probably off a lot of people's radars with all of the noise surrounding Yu Darvish.  Still, he's worth profiling as the Brewers won the bid for his rights.  Like Texas and Darvish, Milwaukee will still have to sign the 29 year old, small framed (5'9, 170 lbs) center fielder to a contract.  However, unlike the Rangers who are trying to fill a gaping hole in their rotation after the departure of C.J. Wilson, Aoki presently doesn't appear to meet any needs the Brewers may have.  They already have two center fielders in Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez.  Aoki on paper doesn't appear to boast as much speed as Morgan or Gomez (never attained more than 20 steals in Japan) but has much better plate discipline (generally around the .400 OBP mark) than either of the Brewers other options.  With Ryan Braun possibly facing a suspension it appears that Milwaukee is looking for some outfield depth.  We'll have to wait and see how 2012 unfolds to find out though.

Jason Kubel to the Diamondbacks (2 years $15 million): I really think this is a great sign by Arizona.  Kubel is not a game changer but he's a similar bat to former team mate Michael Cuddyer who recently signed for almost $10 million per year with the Rockies.  In other words, I think the Diamondbacks got a similar player and saved money in doing so.  I would expect a small increase in power numbers for Kubel in the hitter friendly Chase Field if he can stay healthy.  In my opinion, the veteran left fielder is a great fit for an organization trying to recapture the NL West division title.

More in a bit....

Monday, December 19, 2011

As Promised - Yu Darvish To RANGERS!! And Mat Latos to Reds

Well, as 11PM the RANGERS (see here MLB Twitter ) have won the rights to discuss a contract with Yu Darvish.  This of course does not guarantee he DOES sign but chances are high that Texas will get it done.  This is a fantastic move for a team fresh out of the World Series and coming off the heals of losing one of their top starters C.J Wilson to free agency.   I would think that the young Japanese league import will be content with a 5 year deal worth upwards of $75 million but heck he could want more.  Either way, the Rangers have made a bold move here to acquire a top young talent who improves their ball club right away. We'll still need to see a signed contract before making any further projections.

Mat Latos to Reds for Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edison Volquez and Brad Boxberger :
What can we really say about the Mat Latos Deal? I am a big fan of this deal for the Padres but the Reds got the best player, at least for now, in the deal.  San Diego received two high end prospects Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal as well as often injured and under performing Edison Volquez.  In addition they received right handed pitching prospect in Brad Boxberger.  Let's start with Alonso, who has already seen some limited major league action.  The prospect does not appear to be a star in waiting but he has displayed considerably strong BA and OBP's throughout his minor league career.  The reason he's not likely to be an elite player is that despite his young age (24) he does not hit for a lot of power or run particularly well.  At AAA last season he hit 12 HR and stole just 6 bases.  He did hit five home runs in a short stint mostly in a pinch hitting role for the Reds last season.  However, playing full time in PETCO (assuming he gets regular AB) will not benefit his power numbers.  If he gets the the AB, we're probably looking at a .290-10-85-7 type season.  Still, let's see how the Padres decide to utilize him before making any crazy projections.

As for Grandal, the catcher prospect was promoted in season last year to AAA, which generally means the club thinks highly of the player. He has not hit for much power but continues to impress with a minor league BA in the .295-.300 range. Generally speaking a good catching prospect is one who can handle the position defensively and also be a positive with the lumber.  Grandal appears to be this type of prospect.
Volquez will probably pop onto alot of sleeper lists come spring next year.  I'm certain of only one thing: he has to improve his control (5.38 BB/9) before I even look his way in a draft next year.  The PETCO effect will definitely aid him though.  He's one to monitor closely in late spring training.

Of course, what does Latos going to the Reds mean?  Well right away we're going to have to bump up his ERA projection a bit as he's going from one of the best home ball parks for offense suppression to one of the worst.  You would figure he would be in line for more wins playing for a better team but wins are fickle.  I would suggest that Latos may actually lose a bit of fantasy value going to the Reds (unless he lucks into more wins).  Either way, great improvement for the Reds

Yu Darvish Bid - News Later - 11PM EST

There are very few sources of factual news content in regards to the Yu Darvish bid so I apologize for the previous post.  Looks like the announcement WILL come tonight though, just later in the evening (11PM EST)

What I have learned is that nobody actually knows who won and the most likely suitors are still the Jays or Rangers.  Essentially nothing is new from last week.  I'm as frustrated as you.  Nobody knows anything of real value right now except for the parties involved.

Darvish announcement tonight!

It looks the Darvish bid winner will be announced tonight around 8pm EST. We will discuss the potential impact of his landing afterwards as well as thoughts on the Padres/Reds deal from the weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Baseball News - Dec. 16 - More Yu Darvish, Cuddyer signs

Well, its still not clear who won the bid for Japanese League superstar pitcher Yu Darvish yet.  The general "consensus" in the media is that its the Toronto Blue Jays.  If it is indeed the Blue Jays who won the bid, this almost immediately signals they will be in contention in 2012.  I'm not certain they are 'all in' for next season but the team is certainly set up to compete for the next few years.  The Jays will be stocked with quality young talent all who have not seen their 27th birthday.

I have read quite a bit on Japanese imports and how they are a mixed bag for results.  For every highly successful Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui there is a Hideki Irabu and Daizake Matsuzaka.  Unfortunately for Yu Darvish, he will be judged similarly.  However, I hate to generalize. Each player should be analyzed individually.  I've seen some video of Darvish (click here). His frame (6'5), smooth delivery and filthy movement on his pitches could translate to long term success in the majors.  Toronto is a great city for him to play in with a strong multi-cultural fan base.  It all seems like a good fit but I'm certain that's what Boston fans where thinking when the Red Sox brass signed Dice-K.

The last thing to note about Darvish, is that Japanese pitchers, unlike their position player counterparts, have generally been more successful on this side of the Pacific. The general consensus appears to be that at best Darvish is an elite #2 starter and at worst an effective #3.

That all being stated, there is still no gurantee he lands in Toronto.  We know the Rangers, Cubs and Yankees were all in the mix and that the rumours are stating that the Jays won the bid with a $48 million post.  We'll unfortunately be waiting until Tuesday to find out.

If you can't get enough on Yu, head over to Drunk Jays Fans for more HERE!

IN OTHER NEWS (yes, the baseball world continues on despite most of it waiting on Darvish)

A fantasy friendly signing for the Rockies as they bring the  under valued bat of Michael Cuddyer to town.  He got 3 years and $31.5 million, pretty good cake for a hitter who's only crushed more than 25 home runs once in his career.  I'm not a fan of this deal for the Colorado organization but for fantasy purposes Cuddyer, suddenly is a bit more interesting.  He's a guy who should hit .275-20-70 but the Coors effect should push him up into the .280-25-85 projection range.

Alright, that's all for now...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yu Darvish - Who Won The Bid?

Sorry this is kind of a short post.... but felt it should be addressed.

The subject of who won the Yu Darvish bid is garnering a lot of noise on Twitter in regards to the Japanese pitching phenom. The top two bidders (which are essentially rumors at this point) appear to the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees, Nationals and Cubs all bid as well.  I wouldn't get too excited about anything just yet.  Every one is speculating and the only real news out of Toronto is that they placed an 'outrageously' large bid.  The Rangers reportedly post $40 million.

For those unfamiliar with Darvish, the right hander is just 25 years old and dominated the Japanese league striking out 276 in just 232 IP in 2011.

The Rangers and Jays are the most in need of a top of the rotation arm.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Baseball News - December 15, 2011

There has been so much action to catch up on I had to divide the last post in half  Most of these deals were of the 'minor' variety but the players involved will make for interesting draft selections in 2012:

  1. Diamondbacks get Trevor Cahill from Oakland for top prospect Jarrod Parker and Collin Cowhill.  Time and time again A's GM Billy Beane deals away proven young talent for unproven potential and it generally pays off.  Cahill is still a controllable player but the real prize of this deal for Oakland is likely the injury prone former top prospect Parker.  Cahill is a proven 24 year old pitcher so Beane is clearly taking on more risk here given Parker's injury history.  Is there something the Oakland scouting staff sees? Definitely: Parker's upside if healthy has always been considered elite.  
  2. Ian Stewart dealt to the Cubs for Tyler Colvin.  I think this is a great deal for both teams.  Stewart needs a fresh start and Chicago need a capable 3B after Aramis Ramirez' departure.  The former top prospect has plenty of potential in his bat and seemed to have worn out his welcome in Colorado.  Colvin has a powerful bat but the Rockies have plenty of capable outfielders and I don't see how he fits in quite yet.  Either way, both players needed a fresh start but I think the Cubs got the better end of the deal.  If Stewart ends up starting on a regular basis he could easily hit 20 home runs at a scarce position making him an interesting sleeper for 2012.
  3. Casey McGehee dealt to the Pirates, Pedro Alvarez likely to play first or spend more time in the minors.  With Aramis Ramirez signed, the Brewers had no room for McGehee.  The Pirates struggled all season to get production from that position.  This trade gives the Pirates some options with Alavrez, who has tremendous power but struggled last season at the plate, to either defend the 'less demanding' 1B position or get more minor league seasoning.  McGehee might be a decent sleeper as he suffered from poor luck on balls in play (.249) which lead directly to his lower batting average in 2011.  I wouldn't get too excited though as he also increased his GB% from 47% in 2010 to 50% in 2011. Even more interesting will be who plays first base if/when Prince Fielder signs elsewhere.  Unless a veteran is signed, it looks like 26 year old Mat Gamel may be given regular time after destroying AAA pitching in 2011 to a tune of .310-28-96.
  4. Josh Willingham signs in Minnesota (3 years, $21 million).  Willingham is exactly the under the radar outfielder that can help win a fantasy championship.  He's a steady middle tier producer and you can pencil him for .250-25-85. Still, he is injury prone after playing in only 133 games last season and having never played in all 162 games. It has been rumored that Michael Cuddyer was seeking more money than Willingham which would explain why the Twins went in this direction.
  5. Mark Melancon dealt to the Red Sox for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland.  An interesting trade for the Red Sox who have stated they would like Daniel Bard to start in 2012.  Melancon would be one of their strongest candidates to close as of this writing although going from the NL Central to the AL East will be quite an adjustment.  Lowrie should start at shortstop for for the Astros who struggled to fill the position in 2011.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Baseball News - December 12 2012

There is a ton to discuss as I haven't posted in a while.  Let's get right to it:

  1. Albert Pujols signs with the Angels.  Like the rest of the world, I was shocked not only by the total dollar amount, but the length of this contract.  Right now, the Angels will pay the 1st baseman major money well beyond his prime years and into his 40's.  In the now, its a strong, bold statement that the Angels want to win.  However, for the long term health of the franchise, this has to be considered a mistake.  Pujols has had some injury issues over the past two seasons and as he ages he will likely be a highly paid DH. Anaheim has other problems though. This signing creates a log jam for 1B/DH bats on the active roster.   Now with Pujols signed, who will likely split 1B/DH duties for the next 10 seasons,  how will the at bats shake out for Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo?  The rumor is that Trumbo will slide over to 3B with Morales splitting 1B/DH with Pujols.  I assume that this will be considered a 'nice problem to have' when filling out the lineup card as this is now one of the strongest offensive teams in the division.  However, the defensive minded management of Mike Scioscia may think otherwise.  Putting career first baseman Trumbo at 3rd degrades their infield defense significantly.  
  2. Ryan Braun gets busted for using a PED.  Ugh.  I always hate seeing these as headlines.  It especially stings baseball as this was the reigning NL MVP.  Regardless of whether he's guilty or not, the likelihood that Braun misses some time in 2012 is quite high right now.  He is appealing the test but I can't see how he doesn't get suspended given the evidence.  
  3. C.J. Wilson signs with the Angels.  Arte Moreno is intent on seeing a championship in Anaheim.  I have to admit the Angels went from being an afterthought in the AL West to a contender for the World Series championship with their off season signings.  A rotation of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C. J. Wilson and Ervin Santana is as good as any in the American League.
  4. Sergio Santos traded to the Blue Jays.  This was a very under the radar trade by the Blue Jays which should shore up the biggest weakness in Toronto, the bullpen.  Santos struck out 92 batters in just 63 innings for a 13.0 K/9! Chicago received Nestor Molina, who is a nice prospect whom many a scout has rated highly after a fantastic season at Double A.  This clearly signals the Sox are rebuilding.
  5. Aramis Ramirez signs with the Brewers.  Milwaukee is anticipating that they will lose first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency and Ramirez is a proven veteran bat who will fit right in on what should be a contending ball club (if they can put aside the Braun + PED insanity).  Ramirez, if healthy should replicate his 2011 production.  
  6. Marlins sign Mark Buehrle  and Heath Bell. The Marlins are spending a lot of money and although I'm certain it makes them a better ball club, I'm pretty confident they could have got more bang for their buck. In fantasy (or reality) spending large money on a reliever is just a bad business practice.  Veteran relievers with a lot of miles on their arms can be injury prone.  Personally, I'd try to do what the Jays did and just acquire a solid bullpen arm on the cheap.  Buehrle should continue to be a steady arm short on strike outs coming over to the National League.  I wouldn't expect a huge leap in his numbers as he will have to adjust to NL hitters at first.
Ok, that's it for now... I'll discuss some more recent deals soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baseball News - November 23 2011

A lot of rumours, a few transactions and few heads turned as end of season awards are announced:

  • The AL MVP was awarded to Justin Verlander.   What does the world of baseball writers have against Jose Bautista?  This is not meant as a slam at the quite worthy Justin Verlander but the Tigers pitcher was already awarded the Cy Young as the best pitcher in the American League.  How does a .302-43-103 season in just 149 games not get awarded the MVP?  He was first in home runs, second in OBP, 10th in batting average and 11th in RBI's on a team that ranked in the bottom third of the league in OBP and BA.  I understand that a player on a team that makes the playoffs stands a better chance but let's look at it differently:  If we take Jose Bautista out of the Blue Jays lineup how many games do they win? 
  • The NL MVP kind of surprisingly went to Ryan Braun of the Brewers. Again, he had a great season and his team made the playoffs.  Matt Kemp nearly won the triple freaking crown in the NL this season and although Braun had an impressive season, Kemp was simply better in every category.  Maybe I'm putting too much emphasis on the numbers but I think its more impressive when an individual player performs at an elite level on a bad team.  Braun had the luxury of super slugger Prince Fielder in the batting order.  Who did Kemp have?
  • I love the signing of Joe Nathan by the Rangers.  Although seven million per season may seem like a lot for a 37 year old reliever, Nathan was finally back in his regular form at the end of 2011 season.  I'm certain many organizations would have easily paid this price for the former Twins closer.  Is this the final piece to the puzzle for the World Series that the Rangers have yet to solve?  I would have been more comfortable if it was Nathan in to close out the 9th of Game Six in this past season's Fall Classic, than Neftali Feliz.
  • We're still waiting on the the big free agents to sign before we'll start to see alot of the major player movement.  
  • Don't be surprised if Jonathon Broxton of the Dodgers signs something similar to Nathan's deal.  He's the perfect example of a free agent value as it was an injury, not lack of talent, that deflated his 2011 statistics.
  • How much you want to bet that Grady Sizemore is on a few sleeper lists in 2012?  He could be risk/reward pick because of his power but he doesn't run anymore and his contact rate his deplorable.  I would be higher on him if he regained his circa-2006 walk rate.  I think one year and five million is almost too much risk.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Big Changes: Playoffs, Wild Cards and Astros

It was a big day for Major League Baseball news with the announcement of a re-alignment, more wild card teams and a new one game play off format.  Here is my understanding of the situation:
  • The Houston Astros sale has been approved and they will move to the AL West in 2013 creating an equal number of teams in the AL and NL.  The reasoning behind the move is geographical but also to create (or an attempt anyway) a divisional rivalry between the two Texas based teams.
  • Bud Selig has promised that two more Wild Card teams will be added to the current playoff format, one per league.  This means 10 teams make the playoffs, 5 per league.  There will be 3 division winners and two wild cards. 
  •  The Wild Card teams will face off in a one game elimination before meeting one of the division winners in a 5 game series.  The addition is supposed to reward division winners.
The other announcements are less firm.  There is talk of adding more inter-league games and balancing the schedule so that teams face each other an equal amount of times.  Some of the discussion surrounds inter-league games being played through out the season, not just in June/July as they are now.  

As a fan of the game, I like the changes.  The one game play off format for the Wild Card might need some tinkering though.  Is it really 'making the playoffs' if your team is out the next day?  

For fantasy owners/players, having more teams in the hunt for playoff spots is a good thing.  This means more star players will not be rested leading up to the post season.

There's nothing worse than having a strong showing all season to watch the Yankees rest all of their big name bats (which happen to be on your team) essentially screwing you down the stretch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

James Shields 2012 - Proceed With Caution

Much like Weaver, James Shields falls into unusual territory.  He's a pitcher who boasts extraordinary skill (46% GB%, 8.12 K/9, 2.35 BB/9) and although he had a fantastic 2011 season statistically, his 2012 forecast simply has to be dimmer.  Bear in mind, we're not looking at a starting pitcher who will drop precipitously from a 2.82 ERA to a 4.00.  Shields is still a strong starting pitcher who will make a strong #2 starter on most fantasy squads.  Just don't be one of the many to ignore his .258 BABIP and 80% strand rate.  Generally speaking the league average BABIP is around .300 and strand rate is around 75%.  Like Weaver, Shields can't continue to be THIS lucky, especially given that he plays in the American League East.  Expect a slightly higher ERA and WHIP (think 3.50 and 1.20) coupled with around 200 strike outs and you shouldn't be disappointed.

Baseball News - November 16 2011

Some thoughts on the news of the day

  • Albert Pujols may have been offered 9 years from the Marlins.  I can't see why Miami would want to pay a 40 year old Pujols but stranger things have and will happen.  Its not exactly a baseball business model that I feel will be successful, but if you need to put fans in the seats I guess there are worse moves you could make.    Plus we're not even certain the report is true... moving on...
  • Two strikeout heavy relievers Neftali Feliz of the Rangers and Chris Sale of the White Sox are slated to join their clubs starting rotations in 2012.  Both players have phenomenal stuff and should be quite effective in the rotation.  My concern will be with Feliz who most assuredly will be an injury risk and likely on an innings limit after back to back seasons as the team's primary closer.  Both players were starters in the minor leagues.
  • Like last season with Cliff Lee once the big names like Pujols, Jose Reyes  and C.J. Wilson sign the floodgates will likely open for the rest of the league.  In the meantime the mainstream media will try to drum up as many page views as they can by speculating on any news tidbit that can be found.
  • I'm trying be a good citizen over on Google+.  If you don't have an account you should really give it a try.  The community there is at the very least thought provoking on just about any topic you can imagine.  As of yet, there is not nearly enough baseball representation in my opinion.  I've posted a couple of smaller newsy items there so feel free to join in on the conversation here:  Google+ - Astros or here: Google+ - MLB Changes

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jered Weaver - 2012 Proceed With Caution

I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how to address players like Jered Weaver.  From a purely logical point of view, I can't say AVOID a pitcher who for two straight seasons has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the American League. He does possess quality base skills (i.e. 7.5 K/9 and 2.21 BB/9) to back up my claim.  Still, I can't get over his ridiculously low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .250 or his otherworldly 83% strand rate.  Is Weaver another statistical anomaly as fellow West Coast right hander Matt Cain continues to be?  Or does the 2.41 ERA and 1.01 WHIP beg for a correction?  The Baseball Gods can't allow this solid luck to continue into 2012 can they?  Put me firmly in the 'Weaver is sure to regress' camp.  I cannot, with any right frame of mind, suggest not drafting Weaver.  Still, I do not believe he continues to be a sub 3.00 ERA pitcher as a fly ball pitcher (33% GB rate) in the American League. I think a safe projection would be closer to his career averages of 3.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and around 190 strikeouts. Its too early to rank him yet, but if he makes it on to your favorite baseball site's top 10 starting pitchers list, you might want to look elsewhere for fantasy advice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Off-season Thus Far (Early November Edition)

There hasn't been much activity thus far although a few things to note:
  • Albert Pujols is being courted by the Marlins?  I can't see the star of the 2011 World Series playing in Miami next season but stranger things have happened.  The newly re-branded Miami Marlins have been mentioned in many free agent circles including:
  • Jose Reyes.  Again, mostly rumors and speculation but the Marlins are looking for some 'star' power as they begin playing games in their new home stadium.
  • Melky Cabrera for Jon Sanchez actually was a pretty good deal for both teams.  The Giants need some outfield help and the Royals are desperate for a pulse in their starting rotation.  For fantasy purposes, Sanchez could make for a sneaky strikeout sleeper in 2012 for AL Only types.  
  • I'm certain Ryan Madson makes more sense for the Phillies than the ineffective Jonathan Papelbon. Negotiations between the Phillies organization and Madson broke down pretty quickly.  Still,  that was just crazy money to give for a closer.  I don't see how this makes Philadelphia a batter a baseball team.  The Red Sox will obviously get by with John Bard who despite not having the role, certainly possesses closer skills.  Unless Boston brass does something crazy, Bard will be a strong fantasy closer going forward.  The baseball world is often slow to adopt or drop certain practices but paying top money for a closer is just a bad baseball business decision these days.  Its just so much more cost effective to groom internal options for the role.  Oakland's original bullpen model should be adopted league wide.   
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp cashed in after what is an assured NL MVP season.  8 years and $160 Million from an owner-less team.  Have we learned nothing in this poor economic environment?
  • My personal opinion is that Aaron Hill's contract is too long. The former Blue Jay doesn't seem to be the same player since returning from a concussion.  I think until he can prove himself he should have been signed to a one year deal.
  • There are still plenty of free agents in the mix and we are just get started.  The Blue Jays are linked to everyone as their new approach is simply to be interested in every player. That being said, I don't see Pujols, Prince Fielder or C.J. Wilson playing north of the border.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Congratulations Cardinals!

Sorry St. Louis, I gave you absolutely no chance to win.  I actually slammed the quality of your roster a few posts ago.  Still, the St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions. I will take nothing away from the new champs however, I think St. Louis were aided greatly by some bad managerial decisions even before the first pitch of Game 7 was thrown.  I'm not going to nitpick all of the managerial decisions in game that were made by Rangers manager Ron Washington.  The biggest problem I had was with his choice of Game 7 starter, Matt Harrison.  I realize C.J. Wilson would have been pitching on short rest but he was the obvious and best arm that was available.  That being said, when Matt Harrison barely survives the first two innings because of lack of control, I think that was the point in the game to take him out.  I realize this is completely unconventional but this is the last game of the season!  Yet, this decision wasn't what floored me.  It was that Harrison pitched 4 barely palatable innings and then Washington brings in his long man and 5th starter Scott Feldman?  I'm not sure what he was thinking at that point.  Maybe I'm thinking about this too simply but in my opinion, I want the best pitcher I have in the bullpen out there in the 5th inning of a 3-2 game for the championship. That was clearly C.J. Wilson and even getting two solid innings out of him would have possibly kept the game closer.  Who knows though right?  Wilson could have come in and blew it just like Feldman did. This was the Cardinals year after all.  Still, Washington just needed a good pair of innings out of somebody.  The Feldman inning will go down as one of the most embarrassing bumbles of a championship game.  The Cardinals got one hit in the inning and scored 3 runs!!!

Ok let's be fair.  I've never managed even a tee ball game so I really don't understand player ego management, fatigue etc. There would also be a large amount of pressure on the manager that I probably will never ever feel.  In the end, its more than managerial blunders that contribute to a championship win.  The Cardinals were blessed with some remarkably clutch hitting throughout the series.  Ultimately, the bullpen which had failed them several times in this series was incredibly steady when it mattered.  Congratulations St. Louis!  You definitely earned it.

Game 7 of the World Series - Pregame

Alright, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it totally makes sense for the Cardinals to have Chris Carpenter start Game 7.  The starter has yet to lose in the 2011 post season.   However, I'm still questioning Rangers manager Ron Washington's decision to go with lefty Matt Harrison. I guess in a few hours we'll know but to me this is Game 7 suicide for the Rangers.  Carpenter has easily been the Cardinals best pitcher in the playoffs and Harrison flat out blew game 3.  The Rangers don't really have one ace starting pitcher but it would surprise me if we didn't see C.J. Wilson very early in this game.  Either way, all hands will be on deck as both managers try to win a single game which can be a very difficult task for managers who are used to playing an 162 game season.  It will be an interesting 'chess match'.

Health issues abound for the Rangers as catcher Mike Napoli (ankle) and outfielder Nelson Cruz (what injury doesn't this guy get) are on the mend.  Both will likely play but are not at 100%.  I'm pulling for the Rangers who have yet to win a championship but the odds are against them.  It must really sting to have been on strike away from the championship TWICE last night.  Hopefully they have the mental makeup to ignore yesterday's heartbreak and play at an elite level tonight.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joe Saunders - 2012 Avoid

Let's be honest, you're not excited about Joe Saunders right?  Really?  Ok, so Saunders had 'on paper' his best season since 2008.  He had a nice 3.69 ERA, a slightly robust 1.37 WHIP and won 12 games for the NL West Division winners.  However, next season when you're doing up your draft list I'd just put Saunders near the bottom.  Why?  Well, let's look at what he brings to the mound: a low 4.58 K/9, a high 1.23 HR/9  and a decent 44.5% GB rate.  Saunders skills suggest that he's a below average major league pitcher.  These skills are not about to change either as he does not have nasty stuff (89 MPH average fastball).  The main reason he boasts a sub - 4.00 ERA is his lucky BABIP (.271) and ridiculously high strand rate (77%).  The only reason you want Saunders on your roster is if you play in a deep NL only type league where a pitcher getting regular innings is going to be useful.  Don't buy a pitcher for wins and don't draft Joe Saunders in 2012.

Friday, October 21, 2011

World Series Game 3 - Preview

I'm not certain of much but if you like baseball games with lots of scoring tonight's game will be for you.  Nothing against the starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Harrison, but neither starter boasts nasty stuff.  Add to the fact that they will play the game at the Ballpark in Arlington, one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league, and you have yourself a barn burner in the making.  I've already slammed Lohse in an earlier post but let's just say I don't like his chances against the Rangers in Texas.  His 2011 K/9 of 5.30 and his relatively high FB% (36.7) do not bode well for success in Arlington. Sure he hasn't faced many of the hitters in their current lineup (Michael Young the lone standout), so he will have a slight element of surprise going for him.  Still, the Rangers boast a multitude of power bats and the stadium caters to them.  The key for the Cardinals will be if Lohse can allow slightly less runs than Harrison.  The Rangers Game 3 starter had a solid season and all of his skills suggest he may be for real.  The highest K/BB of his career (2.21) has lead to easily his best season as a big leaguer.  Harrison does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (47%) and striking out batters (6.11 K/9) which are key skills for winning games in the cozy confines in Arlington.  I don't see this one ending 1-0 but I've been wrong before and will be again.  Look for a big scoring game which I think the Rangers win.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rangers Win Game 2!

The Cardinals are the hottest team (maybe other than the Rays) that came into the playoffs.  They very nearly won this game as closer Jason Motte just couldn't shut the door.  My prediction at this point?  I like the Rangers going home for three games and possibly winning the series.  Texas has an incredibly talented offensive club and I just don't see 3rd and 4th game potential starters Edwin Jackson , Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook getting it done.  If I'm in Tony LaRussa's position (yay!  I'm not) I would certainly be looking at getting Carpenter out there in Game 4 rather than risk Lohse.  This means Garcia starts Game 5, Jackson again in game 6 and Game 7 back to Carpenter.

Looking at the Cardinal's roster does it not seem like a bit slapped together?  The first thing that stands out is who thought Kyle Lohse was worth 12,000,000 a year?  Wow.  Secondly, their organizational philosophy must have been to acquire as many utility eligible players as possible.  Craig Allen, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot have all played some role in getting St. Louis to the World Series.  Still, how can this mixed bag of players really compare to the bats of the Rangers? 

I guess I would think differently if the Cardinals win the next game but Texas on paper appears to be the better ball club.  Stranger things have happened though...

Jeff Karstens - 2012 Avoid

As you analyze players you begin to notice trends.  Some of these are more common and often I will mentally toss a player under the bus even before looking at the statistics.  This isn't fair of me, but heck that's just how my mind works.  That being said, Jeff Karstens' name alone was screaming at me even before I looked at his numbers.  Let's look at his career numbers first: 4.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 4.48 K/9 in just over 500 IP during his MLB career.  Its safe to say Karstens' has been a slightly below average major league pitcher over his short career.  Did 2011 change the Pirates starter into a fantasy relevant pitcher?  Well, if you look at his body of work (3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.91 K/BB) it would appear to be so right?  Still, it always pays to look under the hood and there's not a whole lot to like here.  He benefited from a highly lucky .275 BABIP and his xFIP is actually a full run higher than his ERA.  Not convinced?  Well, take a look at some of his base skills: Karstens 5.32 K/9 and average 89 MPH fastball are far from interesting.

Yet, he did manage to keep the ball on the ground at a higher percentage than any other point in his career (46%) and his BB/9 (1.83) or control was excellent.  However, its rare where these types of skills make for long term success in the big leagues.  At 29 years old, you could argue he's reaching his prime years but what are you really getting here?  A pitcher who will not repeat his 2011 numbers and should be avoided in 2012 drafts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ryan Vogelsong - 2012 Avoid

It probably goes without saying that a 34 year old journeyman pitcher coming off a miraculous season should be on our avoid list for 2012.  Still, we should break it down further.  The Giants starter returned from Japan a 'new man' but essentially he was just really fortunate in 2011.  His 80% strand rate is about 5% above league average and his .280 BABIP is begging for a bit of a regression in 2012.  Now to be fair, Vogelsong actually does boast some nice new skills.  His K/9 is nearing a very respectable 7 and his walk rate although not elite (3.06 BB/9) is quite good.  He also kept the ball on the ground at a solid clip (45%).  Essentially we're looking at a pretty good pitcher not a 2.71 ERA and 1.25 WHIP type though.  Think an ERA closer to 3.5 and a WHIP closer to 1.3 and you'll be closer to the mark.  Don't pay for the ERA folks!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fantasy Hockey musings - Rays Demolish Rangers

I've been busy ranking hockey players in time for a draft I can't make this weekend.  Probably annoying for most, but I find just ranking the players ahead of time saves me in-draft stress.  I mean this is not REAL stress. This is a game we're playing here.

If you're reading this I assume you've been in a live draft before. I find I can sit back and relax during the draft since I'm not digging up stats and injury lists like other guys I'm assuming are. There are always guys that take the entire allotted time to make a pick.  You can bet after all that time the player they draft is lousy too, especially the deeper the draft goes. Those I think are the guys that don't take time to pre-rank.

During this process, I don't do anything remarkable.  I just rank the total number players that are to be drafted. As it gets deeper I end up selecting players that I can tolerate, as opposed to players I actually would like.  In hockey that 'tolerate list' is pretty large as once your outside of the top 150 players it becomes a crap shoot.  I think this is similar in any fantasy sports game.  More about hockey later... let's shift gears...

About the Rays:

Well is it too early to call Tampa the favorite?  They're definitely the hottest team coming in to the post season (other than the Cardinals).  It kind of scares me that they tossed out a rookie, Matt Moore today who ended up shutting out one of the best hitting ball clubs in the league.  The Rays just have insane minor league depth.  Hats off to their management, coaching and scouting staff.  The Rays might not be the better team but I don't think the Rangers have the pitching depth to get past the Rays.  To be honest, I'm not certain any AL team has better pitching than the Rays.  James Shields is an ace, David Price is not far off and Jeff Niemann might have been the best pitcher in the major leagues down the stretch.

Detroit and New York will have to rely on aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia respectively.  Can they really get to the World Series with one ace?  Time will tell..

Thanks for reading...

A note about sabermetrics:

BABIP: Batting average on balls in play - a luck factor
GB%: Ground ball rate - a skill factor for pitchers, as well as hitters.  The lower the GB% for a hitter the more likely he's making good contact, the higher for pitchers the harder it is to make solid contact off of him.
K/9: A simple one, strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.
BB/9:  Ditto but with walks.

I always found it helpful to have this glossary around.  I tend to use the terms like I'm talking to people who know exactly what they mean.  That's not necessarily a good thing so you can always refer back to this post in times of pure 'saber-speak'.

Ricky Romero - Avoid 2012

It pains me to say this but Ricky is due for a down season next year.  Let's look at this way, in 2010 he posted a 3.73 ERA 1.29 WHIP and 174 K.  This season 2.92 ERA 1.14 WHIP and 178 K.  Looks like he's figured something out somewhere right?  Upon closer inspection we see no improvement in K/9, GB% (ground ball rate) but a slight decrease of BB/9 (down to 3.20 this past season).  What's the deal here?  Well, like Jeremy Hellickson (read down a few posts) he's managed to get gigantically lucky on balls in play (.242) this season.  Romero's skills suggest his ERA should have been closer to 4.00 than 3.0.  Add to that he pitches in the AL East and suddenly we're looking at two red flags.  I'm not going to say abandon Romero in 2012 but if you think he's an ace, think again.  He's a solid #2 starter tops and you should treat him as such in drafts next year.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Post Comments For Advice

I'll probably have to re-post this a few times but just be aware that if you want any questions answered just post in the comments or tweet me @games_on_lance.  I'll be happy (well mildly amused anyway) to respond!


Jeremy Hellickson - 2012 Avoid

This will be of course written before Hellickson goes through the playoffs destroying all in his path as the Rays win the Championship.  There we got our first blind and completely uninhibited prediction out of the way.  Seriously though,  there are a couple of things to know about Jeremy Hellickson who's 2.95 ERA and sparkling 1.15 will be deceiving for 2012.  First,  he's not striking out near enough batters (5.57 K/9) to warrant drafting him especially playing in the ultra competitive AL East.  His minor league resume boasts a relatively steady 9+ K/9 Although at his age (24) there will be lots of time to improve as he figures major league hitters out.  Second, his .223 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was as lucky as you can get.  Third and most importantly, his GB% (ground ball rate) was just 35%.  That's the scary part.  65% of the balls hit in play were either line drives or pop flys.  I'm just mentioning the AL East factor again, as the rest of the division all play in cozy hitters parks.  His draft stock will indeed be high but I think it goes without saying, avoid Hellickson like the plague in 2012.

Fantasy Baseball Season Ends With a Bang

That sound you hear is likely a ton of Boston fans crying out in unison.  What a nasty way to finish if you are a Red Sox fan.  Seriously though did they even have a shot at winning?  I'm not completely sure they did.  Beaten up after annual post-season berths, the Sox were going to have to trade for a starting pitcher to pitch in the event of a tie breaker (the rumors were swirling around KC's Bruce Chen).

So now where will the play offs take us?  Last season, the San Francisco Giants scraped into the playoffs despite winning the NL West.  They went on to best the Rangers for the World Series title.  Could that possibly be the Tampa Bay Rays this season?  With all of the youth and talent in that clubhouse can they really be a World Series champion? 

I'm certain those questions were swirling around last season as well.  As baseball stays the same, the Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals and Rangers have been in the post season regularly, it also is in constant motion.  We somehow end up with a highly improbable champion when its all said and done.  Let's be fair here though, in baseball playoffs, its all about the starting pitching.  If you have three good starters, or even two dominating ones like the Giants did last season with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, you're going to make some noise. 

Right away, that makes the Phillies the team to beat.  We'll have to wait and see. 

I'm hoping become a bit more vocal in this space especially over the baseball off season.  We'll take a look at some players I like for next season, some off season movement and anything else that tickles my fancy.  So please tune in...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trading Time

I don't know about most of you but I'm finding I trade only twice a year.  Now, I should edit that... I don't trade just two times in a year, I really only make deals or talk deals at two junctures in the season.  My favorite time is in the pre-season when a lot of people are guessing at player values.  Its also when people tend to be the most excited about the upcoming baseball season.  Now, the obvious difference is, I only play in keeper leagues.  Other than that its this time of year... I usually end up caving and having to make a deal in August. 

By caving I really mean I hate making trades but in some cases its pretty much a necessity.  When you play in a deep league its almost impossible to get what you want off the wire.  This brings me to the newest craze which some sites have been doing for years but one notable site just started called 'draft pick trading'.  Now in a deep league these 'picks' becomes truly valuable but impossible to gauge.  Most fantasy leagues I'm in allow for the pick trading but most don't even bother to use it or at least use it correctly.

For me, if I'm in a top 4 or 5 position in the standings, I'm trading draft picks like they're going out of style.  Why?  Well, most of the players left in the draft are generally speaking, non-elite or riskier types.  Gambles.  I usually spend the latter half of my draft, or the re-draft since all I play in is keeper leagues taking chances.  I have a list of guys I like for various reasons that could easily be jettisoned for the hot pick up of April if they don't pan out.  In other words, I don't see a ton of value in loading up on draft picks. 

That being said, I'm a guy who (arrogantly apparently) steps into a draft prepared.  I'm ridiculously meticulous about making a long list of useful players, players who will get regular at bats or prospects who have a strong chance at making the big club.  In my experience, most fantasy players don't bother to do this, so they spend the last few rounds looking for names they know or using all of the draft clock while the research on the fly.  I'm not suggesting the 'list' method is foolproof but it saves me a lot of stress.  That and it affords me some flexibility at this time of year to pillage other teams using draft picks as bait.

I think the 1st round draft pick seems to be the most in demand but it should be taken in context.  If you're in a 10 team league who keeps 6 players each, you're talking about a 61 to 70 ranked player at best.  Generally speaking these aren't studs you're giving away.  

Anyway, just some food for thought during the trade season... enjoy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Realist

1.a person who tends to view or represent things as they really are.

There are three sides to this triangle, the side you wish it to be (the optimist), the side you'd hate it to be (the pessimist) and of course the reality.  

Optimistically, (which is a terrible word for me to spell without a spell check for some reason) we all want the players we've taken recently in drafts to all break through.  Every late round pick becomes a solid or superstar.   They all stay healthy and they  all produce. You win the league by 50 points and gloat for years after.  Maybe we can look at this as 'hope'.

Pessimistically, fantasy players view the players that have a bad first week as garbage.  Stud or not, drop them to the waiver wire as they're never going to turn it around.  Is it too early to do so?  Yes but still the frustration sets in.  Best to look at this as 'fear'.

When it comes to fantasy baseball , its best to be the realist:

Its nice to hope that your sleeper relief pitcher will luck his way into saves. Still I'm afraid that Wilton Lopez and his 2 ER, 4 H in just 1 IP with no strikeouts is grounds to get a manager's blessing to finally start closing games any time soon. Realistically, Brandon Lyon sucks dude.  Somebody's going to get saves in Houston though.

Its comforting to think that Alex Gordon will finally break out for those that have invested annually in his 'talents'.  Still, pessimistically, what has changed?  Its a nice streak he's on that's for sure but I doubt he's a .379 hitter.  Realistically, I think its somewhere in the middle.  Gordon's going to exceed expectations this season.

Its nice to think that the Blue Jays have a shot at winning the AL East, but there are too many good teams in that division. The pessimist says alot has to go right, the realist says the division is more volatile than people think.

For those that have not given Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco a second thought, the optimist in me thinks he could be very effective for even shallow leagues this season.  The pessimist would note he plays for the Indians.  Still, the realist says 150 K's 4.00- 1.27 should be attainable despite his disaster start last week.  His tendency to keep the ball on the ground will only benefit him as the season wears on.

A few other random things quickly:

Seriously, Jayson Nix in the 2-hole John Farrell?  Career OBP and Hit rate: .290 and 75%.  That's 8th in the order material.

Adam Lind has returned. He's not going to hit .357 but set your expectations at around .300 and there will be no tears at the end of the year.

When you wait on a pitcher for years its kind of exciting to see him finally produce.  Ricky Nolasco, although against the Astros his second time out, has been brilliant. 15 baserunners allowed in 15 innings with no walks.

Craig Kimbrel is 3-3 in nailing down saves with 6 strikeouts in just 3 IP.  Yeah I should have reached for him in more leagues.

I actually feel bad for Justin Smoak in that Seattle lineup.  I don't think I get more bored than when looking at that batting order.  Smoak would have been a huge fantasy sleeper in Texas but he'll be lucky to get .270-20-75 in Seattle.  Still, I like Smoak.