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.