August 2010

(Video) Ballpark Figures: Stock Report

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: Stock Report — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw go over the Bulls and Bears in Fantasy Baseball. Shaw says it’s a good time to buy low for Astros infielder Chris Johnson and Rays outfielder Matt Joyce, while Andruw Jones and Jeremy Guthrie should not be depended upon for fantasy value. For more fantasy insight, visit us at BloombergSports.com.

The Hidden Value of Seth Smith

By Eriq Gardner //
In the fantasy baseball lexicon, “platoon” is a dirty word. Few fantasy team owners want to hear that one of their players is being benched against either left-handed or right-handed pitching.
But in leagues that allow daily lineup adjustments and enough roster room to accommodate extra batters, platoons represent a tremendous buying opportunity.
Take Seth Smith.
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Smith is a smooth-hitting left-handed batter in a crowded Colorado Rockies outfield. Because he competes for playing time with Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Dexter Fowler, and Ryan Spilborghs, Smith doesn’t play every day. That doesn’t make his playing time unpredictable, though. Throughout this season, Smith has consistently gotten starts against right-handed pitching. 
On those days, he’s been fantastic. In 56 games he’s started this season, Smith has posted an .840 OPS. To put that in context, it’s top 50 in the MLB this season, ahead of Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, and Justin Upton, to name a few players who dwarf Smith in ownership percentage.
The fact that Smith has been so valuable in games he’s started shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the years, Smith has feasted on right-handed pitching. Since 2008, Smith has an OPS of .911 against right-handed pitching. Only 28 batters with at least 400 AB in that time frame can claim a better record versus right-handed pitchers. He’s bested players like Ryan Braun, Chase Utley, and Evan Longoria in that category.
The reason that Smith doesn’t play every day? Well, a crowded Colorado Rockies outfield is one factor. Another is that Smith doesn’t fare as well against left-handed pitching. His career OPS versus lefties is .622, albeit in a relatively small sample size.
Still, given the opportunity to play Smith on days he’s starting, what fantasy owner couldn’t have used these stats to date: a .281 AVG, 11 HR, 31 RBI, and 36 Runs.
The stats are even more impressive when paired with a player who might have been activated in place of Smith when the Rockies outfielder had the day off. 
Let’s assume a team owner has gotten 56 games from Smith and another 45 games from a replacement-caliber player. What kind of stats would be required from Smith’s fantasy platoon partner to match Jayson Werth’s 2010 production of a .292 AVG, 15 HR, 64 Runs, and 56 RBIs? Answer: Not much. 
Werth is owned in nearly every league, whereas Smith is owned in less than 10% of leagues. Pairing Smith with another discounted player like J.D. Drew or Jason Kubel offers aggregated production that can potentially surpass the offerings of a player like Werth.
Consider this a market inefficiency if you’re in a league with daily transactions. For years, real-life MLB managers have been exploiting platoons. For owners in roster-flexible leagues willing to do some daily research on match-ups, having a fantasy platoon can be just as rewarding. 
For more on platoon splits, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office

Closing Time in Washington

by Eno Sarris // 

We already talked about what happened in Octavio Dotel’s wake in Pittsburgh. Now it’s time to examine the new closer situation in D.C.

Matt Capps left for Minnesota and left an open job behind him. It’s not entirely clear who will assume the mantle there, though there is an early favorite. Drew Storen is thought to be the guy to become the closer in Washington, because he was drafted in the first round and was given the title of Closer of the Future. Was the hype warranted?

Yes and no. The no first: Storen is not currently showing any elite results. His strikeout rate (7.62 K/9), walk rate (3.84 BB/9) and groundball rate (37.9%) are all below average. He does have what might be described as a ‘closer’s arsenal,’ with a 94.5 MPH fastball, an 84.4 MPH slider, and an 82.5 MPH curveball. All three pitches rate as net positives according to the Pitch Type Values at FanGraphs.com, which use changes in the state of a game to evaluate each type of pitch. It’s also important to remember that Storen is only 33 innings into his major league career, and had a double-digit strikeout rate in the minor leagues (10.7 K/9).

StorenGrab.jpgElsewhere, Tyler Clippard has finally turned a nice strikeout rate from the minor leagues (9.2 K/9 career, with most of it starting, higher as a reliever) into good numbers in the major leagues this year (10.18 K/9). On the other hand, he has a scary walk rate, both this year (4.24 BB/9) and for his career (4.80 BB/9). Also, if Storen is a slight flyball pitcher (and this at risk of giving up deadly home runs) Clippard is ridiculously so (55.1% flyballs this year, 56.3% for his career).

Last but not least is the man that actually garnered the first post-Capps save: Sean Burnett. Burnett has no obvious flaws – his strikeout rate (8.38 K/9), walk rate (3.26 BB/9) and groundball rates (56.6%) are all better than average for a reliever, and passable for a closer. On the other hand, there’s the fact that his career rates (6.05 K/9, 4.17 BB/9 and 52.6% groundballs) are all below his current performance. Also worth noticing is his handedness. Southpaws are sometimes shunned by managers when it comes to picking a closer – there are only two lefties in the top 25 in saves right now. It probably has to do with the fact that lefties are more often used as specialists. Burnett’s platoon splits are also troublesome: In his career, he has struck out 11.15 per nine innings against lefties, but only 6.56 per nine against righties.

This is not an open-and-shut case. Storen doesn’t have the obvious flaws that Clippard does, and he also doesn’t have the platoon split that Burnett has shown so far. Those factors, plus Storen being the 10th pick in the draft and thus someone the club would more likely lean on, make him the man to pick up. Burnett may steal the odd save when a lefty-heavy lineup comes up in the ninth, but Storen should get most of the Nationals’ saves for the rest of this season, and in future seasons.

For more on Drew Storen and other closer candidates, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
 

(Video) Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 5

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw shift the conversation from the players who were traded to the players who will now enjoy an opportunity to play everyday now that spots have opened up after the trade deadline. Shaw focuses on the fantasy value of Diamondbacks hurler Daniel Hudson, Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan, Indians closer Chris Perez, and Astros first baseman Brett Wallace. For more fantasy insight, visit us at BloombergSports.com and Twitter.com/Bloombergsports.

(Video) Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 4

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw shift the conversation from the players who were traded to the players who will now enjoy an opportunity to play everyday now that spots have opened up after the trade deadline. Shaw focuses on the fantasy value of Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, Indians infielder Jayson Nix and Andy Marte, Orioles utility man Ty Wigginton, Marlins rookie Logan Morrison, and Nationals soon-to-be-closer Drew Storen. For more fantasy insight, visit us at BloombergSports.com and Twitter.com/Bloombergsports.

Ted Lilly in Los Angeles

By Eriq Gardner //

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In his 12-season career, Ted Lilly has played for six teams, but no home environment marks a better fit for the veteran pitcher than Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Traded there last week, Lilly brings with him nice surface stats, including an ERA of 3.56 and a 1.09 WHIP. However, as noted here in June, Lilly has been getting rather lucky this season, as his strikeout rate has fallen to a career low (6.82 K/9 IP).
Whiffing fewer batters means putting more balls in play. For Lilly, that’s potentially disastrous. Nearly 52% of balls hit off Lilly are flyballs. Typically, that translates to a lot of home runs allowed. In Lilly’s case, he’s giving up 1.45 HRs per nine innings — a poisonous rate for an ordinary pitcher.
However, when Lilly has given up a home run this season, he’s been fortunate enough to survive without too much harm to his ERA. Of the 20 HRs that Lilly has given up this season, 11 have come with the bases empty and seven of come with only one man on base. Thanks to being both good (2.1 BB/9 IP) and lucky (.252 BABIP), Lilly’s opponents haven’t been clogging the bases at a frequent enough rate to hang him when he gives up the long ball.
Playing for Chicago, Lilly was a primary candidate for significant regression, as his FIP and xFIP (measures which run along the same scale as ERA, but strip out luck, park factors and other variables) are nearly a full run higher than his ERA.
A move to Los Angeles offers some amnesty from the expected regression. Wrigley Field boosts HRs by right-handed batters by five percent whereas Dodger Stadium depresses HRs by right-handed batters by eight percent. About 85% of home runs off Lilly have come from right-handed batters in his career. Moreover, Dodger Stadium boosts strikeouts by about seven percent. 

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In sum, Lilly’s flyball tendencies and dwindling ability to overpower batters with strikeouts won’t cause nearly as much trouble in friendly Los Angeles. And he could also get help in another important way.
Remarkably, despite a wonderful ERA this season, Lilly had only three wins in 2010 playing for the Chicago Cubs. His former club offered the fourth-worst run support in the National League. According to statistics kept by Baseball Prospectus, Lilly would have gotten 10 wins playing with an average offense.
On Tuesday, Lilly picked up his fourth win of the season, perhaps some cause for optimism for Lilly’s fantasy owners who have been been both lucky and unlucky with Lilly this season.
For more on starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office

Supreme Court Justice in the Outfield

by Eno Sarris //

Okay, so it’s not only the missing ‘h’ that separates the Cardinal’s Jon Jay from former American supreme court justice John Jay – those 200 years are quite the chasm. But the Cardinals’ version of Jay is taking on a new role, after Ryan Ludwick was traded to the Padres over the weekend. But is he a legitimate fantasy starter in the outfield?

JayGrab.jpgAt first blush, everything seems to rule in favor of Jay’s ability to stick. Looking at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs, he looks like he has power, and the strong batting average helps. A .366/.415/.553 batting line should play on any fantasy team. Even a summary check of his minor league numbers this year (.321/.394/.491) would pass inspection. It’s a heckuva fast start.

A longer look, though, takes some the shine off Jay’s profile. Jay’s batting average on balls in play is an astronomical .424; even the two biggest outliers last year, David Wright and Ichiro Suzuki, had .394 and .384 numbers in 2009. Also, BABIP stabilizes at .300 around baseball every year. So you’ll see Jay’s BABIP, and batting average, come down significantly as natural regression sets in.

Then there’s the minor league record that deserves further review. Minor League Splits.com has a translator that creates major league equivalents for minor league numbers. That translation says Jay’s Triple-A numbers in 2010 would work out to .276/.335/.406 in the big leagues. Useful, but hardly as exciting as the stats he’s putting up currently.

A flaw in Jay’s minor league numbers is a poor split against
left-handed hitters (.685 OPS versus southpaws). That split comes in
only 439 plate appearances, so it’s not definitive, but it exists.
Though it may be an issue, the Cardinals did start Jay against lefty Zach Duke over the weekend. Then again, there is a threat coming from Allen Craig as well, who actually sports better numbers against lefties (.900 career OPS versus lefties in the minor leagues) and has his own solid batting line down on the farm (.307/.369/.511). Craig has shown more power in the minor leagues and is a threat to Jay’s playing time, as the justice’s batted ball luck evens out. 

Zoom out on the minor league numbers for Jay, and you’ll notice an inconsistent slugging percentage. Just last year, Jay had a .281/.338/.394 batting line with the same Memphis team, numbers which didn’t result in any sort of major league callup. That’s right, Jay was repeating Triple-A this year, which takes his stats down another notch. After three years of college before his pro career, Jay has always been around average age in his leagues, and at both Double-A and Triple-A, he struggled at first before recovering on his second try.

Obviously, Jay is not struggling with his first shot in the major leagues. But you can also see in the numbers that his power is inconsistent, the speed is decent but not elite (he had a career high of 20 stolen bases in Triple-A in 2009), and there is a threat to his playing time on his team. Even as a batting-average specialist, there may or may not be struggles against lefties in his future, and there’s sure to be some BABIP pullback. The ruling of this court is that Jay is a fine pickup in deep NL-only leagues. But in shallower mixed leagues, there are probably better options out there on the waiver wire.

For more on Jon Jay and other outfielders, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

(Video) Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 3

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 3 — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw discuss the latest deals in Major League Baseball. In the third of a five episode series, Shaw focuses on the fantasy value of Dodgers outfielder Scott Podsednik, Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta, Phillies hurler Roy Oswalt, Astros starting pitcher JA Happ, Padres infielder Miguel Tejada, and Rangers first baseman Jorge Cantu. For more fantasy insight, visit us at BloombergSports.com and Twitter.com/Bloombergsports.

(Video) Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 2

By Bloomberg Sports //

Ballpark Figures: MLB Trade Reaction, Part 2 — Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Analyst Rob Shaw discuss the latest deals in Major League Baseball. In the second of a five episode series, Shaw focuses on the fantasy value of former Pirates closer Octavio Dotel and what a move to the Dodgers means for him, why Jake Westbrook should become a valuable hurler for the Cardinals, how Ted Lilly should peak with the Dodgers, and why Ryan Theriot’s fantasy value peaks now that he plays every day for the Dodgers. For more fantasy insight, visit us at BloombergSports.com and Twitter.com/Bloombergsports.

Closing Time in Pittsburgh

by Eno Sarris // 

When Octavio Dotel took his bag
of strikeouts west to Los Angeles, he left an open question in his
wake: Who will close in Pittsburgh? For once, there are two almost
equally qualified options in the bullpen.

The Bucs have made their initial choice Tuesday night, tapping big right-hander Joel Hanrahan to close out a 7-6 win over the Reds. Hanharan looked good in securing his first save of the season, allowing one hit, no runs, and striking out two.

HanrahanGrab.jpgStill, there’s enough mix-and-match potential here for two Pirates pitchers to be worth a look in standard mixed leagues. Do a side-by-side comparison using the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools, and you’ll see that both Hanrahan
and Evan Meek look like perfectly fine options – despite being very different
pitchers. Manager Jim Russell’s initial refusal to name a new closer suggests that he might just ride the hot hand. On the other hand, Buster Olney did say the team would install Hanrahan once Dotel was moved.

Meek’s strikeout rate (7.61 K/9 this year, 7.48 career) places him only slightly above league average. However, Meek has showed a solid walk rate (2.83
BB/9 this year), a development in his game that is a tribute to the
Pirates’ minor league coaches, who immediately helped him harness his
arsenal after years of struggling with his control. Not new to Meek’s
game is his elite groundball percentage. His current 54.7% groundball
rate is well above the average 44% groundball rate across
baseball, and near his already high career level too (53.7%).

Hanrahan
is no vomit-taste jelly bean either (as an aside, these beans exist,
and apparently they started with pepperoni pizza and added a citrus
taste, says the Discovery Channel). The man with an Irish name and an
Iowa birth certificate is striking out batters at a career-high rate this
year (12.65 K/9), but given his very strong career rate (10.02), this isn’t a
huge surprise. What is a nice surprise is that he’s also stopped
walking people in Pittsburgh (2.64 BB/9 this year, 4.66 career). The
combination has been working well.

The only flaw in his game
might actually make him a better fit at the closer position,
ironically. Hanrahan is more of a strikeout/flyout pitcher, with a
below-average groundball rate (35.8% this year, 37% career). Because
groundballs can lead to double-plays, it might behoove the Pirates to
use Meek in situations where there are runners on as a way to
leverage his talents best. Because flyballs can lead to home runs, it
makes sense to at least start Hanrahan off without any runners on.
Coincidentally, this is usually how closers work.

The last piece
of evidence we can use is the two pitchers’ past usage patterns. Hanrahan has owned
the eighth inning for a couple weeks now, while Meek has had the
seventh, with some stints that spanned multiple innings. Most signs
seem to point to Hanrahan, so if you only have one spot to dedicate to
speculating on Pirates’ saves, he’s the man to pick up.

For more on other bullpen situations, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

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