September 2010

MLB Season in Review: Atlanta Braves Hitters

By Eno Sarris //

Biggest Surprise: Omar Infante

Omar Infante came out of nowhere to make the All-Star team and provide fantasy owners with a an average over .300 and eligibility all over the field, which qualifies as much more of a positive surprise than any other hitter on the team (other than the Say-Hey Kid listed below perhaps). Martin Prado was a bit of a question mark going in because of mediocre minor league stats and a lack of an extensive track record, but Prado managed to keep spraying line drives all over the field (.307/.350/.459) and looks like a strong middle-tier second baseman going forward.

Biggest Bust: Nate McLouth

Nate McLouth
easily qualifies for this title, as he struggled at the plate and with injuries all year and won’t crack double-digits in homers or steals by the end of the year, despite having a 20-20 season on his record. A bit of a late-season comeback helped, and a .218 batting average on balls in play points to a very unlucky season. Still, McLouth isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field nor offensive to handle a corner outfield spot. He may never again be fantasy-relevant in standard mixed leagues.

2011 Keeper Alert: Jason Heyward

We can’t go any further without talking about wunderkind Jason Heyward. The 21-year-old played with a maturity beyond his years, and his .278/.394/.457 line is nothing other than amazing given his age. Expect the patience to continue, the power to embiggen and for Heyward to eventually mature into a first-round pick in fantasy baseball.

2011 Regression Warning: Alex Gonzalez

At 33 years old, Alex Gonzalez has hit a career high with 23 home runs, with a strong .453 slugging percentage. Given his age and track record, those numbers will likely come down, and his poor plate discipline will sap him of most of his value. Meanwhile, Infante won’t once again have batted ball luck like he did in 2010, and batting average provides most his value. Neither middle infielder will be a great option next year.

For more on Jason Heyward and other Bravos, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB Season in Review: San Francisco Giants Hitters

By Eriq Gardner //

Biggest Surprise

Andres Torres spent 13 years in the minors before finally getting a shot to play every day in the majors this season. His numbers on the farm were decent, but nothing that hinted he’d be any better than a serviceable backup. He showed some promise in 2009, hitting .270/.343/.533. This year, Torres has hit 15 homers, knocked in 61 runs, scored 83, and stolen 23 bases in 549 plate appearances. He’s certainly earned an outfield spot again next season, even though he’ll be 33 with a light pedigree. The guy who came out of nowhere edges the spectacular comeback year of Aubrey Huff as the team’s biggest surprise.

Biggest Bust

Pablo Sandoval was coming off a 25-HR season in 2009 and looked like a good bet to develop as one of the league’s most valuable corner infielders. After all, Kung Fu Panda has an elite ability to make contact with the ball — hardly ever striking out. So what happened in 2010? Sandoval hit only a dozen home runs and his batting average dropped from .330 all the way down to .267. It’s hard to explain his complete absence of power this year except to speculate about his body weight, a hidden injury, or just pure bad luck. It’s also possible that Sandoval enjoyed a career year in 2009 (including a very high .350 BABIP) and that he had little to no shot to repeat that performance.

2011 Keeper Alert

Buster Posey arrived on the scene in late May and quickly established himself as one of baseball’s top catchers. This season, in just 426 plate appearances, Posey has hit 16 HR, knocked in 64, and hit .311. Posey was highly touted coming into the league, but few catching prospects are ever this good, this quickly. Now, he has made a case that he could possibly be the most valuable catcher in baseball next year, especially if Joe Mauer fails to regain his 2009 power stroke. Posey’s value is helped by the fact that he plays nearly every day — another rarity among catchers — and hits high up in San Francisco’s lineup.

2011 Regression Alert

Expect better things from Sandoval next season. He’s still making contact and putting the ball in the air, but a 6.6% HR/FB rate is flukishly low and bound to improve.

For more on Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.


MLB Season in Review: Toronto Blue Jays Pitchers

By Jonah Keri //

Biggest Surprise: Shaun Marcum

Ricky Romero‘s very close, with a 13-9 record, 3.79 ERA, and
7.5 strikeouts per nine innings. But we’re giving the nod to Marcum,
given his great comeback from injuries. The 13-8 record, 3.63 ERA and
7.7 K/9 IP rate are nearly identical to Romero’s line. But the 2.1 BB/9
IP points to a pitcher with a much better WHIP than Romero (for 2010
fantasy purposes) and generally better command. At any rate, if you
drafted either of these guys this year, you’re happy.

Biggest Bust: None

The pitching staff overachieved en masse. In fact, looking at the seasons put up by Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells,
and the terrific performances by several young starters, it’s a wonder
the Jays didn’t make a bigger run at the postseason. Goes to show what
a killer division the AL East is.

2011 Keeper Alert: Brandon Morrow

No one can figure out why the Mariners gave up so early on Morrow,
the hard-throwing number-one pick. But the Jays are happy they did.
Morrow’s 178 strikeouts in just 146.1 IP yield an off-the-charts
strikeout rate for a starting pitcher. His 17 K, one-hitter against the
Rays marked the single best game by any pitcher this season, according
to Bill James’ Game Score stat. Morrow has real ace potential, but you
won’t have to pay nearly that much given the modest 10-7 record and
4.49 ERA. Keep him if you can, or draft him at a discount next season.

2011 Regression Alert: Kevin Gregg

The 36 saves are great, but Gregg’s success was purely a function of
opportunity. He was his usual wild self this season, walking a batter
every other inning and working in and out of trouble far more
frequently than a pitcher usually tasked with pitching ahead and with
the bases empty ever should. We recommend buying skills when shopping
for relief pitchers, because skills-challenged closers like Gregg
become nearly useless the moment they lose their job. And it’ll happen
sooner or later.

For more on Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow and the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.


MLB Season in Review: Toronto Blue Jays Hitters

By Jonah Keri //

Biggest Surprise: Jose Bautista

The biggest no-duh of any player we’ll cover in this series,
Bautista’s 52 homers and 119 RBI (so far) are the biggest individual
story in all of baseball. The breakthrough season has elicited all the
expected accusations. But several other factors back up a big home run
spike. Bautista’s flyball rate surged to 54.8%, he hit a home run on
21.8% of his flyballs (tops in the league) and the rest of the Jays
also enjoyed a banner power year, as Rogers Centre played like a
launching pad this season. Either way, many 2010 Bautista owners will
soon enjoy some frothy Yoo-Hoo showers.

Biggest Bust: Aaron Hill

Twenty-five homers from a second baseman are a boon to any fantasy
team; a .206 batting average is not. Hill will finish the year with
well over 500 at-bats and an average near the Mendoza line. Unless you
compensated with an army of Ichiros, your team likely took a big hit in
batting average that may have derailed your run at a title. 

2011 Keeper Alert: Aaron Hill

Fantasy baseball is all about finding value. In Hill’s case, his
incredibly disappointing 2010 season will cause his price to plummet.
But look deeper and you’ll find that his batting average was the result
of a flukishly low .196 batting average on balls in play. The power’s
still there, and the average will bounce back. If you don’t keep him,
draft him at a discount next year.

2011 Regression Alert: Jose Bautista

Another no-brainer, of course. No one expects Bautista to top 50
homers again. But depending on how skeptical your leaguemates are, you
might actually be able to get Bautista for less than full value. Fifty
homers likely won’t happen again, but 35-plus very well could.

For more on Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill, and the Toronto Blue Jays lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

MLB Season In Review: Oakland A’s Hitters

By Tommy Rancel //

Biggest Surprise: Daric Barton

Barton spent most of 2008 as a regular in A’s lineup, but appeared in just 54 games in 2009. Back in the lineup in 2010, Barton has been an on-base machine. With a triple slash line of .271/.392/.395, he is not the prototypical slugging first baseman – but productive nonetheless. His above-average walk rates have kept his OBP near .400 for most of the season. In addition to the walks, he has 45 extra-base hits and 75 runs scored.

Biggest Bust: Kurt Suzuki

In July, the A’s rewarded Suzuki with a contract extension. He has repaid the team with the worst offensive performance of his four-year career. After 53 extra-base hits a season ago, he has just 31 this year. His batting average is a career-low .246 and his poor walk rate (6.2%) limit his chances to get on base otherwise. You could do worse at the catcher position, but Suzuki has disappointed this season.

2011 Keeper Alert: Daric Barton

Most of the talent on the A’s resides on the pitching side of things. However, if you had to keep one hitter given the likely asking price, Barton would be the guy. With his great OBP, Barton could score 100 runs in a more talented lineup.

2011 Regression Alert: Jack Cust

It has been a strange season for Cust, who was non-tendered and designated for assignment by Oakland within the last year. Still, Cust has posted an .837 OPS as the A’s DH. He continues to walk a lot, but also strike out; however, he hasn’t hit home runs like years past (12 this year, after 26-33-25 in the previous three season). In a disturbing trend, his home run-to-flyball ratio has dropped in each of the past four seasons. In addition to that, his .387 BABIP is absurdly high despite his normal .271 batting average. With “old man skills” and an expected decline in BABIP, Cust shouldn’t be on your 2011 draft board in standard mixed leagues.

For more on the Daric Barton and the Oakland A’s lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.


MLB Season In Review: Oakland A’s Pitchers

By Tommy Rancel //

Biggest Surprise: Trevor Cahill

After going 10-13 with a 4.63 ERA in 32 starts as a rookie, Cahill has enjoyed an All-Star season in 2010. The 22-year-old is 17-8 with a 3.08 ERA in 27 starts. On the surface, Cahill seems like an emerging ace, but we’ll see if he can repeat his performance. More on that later…

Biggest Bust: Ben Sheets

The A’s made an unusual splash on the open market this season when they signed Ben Sheets to a one-year, $10 million deal. Sheets missed all of 2009, but when healthy is a legitimate ace. The gamble for Oakland was him staying healthy. Unfortunately for both sides, Sheets would last just 20 starts before needing major arm surgery. Not only did the surgery wipe out the rest of 2010, but most likely all of 2011 as well. Even before the surgery, the righty was just 4-9 with a 4.53 ERA.

2011 Keeper Alert: Gio Gonzalez

While Cahill has grabbed most of the attention, Gio Gonzalez might be the most talented young arm in the A’s rotation. At 14-9 with a 3.35 ERA, Gonzalez is finally living up to the hype of a top prospect. He has an above-average strikeout rate (7.57 K/9 IP), but walks are still an issue (4.04 BB/9 IP). He’s young, he’s talented, his numbers don’t suggest much of a fluke, and he’s left-handed; a keeper.

2011 Regression Alert: Trevor Cahill

As mentioned, Cahill has really good traditional stats, but a quick check of his peripherals show he has not been as impressive as those numbers suggest. His 5.31 K/9 IP is poor and his 2.89 BB/9 is acceptable, but only with a higher strikeout rate. In addition to the mediocre control rates, his .237 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is not likely to be repeated again (league average is typically around .300). Cahill is a fine young pitcher with a terrific groundball rate (55.7% ranks among the league leaders) and plenty of room to improve. But buyers beware next season – his ERA’s likely to rise, and 17 or more wins might be a reach.

For more on Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and the rest of the Oakland A’s pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

MLB Season in Review: New York Mets Hitting

By Eno Sarris //

Biggest Surprise

Angel Pagan finally stayed healthy and showed what he was capable of for a full
season, racking up 11 homers, 69 RBI, 77 runs scored, 35 steals and a .289 average with a week left to play. At 29, he’s probably peaking. But another full season of playing time could easily produce similar numbers.

Biggest Bust

Pagan will most likely take over center field from one of the year’s biggest busts, Carlos Beltran. Knee surgery may have stolen much of his athleticism – he
hasn’t looked good this year after his late return. He is, at best, a
late (very late) sleeper in next year’s drafts. Then again, more was
expected of Jason Bay than Beltran, so he gets the title of biggest Mets bust – a much sought after trophy in some circles. Because of how long
isolated power numbers take to become reliable, though, Bay could be useful in
2011. A late-round pick could produce a rebound in homers in year two with the Mets.

2011 Keeper Alert

This team has the obvious keepers in mixed leagues – David Wright and Jose Reyes are near the top of their respective careers and positions and make fine keepers. The big question is what will happen with Ike Davis.
He needs to either add more power or make more contact – middling power
with a middling batting average doesn’t make for a fantasy superstar, especially not at first base.
Looking at his minor league numbers, the bet here is that he does add
the power, but doesn’t ever show a plus batting average because of his
strikeout rate and uppercut swing.

2011 Regression Warning

enough, most of this team either hit at about their true talent levels
or is on their way up. Perhaps because of injury risk, Pagan is the
only one who is likely to regress, but he still makes a fine
deep-league keeper.

For more on Mets’ hitters, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB Season in Review: New York Mets Pitching

By Eno Sarris // 

Biggest Surprise

The biggest positive surprise in a season full of mostly negative revelations for the New York Metropolitans has been R.A. Dickey. Dickey, the subject of a recent – and fun – poster contest, has leveraged his multi-velocity knuckleball
to a 2.92 ERA and 11 wins so far. Dickey’s 5.36 K/9 IP rate raise red
flags about his future. But he’s also walking just over 2 batters per 9
IP this season, with a very high 55% groundball rate. If he’s truly harnessed his knuckleball, Dickey could become a trickier, more successful version of Joel Pineiro or Jake Westbrook. In other words, someone well worth rostering next season, even as he enters his late 30s.


Biggest Bust

On the other side of the coin would have to be Johan Santana‘s
season. Maybe we should have seen it coming – he’s now had
season-ending surgeries two years running, and his strikeout and walk
rates have been in a nose-dive since he left Minnesota. But the
declining lefty put up a below-average strikeout rate this year, and
has a recovery period that might push late into 2011.

2011 Keeper Alert

Francisco Rodriguez
makes for a paragraph all by himself. K-Rod reversed the decline in his
strikeout rates and showed the best control of his career. He generally
seemed to be a resurgent, elite closer for much of the year. But then
he punched his girlfriend’s father and now makes for a fascinating and
risky keeper selection going into 2011. It’s usually a bad idea to keep
a closer anyway because of the turnover at the position. See if you can
grab him cheap at the draft table instead.

Regression Warning

If Santana, Rodriguez, Dickey and even Dillon Gee have their risks, there are no obvious keepers on this pitching staff. Mike Pelfrey
had a playable season, but he also showed the worst groundball rate of
his career and is a bit of a risk for regression with a poor strikeout
rate. Jon Niese might actually make the best keeper on the staff, but isn’t worth the effort in shallow mixed leagues.

Avoid Mets pitchers when picking keepers for 2011. Instead,
see if you can snag a couple late in your draft next season (Niese?
Dickey?), especially given their favorable home park.

For more on the Mets, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools

MLB Season in Review: San Francisco Giants Pitchers

By Eriq Gardner //

Biggest Surprise

Jonathan Sanchez got some love in the preseason as a sleeper. There aren’t too many pitchers who can be counted upon to strike out at least a batter per inning. His upside to do more got him drafted in many fantasy leagues. But few would have imagined that Sanchez would sport a 3.16 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with two starts left in his season. Beware, though: Better luck has been the biggest reason for the improvement, with opponents hitting just .266 against him on balls in play (vs. .302 lifetime BABIP allowed, and league average around .300).

Biggest Bust

On the surface, it might seem a stretch to call Tim Lincecum a bust. After all, most pitchers would love to lead the league in strikeouts and have a 3.60 ERA. But some context is in order. Lincecum was the top drafted pitcher in fantasy leagues, as many were expecting the stud who posted back-to-back Cy Young Award seasons with at least 260 strikeouts, a sub-3 ERA, and a sub-1.20 WHIP. This season, Lincecum’s strikeout rate is down, his walk rate is up from 2009 levels (though it’s right at his career average), and he’s nowhere close to award consideration.

2011 Keeper Alert

It’s not always wise to use keeper slots on closers, but Brian Wilson keeps getting better and better and is one of the league’s top relievers now. Not only for the saves and solid ERA/WHIP he contributes, but Wilson is also flirting with 100 strikeouts.

2011 Regression Alert

Madison Bumgarner was a top prospect coming up through the Giants’ farm system. In 16 starts this season, the youngster has posted a 3.06 ERA, including a scoreless outing last night. Everything may seem dandy, but Bumgarner is only striking out 6.71 batters per 9 innings and sports an xFIP more than a run higher than his actual ERA. On the plus side, his walk rate is a low 2.12 BB/9 IP this season. He’s a keeper, but don’t overbid if you’re drafting anew next season.

For more on Tim Lincecum and other San Francisco Giants pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

MLB Season In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates Pitchers

By R.J. Anderson //

Biggest Surprise: James McDonald

No secret to regular Bloomberg Sports blog readers, is a favorite ’round these parts. McDonald is worthy of the endearment thrown his way because of his stellar strikeout rate (8.32 K/9 IP). His playable 4.09 ERA is backed by a 3.19 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA but strips out the impact of defense, park effects and other factors beyond a pitcher’s control). McDonald was acquired for a half season of a non-elite reliever, a technique Billy Beane described as “Building a Closer” in Moneyball.

Biggest Bust: Charlie Morton

One of the keys in the Nate McLouth deal, Morton’s 2010 season never opened the Pleasantville gates. Good build and strong velocity make Morton a pitcher scouts like, but his stuff ha yet to translate to strikeouts in the big leagues. After returning from the disabled list, the occasional big strikeout game disappeared too, making him virtually unwatchable. He’s better than the abysmal 8.11 ERA he’s posted this season, but there are many pitchers with a lot more potential, even in deep leagues.

2011 Keeper Alert: James McDonald

McDonald should get his first shot at a 200-inning season next year, which could translate into lots of strikeouts and solid ratios, even if the win total might falter playing for the rebuilding Pirates.

2011 Regression Alert: Paul Maholm

Maholm is a groundball-heavy pitcher who relies heavily on his infield defense taking fieldable balls and converting them into outs. Unfortunately, the infield defense did not do a worthwhile job this season, and thus, Maholm wound up with an ERA over 5. If the Pirates address their hole-filled defense this off-season, expect Maholm to bounce back and make for a nifty sleeper.

For more on James McDonald and better keeper prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.