By Jonah Keri //
Biggest Surprise: Joel Zumaya
The injury-prone, fireballing right-hander was a wreck in 2009,
walking more than six batters per nine innings and posting an ERA near
5.00. Further removed from his latest breakdown, Zumaya rebounded
impressively this season, slashing his walk rate to 2.58/9 IP and
posting a strikeout-to-walk rate of better than 3:1. His 2.58 ERA was a
boon for fantasy players who wield relief pitchers to help with ratios.
Zumaya suffered a fractured elbow in late June though, costing him the
rest of the season and leaving his owners with only 38.1 innings of
fantasy goodness. Applaud the great comeback, but steer clear of Zumaya
at the draft table next season.
Biggest Bust: Rick Porcello
A 10-12 record and a 4.92 ERA for one of the most highly-touted young
pitchers in the game qualifies as a huge bust. But really, everyone
should have seen it coming. Porcello’s 14-9 record and 3.96 ERA came
despite an abysmal K rate of just 4.69/9 IP. It’s nearly impossible to
see sustained success when you strike out so few batters. Indeed,
Porcello’s 2010 K rate is virtually identical to his 2009 mark. It’s
just that he ran out of luck, his left on base rate plunging and his
batting average on balls in play climbing 30 points. Porcello’s not yet
22, and he actually sliced his walk rate all the way down to 2.1/9 IP
this season. He’s still got upside, just keep your expectations in check
until he starts missing more bats.
2011 Keeper Alert: Max Scherzer
After eight starts this season, Scherzer’s record stood at 1-4 with a
7.29 ERA, making the multi-team trade the Tigers pulled off last
off-season look like a potential bust. Though he’d been unlucky on balls
in play, Scherzer’s strikeout rate was also down sharply from his
stellar 2009 levels, raising concerns of an injury, or at least wonky
mechanics. Sent to Triple-A for two weeks, he straightened himself out,
then proceeded to destroy the American League. His 12-11 record and 3.50
ERA helped plenty of fantasy teams this season. But Scherzer’s
strikeout-inducting stuff (8.46 K/9 IP) could portend much bigger things
down the road, even Cy Young contention.
2011 Regression Alert: Armando Galarraga
People will remember Galarraga’s 2010 Perfect Game That Wasn’t for a
long time. Just don’t let it sway you into speculating on him in
fantasy. Galarraga’s K rate was even worse than Porcello’s this season,
and his walk rate is more than one per nine innings higher than
Porcello’s. The 4.62 ERA looks respectable and the near-perfecto might
tempt you to take a flyer next year. Don’t. His true talent points to a
pitcher whose true ability level suggests ERAs well over 5 in his
For more on Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Jonah Keri //
Biggest Surprise: Austin Jackson
One could easily make a case for Jackson as a regression candidate,
as his sky-high .399 batting average on balls in play is unsustainable
over the long haul, and suggests a possible pullback from his .295
average this year. But Jackson’s 103 runs scored and 26 steals to go
with the high average gave fantasy owners a big lift, and at just 23
years old, he could see gains in power and speed to help offset that
batting average regression, both next year and beyond.
Biggest Bust: Johnny Damon
We knew Damon’s numbers would pull back significantly from 2009
levels, going from possibly the friendliest park in baseball for his
slashing, left-handed swing to the vast expanses of Comerica Park, and
from the Yankees’ killer lineup to the Tigers’ collection of Miguel
Cabrera and a band of no-names. But the plunge was far more dramatic
than expected: 24 homers, 82 RBI and 107 runs scored in ’09, 8 homers,
50 RBI and 81 runs scored this year. Damon isn’t much of a basestealing
threat anymore either, swiping just 11 bags in 2010. Avoid him at next
year’s draft table.
2011 Keeper Alert: Ryan Raburn
First the negatives: Raburn’s .333 batting average on balls in play
might regress next year, making him a risk for a somewhat lower batting
average. He’s got a sizable platoon split on his track record and could
be vulnerable to tough right-handed pitching if given 600 plate
appearances. And he only qualifies at OF heading into next season. On
the other hand, Raburn should play meet the typical 5- or 10-game
in-season minimums needed to qualify at second base next year, and he’s
swatted 31 homers over about 700 plate appearances in the last two
seasons with the Tigers. Stash him as a cheap keeper at OF or UT, then
slide him to 2B when he qualifies there next year and you’ll have cheap
power at a position that doesn’t have a lot of it.
2011 Regression Alert: None
Miguel Cabrera was the only Tigers hitter to put up big
numbers this season, and he’s in his prime at age 27 and improving by
the year — meaning it’s tough to find a Tigers hitter due for a big
pullback. By the same token, few Tigers performed so poorly relative to
expectations that you’d expect a big positive regression either. You
could be generous and argue that Scott Sizemore is better than
the .224/.296/.336 line he mustered this season. But the man Detroit
originally ticketed for the starting second base job in 2010 sports a
track record of mediocre power and high strikeout rates in the minor
leagues; he may well be unable to hit enough to hold down an everyday
job, let alone help you in even a deeper mixed league.
For more on Austin Jackson and the Detroit Tigers lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Russell Branyan
After leading the Mariners in home runs in 2009 (31), few expected Branyan to do it again in 2010. Why? Because he started the season with a nasty back injury (and as a member of the Cleveland Indians). After a few months in Cleveland, he was re-acquired by Seattle. In 57 games, he has hit 15 home runs for the M’s which is (sadly) good enough for the team lead. He also leads the team with a .802 OPS.
Biggest Bust: Chone Figgins
There were plenty of choices here: Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez. But Figgins’ poor season comes with the biggest price tag. After signing a four-year deal in the off-season, Figgins is “hitting” .263/.344/.310 this year – a far cry from his career .287/.360/.376 line. He has just 24 extra-base hits in nearly 700 plate appearances and has rated as a below-average defender at second base. The one good thing from a fantasy perspective is Figgins stole 42 bases this season, though he still scored just 62 times in a historically awful Seattle lineup.
2011 Keeper Alert: Ichiro Suzuki
Even in what could be described as a down season for him, Ichiro, remained the Mariners’ top offensive weapon in 2010. His slash line dipped to .315/359/.394, but once again topped the 200-hit mark – becoming the first player in league history with 10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits. In addition to the hits, he also stole 41 bases and somehow managed to cross the plate 73 times – nearly 15% of the teams total runs scored. Another 200 hits and 40 steals should be doable for the great Ichiro in 2011.
2011 Regression Alert: Justin Smoak
As the big chip in the Cliff Lee trade, Smoak has been a disappointment in 2010. The young slugger is hitting just .201/.301/.364 in 356 plate appearances. On the plus side, he’s hit 13 homers in less than 400 plate appearances, and has found his stride in the last couple weeks of the season, hitting for power and showing a much better batting eye. He’s just too talented to be this bad next year, and he could be an excellent deep sleeper.
For more on Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner
Both have been good for a long time, but Tim Hudson and Billy Wagner both surpassed expectations this year in their returns from Tommy John surgery. Wags found his old strikeout punch, to the tune of more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings, while Hudson focused more on getting the ground ball (64.7%, best in baseball). Because of their ages (Hudson is 35, Wagner 39), they might not make great keepers – especially with Wagner reportedly retiring – but they put in great work this year.
Biggest Bust: Jair Jurrjens
Jair Jurrjens is the clear bust for the Braves. He was injured for much of the year and could finish the season with only 20 starts, an ERA near 5.00, and the ire of fantasy owners everywhere. The thing is, Jurrjens really put up some of the same fundamental stats in 2010 that he did in 2009. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates were all similar in those two years. Instead, his luck and health went south this year. He’s an interesting bounce-back sleeper candidate late in 2011 drafts.
2011 Keeper Alert: Tommy Hanson
The one clear keeper on this pitching staff is Tommy Hanson. He has a strong three-pitch arsenal, cut his walks from his rookie to sophomore years, and features an above-average strikeout rate for a starter. Still, he showed much better strikeout punch in the minor leagues and could have further upside in 2011. In the bullpen, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel are both interesting young arms, but Venters is much better against lefties than righties, Kimbrel is a little wild, and their veteran competition for the closer’s role next year is still TBD.
2011 Regression Warning: Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson, at 35, showed his best groundball rate of his career. That probably won’t happen again next year, meaning his lower strikeout rate could produce an ERA a run higher next year.