June 2011

Phillies and Royals, Polar Opposites

The Philadelphia Phillies and the Kansas City Royals are polar opposites. The Phillies stand atop the NL East with a 37-26 record, while the Royals sit in 4th place in the AL Central with a 27-36 record. Yet, there are more to both teams than their records.

It so happens that the Royals are the youngest team in baseball with an average age of 26.2, while the Phillies are the oldest with an average age of 31. Among the youngest players on the Royals, is standout first-basemen Eric Hosmer at 21.

Hosmer, is hitting amongst the likes of Placido Polanco, the 35-year-old Phillies third baseman. Kansas City has the lowest Payroll in the MLB at $36,126,400, while the Phillies payroll, $172,976,381 is only second only to the New York Yankees; making the Phillies payroll about five-times that of the Royals.

Some good news for Kansas City is that they are hitting well, ranking 9th in Runs, Batting-Average, and OBP. On the other hand, the Phillies rank 17th, 20th, and 19th respectively. The old dogs aren’t just rolling over yet.

To no surprise, the Phillies well-tenured pitching staff (including big names Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels) are dominating the younger Royals staff. The stacked Phillies rotation ranks 2nd in ERA and 1st in Quality Starts, with the average age among pitchers at 30 years old. With an average age just over 25, the struggling Royals staff is almost in last place (29th) in ERA and Quality Starts.

While Philadelphia is the team to beat in the NL, Kansas City is a team to take note of. With the All-Star break coming up next month, it will be interesting to see the performance of these two teams in the latter half of the season. Will the younger team be able to mature and continue to get better as the season progresses? Will the old arms of the Phillies hold up as the games start to add up?

Written by Matt Sbordone, Bloomberg Sports @SbordoneZone

Fantasy Baseball Caution: Worst Infielders: Butera, Loney, Figgins, Tejada, Lopez

The Worst Fantasy Infielders In Baseball

Catcher: Drew Butera, Twins (Rank 1094)
Called into action because of the Joe Mauer injury, Butera, a former firth round pick, hit just .197 last season. That is actually considered a career year for the 27-year-old backstop who is now batting .150 with one home run in 107 at bats.

First Base: James Loney, Dodgers (Rank 778)
It’s bad enough that Loney has never been able to hit with much power, but now that his average is down to .242 on the season after hitting just .267 last season, Loney is not tolerable.

Second Base: Chone Figgins, Mariners (Rank 945)
Rewarded with a long-term contract in Seattle, Figgins responded with a disappointing .259 average last season and just 62 runs scored. As bad as it was, a .286 average following the All-Star break made it look like an aberration. Not the case, as Figgins is hitting just .182 this season and is now batting eighth in the Mariners lineup.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Giants (Rank 939)
Thinking that Miguel Tejada would be an improvement over Edgar Renteria, the Giants acquired the veteran shortstop. A .217 average with one home run and seven errors suggests this was not the best move.

Third base: Jose Lopez, Rockies (Rank 983)
Once considered a rising star, Jose Lopez blasted 25 home runs with 96 RBI in 2009. However, his inability to draw walks coupled with diminishing returns made Lopez expendable in his first season with the Rockies. He has officially been released with a .208 average in 125 at bats.

Are Recent Infield Arrivals Worth Your Time?

By R.J. Anderson //

With the 2013 Super Two date somewhere in the early-to-mid part of June, teams are beginning to call up worthwhile, if not elite, prospects in hopes for an added charge. Are any of the recent infield promotions capable of doing the same to your fantasy roster? Here is a look.

Dee Gordon

Son of Tom Gordon, Dee could claim owner of the “Flash” nickname too, because he has legitimate top-end speed. Scouts rate speed on a 20-to-80 scale, and many have Gordon at 80. Watching him play, it’s easy to see why, as he covers ground in an instant and his foot speed is a big reason for why he went 22-of-25 on basestealing attempts in Triple-A this season. Offensively, Gordon isn’t going to offer much else. Probably a decent-to-good batting average however he has little to no power. If speed is a priority, consider grabbing Gordon.

Jemile Weeks

Brother of Rickie, Jemile is up in place of Mark Ellis, who was sent to the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a hamstring strain. Weeks was hitting .321/.417/.446 in Triple-A with a walk-to-strikeout ratio near 1. He found himself leading off in his big league debut and should get a fair amount of playing time in Ellis’ absence.

Scott Sizemore

Another Athletic, Sizemore has taken Kevin Kouzmanoff’s spot. With Adam Rosales also returning, there is a chance the A’s use a combination of the pair at third base, but Sizemore’s play in Triple-A (an OPS over 1000 in 135 plate appearances makes him a possible change of scenery candidate—even if the only real changes were his uniform and the leniency the organization takes with his struggles.

Cord Phelps 

The newest addition to the list, Phelps was called up on Wednesday and thrown right into the lineup at second base. He can man the skill infield positions, which means he could gain eligibility at third, short, and second over the season. Phelps hit .308/.388/.498 in his Triple-A career and showed more pop than his previous performances. He could see regular playing time.

For access to the top baseball analytics and fantasy tool Bloomberg Sports Front Office visit BloombergSports.com

Tim Stauffer & Carlos Carrasco: Fringe Fantasy Starters

By Eno Sarris //

We’re all searching for strikeouts. We know that the batting average on a strikeout is zero. We know that a pitcher with a high strikeout rate is likely to help in pitching categories across the board. We all love the strikeout.

But a couple pitchers showed us last night that there is value in pitchers that don’t rack up the Ks.

Well, Tim Stauffer did actually manage eight strikeouts in eight innings of shutout ball against the Rockies Tuesday night, but that’s not his norm. For the year, he has a strikeout rate that’s just above average (7.27 K/9, 6.97 is average this year). This mediocre rate is supported by a below-average swinging strike rate (7.6%, 8.4% is average), so it’s not likely to change much going forward. It’s also tempting to say that he’s a creation of his home park, but he has a 1.35 WHIP at home, and a 1.26 WHIP on the road. He’s been solid at home or away.

What does prop up his production is his walk rate and his groundball rate. Stauffer is only walking 2.31 batters per nine this year. He only walked 2.61 per nine last year, and has a 3.12 rate for his career. All of those numbers are comfortably above average (this year, 3.22 BB/9 is average). Stauffer also keeps the ball on the ground. The last couple of years, 44% of all contact has gathered dirt – and Stauffer has shown a 53.4% groundball rate. Among pitchers with more than 150 innings pitched since the beginning of 2009, that rate places 13th. He’s a worm-burner with great control that deserves to be on most mixed-league rosters even if he won’t rack up the strikeouts.

Most of the same things can be said about Carlos Carrasco in Cleveland, but to a lesser extent. The paradox is that this makes him more likely to be available in your leagues, and also more of a risk.

Carrasco pitched well last night, but not as well as Stauffer. He got six strikeouts in eight and a third innings to Stauffer’s eight. He did hold a team scoreless, but it was the punchless Twins. Carrasco also fails to rack up the strikeouts, but his rate is more poor (5.21 K/9) than mediocre. Carrasco also has shown good control (2.60 BB/9 this year), but his groundball rate (49%) is not as strong. Call him Stauffer-lite – even his home park helps suppress the home run to a lesser extent (3% fewer home runs to lefties, 12% fewer to righties).

There is one note of upside left in Carrasco’s profile. While Stauffer has a below-average swinging strike rate, Carrasco’s is barely above average (8.5%). By using his strong curveball and changeup, he actually managed a strikeout rate above eight per nine ever since he hit Double-A in the Phillies’ organization. His strikeout rates have been better than Stauffer’s at every minor league level.

So there’s your wrinkle. Neither Carrasco nor Stauffer will headline your staff because they are unlikely to be strong plusses in the strikeout category. But by limiting the walks and keeping the ball on the ground, both will be useful this year. Consider picking them up in your leagues if you are looking for good ratios.

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(Vid) Behind the Numbers: New media & its impact on fandom

Celebrating the Fan Experience Part 3: Sabermetrics, Social Media & the Impact on Fandom

Hosts:  Wayne Parillo and Rob Shaw

Behind the Numbers is a series of conversations and discussions with baseball, blog, sabermetric, and fantasy experts.

Guest:Dave Cameron, co-founder ussmariner.com, and writer for fangraphs.com and espn.com Insider. Follow him at d_a_cameron

Dave Cameron covers topics from super 2 status, sabermetrics hitting the main stream, and how new media such as social media and twitter changes the way he is Mariner’s fan. Plus some good old fashioned stories and thoughts on Jose Bautista, the Cardinals, and Charlie Blackmon.

Watch the entire episode, or use the links below to jump to the exact point you want.

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Former Top Yankee Pick taken First Overall

It’s been a special week for Gerrit Cole, as he was nabbed by the Pirates with the first pick overall of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft.  As special as it was, it was not unique for him personally.  After all, the 6’4, 220-lbs college junior was drafted back following his High School career in 2008 by the New York Yankees with the 28th overall pick.

The Yankees were reportedly ready to offer the high school athlete upwards of $4 million, but Cole decided to follow through with his collegiate scholarship to UCLA. There has even been a picture published in local newspapers showing the 11-year-old Gerrit Cole holding a sign proclaiming himself a “Yankee Fan Today Tomorrow Forever,” from the front row of Bank One Ballpark during the 2001 World Series. Though Cole grew up a Yankee’s fan, he has made it clear that he does not regret the decision to join the UCLA Bruins.

No better justification of his decision came last night when Cole was taken with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Pittsburg Pirates. Scouts swarmed the stands as Cole delivered his high-90 mph fastball, sharp slider and improving changeup, gaining him 376 strikeouts over 322 1/3 innings, during his three-year tenure with UCLA. Pittsburgh praised their pick despite Cole’s pedestrian numbers his senior year (a 6-8 record, with a 3.31 ERA).  The Bucs are banking that Cole will enjoy a winning career once he takes the mound in the Major Leagues.

* Written By Matt Sbordone (@SbordoneZone), Bloomberg Sports

Major League Baseball Rookie Report: Lawrie, Gordon, Ackley, Rizzo, Jennings, and Weeks

The Rookie Report

Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers

This 23-year old shortstop may have been rushed a bit to the Majors because of the injury to Rafael Furcal.  Gordon is by all means a speedster, who has swiped 50-plus bases in back-to-back seasons in the Minor Leagues.

 

His lack of power actually plays well at the pitcher-friendly Dodgers Stadium, where deep flies often die at the warning track.  Gordon just has to prove that he can get on base and make the plays at shortstop.  Gordon was batting .315 through 50 games before his call up to the Majors.  If in need of speed, he’s an intriguing fantasy pickup.

 

Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Blue Jays

Lawrie is everything that Blue Jays fans could ever have dreamed of.  Just 21 years old, this former first round pick is a British Columbia native who boasts all five tools, particularly power and speed.  Though playing in the Las Vegas desert inflates his statistics a bit, you cannot ignore his 15 home runs, 49 RBI, and .354 batting clip through 52 games.

 

Lawrie was expected to be called up this week before a recent beaning set him back a week.  There’s still a chance that Lawrie gets the call to man third base, a position that has become a black hole for the Blue Jays since Jose Bautista moved to the outfield.

 

Dustin Ackley, 2B

The second overall pick of the 2009 draft, Ackley has made some solid improvements in his second season in the Minor Leagues.  There is not a particular statistic that jumps out at you when studying Ackley’s performance, but he is solid across the board.

 

He is an incredibly patient batter with some pop and speed.  Ackley is also a middle infielder, and despite rumors of a move to the outfield, he is likely to man second base when he earns his call up to the Big Leagues.

 

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Padres

Mired in last place, the Padres are certainly feeling the effects of letting Adrian Gonzalez go to the Red Sox.  On the other hand, through the trade they acquired a monster bat that is tearing up the Minor Leagues and ready for a promotion to the Majors.

 

We’re talking about 21-year old first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is currently batting .365 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI through just 52 games at Triple-A.  The numbers are a bit surprising, considering Rizzo has never hit for average before, but at this point, the Padres can’t afford to let the Brad Hawpe/Jorge Cantu platoon continue at first base considering both veterans are batting less than .240 this season.

 

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays

One of the most hyped prospects in all of baseball, Desmond Jennings may have been a bit overrated, considering people were talking about him as a sure-fire replacement of Carl Crawford as early as last season.  The comparisons are understandable since both talents have a similar skill-set, but Crawford was an MVP caliber player while Jennings is just trying to get his career started.

 

In his first taste of the Majors last season Jennings hit just .190 with two steals in 17 games.  The Rays deemed Jennings not ready to man left-field in the Major Leagues, so he is playing at the Triple-A level for a third year in a row.  The good news is that Jennings has become more patient at the plate and is starting to drive the ball with more power.  He has been far from dominant, but considering the Sam Fuld experiment is starting to go flat, Jennings would be an upgrade.

 

Jemile Weeks, 2B, A’s

If you missed out on acquiring Rickie Weeks for your fantasy team, you ought to get to know his younger brother Jemile Weeks.  A first round pick out of Miami, Weeks is also a second baseman who will get to fill in for the injured Mark Ellis.

 

Weeks has yet to develop the power of his older brother, but he can supply Oakland with some much-needed offense.  Through 44 games at Triple-A, Weeks boasts a .321 average with four triples and nine stolen bases.  The big question now is whether Bob Geren will provide Weeks with some regular at bats, or if he’s merely an insurance option behind Scott Sizemore and Adam Rosales.

Selling Kevin Correia’s Wins

By Tommy Rancel //

A quick check of the pitching leaderboards and you’ll find quite a surprise at the top of the wins column. With eight victories in 12 starts, Kevin Correia is two-third of the way to his career-high in victories (12); and it’s early June.

Signed in the offseason by the Pirates to a modest one-year deal, Correia was named Pittsburgh’s opening day starter. Since then he has rattled off a league leading eight wins with 3.40 ERA in 76.2 innings. While Correia has been a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners who picked him up early on, he is a definite sell high candidate.

Correia has been a nice source of wins, ERA, and WHIP; however, he offers little in the way of strikeouts (career low 3.99 K/9) and has some areas where regression may set in. His .265 batting average on balls in play is low, but not flukishly low. In terms of home runs allowed, his 0.82 HR/9 is below is career 1.03 rate while his home run-to-flyball rate of 7.4% should be closer to 10%.

If and when he regresses, it will not be as steep as some might think. Meanwhile, it will certainly lower his value which is at an all-time high. Correia should easily end up with double-digit victories; however, his ERA is likely to spike from the 3.40 level. It shouldn’t go as high as his career mark of 4.46, but somewhere in the low 4.00 range is likely. He has also been the beneficiary of offensive run support with nearly 22% of the Pirates total runs coming with Correia on the mound.

A good team manager is one that is able to identify sell-high opportunities in on area in order to strengthen another area of weakness. Moving Correia at his current value allows for that to happen. In every league, there is someone who is starving for pitching and may be willing to overpay.

If you can get back a productive position player at weak position (shortstop, catcher) for Correia’s early season hot streak, do it now. Looking around the waiver wire, you should be able to replace Correia rather easily with a lesser known player like Josh Collementer in NL-Only leagues or Matt Harrison in mixed formats.

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Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Report: Dillon Gee, Mitch Moreland, Allen Craig

 

Miguel Olivo, C, Mariners

A move to Seattle is usually enough to limit your fantasy production for power hitters, but not Miguel Olivo.  The veteran backstop has blasted home runs in three straight games (all at home).  He now boasts seven bombs on the season with 26 RBI, 26 runs, and even two steals.  Olivo has been a model of consistency averaging greater than 16 home runs over the last five seasons.  He’s a solid fantasy pick up. 

 

Dillon Gee, SP, Mets

He’s been treated as a low potential prospect by the Mets over the last few years, a franchise often giving opportunities to Pat Mitsch over Dillon Gee, but this Gee knows how to pitch.  The 25-year old has now made 16 appearances and the numbers are sensational: 8-2 record, 2.90 ERA, and a .209 average against.  Gee is 6-0 this season and is a must-start at home where he is 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA.  His next start will be this weekend at Pittsburgh. 

 

Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers

Get to Know Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.  The 25-year old left-handed slugger is riding a six-game hit streak with two home runs over that stretch.  Those six-games, by the way, have all come on the road, so this is a bit different than usual for a Rangers pick up.  Moreland was supposed to be a platoon option for the Rangers, but his .313 average ad eight home runs are leading to extended action.  Though he has struggled this season against southpaws, he may get some extra opportunities as the Rangers look to keep his bat in the lineup.

 

Josh Collmenter, SP, Diamondbacks

Similar to the Mets Dillon Gee, Diamondbacks hurler Josh Collmenter has shocked everyone with a stellar start to his Major League career after less than stellar results in the Minor Leagues.  Through 43.1 innings, Collmenter is 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA and 0.67 WHIP.  He hides the ball well in his delivery, which may explain how he has only surrendered runs in three of his 12 appearances this season.  Similar to Gee, Collmenter’s next start will come against the Pirates, which makes him a solid pick-up this week. 

 

Allen Craig, 2B, Cardinals

If you’re looking for a sleeper in the middle infield, I really like Cardinals 26-year old Allen Craig.  He is the ultimate utility man and a heck of a bat.  Through 106 at bats this season, Craig is batting .340 with four home runs, 23 RBI, and four steals.  If this doesn’t sound sustainable to you, consider that in two seasons of Triple-A baseball, Craig hit .321 with 40 home runs and 164 RBI.  He is a fine hitter and he’s finally getting his chance.

The Cheapest Way To Make Up Statistical Ground

We’ve come to the point in the season where fantasy competitors begin taking a hard look at the standings and their rosters in an attempt to figure out how to make up ground.

Often, a competitor might see his or her struggles in a particular category, and with advancement in mind, begin thinking of players who are statistical superstars. Figuring out the players who are strongest in a particular category is one way towards making up statistical ground —  but not the only way. In fact, there’s something to be said for identifying one’s weakest players in  the category in question — and then looking to replace them with merely average ones.

Why?

League leaders in categories like HRs get a lot of attention. (Hello, Jose Bautista!) And if you want to trade for them, prepare to open up your wallets. It’ll be costly and likely open up other deficiencies for your team.

One of the overlooked aspects of a statistical chase, however, is that certain players deliver negative value. These players are like megaton weights chained to the ankles of one’s statistical drive.

For example, in most leagues at the moment, there are currently 12 players who qualify as second-basemen with seven or more HRs. Those who drafted Brian Roberts, who only has three HRs so far, are getting negative value in power from their second baseman.

This team might be suffering in HRs and begin thinking about a trade. The smart move, though, might not be to pay top dollar by trading for a Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, or Mark Teixeira, but rather to erase the negative.

Think about it.

The team with Mark Teixeira/Brian Roberts isn’t getting any more HRs from this combo than the team with Paul Konerko/Neil Walker. Neither Konerko nor Walker are doing anything above the norm at their respective positions, but by keeping pace, they aren’t hurting either. A guy like Roberts, meanwhile, drags down the value of the collective.

If Walker isn’t attainable for the team looking to upgrade on Roberts’ power, there are other options: Howie Kendrick has 7 HRs and is coming back from the disabled list this week. Or check out guys like Ryan Roberts (8 HRs) or Allen Craig (4 HRs in 102 ABs and now getting regular PT), who are both just a couple games from qualifying at the second-base position. Not only would Kendrick, Roberts, and Craig offer power advancement over a guy like Brian Roberts, but they are adequate enough to represent positive value in the other categories too.

We’re not trying to pick on Roberts, of course. Almost every team has weaknesses that can be salved. Understanding negative value is the key here. In sum, remember basic calculus from your school days: Subtracting a negative equates to an addition.

–Eriq Gardner

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