June 2011

(Vid) Behind the Numbers – Confessions of an Autograph Enthusiast

Celebrating the Fan Experience Part 2, Collecting Autographs

Hosts:  Wayne Parillo and Brendan McGrail

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

Guest: Tom Tomae

At some point all of us have tried to get an autograph from a player. Self professed “autograph enthusiast” Tom Tomae takes us inside the sub-cultures within the autograph collecting world, the time Bernie Williams called security, trying to get David Wright’s signature, and a few tips for people who are hunting for autographs.

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

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In Need Of Pop? Add Espinosa

By R.J. Anderson //

Entering Tuesday’s game, Cliff Lee had allowed six home runs in his first 11 starts. Danny Espinosa added a pair, as the Nationals routed Lee and the Phillies—booting the free agent signee after 5 1/3 innings pitched and tacking on six earned runs.  For Espinosa, it is a feat sure to garner him some publicity, as the former Long Beach State attendee now has 10 home runs on the season, tying him with Kelly Johnson for the second most home runs by a National League middle infielder.

It is an interesting development for Espinosa, who at 6-feet tall does not have the typical build of a slugger. What he lacks in size he makes up for in violence. With a high leg kick leading into a fierce twist, Espinosa is able to generate enough torque to thrust the ball beyond the fences. As you would expect, Espinosa’s unique swing antics result in some strikeouts too, as he fanned in nearly 27 percent of his first 280 or so major league at-bats.

Those strikeouts assist in diluting Espinosa’s fantasy value because his batting average so far is nothing to write home about (.216) and his on-base percentage suffers because of the diminished batting average (.299). Most of the time, a batter with two-thirds of a career line of .216/.299 isn’t worth fantasy or real world considerations, but Espinosa’s pop makes him an intriguing option in the fantasy world, and his ability to field and run the bases makes him a real world starter too.

Espinosa may be available in your league because of his strikeouts, horrid batting average, and terrifying on-base percentage. Truthfully, he doesn’t fit every team—as those who can sacrifice some pop for average and walks should do so—but if your team could use a little thunder and has some average to spare, Espinosa is a nice little pickup.

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Is Roy Oswalt a Sell-High?

by Eno Sarris //

By all accounts, Roy Oswalt is dealing. He’s got an ERA under three, a good WHIP, and is pitching for a contender that should get him wins. If you drafted him to be your number two, you’re probably happy with his performance. Why should you consider selling high on the second-best Roy in Philadelphia?

In a word, swinging strikes. The average swinging strike rate across baseball is usually around 8.5% in any given year. Oswalt has been average or better in the statistic for eight of his last nine years, and that’s how he’s built a strikeout rate that’s usually average or better. This year, Oswalt has a 6.9% swinging strike rate, the lowest of his career, and far below average. That’s behind his 5.8 K/9, again the lowest of his career and far below the 7 K/9 that is average across baseball right now.

There are other facets to pitching well. Oswalt still has his patented control, as his two walks per nine inning show (3.25 BB/9 is average this year). That should continue, and it will help him keep his WHIP and ERA manageable even if he regresses. He just won’t have a ton of baserunners even if he isn’t racking up the strikeouts.

Oswalt also gets about half of his contact on the ground, which is ahead of the 44% league average. But that’s not an elite ground-ball rate, and it’s not enough for him to ‘deserve’ his current home run rate. He is giving up the fewest home runs of his career in Philadelphia (0.4 HR/9 this year, 0.76 HR/9 career). This is because only 4.5% of his fly balls are leaving the park. That number trends towards 10% yearly across baseball, and Oswalt himself has an 8.9% number in the category. More home runs are coming.

At 33 years old, there’s a little less gas in Oswalt’s tank. He’s lost a tick off his fastball (down to 91+ MPH from 92+ MPH) and he’s foresaken the slider so far this year. He’s using the slider 5% of the time after using it around 15% of the time the last three years. Sliders are known to cause stress on arms – but we haven’t heard from Oswalt that his arm is hurting. His back was the issue earlier in the year, but that’s just the sort of thing he’ll deal with as he gets older.

The point is, he doesn’t look like a true-talent mid-twos ERA guy at this point in his career. He’s not getting the swinging strikes, and some luck is covering up his lack of strikeouts. He’ll be good going forward – don’t sell him too low. But consider an ERA in the high threes much more likely from this point on. That means that if someone is willing to pay ace prices, you should listen.

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