by Eno Sarris //
It’s always tempting to pick up the back-end starters on a juggernaut team. Their offense and bullpen should help them a little closer to wins than similar starters on bad teams. Even if you shouldn’t chase wins, these two facts are mostly unassailable. The problem is that if a starter doesn’t have real underlying skills, they won’t pitch well enough to get the win anyway.
Kyle Kendrick is getting starts for the Philadelphia Phillies and has a 3.14 ERA. Vance Worley looks like he’ll get starts for the Phillies all year and has a 2.33 ERA. Neither pitcher has the type of skills to continue that work.
Kendrick first, because he’s easiest. He’s only striking out 4.02 batters per nine, which is well below the 7.03 league average. In fact, it would be the third-worst in baseball if he qualified for the ERA title. If you’re living in that space, you need to have elite skills in other areas to make it work. Kendricks’ 2.78 walks per nine are good, but only a little better than the 3.13 league BB/9. Lastly, Kendrick has a slightly above-average ground-ball rate (47.9%, average is 44%). But recent research by Matt Swartz has shown that an elite ground ball rate (60%) is exponentially better than a good ground-ball rate (50%) and so on. So slightly above average is only slightly useful. Call Kendrick slightly useful at best.
Speaking ill of the Vanimal might release the hordes, but Worley is also a good story that might not last long. His strikeout rate (6.98 K/9) is closer to league average, but there’s a hidden flaw in using that stat. If you look at his swinging strike rate, which is more reliable 77 innings in than his per-at-bat results, he has a well-below average number (5.8%, average is 8.5%). To put this in focus, Kendrick has a 5.4% swSTR%. One strikes out four per nine, and one strikes out seven per nine. Expect those two numbers to move towards each other.
As Worley’s strikeout rate drops, the rest of his package will look a lot less interesting. His walk rate (3.14 BB/9) is league average and his ground-ball rate (40.5%) is below league average. Once the ball is put into the air, Worley has been lucky to allow so few home runs (4.8% home runs per fly ball, 10% is league average). His luck on balls in play is excellent right now, too (.242 BABIP). He’s even stranding more runners than average (78.6% LOB, 70% is league average). Most likely, he’ll start striking people out less as the league gets used to his repertoire. Once that happens, the added contact will help players get more dinks and dunks to raise the BABIP. Once more players get on base, they’ll score on those dinks and dunks and added home runs. All of this will inflate the ERA. Call him lucky if he puts up better than a four ERA going forward.
Use Worley and Kendrick in spot starts if you must. Just don’t count on their luck to continue. Trade either if someone offers you.. anything of value.
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The Major League trade deadline may have passed, but that does not mean that players can no longer be traded this season. Instead, the waiver wire process will shortly begin and there will be more players on the move. Typically the players on the move have bad contracts, which allows them to surpass the waiver process or a team will claim a player and a trade will be negotiated. Here’s a look at five players who will likely be on the move:
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Orioles– This potential hall of famer is riding a 6-game hit streak, batting a respectable .284 with 9 home runs. He leads the league in chase rate (swinging at pitches out of the strike zone) and his numbers are way down across the board, but he has playoff experience and could help a team down the stretch as a hired bat. It would not surprise me to see him rejoin one of his past two teams: the Rangers or the Angels. The Yankees also could make a move for their former nemesis by putting him in the DH slot, though this is unlikely with Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez now healthy to support Jorge Posada. The White Sox would be the dark horse considering they are not getting anything out of Adam Dunn.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros– An underrated strikeout artist, it’s been another fine season for Wandy Rodriguez. A 32-year-old hurler, this southpaw is durable and could be a solid third starter for a playoff contender. He always has an ERA under four and he was involved in some trade chatter with the Yankees just a few weeks ago. If a playoff contender suffers an injury in the starting rotation, Rodriguez could be the first player targeted.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs– At 35 years old, Soriano’s best days are in the past, but he does have four home runs over his last four games and now 19 dingers on the season. His OBP is disgraceful at .283, and he leads the league in chase rate. With his awful contract, he will clear waivers, and at that point could end up getting traded if the Cubs are willing to eat some of his contract in a swap of bad contracts. It would be interesting to see him reunite with the Yankees, or join a team desperate for outfield production such as the Tigers or Braves.
Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs– Another bad contract on the Cubs, Zambrano does have 8 wins and is riding three quality starts. He does have ace ability, which we saw that as recently as the end of last season. So a team desperate for a third starter may want to consider the Cubs volatile hurler, though they would have to be willing to take on a few years of potential mayhem. The Yankees, White Sox, and Tigers are potential landing grounds.
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros– The veteran slugger is 0 for his last 19, dropping his average to .267, but he does have 60 RBI and 41 extra base hits on the season. The same teams that will go after Soriano will also consider this 25-year-old. The only question is whether he will veto a move considering his 10/5 rights. Known as El Caballo, Lee is a rancher who wants to stay close to his home in Texas.
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Koji Uehara to the Rangers
Statistically he is one of the best pitchers in baseball with a stellar 1.69 ERA and even better 0.69 WHIP. In other words it’s rare that someone reaches base and even rarer that someone scores against Uehara. The bad news for his fantasy managers is that he will remain in the setup role while playing in a much more hitter-friendly stadium. Not a major impact, but not one for the better either.
Mike Adams to the Rangers
A lot of fantasy managers picked Adams up in a speculative move with hopes that he would close should Heath Bell get traded. As it turns out, it’s Adams who got traded while Bell stays in San Diego. Adams has been dominant this season with a 1.12 ERA, but again this is a pitcher moving from one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks to a dangerous ballpark. I would drop him since he will remain in middle relief.
Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians
This is a monster move by the Rockies and they scooped up a lot of young talents. What it comes down to is two things. First of all, Is Ubaldo more like the pitcher from last year when he almost won the Cy Young, or this season when his record is 6-9. The second part is whether Ubaldo will thrive now that he is out of Coors. At 27 years old, the Indians believe the gamble was worth taking since they are in need of an ace. I like the chances of this one working out for them as Jimenez boasts a 3.38 ERA and 1.08 WHIP on the road this season.
Erik Bedard to the Red Sox
The Red Sox were not able to come to terms for Rich Harden, so they settled for the next best injury-prone Canadian. Bedard, like Harden, has all of the talent in the world. However, the big question is whether he will be healthy enough for a playoff run. Just 31 years old, Bedard has pitched better on the road this season to the tune of a 2.16 ERA. On the other hand, for his career Bedard boasts a 6.99 ERA at Fenway.
By Tommy Rancel //
As your league and roster recovers from a fast and furious weekend of deadline moves, you may find yourself looking for some new, uncovered waiver wire gems. With every piece sold by a non-contender, a job opening for someone else becomes available. Here are three players who have value, have a new job, and should be available on most wires.
The Astros replace the speedy Michael Bourn with…the speedy Jason Bourgeois. In many ways their new centerfielder may look like their old one, but their true talent levels are not the same. Although Bourgeois is hitting .354 on the season, it is in limited duty and his .383 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will fall with increased playing time. The one true asset he does possess is speed. In 54 games, he has swiped 22 bags in just 27 opportunies. As long as he gets on-base at a decent clip, he should eclipse 40 steals. Now having hitters behind him to covert those steals into runs is another issue.
Although the Orioles were sellers at the deadline, they did buy low on former Rangers’ prospect Chris Davis. Hours after they did so, they traded away their own first baseman – Derrek Lee – to the Pirates to clear room for Davis in the lineup. At age 25, the slugger has been saddled with the dreaded “Quad-A” label as a player who excels in the minors, but flounders in the majors. In recent seasons this has been true, but Davis did belt 38 big league home runs in part-time work during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He has 24 home runs in 48 games in the minors this year. While putting it altogether is easier said than done, Davis could be a nice power pick-up for the stretch run.
Once the Dodgers traded Rafael Furcal, the Dee Gordon era officially began. The 23-year-old shortstop struggling in his initial callup earlier this summer (.223 batting average in 23 games), but is a top of the lineup prospect with speed to burn. He may not hit many balls over the fence, but can spray them to the gaps, racking up doubles and triples in bunches. After stealing 73 bases in 2009, he swiped another 50 bags last season. Although his first go around with the big league club didn’t last long, he did steal nine bases in 12 chances. Like most prospects, he may struggle at first, but at a position void of stars, he is one to watch.
Although their clubs were sellers, you should consider buying these players.
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Ryan Ludwick to the Pirates
I love this trade for the Pirates. He may be batting just .238 with a .301 on base percentage, but Ludwick is also responsible for 11 home runs and 64 RBI. Plus, on the road Ludwick has 39 RBI in 49 games. That puts him on pace for 130 RBI should he play 162 road games. That is key since Pittsburgh is closer to neutral than the pitcher’s friendly Petco Park.
Derrek Lee to the Pirates
The .246 average may not impress anyone, but Lee is batting .298 with 13 RBI since the All-Star break. A long-time National Leaguer, Lee boasts a .297 career average at PNC Park. He is a solid replacement over the struggling Lyle Overbay at first base.
Michael Bourn to the Braves
The Houston native was thrilled to be an Astro, but at least he will now get a chance to play for a contender. Bourn is best known for his defense in centerfield and his speed on the basepaths. He is a bit of a free-swinger for a leadoff man, but thanks to a .303 average, Bourn is getting on base often this season. He should now rack up more runs with some big bats behind him in the Braves lineup.
Hunter Pence to the Phillies
While Carlos Beltran may be the better player now, Hunter Pence likely has the better future. It should be fun to see how he develops now that he enters a favorable ballpark in a solid lineup. A model of consistency, Pence has blasted 25 home runs in three straight seasons and hit .282 the last two. His value soars now that he will add greater run production due to the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the Phillies lineup.
Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals
The lone home run and .197 average says he’s done, but Busch Stadium has been known to have the Ponce De Leon fountain of youth (just check out Lance Berkman). In the Cardinals lineup, Furcal is bound to improve. Plus, the trade breathes new life into the 33-year-old shortstop who now gets a crack at meaningful baseball.