Tagged: Chicago White Sox

Jake Peavy’s Struggles

By R.J. Anderson //

Four starts into his 2010 season, Jake Peavy continues to experience some issues. He’s lasted beyond the fifth inning just once in four starts, and his usually solid K/BB ratio is down to a morbid 1:1. For perspective, Peavy’s previous career low in that statistic was 1.90 and that came in his first full season in the majors. Peavy is only striking out six batters per nine (also walking six) and he’s allowed three homers already; he allowed eight in 101.2 innings last season.


One of the problems has been Peavy’s inability to miss bats. FanGraphs has batters whiffing at Peavy’s pitches 10% to 12% of the time throughout his career. His swinging strike rate this season is a disconcerting 6.4%. Why is that important? Because swinging strikes correlate extremely well with strikeouts. Which makes sense on a basic level — i.e. the better the stuff, the more swings and misses, and the higher likelihood of at-bats ending in strikeouts. Despite a static velocity reading on his fastball and a presumably healthy elbow, Peavy’s results — in a small sample of four starts, anyway — suggest his stuff has been subpar and extremely hittable.

peavy3.pngIt should be noted that Peavy’s increased gopherball tendencies are expected. As with any pitcher who moves from the National League to the American League, Peavy’s numbers are going to look rougher. Combine the improved level of competition as well as facing the designated hitter instead of a pitcher and you’ve got a recipe for a rising ERA. Peavy’s numbers are going to experience a double whammy though, since he’s moving from perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball in Petco Park to a the homer haven that is U.S. Cellular Field. About 10% of Peavy’s flyballs are going for home runs; the reality is that number is closer to the projected total than his previous seasons in Petco suggest.

Another thing to keep in mind about Peavy’s performance is his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). About 32% of the balls being put into play against him are turning into hits, which is high, but not absurdly so. Chicago’s so-so defense features iffy defenders like Carlos Quentin, so don’t expect Peavy’s BABIP to see much positive regression, barring a big streak of luck. That leaves Peavy as a pitcher who, right now, is throwing less than his best stuff and having it hammered around and out of the park. Not quite the pitcher who led the majors in strikeouts during the 2007 season.  

It might be too early to drop Peavy in standard mixed leagues, and he holds little trade value at this point. That means the best option could be placing him on the bench and waiting.

For more on Jake Peavy and other struggling starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.  

Bloomberg Sports 2010 American League Central Preview

By Eriq Gardner
The AL Central isn’t the strongest division this year. The Minnesota Twins are accustomed to outperforming expectations on an annual basis, but this year, they start out as the favorites. The strongest competition comes from the Detroit Tigers, who will need a couple of aging veterans to hold up, and the Chicago White Sox, who have resisted full-scale rebuilding, sensing an opportunity to surprise given the lack of quality teams in the division. After trading the team’s best stars last season, the Cleveland Indians are certainly in rebuilding mode. And what can we say about the perennial woeful Kansas City Royals? A huge shocker if they were to make any noise.
Here’s a closer look at each of the teams:
Minnesota Twins
The Twins will be moving into a new ballpark, Target Field, this season. It’s hard to figure out exactly how the new field will play, but given the cold weather and park dimensions, it could lean toward being a pitcher’s park.
The team features a very underrated staff of pitchers who pound the strike zone and won’t give up too many walks. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and even Carl Pavano are sabermetric-friendly starters with great strikeout-to-walk rates that foreshadow improving ERAs. After an extraordinary performance in winter league ball and spring training, Francisco Liriano is primed for a comeback season and may be key to any playoff run. The injury to Joe Nathan opens some questions about the team’s relief pitching. At the very least, all the team’s pitchers will get support from an improving defense with the additions of J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson in the middle infield.
At the plate, the team is extremely well-rounded, featuring the game’s top catcher in Joe Mauer. A core group of Mauer, Justin Morneau, the underrated Jason Kubel, and quietly efficient Michael Cuddyer provide good power and on-base skills. The additions of Hudson and Jim Thome in the off-season should further augment one of baseball’s best offenses outside the AL East.
Detroit Tigers
The team is managed by the always crafty Jim Leyland, who will need to overcome some issues such as age and a lack of depth to remain competitive.
Miguel Cabrera leads the offense. Some off-the-field troubles made headlines this off-season, but he’s always been a steady producer. The big question will be who produces behind him. New addition Johnny Damon will get on base and score a lot of runs. But the team’s success will largely depend on whether veterans like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen can come back from disappointing seasons and whether youngsters like new 2B Scott Sizemore and new CF Austin Jackson can step up. 
On the pitching side, few young pitchers are better than flame-throwing Justin Verlander. There’s no reason to expect anything less than dominance from him. But the team will need more. Much of the team’s pitching success last year came from a great campaign by Edwin Jackson, who was shipped out in a trade for Max Scherzer, a hard-throwing righty with great strikeout rates but also an injury history and some struggles with going deep into games. Rick Porcello had a great rookie season and projects as a solid mid-rotation guy, or better. Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman make up the back end of the rotation; hold your breath.
Chicago White Sox
Let’s start out with the big questions: Will Jake Peavy remain healthy? Can Alex Rios rebound? How quickly will emerging star Gordon Beckham adapt to second base? Will Bobby Jenks remain the team’s closer or does that role eventually go to elite set-up man Matt Thornton? What happened to the strong fantasy potential we saw from Alexei Ramirez in 2008? Does Juan Pierre at 32 have enough wheels left to be productive? Will Carlos Quentin recover from a post-breakout injury season? You could make a case for any of these answers going either way.
If all goes well, the team certainly has a good shot to contend. Beyond the majors sits some highly touted, major league-ready prospects, including catcher Tyler Flowers and starter Daniel Hudson. And the starting rotation is deep. John Danks is listed as the team’s #4 starter, behind solid fantasy options Mark Buehrle, Peavy and Gavin Floyd. Not too shabby.
Cleveland Indians
Nobody is expecting a great deal from Cleveland this year, which might actually benefit the team. The club has experienced a lot of injuries over the years and were forced to shed superstars like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez.
For the team to take everyone by surprise, Grady Sizemore will need to come back and be healthy. From watching spring training, several scouts aren’t certain he’s 100% yet. Shin-Soo Choo was a great story last year. After years of teasing potential, Choo had a 20/20 season in 2009 with nearly a .400 OBP. Many of the team’s younger hitters, such as Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Asdrubal Cabrera, could take steps forward.
The Indians’ major weakness is its starting pitching. The fact that the team holds no pitcher owned by at least 50% of fantasy leaguers should say something. Maybe it’s because Cleveland has the kinds of pitchers (Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, and Justin Masterson) who produce more real-life value than fantasy value: groundball artists instead of pitchers who whiff a lot of batters. That might be by design: Cabrera is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.
Kansas City Royals
The last time the Royals won a division title was in 1985, when starting pitching stud Zack Greinke was just two years old. It would be great to point to reasons why the team has any hope of turning it around soon, but we can’t find any evidence that would accomm
odate such optimism. Even local writers scratch their heads about whether the team has a plan.
The Royals have gone against the conventional wisdom about the value of getting on base, recruiting low-OBP retreads such as Rick Ankiel, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Scott Podsednik. Billy Butler is the one potentially elite offensive player on the roster right now. They’ll need big contributions from Alberto Callaspo, David DeJesus and the recently profiled Alex Gordon just to remain mildly competitive.
Of course, Greinke will give the team a good chance at victory every time he takes the mound. The rest of the rotation is suspect, though. Gil Meche needs to rebound from a disappointing year and mounting injuries, while Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies will be lucky to post league-average performance at the bottom of the rotation. The one wild card is Luke Hochevar, a talent former number-one pick who could benefit from further development and some better luck on balls in play this season.

The big storyline to follow in Kansas City may be what happens with Greinke and closer Joakim Soria. Might the team decide to trade either in the middle of this season? The Royals would get a ton in return, especially if Greinke is dealt. The smarter money’s on Soria being the one who goes, though.
For more on Joe Mauer and the rest of the AL Central, check out Bloomberg Sports’ kits

Gordon Beckham Position Switch Adds Value to Second Base

By Tommy Rancel

It didn’t take long for Gordon Beckham to prove to the White Sox that he was ready for the major leagues in 2009. The eighth-overall pick in the 2008 draft (second Beckham overall, behind Tim) made his major league debut just 364 days after being drafted.

The University of Georgia product didn’t disappoint, as he hit .269/.347/.460 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs and 63 RBI in 103 games. He was named American League Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News and the Major League Baseball Players Association.


Beckham, a shortstop in college, played third base exclusively at the major league level. If we stretched his 14 home runs and 63 RBI over a 162-game schedule, we get a projected total of 22 home runs and 99 RBI. Those numbers are not bad for a third baseman, but fall well below the top producers at the position like Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez.

With the acquisition of Mark Teahen this off-season, Beckham will try a new position in the majors; second base. If we take those same 22 home runs and 99 RBI, and apply them to second base, only Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays topped those numbers at the AL keystone position last season.

Looking back at some batted-ball data from 2009, we can get a feel for Beckham in 2010. Among numbers we like to look at as “fluke” stats, namely batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and home run-to-fly ball ratio (HR/FB), Beckham scores well. His .290 BABIP was slightly below average, and could jump over .300 with more line drives (16.6% line drives last year). This would bring his batting average closer to the .280 mark.

Beckham will play a full season at U.S. Cellular Field in 2010. The home of the White Sox had the fourth-highest home run rate in 2009. Because of this, it’s possible that Beckham’s HR/FB rate could move up, placing him among the league’s top power-hitting second basemen.

Another good sign from Beckham was his patience at the plate. He struck out 17.2% of the time last season, but he also walked nearly 9.5% of the time. For reference, Evan Longoria walked 9.1% of the time as a rookie, but struck out 27.2%. With a sharper batting eye, Beckham could increase his walk total, bump up his OBP, and create more run-scoring opportunities. 

Beckham’s average draft position (ADP) was 88.2 before Opening Day, which would rank sixth among AL second basemen behind Ian Kinsler, Brian Roberts, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist and Robinson Cano. He’ll need to meet your league’s in-season eligibility standards first – but that’s impressive company. Looking at Bloomberg Sports’ projections, Beckham’s .864 OPS in 2010 is projected as second-highest figure for AL second basemen.

Because he played third base last season, Beckham will carry multiple position eligibility that Kinsler, Roberts, Pedroia, Cano, and Hill don’t have. Though your draft has ended and the season has begun, see if you can pry Beckham loose from a leaguemate with a well-timed trade offer. The move could prove a big help to your 2010 fantasy team.

For more on Gordon Beckham and other players switching positions in 2010, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.