Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses fantasy players on the decline.
Chris Perez, RP, Indians
He has allowed nine runs, five of which were earned, seven hits, and three walks in 1.1 innings in his past two games, leading to back-to-back blown saves. Indians set-up man Vinnie Pestano has not surrendered a run in the past 19 innings pitched, giving him a 1.29 ERA and .94 WHIP on the season. He could be the next closer for the team.
David Wright, 3B, Mets
After hitting .351 in the first half of the season, he has batted .231 since the All-Star break. He had 47 strikeouts in the first half, but already has 29 in the 24 games since the break. His fantasy value is getting lower, but still could bat .300 on the season.
Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers
In his last seven starts, he is 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA. He has 58 strikeouts in 45.1 IP during that stretch, but also has issued 25 walks. The hot Texas summer may be affecting his play in the second half.
John Axford, RP, Brewers
Since June 7, Axford has a 7.03 ERA in 25 games. Prior to this, he had a 3.22 ERA. He is not only giving up walks, but is also getting hit hard. Axford picked up the save on Monday, but it was Jim Henderson who got the save Tuesday night. Henderson throws heat, and has dominated as a closer in the minors this year. Look to him to be a possible new closing option for the Brewers.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
By Tommy Rancel //
Biggest Surprise: Chris Perez
When the team acquired Perez last season, they envisioned him as the closer of the future. They probably did not expect that to come in 2010, but they got what they wanted and then some. Perez racked up 23 saves in 27 chances this season with a 1.71 ERA – third-best in the American League among relievers with at least 50 innings of work. On top of the low ERA, Perez struck out nearly a batter an inning and allowed just four home runs in 63 frames. Defensive independent metrics suggest Perez’s ERA is a bit lucky, so beware of regression in 2011.
Biggest Bust: Kerry Wood
Signed to be the team’s closer is 2008, Wood never lived up to his contract in Cleveland. After injury, ineffectiveness, and the emergence of Perez, he was traded to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline. Before the trade, he was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA and three blown saves in 23 games. He has since pitched much better as a set-up man for the Yankees, but that does no good for Cleveland.
2011 Keeper Alert: Justin Masterson
Like Perez, the Indians acquired Masterson in 2009 with high hopes for the future. After working mostly out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2008 and 2009, Masterson made 29 starts for the Tribe this year. The fantasy stats, however, are a work in progress: 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 180 innings. However, he should be on your keeper list because…
2011 Regression Alert: Justin Masterson
While his traditional stats are not impressive, Masterson is better than his near-five ERA suggests. He has a decent strikeout rate of 7.0 K/9 IP and also lowered his walk rate to a career low 3.65 BB/9 IP. As an extreme groundball pitcher (59.9%), he relies heavily on luck and infield defense. In 2010 he was unlucky on batting average on balls in play: His BABIP .332 was well above the league average of .302. With some better luck, Masterson could eventually put up numbers similar to Trevor Cahill‘s 2010 campaign – maybe even next year.
For more on Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By Tommy Rancel //
Once upon a time, Chris Perez was regarded as the St. Louis Cardinals’ closer of the future. After a few seasons of inconsistency, a trade to Cleveland, and Kerry Wood‘s trade to the Yankees, Perez is finally closing games on a regular basis at the major league level.
Perez made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2008 when he pitched 41 games out of the pen – compiling a 3.46 ERA with seven saves. Although he struggled with walks, he struck out more batters (42) than he had innings pitched (41.2) that year.
The right-hander would split the 2009 season between St. Louis and Cleveland after a mid-summer swap for Mark DeRosa. While his ERA jumped to 4.26, his strikeout rate improved from 9.04 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) to 10.74 per nine. Walks were still a problem, but his BB/9 dropped slightly (4.33 in ’08, 4.27 in ’09). A flyball pitcher (his groundball rate was an extremely low 35.3% in 2009), Perez’s home run rate jumped to a shaky 1.26 per nine innings.
Perez was slated to start the 2010 season as the Tribe’s set-up man for Wood. When Wood went down with injury early in the season, Perez was temporarily given the closer’s role. Upon his return, Wood assumed control of the 9th inning. When Wood was traded to the Yankees at the July 31 deadline, Perez was once again given the title of closer.
Despite the uncertainty in roles, Perez has turned into a fairly reliable fantasy option at the back end of games. Overall, he has a 2.17 ERA over 49.2 innings. His K/9 has dropped to 8.34, no longer elite for a reliever, but still very playable. His BB/9 has dipped slightly to 3.99, a positive sign.
Speaking of progress, Perez has made his greatest strides over the past three months. Since June 1, Perez has struck out 29 batters while walking 12 in 31.2 innings. During the same time period, he has allowed just five earned runs (1.44 ERA). In the small sample size of August, he has not walked any batters while striking out nine and giving up just two runs.
Perez is certainly not the caliber of Mariano Rivera or Rafael Soriano. And his team is middle of the pack on their best day. That said, the low ERA, the stellar strikeout numbers, the unchallenged save opportunities, and the availability on most waiver wires make him an attractive option to deep AL only owners, and those looking for late-season closing options in mixed leagues.
Be warned, though: The biggest change in Perez’s results by far, though, has been a plunge
in his HR/9 rate. That’s down to a career-low 0.72 this season, and
seems to be mostly a product of tremendous luck: His HR/FB rate has
tumbled to 6.5% this season. A pitcher inducing a microscopic groundball rate of
30.3% (for comparison, Perez’s teammate Justin Masterson is generating a 62.3% GB rate) isn’t likely to avoid homers this successfully for long. Perez’s strand rate is a higher-than-average 83.6%, while his batting average on balls in play is just .254, well below the league average of about .300. His xFIP (a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA, but also adjusts for ballpark effects, aberrant home run rates, batted ball luck, and other factors) of 4.67 dwarfs his 2.17 ERA, and shows that luck has played a big role in his success.
Grab the saves, but don’t expect a Mariano-like ERA forever, especially if you’re in a keeper league.
For more on Chris Perez and other late season additions, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.