Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down some of the major storylines in baseball as the trade deadline approaches.
Trade Analysis: Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers
The Dodgers made a splash by acquiring former Marlins sensation Hanley Ramirez for Nathan Eovaldi and a willingness to take on Ramirez’s salary. First of all, this is the way it should be for Los Angeles. The Dodgers are supposed to be the West Coast Yankees, so it’s good to see them open the check book to bring in some star potential.
The move also makes baseball sense. The team already has two of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball, so it’s not a bad idea to go for the gold now. Eovaldi is too young to be depended on, while, even at his worst, HanRam is scoring runs and offering some pop and speed. On a side note, of all stadiums where Ramirez has played at least 65 games, his .388 average at Dodgers Stadium is easily the highest.
On the Market: Alfonso Soriano
With 19 home runs and 58 RBI, Alfonso Soriano is once again a solid slugger at the big-league level. He is also due to make $18 million in each of the next two seasons. His high performance provides the Cubbies with a window to trade him. Ken Rosenthal reported that at least one team has interest in the veteran outfielder.
Sellers: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are in a very interesting situation right now. They have some very bad contracts, though their huge investment in Cole Hamels is not one of them. He is still young at 28 years old and was developed within the Phillies system. The team is out of contention this season and must rebuild in the next few years. The only way players such as Shane Victorino could be dealt is if the Phillies get back prospects who will be ready to start next year.
Sellers: New York Mets
After a great first half, the Mets have won just one game since the All-Star break and could try to make a move. Johan Santana’s injury hurts them, as he is due so much money andcould have been traded. The Mets would have been happy to deal him in return for prospects.
With Santana injured, if there is a Mets player to be traded, it’s infielder Daniel Murphy. Jordany Valdespin has been incredible this season and offers more versatility and better defense than Murphy. However, the Mets will only make a trade if they get something back which they are really able to use, such as a power arm for the bullpen.
Sellers: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have been buyers recently, bringing in players such as Zack Greinke and Aramis Ramirez, but it has not worked out. The best case scenario for them is that Greinke decides to stay in Milwaukee, which may not be very realistic. The Brewers were also shopping reliever Francisco Rodriguez and tried to increase his value. K-Rod, however, imploded with blown saves in consecutive appearances against the Phillies, likely costing the Brewers some prospects.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria discuss the top five stories in baseball after the All-Star break.
Will R.A. Dickey win 20 games?
Baseball fans are trying to figure out if R.A. Dickey is Tom Candiotti or Phil Niekro. At 12-1, Dickey is enjoying a banner season and arguably would be the NL Cy Young award winner if the season ended today. The problem for Dickey is that the season does not end today and he still has about 15 starts to go. Can he possibly continue his dominance and nab another eight wins for an even 20?
Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro attained three different seasons with 20 or more wins. On the other hand, Dickey might only win another 3-5 games this season and finish with a solid, but more expected total that is more in line with a solid hurler, such as knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who won 14, 15 and 16 games in his career.
What becomes of Tim Lincecum?
The good news is that Tim Lincecum is on pace to strikeout 200 batters. The bad news is that he is also approaching 100 walks, which could lead to some time in the bullpen. We’ve had some surprises this year that fill the bust category. As of now both Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols join a recent trend of major free agents struggling with new franchises.
Lincecum is pitching for the very franchise he came up with and has dominated for the last five seasons. However, he is getting hit often and hard, and with a 3-10 record and 6.42 ERA you have to wonder if he will stick in the starting rotation all season long. Lincecum hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in back-to-back outings.
Where will Zack Greinke end up?
The Brewers have had their struggles and perhaps for that reason, Zack Greinke’s performance has gone under the radar. He is 9-3 with 111 K’s and a 3.32 ERA. With the Brewers five games out of first place, the team will be in sell mode especially if Greinke does not indicate that he wants to stick there.
So what teams could be interested? How about the Baltimore Orioles, or the St. Louis Cardinals? Greinke’s presence could make a world of difference in how this ost-season shapes up.
Are the Phillies buyers or sellers?
The Phillies are in dead last place in the National League East. They opened the season without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and now that they are coming back, the pitchers have been out: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
The big question for the Phillies is figuring out whether or not Cole Hamels will stay as a free agent. There have been rumblings that he could be destined to the Dodgers, which would leave the Phillies in a bind if they do not get anything in return for his services aside from draft picks. Hamels, by the way, is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA with 118 K’s and a 1.10 WHIP. He has been the ace for the Phillies this season.
Are the Pirates playoff bound?
The Pirates are in first place late in the season for a second straight year. The question is whether they can stick this time and if they learned from last year’s collapse. It looks like they could actually stick this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they have an ace with James McDonald boasting a 2.37 ERA with much better control this season. Next, their gamble with AJ Burnett seems to be paying off as he’s been a solid number two. Though the starting rotation lacks depth, the bullpen is strong enough to let leads stick.
Finally, on offense there are several solid players, then an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen and a potential star in Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates lack some depth, but so far they have been good enough, and with extra wild card spots available, this team could advance.
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By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Cole Hamels
We’ll term it a surprise – Cole Hamels did put up a 3.06 ERA a year after having a 4.32 number in that category last year. But if you follow secondary statistics, it was just another year for Hamels. Consider his FIPs (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that runs along the same scale as ERA, but strips out the park effects, defense and other factors beyond a pitcher’s control) since his rookie season: 3.83, 3.72, 3.72, and 3.67 last year. This year, he finally benefited from some good luck, standing 82.7% of the runners he put on base and thus netting his “surprise” year.
Biggest Bust: Joe Blanton
This was a good year for the deep Phillies staff, but Joe Blanton‘s ERA spiked to 4.85 from the 4.05 mark he put up in 2009. He also ate up the fewest innings since becoming a regular rotation member (175.2), fueling low totals in wins (nine) and strikeouts (136). He did have a 4.34 FIP this year, (4.21 career), so he’s basically somewhere between the 2009 and 2010 versions of himself, though neither is very helpful in fantasy baseball.
2011 Keeper Alert: Roy Halladay
Sure, the Doc is a little older these days (33), but he sure enjoyed the weaker league, as he had the best strikeout (7.86) and walk rates (1.08) he’d ever shown in a full season. The innings totals might be a little worrisome for other pitchers (more than 220 innings for five straight years), but not all innings are created equal. Halladay has averaged just 14 pitches per inning – almost two fewer than Blanton, for example – despite the solid strikeout totals. He’ll surely win some hardware and make a fine keeper this off-season.
2011 Regression Alert: Roy Oswalt
Roy Oswalt is also 33 and also put up his best strikeout rate (8.21) since he became a full-time starter. This, despite hovering under 7 K/9 for most of his recent career. Unlike Halladay, Oswalt hadn’t shown this kind of Cy Youngish performance in years. Asking for another ERA below 3.00 next season is probably asking too much.
by Eno Sarris //
By traditional statistics, Cole Hamels has oscillated some in his short time in the major leagues:
2006: 4.08 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
2007: 3.39 ERA, 1.12 WHIP
2008: 3.09 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
2009: 4.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
2010: 3.98 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
could safely say that he’s been an elite pitcher, a good pitcher, and a league-average pitcher if you use the old statistics. Since we do use
the old stats in fantasy baseball, it’s worth noting Hamels’
depreciated value, represented here by spider graphs from the Bloomberg
Sports Fantasy Tools. Looks like a mediocre year, especially for a “former” top starter.
Coming as it does on the heels of his poor
postseason play last year, his performance in 2010 might seem to show
an early decline for the 27-year-old pitcher, at a time when most are
peaking. Then again, less traditional stats have something quite
different to say about Cole Hamels:
2006: 3.98 FIP, 3.68 xFIP
2007: 3.83 FIP, 3.51 xFIP
2008: 3.72 FIP, 3.63 xFIP
2009: 3.72 FIP, 3.69 xFIP
2010: 4.63 FIP, 3.69 xFIP
is fielding independing pitching, a number that runs on a scale similar to ERA, while stripping out factors such as batted ball luck and bullpen support to get at the underlying ability of a
pitcher to strike batters out and reduce walks. Meanwhile, xFIP is similar but
corrects for home run rates. For example, Hamels this year has a 1.62
HR/9 rate, (1.21 career), but is giving up the fewest flyballs of his
career (36.1% this year, 39.2% career). For some reason, 17.6% of his
fly balls are leaving the park, when it’s usually only 10% that do so across baseball.
By regressing his home run rate towards where it might be if his flyballs acted more like the average flyball, we find
that Hamels has been pretty much the same guy all five years he’s been
in the big leagues. In fact, his xFIP has been remarkably steady.
Then there’s the fact that, in some ways, he’s been better
this year. He’s sporting the second-best strikeout rate of his career,
and the best groundball rate. Those are the two best outcomes a pitcher
can have, so this is not some insignificant change. His fundamental skills are getting
Looking at his pitching mix, one thing does stand out
as being a little different this year. Hamels is using his changeup at
a career-low level (23.7%, vs. 30.6% career). Considering that the pitch is
his best in his arsenal (+68.7 runs career by linear weights, and the
only positive pitch he owns), it seems a bit strange to back off the
changeup. By some systems, he may be tinkering with a cutter, and most
pitching coaches would want their star starters to own more than a
fastball and a changeup. But Hamels’ cutter has been, to date, a negative
(-3.9 runs). The changeup is his major weapon, and he needs to
throw it more often. ESPN’s TMI blog (pay link) even reported that when Cole Hamels
throws 22% or more of his pitches as changeups, his ERA is 3.67
and the Phillies are 6-1. His ERA this year is 4.50 and the team is 1-4 when he doesn’t reach 22% changeups.
has basically been the same pitcher his whole career. While he’s
striking out a few more batters this year, and keeping the ball on the
ground a little better, he’s also walking a few too many. Moreover, he needs to
throw his changeup more.
The full picture is one of a pitcher
that has a put-away pitch and a good idea of what he is doing. If you
can acquire Hamels on the cheap, now is the time to do it. Once the
home runs start to normalize, he will push his ERA down towards the mid-3s, improve his WHIP
and be a valuable, front-line fantasy pitcher.
By Tommy Rancel
Sports Illustrated writer and MLBNetwork contributor Tom Verducci recently released his annual list of red-flagged pitchers for the 2010 season. The list is comprised of pitchers under the age of 25 who saw increases of 30 innings or more from 2008 to 2009. The so-called “Verducci Effect” holds that such pitchers are at greater risk of injury or weaker performance the year after their big innings jump.
Before the 2009 season, Hamels appeared on Verducci’s list. Going by superficial stats, Verducci appeared to have nailed his prediction on the Phillies left-hander. Hamels followed up his very good 2008 season (14-10, 3.09 ERA at age 24), by going just 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 2009 at age 25.
Hamels looked like a classic case of the Verducci Effect. But was he really?
One of my favorite statistics to use when evaluating pitchers is Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP. The method created by Tom Tango measures on-field events pitchers can control, independent of defense: strikeouts, walks, and home runs.
Despite the big ERA from 2008 to 2009, Hamels saw a slight increase in his strikeout rate, from 7.76 to 7.81 per 9 innings, and a decrease in his walk rate, from 2.1 to 2.0 per 9 IP. His HR/9 IP rate ticked up just slightly, from 1.11 to 1.12. Hamels’ fielding independent stats tell the story:
Hamels 2008 FIP: 3.72
Hamels 2009 FIP: 3.72
These statistics suggest that factors outside Hamels’ control led to the downturn in his fantasy stats. One of the biggest factors working against him was a higher batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
In 2008, Hamels yielded a .270 BABIP, a figure that ranked substantially below league average, and suggested good luck, good defense or both helping Hamels. That number jumped to .325 in 2009, a figure well above average that likely suggested bad luck, given that the Phillies didn’t make many changes to their defensive alignment.
Hamels career BABIP now sits at .295. The smart money then, all other factors being equal, is on his 2010 ERA finishing above his 3.09 mark in 2008 and below the 4.32 finish in 2009. Hamels’ career ERA of 3.67 sets a reachable goal.
Take a look at Hamels’ profile using Bloomberg’s Spider Chart (bottom center). You’ll note that he measures well in every category except ERA and Wins, both categories that could be much improved in 2010 with better luck.
As for the attitude and mental side of the game, reports out of Philadelphia say Hamels is in a much better frame of mind headed into this season. As for Hamels’ innings count, the Phillies might ask a little less of their young lefty, with new teammate Roy Halladay on board for an entire season to serve as the kind of workhorse that Cliff Lee was for Philly after last summer’s trade.
When putting together your 2010 rotation, be sure you use Hamels’ poor 2009 campaign to your advantage. Feel free to cite last season’s rise in ERA and his sub .500 win percentage to your fellow league members. Remind them that Johan Santana is coming back and has declared himself the best pitcher in the National League East.
Santana’s average draft position (ADP) is 39.5. This means in most 10- or 12-team leagues he is off the board by the end of round four. Hamels’ ADP, meanwhile, is 86.2, putting him in the eighth or ninth round in a 10-team league. Despite the four-round difference in ADP, the two left-handers are separated by just 11 spots in B-Rank. Only four starting pitchers fall in between the pair.
This is not a knock on Santana, but more an indication of how you can steal Hamels in the mid-rounds as your SP2, or even SP3, while others shy away due to last year’s ERA jump and mediocre won-lost record. Use the Verducci Effect to your advantage, and you could snag a bargain.
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