Tagged: Eno Sarris

Francisco Rodriguez Traded to Milwaukee

by Eno Sarris //  

With a $17.5 million option looming over every game Francisco Rodriguez finished this year, the Mets chose to get out from under the money and traded their closer to Milwaukee for some players to be named later. While the move won’t mean much in Milwaukee, it does leave a vacuum in New York that must be filled.

John Axford will continue to close in Milwaukee unless he gets hurt. In many ways he’s been better than Rodriguez this year, and he’s much cheaper. K-Rod’s option vests if he finishes another twenty or so more games this year, and the Brewers can’t spend that money. Axford owners should not panic.

But in New York there’s a closer’s role change in the offing. The primary candidates are set, so let’s suss them out one by one.

Jason Isringhausen was the early favorite to be the next closer. He holds the team lead in holds and used to be the primary setup man. The fountain of youth has treated him to a sub-3.50 ERA after missing most of 2010 recovering from surgery. But look “closer” and the numbers don’t look as nice. His strikeout rate (6.59 K/9) and whiff rate (6.4%) are well below average for a reliever. He’s walking more than four per nine. He has a .213 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and he’s stranded 80% of runners, numbers that usually trend towards .300 and 70% respectively. As those numbers regress, he might have some struggles ahead.

Hometown hero Pedro Beato is tied for third in holds and has perhaps ‘deserved’ his low-threes ERA more than Izzy. At least, his BABIP is .224, but his strand rate is 52.4%. As both numbers regress, he might stay in about the same spot. The ‘problem’ with Beato is that he’s more of a ground-ball pitcher than a strikeout pitcher. He only strikes out 5.4 batters per nine, and even with a nice 2.7 BB/9 and 54.3% ground-ball rate, he doesn’t have the strikeout rate of a closer. Only one of the top 35 relievers sorted by saves has a strikeout rate well below six per nine, and Matt Capps is not a closer to emulate right now.

That leaves Bobby Parnell as the best option for the role. First, the negative. Parnell has had a career of showing great velocity (95 MPH average on his fastball) and poor control (3.82 BB/9 career). While he was only throwing the fastball and not striking people out (7.7 K/9 before this year), this was a problem. Now, the positive. Parnell is throwing his slider more than ever this year, and this has resulted in the best strikeout rate of his career (10.95 K/9). A recent stretch of better control (three walks since June first) has Parnell showing average control (3.28 BB/9). Strike out three batters for every one you walk, and you’re ready to be a closer. Especially if you’ve got a flamethrower of an arm.

Some Mets fans might doubt the fact that Parnell has the mentality to close. He has had some issues in the past. On the other hand, this year’s version looks like the best version, and the numbers say he’s the best option. Good luck hunting for saves.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com.

The Abundance of Strikeouts and Fantasy Baseball

by Eno Sarris // 

Strikeouts are up across baseball. Well, if you look at strikeouts per nine, that’s not necessarily true. The average K/9 this year is 6.98, last year it was 7.13 and the year before it was 6.99. But all three of those numbers are higher than the previous three years. And if you look at strikeouts as a percentage, as Christina Kahrl did on ESPN Insider today, they are up. Probably because walks are down. This year’s 2.21 K/BB ratio is the highest of the last seven years.

Anyway, it looks like pitching has taken a step forward. FIP, or fielding-independent pitching, is down to 3.84 around the league after at least 15 years of being over four. What does this mean for fantasy purposes? Easy: trade pitching for hitting because you can find pitching on the wire.

Let’s look at Wandy Rodriguez. He has a 3.88 FIP right now, and is striking out 7.33 batters per nine. He gets 45.6% of his contact on the ground, barely above the 44% average. His 2.6 BB/9 is good, but as the average walk rate has improved to 3.16 this year, it looks less exciting against the backdrop of the league. His 3.25 ERA right now is just about as exciting vis-a-vis the league (13% better than average) as his 3.60 ERA was last year (9% above average). He’s looking like the new average fantasy starter in mixed leagues.

Going into the season, my personal projections had Rodriguez going for a 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12 wins and 189 strikeouts. With his injury, the strikeout total might not come true, but going into the season, the package was worth $11.20 when compared to the replacement-level pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa and his projected 4.13 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 168 strikeouts in 176 innings. That doesn’t look like the replacement-level pitcher this year. This year’s FIP is 6% better than last year’s. If we move the replacement level about 6% higher, that takes a $1 off of Wandy’s value.

All of this is to set up a conversation about the relative value of Wandy Rodriguez in a trade. Say you’re trying to get out in front of a possible trade to the Yankees and you want to capitalize on a player that might not know that pitching is more abundant this year. If you can sell him at $11 and get someone like Jayson Werth or Corey Hart in order to bolster your speed and power, it might make a lot of sense. Even at $10, more Andre Ethier and Nick Markakis territory, you might have to consider it.

After all, there’s more pitching on your wire this year, and we’ll be here to help you find it.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Why Jason Heyward is Overrated (In Fantasy Baseball)

by Eno Sarris //

He has plenty of upside over the rest of his career. He’s very exciting and he’s young (22). He has excellent plate discipline. He looks like an athletic masher. He can play a fine corner outfield. But Jason Heyward is over-rated when it comes to his production over the rest of this season. And the key is where he’s hitting the ball.

First, let’s go over the components of batting average.

One component is contact, since the batting average on a strikeout is zero. Heyward is striking out almost exactly as much (24.3%) as he did last year (24.6%), and both numbers are worse than the national average (20% most years). He also whiffs on more swings (10%) than the average hitter (8.5%), so his per-pitch numbers support the fact that he makes contact at a below-average rate. Only four qualified batters that have struck out over 24% of the time this year have a batting average over .280, and among those four, the lowest BABIP is .344. If one or two of them still end up with a good batting average by the end of the year, that small group probably won’t include Heyward.

Another part of batting average is speed. Heyward is an athletic fellow, and has 15 stolen bases so far in his young career. He’s also only been successful on 65% of his attempts, which is below the break-even point — you need to get the extra base twice out of every three times to make the gamble ‘worth it.’ Bill James has a four-component speed score that uses triples, runs, stolen bases and stolen base success rates to judge a player’s speed in the context of the league. A 5.0 speed score is average. Heyward has a 4.8 so far in his career. He’s got average speed, but not enough that you can expect him to beat out a slow dribbler to short.

The last component of batting average is also important for the rest of non-batting average value: power. He’ll steal some bases, he might even up that batting average a little once his current BABIP (.263) moves, but that power is the key to his value the rest of this year. We know that fly balls offer more power — around 10% of them leave the park, and they have a much higher slugging percentage than ground balls (.547 to .252 around the league this year). Well, Heyward just hits too many ground balls. He’s now hit 55% of his balls on the ground over his first season and a half. He’s also hit close to two ground balls to every fly ball so far.

That would be good enough to be the tenth-highest ground-ball rate in the major leagues among qualified batters this year. Only eleven players hit two ground balls for every fly ball. The most powerful player above him on either of these lists is Yunel Escobar with his .416 slugging percentage and .140 ISO. It’s not great company if you’re expecting power. Last year, Heyward used a 17.8% line drive rate and 16.8% HR/FB rate to muscle 18 balls over the wall. This year, those numbers are 13.6% and 15.9% respectively, and he might need a little luck to manage the same home run pace.

Unfortunately for most of his fantasy owners, the Atlanta outfielder wasn’t valued as a .275-hitting, 18-home-run having, average-speed showing outfielder this year. As he ages and puts more weight on his frame and more loft in his swing, it’s obvious that this young man with a keen eye and a line drive stroke will achieve greater heights. But this year? In a re-draft league? It might be time to shop him.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

What To Do About Ian Desmond

By Eno Sarris //

The more we learn, the less we know. For example, we know about batting average on balls in play (BABIP). We know that the league BABIP is usually around .300, and that a player’s unique mix of batted balls can be used to judge a player’s specific expected BABIP (xBABIP). But what happens when a player with some major league track record in the bank is showing a poor batting average but a BABIP that is just about luck-neutral?

Consider Ian Desmond. The shortstop is flawed, but he had power and speed while coming up in the minor leagues, and power and speed at shortstop is almost always playable in fantasy baseball. The problem with Ian Desmond right now is that he has a .234 batting average to go with his three home runs and 20 stolen bases. And his BABIP is .295. And his xBABIP is .286. He’s not unlucky on batted balls right now, but he has a batting average that’s thirty points under his career number in the category. Why?

Obviously, BABIP is not the only component of batting average. The elements that go into a batting average are diverse. Contact is part of it – you have to make contact to get the ball in play. Power is also part of it – power can turn a liner to the shortstop into a liner into short center field. Plate discipline is also a component. You want to avoid swinging at pitches outside of the zone, and you want to make contact on pitches inside the zone. In all three of these categories, there’s some hope for Desmond owners.

At first glance, contact is a problem for Desmond. He’s striking out in a quarter of his at-bats right now and his whiff rate (8.8%) is above average (8.4% this year). But already there’s something not quite right. He’s only slightly more likely to swing and miss than the average player, but his strikeout rate is 5% above average. Given that fact, and the fact that Desmond has improved his whiff rate over last year (10%), it seems likely that Desmond will strike out a little less often going forward.

Power is also not going Desmond’s way right now. He has a below-average ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) right now and has shown better power numbers in the past. In fact his current ISO (.098) would be his lowest number since rookie ball. His minor league ISO was .129 and his Double-A ISOs were both above .155. His major league ISO is .131. And power is the last statistic to stabilize over the course of a season. Give him a good week and he may find his power stroke once again. All it takes is a few doubles.

Lastly, though Desmond does not have great plate discipline, he has made improvements. He is reaching at balls outside the zone less than he has in his career (29.3% this year, 31.4% career, 29.5% is average this year). He’s also making more contact than he has in his career (80.3% this year, 79.2% career, 81% is average this year). Maybe he’s a little too passive right now – he’s only swinging at 63.2% of pitches within the zone, and league-wide that number is 64.7% and his personal career number is 65.5%. But he’s not reaching, and just a few more swings at solid pitches within the zone could really help.

Give Desmond a little more power – possibly from swinging at a few more pitches within the zone – and subtract a few strikeouts, and his batting average will improve. Given the fact that he’ll probably still strike out more than the average player and still won’t show much better than average power, his batting average won’t be awesome. But with power and speed, at shortstop, a .250+ batting average would work in most leagues. If it won’t work for your team, you’re probably best off looking for a new man in the middle.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Thinking Ahead: The Trade Deadline and Bullpens

by Eno Sarris // 

The MLB trade deadline isn’t for another six weeks. That doesn’t mean that it won’t make waves in fantasy baseball sooner than that. There are a couple players in particular that are very likely to move. With these players, it makes sense for both teams to make the trade sooner rather than later in order to get the most value, whether it be in prospects or production.

The Padres are nine games out and at the bottom of the National League West division. Their closer, Heath Bell, is a one of the elite bullpen arms in baseball. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year and is already the highest-paid player on a cash-strapped team. Former GM Jim Bowden recently said that Bell is the player most likely to be traded, and with good reason it seems.

Behind Bell are a couple arms worth owning if he’s going to leave town. Most likely, Mike Adams is next in line. The righty is working on his fourth straight year with more than a strikeout per inning. He also has great control. That mix has produced a 1.71 ERA over that time span — he’s really good. There is one caveat with the 32-year-old, however: he’s only under team control for one more year. Luke Gregerson, on the other hand, is under control for three more years and is also excellent. He’s managed a strikeout per inning over the first three years of his career, and even if his ERA isn’t as pristine as Adams’ (3.14), he gets good ground balls (48.1% career) and has one of the best sliders in the game. If only he was healthy — a strained oblique has felled him at the wrong moment. Then again, Gregerson uses his slider almost twice as much as his fastball, and some of my recent research has shown that heavy slider usage can lead to injury. Adams is the safer pick overall.

In New York, the Mets are eight games back. Even if they only have two teams in front of them, one of them has an historic rotation and the other is stacked with young talent. Add in some much-publicized monetary issues, and it just doesn’t seem like the Mets need Francisco Rodriguez to stick around. The sticking point is a $17.5 million vesting option for next year, and a limited no-trade that allows him to block a trade to ten mystery teams. But if the Mets can find a team that’s not on the list and has an established closer (in order to keep his option from vesting), there’s an immediate match, and the team is highly motivated to make such a deal.

Behind Rodriguez, there isn’t an easy solution. Well, there is, but it isn’t very forward-looking. 38-year-old reclamation project Jason Isringhausen is the obvious set-up man and the team leader in holds. Some fans have hopes for Bobby Parnell as the closer of the future, but the flame-thrower has terrible control. No other reliever has stepped to the fore, although hometown hero Pedro Beato has an interesting pitching mix. He still doesn’t have the strikeout punch of a closer right now, though. Even with Isringhausen’s mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and advanced age, he’s probably the dude once K-Rod leaves town.

The trade deadline comes July 31st. By thinking ahead, you might just own two newly minted closers by then.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

(Audio) BTN with Eno Sarris and What is WHIFF Rate?

By Bloomberg Sports //

Listen now! – (loads in new browser)

Behind the Numbers
Hosts: Wayne Parillo and Rob Shaw
Guest: Eno Sarris www.fangraphs.com

Total Running Time: 10:34

High Level Look

  • What is WHIFF
  • All about Mike Pelfrey and Joba Chamberlin
  • Eno’s unique introduction to the world of baseball.

More ways to get Behind the Numbers, talk to us, or just have a good time

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