Tagged: Frank Francisco

Fantasy Baseball Injury Report: Teixeira, Grandal, Thome, Francisco, and Morales


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports


Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the injuries and comebacks of five players and how they affect your fantasy team.


Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees

The Yankees big bopper aggravated a wrist injury diving for a ball on Monday night. The injury first occurred Sunday, but now it looks like he will miss some time.  An immediate X-Ray came back negative, but Teixeira will have an MRI Tuesday, which could dictate whether he has to spend some time on the disabled list.

Big Tex has 20 home runs and 71 RBI this season. Even with the recent swoon, the Yankees were thought of as a safe bet for the playoffs. However, if Teixeira joins A-Rod on the DL, things will change. Most notably, the Yankees could end up being buyers prior to the trade deadline.


Yasmani Grandal, C, Padres

In the midst of a rally against Reds hurler Mike Leake Monday, Grandal had to leave the game with a strained oblique.  We’ve seen a lot of this injury this season and it usually ends with the player landing on the disabled list. The 23-year-old Cuban has been great in his rookie season, batting .312 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games.


Jim Thome, DH, Orioles

Thome is one of the most dangerous sluggers in baseball, but nearing 42 years old, staying healthy has been a challenge lately. The Orioles have given him an opportunity to play everyday, and just when he was getting hot, Thome hurt his neck and is now getting an MRI in Baltimore to determine whether a stay on the DL will be necessary.


Frank Francisco, RP, Mets

While his 4.97 ERA may be ugly, Frank Francisco does have 18 saves in 21 attempts and was enjoying a fine June with a 2.16 ERA before he went down with an oblique injury. The 32-year-old veteran is now on the mend and could return as the Mets closer as soon as Friday. The Mets interim closer has been Bobby Parnell, who remains a bit too hittable despite a 100-MPH fastball. He has blown two of his last three saves.


Kendrys Morales, 1B/RF, Angels

Talking about injuries, Morales missed nearly two seasons, all because of a celebration after hitting a grand slam that resulted in a broken ankle. While he has been back all season, it wasn’t until Monday night that we saw a vintage performance. He blasted two home runs from both sides of the plate for six RBI in one inning.

Morales now has 11 home runs and 45 RBI through 84 games. He has been striking out too often and not walking enough, but it was a nice turn-back-the-clock performance for a player who could still have some solid years left in the tank.


For more fantasy inishgt, visit BloombergSports.com. 

Ballpark Figures Trade Deadline Breakdown


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports


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. 

Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition



Twitter: @RobShawSports


Every season a different strategy has to be utilized in fantasy baseball drafts in order to appropriately take into account positional depth and player rankings.  In general, a unique strategy can be utilized on a round-by-round basis.  Here’s a breakdown of Bloomberg Sports recommended Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition:


In the early rounds, the focus is finding the best available player while also taking into account the disparity between the best player and the next best option at each position.  For example, there is a plateau in excellence for starting pitchers as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw can all be claimed as the best of the bunch.  On the other hand, Troy Tulowitzki stands alone amongst fellow shortstops. 


If your fantasy league includes slugging percentage and on base percentage as statistical categories, there is no competition for Jose Bautista in the outfield while there are several stars at first base including Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto.  The best strategy is to pick up the best talent at a position where there is a large enough disparity that when the next player is drafted from that position there is a decisive advantage in your favor. 


In the early middle rounds, it’s not a bad idea to scoop up a fine hurler who has the potential to rank amongst the best.  Players such as Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, and Danny Haren as well as Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg make sense in these rounds.  These hurlers have the ability to dominate and enjoy a Cy Young caliber season thanks to their enormous upside. 


Having two high potential and consistent hurlers is more valuable than having just one dominant ace.  Therefore, by drafting where there is greater disparity in the early rounds with a focus on position players, then nabbing a couple of pitchers with sky high potential fantasy managers can enjoy the best of both worlds. 


In the later middle rounds you can draft a closer and many of them.  Closers are often overrated in fantasy leagues since they only contribute 70 innings, which means saves are all that matters.  Second-tier closers still get the job done and players such as Joe Nathan could end up as bargains.  In fact, rather than selecting a Jonathan Papelbon in the sixth or seventh round, you can grab a Gio Gonzalez or a Drew Stubbs, someone who will have a much greater impact on your fantasy team. 


Then five rounds later go ahead and draft three closers in a row: Sergio Santos, Jason Motte, and Frank Francisco.  Plus, usually about 10 closers become available on the waiver wire each season.  In fact, all three of the pitchers just mentioned did not start the season as closers for their respective teams last season. 


Finally, in the later rounds, it’s not a bad idea to focus on young talents with great potential as well as players with multiple position eligibility.  This allows you to pick up some big time prospects while also enjoying depth.  Consider top prospects such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.  There is no telling if the precocious sluggers will develop into stars as soon as this season. 


On the other hand, drafting veteran players such as Ryan Raburn and Daniel Murphy is also a key strategy in the later rounds since they cover multiple positions, providing depth to your fantasy teams.  This way if a player on your team gets injured, a single bench player can fill multiple holes. 


For more fantasy insight turn to BloombergSports.com.

Who Will Emerge from the Crowded Jays’ Pen?

by Eno Sarris // 

What a week it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays. First, they traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, shedding Wells’ considerable salary. Then the flipped Napoli on to the Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. Paired with the other pickups of the off-season, Francisco makes for a newly crowded bullpen. As always, for fantasy purposes the million-dollar question is “Who will close?”

The first reliever with closing experience acquired by the Jays this off-season was Octavio Dotel, who came with 105 career saves and a double-digit career strikeout rate (10.95 K/9). Given the state of the Jays’ pen at that time, our Tommy Rancel was right to name him the favorite for saves this season. His 4.09 walks per nine innings and some major struggles vs. left-handed hitters remained serious concerns, though.

Perhaps it was Dotel’s wonky control that led the Jays to go out and get Jon Rauch a couple weeks later. While he doesn’t own the same strikeout punch as Dotel (7.34 career K/9, and a slower fastball that hovers around 91 mph), Rauch had also closed before (47 career saves) and shown much better control (2.80 career BB/9). He proved himself as a capable closer in Washington and Minnesota before, so maybe he’d make for a good backup plan.

Now, enter Francisco to the discussion. He’s a little more Dotel than Rauch – he has shown a 10.01 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 over his career – but like both he has experience in the closer role. Francisco is six years younger than Dotel, who has also lost at least three miles per hour off of his peak fastball speed, and he’s got more punch than Rauch. On the other hand, the former Ranger has only averaged 53 1/3 innings in his “healthy” seasons and lost all of 2005 to surgery. Will there be an open competition for the role?  

JaysPen.jpgThere’s one big asterisk that tilts the scale quickly towards Francisco. You want your closer to be able to get batters out no matter which side of the plate they call home. Look at the chart above, and you’ll see that both Rauch and Dotel see their effectiveness dive against lefties, while Francisco’s statistics are more stable.

Of course, Francisco’s health is an open question and the team will likely need to call upon more than one of these options during the course of the year. Going into the season, however, Francisco is the favorite for saves. Plan your drafts accordingly.

True Value of Great Relievers, Part 2

By Eriq Gardner

In the first part of our look into the true value of great relievers, we described why great relievers contribute just as much value in ERA and WHIP as starters.

Simply put, a fantasy team’s ERA and WHIP is a function of the total amount of earned runs, hits, and walks given up over the total number of team innings pitched. What matters most is finding pitchers who will save a team’s ratios from damage by limiting the number of earned runs, hits, and walks allowed.

We showed why the advantage of having great relievers instead of bad relievers is comparable to having great starters instead of mediocre ones, and it’s almost time to explain how one can get a strategic edge by leveraging the full value of relievers.

But first, we need to quickly examine two concepts that also play a role in this discussion.
The first factor is variability.
In Part 1 of the study, we noted that Jonathan Broxton is expected to save eight runs over Leo Nunez, which is not an insignificant number. However, two bad games at the beginning of April where Broxton lets up a couple of unlucky grand slams erases that advantage. Over a long-term period, we can be confident that a player will live up to his skills. But in a small sample size like 75 IP, how can we safely say that Broxton will come close to his projected 2.76 ERA?
We can’t.
As visual proof, here’s two radar graphs which plot ERA vs. xFIP (a measure of what a pitcher’s ERA should be based on peripheral stats such as strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate). On the left, you’ll see the 20 pitchers who pitched the most innings in baseball last year. On the right, you’ll see the 20 pitchers who gained the most saves last year. On the left, you see a little variability. On the right, you see a lot.

So if we can’t confidently project a reliever’s ERA, should we give up on the idea we should roster them with the expectation they’ll help in the category?
The more relievers that a team has on its roster, the more closely the relievers’ ERA in aggregate will match our expectations. For instance, the average difference between the above starters’ ERA and xFIP was 0.51. For the relievers, it was 0.58. Not that big a deal if a fantasy team is willing to invest in several relievers to get the job done. A couple might underperform. A couple might outperform. In total, they should do what we expect.
Next comes the concept of scarcity.
How much of an investment (via high draft picks) does one have to make on great relievers? And if we need them in bulk to be ensured of having an impact, are there simply too few great relievers out there?
It turns out there are quite a few great relievers in any given year, and as you’ll see below, you don’t need to spend much to build a strong bullpen. Players such as Mike Thornton, Mike Adams, Mike Wuertz, Matt Guerrier, George Sherrill, Ronaldo Bellisario, and Jason Frasor all put up an ERA last season that was more than a run under than the league average.

They are not alone. Yes, not all are closers, but remember that in our expansive view of the value of relievers, we’ve shown that they provide value beyond saves, and thus, it’s fair to consider middle relievers and set-up men too. In fact, anybody who looks at an in-season player rater (on service providers like ESPN) measuring the real value contributed by players will see quite a number of middle relievers near the top of the charts, largely on the strength of contributions in ERA/WHIP. Last year, for example, Wuertz was roughly the 38th most valuable pitcher in 5-by-5 roto leagues, ahead of solid closers like Francisco Cordero and good starters like Ryan Dempster.

Of course, fantasy teams need closers too, because saves do count. So now we start getting into the best strategy for rostering relievers via draft.
When looking at pitchers in general, we want to focus foremost on underlying skills — the ability to strike out batters, the ability to have control and limit walks, and the ability to limit damage by preventing line drives and home runs. A pitcher who displays these skills can be expected to save earned runs, hits, and walks over the long haul.
Some relievers such as Broxton, Mariano Rivera, Joakim Soria, and Heath Bell do all these things extraordinarily well and deserve a premium because of the added contributions they make in the saves category. It’s perfectly reasonable to select them high in drafts because they are providing strong value in ERA/WHIP plus racking up numbers in the scarcest of categories — saves.
There are other closers out there, including Frank Francisco and Chad Qualls, who also sport strong peripherals, but might get discounted because of perceived job insecurity. In the middle rounds, each makes a good target.
Finally, at the end of drafts, there’s a good quantity of middle relievers out there whose value in ERA/WHIP strongly outweighs starters being drafted late. If these great middle relievers contribute more value than mediocre starters, it makes sense to take them ahead of those mediocre starters. (Plus, these are the relievers who are most likely to be promoted to closer during the season — adding the prospect of even greater value.)
Anybody reading closely at this point might wonder about available roster room to gather all these relievers. Rostering depends a lot on context. The more roster spots per team in a given league, the more available room for relievers who will provide help in ERA/WHIP. A smaller bench might mean not as much opportunity to draft a heavy load of relievers.
That said, teams that acknowledge that late-round relievers can provide as much value in ERA/WHIP as early-round starters can use their biggest investments not on starters, but on stable hitters who won’t require back-ups, nor replacements. Having a team built upon stellar relievers saves high draft picks for a killer offense, which then saves bench room for more pitchers.
Relievers also tend to post much higher strikeout rates than starters. A team that relies heavily on reliever
s — mixing in some mid-to-late round starters with great strikeout rates such as Jonathan Sanchez and Jorge De La Rosa — can compete strongly in the category of strikeouts too.
What this all adds up to is the prospect that one can take advantage of a market inefficiency based on the wrongful assumption that relievers don’t contribute much value beyond saves. It turns out they go a long way to helping a fantasy team do extremely well in four of five pitching categories, at an amazingly cheap investment. By correctly leveraging relievers, fantasy teams can relax on starting pitchers and focus on winning five offensive categories. This is extremely enticing. 
What’s the real lesson here? Perhaps it’s that the true value of great relievers lies in the fact that most people don’t recognize their greatness. 
For more information on good pitching options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit