Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw discuss whether the fans’ selections for the National League All-Star team were right and who should be starting the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
Buster Posey was not the right choice for the All-Star team. Phillies backstop Carlos Ruiz is having a sensational season, hitting .357 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI and a surprising three stolen bases. He has definitely been the best catcher in baseball this season.
The fans got this one right by selecting Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is probably the MVP of the first half of the season. He’s batting .350 with 14 home runs and 47 RBI.
Brandon Phillips of the Reds should be starting rather than Dan Uggla. Phillips has a .279 average, 10 home runs and 47 RBI. He is also a good defensive player, which Uggla is not.
The fans made the wrong choice by selecting Pablo Sandoval, who has missed plenty of time this season due to injury. David Wright of the Mets should have been the pick, as he has been an MVP candidate so far this year with a .350 average, 10 home runs, 55 RBI and eight stolen bases.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro should be starting in place of Rafael Furcal. Castro is batting .291 with six home runs, 40 RBI and 16 stolen bases. Despite those numbers, he can be frustrating because he makes a lot of boneheaded plays but he is young and will hopefully grow out of that.
Not one of the three outfielders chosen by the fans was the right pick. Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies should be starting instead of Melky Cabrera. Gonzalez is batting .340 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and 10 stolen bases, though he is helped out by playing at Coors Field.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun should have been selected over Matt Kemp. Braun is once again putting up MVP numbers with a .309 average, 23 home runs, 59 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
Finally, Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen should have been chosen rather than Carlos Beltran. McCutchen is batting .360 with 16 home runs, 54 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Beltran would have been a good selection if the National League had a designated hitter. He has a .304 average, 20 home runs, 63 RBI and eight stolen bases this season.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons. The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.
The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either. He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.
One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years. His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable. Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him. The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.
The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years. However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value. The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.
Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.
Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard was a disaster in Seattle. Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.
The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now. He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.
A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers. Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts. Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.
BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.
The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers. Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time. First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies. Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.
The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan. With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.
As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler. That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.
Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers. After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
In 2007, Jackson suffered through a seemingly miserable season, posting a 5-15 record and 5.76 ERA, the kind of stats that will torpedo a fantasy season. Turns out Jackson was the victim of bad luck and especially bad defense that year. Pitching in front of noted defensive sieves such as Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, Jackson yielded a stratospheric batting average on plays in play of .351. His xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that runs along a similar scale to ERA, but strips out the impact of defense, park effects and other factors outside a pitcher’s control) was nearly a run lower than his ERA, at 4.95. This was a roughly league average pitcher thrust into the worst situation.
In 2008, Jackson appeared to take a huge step forward. The big right-hander upped his record to 14-11, with a 4.42 ERA, delighting fantasy owners who gambled a late-round pick on him. But a closer look revealed that he hadn’t changed at all. Jackson owed most of the improvement in his superficial stats to a vast improvement in the Rays’ defense. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, a stat which tracks fielders’ ability to make plays in and around their assigned positions, the Rays moved from dead last in baseball in 2007 with a mark of -57.7 to first in 2008, at 74.2. Put another way: Every 10 positive UZR points add up to roughly one more win in the standings for a given team.
So Tampa Bay’s defense went from costing the team nearly six wins in 2007 to adding more than seven wins to the ledger in 2008. That’s a gigantic, 13-win improvement – one of the biggest year-to-year changes in MLB history – before any Rays pitcher made a pitch or any Rays batter took a swing. Indeed, Jackson’s xFIP actually rose from 4.95 in 2007 to 5.03 in 2008, as some of Jackson’s peripheral stats, including his strikeout rate, got worse. It seems impossible to believe that a pitcher could go from 5-15 to 14-11 and actually prove slightly less valuable to his team on a per-inning basis – but Jackson turned the trick.
After the ’08 season, Rays management saw a chance to trade a pitcher whose perceived value likely outshone his actual value, and that’s exactly what the team did – shipping Jackson to Detroit for promising outfielder Matt Joyce.
At first glance, Jackson’s debut season in Motown
could be seen as a major breakout: His ERA dropped nearly another full run to 3.62 (7th in the American League), his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped over the key 2:1 mark, and Jackson gave the Tigers a career-high 214 innings pitched (also 7th in the AL). His xFIP slid to 4.39. Combine his increased innings total with his improved performance, and FanGraphs estimates that Jackson’s season was worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement — or three-and-a-half more wins than a fringe major league pitcher — for Detroit.
Even in a very good season, Jackson still showed his share of flaws. First, Jackson’s season reveals a massive chasm between his first and second
half numbers. In the first half he was one of the American League’s
top pitchers, walking just 35 batters in 121.2 IP and compiling a 2.52 ERA. The
second half wasn’t as kind, as Jackson allowed more hits, runs, and
home runs while walking the same number of batters in nearly 30 fewer
innings. His full season marked of 1.14 homers allowed per nine innings was higher than average among qualified starters, a puzzling and troubling sign at Comerica Park, which suppressed homers by 2.6% compared to league average in 2009, and rates as a pitcher-friendly park compared to other MLB stadiums.
This off-season, Jackson was involved in another trade, this one sending him to Arizona. So, which Edwin Jackson should we expect to see in 2010?
Here are some factors to consider when drafting Jackson:
1. He’s moving to Chase Field.
While moving out of the American League is generally a good thing for a pitcher due to lower run-scoring totals in the NL,
moving into one of baseball’s best hitters parks is not. Chase
Field consistently ranks among the leaders in run factor – it boosted offenses by 19.3% in 2009 and 13.5% in 2008. A mistake
pitch that may found a glove in the outfield of Comerica Park last
season may not have the same fate at Chase.
2. The defense playing behind him is good, though maybe not as good. Detroit had one of the league’s top defensive units playing behind
Jackson last season, ranking fifth in team UZR at 43.6; Tigers starters Adam Everett, Placido Polanco, Brandon Inge,
and Curtis Granderson all ranked among the best defenders at their respective
positions. As was the case with Tampa Bay in 2008, the stellar defense
gobbled up many of the mistakes Jackson may have made and helped to lower his
batting average on balls in play, which in turn saved runs and lowered his ERA. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, ranked a solid 9th in team UZR in 2009, though just 23rd in 2008, while not making many changes to their everyday lineup.
3. The offense supporting him isn’t very good. Yes, Mark Reynolds is a big time power threat (44 homers in 2009), Justin Upton is a star
in the making, and Adam LaRoche’s bat should help stabilize the first
base position. Beyond those three, the DBacks trot out a group of 20-something hitters high on potential and low on results (to date). According to our Competitive Factors tool (see image below) the Diamondbacks ranked 19th
in batting in 2009, scoring just 720 runs despite playing in a great park for hitters. Jackson isn’t a good enough
pitcher to win many games by himself, like Zack Greinke had to do last
season playing for the hapless Royals. Jackson’s going to need help, and unless Chris Young and Stephen
Drew can finally live up to their outstanding potential, Jackson will
struggle to receive enough run support to match his win totals from the
previous two seasons.
4. The NL West. This factor could work out in Jackson’s favor. Thanks to an unbalanced schedule,
Jackson will get to face the Padres and Giants a lot. Those two
teams’ offenses finished 29th and 30th in our Competitive Factor batting rankings last
season, due to both their pitcher-friendly ballparks and talent-deficient lineups. Facing those offenses adds some instant value to a pitcher’s
worth, as will traveling to Petco Park and AT&T Park, as well as Dodger Stadium (Coors Field will be the one road park in the NL West that could significantly hurt Jackson’s performance).
Jackson currently owns a B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking of all players) of 55 among starting pitchers. This
number looks high to me, artificially inflated by one stellar
half of baseball. You’re more likely to find better value in someone
like Carlos Zambrano, who is ranked only a few places behind Jackson. Choose wisely, my friends.
For more information on Edwin Jackson and hundreds of other
players, and for dozens of tools to help you dominate your fantasy
league, check out Bloomberg
Sports’ fantasy kits.
I’ll just get this off my chest. I love Matt Kemp. (Pause.) It’s okay, though. Because I also love Chase Utley. (And all of his pomade!)
Let’s say I’m coming up on my sixth pick in the draft, and B-Rank (the
proprietary Bloomberg ranking tool, spit out by gnome-like geniuses toiling in
the depths of the silver mountain that is Bloomberg headquarters on Lexington
Avenue), tells me Kemp is ranked fifth, and Utley is ranked 10th.
That’s just a start. Any tool worth its salt is not
trying to make decisions for you – instead it’s about giving you the
opportunity to make your (informed) decisions. And in this case, the question
is how much you value positional scarcity and consistency.
In one corner we have the rising star. Kemp’s on his way up
the charts and is projected to be the number-one center fielder in baseball
next year. He went from 12th at the position to fourth in
home runs last year, and he did it by slowly ramping up his flyball rates
(from 35.9% his first year to 38.3% last year) while still hitting line drives
in bunches (21.5% career). You can see on his scout page that his slugging
percentage was steady all year, and he didn’t hit a wall. His career
78% stolen base success rate bodes well for him to continue stealing bases at a
rate that has been top-ten in baseball at his position for two straight years. He’s
got the green light. The power is projected to continue its upward trajectory,
and his speed will stick around. What’s not to love? He’s got upside in
In the other corner we have the steady veteran Utley, who also
offers a blend of power and speed. Take a look at Bloomberg Sports’ player scout tool, and you’ll see
that Utley’s been number one at his position since 2007. In the past three season, he’s ranked third, first,
and second in home runs; second, seventh, and twelfth in batting average; and 16th, 13th, and sixth in stolen bases among second basemen. If you want efficiency on the basepaths, Utley is your man: He owns an 88% career success rate – and
wasn’t caught once last year in 23 attempts. Of course, his game is still built around power; Utley’s SB total last year was the
best of his career, he’s 31 years old now and has likely peaked in the stolen base department.
Power and consistency are more likely to be lasting traits. Utley’s never hit lower than
.282 in a season, or slugged worse than .508 — he’s still the consensus best second baseman on the board. Bloomberg Sports’ Demand vs. Scarcity chart shows you that only Ian Kinsler joins Utley in the category of five-star second basemen. Only seven
second basemen rate as four-star or better.
Let’s just go back to the Demand vs. Scarcity chart
for Kemp, because it’s my favorite tool in the tool belt. You’ll see that Kemp
is a five-star center fielder, like Utley is at his position, but that there are
three others in his tier. There are also 11 center fielders that are
four-star or better. If your league doesn’t break down outfielders into three
positions, Kemp’s talents become even less exceptional, as Bloomberg Sports rates 23 left fielders and
right fielders with four stars, and 11 with five stars.
If you value positional scarcity, the nod goes to Utley. If you want the young guy on his way up no matter where he plays, you
For more information on Chase Utley, Matt Kemp and hundreds of other players, check out the new Bloomberg Sports fantasy application.