BY ROB SHAW
Seven years ago Chris Capuano was one of the best starters in baseball, as he went 18-11 for the Milwaukee Brewers. The good times did not last long as Capuano was derailed by arm injuries that forced him to miss 2008-2009.
In his first full season back, Capuano pitched well for the Mets with 11 wins and a 4.55 ERA. However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that there could endure some trouble ahead. Capuano surrendered 1.31 HR/9, which would have been an issue had he stayed in New York with the fences getting drawn closer. His 5.42 ERA on the road is also an issue with Capuano moving away from Citi Field.
Fantasy managers can take some relief in the fact that Capuano’s move to Los Angeles means he’ll continue to pitch in a pitcher’s park. Furthermore, the Dodgers lineup should have more punch than the Mets lineup, which puts 12 wins within reach.
In 2008, Ryan Ludwick was one of the best players in baseball. He blasted 37 home runs, drove in 113 RBI, and hit .299 for the Cardinals. Ludwick failed to repeat the success and within two years he was dealt to the Padres.
In San Diego, Ludwick has regressed a great deal. His power and average took a severe decline and last season he was dealt to the Pirates. In particular, Ludwick has struggled against the fastball, and he is no longer hitting many line drives.
A move away from PETCO Park will give Ludwick every chance of regaining his confidence. At 33 years old, Ludwick is far from his prime, but 20-plus home runs with solid run production is a legitimate best-case scenario.
One of the most consistent hitters over the last decade has been Juan Pierre, most recently the leadoff man for the White Sox. In fact, Pierre ranks second on Major League Baseball for plate appearances since 2010. However, Pierre’s role will change dramatically now that he returns to the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now a 34-year-old speedster, Juan Pierre did score 80 runs with 27 steals and a .279 average last season. However, his success rate for stolen bases took a nose-dive from 79% to 61%. In an era in which every statistic is studied by the front office, it is clear that Pierre’s struggles to secure stolen bases actually may have cost his team runs last season.
The Phillies are not looking for Pierre to play an everyday role. The hope is that Dominic Brown regains his confidence and becomes a rising star next to Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. Pierre will likely man a fourth outfielder role and offer some serious speed off the bench. His fantasy value takes a major hit this season.
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Ryan Ludwick to the Pirates
I love this trade for the Pirates. He may be batting just .238 with a .301 on base percentage, but Ludwick is also responsible for 11 home runs and 64 RBI. Plus, on the road Ludwick has 39 RBI in 49 games. That puts him on pace for 130 RBI should he play 162 road games. That is key since Pittsburgh is closer to neutral than the pitcher’s friendly Petco Park.
Derrek Lee to the Pirates
The .246 average may not impress anyone, but Lee is batting .298 with 13 RBI since the All-Star break. A long-time National Leaguer, Lee boasts a .297 career average at PNC Park. He is a solid replacement over the struggling Lyle Overbay at first base.
Michael Bourn to the Braves
The Houston native was thrilled to be an Astro, but at least he will now get a chance to play for a contender. Bourn is best known for his defense in centerfield and his speed on the basepaths. He is a bit of a free-swinger for a leadoff man, but thanks to a .303 average, Bourn is getting on base often this season. He should now rack up more runs with some big bats behind him in the Braves lineup.
Hunter Pence to the Phillies
While Carlos Beltran may be the better player now, Hunter Pence likely has the better future. It should be fun to see how he develops now that he enters a favorable ballpark in a solid lineup. A model of consistency, Pence has blasted 25 home runs in three straight seasons and hit .282 the last two. His value soars now that he will add greater run production due to the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the Phillies lineup.
Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals
The lone home run and .197 average says he’s done, but Busch Stadium has been known to have the Ponce De Leon fountain of youth (just check out Lance Berkman). In the Cardinals lineup, Furcal is bound to improve. Plus, the trade breathes new life into the 33-year-old shortstop who now gets a crack at meaningful baseball.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: Miguel Tejada
From hitting .269/.308/.362 with seven homers in 428 plate appearances, to hitting .277/.323/.442 with 8 homers in 220 plate appearances – in a ballpark that tramples offensive output. Maybe the added pressure of a playoff race really did rekindle Tejada’s spirit. After all, this is the first time Tejada has been in a serious playoff pursuit since 2003.
Biggest Bust: Kyle Blanks
An easy player to root for, the six-foot-six behemoth missed most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. When Blanks did play, he was mostly unimpressive, striking out in more than 45% of his at-bats and not flashing the power that made him a tantalizing sleeper this year. Adrian Gonzalez‘s eventual departure would allow the Padres to play Blanks at first base and leave him there, but the huge holes in his swing remain a going concern.
2011 Keeper Alert: Adrian Gonzalez
Despite playing in one of the toughest offensive environments in all of baseball, Gonzalez continues to hit. This season, he hit .298 (nearly a career high) with a .393 on-base percentage and .511 slugging percentage. He posted a fourth straight year of at least 30 home runs (31) and at least 95 RBI (101). Entering the walk year of his contract, he’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline if the Padres fall out of the race early in 2011. If that happens and Gonzalez goes to a better ballpark for hitters, he’d become even more valuable.
2011 Regression Alert: Ryan Ludwick
Call him the anti-Tejada. Just about every aspect of Ludwick’s game went the wrong way after the Cardinals sent him to San Diego. He’ll attempt to rebound after seeing a drop in all major statistical categories. A move away from Petco would make him a strong candidate for positive regression, and the Padres might be willing to deal, after pledging to boost their payroll.
by Eno Sarris //
Every once in a while, injury suppresses a player’s stats at a key point in the season and creates a waiver-wire sleeper. At least, that has to be the reason behind the fact that Ryan Ludwick is only owned in 68% of fantasy leagues right now.
Just look at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs. They sum up how Ludwick looks, sitting out there on the waiver wire with ‘only’ 11 home runs and a passable batting average. Mediocre.
But when Ludwick is in the lineup, he has been very good, a one-man argument for using rate stats over counting stats. His .279/.342/.482 batting line shows a player who can work the count and hit for power. If you pro-rated his current fantasy statistics out to a full year, you’d get 22 home runs and 84 RBI, useful even in mixed leagues, and the rate stats once again pass the sniff test.
Of course, Ludwick does have a perceived inability to hit left-handers, and judging from his career .772 OPS against left-handers, it’s tempting to sit him against all lefties, as his team often does. But he has only accrued 703 plate appearances against left-handers in his career, and righty/lefty splits have been shown to become significant at 2000 plate appearances. So even that flaw is not set in stone.
We do all remember Ludwick’s 2008 season, when he smashed 37 home runs. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s not looking like that 2008 version these days that has fantasy owners moving on to younger batters with more perceived upside. It is true that Ludwick is 32, but that also means that his 2172 plate appearances to date are significant. In those PAs, Ludwick has shown an isolated slugging percentage (ISO, or slugging percentage minus batting average) of .219. He’s at .203 this season, right between David Wright and Josh Willingham on the NL leaderboard.
If you’re in one of the 32% of leagues where Ludwick isn’t owned, pick him up immediately.
For more on other fantasy All-Stars, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.