Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down the moves made at the trade deadline and the implications for your fantasy team.
Reds Trade for Jonathan Broxton
For the Reds, Jonathan Broxton simply provides depth and some closer experience. However, he is destined for a middle relief role with the club in front of Aroldis Chapman. The Royals get two quality arms in return and Greg Holland becomes the closer in Kansas City.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster
With the Angels breathing down their necks, the Rangers had to do something before the trade deadline, especially with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz lost for the season. Ryan Dempster had already been traded to the Braves but he rejected the move last week. He did, however, welcome a trade to the Rangers mere hours before the trade deadline. This is a move that will help Dempster quite a bit when you consider that he has won just five of his 16 starts despite a 2.25 ERA. His ERA is likely to rise in Texas, but I’m sure fantasy managers will welcome it with the additional wins due to the Rangers run support.
Shane Victorino Traded to the Dodgers
One of the better offensive outfielders in baseball, Shane Victorino ends his career with the Phillies now that he has been traded to the Dodgers. He gets plenty of steals, has some pop and reaches base often. However, in Los Angeles, he will likely lose some of that pop, which could keep his average down a tad. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, Victorino owns a .357 average at Dodgers Stadium and will benefit from having Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the lineup.
Hunter Pence Traded to the Giants
This is the big surprise, as Hunter Pence is 29 years old and clearly in his prime. Though Pence has lost some of his speed this season, he does have some pop and is a line drive hitter. A move to the Giants could cost him some home runs, but at least he will play some meaningful baseball this fall. Regardless, overall the move hurts Pence’s fantasy value.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee
For a second straight season, Casey McGehee has struggled at the plate but he is a fine Ty Wigginton type player who can contribute in big moments. What this acquisition does is hurt the fantasy value of Eric Chavez, as three is now a crowd with Jayson Nix also taking some at-bats away while filling in for the injured Alex Rodriguez.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez
The Pirates had nothing to lose and now hope that a change of scenery will do some good for Gaby Sanchez. After two straight seasons with 572 at-bats and 19 home runs, Sanchez struggled mightily this season with just three home runs and a .202 average before being relegated to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and a surprisingly better lineup to resurrect his career.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica
Last year the Cardinals brought in relief help including Octavio Dotel and it worked out well for them. This year, the Cardinals have a bit more work to do but they will not let the bullpen be the team’s unraveling. On Tuesday, the Cards acquired Edward Mujica, a hard-thrower with solid control. He does surrender some home runs but is another quality arm to help bridge the gap to Jason Motte.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider
Another cheap pickup for the Pirates, Travis Snider has some serious potential, but it just did not work out in Toronto. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a fine place for him to establish himself and at 24 years old, he has some time to reach his potential. I see Snider as a potential 30-homer guy with more than 10 steals and a respectable average. He is the big bat that the Pirates would love to team up with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.
Blue Jays Trade Steve Delabar for Eric Thames
A feel good story in Seattle, Steve Delabar went from a coach to a player in a little over a year and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning this season. He provides the Blue Jays with the power arm that they expected to have in the injured Sergio Santos. His value takes a minor decline since he moves from the pitcher’s haven Safeco Field to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Eric Thames makes the reverse move from Toronto to Seattle. There won’t be many complaints from Thames since he will likely get a crack at playing everyday with the Mariners. He has some power but really struggles when it comes to the strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm
A .300 hitter for a second straight year, Reed Johnson is very much a utility player with no fantasy value. On the other hand, Paul Maholm has enjoyed his time in Chicago with a 9-6 record and a solid 3.74 ERA. He has surrendered a run or fewer in each of his last six starts. Maholm also boasts a 1.69 ERA in five career starts at Turner Field. Though the Braves only made this deal since Ryan Dempster rejected the trade to Atlanta, I do think this is a nice fit with Maholm as hot as any pitcher in baseball right now.
For more fantasy 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.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down four players who have a surprising number of stolen bases this season.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
Molina had a career-high nine stolen bases in 2009, which is impressive from a catcher. He already has seven steals this season, in addition to 11 home runs and a .319 batting average. It’s hard to believe, but the Cardinals may have picked correctly when it came to which free agent to give a big contract to in the offseason, Molina or Albert Pujols. So far, Molina is performing at a higher level this season.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
Kipnis’ career high in stolen bases was 17, which he achieved last year between AAA and the majors. He already has 17 steals this year and is on pace for nearly 40 by the end of the season. He’s also contributing in the power area with 11 home runs, 46 runs and 42 RBI.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners
Saunders stole 29 bases in 2009 in the minors and has 12 stolen bases so far this season. What is surprising is how much playing time he is getting, but he can’t be taken out of the lineup with a .267 average, eight home runs and 35 runs.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
We know that Beltran has speed, as he became just the eighth player in MLB history to have 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases. However, he only had seven stolen bases in the past two seasons combined, making his seven steals this year so surprising. He is also batting .312 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI.
For more fantasy baseball insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
by Eno Sarris //
Perhaps the title provides a little clue about the probability that this move works out well for St. Louis. While the deal was short (one year), the dollars were perhaps surprisingly high ($8 million) for a move that flies in the face of some poor trends in Lance Berkman‘s production over the past few years.
Age is a bitter beast that comes for us all. Since Berkman turned 32 in 2006, he’s turned south in a pronounced way. He had 665 plate appearances that year, right in line with his career production. Then, in 2009, he stepped to the plate 563 times. Last year? 481 times. Along the way, he had knee surgery and had some arthritic changes in the joint that don’t bode well for his mobility in the outfield.
Though defense doesn’t factor in to fantasy numbers directly in most leagues, it can have secondary effects. Berkman may find that he can’t play daily in the outfield on that knee – he hasn’t patrolled the outfield regularly since 2007, and that was only for 31 games. He also hasn’t been rated as a positive defender in the outfield since 2003 – what happens when Tony La Russa gets tired of watching Berkman muff fly balls?
All of this is before we even look at Berkman’s offensive statistics, which have also shown decline. Since 2008, Berkman has seen his isolated power decline (.255 ISO down to .166) while his BABIP has also dropped (.341 down to .282). While BABIP is often used as a stat to suss out luck on batted balls, players do have some control over the number, usually tied to their speed and their ability to rack up line drives. The numbers, in this case, line up with what we can see with our eyes: Berkman has lost a step and a little bat speed.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Only 18 first basemen over 35 have put up better than an .800 OPS since 1975, and only Mark McGwire, Andres Galarraga, Jeff Bagwell and Carlos Delgado hit more than 30 home runs beyond that age. Berkman failed to put up an .800 OPS for the first time since he’s become a major league regular, so he’s in danger of repeating that feat. As for the second part, he’s only managed 30 home runs five times in his career – the last was in 2007. He probably won’t make that group a quintet.
The Big Puma has always had a great approach at the plate, so in leagues that count on-base percentage, he may still be a boon this season. More traditional leagues should spend no more than a late-round pick on Berkman.
by Eno Sarris //
Reports of a $17.5 million, two-year contract between Jake Westbrook
mean that the right-hander must like pitching in St. Louis, or at least
enjoy taking their money. If he can continue to put up his late-2010
numbers, the Cardinals and fantasy owners will like him right back.
In twelve post-trade starts, Westbrook bettered his strikeout rate (from
5.15 K/9 to 6.60 K/9), walk rate (from 3.10 BB/9 to 2.88 BB/9),
groundball rate (from 53.3% to 62%), and home run rate (from 1.06
HR/9 to .60 HR/9). His ERA (3.48) and WHIP (1.25) matched his
peripherals, and if it weren’t for the small sample size, the magic
eightball would read “signs point to yes” when asked about Westbrook’s 2011.
But the small sample size is a fact, and it makes for some doubt. Was
the improved performance more Dave Duncan magic? Or was it simply a move
to the weaker, and DH-less, league? Or did Westbrook finally recover
from the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss much of 2008 and all
of 2009? Finally, was it just a short, fun, 12-start run?
Let’s use the largest sample size possible and compare Westbrook’s NL
work to his career numbers. The first thing that leaps out is that his
post-trade control (career 2.80 BB/9) and groundball work (career 59%) look legit.
He can repeat those aspects of his game, and they will help to limit the
damage when batters make contact. Fewer ducks on the pond and fewer
home runs make for fewer five-run innings.
We are left to wonder about the strikeout rate. Westbrook’s contract and groundball rates look like erstwhile Cardinal Joel Piniero‘s
numbers in those categories, so it’s no surprise that the two pitchers share similar career strikeout rates as well (Westbrook: 5.03 K/9; Piniero: 5.57 K/9). Piniero’s 2009 probably provides us a definition of new Cardinal’s upside. Moving
from the AL to the NL might make for a little boost for Westbrook, but his
best season-long strikeout rate as a starter was 5.51 in 2007, and he’s
now three years older. It would be folly to predict many more strikeouts
than five-and-a-half per nine in 2011.
Still, as he puts more distance between his current self and his
surgery, the likelihood that Westbrook finds his old control increases (from 2004-2006, his walks per nine ranged from 2.34 to 2.55). Paired with a slight uptick in strikeouts, and his always-excellent
groundball rates, Westbrook is a fairly safe bet for fantasy relevance
in most leagues – even if he probably won’t repeat his excellent
late-season numbers from last year.
For more on Jake Westbrook and other late-draft pitching options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: Jake Westbrook
Acquired at the trade deadline in a three-way deal, Westbrook excelled in his 12 starts with the Cardinals, following in the footsteps of other veteran pitchers paired with St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan. Lasting 75 innings with a 2.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.48 ERA, he deserved better than a 4-4 record. A free-agent-to-be, Westbrook may or may not return to St. Louis; his performance certainly may have endeared him to some new potential suitors.
Biggest Bust: Kyle Lohse
Owner of mediocre seasons in the past, this one is on another level. Lohse endured a forearm injury while making only 18 starts. His 4-8 record and 6.55 ERA look bad, but his peripherals suggest his ERA should’ve been in the 4-5 range. Expect Lohse to be better next season, if only because he can’t be much worse.
2011 Keeper Alert: Adam Wainwright
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24-plus months, then no explanation is required. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball (7th in Pitching Wins Above Replacement this season) and should continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
2011 Regression Alert: Jeff Suppan
Suppan had a 3.84 ERA for the Cardinals. Let that sink in for a moment. Okay, now consider that Suppan’s seasonal ERA was 5.06. Believe it or not, 70% of his innings came with the Cards, and yet his nightmare performance with the Brewers still capsized his season. He’s not quite as bad as the 7.84 ERA with the Brew Crew, but he’s also not nearly as good as his 3.84 mark. Expect an ERA near 5 over a full season of starts (he’s at 4.69 for his career) with whomever decides he’s worthy of a roster spot next year. Just don’t let it be your fantasy team.
For more on the Cardinals, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
By R.J. Anderson //
Biggest Surprise: David Freese
Acquired three years ago in the Jim Edmonds deal, Freese’s pedigree made him an iffy candidate to become a starting third baseman in the major leagues. He made a solid case this season, though, hitting .296/.361/.404. There’s not a ton of power in that line, which tends to make fans and fantasy baseball players antsy with expectations of sluggers at the corners. His four home runs will not fool anyone into thinking he’s the reincarnate of Scott Rolen, but the injuries might. Not a recommended keeper.
Biggest Bust: Felipe Lopez
Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Lopez registered one of the worst. He played better in a brief stint with Boston, but was downright horrendous with the Cardinals. A .231/.310/.340 line looks nothing like what we’ve come to expect from the 30-year-old. Folks in the industry aren’t thrilled with his personality and that could keep him from securing a major league deal (let alone a starting job) this off-season. There’s a chance Lopez could enter 2011 as a utility player.
2011 Keeper Alert: Colby Rasmus
Lost in the hoopla of Rasmus vs. Tony LaRussa was the fact that Rasmus played very well and managed over 500 plate appearances while hitting .276/.361/.498 as a 23-year-old. That’s more plate appearances than Curtis Granderson received, and nobody is going to pass on Granderson because of it. Rasmus’ future is bright whether he’s in St. Louis or another major league city, but two things are for sure, he’s going to be in the majors in 2011 and he’s going to hit.
2011 Regression Alert: Matt Pagnozzi
No batter really over- or underperformed expectations; therefore, Pagnozzi’s .892 OPS in 44 plate appearances registers as the individual season which you should not buy into as being legitimate.
For more on Albert Pujols, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.
by Eno Sarris //
Okay, so it’s not only the missing ‘h’ that separates the Cardinal’s Jon Jay from former American supreme court justice John Jay – those 200 years are quite the chasm. But the Cardinals’ version of Jay is taking on a new role, after Ryan Ludwick was traded to the Padres over the weekend. But is he a legitimate fantasy starter in the outfield?
At first blush, everything seems to rule in favor of Jay’s ability to stick. Looking at the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs, he looks like he has power, and the strong batting average helps. A .366/.415/.553 batting line should play on any fantasy team. Even a summary check of his minor league numbers this year (.321/.394/.491) would pass inspection. It’s a heckuva fast start.
A longer look, though, takes some the shine off Jay’s profile. Jay’s batting average on balls in play is an astronomical .424; even the two biggest outliers last year, David Wright and Ichiro Suzuki, had .394 and .384 numbers in 2009. Also, BABIP stabilizes at .300 around baseball every year. So you’ll see Jay’s BABIP, and batting average, come down significantly as natural regression sets in.
Then there’s the minor league record that deserves further review. Minor League Splits.com has a translator that creates major league equivalents for minor league numbers. That translation says Jay’s Triple-A numbers in 2010 would work out to .276/.335/.406 in the big leagues. Useful, but hardly as exciting as the stats he’s putting up currently.
A flaw in Jay’s minor league numbers is a poor split against
left-handed hitters (.685 OPS versus southpaws). That split comes in
only 439 plate appearances, so it’s not definitive, but it exists.
Though it may be an issue, the Cardinals did start Jay against lefty Zach Duke over the weekend. Then again, there is a threat coming from Allen Craig as well, who actually sports better numbers against lefties (.900 career OPS versus lefties in the minor leagues) and has his own solid batting line down on the farm (.307/.369/.511). Craig has shown more power in the minor leagues and is a threat to Jay’s playing time, as the justice’s batted ball luck evens out.
Zoom out on the minor league numbers for Jay, and you’ll notice an inconsistent slugging percentage. Just last year, Jay had a .281/.338/.394 batting line with the same Memphis team, numbers which didn’t result in any sort of major league callup. That’s right, Jay was repeating Triple-A this year, which takes his stats down another notch. After three years of college before his pro career, Jay has always been around average age in his leagues, and at both Double-A and Triple-A, he struggled at first before recovering on his second try.
Obviously, Jay is not struggling with his first shot in the major leagues. But you can also see in the numbers that his power is inconsistent, the speed is decent but not elite (he had a career high of 20 stolen bases in Triple-A in 2009), and there is a threat to his playing time on his team. Even as a batting-average specialist, there may or may not be struggles against lefties in his future, and there’s sure to be some BABIP pullback. The ruling of this court is that Jay is a fine pickup in deep NL-only leagues. But in shallower mixed leagues, there are probably better options out there on the waiver wire.
For more on Jon Jay and other outfielders, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
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.
By Tommy Rancel //
We continue to put the emphasis on understanding small sample sizes
in the early stages for the season. This is especially true for a
veteran player who has a career worth of data suggesting otherwise. On
the other hand, for a younger player the small sample could be a
prequel of things to come, most notably in situations in which the
young player is exhibiting skills carried over from the minor leagues.
One young pitcher hoping to continue his small sample size success is Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 22nd-round draft pick of the Cardinals in the 2005 draft, Garcia
cracked the team’s rotation this spring. After missing most of 2008 and
2009 with Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old lefty is 1-0 with an 0.69
ERA after two turns through the rotation. Garcia’s performance will
surely normalize. Still, there is a lot about Garcia’s game and the
situation he is in with the Cardinals.
The most notable skill
Garcia possesses in the ability to get groundballs. In nearly 400
cumulative innings in the minor leagues, Garcia’s ground ball rate was
a fantastic 58.7%. In fact, 60% of the balls hit by right-hander
hitters off Garcia in the minors stayed on the ground. Groundballs are
great – especially for a starting pitcher – because at worst they
surrender a single, and never go for a home run.
In his brief
major league career, Garcia has carried over this ability. On the young
season, he has a 69.7% groundball rate. Working with Dave Duncan, one
of the game’s best pitching coaches and noted groundball enthusiast,
should only help Garcia maintain an above-average ground ball rate. To
date, the Duncan-led staff has the highest GB% (50.9) of any team in
the majors. We recently profiled Duncan’s effect on Brad Penny.
Thanks to his groundball ways, Garcia has been able to keep the ball
in the park. In 394.1 innings in the minor leagues, he allowed just 29
balls to leave the park. That translates into a wonderful home run per
nine (HR/9) rate of 0.63. He has not allowed a home run in 13 innings
so far this year, and his groundball tendency should limit the amount
of home runs given up over the course of the year.
addition to the stellar groundball and home run rates, Garcia has
exhibited good control throughout his professional career. In the minor
leagues his strikeouts per nine (K/9) was a healthy 8.3, while
maintaining a manageable 3.0 walks per nine (BB/9). Those numbers have
regressed slightly at the highest level, but nothing considered drastic.
to sound like a broken record, but understanding small sample sizes
can’t be stressed enough. However, in certain cases, and even more so
for younger players, they shouldn’t be ignored completely. For example,
Garcia is a much better choice than Livan Hernandez.
Despite the small sample on both, Hernandez has proven below average
for the past few years and likely will regress towards the same level
Currently, Garcia is an unknown commodity. But if he adds another
win in his next start he will start to gain notoriety. That said, feel
free to add Garcia right now in deeper mixed league or NL-only formats.
For more on Jaime Garcia and young players off to hot starts check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.