Results tagged ‘ Starting Pitchers ’

Fantasy Baseball Intelligence, Episodes 3 and 4

By Jonah Keri

The next two episodes of Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy baseball podcast are now live.

In Episode 3, Mark Berniker, Wayne Parillo and I tackle top pitchers and mid-round values.

In Episode 4, we tackle the outfield crop beyond the first round of the draft.

For more fantasy baseball player rankings and draft tips, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.

Wandy Rodriguez, The Value-Priced Johan Santana

By Tommy Rancel

Wandy Rodriguez joined the ranks of baseball’s elite starting pitchers in 2009. The Houston Astros left-hander went 14-12 with a sparkling 3.02 ERA in 33 starts in 2009. He also struck out 193 batters while topping 200 innings (205.2) for the first time.

Those are impressive numbers for any pitcher, but there is reason to believe Rodriguez can duplicate those numbers in 2010, and maybe improve them.

There is a lot to like about Rodriguez’s game. His career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate is 7.5, but he has posted back-to-back seasons over 8.4. In each of the past two seasons, Rodriguez has lowered his walks per nine (BB/9) and stabilized his home run rate to less than one home run per nine innings (HR/9) – no small feat in the cozy confines of Minute Maid Park.

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In addition to his swing-and-miss stuff, Rodriguez gets his fair share of ground balls. He owns a career ground ball rate (GB%) of 43.5%. In 2009, he elevated that number slightly to 44.9%. Rodriguez had a rather normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .306 last year, despite some below-average fielding behind him. Looking at ultimate zone rating (UZR), Miguel Tejada, the Astros’ shortstop last season,  had the lowest UZR (-13.9) of any National League shortstop. Second basemen Kaz Matsui was rated a bit higher, but his UZR (-1.7) was still in the red at season’s end.

With Tejada now at third base for the Baltimore Orioles, Houston will turn to rookie Tommy Manzella at shortstop. What? Who? Good questions.
 
Manzella is a slick-fielding shortstop who has toiled around the upper levels of the Astros minor leagues for the past few seasons. Recently, ESPN.com writer Tim Kurkjian noted that Manzella’s defense has been major league-ready for years, but only now is the 26-year-old getting his shot. Over the past few seasons in Triple-A, he has rated above average defensively by totalzone, a metric similar to UZR.

With Manzella projected to be the team’s every-day shortstop, Rodriguez could see his BABIP creep closer toward .300 and maybe even lower. A lower BABIP could knock Rodriguez’s already stellar 3.02 ERA down below the 3.00 level.

Despite the solid control rates (K/9, BB/9) and the favorable batted ball data (GB% and HR/9) some might say Rodriguez is a one-year wonder; Bloomberg Sports disagrees. Looking at B-Rank, Rodriguez is slotted one spot ahead of fellow lefty, and traditional fantasy baseball stud, Johan Santana.

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Though Santana is behind in B-Rank, his average draft position (ADP) of 37.1 is nearly 74 spots ahead of Rodriguez (110.6). Bloomberg Sports projects Rodriguez to go 13-10 with a 3.11 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 197 innings this season. The same system projects Santana at 14-10 with a 3.31 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 193 innings.

While Rodriguez should benefit with improved defense from Manzella, Santana is likely to start the season without two of his best defenders behind him: Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. Given the projections, the noted defensive changes, and the 2009 injury to Santana, Rodriguez is not only the better value, but could be the better pitcher outright in 2010.

Why waste a third-round pick on Santana when you could get similar, if not better, production from Rodriguez later? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of paying more for less. 


For more
information on Wandy Rodriguez and other top-flight starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit
.

Dan Haren’s Fantasy Value: Don’t Fear the Splits

by Eno Sarris

Sometimes a player just can’t get any respect, despite consistent excellence. That might be the case with Arizona ace Dan Haren.

The good news is that over the last three years, he’s posted ERAs of 3.33 or lower, WHIPs of
1.21 or lower, microscopic walk rates of 1.8 per nine innings or lower, and a strikeout rate above 8 K/9 IP. FanGraphs’ Expected Fielding Independent Pitching stat (xFIP), which runs along a similar scale to ERA and isolates factors a pitcher can best control such as home run rate, walk rate and strikeout rate and adjusts for park effects, defense and other factors, shows Haren ranking 4th in MLB in 2009 (3.08) and 4th in 2008 (3.21). Consistency is part of Haren’s oeuvre.

Take a look at Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Baseball Kit and several other numbers jump out at you. Haren was better than 75% of starting pitchers in strikeouts, and also sported an elite WHIP. Toiling for the 70-92 Diamondbacks kept Haren from amassing anHarenGrab1.jpg impressive number of wins (he settled for a still solid 14), but there’s room for hope there as well. The D-Backs’ 720 runs scored last year were average for the National League (8th out of 16) and with a few steps forward from youngsters Justin Upton and Stephen Drew, the team could add to that total – especially in a hitter-friendly park. In the end, though, those factors don’t matter all that much. If Haren nets another season with the 16th-ranked ERA, first-ranked WHIP, and sixth-ranked strikeout total in baseball, you’ll be happy.

Still, much has been made about Haren’s first half vs. second half splits; the Bloomberg Tool again shows us graphically what the naysayers are saying. You can see that Haren’s ERA rose as the season wore on in 2009. This is not a new development. Take a look at his career pre- and post-All Star splits: In 651 pre-All Star innings, Haren has a 3.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 7.45
K/9. In 575 post-All Star innings, he has 4.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and a
7.76 K/9. Those numbers include a mediocre career 4.58 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in August.

Thumbnail image for HarenGrab2.jpgBut that doesn’t mean you should draft Haren and trade him at the All Star break, or worse, pass on him entirely. The pre- and post-All-Star K rates were an early clue. But if you take ERA and WHIP out of the story and focus on underlying statistics, Haren is not really any different after the break, or even in his supposedly worst month of August.

To strip luck and other factors out of the equation, let’s return to Fielding Independent Pitching, the brainchild of baseball researcher Tom Tango. The expected version of FIP, xFIP, normalizes for home run rates given a pitcher’s ballpark and league situation. Listed on FanGraphs.com are Haren’s month-by-month xFIPs for his career:  3.82, 3.72, 3.73, 3.54, 3.37, 3.64. That’s right, over his career, Haren actually has his lowest monthly xFIP in August.

So why the ugly ‘regular’ stats? Since xFIP normalizes home run rate to a pitcher’s career average, it removes the effect of Haren’s biggest August problem – his 1.58 home runs per nine innings. His career home run rate is 1.03 home runs per 9 IP. You might argue that Haren tires late in the season and is more prone to the big fly, but there’s a fly in that ointment. Haren’s career home runs per 9 IP in September and October? 1.01. It simply doesn’t make any sense to say that Haren is tired in August but fine in September. For the more statistically inclined, there’s even a numbers-based argument against the importance of season splits like Haren’s here. Basically, they don’t exist.

But even those that don’t want to read about “r” values and other advanced statistical measures can see that it doesn’t make much sense to worry about one month. That’s doubly true when the underlying numbers don’t support the case for that one month being fundamentally worse than others.

Bloomberg Sports rates Haren as an elite starting pitcher, giving him a B-Rank of 29. That’s 5th among all starting pitchers, trailing only Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke. Draft Haren with confidence, and don’t trade him unless you get a top-tier offer. Not even at the All Star break.

For more on why Dan Haren is good, and the horde of other starting pitchers that aren’t as good, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.

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