BY ROB SHAW
CJ Wilson may have been the top arm on the market this off-season, but the pressure is certainly not as intense on the hurler as it is on Albert Pujols. The reason is very simple, while Pujols is the best hitter in the world Wilson isn’t even the best arm on the Angels.
Wilson’s struggles in the postseason may have left a bad taste in the mouth of Rangers fans, but the hurler is actually in a much better situation now that he flees the hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. Putting the 2011 playoffs aside, the year as whole brough great improvement for Wilson. His strikeouts went up while his walks went down.
Another factor for Wilson this season will be his run support. Typically leaving the Rangers, who are loaded with sluggers, will result in a decline of run support. However, that is not the case since Pujols will also join the Angels who already have some former first basemen who know something about providing big bats.
The Angels will be fun to watch for many reasons, and after falling to Pujols and the Cardinals in the postseason last season, Wilson should enjoy the shot at winning with Pujols as his teammate manning first base.
It made perfect sense for the Miami Marlins to sign Heath Bell. The veteran hurler has three straight seasons with 40-plus saves and while the Marlins have had some success in their bullpen in recent years, it has not been as dominant as what the Padres enjoyed. There is just one problem with bringing in Bell and expecting everything to run smoothly. There are signs that the 34-year-old may be losing his effectiveness.
A late bloomer with the Mets, Bell broke out in San Diego, where he had the benefit of little media attention and one of the most favorable ballparks for pitchers. In fact his 2.88 ERA on the road last season was not as dominant as the 2.15 ERA he posted at PETCO Park.
Bell also regressed as a strikeout hurler. His 11 K/9 dropped to 7 K/9, as his whiff rate fell by 9%. This is not just a matter of Bell losing velocity, in fact, the main issue has been a loss of effectiveness in his curveball. In 2010, the opposition hit just .141 against that pitch, and last season it spiked two-fold to .282. The out-pitch is not recording as many outs.
Bell should enjoy plenty of save opportunities since the Marlins did improve their starting rotation and offense, but there should be less heralded hurlers in fantasy leagues who can end up posting better numbers this season.
At first glance, last year was a disaster for long-time Twins closer Joe Nathan. His ERA doubled, his strikeouts declined, and his saves were cut drastically. Of course, Nathan was also returning to the mound after missing all of the 2010 with a major arm injury.
On that note, Nathan’s statistics should be measured differently. Rather than focus on the full season, we should pay greater attention to the end of the season when he finally shed all of his rust. From June 25th on, Nathan was his usual dominant self. His WHIP was a dominant 0.90 from that point forward, which suggests that even in his late 30s, Nathan still possesses the ability to dominate.
Nathan now joins the Texas Rangers, and while he will throw the ball in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark, he joins a better club that will likely result in more save opportunities. The ERA may take a slight uptick, but overall he will enjoy more saves and have more value assuming he can stay healthy. It also allows some of the younger hurlers to take on larger roles in the starting rotation.
- Team A: 7.30 K/9
- Team B: 7.28 K/9
- Team C: 7.26 K/9
- Team D: 7.24 K/9
- Team E: 7.22 K/9
- Our Team: 7.20 K/9
Jorge de la Rosa’s strikeout rate is 9.24 per nine innings this year. It was 9.39 last year. Bloomberg Sports projects a conservative 8.8 over 55 innings the rest of the year.
By Jonah Keri
Most of the fantasy baseball cognoscenti like to wait to draft
pitchers. Let others expend high picks on an inherently riskier
commodity, the theory goes, while they rack up sure-thing offensive
counting stats in the early rounds.
Contrarians have a different take. If everyone else is going to
zig, then why not zag? If teams are so desperate to pile up offense
that they’ll draft the number-five first baseman before the number-one
starting pitcher, then why not sneak in and grab Tim Lincecum as a
I prefer an in-between approach. Top pitchers are in fact more
prone to injury and general attrition than top position players, so it
does pay to wait. But rather than waiting too long, then scraping the
bottom of the barrel, it’s best to jump in at opportune times. That
means targeting specific pitchers at specific times, rather than
letting others’ whims dictate the kind of pitching staff you’re going
to build. When a pitcher’s likely value exceeds his perceived value,
all the better.
No pitcher’s a better number-one target for a strategic
bargain-hunting approach than Ubaldo Jimenez. The 26-year-old
right-hander enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, hurling 218
innings (6th in the National League) winning 15 games (4th) and posting
a 3.47 ERA (16th).
Despite that breakthrough season, Jimenez remains underrated by
fantasy players. His Average Draft Position is 88.3, making him a
9th-round pick in a 10-team mixed league, and an 8th-round pick in a
12-team mixed league. His B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking
of all players) is 63, meaning his expected value is significantly
higher than his perceived value.
The optimal spot to draft Jimenez, then, lies between his B-Rank
and his ADP. In a 12-team mixed league, that makes a good target in the
sixth or seventh round. Jimenez is rated as a four-star pitcher
according to his Demand vs. Scarcity chart. As shown below, that places
him in a tight cluster with fellow aces like Chris Carpenter and Josh
Beckett – but without an ace’s price tag.
Jimenez has several factors working in his
favor that portend continued success. As shown in the Competitive
Factors tab (under Draft Kit – Player Scout), Jimenez could benefit
from facing a batch of weak opponents in an unbalanced NL West
schedule. The Diamondbacks ranked 20th in runs scored last year, the Giants 26th and the Padres 29th. Only the Dodgers (11th) scored more runs than average
among non-Colorado teams in the NL West.
Jimenez also possesses the one skill most crucial to a pitcher’s
success: an ability to miss bats. He ranked 6th in the NL in strikeouts
All of these factors
point to a pitcher who could be an anchor for your pitching staff, but
still allow you to load up on hitting early. Assuming a mid-first round
pick in a mock 12-team mixed league, we picked six hitters, stockpiling
offense early on: Matt Kemp, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton,
Chone Figgins and Carlos Pena (yes, B-Rank loves Uptons). We then
pulled the trigger on Jimenez.
You’ll want to fill your pitching staff fairly quickly from this point on, to ensure across-the-board quality. Wandy Rodriguez, Tommy Hanson and Ricky Nolasco
could be good picks along those lines. In general, take a close look at
pitchers who fit Jimenez’s profile: lots of strikeouts, ideally in the
National League (where offensive levels tend to be lower), ideally in
the NL West. Jimenez teammate Jorge de la Rosa, another top-10 finisher in NL strikeouts last year, could be a great late-round snag to round out your staff.
For more information on Ubaldo Jimenez and hundreds of other players check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy tools.