By Eriq Gardner //
By Bloomberg Sports://
Man vs. Machine: Episode 5 — In a special from Bloomberg Sports’ Ballpark Figures, Mets legend Keith Hernandez sits down with Bloomberg Television’s Michele Steele and Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw, to discuss the Fantasy Bulls and Bears for the second half of the season. In the fifth episode, the focus is on pitchers.
Today’s Position: Pitchers
The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:
Dan Haren is one of the best pitchers in baseball. While his WHIP and ERA were up significantly in the first half, his underlying statistics tell a different story. His BABIP of .339 is well above average and should regress in the second half.
Don’t expect the 3.14 ERA of last season, when Haren posted an abnormally low .270 BABIP, but expect regression to the mean, which will help improve his WHIP and ERA from here on out.
Haren gave up more than his share of home runs in the first half. His career high in home runs allowed is 31, and batters have already hit 19 against him this year. Combined with the expected regression in BABIP, Haren should post excellent numbers during the second half and the Bloomberg Sports computer thinks he could be a steal.
Luke Gregerson is a different kind of bull. He hasn’t gotten unlucky (his BABIP is in fact extremely low for the season at .204 and should come up) but he is undervalued in fantasy leagues nonetheless.
His phenomenal 11.0 K/9 and 0.73 WHIP can really buoy your fantasy pitching staff, a point previously discussed by Eriq Gardner on the Bloomberg Sports Blog (http://mlblogsbloombergsports.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/pitchers74.jpgarchives/2010/03/true-value-of-great-relievers-unfinished.html).
Gregerson had a rough end to the first half of the season, but his overall numbers were fantastic and he could contribute greatly from an often overlooked spot – middle reliever. Gregerson could also get some occasional save opportunities in the second half which would increase his value even more; in keeper leagues, he’s a good bet as the Padres’ future closer and Heath Bell‘s heir apparent.
The Man (Keith Hernandez) says:
“I like Jair Jurrjens, who has missed most of the first half of the season for the Braves. He is a pitcher who has a fine track record; has always been successful. The Braves were wise to keep him out almost the entire first half. I look for Jurrjens to really give the Braves a boost and have a terrific second half.”
“I love Francisco Cordero. The Reds are a ball club that can hit and he will have a lot of save opportunities. He’s a veteran, his ERA has been in the fours, but it won’t be at the end of the season. I’m putting my money with Francisco Cordero.”
The Machine (Bloomberg Sports) says:
Ubaldo Jimenez is one of the top pitchers in baseball. But the Bloomberg Sports computer doubts that he can continue to dominate at quite the same level. This makes him a sell-high candidate. His 8.0 K/9 leaves him just short of elite territory, while his .248 BABIP goes far in explaining his .197 batting average against and 2.20 ERA, which should regress in the second half.
Jimenez’s greatest value so far is in the wins category, where he leads the league with 15. Wins, however, are extremely difficult to predict, because they rely so much on run support and defensive support. The Bloomberg Sports computer only projects an 8-5 record for Jimenez in the second half of the season. That would still leave him with an astounding 23 wins for the year, but also far short of the 15 wins he compiled during the first half.
Matt Capps is another pitcher who has sterling statistics so far. After a rough season last year where he compiled a 5.80 ERA, he has that number down to 3.18. Combine that with a .358 BABIP in the first half (which should go down) and it might be somewhat puzzling that we have him as a bear for the second half.
Capps does not have an elite strikeout rate for a closer (7.4 K/9), which limits his value to some extent.
Saves depend a lot on the situation and are not directly under the player’s control. Bloomberg Sports sees Capps accruing only 12 more saves during the second half of the year, half of his first half tally.
Capps is another player who could find himself traded. If this happens, he could easily end up as a set-up on a contending team, in which case he could see even fewer saves. Sell high on Capps now before these questions catch up with him.
The Man (Kieth Hernandez) says:
“I’ll go with the Yankees Phil Hughes who got off to a fabulous start. He’s a curveball pitcher, but still very young. He’s still learning and this season is going to wear on him.”
“I’m [also] looking down at Florida with Leo Nunez, who has developed a new pitch, a change-up. He throws very hard, but has fallen in love with that change-up. This is one of the worst bullpens in baseball. I see the batters catching up with the change-up and giving Leo a lot of trouble.”
- He’s averaging about 7.99 strikeouts per 9 innings. That ranks him 26th among starters with at least 70 IP this season. He’s behind Colby Lewis, Ricky Romero, and Gavin Floyd, to name three pitchers with much less star power.
- He’s averaging 3.03 walks per 9 innings. That ranks him 54th among starters with at least 70 IP. Among the pitchers walking batters at a lower rate are Brian Bannister, Kyle Kendrick, and once again, Gavin Floyd.
- He’s averaging 0.34 home runs per 9 innings.That ranks him 6th among qualified starters. However, only 4.4% of his fly balls are going for home runs. His career rate is 7.6%, and he plays half his games at Coors Field. That’s very likely to regress.
- His strand rate is 87.8%, meaning 87.8% of the runners he puts on base don’t score. That’s largely a function of fortuitous timing (pitching abnormally and probably unsustainably well with men on base), as well as unusually strong bullpen bullpen. That’s also the luckiest rate in the entire major leagues.
By Jonah Keri
thing to dig into the numbers and make a bunch of predictions for the
upcoming fantasy season. It’s quite another to put your fantasy draft
where your mouth is. That’s just what I did last week in the Brian Kenny Show Fantasy Baseball League.
Run by ESPN anchor and radio host Brian Kenny, the league
includes some heavy hitters at the Worldwide Leader, along with a special guest from the pigskin world. Mike Greenberg (of the Mike and Mike Show), Linda
Cohn, Jay Harris, Ryen Russillo, Amy Lawrence, Buster Olney, Rob Neyer
and NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh (I was as surprised as you, but the man’s got a good team) joined me in the league, along
with Kenny, his producer Mike Urrunaga, and three listeners.
The format is a little different than your typical fantasy league.
Instead of the standard 5×5 format, or the original 4×4, this is 6×6.
The offensive categories are: HR, RBI, R, SB, along with OBP and SLG
(no Batting Average). The pitching categories are: W, K, ERA, WHIP,
along with Quality Starts and Saves+Holds (instead of Saves only).
The strategy here was simple: Load up on offense early and grab
quality starting pitching periodically. Then take advantage of the
league’s unique categories in two ways: 1) Punt saves, so that while
others are fixated on lousy closers, I can swoop and take elite set-up
men who’ll produce almost as many holds, with much better ratios. 2)
Target hitters late in the draft who are better in real life than in
fantasy, since they typically put up low batting averages but also
strong on-base percentages and slugging averages.
Picking 10th in the draft, I grabbed Rays third baseman Evan Longoria
with my 1st-round pick. I wanted big power numbers right away, since
cheap steals figured to be abundant. Third base is also a thin position
this year, Alex Rodriguez was gone, and I trusted Longoria’s improving game and stacked Rays lineup over David Wright, the 10 home runs he hit last year, and his abysmal Mets teammates.
I was hoping to address position scarcity again and grab Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki with my 2nd-round pick, but he went four slots ahead of my #19 selection. Come on down Roy Halladay! The Phillies’ new ace is the most dependable starting pitcher in the game, ranked #2 behind only Tim Lincecum
this season and #14 in B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking of
all MLB players). The initial goal might have been to target offense
early, but you don’t say no to Halladay at this point of the draft.
That Quality Starts were an additional category in this league only
made Halladay (and other top SP) more valuable.
The next four rounds were an offensive blitz. Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez
is already an elite hitter in standard leagues; add OBP and SLG to the
mix, though, and he’s arguably a top-10 hitter. So heck yes, I’ll take
him at #38. With Longoria and Gonzalez now anchoring the infield and
the power categories, it was time to look for speed, which is copious
this year in the outfield. Kenny was hosting his radio show as the
draft was going on, and had no qualms about calling out players he
wanted. In Round 4, he was jonesing for Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.
At #47, I was already planning to take Upton if he fell to me; huge
source of steals, and now that he’s reportedly over the shoulder injury
that plagued him in 2009, I expect big bouncebacks in OBP, SLG and
counting stats. Taking Upton three spots ahead of Kenny, and eliciting
a horrified on-air reaction, only made the pick sweeter.
For my fifth-round pick, I turned to the first of several Bloomberg
Sports Blog-profiled players I would nab in this draft: newly-minted
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson. Here again I wanted a power-speed guy and agreed with the take of colleague Tommy Rancel, who profiled Granderson as a
30-home run player coming to Yankee Stadium, a place that greatly
favors slashing left-handed hitters. Much later in the draft (16th
round), I would grab Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, adding more speed to the roster, and a second Bloomberg Sports Blog-touted option for 2010.
With the five-outfielder format of this league, I wanted another power-speed OF early, so Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz (33 HR, 20 SB, .524 SLG in his first full season last year) made it three such picks in a row, at #75.
Then, the pitching onslaught began. In recent weeks, we’ve discussed the huge upside of Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco and Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (as well as his slightly less talented but still solid teammate Jorge de la Rosa).
I landed all three of those pitchers, in the 7th, 8th, and 15th rounds
respectively. All three project to put up big strikeout numbers, with
Nolasco and Jimenez also targets to produce stellar ratios and even
darkhorse Cy Young seasons.
In the later rounds, I drafted a
boatload of players who figure to benefit from the league’s OBP/SLG
yes, AVG no format, including Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham and Angels catcher Mike Napoli. Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks
is a definite injury risk, but his power/speed/OBP potential made him
too good to pass up in Round 11 (and I hedged by grabbing Twins second
baseman Orlando Hudson in post-draft free agency as a backup).
Rounding out the draft, I landed no fewer than four top set-up men
who figure to combine for 100+ holds plus occasional saves, all four
with strong strikeout and ratio numbers. Good to have you, Matt Thornton, Daniel Bard, George Sherrill and Mark Lowe. You’ll be a lot easier to carry all season than shaky Opening Day closers like Matt Capps and (shudder) Matt Lindstrom.
I’ve pasted the roster for the Bloomberg Sports Squad below. We like our chances. (Round selected in parentheses)
You can follow the league, all season long, here.
C Mike Napoli (13th)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (3rd)
2B Rickie Weeks (11th)
3B Evan Longoria (1st)
SS Everth Cabrera (16th)
MI Marco Scutaro (18th)
CI Nick Swisher (14th)
OF B. J. Upton (4th)
OF Curtis Granderson (5th)
OF Nelson Cruz (6th)
OF Denard Span (10th)
OF Josh Willingham (20th)
UT Paul Konerko (17th)
SP Roy Halladay (2nd)
SP Ricky Nolasco (7th)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez (8th)
SP Brett Anderson (9th)
SP Max Scherzer (12th)
SP Jorge de la Rosa (15th)
SP Ervin Santana (22nd)
RP Matt Thornton (19th)
RP Daniel Bard (21st)
RP George Sherrill
RP Mark Lowe
2B Orlando Hudson
1B Russell Branyan (DL)
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.