Results tagged ‘ WHIP ’

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Edwin Jackson, Erik Bedard, and Yu Darvish

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons.  The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.

 

The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either.  He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.

 

One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years.  His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable.  Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him.  The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.

 

The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years.  However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value.  The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.

 

Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.  After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.

 

Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Bedard was a disaster in Seattle.  Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.

 

The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now.  He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.

 

A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers.  Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts.  Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.

 

BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.

 

The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers.  Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time.  First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies.  Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.

 

The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan.  With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.

 

As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler.   That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.

 

Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers.  After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league.  He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.

 

For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.

Aces on the Move: CJ Wilson, Heath Bell, and Joe Nathan

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports

 

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.

Why Fly-Ball Pitchers May Be Better Bets Than Ground-Ball Pitchers

By Eriq Gardner //

One of the fundamentals in evaluating starting pitching is to focus on three key areas where pitchers hold a measure of control over their statistical production:
  1. The ability to retire batters via strikeouts
  2. The ability to limit base-runners by avoiding the issuance of walks
  3. The ability to limit home runs by keeping the ball on the ground

Pitchers who do a good job at these three things are commonly assumed to be very skilled. Pitchers who do these things well but don’t have a superb ERA to match are seen as unlucky.

Makes sense. However, we’re not quite certain that ground-ball pitchers are better fantasy baseball assets than fly-ball pitchers. Perhaps slightly more valuable, yes, but not as profitable. Confused? Read on…
We examined statistics from starting pitchers between 2006 and 2010 to get an idea what kind of production we could expect from starters who were elite at keeping the ball on the ground versus starters who were terrible at keeping the ball on the ground. We put the pitchers into four quartiles:
  • Pitchers with elite ground-ball skills (above 47 GB%) including stars like Felix Hernandez and Chris Carpenter and lesser ones like Paul Maholm and Aaron Cook.
  • Pitchers with above-average ground-ball skills (about 44.5%-47%) including stars like Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia and lesser ones like Joe Saunders and Jeff Suppan.
  • Pitchers with below-average ground-ball skills (about 40.5%-44.5%) including stars like Jake Peavy and Cole Hamels and lesser ones like Kevin Millwood and Kyle Lohse
  • Pitchers with terrible ground-ball skills (below 40.5%) including stars like Jered Weaver and Matt Cain and lesser ones like Jarrod Washburn and Oliver Perez.

Now, let’s look at each of the categories.

First up, here’s a look at ERA for each of these groups. You’ll notice that the ground-ball “elite” have a superior advantage over the rest of the field. It’s easy to understand why. Pitchers who don’t give up a lot of fly balls save themselves from the trouble of allowing many home runs, which tends to very unhealthy to a pitcher’s ERA. 
However, also notice that pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball rates perform better in ERA than pitchers with “below-average” and nearly as well as “above-average” ground-ball rates.
GBvsERA.png
It should be no surprise that the category of WINS tracks similarly. After all, there’s a pretty strong correlation to preventing runs and getting wins. Pitchers with “elite” ground-ball skills do best in wins, but perhaps surprisingly, pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball skills don’t do as badly as pitchers in the 25%-75% range.
GBvsW.png
So far, we’ve shown that elite ground-ball pitchers have the edge. Let’s now turn our attention to WHIP. Surprise! Pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball rates are the best of the bunch:
GBvsWHIP.png
Maybe non-HR fly balls are easy to field than ground balls and that’s why pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates have good WHIPs. 
Here’s another theory: These pitchers tend to pound the middle of the strike zone instead of nibbling near the bottom of the strike zone. As supporting evidence, we now present a look at how each of these four groups of pitchers perform in the STRIKEOUT category. As you’ll see below, pitchers with terrible ground ball rates typically get the most strikeouts:
GBvsKs.png
Obviously, ground-ball rate doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with strikeout rate. There are definitely pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez who do a great job of keeping the ball on the ground and getting strikeouts. But the norm tends to be that fly ball pitchers do better at inducing whiffs.
Add it up and we have two categories (ERA, W) favoring pitchers with elite ground-ball rates and two categories (WHIP, K) favoring pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates. Based on the fact that wins tend to be most scarce, the edge in overall fantasy value goes to pitchers with elite ground ball rates. But do fantasy folks overestimate that edge?
Many competitors tend to focus on the sexy stats of wins, strikeouts, and ERA and give short shrift to a category like WHIP. The pitchers commanding top prices in fantasy drafts do very well in those first three categories.
How about some fly ball pitchers? The top pitchers include Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver. As for the potentially longer list of draft day bargains, think Ted Lilly, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Baker, Javier Vazquez, and Aaron Harang. Each of these players are fly ball pitchers who project to have great WHIPs and strong strikeout rates. 
At very least, there’s a floor to their prospective value that makes them good bets to at least earn back their draft investment. 
The upside for more is also there. As demonstrated above, pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates don’t do as badly in ERA and wins as one might assume. Furthermore, each of these pitchers play home games in pitcher’s parks, which may dampen the number of home runs they give up and might, very possibly, make them just as valuable as elite pitchers going very early in drafts.

True Value of Great Relievers, Part 1

By Eriq Gardner
One myth that is constantly perpetuated in the echo chamber of fantasy baseball analysis is that relievers are one-category players. Quite a number of very smart analysts have been telling competitors for years that relievers are good for saves and hardly anything else.
This analysis may be true for Head-to-Head leagues with short scoring periods and Roto leagues with high innings maximums — where ability to dominate often depends more on the bulk rather than the quality of innings pitched.
But in the vast majority of rotisserie leagues, the notion that relievers don’t contribute value beyond saves just doesn’t hold any water. In fact, people may be surprised to learn that a great reliever can contribute just as much value in ERA and WHIP as a good starter.
Let’s take an example from the 2009 season.
Pretend two competing fantasy teams each finished the year with 1200 innings. The pitchers on Team A let up 500 earned runs. The pitchers on Team B let up 520 earned runs. Doing simple arithmetic tells us that Team A wound up with an ERA of 3.75 whereas Team B wound up with an ERA of 3.9.
In other words, Team A was superior in ERA based upon those 20 earned runs saved by his pitching squad.
Now, here’s what most people miss: Great relievers have the ability to save just as many earned runs as good starters.
Don’t believe us?
Let’s take a comparison of two closers last year — Jonathan Papelbon and Fernando Rodney
In the minds of some, the fact that Papelbon ended up the year with 38 saves and Rodney finished with 37 saves makes them roughly equal and proof positive that it’s foolish to invest a high draft pick on Papelbon when a fantasy team could have gotten those saves from a guy who was hardly drafted before last season. But what about the ERA and WHIP contribution? Let’s take a look at how many earned runs, walks and hits these two relievers allowed last year:
Picture 5.png

As you’ll see above, Papelbon saved 23 runs and 33 H+BB over Rodney. 

Now let’s compare two starting pitchers from last season: Wandy Rodriguez and his spectacular 3.02 ERA versus Jon Garland and his decent-but-not-great 4.01 ERA. Both pitchers ended the season with about 205 innings. How many runs, hits, and walks did Way-Rod save over Garland?
Picture 6.png
The answer is just 22 earned runs and 31 H+BB.
This means that having the combination of Jon Garland + Jonathan Papelbon instead of Wandy Rodriguez + Fernando Rodney was very slightly more beneficial to a team’s ERA and WHIP in 2009. Stated another way, a team that decided to draft Papelbon very high in drafts last year instead of waiting to fill the closer spot with someone of Rodney’s caliber managed to boost his team’s ERA and WHIP about as much as having one of baseball’s top starters from the previous season instead of Garland.
I know this conclusion may be hard for some people to stomach.

Picture 8.png

Yes, a starter who puts up a 3.75 ERA is more valuable than a reliever who puts up a 3.75 ERA. But what about a reliever like Jonathan Broxton who is projected at 2.76?  How do we weight his contribution?
If we figure that teams will roughly wind up with the same amount of innings pitched in total, the real question becomes how many runs will be saved by Broxton against inferior relievers. By our math, an ERA difference of 1.00 for a reliever in 75 innings translates to 8.3 saved earned runs over the course of a season. That’s about the difference we see when looking at Bloomberg Sports’ projections on Broxton versus Leo Nunez.
Eight runs might not sound like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of an ERA difference of .36 for two pitchers who are both expected to reach 200 innings. The difference between Broxton and Nunez is the difference in ERA value from a 3.75 starter (Justin Verlander‘s 2010 Bloomberg Sports projection) and a 4.12 starter (like Aaron Cook‘s ’10 forecast).
Of course, there are other factors such as variability and scarcity to consider too. In Part 2 of this study, we’ll examine those variable, and also discuss the implications on a fantasy team’s strategy when it comes to drafting relievers. Does it make sense to draft a stud closer high? If relievers bring ERA and WHIP value to the table, does it make more sense to draft a great middle reliever over a shaky closer? Stay tuned.
For more information on Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton, and other top relievers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kit.
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