Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the top stories about pitchers at the trade deadline.
Zack Greinke is an Angel
There were many teams vying for Zack Greinke this week. The former Brewers ace was considered the best available arm, assuming some of the other elites won’t get moved. The Angels made the most sense since they can re-sign him and had the prospects to force the Brewers’ hand. The Angels did give away a young shortstop and two top pitching prospects, but in Greinke, they now have the deepest starting rotation with Jered Weaver backed up by Greinke, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana.
In his debut, Greinke went seven strong while fanning eight and allowing just two runs to score. The Angels offense, however, did not show up with just four hits and no runs in a 2-0 loss to the Rays.
The big question is what this trade does for Greinke’s fantasy value. The answer is nothing at all. He already pitched for a decent offense with the Brewers and had the advantage of opposing fellow pitchers in the National League. Now he faces a designated hitter, has to deal with the big AL offenses such as the Rangers and has to adjust to a new team and a new city mid-season. Yes, the added adrenaline of a playoff run is exciting for him, but I think he was pumped up plenty on every fifth day in Milwaukee.
Francisco Liriano Joins the White Sox
The White Sox have been eager to keep up with the Tigers and the rest of the American League this season, and since they lack the prospects needed to get someone like Zack Greinke, they will have to roll the dice on Francisco Liriano.
The 28-year-old southpaw is as talented as anyone but he has had control issues that have plagued him the last few seasons. It’s interesting that he joined the White Sox, since he actually helped them in his final Twins start, surrendering seven hits and seven runs with three home runs on July 23 at Chicago.
This is an interesting trade for the entire White Sox starting rotation since they will now go to a six-man staff. This alleviates concerns for the innings for Chris Sale but could have a negative impact on the veterans. As for Liriano, the added run support will certainly be a positive though US Cellular is very much a hitter’s park. His career ERA at US Cellular is 5.77 in 48.1 innings.
Still On the Trading Block
Rays SP James Shields will come at a very heavy price since the Rays still control him for a few years at a reasonable rate. He is 8-7 with a 4.52 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.
Marlins starter Josh Johnson is injury prone and inconsistent, and his velocity is down. However, the Marlins will only trade him if they can get a major talent back in return. Johnson is 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.35 WHIP this season.
The Royals would be happy to trade reliever Jonathan Broxton while his value is soaring. The Rangers seem interested, but he will no longer close if dealt. The Royals would likely turn to Greg Holland or Tim Collins. Broxton will lose his fantasy value since he will turn into a middle reliever with a contender.
The Mariners would love to get some value back from former closer Brandon League. He got hit hard on Sunday but had been pitching well. With Tom Wilhelmsen dominating as the team’s closer, however, League is clearly expendable. It is unlikely that he will close for whichever team acquires him unless it’s a surprise team like the Mets.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the fantasy implications of two players’ MLB debuts and the potential trades of five players who are most likely to be moved.
The Big Debuts
Matt Harvey, SP, Mets
Finally some good news for Mets fans as 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey made his debut Thursday night and it was a memorable one to say the least. Harvey set a Mets record for a debut with 11 strikeouts and did not allow a run to score in 5.1 innings.
Harvey touched 98 MPH on the radar gun and got some K’s with high fastballs while also getting some weak swings by putting sliders in the dirt. Don’t expect all of his starts to go this smoothly, but Harvey is a strikeout artist who should continue to rack up the K’s, though it could come with some walks as well.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
On the first Major League pitch he saw, Starling Marte made his mark, blasting a home run. The 23-year-old outfielder is an instant upgrade for the contending Pirates. Marte has some power, as he blasted 12 home runs with 13 triples and 21 doubles at Triple-A. He lacks plate discipline, but also has some speed. I do not see Marte having too much fantasy value this year aside from what could be a hot start since the Major Leaguers lack an in-depth scouting report on him. Regardless, the future is now for the Pirates and Marte only makes the team more interesting.
Five Players Most Likely to be Moved
1) Zack Greinke, SP, Brewers
The Brewers have come out and acknowledged that they are going to trade their ace, which makes it clear that no long-term commitment could be reached with Zack Greinke. Ultimately, a trade to a contender will do fantasy managers some good, but at varied levels.
If he goes to the Rangers: The hitter’s ballpark is bound to lead to some extra runs so Greinke’s ERA may spike, but he will also enjoy the best run support possible. This is the trading partner that makes the most sense for everyone. Greinke owns a sensational 2.38 lifetime ERA at Rangers Ballpark.
If he goes to the Angels: Greinke should continue to post similar numbers but with a few extra wins thanks to the offensive star power of Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. You can expect a big second half from the ace who is 44-45 in the first half of seasons and 41-31 following the All-Star break.
If he goes to the Braves: This is the best ballpark for Grienke, plus in the NL he faces opposing pitchers, which will keep his ERA lower. Greinke is 25-9 in 49 starts with a National League club.
2) Jonathan Broxton, RP, Royals
The interest in Jonathan Broxton has been limited on the trade market and it may be for a couple of reasons. First, few contenders are desperate for a closer or late reliever right now. Also, Broxton’s numbers are not as good as they appear. He is not getting many strikeouts, which is a reversal of his career trend. He is also allowing 1.40 runners on base each inning, which is a recipe for destruction in late innings. The Royals are wise to put him on the block.
3) Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners
With the demands so high for front-of-the-rotation hurlers such as Greinke and James Shields, alternatives such as Jason Vargas are becoming attractive for teams. Vargas has won four straight starts and now owns a career high 11 wins this season. So when he does get traded, what does this mean to his fantasy value? The run support will increase, but his ERA will also soar. He has a 4.67 ERA on the road this season compared to 2.63 at home, which explains everything you need to know about the 29-year-old southpaw.
4) Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins
When the Twins dealt their ace Johan Santana to the Mets a few years back, they not only assumed that some of the prospects from the trade would turn into stars, but the hope was that Francisco Liriano would step up as an able replacement at the top of the rotation. Though he did enjoy some success in 2010 with 14 wins, a 3.62 ERA and a career high 202 strikeouts, the following two seasons have been disastrous.
Liriano has found himself in the bullpen and even in the minors over the last two seasons while sustaining an ERA north of 5.00 in the Majors. The positive signs this season are that the opposition is hitting just .239 against Liriano and he is fanning more than a batter per inning. On the other hand, his control is lacking, which makes him a major gamble for whoever brings him in via trade.
5) Yunel Escobar, SS, Blue Jays
After a strong 2011 season that included 11 home runs, a .290 average and .369 on-base percentage, Escobar has struggled this season. His average is down to .255, his OBP is .299 and his 19 extra-base hits have resulted in a .342 slugging percentage.
Escobar has shown some life recently with a five-game hitting streak, but there is growing concern about his character according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, which may scare off some suitors. Keep in mind that Toronto is a favorable hitter’s park and the Blue Jays lineup has posted a lot of runs. The 29-year-old Cuban does not make for a very good fantasy investment.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down some of the major storylines in baseball as the trade deadline approaches.
Trade Analysis: Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers
The Dodgers made a splash by acquiring former Marlins sensation Hanley Ramirez for Nathan Eovaldi and a willingness to take on Ramirez’s salary. First of all, this is the way it should be for Los Angeles. The Dodgers are supposed to be the West Coast Yankees, so it’s good to see them open the check book to bring in some star potential.
The move also makes baseball sense. The team already has two of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball, so it’s not a bad idea to go for the gold now. Eovaldi is too young to be depended on, while, even at his worst, HanRam is scoring runs and offering some pop and speed. On a side note, of all stadiums where Ramirez has played at least 65 games, his .388 average at Dodgers Stadium is easily the highest.
On the Market: Alfonso Soriano
With 19 home runs and 58 RBI, Alfonso Soriano is once again a solid slugger at the big-league level. He is also due to make $18 million in each of the next two seasons. His high performance provides the Cubbies with a window to trade him. Ken Rosenthal reported that at least one team has interest in the veteran outfielder.
Sellers: Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are in a very interesting situation right now. They have some very bad contracts, though their huge investment in Cole Hamels is not one of them. He is still young at 28 years old and was developed within the Phillies system. The team is out of contention this season and must rebuild in the next few years. The only way players such as Shane Victorino could be dealt is if the Phillies get back prospects who will be ready to start next year.
Sellers: New York Mets
After a great first half, the Mets have won just one game since the All-Star break and could try to make a move. Johan Santana’s injury hurts them, as he is due so much money andcould have been traded. The Mets would have been happy to deal him in return for prospects.
With Santana injured, if there is a Mets player to be traded, it’s infielder Daniel Murphy. Jordany Valdespin has been incredible this season and offers more versatility and better defense than Murphy. However, the Mets will only make a trade if they get something back which they are really able to use, such as a power arm for the bullpen.
Sellers: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have been buyers recently, bringing in players such as Zack Greinke and Aramis Ramirez, but it has not worked out. The best case scenario for them is that Greinke decides to stay in Milwaukee, which may not be very realistic. The Brewers were also shopping reliever Francisco Rodriguez and tried to increase his value. K-Rod, however, imploded with blown saves in consecutive appearances against the Phillies, likely costing the Brewers some prospects.
For more 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
by Eno Sarris //
He wasn’t washing his car or riding a motorcycle. Instead, it was a pickup basketball game that slayed Zack Greinke this offseason. Aaron Boone sends his condolences. Now that Greinke has a fractured rib and will open the season on the injured list, what does that news mean for his prospects in fantasy baseball circles?
The first instinct is to take the team’s prognostications – that Greinke will miss only two-to-three starts – and say the whole thing is not a big deal. Just a few starts less from the ace, so you could drop him a couple points in the rankings and maybe pounce on him if he falls further than his third-round ADP (42.7 by the Bloomberg Sports Front Office tool).
Then again, even just three starts is a tenth of a pitcher’s season. Should he miss five starts – the likely situation if he misses the first month – he’ll miss a full sixth of his season. Take away a sixth of his Bloomberg Sports projection, and you get 166 innings with 11 wins and 157 strikeouts. Sure, he is still projected for a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but the whole package is just a little less valuable because of the lower innings projection. A rosier projection – that he misses three starts – moves him from about the fifth-best at his position to about the 10th-best. Take another two starts away, and he’ll slide down somewhere between 15th and 20th on the list.
But there might be reason to drop him a little further even.
The rib cage is a tricky place for an injury in baseball. A pitcher’s motion is tantamount to his success, and pain in the ribs will keep him from completing his motion as he’d like. Phil Hughes fractured a rib and missed 136 days. We saw what happened to Jacoby Ellsbury last year. We aren’t doctors here, but we also know that we’ve seen players recently miss extended time with the same injury. That means there’s a risk that he puts in fewer than 166 innings, and a risk he he won’t even be a top-25 pitcher this year.
We know that Greinke will drop in drafts now. We know that he deserves to drop some, and that there’s risk that he should drop even further than he will. The tricky part is knowing when exactly to pick him up. Use conservative projections for his output this season, though, and you’ll probably find the right time. At least it wasn’t an elbow!
For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com
By Tommy Rancel //
Following weeks of speculation, requests, and an agent change, Zack Greinke finally got his wish. The Kansas City Royals traded their ace to the Milwaukee Brewers for a package of players including: outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. The Brewers will also receive shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and $2 million in cash.
Going by both traditional and advanced metrics, Greinke took a step back from his Cy Young season of 2009. He went just 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA after going 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA the year before. Meanwhile, FIP (fielding independent pitching) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) – two metrics that strip away luck and defense from a pitcher’s performance – suggest that Greinke was closer to a run worse in 2010 and not the full two runs that his ERA showed.
While Greinke pulled back from 2009, he regressed toward his career level, which is still that of a really good pitcher. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) of 3.29 was nearly identical to his career 3.33 K/BB. His home run rate was also within striking distance of his career number.
Discounting bad luck from the equation, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .314 was basically identical to his .315 career average. That said, his strand rate or LOB% (percentage of base runners left on base) was just 65.3%. That’s about 7% lower than the league average and his career rate. Strand rate often depends on factors such as relief pitchers’ support; the sharp drop in Greinke’s rate suggest bad luck more than a big drop in skill.
A large part of Greinke’s 2009 success was fueled by strikeouts. His K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) topped 9.0 for the first time in ’09. That number dipped to 7.40 in 2010, but again was in line with his career 7.56 K/9. Not surprisingly, his percentage of swinging strikes also dropped, from 9.9% to 7.5%.
Another change for Greinke was groundballs. A historically neutral pitcher, his groundball rate was an even 46%. According to Baseball Info Solutions, he threw more change-ups and fewer breaking balls than usual, which could explain the shift in batted ball data.
Unlike last season, Greinke will not be saddled with the expectations of repeating 2009’s performance next season. Instead, look for double-digit wins, 200+ innings, and an ERA of 3.75 or lower (possibly much lower). Like the recently acquired Shaun Marcum, moving from the American League to the National League should also help. Some will shy away from his 2010 numbers, but you shouldn’t make that mistake. Treat Greinke as a true SP1 option, even in mixed leagues.
For Kansas City, Alcides Escobar will become the team’s everyday shortstop, while Lorenzo Cain should roam center field on most days. Escobar’s slash line of .235/.288/.326 ranked among the worst by any full-time hitter. A lower than expected BABIP (.264, vs. league average of about .300) does suggest some bad mojo involved. The Brewers did not let Escobar run much (14 attempts, 10 steals), but he showed a lot of speed with 10 triples. If the Royals let him roam free, he could post 25-30 extra-base hits, with matching steals. His weak batting eye could harm his batting average and also runs scored, though.
On the flip side, Cain’s positive slash line of .306/.348/.415 was largely influenced by his .370 BABIP. That number will likely regress in 2011. Like Escobar, though, Cain should be another decent speed option, especially in AL-only formats.
By Tommy Rancel //
Going into the 2010 season, B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking system), among many other rankings, tabbed Zack Greinke as a top-five starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. After his Cy Young season in 2009, it was easy to see why. Pitching for one of the worst teams in the majors, Greinke still won 16 games, and racked up 242 strikeouts in 229.1 innings. His 2.16 ERA was nearly identical to his 2.33 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which suggests that he put up these numbers without much luck, and was dominant all year long.
Thus far this season, Greinke hasn’t been anywhere near the top-five pitcher that many had hoped. For starters, he is just 1-8 through 13 starts in 2010. His ERA is nearly two runs higher than his 2009 mark. As was the case last season, his FIP (3.91) is comparable – as is his 4.18 xFIP (similar to FIP, but also strips out aberrant home run rates). While Greinke’s ERA and FIP are elevated, they remain better than average. But for most fantasy players, that is not enough. What they might fail to notice is this: Greinke’s 2009 season looks like the outlier. His 2010 performance looks very similar to what he’s done throughout the rest of his career.
One of the biggest reasons behind Grienke’s 2009 success was his strikeouts. His strikeouts per nine innings rate (K/9) in 2009 was a career-best 9.50. This year, Greinke has 66 strikeouts in 80 innings, which puts his K/9 at a strong but still significantly lower level of 7.43 – very close to his career 7.59 mark. Also down is his swing-strike percentage. Greinke induced a whiff nearly 10% of the time last season, but sits at just 5.8% this year. On the plus side, this is the only number that’s well below his career level (8.6%)
In terms of walks, Greinke’s BB/9 (walks per nine innings) of 2.03 this year is virtually identical to his 2.0 from a season ago, but still lower than his already impressive career 2.26 level.
Another major difference from last year to this year is home runs allowed. The rightly allowed just 11 home runs last year in nearly 230 innings of work; his HR/9 was a microscopic 0.43. This year he has allowed 10 long balls – nearly matching his total from a season ago in about one-third of the time. On the other hand, his HR/9 in 2010 of 1.13 is much closer to his career level of 0.97 than the number we saw last year.
Looking at his batted ball data – namely batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – Greinke has maintained a relatively normal BABIP in each of the past two years (~.318) when compared to his career number (.315). This further disqualifies luck from the equation.
One slight change in batted ball data is the type of balls being hit. Greinke allowed 40% groundballs last year; that’s down slightly to around 38% in 2010. Conversely, his flyball rate is up nearly 4% year-over-year. With his HR/9 regressing towards a career norm, and more flyballs in general, it’s not surprising to see that his home run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB%) jump from 4.5% last year to 9.0% this year. Again, the 9.0% is much closer to his career HR/FB% of 8.7%.
When looking at pitch selection, Greinke is throwing more fastballs and change-ups while throwing fewer breaking balls than a year ago. This could be a part of the difference in the two seasons, but we’re talking a relatively minor 3-5% difference on most pitches.
While the 1-8 record is not a true indication of Greinke’s talent level, his 2010 peripheral stats seem to be just that. Greinke appears to be a very good but not quite elite pitcher who enjoyed a career year in 2009. If you can use his name value to acquire a pitcher with similar peripheral stats and a greater chance at more wins (Tommy Hanson?) plus possibly an additional player, you could successfully upgrade your team.
For more on Zack Greinke and other high-profile starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits
By Eno Sarris
You’ve got the first pick of your 2010 draft and you’re bouncing off walls. Albert Pujols
will be yours, finally. You’ve seen the big man crush poor pitching
for years and imagined what you could do with that kind of firepower.
Nothing will stand in your way now.
Then the doubt starts creeping in. In a 12-team mixed league, you have to wait a whole 23 picks
before you get to go again! All those great borderline first-round
talents won’t be yours and you’ll be forced to pick someone who’s
almost a third-rounder as your second-best player. What will you
do at The Turn? We’ll attack this from a couple angles
so that you’ll be prepared when the time comes. We’ll assume you’re in
a 12-team mixed league, the most popular of leagues.
The first thing that jumps out at you is that you may not want to take B-Rank’s #24 at the end of your second round. Of course, a team with both Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez would hit a lot of home runs, but who would play the other positions on the diamond? Why fill up your utility slot that early?
The first piece of advice is, of course, that you have a nice list of second-round talent to try and catch as they fall. Troy Tulowitzki and Mark Reynolds could drop to you given some concerns about the repeatability of their 2009 seasons. Having a steady performer like Pujols in your back pocket allows you to catch those more borderline second-rounders if they fall too far. Even if Reynolds bats a mere .245 instead of Bloomberg’s projected .255, and Pujols ‘merely’ repeats last year’s seven-year low in batting average (.327) the pair of players would average close to .285 and you’d be fine in that category going forward. (While enjoying their projected 75 home runs and 30 stolen bases.)
Now on to your second pick. There is no consensus #25. Zack Greinke, B-Rank’s suggestion, is a fine choice as he could be the best pitcher in baseball next year. But say you don’t want to pick a pitcher that early, what’s there for you?
Consider Justin Upton, the proud owner of a new six-year $50+ million contract. Take a look at his OPS over the year last year, from Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Draft Kit. He stumbled early, but he was excellent all year and did not hit any sort of rookie wall. Add to this the fact that he cut his strikeout rate to an acceptable level (for a power hitter). After whiffing at a 34% rate his rookie year, he got that rate down to 26% by making more contact in the strike zone (80% last year, after 74% the year before). He also boosted his isolated power (ISO) from .213 to .232 while stroking those 26 home runs. The combination of Pujols and Upton would give you immense power with almost 30 combined steals to boot.
Again though, unless Tulowitzki falls into your lap, you’ve done nothing about the scarcer positions on the infield. Taking a look at average draft positions from MockDraftCentral.com, we can identify some other candidates for The Turn. A couple interesting names emerge – Justin Upton is there (25.19 ADP), and so is Jimmy Rollins.
For more information on possible second- and third-round picks, and more, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.