Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw discusses the best teams in baseball right now and checks in with some of their top players at the All-Star Game.
Coming into the season it seemed like everyone was high on the Angels and Tigers, two of the more active teams in the off-season. It turns out that the Yankees are the best in baseball and the Nationals are not far behind.
The All-Star break provided a chance to check in with some of the top players from contending teams, and one player we got to chat with was Ian Kinsler, the 42nd-best fantasy player accoring to Bloomberg Sports with 65 runs, 10 home runs and 15 steals. He was one of eight All-Stars from the Rangers, a franchise that has made it to back-to-back World Series.
“It was a good first half,” Kinsler said. “I think as a team we played well. We went through a lot more ups and downs than we wanted to but we played well and we’re in first place right now. And we have eight guys here at the All-Star Game, so we’re happy.”
Another team expected to contend for the title is the Detroit Tigers. Prince Fielder was the major off-season acquisition, but this is Miguel Cabrera’s team. Cabrera is enjoying an MVP-caliber season and right now ranks as the seventh-best fantasy player. He made it clear that the start to the second half will be big.
“We feel okay, you know. We want to feel more comfortable at the end of the season, like win the division, get into first place,” Cabrera said. “I think we’re in good position. I think we’re feeling good right now. We want to start good in the second half, start to be more aggressive and win more games.”
Finally, the Angels are putting some heat on the Tigers. Jered Weaver has pitched like an ace and Albert Pujols has turned things around. While everyone is talking about the superstar rookie Mike Trout, it’s the second-year star Mark Trumbo who ranks as the top surprise. He’s batting .305 with 26 home runs and 65 RBI.
“It’s been really special,” Trumbo said. “The first month of the season is probably forgettable. We were out there competing, just the results weren’t coming in. Sometimes that happens. But since then we’ve been rolling pretty well. People are playing to their capabilities and we’ve had a lot more wins to show for it.”
The Tigers, Angels and Rangers were supposed to be the teams competing for an AL pennant this season and so far they have. If the season ended today, all three would advance to the postseason thanks to the multiple Wild Card spots. However, there is still a lot of baseball to play and several surprise teams are still out there, including the A’s, White Sox and Indians. A big move at the trade deadline or even a key promotion could make the difference.
For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw discuss whether or not the fans’ selections for the American League All-Star team were right and who should be starting the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.
Mike Napoli of the Rangers was the fan choice, but White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski should be starting in the All-Star Game. Pierzynski is not one of the more popular players in baseball and was actually expected to lose his job coming into this season. However, he is hitting .285 this year with 14 home runs and 45 RBI.
Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays should be starting instead of Prince Fielder. Encarnacion has always had great potential but has been inconsistent in the past. This season, however, he is deserving of a starting spot in Kansas City with a .291 average, 22 home runs, 55 RBI and eight stolen bases.
The fans got this one right, voting in Robinson Cano of the Yankees. He’s batting .310 with 20 home runs and 46 RBI. Not only is he an All-Star but he is clearly the Yankees’ MVP.
The fans chose Adrian Beltre of the Rangers, which is a good pick because he is one of the best defensive players in baseball. Miguel Cabrera, however, is the best third baseman in the American League with a .314 average, 16 home runs and 62 RBI.
Derek Jeter is having a good season, but Elvis Andrus of the Rangers is the best shortstop in the American League right now. He is not a power hitter with just one home run but he’s batting .307 with 32 RBI and 16 stolen bases. The fans should have voted in Andrus instead of Jeter.
Of the three outfielders voted in, only one was the right pick by the fans. It wasn’t a surprise that Josh Hamilton was selected, and he is the right choice. He’s on pace for more than 50 home runs and 140 RBI this season.
Angels rookie Mike Trout should be starting in place of Curtis Granderson. Trout is batting .339 with nine home runs, 33 RBI and 22 stolen bases, and keep in mind that he started this season in the minor leagues.
Adam Jones of the Orioles should have been selected in place of Jose Bautista. Jones has a .302 average, 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He has a bright future and is likely one of the next big stars in baseball.
David Ortiz was the right pick by the fans. He continues to put up big numbers with a .302 average, 21 home runs and 54 RBI this season. This is Ortiz’s eighth All-Star selection.
For more fantasy baseball insight, visit BloombergSports.com.
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
Welcome to the debut of the Bloomberg Sports blog, a partner of Major
League Baseball and part of the MLBlogs network. Starting today and
continuing through the final pitch of the World Series, we’ll cover all
the hot topics in baseball and fantasy baseball, with the help of Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary software and analytics.
Say you’re preparing for your fantasy draft, targeting Joe Mauer as
your starting catcher. Bloomberg Sports’ Draft Kit includes rankings
for every player, called B-Rank. Using B-Rank, you’ll see how Mauer
stacks up against all other players.
You can then delve deeper. Say you want to eyeball a player’s value against others at the
same position, then make an informed decision on when in the draft to
grab him. Bloomberg Sports’ Scarcity vs. Demand graph shows you a graph
of the top 10 players at that position, how high each one should be
drafted, and where the best values might lie. If you’re scouting Mauer,
the yellow dot representing the Twins catcher will show up far above
all other catchers, a sign of his unique value.
Now let’s explore a player whose ranking isn’t as obvious, newly signed Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Adam LaRoche.
According to B-Rank, LaRoche rates 17th among all major league first basemen for projected 2010 fantasy value, given standard 5×5 criteria. In a 12-team National League-only league or deep mixed league, LaRoche would be worthy of a starting job. He would project as a mid-to-late round pick, in a cluster with decent but unspectacular players like the Dodgers’ James Loney in the Scarcity vs. Demand graph.
Using our Spider Chart, you can see that LaRoche derives most of his value from counting stats such as home runs, runs scored and RBI, with less value derived from his batting average and virtually none from stolen bases. At a glance, you can spot LaRoche’s 2009 totals in every category against other players major league-wide, or just other first basemen. His 25 home runs, for instance, placed just below the average of 27 homers for qualifying MLB starters at first base, well below the MLB-leading total of 47 at that position.
Using the Scatterplot tool, you can
compare LaRoche’s value across two categories at once, measured against the top 10 players
in that two-category combination — home runs and batting average, RBI and stolen bases, and other customizable combinations.
The Bloomberg Sports team of writers will then dig up more nuggets of information for your perusal. Say you’re satisfied with LaRoche as a low-end starter for your team. But you’re concerned about his large splits – for his career, LaRoche has batted .252/.326/.447 (AVG/OBP/SLG) in the first half, with a much stronger .300/.363/.546 line in the second half. You might then view LaRoche as someone to target in trade around the All-Star break, rather than spending a pick on him in your draft or auction.
Ascertaining why a player fares better in one half of the season compared to the other can be a tough task. Often it’s the equivalent of flipping a coin and landing on heads five times in a row: a rare but possible occurrence that’s based simply on random chance.
Occasionally there might be other reasons. Some players perform better in warmer weather, or at least hit for more power in warmer weather. In Pittsburgh and even Atlanta, where he played the bulk of his first six major league seasons, LaRoche’s power indicators jumped across the board as temperatures rose. For his career, he’s hit home runs on 12.7% of his flyballs in March and April, 11.7% in May and 12.8% in June. That number soars to 18.9% in July and 17.0% in August, making LaRoche a greater power threat in the warmer summer months. In sweltering Phoenix, LaRoche can expect average highs of 84 in April and 93 in May. By June, the Diamondbacks will likely close their retractable roof for most games, with average temperatures near or over 100 for the final four months of the season. The closed roof would in turn create cooler home playing conditions as the season wore on.
We can’t say for certain if LaRoche’s superior performance and higher power output in the second half is the result of warmer weather – it could simply be another way to look at the same random streak of better second-half performances. If it is weather-related, though, playing in Arizona, and facing warmer-weather opponents more often in the NL West, could portend a hotter-than-usual start for LaRoche.
LaRoche could also get a boost from more favorable ballpark effects. Chase Field consistently ranks as one of the most favorable stadiums in baseball for hitters – second behind Coors Field in run factor last season and second behind Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Chase’s configuration also plays to one of LaRoche’s greatest strengths as a hitter. LaRoche has averaged 37.5 doubles per year in the past four seasons, ranking him among the league leaders in that category. Only Fenway Park, with its shallow, towering Green Monster, has yielded a higher doubles effect in the past two seasons than Chase Field.
Once the season starts, Bloomberg Sports’ In-Season tools let you
track a player’s day-today performance down to the finest details. Say
you drafted LaRoche and he got off to another slow start, hotter weather and all. The Visual Benchmark
tool lets you plot how LaRoche’s three home runs through the first 40
games of the season compare to different cohorts: other players at his
position, other National League players at his position, or the league
average for all players.
Still not sure if you should hold or cut bait? Using the
Competitive Factors tool, you can see how LaRoche’s new team stacks up
against the rest of the league. Last year, the Diamondbacks ranked 19th in batting average (20th in MLB in runs scored), despite their hitter-friendly home park. If Chris Young, Stephen Drew and other talented but erratic teammates don’t fare better in 2010, that suppresses LaRoche’s potential to score
and drive in runs – meaning you might want to consider a different option at first base.
This blog will help you leverage these and many other tools, by pairing Bloomberg
Sports analysis with the latest MLB happenings. Joining myself and
Bloomberg Sports’ Tyler McKee are the following writers:
His work has appeared in Baseball America, USA Today, ESPN.com, The Hardball
Times, FanGraphs, The Graphical Player, and RotoJunkie’s Annual
Baseball Draft Guide, The Fix.
Erik Hahmann: His baseball and fantasy baseball writing has appeared at Heater Magazine, DRaysBay and Beyond The Boxscore.
Tommy Rancel: He’s written for a number of publications, including Beyond The Boxscore, Inside the Majors and The Hardball Times.
Eno Sarris: He’s covered baseball and fantasy baseball for FanGraphs, Yahoo Fantasy
Baseball, RotoExperts and GodBlessBuckner on the Fanball network. He
won a Fantasy Sports Writers’ Association Award for his work at Fantasy
Pitchers and catchers are reporting throughout the Grapefruit and
Cactus Leagues and we couldn’t be more excited to start the season.
Bookmark bloombergsports.mlblogs.com for the latest news and analysis. You’ll also find us as a Featured blog at MLBlogs.com, as well in the MLBlogs.com Pro Blogs pull-down menu, under Fantasy.
Then, be sure to check out Bloomberg Sports’ Draft Kit and In-Season Tools.