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.
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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.
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BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Host Julie Alexandria is joined by Bloomberg Sports Analyst Rob Shaw to break down an expert’s fantasy baseball draft. The draft, which included fantasy experts from CBS, Yahoo!, and ESPN was a 28-round draft that consisted of additional positions such as Middle Infielder, Corner Infielder, and five outfielder positions. Additionally, the league includes more advanced statistics such as OBP and slugging rather than the typical batting average.
Here’s a look at the first nine picks by Shaw:
1) Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
2) Roy Halladay, Phillies
3) Cliff Lee, Phillies
4) Eric Hosmer, Royals
5) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
6) Adam Jones, Orioles
7) Howie Kendrick, Angels
8) Drew Stubbs, Reds
9) Derek Jeter, Yankees
Picking up with the 10th round pick, I drafted Josh Johnson, who similar to Stephen Strasburg has the ability to dominate on the hill, while also carrying serious health concerns. Again, having both Halladay and Lee as durable aces on his staff allows for these high upside gambles. The best case scenario would be incredible with Halladay, Lee, Strasburg, and Johnson all on the team.
Speaking of gambles, in the 11th round I took a chance that Adam Dunn will bounce back from one of the worst all-time seasons in fantasy baseball. Dunn has extra upside in this league as he is known for his high on base percentage as well as his slugging. Immediately after the draft I even received two offers for Dunn.
In the 12th round I drafted Danny Espinosa. There are concerns that he’s a free swinger who lacks consistency and will hit for a low average. On the other hand, he has a great combination of power and speed for a middle infielder. Plus, as a sophomore, it is rational to expect significant improvement this season.
I opted for a steady option in the 13th round drafting Nick Markakis. It is clear that his power will never materialize into 30-plus home runs, but he does reach base consistently and has some speed and pop too. Considering all the risks I’ve taken, this is a pick I had
The 14th round was a disaster for me. This league requires that we start two catchers and I thought Salvador Perez was a fine hitter with decent run production. Alas, he is injured and is expected to miss the first few months of the season. I will have to find an option off the waiver wire. Josh Thole, though limited in power, may be the safe bet since he will start and does have a respectable OBP.
I finally deployed by strategy to pick up closers in the later rounds with the selection of Sergio Santos. The hard-thrower gets a ton of strikeouts and should pick up 30-plus saves in Toronto. I followed with Joe Nathan in the following round. He dominated late last season and should have plenty of save opportunities with the Rangers.
I picked up my second catcher in the following round with Chris Iannetta. I see him as a potential Mike Napoli-type slugger who at best can slam 20 bombs with a .250 average. He does offer a nice OBP, which is rare for a catcher. Maybe he’ll even surprise me the way Napoli did last season on my fantasy team.
I grabbed another power bat in the 18th round with Edwin Encarnacion. He was tremendous in the second half of last season, seemingly changing his approach at the plate to become more of a patient hitter. The Blue Jays likely won’t tolerate another one of his trademark slow starts, so hopefully, this is the year that he puts it all together.
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By Eriq Gardner //
- Josh Johnson
- Dan Haren
- Brandon Phillips
- Billy Butler
- Carlos Marmol
- Nick Markakis
- Joel Hanrahan
- Sergio Romo
- Rafael Soriano
- Daniel Bard
Josh Johnson has a little bit of a reputation for being injury-prone, having a Tommy John surgery a few years back, and missing the last month of last season with shoulder inflammation, but he’s also pitched nearly 400 innings these past two seasons as one of the elite hurlers in the game.
By Tommy Rancel //
It is hard to be 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, and go unnoticed in any walk of life. It is even harder to be that large, in addition to being a highly successful athlete in a major city, and still go unnoticed. However, Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins is all of the above, and barely generates a buzz on the national landscape.
The Marlins’ right-hander has been one of the National League’s best-kept secrets for a few years now. But in 2010 he is on the verge of breaking out. Johnson won 12 games as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery wiped out nearly all of his 2007 and 2008 seasons. Since his return, Johnson has been fantastic. Peter Gammons notes that since his full-time return in July of 2008, Johnson is 30-8 with a sub 3.00 ERA.
After going 15-5 last year, the Marlins rewarded their ace with a four-year contract worth $39 million. Looking at his 2010 season to date, there is no doubt they are glad they got the deal done when they did.
In 15 starts, Johnson is 8-3 with a 1.80 ERA. He has 98 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 100 innings. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which measures home runs allowed, walks, and strikeouts, is an NL-best 2.56 – better than Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, and Tim Lincecum.
Speaking of Jimenez, Johnson has 10 more strikeouts, 10 fewer walks, and has surrendered just one more home run than Jimenez, despite less than a two-inning gap between the two aces. Jimenez has grabbed the national spotlight – and deservedly so – but outside of wins and ERA – two metrics that rely heavily on outside factors – Johnson has been just as good, if not better.
Currently, Johnson is doing something not even Jimenez has been able to accomplish. In fact, it has only occurred a handful of times in major league history. Greg Cote (via Rob Neyer) tells us that Johnson’s recent string of eight straight starts with one run or less allowed is just the eighth such streak in MLB history. During that stretch, Johnson is 5-1 with a 0.63 ERA.
Beyond the microscopic ERA, and the pace for 17-19 wins, Johnson is having a career year in several other categories. Going back to FIP metrics, Johnson is striking out more batters than ever, while walking fewer and allowing fewer balls to leave the yard.
His strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate of 8.82 is a half-strikeout better than last season – his previous career best of 8.20. His walks per nine innings (BB/9) rate of 2.34 represent a career low. He has allowed just four home runs in 100 innings, which puts his HR/9 (home runs per nine innings) rate at just 0.36, another career best.
Despite the stellar marks in numerous categories, we know better than to completely take some of these metrics at face value. The strikeouts and walks are what they are, but in most cases, a low ERA is likely a product of defense and luck. Luck is also sometimes a factor in the number of home runs a pitcher allows.
It is true Johnson has been somewhat “lucky,” but not enough to discredit his fantastic start as anything but that. Johnson’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .270 is a bit lower than the league average (.302). If he regresses toward his career number of .301, he will allow more base runners, and in turn have a greater chance of giving up more runs.
In conjunction with BABIP, Johnson has stranded nearly 83% of his base runners (LOB%). The league average is around 71%. Career wise, Johnson owns an LOB% of 75.9. Again, there may be some regression here, but nothing too overwhelming. That said, in either case, even slight regression would raise his ERA.
As mentioned, Johnson’s HR/9 is 0.36. The league average is near 1.0. On the other hand, Johnson might not see much regression here. He has always maintained a lower than normal home run rate as evidenced in his career 0.62 HR/9. A key factor is the number of flyballs allowed, and the number that actually leave the park. We’ve talked about the value of groundballs before: More groundballs mean fewer chances for home runs to fly out of the yard. Johnson’s current groundball rate of 48.5% is nearly elite. For his career, just 7.6% of flyballs hit against him have gone for home runs. This year that number is down to 4.7%. Once more, you can expect some regression, but not much.
With a mid-90s fastball, and a slider that induces a whiff 16% of the time, there is plenty to like about Johnson. Add in the groundballs and the lack of extremely lucky batted ball data, and you have one of the best pitchers in baseball. If you already have Johnson, enjoy. If you don’t, he’s worth a big trade offer.
For more on Josh Johnson and other under the radar stars, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.