Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria preview this year’s edition of the Fall Classic between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYERS
Buster Posey, C, Giants
The clear frontrunner for the NL MVP this season has gotten off to a slow start in the playoffs hitting only .178 so far in 12 games. That being said, Posey did have perhaps the biggest hit of the year for the Giants when he took Mat Latos deep for a Grand Slam in the winner-take-all Game 5 in Cincinnati. San Francisco will be looking for more of that clutch hitting against Detroit in this series.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
For Miguel Cabrera, earning the first Triple Crown since 1967, and most likely an AL MVP award, was just not enough. He has now led his team to the Fall Classic as well. After hitting 44 home runs in the regular season, he has only hit one in nine games so far in the postseason, but that could change rather quickly given his prodigious power. Cabrera is back in the World Series for the first time since his rookie season in 2003 with the Marlins, and he is trying to add to his tremendous individual year with the highest team honor, a World Series ring.
Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants
Scutaro has to be at the top of the list of best midseason acquisitions this year when he came from Colorado to San Francisco in late July. He was hitting .272 while he was with the Rockies, but he started out hot with the Giants and never cooled down, hitting .362 over the final 61 games of the season. It seems he is even hotter now heading into the World Series after a NLCS that saw him hit .500 (14 for 28) over the seven-game series against St. Louis, earning him MVP honors.
Delmon Young, DH, Tigers
It sure seems like Delmon Young enjoys playing in October. In the last two postseasons for Detroit, a total of 18 games, Young has seven home runs, which is a franchise record. Coming up as a prospect in the Tampa Bay system, Young was considered a five-tool player, but that notion is long gone since he has been the Tigers DH all season. However, it does appear that Young will need to channel his minor league days when he plays left field for the Tigers when they are in an NL ballpark in at least Games 1 and 2.
By only allowing two runs in their four starts, the only adjective that you could use to describe the starting pitchers for the Tigers against the Yankees in the ALCS was dominant. It will obviously be tough to keep that up against a hot hitting team in the Giants, but you would not put it past the rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who all had great numbers all season. The Giants will most likely try to get to the Tigers bullpen where they have struggled, most notably their closer Jose Valverde, who was replaced by Phil Coke after a blown save in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The starting pitching for the Giants was supposed to be their strength heading into the postseason, but it has been the offense and bullpen that has carried them through to this point. Madison Bumgarner, a 16-game winner this year, really struggled in his two postseason starts and has since been sent to the bullpen. On the other side of the coin, Barry Zito, has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants, last seen pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings with Giants facing elimination in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. That being said, the goal for the Giants is clear. They want to get the game to their dominant bullpen for a chance to lock down four more wins.
For more fantasy insight, visit BloombergSports.com
BY ROB SHAW
Every season a different strategy has to be utilized in fantasy baseball drafts in order to appropriately take into account positional depth and player rankings. In general, a unique strategy can be utilized on a round-by-round basis. Here’s a breakdown of Bloomberg Sports recommended Fantasy Baseball Strategy 2012 Edition:
In the early rounds, the focus is finding the best available player while also taking into account the disparity between the best player and the next best option at each position. For example, there is a plateau in excellence for starting pitchers as Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw can all be claimed as the best of the bunch. On the other hand, Troy Tulowitzki stands alone amongst fellow shortstops.
If your fantasy league includes slugging percentage and on base percentage as statistical categories, there is no competition for Jose Bautista in the outfield while there are several stars at first base including Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto. The best strategy is to pick up the best talent at a position where there is a large enough disparity that when the next player is drafted from that position there is a decisive advantage in your favor.
In the early middle rounds, it’s not a bad idea to scoop up a fine hurler who has the potential to rank amongst the best. Players such as Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, and Danny Haren as well as Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg make sense in these rounds. These hurlers have the ability to dominate and enjoy a Cy Young caliber season thanks to their enormous upside.
Having two high potential and consistent hurlers is more valuable than having just one dominant ace. Therefore, by drafting where there is greater disparity in the early rounds with a focus on position players, then nabbing a couple of pitchers with sky high potential fantasy managers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
In the later middle rounds you can draft a closer and many of them. Closers are often overrated in fantasy leagues since they only contribute 70 innings, which means saves are all that matters. Second-tier closers still get the job done and players such as Joe Nathan could end up as bargains. In fact, rather than selecting a Jonathan Papelbon in the sixth or seventh round, you can grab a Gio Gonzalez or a Drew Stubbs, someone who will have a much greater impact on your fantasy team.
Then five rounds later go ahead and draft three closers in a row: Sergio Santos, Jason Motte, and Frank Francisco. Plus, usually about 10 closers become available on the waiver wire each season. In fact, all three of the pitchers just mentioned did not start the season as closers for their respective teams last season.
Finally, in the later rounds, it’s not a bad idea to focus on young talents with great potential as well as players with multiple position eligibility. This allows you to pick up some big time prospects while also enjoying depth. Consider top prospects such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. There is no telling if the precocious sluggers will develop into stars as soon as this season.
On the other hand, drafting veteran players such as Ryan Raburn and Daniel Murphy is also a key strategy in the later rounds since they cover multiple positions, providing depth to your fantasy teams. This way if a player on your team gets injured, a single bench player can fill multiple holes.
For more fantasy insight turn to BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw uses the BloombergSports.com Front Office projections to rank the top five strikeout artists in Major League Baseball for the upcoming season. While Justin Verlander is expected to lead the Majors in strikeouts, National League rivals Tim Lincecum andClayton Kershaw are not expected to be far behind.
Verlander is fresh off one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter and while he earned the MVP and Cy Young award, he is expected to repeat his success this upcoming season. The Tigers have added some pop to their lineup in the form of first baseman Prince Fielder, while Miguel Cabrera is now destined for third base.
While most fantasy managers will focus on that offensive boost, a greater concern may be the poor defense behind Verlander. The good news is that he may become more dependent on strikeouts. Bloomberg Sports projects a staggering 244 strikeouts from Verlander this season.
On the west coast, Tim Linecum and Clayton Kershaw will battle for fantasy supremacy. The hurlers seem to be moving in different directions as Lincecum has regressed a tad in recent years while Kershaw is peaking. Regardless, Lincecum remains a safe bet pitching in AT&T Park with a proven track record that includes 220 or more strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. It also helps having a healthy Buster Posey back in the lineup.
Kershaw finally put it all together last season as he improved his control, went deep into games, and finished with a stellar 21 wins and 248 strikeouts. The southpaw’s statistics are looking more and more like Sandy Koufax’s by the day. The BloombergSports.com Front Office tool projects 239 strikeouts from Kershaw this season.
The fourth most strikeouts will likely be racked up by the forgotten Felix Hernandez. The Mariners 2010 Cy Young award winner has a little more offensive support this season, which should lead to more wins and greater confidence. The durable right-hander picked up 222 strikeouts last year despite some struggles at home. He is projected to surpass 200 K’s for a fourth straight season.
Finally, Cliff Lee edges teammate and fellow ace Roy Halladay on the list. The veteran hurler brandished a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in one of his finest seasons yet. He tallied a career-best 238 strikeouts and that number is expected to take just a minor decline this season.
if looking for sleepers, a couple of less heralded hurlers who can deliver K’s are Braves starter Brandon Beachy and A’s top prospect Brad Peacock. While Beachy is hoping to be a bit healthier in his second full season, Peacock is just the latest young hurler hoping to breakout in Oakland.
For more insight visit BloombergSports.com for access to Front Office.
Are They Hall of Famers?
Johnny Damon– Labeled clutch, a winner, and one of the top leadoff hitters of his generation, it is surprising to learn that Johnny Damon has only made two All-Star appearances over his 17-year career. That tells us that Damon was never the dominant left-fielder of his generation, and will likely put an end to his bid for a spot in the Hall of Fame. However, the door is not closed yet.
Damon is just 357 hits shy of 3,000 for his career and he does not appear to be slowing down that much either. Other personal milestones that will shortly be reached are 1600 hits and 400 steals. If Damon can hand around for another three seasons, his longevity as well as his World Series heroics may result in a Hall of Fame plaque.
Todd Helton– A .324 career average screams Hall of Fame worthy. However, for the first time Hall of Fame voters will have to take into account the Coors Field impact. Helton is a .355 career hitter at home compared to just .292 on the road. Also, when it comes to power 209 home runs were swatted at home, compared to 133 on the road.
So Helton is a dominant first baseman when playing at home, but more of a Mark Grace type hitter when on the road. Considering he failed to reach any of the common Hall of Fame milestones such as 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, I do not see Helton as a Hall of Famer.
David Ortiz– As a long-time designated hitter, David Ortiz would need at least 500 home runs in order to gain admission to the Hall of Fame. Considering he is currently 134 home runs shy of that total and has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, Ortiz will likely have to settle as a Red Sox legend, but not a Hall of Famer.
On the Path:
Roy Halladay– The dominant pitcher of his era, Halladay has won two Cy Young awards and won 20 or more games on three occasions. With 178 wins compared to just 89 losses, Halladay will probably need just another season or two of dominance to win over the Hall of Fame voters.
CC Sabathia– A very durable ace for the Yankees, Sabathia has the best chance of 300 wins with 165 already under his belt. He will need another four or five 15-18 win seasons to guarantee a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Justin Verlander– So far so good for this young hurler. Verlander has been durable and dominant. He has put together a couple of no-hitters, won an AL Rookie of the Year, and made three All-Star teams. The problem with Verlander is that he is so young, so he’ll need to stay healthy and effective for another 6-8 years.
Carl Crawford– A move to Boston should only help his chances. Crawford has a Gold Glove, four All-Star appearances, more than 1500 hits and 400 steals, which is incredible for someone just 29 years old. As long as he stays healthy, Crawford has every chance of making the Hall of Fame as one of the most consistent hitters of his generation.
Jose Reyes– Despite all of the injuries zapping Jose Reyes over the years, the 28-year old shortstop compares well to Carl Crawford. He has made three All-Star games and will have every chance of making many more.
If he can hit around .300 for a good five to six years while hitting at the top of the lineup with 100-plus runs and 40-plus steals, Reyes will boast some very impressive numbers by the time he reaches his mid-30s. It’s a gamble on his durability, but I see Reyes making the Hall of Fame.
Miguel Cabrera– Though he has yet to win an MVP, Miguel Cabrera has been a dominant player through his first eight seasons. He will need at least four or five more in order to be considered for the Hall of Fame, but the good news is that at just 28-years old, Cabrera could end up playing another ten seasons assuming he stays healthy.
good pitcher will usually strike out a lot of batters, limit the number
of batters put on base via walks, and induce a lot of ground balls.
unlucky pitcher can be unfortunate in a number of ways: The quality of
opposition. The ballpark. A high percentage of balls hit into play
finding the gaps between fielders. A high percentage of fly balls
ending up as home runs. And perhaps the most under-appreciated form of
misfortune — a low strand rate.
is the pitcher’s fault. If a pitcher is pitching to contact, a lot of
balls are going to go for hits. It stands to reason that some of those
hits will be back-to-back-to-back, ending up as earned runs. But some
pitchers are lucky enough to space out those hits as to avoid damage.
And some pitchers play on teams that have relievers who can come into
the game and clean up a mess.
that the major league average for strand rate (also known as LOB%) is
about 72%. Those who are much higher are getting lucky. Those who are
much lower are unlucky.
shows some pitchers who are relevant in most fantasy leagues who to
date who are well above or well below the norm:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this grizzled veteran
doesn’t deserve an ERA under 1. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy who has
always been prone to giving up home runs. Much of his great fortune
this year is based on a hit rate under 19%, when the norm is more like
30%. But Hernandez has also been counting his blessings about the
batters he has allowed on base. Less than 3% have scored, the lowest
rate in baseball.
strand rate of 87.2% ranks near among the highest figures in the
National League. But his home runs allowed rate is worse than the
average pitcher (without an excessively high HR/FB rate to suggest
that’s a fluke) and he’s also getting lucky on hit rates. He may be
sporting a 2.48 ERA at the moment — and many might assume he’s back to
dominant form — but Oswalt looks more like a good but not quite great
doing almost everything right this year. He’s striking out a batter per
inning. He’s slashed one full walk per 9 IP off last season’s free pass
rate. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet. But still, Liriano figures to
regress at least somewhat, given his 84.6% strand rate; the Twins
somewhat iffy bullpen raises the risk of regression. Liriano still
figures to have strong numbers. Just not a sub-2 ERA.
Striking out more than a batter per inning solves most problems, such
as a mediocre walk rate. Hanson hasn’t allowed many home runs either,
but he has an 84% strand rate, which means a bit of regression
a poor strikeout-to-walk rate. His low hit rate and high strand rate
will make that 2.79 ERA go up quickly. His xFIP is a scary 4.59 at the
He’s also surrendered seven home runs in his first 40 innings pitched.
So far, those home runs aren’t killing Shields, because he’s giving
them up when opposing batters aren’t on base. And when opposing batters
do get on base, he’s getting out of the inning without much
damage. On the plus side, though, the Tampa Bay pitcher is whiffing
9.68 batters per 9 IP, tops in
the American League. His 2.25 per 9 IP walk rate also ranks among the
top 10 in baseball.
Shields’ strand rate points to a pitcher who’s had a lucky season. But
the Rays righty has also posted a flukishly high 16.6% HR/FB rate.
Shields’ ERA is an impressive 3.15; his xFIP is also 3.15, suggesting
that his good and bad luck are evening out. He’s the outlier of the
Striking out a lot of batters? Check. Not walking too many batters?
Check. Not allowing an obscene amount of home runs? Check. How’s his
hit rate? Also reasonable. Despite all that, Verlander has a 4.50 ERA,
when his FIP is just 3.34. A low strand rate (61.9%) is owed much of
the blame. If the Tigers can continue to play strong defense and throw
up good relief pitching numbers, that would only help Verlander even
worse this year than Floyd, who currently sports an ugly 6.89 ERA. But
his strikeout rate is actually better than his career average. He’s
also allowing fewer home runs per inning than usual. He’s become a
little more friendly to batters in the walks department, but it doesn’t
explain the wide gap between his ERA and his respectable 4.30 xFIP. We
can at least pin much of the blame on misfortune from a 58.4% strand
rate, seventh-worst in the majors.
The Royals youngster doesn’t have a particularly good strikeout-to-walk
rate, but he’s fantastic in keeping the ball on the ground and in the
ballpark. That’s because he’s been doubly cursed with a high BABIP and
a low strand rate. Once those hit balls go for outs more often, and
runners become stranded on base, his ERA will come down. One caveat,
though: Hochevar owes much of his low home run rate to a microscopic
3.3% HR/FB rate, making his 4.49 xFIP not far from his5.03 ERA.
he’s getting unlucky too. The Red Sox ace is whiffing fewer batters and
allowing more walks than in past years. But his hit rate is high and
strand rate is low as well. There’s a lot of reasons why Beckett has a
6.31 ERA. A 61% strand rate just exacerbates the situation.
A pitcher who allows seven home runs in just over 33 innings is asking
for trouble. But six of those home runs have come with the bases empty.
That’s about the only piece of good luck he’s seen. Harang has been
cursed in a number of ways: A higher-than-normal HR-to-fly-ball rate, a
high BABIP, and of course, a low strand rate. There’s good reason to
expect much better from Harang going forward: His ERA to date is 6.68,
vs. a solid xFIP of 3.83.
cut his home runs allowed and is striking out 7.48 batter per 9 IP –
down from last year but still above league average. His two biggest
downfalls are a terrible 5.86/9 IP walk rate and a 50.4% strand rate,
worst in the majors. That strand rate should improve dramatically. But
Paulino also needs to get his control in check to be
worth rostering in mixed leagues.