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.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down the moves made at the trade deadline and the implications for your fantasy team.
Reds Trade for Jonathan Broxton
For the Reds, Jonathan Broxton simply provides depth and some closer experience. However, he is destined for a middle relief role with the club in front of Aroldis Chapman. The Royals get two quality arms in return and Greg Holland becomes the closer in Kansas City.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster
With the Angels breathing down their necks, the Rangers had to do something before the trade deadline, especially with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz lost for the season. Ryan Dempster had already been traded to the Braves but he rejected the move last week. He did, however, welcome a trade to the Rangers mere hours before the trade deadline. This is a move that will help Dempster quite a bit when you consider that he has won just five of his 16 starts despite a 2.25 ERA. His ERA is likely to rise in Texas, but I’m sure fantasy managers will welcome it with the additional wins due to the Rangers run support.
Shane Victorino Traded to the Dodgers
One of the better offensive outfielders in baseball, Shane Victorino ends his career with the Phillies now that he has been traded to the Dodgers. He gets plenty of steals, has some pop and reaches base often. However, in Los Angeles, he will likely lose some of that pop, which could keep his average down a tad. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, Victorino owns a .357 average at Dodgers Stadium and will benefit from having Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the lineup.
Hunter Pence Traded to the Giants
This is the big surprise, as Hunter Pence is 29 years old and clearly in his prime. Though Pence has lost some of his speed this season, he does have some pop and is a line drive hitter. A move to the Giants could cost him some home runs, but at least he will play some meaningful baseball this fall. Regardless, overall the move hurts Pence’s fantasy value.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee
For a second straight season, Casey McGehee has struggled at the plate but he is a fine Ty Wigginton type player who can contribute in big moments. What this acquisition does is hurt the fantasy value of Eric Chavez, as three is now a crowd with Jayson Nix also taking some at-bats away while filling in for the injured Alex Rodriguez.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez
The Pirates had nothing to lose and now hope that a change of scenery will do some good for Gaby Sanchez. After two straight seasons with 572 at-bats and 19 home runs, Sanchez struggled mightily this season with just three home runs and a .202 average before being relegated to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and a surprisingly better lineup to resurrect his career.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica
Last year the Cardinals brought in relief help including Octavio Dotel and it worked out well for them. This year, the Cardinals have a bit more work to do but they will not let the bullpen be the team’s unraveling. On Tuesday, the Cards acquired Edward Mujica, a hard-thrower with solid control. He does surrender some home runs but is another quality arm to help bridge the gap to Jason Motte.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider
Another cheap pickup for the Pirates, Travis Snider has some serious potential, but it just did not work out in Toronto. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a fine place for him to establish himself and at 24 years old, he has some time to reach his potential. I see Snider as a potential 30-homer guy with more than 10 steals and a respectable average. He is the big bat that the Pirates would love to team up with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.
Blue Jays Trade Steve Delabar for Eric Thames
A feel good story in Seattle, Steve Delabar went from a coach to a player in a little over a year and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning this season. He provides the Blue Jays with the power arm that they expected to have in the injured Sergio Santos. His value takes a minor decline since he moves from the pitcher’s haven Safeco Field to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Eric Thames makes the reverse move from Toronto to Seattle. There won’t be many complaints from Thames since he will likely get a crack at playing everyday with the Mariners. He has some power but really struggles when it comes to the strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm
A .300 hitter for a second straight year, Reed Johnson is very much a utility player with no fantasy value. On the other hand, Paul Maholm has enjoyed his time in Chicago with a 9-6 record and a solid 3.74 ERA. He has surrendered a run or fewer in each of his last six starts. Maholm also boasts a 1.69 ERA in five career starts at Turner Field. Though the Braves only made this deal since Ryan Dempster rejected the trade to Atlanta, I do think this is a nice fit with Maholm as hot as any pitcher in baseball right now.
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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.
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By Tommy Rancel //
Despite having just over two seasons under his rather large belt, Pablo Sandoval has seen the ups and downs of the major leagues. The Kung-Fu Panda made his debut for San Francisco in 2008, hitting .345/.357/.490 in an abbreviated 41-game rookie season. In his first full season at the big league level, he hit .330/.387/.559 with 25 home runs, 44 doubles, and somehow legged out five triples. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a top-10 finish in the 2009 National League MVP vote – placing seventh. Sandoval entered the 2010 season as a 23-year-old with a career batting average of .333 in over 700 at-bats. Then the season started…
Not only was Sandoval unable to replicate his 2009 success, but he did not even come close. In 152 games, he posted a slash line of .268/.323/.409. His home run total was pretty much cut in half (13), and he drove in just 63 runners compared to the 90 from the previous year. By season’s end, he was replaced by Juan Uribe in the lineup and totaled just 19 plate appearances in the playoffs as the Giants’ marched to a World Series title Such a steep drop-off for a player with Sandoval’s experience immediately brings up the word fluke. However, when looking past his fantasy stats, there are not many signs of fluke.
In terms of plate discipline, he was still a free swinger last season, but did not rack up a ton of strikeouts. He walk rate declined a bit, however, nothing substantial. Overall, he displayed the same patience as he did in 2009. In terms of batted ball data, he hit about the same number of line drives as well as ground and flyballs.
The areas where he experienced steep regression were batting average on balls in play and home run-to-flyball ratio. He was unlikely to be a career .330 hitter anyway so some correction was expected. In terms of the HR/FB issue, he might have regressed a bit too much leaving the potential for positive regression in the future.
With similar peripherals yet differerent results over the past two seasons, what can we expect in 2011? Another near-MVP caliber season or another mostly disappointing and average campaign?
According to Bloomberg Sports’ projections, Sandoval should fall right in between. Our projections peg the Panda with a .293 average and an OPS of .825. In terms of power, the system projects him to once again top the 20 home run plateau with a steady dose of doubles mixed in.
After the season, Sandoval was told to lose weight by Giants’ management or face a demotion to the minors. We don’t know if he is the best shape of his life, but reports say he is in much better condition than he was a few months ago. In addition to working with trainers, he has also picked the mind of Giants’ great Barry Bonds about improving his swing and plate approach.
With the fresh stench of his 2010 lingering on some draft boards, Sandoval may linger around a bit longer than his true value. That said, he becomes a prime target in the mid-rounds as a bounce back sleeper with multi-position flexibility.
By Tommy Rancel //
San Francisco Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean has a type: aging middle infielders. From Omar Vizquel and Ray Durham to Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, Sabean always seems to find a past-his-prime infielder that puts a little twinkle in his eye. His latest move follows that blueprint: the signing 36-year-old Miguel Tejada to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million.
Tejada is familiar with the Bay Area, having spent the first seven years of his career with the Oakland Athletics. Unfortunately, the production he put up as a member of the A’s is just a memory.
In recent seasons, he has transformed from a slugging run-producer to a contact-driven, league-average hitter with a little pop left in the bat. From 1998 to 2006, Tejada averaged 26 home runs and 105 RBI a year. Since then, he’s averaged just 15 home runs and 76 RBI per year.
On the other hand, 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and 80 runs scored would be a pretty solid season, given the weak current group of MLB shortstops. The only two players to top those marks in 2010 were Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki – the two best offensive shortstops in the game.
Also working in Tejada’s favor is durability. He’s averaged 151 games played over the past four years, while averaging more 40 extra-base hits a season. The question for the Giants is, can he handle 140 games at shortstop? But as a fantasy owner, he’s also earned his SS eligibility for 2011.
After the top tier of Ramirez, Tulowitzki, and the second level of Stephen Drew, Starlin Castro, and Jose Reyes, the remaining NL options have as many – if not more – offensive question marks than Tejada in 2011.
If you are unable to land one of the top guys early on draft day, sit back and wait. Odds are the latest Sabean Special will be available later as a potential starter. The risk of Tejada completely deteriorating is real, but the minimal cost in terms of a draft pick with the likelihood of league average production should be worth it in NL-only leagues; his counting stat potential even makes him a decent choice at the end of a mixed-league draft.
by Eno Sarris //
San Francisco Giants’ first-base prospect Brandon Belt is only 22 years old, has only played one season in the minor leagues, is blocked at his major league position by the recently re-signed Aubrey Huff (as R.J. Anderson noted yesterday)… and yet, he may make a fantasy impact in 2011 despite all of these obstacles. He’s jumped many a hurdle already.
In 2006, Belt was drafted in the 11th round by the Red Sox – as a high school pitcher. In 2007, he was drafted in the same round by the Braves – once again, as a pitcher. Then Belt went to the University Texas and struck out eight batters per nine as a reliever, only accruing 17 innings in 2008. After his 2009 season, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Giants.
If you are unfamiliar with his story, this progression might seem strange. The explaining factor is that Belt decided to focus on hitting with the Longhorns, and in that second season at the university, he put up a .323/.416/.523 line (with 40 walks against 37 strikeouts) that caught San Francisco’s eye. They drafted him, corrected his stance by asking him to widen his base and raise his hands, and set him loose on the minor leagues.
In short, he dominated despite lacking much experience as a hitter. In 595 plate appearances across High-, Double- and Triple-A, Belt hit .352/.455/.620 and walked 93 times against 99 strikeouts. That’s a 15.6% walk rate and a 20.1% strikeout rate, both excellent for a power hitter. Even in Triple-A, where he only accrued 61 plate appearances and ‘struggled’ with a .229 batting average, the rest of his triple-slash line looked just fine (.393/.563), and he walked 13 times against 15 strikeouts. He has an excellent idea of what to do at the plate.
The team sent him to the AFL to get more at-bats, and perhaps see if he was ready to play in the major leagues in 2011. Mission accomplished – Belt’s .372/.427/.616 line looked excellent even in the context of the offense-first AFL. This is true of all of Belt’s numbers. Even if you adjust for his slightly offense-friendly leagues, he has been excellent. Considering that his Double-A league, the Eastern League, was considered slightly pitcher-friendly in a recent study, there seems to be little left for Belt to prove in the minor leagues.
The best part about Belt’s work so far is the fact that he’s made these adjustments in his first professional year. That bodes well for future adjustments – both in terms of dealing with major-league pitching, as well as possible short-term positional adjustments. He’s also a very athletic guy with a smooth and easy way about him, as this video taken by Paul Sporer shows.
Of course there are hurdles left for Belt to jump – he has to prove that he’s either capable of playing in the outfield or capable of being so impressive at the plate that Huff should move there in his stead – but Belt has overcome higher obstacles already. He’s a good bet for fantasy relevance at some point in 2011.
For more on Brandon Belt and other young studs, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.
By R.J. Anderson //
The San Francisco Giants secured the services one of their unlikely 2010 heroes today, re-signing Aubrey Huff for two years and $22 million (with a club option for a third year). I took a look at what Huff’s real world value to the Giants meant at FanGraphs, so in the interest of new material, let’s focus on solely his fantasy value.
Over the last three seasons, Huff has teetered between good and bad offensive player to the extremes of which are nothing shy of a rarity. With the Orioles in 2008, he hit .304 with 32 home runs and 108 runs batted in. That kind of production made his 2009 season even more of an unexpected disaster, as he managed a .241/.310/.384 line with just 15 home runs while splitting time with the Orioles and Tigers. Nobody knew what to expect from Huff entering 2010, and as a result, the Giants were able to secure him at a relatively low cost. He made them quite the return on investment, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs in a pitcher’s paradise.
Taking an average of those three seasons nets you a .280 batting average with 24 home runs and 93 runs batted in. Take into consideration Huff’s age (he turns 34 turns before Christmas) along with the ballpark, and Huff is unlikely to replicate those numbers. That means a safer expectation for next season is a slight decline in each category; i.e. a .270 average instead of .280, 20 home runs instead of 24, and 80-to-85 runs batted in instead of 90-plus. That means he still holds fantasy value, especially if eligible at multiple positions.
The one consequence this re-signing holds for the Giants is that top prospect Brandon Belt is blocked for the foreseeable future. Eno Sarris will have more on what that means for Belt’s value later this week.
by Eno Sarris //
Back in July, we took a look at Madison Bumgarner and found some reasons to be suspicious of his early success. As a short recap, here are those reasons in helpful bullet form.
- His velocity was down from the mid-nineties to barely cracking 90 MPH.
- His strikeout rate was below-average (6.75 K/9, average was 7.13 K/9 this year).
- He was getting lucky, with a .266 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and an 82.7% strand rate (numbers that trend to .300 and 70% across baseball).
All of these shortcomings were notable at the time, given his history and velocity. But now we are looking at Madison Bumgarner, World Series Beast. Perhaps it’s time to revisit our initial findings on Bumgarner and see if he should get a revised rating.
First, his velocity. Bumgarner throws across his body, and he’s not a very thick guy, so there were reasons to be worried about a drop in velocity. Sometimes it’s a harbinger of injury. But then Bumgarner went out and improved that velocity all year – it’s now steady at 91 MPH, touching the mid-90s some games. If you look at his fastball velocity chart below, you see there might still be some issues (the bars represent full velocity range for each game), but it also shows that he found some oomph.
Bumgarner rode that improved velocity to an improved strikeout rate, ending the year at 6.97 K/9. Perhaps we focused too heavily on his strikeout rate, however. His walk rate is so low (2.11 BB/9 in 2010, 2.16 career) that his K/BB is well above average. Had he qualified for the ERA title, his 3.31 K/BB would have ranked 15th in baseball – tied with a pretty decent pitcher named Felix Hernandez.
Largely because of this ability to limit walks, Bumgarner’s work stood up even when his luck regressed to the mean. He ended the year with a .322 BABIP, so many more hits fell, and yet he finished the year with an even 3.00 ERA. His strand rate remained high (81.7%), but his FIP (a number on the ERA scale that strips out batted-ball luck and other factors largely beyond a pitcher’s control) was still strong at 3.66.
Upside remains. Bumgarner once struck out double-digit batters per nine innings in the minor leagues, and obviously his postseason performance has shown that he has the ability to punch batters out. Because he can limit walks, it looks like the worst-case scenario has shifted in his favor. Without reaching his upside fully and pushing the strikeout rate further, he may not be the ace that was hoped for him, but we can now be more positive about his future.
For more on Madison Bumgarner and other young pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.