Tag Archives: Bill james

Fantasy Mustache: Shortstop

Loyalty, Above All Else: Sean Rodriguez

I cannot tell you exactly why there are so many articles and mentions of Sean Rodriguez on this silly little site.  I think some time after he broke into the league my buddy Dave and I decided he was primed to break out, given our expert opinions.  He plays multiple positions, a favorite fantasy attribute of mine, and fit the ‘Swiss Army’ profile both Dave and I enjoy so thoroughly it inspired a series of posts.  Rodriguez did not break out.  What he did was become a useful glue player, playing solid defense at 2B, SS and 3B capable of hitting an occasional XBH and stealing a few bases.  He does nothing. spectacular, despite the wishes of many here at DotP.

Bill James is so un-enthused with Rodriguez’s mediocrity that he has chopped the guy’s plate appearances to a mere 256 in 2013:

14 2B / 1 3B / 8 HR / 37 R / 32 RBI / 6 SB / .246 AVG / .328 OBP / .730 OPS

According to James, Sean Rodriguez is on a hill, and he will continue to tumble down.  These projections are one big MEH-fest.  I refuse to hear that.  Not our guy.  Not Sean Rodriguez.  The Rays are a likable team and Rodriguez is a likable guy.  And that’s the problem, clearly.  Studies have shown that nice guys, in fact, finish last (Dr. B. Armstrong et al).  Or at the very least don’t bring home that World Series Trophy.  To save his career, Rodriguez must top being nice and start getting…. evil.  Or real, I guess.  Point being, the man’s getting a villain-esque makeover

evilseanrodriguez

Evil Sean Rodriguez: Part Terminator, part Captain Hook, ALL hitting machine.  This is no mere mustache awakening, this is a hostile position takeover.  Note the glare.  The sinister eyebrows.  The dastardly twirl of his facial hairs.  This is a man fed up with being told by Bill James he will be below average.  This is a man who is going to make sure Elliot Johnson doesn’t take another ground ball at SS.  Evil Sean Rodriguez will seize the position.  He will bat 568 times.  He will prove his doubters wrong.  Haters will perish under his lazereyed gaze.  Observe the Mustache-bot 2000’s calculations:

37 2B / 9 3B / 19 HR / 73 R / 81 RBI / 33 SB / .301 AVG / .398 OBP / .963 OPS

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to create a new Sean Rodriguez.  Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.  MANIACAL LAUGH…. MANIACAL LAUGH… MANIACAL LAUGH!

But seriously, Sean Rodriguez.  Grow a mustache.  Play better.  Or I’m going to have to stop writing about you.

Stay groomed,

-V

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Filed under Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, shortstop, Sleepers

Can’t Be Worse in 2013… Right?

This picture made me very happy but has little to do with the article. Fair warning.

This time of year presents some of my favorite baseball writing. Beat writers struggling to make PFP drills and AAAA scrimmages as exciting as the real thing, often with weird and hilarious results. Authors rating the “best” offseason, analyzing rookies and naming sleepers. These are all fun, but one of my favorite types of articles is the “bounceback” story. Call me a sucker for redemption.

I read dozens of these every spring, yet it has only now occurred to me the amusing subtext in many of these pieces. Sugarcoat it all you want, throw in fancy words and compliments both back and front-handed, many baseball “bounceback” stories boil down to a most basic human sense of dread – it can’t get much worse.

So without dancing around the issue, here are the guys who can’t get much worse in 2013. Seriously.  If they did it might break math or something:

Michael Young

static lip reading: “shooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot”

Maybe Michael Young got old (let’s be clear: he’s 36, so in real-people years his life is just kicking into full-on grown up gear – but in baseball years…).  I doubt that has to do with his crappy 2012.  If indeed he did get old…. damn did it happen fast.  Bizarrely so.  No, I imagine such suckitude was an anomaly.  Young has long been compared to Paul Molitor (or at least I always have), another guy who played wherever he was asked to, DH’ed a bit, and always went bout his business – the business of hitting.  Young had 9 straight years of 170+ hits, and that is with a 2009 season cut short with a hammy injury.  He had been a model of consistency.  So just how bad was he?  Let’s look at some numbers!  Hooray numbers!

Young had a negative WAR, -1.4.  You need to know very little about numbers and even less about WAR to know that a negative stat is probably bad.  In this case, that number signifies that a replacement player would have been a BETTER OPTION THAN MIKE YOUNG.  Yikes (For those of you unfamiliar with this and any following statistics, I refer you here, to Fangraphs’ Glossary, where much smarter people have explained them in much more intelligent ways).

Wanna know who had a better WAR than Young, just for kicks? Carlos Pena did, and he hit below .200.  Jemile Weeks did, and his WAR was zero – they could’ve put any schmo in the minors in his spot, right statistics?  Both Juan Uribe AND Juan Pierre had a better WAR’s and they’re, well, Juan Pierre and Juan Uribe.

WAR is not the be all, end all – just ask Mike Trout – but it is a useful measure in comparing players against the league norms.  Maybe you don’t like WAR.  Maybe you like ‘old school’ ideas and stats.  Sabermetricians and old fogie scouts can all agree that a great measure of a player (given enough At Bats or sample size, depending on your era) is OBP.  If a guy gets on base, whether you see it in numbers on paper or with yuor own fading eyesight, he’s generally a useful player, as Mike Young had once been.  In 2012, Young had an OBP of .312.  Which is gross. Howie Kendrick was 20 points better, and he swings at everything (154 BB career).  Hunter Pence’s OBP was higher and if he doesn’t swing 48% of the time the bomb in his bat detonates (Hunter Pence is a big, big Keanu Reeves fan).

Toss aside numbers for a moment, though.  If you had the misfortune of rooting for Mr. Young last year, whether it be for your fantasy team (me) or your real team (Rangers) or both (sorry, friends), you could see he looked plain bad.  Some skills fade with age, sure.  Young won’t be stealing double digit bases again.  But his hand eye and batting eye have simply not fallen off the map.  With an ADP well over 200 (230 at the time of this article), I assure you Young is worth taking a flyer on in Fantasy Baseball.  As for the real thing?  The Phillies also took a flyer, betting that Young will hit until he quits ( Molitor had 225 hits when he was 39 years old).  After all, it can’t get much worse.

Thanks, Vin! You’re welcome, Mike.

Eric Hosmer

shucks.

Pairing Hosmer and Young together in this list seemed… poetic.  Young is riding out his last few years in the league, striving to be productive.  Hosmer is the cornerstone of what is a recurrently ‘up-and-coming’ franchise.  We all assume he is really, really good.  He demolished each minor league level, then stepped up into the bigs and had a damn fine rookie year.  Dare I say sophomore slump?  Sophomore slump.  Yes, I dared, it’s right there in the previous sentence.  I even remembered that stupid ‘O’ in ‘sophomore.’  Pay attention.

As good as Hosmer’s 2011 was, so too was his 2012 not (good, that is).  Sentence structure aside, many were left disappointed by the young slugger’s campaign.  He declined in every important offensive category, save for steals.  So at least he was trying.  When you dive into the numbers, his season is just plain yucky.  

Here’s another fun statistical measure: wRC+ (ahem, Fangraphs).  Here’s what you need to know about Weighted Runs Created (wRC):  it’s an improved version of Bill James’ Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.  Cool right?  That James guy is a superweirdo, but he’s wicked smaht.  The stat itself makes sense in a very basic way, right?  Well Hosmer sucked at it.  Technically, he was ‘above average’ with his wRC+ of 81 (80 is above average, in general), but when looked at a comparative, larger context, we see the idea of ‘above average,’ measured statistically or not, is subjective.  Here are four players (minimum 400 PA, which Hosmer had easily) with better wRC+ than Hosmer.  Tell me if any of them are guys you MUST have on a team in a non-ironic way:

Andres Torres (87) // Omar Infante (92) // Rajai Davis (86) // Justin Smoak (85)

None of these guys are genuinely BAD players, but Hosmer is a Franchise player and once played like one.  Skate Play better, man.  Not to pick on Carlos Pena, but damn, Hosmer, even HE had better value metrics.  Speaking of sexy new player-value statistics, Hosmer also clocked in under zero at a robust -1.1 WAR  (RAR, Runs Above Replacement, is not only hilarious thing cats say, but also a negative measure of Hosmer badness (-10.4)).

Tired of these WAR’s and LOL-ing and RAWR’s and tweetsnapping?  Forget the new statistical measures, his basic numbers stunk too, from BA to RBI.  Check his splits.  He stunk prior to the AS break.  He stunk after.  He had a decent month of August… and that’s about it.  LHP/RHP splits – both bad.  I could go on.  He stunk.  On top of all that, anecdotally, you will not find a person who said he looked good last year not named Hosmer (and his Mom even admitted he ‘probably could have been better against off speed pitches’).  The best news?  You can draft him in fantasy at a bargain price.  The further good news?  Sophomore slumps only apply to Sophomores and Freshmen who decide to go to private school and get held back a  year so they can still somehow be ‘Freshmen.’  Also?  He can’t get much worse.

right back at you, dawg

Honorable Mention: Carlos Pena, who might actually get worse than his sub-.200 batting average.  Sorry Carlos.

he seems okay with it.

Ricky (retch noise) Romero

(sobbing)

Where to start with Ricky?  As someone who is unfortunately a Red Sox fan, I witnessed the abomination that was 2012 Ricky Romero several times closely.  As someone who drafted him in fantasy baseball 2012, I said horrible, horrible things about Romero regularly.  He made the 2012 Valensox look like sluggers and in several games I streamed on MLB.tv looked like he was throwing a damaged wiffle ball, having no idea where his (hopefully) better thought out pitches were going to end up.  I know, I know – cool story, bro.

More numbers?  More numbers.

FIP/xFIP or (Expected) Fielding Independent Pitching are really cool measures, far more relevant as they attempt to look deeper and normalize (in statistical, not Stepford, terminology) the crude measure of ERA and how good/bad a pitcher was.    As a general (ahem, Fangraphs) rule, an FIP/xFIP of 4 is average and an FIP/xFIP of 5 is AWFUL (Their word).  Romero’s line?  FIP: 5.14   xFIP: 4.86

Whether you want an expected or calculated measure (a difference of how HR rates are calculated), Romero was about as bad as it gets.  To pile on the crappy numbers, his K rate, usually a high point, fell to just over 6 (mediocre).  His BB/9 inning rate was an absurd 5.22.  His swinging strike rate dropped a full percentage point – it’s easy not to swing and miss when the guy has to groove it over the plate in desperate need of a pitch in the strike zone.  The best thing you can say about his 0.5 WAR season? He pitched.  In an injury plagued year for Toronto pitchers, Romero started 32 games.  So… good job, good effort.  He didn’t even have a better year than the internet’s favorite SP (starting punching-bag), Bruce Chen (more wins, higher K/9, 1.4 WAR on and on…).  The good news for Toronto?  They made a few move this offseason, I think.  As for Romero?  It cannot get much worse.

it’s good to have hobbies.

Ervin Santana

keep askin’

You may be saying, “gosh, Romero was bad, but is there a guy who threw a random 1-hitter in June yet somehow managed even worse numbers?”  IF you are saying that, I’m guessing you were an Ervin Santana owner in 2012.  He gave up 39 homers.  Honestly, I thought about ending the paragraph right there.  That’s really bad.  I’ll add a few more.  He had a -0.9 WAR, a 5.63 FIP (jeebus christ!), and had a HR/Fly Ball rate of 18.9%, which is simply bananas.  I will not pile on Santana, as his issue was more inconsistency (numbers were FAR better second half of the year).  However, his numbers were not good, and given his up and down nature, I assure you – it can’t get much worse actually, he might get worse. Heads up.

Honorable Mentions/Tie: Heath Bell / John Axford / Alfredo Aceves

An he held his arm there for 4 days, but no one would give him that pound

Aceves blew at least 8 games in spectacular fashion for a 2012 team that captured awfulness in spectacular fashion.  He was inconsistent on the field, unhappy off the field and was (well, is, I guess) a weirdo overall.  Just when you though it was safe to own him in fantasy baseball or root for him in real baseball, he would walk 4 guys in an inning and look wholly uninterested.  He had an unseemly 5.36 ERA but that was helped by a few decent spurts.  Even when he was pitching “well,” he would walk a batter for every strikeout.  The numbers fib, in this case.  As someone who watched more of the turd stain that was the Boston Red Sox 2012 season, I can attest to the fact that Aceves, save for perhaps one 15 day stretch in the spring, was a bad guy to have on any team, in any sense.  Plus, his disgusting sweatiness made me uncomfortable watching games and must be very difficult on the hardworking laundry staff at Yawkey Way.

His FIP was a poor 4.33.  He pitched worse as the god-awful season went on.  He blew saves and holds. He had a BB/9 inning of 3.33.  But most important of all, when he came into a game, there was an audible groan in the Northeast.  This guy made an awful season worse.

Axford blew 9 saves and forced the Brew Crew to realign their bullpen.  Bell blew 8 saves and was the first domino to fall (2nd game of the year) in a disastrous Marlins season.  Bell looked old and lost, regaining and losing his job and looking like a man who lost his mojo.  Axford, on the other hand had enough sense to regain his gnarly facial construction when chopping it off caused catastrophe.  I include Axford because he led the league in blown saves and did so in a short period of time in mesmerizing fashion (his June-beginning of August was BRUTAL).  For Axford, it can’t get much worse.  As for Bell and Aceves… Relievers are notoriously up-and-down, so one would assume they’ve already bottomed out.  I’ll say it – they can’t get much worse, either.

distracting.

There you have it, the players who scraped the bottom of the barrel in 2012.  Here’s to new beginnings and sneaky ADP’s going forward.

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Filed under Baseball, Closers, Fantasy Baseball, first base, GOOSE, JUAN URIBE, MLB, Pickups, pitchers, Posted, Sleepers

Fantasy Mustache: Second Base

despite this indication, things are not thumbs-in-an-upward-direction for Mr. Beckham. Cool hat, though.

Gordon Beckham needs help.  Tearing through the minors at an absurd pace (259 plate appearances.  That’s no typo, I triple checked), Gordon showed immense promise with a very solid rookie year in 2009.  Hopes were once high, now most fantasy owners would accept a leap to mediocrity.  The last two years, Beckham scraped by with WARs of 1.0 and 0.8, respectively (yuck).  Jamey Carroll tripled that, to put things in context.

Beckham could use any and all help, just look at Bill James’ projected numbers for the young second baseman.

31 2B / 67 R / 15 HR / 62 RBI / .246 AVG / .314 OBP / .712 OPS

Beckham needs to rejuvenate his still young career.  Perhaps his lack of minor league experience has resulted in a fundamental lack of knowledge on some of the deeper hoodoo rituals  (reference, here) and good luck tricks.  I am sure he has studied hours of video, tinkered with his swing, called his high school coach, tried a different pre-game meal etc.  But those are small scale.  Beckham needs a supernatural performance overhaul.  He needs, if you will, a mystical makeover.  He needs a mustache.

image

wow. that’s a fuzzy mouth doormat.

 

SO HE GETS A MUSTACHE.

Look at that thing.  Really look at it.  That is a power mustache.  Look at that face.  The intensity of that gaze is now matched by the intensity of that pushbroom under his nose.

Gone is the meandering young man with the sub-1 WAR.  Enter the Beckham Wrecker, a true force on the field.  With perfect hair atop his head and billowing from his nostrils, he is ready to blossom into the player we once believed in.  Wielding his bats like a Bunyanian axe, a Beckham mustache season will be one to remember.  Here’s the readout from the Mustache Season Processing Unit:

40 2B / 88 R / 22 HR / 99 RBI / .297 AVG / .385 OBP / .820 OPS

Observe.  A mustache really brings up Gordon’s lagging stats.  No longer a free-swinging hooligan, Beckham has refined his approach and game as he has refined his facial hair.  This type of mustache growth demonstrates a commitment.  These follicles need time and care.  The patience and dedication to his upper lip will spill over to his craft and Beckham will no doubt stop being terrible.  This is more than science, people.  This delves into something deeper.  Something spiritual.  A mustache is more than a growth.  It is a statement of faith in yourself, which Beckham clearly needs.

 

And if the mustache doesn’t work, Gordon can always call upon Jobu:

Stay groomed, ‘readers’

 

 

-V

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2011 Favorites: Outfielders

The outfield is a wonderful place.  Playing center most of my <ahem> illustrious career, I have an appreciation to the boredom coupled with rapid excitement that comes from playing in the space past the infield diamond.  But before I start digressing about outfield arms and covering ground, let’s talk fantasy.  No one cares about outfield defense in fantasy, we want power.  Or speed.  Or power AND speed.  The fantasy outfield landscape is vast and varied.  So let’s jump on in…

 

YOUNG STUDS

 

Mike Stanton

Mike Stanton can MASH.  That’s actually the scientific term used by physicists when describing his swing.  He hit a homer every 18 times he stepped up to the plate and had a stellar .248 ISO.  He hit 21 homers in AA then then jumped and hit 22 more in the majors.  The kid’s got serious power.  CAIRO, for some reason, has him down for abbreviated AB and only 21 homers.  This is still a good ratio considering they have him down for only 418 AB.  Slightly more realistically, RotoChamp has him hitting 34 in 562 AB and GUESS WHAT?  The usually stingy Bill James has Stanton hitting a whoppin’ 38 homers in 2011 (and an improved ISO of .288).  Sure, he’s going to strike out a ton but how many young studs are out there?  Actually quite a few, but not many who are very very likely to hit 35+ homers and doubles and knock in near 100 runs.  He’s not going to hit .300 next year, but with 40 bombs and 100 RBI, you better be able to stomach a .270 average.  Stanton is a stud, and is here to stay.  Get him.

very artsy shot here

Desmond Jennings

Jennings is one of the many young players I could have thrown into this space.  However, he distinguishes himself in one of my favorite areas: speed.  While there are questions about his power developing immediately, his speed is the real deal.  Call him Crawford 2.0.  He tore up the bases in the minors, stealing 45, 37 twice and 32 in rookie ball.  No one seems to think that will change in the majors.  CAIRO and RotoChamp seem to fear that he will lose AB’s to Damon and Manny, keeping him under 400 AB, yet both have him stealing 20+ bases.  Now it gets interesting.  Bill James, notorious for conservatism about rookies has him down for FIFTY-FOUR STEALS!  That’s instant stud-dom!  Jennings has always had a pretty good eye, but you gotta figure that, as a rookie, it is unreasonable to expect a .300 average.  Look for .275 and be thrilled when he does better.  As I said, his power is still (allegedly) developing, so don’t expect more than 10 homers.  But 10 homers, 20+ doubles, 5 triples and FIFTY-FOUR STEALS sounds like a pretty good ‘low’ expectation to me.  Jennings has enormous (read: the next Crawford) ceiling, but temper your expectations- he is a rookie, after all.

Domonic Brown

Great name, right?  And we all know that’s the first step towards stardom.  And the general consensus is just that – Browns headed to stardom.  He looks like a player, standing (or towering) at a lanky 6’5” 200, he projects to hit for nice power but is also fleet of foot.  He’s the whole package, basically.  Now in my thinking about his 2011 season, I figured a safe starting bet was numbers similar to Jason Heyward’s 2010 campaign… good, very good even, but really just a teaser for the NEXT season.  Again, I’m no expert, but this seemed reasonable.  So imagine my surprise when I got to Domonic Brown’s Fangraphs page and saw Bill James’ projections.  Apparently he likes the kid – 26 homers, 33 doubles, 4 triples, 94 RBI, 84 runs (breath), a .288 AVG AND 28 steals?!?  Bill James gone wild!  Ew.  Gross.  Seriously, though, is that a projection or what?  Even if he doesn’t reach James’ lofty projections – and I expect he will not – somewhere between the low end (my theory) and the astronomical (James’) is a happy medium.  20+ homers and 20+ steals is ownable right there, throw in some other stats and it’s all gravy, baby.  Tasty, tasty gravy.

 

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DON’T FORGET ABOUT THESE GUYS

Shane Victorino

I should admit that I’ve always been partial to the Flyin’ Hawaiian.  I admire the speed in which he plays the game and the hustle he shows.  That said, he was a major disappointment last year… or was he?  Yes, his average slipped all the way down to .259 but the dude still swiped 34 bags and hit 18 homers!   He is more than capable of producing a 15 homer, 35 steal, 100 run, 10+ triple season, making him at the very least interesting.  But what do I know?  Let’s see what the projectors say… just as I thought.  CAIRO, RotoChamp, and Bill James all have similar numbers: .280 average, 90-100 runs, 15-ish homers, 30-ish steals… and that wonderful threat of the triple.  I’m not saying go out and reach for Victorino in drafts – quite the opposite.  I’m suggesting that when he drops (and he WILL drop), be mindful of letting him by in the later rounds.

Grady Sizemore

How’re you gonna forget a face like that?

Easily, actually.  Sizemore is a serious red-flag injury risk at this point.  But for the bold, all signs seem go.  Bill James seems to think he can play 150+ games but RotoChamp and CAIRO have him at limited (mid 400’s) at bats.  It’s really a matter of how much faith you have in his health.  I happen to think he’ll break down again, others are very optimistic.  James has him for 23 homers, 105 runs, 81 RBI, and 23 steals in roughly a full season, hitting .265.  Given a full year, this seems about right to me.  There comes a time in every draft you take a player you’re scared of, and I’ll say that when you get to it, you might as well take a flier on a healthy Grady Sizemore.  You remember healthy Grady Sizemore… right?  He was a fantasy dreamboat.  Good luck if you snag him, and I hope he does well – he seems like a good dude.

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THE INCEPTION PLAY(s)

Matt Joyce

Do you know Matt Joyce’s ISO off the top of your head?  That’d be incredible, rain man, but let me just tell you – it was .227.  He hit 10 homers and 15 doubles (3 triples too, woot.) in just 261 plate appearances.  That’s good for an extra base hit every 9.32 AB, a delightfully high rate for a guy who just needs a chance to play.  Joyce has real pop – it’s just a matter of whether the Rays will let him use it.  He figures to split time on the corners, so I’d hope for 500 AB and be happy with 400.  Why?  Well, let’s once again go to the projectors:  RotoChamp has him at 21 homers in 444 at bats, an amazing amount and Bill James thinks 18 in 388 AB (with 28 doubles to boot).  Point is, his power projects.  Now if only it would come out on a regular basis… put him on your watch list or stash him while you monitor his playing time.

Travis Snider

So, first off, yes I’m including him because I want him to follow us on twitter (@duckfromthepond).  But more than that, this is the year for Snider, who is only 21 (actually his birthday is coming up so 22), to make a big step in his progression.  With an improved batting eye, Snider could be a late-round power bargain.  He put up two very promising months, May and September, which are hopefully indicators of what might be.  Now the 24:2 K:BB ratio isn’t going to cut it, but that’s easily improved marginally.  What sticks out in those months are his 6 homers in September and .543 SLG.  Bill James doesn’t seem to think he will get regular PT, so I’m ignoring his projections (16 homers in 311 AB).  CAIRO and RotoChamp, however, have him at 19 homers in 466 AB and 23 homers in 521 AB, respectively.  These numbers are a better base if you look back at Snider’s power potential from the minors.  Plus, the dude just looks like he can swing the lumber (link evidence of a BOMB).  Snider is a great guy to take a flier on this year at the end of a draft, as, once again, he’s only 21.  He’s improving every year and could pop off at any time.  He was a major prospect who has since cooled in the majors so grab him before he heats up again.  And see if he’ll follow us on twitter, damnit.

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There we go, the outfielders to keep an eye on this year in drafts.  With the exception of Sizemore, I would readily own them all (and I’d take Grady, just knowing that the injury bug could burn me).  Outfield is a funny position in fantasy, as you can play it fast and loose with guys like Juan Pierre and Raja Davis, you can go for boppers like Snider, or you can play it safe with guys who emerge like Pagan or Torres.  Only the season will tell, and it is fast approaching!  Two weeks til Spring Training starts, so get ready.  DotP is taking off so be prepared – fantasy baseball excellence is at the tip of your finger.

Later, ducks, and happy drafting.

-w

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Filed under Fantasy Baseball, MLB, offseason, Opinion, outfield, Pickups, Posted, Sleepers