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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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2nd Basemen ADP: While You Were Sleeping…

He's actually throwing her in front of that train. Real twisted film, that one.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.  Second Base, for a while, was exceedingly top-heavy position to draft.  Then slowly (see what I did there? Those words don’t go together!), the bottom rose up.  There is value to be had at second throughout the draft, so be alert.  You don’t want a bargain to pass you by… while you were sleeping… (boom, nailed it.)

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

2ND BASEMEN

Second Base may not wow you for fantasy purposes.  Sure there is some elite talent in the likes of Cano, Kinsler and Pedroia, but after that you’re worried about Utley’s health, Rickie Week’s health, or, sigh, Dan Uggla.  But have faith, there are a unique combination of rising young talents and forgotten veterans just waiting to contribute to your team.  Admittedly, some of the second basemen lower in drafts do not offer the same impact across the board as, say, Cano, but if you miss out on the top there are a slew of guys who can contribute to a variety of categories for you.  If you’re looking for some pop from your second baseman and are thinking of taking Dan Uggla, wait a tic, there’s value to come (like Danny Espinosa or Jason Kipnis).

Jemile Weeks (OAK)- ADP 150.55

The younger Weeks is sandwiched in-between two other high-value picks, the aforementioned Espinosa (ADP 147) and Kipnis (ADP 165).  I’ll delve into them briefly.  They’re hot sleepers for most prognosticators  and deservedly so.  Espinosa is an awesome snag for 20-20 in 2012 (he came close in 2011), but he still has some holes in his swing and shouldn’t be trusted to hit above .250.  Kipnis, on the other hand, also has solid 15-20 homer potential with less speed but a higher average.

Weeks is a very different type of player.  Sometimes I think my judgement is skewed on the entire Weeks family due to our buddy Tim’s infatuation with both brothers (it’s intense.).  But I’ve seen Jemile with my own two, borderline superhuman, eyes, in addition to sorting through both his minor league and 2011 numbers, and he’s a unique talent for fantasy, especially in leagues where people are reaching for Ackley or are inexplicably drafting Neil Walker (ADP – 141 – I just don’t get it).  He’s a solid hitter and runs extremely well.  He was impressive if unspectacular in 2011, but imagine these hypothetical numbers: 30 doubles, 10 triples, 30 steals and an average around .300.  Add on his solid eye and manageable K rate and you’re looking at a very productive player at a very reasonable price.  If, by some miracle, the Oakland offense outperforms your local little league team, Weeks could also be a real quiet source of runs.  Even if the A’s stink (likely), Weeks’ ‘individual’ stats, so to speak – triples, steals – will be high production at a low slot.  Orlando Hudson was a pretty valuable chip in fantasy for a while back in the day, and Weeks could put up comparable, solid numbers with a lot more speed. Keep an eye on Jemile and for the love of OshKoshBaGosh don’t draft Neil Walker.

Marco Scutaro (COL) – ADP 253.7

I know, I know, he’s listed as a SS all over, but it is both documented and common sense that he’ll slide over to second in Colorado.  Unless you thought he was unseating Tulo after the deal.  Silly Goose.  You may be reading some of the names on these lists thinking, what the hell kind of league is he in to be looking at Marco Scutaro?  It happens, people.  Our Ducks on the Pond League has 16 people in it, and when you get that large, you need to find production at value.  Scutaro is an excellent example.  Sure his numbers with Boston were fairly tame by fantasy standards but this is an issue of both value and situation.  Scutaro won’t win any foot races or batting titles but he hits productively and gets on base.  Given the proper at bats, he has shown excellent doubles power and in a good lineup, always seems to score runs.  He hits line drives and doesn’t strike out often.  And now he’s in Colorado.

The days of guys suddenly adding 25 homers at Coors are gone (Sorry, Vinny Castilla), but that doesn’t change the park dimensions.  With his solid eye and those gaps, it’s not unreasonable to think Scutaro could push 40 doubles if he stays healthy.  He’ll probably hit somewhere around .275 and have an OBP around the .340-.350 range.  And Colorado has a good lineup, one which he figures to be a sparkplug for (hitting second, according to RotoChamp).  I don’t care what a projection says, if that lineup hits and he’s in that spot, he’ll score 85+ runs.  With double digit-ish homers (in the 7-12 range), isn’t he a steal over a guy like Cliff Pennington in a similar rank (ADP 252)?  Isn’t a safer value pick than Allan Craig (ADP 239), a sleeper for many, but who’s a guy that has struggled to find his way into the lineup?  Maybe that was LaRussa’s doing, but for my money, Scutaro is worth taking a look at as your draft winds down.  Or in a larger league, as you scramble in the teens to find a MI.

This last one is going to make you wonder what I’m on but…..

Freddy Sanchez (SF) – ADP doesn’t even really count but: 445.65!!!!!!!!!

Seriously!  Where’s the love!  Sure lately the man has been more delicate than a house of cards but he’s a very good hitter when healthy (‘professional hitter’ is the term many people with real blogs use).  So let us assume he stays healthy enough for 450-500 AB, which isn’t outside the range of projections (except for RotoChamp, those Debbie Downers).  Given that amount of time, he has demonstrated the ability to hit for a good average with a bunch of doubles.  If you can take a guy who could hit .300 with 30 doubles with the last pick of your draft, wouldn’t you?  More importantly, people based on ADP at Mock Draft Central are taking Brett Hayes and Jamey Carroll ahead of Sanchez.  Take the flier to fill that MI position.  Seriously, Jamey Carroll?

Second Base provides more interesting options than I can remember in years past.  Though it might seem like a Giants bias, discussing Aubrey Huff in the 1B ADP post and Sanchez here is more due to my surprise at their ADP’s than any affinity towards San Francisco.  Not everyone winds up with Cano.  In deeper leagues, you often need to backup your backup.  There are sleepers and there are fillers, second base can provide you with both.  There’s a crop of youngn’s in Espinosa, Weeks, and Kipnis who could soon be considered top-tier.  There are also some old stalwarts who are probably worth a flier in the latter rounds.  Sure someone like Scutaro might be boring.  But sometimes boring helps you win.  Otherwise, Placido Polanco would have been out of a job a long time ago.

But if you want some excitement, there’s always Juan Uribe…

this is in the middle of the 4th inning. He got tired after running down a pop-up. Cuz that's how Juan Uribe rolls. Know about it.

-w

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Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe found a wrong way to eat a Reeces.

 

-w

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Juan Uribe

When Juan Uribe gives a bear hug, it is an actual hug to a bear…

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Juan Uribe

… is not allowed in most standard snowball fights. Arm’s too strong, ya know?

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DID YOU KNOW THAT?

-> Aramis Ramirez has the highest Fly Ball percentage in the majors at 56.8%.  Thats a lot of warning track power.

-> Matt Garza leads AL pitchers in fly outs induced, with 224 .  Unsurprising to most, he also has surrendered 21 homers.

-> Derek Jeter and Elvis Andrus both have GB/FB ratios over 3.  That is, for every 1 ball they hit in the air, they hit 3 on the ground.  Both are hitting around .275.  Just sayin,’  get it up.

-> Alex Gonzalez leads all shortstops with a .219 Isolated slugging percentage (SLG-AVG).  Just to point out, Hanley Ramirez plays SS too.  He has a .167 ISO.  Juan Uribe is ahead of him.

-> Lance Berkman walks 16.2% of the time.  At first I was thinking this number and the other leaders was not much.  Then I realized just how high a percentage that is over a 162 game season.  Yikes.

-> Adam Wainwright, spot starter?  He is 6-7 away from Busch and 11-1, yes 11-1,  with excellent peripherals at home.  I’m obviously kidding.  Wainwright still boasts a .215-ish BAA both home and away.

-> Brett Myers has gone 6 IP in every start this year.  Read that again.  I’m not lying.

-> The Angels are batting .297 with runners in scoring position.

-> They are also tied with Toronto for the fewest deals done since 2000 (11).  Guess the farm teaches you how to knock ’em in in LA LA land… (courtesy Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe)

-> Brandon Morrow hasn’t lost in Toronto since April 14th and is 5-0 since the Break.  Watch him next year.

-> Dallas Braden is averaging 7 IP with a .211 BAA since his return from the DL (5-2 record).  When he hits spots, he makes people hit the ball wrong, simple as that.

-> Desmond Jennings has 35 steals and 4 CS in the minors this year.  Are you ready for him next year?  Are you?  You better get ready.

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Still reeling from Dan <bleepin’> Johnson’s homer last night, enjoy the Black Keys

hoochie coo

-w

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