Archive for May, 2008

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One of my favorite strategies in deep leagues is to run the best four starters I can get out there every game, and fill in the rest with high-K middle relievers. I’d rather have a guy who gives me killer ratios for 75 innings than a mediocre starter who gives me 200 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. You’ll usually win the ratio categories with this strategy, and if you’re far enough ahead in those, you can always pick up the occasional spot starter if you need a W or some Ks.

Dominant middle relievers can be had on the wire every year if you know what to look for. Last year Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Rafael Betancourt could be picked up for free in nearly every league, and were three of the better fantasy pitchers in the game. Yahoo ranked Betancourt as the 19th(!) most valuable pitcher in ‘07, Bell the 24th, and Marmol the 39th. I grabbed both Betancourt and Marmol off the wire during the season in 20-team dynasty leagues. I missed my chance on Bell. With relievers, the stats to look at are BB:K (command), K/9 (dominance), and possibly GB% (HR prevention). ERA and hits allowed are too volatile in the small amount of innings a reliever pitches to pay too much attention to. BIP numbers, (like GB%, FB%, LD%) are pretty worthless until there’s a decent sample to look at as well.

Everyone’s seen the starts by guys like Joey Devine, Santiago Casilla, and Hong-Chih Kuo in our leagues this season, so let’s look at four guys you should still be able to find on your waiver wire:

Jared BurtonJared Burton: Burton made a bit of a splash last year with a BABIP-assisted 2.51 ERA in 43 IP, most after the All-Star break. This year, he’s doing it for real, with drastically improved control and K-rate. Last year Reds manager Pete Mackanin wanted to give Burton an audition at closer when David Weathers needed a rest, but who knows what the situation is now with Dusty and Frankie Cordero in the mix.
2008 Stats: 27.2IP 30H 10ER 8BB 29K (more…)

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After last nights game, the Detroit Tigers sent matt Joyce down to Triple-A Toledo and recalled outfielder Clete Thomas. This means two things for the Tigers outfield immediately.

  1. Curtis Granderson will play against left-handers.
  2. Marcus Thames will become a full time player.

Granderson is already owned in just about every fantasy baseball league imaginable, but this news may be a double edged sword for Granderson owners. Sure, he’s going to get more at-bats, but these extra chances will be against left handed pitchers who Granderson has floundered  against  hitting only  .222/.222/.222 in nine at-bats.  If Granderson doesn’t learn to hit lefties, this move could drag his average down and hurt the fantasy GM just as much as his extra at-bats potential helps.

Thames is in the same lefty/right split boat as Granderson, just on the other side of the boat. Thames hits lefties really well going .308/.379/.923 against southpaws and only .233/.283/.256 against right handed pitchers. Thames did react well, last night, to the news of his promotion. He belted two home runs and batted third in the lineup. The home runs were off of a left handed pitcher, so only time will tell if extra at-bats will help Thames’ fantasy value or not. But, he’s most likely unowned in most mixed leagues, so keep an eye on him.

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For my first post here at Crooked PItch, I’m going to a column that was a staple during my time at Warning Track Power. Pitchers that can keep the ball on the ground as well as pile up strikeouts are those with the best chance for consistent success, in my opinion, so finding the guys that do both things well is a great way to find possible values in fantasy leagues.

In 2007 the starters that kept a GB% above 45% and a K/G (a better K/9) above 6.8 were Derek Lowe, Brandon Webb, Felix Hernandez, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Roy Oswalt, Daniel Cabrera, Jeremy Bonderman, Erik Bedard, Josh Beckett, Carlos Zambrano, Ian Snell, Boof Bonser, and CC Sabathia. That list in ‘06 consisted of names like Webb, Felix, Carpenter, Pettitte, Bedard, Oswalt, Bonderman, Zambrano, Bush, Smoltz, Myers, Haren, and Beckett. On its own, neither stat does a very good job weeding out poor starting pitchers. Combine the two, and you’ve got a list full of fantasy aces.

So, how does this information help us as fantasy owners? Well, if you used this criteria to evaluate starting pitchers last year, you would’ve been able to buy low on McGowan, who I highlighted in June when his ERA was in the high 5’s. Let’s take a look around the league using this criteria to see who might be the next high-GB%/high-K sleeper to make a leap this year.

Pitcher GB% K/G ERA
Brandon Webb 63.0 8.1 3.01
Roy Halladay 59.7 7.6 3.11
Ubaldo Jimenez 57.3 6.9 6.14
Edinson Volquez 54.3 11.5 1.31
Andy Pettitte 53.8 7.0 4.27
Ryan Dempster 52.8 7.6 2.56
Jair Jurrjens 50.2 6.8 2.86
John Danks 50.0 6.8 3.00
Felix Hernandez 49.1 7.3 3.60
A.J. Burnett 48.3 8.1 4.57
Shaun Marcum 47.4 8.7 2.64
Dana Eveland 47.2 6.8 2.90
Dustin McGowan 46.9 6.8 3.90
Jake Peavy 46.7 9.9 2.91
Chad Billingsley 46.4 10.2 3.99
Carlos Zambrano 45.9 6.9 2.47
Cliff Lee 45.9 8.4 1.50
Brett Myers 45.5 6.8 5.79
Dan Haren 45.3 8.3 3.75
Tim Lincecum 45.1 10.2 2.33
Johan Santana 45.0 8.2 3.41

Almost two months in, and it’s still a pretty long list. Control is mostly what separates the studs from the so-so on this list, but it’s pretty interesting that the only guys without a FIP ERA under 4.00 are Brett Myers and Johan Santana, two guys who have had terrible luck with HR/F (21.1% and 18.5%, respectively), something FIP doesn’t account for.

There aren’t a lot of unknowns on the list right now, but I bolded the guys I found most interesting, especially in deep leagues. Jimenez is a Daniel Cabrera clone, and like Cabrera has ace potential if he can cut the walks down. That’s the type of guy who can pay off big in a dynasty league. Jurrjens and Eveland are showing that their early success isn’t a fluke, though I think both are guys with high 3’s ERAs in their futures. That said, neither is likely to be a value at this point. Dempster and Marcum are showing pretty strong profiles as unestablished starters, and I’d suggest going aggressively after Marcum with his peripherals.

Danks is the guy I find most interesting here, as he’s gone from a flyball pitcher to a fairly extreme groundballer, and has maintained it to the point where it looks like a new skill. In that home park, it’s the best change he could have made. I’d be interested in seeing whether he started throwing a new pitch, or is making an effort to keep the ball down. In any case, if he maintains that 50% GB%, he’s a top 50 pitcher. That plus a tick up in strikeout rate (not unlikely with his stuff and pedrigree) could make him a fantasy stud.

Also: Volquez is amazing, it’s a good time to buy on Brett Myers, and Billingsley’s not all that different from The Jessica Alba of Fantasy, Tim Lincecum. Mmmmmm, that’s some good post-hype sleeper.

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Here is a review of this weeks best pickups as reviewed on Daily Roto Pickups. I will try to supply one from each of the following positions at my weekly review here on Crooked Pitch (C, CI, MI, OF, SP and RP). I will include their current availability that may have changed since my initial review. The reviews are how I view the player today.

C: Miguel Olivo- He is currently on a nice run and getting extra AB’s. He won’t be able to keep the spot all year unless the Royals decided to give up on John Buck this year. None of his numbers or past performance shows he can keep this up, but if he can earn the full time job he is worth owning as a #2 catcher in mixed leagues.

He is currently owned in 15% of leagues.

CI: Adam LaRoche - The annual slow start is turning around and he still is available in half of leagues so if you have struggles at 1B or CI he is ready to be owned. He is batting around .286 in May and should be around that for the rest of the year. He should also have 25 homeruns, but playing in Pittsburgh will limit the RBI chances.

He is only owned in 50% of CBS leagues.

MI: Mark Ellis - Take a look at Ellis as he has now added steals this year and is going largely on the waiver due to his average. He has pop and enough steals to make him a good 2B or MI. He has a good K rate though and his BABIP is .252 which is low enough to expect a rise in his average.

He is only owned in 42% of CBS leagues.

OF: Jack Cust - In my league he holds great value due to his ability to get on base since we use OBP instead of average. In regular leagues he is limited by his average and needs a Ichiro type average to even him out. His power is undeniable though so he should be rostered if you need HR’s or RBI’s.

He is only owned in 39% of CBS leagues.

SP: Ubaldo Jimenez - Another early season struggle by a young player. Some of his stats show he should be better than this and has had some bad luck so far. As long as they keep him out there he should pitch more like this last game against San Fran. The last number of concern is his high BB/9 which if he can improve he will be pitching like he did late last year.

He is owned in 39% of leagues.

RP: Eddie Guardado - Everyday Eddie he is not anymore, but he still has that mindset. If CJ Wilson has a few more poor outings we could see Eddie real soon. As long as they are in the playoff race they will be much more likely to go to Eddie. If they fall to far behind they will probably stick with Wilson or try some younger options like Frank Francisco

They are only owned in 9% as of this morning on CBS.

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In ten starts this season, Astros pitcher Chris Sampson is 3-3 with a 6.04 ERA and a 2.08 strikeout to walk ratio (25:12). Those numbers don’t exactly make Sampson rosterable in many fantasy baseball formats, and they won’t keep him in the rotation either.

As Wandy Rodriguez comes off the DL today, the Astros plan to move Sampson to the bullpen to make room. Brian Moehler will be the 5th starter.

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The top prospect in all of baseball is finally getting the call, and this won’t be a short cup of coffee for Jay Bruce. Tuesday evening will mark day one of Bruce’s tenure in the Reds outfield, as they face off against The Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bruce was hitting .364/.393/.630 with nine doubles, five triples, ten home runs and eight stolen bases in 184 at-bats at Triple-A Louisville. He’s got nothing else to prove in the minor leagues, and should be owned from day one in all fantasy baseball formats.

No word as to who is being removed from the  roster to make space for Bruce. Most people think it will be  Corey Patterson, but we won’t know for sure until the press conference at 4:00 PM today.

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Here is a review of this weeks best pickups as reviewed on Daily Roto Pickups. I will try to supply one from each of the following positions at my weekly review here on Crooked Pitch (C, CI, MI, OF, SP and RP). I will include their current availability that may have changed since my initial review. The reviews are how I view the player today.

C: Gerald Laird- He is top 10 in R and HR for catchers and 13th in RBI’s. He is still the primary catcher and unless he goes stone cold will hold the job until he gets traded if they decide Salty should go behind the plate. I like him and his average is now about where it should be. Just don’t expect him to help much there. Not many stats calling for an increase or regression from here so expect more of the same.

He is currently owned in 32% of leagues.

CI: Ramon Vazquez - I did this two weeks ago, but I am going to suggest him here since he has 3B eligible, but if you get him he should only be used at SS and MI. He will get AB’s as long as he hits like this as Blalock has been told he will go to 1B when he gets back. Warning signs are in a lower K rate at 18.7% and a BABIP at .371. He is a fill-in or backup at SS/MI.

He is only owned in 9% of CBS leagues.

MI: Akinori Iwamura - I added Iwamura last April in my league that counts OBP and had a great April run. Then injury struck and he never played like that again for the remainder of the year. Again he has 3B eligibility, but is truly a 2B player. He has been hot this month in R, BA, and OBP. This could be just another hot streak or he could get injured, but he should be a good play for the time being.

He is only owned in 49% of CBS leagues.

OF: Mark Kotsay - He has a few signs leading to a bit of regression but none show that he will fall off significantly. His BABIP and OBP are a bit over career lines, but only slightly. I would carry him as a 4th or 5th outfielder or a bench reserve.

He is only owned in 26% of CBS leagues.

SP: Doug Davis - If he is cleared medically to play I don’t think he should be to much of a concern health wise. He had 2 very good years in 2004 and 2005 and I think he has a shot to relive those years. His wins should be good with that hot lineup and his ERA should be tolerable. His WHIP has usually been a little to high so don’t count on him for that. I would wait a start or two to see how he does and if he has his strength.

He is owned in 8% of leagues.

RP: Chris Perez - Ah the flame throwing young reliever. Will he end up as another Zumaya or maybe the cardinals can get him to sign a no Guitar Hero contract? He’s never really had a lot of time in any level to judge his numbers, but he can get K’s and also walks. Larussa has been known to put young players in big spots so if he can keep playing well he may be pushed into the closer rotation or take the job fully. Those hunting for saves should take the shot.

They are only owned in 17% as of this morning on CBS.

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