Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Link of the Day (For the Week of April 27 - May 3)

I'm going to start a new series where I pick the most interesting article I read in a week and briefly write about it. I will, however, suggest that this is more of an 'article of the day' then an 'article of the week' situation, as I feel as though calling one of the hundred or so baseball articles I read in any given week as the best is simply wrong. So this will be more of an article that stands out, something I think everyone needs to read. I will also attempt to switch it up, avoiding the same author on multiple occasions.

This weeks article jumped out to me this afternoon at school, as I was sifting through my inbox. Fellow Baseball Digest Daily author Bill Chuck's email from Billy-Ball.com (I suggest joining this mailing list, very entertaining stuff) entitled The Feel Good Story of 2008. You can check out the full article here.

Bill Chuck outlines what the feel good story to date is, which is obviously the classy move made by the Red Sox brass to bring Bill Buckner to Fenway for the Sox real Opening Day. Buckner, as Chuck writes, "was greeted with love and forgiveness by fans who had unfairly vilified him since 1986."

Chuck however, feels as though there will be an even greater feel good story soon, and that is of Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to Seattle. Bill Chuck suggests that the Reds should make a move to get rid of Jr due to his high contract and the Reds need to move forward, taking advantage of their young core. Chuck writes, "Even though he’s the team's marquee player and its biggest gate attraction, the team can justify this deal, but only this deal for Griffey."

Similarly, Chuck suggests that the Mariners are an ideal location for Griffey, writing,
Let’s look first at the Mariners. The team is floundering in the bottom third in runs. They have the fourth lowest batting average. They exceed only Kansas City and Minnesota in On Base Percentage. Their DH, Jose Vidro is hitting .195. The M’s are just under .500 but the division is weak, there is plenty of time to make up the games they trail the A’s and Angels.
A very compelling argument. But do the Mariners have the tools to pull it off? Additionally, do the Reds want something the Mariners could offer? I imagine the Reds would have been glad to take on Chris Tillman for Jr, however Tillman is now part of the Orioles organization after this trade.

Taking a look at the Mariners top prospects (according to Minor League Ball's John Sickels) Jeff Clement, Carlos Triunfel and Wladimir Balentien remain with the organization. Clement would be especially attractive to the Reds, considering their current catcher situation and the lack of depth coming through the system, the one catcher the team does have, is probably 5 years from being ready. If you would have asked me a week ago, I would have said 'no way' on Clement, but given that the Mariners have recently signed Kenji Johjima a 3 year extension, the club could spare Clement and use him as a trade chip.

Wladimir Balentien could also be an interesting piece for the Reds, as the team is on the verge of losing both Jr and Adam Dunn. Balentien could step into the spot of either player and provide similar power at a substantially cheaper cost. The Mariners seemed to be willing to shop him during the past off season, and they do not seem too willing to give him a shot with the big league club.

The Reds system obviously boasts some impressive talent, with Jay Bruce leading the charge and Joey Votto already up with the club. Clement would obviously be ideal, but I doubt that the Mariners would trade Clement and take on the entire remainder of Jr's salary. That said, receiving Balentien, and Juan Ramirez while the M's take on the entirety of Griffey's salary is a best case scenario in my opinion.

Think back to the Abreu to the Yankees trade of a few years back. John Beamer of The Hardball Times wrote a piece reflecting on that trade and how it was clearly a salary dump. I think Reds fans would take the loss of Griffey a lot harder then Phils fans did with Abreu, so getting something in return is important.

Overall, I do agree with Bill Chuck and I definitely see a match within the organizations. I think the Mariners fan base would appreciate the addition and the Reds fan base would be fine, as long as they received a major league contributor and a nice prospect. It is interesting to note, a few months back, the Reds had a surplus of outfielders and did not know where they were going to find at bats for all of them. Now Jerry Hairston Jr is getting at bats.

I do, however disagree with Bill Chuck that a return to Seattle for Griffey Jr would be the feel good story of the year. Really, no matter what else happens this season, if (and when) Doug Davis gets back on the bump, that will undeniably be the story of the year. I have intentionally refrained from talking about that subject, as many have beat it to the ground and this is such a tough time in Davis' life, but there is no way that won't be the feel good story of the year.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Adam Miller Watch - April 28, 2008

After a successful return to the Hill for the 2008 season, Adam Miller will look to build off of what should have been a nice win. Without the errors and a little bit better fielding, I believe Miller would have made it through 6 innings without issue.

Let's take a walk through Adam's first start of the season using MiLB's Gameday.

Miller went 5 innings sticking to around the pitch count that Torey Lovullo suggested he would be at. Although I imagine had things went a little bit better for Miller, in terms of luck, he would have went on for a another 5 to 10 pitches. And as I mentioned, should have been able to make it through 6 innings, it not more.

The MiLB Gameday is not as detailed as MLB's, however it does give us a good impression of what the hitters were seeing and how the pitcher either tricked the hitters or was very predictable.

In the 1st inning, Adam Miller struck out Brett Gardner, the first hitter he faced in the season on a 4th pitch swinging strike. It was a pitch that was on the outside edge of the plate. The second batter Miller faced was Bernie Castro who walked on seven pitches, then moved to second on a passed ball. Castro fouled off three pitches as Miller worked mostly on the outside edge of the plate. Juan Miranda moved Castro from 2nd to 3rd as he grounds out in what would have been an inning ending double play (according to the Buffalo radio announcers). During this at bat Miller missed outside with his first two pitches, followed by a swinging strike inside. He hit his spot with pitch four on a called strike and and on pitch number five he left it over the plate a little bit where Miranda hit the ball to first. Shelly Duncan then managed to single in Castro looping an Adam Miller slider down the left field line. Miller was actually lucky to only allow a single as the slider went right down the middle of the plate. Miller was able to get out of the inning without allowing an earned run when Jason Lane grounded out to first; this, after he swung and missed on two fastballs. The first of which was out of the zone. Not a bad first inning, 2 strikeouts, a walk, a hit and an unearned run.

For the 2nd inning, Miller was working with a nice lead and seemed to be pitching, instead of throwing. While he still had issues hitting the outside edge of the plate, he did enough to get through the inning in order on only 10 pitches (7 strikes), zero of which were called strikes or swinging strikes. First basemen Eric Duncan was the first to the plate and Miller followed the scouting report keeping the ball away. Duncan ended up pulling the forth pitch he saw to second base for an easy ground out. Journeyman Nick Green was next to the plate and Miller made quick work of him, keeping the ball outside and getting a fly out to the opposite way in right field. Miller cannot be happy with his pitch selection against Greg Porter, however he did get him to ground out to short on 4 pitches (2 in the zone fouls).

Miller entered the 3rd inning with yet another run, but was not as sharp as he was in the second, allowing a hit and a walk. 32 pitches into his first start seems a little early to struggle, but since Miller made it out of the inning fine, it is nothing to worry about. Catcher Chris Stewart got onto first with a line drive up the middle. Stewart also took two called strikes, which were pitches that were low and in the zone, I'm guessing one of the two was Miller's signature slide piece. Brett Gardner saw four pitches, each of which were outside. Pitch one and two were perfectly placed pitches with pitch three being an obvious 'chase' pitch. Miller then missed his spot a little, but Gardner flew out to left center. Castro then worked a seven pitch at bat for a walk, he took pitch two and three for called strikes on the outside, probably a good idea given the pitch location. Pitch five and seven look to be very close pitches, low and right down the middle. With two on and one out, Miller faced his biggest test to date (image left). A nine pitch at bat which involved two swinging strikes and two pitches down the middle that were fouled off. Miller got by on his stuff during this battle, good to see from a guy coming back from an injury. Miller continued to show his ability to pitch, working both the inside and outside of the plate. It still appears as if he is struggling with location, but getting Duncan to ground out on six pitches (with an in the zone swinging strike) ended the inning.

A 32 pitch inning put Miller at 64 entering the forth inning, in what I would have expected to be a rough one given the quick fashion the Bisons went down in for their half of the inning. However, a three pitch at bat to Lane with a perfectly place inside strike two. Eric Duncan sat down after four pitches and a pop up to third base. Miller tried to go high-low during this pitch sequence (image right). Miller again made quick work of Nick Green getting him to ground out to third on two pitches, an in the zone foul and an away pulled ground out.

Miller entered the 5th inning with 73 pitches thrown, 45 being for strikes. A nice ratio, but nothing spectacular given all of the foul balls that were hit. For this inning, the Yankees did the exact opposite of what I would have suggested to do to a pitcher approaching his pitch count in his first start back, they were aggressive. Porter put a ball in play after two pitches, both pitches in the zone on the outside edge. Stewart reached on an error by Miller, who was trying to throw out Porter at second in what would have been a double play. Gardner fouled off two pitches outside and the third one he popped out to left field. In what should have been the last out of the inning, or even an inning ending double play, Castro moved the Porter to third while sacrificing Stewart at second. Another quick two pitch at bat, where Miller worked away for a called strike, then missing a little and coming a little over the plate. In essentially the same pitch as the one Castro hit to third, Miller missed in what Miranda lined for a double which scored two, bringing the Bison lead down to one and forcing pitching coach Scott Radinski to the mound. Leaving Miller in provided to be the right choice as he got Duncan to ground out to short stop ending the threat on two pitches.

Overall, a nice debut for Miller where he threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Miller owned an adequate ground out ratio of 47%. As I mentioned, with proper fielding, Miller should have made it through at least 6 innings, which would have allowed the Bisons to enter the 7th inning with a 4 run lead. Instead the club was only leading by a single run.

Miller will go tonight, again facing the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Pitching at home for the first time this season and against the same team in five days will be the least of Miller's obstacles, as he needs to prove he is healthy and ready to be a factor with the Indians this season. If his first start was any indication of things to come, I must admit I was wrong about the kid. Here's to hoping!

I was intending on heading to the game this evening, however I have other obligations to take care of (namely school work that I have procrastinated on up until now that is due in the next two days). I will, however, be listening to the game on the radio and will provide updates as I see fit. I hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am.

Update - 04/28/08 - 6:10 PM EST
Yes, I bought MiLB.TV for the next month. Off to a shaky start, Adam Miller got out of a bases loaded, two out jam with a called strike. It appeared to be a two seam fastball that moved away from the hitter.

The thing that stands out the most from watching this outing so far, is that Miller does not seem to be fooling the hitters. A couple first pitch called strikes, and a few late fouls, but nothing where the hitters seemed absolutely fooled.

It is of note, however, that Miller would not have gotten into the jam he did had he had Major League fielding behind him. A sharp ground ball by Bernie Castro to Andy Gonzalez would have been a close, but easy play at first. Instead, the ball squeaked by and Miller was charged with a hit allowed.

Update - 04/28/08 - 6:35 PM EST
The second inning is going quite a bit better as Miller has gotten his velocity up and there has been noticeable movement on all of his pitches.

Jason Brown singled a weakly hit ball to second base
that probably would have been an out for major league fielding.

Brett Gardner then followed with a sharply hit ball up the middle. Miller looked excellent during this sequence which led to the Bernie Castro at bat where Miller struck him out looking on an outstanding slide piece.

Update - 04/28/08 - 6:45 PM EST
I have big expectations for Miller this inning. I feel like he is starting to really get a feel for his stuff. I would like to hear that he is getting even more velocity on his fastball, but that may be unreasonable considering the weather conditions in Buffalo tonight.

First pitch, fastball strike, low and outside. Great start. Nick Green flied out in what the color commentator referred to as a 'great cut'.

Miller battled back against Miranda. He missed badly on the first three pitches and didn't look good on the delivery in any one of them. This at bat included a swinging strike and a couple fouled off balls. He's looking good, but not great, yet.

Jason Lane is up now and got up 2-0 on two terrible pitches. Miller returned with two outstanding pitches which made Jason Lane look like the AAAA player he is. A fly out to center ended the at bat.

Eric Duncan was the victim of Miller's second wild pitch of the inning. But being behind 1 and 2 in the count puts this kid at a major disadvantage. After a foul ball, Duncan dribbled one up the middle for an easy put out by Bisons shortstop Danny Sandoval.

Update - 04/28/08 - 7:18 PM EST
The Bisons got a two run home run from Ben Francisco, which should help Miller on the bump.

The network was joined by manager Torey Lovullo who raised concern about a lack of strikes, but is impressed with Miller's ability to get key outs when his back is against the wall. Sitting with 78 pitches in 3 innings, it is going to be tough for Miller to be the pitcher of record for the Bisons at this point.

Miller starts off the inning with a strikeout, getting Ransom to swing at a strike out of the zone for strike two and then foul tip strikeout a beautiful fastball low and away.

Gregory Porter volunteers to make things easy on Miller, swing at the first pitch and popping up to center field.

Miller is now making Jason Brown look foolish. Three pitches and three strikes. This is the third of four innings that Miller has finished off the Yankees with a strikeout. It looks like the kid should take the bump at least one more time.

Update - 04/28/08 - 7:25 PM EST
Bubbie Buzachero is warming up in the bullpen for the second time this game. It seems as if he'll take over for Miller in the 5th inning ending the kids game and giving him 9 straight scoreless innings.

BallHype: hype it up!

Fantasy Generals Speculator Part Six - Hughes v. Kennedy

After a week off, the Generals are jazzed for another Speculator. This week we weigh the merits of Kennedy v. Hughes. I find it interesting that people have jumped off the Hughes bandwagon with such force. While reports are that his velocity is somewhat down this season, consider that Kennedy's velocity is always down. Furthermore, playing in front of this Yankees defensive lineup, without a true plus pitch will prove costing for Kennedy more often then not.

Here is what I wrote:

Brandon Heikoop–They are Yankees and I often dismiss Yanks at the draft that are overvalued. Consider all the Yankee fans out there that can’t see past the fact that Mike Mussina is a terrible starting pitcher?

However, that is not the question. The question asks if there is any hope for Hughes or Kennedy. Personally, I was never sold on Kennedy. His minor league numbers, while impressive, are vastly skewed due to small sample sizes and incredible luck! Any minor league pitcher who has a BABIP below .300 with average stuff is that much luckier. Kennedy does not have electric stuff. His best pitch is a changeup, but with a less then stellar fastball and an average 3rd offering, Kennedy will struggle once hitters begin to key in on his change. I will borrow a quote from Kevin Goldstein here when he says, “Kennedy is pretty much the poster child for the kind of player who can put up ridiculous numbers in the minor leagues, but when it comes to the majors, he’s not as good.”

As for Hughes, I’m still high on him. I am absolutely enamored with his stuff. I also think people are forgetting that Hughes was on his way to a no-hitter before pulling up lame. Unlike Kennedy, Hughes does have electric stuff. He also has the typical, projectable body of an upper tier pitcher. In almost every league I am struggling between trying to trade for Hughes and hoping for one last bad start where his owners will jump ship. However, if that bad start is a solid to great one, what will his price jump up to?

In conclusion, Hughes is the guy for me, without any question about it. He is going to be a top of the rotation ace while Kennedy, valuable in his own right, will settle in at the end of the rotation.

Further explanation by Goldstein is as follows,

So now, before we go projecting stardom, let’s do a quick exercise based on what we know. Close your eyes, and try to think of every starting pitcher in the big leagues. Now think of every good right-hander who is six-foot or under and sits in the upper 80s. Done with your list? It’s not a long one, is it? In fact, it’s probably at zero, unless you count guys like Maddux who actually did sit consistently in the low 90s during his peak years.

Unfortunately, I like to play the odds. I don't see Kennedy becoming an ace in New York. Because of this, I have a tough time seeing him sticking in the big apple as the expectations for him by Yankee fans are inherently high.

Check out what the other Generals have to say at the Speculator.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Take a Chance on Me - Week 5 Edition

In the 5th installment of Take a Chance on Me, I alert fantasy owners to invest in Dioner Navarro, catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and Jonathan Sanchez, starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Both players are going under the radar and are being incredibly undervalued. My assumption is that their previous track records and unpopular teams are to blame for this.

Check out my column at the Fantasy Baseball Generals.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fantasy Friday's - Actually on a Friday?

I'm heading to Cleveland this weekend for the Yanks-Indians game on Saturday afternoon. Apparently fans will be provided with 'rally towels' to help motivate the Indians as they try to remain hot after sweeping the Royals. I have tickets to Saturday's game where soft tossers Ian Kennedy and Jeremy Sowers will face off in front of a Nationally televised audience.

After seeing Sowers at the Bisons Home Opener, I have a tough time believing he is going to have much success against the Hall of Fame lineup the Yankees are running out there. With Rodriguez out of the lineup, he is definitely in better shape, but this is not going to be an easy start for the young lefty.

That said, with the Indians bats blazing hot right now, Ian Kennedy (whom is the focus of this weeks General's Speculator) is in for a tough task as well.

Revisiting free agent pick ups is often enjoyable and other times, regretful. Last week, I discussed Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Guillen and JJ Hardy. While each player had the best weeks of the season to date, neither really broke out. Hardy had the best fantasy line hitting his first home run of the season as well as coming in with a .333 batting average. Guillen also place his first hit over the outfield fences and Gutierrez finally started hitting the ball with some authority. Overall, none of the players visited took the league by storm, but all are moving in the right direction, which is good enough for me. So definitely keep an eye on them.

This week I am going to follow the same rules as I outlined in last weeks Fantasy Friday. That is,
The players will have be required to qualify for the batting title, and own a BABIP under .250 and a HR/FB of under 6%. The figures will also have to not proportionally line up with their career marks. These figures have been chosen as they represent numbers that are well below league average which sits around .300 for BABIP and around 10% for HR/FB. Keep in mind however, that different hitters do produce varying successes in these areas which is why I will examine their career trends.

The free agent players must be owned in fewer then 50% of ESPN leagues and the trade targets will have an ADP outside the top 60 (this figure will vary as the season goes on). While this is far from an exact science, we will see over the course of the season that players with those trends will eventually reverse their fortunes.
Free Agents
Player One
2008 BABIP - .205 HR/FB - 5.9% Owned - 21.5%

The Pirates acquired Adam LaRoche after he mashed the ball for half a season for Atlanta in 2006. At the time, a lot of people had him tabbed as the guy to own for the 2007 despite an impossible to maintain HR/FB rate of 21.2%. In Pittsburgh, LaRoche was moving to a more friendly hitters park and was going to be slotted into the heart of the order, giving Jason Bay some much needed protection. Things did not work out as Pittsburgh fans and fantasy owners alike imagined, but both players were terribly unlucky.

Maybe it was playing for Pittsburgh, maybe every time the Pirates took the field gusts of wind were blowing in the hitters faces knocking potential home runs down. Whatever it was, LaRoche played better then his final line displayed. Keep in mind, that final line was not terrible in its own right. In fact, Yahoo! rated LaRoche as the 19th best first basemen in their 5 category scoring, sitting in at 169th overall.

Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA forecasting system is guilty of taking LaRoche's unlucky outcomes from 2007 and downgraded his power from an ISO of .243 to .210. Sitting at an ISO of .210 is no insult for LaRoche, in fact, that would come as a 20+ point increase from 2007's final line, but I am more optimistic. I see no reason why LaRoche cannot make it to the .243 figure that PECOTA forecasted entering last season.

Off to another slow start, LaRoche, who was drafted on average with the 175th pick in ESPN leagues is now owned in only 21.5% of leagues. His BABIP is bound to return to .300 level as it has for his career and he is certain to start clearing some fences. It is time to pick up LaRoche before he has a hot weekend and it is too late.

Player Two
2008 BABIP - .193 HR/FB - 0.0% Owned - 0.0%

The move to the American League has been difficult on Mike Lamb, although he has managed to hold onto his full time job. He will need to turn things around shortly though, as the Twins are starting to get healthy and have a jammed outfield. I also need to preface this by suggesting that I do not expect Lamb to carry a fantasy team, nor am I suggesting he is a long term option at third base. But at a corner infield slot, this potential 25 HR hitter is a nice player to consider.

Consider as a part time player in Houston, Lamb put up double digit home run totals. Prorate those statistics into a full time role, and there is little doubt that Lamb could easily launch 20 home runs, and with a little luck, 25+.

As a hitter who went undrafted in ESPN leagues, the consensus was that Lamb would not do enough to merit a spot on ones roster. While staying away has proven a valuable move to this point, Lamb, like LaRoche, is a hot weekend away from being a nice short term pick up.

Player Three
BABIP - .242 HR/FB - 0.0% Owned - 0.1%

A couple other factors I consider when looking at a player is their history as well as their role within an organization. While I was shocked that the Mariners brought in Brad Wilkerson with Wladimir Balentien ready for the show, it is obvious that the club intends to stick it out with Wilkerson, the one time centerpiece of the Alfonso Soriano trade.

I am currently focusing on players who are off to a slow start whom people have most likely ignored but should not for much longer, given their ability to break out. Some may read what I am writing and assert that the players suck and thus should not be owned and point to the small 50-60 at bat sample size. I will remind people of what was written as Brock for Broglio in regards to sample size.

That said, the projection systems have Wilkerson sitting with an ISO (isolated power, slugging percentage minus batting average) of between .173 and .191. Any of those figures would represent the second lowest average for Brad's career, with the lowest occurring in homer nightmare RFK stadium. That said, I'm not buying that the best Wilkerson can do is 8 points below his career average.

Nevertheless, at .191 CHONE projection system expects Wilkerson to hit 17 home runs in 404 at bats. If Wilkerson can stay healthy and accumulate 600 at bats for Seattle, that would prorate his home run total to 25. To me, that is on the low end. Given Wilkerson's fly ball tendencies, combined with his career HR/FB rate, expecting 25 home runs out of your 5th outfielder is not a far fetch.

Trade For
2008 BABIP - .171 HR/FB - 4.3% ADP - 50.0 Owned - 100%

I am somewhat going against my own rule here, as I am targeting a player inside the top 50. However, this is an emergency situation as I do not think the chance to buy low on Robinson Cano will remain. Cano is currently having a terribly unlucky start to his 2008 season, and there really isn't any explanation for it. His rate stats (LD%, GB%, FB%) are all essentially on par with his career average. There is a discrepancy in IFFB% (infield fly ball percentage), however it is doubtful this has anything to do with Cano's batting average, as fly balls rarely turn into hits to begin with. It could be a sign that Cano is struggling to hit with authority, but again, we're talking a small sample size, something a hot weekend can erase.

That said, I am also going to come out and state, I am not a fan of Robinson Cano. I would not be trying to acquire him if not for his terribly slow start and my thinking that he is going to be incredibly undervalued.

If you are an Ian Kinsler owner, I suggest trying to flip Kinsler for Cano as well as trying to make an upgrade in another area (say adding on Brian Wilson for JJ Putz-although the ship may have sailed on that one). That is, while I am not a huge fan of Cano, I am an even less fan of Kinsler and believe this is the perfect time to sell high on Kinsler with his stolen base total and high batting average.

If there is anyone you would like me to take a look at in a future article, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section or send me an email to bheikoop@baseballdigestdaily.com.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Adam Miller Watch - April 23, 2008

Adam Miller of the Buffalo Bisons will take the bump for the first time in 2008 tonight as he tries to reclaim his status as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. While many still rank Miller as the #1 prospect in the Indians organization, people are beginning to worry what kind of career he is going to have with the persistent injury problems.

On WWKB 1520 Bisons manager Torey Lovullo said not to expect Miller to be working into triple digits any longer as he is now focusing on how to pitch rather then simply throwing. Furthermore, Lovullo asserted that Miller would not be on a strict pitch count, instead allowing him to go 85, 90 pitches into the game. Lovullo also suggested that he would let the radar gun tell him how Miller is holding up as the game wears on.

What are the prospect reports saying about Adam Miller entering the 2008 season?
  • Baseball America ranks Miller as the 29th prospect, expecting him to get a call to the big club at some point this season.
  • Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein has Miller ranked 52nd, and as the #1 prospect within the organization.
  • Keith Law of ESPN ranks Miller at #29 stating, "Miller is a potential No. 1 starter if he can keep his arm attached at all its various joints."
  • MiLB.com has Miller coming it at #10, apparently ignoring his long history of injuries.
In each case, Miller ranks as the #1 prospect within the Indians organization. The experts glow when they review him. Keith Law says, "when healthy, Miller has a four-seamer that sits in the mid-90s and a two-seamer in the low 90s, and he holds his velocity through 90-100 pitches. His slider already is a big league out pitch, up to 88 mph with a hard, late break, and his command has been good in the past."

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has the following to say,
The Good: When Miller is healthy and pitching, he remains awfully impressive. His low-to-mid 90s fastball can touch 98, and he backs it up with a low 90s sinker and plus slider. All three pitches can grade out above-average at times, and his changeup is solid.
The Bad: The biggest concern for Miller at this point is his health. He should be in the big leagues by now, but he can't stay healthy enough to put the polishing touches on his game to get there. Despite a big frame and smooth mechanics, some wonder if he wouldn't be better off in the bullpen in order to preserve his availability.
Although, the news it not all good, as Goldstein is beginning to worry about the injury issues. Consider that in 2007 Goldstein rated Miller as an Excellent Prospect in his 5 teir rating system. Entering the 2008 season Goldstein has Miller down to a 4 Star Prospect. While a 4 Star Prospect is nothing to scoff at, it is obvious Goldstein is not as high on Miller the 23 year old as he was with Miller the 22 year old.

What do I expect from Adam Miller this season? I have personally bumped him from my top 5 Indians prospects, worrying that he is going to work his way into the bullpen. While he would still presumably be an outstanding pitcher as a reliever, its tough to imagine any right handed reliever being rated as a top 5 prospect in anyones organization, unless one was certain the pitcher would be a closer, and a great one at that.

Update - 04/23/08 - 8:33 PM EST
The first inning is underway. Adam Miller struck out the first hitter he faced, with a swinging in the zone strike. The next hitter, Bernie Castro walked on seven pitches, then moved to second on a passed ball. Juan Miranda moved Castro from 2nd to 3rd as he grounds out in what would have been an inning ending double play (according to the Buffalo radio announcers). Shelly Duncan then managed to single in Castro looping an Adam Miller slider down the left field line. Miller was able to get out of the inning without allowing an earned run when Jason Lane grounded out to first; this, after he swung and missed on two fastballs.

Off to a nice start, Miller threw 14 of 22 pitches for strikes, including 4 of the swinging strike variety.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carsten Charles Sabathia II

I'm a fan of the Indians, alright! And again Ken Rosenthal has again made an error in his judgment of a player.

CC Sabathia, the contract year left hander for the Cleveland Indians is having a forgettable start to his 2008 season. A year removed from winning the 2007 Cy Young (albeit, only partially deserving so) is struggling to find his grove in what should have been one of his best seasons to date. Keep in mind, this is not a freak out post, rather, I am in the midst of writing a response paper and came out a quote that on the surface is completely unrelated (as it has to do with reading and writing) but upon further inspection, makes a lot of sense.

Here is what we know. People are jumping ship on Sabathia claiming that his arm is dead after a brutally long and highly used 2007 season. Interestingly, Baseball Prospectus' Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) system has Sabathia ranking all the way down as the 26th most abused pitcher from 2007. I'm not certain whether that takes into account the playoffs, but I find it hard to believe an extra 4 starts would vault the league leader in innings pitched into the top 20, let alone the top 5 where one could justifiably raise a flag.

Further evidence against CC comes in support from Will Carrol in mid February when he writes, "That said, he's as unrisky as pitchers come from a mechanical standpoint. There's some concern that the post-season innings may have an impact, but 200 innings is almost a gimme for the big man."

In today's Under the Knife, Will Carrol also reports the following fallacies,
With poor results through three starts, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there's a suggestion that Sabathia is hurt; in one unfounded rumor, Sabathia isn't throwing sliders due to a UCL problem. Not only is this wrong, it's factually incorrect. I asked a doctor I trust about the idea that Sabathia's pitch selection has anything to do with the health of his arm. He explained the structure of the arm to me saying, "the flexor pollicis longus originates on the radius, unlike the other major ligaments that originate on the ulna. Origins are proximal (closer to the body) and attachments are distal (further from the body). The UCL originates on the medial condyle of the humerus and attaches to the coronoid process. Comparing origins and attachments is like comparing apples to oranges. All these muscles have in common are their actions (flexing) and the fact that they originate at or near the elbow. There's no medical or functional reason that a slider would be more or less affected by this than a fastball." In fact, the stress of a slider is less on the important are of concern here, Sabathia's middle finger, than it would be on a fastball. Moreover, a 1987 study by Dr. Frank Jobe and a team of biomechanists showed that there is not a significant difference between the flexor-pronator muscular forces used in a fastball and a curveball. This matches with Dr. Glenn Fleisig's 2005 study that showed there were not significant differences in kinematics for fastballs, changeups, and breaking balls, including the slider.
In essence, while there may be an issue with Sabathia's arm due to fatigue or overuse, if CC is not throwing his slider or has lost effectiveness of his slider, it would not be due to an injury.

Now the question comes to this, is Sabathia hurt? People are referencing his high walk total as rationale behind this, however I'm not buying into that. Consider the opponents Sabathia has had to this point in his season and how he has traditionally fared against them?
  • Chicago White Sox - Over the last two years (since Thome) against teams with at least 15 innings pitched, Chicago is the team where CC has had the worst control.
  • Oakland Athletics (2 games) - Since Carsten's entered the bigs he has had a great deal of trouble against his home town team. Especially on the road. Everyone knows the A's preach patience and there is no wonder the A's are one of the toughest teams on CC.
  • Detroit Tigers - In 2007 the Tigers had CC's number. Had this start occurred in the middle of the season surrounded by games against Kansas City and Minnesota, no one raises an eyebrow. Because this game came while the Tigers are struggling and CC has had a tough time, the conclusion is that there is obviously a problem.
But thats too simple right? It's too simple to say, 'Well, he's just had some really tough match ups'? Although that may work while negotiating a contract, that doesn't work in the eyes of arm chair GM's. So what could the problem be?

Ken Rosenthal, as mentioned, suggests that Carstens size may be an issue going forward. This though, has been debated by myself utilizing evidence from the Hardball Times study on the size of players. He adds further fuel in a recent article by suggesting that his size makes it "difficult to predict how he might age". But if size actually helps a pitchers longevity, how can this be true?

Further criticism's of Carsten to this point have been around his contract status, however as the Indians front office 'policy' and as per Carsten's very own website, the negotiations have been cut off since before Spring Training. Although let's be fair, when CC says "I'm not thinking about the contract", he certainly is, the same way I think about how a paper I hand in will affect my pay down the road.

Currently, the problem with Sabathia is that he is unable to locate his pitches. After the Tigers hit him around hard, CC had the following to say about his performance,
"Usually, it's something mechanical or in my delivery," Sabathia said. "But it's not [this time]. I look at the video, and I haven't been [establishing] the inside part of the plate to right-handed hitters. I have no feel for my cutter. Last year, I did a good job commanding both sides of the plate, and this year I haven't done that."
Beyond the Boxscore commented on Carsten's early struggles with the following conclusion, "It’s quite possible that he’s lost his confidence in his slider and just doesn’t want to throw it..."

Eric Wedge, the Manager of the Indians also suggested that it may be a matter of a loss of confidence. This seems to be the most logical explanation when one considers the following,
Beliefs of personal self efficacy, therefore, are not dependent on one's abilities but instead on what one believes may be accomplished with one's personal skill set. Therefore, self-efficacy beliefs are often better predictors that prior accomplishments, skills, or knowledge (Mills, Pajares & Herron, 2006).
Right now, until some true evidence is revealed I have to believe that Sabathia is simply not trusting his stuff, a figure of speech so often used within the baseball community. Additionally, I think the combined pressure of pitching for a team that is supposed to win as well as knowing that every pitch he makes could make or break his big pay day. This anxiety, Mills, Pajares and Herron write is directly related to ones self efficacy. Thus, if Sabathia is anxious and consequently lacks confidence in his abilities, struggles should come as no surprise.

Word has it however, that Sabathia had a strong bullpen session over the weekend. If he goes into his next start against the Red Sox believing in his stuff, this ought to be the start where he turns things around. If he still has his contract negotiations and the team goals in the back of his head, it is going to be a very long season for 'the big guy'.

BallHype: hype it up!

Update - 04/24/08 - 10:18 AM EST
Courtesy of Lets Go Tribe a link to ESPN Page 2's idea of what was wrong with Carsten's. Check it out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Take a Chance on Me - Week 4 Edition

My weekly Take a Chance on Me entry can also be found here at The Fantasy Baseball Generals.

Last week's TACOM picks did not hurt their status of being quality free agent pick ups as both Scott and Westbrook put up decent lines and saw the number of ESPN leagues they are owned in increase by a substantial amount. This week's players involve an uber flexible lead off hitter and a youngster with a boat load of talent.

In this week's edition of Take a Chance on Me, I will take a look at two players that are not only on the verge of breaking out, but who are also being missed by a lot of managers in ESPN leagues.

Felipe Lopez

In what feels like an eternity ago, I wrote about Felipe Lopez as my super sleeper middle infielder for my second Fantasy Friday's at Baseball Digest Daily. About a week after I made that posting, Lopez lost the battle to be the Nationals starting second basemen and was beginning to ask for a trade. Shortly after I had written off Lopez, he found his way into the Nationals outfield due to injuries to both Willy Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes.

Lopez started just enough games in the outfield to gain eligibility in the outfield in Yahoo! leagues, however he did not make the cut for ESPN leagues. Although in defense of ESPN, Lopez should not be used as an outfielder when he has middle infield eligibility, but the flexibility would be nice either way.

With the struggles of the terrible Ronnie Belliard, Lopez has found his way into another starting role.

While the sample size is small, Lopez is starting his season the way I expected him to perform when I touted him as the middle infielder to target in drafts. And with 3 steals in only 40 at bats, if he accumulates 500 at bats Lopez is on pace for 37 steals, which would be excellent value from the free agent pool.

An issue some may have, is with the power that Lopez displays. While he is currently struggling to hit for extra bases, that is not why you would acquire him. Furthermore, when one considers the positions that Lopez can fill for your team (second base, short stop, middle infield) and how far from the median Lopez currently sit in OPS+ (-20 points), it isn't as if he will be a black hole in your lineup for the next 5 months.

Take a Chance on Felipe Lopez, who is currently owned in fewer then 1% of ESPN leagues and who should outperform the likes of Orlando Cabrera, Jeff Keppinger and Jose Lopez, all of whom are owned in more then 95% of ESPN leagues.

Daric Barton

Daric Barton is too good of a talent to not be owned. He has too much potential to ignore in essentially any league, but especially in those with deep benches. I do recognize that there are other players who also need to be acknowledged and whom are worthy of using up a roster spot, but Barton has got to be considered in the same breath as the Jay Bruce's and Colby Rasmus' of Fantasy Baseball (keep in mind, I said Fantasy baseball).

Consider that the 22 year old Daric Barton is owned in 1.1% of ESPN leagues. While he hasn't not performed at a level that is worth much more then that, over the course of the season, how much worse is he then a Casey Kotchman who is owned in 100% of ESPN leagues?

Currently, Barton owns an extremely high batting average of balls in play (BABIP), although this is not unusual for him, this is a figure that will presumably decrease, although it will remain high enough to keep his batting average strong. Additionally, for those in leagues that utilize on base percentage, Barton will provide an excellent boost in that area.

The power is obviously in question, especially when one considers the position Barton will man on ones fantasy roster. Barton does have a history of hitting doubles, and while doubles do not automatically translate into home runs, there is obviously the potential for a few of those to pop over the fence at McAfee Coliseum. Consider that in 2007 only 13 major league first basemen hit 60 or more extra base hits.

Additionally, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus asserted that Barton "has gap power now, and some believe that his four home runs in 72 big league at-bats is just the beginning of him transforming his high doubles totals into a higher home run number." Because of this, I am willing to bet that Barton will manage to approach 20 home runs this season while maintaining a strong batting average and on base percentage.

Furthermore, as the number three hitter in the A's lineup, he should also provide upwards of 90 RBIs while making a run at 100 if things work out.

With the likes of Ryan Garko, James Loney and Billy Butler, all young, high average, mediocre power first basemen whom even I touted in the 3rd volume of Fantasy Friday's who are owned in at least 59% of ESPN leagues (Garko and Loney are at 100%) what is stopping people from taking a chance on Daric Barton?

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

RETURN of Fantasy Friday's (With a Sprinkle of Under the Radar)

"I mean, I know it's just joke after joke, but I like that. At least it doesn't get all preachy and up its own ass with messages, you know?" - Trucker (South Park, 2006)

By now, I'm certain everyone has heard that Frank Thomas has been released by the Toronto Blue Jays. I will never understand how a team goes about simply releases a player? The Jays will owe Thomas 100% of his 2008 salary and I wonder if a slip up in Thomas' contract may allow for him to achieve his 300+ plate appearances with a new team and thus the Jays will be required to pay the option year. In any event, this is a case of some terrible mismanagement and does not really require much else to be said.

However, what some may not be aware of is the trickle down effect of Frank Thomas being released by the Jays. While the Jays will, for now, go with some terrible options to platoon at DH, C and LF, they will eventually make the right move, which will be calling up Adam Lind.

In limited major league at bats, Lind has struggled against left handed pitchers. This should come as no surprise as Lind is a left handed hitter and it is rare to find a hitter whom is not affected by that split. The splits for his career are not as devastating as they are with some hitters, but they are noteworthy.

Considering that the Jays have been going with a platoon in LF to this point in the season and the only real option they have for a permanent DH is Matt Stairs, there is little reason to believe that when Lind is healthy, he will not get the call to share LF with Shannon Stewart. Truth be told, as much as I like what Thomas brings to the lineup, I think the Jays might actually be better off with this rotation-albeit, this does not excuse them for simply dropping Thomas, which leads me to believe, there must have been other factors which played into this.

That said, what can one expect from Adam Lind while facing exclusively right handed hitters towards the bottoms of a fairly strong Jays lineup?

For this, I will set Linds time of arrival for May 1st which will leave Lind with 134 games to play in for the remainder of the season. To this point, Stairs has received 28 at bats as the left fielder, which would have put him on pace for 45 at bats in the month of April had there been no shakeup within the lineup. He also sacrificed a game in RF as well as a game at DH, so lets put that number to 52 at bats in 28 April games.

Assuming Lind simply takes the roll Stairs was occupying as Stewart's LF platoon partner that prorates to just over 300 at bats leaving Lind with 250 from May 1st onward. Lind has received a season in the majors where he accumulated 290 at bats, however this was not as a platoon hitter. Thus, if we look at Lind's numbers solely against righties, we see that for his career he has accumulated 274 at bats posting a line of .270/.308/.464.

Clearly those are not earth shattering numbers, but at the bottom of the Jays lineup, Lind should provide a quality presence with the ability to breakout. The defensive improvements will also be noticed. Keep an eye on Lind's potential call-up, as he will be a Shannon Stewart injury away from a full time job and being plenty capable of hitting 20+ home runs from May 1st onward.

For Fantasy Leaguers there are two numbers that I closely inspect when looking at players to add, the first is batting average of balls in play (BABIP). This statistic is beat into the ground, although rightfully so. However, looking at that figure in a bubble can cause a manager to be slightly disillusioned, thus one needs to understand why certain trends exist within that statistic. The second figure, and unrelated to BABIP is that of home run per fly ball (HR/FB).

In using these two figures I look for trends that are either unsustainable or are likely to reverse. For today, I will discuss three players whom one should consider picking up and a player whom one should consider trading for because of these unsustainable figures.

The players will have be required to qualify for the batting title, and own a BABIP under .250 and a HR/FB of under 6%. The figures will also have to not proportionally line up with their career marks. These figures have been chosen as they represent numbers that are well below league average which sits around .300 for BABIP and around 10% for HR/FB. Keep in mind however, that different hitters do produce varying successes in these areas which is why I will examine their career trends.

The free agent players must be owned in fewer then 50% of ESPN leagues and the trade targets will have an ADP outside the top 60 (this figure will vary as the season goes on). While this is far from an exact science, we will see over the course of the season that players with those trends will eventually reverse their fortunes.

Free Agents
Player One
2008 BABIP - .244 HR/FB - 4.8% Owned - 0.6%

Franklin Gutierrez is an up and coming hitter with excellent power potential. He struggles against right handed pitchers and strikes out a fair amount. However, one should not be worried by Franklin's slow start as the 25 year old is in no danger of losing his starting job in Cleveland and displayed in 2007 what kind of power he possesses.

In 2007 Franklin hit 13 home runs in 271 at bats. He did benefit from somewhat of a platoon, however he was far from protected from right handed pitchers. The power is beginning to develop for Franklin and there is little reason to believe he will not hit 25 home runs in 2008. Currently sitting at 1 that will net your fantasy team at least 24 home runs from here on out.

Player Two
2008 BABIP - .222 HR/FB - 4.8% Owned - 44.0%

As one of the players named in the Mitchell Report and in the first year of a big contract, Jose Guillen is having an unlucky start to his Royal career. Brought in to Kansas City to be a power bat in the middle of an up and coming lineup, Guillen has to this point, disappointed. But fear not Royals fans and Fantasy owners a like, Guillen is a couple lucky bounces away from being the player Dayton Moore paid for.

In 2007, coming off Tommy John surgery, Guillen hit 23 home runs for the Mariners while having marginally better luck on the road then at home. In a similarly neutral ballpark, Guillen should manage to at least duplicate his success of 2007. While the batting average may drop down to .265-.280, 20+ home runs is as sure of a bet as it is that I will miss another Friday deadline for these articles.

Player Three
2008 BABIP - .240 HR/FB - 0.0% Owned - 49.2%

What do you call a player who hit 26 home runs in his first full and healthy major league season? Oftentimes a fluke, but JJ Hardy displayed the batted ball data in 2007 to legitimize his candidacy as a solid major league short stop.

As a hitter who hits fly balls more then 40% of the time, Hardy doesn't even need to be lucky to provide 20 home run power. However, that is clearly not the case with Hardy. As one who does not own Hardy in a single league, while expecting a 25HR .260 season, Hardy is a player I am considering adding to a lineup where I am in need of a short stop or middle infielder. Considering that his production will now come in about 10% less of the season then after draft day, and his value increases.

Trade For
2008 BABIP - .220 HR/FB - 5.3% ADP - 89.5 Owned - 92.0%

As another Mitchell Report victim, Gary Sheffield has had a terrible start to his 2008 season. Suffering a major injury to his hand where he claims does not affect him, as a Fantasy owner having concern over the injury is justifiable. Considering his age, and the fact that he is returning from a significant injury, Sheffield is a massive red flag.

However, you don't win Fantasy sports by not taking a risk, and the owner of Sheff may be ready to jump ship after a slow start that has also been troubled with injuries. In fact, the Detroit News is reporting that Sheffield wants his shoulder to be re-examined.

What better time to buy low on a guy then when there appears to be a cloud of worry floating over the head of the manager that drafted him in the 7th round?

Take a shot at Gary Sheffield with a Pat Burrell who is not only off to a hot, but also a wildly unsustainable one.

If there is anyone you would like me to take a look at in a future article, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section or send me an email to bheikoop@baseballdigestdaily.com.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fantasy Generals Speculator Part Five - Another Cueto Story

Week five of The Fantasy Baseball Generals Speculator has the authors debating what to do with Johnny Cueto.

Here is what I wrote:
Sell! Please Sell!

However, that is not to suggest that one should take whatever is thrown at them, but I think this is an obvious sell scenario. While the kid has been lights out to this point and he is definitely going to be a legitimate ace the bark is definitely more then the bite.

In terms of what I expect out of Cueto from here on out, which is the key in this equation as what he does from start #3 onwards is what you as the fantasy owner are going to net, something along these lines:
11 Wins, 4.20 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 150 Ks in 170 Innings Pitched

Consider that Cueto's final line, with those 'here on out' numbers will look as follows:
12 Wins, 4.04 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 168 Ks in 183 Innings Pitched

When you look at that line, and compare it to 2007 pitchers, we can see that I project Cueto to be on par with Felix Hernandez. Unfortunately, Felix is also off to a quick start this season, as I would think swapping Cueto for Felix and some would be very reasonable.

For this season, shoot for the stars. Aim at Erik Bedard or Josh Beckett and work downwards from there. If you can afford to have the inactive body for the next couple of weeks, go after Scott Kazmir. Maybe Justin Verlander's owner isn't a die hard Tigers fan and you can get a package of Verlander and a nice hitter."

At this point, you as Cueto's owner need to take advantage of the market. Few people take a 'from here on out' perspective when evaluating players and that is something you need to concentrate on when moving the kid. Doing so will allow you to look beyond what everyone is projecting of Cueto for the 2008 season as his value to your team, as mentioned, is not based on what he did in his first two starts. Those are already banked numbers, forget about them.

As you can see, my focus is to deal off of what Cueto has done and what you think he WILL do. You may be able to sucker your owner into buying into him at a high price. Even in keeper leagues, there are going to be 5-8 other pitchers who come available at some point this season that will have about the same keeper potential as Cueto. Clayton Kershaw is one that comes to mind or Max Scherzer, pitchers who have just as much upside but play in favorable parks on better teams.

Check out what the rest of the Generals had to say in this weeks Speculator. Most agree, selling is the best idea.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Take a Chance on Me - Week 3 Edition

A new post over at The Fantasy Baseball Generals where I suggest Fantasy players to Take a Chance on Jake Westbrook and Luke Scott.

Click here to read the entire entry.

Or, simply go visit The Fantasy Baseball Generals webpage. The site has a new look and design which is much cleaner then the old one hosted here on blogspot.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Opening Day! Part 5 of 5 - Let's Go Buff-A-Lo!

Finally an Opening Day that I can attend and truly enjoy. The weather is looking questionable, as is tradition at Dunn Tire Park, but being outside for a ballgame is what truly kicks off Spring for me.

The Bison's have an old squad this year and it is probably one of the worst in recent memory. Thanks to Mark Shapiro and his slow and steady approach with youngsters there are a lot of old players playing well above their level of competition. I am crossing my fingers that Adam Miller recovers from his bizarre injury and is able to take the mound, but it is looking like the crafy left hander Jeremy Sowers will take the bump for Opening Day.

I am disappointed that Chuck Lofgren was sent down to Double A to start the year, I'm not sure he has much to prove and his control issues can be worked on at any level. His numbers from last year do not tell of the pitcher he is, as he was very unlucky to have a high batting average of balls in play.

Also of concern, is the rationale behind sending Trevor Crowe back to Akron. Crowe started the 2007 season off in a mess, this after being shuffled between the outfield and infield during Winter League play. However, even through the difficulties at the plate (mostly due to poor luck) Crowe managed to keep his walk and strikeout rates at a strong level. If he stays in Akron, Crowe will reach about 1000 Double A at bats, which certainly will stunt his growth and potential, we've seen what keeping a player down too long can do to Goleski, why do the same to Crowe?

Ugh! I'm sounding like a blogging-fan now!

Let's go Buff-A-Lo!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The (Wh)O's?

I know, it's early, but almost everything else I predicted has begun to show it's face making me seem like some sort of super predicting genius! You can send your checks to 'Predictor Guy', Niagara Falls, Canada. Obviously Canada Post has put money down on all my predictions, so they'll know where to send your letters with that information.

That aside, what the heck is going on in Baltimore? I know they haven't had the most difficult schedule to date, but seriously, this team was supposed to be the American Leagues San Francisco Giants. Nobody expected the Orioles to even compete this year. In fact, Camden Chat didn't even do a season preview, detailing how low the expectations for the club were.

Currently sitting in first place in no only the American League East but all of baseball, the Orioles have faced off against two teams whom I predicted to win their respective divisions as well as the Rangers. While this has been far from a difficult schedule in the eyes of most, the Orioles have simply taken what has been given to them.

David Pinto over at Baseball Musings projected the Orioles to have the 10th best offensive team in the American League for 2008 citing that each of the regulars own an above average on base percentage.

However, the Orioles are currently 4th in the majors (second in the American League) in runs scored per game. While it is doubtful that the Orioles rank in the top 10 in team ERA, the question remains to which degree the hitters can continue to perform.

The current batting order is as follows:
Brian Roberts
Melvin Mora
Nick Markakis
Kevin Millar
Aubrey Huff
Luke Scott
Ramon Hernandez
Adam Jones
Luis Hernandez

Pinto was spot on when he suggested the team will have no problem getting on base. And while part of the clubs league leading OBP is a result of a high batting average of balls in play it should not see an extraordinarily big drop off. This is due to the club having a great deal of line drive hitters, who typically out pace their projected BABIP.

I wonder if their low projected slugging percentage is a myth. While the team does not have any obvious 40+ home run hitters, they do have nice power in all but the number nine spot in the batting order.

Let's take a look at a couple players who should help the Orioles maintain strong offensive numbers, while going under the radar.

Ramon Hernandez. While Hernandez has had issues staying healthy throughout his career. There is no denying that he has the ability to be a top 10 offensive catcher. He has the ability to hit 20 home runs this season, which is a very nice total for a catcher.

Nick Markakis. Everyone is getting to know this kid's name and for good reason. He is one of the league's best young hitters and with a little luck could be an annual threat for 35 home runs. The average and on base percentage are legit, and remember, he did most of his damage in the second half of last season, where he had a line of .325/.389/.550.

Aubrey Huff was a great disappointment in 2007, however much of the disappointment revolved around poor luck. If his home run per fly ball rate returns to career norms, there is little reason to believe Huff can't challenge for 30 home runs in 2008.

Luke Scott, is a player I will write about in tomorrow's Take a Chance on Me. Here is a player who should easily hit 25 home runs for the Orioles this season and be a dynamic trading chip down the road.

Lastly, Adam Jones. To this point in his major league career, the toolsy outfielder has underperformed. His BABIP has been low this season, but his strikeout rate has been the discouraging sign. Jones, however, has always been prone to the strikeout, so this is nothing new. His power and speed are legit though and he should begin to put up numbers as he becomes more comfortable with an everyday role in the bigs.

The Orioles are not going to win the division. The Orioles are not going to continue to play such good ball. However, the Orioles are going to surprise a lot of people with the offensive player they have put on the field this year. The club has some strong trading chips, which they should not hesitate to use no matter how things are going this season.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fantasy Generals Speculator Part Four - Bargains and Busts

In this weeks Fantasy Baseball Speculator, Patrick DiCaprio asked, "Who will be this season's biggest fantasy bargains and busts?"

I told Patrick he was welcome to shorten my responses but here is what I sent him:

Here are my top 5 biggest bargains for the 2008 season:
1. Dioner Navarro - Despite his recent injury, this is a guy who was essentially undrafted in universal fantasy leagues despite what I see as top 8 catching talent. On a per game basis, he should go head to head nicely with Brian McCann who was taken with the 80th pick. Check out what I wrote about Navarro during Spring Training for Baseball Digest Daily.

2. Troy Glaus - All signs are pointing to 'healthy'. Despite the poor batting average, Glaus is still a 35+ home run hitter. Picking him up in the 180s is outstanding value. I wrote about Glaus for Volume Three of Fantasy Friday's.

3. Jason Bartlett - The theme here, are players I drafted late. Bartlett is going to be a poor man's Furcal despite not being drafted enough to crack ESPN.coms average draft position. Just wait for him to crack the top of the order.

4. Shane Victorino - Take on these 2007 comparisons:
Player A - 12HR, 78 runs, 46 RBIs, 37 steals, .281/.347 in 456 at bats.
Player B - 11HR, 93 runs, 80 RBIs, 50 steals, .315/.355 in 584 at bats.
Player A is Shane Victorino, whom if we prorate his stats to parallel Crawford's at bats, trailed in only average (a career high for Crawford) and RBIs. Yet the difference on draft day, 110+ picks.

5. Fausto Carmona - Sometimes the numbers lie. People were knocking Fausto down on their draft boards because of his 'low' BABIP despite the recent conclusion that BABIP appears to have some relationship to the pitcher. Carmona, in my opinion, is one of those guys. His K Rates made a nice jump in the second half of 07 and his pitcher abuse point score is relatively low considering his innings pitched. He'll be a top 10 starter in 08 despite being draft outside the top 15.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Swisher, Rafeal Soriano and Manny Parra.

Swisher is an honorable mention as I expect him to mash close to 40 home runs playing for the Chi Sox. Not only will he benefit from the lineup protection and the move to hitter friendly Chicago, but he also moves out of a pitcher friendly division.

Soriano is a closer whom I envision, if healthy, to be among the top 3 or 4 closers in the majors. His cost on draft day was significantly less then the value he will produce.

I will not stop promoting Parra. The kid was electric in his first start and all signs are pointing to him keeping his job even with the return of Gallardo.

Check out what other Generals had to say and how my picks compare with theirs by heading over to The Fantasy Baseball Generals speculator. The ones that I most like from the other Generals include Milledge, Sonnanstine and Hill.

As promised, my top 5 biggest busts for the 2007 season:

1. Any pitcher in the top 15 not named Santana, Peavy or Bedard. The difference between the #4 pitcher (Webb) and the #33 pitcher (Burnett) is not all that much in my opinion. Not enough to justify 120 picks in a draft. I'm not a 'pitch and ditch' guy, nor am I a 'Lima plan'er. I am however, all about value. Which drafting the #4 thru 15 guys do not provide.

2. Jorge Posada - Players do not have the second best season of their careers as a 36 year old. Catchers doing so are even more rare. Nothing changed for Jorge in 2007 yet everything that hit his bat, landed in play. Posada will provide a nice 10th grade arithmetic lesson for everyone as he 'regresses towards the mean'.

3. Miguel Cabrera - Eternal hope. In 2007 Cabrera had the best season of his young and
fantastic career. He ranked as Yahoo!s #16 overall player.
He also moves to a tougher league. Now despite Comerica playing as a slightly better hitters environment, Cabrera found himself being drafted in the top 10. This does not represent value. (note: keep in mind I am still expecting a strong season from Cabrera, but I anticipate a drop in all of his stats. I rank him near a healthy Chipper Jones)

4. Curtis Granderson - Here's a rule of thumb, stay away from currently injured players. Here's another one. Stay away from players with no plate discipline whom everything they hit landed in play the previous season. Granderson is about the equivalent of Mike Cameron this year, how many of you drafted him with a top 50 pick?

5. Andruw Jones - Upside, 40+HR. Downside, <26hr.>to a bigger spotlight (LA) and an equally as terrible ballpark to hit in complimenting Jones. Whoever chose Jones over Swisher should be banned from fantasy sports. I said it!

Honorable Mention: Mariano Rivera, Matt Cain and Todd Helton

Rivera has got to be nearing the end of his career. He's at an age where it is difficult to believe he will get any better. If he gets any worse, how much better of a closer will he be then Todd Jones?

Being a youngster with a high ceiling does not help the fact that Cain plays for the worst team in the majors. This team could be borderline record setting bad. I'm not thrilled with Cain's control, nor his declining K Rate. I think he is one of those guys that is being picked based solely on his age.

I was actually surprised to see Helton being taken on average as high as he is. At that point, there are about 5 or 6 other first basemen I would prefer. The fact that they are going some 50 or 60 picks later only makes Helton that much more of a bust.

And again, swing over to The Fantasy Baseball Generals to see how my picks line up against my colleagues. A couple interesting disagreements to note:

Justin Morneau - While first base is deep, I can't see him under performing that much where his stock falls outside the 4th round. Consider 30hr and a .280 average a given. From there, the rest is all a bonus.

Carlos Marmol - In a dynasty league of mine, I'm looking to build around Marmol, so obviously I disagree (I will explain my rationale at a later point).

I have really enjoyed doing these round table discussions with the rest of the Generals. One of my favorite parts has been receiving emails from my colleagues regarding each others picks. It will be interesting to see which direction the rest of the discussions go, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comments section.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Opening Day! Part 4.5 of 5 - Reaction and Reflection

Drunken Jays fan discusses last night far better then I could have.

Since I am boycotting the Jays, I became a Red Sox fan last night. The JD Drew home run-which he had been swinging for since his first at bat-was extremely pleasing as the "fans" (Home Opener fans, whom I like to compare to Sunday Christians or Sabbath Jews) were really riding Drew all game. Now I have no problem with some good ol' heckling, but the "Dreeeeeeew" whammy does grow old after 3 innings. Step it up with some comedy. Maybe bring Drew's terrible health into the equation. Anytime I hear "Manny Sucks", I simply laugh.

In fact, any time I heard the phrase "Red Sox Suck", I laugh. I mean, I'm not a Red Sox fan, but I can see that they won the World Series in 2007. I would give it until at least mid-May before claiming that last year's best team 'Sucks'. This would be like calling Bill Belichick a bad coach.

A couple other interesting observations.
  1. People called into the Fan 590 last night complaining about the excessive drinking and frat like atmosphere. To that I say, "Welcome to professional sports". That atmosphere is what is making the rest of the sports market in North America billions of dollars.
  2. This is kind of a continuation of the first comment. Beer at the Sky Dome was $7 for a bottle last night. That's an outstanding profit of over 250%.
  3. Jays "fans" cannot accept their Opening Day gifts. At least they have gotten rid of the magnetic schedules which can really fly.
  4. Field Turf is as bad as Astro Turf.
  5. The Uniforms last night were as ugly as the 30+ year old man in front of me bringing a baseball glove. Mind you, I was sitting in the 200 level outfield, but what are the odds? And how can you feel proud?
  6. I hate the wave! Watch the game.

As for the actual baseball...
  1. Shaun Marcum really had his change up working. Once the Sox realized that was his go to pitch, they began teeing off on him.
  2. The Red Sox were 'lucky' in 2007. They were 'unlucky' last night. I see a trend establishing. That is, of the last 6 World Series champions, 4 have not made the playoffs the following year. I called it!
  3. Tim Wakefield is the most entertaining pitcher to watch. He throws batting practice fastballs which make for every at bat to be a hilarious one.
  4. Jeremy Accardo should remain as the Jays primary closer even when BJ Ryan returns. If everyone in Toronto can play up to their potential, this should be an exciting season for the Blue Birds.
  5. Is Brian Tallet really going to be the Jays top set up man?

Last nights game was entertaining, but I don't know how many more Jays games I can go to. Last night was as good as it gets, and it was still terrible.
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