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

BallHype: hype it up!

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