Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dear Yahoo/Experts League Organizers

May you please allow me to join a league with Brandon Funston?

Yesterday Yahoo released their starting pitcher preseason ranks. Mr. Funston tabbed Jon Lester as his 11th best starting pitcher. That's right, 11th! Meaning there are 10 pitchers that are superior to Lester.

Now I know it is common for experts to undervalue pitchers, claiming that there are soooo many, and I will admit that I easily overvalue Lester - I have him as my #1 or #2 starter entering this season, I'm extremely bullish on him.

Here's the line I'm thinking for Lester for 2011 season - his age 27 season:
20w, 240k, 2.80, and 1.15

Honestly, I feel as though 20w might be a couple low, but it's tough to project more then 20 wins for any pitchers under any circumstances.

Now, the argument for why I see an improvement. First, the defensive squad behind Lester is arguably the best in baseball. While he pitches in a hitter friendly environment, his ground ball tendencies, that got even better in 2010, should negate the environment. This should then help decrease his ERA and WHIP.

Second, the wins. This Red Sox team is loaded, as I previously mentioned, in a defensive perspective, as well as it's bullpen (at least the top half), and the hitters. Speaking of the hitters, if Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury return to the form of 2009, this is going to be a devastatingly strong lineup. In other words, stay away from pitchers from the AL East this year.

Worst case scenario is that Lester puts up the numbers he did in 2011. While the ERA and WHIP were not the strongest of the top 10 pitchers, he easily made up for that with strikeouts and wins.

Let's look at Funston's top 10 and their 2010 numbers:
  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Tim Lincecum
  3. Adam Wainwright
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Clayton Kershaw
  6. Cliff Lee
  7. Josh Johnson
  8. Ubaldo Jimenez
  9. Tommy Hanson
  10. Zach Grienke
I'll ignore the top 5, even 6. But where the question marks begin to pop up are with the seventh through 10th players.

Josh Johnson is coming off of a season where his ERA and WHIP were incredible, neither of which are sustainable given his left on base percentage (LOB%). Further, we're talking about a guy that is fresh off of an end-of-season stint on the disabled list due to his shoulder flaring up and tightness in his back. Both of which are terrible signs for a starting pitcher that has only once logged over 200 innings and never put up 200 strikeouts. Add to the fact that the Marlins are a middling at best squad, and it's easy to think that Lester and Johnson could have similar rate stats with Lester logging an additional 40 strikeouts and 8 wins.

Next, Ubaldo Jimenez. I love the pitcher in real life and his stuff is unreal. However, he's yet to harness his control and until he does so, it's tough to rate him above Lester simply because of another unsustainable ERA. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Funston traded for Jimenez the first week in June - where his from that point out ERA was approaching 5.00. I would expect Lester to have Jimenez is all four starting pitcher categories.

Now we come up to the biggest head scratcher. It's obvious to me that Funston made this selection based on Tommy Hanson's second half, completely ignoring the fact that aside from a nice walk rate, Hanson did nothing to deserve the numbers he put up. If those second half numbers are extrapolated over the course of a full season, we're essentially looking at Kevin Slowey. That's right, Brandon Funston feels Slowey is a top 10 pitcher.

I like Hanson, but I don't see his second half numbers as a sign of things to come nor do I see him as the next Slowey. He's still got a lot of upside, but it's not enough to peg him as a better starter than Lester for this season.

Lastly, Funston picked Zach Greinke over Lester. We can easily conclude that based on the teams around these respective pitchers, Lester will chalk up more wins. Yes, I understand Greinke is moving to the National League and that two years ago he put up monster numbers, but to simply assume that his one monster season is the norm is a mistake.

Managing a fantasy baseball team is about understanding expectations. I agree that Joey Gathright should have become the next Juan Pierre, but it didn't happen. It is out of the question that any of these pitchers, or even another five not mentioned here jump over Lester this season? Certainly, but when we are looking at a pitcher with a clean bill of health that has dropped in 225 strikeouts for two straight seasons, pitches for a phenomenal team in all aspects of the game, and has strong groundball and control numbers, why take the risk on these others with question marks. These others that have to show a semblance of certainty.

So Brandon Funston, I'm asking you to explain yourself here. Fill us in as to why you would let Jon Lester be, in a 10 team league, someone #2 pitcher.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Let's Try This "Blogging" Thing Again, Again

I've been thinking that it's time to try getting back into writing. I truly did enjoy it when I was at my heyday of putting out an article a day and part of me misses it. While time may play a role in not allowing me to write as much as I would like, I'm going to give it a go, again, again.

The focus however will shift, it will shift to "Fantasy" baseball. While writing about Major League Baseball from an outsiders perspective providing feedback and breaking down trades provided a good starting off point, I feel as though I can't offer anything to the baseball community and the fans at large - at least at this point.

As such, I will focus on fantasy baseball and essentially provide my two cents. Of course I will try to remain open-minded, albeit with a bias towards ex-Bisons, past and present Indians, Canadians, and Koreans, my objective is to provide some insight and strategy for my readers, something I feel is currently lacking. That is, outside of the major media outlets, there is very little in terms of authentic fantasy baseball writing.

Where is this coming from? Today I purchased a "fantasy" guide, USA Today's 2011 publication. Honestly, it isn't to give me an inside edge over my peers in my leagues, rather to give me something to read while otherwise preoccupied. I've went through a few articles and one specifically stood out to me. The author of the article was discussing how fantasy managers "chase" pre-rankings, and average draft positions (ADP). The author made out as if it was foolish to follow these or use them as a guide and instead, owners should create their own set of "values".

While I won't disagree with the author's assertion that owners ought to create their own set of values - I for one have no interest in paying for a Jayson Werth unless he costs $10-12 or is a mid to late round draft selection - I caution an owner who strictly follows their own set of values.

Here's an example. I am in a 13 team, 5x5, mixed auction dynasty league. Two years ago in that league I took a "flyer"on Gordon Beckham in the reserve round. As you know he turned into a very promising keeper, one who cost me a very affordable $5 for the 2010 season. Unfortunately this $5 "bargain" ended up being a terrible disappointment and a huge over-expense.

Here we are just weeks before I am due to select keepers and Beckham's price tag for the 2011 season is now inflated to $11. This is where I'm torn. Had Beckham had the 2010 season I expected him to have (or, essentially the season he is projected to have this year - .273-15-81-77 - Bill James via FanGraphs) there's no question I keep him at $11. However, after his awful sophomore season, it got me thinking that I could potentially land him for a couple dollars less, after all, his 2011 season was disastrous before a mid-season turnaround.

In any event, even though I value Beckham as a $15-18 player and that's where I would take him in a re-draft league (I see 25 home run upside in him) I must adjust my strategy on Beckham based on his pre-draft rankings and "book" auction values. Instead of being torn whether or not to keep him at $11, a price I see him being more then worthy of, I must make a decision based on my league, not based on how I value my player.

That is, do I feel that $11 will be a "value" in my league, or do I feel that it will be too costly? I had originally pegged Beckham at $5-7 based on feedback I had received from my league mates. However, now that I see a lot of his expert values up over $11, it's tough to imagine I'll get him at $6 below cost.

Boiling this down to one quick conclusion, while the magazine I was reading suggested that average draft position should not be your be-all end-all, and there is some merit to that, one certainly has to consider the general consensus of a player when creating his value.

Next up, I will write about knowing your opponents.
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