Apr 29, 2011

Barney and the Madson | Free Agent Friday



We're a bit deeper into the season now and it becomes harder to find good batters on the waiver wire but more pitchers are popping up due to the closer carousel and some starters proving their worth.  Out of all of the new hitters that are hot pickups, I only see one that is advisable to pick up (Ryan Roberts) and the others seem to be ones you can pass on.  The rest of the waiver wire is filled with some decent pitching arms that are worth a look.  Ryan Madson is an elite closing option for the time being and there a couple of decent starters who might end up sticking around on your roster as well.

Good Pickups
Ryan Madson (RP, PHI) - First off, he's a closer so it goes without saying that he's worth picking up.  But, Madson is actually be an elite closer based off his strikeouts, ERA and WHIP numbers.  Don't let the rumors fool you that he doesn't have a "closer's mentality" and just enjoy his time in the closer's role while it lasts.

Ryan Roberts (OF, ARI) - Will Roberts continue to have a .600 slugging percentage? Nah.  Will he still be a valuable cog in your fantasy team machine? Actually, yes.  He should produce at least 10 HR and 10 SB on the year and end up being fairly close to a fantasy average player.  Off the waiver wire, to get someone close to league average is pretty nice.  The main concern for him is that his batting average won't be too great but he's a good producer in all other categories.

Bartolo Colon (SP, NYY) - It's only 26 innings so it's hard to make an incredibly strong endorsement for Colon.  But, the fact of the matter is that he's pitched well and hasn't been aided by luck factors in the process.  I'd add him to your roster and see how this plays out.  As this Fangraphs article points out, he seems to have rediscovered his fastball and is throwing his pitches at rates closer to his Cy Young days.  So, yeah, why not roll the dice?

Sergio Santos (RP, CHW) - Those crazy White Sox keep us guessing on who will be closing games this year.  On a personal note, I think Matt Thornton got a raw deal here as he proved his dominance for three years then had literally five bad innings (aided by really bad luck if you look at his BABIP and HR/FB rate).  Meanwhile, the bad defense that plagued Thornton suddenly turned into super lucky defense with Santos in the role.  Aside from that rant, Santos will get some opportunities so is worth an add.  He's a good strikeout pitcher and could definitely be serviceable in the closer's role.

Mike Leake (SP, CIN) - Last season, in his rookie year, Leake had a decent ERA with a horrible WHIP and poor strikeout rate.  Thus far, he seems to have the same decent ERA but has a decent WHIP and strikeout rate to go with it.  Is it a blip on the radar?  Hard to tell as he doesn't have a long track record.  He's changed his pitching philosophy and is throwing less fastballs, curveballs and sliders and more cutters and changeups.  As of right now, it's working and he's a young arm that's a post-hype sleeper so he's worth a prospective add to your team.

Others I've Written About Recently - Mitchell Boggs, Sam Fuld, Jeff Francouer

Could Be Good Pickups
Brandon McCarthy (SP, OAK) - It seems like McCarthy is a seasoned veteran since he's been around for so many years but he's still only pitched about 400 MLB innings since his first appearance in 2005.  He's a pitcher that can net you a decent ERA and WHIP with fairly low strikeout numbers.  ZiPS has him producing a 3.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and about 6 K/9.  For an AL pitcher, that's pretty nice.  He's worth having on your team as a spot starter based on his matchups each week.

Randy Wolf (SP, MIL) - Although his ERA has told different stories across his career, his xFIP has been relatively consistent every year at around 4.25 or so.  So, that leads me to believe that he is simply a 4.25 ERA pitcher who may get spikes in luck here and there.  He should have a decent strikeout rate with a fairly poor WHIP but he's a nice pitcher to have on your bench to sub in during certain weeks as well.

Others I've Written About Recently - Alex Avila, Josh Tomlin


Let Someone Else Pick Them Up
Darwin Barney (2B, CHI) - If his minor league numbers are any indication, you have nothing to be excited about from young Barney.  He might get you 10 SB's if he's lucky and that's his only redeeming quality as he has no power nor an ability to hit for great average.  He's only a pickup in the deepest of leagues.

Brett Wallace (1B, HOU) - Bargain-bin first basemen are good if you have an injury to your starter but 1B is too deep of a position to add them for any other reason.  Wallace is a promising young player but his ceiling for this year is likely 20 HR's with a decent batting average and not much else.  A more realistic expectation may only be a 15 HR season.  Either way, he's only worth an add in the deepest of leagues who might use him as a Corner Infielder as opposed to their starting 1B. 

Others I've Written About Recently - Kyle Lohse, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Apr 25, 2011

Week 3 Roto Values - A Mix of Braun & Shields


With nearly a month of baseball over with, we are starting to see a crop of surprise players that are staying hot and having us believe that big things are in store for them in 2011.  However, it's important to keep in mind that one month does not make a season.  After April of 2010, Kosuke Fukudome was one of the hottest players in baseball with a wOBA (weighted on-base average) in the top 10 of all of baseball but big things were not in store for him unfortunately.  So, while we may be excited by Russell Martin or Logan Morrison being up there now, the sample size is still small.  Let's peruse through last week's 2011 WERTH roto values and see what interesting names popped up:
The various tabs in the Google Doc above contain the basic stats and then the WERTH totals (how many points in the standings the player contributed in that week for the season total) and WERTHy totals (how much they would have contributed if everyone got the same amount of playing time).

This past week was more about good pitching performances than hitting performances in comparison to earlier weeks of the season.  Ryan Braun had the best hitting week with this multiple homeruns while Jose Bautista was right behind him and seems to be heating up.  Some of the more surprising names from the best batting performances were Jed Lowrie, Juan Uribe, Casey Blake, Carlos Gomez, Ryan Raburn and Ike Davis

As mentioned ad nasuem, Lowrie is worthy of a roster spot on all fantasy teams.  Casey Blake is a nice bargain option for a very thin 3B position and is definitely worth a look (15 to 20 HR with a decent batting average is what to expect).  Ike Davis might end up being a nice player but 1B is very deep unfortunately and his 20 HR and decent batting average are nice but are still below average for a 1B.  Gomez might be on his way to a year similar to his 2008 campaign with 7 HR, 33 SB and a .258 average but don't get overly excited and expect much more than that.  However, one guy to be particularly excited about is Ryan Raburn with Detroit getting him regular starts at 2B too.  Just as I mentioned Jed Lowrie last week, I think Raburn has similar potential for your fantasy teams and should be on your team in all leagues where he is 2B eligible. 

From the pitching department, James Shields and his two complete games led the way.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was right behind him, much to the confusion of those who wrote him off the week prior.  From the group of surprise names, we see Brandon Beachy, Randy Wolf and Anibal Sanchez up towards the top as well.  

Wolf and Beachy pitched two strong games but both had a BABIP well under .200 for the week which serves as a warning to not overreact about them.  We all most likely know about Anibal's near no-hitter and he's a nice fantasy option on the year with his strikeout potential if you can tolerate his walks.  After extremely bad and good starts, the expectation for Daisuke should be around a 4.50 ERA pitcher on the season but the worrisome part is that he seems to have lost his strikeout potential over the years and control continues to be a problem so I would stay away except for deep leagues.

Browse around the weekly rankings and see what other fun names are popping up over the week and the season thus far.  If you have any comments or suggestions about these roto values, drop a line in the comments.

Apr 22, 2011

Frenchy, Gomes and Boggs | Free Agent Friday



This week in pickups has has introduced us to some new closers and showcased some hitters who are starting to heat up.  In roto leagues, you may now start to see some areas of weakness on your team which means that probably have a specific area to target.  If so, you're in luck because there is a good mix of speedsters (Fuld), power hitters (Gomes) and closers (Boggs, Capps) out there on the free agent market so a variety of needs can be filled.  Let's take a dive into the deep end and see what we find.


Good Pickups
Jed Lowrie (2B/SS, BOS) -  I already wrote up a piece this week about why Lowrie should be on your radar, if he wasn't already.  Pick him up first if he's still available then come back and read it.

Jeff Francouer (OF, KC) - What don't we like about Frenchy? He's seems old and boring and plays for the Royals. What do we like about him? We know what we're going to get out of him and it's about your average fantasy player production. The 2010 average production in each category for deep fantasy leagues was .272 avg, 16 HR, 11 SB, 68 Runs, 65 RBI and that's roughly what you can expect out of Francouer if not slightly more.  He's boring but there's nothing wrong with that.

Mitchell Boggs (RP, STL) - He's a closer now and that's all you need to know. The fact that he doesn't wow you with any numbers isn't necessarily important.

Matt Capps (RP, MIN) - See Mitchell Boggs. Capps and Boggs should produce relatively similar numbers with near 4.00 ERA's and 7 K/9. Flip a coin.

Others I've Written About Recently - Jonny GomesJustin MastersonTravis Hafner


Could Be Good Pickups
Josh Tomlin (SP, CLE) - Who knows how long the magic will continue for the Cleveland Indians but Josh Tomlin should be a decent pitcher regardless.  His minor league stats show us a 3.20 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.  A 4.00 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP may be a wise place to set your expectations at for his run through the majors this season.

Aaron Harang (SP, SD) - The Harangatang has returned.  He doesn't quite have the strikeout and walk rate from his 2005-2007 glory days but he seems closer to the 2008-2009 version of himself rather than the 2010 version.  Huh?  Well, basically, you should set your expectations at 'mediocre' for Harang instead of 'horrible'.  A 4.25 ERA and 1.30 WHIP seem to be reasonable expectations with a somewhat decent strikeout rate.

Others I've Written About Recently - Sam FuldMaicer Itzuris

Let Someone Else Pick Them Up
Jerry Sands (OF, LA) - For yearly leagues, Sands may not set the world on fire for you.  He has 30 HR potential in the long-term but has a huge strikeout rate that will likely follow him into his rookie season here.  ZiPS has him projected at a .237 average with 17 HR and 8 SB.  That seems about right.  He could definitely produce higher than that but I wouldn't cut anyone valuable for him in order to find out.

Kyle Lohse (SP, STL) - He literally seems to be on the waiver wire every year and has a nice little stretch that gets people excited about him.  In the end, he's still Kyle Lohse and we know what to expect out of him (4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and low strikeout totals). If you think of adding him to your team, go for a long walk to clear your head then return to your computer and hope someone picked him up first.

Apr 20, 2011

Jed Lowrie: A Deep Sleeper Awakens

As you may know, I've been waiting for the day that Jed Lowrie would officially crack into the Red Sox starting lineup.  The day has come (whether it is temporary or not) after he wowed a national audience on Monday with a huge four hit game.  Fantasy owners are now running to the waiver wire for him as if it's 1996 and he's Tickle Me Elmo.  Right before Monday's game, I had written some wise words about Lowrie:
Though he won't be able to sustain a .538 BABIP, he can still bring a lot to the fantasy table if he gets full time AB's. Keep an eye on that situation as Marco Scutaro hasn't done much to keep his job.
Ah, memories.  At that time, he was owned in about 30% of fantasy leagues out there.  Now, two days later, he's owned in about 75% of fantasy leagues and it's rising by the minute.  I definitely endorse Lowrie as someone to own in most leagues and I even had a post about him being a deep sleeper this season where I said things like:
Considering the fact that his ADP is at nearly the 500th pick, you probably can just let Jed Lowrie go undrafted at this point while keeping a close eye on his status with the Red Sox. They're going to have a formidable run-producing offense so he could definitely have some nice value if he can work his way into the starting lineup this season.
What an endorsement!  Now the time has come to take your eye off of Lowrie and pick him up.  At this point, people are picking him up blindly because he is the hot name of the week.  But, what are you really going to get out of this guy if he plays the full year?  Before the season, I had predicted some numbers which I'll still stand behind: .275 AVG, 20 HR, 90 R, 70 RBI and 0 SB.  For someone with 2B and SS eligibility, that's definitely very nice.  If you have someone like Yunel Escobar, you'd be getting about 10 more HR, 10 RBI and 10 Runs by owning Lowrie instead.

But, I think where Lowrie will really whet your whistle is in point-based leagues that would reward his OBP and ability to hit for doubles.  He has the ability to hit like Nick Markakis or Billy Butler where he'd get decent HR totals with 40+ doubles in a full season.  So, in leagues where you get rewarded for that type of thing, I'd be even happier with owning Lowrie.

Both second base and shortstop are thin positions so Lowrie could be end up being a key pickup if he keeps the job in Boston.

Apr 18, 2011

Week 2 Roto Values - Berkman's World


Things are starting to get more serious with two full weeks of fantasy baseball wrapped up.  In some head-to-head leagues, you may find yourself in an 0-2 hole and questioning everything you know about baseball.  In roto leagues, you may see yourself at the top of the pack and think you are the bee's knees.  But, there's still a ton of baseball to be player, my friends.  In the meantime, let's look back at the week that was with the 2011 WERTH roto values:
I'll be maintaining this list out on Google Docs throughout the season as long as gDocs keeps allowing me to do so. Therefore, you can feel free to keep that bookmarked if you like all of this data. You'll see six tabs which cover batter and pitcher data from the first and second weeks as well as the season totals. They each contain the basic stats and then the WERTH totals (how many points in the standings the player contributed in that week for the season total) and WERTHy totals (how much they would have contributed if everyone got the same amount of playing time).

Lance Berkman came out of nowhere and crushed a lot of baseballs last week to lead the roto values in scoring as he was singlehandedly worth 2 roto points on the season for you if you started him.  Albert Pujols proved to everyone he is still Albert Pujols with a return to the top of the charts.  Beyond that, we did see a couple of surprise appearances by the likes of Starlin Castro, Johnny Damon, Jonny Gomes, Sam Fuld and Jonathan Herrera.  

Castro is a good player but won't remain in the top 5 most valuable players in the game all year with a .400 average.  It's likely that his value won't get higher than this so it's understandable to try to trade him away now.  But, he'll still put up decent numbers on the year if you hold onto him.  Jonny Gomes struggled a bit last year but definitely has 30 HR potential so keep an eye on him.  I wouldn't get excited about Herrera though.  While he has some speed, he doesn't even have much of that and offers nothing else for you in the long term.

You had some usual pitchers topping the charts with Dan Haren and Cliff Lee as well as some surprise visitors like Livan Hernandez and Michael Pineda.  Pineda is definitely a player to keep an eye on as well as he has good strikeout potential but his xFIP leads you to believe that he may be getting a bit lucky.  Two other pitchers worth mentioning are Tommy Hanson and Josh Beckett.  Hanson struck out 14 over 12 innings and put up two good starts despite an unlucky BABIP (strikeout pitchers can overcome that sort of thing). Beckett had another good start, which puts him in the top 10 pitchers on the season, and there's no sign that luck is a factor in this as his xFIP is looking good and he has great strikeout numbers at the moment.  I think it's for real and might look to see if someone is thinking they can "sell high" on him.

Jed Lowrie continues to make a case for himself as he had one of the highest WERTHy values for the week.  Though he won't be able to sustain a .538 BABIP, he can still bring a lot to the fantasy table if he gets full time AB's.  Keep an eye on that situation as Marco Scutaro hasn't done much to keep his job.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for what should be included in the Google Docs sheet, let me know.  In the meantime, enjoy another crazy week of baseball.

Apr 15, 2011

Naverson, Masterson and Fuld...son | Free Agent Friday



We continue to march along in the season as we are already nearing the completion of a second full week of games.  As we look around the baseball world, small sample sizes continue to get mentioned everywhere as a way to calm owners down who think that Albert Pujols has now become a .198 hitter or that Asdrubal Cabrera has become a 30 HR hitter.  With the weekend upon us, it's time to determine who are the best pickups for the upcoming week and the season going forward so let's take a look at some of the popular  free agents at the moment.

Good Pickups
Chris Naverson (SP, MIL) - After starting off with two scoreless starts and more than a strikeout per inning, Naverson is garnering attention in the fantasy world.  While he had a 4.99 ERA last year that will scare some people off, his xFIP was 4.15 which would leave us to believe that bad luck played a factor in his high ERA.  He's worth a pickup as someone who can get you a fair ERA with good strikeout numbers.  His walk rate may end up hurting you in the WHIP department but it's not so bad that you should dismiss him completely.

Justin Masterson (SP, CLE) - I endorsed Masterson prior to the season.  What I specifically said was that he "should be on your radar towards the end of drafts or on early season waiver wires".  Well, now we're in the early season and he's started off nicely so it's time to make a move on him.  Between him and Naverson, I'd lean towards Naverson because he could have slightly better strikeout numbers and pitches in the NL.  Masterson should have an ERA around 4.00 but a high walk rate will inflate his WHIP as well.

Esmil Rogers (SP, COL) - First things first, Mr. Rogers had a 6.13 ERA in 2010. That likely scares a lot of people. But, the crazy thing is that his xFIP was 3.59 which is a mammoth difference from his ERA. A .385 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) will do that as that's a ridiculously high number and a sign of poor luck.  This year, his BABIP has returned to normal and his ERA is 2.77 thus far.  As with Masterson and Naverson, he is a good bet for a decent ERA with a questionable WHIP due to a high walk rate.  His strikeout rate is along the lines of Masterson's with about 7 K/9.  He's a notch below Naverson and comparable to Masterson if you're deciding who to pick up of the three.

Travis Hafner (DH, CLE) - If we travel way back to 2006, Hafner smashed 42 HR in only 129 games and Pronkville rejoiced.  Then, in 2007, a dose of reality swooped in as he finished with 24 HR and 100 RBI instead of his Ruthian numbers (24/100 is nothing to scoff at, mind you).  His HR rate and slugging numbers really haven't changed since 2007 but he's struggled to stay healthy.  I wouldn't bet any money on him getting over 500 AB but he will certainly match those 2007 numbers again if he does.  I'd pick him up and ride him while he's hot then cut him once the injuries come.

Others I've Written About Recently - Zach Britton, Jonny Gomes


Could Be Good Pickups
Sam Fuld (OF, TB) - The whole post-Manny experience has the Rays doing some juggling in the outfield.  Sam Fuld is stealing bases and hitting for a nice average and there's no reason to think he shouldn't continue to do so as long as they give him the opportunity.  He's not going to burst out with 60 SB or anything but 30 SB is a realistic possibility.  He's worth a look if you have a weakness at SB in your roto league.

Maicer Izturis (2B/SS/3B, ANA) - He's got some nice positional eligibility so that makes him an interesting option for your team.  He's had one HR and two SB with a nice batting average over a week's time, which isn't necessarily anything to write home about.  Itzuris is 30 years old so likely won't become something other than a decent utility player at this point.  If he somehow gets 500 AB, he's a good bet to get about 5 HR and 15 SB with a .290 average.  Those are somewhat boring numbers but they're close to league average and his versatility is helpful.  He's worth some consideration in deeper leagues.

Alex Avila (C, DET) - Getting bargains at the catcher position is always a good thing.  Avila will be the starting catcher throughout the season so will get a good amount of plate appearances.  He jumped out of the gate with 3 HR and has certainly shown an ability to get hot at times in his career (a .590 SLG over his 29 games in 2009).  Last year, he only hit 7 HR in 104 games but his past history shows a player who could hit closer to 20 HR in a full season.  He won't contribute in much other than HR but that's enough to warrant consideration in deeper leagues where you punted the catcher position.

Let Someone Else Pick Them Up
Angel Sanchez (SS, HOU) - He's a starting shortstop with a pulse so that's a good thing.  He doesn't bring power or speed to the table.  He's hitting .353 at the moment but a high BABIP is likely the reason behind that.  Once luck evens out, he should be a .270 hitter with nothing else to offer.  Ignore him.

Brennan Boesch (OF, DET) - Boesch is a streaky player.  He can hit .180 for months then hit .330 for months.  It appears he's at the end of a hot streak now.  If he starts to catch fire again, he may be worth a look.  But, secretly, I'm hoping that a slow stretch will open the door for the more capable Ryan Raburn.

Others I've Written About Recently - Matt Harrison, Ben Francisco, Willie Bloomquist

Apr 13, 2011

Josh Hamilton Out 6-8 Weeks | Finding a Fantasy Replacement

You should already know by now that Josh Hamilton is making an extended trip to the DL.  As a Josh Hamilton owner, you may be in a bit of a panic in trying to find someone off the waiver wire to give you some help.  Hamilton is predicted to be out for six to eight weeks so let's assume that he'll end up missing 150 AB on the season (which may or may not be optimistic).  Based on my WERTH roto values and the ZiPS projections, Hamilton would be slated to produce 1.04 roto points above average over that span.

So, instead of finishing with the year with 85 roto points in a 12-team league, you would finish with 84 points if you plugged in a fantasy league average player for Hamilton (which isn't so bad, right?).  The trouble is that finding a fantasy league average player off of waivers is pretty hard to do in deep leagues.  However, based off of those ZiPS projections of players owned in less than 50% of CBS leagues, I've pinpointed three guys who might do the job for you.

Player
HR
R
RBI
SB
AVG
Tot
sTot
Diff
Own
Josh Hamilton
0.21
0.05
0.30
-0.05
0.53
1.04
3.62
--
--
Seth Smith
0.11
0.05
0.11
-0.12
0.00
0.15
2.73
-0.88
34%
Jonny Gomes
0.22
0.00
0.23
-0.04
-0.36
0.05
2.62
-0.99
29%
David Murphy
-0.24
-0.20
0.17
-0.09
-0.03
-0.39
2.18
-1.43
25%
Using those same projections, Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes would be two guys who could produce above average results in 150 ABs.  David Murphy will be filling in for Josh Hamilton in real life and could produce close enough to league average to be worth a look as well.  

Smith has quietly produced consistently good results in limited ABs over his career but looks to be getting a shot at full playing time at the moment so he's definitely worth a look.  If he played a full season, he could produce 20 HR and 10 SB so he makes for a nice option to fill in for Hamilton over the upcoming weeks.  

Jonny Gomes isn't quite as balanced of a player but could produce good HR and RBI numbers for you if that's what you're after.  He's also currently getting the bulk of the playing time after wallowing away in OF platoons for most of his career.  

David Murphy won't hurt you too badly in any roto category so he's a nice option as well while he's picking up Hamilton's ABs. Producing close to fantasy league average is certainly good enough for a replacement player.  

Combining these three options with Hamilton's production over the rest of the season will still get you a player who is singlehandedly worth 2 or more roto points above average in your standings.  So, while the Hamilton injury is a tough pill to swallow, this too shall pass.  Take a deep breath and remember that you'll be fine if you can get a decent replacement for the time being.

Apr 11, 2011

Week 1 Roto Values - Weaver Leads The Way


We have all survived one week of fantasy baseball and can live to tell the stories of it.  Some of our sleeper candidates gave us a dose of reality (thanks, Michael Morse) while some old names showed new life and we already had a fair share of injury scares.  Ah, yes, it was a fun week.  Now, let's look back with the first look at the 2011 WERTH roto values:
I put this out on Google Docs for everyone to be able to enjoy since it doesn't necessarily need to be in Excel format like the preseason customizable sheets.  You'll see two tabs in there with pitcher and hitter data.  After the initial stat columns, you'll see five columns for WERTH totals (how many points in the standings the player contributed in that week for the season total) and WERTHy totals (how much they would have contributed if everyone got the same amount of playing time).

The top ten hitters in Week 1 included some first round picks like Ryan Bruan, Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera.  Nelson Cruz showed what he can do when healthy as he took the top spot and Paul Konerko showed us that his 2010 season was not a fluke.  But the most surprising names were Willie Bloomquist, Howie Kendrick, Jose Tabata and Asdrubal Cabrera. For most of those guys, this is the best week that you will get out of them in their careers and I wouldn't rely on those hot streaks to continue throughout the season.  However, I do think that Jose Tabata is a name to keep an eye on.  He's going to rack up a ton of plate appearances and has some decent power to go along with his great speed.  It's really not unrealistic to expect a .300 average with 10 HR and 40 SB on the year.

As far as WERTHy leaders, Mike Napoli leads that category there as he did quite a bit of damage in only 19 plate appearances.  Until Michael Young's possible exit, there may not be enough at-bats to go around that lineup.

For pitchers, it comes as no surprise that the guy who has not one but three dominating starts is the current WERTH leader as Jered Weaver was mowing down hitters with only a 0.87 ERA after three starts.  He's had a little luck on his side with his low BABIP thus far but is still dominating regardless.  There were quite a few surprise pitchers in the top 10 including Matt Harrison, Jeremy Guthrie and Zach Britton.  Out of those three, as I touched on last week, I think that Britton has the best chance of producing this year and I need to see a bit more of Harrison before endorsing him for a full season.

Take the time to browse around the Week 1 results and let me know if you have any ideas/suggestions for this new feature as it appears throughout the season.

Apr 10, 2011

New Feature: In-Season WERTH Roto Values


During your draft preparation, I helped you explore the projected roto category value of each player those categories based on advanced projections out there.  Now that we have actual baseball being played, I'll take a look each week at the actual roto value contributions of the players throughout that week and the season.  I'll use the traditional WERTH roto values that you may have seen this preseason and a new opportunity-independent WERTH value (WERTHy).  I'll touch upon what each of these mean to give you an idea of how to use these for your team.

WERTH Values

The idea of WERTH is to look at each player's statistics (particularly roto categories) and see how far they each deviate from the fantasy league average for that statistic.  This determines the value lost or added value in each category if you were to start that player in your league.  While the fantasy league average for each stat varies based on league type, these in-season values we'll base this on a standard deep 12-team league with 13 hitters and 8 pitchers (based on the 2010 season averages I had calculated for that league type).

During each period in question, we'll have to figure the league average and then value added by each player and how that would break down over a season.  So, in my calculations, I'd determine how many HR (or any other stat) a player contributed above or below average in a week and how much value that would add at season's end.

While a really great week might be worth more than 1 roto point of value for your standings, keep in mind that players will go up and down and sometimes contribute negative points in a given week as well.  Positive WERTH numbers are good and negative numbers are bad.

WERTHy Values

Something I wanted to explore a bit more was the possible value of players who may not be getting as many AB but might be worthy of them.  A player may hit 2 HR in a week but only do so in 12 plate appearances so the actual WERTH value of that is about average though it had the potential to be even more valuable if he kept up the pace over 25 AB.  So, in this new stat called WERTHy (we're using it to see who is 'worthy' of more playing time and such), I'll put everyone on the same scale of playing time.  That player with 2 HR in 12 PA is compared to other players not based on his HR total but rather his HR per PA.

When looking at weekly stats or season stats, this will help us determine not just who is producing better total numbers because of consistent at-bats but who is also producing the best each time they step up to the plate no matter how many times that may be.  This will help reduce penalties on injured players or platooned players and give us an idea of some possible diamonds in the rough (or narcos, if you will).

After today's slate of games, I'll post the season's current leaders in both WERTH and WERTHy values and some notes about the results at this point in time.  Stay tuned, statheads.

Apr 8, 2011

Walden, Arencibia and Britton | Free Agent Friday



As the first full week of fantasy baseball comes to a close, it's time to focus on some possible waiver wire pickups.  It's been only a couple weeks since your draft and we're already seeing new closers pop up all over the place as well as a couple of hot batters and pitchers.  With your limited roster space, the question becomes who will actually sustain this success.  One start does not make a pitcher and one week does not make a hitter but sometimes they're hints of things to come.  Let's take a look at the hottest pickups for this week of fantasy ball.

Thumbs Up - Jordan Walden - With Francisco Rodney out as the closer for the Angels, Walden booked his way into the role.  Aside from saves, he likely won't blow you away with his other stats but it seems like he should get a shot to keep the job all year (unless Scott Downs steals it when he comes off the DL).  I like Jose Contreras better as a short-term cheap saves option but Walden may have the job longer.

Thumbs Down - Matt Harrison - Harrison has had a tricky career thus far as he has been consistently above average at the minor league level (3.45 ERA, 1.24 WHIP over 600+ IP) but consistently horrible in each trip up to the majors (5.27/1.55 over 200+ IP).  He had a good start against the punchless Red Sox to start the year but I'm still hesitant as he had two great starts at the beginning of last season as well before the wheels came off.  I'd take a wait-and-see approach with him (as in waiting and seeing what he does for someone else's team).

Thumbs Up - Zach Britton - He had a nice intro into the majors with a good start against the Rays.  Britton has been one of the Orioles' top prospects for a while now and should perform well this year.  From a fantasy perspective, he lacks the K potential that you'd want but he should have a respectable ERA and WHIP so he's worth a flier.  There may be ups and downs but the ups should outweigh the downs on the year.

Thumbs Up - Sean Burnett - If we're still comparing cheap closers, I like what Burnett will give me better than what Walden will.  However, Riggleman seems wary to completely hand the keys over to Burnett as the hope is that Drew Storen is still the closer of the future.  While Burnett will have better peripherals than Walden, the job seems a little more secure for Walden so take that for what it's worth.

Thumbs Up - J.P. Arencibia - In two years of AAA ball, Arencibia smashed over 50 HR.  In 11 games of MLB ball last year, he even hit 2 dingers.  And, now he's started out this year with 2 HR in 3 games.  A reasonable expectation is a .250 average with 25 HR on the year and maybe 85 RBI.  Out of the catcher position, that's something worth rolling with.  Based on his past history and how he's handled the majors thus far, I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be one of the top fantasy catchers by year's end.

Thumbs Down - Chris Tillman - He has some similarities to Matt Harrison in that he's gotten significant time at the minors and majors and hasn't replicated his minor league success.  He started off the season on the right foot with six no-hit scoreless innings but then followed it up with not being able to make it out of the 5th inning in his second game after letting up 4 runs.  The second start is closer to what you should expect out of him and consider anything more a surprise.  I wouldn't jump to the waiver wire for him until he proves a bit more.

Thumbs Up - Jose Lopez - I mentioned Lopez as the most suitable waiver wire pickup to replace Evan Longoria earlier this week and he's kept on hitting since then.  All of that damage has been done at Coors Field so we'll see how his home/road splits break down over the season but I think he's worth a flier in deeper leagues if you need the 2B/3B help.

Thumbs Down - Den Francisco - Francisco not only has two homers but arguably could have hit a couple more from what I saw as he hit two good shots that got caught in the wind and landed at the warning track.  Is he the second coming of Jayson Werth for the Phils?  No, probably not.  Dom Brown will steal AB's from him later on and this is just a rather small sample size. At 29 years old, I wouldn't bet on him suddenly changing into a different player.  The ceiling for him is a 20/20 player but that's wishful thinking.  I wouldn't cut anybody with long-term value for Benny Fresh as I think he's just on a hot streak for the time being.

Thumbs Down - Willie Bloomquist - Stolen bases are such a fickle beast as they're largely a result of whether a manager lets a player run or not.  Well, Willie has been let loose in his time of taking over for Stephen Drew as he's nabbed five SB's in as many games.  Logic would have you believe that Bloomquist won't be much of a factor after Drew returns in the coming days but you never know what a crazy manager might do.  In the expectation that his playing time will be limited, I say don't worry about Fast Willie Bloom.

Thumbs Down - Alexi Ogando - In the Rangers' latest reliever-to-starter experiment, Ogando is getting a couple of chances to start out of the gates this year.  He wowed everyone when he shut down the Mariners (yeah, the Mariners) in his first start but he's not a long-term solution for your fantasy team.  Tommy Rancel had a nice writeup on him that included some reasons to be wary (trouble against lefties being one).  Once Brandon Webb and Tommy Hunter return, Ogando will go back to the bullpen. 

Apr 6, 2011

The Art of The Fantasy Baseball Trade

At their very core, fantasy baseball trades are simply a negotiation between two parties.  Everything that goes into making these trades has roots in the world of psychology as it's all about mind games and diplomacy.  While you don't need to be a psychologist to do a trade, it doesn't hurt to take some lessons from them in order to make better trades.  Within that world, there are six steps and three phases to the negotiation process and here's a quick overview of how they'll apply for us fantasy ballers:

Phase 1: Before The Negotiation
Step 1: Preparing and Planning - Determine what you have and what you can give up.  Gather information on the other owner as far their negotiating style and anticipate what their needs are.

Phase 2: During The Negotiation
Step 2: Setting The Tone - How you approach the trade will greatly determine the likelihood of you being able to work out a deal.
Step 3: Exploring Underlying Needs - Figure out where difficulties may exist and explore alternatives.
Step 4: Selecting, Refining and Crafting an Agreement - Present the starting offer and listen for new ideas as it gets hashed out.
Step 5: Reviewing and Recapping the Agreement - Formalize the trade offer and send it through on your fantasy site.

Phase 3: After The Negotiation
Step 6: Reviewing the Negotiation - Think about what went well and what can be improved next time.

During the negotiation, it's not until the third step that an offer is even made and that's important to keep in mind.  It's unproductive to substitute a trade offer for a conversation.  If you really want to make a deal work, talk to the other owner first and see what their needs are.

Don't ignore the phases that happen before and after a trade.  As you explore a trade, take the time to think about what your bargaining chips are (you're going to have to give up something of value after all) but also think about the other owner as far as their personality and needs.  After you complete a trade, take the time to think about how it went and try to learn what you can do better next time because you should always try to improve this skill of negotiation.

You won't get anywhere in trading if you don't think of your trade partner.  Think of their needs and their motivations then try to find a way to speak to those two things.  Don't say too much as you never know what they might be willing to offer.  If you approach a trade by saying "I really want to get rid of Chase Utley and would take Ben Zobrist for him" then you're never going to know if you could have gotten more out of it as the other owner may love Chase Utley and be willing to give up someone much better.  Start things off slow with a couple e-mails to see their mindset but don't mention specific names in hopes that they might offer you something better than you expected.

When all else fails, there are some dirtier tactics you can employ such as setting a deadline to increase the pressure.  If you say "I'm only putting this offer on the table until midnight tonight then it's gone", it changes the dynamic of the trade and might make the owner concede more if they think the window is closing.

While drafting and free agent pickups are a big piece of winning fantasy baseball championships, you can gain tons of value in trades if you play your cards right.  Keep in mind some of these tips and try to improve your team and your skills with every trade you make.  Even if your league isn't active in trades, try to open up a conversation with other owners and see if you can get the ball rolling.  Winning leagues is all about gaining value and trades are one of the best ways to do it after a draft.

Apr 5, 2011

Ryan Raburn | How Much Should You Give Up

Last year I made the unfortunate mistake of not pulling the trigger on a trade at this time of year.  I had preached about my love for Carlos Gonzalez and got him in every league except one keeper league of mine.  I had asked the owner about trading for Gonzalez but didn't push it as hard as I could have and walked away from the deal.   It didn't ruin my team by not making the deal but it could have made my team better as the owner was receptive to the offer especially after CarGo opened the season with an injury.  My problem was that I just wasn't sure how much I should give up to get him.

So, that brings us to Ryan Raburn for this year.  I don't think he'll put up CarGo's numbers from last year but I do like him as a sleeper and would like to trade for him but need to think about what would be a reasonable offer.  Raburn's owner must obviously like him too and view him as a sleeper but he has started the season by splitting time in the OF which may make his owners sour on him a bit more.  This is a time to jump on it and "overpay" (in their eyes) for Raburn.  Let's see what his market value may be and what would be a nice offer.

Disclaimer: There are two versions of Ryan Raburn out there in 2011.  Version #1 has eligibility at 2B in your league, thus greatly increasing his value.  Version #2 only has OF eligibility and isn't quite as valuable but still will produce nice numbers for you.  We're going to specifically talk about the first version of Raburn that can be plugged into your 2B spot as it is much more valuable.

Between 2009 and 2010, Raburn homered in 1 out of every 22.6 plate appearances and batted .286 while stealing 1 base every 100 plate appearances.  Let's assume that he stays somewhere near those ratios but under-performs slightly and let's (possibly foolishly) assume he gets about 600 plate appearances this year while pegging him for a conservative 85 R's and RBI's.  That would give a nice estimate of 85/25/85/.280/5 for his 2011 season.

With those numbers, Raburn would produce roughly 3.0 roto points of value in your standings (which would make him one of the best 2B in the league).  Being that his average draft position was around the 200th pick, he was being picked at a range that has players giving you -2.0 points of value or worse (based on this expected draft values chart). Since it's early in the year, you can still base trades somewhat off of draft position.  Assuming that his owners expect him to slightly outperform that draft position and produce about -1.0 roto points, it would mean that you should give up your 13th to 15th round pick (from a 12-team league).

If you're doing a straight-up trade with a 2B for him, I'd be willing to give up anybody below the Ian Kinsler tier of players which would mean that possible guys to offer up include Aaron Hill, Ben Zobrist or Gordon Beckham.  Beyond that, I'd take a look at your draft and glance at the guys you took in that Round 13-15 range and see if any of those would fit on the Raburn owner's team and try to throw those in his direction.  It might seem like a lot to give up at this point but it's a price worth paying if you are like me and think Raburn is going to have a productive year.  Otherwise, you will likely still do fine but may find yourself in the position I was in last year where I didn't push hard enough for Carlos Gonzalez.  

Apr 3, 2011

Evan Longoria to DL | Finding a Fantasy Replacement

It's extremely unfortunate when a first round fantasy pick has to go on the DL only two games into the season, as Evan Longoria did, but it hurts worse in this case because 3B is such a thin fantasy position in 2011.  For those who are in CBS weekly lineup leagues, you won't get to take Longoria out until next Sunday so that adds insult to a literal injury.

Early reports say Longoria will miss about three weeks or so.  This will mean roughly 20 games without him in your lineup which will hurt but shouldn't completely cripple your team.  Sean Rodriguez will likely take Longoria's spot for the Rays and he is a fairly suitable fantasy option in all categories except for batting average however he is likely not eligible at 3B in your league yet so you likely will need to look elsewhere if you don't have a legitimate bench option.  As a waiver wire pickup for other folks, Rodriguez is worth looking into for deeper leagues that can afford the low batting average.

Based on ZiPS projections and using my WERTH roto values for a 12 team league, Longoria would be projected to give you 3.56 points in the standings if he played all 162 games.  With him missing 20 games, it is projected to cost you nearly half a point in the standings over the course of the season, hurting you most in Runs and RBIs.  Off the waiver wire, you won't find someone who is projected to produce like Longoria obviously.  But let's take a look at some 3B who are owned in 35% of the leagues or less and see who could potentially fill Longoria's void for you over a 20 game span.

In the chart below we have Longoria's 20 game WERTH values based on ZiPS projections and then what his 162 game season total would be as far as roto value.  Then, we have some potential replacement options with their value over 20 games then the season total of those 20 games plus 142 games of Longoria for comparison purposes.

Player
AVG
HR
R
RBI
SB
Tot
sTot
Diff
Own
Evan Longoria
0.02
0.09
0.22
0.16
-0.01
0.44
3.56
--
--
Sean Rodriguez
-0.19
0.02
0.16
-0.04
0.01
-0.05
3.08
-0.48
35%
Jose Lopez
0.08
-0.01
0.11
0.09
-0.08
0.20
3.32
-0.24
25%
Brent Morel
-0.02
-0.08
0.08
-0.05
0.01
-0.07
3.05
-0.51
21%
Danny Valencia
-0.04
-0.10
0.00
-0.05
-0.08
-0.27
2.85
-0.71
32%
Alberto Callaspo
0.00
-0.10
0.08
-0.08
-0.08
-0.18
2.94
-0.62
20%
Kevin Kouzmanoff
-0.08
0.01
0.02
0.04
-0.11
-0.10
3.02
-0.54
16%
With 20 games being a small sample size, anything could certainly happen but the numbers above represent the most likely expectations for each player.  Out of all of the options out there, the only one who is slated to give positive value over a 20 game span is Jose Lopez, who has gotten off to a nice start over the opening series in 2011.  He's only owned in 25% of the leagues out there and could provide a decent option to plug in over the next few weeks.  Twenty games of Lopez only reduces Longoria's season value by -0.24 roto points, which keeps you in better shape than plugging in a weaker option such as Danny Valencia and losing nearly a full roto point over the season.

So, if you're in a bind after losing Longoria for the near future, feel free to take a chance on Jose Lopez over the next few weeks unless you already have some better options available.  Lopez is in a nice situation at the moment in Colorado and won't completely fill up a Longoria-sized hole for you but at least keep you afloat for the time being.

Apr 1, 2011

Contreras, Stauffer and Moreland | Free Agent Friday



Drafts are over and real baseballs are being hit with real bats and pitched by real pitchers.  It's crazy!  After today, all of our respective favorite teams will have taken the field and our beautiful fantasy baseball players will have given us some sort of statistics to cheer or gripe about.  In fantasy baseball land, the focus now becomes on making your team better through trades or free agent pickups.  Today, let's focus on who is getting picked up in leagues and whether they are worthwhile investments that you need to jump on board with.

Thumbs Up - Jose Contreras - Here's the first cheap saves option of 2011 for roto leagues.  Brad Lidge "hopes" to be back before the second half which means that Contreras is in the driver's seat for the foreseeable future.  He briefly held the job last year when Lidge was out and did fine.  There's no big worries here with him.  None of his numbers may be particularly great but he'll get you saves and that's a valuable thing.

Thumbs Down - Brandon Belt - Unless you're in a keeper league, I wouldn't fret too much about Brandon Belt.  He might hit 15 to 20 HR and he'll actually net you some stolen bases possibly as well.  But, he's a 1B which is the deepest position in baseball and has many more heavy hitters out there.  If you completely missed the boat on 1B or CI then nab him but otherwise ignore him in seasonal leagues.

Thumbs Up - Tim Stauffer - I'm down with Stauffer because 1) he pitches in freakin' PETCO and 2) he's put up some decent numbers in over 21 starts over the past two years.  An ERA up or around 3.75 and a respectable WHIP is in his future.  If you got the space for that type of stuff on your roster then get on board with Stauffer.

Thumbs Up - Michael Morse.. /  - .... .. -. -.- /  .... . .----. .-.. .-.. / -... . /  --. --- --- -..


Thumbs Up - Michael Pineda - ZiPS has him projected at 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and about 7 K/9 and I feel that's about right.  Barry Zito and Gavin Floyd both produced nearly that same stat line last year (Zack Greinke was just about there as well for what it's worth).  Getting a league average SP off the waiver wire is pretty nice.  And, he certainly has the ability to outperform that projection based on his minor league K numbers.  But, I wouldn't target him unless you have a deep bench.

Thumbs Up - Mitch Moreland - If you want to know why I like(d) Moreland, check out the full post from February.

Thumbs Down - Mark Trumbo - In AAA last year, he hit .299 with 36 HR, 103 R and 122 RBI.  Yessum.  Kendrys Morales is still the starter at 1B for the Angels though.  So, Trumbo is just babysitting and 1B is deep as I said earlier.  You really should have locked up a decent 1B already but I'd take Belt over Trumbo if you didn't just because he'll be there all year and contributes in AVG and SB where Trumbo likely will not.