Taking one for your team

Seeing how I am a Royals fan, you’d think I’d jump on every player’s bandwagon. I made it clear in my rankings and my prior comments that I wasn’t a big advocate of Brian Bannister, despite his elite start as of date. However, a recent article that has been circulating and brought to the attention of many fantasy writers has changed a lot of minds on why Bannister has been so successful in his pitching methods. His BABIP was irregularly low, which usually projects that the following year will see a spike in the number of balls that fall, and therefore his ERA will climb as well. A clip from what he said:

“I don’t claim to be able to beat the .300 (H/BIP) average year in and year out at the Major League level. However, I also don’t feel that every pitcher is hopelessly bound to that .300 number for his career if he takes some steps to improve his odds — which is what pitching is all about.”

Apparently Bannister is a meticulous study of film, and Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz compared him to Pirates’ closer Matt Capps in that they are simply smart pitchers who induce weak swings and such. Surely Bannister won’t keep up the pace he’s at, but if last year truly wasn’t a fluke, the Royals may actually have three frontline guys who can turn heads. Speaking of, for all the Zack Greinke owners worrying about the strikeouts despite an electric start, they came Saturday despite struggling as he wore down.

One thing that’s been well documented about the Oakland A’s and the “Moneyball” strategy has been Billy Beane’s tendency to find guys who have the ability to draw walks and reach base as much as possible. Perhaps no one was more epitimized in this stereotype better than Kevin Youkalis, and now Daric Barton could be a similar mold of high .OBP. Going hand in hand in this is having a good eye, and the ability to take a lot of pitches.

NP Chart

An interesting assortment of names up here. Would you be surprised if say, six of these guys didn’t hit .300? Obviously McClouth is going to cool down some, but he has tools to be useful in other categories. There’s, not surprisingly, two A’s at three and four. One could argue that Ortiz’s average, again, can be explained by perhaps physical problems and not any downtick in his eye.

Regardless, this list is no fluke. Care to check out 2007’s leaders? How about a who’s who in the top 10? Grady Sizemore, Bobby Abreu, Brian Roberts, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and Jose Reyes are in there. It’s very reflective of a good batting eye and a selective swing as a result. We’ll revisit this list in about a month. It might not be surprising to see that some of the top performers from fantasy are heading this list.


All That Glitters..

Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness must have been talking about the Detroit Tigers. It’s an early season, but already we’ve seen the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles toppling good teams. That being said, it’s an applicable fantasy lesson that the season is young and not to overthink.

Sometimes the long ball is what dooms a pitcher. John Danks and Boof Bonser were two particular guys this seemed to hurt last year. Javier Vasquez, notoriously talented but always prone to the home run, put together a decent year last year but still allowed 29. Can pitchers put together a good year while still yielding a number of home runs? Well, it was a disturbing uptick, but Johan Santana allowed 33 home runs last year while posting a 3.33 ERA. Those 33 were third-most for a pitcher in 2007.

Sometimes just looking at the ERA and WHIP and wondering what’s going on is simply not enough. I’ll use Rays’ starter Andy Sonnanstine as a prime example. Good minor league stats, and definitely an above-average pitcher who bases his success on control more than stuff. I advised a friend in our league to pick him up when he asked for advice a week ago, while another friend who owned him last year disagreed. His reason? Sonnanstine was simply home run prone. Already this year, Sonnanstine has given up one in each of his two starts. So looking at the box score tonight, I see Sonnanstine was yanked (no pun intended) facing New York after 7 ER in 3 1/3 innings. Sure enough, he allowed 3 HR in the first two innings. It’s just a lesson that you can’t always rely on the basic statistics that are available, and sometimes even a closer look at a box score can reveal what’s holding a pitcher back from taking the next step toward being more useful in your lineup.

  • Speaking of things that aren’t as they appear, David Ortiz is one player that a lot of experts in the industry seem to have mixed opinions on. Some analysts made note that he’s trying to generate all his power from the upper body in some of his swings without much else, and it’s the reason some of those long doubles or homers are falling short. Personally I liked Skip Bayliss analysis, saying that he may have some Big Papi weeks, but not a Big Papi year.
  • As I’ve written this post, I’m liking more and more the fact that I spent $5 on Rafeal Betancourt in my AL-Only league. Not so much because he’s looked like the elite reliever he has been over the past few years, but because, if you can believe it, Joe Borowski continues to look worse and worse. He picks up his second loss of the season with a blown save tonight, clinched emphatically by a two-run shot from Manny Ramirez. Borowski never had an electric fastball, but at least before it sat in the high 80’s. That fastball is essentially a deadball as of late, clocking in at 83 or 84. The time on Borowski as a closer who can barely get the job done seems to be expiring, and owners will want to make sure that Betancourt, or possibly even Masa Kobayashi in a deep league if you’re desperate for saves.
  • Not simply from a fantasy standpoint, but in terms of real baseball impact, I wasn’t big on the White Sox rotation at all last year. Prior to Spring Training, I must admit nothing had changed this year either. Javier Vasquez was a notorious tantalizier, and past he and Buehrle, what was there? But John Danks looked like he might finally be putting it all together, and that 12-6 curveball that Gavin Floyd used to become an invaluable prospect in the Phillies farm system was part of an arsenal that made these guys look like good back-end rotation guys. While Floyd has had a memorable outing already, Danks has not. I would be patient, and throw him out there a few more times, even if you’re looking for a spot start. I think he’ll correct his woes sooner than later.
  • Everyone is shocked over Nate McClouth’s start, and no doubt he’s overachieving; the guy has never been a solid average hitter. Here’s what MLB.com projected the Pirates’ CF for in their preview: .273/85/16/55/26. That doesn’t sound so unreasonable, but I think closer to 20/30 is going to be spot on for McClouth. Sometimes the only thing from keeping a guy who has the talent to put up better numbers, for example Kevin Youkilis before he got the 3B job in Boston, is opportunity. He’s not going to get you a lot of RBI’s, and that average will come down. If he does manage to hit over .270 with consistency, a guy who can hold a job like this could be a low No. 3 outfielder in mixed leagues.

Should be back tomorrow or Thursday with some pickup advice and plenty of other goodies.

Taming the Tigers

I had a chance to catch two Tigers/Royals games down at Comerica Park the past two days, and Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke were quite a tandem in shutting down what was supposed to be a fantasy powerhouse lineup. A few good shots..



The Tigers’ batters looked utterly out of sync. Yes, I am a Royals fan, but being unbiased I am just not a believer in Brian Bannister. That being said, he fooled the Tigers just as well as Greinke did, which was a blessing to me in the fact that I do have him on all four of my teams this year. A very busy sports week for me as I’ll be at the Detroit Pistons game tomorrown night when they face the Nets in what is essentially a meaningless end of the regular season contest, but should be fun nonetheless. I’ll be back mid-next week with more regular updates.

Premium Draft

Apologies for how long this took to comprise, but it’s been a busy time. I had the chance to watch my Kansas Jayhawks at Ford Field here defeat Villanova, and due to the conflict with my auction draft this past Sunday, watched them squeeze by Davidson without being there in person.

I took part in two drafts this weekend. One involved the MLB.com Radio Fans League, a farm system draft. I’ll comment more on that later, but I’d like to focus on the auction as I believe it is a format that requires the most skill and knowledge undoubtedly. Here below I’ve been kind enough to disclose my Auction rankings. Keep in mind this is a 9-team 4×4 league, so two of the strategies I employed, involving catchers and designated hitters, are partly based on the number of these teams. Also, some players are adjusted due to the fact that runs are not a category, nor are strikeouts. (23 Players, $240 budget)

2008 Fantasy Baseball AL Auction Rankings.doc

With that aside, I’ll give you the batting first:

C – A.J. Pierzynski 3
1B – Justin Morneau 24
3B – Scott Rolen 5 (to DL, added Mike Lamb)
CI – Alex Gordon 14
2B – Ian Kinsler 19
SS – Jhonny Peralta 6
MI – Yuniesky Betancourt 5
OF – Bobby Abreu 21
OF – Franklin Guitierrez 5
OF – Josh Hamilton 19
OF – Torii Hunter 20
OF – Jason Kubel 4
DH – Billy Butler 8

Comments:To be honest, I wasn’t really going after Morneau; I saw nothing in the numbers I crunched prior to the draft that indicated a boost back to MVP status, but he ended up being the centerpiece of my offense. Other than he, and possibly Abreu, I felt like this was an offense chalk-full of bargains. I anticipate Gordon, Kubel, Butler and possibly Hamilton being a few of the guys that can certainly exceed more than $5 over their price. I enacted a nomination strategy of DH’s with the intention of people filling their rosters with DH-eligible only players until several of the better ones were the last left on the board successfully; only one other owner was able to bid on Butler, who I believe is close to a $15 player. Overall, I feel like this team could use a little work in speed, but I believe that it will be possibly the top offense in the league. And onto the pitching..

P – Roy Halladay 23
P – Scott Baker 5
P – Zack Greinke 9
P – Dustin McGowan 12
P – Gil Meche 5
P – Joba Chamberlain 2
P – Rafeal Betancourt 5
P – Joakim Soria 14

If you add up the total amounts, you’re going to come up with about $5 short of the budget. Yes, I underspent. I think Chamberlain and Betancourt are fine pickups (particularly for their prices), but only if this staff was stronger than it is. However, if Betancourt jumps into a closer role of Chamberlain gets into a rotation spot or Rivera is befallen with injury, this staff takes a big upturn. Nabbing a second closer at some point is my goal here, but ERA and WHIP are going to be a real strong point of this staff. I think with the offense it’s enough combined.

Overall, I think it’s a top two or three team on paper, with the potential to be the best with the right pickups. If things go right, the paper could be incredible, and I might be able to dish it off for any other shortcomings.

Anyhow, I’ll be back later in the week with another update. Good luck with your drafts if they’re not already done, and to a good start to the season.

Fresh Start

Hope everyone had a great off-season. This blog is going to hopefully see a lot more action this year, so get ready.

I want to kick it off with a variety of rankings over the next few weeks, that I’m still working over and constantly kicking around and adjusting. Like most people, even the most educated fan isn’t sure about some of the position battles this early in Spring Training, so you’ve got to make a **** educated guess. I’ve been participating in some Mock Drafts and even a few regular drafts here and there, and I plan on adding some comments from some of those later this week.

However, I’m going to start with some rankings. I’ve been diligently working on my AL-Only ones as of late. I want to point a few things out. These are 4×4 rankings. I do discount those guys who are heavy in runs; if that’s one of a certain player’s most valuable attribute, he’s going to get bumped down. For example, Derek Jeter. Consistent, yes. Productive, check. But without his runs, what makes this guy any better than Carlos Guillen? You could argue for either, really. So keep that in mind. Secondly, AL-Only is a big part of this. You’ll see I have Brian Roberts marked down on a discount. Well, anyone who sees the Orioles finishing any better than fourth in the East is probably a fanatic or a fool. GM Andy MacPhail has made it clear he’s not afraid to pull the Trigger, and it’s easy to see how Roberts could be a big ticket before the deadline come July. With that, here’s the infield rankings.

I plan on releasing DH/Outfield rankings later this week, either seperately with another post or with pitchers. Note that multiple eligibility is based on 20 games played last year, which covers almost any possibly format your league has, and that way you don’t have to go checking whatever magazine or rankings you have to see if your league fits. A "+" next to a player indicates I have him as a good target/value player. Here we go, complete with auction values/ranges:


Victor Martinez 21-23 (1B) +

Kenji Johjima 9-10 +

Joe Mauer 13-14

Jorge Posada 9-10

Ramon Hernandez 5-6

Jarrod Saltalamacchia 4-5 +

A.J. Pierzynski 3-4

Mike Napoli (4) +

Jason Varitek (3)

Pudge Rodriguez (2) —

Notes: You’ll notice for some of these positions I didn’t rank a full 12 players, etc. Why? If you’re stuck with something worse, you’re facing certain doom at that position. It’s probably a position where you want a reliable player, because the average player replacing him would kill you. The catcher position, particularly in the


, is no different. Why do I have Mauer valued at more and yet ranked below Johjima? Well, are you a gambler or a conservative? If you think Mauer stays healthy, he’ll put up that kind of value. If not, Johjima seems like a lock. I think


and Salty are the quality sleepers here, but Pudge seems like the candidate to keep declining; his lack of walks and declining production in the second half scare me off.


Justin Morneau 26-27

Carlos Guillen 23-24 (SS) +

Victor Martinez 21-22 (C) +

Paul Konerko 20-21

Carlos Pena 17-18

Alex Gordon 17-18 (3B) +

Nick Swisher 15-16 (OF)

Ryan Garko 13-14 +

Casey Kotchman 11-12 +

Kevin Youkilis 11-12




9-10 +

Aubrey Huff 9-10 (DH) +

Richie Sexson 9-10

Jarrod Saltalamacchia 7-8 (C)

Daric Barton 6-7 +

Mike Lamb 6-7 (3B) ++

Matt Stairs 5-6

Kevin Millar 4-5

Ben Broussard 4-5

Brad Wilkerson 3-4

Ross Gload 3-4

Dan Johnson 2-3

Notes: Morneau stays No. 1 here by default, but I’m not convinced the batting average rebounds all the way; his BABIP and other peripherals show no signs. Upon first glance this position is stunningly weak this year, but some bargains can be found.


might not be a bad way to go, and even better due to flexibility. Gordon seems like a sure bet to improve based on his second-half strides, and Overbay appears to be a risk worth taking to rebound. If you’re looking to draft late or go cheap, Lamb seems like a great bet as a corner infielder. The fact that he’s hit lefties as well as he has as a Southpaw himself bodes well for adequate ABs.


B.J. Upton 25-26 (OF) ++

Robinson Cano 22-23 +

Ian Kinsler 22-23 +

Brian Roberts 15-16

Howie Kendrick 14-15

Aaron Hill 11-12 +

Dustin Pedroia 11-12

Mark Ellis 10-11

Placido Polanco 10-11 —

Asdrubal Cabrera 6-7

Danny Richar 5-6

Jose Lopez 3-4

Mark Grudzielanek 3-4

Brendan Harris 1-2 –


Carlos Guillen 23-24 (1B) +

Derek Jeter 22-23

Michael Young 21-22

Edgar Renteria 16-17

Julio Lugo 14-15 +

Jhonny Peralta 13-14 +


Cabrera 11-12

Yunieski Betancourt 10-11 +

Jason Bartlett 9-10

David Eckstein 7-8 +

Brendan Harris 3-4 (2B)

Notes: I only ranked about 10 guys here accurately for a reason: I don’t feel at all confident about anyone afterward, sans Harris assuming he wins the job in




‘s abnormal first-half last season should mean that he’s available at a bit cheaper than he should be, and with his vision corrected after surgery, Peralta assumedly will post production similar to 2005. Betancourt or Eckstein are good lower-round/priced picks for


owners, but I wouldn’t tread any deeper into the shortstop pool than them.


Alex Rodriguez 41-42 +

Miguel Cabrera 33-34

Adrian Beltre 22-23 +

Chone Figgins 21-22

Alex Gordon 17-18 (1B) +

Mike Lowell 16-17

Hank Blalock 13-14

Evan Longoria 13-14

Scott Rolen 12-13 +

Eric Chavez 8-9

Akinori Iwamura 7-8

Mike Lamb 6-7 (1B) ++

Melvin Mora 6-7

Josh Fields 6-7

Casey Blake 2-3

So there you go. The rest is coming later this week. Enjoy, and comments welcome as usual.

Notes: You can make the argument A-Rod is worth a few extra dollars, but I wouldn’t break the bank for more than $45 for this year’s No. 1. Cabrera’s value would be more if he were batting third in the lineup, but hitting fifth might shave a dollar or two off of some at-bats that he might otherwise receive. I was prepared to take a gamble possibly on Eric Chavez a few weeks ago, but every word I hear about the guy makes me more cautious every second about thinking about it. Fields is the wildcard here; once we get word on who wins the job or if Crede is traded, make your judgment. No question he has the ability to hit 25-30 home runs if he gets full-time PT, so adjust accordingly in that case.

Notes: If you’re in a typical 5×5 league, this position is stronger. A lot of guys here who score runs, but once you get past the top, it gets shallow very fast. We here a lot of talk in Spring Training about guys adding pitches or claiming to steal more, but if you want to believe positive things about one guy it’s got to be


. His average may not be what it was last year, but here’s a guy who can go 30/30 potentially, and he’s currently slotted to hit cleanup. I’d bid/draft as aggressively on him as anyone. Already gave an explanation on Roberts…Aaron Hill is a nice player to grab in the middle; I nabbed him on the cheap in an auction last year, and he produced surprisingly for a guy who contributed in little else than average previously. His gap power finally translated and he’s a good bet to get you your money again, albeit at a higher value. A lot of magazines or sources project Asdrubal Cabrera to steal somewhere near 15 bags this season; I’m not seeing it, and I’d let someone else gamble on him until he proves his worth.

General Manager Hospital

Another year, another All-Star Break approaches. And don’t forget, this one counts. As much controversy has arisen over the Barry Bonds situation, there’s plenty of good about it as well. Seeing Ken Griffey Jr. back for the festivities is a welcome site after his days in Seattle, and reigning Home Run Derby champion Ryan Howard is back to win me some more cash when I bet on him again this year.

Meanwhile, players have been dropping like flies on the path to the break, and some who were thought to return prior to the road to San Fransisco have had theirs prolonged, forcing many owners to scrape up replacements. A look around at some of the happenings, including those who have gone down:

  • Owners who watched, or even followed A.J. Burnett‘s first start must have known that the oft-injured starter just wasn’t ready to return. What surprises me are the comments which Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi made, saying that he basically regretted signing Burnett. Interestingly, Ricciardi made similar comments at the beginning of last season, doubting Burnett’s toughness when tests revealed no structural damage. "Honestly, I think [the injury] is more so in his mind than it is medically. . . . Three doctors have looked at his elbow and said the same thing." Burnett then said that was totally untrue. Ricciardi was the one who gave the guy the deal, is this just frusteration on his part? The guy isn’t a terrible GM, but there sure have been a lot of problems coming out of Toronto’s camp over the past year, especially with the B.J. Ryan fiasco. Luckily, Shawn Marcum has been a pleasant surprise, and Dustin McGowan figures to bring his ERA even farther down and live up to his billing as a first-round talent in the second half.
  • Speaking of the Jays, AL-Only owners will particularly want to keep an eye on the outfield situation. Granted, Adam Lind hasn’t been the .300 hitter that most project him to be, but he has knocked out 8 homers and 30 RBI’s in 235 at-bats. Gibbons also said that he has improved defensively, but that may not be enough to keep him in the lineup with the return of Reed Johnson in the next week. The incumbent won’t provide the production in power categories that Lind will, but he did hit .318 last year and will give owners a handfull-more steals. AL owners who need a 4th or 5th outfielder will want to pick up Johnson if he’s still available. I have both players in my AL-Only league and may be forced to make a decision if Lind isn’t sent down..
  • Mark Buehrle is perfectly healthy, but obviously still plenty swirling going on about his situation. To stir the pot even more, Buherle was seen packing things from his locker prior to the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Twins. While several other teams are trade candidates, the teams with prospects that seem to make the most sense for Chicago would be the Mets or the Braves. Any deal that involved New York would certainly entail the Sox to ask for outfielder Lastings Milledge.
  • Certainly owners who drafted Randy Johnson this year expected more, but few pitchers have been more tantalizing than Rich Harden. The debate over his situation will be put to rest on Saturday when the projected ace of the staff goes up against Seattle. Seattle is just a middle of the road offense, but even if the game were played at Safeco, this is not a game fantasy owners with a quality pitching staff will want to gamble on with Harden. He’s expected to be held to 65 pitches, so it only figures to be about a five-inning outing for Harden approximately.
  • While talk of taking away Orioles closer Chris Ray‘s saves are legitimate, the Brian Fuentes situation in Colorado is still absolutely perplexing. Not to knock Manny Corpas, who projects to be a decent setup guy for the future, but Fuentes has proven his worth over the last two years and to pull him out of the role after several bad outings with a little bad luck is extreme. Owners of Fuentes should certainly pick up Corpas, as he won’t hurt you like say a Gary Glover in Tampa Bay, but don’t sell low on Fuentes. He’ll have the job back shortly I believe.

Everyone enjoy the last few games before the break. I’ll have an article coming soon on the value of stolen bases compared with home runs that I’ve been working on. Good luck in your respective leagues until then.

Target Practice

A few bumps in the road, but back onto posting regularly once again. I took a break from doing mixed leagues last year to catch back up on my NL knowledge a tad, but a month ago signed up for several mid-season leagues in addition to my MLB.com 2007 Open teams (although I don’t really consider those because of their obscure format). I’m currently sitting at 2nd in both leagues, although I’ve lost two solid starts from Yovani Gallardo due to carelessness. Daily fantasy leagues can sometimes be a chore, folks.

With the All-Star break looming in San Fransisco right around the corner, that means we’re almost at the second half. Everyone knows that Johan Santana and Adrian Beltre come alive in the second half, or in Beltre’s case simply start playing. Here are a handful of guys I believe that are either strong second-half performers, or players who are struggling and show signs of righting the ship.

  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B CHC – He’s not falling up short of last years numbers like, say, Alfonso Soriano. But the trend shows that aside from his average, Ramirez other numbers in the stretch make him a good buy. Did you know that Ramirez has played nearly 130 more second half games, but has hit four MORE home runs in the second half? While his average may only sit at .280 or .285 from here out, look for around 17 HRs and 54 RBIs. His current numbers put him at less than 100 RBIs for the season, so look to capitalize on owners who are expecting those kind of numbers here on out.
  • Scott Kazmir, SP TB – The Devil Rays ace did not pitch a complete second half in 2006 after being shut down, but what he did throw helps illustrate his split. Analysts have pointed to high pitch counts as being his problem. Kazmir threw several more strikes per outing in 2006, so that might be more accurate. Nevertheless, in his last two years he soared through summer. In his five starts in ’06, Kazmir posted a 3.10 ERA, slightly better than the first half. The previous year is much more drastic; a 4.59 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in the first half, followed by a dazzling 2.79 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Keep in mind, Kazmir’s career ERA for the month of June is an abysmal 5.23, though every other month it is under four.
  • Kevin Milwood, SP TEX – Is this really the guy who led the American League in ERA just a few seasons back? If he can get that fastball down in the zone and be effective with his breaking ball, we’re going to see similar numbers. Milwood is traditionally a second-half performer; his career ERA is a full run lower in the second half. But his split was even stronger his first year in Texas. In an equal 17 starts per half in ’06, Milwood yielded almost an equal amount of hits, though it was his K/BB ratio that improved. That helped him go from a 5.38 ERA in the first 81 to a 3.74 ERA in the later. Bank on a return to form, and if he was cut in AL-Only leagues, pick him up immediately.
  • Zach Duke, SP PIT – Call this one a hunch. If I was in a mixed league, I’d start looking for good matchups the sinkerball pitcher has coming up. Duke is less valuable because of his lack of strikeouts, but NL owners will want to keep an eye on Duke. His pitches per IP (P/IP) are still in the top 50, but before his last start were even better, similar to numbers from Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Dan Haren. A first-half ERA of 5.17 in ’06, he improved in the second half and ended with an ERA of 3.65.
  • Curt Schilling, SP BOS –  Nothing really shows that Schilling is a stronger second half performer by splits. Owners may be frusterated by his starts that ballooned his ERA to 4.20. Before he comes back, now is the time to acquire the veteran if possible. Chipper Jones publicly speculated that he suspected Schilling was pitching injured due to decreased velocity on his pitches. His last two starts severely inflated his numbers, and when he returns he’ll be a workhorse for a team that will continue to give him ample run support. If you have security in the standings, acquiring from a team who is struggling may be a good deal.
  • I thought of adding Carlos Beltran to this list, but even after his 2 HR night yesterday, I’m still skeptical. He still has a career .255 average in Shea Stadium despite being a slightly stronger hitter in that category as the season wears on.

That’s it for now. Keep enjoying the games before the break, I’ll be back with more in a couple days.