Wednesday, July 3, 2013

7/3 Suggested Lineup for Fantasy Feud

Hit on my SFL picks last night, finishing 3rd out of 96 to place in the $. Switching gears for today. Posting my strategy for FF leagues. Enjoy!

C- Matt Wieters ($53,456). Struggling against lefties this year, but posted an OPS above .900 against LHP in 2011/2012. It's not like he suddenly forgot how to hit them completely. Playing in US Cellular against Hector Santiago, a guy with control problems. If he hangs one right over the plate, Wieters can take it deep.

1B- Prince Fielder ($83,408). Struggling vs RHP this year, but never posted an OPS below .975 the previous 3 seasons. Rogers Centre is a great place to hit, Josh Johnson is struggling, and he’s 5-12 against JJ with no strikeouts.

2B- Brandon Phillips ($72,592). Has hit lefties well his entire career. Playing at home in the bandbox that is the Great American Ballpark, Zito is god awful on the road (seriously have you seen his splits from '10'-'13?), and he's 8-19 against Barry with no strikeouts.

3B- Pablo Sandoval ($47,216). Kung Fu Panda is in a huge funk. At this discounted price though you have to like his chances of breaking out of his cold spell. Still hitting .314 on the season against LHP and Cingrani throws the FB 80% of the time. One well timed jump on a fastball could be in store.

SS- Jose Reyes ($73,424). It's not so much that I love the matchup against Scherzer, but SS is shallow and I can afford it. On a 5 game hitting streak and hasn't attempted a SB during that stretch. If he gets on base look for him to run, and Arencibia (.214 caught stealing %) isn't likely to throw him out.

OF 1- Andrew McCutchen ($82,160). Eats LHP for breakfast. Lannan doesn't scare me, and he' s 7-16 off him with 4 XBH.

OF 2- Carlos Gonzalez ($77,168). Coors Field, 5-12 against a diminishing Greinke with 3 XBH, he's Carlos F'n Gonzalez.

OF 3- Matt Joyce ($49,920). The ultimate platoon player facing a RHP, an absolute steal at this price. Norris isn't very good.

UTIL 1- David Ortiz ($96,096). Home at Fenway, absolutely crushes RHP, Volquez is even more terrible than normal away from PETCO.

UTIL 2- Joey Votto ($75,920). Playing at home and sporting an .884 OPS vs LHP this year. Only 3-18 against Zito, but he’s constantly making contact with only 2 strikeouts. 

P 1- Jon Lester ($74,400). Facing a watered down Padres squad without Gyorko and Cabrera. I think Volquez gets lit up, Lester is solid if not great, and picks up the W.

P 2- Mike Minor ($113,920). Minor has been great and the Marlins haven't. Easy math here.

P 3- CC Sabathia ($98,080). Pitching in the spacious Target Field, Willingham just hit the DL, and their 2 biggest bats in Mauer/Morneau combine for an OPS under .500 in 78 AB against him.

Total Salary- $997,760
Over/Under ($1M)- $2,240
Remaining $/Player- $0

Plan B- Weather looks like it could be nasty for the MIA-ATL game, would hate to get rained out. Plan B is one of Cingrani/Garza/Miller to replace Minor, followed by a lineup adjustment at either Catcher/3B/OF. Selections dependent on MLB lineups being posted.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Justin Verlander & 7/1/13 Strategy for SFL

When you drafted Justin Verlander in the 2nd round of your fantasy league, you weren't expecting a 3.77 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, were you? 

At the end of May you dealt with a ton of buy low offers, which you rejected. Now another poor month has been logged and panic starts to set in. What is wrong with Justin Verlander? Do you keep him or finally trade him away? The answer is obvious. HOLD!

Many commentators have pointed out that his velocity is down this year, which is true. His fastball, curveball, and changeup are all down a tick. The good news? His slider is up 1 MPH according to PITCHf/x. To me that shows he's not hiding an injury or messing with his arm slot. It's just random variation and the flames will eventually return. In fact he hit 98/99 a few times on Saturday against the Rays.

But what about his control? His BB/9 sits at 3.34, the worst mark he's posted since 2008. Thankfully there are a couple of metrics that correlate strongly with expected BB%. F-Strike% and Zone%. 

Verlander is throwing the first pitch for a strike 63.7% of the time. It's the best rate of his career and he usually sits in the low 60's, so nothing is out of the ordinary here. Taking a look at the next 4 closest pitchers to Verlander in F-Strike% (Felix, Cain, Hefner, Sale) all of them have a sub 2.60 BB/9. Using the Zone% that PITCHf/x offers, Verlander is finding the strike zone 50.6% of the time. It's down a smidge from his marks of 51.9% and 51% the previous 2 seasons, but it's still a very strong rate and likely just a part of natural fluctuations. Again taking a look at his 4 closest neighbors in Zone% (Sabathia, Leake, Ervin Santana, Cain) they all have a sub 2.50 BB/9. Verlander put up a 2.27 BB/9 last season and a 2.04 BB/9 in 2011. All of the indicators suggest the command he's displaying will lead to fewer free passes. 

Other than that everything else checks out. Nothing crazy in his batted ball data. He's actually inducing more grounders/less fly balls this year. That's a good thing. His BABIP sits at .344, the third highest mark in the majors, so he's been unlucky. Since 5/11 (the first sign of struggles) he's only faced 2 below average offenses in his last 10 starts. His schedule becomes a lot friendlier the rest of the way. Good things come to those who wait. You will be happy you waited on Verlander.

Time for SFL Strategy for tonight's slate of games. I did this previously on 6/28 to poor results. I feel pretty good about these picks though.

C- Miguel Montero ($4,998). Starting to heat up, June was far and away his best month of the season. Montero has a good track record against righties and for what it's worth he's 1-3 with a HR against Marcum.

1B- Adam LaRoche ($6,445). LaRoche is swinging a hot stick, raising his AVG .21 points over the last 2 weeks. He faces off against RHP Yovani Gallardo, owning a 1.074 OPS in 24 AB against him.

2B- Ben Zobrist ($6,442). Facing a mediocre starter? Check. Good history against lefties? Check. Short porch in left field? Check.

3B- Pablo Sandoval ($6,339). Panda has been cold since coming off the DL. He's bound to bust out of this slump at some point. Playing in a bandbox in Cincinnati against Arroyo is a good time to start.

SS- Didi Gregorius ($5,538). He's coming off a miserable June but still holds an .885 OPS against RHP. Hoping to strike gold in a value pick.

OF- Hunter Pence ($7,889). 1.080 OPS in 35 AB against Arroyo. Slugging over .500 in 37career games at Great American Ballpark.

OF- Desmond Jennings ($6,448). See Ben Zobrist.

OF- Wil Myers ($5,388). See above. You can see a trend here. Sometimes it pays off to gamble on a few hitters close to each other in the lineup. There's a domino effect in scoring and you can accumulate a lot of points this way.

U- Giancarlo Stanton ($8,235). Jason Marquis has given up 16 HR this year, Stanton hits bombs for a living. He's worth the price tag.

SP- Jordan Zimmerman ($16,799). One of the frontrunners to win the NL CY. Pitching at home against the Brewers, a below average offense. Even worse with Braun on the DL.

SP- Matt Moore ($10,191). No team strikes out more than the Astros and Moore racks up a healthy amount of K's himself.

RP- J.J. Putz ($1,400). The cheapest closer available gives you some wiggle room to build elsewhere. Likely to get some work regardless of a save opportunity.

P- Jose Fernandez ($13,278). The Padres are still without Gyorko and Cabrera. The talented rookie matches up well against the watered down offense.

Friday, June 28, 2013

6/28 Strategy for SFL Leagues

Something new for a change. SFL is running daily freerolls and I thought it would be fun to put together a recommended lineup before the contest kicks off.

C- Victor Martinez ($4,782). Slugging over .400 this month, starting to find his power stroke. Colome may throw gas but his command is rough. He's going to serve a few meatballs right over the plate. I like V-Mart to punish at least one of them.

1B- Lance Berkman ($4,882). Owns a 1.027 OPS in 29 career AB against Cueto. Can't argue against history that well established, especially at this price tag.

2B- Rickie Weeks ($4,889). Over the last 7 days Weeks is sporting a line of .444/.524/.944. He's hitting the cover off the ball right now. Ride him while he's hot.

3B- Juan Francisco ($3,622). Like his teammate above, Francisco is dialed in at the plate. He's gone deep in 3 straight games. Facing off against a RHP in Cole tonight, has always displayed great power against righties.

SS- Brandon Crawford ($5,228). Owns a 1.069 OPS in 16 career AB against Chacin. Playing in Coors Field is always nice too.

OF- Carlos Beltran ($8,710). Owns a 1.074 OPS in 41 career AB against Colon. Nobody has a better track record against their opposing pitcher for today’s slate of games.

OF- Jose Bautista ($9,725). Slugging .621 in 35 games at Fenway Park. Facing off against a RHP in Webster tonight, he definitely excels more against righties.

OF- Giancarlo Stanton ($9,761). It's a small sample size but Stanton is batting .400 with a HR in 5 career AB against Volquez. When Volquez leaves PETCO Field he turns into an absolute train wreck and that's good news for Stanton.

U- Gregor Blanco ($5,422). 2-6 in his career against Chacin. Batting .311 against RHP this season and has the luxury of playing in Coors Field.

SP- Matt Harvey ($16,445). The Nationals have the 2nd worst offense in baseball. Harvey has the 2nd lowest ERA in baseball. The math here is easy.

SP- Hisashi Iwakuma ($16,683). Iwakuma loves the spacious confines of SAFECO field. A 1.46 ERA and 0.61 WHIP at home. Pitching in Seattle against the soft hitting Cubbies is a good recipe for success.

RP- Joaquin Benoit ($1,588). The new closer for the Tigers hasn't recorded a save since Leyland gave him the job. With Scherzer on the mound tonight I like his chances. He's only thrown 3.2 innings since 6/16, likely to get some work regardless of a save opportunity.

P- Gerrit Cole ($8,115). I know I have 2 Brewers in my starting lineup, but this is great value and a good matchup. He's shown pinpoint control and fantastic stuff since getting called up. His K rate is criminally low with the pedigree he has. He's due to generate some strikeouts.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gausman, Heyward, and Davis

Kevin Gausman arrived to “the show” with a lot of hype and failed to deliver during his first two starts. Owners kicked him to the curb, narrowly missing out on his first fine performance against the Tigers. So what can we make of the talented rookie going forward?
The kid only has three major league starts and 61 innings in the minors (none above AAA), not much data to draw strong conclusions from yet. Nonetheless he’s here, so we have to go on what we have. What we do have is exactly what the scouting reports gushed about. A fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and tops out at 99 mph. Strong command over all of his pitches, pounding the strike zone and getting ahead in the count. You would think that was a perfect recipe for success!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I want Moore! Give Me Moore!

Mike Podhorzer over at FanGraphs makes the case that you should sell high on Matt Moore. He offers a very compelling argument, but I'll tell you why Moore will remain successful throughout the year.

Moore has been able to compensate for his shortcomings by increasing his slider usage, easily his best pitch. That’s going to keep him at bay in the short term, but yes he needs to correct his shortcomings before running into danger.

The good news is that the walk rate is trending in the right direction. His last 2 starts aren't a great sample size to read too much into, but a 2.08 BB/9 is at the very least a positive indicator. Moore also has a reputation for being a slow starter. He shaved .92 off of his BB/9 in the 2nd half last season, and developed better control as the season went on during his years in the minors as well.

Fewer line drives are being hit off Moore, and the pitch values on his 2 seamer and changeup are grading out higher than last year. At 23 years of age he's still a pup, still learning and improving. He will suffer some bumps and bruises at times, but Moore has the demeanor and talent of a man who will continue to frustrate opposing batters.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

3 Bats & 3 Arms

Matt Kemp's power outage is very real. His batted ball distance on homers and fly balls this year averages 269.79 feet, last year he lead the league with a 313 foot average distance. MLB average is 275-280 feet. The offseason shoulder surgery is the obvious culprit. 

The Dodgers likely wouldn't risk long term injury by having him play every day if he wasn't feeling 100%, so that's the good news. Power is usually the last thing to come back in the recovery process. I think the Dodgers will likely administer a cortisone shot in the near future. It's what turned Ryan Zimmerman’s season around last year while he was nursing a bum shoulder, and Kemp received one in September last year and cranked out 6 HR that month. I’m not a doctor, but experts in the field have suggested the same thing.

That won’t be the cure to all of his problems though. It won’t improve his hand-eye coordination. K% is up, BB% is down, but Kemp has likely been pressing at the plate due to high expectations of him. Hopefully the HR he hit last night was the confidence booster he needed.

I’m bullish on the AVG and HR to improve, but I just can’t project them to come back at the high levels fantasy owners got in ’11 and ’12. Still too much uncertainty with how Kemp and the Dodgers are managing the shoulder. Think .280, 17 HR the rest of the way as a modest projection.

Manny Machado has been great, but just how great? Assuming he plays in all 162 games (a tall order), he's on pace for 18 HR/14 SB. Good, but not the type of numbers that usually wind up inside the top 30 on the Y! player rater. It's the AVG and RBI/R that give him a lot of value. Machado doesn't exactly have great plate discipline, not working the count and putting balls in play that he shouldn't be chasing. A high BABIP is fueling his average. Remember he never hit for a great AVG in the minors, he's more of a .270-.275 hitter. A lower AVG also means lower counting stats. With a high probability of regression and potential fatigue, he’s likely to hit a speed bump this year.

Gerardo Parra has been a nice surprise, but he's only on pace for a 14/14 season while playing over his head. Let's not act like he's a world beater. Adam Eaton is due back soon which will cut into his playing time as well. He's a good bet to fall off the fantasy map in most formats.

Normally I wouldn't say to trade for a pitcher with an ERA over 5 that’s on the disabled list, but David Price is the exception to that rule. Still has a K/9 above 8, sub 2.5 BB/9, and nothing alarming in his batted ball data.

He has lost some juice on the fastball, but since he’s actually gained some zip on his curve and changeup, I’m optimistic the flames will come back. Playing in the AL East is always a tall task, but his matchups have been even tougher than usual. Only 1 offense he’s faced has been in the bottom half of league scoring, and that’s the Blue Jays who are #16 out of 30. Soon enough he will wind up with a soft schedule to pad his stats.

Marco Estrada has a K/9 above 8, BB/9 under 3, inducing more grounders/fewer liners/less fly balls, yet his HR/9 is up. SwStr% is up slightly, and his contact rate is down. Velocity is down a bit and he’s not working inside the strike zone as much, but his pitches are still doing what they’re supposed to do. Late movement on the fastball, off-speed pitches are still breaking hard, etc. He's not going to cost you an arm and a leg, so why not take a flier on him and buy low?

Hisashi Iwakuma has been a big surprise and a great story, but everything I see screams that a decline is certain. 180 degree in his batted ball data, more fly balls/less grounders, and his HR/9 is somehow down. The batted ball distance is down 1.3 feet, virtually identical. Velocity is down on all of his pitches. His pitch selection remains close to the same as last year. Batters are swinging at the same rate as last year and making the same amount of contact inside the zone. How he’s been able to miss more bats is puzzling.

The biggest improvement is his control, big slash in BB/9. He’s throwing more first pitch strikes and constantly working inside the strike zone. Considering he was known for his control in Japan, it makes sense that this would return after a year of experience in America.

I also worry about his endurance. During his time in Japan he wasn't able to eat up innings, dealing with a shoulder injury that would bark up from time to time. He’s on pace to throw for a career high 230 innings, but he only logged 119 in 2011 and 125 last season. He could slow down or have that injury bark up again.
None of this is meant to bash Iwakuma, but to highlight the unsustainable numbers he’s put up. He’s the #9 SP in the Y! player rater. If you can convince someone he’s an ace, sell him high.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fast Take- Josh Donaldson & Joe Mauer

Donaldson has always flashed good plate discipline in the minors, but never really made great contact. As seen here, Donaldson has made the mechanical adjustments necessary to generate more power. He posted a .1000 OPS in AAA last year, .844 OPS in the bigs after the ASB, and currently has a .936 OPS. Selective sampling, I know, but it looks like he's turned a corner.

His .360 BABIP would hint that he can’t sustain a .323 batting average, but a rough estimation of his XBABIP spits out a .337 mark. So even if you shaved off .23 off of his AVG due to luck, Donaldson is still hitting a cool .300.

Donaldson currently has a prime spot in the heart of the order batting 5th, so RBI are ripe for the taking. I’m curious to see where Bob Melvin will insert Josh Reddick once he returns from the disabled list. Reddick was dropped in the order because of a very poor start. If he gets the vote of confidence and returns to the #3 spot it’s bad news for Donaldson’s counting stats. Ideally Reddick gets slotted in the #6 spot to give Donaldson some protection.

If you can trade Donaldson for proven talent by all means go for it, otherwise he looks good to roster for the rest of the season.

Mauer has really become unhinged at the plate, striking out 20.9% of the time this year when his career rate sits at 10.8%. This isn't just an aberration, it’s a trend. This is the 3rd straight year his K rate has increased. He’s chasing pitches that he doesn't even normally think about taking the bat off of his shoulder for. His stats still look good, but his problems have been masked by a league high .451 BABIP.

wouldn't worry about him too much this year, he’s still talented enough to get away with these issues for now. For those who own him in keeper leagues, this is a clear sign. A 30 year old catcher with an injury prone past is starting to become reckless. Now is the time to sell.