Which Fantasy Players to Trade Away…And to Trade For

Heyward

Draft Them Then Trade Them – These players start out quickly, then slow down during the season.  These are the players to “sell high”. Continue reading

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Why The Tigers Have The Best Rotation In Baseball

Verlander

The Detroit Tigers were rolling just a season ago, winning the American League. Although they were eventually topped by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, overall it was a solid season for Motor City fans. While many point towards their offense, which is led by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the biggest reason why they will contend again in 2013 is because they have the best rotation in baseball.

Justin Verlander headlines a staff full of power arms. The right-hander is pretty much a Cy Young candidate each and every year, and he is right in the middle of his prime seasons. Every strong staff needs that go-to ace, and as anyone who plays fantasy baseball will tell you, he might be the best in the game. Continue reading

Pitchers With Good Stuff

Jonathan Mitchell’s posts here a few days ago on the worst pitches in baseball and the best pitches of 2011 has to be this writer’s favorites so far this post season. The fact he pointed out that the single worst pitch in baseball for 2011 was A.J. Burnett‘s fastball was shocking. How many times have we heard that A.J. Burnett has great stuff? A thousand or more, right? But obviously, that statement is all wet. Mitchell’s post and Burnett’s “stuff” made this writer wonder just what “good stuff” means. As such, a lot of time was spent culling the Internet for people’s definitions. Dave Cameron’s seminal article linked here was helpful. As were others. The overwhelming conclusion from the research is that stuff has nothing to do with the radar gun.

For example, one article (which the writer can’t seem to relocate) mentioned (it was written two years ago) that over the past several years, one of the most dominant pitches in baseball has been Matt Cain‘s fastball. Matt Cain? Nobody would confuse Matt Cain as a power pitcher. He doesn’t even have superb strikeout rates. So how can that be? It seems that great stuff is more about what pitching is all about and that is causing the batter to make an out. But how do you define it?

Well this is where Mitchell’s piece was so instructive. A great pitch (and a lousy one) can now be measured thanks to Fangraphs and other sites. The valuation of pitches means that we can now measure a pitch’s effectiveness based on the measurement of how many runs that pitch is above or below average. From such data, we can learn, for example, that Ian Kennedy had the most effective fastball in 2011 based on his wFB score. Mitchell’s post gives you all the skinny on baseball’s best pitches in baseball in 2011, so check it out.

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Walter Johnson Award – American League

The Walter Johnson award is given, you guessed it, to the top pitcher in each league. The American League was fairly easy for me at one and two but it gets very crowded when you have to narrow slots 3-5 with a lot of great performances that happened this year.

Here is my official BBA ballot for the American League Walter Johnson award:

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Playoff Predictions

Yes I know the post-season has already begun but that isn’t stopping me from posting my predictions. I would like to start off by ranking who I think the best teams are in order. This isn’t necessarily how I think the playoffs will turn out because as we all know, you never know what can happen in baseball as we all saw on the last game of the season.

American League

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Tampa Bay Rays

National League

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Milwuakee Brewers
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. St. Louis Cardinals

Now remember those rankings do not mirror my projections for the playoffs. Here are my matchup predictions

American League:

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The Biggest Deadline Winners Are…

The trade deadline has come and gone and it may take years to figure out who the actual “losers” are from this deadline. But, we can give a pretty clear answer as to who the winners were, especially if we are grading them on 2011 contention, which is part of the grading scale. With that, here are my top two trade deadline winners.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians did not look like a team going to the playoffs before the deadline passed. With the deadline gone they added the best pitcher on the market in Ubaldo Jimenez and they not only get him for the 2011 stretch run but they get him for the three years after for only $17.95M. Sure, they gave up Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner, and Matt McBride, but none of them made my mid-season top 25 (although Pomeranz was on a lot of mid-season top 25 lists) and Pomeranz was 64th on my pre-season top 175 White was 100th.

Cleveland also got rid of Orlando Cabrera and actually got a serviceable prospect in Thomas Neal from the Giants. Cabrera was having his worst season ever with -0.7 fWAR, .275 OBP, and -7.2 UZR. Cabrera should’ve been cut but they got a potentially good 4th outfielder in Neal for a player that actually cost the team wins. This allows them to play Jason Kipnis who should be worth at least a win over the negative value Cabrera brought. Let’s not forget that Cleveland also got Kosuke Fukudome earlier in the deadline week for organizational pieces.

Atlanta Braves: By getting Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros, the Braves did two things that they desperately needed to do: add a center fielder and add a top of the order bat. Check and check. Bourn is a plus defender in center and his .363 OBP and steals at the top of the order are a far cry from what the Braves have been getting from that lineup spot. On top of being a good defender, good base stealer, and getting on base at a good clip, he is also on of the best base runners in the game (different than stealing bases) with a Bsr of +5.6.

There were talks of the Braves going after corner outfielders with better bats but that would have been a disservice to the team who already has two good corner outfielders and desperately needed a center fielder. Now we can, hopefully, stop hearing about Jason Heyward being demoted. They did give up bulk in prospects but nothing of significant value and held on to their top prospects. Not a bad move for Bourn who also has another year of control left.

***********************Other Winners***********************

The Philadelphia Phillies were also winners by adding Hunter Pence to an already stellar team. His plus right-handed bat fits perfectly in that lineup and he should help push the Phillies over the top. This move was clearly one to make them better for the postseason and for future seasons. They did give up high reward prospects but still held onto Domonic Brown.

The Texas Rangers filled a major need by adding Koji Uehara and Mike Adams to a bullpen that really had no one outside of Neftali Feliz. The Rangers did not get rid of anyone that was part of their plans for the next year or so and gained pitching combo that has a combined 111/17 K/BB in 95 innings with a 1.42 ERA.

On the flip of the Rangers deal, the San Diego Padres received two prospects that I like a lot in Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland. Both pitchers pound the zone and will love pitching in PETCO park soon. Erlin is only 20 and has a 123/12 K/BB in 121.1 innings and is already in AA. He is not overpowering but has great control and mixes his pitches really well. Wieland has seen increased velocity to go with his good control and has a 132/15 K/BB in 129.2 innings and is 21 and in AA. Both pitchers can be flyball prone so PETCO is the right place for them.

The Pittsburgh Pirates did not add any real impact players but the players they did add are better than what they currently were trotting out on the field. Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee both offer upgrades and the Pirates did not give up much for them unless the PTBNL turns out to be significant but I highly doubt it.

The Detroit Tigers added a very underrated starter in Doug Fister who is an immediate upgrade over their current 4th and 5th starters. They gave up some low-level talent and a good 4th outfielder in Casper Wells but that is a decent price for a guy with a 3.33 ERA and 3.24 FIP. Fister may miss the Seattle defense but he will love the Detroit offense.

The Seattle Mariners added a bunch of depth and sold off Fister and Erik Bedard, which is fine because Seattle has no problem developing pitching and has a wave of arms almost ready to contribute from with in. Adding Trayvon Robinson and Francisco Martinez to a farm system desperate for bats was huge for the Mariners and Robinson, who has great raw power and will be a great defender, could be their starting left fielder next year.

Lastly, I love what the Baltimore Orioles did at the deadline. They did give up a very good reliever in Uehara but they are not contending this year and next year is a building block year for thier real contention run starting in 2013. Aaron Baker is not much of a prospect but they cleared themselves of Derrek Lee. Tommy Hunter is a serviceable swing man or 5th starter and I absolutely love Chris Davis, always have. He has so much raw power and needs to play everyday in the majors to see if he belongs. He can pass as a third basemen but is better served at first. He was hitting .368/.405/.824 with 24 homeruns in 193 AAA at-bats before being called up just over a week ago. He’s done proving it in the minors and the Orioles could have themselves a legit 35 homer guy but I would like to see him show a little more plate discipline.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt

Why I Hate Pitcher Win-Loss Records

After looking through the box scores from last night’s game I couldn’t help but resurface the feelings I have for wins and losses for a pitcher. I hate the win-loss stat. I really do. It rarely, if ever, tells the true story of how a pitcher has performed in a given year and it can be very misleading in a career, just ask Bert Blylevan. Here is a table of 12 pitchers who have out-performed their current win-loss record.

   ERA  FIP  K/9  BB/9  HR/9  IP  fWAR  W-L
 Matt Garza  3.72  2.97  9.23  3.26  0.62  116.0  3.0  4-7
 John Danks  3.79  3.99  6.81  2.69  1.01  107.0  1.6  4-8
 Doug Fister  3.33  3.23  5.49  1.97  0.43  146.0  3.0  3-12
 Bud Norris  3.60  3.74  8.86  3.32  1.11  130.0  1.6  5-7
 R.A. Dickey  3.74  3.94  6.28  2.61  0.94  134.2  1.3  5-8
 Dustin Moseley  3.30  3.95  4.80  2.70  0.75  120.0  0.8  5-8
 Madison Bumgarner  3.56  2.43  7.91  1.92  0.36  126.1  3.9  3-10
 Ervin Santana  3.47  3.68  7.48  2.43  1.03  148.0  2.4  6-8
 Mat Latos  4.05  3.39  8.34  3.26  0.79  113.1  1.5  5-8
 Jordan Zimmermann  3.27  2.84  6.54  1.49  0.50  126.2  3.2  6-9
 Hiroki Kuroda  3.11  3.70  6.97  2.44  0.95  133.0  1.7  6-13
 Paul Maholm  3.16  3.77  5.67  2.90  0.64  139.2  1.8  6-10

These dozen pitchers have a combined 58-108 record for with a combined 3.49 ERA over 1540.2 innings. They have been worth a combined 25.8 fWAR yet only have a .349 winning percentage. No pitcher in the history of the game has had a winning percentage that low with at least 1500 innings pitched. In fact, the most innings pitched with a percentage that low is by Buster Brown who pitched 1451.2 innings from 1905-1913. The innings and ERA almost mimic that of Jake Peavy, who has a 3.44 ERA in 1536.1 innings but has a 106-78 record for a winning percentage of .576 and 29.8 fWAR. Now, let’s take a look at 12 starters who have under-performed their win-loss record:

   ERA  FIP  K/9  BB/9  HR/9  IP  fWAR  W-L
 Jake Arrieta  5.12  5.29  7.01  4.17  1.65  114.1  0.0  10-7
 Josh Tomlin  4.01  4.06  4.88  1.07  1.20  134.2  1.6  11-5
 Max Scherzer  4.28  4.09  7.75  2.92  1.22  132.1  1.7  11-6
 John Lackey  6.20  4.66  6.10  2.77  1.20  97.1  0.7  9-8
 Kevin Correia  4.38  4.35  4.59  2.12  1.13  127.1  0.7  11-8
 Rick Porcello  4.67  4.02  5.25  2.50  0.83  108.0  1.4  10-6
 Derek Holland  4.43  4.03  6.78  3.12  0.97  130.0  1.9  9-4
 Jake Westbrook  4.86  4.38  4.86  3.25  0.93  116.2  0.5  9-4
 Carlos Zambrano  4.59  4.07  6.05  3.41  0.84  129.1  1.6  7-6
 Kyle McClellan  4.15  4.59  4.47  2.68  1.14  110.2  0.2  7-6
 Wade Davis  4.46  4.92  4.13  3.14  1.16  109.0  0.1  7-7
 Brad Penny  4.51  4.41  3.86  2.84  0.87  123.2  1.1  7-7

And these dozen pitchers have a combined 108-74 record with a combined 4.60 ERA in 1433.1 innings. The record is almost identical to the above mentioned Peavy but the ERA is 1.16 runs higher. Dick Coffman is the best comparable pitcher with a career 4.65 ERA in 1460.1 innings but had a 72-95 record. Theses 12 starters have been worth 11.5 fWAR and have a winning percentage of .593 which is right in line with future Hall-of-Famer Curt Schilling and borderline candidate Kevin Brown.

The first group suggests Buster Brown has been pitching when in fact they have been pitching more like Jake Peavy has throughout his career and the second group suggests Curt Schilling or Kevin Brown have been dominating the league when Dick Coffman is more like the pitcher they have been. Now do you see why I hate win-loss records for pitchers?

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert and follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt