I came across a note today on Twitter, and if you aren’t following Baseball Guys on Twitter shame on you. Here is the note from the official MLB twitter feed: “Congrats to @Padres closer Heath Bell on 2010 MLB Delivery Man of the Year Award. Converted 47 of 50 save opportunities, MLB-best 94%.” Wait a second, did I miss something? What about the majors saves leader, Brian Wilson? Let’s compare the two relievers from the NL West.
Wilson had 48 saves. Bell had 47.
Wilson had a 1.81 ERA. Bell had a 1.93 ERA.
Wilson had a 1.18 WHIP. Bell had a 1.20 WHIP.
Wilson had a .220 BAA. Bell had a .221 BAA.
Wilson had an 11.21 K/9. Bell had a 11.06 K/9.
Wilson had a 3.13 BB/9. Bell had a 3.60 BB/9.
Wilson had a 3.56 K/BB. Bell had a 3.07 K/BB.
Wilson had a 86.1 LOB%. Bell had a 81.1 LOB%
Am I missing something here? Did they really erase the fact that Wilson was a better pitcher in 2010 and give Bell the award because Wilson had two more blown saves (five to three), or because he had three fewer wins (six to three)? Please tell me they didn’t. You tell me, am I off here? If I am, I just don’t see it.
Cliff Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in seven postseason starts. In those starts he has struck out 54 in 56.1 innings while walking just six batters. This season, in two starts against the Rays, he struck out 21 while not walking a single batter in 16 innings.
A.J. Burnett is slated to get a start in the ALCS against the Rangers. He was truly brutal down the stretch with a 1-7 record and 6.61 ERA over the final two months of the year. He also went 4-14 with a 6.48 ERA over the final four months of the season. On the year he went 10-15 with a 5.25 ERA, and that is the worst ERA by any Yankees’ hurler in history who tossed at least 180-innings. In history folks. So why is he starting in the playoffs? It can’t be because he had a 2.50 ERA with 17 Ks in 18 innings this season against the Rangers, can it?
Bryce Harper will see some action in the Arizona Fall League. The 17 year old, he’ll be 18 on Saturday, has been placed on the “taxi squad” of the Scottsdale Scorpions which means he will play two days a week. Despite all the hype and hoopla, Harper is likely two years away from the majors as is, and he will begin the 2011 season in Single-A. More on the phenom can be found at All Nats All the Time.
With Billy Wagner heading into retirement as the most dominant left-handed closer in big league history (I don’t care if he finished his career with two fewer saves than John Franco), the Braves will now turn to a new face in the 9th inning, an it almost certainly will be Craig Kimbrel. If you aren’t in a keeper league and don’t know who this kid is take note – the dude has absolutely filthy stuff. Kimbrel tossed 20.2 innings for the Braves this season positing a 0.44 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. With an average fastball over 95 mph he struggled with control walking nearly seven batters per nine innings (6.97 per nine). However it’s that heat that makes Kimbrel special, and it led to a K/9 rate this season of 17.42. If you’ve never heard of a mark that high before I understand why – it’s the highest mark in the history of baseball for a pitcher who tossed at least 20-innings in a season. Told you he was someone you need to know for 2011.
By Ray Flowers
The mighty has fallen. It may not be as depressing as the fact that the house you bought for $300,000 dollars two years ago might sell for $225,000 today, but in fantasy circles the loss was just as severe. Stephen Strasburg suffered a substantially torn ulnar collateral ligament, and what that means is that there is an exceedingly high probability that he will undergo Tommy John surgery. I already wrote about the ramifications of this situation in Five Questions: Is Strasburg Finished?, but I wanted to expand on something I only briefly mentioned in that piece – and that is the way that organizations baby their pitchers. Is there any benefit to this recent practice?
It has become a comical situation really. Teams are so worried about protecting their investments that they treat them as if they were made out of paper mache. In fact, the level of injury in today’s pitcher seems to be much higher than it was in years past despite the advent of advanced physical training and medical proficiency. How is it that guys who are bigger, stronger, more reliably trained, and more closely watched than ever before break down more quickly than at any point in the past? I just don’t get it.
In the case of the Nationals, the team counted everything Strasburg did with the attention of an auditor from the government who is trying to extract every penny from your wallet. They never let him toss more than 99 pitches in a big league game, and only twice was he allowed to log even seven innings in an outing. A lot of good that all that monitoring did for Mr. Strasburg.
At the other end of the spectrum we have his teammate, Livan Hernandez, who has never missed a buffet in his life – yet he continues to roll on basically injury free. Listed as 35 years old, he might actually be 40 for all we know, Livan continues to rack up innings year after year, and he’s now 11 innings from 13th straight season of at least 180-innings. Is Livan simply gifted with a “rubber” arm? Was he genetically predisposed to never have a serious arm problem? Has he avoided injury because his career average for a fastball is a mere 85 mph? I mean after all, Strasburg’s average change-up this season was 89.7 mph.
I have no idea what the answers are to these questions. All I know is that time after time we are smacked in the face by the fact that even though we think we have it figured out, we actually have no clue.
Strasburg had his innings pitched totals limited – almost obnoxiously so. Strasburg had hid pitch total managed fastidiously as well. Yet here we are with a torn tendon and the inevitable surgery.
Perhaps the truth is that human beings simply aren’t meant to throw a baseball over an over again at such speeds. There were hurlers in the past who could rush it up there in the high 90′s, guys like Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard obviously come to mind, but there is no disputing the fact that today there are more pitchers than ever capable of tossing the old ball at speeds in excess of 95 mph. As training methods have improved, pitchers are able to get more out of their body than ever before, but perhaps we’ve gotten to the point that we have taxed the human body so excessively that sooner or later, like a taught rubber band, there will be an inevitable snap back.
If you ask me here is the simply truth – each man has a certain amount of bullets in his gun. It doesn’t matter if he stands 5’11″ or 6’6″, it doesn’t matter if he weighs 165 or 250 lbs, and it doesn’t matter if he throws 87 or 97 mph. Sooner or later everyone’s arm goes, and for every Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine we have a Francisco Liriano, Stephen Strasburg, Chris Carpenter, Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria etcetera, etcetera. The real issue here isn’t training methods or velocity as much as it should be a realization that sooner or later all pitchers have to pay the price for the fame and fortune they attain.
By Ray Flowers
We have a great tool called the Player Rater at Fanball. I write a weekly article where I breakdown the top-50 fantasy performers in the game, and you can find the actual Player Rater Tool by clicking on the link. This week I did things a bit different. Since we are at the half way point of the season I broke down the top-10 guys at each position, versus the top-50 overall, and you can read that breakdown at MLB Player Rater: Midseason Stars. In the current piece here at BaseballGuys I’ll break down the top-20 hurlers in the fantasy game as major league baseball gears up for the All-Star Game.
1- Adam Wainwright
He is second in the NL with a 2.11 ERA and a total of 13 victories, while he is second in innings pitched (136.1) and third in WHIP (1.00). The dude is a flat out ace.
2- Josh Johnson
All the early season talk of the #3 man on the list has obscured the fact that JJ leads baseball with a 1.70 ERA and the NL with a 0.96 WHIP. Also, he’s allowed more than one earned run just once in his last 11 starts (he gave up two runs on June 26th).
3- Ubaldo Jimenez
The numbers are spectacular highlighted by by his big league leading 15-1 record and his 2.20 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Clearly he’s not affected by the altitude in Colorado.
4- Roy Halladay
Halladay leads baseball with 148 IP, the third highest total in the NL in 15 years at the All-Star break, and his ratios are phenomenal (2.19 ERA, 1.05 WHIP). So how is he only 10-7? Come on Phillies offense, get to it.
5- Billy Wagner
What’s up with that retirement talk Billy? There is no need to contemplate hanging them up given his outstanding work that includes 20 saves, a 1.21 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP an a .156 BAA in 37.1 innings.
6- Mat Latos
Did you know that he is third in baseball with a 0.97 WHIP? Latos also has a 2.45 ERA for the Padres, but the team will likely be cautious with him in the second half because of innings pitched concerns.
7- Mariano Rivera
Amazingly, the guy just never seems to slow down. Is he getting even better with age? His numbers suggest it might be possible: 1.05 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, .137 BAA and 20 saves.
8- Rafael Soriano
His K-rate is well off the pace at 7.75 (career 9.68), but otherwise the rest of his performance has been pretty special including a 1.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and a stupendous 23-for-24 save conversion mark.
9- Jon Lester
The first lefty starter on the list, Lester overcame a slow start to produce a line that any starter in baseball would be proud of. Lester is 11-3 for the Sox, and ratios like a 2.78 ERA and 1.09 WHIP are rarely seen in the AL East.
10- Cliff Lee
The newest prize in the Rangers’ corral, Lee leads baseball with a 0.95 WHIP. He’s also posting an unfathomable 15.17 K/BB rate. The best mark in the history of the game for a hurler who qualified for the ERA title is 11.00 by Bret Saberhagen in 1994.
11- Jose Valverde
He is 19-for-20 on saves and is sporting sparkling ratios of a 0.92 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. Also, how in the world is it possible to hold batters to a .125 average through 39 innings?
12- Heath Bell
The NL leader with 24 saves has a fine 1.88 ERA, though his 1.33 WHIP would be his worst mark since moving to San Diego (it was 1.21 in 2008).
13- David Price
The AL starter in the All-Star game, Price leads the junior circuit with 12 victories. It would be a shock if he were able to hold on to that 2.42 ERA, he just hasn’t pitched well enough to really deserve that mark.
14- Jonathan Broxton
Despite an irregular usage pattern – long periods of nothing followed by intensive work – Broxton has emerged with a continuation of his 2009 season, and that is a great thing. He has 19 saves, a 2.11 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and an impressive 12.91 K/9 mark leading to a striking 7.86 K/BB rate.
15- Brian Wilson
Wilson had 41 and 38 saves the past two years, and just past the halfway point this season he has converted 23 of 25 chances. He also has an impressive 50 Ks in 37.2 innings, a total that goes along swimmingly with his 1.91 ERA.
16- Joakim Soria
No one pays any attention since he pitches for the Royals, but Joakim has 25 saves, the best total in baseball. He also has a 2.31 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, numbers that are slightly worse than his career averages (2.13 and 0.99).
17- Andy Pettitte
He always wins games so his 11-2 record isn’t a total shock, but his 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP are since over the last four seasons he hasn’t produced an ERA better than 4.05 or a WHIP below 1.38.
18- CC Sabathia
With 12 victories he has already posted a 10th straight season of at least 11 wins. He’s also near the top of the AL in ERA (3.09) and WHIP (1.14) which is a yearly occurrence at this point.
19- Leo Nunez
He entered the year with question marks but he has answered them. His 1.55 GB/FB ratio is a career best (career 0.94) and his K-rate is way up to 9.08 (career 6.78). It’s almost as if he is a new pitcher (potential alien abduction?). The work has led to a 1.04 WHIP and 20 saves.
20- Jered Weaver
Don’t even try lying and say that Weaver was your choice to be leading baseball in strikeouts at the All-Star Break (he has 137, six more than Tim Lincecum). That 1.08 WHIP of his is also fourth in the AL. Only his 8-5 record has held him back from being more of a national story.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Alex Gordon to work on versatility in minors.
(2) Brad Lidge not ready to close – who will for Phillies?
(3) Jimmy Rollins likely to miss at least two more weeks.
(4) Joe Mauer to DL with heel injury?
(5) Javier Vazquez to have start skipped.
(6) Brian Wilson back to health in San Francisco.
(7) Should you still sell-high on Garland and Fister? Here’s a quick shorthand note – yes.
By Ray Flowers
I’m asked to participate in a few “experts” leagues draft each year, and this year was no different. One of those leagues that I was asked to enter was a 12-team, mixed league auction that drafted the other night. Here are the participants in The Battle of the Fantasy Gods Draft.
Mike Kuchera – The Fantasy Man
Scott White – CBS Sports
Tim McLeod – RotoRob
Todd Farino – Fantasy Baseball Search
Jeff Boggis – Fantasy Sports Empires
Chris McDonnell – Fantasy Baseball
Tony Cincotta – Fantasy Pros 911
Paul Greco – Fantasy Pros 911
Grey Albright – Razzball
Ryan Hallam – Fighting Chance Fantasy
Scott Swanay – Fantasy Baseball Sherpa
Ray Flowers – FanBall
* Note. Each team had $260 dollars to spend to field a traditional lineup of 14 hitters (C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, 5 OF, UT) and nine pitchers. There was no reserve draft held, so each team was only comprised of the 23 men drafted, and therefore every player selected will obviously be in the active lineup.
I entered the draft playing on spending $180 on hitting and $80 on pitching. I also planned on being patient as people sometimes blow their wads early.
Here is how my team turned out.
Catcher: Kelly Shoppach ($3), Yadier Molina ($3)
I probably overpaid for Shoppach who I grabbed early, but he brings enough power to be useful. Molina is better than you think, and a safe play in batting average.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera ($35)
One of two big ticket items. Cabrera is about as steady as they come. He and Albert Pujols are the only two men in the game to have hit .290-25-100 in each of the past six seasons.
Second Base: Brian Roberts ($20)
Love this guy, and he was the last of the top tier second basemen to go. Roberts is the only player in baseball history to have 3-straight efforts of 100-runs, 30-steals and 40-doubles
Third Base: Michael Young ($9)
I think this was one of the best bargains of the draft. Doesn’t have the traditional third base pop, but he owns a .302 career average, has scored 80 runs in six of seven seasons, and knocked in 80 runs 5-straight years before falling to 68 last year as injury struck.
Shortstop: Stephen Drew ($7)
Drew is one of just four shortstops to have 10 homers, 65 RBI and 70 runs the past two seasons.
Middle/Corner Infield: Howie Kendrick ($8), Lance Berkman ($18)
Kendrick will hit .300 in his sleep. If he finally makes it out there for 500 at-bats, he could swipe 15 bags while going deep 15 times. Berkman had a down season last year, mostly because of injury. If you give him another 100 plate appearances to reach his normal level, he would have been right at 30 HR and 100 RBI.
Outfield: Jacoby Ellsbury ($29), Shane Victorino ($15), Alfonso Soriano ($10), Jason Kubel ($8), Johnny Damon ($5)
Ellsbury is a beast and has as good a chance as anyone to lead the league in steals. Victorino does everything well, and has been money the past three years. Soriano is a risk, no doubt, but with health 30 homers still seems doable. Kubel is a safe choice. He’ll likely regress a bit from last season’s numbers, but should still be solid. And I have no idea why no one loves Johnny Damon – not only in real life but also in the fantasy game.
Utility: Vlad Guerrero ($1)
Got my guy here. Drafted him really late when others were low on cash. With the Rangers I really think he could still hit .300 with 25 homers, totals he had reached 11-straight years before last season.
Pitcher: Joe Nathan ($16), Josh Beckett ($16), Brian Wilson ($12), James Shields ($10), Scott Baker ($9), Tim Hudson ($8), Chad Qualls ($8), Max Scherzer ($5), Matt Thornton ($3)
Beckett is an ace. In each of the past three seasons he has posted a K/9 rate of at least 8.43 while keeping his WHIP under 1.20. He is the only AL hurler who can make that claim. Shields, Baker and Hudson could all win 15 games with solid ratios, and I think they form a great base behind Beckett. As for Scherzer, he just might be the most dominating hurler of the bunch if he can ever learn to throw strikes. Nathan and Wilson should get me 75 saves. The Qualls selection caused some to snicker, but he could save 30 if healthy. After all, he led baseball with a 6.43 K/BB ratio last year. Thornton may not get saves, but he will provide ratio help, strikeout a ton of batters, and could move into the closers role if/when Bobby Jenks is traded.
Total: Hitting $171, Pitching $87 (I was left with $2).
I darn near hit my pre-draft goals in terms of spending, and put together a strong team. I was especially pleased with my pitching staff considering how long I waited to jump into that mix for starters. Still, are you wondering why I had $2 left over? Let me tell you a story.
I had targeted Vlad for my UT spot late, and I had that spot and one final OF spot open with $11 left. I tried to draft Corey Hart and Nate McLouth, but both times the bidding went to $10. I could have paid that amount, but then (a) I wouldn’t have been able to get Vlad (there is no way anyone could have known he would go for a dollar), and (b) I HATE having $1 players. It’s not like they can’t be productive players, in fact they are often the most productive given how cheaply they come on draft day, but the problem is you have no say in who it ends up being. Think about it. All someone needs is $2 and they can lock you out of the bidding on that player. I want to be able to dictate who is on my team, not be stuck with a player no one else thinks is worth a dollar bid.
In the end I feel good about the club. I will need Damon/Soriano/Guerrero to come through on offense, but given their illustrious track records, I feel pretty strongly that they will. The pitching staff is also a solid group who I would go to battle with in any mixed league.
So there it is. Wish me luck as I battle all year long with the “Gods” of fantasy baseball.
By Ray Flowers
I was thinking about how the fantasy baseball free agent bidding process, and I’m continually amazed at how the process works. Before I get into why that is, let me briefly describe what I’m talking about.
Total Free Agency
Back in the day, and in some leagues still, players are on the free agent wire to be picked up at any time. While this might be the easiest way to do things and the way that most of us grew up with playing the game, the fact is this is really an unfair system. Let me give just one example that illustrates why. Let’s say you live on the west coast, and let’s posit that Brian Wilson blows his arm out at 11:45 PM in the 14th inning of the game (this is NOT true – it is only an example). On the telecast, right after the game, manager Bruce Bochy says that Jeremy Affeldt will be the new Giants closer so you run an pick him up off waivers. If you live on the east coast and are in bed because it’s 3 AM and you have a job, you are screwed. You never even had a chance to grab Affeldt.
Weekly Free Agency
Let’s assume the above scenario. However, let’s say that this happens on Tuesday night and your leagues free agency period ends on Sunday night at 8 PM, EST. That means that you have Wednesday through Sunday to put in a bid on Affeldt so that everyone has a shot. In this scenario teams are offered players based on the reverse order of the standings. That means, if you are in a 12-team league that the team in 12th place gets the first choice of free agents, team 11 second, all the way down to the first place team getting last shot. However, once a team picks up a player it goes to the back of the bus. Let’s say the 12th place team doesn’t need closers so they pick up Chris Coghlan off waivers first. They then drop to last in line and the team in 11th place would get a shot at Affeldt or whomever else they wanted and so on.
This is the way that most of the “money” leagues do it. In this process each team is given a budget of Monopoly money, i.e. fake dollars, and they get to bid on free agents. Just like weekly free agency, most of the time there is one day a week when bids are due, though some leagues implement this FAAB process on a daily basis as well. FAAB means Free Agent Acquisition Budget by the way. This is my favorite style because everyone gets a chance at every player, provided they have any money left, and it adds an extra element of strategy to the mix. Continuing with our example, let’s say we have a $1,000 budget to work with for the year and we owned Wilson and now would like to have Affeldt. We’re not sure he will be able to hold the job down, but we need the saves, so we drop a bid of $135 dollars on him. Another team, super desperate for saves bids $210. Another team who is also desperate for saves might think Affeldt will eventually lose the job to Bobby Howry so they only bid $41 dollars on him. The point is, you not only have to identify the players you want in this scenario, you also have to identify how much is an appropriate amount to spend, because once your money is gone you can no longer bid so it makes no sense to simply toss out an outrages bid like $400 on Affeldt.
To show the diversity amongst owners, here are FAAB from Sunday the 17th on C.J. Wilson who will close until Frank Francisco returns from biceps tendonitis. Current reports have Francisco back on Friday, and the belief is that he will slide right back into the closers role. As a result, I personally bid $24 dollars on Wilson thinking I might pick up a week’s worth of saves because his work this season has been miserable (1.53 WHIP, 5.51 K/9, 1.11 K/BB) rendering him useless without saves. How did my $24 bid stack up? Well, I didn’t “win” Wilson, he went for $68 in my league, and here is what he cost in a host of the other National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) leagues this past weekend.
C.J. Wilson $200
C.J. Wilson $53
C.J. Wilson $116
C.J. Wilson $76
C.J. Wilson $129
C.J. Wilson $97
C.J. Wilson $65
C.J. Wilson $88
C.J. Wilson $157
C.J. Wilson $249
C.J. Wilson $75
C.J. Wilson $105
C.J. Wilson $195
C.J. Wilson $54
C.J. Wilson $63
C.J. Wilson $111
C.J. Wilson $89
C.J. Wilson $106
C.J. Wilson $169
C.J. Wilson $43
C.J. Wilson $57
C.J. Wilson $54
C.J. Wilson $52
C.J. Wilson $21
As you can plainly see we had winning bids from $21 to $249, a massive spread. In my league where he went for $68, there was one other bid for a dollar more than me at $25. What his means is that the $68 dollar bid would have been a winner at $26 dollars meaning that the “winner” ended up wasting $42. Still, as you can tell from the other bids, in a good deal of leagues even the $68 bid would have come up way short.
To me, this added layer of the free agent bidding process sets leagues like this apart forcing you to use yet another skill set in order to emerge victorious in your fantasy league. If your league doesn’t use this process I highly suggest moving to it in 2010 as there is nothing like being able to bitch about getting screwed by two dollars or lording it over your friends when you are the one that came out on top.
By Ray Flowers