Hall of Very, Very Good

Have you voted for the Hall of Very, Very Good yet? Its over at the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger. Go vote. Its fun. Better yet, nominate a candidate. I nominated Fred Lynn for the HoVVG. Here was my case:

“Though his career was cut a bit short due to injury, Lynn was one of the league’s best center fielders for almost a decade. From 1975 to 1986, he posted a .291/.370/.494 line and averaged 36 doubles, 26 home runs, 96 runs, 98 rbi, and 76 walks per 162 games. In addition to his heralded MVP and ROY 1975, Lynn made 9 straight all-star games, from 1975 to 1983, and won 4 career gold gloves. Lynn’s longevity issues kept him from ever getting serious consideration from the HoF voters. The Baseball Page.com lists him as their 15th greatest centerfielder of all-time, but also as one of the most injury-plagued of all-time. Instead of looking at what Lynn wasn’t able to do, we can look at what he did do: play a very, very good centerfield.”

Sometimes Its the Trade You Don’t Make

As a Red Sox fan, this is “kinda” a tough trade deadline.

The Yankees got better, but not that much better. Kearns is a quality reserve; his career .258/.353/.426 line pretty much screams replacement player. I’m glad to see them pick up Berkman, just because I think that tank is empty and that contract is large (though the Astros are flipping part of the bill). Its fun to watch the Yanks give up prospects and waste money. Wood is the big pick-up here, and the one that the Yanks got for nothing. If Woods underperforms, the Yanks can cut him. If he returns to last years form, then the Yanks grabbed a quality arm on the cheap for what figures to be a ridiculously tight August and September.

The Sox, on the other hand, were uncharacteristically quiet. Of course, the Sox expect most of their position players to return in the next couple weeks, so investing prospects for temporary replacements didn’t make sense. Yes, we acquired Saltimacchia. This would have been front-page news a few years ago. As my cousin Andy put it, The Paw Sox got a nice upgrade at catcher for their stretch run.

But we didn’t acquire the one thing we really needed: relief help. In fact, we gave up on one arm–Ramon Ramirez, acquired in the Crisp deal a few years back. This really surprised me–because although Ramirez has struggled a bit this year, he’s a proven guy. I believe I heard whispers that he wasn’t too happy with his role on the team, and this likely mandated a move. Because, while his stats aren’t quite as good as 2008 or 2009, they are still better than a lot of relief pitchers around the league.

While I am disappointed that we didn’t get a reliever, I’m also happy we aren’t the Twins. Minnesota gave up one of their best offensive prospects, catcher Wilson Ramos to rent Nationals closer Matt Capps. In 1519 career plate appearances, Ramos has a .283/.330/.426 minor league line. And he can catch well. Capps is a vanilla closer–he’s never topped 30 saves in a season, has a craptastic K/9 ratio, and an un-inspiring 3.47 ERA. Yahoo has a great post up with all the complaints of Twins fans for overpaying for Capps.

The Sox were supposedly in the bidding for Capps. And the whole situation stings my memory with a needle from 1990. Remember the ghost of Larry Anderson? The Red Sox traded a first base prospect with a career .321/.390/.436 minor league line to the Astros to rent a journeyman starter/reliever. Anderson pitched X innings and won Y games. That prospect, Jeff Bagwell, hit 449 home runs, drove in 1529 RBI, and retired with a .948 OPS. Oops.

So while we didn’t really get any help, we didn’t make a regrettable mistake. I generally like the Twins, so let’s hope they don’t regret this trade 20 years later.

Fixing It With Duct Tape

I was quite pleased after my fantasy draft. I felt I got a number of budget home runs at premium positions (Aaron Hill, Victor Martinez, Adam Lind, Pablo Sandoval, Kendry Morales). I also collected a number of under the radar lead-off men for some stolen bases and runs scored (Justin Upton, Chone Figgins, Andrew McCutchen). April went pretty well, although Hill got injured Sandoval and Lind were off to great starts. I grabbed Rafael Furcal as my shortstop. Things looked good.

And. Then. It. All. Fell. Apart. Fast.

Morales, Furcal, and Martinez got hurt, Lind and Hill became less than useless, Figgins couldn’t hit a barn door. My bench wasn’t too bad, with people like Casey McGehee and Jason Heyward. I tried to replace my starters with more “bargin” power hitters, such as Colby Rasmus, Aubrey Huff and J.D. Drew.

Bottom line: my team was mediocre. They could “compete,” but rarely beat a team that didn’t lose its starting first baseman and contains so many fantasy busts.

So I blew it up.

I realized that I couldn’t put together a HR/RBI oriented batting average with a team of replacement players. But I had two things going for me: first, I was in an 8 man league with small rosters, so there was a deep pool of players from which to choose; second, I’m in a league that uses 14 offensive categories: R, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, BB, K, TB, E, AVG, OBP, and OFA (outfield assists).

So last weekend I gutted my team, dumping Colby Rasmus, J.D. Drew, Casey McGehee, Carlos Beltran, Chone Figgins, and Andre Either. I picked up Angel Pagan, Andres Torres, Brian Roberts and soon-to-return Jacoby Ellsbury. No longer would I compete in the traditional power/scoring related categories. My entire team is now built around slap hitting, speed and plate-discipline, with an offense of:

  • C Victor Martinez
  • 1B Aubrey Huff
  • 2B Brian Roberts
  • 3B Chone Figgins (2B)
  • SS Rafael Furcal
  • OF Andrew McCutcheon
  • OF Justin Upton
  • OF Angel Pagan
  • UT Andres Torres
  • BN Jason Heyward (OF)
  • BN Pablo Sandoval (1B / 3B)

Martinez has been solid at catcher. Huff is currently 2nd in the NL in WAR (4.9) and in OPS (.949). Roberts has missed the whole season on the DL, I am hoping to pick up some speed and BB’s at 2B down the stretch. Ramirez has picked it up after a slow start, but he is the one player that doesn’t fit this team. As I write this, I am thinking about dumping him for Figgins again. Furcal is cooling off after a ridiculous first half, but there’s not too many options at SS this year. My outfield is crazy fast, with Angel Pagan, Justin Upton, Andres Torres, Andrew McCutcheon, Jason Heyward, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Pagan is quitely hitting .308/.368/.480 (4.5 WAR) with 23 steals, Torres is .286/.272/.505 with 19 steals, good for a 3.9 WAR and has been one of the NL’s MVP’s since taking over the lead-off spot in late April. McCutcheon’s at a very respectable .288/.364./.435 with 21 steals. Heyward’s now locked in to the #2 spot in the Braves lineup, he’s walking at a nice clip and should see more fastballs hitting in front of Jones; since moving to 2nd in the order, he’s got a .282/.383/.412 line with 6 steals and 28 runs in 43 games. Upton’s strikeouts drive me crazy (120 before August 1st?!?), but he’s gotten better as the season’s gone on–he’s got a crazy .412/.500/.745 split since the All-Star break. I’ll likely have to cut one outfielder when Ellsbury comes off the DL–it will be a tough choice. Pagan might lose playing time with Beltran back, Torres’s minor league career suggests he’s a regression candidate.

My pitching staff is silly good. I’ve had the same staff since May 1st with only two changes–David Aardasma is out, replaced by Houston Street. And I added Josh Beckett (dropping an offensive player) to help me with weekly wins. But I don’t need too much help; here’s my staff:

  • Tim Lincecum
  • Stephen Strassburg
  • Matt Cain
  • Francsico Liriano
  • Roy Oswalt
  • Josh Beckett
  • Heath Bell
  • Billy Wagner
  • Houston Street
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Daniel Bard (my league scores holds)

They are a sick group. If I can squeeze some cheap offense out of all those changes, I might be able to overcome my horrible draft and mediocre season and sneak into the playoffs.

And, since I first started writing this post, I decided to dump Ramirez and pick up Figgins again. For the third time.

Thinking About 300 Wins One Year Later

Last year I put up a post on the likelihood of another pitcher winning 300 games. For my research, I looked at the career wins progression of the four last pitchers to reach that milestone–Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and Johnson. The research showed that a pitcher should have 125 wins by the end of the season in which they turn 30. They will also have to average 16.3 wins per season for their career. Here’s how the pitchers on that list look one year later:

CC Sabathia – 149-85 – Age 29. This guy is pretty far ahead of the requisite pace for 300 wins. And, as much as I hate it and his Yankee pin stripes, he’s got the frame to last. As a Red Sox fan, I hope his love of cheeseburgers and chili flies overwhelms him and his digestive system. But I have a feeling he’s a lock for 300, if not 350.

Carlos Zambrano – 108-74 – Age 29. What a difference a year makes. On the plus side, he’s still not 30 and is pretty close to the pace needed to reach 300. On the negative side, he’s a * emotional train wreck and a right-handed pitcher with career control problems. Given the size of his contract, you have to figure that he’ll get another chance to return to the rotation. But this guy doesn’t scream longevity.

Mark Buehrle – 144-105 – Age 31. His numbers suggest he should have more wins. 6 games in 2009 in which he went six or more innings, allowed 2 or fewer runs, and took either a loss or a no-decision. In 2008, that happened 7 times. In 2007, 4 times. So, basically, playing for an inconsistent White Sox offense is costing Buehrle 5 wins a season. Ouch.

Jake Peavy – 102-74 – Age 29 – Once again, what a difference a year makes. When I wrote up my research last season, Peavy was on the DL with a minor injury. I ended up writing: “I think we all know what has to happen for Peavy to have a shot at this: get the hell out of San Diego.” Well, he got out of San Diego right before they got good and he didn’t really upgrade; the White Sox play in a more competitive division and have a craptastic offense. And this Peavy isn’t necessarily that Peavy, the guy who from 2004 to 2008 notched a 2.95 ERA and put 1010 K’s against 292 BB’s in only 968.2 innings. That guy should have had a way better record than 92-68 (his career record with the Padres from 2002 until 2009). The good news for baseball fans is that Peavy might return to that kind of form. This season, his April was terrible–an .861 opposing OPS and a 20-22 BB-K ratio, translating into a 7.85 ERA. May was just an unlucky month, his incredible 5-40 BB-K ratio and his .279 opposing OBP somehow (7 HR’s) into a 5.09 ERA. But June was kind to Peavy–a realistic 8-29 BB-K ratio and stellar opponent splits of .194-.245-.279. Just as hope emerged, however, Peavy detached a lat muscle (seriously?) and will miss the rest of the year. As talented as he is, I’m starting to wonder if a long career isn’t in the stars for Peavy. Two lost seasons to injury, and probably 25 lost wins to a lousy Padres team are likely to keep him from every sniffing 250 wins, let alone 300.

Johan Santana 130 – 65 – Age 31 – Santana is two years older than Sabathia, Zambrano, or Peavy, and that makes any chance at 300 much more unlikely. To put it in perspective, presuming he will pitch for another 11 years, he would have to win more games over the second half of his career than he did over the first half. And as any ESPN color man will rush to tell you, his fastball isn’t what it once was. Think Pedro Martinez in his 30’s. Santana was never as high as Pedro, but he also probably won’t far as fall. Why? Because he’s a lefty with an excellent off-speed pitch. Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine are two reasons not to completely remove him from the 300 win club. Lefties can last forever.

Roy Halladay 159 – 84 – Age 33 – HOW THE HELL IS THIS GUY 11-8 THIS SEASON? Seriously, his ERA is 2.28. I’m not really a big Phillie fan unless my friend Dan is around, but the Phillies are putting a pretty big dent into Halladay’s pursuit of 300. When you’re 33 years old and behind the pace, every win counts. Looking through the game log, Halladay should be 15-4. My research last year pointed to Randy Johnson as an outlier to the expected 300 wins pace. Johnson only had 75 wins by the age of 30, yet went on to win over 300. I think Halladay could have a similar trajectory–but come on Phillies, do your part.

Josh Beckett 107 – 69 – Age 30 – At 30, Beckett is about 18 wins behind the pace, probably not a good side for a guy that struggles to start 33 games a year. I still think Beckett has an outside shot at this because he plays for Boston (and you can see this just by looking at his W-L record next to his ERA, no need for fancy stats, the Sox score runs). This year Beckett has missed a number of starts and has catalogued all of 3 decisions by July 28th. Not good.

Here’s two new additions to my list:

Justin Verlander 77 – 49 – Age 27 – Ok, its really early in his career to put him in this discussion. But I think this guy has “horse” written all over him. And while his 2008 was a 11-17 disaster, that season stands out as an aberration in an otherwise strong career. He’s 12-6 through 21 this year (on pace for around 18-9). While it is early in his career, he’s ahead of the requisite 300 win pace by a pretty wide margin.

Andy Pettitte 240 – 137 – Age 38 – I hate this guy. No, I’ve never met him in person. But he’s not just a Yankee, he’s kind of the Yankee. Or, at the very least, a benefit of the Yankee effect. Cause, you see, he’s really not that good a pitcher. But if you pitch innings for the Yanks, you are going to win tons of games. This is probably the best season of his career–it will be interesting to see how he pitches when he returns from the DL. I’ve already noted that lefties can last forever, and so there’s not really a reason why Pettitte can’t pitch another six seasons (yuck), or until he’s 44. Even if he didn’t win another game this season, he would only have to win 10 games a year. Pitching for the Yankees, he should have 10 wins by the All-Star break.
[And, in the interest of objectivity, transparency, or self-reflection, I understand that the only difference between my assessment of Beckett and my disdain of Pettitte is the uniform they wear.]

Guys that have enough wins to mention but no shot of reaching 300:

Barry Zito 141 – 112 – Age 32 He’s a lefty. He’s won 141 games by age 32 (remember that 300 pace suggests winning 125 by age 30). But all the sabermetric or sophisticated statistical evaluations I’ve read this summer suggest that his 2010 success is largely a mirage. At his core, he’s still that 4.56 ERA guy whose pitched for the Giants the past 3 years. One other thing in his favor– he just doesn’t get hurt. And he tosses so slowly that we might be talking a future Jamie Moyer.

John Garland 126 -109 – Age 30. I can’t believe I am looking at John Garland’s baseball reference page. But, somehow, this guy is on pace for 300 games. Seriously. He is. Will he continue on this pace? Every fiber of my being says “no.” But, in terms of the list above, only Sabathia is technically more likely to reach 300. How? Well Garland was one of the few pitchers of this generation who was rushed to the majors (he started 13 games at 20 years old). And, unlike Buerhle, he got out of Chicago before they started to stink. Wait, Jesus Christ, I’ve almost talked myself into thinking he belongs in this discussion. I’m going to stop right now.

A Guy who is probably too young to talk about but still worth noting:

Felix Hernandez 65 – 48 – Age 24 – Too bad he’s wasting a great season on a terrible team. But he might be a mini-Sabathia. If this guy goes to the Yankees, I’ll be pretty pissed.

I started this project last season because I was sick of hearing that no one would ever win 300 games again. Sabathia’s career thus far suggests that’s ludicrous, I’d be more surprised if he didn’t win 300 games. Last season, however, there were a few other pitchers who had a strong change to join the club with Sabathia. Just one year later both Zambrano and Peavy feel like impossible long shots. Halladay’s strong performance in Philadelphia suggests he might be the next Randy Johnson, a late-blooming 300 game winner.

Is This Thing On?

Hey baseball blog. Um, sorry to have neglected you so long. I still think about you. And I visit you a few times to click some of the links in your sidebar. But I always feel a bit ashamed at how empty you feel. So here goes a quick post.

This is an odd season to be a Red Sox fan. I am happy that we are in third place?

No, because I thought we would be in second place, watching an injury plagued Yankees pitching staff fall to pieces. As of today, the Sox are 6.5 back of a powerhouse Yankee team.

Yes, because there’s not many teams that could lose their starting left fielder, starting center fielder, starting right fielder, 4th outfielder, starting second baseman, starting catcher, back-up catcher, #1 starter, #4 starter, and #5 starter in a season and still post a 58-44 record while being second in the league in runs scored.

The Sox are getting healthy now–Beckett had another great performance today against an Angels team that usually gives him fits; Martinez has looked pretty good in his return; Buchholz is getting back into rhythm; Ellsbury is playing well in his rehab stint and could rejoin the team in another week or two.

The Rays have been solid this year, but their offense strikes out way too much to be considered elite. Their pitching staff has a number of young arms on the back end of the rotation; I think Sox fans can hope that those guys break down or wear out as the 162 game grind extends into the later months. In other words, I think a healthy Sox team can catch the Rays.

Of course, my dream scenario is that the Sox and the Rays push the Yanks out of the playoffs. That looks like a long shot at this point–but there’s still a chance that Sabbathia’s arm finally falls off.

Here’s Why Fantasy Baseball Will Drive You Crazy

Your struggling team finally looks like they have put it all together. You are leading a week-long contest and are about to jump from 4th place to perhaps 2nd place. And then Sunday happens–your team goes a combined 4 for 31 (after a blistering 7 for 36 Saturday). And, to add insult to injury, you end up benching a struggling player (in this case Aaron Hill) on the day that he breaks out (3/4, 2B, HR, BB). Result? A 9-15 week and a trip back to 6th place (45-47-8 for the season).

F-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-i-n-g.

That’s pretty much the word for my early season. My third, fourth, fifth, and sixth round picks have all gotten off to slow starts (Justin Upton, Victor Martinez, Aaron Hill, and Chone Figgins). I’m still for the most part patient with them, but its really beginning to cost me. I play in a league with only 22 man rosters, so its hard to dedicate a bench spot to a back-up catcher. Although, if Martinez doesn’t improve soon, I’ll have to.

For any fantasy player who makes their way here, let me recommend fangraphs; I track my team there. What’s nice about fangraphs is the plate discipline section–it will show you which of your players are getting unlucky and which are swinging themselves into bad luck. Consider it BABIP on roids. In my case, it suggests that Aaron Hill is merely getting unlucky (he’s still swinging at strikes at the same rate as previous seasons) and that Chone Figgins isn’t being aggressive enough (swinging at only 31% of all pitches against a lifetime 41%, and only swinging at 48.8% of strikes as opposed to a lifetime rate of 62.1%). It also suggests that Victor Martinez will be fine, since his line drive rate is over his career average (25.2% so far this season) and his BABIP is only .241 (his career BABIP is .311, so it should begin to return toward the mean). My only real concern thus far is with Upton–his contact rates are all slightly worse than last year. Here’s to hoping that’s an effect of our relatively small sample ize…

This is only my second season in fantasy baseball, and my first time in an 8 team league. Magnified by the small roster size and the unlimited transactions, free agency is a large part of the game. I could put together a pretty strong roster just out of the guys available in free agency. So, some of the players I took a risk on were a mistake (like the two shortstops, Cabrera and Escobar) since there are so many quality players available after the draft (I picked up Rafael Furcal and, after his injury, Stephen Drew). I will adjust my draft strategy accordingly next season–draft the sure commodities (especially dominant closers and starters) and keep a close eye on the “longshots” during the season’s opening weeks. A ten man team requires that you identify and draft sleepers; an eight man league allows you the benefit of acquiring sleepers after the draft.

I’m enjoying this season, though, and fantasy baseball continues to get me more involved with following the sport. I enjoy the sport, and am glad to have this prompting me to put more of my free time toward it.

Ryan Howard Contract, Take 2

The Red Sox aren’t really a comfy topic right now. So here’s a second post on the Ryan Howard deal. Fangraphs compares Howard’s contract to other historic WAR (wins above replacement) and figures that a “reasonable” projection for Howard’s contract would have been right around 77 million dollars–far below the 125 million he’s ensured.

They also look more closely at the WAR numbers for top players in their mid-30’s and conclude:

So, you have a one-third chance of being Jim Thome, a one-third chance of being Frank Thomas, and a one-third chance of being Mo Vaughn.

Ryan Howard was paid like he had a 100% chance of being Jim Thome.

Oops.