The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Three AL Players To Hate in 2013

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Three AL Players To Hate in 2013

Posted on 18 February 2013 by Patrick Hayes

We all have them, players we despise, that we wish to see fail, and 99% of the time for no apparent rhyme and or reason. That’s what this post is all about today. From a fantasy baseball perspective I’m placing this target on the back of three unsuspecting American League players. As I write this I have no idea who they will end up being, or what reasons I will come up with, but I guarantee that you’ll be with me by the end. Pitchers and batters alike, I’m playing no favorites.

Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians, OF

bourn

Face it, no one outside of Greater Cleveland wants to see this team do well. Their outfield no consists of three newcomers who were castoffs from their previous teams due to better acquisitions, continually failed expectations or just ugly mugs. Statistically speaking, Bourn sees his greatest success derive from his fleeted feet. He is a motor on the bases, stealing 40+ bases the past 5 years but that’s about it. Michael hits the ball into the ground over 50% of the time and will drive you bananas hoping for some stroke of power to emerge, it never will though. The main reason I’m hating him this year is because he reminds me of an outfielder that Cleveland had in their run in the 1990s, Kenny Lofton.

Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics, SP

parker

For starters, the spelling of his name, although unique, provides a solid foundation to build your dislike on. Jarrod is coming off a season in which he was a major contributor to an A’s team that overachieved greatly.  Although he spotted an appealing 3.47 ERA, his BB/9 ratio of 3.13 and is preventing him from reaching another tier of success. He strikes out a decent-ish 6.95 per 9, but face it, his whole repertoire is boring. He and the A’s will lull you to sleep when they play at home and do nothing to add excitement when they are visiting your home ballpark. It’s time for Parker and the A’s to step out of the spotlight and let the Rangers and Angels be the teams that tickle our fancy during the late Autumn Pennant Races this year.

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees, 1B

bigtex

Picking Mark was a bit of a surprise for me too. On the surface there isn’t too much to hate. He doesn’t cause a ruckus in the clubhouse, he stays out of the media frenzy in the Big Apple and comes off as a “good guy”. However, on the fantasy front, you won’t get anything out of him that resembles his production from a few years ago. His batting average has been a sliver of what it was in 2009 when he hit 39 HRs and batted in 122, hovering below .260 the past three years. Perhaps the short porch in right has become a distraction? Or is it his smug face that just beckons to have you shaking your fist at him? Either way, playing on “America’s Team” provides the deciding factor as to why I’m hating on him this year. This year he will be the second best first baseman playing in New York, Ike Davis, your time is now.

What say you? Do you agree or disagree? Stay tuned for my National League version later this week.

Follow me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Why Time Begins On Opening Day

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Why Time Begins On Opening Day

Posted on 11 February 2013 by Patrick Hayes

It starts to build very slowly, just a whisper of a thought as the Holiday festivities and New Years Resolutions come and go. The days trickle by, casting relentless darkness that seem to resist any progress to the long-shadows of daylight. Next, the sporadic dose of what Spring can bring, a day where the sun shines bright, snow begins to melt and the smell in the air beckons a gleeful smile of what is to come.

HomePlate

A Groundhog normally predicts a pessimistic forecast that threatens our patience and toys with our subconscious excitement of what is right around the corner. We continue pushing forward, welcoming distractions of Super Bowls, snow storms and reports of players being “in the best shape of their life“. Media relays reports of pitchers and catchers and your weary smile grows a smidgen more.

And then it happens. Awaking one morning to the chorus of birds chirping and the aroma of a fresh start fills your nostrils. You fail to notice the extra giddy-up in your step at first or being extra chatty in the coffee shop prior to work. But then it hits you, and you realize what has hijacked your brain and ability to focus. Baseball Fever has taken full control of your mind and body. It’ is now time for a new plot of memories and miracles to written into the course of history, with only a guarantee that each day provides an open slate of potential.

We never know exactly when the feeling will hit, but when it does, we welcome it immediately and submit fully. For some it arrives much earlier than anticipated. And for others, just in the knick of time. It is a new beginning of hope, aspirations along with a fresh perspective of what can be achieved. No matter how bleak the previous year or the spell that Winter led on, you have survived and have successfully reached the other side.

This indescribable feeling builds continuously as Spring Training leaves your head dreaming of pennants races and late nights spent with friends at stadiums and bonfires alike. The sensation boils over at a spectacle like no other, thousands diligently dodge work and make way towards the city. You are well aware of what this day means and your mind begins to wonder aimlessly. Embracing your fearful thoughts of unreasonable expectations and uncertainty, you sidestep and brush them away in order to bask in the moment of celebrating the culmination of America’s Pastime, for today is Opening Day.

Follow me on twitter: @pf_hayes

PS. The Title of this post derives from a book of the same name by Thomas Boswell. I recently finished it and definitely recommend it to any baseball fan. He paints an in-depth picture of an era of baseball that is just prior to my time.

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Oh yeah man!

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Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch – Buys Broken Down

Posted on 17 September 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Oh yeah man!

Finishing up with the reviewing of my predictions of my fantasy stock watch predictions this year concludes with the buys. Starting with the holds, my confidence was high. After looking into the sells, I felt a little disappointed. Now, after digging into the buys, I’m just embarrassed. Let’s get this over with!

My theory of determining on who to go out and get ranged on a few different factors. I looked for players who were a little off the radar, historically finished the year well and that would be obtainable for a small price. Reyes was the only outlier, but he is under-appreciated and has had a silently solid year. With that said, I present you the ranked order of my success and failures.

  1. B.J. Upton – As of July 16, Upton was ranked the 46 overall outfielder according to ESPN’s player rater. Today he sits at 16. In the past 30 days he has nine homers, eight stolen bases and 18 RBI. He isn’t walking much still, but has hit .260 and .255 the past two months, up from where he was at .238 in July. B.J. is the definition of a second half player. My best ‘buy’ selection, by far.
  2. Erick Aybar – Erick was riding a hot streak when I piled on the bandwagon. While he has cooled a tad, he is still batting .352 with seven stolen bases and 18 runs in the past 30 days. Not too bad I say. Especially when he is most likely still a free agent in your league. He lacks power, but is getting on base and filling the stat sheets.
  3. Jose Reyes – On August 6 when I bought Jose’s stock, he was batting .434/.474/.755 in his past 14 games. While that hot streak has cooled, he finished August with .298/.350/.500 and .283/.339/.396 in September. Yes, the power is gone, but he has ten swipes and is still an overlooked impact player.
  4. Brandon Morrow – When I selected Brandon as a buy now player, I felt extremely confident. He was just coming off the DL and was poised to return to his potential. Well since then he has been mediocre at best with 23.1 IP and only 18 k’s. One of his four outings was short and disappointing. Not a great pick but not awful either.
  5. Tommy Milone – Another pitcher who I felt great in buying. Milone was rated the 29th overall SP at the time, but now sits at 40. After the day I declared his stock of value, he went and had three straight bad outings. He then got back on track but was rocked again. His strikeout production has been volatile as well, one game with two, and the next with ten. Definitely not the player he was when I bought. He should have been sold, my mistake.
  6. Clay Buchholz – And then there was Clay. Sticking with the theme of the last two players, I felt as I found a player who had struggled early on and that was finally turning it around. Nope. His ERA, already high at 4.24, has gone up to 4.33. Buccholz pitches late in to games on the regular (7+) but has a habit of allowing four earned runs. Even with these nice extended outings, Clay isn’t striking out more than five per outing. Not the type of performance I had expected. The Red Sox are truly a mess, and so was this selection.
Again, these selections haven’t provided me any justice on who to buy from a fantasy perspective. Perhaps that is why both of my teams have had terrible finishes to the end of the year (I’m stick with coincidences). On the flip side, I hope that my stock watch article have provided you with entertainment and at least assisted on some of your successes. Thanks for following along!

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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buy_sell_hold

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Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch – Sold In Hindsight

Posted on 11 September 2012 by Patrick Hayes

After taking a look last week on the undecided’s, this evening I’ll hopefully be finding out that I sold at the perfect time on six players over the course of two months. These three hitters and three pitchers are all players that I did not have the luxury of having on any of my teams this year, probably helped aid my decision making in cutting ties. Same format as last week (for the most part), here are the players and when I said sayonora.

So it may seem as though I didn’t take too many big risks in determining who I selected, and although that could be a fair-ish argument, these players all have had solid years (for the most part). They were probably bargains when you drafted them, so that played into my criteria on maximizing payout for your investment.

Time to rank them in order of how the selection played out. Just like golf, the lower the number the better and whoever ends up number six, well, you probably missed your window of opportunity by a few weeks. Here we go!

  1. Drew Stubbs – When I visited him on August 6 he was riding a very nice hot streak. Talking to the likes of .362/.415/.660 in the 14 days prior with 4 homers and 5 stolen bases. Since that deciding day I have looked like I know what I’m doing. In the past 30 days from now, Drew is batting .169 in 89 at-bats with 0 homeruns, 2 stolen bases and only five walks. This pick makes me feel good inside.
  2. Starlin Castro – I wrote about Starlin just a few days after he signed a mega contract extension and I predicted gloom for the rest of the year (his slash was .280/.311/.428). Since then, he has been proving me wrong, but only slightly. Castro has started seeing the ball a lot better and has had his average bounce back up to where he normally hits. He hasn’t provided much fantasy stats, other than average, even with hitting .350 for the month of September thus far.
  3. R. A. Dickey – The knuckleballer who stole the attention of the first half of the season. When I decided to push sell, Dickey was in a stretch where he allowed 20 earned runs in his last five appearances. In his last 30 days R.A. has thrown just under 36 innings while allowing 9 earned runs and accumulating 29 strikeouts. Good enough for a 2.27 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Needless to say, he has been back on track for the most part. Check swinging strike for my decision here.
  4. Ian Desmond – This shortstop, who is having a career year, was in the midst of getting injured and missed some games after I sold on July 16th. Ian was riding a hot streak where he smacked four homers, knocked in nine and had five swipes in his last 15 games. In his last 30 games he is batting .329 with four more homers, 11 RBI and two swipes. Yup, I clearly missed here. And he was a free agent in my league but I passed. I regret both decisions.
  5. Gio Gonzalez – Before I sold on the 27th of August his K/9 was returning to his career average, almost as an indication that the NL has caught on to him. Well, that doesn’t appear to be the case. In his three starts since he has thrown 22 innings, allowed one run and struck out 23. All three of his starts have resulted in wins. He has been clutch down the stretch for the NL East leading Washington Nationals. I whiffed here.
  6. Ryan Dempster – Selling on August 13, just a few starts into his AL stint, I felt real good about this call. His ERA was a low 2.65 but his SIERRA had him at 1.18 higher. Playing in the heat of Texas, I thought this was a no brainer. Well, since then, Ryan has thrown 26 innings in four starts (all leading to wins), struck out 28 and has allowed five earned runs. Dempster is my worst case scenario because of how confident I was, especially after the way he get all pissy when news of being traded to the Braves leaked early. Ugh.

So there you have it. I was actually pretty awful in figuring out who to sell. I hope you didn’t take my advice for all of them, but if you did, hopefully you got some good value in return!

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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