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Starting Pitching Valuation (SPv) Leaderboard

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Dylan Cain

Loyal Full Spectrum Baseball readers may remember an article I wrote a while back about an innovative new stat, one I call Starting Pitcher Valuation (SPv).  For a brief introduction to the statistic for those who have not read the article, SPv is a stat that encompasses 1) the number of base runners a starting pitcher has allowed, 2) how many earned runs he’s allowed, 3) how many batters he strikes out as opposed to how few batters he walks 4) and how well he can lead his team to a victory.

I have taken all these stats and “blended” them together, creating a pitching stat that ranks starters (not relievers) on a scale of 100%-0%. This gives analytically-minded  fans like you the chance to see one stat that is “easy-to-digest” as opposed to reading a long line of the 10-15 most commonly used statistics.  I wrote this article in hopes of providing a weekly “leaderboard” of SPv and to also give my opinions and some notes about how they (starting pitchers) have done of late.  Here are your season-to-date SPv leaders (as of  August 12th). Enjoy!

1) Jered Weaver (84.87%)- The Angels’ ace has been dealing this year, even in an offensive powerhouse division like the AL West. He’s only lost one game this year and with the offensive production of the Halo’s lineup, he doesn’t seem to have that much pressure on him.  With guys like Mike Trout (.340 AVG) and Albert Pujols (Did you hear about his 24 homeruns?? Talk about coming back after a slow start…), any pitcher would feel relaxed on the hill.  His fastball isn’t Aroldis Chapman caliber but it’s enough to get the job done.

2) R.A. Dickey (81.19%)- The Tim Wakefield impersonator has looked slightly more human of late, with his ERA going up .74 points since his second consecutive one-hitter.  Remember, he still has the best SPv in the senior circut, meaning he is on track to have the best season a knuckleballer has ever had, statistically. His 15 wins are tied for the most in the the bigs, he still makes batters look silly, and he is still very likely in line to win the NL Cy Young Award.

3) Chris Sale (80.96%)- The lanky southpaw for the Chicago White Sox has given his rotation a big boost, even with his young, inexperienced arm.  He puts on a show with the radar gun and can shutdown powerful lineups.  He does have an advantage of facing some weaker offensive teams in the AL Central, however.  Six of his 13 wins have come against the Royals, Indians and Twins.  He is a great pitcher but needs a little more experience to convinced me. The addition of Jake Peavy helped him greatly and Francisco Liriano will give him more of an advantage.

4) David Price (79.77%)- The three-time All-Star is on pace to get the most wins of his career and as far as the AL Cy Young Award voting is concerned, he is breathing down the neck of Sale and Weaver.  The only thing he actually lacks is a big bat to support him offensively.  Evan Longoria coming back will hopefully help with that problem.  If any pitcher can help Tampa Bay get a playoff spot from the A’s it will be Price.  He WILL have a Cy Young Award on the wall before his career is done.

5) Justin Verlander (78.62%)- Finally on the list, Verlander comes in at fourth place in the junior circuit, quite surprising for the Detroit Tigers ace. In my opinion, he is the most overrated pitcher in baseball.  Sure, he has a blazing fastball. Sure, his ERA is under two and a half.  But, he has been inconsistent at moments and is on pace to have the most losses in his career since 2008.  I will give him credit, however, because he tends to dominate one of my favorite statistics (WHIP).

6) Stephen Strasburg (77.71%)- The Strikeout king is now on the list and he is very deserving.  In seven of his twenty three games this year, he has struck out nine batters or more!  That is 30.4% of the time.  Looking for a whiff?  He’s the guy you have to call.  His innings limit has been in the news lately and I think if the Nationals want to keep winning he must be in the rotation. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.

7) Matt Cain (76.7%)- “Mr. Perfect”, “Cain-O Insane-O”, “The San Fran Man”…regardless of what you call him, he is still a dominant force on the hill out on the west coast.  His ERA is under 3 for only the second time in his career but he’s currently regarded as the best pitcher in the Giants’ stacked rotation.  This is due mostly to Tim Lincecum‘s recent struggles, and the fact that most of the rotation is considerably “young talent”.  One of his statistics which catches my eye the most is the fact that his walks per 9 is the lowest in his career.

8) Felix Hernandez (76.44%)- “King Felix” is one of my favorite pitchers and I feel he is very underrated.  Although he may only have 10 wins, he already has 3 shutouts, leading the league.  He continues to strikeout batters (he is nearing his 1,500th strikeout) and his ERA is staying low.  His division rivals include the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, two huge offensive teams.  Hernandez continually gets the job done, though.

9) Madison Bumgarner (76.4%)- When looking at the ERA leaders, you could easily think his fellow teammate Ryan Vogelsong has the edge. However, Bumgarner has a higher SPv for a couple of reasons.  One, he strikes out more batters and walks less, as opposed to Vogelsong.  And secondly, Bumgarner has a better WHIP.  Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched is a crucial statistic in the makeup of SPv.  The first round pick in the 2007 draft is off to a good start in his career and he makes a good #2 behind Matt Cain.

10) Kyle Lohse (76.27%)- I was very surprised when I realized Lohse had made the Top 10. When we look at his stats, he has the second most wins on the St. Louis Cardinals staff (12, just behind Lance Lynn‘s 13) against only has 2 losses.  He hasn’t had much popularity since 2008 when he had 15 wins but the baseball community should know that Kyle still has his stuff.  His WHIP and ERA are at career bests and along with Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, they are filling the hole left by the Chris Carpenter injury quite nicely.

11) Johnny Cueto (76.18%)- I can truly say that in my mind, Cueto is the best pitcher in the packed NL Central.  I say this because he doesn’t allow many base runners, keeps batters guessing and even when things do get out of hand, he can still often get the win.  This is because of an offense led by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips.  These athletes, led by Cueto, will help the Reds gain an even larger lead over Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates as the season winds down.

12) Jordan Zimmermann (76.14%)- I know I say the word underrated too often, but it’s one of the few words that describes Zimmermann accurately.  The reason I feel he hasn’t had instant stardom is due to the fact that, earlier in the year, he lacked run support.  At one point he had a losing record with an ERA under two and a half.  He doesn’t strikeout very many batters but he doesn’t walk many either. This keeps men off the base, keeping his WHIP low.  If anyone on this list will win the NL Cy Young Award in dramatic fashion, it’s Zimmermann.

13) Cole Hamels (75.75%)- This southpaw has been the talk of trade rumors year in and year out, but he remains in Philly, being the only pitcher to have double-digit wins for the Phillies.  He also has the most strikeouts, most innings pitched, leads in ERA+ and the lowest hits per nine innings.  Once the #2 pitcher to Roy Halladay, he is now the ace of the struggling team.  He just signed a huge, $153 million contract, so expect him to stick around for a while.

14) Clayton Kershaw (75.17%)- “The Claw” is the same man as he has been his whole career but isn’t quite as dominant as he was last year.  He is in the very pitching dominant NL, hurting his chances of winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards.  He strikes out a whole batter less per 9 inning than he did last year but he still has a WHIP of 1.027.  He leads the league in shutouts (2), is still the ace for the NL West leading (tied) Los Angeles Dodgers and no longer has to face Melky Cabrera due to a 50 game suspension.

15) CC Sabathia (75.06%)- CC has been on the DL for an extended period of time.  I think the Yankees are in a good enough position to where they can retain first place in the AL East without him.  If you asked me a year earlier, I would’ve told you that New York couldn’t have competed without Mariano Rivera and with Sabathia out, however, that’s exactly what they are doing.  Yankees’ fans just need to hope that C.C. can bounce back from the injuries, and continue on the pace where he left off.

16) A.J. Burnett (74.81%)- I would’ve expected the Pirate’s righty to be higher on this list, with 14 wins and a new beginning in Pittsburgh, however, he is not.  Like many of the pitchers ranked above him, he doesn’t possess a high number of K’s.  Through 21 starts, he already has the most wins in his career since 2008 in Toronto.  Not only does he have a career low WHIP (with 21+ games started), but he has a one-hitter under his belt.

17) Ryan Vogelsong (74.64%)- The reason this guy may not quite be a household name is because he hasn’t performed in the past, as he is just showing signs of greatness.  The last season that he had 25 or more starts before San Fransisco, he had an ERA of 6.50 with a 6-13 W-L record. He has redeemed himself, however, in his second stint for the Giants.  His two years back have been astounding, posting 249 strikeouts and a 23-13 record.  He does walk a few too many, but nothing to worry about. Expect him to have more than one all star selection in his career.

18) Scott Diamond (74.35%)- I consider this young man the only “stud” in the Minnesota Twin’s rotation.  He isnt like many of the guys on this list as far as strikeouts are concerned (5.0 strikeouts per 9 innings), but he makes up for it because he doesn’t walk many either (1.3 walks per 9 innings, a league lead).  He’s only pitched 18 games, and I really don’t expect the trend to continue, as he allows almost a home run a game.  That’s low enough to be a quality pitcher, but not to consistently be on this list.

19) Gio Gonzalez (74.15%)- Gio is one of the best parts of the Washington Nationals “Big 3″ (Strasburg and  Zimmerman included).  He has the most wins out of all of them (15, 2 away from a career high), he has the league lead in home runs per 9 innings (0.4), and the league lead in hits per 9 innings (6.9).  His wicked curveball is similar to those of fellow teamate Stephen Strasburg and Barry Zito.  With Strasburg supposedly being out of postseason play, Gio is the man who needs to step up even further, if possible.  This would be by walking less and staying consistent.

20) Ryan Dempster (73.62%)- The Texas new-comer is lucky to even be on this list.  His ERA has gone up 79 points in 4 games, but I think he still has some success in him.  He is aging, however, and is struggling to get wins.  He is a great #3 or #4 in the Rangers rotation, and run support won’t be an issue anymore, as it was with the Cubs.

Think one of your favorite pitchers deserved to be on the list or would you like to just discuss Starting Pitching Valuation, contact me on Twitter @pitchingstats or use the comments section below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about about this list, how to calculate SPv and/or how to apply its usage to fantasy baseball. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week.

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The Roster Report – March 3, 2012

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The Roster Report – March 3, 2012

Posted on 03 March 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. Welcome to the first Roster Report of March. Spring Training has sprung on us, and players are showing up and getting ready for the 2012 season. With the beginning of Spring Training comes the inevitable swath of injuries throughout the league, and this column focuses on some of the most important injuries that have cropped up over the last few days. Two Central Division squads will be missing big-name (and big-money) players for the start of the season – one due to a freak injury, the other due to an injury that was anything but unexpected.

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Cleveland Indians CF Grady Sizemore will miss 8-12 weeks due to back surgery.

It was almost a given that Grady Sizemore would miss time in 2012, but even the Indians probably didn’t expect it to happen so soon. The superstar outfielder had a micro discectomy, and this back surgery will cause him to miss most of Spring Training, as well as the start to the season. With an extensive rehab process needed before Grady can get back on the field, and his existing history of injury, I’d say mid-May is the earliest we’d see Sizemore take the field for Cleveland. This is not the way the Indians wanted to spend the $5MM contract they signed Sizemore to before the season started.

With Grady missing from center field, it is safe to assume that Michael Brantley will take over in the middle of the outfield. Brantley posted respectable, if not stupendous, numbers in 2011. He amassed nearly 500 plate appearances, hit .266/.318/.384, and stole 13 bases. There’s still potential for his power, speed, and OBP numbers to improve a bit, and Brantley’s defense in center is solid enough to play everyday there. Brantley probably would have been the everyday left-fielder with Sizemore healthy, but now he’s more likely to hit near the top of the order, depending on the choices the Indians make with the newly-open left field position.

There’s no absolute clear left fielder in Cleveland with Brantley moving to center. The Indians have a host of guys in camp looking for a spot, including Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta, Shelley Duncan, Aaron Cunningham, Ezequiel Carrera, Ryan Spilborghs, and Trevor Crowe. Spilborghs looks to have very, very little left in the tank after a terrible 2011, and Thomas Neal was very unimpressive in 2011 as well, except he was bad in Triple-A. Carrera makes a fine pinch-runner, but doesn’t project to have the bat to play every day. And Matt LaPorta may just be out of luck and time to prove himself as something greater than a Triple-A hitter. In fact, Canzler, LaPorta, and Cunningham all have a similar knock. All three have played well in the minors, but haven’t seen their production translate at the ML level yet. All three are also right-handed, which makes them pretty interchangeable as an option in left. I’d actually expect that Cunningham’s versatility will keep him in the mix in Cleveland, but as a fourth-outfielder capable of spelling Brantley, Choo, or whomever gets the LF job. Canzler is able to back up all four corner spots, but LaPorta has more upside if his bat ever starts working in the bigs, but both could wind up in Columbus to begin the year.

That leaves two options for the LF job: Shelley Duncan and Trevor Crowe. Duncan, like the three candidates I just covered, bats right-handed. But unlike those three, Duncan actually put up pretty decent numbers in limited action last season. Duncan hit 11 HR in 247 plate appearances last year, and was good for a 118 wRC+. That will play, especially given how badly he treated right-handed pitchers, torching them for a .390 wOBA. If he could keep up that level of hitting against same-handed pitchers, that would make for a worthwhile everyday left fielder. But that performance was outside of his usual abilities, he typically hits lefties better than righties. If Duncan needed a platoon partner, the Indians might want to leverage one of the only backup outfielders on the roster who can hit left-handed in Trevor Crowe. Crowe’s a switch-hitting outfielder with some speed, and he has a tendency to perform better when hitting left-handed in the majors. If Crowe can put up league-average numbers against opposite-handed pitchers, he might be as good a caddy as anyone if the Indians want to get the platoon advantage.

Ultimately, I see this as Shelley Duncan’s position to lose, unless LaPorta, Canzler, or one of the other candidates has a ridiculous Spring Training. Duncan has enough power to be a worthwhile (if very, very late round) fantasy pickup, as his power is legit. In a full season, he’s the type of player who could put up 20+ HR. But we’ll certainly have to see how Spring Training plays out before we know anything definite. And even once Sizemore comes back from this particular injury, don’t expect the position shuffle to end. Given injury histories for fellow Indians Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner, there could be a lot of moving a shaking before the season is over in Cleveland.

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Pittsburgh Pirates SP A.J. Burnett will miss 8-12 weeks due to facial surgery.

Freak injuries like the one to A.J. Burnett’s face during bunting practice are never a good thing. And as someone projected to be the Opening Day starter for an improving Pittsburgh team, this one has to particularly sting. Now that A.J. will be having surgery on his face due to a fractured orbital bone around his eye, the Pirates are back to where they were a month ago: a rotation filled with young guys who don’t have a whole lot to offer. While Burnett isn’t an elite starter, he would have provided heft to a rotation full of end-of-the-bench starters.

With A.J. out, both Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton should be guaranteed their spots in the rotation to start. Neither player is particularly noteworthy, but hey, it’s a slow week so we’ll break them down anyways! Charlie Morton got a little bit of press by admitting he tried to copy Roy Halladay‘s delivery and style note-for-note before the 2011 season, and then started off having quite a bit of success with the copycat style. Pretty soon, though, things came back to normal. By the end of the season, the Pirates might have been better served by running the other baseball-playing Charlie Morton out there every fifth day. You know, the one who’s been dead for nearly a century. The current Morton is great at not giving up home runs (0.31 HR/9 in 2011), but his Roy Halladay impersonation doesn’t include the requisite strikeouts to make him a top-level starter. He’s a replacement-level guy, or maybe a little better if he can continue to keep the ball in the yard at such a low rate.

Jeff Karstens, like Burnett, is another former Yankee who’s been exiled to Pittsburgh. Karstens had a good season if you use ERA as measure (3.38 ERA in 2011), but the advanced metrics tell a different story. His FIP was a full run higher at 4.29, which isn’t awful, but belied a very low BABIP of .275. Karsten relies on his command, reducing walks, and getting guys out on balls in play, so luck plays a big part in his success. The Pirates won’t get killed running him out there every fifth day, but chances are that they’ll wish they had Burnett back sooner rather than later.

Before the injury, A.J. Burnett was a pretty solid fantasy option in the later rounds of a draft or in deep leagues. Now, he’s more of a wait-and-see guy. The only reason this injury should affect his game is the missed Spring Training time to get ready; remember that this isn’t an arm injury that could mess with his velocity or control. Hopefully, Burnett will have a speedy recovery and be back soon, but until he does, you might be better off drafting someone else and waiting for A.J. on the waiver wire.

Quick Hits

  • The Cleveland Indians already have another injury issue worth watching. Closer Chris Perez is dealing with an oblique strain and will probably miss the first few weeks of the season. Yeah, Perez is the closer, but he was pretty bad in 2011. A live arm in previous seasons, Perez saw his strikeout rate (2010: 8.71 K/9, 2011: 5.88 K/9) crater all of a sudden, with no change to his walk rate (3.92 BB/9) at all. He managed a 3.32 ERA and 36 saves, but that masked a SIERA of 4.65 and xFIP of 5.01. That’s hardly closer quality. Picking up the slack in the meantime will be Vinnie Pestano, who emerged in his rookie season as the best reliever in the Cleveland ‘pen. Pestano struck out a mountain of guys (84, to be exact) and could well be more effective in a ninth-inning role than Perez ever was. Since we don’t know if Pestano will snatch the job away on a permanent basis, don’t go crazy drafting Pestano in fantasy yet. But I trust that Manny Acta and punk-rock pitching coach Scott Radinsky will eventually turn the ninth over to Pestano. And don’t be too surprised in Tony Sipp sees a few holds chances with Pestano closing.

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The Roster Report – February 22, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 22, 2012

Posted on 22 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans! Spring Training is here, so get pumped! Get ready for a month of what our colleague Dennis calls “microfanning.” A great example of microfanning is the recently-built tumblr Bad Spring Training Twitpics and all the terrible, blurry, useless pics therein. But don’t miss out on the great nuggets of info that come through during ST…how about you just trust us to filter out some of the useless information for you? The latest minor moves (no Roy Oswalt again!!) are here for your perusal in this most recent Roster Report.

Raul Ibanez

The New York Yankees sign LF/DH Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $1.1MM contract.

When a big new free agent signs with the Yankees, there’s usually lots of buzz and fanfare. The big new Bomber acquisition for the 2012 season has come, and it’s a 39-year old coming off the worst season of his career. Raul Ibanez has agreed to join the Yankees, and he’ll probably be the left-handed hitting half of a DH platoon, partnering with Andruw Jones. The New York faithful hopes Raul hits closer to his 2010 self (109 wRC+) than his 2011 self (90 wRC+), but he probably won’t get more than 300 AB regardless.

Honestly, I’m not too sure this is a great deal for the Yankees. Maybe I’m just feeling the recency bias, but Raul was just an average hitter even on the good side of his platoon split last season (.322 wOBA against righties). Given that he offers little upside and negative defensive value, I feel that the Yankees could have done better by waiting for a Spring Training cut or trade opportunity like Brandon Allen, Kila Ka’aihue, Juan Francisco, or Clete Thomas. In Ibanez, the Yankees are paying for name value and past production…something that they’ve done quite a bit in the past. Granted, a million dollars is very different from the contracts they’d handed out to aging superstars in the past, but it is money that did not need to be spent. If he would’ve taken the contract, Johnny Damon probably could provide better offense than the equally aged Ibanez.

At best, Ibanez is going to be a platoon DH, and players like that have little to no fantasy value. In AL-only leagues, he may be worth a late-round flyer, but I’d rather have his platoon partner, Andruw Jones. Jones is likely to be a better hitter with more power potential, but neither player is worth rostering in most leagues. Expect Russell Martin, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez to get a fair share of DH plate appearances as well as Ibanez.

Manny Ramirez

The Oakland Athletics sign LF/DH Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Hahahahaha. Ahahaha.

With that out of the way, I literally cannot believe the Athletics have added another outfielder / designated hitter type, especially after also adding Yoenis Cespedes (and Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill and Josh Reddick). I’m so glad I spent all that time breaking down The Hydra, and then re-breaking things down after the Cespedes signing. Manny will be Manny in Oakland, at least after he serves a 50-game suspension for PED use.

So is Manny a good signing? Sure, in a vacuum. In 2010, the third-worst season of his career, Manny was still a way-above-average hitter with a .382 wOBA. Quite honestly, Manny Ramirez can hit. He can hit in any park, in any situation, and he could probably hit falling out of an airplane. If he’s healthy, I fully expect him to ruthlessly conquer the DH spot in the Athletic lineup, and put up decent numbers in the process. But he’s going to take plate appearances away from guys like Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill and Chris Carter. Maybe the A’s aren’t the best fit for Manny, but they’re the most willing fit, and none of the players Manny is displacing is a sure thing. This may just be crazy enough to work.

Fantasy-wise, don’t draft Manny. Please. He could be a solid waiver-wire pickup two weeks before he’s ready to come off his suspension. But the power is diminishing, and he’ll probably be of minimal value in anything that’s not an OBP league. If you play an OBP league…well, he could be more than just an ok play.

Chris Carpenter

The Boston Red Sox receive RP Chris Carpenter as compensation for the signing of GM Theo Epstein.

This probably is not the Chris Carpenter that the Red Sox would like to see, given their rotation uncertainty. But as a compensation pick for losing a year of GM Theo Epstein, the Sox could do a lot worse than Chris Carpenter. Carpenter is a live arm, capable of hitting triple-digits in short stints, but he’s struggled at times with his command. He’s also consistently ranked among the top 15 Chicago Cubs prospects in a number of lists over the past few seasons. At best, he could be a high-leverage reliever and the next coming of Daniel Bard. At worst, he’ll walk five guys per nine innings and never make it past Triple-A.

In two years, Carpenter might be a nice piece to the Boston bullpen, or he could be missing in action. But there’s no point in drafting him in your fantasy league this year. Even in dynasty leagues, CC might be a bit too far off to waste a draft pick on.

Quick Hits

  • One of the most underrated players of the last two decades, Mike Cameron, has announced his retirement from baseball. This comes on the heels of signing to compete for the starting center field job for the Nationals, but the Nats still have depth on hand in Roger Bernadina, Rick Ankiel, and (maybe) Jayson Werth. Cameron will forever be known as a linchpin in the Ken Griffey Jr. trade to Cincinnati, but he was a tremendous player in his own right. Depending on your WAR flavor of choice, Cameron was worth between 45 and 55 wins above replacement over his 17-year career. He played stellar defense, he hit for power, and he stole bases. Mike Cameron was a heck of a ballplayer, and had a terrific run in the majors.
  • The Cleveland Indians agreed to sign former Twin, National, and Ranger Cristian Guzman to a minor league deal in the hopes that he can back up Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis this season. Guzman is (believe it or not) a two-time All-Star, but missed 2011 due to a shoulder injury. If that injury is healed, Guzman may be able to retain his old form…but Guzman has a history of sub-par hitting and average-to-poor defense. In his earlier years he was quick on the basepaths, but these days he’s a high-contact, low-power hitter at best. If he plays like it’s 2009, then Guzman could be a decent big league piece, but if not, he’s probably out of work.
  • The Yankees weren’t done adding hitters after signing Ibanez, as they also brought back 3B/1B Eric Chavez on a one-year deal. The deal, which is estimated at $900K, hinged on the Yankees dumping some of A.J. Burnett’s salary in recent days. As such, Chavez should be the primary backup to both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Though Chavez’s bat is a far cry from his All-Star seasons in Oakland (he only posted a .263/.320/.356 slash line in 2011), he’s still a solid defensive player and veteran presence in the Bronx.
  • The last (and least) of the recent Yankee signings is relief pitcher Clay Rapada. Rapada has been inked to a minor league deal, which is probably for the best, considering he’s never been very good at the major league level. In 16.1 major league innings last year, Clay posted a 6.06 ERA and a 4.49 FIP for the Orioles. Unlike Ibanez and Chavez, Rapada is likely not to have any effect at all on the Yankees’ playoff chances, and probably will be the last man in the bullpen at best.

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The Roster Report – February 18, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 18, 2012

Posted on 18 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans! Get stoked for Spring Training, it’s only a few days away. Pitchers and catchers are due to report soon, and teams are rushing to make those last, late acquisitions to firm up rosters. Today, we have a collection of players who will battle to stay relevant and as major-league-caliber players on minor league deals. And, after quite a bit of speculation, A.J. Burnett moves on to a new destination. All the details can be found below in this edition of the Roster Report!

(By the way, still no Roy Oswalt signing. This is getting ridiculous.)

A.J. Burnett

The New York Yankees trade SP A.J. Burnett and $20MM to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RP Diego Moreno and OF Exicardo Cayones.

In a deal that was as much about money as it was performance, the Yankees finally parted ways with highly-paid starter A.J. Burnett. Burnett had been the subject of trade discussions ever since his performance slipped in 2010. Burnett appeared to be muscled out of the rotation by the acquisitions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda this year, and the Yankees must be pleased to find a team willing to take on some of Burnett’s salary. A.J. was due $33MM over the next two years, and the Yankees will pay $20MM of that for the Pirates to take on that last $13MM of the deal. This should free up enough money for the Yankees to add a couple of bench or DH-type bats, as well as make them more flexible for mid-season acquisitions.

In return, the Pirates get something they’ve been lacking for years: a reliable guy to eat innings. It may come as a surprise, but A.J. is probably the ace of this Pirates staff now. Burnett should slot in ahead of Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, and Charlie Morton or Jeff Karstens. Though A.J. was undoubtedly a disappointment in his time in the Bronx, he isn’t a terrible pitcher. Burnett earned $49.5MM over the last three years, and the way Yankee fans complain, you’d think he was worth nothing. In fact, FanGraphs values him as worth $28.7MM over that span, which is $20MM less than what he made, but that’s still a very valuable player. Burnett was torched by the long ball as a Yankee, especially last year. Moving out of the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium, Jr. should help him put up more reasonable numbers in 2012 and 2013. Also, accurate future performance predictors SIERA and FIP both had him as an above-average pitcher in 2011, actually. A SIERA of 3.89 and xFIP of 3.86 would be a breath of fresh air in Pittsburgh, and I look for him to be a very strong off-season acquisition.

Let’s talk a little about New York’s return in this trade: Moreno and Cayones. Neither of these guys matter in the slightest. Neither projects to be a major-league player. The end.

Now that Burnett’s in Pittsburgh, it’s fair to ask if he’s a fantasy factor. Truthfully, I’m not sure yet. He’s always managed to get a decent number of strikeouts (8.22 per nine innings over his career), and that tends to play in fantasy. You can also rely on Burnett, which is shocking given how his early career went.

Russ Ohlendorf

The Boston Red Sox sign Ross Ohlendorf to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

This is not the R.O. starting pitcher that the Sox were hoping for, but hey, things could be worse. They could have signed a pitcher who racked up a 6.28 FIP in 2011 instead. What’s that? Ohlendorf was that bad last season? Hrm. Well, it was only in about forty innings, so there could be a small sample size issue in play here. At his best, Ohlendorf was about average as a starter, and being able to get back to that level would be a magnificent coup for the Sox. Granted, that probably won’t happen, but looking at his career stats, its possible that he could find work as a spot starter or back-of-the-bullpen arm.

I imagine that Ohlendorf isn’t the first choice for a rotation spot among the Sox gaggle of non-roster invitees, or even the second. Aaron Cook or Felix Doubront would probably be a better #4 or #5 starter than Ohlendorf, but Ross has his pluses as well. He does have a history of striking out more than six guys per nine innings, even in his worst years. If nothing else, he’ll be depth at the Triple-A level, and he’ll be a guy who won’t need a lot of deliberation if they need to cut him loose from the 40-man or 25-man roster.

From a fantasy perspective, avoid avoid avoid Ross Ohlendorf. But given the fact that you’ve probably been doing that for the last four or five years, you’re probably good. He’s not going to be a whole lot better moving into a hitter’s park, in a harder league, in the toughest division for a pitcher…and his numbers with the Pirates were not fantasy-worthy.

Quick Hits

  • The Cincinnati Reds signed Brett Tomko to a minor-league deal (with an invite to Spring Training). In 2011, Tomko was what he has almost always been: a replacement-level pitcher. He’ll get a few strikeouts, he’ll walk too many guys, and not be worth anything other than an end-of-the-bullpen roster spot. Players like Tomko are useful due to their versatility, but they’re not fantasy-worthy and won’t change your franchise’s fortune.
  • The San Francisco Giants signed Ramon Ortiz to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Ortiz pitched for the Cubs last season and wasn’t particularly good by standard measures…but actually managed a 4.14 xFIP and 3.90(!?) SIERA. Granted, that’s only in 33.1 innings pitched, but Ortiz could easily find himself doing time at the end of the San Francisco rotation and bullpen. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a #5 or spot-starter at best and has literally zero fantasy value, but he could play another year, and may even outperform Barry Zito.
  • Hideki Okajima failed his physical, and won’t suit up for the New York Yankees this season. I actually really liked him as a bounce-back candidate this season to sneakily put up good numbers. I hope that he gets healthy and nabs another chance to pitch in the majors, but the Yankees probably won’t be too worried about replacing him.
  • Finally, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to Tim Wakefield. Wakefield has been a fixture as a member of the Red Sox for the last 17 years of his 19-year career. Most famous for carrying on the proud tradition of knuckleball pitchers, Wakefield finishes his career with over two hundred wins and two World Series rings. For me, it’s especially bittersweet. Wakefield is my wife’s favorite baseball player of all time, in part because they share a hometown. Both of our favorite players are knuckleballers (my favorite’s R.A. Dickey), and I’m glad that Wakefield had such a long and successful career. He’ll be missed.


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