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JoseValverde

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Save Me: The Jose Valverde Story

Posted on 25 February 2013 by Will Emerson

As we roll on into fantasy baseball draft season us fantasy baseball players all across the land are perfecting our strategies, looking for sleepers, etcetera, etcetera. One common mantra among many a fantasy baseball participants is to not pay for saves and I for one believe in that wholeheartedly. Every major league team will have a closer, maybe two or three, come opening day, but how many will you really trust going into the upcoming season? More than 10? Maybe. I guess it depends on what you are trusting them to do. Obviously the biggest role for the closer in the realm of fantasy baseball is getting saves on a somewhat consistent basis. More or less, I would argue that a good fantasy closer is one that hangs onto that role for the full season, so let us start there. How many closers do you think will keep the closer role from start to finish?

JoseValverde

It’s not really something I really thought much about in previous seasons as in many leagues I don’t draft a closer at all, but rather, pick some closers in waiting and keep my fingers crossed. Ryan Cook and Greg Holland were just a couple of guys I had on rosters last season, while I waited for them to become their teams closer, basically punting the saves category for a good portion of the season. It is by no means a foolproof strategy, clearly, and it’s hard to stick by. Predicting which closers will lose their jobs at some point in the season is by no means an easy endeavor. While advanced stats are not necessarily directly going to help your fantasy season, per se, they are our best way to gain some suspicions on what’s to come. I mean few, if any, leagues are going to use FIP or SIERA as direct statistics, we need to use said stats to extrapolate information to predict the future of a player, kind of like playing the stock market, if you will. But we’ll come back to that in a little bit, so sit tight. Back to how many closers you may trust to keep their closer roles for a full season. Half, maybe? Perhaps two-thirds of the closers? And of those how many would you say are dominant, absolutely reliably consistent closers? Half of them, if that? So what’s my point? My point is, the reason you don’t pay for closers is having an elite closer is not only hard to get, but hard to project. I would say maybe five to seven closers will be consistently great in 2013, and for a position with such a high rate of turnover, you’re better off trying to find those saves on the cheap later on in your draft. It is the position that can be the biggest crap shoot in fantasy baseball. Just ask 2012 Jose Valverde owners.

In 2011, Jose Valverde was the closer du jour for a good part of the season on a team that made the playoffs. Valverde put up 49 saves, blowing no save opportunities, while posting a 2.24 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. A monster season to be sure. But I was suspicious of Valverde’s future. His FIP was 3.55 and he coupled that with a very low BABIP of .247. Now, after looking through several relievers’ numbers, the BABIP is not super concerning. Most closers seem to have low numbers in that regard. As for the FIP, well, that is something I read a bit more into. It is impressive to some degree to not blow any saves, but I think many may agree that there could be a good deal of luck involved for such a feat. That 3.55 FIP especially points to some luck for Jose in 2011. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I was very adamant that Valverde was headed for a decline and was a closer I would be avoiding come draft day 2012 and low and behold, what happened? Valverde ended up becoming so unreliable he lost that closer role in the biggest, most high stakes portion of the Tigers season. But was he really much worse than in 2011?

We already saw that Valverde’s 2011 FIP was over a run higher than his actual ERA, pointing to an eventual ERA regression. In 2012 Valverde regressed in that ever so precious fantasy baseball statistic, posting a 3.78 ERA and, as I mentioned, eventually losing the closer title for the Tigers’ playoff run. The interesting thing here though, is his FIP in 2012 was 3.62, not far from his 2011 number in that very same category. I am by no means a Valverde fan and in fact, I have been the complete opposite, downplaying his “greatness” to a large degree over the past few seasons. Right now, Valverde is a free agent and is being penalized for pitching as he should have been pitching, more or less, all along. Well, to some degree, as I am not going to get into the monetary ramifications, but obviously they play a large role as well. So, am I saying that when, not if, but when, Valverde finds a landing spot, he will become a sleeper fantasy closer no 2013? Is he a guy you should draft with a good feeling that he may fall back into a closer role in 2013? Well, let’s slow it down there a bit.

You see, the ERA should drop a tad and since not much will be expected of him, I guess you could consider him a sleeper candidate, in that regard. There’s no saying he can’t get a large dose of luck and save 50 games, but the likelihood of that happening is, well, not great. But the real reason I would not label him a sleeper in the closer capacity is a pesky little stat I have neglected to talk about thus far, his K/9 numbers. Say what you will about Jose Valverde, there was always the chance for good fantasy numbers in the past, because he could strike batters out at a good rate. Valverde’s K/9 has been 8.59 or higher every season of his career…until 2012. In 2012 Valverde’s K/9 plummeted to a terribly low 6.26 a two batter drop from 2011. Now if you had been following Valverde’s career numbers, and really I guess there would not be much of a reason for you to do so, you would have noticed that his K/9 rate has been slowly dropping every season since 2007. But the drop from 2011 to 2012 was a huge red flag, which probably means his days of closing in the major leagues are numbered.

Does Valverde deserve to be on a major league roster in 2013? I think so. Does Valverde belong on a fantasy baseball roster? Maybe, but not as number one closer, that is for darned sure. In my humble opinion, Valverde is still hands off, but as far as fantasy standards are concerned, if he gets signed he could have a shot at some saves, but looking for him to top 20, would be highly optimistic. So when draft day arrives, in case you were thinking Valverde is a sleeper and could magically put up his 2011 numbers, heed my warning and steer clear. It is best to just let undrafted Valverdes lie.

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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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Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher Texas Rangers

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Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch – Ryan Dempster Fire Sale

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch – Ryan Dempster, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee

And here we are, back again for another version of Fantasy Baseball Stock Watch, this week featuring three starting pitchers who all have first names less than or equal to five letters. Each of these three have had their hurdles throughout the year thus far and could finish the year a complete 180 degrees from where they are now. The rest of the article gets better, I promise.

Ryan Dempster – SP, Texas Rangers

Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher Texas Rangers

29# on ESPNs 5×5 Player Rater for SPs

Ryan Dempster started the year as a northsider, throwing for the Cubs of the National League variety. As the Mid-Summer Classic passed, it was only a matter of time until he was moved to a team not as atrocious as the Cubs. After rumors flying from each of the big baseball markets, Dempster found himself in Texas, after he pulled the plug on the Atlanta Braves because his feelings were hurt about the news reaching the public early. This is just the type of guy I want on my team!

Personal feelings aside, Dempster currently sits with an ERA of 2.65, which is good enough for eighth in MLB. Walks have always been an issue for Ryan and this year he has found a bit of control with a walk rate of 2.42 per 9 IP, down from his career average of 4.05. This control has also witnessed his K/9 drop to his lowest in 11 years of 7.41, it’s that game of give and take, I suppose. While it was great for the Cubs to benefit in the long run for moving him, the Rangers are about to regret their latest acquisition (if they don’t already). His SIERRA stands at 3.83, a full 1.18 higher than what he has experienced. Team this fact up with his lower BABIP of .255, as well as facing DH’s and other angry AL teams, this baby is cooked. The writing is on the wall and won’t end pretty.

My verdict: Sell the Dempster fire immediately!

Clay Buchholz – SP, Boston Red Sox

Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox starting pitcher

#72 on ESPNs 5×5 Player Rater for SPs

Unchecked fact of the night: Clay Buchholz’s favorite ice cream is Rocky Road. Oh wait, that’s just been his season to this point throwing for Red Sox Nation (I wanted to give him a nickname of Claynation but am on the fence). The first two months of the year yielded Clay an ERA north of 7.00. That’s awful. As of late however, he has an ERA of 1.79 in 45 1/3 IP. Why the late resurgence?

Simple, he has regained his control. After walking 28 batters in the first two months, he has half that since June 1st. His last outing was a complete game at Cleveland and he takes on the Orioles at Camden Yards in his next outing. If the Red Sox want to have any chance of the postseason (ESPN says 11.5% chance), Clay will have to continue his performances of late, including his highest first pitch strike percentage of his career at 63.8. Will it be enough? Probably not, but get on the bandwagon and ride it on through the remainder of the year.

My verdict: Buy low while admiring the five dollar bill you found in your pants that you haven’t wore since last year.

Cliff Lee – SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee, starting pitcher Philadelphia Phillies

#60 on ESPNs 5×5 Player Rater for SPs

Yes, this reads correctly, Cliff Lee has a record of 2-7. Two wins, seven losses. I am conductor of the train that believes win-loss records for a pitcher are meaningless and only for the simple minded, but that record is just jaw dropping. He has A/A+ stuff and had a team that has dominated in the years prior, funny how things change so fast. For whatever reason, Cliff has witnessed his HR/9 jump up to 1.22 from well under 1.00, where it’s been since 2008.

He is still striking out more per nine than his career numbers, but is inducing less swings-and-misses than he did in 2011 (8.3% down from 9.3%). Looking at the rest of his statistics and it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason to his disappointing campaign. His velocity has remained consistent but his BABIP is only a tick or two above normal (.314 from .296 avg), nothing too severe. The only slight changes from last year is the increased occurance of his change up (15.5% from 12.8%) and the higher flyball rate of 34.8% from 32.4% last year. So what the Phillies are toast this year, Cliff will still perform for your team, just not at the pace he has the past few years, just don’t expect a W when you play him.

My verdict: Hold while scratching your noggin and wondering WTF

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

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manny machado

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Finders Keepers/Welcome to the Bigs, Kid: Manny Machado (Special Double Edition)

Posted on 10 August 2012 by T.J. McDonald

Welcome to the special double edition of Finders Keepers/Welcome to the Bigs, Kid. Late Wednesday evening, the Baltimore Orioles shocked the baseball world and fantasy community, at large, by announcing the call up of their top position player prospect, 20 year old Manny Machado.  If you are familiar with either of this series of articles you know what will follow. But if not, here is what will. In this piece, I will give a little background on Machado, welcome him to the bigs and go into his long term fantasy value as well as give my overall keeper potential grade.

Manny Machado is a 20 year old shortstop prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  He was drafted 3rd overall in the 2010 Major league draft, was Baseball America’s #11 prospect coming into the season and was ranked #9 in their mid-season rankings. He projects to be a potential All Star with plus grades for both hit tool and power from scouts. He hit .266 with 11Hrs and 59 RBIs in 19 games this year in AA.  While profiled as a shortstop, the Orioles plan to give him time at third upon his promotion as they are in the thick of the playoff race.

The Orioles are in a three way tie atop the wild card standings and only 4 and a half games back of the AL East leading New York Yankees.  It looks as if the Orioles are doing everything they can to make their first playoff appearance since 1997.  While Machado has not been lights out this year in AA, since the AllStar break, he has hit a .275 with four HRs, 11 BBs and 15 Ks in 104 plate appearances and was on a tear his last ten games hitting  .444 with three doubles, two triples, three HRs and seven RBIs.

If he can live up to even half the expectations most have for him it will not be hard to outperform the dismal production of the revolving door of Orioles third basemen this year who’ve hit a combined .245 with 13 HRs and 45 RBIs on the season. The one catch here may be his defense.  He has only played two career games at third with one error, so some could argue the O’s are throwing him into the fire at the hot corner without the proper minor league experience at this position.  However, the Orioles have struggled defensively at third, with Wilson Betemit making a team-high 13 errors at third and Mark Reynolds making six errors at the hot corner in 15 games and also the Orioles do not seem to overly concerned about the tranistion.

As Oriole’s vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told the team’s official website,”Manny should be a plus defender, wherever we play him. He’s a five-tool player, and he can help our team. I think he improves our team, and it’s important here (for this club) to be strong.” When Manny himself was asked by the media before Thursday’s game about how comfortable he was playing third his response was, “I’m very comfortable out there. Every day I try to be proactive, I try to take a couple ground balls at third base after I catch my grounders at short. I am pretty comfortable out there. So, I’m really looking forward to it.” He started at third base Thursday night going 2-4 with a triple and one run scored.

Now for his fantasy value in yearly leagues. I wouldn’t drop anyone of good to decent value for him. As @FantasyRundown stated yesterday on Twitter, “Human nature to get excited about the latest and greatest, but I would not drop anyone of significance for Manny Machado.”  However, I suggest if you have a bench spot or start the Logan Forsythe and Willie Bloomquists of the world, pick him up.  Just keep in mind, many top prospects struggle when they first get called up.  Case in point, Mike Trout struggled in his first tour in the big leagues prior to this season.

Once Machado gains his dual eligibility (3b/SS), it will be a major asset going forward and since he will be playing third primarily depending on your leagues rules it shouldn’t take long to add 3rd base eligibility to go along with his short stop eligibility. With this dual eligibility he could be a valuable asset onany yearly league owners bench.

Now for keeper leagues. Pick him up as he is a very highly rated prospect and a highly rated prospect can be very valuable keeper and or trade asset. Keep him for the rest of the season and go from there or even flip him immediately to the owner in your league who is enamored with prospects. Either way it is a win/win. At worst, he can be dropped come keeper time and at best, you have either flipped him for valuable pieces and/or have the next big thing on your fantasy roster come keeper time. He may lose shortstop for next year but if he does not, having dual eligibility will make him that much more valuable. When a prospect is called up prior to the expanded rosters in September it gives you a larger sample size than just the normal September callup small sample size. This enables you to have that much more of a look at the player. Allowing you to make an even better asset of him as a player and potential keeper, come keeper time. Percent owned as of Thursday August 9th: 2% ESPN, 8% Yahoo and 35% CBS. He is currently only shortstop eligible. I grade his keeper potential as an A.

Will you be picking up Manny Machado or did you happen to have have him already rostered?  Let me know in the comments and, as always, be sure to follow me on Twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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Ozzie Guillen and I Have Way More in Common Than I Thought

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Ozzie Guillen and I Have Way More in Common Than I Thought

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Trish Vignola

Nothing has changed in the timeline for his return, the multifaceted Emilio Bonifacio is still due at some point back after the All-Star Break. Still, Tuesday was a crucial day for Emilio Bonifacio. That’s nice. I speculated pre-Full Spectrum Baseball Fantasy Baseball draft that Bonifacio was going to have a significant impact on the Marlins.

Heck. I even drafted him.

However, the only impact Bonifacio has made on my team is the space he takes up on my Disabled List.

The Marlins center fielder was examined and cleared by a team physician to increase his baseball activities. Bonifacio got the green light to start hitting and play catch. He is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.

The injury occurred in Cleveland on May 18, and he’s been on my disabled list since May 20. Sigh.

On Tuesday, Bonifacio began hitting off a tee. He also put a glove on and played catch. The injury is to his glove hand.

Before this, Bonifacio had taken practice swings in recent days. As previously mentioned, the team’s hope is to have him back after the All-Star break.

The Marlins come out of the break on July 13 at home against the Nationals.

“I don’t want to be rushed back,” Bonifacio said. Why should he? He has spent a whole season making me rethink my entire fantasy Baseball strategy. To be fair, I’ve also had David Robinson and any assortment of New York Mets bullpen at some point. Enough already. I’m glade Bonifacio is “feeling great,” but I really need him to get off his butt and start taking swings before I have to drop another person.

Who knew though that there was one person out there who understood what I was going through?

All the losing is trying Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen’s patience. Who can blame him?

Because Miami has a number of young players, the fiery Guillen has been careful not to lash out at his team. Instead, he’s been uplifting and encouraging. I just keep yelling at my Mac Book screen.

“I have to be careful how I treat these kids here,” the manager said. “I don’t have a veteran team. I don’t know how they’re going to handle it. I’m not going to put more pressure on them. I don’t need to say something they know. How you’re going to say it, how they’re going to digest it, how they’re going to take it.”

Veterans don’t take it well either. Ask Bobby Valentine or any of my players…who apparently can’t hear me yelling through my computer screen.

While he’s bitten his tongue, the manager cautioned he could be close to once again making headlines because of his emotions.

“I will, pretty soon,” Guillen said. “I want to be on ESPN. I want to be all over the news. I haven’t been there for a long time.”

Thank you. I’m always looking for writing topics.

Guillen continues, “I should. I make a lot of money when I’m doing that. Pretty soon I’m ready to erupt. But right now … I’m just trying to be positive the most that I can, because we need that.”

Bottom line for both Ozzie and myself is production. The Marlins have been an enigma, because they won 21 games in May, but have just five wins in June entering Tuesday. I dropped two spots in the rankings since Monday.

“I believe we have a good ballclub,” Guillen said. I’m not so sure I do.

Guillen continues, “I believe we do. Why? Because we’ve played good before. I know we’re going to play good again. The only thing I want is more consistency. I want the players to feel that way, how good they are.
“We went from the best team in baseball to the worst team in baseball. You can’t be that drastic. That’s why I’m confused. I think we have the talent.”

I have Jose Reyes AND Joey Votto. How could I have gone so wrong?

Guillen on Tuesday sported a cleaner look, shaving off his goatee. I don’t have one.

“I shaved it because I had more white hair than when I got here,” he joked. “Thank you to the Marlins. I look older.” Me too, Ozzie. Me too.

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