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Triple Play: Chris Davis, Carl Crawford, Todd Frazier

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Triple Play: Chris Davis, Carl Crawford, Todd Frazier

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Chris Caylor

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. Today, we’re covering a blossoming slugger, a resurgent outfielder, an inspiring home run, and more. Off we go:

pujols_angels

Who’s Hot?

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Davis is just continuing to build on his breakout year of 2012, when he finally emerged as the power threat he was expected to be with the Texas Rangers (33 HR, 85 RBI, 75 runs, 121 OPS+). He leads the American League with 7 homers, 21 RBI, 49 total bases and a whopping .845 slugging percentage. Obviously, Davis will not continue this 70 HR-210 RBI pace, but he has developed into the middle-of-the-order force people envisioned when he was with the Rangers. Incidentally, what is the Rangers’ biggest need at the moment? A slugger? Interesting. Perhaps trading a power hitter for a late-inning reliever is a bad idea, particularly when said reliever is no longer even on the team. Oh, and did I mention this is Davis’ Age 27 season? I think a 35 HR-100 RBI-85 run season is not out of the question.

Who’s Not?

American League shortstops

First, it was the Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes with a badly sprained ankle. Then it was the Angels’ Erick Aybar and a bruised heel. Then came word that New York’s Derek Jeter has a new crack in his left ankle and will not return until after the All-Star break. Last, but not least, Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera has missed time with a bruised wrist . The shortstop position was thin the American League to begin with, and has only gotten worse over the past week. It’s not that Jeter, Aybar and Cabrera are dominating fantasy players; it’s the mind-bogglingly massive gap between those players and their replacements on the waiver wire. It’s times like this where guys like Ben Zobrist, Maicer Izturis, and Mike Aviles really start demonstrating their fantasy value. Being able to slide of them over to the shortstop position so you can find a replacement player at a deeper position is highly preferable to picking up someone like Brendan Ryan, Jayson Nix or (gulp!) Ronny Cedeno.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 2-1, 2.82 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 23 K
Player B: 2-1, 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 17 K

Player A is the Phillies’ Cliff Lee. Player B is the Rockies’ lefty Jorge De La Rosa. Don’t worry, I’m not going to imply that De La Rosa is as good as Uncle Cliffy. However, I am using them for comparison to illustrate why Rockies fans and fantasy owners are so optimistic about De La Rosa’s start to the season. After losing nearly two seasons following Tommy John surgery, JDLR appears to be fully healthy. The result? How about 17 consecutive scoreless innings spread across his past three starts? That includes a stellar outing this past Saturday night at Coors Field, when he limited Arizona to two hits. His walks are still a concern (after all, not everyone can have Lee’s bullseye control), but De La Rosa has started throwing his nasty slider again. If he can continue to control it, he should continue to have success.

Player A: .274/.333/.500, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 6 SB, 14 runs
Player B: .349/.414/.507, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 SB, 14 runs

Player A is Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, a current five-category fantasy stud. Player B is the Dodgers’ Carl Crawford. Remember Carl? Back in 2010, he notched this stat line: 19 HR, 90 RBI, 47 SB, 110 runs, .307 avg. A Top-5 player if ever there was one. Then he signed that megabucks deal with Boston and fell off the face of the earth. Last season, the Red Sox shipped him to Los Angeles, glad to be rid of the contract and the ghost of the player they thought they were getting. Part of the problem was injuries, which have now healed. As a result, Crawford is off to a blazing start with the Dodgers, showing flashes of his old five-category-stud self. At 31, he should still be in his prime. As Crawford gets further away from Tommy John surgery, he should get even better.

Random Thoughts

• Following up on the Who’s Not note above, who has been the most productive AL shortstop thus far in 2013? Elvis Andrus? No. J.J. Hardy? Sorry. Jhonny Peralta? Nope, but getting warmer. It is Oakland’s Jed Lowrie, with 3 HR, 14 RBI, 14 runs, and a gaudy early-season .393 average. If he can stay healthy, 15-20 HRs is within reason. That would be fantasy gold in AL-only leagues.

• Going into Sunday’s games, the major-league leader in RBI was Braves outfielder Justin UptonMets catcher John Buck. Yes, that same John Buck who hit 12 homers and drove in 41 in 106 games with the Marlins. He already has seven homers and 22 RBI in 2013.

• Was I right, or was I right? Jackie Bradley Jr. is already back in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, Daniel Nava is sprinting away with the left fielder job in Boston.

• If Angels slugger Albert Pujols is actually admitting that that his left foot is hurting, then I have to believe the pain must be excruciating. The man’s pain tolerance is phenomenal.

• I’m not a big fan of the designated hitter, but one bright side of it is that we get to watch Lance Berkman mashing the ball again. Where would the Rangers be without him?

• They would be in the same boat as the Tampa Bay Rays, who just can’t score.

• The Rockies might be 13-5 after Sunday’s loss to Arizona, but it’s a mirage. Yes, the starters are performing better than expected. Yes, the lineup is battering opposing pitchers into submission. Look out for the warning signs, though. The pitching staff is dead last in the NL in strikeouts. Bullpen newcomer Wilton Lopez has been a disaster (2.14 WHIP, allowing 19 hits per 9 IP). Closer Rafael Betancourt is sporting career-worst ratios in BB/9 and SO/BB. Jhoulys Chacin is already injured. Jeff Francis has been ghastly (8.25 ERA, 2.33 WHIP). The hot start won’t last, folks. Enjoy the Rockies’ stay in first place while it lasts.

• Johnny Gomes has ordered bats with the Boston Marathon victims’ names imprinted on them, along with the words “Boston Strong.” If it’s cheesy and cliché to hope that he hits a home run with the bat, so be it. I hope he does.

• It is impossible not to get a little lump in your throat watching Todd Frazier’s home run against the Marlins last week. Actually, the best part the reaction of Reds bat boy Teddy Kremer. Kremer, you see, is 29 and has Down syndrome. Watching Kremer jubilantly hug Frazier after the home run is one of the most joyous things I’ve seen in quite some time. If you haven’t seen it, you need to look it up and watch it – now. It will brighten your day.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Connecting Game Scores with Pitching Success

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Connecting Game Scores with Pitching Success

Posted on 24 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

This is how I calculate game score

The “game score” is a value invented by Bill James that attempts to evaluate the quality of a pitcher’s start.  It basically represents an attempt to quantify the quality of a pitched game without regard for factors such as game outcome, game conditions, park factors, lineup factors, time of day, or factors which would risk increasing inherent bias in the game score itself.  Consider the calculation method:

Start with 50 points, because 50 points is a perfectly arbitrary number, and there is nothing quite like quantification built upon some arbitrary number.

Record an out?  Add 1 point.  Finish an inning after the 4th inning, and you add 2 points.  Add 1 point for each strikeout, and subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.  Take away 4 points for yielding an earned run and just 2 points for each unearned run.  Subtract 1 point for any walks issued.

Philip Humber pitched a “perfect game” for the White Sox this past weekend, and his game score in that perfect game was a healthy 96.  That’s 50 points plus 27 points for outs recorded and an extra 10 points for finishing the 5th-9th innings.  That’s a total of 87 points plus 9 points for strikeouts which gives you the final total of 96 for the game score.

Oddly enough, Humber’s 96 tied Matt Cain‘s gem that he tossed against Pittsburgh on April 13th.  Cain went 9 innings, giving up a single hit ans striking out 11.

Does this mean that Cain’s one-hitter was as good as Humber’s perfect game?  Was it as difficult?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That’s not the point of the game score.  The game score includes minimal bias in exchange for a very no nonsense approach to evaluating a pitching outcome which does not equate to a game outcome.

The limitations imposed by the game score concept make it difficult to quantify anything more than the cumulative effect of pitched ball outcomes for a game, and that leaves me wanting more.  How difficult can it be to develop a slightly more complex evaluation that takes a lot more factors into account?

  1. Start with a base score of 100.
  2. Add 1 point for each out recorded the first time through the lineup.
  3. For subsequent times facing the hitters, use a small multiplier to alter the value added as a function of times through a lineup.  The basic premise here is simply that it really is difficult to get the same guy out 3 or even 4 times in a game, and the game score should reflect that.
  4. Add 1 point for each strikeout and subtract 1 point for each walk.
  5. Take away 2 points for each hit, 4 points for each earned run, and 2 points for each unearned run.
  6. Add 2 points for each base runner resulting from an error that does not result in an unearned run.
  7. Add 2 points for being the visiting team’s pitcher, and add 1 point for being the home team’s pitcher.
  8. Include a fancy park factor that involves the park factor ranking subtracted from 30 and normalized to a scale between 0 and 3 such that the most hitter friendly park adds 3.0 points to the pitcher’s “Game Score Remix”, and the most pitcher friendly park adds only 0.1.
  9. Include another fancy factor that is a function of lineup factors.  Take the combined OPS+ of the starting lineup and rank it among the 30 teams in baseball.  Use the same normalization method as in step 8 so that facing the lineup with the best OPS+ in baseball earns the pitcher 3 extra points while facing the weakest results in a 0.1 bonus.
  10. One last thing to keep in mind.  Wins and losses do matter.  If the pitcher’s team wins the game, the starting pitcher gets 1 bonus point.  If the pitcher’s team losses the game, the pitcher loses 0.  It is mostly a symbolic gesture, but it shows that wins matter to some people.

Perhaps the world is not ready for a “GSR” or “Game Score Remix” concept yet, but I just want to get the discussion moving in the right direction.  I just have issue with the idea that the showdown on April 18th between Cliff Lee (game score 85) and Matt Cain (86) resulted in the 2 pitchers being separated by a single game score point.  Maybe the strikeout needs to be weighted as  a function of situational leverage or something, because not all strikeouts are equal.

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clifflee

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Line of the Day: Cliff Lee

Posted on 19 April 2012 by Daniel Aubain

April 18, 2012: Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched 10 scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in 11 innings. He threw 81 of his 102 pitches for strikes. Enough said.

Line: 10 IP | 7 H | 0 ER | 0 BB | 7 K; ND | QS

Fun Facts: Lee became the first pitcher to pitch 10 innings in a game since Aaron Harang and Roy Halladay in 2007, the first pitcher to pitch 10 scoreless innings since Mark Mulder in 2005 and the first Phillies pitcher to pitch 10 innings since Terry Mulholland in 1993.

My fantasy perspective: Lee continues to prove he’s a dominant fantasy baseball ace and rewarding owners who invested an ADP of 22.2 with everything you’d expect in 2012, except a win. In three starts, Lee is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 18 K’s in 23 innings pitched (7.04 K/9 and 9.00 K/BB ratios). Ask anyone who understands advanced baseball metrics about pitcher wins and you’ll hear all about how they are out of the pitcher’s control. But they still matter in fantasy baseball, so owners may be getting a little frustrated if they penciled in Lee for 18-20 wins this season.

Agree with my pick? Disagree? Check out ESPN’s formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section below and/or hitting me up on Twitter @DJAubain.

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jsmoak

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Justin Smoak: To Draft Or Not To Draft, That Is The Question

Posted on 19 February 2012 by Trish Vignola

It is the middle of your draft. You have to fill the rest of your roster spots.  You’re 30 seconds away from making your choice. The clock ticks down and you see Justin Smoak, first baseman for the Seattle Mariners.  Should you draft him?  He had a rough year, but got really hot at the end of the season.  The clock hits zero. You’re up.  What do you do?

Smoak only played 223 games over the past two seasons, but to his credit he had several issues he had to contend with in 2011.  In August of 2011, he was hit in the face by a Jarrod Saltalamacchia line drive.  Earlier that month, he had bruised his thumb after an Oakland A’s ground ball took a bad hop and ultimately hit him in the chest.   And let’s not forget earlier in the season. An unexplained slide in OPS was revealed to be another thumb injury by mid-July.

When a player is surrounded by freak accidents and he doesn’t tell his coaches about an injury until three months into a slump, this guy is more of a head case than Josh Hamilton and Carl Pavano combined.  I’m not coming out of left field with this.  Hear me out.

Signs do point to Smoak having more of a mental, as opposed to physical, issue.  Look at Smoak’s OPS at the beginning of the season.  It was a whopping .920.  However, three months later, it was .420.  Smoak did finally pull it together at the end of the season.  All of his numbers were up, including a batting average of .301.  Sadly, most of Smoak’s issues correspond to the loss of his father early in the season.  ”That was with me all year,” says Smoak. An immense loss like that can mess with someone mentally and in turn physically.

Here’s the point. The Mariners traded Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak and not Jesus Montero. He’s 25 years old.  He’s got a lot of baseball left in him.  He’s got a good swing for Safeco field.   The kid has talent.  We saw it in brief flashes early and late last season.

The question is can Justin Smoak do this on a consistent basis?  The Mariners right now are taking the gamble. They’re putting all their chips behind Justin Smoak and letting it ride.  Regardless of his rough start, Justin Smoak will be the Mariners starting first baseman in 2012.

So, should Justin Smoak be your choice on Draft Day?  Can he make a miracle comeback and have an incident free 2012? He has the ability to put up numbers that can help your team, but he doesn’t have the versatility to play multiple positions.  He’s no Emilio Bonifacio.  If he has a decent spring and he looks like he can put the issues of 2011 behind him, he might be able to help you.  I would still though remain overly cautious.  Grab him in the later rounds, only if you find yourself with Mr. Met penciled in as your first baseman.

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