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3 Up and 3 Down

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3 Up and 3 Down

Posted on 07 September 2012 by Gary Marchese

Here is this week’s 3 up and 3 down column. As always I can be reached at gmarchesej@aol.com, writing a comment at the end of this article, facebook and @gmarchesej on twitter.  I thank you as always for continuing to support me through my weekly 3 up and 3 down column and the rest of the site on a daily basis.

UP: The Baltimore Orioles

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The Baltimore Orioles as a team cut down a ten game deficit to the New York Yankees.  The Baltimore Orioles tied them for first place on Tuesday night.  The Orioles have been playing great baseball and the Yankees not but they actually have a very good shot at the postseason and even the division who would of though that.

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Go to Your Corners and Keep Your Gloves Up

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Go to Your Corners and Keep Your Gloves Up

Posted on 22 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Cabrera, assisted by BInge

In this corner wearing the colors of the Detroit Tigers….standing 5’11″ and weighing 275+ pounds, I give to you Prince Fielder “of Dreams”!  And in the opposite corner also wearing the Detroit Tigers colors….standing 6’4″ and weighing 240+ pounds, I present Miguel “Hands of Stone” Cabrera.  (You may stand and applaud now.)  Combined, the duo could account for 80 home runs, 240 rbi, and more errors than you can count in a month of Sundays.

Of course, the Tigers could conceivably score 850 or more runs this season.  That same Detroit team could also allow 750 or more runs despite having a pitching staff led by all-world ace Justin Verlander.  The run differential may be the product of a very good season, but it may not be especially pretty to watch.  Newly planted third baseman Miguel Cabrera unintentionally provided what amounts to a microcosmic preview of what Detroit fans may be subjected to all season long.

Watching Miguel Cabrera take one off of his face for the team was almost painful to watch.  By about the 20th replay, it was not nearly as bad.  No, the lack of compassion has nothing to do with any personal animus directed at Miggy.  The change was simply due to a replay that clearly showed the ball glancing off of the lens of Cabrera’s sunglasses.  While the ball did make short work of the glasses, it may have been the glasses that caused most of the really obvious damage and bleeding.

Hunter Pence certainly struck the ball forcefully enough to do damage, and the ball absolutely appeared to take a bad hop when it hit the ground.  Most importantly, Cabrera looked like a grizzly bear hunting moths with chopsticks trying to make the necessary adjustment on the ball.  Most experts agree that Cabrera probably will not turn into a Gold Glove caliber defensive stalwart, but he has yet to show the potential to be even an average fielder at the position.  Technically, he was not spectacular flashing the leather at first base either, but that is a story for another paragraph.  Even “below average” would probably be perfectly acceptable to the Detroit Tigers, but his short tenure at the 6 spot has me pondering just how bad this could get.

Could the “Miggy Experience” be bad enough to be considered epically bad?  If you find that question worth pondering for a moment, then maybe you can define what exactly constitutes “epically bad”.  If you would rather use the definition I provide, then that works as well.  Consider the ultimate zone rating (UZR) and ultimate zone rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) for players who spent a significant number of innings playing 3rd in 2011.  Since I am the captain of this vessel, I chose 750 innings as the minimum threshold for qualifying for this extremely unscientific “study”.  Also, a bit of on-the-napkin math shows that playing 9 innings a game for half of a season would total 729 innings.

In all of MLB in 2011, there were 22 different players who accumulated 750+ innings at third base.  Placido Polanco had the highest UZR at 14.0, and Alex Rodriguez had the highest UZR/150 at 20.2.  Perhaps not all that surprisingly, the player with the lowest UZR (-22.8) and the lowest UZR/150 (-30.3) was Mark Reynolds.  Admittedly, Reynolds fields the position like a gorilla dodging ping pong balls shot out of an air cannon.  In his defense, he can also lift heavy things and knock the cover off of a baseball.  Sound like anybody else you know?  Maybe Miggy will find his inner Polanco and float like a butterfly at the hot corner, but I am more inclined to believe that he will wobble like a Butter Bean.

Lest you begin to think that Prince Fielder will be spared the UZR treatment, please think again.  To add a certain element of credibility to this study, I searched Fangraphs for all the players who had played 750+ innings in a season at 1st base.  This time the search included all players from 1966 to the present.  Why 1966?  Well, that was the year that the Houston Astros first started playing on Astroturf, and it seemed sensible to divide baseball into a pre-turf era and a turf era.

During the turf era, the highest UZR for a season belongs to Albert Pujols who played 1324 2/3 innings at 1B in 2007 and finished with a UZR of 24.7 (21.7 UZR/150).  The worst season during that period belongs to Adam LaRoche who managed a whopping -18.2 UZR for Atlanta in 2005.  The worst UZR/150 went to Mike Jacobs who cranked out -24.7 UZR/150 in 927 1/3 innings for Florida in 2005.  Cabrera’s worst year at first base was 2010, and he struggled to a -6.2 UZR and -6.1 UZR/150.  That may not sound too bad until you learn that his UZR placed 32nd lowest of over 200 player seasons that qualified.  In other words, there were only 31 player seasons worse than his between 1966 and 2011.  The good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it is that 4 of the seasons worse than Cabrera’s are owned by Prince Fielder.

At the sound of the bell, come out swinging with your gloves up.  Protect yourselves at all times.  No, really.

FYI:  3 seasons worse than Cabrera’s were produced by baseball “analyst” Kevin Millar.

FYI Part Deux:  The lowest UZR of anybody who played 3rd base from 1966-2011…….-27.7 (Ryan Braun).  #MVPee

NOTE:  Alex Rodriguez was listed as 6’3″, 230 pounds.  If Cabrera is 240 pounds, then he must be playing with a hollow leg.

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The Carlos Pena Effect

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The Carlos Pena Effect

Posted on 19 March 2012 by Dennis Lawson

 

Team BABIP

The Tampa Bay Rays may very well get to opening day with a team payroll of around $70M which is quite admirable for a team that competes with the likes of the Yankees and the Red Sox.  Maybe that is why I find it fascinating to watch how the Rays operate.  The opportunity to get a glimpse of the collective thought process may be rare, but it seems that such an opportunity has been afforded to those following closely enough to notice.

Ask yourselves why a team that plans to spend around $70M would dedicate over 10% of that amount to a free agent who hit .225 last season and costs twice as much as the guy he will replace.  Seriously give that some consideration.  Casey Kotchman played 1222 1/3 innings at 1B for the Rays last season and committed 2 errors.  The only other guy to give the Rays double digit games at 1B last season was Dan Johnson, and he hit a paltry .119.  On the other hand, Kotchman hit .306/.378/.422/.800 with 10 hr and 48 rbi.  Despite the really solid season (2.9 WAR), Kotchman was not invited back to the Rays and found employment with Cleveland ($3M for 2012).

Obviously the Rays are looking for more power at first base, and they secured it in the form of Carlos Pena for $7.25M.  The same Carlos Pena hit .225/.357/.462/.819 last year for the Cubs.  Of Pena’s 111 hits 28 were home runs, though.  Pena possesses an abundance of power – the application of which he finds to be somewhat of a challenge  at times.  Basically, he makes contact with the ball with a great infrequency.  Pena struck out 161 times in just 493 at-bats in 2011.  That practically makes him the left-handed Mark Reynolds who struck out a league-leading 196 times last year.

The all-or-nothing approach combined with a good eye for pitches outside the zone makes him strangely yet ideally suited for the Rays.  As a team, the Rays need more offensive punch, and they must absolutely be efficient with the scoring opportunities they have.  They finished 15th in all of baseball with 707 runs scored last season.  The ranking seems respectable until you realize that their division competition includes the 1st (Boston – 874), 2nd (Yankees – 867), and 6th (Toronto – 743) most prolific scoring offenses in the game.  The Rays ended the 2011 season 10th in the league in home runs, and again they trailed the Yankees (1st), Red Sox (3rd), and the Blue Jays (5th).  The Rays simply lack the “big bombers” the competition has.  No problem, right?

If you truly believe that a walk is as good as a hit, then Pena is your guy.  He walked 101 times last season which helped prop up his on base percentage at .357.  That sounds relatively unspectacular, but a guy named Albert Pujols only topped that by 9 points.  Sure, Pujols hit 37 hr to Pena’s 28.  Pujols also collected 99 rbi versus Pena’s 80.  However, Pujols did also hit into 29 double plays while Pena only hit into 6.  On average, Pujols will cost the Angels roughly $24M per year for the next decade.  Pena will cost the Rays $7.25M for just one year.  In this apples versus expensive oranges comparison, I find it difficult to imagine Pujols will really be worth over 3x what Pena will be worth.

The actual apples to apples comparison pits Kotchman versus Pena.  The cost differential between the two players theoretically buys more power which translates to lineup protection as well.  The intangible value of having someone that opponents “fear” in the batter’s box may not be some intangible after all.  The Rays have basically placed a dollar value on it.  It is not so much “bang for your buck” as it is the “Carlos Pena Effect”.

FYI – Carlos Pena’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in 2011 was .267 while Pujols had a .277 BABIP.  Kotchman will make less in 2012 than either player, and his BABIP was .335.  The lesson here?  As Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler famously said, “hit ‘em where they ain’t”, and there “ain’t” nobody playing on the backside of the bleachers.

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DOs And DONTs: Baltimore Orioles

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DOs And DONTs: Baltimore Orioles

Posted on 06 February 2012 by Daniel Aubain

One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the Baltimore Orioles will not be a very good team on the field in 2012 (and beyond) but that doesn’t mean a few of their players won’t have impactful fantasy baseball seasons.

Below is an evaluation of their entire 40-man roster and which players should have a significant fantasy impact this season as well as those you should probably avoid.

  • DO realize the best the O’s have to offer, fantasy-wise, is OF Adam Jones. He’s currently sporting an ADP of 75.35 on MockDraftCentral.com and should provide a steady return (.280/80/25/90/15) at that point in your drafts. Just keep an eye on some of the other outfielders being drafted around this spot (Shane Victorino 75.15; Mike Morse 78.22; Drew Stubbs 81.57) who could provide a better return simply by being on better teams.
  • DON’T bother drafting any of this team’s projected starting pitchers per RotoChamp.com (Jeremy Guthrie; Zach Britton; Wei-Yin Chen; Jake Arrieta; Tsuyoshi Wada) unless you have an affection for sub-10 Win guys with plus-4.00 ERAs with 2:1 K:BB ratios.
  • DO draft C Matt Wieters as your primary catcher (ADP 99.43) before the bottom falls out of viable options around this point. He’ll provide a standard 5×5 line around .270/70/20/70/0 and save you from killing yourself for having to draft the likes of Chris Iannetta, Miguel Olivo and Josh Thole.
  • DON’T worry. 1B/3B Mark Reynolds will probably hit over .200 this season. Probably. On the bright side, he’ll definitely hit over 30 home runs. Okay, okay. That’s a probably, too. There are so many negatives to drafting him that you’re probably better off letting someone else draft him. Make that definitely better off.
  • DO continue to expect steady production from OF Nick Markakis in line with his career numbers. He’s averaged (over 162 games played per Baseball-Reference.com) a .295/89/18/85/9 line over six seasons in the Bigs and seems to be a safer bet than Jones to continue doing so.
  • DON’T expect much out of 2B Brian Roberts until he proves he’s fully recovered from his concussion. He’s only played in a combined 98 games over the last two seasons and reports have him and the O’s being cautious moving forward through Spring Training. Grabbing him in the final rounds of your deep mixed leagues and stashing him on the bench until his health concerns become clearing is not a bad strategy but keep your expectations low.
  • DO draft SS J.J. Hardy if you like 15-25 home runs from your low-average, zero-speed shortstop position. AL-only and very deep leaguers have no choice but to draft him when needed but in those 8-10 team mixed leagues that don’t utilize extra roster slots like MI or IF, you’d be better off aggressively pursuing a top-tier shortstop and leaving Hardy’s ownership to some other unfortunate sucker.
  • DON’T you dare draft 1B/3B Chris Davis! How many times are you going to be fooled into believing he’s “on the verge of big things”. Until he actually proves he can provide “big things”, stay away.
  • DO you think RPs Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg or someone else will emerge as the team’s closer? Does it matter? One of these guys will get 20-30 Saves and my money would be on Johnson.

What Orioles’ player(s) are you most excited to draft and which are you avoiding like the plague? Be aware, though. This is the kind of team that could throw in the towel pretty early and start shipping valuable players off in deals to go young and cheap. Why else would they be linked to Manny Ramirez? And if they do start a fire-sale, what young players get first crack at the big leagues?

This article is the latest installment of “DOs And DON’Ts”. Be sure to check out all of the other teams covered already here and keep an eye out for your favorite team sure to be covered soon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my assessment of the Orioles and the value that this series brings to your fantasy baseball drafting strategies. Use the comments section below or interact with me on Twitter @DJAubain.

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