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Joshin’ Around

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Joshin’ Around

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Will Emerson

Pitchers and catchers have reported which means it is time to delve into all, yes all,  sorts of fantasy baseball argle bargle! So what is the argle bargle du jour? Well, that would be the outfield position.

JoshWillingham

Otherwise known as, arguably the deepest position in fantasy baseball, not just because of the mere talent level of outfielders but also because, in the offensive category there are just plain more of them. It would be hard to argue that the easiest place to find some hidden offensive gem is in the outfield. Wouldn’t it? Plus many of the early round talents are outfielders. I mean the list of fantasy studs in the outfield is pretty darned good. Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Josh Willingham…..wha, wha, wha, what?! Josh Willingham?  Yes, do not adjust your screens, I said Josh Willingham. Josh is a fantasy diamond in the rough!

Okay, maybe J-Dubs is not your traditional fantasy stud, per se, but he is definitely a guy many of your opponents may overlook. In several places I have seen his current average draft position in the high 80s, mostly drafted behind about 20-25 some odd other outfielders, which could end up being a big steal for you come draft day. Willingham quietly put up a very solid 2012 with the Twinkies, probably because, well, not many people were paying much attention to the Twinkies as a whole. Mmmm, Twinkies…. Umm, well, in case you missed hit, here is what Willingham did last season:

35 HRs (4th among OFs)
110 RBIs (3rd among OFs)
.890 OPS (4th among OFs)
143 wRC+ (4th among OFs)
.366 OBP (12th among OFs)

Yes, I realize wRC+ is not used in fantasy baseball, but it is certainly not irrelevant stat for drafting a fantasy team. Take it for what you will, but here were the no name outfield leaders in wRC+ in 2012:

Mike Trout- 166
Ryan Braun- 162
Andrew McCutchen- 158
Josh Willingham- 143
Matt Holliday- 141
Josh Hamilton- 140
Allen Craig- 138
Ben Zobrist- 137
Yoenis Cespedes- 136
Austin Jackson- 135

Not bad company for Willingham, huh? Now, I know what you may be thinking, “but Will, that’s only one season, there’s no saying he can duplicate that in 2013!” Well, first off, I am not sure why you are yelling at me, but to your point  I would say, to be fair, that there is never a guarantee that a player can duplicate any season. Regardless of whether or not a player has a decent track record, anything can and will happen from one season to the next, but was this just one season for Willingham?  Let’s go and see, shall we? That’s rhetorical, folks, see, we shall, and see right now, we will! Wow, sorry for Yoda taking over this post for a hot second. Where were we? Oh yeah, Josh Willingham.

If Willingham gets over 400 ABs he will get you 20+ dingers. In 2011, he socked 29 dingers, so the 35 is not completely out of left field, where, as it happens, Willingham plays most of the time, so I guess they were out of left field in a way.  The 29 long balls in 2011 were only good for 11th amongst all outfielders, but that is still pretty good. Remember he is looking to be around the 25th (or so) outfielder coming off the ol’ board in 2013 fantasy baseball drafts. There is more to life and, to a lesser degree, fantasy baseball, than home runs. Okay, well, Willingham also drove in 98 runs in 2011, good for sixth amongst all outfielders. So you can at the very least get some cheap pop out of the big lug. Obviously the lack of steals and batting average do hurt his case a bit, but his .260 average from 2012 is not too debilitating and minus his ’08 and ’11 seasons he has hit .260 or higher every season, which is not atrocious by any means. If you are not old-fashioned sitting in a 5 x 5 league with batting average as a stat then sure his stock will drop some. If you are in a league that at  least has OPS and or OBP, then Willingham is absolutely, undoubtedly, positively the sleeper outfielder for you!

Although his career batting average is .261, he has been able to get on base at a .362 clip, proving he has a bit of patience at the plate. Plus he has not had an OPS under .810 in the majors since he became an everyday player in 2006. On that front only twice in those seasons did he post an OPS under .834. Okay, not a much bigger number, but nevertheless, a good one. Statistically there are no signs that 2012 was a giant fluke for Willingham, although the home runs may drop off a bit into the mid-to late twenties (I’m calling 27 right now!), the rest of the numbers are pretty legit, even the runs! Willingham scored 85 runs. On the Twins. The 22nd in the majors in runs, Minnesota Twins, for crying out loud! Okay, okay, maybe I am getting a tad bit carried away here. Alright, alright, so the 85 runs may dip a bit as well. In fact, well, the RBIs may fall off a smidge too. So, 2012 may not quite be duplicated by Josh, but I think he is an outfield sleeper come draft day, regardless, mark my words!

Look, I am not saying that Josh Willingham is a top ten fantasy player. Heck, I am not even saying he is a top ten fantasy outfielder. Although that could depend in large part to what stats you use in your league. In any event people, what I am saying is that you could still be getting a steal (but not steals) in the middle rounds with Josh Willingham. Here is what I am projecting for J-Will in 2013:  .258/.363/.480, 27 HRs, 90 RBIs and 78 runs. Now, I am certainly not the greatest prognosticator in the world. Far from it, I would wager. Be that as it may, I like to think I am in the ballpark with Willingham’s numbers and if I am (and 63% of the time I am right every time) then those are darned decent numbers to grab in the early 8th round in a 12 team league.  So you are welcome for starting you on the path to a fantasy baseball championship!

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Chaos And The Infield Fly Rule On What Might Be Chipper’s Last Night

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Chaos And The Infield Fly Rule On What Might Be Chipper’s Last Night

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Trish Vignola

Chipper Jones allowed himself to be emotional during the final regular season game. The support fans displayed during the final regular season-games of his career was for lack of a better word…overwhelming. Nonetheless, as the Braves prepared to play today’s Wild Card playoff against the Cardinals at Turner Field, Jones did not seem the least bit phased as he could conceivably be playing the final game of his storied career.

“I was riding in with my mom and dad today, and I turned around and told my dad, ‘This is why I know I’m ready to go,’” Jones said to MLB.com. “I’m not even nervous. I don’t know whether that is being prepared, you know, and being confident. But usually, first game of the playoffs, I’m nervous before the workout the day before.”

As Jones prepared for the 93rd postseason game of his career, he focused on experiencing a new challenge that he does not support from a competitive standpoint. This matchup between the Braves and Cards serves as the first one-game Wild Card game. This is the result of Major League Baseball’s decision to add an additional Wild Card team to each league this year. This would have benefited Atlanta last year, when St. Louis leapfrogged the Braves on the regular season’s final night to gain the only available Wild Card entry.

The new arrangement however could produce a sour and abrupt end to Jones’ career. After collecting 94 wins in the regular season, the Braves have been presented with this winner-take-all matchup against the 88-win Cardinals. The winner advances to the National League Division Series against the Nationals, and the loser begins the offseason.

As the bottom of the 8th inning came around, Atlanta found itself down by three and in the middle of a pretty crazy play. The infield fly rule was called. Andrelton Simmons‘s pop-fly to short left field split a disoriented Pete Kozma, who’d called for it, and a loping Matt Holliday. If you watched the play, it looked like an obvious bases-loading hit on Kozma’s mental error. However, the left field umpire called the infield fly rule. Here’s the problem. It was called both very late and outside the infield, leaving Simmons out and the Turner Field crowd in a frenzy.

Players had to dodge trash on their way into their respective dugouts. This is probably not how Chipper envisioned his possible last game. It was a bad call, but unlike most bad calls it stopped the game dead in its tracks. The delay stretched 18 minutes while stadium staff tried to clear the field and quiet the erupting crowd. The Braves put the game under protest.

The television audience was left wondering if they were about to witness, “Disco Night Part 2” as a game-tying at-bat—bottom of the eighth, two outs, two on, the score still 6-3 was left in limbo. The Braves ended the inning with runners on base.

On a night overshadowed by the kind of officiating controversy reserved for NFL replacement referees, I wonder if Chipper is rethinking his position. No one wants to go out on a game like this.

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Bourn on the Fourth of July

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Bourn on the Fourth of July

Posted on 06 July 2012 by Dennis Lawson

The final vote frenzy to select the 34th man for each All-Star team was rife with sketchy alliances, bad slogans, and no small amount of angst.  Lost amongst the barrage of hashtags, team emails, and unofficial campaign managers was perhaps the biggest All-Star snub in recent history.  Michael Bourn quietly went about the business of playing baseball, and that is a darn shame.  The relatively amount of fanfare dedicated to Bourn was actually a little underwhelming.  Maybe the talking heads spewing forth their opinions about how unreliable defensive metrics appear to be had an impact on Bourn.  Maybe not.  Regardless, the point that one of the premier leadoff hitters and defensive outfielders in the game failed to make the All-Star team in any form deserves some scrutiny.

Just his slash line of .307/.360/.452/.812 merits him some consideration, but the 57 runs scored, 106 hits, 7 HR, 32 RBI, and 23 stolen bases should garner enough support to get him to KC in a National League All-Star jersey by itself.  If not, then the NL leading 24.0 UZR/150 should put him over the top.  Since this game counts, shouldn’t at least someone be interested in putting one of the most complete players in the league on the team?  Jay Bruce?  Really.  He doesn’t even make the top 25 in the NL among outfielders with his -7.1 UZR/150.  For perspective, that puts him behind the likes of Matt Holliday, Jason Kubel, and Drew Stubbs.

At anything close to his current pace, Bourn has a career year already in his sights.  The fact that his accomplishments will likely not be punctuated with an All-Star selection boggles the mind just a bit.  Let me tell you just how many NL players have produced more WAR this season than Bourn.

4

That’s David Wright, Joey Votto, Carlos Ruiz, and Andrew McCutchen.  34 players on the team, and they could not find room for Michael Bourn.  Did the support Chipper Jones received hurt Bourn’s chances?  Probably.  You can only spend so much time firing off one text vote after another before the battery in your phone demands attention.  Still, it seems like a complete breakdown of the whole system, and Bourn slipped through every crack possible.  The fans and the impressive moral ineptitude of the Giants as an organization screwed the pooch on the vote.  The electorate comprised of baseball’s players and coaches fumbled the ball away into the stands, and Tony La Russa just grabbed names out of a hat that apparently didn’t include the names Cueto, Phillips, or Bourn.  While I completely understand the first 2 missing out, I don’t get the omission of Michael Bourn.

La Russa had to know that Bourn had an ice cube’s chance on a Kansas City sidewalk of getting voted in at the last minute.  He had to know that the sympathy vote would put Chipper ahead of Bourn, and he had to know that Cardinal Nation would endure repetitive stress injuries to get Freese a metric ton of votes.  Can we get a “Commissioner’s Selection” in the 11th hour or something?  Rock, paper, scissors best 2 of 3 to replace Sandoval with someone who has played in more than 50 games.?  Among the land of the ridiculous, Bud Selig reigns supreme.  No greater indictment of his ego-addled brain exists than the current All-Star game selection system, unless you want to consider that an exhibition game counts for something.

Then again, it’s not a break.  It’s work.  Or so Hunter Pence would tell us.

Please, just someone tell me that the next time Bourn deserves a shot that the Braves will come out swinging with a “Bourn on the Fourth of July” slogan.  If not, then the #Barves hashtag should trend on Twitter from here to eternity.

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Trading Down

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Trading Down

Posted on 09 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Trading Places

With a couple of games in the books, maybe your team appears to be slightly under-performing projections or your expectations.  Maybe that young bull of a middle infielder everybody was hyping is 0-7 and has not hit a ball out of the infield.  Or maybe you spent your top draft pick on a first baseman who has a .150 OPS to this point.  Obviously, you know not to panic, but do you know what to start looking around for right now?

Look around you for owners who are attempting to trade down as a knee-jerk reaction to slow starts by some of their players.  Obviously, veteran owners know better than overreact in the season’s first week, but some less experienced owners could be tempted into what appears to be a fair trade at the moment.  Here are 10 players that just might pique your interest.

  1. Carlos Marmol – Ignore the 27.00 ERA and 6.000 WHIP coming into the day.  Marmol has a reputation for going off the reservation at times, but he usually manages to get back on track.  He has averaged 100 strikeouts per 162 games for his career, and he has 5 consecutive seasons of 90+ strikeouts.  If someone panics on Marmol, be ready with to make an offer, if you need a 2nd closer.
  2. Matt Holliday – His .125 average and 2 rbi do not impress, but Holliday will find his stroke eventually.  The issue is whether or not you can snag him on the cheap before he finds it again.
  3. Scott Rolen – Maybe his shoulder issues will catch up to Rolen again this season, but you can count on Rolen to make the necessary adjustments and improve on his .143 average with 0 home runs and 0 rbi.
  4. Chase Headley – Do not be held off by Headley’s 6 strikeouts in 11 plate appearances.  Once he gets it rolling, he can be a .260-.270 hitter with double digit stolen bases.  Maybe that won’t crack your starting lineup, but in leagues that carry 6 outfielder positions, he might be a good 5th or 6th slot guy, even though he’s playing 3B this season.
  5. Aramis Ramirez – Ramirez may not be driving the ball right now, but he will.  Once he does start hitting, the Milwaukee lineup should give him plenty of rbi opportunities.
  6. Hunter Pence – Pence probably could not maintain a slugging percentage of .125, even if he tried.  At least, so goes the traditional thinking.  Maybe his warmup swings remind you of a hack golfer searching for his ball in the weeds with a pitching wedge, but it works.
  7. Todd Helton – You simply will not convince me anytime soon that Helton has forgotten how to hit a baseball.  Ignore the slow start and consider grabbing him, if you need a corner infielder or have a corner infielder with an injury history.
  8. Carlos Lee – Despite playing for what appears to be a slowly dismantling Astros team, Lee managed 94 rbi last season, and I see no reason why he cannot get to at least 80-85 this season.  Lee’s batting average, slugging, and OPS may vary greatly from year to year, but he has averaged 107 rbi per 162 games during his career.
  9. Shane Victorino – Just give Victorino time, and he will be hitting .270 and stealing a base every 5 game or so.  The object here is to find someone unwilling to wait until he does.  When they want to trade down, then there is your opportunity to trade up.
  10. Freddie Freeman – People already bailing out on Freeman could regret their decisions in a matter of weeks or even just days.  This early in the season, guys like Freeman need just a good couple of at-bats to right the ship.  Sadly, some owners will not give him the chance.

While I found it tempting to simply pull names at random from a hat, I instead went through Yahoo’s search tool to locate players who had dropped 3 or more points in terms of league ownership.  Oddly enough, Roy Halladay was only owned in 97% of all leagues, so that probably provides a good indicator of how many defunct leagues exist already.

 

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DOs And DONTs: St. Louis Cardinals

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DOs And DONTs: St. Louis Cardinals

Posted on 23 February 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Adam Wainwright clocked at 92 mpg tossing Yoda

The St. Louis Cardinals are not bad this season.  They have just been drawn that way.  Losing an all-world player at first base has a way of changing perceptions, though.  Too bad.  If any team can overcome the loss of a future Hall of Fame manager, future Hall of Fame 1B, and arguably the game’s best pitching coach, it just might be the Cardinals.  Not many teams could absorb the loss of a 5.4 WAR player (Pujols) while adding back a 5.9 WAR player (Wainwright) who lost a year to injury.    Still, they need some guys to step up, if they hope to top 90 wins again and at least sneak into the playoffs.  Fortunately for the Cardinals, their roster has no shortage of potential candidates to make that step this season.

Do look for an opportunity to draft Adam Wainwright after a few rounds of pitchers come off the big board.  He looks to be recovering just fine from Tommy John surgery, but it would be a mistake to rely too heavily on a guy who likely will not pitch more than 175-180 innings.

Despite Yadier Molina‘s slash line of .305/.349/.465/.814, don’t take Molina too early.  There are at least a half-dozen more productive catchers in the game.  He may be around the top 10 in all of MLB, and he certainly makes the top 5 in the National League.

Don’t go looking for speed on the Cardinals.  You will not find it in the dugout, in the locker room, or on the field.  It just is not there.  Even if the team takes a more aggressive approach to stealing bases under new manager Mike Matheny, we are still talking about a team on which 15 stolen bases could set the pace.  Look elsewhere for someone to pad the stolen base numbers.

Do keep in mind that Matt Holliday consistently provides solid numbers as an outfielder.  In 2011, he managed 83 runs scored and 75 RBI despite playing in only 124 games due to injury and a fight with a moth.  Also, do remember Lance Berkman, because Berkman managed some stout numbers (.959 OPS) while qualifying for both the outfield and 1B.

Don’t reach for any of the starting pitchers, but do keep Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, and Jaime Garcia in mind when you need to round out your staff with guys who can get you double digit wins.

Reigning World Series MVP David Freese may not project to a top tier guy at the hot corner, but his stock should still be on the rise after he crammed 21 RBI into 18 postseason games in 2011.  The downside to Freese is that he has never stayed healthy enough to reach 100 games played during the regular season.  Still, Freese’s potential make him an interesting candidate, especially for fantasy players who have a “corner infield” position to fill.

Steer clear of Rafael Furcal, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, and Skip Schumaker.  Just say “no”.  Don’t be overly tempted by Allen Craig, either.  Despite Craig’s propensity to hit for both power and average, he simply does not have a starting job and only appeared in 75 games last season.  If you want to take a flyer on someone who could pick up a lot of at-bats due to his ability to back up injured players at several positions, then Craig might be the guy.

Do keep in mind that Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay both potentially provide value for your outfield.  When you need to fill 6 outfield slots, there are only so many superstars to go around.  Fine.  It may very well be the other 4 outfielders you draft that make the difference, though.  Players like Jay (.350 lifetime OBP) and Beltran (84 RBI, 78 runs in 2011), should make it onto your radar after the halfway point of your draft.

Do remember Jason Motte when you start getting into the 2nd tier of closers.  In 68 innings, he struck out 63 while compiling a 2.25 ERA and .956 WHIP.  If only Motte had been the closer for the entire season, maybe he would be forcing his name into that conversation for “elite” status.  Until then, he wins the unofficial title of “Best Returning Closer with only 9 Saves” from last season.

Feel free to comment or provide constructive criticism.  The comment section for this article would be ideal for feedback.  If you use the Twitter, then you can find me there (@gr33nazn), and I welcome a slight amount of ridicule there as well.  Please DO take time to read the other DOs and DONTs articles that the excellent team of writers (plus me) has taken the time to put together.  Each one reads like an insider cheat sheet for each team.  Thanks for following along and good luck on draft day.

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