Tag Archive | "Pitchers"

The Wood That Makes It Good

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The Wood That Makes It Good

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Will Emerson

If you have Travis Wood on your fantasy team, you are a lucky duck.  For real! Travis Wood has been the bargain of bargains at the fantasy starting pitcher slot this season. Even I, a man with a certain fondness for Wood and fantasy crush on the entire Cubs rotation, could not, would not, have predicted the start that Travis Wood is having. The thing now, from the fantasy baseball view, is can we hope to get out of Wood for the remainder of the season? A valid question that will be asked of any player who puts up good numbers, virtually out of nowhere. If you are currently a proud Travis Wood owner you are probably, even as you read this, wondering what the future holds for the Cubs’ wily southpaw. If you’re not, you probably should be. Okay, now that all Travis Wood owners have this thought rattlin’ around their noggins, time to drop some knowledge on them.

TravisWood

Personally, I have liked Travis Wood for a couple of seasons now. “Why,” you may ask. Well, I don’t really know. Travis Wood is just one of those pitchers I like, but cannot quite pinpoint the reason for this “liking”. Other members of this club include such big names as Chris Volstad and Brett Cecil. I guess Cecil sort of has K potential, but really none of them offer anything in the way of star, or even above-average, potential in real or fantasy baseball. They are not guys I peg as sleepers at the beginning of a season, but rather, guys who I might spot start here and there, at best. I am a K/9 guy, so liking Wood is very strange for me. Wood’s career K/9 is 6.78, so he should not even be on mike likability radar. But he is. Now, K-rate aside, there are pitchers who can make do whilst allowing more contact. We call those guys crafty. Picture a Mark Buehrle type. A solid innings eater, who won’t be especially flashy, but will get the job done for your team, more often than not. The key for those types of pitchers is to keep the ball on the ground and not give up hard hit balls.  So, does Wood fall into this Buehlre-esque (not to be confused with burlesque) mold? Maybe?

Here are Wood’s career numbers- 21-25, 3.94 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.78 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 33.5 GB% and a 71.9 LOB%. Seems sort of like a Buehrle like guy, right? I mean, personally I might be a bit concerned about the ground ball rate, but Wood seems to be working with it, for the most part. Wood’s career line drive rate is right around 20%, which seems about average. Now let’s look at Wood’s 2013 numbers at this point in the season.

In 2013, Wood is 4-2, with a 2.24 ERA, .93 WHIP, 5.82 K/9 and a 2.83 BB/9. So compared to his career and, pretty much projected, numbers the K-rate, just like the ERA and WHIP, are down significantly. So what’s changed? Well, his ground ball rate, while still lower than I’d like, is actually up over five percent from 2012. More ground balls, in theory, will generally help a pitcher’s cause, that is for darned sure! Wood is also walking slightly fewer hitters, down a little (about .11 per nine innings) from his career number. So those numbers will help a bit, but the biggest improvement right now for ol’ Travis is his pitching with men on base.

To this point in 2013, Wood has a LOB% of 82. Eighty-frickin’-two, folks! For those that may not know, that is quite a good strand rate. Not only as that more than 10% higher than Wood’s normal numbers, but it is almost 10 higher than the league average! Now, it does not take a rocket surgeon to realize that preventing baserunners from scoring is a good idea, but the question is, can Wood sustain this rate? It’s really hard to say yes to that question. I don’t think there are many, if any, people who believe in that rate continuing. Obviously, if you start letting more baserunners score, your ERA will rise. The thing is, even if the strand rate goes down to the league average or in that vicinity, remember Wood has not been allowing a ton of runners to reach base.  So even if Wood’s strand rate was right around league average his ERA would still be right around three. Now before you get all crazy and start telling people I said his ERA would be around three the rest of the way, just wait a tick.

I am not saying Wood will still be tossing up these ace like numbers. throughout the rest of this season. Wood’s ERA should finish in the mid threes though, which is a bit of alright! Wood’s been throwing a cutter more frequently, and with more consistency, which has definitely contributed to his success thus far. So while he will not keep up his current pace, I feel like he will definitely pitch better than some of the current projections that have his ERA the season being up over four. I need a few more strikeouts for my liking, but he definitely has some fantasy upside the rest of the way.

If you have Travis Wood on your roster, his price may not get much higher than it is now and it would definitely behoove you to test trade market waters. That being said, it is still tough to say who believes in Wood enough to give you a premium return in a deal. Wood has been pitching very well dating back to the end of last season, but there is just no track record or even any sort of expectations that have popped up, pointing to this sort of performance. It is definitely worth testing the waters. Wood should be good (I’m a poet and I don’t even know it!) going forward, just not quite this good. Hey, put it out there and see what happens, I mean there’s always one in every league, right? Let’s just hope you are not that one. I mean in the words of Mike McDermott, “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Yes, yes, yes, it is that time again! Time to take a look at some fantasy pitching options for the upcoming week. The following pitchers have a great chance of being available in your league and may just be the key to fantasy victory.

edwin

Edwin Jackson, CHC- E-Jax has had a bumpy 2013 with the Cubbies so far, but I have always been a fan of his work. Jackson is not an ace, by any means, but should certainly be a solid fantasy option at the SP slot. Well, E-JAx is 1-6 with an ERA over five on the season, but he really has not pitched that poorly. Really, I’m serious! The K/9 is over eight and the xFIP and SIERA are both under four. The struggle has been with men on base, as Jackson’s LOB% is under 60 right now. Jackson will pitch at Pittsburgh this week, which is no gimme match up for him, but I like the odds of him righting his ship so to speak in this one.

Brandon McCarthy, ARI- After a slow start with the D-Backs, McCarthy is really starting to settle in. In McCarthy’s last two starts he has thrown 17 scoreless innings, 17?! Now those innings were against the Phillies and the lowly Marlins, so let’s not go too overboard with these outings. McCarthy should be much better than his early season numbers, and a solid three or maybe four, fantasy starter. But this week McCarthy has the Padres, so you can expect another ace like outing from him this week.

Tom Koehler, MIA- Do I know a ton about Koehler? No. What I do know is he has rattled off back-to-back decent starts for the Fish. On Saturday, against the D-backs, he hurled six strong innings allowing one earned run on three hits, while walking only two and striking out seven. Do I think Koehler is as good as those numbers indicate? Eh, not really. However, TK has had back-to-back solid starts and he draws the White Sox this week. The ChiSox have struggled producing runs this season and while they have cut down on the Ks, they are still striking out with great aplomb. Now the one drawback is the Marlins are not known for providing run support, so this may not be a great chance at a “W”, but you should get some help with your peripherals.

Travis Wood, CHC- Travis Wood, much like life (according to Madonna), is a mystery. I like Travis Wood, always have, but I am still a bit on the fence believing in his early season numbers. Wood is 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA and a WHIP of .92. I can’t imagine Wood can keep these numbers up, and judging by the percent he is owned in most fantasy leagues, I am not alone. Wood is more likely to have an ERA in the high threes. Wood has a LOB% of 80% and a ground ball rate below 40% and is not a strike out pitcher. Some sort of regression should be on its way and I feel like a start against Wood’s former mates in Cincy this week, may be where it begins.

Felix Doubront, BOS- It should be widely known that Doubront is a favorite of mine. I was high on Felix in the preseason. With a solid xFIP and K-rate, Doubront was high on my sleeper list. Now the numbers have not been great for Felix this season, although the xFIP, SIERA and K/9 were not terrible, until a clunker against Texas and a bad relief outing. The biggest issue has been the walks. Doubront has been all over the place, walking almost six batters per nine innings. This is a wild card stream for sure, but you can count on the Ks, especially against the White Sox. The White Sox have struggled to score runs, so while I can’t fully support this stream, I do think there is a 50-50 shot Doubront gets a quality start in the Windy City

Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano, PIT- I am lumping these two Pirate southpaws together. Both are similar this week in streaming. Both pitchers face the Cubs this week, at home. Liriano has looked sharp in his first two starts since returning from the disabled list. Sure they were against the Mets and Brewers who have not been world beaters at the plate, as both are towards the bottom of the league in runs scored in May. Wandy’s last two starts have been just as good, lacking the strikeouts, also against the Mets and Brewers. Now the Cubs have actually started to score a few runs here and there over the last couple of weeks, but nevertheless I would say roll the dice on both Bucs starters this week.

Jason Vargas, LAA- Jason Vargas is far from a flashy fantasy pitching option, to say the least, and the numbers pretty much back this statement up. Vargas is solid however. and I like him this week, because he is matched up against the Royals. The Royals are in the bottom third of the league in most offensively productive categories, so I think you may see one of Vargas’ best starts of 2013.

Scott Kazmir, CLE- There are still plenty of seats available on the Scott Kazmir bandwagon folks. Sure Kaz was roughed up by the Phils in his last outing, but most of his starts have been excellent. Kazmir’s velocity has been good as has K-rate and he has two starts this week. The first one is a no-brainer start for Kazmir as he faces the punchless Mariners, but the second start is against the BoSox and this one is iffy. I would take the first start against the Ms and hold off against the start against Boston.

Andrew Cashner, SD- The K-rate is lower than I would expect from Cash-money thus far, but the ERA has been solid. Cashner’s xFIP, SIERA and strand rate point to bit of an ERA regression, AC heads out to the desert this week to face the D-backs. This match up is tough to gauge for Cashner, but I think, if I had to, I would say roll the dice on this one.

Hector Santiago, CWS- Santiago has been up and down as a starter in 2013. The up? 12.1 innings pitched against the Mets and Twins, allowing one earned run, striking out 14. The down? 3.1 innings pitched against the Angels on Saturday, in which he allowed four earned runs. Ups, downs, what have yous, bottom line is Santiago starts against the Marlins this week and frankly that is really probably all I had to say because the Marlins offense is not even close to good right now.

Justin Grimm, TEX- Seems like “Reaper” has appeared here quite a bit and with good reason, he is not quite worth rostering year round. Plus Grimm is still outpitching his projections, but his ERA and WHIP thus far are about on par with how he is currently pitching. In other words, Grimm’s ERA and WHIP seem accurate thus far. Love him or hate him, Grimm faces the Mariners this week, and while they are not the Marlins, this is more or less a great match up for Grimm.

Bronson Arroyo, CIN- Arroyo has always been a middle of the road, reliable, innings eating pitcher. You will not get a lot of strikeouts, but Bronson also rarely gets completely rocked when he takes the hill. Arroyo has given up more than four earned runs in only one start this season and has only gone less than six innings in one start this season. In the one start Arroyo did not go six innings, he went five. There is never anything spectacular about Arroyo’s numbers, but he does manage a lot of quality starts, Arroyo faces the Cubs this week and for some reason I like this one. Cubs are putting runs on the board, but I like the chance for a QS and a “W”.

Well, that’s all I got this week, good luck, godspeed and happy streaming!

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Where Have You Gone Ricky Romero?

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Where Have You Gone Ricky Romero?

Posted on 27 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

Where have you gone, Ricky Romero? The Toronto Blue Jays optioned left-hander Ricky Romero to Class A Dunedin yesterday evening. Class A, folks. That’s the Florida league for those of you keeping score.

RickyRomero

Could anyone have predicted this two seasons ago?

One season ago?

Romero went from being the club’s Opening Day starter in 2012 to not making 25-man roster in 2013. The Blue Jays opened camp by saying Romero was essentially guaranteed a spot in the rotation. He no longer had the weight of being an ace on his shoulder. He was pressure-free and was set to thrive.

That message began to change…quickly.

“We saw a lot of good things and he was fine, but it’s not the Ricky we know he can be,” General Manager Alex Anthopoulos said to MLB.com. “We can try to just keep going, and when you’re at the big league level, it’s hard to continue working on things, or take a little more time, get him back to where he can be.” Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com and of the blog, “North of the Boarder”, reported that Romero was unavailable for comment. “It’s always a tough conversation, but he knows he’s not exactly as sharp as he needs to be, and he knows it’s going to take a little bit more time,” Anthopoulous continued.

How did Toronto’s most valuable pitchers since 2009 collapse so quickly? He had become the Blue Jays’ No. 1 starter. Following the departure of Shaun Marcum, Romero had a 15-11 record and a 2.92 ERA and he was an All-Star.

Yes, things started to unravel a bit in 2012. Romero began the year with an 8-1 record, but he had a 4.34 ERA and 46 walks in 95 1/3 innings. That wouldn’t instill confidence in the best of General Managers. Chisholm reports Romero battled control issues along with “a seeming lack of confidence on the mound.” He also was also dealing with documented tendinitis in both of his knees. Romero went 1-13 the rest of the way with a 7.35 ERA.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until apparently this spring that the club finally noticed “a flaw” in Romero’s pitching. He was no longer maintaining a straight line to the plate, as reported by Chisholm. Romero had a 6.23 ERA this spring.

“You talk about direction and lines to the plate, it’s basically your balance going to home plate and where your front foot lands. It sounds easy, but it just takes time when you start repeating it,” said Anthopoulos to MLB.com “He has done this before, he just has a tendency to do it. It’s one thing if you’re just not getting results and you just have to continue to pitch and get out of it. We have a plan for him. We know what we need to address. It’s just not coming as fast as we wanted it to come,” Anthopoulos continued.

The Blue Jays knew what was going on last year. They just finally have the pitching staff to make up the difference by cutting Romero.

This is not a death sentence to Romero though. The club took the same approach with Roy Halladay back in 2001. Halladay went on to establish himself as one of the best pitchers in the game. Chisholm reports that Halladay had “a complete overhaul of his mechanics”, whereas Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays have continually described Romero’s changes as “minor.”

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

Posted on 21 March 2013 by Chris Caylor

This is the 2nd of a two-part Spring Training edition of Playing the Name Game. In Part 1, I listed some infielders for you to focus on during your AL-only or NL-only drafts or auctions. As a reminder, I am not advocating that Player B is better than Player A; I am simply pointing out some players that may produce elite numbers at a less-than-elite cost. Now, let’s take a look at some pitchers and outfielders:

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista is brushed back by a pitch in the third inning against the New York Yankees in their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto August 23, 2010. Bautista homered on the next pitch.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Outfielders

Player A: .303/.371/.510, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 89 R, 119 OPS+

Player B: .283/.373/.441, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 21 SB, 88 R, 131 OPS+

Player A is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. Player B is the Reds’ new centerfielder, Shin-Soo Choo. CarGo suffered in 2012, along with the rest of the Rockies (and their fans), clearly missing Troy Tulowitzki to protect him in the lineup. However, it remains questionable whether Gonzalez will reach the mid-30s in home runs again, as he did in 2010. Choo, meanwhile, bounced back from in injury-plagued 2011 season and to post solid numbers for a mediocre Cleveland team. Now that he is leading off for the deep, talented Reds, Choo could post career-high numbers. Projections I have seen have Choo virtually equaling Gonzalez in home runs, stolen bases and batting average, while besting Gonzalez in runs scored. Gonzalez will retain the edge in RBI, but Choo is being drafted 3-4 rounds later and is going for much cheaper in auction leagues.

Player A: .241/.358/.527, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB, 64 R, 137 OPS+

Player B: .242/.305/.463, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 11 SB, 85 R, 110 OPS+

Player A is Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays. Player B is the Athletics’ Josh Reddick. Joey Bats’ 2012 season was marred by his wrist injury, which disabled him in July and eventually required surgery. Before that, he led the AL in home runs two consecutive seasons. Reddick came out of nowhere to mash 32 homers for the A’s in 2012. At age 26, his prime years are ahead of him. Bautista might – I repeat, might – drop of the 2nd round in some leagues due to fears about his wrist sapping his power stroke, but he won’t fall much further than that. Reddick, meanwhile, is ranked 20+ spots lower in ESPN leagues. Don’t that let deter you. The power is real and still developing. If Reddick played in a park other than the cavernous Oakland dump, he might threaten for the league home run title.

Pitchers

Finally, we come to the pitchers. In over 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, I have found it much more challenging to consistently build a good pitching staff than to construct a strong lineup. Is it because so many pitchers are one wrong pitch away from a trip to the disabled list? Or is it more that many pitchers who succeed one year struggle the next? Or is it something else entirely? Perhaps a combination of all three?

In any event, I subscribe to two theories when it comes to fantasy baseball and pitching: 1) pitchers with a solid WHIP rarely steer you wrong, and 2) do not punt the saves category. That is not to say that you should spend excessively on saves, but judiciously. Example:

Player A: 3-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 116 K, 0.65 WHIP

Player B: 2-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 69 K, 1.16 WHIP

Player A is Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. Player B is Rafael Soriano of the Nationals. Obviously, Kimbrel put together one of the most dominating seasons we have seen from a closer not named Mariano Rivera in many years. If you put aside the staggering difference in strikeouts, however, Kimbrel is not much more valuable than Soriano in standard fantasy baseball leagues. They compiled the same number of saves. The wins total is negligible. Both WHIP ratios are outstanding. But would you rather have Kimbrel (whom you would have to select in the early rounds of a draft or pay Rivera-like prices for at an auction), or would you rather use that early draft pick/big auction money on a starter like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, knowing you can pick up Soriano several rounds later? I’d take the latter.

Player A: 20-5 W-L, 2.81 ERA, 142 K, 1.02 WHIP

Player B: 8-14 W-L, 3.81 ERA, 165 K, 1.28 WHIP

Player A is Jered Weaver of the Angels. Player B is Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays. Weaver has finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young balloting each of the past three seasons. Johnson was acquired as part of that massive trade between Toronto and Miami. Although the transition from NL to AL is typically more difficult for pitchers, that in this case is cancelled out by Johnson moving to a much better team. Forget the win-loss totals from last season; Johnson is still getting plenty of swings and misses when he pitches. Weaver missed almost a month in 2012 with back pain. Johnson is an injury-risk himself, but he is a year younger than Weaver and offers ace-like potential at No. 2 starter value. I’ll take my chances here.

Opening Day is rapidly approaching. If you’re like me and have your draft or auction coming up in the next 7-10 days, I hope this article proves helpful to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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It’s all fun and games until Greg Maddux teaches you his pick-off move.

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It’s all fun and games until Greg Maddux teaches you his pick-off move.

Posted on 08 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

Ok, my prediction that Barry Larkin will get some serious notice when the managerial carousel begins this season is pretty much on the mark. Everything else I said regarding the World Baseball Classic? Not so much. In an attempt to save face, I’ve decided to turn my attention to another pool of countries. Let’s look at one I actually know something about.

Hello Team USA!

TeamUSA

As the clock ticks down to Team USA’s first official game, Greg Maddux walked out to the mound to visit Derek Holland. This time though it was as a pitching coach and not an ace. However, every time Maddux went to the mound to pitch in his career (22 seasons and 355 major-league victories), he was doing it as a pitching coach…kinda of.

Take that Eric Gagne! (He was the pitching coach for Team France which failed to qualify.)

Are you surprised though? Greg Maddux was always a lesson in “what to do” for pitchers in both dugouts. He was and is a constant reminder of the lethal properties hiding in an 88 m.p.h. fastball.

Ask folks like R.A. Dickey.

Joe Torre, Team USA’s manager, said he contacted Maddux before any other potential member of his coaching staff. The belief that working in the WBC “imperils arms” demanded a reassuring presence, especially because pitchers in the WBC are expected to be ready faster. “I just felt it was important to have a pitching coach who knows what it’s like to go through spring training, and he was playing, what, four years ago?” Torre said to MLB.com. “It’s a security blanket for a lot of the pitchers here.”

Probably for a fair amount of General Managers as well.

Maddux took a day to answer Torre’s request, clearing the idea with his family. “I wanted to do it the minute I hung up,” he said. “But you’ve got to take care of the other side of your life.” Maddux spent the last three seasons as a special instructor for the Cubs and Rangers. His responsibilities have been limited, allowing for a normal family life relative to his years as a player.

Maddux hadn’t studied the effect of WBC participation on arms, but he committed to running the staff exactly as if it were prepping to start a full MLB season. “I know the intensity of the games is a lot more,” he said. “But the physical load of it’s going to be no different from what they’re accustomed to this time of year in spring training.”

Maddux has to defer to some pretty strict WBC ground rules (no more than 65 pitches per appearance in this opening round) and the concerns of his pitchers’ regular coaches. But he’s free to coach in the most important ways, advising on technique or massaging a pickoff move. More than free, actually. “That’s one of my obligations,” he said.

It might also have been one of Torre’s recruiting tools.

“I think it made a lot of… managers comfortable (about pitchers leaving spring camps for the WBC),” he said, “because let’s think about it. Their pitchers have a chance to spend these weeks with Greg Maddux. That’s pretty good tutoring.” Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ postseason ace of 2012, didn’t hesitate when asked what he most wanted to learn from Maddux: “The backdoor two-seamer to a righty. I have my first bullpen session with him tomorrow, and we’re going to dive into it.”

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