Tag Archive | "Pittsburgh Pirates"

The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

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

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Run For The Rawlings

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Run For The Rawlings

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

This weekend marks the annual Run for the Roses. The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is this weekend with the quest for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 still out there. Major League Baseball currently has a Triple Crown winner of its own in the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. With the season now a month complete how are the ponies lining up at the one month pole?

Miguel Cabrera

The Atlanta Braves and Justin Upton got out to a fast start. Upton was named National League Player of the Month and appears to be enjoying the new scenery. He hit double digit home runs in the month, but the one negative was not very many guys were on base for the long balls. If his brother and Jason Heyward can start to get on base in front of him, look out National League. At one point the Braves were 13-0 when scoring a run and 0-3 when not. To this day, no team has ever won a ball game without scoring a run.

A surprise start came out of the Boston Gate. After the down year of 2012, Boston raced out to a fast start and the best record in the American League. They are healthier and currently Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 10-0.

It was a good month for pitchers named Matt as Matt Harvey and Matt Moore raced out to several wins. They are a combined 9-0 with an ERA under 2.

Also strong early runs have to go to the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. One horse that has been doing it for years Mariano Rivera had 11 saves along with Jason Grilli of the Buccos.

Currently stuck in the middle of the pack is World Series favorites the Washington Nationals, and CY Young aces Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. The two work horses are a combined 6-4 which is not quite elite numbers.

Could the Los Angeles Angels start to become the San Diego Chargers of baseball? The Chargers for the last few years on paper are always a team that is built up as a contender and every year they fall from grace and are home for the post season. The Angels with all of that offensive talent are under .500 and off to another slow start. Could a second straight year with an unimpressive April keep them out of the post season?

What could be viewed as an under the radar team in the middle of the pack is the Kansas City Royals. You will not find any Royal stats at the top of the lists, but collectively they currently are division leaders in the Central.

Still stuck in the gates for the 2013 race are a few surprises. The revamped team in Toronto has not quite showed up for their post position. Interestingly, two teams have team batting averages under .200 in the seventh inning on: the Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.

Los Angeles stars Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp currently have 3 home runs combined and the batting averages are missing as well.

As the season turns into a new month, May will likely bring more moving and positioning for the summer run. And on the track for the run for the roses, have a little Goldencents. Enjoy the Mint Juleps and oversized floppy hats.

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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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Playing The Name Game: Spring Training Edition

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Playing The Name Game: Spring Training Edition

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Chris Caylor

This is the first of a two-part spring training edition of Playing the Name Game. This article is targeted at those owners whose drafts (or auctions) haven’t yet taken place. Most of my drafts/auctions have not occurred, which is unusual, based on the comments of several fantasy baseball writers I read and respect. Now, I happen to play in AL-only and NL-only leagues, as I find those leagues more challenging than typical mixed leagues.

NameGame

Regardless of whether the format is draft or auction, fantasy baseball league winners are usually the owners who get the most bang for their buck. Owners who drafted Mike Trout in the mid-to-late rounds, or spent his/her money on R.A. Dickey instead of Tim Lincecum, probably enjoyed finishing in the money in their leagues last year.

The goal of these articles is to identify players who might similarly boost your team in 2013. Let’s jump right in.

First Base

Player A: .299/.344/.463, 18 HR, 108 RBI, 116 OPS+
Player B: .227/.308/.462, 32 HR, 90 RBI, 110 OPS+

Player A is the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez. Player B is Ike Davis of the Mets. Gonzalez has superior talent around him, but his home run totals have dropped each of the past three seasons. At 25, Davis is five years younger and smacked 20 home runs in his final 75 games in 2012. The difference in average draft position, though, is what really struck me: Gonzalez is going in the 3rd-4th round, while Davis is going between rounds 12-16. Why draft A-Gon when you can fortify your middle infield and outfield in the early rounds and get plenty of power from a guy like Davis (or Paul Goldschmidt) later?

Speaking of middle infield:

Second base

Player A: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 65 RBI, 20 SB, 112 OPS+
Player B: .257/.335/.379, 14 HR, 76 RBI, 31 SB, 103 OPS+

Player A is Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox. Player B is Jason Kipnis of the Indians. Personally, I consider Pedroia one of the most overrated players in baseball. The way he runs his mouth, you’d think he was better than the Yankees’ Robinson Cano. But the numbers prove otherwise. Kipnis, meanwhile, will turn 26 shortly after Opening Day and plays for a team that added Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to its 2013 lineup. True, Kipnis did tail off drastically in the second half of 2012 after a terrific first three months. But the power is developing to complement his 30-steal speed. In ESPN leagues, Kipnis is coming off the board two rounds after Pedroia. That equals two rounds where you can load up on big-time outfielders or an elite shortstop instead. I’m buying.

Shortstop

Player A: .287/.360/.486, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 2 SB, 111 OPS+
Player B: .292/.335/.511, 25 HR, 73 RBI, 21 SB, 126 OPS+

Player A is Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies. Player B is Ian Desmond of the Nationals. Last year was supposed to be The Big Year for Tulo, as he was entering his age 27 season and coming off three consecutive seasons where he compiled an OPS+ north of 130. Instead, Tulo only played 47 games and missed the final four months of the 2012 season. Entering his seventh season, Tulowitzki has played in 140+ games just three times. When healthy, he is the best shortstop in either league. Unfortunately, that’s become a huge gamble for fantasy owners due to the multiple leg injuries. Desmond is entering his own age 27 season and put up his 2012 stat line despite missing about a month with a dreaded oblique injury, so his numbers could have been even better. Oblique injuries don’t seem to recur with the same frequency as leg injuries. Tulo has the edge in power, but Desmond has better speed, which is more difficult to come by.

Third Base

Player A: .306/.391/.492, 21 HR, 93 RBI, 15 SB, 143 OPS+
Player B: .244/.317/.476, 30 HR, 85 RBI, 1 SB, 117 OPS+

Player A is the Mets’ David Wright. Player B is Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates. Here’s an interesting stat: in 2009 and 2011, Wright combined for just 24 home runs. In 2010 and 2012, Wright smacked a combined 50 home runs. Which Wright will it be in 2013? Will the moved-in fences at Citi Field boost his power numbers, or are the 30-homer days gone for the six-time All-Star? It strikes me as an expensive gamble, given his average draft position in the 1st-2nd round. Meanwhile, in 2012, Alvarez found the power stroke that tantalized the Pirates into making him the #2 overall pick in 2008. Like all Pittsburgh hitters, he tailed off in the second half of the season, but his 53-point jump in batting average (and 178-point jump in slugging) shows that Alvarez has figured some things out at the plate. It looks like the Buccos have finally found their cleanup hitter to protect Andrew McCutchen. And at less than half of Wright’s average auction value, Alvarez should be a major-league bargain for fantasy owners.

Catcher

Player A: .319/.416/.446, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 8 SB, 81 R, 141 OPS+
Player B: .301/.328/.471, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB, 38 R, 117 OPS+

Player A is the Twins’ Joe Mauer. Player B is Salvador Perez of the Royals. Mauer is now on the wrong side of 30, playing a position that is notoriously brutal on an athlete’s body. That said, Mauer bounced back nicely from a wretched 2011. Mauer is still an elite player, but he lands on this list because he is playing fewer and fewer games at catcher. While the Twins aim to preserve their big-money star, meet the new Joe Mauer: Sal Perez. The Royals’ 22-year-old backstop kept up his impressive contact rate after returning from a knee injury last year and looks like a future superstar at the position. Because he is buried in woeful Kansas City, he may slip a few rounds in your draft or auction. Perez’ 2013 projections are equal to or better than Mauer in every category except RBI. Don’t miss the boat on him.

You may have detected a trend is these five comparisons: I recommend younger, up-and-coming players as better bargains. That isn’t to say you should avoid any of the “bigger” names; only that you should be able to get similar production at a lower cost later in your draft/auction. If it works out, you allow yourself to acquire elite talent at a different position, while another owner might find himself reaching for a backup or platoon player to fill a roster spot.

These are only one man’s opinion. For what it’s worth, though, I did win my league in 2012.

Coming up In Part 2: pitchers and outfielders.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10.

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A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

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A Tour Around the Grapefruit League

Posted on 14 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

With Spring Training officially in high gear, Dan Wohl of MLB.com schools us on the winter homes of our beloved “Boys of Summer”. Today, he gave us 13 factoids on the cities of the Grapefruit League.

GrapefruitLeague

Until the start of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates make their home in Bradenton, Florida. Did you know that Tropicana (of orange juice fame) was founded in Bradenton back in 1947? While its headquarters are now in Chicago (probably why they are so good in the frozen concentrate department), its juice production center still remains in Bradenton.

Until Opening Day, you’ll find the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida – Clearwater is home to the Church of Scientology’s world headquarters. I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole. I see what they did to Katie Holmes. Seriously, according to Wohl, around 12,000 Scientologists live in Clearwater. They own more than 200 businesses in the city’s downtown.

RA Dickey and the Blue Jays flew south to Dunedin, Florida — Founded by two Scots, Dunedin was named after Dun Eideann, the Gaelic name for Edinburgh. Sadly, that was all Wohl could find. A little boring, which is not unlike the team itself.

The Red Sox and Minnesota Twins can be found in Fort Myers, Florida. – In 1887, Thomas Edison built a winter home called “Seminole Lodge” in Fort Myers. Henry Ford built one called “The Mangoes” next door in 1916. Frankly, it all sounds like some place Blanche from the “Golden Girls” would hang out.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins fight it out in Jupiter, Florida — Originally the home of the Hobe Indian tribe, the Hobe was written by the Spanish as “Jobe.” A mapmaker misread it as “Jove,” which in turn was interpreted as Latin by a later mapmaker. He Anglicized the name to Jupiter. How did that get Anglicized but my big ol’ Italian name survived Ellis Island?

Kissimmee, Florida is home to the new look Houston Astros — Kissimmee is the annual host of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. That is the United States’ largest rodeo event east of the Mississippi River and the world’s largest collection of “Woody” from Toy Story look-a-likes.

Lake Buena Vista, Florida is home of the Brave(s) — Along with Bay Lake Lake Buena Vista is home to Walt Disney World and completely controlled by the Walt Disney Company. The two cities welcome 50 million tourists a year, employ 66,000 “cast members” and have a combined residential population of 57. I wonder if Chipper Jones is looking for a job.

Lakeland, Florida in a Tiger’s natural habitat. — Queen Elizabeth sent two swans to Lakeland in 1954 after a local resident wrote to her complaining about the eradication of the local swan population. All of Lakeland’s now-flourishing swan community descended from this royal pair. They’re all cousins? I though this was more of a West Virginia thing.

Melbourne, Florida has gone National — Melbourne was named in honor of its first postmaster, who was Australian. Nonetheless, it was actually founded two years after the Civil War by former slaves. Teddy Roosevelt, of Nationals’ President race fame, has been trying to move into the neighborhood. None of the front doors can accommodate their giant head.

In Port Charlotte, Florida, they are catching some Rays — Wayne Rooney of Manchester United owns a home in Port Charlotte. Americans still don’t get it.

Port St. Lucie, Florida is home of the Amazins — Port St. Lucie is also the current hometown of Robert Van Winkle, who you might know as Vanilla Ice. Somewhere there is a lawyer looking for a Bernie Madoff connection.

You can find the Orioles in Sarasota, Florida — Former home of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is home to the Circus Museum and the former site of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. That was my safe school.

Tampa, Florida is home to the Yankees– Tampa is also apparently home to a yearly pirate-themed festival called “Gasparilla.” It is considered the American mecca of death metal as well. At the rate the Yankees’ spring training has started, well….that might be apropos.

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