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Handicapping The NL West

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Handicapping The NL West

Posted on 03 May 2012 by Dennis Lawson



Consider for a moment that the Dodgers are sitting pretty at 17-7 with a 4 game lead in the National League West division.  That represents quite an improvement over what was barely a .500 team a year ago.  Is the fast start a fluke, a result of favorable scheduling match-ups, or is it sustainable?  Is it some combination of those 3?

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers – 17-7
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks – 13-11  (4.0 back)
  3. San Francisco Giants – 12-11  (4.5 back)
  4. Colorado Rockies – 11-12  (5.5 back)
  5. San Diego Padres – 8-17  (9.5 back)

The Dodgers currently have approximately a 63% chance of making the playoffs right now which means close to nothing.  After all the Padres have about a 6% chance of making the playoffs, and that is about 6% too high.  There are different ways of assessing “strength of schedule”, but I have a practical assessment that relies on a few criteria:

  • How many times a team has played the Astros
  • How many times a team has played the Padres
  • How many times a team has played division rivals expected to contend
  • How many series a team has played against opponents that made the playoffs the previous year

Of the 24 games played by the Dodgers, 7 have been against the Padres, and the Dodgers are 6-1 in those games.  The Dodgers also has taken 2 out of 3 from the Astros and swept the Pirates in a 3 game set.  While they have fared just fine against some quality opponents like Milwaukee, Atlanta, and the Nationals, it just seems like the Dodgers have built a lead on a house of cards that cannot stand for long.  Eventually they have to prove that they can beat Arizona and San Francisco.  If they can even play those 2 teams to a standstill, I’ll consider reserving a spot on the Dodgers bandwagon.  Until then, I am still not convinced that they are the class of the West.

At this stage, I am inclined to give the Diamondbacks the nod.  Why?  Well, the D-backs are 2 games above .500, and they have already played the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, and the Rockies.  Schedule similarities/differences alone are not enough to differentiate them from their rivals, but a 3-0 sweep of the Giants is.

Still, all 3 potential frontrunners have positive run differential numbers right now, and that means the NL West is the only division other than the AL East to have more than 2 teams with positive run differentials.  While statistical outliers can skew the data and limit the usefulness of run differential, it is worth recalling that only the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers finished 2011 with positive differentials.  The implication?  The Giants quietly floated around above .500 with a +6 differential and trail the Dodgers by only 7 runs scored with 1 fewer game played.

That bit of good news for the Giants may be a bit of bad news for the Dodgers.  Matt Kemp is currently in the top 2 in just about every statistical category except for wins, saves, and holds, and the Dodgers still do not have the look of world beaters.  Maybe Ethier can continue his torrid RBI pace, but that leaves them needing big years from A.J. Ellis and Mark Ellis in order to stay on top of the standings.

Maybe the Dodgers can do it, but I would put my money on the Diamondbacks and Giants to make a lot more noise as the season gets older.  The predicted NL West finish still stands as follows:

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Giants
  3. Dodgers
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres


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Finding Keepers: Atlanta Braves

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Daniel Aubain

Most generic fantasy baseball leagues utilizing the ” keepers” feature are going to allow each team to keep “x” number of players from the previous year’s roster. I’ve seen most leagues keep five players per team and most of those leagues had 12 teams. So doing the math, we’re talking about 60 players for a league of that size. Following this logic deeper, players being targeted as keepers should probably be ranked somewhere within the top 75 players (top 100 if you keep a player based on position scarcity).

Now I’ve seen dynasty leagues with minor league systems in place or auction leagues that assign a value to each player you keep. I’ve even seen intricate formulas used based on what round or price you paid in the previous year to calculate the cost of keeping a player on your roster for another season. This kind of keeper article can’t possible address all the factors needed to call a particular player a keeper over another. So we’ll go with the “inside the top 100″ strategy because a player ranked much lower than that can probably be targeted during the redrafting rounds if you really want them on your roster for another season.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at which players on the 2012 Atlanta Braves should be considered “keeper-worthy”.

OF Michael Bourn consistently brings your team Stolen Bases (50+) and Runs (90+) with a Batting Average (.270+) you can easily live with on your roster. I was surprised to see how differently he was ranked on the big three fantasy baseball sites: ESPN #35; Yahoo! #50; CBS #74. In any format, Bourn is a no-brainer keeper.

C Brian McCann is easily a top 5 fantasy baseball catcher, netting you 25 HR and 99 RBI per 162 games played over his seven year career. You can expect another .270+/20+ HR/80+ RBI season and should definitely consider locking him up as a keeper for 2012. Here are his rankings on the big three fantasy sites: ESPN #69; Yahoo! #86; CBS #41.

2B Dan Uggla frustrated his fantasy owners in the first half of 2011 with a measly .185 BA but rewarded the ones who stuck around for the .296/21/48 second half. It’s hard to stay away from a top 5 second baseman with 30+ HR/90+ RBI/90+ Runs potential, even at the cost of a sub-.260 Batting Average. His fantasy rankings are as follows: ESPN #42; Yahoo! #103; CBS #103. I’d target Uggla as a keeper for his power numbers as a second baseman but would be pairing him up with a high average/stolen base guy to fill the holes in his game.

RP Craig Kimbrel is definitely the first closer coming off the board in drafts with an ADP of 57.73 and with good reason. His 14.8 K/9 and 3.97 K/BB ratios, 127 Strikeouts in 77 Innings Pitched and 46 Saves are enough to justify him as a keeper, for sure. So if you’re thinking of keeping a closer and own Kimbrel, do it. He’s ranked: ESPN #62; Yahoo! #114; CBS #39.

Best of the rest but not a keeper

3B/OF Martin Prado should chip in a dozen Home Runs and a .290 Batting Average but with an ADP of 190.22, you can easily target him late in the drafts if you must own him.

3B Chipper Jones has fantasy value but only in deeper or very shallow NL-Only types. You can hope for 125 games played and around 15 Home Runs. Hope. With an ADP of 234.88, there’s no reason to target him as anything more waiver help.

OF Jason Heyward let fantasy owners down in 2011 but look for him to turn things around in 2012. Look for a return to the 20 HR and 12 SB range for him. Unfortunately there is risk involved, so you wouldn’t want to use a keeper on him. His ADP of 109.90 means he should be on your radar by the 8th or 9th rounds and you’ll probably have a few owners steering clear out of fear.

NL Rookie of the Year runner-up 1B Freddie Freeman posted great numbers in 2011 and should be in line for more of the same (.280/80/25/80/5) but most sites have him ranked somewhere around the 15th-best option at first base. That’s not keeper-worthy but definitely a fine option at first base to target around the 10th round according to his ADP of 121.97.

SP Brandon Beachy burst onto the scene in 2011 with a 7-3 record, 3.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP with a 10.7 K/9 and 3.67 K/BB ratios. With an ADP of 114.51, he should be a target to occupy a spot on your pitching staff, just not as a keeper.

SP Tommy Hanson missed the final eight weeks of 2011 with a rotator cuff injury and is coming into 2012 working on a revamped delivery. Nothing about this seems like positive news. Not only is he not a keeper, I’d be weary of drafting him at all this season.

Does your league use a unique keeper system that makes these or any other Braves’ players keeper-worthy heading into your 2012 drafts? If so, I’d love to hear all about it. Leave a comment so we can all appreciate the complexity some leagues use.

Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter @DJAubain and Full Spectrum Baseball @FullSpectrumBB.

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