Archive for December, 2013

Ervin Santana Still Needs a Team

Ervin Santana’s usefulness as a fantasy pitching option looked to be coming to an end after his disastrous 2012 season. He was traded to the Royals where he thrived for one season. He may be able to each up the magic 2014, but a lot will be determined by which team signs him.

The big issue for Santana in 2012 was his league leading 2.0 HR/9 fulled by a 19% HR/FB (among qualified starters).

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Hector Santiago Departs the Windy City, Heads to Disneyland

Well not quite. The Angels front office would likely be a bit annoyed if Hector Santiago visited Disneyland during their home games, rather than show up at Angel Stadium. Two weeks ago, Santiago was part of the three-team trade that sent him from Chicago to Anaheim. Eno Sarris summed up the winners and losers of the deal at that time, but I am going to expand upon the Santiago analysis.

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Sonny Gray for Ace

In 12 appearances including 10 starts, Sonny Gray did all the things you want to see out of a potential fantasy workhorse. He struck out over a batter per inning (9.42 K/9), kept the walk rate under control (2.81 BB/9), and threw ground balls over 50 percent of the time, all while wielding a 93 mph fastball. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP all stood below 3.00, which is about as sure a sign of dominance as there can be.

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Ricky Nolasco: Minnesota Twin-igma

Writer’s Note: Nolasco ranked 45th on Zach Sanders’ rankings of starting pitchers.

What qualifies as a veritable spending spree for the Minnesota Twins has left right-hander Ricky Nolasco searching for some warm clothes and a nice pair of mukluks, as he’ll spend at least the next four seasons with the club after signing just prior to the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Nolasco has long been a pitcher who has underperformed his peripherals (4.37/3.76/3.75), and after 1300 career innings, it’s probably just time to take him for who he is rather than who he should be. Much like pitchers like Matt Cain can consistently outperform their peripherals, I think it’s probably less of a stretch to say pitchers can underperform them as well. After all, bad things compound themselves much more quickly and effectively than good things. Read the rest of this entry »

Yovani Gallardo & The Waiting Game

Prior to the 2013 season, right-hander Yovani Gallardo had been a number-two starter for the Milwaukee Brewers and roughly a third-tier starter for fantasy owners. He’s been a good source of strikeouts and an ERA between 3.50 and 3.75 on an annual basis. But owners have largely spent the last five seasons waiting for Gallardo to take the next step forward.

This can be seen by the fact that he was the 24th-drafted starter on draft day, selected in the same breath as James Shields, Max Scherzer and Mat Latos. All three of those starters finished the season as a top-25 starter. Gallardo, on the other hand, suffered through the worst season of his career. He compiled a 4.18 ERA, saw his strikeout numbers drop significantly, and was ranked outside the top-75 fantasy starters.

To be fair, it wasn’t a complete trainwreck of a season for the 27-year-old hurler. He barely kept his ERA under 5.00 in the first half, but he wrestled the train back on the tracks in the second half, posting a very solid 3.09 ERA in 67 innings. The turnaround has led some to believe Gallardo’s first half was mere aberration and he’ll return to his career norms in 2014.

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How Rick Porcello Can Take a Big Step Forward

Rick Porcello is one of those guys whose ERA estimators (xFIP, SIERA) are always lower than his actual ERA. Prior to 2013, no one really cared because his estimators were basically 4.00 or higher. But last year his estimators fell dramatically; his xFIP was 3.19 and his SIERA was 3.39 while his ERA was 4.32. This presents a couple of questions. First, what caused the drop in xFIP/SIERA? Is it sustainable? If so, is it possible his ERA follows the same downward trend that his estimators did?

The first question, what caused the drop in his xFIP/SIERA, is pretty easy to answer. SIERA is primarily calculated with strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate. xFIP is primarily calculated with the three true outcomes, strikeouts, walks and home runs. Porcello’s walk rate and ground ball rate have been consistently above average. In the last four years the league average walk rate ranged from 7.4% to 8%, and Porcello’s walk rate in that span was 5.7%. The league average ground ball rate ranged from 44.4% to 45.1%, and Porcello’s ground ball rate was 52.5%. It was his paltry strikeout rate that was holding his estimators back. From 2010-2012, the league average strikeout rate ranged from 17.6% to 18.7%, and Porcello’s strikeout rate was only 13%. But Porcello’s strikeout rate spiked up to 19.3% last year, and his ground ball and walk rates remained above average.

So is his improved strikeout rate, and by extension are his ERA estimators, sustainable? If so, I would expect to see something like a change in his pitch mix or a spike in velocity. And I’d also like to see his strikeout rate improve, or at least remain above average, later in the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Pump the Brakes on Nick Castellanos

With Miguel Cabrera heading back across the diamond to first base, Nick Castellanos is returning from the outfield to his natural position at the hot corner. When the Tigers brought in Prince Fielder, it appeared that Castellanos was completely blocked at the major-league level, so the Tigers tried to transition the 21-year-old to the outfield. With Fielder gone, that problem is a thing of the past.

There’s plenty to like about Castellanos, the top prospect in Detroit’s organization. His bat is very quick through the zone, and there’s never been much of a question among scouts about the quality of his hit tool. His power stroke is showing signs of life, as he has increased his home run total in each of his three full minor-league seasons; he hit seven homers in A-ball in 2011, 11 across three levels in 2012 and 18 in Triple-A last year. Another big positive for Castellanos is the improvement in his contact rate. He struck out in 23.1% of his plate appearances in 2011, followed by 20.2% in 2012 and 16.8% last year.

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A New CC Sabathia, Or The End of CC Sabathia?

Lest it seem like CC Sabathia simply fell apart out of nowhere in 2013, do remember that there were warning signs in 2012. Yes, he was still great that year, pitching 200 innings on the nose with one of the best K/BB marks of his career, but he’d done so while losing a mile off his fastball, landing on the disabled list twice, and submitting to elbow surgery following the season.

So perhaps it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise that 2013 was far from his usual standards, especially when you look at a terrifying velocity chart: Read the rest of this entry »

RotoGraphs Audio: The Sleeper and the Bust 12/19/13

Episode 83
Jason Collette and Eno Sarris get together for the second and final time in 2013 to discuss the plethora of transactions that conveniently took place after they both departed the Winter Meetings.

As usual, don’t hesitate to tweet us any fantasy questions you have that we may answer on our next episode. We will record the next episode during the first week of January.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or via the feed.

Approximately 100 min of joyous analysis.

Lance Lynn’s Fatal Flaw

In 2013, Lance Lynn came in like a lion and out like a…well he actually his final four starts were rather lion-like. But throughout the middle of the season he definitely played the part of the lamb, much to the chagrin of his fantasy owners. Lynn did manage to provide over $6 of value according to Zach Sanders, mostly because he won 15 games and struck out 198 batters. His 3.97 ERA and 1.31 WHIP certainly weren’t helping anyone.

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