Archive for October, 2016

Minors to Majors: Problems with Projecting Pitchers

A few days ago, I made my first attempt at trying to determine a pitcher’s value knowing their pitch grades. Since it was published, I have made some adjustments to the pitch grading scale. With the new scale in place, I have been working on comparing grades a pitcher previously received to their actual performance. The results have been extremely disappointing.

In the original article, created a framework to grade individual pitches with an ERA equivalent value (pERA) and a scouting grade on each pitch. While I liked the overall framework, one part really bothered me and I will address the issue first.

The change was to put some consistency in pitch grades, especially with fastballs. The problem was that a pitcher’s fastball is getting graded because of its velocity, but that velocity changes depending on if the pitcher was a starter or reliever. Relievers can really ramp up their velocity when moving to the bullpen.

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A Minor Review of 2016: Philadelphia Phillies

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Graduate: Tommy Josephs (1B): It looked like Joseph’s days as a top prospect were over when injuries (concussions) forced him out from behind the plate and to first base. It just didn’t look like he would be able to produce enough power to warrant a full-time gig at an offensively-demanding position. Then he went and hit 21 home runs in 107 big league games in 2016 as a rookie. Now, his season wasn’t without flaws (such as his on-base percentage) but he’s good enough for the Phillies to finally kick incumbent first baseman Ryan Howard to the curb. Joseph, 25, has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order guy for the Phillies for at least a few years until something better comes along.

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Out of Nowhere: 2017 Breakout Candidates at Catcher

Way way back in 2015, the catcher position was Buster Posey, Buster Posey, and more Buster Posey. Per Zach Sanders’ calculations, Posey outperformed the two next-best catchers (Russell Martin and Brian McCann) by $11. The fourth best guy was $15 less valuable than Posey. Clearly, it was a year to own Posey.

This year, Jonathan Lucroy, Posey, and Wilson Ramos produced between $20.60 and $22.60 according to the FanGraphs auction calculator. Several other catchers weren’t too far off their pace. However, we can’t do a pure apples-to-apples comparison between the two calculations. Sanders did his analysis for a one catcher league. I assumed two catchers.

For the purposes of conducting fantasy analysis, I consider the two catcher format to be more instructive. In a one catcher league, the optimum catcher strategy is overly simplified. You can pay out the nose for Posey, hope to get a bargain on a modest investment like Realmuto, or take the best $1 catcher. Personally, I always opt for the $1 unit. You’re almost as likely to get the next version of Ramos.

However, I’m still curious how 2015 compares to 2016. Fortunately, the auction calculator is very flexible. I recreated the values for a one catcher league. The prices for the top trio decreased by about $7 – mostly because the position adjustment dropped by $6.

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Projecting Byung-ho Park – A Review

Heading into the 2016 season, two of the biggest questions we asked related to expectations for the newest arrivals from the KBO League of South Korea — Byung-ho Park and Hyun Soo Kim. Though obtaining historical statistics was easy, translating them from KBO to MLB is a challenge. At the beginning of February, I laid out my process in creating a projection for each, by first obtaining their career statistics, turning them into ratios, and then translating them as best I could into a 2016 MLB projection. Since this is first base week here at RotoGraphs, this article will focus on Park, with Kim’s review coming when we move on to outfielders. So let’s review Park’s performance and how that compared to my forecast.

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Living in a Vottocratic Society

Votto finished as the No. 2 first baseman in 5×5 leagues via Brad Johnson’s postseason rankings.

Only one first baseman held a higher 5×5 value ranking than Joey Votto this season, and you can probably guess which one. That’d be Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who pulled a rabbit out of his hat by leading all first basemen with 32 stolen bases.

That’s not to say it’s unusual for Goldschmidt to steal bases, but that 32 — a career-high for Goldy — is more than he stole the previous two years combined (nine and 21, respectively). As a result, the steals vaulted Goldy over Votto, who swiped only eight bags and hit 30-plus points higher than his Arizona counterpart, with the rest of their 5×5 stats being comparable across the board. Frankly, you wouldn’t be complaining with either player, and the differential was pretty close, as Goldy checked in at $28.70 while Votto was at $26.40.

Also at $26.40 was Miguel Cabrera, who pummeled 38 home runs to Votto’s 29, but hit 10 points power, and didn’t steal any bases. Cabrera scored nine fewer runs, but drove in 11 more as both played in 158 games. Votto would probably be a better value pick in this sense, as I suspect Cabrera went a fair amount higher in drafts than his Canadian counterpart. Fantasy Pros had Miggy as the No. 10 player overall, and Votto at No. 22, so there’s some room for additional value with a round or so between them depending on your league size.

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You Should Take Miguel Cabrera in the First Round

I’m not sure we think about first round picks properly in fantasy baseball. I think too often we worry too much about if the player selected will “return first round value” which means being a top 10, 12, 15 player (or however many teams are in the league, of course). The BaseballHQ Forecaster reviews first round picks every year and compares them to those who finished as first rounders by dollar value and it shows we are terrible at actually picking first rounders in the first round. Their look at the last 12 years showed a 34% success rate.

I look for more of a balance between upside and floor with my first round pick. Make no mistake, we’re talking very high floors here. I’m not going to take Kyle Seager in the first round just because he has established a strong floor of quality play, but I’m careful not to overvalue nebulous upside while eschewing a “boring” pick just because I have a reasonable idea of what to expect from him. It’s not so much “will this guy blossom into a first round stud”, but more “will he be a centerpiece asset (top 35 or so) with a reasonable shot at first round production” which brings us to Miguel Cabrera.

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Out of Nowhere: 2017 Breakout Candidates at First Base

In 2015, Wil Myers, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, and Chris Carter were pretty bad. HanRam and Santana were $6 players. Napoli, Myers, and Carter combined for about negative $14. This season, the quintet teamed up to provide $87 of production – a near $90 increase in value. And that’s ignoring Adam Duvall, Mark Trumbo, and Daniel Murphy – all of whom also experienced big gains. It was a good year for snagging a cheap first baseman.

With 2016 in the books, let’s look ahead at some 2017 breakout candidates.

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2016 MVP’s @ SS

In 2015 Manny Machado finished the season as the #1 overall shortstop with 1,040 points, and it wasn’t really close, as Xander Bogaerts finished a distant 2nd with 787 points. But raw points aren’t everything, and since all Ottoneu leagues are auction leagues, true player value has to be measured as the result of production and cost (salary).  So which players were the most valuable to their owners in 2016?

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Mike Zunino’s Not Too Shabby

Mike Zunino reached the majors in 2013 with just 208 plate appearances in the upper minors on his resume. It’s not as if he raked his way to The Show, either. In 47 games at the Double-A level, he tallied a .238/.303/.503 line with a 105 wRC+. He also struck out a ton (28.4%) while walking at a low rate (6.7%). Alas, the M’s brass didn’t seem to care about his shortcomings at the dish.

Big leaguers exploited him, and he tallied a .214/.290/.329 line with a 77 wRC+ and a 25.4% strikeout rate. He spent the entire 2014 season in the majors and smacked 22 homers. That’s where the offensive positives end. His power was dragged down by a 33.2% strikeout rate and .199/.254/.404. He also grew more impatient and walked in just 3.6% of his plate appearances. Remarkably, things got worse for Zunino in 2015, yet he remained in the majors until the end of August. At that point, the Mariners finally sent him down to the minors for more seasoning.

His 47 wRC+ and 34.2% strikeout rate in 386 plate appearances in 2015 were dreadful, and not even his strong work behind the dish could make up for his truly dreadful offense. In general manager Jerry Dipoto’s second year with the Mariners, he and the rest of the M’s brass made the wise decision to start the year with off-season acquisition Chris Iannetta starting at catcher and 25-year-old Zunino starting at the Triple-A level.

Even after a fast start, the Mariners exercised patience and allowed the previously-rushed top-five pick the opportunity to hone his craft with the lumber in the minors, and he thrived (17 homers, 10.7% walk rate, 21.1% strikeout rate, .286/.376/.521 and 138 wRC+ in 327 plate appearances). His improvements in the minors resulted in a strong showing from July through the end of the season in the majors. What’s on the horizon for the still young backstop? Read the rest of this entry »

A Minor Review of 2016: New York Mets

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

New York Mets

The Graduate: Steven Matz (LHP): The good news is that Matz had a solid freshman year in the Majors. The bad news is that he suffered through a litany of ailments and ultimately went under the knife for a bone spur in his throwing elbow. All signs point to him being healthy at the beginning of his sophomore year but some caution has to be had after a shoulder issue also caused him issues in 2016. The young lefty shows good command and control of a four-pitch mix — including an above-average heater — so he has the potential to develop into a No. 2/3 starter if he can avoid the trainer’s table.

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