Archive for December, 2016

The Return of Mike Moustakas

If there was one thing that made me sad, as far as the third base position is concerned, in 2016, it was a decided lack of Mike Moustakas. A long-time favorite of mine that had finally established himself among the more reliable options at the hot corner, Moose was only able to notch 113 plate appearances before a torn ACL at the end of May put an end to his season far too early. As we crawl ever closer to the spring, Moustakas’ return is one thing that I’ll be keeping an eye on when the Kansas City Royals arrive in Arizona.

It’ll be interesting to see how Moustakas transitions back into regular playing time at third base after recovering from an injury of that severity. With a shade under eight months of recovery by the time the season rolls around, one would expect that he’ll be back to full strength when the games begin to matter. And given the trends that he was displaying in 2015 and to start 2016, there isn’t any reason to think that he can’t pick up right where he left off and turn in a strong return in 2017.

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How To Win Your Ottoneu Auction

As we close out 2016, we’re nearing that point in time where we look forward to what the future holds and then solidify commitments about changes we plan to make.  From a fantasy perspective, there are few things to look forward to more than the annual Ottoneu auction, so whether you’re anxiously anticipating your very first or are committed to improving upon your second or tenth, preparation is everything.  As in life, you rarely get the chance to make a second first impression, so recovering from a poor draft can be a challenge that plagues you all season long.  

I covered the mechanics (many of which have since been upgraded) of the Ottoneu auction last year here.  We’re still roughly one month from the keeper deadline (1/31), but today I want to offer some practical suggestions (especially for those new to the game) for how to begin preparing for your auction draft.  If you’re thinking about playing Ottoneu for the first time in 2017, leagues are forming daily here and here.

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Transaction Analysis: Encarnacion, Espinosa, Castillo, and More

Cleveland Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion

For fantasy purposes, I see no positive impact on Encarnacion’s value from this signing. The almost 34-year-old goes from a home ballpark with a 107 Home Run Park Factor for right-handed hitters to one with a 95 Park Factor. Instead of a 40 home run projection, his projection moves closer to 35 home runs.

As for changes in Runs and RBI, I think they will drop a bit. The Blue Jays averaged 4.7 runs per game (R/G) in 2016 which was down from their 2015 5.5 R/G. The Indians averaged 4.8 R/G in 2016 and are projected for 4.8 in 2017. They both should have a similar number of team runs, but Encarnacion will have five less home runs and the automatic Runs and RBI which go with them.

I don’t see much movement in his normally consistent .260-.270 AVG and two to three stolen bases. Encarncion’s value took a hit, but not a ton. I eyeballed some numbers and his draft value is down about six spots.

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A Quick Analysis of 2016 Hitter Projections

I’ve been using projections to create dollar values for my fantasy leagues for more than ten years, and even understanding how to convert projections into dollars is just half the battle. The other half is deciding which projections to use in the first place. Should you use only one set of projections? Or multiple? Should you use the freely available projections here on FanGraphs? Or should you pay for projections from other sources? I’m not going to answer any of those questions definitively, but let’s take a look at a handful of projection sources and compare their projections to 2016 actual results.

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A Minor Review of 2016: St. Louis Cardinals

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.

The Graduate: Aledmys Diaz (SS): Diaz came out of nowhere to limit the impact of the loss of injured veteran Jhonny Peralta in 2016. The freshman hit .300 and produced more power than expected (17 homers). The middle infielder doesn’t look like a one-hit wonder or fluke, either. Along with the ability to hit for average, he produced above-average pop while striking out at a low rate (13%) and showed a willingness to take a free pass. Diaz’s defence was worse than expected at shortstop but he’s earned the opportunity to prove himself capable during the 2017 season.

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Can Statcast Help Identify Future Relief Pitcher Success?

Last week I posted the year to year correlations for xStats and their standard variants, and it came up with a few interesting results.  The xStats variants were much more consistent year to year, for better or worse, and in general they were better at predicting future performance. Not by much in some cases, but hey, every bit helps, right?  It made me curious how it may translate to groups of players with smaller sample sizes, so this week I’ve taken these stats to relief pitchers, with those year on year correlations in mind.  Yes, it is frustrating that we only have two seasons to look at, but this is the best we have at the moment so let’s see where it gets us.

As you might remember, vertical launch angle was very consistent (.75) between 2015 and 2016 for all pitchers, and as it turns out this holds true for every innings limit you can imagine.  Whether you want to talk about guys with 30 innings, 200 innings, or anything in between.  Vertical angle appears to stabilize fairly quickly.  So, that begs the question, how does vertical launch angle change batter performance?  Hopefully this chart will answer your questions.


Between roughly 10 degrees and about 35 degrees batted balls have high value, with batting average peaking around 13 degrees, slugging around 25 degrees, and home runs around 27 degrees.  So, if we know vertical launch angle is stable between seasons, and batted balls between 10 and 35 degrees are bad (for the pitcher), then perhaps aiming for pitchers who have average launch angles outside of that zone would be ideal. Read the rest of this entry »

Trust Mark Melancon

Even though relief pitching dominated the narrative of both the 2015 and 2016 postseasons, and even though Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen made his contract look looked relatively tame inside of two weeks, I still couldn’t believe that Mark Melancon got a four-year, $62 million contract. Prior to that deal, the two biggest reliever contracts were four years and $50 million for Jonathan Papelbon and five years for $47 million for B.J. Ryan, two contracts their respective teams no doubt came to regret.

Melancon himself has been healthy and productive in his four seasons with the Pirates. He has thrown at least 71 innings every season with ERAs between 1.39 and 2.23 each year. However, he has achieved that success because of beneficial contextual factors and excellent command—he has walked between 1.0 and 1.6 batters per season in those four seasons—with good but not exceptional strikeout ability. He struck out 8.2 batters per nine in 2016 and has done the same for his career. That is only the 60th best rate among the 85 relievers who threw 60 or more innings last season, and Melancon’s 91.8 mph fastball does not hint at any untapped strikeout potential. Chapman and Jansen each struck out more than 13 batters per nine in 2016.

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Why Brandon Maurer Should Be Your Fallback Saves Option

If you were inclined last spring to target an elite closer in your fantasy drafts, the 2016 season served as a cautionary tale as to why that might not be an advisable strategy the next time around. Several popular targets, most notably Wade Davis and Craig Kimbrel, didn’t quite deliver on their promise, while largely undrafted relievers like Seung Hwan Oh, Alex Colome, Sam Dyson and Edwin Diaz became reliable saves sources.

Brandon Maurer could be added to that list as well, though he won’t likely have the same appeal as the aforementioned closers. That’s because Maurer finished with a 4.52 ERA and 1.26 WHIP that would not only scare off ratio-conscious owners, but also signal his vulnerability to losing the closer’s role. After all, the Padres can also call upon lefties Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand, who had impressive 2016 seasons, or Carter Capps, once he completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

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Early Thoughts on the Developing Closer Market

The bullpen market is always a fascinating one for its unending volatility. In fact, delving into it this early might be a mistake just because of how quickly it can change, though in fairness a lot of the change occurs in season. We could still see trades (I’ll touch on one possibility here in a moment) and signings to shake up a few situations, but I’d say somewhere around 23-25 situations are pretty well settled right now. Here are a handful of my early thoughts on the market as it is right now:

The Wade Davis trade adds another stud

The Royals might have actually improved their closer situation with the trade of Davis to the Cubs as there is some risk attached to the 31-year old after a season riddled with injuries. Meanwhile, Kelvin Herrera enters the closer mix and looks like a bona fide stud. He’s coming off a career-year in strikeout (30%), walk (4%), and swinging strike (15%) rates and handled the ninth brilliantly in Davis’ stead, going 10-for-10 in saves (though he did lose two tied games) with a 2.35 ERA (all 4 ER in the two losses), 0.78 WHIP, 32% K rate, and 2% BB rate (1 in 57 PA).

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Is Jake Lamb’s value still in question?

When Torey Lovullo was hired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of the early remarks that was made centered around Jake Lamb. In that, Lovullo stated that Lamb would be the team’s everyday third baseman, something that apparently needed clarification after a career year in 2016. While it may not have been a necessary question to answer, after Lamb turned in an explosive year at the plate, it certainly spurred my thinking as to whether or not Lamb is as valuable an entity on the fantasy side of things as some (read: me) might think he is.

There are a few interesting elements of Lamb’s 2016 to be discussed. He experienced a major surge in power brought about by some swing changes and a largely healthy season. He struggled mightily against left-handed pitching, but was also relatively limited in his opportunities against southpaws. He also tailed off relatively seriously in the second half of the season, with his health again limiting his performance at the plate. There are some things to be rectified in his game, certainly, but we’re looking at a player that, if completely healthy in 2017, could be a tremendously valuable entity at the third base position.

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