Archive for May, 2017

Tipping Pitches: A Deeper Look at Justin Verlander

Maybe it’s unfair to do a “what’s wrong with this guy?” piece on a guy the night after he goes 7 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 5 K, but I don’t think a strong outing against KC does much the quell the concerns those have with Justin Verlander. I decided to write this up last night after watching the outing and learned quickly this morning that I wasn’t the only one still concerned as I received this text:

I pay people to address me as that in texts and real life conversations. LOL, just kidding, I don’t have real life conversations. On the year, Verlander has a 4.50 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 21% K, 10% BB, 9% SwStr, and 1.2 HR in 68 IP. I dug into the numbers and here are the findings:

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The Sleeper and the Bust Episode: 463 – Checking In w/ERA Leaders


The latest episode of “The Sleeper and the Bust” is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 18, the best baseball strategy game ever made – available NOW on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms! Go to to order now and save 10% with the code SLEEPER18!

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Leading Off: A Follow Up

  • An addendum to the Buy Low Hitters show

Strategy Section: SP ERA Leaders

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The Evolving Skill Set & Splits of Jose Ramirez

I’ve written about Jose Ramirez a couple of times since the tailend of last year, and there were a lot of notable things that I enjoyed about his game. There’s something fun about a high contact guy who runs the bases well, which is primarily what many, including myself, expected Ramirez to continue to be. With mixed results prior to 2016, many also wondered if we should expect legitimate production from the Cleveland third sacker heading into a new campaign. But not only has Jose Ramirez continued to perform at a high level, but as Eno Sarris noted at the beginning of May, he’s changed our perception of him as well, with his increased launch angle contributing in a variety of ways.

Ramirez did a lot in 2016 that kind of led us to believe that we knew what to expect from him heading into this 2017 season, assuming that he continued to perform at a level that was consistent with what he turned in last year. His final numbers at the end of the year featured the following:

AVG OBP ISO K% BB% Swing% Contact%
.312 .363 .150 10.0 7.1 43.9 88.8

That’s obviously an extraordinarily small picture of his 2016, but even so, there’s still a lot to like about that. Despite having one of the lowest walk rates among qualifying third basemen, he posted the highest contact rate among that same group. Even if the contact wasn’t particularly hard, his ability to run the bases (6.9 UBR led the position) helped to contribute to that .363 on-base clip, as well as the 22 swipes he posted.

High-contact, high-OBP, and some speed on the bases. Even if he didn’t stack up against the elite at the hot corner, there’s still value in a skill set like that. When you factor in the versatility that he brought to the mix last year, something that isn’t quite as prevalent this season, you can understand why he was an intriguing option heading into the new season.

All Ramirez has done is take that intrigue and turn it into more legitimacy than anyone could have expected:

AVG OBP ISO K% BB% Swing% Contact%
2016 .312 .363 .150 10.0 7.1 43.9 88.8
2017 .297 .360 .203 13.3 9.4 43.2 87.5

He’s still reaching base a high rate, while maintaining a similar approach in terms of Swing%. The contact rate is still there and even if the strikeout rate is up a touch, the walk rate has come with it. One additional note is that his park-adjusted offense, by virtue of wRC+, has increased from 122 to 129. What’s particularly interesting there is that ISO. A 53 point rise in ISO is pretty significant, with Ramirez already four shy of the 11 homers he hit last year and one short of his triple total from 2016. This was an element that Eno focused on in the piece linked above, with launch angle playing a heavy role in the evolution of Jose Ramirez in 2017.

BABIP LD% GB% FB% Soft% Hard%
2016 .333 22.8 40.9 36.3 14.4 26.8
2017 .313 24.4 34.6 41.0 15.3 33.1

The ball is definitely finding its way into the air more often. Combine the increased hard hit rate with the increase in balls in the air, and the ISO is easily explainable. It’s also probably important to note that the increase in power is primarily taking place when Ramirez is swinging lefty, where he has an ISO of .252, against a .119 mark from the right-handed batter’s box. Last year, the trend was opposite, with his higher ISO coming against left-handed pitching in 2016. Nonetheless, the results this year make this heatmap into not much of a surprise:

Another thing that this graph contributes to is Ramirez’s decrease in Oppo%. His percentage of contact to the opposite field against right-handed pitching is just 20.0% this season, as opposed to the 30.4% mark that he posted last year. Interestingly enough, his Oppo% against left-handed pitching has actually increased about three percent, currently sitting at 26.3%.

Is it possible that Ramirez is a different hitter depending on the batter’s box in which he stands?

PA ISO K% BB% LD% GB% FB% Soft% Hard% Oppo%
vs. LHP 73 .119 15.1 6.8 29.8 38.6 31.6 8.8 35.1 26.3
vs. RHP 130 .252 12.3 10.8 21.2 32.3 46.5 19.0 32.0 20.0

Not necessarily. The power is coming from the left-handed box. That’s the largest difference. But he’s still making really strong contact that shows improvement from last year, with his Hard% against left-handed pitching showing an increase of almost 10%. The evolution of Ramirez from 2016 to 2017 is really one that has taken place across the board, regardless of his handedness in a particular plate appearance.

Ramirez has remained the steady on-base presence that he was last year. He’s still swinging at a decent rate while making high contact. What he’s doing differently this year is making harder contact and generating far more balls in the air. With that combination, he’s finding his way into the ISO column more often. He’s gone from a high-contact, speed type to a high-contact, speed type with legitimate power at the plate.

Given that this is a change that has only been in development for really the first two months of the season, though, it’ll be interesting to see how it continues to evolve as the season wears on. Expect us to revisit Ramirez, his power, and his splits before the season comes to a close.

The Unwritten Rules

Welcome to a supersized edition of The Unwritten Rules! Throughout the season I have been and will continue to answer questions based on fantasy ethics and rules in this recurring piece. You may not always like the answers I give, but I hope that it is informative and makes you think about how you construct your leagues and play the games. Typically I do 4-5 questions per piece, but with the overwhelming amount questions I received, I felt I should knock out as many as I could. You can send me more questions via email,, my twitter account, or by posting in my facebook group. Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Davidson & Whit Merrifield: Deep League Wire

My condolences to myself and all you suffering Mike Trout owners. Since I have only had the chance to complain to one of my best friends, I’ll take this opportunity to whine about how it figures that the first year I ever own Trout he hits the DL for the first time. Cross your fingers that my AL Tout Wars team can hold its top position!

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The Daily Grind: Frustration

One more May day.


  1. Frustration
  2. Weather Reports
  3. Pitchers to Use and Abuse
  4. Hitters to Use
  5. SaberSim Says…
  6. TDG Invitational Returns!

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Roto Riteup: May 31, 2017

Welcome back Adrian, we missed you:

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Bullpen Report: May 30, 2017

A couple of quick notes from Memorial Day:

Tony Watson got the win after Andrew McCutchen hit a walk-off homer which is nice but it also meant that he blew the save (his third of the season) as well. On the year Watson has a very mediocre 4.03/5.31/4.82 ERA/FIP/xFIP pitching line. As a lefty without considerable swing and miss stuff, Watson may not be long for closing in Pittsburgh. Behind him we have Felipe Rivero and Daniel Hudson and I would look to grab Rivero pretty soon if you’re looking for saves. Although he is also a lefty, his 0.68/2.80/2.90 pitching line with nearly a 27% K% is more in line with what one expects out of their closer. Tony Watson might not have much leash left and I’m moving this situation to red as I would rather sound the alarm a tad early over having you pass on placing a bid on Rivero.

• We might have a committee in San Diego. Brad Hand received two save opportunities earlier but the last two, including last night, went to Brandon Maurer. I am going to keep Maurer in the closer’s chair for now as he received the most recent saves and was the closer to start the year. However, Hand showed he could handle the job if Maurer were to falter again. Maurer has a 6.00 ERA but 20 strikeouts against only 4 walks indicates he’s actually pitched quite well, in spite of his .351 BABIP and 51.7% LOB%. If Maurer pitches like his underlying numbers indicate, Hand may not see many more save opportunities but a manager won’t be so patient as an ERA climbs up from 6.00.

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Rookies Are Keeping Their Minor League Power

As a Royals fan, I had my doubts Jorge Bonifacio would be a major league contributor. Over the past couple of seasons, my opinion has changed as he showed some power in AA in 2015 (17 HR) and AAA in 2016 (19 HR). I fostered some reservations on the AAA power because he played in the offensive happy Pacific Coast League.

He’s started 2017 off great with 3 HR and a 10% HR/FB ratio in AAA before getting his major league call-up. Since the promotion, he’s hit six bombs with a 29% HR/FB rate. Owners may be expecting some heavy regression from Bonifacio but they shouldn’t. The “juiced” ball era has reversed a trend of position players hitting for less power once getting a major league promotion.

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The Mostly Legit Marwin Gonzalez

As a Marwin Gonzalez owner, I’ve considered writing about him several times over the season’s first two months. I took a $1 flier on him in a 4×4 ottoneu Classic league this offseason, and at the time my expectations could be roughly summarized as “There’s worse ways to fill out a roster.” In most fantasy formats, Marwin qualifies at every position except pitcher and catcher, and he was coming off a season that saw him produce 25 HR+SB. Like I said, there’s worse ways to spend a dollar on a bench player.

Every time I’ve thought previously about writing up Marwin this year, I got hung up on the fact that I had absolutely no idea if his breakout was for real, or if it was just a fluky hot start. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, the whole reason I decided to write this piece you’re currently reading is because I still don’t know. In the following paragraphs, I invite you to join me as I take a stab at figuring out Marwin Gonzalez.

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