We’re back, and as always, we’re here to help. If, like us, you play almost exclusively in redraft leagues, it avails you naught to know that a recognizedly good player who’s underperforming will probably improve, perhaps a whole lot, in the second half. Someone else has him, and probably won’t trade him, even if your league permits trades. Thus, you don’t really want to know that we envision an MVP-caliber rest-of-season performance from Justin Turner, although we do. Our beat is instead the overlooked, the disbelieved, and the unforgiven—players who will be cheap, or even costless, to acquire, and might produce some value in the second half. So what follows is an annotated list of ten players, none of whom is owned in more than 30% of CBS leagues and most of whom are owned in fewer than 5%, who might assist you when, or maybe even before, your team springs a leak. Read the rest of this entry »
Having attained our dotage, we’ve accumulated quite a collection of apothegms embodying the bitter wisdom we’ve acquired over the years. You reap exactly what you sow. Smart don’t count for much. If it’s misspelled on the menu, don’t order it. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to CVS.
To our collection we must now add: there are no safe relief pitchers. It of course happens—every ten minutes, it seems—that a starting pitcher you were counting on goes down, and you search among the baldies and retreads in the free agent pool for a starter to replace him. Contrarian as ever, we decided before the season that, as starters pitch fewer and fewer innings and get fewer and fewer wins, reliable non-closer relievers become viable alternatives to the Ian Kennedys and Derek Hollands of the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Having morosely completed our efforts to determine the over-under on A.J. Pollock’s rest-of-season plate appearances—100, and we’ll take the under—we attempt to identify starting pitchers whose fantasy-relevant stats belie their actual performance so far this season. We think that pitchers who aren’t being hit hard, but have high BABIPs and home-run-to-fly-ball ratios, have been unlucky rather than bad, and that their luck will change. Those are the guys you might want to trade for. And we think that the guys who are getting hit hard but have low BABIPs and HR/FB% have been lucky. Those are the guys you might want to unload while the unloading is good. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re not quite a quarter of the way through the season—enough for most owners to figure out what they’ve got and what they need, but too early to pack it in. And, as usual, that makes for some fairly interesting trade opportunities. Of course, it also makes for some preposterous trade offers. Our Trumpian desire for peace and comity among owners prevents us from telling you about the most egregious ones we’ve received so far, but that shouldn’t stop you from sharing about yours in the Comments section if you’re so inclined.
Nonetheless, the melancholy fact is that even the most reasonable, temperate, and unassuming of your adversaries are trying to get the better of you in a deal. True, they probably need what you’ve got. But sometimes, you and/or they don’t have what you and/or they appear to have. So, as a public service, we’re identifying guys who, as measured by BABIP, HR/FB%, and Hard-Hit Percentage, have been unlucky and can be expected to improve, or, in the case of one player, lucky and likely to decline. And since Cheap Players R Us, we’re tossing in a guy who might actually be available on your league’s waiver wire, though you won’t want him unless something bad has befallen or befalls your regular at the position. Read the rest of this entry »
So you drafted, say, Taijuan Walker, Joe Musgrove, or Dinelson Lamet—a starting pitcher you had reason to think would be useful, and now, because of injuries, isn’t and might not be for quite a while. What do you do? It depends, as always, on how deep your league is. In a relatively shallow league, there will be starters who are available as free agents and whose acquisition by you isn’t tantamount to outright surrender.
You could get, for example, Trevor Cahill or Steven Brault (both of whom we like), Brian Johnson (whom we kind of like), or Junior Guerra (whom we don’t trust at all), and no one will laugh at you. But if you play in a deeper league, all those possibly-useful starters are gone. You could of course plug the hole in your roster with a good do-no-harm reliever, perhaps even someone who has a shot at getting saves if something untoward befalls his team’s closer (Scott Alexander and our heartthrob George Kontos come to mind).
But you want something more: a Cahillesque bullpen pitcher who should provide good stats while there, but has a decent shot at becoming an effective starter should injury or failure befall a member of his team’s rotation. Yes, yes—by all means get Collin McHugh if he’s available. But is there anyone less obvious who might work out for you? Read the rest of this entry »
A quiz for you: What do Brandon Drury, Brad Miller, J.T. Realmuto, Tyler Flowers, Ian Kinsler, Justin Turner, and Delino DeShields have in common? Yes, that’s right—they are (or were until yesterday, when Kinsler showed up for work) all on the disabled list. And they are also all members of the Concupiscent Curds, a team we acquired in an auction in February, when the preseason was young. We purchased 18 hitters that day—14 starters and 4 (of a total of 7) reserves. And here we are, two weeks into the season, and one-third of them are hors de combat—a casualty rate that compares unfavorably to that of Commonwealth infantry on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
We do not mention this as a plea for sympathy. The Lord sendeth oblique strains on the just and the unjust alike. Rather, we raise the issue in recognition of the fact that this kind of thing is happening all over. In the narrow universe that we, and probably you, usually inhabit, “oblique,” “groin,” and “hamstring” are terms as ominous as West Nile Virus or Botulism are in the one we’re occasionally obliged to return to. Our problem, and probably yours, is what to do about injuries when they befall you in deep leagues. Among the various bodies that remain, are there any that are even lukewarm? Or are they all ready for embalming? Read the rest of this entry »
Time again to join us as we shop for bargains where others see only discards and dreck. Our specialty—or shtick, if you prefer—is finding $1 and reserve round bargains who figure to do better than the market says they will. You wouldn’t want to assemble a team full of these guys, except as an entertaining academic exercise. But there’s no denying that the 2017-model Scott Schebler, Delino DeShields, Jimmy Nelson, or Aaron Altherr, all of whom we touted in last year’s installment, would have toned up your roster right nice. So let’s pretend it’s an early-Spring Saturday morning in the ‘burbs, hop in the SUV, drop the kids off at lacrosse practice, tour the local yard sales, and see if we can unearth some rare 78s buried among the old Jethro Tull albums. As before, we offer you ten players that everyone’s ignoring, plus one pricier guy who still looks undervalued to us. In no particular order: Read the rest of this entry »
According to the novelist Rick Moody, the purpose of literature is “to cast in language the nature of being.” And sure enough, that’s the Birchwood Brothers’ purpose, too–well, that and to recommend underpriced starting pitchers for your Fantasy Baseball draft or auction. To that end, we hereby cast in language the 2018 Trinity and Quadrinity, Starting Pitcher Edition. Read the rest of this entry »
The death of the incomparable Stephen Hawking inspires us to reach for analogies from physics, even though we know even less about the subject than we do about, say, restoring antiques or Masters curling. Bear with us for another two paragraphs and we’ll get to the stuff you’re here for.
Thus: It seems to us that baseball stats can be divided and subdivided into particles. Blender stats like WAR, Win Shares, and our new Fangraphs colleague Jay Jaffe’s JAWS can be seen as molecules. In the right hands, these numbers are interesting and illuminating. But they are useless for our present purpose, which is to identify players who might do better than the Fantasy market expects them to.
These molecules are made up of atoms: the often-Fantasy-relevant outcome stats (ERA, Batting Average, and so on) that comprise the statistical lingua franca of baseball, known and (usually) acknowledged as meaningful by both stat geeks and non-geek fans. Hadrons, in this scheme, are the kinds of stats that reflect the things that most immediately produce the on-field events on which the outcome stats depend: hard-hit balls, “zone swings,” fly-ball distance, and so on. And at the quark level you find the stats that make up the hadrons, and that nobody could even measure until recently: barrels, tunnels, spin rate, things that we’ve probably never heard of.
Once a preseason, it appears, we decide we like a pitcher, don’t trust our own affinities, and neither write about him nor draft him ourselves. In 2016, it was Rick Porcello, who won the Cy Young award. Last year, less catastrophically, it was Anthony Swarzak. For reasons we’ll detail below, we liked Swarzak going into the 2017 season. What, after all, was there not to like about a 31-year-old middle reliever coming off a season in which he’d had an ERA of 5.52 and an even higher FIP, and spent a month on the DL and two months in Triple-A? Even for us, connoisseurs of the preposterous, this was too preposterous, and we paid no attention to Swarzak in Fangraphs or in our myriad drafts and auctions.
You know the sequel. Swarzak was magnificent in 2017, with a 2.33 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, more than 10 strikeouts per 9 innings, and no earned runs relinquished in 18 of his first 19 appearances. According to Baseball HQ, he earned $12 in 5×5 Rotisserie—the same as Gerrit Cole and Dylan Bundy, and more than Trevor Bauer, Zach Davies, Masahiro Tanaka, and dozens of others. Read the rest of this entry »