Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Cubs, VMart, & Kipnis

We are at a low point in the offseason where there isn’t much usable fantasy news. I was able to find a few pieces of relevant news and gave a quick review of a book I just finished.


• Carrie Muskat of MLB.com provides her best guess on the Cubs lineup.

LF Schwarber; 3B Kris Bryant; 1B Rizzo; 2B Zobrist; SS Addison Russell; RF Heyward; C Willson Contreras; P Starting pitcher; CF Jay or Almora.

Maddon says he’s considering having the pitcher bat eighth again to give Schwarber more RBI opportunities. The manager wanted the “geeks” in the baseball operations department to go over the numbers. Schwarber leading off isn’t as crazy as it might seem. He’s one of the best in terms of on-base percentage.

Two thoughts. With Schwarber leading off, he will have a Run/RBI ratio near 1.65 (league average). Steamer projects him for a ratio of 1.07 Run/RBI. Owners must remember this new ratio if they want to keep their RBIs and Runs balanced.

Additionally, she predicts Contreras will hit before the pitcher and then one of the light hitting outfielders. This placement will kill his run scoring opportunities. He may get a good number of RBI chances as long as the other team doesn’t walk him to face the pitcher.

Jason Kipnis worked on generating more power last season and it paid off.

It is one thing to have a goal. It is another to actually achieve it on the Major League stage. Last year, Kipnis belted a career-high 23 home runs and posted the best slugging percentage (.469) of his career. That was the product of tireless work in Spring Training, an improved mental approach and adjustments made throughout the season. Kipnis has always displayed opposite-field power, but last year he consistently pulled the ball with authority.

“It was a conscious effort,” Indians assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro said. “His commitment right from the start of Spring Training to the mental part of it, and the physical daily approach to drill work, the consistency, he took it to a new level last year.”

The extra power came with a trade-off, less contact. His Contact% dropped 2% points which pushed his K% up 4.5% points. The effects snowballed with his AVG and OBP dropping ~30% points. Even with the career high SLG, his OPS dropped. He didn’t become a better hitter, just a different one.

For next season, I think he’ll keep the changes and outperform his projected 15 HR. My biggest worry with him is if he can maintain double digit steals as he enters his 30’s.

• Victor Martinez had a hernia operation this off-season.

Victor Martinez played through left knee pain last season. But the Detroit Tigers designated hitter also was dealing with an injury that required minor surgery in October, general manager Al Avila said Thursday at the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association’s Tiger Day at Sinbad’s Restaurant in Detroit.

“He had a small hernia throughout the season,” Avila said. “It’s not a sports-related hernia that would keep you out. He was able to play through it, so he had that taken care of in the off-season.”

I like to go back and best-fit batted ball data on injuries to see if I can be better at predicting them. While dealing with a foot injury in 2015, his corrected exit velocity was 85.3 MPH with an average distance of 209 feet. From the season’s beginning to July 15th, he upped those values to 87.4 mph and 222 feet. After those days, his production dropped to 2015 levels (85.8 mph and 209 ft). It is tough to tell if the production drop was from injury or just him wearing down.

We are still a few years off from having any reliable exit velocity aging effects but I think often injured older players will be the hardest to initially get a reading on. We don’t have a healthy baseline for comparison.

• The Dodgers plan on limiting Julio Urias’s early season workload

He threw 122 innings last season and should go least 150 this season. The 150 innings puts him at 3/4 of a season. I think he’ll start in AAA unless there is an immediate opening in the majors. Once a Dodgers’ starter gets injured or underperforms, Urias will get the call. In deep leagues, I would make sure a sufficient replacement is available to fill in for the missed time. In shallower leagues, better replacements can be found and he should be drafted higher.


What I read: How Good Do You Want To Be? By Nick Saban with Brian Curtis

The Saban book was highly recommended by a coaching friend of mine. It’s a great book for anyone wanting to get into non-professional coaching. It goes over handling kids, media, other coaches. For non-coaches, it’s fairly useless. It unsuccessfully tries to constantly tie in Saban’s ideas into real life examples. The examples seemed forced. If someone wants to read something on how to run a business or family, find a book dedicated to the single subject.

Even with the limitations, here are a couple parts I found relevant to fantasy baseball.

• Saban believes in a process (3:25 in the video) versus results. He believes that winning each small battle will put his team in position to win.

Sticking to a good process can save fantasy owners quite a bit of heartache, especially when things go wrong like injuries. By following the best procedure possible owners can steadily improve their team even if they are down in the standings. The key is having a few standby rules to keep following. Some I follow are “Never overpay beyond my projections for a player. If I like the player more, change the projections” and “Trade excess for needs immediately”.

“Most things that are worthwhile are difficult”. I see so many owners and other fantasy experts constantly agonizing over the first five to six rounds. After the first few rounds, owners start winging their later picks. The first picks are the easiest. Evaluations get harder around the 100th pick and beyond when player talents begin to blend together. Finding gems and small differences among these players in the 3rd tier and beyond can make a huge difference.

Those two rules are simple but difficult to consistently follow. Owners love short cuts and focusing on the results. Don’t. Meticulously follow your process and good results will happen.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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5 years ago

Love these columns, Jeff. If workload is an issue for Urias, how does starting him in AAA help with that? Do AAA innings count for less than MLB inningsv