Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rich Hill

Last year in the majors, Rich Hill struck out 90 batters and walked 39 in 99.1 innings. In large part due to allowing 16 home runs, his ERA was a somewhat mediocre 4.17. In a recent mock draft at Rotojunkie he was selected with the 174th pick...probably about right if was to repeat that quality of performance, but over a full season.

However, I think that barring injury, a repeat performance is a worst case for Hill. For years he was a dominant, but wild minor league pitcher. Adjusted for the level of competition, his stats looked something like Daniel Cabrera (who I always use as an example of dominant, but wild, and ineffective). But in 2005, Hill figured things out and at three stops in the minor leagues he struck out a combined 194, while walking only 35 in 131.2 innings. He struggled in a short stay in the majors late in the year, and began 2006 at AAA. He was even better than the previous year, as he struck out 135 and walked only 21 in exactly 100 innings. He only allowed 3 home runs at AAA.

Hill's performance the past two years in the minor leagues leads me to believe that his ceiling is quite a bit higher than his major leaue performance to date would indicate. I think he's got the potential to be a top starting pitcher. The only thing limiting him is that he's been an extreme fly ball pitcher so far in the majors, which means that his 16 home runs allowed in Chicago is probably a better indicator of his future than the 3 home runs allowed at AAA. Regardless I think he deserves to be picked a lot higher than #174, especially in 5X5 drafts.

New Blog - The Rotohog Blog

As you may have noticed I'm quite excited about a new fantasy baseball game called Rotohog. I've got a lot of ideas about the best strategy for it, and to spare those of you who won't be playing it, I've decided to create a new blog: The Rotohog Blog. The Waiver Wire will be dedicated primarily to traditional fantasy baseball leagues, with only an occaisonal mention of Rotohog.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More About Rotohog

If you haven't already read my earlier post about Rotohog, here is the link. I'm really excited about playing this game, and wanted to talk about how strategy for it will differ from normal leagues. I've only just begun planning out my strategy, but some obvious differences are:

1. Hitters with good plate control (high BB, low K) are worth more.
2. Strikeout pitchers will be worth even more than usual, because hits allowed are penalized more than walks allowed.
3. Pitchers on bad teams will be penalized even more than usual.
4. It looks like pitchers who eat innings will be worth more...although the impact of this will be limited by the innings pitched limit of 1300.

Anyway, I highly recommend signing up for this
free game with a $100,000 grand prize and trading structure based on the stock market. Also the 37 minute 'free for all' drafts should be pretty intense. If you do sign up please put 'waiverwire' as your referal code to help this blog...and help Save The Children, which will get 1/4 of whatever I earn from referals. After you sign up, join The Waiver Wire league for a little friendly competition.

Increased Playing Time

This post is a reprint of a post that Ed Reaven (revo) made at Rotojunkie recently about players whose stats are likely to improve this year due to increased playing time. I thought the information was so useful that I asked Ed's permission to reprint it here...

It's pretty tough to determine a breakout based on improved skills, age, etc., but it's a bit easier to peg someone for a bustout based on increased playing time (or in the case of pitchers, change in roles).

While it's far from an exact science -- you can't just extrapolate numbers based on limited playing time the previous year -- it's likely a few breakout players will come from the list below. If you took Ryan Howard last year, he was a perfect example of the "increased playing time" breakout from '05 to '06(and then some!)

I compiled a list of these players I think fit the same description. I'm making no projections, and many of these are "well, duh" no brainers. But it's a handy list, I think.

Feel free to add any I forgot about, and I'll add them in.

Almost-guaranteed increased PT candidates:

WES HELMS -- should double his '06 ABs (where he hit .330 in 249 ABs with good power and run production)
SHANE VICTORINO -- has RF to himself
CHRIS BURKE -- now the full-time CFer
CHRIS DUNCAN -- the Cards want him to be the full time LFer
ADAM WAINWRIGHT-- moves into the rotation after overpowering post-season
COREY HART -- takes over RF from Jenkins
JOSH BARD -- becomes the everyday catcher (well, 450 ABs worth)
RYAN CHURCH -- should fend off Snelling and is prime to have a breakout year
CHRIS DUFFY -- had 26 SBs in only 314 ABs
REED JOHNSON -- no more platoon, and had 86 Runs in 460 ABs, a huge ratio of runs/AB...if he gets 580 ABs, he may end up with 110 Runs
WILSON BETEMIT -- has a good chance to hit 25 HRs as the full-time 3B
DAVID DELLUCCI -- had only 264 ABs last year (with 13 HRs), has only the puny Jason Michaels to fend off....if he could get to 450 ABs, expect 20+ HRs
ANDY MARTE -- everyday 3B thanks to his defense, his bat should finally be able to come around
NELSON CRUZ -- only the decrepit Sammy Sosa stands in his way of getting 500 ABs
FRANK CATALANOTTO -- leaves the Toronto platoon for Texas, where he seems guaranteed to finally top 550 PAs (and is rumored to bat leadoff)
BRADEN LOOPER -- only if he lands STL's #5 rotation spot
DAVID ROSS -- amazingly had only 247 ABs last year (and hit 21 HRs). If he gets 475 ABs, he can be a Top 5 catcher.
KAZ MATSUI -- Jamey Carroll will steal some ABs, but if Matsui hits as well as he did in his brief COL stint last year, he should easily get 500 PAs (and double digit HRs and SBs)
OCTAVIO DOTEL -- obvious one, moves into the closer role
SALOMON TORRES -- another obvious one
JASON KUBEL -- former top prospect now the everyday LF/DH
LUKE SCOTT -- as per Nascarfan, Scott is likely to get 400-450 ABs. 20+ HRs, 75+ RBIs?
KELLY JOHNSON -- Positives: Braves dumped Marcus Giles for him; Had nice production when last healthy in '05 (9 HRs, 40 RBIs in 290 ABs); the Braves think he can hit 20 HRs; Negatives: injury prone; never played 2nd.
MATT DIAZ -- according to the Braves website, he's the favorite to win the LF job and is "awesome right now" (Bobby Cox's words). With 525 ABs (which means relegating Langerhans to the dustbin), Diaz could produce solid numbers for a last round selection in your fantasy draft (but I'm sure that .327 comes down a notch).

Next tier:
JOEL PINEIRO -- only if he becomes closer (but he'll still suck)
NOOK LOGAN -- they love him apparently. Another sleeper SB candidate if he wins the job
TERRMEL SLEDGE -- will likely split time with Jose Cruz Jr., and this is his last shot. Worth a late round flier.
ALFREDO AMEZAGA -- Marlins CF picture is ugly, but Amezaga had 20 SBs in only 334 ABs in '06. If he wins the job and plays well early, he could get 500 ABs and 30 SBs.

The no-brainers follow, but it's just for reference. Basically, these are the guys who will go from 80-100 IP to 180-200 IP, and 150-250 ABs to 550 ABs. Like Ryan Howard, they may have done well in '06 in their limited PT, but given the larger PT, their stats could explode:

Rookies who will likely start the year in the majors in prominent roles:

Players who are healthy after missing a large percentage of the '06 season. Many of these players have broken out before or have had very successful careers (a la Sheff, Matsui, Lee & Gagne), but they should be able to post numbers similar to their pre-injury totals, so don't forget about them:
CARL PAVANO (yeah right!)

Thanks again to Ed for letting me share this valuable information!

Baseball in China

Since I began this blog, according to the data I get from Google, I've had a few visitors from China, including someone from Suzhou who appears to visit the blog every day. The past two days, I've had significantly more Chinese visitors...people from 5 or 6 cities in China have visited. I'm really interested in learning where this traffic is coming baseball that popular in China? Is this just some weird internet thing where Google is incorrectly determining where people are from? If you read this blog and you're in China, please post in the comments or send me an email ( to let me know about yourself, how you found out about the blog, and about baseball's status in China!

Hong-chih Kuo

One of the more interesting (and harder to evaluate) pitchers going into the 2007 baseball season is Hong-chih Kuo. His minor league record suggested that he'd be a dominant (9+ K/9) reliever in the majors, but would struggle with his control. Typically a pitcher like that is going to be only marginally effective as a starter, where they won't strike out as many batters, but will still struggle with control. If you look at his overall statistics for the 2006 season (his first full season in the majors) they look very much the way you'd expect his stats as a reliever to look: 59.2 innings pitched, 71 strikeouts, 33 walks.

But things get interesting when you look at his splits between starting and relieving. In 5 September starts, he struck out 35 and walked only 7 batters, in 29.1 innings. That's an amazing performance. It also means that as a reliever last year he struck out 36 and walked 26 in 30.1 innings. That's not so amazing. In fact, that's remarkably similar to Daniel Cabrera numbers, except that Kuo did it against the easier competition in the NL. Kuo has also been quoted as saying that he's more comfortable as a starter than as a reliever. So should we assume that he's a great sleeper pick if he's in the LA rotation, but that he will fail in a relief role? I don't think so. Only two of his relief appearances were after he returned in September and he struck out 7 batters and walked 2, in 3 innings pitched. So I think he would have excelled in either role late in the year. Its VERY unusual for a pitcher to put up numbers that are so much better as a starter than as a reliever, so I have to assume that something was wrong earlier in the year...either he had a minor injury or there was a problem with his pitching mechanics that got worked out. I'm confident he can excel in either role, and that his rate stats (K/9 and K/BB) will be better as a reliever than as a starter. That said, I think until he does it again, his incredible September performance has to be viewed more as a display of his full potential than as an indication of his current skill level. Expect numbers similar to his overall stats last year, but there's potential for a lot better. He's a great late round pick in relatively shallow leagues if he still appears to have a shot at the starting rotation when your draft takes place.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rotohog - This looks awesome

If you haven't already done so, you've got to check out Rotohog. This is a new FREE fantasy baseball game with a $100,000 grand prize. As great as that sounds, what's most exciting to me about it is that once the season starts, players will trade on an open market, almost like a stock exchange. I'll get to combine two of my greatest interests in one game, for free, for a huge prize! I've literally been obsessed thinking about my strategies since I signed up last night.

This really looks like its going to be fun, so I'd suggest taking a look. The folks at Rotohog have set up a referal incentive program for bloggers with some pretty large potential incentives at stake, so if you sign up please enter 'waiverwire' (without the quotes) into the referal code field at the bottom of the registration form. Remember that 1/4 of whatever I get for the referals (which could potentially be as much as $1,000) will go to 'Save The Children'.

Here's the link to Rotohog ...don't forget to enter waiverwire as the referal code!

I've also create a league within Rotohog called 'The Waiver Wire' which I'd encourage you to join. This doesn't really affect anything in the game (including the draft) but is a way for all of us to keep track of each other's progress and foster a little friendly competition.

I'll probably be talking about this unique game a lot more over the coming months.

Prior & Lidge: Negative Hype Is Your Friend

Everyone knows that sometimes the hype about a player can overtake his actual abilities, and many people know to steer clear of that latest overhyped rookie or prospect. But less people seem to be able to avoid falling for the negative hype associated with certain players, so these players can fall much further in fantasy baseball drafts than their performance of health risk warrants. Two great examples of that this year are Mark Prior and Brad Lidge.

When healthy, pretty much everyone agrees that Mark Prior is one of the ten best starting pitchers in baseball, and has the potential to be one of the two best. But because of a series of injuries over the years, he hasn't done much pitching, and last year his performance in the majors was poor. Because of this, he's been falling VERY far in mock drafts that have been conducted so far. Rather than weight the pros and cons of picking him and making an objective decision, people are acting like there's no chance at all that he'll be healthy and effective. In one recent mock draft at Rotojunkie, he was picked with the 237th pick. That means he would have gone undrafted in a standard CBS Sportsline draft! That's insane! Among starting pitchers, he was picked right after John Maine and right before Tom Glavine. I'm a big Mets fan, but that just makes no sense. Prior is reported to be healthy and throwing hard in Spring Training. If there's even a 30-40% chance that I'll get more than half a season of the 'real' Mark Prior, he's worth more than those guys. I'm not saying you should go out there and draft him in the 5th round, but I certainly think he should be picked by around the 150th pick in most drafts.

Another player where negative hype has overtaken reality is Brad Lidge. People are asking what is wrong with him, and comparisions have been made to the loss of control that Mark Wohlers went through. What's overlooked is that Lidge had 104 strikeouts and only 35 walks in 75 innings last year. That's a dominant performance...almost as good as his previous two years. The only thing wrong with him was that he allowed more home runs than the previous two years and had worse luck on balls in play (over which the pitcher has very little control), leading to an ERA that was far worse than his actual performance. His ground ball rate was about the same as in 2005 (and better than 2004), so there's no reason to think the home runs were anything other than a fluke. I predict Lidge will go back to being a top tier closer this year, and there won't be any more talk about slider flattening out. Lidge fell to pick #132 in the same Rotojunkie mock draft mentioned above...I think he should be picked in the top 100 picks, and if I believe in using high picks on closers, I'd certainly go for him in the top 70 or so.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another Useful Resource

Another useful resource is The Closer Watch Blog which keeps you up to date on the latest news about who is closing for which teams, and who would be next in line if they're injured or falter.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Philip Hughes

As a Mets fan, I hate to say this, but Philip Hughes is the real deal. I'm profiling him now to show the contract between a prospect who has the potential to be very good (Homer Bailey, who I profiled last post) and prospect who already IS very good. I think people tend to underestimate how good an indicator a low BB/9 rate in the minors is for pitchers with high K/9 ratios. Hughes is 20 years old, and hasn't had major health problems that I'm aware of. Here are his stats:

YEAR Team Level IP BB K
2005 Charlston+Tampa A/A+ 86.1 20 93
2006 Tampa A+ 30 2 30
2006 Trenton AA 116 32 138

That looks like he'll dominate at AAA this year, and I expect him to prove himself as a very effective major league pitcher starting sometime before the All-Star break. If you're in a league with a deep bench, definitely target him if you can get him in the late rounds. And if you're in a keeper league, he's definitely someone you want.

Also, a couple reminders:
1. I'm very interested in hearing feedback from people reading the blog...especially regular readers. Who are you, where are you from, what do you like about the blog, what don't you like, what question do you have, etc.?

2. If you buy anything from the vendors advertising on the blog after clicking on their links, I will be giving 1/4 of the money I get to Save The Children. This is true regardless of whether the item you buy is the one advertised. So if you're planning to do any shopping on Amazon or EBay (or especially if you're going to register for a new EBay account) please do it through the links on The Waiver Wire. And if you're going to buy baseball tickets, consider looking at what's available through the StubHub link on the right side of the blog and at the very bottom of the main blog page. Also, let me know what other online vendors you make purchases from and I'll see if I can sign up as an affiliate with them. It varies from one advertiser to another, but in general you can assume that I'll get anywhere from 1%-9% of your purchase value, and I'll give 1/4 of that to Save The Children. Not a lot maybe, but if you're going to buy something anyway, why not help a good cause?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Homer Bailey

Homer Bailey is one of the more hyped pitching prospects going into this year. I'm not sure it's justified. He's obviously got the potential to be dominant with a K/9 over 9 at every level he's pitched, but his control has been just ok...and that usually converts to being pretty wild in the majors. One thing he's got going for him is his age (20), but that's much more of mixed blessing for pitchers than hitters. First of all, young arms tend to be injured more easily, and skills develop in less of a straight line in young pitchers than hitters. Here are his numbers from The Baseball Cube:

2005 Dayton A 103.2 62 125
2006 Sarasota A+ 70.2 22 79
2006 Chattga AA 68 28 77

I think these numbers equate to an effective major leaguer, but not an immediate star by any means. Next post I'll show you what the minor league numbers of a REAL star prospect look like.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I won't be posting much (if at all) this week, but should be back to normal next week. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from some of my regular visitors - who are you, what kinds of fantasy baseball league do you play in, what do you like about the blog, what don't you like, what affiliate ads would you use for shopping to help Save the Children...? I'm especially interested to learn about some of you who I've noticed visiting every day including those in Edmonton, Adelaide, Suzhou(!), and Granville. Who are you? Feel free to post in comments or use the email link on the right side of the blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Juan Cruz

I was inspired to write about him when I saw a reference to Juan Cruz as a 'young starter'. This struck me as odd, since it seems like he's been around forever. I was shocked to find that he's still only 26 years old. Anyway, courtesy of The Baseball Cube, here are his stats for the past three years (not including 3 innings at Tucson last year).

He's got the strikeout rate to pitch very effectively, but his control is consistently pretty shaky. I usually think this type of pitcher is better suited to being a reliever, and he's been so much more effective against righties each of the past three years, that it really looks like they should stop messing around with him as a part time starter, and just use him in relief, particularly when a few righties in a row will be batting.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Takashi Saito

Obviously, Takashi Saito was awesome last year (IP: 78.1, K:107, BB:23), and should now be considered a top tier closer.

If you look at his Japanese League Stats at The Baseball Cube, you'll notice a few things that are interesting. First of all, his K/9 was never anywhere near as high as it was last year. Just goes to show you how much easier it is for a reliever to be dominant than a starter. I'm curious exactly why that is. The most obvious explanation would be that starters are holding back a little to conserve energy...but you never hear them say, "yeah I was going about 90% on that pitch". Another explanation is that they either get tired or lose effectiveness the second time through the order...but then they should have better stats in the first inning, and I don't think that's the case at all.

The second interesting thing in his stats is if you look at the Games and Games Started. For every single year of his career (which is quite long) Saito pitched in games as a starter and as a reliever. If that's normal in Japan, I didn't realize it.

By the way, I wrote an article for Lenny Melnick Fantasy Baseball on strategy for your last picks in the draft. Take a look, let me know what you think, and let Lenny know if you think the article is hard to find or that my blog would be hard to find from his site.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jose Valverde

So I just read a discussion thread over on Rotojunkie about who will take over as Arizona's closer when Valverde falters. What?!?!? Why do we think Valverde is going to falter? He had 69 strikeouts in 49 innings last year. He's had a dominant strikeout rate every year in the majors. Sure, he's a little wild, but not enough to cancel out the extremely low number of hits he's generally going to allow. He hasn't even had a really bad home run rate. So we're basically assuming that his luck when it comes to hits allowed on balls in play will continue to be bad, despite the fact that every study that looks at that finds that it mostly really is just luck and players' success or failure in that area doesn't tend to repeat from one year to the next. If Jose Valverde falls anywhere near the later rounds of your draft (let's say after round 12 of a CBS Sportsline standard league) draft him. Don't hesitate to draft him a little higher than that if you need a closer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cole Hamels

Hamels obviously isn't going to qualify as one of my daily picks (50% and under ownership in Yahoo leagues is the criteria) but I'll talk about him anyway. His season last year was simply awesome for a 22 year old rookie. IP: 132.1, K:145, BB:48. That's like a healthy Mark Prior. His minor league numbers are great too. If you want to see them, take a look at The Baseball Cube. The only real risk is that like Prior, Hamels has an extensive injury history. That said, he's SO good that its worth it. I think his 4.08 ERA last year is going to scare enough people off that he should be a bargain in most leagues. And his future is so bright if he stays healthy that I'm pretty tempted to invest in some of his baseball cards.

Octavio Dotel

Dotel should theoretically be fully recovered from surgery and may get first shot at KC's closer job. If he's fully healthy, he'll be a very valuable closer. Ignore the people who say he pitches better as a set up man. I actually think he's going to be an exceelent high risk/high reward late round pick because of the great upside, and the fact that you'll know whether the pick worked out very quickly. Watch his K/9 and K/BB in Spring Training. If they look more like 2004 (IP: 50.2, K:72, BB:18) he's at least a middle-tier closer. If they look more like 2005 (IP:15.1, K:16, BB:11) be somewhat concerned and only pick him with a late round pick. If they look more like 2006 (IP: 10, K:7, BB:11) don't pick him under any circumstances.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Odds & Ends

Another new blog to tell you about: Fantasy Baseball Island. All these good, new blogs (including mine) make me wonder whether there were a bunch of guys just like us last year who started blogs that fizzled out for one reason or another.

On another note, this Live Hive Fantasy look like it could be really cool, and sounds like an idea I had about a year ago.

Q&A with the Fantasy Baseball Guy

I recently exchanged questions and answers with The Fantasy Baseball Guy, Paul Greco. Here's what he had to say:

1. What is your greatest accomplishment in fantasy baseball?
After playing Fantasy Baseball for over 15 years (BTW I'm 32, but when you say 15 years, it makes you sound old), you have good and bad moments. My greatest accomplishment though has to be when I won the Gotham Baseball Fantasy Championship last year. I was playing against guys in the business, but to play against my cousin, Mark Healey, who is the executive editor of Gotham Baseball Magazine, was the best.

Mark and I hadn't seen each other in over 15 years because of location and me being the military for 10 years, but baseball and family brought us back together in January 2006. When he asked me to join the Gotham League I jump at the chance. To win it all, felt pretty good, but to beat my cousin, felt great!!!

2. What makes your fantasy baseball web site different from others?
There are a lot of great Fantasy Baseball sites out there, including yours Alex. When I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do with, how I wanted the site laid out, I just wanted people to know what I was doing with my team(s) day in and day out as a Fantasy owner. That's why I have a journal on the site. I try to post each day to show other Fantasy owners what I'm up to. I also wanted to Showcase other sites and tools that are out there that might make things easier for Fantasy Owners. That being said, people have asked me why I would do something like that, showcase someone else’s site. To me, it’s all about getting the information to the Fantasy Owners, and if it means pointing out a site that gives you more information then mine, that’s fine, cause in the end, I know I helped you find that site.

Another reason why I put up is because other big Fantasy sites give you the same things; news, stats, and articles. The one thing I found though, is as the season goes on, do we, the Fantasy Geeks who are the reading the articles, really know if those guys are following their own advice? You really don't! I want to showcase my teams, and keep people up to date with how I’m doing, what moves I’ve made and why, and what other Owners in my leagues are doing. True advice has to followed, and I want to show people that everything I say on I do myself.

3. Who is a sleeper that you think will surprise people this year?
All true Fantasy Owners know that statistics are great, and big time Fantasy advice is awesome, but the gut tells you where to go. This year, my gut is telling me that the tandem of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood will finally show their promise. Kerry Wood reportedly has lost 30 pounds and is 100%, and could be the closer for the Cubs before seasons end.

Mark Prior on the other hand is a little more iffy. He’s been strengthen his right shoulder over the winter, and will compete for the Cubs fifth spot in the rotation. I really think that if he wins the job, we could see a 12 win season out of him. Other players I’d look at coming back or breaking out; Rickie Weeks, Jason Varitek, Mike Sweeney (if healthy), Dustin Pedroria, Shane Victorino, and Matt Cain.

Zito and Lilly and more

One group of pitchers I always focus especially closely on is those switching from the AL to the NL. Not only do they benefit from not having to face the DH, but the past few years the overall talent level has been substantially higher in the NL. Two of those pitchers this year are Barry Zito and Ted Lilly, and they're VERY similar in a lot of way. Both have average around 2:1 K/BB with decent K/9 rates. Both are fly ball pitchers who will generally allow plenty of home runs. Both are at an age where they probably shouldn't be expected to get either much better or much worse from year to year. The only differences are that Lilly will strike out more batters, while Zito has slightly better control (except in 2006) and a slightly higher ground ball %. Also, I would expect Zito to go much higher in most drafts. Both of these guys should be quite effective with the move to the NL, and I consider Lilly an excellent sleeper based on the likelihood that he won't be picked early.

Also wanted to clarify something from the John Patterson, Part II post - I'm not saying those are good assumptions. I'm saying that even if they were true, picking Clemens over Patterson probably wouldn't be a good move. Add in the fact, that Patterson might not get hurt, Clemens might get hurt, Clemens is 44 and might not pitch as well, and I think Patterson is an easy choice over Clemens.

Someone asked what I think about John Maine. I actually think his K/9 and K/BB are almost exactly what we should expect based on his minor league stats. It looks like he got a little lucky though and I'd expect his ERA and WHIP to increase...maybe to 4.00 and 1.30. I suspect he may be onoe of the pitchers who meets my 'eligibility requirements' for my daily picks once the season starts, and I won't hesitate to use him in favorable situations.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

John Patterson, Part II - Timing Matters

'Matt' commented that since Patterson usually gets injured anyway, if he's going to draft someone for half a season, he'd rather get Clemens. On the surface, this makes sense, but there's a problem with thinking this way. Let's make some assumptions (some of which may not be true):
1. Patterson will get injured half way through the season and be out for the year.
2. Clemens will come back halfway through the season and be healthy.
3. They will go for equal prices on draft day.
4. Clemens is better than Patterson.

So we should obviously pick Clemens, right?

Not necessarily. At least in leagues with relatively shallow benches. Clemens is going to take up a roster spot for the first half of the season while he sits on the bench. Patterson can be dropped as soon as he blows out his arm halfway through the season. This will allow us to pick up a replacement. In a league with shallow benches, for example Sportsline Public leagues with a two man bench and no DL, this is a big deal. It means that our choice is really between a half season of Clemens or a half season of Patterson + a half season of some replacement level pitcher.

John Patterson

One guy I'll definitely be targeting in all my drafts is John Patterson. While he seems to be somewhat injury prone, its worth the risk for a good who is this good. And he's like to fall further than he should in most drafts, because his ERAs haven't been too sexy. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I think to a large extent that's luck, and that the numbers to look at are the K/9 and K/BB rates. The only thing keeping Patterson from being an elite pitcher is that his high flyball rate does mean that he'll generally allow a lot of HRs. However, his home park helps limit the damage from that. In one mock draft I saw he fell to the 13th round...and that was in a league with 16 teams. You can't beat that for value! He was getting picked after pitchers like Verlander, Burnett, and Pettitte, all of whom should be substantially lower as long as they're in the AL and Patterson is in the NL.

2004 MON 98.1 46 99
2005 WAS 198.1 65 185
2006 WAS 40.2 9 42

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Helping Save The Children

As I've mentioned before, I will be donating 1/4 of whatever I earn from the ads on The Waiver Wire this season to Save the Children. There are a two ways you can help:

1. Obviously the best way is to donate money directly to them. If you do so, I'd love to hear about it to know if I'm making a difference.

2. If you're planning to make any purchases from any of the advertising affiliates on this site (which will include Amazon, EBay, and StubHub) please click on the links on this site to access them before making your purchase. The Waiver Wire will receive credit even if you purchase items other than those pictured in the links. In addition, you can find general purpose links to each site at the bottom of the main blog page.

If you want to learn more about Save the Children, here is their mission statement.

Cla Meredith

A lot of people are very high on Cla Meredith going into this season, and with good reason. He's got a pretty good strikeout rate, great control, and had more than a 2:1 ground ball to fly ball ratio in his first season in the majors. That said, I those who consider him the best middle reliever in baseball may be disappointed this year for a couple reasons. First of all, he got really lucky last with the % of hits he allowed on balls in play. Secondly, his minor league record doesn't really suggest the kind of amazing control he showed in 2006, so there is some risk that his walk rate will increase. He's obviously not going to repeat the 1.07 ERA, but he's going to be pretty good. Worst case would be something like Chad Bradford (in a good year). Best case would be a whole lot better.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Yet another great fantasy sports site is Rotoscoop. They cover other sports too, but it looks like they're beginning to gear up the baseball material just in time for Spring Training.

While I try to focus on just fantasy sports material on this site, its probably worth mentioning that at some point in the next month, The Waiver Wire will go un-updated for about a week. Have no will be back!

Matt Capps

I didn't know a whole lot about Matt Capps, but kept seeing positive references to him, so I took a look at his stats this morning. Meh. He's likely to have a long and boring (for fantasy baseball players) career. His stats from 2006 seem right in line with what you'd expect from his minor league career: IP: 80.2, K:56, BB: 12, HR: 12. With such good control, he'll always be fairly effective, but there's very little in his past to suggest much upside, and his ground ball rate (around 40%) suggests that he will continue to allow plenty of home runs.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chad Orvella: More Questions Than Answers

Usually I like to give a firm opinion in these player profiles, but in this case I don't have one yet. I posted the following on rotojunkie this morning to see if anyone over there can help me out...I'd love to hear your opinions as well:

Can someone explain Chad Orvella to me?

How does someone whose minor league stats are IP:149.2, K:215, BB:26
Do this in the majors last year: IP:24.1, K:17, BB:20

Usually I would assume that there's an injury...but that doesn't make sense here. I haven't seen his minor league game logs, but it looks like he dominated in the minors, got called up and sucked in the majors, was sent down and dominated in the minors again, and then got called up and sucked again in the majors.

I don't really believe in 'quadruple A' players who dominate in the majors but don't have the stuff for the majors.

Is he one of those guys who just fall apart when the spotlight is on them...sort of a variation on Ankiel? Or is there some other possible explanation?

On another note...there's something else I'd like to ask for some help on. In an effort to get the word out about this blog I've been swapping links with other useful fantasy baseball sites - basically if their advice seems good and they update the site often I'm happy to let people know about them. If any of you have any suggestions of sites not already in my link list, let me know.

Friday, February 9, 2007


If you had to bet your life on the accuracy of an ERA forecast made by one stat, what would it be? Mine would be xFIP, which is easily available at The Hardball Times. First of all, here's how they define it...

xFIP: Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. This is an experimental stat that adjusts FIP and "normalizes" the home run component. Research has shown that home runs allowed are pretty much a function of flyballs allowed and home park, so xFIP is based on the average number of home runs allowed per outfield fly. Theoretically, this should be a better predicter of a pitcher's future ERA.

and here's the definition of FIP (which they referenced above)...

FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.

So what's so great about this? Its a relatively quick and dirty calculation that puts its weight on the factors that pitchers DO control (Ks, BBs, GB/FB ratio) and eliminates the factors that are basically out of their control (what happens on balls in play, whether an outfield fly ball happens to make it over the wall or not).

And what's not so great about it? Well, a few things:
1. Ideally you want to factor in the pitcher's team's expected defensive efficiency when making a forecast.

2. Pitchers actually do have a little control over what happens on balls in play. Knuckleball pitchers in particular seem to have an edge here.

3. While Outfield FB % is a better predictor of HR allowed than HR is, its not perfect...probably some weighted combination of the two would be better yet.

4. xFIP (at least as used here) is based on just one season's data. A weighted average of multiple seasons would probably be better.

5. Above all...this is an art, not a science. No single stat can show everything...for example, was the pitcher playing with an injury? Did he learn a new pitch in the offseason? Its trying to put all these factors together that make fantasy baseball fun to play!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bob Howry, Part II

Based on some comments about my discussion of Bob Howry both here and at another web site that was kind enough mention me, I thought I should revisit my discussion of Bob Howry.

First of all, I did NOT use Bob Howry as an example of how pitching in the AL is tougher than in the NL. I said that if he was a starting pitcher I would attribute his improved K/9 and K/BB in 2006 to the league change, BUT I thought that was less important for relievers. Based on that, I believe that his high K rate in 2006 is a little out of line with the trend of his past few years and may not be repeatable.

I did say that he was better in 2006 than in 2005, and based on his great ERA and WHIP in 2005 I can certainly see how that might seem like an odd statement. The truth is, I barely look at ERA and WHIP, even though those are how we're scored in fantasy baseball. I simply believe that K/9 and K/BB are much better indicators of how well the pitcher pitched, and that the other stats include a pretty large dose of luck...particularly in the case of a relief pitcher, where sample sizes are limited. For anybody who thinks I'm crazy to view things that way, let's see how my picks do during the season. In fact, I will be running some contests during the season where you can see how your own picks do compared to mine.

Big Announcement: I'm a Good Guy

I started adding some advertisements to the right side of this blog today. As I earn money from these, I'll be donating 25% of what I earn to least through the end of September. The initial charity I'm planning to give to is Save The Children. So if you're planning to buy any of the products you see advertised on the site, click on the links to buy them and a small amount will go to Save The Children. I'll post periodic updates on how much I've been able to give.

And since I'm sure some of you will ask why I'm not giving more to of the site's earnings away, there's an easy answer to that...I'm not THAT good.

My Expectations

This post will be partly about my expectations for the performance of my picks during the season, and partly about how I think you should use those picks. One reader suggested that I may be overemphasizing the importance of middle relievers in fantasy baseball. In some leagues (for example a 10 team, mixed league, weekly transactions league) its true that middle relievers are generally worthless. However, the reader suggested that they're not useful in daily transaction leagues because you can just rotate starters in a number of roster spots. That's wrong. In fact, that's backwards. The reason you DO need middle relievers in a daily transaction league (and I'm mostly talking about roto leagues, although I assume the same holds in h2h) is that rotating starters in one or two roster slots will ensure that you easily win the Wins and Strikeouts categories. However, the starters you rotate aren't really going to excel in ERA and WHIP, so you'll want to use lots of middle relievers to help you win those categories too.

So what are my expectations for my picks? Well I'm thinking my starting pitcher picks should give me about 40 wins and 500 strikeouts. From one roster spot. Seriously. Real pitchers get 32 starts. My 162 headed monster will get 162 starts. Actually maybe more, since I will sometimes be able to find someone usable on Monday or Thursday when most teams have off. I would imagine that I can manage an ERA around 4.00 and a WHIP around 1.30 in those starts. My relievers should manage an ERA below 2.75 and a WHIP under 1.15. In a standard Yahoo public roto league I would probably aim to have about 3 middle relievers and 1 rotating starter slot along with 5 permanent starting pitchers and 3 closers.

Another Introduction

Another site I've stumbled onto recently is run by Paul Greco. Paul is releasing his fantasy baseball draft kit in the next few days. I'm definitely looking forward to it, because when it comes to hitters, I'm generally too lazy to do exhaustive rankings of all of them. Luckily for me, Paul isn't, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got to say.

Pelfrey and Humber

So I took a quick look over their stats after posting Eric's thoughts on Humber and Pelfrey, and I agree with him. Other than Humber's injury, there's not much to separate the two in their stats, and Pelfrey isn't really worthy of the hype he's getting. Both had outstanding K rates in college with good control, both blew through A ball, had excellent K rates with relatively ok control in limited exposure to AA, and neither has proven anything yet at AAA or in the majors. If you think that Pelfrey has already proven anything at the higher levels, take a look at his K/BB rates.

An Introduction

You may have noticed that I'm steadily adding more fantasy baseball links on the right side of the screen. If you have any suggestions for others, let me know!

One of those links is for Fake Teams ( ), a fantasy baseball blog that I just 'discovered'. It looks like Eric updates it VERY frequently, which is a big plus in my book. He and I agreed to swap answers to three questions as a way of introducing eachother's blogs. Here is what he had to say...

Q: Key pitching stat you watch?
A: I focus on the effects that pitcher's have on the ratio categories. I'm not convinced I can reliably predict Ws, but I feel comfortable selecting starters based on WHIP and allowing wins to fall where they may. because I've seen too many middle relievers allow inherited runners to score, I don't give as much weight to ERA. When looking an additional level down, I will examine the pitchers walk rates and strikeout rates. For major leaguers, WHIP first followed by BB:9 and K:9. For call-ups, I check their K:9 ratio because I prefer to see minor league pitchers who dominate minor league hitters via missing bats - Jeremy Sowers being the exception to the rule.

Q: Fantasy Pitching Sleeper?
A: This would be a deep sleeper in any format, but I really like the Mets' Philip Humber. He returned from TJ surgery last year and dominated at each level of his rehab while maintaining his K:9. Heck, his major league K:9 equaled 1.00 - in two innings! I expect him to remain under the radar given the higher profile of Mike Pelfrey. The back-end of the Mets rotation is a mess, but I expect the MEts to try several candidates ahead of Humber. The decision will be to let Humber accumulate more innings while letting the back-end candidates fight it out. After Humber dominates AAA and/or those back-end candidates prove unworthy, the Mets will recall Humber. I figure mid-May at the earliest.

Q: Draft or Auction?
A: My two keeper leagues are auctions. I find them to be more interesting in terms of interaction as every player that comes up can be yours while a draft has you selecting once and then waiting and hoping the player you want is stere there "x" number of picks later. The frenzy that builds around a player or two is more exciting. last year, Carl Crawford was in the draft pool for the first time and went for $50. It was the first time a player hit that mark in the nine-year history of the league. That just doesn't happen at snake drafts.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Zack Greinke

It seems like a long time since Zack Greinke was a hot prospect who pitched well in his first season in the majors, which makes it surprising that he just turned 23 a few months ago. It remains to be seen whether KC will trust him with a rotation spot this year, but they certainly should considering some of the pitchers they've thrown out there the past few years. I'm leaving out a short stint in the minors in 2004 and in the majors in 2006...neither was long enough to matter.

Year Team League IP BB K
2004 KC AL 145 26 100
2005 KC AL 183 53 114
2006 Wichita AA 105.2 27 94

Overall that looks like a pretty consistent, decent control pitcher. Even his 'horrible' 2005 doesn't look so awful when you ignore his ERA. He's never going to be a star, but he's worth picking up in deeper leagues, and in Yahoo standard leagues he's worth spot-starting against bad teams. Of course my real hope is that KC management still thinks he's got a bad attitude (or whatever it was they said about him) and trades him to an NL team where I'd consider him a major sleeper.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Bob Howry

Bob Howry has been a decent middle reliever for a long time. In fact, at one point he was really good. Then, in 2004 and 2005 he was just ok...not great. After a move to the National League, he was excellent...far better than he's been the past few years. I'm a big believer in the impact of pitching in the AL vs. the NL. I think that not only is the AL tougher because of the designated hitter, but that there's been a fairly big skill gap between the two leagues for the past few years.

Year League Team IP BB K
2004 AL CLE 42.2 12 39
2005 AL CLE 73 16 48
2006 NL CHC 76.2 17 71

So this is a case where a pitcher did better because of moving to the NL and we can expect more of the same in 2007, right? Not necessarily. For relief pitchers, I think the impact of the designated hitter is much less than starters. Even in the NL, relievers aren't facing many pitchers, because typically a pinch hitter is sent up to bat when it's the pitcher's turn. So I don't expect Howry to exactly duplicate 2006, although I do think he'll still be an effective reliever. I think he actually was somewhat unlucky ending up with a 3.17 ERA in 2006, so he could certainly repeat that, even if his peripherals aren't as good this year.

Relief Wins

The accepted wisdom in fantasy baseball is that its impossible to predict relief wins and not worth the effort to try. There's some truth in that. You can look at all the factors, intelligently project Dan Wheeler to have a 6 wins, and a few bad breaks or lucky bounces over the course of the season can make the difference between him getting 9 wins or 3 wins. That said, in any type of gambling (and that's what fantasy baseball clearly is) you need to give yourself as much of an edge as possible. Ignoring relief wins entirely is passing up one of those edges. There are a number of factors that can help predict the win totals for relievers, and that's doubly true in a daily league where you can look for specific situations conducive to relief wins.

Pitcher Quality - This is an obvious one. A good reliever is more likely to win games than a bad one. However, if all you care about is wins, this is probably less important than you think.

Team Offense - The better the offense, the more likely the team will be able to come from behind and give their relievers wins.

Usage Patterns - How the manager uses his bullpen makes a BIG difference in reliever wins. Some managers use their 2 or 3 best relievers only in tie games or when they're ahead. Relievers on those teams are obviously going to get less wins than on a team where the manager won't hesitate to use his best relievers with the team down a run or two. Other teams (Oakland in recent years is one) will frequently bring in their closer in tie games in the 8th inning...reducing the potential for wins for their setup men.

Availability - This is the first factor that makes reliever wins easier to project in daily leagues than weekly leagues. If the reliever pitched yesterday, he's less likely to pitch today. Since most daily leagues allow lineup changes until right before gametime, you should always be able to bench relievers who pitched the previous day in favor of those who didn't.

Starter Quality - Relievers will generally get less use (and therefore less wins) on days when a good starting pitcher who is likely to pitch into the later innings starts.

Home vs. Away - This is one of the less obvious ones, but makes a fairly big difference for middle relievers. The following example shows why middle relievers will generally get more wins (and losses, but most leagues don't care about that) when they're at home. Game is tied after 5 innings. If the reliever is home, he comes in, pitches a scoreless 6th, and gets credited with the win when his team takes the lead for good in the bottom of the 6th. If the reliever is on the road, his team goes ahead in the top of the 6th (giving the starting pitcher the win), and the reliever only gets credited with a hold for his scoreless bottom of the 6th.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Tim Lincecum

Why are my first posts both guys where I feel like I'm spelling their names wrong every time I type them? Tim Lincecum seems to be getting a lot of hype as a top pitching prospect. The general concensus seems to be that he's got a shot at making the majors out of Spring Training, and that if he doesn't he'll be there by June. That may be, but I'm not really buying the fact that he's ready for prime time. Here are his stats:

Year Team League Age Level IP BB K
2004 Washington NCAA 20 NCAA 112.1 82 161
2005 Washington NCAA 21 NCAA 104.1 71 131
2006 Washington NCAA 22 NCAA 125.1 63 199
2006 Salem-Kzr Nwest 22 A- 4.0 0 10
2006 San Jose Calif 22 A+ 27.2 12 48

I see a guy with a great strikeout rate, but who has had some control problems even against pretty weak competition. Other than his 4 innings at low A ball, he's had a high walk rate everywhere he's been, and in the high minors and the majors I expect this to get a LOT worse. If he sees the majors in 2007, I would keep my distance...I'm expecting a ton of walks...maybe close to one per inning.

Trever Miller

Why am I choosing to write my first player profile on Trever Miller? Well for one thing, I'm pretty confident that he'll spend the whole season below 50% ownership in Yahoo Public Leagues...making him a candidate for selection as a daily or weekly pick on this blog. And also, his 2006 numbers looked pretty good when I was looking through a list of stats. But also, his stats over the past three years raise an interesting question. Here are the stats I care most about:

Year Team IP BB K
2004 TB 49.0 15 43
2005 TB 44.1 29 35
2006 HOU 50.2 13 56

What the heck happened in 2005? It certainly looks like he may have had some health problems that were fixed in 2006. That's not really the question I'm interested in, although I'd be happy to hear if anyone can confirm it. The really interesting question to me is whether players abilities change more during the offseason than they do during the season...whether due to injury, again, increase maturity, playing around with new pitches, or whatever. In other words, if I look at the stats for a group of pitchers, will each pitcher's September 2005 correlate as well with April 2006 as April 2006 will correlate with May 2006? I have no idea of the answer (although I suspect the differences between seasons will be greater), but I'd sure like to know. It would help me know whether a formerly mediocre player starting off the new season with a great K/BB ratio is likely to have really improved or is just on a hot streak. If I have the time, I'll do a quick study on this sometime.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Welcome to The Waiver Wire

Welcome to The Waiver Wire. Once the MLB (and fantasy baseball) season starts, the bulk of my posts will be dedicated to helping you pick an undervalued starting pitcher and an undervalued relief pitcher that I expect to perform well each day, and tracking the results of those picks. For those of you in weekly leagues, there should still be plenty of items of interest - fantasy baseball strategy discussion, 'watch lists' of promising players, and maybe even some original research I've been working on. Before the season starts, I'll try to fill you on my strategic approach to fantasy baseball, some specific tactics that I'll be using in our daily selections, and profiling some players that I expect to make use of during the season.

I hope you enjoy the material on the site, and look forward to hearing your feedback!