Monday, February 26, 2007

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.


Ratdog said...

I enjoy your site and try to read it every few days. Please continue your writings...good stuff indeed.

I am also pretty high on Lidge as well. I feel he was afflicted with the ambiguous "unlucky" bug last year. I think putting off Lidge till pick# 132 is somewhat of a stretch, but if it happens, kudos to the guy that lands him. This is where I have found him to go:

Mock Draft Central ADP: #118 (avg)
As a reference, Ray's ADP is #115, and Gagne's is #130

I did two mocks over this past weekend...both 12 team 5x5, fairly standard roster requirments. The first one he was taken at:

R13,P5: That's pick #149. He was taken after both Gagne and Ray.

The next draft I participated in, is highest I would consider taking him.

R10,P2: That's pick #108.

The interesting thing to note here is that Ray fell after him in this one.

One thing to watch is the press coverage Lidge gets this spring. If there is even one favorable report on him out of spring training, he will likely be taken higher. That is something I do not condone. Round 10 is the hightest I would go for him. If I focused on other positions for the first 9 rounds, I would have no problem anchoring my RP staff with Lidge in RD 10.

Thanks for the stats Alex, proving my gut instinct! :)

Ed S.
St. Louis, MO

MO Boiler said...

Totally agree with you on Lidge, although I'd be a bit worrisome in his home games for two reasons: 1) that ridiculous ballpark and 2) Astros fans. He was routinely booed at home last year, and unless he doesn't give up a HR or blow a save through like the end of May, I don't know that they won't this year. Psychologically, that's gotta be a factor. Still, he's probably undervalued and will rack up a ton of K's out of a RP spot. In fact, I'd call him a sure thing for 100 K's. It's not like he has an injury history.

Prior, though, does have the injury problem, and that's why I plan on avoiding him. I've heard plenty of reports in previous springs about how well he and Kerry Wood happened to be feeling at that particular moment, only to see him and Wood fail to pitch healthy/effectively the majority of the following season. So I'm not buying it this year - and unless he's available in the last three or four rounds of my draft, I won't pick him. I like K's as much as the next guy, but you can give me Daniel Cabrera, Jon Lester, or Anthony Reyes over Prior. If he can put together a solid 30-start effort in '07, perhaps I'd be willing to invest in him next year. But not now.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm in a keeper league and I'm down to deciding between two guys for my last keeper spot: Grady Sizemore and Matt Holliday. We use RF/CF/LF, so that does matter, as Grady is in the slightly more scarce CF category. And I will most likely not be able to keep either past 2007 (roster turnover rules, meh). Other than that it's a standard 12-team 5x5. Thoughts, anyone?

flynn said...

Since Sizemore and Holliday essentially have the same value, I'd think your decision should come down to whether your other keepers (and/or the player you see you selecting in the first round) tend to be higher avg/RBI guys or R/SB guys. if you're keeping a beltran or a soriano (SBs, low Avg), you might want to keep Holliday. if you're keeping someone like cabrera or howard, i'd hold onto sizemore.

MO Boiler said...

Wow, Flynn, good point, I never really thought of it like that. My other keepers are Howard, Utley, and Carpenter. Utley is good for R/HR/RBI and a few SB, and Howard handles the HR/RBI as well. So I think Sizemore's the guy. I could dominate R with Sizemore and Utley on my roster. Plus Holliday's walk rate scared me a little anyway.

Alex said...

I basically agree with Flynn here. One other thing in Sizemore's favor is he's two years younger, so especially in a keeper league he's got a better chance of improving.

I agree about not taking Lidge too early, but only because I never use early picks on closers...there are just too many bargains among closers every year to waste good picks on them.

And I agree with mo_boiler about Prior. I'm not advocating taking him with an early pick, but I believe that he's a GREAT late round pick if he falls far enough.

MO Boiler said...

I dunno... I'm of the belief that the chances of a healthy, effective Prior starting 25+ games in 2007 are in the 30% neighborhood you mentioned. Or worse. And even if he does do that, do you really think he's going to duplicate his 2003 numbers? I'm thinking his 2005 is about best-case scenario - around average ERA, lots of K's, but he doesn't go deep enough into a lot of games to get Ws. Not bad, but that's only assuming that 30% chance that he's healthy. So call me a pessimist if you need to, but I just can't justify taking a guy like Prior that's such an injury risk, even in the later rounds, over a high-upside Philip Hughes or Jon Lester type. I'd rather gamble on a Mark Prior circa 2002 than a Mark Prior circa 2007.