Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brad Penny 2009

Brad Penny in 2009 will be a player to stay away from at all costs. Not only will he meet some of the criteria...he'll meet just about all of the criteria:

-Already overrated.
-Changing leagues from NL to AL
-Going from pitchers' park to hitters' park
-Declining strikeout rate (from 7.1 in 2006 to 4.6 in 2008)
-Increasing walk rate (from 2.1 in 2005 to 3.8 in 2008)
-Injury issues

Some people may recommend him as a 'sleeper' who is likely to rebound "if healthy", and win a lot of games because of Boston's offense. Don't be fooled. Even if he is healthy and pitches as well as he did in 2006 and 2007, he's going to struggle in the much tougher American League and pitching half his games in Boston.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tommy Hanson 2009

Tommy Hanson's performance in the recently concluded Arizona Fall League has turned him into one of the hottest prospects in baseball for 2009. Hanson became the first pitcher ever to win the AFL's MVP award, as he struck out an amazing 49 batters in 28.2 innings, while walking only 7 batters. He spent his time in the league working on his newly developed changeup, and apparently it's an effective one! Hanson's previous minor league numbers were good, but didn't suggest that he was capable of anything like this yet - 2008 combined A and AA he struck out 163 and walked 52 in 138 innings. That's very good, but suggests a pitcher who needs to improve his control before dominating at AAA and in the majors. In addition, his homerun rates have tended to be a little high, indicating that he likely is a flyball pitcher. That said, Hanson certainly is ready for success at AAA (if not the majors), and if his performance in the AFL was really because of his new pitch (and a real improvement in his control), and not just a fluke, then he's going to be an excellent pitcher in the near future.

Baseball Happenings

Another great baseball site to let people know about is Baseball Happenings. Like others that I've mentioned here, I'm adding a link to it on the right side of the screen so you can find it easily later.

Fantasy Baseball 365

One really good site that focuses on fantasy baseball is Fantasy Baseball 365. Charlie's posts tend to be very detailed, so there's a lot of great material to comb through if you haven't visited his site before.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who Will Close For The Rangers

Unless they sign a free agent (a distinct possibility), the race for Texas Rangers closer in 2009 comes down to Frank Francisco and C.J. Wilson. Personally, I wouldn't be thrilled with either if I was a Rangers fan. Wilson clearly doesn't have the skill set to be a reliable closer, with neither an overpowering strikeout rate (K/9: 8.5 in 2007 and 7.4 in 2008) and mediocre control (BB/9: 4.5 in 2007 and 4.9 in 2008). Francisco has the advantage of a great strikeout rate (2008 K/9: 12.1), and if he can maintain even the moderate level of control that he attained in 2008 (BB/9: 3.8) he'll be excellent. Unfortunately, I think a small amount of regression in both areas is likely, making him a slightly scare proposition when you consider his tendency to allow a lot of fly balls. He's still the right choice here, and given the fact that most teams prefer to have righty closers, Texas will probably do the right thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who Will Close For The Cubs?

With the departure of Kerry Wood, and the trade for Kevin Gregg, the Chicago Cubs now have two potential closers for 2009. I've seen speculation that Gregg will close, and I've seen speculation that Carlos Marmol will close. Strangely, everyone who writes about it seems quite sure of their opinion. I'd say that this one is very much up in the air. Before I did any research, I was assuming that it would be very clear that what the Cubs SHOULD do is make Marmol the closer. After looking at the numbers, it's not as clear cut as I expected. What it really comes down to is whether you think Kevin Gregg's weak 2008 numbers (K/9: 7.6, BB/9: 4.8) were simply a bad season, or a sign of declining skills. While it was his worst performance in the past five years, it wasn't quite far enough out of line to be sure that something was wrong. If he gets his K/9 up to the 8.0 to 8.5 range, while lowering his BB/9 to 3.0 or slightly above, then he's not much worse (if any) than Marmol, who strikes out a ton of batters, but has awful control (over 5.0 BB/9 for his career) and appears to be a really extreme flyball pitcher.


For the most part, I stick to baseball on The Waiver Wire. About the farthest afield I'll stray is to discuss some principles that can be applied to a variety of fantasy sports. One good blog that is more seasonal in nature (following whatever sports is most active at the time) is Rotoscoop.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mike Napoli 2009

A good source of sleepers or players ready for breakout seasons is those who have put up good numbers in a limited number of at bats. Mike Napoli definitely fits the bill going into 2009. In only 227 at bats (274 plate appearances), he hit .273 with 20 home runs, and even had 7 steals. While those numbers are probably a bit of a statistical fluke, he has now hit 46 career home runs in just over 700 at bats. Given that he's already 27 years old, he's unlikely to improve any further, but who cares. Given 450 at bats he could hit .250 with 30 homers and 10 steals. That's incredible production for a catcher, and especially one likely to slip to the middle rounds in most drafts. The best news of all is that the Angels are supposedly looking for ways to get him more playing time, even if they have to use him at DH sometimes.

Fernando Rodney 2009

I was surprised to see recently that as of right now, Fernando Rodney is still anticipated to be the Detroit Tigers closer in 2009. Really? Haven't they figured out yet that relying on marginally effective pitchers who have trouble staying healthy as their closer isn't such a good idea? At his best Rodney is overpower, if a bit wild. He can strike out more than a batter per inning, which means he'll always be ALMOST dominating. At the same time, if he walks six batters per inning as he did last season, he's going to allow a lot of runs. Complicating any projection for him is the fact that his groundball rate has ranged from a weak 40.2% (in 2008) to as high as 56.5% (in 2006). Where his 'true' skill lies in that range will make a big difference in whether he can get the job done as a closer for an entire season. I wouldn't bet on it though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Phil Hughes 2009

Depending on how things shake out over the Winter, it looks like Phil Hughes may end up as the Yankees #6 starting pitcher in 2009. That would probably mean some time in AAA and some time filling in for injured starters in the majors. That's not what I had in mind when I wrote about Hughes prior to the 2007 season. I described him as the real deal and predicted that he'd be an effective major league starter by the All-Star break. Actually, those predictions were right, but in an injury plagued year, he took a step back this year as he only managed somewhat ineffective 34 major league innings. I think Hughes is a pitcher who should be watched closely in Spring Training. In particular, wait to see what his strikeout rate is. Even in limited sample sizes of 15-20 innings, that can be a good indicator as to health and general effectiveness. If his rate is up near one per inning, then he's likely to pitch well at whatever level he's placed. If it's down near 5 or 6 then something may be wrong - whether health related or mechanics related (as some surmised last year).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Draft Hero...Again

This is basically a re-post from last week, since there are lots of new visitors to The Waiver Wire...

For those who like the NFL or NBA (or who just like free money), sign up for Draft Hero (info on right side of screen) and put "zoobird" (without quotes) in the promotional code field. They're giving 4,000 'player points' to each person who registers, which allows entry in $4 worth of real money contests. You get the player points whether you deposit money or not, and can use it to enter both 'salary cap' and 'live draft' competitions.

Thanks to those free player points, I'm now $10.80 richer than I was last week, thanks to some good contest results. Not much maybe, but its always nice to build a free bankroll ahead of baseball season.

Heath Bell 2009

Two seasons ago I wrote a post predicting that Heath Bell should put up an ERA about 2 full runs better than his career mark (at the time) of 4.92. The prediction was on target, as he actually put up a 2.02 ERA with brilliant component stats (K/9: 10.9, BB/9: 3.2, GB%: 58.8%!!!). He was very good again in 2008, although not quite as dominant, as his K/9 dropped to 8.5 and his GB% dropped to 45.5%. My guess is that his true ability is more or less the midpoint between the two season, which will make him a very, very solid closer in 2009, as he takes over for the departing Trevor Hoffman.

Dan Wheeler 2009

Dan Wheeler should begin 2009 as the Tampa Bay Rays closer. He's coming off a 2008 season in which he had a WHIP of 0.99 almost equally the career best 0.98 that he set with Houston in 2005. He had a good season, but there is some reason for concern. Hidden below the solid ERA (3.12) and WHIP, his strikeout rate deteriorated to 7.7...the lowest its been since 2004 by a wide margin. Meanwhile his grounball rate dropped to 28.4%. That's one of the lowest I've ever seen. So are his worsening component stats indicative of a problem, or just a one year blip? It's hard to tell. Given the small number of innings that relievers pitch (66.1 in Wheeler's case) there do tend to be larger one year fluctuations in their numbers. I would suggest watching his first month or so to see if there's any continued slippage in his K/9 rate, or whether it rebounds to its previous level around 9.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jose Arredondo 2009

I've seen several sites list both Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields as potential replacements for Francisco Rodriguez as the Angels' closer in 2009. While I suspect that Shields will get first shot at the role, his control has been a little shaky the past two years, so Arredondo may get a chance to close at some point in 2009. If he does, he should do fine. In 2008, he struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings while walking 3.5. That would be good, but coupled with his 51.2% groundball rate, it's excellent. His minor league numbers are roughly in-line with what he accomplished in the majors, although they seem to indicate the potential for slightly worse control.

Joel Hanrahan 2009

Joel Hanrahan is expected to close for the Washington Nationals in 2009. If he's as good as he was in 2008 (K/9: 9.9, BB/9: 4.5, GB%: 42.6%) then he should be pretty effective, and a likely bargain in the late rounds of most drafts. I'm skeptical though. This is a guy who was so bad in the majors (K/9: 6.8, BB/9: 6.0, GB%: 30.6%) in 2007 that he was one of my favorite targets for opposing hitters. His minor league numbers are very consistent with his 2007 performance (or lack thereof). So while he may have suddenly figured out how to pitch as a 26 year old, I do expect some regression. Something like a strikeout rate of 8.0 per nine innings and a walk rate of 4.5 per nine innings, with a groundball rate of around 40% seems reasonable. That could be good enough to get the job done as a closer, but I definitely expect him to go through some rough patches.

Why Rake Matters For Fantasy Sports

Rake is something that poker players generally pay a lot more attention to than fantasy sports participants. But if you're serious about making money at fantasy sports, you should give it some consideration.

If you take a look at the payouts for most fantasy sports sites, rake (the difference between the total entry fees for a contest and the total amount paid out in prizes) varies from 10% (or even lower) to as high as 30% or 40%. This makes a moderate difference in how profitable full season fantasy sports events will be, but in general the format and quality of competition are going to be even more important in those events.

However, in daily contest games, the amount of rake is absolutely critical. Think about what will happen to the money of an 'average' player who starts with a bankroll of $100. Let's compare two with 10% rake (like Drafthero) and another with 20% rake (like Snapdraft). Each player uses their full bankroll to enter contests and gets an 'average' return (90% for Drafthero and 80% for Snapdraft). So the first 'round' of bets they each bet $100. Next round the Drafthero player bets $90 and the Snapdraft player bets $80. Next round the numbers are $81 and $64. After 22 rounds, the Snapdraft player has less than the $1 he needs to enter a contest. The Drafthero player doesn't run out until the 44th round. The Snapdraft player will have only bet a total of $495 compared to the Drafthero player's $990.

Obviously, the impact is even greater for a winning player. The same person who is breakeven at Snapdraft is going to have a 10% return on investment at Drafthero, and can make a ton of money.

Greg Reynolds 2009

One of the keys to success in any daily transactions fantasy baseball game is figuring out who the truly awful pitchers are, and using hitters who are playing against them. Taking advantage of these matchups isn't quite as easy as it sounds though, since not only do you have to identify the worst of the worth, and evaluate exactly how great the impact of their badness is, but most of them don't last long in the major leagues, and are quickly replaced by minor leagues and converted relievers, some of whom are decent pitchers and some who aren't any better. Also, in many cases, the worst statistics are put up by young pitchers who may improve, or pitchers suffering from injuries, whose health may improve over time. So you need to pay close attention to whether the best indicator statistics (K/9 and BB/9) are showing improvement.

That said, it's always good to go into the season knowing which pitchers to target. One of my favorites in 2009, assuming he's in the major leagues, is Gregory Reynolds. Not only was he really, really bad in 2008 (K/9: 2.9, BB/9: 3.4, GB%: 45.1%), but you get the added bonus that he pitches in Colorado! His strikeout rates in the minor leagues were also quite low, so really the only real hope for him to be any good is if he improves a lot AND it turns out that he was unlucky with his groundball rate in 2008 and that his true rate is above 50%.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Coincidence? I Think Not!

A few days ago, I wrote a post about adjusting strategy for contest size in daily contests. I thought it was one of my better recent posts. It happens that I used some of my free player points at DraftHero to enter their "50 person" NFL contest yesterday. Because the site is so new, only 15 people entered, so my odds were pretty good from the beginning. Its worth mentioning that I'm pretty clueless when it comes to the NFL. I like football, but just don't follow it very closely. I used the high variance strategy I discussed in the blog post though, picking 5 players from New Orleans...and came in 2nd out of 15 people...and $9 richer. The strategy I described really does work (although I obviously got lucky to succeed on my first try) in games like Draft Hero, Fantasy Sports Live, and Snap Draft. If you're interested in signing up for Draft Hero and getting free player points that allow entry in $4 of real money contests, use my promotional code ("zoobird") and go to Draft Hero.

Josh Fields 2009

It appears that the White Sox are going to be relying on Josh Fields to rebound from his dismal year last year and be a major contributor in 2009. The only problem is...rebound to what? While Fields has good power and draws his fair share of walks, neither asset is good enough to offset his extremely high strikeout totals and the impact those have on his batting average. His minor (and major) league record shows that he's always going to struggle to reach a .250 batting average, and at 26 years old he's not likely to improve too much more. Fields is probably going to be one of those guys who will always be a 1 for 27 slump away from being sent down to AAA.

John Lannan 2009

John Lannan is a pretty good example of why you should always be prepared for young pitchers to improve. When he reached the majors for part of 2007 (at the age of 22), he was so bad that I would look for hitters who were opposing him that day. In 34.2 innings, he struck out only 10, and walked 17 batters. It doesn't get much worse than that. Even with a 50% groundball rate, he was a truly terrible pitcher. His minor league numbers weren't much better once adjusted for the weaker competition. Actually, even his college numbers were awful, other than his final season. However, he apparently figured things out in 2008, and put up respectable numbers. In 182 innings, he struck out 117 batter and walked 72. That's not great, but with a 54% groundball rate, and pitching in a good pitchers park, he's now a perfectly ok major league pitcher, and no longer worth targeting in daily transactions leagues. He'll be 24 years old until the last few days of the 2009 season, so there's still a lot of room (and time) for further improvement.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fantasy Players Express

Just wanted to make a quick mention of another new fantasy baseball site. Mike Kuchera of Fantasy Baseball Express, also known as 'The Fantasy Man' has created Fantasy Players Express which is basically an indexed fantasy baseball reference site with multiple expert authors contributing articles on specific players or topics.

Daniel Cabrera 2009

According to Rotoworld, the Nationals and Daniel Cabrera have come to terms on a one year deal for 2009. Allegedly, several other teams were in hot pursuit. One has to wonder why there was so much interest in Cabrera. For years he's been a pitcher who compiled high strikeout totals, but was barely effective due to his incredibly bad control. In 2007 his strikeout rate began to decline from its previous levels (to 166 Ks in 204.1 innings), and 2008 it plummetted to 95 strikeouts in 180 innings. Those are the strikeout numbers of a good control pitcher...except that Cabrera still walked 90 in 180 innings. Only EXTREME ground ball pitchers can last in the major leagues with numbers like those, and while Cabrera does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground (48% in 2008), he would need to be up over 55% for his K/BB ratio to be close to acceptable. So the 'prize' that the Nationals won is a guy who will be barely effective (although helped slightly by the change of league and park)...if they're lucky and last year was an aberation. If they're unlikely, he'll pitch like last year (badly) or it will turn out that last year was an indication of long term health problems.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Adjusting For Contest Size

Success at fantasy baseball is all about adjusting to context. Sometimes the context comes within the game of baseball itself - for example, adjusting for park or for league strength. Other times, the context is found within the rules of the fantasy game you're playing.

One such example is making adjustments for the size of the daily contest you're playing. Sites like FantasySportsLive and DraftHero run contests with as few people as two to as many as fifty. Your strategy needs to change to reflect the size of the contest! Two person contests are the most straightforward - you're generally going to do best simply picking the players who you believe will score the most points that day. But isn't that true in larger contests too? The answer is...definitely not! If you use the same strategy in a fifty person contest, you're going to frequently find yourself finishing in the upper half of the contest...but falling short of the top few spots that receive all the prize money.

The goal in a larger contest is to introduce variance to your scoring. Note that this strategy won't work (at least as described here) in a season long contest like Rotohog, because those have a real 'penalty' for putting up especially low scores. But in a single day contest you should be looking for strategies that will increase your chances of having the top score...even if those same strategies will also increase your chance of having a truly awful score.

There are really two things you can do to accomplish this:
1. Choose players whose performance is likely to be strongly correlated. The easiest way to do this is to choose players on the same team. If they knock the opposing starter out early and get to face the dregs of the opposing bullpen, that's going to benefit both of them...leading to a positive correlation in their scores for the day. If the batter hitting fourth gets an RBI, there's a pretty good chance that the batter hitting ahead of him got a run...again leading to greater correlation among their daily scores. Most games won't allow you to choose all players from the same team, but choosing mostly players from the same team is definitely a good idea in larger contests...particularly if you can identify a bad opposing starting pitcher to go against.

2. Differentiate from your opponents. This is a little trickier. In order for it to be a viable strategy, you need a few conditions to exist. Score should be heavily influenced by one player...for example a game format where a single starting pitcher generally scores almost half of a team's points for the day. You need to know that most of your opponents are likely to choose the same player for that position. Imagine a game with 20 contestants where the ENTIRE score is derived from a single starting pitcher. Now imagine that there are only two starting pitchers available today...Jake Peavy and Mike Pelfrey. Who is the better pick? Almost certainly Pelfrey! While Peavy might have a 75% chance of winning, if you win you'll be sharing your first place prize with about 18 other people. If Pelfrey wins (25% chance) you're likely to win the entire prize. This is a great (although admittedly extreme) example of how differentiation can help you in these contests.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Draft Hero

For those who like the NFL or NBA (or who just like free money), sign up for Draft Hero (info on right side of screen) and put "zoobird" (without quotes) in the promotional code field. They're giving 4,000 'player points' to each person who registers, which allows entry in $4 worth of real money contests. You get the player points whether you deposit money or not, and can use it to enter both 'salary cap' and 'live draft' competitions.

Johan Santana 2009

Johan Santana is another player whose value in traditional leagues may not be the same as it is in games where you can turn your roster over on a daily basis. In a traditional league, I would steer clear of him in 2009. While there's no doubt that he's still an excellent pitcher, his declining K/9 rate is a major concern. In 2004, it was 11.7. From 2005 to 2007 it ranged from 10.0 to 10.3 every year. Last year, pitching in an easier league it declined to 8.3. Combined with reports of reduced velocity on his fastball, I'd say there's some reason to be concerned about an injury, and he certainly appears not to be the clear 'best pitcher in baseball' that he was a few years back. Assuming he's still being drafted (based on reputation) in the first few rounds of most drafts, I would keep away. At this point, I'd be inclined to pick guys like Peavy, Sabathia, and Webb ahead of him. On the other hand, if his K/9 rate bounces back early in the season and is over 10 through his first 5 or 6 starts, then by all means go ahead and use him in Rotohog, Fantasy Sports Live, and the other daily games.

Randy Johnson 2009

Randy Johnson is one of those players who is potentially a LOT more valuable in games where you can choose a new roster every day (like Rotohog, FantasySportsLive, SnapDraft, and DraftHero) than in traditional fantasy baseball formats. That's because at his age (45) you REALLY don't want to have to count on him for a full, heathy season of baseball. But he's still pretty effective when he is healthy, and is a perfectly acceptable choice for spot starts when his match-up is good. Last year he struck out 8.6 per nine innings and walked only 2.2 per nine innings. That's not out of line with what he's done the past few years, and even assuming a continued decline due to age, I won't hesitate to use him against weak opponents in any of the contests listed above.

Fantasy Players Express

There are so many good fantasy baseball sites out there that it's hard to mention all of them. One newcomer with promise is Fantasy Players Express which has the unique feature of indexing content written by a large number of authors by player or topic.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chad Billingsley 2009

It's fun to go back and look at old predictions we've made. Especially the really bad ones. Prior to the 2007 season I wrote the following in a post about Chad Billingsley: "He's got a shot to be an ok major league pitcher, but he won't be good this year, and if the Dodgers put him in their rotation ahead of Kuo, they're making a very big mistake." Ok...maybe they didn't make a very big mistake (although I still think Kuo is terrific and underutilized. On the other hand, Billingsley had a good 2007 (K/9: 8.8, BB/9: 4.0, GB%: 41%) and an even better 2008: (K/9: 9.1, BB/9: 3.6, GB%: 49%). Those numbers look an awful lot like A.J. Burnett (although Burnett has been doing it in the tougher league) and I think both pitchers have a good chance of being recognized as stars after this season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Citi Field

In theory, I'm a Mets fan, although the ugly truth is that I'll root for whoever will help my fantasy teams the most, even if the Mets playoff hopes are at stake. That said, I'm very interested in the Mets new ballpark, Citi Field. In particular, I'm interested to see if it plays like Shea Stadium did (favored pitchers across the board), is more neutral, or actually ends up being favorable to hitters.

On balance, I'm guessing that it will favor pitchers, but maybe not in exactly the same way that Shea did.

1. Near sea level. Higher altitude parks tend to lead to more home runs.
2. Higher than normal outfield walls. Some home runs are going to turn into doubles and triples.
3. Outfield overhang. Actually the part of the stands that hangs over the field is a little tricky to predict. I would think it will turn some more home runs into doubles and triples...but depending on the trajectory, could also turn some outs into extra base hits.

So I think instead of turning home runs into outs (as Shea did), we may see it turning home runs into doubles and triples. If that's the case, faster players may be hurt a little less than slow players.

Driveline Mechanics

I've added another really top notch baseball analysis site to the link list on the right side of the page - Driveline Mechanics. As the name implies, there's a lot of focus on pitching mechanics, but there's a ton of other useful information as well. At least some of the folks writing for the site are pretty serious gamblers, so there's a lot of information that's useful for baseball handicapping, as well as game formats like DraftHero, FantasySportsLive, and Snapdraft.

AL to NL Pitchers

In a recent column at Roto Authority, Tim Dierkes provides a list of the pitchers that we already know will be switching from the American League to the National League this year. This is one of my favorite angles when looking for undervalued players in drafts. Not only do pitchers' stats improve in the NL because they get to face pitchers batting for themselves, but the overall level of competition in the NL has been weaker for at least the last four or five years. I already talked about Javier Vazquez here. Unfortunately, the list is pretty weak so far. There's Greg Smith, who I may write about in a future post, and there are a bunch of relievers. Unfortunately, the impact of league changes on relievers is generally much less...probably because good relievers don't get to face pitchers much anyway. Late in the game, the opposing pitcher is often a relievers, and is rarely going to be left in to bat for himself. Anyway, it's definitely a good idea to keep an eye out for pitchers who are traded from the AL to the NL between now and opening day, or those who sign in the NL as free agents. If the much rumored Greinke trade went through, that would be great news. Like Vazquez he'd be going from a hitter's park in the AL to a pitcher's park in the NL. That kind of change can make the difference between a pretty good fantasy pitcher and a star.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Boring Part of Strategy

A number of new fantasy sports sites have popped in the past two years that have daily and weekly contests, rather than season long competitions. In some ways, these sites have a lot in common with poker sites, and the contests definitely appeal to those who like sports gambling. These sites include Fantasysportslive, Snapdraft, and the new kid on the block - Draft Hero (see information towards upper right corner of browser).

Strategy for these games places a heavy emphasis on your ability to adjust for context, and adjust player projections for factors such as park, homefield advantage, platoon differentials, and opponent. But the most single most important factor in your success is going to be something much more basic...and much more boring. Select your players as late as possible, so that you can make sure that they're in the starting lineup! This isn't a situation where you've got a full season to reach some sort of games or innings pitched limit. If a player isn't in the lineup, that's going to be compromise your chances in a big way, and with most players getting the occaisonal day off this can make a big difference over the course of the season.

Barry Zito 2009

I read somewhere that in the Bill James 2009 projections, Barry Zito is being forecasted to have an ERA of 3.94. My initial thought was that this is such an optimistic prediction that Bill must be lobbying for a job as Barry's agent. Zito hasn't had a FIP or xFIP below 4 in the past five years. He's a flyball pitcher, who never had a great strikeout rate or control, and his K/BB rate has been getting steadily worse for the past five years. In 2008, he struck out 5.7 batters per nine innings, while walking 4.8 batters per nine innings. That's pretty awful, and you neeed to have groundball rate around 55% to be at all effective with those kind of statistics. So is there any possible way that Zito could achieve a 3.94 ERA in 2009? Probably not, but it's possible. While Zito has had a steadily declining K/9 and increasing BB/9, the trend has been gradual. It's not completely inconceivable that his actual skills haven't changed during this time, and that the trend has been something of an illusion. If he reverts to his ratios of 2004 (K/9: 6.9, BB/9: 3.4), he would have a shot at 3.94 playing in a good pitchers' park. I certainly wouldn't bet on it though!

Chan Ho Park 2009

It seems like any assertion that Chan Ho Park is a decent major league pitcher has been treated as a joke for the past few years. Five straight years of earned run averages over 5.00 will do that to your reputation. That said, he's really not a bad pitcher. Last year's 79 strikeouts and 36 walks in 95 innings was pretty good. And he does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground. His 50.9% in 2008 was better than his career average, but he's almost always above 45%. The only problem is that Park has indicated that the Phillies will give him a chance in their starting rotation this year. He's likely to be slightly less effective as a starter (almost all pitchers are), and pitching his home games in Philadelphia obviously isn't good news. That said, if he's used very selectively, Park could have a little value in relatively deep daily transactions formats such as Yahoo. In formats such as FantasySportsLive and chance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jason Motte 2009

I think I have a new favorite player going into 2009. Jason Motte. Motte is a 26 year old former catcher, who has been pitching for only two years. The switch to pitching was clearly a good idea! At Memphis he complied an absurd 110 strikeouts and 26 walks in 66 2/3 innings. He didn't drop off at all once he reached the major leagues - 16 strikeouts and 3 walks in 11 innings! At worst he's going to be a dominant middle reliever for the next few years. He's got the potential to be better than that. If you're in a standard format Yahoo league, guys like this are crucial to your success. You can draft a team full of stud hitters, spot play underrated starting pitchers, and bring your ERA and WHIP down to reasonable levels, while adding to your strikeout totals and wins totals by using dominant relievers like Motte when they're home or in good pitchers' parks against relatively weak offenses.

Rafael Perez 2009

The Indians may have made a good move signing Kerry Wood to be their closer, but it's a shame that we won't get to see Rafael Perez close for a while. This guy is a really exceptional pitcher. For the past two years, he's averaged 10.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. That's great under any circumstances. What's made it even better is that he doesn't suffer from the same failing that most other high K/9, low BB/9 pitchers do...he knows how to keep the ball on the ground. His groundball rates the past two years have been 52.6% and 57.1%. That's pretty incredible for a guy with his strikeout rate. Perez could be an exceptional closer if he gets the chance. In the meantime, he may be the best middle reliever in baseball.

Javier Vazquez 2009

I think Javier Vazquez is going to be terrific this year. Actually, I think Javier Vazquez will be terrific every year. I'm a sucker for great K/BB ratios. The WORST ratio of Vazquez' career was 150/60 in 198 innings in 2004. That's pretty amazing. In his worst season, he was (more or less) Chris Young. Most years he's been a lot better. I generally assume that pitchers are all going to revert to roughly the same rate of home runs per fly ball. In most cases, that's a pretty reasonable assumption, and even if we know that there is a small amount of skill in avoiding home runs on fly balls, we do fine making projections as if it was all luck. There are a few cases, such as Vazquez and Brett Myers, where we're doing so at our own risk. That said, he's already proven himself a very good pitcher with terrific K/BB rates. That's only going to get better with his move from a hitter's park in the American League to a slight pitcher's park in the National League. For those you who do futures prop bets (I don't...or at least, I haven't in the past), I'm guessing that Vazquez will be underrated enough to justify an investment in "Vazquez to win Cy Young" or whatever else is available.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Max Scherzer 2009

I'll start my 'new' blog off with a profile of one of my favorite sleeper picks for 2009: Max Scherzer. I think this guy is going to be somewhere between pretty good and really awesome. A lot of people know he's got potential, but despite that, the only mock draft I could find so far with full results listed in an easy to read format, he was the 200th pick. That's awfully low for a guy who struck out 66 and walked only 21 in 56 innings last year. His groundball rate was 41.7%, which isn't especially awful (although not great). He was better as a starter than as a reliever. That's unusual, and probably can be explained by the fact that most of his innings as a starter were in September. If you're an optimist, that means he was getting back as the year progressed. If you're a pessimist, that means he was beating up on inferior lineups in September. I'm an optimist...although I'm also the first to admit that a REALLY thorough analysis would check the lineups he faced in those games. Regardless, it looks like Scherzer will be very effective, strike out lots of hitters, and has superstar potential. The only thing not to like is his home park. Especially in game formats that allow complete roster turnover every day, pitching in a hitter's park presents you with a dilemma. Sometimes he gets home field advantage...but in a hitter's park. Other times he might be in a pitcher's park...but will be at a disadvantage because he's on the road. He's going to be good enough that he's worth using pretty often regardless.

I'm Back

Just wanted to announce that The Waiver Wire is officially re-opened for business. I'll be posting at least every few days (hopefully more) and will slightly broaden the original focus of the blog to include all aspects of daily transactions fantasy baseball - player profiles, strategy, etc. I'll also discuss the specifics of some of the daily format games that are out there, but will mostly steer clear of Rotohog (which I won last year) because I'll be writing a regular column about that for another (much more well known)web site.