Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shin-Soo Choo 2010

CouchManagers.com has Shin-Soo Choo ranked at #82 by ADP for 2010 mock drafts. That's great value for a guy who hit .300 with 20 home runs and 21 steals last year. In a half season the previous year, Choo had a slightly better batting average and home run rate, so his performance in those categories is fairly well established now. The steals were unexpected, and if they continue then Choo is a great value if he falls so low in your draft. The pattern I'm beginning to notice for 2010 is that there really isn't all that much difference between the hitters available in the second round and those available in the sixth, seventh, and either rounds. The second rounders are better, but the gap seems narrower than most years. Because of that, I'd be more tempted than usually to take a pitcher (probably Lincecum or Halladay) in the second round, even though I usually wait until much, much later. In any case, I really like Choo, and at 27 years old, he still has more upside than risk.

Kendry Morales 2010

Kendry Morales finally 'arrived' in 2009, as he hit .306 with 34 home runs. The batting average was in line with his minor league performance, and the power was actually a little better than expected. However, at his age (now 26) increasing power isn't unusual, and his 43 doubles suggest that the home runs probably weren't a fluke. He's currently listed as the 52nd ranked player by ADP at CouchManagers. He seems like a reasonable pick if he's available that point in your draft. While I wouldn't be surprised by some regression in his power numbers, he should maintain at least a .300 batting average, and there's also room for some improvement in all areas. Just don't expect any steals out of him in 2010...I'm guessing that after getting just 3 steals in 10 attempts last year, Morales is not going to have the green light very often.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Carlos Gonzalez 2010

One trend that I'm seeing in mock drafts so far is that young hitters with upside are generally being undervalued relative to more established hitters. I understand the risks involved in picking young players - their true talent level is less defined, and if they struggle, teams are more likely to reduce their playing time or even send them down to the minor leagues. On the other hand, I'm generally playing to win, not just finish respectably. And to win in competitive leagues, you're going to need to take some chances. Carlos Gonzalez is currently listed as the 130th ranked player in mock drafts at CouchManagers.com. At that position, he's an absolute steal. In a half season (278 at bats), Gonzalez hit 13 home runs and stole 16 bases with a .284 batting average. His numbers in AAA suggest that he's probably capable of hitting .300, particularly since he'll play half of his games in Coors Field. He's only 24 years old, so some improvement is not only possible in 2010, but likely. If you can get him after pick number 100 in your draft, you're doing well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

David Wright 2010: Fantasy Bust?

Unlike his teammate Jose Reyes, David Wright appears to be going far too early in most 2010 drafts. He's ranked 15th at CouchManagers.com right now, which would be fair if we just assume that he'll bounce back to his pre-2009 performance. However, since we don't really know what led to his drastic power reduction in 2009, I'm not sure we can do that. For a guy who hit only 10 home runs last year, an awful lot of downside, without enough upside at #15. Even if Wright bounces part of the way back, he's got the potential to be a fantasy bust again this year. He's going lower than Reyes in drafts, and in my opinion has more downside.

Jose Reyes 2010: Fantasy Bargain

Jose Reyes is going far too low in most mock drafts right now. At CouchManagers.com, his ADP right now has him ranked 28th...behind Jimmy Rollins (23rd) and Derek Jeter (26th). If healthy, Reyes is clearly a far more valuable fantasy player than either of those two shortstops, and represents a major bargain. In fact, in one recent 'experts' mock draft, Reyes went in the early fourth round of a twelve team draft. Obviously people are still worried about his health. However, he's supposed to be running at full speed sometime in January, and be at full strength for the beginning of Spring Training. In a small league, where you might want to play it safe, I can see him sliding to the #20-#25 range, but in any large contests, where you need to swing for the fences to beat hundreds (or thousands) of other entrants, I would value Reyes as an early 2nd round pick.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tim Hudson 2010

In his late season return to the Atlanta Braves starting rotation last year, Tim Hudson proved that he's fully recovered from injury, and that he can be counted on as an effective pitcher in 2010 and beyond. In 42.1 innings, Hudson struck out 30 and walked 13. Most importantly, his groundball rate was 62.2%. Those numbers are all roughly in line with what Hudson has produced when healthy over the past few years. Hudson's age (34) and low strikeout rate mean that there's very limited upside, but if you're looking for a safe player to round out your rotation, Hudson should be a good pick.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chad Billingsley 2010

Chad Billingsley is the opposite of his teammate Clayton Kershaw going into 2010. Billingsley was viewed as a rising star after his 2008 season, but a very slight regression in his peripheral stats and an ERA above 4 led many to lower their opinions of him. He is currently going substantially lower than Kershaw in most mock drafts, despite being a very similar quality pitcher. While he doesn't have quite the upside of Kershaw, he is also young (25) and has had a K/9 of 9.01 and 8.21 the past two years. Let your opponents go for the hype of Kershaw, and pick up Billingsley for yourself, a few rounds later in the draft.

Kelvim Escobar 2010: Signed By Mets?

According to an AP source, the Mets are about to sign Kelvim Escobar. If this were 2007, that would be something to get excited about. In his last full season (2007), Escobar struck out 7.36 batters per nine innings, walked 3.04, and had a solid 44.0% groundball rate. That was done in the American League, so he'd project to be substantially better than that for the Mets. Unfortunately for Escobar (and the Mets), Escobar has barely pitched since then, due to injuries. He's expected to compete eighth inning relief duties, although if effective it's certainly possible that he'd be given an opportunity to start. For the Mets, this looks like a low risk signing with some upside. For fantasy purposes, Escobar is probably someone to pass on for 2010, but to keep an eye on if you're in a deep league.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clayton Kershaw 2010: Avoid Results Oriented Thinking

Based on his 2.79 ERA in 2009, some people may be tempted to project Clayton Kershaw as one of the top starting pitchers in the National League in 2010. Don't be one of those people. One of the reasons for looking at peripheral stats is to avoid results oriented thinking. As far as we can tell, Kershaw got very lucky in 2009. He had an extremely low 4.6% rate of home runs per fly ball. That's unsustainable, and if you assume that it will return to a more typical value, it becomes clear that Kershaw has a long way to go before he's an elite pitcher. The main problem right now is his control. A 4.79 BB/9 is really bad, although with Kershaw's excellent K/9 (9.74 in 2009), he's still good enough to be an effective major league pitcher right now. That strikeout rate, combined with his age (21), give him the potential to be an elite starting pitcher, but he's not there yet. If you can get him late in your draft, he's great pick due to his upside. But if he goes relatively early (as he will in most drafts), the upside probably isn't worth the risk.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Average Draft Position (ADP): Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, and Justin Upton in 2010

This post was supposed to be about Justin Upton's fantasy prospects for 2010. Then I noticed that he's going substantially lower in mock drafts at Couch Managers than the two big free agent hitters - Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. All three are fairly similar statistically, with Bay possibly having a little more power than the other two (but lower batting average), and Holliday hitting for a slightly higher average (but less power). The big difference of course is that Upton is just 22 years old...still in the steep part of the learning curve. He has great breakout potential. Holliday is going to be 30 in a few weeks. Bay is 31 already. They're unlikely to improve substantially at this point, although depending what team each of them ends up on, they could get a boost from their home park. That said, Upton's age is a huge deal, and given a choice between the three players, I would probably pick him first. Luckily for me, it looks like others don't see it that way. His average draft position (ADP)at Couch Managers is currently 31st, while Holliday is 18th and Bay is 23rd.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Middle Relievers, Sleepers: Badenhop, Jepsen, Masset, and Feliciano

I got into a fairly involved debate about Brandon League on the Rotojunkie message boards recently, and as a result did some research. I was arguing that his combination of high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and high groundball rate is pretty unusual. The only pitchers I could think of who had that combination were all really good. As part of the discussion, I collected a list of pitchers who threw at least 40 innings, with a K/9 over 7, BB/9 under 3.5, and GB% over 50%. League beats all these threshholds by a wide margin, so some of the other relievers on the list aren't as good as him. The starters are probably better, since it's tougher to have a high strikeout rate when starting. Obviously the relievers with much better peripherals like Rivera and Broxton are also better. Still, it's an interesting list, and may indicate some middle relievers to target in deep leagues (or if they're ever given a chance to close).

Adam Wainwright
Brandon League
Brett Anderson
Burke Badenhop
Chad Qualls
Felix Hernandez
Jonathan Broxton
Kevin Jepsen
Mariano Rivera
Nick Masset
Pedro Feliciano
Roy Halladay
Scott Downs

This also may give some idea why I'm so high on Brett Anderson. He's one of only four starting pitchers who made the list, and the others are all pretty good.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brandon League 2010: Traded To Seattle Mariners

According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Brandon League (and a prospect) are being traded to the Seattle Mariners for Brandon Morrow. I may be in the minority here, but I think Seattle is getting the better Brandon in this deal. League was an exceptionally good reliever in 2009, and I expect more of the same in 2010. His K/9 of 9.16 and BB/9 of 2.53 would have been excellent in any case. However, his consistently high ground ball rates (55.7% in 2009, and higher in each of his previous major league seasons) make him a nearly elite reliever. At some point in the future, League is going to be a closer...and he'll be a good one.

Brandon Morrow 2010: Traded To Toronto Blue Jays

According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Brandon Morrow is on the verge of being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. I think that's a slight negative, as he'll be going from a better pitchers' park (and likely, a better team) to a worse one. Of more concern should be his lack of control. While Morrow has put up some acceptable ERAs in limited innings, his control has always been very borderline. Even in the minor leagues he struggled to avoid walking batters. At 25 years old, Morrow still has time to improve. However, if anything his stats (particularly his strikeout rate) have regressed over the past few years. Until he shows some indication that he's learned to throw strikes, I would stay away from him, except as a high risk/high reward late round pick in moderately deep leagues. That said, any young pitcher with high strikeout rates should be watched closely. If he starts out the season showing good control (let's say something like 3 walks in his first 20 innings), then it may be time to pick him up cheap.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brad Lidge 2010: Phillies Closer?

When I typed the title for this write-up, I initially typed "Bad Lidge" by accident. That would have been a pretty good description for Brad Lidge in 2009, but there's a reasonable chance to expect better things in 2010. In 2009, something was clearly wrong with Lidge...both his strikeout rate and walk rate were worse than they've been in previous years...much worse, in the case of the strikeout rate, which was 9.36, compared to rates over 11 for each of the previous five years. That said, Lidge's pitching was nowhere near as bad as his 7.21 ERA would indicate...he had a healthy dose of bad luck, and as a reliever he never got the chance to pitch enough innings to pretty up the numbers. Lidge had surgery during the offseason, and may be a week or two behind in Spring Training. That said, the Phillies GM has been quoted as saying that the team hopes he'll be ready to close by Opening Day. As long as he's given a shot at closing, Lidge should be another nice high risk/high reward player to pick up in the late rounds. But given questions about his health, effectiveness, and role, you definitely should pick him too early in your draft!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Phil Hughes 2010

Phil Hughes has had his ups and downs the past few years. He's gone from elite prospect to struggling major league starter to lights out reliever. The Yankees recently acknowledged that he's not even guaranteed a spot in their rotation for 2010. They anticipate putting either Hughes or Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, and putting the other in the bullpen for now. I think that given Chamberlain's inconsistency in 2009, and past dominance in the bullpen, Hughes is the more likely one to be used as a starter. If he is, I think he'll be very effective. He's not going to match the numbers he achieved in 2009, working mostly out of the bullpen (K/9: 10.05, BB/9: 2.93), but I think a strikeout rate of around 8 per 9 innings and a work rate around 3 (with an ERA around 4) would be very achievable. He's still very young (23), so there's plenty of upside. And playing on the Yankees, he should have an offense capable of helping him to plenty of wins. Uncertainty about his role, and his lack of past success as a major leagues starter should combine to make him a draft day bargain. Hughes is exactly the sort of high risk/high reward player that I like to target in the late rounds of drafts.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Edwin Jackson 2010: Traded to NL

In the past I haven't been a big Edwin Jackson fan. Despite the fact that he's always been considered a good prospect, his statistics never backed that up. In 2009, he showed great improvement, although his peripheral stats (K/9: 6.77, BB/9: 2.94) indicate that there was a degree of good luck involved in his 3.62 ERA. I would have expected his 2010 season to be somewhere between the old Edwin Jackson and the 2009 version...except that the trade from the American League to the National League will give him a nice boost. Some of that will be offset by moving from a good pitchers' park to a good hitters' park, but it will still be a net benefit. I'd project Jackson for something like K/9: 7, BB/9: 3.5, GB%: 40%, with an ERA in the low-to-mid 4s. In other words, he's a pretty average major league pitcher. Given his youth (26 years old), there's definitely still some upside though. Keep any eye on his strikeout rate...any K/9 above 8 early in the season would likely indicate that he's taken another step forward...especially if combined with solid control.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rafael Soriano 2010: Tampa Bay Rays Closer

During the offseason, Rafael Soriano was traded to Tampa Bay. He will be their closer for 2010, and should be terrific. Soriano consistently posts a K/9 above 10 and combines that with acceptable control. His one weakness is an extremely low groundball rate. The switch from the National League to the American League should affect him less than it would impact a starting pitcher, since as a reliever he rarely got to face pitchers at the plate in the NL anyway.

Ricky Nolasco 2010: Sleeper

Ricky Nolasco is being touted by many as one of the best sleepers or bargains. I agree. Despite the fact that so many people are aware that his 5.06 ERA in 2009 was a fluke, I suspect he'll go lower in drafts than he should. His K/9 of 9.49 and BB/9 of 2.14 were exceptional. The strikeout rate may regress slightly, I would expect it to remain above 8...and his control was even better in 2008, so he should remain one of the better K/BB (and therefore WHIP) pitchers in the National League. An ERA in the mid 3s seems like a reasonable expectation for 2010.

The Waiver Wire Returns For 2010

I have no idea how long this will last, but The Waiver Wire blog is back! I've got the itch to write about baseball (and other fantasy related topics) and will be posting regularly. I expect most of the posts to be player profiles for 2010, but am not making any promises.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Exchange Wagering

If you're interested in learning more about exchange wagering and it's future in the US, check out this information on exchange wagering in New Jersey (NJ) and California.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Waiver Wire's Affiliate Sites

The Waiver Wire Blog isn't currently active, but my other two sites are

Draftbug has daily fantasy sport contests for cash prizes. Compete in the daily baseball freeroll, or enter cash contests ranging from $1 to $55. Football is coming soon!

Daily Baseball Data has the following features:

1. Historical Batter vs. Pitcher Data for today's matchups
2. MLB Weather Dashboard with hour by hour forecasts for all games on one screen.
3. Bullpen Usage Report including recent pitch counts for all relievers

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Daily Baseball Data

I haven't done a substantial post in about a week. Whenever I go that long without writing anything, it's telling me something...my heart isn't in it. I've been really busy with a variety of projects, and The Waiver Wire has kind of gotten pushed to the side. Rather than force myself to write mediocre posts here every day, I'm going to do my posting at my other site (Daily Baseball Data. You can expect one good, substantial post per week (approximately) as well as shorter daily blurbs...and lots of great data and tools such as the MLB Weather Dashboard and our new MLB Lineup Dashboard.

Monday, June 8, 2009

MLB Lineup Dashboard

A new MLB Lineup Dashboard tool is now available at Daily Baseball Data. Just go to the 'Other Tools' menu to access it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tommy Hanson Called Up

The Atlanta Braves are calling up Tommy Hanson to start a game this weekend. Hanson should be effective immediately, and is a potential future star. He dominated the Arizona Fall League, and has continued that dominance at AAA this year, with an incredible 90 strikeouts and 17 walks in 66.1 innings pitched. I expect him to strike out close to a batter per inning in the majors. He will probably have mediocre control initially, but the strikeouts will more than make up for that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Livan Hernandez

Over the past five years, Livan Hernandez has been so bad that he's become almost a joke. Good players in salary cap games knew to look for batters opposing him whenever possible. However, something has changed this year. A combination of improved control and an improved groundball rate has him doing better than he has since 2004. If he keeps up his current rates of 5.2 strikeouts per game, 2.4 walks per game, and a 46.6% groundball rate, he's going to be a solid, average major league starting pitcher. Those numbers are pretty similar to a guy like Braden Looper...not at all like the Livan we've all come to know and love targeting.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chris Carpenter - Fantasy Star

Chris Carpenter is clearly back as a fantasy star. In 29 innings pitched, he's got 28 strikeouts and only 5 walks. He's got a 56.2% groundball rate to go along with that. Those number are more or less in line with what he was able to accomplish before he got injured. As long as he stays healthy, I believe he's back to being one of the best pitchers in baseball. The only other pitcher who has similar K/9 and K/BB rates, while maintaining that kind of groundball rate is Roy Halladay.

Friday, May 29, 2009

MLB Weather Dashboard

I'm happy to announce the launch of Daily Baseball Data, a new site which Dave Hall (of Rotoguru) and I are collaborating on. The site features a variety of data and statistical tools designed to help forecast and analyze today's schedule for players of daily fantasy contests and other fantasy baseball formats that use daily transactions. The initial set of tools includes a new MLB Weather Dashboard which displays hour by hour forecasts for all of today's games on one screen, as well as several tools that Dave originally created on Rotoguru to analyze each day's matchups.

Rick Porcello Revisited

A number of very young pitchers were placed in major league rotations to start this season. In most cases, I thought their promotions were premature based on their minor league performance to date. I happen to have been wrong on most of them, including Rick Porcello. In 51.2 innings pitched, he's struck out 32 batters and walked 16. That would be good enough to get by in any case, but given his exceptional 54% groundball rate, it's terrific. Three lessons that his success so far reinforces - young pitchers can improve very rapidly, it would be really nice to have access to minor league groundball rate data, and sometimes the scouts DO know something that basic statistical data can't tell us. My gloomy forecast for Porcello ignored what people were saying about him not having been allowed to use his secondary pitches last season.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

David Hernandez 2009

Out of all the different starting pitchers the Orioles have tried out over the past few years, this is the first time I can remember one who looked like a really good prospect. David Hernandez is a strikeout machine. Pitching at AAA, he's got 60 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43.1 innings pitched in 2009. That' exceptional, and while his numbers weren't quite as good in previous years, he's always struck out well over one batter per inning. I believe he'll strike out close to one per inning in the majors, although his control is likely to be mediocre. In traditional leagues, Hernandez would make an excellent spot starter in favorable circumstances. In daily contests, he's not ideal, since the mediocre control and inexperience will likely limit his innings per start, but he's certainly someone to be avoided when looking for hitters with favorable daily matchups.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eric Milton 2009

Eric Milton is back in the majors. Yes, that Eric Milton. I know it seems like he should be too old to be making a comeback, but he's actually only 33 years old. When I saw that he's scheduled to start for the Dodgers today, I took a look at his statistics, and wasn't expecting much. But actually, pitching at AAA, he had a very respectable 27 strikeouts and only 6 walks in 35 innings. Even if we assume that he isn't quite as good as that would indicate, and we make the appropriate adjustments for the tougher competition at the major league level, that means that Milton is exactly what he was before. An average major leaguer with a pretty low strikeout rate, pretty good control, and allowing a lot of flyballs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jordan Zimmermann Revisited

Before the season, I had some pretty negative things to say about Jordan Zimmermann's readiness for the major leagues here. To add insult to injury, I misspelled his name. It turns out that my forecasting was as bad as my spelling. Do not be fooled by his awful ERA. He has pitched exceptionally well, striking out 32 and walking only 11 in 34 innings. The only reason to pay attention to his ERA at all is that it may allow you to steal him from someone in a trade if you play in traditional leagues. He probably won't go deep enough into most games to be a great pick in daily contests, but he's certainly no longer someone that makes a tempting target for opposing hitters.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Daily Fantasy Baseball Contests

I know that a lot of people don't like registering for sites (even free sites) that they don't have all the details about, so I've put together a web page that explains Draftbug in more detail. The page guides you through the process of creating an account, registering for our daily free contest with cash prizes, selecting players for your team, and watching their performance with our live scoring feature. To learn more, click here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kris Medlen 2009

As expected, Atlanta finally called up a top pitching prospect from AAA to replace Jo-jo Reyes in their rotation. It just wasn't the one that a lot of people were expecting and hoping for. Rather than go to Tommy Hanson (whose dominance from the Arizona Fall League has carried over to the regular season), the Braves will be starting Kris Medlen in today's game. While he doesn't quite have Hanson's potential, Medlen is an excellent prospect in his own right. At AAA this year, he's struck out 44 batters and walked 10, in 37.2 innings pitched. He should be effective immediately, and would make a great pick-up for anyone in a traditional NL only league. While he's not likely to be a frequent pick of mine in daily contests, he certainly isn't someone that I'll be targeting with my hitters.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brett Cecil 2009

Brett Cecil is the starting pitcher today for the Toronto Blue Jays. When he was called up to the majors, I didn't expect much from him. Last year, he pitched the bulk of his innings at AA. He was excellent, striking out well over a batter per inning. However, his control was just average (2.7 BB/9). After being moved up to AAA, his walk rate showed the expected deterioration against tougher competition, and was 4.7. Starting 2009 in AAA, his walk rate remained high, and he struggled to strike batters out (in a very limited sample size), as he had 9 strikeouts and 8 walks. Basically, he looked like he needed some time in AAA before he'd be ready to be effective at the major league level. However, since being called up, he had 15 strikeouts and 4 walks in 20 innings pitched through his first three starts. If he can continue to pitch with anything approaching that level of control, he'll be very effective. I'm betting he can't yet, and that his walk rate will rise sharply. I'll be ready to revise that opinion if it remains relatively lower for his next two or three starts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daily Fantasy Contests: Calculating The Value of Early Games

One of the keys in daily fantasy baseball contests is making sure that all of your players are actually playing. Because of that, I always keep a close eye on injury news and weather reports. However, sometimes players are given a day off even if they're healthy and their team plays. Starting lineups are typically available anywhere from half and hour to an hour before gametime. That means that if your players are from teams that have early games, you can check if they're playing and replace them if not. If they're from teams with late games, you won't have that option.

Yesterday I was faced with a situation where I had McCann and Martin ranked almost exactly even at catcher. The only difference was that McCann had an early game, while Martin didn't. I also knew that there was a good chance that I would be around to check lineups before my team 'locked in' at 7pm, so I picked McCann. How much more valuable do you think McCann's being in the early game made him? What if they had each played several days in a row? How about for players at positions that get less days off than catchers? What about a superstar like Pujols? A guy who is sometimes benched like Nelson Cruz? I'd like to get everyone thoughts on how to go about trying to calculate the incremental value of a player being in an early game.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's Wrong With Scott Kazmir?

Scott Kazmir currently has only 32 strikeouts and a whopping 25 walks in 41.1 innings pitched. That's pretty bad. While the walk rate isn't so far out of line with his career numbers to really be alarming, the strikeout rate (which is 6.3 per nine innings) is, especially when you consider that a pitcher who is allowing more base runners is actually striking out a lower percentage of batters than his K/9 would suggest. Particularly given past concerns about the health of Kazmir's arm, I think there's a reasonable chance that he's dealing with some injury problems. If you're playing in traditional leagues, you may not be able to get enough value for him at this point to make a trade worthwhile. On the other hand, if you're playing in daily fantasy contests, or a salary cap game like ESPN Baseball Challenge, Facebook Salary Cap Fantasy Baseball, then there's simply no reason to take on the risk of using Kazmir, with so many other choices available.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today's MLB Matchups

I've got a much more detailed write-up of today's match-ups and ratings posted at The Hardball times today, but in short:

-Cubs hitters(especially speedy ones, since they're facing Chris Young) have a good match-up, but there's a risk of rain for the game.

-The Indians tandem of Lee and Wood top my pitcher rankings on a very weak day for pitchers, but are also at risk of getting rain. Pettitte and Nolasco are the next best options.

-Pujols is the best by a wide margin at first base, but if you can't afford him, then Helton is a great bargain.

-Rangers hitters have a good matchup.

-Astros hitters have a good matchup...especially for basestealers, since they're facing Jason Marquis.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Is Rick Porcello Ready?

At this point, I'm leaning towards 'no'. He hasn't been quite as awful as I expected, but a pitcher with a K/9 of 5.0 and a BB/9 of 3.0 isn't great. His groundball rate has been excellent (52.1%) and if he can maintain that, then he might be able to stick in the major leagues. I'm guessing that one or more of the three rate stats is going to get worse over the course of the season, and that he'll need some time at AAA.

Because of all that, Indians hitters are all over the top of my daily player ratings. Along with the Astros hitters, they appear to have the most favorable match-ups today. This being Sunday, many players will get the day off. That, along with the fact that the Indians last outfield slot is somewhat unsettled (Francisco and Laporta) between two low priced players, means that there's a great profit opportunity in daily contests, as long as you'll be around between 12pm and 12:30pm Eastern to check who is actually playing.

On the pitching side, Josh Beckett has enough of an edge that I'll give him another shot. His strikeout and walk rates have been respectable the past two games, although his control has been poor overall this season.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Matt Harrison is Your Friend...

...although he probably wouldn't be mine if he read this post. The White Sox are at home against Harrison. That's a great match-up, as Harrison has a very low strikeout rate, a high walk rate, isn't an extreme groundball pitchers, and the White Sox hitters will have home field advantage in a favorable hitters' park. They also have a ton of hitters who are fairly cheap in most formats. I'll be loading up on them in Draftbug contests today.

On the pitching side, Billingsley is my top ranked starter and Broxton is a clear standout at closer. Sabathia is #2, but maybe not worth the price in most daily formats. Scott Baker appears to be a good pick if you're looking for a bargain among starting pitchers.

For the first time in a while, it doesn't appear that weather should be a big problem today, although the existing baseball weather sites don't make it especially easy to determine that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Draftbug Blogger Contest

I'm going to be participating in a Draftbug contest against other bloggers today. I'll write more about the contest later or tomorrow, but for now here's the roster of participants...

Alex Zelvin, ‘waiver wire’, The Waiver Wire
Kyle Huberman, ‘icehube’, Draftbug Millionaire
Dave Hall, ‘Roto Guru’ Roto Guru
Troy Patterson, ‘TroyPatterson’, Rotosavants
Sean, ‘scojo’, 27 Pitches
Nick Cichielo, ‘Junkballers’, Junkballers
Mark Perry, ‘PokerBankrollBlog’, Poker Bankroll Blog
Josh Culp, ‘Future of Fantasy’, Future of Fantasy
Dan Williams, ‘TheInsidePitch’, The Inside Pitch
Justin Hulsey, ‘JayHulsey’, Fandemonium Sports
Paul Bourdett, ‘The Pick-up Artist’, Rotoexperts
Mike, ‘bonds’, Winning at Fantasy Sports Live
Steve Schroeder, ‘stv1313’, Steve's Gambling Sketchbook

Monday, May 4, 2009

Starting Pitchers for Today's Daily Fantasy Baseball Contests

Today was the toughest time I've had in a while choosing starting pitchers for daily contests. My ratings (which at this point are still based on my pre-season projections) have Kazmir as the top pitcher today. Unfortunately, his K/9 and BB/9 have been so bad that I'm concerned something may be wrong with him, especially given his history of arm issues. Vazquez is #2, but there's a chance that his game today will be rained out. A host of other pitchers are all rated fairly evenly, but several of them (Harang and De la rosa) have reduced K/9 rates this year that have me concerned. In the end, the two guys who look good are Gallardo and Greinke. Both are young pitchers who have been excellent so far this year. Because of the possibility that his absurdly high strikeout rate indicates a second straight year of 'breakout', I'm going with Greinke (who happens to be cheaper as well).

On the hitting side, there's Pujols...and everyone else. Basically the difference between Pujols the 2nd best hitter today is about equal to the difference between the 2nd best hitter and an average hitter. So for today's strategy, just pick Greinke, Pujols, and avoid rainouts. Following that plan, you should have a profitable expectation at Draftbug and other daily contest sites.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pitch/fx and MLB Weather Software Programming

If there's anyone out there with moderately good programming skills, I'm looking for someone to collaborate on two website ideas. One would use Pitch/fx to track pitchers' fastball velocity and provide alerts when a pitcher's velocity was down from his usual. The other would provide a more usable view of the day's weather for MLB games than anything available right now. If you think you might be interested, send me an email and I'll provide more details, including how we're going to make money from the sites.

Daily fantasy contest lineups: 5/3

Today is going to be a pretty tricky day for daily fantasy contest lineups, as a number of games are threatened by weather. It looks to me as though the games with the greatest risk are those in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Because of that, a lot of the hitters with most favorable match-ups aren't going to be available. I'm going with a lineup loaded with White Sox hitters (at Texas) because although the weather report shows a threat of rain, it looks to me as though it should be over by gametime.

On the pitching side, my two top rated pitchers are Billingsley and Shields. It seems like they've been on the same schedule for the past several weeks, and I've been using Shields due to his lower price in daily contests such as Draftbug. It hasn't been paying off, and I just checked his peripheral stats for the season so far. Not encouraging. His strikeout rate is 4.8 per nine innings. That's far enough from what he usually does that it could indicate some kind of unannounced problem. I'll play it safe and go with Billingsley today. Broxton is the clear standout among closers as well, and comes at a very reasonable price in Draftbug, so Go Dodgers!

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's Wrong With Josh Beckett

I told you something was possibly wrong with CC Sabathia. Based on his last start, I'd say he's fine.

I told you nothing was wrong with Jake Peavy. He hasn't yet shown that I'm right.

Let's look at another struggling star starting pitcher - Josh Beckett. His ERA is over 7. The good news is that his strikeout rate is 8.9, which is right about where I would have expected. His groundball rate is similar to last year too. I sometimes check whether there's been a sharp change (in either direction) in groundball rate to determine if something may be wrong with a pitcher. The bad news is that his control has been really awful, as he's walking over 4 batters per nine innings. That will be something to watch over his next two or three starts. At this point, I'd only discount his value ever so slightly in traditional leagues, but would generally favor other top starters over him in daily contest leagues until he shows good control for a couple of starts. Another slight concern in his statistics is that his strikeout rate may not be as good as it looks. Pitchers allowing lots of hits (whether through bad luck or not) face more batters. So the actual percentage of hitters that he's striking out is lower than it appears. In general, if you have easy access to the data, you're better off using strikeout percentage than strikeout per inning data.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today's MLB Schedule

Today's MLB schedule features a bunch of early games, lots of good pitching, a number of favorable matchups for hitters, and some risk of rain for most of the favorable hitting situations.

On the pitching side, my top three rated players are Santana, Lincecum, and Kazmir. However, exact ratings will depend on your scoring system, and guys like Gallardo, Greinke, Myers and Vazquez should all score well.

For hitters, the best situations are those for the Orioles, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies and Yankees. Although the first three of those are all at some risk of rain, none appear to particularly likely at this point to be rained out.

If you're playing Draftbug, some of the players that were especially good bargains were repriced earlier this week, but guys like Spilborghs, Swisher, and a number of the Orioles players still look like great values. Using these guys will make it easier to get a few of the star players with good matchups too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's Wrong With CC Sabathia

Yesterday I argued that there's nothing at all wrong with Jake Peavy, despite his high earned run average. I'll stand by that opinion, even though he was hit hard and his control was off. His strikeout rate remained good, which is the single most important indicator to me.

CC Sabathia, on the other hand, worries me. His 12 strikeouts and 14 walks is an ugly, ugly ratio. That's about the number of walks he should have in mid June. I'm not saying he won't do well this season, but there's a definite warning flag up until he has one or two high strikeout, low walk games. For daily contests today, he's my top rated pitcher, but I'm going to look elsewhere for some value. Particularly given his high price in all formats, he's just not worth the risk right now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's Wrong With Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy's 5.13 ERA through four starts has some people wondering what's wrong with him. I can answer that for them - absolutely nothing is wrong with Jake Peavy! In fact, his strikeout and walk rates are identical to what they were in 2008 (K/9: 9.1, BB/9: 3.2) and his groundball rate has actually risen from last year. Peavy is a classic 'buy low' candidate right now. He's an elite starting pitcher, easily one of the top five in baseball. He's especially deadly in daily contests, where he's typically the highest ranked pitcher on the days when he's starting at home in pitcher-friendly San Diego. He tops my ranking for today's games, slightly ahead of Halladay and Harden.

On the hitting side, a number of teams including the Mets, Orioles, Dodgers, Rangers, and Phillies have good match-ups. The Dodgers have an interesting situation, where hitters capable of stealing bases have a particularly favorable situation due to the difficulty that Jason Marquis has holding runners on base.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Betting On Your Sabermetric Knowledge

Today is one of the those days that illustrate why I love daily fantasy baseball contests. The Tigers are starting Rick Porcello, who I believe would probably be a slightly above average pitcher...in Double A ball! A lot of people disagree with me, and think he's a potential sleeper or star in the making. Needless to say I won't be using him in any of my leagues. But the real fun is that I can 'bet' on my opinion in daily contests. Using a lot of the Royals (who are facing him...at home in Kansas City) will give me a number of very cheap players who are priced very low, and will allow me to load up on the very best (and most expensive) players at other positions. Royals like Jacobs, Crisp, and Dejesus are all near the top of my rankings for today's game. While Porcello has been ok so far (7 Ks and just 1 BB in 12 IP) the sample size is still too small to convince me that he's gone from struggling in A ball to success in the major leagues over the offseason. One of the early lessons of Sabermetrics was that minor league statistics do have value when predicting major league performance, and I'm not ready to ignore Porcello's past until he shows good control for 4 or 5 games. If I'm right about Porcello, there's a good chance I'll be richer tomorrow than I am today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Daily Fantasy Baseball Contest Matchups

A number of teams seem to have really favorable matchups for hitters today. The Blue Jays benefit from home field advantage against Matt Harrison, who is one of the weakest regular starting pitchers in the majors right now. The Indians have a similar situation against Brian Bannister. Interestingly, in the Giants-Padres match-up, its the Giants where some of the players have a particularly good match up, despite the presence of Barry Zito on the mound for them. That's because Chris Young, while a pretty good pitcher, is so awful at holding runners on base. Any players on the Giants who are capable of stealing bases will benefit.

On the pitching side, Sabathia looks to be the best pick for the day (at least under Draftbug scoring rules), with Haren, Lee, and Hamels as the next best options. Because it's unclear if he's fully healthy, I'd probably steer clear of Hamels for now. But despite his poor results this season, I think Lee is just fine and makes a nice pick in multi player contests, where he's not likely to get selected by many other people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Derek Holland 2009

Derek Holland is likely to see significant major league action for Texas in 2009, despite having moved through the minor leagues very quickly last year. Because of the rapid series of promotions, there's less of a statistical track record to forecast his future than for most pitchers. That said, the 22 year old lefty looks like a terrific prospect. His strikeout rates were generally above one per inning, and he displayed excellent control as well. While the competition at the major league level is much tougher, he still figures to be effective almost immediately. I wouldn't expect him to be an instant star, especially pitching in Texas, but he's a great player to have in keeper leagues, and may have some value for spot use in Yahoo leagues as a starter or middle reliever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weather is Critical in Daily Fantasy Baseball and Baseball Betting

The importance of watching the weather in daily fantasy baseball contests and for baseball betting in general can't be overemphasized. Today is the best example I've ever seen for that. There are only seven games scheduled, one is starting too early to be included in most daily contests, and four of the other six are likely to be rained out. If you can find a contest where your opponent isn't watching the weather report, you may be able to make some REALLY easy money! This is the best baseball weather site I've found. Many of the others are in foramts that make it hard to scan the full slate of games for risks of rainout.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is Erik Bedard Back As A Fantasy Star?

I've talked about this before, but in general I find pitchers to be a lot more predictable than hitters. I know that goes against the common wisdom, but there's a reason for it. Hitters do tend to follow slightly more predictable career paths. We probably can do a better idea projecting what will happen over the next few years for any group of hitters than pitchers because of the likelihood that many pitchers will be impacted by changes in health, arm strength, and mechanics. On the other hand, when one of those things happens, it's generally pretty easy to see in the statistics of the pitcher. When a previously dominating pitcher goes two months with a strikeout rate under 6, we KNOW something is wrong. When a top hitter goes two months with a .190 batting average, we have no idea whether there's a problem, or he's just had some bad luck. In the future, we may gain additional insight from Pitch/fx, but that's just going to widen the gap even more, making diagnosing pitchers struggles even easier.

Before the season, I was down on Erik Bedard, both because of his Spring statistics and some things I had heard. After his second start, I suggested I might have been wrong. Through three starts, he's got 23 strikeouts and only 3 walks in 19.1 innings. He appears to be completely healthy, and I think he's an excellent trade target. His value may have gone up since opening day, but probably not far enough to prevent him from being cheaper than he should in most leagues.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Sox at Fenway Against Adam Eaton....Hmmm...

As the headline says, the Red Sox are at home today against Adam Eaton. I may have spoken too soon the other day when I declared the Texas match-up for the day 'about as good a match-up as you'll find all year'. It turns out that good match-up aren't as unusual as I had remembered! Anytime a team is at home in a good hitters' park against a bad pitcher, you should be looking to use as many of their hitters as possible. That's particularly easy to implement in salary cap leagues and daily contest leagues where you're able to set an entirely new lineup every day. In any case, in addition to their stars, Drew and Lowell offer nice mid priced alternatives for today's games.

The Yankees also have a very good match-up today, as they're at home against Carmona. I know that a lot of people think Carmona is a good pitcher who has just hit some rough patches, but I don't buy it. At his best, his low strikeout rate would still make him a marginally effective pitcher. And guys like Damon and Teixeira tend to score big points against guys as wild as him.

On the pitching side, Santana and Lincecum appear to be the best, but as usual it depends on your scoring system. There are many good starting pitching options today.

Friday, April 17, 2009

4/17: Favorable Matchups

A few people have asked me to start discussing favorable matchups the day before the games, so that they can take the advice into account when setting lineups for games like ESPN Baseball Challenge and Yahoo, where transactions have to be done the day before. I'll do it when I can, but can't promise anything - I'm mostly evaluating the match-ups when I've got a few minutes to set my lineup for Draftbug daily fantasy baseball contests which only lock a few minutes before the earliest games start.

For today's games, the hitters on the Phillies, Royals, and Cubs have favorable match-ups.

The Phillies match-up is pretty interesting. Chris Young is actually a pretty good pitcher, but he's also a flyball pitcher on the road in a great home run park. That still would make this only a moderately good matchup for the Phillies. What puts some of their players over the top is that Young is possibly the worst pitcher in baseball when it comes to holding runners on base. Guys like Rollins and Victorino will have a chance to run wild on the basepaths.

The Royals against Matt Harrison in Texas is very favorable as well. Harrison is not good. Texas is good for hitters. Anybody who plays is a nice potential sleeper, even in points leagues where you might not normally consider them. I'll be eyeing Coco Crisp for use in some of my contests. Not that he'll be quite as valuable as the top outfielders, but he'll be close enough, and a bargain that will allow me to use more expensive players like Rollings and Utley.

The Cubs at home against Walters have a nice match-up too. Walters should have a respectable strikeout rate, but he's wild, and any team at home in a hitters park shoudld be expected to perform well.

On the pitching side, Hamels would appear to be the clear standout, except for his one strikeout performance last time out, following health concerns. Because of that, he's risky and those not willing to take a chance may want to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

4/14: Rangers Hitters For the Win!

I'm going to be pretty busy for a few days (through Thursday) and likely won't have time to post, but just wanted to say that the Rangers hitters have about as favorable matchup as possible today. They're facing a terrible starting pitcher (Simon) at home in a good hitters park. And Baltimore always has a weak bullpen as well. I think there's a great profit opportunity for those who load up on Rangers hitters in Draftbug contests today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

4/13: Favorable Matchups For Mets, Rangers, Royals and White Sox Hitters

It looks like today's games feature favorable matchups for the Mets, Rangers, Royals, and White Sox hitters.

Actually, there's some guesswork involved with the Mets hitters. Walter Silva is one of the few players for whom I couldn't easily find any historical stats. Until he proves otherwise, I'm assuming he's pretty bad. And I'm assuming for now that Citi Field is similar to Shea. I believe it may be an even better pitchers' park though. So proceed with caution on the Mets hitters.

The Rangers and Royals hitters are at home in good hitters parks. The Rangers face Uehara, who I've projected to be fairly average pitcher. The Royals face Fausto Carmona, who is terrible (although he won't allow many home runs).

The White Sox situation isn't quite as favorable, since they're on the road in Detroit (a decent pitchers' park), but Miner is a bad enough pitcher that its still a good situation for the Chicago hitters.

On the pitching side, Billingsley looks like the best pick in mosts daily contest formats, with a number of decent alternatives in Slowey, Kazmir, Lilly, Greinke, and Gallardo, and Volquez.

Why Draftbug Is Better Than Snapdraft

For those of you who haven't had the chance to do a direct comparison of Draftbug and Snapdraft, I figured I'd provide a list of some of the differences. Since I'm obviously somewhat biased, I'll stick with undisputable facts, and I'll acknowledge up front that most people feel that Snapdraft has an appealing look and feel as well as a good level of traffic. That said, here's what Draftbug has:

1. Lower Rake. Snapdraft is charging you 20% fees per contest you play in. That's very hard to overcome, no matter how good you are. It means that you're less likely to come out ahead in the long run, and more likely to lose all your money after playing in a smaller number of contests.

2. Chat Box. Our chat area gives the site a more fun, communal feel, because you have the opportunity to get to know your opponents, talk strategy, ask questions, and do some friendly trash talking.

3. Live Drafts. Like other sites, we have standard 'salary cap' type contests. But unlike Snapdraft and others, we offer 'live draft' contests. These are great for those who think that draft day is the best day of the fantasy baseball season.

4. Flexible Contest Formats. We can (and do) set up contests with a variety of formats. If you have ideas for a scoring option or roster configuration that you think would be fun, let us know and we'll set up for you.

5. Guaranteed Cotnests. Once two people are entered in a contest, we won't cancel it or reduce prizes...no matter how many people were supposed to be entered.

Try Draftbug daily fantasy baseball contests today and see the difference!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Favorable Matchups - 4/12

Before I start on the matchups, I wanted to address a question that reader Scott Berger asked: "What is the current thinking on Bedard?". I'm glad he asked, because this raises a few interesting points. When I'm down on a talented pitcher coming back from injury, it doesn't take much for me to change my mind. Bedard's eight strikeout, no walk performance definitely impacts my opinion of his effectiveness. I'm not saying I expect him to be dominant like in 2007, but this definitely makes it substantially more likely that he's healthy enough to pitch effectively. Strikeout rate in particular is a VERY sensitive indicator with great predictive ability. If he has two or three more games like that, I'd be sure he's fine. As it is, he's worth getting if cheap in any format, and I'd now consider him in certain situations in daily contests.

For today's matchups, Lincecum is the clear standout on the pitching side. He's already possibly the best pitcher, and he'll be in the best pitcher's park in baseball against a weak offense. Interestingly, his opponent Chris Young is probably one of the best bargains among those looking for a less expensive pitcher in daily contests.

On the hitting side, the White Sox, Rays, Mariners, Phillies, and Rockies are in favorable situations. Unfortunately, there appears to be a threat of rain for the Phillies-Rockies game, so they should be avoided if possible. There's also a threat of rain for the Yankees-Royals game.

The White Sox are at home in a hitters park against a relatively weak pitcher. While Blackburn has good enough control to keep his ERA in check, his low strikeout rate makes his a good target for opposing hitters...especially those prone to strikeout a lot against better pitchers. Sometimes these things aren't symetrical. A wilder pitcher with a better strikeout rate might be a worse choice to have on your team than Blackburn, but also a tougher matchup for opposing hitters.

The Rays and Mariners both face bad pitchers, although they're both on the road and in the Mariners' case in a tough ballpark, so their hitters may not present as good an opportunity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Favorable Matchups - MLB Schedule 4/10

One of things I'll be trying to do here is alert you to teams and players with particularly favorable upcoming matchups. That should give you a big edge in daily contests and other fantasy baseball formats with daily transactions.

One thing to keep in mind is that a matchup may not affect all players equally. When Chris Young comes to town, that's not a great matchup for most Mets hitters, because of his high strikeout rate. But things couldn't be better for Jose Reyes, since Young is absurdly easy to steal bases against. There are other factors (such as handedness and pitching style) that can influence individual hitters differently as well. So there are going to be times when I'll identify a team that generally has a good matchup, and other times when I'll identify specific players.

Overall, for today's games it appears that the two big winners on the hitting side are the White Sox and Phillies. Both play in hitters parks against bad starting pitchers. The White Sox have the added bonus of home field advantage. On the pitching side, the top two picks in most formats should be Lowe and Harden. Which comes out on top in the rankings depends on the scoring system, since they have such different styles.

Thanks to a pitching at home in a pitcher's park against a bad offense and a bad opposing starting pitcher, Shawn Hill is an excellent bargain who should be available cheap in almost any format. In fact, in some formats he's not far below Lowe and Harden for today's games! Padres relievers are worth targeting as well...in fact home field advantage is greater for relievers, because the home team always has to pitch a full nine innings, providing them with more opportunity than visiting relievers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Winning Snapdraft Freerolls

Here's a basic strategy for winning Snapdraft freerolls. You can also use a similar strategy to win the daily $5 freerolls offered at Draftbug. The Draftbug freerolls have the added advantage of paying cash to the top TWO finishers.

The key thing to remember is that only the these are large contests with top heavy payouts. There's no reward for coming in 3rd. That means that you shouldn't be seeking consistent performance - you should be using high variance, risky players who will increase your chances of an abnormally high score...even if there's also a chance of them being total busts for the day. Here's how you can do that:

1. Pick multiple hitters on the same team. Hitters on the same team (especially those near each other in the batting order) will tend to have high correlation in their performance. When one does well, the others will benefit. When there's a blowout, they'll all face the same 'garbage time' relievers. That means that if you use a few hitters from one team, there will tend to be more variance in your score. Some days you'll do really well and some days you'll do really badly. That's what you need to aim for in large field, top heavy tournaments.

2. Pick players who you expect others not to take. Once you play in a bunch of freerolls at Snapdraft or Draftbug you'll get a feel for which players are popular. Avoid those players. It doesn't do much for your chances of victory if Santana pitches a no hitter, if 15 other entrants had him on their team as well. However, on the (admittedly, less likely) chance that Scott Baker pitches a no hitter, you may very well be the only person who had him...giving you a huge advantage in the contest.

3. Pick control pitchers. This seems a little counterintuitive, but here's why you should alway take control pitchers. A high strikeout, high walk pitcher is going to have trouble finishing their games, no matter how well they pitch. Someone like Rich Harden just isn't that efficient. He's often going to pitch great...and still come out after 6 or 7 innings. In a contest with a less top-heavy payout, that may be great. But if you need to come in first, it's better to take a pitcher like Mark Buehrle. Although he really isn't as good, on the days when he gets lucky and does well, he has an excellent chance of pitching a complete game. In other words, his scores will have higher variance...which is what you're looking for in these contests.

4. Pick sluggers...even bad ones. Sluggers will tend to have higher variance in their scores. Anytime they hit a home run, they score well. Since you only care about 1st place, you don't mind that sometimes they'll strike out three times and have a negative score. High variance wins daily contest freerolls.

5. Don't worry about rain, benchings, and injuries. That's a slight exaggeration, but if there's a clearly superior option available, but you're worried that he might not get to play...stop worrying. You're going for first, and you need to increase your chances of a GREAT score, even if it also increases your chances of a really lousy one.

I hope this advice helps, or at least gets you thinking about strategy in large contests with only one or two spots winning. Also, if you haven't already done so, I'd definitely suggest trying out the Draftbug freerolls. While the site is similar to Snapdraft, it has some real advantages...including a public chat area that people actually use to swap strategy, ask questions, and talk trash.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Too Much Fun

Going into the season I was planning to play 6 different formats of fantasy baseball - Yahoo, Draftbug, Playspex, ESPN Baseball Challenge, The Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, and Salary Cap Baseball for Facebook.

It turns out that on top of daily writing for two blogs, weekly writing for two other websites, and promoting a contest site, that's something I'm incapable of. I've already dropped Playspex and Salary Cap Baseball for Facebook. They simply felt like too much 'work' to be worthwhile. Yahoo and TSN I'll play the full season because I've committed to it, I'm enjoying the ESPN format so far, and best of all I'm absolutely LOVING Draftbug. I realize I'm not the most objective reviewer of the site, but the challenge of picking daily lineups combined with the freedom to only enter contests on days when I have the time to devote to it make it the perfect format for me. I (and three other players) will be writing about our experiences playing the game on a daily basis at Draftbug Millionaire.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trusting Your Instincts

Actually, this post is about NOT trusting your instincts. If you're using the right data and doing the right calculations, you should generally trust the numbers, rather than your instincts. Most people find that very difficult to do, and if you're able to do it, then you're going to have an edge over your opponents. In the Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, my calculations told me that Garret Atkins and Alexei Ramirez belong in my lineup. My instincts tell me that both are overrated players going into this season. However, the calculations are able to take things into account that are too subtle for my intuition to factor in - for example, the exact details of the scoring system for the contest format. I don't believe that my instincts are based on something that the calculations can't reflect (for example an injury, or reduced playing time), so I'll follow the numbers and gain an edge that other people might pass up.

Another example of that is in Draftbug, where my instincts told me that the four hitters who have clear advantages at their position today are Sizemore, Wright, V. Martinez, and Kinsler. The numbers confirm Sizemore and Wright, but show that Kinsler actually is a substantially worse pick for today than Pedroia (except that Pedroia may be rained out), and that under Draftbug's scoring system Martinez only has a very small edge on Mike Napoli. As usual, I'll trust the numbers, except where I know they're unaware of something important (like the weather report).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Snapdraft Scoring Compared To Draftbug Scoring

Bookmark this post if you want to use it for reference. I'll leave it here until there isn't an internet anymore.

Keep in mind that despite some similarity in the scoring systems, there are lots of difference between Draftbug and Snapdraft. One difference is that Draftbug actually penalizes pitchers for allowing hits, walks, and runs. Snapdraft's omission of this is pretty odd. Perhaps the most significant difference is that Snapdraft charges an absurd 20% rake on most contests, while Draftbug generally charges 10%. For many solid players, this can make the difference between being a long term winner and long term loser.

Snapdraft Scoring:
Hitting
+ 1 each Single
+ 2 each Double
+ 3 each Triple
+ 4 each Home Run
+ 1 each Run Batted In
+ 1 each Run Scored
+ 1 each Walk
+ 2 each Stolen Base
Pitching
+ 10 each Win
+ 10 each Save
+ 1 each Inning*
+ 1 each Strike Out


Draftbug Scoring:
1B = 1 pt
2B = 2 pt
3B = 3 pt
HR = 4 pt
R = 1 pt
RBI = 1 pt
BB = 1 pt
SB = 2 pt
K = -1 pt

W = 10 pt
L = -3 pt
SV = 7 pt
IP = 3 pt
H = -1 pt
K = 1 pt
ER = -1 pt
BB = -1 pt

Ready Or Not, Opening Day Is Tomorrow

Opening Day is tomorrow, and I'm definitely feeling a little unready. There was a brief scare yesterday when my newly tweaked statistical model indicated that Juan Pierre against Tim Lincecum would be a terrific situation, but things appear to be under control now, and I've got my initial lineups set in all five formats I'll be playing this year - Yahoo, ESPN Baseball Challenge, Sporting News Salary Cap Challenge, Playspex, and Salary Cap Baseball on Facebook. For anyone who still isn't signed up on Draftbug, there are still 7 spots left in the free $100 April Home Run Derby.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trevor Cahill 2009

With the news that Trevor Cahill is going to be the second starter in Oakland's rotation in 2009, he's suddenly become the focus of a lot of attention and analysis. Much of it has focused on the positives, as it often does with promising young pitchers. I'm here to provide a bit of a reality check. Cahill is a terrific long term prospect. He just turned 21, and he's had high strikeout rates in the minor leagues. His low home run rates allowed in the minors suggest that he may be a groundball pitcher, which would certainly be a big advantage. However, I don't think he's ready for immediate success in the majors. The highest level he's pitched at in the regular season is AA, and his strikeout and walk rate suggest that he was more lucky than good at that level. Despite 'winning' a spot in the rotation this Spring, he's struggled with his control again. If he can maintain a high groundball rate, he's got a chance of sticking in the majors, but barring some drastic improvement, I think it's going to be several years before he can be considered a solid fantasy option.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Matt Cain 2009

I'm sure this is going to outrage all the people who think that Matt Cain has been the victim of bad luck and bad teammates the past two years, but I've never really understood what all the fuss was about when it comes to Cain. Yes, you'd expect a player who puts up the ERA has the past two years to win more games, so to that extent the public perception is true. But he's been very luck to have such a good ERA with the component statistics he's put up. His control is mediocre (3.8 BB/9 in 2008) and he's an extreme flyball pitcher. Like any 24 year old pitcher, there's plenty of time for improvement, but right now he's a very average pitcher on a bad team. I would definitely stay away from him in 2009 unless your leaguemates agree with me and let him slide very far down in the draft.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dexter Fowler 2009

The days when any hitter on the Rockies roster is considered a guaranteed success are long gone, thanks to the humidor, but with prospect Dexter Fowler unexpectedly winning a spot on the team for opening day 2009, I thought he'd be worth taking a look at. Fowler's main claim to fame is a .335 batting average (and .431 on base percentage) at AA last year. Unfortunately, he does back that up with much power (only 9 HRs) and while fast (20 SBs), he's not really fast enough for that to be a major bonus for his fantasy owners. Also, the high batting average in 2008 is somewhat out of line with the rest of his minor league career. At 23 years old, I think there's room for Fowler to be a pretty good major leaguer, but he's never going to be a fantasy superstar. I actually like him better as a 'real' player, where his excellent on base skills should make him a good leadoff hitter, and his ability to play center field gives him added value.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last Day For Draftbug Free $

Today is the last day that new accounts on Draftbug will be funded with 4,000 free player points, allowing entry in up to 4 of the $1 contests. Registration is free, and you can save the points until baseball season begins...or enter some of the baseball contests that we've already opened up. The $100 April Home Run Derby Freeroll also remains open, but 160 of the 200 spots have filled, so sign up as soon as you register. If you ever want to chat with me, I'm often logged into Draftbug and will respond to messages in the chat area when I see them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Opening Day 2009

I talk about this more in the narrative of the video I posted yesterday, but I think there are four or five players who really stand out based on Opening Day 2009 matchups if you're playing in daily contests. Particularly in heads up live drafts, you'll want to focus on getting these guys, and wait to pick players at other positions where the gap between #1 and #2 isn't likely to be as large. Keep in mind that in some cases, we don't know for sure who the opening day starters are going to be, so there's some guesswork involved.

In any case, the four guys who seem to have a clear advantage over others at their positions are:

1. Grady Sizemore
2. Victor Martinez
3. David Wright
4. Ian Kinsler

While I haven't actually set up my spreadsheet to do the calculations yet, they look like clear standouts, based on likely opposing pitchers, ballpark, and ability.

At most other positions there are at least two good options - Sabathia/Peavy, Pujols/Teixeira, Ramirez/Reyes, lots of relief pitchers. In an heads up, live draft contest if you can get all four of those you'll be in good shape.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Live Draft Video of Draftbug

The production quality sucks, my voice is annoying, and I need to train myself out of saying 'um', but this is still pretty cool. Video of a heads up Draftbug live draft, with my narrative explaining some strategy tips for Opening Day contests. We'll be putting together some more polished videos, but for anyone who hasn't tried the live drafts yet, this should be interesting. It's the first video I've posted, so hopefully it won't break the internet.

video

Opening Day 2009 And Beyond

I wanted to give people some idea what you can expect to see here at The Waiver Wire once the season begins. I know a lot of sites focus on draft preparation, and once Opening Day passes, they're more or less ready to move on to football, but as far as I'm concerned, the fun doesn't begin until the games start.

I'll be focusing a lot on what I'm best at - evaluating match-ups and the context of the games scheduled for the upcoming days and weeks. I'll discuss particularly bad starting pitchers who are expected to start. Many of those are spot starters, who we can't identify before the season begins, because they're in the bullpen, in the minor leagues, or haven't yet showed (through their statistics) that there's something wrong with their health, their mechanics, or their mental state.

I'll try to give you one or more hitters each day that I have favorable expectations for in that day's games, as well as a relief pitcher and a starting pitcher whenever possible. I'll also continue to provide strategy articles for daily transactions leagues of all sorts.

I probably will cut back on the player profiles that I've been doing in the offseason (except where I think a specific player has something particularly interesting for us to discuss), and I won't try to replace all the sites that do a great job of keeping you up to date on latest news.

If there are topics you'd like to see me cover as the 2009 regular season schedule progresses, feel free to suggest them in the comments here, or to send me an email.

Follow Up About Erik Bedard

Several commenters disagreed with my statement about reports on Erik Bedard not looking good so far. Those reports were from a commenter in the Rotojunkie forums. He's someone whose opinion I respect a lot and who follows the Mariners very closely. It's unclear whether the opinion was formed on his own, or something he heard from someone in the Mariners organization, but his exact words were "No one believes he can stay healthy, and his stuff isn't what it was two years ago (his fastball is still a little off his peak and his curve control isn't as devastating)". Given that he's coming off an injury and has a very low strikeout rate this Spring, I'm going to assume that there's truth in what he's saying.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Erik Bedard 2009

I've been touting Erik Bedard as a great sleeper for 2009 up until now. That was based on his having been the most dominant pitcher in baseball in 2007, and the hope that he'd be back to full health in time for the start of the season. That apparently isn't the case, as Bedard has struck out 7 batters and walked 9 in 11.1 innings pitched. Pitchers coming back from injuries are one of the situations that I've discussed before, where you SHOULD pay attention to statistics. And in this case, the stats agree with reports that say that Bedard hasn't looked good. If you can get him in the very late rounds of a draft, he still probably has enough upside to be a worthwhile pick anyway. But just be aware that if he doesn't turn things around in a hurry, you're likely to need to either drop him or stash him away on the bench, and hope he follows a similar recovery pattern to Francisco Liriano's 2008 season.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winning Daily Fantasy Baseball Contests: Part I (The Basics)

For those who aren’t familiar with them, daily fantasy contests (such as those offered at Draftbug) allow you to pick a team and win (or lose) based on the results of that day’s games. They’re perfect for those who like fantasy sports, but don’t have the time to maintain their team throughout the season. They’re also a great (legal) alternative to sports betting. The most common format for daily fantasy contests are ‘salary cap’ contests, although some site also offer a ‘live draft’ format for those who like the feel of a traditional draft. This article will cover some of the basis strategies needed to succeed in these contests. Future articles in the series will look at some more advanced topics.

Look for bargains – This is kind of obvious, but the salary cap limitations in these contests means that you’re not usually going to be able to use an all-star type lineup. You’re going to need to search out some undervalued players and use them. One common source of these is players who will have an expanded role today due to an injury to another player.

Check the news – Check the news to make sure that you’re not using anybody in your lineup who won’t be playing today. Lineups in these contests typically lock in after starting lineups are announced, so ideally you should make sure that your players are actually in the lineup.

Understand the rules – This goes for any format of fantasy baseball – you should always know the rules thoroughly. In particularly, the scoring system vary in different daily contest formats, and you should make sure you’re selecting players who fare well in the scoring system your contest uses. A player like Jason Giambi is a pretty valuable if your system uses walks, but not so much otherwise.

Larger contests require more risks – In a two person contest you should just go with the best possible lineup. In a larger contest (say 100 people), where the prize payouts are typically very top heavy, you’re going to need to take some chances to have a shot at the top spot. Play for 1st place…not 10th.

Take opponents into account – When you evaluate players for your team, consider who their opponent is today. For pitchers, how strong is the opposing lineup? How strong is the opposing starting pitcher? For hitters, how strong are the opposing starting pitcher and bullpen?

Take park factors into account – Where is the game being played? Ideally you want pitchers to be in favorable pitchers’ parks and hitters in favorable hitters’ parks, although there are plenty of cases when other factors may override this.

If you run a blog or website and are interested in reprinting this article, please send me an email.

Fantasy Baseball Challenge

Some of you have already noticed that there's a new site on my link list. Draftbug Millionaire will track the progress of a small group of fantasy baseball enthusiasts trying to 'go pro' as fantasy players. We don't know what will happen, but it should be interesting to follow. Take a look...and send me an email if you're you'd like to be considered as a participant.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brett Gardner 2009

Brett Gardner is an interesting sleeper candidate for 2009. In 'real baseball', Gardner should be a solid, but not exciting player. Despite his struggles in his first look at the major leagues, I expect him to put high on base percentages (largely due to drawing a lot of walks) and stealing plenty of bases. He won't hit a lot of home runs. That same profile makes him an exciting fantasy prospect, perfect for a speculative late round pick. At this point, we don't even know how much playing time he's going to receive, since he'll be competing with Melky Cabrera for the Yankees center field role. But if he does get regular playing time, he should be good for anywhere from 30-50 stolen bases, making him valuable regardless of how little power he has. Gardner is a good pick near the end of drafts in all but the most shallow leagues.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Training Statistics of Note

In this article, I wrote about some of the situations where Spring Training performance is actually pretty signficant.

Now that we're further into the exhibition season, I thought it would be useful to identify some of the pitchers whose performance to date is of interest.

Liriano - 21.1 IP, 19 K, 8 BB. No change in opinion based on this. I expect him to be good, but not quite as good as he used to be.

Hampton - 21 IP, 16 K, 3 BB. Good performance in Spring can come from facing especially weak lineups, but this is SO much better than I would have expected that it's noteworthy.

Verlander - 20.1 IP, 11 K, 14 BB. I don't care if he IS 'working on stuff'. This concerns me.

Harang - 19.2 IP, 10 K, 6 BB. Not extreme enough to mean much, but I was hoping to see him blow hitters away this Spring.

Carpenter - 19 IP, 10 K, 4 BB. Same as Harang.

A. Sanchez - 18.2 IP, 7 K, 9 BB. Not really what you want to see from a guy who has had health and control issues.

Carmona - 16 IP, 6 K, 7 BB. Don't be fooled by the 1.69 ERA.

Zambrano - 16 IP, 15 K, 3 BB. Well that's interesting. Maybe bump him up a bit, although he's always been so overrated (until this year), that the upside probably isn't what some people think it is.

Park - 15.2 IP, 18 K, 1 BB. Probably the correct choice for the Phillies #5 starter.

Zimmerman - 14.1, 20 K, 2 BB. Very impressive, but I'm not quite ready to buy into the level of hype he's getting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ian Stewart 2009

Earlier this preseason, I was asked which I liked better as a prospect: Ian Stewart or Brandon Wood. I answered that I prefer Wood, and it's not close. The more I look at Stewart's record, the closer it's getting. The recent news that Stewart may be used in some sort of utility role that would give him 2B eligibility in many leagues certainly helps his fantasy value. But there's a lot to like beyond that. This is a hitter who hasn't yet turned 24 and was able to hold his own in a half season in the major leagues last year. The power he showed in A ball in 2004 returned last year. He doesn't have a particularly high strikeout rate. Stewart definitely has the potential to be a nice sleeper in all but the shallowest leagues, and provides the kind of high risk/high reward value that you should be looking for in late round picks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Baseball Betting - Daily Fantasy Sports Contests

I've talked about this before, but for those who are interested in profiting from their knowledge of baseball, daily fantasy sports contests offer a great alternative to online sports betting. Not only are the contests completely legal (and allow deposits by credit card), but they offer more interesting opportunities as well. Instead of being limited to a maximum of 15 major league games from which to choose, players can enter as many contests as they like, and use a variety of lineups in those contests. These contests are a great chance to win money using Sabermetric concepts to evaluate the impact of park factors, opposing pitchers and lineups, platoon differentials, home park advantage, fatigue, weather, and more. If you've ever thought about doing baseball betting, but hesitated to, try out Draftbug daily fantasy baseball contests. Registration is free, and those who sign up now can enter our free $100 'April Home Run Derby'. Also, until the end of March, we'll be giving all new accounts 4,000 player points, which can be used to enter $4 worth of real money contests.

Carlos Villanueva 2009

With Trevor Hoffman beginning to look doubtful for Opening Day 2009, the Brewers closer role is likely to be in the hands of either Carlos Villanueva or Seth McClung for a while. Villanueva was very effective last year, striking out 7.8 per nine innings and walking 2.5. He also had a groundball rate of 46.6%. If anything, he's likely to improve on those numbers (other than the groundball rate) this year, since he's only 25 years old, and will presumably be pitching strictly out of the bullpen. Last year he started nine games, and relieving generally improves performance slightly. While he's no match for Hoffman, Milwaukee will be in capable hands if they have to rely on Villanueva temporarily.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nick Adenhart 2009

I really don't understand why major league teams do this to themselves. Nick Adenhart is being considered for a spot in the Angles starting rotation in 2009. Why? In 145.1 innings pitched at AAA last year, he struck out 110 and walked 75. Making any kind of reasonable adjustment for the level of competition, when he faces major league batters...well, that's not good. And in fact, he did pitch 12 of the worst innings in major league history in the majors, striking out 4 and walking 13. Adenhart may be a fine pitcher some day, but the odds are strongly against being early this season. At 22 years old, he belongs in AAA.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jordan Zimmerman 2009

There seems to be a lot of buzz around Jordan Zimmerman the past few days. The release of Shawn Hill along with Zimmerman's excellent spring performance appear to have given him a role on the Nationals for 2009, and he may start the season as part of Washington's starting rotation. A lot of the buzz is being driven by Zimmerman's 16 strikeouts and 2 walks in 12.1 innings pitched. While that is excellent, good spring training stats should be taken with a grain of salt, since we can't easily determine the level of competition those were actually compiled against. At AA last year, Zimmerman was very good, but not dominant. At 22 years old, sudden improvement is certainly possible, but given a normal progression of his skills, he belongs at AAA this year. I'm all for bringing young pitchers up to the major league team as soon as they're ready, but Zimmerman may not be ready. I will say that he's a LOT closer to ready than Rick Porcello who I wrote about a few days ago.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Justin Verlander 2009

Although his earned run average was more than a full run worse last year than it had been either of the previous two year, my feeling at the end of last season was that Justin Verlander was the same pitcher he had always been. His strikeout rate of 7.1 per nine innings and his walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings were slightly worse than in 2007, but not out of line with his career averages at all. However, based on his Spring Training statistics so far, I'm beginning to wonder if there may be some more increasingly serious health issues for Verlander. In 15.1 innings pitched, he's struck out 7 batters and walked 12. While Spring Training statistics are notoriously unpredictable, I would prefer to avoid any unnecessary risks and steer clear of a situation like Verlander's until I see him begin to turn that ratio around.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hiroki Kuroda 2009

In a slight surprise (to me anyway) the Dodgers have announced that Hiroki Kuroda will be their opening day starting pitcher in 2009. While I like Kuroda a lot, this actually slightly reduces his value early in the season, as he's likely to be matched against opposing teams' ace starters the first few times through the rotations, while guys like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw draw easier matchups. That said, Kuroda is an excellent pitcher, due to good control (2.1 BB/9 in 2008) and a high groundball rate (51.3%). With those strengths, his strikeout rate of 5.8 per nine innings is much more than adequate. At 34 years old, he's probably on the downside of his career, but should have a few good years left.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rick Porcello 2009

The Tigers are apparently considering moving 20 year old pitching prospect all the way from high A ball last season to the starting rotation of their major league team this year. In general, I'm all for early 'promotions' for talented minor leaguers, regardless of age or experience. But I want them to have dominated at whatever level they played at. That isn't the case here, and I think Detriot's management would be making a huge mistake by having Porcello completely skip AA and AAA in 2009. In 125 innings pitched, he only struck out 72 batters, and walked 33. Those are not impressive numbers, especially when adjusted for the low level of the competition. Rick Porcello may be a star someday, but right now he's not a major league pitcher. Unless you're in a keeper league, don't be fooled into thinking he's a potential sleeper. And if you're competing in daily contests like Draftbug or Snapdraft, then targetting Porcello's opponents is likely to be a productive strategy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Draftbug Fantasy Baseball Contests

The $100 freeroll at Draftbug is filling up quickly. 56 out of 200 spots have been filled since the contest opened Sunday night. The top 20 will receive cash prizes, with 1st place getting $24. Unlike our usual daily contests, in this one contestants will pick 10 hitters within a salary cap, and score a point for each home run their team hits in the month of April. Registration for the site and the contest are both free and just take a minute. We've also now listed some additional 'April Home Run Derby' contests, and will begin listing daily contests soon.

Q&A With David Bloom

I recently conducted a Q&A with David Bloom of Around The Majors. David's answers to my questions are in italics.

1. What do you think are the most compelling roster and position battles that will last until the final days of Spring Training, providing us with something to focus on until Opening Day?

I think the Reds left field position battle is worth following. The Reds have long time minor leaguer Chris Dickerson penciled in after a strong debut last season hitting .304/413/.608 in 122 plate appearances. The thing about Dickerson is that he consistently strikes out a lot and has never really achieved this type of production throughout his minor league career. However, the left handed hitting Dickerson could still achieve double digit home runs and stolen bases. Although Jacque Jones and Jerry Hairston are also in the mix for left field, it’s really only Jonny Gomes who seems to be Dickerson’s main competition. In Gomes, the former Tampa Bay Ray, he has demonstrated a few periods of success across his 5 year major league career, but has never been able to put it all together. In recent years the right handed batting outfielder has bounced between AAA Durham and the Rays big league club. His defense has never been good, and seems better suited for an American league team where he can DH. I am inclined to think this starts off as a platoon situation between Gomes and Dickerson. I expect Dickerson to get some starts in center as well, and depending on how Willy Taveras produces will determine if Dickerson stays in left field.

2. Which individual players that switched teams during the offseason do you think will benefit most from the change of scenery?

One player that comes to mind in the AL is Pat Burrell who signed with the Rays. He can be used in the DH role which better fits his defensive abilities at this point of his career. He is a slugger that can bat in the middle of the Rays lineup and make a lot of the hitters on the Rays better with the added protection in the batting order. In the National league, one player that comes to mind is Javier Vazquez of the Braves who is back in the National league where he has had a lot of success in the past. Vazquez, mainly a fly ball pitcher, pitched a lot better than his ERA indicates. His .308 BABIP seems to indicate he was unlucky in 2008, since his peripheral were strong with a 8.64 K/9 along with a decent WHIP.

3. Most people agree that Matt Wieters will be an impact fantasy (and real) baseball player as soon as he plays in the majors. Are there any other rookies that you expect to have a fantasy impact prior to September?

One player that seems to be on the fast track is one of my personal favorites in Jordan Schafer who I saw play in person last season playing against AA Carolina. For the second spring training in a row, he is tearing the cover off the ball. It seems Bobby Cox is in his corner, and it’s just a matter of time before he gets his chance to play center field on a regular basis. As well, we all know about David Price from the 2008 World Series. Eventually, he will be a fixture in the Rays pitching rotation for years to come. One other prospect who plays catcher like Wieters is Angel Salome of the Brewers. He missed some time last year due to a drug suspension, but hit an outstanding .360/.415/.559 in AA.

4. What team do you think is likely to surprise people this year...both in terms of team performance, and the viability of its players on fantasy rosters?

I am thinking the team that will surprise in 2009 is the Reds in the National League Central. Last year, we found out about pitcher Edinson Volquez as he came on the scene to be a top of the rotation pitcher. The Reds pitching is pretty solid and will be the key to the turn around. Aaron Harang is gearing up to have a comeback season and hopes to be in the conversation as the ace of the staff once again. Second year pitcher Johnny Cueto , along with Bronson Arroyo make up a solid middle of the rotation pitchers. Micah Owings who came over in the Adam Dunn trade has been impressive so far this spring, and could soon be known as the newest pitcher the Reds stole from another organization.

5. Are the people predicting 83-85 wins for the A's crazy, or is their progress rebuilding really that far along?

I am thinking Billy Beane has really done a fine job rebuilding this organization with his tear it down, build it up approach. He restocked the organization with young talent which also allowed them to make key deals for players such as Matt Holliday, who will still be a good player even though he is away from the thin air in Colorado. With the Angel taking a hit both on personnel and injuries, the AL West is there for the taking. The 83-85 wins are certainly achievable.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Scott Lewis 2009

Scott Lewis is currently considering a longshot to win the last spot in the Indians rotation for 2009. That's a shame, because he's a good pitcher. Lewis was successful in his only major league experience so far, striking out 15 and walking 6 in 24 innings of work (all as a starter). That's pretty close to what I'd expect from him on an ongoing basis. While his strikeout rates in the minor leagues suggest that he might be capable of a bit better, against the tougher competition in the majors, something between 6 and 7 per nine innings, with good control is a reasonable expectation. He only induced 36.5% groundballs in his major league work, but I would expect that to be very slightly higher going forward. Lewis isn't a star, and at 25 years old isn't that likely to develop into one. But he is a good, solid, major league quality starter.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Freeroll

The first fantasy baseball contest of the year is up at Draftbug. It's a $100 freeroll contest, limited to the first 200 people to enter. Select 10 players, and scoring is based on the number of home runs your players hit during the month of April. Registration is completely free, and just takes a minute. The top twenty people win cash prizes, with first place getting $24. We'll be listing additional real money and play money contests in the next week or so.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brett Anderson 2009

A lot can go wrong between AA and the Majors, but statistically, Oakland pitching prospect Brett Anderson has almost everything you'd want to see in a future star. He's 21 years old. His strikeout rates have been above one per inning at every stop in the minor leagues. His control has been good at all levels as well. And he's in an organization where getting an opportunity is never a problem for young players. The only negative I can see is that his minor league home run rates have been relatively high, which probably indicates that he's an extreme flyball pitcher. However, he's good enough other than that, that he should still be very effective. I expect him to excel this year in AAA, and probably to get a shot at the majors in September, or coming out of Spring Training in 2010.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Troy Percival 2009

Troy Percival is the favorite to be the Ray's closer when the season starts, assuming he remains healthy enough. That's not a good thing. The days when Percival was a dominant pitcher are long gone. In fact, the days when Percival was an adequate pitcher may be gone as well. While he did have a very respectable 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings, Percival's other numbers were terrible. He was already an extreme flyball pitcher, yet his groundball rate dropped sharply in 2008 to an incredible 23.0%. His control, which had previously been fairly good, left him and his walk rate rose to 5.4 per nine innings. While sample size can make any relief pitcher statistics less meaningful, Percival's age (39) makes it more likely that there's been a real change for the worse in his abilities. With pitchers like Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler on the team, there's really no reason for the Rays' to take the chance of using Percival as their closer again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Draftbug

Since I have a lot of new readers, its time to mention Draftbug again. Draftbug is my site. We're offering daily fantasy contests for real money or play money. Draft a team today, win tonight. Both 'salary cap' and 'live draft' formats are available. Registration is free. Best of all, anyone who registers by the end of March gets 4,000 'points' in their account, which allows entry in $4 worth of real money contests. And we've got a pair of $1 'freerolls' scheduled today, which gives you another chance to win money without making a deposit. We're currently running NBA and NHL contests, and sign-ups for some baseball contests and freerolls will be available sometime soon. Sign up today to get your free player points, even if you save them to use during baseball season!

Elijah Dukes 2009

Elijah Dukes is an interesting sleeper for 2009. In 276 at bats last year he hit 13 home runs and stole 13 bases. Projected to a full season, that looks like he has an outside shot at 30 homers and 30 steals. His minor league record fully supports the idea that he could continue to show that kind of power, although I'd expect his actual stolen base totals to be a little lower. The one question with Dukes at this point (other than whether he can stay healthy and out of trouble) is whether he'll ever be able to hit for high batting averages in the major leagues. At 24 years old, I wouldn't bet against him developing that ability. And if you're in a league that uses on base percentage instead of batting average (like the Yahoo league I've talked about previously), then he's likely to be a star. One thing working against Dukes this year will be the presence of Josh Willingham as a very capable 4th outfielder for the Nationals. That could potentially eat into Dukes' at bats. On the other hand, Dukes (like Ryan Spilborghs, who I profiled yesterday) is the type of player for whom projecting a strong half season of at bats into full season stats is appropriate. What I mean by that is that his half season of at bats were compiled in roughly half of a season...not stretched out evenly throughout the season. That's important, because it means that he likely wasn't benefiting from a particularly skewed distribution of righties versus lefties among opposing pitchers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ryan Spilborghs 2009

668 AB, 21 HR, 16 SB, .302 BA, 104 R, 109 RBI. Who is this fantasy baseball star? He looks like a 3rd or 4th rough pick at worst, roughtly equivalent to Nick Markakis. Right? Well, no actually. That's the major league career of Ryan Spilborghs. Yes, we cheated by giving him an awful lot of at bats. And yes, he's 29 years old and is just about ready to begin the decline phase of his career. But if he wins the Rockies starting center field job (as appears likely), he's going to be a terrific value. And even if he fails to win the everyday job, he'll be a great value in daily contests like Draftbug and Snapdraft, where you can verify his place in the lineup prior to the start of games each day. One thing to watch out for is that if he leads off, his RBI total will be much lower. In any case, Spilborghs looks like a great late round pick for most formats.