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.