Author Archive

How Much Can Nick Castellanos Improve?

Were you to look at the dashboard stats on the player page of Nick Castellanos, you might be very concerned about his batting average next year. He hit just .259 despite a robust .326 BABIP because he struck out too much (24.2% K%). Because BABIP is less within the control of the player than strikeout rate is, it’s fair to be concerned that Castellanos’ BABIP could fall and his batting average along with it unless accompanied by a surprising drop in strikeout rate. But BABIP isn’t completely out of a hitter’s control, and Castellanos might have more control over his. Read the rest of this entry »

Did Rougned Odor Improve as the Year Went Along?

As a resident of the city of Dallas and a Rangers fan when they’re not playing the Astros, it was my impression that Rougned Odor improved as the year went on. Part of that was just the assumption that he gradually acclimated to the big leagues over the course of 400+ PA, and part of that was my perception based on the regrettably occasional Ranger game I watched this year.

But his monthly splits don’t necessarily tell the tale of a guy who improved with more seasoning. Yes, his best month according to wRC+ was September (128), but his next best months were May and June, his first two months in the majors this year. Of course wRC+ is a result-oriented statistic and can be misleading in a small sample size, like a single month, for example. If he was truly acclimating well, we’d expect to see him swinging more at good pitches and less at bad pitches, making more contact, and squaring the ball up more as the year went on. So did he do any of that? Read the rest of this entry »

Valuing Chris Carter

Just in case you didn’t know, Chris Carter finished the season tied for second in home runs with Giancarlo Stanton. Also in the top five were Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout and Jose Abreu. One of these is obviously not like the others, although Cruz is a cut below Stanton, Trout and Abreu yet still a cut above Carter. We all know that Carter is a one-trick pony (or a three-true outcome pony), but it’s amusing how different he is from the rest of this group when you look at something other than home runs. For example, the three studs in the top five all had a wOBA over .400 for the year while Carter’s was .346. And those three studs all contributed at least 40 offensive runs more than average while Carter contributed just shy of 13 more than average.

For the purposes of this column, it’s more important to note that the production of all four other guys in the top five of home runs was essentially worth $30 or more. Carter’s production was worth about $15. To be fair, Carter vastly out-earned the $1 at which I had him valued in the preseason, but this just illustrates how truly limiting the batting average is even when the power production is as good as you can expect it to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Hopefully Yadier Molina Comes at a Discount

Writing up players in October is, to some degree, useless. At this point fantasy owners only care about what the player is going to do next year. And while looking at what a player did the previous year is a big part of determining what they’ll do next year, it’s all kind of pointless without knowing what the cost will be to acquire the player next year. Without ADP or an average auction value, player write ups at this time of year can often be moot come draft season.

With that said, it’s really hard to tell you whether Yadier Molina is a good player to target in drafts next year. On one hand, you could assume that the injury that limited him to 445 PA might make him available at a bit of a discount next year. Then again, fantasy owners overvalued Molina last year. He ended 2013 as the 81st most valuable fantasy player according to ESPN’s player rater, but he was drafted as a borderline top 50 player.

Ignoring assumptions about whether Molina will be over or undervalued by the masses, let’s determine how he should be valued. He finished the year as the 19th most valuable fantasy catcher according to Zach Sanders’ end-of-season values and 16th according to the player rater. As mentioned, a stint on the DL cost him about 100 PA given that he finished with 445 and averaged 552 in the previous two seasons. Extrapolated out to 550 PA, here’s what Molina might have produced absent the injury.

Yadier Molina 9 1 49 47 0.282

Not all that impressive. The batting average contribution helps given that only four catchers who finished ahead of Molina had a higher average. In an attempt to not undervalue the batting average, Molina’s extrapolated production looks somewhat similar to that of Derek Norris who finished the year as the 11th most valuable fantasy catcher according to Sanders and 13th according to the player rater.

Derek Norris 10 2 46 55 0.270

My guess is that Molina won’t just be drafted like a borderline top 12 fantasy catcher next year even though he wasn’t on pace to be better than that. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him drafted as a top five fantasy catcher. If that assumption is correct, is there any reason to expect Molina to outperform the pace he was on this year?

If he’s going to “bounce back,” it’s going to be because his batting average contributions are huge. When he led all catchers in fantasy value in 2013, he did it primarily because he had the 10th highest batting average contribution among all hitters according to the player rater with a .319 average in 541 PA. A career-high .338 BABIP helped him have the high average despite his strikeout rate being in double digits for the first time since 2007. To be fair, the high BABIP wasn’t totally undeserved as he had the 24th best line drive rate among qualified hitters.

This year his BABIP fell back into the “normal” .270-.310 range at .307. Early 2015 Steamer projections have his BABIP being .305 next year. That’s still good, and his batting average contributions will surely continue to be above average for the position. But it’s unlikely his average spikes back up to where it was. His strikeout rate continued to rise this year, and his line drive rate fell from its peak. With Molina entering his age-32 season, it’s hard to expect those things to rebound.

The home runs and steals are pretty projectable assuming that the 22/12 combo he produced in 2012 was a one-year aberration. And without the average rising again it’s hard to predict his R+RBI total bouncing back up to the 130-140 range. If the Cardinals go back to being the best clutch hitting team in baseball, he could rebound in those counting stats, but it’s not always a great idea to count on teammates to prop a player up.

The one thing to love about Molina is the relatively low floor. Absent another injury, it’s hard to see him being worse than what is conservatively being projected here. And what’s being projected here is a starting catcher in 12-team and maybe even 10-team leagues. Other catchers going between, let’s say, 8th and 14th at the position will be far less projectable. So if Molina falls that far, he’s a solid pick. But it would be a surprise if people weren’t more optimistic about him.

Brett Talley’s 10 Bold Predictions Revisited

Woof! That’s all there is to say about my preseason bold predictions as a whole. The idea was to take players at each position that I had ranked just outside starter territory in 12-team leagues who I thought could beat my ranking. Let’s break them down one by one.

Catcher – Josmil Pinto will be a top ten fantasy catcher.

The biggest problem with my Pinto projection was that I projected him for 450 PA. Pinto didn’t come close to that, finishing with just 194 PA because the Twins gave Kurt Suzuki 502 PA. The one thing my projection did get right was Pinto’s power as he hit 12 home runs in limited work. Had he maintained that pace and received the 450 PA I projected, he would have hit 16 home runs, which would have easily surpassed the 12 I projected. Pinto’s power would make him interesting if he could get regular playing time, but Suzuki is signed through 2016 in Minnesota. Read the rest of this entry »

Using Ball in Play Data to Identify a Sleeper

I spend an inordinate amount of time playing with splits. It’s hard to come up with two new topics to write about each week, so I export a lot of data to Excel and click and sort around until I find something interesting. During the relatively boring late slate of football games yesterday afternoon, I was looking at ball in play data.

It occurred to me that there should be a pretty strong correlation between ERA on balls in play and OPS allowed on balls in play (there is). It then occurred to me that guys who have a relative ERA that’s much lower than their relative OPS might be getting a little lucky. When I say relative, I just calculated each pitcher’s z-score for both statistics, which were adjusted for number of batters faced since they are rate stats. Here are those potentially lucky pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking a Closer Look at Starter/Reliever Pitchers

This should go without saying, but fantasy owners have to be careful with starting pitchers who previously spent time in the bullpen. As we all know, good relievers aren’t all cut out for the starting rotation. The ability to go hard for short bursts allows relievers to cover up deficiencies that prevent them from being starters, with the lack of a third, or even second, pitch being a prime example. But sometimes it is easy to forget that a pitcher spent time in the bullpen when looking at his player page at the end of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Way Too Early Top 10 SP for 2015

I spent an hour trying to find something relevant to say about the last two weeks of the season but was unsuccessful. Or at least there was no topic worth spending several hundred words on. If you’re looking for a two start streamer in what is likely the last week of your H2H playoffs, look at Blue Jays Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison. They’re the most talented pitchers owned in less than 50% of leagues in terms of K-BB% and OPS allowed on balls in play (aka limiting hard contact). Instead, let’s spend a few hundred words quickly running through a way too early top 10 SP list for next year. Read the rest of this entry »

The Third Time (Through the Lineup) Is a Charm

On Monday I wrote about Chris Tillman‘s success the third time through the lineup this season and how that seemed at odds with his established ability to limit hard contact. It turns out there isn’t much of a relationship between those things, so it’s likely that Tillman is due for some regression when facing batters for a third time in a game going forward. It’s likely because excellent research done by Michael Lichtman shows that a pitcher’s past deviations from the typical decline in performance each time through the lineup is not predictive of future performance. He estimates a pitcher would need about eight full seasons of significantly deviating from the average decline each time through the order before that data would become reliable in a predictive sense.

With that said, let’s look at the starters who have been the best the third time through the lineup this year. Most are regression candidates, but there are a few exceptions. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Knowing What to Make of Chris Tillman

Usually all topics for posts come to me while in that hazy state between sleep and not sleep. On many an occasion an idea has snapped me out of that haze and sent me reaching for my phone in order to email the idea to myself so it can be remembered in the morning. But with football season in full swing, most ideas from the haze involve an oddly shaped brown ball right now. With my inbox devoid of any baseball ideas, it was time to scour random groupings of stats hoping something would stick out.

The first hopeful source of inspiration was my recently updated “contact management” list where each pitcher’s OPS allowed on only batted balls is calculated relative to league average (sOPS+). After sorting the list to display the starters with the most plate appearances against in an effort to make sample size less significant, Chris Tillman was the first pitcher who has allowed a lot of balls in play to have an sOPS+ on batted balls that was quite a bit away from average. With 100 being league average, Tillman’s sOPS+ on batted balls is 77. That makes him a top 15 starter in that category among qualified starters. Read the rest of this entry »