Author Archive

Michael Saunders is a Box of Chocolates

Michael Saunders had an infuriating 2014 season. Just ask Jack Zduriencik. Condor was good with the bat, sometimes even great. He played by most accounts superior defense. He did things on second base which children shouldn’t see. He missed time because of a knee hyperextension, shoulder soreness, and spent two stints on the disabled list because of a bad A/C joint in his shoulder and was lost for 50 games with an abdominal strain. All told, he played just 78 games but managed to amass 1.9 WAR and post a 126 wRC+ despite himself.

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Austin Jackson Doesn’t Like Throwing Fish

I guess I could have said Austin Jackson hates rain since everyone thinks it pours 365 in the Emerald City, but then again, Safeco Field is civilized enough to have a roof so inclement weather doesn’t really apply. Digression. The point is, Austin Jackson, after the post-non-waiver-trading-deadline thing was pretty bad as a member of the Seattle Mariners. And in fantasy circles, pretty bad is generally accepted as being something one wants to avoid should one like winning shiny things. The question of course is was his level of badness, in a non-Michael-Jackson badness way, some product of dumb luck? Or is he going to, as Mike Tyson once said, “fade into Bolivian.”

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David Freese Not As Totally Awful As He Probably Is

David Freese likes to keep you guessing. In 2011, he was a hero. From 2012 to 2013, he went from very good to very bad. This season he went from very bad to kinda alright, sort of. And I’m not altogether sure what to think of him for 2015. Allow me to explain.

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Give Dustin Pedroia A Hand, Please

In 2013, Dustin Pedroia had what most fantasy baseball enthusiasts considered a down year. Despite hitting .301/.372/.415, Pedroia’s counting stats slipped to single digit home runs, and he failed to break 20 stolen bases for the first time since 2007 (not counting injury-plagued 2010). He did provide plenty of runs and RBI for the World Series champs, and considering he played with a troublesome thumb injury for quite some time, there were many who considered him a good bounceback candidate after getting it fixed in November of last year.

And why not a bounceback? After all, Pedroia had pretty firmly settled himself behind Robinson Cano in the top tier of second basemen for the better part of five seasons going back to 2008. Pedroia was a perennial .300 hitter with 20-20 written all over him, and among league leaders at second base in runs and RBI. With the thumb issue behind him, most prognosticators saw a return to 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases at a minimum, with his typical associated counting stat output to follow.

And then on April 4th, the Red Sox home opener, Carlos Gomez slid into second base to break up a double play. Pedroia went up in the air, and came down on his surgically repaired hand. And Pedroia’s season kind of mirrored that of the Boston Red Sox all season — it just never materialized. And in fact, Pedroia aggravated his hand injury several times over the course of the season, ultimately succumbing to surgery in September when it was clear the Red Sox weren’t going anywhere in 2014 and/or he just couldn’t play with it anymore. He would finish with a .278/.337/.376 slash line with seven home runs, just five stolen bases and the lowest wOBA as a professional by far at .318.

Looking at his 2014 performance is going to be difficult inasmuch as using it as a predictor for future contributions. Because there’s no doubt you need strong hands in order to hit a baseball, and if Pedroia lacked that for the majority of the season, well then maybe his performance was actually miraculous.

If you look at his batted ball data, Pedroia was well within what would be considered normal for his career:

2011 19.10% 47.70% 33.30% 11.40%
2012 19.80% 45.60% 34.60% 8.50%
2013 21.60% 50.40% 27.90% 5.60%
2014 23.90% 48.30% 27.80% 5.20%
Career 20.70% 44.90% 34.40% 7.40%

His line drive rate was actually at a career high at nearly 24% while his fly ball rate was at a career low. His HR/FB rate was at its lowest mark since 2007, but if you look at his average distance on fly balls and home runs over the past four seasons, it might signal some bad luck (by his standard):

HR/FB Distance
2011 279
2012 272
2013 265
2014 278

So after seeing his fly ball and home run distance drop to a pretty paltry 265 feet, it popped back up in 2014 almost to the level it was when he hit a career high 21 home runs. But obviously, the home runs never really materialized in 2014.

Something that might be of concern, and perhaps just a measure of his age, is the steady decline in his pitch values on fastballs:

Season wFA/C wSL/C
2010 1.87 -0.92
2011 1.62 0.32
2012 1.37 -0.72
2013 -0.22 0.25
2014 -0.28 0.36

I include sliders here simply because that’s the second most frequent pitch Pedroia sees, and he’s holding his own there — but on fastballs, which he sees almost 40% of the time, he has been in steady decline for five seasons, although this year was a hair less terrible than last year. I’m not sure we can pin all of this on a bad hand, but it could be part of the explanation.

Pedroia has been a guy who historically has used all fields pretty well, and his scatter plot from the 2014 season demonstrates a pretty decent distribution:


But somewhere around mid-season, Pedroia started to become a very pull-heavy hitter (from July 15 to end of season):


And during that same time span, he became a much heavier ground ball hitter in lieu of line drives:


This data is what makes me lean towards his hand bugging him. He was hitting less like Pedroia than ever, and it just deteriorated over the course of the season. It’s incredibly difficult to predict which Pedroia will show up in 2015, but I’ll certainly be looking for news on his health, specifically that troublesome hand. Because he’s now seen two seasons ostensibly derailed by the same hand injury and prior to that, he was one of the most reliable second baseman in both real and fantasy baseball. He could be a bargain on draft day, but the risk is high — if he turns in another year like 2014, you’ll be kicking yourself all the way to Rickie Weeks.

Duda Did That

Lucas Duda entered the 2014 season not ranked particularly high on anyone’s list, in large part due to his spotty track record, but also because of a logjam in the Mets outfield coupled with the presence of Ike Davis at first. Indeed, Duda came in ranked 37th overall at 1st base and in most formats was left until $1 dollar flyer time, last round bottom feed, or in many cases, to the waiver wire. And it turns out he would have provided a heck of a pickup if you took the early risk.

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Meet Jarrod Saltalamacchia

There weren’t too many who were bullish on Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming into 2014 even after his 2013 totals ranked him about eighth overall for catchers. Salty was coming off his finest season as a professional, reducing his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate, all while producing a .273/.338/.466 slash line with 14 home runs and career highs in runs and RBI with 68 and 65, respectively. He even stole four bases.

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The Post-Deadline Austin Jackson

In the “post-non-waiver-trading-deadline” narratives, it was thought that the Seattle Mariners had done pretty well for themselves. They were in need of a center fielder and they needed a right handed bat at a minimum and they managed to do just that, bringing in Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia without giving up someone like Taijuan Walker. The Mariners brass had to be particularly thrilled with netting Jackson, who would ostensibly man center for the foreseeable future.

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The All Undrafted Rotation

Although lacking an iota of scientific investigation, the 2014 fantasy baseball season seemed to have an inordinate wealth of free starting pitching talent. I’m not one to draft starters very early in practice to begin with, rather targeting the early teen rounds in standard snake drafts to try and pluck solid, if unspectacular, starters. But it turns out, I really didn’t have to draft starters at all. I could have amassed a championship caliber rotation off of the waiver wire had I possessed some gift of forthtelling or psychic intuition or a super fancy magic 8 ball.

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Blow Up Your Innings

You probably know the drill by now, but if you play in Yahoo leagues, there’s a Hail Mary option at the end of the season to chase wins, strikeouts, or if you’re in a miserable league like I am, points. You can whittle your innings down to precious few, even one third of an inning left on your allocation for the season — and then run five starters and two relievers out there to try and blow the roof off. It doesn’t matter if all seven guys through complete games, you’ll get credit for their stats, for better or for worse.

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Concern, Keeper, Kazmir

Public disclaimer on this one as I’m an admitted Scott Kazmir fan. I own him on virtually every one of my fantasy teams, and the part of me that loves good baseball stories just can’t get enough of the path that Kazmir has taken over his career. That’s probably a fatal flaw of mine relative to fantasy baseball success — the tendency to own guys you actually like to root for in real life. And I still root for Scott Kazmir. But that doesn’t mean I’d still start him on my fantasy baseball teams.

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