Author Archive

Ballsy with Trevor Cahill

Here’s my ballsiest, way-too-early, 2015 Fantasy Baseball Prediction: Trevor Cahill becomes a fantasy asset again at age 27: the magical-mystery-kind.

For only the second time of his career last year, his FIP was sub-4.00, but his left-on-base rate was only 62.6% and his BABIP was 65 points higher than his career rate (.350 vs. .285). He was the trifecta (unlucky HR/FB rate as well) away from a 6.00+ ERA season.

The outcomes were bad. However, the outcomes on the pitch level were still impressive at times:

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What Happens When Madison Bumgarner is Really On?

On 7/18, Madison Bumgarner changed his positioning on the mound. Eno noted it and Madison Bumgarner confirmed it. Bumgarner has worked to make his pitches (and I presume his release point) very similar through video and in front of a mirror “making sure he sets up in in the right places.”

Eno summed it up: “Bumgarner is ready to make the most of his old playbook. Throw lots of fastballs, cutters, and curves, all from the same release point, all with similar spin, and all exploding out of a slow, deliberate delivery.”

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2015 Steamer (Position-Adjusted) Fantasy Baseball Rankings

*Updated 10/23/2014 with Position Tiers ($5.00 USD).

The 2015 Steamer projections are up on FanGraphs! “Steamer” uses playing time projections from our depth charts, but right now there are important players (Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester for examples) missing actual projected playing time. I therefore went into mensch-mode and manually updated Plate Appearance and Innings Pitched projections – very manually, but at least somewhat rational. What I did for these players was go into their “Steamer 600″ projections and took their HR, R, RBI and SB per Plate Appearance projected rates (W, SV, SO per Inning Pitched for pitchers) and outputted associated counting stats connected to the quantity of Plate Appearances/Innings Pitched.

*To see which players I manipulated, go into the “P” and “H” tabs in the below embedded file: click on the “…” tab to the left of the current depicted tab. I highlighted all names and counting stats per plate appearance or innings pitched that I edited in Yellow so that I can associate some accountability with the end-rankings. I edited a few catchers’ PA totals even though Steamer already had totals for them (Lucroy, Mesoraco, etc.). I also edited Troy Tulowitzki‘s and Carlos Gonzalez‘s PA totals, because…well, you know. I could spend all month editing the PA totals, but I’m not that much of a mensch.

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Travis d’Arnaud: TDA less TBD

Here is Travis d’Arnaud before he was sent down on June 8th: .180/.271/.273/.241 (BA/OBP/SLG/wOBA).

Here is TDA after his return: .269/.315/.481/.346. He also tore it up (again) at Triple-A.

Here is TDA from August fifth onward: .280/.335/.510/.369. Yan Gomes, FYI, went .278/.313/.472/.340 albeit for the season.

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Russell Martin: Lucky son of a BIP(s)

Let’s start with a multiple choice question.

1) Russell Martin has been lucky on the following balls-in-play type(s):

a) Grounders

b) Liners

c) Flies

d) at least Grounders and Flies

If you chose a) grounders, you would be wrong. If you chose d) flies, you would be wrong. If you chose b) liners, well… you could be partly right, however, the correct answer is d) at least grounders and flies. You could argue that there should be an e) option, ‘all of the above.’

According to Zach Sanders’ End of Season Catcher rankings, Russell Martin bamboozled his way into the top 10 at #7 overall and produced what would have been his 2nd best fantasy season if he approached 150+ games.

By bamboozled, I mean BABIP’ed.

Look at his 2014 ground ball, fly ball and line drive-related BABIP’s on each individual balls-in-play type in 2014 relative to his career; relative to 2013 (still with the Pirates); and relative to the mean if we considered his career rates as a one year performance:

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Building a Closer Through Outcomes

There are a sundry of middle/set-up relievers that can succeed in the closer role if given the opportunity. A few obvious: Wade Davis if something happens to Greg Holland… Wil Myers for James Shields and who?!; Ken Giles if the Phillies can somehow find a trade partner for the grundle-grabber; and Brad Boxberger if not Jake McGee. I assume David Robertson signs elsewhere and Dellin Betances steps in.

Lets’ look at potential closers using reliever outcomes. Here are the average contact and balls in play-related outcomes for all relievers that qualified and specifically relievers with 10+ saves:

Command: K% BB% K-BB% Ct% SwStr% Zn% F-Str%
AVG for RP w/ > 10 SV 0.27 0.07 0.19 0.75 0.12 0.46 0.63
SD for RP w/ > 10 SV 0.08 0.03 0.08 0.06 0.03 0.04 0.04
AVG for all qualified RP’s 0.22 0.09 0.14 0.77 0.11 0.45 0.60
SD for all qualified RP’s 0.07 0.03 0.07 0.05 0.03 0.04 0.05
AVG for RP w/ > 10 SV 0.43 0.37 0.11 1.40 0.08 0.78 0.275
SD for RP w/ > 10 SV 0.11 0.10 0.04 1.02 0.05 0.08 0.042
AVG for all qualified RP’s 0.45 0.35 0.09 1.50 0.09 0.75 0.289
SD for all qualified RP’s 0.10 0.09 0.05 0.81 0.05 0.08 0.044

Our Filters: 

  • Contact-related outcomes: For K-BB%, Ct% and SwStr%, I filtered simply by the general relief pitcher averages. Everyone below average in these 3 categories was filtered out.
  • Command-related outcomes: For zone% and first-pitch-strike%, I used 1 standard deviation below average and 1.25 SD’s below average in BABIP as filters. 1.25 SD allowed me to omit only the relievers that had career BABIP’s higher than we would like to see for a closer or in general. I didn’t want to screen out Jenrry Mejia (1.24 SD below the mean) or Tim Stauffer (1.19 SD below), because there’s a possibility for BABIP regression.
  • Balls In Play-related outcomes: I was lax on the balls in play outcomes. I went with a 40% Grounder rate and 45% Flyball rate as my filters versus the averages that you see above because below average fly-rates don’t mean much in places like Tampa (where Boxberger is elite but below average in fly-rates); and above average grounder-rates don’t mean as much with atrocious defense behind you (hence Corey Kluber‘s unlucky BABIP, which should have been closer to .299 per end-of-season xBABIP/Inside Edge data), but I digress.

Using these filters, we’re left with a robust list of above-average relievers beyond just closers (scroll down for the noted filters):

What happens if we use the command (K-BB%)/contact (Ct% and SwStr%) related averages for relievers with more than 10 saves this year? 

…We’re left with some elite closers and then a few interesting names.

Last year, Danny Farquhar (just missed the list this year) had a top 20 swinging-strike rate - about a percent better than Fernando Rodney, but it was masked by his BABIP and left-on-base rate that killed his surface stats (4.20 ERA vs. 2.40 xFIP). This year, he actually outperformed his xFIP with a 2.66 ERA. After an early season MASH Report on Rodney’s velocity, I eyed Farquhar. At least keep him in mind next year if anything does happen to Rodney.

Josh Edgin (Mets for those of you that don’t know) has a top 65 contact-rate sandwiched between Mark Melancon and Jake McGee and even induced grounders 50% of the time. He has a pretty extensive repertoire as well. In order of usage: Fourseamer, Slider, Curve, Change, Cutter and Sinker. According to his Brooks Player Card, he has great swing and miss rates on his Curve (>56%), Cutter (50%), Slider (>42%) and Sinker (33%). Even his Change approaches 30%. This isn’t the case on his Fastball, but at 93+ MPH, it induces a decent amount of grounders (1.8 GB/FB). Keep in mind he had late-season elbow issues which effected his velocity by a MPH or so, but he could be called upon to get Mejia out of a jam. I like him better than an unhealthy Bobby Parnell and Jeurys Familia from a command perspective for another year.

Zach Duke did his best Craig Kimbrel impression prior to the R2M monster hitting him in August. Prior to 8/1, Duke had a 34.9% K-rate and 27.3 K-BB%. Kimbrel ended the year with a 38.9% K-rate and 28.3 K-BB%. I think August and September brought him back to his realistic value (~2.50 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). It will be interesting to see who closes for the Brewers if they let Francisco Rodriguez go. Both Duke and Will Smith have above average (even for RP w/ 10+ saves) swing-and-miss. Will Smith should have additional command next year, but Zack Duke induces grounders better which I like in my closers/in Milwaukee. They also have Jonathan Broxton. The hierarchy seemed to be K-rod-Broxton-Smith late last season. If that’s the case, they should use Duke more (former starter) and in higher leverage situations. He was equally solid against both lefties (.258 wOBA) and righties (.262 wOBA).

Oliver Perez everybody! I thought I could filter him out by his splits being a lefty, but like 2012, he was more effective vs. righties (and faced 44 more of them). The D-backs have Addison Reed, up-and-comer Evan Marshall as well as Daniel Hudson caught touching 97 MPH so if not by outcomes or splits, we can filter Perez out by opportunity.

Darren O’Day and Andrew Miller is part of one dominating Baltimore bullpen – one that gets referenced by anyone who thinks the Orioles can beat the Tigers in the ALDS. Notice that Zach Britton didn’t make either of the above lists! He was filtered out by his below average K-BB% (13.70%). It’s his 75+% grounder rate (hence the 81+% left-on-base rate and .215 BABIP) that keeps him elite in Baltimore. The only concern you can have with O’Day is a fastball velocity almost 2 standard deviations below the mean for relievers, but his arm angle combined with that slider still induces a 30+% whiff-rate on both pitches. Miller’s slider though is a world apart from O’Day’s: only Pedro Strop, Will Smith, Jake Diekman, Greg Holland and Oliver Perez induces more whiffs than Miller’s 55% according to Baseball Prospectus’ Pitchf/x Leaderboards.  I doubt we’ll see a closer-transition next year in Baltimore unless Britton’s GB/FB ratio takes a drastic dive because his HR/FB ratio, which approached 18%, could be an issue.

An xBABIP review

On the last day of the season, @jeffwzimmerman provided me with Pitch xBABIP based on inside edge data. Let’s look at some of the bigger xBABIP differentials to keep in mind:

The last column depicts the z-score for BABIP differential. Francisco Rodriguez was expected to have a BABIP about 120 points above his actual BABIP. I highlighted (red/bad; green/good) the xBABIP z-scores as well so that you know whether or not to actually be concerned meaning sure Aaron Sanchez has the 5th biggest BABIP differential (over 2 standard deviations from the mean), but a .239 xBABIP is still utterly elite (3.34 SD’s from the mean). On the other side of the equation, it’s nice to see Evan Marshall, Carlos Martinez and Adam Ottavino (albeit in Colorado) with large BABIP differentials. Marshall and Martinez even have xBABIP’s over .5SD from the mean.

The last bit of fun

It was a very fun year to be doing bullpen reports for RotoGraphs. Aroldis Chapman broke the single-season strikeout rate of 2012 Craig Kimbrel (50.2%). He struck out 52.5% of the hitters he faced. Andrew Miller (42.6%) and Brad Boxberger (42.1%) also made the top 10 seasons ever. Dellin Betances (39.6%), Wade Davis (39.1%) and Craig Kimbrel (38.9%) made the top 20. Chapman’s swinging-strike% of 20% beat ’12 Kimbrel by .8%, but he couldn’t pass ’04 Lidge, ’03 Gagne, ’04 Gagne, ’02 Gagne or ’05 Lidge. Chapman, Miller, Doolittle, Boxberger, Betances (Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen close behind) all had historical, top 20 K-BB rates. Relievers dominate this list: only ’99 Pedro Martinez (#12), ’00 Pedro Martinez (#21), ’01 Randy Johnson (#27) and ’01 Pedro Martinez (#28) make it into the top 30, but it’s clear that we have a growing list of elite relievers.

From a fantasy perspective, thanks to 45+ saves totals out of Holland and Kimbrel, we had two relievers ranked in the top 20 pitchers. If Chapman didn’t miss time and Betances and Davis consumed the closer role, we would have had 3 others. Last year, Craig Kimbrel and his 4 wins, 50 saves, 98 SO’s, 1.21 ERA and .88 WHIP campaign made him the 3rd most valuable pitcher. This year with Kershaw, Cueto, Felix and Kluber, it would have taken even more.

If we combined the 3 more dominating performances exclusive of saves this year: Aroldis Chapman’s K-rate (52.5%) and saves total (36), Dellin Betances IP (90) – who was dominating in his own right, Wade Davis’ ERA (1.00) and Wins total (9) and Sean Doolittle‘s WHIP (.73) – let’s call this guy Aroldellin Dooldavis, we would wind up with a 10.95 z-sum…just above Corey Kluber (10.72), but under Clayton Kershaw (13.74), Johnny Cueto (12.95) and Felix Hernandez (12.50). Even 50 saves wouldn’t have done the trick (12.43 z-sum):

Clayton Kershaw 26 198.1 0.86 4.23 1.77 3.53 21 3.38 239 2.95 0 -0.34 13.74
Johnny Cueto 28 243.2 0.96 3.91 2.25 3.22 20 3.16 242 3.01 0 -0.34 12.95
Felix Hernandez 28 236 0.92 4.29 2.14 3.37 15 2.06 248 3.12 0 -0.34 12.50
Aroldellin DoolDavis 25 90 0.73 2.50 1 2.25 9 0.74 177 1.77 50 5.17 12.43
Corey Kluber 28 235.2 1.09 2.14 2.44 2.69 18 2.72 269 3.52 0 -0.34 10.73
Adam Wainwright 32 227 1.03 2.79 2.38 2.72 20 3.16 179 1.80 0 -0.34 10.13
Jon Lester 30 219.2 1.1 1.88 2.46 2.46 16 2.28 220 2.59 0 -0.34 8.86
David Price 28 248.1 1.08 2.40 3.26 0.89 15 2.06 271 3.56 0 -0.34 8.56
Chris Sale 25 174 0.97 2.68 2.17 2.43 12 1.40 208 2.36 0 -0.34 8.52
Madison Bumgarner 24 217.1 1.09 1.97 2.98 1.35 18 2.72 219 2.57 0 -0.34 8.27
Zack Greinke 30 202.1 1.15 1.18 2.71 1.78 17 2.50 207 2.34 0 -0.34 7.46
Max Scherzer 29 220.1 1.18 0.94 3.19 0.93 18 2.72 252 3.20 0 -0.34 7.45
Jordan Zimmermann 28 199.2 1.07 2.02 2.66 1.85 14 1.84 182 1.86 0 -0.34 7.22
Julio Teheran 23 221 1.08 2.13 2.89 1.57 14 1.84 186 1.94 0 -0.34 7.13
Stephen Strasburg 25 215 1.12 1.61 3.14 1.01 14 1.84 242 3.01 0 -0.34 7.12
Garrett Richards 26 168.2 1.04 1.96 2.61 1.64 13 1.62 164 1.52 0 -0.34 6.39
Greg Holland 28 62.1 0.91 1.11 1.44 1.28 1 -1.02 90 0.10 46 4.73 6.21
Craig Kimbrel 26 61.2 0.91 1.09 1.61 1.16 0 -1.24 95 0.20 47 4.84 6.06


End of Season Bullpen Report: “Expected” Fantasy Rankings

Any day now, Zach Sanders (@zvsanders) will come out with his end-of-season FAVRz/Fantasy Rankings. Look out for them.

For this post, I will provide three sets of rankings using that same approach (summed up z-scores) for our end-of-season “Bullpen Report: Expected Fantasy Rankings”. The Bullpen Report team should follow up with role reports for each division in the coming weeks as well.

The first set of rankings you will find almost anywhere: on the fantasy sites that you use, via player-raters, etc. It’s the standard 5×5 fantasy value (Wins, ERA, WHIP, SO and Saves). The second grid will be for 6×6 leagues (addition of Holds). The last grid will be for 5×5 and 6×6 leagues, but instead of standard ERA and WHIP, we’ll look at rankings if you were to use expected ERA (via SIERA) and adjusted (adj)WHIP through BABIP differential: I will explain below.

1) 5x5 Rankings (Wins, ERA, WHIP, SO and Saves) – actual 5×5 value in column 4; expected 5×5 value in column 5:

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Guarantee Fairy: Deep League Options

I’ve stolen from the movie before. I’ll do so again…

Guarantee? If you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your fantasy teams’ sake, for your daughter’s sake, ya might wanna think about listening to quality content from me.

If you don’t know where this reference is from, then well…just ring your call button, and Tommy will come back there and hit you over the head with a tack hammer.

I actually will play guarantee fairy here, specifically for deep leagues since there are no uber-exciting names that jump out in my below grid. So here goes…

So long as they pitch to a qualifying level of innings without getting hurt or losing velocity (not ballsy enough to leave out these contingencies), I GUARANTEE these starters won’t be any worse next year (although in the grid below I highlighted in different strengths of green/red both starters and relievers):

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Imagine Yusmeiro Petit with Velocity?

Of starters who have thrown a fastball at least 200 times this year, Yusmeiro Petit’s average velocity (89.13 MPH according to Baseball Pro’s Pitchf/x leaderboard) comes in at #167 of 173. Yet, only Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Yu Darvish have better K-rates than him. Only Kershaw, Francisco Liriano, Masahiro Tanaka, Sale, Tyson Ross and Carlos Carrasco have a better swinging-strike rate than him in general.

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Bullpen Report: September 20, 2014

The closer grid is updated below, but first up is your current rankings for 5×5 (W,SO,ERA,WHIP,SV), 6×6 (+HLD) and rate-stat (K/9, BB/9, HR/9, H/9, ERA) leagues using z-scores (rate stats adjusted by IP) for each category. It’s currently sorted by the standard 5×5 format. Scroll to the right for all of the individual z-scores in gray. I highlighted the relievers in green:

Here is yesterday morning’s review of Friday’s games including a grundle-grab reference, Edward Mujica probably sticking at closer, Drew Storen definitely sticking at closer, a White Sox closer swap rewarded with shakiness, and an update on Glen Glen Glen!

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