Downs, Robertson, Samardzija: Climbing Depth Charts

Middle relievers tend to get hurt and/or be ineffective no apparent reason, creating an opening for other guys in the bullpen to get more leveraged work. It happens all the time, and taking advantage of situations like that are a necessity in fantasy these days. That applies to saves mostly, but we can’t forget about holds as well.  Here’s three guys that recently climbed a notch or two on the depth chart thanks to some hobbled teammates…

Scott Downs | Angels

Downs is no stranger to the late innings after all those years in Toronto, but Fernando Rodney‘s injury gave him an undisputed hold on the eighth inning role in Anaheim. He’s a holds-only kind of guy because his strikeout rate is down and very underwhelming (4.79 K/9) , and the last few years suggest his true talent level is not a .215 BABIP, especially not with a 65.6% ground ball rate. Downs’ FIP continues to sit in the low-3.00′s (3.24 to be exact) and soon enough his ERA will approach that (it’s at 1.31 with a 91.4% LOB rate), but he’s getting consistent late innings work and will help pad that holds total if that’s all your looking for.

David Robertson | Yankees

Injuries to Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain have made Robertson Mariano Rivera‘s latest setup man. He’s a strikeout fiend, sporting a 14.49 K/9 this season and a career 11.84 mark, but he’s stone cold WHIP killer because he walks a ton of guys (5.93 BB/9 this year, 4.92 career). If you want to massage the numbers a little bit and remove the three intentional walks, his walk rate this year is “just” 4.94 BB/9. The Yankees win a lot of games and Robertson will have plenty of leads to protect late in the game, so his holds total should climb considerably in the coming weeks while his strikeout rate remains elite.

Jeff Samardzija | Cubs

Through his first 18 appearances (24.1 IP), Samardzija unintentionally walked 23 batters and struck out 28. In ten appearances (12.1 IP) since, he’s walked just two and struck out 13. Progress or a mirage? Either way, Samardzija has inherited more late inning responsibility now that Kerry Wood made his annual trip to the disabled list, and if nothing else he’ll continue to offer plenty of whiffs even if his walk rate craters again. There’s not much value here beyond strikeouts and expected holds, but if you like to gamble on upside or are in a deep mixed or NL-only setup, Samardzija could offer some payoff.

All three players are owned in less than ten percent in both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

5 Responses to “Downs, Robertson, Samardzija: Climbing Depth Charts”

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  1. Corey says:

    Ok, this is starting to bug me. How do you know Down’s “true talent level” is not .215 BABIP? Seems to me BABIP just gets used to assert anything you were going to say anyway regardless of what it is. Simultaneously it gets called, “luck” and a skill. If someone has a low BABIP why can’t that just mean that they’re good at pitching to weak contact? You guys constantly cite this stat with no consistency of use, makes me wonder if the stat has any practical use at all. Simultaneously you folks use it to assert that people are about to come “back to earth” or that they’re “raking.” It’s entirely dependent on what their “true talent level” is, but how would you ever know such a thing? And if someone’s BABIP is dramatically different than past years might that just mean that they’re a dramatically different pitcher than they were in the past?

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    • W says:

      “It’s entirely dependent on what their “true talent level” is, but how would you ever know such a thing?”

      You start by seeing that Downs has a career .294 BABIP, along with, like, almost every MLB pitcher. See, pitchers (unlike hitters) haven’t really shown a consistent ability to effect their BABIP, so it tends to converge around .300 for everyone. That’s a REALLY SIMPLIFIED ANSWER, but it’s a start.

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      • Corey says:

        Well, that’s funny, because it looks to me like last year 4 qualified starting pitchers recorded BABIPs under .250, while 10 had BABIPs over .320. Now for relief pitchers with significantly fewer innings and a lot lower risk of tiring during a game, I see no reason why Down’s can’t naturally have a .215 BABIP. You come back to his performance in the past, but maybe he’s made an adjustment, maybe he’s locating better and leaving fewer balls up in the zone, maybe he’s been UNLUCKY in the past and this is the real Scott Downs? Furthermore, if you’re arguing BABIPs shouldn’t vary, it looks to me like just among qualified starters, BABIPs actually do vary. So what’s the cause of that? Is it the defense behind them? Is it luck? Or is it that some pitchers are better at pitching to weak contact than others? If you treat it as luck you reduce from pitching everything but strikeouts, home runs, and walks, and as a former player, coach, and fan, I find that a completely absurd assessment, that some pitchers are not better at making batters hit weak outs than others. As soon as you accept that we should be saying that a low BABIP is a good thing, it shows the pitcher gets weak contact, not that he’s bound to get shelled soon.

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      • zzzzzzzipp says:

        IT IS ALWAYS ABSURD TO PRETEND TO KNOWLEDGE IN THE FUTURE, AS COREY HAS DISCOVERED.

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  2. Jacob Smith says:

    A pitcher’s BABIP is primarily caused by his batted ball profile. Extreme fly ball pitchers “usually” have lower BABIPs, because fly balls often turn into outs when they don’t leave the park. Pitchers who give up lots of line drives and ground balls tend to have higher BABIPs.

    Saying “All pitchers move towards .300″ isn’t really true, which is why they invented xBABIP. Pitchers tend to regress towards their career norm, and whatever their batted ball profile suggests that their BABIP should be. With a 66% GB rate (not surprisingly, his LD rate is also so low as to be unsustainable), maintaining a .215 BABIP is solidly into “fluke” territory, especially if he continues at this rate. If he gave up 80% fly balls, I’d buy into a .215 BABIP being possible, as fly balls turn into outs far more often (when they remain in play). Lowe, Hudson and Webb, 3 of the accepted ground ball “aces”, all have BABIPs around .285 from 2002 to 2010. Cain, Lilly and Washburn, 3 guys with very FB heavy profiles, all have BABIPs around .270. Batted ball profile is very indicative of BABIP going forward, so I wouldn’t buy the .215 BABIP for Downs.

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