Liriano Wearing White Sox

As you are no doubt aware, Francisco Liriano was shipped off to Chicago to don White Sox on Saturday. Yesterday, we looked at the trade from a real baseball perspective and today I analyze the fantasy version. Calling Liriano’s season a roller coaster ride might even understate how up and down he has been. On Saturday, I analyzed Zack Greinke‘s move to Los Angeles and took various factors into account to try projecting his RoS ERA. Unfortunately, I’m not even going to bother with that for Liriano because I certainly don’t have a clue what kind of peripheral skills he will post. However, I will try to determine how the team switch will affect his value.

Defensive Support: The Twins rank 5th in the American League in UZR/150, while the White Sox rank 9th as the first team with a negative mark. However, the White Sox team BABIP ranks 4th, but the Twins are just 11th. Usually, I would expect teams to rank similarly in these two metrics, as better defense according to UZR should lead to more outs on balls in play. This clearly isn’t the case for these two teams, so I’m not sure if one of the metrics is flukey or UZR/150 isn’t capturing everything to fully explain BABIP. Whatever the explanation, the Sox have a better BABIP, so Liriano should receive better defensive support in that regard.

Offensive Support: The Twins rank 8th in the league in wOBA at .320, while the Sox are right ahead of them at .323. Despite posting nearly identical wOBA marks, the White Sox have actually outscored the Twins by 42 runs in 1 less game. The Sox probably do have the better offense, especially after the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis, but I’d be the differential will narrow over the rest of the season. Still, another positive change for Liriano.

Home Run Park Factors: Over the last three years, Target Field in Minnesota has dramatically suppressed home runs. Right-handed homers have been reduced by 17%, while lefty home runs have been decreased by a whopping 32%. On the other hand, U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago is a home run haven, boosting righty homers by 38% and inflating lefty shots by 22%. Liriano has already struggled with the long ball this year, allowing an 18.9% mark away from home and a more normal 10% mark in Minnesota. While the bet would have been that his luck improves, the park switch is not good news.

Other Park Factors: On the whole, Target Field has reduced runs scored by 5% and U.S. Cellular has increased them by 6%. The Chicago park has also inflated walks by 19% and strikeouts by 8%. Given Liriano’s control issues, the inflated walk rate is an ominous park tendency. An increased strikeout rate will offset some of it, but not all. Like I concluded in the home run park factors category, the other park factors also point to this being very bad news for Liriano’s fantasy value.

So overall, various factors are going to affect Liriano’s projected performance as follows:

Team Switch: Better defensive and offensive support should lead to a lower BABIP and stronger run support. This is positive for his value.

Park Switch: A move to an extreme hitter’s park will lead to a higher HR/FB ratio, a higher walk and strikeout rate, and more runs allowed. This is an obvious negative for his value.

Without plugging in my new projections into my spreadsheet like I did with Greinke, it’s more difficult to figure out how all the factors interact. However, I would guess that the park switch will outweigh the benefits of slightly better defensive and offensive support and that Liriano loses a bit of fantasy value. His projected RoS ERA rises with the move, though his WHIP might not necessarily do so as a lower BABIP could offset a higher walk rate. Wins should also be unaffected as a higher ERA comes along with better run support.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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What about the Don Cooper effect?