Posted on: December 22, 2011 5:44 pm
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Dissecting Darvish: Everything Yu Need To Know

When the news broke that the Texas Rangers won the bidding rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish, the baseball world let out a collective sigh of relief. Darvish’s entry into the MLB has been greatly anticipated:his performance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic wowed the public and made him the most promising Nippon import since Ichiro Suzuki.

For those of us competing in the online world of fantasy baseball play, however, the satisfaction was not shared. Immediately, team owners started fretting about where to draft him, what kind of numbers are to be expected and if the home run haven known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington will be his downfall.

Luckily, I have the answers to those questions, and a few more.

The general disadvantage we have as owners in determining Darvish’s value is a lack of familiarity. Although we can read about his statistics in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, I find they provide little insight given the leagues’ differences. Those variances include strength of competition, park dimensions — even the ball used is smaller than our American version.

In an instance such as this, where I am unfamiliar with the player in question, I turn to scouting reports. The report below was provided by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (you can read the full article by Grantland’s Jonah Keri here):

Darvish’s repertoire is diverse, with six distinct pitches that he throws with excellent movement. They are:

• 90-96 MPH 4-seam fastball;
• 90-93 MPH 2-seam fastball which resembles a shuuto, a pitch thrown by some Japanese right-handed pitchers that tends to break down and in against right-handed batters;
• 90-92 MPH cutter;
• 85-ish MPH horizontally breaking slider;
• Low 80s downward-breaking slider, which Newman says looks more like a power curve;
65-70 MPH curveball

The sixth pitch thrown by right-hander is a change-up, but it is said to not be very strong. Like most starters who boast an arsenal this deep, Darvish will need to refine his pitch collection, and going forward, it’s expected he will throw both the 4-seam and 2-seam fastball, a slider, and a cutter.

Darvish started 29 games for the Nippon Ham Fighters this year, and I averaged the velocity for those four pitches over the course of the season:

• 4-seam fastball: 93.2
• 2-seam fastball: 91.7
• cutter: 89.9
• slider: 80.4

Darvish certainly has the stuff necessary to be successful in the MLB, but what kind of stat line is he capable of producing?  The 5-year projection table below was created by "The Oracle", Dan Szymborski. Dan uses his ZiPS projection system to translate NPB statistics into the MLB equivalency (I included the BB/K ratio for added flair):

2012: 13-7, 3.62 ERA with 46 walks, 169 strikeouts, 3.67 K/BB
2013: 13-7, 3.55 ERA with 44 walks, 167 strikeouts, 3.79 K/BB
2014: 13-7, 3.52 ERA with 42 walks, 163 strikeouts, 3.88 K/BB
2015: 12-6, 3.54 ERA with 39 walks, 153 strikeouts, 3.92 K/BB
2016: 11-6, 3.46 ERA with 38 walks, 150 strikeouts, 3.94 K/BB

While Szymborski projects a falling win percentage, the decreasing ERA and increasing K/BB ratio is encouraging. Although Szymborski’s 2012 ZiPS series is not finished, based on available projections, Madison Bumgarner appears to be the most suitable comparison. Dan projects Bumgarner to tally a 13-10 record, record a 164:48 K/BB ratio and finish with an ERA of 3.45.

In a related article, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus surveyed 10 executives and scouts around the league regarding their preference for Darvish or five other right-handed pitchers. The pitchers compared were Ricky Nolasco, Ian Kennedy, Matt Garza, Zack Greinke and 2011 AL MVP/Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander. The only pitcher preferred was Verlander, with Greinke drawing a tie (you can find the full results over at ESPN).

Taking all of this into account, what can fantasy owners determine about Darvish?

The projections effectively eliminate the question about whether we should expect ace-like numbers in his first MLB season. He appears to be worthy of a tier-2 ranking in standard re-draft leagues, and is best suited to slot as your no. 2 or even no. 3 starting pitcher. If you can fight the urge to reach and effectively select Yu as your no. 3, you may just reward yourself with the steal of the draft.

He obviously holds greater value in long-term keeper and dynasty leagues. Out of all the pitchers listed above, I’d confidently select Bumgarner, Verlander, and Kennedy ahead of him in those formats. And if I were asked to choose between Darvish and Matt Moore for the upcoming year, I’d choose Moore without a second thought.

Follow me on Twitter @ChristopherB609


Posted on: December 11, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Ryan Braun & the fantasy impact of a 50 game ban

Per ESPN, reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The article contains a statement from his representative stating that the 28-year-old will appeal the decision. It should be noted that the suspected violation is for abnormal testosterone levels and not steroids, but the positive test still comes with a 50-game suspension.

In 2011, Braun batted .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 109 runs scored, and 33 stolen bases. He was one of the top fantasy performers in all of baseball, battling Matt Kemp for outfielder supremacy.

If the decision is not overturned, and Braun serves his suspension, his fantasy value will take a substantial hit. He will still be drafted relatively high in long-term keeper and dynasty formats, but his average draft position in re-draft leagues is sure to plummet.

Braun’s production was greatly tied to the protection Prince Fielder provided. A Fielder-less lineup was sure to impact the quality of pitches Braun would see, and in turn, create a dip in his numbers across the board.

Even with a full season, the likely loss of Fielder meant Braun was looking at a 2012 line similar to his 2010 season, when he hit .304 with 25 home runs, 103 RBI, 101 runs and 14 steals.

But now, with a 50-game suspension, the best I could see him doing next year is .300 with 22 home runs, 82 RBI, 14 steals and 76 runs. While those numbers are still respectable, it is a far cry from the production expected from a first-round pick.

Braun's situation offers owners an interesting draft dilemma.  With a 50 game suspension he would miss the first two months of the season and be eligible to return on June 1st vs the Pirates.  That game signals the beginning of a nine game home stretch, the perfect scenario for a player returning from a performance enhancing ban.  While I can't see the logic in drafting Braun in the top 100 he is worthy of consideration after this point.  Braun will be fresh and rested, and now playing with something else to prove. 

I like Braun in the second half as an impact player, I think he'll provide good value and is worth the risk if you can afford wasting that bench spot for April and May.  CBS currently has Braun ranked 29th among outfielders and falling fast.  There's no telling how much farther he is going to drop but it should be noted that even on a shortened season, I still like him more than Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, and Carlos Beltran, ranked respectively as the 30th, 31st, and 32nd outfielders. 





Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:34 am
 

Matt Moore update

UPDATE:  News just broke via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick</a> that Matt Moore has signed a 5 yr, 14 million dollar deal with the Rays.  This buys out his first three pre arbitration years as well as his first two years of arbitration.  Crasnick states that there are club options that cover his third arbitration year as well as his first two years of free agency.  <br /> <br /> This is huge for his fantasy impact as it is now guaranteed Moore will begin the year in the rotation.  Any doubt the Rays would hold him in the minors to avoid super two status </a>has vanished.  This just reinforces that he will be the most impactful Rays pitcher in 2012.  He will now fly off draft boards earlier than projected.  In standard leagues he could go as high as round 3, in long term keeper and dynasty formats he won't last past that.<br /><br />

Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:50 am
 

Houston, we have lift off

Fantasy owners rejoice: Huston Street has significant value again.

The former Colorado Rockies' closer was traded to the San Diego Padres Wednesday for a player to be named, and with that move, comes salvation.

Street was trending the wrong way in Colorado, as his ERA and WHIP climbed in each of his past three seasons. As is the case with a lot of pitchers who call Coors Field home, Street had trouble keeping the ball in the park, as his HR/9 rate hit a career-worst 1.56 this season.

It is no secret that the spacious Petco Park is a safe haven for home run-prone pitchers. Since 2007, the Padres home field has ranked no worse than 22nd in home run rate; in contrast, Coors Field's lowest ranking over the same time frame was ninth.

San Diego not only offers a more favorable pitching environment — it provides plenty of save opportunities as well.

Compare the Pads' newest closer with their former. In 2011, Street appeared in 62 games, pitching 58.1 innings. Of those 62 games, 33 were save opportunities, and he successfully closed out 29. In contrast, Heath Bell, the Miami Marlins' new stopper, pitched in 64 contests and totaled 62.2 innings. He successfully converted 43 saves in 48 opportunities.

While San Diego will provide a sanctuary for fly balls, Street's success will be greatly tied to his ability to limit baserunners. This season, fantasy owners saw Street lower his BB/9 to a career best 1.4. This, however, was offset by a career-worst 9.6 H/9, and will be a factor in mitigating his ERA next year.

At 28, Street has just entered his prime, and the move out west could very well translate into a 2009-like resurgence. He becomes a high-value pick on draft day, one that should greatly out perform his average draft position.

He is best suited for re-draft leagues, however, as long term owners should beware he's on a one-year deal and there are no signs as of yet that San Diego will pursue an extension.



Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Chris Iannetta: Change of Scenery Won't = Change

Welcome, Chris Iannetta: you are the first true sign of change in Anaheim.

For years, the Angels have been committed to the defensively-sound catcher, one who moves well behind the plate, calls a good game and can control the tempo. This glove-over-bat preference is what lead to the jettison of Mike Napoli, which, in turn, helped result in the eventual demise of ex-GM Tony Reagins.

The trade of young pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood for Iannetta signals that Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has complete player personnel control. It’s a foregone conclusion that Jeff Mathis will be handing in his Halo, while Hank Conger may be relegated to backup duty.

But will Iannetta embrace the change of scenery and live up to the fantasy hype he garnered after the 2008 season? Or will he continue to disappoint and frustrate owners?

Injuries have plagued Iannetta in each year of his career. He’s had as much trouble staying healthy as he’s had laying off pitches outside the strike zone, though 2011 was encouraging in both regards. He played a career-best 112 games and managed to lower the number of pitches swung on outside the zone by 3 percent. While that is an improvement from the previous season, it’s still 4 percent higher than 2008.

Even with the improved plate patience, Iannetta was unable to find the form that made him a popular target heading into 2009. One may point to his 2011 final numbers, and blindly argue they are comparable to his career best. However, that type of thinking will lead you down the road of disappointment, a road Iannetta owners know far too well.

I’d value him more if he were staying in Colorado. In 57 games at Coors Field this season, he managed to hit .301 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI. Compare that to his 55 away games that resulted in a .172 average, 4 home runs and 16 RBI, as well as his career home/away splits shown below, and there’s a clear cause for concern.

<big> </big><big> </big>

While no one expects the power potential to vanish, based on ESPN’s Park Factors, those 14 dingers this season might be the ceiling — Colorado ranked as the second-most favorable park for home run hitters this year, in contrast to Angel Stadium, which ranked 25th.

If you’re looking for a positive sign, the catcher once seen as a poor man’s Napoli might benefit from a change of scenery. Though the psychological effects of a fresh start can’t be measured, it can be presumed that a new opportunity and new instruction will aid the 28-year-old catcher.

But I encourage owners to learn from past performances, and allow someone else to make the horrid mistake of selecting Iannetta on draft day. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.



Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:44 pm
 

Is Rays Pitcher Matt Moore Worth The Reach?

There are a few things that are certain in fantasy drafts: Derek Jeter will be selected far too high, Dan Haren will be picked too low, and one owner will succumb to temptation reaching for the newest star.

In 2011, based on CBS’s average draft position, Jeremy Hellickson was that player. He was routinely taken ahead of pitchers with greater track records, such as Matt Garza, Ian Kennedy and C.J. Wilson. The early favorite for the reach this year is Matt Moore, which begs the question: is he worth it?

There isn’t a true comparison for Moore, but analyzing his career thus far, along with how Hellickson won American League Rookie of the Year this season, offers us insight on what to expect.

Steve Carter at Scouting the Sally had this to say about Moore:

Moore gets tremendous whip and extension, sitting often reaching 96-97 MPH on his fastball. Reports even have him hitting triple-digits in short spurts.

[...]

Moore has a wipeout “slurve” and an emerging change-up that features excellent fade at times. Moore’s “slurve” has the look of a slider, but he calls it a curveball. Regardless of how one defines it, few would disagree it’s simply “disgusting” in the most endearing of ways.

From 2007-10, Moore totaled 490 strikeouts in 342.1 innings resulting in a 12.8 K/9 rate. In 2011, while increasing levels from Double-A to Triple-A and then to the MLB, Moore struck out 225 batters in 164.1 innings, an approximately 12.3 K/9 rate. His season is even more impressive when realizing he held all batters to a .202 average, and 85 percent of runners who reached base failed to score.

In comparison, Hellickson, who does not have the overpowering fastball that Moore so effortlessly displays, held opponents to a .223 average, left 82 percent of his runners on base and produced a K/9 rate of 5.57.

While Hellickson did turn in an impressive rookie campaign, he directly benefited from a defense that was one of baseball’s best. The Rays tied for first in fielding percentage, committing the fewest errors in the sport. Their fielding accuracy easily translated to run prevention as Tampa Bay ranked first in the majors in defensive runs saved. They managed to save 77 runs above league average, 18 more than the runner-up Los Angeles Angels.

So where exactly does this leave Moore? The final determinant in value may lie in whether or not he breaks camp with the team. A Michael Pineda- or Stephen Strasburg-like impact is certainly feasible, given that Tampa boasts a far superior offense which will make wins easier to come by. If Moore is guaranteed a rotation spot out of spring training, he should be selected over Hellickson, who has a greater reliance on team support than Moore.

I’ll even be as bold to say Moore should be the first Rays pitcher off the board. If you believe James Shields is the elite pitcher we saw in 2011, then by all means select him in the upper tier. But I, for one, am concerned with the 11 complete games and 254 innings he pitched last season.

As for David Price, I see too many similarities between him and a former Rays pitcher who relied too heavily on his fastball and change-up. Until he gets back to throwing more breaking balls, it’s buyer beware.



Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:42 pm
 

What Jose To Miami Means For Hanley

The hot stove season is officially upon us. The rumors are starting to swirl and will continue to do so as the offseason progresses.

But no rumor — if ultimately true — would have a greater impact on fantasy baseball in 2012 than the Jose Reyes-to-the-Marlins chatter.

For Reyes, the advantage is clear. He would be thrust into the leadoff spot of a lineup that, while it struggled mightily in 2011, still managed to outslug Mets batters by 40 home runs. Miami has the advantage of moving current leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio to the number-two hole, and with the kind of speed that both Reyes and Bonifacio possess (they swiped 39 and 40 stolen bases this past season, respectively), they could easily replicate the double-steal dynamic that Tampa Bay had in B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford.

That would be a dream scenario for number-three hitter Hanley Ramirez, a career .297 hitter with runners in scoring position and career .333 hitter with runners on second and third. There would be no way to pitch around him, not with the reality of Mike Stanton looming in the on-deck circle.

It was reported that Hanley would be willing to move to third base to accommodate Reyes, and that’s where the real fantasy impact lies. Ignoring Ramirez’s injury-plagued 2011, the 27-year-old’s three-year average from 2008-10 ranked him as the top fantasy shortstop above Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Troy Tulowitzki over that span, as he averaged a .314 average, 26 home runs, 83 RBI, 106 runs and 31 stolen bases.

But where would those numbers rank against the top three third-basemen over that time?

Alex Rodriguez: .286 / 32 HR / 109 RBI / 85 R / 12 SB
David Wright: .296 / 24 HR / 100 RBI / 97 R / 20 SB
Evan Longoria: .284 / 27 HR / 101 RBI / 88 R / 10 SB

Hanley would instantly join Longoria, Jose Bautista and Adrian Beltre among the top-tier third-basemen in fantasy baseball, outranking several stars, including Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young.

And regarding the sprained left shoulder that ruined Hanley’s last two months of 2011: He doesn’t have the injury history that Reyes does, nor the age factor of Rollins, so his durability really isn’t a question mark to me.

If you own Hanley in a keeper league or dynasty format, you should be crossing your fingers, doing your free-agent signing dance or whatever methodology you feel will improve Miami’s chances to sign Reyes and hope Ramirez does switch to third, since he would become a dual-eligibility star once he reaches your league’s games-played minimum.

Imagine having one of the game’s elite with the option to play him at SS or 3B. This is the type of hot stove signing that fantasy baseball dreams are made of.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com