The Phillies are a model team for building and maintaining a strong core of players.
The Philadelphia Phillies clinched their fifth straight National League East division crown with a Saturday night victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. A playoff birth was not really in doubt given their odds in the Playoff Odds Report, but the mathematical certainty of the division title and the near assurance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs should give the members of the Phillies a level of comfort heading into yet another postseason.
Speaking of comfort, there should also be a level of comfort for the players involved in the 2011 division-winning Phillies because of their familiarity with each other and with the playoff scene. One of the reasons for the Phillies' division success these last five years is that they boast a core of players that has been unparalleled in the NL East since their first title in 2007. The Phillies have eight players who have been with the major league club since 2007, with six of those players being regular, above-average or better contributors to the team.
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VP welcomes Nick Hundley this week but says goodbye to three rookie middle infielders.
Departures Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 3%, CBS 20%)
Altuve did not have a good week, batting just .143/.182/.238, and his departure from the Value Picks list is reflective of his struggles since his initial entry on the list. Since August 2, Altuve has hit .264/.285/.364, though that has been tempered by the addition of five steals in seven attempts. However, until he starts trying to take more bases or hits for a bit better average, his placement in the inept Houston lineup makes it unlikely for him to be worth a playing time consideration in anything but NL-only leagues.
A look at the Phillies' two nearly identical Cy Young candidates.
The Philadelphia Phillies are rolling on their way to the National League's top seed and a first-round playoff appointment with either the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Milwaukee Brewers. The remainder of the regular season is merely a formality, and for fans of NL East teams that have been roughed up by the Phillies' pitching staff (Phillies pitchers have a 3.26 ERA and 3.35 FIP versus the NL East), it has seemed that way for much of the regular season.
Indeed, if there were one thing for the Phillies to “compete” for in terms of the regular season, it may very well be the National League Cy Young Award race—a race in which they own two of the possible three dogs.
A pair of rookie middle infielders come off the DL and rejoin VP this week.
Departures Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 8%)
Flowers was not completely terrible in his final week as the starter, tacking on another home run en route to a .118/.200/.353 week. Unfortunately, it was his last week as the starter in Chicago as A.J. Pierzynski returned from the disabled list and was reinstated as the primary catcher. Without playing time, Flowers will have to wait until 2012 to see if he can earn significant starting time to show off what he displayed this season.
Whenever milestones come up, it is always a good opportunity to look over a player's overall career, and Vazquez's is an intriguing one when considered alongside his strikeout-laden peers. The perception of Vazquez as an excellent pitcher who could reach such a career milestone seems strange after his numerous decent but unspectacular seasons. After all, how many excellent starters are told by their managers that they are not “big-game pitchers” like Ozzie Guillen said to Javy all those years ago? But the perception of him as just an average pitcher (he does have a career record of 160-160) does not match the fact that he was able to reach such a lofty milestone as 2500 strikeouts.
Mike examines some interesting speed options for owners in deeper leagues in this week's VP.
Departures Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 12%, CBS 47%)
Bartlett is not leaving because of any particular problems over the past week; his .250/.286/.350 line with one stolen base was most becoming of his skills. He is taking his leave because, at this point, he is a very well known commodity and has spent enough time here at Value Picks, so he will move on in favor of some additional AL- and NL-only selections.
While the Braves and Phils are playoff-bound, the NL East's other three teams will use September to evaluate potential roster moves.
Last week, we looked at the immediate future of the playoff-bound Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies and their possible matchups in the first round. But the other three NL East teams are not going anywhere after September; they will be packing it up for the long winter months and awaiting the 2012 season. So what do these teams have to look forward to as they approach the last month of the 2011 season?
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez and His Health It is no secret that Ramirez's season has been a disaster. The highest-paid Marlin has had a 0.6 WARP season through 385 plate appearances, and he has missed playing time due to two separate DL stints for different injuries. Those two stints represent the first and second trips to the DL in Ramirez's brilliant career, though he did miss much of the last month of 2010 with soreness in his left elbow.
A look at how the fantasy trade market is currently valuing Joe Mauer, Alex Avila, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta, Ben Zobrist, and Darwin Barney.
Since my weekly stint on Value Picks deals with the land of up-the-middle defensive positions, it seems only fitting that my article in this week's BP Trading Post also deals with the valuing of trades involving some of the top names in terms of catchers, second basemen, and shortstops. Here are a couple of names at each position who have performed radically different than their preseason expectations, along with how fantasy owners are treating them trade-wise as the season winds down. For the sake of reference, the details about the cards and what they mean have been copied from Derek Carty's inaugural piece and pasted below.
Trading Post Card Explanation Each player discussed in Trading Post will receive a “Trading Post Card.” This card will be jam-packed with useful information about each player’s trading profile. It will list information about the player himself, look at every trade the player has been involved in over the past two weeks and every player he’s been traded for, and give information about the average player he’s been traded for. Hopefully these cards will be self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure what anything means, here’s an explanation of everything:
Back from a one-week hiatus, VP welcomes former top prospect Tyler Flowers to the party.
Departures Carlos Guillen, Detroit Tigers (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%)
Guillen loses his spot on the returning Value Picks list due to a wrist injury suffered a few days after his inclusion in the VP column from two weeks ago. The Tigers have turned to Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn to fill in, but with the better Raburn getting slightly less playing time, neither player should be of interest to fantasy owners except in NL-only leagues.
A look at the three most likely playoff series in the National League, all involving teams from the NL East.
There are not many playoff races of interest remaining this season. Despite a tight AL East race between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, both teams are almost a lock to make the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report. A similar case has arisen in NL East, and indeed in the National League in general. Aside from the NL West race, the remaining three playoff spots are well in-hand given our expectations of the teams involved. The Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers have all but wrapped up their divisions with 100 and 95.5 percent odds of making it in according to their PECOTA projections. And while the Atlanta Braves may only hold a five-game edge on the San Francisco Giants for the Wild Card, they stand at an 87.8 percent chance to win the fourth playoff spot.
Presuming everyone plays as expected (and the “that's why the play the games” saying appears here as a warning that this does not always happen), the NL East teams have little to look forward to in the regular season; play out their games as expected and they should end up as two of the top contenders to represent the National League in the World Series. What sort of competition are they facing? Let us look ahead to the currently projected potential playoff matchups between the NL East division representatives and their likely opponents.
A look at the conflicting seasons of Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez.
Last night, the Atlanta Braves beat the Florida Marlins 6-2, completing a three-game sweep of the Fish. With both teams in close proximity, the story of two players who once shared a bond in Florida as one of the best offensive double-play combinations in baseball came to mind. One player, former Marlin and current Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, is redeeming himself with a 31-game hitting streak that has brought his season line from “atrocious” to “below average.” The other, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, missed his sixth straight game with a shoulder injury and has yet to decide whether he is healthy enough to play or should go on the disabled list.
Recent performance plays a strong role in how a player is perceived. The recent 30-game surge by Uggla has brought his season line right in line with Ramirez's.
Mike welcomes an under-the-radar middle infield prospect and a finally-healthy catcher to VP this week.
Departures Mark Ellis, Colorado Rockies (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 2%, CBS 11%)
Ellis is hitting poorly (.179/.200/.179 since the start of the last road trip on July 22) and, more importantly, is ceding playing time once again to bench players in Colorado's never-ending quest to find a consistent player to man second base. Ellis lost two recent starts at second base in favor of Chris Nelson, and if he continues to struggle, expect Jim Tracy to make a change yet again.