Which of these AL Central closers is a better bet for your fantasy squad in 2015?
We’ve finally gotten to the week where we cover everyone’s favorite position. Who doesn’t love projecting and just generally thinking about relief pitchers with all of their spare time? It can’t just be me, right? For this week’s Tale of the Tape, we’re pitting two veteran division rivals against each other, both of whom possess the all-important “established closer” tag. Although neither are to be considered top tier options, both will be owned in all leagues, and figure to play significant roles in their respective team’s playoff chances. It’s Fernando Rodney vs. Huston Street.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Should you go with the K-happy Jay or the new Dodger in your drafts and auctions this spring?
Matt Collinsbegan the starting pitcher Tale of the Tape series yesterday, comparing Jeff Samardzija and James Shields, and today we turn our attention to the second half of those tiered rankings. I’ll be looking at a pair of right-handers in the two-star category, which projects players to earn single digits in mixed auctions, in Brandon McCarthy and Drew Hutchison. While McCarthy, 31, signed a free agent deal to pitch for the Dodgers this year, Hutchison is entering his second full season in the majors—he didn’t appear in the majors in 2013 as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The duo sits side by side in the tiered rankings and in NFBC ADP as they rank 67th and 68th among starting pitchers, respectively with Hutchison slightly ahead, 262-265.
Deciding between the new South Sider and the new Padre.
For this week’s Tale of the Tape, we have two pitchers who were among the biggest acquisitions for a couple of the most active teams this winter. Jeff Samardzija joins a White Sox rotation that now has one of the better one-two punches in the game with him and Chris Sale. James Shields joins a Padres team that made a trade approximately every ten minutes this offseason. They placed 19th and 20th, respectively, in our rankings and will be a couple of the most intriguing pitchers in the league in 2015.
The young Snake takes on the veteran first-year Royal.
After Ben Carsleykicked off the outfield Tale of the Tape series yesterday, I move on to the second part of the rankings, looking at a couple guys who will likely be deep league starters and standard league reserves. A.J. Pollock and Alex Rios are ranked 38 and 39, respectively, on our rankings. They are being taken in the high 100s or low 200s overall depending on your source of ADP. The former is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he only played half the year, and the latter is coming off one of the worst offensive years of his career. Feel the excitement.
The Ranger might be the better draft-day bargain, but is he the better overall fantasy asset?
Esteemed, handsome colleague J.P. Breen rolled out the first installment of our 2015 outfielder rankings today. I direct your attention to the third tier, in which Yoenis Cespedes and Shin-Soo Choo are ranked at 28 and 29, respectively. I have now dutifully set the stage for the basis of the comparison that follows.
Which of these power bats is a better fantasy bet this year?
I think, by this point, we all get the drill with these Tales of the Tape. For those just tuning in, I’ll be covering two players ranked next to each other in our tiered rankings for third base category-by-category, declaring a winner at the end. This week, we have Evan Longoria pitted against Carlos Santana. An important note before we begin: with some early ADP data in, Longoria is crushing Santana thus far, with an average draft position around 54 to Santana’s 74. As we’ll see, that is not representative of the production gap we can expect from them. Now, on to the good stuff.
Should you go with the veteran who enjoyed a 2014 renaissance or last year's breakout darling in drafts and auctions this spring?
Last week, I started the Tale of the Tape series with a pair of backstops, pitting Salvador Perez against Russell Martin. As we move on to first base this week, it appears we have another very close battle on our hands. This time around we’re presented with two players coming off the best performances of their lives. For one of them, it may have been the first great year in a string of many. For the other, it may have been the last great year in a tremendous career. It’s Anthony Rizzo vs. Victor Martinez. Let’s get started.
We start off with a category in which the winner is fairly straightforward. Obviously, average is always a tough stat to predict given the fluky nature of performance on balls in play. With that being said, Martinez has been consistently great in this area. Over his career, he’s played in at least 100 games nine times, and has put up an AVG over .300 in eight of those seasons. Rizzo, on the other hand, has been up-and-down over his short career. After stumbling to a .233 mark in 2013, he bounced back to .286 a year ago, mostly due to his BABIP coming back up to a more normal level. I still feel good about Rizzo’s future as a .280-plus batting-average player, but Martinez is too strong to overcome in 2015. Winner: Martinez
Kicking off the series with a look at which of these two backstops will help you more in each fantasy-relevant category.
Every week, while the fantasy team here at Baseball Prospectus is rolling out our positional series, we will be running a “Tale of the Tape” series as well. For the new readers out there, or those who just don't remember the series from last year, it will be an in-depth, category-by-category comparison between two players who are ranked right next to each other in the positional rankings. We start this week with a battle between a couple of backstops, Russell Martin and Salvador Perez. The former is a veteran coming off the best year of his career, while the latter is a young player coming off the worst year of his short career. So, if you find yourself deciding between one or the other for 2015 only, let’s take a deeper look at how they match up.
A big part of both Martin’s career year and Perez’s down year was batting average. The new Blue Jay’s .290 mark was his best since 2007, while Perez’ .260 was 32 points lower than any mark he’s posted in his short MLB tenure. Looking purely at that, it’d be easy to give the edge to Martin, but the years prior to 2014 tell an entirely different story. From 2011-2013, Martin hit just .225, while Perez hit .301 in 989 plate appearances over the same span. Now, Martin showed some encouraging signs that point to his higher average staying, including a lower strikeout rate and a much-improved line-drive rate. On the other hand, Perez was hurt by a career-high K rate and O-swing rate. Both were also affected by BABIPs that belied their career norms. So, with all of the information we have, I’m confident in Martin hitting better than he did from 2011-2013, but would guess he won’t match the 2014 heights again. In the same vein, Perez may not get back to the .300 plateau next season, but he should improve upon his 2014 success. I would guess both players finish in the .270-.290 range, giving the edge to the youngster.
The first-year Tiger has a longer résumé in the ninth inning, but is he a better value than the bearded Giant on draft day?
It happens in every draft. That moment when, despite your best intentions to avoid forking over a draft pick for a closer, you realize you’ll probably need to at least be somewhat competitive in saves if you’re going to make a run at your standard league title. And while I prefer waiting and speculating on saves as much as the next guy, there’s very definite value to be had in grabbing an established closer to anchor your bullpen in these formats. When that moment comes, and you’re actually going to sacrifice a pick to make this scenario a reality, it’s really important that you come through with the safest option possible to bag you the saves you need.
So, let’s take a look at a couple of the “safer” proven-closer types you’re likely to encounter around the middle rounds of your draft. In one corner, Joe Nathan, the newly signed and minted closer for the Detroit Tigers. In the other, Sergio Romo, another veteran coming off of his first full season saving games in San Francisco. Nathan is currently the seventh closer going off the board in NFBC drafts, with Romo following as the ninth closer about two rounds later. Over in Paul’s astute breakdown of relief pitcher tiers, Nathan checks in as a four-star option, while Romo leads the pack of three-star options. Let’s take a look at how they stack up, and see whether Nathan is really worth the slightly higher price on draft day.
A look at the relative fantasy merits of two National League West starters.
In today’s edition of “Tale of the Tape,” we dissect a pair of major-league starters from the National League West, the Giants’ Matt Cain and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke. Both entered 2013 with “ace”-level expectations, but, after a down year from Cain, only Greinke exited the season with it still firmly attached. You’ll find both right-handers listed among Paul Sporer’s four-star tier in BP’s Positional Rankings, but last year’s performances have the pair trending in opposite directions. Greinke is going 41 picks ahead of Cain, according to the most recent NFBC ADP. Can Cain bounce back and make this a closer-than-expected showdown? Or will Greinke stay ahead of the curve?
In nine seasons, Cain has recorded a 3.35 ERA in 265 starts, including a 3.68 FIP and 4.16 xFIP. Last year, the right-hander posted a 4.00 ERA after a slow start (6.49 ERA in April), giving Cain his first ERA over four since 2006, his first full season in Major League Baseball. From 2009-2012, he recorded a 3.00-or-better ERA in three out of four years, and not a single one worse than 3.15. In 11 seasons, Greinke has recorded a 3.65 ERA in 259 starts, including a 3.43 FIP and 3.60 xFIP. Last year, he posted his lowest ERA (2.63) since winning the American League Cy Young award in 2009. Greinke’s ERA has fluctuated more wildly, from 2.16 in 2009 to 4.17 in 2010 (the year following his Cy Young). Cain’s had the privilege of pitching his entire career in the NL, while Greinke has spent the majority of his time in the AL. While the former is the more consistent pitcher and plays in the more favorable ballpark, the latter has enjoyed as much (if not more) success in the NL, with a 3.28 ERA in three seasons, compared to a 3.81 ERA in the AL. It’s impossible to ignore a difference of 137 points in earned run average between the two hurlers in 2013. For what it’s worth, PECOTA predicts a 3.02 ERA for Greinke and a 3.10 ERA for Cain.