Helping you set your fantasy rotation for next week with a look at the two-start pitchers.
Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner!
A nice slate of options for the week, as only the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will be limited to five-game schedules. The American League is particularly stacked; while they lack an “auto-start” option from the top shelf of the league, there is a long and illustrious list of both “start” and strong “consider” options for fantasy managers to choose from. The Angels have still not announced a fill-in for Garrett Richards as of this writing. His gruesome injury is a huge blow for his real and fantasy teams alike. Whoever gets the nod will have a tough draw with the A’s on his card, and won’t be much more than an end-game “consider” at best.
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We all have our own idea of what constitutes a good ERA, FIP, or xFIP, but it's important to make sure that our benchmarks keep up with the times.
While some of us have come to use plus-or-minus stats that adjust to league average to make our determinations on where a player lands within his ranks, it’s clear that many people still use the standard ERA to evaluate a pitcher or batting average to evaluate a hitter. There’s no issue with that, especially when those are the relevant categories in a fantasy league—but there’s something of a collective benchmark that we have for what determines a good, great, or elite ERA or batting average. Even more advanced stats like FIP or xFIP fall prey to this collective benchmark and to our failure to adjust for context.
Focusing on the pitching side of the equation, based on the era I grew up in a 3.00 ERA was/is my benchmark for whether someone is a good pitcher. There are shades of gray of course—a mediocre pitcher can have a fluky season—but everything revolves around that 3.00. A 3.30 was pretty good and a 3.50 was solid. A 4.00 was fit for a fifth starter/long-man type. Reality, of course, is a different story. We all know that we’re in a down offensive period in baseball, but I do wonder if enough of us have adjusted to what that means on the pitching side of the equation. This is an effort to show just how dramatically things have changed over the last few years, so that we can recalibrate what an elite or good pitcher is, and then use that as a new frame of reference.
In order to do so, let us take a look at forecasting and what humans do when forecasting. My favorite definition of forecast (the verb) is from Merriam-Webster and it goes, “to predict after looking at the information available.” I like this definition because it is convenient for my article. I also like it because it highlights that our forecasts are dependent on “the information available.” Relatedly, in Thinking, Fast and Slow, our main human, Daniel Kahneman writes, “An essential design feature of the associative machine is that it represents only activated ideas.” Put differently, we cannot take into account that which we cannot imagine. I am throwing around a lot of combinations of words right now, so please allow me to simplify all this:
If these players are on the waiver wire, they might be worth a look, depending on the format of your league.
Norichika Aoki, OF, Kansas City Royals
The Royals have been on quite a tear in August, and having their leadoff hitter doing what he’s supposed to be doing has certainly helped them in this stretch. Aoki, who had been quite a fantasy disappointment over the first four months of the season, is doing the two things the Royals and fantasy owners want him to do recently: get on base and steal bases. Since August started, Aoki is hitting .295/.386/.410 with 14 runs scored and six steals in just 18 games. Compare that to the 40 runs scored and nine steals Aoki had over the first 82 games of the season, and you start to wonder what your team could have looked like if he had been doing this since the start of the year. And while it’s true that non-elite speed gets devalued a bit in shallower mixed leagues, Aoki’s strength in batting average (or OBP, depending on what you fancy) and runs helps make him a player who should be owned across the board right now in rotisserie leagues. —Bret Sayre
The Outcomes get ready for Scoresheet playoff season and answer reader/listener questions.
This week in the podcast:
The Outcomes get ready for Scoresheet playoff season. They take reader questions, decide whether to dump a contender, and then discuss budding superstar Tsuyoshi Wada. Then, the Outcomes describe what they look for in a playoff contender—strangely, no one ever suggests "a good team"—and compare building a playoff roster to setting weekly lineups. Finally, they take you through the best things they saw this week, featuring cyborg houseware, the vengeance of Erik Kratz, and the true feeling of anger and resignation that comes only after being forced to listen to Sean Casey and Billy Ripken for three hours. Playoff fever! It's probably not contagious!
After unveiling their prospect lists last week, Ben and Craig reveal those who just missed, plus dark horses, and surprising exclusions.
Last week, Craig and I each gave a breakdown of our top 50 dynasty prospects, doing our best Bret Sayre impressions as we looked for a cause to discuss where 2014 draftees should rank, how some recent injuries have impacted the dynasty landscape and more.
We have some of the reasoning behind our rankings in last week’s post, and we further discussed our feelings in last week’s episode of TINO, too. But there’s always more to talk about when it comes to rankings, and so Craig and I have decided to milk this subject for all it’s worth this week as well.
Part two in the position-by-position look at players who might be worth stashing in keeper leagues.
If there’s anything we love more than baseball around here on the fantasy staff, it’s collaborating with each other. So, at the behest of myself, we’re going to be doing one final group series of the year to close out the last seven weeks of the season. For this series, we will each select one player who is below 25 percent owned in either ESPN or Yahoo! leagues and who could be someone to consider grabbing before the end of the season with an eye toward a keeper spot. Now, given the depth we’re dealing with here, these recommendations are not for owners who can keep five or seven players from season-to-season—it’s more for those of you who play in leagues where keepers take up more than half of your roster (and possibly more, in the case of some recommendations contained within).
Arismendy Alcantara, Chicago Cubs
“It's been a debut befitting a hyped 22-year-old prospect for Alcantara, which is to say he's struggled mightily to adjust to big-league stuff. His .213/.280/.346 line and .240 TAv have barely produced value in even the deepest of leagues to date. But none of this should be of any concern to managers with an eye on 2015 and beyond. The pedigree is still that of a perennial top-10 second baseman, and his double-digit pop and 30-plus-steal potential has already flashed in the majors despite his overall struggles. While there is a possibility that the Cubs' surplus of organizational depth could land him in the outfield it's all but certain he'll be in Chicago's starting lineup on Opening Day next spring, and he'll be there with 2B eligibility. He's one of the best flyers around for a Rendon-esque leap in value in his first full season and he makes for a strong end-game waiver claim or FAAB target if he's available in your keeper league.” —Wilson Karaman
J.P. wasn't expecting much from the Brewers righty, but he's been pleasantly surprised.
Admittedly, this article stems from a recent article by our own Craig Goldstein and an ongoing series by Jason Parks. It revolves around the idea of making preseason projections and ultimately being wrong. Goldstein took the high road in his article last week and explained that baseball analysts can occasionally hide behind process as a way of lessening the impact of making an incorrect prediction. He writes:
I often think my reasons at the time were justified, and that just because it didn’t break my way, doesn’t mean I was wrong, just that it turned out differently. This is hiding behind “the process.” I was wrong, and good reasoning at the time or not, that needs to be owned.
Examining a handful of players who might pique your interest in deep leagues.
Mookie Betts, OF/2B, Red Sox
For the third time this season, Betts finds himself as a member of the Boston Red Sox. This time, his promotion very well could be permanent, as the 21-year-old has continued to mash at the Triple-A level while his MLB counterpart, Jackie Bradley Jr., ranked as one of the worst hitters in the majors. Bradley should be stuck in Pawtucket until September, and even then, the Sox are unlikely to want to stifle Betts’ development, so it looks like fantasy owners have been gifted an interesting, useful outfielder for the remainder of the season.
Taijuan Walker nabs the no. 1 spot in the last top 20 of the season.
It’s been another very fun season of writing the Stash List, but all such things must come to an end. This will be the final installment of the 2014 season, so I hope it’s been helpful to you guys, and let’s do it again in 2015, shall we?
The Graduates: Dexter Fowler (2), Mookie Betts (3), Michael Pineda (4), Rafael Montero (6)
Fowler has returned with a vengeance from his intercostal strain, hitting .389/.522/.556 in his first five games back. I like him to close the season strong in an improving offense. The news was relatively sour on Betts until Monday, when Jackie Bradley Jr. was sent back down to Triple-A because his ineptitude at the plate finally overshadowed his delightfulness in the field. Betts should be playing pretty close to every day for the foreseeable future, and should be improved over his first stint, but don’t expect the light bulb to just turn on brightly. Off days for the Yankees have given Pineda some extra rest after his first start back—which was a positive sign—and he won’t toe the rubber for the second time since returning until Wednesday. The upside is still high, especially if you’re chasing strikeouts. Meanwhile, elsewhere in New York City, Montero is trying his hardest to satisfy the Mets faithful who really wanted to see Noah Syndergaard instead. He followed a weak start against the Nationals with a strong one against the Cubs, and fortunately for Montero, the Mets have a reasonably tame schedule the rest of the way.
A look at the upcoming AL-vs-NL and NL-vs-AL matchups, and how they might affect teams' lineups.
Please note that in the “DH” column, the player listed is the player that has been added or removed from the lineup, not necessarily the player in the DH slot. For example, if the Phillies move Domonic Brown to DH and put Tony Gwynn Jr. in the OF, then I will list Gwynn Jr. in the “DH” column because he is the player who is gaining at-bats.