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March 29, 2011 9:00 am

Overthinking It: Non-Starter Starters

6

Ben Lindbergh

Which players projected for ample playing time are most likely to leave their teams in the lurch this season?

The season’s first pitch won’t be thrown until later this week, but the seeds of some teams’ demise have already sprouted in the warm sun of the exhibition season. Some baseball clubs depreciate as quickly as new cars, revealing themselves as lemons as soon as they’re driven off the Cactus and Grapefruit League lots, when nicks and dings begin to accumulate and shoddy construction becomes apparent. Nothing cuts into a team’s seasonal Blue Book value like assigning a prominent role to a player who isn’t up to the task.

This may be the time of year for accentuating the positive, but early as it is, we’re just four months away from Jay Jaffe’s annual list of mid-season “Replacement-level Killers,” players whose presence threatens to derail their teams' push to the playoffs. As Jay has often observed, starting the season with a subpar solution at one or more positions isn’t a death sentence; there’s a long season in store for all 30 teams, which leaves plenty of time to rectify Opening Day errors.

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March 16, 2011 9:00 am

Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Outfield

10

Mike Petriello

Some spring training playing time battles in the outfield appear to be coming to an end.

I’m pinch-hitting for Rob McQuown this week on the outfielders beat, as he is busy performing more advanced calculations down in the BP server room than the guys at NASA. You don’t have to ask me twice who’s performing more of a public service.

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March 14, 2011 9:00 am

Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at First, Third and DH

4

Michael Street

Michael looks at first base battles for both Los Angeles teams, along with hot corner possibilities in Texas if Adrian Beltre's calf injury lingers.

This week, Michael looks at first base battles in both Los Angeles teams, along with the possibilities if Adrian Beltre’s calf injury lingers.

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Bio: I love lounging around on summer days and watching baseball, but I also love to read great baseball work as well as do my own analysis and writing. In fact, I'd say I spend a solid 72% of my days thinking about baseball (don't ask about the other 28%). My obsession has resulted in ranking 39th lifetime in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and what seems like a lifelong dream of writing for BP.

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As in the AL, the Central division is as tight as can be, while in the East two Mets are predicted to take home some hardware along with their division flag.

Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the National League, along with the staff picks in some fun miscellaneous categories.

Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.

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March 9, 2008 12:00 am

Every Given Sunday: A Different Feather

0

John Perrotto

The Blue Jays have an honest shot at cracking the top of baseball's toughest division, thanks to their deep and talented pitching staff.

Fifteen years ago, the hottest spring training site on the Gulf Coast of Florida was the Blue Jays' camp in Dunedin, Florida. The Blue Jays had back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93, and four American League East crowns in five years from 1989-93. Tickets were nearly impossible to come by for Grapefruit League games at cozy Dunedin Stadium.

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The Blue Jays keep finding themselves in the newspapers, players identify ways to cope without amphetamines, and John Smoltz is not a happy camper right now.

"There were no punches thrown, so I don't think John had a bloody nose. I don't know how that would have happened."
--Blue Jays P Ted Lilly, on the fight he had with manager John Gibbons (Toronto Star)

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The O's molt some payroll, the Rockies say good-bye to Vinny, and Al Leiter is getting no respect from the Mets. That and more in today's Prospectus Triple Play.

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In an article that appeared last week on ESPN.com, Peter Gammons provided a list of 20 players whom respondants to an informal straw poll described as candidates for a breakout season. The list, derived from a survey of major league executives, included a mix of pitchers and hitters, five-tool talents and makeup guys, united only in their ability to tease hibernating fantasy leaguers into dreams of greener days ahead. If one needs any reminder that lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, it's worth reviewing a similar list that Gammons produced last year.

In an article that appeared last week on ESPN.com, Peter Gammons provided a list of 20 players whom respondants to an informal straw poll described as candidates for a breakout season. The list, derived from a survey of major league executives, included a mix of pitchers and hitters, five-tool talents and makeup guys, united only in their ability to tease hibernating fantasy leaguers into dreams of greener days ahead.

If one needs any reminder that lists like these are little more than a grownup's version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, it's worth reviewing a similar list that Gammons produced last year. That list includes roughly equal representation of the good (Alfonso Soriano and Derek Lowe), the bad (J.D. Drew), and the ugly (Juan Uribe), as well as four players whose performances were so impressive that they made repeat appearances on this year's list.

Now, none of this is meant to be a knock on Gammons, or the lists he has compiled. Everybody likes to talk about breakout candidates this time of year, ourselves included (Eddie Yarnall, anyone?). Having formerly moonlighted as a daily team correspondent for another baseball website, I can attest to the fact that virtually every player provides at least some excuse each winter for gushing commentary, delusions of grandeur, or other forms of irrational exuberance.

As it happens, however, we're unrolling a new forecasting system at BP this year--one that is also preoccupied with the question of breakout candidates. The PECOTA system--short for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm--seeks to identify potential breakouts by comparing a player against a database of his historical peers. In so doing, it comes up with an objective estimate of the probability that a player will display marked improvement in the upcoming season (defined as an increase of at least 20% in his Equivalent Runs per plate appearance, or a decrease of at least 20% in his PERA, relative to a weighted average of his previous three years of performance). We refer to this estimate as a player's Breakout score. Readers interested in a more extensive treatment of the PECOTA system will find it in this year's book, and in the PECOTA glossary provided here.

One brief caveat: the PECOTA system is new technology. That doesn't mean that we stole it from the Raelians, or that we haven’t tested it thoroughly. But sometimes PECOTA provides us with definitive and unexpected answers, and we need to work backwards to try and explain why they came about. That's a bastardization of the scientific method, and I'll ask that you'll excuse me as I run through the hitters on Gammons' list.

Rank on Gammons List, Player, PECOTA Breakout Score

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ANAHEIM ANGELS Acquired OF-R Alex Ochoa and C-R Sal Fasano from the Brewers for C-L Jorge Fabregas and two PTBNLs. [7/31] This was an elegant, if low-key, solution to the Angels' need for some hitting help, depending of course on the likelihood that neither of the PTBNLs are significant prospects. Those odds are pretty low, since the Angels don't have that many significant prospects in the first place, and they did only get a couple of journeymen. To purge Jorge Fabregas from the roster is a happy development in itself, and beyond that, they get the fourth outfielder they need and a third catcher who makes for a viable option to either of the Molina brothers.

Acquired OF-R Alex Ochoa and C-R Sal Fasano from the Brewers for C-L Jorge Fabregas and two PTBNLs. [7/31]

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