The Cubs have the luxury of getting creative in solving a problem other teams wish they had.
This piece originally appeared on BP Wrigleyville, Baseball Prospectus' local site for all your Cubs needs. And be sure to visit BP Boston and BP Bronx for Red Sox and Yankees analysis as well.
Through Monday, Javier Baez was batting .311/.388/.522 in his first 103 plate appearances of the season at Triple-A Iowa. Despite dealing with the tragic loss of his younger sister at the beginning of the season, and taking time away from the team to share in his family’s grief, Baez appears to have absorbed (and made solid, critical strides toward implementing) the changes in approach and swing mechanics that became obviously necessary during his difficult rookie season.
Good days at the plate are pretty easy to identify. If you’re looking for the best game any hitter had in April, you can look at total bases (as in Ryan Braun’s three-homer game) or at hits (as in Charlie Blackmon’s 6-for-6 game) or at win probability added (as when Kyle Seager hit two homers, including a walk-off, for a one-game .906 WPA); or, simply RE24, which would lead you back to Blackmon, who produced more than five runs all by himself. Similarly, for pitchers, pretty easy: Andrew Cashner’s 9/1/0/0/2/11 was the month’s best game score, though you might opt for Jose Fernandez’s 8/3/0/0/0/14 for dominance or Julio Teheran’s 1-0 shutout for value.
In the debut edition of this series, the fantasy team looks at players who could outperform their PECOTA projections in batting average.
One of the fun ways we all try to outsmart our opponents in fantasy is by searching for hidden value in players who, for one reason or another, we suspect have the ability to outpace their projections (and, relatedly, their draft cost). Our Darkhorses series features staff picks for players who could very well outpace their PECOTA projections for the year and finish at the top of one of the standard five-by-five categories. We’ve all picked one player currently projected by PECOTA to fall just shy of the top 10 (in the 11 to 25 range) and one longer shot player currently projected outside of the top 25. We’ll take a look at offense this week and pitching next. To kick things off here is a bounty of hidden treasure in the batting average department:
Rick Renteria's lineup has a few intriguing bats, but you'll probably have to look elsewhere for pitching.
Last year was yet another tough one for Cubs fans, even if the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod-led front office continues to stockpile assets. The win-loss record is a nagging source of frustration for the fans, and the on-field lineup might just be as frustrating for fantasy owners. With the potential to sport a platoon in the outfield and a defensive specialist in the infield, as well as a patient front office that will keep its drool-worthy prospects at bay, this Cubs tree isn’t likely to bear much fruit in the early going.
A look at the players who should improve after the All-Star break and those who might go the other way.
Years ago, before analytics and baseball became acquainted, many analysts focused on first-half and second-half stats. For many good reasons that are too lengthy to go into here, this type of analysis has become dated and isn’t used in any type of serious study.
However, the All-Star break is still a good time in fantasy to take a step back, look at some poor first-half performers, and figure out who is due for a bounce back in the second half. Rather than analyze the types of players who “traditionally” hit well post-All-Star break, this is a look at players who have struggled so far but who should improve based either on underperforming their metrics or based on past historical performance, as well as players who either will slip or won’t bounce back despite a slow first half.
Why are shortstops so bad this year, and does it mean anything for the future?
We know that positional strength comes and goes in cycles, like most other things in life. The early and mid-90s were great for first basemen and elite starting pitchers, the late 90s and early aughts for shortstops. The time since then has mostly been dominated by Albert Pujols, but it’s been pretty excellent for outfielders and second basemen, too. We can debate those classifications, I suppose, but you get the idea.
Over the last few years, though, I’d argue that the fates have shaken things out more or less evenly. In 2010, the MLB top 20 position players by WARP included at least one of every position but catcher (Joe Mauer came in at 22); in 2011, the top 12 had one at every position. The top 20 for 2012 includes 11 outfielders, three third basemen, three catchers, two second basemen, and, shockingly, just one first baseman. I’m pretty sure that each of the last three seasons has been branded the Year of the Pitcher at one point or another, but I’m not sure that’s totally justified, either; there are great pitchers, of course, but not so many or so dominant that they seem to dominate the sport.
Hustle is usually a subjective term, but it doesn't have to be. Here's how we can decide who really runs hard.
First, an exercise. Get a piece of paper and a pen, or a pencil, or if you can’t find a pencil prick your finger and write with your blood. Or just type it somewhere, but don't get blood all over. Rank the following 10 players by how much you think they hustle: