Josh offers a few methods that could help you determine whether a player's springtime improvements are sustainable.
The Rangers and Astros kicked the season off last night, and now the games and stats count. Questions about the legitimacy of strong spring training numbers turn into questions about players that get off to surprisingly good starts in the regular season. In most cases, the hot starts are a flash in the pan.
However, that's not always the case. Gamers frequently look for the next rags-to-riches success story. Adding a breakout player out of the free-agent pool and onto a roster can help a fantasy team greatly, but it's often difficult to distinguish between real skills growth and a hot streak. That said, there are things I look for in a player when trying to decide whether he is worth adding.
A look at one of the greatest features of 1965's "Eighth Wonder of the World."
When the Astrodome opened in 1965, it was quickly dubbed the "Eighth Wonder of the World." The fully-enclosed stadium was the first of it's kind: a domed, air-conditioned marvel that could handle baseball, football, and any other large event in all kinds of weather. With its bubble exterior and proximity to the fledgling space program, there was no better evidence of America's quick march towards The Jetsons than the new Houston stadium.
Among it's many futuristic innovations was the $2 million scoreboard, "the world's largest, most versatile animated scoreboard." Any gushing preview of the new ballpark was incomplete without a description of the device. A 1972 Houston Sports Association publication touting the wonders of the Astrodome and its surrounding area calls the scoreboard "an electronic marvel, costing $2 million, and longer than a football field, [giving] patrons of the Astrodome more information, faster, than any visual display ever before seen on any athletic field."
This has the same mouseover capability as the Depth Charts, so that if you mouse over WARP for Baltimore catchers, you see the breakout for Wieters, Paulino, and Exposito, for example. Note that there are 4 stats available: WARP, TAv, FRAA, BRR.
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A certain prospect writer went to the Winter Meetings on a quest to meet The World.
He saw him once on the 4th of December 2011, but only as a fading image in the lids of his eyes, a photograph of bone and hair and enlightenment. As he slept, the World’s posture was perfect and its gait was elegant and immaculate. The World was more than just a writer, he said with two fingers bent on each hand from a comfortable distance apart and in steady contraction. He told himself as he slept that the dawn of the next day would bring him closer to the world. He told himself that being closer to the World would bring him closer to living. He could exist in the world; he told himself he could exist in the world if placed his path within the path of another. He traveled to Dallas, Texas, home of the 2011 baseball Winter Meetings. He was on a journey to find his life. He was out to execute a visit with Verducci.
He didn’t pretend to be unimpressed as he went foot to floor in the lobby of the luxurious downtown hotel that was to host the yearly baseball industry gathering. The crystalline metamorphic form of limestone was polished and ubiquitous; he later quipped that the first foyer in the hotel was the birthplace of marble. He always laughed when he quipped, even privately. He later quipped that he laughed when he quipped, after which it was assumed he laughed, privately. The marble grew on the floors and the walls like stone moss, the wallpaper of the wealthy, he thought. He told a friend that he was impressed by the foyer and by the connection he drew between the marble and the moss, which he felt was apt. Having been around wealth, he was capable of taste identification, and he later described his immediate surroundings in Dallas as a few letters short of being tacky.
To avoid biasing our opinion, Jason gives the report on a player before telling us whom he's talking about.
One thing many fantasy owners are guilty of is visual bias. We hear a player’s name and our minds immediately jump to the last reaction we had when watching that player. Refusing to deal Coco Crisp for Edwin Jackson in 2009 was one of the main reasons why my AL Tout Wars season suffered and Mike Siano’s competed for the league title in the final hour of the season. People were down on Leo Nunez coming into this season based on late season struggles and, yet, he is near the top of the standings for save. Similarly, those that passed on Kyle Farnsworth because, well, he was Kyle Farnsworth have missed out on a nice season thus far.
A graphical look at player moves shows that transactions season never really ends.
In baseball, transactions can be many things. Some border on the banal. Others are more momentous: a fading star declares retirement, a blockbuster trade becomes official, a high-priced free agent or draft pick signs with his new team. When one of the latter deals goes down, baseball writers spring into action, devoting ink and pixels alike to analyses of its principal players and ramifications. In a very real sense, transactions make the baseball world go ’round, ebbing and flowing like a circulatory system of athletic talent.
Rather than focus on any one signing or swap, let’s pull back our perspective and take a look at the sum of the sport’s transactions. Retrosheet, the baseball analysis gift that never stops giving, publishes an annually updated downloadable database of player movements from 1873 onwards, broken down by transaction type. With a little coaxing in Excel, we can use this data to construct a visual record of each and every move made over the course of a season. I may be stretching a metaphor that wasn’t the strongest to begin with, but if transactions are baseball’s circulatory system, this is its EKG:
The Rangers' starter discusses incorporating statistics, mechanics, and video into his pitching preparations.
C.J. Wilson has a unique approach to pitching. The Rangers’ southpaw is both “a math guy” and a student of biomechanics, and the melding of the two helps create a thought process that is as esoteric as it is analytical. There is certainly a method behind the madness, as the 29-year-old Loyola Marymount product has held opponents to a .206 BAA and a .306 SLG in his first season as a member of the Texas rotation. No American League starter has been better against left-handed hitters, who have gone just 9 for 97 against his slants. One negative is walks allowed, as his 60 free passes are the most in the league. Overall, Wilson is 8-5, with a 3.23 ERA in 19 starts.
Multi-positional players are outliers in a sense but basically just regular major-leaguers.
You may not have noticed (in fact, it would be rather odd if you had), but Carlos Guillen became the only active member of an exclusive club a week ago today. It happened at the very instant that Alex Rios swung through a 2-2 offering from Max Scherzer to end the bottom of the sixth inning in the Tigers’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox on June 10. ESPN didn’t interrupt its regularly scheduled programming to bring you live coverage, the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular didn’t flash a congratulatory message while Guillen doffed his cap and took a victory lap around the warning track, and the moment didn’t crack the headlines in the following day’s papers.
However, with that out recorded, Guillen completed his 200th career defensive inning at second base. In and of itself, that milestone is unremarkable, but it assumes a little added luster in light of the fact that second base is the fifth position at which Guillen has surpassed that innings threshold, which struck me as an unusual accomplishment for someone who’s no slouch with the lumber, and not known as a glove man. Guillen happens to have blown by the 30-WARP barrier last season, which gives us a second convenient, arbitrary cutoff to work with. Only 423 position players since 1900 have accrued 30 career WARP, so Guillen would be breathing fairly rarified air from that qualification alone, but the subset of players with 30-plus WARP who have also spent at least 200 innings at a minimum of five positions has to be far more exclusive, right? Funny you should ask. Without further ado, I give you the Carlos Guillen Club (positions played are listed in descending innings order):
So, how unlikely is unlikely as far as that bid for the Triple Crown goes, anyway?
While scoping out the season of the one and only Albert Pujolsa couple of weeks ago, I attempted to quantify his chances of attaining the Triple Crown. At the time, Pujols led his league in dingers, stood deadlocked in the RBI race with Prince Fielder, and trailed Hanley Ramirez in batting average by a rather large margin. The methodology implemented in that piece was back-of-the-envelope at best, as the dependency of the inherent variables should have precluded the multiplication of separate probabilities. Since home runs automatically correlate to runs batted in as well as batting average, and because a higher batting average would, in theory, lead to more steaks, the three legs of the race are not independent of one another and therefore cannot be multiplied together to determine the Triple Crown likelihood. Though a more accurate process is unlikely to yield drastically different results than the 0.74 percent I found initially, the perfectionist in me felt it necessary to re-run the numbers through a more complex and accurate simulation in order to determine Pujols' chances.
Brandon Webb's season has ended, Edinson Volquez may be in trouble, plus other grim news from training tables around the majors.
Brandon Webb (160 DXL)
Let's first dispel the myth that Webb is bulletproof. Yes, he's had a nice career so far, with few health issues if any up until this season, but it's no secret that he's been a long-time patient of Dr. Andrews, going as far back as Webb's high school years. Now, on the one hand, I'm rather impressed that he was receiving top quality care at that stage, but on the other, I'm wondering why he needed it. Let's assume that the care kept him in the game and productive, helping him heal up any damage that could have happened at a young age. That said, damage in the body is healed with scar tissue, which is never as strong as the original tissue. That scar can confuse things on an MRI as well, so the idea that Andrews or Craig Morgan might look inside the shoulder with a 'scope is a scary proposition. Getting a visual of the damage rather than trying to decipher an MRI can often tell a far different story. With Webb's season done at the point they do surgery, and labrum or rotator cuff damage costing him nine months of rehab, we have to wonder whether the Diamondbacks will pick up an $8.5 million option on a pitcher who could miss the first half of 2010. (Think John Smoltz.)
When the answer to "who's now?" becomes "not you."
The term "jump the shark" has become common parlance for an entire generation that wasn't even forced to watch Happy Days. Not that I'm that old, but a whole bunch of crap that would be relegated to the low 300s on DirecTV used to be on network television, and people watched it, primarily because there were only about five TV offerings available, even in big markets. But since we're condemned, as a species, to always view the past through sepia-toned or rose-colored lens, we tend to think that the dreck we used to consume is somehow more virtuous and wonderful than it really was.