Time is a flat circ ... OH MY GOD, HURRY UP ALREADY!
On July 25, the Dodgers played the Twins, in Los Angeles. The game featured an 18-minute delay after the umpires and Twins manager Paul Molitor got mixed up over a double-switch in the sixth inning. It wasn’t the most important game the Dodgers have played lately, or even the most interesting. But it did show us a few things.
By my count, Yasiel Puig was announced as the batter two hours, 39 minutes, and 15 seconds into the game. This is an account of what and who followed.
Which young hitters does PECOTA see as having breakout potential in 2017?
“Breakout” can mean different things to different people. It can mean a prospect or untested young big leaguer establishing himself as a valuable regular. It can mean a relative unknown becoming an impact player. It can mean a well-known star making the leap to full-blown superstar, perhaps even following up a “breakout” one year with an even bigger “breakout” the next. Your own definition may vary, but in PECOTA’s case “breakout” is all about out-performing track records.
So what are we supposed to do with him now? The good news is that he remains a physical specimen with an absurd arm, and if FRAA is to be believed, he’s been one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball this year in spite of a trip to the disabled list and periods of sporadic starting. All of those things are well and good, and the defensive value in particular is helpful fantasy-wise insofar as it keeps him in the regular lineup even when he’s struggling offensively. But offensive struggle has been the norm for Puig pretty much all season long. His below-average .255 TAv ranks 24th among right fielders with at least 250 plate appearances, just behind Pete Bourjos. Yes, the Peter Bourjos who was drafted 528th overall in leagues deep enough that people drafted Peter Bourjos. Puig’s return on investment has been… well, not good for fantasy players who drafted him in the fifth round this past spring. And it’s been an even worse development for those who are pot-committed in dynasty leagues. So let’s take a look at why his bat has been so lethargic this year, and whether there’s still hope for a sequel to his first impression.
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Tracking changes in opposing pitchers' approaches to Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, and George Springer.
Recently, Yasiel Puig had his one-year MLB anniversary (Puigiversary?), which caused much uproar and a deluge of odes to his ability, presumably along with a handful of curmudgeonly rants about his bat flips. Despite the seeming overabundance of press attention given to Puig, that attention is well-deserved. In his first full year, he’s become among the best players in baseball.
Almost everything there is to write about Puig’s innate ability and penchant for guffaw-inducing bloopers has already been written, and in any case, I’m already late to the Puigiversary party. I want to focus on another aspect of Puig’s performance, namely the way the league has approached him, with the hope that we can learn something about how pitchers approach young players in general. I’ve written at length about how the manner in which pitchers target hitters can inform us about those hitters. In some cases, we can forecast changes in hitter ability by observing the league’s approach to each hitter and whether it varies over the course of a season.
In the debut edition of their new column, Ben and Craig start a tour of the best young players in each division.
There are plenty of reasons why people love dynasty leagues. To some, they do a better job of simulating the feeling of being a GM, as your decisions have ramifications beyond a single season. They foster closer connections between owners, given the sizeable time commitment, and add an element of reading your opponents, too. They require expansive knowledge of a wide group of MLB and MiLB players, and they require a relentless attention to detail throughout the season.
Yes, dynasty leagues are growing in popularity, and as they grow it becomes important for us to deliver content that caters specifically to dynasty league owners. And that’s why Craig and I will seek to put aside our differences once a week in order to impart the collective wisdom that we’ve siphoned off of others and would like to pass off as our own.
Doug's attachment to arms shines through as he nabs David Price and Felix Hernandez to anchor his dream Roto staff.
I tend to go with something resembling the stars-and-scrubs approach, mostly because I think that it's possible to identify “scrubs” who will be productive. It's no secret that I have an attachment to arms, and I always make a point to secure a pair of aces in my fantasy leagues, whether draft or auction.
The knock against pitchers is that they always get hurt, which tends to depress their value, and the injury-risk makes it all the more important to have two top-end guys at the top of my fantasy rotation—if one gets hurt then my season is not necessarily down the drain, because ace no. 2 can carry the weight. So my staff is top-heavy, after which it's time to go dumpster-diving, and I take great joy each fantasy season in identifying the cheap pitchers who will ascend to the next level. Oh, and sucks to closers—they are way too volatile to trust in a league where rosters are locked on Opening Day, so I'll just go ahead and aim for victories in the counting stats of Ks and Ws while sacrificing saves. My calculator says that two 15s and a 1 supersede the worth of a sixth-place finish in three categories, and the draft-and-lock setup changes the game in this case.
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:
On Puig's performance against fastballs, and young hitters' performance in general.
When you think of a young hitter, you probably imagine a kid who can catch up to a fastball but struggles to lay off breaking balls and off-speed stuff outside the zone. There’s no “used to be a thrower but now he’s a pitcher” equivalent for hitters, but if there was it would likely be used to describe a batter who learned how to lay off tough sliders. When Yasiel Puig came up last year and couldn’t lay off sliders, and teams responded by throwing him sliders, it surprised nobody.
There’s some confirmation bias at work here. Try as we might not to, there’s a tendency to create cultural profiles for players, and also to create age profiles for players, and probably also to create behavioral profiles for players. So Puig—young, by appearances a bit out of control, Latin—seems to the prejudiced mind to be a guy who would be a free-swinger, and perhaps a guy who would swing and miss at sliders out of the zone. And he is, and he does! Just don’t throw that guy a fastball and you’ll be fine.
The league's highest-payroll team is loaded with fantasy goodness.
The Dodgers rarely had their Opening Day lineup on the field throughout the entirety of last season. This was due, of course, to a confluence of major injury problems to several star players (Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez), as well as the emergence of perhaps the starriest player in Yasiel Puig. Add in the regular rest needed by Carl Crawford, and the pure force of will it must take to rest Puig, and it’s easy to see why that Opening Day lineup rarely materialized.
They’ll give it a go once more, in 2014, as they hope to avoid the injury bug that bit them so often last year. Still, given their outfield depth, there are going to be plenty of lineups that don’t resemble the Opening Day one, although they hope to have more stability at second and third base this season. The team is teeming with fantasy goodness, with power, speed, counting stats, and even the unknowns (Kemp, Guerrero) in the lineup, paired with dominance at the top of the rotation and quality innings in the middle of it. And let’s not ignore the top-three fantasy closer at the back end of the bullpen with another valuable piece in Wilson if your league counts holds. If you’re not a Dodgers fan already, there’s a good chance you will be during fantasy season, as you’re likely to roster at least a couple of their players.