Do you believe in magic? Yeah, me either. Luck? Well that’s a different story. There’s something about the inexact science of fantasy baseball that drives us to scour expanded ratings and listen to media pundits in hopes that a waiver wire pick or trade acquisition will morph into a guy like 2008’s Ryan Ludwick.
When news of Albert Pujols‘ calf injury broke last June, I immediately scooped up Ludwick. A bench player who was projected as a mid-to-late rounder in most drafts, Ludwick homered that same night and went on to post power numbers similar to Pujols.
Did I get extremely lucky? Yes.
But if I had waited to read fantasy analysis or tried to evaluate whether Ludwick could sustain his fast start, it’s likely someone else would have enjoyed his .591 slugging percentage and .966 OPS.
Instead, I made the choice based on Ludwick’s solid bench numbers, manager Tony La Russa‘s tendency to utilize all his players and the need for some middle-of-the-order power in a Pujols-less lineup.
My point isn’t to throw away your stats sheet. What I’m saying is any fantasy player worth their salt must think like a good baseball GM and constantly anticipate what’s coming. (Hats off to those who scooped up Matt Wieters.)
First, understand that all Major League hitters have slumps. That being said, one of the biggest challenges is determining whether your player’s numbers – good or bad-are an aberration or long-term trend. While hitters in their first or second year season are hard to predict for a number of reasons (including the lack of scouting reports other teams have), evaluating veteran players is much easier.
Using the batting average of balls in play (Babip), you can determine whether a hitter is more likely to improve or get worse as the season progresses. A hitter’s Babip is the number of balls that translate safely into a hit, excluding home runs (which are always a hit) and strikeouts (which are always an out). Put simply, it evaluates who’s getting lucky and who’s not. It’s common sense that guys who put the bat on the ball more often have a better chance of seeing those balls begin to drop. Keep in mind the league average for Babip hovers around .300, so if a guy is posting a higher average than Babip, it’s likely his average will go up more as his Babip increases. In evaluating when to buy/sell the same holds true.
Take a player like Carl Crawford, who enters Friday hitting .318 with a .380 Babip. Crawford’s Babip is above his average, which means he’s finding a lot of holes and figures to come down some. He’s going to continue to steal bases and score a lot of runs, but depending on your needs, you may want to sell high. But taking a closer look at a guy like Melky Cabrera, who is hitting .323 with a .345 Babip, shows that Cabrera is playing at an extremely productive rate. He might dip slightly over the course of the season, but Cabrera owners should be very happy as long as the outfielder stays healthy.
But baseball is as much a game of numbers as it is a game of opportunity, and to keep your team on top through a long season requires some foresight. With the season right around the quarter mark, clubs are beginning to evaluate their best chance of going to the postseason. Here are three brewing storylines and their future impact on your fantasy team.
The Tigers turnaround
The ‘line: Through 45 games, the Tigers arms are holding opposing batters to a League-low .247 average and boast a 3.86 ERA. If Detroit is going to continue to stay atop the American League Central, some unlikely heroes could emerge come summer.
Fantasy Impact: While getting the dominating Justin Verlander would come at a steep price, Edwin Jackson is still flying somewhat under the radar despite a 2.58 ERA and a vastly improved BB/SO ratio. Jackson is a No. 2 caliber starter with a mid-90s fastball and an ability to throw 100-plus pitches each start. Those indicators bode well for fantasy owners, as a healthy Jackson will not only improve throughout each game, but also over the season. A must for keeper leagues, Jackson is still available in more than 30 percent of leagues, but if you can’t get him another emerging option is Rick Porcello. While he has a higher ERA (3.48) than Jackson, the 20-year-old Porcello is just getting accustomed to the Major Leagues. In his first nine starts, Porcello is holding right-handed batters to a .179 average and has 32 strikeouts against 16 walks.
Big Risk, Big Reward: Is Dontrelle Willis for real? That’s the question fantasy owners who own Willis or have him available on waivers, are undoubtedly asking. With three respectable starts, and a visit to last-place Baltimore scheduled for Friday, D-Train is increasingly becoming a reliable arm in an-already strong rotation. He’s a gamble and at times struggles with command, issuing four walks in his last start, and allowing 16 hits over 17 1/3 innings. But if Willis can continue to paint the corner like he did in May 19’s six
Here come the kids
The ‘line: With teams scuffling and rosters shifting at an alarming rate, some of the biggest impact players – and bargain fantasy buys – aren’t even old enough to rent a car. And while blue-chip guys like Wieters, David Price and Tommy Hanson are already on the fantasy radar, there’s plenty more youth that could make a push before the All-Star break.
Fantasy impact: It’s no secret the Rays arms are struggling and the addition of Price (who will be pulled on most nights before he reaches 100 pitches) won’t singlehandedly fix a bloated 5.18 starters ERA. With a payroll already maxed out – and borrowed from future years- Wade Davis could be the answer. The right-hander has held Triple-A batters to a .190 average with runners in scoring position, and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts. The ever-cautious Rays have limited Davis to 47
High Risk, High Reward: The Cubs‘ Jake Fox answered any questions about whether his eye-popping Triple-A numbers would translate in the Majors, going 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first two games since Wednesday’s promotion. The 27-year-old posts legitimate power, but playing time could be a factor. A converted catcher, Fox has seen time at the corner spots in the infield and outfield. If he’s available in your league, consider holding on to him. My guess is if Fox continues to hit, manager Lou Piniella won’t have a problem getting him at-bats.
An excess of arms in Boston
The ‘line: Red Sox Nation is enjoying a favorable overload of arms and barring any injuries, Boston will have a logjam of quality pitchers, sooner rather than later.
Fantasy Impact: Early whispers are Brad Penny could get dealt to clear room for the rehabbing John Smoltz, who is on track for a mid-June return. Assuming Smoltz (who tossed 60 pitches in his second rehab start on Wednesday) stays on track, the Sox look prime to trade away an arm, considering the Major League-ready Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden down in Triple-A. Fantasy owners short on pitching should monitor this situation carefully. Buchholz took a no-hitter and perfect game into the ninth inning Monday night at Louisville and already has a Major League no-hitter from last season under his belt.
High Risk, High Reward: While Buchholz’s numbers , 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA in nine starts, are slightly better than Bowden (2-2, 1.68 ERA) Red Sox GM Larry Lucchino told the Providence Journal on Sunday that both players would be in the Majors at some point this season. For now, Buchholz appears to be ahead of Bowden, but having either right-hander in an AL-only format or deep league could provide some upside late in the season.
Thank you for reading
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The only players who have BABIP's below their actual batting average are people who hit more home runs than times they strike out. Off the top of my head, maybe only Carlos Lee and Albert Pujols come close to that. Bonds back in the day, and maybe Randall Simon during one of his incredibly low strikeout seasons are other possibilities, but the above quotation conveys no information since it's true for basically everyone.
I'm also 100% in agreement with Christina that it's a strange mix of things that doesn't really function as a well-flowing article. I think that's why John Perrotto's so good; he can make these sorts of "notes" columns function in a useful way, but part of that is acknowledging the separation in topics explicitly.
I'm sorry, there is a lack of analysis that is pervasive, and BP has people who write as reporters very well.
That's pretty grim, I'm afraid.
Grammar is a fixable problem. However, I found your article to be a disorganized mess. (I wrote this paragraph before reading Christina's reference to "goulash".) Fantasy players arenâ€™t reading these types of articles to be wowed by fabulous prose - if you had any. They want the information as brief as possible. The entertainment value is important, too, but not at the expense of brevity. With such disorganization, I wouldnâ€™t know where to skim and in such cases, I would normally just skip over the whole thing.
Your misunderstanding of BABIP is another huge mistake.
I actually liked the second half of the article. May or may not be a BP type article, but would have had a much better chance to get a thumb if the entire article were like the 2nd half.
As I was reading this article, I wasn't really convinced that Brittany played fantasy baseball. I do not see how a Pujols injury would lead her to pick up Ludwick since they play different positions. In addition, by mid-June last year, Ludwick was hitting so well that he would only be available in the weakest leagues.
Similarly, it's a very weak league if some team didn't draft Wieters and stash him on their bench. Catchers who have the potential to hit are the best players to take fliers on.
There were unsubstantiated assertions, poor assumptions, or times when I wondered where the material was being cited from:
"When news of Albert Pujols' calf injury broke last June, I immediately scooped up Ludwick." - Besides the earlier comments, it was Chris Duncan who was called up from the minors once Pujols went to the DL. http://cbs11tv.com/sports/Albert.Pujols.Calf.2.746131.html
"With a payroll already maxed out â€“ and borrowed from future yearsâ€” Wade Davis could be the answer." - Who said the Tampa Bay payroll was maxed out?
"A must for keeper leagues, Jackson is still available in more than 30 percent of leagues..." - Where are you getting that he is available in 30 percent of leagues? If you're looking at ESPN.com (which is what I am guessing, based on the 30% number), they don't run public keeper leagues. And while Jackson might be valuable in a keeper league, he does not have the track record to be a "must have"
"The Cubs' Jake Fox answered any questions about whether his eye-popping Triple-A numbers would translate in the Majors, going 2-for-3 with an RBI in his first two games since Wednesday's promotion...My guess is if Fox continues to hit, manager Lou Piniella won't have a problem getting him at-bats." - Going 2 for 3 in one game doesn't answer any questions! By that logic, Wieters should be demoted after his 0-4 debut! Then you have to figure out how he would get regular atbats with Soriano in left, Bradley in right, Lee at first base and Ramirez at third base! Yes, you indicate playing time is an issue, but then you make this haphazard guess where you refute your own analysis.
"A bench player who was projected as a mid-to-late rounder in most drafts...But if I had waited to read fantasy analysis or tried to evaluate whether Ludwick could sustain his fast start." - How do you know he was projected as a mid-to-late rounder if you didn't wait to read fantasy analysis? Why draft him for your team without evaluating whether he could sustain his fast start?
"The ever-cautious Rays have limited Davis to 47 1/3 innings over nine games, and he could challenge for the slumping Andy Sonnanstine's spot or add much-needed relief in the 'pen." - Did you miss all the articles this week about Kazmir seeking a trade? Also, why waste a roster spot on someone who might end up in the bullpen?
"Take a player like Carl Crawford, who enters Friday hitting .318 with a .380 Babip. Crawford's Babip is above his average, which means he's finding a lot of holes and figures to come down some. He's going to continue to steal bases and score a lot of runs, but depending on your needs, you may want to sell high. But taking a closer look at a guy like Melky Cabrera, who is hitting .323 with a .345 Babip, shows that Cabrera is playing at an extremely productive rate." - How do you make this kind of argument? Melky Cabrera's fantasy stats are .323 BA/20 R/5 HR/20 RBI/4 SB. Carl Crawford is at .329 BA!/40 R!/3 HR/25 RBI!/40 SB!. Moreover, Crawford has shown he can keep up that kind of pace in SB while Melky's never hit that well before. How about I trade you Chad Fox for Matt Wieters while we're at it?
"Early whispers are Brad Penny could get dealt to clear room for the rehabbing John Smoltz, who is on track for a mid-June return." - Who is whispering and are you in a position to respond if reporters call BP.com and ask you for further details or the nature of your source? Also, you neglect to discuss if a trade to the NL (where he has more familiarity) or to a park other than Fenway will affect his stats. Also you go through this whole Red Sox discussion without mentioning Justin Masterson...
Then, there were just plain awkward sentences that made no logical sense:
"Keep in mind the league average for Babip hovers around .300, so if a guy is posting a higher average than Babip, it's likely his average will go up more as his Babip increases." - If BABIP(don't forget to capitalize abbreviations correctly) hovers around .300, then that would argue some regression to the mean will happen. Other than that, this statement made little sense.
"Do you believe in magic? Yeah, me either." - Some people _do_ believe in magic and would consider your statement offensive. Either way, it's "Yeah, me neither".
"Through 45 games, the Tigers arms are holding opposing batters to a League-low .247 average and boast a 3.86 ERA. If Detroit is going to continue to stay atop the American League Central, some unlikely heroes could emerge come summer." - If the Tigers are already holding opposing batters to a league-low average, then those "unlikely heroes" already emerged.
This is the third article appearing on BP.com where you've used the Devil Rays, probably because that was the team you did your internship with. While it makes sense to write about what you know, I saw little evidence in The Basics article and no evidence in this article that you were able to apply what you know about the Rays to bring some insight into the topics you write about.
Finally, and this is a pet peeve of mine, but most fantasy leagues, whether they are Rotisserie or Head-to-Head or points, generally count batting average, runs, home runs, RBI and stolen bases. You don't mention any of these stats when discussing Ludwick or Chad Fox and analyze Carl Crawford and Melky Cabrera solely on batting average without looking at other stats. None of your pitching discussions talk about WHIP.
Sorry, this article just does not work for me... After two unedited articles submitted to this competition, I am becoming less convinced that your writing style is a strength. I am unconvinced that you played in even a casual level fantasy league, leading me to believe you were in a really weak fantasy baseball league with maybe two other active owners, or never played at all and tried to fudge it. If I'm wrong, though, feel free to post a link to your league so I (and others) can better understand the nature of your competition and thus, have some context to your analysis.
Is that a bad thing?
Thanks to Will for reminding me where I had read it (which makes sense since I read things here daily).
All that being said, there's little or no question that this article, post-edit, would be a fine piece on MLB.com or ESPN, and I'm sure that some people here will enjoy it, but not as many.
I also agree that
Prospect talk always kills me. As one who follows prospects, I've noticed that everyone in sports are talking about them these days because of their value. Which is a great talking point. But, the Matt Wieters comment made me want to gag. It was as if he wasn't the top prospect in baseball and ESPN hadn't be running his name for the past month. Its like saying, great job for stealing Justin Upton from the rest of your league.
Ryan Ludwick getting picked up in June is her weakest fantasy note. He was rostered in most leagues well before that.
Echoing some of the previous comments, this might suit a beginner's site, but this is FAR from BP material.
Just an FYI.
Regardless, I think this submission is an example of trying to cover too much, and getting spread a bit thin. Comments about 'scooping up' Wieters, the June 2008 pick-up of Ludwick (vs. Duncan), and the whole BABIP exceeding AVG discussion does not bode well for a BP Fantasy Baseball article. With some more supporting data, these could all have been articles on their own. Inform us of something useful for our fantasy teams, and then support that information with substance. Left standing alone, however, these are throwaway comments and easy targets for the BP audience to shoot at.
Personally, I'd have been much more intrigued if we had instead gotten a whole article about the pros and cons of picking up Dontrelle Willis. A BP fantasy article needs to say more than he's 'painting the corners,' and if he keeps it up then everybody will want him on their team. It would be nice to use his pitch data, but it wouldn't have to include that kind of information.
But at its core, a BP fantasy article needs to tell us if he is back - for real. Yes or no. Perhaps a review of his 2009 minor league performance game-by-game, then the same analysis at the majors. Perhaps a quote from a couple scouts or pitching coaches. What's up with his leg kick? Is he getting ahead in the count? That would have been a great and useful fantasy article, and not something that 'just anybody' can write - but I think Brittany could.
It kind of reminds me of Joe Posnanski's gripe about news magazine cover stories that ask a question "Will Obama win Pennsylvania?" without ever giving an answer in the article.
As to the predictions of Crawford's demise, and this is echoing Christina's comment: isn't every player with more K than HR going to have a BABIP that exceeds his overall batting average? And don't speed demons (see, e.g., Ichiro) tend to have higher than average BABIPs due to their ability to leg out infield hits?
I was also suprised that the discussion of Ludwick's "breakout" in '08 made no mention of his numbers in the minors from 2003-2007, numbers which were largely in line with -- and thus to some extent could have foretold -- his '08 performance. I think BP readers who are also fantasy players will agree that a key to success is to "anticipate what's coming." But for that not to be accompanied by something like a discussion of the (albeit imperfectly) predictive value of MLE's, but rather a vague reference to LaRussa's tendency to play all of his players, and a derogatory reference to "waiting to read fantasy analysis"? You're auditioning to *write* such analysis (at least this week)!
I read this and *thought* she meant that Crawford's BABIP was above his average BABIP over his career. I know that was a big deal with CKs analysis and some of the other comments, but worth noting another view.
That said, the sentence wasn't very clear in the first place. I voted for it, only because I don't think this was a good topic for you.
this line drives me crazy... you're really going to draw a conclusion from his first three at-bats? even if he had been in the bigs all year long i'd still contend that it's a small sample size, but three at-bats? come on now...
all the prospects mentioned are owned in any competitive league. that being said, you should have focused more on trade value... for example, how much should i give up for david price, or should i sell wieters now with all the buzz around him (elite prospects often take a year or two to figure out big league pitching - see justin upton). even mentioning that hanson not being called up yet could make him a more attractive (cheaper) trade target than a guy like price, for an owner in need of SP. analysis like that would be relevant to any league.
This piece was remarkably uneven.
That said, "me either" instead of "me neither" KILLS me.
Good writing style but, much like her previous article, her command of facts and what they mean is really weak. For example, giving any significance to Jake Fox going 2 for 3 after beiing called up, pleease!