Sunday, February 27, 2005

San Diego Padres

Ryan Klesko is reported to be swinging with more authority than last season when he hit a staggeringly low 9 HR in 402 ABs.

I have no doubt that he, along with Sean Burroughs, will increase their power production (as would have Jay Payton if he had remained.)

Why? Because all three had numbers so low that I concluded they had an unusually bad year. The idea that bad years are followed by better ones is not unusual in Roto thinking. (As one site claims Roy halladay to be a sleeper for this reason.)

Usually, Roto players do this intra-season. A generic example is trading for second-half players. The team doing this hopes the bad first half will be offset by a better second half which pulls the player up to his career averages. When you deal for a Derek Jeter hitting .200 in May only to see him hit .350 the rest of the way and finish near .300, this is what you are doing.

Applying this on a season basis is a little less common but entirely justifiable.

What Roto players tend to forget is this concept works both ways. Not only from bad to better but from better to worse. Paul LoDuca is the classic second half fader.

But when applying it to season, Roto players tend to think players having great seasons have set a new baseline for performance. This is false, and the smart Roto player will take advantage of this Roto irrationality.

This brings me to the Padres and Petco Park. Two hitters in particular look to have had very good years despite playing 82 at an avowed pitcher's park and another 18 in LA and SF. That is 100 games in notorious pitcher's parks.

The hitters are Phil Nevin, whose season was great as was Ramon Hernandez's year, who accomplished his in fewer than 400 ABs.

Nevin's performance (26/105/.289) ranked up there with the career peaks he set back in 2000 and 2001 (the peak of performance enhancement?) in a less-pitcher friendly environment. The idea that he'd match those three years later defies logic.

Ramon Hernandez matched the numbers (18/61/.276) he had in Oakland, but in 100 fewer ABs. He played the fewest games he had over the past five seasons. With his position, this is a clear sign that he could be breaking down. Combine with his high production last season, the signs point towards a less successive season albeit it one that still holds value in NL-only leagues.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Los Angeles Dodgers

Yesterday, Eric Gagne, the best Rotisserie closer (Brad Lidge is closing on him but let's see where those Ks go when he's only pitching the 9th for the whole season), felt a pop in his knee after throwing a pitch.

Early reports say this type of injury could take six weeks to heal. I could not help reacting with glee. There is nothing like a Spring Training injury to deflate the value of a great player.

Normally, he'd be expected to be amongst the most expensive players in an NL-only draft, and this season was expected to be no different. $40 is not out of the question in a keeper league, and this is where I expected him to go.

What causes the deflation are two factors. The first is the fear of wasting $40 on a player who will not contribute enough to matter for the upcoming season. No matter how you cut it, there would be endless second-guessing and alternate scenarios build around how a team could have spent that $40 - an extra $1 for the now-apparent breakout player, $20 for two hitters that would have produced versus those two sleepers who kept on sleeping and so on.

The second factor is the disproportionate weight Roto players give to injuries in Spring Training and those that may last 3 months. If Gagne were out for three months, he’d be ready to return in the beginning of June if he could throw and the middle of June if he needed a couple weeks of games to build arm strength.

What is going on in June in Roto? Teams are beginning to analyze whether or not their standings are truly reflective of a bad team or bad luck. While I believe this is too early to give-up, others do. What needs to be considered is the season still has 100+ games remaining! While waiting for a player to return in two months takes more patience than some of the ADHD-afflicted Roto owners can bare, it is the patient ones who benefit as adding a stud closer, at a minimum, alleviates the need to trade for one. Or better allows you to get full-value in return if you do trade him.

This is much more beneficial than the panic that sets in on draft day when considering how much to bid on a player who can’t help for tow more months.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Colorado Rockies

One of the hardest decision to make is whether to pursue the Colorado closer.

The park is horrendous for pitchers and quickly ruins anyone who has any success elsewhere. Remember when Mike Hampton could pitch?

Last season Shawn Chacon racked-up 35 saves but with nightmare ratios. Not the 5.25 ERA and 1.50 WHIP that causes relievers to spend the entire season in the free agent pool, but an astounding horrific 7.11 ERA and 1.94 WHIP.

Some may counter that the addition of a Randy Johnson (2.60 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 245.2 innings) provides enough to offset the horror of Chacon's ratios. Somewhat true. The combined ratios of the continuum extremes is 3.52 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Good numbers and certainly the ratio is enough the the top spot in an NL-only league.

However, RJ comes at a price tag of $35+ and that is to pay for 2.60/0.90 ratios not 3.52/1.11. A SP with those numbers should go between $20 and $30 in an NL-only keeper league.

But what about the cost of the closer? I have little doubt the Colorado closer would go for $17 in a draft assuming Todd Jones type ratios (4.50/1.50). The question becomes is 3.52/1.11/35 saves worth $50+.

I say, "Yes with equivocation!"

The equivocating arises from the fact you must get RJ in an environment where every other team in the league knows the enormous effects 240 innings of 2.60 ERA and 0.90 WHIP has on a team's ratios and wants RJ on their team.

The two most-frequently mentioned candidates are Chin-Hui Tsao and Brian Fuentes. With the worst-case scenario being Chacon's ratios and with the fair value of the Colorado closer being $17, what would anyone pay for either?

A few dollars? $10 apiece (a frequent salary of Rockies pitchers as most are plucked from the free agent pool) if nabbed late last season in hopes of winning the off-season closer sweepstakes?

One must also consider that most Colorado relievers are left in the pool because the best have ratios in the 4.50/1.40 and above range.

With no help from ratios and signifcant risk of damage to those ratios (If RJ's ratios can be damaged by 35% in ERA and 23% in WHIP, imagine what happens to a SP with slightly above average ones with fewer IP!), the Colorado closer must be cheap and a co-closing situation entails minimal bids.

A few dollars each with the likelihood the loser ends up in the free agent pool via waivers.

Oakland A's

When I say that Billy Beane made a mistake, I know I am bucking conventional wisdom. He is the Golden Child and can do no wrong in the eyes of the most national sports writers. (any mention fo the Mark Bellhorn trade?)

What he did was make two bail trades and bad ones at that. He quit on the 2005 season in hopes of returning to play-off levels in 2006. What makes his deals bad is the high levels of uncertainty attached to the main pieces involved - Dan Meyer, Dan Haren and Daric Barton.

Meyer has yet to pitch in the majors much less in the AL where he won't get to face the pitcher everytime through the line-up. Dan Haren has major league experience and could be expected to perform at the 4.50+ ERA level (Simple rule of thumb - add 1.00 to his NL ERA and fudge positively for experience. Unscientific and statistically unsound, yeah, but I just gave a range of 4.50 to 5.50. Are you claiming this isn't where he'll end-up?)

Barton has to hit like Roy Hobbs to make any difference in 2006.

As for the others, Charles Thomas does not walk and is old for his experience. Juan Cruz may be OK but a switch the the starting rotation puts him in the same category as Haren.

Kiko Calero may end-up the best of the bunch in 2005 as he could step-in and close once it is apparent the A's will only win 70 games this year and Dotel is traded along with Durazo and Hatteberg.

My guess is 1st week in May.