Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who Is Joe Mather?

The Cardinals sent down LF Chris Duncan and recalled 1B/OF Joe Mather, a player who seems like a right-hander version of the Duncan. Mather will be 26 on July 23rd and was hitting 315/406/671 in Triple-A with 12 HRs amongst his 25 XBHs.

Here is what Baseball America said about him in their 2008 prospect book. He was ranked 13th in the Cards organization.

Mather reached Class A in 2004, and for three seasons and more than 1,000 ABs, he stayed at that level, wondering each spring if he was making progress or about to be released. Cardinals officials recognized the potential in his swing, and in 2007 he blossomed. He hit 31 HRs as he climbed to Double-A and then Triple-A. Mather used to gobble ice cream and other high-calorie delights to pack weight on his lithe frame. By last year, he had filled out by 15 lbs and his game matured. Scouts saw the same raw ability in Mather, but they wondered if he would ever add the necessary polish. He put it together when he settled into a comfortable stance and approach at the plate, which led to better strike-sone awareness and more consistent power to all fields. He now has the best power in the system this side of Colby Rasmus, and he doesn't strike out excessively for a slugger. Mather is no burner but has stolen 23 bases without being caught over the last three seasons. He may be better at first base, but he runs well enough ans has enough athleticism and arm strength to play a corner outfield position. The versatility that once kept him playing while he struggled with the bat now opens an alternative avenue to the majors, and he's now just a phone call away. Added to the 40-man roster in Novemeber, he'll probably open 2008 in Triple-A.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Should The mets Do At The Draft?

From Keith Law's chat:

Jon (CT): For a team like the Mets that drastically needs to rebuild its farm system, what's the best draft strategy?

Keith Law: (1:30 PM ET ) Best player available, rinse, repeat. No more quick-to-the-majors relievers.

No love for Eddie Kunz?

The New Closer In Tampa Bay?

Tampa Bay Rays closer Troy Percival pulled himself from a save situation mid-AB with a hamstring injury. How bad it is is yet to be determined, but Dan Wheeler was brought in to finish the game. He got the save and should be considered the nominal favorite for saves until Percival returns.

Joba Chamberlain First Start

Joba Chamberlain was slated to throw 55 pitches last night in preparation of moving into the starting rotation next Tuesday. Complicating matters was the excellent start by last night's starter Andy Pettitte, who pitched into the 7th.

Joba came in and threw an inning and a third and just 27 pitches. Instead of sending Joba out for the 9th inning with a 4-2 lead, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stuck to the formulaic response and sent his closer out in the 9th. Chamberlain was sent back to the bullpen to throw another 28 pitches and thus remains on target to start on Tuesday.

Why Chamberlain couldn't throw the 9th defies any explanation but the baseball equivalent of a Pavlovian response. Ding! Ding! Our closer must always pitch the 9th in a save situation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who Is Jeff Larish?

The Detroit Tigers recalled 25-year-old lefty slugging 1B Jeff Larish to replace DH Gary Sheffield. Here is what John Sickels had to say about him in The Baseball Prospect Handbook 2008:

A 5th round pick out of Arizona State on '05, Larish adapted well to Double-A last year and posted a strong +23 percent OPS. He does two things really well with the bat: hit homers and draw walks. He loves to pull the ball, and this will probably preclude him hitting for average at higher levels. He runs OK for a big guy, and he is a pretty good defensive first baseman as well. I can see Larish as a .240-.250 hitter in the majors, with 25-30 homers in a full year, a good number of walks, and solid defense. He's not a Seven Skill guy, but he should be useful, and he could have a couple of surprisingly good years in him. Grade B-, same as last year.

With AL-Only free agent pools so thin, Larish is a must-grab.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Who Will The New York Mets Draft?

From - Blogs - Buster Olney Blog:

The Mets, who didn't have a lot of depth in their farm system before they swapped a package of prospects for Johan Santana, have decided internally to focus on drafting college players -- rather than high schoolers -- in the June draft. This will be done in the hope that it will fill the talent gap at the middle and top of their minor leagues.

This doesn't sound good. Isn't that what the Toronto Blue Jays for the first several years of the JP Ricciardi regime? And don't the Blue Jays have one of the worst minor league systems in baseball?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Will Carroll's UTK Wrap: Fast Work

Every Friday, Baseball Prospectus provides free-to-all Under The Knife Wrap column. For those who don't subscribe, this is likely to be fresh information. For those who do, Will's Quick Cuts section at the end is new info. Here is a blurb from that:

"Eric Gagne will have a cortisone shot in his shoulder. If he's not better by Sunday, he'll hit the DL. He's not closing for a while either way."

Baseball Prospectus | Articles | UTK Wrap: Fast Work:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

There's A New Rightfielder In Cleveland

From this morning's Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"Right fielder Franklin Gutierrez, sitting for his fifth straight start, was not.
What happened to Gutierrez?

'Ben Francisco happened to him,' Wedge said. 'Benny has come up and swung the bat well and taken some time away from him.'

Francisco is one of the few Indians hitters who looks like he has a clue at the plate, and is hitting .340. He's taken over right field, while Gutierrez appears to be David Dellucci's latest platoon partner in left."

Gutierrez was a sexy sleeper coming off his 2007 season where he hit 13 HRs and stole 8 bases in 271 ABs. Given the RF job this Spring, there was no reason to believe otherwise.

Now that he has struggled for the 1st quarter of 2008, along with the rest of the Indians' offense, he has been supplanted by rookie Ben Francisco. I do not see Francisco as too much of a different player so do not be surprised to see Gutierrez regain those ABs if Francisco struggles as most rookies do.

Both players should be owned in all but the most shallow of AL-Only formats.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

BB/9 Laggards

Here is a list of major league pitchers who have made at least five starts and have BB/9 rates 4.0 or higher. These are guys who could find the next four months of the season harmful to their ERAs.

Tom GorzelannyPIT0.2676.9
Ian KennedyNYA0.3336.6
Miguel BatistaSEA0.3725.9
Jason JenningsTEX0.2875.9
Jeremy BondermanDET0.2655.8
Fausto CarmonaCLE0.2685.6
Steve TrachselBAL0.295.6
Ubaldo JimenezCOL0.3575.5
Oliver PerezNYN0.2695.4
Daisuke MatsuzakaBOS0.225.3
Chad BillingsleyLAN0.3365.3
Edinson VolquezCIN0.2915
Chris YoungSDN0.2735
Jonathan SanchezSFN0.295
Manny ParraMIL0.355
Luke HochevarKCA0.2745
Barry ZitoSFN0.3594.8
Matt CainSFN0.2684.7
Brandon BackeHOU0.2944.7
Tom GlavineATL0.2984.7
Kenny RogersDET0.3514.6
Shawn ChaconHOU0.2774.5
Kason GabbardTEX0.3134.4
Tim WakefieldBOS0.2624.3
Adam EatonPHI0.3154.3
Jon LesterBOS0.2554.2
A.J. BurnettTOR0.3214.2
Gavin FloydCHA0.1934.2
Edwin JacksonTBA0.2884.1
John MaineNYN0.254.1
Erik BedardSEA0.2274.1
Dustin McGowanTOR0.3224
Mike PelfreyNYN0.3414

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top 11 Catchers By VORP

Following Geovany Soto's inside-the-park HR last night, I was curious to see whether or not he is now the top catcher in fantasy baseball. I used Baseball prospectus' VORP statistic to rank the catchers so far this season.

The case can be made that Soto is the best. I have little doubt he will hold on to a Top 4 ranking going into 2009 fantasy baseball drafts.

Geovany SotoCHN0.3170.4220.61420.4
Brian McCannATL0.3160.3790.57917.7
Russell MartinLAN0.320.4370.4212.7
Ryan DoumitPIT0.350.3820.57312.4
A.J. PierzynskiCHA0.3170.3710.49611.1
Jason VaritekBOS0.290.3620.58.8
Mike NapoliANA0.2580.310.6078.4
Chris CostePHI0.3240.40.5498
Joe MauerMIN0.3190.3980.3977.7
Dioner NavarroTBA0.3660.4040.4527
Jesus FloresWAS0.3530.4760.6186.9

Monday, May 19, 2008

Top K/BB Pitchers

Here is a list of the Top 20 K/BB pitchers. For those familar with Ron Shandler's Basbeall HQ, he calls it "Command Ratio." It is done without regard for the number of innings pitched so that you could find a possible sleeper like Darrell Rasner or Glen Perkins.

Cliff LeeCLE9.2
Jon LieberCHN7
Scott BakerMIN5.8
Roy HalladayTOR5.7
Kevin SloweyMIN5.33
Jason BergmannWAS5.25
Josh BeckettBOS5.09
Darrell RasnerNYA5
Javier VazquezCHA4.83
Wandy RodriguezHOU4.8
John SmoltzATL4.5
Glen PerkinsMIN4.5
Dan HarenARI4.5
Jesse LitschTOR4.43
Paul ByrdCLE4.4
Hong-Chih KuoLAN4.22
Johnny CuetoCIN4.08
John LackeyANA4
Mike MussinaNYA4
Ervin SantanaANA3.85

Friday, May 16, 2008

Matt Joyce, Detroit Tigers OF

Joyce still slugging, unlike rest of Tigers: "Joyce, 23, was not a huge power guy last season at Double-A Erie. He had 17 homers in 130 games, but the capacity for younger players to get steadily stronger can lead to heftier home-run numbers, and often in a hurry. As a Tiger, Joyce is batting .292 with seven RBIs in eight games."

Hitting from the left side should ensure Matt Joyce continues to see regular ABs. Given the lack of hitting depth in AL-Only leagues, he is a good gamble. On a listless Tigers' team that looks close to mailing the season in, Joyce is a breath of fresh air.

At Fake Teams, there is a summary of what Baseball America and John Sickels said about him in their repsective 2008 prospect guides.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Indians Closer

Rafael Betancourt, the darling of sabremetricians everywhere, has proven the Summer of '06 was not a fluke. He really isn't cut out to close.

Despite what numbers on paper say, there are relievers who cannot pitch effectively without the net of another inning or two for their offense to hit. Arthur Rhodes and LaTroy Hawkins are on the list.

Now add Betancourt.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who Would You Rather Have - Carlos Gomez or Derek Jeter

If Carlos Gomez, Why Not Derek Jeter. - FakeTeams

The link above is to a post at Fake Teams showing a variety of full-time hitters who have walked as much or less than Carlos Gomez of Minnesota. Included is a poll about who is preferrable to own between Gomez and Derek Jeter, a hitter with the same number of walks (5).

Surprisingly, Carlos Gomez is the current leader amongst the voters. I think there is a case there but was surprised to see Jeter doing so poorly nonetheless.

Do you agree?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

AL HR Hitters

Want to know why your AL-Only league isn't going the way you thought it would? Take a look at the HR leaders and ask yourself if this is what you thought would happen almost a quarter of the way through the season.

1. Carlos Quentin 9
2. Kevin Youkilis 8
Mike Napoli 8
Josh Hamilton 8
Manny Ramirez 8
Carlos Pena 8

The last two are not surprising and Josh hamilton could have be predicted to hit 8 HRs by this point, but Quentin, Youkilis and Napoli? No.

What is more telling is the total that leads the AL - 9. In the NL, five players have more than 9 and six players have 9.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hong-Chih Kuo

Los Angels Dodgers' manager Joe Torre used Hong-Chih Kuo to clean-up the mess back-up close Jonathan Broxton made when he took the mound to open the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead. Kuo earned that trust by compiling very impressive strikeout totals - 33 in 24.1 innings. Last night, he finished the 8th and pitched the 9th. He struck out just one and allowed a run on three hits.

If something were to happen that kept closer Takishi Saito out of the role for an extended period of time, do not be surprised to see Kuo get more of an opportunity than anyone would think. Gaining Joe Torre's trust is more important than pure skill.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Freddy Bynum, Starting Baltimore Orioles' SS

Orioles' manager David Trembley announced speedster Freddy Bynum is now the starting SS for his team. This removes the anemic bat of Luis Hernandez from the everyday line-up. Bynum stole 8 bases for the O;'s last season and regularly stole 30-40 in the minors.

Given Trembley's proclivity to run, I expect Bynum to steal 20+ assuming he can hold a regular place in the line-up. While his minor league power was non-existent (career SLG of .361), he has stepped that up in the majors. A 452 SLG over 239 ABs offers some hope that he will be more than a one-category fantasy player.

Over 239 major league ABs coming into this season, Bynum has 14 doubles, 7 triples and 6 HRs. In 2,650 minor league ABs, he hit 13 HRs.

Bynum Now Starter at Shortstop -

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Atlanta Braves Closer: Manny Acosta

The day after being pulled against a lefty in the 9th inning, Acosta was back getting the save. The braves bullpen is unsettled, but Acosta has gotten the save opportunities when they have arisen. Unfortunately there haven't been enough over the past two weeks to give Acosta a large grouping of Saves to get him solidly in the role.

The Braves have four saves since Peter Moylan saved a game on Arpil 11 and hit the DL shortly thereafter with a bad elbow. Acosta has three of those four saves.

I expect him to retain the role until either Rafael Soriano or John Smoltz comes off the D.L. and to regain it when those two go back on the D.L.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cliff Lee Traded!

A couple days ago, I provided four actual trades for closers to see what the current value is for Saves in AL-Only leagues. There are legitimate reasons to de-value closers in mixed leagues and also in AL- and NL-Only ones, too, but I am not sure that is being practiced outside of "expert" leagues.

Today, I want to provide some market data for the value of Indians' lefty Cliff Lee. He has been nothing but stunning this season with a 0.96 ERA and 0.56 WHIP in 37.2 innings. More remarkable is his K/BB ratio of 16:1. His previous carrer best was about 3:1 when he won 18 games in 2005.

No one believes Lee will keep this up, but one could easily accept that the K:BB signals something very positive. I did and made this trade yesterday. Included are the salaries and contracts because this is a keeper league and those cannot be disentangled from the players values. An A contract has two more seasons after this one. A B has two with the otion of extending the contract before next season, and a C contract runs out after this season ends.

I get $7B Cliff Lee, $1A Willie Bloomquist and $7A Brandon Inge. I dealt $18C Ivan Rodriguez, $5C Erick Aybar, $4A Manny Delcarmen and minor leaguer Mike Moustakas. Additionally, I opened a spot to activate Ben Francisco so Bloomquist goes to the waiver pool at the same time.

I'm feeling some regret as I am not 100% convinced on Lee, and I hold on to minor leaguers way past their rational, expected value. However, this morning's news that Brandon Inge will catch and likely open 2009 as the Tigers' starting backstop is helping salve the wound.

Inge's new tune: I'll catch for Tigers

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

AL Hitting Versus NL Hitting

Power is down in the American league. I don't know why. Without the pitcher hitting, one would think power would always be better in the AL. But is hasn't been so far.

Anecdotally, here is the 1st and last place totals in my AL-Only league versus my NL-Only league.

1st: 39
12th: 24

1st: 53
Last: 24

Where woudl the AL-Only-leading 39 Hrs rank in my NL-Only league? 6th.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What Is The Trade Value OF A Closer?

Here are four trades in which the closer was the main piece being dealt, and what he was fetched in return. There should be little doubt that closers remian highly value Rotisserie pieces.

1. Mariano Rivera/Nick Punto for Ian Kinsler/Rafeal Perez
2. C.J. Wilson/Ramon Vasquez for Paul Konerko/Russ Ohlendorf
3. Francisco Rodriguez/Jamie Burke/Jacques Jones for Carlos Quentin/Miguel Oilvo.Jason Frasor/Mike Lowell (on DL at time)
4. Francisco Rodriguez//Jacques Jones for Bobby Abreu/Matt Guerrier

Friday, May 02, 2008

John Mayberry Jr

With Hank Blalock going on the D.L. with a bad hammy, the Rangers called up OF Brandon Boggs from AAA. What got missed is the Rangers then promoted 2005 1st round pick, John Mayberry Jr., from AA to AAA. He hit his first AAA HR last night.

At the end of February, I metioned that Scott Servais, the Director of Player Development, told John Sickels that Mayberry was likely to be in the majors this summer. The promotion to AAA backs-up Servais' statement.

From Mr. Sickels' The Baseball Prospect Book 2008:
"...has tremendous power/speed potential, and if he can get the strike zone a bit more under control, he will be a Seven Skill player....a thre-way hybrid between jermaine Dye, Mike Cameron and Rob Deer....his ceiling is immense"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trade: Tim Lincecum for Jason Isringhausen

In a 4x4 format, a Tim-Lincecum-for-Jason-Isringhausen deal is a lot closer than one would think. Despite Lincecum's early luck in winning games in which he received minimal run support, one can't rely on that continuing all season long. Lincecum also has a much higher-than-you'd expect WHIP based on his ERA of 1.73. His WHIP is an unattractive 1.38.

Isringhausen has lofty Saves totals with 9, but his ERA of 6.00 is a little scary. However, he has no competition in the Cardinals' bullpen and should be expected to get a lot of saves thanks to a middling Cardinals' offense.

On May 1st, I wouldn't make this trade, but, as the season goes on and the categories solidify, I'd definitely deal Lincecum for a closer.