It’s Good to Be The King

Albert Pujols has taken the AL by storm so far this year, hitting .279, getting on base at a 34% clip and slamming out 9 HRs.   Many in the fantasy baseball community are surprised by this — I am not one of them.  Iconic hitters like Pujols do not simply have their talents drop off a cliff (unless a bunch of aliens zap them of their talent, but that’s another story for another day).  This is the same player who has led the league in OPS+ (meaning he was the best overall hitter in the game) four times, has led the league in HRs, OBP among others.  Then there was the move from Saint Louis to Southern California, and the narratives took on a life of their own: “he’s older than he says”, “he can’t hit in the American League”, “he’s pressing because of the big contract” etc.  His problems in my mind stemmed from one reason: health.
Yes, 2013 was a rough year for Albert Pujols.  The Angels finished six games under .500 and 18 games out of first place.  Not only was the year a disaster for the Angels as a whole, but Pujols had a meager slash line of .258/.330/.437 and hit only 17 HRs…the fewest dingers of his career by a long-shot (previously, 30 was his career low) and he played in only 99 games.  If we look at the peripheral numbers from 2013, we’ll see that Pujols was really the same hitter…but he was getting worse results.  There are percentages known as Z-Swing % (percentage of swings on balls in the strike zone) and O-Swing% (percentage of swings on balls outside the strike zone).  2013 Pujols was pretty much aligned to the Pujols of old: 30% O-Swing%, 90% Z-Swing%.  He wasn’t chasing pitches out of the zone, he wasn’t pressing; his approach at the plate remained what it always had been previously.

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The Tyrells, Lannisters and Starks. A Game of Thrones edition of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Just like this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, the baseball season in April is mere a plot driver.    New story arcs are drawn, some characters exceed expectations, and others disappear without so much as a silent whimper in the snow.  This week I will review some of the good (the Tyrells), the bad (the Lannisters) and the ugly (the Starks) of the 2014 baseball season so far.
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The 75% and Under League

*All statistics and ownership numbers were gathered on 4/24/14
          As Jonah Hill’s character said in Moneyball, “People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws. Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and mathematics cut straight through that. Billy, of the 20,000 notable players for us to consider, I believe that there is a championship team of twenty-five people that we can afford, because everyone else in baseball undervalues them.” Now, while in fantasy baseball the characteristics of appearance and personality don’t play a huge role in the drafting, there clearly are factors that push the value down on various players. Whether it was an injury, a poor showing the previous season, or simply playing for a team with low interest, every year there are impact players left in the free agent pool that you can pick up for nothing.
          After the jump, I recommend 10 players that are owned in 75% of leagues or less, that you can pick up now to help bolster your lineup or rotation.

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Hard Hittin’, But To What Avail

If given the choice of how you want your players to hit, they would be hard line-drives.  Line drives sail over the infielders’ heads for seeing-eye singles, get to the wall for doubles and triples before they can be cut off by outfielders, and generally lead to a better average on balls in play, causing a higher batting average. Complementary to hard hit line drives, hard hit fly balls are great because they…say it with me…LEAD TO HOME RUNS!  Based on video review of every at-bat by a game-tracking service used by MLB, balls hit into play are put into three distinct categories: ‘Hard-Hit’, ‘Medium-hit’ and ‘Soft-Hit’.  Hard-hit batted balls usually land for hits 70% of the time (.700) with medium-hit balls falling in for hits 40% of the time (.400) and soft-hit batted balls falling for hits only 14-15% of the time (.140-.150).  Of all HRs, nearly 100% of them are hard-hit, and of doubles and triples, 75% of them are hard hit.

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Forget the roof, raise your floor!

Warren M. Klein

@WarrenMKlein

There are no sure things in fantasy.  A part of the roster construction process is assembling the bottom tier of your fantasy team.  No less important to a successful team, the guys in your 5th through 8th pitching spots do not have the glitz and glamor of the top tier studs, but their stats matter just the same.  As much as a gem of an outing can help you, a dud can derail you.  A fantasy owner must balance their players’ ceilings and their floors.

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Don’t Overvalue These Players

Every year, a handful of players are overrated in drafts for a variety of reasons. They range from low demand for a certain position, to becoming obsessed with one facet of a players game, and forgetting about the tools he doesn’t have. While getting the best player at a certain position is the ultimate goal of your draft, that doesn’t mean that you should take Craig Kimbrel 8th overall.  The one thing you can be pretty sure of going into the draft is that one player is not going to make or break your season. Just because Mike Trout went off the board first and you wound up with Justin Upton instead, doesn’t mean your season is doomed. The worst thing you can do is overdraft, because when it’s time to go back and fill in the missing positions, there might not be a lot left to pick from. After the jump are my picks for two of the most overrated players in this years draft.    

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Strand By Your Man

Nathan Eovaldi Fantasy Baseball
Photo By: CURTIS COMPTON / MCT

Yes, it’s early; we’re just 2+ weeks in to a very long season.  While we don’t have a lot to go on, statistically, I wanted to dissect a piece of what we’ve seen so far. Steven Martano just gave us a lesson on Stabilization Rates, so remember, a lot can change.  With that said, I want to take a look at strand rates, or Left On Base (LOB%) and see if we can learn anything about early performances so far in 2014.

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Can Ye Be Fairly Judged This Early?

We are two full weeks+ into the 2014 season, and people are already panicking about closer changes (SHOCK), draft pick ‘busts’ (take a deep breath, it’s early) and injuries (ok, sometimes, it’s worth panicking about injuries).  In this post, I’d like to discuss how to use periphery stats and stabilization concepts to make the most informed decision about a player you possibly can make at such an early stage in the season.  Hopefully, Faithful Reader, you have checked out our ‘Caught Looking’ podcast (link is right there, on the side of the page…go ahead, try it on, you can multi-task) and have gained some familiarity with the concepts to be discussed today.

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Is Cain Able?

Guess who?

Player A: ERA 5.06, 1.18 WHIP

Player B: ERA 2.36, 1.12 WHIP

Now this is easy, right?  Both because the player’s name is in the article title, and anytime a writer uses this device, the answer is usually that both are the same player.  In this case that guy is Matt Cain pre-allstar break and post allstar break.  Cain-er “the gamer” finished the year with a 4.00 ERA, but seemed to pitch much worse than that the whole year.  This begs the question, what do we do with Matt Cain moving forward for fantasy purposes, and what is a reasonable expectation?  Should we draft him according to his track record as it streches back nearly six years of pure horsepower material, or was last year a warning that Cain is no longer able to perform?

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Taking A Look at 10 Young Guns

Well, we’ve set sail on another amazing journey towards October week one is behind us, and the second full weekend of games upon us.    What have we learned so far: probably a whole lot of nothing based on small sample size (SSS).  Maybe we re-learned what we already knew (CC Sabbathia and Jared Weaver’s velo is gone and likely NOT coming back, the Tigers have *extremely* good pitching, and Mike Trout is from another planet.
This is Part I of my Prospects and Young Guns Profile Perspective where I will be taking a look at the ceiling and floors of rookies and second-year players who have yet to play an entire season (the threshold is 100 innings pitched prior to the start of the 2014 season).  We’ll start with active MLB pitchers in this edition, and will expand to include active MLB positional players and eventually what I describe as “Next Gen” players who may be called up this June, or some point in the foreseeable future.

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