A commentary about sports, media, and interpersonal relationships encountered throughout everyday life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mark Teixeira to the Yankees; 8 years $170+ million

Just got word from a more-than-reliable source at a more-than-reliable sports network who informed me that the Yankees have just locked up Mark Teixeira to a ridiculous 8-year, $170+ million dollar contract.

I'll be back with more about Tex's new-Yankee value later on. For now here's a list of links with the story rundown:

Again, more on this later... I just wanted to get the news out as quickly as I could.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A.J. Burnett Brings His PWR/GB Stats To The Bronx

The story is covered in length by the New York Post's George A. King III here.  The most interesting excerpt I found, though, was this:
"And the Yankees, who had $88 million come off the books after a very discouraging 2008 season, still have money to chase Derek Lowe, Ben Sheets, Andy Pettitte and possibly Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez."
Now, before getting to the fantasy impact of A.J. Burnett's arrival, I have to weigh in and say that I cannot see the Yankees chasing Derek Lowe or Mark Teixeira of all the names listed above.  Its been made apparent that the 5th spot in the Yankees rotation belongs to Pettitte, if he wants it.  If not, enter Ben Sheets.  It's about as simple as that.

Again, I'm not going to pick up the Manny Ramirez torch, but, as I outline here, I think Manny would absolutely accept the same offer the Dodgers made (2 years, 50 million) if it was offered by the Yankees.  He would then be the team's full-time DH and clean-up hitter for 2009-2010.

Aside from all this housekeeping, let's get down to the meat-and-potatoes of this post: A.J. Burnett.  In Ron Shandler's 2008 Forecaster, he classifies Burnett as a PWR-GB (Power-Ground ball pitcher).  Essentially, this classification is defined by a pitcher whose GB rate is over 50% and who limits balls in play by strikeouts, walks, or both.  In Burnett's case, let's take a look at the numbers:

2006: 135 IP, 118 K's, 39 BB
2007: 165 IP, 176 K's, 66 BB
2008: 221 IP, 231 K's, 86 BB

Okay... so his BB/9 for 2006-2008 are 2.6, 3.6, and 3.5; which aren't the greatest... but aren't horrible either.  I like to see semi-consistent numbers here because we'll have an indication of what to expect in 2009.  His K/9, on the other-hand, is ridiculous (2006-2008): 7.8, 9.6, and 9.4.  Again, a pretty good model of consistency over the past three seasons.

Consistency, statistically-speaking, hasn't been the problem with Burnett.  Consistency, medically-speaking, has.  For this reason, drafting Burnett will always be a risky situation.  Judging his fantasy value is easy.  If healthy, he'll be dominant in a fantasy league.  However, is drafting Burnett the most cost-effective approach to winning?

Looking at the difference in offense, the 2007 Yankees scored 215 more runs than the 2007 Blue Jays while batting, as a team, 31-points higher (.290).  The bullpens, tell a bit of a different story, though.  IN 2007, the Toronto bullpen features a 2.94 ERA in 425 IP, nearly an earned-run less than the Yankees' 3.79 ERA in 543 IP (thanks for Baseball-Reference for the help).

While the Yankees' 2009 bullpen will not be a carbon copy of their 2008 counterparts, there is no, I repeat: no, way they're going to put up a 2.94 bullpen ERA.  And while Burnett won't necessarily need the help from the bullpen... it would definitely be a nice cushion to fall back on for those rough nights.

Listen, all this is arbitrary at this point.  Entering the 2009 baseball season, A.J. Burnett is going to be ranked in the Top-10 starting pitchers of every fantasy board.  I would try to avoid being the team that drafts him because of the injury problems.  There are two ways to avoid this problem: (A) draft a better SP early and put the pressure on your opponents to pull-the-trigger on Brunett, or (B) draft Burnett with a pick, then draft a high-end SP with the following pick for insurance.

If you're like me, you're allergic to the high-maintenance fantasy pitchers like Burnett, and likely choose 'Option-A.'  I enjoy seeing people forced into drafting players they don't whole-heartedly love... and leaving a Burnett out on the table should put a rival in that more-than-precarious situation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

J.J. Putz, Aaron Heilman, and Brandon Morrow: The Anatomy of a Trade... Fantasy Style

Before we get ready to Rock-and-Roll, let me throw a few good articles about this story your way:
  • The ESPN crew chronicles the path if this deal from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, here.
  • The NY Daily News' Adam Rubin, too, follows the development of this deal on his blog.
  • Finally we have our old reliable(s): John Heyman and Ken Rosenthal.
Now that you have the news about how vastly improved the Mets' bullpen is, let's get down to the fantasy values of these players:

J.J. Putz's value is non-existent in most mainstream leagues.  I played in a Roto-League last year that gave a decent amount of weight to the holds category.  To be honest, I used a few Mets (Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith) during the course of the season and they all did a more-than serviceable job during their respective tenures on my team.  In a league like the one I'm speaking of, Putz would be a GREAT catch, and here's why:

2006: 2.30 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 1.33 K/IP
2007: 1.38 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 1.14 K/IP
2008: 3.88 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 1.22 K/IP

Look at that strike-out to innings pitched ratio!  That's ridiculous!  This is a guy who, as Ken Rosenthal says (in the above link), wants to be a closer... and deserves to be.  However, he's going to have to suck it up and enjoy his lack of fantasy value this season while he sets up for K-Rod and the Mets.  That all said, the second K-Rod goes down with an elbow, shoulder, or fore-arm injury... dive onto Putz head-first... because he's that good.  Fantasy Diagnosis: Pass... but monitor K-Rod's health throughout the season.

Aaron Heilman's wish has finally been fulfilled; he's now a starting pitcher!  After finding his "home in a relief role" in 2007, Heilman faced eviction in 2008 (Ron Shandler's 2008 Baseball Forecaster).  In 2005, 2006 and 2007, despite Mets' fans' hatred of Heilman's attitude and relief pitching, he put up decent... and improving numbers:

2005: 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.4 GB%
2006: 3.62 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 47.6 GB%
2007: 3.03 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 48.1 GB%

Then... 2008 happened:

2008: 5.21 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 24.3 GB% (thanks to MetsGeek for the stats help).

So, Mets' fans were finally justified for their hatred of Aaron Heilman... but was 2008 a fluke or a sign of things to come in Seattle?  My best guess is that 2008 was a fluke.  My reasoning is based less on numbers and more on history.  Heilman's age (30) is not the typical age of decline in major league players.  In fact, this is considered the prime of his baseball life (the time in his career when he puts up his best numbers).  Second, the most successful relief pitcher conversions have been predominantly ground ball pitchers.  Examples of this include Miguel Batista, Adam Wainwright, Derek Lowe, and Braden Looper.

In the end, I think Heilman will have good success in Seattle as a starter and is definitely someone I would consider drafting in the back-end of my fantasy baseball draft (if not someone I follow on waivers for a good portion of the first month of the season).  Fantasy Diagnosis:  Draft and hold in the later rounds.  He has the potential to be a surprising sleeper candidate.

Brandon Morrow is best known for filling for J.J. Putz for a majority of his injury plagued 2008.  He finished the year with 10 saves for Seattle en route to a 3.34 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.  However, that's not the Brandon Morrow that sticks out in my mind...  the Brandon Morrow I remember from 2008 is Brandon Morrow, "The Starter," who nearly No-Hit the New York Yankees in his first major league start (broken up in the 8th, box score here).

Fantasy baseballers generally felt that Morrow was going to be 2009's Joba Chamberlain, a guy who would have value no matter what role he fulfilled.  With J.J. Putz's departure, however, Morrow's role becomes somewhat more solidified as the closer for the Seattle Mariners.  Morrow's not thrilled about this, as he wants to be a starter in the majors, but the arrival of Heilman and trade of Putz leave him with the role (unless Seattle trades/signs another closer... which is not going to happen... they're clearly in rebuilding mode right now).

Personally, I'm with Morrow.  After I saw him physically handicap the Yankees last September, I was excited to see more of what this kid had to offer from a starter's perspective.  As it stands now, he'll have to settle for being a great closer on a bad team.  Fantasy Diagnosis: As a closer, Morrow has value, but his true worth comes as a starter.  If you're in a deep keeper league draft and hold Morrow for the future.  Otherwise, 2009 may not be the year you truly see Morrow shine his brightest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

C.C.'s Yankee Fantasy Value

Late last night, Yankees' GM, Brian Cashman, departed Las Vegas for San Francisco to meet with C.C. Sabathia and agent Greg Genske.
  • Tyler Kepner of the New York Times is keeping the story updated here.
  • Joel Sherman, of the New York Post, broke the story here.  
  • And I'd be remised if I neglected to mention Peter Abraham's on-going Yankee coverage at the Winter Meetings (which you can find here).
Now that all the background information is covered, let's get down to business.  From a fantasy perspective, I can't see Sabathia's value increasing or decreasing.  The Yankees' offense, on a good day, is just as good as the offense the Brewers put on the field.  After the All-Star break, however, the Brewers slumped badly with a .753 team OPS.  The Yankees, on the other hand, featured a .794 team OPS.  Both aren't great... but if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, it'd be the Yankees.

While Sabathia will definitely benefit the Yankees by delivering a bona fide ace to the Bronx for, arguably, the first time since Roger Clemens donned the pin-stripes, I'm not sure the same can be said for the Yankees' impact on Sabathia.

He returns to the AL, where he struggled in the first half of 2008.  While this may be due, in part to pitching for the disappointing Cleveland Indians, I don't wholeheartedly buy into that.  Let's not forget that the American League Cy Young, Cliff Lee, came from the same team that allegedly handicapped Sabathia.  Here's Sabathia's numbers over the past 3 seasons facing AL East opponents.  I adjusted the numbers to reflect Sabathia's numbers against AL East teams excluding the Yankees:

2008: Home v. AL East Opponents (excluding NYY): 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
2007: Home v. AL East Opponents (excluding NYY): 3-1, 2.78 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
2006: Home v. AL East Opponents (excluding NYY): 3-1, 2.19 ERA, 0.83 WHIP

Aside from 2008's skewed numbers (due to the Cle-Mil trade mid-season), Sabathia has proven his worth against AL East opponents.

To me, this trade won't improve or hinder C.C. Sabathia's numbers.  He will, barring injury, be the same stud pitcher he's been over the past three years.  However, looking at this deal from a team v. individual perspective, the Yankees have come out the winners over Sabathia's non-monetary gains from this deal.