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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jackass Much? Media Ethics Come into Question

I'm sure we're all up to speed on President Obama's "off-the-record" comments about Kanye West's antics at the MTV Video Music Awards. For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, here's a link that will get you up to speed.

Today, CNN released the video aid to the President's comment...

After the words left President Obama's mouth you could see his eyebrows shoot off his face. He could tell he may have made a boo-boo and frantically tried to eye everyone in the room as he begged that it be off the record and that the President be given "some slack."

The reason for Obama's frantic nature was not unwarranted... before a minute could pass, the following message hit more than a handful of "newsfeeds" on Twitter.com:

First of all, thanks Terry Moran! I hope you ethical obligations as a journalist flying out the window were worth the thousands of "followers" you picked up over the last few days! Though ABC's Moran attempted to remove the "tweet," he failed miserably.

I originally read Moran's tweet on Tuesday afternoon via the Drudge Report, which didn't surprise me. Matt Drudge never met a salacious story he didn't like... especially with a Democratic President involved. BUT, I didn't think much of it. I thought it was awesome that Obama watched the MTV Movie Awards and, like everyone else, was shocked by the Kanye outburst.

Later that evening, as I drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunrise Highway, 1010 WINS' (1010 AM, New York) evening anchor broke the story as "something we shouldn't know... but we do... so we're telling you." I nearly veered off the road when I heard this. Was this "off-the-record" comment really making drive time news casts? More so, what are the ethical implications of breeching an "off-the-record" comment?

Obviously, Terry Moran was in the wrong here. The video clearly shows President Obama frantically attempt to quell the cantor throughout the room before it even began. Moran, however, completed his witty tweet...


Is it okay that CNN, and the other major players in the network news realm took this breech and ran with it? The video above was obviously just scrap that was meant to be cut for the evening news... not something that would hit national news coverage by this evening!

I've personally experienced comments like this while covering MLB, NBA, and NHL games. Sure, sometimes athletes say funny things between "on-the-record" comments. But, does that mean I try to make a name for myself by telling the Internet what David Ortiz really thinks about Manny Ramirez? No. I don't have a relationship with Ortiz, but I still respect his privacy in an "off-the-record" basis. It's just something I thought was journalism 101...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

AOL... Too Little, Too Late

This afternoon, I read through an New York Times article by Miguel Helft (linked here) about America Online's (AOL) attempt to 'fix' itself. The company is bringing in former Yahoo! Executive, Brad Garlinghouse, to straight-shoot the higher-ups and tell them what exactly is wrong with the former Internet juggernaut.

In his article, Helft describes Garlinghouse's new role with America Online:
"In his new role, Mr. Garlinghouse will lead the effort to expand the reach of AOL’s popular e-mail and instant-messaging services. He will also head the company’s Silicon Valley operations, which AOL plans to expand, and lead the West Coast arm of AOL Ventures, a unit in charge of investing in start-ups and spinning off businesses."
This description brought me back to my high school years, when everyone and their brother (literally) was on AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM). Yahoo! attempted to replicate this (Yahoo! Messenger) in the early new millennium, but failed to capture the momentum and, virtual, monopoly that AIM possessed. Essentially, AOL had something that everyone wanted in its AIM product.

When I went to college, AIM was replaced by face-to-face interaction. Afterall, the people with whom I "messaged" lived within a 3 minute walk of my bedroom... and I much preferred to talk to people in person while soaking in the sun than reading their text in my dim, cold dorm room. But this is not more than an isolated case. For me, AIM died when I went to college.

Once college ended and I came back home to Long Island, I considered myself a "messaging" free agent. There were a variety of tools at my disposal. AIM was still waiting for me... but I felt I had outgrown this "adolescent" utility. I looked ahead to the possibilities of Google's "gchat" and Facebook's Instant Messenger. It appears I am not alone, though. Helft continues as he mentions commentary of AOL Chairperson, Tim Armstrong:
"In an interview on Monday, Mr. Armstrong said that communications products, which include e-mail and instant-messaging services, remained one of AOL’s most important assets, keeping customers engaged and helping drive traffic to other AOL properties. But in that area too, AOL faces challenges. Its e-mail service was recently overtaken by Google’s Gmail, which became the No. 3 e-mail service in the United States, behind Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, owned by Microsoft."
I believe that Gmail did what AOL was afraid to do: they took off the training wheels. For years I've been trying to convince my mother to get rid of AOL because it was everything that's wrong with the Internet: it charged you for something that should be free and it over-simplified the Internet.

Not only does Gmail offer (free) e-mail service, but the iGoogle interface allows you to make
your homepage whatever you want. It's RSS Feed friendly and does whatever YOU want it to do. Want a video of goldfish eating to greet you everytime you sign on? Done. Want to see that kid singing "Chocolate Rain" when you turn on your browser? Done. Do you want your e-mail server to identify "work mail" and "family mail" before you even open it? Done.

Most of all... do you want all these options for free?

This is what AOL needs to grasp. Actually, this is what they needed to grasp, because they've begun a downward spiral. There will be some people who continue to use AIM and AOL, but this article's note that Google's Gmail has displaced AOL on the e-mail popularity list notes the beginning of the end of AIM's stranglehold on Instant Messaging utilities.

To conclude, it will be interesting to see what Mr. Garlinghouse brings forth to retrieve AOL from it's current rut. To be certain, it will have to be a somewhat novel idea because Google has essentially taken what AOL birthed... and made it better.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brazilian Movie Update: "The Motorcycle Diaries"

Gael García Bernal stars in Walter Salles' 2004 Diarios de Motocicleta ("Motorcycle Diaries"), the biopic of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's memoir's during the summer of his 23rd year (1952). During this trip, Guevara motorcycled across South America with his friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) who's main goal through this journey is to see as much of Latin America as he was able to before his 30th birthday.

For backstory, Guevara is a semester away from graduating medical school. He and Granado both know that the future is looming and this may be their last chance to do something "selfish" or "out-there." This is noted almost immediately, when Guevara's father takes the youth aside and tells him that he's jealous and regrets not doing anything like this during his life.

The film is almost a tale of two movies. The first half deals with two men enjoying themselves on the open road. They are the focus of the film. Guevara's love interests, Granado's wacky antics all come to the forefront as we see a great deal of character development at the on-set of the film. However, once the duo journey's to Chile, where they encounter a poor mining couple, the film becomes more about social injustice and poverty throughout Latin America.

The rest of the film is truly moving. Guevara's demeanor makes a 180-degree turn, as the focus changes from our main characters to the side characters they meet throughout their journeys. The mining couple was the spark, but the full change comes when they reach Peru. While there, Guevara and Grenado work at a leper community. During their three weeks (as told during a speech by the director of the community), Guevara repeatedly breaks the community's 'rules' about interacting with the lepers. During one of the most moving scenes of the film, Guevara's words and actions result in a soccer game between the medical staff and the lepers... though, initially, they were not allowed to touch each other without wearing full body protection.

The film ends with Guevara and Grenado going their separate ways. Grenado has been offered a residency program where he can finally "settle down" by getting a "job and a girlfriend," as Guevara states. Guevara tells him, before departing back to Buenas Ares, that he's not the same person and something has changed inside him. Obviously, the movie need-not go into detail, as history tells us what exactly has changed inside Guevara as he becomes one of the most influential people in world history during the remain years of his life and beyond.

Overall, my lack of initial research left me in the dark for the beginning part of the film. I didn't realize that Motorcycle Diaries was a biopic about Che Guevara until much later in the film when words like "communist," "social injustice," and "revolution" were being discussed by Guevara. Whether or not you realize the premise of the film, it was really good. I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in biopics or quality foreign films, period.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Second Half Players: Aubrey Huff

July is already halfway over is it's time to start looking for those notorious "second-half-studs." Scanning over the last two seasons, using OPS as my guide, I found two constants that could be had a potentially moderate price.

Aubrey Huff should be owned in all fantasy leagues. He's not a guy who you're going to just 'pick up' from waivers without giving up anything substantive. To date, Huff started out like a bat from hell in 2009. Recently, though, his numbers have been dipping. His once-.300 batting average has dipped to Elvis Andrus territory at .250, and he's seemingly been stuck on 11 home runs forever!

Rewind to 2007, Huff slugged 8 home runs in August. On top of that, he scored 19 runs and drove in 19 RBIs of his own. His OPS was an astronomical 1.135, placing him in vintage David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and David Wright territory.

In hopes that 2007 was not an aberration, we look to August 2008, when, you guess it, Huff clubbed 8 home runs (...again...), scored 20 runs, and drove in 26 RBIs. His 1.056 OPS, again, placed him fractions of a point away from the 2008 AL MVP, Dustin Pedroia (1.060).

Officially, I suggest you chase Aubrey Huff. He shouldn't take much to land in a deal because he's stumbled into the All-Star Break. The one caveat surrounding Huff is that he's in a contract year and is highly likely to be traded within the next several weeks. If he goes to a team like the Mets or the Mariners, he'll be hard pressed to club 8 home runs in such a huge home ballpark. That all said... I still think he's a worthwhile investment for your team down the stretch... especially in August.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fantasy Man-Crush: Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval

This one's overdue. Up until today, there's been one "official" Life of Brian man-crush: Nick Markakis. Today, we expand the population to two with the addition of Pablo Sandoval.

Several months ago, I drafted Sandoval hoping he would attain catcher eligibility for the Giants within the first few weeks of the 2009 season. However, much to my chagrin... catcher eligibility never came for the Kung Fu Panda... in fact, it still hasn't arrived.


I'm okay with it. Yes, it was hard for me deal with nagging groin and elbow injuries combined with bouts of the flu early on. For all the hardship Sadoval delivered early on this year, he's paid off in dividends when healthy.

...which has been for some time now. It's kind of hard to believe, but the 22 year-old Venezuelan is still a rookie for the San Francisco Giants. Masking this fact is Sandoval's current (as of 7-1-2009) .338 BA, 11 home runs, and .958 OPS on the season. To give you an idea of how good that is, here's a list of the Top-5 First basemen in BA and OPS for the season:

Batting Average (at least 250 ABs)
1. Pablo Sandoval -- .338
2. Miggy Cabrera -- .332
3. Albert Pujols -- .332
4. Victor Martinez -- .313
5. Justin Morneau -- .312

On-Base + Slugging (at least 250 ABs)
1. Albert Pujols -- 1.197
2. Prince Fielder -- 1.034
3. Adrian Gonzalez -- 1.001
4. Justin Morneau -- .975
5. Pablo Sandoval -- .958

I'm not going to repeat this chore for third base for one reason and one reason only: LOOK AT THE NAMES ON THESE LISTS!!! Seriously, this kid is hanging with the big boys of the most potent position in baseball.

Whether you're starting him at first or third, Sandoval has provided "must-start" support in 2009. If someone in your league is using Sandoval as a back-up or bench-warmer... feel confident in making a move for this young man... especially if you're in a deeper, keeper league.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekend Update: Ryan Doumit (Rotoworld.com Error)

I logged on to Rotoworld this morning and found an update for Ryan Doumit, reading:
"Doumit has his whole rehab process laid out, including a July 5 return. "We are very pleased with his progress," GM Neal Huntington said last week. The catcher has been out since April 23."
Just to be clear, the source for this blurb (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) doesn't clearly say that Doumit is coming back to the big club on July 5th. The arctile states the following of Doumit's return:
"As catcher Ryan Doumit's rehabilitation schedule stands, he will report Tuesday to Pirate City for a minimum of four days of catching and designated hitting in Gulf Coast League games followed by additional at-bats in simulated games.

Doumit, after late-April wrist surgery, projects to head north July 5 for the rest of his assignment if everything works out well. Then, he would report to Class AAA Indianapolis or Class AA Altoona, both of whom play at home that day. The rest will depend upon his progress, "how he feels and how he does," Russell said. "Once we do send him down, we don't want him to have really a scheduled day off."
As far as I can tell, the Post-Gazette's sources indicate the Doumit will BEGIN a Triple-A or Double-A rehab assignment on July 5th. My best guess (as well as the best guess of many others writing about this today) is that Doumit is (as he always was) looking at an All-Star Break return.

Here's what some Pirates' bloggers are saying about the Doumit situation:
"Ryan Doumit will start his rehab assignment next week for the GCL Pirates. He will alternate between C and DH. The plan is then to send him to Altoona or Indianapolis On July 5th, since the Baby Bucs have an off day. Manager John Russell says, 'Once we do send him down, we don't want him to have really a scheduled day off'" (Northside Notch Blog).
"Ryan Doumit will start his rehab on Tuesday, and is shooting for a return just before the All-Star Break, but will probably be back right after the break" (BuccoFans.com).
And here's a DL-based blog talking about Doumit's looong recovery:
"RYAN DOUMIT is set to go on a rehab assignment this week and has a tentative return date of July 5. This would put him just past the original 10-week recovery period for his broken right Scaphoid (wrist) bone. The fact that he is even able to return this soon is pretty impressive, as Scaphoid fractures tend to be one of most hit-or-miss fractures as far as good healing is concerned. The surgeon who performed the procedure to stabilize the fracture must have done an exceptional job stabilizing it. Those of you who held onto this catcher who can rake will be rewarded handsomely. He was dropped in many leagues, so take a quick look to see if he’s out there - he is easily a top-ten catcher" (Disabled List Informer).
Thanks to all the above bloggers/sites for clarifying this issue. Rotoworld's vague report will probably result in a large quantity of teams grabbing Doumit sooner than necessary. I'm not for useless moves at such a pivotal point in the season, so please take note of the several caveats revolving around Ryan Doumit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nick Blackburn Update: Still Good

Brief post time:

I was able to watch his game against the Brewers and noticed something: his good starts are effortless. He didn't strike out a ton of batters (two). In fact, he was underwhelming in the strikeout department. But his fantasy owners shouldn't be expecting that at this point. Blackburn and Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire have said repeatedly that this is a classic "pitch to contact" starter.

Looking to my last Blackburn post (Nick Blackburn is Actually Good) there may be an interesting trend starting up:

First, Blackburn pitched his second consecutive complete game. Yes, it was in loss. But Blackburn has pitched a combined 25 innings in his last three starts. For every fantasy "expert" who claims this guy should be dealt really needs to check themselves. Listening to the Twins' announce team tonight, every member stated not only that Blackburn's record hasn't truly reflected how good he is... but he's pitched BETTER than staff "ace" Kevin Slowey.

Second, Blackburn's defense let him down BIG TIME tonight. Joe Mauer's off-target throw into left field (over Joe Crede's head) cost the Twins and Blackburn the win tonight. I know, I know... I praised the Twins defense in my last post... but I think that's more the reason to buy into Blackburn. This isn't something that will happen often.

Lastly, if there's an owner in your league that's looking to deal Blackburn right now, you should consider making an offer. I'm not saying this is a top-of-the-order stud, but he's an awesome, awesome 4th or 5th starter in any league... especially when he's facing a two-start week (LIKE NEXT WEEK!!!).

Enough of me proving myself correct for now... just a weekly "Nick Blackburn Rocking" update.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Carlos Quentin: Major League Disappointment (Continues...)

Here's the latest from last year's MVP candidate via The Sports Xchange:
"We're aware that if a relapse happens where the tendon ruptures even more, well, that's major," Quentin said. "That's something that's going to take longer, maybe even the rest of the season. So we're thinking that if that tendon goes, that's a two- to four-month recovery. Where we're at in the baseball season, two-to-four really doesn't work out as far as being able to play again this season. That's more of the concern right now."
Wow.  Personally, I am a horribly disappointed Carlos Quentin owner in a 12-team keeper league.  When I saw this news, my initial impulse was to throw something... hard.  Or, better yet, punch something... hard.  That impulse, however, reminded me of last season... when Carlos Quentin broke his hand in frustration...

The combination of two thoughts (the first being how much I hate Carlos Quentin and the second being my concern for my own hand) prevented me from taking any physical action.  The above is the latest in an on-going injury plagued career for such a promising young major leaguer, in Carlos Quentin.

Nearly two years ago, when I skimmed the pages of the 2008 Baseball Prospectus, I almost immediately stumbled upon the name "Carlos Quentin."  Why?  Well, he played for the D-Backs at the time and BP is displayed in alphabetical order.  In Quentin's bio, the guys and gals at BP noted that he had a world of talent, but was too injury prone.  The projected meager stats, and Carlos Quentin made them look silly....

...or did he?

If anything, 2009 has shown what an aberration 2008's MVP campaign was for Carlos Quentin.  Furthermore, it displayed how scarily accurate Baseball Prospectus can be.

So... fellow Carlos Quentin owners, what's our next step.  Well, for anyone who's late to get on the bandwagon, Quentin is almost "drop-able."  Yes.  It pains me to say so, but if you're in a single-season (non-keeper) league, Quentin's foot ailments and news of *almost* shutting it down puts him in the red-zone.  Here's who we all should be looking at as potential replacements:

Cody Ross: In most leagues, this guy's available.  He started off like a bat out of hell but really, really, REALLY cooled off for most of April and the early parts of May.  Over the last 5 weeks, however, Ross has averaged nearly 26 points/week in points based leagues.  Not to mention his OPS of nearly .900 during his last 15 games.  While other studs like Hanley Ramirez take over the spotlight in Miami, look for a hard-nosed break-out player in Ross to help ease the loss of someone as spectacular as Carlos Quentin.

Juan Rivera: I remember young Juan fumbling around the Yankees' outfield in the early part of the new millennium.  While his average and arm left something to be desired, he still had that little "Ricky Ledee" in him that all Yankee fans wanted to grasp on to as a token of their championship years.  Well... Ricky Ledee's probably warming someone's bench right now (maybe in the independent leagues?  It's not important enough to look up, to be blunt) and Juan Rivera is doing his best impersonation of Bernie Williams (yes, THAT Yankee favorite of the Dynasty years).  Over his last 15 games, Rivera's OPS is in vintage Big Papi territory at nearly 1.000.  And he's averaging around 23 points/week over his last five weeks.  Kudos to ESPN's Matthew Berry for having such a man crush on this guy that he stuck out in my mind.  Rivera's dominance probably will not last... but it doesn't mean you can't ride him into the ground, Dusty Baker-style!

Nolan Reimold: Yes, one of the many man-crushes of my blog, Reimold has done nothing but impress since his call to the bigs.  The Greenville, PA product has averaged 20/week in points based leagues--with the potential to do a bit more.   It's hard to put all your faith in a rookie, but Reimold's OPS of .951 over his last 15 games is enough to warrant consideration in most leagues.  Hold him as a 3rd - 4th OF for your team.  This guy has the make up of a 2nd half sleeper and may be worth it on your team's turn-around run.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Week 11 Update: Nick Blackburn is Actually "Good"

I was reading an article at Sportsfrog.com a little while ago... it demanded that I trade Nick Blackburn.  Bronto, the author, suggests:
"Blackburn has benefited from a better-than average BABIP, which stood at .278 before today’s game compared to last season’s .308 BABIP. And he’s walking more hitters too. After walking just 39 last year, Blackburn has walked 25 people this season after walking just 39 in 2008."
Yes, this is all 100% accurate.  However, with this all know, do we think anyone would be willing to deal anything for Blackburn and if so, what?  Personally, I don't think you're going to pull the wool over anyone's eyes if you're in a competitive league.  Blackburn is what he is: a nice option in mixed-leagues and a really, really good option in AL-Only leagues.

...and though everything Bronto said was accurate, I'm not ready to sell on Blackburn yet.  I look at his GB-rate and think there may be something more here.  The Twins have historically preached speed and defense to their position players.  This is blatantly obvious in the fact that the Twins lead baseball with only 24 Errors allows all year!  It's mind-boggling, but it's true.  With that all said, why not take a chance on a kid who's decreasing his HR/FB rate and pitching to a better-than-50% GB rate?

My point is that Blackburn's BABIP is so low because his GB Rate is so steady and his HR/FB is severely decreased from what it was last year.  As Brian Pietrzak suggests in his "Inside Nick Blackburn's last five starts," Blackburn's reputation is a bit misleading:
"Blackburn has garnered a reputation as a "fly-ball pitcher," especially from Twins' announcers Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer. However, Blackburn's ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.21 through his first 13 starts of 2009. As a contrast, Carlos Silva was often considered by many, including Blyleven and Bremer, to be a "sinkerball pitcher" who induced many ground balls. In his final season as a Twin in 2007, Silva had a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.41."
In the end, it comes down to whether or not YOU like Blackburn.  You can find all the stats in the world to support either side as Bronto and Pietrzak deliver above.  For me, I say stick with him.  Let him ride your bench next week and throw him in for two-starts in Week 13.  Unless the Twins trade their top-flight defenders, I'd expect more of the same.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Update: Ryan Doumit, Scott Kazmir, Cubs' Bats

For those of us who've been waiting to vulture Ryan Doumit from the waiver-wire... you may want to wait a little longer.  A few minutes ago, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gave an update on Doumit's rehab:
"He's been cleared to resume baseball activities, which means throwing and swinging a bat. Yesterday was the first time he threw soft toss from 45 feet and also took some dry swings. He did it again this morning. 'It's a progression and I'm going to ease into it,' Doumit said, who's beginning a two-week throwing/batting program. 'I'll do that for a couple of weeks and we'll see where it goes from there.'"
Essentially, he's still a while away from coming back.  Throwing from 45 feet is typically the first of three legs a catcher has to run through to prove his health... not even including working your swing back into... swing.  That all said, Doumit's return shouldn't be for at least another 3 weeks.  The good news is that you'll start getting more regular updates about his condition and training now that he's starting a regular program.

The St. Petersburg Times also provided a brief update on Rays' starter, Scott Kazmir, who told reporters he would be starting up a rehab campaign this coming week:
"[Joe] Maddon confirmed LHP Scott Kazmir will start for Class-A Charlotte Wednesday."
Short and to-the-point.  Nothing that I could find about Kazmir's shoulder or side-sessions, but I'm sure most of that will be available after his first go-round on Wednesday afternoon.  Check back at the above link for more on Wednesday night or Thursday morning (as usual, I'm sure Rotoworld or MLB Trade Rumors will also have something on this).

Finally, the Chicago Tribune reports the Chicago Cubs fired team hitting coach, Gerald Perry.  Normally, this is a purely cosmetic move, but Perry coached one of the most feared offenses in baseball not even two-years ago.  So, needless to say, he'll resurface somewhere within the next season or two.  Jim Hendry on the firing:
"Von [Joshua] has had a lot of success with our guys on the way up. We're really, really struggling offensively for reasons way beyond Aramis (Ramirez) being gone. Every day we have guys in the lineup who have played in the All-Star game. For whatever reason, they're just not performing anywhere close to the level they've performed through their careers."
That last part is huge.  Owners of Alfonso Soriano, Derrick Lee, and Milton Bradley may start to see some signs of life soon.  Though, Soriano has been struggling, now might be the time to try and make  a trade for the perennial fantasy superstar.  He and the rest of the Cubbies' bats have the potential for a huge second half.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nick Swisher: 2009's Carlos Quentin?

Well... not quite Carlos Quentin (Swisher will not hit 40 bombs this year), but in Fantasy terms, Nick Swisher's initial value (nothing) and long-term value (high-end #2 outfielder) match-up well to Quentin's 2008 Fantasy Baseball Odyssey.  

What makes Swish so valuable this early in the season was the severe lack of respectable first basemen in last month's draft.  His dual eligibility (1B and OF)  makes him particularly attractive in leagues that have little to no room on a team's bench.

All prep aside, let's take a look at what makes Swisher's 2009 "Quentin Worthy:"

Above, we see Nick Swisher's major league numbers.  It's hard to believe, but this guys only been in the Majors for just over 4 years.  Looking over his career, Swisher obviously had his "career-year" in his sophomore 2006, when he almost slugged at a .500 clip.  Since then, his SLG% has fallen dramatically, resulting in last year's .410 result with the Chicago White Sox.

Now, we all know Swisher's bread-and-butter is his on-base percentage... but even that was down in 2008, which begs the question:  "What the hell happened in '08?"

Well, to start, Swisher's BABIP fell over 50 points last year, pointing to shitty luck as an immediate culprit in his horrendous 2008.  As Yahoo! Sports' Matt Buser notes in a February 2007 article, "One of the most interesting things about [BABIP] is that it's widely acknowledged that luck plays a part in each player's BABIP. For hitters, there are three things that play a large part: skill, speed, and luck."

Furthermore, Buser's ambiguous notion that "skill" plays a role in BABIP eliminates any subsequent discussion about Swisher's apparent skill, so I'm not going to even go there.  But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that Nick Swisher is a slow guy.  Again, assuming Swisher has "decent" skill, we have a 1-1 split coming down to luck as the deciding factor.

So me... Swisher was just "unlucky" in 2008.  Much like Quentin's 2007, Swisher was viewed as a 4th outfielder and a back-up first baseman on a team that already featured two (Jim Thome and Paul Konerko).  Essentially, Nick Swisher had nowhere to play.

His fate seemed similar with his new team, the New York Yankees, as the team vowed to use Brett Gardner in CF rather than the defensively inept Swisher.  This made Swish the number one back-up for Johnny Damon in left, Xavier Nady in right, and Mark Teixeira at first.

That is... until about 2 hours ago when news broke that Xavier Nady will likely miss the remainder of 2009 with a torn elbow ligament.

Now it's Swisher's turn to prove that he's worthy of a full-season of at-bats.  Let's not forget... it was Carlos Quentin's white-hot start that placed Nick Swisher in a "back-up" role as a member of the White Sox.  Now, in a ironic twist, Swisher finds himself in a similar position.

During the off-season, I compiled an average "projected points" list using Bill James' Handbook, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster, MARCEL, ZiPS, and ESPN.  This conglomerate projects Nick Swisher's 488.9 points to outscore fellow outfielders Shane Victorino (484), Vernon Wells (475), Jayson Werth (451) and Rick Ankiel (453).  He also places above first basemen Paul Konerko (471), Connor Jackson (481), and Carlos Guillen (451). 

To say the least, Swisher is a must-add bat right now... ESPECIALLY batting in the middle of the Yankees' potent line-up.  Feel free to confidently add him to your starting line-up for the next scoring period.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shin-Soo Choo: 2009's Rick Ankiel?

Okay, wipe the coffee you just spit out off your monitor...

If you're asking yourself who's Shin-Soo Choo, then you're in dire-straights before the season even begins.  Choo, a former starting pitcher in the Seattle Mariner's farm system, converted to outfielder after a copious amount of arm problems in the minors and has thrived since his trade to Cleveland.

What I found most interesting about Choo's extended call-up in 2008 (361 plate-appearances), was the fact that his OPS (.924) topped Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, Carlos Lee, and Josh Hamilton, just to name a few.  Does this mean Choo's going to top these guys?  No!  Of course that's not the case, but 2008 may be an indicator that a breakout is on the horizon for Choo in 2009.

Looking back to 2007, there was another converted-outfielder who put up a high-OPS (.863)in limited plate-appearances.  His name:  Rick Ankiel.  In 2008, Ankiel continued more-of-the-same in his PA's with a .843 OPS.  Ankiel, like Choo, played in a hitter's park and eventually found himself in the middle of the line-up with Albert Pujols somewhere nearby.

Taking a look at Choo's projected points/plate-appearance (formula offered here), he's expected to do much better than some "names" who will be drafted before him:

Bill James:  .842 pts/pa
CBS Sports:   .841 pts/pa
MARCEL:  .875 pts/pa

For Bill James, Choo should be expected to outperform the likes of Jermaine Dye (.83), Andre Ethier (.82), Nick Swisher (.81), Hideki Matsui (.80), Vernon Wells (.80), and Johnny Damon (80) in a points-based fantasy baseball league.  Now, I like the comparables here, BUT the oddball in this equation has to be Andre Ethier.  Like Choo, he's a younger (27) and in everyone's favorite "breakout" age.  Due to the fact that Ethier is guaranteed much more playing time, I would elevate him a bit out of the group of mediocrity where Bill James places him.

Moving on to CBS Sports, Choo's fantasy output (.841) is similar to those of Alex Rios (.841) and Torii Hunter (.841), two guys who will be drafted light-years before anyone even considers giving Choo the time of day.  

MARCEL provides the most favorable points/plate-appearance projection for Choo (.87); placing him in the top-20 OVERALL.  That's right.  Choo denied Chase Utley a finish in the Top-20 (Utley was 21... not bad).

Of all the players Choo weighs in above, one thing is for certain: your outfield CAN be built late.  In a draft where you're more concerned with position eligibility, be sure to have post it with "Shin-Soo Choo" written on it somewhere in your notes.  He has the potential to hit 20-25 home runs for Cleveland in 2009 while maintaining a ~.300 BA.

That all said, don't rely on him as a guaranteed 3rd outfielder in your league.  Draft him as a high-end 4th and watch what happens.  I'm not saying he's going to be the next Carlos Quentin, but you could definitely do a lot worse than having the 2009 version of Rick Ankiel at your disposal.

(Side-note:  If you believe in the "Age-27" Breakout Theory... then Choo's also turning 27 this season.  Enjoy.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Castigated Outfielders

Now that the Bill James-enhanced Fantasy Baseball Prep Chapter has finally come to a close, I've been shifting through CBS Sports and Marcel projections over the past few days to really key in on the "popular" choices for breakout players and potential slumping players for the 2009 season.

While I continue working through this, however, I wanted to write a bit about someone who's name I've seen brought up quite a bit on the message boards and who I didn't really mentioned in my outfield prep post.  Again, it's worth mentioning that an "average" outfielder has a Fantasy Points / Plate Appearance of 0.81 pts/pa.

The Nationals' Elijah Dukes had a problem getting opportunities in 2008.  This has to do with a number of issues: first, he has a horrible attitude (best example came against the Mets at mid-season when he felt Mike Pelfrey was throwing at him...), second, he has a problem with consistency, and third, he has enough off-field issues to last multiple seasons.

So why the hype?  Why are owners, in the cold of January, hyping someone who may not even be a regular for the Nationals in 2009?

Bill James: 0.89 pts/pa
CBS Sports: 0.83 pts/pa
Marcel: 0.82 pts/pa

I guess that about sums it up...

While Dukes isn't head-and-shoulders above average, he has shown the potential to be if given the at-bats.  Two years ago, while working for WFUV as a Yankees' beat reporter, I bumped into Dukes, then a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Now, I've seen some big baseball players, but Dukes is one of the biggest guys on the field.  If talent were determined by the shier size of a player, Dukes would be among the tops in the game.  However, for some reason, he's yet to "put it all together" (you've heard this so many times before... but I truly believe it when it comes to a guy with, seemingly, all the tools, like Dukes).

So, who should you look to rank Dukes ahead of, if given the ABs?

Marcel projects Dukes' .82 pts/pa ahead of Hunter Pence (.81), Eric Byrnes (.80), Mike Cameron (.79), and Shane Victorino (.79) -- most of whom will be drafted in points leagues (especially if strikeouts are of a minimal penalty).

For CBS Sports, Dukes barely edges Vernon Wells (.82), while also placing ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury (.81), Johnny Damon (.81), and Hunter Pence (again).

Bill James provides the most liberal, abstruse projections with Dukes' .89 pts/pa topping those of Bobby Abreu (.88), Nate McLouth (.87), Curtis Granderson (.86), Magglio Ordonez (.85), and Pat Burrell (.84), just to name a few (of the guys who will DEFINITELY be drafted before Dukes).

When all is said and done, the most you can do (at this point, anyway) is wait and see what happens in Spring Training for the Nats.  As of now, they're rolling into the season with Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena, Josh Willingham, Austin Kearns, and Dukes... while also being rumored to have interest in free agent Adam Dunn and the Yankees' Xavier Nady.  Now, I was never adroit to numbers games, but I don't think you're going to have very much sucess fitting upwards of 7 major leaguers in 3 outfield spots.

To conclude, there's a bit too many pieces to this puzzle to derail my circumspect approach to a player like Dukes.  I know a lot of fantasy participants out there love him, and it's not hard to see why... but until Adam Dunn signs with another team, the Yankees trade Nady to the Mariners/Pirates, Josh Willingham converts back to catcher, and Wily Mo Pena retires... I'm going to remain an innocent bystander even with the risk of being burned by Elijah Dukes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Outfield

Far and away, the outfield portion of this series is the most mind-boggling.  Each day, before sitting down to write my latest post, I take a look at the spread sheet to see what names pop out at me as "strange."  Not "strange" in the fact that it's unfathomable that a players be ranked so highly, but "strange" that I didn't think of this without the guidance of stats and numbers.

Today, however, "strange" refers to the former.

For this reason, I'm going to analyze this position the same way I did for catcher, first base, second base, third base, and shortstop before pointing out a few outliers that found their way(s) "in."

Starting with our first statistical category, points-per-opportunity (see introductory chapter for a rundown of statistics and formulas), Ryan Braun (2.92 pts/opp.) reigns supreme.  In fact, Braun tops every statistical category I've created for the purposes of this blog series.  It's safe to say that Bill James has crowned Braun as the "cream of the crop" in 2009.

Behind Braun, filling out the top-three, are Alfonso Soriano (2.77) and Marcus Thames (2.76).  I can't say I'm too surprised with the top-three.  Soriano rakes when healthy... but that's been a bit of a problem for him recently (many Cubs' fans know about his "hopping" problem in the outfield).  Thames, on the other hand, is projected to hit only 22 more singles than home runs in limited at-bats.  He's not quite up to the rate of a Glennallen Hill, but he's probably the closest the Majors have to offer.

The bottom three of the 120 ranked outfielders for this research produce two familiar names: Brian Giles (1.99) and Ichiro (2.05).  These two players are the typical examples of fantasy bats you'd expect to find at the bottom of a pts/opp. category.  One is an aging "power" bat (yeah, remember way back when?) and the other's a singles-hitting-base-stealer.  Don't be too concerned about Ichiro being ranked this low.  Remember that most of his opportunity is made by stealing bases and scoring runs, two things that are risky and that he has very little control over.

The median for this category is our favorite fluctuating fellow: Aubrey Huff (2.39 pts/opp.).  Huff was a "surprise" to most fantasy owners last year as he put up his typical "Devil Ray" numbers from almost 3-years ago.  Bill James projects similar numbers for 2009: 23 HRs, 80 RBI, 70 R, and a .280 BA.  

Notable "below-average" sluggers identified are Delmon Young (2.32), Nick Swisher (2.31), and Josh Willingham (2.31).  Of these three, I think it's important to note that this may be Delmon Young's last chance to live up to the "next Ken Griffey Jr." billing we were all promised back in 2005-06.  I know that I can't be the only one who was fed up with hearing about him and Lastings "the next Willie Mays" Milledge (2.43).

When thinking of Willie... the LAST word that comes to mind is "average," which is what Milledge (.81) represents when moving to our next category, points-per-plate-appearance.

[I hope you all enjoyed the above sentence.  In the biz, that's what we call a beautiful transition.  I'm gonna just read it one more time before moving on...]

The top-five of our OPS translator deliver four familiar names and one not-so-familiar name.  The four players whom you've undoubtedly heard about before are Ryan Braun (1.05 pts/pa), Matt Holiday (.96), Josh Hamilton (.95), Carlos Beltran (.949), and Manny Ramirez (.94).

Our out-of-nowhere member of the top-five is the EXTREMELY streaky Nelson Cruz (.967), who, along with Chris Davis, carried the Texas Rangers down the stretch of the 2008 MLB season.  Cruz is an interesting option in fantasy leagues this year.  Like fellow Quadruple-A member, Dallas McPherson, Cruz has been touted as too good for Triple-A... but not disciplined/good enough for the Majors.  

However, Rangers' mangaer Ron Washington said that Nelson Cruz would bat clean-up for the Rangers if they added no offense in the off-season.  The Rangers' added nothing offensively so far this season, so (barring a random signing of Manny Ramirez or something) one would expect Washington to make good on his commitment.  Cruz, 28, is in the prime of his offensive career and will be batting consistently behind Josh Hamilton in 2009.  

That's too much to ignore.

Combine this with Bill James' projected 28 home runs, 84 RBI, and 18 stolen bases and you have the foundation for what may FINALLY qualify as Cruz's "break-out" season.  That all said, please don't go ahead and draft this guy as your #1 outfielder.  You'll be laughed at.  Seriously, laughed at.  I would rank him as a low-two, high-three... but please be sure to draft a serviceable back-up for protection if he struggles throughout April and May.  

However, if Cruz does for your fantasy team what he did for mine during the fantasy play-offs last year, you'll be more than pleased you took the risk on this potential late-bloomer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Shortstop

Shortstop is an interesting position this year. Last year was the first time that I could ever remember three shortstops being hands-down 1st round picks, including the A-Rod, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra days of yesteryear. The three aforementioned shortstops, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins are still projected as early picks, but Jimmy Rollins’ “welcome back to Earth” 2008 has knocked him out of the 1st and, probably, second rounds of most fantasy drafts.

Before taking off, remember to take a look at my introductory post for a chart of the breakdown of points in this league. From there you can find links to my previous 2009 looks at catcher, first base, second base, and third base.

Taking a look at our points-per-opportunity statistic as an indicator of Fantasy Baseball Slugging-Percentage, we find our “average” shortstop to be Rafael Furcal (2.21 pts/opp.). Though in 2008, Furcal started off like a man possessed, a back injury (originally diagnosed as a trip to the 15-day DL) cost him a majority of his season. I’m not surprised to see Furcal sitting in this spot when looking at his declining home run and stolen base totals. Combine that with his injury history and new, unmotivating, fat contract and I’m ready to put Raffy on my “Buyer Beware” list in 2009.

Flanking Furcal as “average” slugging shortstops are Troy Tulowitzki (2.26) and Bobby Crosby (2.17). Tulowitzki is an interesting case for a couple reasons. Last year, as we all know, Tulo’s quad and lacerations forced him out for a majority of the first half of the season. He was hyped to be the next 25 HR shortstop and delivered nothing but mediocrity when he DID play. However, let’s look beyond the sour taste Tulo left in our mouths in 2008 and look back to much happier times in 2007. Anyone who selected the Rockies then-rookie in the later rounds of the draft noticed the youngster’s rather slow start. After the All-Star break, however, something changed in Tulo, as he played more like a cagey vet than a bumbling rookie.

Fast-forward to 2008, and we saw the same approach from Tulowitzki, a slow start once he received regular playing time. I’m not going to go ahead and crown this guy the next Eric Chavez, but I think he’s slow start may be more to blame for his less-than-desirable numbers once he became healthy in 2008.

Now, enough about Tulo and Slugging-%, let’s move on to points-per-plate-appearance, where Maicer Izturis’ .73 pts/pa marks the middle-ground. This is awesome for fantasy owners for a few reasons: (1) this is an indication of the large number of “above-average” shortstops in 2009, (2) shortstop is a position you can sit on, and (3) the difference between the highest pts/pa (Hanley Ramirez’s .98) and the average can be easily made up with another position (say, drafting a more productive OF over a SS early in the draft, thereby ignoring the position scarcity approach).

Topping our list are the Big-Three (or big two-and-a-half) of Hanley Ramirez (.98), Jose Reyes (.90), and Jimmy Rollins (.85), but there’s a name placing in the Top-5 that sticks out like a sore thumb… and no it’s not Troy Tulowitzki (.80).

Though I didn’t mention it before, the Angels’ Brandon Wood is as close as one can get to putting Richie Sexson circa 2003 at shortstop. He’s big, strong, and strikes out a ton. He topped the list of shortstops in the pts/opp. category and places 4th on the pts/pa statistic.

So what does this all mean?

It means that Wood, despite his lack of playing time, could be a deep sleeper for 2009. The Angels have a few players blocking the way for Wood with Chone Figgins, Maicer Izturis, and Erick Aybar. Last year, the injury bug took a severe bite out of the left-side of the Halo’s infield and forced the call-up of players like Brandon Wood.

Bill James doesn’t project anything astronomical (23 HRs, 26 doubles, 10 SBs), but he does project these numbers in about 200 fewer at-bats than a guy like JJ Hardy, who offers a similar output.

Now, I’m not saying to definitely draft a guy like Brandon Wood… but I am giving you an early warning: pay close attention to the Angels’ third base and shortstop situations going into spring training. Remember, this is a team that lost out on Mark Teixeira during the off-season… they’re going to need to do something to replace that offensive output. I have a feeling that, in this instance, “something” is going to be giving players like Brandon Wood and Mike Napoli a lot more ABs than they’re typically accustomed to.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Third Base

When looking over the field of third basemen in 2009 you have a large number of (close-to) sure things masking a, perhaps, even larger group of sleepers and deep-sleepers.  For anyone just joining in, feel free to read over my introductory post for the scoring break-down in a generic points-based fantasy baseball league as well as the subsequent posts centering on catchers, first basemen, and second basemen.

Obviously, the third base position takes a hit with the loss of Ryan Braun, who played zero games at the hot corner in 2008, from the 2009 eligibility roster.  However, with the loss of one player comes the advent of another, as Evan Longoria joins Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Aramis Ramirez as the "powerhouses" of the position.  Aside from these four no-brainers, there are a smorgasbord of alternative options for teams looking to drafts batters for this power position later in their respective fantasy drafts.

Beginning with the points-per-opportunity (pts/opp.) slugging break-down, Chone Figgins (not surprisingly at 2.1 pts/opp.) and Twins probable third baseman, Brian Buscher (2.0) round out the bottom of the list with Texas' Chris Davis (2.9) taking the top-spot nearly a full-point higher.

Now, when I first crunched these numbers and saw the mashing potential of Chris Davis I got giddy, no lie.  I couldn't believe that this virtual rookie was ranked ahead of guys like A-Rod, D. Wright, and notorious mashers like Troy Glaus.  Combine the numbers with the Rangers' history of cultivating young, slugging position players (thanks in large part to Rudy Jaramillo) and I was sold that I found the sleeper of the year!

...that is... until I noticed everyone coming to the same conclusion.

So, there we have it.  Chris Davis is 2009's Josh Hamilton, someone who could be a sleeper, but, due to a huge amount of hype, won't be come fantasy-draft season.  If you remember back to last season, Hamilton was getting so much love from a variety of fantasy baseball sources that he was being insanely overvalued in drafts everywhere.  Obviously, the fantasy talking-heads earned their paychecks with this prediction, as Hamilton was a first-half fantasy MVP.

Just below Davis' 2.9 pts/opp. are Alex Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds who tie for second 2.67 pts/opp.  We all know A-Rod's deal, so it's silly to waste space talking about how great he is, so I want to shift my attention to Mark Reynolds.

Last year, Reynolds was about as all-or-nothing as someone not-named Jack Cust can get.  He batted a horrific .239 for the year, all the while knocking in 97 RBI with 28 long-balls.  The reason for this drastic difference was essentially strike-outs.  If Reynolds can just down on blindly hacking at anything thrown in the direction of home plate he's be an awesome option for 2009.  Bill James anticipates a .270 BA with a near-.350 OBP, which is a huge improvement from both categories in 2008.  However, before I decide to endorse Mark Reynolds in 2009, let's shift our attention from pts/opp. to points-per-plate-appearance (pts./pa), which (as you all know) is an indication of OPS in points-based fantasy leagues.

We return to a bit of normalcy in this category with Alex Rodriguez topping the position once again with a ridiculous 1.03 pts/pa.  However, our good friend, the unfortunately overhyped Chris Davis places second with a 1.02 pts/pa (also ridiculous).  Our "average" player(s) in this position are Edwin Encarnacion (.83), Alex Gordon (.82), and Scott Rolen (.81).  This should answer any break-out questions surrounding Encarnacion and Gordon.  Unless you're satisfied with an "average" player in a "power position," I'd let another owner take a risk on one of these young players in 2009.

Interestingly, Garrett Atkins (.80) falls BELOW average in 2009.  This might be a player to rank a bit lower on your draft list this season, especially with younger players like Davis (1.02), Reynolds (.93), and the Brewers' Mat Gamel (.85).

A few more notables who fell well below average in the points-per-plate appearance category were Joe Crede (.74), Mike Lowell (.76), Jorge Cantu (.77), Chone Figgins (.77), and Kevin Kouzmanof (.77).

It's important to remember not to overrate players based purely on name.  So far, of all the positions I've analyzed, there's a huge risk of this at the third base position.  Don't be the owner who's pointed and laughed at for thinking Mike Lowell deserves a spot on your roster... please.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: Second Base

A new day, a new position. Let’s continue our trip around the diamond with a rather deep crop of second basemen. Again, just for clarification purposes, you can find the key for a generic points-based Fantasy Baseball league in the introductory post to this series.

If you missed out of my analysis of the players to key in on for both catchers and first basemen, you can follow the links provided or navigate the side bar.

All that said, let’s jump right into our Slugging% indicator (points-per-opportunity) and take a look at who may be stepping up as a masher in 2009. The range for this list starts with Aaron Miles (1.87) who just recently signed on with the Cubs as a starting second baseman (though I don’t think it will last, personally) and ends with Alexei Ramirez (2.60), who began his breakout year at the later part of the 2008 season with the Chicago White Sox. Though Ramirez will be Chicago’s starting Shortstop in 2009, he’ll maintain his second base eligibility from 2008… so be sure to take advantage of this on your draft boards.

For this statistic, 2.21 was the average for second basemen. Obviously the heavy hitters like Chase Utley (2.55), Ian Kinsler (2.53), and Dan Uggla (2.51) were all a good distance above the average. Why? Well, mainly because they’re making the most of their opportunities. Utley and Uggla both hit a ton of home runs (for second basemen, anyway) and Kinsler gives you a nice 25-25 option at a position that doesn’t offer that mixture all the time.

The average second baseman in this instance was Brian Roberts (2.21), exemplifying exactly what I was hinting with Kinsler. Roberts walks a good amount and hits a lot of singles. However, because he plays in a rather anemic Orioles line-up he doesn’t score a ton of runs. To make up for this, Roberts must steal a ton of bases to make the most of his opportunity. Dustin Pedroia (2.218) places right above Roberts. Pedroia, last season’s AL MVP, does have the benefit of hitting in a line-up that scores a ton of runs. However, Pedroia doesn’t walk, doesn’t steal; bases, and bats in a spot with minimal RBI opportunities. His singles, doubles, and run scoring potential all combine to provide your team with a serviceable, average slugging second baseman in points-based fantasy leagues.

When we make the shift from PTS/OPP. to PTS/PA (points-per-plate-appearance), we see a few familiar names topping the list with Utley (.93), Kinsler (.90), Ramirez (.85), and Dan Uggla (.849). At the bottom of this list, again, sits Aaron Miles, who’s probably not even drafting himself in his own fantasy league… so you should probably follow suit and do the same thing.

Our “average” group of players contains two annually overrated bats at this position and one generally underrated bate. Starting with the bad, Jeff Kent (.73) and Robinson Cano (.75) flank an underrated Kaz Matsui (.74). Again, as a veteran fantasy player, you know that Kent and Cano are going to go early. Whether it be the “consistency” of Kent of the “potential” of Cano, they’ll be over hyped going into 2009 Fantasy Baseball drafts. Kaz, on the other hand, will probably NOT be drafted in most leagues, despite the similar output you should expect from him.

While scanning this list, there’s a few things that jumped out at me. First is the Colorado second base situation. Last year, Jayson Nix sucked the morale and life out of the position with his “great defense” while fending off potential sleepers Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker. While Stewart has the greatest potential of the three, Bill James provides both he and Baker with identical pts/pa outputs at .817.

In the grand scheme of things, Baker and Stewart are both ranked ahead of annual fantasy starters (not to be confused with “fantasy stars”) Brian Roberts (.80), Brandon Phillips (.78), Howie Kendrick (.80), and Kelly Johnson (.81). Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of Kelly Johnson and Howie Kendrick’s injury-problems have broken my heart one-too-many times. But I am a big fan of both Brian Roberts and Brandon Phillips and was surprised to see the tandem of Stewart and Baker ranked ahead of them for 2009.

All this said, second base seems like a great position to sit on in 2009. Let your competition make uo your mind for you. If you’re forced into taking a risk on a Jeff Kent or Cano while filling out the rest of your roster with better players, make sure to grab Stewart, Baker, or both while the Rockies (hopefully) come to their senses and goes with one of these offensive threats as a regular in 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fantasy Baseball Prep: First Base

Part Two of this multi-part mini-series brings us to First Base.  Again, for an introduction to this series, feel free to click here for a break down of the point system.  

Also, if you missed out on the rather telling "Fantasy Baseball Prep: Catchers" post from yesterday evening, feel free to either scroll down or follow the above link to the post's location.

To begin, I want to rehash the two statistical formulas that I am incorporating into my research this year:  points-per-opportunity (pts/opp) and points-per-plate-appearance (pts/pa).  Essentially the two categories boil down like this, pts/opp is the Slugging% for points-based fantasy baseball leagues and pts/pa represents the OPS for points-based fantasy leagues.

With that said, let's start with the slugging and make our way to the OPS.  The range of pts/opp. was pretty vast.  The low (1.54 pts/opp) was Daric Barton, who coincidently may have lost his job today with the A's signing of Jason Giambi to a 1-year contract.  The high (2.68) went to, you guessed it, Ryan Howard.  The average for first basemen was 2.31 points/opp.  

That places a few familiar a a few unfamiliar names at the average point position in this slugging category.  The first, a maybe-surprising / maybe-not, player is Derrek Lee (2.26), who's seen his overall production decline dramatically over the past two seasons.  Below Lee is Kevin Youkilis (2.25), who had a break-out season in 2008, and Ryan Garko (2.24), the Indians' over-hyped first baseman.

While Garko is where I would expect him to be, some may be surprised by the presence of Youkilis among the "below-average" points/oppertunity crowd.  To that I say, take a look at the numbers.  2.25 pts/opp. is not a bad total at all for someone... especially someone dubbed the "Greek God of Walks."  Think about it.  That means that for every walk Youkilis takes in 2009, he should be expect to (a) score a run, or (b) steal a base... then get caught stealing.  Obviously, option-A is a bit more likely to occur in a line-up as potent as that of the Red Sox.

Above Derrek Lee (our Mason-Dixon line for the purposes of this post) are two virtual unknowns: Kendry Morales (2.28) and John Bowker (2.34).  

The aforementioned Bowker may be a bit of a long shot.  Especially if the Giants sign Joe Crede and shift Pablo Sandoval from 3B to 1B in 2009.  Though Bowker is obviously capable of putting up respecitble points with the increase of opportunity, the Giants may opt for a discounted rate on Crede and give the 25 year-old more time in the minors.

Kendry Morales, on the other hand, is in line to be the Angels' starting first baseman in 2009.  When the Halo's traded Casey Kotchman for a virtual rent-a-player in Mark Teixeira, you had to think that L.A. had some-sort of "ace" up their sleeve.  In this case, the ace was Kendry Morales.  Now, don't get me wrong... the Angels would've loved to bring Teixeira back to to L.A., but Morales may provide a considerable more pop from the 3-spot than Casey Kotchman EVER did during his time with the Halo's.

Moving on from our first base mashers, let's take a look at a few OPS superstars for points-based fantasy baseball leagues.  The top-dog in the yard is everyone's favorite Cardinal, Albert Pujols (1.06).  I'm sorry.  But if you have a player who's averaging a point per plate appearance... you should thank your lucky stars on a night basis.  Pujols and Ryan Howard (1.00) are the only first basemen who top the 1-point threshold... which is absurd.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that if you can get your hands on one of these fantasy-monsters... pull the trigger and get in while the getting's good.

The average players in this category surround Adrian Gonzalez (.83).  Below Gonzalez are seriously, a bunch of fantasy scrubs.  The first two are Paul Konerko (.82) and Adam LaRoche (.81), both of whom, as everyone who's owned them know, are hugely overrated at this point in their careers.

To me, the best value in the Top-12 in the pts/pa category is Joey Votto (.91), who places above perennial All-Stars Justin Morneau (.86), Kevin Youkilis (.85), and Carlos Pena (.87).  Also, a bit above Votto is everyone's favorite vegan, Prince Fielder (.91) and new hundred-million-dollar-man, Mark Teixeira (.95).

To say the least, you could probably draft Votto 5 rounds (if not more) behind the majority of these first basemen.  If you're a Bill James supporter, look for Joey V. to bust it out in '09, and be a regular contributer for both the Reds and your fantasy baseball team.