Drafting injured players can be tricky. The success of the strategy is largely dependent on your league’s rules. In a single-year format, where all players are thrown back into the pool for next season’s draft, the room for error is much narrower. In a dynasty format, however, where players are kept for X number of years or at an additional premium to the player’s salary of Y dollars, it can be used much more effectively because the chances for success are spread distributed temporally.
For example: An owner in my primary 10-team standard rotisserie league with an auction draft purchased an injured Hanley Ramirez last year for $6. Had he been healthy, he probably would have gone for $25, but his estimated time of arrival in 2013 was uncertain; he actually played his first game April 1, 2013, but appeared in only three more games between then and June 4. This uncertainty greatly reduced his value.
I should re-phrase: the uncertainty greatly reduced his 2013 value. With four days until draft day, I’m realizing now that Ramirez’s value at $6, even in 2013, was immense for the format of our league, because now he will be owned for a measly $9 — all because the owner was willing to plug a hole with a replacement-level shortstop for two months. Now his team is poised to dominate this year with cheap retention prices for Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt to boot.
Breaking down the strategy, it makes a lot of sense. Stream someone like Stephen Drew, ESPN’s 18th best shortstop of 2013, for two months while Ramirez heals. Their patchwork stat line would have looked like this:
.302 BA, 80 R, 24 HR, 78 RBI, 12 SB
That is a solid line for a shortstop, regardless of whose name — or names — show up in the box score.
If you fancy yourself a bargain hunter or someone who can spot the late-round sleepers, this strategy makes even more sense: Draft a superstar for less than face value, stash him on the DL and fill the opening with whomever this year’s Jean Segura may be. Even if you can’t find this year’s breakout star, the replacement-level strategy still has the opportunity to be effective.
Upon further reflection, I may take a chance on players such as Cole Hamels and Hisashi Iwakuma whose draft stocks may take a hit. There’s enough pitching depth for me to make their absences painless, and I have a chance to retain them next year at a discount (relative to their expected salaries).
It’s important, though, that the player has already established a high benchmark for himself. In this case, Jurickson Profar wouldn’t be as smart a play here; he wasn’t going for a lot of money (or too quickly off draft boards) in the first place.
The best opportunities, therefore, are found in the best players who are out for two or three months. It’s important to wring out as much 2015 value as possible, but you don’t want to clog your DL all year and hamper your 2014 value too much, or it defeats the purpose. Clearly, one must strike a fine balance.
But, basically, if you see an injured player heavily discounted on draft day, and you’re in a league that rewards bargain hunting, take a stab at him.
Here are some so-called “eligible” players for this injured-player strategy and what I predict their discounts might be:
Hamels, SP, expected to miss a month | $10, three to four rounds
Iwakuma, SP, expected to miss a month | $11, seven to eight rounds
Mike Minor, SP, expected to miss a month | $8, six to seven rounds
Aroldis Chapman, RP, expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks | $9, four to five rounds
Manny Machado, 3B, expected to miss a week, but could miss a month | $3, three rounds
Michael Bourn, OF, expected to miss a couple of weeks, but could be longer | $4, four rounds
Matt Harvey, SP, expected to miss entire year | $18, 12 to 15 rounds
Kris Medlen, PS, expected to miss entire year | $15, 10 to 12 rounds ***DISCLAIMER: may not return to form after second Tommy John surgery
Players for whom the strategy may not work so well:
Mat Latos, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Homer Bailey, SP, will only miss a couple of starts
Profar, 2B, will miss 10 to 12 weeks but isn’t valuable enough
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, will miss two months but isn’t valuable enough
A.J. Griffin, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Jarrod Parker, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Brandon Beachy, SP, will miss entire year but isn’t valuable enough
Players who are wild cards:
Matt Kemp, OF, depends on if you think he’ll return to form
I have updated the starting pitcher rankings to reflect offseason signings, rotation battles and spring training injuries — and holy cow, have there been a lot of spring training injuries.
I also truncated the list to the top 90 pitchers. I will write about my favorite pitchers outside the top 90 because a lot of them are really good; they simply won’t get enough get enough starts or pitch enough innings for them to crack the top 90 in value. In terms of stuff, though, there are plenty of diamonds to find in the rough.
If FanGraphs were a home, or a hotel, or even a tent, I’d live there. I would swim in its oceans of data, lounge in its pools of metrics.
It houses a slew of PITCHf/x data — the numbers collected by the systems installed in all MLB ballparks that measure the frequency, velocity and movement of every pitch by every pitcher. It’s pretty astounding, but it’s also difficult for the untrainted eye to make something of the numbers aside from tracking the declining velocities of CC Sabathia‘s and Yovani Gallardo‘s fastballs.
I used linear regression to see how a pitcher’s contact, swinging strike and other measurable rates affect his strikeout percentage, and how that translates to strikeouts per inning (K/9). Ultimately, the model spits out a formula to generate an expected K/9 for a pitcher. I pulled data from FanGraphs comprised of all qualified pitchers from the last four years (2010 through 2013).
The idea is this: A pitcher who can miss more bats will strike out more batters. FanGraphs’ “Contact %” statistic illustrates this, where a lower contact rate is better. Similarly, a pitcher who can generate more swinging strikes (“SwStr %”) is more likely to strike out batters.
Using this theory coupled with the aforementioned data, I “corrected” the K/9 rates of all 2013 pitchers who notched at least 100 innings. Instead of detailing the full results, here are the largest differentials between expected and actual K/9 rates. (I will list only pitchers I deem fantasy relevant.)
Largest positive differential: Name — expected K/9 – actual K/9) = +/- change
- Martin Perez — 7.77 – 6.08 = +1.69
- Jarrod Parker — 7.74 – 6.12) = +1.62
- Dan Straily — 8.63 – 7.33 = +1.30
- Jered Weaver — 8.09 – 6.82 = +1.27
- Hiroki Kuroda — 7.93 – 6.71 = +1.22
- Kris Medlen — 8.38 – 7.17 = +1.21
- Francisco Liriano — 10.31 – 9.11 = +1.20
- Ervin Santana — 8.06 – 6.87 = +1.19
- Ricky Nolasco — 8.47 – 7.45 = +1.02
- Tim Hudson — 7.42 (6.51) | +0.91
Largest negative differential:
- Tony Cingrani — 8.15 – 10.32 = -2.17
- Ubaldo Jimenez — 7.68 – 9.56 = -1.88
- Cliff Lee — 7.11 – 8.97 = -1.86
- Jose Fernandez — 8.15 – 9.75 = -1.60
- Shelby Miller — 7.20 – 8.78 = -1.58
- Scott Kazmir — 7.71 – 9.23 = -1.52
- Yu Darvish — 10.41 – 11.89 = -1.48
- Lance Lynn — 7.58 – 8.84 = -1.26
- Justin Masterson — 7.84 (9.09) | -1.25
- Chris Tillman — 6.60 (7.81) | -1.21
There’s a lot to digest here, so I’ll break it down. It appears Perez was the unluckiest pitcher last year, of the ones who qualified for the study, notching almost 1.7 fewer strikeouts per nine innings than he would be expected to, given the rate of whiffs he induced. Conversely, rookie sensation Cingrani notched almost 2.2 more strikeouts per nine innings than expected.
There is a caveat. I was not able to account for facets of pitching such as a pitcher’s ability to hide the ball well, or his tendency to draw strikes-looking. With that said, a majority of the so-called lucky ones are pitchers who, in 2013, experienced a breakout (Cingrani, Fernandez, Miller, Darvish, Masterson, Tillman) or a renaissance (Jimenez, Kazmir, Masterson — woah, all Cleveland pitchers). Is it possible these pitchers can all repeat their performances — especially the ones who have disappointed us for years? Perhaps not.
(Update, Jan. 24: Cliff Lee’s mark of -1.86 is, amazingly, not unusual for him. Over the last four years, the average difference between his expected and actual K/9 rates is … drum roll … -1.88. Insane!)
Darvish and Liriano were in a league of their own in terms of inducing swings and misses, notching almost 30 percent each. (Anibal Sanchez was third-best with 27 percent. The average is about 21 percent.) However, Darvish recorded 2.78 more K/9 than Liriano. Is there any rhyme or reason to that? Darvish is, without much argument, the better pitcher — but is he that much better? I don’t think so. Darvish was expected to notch 10.41 K/9 given his contact rate. Any idea what his 2012 K/9 rate was? Incredibly: 10.40 K/9.
More big names produced equally interesting results. King Felix Hernandez recorded a career-best 9.51 K/9, but he was expected to produce something closer to 8.57 K/9. His rate the previous three years? 8.52 K/9.
Dan Haren didn’t produce much in the way of ERA in 2013, but he did see a much-needed spike in his strikeout rate, jumping above 8 K/9 for the first time since 2010. His expected 7.07 K/9 says otherwise, though, and it fits perfectly with how his K/9 rate was trending: 7.25 K/9 in 2011, 7.23 K/9 in 2012.
I think my models tend to exaggerate the more extreme results (most of which are noted in the lists above) because they could not account for intangibles in a player’s natural talent. However, they could prove to be excellent indicators of who’s due for regression.
Only time will tell. Maybe Jose Fernandez isn’t the elite pitcher we already think he is — not yet, at least.
Notes: The data almost replicates a normal distribution, with 98 of the 145 observations (67.6 percent) falling within one standard deviation (1.09 K/9) of the mean value (7.19 K/9), and 140 of 145 (96.6 percent) falling within two standard deviations. The median value is 7.27 K/9, indicating the distribution is very slightly skewed left.
Sorry. SORRY. I apologized last time. (Or maybe I didn’t. I don’t know.) School has hoarded my time… Until now. I took my two incredibly difficult finals and turned in my final paper (“Risk assessment by Major League Teams when signing international professional agents” — I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s in the Nobel Prize running this year) and now I am ready to devote approximate 18 percent of my waking moments to Need a Streamer.
So, let’s see. What has happened since I last posted? I don’t know, EVERYTHING?
I’ll write about signings and trades that occurred recently over several installment so I don’t overwhelm anyone. (“Anyone” = “myself”. Because reading this will take about two minutes but writing it will take 30.)
OK! Let’s get down to bidness.
Phillies sign OF Marlon Byrd
I don’t know, man. Byrd’s 2013 stats are wacky. Like, don’t-put-any–stock-in-his-2013-performance wacky. Outrageous HR/FB? Check. Career-high strikeout rate? Check. Career low percentage of balls put into play? Check. He’s good for a .280 average but I would be elated if he chalked up 15 homers next year. In his defense, he did hit a lot of line drives, so he obviously had some kind of power stroke going on last year. For the annual price, it’s pretty low-risk for Philadelphia, but two years is pushing it.
Preseason rank: Not a top-50 OF
Dodgers sign SP Dan Haren
As much as I hate Haren for the putrid outings I endured in April, his seasons stats weren’t that bad. I mean, he had a 1.23 WHIP. That’s Zack Greinke‘s career WHIP. So it was mostly the long ball that plagued him, and guess what? He gets to pitch in the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium. It’s pretty much a best-case scenario for both sides, especially considering Haren will likely pitch in lower-leverage situations as the No.-4 or 5 starter for a great team. I’ll go on the record now and say he bounces back! Contingent on if he gives up a home run in his first start. Because if he does, I swear …
Preseason rank: 64th, with upside
DET SP Doug Fister traded for WSN OF Steve Lombardozzi, others
You know it’s a bad trade when the marquee name you get in return is Lombardozzi. The Nationals worked their magic and replaced Dan Haren with an above-average pitcher while letting go of a backup outfielder and lackluster prospects. Lombardozzi will back Jose Iglesias at shortstop, but even when arguing for bench depth, I’m still not a big fan. Also, I’m guessing the Tigers were looking for some salary relief in order to make more moves and/or sign starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a long-term contract.
Winner: Washington Nationals
Fister’s preseason rank: 35th
Athletics sign SP Scott Kazmir
Honest question: Was Kazmir ever that good? He struck out a buttload of batters from 2004 to 2008, yeah. But he has pitched more than 200 innings only once in his entire career — which spans 10 years, by the way — and topped out at single-season bests of 13 wins, a 3.24 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. He’s a back-end rotation guy at the very best, and while his strikeout potential is enticing in I don’t know what kind of league in which the only category is strikeouts, he’s not worth your time. What’s the A’s rotation now… Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, Sonny Gray, Kazmir? I would say his spot in the rotation is fair game, but with two years and $22 million spent on the guy, I would say the A’s will be too proud to bench him in June, kind of like the Dodgers wouldn’t let Kenley Jansen usurp Brandon League‘s right to the closer throne.
Preseason rank: 79th
Alright, fools. Tune in tomorrow for more hot stove action! (Disclaimer: I may not actually write something tomorrow. I accept your apologies in advance.)
I wouldn’t say pitching is deep, but I’m surprised by the pitchers who didn’t make my top 60.
Note: I have deemed players highlighted in pink undervalued and worthy of re-rank. Do not be alarmed just yet by what you may perceive to be a low ranking.
2014 STARTING PITCHERS
- Clayton Kershaw
- Adam Wainwright
- Max Scherzer
- Yu Darvish
- Felix Hernandez
- Cliff Lee
- Stephen Strasburg
- Jose Fernandez
- Cole Hamels
- Justin Verlander
- Anibal Sanchez
- Chris Sale
- Mat Latos
- Madison Bumgarner
- Alex Cobb
- Homer Bailey
- Gerrit Cole
- Zack Greinke
- David Price
- James Shields
- Jordan Zimmermann
- Michael Wacha
- Danny Salazar
- Jered Weaver
- A.J. Burnett *contingent on if he retires
- Kris Medlen
- Mike Minor
- Jake Peavy
- Corey Kluber
- Lance Lynn
- Matt Cain
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- CC Sabathia
- Gio Gonzalez
- Doug Fister
- Patrick Corbin
- Francisco Liriano
- Sonny Gray
- Ricky Nolasco
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Tim Hudson
- Marco Estrada
- Shelby Miller
- Trevor Rosenthal
- Tony Cingrani
- A.J. Griffin
- Brandon Beachy
- Tim Lincecum
- Clay Buchholz
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Alex Wood
- Julio Teheran
- Tyson Ross
- Hyun-jin Ryu
- Matt Garza
- Andrew Cashner
- Johnny Cueto
- C.J. Wilson
- John Lackey
- Justin Masterson
- R.A. Dickey
- Kevin Gausman
- Jon Lester
- Dan Haren
- Ervin Santana
- Derek Holland
- Chris Archer
- Jeff Samardzija
- Bartolo Colon
- Ivan Nova
- Matt Moore
- Ian Kennedy
- Dan Straily
- Rick Porcello
- Jarrod Parker
- Carlos Martinez
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Kyle Lohse
- Scott Kazmir
- Jason Vargas
- Tommy Milone
- Wade Miley
- Dillon Gee
- Brandon Workman
- Chris Tillman
- Zack Wheeler
- Yovani Gallardo
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Jose Quintana
- Garrett Richards
- Robbie Erlin
- Felix Doubront
- Jhoulys Chacin
- Jonathon Niese
- Chris Capuano
- Nick Tepesch
- Alexi Ogando
- Bronson Arroyo
- Travis Wood
- Trevor Cahill
- Tyler Skaggs
- Randall Delgado
- Martin Perez
- Mike Leake
- Carlos Villanueva
- Todd Redmond
- Brandon Maurer
- Tyler Lyons
- Ryan Vogelsong
- Zach McAllister
- Wily Peralta
- Brett Oberholtzer
- Erik Johnson
- Jorge De La Rosa
- Paul Maholm
- Hector Santiago
- Burch Smith
- Jeff Locke
- Joe Kelly
- Jason Hammel
- Jake Odorizzi
- Danny Hultzen
- Anthony Ranaudo
- Archie Bradley
- Rafael Montero
- James Paxton
- Taijuan Walker
- Yordano Ventura
Buck the trends. You don’t need to add a player just because everyone else adds (or already owns) a player. Using the Oakland Athletics’ pitching staff, I will demonstrate why fantasy owners just don’t make any darn sense sometimes.
Player A: 19 GS, 6-6 record, 3.95 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 6.1 K/9
Player B: 20 GS, 8-7 record, 3.82 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9
Player C: 15 GS, 6-3 record, 4.14 ERA, 1.126 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
Of these three players, which would you rather own? It’s a tough decision. All of their ERAs are pretty inflated, so I would whittle it down using WHIP and K/9 (which are better indicators of actual performance anyway). Using this method, I would pick Player C.
Now let’s reveal who’s behind the curtain..
Player A = Jarrod Parker (66.2% ESPN ownership)
Player B = AJ Griffin (44.5% ESPN ownership)
Player C = Dan Straily (9.8% ESPN ownership)
Yes, it’s not fair to Straily that his ownership is so low because he was recently sent down to AAA. However, one can argue that Straily has pitched the best of the three players mentioned. He has improved his BB% and K% and cut down on home runs big time (although it’ll probably regress, pushing his ERA up a little). His main problem now is keeping runners on base from scoring: nearly one in three do score, compared to the MLB average of about one in four.
The bad strand rate could be a result of inexperience or it could simply be bad luck. If it is a matter of experience, though, one would assume it’s a problem that will correct itself over time.
So Straily’s high ERA (and on again, off again love affair with AAA) prevents him from being owned in more leagues. But he’s only three spots behind Jarrod Parker on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers — and he has started five fewer games.
Meanwhile, AJ Griffin is 34th and 35th on the ESPN and CBS player raters, yet he is owned in fewer than half of leagues. Just to clarify, most leagues operate using nine pitching slots, most of which commonly use six or more starting pitchers. In a 10-team league, this would justify the top 60 pitchers getting the nod. Griffin should simply have double the ownership based on this logic alone.
Moral of the story is don’t let ownership trends dictate a player’s value.
Now, just for fun, let’s look at Griffin’s stats the last two season.
2012: 3.06 ERA, 1.130 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
2013: 3.82 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 6.9 K/9
The word “identical” will get thrown a lot as an exaggeration to prove a point, but seriously, look at those stats. They’re identical. Except for the ERA. What’s the deal?
Turns out he’s giving up long balls more frequently than last year. Griffin’s an extreme fly ball pitcher — two in three balls put into play are in the air — so he will naturally be more prone to the homer. He’s just running into a rough patch, giving up 2.3 percent more home runs than last year and 2 percent more than the MLB average. He may not be safe to deploy now, but when he settles down, he should be good to go.