Articles by Herb Ilk

A listing of all the articles written by Herb Ilk for the RotoWire Blog.

10 Team Keeper Auction

I play in a keeper auction league each year with some casual friends.  I’m not sure if my observations will help people out, but I’ll give it a try.  We get to keep two players from the previous season.  The scoring rules are also slightly different for QBs, with 5 points for a td pass and 1 point/30 yards passing.  It’s a 10 team league with rosters of 2QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, 1K 1TeamD and four reserves bought at auction.  Another four players are drafted after the auction.  This was the team that I walked out with:

QB Matt Schaub $14 (keeper)
QB Jay Cutler $31
RB Chris Johnson $3 (keeper)
RB Adrian Peterson $61
WR Michael Crabtree $23
WR Robert Meachem $13
WR Lee Evans $2
TE Vernon Davis $8
K Mason Crosby $2
DT NYG $1

RES Tony Gonzalez $7
RES Arian Foster $8
RES Matt Cassell $6
RES Johnny Knox $5

RES DOnald Brown (draft)
RES Mohamed Massaqoui (draft)
RES Tashard Choice (draft)
RES Devin Aromashadu (draft)

I won the league last year with Schaub as my keepers.  I really feel like I messed up this year by not paying for one big WR.  Andre Johnson went for $46, Calvin Johnson $34, Roddy White $34, Austin Miles $32, Fitzgerald $29.  I could have easily fit one in and still got everyone else I wanted.  I’d be more confident if I could have just gone a few dollars more on one of them.

Adrian Peterson was the second player auctioned off.  $61 is about the right price in a non-keeper league so I feel like I got a decent deal considering the inflation of a keeper league. 
Tight ends all went at an rediculously reduced price.  I ended up with Vernon Davis early on just because no one went hight than $8.  I got burned a bit later on trying to big up Tony Gonzalez, but getting him for $7 is still worth the price.

I always want to get four QBs in this league, but missed out on the last starting QB.  There are zero starting QBs on the free agent wire, so I’ll be keeping track of possible injury situations closely.

Notables: Philip Rivers went for $43. I drove the price up that high before bowing out and settling for Cutler later on.

MJD went for $51, Gore $37, Matthews $31, Grant $30, Steven Jackson $30, Charles $26, McCoy $29, Benson $28, Best $23.

Where’s the Mauer Power?

Last year Chris Liss suggested that Joe Mauer displayed a permanent skill growth when he hit 11 home runs in one month.  His argument was that no player could hit for that much power and then revert back to an eight home run per year players.  Once a player displays something like that it is a skill and they own it.  Well, Mauer is doing his best to prove that it can be rented. 

Mauer is currently hitting .319/.397/.451 with just two home runs this season.  He finished with 28 home runs in 138 games last season and while some regression was probably expected, there didn’t appear to be anything that indicated this type of drop off.  He still hit 17 home runs after June 1st last season and slugged .557 with 13 home runs after the All-Star Break.  You can’t even really blame the new stadium for his power outage because he hit 12 home runs in 71 road games last season.  His power this season has dropped on the road as well as at home.

I rarely get to see Twins games so I want to know what other people think who have seen him play.  Is there some real difference between the way he’s getting pitched?  Has he changed his approach?  What’s going on?

We projected 23 home runs for Mauer in 2010, which is very doubtful at this point.  What’s everyone’s prediction for the rest of this year.  I own him in one league and would love to see at least some resemblance to last season. 

Mauer Revisited

One month ago there was some discussion that Joe Mauer‘s newfound power was more than just a hot streak and that he had developed a new skill.  Mauer has hit just three home runs in his last 131 plate appearances, though, a 43.6 PA/HR rate.  That’s almost the exactly the same rate that he displayed in 2004, when he hit his previous career high of 13 home runs in one season.

Mauer hit 11 home runs in his first 100 plate appearances.  Since that time he’s turned into, well, Joe Mauer, by hitting .345/.405/.500.   He’s still the best catcher in baseball, just without the gaudy home run totals.

So what will Mauer’s power potential be going forward?  Does he hit 7-8 home runs over the remainder of the season or 15+?  Were those first 11 home runs a fluke?

I still lean towards the lower end of the home run spectrum.  His past five seasons hold more relevance to me than one month. 

Odd MLB Draft Rules

This may fall into the "only something I’d find interesting" category, but I’m going to share it anyway. 

The Brewers lost Rickie Weeks for the season two weeks ago and are currently using Craig Counsell as his primary replacement.  This obviously can’t go on for the rest of the season and a lot of names have been bounced around as possible replacements.  One name is Mark Grudzielanek, who is a free agent.  Not only is Grudz a free agent, but he’s a Type B free agent, meaning that if the Brewers were to sign him today that the Royals would get a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.  If the Brewers were to wait 10 days until after the draft begins then the Royals would get nothing.  This gives the Royals a huge rooting interest in the Brewers signing him.  

But wait, there’s more!  Because the Brewers also have a sandwich pick, and two second round picks, each of those picks would get bumped back one selection if they sign Grudzielanek.  They would be hurting their draft status slightly by signing Grudz before the draft.  It’s not really that big of a deal, but if you actually were considering signing him then it’s almost worth it to just wait a week and possibly get a better player.  How pissed would you be if you signed Grudz a week early and then the Royals took the player you really wanted just a few picks before your own sandwich pick?

The whole situation really just amuses me.  I have no idea if the Brewers have any interest in Grudz at all, or if he’d even be a better offensive solution than Counsell/McGehee at second base.  I just found it interesting how much the Royals would benefit from him signing now rather than two weeks from now.  If you were in the Royals front office, how far would you go to get him signed early?  Wouldn’t you at least call up the Brewers and say "C’mon! It doesn’t really hurt your draft status that much."  Do you offer an under the table deal? "Hey, sign him now and I promise we’ll give you a sweet trade closer to the deadline."   I doubt that any of that would happen, but it certainly breeds that type of environment.

Can Dave Bush Keep it Up?

Dave Bush allowed two runs in six innings against the Astros on Tuesday night to pick up his third win of the season and lower his ERA to 3.74 (3.46 if you throw out his silly relief appearance on Opening Day).  He’s been pretty consistent for about a year now and I’m starting to wonder if he figured something out or if this is just a prolonged stretch of better luck. 

Baseball is funny because Bush’s turnaround almost wasn’t allowed to happen.  On April 27th of last year Dave Bush was demoted to Triple-A Nashville.  The move wasn’t without merit.  He’d finished the 2007 season with a second half ERA of 5.47, allowing 17 home runs in just 79 innings.  His 2008 season started out even worse, losing three of his first four starts with a 6.75 ERA and 12 walks in 22.2 innings.  At that point Yovani Gallardo was returning from a spring training knee injury and the Brewers decided that Bush was the weakest link in the rotation.  They demoted him to the minors, his first trip to the minors since 2005.

Bush’s trip to the minors lasted all of one start.  Gallardo suffered a season ending injury to his other knee and Bush got a second chance in the Milwaukee rotation.  If Gallardo doesn’t get hurt then it’s quite possible that Bush would have remained in the minors for much of 2008, maybe never getting that second chance.  The baseball Gods smiled upon Dave Bush.

Bush’s first four starts after returning from the minors weren’t much better than how he started the season.  In four games he was 1-3 with a 6.65 ERA and a 7/6 K/BB ratio in 23 innings.  Then something happened for Bush.  Beginning with his start on May 27th he went 8-5 in 21 starts with a 3.38 ERA and was the winning pitcher in the only playoff win for the Brewers. 

All was not roses, however, as there were signs that his good run was a little bit more luck than great pitching.  His FIP during that span was roughly 4.56 and he allowed 19 HR in just 138.1 IP.  The one area where Bush did improve was his BB/9IP, which he lowered to 1.96, but in the end he was mostly helped by a .238 BABIP during that time. 

Coming into this season I noted that Bush was likely to regress from his 2008 performance.  His BABIP was certainly going to rise and his high home rate was going to catch up to him.  So far none of that has happened.  In eight starts this season Bush has a 3.46 ERA, a 4.82 FIP, and a BABIP of .244. 

If you combine his first eight starts of this season with how he finished in 2008 you get about a full season worth of starts that looks like this:

29 GS, 11 W – 5 L, 3.40 ERA in 190.1 IP. 

That’s something that looks great on the surface, but….

it also comes with these numbers:

4.63 FIP, 1.26 HR/9IP, 122K/41BB and a .239 BABIP

The 1.49 BB/9IP is very good, and it’s one of the reason he’s been able to get away with so many home runs, but I just can’t see him maintaining a .239 BABIP for another season.  Bush has seen his HR/9IP go from 1.11 in 2006 to 1.30 in 2007 to 1.41 in 2008 to a whopping 1.53 so far in 2009.  His GO/FO rate has plummeted to 0.78 this season.

It makes you wonder how much having Mike Cameron in CF, who was second in UZR for CF in 2008 and leads all CF in UZR this season, is helping out Bush.  Is Bush actually helping himself by increasing his FB rate and getting the ball to his best defender?  He’s not getting great support from his corner OF, though, so I’m guessing the increased FB rate is still not a good idea.

It’s really hard to trade away a pitcher who’s had such good fantasy stats for so long.  You look at the 11 wins, 3.40 ERA and 1.035 WHIP since last May and you can’t let go.  The problem is that there’s nothing to support this good run other than a long stretch of better luck than he had in the past.  The smarter play would be to get as much as you can for Dave Bush right now. 

Are the Colts the Greatest Underachievers Ever?

Yesterday marked the fifth time in the last ten years that the Colts have lost a playoff game in which they were favored.  As far as I can tell, that is the greatest run of postseason underachieving in NFL history.   We have game lines going back to the 1983 season and only the Bears have pulled off the five failure feat.  The difference is that the Bears did it over a span of 20 years, with different coaches, players, etc.  The Colts have achieved playoff futility with many of the same players and coaches. 

Under Peyton Manning the Colts have enjoyed almost more success than any other team in the NFL.  Only the Patriots, with 119 wins, have more than the Colts 117 wins since 1988.  The playoffs, though, have been a different story.  Here are the ugly playoff numbers:

GP Overall Favored Record
15 7-8 10 Times 5-5

As a comparison, the favored team wins an NFL playoff game about 70|PERCENT| of the time. The Colts would need to win seven favored playoff games in a row to match that win percentage. Only one team comes close to the Colts futility. The Green Bay Packers lost four playoff games in which they were favored between 1993 and 2007, the Favre years. The difference is that they also won 10 times when they were favored, a .714 win pct or above average. Still, there are some similarities between the two teams. Both teams had QBs who never missed a game and both won more or as many games as any other team while that QB was there (the Packers won more games than any other team during the time Favre was QB).

Is it possible that having a very good, durable, long lasting QB is a recipe for multiple playoff failures? One of the reasons the Colts and Packers were able to lose that many playoff games was because they played in more playoff games than most teams. Having a QB who never got hurt certainly played a part in that. Here are the records as favorites for all other teams who have played in at least six playoff games as a favorite since 1993:

Team W L WinPCT
NWE 14 1 .933
SFO 7 1 .875
PIT 8 2 .800
DEN 6 2 .750
PHI 6 2 .750
GNB 10 4 .714
OAK 4 2 .666
SEA 4 2 .666
DAL 5 3 .625
STL 5 3 .625
MIN 3 3 .500
TAM 3 3 .500
IND 5 5 .500

I heard one person compare the Colts to the 1990 Braves in regard to postseason underachieving. I think the Colts are actually much worse than the Braves. The Braves played in the World Series five times during that stretch, winning one. The Colts have failed to reach the Super Bowl in all but one season. Their overall playoff win pct under Manning is .467 even though they’ve had a .750 win pct during the regular season in those playoff years. I may have to run some numbers and see if that’s the biggest disparity ever for one era.