|The O-Zone: And The Winner Is ...
Fellow blogger ďBellerĒ got the ball rolling yesterday with his playoff picks. Seems like a good idea to me -- opening day is two days away! -- so I figured weíd close out the week with some O-Zone predictions. Weíll tackle the AL today.
2. New York
5. Tampa Bay
I know people will call me a homer for picking Boston, but trust me, thatís not the case -- the Red Sox infuriate me to no end and Iíd rather not pick them. Nevertheless, Iím siding with the Sox here because Iím worried about the Yankees starting pitching. With Wang and Pettitte already ailing and Pavano a sure bet to come down with restless leg syndrome or something, Iím giving Boston the edge. Ö Baltimore over Toronto will catch peopleís attention, but I like how the Orioles fortified their bullpen. Meanwhile, Iím worried about Torontoís pitching. The Brandon League injury is a big blow to the bullpen, and I donít see how any team can win in the AL East by trotting out Gus Chacin and Tomo Ohka every fifth day.
5. Kansas City
Best division in baseball. Any of the top four teams has a chance. Heck, you could reverse the order I predict the top four to finish, and I wouldnít argue too vociferously. Ö Cleveland is becoming a chic pick, but Iím sticking with the Tigers. Detroitís young pitching should continue to improve, and adding Gary Sheffield gives this team the big bopper it needs. Ö If Francisco Liriano were healthy, Iíd probably be picking the Twins. But Iíve got the Twins finishing fourth due to concerns about their pitching. Carlos Silva, Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz do not round out a championship rotation, and Iím not sure the Twins pitching prospects will be ready for prime time the second theyíre called up. Ö In a bold move, Iíve chosen the Royals to finish last.
Anaheim is the best team, but the Angels are already battling the injury bug. Itís going to be close between them and the Aís. I like Oakland to win the division by a couple of games. Ö I was looking for a reason to not pick Seattle last. Then I saw Rey Ordonez made the team. Maybe next year the Mís can dig up Rafael Belliard.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/30/2007 10:33:00 AM
|MLB Playoff Picks
|AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Phillies
ALDS: Indians over Yankees, Angels over Red Sox
NLDS: Mets over Dodgers, Cubs over Phillies
ALCS: Angels over Indians
NLCS: Mets over Cubs
World Series: Mets over Angels
Posted by Beller at 3/29/2007 4:14:00 PM
|The O-Zone: Replacing Toby
|Toby Hallís shoulder injury didnít lead SportsCenter that night, but it is the kind of injury that can hurt a fantasy owner in an AL-only league. Many fantasy players spent a buck on Hall, and with good reason -- he has some pop and was slated to receive at-bats against lefties.
Thatís all out the window now, as Hall could likely be done for the year. What should you do if you need a second catcher in an AL-only league? Here are a few names to consider.
Kottaras isnít worth much now, as heíll begin the year at Triple-A Pawtucket. There could be some value here later this season, though. Jason Varitek battled injury and ineffectiveness last season; thereís a chance his best days are behind him and heíll need more days off than usual. If thatís the case, backup Doug Mirabelli -- he of the sub-.200 batting average last year -- probably isnít the answer. The Sox could turn to Kottaras.
If they do, there is some intriguing skill here. Kottaras showed a fine batting eye (68/50 K/BB) and modicum of pop (eight home runs in 256 AB) last year at Double-A, though he struggled after a promotion to Triple-A. Expect Kottaras to perform better at Triple-A this year; he should be able to make the necessary adjustments now that heís gained some experience at that level. He should perform well enough to merit a call-up at some point, especially if Mirabelli is hitting .175.
Bob Geren indicated Melhuse will receive a few more at-bats this year, and the backstop does have a bit of power. Worth a flier if you need a catcher.
Phillips will receive some at-bats against lefties. He has a career .271/.347/.418 line against them, so he definitely has some value here in deep leagues if you use him right. Phillips also has some pop -- seven home runs in 249 at-bats last year in Triple-A -- so at least he isnít as bereft of power as many other backup catchers.
No power, but he does hit for a high average. And should Joe Mauerís stress reaction turn into something more severe, your $1 investment could turn into a starting catcher. A nice gamble here if youíre a Hall owner.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/29/2007 1:31:00 PM
|The O-Zone: Alejandro De Aza
One of the fun things about spring training is when an unknown wins a job. Today that very scenario unfolded in Florida, as Alejandro De Aza -- not exactly a primo prospect -- was named the Marlinsí starting center fielder.
De Aza should give your Roto squad some steals, but donít kill your FAAB budget to get this guy if youíre in a yearly league. I have two main concerns:
1. Ability to get on base.
In the long run, De Aza might be OK in this area. He showed a decent batting eye in Single-A in 2005 (87/58 K/BB), and his .370 OBP was strong as well. Best of all, he was only 21 when he did that -- Iíll take that patience and OBP from a 21-year-old anytime.
But Iím not sure De Aza is ready for prime time as far as OBP and plate discipline go. Last year at Double-A, he had just a 46/21 K/BB (in 230 at-bats) and .346 OBP. If thatís all he could muster in Double-A, how will he be any better in the bigs?
Letís say for a second that De Azaís plate patience will be just as good in the majors as it was at Double-A. If we slot him for 460 at-bats, heíd strike out close to 100 times while walking just 40. Not good for a hitter whose game is speed, not power.
De Aza has just 230 Double-A at-bats, and as documented above, he didnít exactly master that level. He could probably use a little more time down there, as well as at Triple-A. The Marlins have had success promoting from Double-A before, but De Azaís skill set doesnít suggest heís ready for the move.
It wouldnít surprise me to see Eric Reed called up sooner rather than later. De Aza has plenty of potential, but there are going to be serious growing pains here.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/28/2007 1:49:00 PM
|The O-Zone: In Julio we trust?
After weeks of debate over who would win the Marlins closer job, the answer was ďnone of the above.Ē Florida went out and made a deal, acquiring veteran reliever Jorge Julio from Arizona for Yusmeiro Petit.
What should we expect from Julio? Letís take a look.
The first thing I look for when evaluating closers is dominance, and Julio has plenty of that. He struck out an even 12 batters per nine innings last year, so thereís no doubt he has the strikeout power to get the job done.
When you look beyond the Kís, however, youíll see some problems:
* Julioís control stinks. He walked 35 batters in 66 innings last year. I suppose a pitcher can be an acceptable closer with control like that, but he certainly canít be an elite one.
* Compounding the walk problem is that Julio serves up more taters than Idaho. Last year, he gave up 10 dingers in 66 innings. Thatís obviously way too many. Julioís ground ball-to-fly ball ratio, 1.03, shows that he is definitely a fly-ball pitcher, so there wasnít anything fluky behind his homer-ific performance.
Of course, leaving Arizona for pitcher-friendly Florida could alleviate this problem somewhat. Iíd still expect the long ball to be an issue, though -- with all these fly balls, some are going to leave the yard.
* One of the things people like about Julio is his closer experience. Fair enough, but Julio also has plenty of experience failing as a closer. Look at 2003: 36 saves, but eight blown saves and a 4.38 ERA. Dennis Eckersley he ainít.
* Julioís the man now, but there are plenty of options should he struggle -- which he probably will at some point, given his control and gopheritis issues. Taylor Tankersley, Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens Ö if they pitch superbly and Julio scuffles, itís going to be hard for the Marlins not to make a change.
Saves are saves, so Julio is well worth acquiring. Heíll give your team plenty of strikeouts, too. Just donít expect elite results, and watch him very closely throughout the season.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/27/2007 1:44:00 PM
|Using a platoon system in fantasy baseball is often thought of as painstaking, but in actuality, it really isnít all that time consuming, especially when you get a good grip on your rosterís intricacies. To best utilize these strategies, it may take a month or two to see how your players are shaping up. Some players have career trends to go off, while others youíll get a better feel after April passes. Obviously, the following only applies to those who play in daily formats:
Rule No. 1 Ė Using righty/lefty splits with hitters
This is still underused in most fantasy leagues yet extremely simple. At the beginning of each series, you can look at the projected starters and arrange your starting lineup accordingly. Youíd only have to do this twice a week, and it wouldnít take more than 10 minutes. Some extreme split examples from last year include bigger names than youíd think:
Grady Sizemore Ė vs. righties (.329/.416/.586) vs. lefties (.214/.290/.427)
Jim Thome Ė he hit .321 with 36 HRs in 299 at-bats vs. right-handers compared to hitting .236 with just six HRs in 191 at-bats against southpaws.
Inevitably, fantasy owners will have a hard time benching a stud such as Sizemore or Thome, so this strategy may come more into play with lesser talents:
Corey Patterson Ė batted .301 with 37 steals vs. righties compared to .207 with eight steals vs. left-handers. His stolen base success rate also fell from 88 percent to 66 percent when a southpaw was on the hill.
Chris Duncan Ė He hit .170 vs. southpaws last season but mashed righties, batting .318 and belting out 20 home runs in just 233 at-bats.
Wily Mo Pena Ė Makes a fine platoon partner this season, as JD Drew figures to sit frequently against lefties (not only because he struggles but also in an attempt to keep him healthy), and Pena has clobbered 20 HRs in 361 career at-bats vs. southpaws.
Lance Niekro Ė Using an extreme example to highlight just how effective this strategy can be, Niekro, who was likely a free agent in most leagues, had a ridiculous 1.019 OPS with nine home runs in 108 at-bats vs. left-handers during the 2005 season. There will be a similar player sitting on your waiver wire this year.
Rule No. 2 Ė Using home/road splits
This strategy works both for hitters and pitchers and is fairly obvious. Unlike basketball and football, homefield is extremely variable when it comes to baseball:
Hank Blalock Ė What a frustrating player failing to live up to his potential. While this may be true, heís still valuable if used correctly: For his career, he has a .693 OPS on the road and an .887 OPS at home, knocking out 23 more home runs despite fewer at-bats. This same type of home success can be said for nearly every Ranger.
Jamie Moyer Ė When spot starting, itís not difficult to figure out which parks you want your hurlers pitching in. Moyerís 2005 season could go down as one of the all-time greatest discrepancies, as he posted a 6.11 ERA on the road and a 2.95 ERA at home.
NL West - Not only is this the easiest division to pitch in, but one where you know when to bench your starters. Sure, Coors Field has seen its runs scored decline in six of the last seven years, but over the final month last season, nearly 8.5 runs were scored per game. Even before that, the stadium yielded a half of a run more per game than the NL average. Bottom line, itís still very much so a hitterís park, and youíd be wise to sit your starters there.
Rule No. 3 Ė Draft injury-prone base stealers
An offshoot of this is drafting someone you know will miss time with injury, such as Dave Roberts (never played 130 games in a season). His 35-40 SBs in 350-400 at-bats are more valuable than Willy Taveras and/or Chris Duffy getting 45 steals in 600 at-bats because someone on your waiver wire will be of more help in the HR and RBI categories during those 200-250 replacement at-bats. This also applies for Ryan Freel.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 3/26/2007 10:56:00 AM