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Rounding Third: Beating the Shift

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He's also in the FSWA Hall of Fame. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

Week 15 Primer

"I don't care what the stats say..."

A couple of weeks ago I was driving back from Vegas after a crazy short stay there (less than 24 hours), lucky to be able to listen to a couple of baseball games on the way back thanks to satellite radio. Listening to a ballgame is my favorite option when driving, especially on a long drive. But because of what I do for a living, or maybe just because I'm an obsessive baseball fan, I listen with a critical ear, far more than I used to do when younger. And because of that, I've encountered quite a few topics to take umbrage against.

At any rate, when I started the drive, the only live game was the White Sox-Royals game in Chicago, meaning I had to listen to the White Sox broadcast. It's well known that their television broadcast, featuring Hawk Harrelson, is the least sabermetric-friendly broadcast out there. But the radio pairing of Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson is nearly as bad, or at least it was on this particular Saturday.

In the first inning of this game, a Royals hitter (I think it was Eric Hosmer) beat the shift, getting a base hit by going the opposite way. This prompted Jackson to go into a diatribe against the shift. I've heard plenty of broadcasters on both radio and television complain about the shift, but this was a special rant. One point Jackson kept harping on was that Hosmer, who hasn't been a home run hitter this year, was the wrong type of hitter to shift against. In Jackson's argument, it is better to shift against a power hitter, and not against a singles hitter. However, it doesn't seem that power is the controlling quality for whether to shift or not, but rather a hitter's tendencies to pull or to hit the opposite way against a particular type of pitcher.

He punctuated his argument with the phrase, "... I don't care what the stats say, but the shift is wrong more often than not ...." Roughly translated, Jackson is saying "... don't bother me with your tangible evidence, because I have an argument to make!" Whenever someone employs this rhetorical trick, the argument is over, and against the issuer. There are aspects of baseball, nee' life in general, where the answers are not quantifiable. This is not one of those instances. There are many effective critiques of using the shift generally and specifically in how they are employed, but saying "... stop using facts against me ..." is not one of them.

I've noticed a greater backlash against sabermetrics (or if you are uncomfortable with that term, use of new metrics) in baseball media circles. The most common one I've seen lately is "... it takes the fun out of the game ...," employed by Bob Ryan and Norm Chad among others. I mention both of them because generally I've enjoyed their work over the past couple of decades, and it saddened me a little to see them take that stand. The worst of that brand may have come from Mitch Albom (alas, I cannot find the link to the column) years ago, suggesting that a conversation that he overheard at a ballgame that involved sabermetrics somehow took away from his joy in watching the game.

But this war over WAR is not worth fighting. That's because the battle, aside from some skirmishes with postseason awards and the Hall of Fame balloting, is already over. Sabermetrics, performance analysis, the employment of new metrics, however you want to term it, is already in the baseball mainstream. Every major league franchise uses statistical analysis in some fashion to support other measures of analysis. Nearly every baseball fan has heard of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs, even if they don't actively read the output from either organization. There are debates about the quality of individual metrics and especially those who employ that analysis, but it's not going away, and how we learn more about that aspect of the game continues to improve.

So instead of getting angry about the latest attempt by a writer protecting his turf by trolling the sabermetric crowd, be it with an article or on Twitter, just let it roll. Instead of getting angry, go watch Brian Kenny's show, or listen to Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio, or read from the not-quite-infinite-but-still-huge number of great writers that employ statistical analysis to varying degrees. There are so many good outlets out there to let those that anger you have any sort of mindshare.

Week 15 Noteworthy Schedules

Two teams, the Reds and the Cubs, play eight games this week, thanks to a doubleheader against each other Tuesday, making up an earlier rainout. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast in Cincinnati for the early part of the week, so there's no guarantee that all five games between the two teams get played.

No teams have a five-game week, and in fact, only two teams (the Dodgers and Tigers) have Monday off. They play a two-game interleague matchup in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday, but then both teams have four-game series against division rivals beginning Thursday.

The Rockies have two home series this week, spanning six games, against the Padres and Twins. This might mean less playing time for Kendrys Morales over the weekend, especially considering that the Rockies will be rolling out three left-handers for that series.

Here are the other interleague matchups, with the home team listed first.

- Nationals-Orioles (Mon-Thur) - The first two games are in DC, followed by two more in Baltimore. The Nats almost certainly will use Ryan Zimmerman as their DH, I'd have to imagine. Delmon Young is a good bet to sit out the first two games, with no DH spot available and the Nats starting two right-handed pitchers.
- A's-Giants (Mon-Thur) - The DH issue on Wednesday and Thursday might become a moot point for Oakland if Brandon Moss's ankle hasn't fully healed by then. It's likely that Buster Posey will play at least one game as the DH for the Giants among the two games in Oakland.

For more on the pitching matchups, please check out our indispensable Projected Starters Grid. I use that frequently to aid my free agent bidding and my lineups, both for two-start starters and for matchups. And then refer to Paul Sporer's excellent Pitcher Value Meter to settle any ties in your starting pitching matchups.


In this section I'll try to list as many of the free agent results as I can from my Sunday deadline leagues. Due to time constraints, the commentary will frequently be short.

NFBC - RotoWire Online Championship

Team Player Bid Runner-Up
Release the Kraken Oscar Taveras (RF) 101
Tiger Slappy OC2 Mookie Betts (SS) 59
Glenneration X Santiago Casilla (MR) 59
Tiger Slappy OC2 Jose Quintana (SP) 43 25
Tiger Slappy OC2 Eric Young (LF) 26 5
Release the Kraken Rougned Odor (2B) 25
Wheelin Down Huston Street Tom Koehler (SP) 20 5
Big Stick Ballerinas Charlie Morton (SP) 11 10
ChrisLiss4President Mike Moustakas (3B) 1
Glenneration X Jarrod Dyson (CF) 1

A constant theme of FAAB bidding in this league has been how often the winning bid was unopposed, as compared to my Main Event leagues. While it's important to have some FAAB dollars remaining in September, there's far less of a penalty to run your budget low in the 12-team format. One conclusion from that - be willing to spend whatever it takes when you see a potential difference-maker available. Taveras hasn't accomplished much in his major league at-bats yet, and I probably won't use him in the short-term, but he's exactly the type of player I want to own for the final three months.

NFBC Main Event

Team Player Bid Runner-Up
Diamondking Mookie Betts (SS) 151 101
movers Cody Asche (3B) 22 3
Oakland Eh's Justin Ruggiano (RF) 22 13
BN Bears Brian Roberts (2B) 17 1
Valar Morghulis Neftali Feliz (SP) 17
Team Taylor Ichiro Suzuki (RF) 16
Team Taylor Wei-Yin Chen (SP) 16 1
Oakland Eh's Chris Parmelee (RF) 14 9
Oakland Eh's A.J. Ellis (C) 12 3
Team Simonian David Peralta (LF) 9 4
VF's FusterCluck Jonathan Broxton (MR) 6
Spartacus Jorge De La Rosa (SP) 6
Metsmerizers-2 Ken Giles (MR) 4
Metsmerizers-2 Dustin Ackley (LF) 4 4
Team Simonian Jeremy Hellickson (SP) 4
Dead Moneyball Kike Hernandez (SS) 4
Dead Moneyball David Freese (3B) 4 2
Cocktails and Dreams Stephen Drew (SS) 2 2
Cocktails and Dreams Jedd Gyorko (2B) 2
Cocktails and Dreams J.A. Happ (SP) 2 1
Oakland Eh's Caleb Joseph (C) 2
Dead Moneyball Chris Coghlan (CF) 2
Metsmerizers-2 Skip Schumaker (RF) 1
El Scorchos Brad Boxberger (MR) 1
El Scorchos Logan Forsythe (2B) 1
Dead Moneyball Scott Feldman (SP) 1
Valar Morghulis Ryan Cook (MR) 1

My latest attempt to find a second closer (with the risk that I could lose my first if Jonathan Papelbon gets dealt), and a player I can move around a lot of places. It looks as if I won't have Joey Votto for an eight-game homestand this week, so that should be fun. I'll be slotting Forsythe at MI, moving Anthony Rendon to CR and Steve Pearce to 1B.

RotoWire Staff Keeper League

Next Stop Dumpster Fire: Pick up Dallas Beeler ($1), drop Erik Johnson
Liss and Shoe's Dynasty: Pick up Jonathan Broxton ($3), drop Erik Bedard
Uggla's Decaying Remains: Pick up Chris Colabello ($1), drop Jaime Garcia
Casale Industries: Pick up Scott Feldman ($1), drop Tyler Colvin
Liss and Shoe's Dynasty: Pick up Kike Hernandez ($3), drop Carlos Pena
(Uggla's Decaying Remains: $1)
The Bros McKeown: Pick up Colby Lewis ($6), drop CC Sabathia
(Frozen Ropes: $2)
(Casale Industries: $1)
(Uggla's Decaying Remains: $1)
Jakarta Raiders: Pick up Eduardo Nunez ($3), drop Collin Cowgill
Casale Industries: Pick up Chris Parmelee ($1), drop Justin Maxwell
(Liss and Shoe's Dynasty: $1)
(Uggla's Decaying Remains: $1)
High-A West Madison: Pick up Brayan Pena ($1), drop Nick Martinez
Jakarta Raiders: Pick up Zelous Wheeler ($2), drop Josh Fields
Frozen Ropes: Pick up Chris Young ($3), drop Chase Anderson
(Liss and Shoe's Dynasty: $3)
(Casale Industries: $1)
(Uggla's Decaying Remains: $1)

Mixed LABR

Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Brad Boxberger awarded to Towers of Power Baseball Hour for $12.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Failed bids for Brad Boxberger: $1, $1, $2.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Justin Ruggiano awarded to for $3.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Failed bids for Justin Ruggiano: $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Travis d'Arnaud awarded to Rotowire-Colton for $3.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Failed bids for Travis d'Arnaud: $2, $2, $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Brian Roberts awarded to Fangraphs for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Robinson Chirinos awarded to RotoExperts for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Ronald Belisario awarded to USA TODAY Sports for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Ender Inciarte awarded to USA TODAY Sports for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Odrisamer Despaigne awarded to Rotowire-Erickson for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: Eric Campbell awarded to Rotowire-Erickson for $1.
Mon Jul 07 12:01 AM ET: David Peralta awarded to for $1.

AL Tout

Andy Behrens: pur Jeff Samardzija Oak 77
Jeff Erickson: pur Jason Hammel Oak 51Chris Liss: pur Joey Gallo Tex 1
Jason Collette: pur Zelous Wheeler NYY 1
Mike Podhorzer: pur Domingo Santana Hou 1
Chris Liss: pur Adam Warren NYY 0
Jason Collette: pur Brad Boxberger TB 5
Larry Schechter: pur Enrique Hernandez Hou 1
Lawr Michaels: pur Nate Freiman Oak 1
Larry Schechter: pur Raul Ibanez KC 1
Steve Moyer: pur Ryan Flaherty Bal 0
Lawr Michaels: pur Munenori Kawasaki Tor 3
Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton: pur Brandon McCarthy Ari 1

I'm hoping that Hammel can reprise his 2012 season with Baltimore for the second half of the season with the A's. Clearly he was both benefiting from pitching in the NL with the Cubs and overachieving, so I'm expecting a bit of a drawback. But even still, it was worth it to me to pay the premium to get Hammel. I was fourth in FAAB remaining entering this period, and all the points I can gain are in the pitching categories. Are there going to be three other better pitchers than Hammel that will come through by the trade deadline? That's unlikely, and I'm getting an extra month out of him than those that will come over at the deadline.