Analyzing the DIPS

'17 Samard

For all long as kids have looked at the back of baseball cards, they’ve had a general understanding of ERA (Earned Run Average). If you look up the definition, the general consensus is “A measure of a pitcher’s performance by dividing the total earned runs allowed by the total of innings pitched and multiplying by nine”. My baseball education taught that it was earned runs multiplied by nine, divided by innings pitched but the numbers come out the same. The premise of the statistic was to not burden a pitcher with runs that had been enabled by errors or passed balls. In other words, eliminating from the calculation events that were out of his control.

 

If you’ve watched enough baseball to give the definition a personal “eye test”, you already know that numerous runs score in a game that don’t necessarily fit the criteria. If a pitcher leaves the game with the bases loaded (through hits & walks) and the relief pitcher gives up a triple, the original hurler just gave up three earned runs while he was sitting in the dugout. If there are runners on 2B & 3B with two outs and a weak groundball trickles under the glove of the shortstop into left field, two earned runs score whether the fielder in question was Ozzie Smith or Dale Berra. Outcomes like these are what motivate the development of advanced baseball statistics.

 

In an attempt to move beyond ERA, we now have a stat called DIPS (Defensive Independent Pitching). The essential theory is that pitchers can only really control strikeouts, walks, hit batters and home runs allowed. To that end, analysts have come up with a formula to build pitching statistics that isolate pitcher performance. Once that number is calculated, they tie it to MLB’s run scoring environment so that it aligns with ERA.

 

The question for those of us playing Fantasy Baseball is if the DIPS numbers can assist in determining the value and predictability of pitchers. Many a team has been torpedoed by a couple of starting pitchers that didn’t perform to expectations and we’re always looking for an edge. As a 20+ year fantasy veteran has said many times, “I hate Pitchers”. Just taking a superficial look at DIPS results for the first half of the 2017 season reveals the following tidbits (stats through 7/1).

 

> In the AL this season, 8 of the top 10 starting pitchers on the DIPS list are also on the top ten ERA list. Looking somewhat deeper, however, we find that ERA leader Jason Vargas (at 2.22) is 7th on the DIPS chart with 3.56. The second half may show some regression for the Royals ace. (Note – This was written before his blow-up on Wednesday)

 

> Two AL starters seem be having some bad luck in the first half. Chris Archer of the Rays is 6th in DIPS at 3.09 but has a 3.92 ERA. Even more significant is the differential for reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello. He’s 10th in DIPS at 3.84 but has an ERA of 5.06!

 

> On the flip side in the AL are two over-achievers. Marcus Stroman of the Jays is 9th in ERA at 3.41 but his DIPS figure of 3.94 is more than half a run higher. The Twins Ervin Santana has been even more fortunate with a #5 ERA ranking of 3.07 but a DIPS number of 4.70.

 

> In the NL, six of the top ten ERA leaders also show up on the top ten DIPS list. Max Scherzer of the Nats is first on both lists with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers close behind with the #2 ERA and #3 DIPS. The numbers also confirm that the D’Backs’ Zack Greinke’s return to form is for real with the #7 ERA and #4 DIPS.

 

> Tough luck NL starters include Stephen Strasburg of the Nats with a 3.51 ERA and a 3.01 DIPS while Jeff Samardzija of the Giants wins the “don’t buy a lottery ticket today” award with the 7th best DIPS figure in the league at 3.30 compared to his 4.63 ERA.

 

> NL Pitchers who can thank their lucky stars so far are Gio Gonzalez of the Nats with the 3rd best ERA of 2.77 but a DIPS of 4.10 along with Mike Leake of the Cards, Robbie Ray of the D’Backs and Ivan Nova of the Bucs. Those last three all have ERA’s more than a half run lower than their DIPS number.

 

> Some pundits seem to think that Carlos Martinez of the Redbirds is a disappointment because he’s 6-6. The truth is that he’s penalized by expectations and his 2.88 ERA (4th) and 3.27 DIPS (5th) tell the real story.

 

As always, Fantasy success comes from balance, both on your team and in your scouting, so maybe DIPS has a place in your toolbox. The numbers are easily found on ESPN.com under “Sabermetric Pitching Stats”. So, the next time one of your baseball buddies asks how you are, you can reply, “I’m feeling much better now that I’m monitoring my DIPS”.

 

 

 

 

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Collecting Memories

'62 Tuttle

If you were born in the 40’s or 50’s and grew up as a baseball fan, collecting trading cards was a rite of passage. We chewed the bubble gum, read the backs of the cards, put them in our bicycle wheel spokes and sorted them by number or team. Those childhood memories are stuck in our brain and just like the characters around the campfire in “City Slickers”, we know that Don Hoak was the 3B of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960.

 

Every time I purchase a vintage (pre-1976) baseball card collection, all of those experiences come flooding back as the first chore is sorting through the cards. Recently, one such collection came my way and included Topps baseball cards from the early 60’s. Even though it was a substantial investment, my approach to being an eBay dealer in these types of items is that it is more of a hobby than a business. As long as the cost isn’t prohibitive and the long-term outcome is at least a break-even proposition, I’m just happy to have a new project. In addition, it always feels good to be the conduit between a seller who has lost interest in cards to a buyer who is adding to their personal collection.

 

Of course, it isn’t quite as easy as buying a card for $5 and selling it for $7. When it comes to 50 year old pieces of cardboard, the key element of the value is condition. With most sales taking place on the Internet, buyers want to know exactly what they’re getting and the only way to guarantee their satisfaction is to have cards graded by a third-party independent company. The grading is done on a scale of 1-to-10 and the outcome can impact the value dramatically. For example, a 1960 Roger Maris All-Star card in “Excellent” (EX 5) condition books for $40, while the same card in “Near-Mint” (NM 7) condition is worth $90. And, honestly, most cards from private collections grade out much lower due to all the decades of wear and tear.

 

So, for dealers like me, the first priority is culling through hundreds of cards to figure out which ones are worth grading (at a cost of $8-$10 per card) based on the player and the estimated condition. In this particular case, over 120 cards were sent to the grading company, which essentially doubled the overall cost of the original purchase. In the next few weeks, we’ll find out the results and then those cards will go up for sale on eBay under the ID of “rotisserieduck”. The cards sent in included the aforementioned Maris along with 1962 cards of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays & Hank Aaron. From ’64, there are five examples of the beautiful 2nd-year Pete Rose card as well as Sandy Koufax & Roberto Clemente.

 

Now that those cards are in process, phase two of the project is underway. This requires sorting the remaining cards to see if any of the “semi-star” players might meet the criteria for grading or putting together groups of cards in decent raw condition to sell as lots. Some buyers, for example, might like to have a group of players from their favorite team. While most of you might not know the name Don Buddin, he was the Red Sox Shortstop when I was growing up in New England and, yes, I played SS in Little League. Nostalgia is a powerful incentive when it comes to collectibles.

 

As this box with hundreds of 1962 Topps baseball cards sits on the table, it occurred to me that each of us has ties to obscure players. So, maybe a few names and pieces of information about the players on these baseball cards might stir a few memories for some of you.

 

> #65 Bobby Richardson, Yankees 2B – The history of his catch of that line drive off Willie McCovey’s bat in the 7th game of the World Series wouldn’t be written for a few more months.

 

> #203 Jack Fisher, Orioles P – In September of 1960, he gave up Home Run #521 to Ted Williams in the last at-bat of “Teddy Ballgame’s” career.

 

> #167 Tim McCarver, Cardinals C – This is the rookie card of a player who would go on to a memorable broadcasting career.

 

> #97 Tito Francona, Indians OF – A solid major-leaguer for over a decade, his son Terry won two World Series as the Manager of the Red Sox.

 

> #183 Roger Craig, Mets P – The expansion Mets might have been the worst team ever and his record as their “ace” in ’62 was 10-24…went on to be a very successful pitching coach and managed the Giants from 1986-1992.

 

> #63 Tony Cloninger, Braves P – In 1966 during a 17-3 drubbing of the Giants, he hit two Grand Slam Home Runs and had 9 RBI’s.

 

> #160 Dick Stuart, Pirates 1B – Part of the Bucs championship team in 1960…a few years later, Stuart had two outstanding seasons with the Red Sox but his lack of defensive skills and a 1964 hit movie got him the nickname “Dr. Strangeglove.”

 

> #375 Ron Fairly, Dodgers OF – Followed up his playing career by becoming a color man in the Mariners broadcast booth. During one game, he famously said, “Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating”.

 

> #116 Herb Score, White Sox P – Was the AL Rookie of the Year with the Indians in 1955 and struck out over 500 batters in his first two seasons…he was never the same after being hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in ’57.

 

> #407 Hank Aguirre, Tigers P – For fans of the DH, he may have been one of the worst hitting Pitchers in the history of the game…in 16 seasons, he was 33-for-388 (.085 BA) with 236 strikeouts.

 

> #87 Gene Conley, Red Sox P – A 6′ 8″ right-hander who won 91 major league games, he was also part of three NBA championship teams with the Boston Celtics.

 

> #153 Pumpsie Green, Red Sox SS – The BoSox were the last major league team to integrate and he was the player in 1959.

 

> #171 Dave Sisler, Reds P – Most fans know about the Boones and the Bells, but this player was eight years old when his Dad George was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

 

> #209 Jim Fregosi, Angels – The rookie card of this baseball “lifer”, he made six All-Star teams as a member of the Halos but is unfairly most remembered as the player traded for Nolan Ryan.

 

> #298 Bill Tuttle, Twins OF – During the later years of his life, he traveled extensively warning major league players about the dangers of chewing tobacco and his disfigured face (due to surgeries for oral cancer) told the tale…ironically, his ’62 card shows him in the batting cage with a cheek full of chaw.

 

 

Hope your favorite didn’t get left out…he’s probably in the box somewhere.

The Old Prospector

Gurriel

If you’re a fan of a particular team, you’re always gazing toward the farm and hoping the next phenom will make a difference and improve the fortunes of your squad. In our hearts, however, we know that for every successful rookie there are dozens who don’t ever make the grade.

 

The 1954 Topps baseball card set tells the story in a unique fashion as it includes the rookie cards of legends Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks & Al Kaline. It also includes the rookie cards of Bill Taylor, Dave Hoskins, Dick Cole, Thornton Kipper, Mike Fornieles, Jack Harshman, Don Liddle, Curt Roberts, Frank Leja and dozens of others.

 

Thanks to the explosion of Fantasy Baseball and the changing landscape of baseball cards, today’s fan might be interested in prospects beyond the ones on the home-town team. And what collectors really want is a card with the prospect’s autograph that came straight out of a pack. About 15 years ago, the industry re-invented itself by randomly inserting autograph cards into their products. Yes, it made them more expensive but increased the thrill of the chase.

 

The Bowman brand (a product of the Topps Company) is always the leader in prospect autographs. They dig deeper into the minors and look for players the average fan wouldn’t know. If you bought a box of Bowman cards in 2013, you just might have an Aaron Judge autograph card sitting in a box somewhere. For 2017, the three different Bowman products (Bowman, Bowman Chrome & Bowman Draft) will all have a selection of these players. Let’s look at some of the prospects who have signed cards this year…and if you’ve ever heard of them.

 

> Ronald Acuna, Braves OF & #7 Prospect – At age 19, he’s already been promoted to AA where he’s batting over .300

 

> Chance Adams, Yankees P & #7 Prospect – In the rotation at AAA with a 2.43 ERA and 0.93 WHIP

 

> Christian Arroyo, Giants SS & #2 Prospect – Has already seen some MLB time at age 21 and could be their 3B in 2018.

 

> Taylor Clarke, D’Backs P & #5 Prospect – Starting at AA with over a strikeout per inning and an ERA under 3.00

 

> Kyle Funkhouser, Tigers P & #6 Prospect – Has made 12 starts in the minors and has 83 K’s in 62+ IP

 

> Jason Groome, Red Sox P & #2 Prospect – Only 18 years old and the #12 pick in last June’s draft

 

> Lourdes Gurriel, Blue Jays SS – His brother Yuli is the Astros 1B but is 10 years older at age 33…the Cuban defector was just activated from the DL this week in the Florida State League. Last November, the Jays gave him a 7-year contract.

 

> Eloy Jimenez, Cubs OF & #1 Prospect – At age 20, he’s another future star in the Cubs pipeline

 

> Kevin Maitan, Braves SS & #2 Prospect – Hasn’t yet made his pro debut but if you’d really like to feel old, he was born on February 12th, 2000

 

> Triston McKenzie, Indians P & #2 Prospect – Only 19, he’s at A+ and has 91 K’s in 71+ IP

 

> Mickey Moniak, Phillies OF & #2 Prospect – The #1 overall pick in the June ’16 draft

 

> Blake Rutherford, Yankees OF & #3 Prospect – Got over $3 Million as the 18th player chosen in the June ’16 draft

 

> Nick Senzel, Reds 3B & #1 Prospect – The second player taken last June, he’s already batting over .300 in his first pro season

 

> Gleyber Torres, Yankees SS &#1 Prospect – The prize acquired in last year’s Aroldis Chapman deal Despite this week’s elbow surgery, he’s only 20 years old and already has AAA experience.

 

That’s just a taste of the young talent who will have autograph cards in the market…pick your favorite.

Fear Strikes Out

'56 Piersall

Casual baseball fans know the stars of the 50’s & 60’s. Williams, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Koufax, Clemente and other Hall of Famers are part of the sports culture and their legacies endure. However, for those of us who actually watched baseball in those decades, there are hundreds of outstanding ballplayers who we remember even though they might not have the same cache or reputation of perennial All-Stars. Names like Carl Furillo, Bobby Avila, Ted Kluszewski, Vic Power, Harvey Kuenn, Minnie Minoso, Dick Groat and so many others.

 

Last week, when Jimmy Piersall passed away at age 87, it brought back a flood of memories for that young boy who spent so many days at Fenway Park in the 1950’s. Sure, he made a couple of All-Star teams (’54 & ’56) and won two Gold Gloves (’58 & ’61) but he was never a “star” and today, the average fan under the age of 50 probably doesn’t know much about him. He played in the days before ESPN highlights, video replays on the scoreboard and interleague play, so his reputation can only be preserved by those of us who watched him patrol the outfield with grace and style.

 

His playing career was certainly worthy of accolades with 17 years in the major leagues and over 1,600 lifetime hits but I feel sorry for all my baseball friends who never got the chance to see him track down a deep fly ball and rob the hitter of a Home Run. And, for Fantasy Baseball team owners, how about his age 26 season at the plate in 1956….293 BA, 14 HR’s, 87 RBI’s, 7 SB’s, a league-leading 40 Doubles and more walks (58) than strikeouts (48).

 

With all that being said, this player’s human interest story is actually more amazing than his baseball career on the field. His first real taste of the big leagues was in 1952 but his erratic behavior got him sent back to the minors where the personal issues escalated to the point that he was hospitalized for seven weeks with “nervous exhaustion”…a 50’s term for mental disorders. He returned to the Red Sox in ’53 and had an outstanding season, finishing 9th in the MVP balloting.

 

In 1955, he shared the challenges of his life in the best-selling book “Fear Strikes Out”. It wasn’t the age where people talked about these types of personal issues, but with the assistance of his co-author Al Hirshberg, he helped countless readers get through their own dark days. In 1957, Hollywood made the book into a major motion picture starring Anthony Perkins (three years before “Psycho”) and Karl Malden.

 

Of course, Jimmy’s personality was always “quirky” even in the best of times and his later career as a broadcaster wasn’t exactly smooth sailing when it came to getting along with team management. But as he once said, “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Who ever heard of Jimmy Piersall before that happened?”

 

None of the details matter for that young boy who can still see Jimmy gliding back to the 380 marker in front of the bullpen in right field…you just knew he would make the catch.

The 60-Day WAR

Cozart

 

For baseball fans and Fantasy team owners, looking at the standings at the beginning of June reveals a telling statistic – the major league season is 1/3 over. Just about 54 games are in the books and it’s time for an honest evaluation of your team. No more excuses of slumps, shifts, off-season injuries, smoke & mirror performances and the like. As with most real-life situations, it’s all about what you’ve done for me lately and what you project to do moving forward.

 

Some very predictable things have already happened. Billy Hamilton is stealing lots of bases, Yoan Moncada is still in the minors, Neftali Feliz is no longer closing and A.J. Pollock is injured. On the other end of the spectrum, how about the best-of-the-best? Who are really the top MLB players so far for 2017? Not just the obvious stars, but also the underrated contributors that help teams win, but may not get the headlines. Where do we find an objective, unbiased determination to create this list? The answer is…we go to WAR.

 

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a new-age metric developed by SABRmetricians to gauge the value of an individual player to his team. It creates a number that represents how many wins the player adds to his team’s record above what a replacement player (AAA or AAAA) would add. A one-season figure of 8 or better is MVP caliber, while 5 or better is All-Star level. Some “old-school” fans don’t always buy into the stat, but the results tell you that it is very much on-target. The major league leader in three of the last five years is Mike Trout and the lifetime leader is Babe Ruth. The all-time top five also includes Willie Mays, Ty Cobb & Hank Aaron. So, with the help of baseball-reference.com, let’s see where we are for the first third of 2017.

 

As your humble essayist is from the school of thought that hitters should win the MVP and pitchers should win the Cy Young, we’ll list the offensive players first and then the hurlers. Stats are as of June 6th…

 

> Position Players

 

1) Zack Cozart, Reds SS 3.5 WAR – An amazing performance by a veteran player who has been rumored to be on the trading block… a .353 BA and 1.065 OPS tells the story. Of course, he can’t be this good but he did have his best season in 2016 at age 30.

 

2) Mike Trout, Angels OF 3.4 WAR – This extraordinary player may have been having his best season ever (.337, 16 HR, 36 RBI, 10 SB) but now he’s injured and could miss as much as two months. The real question is, can he be the best player in the game in only 2/3 of a season?

 

3) Aaron Judge, Yankees OF 3.4 WAR – 18 HR’s in 53 games and he’s also batting .328.

 

4T) Paul Goldschmidt, D’Backs 1B 3.0 WAR – No surprise here, he’s one of the most consistent players in the game. In his four full seasons, his average WAR is 6.0.

 

4T) Nolan Arenado, Rockies 3B 3.0 WAR – Only 26, he’s averaged 6.2 WAR the last two seasons and also won Gold Gloves in both years.

 

6) Anthony Rendon, Nationals 3B 2.8 WAR – Finally fulfilling that promise from five years ago…and avoiding injuries.

 

> Pitchers

 

 

1) Dallas Keuchel, Astros SP ¬†3.1 WAR – Back from 2016’s injury-plagued season, he’s unbeaten at 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

 

2) Mike Leake, Cardinals SP 2.9 WAR – In this age of velocity, he’s a hurler with guile. Did you know that he’s the only player on this list who has never spent a day in the minor leagues?

 

3) Max Scherzer, Nationals SP 2.8 WAR – Can you think of any other Pitcher you’d rather have on the mound for a big game? He’s got 120 K’s and only 20 BB in 84+ IP

 

4) Jason Vargas, Royals SP 2.8 WAR – What kind of odds could you have gotten at a Vegas sportsbook that this veteran would be in the top ten? He only pitched in the three games last season.

 

Just outside the top ten are position players Carlos Correa & Corey Dickerson as well as Pitchers Ervin Santana & Zack Greinke.

 

How many will still be on the list when another 1/3 of the season is gone in early August?

 

The Nickname Collection

Ducky Medwick

Do you have a nickname? No, not the one relegated to private moments with your significant other. One that would be acceptable in a public setting. For me, it started in High School when friends got tired of people mispronouncing¬† my last name and shortened their greeting to “Drook”. Their logic was that even teenagers could figure out it rhymed with brook, crook or even schnook. To this day, the closest people in my life call me by that name and it has graced the personalized license plate on a parade of vehicles since 1972.

 

Once Rotisserie Baseball became part of the landscape in the mid-80’s, naming my first team “Donald’s Ducks” created nicknames galore. “The Duck” was obvious but being the Commissioner of the league also added “Bowie Duck” (after Bowie Kuhn) and “CFL Duck” (Commissioner For Life). Over the last 30 years, many other variations have appeared including one coined by my adopted Sister, who lovingly refers to me as “The Quacker”.

 

A few years ago, a wonderful Sports Illustrated column by Steve Rushin on the mystical qualities of baseball names (did you know there was a Phillies player in 1915 named Bud Weiser?) got the wheels turning regarding the legacy of great baseball nicknames. So, today’s exercise will be to update a column from 2013 that creates a baseball card collection of the players whose nicknames endure within our National Pastime. We’re not talking about the obvious ones like “The Splendid Splinter”, “The Yankee Clipper” or “Stan The Man”. No Hall-of-Famers here, just the ones embraced by real fans who read the backs of baseball cards and remember the aroma of bubble gum in the packs. We’ll stick with the post-World War II era, in order for the actual Rookie Cards to be accessible in the general marketplace.¬† As always, the value of the individual cards is based on “Near Mint” (NM) condition.

 

> Ron Cey, “The Penguin” – Not sure how much he enjoyed the moniker based on his awkward running style, but it fit perfectly. The back story is that Tommy Lasorda came up with the name when he was Cey’s Minor League Manager. His Rookie Card is from 1972 Topps (#761) and is worth about $15.

 

> Fred McGriff, “The Crime Dog” – This one is credited to Chris Berman and is based on McGruff, the cartoon Crime Dog. His 1986 Donruss card (#28) books for around $5.

 

> Mike Hargrove, “The Human Rain Delay” – You’d have time to get a hot dog from the concession stand before he got back in the batter’s box. His 1975 Topps issue (#106) is $2.

 

> Dennis Boyd, “Oil Can” – In his native Mississippi, beer was sometimes referred to as oil. $1 will get you his 1984 Donruss card (#457).

 

> Don Mossi, “Ears” – Jim Bouton said, “he looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open”. His 1955 Topps card (#85) will set you back $15.

 

> Jim Grant, “Mudcat” – Supposedly, his boyhood idol Larry Doby gave him the nickname when they were roommates on the Indians. The 1958 Topps Rookie Card (#394) books for $5.

 

> Mark Fidrych, “The Bird” – One of the great characters of the game, he talked to the baseball and looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street. His 1977 Topps card (#265) is $3.

 

> Jimmy Wynn, “The Toy Cannon” – A 5′ 10″ Centerfielder, he hit 291 career Home Runs. His 1964 Topps card (#38) is about $5.

 

> Steve Balboni, “Bye Bye” – At 6′ 3″ & 225 lbs. he hit 36 Home Runs for the Royals in 1985. Of course, he also led the AL with 166 Strikeouts. You’ll get change from your dollar when you purchase his 1982 Topps card (#83).

 

> Carl Pavano, “American Idle” – You get stuck with this type of derisive name when you sign a 4-year, $38 Million contract and only make nine starts. His 1996 Bowman card (#259) will cost you a buck.

 

> Vince Coleman, “Vincent Van Go” – For Fantasy players in the 80’s, his Stolen Base artistry dominated the category. $1 will buy his 1985 Topps Traded issue (#24T)

 

> Rusty Staub, “Le Grand Orange” – Getting traded to a city where they speak French created this memorable entry. His 1963 Topps card (#544) will cost at least $20 because it is from the scarce high-number series.

 

> Al Hrabowsky, “The Mad Hungarian” – His angry demeanor on the mound was meant to intimidate batters and the facial hair added to the image. His Rookie Card is from 1971 Topps (#594) and is valued at $4.

 

> Dick Stuart, “Dr. Strangeglove” – In 1963, this slugger hit 42 Home Runs and led the AL with 118 RBI’s as a member of the Red Sox. All that was forgotten when the movie “Dr. Strangelove” debuted in ’64 and people focused on his 29 errors at 1B. You can get his 1959 Topps card (#357) for around $4.

 

> Joe Medwick, “Ducky” – We’ll make an exception for this Hall-of-Famer who was the 1937 NL MVP. His 1935 Rookie Card from Batter Up (#145) will set you back $425. A very expensive Duck, indeed. Of course, “Goose” Goslin’s card was also in this set and costs $100 less.

 

> For a more affordable fowl, there’s the 1954 Topps card (#191) of Dick “Ducky” Schofield which can be had for $45.

 

We’ve only touched the surface of this endless topic. Do you have a favorite nickname that wasn’t on this initial list? Send it along and we’ll visit the subject again.

Free Agent Fantasy

Martinez Heritage

Millions of people play Fantasy Baseball and the spectrum is very wide. A large percentage just play in on-line leagues (ESPN, Yahoo, etc.) where the challenge is minimal and they’re only in it for the current season. The real players, however, know that a keeper league is more like owning a baseball team because this year’s decisions can impact next year’s success.

 

As the calendar gets close to Memorial Day, Fantasy players begin to think about their realistic chance to contend and if a trade will help their cause. For old school leagues, many factors come into play like the salary and position eligibility of available players. If you play in a format that is AL or NL only, an even more important consideration could be the real-world contract status of a player. Over the 30+ years the Old Duck has played in these leagues, it’s been very surprising to see deals made that don’t seem to include this analysis. If a player you’re trading for is going to be a free agent in 2018, there’s a reasonable chance he might not be on your roster next year. More importantly, if he gets traded to the “other” league in July, you’ve lost half o the value you traded for in late-May. This even impacts mixed leagues (AL & NL) because the player’s role may change. Jeremy Jeffress had 27 Saves in four months for the Brewers last season and had Zero Saves for the Rangers in August & September.

 

As you scan your league’s rosters for possible acquisitions, make sure these players (all free agents after 2017) are really what you need to win…

 

> C Jonathan Lucroy – after hitting 24 HR’s in 2016, he has only 3 so far in 2017…maybe he’s feeling the pressure of free agency?

 

> 1B Yonder Alonso – can he sustain this season’s incredible start and where will he be next year?

 

> 1B Eric Hosmer – one of four Royal regulars in their walk year…which ones stay and which ones leave?

 

> 1B Logan Morrison – will the Rays try to turn his hot start into a prospect in July?

 

> 3B / OF Eduardo Nunez – if the Giants aren’t in the race, look for him to head for a contender in the next 60 days

 

> SS Zack Cozart – another 30-something veteran playing over his baseline

 

> 3B Todd Frazier – right now, he’s below the Mendoza line but if he heats up, he’s gone

 

> OF J.D. Martinez – back from the DL and hitting…watch where the Tigers are in the standings

 

> OF Lorenzo Cain – good all-around player could help numerous contenders

 

> OF Jay Bruce – if the Mets continue to struggle, he’s a trade chip

 

> SP Yu Darvish – the Rangers could trade him and sign him back for 2018…remember Aroldis Chapman?

 

> SP Marco Estrada – the Blue Jays might be out of the race by July

 

> RP Brandon Kintzler – closing now, but he could be a set-up guy elsewhere

 

> RP Tony Watson – you’ve heard this somewhere before but he could be a set-up guy elsewhere

 

Numerous other everyday players fall into this category including Alex Avila, Lucas Duda, Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana, Brandon Phillips, Neil Walker, Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia, Melky Cabrera, Rajah Davis, Jarrod Dyson, Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia, Jeremy Hellickson and more.

 

Of course, there are all also dozens of others who have opt-out clauses, so just make sure real-world contract status is part of your toolbox.