Category Archives: Fantasy Baseball

Breaking Down the Rays Rotation

The Tampa Bay Rays have overcome a slew of injuries to important parts of their team to remain in the running for the AL East crown, a single game out of first place. Now, though, some of those players are coming back.

Today we’re going to focus on the pitching side of the ledger, where the Rays’ entire starting rotation is fantasy-relevant.

We’ll begin with one of the early contenders for the AL Cy Young, Chris Archer, who has been absolutely phenomenal. There have been five starts out of seventeen total in which Archer has given up more than two earned runs. His 133 strikeouts rank fifth-best in all of baseball. In any way you spin it, Archer has been a top starter this season. His FIP supports his ERA and his success is likely to continue. Invest with confidence.

Next up is Jake Odorizzi, who was nearly as good as Archer before going down with an oblique injury last month. Odorizzi made his first rehab start on Wednesday, and it went as hoped, with a run, two hits, and a walk over four innings. The Rays are still deciding whether or not to have Odorizzi make another rehab start before activating him, but either way, time is running out to buy low. Odorizzi will come cheap comparatively, but expect him to pitch on par with top-20 starters such as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Like Odorizzi, Drew Smyly is injured, but Smyly isn’t expected to return from his shoulder injury until some time in August. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in the David Price trade last year, Smyly, in ten starts, has an ERA of 1.96 while striking out over a batter an inning. There’s no way he’ll keep it up over a full season, of course, but even once regression hits, Smyly will be a valuable asset for any team. He’s unowned in 68% of Yahoo leagues, and while there’s no need to pick him up now, as his return creeps closer, it would make sense to take a low-risk flier on him.

Matt Moore made his season debut yesterday against the Indians, giving up four runs over 4.2 innings in his first start in over a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s young, talented, and has nearly a strikeouts an inning over his career. There’s a lot of upside here. Until he shakes off the rust, it’s wise to monitor him closely from the sidelines, but once he does, Moore could be one of the best free agent pickups of the second half.

The fifth starter in the Rays’ fully healthy rotation is Nate Karns. Karns hasn’t lasted more than six innings in any of his last nine starts, capping his upside, but he’s safe and consistent, with only four starts all year in which he’s given up more than two runs. He’s helpful in strikeouts, and can help add counting stats while improving your ratios. Karns isn’t good enough to be owned in most leagues, but he’s an elite streamer and should be targeted each time he pitches.

There are three more pitchers who have made starts for the Rays this year: Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, and Alex Colome. Andriese has already been sent to the minors to free up his rotation spot for Moore, and Ramirez and Colome are likely to follow once Odorizzi and Smyly return. Colome is irrelevant for fantasy, but whenever either Andriese or Ramirez makes a spot start, they could be useful as streamers when they’re pitching at home, in the spacious Tropicana Park, or whenever either has an advantageous matchup.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everybody!

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Six Rules Good Commissioners Follow

There are two things that can destroy fantasy baseball leagues: negligent owners and bad commissioners.

With owners who don’t pay attention, there’s nothing you can do until the end of the season, when you can kick them out, but the problem of having a Roger Goodell as the commissioner of your fantasy league can be easily addressed.

Keeping that in mind, here are six rules that all commissioners should follow, and if yours doesn’t, well, it might be time to find a new one.

1. It’s everyone’s league: You may run it, but your league belongs to everyone in it. Making decisions by yourself and ignoring the input of others is the fastest way you can get everyone in your league to despise you.

2. Remember that your league is a democracy: This is a corollary of the last rule. You volunteered to run your league, but only because everyone else agreed to let you do it. If you ever feel like you’re getting too haughty, remind yourself that just as they gave you power, they can take it away.

3. Use your veto sparingly: There is only one reason that you should ever exercise your right to veto a trade: if one owner is purposely making his team worse. There’s no other acceptable reason. If some idiot decides to trade Max Scherzer for Jose Quintana and thinks he’s making his team better, then that’s fine. You can try to talk him out of it, you can tell him he’s an idiot, and you can kick him out after the season, but unless he’s purposely trying to make his team worse to make the other team better then there’s nothing you can do.

4. Make sure everyone knows the rules of the league: This is simple. The best thing for you to do to address this problem is to write down all the rules onto a so-called “League Constitution”, print it out to give copies to everyone, and have each owner sign it. This was a problem for me last year when I joined a league midway through the season. The league actually had a written constitution, which I read and signed, but what the commissioner didn’t tell me was that co-managing wasn’t allowed. During the summer, one of the regular owners was away, and when I inquired about a potential trade, he directed me to someone who was running his team for him at the time. I ended up completing a trade with that co-owner, but when the commissioner realized that I had negotiated with him, the trade was retroactively vetoed and somehow, I was blamed for the whole mess. Always make sure that everyone knows the rules because if you don’t, then you lose the right to punish people for transgressing them.

5. Be transparent: If you make a rule then always have a reason. More importantly, have a good reason. Yeah, if you want to eliminate saves as a category, not having any closers is a reason, but obviously it’s not one that anyone else will accept. Before you do anything, make sure you’re able to explain it to your league.

6. Put the league before yourself: This is the big rule of thumb that every rule in this post falls under. Everything you do should be to improve the league, not to help your own team. It’s not complicated or hard to do, but it’s the most important rule of all.

Also, one quick NBA note: last Wednesday, the Nets held a Mason Plumlee meet-and-greet at the Barclays Center. On Thursday, the Nets traded hm. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 Brooklyn Nets!

Mailbag: Jason Heyward and Joey Gallo

Mailbags are a useful tool for identifying the most pressing topics on the minds of fantasy owners. Receiving questions along the lines of which players to pick up, whose streak will continue, and who to sell high on all contribute to a more reader-oriented blog, where the topics I write about are more relevant to what you, the reader, are interested in.

Questions are always appreciated, and you can feel free to email me any queries you might have at sushi.krox@gmail.com with the subject “SushiOnSports” or simply to comment on one of my posts.

Now that we have the introduction out of the way, let’s discuss a question I recently received from a reader:

is Jason Heyward’s resurgence for real? What’s up with Joey Gallo?
–Noah

To address the first part of Noah’s question, let’s first provide some background. Heyward was drafted in the top 100 picks in most leagues and was expected to provide stolen bases with some power. Through the first third of the season, it looked like his owners had no shot at recouping their original investment, culminating in an article from a couple of weeks ago where I questioned why he was still owned.

I guess Heyward reads this blog because just a couple of days after I wrote that post, he went on an absolute tear. In the two weeks since that article, Heyward has raised his average twenty points, his OBP thirty points, stolen two bases, and racked up four home runs, nine runs, and ten RBIs.

Despite this recent surge, Heyward doesn’t seem to be improving substantially. His BABIP over this time period is a fluky .370 and his walk rate is below his career average (although still higher than this season before this streak). The one positive is his strikeout rate, which is much better during the last two weeks than it’s been during this season and throughout his whole career.

Here’s the problem with reading into this streak at all: it’s been only fifteen games, an extremely small sample size. The only thing that the streak has done is bring his seasonal numbers up to acceptable totals. My advice is to sell, and to sell fast while his stats look good. He’ll continue to steal bases and perhaps knock in a few runs, but Heyward is not going to end up with stats even somewhat similar to what he’s put up over the past couple of weeks.

Next, we’re on to Joey Gallo, whose lightower power is his claim to fame. When he was surprisingly called up to the majors after Adrian Beltre was injured, Gallo was supposed to be a three true outcomes type of hitter, and he’s lived up to that billing. His per-162 games stats are 74 walks, 34 home runs, and a record-shattering 263 strikeouts, beating out Mark Reynolds 2009 season by 40 punchouts.

In regular 5×5 leagues, Gallo is a significant asset, helping in four categories. In OBP leagues, he’s even more valuable. However, in any league that counts strikeouts or any kind of hit other than home runs, then he’ll be less valuable. In 5×5 and OBP leagues, I’d hold onto Gallo, but in any other league, I’d rush to trade him.

Honestly, I would have traded him the second he was called up. People always love rookies because they’ve never failed before, and that’s a tendency that discerning owners can take advantage of. For instance, Kyle Schwarber came up for a week and dominated. If anyone in your league thinks he’s going to be Miguel Cabrera this season with catcher eligibility, then take advantage of that. Another opportunity to use this principle is with Jose Fernandez. Although he’s not a rookie, he hasn’t pitched so far this year so he’s still got a 0.00 ERA. In fact, I own Jose Fernandez in my home league and ever since it came out a couple of weeks ago that he would be making his season debut on July 2nd, I’ve been trying to see if anyone would overpay for him.

Speaking of selling high, remember my Buy-Low, Sell-High article from a few weeks ago about the right way to buy low and sell high? If you haven’t read it yet, it’s useful to read, but there are a couple of young third basemen right now who match the definition I gave of players to sell high on to the letter: Todd Frazier and Nolan Arenado.

Both have been scorching hot recently, particularly Arenado. Frazier’s hit seven home runs in his last eleven games while Arenado’s mashed eight in his last seven. I had the misfortune of playing against Arenado this week when he had more games with multiple homers than games without any. Both players were good before their streaks and seem to have vaulted into the upper echelon of fantasy baseball. Both players are almost certainly not going to continue to be as amazing as they’ve been, even though they’ll still be very good players. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these players, then you have a magnificent sell-high opportunity. Don’t let it pass you by.

Why I Don’t Like Billy Hamilton

I don’t like Billy Hamilton. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but for fantasy, I hate him. Why? Well there are three big reasons…

1. Hamilton was ranked as a top 50 player coming into this season, making him extremely overrated. I thought this was foolish at the time, but AJ Mass, fantasy columnist for ESPN, said that he would take Billy Hamilton in the first round and he gets paid to know about fantasy! (The article is retroactively even more hilarious than it was at the time and it’s a fun reread. Here’s the link: http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/mlbdk2k15_bhamilton/billy-hamilton-being-underrated-fantasy-baseball-high-stolen-base-projections).

2. Hamilton is one-dimensional to a staggering extent. For fantasy, all he does above average in a standard 5×5 league is steal bases. Last year, according to ESPN’s Player Rater, 78% of Hamilton’s value came from stolen bases. This year he’s become even more one-dimensional, garnering 95% of his value from stolen bases. This puts together a picture of a player who’s a nice player to have on your team, with lots of stolen bases and not much else, not the lousy player I believe him to be. That’s true (although that pretty much makes him Ben Revere, who’s currently unowned in 43% Yahoo league), but only if he keeps racking up those stolen bases…

3. Yeah, Hamilton’s a drain on four of five categories, but still, those stolen bases are valuable and people seem willing to ignore everything else because of the allure of those stolen bases. Well, about that… Hamilton currently leads the league in stolen bases, with 25, ahead of second-place Dee Gordon by five. That’s great. However, a couple of weeks ago, Hamilton was moved down to ninth in the order from the leadoff spot. Now it’s time to do some math. On average, over the course of a season, the difference of plate appearances between the leadoff hitter and the ninth hitter in the lineup is .88, 4.63 to 3.75. Hamilton has 25 steals in 219 plate appearances so far this year, so he steals a base once every 8.76 plate appearances. Let’s take the difference in plate appearances per game, multiply that by the number of games he has remaining, and divide that by his steal per plate appearance rate. That leaves us with 10.24. That means, that over the rest of the season, Hamilton is losing 10 stolen bases that he otherwise would have had had he continued to bat leadoff. That’s a big difference in production and a big loss in value.

To sum this all up, Billy Hamilton is a player who gets all of his value from stolen bases. Now that he’s moving down to ninth in the order, he loses 10 stolen bases, a huge portion of his value. This confluence of factors makes it easy to figure out what to do if you’ve invested significantly in the Cincinnati speedster: Run faster than Hamilton can and go find the owner in your league that still believes in Hamilton as a top-50 player and sell for whatever you can get.

If you have any questions about fantasy baseball, individual players, trade offers, rest of season outlooks, or anything else, email me at sushi.krox@gmail.com and I’ll answer your question on Sushi On Sports