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As May winds down, now is the time to take a hard look at your league’s standings. You need understand the categories where you can gain and lose valuable points.

Your place within each category is important, but equally important is the gap between the teams ahead and behind you. The magnitude of the gap determines the safeness of all leads within the standings.

Having a decent rest of season projection for your players is very handy. You can combine this with your knowledge of the expected category points to determine where you have surpluses and deficiencies.

Trades and waiver decisions should always be based on these pillars.

This week, we will uncover the new Rangers pitcher to own out of the Texas bullpen. Then we will look at a buy-low opportunity on a reliable starter for the Nationals. Looking beneath the hood of a second sacker in the Pacific Northwest unveils some interesting trends. We will then touch on the Fantasy Baseball impact of three hitters returning from injuries this week. Finally, the deep dive this week takes us into the world of Park factors.

The Texas Two-Step

The Texas Rangers need a new sheriff to lock down the opposition in the ninth inning. Neftali Feliz has struggled as the closer so far this year and he has been removed as the sole closer. This comes on the heels of his third blown save of the year. The dreaded committee seems to have the baton now. Once you look at the stats, I believe the choice is quite simple. I have included the stats of the main pitchers in the committee.

Player IP ERA WHIP K-BB% BABIP LD% GB/FB Hard% SwStr%
Shawn Tolleson 17.1 3.63 1.15 30.0% .366 26.2% 1.38 23.3% 13.2%
Keone Kela 18.2 2.41 1.45 11.3% .339 21.1% 1.25 29.8% 11.1%
Neftali Feliz 17.2 5.09 1.75 7.1% .345 25.0% 0.88 33.3% 9.5%

Shawn Tolleson should be the committee chair. He has the best numbers and he has been the setup guy for Feliz. Tolleson has a great K vs BB ratio and his LD% seems high considering his hard hit rate allowed. A fall in his inflated BABIP seems likely and it will only help his cause even more.

In the first opportunity after Feliz’s removal, Tolleson was the guy warming in the pen when the Rangers had a three run lead heading to the bottom of the eighth. The Rangers scored in the top of the ninth, taking away the save opportunity, but Tolleson still came in and shut the door, striking out a pair. I think Tolleson will grab the closer role and keep it for the rest of the year.

Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals

Year ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 BABIP LD% GB/FB Soft% Med% Hard%
2012 2.89 1.13 9.35 3.43 .267 21.9% 1.61 17.2% 58.2% 24.5%
2013 3.36 1.25 8.83 3.50 .286 22.7% 1.32 15.0% 57.3% 27.7%
2014 3.57 1.20 9.19 3.18 .294 18.6% 1.22 19.4% 56.0% 24.5%
2015 4.94 1.54 8.18 3.42 .371 23.2% 3.19 17.9% 63.4% 18.6%

Gio Gonzalez’s headline numbers look poor; however, when you dig a little deeper you realize that bad luck has played a factor. His underlying numbers are not very different than his previous three seasons, except for his crazy high BABIP of .371. That is the third highest BABIP out of all qualified starters. His LD% is a touch higher than in previous years, but his hard hit rate is the lowest of his career.

The BABIP will fall and so will his ERA and WHIP. Gonzalez has become an extreme ground ball pitcher this year, which is great. The one warning sign is a slightly depressed strikeout rate that is supported by a swinging strike rate of 8.1% compared to a career mark of 9.4%. I expect a rest of season ERA under 3.50, a WHIP close to 1.20, and plenty of quality starts and wins.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners

Year AVG BB% K% BABIP LD% GB/FB HR/FB Hard% Contact%
2014 .314 9.2% 10.2% .335 22.6% 2.13 10.7% 28.5% 87.2%
2015 .260 4.9% 17.1% .310 25.2% 2.06 3.2% 37.0% 81.1%
Career .308 6.3% 11.9% .323 21.3% 1.60 13.6% 32.9% 86.8%

Robinson Cano is off to a pedestrian start to 2015, much like last year. However, last year, in May he turned things around, so far this year, in May, things have gotten worse. He is also having trouble hitting southpaws, which is surprising for someone that has not produced very drastic right/left splits over his career.

Much was made about the fall in power as Cano moved into cavernous Safeco Field last year. This was not actually completely true, given that he hit nine of his 14 homers at home. Many expected a rebound, especially with the lineup addition of Nelson Cruz. This has not been the case.

There have been some positives and some negatives so far in 2015. First, let’s look at the negatives. He is striking out at a career high rate and that is supported by a career high swinging strike rate. His walk rate is down from last year’s level, but it is close to his career average. His contact rate is close to 81%, a far cry from his career average of nearly 87%; that is a big difference. It appears that Cano is not seeing the ball as well as he has in the past.

Against all the negatives, there are some positives. Cano has had a very impressive batted ball profile. His LD% and hard hit rate are both close to his peak years as a member of the Yankees. I also think that his HR/FB ratio will rebound to at least last year’s level.

Cano is hard to value at this stage, the batted ball profile implies a rebound is coming, while the batting eye suggests sell now. If I were a Cano owner, I would try to deal him away if you get an offer close to his draft day value, otherwise I would hold on to him. On the other side, I would only buy Cano if I could get a material discount; he is not a guy that I would be targeting.

Walking Wounded No More

Three hitters of note are due back this week.

Ben Zobrist appears set to return to the A’s lineup on May 25th. He seems to be recovering from his knee surgery slightly ahead of schedule. It is unclear where Zobrist will play, he is so versatile that he could play in the outfield or in the infield. He could potentially take away at bats from a number of players, since Zobrist will most likely be in the lineup everyday.

Yan Gomes has been on the DL since April 12 for his injured knee. He is currently on a Triple A rehab assignment and he could be activated as early as this week. He will take back his starting catcher role from Roberto Perez.

Josh Hamilton has already had an eventful 2015, despite not playing a single inning. Now with the Rangers after a trade away from the Angels, Hamilton looks to get his career back on track. He is worth a flier since the Rangers have had limited production from their outfield spots so far this year.

The Fantasy Lookout Deep Dive: Park Factors

Last week, we looked at team OPS and the impact it had with choosing streamers. The next factor to consider is park factors. I have used ESPN.com as the source. They basically compare total runs scored in games played at home as a ratio to total runs scored in games played on the road.

Park factors should be used in combination with team hitting statistics, especially the right/left split data, when determining the percent probability of a successful start. I have included rankings based on 2015 data (small sample size) and the 2012-2014 average.

Park factor data can vary year to year; therefore, a larger sample size is much more reliable. I would put a lot more weight on the three year average than I would on the 2015 figures. Let’s take a look at the data.

Park Factors20153-Yr Avg
Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, California)1624
AT&T Park (San Francisco, California)2928
Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri)919
Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)73
Citi Field (New York, New York)1827
Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)2418
Comerica Park (Detroit, Michigan)177
Coors Field (Denver, Colorado)31
Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, California)1926
Fenway Park (Boston, Massachusetts)135
Globe Life Park in Arlington (Arlington, Texas)106
Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati, Ohio)1114
Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)2212
Marlins Park (Miami, Florida)2115
Miller Park (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)54
Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas)2617
Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.)2813
O.co Coliseum (Oakland, California)1222
Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, Maryland)110
Petco Park (San Diego, California)1529
PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)825
Progressive Field (Cleveland, Ohio)423
Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario)239
Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)2730
Target Field (Minneapolis, Minnesota)68
Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)2021
Turner Field (Atlanta, Georgia)220
U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago, Illinois)252
Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois)3011
Yankee Stadium (New York, New York)1416

If you can put a checkmark beside your pitcher, opposition, and ballpark then you are all systems go. A quality start should be expected.Some things jump out at you. You want to avoid the hitter havens of the Rockies, White Sox (despite the 2015 data), Diamondbacks, Brewers, Red Sox, and Rangers. The pitcher parks appear to be the homes of the Mariners, Padres, Giants, Mets, and Dodgers. There is something to that West Coast air. The pitchers are all saying go West my friend.

Understanding your team’s expected year end output per statistical category is vital to all Fantasy decisions. Make sure you fully comprehend how your team has performed year to date, do not just focus on the headline stats. Dig deeper to justify the past performance and help predict the future.

Until next week’s Fantasy Lookout, enjoy the games!

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com and www.espn.com

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Fabian Taylor
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Fabian Taylor

Fabian Taylor lives in Vancouver, BC. In his previous life, he traded natural gas for a couple firms in Calgary. He now trades stocks, bonds, and commodities out of a float home office. Family, finance and Fantasy Sports -- Is there anything else?
Fabian Taylor
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