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The Fantasy Lookout: Coming Out Strong

Welcome to The Fantasy Lookout! We all know winning your Fantasy Baseball league is a two-step process.

Step 1 is drafting your team. This is a great start, but having an elite team in March, does not guarantee you a championship.

Step 2 is managing your team. This involves making trades, scouring the waiver wire, and maximizing your games played at each roster position.

This “Fantasy Lookout” will be the first installment of a weekly Fantasy Baseball piece that will help point managers in the right direction.

I’m going to look ahead to find some Fantasy Baseball pitfalls to avoid and prospective profits to double-down on.

Watch out for some Fantasy Baseball articles covering a variety of topics, including:

  • Closers: Manager usage, potential moves, and velocity changes
  • Starting pitchers: Velocity changes, K/BB analysis, and luck factors
  • Hitters: Batted ball analysis, batting order impacts, and luck factors
  • Injuries: Fantasy impact and duration

I will also occasionally do a deep dive into a statistical category or topic that could require further explanation.

Once the season is underway, we will have more, new data to work with. For now, all we have are historical stats and spring training stats. It is tough to gauge too much from spring training given the small sample size and suspect competition. Pitchers work on new pitches and new mechanics sometimes, so they may not be completely comparable to regular season statistics.

Tracking MLB Closers

I think the first long-term closer change will be Joakim Soria. I believe that this change will occur because of a weak and slumping current closer, Joe Nathan, and because Soria is a capable alternative that has closing experience. There are a few transition options with the Red Sox, A’s, Rays, and Dodgers, but all of these situations have a solid established closer that most likely will regain the job once healthy.

Joe Nathan, RP, Detroit

Season G IP W L SV K ERA WHIP K-BB% vFA F-Strike% SwStr%
2013 67 64.2 6 2 43 73 1.39 0.90 20.4% 92.3 62.8% 11.3%
2014 62 58.0 5 4 35 54 4.81 1.53 9.6% 91.7 59.9% 9.2%

Joakim Soria, RP, Detroit

Season G IP W L SV K ERA WHIP K-BB% vFA F-Strike% SwStr%
2013 26 23.2 1 0 0 28 3.80 1.35 13.9% 90.7 56.4% 9.3%
2014 48 44.1 2 4 18 48 3.32 0.99 23.1% 90.3 63.2% 9.7%

Nathan, who is currently 40, had a very poor 2014. His strikeouts were down and his walks were up, and this led to a ballooning ERA and WHIP. He threw fewer first pitch strikes and induced fewer swing strikes, a bad combination for sure. His velocity declined again in 2014, which is material given the nearly 2 MPH decline he experienced in 2013 from the previous year.

Soria, who is 10 years younger than Nathan, had a nice bounce back campaign in his first full season after recovering from the dreaded Tommy John surgery. The majority of Soria’s numbers in 2014 look very similar to his career averages, including his time prior to the surgery.

For what it is worth, Soria has been nearly perfect this spring, posting 9 IP, 10Ks, and 0 ER. In contrast, Nathan has had a poor Spring, posting 10.1 IP, 5 Ks, and a 5.23 ERA. Nathan appears to be washed up and the Tigers traded for Soria last July.

The leash will be short this year as their competitive window is closing. Despite Nathan being named the closer by his manager, in my most recent draft, Soria was picked before Nathan.

A story is developing regarding Dellin Betances of the New York Yankees. There has been lots of chatter that his velocity is down this year. This is true when compared to last year in the regular season. However, when compared to last spring, Brian Cashman has stated that Betances’ velocity is actually 1 MPH higher. Either way, take a look at his spring stats over the past two years; it appears something is different this year.

Dellin Betances, RP, N.Y. Yankees

Season G IP H ER BB K ERA WHIP
2014 10 12.1 5 1 4 11 0.73 0.73
2015 7 6.1 8 5 3 5 7.11 1.74

To make matters worse, Betances’ poor spring is not from just one poor outing. He has allowed an earned run in his past five appearances, while recording only one strikeout. He has been consistently bad. Remember, Andrew Miller was signed in the offseason, and he is coming off a tremendous 2014 campaign and he is more than capable of being the Yankees closer.

(Although, “Betances With Wolves” is one of our favorite Fantasy Baseball team names this year!)

Hitters: The Brew Crew View

The Brewers have announced how their batting order will look on Opening Day. It sounds like Carlos Gomez will bat leadoff initially, and Scooter Gennett will hit seventh. This is a little bit of a blow to Gennett’s run and RBI totals, since he will now see fewer at-bats.

Platoons have become a hot topic lately as teams recognize and respect the preciousness of every at bat. The common reaction of most owners is that platoons are bad. However, they may not be given the right situation. If the hitter has a weak enough split, he may not give up much in terms of counting stats and his batting average will be materially better.

Also, in a league with daily transactions and sufficient bench spots, sitting a platooning hitter frees up an active roster spot for another hitter. Consider the following extreme R/L splits in 2014:

Lucas Duda, 1B, New York Mets

AB HR RBI AVG
vs L 111 2 10 .180
vs R 403 28 82 .273

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

AB HR RBI AVG
vs L 80 2 12 .175
vs R 318 16 44 .245

Adam Lind, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

AB HR RBI AVG
vs L 33 0 0 .061
vs R 257 6 40 .354

For all of the players listed above, a platoon should be welcomed. The additional stats provided by being able to roster another hitter, combined with the platooning hitter’s strong side of all of the splits, will create a superior hitter.

Injuries Hurt More Than a Little

First rule, is that all players downplay the severity of any injury. Wheeler and Darvish both said they were fine and not concerned, we all know how those cases ended up. If there are any arm injury concerns, I stay away from that pitcher, or at least include an injury discount to their value. These issues usually find a way to linger or require major surgery.

Starters to discount: Masahiro Tanaka, Tyson Ross, Alex Cobb, and Drew Smyly

A Deep Dive Into the Wins Category

When creating your pitching staff, consider that wins are fairly random and quite tough to predict. A win is not only dependent on the starting pitcher’s performance, but also depends on the fielders, the bullpen, and the hitters for his team. Pitchers with similar peripherals on the same team can have drastically different win totals.

Player GS W L IP K ERA WHIP
Wily Peralta 32 17 11 198.2 154 3.53 1.30
Kyle Lohse 31 13 9 198.1 141 3.54 1.15
Yovani Gallardo 32 8 11 192.1 146 3.51 1.29
Matt Garza 27 8 8 163.1 126 3.64 1.18
Helpful Articles for Week 1
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The chart above is for the top four pitchers in terms of innings pitched on the Milwaukee Brewers last year. Gallardo’s numbers look very similar to Peralta’s number except for the wins. The large difference could be the fact that Gallardo had an average run support of 3.06, while Peralta had an average run support of 4.03.

They pitched for the same team, yet the same hitters scored nearly one run a game less than for Gallardo. This is tough to predict at the start of the year. Focus on pitchers with a good WHIP and a strong K-BB% and you should be off on the right foot.

Let’s do it all again next week! Until then, enjoy Opening Day!

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

Joakim Soria Photo Credit: Keith Allison

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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?
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