The first few games of the 2015 season have brought the usual surprising starts and great plays.
Spoiler alert: Adrian Gonzalez will not challenge Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record and the Kansas City Royals will not become the first team to go 162-0. Small sample sizes can create excitement and overreaction, but digging deeper beneath the surface allows us to uncover the true trends.
This week we will look at the bullpen in Colorado. Luck and opportunity comes into focus as we look at a couple of hitters who should improve on last year’s stats.
Then we will analyze the bad luck that has fallen upon three starting pitchers.
Next, we will cover some of the players due back from injury this week. We will finish off with a deep dive into the debate over Wins and Quality Starts.
Closer News in Colorado
News came out on Monday from Walt Weiss saying that Latroy Hawkins will be getting a break from the closer role. Hawkins owns horrific ratios and has blown two of his three save chances.
During Spring Training, Weiss stated that Adam Ottavino has “back-end-of-the-game stuff.”
On Tuesday, Ottavino recorded the save by striking out the side. After that game, Weiss announced Ottavino as the new closer. Let’s take a look at some of Ottavino’s numbers.
Ottavino had a very strong 2014 campaign. He increased his strikeout rate, decreased his walk rate, and increased his velocity by almost three MPH. He even appeared to be unlucky given the inflated BABIP, especially when you look at his LD%. He has been even better so far in 2015, tossing 5.1 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts, while only allowing one hit and one walk.
On top of all of this, his velocity is up another 1.5 MPH, up to a career-high 96 MPH. The one negative is that Ottavino has had trouble with lefties, as you can see in the chart below.
Despite the split issue, I believe that Ottavino will grab the closer role and run away with it. The other options, John Axford and Rafael Betancourt, both have closer experience, but they are clearly inferior pitchers.
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) April 15, 2015
Hitters: Granderson and Lind?
Curtis Granderson had a tough year in 2014, especially when you look at his batting average of .227. This was the result of an unlucky BABIP of .265 vs a career BABIP of .299. He managed to cut down his strikeout rate from over 28% in the previous two years down to under 22% last year.
Granderson achieved this while slightly increasing his walk rate from 11% the previous two years up to 12 % last year. This year, in his first seven games, all from the leadoff spot, Granderson has only recorded three hits; however, he does have 10 walks against only three strikeouts.
According to a study by Todd Zola, over an entire season, the leadoff hitter will have roughly 70 more plate appearances than the hitter that bats fifth. Granderson’s counting stats, especially his runs total, will benefit from his new home atop of the Mets lineup.
If he can maintain this new found batting eye that started last year, I believe that he will hit closer to .250 and provide 25 homers and double-digit stolen bases, along with 80+ runs. Buy low opportunity.
Curtis Granderson has hit line drives on 27% of the balls he's put in play so far, struck out only 3 times, and yet is 1-18. He'll be fine.
— PastADivingFlores (@_mistermet) April 14, 2015
Adam Lind had a tough 2014, dealing with injuries and bad luck. Now on the Milwaukee Brewers, Lind is looking for a fresh start. The Brew Crew appear to be trying Lind out as an everyday player as he has started every game so far this year, including a game started by a left hander.
Lind has extreme righty/lefty splits; he mashes right-handers, but struggles against the lefties. Last year, Lind had a HR/FB of 7.6%, a far cry from his career average of 14.9%. As he hits in the heart of the lineup, on a decent hitting team in a decent hitters park,
Lind has a good shot at hitting 25 home runs and driving in 80+ runs with a batting average around his career number of .274.
Adam Lind (9 hits) has tied Paul Molitor (1978) & Dave Parker (1990) for the most hits through 5 games as a member of the #Brewers.
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) April 11, 2015
“Slow-Starting” Starting Pitcher on the Rise
Slow starts can occur for a few reasons; sometimes it is all just about bad luck. If you look at the 2015 BABIP against “leaders”, two surprising names pop out. Madison Bumgarner ranks third and Clayton Kershaw ranks fourth. By no surprise, this has resulted in poor stats for both of these pitching studs.
|Player||2015 BABIP||Career BABIP||2015 Velocity||Career Velocity||2015 ERA||Career ERA|
Both Kershaw and Bumgarner have a reasonable K/BB ratio and their LD% allowed is not extreme. They will both be fine, do not over react. Small sample sizes lead to deceiving results all of the time.
Brandon McCarthy, now on the Los Angeles Dodgers, was a player that I forecasted as being undervalued heading into 2015. This was based on regression of bad luck, a solid K/BB ratio, and increased velocity.
Well, so far this year in 12 innings he has 19 strikeouts against only one walk. Yet, he has allowed six home runs, due to an unsustainably high HR/FB ratio of 50%. Basically flip a coin of any fly-ball allowed, homer or no homer.
On top of all of this, all of his velocity gains from 2014 have not only held, they have slightly increased again this year. Absent the home runs allowed, McCarthy has looked quite good. Snag him while you still can.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) April 14, 2015
Coming Off the Shelf: Return From Injury
A few significant players should be returning this week.
Garrett Richards is very close to returning from last year’s knee injury. It could be sometime before this week is out. With pitchers, arm injuries tend to linger and are much more worrisome.
Richards had a breakout year in 2014 and his draft stock was depressed this year due to starting the year on the disabled list. This may be your last chance to pick up a potential top 20 starter on the cheap.
— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) April 15, 2015
Michael Saunders’ time with the Blue Jays got off to an unlucky start. A spring training sprinkler incident resulted in knee surgery. He is now on the verge of a return. He should be the everyday left fielder especially given that he has no real split difference against righties or lefties. Saunders makes a decent disabled list stash. His power/speed abilities should greatly benefit being in a loaded Blue Jays lineup and moving from Safeco into the hitter haven at the Rogers Centre.
Homer Bailey is set to return this Saturday and the Cincinnati Reds optioned Rasiel Iglesias to Triple A to make room. Bailey is recovering from a forearm injury. I am much more skeptical of Bailey’s successful return when compared to Richards, since he is dealing with an arm injury.
Time will tell, however, Bailey is not a guy I am targeting until I have seen more.
Deep Diving Into Wins and Quality Starts
There is a constant debate of which pitcher stat to use in a typical Rotisserie league: Wins or Quality Starts. Let’s take a deeper look into some of the pros and cons for both of them.
Winning is the name of the game in any sport, you play to win. However, in Fantasy Baseball, things are not as clear. A starting pitcher’s win is dependent on a variety of factors, including his performance, his team’s fielders, his team’s hitters, and his team’s bullpen. The fact that a starting pitcher can get shelled and achieve a win, but a starter can pitch a gem and not achieve a win, does not seem appropriate.
Also, relievers can pick up wins if they enter the game at the right time. To me, the worst win is awarded to a closer that enters the game, blows the save, but is then bailed out by his hitters.
Quality starts are awarded if a starting pitcher throws six or more innings by allowing three earned runs or less. The team’s bullpen and hitters do not have any real impact on a quality start.
People who argue against using the quality start statistic point to the fact the three earned runs allowed over six innings (the worst case scenario) results in an ERA of 4.50. This is true; however, there are plenty more unsightly lines achieved by winning pitchers all the time.
|Top 20 wins||210||17||9||191||2.91||1.11||8.09||1.94|
|Top 20 QS||217||15||10||208||2.82||1.12||8.63||2.30|
The chart above shows the 2014 average statistics of the top 20 pitchers for both wins and quality starts. As you can see, the averages are almost the same. Both stats include a pitcher that few would call an elite starter. I am looking at you Wily Peralta (tied for eighth in wins) and Aaron Harang (tied for sixth in quality starts).
I prefer quality starts since only starters can record a quality start, where as any pitcher can record a win. Relievers have their own stat, saves, so a starter-only stat only seems fair.
Either way, the top pitchers should be on both lists. I enjoy the clarity and independence of the quality start statistic. The win statistic is affected by too many variables that are beyond the pitcher’s control.
Remember, do not overreact — teams have played under 5% of their schedule to date. Take advantage of the impatient owners out there — use the small sample size impressions to your benefit. Until next week, enjoy the games.
Photo Credit: SLGCKGC
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