Friday, May 2, 2008

Stats of the Day: All Star Balloting Begins has made their online ballot available for the 2008 All Star Game. Today I'm looking at some surprise players who could be making appearances in the game this year and who you should consider when voting.

AL Second Basemen
Ian Kinsler


Ian Kinsler is on pace to be the best second basemen in the AL this year and after an impressive showing last year in limited ABs there should be little doubt about what this guy can do in the majors. He probably isn't a .300 hitter due to his strikeouts, but the power and speed are there and he has come charging out of the gate. I think Kinsler is for real and could end up comparable to Brandon Phillips, who was drafted much earlier, at the end of the season.

AL Third Basemen
Joe Crede

Joe Crede has come back to earth a bit after a hot start, but looking at his 2006 numbers we can see his upside. With all the talent at third base this year he may not end up an All-Star, but after spotting himself 7 homers in April he may reach 30 and have a season similar to 2006 where he had 30 homers with a .283 average.

AL Outfielders
Josh Hamilton


Josh Hamilton
has been an offensive force this year with a grand slam last night furthering his major league RBI lead. Hamilton is new to the AL, so pitchers may have yet to figure him out, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. If Hamilton is going to slump it's probably not going to happen until the second half as more teams see him. Enjoy the ride for now.

Carlos Quentin

Check out Carlos Quentin's K/BB ratio when asking if he is for real. I think he should be a serious consideration for an All-Star and he should remain a good offensive player if he continues seeing the ball this well.

NL Shortstops
Rafael Furcal

If it wasn't for Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Furcal may be the best SS in the league right now. Not bad for a guy who was drafted long after Hanley, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins were gone. He is no doubt an excellent offensive player and is still only 30 years old.

NL Catchers
Geovany Soto

Geovany Soto has been the best offensive catcher in baseball to date, but he is also the most likely on this list so far to fall back to Earth at some point. His time in the majors has been short and he strikes out enough to fall into a slump at some point. His average probably won't end up at .300, but the power is legit.

NL Outfielders
Xavier Nady

Xavier Nady is leading the NL in RBIs in the middle of the Pirates offense. He also strikes out enough to probably not end up at .300, but at this point in the season he is deserving of some All-Star votes. He isn't scoring a lot of runs due to batting fifth with nobody to drive him in, but the RBIs are for real as long as the rest of the lineup keeps hitting in front of him.

Nate McLouth

Another Pirate having an impressive season so far, Nate McLouth might be the breakout player of the year. His batting eye has been great and he is crushing the ball. There were some fears he may slump after his hitting streak came to an end, but he has kept on hitting and looks to be for real. If this keeps up the Pirates could have a very good outfield for a few years to come.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stats of the Day: Rookies Get Rocked

Ok, one of these guys isn't a rookie, but it sounded good.

Cueto (L, 1-3)1.28761205.40

Johnny Cueto lit up the majors in his first two starts, totaling 18 strikeouts and no walks in 13 1/3 innings. Since then he has fallen back to earth and inflated his ERA to 5.40 after a disastrous start last night against the Cardinals.

The main issue in Cueto's latest breakdown was control. He was up to 55 pitches in under two innings, partially aided by 2 errors in the field, and often reached full counts against opposing hitters. Cueto missed on a few pitches which ended up over the heart of the plate and turned into hits. His lack of early control also had him relying heavily on his fastball, which the Cardinals feasted upon.

We know Cueto can be great, but the fact is he is still only 22 years old and this is the kind of inconsistency that comes with a young pitcher. Expectations were high after his first two starts, but this kid isn't going to win the Cy Young this year. Cueto owners may be growing impatient so it might actually be a good time to buy low if you can.

Hughes (L, 0-4)3.28663229.00

While Johnny Cueto has put together some impressive starts so far this year, we're still waiting on Phil Hughes to do so. His best start to date was on April 3rd when he pitched 6 innings, struck out 4, and gave up 2 runs. Since then he has failed to make it through the 6th inning again.

Hughes big problem has been efficiency and just being flat out hittable. He reached 87 pitches in 3 innings in one start, 65 in 2 innings in another, and racked up 82 pitches last night. So far he has given up 34 hits in 22 innings and things don't seem to be getting any better. Like Cueto, he has missed pitches right down the middle of the plate, resulting in home runs by Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield.

Phil Hughes seems to have bigger issues this year, though his stuff hasn't been bad by any means. With a 13/13 K/BB ratio he has some control issues that need to be corrected soon as he is vital to the Yankees chances in 2008.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stats of the Day: Sleepers Getting It Done

This is the time of year when former sleepers begin hitting waiver wires. We all want the guy we picked to blow up right out of the gate, but if you did that last year you would have missed out a guy like Dustin Pedroia, who turned in a great year. Of course, for every Dustin Pedroia there is a Josh Barfield. Just remember to look deeper than the surface stats to see if guys are hitting poorly or just getting unlucky before cutting them.

Encarnacion, 3B4022003.298

Edwin Encarnacion found himself being cut heavily early on in the year after hitting .083 through April 8th, but he has turned it on and is hitting .371 since. He's also racking up doubles and home runs, with another two doubles yesterday. Is this the breakout we've been expecting for so long?

Edwin is hitting for power and making great contact with a 13/13 K/BB ratio. If this plate discipline he's displaying is for real he definitely has the power and ballpark to keep things going strong. He will certainly have plenty of RBI opportunities with Adam Dunn's high OBP in front of him in the lineup if he sticks in the fifth spot.

Topping out at 16 home runs in his career, this could finally be the year Edwin busts out and hits 25 or more. He's now 25 years old and if Dusty Baker truly believes in him as much as he seems to then you can expect big things this year.

Quentin, LF4131100.312

Carlos Quentin was more of a deep sleeper this year as he fought through spring for a starting job. However, an injury to Jerry Owens has apparently opened the eyes of the White Sox and fantasy owners alike and Quentin may not be giving up this job anytime soon.

The tandem of Chris Young and Carlos Quentin were favorite sleepers for a few years in Arizona. Now Young has established himself as a regular player, but it apparently took a trade after some injury plagued years for Quentin to start hitting.

Still only 24 years old, Quentin has a good minor league track record, hitting 21 homers in 2005 in AAA along with a .300 average. Throughout his career in the minors he kept his K/BB ratio pretty even, walking as often as he struck out. He's obviously got a good batting eye and some power potential, and with that comes the upside for a solid batting average.

If Quentin does slump at some point in the year the White Sox have other options in the OF, so he needs to continue hitting to establish himself now. I wouldn't be hesitant to sell high on him because of this, but I think he will be a valuable player throughout the year as he comes of age. He has the track record in the minors and solid skills to succeed in the majors and now he has a full time job.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stats of the Day: Rays Sweep Sox

The April standings are still playing tricks on us with the Rays atop the AL East, but as May draws nearer their hot start might start giving some legitimacy to a very talented young team who is finally getting help from their pitchers.

Shields (W, 3-1)9.02001702.54

James Shields flat out dominated the Red Sox on Sunday in a game I was lucky enough to attend. I've always been a Sox fan, but with me fantasy often comes first and I was rooting on every strikeout Shields racked up as he cruised his way to a 2-hit complete game shutout of an ailing offense.

Shields was a personal favorite target of mine this offseason. Even after his breakout last year in 2007 he was tremendously undervalued in most drafts at the start of the season. His command was phenomenal last year when he finished with 184/36 K/BB ratio and has started off the year with 28 strikeouts to 9 walks. He gave up 28 bombs last year, but has only given up 2 in 39 innings so far in 2008. If he can keep his walks down and continue to lower his home runs allowed he could actually improve on his 3.85 ERA from 2007.

Scott Kazmir is scheduled to come off the DL this weekend, so Shields time as staff ace may be short lived, but he will end up as one of the best #2 starters in the AL as the Rays look to finish over .500 for the first time.

Volquez (W, 4-0)7.051131001.23

Throughout spring Edinson Volquez showed some remarkable skills with a stellar K/BB ratio and no home runs allowed. I warned up his flyball tendencies and history of control issues, but none of those have been evident so far this year. In fact, Volquez has been inducing a ton of ground balls. So far this year he has a 57% GB/FB ratio... those are Chien-Ming Wang numbers.

Volquez is still walking a lot of hitters, but if his new found groundball skill is for real then combined with his high strikeout ratios he can survive in any park, even Great American. If the home runs stay away then even the high number of walks aren't going to hurt him other than not letting him go very deep into games. Some owners may be selling high on Edinson after this start, but he might be worth buying into if he keeps this up.

Sabathia (L, 1-4)8.04111817.88

C.C. Sabathia's re-emergence continues. He takes a tough loss here against the Yankees, but everything points to him getting things back together. The time to buy low is over, but with his early struggles and huge innings totals last year I still wouldn't hesitate to sell on him. Let someone else believe he will be Cy Young from here on out if they will pay for it... there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about his health.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stats of the Day: Outfielders Heating Up

Those cold bats are finally starting to heat up around the league. Now if only Ryan Howard and Robinson Cano could stop killing my fantasy teams...

Willingham, LF4134001.329

Josh Willingham has remained hot over the past two weeks, seemingly have a multi-hit game every other day. He's not quite at the level of Chipper Jones or Chase Utley, but I bet you got him for much cheaper than those guys.

Willingham is 29 years old, so don't think he is suddenly going to blossom into an MVP candidate this year. This is a player in his peak years, but he has pretty well established what he can do in the majors to this point. A peak in power is a possibility though, with him currently slugging .659. You might want to bump up your home run projections for him, but the average should end up around .280 still.

Jones, CF4033000.270

Adam Jones finally had a big game to bring his average back up to respectable levels. There was a lot of buzz on Jones over spring when he was included in the Erik Bedard deal. He's still only 22 years old, but has the skills to succeed some day. I wouldn't put a lot of eggs in this basket, but in a deep league he might be worth grabbing down the road since he should be able to put together a hot month or two. Keep an eye on him to see if he gets hot now or if this was just a one game aberration.

Pence, RF4120002.268

Hunter Pence had a rough start to the year, but sometime between hanging out in hot tubs and playing World of Warcraft he decided to show up to the park. His current hot streak has him making an occasional appearance in the leadoff spot as he continues to crank out extra base hits. Hopefully this is the start of a great year for Pence, but the jury remains out on whether or not he can match last year's stellar numbers.

Granderson, CF4111102.375

Not the most impressive line score, but Curtis Granderson hit a home run on cue last night after I questioned his ability to hit for power following a finger injury. It's also good to see him taking walks in his first few games back without striking out. The Tigers lineup and fantasy teams are happy to have him back.

Lee (W, 4-0)9.03000900.28

A complete game, 3 hit shutout for Cliff Lee. I don't think anybody has a real explanation of what has gone on with Cliff, although he has faced some weaker lineups between Oakland and Kansas City. His next start is scheduled to be against Seattle, conveniently missing the entire series against the Yankees. With that kind of luck he could keep putting up great numbers for a while, but expect him to get hit around sooner or later when he faces better teams.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stats of the Day: Igniting the Offense

A bit of an unplanned day off to the blog yesterday. Never got the chance to sit down long enough to type up an entry. Sorry to those who were looking for it!

Between Tuesday and Wednesday's games there were two leadoff men igniting their teams' offense. Jacoby Ellsbury kept the Sox in the game even though Josh Beckett was out and Curtis Granderson sparked the biggest offensive day of the year for the Tigers, getting on base four times. It's like I said all along: all that offense was missing was Granderson.

Granderson, CF4322202.500

Granderson picked up right where he left off last year, picking up two hits along with two RBIs and three runs scored. He was a huge surprise contributor to the Tigers last season and after a DL stint he is back at the top of the lineup.

While Granderson did strikeout a lot for a leadoff hitter last year, his other skills more than made up for it. He probably won't hit .300 again but I could see him being close. The real thing to watch is his power. After breaking his finger this spring he needs to show he has no lingering effects and is able to hit doubles, triples, and home runs like he did last year. That was a huge part of his game, so if he continues putting up singles he might not be the same player he was until he heals completely.

Ellsbury, CF5332003.308

The savior of Red Sox Nation and fantasy teams alike, Jacoby Ellsbury came through big Tuesday night with two home runs after stealing four bases in his previous two games. Fantasy owners were hesitant to draft him due to Coco Crisp's apparent starting job in center, but Coco's hamstring injury has opened up playing time for Ellsbury.

Since being the starter in center field Jacoby has gone 10 for 32 with eleven runs scored and six stolen bases. Coco will probably challenge for playing time once he is healthy, but the Sox can't keep Ellsbury out of the lineup much. The only real issue here is that while Coco Crisp has been mentioned in numerous trade talks, his leg issues have likely kept teams at bay. With Crisp still on the team Jacoby won't show his true potential, but it's clear he's ready for The Show.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stats of the Day: Tale of Two Shortstops

Shorter commentary today because I am having such a busy day at work. Yes, I don't do this professionally... just out of sheer joy. On with some updates along with some quick hits ("infield singles") at the end that I might keep going through the year.

Tejada, SS5343000.342

Lugo, SS4241100.314

Miguel Tejada and Julio Lugo had big days yesterday, both collecting four hits. I was skeptical of Tejada this year in Houston due to all the issues surrounding him that could affect him mentally, but fresh off declaring his true age to the world he has continued to rake. I might change my opinion of Tejada if he keeps this up, but I still wouldn't be targetting him in a keeper league.

Julio Lugo underperformed last year and while I don't think he is a .300 hitter this year he should prove useful as the Red Sox seem to not mind playing a little small-ball at the end of the lineup with Lugo, Coco Crisp (still out with a sore hamstring, I don't know if he is ever going to get traded), and Jacoby Ellsbury. Lugo's power has all but disappeared, but he will rack up some steals and runs for you and might be the AL version of Ryan Theriot. I actually like Theriot a little more this year, although Lugo probably went first in mixed league drafts.

Zambrano (W, 3-1)7.05112402.67

Carlos Zambrano picked up the win and looked very composed and dominant at times in this game, though it might not show in his final stat line. On the ESPN Broadcast of this game Orel Hershiser mentioned how he has calmed down some, possibly due to the Cubs curtailing his excessive use of caffeine and energy drinks. There might actually be something to that as his performance this year has been encouraging.

Infield Singles

Hamilton, CF5022022.305

Josh Hamilton keeps on hitting for the Rangers and continues making those who drafted him as a top 25 outfielder look good. He's doing this with good contact and power, so don't start thinking of selling high. He can hit some home runs and maintain a good average for you.

Burrell, LF4132000.364

Pat Burrell is the poster boy for selling high. He's still striking out plenty and he isn't going to be hitting like this all season. 40% of his batted balls are falling in for hits, not at all sustainable. Let someone else believe he can have an MVP year, I know I heard some of the announcers on ESPN last night thinking he could. If you happen to be in a league with them, congratulations, make a trade!

Villanueva 7.03224105.09

Carlos Villanueva didn't exactly stink up the joint, but his four walks to one strikeout wasn't a shining performance with his rotation spot possibly on the line. Look at Manny Parra's outing today; whoever pitches worse may find themselves in the minors.