Monday, April 11, 2011

Biggest Surprises on my Teams (Experts League Edition)

Both of my ottoneu teams are middling in their leagues right now, which means I have to do one of two things - either improve and move into the money or take a step back and start to rebuild. One thing I like to do every year when trying to evaluate early results is look at who has really surprised me - both positively and negatively - so far. If I think the happy surprises are flukes and the less happy ones not...well...that isn't good. If, on the other hand, the positive surprises are potentially legit...maybe things will turn around with time.

Since I haven't done much analysis of the original ottoneu league here, I'll start with the experts' league.

Positive Surprises
Asdrubal Cabrera - This is a dangerous surprise for me because, as an Indians fan, I want SO BADLY to believe that this is legit, the never-doubted culmination of the development of a terrific young player the Indians stole from the Mariners. I want to believe that Cabrera can turn into the infield equivalent of the other loot the Tribe stole from Seattle - Shin-Soo Choo.

The first place I look when a hitter is surprising me is at BABIP, K% and BB%, just to see if anything is immediately glaring. Cabrera does have a .346 BABIP, but he is at .332 for his career and there was nothing even before the year to suggest that wouldn't continue. Even if that number regresses, he's still doing a-ok. And his K% and BB% are oddly much worse than his career averages (26.3% vs. 18.2% and 4.8% vs. 8.1%) suggesting that even as his BABIP comes down, his batting average could stay somewhat steady and his OBP could even go up as he walks more and strikes out less.

Taking another step deeper, it is clear that the big jump he has this year in power (which shows up in his ISO) is a result of a sky-high 27.3% HR/FB rate, about five times higher than his career rate of 5.6%. His LD rate is up, GB rate is down, and FB rate is up as well.  All of this adds up to more hits and a lot more HR.

So the pessimists view would be that his HR/FB coming down (a lot) will sap his power, drop his BABIP and bring down basically all his stats. But I think there is some room for optimism. While his LD rate is up, it is basically following a trajectory started in 2007 (ignoring 2010 for a moment, his numbers are 19.7%, 20.9%, 22.0%, 24.1%) and there is no reason to think that he may not be simply continuing to develop (he won't turn 26 until after the season).

My best guess is that Cabrera's SLG will drop a lot and he will not keep up the 50 HR pace (I think that is a safe bet, actually), but that he will improve on the OBP and still have a good shot to put up career bests in terms of power. Do I think he is suddenly a superstar SS? No. But I am quite happy to have him on my roster and perfectly comfortable with him as a starter.

J.P. Arencibia - The .333 BABIP immediately looks way too high for a catcher who sat closer to .300 in the  minors, so from the get-go, there is a good sign that he should fall back a bit. Of course his OPS is over 1400, so he could fall back an awfully long way without losing value. His walk and k-rates are both much better than they were ever before, including his minor league career, so this might be another sign of a step back. In terms of batted balls, he has traded off some GB for FB (likely a smart decision, if it was a decision) but that is about it. Nothing spectacular there.

Of course Arencibia is even younger than Cabrera (by about two months) and may also be experiencing growth rather than a fluke. This is a guy who has raked at every level in the minor leagues and while I don't think there is any chance he can keep his K% down and his BB% up like he has, there is no reason to think that a slight shift in his batted ball numbers and a bit of a jump in HR/FB aren't legit. Personally, I think Arencibia is going to struggle a bit this year - we'll see flashes of what we've seen so far, but we'll also see that BABIP come down, the strike outs jump up, and the overall numbers take a dip.

But I also think he has an awfully bright future and he sits in an interesting position on my team. I have Brian McCann for $33 and Jesus Montero for $13, meaning my present and future at catcher are quite strong. The question I have to answer is do I believe in J.P. enough to move McCann now or to use Montero as an asset to add a much needed bat? Or do I determine I just don't need a guy between McCann and Montero and move Arencibia while his value is up?  For now, I think I'd rather keep the youth and so I will probably put McCann out there for trades if Arencibia has another good week or two (or if Montero gets the call).

Negative Surprises
Carlos Pena - Maybe I should give him a pass due to having only played seven games, but I had high, high hopes for this guy. And a 42.9% K% was not part of that. His BB% is good, maybe even a bit high, but when you strike out in almost half your at-bats, even a lot of walks won't save you. Honestly, I am not sure there is much else worth analyzing here. His batted ball rates are fine (the 0% HR/FB is not, but as soon as he hits his first, that will improve a lot since he has only 8 fly balls) but they are pretty useless since the guy has only put 13 balls in play in while striking out nine times.

I am going to assume this is pure small sample size and not a situation where Carlos suddenly forgot how to make contact (I mean, he always struck out a lot but my goodness this is terrible). But I thought it was insane that I got him for only $8 and now I am wondering if everyone else saw something I didn't. I cannot win without production from Pena, so let's hope this is a short-lived slump...

Ryan Dempster - After 11 years living in the Chicago area, I am picking up and moving to the West Coast in a few short months, and the Cubs appear to be taking their vengeance (cause, you know, baseball players do things like suck purely to piss off random people moving out of their city).  Actually, Dempster hasn't really sucked. Despite being the anchor weighing down my starting pitching, Dempster has 13 K's in 13.2 innings, a career low BB/9, normal HR/FB and GB rates - but a .341 BABIP and a 52.3% LOB rate. All of that adds up to some extremely bad luck and an xFIP of 3.50, more than 3.00 below his ERA. Tonight he gets Houston and I imagine the BABIP will come down, the LOB will go up and the ERA will move towards the xFIP.

Of course Halladay and Weaver won't continue to be AS GOOD as they have been, but Dempster should more than make up for that as his luck balances out.

Nothing earth-shattering here (as there shouldn't be two weeks into the season), but there is some reason for optimism. I think Cabrera and Arencibia are both break-out candidates (which is why I went after them in the first place), and while they won't maintain their early season dominance, they should continue to provide far more value than what I am paying for. Pena makes me nervous, as he is almost 33 and could easily be in for a quick, early collapse, but I think he will be fine this year - maybe not great, but he'll hit for the power he needs to hit for, once he starts making contact at a more typical rate. And Dempster is just going through some bad luck, which hopefully corrects itself tonight.

Next Steps
Explore the catcher trade market and see what might be out there for McCann. May need some MI help - if I can bump Cabrera down from being my best MI to being my second or third best, it would make a big difference. Track Pena closely and do not hesitate to jump on a 1B bat if I can get one. Thome isn't a great option at Util anyway, so if I go after a 1B bat and Pena bounces back, I can always start them both.


  1. I definitely am interested in seeing these value propositions. I'm firmly in the camp that you should convert McCann or Arencibia into a middle infielder of some kind - Cabrera's hot start notwithstanding. Given how much you're paying McCann - I'd try to get something in return for him rather than the affordable Arencibia / Montero combo.

    How are 1Bs on the free agent wire? Are guys like Ka'aihue / Daric Barton still about? One of those guys that projects to have a reasonable avg. might make for a nice caddy for Carlos Pena.

    Anyways, thanks for the update!

  2. The top 1B's available (as sorted by ottoneu fantasy points, which seems as good a metric to sort on as any) are Overbay, Giambi, and Nady. Allen Craig, Juan Miranda and Garrett Jones are other notable names. Kila went for $4 at auction, but at that point I didn't have enough to bid $4 for him. After landing Pena, my hope was to tie up Kila and Hosmer, but I thought I could steal Kila for less than $4 considering Pena only went for $8. Barton is owned for $1.

  3. Speaking of Kila and Hosmer, what is your reading on that situation? Do you expect the Royals to let Kila sink or swim all this year and leave Hosmer down or do you see them making a change if the Kila Monster continues to struggle through May?

    I have both Hosmer ($7) and Kila ($1), as well as Billy Butler ($12), so the Royals 1B/DH situation interests me greatly.

  4. I am hardly an expert, but considering the Royals' treatment of Kila in the past (he is just getting his first real shot despite MiLB success and he is already 27), I get the sense that the Royals don't believe he is the future. Hosmer, on the other hand, appears to be a star in the making and has been moved up aggressively. That said, he is not even 22 so there is no rush to bring him up. If he absolutely crushes AAA, he probably gets a call, but my guess is he gets a cup of coffee this year more than a real shot, and takes over full-time in 2012. Pretty sure Butler is secure in his spot, though. I'd say your best case is that Hosmer breaks down the door to KC, Kila produces and the Royals trade him, allowing you to hold both. But more likely is that Kila becomes a full-time backup/pinch hitter in 2012.