No Pain, No Gain PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 00:00

Negotiations are a tricky thing. If you doubt this, just take a look at Congress.

Furthermore, as a Strat-O-Matic owner in the 70's, I played with the Royals, something I did for five years, giving me an irrational attachment to the Kansas City squad in much the same way I am inexorably tied to the Oakland Raiders. Just being born in Oakland, however, did that to me, as a eight-year old in 1961.

So, I was enjoying, somewhat vicariously, watching the Royals assemble a gaggle of prospects that potentially remind us of those great teams of the late 70's. Kind of like the Raiders were great in at the same time, but over the past 25 years neither franchise has produced more whispers than screams.

Which brings us to the Royals/Rays trade that gave Grantland's Rany Jazayerli fits, as he logically noted in his piece A Royal Blunder. And, though Rany lays out a solid case, I am not so sure.

For though I think it was tough for the Royals to give up their #1 prospect, and the 2012 Minor League Player of the year in Wil Myers, I think they made a move to try and progress, and even win in the best possible manner under the circumstances.

What they got for Myers was James Shields and Wade Davis, two pitchers who help change the complexion of the Kansas City rotation previously "anchored" by Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie, and potentially supported by Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, and Luis Mendoza.

Surely Shields atop that group improves the visibility a lot, and though, as Jazayerli notes, Shields is not an ace, he has functioned as a #1 starter, and has delivered the goods.

Since Tampa has David Price, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson atop their rotation, along with Chris ArcherJeff Niemann and Alex Cobb, the team could spare Shields, much like they could spare Matt Garza. In the interim, the Rays now can fill the slot vacated by the departed B.J. Upton, possibly as soon as 2013.

In addition the Rays got pitcher Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, either of whom could help in the near future, while the Royals have added a stable force atop their rotation (Shields averaged 14-11, 3.89 over 227 innings since joining the Rays rotation in 2006). Further, Shields has been on a contending team for the past five years, and though Santana could claim the same, the former Angel's mean since joining the Anaheim rotation, also in 2006, is not that far off from Shields with 14-12, 4.33 numbers over 214 averaged innings.

The deal is as we all know, that you have to give up something to get something, and whatever else be said, Shields is a bona fide major league starter, something no one else included in the trade has proved to be.

True, Myers could prove to be good. Maybe as good as Upton has been over the past six years with Tampa, however, should the new Ray perform like that, it would likely be a disappointment.

In the mean time the Royals took a step towards establishing themselves with a team that got a little older in the clubhouse and on the field, for with Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon, where exactly was that to come from? If your answer is Billy Butler, no question he can hit, but as a DH, his influence is limited largely to the plate. Meaning yet another rookie presence is probably not the answer in KC this year, just like it was not in Washington last year, or even Tampa just as Shields began to come into his own.

Meaning Shields brings an attitude and expectation of winning that I think will benefit the young Royals, a lot more than adding more promising but still uproven prospects..

The reality to me is a trade is a good trade when each side gives up something of value, gets something of value in return, and then both walk away from the table with both hope and regret.

I think that is what we got. So did the Royals and Jays.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:58
Revere to Phillies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Thursday, 06 December 2012 15:46

The Phillies, having lost both Juan Pierre and Shane Victorino to free agency were hell bent on acquiring a new centerfielder. Earlier in the day they chose Ender Inciarte, but the acquisition of Ben Revere from the Twins supplants that move and increases the odds Inciarte will be returned to the Diamondbacks or traded.

Like Pierre, Revere is a player who fully understands the limits of his talents and plays to maximize them. Completely devoid of power, Revere knows that all too well and consciously pounds the ball into the ground, doing so nearly 70% of the time. Of course, Revere is blessed both with good hand-eye coordination and speed, so that combination allows for a 90+% contact rate and heavy rate of infield and bunt hits. In fact this accounts for about 45% of Revere’s hits last year.

The approach to make contact and utilize speed, however, requires an aggressive approach and reduces Revere’s value as a top of the order hitter. In order to post a worthwhile top of the order OBP, Revere has to hit above .300 (possibly above .310 to post around a .350 OBP meaning the lefty is best left for the 8th slot in the batting order.

For now, the 24-year old is quite capable of being a worthwhile fantasy investment, hitting for average and 40+ steals in contrast to less worthwhile real/sim-league baseball skills.

On the Twins side, they acquire two young pitchers in Vance Worley and Trevor May. Worley, 25, has produced two rather solid back to back seasons for Revere. A former third-round pick, Worley is known for solid command and control (back to back seasons of 3.1 and 3.2 BB/9) while showing an ability to miss bats (8.1 and 7.2 K/9). A .340 batting average on balls in play, however, sabotaged what might have been a possible second sub-4.00 ERA for the righty in 2012. Worley is primarily a ground-ball pitcher who averages around 90 mph on his fastball and mixes a cut-fastball, throwing a curve, slider, and change quite sparingly. There are no readily apparent chinks in the armor at the moment other than the fact that Worley threw just 133 innings last year and will be asked to substantially increase that workload and will need to show durability. Fortunately, Worley’s injury is related to bone chips and is a form of surgery that is typically one that has little or no lasting effect. When the season opens, Worley will have had almost 7 months of recovery time, so all systems should be go.

Trevor  May is a former fourth round pick who is likely to start the season at Triple-A. At 6’5”, 220 pounds, May throws plenty hard and flashes multiple potential plus pitches. However, the righty continues to have issues throwing them with a consistent release and throwing strikes. While May maintains consistently high strikeout rates in the minors, walk rates well into the 4’s continue to derail him. For now May will continue to work as a starter, but may be better suited for a relief role.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 December 2012 07:26
Once in a Lifetime Season? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Todd Zola   
Thursday, 08 November 2012 09:18


As you might expect, Mike Trout was a hot-button topic at the recent First Pitch Arizona Fantasy Baseball Symposium. Let’s cut to the chase as we all agree Trout is in for some regression. The question is how much?

Many pundits, present company included, cite Trout’s exceedingly high BABIP and HR/FB. His .383 BABIP was third amongst all hitters with at least 500 plate appearances. A stellar line drive rate of 22% certainly helped that mark, but .383 is a number that will be hard to repeat. The rookie’s 21.6% HR/FB nestled him just below Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano and just above Chase Headley and Josh Willingham. That’s some pretty lofty company and Trout will be hard-pressed to return to that level next season.

On the flip side, Trout’s K% of 21.8 is pedestrian and his FB% is quite low at 33%. Keeping in mind home runs are hits too, Trout’s average is due for a dip as he is going to get fewer hits on balls in play as well as a drop in homers. The associated production will piggy-back on top of all this, lowering his counting stats across the board. Well, at least the rate of his counting stats will be less; he did miss April so with more games comes more production.

With all that said, here’s the rub. Many analysts will proclaim Trout’s rookie campaign as lucky, citing the above metrics (BABIP and HR/FB). But what if it was not simply luck, but also a very talented player performing at the upper end of his potential? Granted, Trout no doubt enjoyed some good fortune, but the strong possibility exists that his skills fell on the good end of the bell curve. Keep in mind skills are not static, but rather a range. We attempt to prognosticate the midpoint, or most likely occurrence within that range, but it is quite conceivable a player performs better or worse than that mark with no luck involved. His expected skills can fluctuate that much.

With that as a backdrop, I’d like to pose the same question Ron Shandler polled the participants of his Five Year Futures Draft at last weekend’s First Pitch Arizona and that is, do you feel we have seen Trout’s career season? Ron was fairly adamant we had, as were 11 of the panelists. Only one came out and said he believed we have not yet seen Trout’s best season. That person would be this guy.

Here’s the deal. Health permitting, Trout has 12-15 more tries to better his 2012 numbers. I’m not saying 2012 will be anywhere close to his average season. What I am saying is I believe that Trout will in fact enjoy another season as good if not better than his rookie campaign. He’ll also disappoint his fantasy owners a couple of times over the next decade when his skills fall at the lower end of the bell curve of potential or he suffers some ill fortune.

What say you?

Draft & Hold League at Arizona First Pitch PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 10:02
Thanks to the articles posted on the main page by now you know that several of us from Mastersball attended BaseballHQ’s Arizona First Pitch Symposium held in Phoenix this past weekend.

Last year BaseballHQ ran four fantasy leagues for the symposium attendees: two NFBC style Draft&Hold leagues, a Rotisserie Auction league and a Scoresheet Sim league. The draft was Saturday afternoon. So, I jumped at the chance to play in one of the Draft & Hold formats.

The rules are a standard mixed-league 5X5 Rotisserie format with a 50-man roster and no free agent access during the season. The leagues are great fun because, well, other than it’s fantasy baseball (so what’s not to like?), the leagues offer an opportunity to think baseball year-round.

As for the draft, my 2012 squad tanked by August. My downfall started with losing Daniel Hudson for the season. I had made a critical mistake of not drafting a sufficient number of pitchers, especially painful as last season was particularly rough on hurlers. Still, I should have had the proper position players to pitchers ratio for drafts held this early in the season. According to Lord Zola that ratio is 24 arms to 26 position players.

This year my strategy was vengeance. The draft is estimated to be completed by mid to late December. By the time we are done, my plan is to hit Lord Zola's ratio; that is, plenty of pitchers.

On Saturday we completed 23 rounds. I had the 11th pick. The first 10 picks were, in sequence: Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, and Giancarlo Stanton. So, I had no choice but to get  .Albert Pujols

Braun, Cabrera and Trout were the first three picks in all three leagues, although not always in this order. The experts’ consensus is:

  • Ryan Braun: a solid pick
  • Miguel Cabrera: could he have an even better 2013 with V-Mart back?
  • Mike Trout: was 2012 his career year? He is young and in the future he may have other excellent seasons. However, it is highly probable that 2013 will not be as good as 2012.

Here are a few of the experts’ opinions about players who are on my team that I drafted Saturday as discussed at Arizona First Pitch:

  • Albert Pujols: he may have learned American League by now and may not have another slow start.
  • Nick Markakis: he is healthy; due to his late season injury he was available in the 12 round.
  • Jesus Montero: Yasmani Grandal : I wanted the up-and-coming Padres Yasmani Grandal, but wound up with Montero. After the draft I heard experts praising Montero. Did I luck out?
  • Desmond Jennings: he did not have a stellar 2012, but everyone is high on him (drafted in the 5th round).
  • Justin Verlander: I drafted him in the second round: I must point out that in the other two leagues Clayton Kershaw went before him.

I would say that the most difficult aspect of an early draft is remembering player eligibility. There are no sites that I am aware of with eligibility updated for 2013 as of yet and a bunch of players had acquired new or lost their 2012 or even their traditional eligibility. For example, Edwin Encarnacion qualifies at 1B and OF and not at 3B anymore.

Should you have an early draft and need standard player eligibility for 2013 send me an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I will reply with an updated spreadsheet.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 11:57
Royal Gamble PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Thursday, 01 November 2012 09:29

So, things were getting down to the deadline and the Angels had to decide “do we pay Ervin Santana $13 M or buy out his contract for a $1M after producing an ERA above 5.00?” With Garrett Richards pushing for a rotation spot, cutting Santana was probably going to be an easy decision for the Angels.

Instead, the Royals swooped in and said “Wait! Pick his option! We’ll pay for it minus the $1 M buyout fee and for doing us this favor we’ll give you a prospect to boot out of gratitude.”  That does not seem like much of an exaggeration, if one, at all.

Rather than have to battle other teams on the free agent market for Santana’s services, a contest the Royals were likely to lose, they snapped the righty up. At first glance, the move feels like a hostage situation. Yes, one in which Santana gets a $13 M payday, but the move feels like an almost desperate act.

But then again, teams in the Royals situation, to compete with the payrolls of teams like the Angels, have to resort to desperate acts and it makes the move actually feel somewhat brilliant given a chance to reflect.

The Royals have to find some way to actually add veteran talent to their roster and even though the actual price tag for Santana is a heavy one, it was an effective means of getting other team’s leftovers at cost of a single prospect, Brandon Sisk. Sisk, for what it’s worth, is a 27-year old left-handed reliever who has spent the past two seasons in Triple-A and at best could help the Angels in middle relief as a specialist.

The Royals had apparently coveted Santana for some time and trusted their scouting reports. The 29-year old’s velocity is down a little, but metrically the numbers are all rather consistent and lining up well with the context of his career. (6.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9) and there have been no radical changes to where batters hit the ball. In fact, Santana had produced one of the lowest BABIPs of career (.241) and is likely to regress in that department. The damage was done with the long ball and comes up glaringly in a 19% HR/FB compared to a career 10.8% mark. Given all of the data it looks like a command or perhaps a concentration issue that given past results can be resolved. The skills and talents for a sub-4.00 ERA are still there.

The Royals now feature a more competitive 2013 rotation of Santana, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, and Chris Volstad with Jake Odorizzi and Will Smith heading back to Triple-A.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2012 09:46
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