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Archive for the tag “Max Scherzer”

Baseball, Strange But True (Or, The Sleep of Reason Creates Monsters)

I’ve always been a sucker for the Strange but True tales, wherever I can find them.  It all began with a weird book my father used to own (first published in 1973) called, “Wisconsin Death Trip.” Also, (to my nine-year old sensibilities) the paintings of Goya, (particularly “Saturn Devouring His Son,“) would both fascinate and terrify me as well.

"The sleep of Reason creates monsters&quo...

“The sleep of Reason creates monsters”, etching and aquatint by Francisco Goya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So whenever I come across even marginally interesting baseball flotsam, I indulge myself like Miguel Cabrera sitting on a 3-2 pitch from Josh Tomlin with the bases loaded.

Here are a few things I’d like to share with you.

1)  Lawrence Dolan, (net worth, 3 billion dollars) of Clan Dolan, purchased the Cleveland Indians in the year 2000 for $323 million dollars.  Since then, the Indians have finished above .500 just twice over the past eleven seasons.  Attendance at Indians home games has gone from #1 (3.5 million fans per year) when he bought the team to near the bottom of the league (about 1.5 million fans per year) under his tenure.

Meanwhile, the value of the Cleveland Indians franchise, even despite the major recession and the poor on-field performance, has actually increased from $323 million to the current (Forbes) estimate of $353 million.

Which just goes to show, if you are filthy rich in America, remarkable incompetence is generally rewarded just as handsomely as is occasional, skillful management.

Joey Votto

Joey Votto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto went through the entire 2010 baseball season without once hitting an infield pop-up.  In 2011, he hit an infield pop-up just once.  Also, through July of 2012, Votto had pulled just one ball foul in his entire career.  What does all that mean?  It means the man simply never misses his pitch.

In 2012, despite missing about 50 games, he still led the N.L. in walks with 94, and in on-base percentage for the 3rd straight year.  His unbelievable .474 on-base percentage means, of course, that he gets on base nearly one time for every two plate appearances.

Those are numbers normally compiled by Little League All-Stars, or by guys named Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, or Babe Ruth.

2010-02-19 #18 Max Scherzer

2010-02-19 #18 Max Scherzer (Photo credit: lakelandlocal)

3)  Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers has pretty dominant stuff.  In 2012, he recorded 231 strikeouts in just 187.2 innings pitched.  He posted a 16-7 record, and has now made 133 Major League starts over the past five years.

Somehow, though, Scherzer has never been told that MLB games, unlike Little League contests, last nine innings.  For the 28-year old Scherzer, remarkably, has never pitched a single complete game in his career.

Now, as a former teacher (I don’t like to say, ex-teacher, ’cause that sounds a bit too much like “teacher who was fired for reasons sealed away in a Federal Affidavit,”) I got used to people complaining that “teachers hardly work at all,” apparently referring to the cushy 180-day work schedule “enjoyed” by your typical public school teacher.

Putting aside that we didn’t in fact, A) punch a clock, that we did not get paid for the summer (we could opt to get paid through the summer, but that’s not the same as getting paid for the summer), B)  Most of us showed up at school quite often on our “off” days, and C)  Like cops and firemen, teachers are never really “off-duty.”  Whether shopping at the local grocery store, or a Target, a Staples, etc., or even attending a local museum, most teachers are always, ALWAYS, on the lookout for something they can either purchase, beg or steal for their classrooms.

Which brings us back to Scherzer.  Is it really too much to ask Scherzer to go nine innings just once?  After all, my top salary as a teacher, after 12 years, was about $50,000 (in one of the better paying districts in Maine.)  Max Scherzer earned $117,187.50 per start in 2012.

Also, I completed every one of my starts.

And Scherzer has never had to do after-school detention duty.

4)  In 1997, despite a league-leading 744 plate appearances, Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio did not ground into a single double-play all season.  Now, GIDP is not a stat that has been religiously recorded throughout baseball history.  In fact, before, WWII, it was often not recorded at all.

Yet, with 65+ seasons available to analyze, here’s a short but interesting list of players who cannot make the same claim as Biggio (minimum 400 plate appearances):

1)  Rickey Henderson

2)  Tim Raines

3)  Lou Brock

4)  Maury Wills

5)  Jackie Robinson

6)  Vince Coleman

7)  George Brett

8)  Tony Gwynn

9)  Juan Pierre

10) Dave Lopes

11) Pete Rose

12) Roberto Alomar

13) Eric Davis

14) Barry Larkin

15) Ron LeFlore

Admittedly, a statistic like this is as much an aberration as it is a sign of incredible skill.  But what else can we do but genuflect in the general direction of Houston whenever Biggio’s name is so much as mentioned?

Official Major League Baseball - Close-up Shot

Official Major League Baseball – Close-up Shot (Photo credit: Jason Michael)

5)  Rawlings, the official manufacturer of all baseballs used in the Major Leagues, pays its employees in Costa Rica about $1.50 an hour.  Each employee must be able to hand-stitch one baseball every fifteen minutes, and each employee works an average of 11-12 hours per day.  They are required to meet a minimum quota of 156 balls per week.  This one factory produces well over two million baseballs each year.

A large percentage of the workers in this factory will eventually develop carpel-tunnel syndrome, or other physically debilitating injuries, within two to three years.  They are not allowed to speak to one another during the course of an entire shift, and must ask permission to use the bathroom.  And, of course, any discussion regarding organizing a labor union immediately results in the termination of employees foolish enough to engage in these “secret” discussions, despite the fact that, under Costa Rican law, its citizens do have the legal right to organize.

All of this information has been made available to Major League Baseball, to the Player’s Union, and, of course, has been pointed out to Rawlings, U.S.A.  To this point, none of these entities has shown the slightest bit of interest in the health and welfare of the people who make their multi-billion dollar industry possible.

Perhaps strangest of all, there has never been a Major League baseball player from Costa Rica.

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012: The Pitchers

Here are ten pitchers you should consider putting on your radar for Draft Day, if you haven’t already.

By “sleeper,” I am referring to those pitchers whom I believe will significantly outperform their draft rank / dollar cost on Draft Day.  This does not mean that these pitchers will all have huge seasons, just that they should each produce more bang for your buck than your competitors might expect.

Also, some of these pitchers have already enjoyed very successful seasons, but are perceived to have had a “down” year last year (some of whom actually did.)  There is no reason to believe, however, that any of these pitchers won’t improve at least modestly, if not significantly, in 2012.

In no particular order, then, here they are:

English: Beachy, ready to pounce

Image via Wikipedia

1)  Brandon Beachy:  By this time next year, Beachy could realistically be the #2 starter in the Braves rotation.  Beachy struck out 169 batters in just 141 innings last season, while walking just 46.  He will probably be pushed up around 190 innings, resulting in a little over 200 K’s, an ERA probably in the 3.50 range, a nice WHIP, and double-digit wins.  A solid mid-round pick.

2)  Madison Bumgarner:  A terrible April resulted in Bumgarner being dropped in several fantasy leagues last year, but those who scooped him up in May enjoyed a fine final five months from this young stud.  Still just 22-years old, he gives the Giants three young aces that rival the Phillies rotation.

Bumgarner’s ERA, K’s and WHIP might not trend further down in 2012, but his relatively low win total (13) last year and the deep pool of pitchers available could cause Bumgarmer to be overlooked in some leagues.  Oh, and those 13 wins? Consider that number to be his floor, not his ceiling.

3)  Jordan Zimmerman:  Rotation mate Stephen Strasburg will garner all the attention in 2012 (which is why he is does not appear on this list of sleepers), but Zimmerman’s performance will be key to the National’s overall improvement as a team this year.  And there is little reason to expect to be disappointed by what Zimmerman has to offer.

Just 25-years old, Zimmerman posted an impressive ERA of 3.18 last season, with a WHIP of just 1.15, in 161 innings last season, which was his first full season following Tommy John surgery.  It often takes about two years for a pitcher to completely come back from this surgery, so look for Zimmerman’s strikeout rate to improve a bit this year as well;  he averaged a K per inning in 2009.  Also, he should make around 30 starts or so, which means he should just about double his win total (8) from last season.

English: Derek Holland

Image via Wikipedia

4)  Derek Holland:  After a mediocre first half in which he posted an ERA over 4.00 and a WHIP over 1.40, Holland really matured in the second half last year, posting a 3.21 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP after the All-Star break.  Holland will be no lower than the Rangers’ second best starter this year, and may become their de facto ace.

While his win total (16) might not improve significantly, his strikeout totals should rise while his peripherals should look more like the second-half of last season than the first half.

5)  Jonathon Niese:  Depending on if you utilize an N.L. only or a mixed-league format, this 25-year old Met’s pitcher might not even be drafted on Draft Day in your league.  His high ERA (4.40), and WHIP (1.41) and, of course, the team he pitches for will scare off many potential bidders.

But Niese averaged nearly 8 K’s per nine innings, and three K’s per walk.  Even with the fences being moved in over at Citi Field, Niese’s peripherals point to a declining ERA and WHIP in ’12, and perhaps, with luck, a few more wins.

You could do worse in the late rounds, and some people will.

6)  Neftali Feliz:  Because he is transitioning into the Ranger’s rotation this year after being their closer the past two seasons, many owners will be skeptical that Feliz will be able to make the transition smoothly.

But Feliz has now pitched a combined 162 innings in the Majors over the past three years, nearly the total of many full-time starters.  Turning just 24-years old this May, Feliz should be young enough and healthy enough to be stretched out to an equivalent amount of innings this year.

While you shouldn’t expect many complete games (if any), you are looking at a pitcher who has averaged just 5.4 hits / 9 innings in his career while averaging a strikeout an inning.

More to the point, there is precedent for a closer transitioning successfully back to the starting rotation. In 2001, Derek Lowe saved 24 games for the Red Sox.  The following season, he posted a 21-8 won-loss record, the best of his career.  In 2004, John Smoltz, in his third year as the Braves’ closer, Smoltz saved 44 games.  Transitioning back to the rotation, he posted a 44-24 record over the next three seasons.

Feliz may actually see a drop in his Draft Day status from a year ago because, no longer a known commodity as an elite closer, the uncertainty some owners will feel about his new role will provide savvy owners like yourself the opportunity to acquire him on the cheap.

Max Scherzer

Image via Wikipedia

7)  Max Scherzer:  Scherzer has the stuff to some day approach 200 K’s in a season.  At age 27, that could happen as early as this year.  Although he posted a reasonable number of wins in 2011 (15), his ERA 4.43 and WHIP (1.35) are higher than one would expect, given his background and potential.

His high strikeout rate ( 8 / 9 innings) and relatively low walk rate (2.6 / 9 innings) point to a pitcher who was somewhat unlucky (despite 15 wins) last year.

Look for his ERA to drop under 4.00 this year, and for his WHIP to drop back under 1.30.  He may not win more than 15 games again this year for the Tigers, but his improvement in his other peripherals should help your team with what some owners will view as a surprisingly successful performance out of Scherzer.

8)  John Danks:  After a dismal 2011: 8-12, 4.33, 1.34, lots of owners will be avoiding John Danks (not to mention many other White Sox players.)  But there is no reason to believe that the soon to be 27-year old Danks won’t bounce back to his performance of the previous two seasons, characterized by an ERA around 3.70, 210 innings pitched, 150-160 K’s, and double-digit wins.

Folks, we’re not looking at a staff ace here, but slotted into the number four or five spot in your rotation, you should do just fine.

9)  Brandon Morrow:  Weren’t we here last year?  Yes, many writers, including yours truly, predicted Morrow would have a breakout year in 2011.  The only thing that got broken, however, by those who owned him last year, though, were many fantasy owners team ERA’s and WHIP’s.

Still, Morrow struck out 203 batters last year in just 179 innings, averaging a league-best 10.2 K’s / 9 innings.  Clearly, the stuff is there for Morrow to take the next step up to being a fantasy baseball stud.  And after last season’s debacle (11 wins, 4.72 ERA), many owners will be spooked away from him.  Let him drop as far as you reasonably can, but don’t be afraid to grab him if it becomes clear the other owners are avoiding him like the plague.

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays doing first ...

Image via Wikipedia

10)  David Price:  How does David Price make it onto a sleepers list?  Didn’t he finish 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2010?  Yes, and that’s exactly why he earns the number #10 spot on this list.  The 2011 model of David Price finished the year with a dismal 12-13 record (down from 19-6 in ’10) while pitching for a very good team.  His ERA rose from 2.72 to a more pedestrian 3.49.

Now the good news.  Price actually improved his walk ratio last year from 3.4 down to 2.5 / 9 innings, and his K rate rose slightly from 8.1 to 8.7 / 9 innings as well.  Price should finish the year as one of the top ten pitchers in the Majors, but he might not be drafted as such.  Therefore, if you play your cards right, you could land a #1 level pitcher in a round typically associated with #2 starting pitchers.

Next up in this series, Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012:  The Hitters

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2011: The Pitchers

Tommy Hanson

Image via Wikipedia

The following pitchers are among the players I will target on Draft Day.  The value they will accrue during the course of the season should exceed their relative Draft Day position and / or cost.

Some of these pitchers were a disappointment last season; others were injured.  Pitchers, even more so than hitters, fluctuate dramatically from year to year as far as their production is concerned.  And that’s why your opportunities to discover the pitchers who will be “sleepers” in 2011 are plentiful.

In no particular order, then, here are your fantasy baseball “sleeper” pitchers for 2011:

Brandon Morrow – Blue Jays: There is a damn good chance that Morrow will lead the A.L. in strikeouts this year.  He struck out 178 batters in only 145 innings last year.  Although he might not reach 200 innings pitched this year, he is capable of striking out 200+ batters in 180 innings.  He struck out 17 batters in an August game against Tampa Bay last season, and he is capable of that kind of dominating performance every time he takes the mound.  His ERA was high last year (4.49), but he has just about learned how to pitch.  At 26-years old, he is ready to take the next step forward.

Ian Kennedy – Diamondbacks:  He pitched better than his 9-10 record indicates.  On Draft Day, some of your fellow owners will focus too much on his win-loss record, but that’s how you find your bargains.  Wins tend to be a fickle category.  Case in point:  Kennedy posted a 1.55 ERA in five September starts last year, along with a 0.93 WHIP.  But he was not credited with a single win to reward his performance.  Like Morrow, Kennedy is 26-years old.  Take him in the mid-rounds and reap the benefits.

Max Scherzer – Tigers: Yet another 26-year old future ace.  Scherzer was inconsistent last season, pitching better at home than on the road.  But he improved dramatically as the season went along.  Over his final 15 starts, he posted a 1.14 WHIP and averaged about 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  He throws hard, and if Morrow doesn’t end up leading the A.L. in strikeouts, Scherzer could.  Detroit figures to improve on its .500 record last season, and so, too, should the 12-11 Scherzer.

Francisco Liriano – Twins:  The 27-year old Liriano is now almost three years removed from Tommy John surgery.  His performance last year was solid:  14-10, 191 innings, 201 strikeouts.  But he is capable of doing even better than that.  Could very well land on someone’s fantasy team as a #3 or #4 starter, but is likely to pitch as well as many #1 or #2 starters.  He should break 200 innings this year to go along with 200+ strikeouts and a declining ERA of around 3.25.  What’s not to like?

Tommy Hanson – Braves:  Some observers might believe that Hanson had a somewhat disappointing season last year, as indicated by his 10-11 record.  But few pitchers in baseball were victimized by poor run support and a faulty bullpen as much as Hanson was last year.  Admittedly, he did get pounded in a few of his starts.  But after July 1st, he posted an ERA of 2.40.  You’ve got to love those young pitchers who finish strong.  At just 24 year of age, Hanson is even younger than many of the others on this list.  He is growing into a future ace.  The fifteen wins he should have enjoyed last season are a nice starting place for what you can conservatively expect from Hanson this year, along with about 200 strikeouts and an ERA somewhere between 3.00-3.50.

James McDonald – Pirates:  No, that’s not a typo.  There really is a Pirates pitcher on this list.  So how does a pitcher who was just 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA pitching for one of the very worst teams in baseball qualify as a sleeper?  Because he has averaged a little under a strikeout per inning so far in his brief Major League career, fanning 122 batters over his last 135 innings pitched.  At 26-years old, this former Dodgers prospect is finally receiving an opportunity to display his stuff at the Big League level.  You will be able to land him late in your draft, but he could end up paying dividends at a bargain-basement price.

Jhoulys Chacin – Rockies:  Don’t worry; I don’t know how it’s pronounced either.  What I do know is that, in 21 starts last season, this 23-year old struck out 138 batters in 137 innings, and posted a very impressive 3.21 ERA while calling Coors Field home.  His 61 walks in 137 innings could be cause for some concern, but his raw talent should not be overlooked.  If you find that he is overlooked during your Draft, by all means, grab him.

Jeremy Hellickson – Rays:  Other than perhaps David Price, Hellickson is the most talented pitcher to come out of Tampa Bay’s remarkable farm-system over the past few years. He most certainly has future ace stuff, as his incredible Major League debut revealed last year.  His most impressive stat, just eight walks allowed in his first 36 innings pitched.  He also struck out 33 batters, and averaged over nine K’s per nine innings in Triple A last year.  By 2012, Price and Hellickson could very well be the best 1-2 punch in Major League baseball.

Shawn Marcum – Brewers: At 29-years old, Marcum may be a little older than you think.  But that certainly doesn’t mean his career isn’t trending in the right direction.  Pitching in baseball’s toughest division last year with Toronto, he posted a 1.15 WHIP in 195 innings pitched, along with a respectable 3.64 ERA.  Keep in mind that despite Marcum’s 13-8 overall record last year, he was 12-2 when NOT pitching against the Yankees, Red Sox, or Tampa Bay.  This year, in the N.L. Central, he should thrive.

Brett Anderson – A’s: Some Fantasy Baseball owners will be scared off by Anderson’s elbow problems last year.  While not trying to downplay the injury, the talent here outweighs the risk, assuming he looks healthy in Spring Training.  Only 23-years old, Anderson already has nearly 300 effective innings pitched under his belt as a Major League starter.  A mid-round pick here could pay-off nicely for you in 2011.

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