Where Analysts Went Wrong in 2016

Clayton Kershaw
By Barbara moore from Springfield, USA (CLAYTON KERSHAW Uploaded by Muboshgu) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Every year analyst put out their projections of where they see players finishing for that season in fantasy baseball. They use past history and their own thoughts on which players will improve and which will fall off. Some players like, Mike Trout or Madison Bumgarner, are somewhat easy to predict as they are very consistent. Others, however, can be extremely difficult. In this post we will look at three players that most if not all analyst got wrong. Players that for one reason or another did not live up to analyst expectations.

Bryce Harper, OF Nationals

After an amazing, MVP, season in 2015 everyone had high hopes for Bryce Harper. Many analysts had him as the top ranked player in baseball. After a season of 38 home runs, 97 RBIs, 112 runs, 125 walks and a .322 batting average it was no wonder we expected him to be such a high end player. As we wrote about earlier this season, to see that post click here, we may have over-hyped him. He had only had one season of those great numbers and we may have put too much in to that one season as this season has not compared to that one. Harper is hovering around the 20th ranked player in fantasy baseball this year, still a very good player, but nowhere near where we expected him to be. There have been rumors that he has been playing hurt and with a .255 batting average and only 23 home runs in 2016 we hope those rumors are true. At least that way we would have an explanation for why he is not what we thought he would be and would help us decide what to do in 2017.

Clayton Kershaw, SP Dodgers

Every season Clayton Kershaw is ranked at the top of all analyst rankings and that is well deserved. He never lets owners down as he has been consistently the best pitcher in baseball year after year. Even when he is not number one Kershaw is never far behind. 2016 was no exception as most every analyst had him ranked as the top pitcher and most had him in the top 5 of all players for fantasy baseball. He should have given owners wins, strikeouts, elite ERA and WHIP and just as many innings as any other pitcher out there, but then something went wrong. On June 30th he went on the disabled list, something that analyst could not predict, and has been out ever since. He is near a return now, but with so much of the season gone it is highly unlikely he will finish anywhere near where he was drafted. Even with the injury he still ranks 32 overall and 4th amongst pitchers. While playing he amassed a 1.79 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 145 Ks and 11 wins in 16 starts and 121.0 innings. He was on pace for what could have been his best season in his career, but will fall far short of that.

Andrew McCutchen, OF Pirates

Prior to the 2016 season when fantasy baseball owners heard the name Andrew McCutchen they thought elite outfielder and a player you would love to have on your team. That was not the case for this season. McCutchen has fallen and fallen far in rankings. As the season started the narrative was that he is just a slow starter and that he would turn it on and reward those owners who held on to him, but that has not happened. In 2015 McCutchen finished ranked 32nd overall, dropping 17 spots from where he finished in 2014. Maybe analyst should have looked at that drop in more depth, but we didn’t, we ignored it and he was a consensus top 10 player coming in to this year. Currently he has a .253/.331/.420 slash line which compared to his career line of .293/.382/.487 is a big disappointment. With only 19 home runs and a mere 6 stolen bases to go with his 58 RBIs and 68 runs he is ranked 101st overall in 2016. There is no explanation for why he has fallen so far from what he was and we still don’t know if this will be the norm for him moving forward. None of that matters to those who own him this season though as all they can do is wonder what could have been if he lived up to his expectations.

Others we could have included in this post; Prince Fielder, Carlos Correa, Shelby Miller, Jose Bautista or James Shields.

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2 Start Pitchers for Week 23

This week we focused in on three, two start pitchers, that could help you in week 23. Two of the three are widely available and one of those pitchers could be the best two start pitcher of all those available.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles 12% Owned

If the site of Ubaldo Jimenez’s name makes you cringe then you probably have had him on your fantasy team one of the past two seasons and we feel your pain. However, in a two start week where he will be at Tampa Bay and at Detroit you may want to roll the dice. Tampa Bay has a team batting average of .243 against righties and an OBP of .307. Yes, Detroit is a tough match up for any pitcher, but the Rays may give you enough upside to offset the Tigers game. Not to mention over his last seven appearances Jimenez has been much better with a 3.51 ERA and a .223 batting average against.

brandon_finnegan_on_may_252c_2015
By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Brandon Finnegan, Reds 66% Owned

Finnegan is leaning more and more in to the category of must start in a two start week. He had been red hot in his last three outings, including a 12 strikeout game against Arizona. In his last seven starts he as a 2.28 ERA, .187 batting average against and 46 Ks in 43.3 innings. He will be facing a Mets team that has been offense deficient and a Pirates club that has been up and down this season.

Chad Kuhl, Pirates 33% Owned

Most fantasy baseball fans focused on the Pirates two young pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon and I can’t blame you, but Chad Kuhl is a guy that may have slipped under the radar. Kuhl is only 23 years old and made his MLB debut earlier this season. He will face the Cardinals and Reds this week, both starts on the road where Kuhl has a 2.76 ERA in 29.3 innings. In his last outing at the Cubs he held that powerful offense to only 3 earned runs in 5 innings. He has a good overall WHIP at 1.17 and walk rate at 2.40 BB/9 and is a very sneaky pick to have a big week.

Should You Add Alex Cobb?

Alex Cobb
By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Alex Cobb) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
September is here and that means rosters in the major leagues are expanding. Dugouts will be packed with players as minor leaguers around the country are promoted to the show. No more 25-man rosters as now clubs can have as many as 40 players on the big league roster. For fantasy baseball players this means there will be a lot of young guys being added to fantasy teams in hopes that they see enough playing time to contribute, but one player making his 2016 MLB debut today isn’t a young prospect as he is already 28 years old. That would be Alex Cobb.

Alex Cobb will make a return from Tommy John surgery today and start for the Tampa Bay Rays. Cobb hasn’t seen time in the majors since 2014 as he has battled his way back from the procedure and the complications he has faced after it. Question is should you be adding him to your fantasy roster in advance of his start or wait and hope you can get him later if he performs well? He is available in over 60% of leagues, but do you want to run the risk of it staying that way?

Over his four seasons in the majors Cobb amassed a 3.43 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.7 K/9 in 498.7 innings. Not bad if you could get those ratios this year, especially considering what the landscape has looked like in the starting pitcher market this season. His best year of the four was 2014 where he had a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.1 K/9. In his 2016 minor league rehab he has started 8 games and pitched 21.7 innings, with 15 of those innings at Triple-A Durham. His performance in those starts has been less than stellar (6.65 ERA and 1.8 WHIP) which is somewhat expected considering the long layoff he has had, but will a jump to the majors change that?

Tampa Bay has nothing left to play for in 2016 and are bringing Cobb up is strictly to get him time in the majors again before the 2017 season. His control is not there yet and he has been very hittable in his rehab assignments. Rays’ management will likely be cautious with him, yet at the same time they want to get his inning count up regardless of the score to prepare him for next season. He likely will not win you a fantasy title this year, but could kill your ratios if he can’t find his former self by the end of the season. Expectations should be low after such a long time out of competitive situations and because of that I would stay clear of him unless you are a big risk taker and can afford to stash him away in hopes that he does the unexpected.

Instead of adding Cobb I would look to guys like Andrew Triggs (still only owned in 10 % of leagues), Kendall Graveman, Brandon Finnegan, or Alex Reyes. With Triggs being my favorite of the bunch and most available.

What’s Wrong with Jake Arrieta?

Last night in Chicago Jake Arrieta had one of his worst games of the season going 6.1 innings and giving up 6 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. It was, to most, somewhat of a surprise as he was coming off one of his best starts on August 23rd where he pitched 8 scoreless innings of 2 hit ball at San Diego. If you look at his overall line for the year you probably would not be too concerned as he has a 2.84 ERA, 1.048 WHIP with 16 wins on the season. I would argue though that there should be some concern.

It would be unfair to just say Arrieta is struggling because his season hasn’t been what it was in 2015, since that was an amazing season for him and he was the Cy Young winner in the National League. My concerns are more rooted in numbers that not everyone likely pays attention to.

Over Arrieta’s best two seasons of his career, so far, 2014 and 2015 he had a 2.08 ERA and a 0.915 WHP. He obviously isn’t living up to that, but ok we can’t expect that necessarily. In that same span of time he had a 2.31 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9, this is where my concern falls. In 2016 his FIP is 1.16 higher at 3.47, his HR/9 has nearly doubled to 0.7, BB/9 is up to 3.5 and he is not striking batter out at the same clip with an 8.6 K/9. His struggles are very prominent in his last 11 starts where he has a 4.20 ERA, 34 walks and only 60 strikeouts in 75 innings. To make matters worse he has a record of 6-6 in those games.

So what is wrong with Jake Arrieta? According to BrooksBaseball.net it wouldn’t appear that he is injured as his velocity is right in line with his 2015 numbers. His pitch mix does appear to have changed. As you can see from the chart below he has begun to rely more heavily on his hard stuff versus his breaking pitches, throwing his fastballs 14% more of the time then he did in 2014 and 2015. As the 2016 season has progressed that has become an even bigger trend as he has thrown hard pitches 73.21% of the time in the month of August.

Arrieta 2014 thru 2016 pitch selection

My theory, however, is more than that. Last season Arrieta threw a career high 229.0 innings, 55.7 more innings than his previous high of 173.3 set in 2010. Since 2010 he has thrown 119.3 in 2011, 170.7 in 2012, 154.7 in 2013 and 176 innings in 2014. It is not that a jump to 229 innings is a death sentence for a pitcher, but that is a fairly large workload and many of those innings were in higher pressure situations than ever before. It is very likely with Arrieta already at 168.0 innings in 2016 that he is just wearing down from last year’s innings and because of that his stuff just isn’t as crisp.

Though we don’t know for sure what is wrong with Arrieta, what we do know is the Cubs have to find a way to get him back to his high end form soon as they are likely in the playoffs for 2016 and have a good shot of making it to the World Series if they can get him right.

Need an SP, Look to Andrew Triggs

andrew triggsIt is almost crunch time for fantasy baseball leagues around the world. Many playoffs have started or will start soon and roto leagues are preparing for the home stretch. Now more than every you have to scour the waiver wire to find that diamond in the rough to keep your team in contention. If you are one of those unfortunate teams that recently lost a starting pitcher you’re probably looking at the available options thinking there has to be something better than these guys. Good news, there is.

One of the statistics that I pay close attention to in evaluating a starting pitcher is his FIP. For those of you who may not know FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching. Basically it is a measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness that doesn’t penalize or promote a pitcher based on the defense behind him. When evaluating a pitcher, I look at his FIP in relation to his ERA. If the FIP is significantly lower than his ERA, 1.0 or more, and his FIP is at a level that would be a better than usable ERA then you may have found an under-performer. Currently there are 68 starting pitchers who have a FIP that is at least 1.0 lower than their ERA. Many of these pitchers are still worthless as their FIP is in the 4.0+ range and well above league average or they are already owned in too many leagues to be available to add. There is one however that has a sub-4.0 FIP and is only owned in 4% of leagues. That pitcher is Oakland righty Andrew Triggs.

Triggs is 27 years old and made his MLB debut in April of this year, so if you never heard of him your probably not alone. If you just look at his basic stat line you likely won’t be impressed, 4.38 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and a 0-1 record for 2016. However, if you dig deeper there are some promising signs that could make him an intriguing add in deeper mixed leagues.

As a minor leaguer Triggs had a career 2.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 over five seasons. He has a low walk rate at 2.1 walks per nine, including his MLB innings, and a 0.2 HR/9. Currently in the majors he sports a 3.31 FIP which tells me he has been pitching well, but the Oakland defense has let him down on occasion. That assumption is backed up by his 8.4 K/9, 0.7 HR/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in his 49.1 innings with the big league club.
Being that the bulk of his time with the A’s this season have been in a relief role the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. As a starter Triggs has only five earned runs in 19.2 innings. Most recently he pitched six, three hit, shutout innings against Cleveland. Over his past 12 games, which includes all five of his starts and a total of 31.1 innings he has a 2.30 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 28 strikeouts to 8 walks. Even better in his last three appearances, all since he became a regular part of the rotation, he has a 2.30 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 12 Ks to 1 BB.

Is Triggs and ace? No. He is, however, a great late season add to help you maintain your lead or gain ground on your competition if you are in need of a starting pitcher because you lost John Lackey, Steven Matz or Stephen Strasburg.