The Recoveries: How did they go?

Every year, there are hitters and pitchers who report to Spring Training with what is initially deemed a “small” injury, only to have that injury linger throughout February, into March, and soon enough, they are out multiple weeks in April. In a season unlike any other, we got to see how players with those types of injuries recovered throughout the early summer in time to prepare for a shortened 60-game season. Below, we’ll take a look at how those players fared individually, along with some overall takeaways that we can use to prepare for 2021 drafts. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to easily identify if pitchers or hitters are better bets to bounce back after mild injuries.

Pitchers

James Paxton (SP – NYY)
My Projection: 11 starts, 66 IP, 5 Wins, 3.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 78 Ks
What Happened: 5 starts, 20.1 IP, 1 Win, 6.64 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 26 Ks

Back in February, Paxton had a microscopic lumbar discectomy, and was slated to miss the start of the full 162-game season. With the delay, Paxton was able to get healthy and get in game shape. However, he went on the IL with a strained flexor in his left forearm on August 24th, and would not pitch again. While Paxton gave up three earned runs in every one of his five starts, two of them came with 20 strikeouts total. The writing was on the wall with this one, however, as his velocity dipped three miles per hour from 2019, as evidenced by the below graph from Baseball Savant.

Paxton’s agent, Scott Boras, was quoted recently as saying that Paxton “simply needed another few months to get back to his normal form.” This quote is confusing, since he was allotted additional time to rehab with the delayed season. If this was the case, why was he brought back in the first place?

While it sounds like Paxton should be ready for 2021, we’ve heard that song before. Paxton has eclipsed 150 innings just twice in his career, and one of those was 150.2 innings. With all the injuries the soon-to-be 32-year old has faced, I will be out on him next season.

Justin Verlander (SP – HOU)
My Projection:11 starts, 66 IP, 6 Wins, 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 82 Ks
What Happened: 1 start, 6 IP, 1 W, 3.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 7 Ks

Verlander was facing a lat injury and a groin injury in spring training, with the lat injury stemming from changing his mechanics as a result of the groin injury. Of course, we know that he suffered an additional injury, as he had Tommy John surgery and is out until 2022.

In hindsight, it was probably foolish to rank a 37-year old pitcher coming off of two injuries during Spring Training in the top five. Of course, Verlander would be the one pitcher to defy expectations, and we gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Mike Clevinger (SP – SDP)
My Projection: 12 starts, 72 IP, 6 W, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 87 Ks
What Happened: 8 starts, 41.2 IP, 3 W, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 40 Ks

Clevinger, as he often does, adds an interesting twist to this exercise. Clevinger had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in mid-February, and was expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. He ended up returning on time in the shortened season. We don’t need to go too in depth on what happened next, but he missed three starts as a result of breaking team protocol.

After he was traded to the Padres, he then sprained his right elbow. After not pitching in the Wild Card Series, he was removed less than two innings into his NLDS start with the same issue. While we don’t know for sure, the initial elbow injury could have come about as a result of compensating for his knee injury. Pitching through the injury was not a good idea. Between Clevinger and and Verlander, we should give heightened attention to lower body injuries, as pitchers are not out of the woods just because their initial injury wasn’t an upper body one.

His status for 2021 is uncertain. Given that he said that it feels like “his bones are hitting the back of his elbow,” I will be out on him for 2021.

Rich Hill (SP – MIN)
My Projection: 10 starts, 60 IP, 4 W, 3.69 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 69 Ks
What Happened: 8 starts, 38.2 IP, 2 W, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 31 Ks

Hill underwent elbow surgery in November last year, and was slated to miss half of the season. With the shortened season, he was able to start the season on time. However, he then suffered from arm fatigue and missed a few starts in August.

Hill’s strikeouts disappeared, largely due to a velocity dip.

As a result of this lower velocity, he induced less whiffs, and his strikeout rate dipped nearly ten percentage points from 2019. While Hill has always been injury prone, he was able to rack up strikeouts when he took the mound. However, given that he’s going to be 41 in 2021, this is likely his new velocity. He won’t be more than a bench starter next year.

Hitters

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KC)
My Projection: 220 PA’s, 28 R, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 15 SB, .257 average
What Happened: 233 PA’s, 33 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 24 SB, .256 average

Mondesi’s status for the full 162-game season was up for debate during draft prep season, as he was still getting ramped up after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Mondesi ended up doing what we expected, as he hit slightly above average due to his speed, stole a ton of bases, and showed some pop. Sure, he delivered most of his value within a three-week span in September, but he should be given a pass given the weird quirks of the season.

As a right-handed hitter, his left shoulder is a source of power, much like how Kris Bryant’s power was sapped in 2018 after a left shoulder injury. While Mondesi has always had contact issues, he increased his average exit velocity from 88.8 MPH in 2019 to 90.6 MPH in 2020, which shows that the shoulder is healed. Moreover, his max exit velocity of 111 MPH ranked in the top-100, as did his exit velocity on flies and liners.

The Mondesi hype will be in our faces once again in 2021, and it looks like the hype will be worth it.

Eugenio Suarez (3B – CIN)
My Projection: 240 PA’s, 36 R, 14 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB, .267 average
What Happened: 231 PA’s, 29 R, 15 HR, 38 RBI, 2 SB, .202 average

Suarez also had a shoulder injury, but on his right shoulder. He was able to rehab in time for the full 60-game season. His average exit velocity held constant, and like Mondesi, posted top-100 ranks in exit velo on flies and liners, along with max exit velo. Also like Mondesi, Suarez has some contact issues. He swung at balls slightly more than last year, and made less contact on strikes as well. While not a dramatic change, it was evident enough that he wasn’t able to make contact on pitches that he could drive. His injury likely didn’t have an impact on this part of his game. We know what Suarez is, and he will likely be a top-65 selections in next year’s drafts.

Aaron Hicks (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 175 PA’s, 24 R, 8 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, .242 average
What Happened: 211 PA’s, 28 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .225 average

Hicks had Tommy John surgery right after the 2019 season ended, and was expected to return mid-season over a full length schedule. The 60-game schedule afforded him the extra time to fully return for the 60-game season. The problem, however, was that he wasn’t very good.

Sure, he stayed healthier and played more as a result of other injuries (see below), but he wasn’t able to match the mild homer, RBI, and average that I expected. The main reason appears to be that he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard. Let’s take a look at how his small-sample 2020 compared to his last full season, in 2018.

Year Barrel Rate Exit Velocity Hard-Hit Rate
2018 8.8% 89.7 MPH 43.0%
2020 6.9% 88.2 MPH 38.2%

Hicks was quoted as saying that he started to feel better towards the end of the season. Indeed, he had a strong postseason, going 8-for-26 with six walks to five strikeouts. His average exit velocity also improved over 2 MPH from August to September. With a full offseason to to rest, Hicks could come at a value in 2021 drafts.

Aaron Judge (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 155 PA’s, 28 R, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, .279 average
What Happened: 114 PA’s, 23 R, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .257 average

Judge’s rib/lung issue was well-documented as we headed into Spring Training and even into Summer Camp. He promptly started 2020 murdering baseballs, hitting seven homers in a seven-game span early in the season. He then had two separate IL stints for the same right calf injury. He wasn’t very good upon his return, posting a 65 wRC+ in 43 September plate appearances. His struggles carried into the postseason, collecting just five hits (but four homers) in seven games while striking out ten times.

Judge is certainly his own case study, and applying him and his teammate below to this type of exercise isn’t particularly meaningful. Judge has demonstrated that he is injury prone, and yet drafters are excited for his potential in 2021. He has gone as early as 33rd in the #2EarlyMocks, conducted by Justin Mason. I will happily let him get scooped up by others at that price.

Giancarlo Stanton (OF – NYY)
My Projection: 201 PA’s, 30 R, 13 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, .266 average
What Happened: 94 PA’s, 12 R, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .250 average

Stanton was dealing with a calf injury of his own back in February. With the time off, he was able to return for the start of the 2020 season. He then suffered a hamstring issue that sidelined him from August 8th-September 15th.

Judging by his Statcast profile, nothing really changed, even in a small sample. Stanton put on a laser show in the postseason, and hit the second-longest homer of the season. He’s healthy…for now. The fact of the matter is that Stanton is injury prone as well, and will be discounted in 2021 drafts. The interesting thing is that he is going well after Judge, right around picks 80-110. I would much rather have Stanton 50 picks later.

Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)
My Projection: 200 PA’s, 24 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, .291 average
What Happened: 221 PA’s, 36 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 4 SB, .304 average

Verdugo had back injuries during Spring Training, and was expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season. He recovered to start in right field as a result of the delay.

Verdugo largely did what we expected him to do, shifting some of his RBI to runs as a result of batting leadoff full-time beginning August 18th (I had him projected to hit in the middle of the order). While this was his first “full” campaign, he saw a similar number of pitches in 2019. The trends show that he got significantly lucky, at first glance.

Year Barrel Rate Average Exit Velo K Rate xwOBA
2019 5.7% 89.4 MPH 13.0% .343
2020 6.4% 87 MPH 20.4% .291

While his 2020 numbers seem lucky, his extraordinary plate discipline means that he almost always will put up a great batting average. For purposes of this study, let’s examine how that back injury could have affected his play. Carlos Correa knows all too well what a bad back can do to exit velocity, as demonstrated by Eno Sarris. Verdugo’s max exit velocity (109.5 MPH) was 2 MPH slower than his 2019 max, as was his exit velocity on flies and liners (93.1 MPH in 2019 to 91.2 MPH in 2020). While this small dip could suggest his back was not fully healthy, the Red Sox would not have allowed him to get 220+ plate appearances on a tanking team without him being healthy.

He should fit somewhere into the 125-150 range in next year’s drafts, buoyed by that average and hitting atop a good lineup.

Overall Thoughts

Outside of Verdugo and Suarez, every other player that we were concerned about during Spring Training in this exercise could be labeled as “injury-prone.” So, the main takeaway is to avoid injury-prone players. Duh. But, that’s not the point of this exercise.

Interestingly, Suarez, Mondesi, Hicks, and Verdugo had more of the “normal” years that we expected from them, while most of the others continued to have injury problems throughout the season. None of the pitchers stayed healthy. For 2021, that means I am going to be out on pitchers that get injured in the offseason and in Spring Training.

In 2021, I’m expecting even more injuries during the offseason and Spring Training as a result of the chaotic 2020 season. Players’ routines are out of whack, and it’s uncertain the types of facilities that players will have access to over the offseason. Keep this in the back of your mind as we navigate through offseason prep work!

GPS Pitch Location Report: Dustin May

So we made it. While this season was only 60 games, the “sprint” has felt more like a marathon. For those of you who have read all of my articles this season, I truly thank you. This has been an extremely fun piece to write every week, and I hope you all have found these are informative as I have. I am extremely excited about the future of RotoFanatic and we have a ton of amazing things planned for this offseason and 2021. However, there is still one more week of fantasy baseball. For those of you who are still competing for a championship, congrats, and good luck. For those of you who unfortunately were not as successful, it is time to start looking ahead to 2021. One player who will certainly have a ton of offseason buzz is the subject of today’s final GPS Location Report, Dustin May.

Dustin May

If you have never been lucky enough to watch a Dustin May start, go and seek out videos of the young Dodger righty. He has become a fan favorite due to his insane fastball movement. May has the third-highest horizontal movement on his sinker according to Baseball Savant. This movement has led to some incredible Twitter clips and has made Manny Machado look silly on a number of different occasions. However, despite this incredible movement, May ranks 12th worst in all of baseball in K/9 among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched. Despite these struggles, May has posted an ERA of 2.68 despite a FIP that is in the high fours. StuffERA however seems May as more of a 3.75-4 ERA type of pitcher. However, underlying his solid numbers within the model is a big concern for his fantasy value.

Outside of extreme cases, it is extremely difficult to become an elite fantasy pitcher without posting large K-numbers. As I stated above, May has not had the Ks. There have been a number of different explanations tossed around with regards to his fastball, despite being so aesthetically pleasing, does not get swings and misses. What I propose though is actually a pretty simple concept. May just does not throw to valuable locations.

The chart above shows May’s location on fastballs. As you can see, he throws his fastballs down in the zone exclusively. No matter the count, the lanky right hander fills the bottom of the zone with fastballs. As you can see from the whiff charts, fastballs do not tend to get swings and misses low in the zone. Among all pitchers who have thrown at least 500 fastballs in 2020, May’s expected whiff rate on those pitches ranks 6th lowest. This on its own is not a major issue, pitchers behind him on this list include Zach Davies and Corbin Burnes. However, over 75% of all pitches thrown by May are fastballs (sinker/cutter/four-seam). For comparison, Davies is a little over 50% and Burnes is in the middle around 65%. This has led to a ton of issues for May in terms of getting enough whiffs to post high K numbers. Among pitchers with at least 800 pitches thrown, May has the 2nd lowest expected whiff rate on all pitch types. This type of profile can be successful if the stuff is elite, but so far hitters to not seem to be interacting with the pitches like they are elite. May’s actual and expected whiff rates are fairly in line. Burnes by comparison has the 14th lowest expected whiff rate, but the third-highest whiff influence. This means that despite his relatively poor location, the stuff is so good that hitters are still swinging through it. Despite the “look” of the pitch, May is the embodiment of the idea that horizontal movement does not matter as much as vertical movement for fastballs. This is a concept I’ll dive into some more this offseason.

So what exactly does this mean for May? Mainly, I think it means that expectations need to be lessened for May. Unless he changes his pitch mix, the shape of his fastball, or his location I just do not see him making the jump to fantasy elite. While the Dodgers are one of the smartest organizations in all of baseball, the fact that this change has not occurred for May yet makes me skeptical it will ever happen. If I own him in Dynasty, his value will likely never be higher so I would start by shopping him around. For anyone looking ahead to 2021 drafts, I already anticipate that May’s price will be higher than I am willing to pay. In order to absorb the K hit you will need to go very pitching heavy early or you will need to take chances on flawed pitchers late. While a jump is entirely possible, I would rather be a year late on May than take a chance he makes a major change to his identity as a pitcher.

Once again thank you, everyone, for reading and hopefully, soon we will have a leaderboard and some other cool tools all set up so that you can dive into all of the numbers that I cite in this article every week.

Stuff ERA

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 800 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Jacob deGrom 2.2569
Shane Bieber 2.3777
Corbin Burnes 2.4573
Zac Gallen 2.7032
Lucas Giolito 2.7749
Kenta Maeda 2.8103
Dinelson Lamet 2.8387
Aaron Nola 2.9693
Dylan Bundy 3.0344
Clayton Kershaw 3.0773
Max Fried 3.1790
Yu Darvish 3.2138
Jose Berrios 3.2168
Ryan Yarbrough 3.2387
Lance Lynn 3.2694
Adam Wainwright 3.3432
Zach Davies 3.3448
Trevor Bauer 3.3906
Andrew Heaney 3.4466
Dallas Keuchel 3.4570
Carlos Carrasco 3.4609
Dakota Hudson 3.4720
Zack Wheeler 3.4905
Tyler Mahle 3.5092
Brad Keller 3.5363
Brady Singer 3.5459
David Peterson 3.5642
Blake Snell 3.5665
Kevin Gausman 3.5769
Gerrit Cole 3.6105
Pablo Lopez 3.6247
Framber Valdez 3.6424
Spencer Turnbull 3.6604
Yusei Kikuchi 3.6621
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.6623
Julio Urias 3.6774
Tyler Glasnow 3.7330
Brandon Woodruff 3.7342
Mike Minor 3.7450
Antonio Senzatela 3.7589
Max Scherzer 3.7697
Kyle Hendricks 3.7738
Masahiro Tanaka 3.7865
Marco Gonzales 3.7979
Justin Dunn 3.8000
German Marquez 3.8026
Luis Castillo 3.8075
Dustin May 3.8232
J.A. Happ 3.8255
Justus Sheffield 3.8661
Josh Lindblom 3.8993
Sonny Gray 3.9058
Cristian Javier 3.9269
Frankie Montas 3.9284
Kolby Allard 3.9377
Zack Greinke 3.9417
Martin Perez 3.9871
Jesus Luzardo 4.0954
Chris Bassitt 4.1025
Hyun Jin Ryu 4.1177
Dylan Cease 4.1637
Taijuan Walker 4.1738
Garrett Richards 4.1758
Aaron Civale 4.2604
Chris Paddack 4.2637
Kris Bubic 4.2728
Chad Kuhl 4.2824
Alec Mills 4.3037
Logan Webb 4.3299
Griffin Canning 4.3430
Johnny Cueto 4.3437
John Means 4.3522
Mike Clevinger 4.3616
Zach Eflin 4.3867
Tyler Anderson 4.3950
Jordan Montgomery 4.4452
Randy Dobnak 4.4475
Erick Fedde 4.4547
Kyle Freeland 4.4674
JT Brubaker 4.4776
Jon Gray 4.5664
Alex Young 4.5737
Danny Duffy 4.6119
Mike Fiers 4.6143
Kyle Gibson 4.7295
Robbie Ray 4.7366
Patrick Corbin 4.7721
Luke Weaver 4.8469
Matthew Boyd 4.8985
Adrian Houser 5.0506
Jordan Lyles 5.0558
Rick Porcello 5.0670
Jon Lester 5.1181
Derek Holland 5.2566
Tanner Roark 5.3037
Ross Stripling 5.5808
Trevor Williams 5.6178
Anibal Sanchez 5.7148

2020 Park Factors for the Seven New MLB Parks

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been seeing and hearing some discussions about the new Oracle Park’s dimensions likely leading to an offensive bust out in San Francisco. This talk, plus the Marlins moving their fences in, Toronto playing their home games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, the Rangers playing in their new stadium and the Red Sox, Mets and Mariners all using a humidor for the first time we thought we’d check in and see how these parks are playing thus far.

In a typical season there are between 125,000 and 128,000 batted ball events. In 2020 there have only been 31,583 (Through 9/9), so this is a relatively small sample size. Also, the ball flies differently in hot and cold weather, low and high humidity and whether the game is being played indoors or out. The following data is not meant to be considered the final word on how these stadiums will play going forward but merely a look at how they have played from July 23, 2020 to September 9, 2020.

How the Data is Generated

Using the data provided by baseballsavant.com we find the results of all Batted Ball Events (BBE) in 2020 by Exit Velocity (EV), Launch Angle (LA), handedness (RHB and LHB), hit location (LF, LCF, CF, RCF, RF) and whether the ball was pulled, hit to the opposite field, pulled to an alley, hit to the opposite alley or centered. Taking all of these factors into account we come up with the average for how each batted ball event played out in all 30 MLB stadiums this season. Once we assemble all of the outcomes for the season we can then generate the expected stats for each batted ball event and compare them to the actual outcomes to get our park factors. If a park was expected to give up 50 home runs but it actually yielded 58 then the park factor for home runs is a 116. Conversely, if a park was expected to give up 50 home runs but only 42 were hit then the park factor for home runs is 84. 100 is league average

 

The Humidor Parks

Back on August 11 we wrote a quick article about the impact of the humidor in Arizona and the potential impact of a humidor at Fenway, Citi and T-Mobile in Seattle which can be found here. As was referenced in that article, on November 6, 2014 Ryan P. Morrison of SB Nation wrote a piece on the impact of the humidor at Coors Field and also included a chart that showed the potential impact of humidors in other parks around the country. Below is the chart for potential impacts in Boston, New York and Seattle.

 

City Humidity (%) HR distance (feet)
Boston 59 +7.9
New York 53 +2.2
Seattle 53 +2.9

 

Note: According to current result/Weather.com the average yearly relative humidity is 67% in Boston, 63% in NYC (La Guardia), and 73% in Seattle. This may have been different in 2014.

 

Fenway Park

From July 23 to September 9, 2019

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 16 99.4 1 108.1 +  8.8%
Home Runs 24 93.5 4 108.0 +15.5%
RBIcon 20 97.8 2 108.0 +10.4%

 

There’s a small sample size caveat here (1,343 batted balls compared to a normal full season of about 4,200), but it appears that Fenway Park has been given a pretty significant boost to its offense via the humidor. In 2020 Fenway Park has moved up 15 spots in batting average to 1, 20 spots in home runs to 4 and 18 spots in expected RBI on contact to 2. It should be noted that Boston’s highest relative humidity months are the ones that the season has been played in so far (July, August and September). However, May and June are two of the higher humidity months for Boston as well so this is likely a near full season trend. Should the organization choose to keep using the humidor this could be great news for your Red Sox hitters.

 

Citi Field

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 10 100.9 9 101.6 +   0.7%
Home Runs 11 102.1 13 102.2 +   0.1%
RBIcon 9 101.6 10 102.3 +   0.7%

 

Unlike Fenway Park, Citi Field has stayed steady. Of the three cities NYC (La Guardia) has the lowest relative humidity and stood to gain the least by using the humidor. As expected, the humidor appears to have had very little impact thus far. We’ll keep monitoring the situation next year to see if a full season’s usage nets different results.

 

T-Mobile Park

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 24 98.1 20 98.7 +   0.6%
Home Runs 29 88.5 18 99.3 +12.2%
RBIcon 24 94.1 19 99.1 +  5.3%

 

T-Mobile has also experienced a boost in offense. Not to the same degree as Fenway, but a definite boost. T-Mobile had gained 4 spots in batting average to 20, 11 spots in home runs to 18 and 5 spots to 19 in expected RBI on contact. Although Seattle has not experienced as much of a boost as Boston has it is worth noting that the summer months are the most humid months in Boston (Getting the biggest offensive boost from the humidor) where July and August are the two least humid months in Seattle. T-Mobile Park may have a lot more offense to give us next season when they are playing in the more humid months of Spring and Fall. Keep your eye on T-Mobile in September. The relative humidity rate climbs towards Seattle’s highest levels this month and in just six games played at the Mariners’ home park (two of them 7 inning games) there have been eighteen home runs hit. That’s 3.24 home runs per 9 innings compared to the 2020 MLB average of 1.35.

 

Ballparks With New Dimensions

Over the off-season both Oracle Park in San Francisco and Marlins Park in Miami decided to move in their fences to boost their offensive production. Oracle Park moved left-center field in from 404 feet in to 399 feet, straight away center field from 399 to 391 and right-center field from 421 to 415. They have also closed off an archway in right field that the organization believes will help to keep the prevailing wind that comes in from McCovey Cove from knocking down potential home runs. The Marlins moved the center field fences in from 407 to 400 and right-center field from 392 to 387.

 

Marlins Park

We’re already dealing with small sample sizes and, because Covid has had the Marlins playing an abnormal number of home games on the road, the sample size is even smaller here. The typical park has had between 1,000 and 1,300 batted ball events where Marlins Park has only had 553 through September 9th.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 14 100.3 4 104.2 +  3.9%
Home Runs 12 101.7 19 99.0 –   2.7%
RBIcon 13 100.8 8 102.6 +  1.8%

 

The fences have been moved from 407 to 400 in center and 392 to 387 in right-center

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Center Home Runs 7 109.5 3 129.3 +18.9%
Right-center Home Runs 24 80.8 2 88.9 +10.0%

 

There’s little doubt that if the fences are moved in that home runs will increase, and they have, but with such a small sample it’s difficult to gauge just how much of the gains will stick.

*Weird stat of the season so far: Not a single one of the 133 batted balls to right field have gone for a home run at Marlins Park this season. Even stranger: Not a single expected home run has been hit either. Through this same time period last year 133 batted balls would have netted both an actual and expected 7 home runs to right field. Bizarre.

 

Oracle Park

Are we ready to get a little controversial now? During the same time span in 2019 Oracle Park allowed 38 home runs (4.27% HR rate). In 2020, Oracle Park has allowed 61 home runs (5.19% HR Rate). Obviously, Oracle Park is becoming an offensive park that’s vastly improved, yes? Ummm, not quite. As we mentioned with Marlins Park, if you move the fences in you’re almost undoubtedly going to have more home runs hit. It has improved, just not quite as much as the raw numbers of 38 HR’s versus 61 HR’s would lead you to believe. Let me explain. Our park factors are based on the number of actual home runs hit versus the number of expected home runs hit. If Park A gives up 1,000 home runs but there was expected to be 900 home runs then Park A is going to have the same home run factor of 111.1 as Park B that gives up 100 home runs with only 90 home runs expected. The only thing that matters in our park factors is what happened versus what was expected to happen. To use another example, the Twins broke the MLB team record for HR’s in 2019 but Target Field’s HR factor ranked 26. The Twins hit a bunch of home runs but they were expected to hit even more. Basically, teams are just plain hitting the ball better at Oracle Park this season, most notably, the Giants themselves. In 2019 Oracle gave up 38 home runs but only 44 home runs were expected. In 2020, Oracle has given up 61 home runs but 73 home runs have been expected!

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Stat Rank Factor   Rank Factor +/-%
Average 28 95.8 12 100.5 +  4.9%
Home Runs 30 86.8 29 83.6 –   3.5%
RBIcon 30 90.7 28 93.7 +  3.3%

 

The fences have been moved from 404 to 399 in left-center, 399 to 391 in center, 421 to 415 in right-center, and the team has closed off an archway in right field that was previously open to the prevailing winds that blew in from McCovey Cove.

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left-center Home Runs 11 104.8 25 93.5 -10.8%
Center Home Runs 20 94.0 21 89.1 –  5.2%
Right-center Home Runs 30 47.7 30 65.5 +37.3%
Right Home Runs 25 91.5 29 73.4 -19.8%

 

So far, Oracle’s overall home run factor is actually down from 86.8 to 83.6. However, I don’t expect this to stick. As we’ve mentioned before, when you move the fences in there are generally going to be more home runs hit. One of the factors that the organization thought would improve the long ball to right field was the closing of the arch. The following are comments from Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow from Jake Montero’s article for KNBR.com on July 22:

“If you know the architectural history of this ballpark and you know it’s stunted on the right side because of the proximity to McCovey Cove, and they did two years of wind study and they designed that ballpark so it’s in the prevailing wind. It’s almost like you’re drafting behind a truck on the interstate on a bicycle. You get a free pass with the wind, but the wind wraps around you and that’s what the wind has always done at that ballpark. It wraps around the ballpark only with the unique design of the out of town scoreboard, with mesh fencing, and there’s a gate that’s open that allows the air to pass back from the right side of the field through the archway there, and back onto the field. When you stand there and shag during batting practice, you feel the wind at your back. It’s no secret as to why, since the doors opened in that ballpark, it’s so difficult to hit balls out to right field, especially for right-handed hitters. Balls get up there, the air hits it, and the ball drops like a turd from a giraffe. Straight down, done, see ya later.”

This year the home run factor to right field has actually gone down from 91.5 to 73.4. Full disclosure, I am not a physicist or a climatologist. However, the idea that closing the archway would be a positive influence on home runs didn’t make sense to me. The archway is below the fence line and, obviously, home runs are above the fence line. The very same prevailing wind that was blowing in from McCovey Cove is still there it’s just that anyone standing in right field can no longer feel it. I would imagine, if anything, that there would more of a force coming in to right field. The wind that would normally have passed through the archway and below the fence line is now being blocked and pushed up and over the fence where it can exert even more resistance to potential home runs. Again, I’m not a physicist or climatologist and I could be completely wrong, but the numbers thus far are somewhat supporting this position.

 

The New Parks

Sahlen Field

Sahlen Field’s center field sits facing South-Southeast with an 8 to 10 MPH breeze prevailing out from the right field foul pole to the left field foul pole all year long. Both the left field and right fields angle back from a 325 foot foul pole before squaring off at the power alleys (371 ft. LCF and 367 ft. RCF). The alleys then angle back inward forming a pointed A-Frame center field at 404 ft. Sahlen Field most resembles Nationals Park’s shape but it’s 12 feet shorter to left, 6 feet shorter to left-center, 2 feet deeper to center, 3 feet shorter to right-center and 10 feet shorter to right.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

All Average

10

101.5

All Home Runs

5

106.7

All RBIcon

6

103.3

 

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

Right Average

19

98.4

Right Home Runs

14

101.5

Right RBIcon

8

98.8

 

Handed Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Average

3

102.7

Left Home Runs

1

119.9

Left t RBIcon

1

112.7

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Average

8

103.3

Left-center Average

8

103.0

Center Average

12

99.2

Right-center Average

25

96.0

Right Average

10

102.9

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left Home Runs

6

112.0

Left-center Home Runs

10

104.0

Center Home Runs

10

110.0

Right-center Home Runs

17

100.0

Right Home Runs

13

102.1

 

Field Stat

Rank

Factor

Left RBIcon

4

107.7

Left-center RBIcon

7

104.3

Center RBIcon

13

101.1

Right-center RBIcon

16

98.4

Right RBIcon

15

101.2

 

Sahlen Field has definitely played as a very interesting park thus far. Despite the fact that left and left-center are the most offensively friendly fields it’s the left handed batters that have thrived the most. This does make some sense. The prevailing winds are out to left and opposite field balls are typically hit on a higher trajectory than pulled balls. This higher trajectory and steady winds gives the ball a chance to fly further than normal. Couple that with the friendly confines of 325 feet to left and 371 feet to the left-center alley and you have a recipe that serves up the number one ranked home run and RBIcon factors for left handed batters in all of baseball.

 

Globe Life Field

Globe Life Field’s center field sits facing Northeast with the prevailing winds blowing at 9-12 MPH from the right field foul pole to the left field foul pole. Previously, Globe Life Park faced Southeast with the winds blowing straight in from center field. Despite having the wind blowing in from center field on most days the old Globe Life played more to its dimensions than to its wind factors. While it had between a 112 to 113 home run factor to its smaller dimension center, right-center and right fields it only played as an 88 and an 86 to its tougher dimension high walled left field and 390 foot left-center field, respectively. With the new Globe Life Field having a retractable roof, and the summer months promising an indoor setting, it’s difficult to say how often or how much wind will play a role at this new stadium.

The left field line is listed at only 329 feet but it angles back quickly to over 360 feet before squaring off to 372 feet in left-center; 18 feet closer than the old Globe Life. Center field is squared off like the Rangers’ previous park but is 7 feet deeper at 407 feet. Right-center and right field are nearly identical in shape and distance as Globe Life Park at 374 feet and 325 feet, respectively.

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
All Average 8 101.9 26 97.0 –  4.8%
All Home Runs 28 89.4 30 81.6 –  8.7%
All RBIcon 21 97.7 29 89.8 –  8.1%

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Right Average 13 101.9 27 95.6 –  5.7%
Right Home Runs 29 89.4 30 76.5 –  9.0%
Right RBIcon 22 97.7 30 88.0 –  9.7%

 

 

Handed Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Average 6 101.9 18 98.6 –  3.8%
Left Home Runs 26 89.4 26 87.0 –  7.2%
Left RBIcon 29 97.7 27 91.9 –  6.2%

 

From July 23 to September 9, 2019  

From July 23 to September 9, 2020

 

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Average 11 102.0 24 97.3 –  4.6%
Left-center Average 25 97.2 13 101.0 + 3.9%
Center Average 9 102.7 13 97.9 –  4.7%
Right-center Average 26 91.8 30 84.7 –  7.7%
Right Average 6 105.3 30 96.2 –  8.6%

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left Home Runs 30 68 30 66.4 –   2.4%
Left-center Home Runs 30 60 24 100.0 +66.7%
Center Home Runs 13 99.9 27 72.0 -27.9%
Right-center Home Runs 27 71.6 27 82.8 +15.6%
Right Home Runs 3 112.3 27 85.0 -24.3%

 

Field Stat Rank Factor Rank Factor +/-%
Left RBIcon 20 95.3 29 87.9 –  7.8%
Left-center RBIcon 29 79.1 15 101.2 +27.9%
Center RBIcon 8 103.1 27 88.0 -14.7%
Right-center RBIcon 28 82.0 30 82.9 +  1.1%
Right RBIcon 5 107.2 28 89.1 -16.9%

 

Year over year the new Globe Life Field has seen an 8.1% dip in offensive production with right handed batters seeing the brunt of that production drop off (-9.7%). Left field continues to be a tough field for home runs (30), but the friendlier confines of left-center has seen a dramatic increase from a home run factor of 60 to 100. Not surprisingly the deeper center field dimensions has led to a 27.9% decrease in home runs but what is surprising is that left-center and right field have played so differently despite their distances being nearly identical (+15.6% and -24.3%, respectively). One thing to note is that over the same time period last year Globe Life Park played as the 21 ranked offensive stadium but for the entire season it ended up being the 14 ranked park. It’s still too early to tell exactly how this park will play but it’s pretty evident that the new park is less friendlier to hitters than the old park.

We’re Going Streaking – Week Eight

We are officially in the stretch run of the fantasy baseball season, as we have approximately two weeks to go. Which, when you think of it, is a whole bundle of emotions wrapped into one potentially explosive box. It’s sad that baseball is almost done, happy that we made it this far with minimal cancellations, confusing in dynasty leagues because we don’t know what to believe, ruthless in redraft leagues because almost nobody is safe. Needless to say, it’s been a wide array of feelings this year, which is essentially 2020 in a nutshell.

That said, instead of crying about it, let’s play the cards that we’ve been dealt. We can and need to move forward with our lives and make the most of what’s left. Sure it’s been crazy but, we can still make it great. So, with two weeks or so to go, let’s look at those players who are in the midst of a hot streak AND see if they’re worth keeping for the rest of the season to help you out during the stretch run.

Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

Adalberto Mondesi

For months and months in the offseason, Mondesi was proclaimed as the fantasy baseball saint of steals, as he was being drafted incredibly high due to the fact that he was going to win you your category in steals. Then the season began and he stunk….badly. In fact, as of September 3, he found himself batting .179, with no home runs, eight stolen bases and hitting from the 8th spot in the order. It was an ugly period for him. And then something happened. Maybe he saw that he was a cold streaker, just right here, during Week 6, and thought to himself, “hey, I don’t want to disappoint Dave Funnell of RotoFanatic”. Hardly likely, but something clicked since that point in time because he’s been hot hot hot!

What’s changed? Not a heck of a lot actually. He’s still swinging and missing at around the same rate as he was before this streak, and has actually chased and missed more than he has previously. Looking at that whiff rate too, he’s still striking out a ton, which is concerning. That said, the only positive I can say is that he’s showing a bit more patience at the plate as the total number of pitches seen during a game are up slightly. So then, why is this all of a sudden happening? Other than a slightly higher Launch Angle, which is important, I would say that he’s now positively regressing into the player we all knew that he’d be coming into 2020. We all knew his approach at the plate was awful, that his patience was thin and that he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Yet, despite all of that, we all bought in and drafted him anyways. He may not finish the year with the stats we expected, but he will help you dominate in the steals category.

Ranked number one in baseball through running splits, Mondesi is a speed demon. He leads the majors in stolen bases. Lately, he’s been more aggressive. Last week he hit three home runs and stole four bases during those games (with at least one in each game).

Going forward:

Redraft: should be rostered and started in all leagues. Keep in mind, this would be around the end of May over a regular 162-game season, and he would be rightly labelled as a “slow starter”. This year, however, he’ll be considered a bust.
Keeper/Dynasty: should be rostered and is a nice buy low for 2021 since the bust label will stick with him over the winter and he’ll probably drop down a few rounds in the drafts. I worry there’s a Mallex Smith vibe hanging around him, but I’m willing to take a chance on him rebounding next year and maintaining some sense of consistency.

Adam Duvall

Coming off a roller coaster month of August, Duvall entered the final month of the season batting .241 with a modest five home runs, en route to another disappointing year, which has been the story of his life. And then, as we found ourselves turning the pages of the calendar, Adam Duvall brought back his 2017 self and started mashing. He broke team records by becoming the first Brave ever to have multiple three homer games within a season. He also recorded nine runs batted in within a game, which puts him near the top of the all-time single game record books. He’s hitting primarily extra base hits, as twelve of his first fourteen hits this month have been doubles or home runs. And finally, much like my favourite weekly podcast, it’s all about the Launch Angle, as he raised it significantly this month:

Going Forward:

Redraft: continue to roster and play him until this streak runs dry. At age 32, he’s a career .235 hitter, yet this year he stands almost 30 points higher than that (though his xBA puts him at lower than his career marks). I don’t see this lasting long term, so play him, but have a short leash with him. He will strike out a lot, but as long as he contributes with some power, he should be safely placed in your outfield.
Dynasty/Keeper: unless he finishes off the year with career high (162-game projected) marks, I’d only look at him late in drafts in 2021.

Bobby Dalbec

The year 2020 has been a bust for everything Boston Red Sox, as it’s clear that they’re not contending at all this season. What better way to prepare for a healthy 2021 season by having some of your prized prospects get the call to the Major League club to see if they can handle MLB pitching and learn from any mistakes they might make? Enter Bobby Dalbec, the number three prospect within their system, who comes with first base and third base eligibility. Since his arrival, he’s breaking team records as well, as his power potential has been on full display for all to see.

Dalbec came into the majors with an interesting profile. He brings an interesting combination of patience and power, albeit with a high K%-BB% rate after every promotion. Since coming up to Boston, he’s certainly mashed, but his strikeout rate of 46.5% is ridiculously high, though unsustainable. Give him time to adjust and, like many times before, he should show added patience.

Going Forward:

Redraft: if you need the power like Snap!, you can do worse than riding with Dalbec. He’s someone who, as seen above, hit 27 home runs in 2019, and can definitely continue here. I see him finishing the year with double digit home runs. Don’t expect much else from him though, as there is minimal speed there with a handful of opportunities available.
Dynasty/Keeper: much more intriguing option here as he’s an upgrade for the Red Sox over Michael Chavis. That said, he (Dalbec) may find himself in a similar platoon situation with Chavis, or, even more, competing for at-bats with him (depending on what the Red Sox do in the offseason). I like Dalbec a lot actually, and if he can gain third base eligibility for (or during) next year, he gains value in my opinion, as third base is rather thin. If you are out of it for this season, pick him up and give him a shot for 2021.

DJ Stewart

In the offseason, I wrote about the Orioles offence and how there was potential there for some late round sneakiness. While I was wrong about some things (*cough* Austin Hays *cough*), I did talk a bit about DJ Stewart. To quote myself:

He will face a lot of right-handed pitchers and will play a lot of games where his approach at the plate can be positively emphasized and used to his advantage. I expect him, with health and playing time on his side, to outperform his Steamer projections and to give fantasy owners everywhere a positive return.

Let’s see how he did:

Overall, I think Stewart has had a good season, despite missing most of August, and should finish the year with some nice counting numbers. A lot of it has to do with his recent surge in power where he hammered six combined home runs against both New York teams. That said, there are some concerning trends in 2020 that need to be addressed. He possesses a .173 xBA, which coincides with his high swing and miss and chase swing rates. However, when we dig a bit deeper, we find that it’s not all doom and gloom.

The overall numbers appear to be a bit skewed since they don’t reflect the gains Stewart has made. He’s swinging and missing in the strike zone less often than before, he’s actually chasing and missing less often and his expected batting average is significantly higher. This is all after his extended time on the IL.

Going Forward:

Redraft: roll with this free source of power from the waiver wire and ride your way to fantasy success! Use a short leash as it could come to an end. It’s a small sample, and Stewart is still building his resumé. This could be the start of something bigger and better.
Dynasty/Keeper: he’s definitely an interesting name to monitor. As someone who knows how to take a pitch and doesn’t always strike out a lot, he could be taking the next step forward. If I were a betting man, I’d say he’ll regress a bit to start next season, but he’ll catch back on and actually be fantasy relevant over a longer period of time than we’ve seen in 2020.

Josh Bell

Earlier this year I also wrote about Josh Bell, as he was struggling to do much of anything. I went so far as to say that I’d replace him as my starter at first base and even listed others I’d rather have at that position going forward. Well, he must have gotten wind of it (alongside Mondesi) and decided that enough was enough. A few days into September, he began showing more plate discipline, stopped chasing and started getting locked in at the plate. Since those adjustments, the results have been astonishing.

The right side of the data, aka the September side, shows a much harder hitting profile which is similar to his early 2019 performance. In fact, his overall hard hit rate in 2020 is eerily close to that of last season. Since September 6, Bell has produced a 2:3 K:BB rate while hitting two home runs and knocking in three runs. While he will jokingly tell you his success is due to regularly skipping batting practice, it ultimately is because he exercised patience and forced pitchers to pitch to him. He’s raised his batting average up forty points, which also shows how small a sample this really is.

Going Forward:

Redraft: honestly, you need to ride this out. He’s done it before, so maybe he’s figured it all out. If you still have him on your roster, what more do you have to lose?
Dynasty/Keeper: if he can finish the year strong and in similar form, he’s worth another look after a long offseason with proper planning and training. With so many pitchers well ahead of the batters, it’s been a year of catching up with the bat. Maybe I was wrong about him.

GPS Pitch Location Report: Gerrit Cole

While it may seem like the season just started, we are in the final two weeks of the regular season, thus the end of the fantasy season. For those of you who are in positions to win your leagues congratulations. You have successfully navigated a slog of a season and no one can take that away from you. However, you cannot sit still, while there is not a ton of season left, ratios can still fluctuate much more than usual due to the shortened season. While I usually leave the intro for some overall discussion of pitching or some guys I’ve mentioned I’ll discuss some more strategy here this week.

  • No player (with exceptions) is an automatic start right now.
  • Winning a category by 20 does not give you any more points than winning by 1.
  • Every single lineup decision we are making right now should be made with the standing in mind. Make sure you understand this context and you adjust accordingly.
  • Know not only what you need to move up or down in categories but also know where your top competition is.
  • If you have FAAB money left, use it, get your guy, block your competition, but make sure you use it, you can’t take it with you

These are just some quick bullet point ideas but obviously feel free to reach out with any other questions you may have and best of luck the rest of the way.

Gerrit Cole

Last Friday on the Morning Relay, podcast host extraordinaire Michael Govier and I were discussing Gerrit Cole and his “struggles”. By no means has Cole been the problem with the Yankees so far in 2020, but the team and fans expected more from him when he was signed this offseason. I decided that Cole would be the next subject of this article as I was curious about what exactly is going wrong with the Yankee ace. As always I began on Cole’s Baseball Savant page hoping to see something on there that triggers me to dive deeper. Overall, no much looks different from Cole the main things that I typically look at all seem to fall into normal levels of fluctuation. His pitch mix is similar, his movement profile has not changed much, and the spin rates on his pitches all seem to be the same. However, it appears that his fastball is being hit much harder than in recent memory.

This then led me to look into the pitch and how it is being used. Among all pitchers with over 300 fastballs thrown on the season, the location-based xwoba on Cole’s fastball is middle of the pack. He comes in around 45th on the list. This number actually compares extremely similar to his 2019 results. So based on this, the difference does not seem to be in Cole’s location with the fastball. So this means that it is tied to how hitters are reacting to the pitch. For me, this usually leads to me to look into the movement on the pitch. As I stated earlier in this article, there does not seem to be any meaningful difference in the movement profile of the pitch. So what are some of the other factors that would cause hitters to react to a pitch differently than before? In my opinion, outside of the pitch characteristics changing, the main factor that could impact how hitters interact with a pitch is usage/predictability.

As a Yankee fan, I have wanted a good amount of Cole’s starts, and anecdotally, I saw something that I never remembered from Cole. When he was dominating for the Astros it seemed like he never fell behind in the count. As a hitter you seemingly had no chance if he got ahead as his offspeed pitches are almost unhittable. However, this season it appears that he was falling behind more often. While this is not exactly groundbreaking, Cole does seem to be pitching from behind in the count more often. In both 2018 and 2019, only 23% of all of Cole’s pitches thrown were with the hitter ahead in the count. This season he is up over 25% which is more in line with his pre-2018 numbers. While this is not exactly a massive adjustment for a pitcher like Cole, he has some expected predictability that comes with falling behind in the count. Baseball Savant has a cool Plinko like graphic that shows his usage in various different counts.

The above chart is from 2019, but what you can see is that when Cole falls behind in the count, he becomes even more fastball heavy. He becomes ever so slightly more predictable. So I decided to take a look at his fastball locations in all counts.

As we can see looking over the above charts, the issues with Cole may in fact be when he falls behind. Typically, Cole locates his fastball up in the zone, in 2020 among pitchers with 300 fastballs, he has the 14th highest average location. Looking over the chart, however, he seems to locate more towards the middle with his fastball once he falls behind. This has led to the 10th highest xwoba on fastballs when behind in the count in all of baseball. So the answer for Gerrit Cole so fan in 2020: get ahead. When he gets ahead he allows himself to utilize all of his pitches and avoid being forced to come down in the zone with his fastball. This is not a groundbreaking finding but is one that is playing itself out when looking into the numbers for Gerrit Cole.

Stuff ERA Leaders

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 700 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Jacob deGrom 2.2379
Shane Bieber 2.3806
Zac Gallen 2.5292
Corbin Burnes 2.5547
Lucas Giolito 2.7125
Kenta Maeda 2.7135
Aaron Nola 2.7919
Yu Darvish 2.8403
Dylan Bundy 2.9012
Dinelson Lamet 3.0937
Clayton Kershaw 3.2029
Lance Lynn 3.2631
Trevor Bauer 3.2679
Adam Wainwright 3.2755
Andrew Heaney 3.2959
Zach Davies 3.2974
Max Fried 3.3004
Jose Berrios 3.3163
Dallas Keuchel 3.3862
Brad Keller 3.3895
Dakota Hudson 3.3939
Zack Wheeler 3.4274
Tyler Mahle 3.5186
Marco Gonzales 3.5907
Brandon Woodruff 3.5958
Masahiro Tanaka 3.6009
Tyler Glasnow 3.6234
Jesus Luzardo 3.6288
Carlos Carrasco 3.7033
Kevin Gausman 3.7162
Brady Singer 3.7405
Spencer Turnbull 3.7541
Dustin May 3.7541
Gerrit Cole 3.7612
Framber Valdez 3.7861
Max Scherzer 3.7892
David Peterson 3.8121
Yusei Kikuchi 3.8226
Blake Snell 3.8251
German Marquez 3.8355
Zack Greinke 3.8431
Julio Urias 3.8528
Sonny Gray 3.8570
Cristian Javier 3.8667
Pablo Lopez 3.8851
Antonio Senzatela 3.9038
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.9141
Frankie Montas 3.9238
Justus Sheffield 3.9410
Kyle Hendricks 3.9580
Kolby Allard 3.9612
Justin Dunn 3.9698
Taijuan Walker 3.9704
Luis Castillo 3.9753
Mike Minor 4.0274
Alex Cobb 4.0780
Martin Perez 4.0974
J.A. Happ 4.1028
Ryan Castellani 4.1057
Josh Lindblom 4.1125
Alec Mills 4.1177
Hyun Jin Ryu 4.1552
Dylan Cease 4.1643
Garrett Richards 4.2043
Aaron Civale 4.2140
Griffin Canning 4.2361
Chad Kuhl 4.2474
Logan Webb 4.2960
Randy Dobnak 4.3446
Johnny Cueto 4.3449
Chris Bassitt 4.3657
Mike Clevinger 4.3735
Tyler Anderson 4.3781
Alex Young 4.3806
Jordan Montgomery 4.4196
Kris Bubic 4.4374
John Means 4.4840
Danny Duffy 4.4860
Patrick Corbin 4.5197
Kyle Freeland 4.5317
Erick Fedde 4.5649
Jon Gray 4.5665
Zach Eflin 4.5797
Chris Paddack 4.6011
JT Brubaker 4.6117
Mike Fiers 4.6519
Robbie Ray 4.7248
Nick Margevicius 4.8246
Luke Weaver 4.9055
Kyle Gibson 4.9080
Adrian Houser 5.0152
Tanner Roark 5.0772
Matthew Boyd 5.0813
Jon Lester 5.1296
Rick Porcello 5.1973
Asher Wojciechowski 5.2367
Derek Holland 5.2600
Jordan Lyles 5.2727
Trevor Williams 5.5256
Ross Stripling 5.5943

Closing Remarks Week 9

While many celebrate the start of the NFL, this writer is still mining for vulture wins, saves and ratio controls as we head into the last two weeks of the abbreviated MLB season.  While it’s been an odd ride, finish the season strongly. My fantasy football teams will likely be woeful; I paid little attention to drafts this year and it will likely show. I have been too busy following the Kevin Ginkels and Yimi Garcias of the world for the weekly “Closing Remarks” series @Roto_Fanatic.

Here are the happenings this week in MLB bullpens around the country:

  • The St. Louis Cardinals lost Giovanny Gallegos to the IL this week with a  groin strain.  Also this week, they activated lefty Andrew Miller and the enigmatic Carlos Martinez.   Who gets opportunities here this week?  Read on; we may have a sleeper for you, too.
  • In other big news, Toronto welcomes back closer Ken Giles, who only made two appearances this year before a forearm strain.  If healthy he will definitely solidify the back end of their pen. They need him as they contend for a playoff spot.
  • Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals heads back to the IL this week with an oblique strain, which may end his season, allowing Daniel Hudson to further cement himself into the ninth inning role. Doolittle had pitched well in a limited sample since returning from his knee injury two weeks ago,
  • The San Francisco Giants are said to be considering a move of Jeff Samardzija to their beleaguered bullpen.  Would he have any value there?  We will look into it and tell you.
  • Felix Pena appears to have entered a committee situation with Ty Buttrey for the Los Angeles Angels.
  • Detroit looks to be full-blown committee right now too.  Who to target, if anyone?
  • Looks like a committee of mediocrity in Arizona as well. We thought Kevin GInkel last week, but Stephan Crichton earned a save on Friday night.

As a reminder, here is our rubric to grade the closers if you need to refresh your memory:

  • Mastery: the best. Nothing else to be learned here. Move forward with confidence.
  • Distinguished: just a notch below mastery, excellent work, but still some room for improvement.
  • Proficient: is average. Think of this as a solid “C” on your term paper.
  • Marginal: poorly constructed, issues with organization, and unclear what is happening.
  • Unacceptable: failure due to lack of planning or execution.

 

Mastery

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers

Hader remains the best in the business. Hader is stuck on nine saves but earned a win this week while also maintaining a 14.2 K/9 rate. Deploy with total confidence. Hader was beaten on Saturday night, giving up four runs to the Chicago Cubs. Still, he would be my top choice and would use him in every league as my number one option.

Liam Hendriks, Oakland Athletics

Hendriks has upped his K/9 rate to an elite 13.3. Hendriks earned two more saves this week, to give him 12, to go with  a 1.33 ERA and a .69 WHIP. He continues to be outstanding.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Jansen is still at 10 saves with a 12.3 K/9 rate,  He looked human against Arizona last week, giving up three hits and two earned runs while earning his third win in the process. You still need to use him regularly.

Brad Hand, Cleveland Indians

Hand has been great in 2020, with 12 saves, an 11.7 K/9 and a 2.45 ERA and .89 WHIP. He leads MLB in saves (along with Hendriks) and has been solid for Cleveland. James Karinchak is a great addition if you need  holds (he has six now) and strikeouts (a staggering 42 in 21 innings), but will not get saves.

 

 

Distinguished

 

Alex Colome, Chicago White Sox

Colome quietly has 10 saves for the surging Chicago White Sox, who are 18-5 in the last three weeks. A low K/9 of 7.6 has not hut him much this year. Great ratios with a 1.08 ERA and a matching 1.08 WHIP.

Mark Melancon, Atlanta Braves: moving up

Melancon would have to qualify as a pleasant surprise in 2020. He has ten saves, a 2.16 ERA and .90 WHIP, with a paltry 4.9 K/9 percentage. He’s not going to give you anything with strikeouts, but he continues to nail down saves. The competition with Will Smith et al has just never materialized this year.

Ryan Pressly, Houston Astros: teetering

Pressly has chipped in with nine saves but took a tough loss to Oakland this past week. His  ERA is 5.40 over the last seven days. I still love the arm but if you are looking for more consistency, you might want to look elsewhere. It’s not helping matters that the Astros are 22-23 and struggling to stay afloat in the AL West. Pressly did come out and earn his ninth save Saturday night. He should hold on to the job but it’s been a rocky road.

Proficient

Trevor Rosenthal, San Diego Padres

Rosenthal continues to sparkle with nine saves, a 13.8 K/9 rate and a 2.55 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Run him out there in all of your lineups.

Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees

Chapman is still rounding into shape from his Covid-19 illness.  He stuck out the side in his one outing this week, but still has a bloated 6.00 ERA, but a closer look shows him with a 2.25 ERA in September.  Still only has one save. I’ve been wavering on deploying him based on the fact that the Yankees have struggled up to this last weekend, and he has not looked 100%. I am still starting him but have added depth to my bench.He has just one save. The stuff is still elite and he should be fine.

Jeremy Jeffress,  Chicago Cubs

Jeffress hammered down the role and earned his seventh save this week.  Jeffress has excelled with a .98 ERA and .80 WHIP.  There is no reason for manager David Ross to use anyone else. The job is his as the Cubs continue to scrap to stay in first place in the NL Central. However, adding intrigue was the fact that Craig KImbrel closed the door on the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday night. Kimbrel, true to form this year, gave up two hits before earning his second save?  Something to watch here?

Edwin Diaz, New York Mets: moving up 

As @mattwi77iams pointed out this weekend, Diaz has 39 strikeouts in 19 innings. That is not a misprint. I know people love to hate on this guy, but he’s got the ERA down to 1.89 and has three saves. The talent is too good to pass up. Looks at these insane K percentages:

Rafael Montero, Texas Rangers

Montero quietly has eight saves for a poor Texas team. But he has only earned two in September as the season runs away from Texas.  He has a 2.13 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, both very good numbers, but doesn’t help much with Ks, with only 14. He also only pitched once this last week as Texas sinks like a stone to the bottom of Moribund Ocean. I would pass on him right now based on the low volume of usage.

Taylor Rogers, Minnesota Twins

The roller coaster ride continues for the lefty. He threw well in a non-save situation midweek, striking out the side against Detroit.  He then pitched in a save situation Friday night, and earned the save, but not before giving up a home run to Jose Ramirez. Chances are if you are using him you may not be in the running for your league title.  If you are, consider someone else if you can, unless you have the stomach for the tightrope. He does have 19 strikeouts in 15 innings, but also sports a 4.11 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. That may hurt you more than it helps.

Brandon Kintzler/Yimi Garcia, Miami Marlins

Kintzler remains on nine saves after a tough week of two blemished outings. Miami used Yimi Garcia to get a save on Friday, which is intriguing since in that game, manager Don Mattingly used Kintzler in the sixth inning (only a seven inning game due to a doubleheader), allowing Garcia to earn the save despite giving up a run. What do we know about Yimi Garcia? Well he’s been nasty this year and hard to hit:

Diego Castillo/Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays

I love Tampa Bay.  I really do; I love how they go about their business, but as a fantasy owner, I hate how they run their bullpen.  Have they no respect for my fantasy needs?  Just being silly, but the question remains in week ten: who do we target to close? Ten relievers have earned at least one save for the Rays this year. This is a tough one.  It should usually come down to matchups, which means Diego Castillo or Nick Anderson. Anderson has four saves and Castillo three.  Neither has pitched this week until the weekend. John Curtiss has also been excellent, and could vulture a save or two. Oliver Drake is also throwing to live hitters and could be back shortly.

Who knows what to expect?  I like Anderson the most but I am not in charge.  If you are desperate for stats, you might want to look elsewhere. Anderson pitched the eighth and Castillo the ninth on Saturday. Both have value in deeper leagues.

Daniel Bard,  Colorado Rockies

Who doesn’t love this story? Bard has been a revelation in Colorado. Bard now has six saves and has a 3.72 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings. Colorado has been middling all season, so do not expect a ton of chances for Bard down the stretch.

Committee, but Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

I think way too much about Kansas City’s bullpen. Greg Holland? Scott Barlow? What about Josh Staumont? It looks like Holland right now, earning his fifth save on Saturday night, but I would bet that Staumont has the job in 2021. That doesn’t help you right now. Staumont and Barlow have been in setup roles and could be next up; Jesse Hahn also lurks and could vulture one or two, especially on back ends of doubleheaders. Mike Matheny could mix-and-match down the stretch here.

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds: stop doing this to yourself

Iglesias continues to underwhelm; six saves with a 4.11 ERA with an 11.2 K/9 rate, which is good. He’s also got three losses. I have learned my lesson with him; unfortunately you cannot win fantasy titles with him as one of your top two closers. Bench role only. Take my advice on this one to avoid feeling ill the last two weeks of the season.

Is it Andrew Miller time again?  St. Louis Cardinals

Gallegos was looking great with four saves over the last two weeks before a strained groin shut him down for the Cards.  Luckily for the Cardinals, Andrew Miller is back and so is Carlos Martinez, who will start for now. The nod should go to Miller, but with his fragility and injury history, others may get opportunities.  I would not be surprised if John Gant received an opportunity or two. Some analysts might lean Genesis Cabrera or Alex Reyes too, but I am not one of them. Let’s take a quick look at Gant:

Gant is throwing well this year despite diminished velocity. The K percentage is up on all of his pitches with the exception of his four-seamer. Gant has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings. Maybe stash him on your bench if you have room, and see what happens.

Daniel Hudson, Washington Nationals: moving down

Hudson is tied for fifth in MLB with nine saves, but at what cost to your team?  The 11.9 K/9 is great, but the 7.02 ERA and 1.20 WHIP are worse stats than the Batavia Youth Baseball Mets team I help coach. Saves are not worth the potential implosions to your roster. He got one save this week but then got shellacked on Friday night. Pass.

Brandon Workman/Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies

Workman is stuck on nine saves this week with a 4.24 ERA and a nightmarish 2.2 WHIP.  He has surrendered 24 hits and 12 walks this year.  My stomach hurts.  Move on. Word on the street this week is that manager Joe Girardi was mulling a flip of Workman and former closer Hector Neris. In a game against Boston midweek, Neris got the save. In another game against the Mets, Workman worked the ninth in a tie game and Neris earned the save in the tenth.  Could we have a changing of the guard here? Watch and see; the Phillies are battling for a playoff spot, and Girardi will play the hot hand. Neris appears to be hitting his stride with a 1.69 ERA and two saves in September. The following shows the uptick in velocity the past few weeks:

Yohan Ramirez, Seattle Mariners

Ramirez has converted three saves, Yoshi Hirano one. This situation appears fluid, but Ramirez is 25 and should get the opportunity ahead of the veteran Hirano. Hirano has not pitched in a week. Read the tea leaves; go Ramirez if you need relief help.

Unacceptable

Stefan Crichton,  Arizona Diamondbacks

Kevin Ginkel got the first opportunity after the Archie Bradley trade, but was sent down Friday after struggling with his fastball command. Manager Torey Lovullo went with Stefan Crichton on Friday night. Lefty Travis Bergen and veteran Junior Guerra could also be used, but I would guide you to avoid this bullpen. This swing-and-miss percentage does not bode well for continued success friends:

Yikes. Move along.

Committee, leaning Bryan Garcia, Detroit Tigers

This is awful especially for the diehard Tigers fans that I know and respect, but Bryan Garcia provided a glimmer of hope with two saves this week.

Garcia is essentially a two-pitch guy, with a sinker and a slider, mixing in a change-up at times as well. He’s 25 and considered a prospect, so he should get some chances for the Tigers.  Interestingly, analysts are split on whether the sinker (listed as such here) is actually a fastball or a sinker. Regardless, he is getting results thus far with this mix, getting groundouts and popups. He is not a strikeout artist but rather relies on his defense to help him out. He may be intriguing but I am tentative right now. Detroit eats closers in 2020.

Matt Barnes, Boston Red Sox

Barnes is adequate for a moribund Boston team, but he should not be on your team right now if you are contending.

Ty Buttrey, Felix Pena Los Angeles Angels

Buttrey was annihilated on Friday night. He is stuck on five saves with an ERA over 6.00. Say no.

Meanwhile Felix Pena has not been much better and only pitched once this week. This team continues to waste the talents of Mike Trout and also Anthony Rendon now. You want none of this. Journeyman Matt Andriese earned the save Saturday night.

Committee, but leaning Hunter Harvey,  Baltimore Orioles

Harvey took the loss against the Yankees on Saturday in a tight 2-1 game. He also lost on Wednesday against the Mets. Yet Harvey is their best option and Baltimore may take these last two weeks to see what they really have in him. I would pick Harvey of this bunch of relievers in Baltimore. Harvey throws a hard four-seamer an astounding 79% of the time:

Richard Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Rodriguez has the role for a team that is 14-28. Pass.

Committee, San Francisco Giants

Tyler Rogers has three saves this season but an ERA of 5.73.  If you are looking for anything here, my advice is to look elsewhere. Many will smirk at this, but there is rumor that Jeff Samardzija could move to the bullpen when he comes back in the coming days. Could he reinvent himself there? Time will tell.

Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

Giles is back. Can he be effective? The Blue Jays desperately need him to recapture his 2019 form in a hurry. The velocity is down; can he regain it? See below. Here is hoping for health and a return to dominance. Rafael Dolis has chipped in with four saves and kept the bullpen afloat, but this job belongs to Giles provided he is healthy.