Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WHO'S ON FIRST?

Never thought I would be writing about
Ike Davis (photo courtesy of Field of Fotos)
Felipe M

We've mentioned way, way back in the offseason about the depth at 1B entering this fantasy baseball season.  Whether you're in a 12, 14, or even a 16-team league, every club should have a somewhat, dependable player at that spot.  Well, not everyone is that lucky.

Over the weekend, I was answering a few fantasy baseball questions (like I normally do) when out of the blue, one of my associates posts this question:
"Would you trade Doug Fister or Mike Minor for Paul Konerko?  My current options at that spot are Brandon Moss, Ike Davis, and Justin Morneau (if needed)."
He went on to mention that he would be able to live with his current setup at 1B, but I couldn't help but wonder: how in the world did this happen?  Moss wasn't even listed on my list, Davis ultimately was the #19th 1B, and Morneau was a player that probably should have gone undrafted.  He later explained to me that during the draft, he had to step away from the computer for a moment, but by the time he got back, he ended up with an overabundance at 3B.  Had he not stepped away, Konerko would have been on the team and issue would have been resolved.  He would have even "settled" for Chris Davis instead of Ike, but that's the cruel game we deal with.

Of course, the answer was "no," you do not trade a front-of-the-line starter for an aging 1B.  He agreed that he would try to explore the possibility of trading one of his 3B, but was enamored with the idea of going with the current platoon system he has going so far.  Nothing wrong with a "platoon system" in fantasy baseball.  I myself have one going in CF with B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings (and current add, Angel Pagan).  

Nevertheless, 1B is one of the more important, if not the most important, position in fantasy leagues because of the power numbers that the position can generate for a team.  I explained to him that Moss was a total fluke (of course, he didn't like that assessment) with poor plate discipline and terrible contact skills.  Ike Davis, although he has proven that he has legit power, has also proven to have a terrible approach at the plate and strikes out way too much (he hit .227 with an on-base% of .308 in 2012).  And it is unclear if Morneau will ever repeat his 2009 numbers after years of dealing with serious injuries.  

My associate countered by stating that since he's in a 5 category, head-to-head league, he's only interesting in the counting stats that accumulate in those categories only.  He really doesn't care about on-base% or how many times a guy strikes out.  Which is really weird for me because I use a lot of statistical criteria when evaluating a player and have, in the past, used this, successful, method when playing in similar leagues that my associate is currently a part of.  It was so strange to have a conversation with someone who described Moss as a ".280 [hitter] with 30+ homers and 90 RBI [and a] late bloomer who's improving in the [strikeout] category" (which all indications show that Moss is definitely not improving in that category at all).  A player like Moss who has had plate discipline issues throughout his Minor League career to suddenly becoming a .280 hitter just does not sound right, but I digress.  First rule of fantasy sports: if the method has worked, go with it!  I'll stick to my successful methods and my associate can stick to his.  It's that simple, really.  

However, that got me thinking: if my associate is struggling with 1B issues and is seriously talking himself into believing that his 3-headed monster might actually work, what is really going on with other owners having to face this same dilemma, but actually want to improve their situation and not have to settle for guys like Moss, Davis, or Morneau?  My most important rule when giving out fantasy baseball advice is to never, ever suggest to other owners to go after players that I myself would never consider having on my own team.  So to rephrase that question, what would I do if I were in that same predicament?  

Let's say that I'm stuck with a sub-par 1B, we'll call him Stinky McStinkerson (you guys out there can call him, Adam Dunn).  I guess the first thing I would do is search the waiver wire for a more suitable replacement.  The following players are owned by less than 75% of CBS leagues:

  • Yonder Alonso--62%
  • Yuniesky Betancourt--35%
  • Matt Adams--36%
  • Chris Johnson--64%
  • Garrett Jones--32%
  • James Loney--7%
  • Brandon Moss--66%
  • Stinky--70%
  • Adam Lind--20%
  • Mitch Moreland--16%
  • Corey Hart--59%

First off, if I see that Alonso is available, I'm not even hesitating.  I'm swooping in, adding him to my lineup, and declaring my 1B problems solved.  We've been hyping up Alonso since February and he should be owned in more leagues.  He is currently posting an OPS of .988--at home!  Looks like those new dimensions at Petco Park are paying off for Alonso.  Albeit, his overall numbers don't look very impressive at all, but the fact that he's hitting a lot better at home is a step in the right direction.  He also has a reputation of having a great approach at the plate and raw, developing power.  He should be owned in more leagues.

And just to cover my ground at the position, I'm picking up Hart and stash him deep in my bench or my "injured reserve" spot and play the waiting game with him.  He's worth the wait because he is a proven commodity.

But wait a minute: didn't Brandon Moss have better numbers than Hart in 2012, considering that Moss had less at bats to work with?  Yes, from an efficiency standpoint, Moss' numbers looked better when you consider that Hart nearly doubled up Moss in at bats last season.  However, the 2012 numbers prove how much of a fluke Moss is.  Both players had similar BB:K and Hart had a slightly better contact rate than Moss, but clearly, both players have poor discipline.  Despite all of that, Hart was lucky enough to hit .271 considering his "hacking" approach (probably assisted by a BABIP of .318).  However, I'm just supposed to sit here and believe that Moss was able to hit .291 despite striking out as much as Hart?  His BABIP was .359!  Again, fluke!  However, I will concede that all other 2012 numbers (including Secondary Average, IsoPower, and Total Average) do favor Moss (although, League OPS which is "The OPS a league average (non-pitcher) would have had in the same park(s)," favored Hart).  Nevertheless, the .359 BABIP proves how lucky Moss was in being able to hit .291 last season.  Size is another factor in play as Hart is your prototypical slugger standing at 6'6", 237 lbs.  We've seen guys like Michael Morse use their size to their advantage to generate plenty of natural power despite the lack of plate discipline.  Moss, on the other hand, is 6'0", 210 lbs.  His Minor League power numbers show inconsistencies.  One year, he would post impressive homerun totals and slugging%, but other years, he would suddenly disappear in the power deaprtment, posting mediocre numbers.  It makes me question his ability to continue to provide consistent power production in the long-term knowing that he all ready lacks size, but also has a history of lacking power in some seasons.  Players like Moss are susceptible to long stretches of slumps.  Hart, ironically enough, is the more steady choice.

Assuming that Alonso and Hart are unavailable, I guess I would consider picking up Moss as a short-term solution, cutting bait as soon as his hot streak ends.      

Highly-touted prospect, Matt Adams would also be a good choice, but again, short-term solution as playing time is an issue because of the depth the St. Louis Cardinals have and the lack of flexibility that Adams offers on defense as he can only play 1B.

The versatile Chris Johnson (qualifies at both corner infield spots) has been hitting the ball in the last week or so as his contact rate is higher than usual and his current BABIP is a whopping .468!  Based on his history of terrible plate discipline, Johnson is clearly on a hot streak and just like Moss, he is only a short-term solution to your 1B problems.  He should be cut as soon as he starts to slump because it might be a long one.  

Betancourt is an odd option at this spot, but has created buzz as he hit 2 homeruns and drove in 7 RBI in the last week of play.  He also possesses a horrid plate approach, but has a history of good contact rate on his side.  However, because of his impatient approach (despite, ironically enough, posting a career walk percentage so far of 5.6%), he only has an on-base% of .278 and is only hitting .245.  I'll pass, thanks.

Same thing with Garrett Jones.  Although the power has always been there, he's always lacked consistency.  This season, he looks to be finally showing some signs of it, but again, it's just a fluke as his impatient approach is being masked by a slight increase in his contact rate and a BABIP of .350.  His on-base% should be a lot lower than .346 based on his League On-Base Percentage of .316.  

James Loney is having a surprising start to his season so far.  Always known for his discipline, good contact skills, and defense, he's lacked the power that is required of the position throughout his career.  Well, this season he's slugging .488.  He's only hit one homerun, but for what it's worth, he on pace to hit for more than 45 doubles.  Well, despite the reputation of possessing good discipline, his walk percentage of 10.4% is the highest he's posted since 2009.  He's also striking out more than usual as he's trying to lift the ball into the air with more frequency than what we're used to seeing.  His BABIP is a high .343 as well.  It should be interesting to see if Loney can sustain this kind of hitting prowess when his BABIP drops to more normal levels, but based on his past plate discipline, I would rather take a chance on Loney than on some of the other, all-or-nothing hitters we have listed heretofore.  

The most interesting statistical line comes from Adam Lind.  Lind has a a reputation for being an all-or-nothing hitter, posting one, good, solid season back in 2009.  Currently, Lind is struggling to find playing time as he's been mired in a long slump that also includes a power outage (only has 3 total extra base-hits this year).  Despite his struggles, he's still posting an on-base% of .370.  Lind has walked 9 times and has only struck three times.  That's amazing considering the kind of player Lind is.  Who knows if Lind can turn his career around, but at least he's trying to improve one aspect of his game.  

By now, we all know that Moreland is a power-hitter that's had plate discipline and strikeout issues in the Majors, despite the fact that he's shown an amazing plate approach in the Minors.  Well, he's posting a respectable BB/K of .50, has displayed good homerun power (despite the low slugging% and OPS), and despite showing good contact skills this season, his BABIP is at a devastating .140.  His Slash Line should be a lot higher than they currently are based on the League Average metrics.  So if you believe in buying low with the hopes that Moreland will snap out of his current slump and provide excellent production for the rest of the season, he would look to be the perfect candidate to provide such a scenario.  

So there you have it.  A desperate owner's look at the 1B position.  The pickings are slim and you have to be very creative in choosing a player that best fits your needs.  Do you go short-term and select a player that is on fire?  Do you risk going with a less exciting pick in the hopes that a certain player snaps out of a slump and rewards your patience by providing good numbers for the rest of the year?  Or do you go safe by selecting a player with past reputation, pedigree, and/or offers good plate discipline?  If it's me doing the picking, I would go with the latter.  But that's just simply the way I do things; my method if you will.

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3 comments:

Eric Zakrevsky said...

I have Matt Adams as a bench player in a few leagues. I'm a Rangers fan and I know they had talks in the off season about a Profar/Taveras swap, but nothing serious came out of it. With Adams hitting the way he is and the Rangers signing Andrus to that contract, don't you think a deal could happen between them in the near future? Then the Cards could move Craig into the Outfield instead of Taveras and have a solid Short Stop in Profar. I'll have my fingers crossed that it may play out this way, both as a fantasy manager and a Rangers fan.

Bootlee said...

With the above scenario, you're still relying on Beltran getting hurt. It's a strong possibility, and if you have the bench space for Matt Adams by all means, hold onto him with hope he does get more time. Just know you're still waiting for another player to get hurt, even if the above Profar/Tavares scenario does play out (my personal opinion is that swap doesn't happen. I've heard the rumors, and even thought that trade made sense even before I heard the rumors, but I think if something were going to come of that, it would have happened already).

Felipe said...

Andrus for Taveras is a very interesting move, but I don't think it will happen. I mean, if the Rangers wanted to move Profar, I would think they would have done it for the more established Justin Upton in the offseason (although I understand that a possible new contract for J-Up would be an issue). But the Rangers loved Profar so much, they refused to offer him to any team during this past winter. The Cardinals also love Taveras and they're willing to be more than patient with the young OF.

All I can say about Matt Adams is, "poor Matt Adams." He has nothing left to prove in the Minors so I guess he'll be riding the bench in St. Louis for awhile. Lucky for him, the team is full of old veterans that might get hurt during the season.