BaseballHQ Friday Volume 16, Issue 10: April 1, 2016
PLAYING TIME TODAY
Red Sox | Travis Shaw to start at third
Boston Red Sox 3B Travis Shaw will start at third base over 3B Pablo Sandoval to open the season. Defense was the deciding factor, and Sandoval will try to earn more playing time. Source: MLB.com - Ian Browne
BHQ take: Despite an 0-for-16 stretch earlier in the week, Shaw continued to outhit Sandoval during spring training (.333/.377/.509 compared to .244/.279/.488), as well as out-defend him. They both hit right-handed pitching similarly in 2015 (.744 OPS for Sandoval, .736 OPS for Shaw), but the left-handed Shaw also owned a surprising advantage against left-handers (.975 OPS vs. .465). Those results against LH pitching are likely to regress but this obviously is not a typical platoon situation, which will make it difficult for daily players to determine which one to start in their lineup on a given day. It may take both continued defensive improvement by Sandoval in a more limited role, and a "sophomore slump" by Shaw both at the plate and in the field, for the roles to reverse. —Matt Dodge
Shaw, Travis PT Gain: 30%
Sandoval, Pablo PT Loss: -35%
Holt, Brock PT Gain: 5%
White Sox | Pale Hose announce starting rotation
Chicago White Sox SPs Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Mat Latos and John Danks will comprise the starting rotation to begin the season, the team announced Tuesday, March 29. Source: MLB.com - Scott Merkin
BHQ take: In 2015, Chicago's starting rotation combined for a 52-63 record, with a 4.12 ERA. However, the White Sox rotation ranked second in MLB behind the Cleveland Indians in team strikeouts produced by starters. In fact, the White Sox rotation, with a 5.8 strikeouts/game average, even outpaced the New York Mets rotation, who averaged 5.5 strikeouts/game. If this trend continues, the White Sox rotation has the potential to be an undervalued source of strikeouts in 2016. No playing time changes, just an update. —Alex Beckey
Brewers | Bullpen roles undefined for Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said he'll take a generic approach to the ninth inning with RP Will Smith (knee) out to begin the season. RP Jeremy Jeffress would seem to be the obvious choice for ninth-inning duties, but Counsell hasn't made an announcement. 'You start thinking about how game situations will play out,' Counsell said. 'None of this is set in stone. The relievers' roles-their jobs are to get outs.' Jeffress has one save in 151 major league outings, and the other relievers in the bullpen have zero closing experience. Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Tom Haudricourt
BHQ take: Counsell anointed Smith and Jeffress as co-closers before Smith's injury, seemingly leaving Jeffress alone as the closer. Jeffress has ridden improved Ctl to back-to-back 100+ BPV seasons (2014-15). Fellow RHP Corey Knebel displayed even better skills in his rookie 2015 season, and is likely second in line for saves until Smith returns. —Tom Kephart
Smith, Will PT Loss: -3% Sv Loss: -30%
Jeffress, Jeremy Sv Gain: 30%
Pirates | Juan Nicasio cracks rotation
Pittsburgh Pirates SP Juan Nicasio will be the fifth starter to start the season, and SP Ryan Vogelsong will pitch out of the bullpen. Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Rob Biertempfel
BHQ take: Nicasio has parlayed his strong spring-15 innings, 24 strikeouts, five walks-into a spot in the rotation. Keep in mind he has a career 4.88 ERA (4.21 xERA), but that includes four seasons with COL. He had a strong DOM (10.0) pitching mainly out of the bullpen for LAD last season and that's been on display in Florida. He could be the latest success story for pitching coach Ray Searage, but for now keep an eye on him at the start of the season. As for Vogelsong, the 38-year-old has struggled this spring with an 0-2 record and 6.08 ERA. Vogelsong likely won't help you at this point. —Rick Green
Nicasio, Juan PT Gain: 2%
Vogelsong, Ryan PT Loss: -1%
FACTS & FLUKES
Powerful Sano a batting average liability By Derrick Boyd
After missing the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Miguel Sano (DH/OF, MIN) picked up right were he left off in 2015. He recorded a .918 OPS in 241 Double-A at bats, almost identical to the .915 OPS and 233 AB he posted at the same level in 2013. Summoned to the majors at the beginning of July and inserted into the cleanup spot, Sano appeared unfazed, mashing 18 home runs with a .916 OPS. Is Sano's skillset sufficient to sustain this level of production going forward?
* - Single-A unadjusted
+ - Double-A MLEs
^ - MLB
The power is definitely adequate, but a low BA may be prohibitive:
Sano's 57% ct% was the lowest in MLB among hitters with at least 150 at bats in 2015. xBA is congruent with MLE batting average.
A 43% HH% and 25% LD% generated an unsustainable 40% hit rate that is sure to regress. BA will probably dip under .250 sans ct% improvement.
Sano's 174 xPX is elite, but lags almost 50 points behind PX. Expect hr/f to dip at least a few points in 2016.
Youthful Spd is expected to vanish rapidly as he fills out, but is probably sufficient to swipe 5+ bags for now.
Sano hits the ball hard enough that well above average hit rates could be the norm (think 32-35%), but he will still need to improve ct% significantly in order for BA to remain palatable. However, if ct% remains below 60% and he happens to suffer some h% or hr/f misfortune, he could quickly become a playing time risk. Current ADPs indicate that Sano is going somewhere between the 4th and 5th rounds of 15-team drafts, which is simply too high of a price given his lack of an MLB track record and the likelihood of being a BA liability.
FACTS/FLUKES: Lindor, Stroman, Calhoun, Storen, Forsythe By Ryan Bloomfield
In this week's free offering, Baseball HQ Facts/Flukes analyst Ryan Bloomfield does a last-minute check-in on the 2016 outlook of Francisco Lindor and four other ALers. Read on...
As we head into Opening Day weekend and the real stats start to pile up, I am making a few “Opening Day resolutions,” kind of like New Year’s resolutions but with less guilt after the first two weeks.
First, a little background. I am playing only two leagues this year, a 12-team 5x5 AL-only and an 15-team mixed 6x6 league that includes some of the regular categories plus OBP (yes, BA and OBP) and Holds for pitchers.
So, without further preamble, besides eating fewer Pringles, walking the dog farther than the end of the driveway and learning to play the piano, here are my four resolutions for Opening Day, 2016.
Resolution #1: Get active, stay active
This actually sounds like a New Year’s resolution. In past years, I think I’ve relied too heavily on my draft and not been diligent enough about in-season management. We’ve learned through some good research that something like 25% of our final stats are not drafted (and for some owners, even more than 25%). That means it’s going to be a top priority for me to stay, if not ahead, at least equal with my competitors in monitoring the free-agent pool. I’ll really be relying on BaseballHQ.com’s scouting section, especially the daily call-ups reports. The usual wisdom is that this is more important in single-league format because of the thinness of the free-agent pool, but I think there’s an argument to be made that the benefits are also important in that 15-team mixed 6x6—because the quality of free agents is higher, it makes sense to get the best ones aggressively.
Resolution #2: Be less aggressive giving and getting with trade offers
I’m a big believer in being a purely logical trader, and trying to put together deals that offer benefits to both sides, based on category improvement (and especially category improvement by my trading partner that sends him past my overall competitors). Over the last few years, my usual method of launching trade offers has been to provide my potential partner with extremely detailed analysis of how much each of us gains or loses in each category, which other teams get passed, and how passing those other teams also helps us.
This hasn’t really led to making as many helpful trades as I would like. I’m not sure why, because if anyone sent me such an offer, and the analysis made sense to me, I’d do the deal in less time than it takes to eat half a tube of Pringles. Instead, however, I have actually received replies that say, in essence, “I agree with this analysis, and I agree that it will help both of us gain points and hurt our competitors. I’ll pass anyway.” Sometimes it turns out I was asking for a favorite player. Sometimes it turns out the owner had other trading plans for the player. I had an owner in non-experts league once tell me he was just scared to do the deal “because it made too much sense” (no, I wasn’t in a league with Dave Stewart or Ruben Amaro). He said my ability to parse the details of the trade made him think that I knew something he didn’t. In fact, I did know something he didn’t: That the trade would help us both just as I described. This is an occupational hazard when you play in a league with friends and they find out you write about fantasy baseball for BaseballHQ and the Forecaster annual.
So this year, it’ll be different. I have the feeling that trades are best begun gently, so I’m going to emulate the trade offers I get, which are typically vague and offer benefits only in the abstract: “It looks you could use some pitching. What would you offer me for Phil Hughes?” And while I’m pretty sure I will never (again) trade for Phil Hughes, I’m going to try to keep the conversation going by asking about someone else. And avoiding detailed analysis except for my own purposes.
Resolution #3: Take in more games
One of the hazards of thinking and writing about fantasy baseball is that it moves appreciation of the real games, with real players, on a real field, into a subordinate position. I definitely intend to watch more games both live and on TV, and especially to listen to games on SiriusXM or MLB.com.
I don’t believe I’m going to pick up any nuances of J.A. Happ’s delivery from my 500-level seat at Rogers Centre or from the radio, but I should just watch more games. And since my Tout team has a few “mini-stacks” of DET, OAK and TAM, I could nip down to T.O. once in a while and get in a game or two from each of them.
There might also be some useful intel from the broadcasts, especially now that Harold Reynolds isn’t involved in any of them. Radio broadcasts could be extra useful in this regard, since many of them now have local beat reporters as guests in the booth (TV also does this sometimes).
It’s common to hear from experts that the players are “just the roulette balls” in our game, and should be considered as such. That’s what I’ve been doing for a while, so this year I’m going to try to keep track of them as athletes and people, too.
Resolution #4: Take it all less seriously
For too long I have lived and died with every night of action. I have snapped at my kids because John Burkett had just given up nine earnies in 2/3 of an inning. I’ve been despondent because my hitters went a combined 2-for-38 with zero counting stats. I routinely get angry at managers who pull my pitcher when he’s tied, or leave him in, depending on the outcome. This approach is even less healthy than Pringles. So this year, it’s going to be different. I’m still going to try hard and be diligent, but I’m also going to try to remember that it’s just a game, that nothing (much) is riding on the outcome, and that it should be fun. If it isn’t, I’m doing something wrong.
Have a great Opening Day. Here’s Sunday’s lineup…
1:05pm ET: STL (Wainwright) @ PIT (Liriano)
4:05pm ET: TOR (Stroman) @ TAM (Archer)
8:37pm ET: NYM (Harvey) @ KC (Volquez)
1:05pm ET: HOU (Keuchel) @ NYY (Tanaka)
2:10pm ET: SF (Bumgarner) @ MIL (Peralta)
3:05pm ET: MIN (Santana) @ BAL (Tillman)
4:05pm ET: SEA (King Felix) @ TEX (Hamels, my ace)
4:10pm ET: BOS (Price) @ CLE (Kluber)
4:10 pm ET: PHI (Hellickson) @ CIN (Iglesias)
4:10 pm ET: WAS (Scherzer) @ ATL (Teheran)
7:05pm ET: LA (Kershaw) @ SD (Ross)
7:10 pm ET: Toronto Blue Jays (Dickey) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Smyly)
9:40 pm ET: Colorado Rockies (De La Rosa) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Greinke)
10:05pm ET: Chicago Cubs (Arrieta) @ Los Angeles Angels (Richards)
10:05pm ET: Chicago White Sox (Sale) @ Oakland Athletics (Gray)
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