Here’s what happened in The Staff League during Week 5!
Max Eddy (12 Years a Save) vs. Ian Post (Ian’s Pornogriffey):
While the fleeting dream of the Undefeated season evaporated before my eyes last week, I’m not terribly dismayed by these results. Yes, Sub-Mendoza Line batting averages from six of my regular’s helped introduce me to my team’s floor this weekend (Hello floor!). Nonetheless the squad continues to perform in the areas I want it too; Offensive counting stats and Ks. Paul Goldschmidt led the offense this week with a 7/22, 3R, 3HR, 7RBI, 1SB. Goldy’s been nothing short of spectacular thus far. He’s walking more than he’s striking out, he’s maintaining the speed gains from last year, but more importantly he’s hitting balls in the air much harder than last year. He’s averaging roughly 95MPH on balls struck between 26°- 39°, up roughly 3MPH from ’16. More astounding however is his current 107.6 MPH Average Exit Velocity on balls hit between 19° – 26°. That’s up from 95.1 MPH in ’16. He’s earning his shots big time, and I wouldn’t be concerned at all by the threat of a humidor.
On the pitching side I employed my usual high volume streaming approach and was bitten badly by the “Bad Bauer.” Obnoxiously obvious alliteration is about all one has left after gambling at Casino Bauer. Trevor Bauer wasn’t alone in the casino though, Mike Foltynewicz showed up for a few rounds at the roulette wheel. When the dust settled the two had combined for a 8IP, 16H, 14 ER, 7BB, 7K line of pure sludge. Adding insult to injury was Bauer being skipped against the feckless Royals in favor of Mike Clevinger. Buyers of Bauer beware.
For Post the win last week was particularly gratifying as former 12 Years a Save relief ace Chris Devenski posted a meaningful 3IP, W, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 3K, SV. I’ve sent probably 5 or 6 offers involving Devenski since I dropped him in week 2 to stream some schmo. The obsession has less to do with Devenski’s actual value in this format, and more to do with the value he has to my teams’ current construct. His usage, often multi inning appearances, makes his run and base runner suppression more meaningful than the average middle reliever, while simultaneously raising his ceiling for a higher volume of Ks in each appearance. He’s not the primary Saves option, which ultimately limits his overall value in a format like ours which scores Saves, but I’m committed to punting and couldn’t care less. The other stats are where it’s at for me.
Marcell Ozuna and Kris Bryant did the damage for the offense going 22/57, 10R, 5HR, 7RBI collectively. Bryant’s been getting it into gear in May as he’s upped his percentage of “Value Hits” from 7.8% in April to 10.6% in May, according to xStats.org. VH% is the percentage of Plate Appearances resulting in a batted ball that’s a nearly automatic extra base hit. Ozuna has done even better going from 7.1% to 11.4%. More impressive however has been the 4.5% decrease in Ozuna’s “Poorly Hit” percentage which measures plate appearances ending in a batted ball that’s a near automatic out. Oh, and he’s cut his K% in half, 26.5% in April to 13.5% in May. We’re dealing with a small sample size here, but this trend is worth watching for Ozuna. It portends stardom.
Christopher Edmunds (Stunning Bunts) vs. Andrew Todd-Smith:
My heart goes out to ATS. Despite a solid all-around performance his team took a tough luck loss to a squad that hasn’t updated their active lineup since April 24th. Ouch. Charlie Blackmon, Travis Shaw, and Ryon Healy led the offense for ATS with a stellar 24/63, 13R, 6HR, 13 RBI. Blackmon’s been studly thus far, Shaw continues to impress in a surprisingly potent Brewers offense, and Healy has seen his wOBA jump up 73 points from April to a .370 mark thus far in May. That’s all great but Xander Bogaerts continues his stubborn refusal to tate. With a 56.1% ground ball rate the kid is content being a worm slayer. It’s a disappointment considering the power breakout he had last season when he dispatched 21 baseballs to various locations past various outfields. Nonetheless we’ve seen the resurgence of his ground balls and with a 22.4 fly ball percentage it’s tough to see him getting past 10 taters on the year. The good news is that the batting average should stay north of .300, and the runs should be there on a Red Sox offense that’s starting to come around, but without Billy Hamilton wheels Bogaerts is unlikely to earn his ADP.
Ben Pernick (McCullers Of The Rainbow) vs Alex Fast (Betances With Wolves):
This was a righteous clash between perhaps the leagues best named teams. Unfortunately for Official Pitcher List Podcast Co-Host Alex Fast he came out on the losing end as he fell just short in Runs and Taters. Nonetheless his pitching staff continues to thrive, despite…um…despite losing…oh dear reader(s?), it’s so hard to say a thing like this…despite losing James Paxton to the DL with a forearm strain. PROFOUND SADNESS. The season of, “We’re Not Allowed To Have Nice Things,” rolls merrily along. Nonetheless with a rotation fronted by Clayton Kershaw Fast continued to suppress runs. His saves total on the week belies how important his bullpen has been thus far and this week was no different. Tony Watson, Wade Davis, Justin Wilson, and name-sake Dellin Betances (The team name gets me every time Fast) combined for 12.2, 2W, 5H, 0ER, 4BB, 20Ks, 1SV. With guys like this in the ‘pen Fast significantly raises the floor for his ratios from week to week, and by employing a high skill reliever such as Wilson he’s lucked his way into a third legit closer. Saves speculation is always tough, but when you invest in skills you’re always gaining something even if the dude takes a minute to get the 9th.
Pernick’s staff was somehow even better this week and I’m about to get deeply nerdy on Lance McCullers. The big surprise with McCullers is the walk rate. He’s gone from a 5.00 BB/9 in ’16 to a really nice 2.70 BB/9 this season. He’s throwing his best pitch, that nasty knuckle curve, in the zone about 5% more than he did last year and why the heck not? It’s maintained a filthy 20.1 SwStrk% and despite a slight uptick in contact rates, which you’d expect from living in the zone more, he’s forcing batters to swing at his offering more often. The Z-Swing% of 59.3% and over all Swing% of 53.1% represent increases of roughly 2% and 3% respectively. Surprisingly he’s been throwing his heater in the zone about 5% percent more than he did last year as well. At 55% it’s now in the zone more than it’s not, and the pitch has actually had a positive value (0.4 p/Val) thus far. His heat maps reflect an improved ability to command the pitch away from both LHB and RHB. His home run rate has increased but with less men on base it’s been an ERA friendly compromise. As impressive as all that has been I’m keeping an eye on McCullers change-up. Thus far it’s 3.1 inches of Vertical movement, and -9.6 inches of Horizontal movement are both above league average. He’s seems to be using it as a chase pitch more throwing it out side the zone roughly 13% more than he did last season with a modest 1.4% increase in SwStrk%. The Z-Contant rate on the pitch has plummeted from 96.2% to 72.7%, and with an increase in 8.2% increase O-Contact% it’s no mystery the pitch has seen an 17.1% increase in ground ball rate. The change has had a positive 0.3 p/Val thus far, after posting a poor -6.4 in ’16. Better command and an effective third pitch for McCullers could be the key to ace-dom.
William Wright (Céspedes Centipedes!) vs. Max Posner (NY-FCJ):The overall score here belies the relative proximity of this matchup given the closeness in the majority of hitting categories outside of Taters. Max welcomed new edition Yonder Alonso to the squad and he continued his fly ball revolutionary ways going 5/15, 3R, 3HR, 7RBI. A nearly 11 point increase in his launch angle is fueling the power spike, which I’m buying into. However, with a .252 xBABIP I’m expecting that batting average to fall significantly. He’s an interesting sell high/buy high guy if you need, or have a surplus of, power. I’m surprisingly less concerned about batting average regression from Posner’s semi-name sake Aaron Judge who with a 7/21, 5R, 3HR, 8RBI continues to impress. Right now Judge is one of the league leaders in VH% at 13.7%. He’s cut the rate of balls he hits at >39° angle from 25.6% in ’16 to 8.1% this season, and despite an 11.5% gain in balls hit at a <0° he’s running a .285 xBABIP.
Wright’s pitching staff is built on the backs of resurgent veterans Zack Grienke and Dallas Keuchel, but despite their solid 15IP, W, 13H, 7ER, 2BB, 12K combined line, the rest of the staff lagged way behind. The Mets continue to feel more like the Real Housewives of Matt Harvey than an actual baseball team. The Dark Knight was lit up by Atlanta in his lone start of the week posting a 5.1IP, 8H, 6ER, 3BB, 2K line of sadness. Interestingly he posted his highest average fastball velocity of the season on both his heater and slider. The velocity will be worth watching as he moves forward and hopes to regain some semblance of his former value.
Rick Graham (Mr. Holland’s Opus) vs. Nic Gardiner (Ze German):
God has it been fun to watch Chris Sale this year. Nic’s been laughing his way to the bank on that pick after scooping him at the top of the 3rd round in our draft. Sale now has 6 consecutive 10+ K outings and is making a strong case for being 1B behind Kershaw. Certainly in terms of draft value he’s been the better commodity thus far. 21 Ks on the week for in 14IP is always just so püré. Unfortunately he also owns Matt Moore and Jeremy SHellickson who combined for 18 ERs in 13IP. Moore’s been so bad on the road it’s laughable (5.61 xFIP), but he’s worth streaming at home (4.15 xFIP) given the park factors. Jose Abreu has shown signs of life lately posting a 9/30, 5R, 3HR, 5RBI line on the week and restoring the confidence of his owners, and mitigating some of the disappointment Gardiner’s experienced with Edwin Encarnarcion’s early season.
Sound the buy low trumpets on Edwin. A look under the hood shows he’s been getting less to hit. The league is throwing him less cheddar down 2% from ’16 to roughly 50% on the year, but more importantly pitchers are avoiding the zone more frequently against him. His Zone% is at 41% representing a 5% decrease from the previous season. You’d expect a bump in O-Swing% but Edwin’s actually chased less this year (20% O-swing% compared to 23% last year), and his inflated 28% K% appears to be rooted in a drop in his over all contact rate, down 8% to 69% this year. Here’s the good news:
Everything’s trending in the right direction for Edwin. His 16% BB% is up from last year and exactly what you’d hope to see from someone getting pitched outside the zone more. I think the drop in contact is an adjustment thing to getting less heaters. Edwing’s never finished a professional season with a contact rate below 76%, and that was his debut year in ’05 when he was still E5. Further more xStats sees a brighter version of Edwin’s balls in play giving him a .264/.405/.472 expected slash line. It’s likely he finishes the year with a K% north of 20%, but the overall line will be worth buying low on. Giddy up.
Rick’s offense had a fantastic week led by Matt Carpenter’s 7/21, 8R, 4HR, 6RBI tater barrage. Of more interest to me has been the four straight quality starts from Eduardo Rodriguez. He’s got a terrific 27:8 K:BB rate over those starts and has only issued 3BBs in his last 3 starts. His zone rates have increased over the course of the season, and he’s still been effective at missing bats. He’s currently #53 on the list and given the ridiculous attrition rates of SPs this year I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rise into the 30s.
Ben Palmer (Seven Year Yelich) vs. Nick Pollack (Appel of Manaea):
My heart goes out to Palmer here as this brutally close matchup kept him from turning over that goose egg in the win column. I expressed my concern about Mookie Betts‘ power in last week’s write up, so it’s nice so see he popped one this past week. As of this writing Betts has a few more homers too, so without diving into the specifics of those batted balls it’s encouraging that brighter times are ahead. Both offenses were so close this week a blooper could’ve changed the outcome, it’s the pitching that really did Palmer in here. Marcus Stroman and Matt Shoemaker combined for a 14.1IP, 15H, 13ER, 10BB, 11K and then there was Matt Cain’s 3.1IP, 10H, 9ER, 6BB, 2K drubbing at the hands of the Reds. Cain is best left untouched, Stroman faced the red hot Yankees (ew), but Shoemaker’s using his splitter less this year. The usage of that pitch drove his value last season, and it hasn’t been as valuable this year registering a -1.8 p/Val. He’s worth holding onto for now, but if we don’t see some improvements in the next few starts he might become a streamer.
Pollack’s gotta feel good eeking this one out. He’s suffered the most this season from the wave of injuries, and his commitment to stashing them has cost him value out of his roster spots. Nonetheless, Carlos Correa led the way for him this week going 10/27, 6H, 1HR, 4RBI as he looks to finally deliver on the hype that’s had him on the precipice of the 1st round in consecutive draft seasons. The bright spot in the rotation this week for Pollack was Charlie Morton who continues to impress. His 6IP, W, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 8K outing against the scuffling Rangers added to a portfolio of starts that’ve kept him in the top-30 on the ESPN player rater. His solid results belie a ground ball rate that’s lost 12% from last season to 50% and a hard contact that’s jumped up 17% from 20% in ’16. SIERA and xFIP still like him at 3.48/3.40 split, but it’s hard to imagine his current 9.98 K/9 holds up given his 9.7% SwStrk and 53% first pitch strike rate represent 3.4% and 8.3% respective decreases from ’16. It’s not all doom and gloom for Pollack though. He’s astutely managed his staff to include some high-K relievers like White Sox duo Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak given that we only need 25IP for our ratios to legitimize each week. We’ll see if he can make this ratio management strategy work going forward as it could be the key to surviving the rash of injuries to his staff.