Schedule issues prevented me from posting last week, but let’s get right back at it. I’ve included our current standings so you can get caught up. There’s only one remaining undefeated team and the league processed it’s first trade!
Here’s what went down last week in the Pitcher List Staff League:
Ben Palmer (Seven Year Yelich) vs Rick Graham (Mr. Holland’s Opus):
Palmer’s offense has really struggled out of the gate as he currently sits in the bottom half of every category except steals. Certainly losing Starling Marte hasn’t helped, but I’m beginning to wonder about Mookie Betts. Yes, he missed a bunch of games early during the Oregon Trail level flu-epidemic which swept the Boston clubhouse, but Betts has yet to really pick things up. You might be shaking your head at this point given that Betts plate discipline (9.5% BB% and 7.4% K%) has help prop up his .282/.358 Average/OBP split. What’s to worry about?!
Well, Betts is making less, and worse, contact. His contact rate is down a noticeable 3 points from last season to a still respectable 84%, but of greater concern are the 23.1% of his batted balls which have been hit at a launch angle >39°. These are pop ups. Essentially automatic outs which produced a .055 wOBA across the league last season. What’s more troubling is that these batted balls seem to be propping up his 35.9% Fly Ball rate, which is down roughly 4% from ’16. Currently Betts has seen about an 11% drop in balls hit at an angle between 26°-39°. The higher end of those balls tend to be fly-outs, but the lower end tend to be homers. With the increase in pop-ups we’re seeing more of the worst types of fly balls than the best. I’m concerned the regression for Betts’s homer total, which was seemingly a given going into the year, could perhaps be more steep than anticipated. At this point it’s hard for me to buy into the Steamer projection of 19 homers over the rest of the year. I’d be inclined to peg Betts for 15 total until we see some of those more productive fly balls come back. In which case is he better than Jose Ramirez?
For Graham the offense was led by an absolutely daffy week from Trea Turner and Chris Owings as the speedy infielders combined for 22/60, 18R, 5HR, 21RBI, 4SBs. Turner benefitted from a cycle during his trip to Coors field, but we largely expected production like this given his ADP. But is Chris Owings legit? If you took him in a deep mixer or NL Only congrats because he’s already earned his draft price. But I’d be curious what his market is like right now in 12-teamers. Owings’s has seen a jump in Hard Contact rate, up to 34% from 29% last season. Certainly his 2MPH increase in overall Exit Velocity has much to do with the that, but it looks like most of that raise is coming on Ground Balls. Owings has elevated the Exit Velocity on grounders hit between 0°- 10° nearly 5MPH. For a guy with his wheels this is pretty tremendous as these balls inflate BABIP. The 7% uptick in liners on his FanGraphs page belies the fact that he’s hit a lower percentage of balls between 10°- 19° degrees, but he has added some extra Angle to those balls which is a plus. And he’s had a slight uptick in balls hit in the most valuable angles, those between 19°- 26°. It’s not enough to declare a full-fledged power breakout, but given his home park (provided they don’t install that humidor) and division games in Coors he could reach double digit homers this year.
I wanted to lead off with this matchup specifically because of Owings and Betts. We’ve yet to really quantify how sticky all this new batted ball data is, and therefore how predictive it will be going forward. Nonetheless it does tell us a lot about whats currently going on and worth diving into to get a more granular look Hard and Soft Contact rates, as well as batted ball distribution.
Max Eddy (12 Years A Save) vs. Andrew Todd-Smith (Wacko Contenders):
So far so good for the “Punt Saves and Ratios and Win Almost Everything Else” strategy. My team has yet to win more than six categories in a week, but the job is getting done. Daniel Murphy led the squad with a massive 12/31, 8R, 2HR, 12RBI line accruing the lion’s share of the production during a four game set at Coors field. “As if he’s not capable of doing that at sea level…pfft, who’s writing this column?!” Trade winds were blowing fiercely these past two weeks and I managed to execute the first one in the league with Nic Gardiner, owner of Ze German. I shipped out my Felix Hernandez for his Jay Bruce. With only one DL slot in this league stashing injured players, particularly SPs, really saps your weekly production. I was happy to sell low on The Prince, and buy high on Bruce. Bruce’s stock dropped considerably during that dreadful stretch after being traded out of Great American Small Park last year. Prior to the trade though Bruce saw a return of his Opposite field power. Thus far Bruce is sporting an 11%-BB/16%-K split and his .296 ISO is buoyed by a 38% Hard Contact, and a tiny 5.5% Soft Contact. He’s putting the ball in the air a ton 52% Fly-Balls, and if this holds for another 2-4 weeks it’s conceivable he’ll put together his first 40 Homer season.
I am concerned about my catcher Willson Contreras. His strikeout and walk rates are going in opposite directions, he’s up to 22% soft contact, and his Exit Velocity is down to 84 MPH, down 3 points from 2016. His batted ball profile thus far has earned him a .284 xOBA, (Expected Weighted On-Base), according to Andrew Perpetua’s xStats. I could see him losing some playing time to Miguel Montero.
ATS’s new look OF had mixed results this week. Newcomers Avisail Garcia and Jayson Heyward combined for 14/47, 7R, 3HR, 10RBI line, the majority coming from Garcia’s hot week. Garcia’s hitting the ball in the air more and striking out less, but he’s running a .443 BABIP and a 47% Ground-Ball rate. True, grounders inflate BABIP, but you don’t need to look twice at his current mark to know it’s headed south, and grounders don’t often leave ball parks. Heyward has made some noted swing changes, but hasn’t really shown enough yet to pronounce success. Over the long haul of the year these additions will be weighted against Andrew’s decisions to cut out-of-the-gate strugglers Kole Calhoun and Andrew McCutchen.
On the pitching side of things ATS got another strong outing from team ace Carlos Carrasco, but the surprise of the week came from Andrew Triggs 7IP, W, 5H, 0ER, 0BB, 9K gem @HOU. His slider already has a 5.6 pVAL and both his secondaries have mid-teens SwStk rates. The lack of a Change-Up presents the platoon splits question, but his Curveball is decent and works in a different velocity band. I think there’s modest K upside here and his home park should help him. If he’s available I’d grab him.
Alex Fast (Betances With Wolves) vs. Christopher Edmunds (Stunning Bunts):
This was an absolute rout, and Official PitcherList Podcast Co-Host Alex Fast had to be excited to see his offense finally get into gear. Going into the week he was dead last in the league in Homers, sorry…Taters, only to jump up to 7th by weeks end. How’d he do it? Welcome to the 2017 Ryan Zimmerman revival tour ya’ll. The key to all this tater madness from Zimmerman has been an increase in, you guessed it, Exit Velocity and Launch angle. He’s averaging roughly 97.5MPH on balls hit in the air in ideal launch angles, and he’s hitting more of those balls. It’s a simple recipe for tater madness. He’s not going to .466/.448 ISO/BABIP the rest of the year, duh, and his injury history has to check our expectations on ABs, but I feel comfortable giving him a .280/22HR floor for the rest of the year.
Edmunds is running into some tough luck. The Mets brutally mishandled Noah Syndergaard’s injury this week and it looks Edmunds, and the Mets, will lose him for at least 2 months. No dirt bikes were harmed in the injuring of this player. On a more positive note Ender Inciarte ran wild posting a 7/23, 8R, 0HR, 4RBI, 5SB line, and looks to be a fabulous waiver add for Edmunds. Unfortunately the rest of the offense remained relatively quite and Fernando Rodney self-immolated to the tune of 2.2IP, SV, 8H, 8ER, 2BB, 4K. Hey! He got that Save though! Yikes. He’s not worth rostering, saves be damned. Better luck for Edmunds next week, and some saavy waiver moves could position him for his first W.
Max Posner (NY-FCJ) vs. Ben Pernick(McCullers Of The Rainbow):
Posner’s offense went goofy this week paced in large part by a 14/26, 3R, 1HR, 5RBI week from Le Grand Orange 2.0 Justin Turner, and partial team name sake Aaron Judge’s 6/15, 9R, 4HR, 7RBI, 1SB. When four of your six hits go over the fence you’ve had a good week. You’ve had a great week. Nice to see the steal from Judge and he could be inline for more opportunities given the Yankees go-go attitude of late. Masahiro Tanaka’s 9IP, W, 3H, 0ER, 3K CGSO against the Sawx paced the pitching staff which was otherwise mediocre outside of a 3SV week from Brandon Kintzler.
Pernick’s squad just couldn’t keep pace despite God’s (Eric Thames) continued dominance, 5/16, 6R, 3HR, 5RBI. Much trade talk has flied around about Thames, and while it’s easy to assume regression to some extent Thames has shown some very intriguing skills thus far. Pitchers have largely avoided the inside corner, but they may have to start pounding him in if this keeps up. The first test has been passed making him an interesting buy, and sell, high guy. Pernick got a CGSO of his own from Ivan Nova in a 9IP, W, 3H, 0ER, 0BB, 7K effort against the Marlins. I like Nova. He just does not walk people, but he doesn’t really excel at limiting hard contact either. Nor does his 5.5 K/9 provide much value. The Pirates are very very bad as well. If you can find someone willing to buy into that start I’d ship Nova out in a hurry, not because he’s bad, but with 7Ks in that line you may not have a better opportunity to sell.
Nic Gardiner (Ze German) vs Ian Post (Ian’s Pornogriffey):
An all around stellar performance from Gardiner’s squad gave Post’s boys little margin for error. Miguel Sano looked like the MVP for the week going 11/21, 4R, 3HR, 11RBI until Sunday rolled around. Sunday April 30th was the first ever National Rendon day, during which Mets pitchers simply threw the Nationals third basemen batting practice during the game. Anthony Rendon finished the day 6/6, 5R, 3HR, 10RBI. A weeks worth of solid production in 6 ABs is mighty tasty, but consider the day only bumped Rendon up to the 13th 3rd sacker on the ESPN Player Rater. You could look at this as immediate positive regression for Rendon, who’s struggled out of the gate, but there’s some troubling stuff in his line. The plate discipline appears intact, but the Hard/Soft contact have both gone in the wrong direction. The roughly 8 point drop in his %LD is the likely culprit for his nearly %13 drop in Hard Contact. I’d be paying close attention to his batted balls going forward, and if there’s someone out there enamored with his upside…remember his injury history.
On the pitching side Gardiner got typical production from ace Chris Sale, but what’s wrong with this picture: 6.2IP, 5H, 2ER, 4BB, 9Ks …from Rick Porcello?? As of this writing Porcello has 16Ks in his last two starts and a 9.66 K/9 on the season. The K production has been awesome for his owners thus far, but I’m hesitant to buy-in to a K-rate breakout from Slick Rick. He’s running a filthy 22% SwStk on his Slider right now. Batters are chasing it more (32% O-swing) and making less contact on it in the zone (59% Z-contact), but without any discernable changes in movement from last year it’s hard to believe that’ll stick going forward. According to Pitch F/X the slider has actually lost a bit of drop, which is bad for whiffs. He’s cut his Change-Up usage in half in favor of more Curveballs, so there could be some sequencing magic going on, but I’d be wary of that mediocre slider going forward.
For Ian’s team the offense came through, lead in large part by Kris Bryant and ageless wonder Nelson Cruz combining for a 20/42, 12R, 6HR, 13RBI, 1SB of pure taste. The pitching just couldn’t limit enough runs despite another sparkler from Jacob DeGrom (7IP, 6H, 3ER, 1BB, 12K). Chris Devenski continues to be a solid waiver add with a ridiculous 34:2 K:BB ratio. He’s a solid add in 12 teamers despite the lack of saves as he should provide some good ratio and K support on a weekly basis.
Nick Pollack (Appel of Manaea) vs William Wright (Céspedes Centipedes!):
Our fearless leaders injury woes are, at this point, unforgiving. He lost name sake Sean Manaea this week, and Aaron Sanchez was place back on the DL after splitting his nail in his first start back. Meanwhile JD Martinez may be delayed back after fouling a ball off his other foot in a rehab game, and David Dahl still appears to be a ways a way. Unfortunately the lack of depth and slumps from Mitch Moreland (1/15) and Nomar Mazara (1/19) capped Pollack’s offensive upside for the week. But with Miguel Cabrera on the mend, and literal name sake A.J. Pollock continuing to produce (10/27, 7R, 0HR, 1RBI, 7SB), hope springs eternal. Even Carlos’s Gonzalez (6/22. 5R, 1HR, 3RBI) and Correa (8/25, 4R, 0HR, 3RBI) showed signs of life this past week. But on the pitching side things aren’t as bright as Jameson Taillon hasn’t flashed much K-rate upside (7.12 K/9 and 8.7% SwStk), Robert Gsellman continues to get Gshelledman (4IP, 10H, 5ER, 3BB, 2K), and Joe Ross produced Gshellman-esque results as well, (4IP, 7H, 5ER, 1BB, 5Ks). Might be time for some churn and Pollack added J.C. Ramirez this week who impressed again with a 5.1IP, W, 4H, 2ER, 2BB, 9K line against the struggling Rangers. Given the preponderance of pitching injuries Ramirez is undoubtedly worth rostering in a 12-teamer, but he hasn’t thrown more than 100IP since 2011. Ride it while it’s hot, but he’s probably not a long term answer.
Wright’s squad got a little lucky going up against a depleted and struggling roster this week. Nonetheless Zack Grienke (12IP, W, 13H, 4ER, 2BB, 20Ks) and Dallas Keuchel (16.2IP, 2W, 9H, 3ER, 5BB, 14Ks) continue to validate William’s “wait-for-pitching” approach on draft day. There’s not a ton of depth behind those guys, but Matt Harvey (4.1IP, 5H, 6ER, 5BB, 1K) was thrown to the wolves on short rest by MENSA member Terry Collins, and Miguel Gonzalez (6IP, 14H, 6ER, 1BB, 1K) will likely depart the franchise via free-agency ASAP.
On the hitting side there’s some concern that Evan Longoria’s foot has been the cause of his offensive woes thus far (.288 wOBA), and Nick Castellanos hasn’t yet broken out in the way many expected this offseason, so Wright has some issues at 3B. However, the Tigers lineup should be reinforced soon with Miggy and JD on the mend, and as long as Bryce Harper continues to do his thing (10/27, 10H, 2HR, 6RBI), Wright should be just fine. The baseball Gods seem to be on his side too, as he benefitted from a Carlos Gomez cycle this week. All praises Jobú.