Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy

  • The Chicago Cubs have improved in spite of an uneventful off-season

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/3/9/18257041/chicago-cubs-uneventful-offseason-theo-epstein-darvish-hamels-brach

    The expansion of 2018 purchase Cole Hamels and return of the wounded Yu Darvish should place Chicago’s starting spinning among NL’s best.

    The Cubs have had what most could say (and rightly so) quite a humdrum off season. Outside retaining Cole Hamels (by exercising a contract option), the Cubs’ other”big” motions are the additions of utility man Daniel Descalso and relief pitcher Brad Brach.

    Kind of boring, right?

    At face value, it seems that way. Chicago has a few excitement on the horizon, though, with the approaching return of Yu Darvish. The signing of Darvish prior to 2018–a season that saw him quickly flame out, agreeing to trauma and eventually Tommy John surgery–will finally repay in 2019.

    Last year, the Cubbies had only three starters high 100 innings. Hamels, obviously, was added later in the year and spun 76 1/3 innings over 1-2 starts, totaling 190 2/3 between his time together with Texas and Chicago. Darvish, nevertheless, managed only eight starts and 40 innings before his season prematurely ended.

    In 2018, standing by fWAR, the Cubs had the 11th best starting rotation in the National League, only topping the Reds over the Central. While Hamels just managed a joint 2.0 fWAR for two teams, 1.5 of that came later moving from Texas to Chicago, a move that apparently gave a boost to a lackluster (atleast by Hamels’ standards) year old.

    Darvish just managed to pitch enough to make a 0.2 fWAR, well below his typical value. In his prior 5 seasons, Darvish was a 3.8 fWAR pitcher normally. Hamels, incidentally, comes with an average of 3.7 fWAR within his 13 year career.

    What exactly does that mean to Chicago? When we put in the gap both of these pitchers’ averages to their extremities from 2018–and other spinning pitches about the same–we can jump the spinning’s combined 8.9 fWAR up to 14.7 (the 2 might combine to an extra 5.8 fWAR). Judging the Cubs against 2018 NL results, which will place them at a tie for the fifth most useful rotation–and also the best rotation at the Central, just edging from the Cardinals.

    How realistic is this possibility? As I said, Hamels was rejuvenated after a move to Chicago. When we endeavor his rate of productivity with the Cubs out over a usual Cole Hamels season–meaning he tosses roughly 190 innings–he would have pitched to a 3.7 fWAR.

    Darvish is not the same case, coming from serious accident, but throwing hurt, he managed to strike out batters at a pace of 11.03 K/9, close to pace with his career average. Word outside of Circle is positive. Does Darvish feel good, but he’s throwing his fastball at 97 mph that spring. As stated by Fangraphs, his career average has been 94.1 mph with the four-seam fastball.

    Some may think the additional speed won’t last, plus it might not. In 2015, nevertheless, Fangraphs studied four pitchers who missed the 2014 season with TJ surgery. What they found was an higher fastball speed in three of those pitchers, as the fourth largest (Matt Moore) remained roughly the same from 2014 to 2015. The other three? Patrick Corbin, Jose Fernandez along with Matt Harvey all observed slight gains. While an increase of nearly 3 MPH doesn’t seem sustainable, Darvish will seem a likely candidate to at least maintain his past pace.

    If the rotation stays healthy this season, Cubs fans must not worry the uneventful off-season. With the payoff from the Darvish signing possibly large, as well as the full year from Hamels, now there’s too much to like about Chicago’s opportunities –even against a substantially improved NL Central–at 20-19.


    Bob Ellis is a lifelong Royals buff. Follow him on Twitter @BobEllisKC

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  • Kyle Freeland Has a New Trick Up His Sleeve

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://blogs.fangraphs.com/kyle-freeland-has-a-new-trick-up-his-sleeve/

    Kyle Freeland isn’t satisfied with last year’s breakout season. That’s bad news for opposing hitters. The 25-year-old Colorado Rockies southpaw is coming off a 2018 campaign where he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting after going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA and a 3.67 FIP. His 202.1 innings pitched — a workhorse total by today’s standards — were fifth-most in the senior circuit.

    Continuing to get better is every player’s goal, so while Freeland isn’t looking to reinvent himself — that would be senseless— he does have a few new tricks up his sleeve. While his repertoire will remain static, where his talented left arm aims those offerings will have more variance than in the past.

    “I’ve been working on new locations for pitches, kind of different ways to attack hitters,” explained Freeland. “I’m working on getting comfortable throwing left-on-left changeups, and on throwing a two-seamer inside to righties — that front hip shot. Throwing those two pitches will expand my arsenal a little more.”

    The Denver native spoke primarily of his same-sided approach when describing the planned changes: “If you look at video from last year, you’re going to see a heavy amount of fastballs and sliders down and away to lefties. That’s the book on me. We feel that giving them another look won’t allow them to sit on that so much.”

    The second side of that “we” is Chris Iannetta. Toward the end of last season, the veteran catcher suggested that becoming less predictable could be to a boon to the young pitcher. The idea was preemptive, rather than reactionary. By adjusting to hitters before they adjusted to him, Freeland could stay two steps ahead.

    “It’s just a matter of how he can get better,” said Iannetta. “We’ve seen what he was able do with his current repertoire, and adding a few more wrinkles can maybe take him to another level. None of this detracts from what he’s already doing. We’re not trying to add any earth-shattering pitches. All he’s doing is throwing pitches to different locations, in different counts.”

    In a sense, a different location can be a same location. Down-and-in to a lefty is the same spot as down-and-away to a righty, so Freeland simply needs to key in on the target and hit the glove. Right?

    It’s not that simple. While the lefty has displayed solid command, both glove side and arm side, his M.O. has been to work away. Deviating from that, even in incremental doses, requires an altered mindset.

    “It’s a mentality thing,” agreed Freeland. “You’re throwing a pitch that’s coming back to them, so it’s somewhat dangerous. If you leave that pitch up, and it kind of floats in there, it’s a pretty easy pitch for a lefty to hit. Same thing with a sinker in to a righty. It’s a matter of comfortableness, and what you’re used to doing.”

    Visuals play a role. A changeup that Freeland throws away from a righty is obviously tailing toward an empty batter’s box. His mind’s eye is thus thrown off — the subconscious is a powerful thing! — by having it tailing toward the batter. As he pointed out, there is a danger zone lurking nearby.

    “There’s definitely an impact,” admitted Freeland. “You obviously see which side the batter is standing on. Throwing that pitch and trusting that it’s going to do what you want it to do — in your mind, knowing that you’re going to get the same action you would with a righty in the box — is what you’re after. But again, it’s something that I need to get used to.”

    Freeland doesn’t expect that to take very long. Nor does the person who prompted the augmentation. Suggesting new methods of attack isn’t something the Rockies’ receiver does at the drop of a hat.

    “It’s something that’s going to depend on the pitcher,” Iannetta told me. “It depends on his ability to actually grasp something like that. Sometimes when you add another pitch, or add another thought, guys go in the opposite direction. But Kyle is a guy who can handle it. He can process it, and thrive on it. I see no reason that this won’t help him become an even better pitcher.”

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  • Effectively Wild Episode 1345: Season Preview Series: Nationals and Mariners

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://blogs.fangraphs.com/effectively-wild-episode-1345-season-preview-series-nationals-and-mariners/

    Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about Max Scherzer’s supremacy and the changes coming to the Atlantic League in 2019 as part of its partnership with MLB, include an altered base size, mound distance, strike zone, and more, then preview the 2019 Nationals (29:00) with Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, and the 2019 Seattle Mariners (1:04:16) with Seattle Times Mariners beat writer Ryan Divish.

    2019 EW Season Preview Series

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    Audio intro: Pixies, "Debaser"
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    Ben’s article on moving the mound
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  • Sabermetrics news: The Yankees need Luis Severino to return

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/3/9/18256771/mlb-news-yankees-severino-german-loaisiga-cubs-divisional-odds-pecota-bryce-harper-arm

    The impact of Luis Severino’s injury; limits of PECOTA predicting divisions; Bryce Harper’s lackluster arm

    FanGraphs | Dan Szymborski: With every two weeks Luis Severino misses due to shoulder injury, the Yankees’ odds of winning the AL East drop 2%. If he is out for the season, their odds go from ~64.8% to hair under 50%. While ZiPS finds Jonathan Loaisiga a competent replacement, it thinks much more lowly of Luis Cessa and Domingo German, and options outside the organization will be harder to come by after Opening Day.

    Baseball Prospectus | Rob Arthur: PECOTA has limits, as does every projection system, and that weakness is basically around predicting divisions. While a single team has error bars—let’s say the Cubs win between 73 and 85 games (or whatever your bell curve looks like), that error bar exists for the Reds and Cardinals and Pirates and Brewers. So the combinations of division records multiply for the number of teams, meaning there are literally hundreds of combinations of team records and division placements. That means that no matter how accurate PECOTA gets, it will always be a “guess.”

    Bill James Online | Mark Simon: Bryce Harper’s defense will be a question in 2019, and one of the biggest issues was allowing runners to advance. He had -6 Outfield Arm Runs in 2018, tied with teammate Rhys Hoskins, tied for second-worst in baseball. His other concerns could be overblown, but not this element of his game.

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  • Can Dexter Fowler turn things around?

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/3/9/18257033/st-louis-cardinals-dexter-fowler-jose-martinez-springer-rendon-hard-hit-rate

    He’s coming off the worst season of his career, and the players below him on the depth chart will cause him to fight for playing time.

    Dexter Fowler’s 2018 is one that he’d rather forget. In the three seasons prior, Fowler’s play approached or surpassed All-Star caliber. In his first season with the Cardinals, Fowler slashed .264/.363/.488 for a 121 wRC+, but in his follow-up season, his performance got cut in half. Last season, Fowler posted a Jeff Mathisian .180/.278/.298 and 62 wRC+. Unlike Mathis, Fowler can’t rely on his defense to carry him. In limited playing time, Fowler cost the Cardinals five runs in right field by Defensive Runs Saved and that was an improvement over 2017.

    Fowler ended the year with -1.2 fWAR, the seventh-worst mark of any hitter last season. Despite a five-year, $82.5 million contract, Fowler may find himself the odd man out in the Cardinals’ outfield. Jose Martinez continued to be a productive hitter, and even if his defense is somehow worse than Fowler’s, he could force Fowler out of playing time. Tyler O’Neill adds a little more pressure as well. O’Neill hit nine homers and slugged over .500 in 142 plate appearances last year. He also struck out 40 percent of the time, so he’s not completely ready.

    Fowler essentially has two paths to maintain his starting role in St. Louis. He can either hope that Jose Martinez gets traded or he can play like Dexter Fowler again.

    The good news is that Fowler’s discipline hasn’t changed. Fowler has always had good on-base skills. Even if his 11.4 walk rate was his worst mark since 2010, it’s still above average. Fowler remained about as patient as he’s always been. He can depend on his patience to get him on base.

    It could be tempting to look at Fowler’s untenable .210 BABIP and think that he’s due for some better luck. Sure, he hit fewer line drives than he had ever hit in a full season, but he ought to have had more balls fall in for hits. PECOTA, Steamer, and ZiPS all project Fowler to be an above average hitter again, though his best days at the plate are probably behind him.

    The problem is that Fowler made less contact than he had the previous three seasons. His 75.4 percent contact rate was four percentage points lower than 2017, and it effectively tied for the lowest mark of his career. To make matters worse, he was seemingly incapable of hitting the ball hard when he did make contact. His average exit velocity dropped two ticks to 85.3 MPH, and his hard-hit rate fell to 28 percent.


    Baseball Savant

    Fowler has always relied on punishing fastballs. In 2017, he hit fourseamers and sinkers about as well as Anthony Rendon and George Springer according to pitch values. Fowler actually saw a higher percentage of fastballs in 2018 than he had in the previous season, but he wasn’t able to capitalize. It wasn’t that pitchers were approaching him much differently. They were throwing him more sinkers, but in that case, they were doing him a favor. It’s simply that Fowler wasn’t making solid contact.

    This is a small sample, but it points to just how off Fowler was last season. Out of twelve grooved fastballs, Fowler only collected one hit: a single.


    Brooks Baseball

    If Fowler is going to be good again, he’ll have to get back to raking fastballs. The Catch 22 is that if Fowler doesn’t get his timing down against fastballs, he might not stay in the lineup, and if he doesn’t stay in the lineup, he might not get his timing down.


    Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.

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  • Sabermetrics news: The Dodgers have the most dead money in baseball

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    original source https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/3/8/18255946/mlb-news-dead-money-sandoval-bailey-castillo-fielder-dodgers-pitching-depth-scouts-reds-moneyball

    Teams with the most dead money; the rise of minor league options; scouts being hurt by analytics

    FanGraphs | Craig Edwards: All teams have dead money, but some teams have significantly more than others. This year’s honor goes to the Dodgers, who have over $40 million in dead money, $23 million alone from the Homer Bailey trade (who they released). The Blue Jays are paying all of Troy Tulowitzki’s salary, as well, and the Red Sox are still paying Pablo Sandoval (lol) and Rusney Castillo, as are the Mets still paying David Wright.

    Baseball Prospectus | Gerald Schifman ($): The Dodgers are known for their extensive pitching depth, and Andrew Friedman has argued that starters can be overrated in that they throw fewer innings, thus making your rotating bullpen sometimes more important. Every team has followed suit, and now there are twice as many minor league pitcher transaction (either a call-up or option) since 2009, and it has been growing ~9% a year. Teams are essentially treating their 40-man as a rotating 25-man these days.

    The Ringer | Ben Lindbergh & Rob Arthur: In yet another in their scouting report series, they show that with the advent of technology and analytics, this information could endanger scouts. Teams have employed more scouts recently, yes, but they are required to understand spin rate, and Trackman, and all of the niche things a data scientist would only have to know in the past. And with teams like the Astros cutting back on scouts, it could send a shock-wave throughout the league that other information is better or more enriching than scouting reports.

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