Twitter has got fantasy questions, we've got answers. Hot starts, cold starts, bullpens in flux, trade scenarios, a top 10 that'll start 30,000 fights, and much more, all covered in this edition of the Roster Doctor.
Stick with Wade Davis and Jon Niese? Or ditch ’em for likes of Vance Worley, Ryan Vogelsong, Joe Blanton?
What the hell do I do with Jarrod Parker (10-team mixed league)?
The answer to these two questions is none of the above. In standard mixed leagues, there's no reason to stick with any these guys. Parker might've had a nice year in 2012, Vogelsong might've had a couple of good years, and Niese might've come into 2013 as a trendy sleeper. But these are all pitchers you should stream, and nothing more. Even in 14- or 16-team mixed leagues, I'd feel no obligation to own Parker, for instance. Sure he's been marginally better in his past three starts than he was at the beginning of the year. But even if Parker bounces back, you'd have a shot at comparable production by slotting the right Scott Feldman types into the right matchups on a weekly basis. It's more work to study schedules every weekend, scan the waiver wire, and find the perfect plug-and-plays. But fantasy baseball isn't an idle pursuit based almost entirely on luck the way, say, fantasy football is. You want to win your league? Gotta work for it.
Coming into this season, Scott Feldman owned a career 4.81 ERA. It wasn't all bad, of course. You could blame some of those runs allowed on the harsh pitching environment at Arlington in which he toiled for eight years. There were flashes of strong results, such as the 2009 season that yielded a 17-8 record and 4.08 ERA — though even then his numbers weren't supported by strong peripherals. For fantasy purposes, Feldman's name wasn't one you had to remember at the draft table, unless you were in a really deep league.
Feldman's first three starts this year did nothing to change anyone's opinion. Lasting just 14 combined innings, he allowed 15 hits and 10 walks, for a 4.50 ERA. Except that ERA was a gift, the result of the stat's silly way of distinguishing "earned" runs from "unearned" ones. Turns out Feldman actually allowed twice as many total runs as he had earned runs — 14 in 14 innings. Throw in the weak contributions of the Cubs' offense and defense and you had a mediocre pitcher playing on a lousy team, someone you wouldn't think would be worth starting against anyone.
That's when the schedule gods smiled upon him. On April 26, Feldman got to face the Marlins, owners of the second-worst offense in the majors. He didn't dominate by any means. But Feldman's line — 6⅔ innings, seven hits, two runs, two walks, two strikeouts — proved enough to earn his first win of the year.
That was just the appetizer. In his next start, Feldman squared off against the Padres. He obliterated them, ceding just two runs on three hits, walking one, and striking out 12, en route to the first complete game of his career.
For as long as people have written words on the Internet, there's been a baseball snarkiarchy. This devoted group of provocateurs has made a sport of mocking numerous players over the years. Often analytically inclined, they home in on a certain kind of player, prolific outmakers who get too much playing time, too much money, or both, because some team doesn't recognize what an on-base percentage black hole can do to a lineup. For years, the snarkiarchy targeted Neifi Perez. Then it was Jeff Francoeur. And while Francoeur remains one of the biggest hackers and worst everyday players in the game, he may have ceded the throne as the baseball intelligentsia's most mockable player to Yuniesky Betancourt.
One of the core fantasy baseball philosophies I've developed over the years is to act early. Part of that is a function of the IDGAC approach to drafting: If you walk away with four or five closers, that probably means you have weaknesses elsewhere, and you'll want to pursue deals to address those holes. But really, acting early is a play on two trends: people overreact to stats in small sample sizes (even in smart fantasy leagues), and getting five-plus months of production from a player is a lot better than just two.
That's why you need to keep a close eye on all the news and streaks that pop up in April. Recognizing trends before your competition would've enabled you to snag Ian Desmond or Josh Reddick last year, before they put up big numbers that won a lot of people a lot of leagues. Scrutinizing any and all early-season happenings — even the subtle ones — will improve your chances of competing for a title down the stretch.
Stating the obvious, strikeouts are a wonderful thing for a pitcher. Retire a batter by your own hand and you don't have to sweat the vagaries of luck, defense, park effects, and all the factors that can conspire to ruin a pitcher's day, through no fault of his own. More broadly, strikeouts are a great predictor of success: Other than the occasional Carlos Marmol, the top strikeout pitchers in baseball often double as the top pitchers in baseball, period.
But that doesn't mean pitchers can't find success in other ways. In 2011, Jim Johnson shook off a career full of mostly unimpressive results to become one of the league's top setup men; few noticed because he lacked the glory that comes with getting the last out of games. Given his first extended shot at closing last year, Johnson flourished, marking just the 12th time in history that a pitcher had racked up 50 or more saves. The Orioles played a ton of close games last year and famously posted the best record ever for one-run games, which played a big part in Johnson's gaudy save totals. But Johnson himself was responsible for much of that success, and not because of his strikeouts. The right-hander's 15.2 percent K rate ranked just 219th among 270 pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched last year. His 62.3 percent ground ball rate, on the other hand, ranked 6th among those same 270 pitchers, his tidy 5.6 percent walk rate ranking 45th. If you walk very few batters and induce a ton of grounders, you're simply not going to put many men on base, nor allow many extra-base hits. Sure, you'll be susceptible to a few five-hoppers sneaking through the infield. But if that's the worst of a closer's problems, he's probably going to put up a bunch of big seasons.
He might not fit the profile of the fire-breathing ninth-inning man. But Johnson is one of the game's best, his hold on the closing job is rock-solid, and there's no regression monster lurking around the corner.
Last year, Jason Motte was one of the best and most reliable closers in the game, racking up 42 saves, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.75 ERA. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract in January, and was widely expected to have another big year banking saves for a playoff-contending Cardinals team.
We'll let the excellent news and analysis site Rotowire.com take it from here:
MARCH 23: Motte has what the club is describing as a "mild strain" in his right elbow that will keep him off the mound for at least a week as the team explores the severity of the injury and potential treatments, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. General manager John Mozeliak said Motte will "likely" start the season on the disabled list with the flexor strain.
It's not easy being agnostic. Forget religion or politics. Try telling a buddy that you have no strong opinion either way on Breaking Bad. Or that all beers taste the same to you. Fence-sitting on any number of topics can and will get you an earful. So when a guy who writes about fantasy baseball describes his draft strategy as "I Don't Give a Crap," he's asking for a punch in the nose.
This year, I decided to go a different route in my go-to 18-team mixed-league auction. Yes, I would still seek out as many value picks as possible, staying true to projections and worrying about roster balance, position scarcity, and everything else only after the fact. Since nobody likes to pay for closers, that would mean there would be an excellent chance that I would wind up with four or five of them, yet again. Since everybody likes to pay for big-name power hitters, that would mean I would need to assemble a team with no major weaknesses, my cheapest players smashing the performance of the scrubs on the many stars-and-scrubs rosters sure to be assembled.
On top of all that, I would add a new wrinkle. Though value would remain the main goal, I'd compile a short list of players I liked before the auction. Every one of them would be a sleeper of some kind, so that bargains would remain the target. But having these names handy, I'd be ready to pounce when prices did drop, ensuring that I'm not missing out on any major sources of upside. Moreover, keeping this list close would provide a source for potential trade targets, since there would be no way to land everyone on it. Since you've all done your drafts and auctions already, consider that target list, as well as some of the players I'll highlight that I actually drafted, a good starting point for your own trade discussions.
Let's call this IDGAC, with a twist. Here's what transpired:
This season, the Roster Doctor has doled out plenty of theoretical advice, on the best types of players to pursue, the best types of trades to make, the broad trends you should exploit to win your league.
That time is over. There's less than a month to go this season. If you're still in the race this year, every little move could make a difference. So let's look at some of the players likely available in your league, flip through schedules, and see which ones make for optimal pickups.
Mailbag time! If you've got a question for a future fantasy baseball post, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or do as these fine folks did by tweeting questions to me here: @jonahkeri.
What is the general potential of Matt Harvey? Could he be the future ace of the Mets? Is he worth staking as a keeper in a competitive NL-only league?
— Kevin McNeill
Pretty strong. Harvey came into this season as Baseball America's 54th-ranked prospect. In 20 starts at Triple-A this season, Harvey fanned more than a batter an inning, hiking his minor league total to 268 strikeouts (and 95 walks) in 245 ⅔ innings. Called up to the majors a month ago, Harvey's continued his bat-missing ways. On Wednesday against the Rockies, he struck out nine Rockies in six innings. That hiked his season total to 43 Ks (along with 15 walks and three homers allowed) in 36 innings. Harvey's 43 punch-outs in his first six major league games actually broke the Mets franchise record previously held by some guy named Nolan.
We're approaching your keeper league's trade deadline, and your chances of winning this year are slim to none. You want to cash in your veterans for killer keepers, but the owners of Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Clayton Kershaw understandably aren't budging.
It's time to look at next-tier keeper candidates. Rather than trading all your tradable parts for the guy with the Mickey Mantle comps, you might be able to trade your Justin Verlander or David Wright for two or three of the players below.
As we hurtle toward the second half of the season, it's a pretty sure bet that you haven't clinched your fantasy league. You're either trailing or nursing a lead precarious enough to get blown up by a couple of injuries or a few prolonged slumps. With so much baseball still to be played and so many new stories yet to be written, fortune favors the bold.
It's with that go-for-it spirit that we're unveiling our second-half fantasy predictions. But not just any predictions. These are the out-on-a-limb, if-they-pay-off-for-you-you'll-win-your-league kind of predictions. Doesn't mean you should burn your team to the ground to trade for the best of this group, or sell any of the projected laggards at 20 cents on the dollar. But with the league on hiatus until Friday and no new stats coming in, there's an opportunity to go long or sell short on these second-half movers. Here's how we see a few of these guys shaking out.
The concept of buying low in fantasy can be a tricky one to navigate. Whether or not you're truly buying low can depend on the size of your league, and how savvy your competitors are. You might have free-agent budgets to consider, or an intransigent owner who won't trade the guy you want, even with a strong offer.
Best we can do is dig up a few players having regrettable seasons, factor in their reputations, then sort them by three categories: buy low, buy lower, and buy lowest. Think of the buy-low players as waiver pickups or trade possibilities in standard (12-team) mixed leagues, on down to target guys in 20-team mixed, or AL-/NL-only leagues.
No matter how hard you study, no matter how hard you try to manage risk, there's a good chance you're going to badly overdraft at least one player. Even the best of us end up with first-rounders who perform like 15th-rounders. What's important is figuring out what to do once you've made that kind of mistake, then learning a lesson for the future.
So you can call this a venting session, and a teachable moment. Here are 10 of this year's biggest Fantasy Murderers.