Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leftovers, Fever Pitch & Johnny Damon

My wife is off on a business trip and so I am alone for a night for the first time in months, maybe years. My goal was to read a textbook about software requirements for work, but I watched Fever Pitch on network television and ate a dinner of leftovers (rice, beans, and two chicken fingers) and a bowl of cereal (Special K with chocolate bits in it) instead.

The movie made me feel...sad. And not just because I'm a Yankees fan. And not just because I was home alone eating a hodgepodge dinner and watching network television. The content of the movie made me feel sad, especially the parts that were attempting to make me feel uplifted. Like Johnny Damon's grand slam, for example.

Let me explain: I miss being able to root against Johnny Damon and his caveman look. Back when he was with the Sox, I rooted against him as a player while simultaneously respecting his caveman look. I miss that complicated love/hate relationship. His caveman look was, well, pretty freaking awesome.

End, nostalgia.

Maybe Matt Wieters can fill the emptiness in my heart.

Friday, May 8, 2009

When do we start taking Barry Zito seriously?

Nine years ago, I liked a certain young starting pitcher so much that I incorporated his last name into the name of my fantasy baseball team. That pitcher? Barry Zito. I kept the name for four years, and during those four years Zito had won-loss records of 7-4, 17-8, 23-5, and 14-12. After that the name got a little stale, and so I switched it up to something else. About that same time, Zito began to struggle. Well, maybe not struggle, but he certainly wasn't that same dominating pitcher that he used to be. His WHIP rose from a low of 1.13 in 2002 all the way to a high watermark of 1.60 in 2008.

Guys who go 23-5 usually get taken seriously, but Zito hasn't been taken seriously for years. Maybe now that he has racked up three four straight quality starts, it is time to start taking him seriously. Maybe now that he has found a soulmate in catcher Pablo Sandoval, we should start taking him seriously.

I'm going to go to bed now (I have to wake up in four hours to pick up some pitchers to stream), but later I'll try to post some actual analysis about Zito in an attempt to see if he can be a sub 1.30 WHIP pitcher this year.

Oh, and the name of my fantasy team? Zito Burrito. Kinda fun, kinda dumb. Good night.


  • Everything you could ever want to know about Zito's last start.

  • A quick glance at FanGraphs shows that Zito's 2009 LOB% (75.8%) isn't much over his career average (73.2%). His 2009 BABIP is actually higher (.284) than has career average (.273). His 2009 K/9 (6.11) is actually slightly below his career average (6.70), but his 2009 BB/9 (3.06) ties his best ever (he also had a BB/9 of 3.06 in his 22-5 2002 season, as this graph shows). One change that jumps out is that 27% of his pitches thrown were curveballs in 2002, but now he's only throwing his curve 13% of the time. For some reason, after the 2005 season he abruptly stopped throwing his curveball as much. The only difference I can glean from these charts is that he seems to be throwing a tick faster this year. So what does it all mean? Well he's walking fewer batters and giving up fewer home runs. If he can keep that up, he should be able to continue to be a sub 1.30 WHIP pitcher. I have not idea how true it is, but I like to believe that as long as Sandoval is behind the plate, Zito will continue his resurgence.

  • Just to summarize in a less blocky paragraph: after Zito pitches, check the boxscore for walks and HRs. If he's continues to give up fewer than 1 HR every other start and 2 walks per start, you should believe in all things Zito. If his HR or BB creep over those thresholds, be wary. Is that too subtle? Then just check back on these graphs (using the BB/9 and HR/9 tabs).

  • An old Zito Q&A from back in the day.
  • Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Someone is streaming on me

    I do not like it when someone streams on me. It doesn't make me feel good. In order to stop the streamer from streaming on me, I am aggressively fighting to neuter the streamer through a little trick I call anti-streaming. Here's how:

    First, some context:

    In my Yahoo! league, the owner who is playing me this week dropped the three worst players on his roster on Sunday night (our weekly games start on Monday) and picked up the three best free agent starting pitchers who were scheduled to pitch on Monday. (In my Yahoo! league, you can't pick a player up and play him the same day; you can only play him starting the following day.) All three pitched well, and I suddenly found myself down in Quality Starts and Ks.

    Now, the strategy (sort of):

    To counteract the streamer, I dropped the three worst players on my roster on Monday morning (I woke up earlier than the streaming owner) and picked up the two best free agent starting pitchers who were scheduled to pitch on Tuesday, as well as a starting pitcher who was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday. The following morning (Tuesday morning), I again woke up before the streaming owner and dropped all three pitchers and picked up two pitchers that were scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, as well as one starting pitcher who was scheduled to pitch on Thursday.

    You see, picking up one pitcher who is scheduled to start in two days allowed me to hold him for one night and drop him, thus relegating him to the waiver wire for three days and preventing the streamer from being able to start him against me. (In Yahoo! leagues, if you pick someone up and drop him right away he goes straight to being a free agent. If, however, you hold him overnight, the default settings put that player on waivers for three days.) The idea is to thin out the free agent pool a bit, as forcing the streamer to start increasingly marginal players will help you win ERA and WHIP when one of his SPs inevitably implodes (much like Bronson Arroyo and Mike Hampton did in the first inning of their starts today).

    As for the other two pitchers I picked up that pitched the following day, sometimes I started them and sometimes I didn't. The idea was to protect my ratios, while simultaneously hanging with the streamer in the K and QS categories. For example, today I started Ubaldo Jimenez. The reason I could do this safely was because I had such a huge lead in the ratios. So you have to play it by feel.

    To review:

  • My league settings require me to wake up earlier than my opponenent to pick up the best three starting pitchers off the wire each day for a week.

  • Streaming is insanely stupid and I am insanely tired because I've been waking up early to get players off the wire for the last four mornings.

  • Just know that you don't HAVE to start the semi-crappy pitchers you pick up when trying to counteract a streamer. Only start a streaming SP when your ratios are safe and you need the Ks and QS (or Wins).

  • And if the SPs on the wire are particularly bad for a given day, move on to the next day and snag those SPs. You are trying to keep up with the streamer when it comes to quantity, but you want to try to do whatever you can to also maintain some quality to your pitching.

  • I realize not every owner can just drop three players. As it happens I had a number of injuries (Josh Hamilton, Brandon Morrow, Hong-Chih Kuo) that gave me some sudden roster flexibility.

    To conclude:

    Thankfully, there is only one owner in my twelve-team league that is streaming. Otherwise I'd be tired all the time. Okay, I gotta sleep. I have my alarm set for two hours from now. Good night.

    Related Reading:

  • Yahoo!'s Behrens talks about streaming a day in advance. All you need is two empty roster spots and the MLB probable pitchers for two days in advance.