2015 Fantasy Baseball: The Fielding Chronicles — Shortstops

Why should I read this article?

I thought my draft had gone well. I drafted my man crush Ben Zobrist to be my starting shortstop and even added Jed Lowrie as insurance. Everything seemed right. Then, a month into the season I lost both of them to the disabled list. These things happen and when they happen you start looking for someone (anyone) that can take their place.

This happens to all of us at some point and when it happens we need people that can provide every day at bats, but are off the radar. At most you are looking at a dozen guys and you have to decide which one to go with. Looking at fielding numbers can help you determine which guys will play regularly. Even if they are somewhat lacking with the bat, they will at least get into the lineup because of their fielding ability. While it might not be ideal, when you have a rash of injuries you likely never will get the ideal.

How does this fielding thing work?

I’ve been utilizing John Dewan’s The Fielding Bible as seen daily through billjamesonline.com. The beauty of the Fielding Bible system is that it is expressed in runs. The metric is called defensive runs saved (or DRS) and is calculated using video and computers to categorize all balls in play into different zones and then they further categorize the balls in play by how difficult they would be to make.

The experts that view the plays then determine an average number of plays a player at a position would make. Each player is then given a number of plays they should make depending on the various levels of difficulty of the plays they have a chance to make. If they make more plays than that then they have a positive rating and a DRS over zero. If they make fewer plays then they have a negative rating and a DRS under zero.

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Fantasy Baseball Nightly: May 25th, 2015

prince fielder

If you read only one thing…..

It is Memorial Day. For most prognosticators, Memorial Day is the time when early trends start to look real. We can finally take stock of where things are going. If we look at the standings we’ll notice that just about every division has the right teams on top except for the American League West. The Astros have a five and a half game lead after the holiday. Who knows whether it will hold, but it’s definitely more than just a passing trend.

In terms of individual numbers, the story of the first week was Adrian Gonzalez. He’s certainly tapered off, but he added his 33 RBI of the season on Monday night. Memorial Days is just after the quarter pole, so he is on pace to add another 120 RBI to his career tally. As you might suspect, he isn’t the league leader in that category as of Monday.

Just as we expected….

Don’t look now, but Prince Fielder is back. He had three more hits on Monday to lift his average to .365 on the season. That came with his ninth home run and up to 35 RBI on the season. Many thought he was done and at the beginning of the season and it took him awhile to get going, but he is definitely on pace to put up the kinds of numbers that Rangers fans have been expecting for the past few seasons.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: The Fielding Chronicles — Third Basemen

Why should I read this article?

With all of the great coverage on our site and throughout the internet, why should you bother yourself with this fielding mumbo-jumbo? I am not aware of any fantasy league that includes fielding numbers (although that would be interesting). However, fielding has a direct impact into who ends up being put on the lineup card in the first place. Third base in particular is prone to both extremes and those extremes help explain why some lackluster hitters always seem to find their way into the lineup.

It also explains why some fairly decent hitters never seem to play everyday. However, it should be pointed out that some of these guys have inflated reputations that see them get overdrafted every year. It’s one of the negatives of looking at numbers like WAR or WARP. Those metrics include everything a player contributes and that includes fielding. As you will see, some of our players are probably average offensively but look like superstars when you include their work with the glove. [Read more…]

2015 Fantasy Baseball: The Fielding Chronicles — Second Basemen

Why should I bother reading this article?

Fantasy sports players are always looking for an edge. Any information we can get are hands on that will help us pick players is appreciated. At first glance, it may appear like fielding may have nothing to do with fantasy production. It doesn’t directly. However, with teams becoming more sophisticated in their ability to decipher the value of a player, fielding is becoming a more important consideration.

If you are looking for who is going to get playing time, you might be advised to take a look at the fielding numbers. Elite offensive players will always play because offense carries the day. When we start looking at mediocre offensive players, the ones that can field their position are the ones that get to play.

How does this fielding thing work?

For our purposes, we will use “The Fielding Bible” by John Dewan. He’s released three editions in book form, but billjamesonline has been keeping up with the numbers on a daily basis. There are numerous fielding platforms one could use. I choose to keep track of the fielding bible (or defensive runs saved DRS) because I like their methods. They keep track of every play made or not made via video.

They take the plays made at each position and rate them between routine and nearly impossible. Then, each player is tracked according to the number of plays they make in each category. If they make more plays they have a positive rating. If they make fewer plays they have a negative rating. Then, they use that rating to convert it into positive or negative runs saved.

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Fantasy Baseball Final: May 15th, 2015

If you read only one thing…..

I don’t know if it’s Joe Maddon, Kris Bryant, or a few teams in the NL Central underachieving, but the Chicago Cubs have gone from last to second in the NL Central. Before the season, I had been saying that the NL Central was going to be hard to handicap. Everyone in the division seemingly had a case to be made for being a possible contender. The Cubs have an intriguing lineup and now have both Bryant and Addison Russell in the mix. Sometimes, kids are the best kind of players you can have. They don’t know how the odds are stacked against them.

Every once in awhile a good helping of crow doesn’t hurt anyone. I naturally assumed that most of the gains that the Royals saw last October were a mirage. They had lost James Shields and Billy Butler. Those losses may not have been overwhelming, but coupled with a few players playing over their heads, you would have thought they would have come back to the pack. They are 23-13 after Friday night with several players taking a giant step forward. Included in that group is Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar. Kendrys Morales also turned out to be a good signing.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: The Fielding Chronicles — First Basemen

Why should I bother reading this?

Catchers are one thing, but first base is the dumping ground for guys that can’t handle the glove. At least that’s the general consensus. With catchers we looked at all of the current regulars with at least 2000 innings. Since first basemen play more often we can up the ante to 3000 innings. One of things you will notice is that the vast majority of guys with 3000 or more innings is that the vast majority have scores better than average.

The implication is pretty clear. If half of the first basemen have ratings above zero and the vast majority of guys above zero have 3000 or more innings, then teams that have guys below average normally get replaced before they can get that far. So, teams really do care about fielding from their first basemen. Paying attention to fielding really does matter.

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2015 Fantasy Baseball: The Fielding Chronicles — Catchers

Why should I bother reading this?

Most fantasy baseball fans would bypass this article the first time they see the word “fielding” in the headline. Why should I care about fielding as a fantasy baseball player? That’s an excellent question and it deserves a serious answer. If you are giving me a couple of paragraphs of your time I’ll try to tell you why fielding is important. Let me use Wilin Rosario as a perfect example of why fielding is important.

Rosario was a top ten fantasy catcher even this offseason. He has 20+ home run power and in Coors Field that could swell to 30+ home runs if he plays everyday. Still, the Rockies signed Nick Hundley to first provide insurance. Suddenly, they named Hundley the starting catcher and Rosario a kind of utility player that would be the third catcher. Rosario has had some issues at the plate, but this move had little to do with offense. It was all about defense.

Run scoring is down league wide and in that kind of environment, preventing runs is just as valuable if not more valuable at some positions than creating them. Add in that scouts and analysts are learning more and more about how to quantify different things like pitch framing and you can see a new emphasis being placed on fielding. In short, paying attention to fielding can give you a clue as to why teams are playing someone less or why a player keeps moving around. If you identify players that are exceptional fielders then you can identify someone that will get consistent playing time. In deep leagues, consistent playing time might be enough to bring value to your team.

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Fantasy Baseball Final: May 8th, 2015

Bryce Harper

 If you read only one thing…..

Remember when everyone was worried about the Washington Nationals and how they’ve gotten off to a slow start? After their win tonight they have returned to the .500 mark (15-15) and it’s not exactly like the NL East is bastion of tremendous playoff contenders. The Mets have gotten off to a great start, but few expect that to last. Of course, we’ll get to the individual heroes in the next section, but suffice it to say, they are yet another example of how it pays to be patient at the beginning of the season.

Of course, there is always a yen to that raging yang. In this case, it is the Cleveland Indians. With a starting staff that boasted the reigning Cy Young Award winner and a few more electric young arms, everyone had them as their sexy pick to become this year’s Kansas City Royals. We might need to put a rain check on that prognostication. They are 10-18 overall and 1-9 in the first game of a series. That’s the kind of formula that spells disaster.

Just as we expected….

As we said above, the Nationals are hot are now in second place in the NL East. They’ve gone 8-2 in their last ten and Bryce Harper has gone into full on beast mode. He hit two more home runs on Friday night to give him ten on the season. His .284 average may not seem to be a huge deal, but his 25 RBI are a seemingly ridiculous sum in this day and age. Adding 23 runs is another huge deal. This is the kind of performance everyone expected from him a couple of seasons ago. I suppose it’s better late than never.

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Fantasy Baseball Final: May 1, 2015

If you read only one thing…..

Don’t look now, but the Houston Astros have won eight consecutive games and ten out of eleven to take a commanding lead in the AL West. This coming from a team that hasn’t won more than 70 games since 2010 and haven’t been above .500 since 2008. Of course, it’s still early, but there are more than a few fantasy surprises you should keep your eye on from that Astros squad.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Milwaukee Brewers are sliding in at an anemic 5-18. The rumor mill has them as the first team to sell everything off. According to the pundits, Jonathan Lucroy seems to be the only position player that’s off limits at the moment, so there is plenty of talent there that could be moving to a contender near you. Stay tuned…….

Just as we expected….

46 years ago, the New York Mets came out of nowhere to win the World Series over the powerful Baltimore Orioles. You can never assign the credit to one player, but Hall of Famer Tom Seaver won the Cy Young award and turned in an inspired performance. Fast-forward to 2015 and Matt Harvey might be that guy. In the world of great pitching, his 2.41 ERA isn’t that tremendous, but a 5-0 record brings back memories of Tom Terrific. The Mets are off to a 16-8 start behind the work of the ace.

Jon Lester hadn’t been off to a good start himself, but water usually finds its level. Lester turned in seven shutout innings in a hard fought win over the hapless Brewers. His ERA is a still an uncustomarily high 4.71 ERA, but with another strong start he could bring his ERA back to historic levels.

But we didn’t see this coming….

One of the aforementioned surprises out of Houston is center fielder Jake Marisnick. After Friday night, he is hitting .383 with three home runs and nine stolen bases. He hit a dinger and stole a base on Friday night. There is no way he will hit .383 on the year, but even if he hits .283 he will add enough power and speed to make him worth the while.

When Yasiel Puig went on the shelf, the Dodgers were sure happy they had kept Andre Ethier in dry dock. He added some more offense on Friday night as he’s hitting over .300 on the season and has added three home runs, scored ten runs, and driven in eight runs. This all before Friday night’s action was over.

The Rest of the Details

Save Chances

Lineup Moves

  • The Boston Red Sox have promoted stud prospect Blake Swihart to take the place of the injured Ryan Hanigan. It is not known how long Hanigan will be out, but his finger will require surgery, so it is likely it will be at least a month. Hanigan is not a fantasy factor, but Swihart certainly might be if he is given regular playing time.

Injuries

  • Ryan Hanigan was placed on the disabled list and Blake Swihart was called up.

Rumors and Transactions

It has been rumored that pitching might be for sale a little earlier this year than in seasons past. Cole Hamels is obviously the biggest name on the block. Still, there are a number of other arms that could become available even before Memorial Day. A number of arms might even be available from the lowly Brewers.

2015 Fantasy Baseball: Plate Discipline — Right Fielders

We’ve come to the end of our plate discipline series. Usually, when these things happen we want to pause for a moment and take a look at all the ground we’ve covered. So, to start we will look at each position as a whole to see if we notice any trends. From there, we are in a much better position to look at each player individually. [Read more…]