2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 12 Roundup

Photo credit: aff ei
Photo credit: aff ei

Baseball is a game that works in very mysterious ways. Prior to this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers last no-hitter came way back in 1996. Fast forward to now and the Dodgers have now recorded two no-hitters within the last 30 days. Josh Beckett achieved the feat last month against the Philadelphia Phillies and we can now add Clayton Kershaw to the list after his masterful performance against the Colorado Rockies on a crisp summer night in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Rockies are a completely different team on the road (3.69 runs per game) compared to when they play at Coors Field (6.35 runs per game), but that certainly doesn’t take away from Kershaw’s performance. The best pitcher in the game was at the peak of his powers and was simply untouchable as the Rockies hitters didn’t stand a chance. Check out how Kershaw finished off Charlie Blackmon to cement his place in the history books in the awesome gif below.

Gif credit: Eric Orvieto
Gif credit: Eric Orvieto

If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will. Time to get the Week 12 Roundup started!

KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKERSHAW No-No

Kershaw’s no-hitter, which was nearly a perfect game if not for Hanley Ramirez making an error on a routine groundball, was arguably one of the most dominant performances Major League Baseball has ever seen. Over his nine no-hit innings, Kershaw struck out 15 and walked none. To put that in proper perspective, no one in MLB history has ever had that many strikeouts with zero walks in a no-hitter. Jeff Passan may have summed it up best with his tweet on Wednesday night:

Additionally, 14 of 15 strikeouts came on breaking balls, a staggering figure. His curveball, Public Enemy No. 1, was obviously quite the nuisance. Completing the game in 107 pitches with all those strikeouts was very impressive as well. For the season, Kershaw has a 2.52 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a glorious 86:8 K/BB ratio in 64 1/3 innings. Those numbers equate to him being the 29th ranked player in Y! prior to the Thursday games.

Due to his stint on the disabled list for a bad back earlier in the year, it may be hard for him to supplant pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka, Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto, and Felix Hernandez in terms of fantasy value for the year due to his missed time, but there is no reason Kershaw can’t be the best fantasy pitcher the rest of the way. We already know he’s the best pitcher in MLB so owners can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

All the Way, Altuve

Jose Altuve is well-known for his short stature, but his height certainly isn’t hindering his ability to collect hits at the plate. So far this season, Altuve has been having the last laugh more often than not. After his third straight multi-hit game on Thursday night, the diminutive second baseman owns a .331 average. Altuve has also collected two homers, 24 RBI, 35 runs, and 26 steals after swiping two more last night. Three caught stealings in 29 attempts should ensure Altuve has the green light to run all year long. With 88 games left for the Astros, Altuve is a shoo-in to break his career-high in stolen bases (35).

The 24-year-old leads MLB with 98 hits and his utter dominance against southpaws is playing a huge role. In those situations, Altuve is 32-78 (.410). Altuve has also improved on hitting fastballs and curveballs compared to last year. In 2013, Altuve rated as -4.7 runs above average against fastballs and 0.1 against curveballs. This season, Altuve rates as 9.9 RAA against fastballs while rating 5.1 against curveballs.

A look at his advanced statistics show that Altuve has made a lot of improvement across the board. Check out the table below to acquire a better understanding of why Altuve is having so much success.

Year/Stat

BB%

K%

OBP

SLG

LD%

O-Swing

Contact%

2013

4.8%

12.6%

.316

.363

22.6%

37.6%

87.2%

2014

5.9%

6.9%

.372

.443

23.6%

32.2%

90.8%

All of this has led to Altuve being the 24th ranked player in Y!. According to NFBC ADP data, Altuve had a 92 ADP entering the season. It’s safe to say that Altuve owners have been handsomely rewarded for drafting him, as he has provided owners a nice profit so far. Although he won’t provide much in the way of HR/RBI, Altuve should post 40+ steals easily, while hitting over .300, and scoring 75+ runs.

Heaney Hype

The Miami Marlins have been a surprising story this year as no one was realistically expecting them to contend for the National League East title in 2014. As of this writing though, they are only 1.5 games back of the Washington Nationals. Of course they are, this is the unpredictable sport of baseball we’re talking about. The Marlins have been known to promote prospects sooner than most organizations and they did so again on Monday. They announced Andrew Heaney, the 23-year-old top pitching prospect, would be called up from Triple-A New Orleans and make his MLB debut against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Heaney was the ninth overall pick out of Oklahoma St. in the 2012 MLB draft and was a consensus top-3o prospect among Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus coming into the 2014 season. Heaney justified all the hype by bamboozling minor-league hitters during his time at Double-A and Triple-A this year. Over 76 2/3 innings, Heaney posted a 2.47 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 26.4 K%, and 79:15 K/BB ratio. Heaney couldn’t have landed in a better situation either, considering Marlins Park is a pitchers paradise and the NL East doesn’t have any powerhouse offenses. In terms of runs per game, the Braves (29th), Mets (25th), Phillies (20th), Nationals (18th) all rank in the bottom half of the league.

The rookie showed well in his MLB debut on Thursday as he limited the Mets to one run over six innings. Heaney allowed four hits, walked one, and had three strikeouts. He was saddled with the loss due to receiving no run support and the Mets aren’t exactly the stiffest competition, but it was a great start nonetheless. Heaney should be able to post reliable SP3/SP4 value from here on out with the upside for more, but expectations need to be tampered since we’re talking about a rookie here. Jose Fernandez‘s don’t come along every year. With that being said, there is a reason this guy was considered a top prospect and he’s still available for the taking in 53% of Y! leagues. Make the add before it’s too late!

Arrieta For the Win

Just because a player has never been fantasy relevant before doesn’t mean said player will never be valuable for fantasy purposes. That’s not to say that it isn’t surprising when the player becomes valuable, just ask Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. Who? You mean the same Arrieta who owned a career 5.34 ERA and 1.45 WHIP before the 2014 season began? Yes, that Jake Arrieta.

On Wednesday against the Marlins, Arrieta had the best start of his career. Over seven innings, he amassed a career-high 11 strikeouts while only allowing one earned run. His 1.98 ERA is remarkable and would be third best in MLB if he had enough innings to qualify. Arrieta has 55 k’s in 50 innings and has also only allowed two homers for the year, one of which happened to come from Giancarlo in his last start. We’ll forgive him. In seven of his nine starts this year, he has allowed either zero or one earned run. His last three starts have been absolutely sensational (20 IP, 27 K, 1 ER, 2 BB).

Left-handed batters are hitting a lousy .233 against him and right-handers aren’t doing much better with their .253 average. Arrieta has gone into lockdown mode with RISP, as hitters are only hitting .191 under those circumstances. Additionally his safe haven has been the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. In three starts at home, Arrieta has only allowed one run over 16 innings, good for a 0.56 ERA. His groundball rate has skyrocketed from 40% in 2013 to 53% this year and that seems to coincide with his increased reliance on the sinker this year. His flyball rate has also taken a tumble from 34.3% to 25.8%. The formula is undoubtedly working well for him at the moment and we’re looking at a must-start option for the time being.

An interesting aside is that hitters are batting .327 against his sinker and .290 against his fastball. This is surprising considering how much he relies upon his sinker (29.62%) and four-seam fastball (22.3%). Arrieta seems to have noticed this as evidenced by the following graph.

Brooksbaseball-Chart

As you can see, his usage of his four-seam fastball and sinker has gradually gone down while his slider usage has spiked. This seems to be a good choice considering the trouble hitters are having squaring up his slider. For the season, Arrieta is throwing his slider 23.26% of the time and has a .175 batting average against on that pitch. Arrieta is mysteriously owned in only 37% of Y! leagues, a figure that should be much higher. Pick him up and ride him while he’s hot.

Monday Tidbits: Michael Brantley was named the American League player of the Week. He’s currently the ninth ranked player in Y!. Bronson Arroyo (elbow) was placed on the 15-day DL for the first time in his 15-year career. Justin Verlander was lit up for seven earned runs in six innings against the Kansas City Royals. He now owns an unfathomable 4.98 ERA for the season. He’s too good to drop, but you have to bench him for his next start at least. Giancarlo took Jason Hammel deep for his 19th bomb of 2014. Starlin Castro hit a three-run homer and has rebounded nicely from his miserable 2013 season. Aramis Ramirez went 3-4 with two RBI and is somehow available in 23% of Y! leagues. Brandon Moss hit his 17th homer while Yoenis Cespedes blasted his 13th. The formidable duo have been a large reason why the A’s are the number one team with 5.18 runs per game. Dee Gordon went 4-4 with two runs.

Tuesday Tidbits: Masahiro Tanaka allowed a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes but then held the Toronto Blue Jays scoreless the rest of the way. Tanaka sports an incredible 1.99 ERA and has an 11-1 record. He’s going to be worth every penny of the $155 million the Yankees shelled out to land him. Bryce Harper (thumb) took batting practice for the first time since he was placed on the DL. Jonathan Lucroy went 3-5 with a solo shot and a grand slam. He’s been the best offensive catcher by far this year. Todd Frazier hit a go-ahead home run for the Reds, his 16th of the year. He’s easily been the most valuable third baseman based on where he was drafted. Drew Pomeranz was placed on the 15-day DL after being diagnosed with a broken hand after punching a chair. Torii Hunter (hamstring) won’t return until the weekend at the earliest. Max Scherzer gave up 10 earned runs over four innings. Consider this a bump in the road for the ace of the Detroit Tigers. Matt Cain allowed seven earned runs over five innings and has a 4.52 ERA for the year. It’s best to leave him on the benches next time out.

Wednesday Tidbits: Kevin Gausman rattled off six shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and has gone 3-0 in his three starts since being called up. He has all the stuff to succeed and should be picked up in 12-team or deeper leagues. Nelson Cruz hit his first homer in the last 14 games. Mike Napoli hit a walkoff home run, he really made the first homer in his last nine games count. Brantley (concussion) is hoping to return to the lineup on Saturday. Giancarlo hit his 20th homer of the year but had to leave with a left wrist contusion. Evan Gattis his his 17th homer to keep his 17-game hitting streak alive. Who would have guessed that “El Oso Blanco” would be this close to hitting .300. Jose Abreu hit his 20th longball. Tim Hudson had his worst start of the year as he was obliterated for seven runs over 4 2/3 innings and his ERA rose from 1.81 to 2.39. Bartolo Colon held the St. Louis Cardinals to one run over eight innings and also recorded the first double of his career. Sean Doolittle converted his ninth save and now has an absurd 48:1 K/BB ratio. Brian McCann had the breakout game fantasy owners have been waiting for (2-3, HR, 5 RBI). Alfredo Simon earned his 10th win and became the first pitcher in the NL to meet that mark. Billy Hamilton recorded his fourth multi-hit game in a row. So much for all the naysayers saying he wouldn’t be able to hit a lick. Matt Kemp went 3-4 with two RBI and is now riding a seven-game hitting streak. He’s the 19th ranked player in Y! over the last two weeks. Adam Wainwright (elbow) is scheduled to make his start on Saturday against the Phillies.

Thursday Tidbits: Huston Street recored his 20th save of the year and has an insane 0.96 ERA. Jason Grilli blew a save and it looks like Mark Melancon is about to take over the closers role. Gregory Polanco went 2-6 and his nine-game hitting streak to begin his Pirates career is the longest in team history. Ernesto Frieri gave up a walkoff grand slam to Nick Swisher and the Angels plan to use a committee at closer now. Joe Smith looks like the best pickup. Gavin Floyd fractured his right elbow and will surely will be out for a lengthy period of time. Chris Archer blanked the Astros over 6 2/3 innings and has a solid 3.14 ERA. Edwin “E5” Encarnacion hit his 21st homer of the season. Ryan Howard went 2-4 with a two-run homer and has now homered in three of his last four games. The Human Cespedes hit another homer and is now riding a five-game hitting streak. As long as he can stay off the DL, Cespedes is going to be a great value this year. Scott Kazmir‘s magical season continued as he struck out eight Red Sox and earned his ninth win of the year. Raise your hand if you would expect Kazmir to have a 2.08 ERA this late in the season…crickets.

Thanks to FanGraphs, BrooksBaseball, Yahoo!, and ESPN for the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any remarks or questions you may have. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions you may have.

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2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Week 12 Closer Report

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