2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 15 Roundup
It’s well known that pitching requires players to repeatedly make unorthodox movements with their arms and the stress of repeatedly hurling a baseball 90+ MPH often leads to pitchers breaking down in the latter stages of their career. Humans just aren’t meant to be able to sustain this violent motion that is repeated thousands upon thousands of times for each individual pitcher. Injuries are to expected from pitchers, particularly ones involving the arm (elbow/shoulder/forearm). So while pitchers are most susceptible to sustaining injuries, the wave of arm injuries in 2014 has been unprecedented, specifically the number of pitchers forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Prior to this season, Bronson Arroyo had never been on the disabled list and was considered one of the most durable, if not the most durable pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. Arroyo would be the last person you would guess to succumb to the perils of TJ. The baseball gods had a different plan though and it was revealed earlier this week Arroyo decided to have TJ surgery. Arroyo obviously isn’t a stud pitcher for fantasy baseball purposes, but his situation provides a good example of no matter how “safe” you think your pitcher really is health-wise, there is no sure thing in baseball. Unfortunately, this scenario became all too real for MLB last night with the announcement of another arm injury to one of the biggest names in the game right now.
Tanaka Lands on DL
After having his two worst starts of the season the last two times on the bump, fantasy owners were hoping these were just minor blips in the radar in what has been a breakout season for New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. To the dismay of the baseball community, it was announced yesterday that he would be placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, often a precursor for Tommy John. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI in New York today and more details should be known rather shortly. This is obviously terrible news for Tanaka owners and you can only hope that he avoids major injury. One can only wonder if his penchant for throwing his patented splitter, a pitch that puts more strain on a pitcher’s elbow, is the root of his elbow soreness. According to FanGraphs, Tanaka leads MLB by throwing his splitter 25% of the time. Tanaka has a great reason to use it, his wSF pitch value rates as 13.6, meaning he has saved 13.6 runs by using that pitch.
In a New York Times Piece penned in 2011, “Split-Fingered Fastball, Once Popular, is Falling Away”, concerns are addressed over the consequences of throwing the splitter too frequently. A couple managers, Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays and Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels, were interviewed for the story and provided some insightful commentary. According to Maddon, the grip and effectiveness of the pitch play a huge role.
“I always thought that if thrown properly with the fingers really split like a forkball, that’s when you can get hurt because there’s no resistance against the ball being thrown and it really put a lot of pressure on the elbow.” “But it’s not just about them getting hurt. They’ll never develop their other pitches because they’ll always get guys out with that pitch.”
The Japanese import was signed to a seven-year, $155 million contract in the offseason and looked to be well on his way to providing tremendous value for the Yankees. Over 18 starts and 129.1 innings pitched, Tanaka has amassed a 12-4 record, 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 135 strikeouts. Not to mention he leads the league with three complete games. These statistics have led to him being the 12th ranked player in Y! leagues as of today, something no one could have predicted before the season started. Unfortunately for Tanaka owners, there aren’t any readily available (good) options on the Yankees ready to fill in for him. Here are some pitchers that are less than 75% owned in Y! leagues that I would target to make up for Tanaka’s loss: Dallas Keuchel, R.A. Dickey, Tanner Roark, Bartolo Colon, Carlos Martinez, Collin McHugh.
UPDATE: Tanaka has been diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament but the Yankees believe he could return after six weeks following a platelet-rich plasma injection. If rehab fails, Tanaka is destined for Tommy John surgery. Stay tuned for more details in the coming days.
Billy Going Silly
According to NFBC average draft postitions, Billy Hamilton had an ADP of 61. Early on in the season when he was struggling it looked like he would have trouble justifying the early draft pick, but his current rank of 31 suggests he’s the real deal. The 23-year-old speedster was expected to find provide a ton of steals and has lived up to that end by swiping 37 bags so far. What has really buoyed his value though has been his unexpected power and ability to hit for a solid average. For the season, B-Ham has a .281/.315/.423 slash line with five homers, 37 RBI, and 44 runs.
The Runs Above Average per 100 pitches (RAA/100P) in the following graph compares how said player is doing compared to the league average. Any number above 0 is above average while anything below 0 is obviously below average. The switch-hitting center fielder fares better when batting left-handed (.295), compared to right-handed (.235) and you can see why in the graph below.
No one was expecting Hamilton to be much of a run producer so his 37 RBI have certainly been a pleasant surprise for owners. Hamilton is killing it with RISP as he is 25-68 (.368) with 30 of his RBI in those situations. B-Ham has been phenomenal over the last month, as he is the 2nd ranked player in Y! leagues over that timeframe (18 R-3 HR-24 RBI-14 SB-.336 AVG). Obviously he’s not going to keep this up the rest of the season, but if he can end the season hitting over .270 that would be a win for anyone with him on their team.
Although it’s surprising B-Ham leads MLB by being caught stealing 13 times, he has been stealing a plethora of bases of late. For the rest of the season, I have Hamilton ranked as a top-25 player. He will dominate one category for you while being pretty decent in other categories as well. On a side note, Hamilton did have to leave last night’s game with hamstring tightness but it doesn’t seem like anything more than a day-to-day situation at this point.
Quad Problems: Encarnacion/Votto
Edwin Encarnacion was in the midst of another fine season before he went down in a heap after running out a ground ball on Saturday and was subsequently placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right quadriceps on Monday. The Blue Jays are expecting Encarnacion to miss 2-4 weeks and it’s a good thing that the All-Star break is coming up because he won’t miss as many games. The slugger just enjoyed an excellent June by slashing .305/.394/.589 and his stats for the season look like this: .277/.368/.591 with 26 home runs, 70 RBI, 57 runs, and two steals. Good enough for a ranking of 10. Owners can at least take solace in the fact that it’s not too long of an absence and should get back a first-round talent when he returns from the DL.
On the flip side…
Fantasy owners who own Joey Votto are pulling their hair out due to the extreme amount of frustration the Reds first baseman has caused them this year. The career .310 hitter has only hit .255 with six homers, 23 RBI, 32 runs, and a theft over 62 games this year. Not the kind of numbers you were expecting from a 2nd-4th round pick. His Y! ranking of 432 is downright ghastly. Reds manager Bryan Price has admitted that Votto wouldn’t be 100 percent the rest of the season after coming back from his first DL stint and he was correct as Votto has again been placed on the 15-day DL due to continued quad soreness.
After hitting .339 with RISP over the last six years, Votto was only hitting .225 in those instances so far this year. Additionally, Votto has only hit .241 against right-handers this year after obliterating them to the tune of a .326 average the last six seasons. Check out Votto’s RAA/100P graphs below from 2008-2013/2014 to see how his plate coverage has been affected by the quad injury this year.
There is way more cold zones in his 2014 profile compared to ever before and it’s doubtful his skills have so greatly diminished in the last year. The Canadian slugger is only 30 years old. It’s fair to suggest that his quad injury has greatly hampered his ability to drive the ball for power, but we’ll never know to what extent for sure. If you haven’t sold your Votto shares yet, it’s probably too late at this point. Hang onto him and hope he is able to contribute to your team in the second half. If there’s anything good that comes out of this, it could be the fact that Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce may gain first base eligibility.
Monday Tidbits: Michael Wacha (shoulder) showed slight improvement in his shoulder but will rest for another two weeks before another MRI. Joe Kelly (hamstring) will be activated from the disabled list on Friday to start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Cliff Lee (elbow) is scheduled to make his next rehab start on Wednesday after his last start was cut short due to rain. Matt Adams hit a walk-off home run, his 10th of the season. “Big City” is hitting an impressive .331 over 281 at-bats this year. Jesse Chavez quieted critics suggesting he should be moved to the bullpen by firing six shutout innings and striking out nine against the San Francisco Giants. Hisashi Iwakuma (7 IP-0 ER-10 K) continued his dominance against the Minnesota Twins. Manny Machado went 5-6 and hit his eighth homer of the year. The young third baseman has been on fire since his return from a suspension. Michael Bourn (hamstring) will be out 3-4 weeks. Dellin Betances notched his first career save as usual closer David Robertson needed a day off. Betances is ranked 58 in Y! leagues, thanks in large part to his 1.55 ERA and 79 strikeouts in just 52.1 innings pitched. Making his first start back in the place where he earned his moniker “Big Game James”, James Shields threw seven shutout innings and struck out 10 against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Adam Wainwright hurled seven scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates and is now the proud owner of a 1.79 ERA. Waino is theforuth ranked player in Y! leagues and should be starting the All-Star game for the National League based on his superb first half (11 W-111 K-131 IP-0.92 WHIP). Joe Smith earned his 11th save of the year and looks to be in complete control of the closer position.
Tuesday Tidbits: Justin Masterson (knee), Gerrit Cole (lat), Jaime Garcia (thoraic outlet syndrome), and Josh Beckett (hip) were all placed on the DL. Addison Reed blew his fifth save and now sports a hideous 4.42 ERA. Although Kirk Gibson suggests Reed isn’t in danger of losing his job, pick up Brad Ziegler. Kolten Wong hit a walk-off homer for the St. Louis Cardinals, their second in as many nights after going without one for three years. Sonny Gray (7 IP-1 ER-8 K) had his way against the Giants and is officially back on track. Michael Brantley went 3-4 with two RBI doubles and a homer, all of Masahiro Tanaka. Brantley has recorded five straight multi-hit games. Mike Napoli went 3-3 with an RBI double. Curtis Granderson continued his hot hitting by homering for the second straight game. The Grandy Man is the 68th ranked player over the last 30 days. Tanaka got lit up by the Indians to the tune of five runs over 6 2/3 innings in what qualified as his worst start of the year. J.D. Martinez went 3-5 with two runs and now owns a gorgeous .331/.361/.651 slash line over 169 at-bats. Jason Heyward went 3-4 with an RBI and two steals, his first thefts since May. Jonathan Papelbon continued his outstanding season after completing his 21st save. His velocity is down, but his stats are as good as ever (1.27 ERA-0.88 WHIP). Gregory Polanco went 3-5 with a run and a steal while fellow top prospect Oscar Taveras went 2-4 with a run. These guys look poised to be big-time performers in the second half. Pedro Alvarez crushed his 14th homer. Hyun-jin Ryu was pummeled for seven runs over 2 1/3. Just consider it a bad start and nothing more, he was rolling before this stinker. George Springer blasted his 18th homer of the year. Jose Altuve went 2-3 with two more steals, bringing his total to the season to an astounding 41. Even more impressive is the fact that he’s been successful on his last 28 attempts.
Wednesday Tidbits: Owners have to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Yadier Molina is out 8-12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Owners in re-draft formats can drop him. Max Scherzer tossed seven innings of one-run ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers to earn his 11th win. Jason Vargas (appendectomy) is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Troy Tulowitzki hit two homers and and is now hitting .350 for the season. Paul Goldschmidt delivered a two-run walk-off double and is in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak. Steve Cishek blew his third save of the season by giving up the go-ahead hit to Goldy. Albert Pujols hit his 20th homer and is well on his way to another 30 home run season. Adam Lind will miss 6-8 weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right foot. Alfredo Simon earned his MLB best 12th win by holding the Chicago Cubs to one run over 6 2/3. Doug Fister recorded his eighth win by holding the Baltimore Orioles to two runs over seven innings and now owns a solid 2.90 ERA. Fellow Washington Nationals teammates Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth both belted solo homers. Yu Darvish got lit up by the Houston Astros (6 IP-6 ER). Wait, what? Lance Lynn continued his trend of early season production by winning his 10th game after holding the Pirates to two runs in 6 2/3. Mark Teixeira went deep twice. Jason Hammel pitched okay in his Oakland Athletics debut (5 IP, 2 ER) but should be better from here on out. Matt Cain earned his first win since May 15. Santiago Casilla converted his fourth save of the year and owners can only hope he maintains the job the rest of the way.
Thanks for reading and thanks to FanGraphs, ESPN, and Yahoo for providing the statistical information. Comment below with any questions or remarks you may have. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy.