2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 16 Roundup

Photo credit: John Leon-Guerrero
Photo credit: John Leon-Guerrero

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must look themselves in the mirror and determine what they must improve upon to give themselves the best chance to succeed at whatever endeavor said person is striving for. Whether it be improving your attitude, work ethic, ability to communicate, specific skill at the workplace, etc., there are plenty of ways for people to make up for a bad first impression. For baseball purposes, examples could range from learning how to better hit specific pitches, adjusting to defensive shifts, or in the case of the forthcoming topic, improving an approach against a pitcher of the same handedness. In the case of the following headline, the player addressed his shortcomings against a type of pitcher to completely change his fortunes and appeal to fantasy owners this year.

With all that being said, it’s time to get the Week 16 Roundup started. You can comment below with any questions or remarks or you can let me know on Twitter. (@MattMoczy)

H(r) to the Rizzo

After a nice debut with the Chicago Cubs back in 2012, Anthony Rizzo regressed across the board in 2013, largely due to his inability to collect base hits against southpaws. He hit only .233 for the season and an anemic .189 against lefties in 190 at-bats. With the question of whether he could hit for a decent average lingering over many fantasy owners minds, Rizzo’s ADP suffered as a result. For a player who was a much lauded prospect coming up through the minors, it’s surprising to look back and see his ADP outside the top 100 on ESPN (108), Yahoo (119), and NFBC (100). Boy, what a difference a year can make. Rizzo is hammering left-handed pitchers to the tune of a .313 average with eight homers. That’s an .124 increase in batting average compared to last year! All one must see to notice his improvement is by comparing his heat maps.

vs. LHP in 2013
vs. LHP in 2013
vs. LHP in 2014
vs. LHP in 2014

 

The two heat maps above show the Runs Above Average per 100 Pitches (RAA/100P), which basically amounts to showing how said player is doing compared to the league average for the specific zones in the heat maps. Any number above 0 is above average, while any number below 0 is obviously below average. As you can see, Rizzo has made immense strides in being able to handle pitches on both the outer and inner half, high or low. The 24-year-old has dominated against fastballs this campaign as evidenced by his 12.5 wFB, which shows how many runs the hitter has contributed against the pitch compared to a league average player. Most good Major League Baseball hitters can hit a fastball pretty well, but what separates the stars from the good players is being able to handle the off-speed and breaking pitches. Last year Rizzo rated as -1.4 wSL and -0.1 wCB but this season Rizzo has been 4.7 runs above average against the slider and 9.8 runs above average against the curveball.

It was mentioned earlier that Rizzo took a big step backward in 2013 but in 2014 he’s posting a plethora of career-high statistics. Just check out the table below to see how far he has come along in the last year.

Year/Stat

BB%

ISO

OBP

wRC

WAR

LD%

HR/FB

2013

11%

.186

.323

102

1.7

19.6%

12.6%

2014

13%

.251

.389

154

3.4

22.7%

22.7%

’14 Rank

14th

8th

10th

11th

21st

44th

3rd

It’s clear by looking at the table that Rizzo is becoming an elite hitter before our very eyes. He owns an awesome .284/.389/.536 slash line to go along with 25 homers, 55 RBI, 70 runs, and two steals. His 25 bombs rank fourth best in the league, and he has been on a home run binge lately. Over his last 15 games, ‘Riz is 20-59 (.339) with eight homers, 10 RBI, and 14 runs. The 10 RBI on eight homers is a little perplexing, but who cares? The first baseman for the lovable losers is the top ranked player in Yahoo leagues over the last week and fantasy owners are going to be riding him the rest of the way. Rizzo is real, and he’s spectacular.

Soria a Closer No More

Joakim Soria has long been one of the more underappreciated closers/relief pitchers in MLB and this year has been no exception. Although the veteran was pitching for a lousy Texas Rangers squad that has greatly underperformed in regards to their grandiose expectations entering the season, he has managed to put up some valuable numbers. Soria sports a 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 42/4 K:BB ration in 33.1 innings and 17 saves. Among all current closers, only Aroldis Chapman and Casey Janssen have thrown less than Soria’s 33.1 IP and that’s because they both spent time on the DL. It’s largely been due to the Rangers being unable to win ball games. Prior to his last save on Monday, Soria went 16 days between save chances and prior to that he had a 15-day window with no save opportunities. It’s safe to say his 147 Y! ranking would be much higher if he were on a better team.

Unfortunately for Soria owners, it was announced on Wednesday that he would be traded to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. While this seemed like good news at first glance, Tigers GM Dave Dombroski crushed owners souls by announcing Joe Nathan would remain the closer. While the news is doom and gloom for the time being, Soria owners have plenty of reason to be optimistic. The Tigers are a World Series or bust team this year and if Nathan continues to falter in the 9th inning, Soria will be the one to take over the role. They can’t afford to be messing around once it comes to the postseason. The 39-year-old Nathan has been a shell of his former self, posting a 5.73 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 21 saves and five blown saves. Soria owners need to hang on for the time being, but if another closer is available off the waiver wire, by all means do it.

As for the Rangers closing situation now, manager Ron Washington said that Neftali Feliz would step back into the closers role. In his 10 1/3 innings pitched so far, Feliz has a 2.61 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, although it comes with a lousy four strikeouts. This is largely due to the fact that the Dominican no longer possesses a high 90’s fastball. Since his average fastball velocity peaked at 96.3 MPH in 2011, it has dropped to 92.2 MPH in 2014. For a closer who primarily relies on this pitch, it’s a concerning issue. At this point of the season though, save chasers can become desperate, and understandably so, as saves can be hard to come by with all the turnover around the league. Pick Feliz up and hope that he takes control of the role. Deep leaguers can pick up Shawn Tolleson or Neal Cotts in case Feliz bombs in the role.

Love it When You Call Me Big Papi

Over his last four games, David Ortiz has four homers. It’s safe to say the 38-year-old is feeling it. After his two-homer game on Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, Big Papi proclaimed he was “about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August.” Ortiz has lived up to his claim and it’s nice to see. He now owns a .251/.346/.501 slash line with 24 homers, 72 RBI, and 40 runs. The most glaring problem for him this year has been his pedestrian average. After batting over .300 each of the last three seasons and owning a career .285 average, it was safe to expect another year hovering above or near the .300 plateau.

Unfortunately for Papi, the increase in defensive shifts in MLB has taken a huge toll on his average. According to this ESPN Stats and Info article penned in April, Ortiz is the most shifted hitter in baseball since the start of the 2013 season and only hits .233 when hitting grounders or line drives to those areas. I browsed the internet to see if there was any recent concrete data on how Ortiz is shifted, but was unsuccessful in my attempts to do so. It’s safe to assume though that Ortiz still ranks among the league leaders in defensive shifts against. Knowing this, it’s hard to project Ortiz being able to reach his .285 career mark this season.

Ortiz owns nearly identical walk and strikeout rates compared to last year but there are a few troublesome areas though. His line drive rate has fallen from 22.6% to 17.3%, his lowest rate since 2010. Additionally, the lefty slugger is swinging at 29.4% of pitches outside the strike zone, a career-worst rate. As a result of the enormous amount of shifts against Papi, his BABIP is staggeringly low at .240. Ortiz is still ranked 62 in Y! leagues and will provide plenty of homers and RBI, he just may not be able to reach the top echelon of fantasy hitters due to his deflated average.

UPDATE: After being forced to leave Thursday’s game due to back spasms, Ortiz has been cleared to play today. Get Ortiz back into all lineups.

Monday Tidbits: Cliff Lee was pummeled (5 2/3-12 H-6 ER) in his first start back from the DL. Some rust is to be expected and it might be wise for owners to sit Lee in his next start until he rights the ship. Matt Cain was placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation and fellow teammate Brandon Belt was placed on the 7-day concussion DL. Meanwhile, Justin Morneau (neck strain) also hit the 15-day DL. Ian Desmond went 5-5 with a homer and looks to be turning his season around. Michael Wacha (shoulder) had an encouraging MRI and the hope is he will resume his throwing program in a couple weeks. Best-case scenario is him returning to the rotation in early September. Adam Jones hit two home runs and is once again living up to his lofty ADP. Jason Kipnis acknowledged his oblique will remain a thorn in his side (pun intended), for the rest of the way. Those looking for him to supply power may come away disappointed. Wily Peralta earned his third straight win after limiting the Cincinnati Reds to one run over seven innings. Billy Hamilton continues to display unexpected power and he connected for his sixth homer of the year. Julio Teheran tied his career-high by punching out 11 Miami Marlins batters while only allowing one run over seven dominant innings.

Tuesday Tidbits: Chase Headley had quite the debut as he delivered a walk-off single in the 14th inning in his first game with the New York Yankees. Moving from Petco Park to Yankee Stadium will undoubtedly help him and makes him intriguing for fantasy purposes. Troy Tulowitzki (hip flexor strain) has landed on the 15-day DL and it sounds like he may not be ready to return when first eligible. Tulo landing on the DL….a tradition unlike any other. Michael Cuddyer (left shoulder) has been cleared to begin a strengthening program and is aiming to return in mid-August. It’s time to stash Kid Cuddy. Shane Victorino went 3-4 and has been hot since returning from the DL. Although he’s a huge injury risk, the Flying Hawaiian could make for nice OF4/OF5 down the stretch. Arismendy Alcantara belted his second homer of the year and with the Chicago Cubs releasing Darwin Barney, Alcantara should play just about every day. Pick him up in all formats. Mike Minor got battered (3+ IP-6 ER-10 H) by the Marlins and now owns a horrifying 5.32 ERA for the season. He can’t continue to be this awful, but it would be best to bench him or pick up a better pitcher off the waiver wire. Gregory Polanco mercifully ended a prolonged slump he had been in by knocking in three runs courtesy of a bomb and a two-run single. Brian Dozier broke a 1-16 slump by going 3-5 with a home run. His average may stink, but 20+ bombs from a second baseman is an added bonus. Jonathan Lucroy continued his excellent season by hitting two homers, the second of which was of the walk-off variety. In his first start with the Cleveland Indians after being demoted to Triple-A Columbus earlier in the year, Danny Salazar held the Twins to one run over five innings. Walks are still an issue for him, but he has considerable upside and is worth an add. Tim Lincecum notched the first save of his career. Nolan Arenado hit a homer, the first since coming back from the DL due to a broken finger. Scott Kazmir (7 IP-7 H-1 ER-6 K) didn’t get the win against the Houston Astros, but he continued his great comeback story. Kazmir now owns an incredible 2.32 ERA. No one could have foreseen that before the season started.

Wednesday Tidbits:  Wil Myers (wrist) has started throwing and is shooting for a mid-August return. Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) has been placed on the 15-day DL and he will be out longer than the minimum stay. Starling Marte (head) was placed on the 7-day DL. Edwin Encarnacion (quad) could be activated from the DL next week. The Astros placed George Springer (quad) on the 15-day DL. It sounds like he may be ready to return once eligible. Shelby Miller will start against the Cubs on Saturday while Carlos Martinez is being moved back to the bullpen. Greg Holland earned his 26th save of the year and owns a ridiculous 1.72 ERA. Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run laser beam of a homer off the left-field foul pole for his 15th bomb of the year. Bartolo Colon flirted with perfection for 6 2/3 innings before Robinson Cano broke up the bid. Still, it was good enough to earn the 41-year-old his ninth win of the year. Ervin Santana struck out 10 over 7 1/3 innings against the Marlins. Francisco Liriano notched his second win of the year by stifling the Dodgers to four hits over seven innings. Corey Dickerson went 2-3 with two runs and an RBI and sports a great .336 average. Fantasy owners will have to hope he gets regular playing time once Cuddyer comes back as the outfield will be crowded (Dickerson/Cuddyer/Blackmon/Gonzalez). Ryan Howard has been benched and fantasy owners can cut bait. A.J. Burnett threw eight scoreless innings against the Giants and it took him 130 pitches to do so. Hopefully the high pitch total doesn’t come back to haunt him in the form of an injury later on. Unfortunately for Burnett, Bumgarner matched him every step of the way (8 IP-6 K-0 ER) as he notched his third straight win. Hunter Pence played hero as his bases-clearing double gave the Giants all the runs they would need. Pence is the sixth ranked player in Y! leagues over the past week. Freddie Freeman finally ended his 21-game homerless streak by hitting his 14th homer of the year, a three-run shot. Alex Cobb dominated the St. Louis Cardinals to the tune of 10 punchouts over seven innings. Jose Bautista hit his first homer since July 2. Big Papi hit another homer, making that four in the last three games. You could say he was right about the hotter than Jamaica quote. Yoenis Cespedes blasted two homers before he was forced to leave the game with a thumb injury he suffered on a violent hack he took in his last at-bat. Huston Street successfully converted his first save as a member of the Angels.

Thursday Tidbits: Zach Putnam (shoulder) was placed on the 15-day DL and Jacob Petricka capitalized on his absence by converting his fifth save. For the time being, Petricka looks like the undisputed closer for the Pale Hose. Pick him up where available. Brandon Moss launched a grand slam and now has 23 homers and 71 RBI. Joe Mauer (oblique) took swings in a batting cage and looks like he could return with the next week or two. Tyson Ross struck out a season-high 11 batters while allowing one run over six innings against the Cubs to earn his ninth win. The 27-year-old All-Star is the 49th ranked player in Y! leagues due to a magnificent 2.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 143 k’s in 142.2 innings. Carlos Gomez went 2-4 with an RBI single and a stolen base and now is hitting .306 for the season. Ho-hum. Corey Kluber did everything in his power (9 IP-10 K-1 R) but Ryan Raburn’s embarrasing defensive miscue cost him a shot at the win. Danny Duffy matched the “Klubot” pitch-for-pitch as he hurled seven shutout innings. Kendrys Morales was traded back to the Seattle Mariners, his former team last year, for pitching prospect Stephen Pryor. Looks like he should have accepted the Mariners $14.1 million qualifying offer in the offseason as he cost himself a lot of dough. Cole Hamels punched out 10 over eight one-run innings. Marcus Stroman flirted with a no-hitter (7 IP-1 H) before it was broken up in the seventh inning. The 23-year-old rookie owns a fine 3.21 ERA. How is this young stud only owned in 36% of Y! leagues? Max Scherzer struck out 11 over seven innings of three-run ball to earn his 12th win. Meanwhile his opposer, Garrett Richards, had his worst start since May by allowing four runs over seven. If that’s considered his “worst” start in that long, owners won’t be complaining. His shining 2.62 ERA is a big reason for that. Aaron Harang continued his surprising season of fantasy relevance by limiting the Marlins to two run over seven. At this point, Harangatan owners have to ride him until the wheels fall off, if they ever do.

Thanks to FanGraphs, Yahoo, ESPN, and BrooksBaseball for providing the statistical information. Be sure to comment below with any questions or remarks you may have. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy.

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