2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week Eight Roundup

Adam Wainwright Fantasy Baseball
Photo credit: Annie Chartrand

We are now officially a quarter of the way through the 2014 Major League Baseball season and it’s time for fantasy owners to start taking notice of where their team resides in the standings. You can figure out pretty quickly which areas your team needs reinforcement in by taking a detailed look at the standings and then you can come up with a plan to combat your weaknesses. You may be in first place with a comfortable cushion over the second place team, but that doesn’t mean you should just shut it down and stand pat with your team. Look for ways to make your team even more dominant through trading or free agency. As the first place team, you hold a bit more leverage in trade talks.

On the flip side, if you happen to be in the bottom half of the standings, don’t give it up yet! There is still plenty of time for your team to make a run to the top if you remain diligent in your managing. Making a bold trade isn’t advised unless you think it benefits your team, but teams bringing up the rear may have to take a bit more risk to get back to the top. I’ll go ahead and give an example of a trade I happened to make in a standard 5×5 12-man rotisserie league last week. At the time of the trade, my team was languishing in 8th place.

Struggling for home runs and RBI, I moved Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo for Jose Abreu and Alex Gordon. My thought process behind making the deal was that I would improve both my HR/RBI totals. Waiting for Fielder to recover from his painfully slow start was no longer an option for me so acquiring the MLB leader in homers helped ease my mind. Additionally, even though Alex Gordon has gotten off to a slow start this season, he’s a pretty reliable and consistent option to rely upon. His RBI totals batting in the five slot compared to leadoff for Choo should garner me an extra 20-30 RBI as well.

Of course days after I made the trade the fantasy baseball gods brought me more bad luck. Abreu was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his ankle and Fielder has been shelved due to a herniated disc in his back. At least Gordon went 4-4 with six RBI on Sunday. I’m still confident this trade will benefit my team in the long run.

As a quick aside, if you ever have any questions regarding trades or free agent pickups you are thinking about making, you can personally send us a questions at our Quick Fix section. It’s time to go ahead and examine the biggest fantasy baseball news in the week eight roundup.

Waino’s World

Adam Wainwright was up to his usual excellence again on Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, as he rattled off a one-hit shutout. The remarkable performance improved his season numbers to 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 65:15 K/BB ratio in 73 innings pitched. Those spectacular numbers amount to Wainwright being the second most valuable starting pitcher in fantasy at the moment, trailing only Johnny Cueto. In our staff predictions piece we published before the season, I chose Wainwright to win the NL Cy Young and he is well on his way to validating that pick.

His seven wins are tied with Mark Buehrle, Rick Porcello, and Zack Greinke for most in baseball. His 1.85 ERA is second best to Jeff Samardzija (1.46). Opponents are only hitting .185 against him this year. With RISP, hitters are only 7-53 (.132). How do hitters fare with 2 outs and a RISP? They are 3-26 (.115). A quick look at his FanGraphs profile page shows why he is having so much success. Waino is posting career-highs in strikeout rate (23.6%) and LOB rate (81.9%). Not to mention that hitters aren’t finding many holes as evidenced by opponents BABIP (.234).

If there is one weak spot, Wainwright is surrendering line drives at a career-worst rate (23.4%). That number will surely go down as the season progresses, though. Interestingly, Wainwright is using his fastball less while using his sinker more, but his ground ball rate is well below his career norms. Not like that is his hindering his performance, though. Before the season started Clayton Kershaw was the heavy favorite to repeat as the NL Cy Young winner, but the award is well within reach for Wainwright if he continues at his current pace, although Samardzija and Cueto might disagree. If you asked me to rank Wainwright for the rest of the season among other starting pitchers, I would say he’s the number one option from here on out. Enjoy the ride.

Bull-Dozier

If you had to pick one player as the most surprising fantasy commodity this season, it would be hard to argue against Brian Dozier being the best example. Through 43 games, Dozier has a .263/.377/.480 slash line to go along with 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 41 runs, and 12 steals. Very impressive numbers. They have led to him being the sixth ranked overall player and fourth batter on Y!, trailing only Troy Tulowitzki, Charlie Blackmon, and Giancarlo Stanton in terms of value.

Many would argue that Dozier is the ultimate sell-high player at the moment, but I advise holding onto him in all formats unless the trade is too good to pass up. There aren’t many players who possess 20/20 ability and Dozier could easily surpass both those totals. His average is mediocre, but it won’t kill you either. Batting leadoff for a Minnesota Twins teams that is eighth in terms of runs per game (4.59) should ensure he scores 90-100 runs, assuming he stays healthy. Looking at the advanced statistics, Dozier has made improvements across the board. Check out the table below.

Year/Stat

BB%

K%

ISO

FB%

GB%

O-Swing%

SwStr%

2013

8.2%

19.3%

.170

41.3%

37.9%

28.9%

6.0%

2014

14.5%

18.4%

.216

43.3%

39.6%

24.8%

5.4%

Dozier’s 6.3% increase in his walk rate is doing wonders for his OBP which currently stands at .377, compared to .312 last year. He’s already drawn 30 walks in his 43 games. The ISO increase suggests he might have little trouble hitting north of 25 homers. This isn’t listed in the chart, but his HR/FB ratio is 19.0% and while it’s an unsustainable rate, last year he slugged 18 homers in 147 games so his power is for real.

Dozier is currently riding a tidy 10-game hit streak that has raised his average from .237 to its current .263 mark. Currently the most valuable second baseman in standard 5×5 leagues, I believe Dozier has the ability to remain the top ranked option at the keystone. Robinson Cano for Brian Dozier straight up would be an awfully interesting trade offer right now. While Cano will post a way better average and more RBI, Dozier is the better bet to finish with more runs, homers, and steals. If I were a Dozier owner (I’m not), I would be commanding a pretty penny for someone looking to acquire his services. Hold your shares if you can, it’s hard to find second baseman with pop like this.

Dallas Buy-in Club

Dallas Keuchel is only owned in 56% of Y! leagues, yet he is the 52nd ranked player. Something seems wrong with the ownership level here. The 26-year-old is having a breakout year for the Houston Astros. Over his first nine starts, Keuchel is 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a 55:12 K/BB ratio in 61.2 innings pitched. Those numbers suggest he would be a useful player for just about any team at the moment. The southpaw is holding right-handed hitters to a .222 average and since the majority of MLB hitters are righties, that’s a great sign.

Keuchel goes into lockdown mode with RISP. Hitters are have gone just 6-44 (.154) against him in those situations. A 22.7% strikeout rate, coupled with a 5.0% walk rate while allowing line drives at a 12.6% clip is giving him success. His xFIP of 2.69 suggests his current ERA isn’t a fluke. Furthermore, Keuchel is leading the majors at inducing ground balls at an insane 67.7% rate. He has also recorded a quality start in seven of his last eight trips to the mound. The gifs below come from Keuchel’s shutout versus the Astros on May 13. Keuchel’s bread and butter pitches are the two-seam fastball and slider.

Gif credit: Pitchergifs
Gif credit: Pitchergifs
Gif credit: Pitchergifs
Gif credit: Pitchergifs

Keuchel may be pitching for a lousy Astros squad, but as his season numbers indicate, it hasn’t been a hinderance to him performing well enough to earn victories. Keuchel should be owned across the board at this point, ride him until the wheels fall off, if they do that is.

Games Played Streak Ends for Fielder

After Prince Fielder missed the Texas Rangers game on Saturday, it officially ended Fielder’s streak of 547 games played in a row. Part of the reason owners felt great about selecting Fielder as a first or second round pick was Fielder’s noted durability. Much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, Fielder hasn’t since returned to the lineup due to a herniated disc in his neck. The herniated disc is causing Fielder to experience weakness in his right arm and it sounds like a 15-day DL stint may be in order.

Ranked 383rd overall, Fielder has been a massive bust to say the least to start the year. His slash line is a hideous .247/.360/.360 and he has only produced three homers, 16 RBI, and 19 runs. Much more was expected out of the left-handed slugger in the middle of a high-powered Rangers lineup. His -0.4 WAR tells you just about all you need to know on how his season is going so far. Last year he established a career-low in ISO at .178, this year it’s taken a profound dive to .113.

The root of his problems stem from hitting ground balls at a 50.4% rate. To put that in perspective, the highest ground ball rate he has had in his career was back in 2011 with the Milwaukee Brewers when he hit them at a 43.1% rate. Additionally, his fly ball rate has tumbled to 30.7% and his HR/FB ratio is only 7.7%. He has never finished a season with a HR/FB ratio below ten percent. He also seems to be hurting himself by being too selective at the plate. His Z-Swing%, which indicates how often he swings at balls in the strike zone, is 64.6%, the lowest of his career.

Owners are just going to have to hang onto him unless you happen to find someone willing to buy low on him. I have an ominous feeling about Fielder’s ability to recover from his ailment and perform like the stud he has been in years past. It’s shaping up to be a lost season for Fielder in his first year in Arlington.

Phillies Ace Needs Some BrotherLee Love

Cliff Lee was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday, retroactive to May 19, with a Grade 1/2 flexor strain of his left elbow. This was obviously unexpected news for Lee owners as there hadn’t been any rumblings of elbow soreness. Owners are now looking at an extended absence from the ace of the Phillies staff as it’s not wise to expect Lee to return in the minimum amount of time.

Up to this point in the season, Lee hasn’t been his usual dominant self. Over his first 68 IP, Lee amassed a 4-4 record with a 3.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 61:9 K/BB ratio. The bloated WHIP is due to Lee getting smacked around more often than usual on the mound. Hitters are batting .287 against him and his BAA is .341, so hitters are finding holes quite often as well. Right-handed hitters are giving Lee major problems as well as they are batting .301 against him so far after only hitting .239 last year. You obviously can’t drop Lee yet and trading him would be difficult, so holding onto him is the the proper course of action for the time being. A lengthy rest could be just the thing that gets Lee back to peak form.

Tidbits:  Jeff Samardzija fired seven shutout innings versus the Yankees last night, but once again it didn’t result in a win. According to Elias, Samardzija has the lowest ERA (1.46) in MLB history through 10 starts while not recording a win. The next closest mark is a 2.33 ERA back in 1917. Talk about bad luck. A’s manager Bob Melvin has anointed Sean Doolittle as the closer for the team. He has a ridiculous 32:1 K/BB ratio in 23 innings pitched. He picked up his fourth save of the season last night. Run to the waiver wire to pick him up if available, he is in 52% of Y! leagues but won’t be for long. Yovani Gallardo sprained his ankle in Tuesday’s start. It sounds like he’ll be fine to make his next scheduled start. Julio Teheran threw a 128 pitch complete-game shutout versus the Brewers on Tuesday. His 1.95 ERA is outstanding and he’s the first Braves pitcher to throw multiple shutouts in a season since Greg Maddux in 2001. The St. Louis Cardinals activated Jason Motte (Tommy John) on Tuesday. Motte rattled off 1 2/3 scoreless frames in extra innings on Wednesday. Look for him to eventually be the bridge to Trevor Rosenthal in the future and he may garner a few save chances when Rosenthal needs a rest. Jason Grilli (oblique) will be activated on Saturday. Out since April 21, he could be eased back into the closers role. Chris Davis hit three homers against the Pirates on Tuesday. Crush may be about to break out. Masahiro Tanaka lost for first time all season and it happened to be against the lowly Chicago Cubs. Baseball can be a funny game sometimes. Matt Cain left Wednesday’s start after straining his right hamstring and it’s likely he requires a DL stint. Clayton Kershaw is ok after being hit by a line drive on the shin while shagging balls during batting practice. Thank the lord.

Tidbits Part Two: Chris Sale (elbow) will be activated on Thursday for his start versus the Bronx Bombers. Jay Bruce was surprisingly activated from the 15-day DL on Wednesday after undergoing surgery on his partially-torn meniscus just 15 days ago. Edwin Encarnacion hit two homers over the Green Monster at Fenway on Tuesday. What did he do for an encore on Wednesday? How about two more longballs. Encarnacion is now tied for third in MLB with his 13 homers. Josh Hamilton is hoping to be activated on May 26. Matt Lindstrom was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday and he is expected to be out for three months after undergoing surgery to repair a tendon sheath in his left ankle. Pick up Ronald Belisario, he’s the new closer for the White Sox. Joey Votto was placed on 15-day DL with a distal left quadriceps strain, retroactive to May 16. Alex Cobb will be activated from the DL on Thursday. Victor Martinez hit his eighth home run of May on Wednesday, setting a personal best for most homers hit in a month. Michael Wacha was struck on the elbow by a foul ball last night while sitting by the dugout railing while the Cardinals were at bat. The latest update suggests it’s an elbow contusion and he was removed for precautionary reasons. Hyun-jin Ryu returned from the disabled list on Wednesday night as he took the mound against the New York Mets. He earned a victory after going six innings while allowing two runs. Get him back into all lineups. The Boston Red Sox signed Stephen Drew to a one-year, $10 million contract to be their shortstop for the rest of the season, which will shift Xander Bogaerts to third base. He will head to the minors to get some much needed at-bats but he will be up soon. 

Thanks to FanGraphs and Yahoo for providing the statistical information. Be sure to comment below if you have any questions or comments. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy and I’m more than willing to answer any questions you may have.

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