This week, Dr. Easy and I (he’s the Rudy, with the stats and the puns; I’m the Grey, with the high-pitched giggle and the puns) continue our Adventures with the Razzball Season-to-Date Player Rater (STD PR), looking for players who are rated higher than you may think they are — or lower than you think they would be — in an attempt to help you with waiver wire pick-ups, trade targets and DFS plays. We’ll look at a couple of position players but focus mostly on non-closing, non-handcuff relief pitchers, to try to get an idea of where their value lies for a roto team.
If you cast your eye down the list of RPs we’re focusing on this week, you’ll see that many of them are highly ranked because of the wins they’re getting (they have a high $W value). So the question is: should we then ignore these pitchers, since wins are a fluke for RPs? Our tentative answer is “maybe, we guess, sort of?” (could we be any more careful?). Don’t pick up these non-closers for their $W only, but all else being equal, some relievers do get value simply because they get used a lot or used in situations that help with vulture wins. The number of innings they play at a time is also important, for the fact that it puts more weight on the ratios they give you. Take, for example, Sean Doolittle (WHIP 0.66) and Ryan Madson (WHIP 0.79), both traded together a couple of days ago. But because Madson has pitched 18 more innings than Doolittle, he gives you 1 more $WHIP.
Dustin McGowan: McGowan is sitting 40th out of all RPs, two slots below Cody Allen (actual closer) and one above Santiago Castillo (actual closer). Ill health has had him bouncing on and off the DL for most of his career, and he’s gone from team to team since he left the Jays in 2015. But he’s now with the Marlins and is racking up regular work: he’s pitched 48 innings so far in 2017, tied for 5th in innings pitched, alongside names like Felipe Rivero (closer) and Brad Hand (“Hand”cuff). Houston’s Chris Devenski leads the IP$ category with 55 innings pitched. At present, McGowan is only 1% owned. Where is his value coming from? Long story short, he’s negative in just about everything, except for $W ($W 4.9, which puts him 4th, behind Devenski, Mychal Givens and Jim Johnson). So, Dustin McGowan: is the high $W a product of pitching so often and of his role, and will this continue? <shrug emoticon>.
Anthony Swarzak: When we first started writing this post a few days ago, we were just going to mention Anthony Swarzak in passing, as being similar to McGowan: he’s currently ranked 29th overall in RP with $W 3.1. However, with David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle leaving for the Yankees, Swarzak may be the setup guy behind a struggling Tyler Clippard, or the outright closer, which suddenly makes him a lot more interesting. And he’s still only 8% owned (although this may be changing rapidly. AROOGA! AROOGA!).
Chris Rusin: This Colorado RP (words that will strike fear into the strongest heart) is ranked just a little lower than Dustin McGowan, at 42nd; he’s 9 places higher than Trevor Rosenthal (actual closer) and 2 above Ryan Tepera (handcuff). And he’s…0% owned. He has pitched 50 innings so far this year (again, compare against Devenski, our big workhorse with 55 innings pitched). Interestingly, he’s not that high in wins ($W 1.3; Jim Johnson, Mychal Givens and Chris Devenski run away with that category, all at $W 6.6). So he seems to be getting his value from his amount of work, and his respectable ERA, 2.36 ($ERA 1.3). His WHIP is 1.03 ($WHIP 0.8), but because his K/9 is 6.89 — 38 Ks in all those innings — his $K still amounts to a negative value: -1.3. So after all that, we’re with you: we wouldn’t own him either.
Mychal Givens: Givens is ranked 17th out of all RPs and is a mere 27% owned. His high value comes primarily from his wins: $W 6.6, as mentioned above, which translates to 6 on the year. In his case, his high $W may not be entirely a fluke because of the way he’s used (usually with his team trailing) and the fact that the Orioles (usually) have a good offense, which provides good run support. The past 2 seasons, Baltimore has been in the top 3 in beating their Pythagorean win-loss prediction. A lot of these wins seem to come late in games; it seems that when his team is behind, Buck Showalter still considers them (rightly so) to be high-leverage situations and uses good pitchers in these circumstances, which allows them to come from behind. Brad Brach was used this way also, last year. But wait, there’s more, because that’s not all Mychal givens ya: he supplies value in many categories. He works a lot: 46 innings pitched so far this year. He has a tasty 2.14 ERA ($ERA 1.5); WHIP is 0.99 ($WHIP 1). His only negative is in the saves category (#notacloser). Between Givens and <insert name of pitcher with better ratios here>, go with the better ratios, but if the numbers are close, it’s worth rolling the dice on Givens, because of the way Showalter uses him. And now that rumors abound that the Orioles might trade away RPs like Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach, there’s a possibility that Givens is a closer-in-waiting.
Mike Minor: Here’s a guy who has a shot at closer someday, sitting second in line behind Herrera (closer) and Soria (handcuff) in the Royals hierarchy, and definitely worth cyclopsing. A mere 5 notches below Mychal Givens in the RP rankings on the STD PR, he’s 22nd, and only 26% owned. That’s sandwiched between Bud Norris (closer) and Matt Albers (recently demoted closer thanks to the Madson and Doolittle trade!). He’s ranked so highly for his 45 innings pitched; his wins ($W 4.9, which puts him tied for 2nd among RPs, with a bunch of people — including Dustin McGowan, Matt Albers, and Boston’s Matt Barnes); his 2.22 ERA ($ERA 1.3; his best year in the majors); and his WHIP, at 0.99 ($WHIP 1.1). His K/9 is 9.47 (47 Ks; $K -0.2: his best year since 2010. As an aside, don’t be discouraged by the negative $K contribution. The relievers’ share of the K$ is being depreciated by the starters, but ultimately, in leagues where the number of starts are capped, as in the Razzball Commenter Leagues, the number of Ks that RPs give you is still valuable). And combined with a BB/9 of 2.42 (his best year since 2013), there’s no sign of decline, moving forward.
Chris Taylor: In “what the what!” news, the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor is ranked 11th among second basemen — 107th of all hitters. He’s 97% owned in Razzball Commenter Leagues. This high ranking is quite surprising to me (VB); I must have been living beneath a rock with that other 3% of Razzballers, but I missed the memo that he was having such a good season. At the same time, he had good numbers in the minors, so his success shouldn’t be completely surprising. The Mariners have brought up, and given up on, quite a few SS prospects in the past few years: Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Chris Taylor. So what’s he doing right and what’s he doing wrong? He’s having the year of his life, average-wise: .291, $AVG 4, which ranks him 18th out of 2Bs. He’s also stealing a bucket-load: $K 6.6, 11 steals, which puts him 8th out of 2Bs (and way above the “benchmark” of 3). As for his downsides, and whether his first-half year’s successes are sustainable: his K rate is pretty high, at 27.9% (17 out of 170 qualified; that’s mostly trending upwards, year on year — bad), and he isn’t walking a whole lot, only 11.0% of the time (that’s trending downwards, year on year — also bad). His BABIP is .389. This performance doesn’t seem sustainable. And if he can’t get on base, his steals rate is not sustainable, either. We don’t see him turning to crap, but we also don’t see him remaining 11th out of 2Bs.
Ian Kinsler: On the other hand, in “surprisingly sucky 2B!” news, we have Baseball James Franco, who is ranked a miserable 24th among 2Bs. He’s negative in every category on the STD PR, except for runs ($R 4.1: 51 on the season, which puts him way above the benchmark of 38; this is an average year for him). He is also stealing a fair bit: $SB 3.4, which translates to 7 steals, also about average for him year on year. His walk rate is up: 10.2% over last year’s 6.6%, and K rate is down to 12.7% from last year’s 16.9%, but 12% is about the norm for him. His BABIP is .255, meaning he’s probably getting unlucky. So all that to say, he should be better than this (unless Father Time has caught up with him), so all you owners (99% of you!), form a prayer centipede and hope he gets out of it soon.
Jackie Bradley Jr: Here’s another one who’s a darling for no real fathomable reason other than perhaps nostalgia. JBJ is 100% owned but ranked 68th of all outfielders. He doesn’t really provide value in any category in particular. He’s positive, and only barely, only in the categories of home runs ($HR 0.8; 12 HRs on the season), RBIs ($RBI 0; 38 RBIs), steals ($SB 1; 4 steals) and average ($AVG 1.8;.270). If you look at the benchmark numbers we came up with last week to measure a bog-standard player at this point in the season —10 HRs, 37 RBIs, 3 steals and average of .258 — JBJ is basically that prototypical, bog-standard player. Is he going to get any better? The Rest-of-Season Player Rater thinks he is supposed to do a little better in most categories ($HR 1.5, $RBI 2.6, and $AVG 2) but do worse in steals ($SB 0.8). Last year he was valuable; this year with the same numbers, and with everyone else and their grandmothers hitting home runs everywhere but in Boston (the Red Sox are ranked 26th in home runs), he’s just middle of the road. Depending on needs in your league, Jarrod Dyson could be more interesting: he’s ranked 48th out of OF, due to his exceptionally high $SB (21 steals), and 78% owned.