As in our inaugural post last week (in which we managed to break both Jason Vargas and Jim Johnson! Who will it be this week?), Dr. Easy and I will be taking another look at a few more players who may be doing better or worse than you thought they were. To do this, once again we went trawling through the Razzball Season-to-Date Player Rater (all hail Rudy, Rudy for king — hell, let’s just elect him Fantasy Baseball Overlord), looking for surprising performances to help you with trade targets, waiver wire pickups and DFS plays.
Precipiently* (*not a word), in Monday’s daily goodness, Grey referred to the crap-ton** (**not a Système International unit, for the scientists playing along at home) of home runs that are being launched at the moment. “I have two mixed leagues where I feel like if I’m not getting at least five homers per day, I’m falling behind,” he hath quoth. Dr. Easy and I had just started to think about a similar thing: in this brand-new reality, in each category considered by the Player Rater, what constitutes “falling behind”? Take a guess: what would constitute a good HR or SB season? How many home runs are enough home runs? How many steals does a player have to have — or be on pace for — to be giving you value in a particular category? So this week, we’re taking a look at that too…
We wanted to figure out the benchmark, or “break-even point,” or mean, for every category used by the Player Rater, which designates whether a player is above or below average in a given category. The perception of what constitutes a good HR or SB season, for example, may not correspond to the reality; we hope this “break-even” point will help us get an idea of the distinction. Take home runs: if the “break-even” point is 20 home runs for a season, a player who is on pace for fewer than 20 home runs is not contributing positively in that category.
We went through the Razzball Season-to-Date Player Rater to see which counting stat value corresponds to the Player Rater $ number that is equal to 0, or close enough. As at the All-Star Break, the “break-even” stats for hitters correspond to approximately:
R: 38 (prorated to full season: 69)
HR: 10 (prorated to full season: 18)
SB: between 2 and 3 (prorated to full season: between 4 and 6)
RBI: 37 (prorated to full season: 68)
And for pitchers:
W: 2 (prorated to full season: 4. We worked out the wins and saves numbers because we were interested, but note that they’re technically meaningless because there are only so many wins to go around and so many pitchers).
SV: 6 (prorated to full season: 11)
K: 76 (prorated to full season: 139)
These are basically the bog-standard numbers for players — the minimum you should expect. If a player is doing worse than this in the category, he’s not providing value in that category and his value better be boosted in some other category(ies), or he’s not worth keeping on your team — no matter how good you perceive him to be. And if you’re keeping him because you think he’s adding value in that category, dump his sorry bum. The picture is a bit murkier among pitchers because there are relievers mixed in with starters, and we’ll get to that next time.
So, 18 HRs (prorated over the season) is considered only average now. You may ask yourself: is it worth keeping a hitter who hits 18 HRs on the season (and you may ask yourself: how did I get here? and you may tell yourself: this is not my beautiful wife! … but I digress)? Should your expectations not go up in terms of what you want from HR hitters? For example, Tommy Joseph: yes, we may perceive him as offering value in home runs (15 so far on the season), but he actually isn’t exceptional in that category, and it turns out he’s in the negative in several other categories: runs ($R -1.3; 34 runs to date), steals ($SB -1.4; 1 SB to date) and average ($AVG -0.6; .252 AVG to date). So, overall, is there someone else out there, on the waiver wire or trade market, who gives better value?
And now let’s look at some Player Rater surprises.
SP: Dan Straily
As mentioned last week, we seriously debated calling this the “WTF?” column. Here’s yet another WTF moment. Did you know that per the Season-to-Date Player Rater (must…not…abbreviate… aaaahhh, losing control of keyboard…), i.e., the STD PR, Dan Straily is the number 14 SP? He’s ranked 76th overall in MLB — he’s also only 77% owned. As always, check what Stream-o-Nator has to say about him on a start-by-start basis, but you may just be able to scoop him up off the waiver wire (just a reminder that the Player Rater uses Razzball Commenter League ownership numbers, so he may be even more available in other leagues). We were interested to see what the Rest-of-Season Player Rater (ROS PR) had to say about him, and the results were somewhat surprising there, too. Long story short, the ROS PR has him dropping massively in $K rate, from his current $K 2.5 to $K -0.1. Which is interesting to us, because his K/9 rate has actually been fairly consistent throughout his career. His BB/9 seems to be getting better. Along with an improvement in FIP, his ERA should improve, because since moving from Cincinnati to Miami, he’s now pitching in a better pitchers’ park. So long story short, we’re less pessimistic than the ROS PR and still maintain he’s worth grabbing.
RP: Dellin Betances
Given that Betances is 100% owned in ESPN leagues, it’s probably safe to say most people would consider him a good pitcher. I know I do: I just leave him sitting out there, taking up a P slot in my roster, without thinking much about it (…UNTIL NOW). But the STD PR actually ranks him 40th in RP currently, 266 overall. That’s after Dustin McGowan (I know, right?) and Chris Rusin — a Rockies pitcher. Mind you, Betances is having his best K/9 year since 2013 (currently 16.8; best ever 18.0; he’s ranked 11th in $K for RPs), but what seems to be dragging him down is his BB/9 (at 8.3, up from last year’s 3.5). His ERA isn’t horrendous in terms of the “break-even” (it’s currently 3.18), but he’s not at his best: in 2014 and 2015, it was 1.40 and 1.50, respectively. Last year, though: 3.08. But bear in mind that he went through a recent rough patch, and ratios are sensitive for RPs, so in aggregate he doesn’t look that good. Just something to monitor. It may be prudent to bench an RP for a bit after a blow-up (note to self!) until they get their stuff back together.
C: Yadier Molina
Catchers are an interesting beast, and it’s a category where, when it comes to the Razzball Player Rater, it’s worth looking at the disparity between $ and $/G. Someone who has a higher $ than a $/G is deriving value from playing every day and getting counting stats. Yadier Molina is an example of such: he’s a set-it-and-forget-it catcher. You want to own Yadier Molina rather than streaming him (other than for exceptionally good match-ups in DFS). He’s currently rated 5th out of all catchers, mainly thanks to his counting stats. And he’s a relatively low 85% owned. The ideal, of course, is a catcher who is also eligible at other positions, because they’re going to play every day, but unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of them out there. So if you haven’t been able to land one of these rare mutant-catcher birds (i.e., Alex Avila, Buster Posey and Willson Contreras), you can strategize in a couple of ways: you can try to get a catcher with good stats, and then set and forget him and grit through his off-days or, if you’re a little more energetic, or if your main catcher is injured, you could stream catchers who have a high $/G value, regardless of their $ value (for example: Robinson Chirinos, whose $/G value is 19.8, $ value is $/G -1.5, and has a $HR of 2.5; i.e., 12 HR. He’s only 4% owned. Or perhaps young Austin Barnes [who?], whose $/G is 17.3 — actual $ value -4.3).
3B: Manny Machado
This question came up a couple of times on threads this week, so we thought we’d ask ourselves, “What’s the deal with Manny Machado?” (perhaps while standing on a small stage being harassed by hecklers). He’s ranked 152nd overall, 19th out of all 3B. Pre-season, he was supposed to be the top 3B, 5th player overall. And he certainly got drafted as such. His average is gross, way below the “break-even” average: .230 ($AVG -3.8). He’s marginally above break-even in runs: 38 ($R 0.1). He’s OK in RBIs: 47 ($RBI 3.5). He’s actually doing OK in home runs, too: 18 ($HR 5.5), which ranks him 8th in 3Bs, just behind Kris Bryant (believe it or not, Mike Moustakas is leading that category for 3Bs, at $HR 10). His BABIP is low (0.239), so he’s getting unlucky. Is he turning into the low-average, big-bopper, Joey-Gallo, boom-or-bust type, like so many seem to be this year? His low, unlucky BABIP points to better days (and it used to be better in past years) — Shirley, he can’t have forgotten how to hit, unless it’s due to a new, pull-happy philosophy that’s burning him, per this great piece on FanGraphs.
SS: Chris Owings
Owings is currently ranked 5th out of all shortstops (also eligible for 2B and OF in ESPN leagues), 64th overall. He was ranked 30th in SS pre-season, so if you managed to grab him, virtual high five to you (sadly, at this point, he’s 100% owned, so you’d need to trade for him). His value is coming from across the board, with positive $ in every category, but juuuuuust positive in $R (0.1; 38 runs so far on the season) and $HR (1.1; 12 home runs). This is an example of someone who’s valuable because he’s stealing bases ($SB 6.7) at the same rate as last year, whereas other players in the league may not, and doesn’t hurt you in other categories. He’s being himself year-to-year, he’s in a good lineup and hits in a good home park, and he should keep on being valuable — even if the ROS PR has him dropping in $R, $HR and $RBI.
OF: Domingo Santana
We’re cribbing this one off Grey, who mentioned just the other day that Domingo Santana is a top 50 player. He’s actually currently 30th overall in MLB according to the STD PR, and the 13th-ranked OF, sandwiched between Andrew McCutchen and Miguel Sano at time of writing. Amusingly, when we started writing this piece, he was 96% owned but he’s now 100%, so it proves all y’all do listen to Grey — and rapidly, cos that was like 3 days ago. He’s fairly significantly above “break-even” in all categories (54 runs: $R 5.7; 15 HR: $HR 3.3; 9 SBs: $5.2; 50 RBIs: $RBI 4.5; AVG .291: $AVG 4.2), enough to offer value across the board. Is it sustainable? ROS PR says no, that everything is going to dip below 0 except for $HR (1.8) and $SB (1.2) … but we’re more optimistic, because year-on-year, 2017 sees him putting up his best stats (Ks are down; BBs are up). It could be that at 24 years of age, he’s yet to show us his best. He is stealing more than ever because he’s getting on base, and that may regress: his .372 BABIP is not sustainable. But we don’t see why the $HR should regress that much, because he’s doing what he did last year.