Monday, May 17, 2010

Start or Sit Tracker

Season Record: 6-2

5/11/10: Jeff Niemann at Angels: Sit: W, 7 1/3 IP, 6H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 4 K
5/8/10: Justin Verlander at Indians: Start: W, 6 IP, 4H, 3 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 9 K
5/7/10: Yovani Gallardo at Diamondbacks: Start: W, 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 K
5/6/10: Jeff Niemann at Mariners: Start: W, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
5/5/10: Chad Billingsley vs Brewers: Sit: L, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
5/4/10: Ricky Romero at Indians: Sit: W, 6 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
5/1/10: Matt Cain vs Rockies: Start : W, 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
4/30/10: Clif Lee vs Rangers: Sit: ND, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Start or Sit: Jeff Niemann at Angels

Jeff Niemann vs Angels
In 2 career starts against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Neimann has not fared well, losing both of the 2009 home and away games in his first year in the major league.

On 6/10/09, after dominating the Kansas City Royals for 9 full innings in a 2 hits, 1 walk, and 9 strikeout gem on 100 pitches, Niemann only lasted 3 2/3 frames as the Halos got to him early in Tampa Bay, to a tune of 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, and 3 K.

In his away start against the Angels on 8/12/09, Niemann pitched better, but not quite well enough and was pulled after logging 5 1/3 innings, as the Angels were once again able to produce, putting up 4 ER on 7 H and 3 BB, while striking out 4 times.

Jeff Niemann vs Angels Batters
Despite the fact that some of the damage during the two 2009 starts against the Angels were done by former-Halos (Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, and Gary Matthews Jr.), the current regular bats of Anaheim, except for Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, and Kendry Morales hit at least .333 or better for a collective BA of .300 in 30 plate appearances.

Trends and Injuries
Niemann has made 5 consecutive quality starts after his injury shortened season debut, with his latest accomplishment being the win at Seattle where he not only dominated the Mariners, but also overcame a near-epic proportion meltdown in which he threw 11 consecutive balls to walk the bases loaded.

The Angels have won 3 of the last 4 games after a 7-game slide, posting an 11-inning victory on a Juan Rivera sacrifice fly against the Rays last night.

Napoli blasted his 2nd home run of the season, going deep twice in the last 4 games, showing signs of life after a personal late spring training - all thanks to Mike Scioscia's mancrush on Jeff Mathis - but the rest of the Angels are batting a pultry .199 in the last 7 games as a group.

Opposing Pitcher
Scott Kazmir faces his former team for the first time with perhaps something to prove, having started this season off to a 7.11 ERA and just one quality starts in 5 attempts. Of the handful of Tampa Bay regulars Kazmir has faced, only Justin Bartlett has an average of over .111, as Gabe Kapler and Carlos Pena have gone a combined 1 for 12.

Kazmir won both of his 2 home starts in 2010, holding the opponents to a .220 BAA and 1.18 WHIP, but the 2 HR in 11 IP were opportune shots yielding 6 ER.

The Call: Sit
I'm going with the wait-and-see approach on this one, being cautious with the trigger on Jeff Niemann's road start against the Angels. In a small sample of 2 games, half the Halos lineup have hit Niemann pretty well and Scioscia will surely try to pull all sorts of small-ball stunts to disrupt the rhythm of Niemann. Prediction: ND, 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 7 K.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Start or Sit: Justin Verlander vs Indians

If you have owned Justin Verlander at any point since his breakout season with the Detroit Tigers in 2006, you know both the pain and the pleasure, the seemingly bottomless depths of utter ineffectiveness and the soaring heights (and the tease) of near perfection.

It's very tempting to just plug and play Verlander given his track record, but that would be lazy, not to mention uninteresting, so let's take a look at the numbers and trends.

Justin Verlander vs Cleveland Indians Batters
A cursory glance at the pitcher vs batters numbers indicates a green light for starting Verlander against the Indians. The collective batting average against Verlander is .226, the on-base percentage .314, and the Indians are averaging a homer per every 40 at-bats, a span of a 13 1/3 innings.

Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, and Travis Hafner have, naturally, done most of the damage, combining to go 34 for 133 with 5 home runs and 16 bases on balls while striking out 36 times, to a tune of .255 batting average. The three bat 2 through 5 in the Indians lineup with Shin-Soo Choo squeezing in between Sizemore and Peralta, and the key to Verlander's success will depend on avoiding the big meltdown innings, especially against the bigger bats.

Justin Verlander vs Cleveland Indians
Verlander's historically had trouble with the division rival Indians, as he has gone 8-10 in 20 career starts, logging 121 IP, 114 H, 73 ER, 15 HR, 48 BB, 131 K, 5.43 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and .246 BAA. But in 4 starts last year, Verlander won all games, completely dominating the Indians for 30 IP, 16 H, 3 ER, 0 HR, 10 BB, 41 K, 0.90 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and .157 BAA. Verlander's 2009 numbers against the Indians was an absolute turn around from his marks in 2008 and 2007, when he went a combined 2-8 in 11 starts giving up 50 earned runs in 62 innings for a 7.25 ERA.

The below is a scoring log of Verlander's 11 starts from 2007 and 2008 seasons against the Indians.

5/26/07 Home ND
- V. Martinez homered to deep right, G. Sizemore scored

5/31/07 Away L
- T. Hafner homered to deep center, C. Blake scored
- T. Hafner singled to center, C. Blake and G. Sizemore scored
- V. Martinez homered to deep right center, T. Hafner scored
After being pulled
- V. Martinez hit sacrifice fly to center, G. Sizemore scored

7/5/07 Home W
- V. Martinez homered to deep right
- R. Garko scored on wild pitch
- V. Martinez doubled to deep right, C. Blake scored

8/22/07 Home L
- V. Martinez singled to right, K. Lofton scored, C. Blake to second
- A. Cabrera singled to center, F. Gutierrez scored
- C. Blake singled to left, A. Cabrera scored, K. Lofton to second
- G. Sizemore singled to right, K. Lofton scored, C. Blake to third
- C. Blake scored, G. Sizemore to second on wild pitch
After being pulled
- F. Gutierrez homered to deep left, T. Hafner and J. Peralta scored

9/18/07 Away L
- R. Garko homered to deep center
- T. Hafner homered to deep center, G. Sizemore and A. Cabrera scored
- V. Martinez homered to deep center
- F. Gutierrez homered to deep left, K. Lofton scored

4/17/08 Away L
- J. Michaels hit sacrifice fly to right center, R. Garko scored, F. Gutierrez to third
- C. Blake doubled to right, F. Gutierrez scored
- J. Carroll singled to second, C. Blake scored
- R. Garko homered to deep left, V. Martinez scored

6/6/08 Home L
- C. Blake doubled to left, J. Peralta and R. Garko scored, D. Dellucci to third
- F. Gutierrez singled to left, D. Dellucci scored, C. Blake to third

7/8/08 Home W
- J. Peralta homered to deep left, C. Blake scored

7/31/08 Away L
- J. Peralta doubled to deep left, B. Francisco scored
- G. Sizemore homered to deep right, S. Fasano and A. Cabrera scored
- S. Fasano singled to left, S. Choo scored, R. Garko to second
After being pulled
- G. Sizemore hit by pitch, R. Garko scored, S. Fasano to third, A. Cabrera to second

8/27/09 Home L
- J. Peralta singled to left, D. Dellucci scored
- G. Sizemore singled to center, K. Shoppach and R. Garko scored
- K. Shoppach homered to deep left, R. Garko scored

9/20/08 Away L
- J. Peralta grounded out to shortstop, J. Carroll scored, S. Choo to third
- K. Shoppach scored, F. Gutierrez to second on balk
- S. Choo singled to right, R. Garko and G. Sizemore scored, J. Carroll to third
The names that did the most damage against Verlander in 2007 and 2008 (Shoppach, Gutierrez, Garko, Carroll, Fasano, Blake, Michaels, and Martinez) were no longer donning the inappropriate caricature on their hats by the 2009 season, which explains the turn-around.

Trends and Injuries
The start of Verlander's 2010 season has played out like a slightly lighter, a bit less extreme version of his 2009 season, when he gave up at least 5 earned runs in 3 of his first 4 starts, a total of 21 runs in 21 innings for a 0-2 record. In his first 4 starts this year, he's given up 17 earned runs in 22 innings, and hasn't give up more than 6 in a game while managing to go 1-0.

Last year, after the horrible first 4 games, Verlander straightened out his mechanics and control and wheeled off 9-straight quality starts, until he gave up 4 earned runs in the first inning in St. Louis on June 16th.

The Tigers are on a 4-game losing streak and the Indian shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is returning to the lineup.

Opposing Pitcher
Justin Masterson gets the nod for the Indians for the 1:05 PM showdown and in his lone career start against the Tigers in 2009, he gave up 6 earned runs in just 4 innings while serving up 2 home runs, allowing 7 hits, and issuing 3 bases on balls.

The Call: Start

Friday, May 7, 2010

Start or Sit: Yovani Gallardo at Diamondbacks

Yovani Gallardo vs Arizona Diamondbacks Batters
Out of 40 at-bats against the current Diamondbacks hitters, only Chris Snyder has been able to drive home some runs - two to be exact - against Gallardo and no other Diamondbacks have more than one hit off Gallardo in at least three at-bats. The Diamondbacks are a combined 9 for 40, compiling a .225 BA, 5 BB, and 14 K. Four of those strikeouts belong to Mark Reynolds, who earned the golden sombrero at home on August 20th of 2007.

Yovani Gallardo vs Arizona Diamondbacks
Gallardo not only owns a 2-0 lifetime record, but also has a 0.00 ERA against the Diamondbacks in two starts - winning both the home and away games in his 2007 rookie season. In 12 innings - going 6 in both starts - Gallardo has given up 8 hits while issuing 3 bases on balls and striking out 10.

Trends and Injuries
Gallardo is straight-up cruising right now. After a sluggish start to the 2010 season due to control issues, Gallardo has won three straight, during which he's only allowed just one earned run in 18 innings while striking out 25.

Arizona's offense, on the other hand, has been very hot all year - an exact opposite of its pitching - and is currently second in the league in runs scored and OPS. The Diamondbacks also own the highest OPS (.885), are third in the league in batting average (.293), and have yet to be shut out at home.

Opposing Pitcher
Edwin Jackson will make his seventh start for the Diamondbacks, after having given up 18 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings over the last two. Jackson has been better at home than on the road, but his home start numbers aren't pretty by any means, with a 4.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and .282 BAA.

The Call: Start
All the numbers and trends point to a high-confidence start for Yavani Gallardo except for the fact that the Arizona offense has been potent this year, especially at home. If I were a pessimist, I would bank on Gallardo's nice streak coming to an end and the Diamondbacks jumping all over him at home. But in fantasy baseball, we have to stick to the numbers and the trends and since most of the signs point to a good outing by Gallardo, he's a must-start. The Therapist foresees that Gallardo will go 6 IP 4 H 2 ER 1 HR 2 BB 9 K for the win.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Start or Sit: Jeff Niemann at Mariners

In order to not only survive, but do well in fantasy, you have to keep your reality in check and away from your fantasy.

Just because you love the Seattle Mariners, you cannot load up on M's arms nor stock up on M's bats. Doug Fister will get pounded right when you finally decide to start him at home against the Oakland Athletics, and with or without help from his team, Milton Bradley is simply not a fantasy baseball contributor.

I'm talking about the M's not just because it's my hometown team that I've been following since 1990 - after a brief one year infatuation with the San Francisco Giants - but I am conflicted about starting the Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann against them at Safeco Field.

Putting my personal feelings for the M's aside, let's just get to the analysis.

Jeff Niemann vs Seattle Mariners Batters
Niemann's seen relative success against the bats of M's, holding the core group (Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Ken Griffey Jr, and Jose Lopez) to BA of .250 or below in six or more plate appearances, except for Chone Figgins, who owns a 4 for 6 mark and 3 RBI. Despite the low BAA, the M's have made their hits count, with 3 of 7 hits being home runs.

Jeff Niemann vs Seattle Mariners
Niemann owns a 1-0 record against the Mariners in three starts, the lone win coming in his away start at Safeco, where he gave up three runs, all of them coming on a HR by Lopez in the 5th. In his second start at Safeco, he went on to give up two more HRs (Russell Branyan and Jr) and ended up yielding four runs in total, the latter two scoring with him pulled from the game. In his start against the M's at home, he gave up three runs, two of which came on a HR by Ichiro. In two starts at Safeco, Niemann has a 4.63 ERA, .094 WHIP and .190 BAA, giving up 6 ER on 8 H and 3 BB to go with 8 K in 11 2/3 IP.

Trends and Injuries
Niemann's K/9 has declined this year while he's been giving up more home runs, both of which are disturbing signs. On the other hand, he still owns an ERA of 2.96 to go along with WHIP of 1.02. His xFIP sits at 4.89, so we can bet that his ERA should balloon at any point.

The Mariners are on a 5-game losing streak as the Rays offense have seemingly awoke from a slumber, having scored 13 runs in the last two games after scoring just 5 in the previous 3 games at home against the Kansas City Royals. During the losing streak, the M's have scored just nine runs, batting a collective .190.

Opposing Pitcher
The Rays face Ryan Rowland-Smith, in a rematch of last September's game in Tampa that the M's ended up winning on what turned out to be a game-winning homer by Lopez in the 8th. The Hyphen is not having the same type of success he saw in the second half of last year after coming off the DL. Currently, he holds 5.28 ERA and 1.38 WHIP overall, but is holding opponents to a .167 BAA at home in two starts. The big Australian left-hander has been pretty tough against the Rays bats, holding them to a collective .233 BA, Willy Aybar, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria being the only Rays regulars with .333 or better BA.

The Call: Start
Putting my fondness for my M's aside, I'm cautiously optimistic about Niemann's chance at a win and pretty good peripherals.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Start or Sit: Chad Billingsley vs Brewers

I have a personal fondness for the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley.

Ever since his whiff*-appeal caught my eyes on The Cube in 2006, I've been a fan.

After a beautiful full-season debut in 2007 where he won 12 games - posting 3.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 131 K in 147 innings - Billingsley improved on those numbers the next year - posting an ERA of 3.14 in 200 2/3 innings, striking out full 9 per frame - en route to winning 16 games.

Billingsley continued his success in 2009, putting up 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 119 K, in 19 first half starts while logging 125 1/3 innings.

Then after the All-Star break, Billingsley was pounded by the Houston Astros at home, lasting just 1 2/3 innings and giving up 6 runs on 9 hits. Post-break he went on to start 14 games, but failed to log 30 IP in each month of the second half, including another 1 2/3 IP outing (at home against the San Francisco Giants, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks).

It may not be an overstatement for me to say that Chad Billinsley single-handedly ruined my 2009 fantasy baseball season in the second half. Despite this very personal sabotage, I'm still a Billingsley fan, but I'm proceeding with some caution this year.

Billingsley's success in 2007 and 2008 was due to his ability to squirm out of jams, as his LOB% was significantly above average. In the current year, his LOB% has decreased, following the trend set in the past year.

In five 2010 starts thus far, Billingsley has presented us with both the Top-Billingsley (@PIT, WAS, and PIT) and the Bottom-Billingsley (ARI and @CIN), while posting a hefty H/9 of over 10 - compared to 8.3 H/9 in the past four years - along with 4.1 BB/9.

So which Billingsley will show up at Dodger Stadium hosting the Milwaukee Brewers?

The Gut says Bottom-Billingsley, without a doubt. But of course, we have to look into the numbers and the trends.

Chad Billingsley vs Milwaukee Brewers Batters
In his four previous seasons, Billinsley has a brilliant BAA against the current lineup of Brewers (.135 in 52 AB), but with a healthy number of bases allowed on balls.

Chad Billingsley vs Milwaukee Brewers
Billingsley has gone 3-2 in three starts and two relief appearances against the Brewers posting an overall numbers of 20 2/3 IP, 18 H, 12 ER, 10 BB, and 17 K for a 5.23 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and .231 BAA. In two starts at Miller Park, Billingsley went 1-0 with 4.15 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, giving up 6 ER in 13 IP. In his lone start at home, Billingsley notched a win by giving up 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, and striking out 5, with two of the runs being scored on a Gabe Kapler HR.

Trends and Injuries
Coming off a decent outing at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Billingsley dispelled rumors that he was hiding an injury, but displayed control that was still suspect. The Brewers are 4th from last in total runs scored in the past seven days, despite a huge offensive outburst against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen last night.

Opposing Pitcher
Doug Davis will get lit up by the Dodgers. They basically own him.

The Call: Sit
Billingsley has pretty good numbers against the current core of the Brewers batters (Ryan Braun, Cecil Fielder, and Rickie Weeks). His career numbers against the Brewers are tainted by batters other than those previously mentioned. Billingsley still seems to be struggling with his command. He's successes this year have come against the Pirates and Nationals. All these factors indicate that Billingsley's going to allow base runners and will be pitching out of the stretch constantly, which means trouble. He may come out with a victory if he can last five frames, but the damage to the ERA and WHIP may not be worth it.

* Basically another term for stuff: HIP (WHIP minus W) plus K/9 rate

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Start or Sit: Ricky Romero at Indians

Ricky Martin has forever tainted the name, "Ricky."

But Toronto Blue Jay Romero is bringing it back to respectability.

Automatic start tonight at Cleveland against the below-average Indians?

After a quick glance at the pitcher vs batters numbers and the fact that at least third of the Indians lineup is comprised of lefties, I was inclined to say, "Yes," to the above question.

But then I checked out Romero's L/R splits, just to make sure. Romero's only been around the majors since 2009, so I wasn't entirely satisfied with his splits from last year, which showed that lefties touched him up for 10 HR in 55 1/3 IP (compared to 8 HR in 122 2/3 IP for righties). So I turned to

Disturbing, right? Lefties hit better off Romero in his minor league career.

Adding to the poor lefty vs lefty minor and major league splits is the fact that the Indians best hitters are lefties (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo).

I can still see Romero coming out of this battle in Cleveland with a win (his opposition Jake Westbrook hasn't been very good this year and the Jays have been hitting well of late - 3rd with . 489 SLG in the league during the past 7 days), but I'm afraid that the ERA and WHIP may be a bit bloated and K mediocre.

I'm not taking a chance: I'm sitting Ricky Romero.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bruce Bochy Botches Another

Juggling fantasy sports and real life can be hard. Juggling fantasy sport and real life while major league managers screw you over is harder than just juggling fantasy sports and real life.

Without enough time to look into the details of the numbers behind Jonathan Sanchez vs the Colorado Rockies, along with the recent run of relative success, I decided to rolled with the young San Francisco Giant lefty.


The result (4 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K) wasn't the worst start ever, but it was completely worthless, with regards to my team's main concern: wins.

After watching Sanchez struggle with his command (including a hit batter) through four-plus and the pitch-count nearing the century mark, it's understandable that Bruce Douglas Bochy must had been compelled to call upon Brandon Medders in the 5th with runners at the corners and two outs. But bringing in the righty Medders with lefty Giambi coming up? Hmmm.

Yes, of course, instead of getting an out, Medders was peppered around for three straight hits after walking Giambi, and only got bailed out when Ryan Spilborghs was tagged out when he wrongly assumed that the throw from left field would not be cut off by Pablo Sandoval.

After the game, Bochy said that Sanchez "was done." At times we criticize managers for leaving their young arms in for too many pitch counts, but this is a time when we criticize the manager for making a stupid move.

Not only has Sanchez not allowed a left-handed hit off him in 17 ab-bats this year, Bochy also had lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Dan Runzler available in the bullpen. But Bochy was dead set on botching it, going with the right hander who couldn't get a single out.

Admittedly, Sanchez escaped some serious jams in the previous start against the Phillies, so I'm not taking this one too hard, and I shouldn't have expected the Giants to sweep the Rockies, but I would have rather seen Sanchez give up the runs in the 5th instead of Medders on a foolish mistake by Bochy.

In other news, Justin Verlander nearly went the distance (as his manager, Jim Leyland, yet again tried to give his ace an attempt at a pointless complete game - which nearly backfired on him) . . . on my bench, against the Los Angeles Angels, the same club that batted him around for 4 earned runs with 9 base runners just over a week ago. Oopsx2.

Sanchez reverting to the thrower with lack of control is a trend that needs to be considered carefully going forward while Verlander turning his season around is a welcomed sight.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Start or Sit: Matt Cain vs Rockies

Despite the San Francisco starting Matt Cain's great career numbers against Colorado Rockies, a peek at his game log from last yearmakes me reconsider giving Cain the green light.

After relatively cruising through the first four starts, Cain seemingly hit a wall with the Rockies in town.

Then at Coors, less than a week after the pounding he took in SF, he totally shutdown the Rockies.

This year, Cain's also relatively cruised through the first four starts of the season. Will Rockies eat him up again in SF?

I don't know. Cain is unpredictable. But I'm sticking with him.

Yes, there's a chance that the SF bats will not show up again for Cain, but it's a chance I'm willing to take, since only Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart can hit Cain.

Start or sit? Start with slight trepidation.

Cliff Lee is Good

On his first start as a Seattle Mariner, Cliff Lee exceeded expectations, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing just three base runners, and striking out eight.

As mentioned in my previous post, I sat Lee, concerned that the Texas Rangers bats may get to him and Colby Lewis would be tough against the M's hitters. Well, I was wrong and right.

Lee did not get the win, as predicted, but his peripherals were better than I'd anticipated. Much better.

It's obviously a very small sample-size, but his sparkling Safeco Field debut may be a preview of what expect from Lee this season.