Masterson and Commander

Justin Masterson was traded to the Cleveland Indians last year in the V-Mart trade. Many people thought the Red Sox were lucky that they didn't have to throw in Clay Buchholz in the deal. However, you may not have realized this but last year, in 16 games started, he had a FIP of 4.04 (4.05 xFIP) with a 8.28 K/9. Sure he also had a 4.52 ERA with a 4.18 BB/9 and a 1.45 WHIP, but Masterson's ability to strike out a ton of guys with a somewhat low FIP and xFIP along with his underlining numbers this year means that you should pick up Masterson now- because he's probably better than your last pitcher.

Masterson is currently only owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues. Right now, he has a 5.68 ERA with a 1.95 WHIP. Not stud numbers by any stretch of the imagination. But I expect those numbers to drop and drop drastically.

Masterson currently owns a 3.97 FIP and a whopping low 3.32 xFIP, tied for tenth best in the major leagues. Unfortunately, FIP does not account for defense (considering it stands for Fielding Independent Pitching) and in the real world, we play with defense. However, the Indians infield is pretty darn good at that right now. 2b Luis Valbuena has a 16.4 UZR/150, 1B Matt LaPorta has a 13.4 UZR/150, and SS Asdrubal Cabrera has a 3.7 UZR/150. They team also has Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, and Michael Brantly in the OF- all with positive defense (Choo being spectacular at it). The combination of a damn good defense with a low FIP and xFIP tells me Masterson's ERA is gonna drop. Masterson currently owns the 10th best ERA/FIP split.

The other major factor I like about Masterson is his 11.37 K/9. This is currently the second best among starters. Masterson has always been a strikeout guy in the minors and has shown the ability to strike out guys in the majors as well. While I don't reasonably expect Masterson to keep up this incredibly high K/9 rate, I do expect his to strike out a crap load of guys nonetheless.

The one downfall to Masterson is that he also walks a lot of guys as well. This is also something he's shown to do in the past and will happen a lot in the future, so also a expect a high WHIP in return.

But a low ERA, high K's, at least 10 wins (as bad the Indians were last year they still were able to score runs and were in the top half in the league in runs scored) with a high WHIP is something that makes Masterson extremely valuable to your team.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Justin Masterson sucks. Fuck him. I love his peripherals but he sucks.

Bang for your Buck (Get it?)

Toyota: Moving Forward (Even When You Don't Want To)

The Fantasy Sports Constitution and Comments

This post is sparked by a debate that's happening in my current keeper fantasy baseball league. I am currently trying to trade away Carlos Quentin so I made a whole bunch of offers to my fellow league owners. An hour later I found out one of my trades was accepted- only to my dismay I had accidentally clicked on Carlos Pena instead of Carlos Quentin. I immediately asked the commissioner to rescind the trade. He did and then left a note on the league message board- that if I ever asked him to rescind a trade again, he would fail to do so. I got enraged (like I always do) but instead wrote a calm and rational post that the commish was being a dick (but I was nice and did not use profanity or obscenities). My response is the basis of this post.

Currently, there exists something called the Model Penal Code. It is a document written by some of the smartest lawyers, judges, professors, and experts in Criminal Law. These people come together to create a set of rules relating to crime in hope that they will be adopted by state and local governments to be the actual law. Although no one has ever adopted the full Model Penal Code, every state has adopted at least parts of it. I hope this post will be the Model Penal Code for your fantasy league and that you adopt it as "law"- or at least parts if it.

Although if your league currently has set rules about trading and such, that should be followed first and foremost over my ideals. If however no set guidelines were set, I strongly encourage this be your league's manifesto

I am a firm believer that the only person who should have any say over how your team is run is you. If you make a trade that you think is fair but other people in your league think is unfair, tough for them. While one trade might hurt the league as a whole, that's just touch luck for the league because a trade does not occur for the benefit of the league, it occurs for the benefit of the owners involved in the league. That is why there should be no league vetoes.

There is an underlining assumption to this though- that both owners are acting in their team's best interest. When it is obvious that one owner is not acting in his own teams best interest (i.e. collusion, fire sale) then the trade should not be allowed. The standard should be "if no rational actor would ever make that trade, then the trade will not be allowed." However, if at least one owner, put in the position of the owners of the trade, would also make the trade- the trade should be allowed.

Imagine your league as the United Nations. It's a place where a bunch of people come together for a common goal. Like the United Nations, the sovereignty of the individual is more important than the whole. Each nation should be allowed to do whatever they want to- within reason or unless they consent to otherwise. However, what any individual nation does is up to them. They are a rational actor and they can make policies how they see fit. Same with a trade. The sovereignty of an individual owner needs to have the right to make rational decisions how he sees best and fit.

Intent is very important to show that a nation or owner is doing something that they see best and fit. Like a contract, a trade is a manifestation of the intent between two parties. For example, one party may need steals and the other one may need home runs. The owners then trade Justin Morneau for Julio Bourbon. This trade may seem extremely unfair (at least in April of 2010) but if both parties feel they are helping their team, then it does not matter if other people see that trade is unfair. The trade should be allowed.

It is only when the intent of two trading parties coincide that a trade should happen (likewise, when two parties both do not want to trade their players that does not occur either). When a trade offer is made, it is up to the opposing party to either accept, deny, or make a counter offer to the trade. We do not allow the trade before acceptance to go through when only one party (here the offering party) wants the trade but the other party (here the accepting party) chooses to deny or make a counter offer. It should not matter that one party express his intent about a trade he is involved in before or after the trade is accepted, if his intent clashes with his trading partners intent, then the trade will not be accepted.

Part of the problem currently with showing the intent of parties during trades is the medium in which we play fantasy sports. Very often have to make trades online. This limits the true intent of the parties. Sometimes, a party just wants to open up trade talks. Other times, the party wants to make that individual trade. It is at this moment where the intent is implicit and therefore should be held to looser acceptance standards. It is only when the intent becomes explicit that the acceptance standards be tighten. For example, Owner A makes an offer to Owner B just to open up trade talks and hopes Owner B will counter offer. Unfortunately, Owner B accepts the trade. The intent between the parties is different and implicit. When Owner A makes his intention explicit, that he did not want that trade to pass, that intent should be strictly followed.

The same logic that an owner has the right to have any player he is able to get onto his team applies to the opposite- that any owner has the right to not have any player on his team that he doesn't like. Which first of all means that there should not be an undroppable list. If an owner doesn't like particular player, he should have the right to drop him if he so chooses. This also means that if a trade has been accepted but it is not to any of the trading owner's liking- the trade should be rescinded. However, it is only when this intent to have have a particular player becomes explicit should the intent be honored.

The two current GOI leagues have a condition that if any owner of a trade wants his trade rescinded within 24 hours of the trade being accepted, the trade will be rescinded. I think the better rule is to replace a set time period like 24 hours with "a reasonable time" and it is up to the discretion of the commissioner to determine what a reasonable time is- although 24 hours seems like a good bench mark.

Speaking of the commissioner...

The Commissioner
The commissioner has two basic, explicit jobs- setting up the draft and affecting trades.

The Draft: His job should be to set a time (and possible place) that best suits everyone- or at least the vast majority of the league. The commissioner's job is to best suit the league for what draft time will work, not to best suit any individual player. The commissioner also sets up what stats will be used for the league. The best is the standard 5x5 (HR, SB, R, RBI, AVG, K, W, SV, WHIP, ERA) because although these stats are horrible to evaluate real players, they are much harder to predict than sabermetric stats and thus adds more fun to the league.

Every other aspect of a pre-draft (for example keeper rules) should be determined by the league as a whole with the commissioner being the final arbiter and mediator.

Affecting Trades: The main role of the commissioner here is to respect the intent of the parties. If a trade has been accepted by both parties, it is implicit that both parties want the trade to be processed and therefore it should. However, when one party of a trade, within a reasonable time, expresses his intent to not have the trade be processed, then it is the role of the commissioner to deny the trade. The commissioner will only use the parties intent and no one else's intent or motive when accepting or vetoing a trade.

Implicit in the commissioner's role is the social contract he signs with his league. The same concept of a social contract that Locke, Hobbes, and Rosseau talked about for sovereigns holds true for commissioners. A league without a leader is like Piggy on the island. Collusion, corruption, and overall mismanagement will plague the league. Which is why the league gives up some of their rights (i.e. veto power, setting up the league, etc.) to the commissioner. The commissioner has the power to do what he wants with the league (like the ability to mess with anyone's team and set rosters). However, the commissioner promises to establish order within the league and not do these things in exchange for the ability to perform his other administrative functions. The commissioner will do what's best for the league and the number one thing that is best for the league is honoring the sovereignty of every individual owner.

There are just certain things an individual league owner can not and should not do. That is where the power of the commissioner comes in. The league gives up their rights to do whatever they choose to do in exchange for league equality and the ease of not worrying about the trivial and overall functions of the league as a whole. The commissioner agrees to run the league and ensure the rights and intents of every individual owner is met in exchange to have the power (not the right) to do what he likes with the league.

However, implicit in this promise is to not overstep his boundaries- even though he has the power to do so. Because if the commissioner acts like a tyrant, then chaos will ensue again and would defeat the purpose of having one central leader. However, the commissioner can not also be weak and may need to use some of his power to retain order and balance in the league. The commissioner needs to have power but not use all of it in order to maintain a stable league.

If a player is traded and goes on the DL for an injury sustained BEFORE the trade was approved by the commissioner, then trade will be retroactively invalidated. If the injury is sustained AFTER the trade was approved by the commissioner, then the trade shall stand.

There will always be complaints in your league. But if owners and commissioners act pursuant to this Constitution or the set league rules, the complaining will be for naught.

If you must complain, don't be a whiny little bitch. All you end up doing is pissing everyone else off (A good life lesson, btw). If you must complain, take a deep breath, maybe don't start writing for about five minutes, and then explain your grievances. if you do so in a clear and well-thought out way, you are more likely to get your point across better.

Also, disparaging remarks should be never be tolerated no matter what forum they are being used in.


Shopping For Value: Starting Pitchers

I've taken the laboring pains of compiling a list of all current starting pitchers (minus a few like Jason Marquis) and mapping out their current ERAs, FIPs, xFIPs and ZiPS-projected rest of season FIPs (zFIP) to create a value chart of "who to buy" and "who to sell"

You can access the file via File Share by clicking here. Obviously, you need to use your best judgment when evaluating players. Do not blindly accept the numbers; make sure also to look at xFIP and career GB% before making any moves. That said...

10 Pitchers To Acquire:
  1. Javier Vazquez (9.00 ERA, 3.66 zFIP)
  2. Jake Peavy (7.66 ERA, 3.99 zFIP)
  3. Carlos Zambrano (7.40 ERA, 3.98 zFIP)
  4. Justin Verlander (6.95 ERA, 3.56 xFIP)
  5. Jon Lester (6.23 ERA, 3.72 zFIP)
  6. Dan Haren (5.19 ERA, 3.26 zFIP)
  7. Scott Kazmir (7.20 ERA, 4.27 zFIP)
  8. Jason Hammel (8.04 ERA, 4.06 zFIP)
  9. Josh Beckett (5.26 ERA, 3.47 zFIP)
  10. Chad Billingsley (3.48 ERA, 5.40 zFIP)
Charlie Morton (16.20 ERA, 4.20 zFIP) was also on this list, but you really should not acquire Charlie Morton. Trust me. I've made that mistake once.

10 Pitchers To Sell:
  1. Carlos Silva (0.95 ERA, 4.34 zFIP. 4.05 xFIP)
  2. Barry Zito (1.32 ERA, 4.40 zFIP, 4.06 xFIP)
  3. Mike Pelfrey (0.69 ERA, 4.30 zFIP, 4.22 xFIP)
  4. John Danks (1.55 ERA, 4.24 zFIP, 3.50 xFIP)
  5. David Price (2.20 ERA, 4.57 zFIP, 3.82 xFIP)
  6. Justin Duchscherer (1.82 ERA, 3.91 xFIP, 4.53 xFIP)
  7. Fausto Carmona (2.96 ERA, 4.72 zFIP, 5.10 xFIP)
  8. Ben Sheets (2.74 ERA, 4.31 zFIP, 5.22 xFIP)
  9. Jeff Nieman (3.27 ERA, 4.66 xFIP, 4.87 zFIP)
  10. AJ Burnett (3.20 ERA, 4.27 zFIP, 4.47 xFIP)

Now Paging Colby Lewis

A few years ago, Colby Lewis was on his way out of baseball. A former 20-year old first round pick, Lewis had a career 6.90 ERA and 1.87 WHIP by the time he left the MLB to play in Japan in 2008. His strikeout rate was above average, and his walk rate was atrocious.

However, something happened while Colby Lewis was in Japan. He was either bitten by a radioactive sabermetrician or learned to pitch. Overseas in 2009, Lewis compiled a scary-good 2.96 ERA, 9.49 K/9, and 0.97 BB/9 in 176.3 innings. He was also dominant in 2008 (2.68 ERA, 189 K, 27 BB in 178 IP). The Rangers, who drafted Lewis over a decade ago, decided to take gamble on Lewis (much like how I take a gamble every year on Chris Davis...) by signing the reclaimed pitcher to a 2-year/$5 million deal.

So far this season, Lewis has been outstanding, both in fantasy and real life. As of today, Lewis is sitting with a 3-0 record over his first four starts with a 3.80 ERA (3.54 FIP, 3.82 xFIP) with 28 K to boot over his first 28.3 IP. With a pair of 10 K games to his name this season, Lewis currently ranks sixth in the majors in K/9 (right behind "stuff" giant Tim Lincecum). The 4.56 BB/9 rate is a bit concerning, especially considering that Lewis only walked 19 batters in Japan all of last season. All but 4 of those walks, however, came in his second and third outings, one of which was against Boston. It's clear that Lewis won't be the second coming of Greg Maddux, but league average control (3.40 BB/9) is entirely plausible and such would only make his current peripherals that much more tantalizing.

Colby Lewis is certainly a "sleeper" to keep a watch on this early season. If he's available in your league, I high suggest at least clearing a bench space for his services. Lewis' numbers have been solid so far this season and the possibility of better control in the future (he only walked 2 batters in 6.1 IP last night) only speaks of better things to come:
  • If Lewis' BB/9 were to be only a half run lower at 4.00 per nine right now, his xFIP would be 3.63.
  • If Lewis' BB/9 were a full run lower per nine (league average), his xFIP would be 3.46.
  • If Lewis' BB/9 were 3.00 per nine, his xFIP would be 3.30.
DME's Bold End of Season Forecast: 13 W, 170 IP, 3.72 ERA, 168 K, 1.32 WHIP

The (Luis) Mendoza Line

(Mendoza Line defined here)

Hilarious ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Commercial

There's Hope For Gavin Floyd Yet

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you not understand FIP, xFIP, or a lot about sabermetrics? I recommend you read this first before proceeding to get a better understanding of the arguments being made.

As a White Sox fan, this season has not gone so well for me. It's taken the Mariners pitching staff outside of SAFECO and three clutchiness, grindy, late inning home runs in order for the team to win a series. While I didn't expect much out of this offense (although I did expect everybody but Mark Teahen to hit above .230), this pitching staff was supposed to be the anchor and highlight of this team. In pre-season, I thought the best White Sox pitcher would be Gavin Floyd. But with a 8.38 ERA with a 2.02 WHIP, he's clearly has not been the pitcher I thought he would be.

However, there's still hope for him yet.

The first thing I'm pleased with is Floyd's K/9. From Floyd's first major year to his second year, he made huge strides in his K/9. One of the things I was banking on for Floyd was that he made another stride again in his young year- which he has done so far. For the past three years, Floyd increased his K/9 from 6.33 to 7.60 to 8.38 this year. Normally, I don't put too much stock into a guy who has only made four starts, however, I think Floyd has a similar K/9 all year and I think this strikeout rate stays consistent all year.

Another quick positive is Floyd's low .47 HR/9. For a guy who's known to give up his fair share of homers, at least when everything is going wrong, his home runs are not.

Now here comes his flaws. I actually like Floyd for the future with his current .416 BABIP along with his 55.9% LOB%. Sure, these numbers are worse than Derrick Rose's actual SAT score, but these are fairly luck based numbers. The average BABIP of pitchers sits around .300 and Floyd's average BABIP is actually .292, which means Floyd is getting EXTREMELY unlucky having batters get on base. Floyd also has a career 68.8% LOB% which means he's also getting unlucky that all of his base runners are scoring runs.

In addition to Floyd's LOB% and BABIP, another thing I like about Floyd is that he leads the league in ERA/FIP split. So while Floyd has the same ERA and his high K/9, his low 3.68 FIP (the lowest of his career) tells me his ERA will drop and drop dramatically.

Floyd also has a walking problem this year. No, not like the walking problem of your grandmother, his extremely high 5.59 BB/9- which just kills his WHIP. However, Floyd has never had a BB/9 over 3.05 in his three full seasons on the South Side. And since I believe baseball is a game of averages, that means Floyd's walk rate should also decrease like his ERA.

So if you have Floyd like me on your fantasy team, just be patient and if you want a great guy to add to your depth and one you can probably get cheap- go and try and get Gavin Floyd.

Not To Ruin The Ending...But It Was AWESOME!

Five Quick Reasons To Be Worried About Jake Peavy

It's 2:20 AM, so I'll make this a quickie post. I forecasted Jake Peavy's 2010 a few weeks ago, and he's done nothing to prove me wrong yet. At this point in the season (despite the very limited sample size), here are five legitimate reasons to be worried about Jake Peavy.

1. Decreasing groundball rate
Through his first four starts, Jake Peavy's current GB% sits at an ugly 33.3%. Only 8 other starting pitchers have induced less worm burners as a percentage of all contact made against them this season. Peavy's career GB% is an already low 41.6% and it's never been 45% or higher; considering where he plays nowadays, Peavy's can't afford to keep the ball in the air (especially not with Carlos Quentin playing defense).
2. Increasing walk rate
Peavy's 2010 BB/9 of 6.04 is double what it was from 2008-2009. The league average is traditionally around 3.40. From 2005-2007, Peavy's walk rate per nine registered at 2.22, 2.76 and 2.74. I expect Peavy's walk rate to fall considerably as the season progresses, but flyball pitchers who pitch in the Cell need to limit the number of guys on base to keep their ERA's low. An even then, as Javier Vazquez can attest, that is not enough.
3. Decreased strikeout rate
A move from the NL to AL was obviously going to result in a slightly decreased K/9, but Peavy's strikeout rate so far this season is down 33%. Two of his four starts have come against the Rays and Jays, who are the two most strikeout-prone teams in baseball at the moment. Not every team has Travis Snyder in their lineup.
4. The White Sox still play awful defense
Despite having the best defensive Designated Hitter in baseball, the White Sox are still awful at fielding. As of 04/26/10, the Pale Hose are fifth to last in terms of team UZR/150, with a -12.1 mark (click here to see current UZR/150 ratings by team). So far this season, the White Sox defense has been "worth" 7.8 runs below average, second to only the Dodgers, who have cost their team 9.6 runs in poor glove work.
5. Moving from Petco Park to US Cellular Field (and from the NL to AL)
According to ESPN's Park Factor Data for 2009, The Cell was fourth in home runs in 2009 with a 19% inflation factor, where as Petco was second to last with a 33% deflation rate. In terms of offense, Petco suppressed run creation by 35.9% last season, whereas The Cell inflated them by 6.2%. To top this off, moves from the NL to AL generally result in a half-run ERA increase.

Admittedly, 22.1 IP is an incredibly small sample size, but when you compound all of these factors together, you have a recipe for disaster. Sure, Peavy might right the ship starting today and prove me completely wrong, but I was down on Peavy entering the 2010 season and nothing he's done yet has quelled my concerns. I projected a 4.22 ERA. ZiPS seems to agree (4.22 Rest Of Season ERA prediction as of 04/26/10).

Sell now, while you still can?

What The Hell Aaron Harang!

My philosophy this year was to stay away from any Cincinnati Reds player in fantasy baseball because I don't need to get sucked in to the black hole vortex that is Dusty Baker. Sure guys like Joey Votto are great and worth their draft pick, but it's just one of those personal philosophies of mine. And I also made sure to stay the ch-ell away from Derek Zoolander, er I mean any Reds pitcher. With Baker's amazing track record for breaking pitchers, I made sure to not draft any of them. And I think that's worked out somewhat well for me. We turn now to exhibit A: Aaron Harang.

I'm sure by now, except for maybe deep NL only leagues, maybe, Aaron Harang has been dropped in your league. This year, in 21 2/3 IP, Harang only has 15 K (6.23 K/9) to go along with 6 BB (2.49 BB/9, 2.50 K/BB), an 8.31 ERA to go along with his 6.36 FIP and 4.40 xFIP, and a 1.62 WHIP and no wins. Awful, awful numbers and I can see why people are jumping off the Harang bangwagon like it just hit an iceberg. I can hear the violins playing in the background.

However, I do see signs of hope, and if you can stash Harang on your bench or feel like your pitching depth is weak, here is why you should pick him up.

1) LOB % This is a representation of how many guys a pitcher leaves on base who do not come around to score. So far, Harang's LOB% is a measly 52.5%. That means a little under of half of the base runners Harang puts on comes around to score. To put that 52.5% into perspective- Harang has a career 73% LOB. Harang is fourth to last out of every single starter in LOB. I just don't see this low rate continuing.

2) HR/FB% About 11.5% of all fly balls a batter hits/ a pitcher gives up goes for home runs. This year, 23.1% of all of Harang's fly balls are leaving the y-ah-d. That's essentially double the amount of the average pitcher. Harang already has given up 6 HR. Sure Harang has always given up his share of home runs in the past (1.77 and 1.33 HR/9 respectively in the past two years) but they've never been close to the 2.49 HR/9 that Harang has this year.

This rate would concern me even more if Harang was becoming more of a fly ball pitcher. But that isn't the case. In fact, within Harang's four starts this year, he's burning worms and giving up less fly balls at the best rates he has ever in his career (yes, take this with a grain of salt that it's only four games- but still)

3) Game of Averages Sure sports are a game of inches, but baseball is a game of averages. Hitters go through slumps and then on hot streaks a few weeks later. A guy may hit .200 one week and then .400 the week after, but at the end of the year, he will still have that .300 batting average. I believe the same to be true for pitchers, especially for Harang.

Right now, Harang has given up 20 ER in about 21 IP. Harang has a career ERA of 4.31. In order for Harang to get to that level, Harang will have to pitch 21 scoreless innings (about). Sure, averages don't work out so neatly that every four games you pitch badly and the next four you pitch amazing, but no way in hell Harang pitches so badly that he can't drop is ERA to at least 4.50. Sure Harang has not had the best ERA, but to even drop to his normal crappy levels means some good games pitched ahead.

Moral of the story, if you can get Harang for cheap, go get him

GOI Fantasy Basketball League Final Results

The 2010 basketball regular season is over and with that so is the Game Of Inches Fantasy basketball league. We have followed the league throughout the season so here are the final results:

TBO made an incredible run from starting out slow to finish in second place. He barely beat out the next team for that second place finish. Thank you everyone for playing and following the league!

Carlos Zambrano Demoted To The Bullpen

Carlos Zambrano, holder of a 3.38 xFIP at the moment thanks to a refound strikeout talent and extremely abnormal/unlucky HR/FB%, was just demoted to the bullpen to make room for Ted Lilly. Not that Zambrano pitches like the ace he is paid like, but he easily one of the team's best pitchers. Zambrano is light years better than Big Fat Carlos Silva and he is substantially more durable (only last year did he fail to pitch 200+ innings and he still pitched 188). This move is so baffling that it hurts my brain. Lamenting the stupidity of the move further is almost pointless, as it is so self evident. I might rather have Omar Visquel DHing 162 games than Zambrano in the bullpen over Silva.

Lemme quote Fangraphs to get across the point that I think all Saber-minded Cubs fans are thinking at the moment:
Instead of getting 180-200 innings out of one of his top pitchers, Lou Piniella is instead opting for about 40 to 50 innings from him and then 100 to 150 out of a pitcher who projected as average at best coming into the season. The Cubs’ chances at the division were low coming into the season. If Piniella’s rash and irrational decision stays in place, they become virtually nil.
Carlos Zambrano might not be the Cubs best starting pitcher option at this point, but he is clearly one of the top five. Check out the "Rest of Season projections" for the Cubs' six primary starting pitchers options, courtesy of ZiPS (as of April 21):
The ZiPS-projected difference between Silva and Zambrano this year (I use ERA, because ZiPS ERA projections have team defense factored in) is more than a full run per nine innings. Given the team's early struggles to score runs, that additional run per nine innings counts quite a bit.

MLB Trade Rumors asks readers if they have "[e]ver seen a $17.875MM reliever?" It took a horrendous 0-6 start (and 7.53 ERA) to the 2008 season before the Giants banished Barry Zito (paid $14.5 million that season) to the bullpen and even that experiment lasted all of zero games. To put this all in perspective, Barry Zito's xFIP was 6.27 when they "demoted" him, almost twice as high as Carlos Zambrano's current xFIP of 3.38.

This organization is in dire need of a top-down gutting and I am in dire need of a Tylenol. The post-Jim Hendry, Ryno-era can't come soon enough.

(On a side note, my first "real sports article" was published in print today. You can read the [heavily] edited version of it here.)

(Also, happy 100,000 visitors since instituting Site Meter in August! Congrats to everyone on this blog for a job well done.)

The 2010 Chicago Cubs All-Star Ballot

ESPN 30 for 30: Silly Little Game

There are very few things all four GOI authors can agree on. However, the one thing we all can agree on is our love for fantasy baseball. During ESPN's 30 for 30 series, the movie by filmmakers Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen (yeah I don't know who either) Silly Little Game premiers on Tuesday April 20th. The movie focuses on "fantasy" baseball creator Dan Okrent and the creation of fantasy baseball. Sure, you can read about its inception in the boring parts of Fantasyland, or you can watch a surprising good and entertaining mini-series. Here's an excerpt:

Nelson Cruz Is Very, Very Good At Baseball

Heading into 2009, Nelson Cruz, then-soon-to-be 29, was a Quad-A player fresh off a 133 PA hot steak. In contrast to his power-hitting, 23 year old teammate Chris Davis (2009 Yahoo ranking of 75), Nelson Cruz did not get much love entering the 2009 season (2009 Yahoo ranking of 133). As history would have it, Cruz went on to post a monstrous .260/.332/.524 (.856 OPS) triple slash line with 33 HR and 20 SB to boot. Yahoo ranked him as the 85th overall player in 2009 and as the 63rd overall player heading in to 2010. Slated to bat in the 5-6 hole this season, Cruz seemed poised for a strong 3-4 category showing.

The scary thing is, Cruz is not a 3/4 category stud. He's a bonafide all-around super star. That .260 BA? It came with an unlucky .278 BABIP (.319 xBABIP). According to my preseason 2010 hitter projections based on THT's xBABIP formula, Nelson Cruz was robbed of approximately 13 hits in 2009 and he should have posted a luck-neutral .288/.357/.552 (.909 OPS) triple slash line if we pessimistically assume that all additional hits would have only been singles.

Needless to say, I was big on Nelson Cruz heading into this fantasy season (and my lack of postings about him this past off season only emphasizes how much I was trying to keep that love under wraps).

Currently, Nelson Cruz has a ridiculous 7 HR and .342 BA through his first 11 games of the season. I was thinking of selling him high the other day when something popped out at me: his .286 BABIP.

The point? I don't think Nelson Cruz is a sell high guy. He won't hit .300+ this season (expect the BABIP to fall as less of his hits leave the yard and are actually put into play), but a .290 BA is not unrealistic. I pegged him for a .282 average entering the season, but would not be shocked if he outperformed my prediction. Cruz only played 128 games last year and managed 33 bombs. Over 150 games, 40+ is entirely plausible. Oh, and did I mention that he also steals bases, a la Mark Reynolds? Package this together with a prime-spot in the heart of the Rangers line up and you've got yourself a bonafide top 5 OF for 2010.

Congrats on owning him if you do; I wouldn't part ways if I were you.

Sample Size! Sample Size! Sample Size!: Taking Advantage Of Bad Luck And Panic

Only 2 weeks into the season, there is no real reason to worry about your fantasy line (yet). Most hitters have a measly 50 PA to their names and the majority of pitchers have tossed less than 20 frames. Yet, fantasy owners tend to panic early. Owners tend to bail on riskier and less proven prospects quickly, which gives you, the rational owner, the perfect opportunity to swoop in and take advantage of fantasy market inefficiencies. Baseball is a 162 game season and if you play Roto, it doesn't matter how you accumulate those numbers. Whether it be sooner or later, guys you trust to do something get it done (barring season-long bad luck), at least in terms of rate. For example, we all know that Mark Teixeira is going to hit .290+ with 30+ HR and 100+ R/RBI to boot this season, but for his career, he is a .239 hitter in April and a slow-to-start guy out of the gates. Thus, to panic mid-April because Teixeira is off to a slow start is pointless; start worrying if he's slumping come June or July.

That said, here are four big name pitchers you might be able to get on the cheap this week:

1. Jon Lester -- Entering this season, I was big on Jon Lester. So far, the real life and fantasy results have been lackluster (8.49 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 0 Ws). His strikeout rate is down almost 2.5 K per nine compared to last season (7.8) and his walk rate is way up at 5.06 per nine. However, there are reasons for optimism. So far this season, Lester has faced New York, Tampa Bay and Minnesota. These are strong clubs who tend to walk a lot, strikeout very little and score a lot of runs. Lester is only three starts into the season, but his GB% is right in line with (and actually up a full 5% compared to) his 2008 and 2009 numbers and his LOB% is a very low 63%. Given Lester's maturity as a pitcher since battling his way back from cancer, it is way too early to give up on a guy with a quality four-pitch mix. Lester's xFIP going into the Rays game today stood at 4.30. Chalk up the horrendous ERA to mostly bad luck; if he can post a 4.30 xFIP against some of the AL's top club, just wait until he starts facing less formidable match ups.

2. Carlos Zambrano -- Big Z hasn't been an "ace" in real life or fantasy since 2007. His strikeouts over the last few seasons have been down and ERA/WHIP have been way up. However, just three starts into 2010, Z's K's have reemerged (11.48 K/9) and his HR/FB rate is sitting at an unsustainably high 28.6%. Despite the uptick in walks, Z's ERA (9.45) is substantially higher than his xFIP (3.70). With a WHIP north of 2.00 at the moment, Z may be a prime buy low guy for a good source of K's and a decent ERA.

3. Justin Verlander -- A quick glance at Verlander's career split stats by month reveals that like Tex, Verlander is a slow starter out of the gates (heck, just look at last year). 2008 is likely still fresh on everyone's mind and Verlander's K/9 is going to come back to earth this season. Result: worrisome owners. Nonetheless, Verlander should still provide much fantasy value in 2010. He won't strike out 10 per nine again this year, but 8 or more is certainly reasonable. Verlander's stingy walk rate and well above average F-Strike% should keep his WHIP low. While he probably won't come cheap, Verlander is likely obtainable from the right owner and definitely worth the upgrade it will cost to acquire his services.

4. Javier Vazquez -- 2004 second half wounds reopened, Vazquez has burned fantasy owners early. He's got 2 HR to only 9 Ks in 11 IP, a 9.82 ERA and a ghastly 4.02 BB/9 rate. Vazquez, however, has never posted a full season BB/9 rate above 3.55 and his walk rate hasn't even been 3 since the beginning of the millennium. Right now, Vazquez's xFIP sits at 4.73. This with the 4.03 BB.9 rate and 7.35 K/9 rate. If you expect the K's to go up (he was an 8+ K/9 guy in Chicago from 2006-2008) and the walks to go down, expect that ERA to deflate quickly and substantially. Vazquez is another guy who won't come cheap, but is worth the cost of acquiring.

Stop Ruining Baseball With Your Machines

Shin-Soo Choo walks on 5 strikes

Abolish Divisions In Sports

EDITOR'S NOTE: I realize this may be (probably is) a controversial topic and I can foresee people arguing over this. That's perfectly fine. You have a right to your opinion just like I have a right to mine. So feel free to disagree with my position, but do so in a calm, making-a-rational-argument sort of way. Any foul language or insults in the comments will be deleted. To not facilitate any heated arguments I, for the most part, will not comment on this post. I feel I have made my point very clear.

Recently, it was talked about and heavily disagreed with by everybody that a realignment plan should be implemented in Major League Baseball. Even despite the huge backlash this created, I don't per se have a problem with it.

My main beef is with playoff seeding in general. In the vast majority of American sports, mainly with the MLB and NFL, playoff seeding is determined by division winners. We have divisions in sports for the sole reason of who gets to play who when the post-season comes around. Sure, divisions help determine schedule for you play more teams within your division, but is the extra burden on the professional sports leagues to make a schedule really worth this supposed benefit we get?

Think about the core root of a playoffs: it's supposed to determine who the champion of the league is. Sure, sabermetricians will tell you that playoffs are dumb because the larger sample size of a regular season is a better indicator of which team is the best versus the luck heavily (especially in college basketball and baseball) post-season. While that is true, the New Orleans Saints, Duke Blue Devils, and Los Angeles Lakers are considered the champions in their sport because they won their post-season, not because they won their regular season. Like it or not, the reason a post-season exists is to determine who the best of the best is. But how can we determine who the best of the best is when the top teams in the sport are not competing in the post season?

Last year, the Texas Rangers (87-75) technically has a better winning percentage than the AL Central winners the Minnesota Twins (87-76). In 2008, the third place in the AL East (NY Yankees, 89-73) had a better record than the Chicago White Sox (89-74) who again won the Central. That same year, the St. Louis Cardinals (86-76), Houston Astros (86-75), New York Mets (89-73) and Florida Marlins (84-77) all had a better record than the Los Angeles Dodgers (84-78). But because the Dodgers won the NL West, they got the playoff spot. Again that year but in the NFL, the New England Patriots (11-5), New York Jets (9-7) had a better record than the San Diego Chargers (8-8), but guess why the Chargers made it over the Pats and Jets with a crappier record?

Sure, the vast vast majority of the time the winner of the divisions and wild cards are the teams with the best record (a la the 2009 MLB season), but why can't this be the case for every single season? We've already said (and this is proven, don't argue with this) that the regular season is the best measure we currently have to judge how good a team really is. So we're saying a team that had a better record in the regular season and therefore is a better team does not get to compete to see if they are the best team in their sport, just because of divisions?

The best of the best in the regular season should earn a spot in the post-season. This is sort of what NCAA basketball tries to implement to determine the field of 65. However in professional sports, it is easy to determine and still not done.

Another reason I think divisions should be abolished, and this ties into my last point, is that the crappier teams in the division will never be able to go to the playoffs because of the stronger teams in the division- mainly the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox have such a huge stranglehold in that division, that I don't foresee the Orioles or the Blue Jays getting to the playoffs any time soon. Sure, the Rays won the wild card in 2008 and went to the World Series, but because the Yankees and Red Sox have all the money, the Rays have a very little shot of ever getting another taste at the post-season. The Rays show it can be done, but they also are showing us that you can't get it done consistently (I'm happy to be proven wrong this year though). But without divisions (or if the Yankees and Red Sox were in different divisions), the Yankees and Red Sox money would have less of an effect.

The biggest criticism and I think the best argument I hear for having divisions is because the rivalries created/divisions generate a lot of money. The Yankees/Red Sox or Cubs/Cardinals rivalries are not only good for the individual teams but are also good for the sport as a whole. Even though the Rays are good and one of baseball's best right now, the only way they sell out their stadium is when the Red Sox or Yankees come to town.

However, scheduling teams is independent of whether there are divisions or not. Having the Dodgers play the Giants often can be done without divisions. Having the Cubs and White Sox play the Brewers in Milwaukee so Miller Park can be sold out can occur with or without divisions. The MLB can still schedule rival games no matter what. The Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots play every year now because it's currently a great rivalry that America seems to care about. Yet the Pats and Colts are not in the same division yet the NFL schedules those games anyway because it knows doing so generates revenue. The same can be done in the MLB.

In the NBA and the NHL, because there are only three divisions but eight playoff spots, this problem is a non-factor. And (at least in the NBA, I'm sorry but I am too unfamiliar with the NHL to know this) even if you win your division, you're not guaranteed a top three seeding (see the Boston Celtics this year). But because of the limitations of playoff spots in the NFL and MLB, divisions do become a problem and they easiest way to eliminate the problem is to eliminate divisions. Maybe the realignment plan is not the best idea, but this current system is not the correct one either.

Krod Has An Evil Mexican Twin

Joe Mauer is more popular than God

Story from the Minnesota Star Tribune reports that the city of Minnesota is planning on placing 50 statues of Joe Mauer all across downtown. Each statue has a worth of $13,000. Do all 50 have to be of Mauer? How about spreading the wealth and putting up a Morneau, Liriano, or Span statue every couple blocks? Maybe honor the history with a Puckett, Killebrew, or Santana Cy Young memorial? But no, all 50 have to be Joe Mauer. I hope Joe Mauer likes seeing himself everywhere he goes cause thats what he's gonna get. Maybe he had it written into his contract?

Win Probability

DME and I went to the Cubs game today against the Milwaukee Brewers. Things were looking bleak in the bottom of the 8th inning with 2 out and no one on base. Fangraphs had the Win Probability for the Cubs as a measly 2%. But that's when Latroy Hawkins entered the game and did what Latroy does. Couple walks. Couple hits. And the Cubs put up a 4 spot in the inning and increased their Win Probaility to 70%. Marmol struck out the side and all 40,000 in attendance went home happy. Oh, and I got a wicked tan. Great day

Forgetting Brandon Marshall: Analyzing The Brandon Marshall Trade

Just like the Baha Men following up their first single "Who Let The Dogs Out" with "You All Dat"- essentially the same exact song- I will be following up my Santonio Holmes success with Brandon Marshall.

Last year Marshall was 14th in receiving yards (1120), 4th in receptions (101), 5th in targets (152) with an average 11.1 YPR (yards per reception), and 10 TDs- all while only starting 13 games. Marshall is more of a possessions receiver with decent big play ability so his catch rate (61% in the last three years) is going to be higher than someone like a Randy Moss- but Marshall's ability makes him at the lower level of the elite wide outs.

Marshall has also shown to be consistent and productive despite the quarterback throwing to him. Marshall catches 102 passes like clockwork (102, 104, 102 respectively for the past three years) all with a different QB. (Yes, technically he had Jay Cutler throwing to him in '07 and '08, but let's be real with ourselves, the Cutler in 2007 was a different and crappier QB than the Cutler in 2008). While his targets have increased (per game) depending on the QB throwing to him (180 targets during Cutler's best season versus 155 last year), there was not a drastic shift in the amount of balls coming towards Marshall. (Yes, I realize what I wrote, feel free to pause for a little chuckle)

My guess is that the consistency in the targets Marshall gets from year to year is more due to Marshall's skill than it is the QB. I'll be making this assumption throughout my analysis because I know that Chad Henne is probably not even close to Kyle Orton's level yet, but Henne has shown he is a capable QB in the NFL (a 60.8% NFL completion percentage, having a percentage better than 63% in his past four starts, while having 320+ yards in three out of his past five starts), so that if Marshall does get open, Henne can complete passes to him. Plus, the fact that Marshall is somewhat of a possessions receiver leads me to believe that Marshall's Denver numbers will translate to Miami.

Plus, receiver's stats are obviously tied into attempts. The less the QB throws, the less balls thrown a receiver's way and the less catches a receiver has. But Henne still threw for 451 attempts in only 14 games in '09. So even though Henne was only 20th in passes attempted, if you extrapolate his attempts to an extra two games- he would have thrown for about 515 attempts- making him 10th in the NFL (right above Drew Brees). So even though the Dolphins appear to be a running team and like to run the wildcat- Henne and the Dolphins will still throw a lot- which bodes well for Marshall

Last year, 22.8% of Henne's passes went to Devone Bess, 12.6% went to Ted Ginn Jr., 14.6% went to Greg Camarillo, 10.6% went to Ricky Williams, 10.8% went to Anthony Fasano, 3.1% went to Ronnie Brown, and 25.5% went to other receivers. About 50% of Henne's passes went to his top three receivers, one quarter went to other receivers, 15% went to his RBs, and 10% went to his TE.

Henne liked to toss the ball around, but Henne never had a legit #1 receiver to throw to so he had to pass the ball around. So let's take a look at a QB who did have a Marshall as a number one target.

Last year, about 28.5% of Kyle Orton's passes went to Marshall. In 2008, 29.7% of Cutler's passes went to Marshall and in '07, 36.4% of Cutler's passes went to Marshall. This is a wide range of passes that went Marshall's way and the way Henne improved the past year, predicting Marshall for the next year is going to be a tad imprecise. But here we go.

First of all, let's try and predict Henne's attempts for next year. As mentioned earlier, if Henne had played in all 16 games, he would have thrown 515 yards. Even as good as this is, Henne will probably get better. Not only will Henne improve with age, but getting a stud receiver helps all. So let's say that Henne gets about 540 attempts- along the lines if Orton and Aaron Rodgers. And the extra 25 attempts would only equate to an extra pass and a half per game- not unreasonable.

Now let's say about 30% of Henne's passes go to Marshall- which falls along with what quarterbacks have done in the past. That means that Marshall should get about 162 targets. Add that to Marshall's recent 61% catch rate and that means Marshall should get about 99 receptions (although him getting 102 is not out of the question). 99 receptions with Marshall's 12.07 YPR over the past three years and that equates to 1195 yards. Now the biggest question (especially for fantasy owners) is how many TDs will Marshall get? Well, over the past three years, he's gotten 6, 7, and 10 TDs respectively. But you know what, you can never predict TDs. Last year in less games and with a "crappier" QB, Marshall had more touchdowns than he did in 2008 and 2007. On the flip side, Henne only threw 12 TDs last year. So in this spectrum, I'll say Marshall gets 7 TDs next year. So what do I think will Marshall's line will look like next year:

162 targets, 99 receptions, 1195 yards, 7 TDs.

The Boston Celtics Did Not Get The Memo

Really Sportsnation? Really?

I know that Roethlisberger is probably a rapist and all, but you cannot be serious about having Eli Manning leading your team over Big Ben or like 15 other QB's in the NFL. Does Eli really put fear into you? Yeah, he won a super bowl, but he also had an offensive line that could have gotten Sexy Rexy into the Pro Bowl. In fact, in 6 seasons, Manning has never won a playoff game outside his super bowl year.

The Big Ben Gets Off

Woooo! double entendres! Is it just me or is it ironic that Ben Roethlisbegrer, with his long hair slicked back, look like a rapist or molester when he's apologising for raping, er having consensual sex with, a girl in a Georgia bathroom?

Stolen Goods: Knuckleball Sabermetrics 101

The Hardball Times has a dated, but still relevant and intriguing article about the rare breed of pitch known as the knuckleball. Unsurprisingly, the success of a knuckleball thrown is directly related to its variability in movement. As the data shows, the more movement, the more whiffs, while less movement is directly related to more extra base hits.

What is most interesting about the article, however, is something that Fangraphs brought my attention to: the X-Y plane clustering of knuckleballs versus other pitches. Below is a chart comparing the movement of C.C. Sabathia's 3-pitch mix to that of Tim Wakefield. Notice anything particularly variable, amorphous and indistinct about Wakefield's knuckleball as compared to even his own fastball and curveball?

Read the whole article; its very enlightening and reaffirming.

Analyzing the Santonio Holmes Trade

Through my first analysis, I have told you that trading for Braylon Edwards was a waste. And all Jets fans who saw Edwards drop easy passes that fell in his lap get dropped came around to what I told them. But cheer up baby birds, I'm about to chew up some analysis and spit some knowledge in your mouth (too graphic?), you got Edwards part II.

Last year, Holmes collected 1248 yards on 79 receptions (138 targets) good for a 15.8 YPR (yards per reception). Holmes was 10th in DYAR (roughly measures total value) and 21st DVOA (roughly measures value per play). However, it's his 57% catch rate that worries me. Out of the top 15 players last year (according to FO DYAR), there are three receiver with a catch rate under 61% (besides Holmes, A. Johnson and C. Ochocinco) and Holmes (along with Ochocinco) rank last out of the top 15 players in catch rate. 32 of the top 45 players had a better catch rate than Holmes. In fact, Holmes has a career 55% catch rate.

Despite Holmes low catch rate however, he does do pretty darn good things when he gets the ball. He was tied for second in the league last year for plays 20+, had no fumbles, 5th in first downs and still was at minimum a top 15 wide out (despite his slight inefficiencies). And at only 27 years old and only four years in the league, he is very very good.

And he is absolutely no doubt better than Jerricho Cotchery and David Clowney.

Because Santonio Holomes is better than probably any current Jets receiver, he will make young Mark Sanchez better. So let's take a look at Big Ben and the Sanchize's numbers to see how Holmes will actually produce in the Meadowlands

Over the past three years, 24.4% of Big Ben's passes went towards Holmes and he has caught 12.7% of Big Ben's total passes while Holmes was in Pittsburgh. While those numbers seem low, that's not THAT bad considering how many passes any QB throws that don't get caught and how many players any QB has to distribute the ball to.

However, these low stats do become important because as little attempts as Big Ben has, the Sanchize will have even less. Big Ben has averaged 462 attempts over the past two years and Sanchez had 364 attempts in 15 games. Now while Sanchez will most likely get more attempts and get better- the number of passes he'll throw to Holmes will decrease thus decreasing the overall value of Holmes- at least for the 2010 season.

Last year, about 15.9% of Sanchez' passes went to his RBs, 21.4% went to Braylon Edwards, 26.6% went to Jerricho Cotchery, 22.3% went to Dustin Keller, and about 13.8% went to other receivers.

So based off of Sanchez' past numbers, percentages, improvement, and Holmes' catch rate, let's see what we can predict Holmes, at least for 2010.

If we generously say Sanchez gets more attempts and gets better accuracy (which he showed at the end of the 2009 season), let's generously say Sanchez gets 400 attempts (up from his 364 in 15 games in 2009). Let's say Edwards gets about 22% of Sanchez' passes and say Holmes (based upon Holmes' talent and what he did in Pittsburgh) gets 25% of Sanchez' throws. Thats means Holmes should get about 100 passes thrown his way.

So if we include Holmes' career catch rate, that means Holmes should get only about 55 catches- way below his 2009 mark, but right along his '06-'08 rate. Add his career 16.3 YPR rate, that means Holmes should get only around 900 yards- with maybe about 5 TDs (falls along with his career average and a crappier QB). But when you include the four game suspension- I'll say he gets about 675 yards with 4 TDs.

Now Holmes is still young and took a huge step forward so I can easily foresee my prediction that Holmes will regress will not come true. But I think a lot of Holmes' value came from Big Ben's career year and with a young and improving QB at the helm throwing to two drop heavy receivers does not bode well for the team. But hey, it was only a 5th round draft pick and the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets have still improved.

For an analysis on the Brandon Marshall trade, click here

Shaq has lost it on Ustream Starbury style

SNL Does Something Funny: Tiger At The Masters

Steven Stamkos Does Not Suck

I bring up Steven Stamkos because he was the 1st overall selection in the NHL draft 2 years ago by the Tampa Bay Lightning. When Barry Malrose made the decision to bring Stamkos directly to the NHL, skipping the minors altogether, the Lightning ownership was none too pleased. Even analyst confirmed that Stamkos was not prepared for the NHL game at the age of 18. Well they were all wrong. Hockey is not a sport like baseball and football where it is essential to develop both your skills and strength in order to compete at the highest level. The history of the NHL has shown that the greatest players of all time were great almost immediately following their 18th birthday. Look it up. Gretzky, Lemieux, Jagr, Yzerman, Messier, Crosby, Ovechkin all dominated the NHL prior to leaving their teens and dominated throughout their careers. Basically, if you're born with it, you will show it.

Just like Patrick Kane was able to flourish as a first overall pick while skipping the minors, Stamkos put together a solid rookie season with 23 goals while playing in the shadow of former MVP Martin St. Louis and 1998 1st overall pick Vincent Lecavalier. This season Stamkos established himself as the new franchise player of the Lightning with a 50 goal season and nearly 100 points. 50 goals is the magic number in hockey. Like 30 points per game in the NBA, 50 homers in the MLB, and 1500 rushing yards in the NFL.

Joe Johnson is Kinda Overrated

Most Chicago Bulls fans I talk to have the same opinion regarding the direction they want the Bulls to go in the epic free agent class of 2010. Option one is always Wade with Joe Johnson a decent back-up plan. At the forward position, people are fairly split between Bosh and Staudemire. The way I see it, having Johnson as the back-up plan would be a waste of money that could be used more efficiently this summer or even next.

Johnson definitely has his worth in the NBA, but considering the Bulls only have the money to pay max dollars to one free agent, Johnson will not be enough to make the Bulls a championship contender. If that is the case, then what is the point in signing a big name free agent. Fans watch their favorite teams in hopes of doing the impossible and winning a championship. This process may take 5 years, 10 years, or even 100 years if you happen to root for the northsiders. Neal Huntington, the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said it best after dropping the team payroll to $30 million this season. He would rather put money into the draft, player development, and international scouting instead of overspending so Jose Guillen can hit 25 meaningless home runs for you. The same applies in the NBA, but to a greater degree because teams are constrained by a salary cap and a small roster of players.

So why am I so down on Joe Johnson? The same reason I am down on any player. He is an inefficient scorer. This season he is averaging 21 points on 18 shots. That is a perfect representation of his entire career. His one true superstar season came in 2007 when he averaged 25 points on 20 shots. He is unlikely to ever reproduce that season and should be expected to perform at his career norms. A +3 point to shot differential is not worthy of someone making between 15-20 million per year. A true superstar would normally double that differential and consistently average 24 on 18 shots or 26 on 20 shots. You may be asking yourself, whats the big deal? It's only a 3 point difference per game. It can't have that big an effect. It actually can and does. Only 5 teams in the NBA have a point differential greater or less than 5 per game. The other 25 teams normally play close games that are decided by 5 points or less. Just look at the Bulls losing Ben Gordon. His extra 5 points per game over Kirk Heinrich have been perfectly represented by the Bulls scoring going down 5 points per game over last seasons average.

You may also be thinking to yourself, well how is Joe Johnson any different from Derrick Rose. They have nearly identical numbers but you TBO praise Rose while punish Johnson. There is a difference between them. Rose is 21 years old and plays point guard, which Johnson is 28 and is a shooting guard. The fact that Rose gets to the free throw line as a PG more than Johnson as the scoring position is laughable. Superstars get to the charity strip more than 3.6 times per game. Period, end of conversation. I'm willing to bet the best player on every team gets to the line more than that. Yes, he's a decent shooter from the field. Above average from 3. And facilitates the offense better than most guards, but his inability to be a dominant player makes him expendable just like Ben Gordon was. If Gordon was too expensive for the Bulls at $10 million then there is no reason to throw $20 million at Joe Johnson. His best option is probably to stay in Atlanta who have a strong supporting cast for Johnson play with.

Yeah, That's What She Said

Prediction Fail

How Did Seattle Score?

For a clearer view, click to enlarge

Stolen Goods: Poor Umpiring

The Hardball Times has an article up which statistically proves what baseball fans have been thinking for over 100 years: umpires suck. According to THT's analysis of balls and strikes called, "the 3-0 zone is nearly 50 percent larger than the 0-2 zone." In THT's article (and below) is a plot of the strike zone data; there you can see the stark difference in overall strikeout zone size between the 3-0 count to the 0-2 count. To the right is THT's chart which plots a batter's runs created against the various count situations and strike zone breadths.

Definitely worth checking this article out if you have the time.

Yum, cheesecake

Don't Ask How...Ask How Much

I'm about $1450 short. Anyone want to go splitsies?

Stolen Goods: Fastball Velocity and Pitcher Performance

Baseball Time in Arlington, like Fangraphs before them, performed an useful and insightful statistical analysis of the relationship between fastball velocity and other pitching metrics such as strikeouts, walk rates and home run rates. The data shows an interesting correlation between fastball velocity and various other aspects of a pitchers game.

The average findings from the data are represented in the following chart:
- - -
> 92.5 mph
90 - 92.5 mph
87.5 - 90.0 mph
< 87.5 mph
Avg. ERA
Avg. FIP
Avg. K/9
Avg. BB/9
Avg. HR/9
# Pitchers

Cool stuff all around. Worth checking out.

Something Much More Rare Than Scoring Without A Hit

Who Needs Hits To Score Runs?

Juan Pierre was walked (SHOCKING!), stole second and third, and then Konerko sac flied to score him.

I'm sure this kind of thing is more common than I realize, but I think it's a nice little tid-bit to notice when it happens.

The Chicago Cubs Outrageous Ticket Price Situation

A few months ago, I compiled a chart comparing Cubs payroll and revenue to that of the MLB as a whole. I've reprinted the chart below (click to enlarge):

Since 2001, Cubs ticket prices have increased an average of 17.35% per season. The MLB average is 7.07%. That is a 245% difference; hefty inflation for a team which has not won a world series in over 100 seasons of play. Click here to see the the costs of beer, soft drinks, hot dogs, etc. by park for 2009. The 2009 report by Team Marketing, who has been tracking this data for almost a decade now, indicates that "a night at Wrigley field" tends to be the third most expensive in all of baseball, behind the Yankees and Red Sox. The margins in cost between the Cubs and Mets, the fourth most expensive team to watch at home, is quite significant too (almost twice as much as the difference between the Red Sox and Cubs).

All this considered, maybe the following news is not so shocking; I still find it so. According to ESPN and Team Marketing's 2010 data, The Chicago Cubs have the most expensive non-premium seat prices, on average, in all of baseball. According to the report,
The Cubs' average ticket went up 10.1 percent to $52.56 this season. The team raised prices on some seats, and was hit with a 1 percent increase in the amusement tax.
The Cubs barely squeaked a .500 finish in 2010, they shipped off Milton Bradley for a few million dollars and a useless starter who should be cut, and (over)spent the majority of their offseason funds on a John Grabow extension and on such free agent fizzle signing as Xavier Nady and Marlon Byrd. The Cubs even considered giving Kevin Millar some money/playing time at some point, they were so desperate to waste money/wins. And yet, they raised the price of a ticket by 10%?? The average major league ticket costs 50% less and the White Sox, who play across town and have the fourth highest average ticket price in baseball, still charge $14 less per ticket on average.

A few weeks ago, I bought several half-price tickets on for the Bleacher Section to the Cubs day-after-the-home-opener-game on April 14. The cost of the ticket before taxes, handling, etc. was $25. By the time the transaction was over, the ticket prices came to about $25 a person. That's right. On a $12.50 ticket, there were about $12.50 in fees, handling charges, city taxes, etc. This is nothing short of outrageous

As Cubs fans, we should take a play out of the Network (1976 film) playbook. We're mad as hell as we're not going to take it anymore. No more cash cow, no more exploiting the fans. Cubs fans have been screwed by their owners since the Wrigley boys took over. I'm tired of watching the team squander money and raise prices.

The Cubs need to fire Hendry and find an intelligent front office guy who believes in marginal benefit analysis. A guy who knows how to evaluate WAR and maximize run differentials. We need someone who can draft and who is willing to sign guys who are not a part of "Jim Hendry's Guys" (a copyrighted term by TBO).

Of course, such a boycott would never happen. Cubs fans are too loyal/drunk/stupid/apathetic/rich to care. Still, I'm tired of watching my team lose and management think its OK. Can't The Cubs hire a Tom Tango or Dave Appleman to help with their decisions? For once, I want hope. Not the hope of luck, but the hope of the future. I want to know that everything is going towards some greater purpose.

Alas, we have Jim Hendry and a cash cow that will never stop getting fatter.

The Amazing Mark Buehrle Play

Even more reason why I like Mark Buehrle

David MVP Eckstein: Sportswriter

As of now, I've tentatively accepted a writing position for the sports section of DeKalb's Northern Star newspaper. I plan to continue my amazing blog contributions (and finally start watching football/basketball...sigh).

Sexy Rexy On Fantasy Focus: Baseball

After YEARS of writing in to ESPN's Fantasy Focus, a quick e-mail I shot them last night for giggles got read by Nate and Matthew. If you listen starting at 25:07 in, they read my question and answer it for the rest of the show (and for the record I did mean Matthew was the weasel, although I did only want Nate's advice anyway). Now I only have 14 minutes and 59 seconds left. Damn.

Go to the iTunes store, download the 4/6/10 version of the Fantasy Focus to keep this precious moment in time. Or you can listen here.