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Posts from the ‘5 Up / 5 Down’ Category

Five Up / Five Down Pitchers – Week 3

April 28, 2012


This week has featured an early season dual between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees in Arlington Texas, an absolute pitching gem performance by Yu Darvish (8.1 innings pitched, 119 pitches, 82 strikes, 10 stroke outs, 2 walks), the NFL Draft, comparisons of the Texas Rangers to the 1998 New York Yankees and 2001 Seattle Mariners and several seventh game finals in the National Hockey League.

We ended last weekend celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Atlanta Braves historic 13 straight wins to begin the 1982 baseball season, feeling bad for the Boston Red Sox’s 100th celebration party of Fenway Park (just how did the Red Sox loose that Saturday game again after leading 9-0?), and waiting for Mike Scioscia to make a decision – and pull the trigger on Mike Trout.

We read the reports their week – as we are sure Mike Scioscia did – with fear of an injury to Mike Trout.  Mike was beamed on the wrist by a fastball playing in a game with the Salt Lake Bees.  Mike was hitting the cover off the ball in Triple A ball (batting .400, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 4 triples, 3 doubles) all in 18 with the Bees.

In our Boys of Summer baseball league, one manager was threatening to trade Albert Pujols for a RP and a beer.  We could not understand what was taking Mike Scioscia so long to make the call and get Mike Trout out of the Bees dugout and into the Angles locker room where he belongs.

The pressure is still mounting on the broad shoulders of Albert, and we have been warning of the pressure that would begin to mount on Mike Scioscia.  The Texas Rangers are riding off and leaving the Angles stuck in a cloud off dust.  Before the start of play on Saturday April 27th, the Rangers (15-5) have a commanding 9 game lead on the Angels (6-14).

Norman Rockwell The Rookie

We think throwing Mike Trout and real trout on the field – like the Nashville Predators did with a catfish when they knocked the Detroit Red Wings out of the NHL playoffs – is exactly the right move for the Angles.  Erick Aybar signed yet another contract extension and so far has not made the line up of the Los Malos Muchachos.

We are sure if Mike Scioscia had the hot hitting Mike Aviles (Boston Red Sox SS) on his team he would do the same and bench Aybar in favor of Aviles.

The pressure is on Bobby Valentine, but these are more self-inflicted wounds than the play of the Red Sox.  Although the Boston Red Sox are below .500 like the Los Angeles Angles, the Red Sox (9-10) are only 3.5 games in back of Tampa Bay (13-7).  We are a huge fan of Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.  And we love the Red Sox Nation.  The Red Sox will be back as Big Pappi David Ortiz tweeted.  Steady she goes…

We loved the tweet by Joe Maddon on April 22nd about his team’s esprit de corps – “Still not 100 percent on all cylinders bout the espirit de corps is fabulous”.

Coming from the Angles organization, perhaps Joe phoned his buddy Mike Scioscia and told him “Throw some fish on the field!”  Never mind that Mike Trout is a rookie (brief visit last season), the Angles outfield is not the outfield to carry them back to catch Texas, Albert is pressing and their lead off hitter is not getting on base enough.

Whatever made Mike pull the trigger and make the decision to put a Trout on the field – we are happy.  Way to go Mike and thanks for the help Joe!

Now on to this week’s Five Up / Five Down Starting Pitchers

Five Up – Low Risk Pitchers

Gil Elvgren, Help Wanted 1960

No. 1 Kyle Loshe SP St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cleveland Steamers pulled a rabbit out of a hat with that selection.  We talked about how the Streamer set an early alarm to grab Kyle from the waiver wires before 8am after his first start of the season.  Since then, Kyle has added two more wins to his record and how has the following statistics on the year:  27.1 IP, 3 W, 16 K, 0.99 ERA and a 0.66 WHIP.

Still, Kyle is only owned in 84% of Yahoo! leagues.  For a player ranked 366 in Spring Training and is now ranked 7 – the highest ranked SP in all of baseball – we are expecting to see Kyle added by a few more clubs if he can continue his top-notch pitching.

Our other Five Up / Low Risk pitchers include: Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw and our bonus Stephen Strasburg.  We don’t usually like pitchers in the American League – even if their name ends with “er”, but for today we have to give a tip of the cap to Misters Wearver and Verlander.

Five Down / High Risk Pitchers 

No. 1 Tim Lincecum SP, San Francisco Giants.  Tim continues to baffle the best baseball experts, and most have not jumped off the Lincecum bandwagon.  We are not surprised to see Tim carrying the following stats through the early part of April:  18.2 IP, 1 W, 24 K, 8.20 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP.  What is surprising is that Tim is still owned by 99% of the Yahoo! baseball nation.  Ranked 28 in Spring Training and now ranked 1,219 we see high risks carrying Tim on your fantasy baseball team.

It is understandable that the San Francisco Giants keep a positive spin.  We believe that the Soria team in our ESPN League and the UFA R Us team in our Yahoo! Boys of Summer League will be looking for a trade very soon – or flat-out dropping Tim for an up and coming SP very soon.  Question is who will be the team to stash Tim on their line-up and take the risk that Tim will find his way back to his elite status.

Our other Five Down / High Risk pitchers are Yovani Gallardo, Jon Lester, Adam Wainwright, Dan Heren and Mat Latos.  Rickey Romero remains our bonus baby high risk pitcher.

Now boarding, the Bandaged Beard at a gate near you

April 21, 2012


The early news this year – other than the fast start of the Texas Rangers (11-2) Los Angeles Dodgers (11-3), Washington National (11-4) – seems to be centered again on the injuries, and slow starts to pitchers.  Closers in particular are beginning to gain attention with their sore arms and elbows.

Tom Verducci wrote a very interesting piece this week over at Sports Illustrated that put forth the notion that it may be time to re-think today’s modern bullpen.  Brian Wilson, closer for the SanFrancisco Giants – DL  and done, had his second Tommy John surgery this week.  Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals closer – DL and done after his second elbow surgery.  And the list of injured relief pitchers goes on.

Of the top 21 relief pitchers specializing in closing games out for their teams – this means in modern baseball that they usually are called to get just three outs in a ballgame – nearly 20% find themselves on the DL.  Other than Brian, Drew Storen, Andrew Bailey and Kyle Farnsworth all find themselves presently on the disabled list.

To make matters worse, of the top 20 specialist pitchers touted to be some of the best players in league – saving games for their teams and earning fantasy managers critical points in their leagues – currently only 5 closers are ranked in the top 150 ballplayers according to a recent check on Yahoo!  Before the season started, 13 relief pitchers placed in the top 150 ranked players.  This dramatic change has managers of all leagues scratching their heads.  What is going on with today’s modern reliever?

Just a few short weeks ago we were all full of hope.  Baseball teams, fans and fantasy managers were optimistic they had the closer they wanted to charge our of the bullpen.  Premiere closers were being quickly snatched up by fantasy teams early in drafts – ignoring  the advise of experts who advised not to pay for closers – and media firms were rather enjoying  seeing the branding possibilities.

On Virgin America airlines, you can "Fly the Beard" even though batters are not longer "Fearing the Beard".

Virgin America as you may have heard, announced that they had painted a beard on one of their jets in honor of closer Brian Wilson.  The beat of the tune as the plane rolls out of the hanger is rather catchy as you can see in this video and the nose of the plane painted like a beard takes us back to the days of Braniff Airline’s colorful planes.  “Fly the beard” Virgin Airlines announced and even a Twitter hashtag – #FlyTheBeard was started.

Let’s hope we don’t see any more bullpens suffer any more injuries this spring.  We have always enjoyed the colorful planes, the blaring stadium music and especially the electronic scoreboard displays when the bullpen down swings open and the fireman / pitcher rushes onto the field and charges up to the top of the mound to take the ball from the manager.  Tom Verducci reminds us that there haven;t always been this brand of pitchers in the game.

Maybe in the not so distant future, iPads will be used to signal the exact optimum time when to get bullpen arms loosened up and ready to enter the game, golf carts ridden by lucky fans will have hashtags #RideTheBeard painted on their tops and sides, and closers will no longer require Tommy John surgery.

Until that time, we will just have to choose our closers carefully and be thankful our team has a healthy closer.  As fans, we can still our time flying the bearded skies – even if the planes have a bandage or two.

Gil Elvgren, Help Wanted 1960

Five Up / Five Down Relief Pitchers – Week 2

Five Up / Low Risk Relief Pitchers 

No. 1:  Craig Kimbrel closer, Atlanta Brave.  Craig has earned 4 saves for the fast staring Braves and has a 1.80 ERA, 2.00 WHIP and has 6 K’s in 5 IP.  The Los MalosMuchachos dealt Craig to the K-Braves for Robinson Cano during Spring Training and we are still feeling the pain from that deal.

Our other Five Up / Low Risk relief pitchers are Jason Motte, Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Betancourt and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera closer, New York Yankees earns our last spot on the Five Up / Low Risk relief pitcher list squeezing ahead of Jose Valverde.  While Mariano suffered some early issues to begin the season, his ERA and WHIP are coming down in his recent outings and now stand at 3.37 and 1.31 respectively.  Being the poster boy of low risk and longevity who should definitely have a plane painted in his honor,  Mariano now has 3 saves on the young season and 7 K’s in 5.1 IP.  Perhaps a curving, swirling ball and dotted line along the side of an American Airlines plane leaving JFK would help boost ridership.  He certainly earns our vote for a Twitter hashtag #ThePanamaMarvel!

 Five Down / High Risk Relief Pitchers

No. 1: Heath Bell closer, Miami Marlins.  Heath left his native California where he pitched the last five years in spacious Petco Park in San Diego, for the humidity and heat of Miami, Florida.   Heath (age 34) is suffering early in the year and sports 2 saves in four chances.

The Marlins closer took the loss both times he was called on – presumably without the aid of an iPad – to close a game out.  He earned his second save last Thursday and lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 7.20.  He has a 2.20 WHIP, is giving up hits at a rate of 14.4 per nine innings, and is entering his ninth year in The Show.  He has pitched a total of 487 innings in his career, 167 more than Brian Wilson.

We can’t find any information that Heath has suffered an injury in his career that dates back to his days with the New York Mets in 2004.  But we noticed his strikeouts per nine innings (SO/9) fell to a career low of 7.3 last season, down over 2 points from his career average of 9.2.

Most alarming to us at first glance are Heath Bell’s hits and home runs per nine innings (H/9, HR/9) that are sitting at a whopping 14.4 and 1.8 respectively to date.  We get nervous when we see pitchers change ball parts, and see their stats begin to deviate from norms.

Our other Five Down / High Risk relief pitchers are Carlos Marmol, Joel Hanrahan, Joe Nathan and Jordan Walden.  In Jordan’s case, we put him on the list more for the bad vibes we are getting from the Angles offense which have reduced his chances for save opportunities early in the season than his risk of injury.

Five Up / Five Down Pitchers – Week 1

April 14, 2012


The Upper Deck Boys dig the long ball.  We also enjoy movies and have a preference for plots which weave into the story lines the use of data and statistics in interesting and thought provoking ways.  We enjoy movies like Moneyball, A Beautiful Mind and documentaries like Inside Job.

We prefer general managers who emphasize offense first over pitching in building their teams, and we give a thumbs up to all teams who construct offensive depth in their line-ups as an early priority.  This does not make us a fan however of the American League, which took the philosophy of long ball to the extreme and added the designated hitter rule.  We agree though that offense wins championships in baseball, sells tickets and that chicks do dig the long ball!

Gil Elvgren, Help Wanted 1960

We appreciate the beauty in the game of baseball and we find it relaxing to see a game unfold.  Whether we see a game live in person, on TV, through the webpage updates from ESPN or Yahoo! or now through our Twitter updates, we enjoy the sights and sounds from the game.  Early on we enjoyed spending time on quiet saturday afternoon hearing the voice of Curt Gowdy, who on NBC’s Game of the Week along with color commentator Tony Kubek first introduced us to the game.

Sitting there in in my grand parents den in Mobile Alabama, Curt and Tony  were able to teach me about the game and show how data and statistics can be an integral part of the game.  I remember the phrases well where Curt would set the scene of the unfolding drama:  “…and stepping into the batters box now with the bases loaded, to put even more pressure on the pitcher is Johnny Bench…”, or “…and waiting on deck is the hot hitting third baseman Ron Santo…”.

The Upper Deck Boys are also adverse to risks.  We try to avoid risks in constructing our teams wherever possible, and we find one of the most compelling elements of baseball the many statistics which are available to the fan to help them understand and avoid risks.  We enjoy analyzing data and information to give us an edge over our competition, and we have always appreciated the time that Curt, Tony and other announcers have taken in their broadcasts to explain insightful uses of data and statistics to better understand the game.  Joe Morgan reminded us for example on one of his broadcasts, that “All hitters go through periods of batting slumps.  The great hitters usually tend to come out of them quickly”.

Like blue chip stocks, we tend to favor batters over pitchers for providing long run, steady pridictable results.  We value offense over pitching, and we find it highly risky to select starting pitchers over hitters.  We agree you can take a chance on a few “high risk / high reward” type pitchers to build your championship winning team, and we prefer to do this after establishing stable and predictable offensive line ups for our teams.

With these philosophies in mind, we present to you our Five Up / Five Down pitchers list for week one:

Five Up – Low Risk Pitchers

No. 1 Kyle Lohse SP, St. Louis Cardinals.  The Blue Star DisAstros (love that name) added Kyle Loshe in our ESPN Eleven Jerks League as a Free Agent pick-up for $2. The DisAstros added Kyle and dropped Josh Beckett who they originally claimed during the Live Auction Draft for $4 with pitch number 120.  Not a bad move.   It only took one start for the Cleveland Steamers to jump on Kyle in the Boys of Summer League – as we tweeted the Steamers added Kyle before 8am they day after Kyle’s first start.

In both situations, Kyle was an un-drafted Free Agent was was later added to their rosters.  Kyle is presently the third ranked starting pitcher both the ESPN and Boys of Summer Leagues.  Kyle has recorded 54 points for the DisAstros through the first two weeks, and is still only owned by ~78% of the teams in ESPN.  Similarly Kyle is only owned by 64% of the Yahoo! teams and yet ranks only behind Chad Billingsley and and Roy Halladay in overall ranking for starting pitchers.

Our other Five Up / Low Risk pitchers include:  Stephen StrasburgJordan ZimmermannMat LatosWandy Rodriguez, and our bonus Jeremy Hellickson

Five Down – High Risk Pitchers

No. 1 Tim Lincecum SP, San Francisco Giants.  Tim continues to earn press for his lower MPH on his fastball and a study of this statistics over the past few years points to a player on the down cycle.  Tim has had some great years but we see him now as a high risk pitcher.  We believe that the Soria team in our ESPN League will regret paying $32 for Tim with pick number 35 of the draft, and we similarly feel sorry that the UFA R Us team in our Yahoo! Boys of Summer League have him as well.

Tim is our poster boy for the type of pitchers we just don’t like to have on our Teams here at the Upper Deck:  High price, low value and full of risks.  In the case of Soria’s team, the data we have shows that he paid over market value for Tim – driving his points per dollar stat down to $20.16, or $14.90 below what the market would pay for Tim.  This is either a clear reach by Soria’s or perhaps he was bid up to the $32 level similarly as we did on Adam Wainright who was added for $30.95 over market value by the Windy City Rumblers.

Other Five Down / High Risk pitchers in addition to Adam Wainright include: James Shields, Dan HarenYovani Gallardo and our bonus Rickey Romero