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Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 5 (4/29-5/5) – Fantasy Baseball

It was a great week of streaming last week and while Odorizzi hasn’t gone yet as of this writing, we are looking at a near perfect week. This is rare and not likely to happen all that often, so I figured I’d mention it. So far on the season, here are the results compared to the MLB average for starting pitchers: 4.36 ERA, 1.29 WHIP with a 8.64 K/9 (MLB AVG)

IP ERA WHIP K W QS
Season Totals 90.99 3.26 1.06 90 10 10

That’s a lot better than a number of aces thus far on the season. Here’s the link to the streaming google sheet if you want to keep track. Let’s keep it rolling. Next week there are a bunch of options early in the week, so grab them now!

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL), 25% owned home vs SD, Monday 4/29 and @MIA Sunday 5/5 (Two-Start Week!)
Soroka should be owned in more than 25% of leagues. My guess is the Braves have such great pitching prospect depth and they’ve shuffled in several different arms to start the season. So fantasy owners are just streaming them as they come and go. So far, Soroka has only had two starts but he’s getting more than a strikeout per inning and a 55% ground ball rate. That’s a winning combo in the current home run environment. San Diego is an improved team thanks to Machado and Tatis Jr. but they can whiff quite a bit. Believe it or not, Suntrust Park actually is less friendly to home Runs than Petco, so that’s another point in Soroka’s favor. Also, I want to mention and give credit to Nick Pollack and Alex Fast and some of the PitcherList staff for creating and discussing the new pitching metric Called Strikes Plus Whiffs (CSW). Soroka is rocking a 32.4% CSW, which is fantastic. I will be referring to this article and metric going forward. Do I even need to mention the Miami start? Grab him immediately for both starts, because he won’t be on the wire for long. Easy double stream here for probably the last time with Soroka.

Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI), 21% owned home vs DET, Tuesday 4/30
This one is risky. I would prefer if this start was in Detroit because Comerica is one of the worst offensive parks for home runs. Citizens Bank in Philly, on the other hand, can be a launching pad. The good news is their 25.9% strikeout rate as a team is sixth worst in the league. VV has some negative regression coming but he’s walking fewer batters this year which has helped him limit the damage. His fastball velocity is up nearly one MPH, so I while there is some risk in this start, I’d be willing to roll with him given the strikeout upside and the probability of a win. Stream

Jakob Junis (SP – KC), 13% Owned home vs TB, Tuesday 4/30
Don’t get me wrong, the Rays can hit but they also strike out a bunch. Kauffman Stadium is not a great place to hit which is a point in Junis’ favor. He’s also added a little velocity to his fastball and throwing his slider over 43% of the time. Junis has also been better at home this season and his slider I mentioned is nasty. He’s getting strikeouts over 42% of the time on that pitch. Junis is rocking a 31.8% CSW which is a very good rate. I like the way Junis has been pitching early this season and think he can handle the Rays at home with a good chance at a QS and solid K numbers. Stream.

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), 1% owned home vs TOR, Tuesday 4/30
Who is this Griffindor Canning? He is not from the Harry Potter series, he’s a prospect with the Angels and a highly touted one. He brings a mid-90 plus fastball, a plus slider and mixes in a change and curve. I was a lot more confident in Canning’s outing against the Blue Jays prior to the Vald Jr call up, but I think I’m still in. He has solid strikeout upside although I’m not as bullish in quality starts leagues because, with any young starter, a pitch limit will likely be in place. I would expect five-plus innings with around a K per inning and decent ratios. I’d stream him in moderate to deep leagues.

Tyler Mahle (SP – CIN), 7% owned @NYM, Thursday 5/2
I was disappointed at Mahle’s outing on Saturday against the Cardinals where he gave up five earned runs in five innings. That’s not good but all of the damage came off the bat of one of the hottest hitters in Marcell Ozuna. Mahle’s BABIP sits over .350 and all other metrics look legit, so I’d expect that BABIP to come down and Mahle can be a high-3s ERA type pitcher with just under a strikeout per inning. The Mets are right around league-average in terms of wOBA and it looks like red-hot rookie Pete Alonso is starting to cool off. (Right on cue, Alonso goes yard right after I wrote this.) I feel that Mahle can bounceback. He’s not my favorite stream this week, but he’s a decent option in deep leagues. 

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA), 6% Owned Home vs ATL, Sunday 5/5
What is happening here? Why is Lopez still available in 94% of FantasyPros leagues? I told you stream him last week and hopefully, you did. Lopez currently has a 21.4% K-BB% (16th in MLB) with a solid 11.9% swinging strike rate to back it up. He’s been slightly unlucky in terms of BABIP (.329) and strand rate (64.1%). He’s only allowed two earned runs in his last two starts with 12 strikeouts. Atlanta is tough, there’s no doubt but Lopez is rocking a 27.9% K-BB rate and a 1.46 FIP in his starts in Miami. He won’t get any run support but should give you good ratios, strikeouts, and a chance at a QS. Stream

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


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Home Run Park Factors Using Statcast’s Barrels (HR/BRL)

What’s the best metric that measures a players power? It’s Statcast’s power metric barrels (BRL) of course. In fact, 57.1% of Barrels have resulted in home runs since the metric was introduced in 2015. That’s a very high percentage. As you would imagine, the ratio has fluctuated quite a bit year-to-year. The juiced ball is very likely a factor in some of those fluctuations. What I mean by “juiced ball” is that the properties of the ball itself are different causing the ball to travel further. We will cover this later. Anyways, the point is, you want to target players who can Barrel the ball at a high clip. That’s not exactly groundbreaking, everyone knows this. What about ballparks though? How does each ballpark, with their unique dimensions, handle barreled balls?

I’ve compiled the four full seasons of Statcast data (2015-2018) for each ballpark in the Major Leagues that includes home Runs, barrels, barreled home runs, and non-barreled home Runs. It’s pretty simple, the parks that generate a higher percentage of home runs per barrel (HR/BRL) are rated higher and vice versa. Of course, there are the non-barreled home runs, or what I call the “cheap homers.” Those must be factored in as well. These would be the cheap homers for example, in Minute Maid Park short fly balls that fall in the Crawford boxes or a short shot down the line in Fenway around Pesky’s Pole. Those are just two examples, but most parks have their quirks. The sample sizes aren’t going to be perfect, but four years of data provide at least 900 barrels at each stadium. This is what we have to work with. It’s too early in 2019 to include this data, so let’s get to it.

First, we need to look at the league averages for HR/BRL since 2015. Keep in mind, my previous two articles looking at over/underachievers in HR/BRL was a bit lazy as I did not remove the non-barreled home runs when calculating the numbers. So these ratios will be different but more accurate.

Leauge Average Rates - HR/BRL

SeasonHR/BRL%
201556.37%
201657.06%
201761.82%
201853.73%

What do we have here? While there is some fluctuation from 2015 to 2016, the jump in 2017 shows that clearly, something changed. So far in 2019, the current HR/BRL rate is 55.2%. That’s in line with the “non-juiced ball” seasons of 2015 and 2016. However, limiting the sample to only the month of April yields different results. Weather plays a role in how far the ball travels, more specifically, humidity and temperature. As the weather warms up, humidity rises, and the ball travels further. For comparison sake, in 2018 through the month of April, the HR/BRL% was 47.37%. In 2017, it was 56.0%. It’s becoming evident that we are dealing with a juiced ball yet again this year similar to 2017. Bring on the dingers! Ok, enough chatter, let’s get to the Home Run Park Factors based on Barrels.

Home Run Park Factors Using Barrels (HR/BRL)

    
RankParkHR PF
1CIN1.186
2NYY1.130
3COL1.109
4BAL1.103
5CWS1.079
6HOU1.078Rem Tal's Hill
7MIL1.073
8NYM1.059
9SD1.053
10PHI1.053
11LAD1.049
12TEX1.033
13SEA1.028
14TOR1.006
15WSH1.005
16LAA1.004
17CLE1.001
18CHC0.995
19MIN0.995
20TB0.973
21ARI0.9501 YR w/ Humidor
22OAK0.935
23BOS0.933
24PIT0.932
25ATL0.9282 YR of Data
26MIA0.902
27STL0.899
28DET0.896
29KC0.882
30SF0.796

MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

The league-average rate over the last four years is roughly 57.25%. Great American Ballpark (GAB) leads the pack by a long-shot. Since 2015, GAB in Cincinnati has yielded home runs on 68.6% of barreled balls (HR/BRL). At the bottom of the list, Oracle Park (Formerly ATT Park) in San Francisco has seen just home runs on just 40.7% of barreled balls. The other factor that I’ve included in the Barrel Home Run Park Factors is the non-barreled home runs or “cheap homers.”  GAB regularly finished inside the top three in non-barreled home runs as well with Minute Maid Park (HOU) and Yankee Stadium (NYY) rounding out the top three. This factor is another reason Cincy has far and away the highest HR park factor based on HR/BRL.

Nothing really jumps out at the top with CIN, NYY, COL, CHW, PHI are all at the top which passes the eye test. The only result that may surprise people is how much better Great American Ballpark is than Coors Field. Coors certainly aids in terms of home runs but where it really benefits hitters is in terms of BABIP because of the expansive outfield. If you want homers, you want to be in Cincy. If you’re looking to aid all facets of hitting, you want Coors Field.

Where it gets interesting is finding out that Petco Park (Ranked 7th) in San Diego and Citi Field (Ranked 8th) in New York are rated so high on the list. The perception is that both parks are pitchers parks but in reality, they allow more HR/BRL than notorious hitter’s parks such as Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia and Arlington Park in Texas. Maybe we need to stop streaming pitchers when they pitch in San Diego? It gives me some hope that both Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe can mash their ways to 40 homers. As far as Citi Field, well, I’ll admit, a small portion of my bold prediction which included Michael Conforto leading the NL in home runs had something to do with this data. Pete Alonso is certainly making the ballpark look small but I don’t think it matters where he hits.

I’ll touch on Minute Maid Park in Houston because, in terms of HR/BRL%, the park was league average. However, it was ranked number one in terms of non-barreled home runs. Why? Those damn Crawford Boxes in left-center field. Sure the wall is higher (19-feet), but it’s just 315 feet down the left-field line and 362 feet in the power alley. There are some easy homers to left at Minute Maid making it especially favorable to righty pull hitters aka Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve and lefty bats with power to the opposite field.

I’ll be using this data going forward trying to spot some outliers and both over/underperformers based on the power metrics going forward. It explains why so many Reds hitters (Scooter Gennett and Jose Peraza) showed up on my original HR/BRL article highlighting overperformers. It’s also extremely concerning that Joey Votto can’t hit homers anymore even with his aided home park. On the other hand, a guy like Trey Mancini came up in my underperformers list and he should be aided based on his home park. He’s off to a really nice start, so let’s hope that continues.

$10 FOR A LIGHT BEER?

Oracle Park (Formerly AT&T Park) is at the bottom of the list. No surprise there. It’s last by a long-shot. I don’t want to turn back the clock too far but it makes Barry Bonds’ home run record even that much more impressive. I’m convinced, if he played in a hitters park, he would have hit 850 homers in his career. Kansas City, Detroit, St. Louis, and Miami round out the remaining bottom five. That seems about right. Suntrust Park is sixth from the bottom but only have two years of data there. For me, there might be too much noise to draw conclusions. Don’t go out and devalued Ronald Acuna Jr. or Ozzie Albies because of just years of data.

I wanted to discuss Fenway Park because it did not rate out well in terms of HR/BRL%. You might think the Green Monster giveth but the Green Monster also taketh away. While that’s true to a small extent, it actually is the expansive centerfield and deep right field beyond Pesky’s Pole. BABIP gets a huge boost in Fenway due to the Green Monster and the deep dimensions I just mentioned. So, Fenway isn’t great for home runs but is still considered a good hitters park because of the Green Monster and the dimensions. It’s amazing J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts were able to put up the power totals they did in 2018. If they can manage similar barrel rates in 2019, we should see a boost in production, which is insane. However, those barrel rates were career-highs for both, so I’m not banking on it.

Anything else interesting you see with these factors? Just let me know and we can discuss it.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.



 

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Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings – Late-April Update

I plan on updating my rankings once every month but decided to split up hitters and pitchers. I feel like, given the small samples and some of the crazy stat-lines for many aces, I’m going to hold off for a couple of weeks. I’m not ready to drop certain pitchers based on a couple of bad starts because there are many early-season factors to consider. My updated hitter and positional rankings are shown below. Below the table, I’ll cover a few interesting risers and fallers for each position and the reason for their changing stock. Keep in mind that the +/- shown are based on Expert Consensus, not my preseason rankings. If you’d like to compare these rankings to my preseason ranks, feel free to check them out here.

Cover biggest risers and fallers with how many spots they moved

 

Third Base

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B – KC) – Movin’ on up
Dozier was somewhat of a forgotten man on draft day but has gone off in the first month of the season. He’s hitting .304 with seven home runs and batting in the middle of a surprisingly decent Royals lineup. I’ve written about him here and here. I wouldn’t just move him up over 100 spots without some sort of improvement. I’ve explained it in the linked articles but his plate approach and discipline has improved greatly without sacrificing any contact. He’s actually improved his exit velocity and barrel rates.
Note: Check he status because he left Monday night’s game with back spasms, sigh. 
Other risers: Matt Chapman, Josh Donaldson, Yandy Diaz, Maikel Franco

Travis Shaw (3B – MIL) – Get Low
It pains me to drop one of my preseason favorites in Travis Shaw but he has been straight up bad. It’s mostly a contact issue as his strikeout rate is up almost 14% from 2018! His contact rate is down by the same amount but he’s not expanding the zone or swinging less frequently. He’s just missing balls in the zone that he should be hitting. It’s too bad because his quality of contact is just fine, in fact, it’s better than in 2018. All is not lost but if I’m the Brewers, I might sit him down for a few days to clear his head.
Other negative movers: Justin Turner, Miguel Andujar, Wilmer Flores

Shortstop

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL) – Movin’ on up
Yes, that’s right, Swanson is a post-post-hype sleeper. Let’s just compare his 2018 to his to-date metrics in 2019 because a picture says a thousand words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! Not much to say here. He’s already barreled eight balls after just 15 in all of 2018 and his exit velocity is up four MPH. He’s also swinging a lot less often, especially outside the zone. These are astronomical changes that should yield significantly better results in 2019 for Swanson. I’m buying in for sure as he could be solid producer of power and speed from the MI position.

Jose Peraza (2B/SS – CIN)
I was off Peraza this preseason but obviously not enough. His approach has gone to sh&t. He’s swinging at everything outside the zone and has extremely weak contact. He’s dropped to the bottom third of the batting order and could be in danger of losing playing time going forward. He’s hit just one homer and stolen two bases thus far and has yet to draw a walk in over 60 plate appearances. He’s never walked much, but this is not a good sign. He can be dropped in shallow formats.

Catcher

Wilson Contreras (C – CHC) – Movin’ on up
Contreras has seemed to put his poor 2018 behind him as he’s hitting .321 with six home runs and ranks number one for all catchers in terms of wOBA at .483. His launch angle has improved and he’s never hit the ball harder in his career. Remember, he was the number two catcher off the board in 2018 drafts and he looks 100% back here in 2019. With how shallow the position is, Contreras looks like a great investment given hos draft-day discount.
Other positive movers: Omar Narvaez, Willians Astudillo, Mitch Garver

Negative Movers: Danny Jansen, Robinson Chirinos, Francisco Mejia

First Base

Trey Mancini (1B/OF – BAL) – Movin’ on up
My man Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini is looking like he’s breaking out in his age-27 season. His strikeout rate is down, walk rate is up, and launch angle is up. His power metrics are actually right in line with 2018 but he’s hitting the ball in the air more frequently. He underperformed based on his number of barrels last year but his luck is changing this year. No, he’s not a .300 hitter but could carry a .275 average with 30 Home runs.
Other positive movers: Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, Pete Alonso, Dan Vogelbach

Jesus Aguilar (1B – MIL) – Get Low
Aguilar is suffering from an extremely low BABIP but it’s his lack of power that is so surprising. He has yet to homer and his playing time is at risk. I debated moving him down even more but his plate discipline and contact rates are still solid. He’s not hitting the ball quite as hard, so there is some concern here. The Brewers are competing and have other options at first base (Eric Thames and Ryan Braun), so they may not be as patient with Aguilar to figure it out. He’s still inside the top 20 1B, but he’s in danger of dropping even further.
Other negative overs: Joey Votto, Mat Olson, Eric Hosmer

Outfield

Clint Frazier (OF – NYY) – Movin’ on up
This one is obvious because everyone on the Yankees is going down with injuries. The Yankees’ preseason starting outfield is entirely on the injured list and Frazier has finally gotten his opportunity. All he’s done is hit six bombs in only 17 games. The metrics look good so far and Yankee Stadium is certainly helping out. I think we will see an elevated strikeout rate from Frazier but as long as he continues to get playing time, he’s a must own.
Other positive Movers: Christian Yelich, Domingo Santana, Kike Hernandez

Greg Allen (OF – CLE) – Get Low
I know, he was largely undrafted but looked like he could be a solid source of stolen bases given the shallow depth in the Cleveland outfield. He’s really struggled to get on base and the Indians have signed Carlos Gonzalez and Jake Bauers is also getting some time in the outfield. Allen can play some defense and really run, so he’s still going to get playing time but sparingly. He’s a drop in all formats expect AL-Only.
Negative movers: Kris Bryant, Ender Inciarte, Jackie Bradley Jr.

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2019 Fantasy Baseball Rankings powered by FantasyPro
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Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 4 (4/22-4/28)

What a week of baseball! Christian Yelich can’t stop hitting bombs and every stud pitcher is getting blown up expect my beloved Trevor Bauer and last year’s heartthrob Luis Castillo. Link. deGrom and Snell went down with injuries this week, Scherzer, Cole, Sale, Nola, get blown up; it’s crazy! This is why streaming pitchers like Jordan Lyles and Caleb Smith are so important. In some instances, they are outperforming the aces. Let’s look at some solid options for Week 4.

Luke Weaver (SP – ARI) 17% owned @PIT Tuesday 4/23
I’m not really sure why Luke Weaver is owned in only 17% of leagues. I have a feeling his ownership jumps over 25% by the end of next week. He totaled 17 strikeouts in his last two outings and was touching 97 MPH in his last start. His K-BB% is 21.6% which is tied for 20th among qualified starters. This matchup is nice as the Pirates who just lost Starling Marte in a scary collision on Friday night. He has since been placed on the IL, the lineup is essentially a Triple-A lineup with Josh Bell as the team’s best hitter. As a team, the Pirates are ranked 23rd in the league in wOBA (.290) and have hit just 13 homers on the young season, good (bad) for second-lowest total in the bigs. Easy Stream here.

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA), 4% owned @CLE, Tuesday 4/23
Lopez is a well-kept secret but the word is about to get out. His 5.85 ERA is a mirage thanks to a .386 BABIP and a 61.1% strand rate. His 23% K-BB% is actually better than our boy Weaver above and his velocity is up over one MPH this year. He gets Cleveland who receives a much-needed boost with the return on Lindor but doesn’t move the needle enough for me given the current 27% strikeout rate the Indians have as a team. My only concern is how deep he will go. He’s only averaging five innings per start, so a quality start might be tough to get. I still think he’s in for more than a strikeout per inning and solid ratios. Stream

Jordan Lyles (SP – PIT), 25% owned Home vs ARI, Wednesday 4/24
Lyles is right on the cusp of going over my 25% ownership cap. Why? Well, he’s rocking a 0.83 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP in 17 innings. Look, he’s not this good, not even close but a PNC is great pitchers park. However, the Diamondbacks have been better than advertised offensively and Lyles is due for some regression. The DBacks have already hit 32 homers and have a .339 wOBA as a team. Lyles struggles against lefties and the DBacks have some solid lefty bats (Peralta, Marte, Escobar) along with hot-hitting righty Christian Walker to handle Lyles. I’m going to pass on this start for Lyles, besides, he hurt his hand in his last outing, so I think this is where regression sets in. Stay Away.

Martin Perez (SP – MIN), 1% owned at home vs BAL, Friday 4/26
A home start against the Orioles at home is a nearly ideal situation for Perez. He’s essentially a new pitcher because he no longer is a soft-tosser averaging near 95 MPH which has skyrocketed his swinging strike rate and K%. In his start on Saturday, he wasn’t great but got the win thanks to an offensive explosion. The Orioles are deploying Chris Davis almost every day, which should tell you how poor their lineup is. Perez should be good for at least five to six strikeouts in this one (maybe 3 from C Davis) and a good chance at a win. Stream

Jered Eickhoff (SP – PHI), 2% Owned at home vs MIA, Friday 4/26
Eickhoff has been called up with the move to send Pivetta down to the Minors and he gets the Marlins at home next week. Look, Eickoff missed most of 2018 with injuries and hasn’t been good since 2016 but he seems to have a better pitch mix. His fastball is not good and he’s throwing it a lot less than in 2017. Getting the Marlins at home should help keep his ratios in check. The Phillies offense should put up plenty of run support against Jose Urena. I’d look to stream Eickhoff in 14-team leagues and deeper. Stream lightly here

Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN), 10% owned Home vs BAL, Sunday 4/28

I already bashed the Orioles in the Perez blurb but can what else can we say about them? We know they strike out a lot. Would you believe me if I told you Odorizzi has a 14.3% swinging strike rate and has allowed just a 66.4% contact rate? That’s over 10% lower than the league average! We have to keep in mind that Odorizzi is a junkballer and can struggle to find the plate. There’s risk here but I like that this start is at home. Stream

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(Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

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Hot/Cold: Mid-Week Buy/Sell/Hold (Fantasy Baseball)

This series is going to be a little bit different than your typical buy/sell/hold article. I’ll be categorizing players as either HOT or COLD based on their performance over the past week. I won’t just be covering players that are available on the wire or can be bought for cheap. While those players will be discussed from time to time, I will also discuss the early round players who are showing improvements and could outperform their ADP or vice-versa. I’ll be referencing FanGraphs, BaseballSavant, etc showing metrics that back up my claims. Let’s get to some polarizing players over the last week.

Hot

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B – KC)
Would you believe that Hunter Dozier is hitting .300 with four homers and has dropped his strikeout rate by 11% from last year? His metrics back it up, he’s in the top seven percent in terms of average exit velocity, expected wOBA, and expected slugging. Dozier had a solid barrel rate last season but his high strikeout rate killed his batting average. Now that he’s improved his contact rate by six percent and his O-swing (swings outside the zone) by a whopping 12.8%, he’s become a complete hitter. He hasn’t even sacrificed his power or hard contact.

That tells a nice story there. What’s also interesting is that his speed is above average. He only stole two bags on five attempts last year but given the Royals aggressiveness, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dozier chipped in with 5-8 stolen bases this year. I don’t think he’ll sustain a .300 BA but I’m BUYING here.

Jose Altuve (2B – HOU)
Well, it’s official, the juiced ball is back! Altuve was hampered by injuries last year and now has blasted six bombs in the last week+. This is more than just the juiced ball though. Altuve has increased his launch angle to 16.2 degrees, an jump of nearly seven degrees from the last two seasons. He’s also hitting the ball harder, which is great given his new fly ball approach. Now, his contact rate is down a bit, so he might be selling out for power. That’s OK, because we have seen what it has done for Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in previous seasons. Maybe Altuve’s average drops to .285-.290 but he has a legit shot at 30 homers if he can carry this approach through the entire season. I’d BUY him as a top 10 player but I doubt his owners are selling.

Marcell Ozuna (OF – STL)
Any chance I get to write about Ozuna, I do it. I loved Ozuna coming into the season and he has not disappointed hitting .293 with seven homers and even chipped in with two steals. His batted ball profile looks great, his launch angle is up nearly four percent and his barrel rate is at an impressive 15%. BUT, yes there’s a but, his contact rates are bad. Like, really bad. His in-zone contact is down 12%! That’s a big problem. Part of what made Ozuna so good was his ability to hit for power and limit the strikeouts. If his K% jumps to 25-26%, then he’s more of a .250-.260 hitter rather than a .290 hitter. The good news is, if he maintains his elevated fly ball rate, he could reach 30 to 35 homers. I’m holding and hoping his contact rate improves, if it does, he’s a HUGE BUY.

Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT)
Last night, Musgrove just gave up his first runs of the season in his third start and his ERA sits at a cool 0.81. His control is simply fantastic evidenced by his 21:4 K:BB ratio. Keeping walk rates down and inducing weak contact is how Musgrove thrives. I’m intrigued by his maturation as a pitcher but I have two concerns. One, his injury history, he’s never thrown more than 150 innings in a single season (including minors) and never more than 115.1 innings in a Major League season. The second concern is pitching to contact. The way the ball is flying, I have some concerns that his normally fantastic HR rate will jump up. That being said his slider and changeup have both generated a ton of swinging strikes and combined for 12 in last night’s start. I believe in his upside and can foresee around a strikeout per inning, he just needs to stay healthy. HOLD/BUY

Marcus Stroman (SP – TOR)
Wait, Marcus Stroman is striking out more than a batter per inning?! It’s true and he’s really increased his slider usage at the expense of his sinker. The good news is he hasn’t sacrificed much in terms of ground ball rate. His slider is a  very good pitch, it’s getting more horizontal movement and is allowing less contact on the pitch. Unfortunately for Stroman, the only other pitch that generates a swinging strike rate over 10% is his cutter at just over 11%. I like the pitch mix change but once the home runs start flying, his ERA is going to inflate. You likely got him on the cheap so I’d hold while he’s pitching well and flip him after a few more starts.

Cold

Mookie Betts (OF – BOS)
This really pains me to write this about my beloved Mookie Betts but he’s off to a very slow start. He’s currently hitting just .212 with three homers and only one stolen base. What’s going on, a slow start or something else? Well actually, Betts’ O-Swing 13.6% with a swinging strike rate of 4%, both would be career lows. His swing rate sits at just 33.3%. He’s being ultra-patient and his contact rates are off the charts but it hasn’t translated into success. His walk rate is great but his BABIP is a paltry .220. That’s not going to last but it’s thanks to an extremely low 13.7% line drive rate. Let’s all sit back and relax, this is Mookie Betts we are talking about. He’s, of course, a BUY/HOLD. I’d buy him for $0.95 on the dollar if possible. Maybe you can flip Yelich for him? Then again Yelich is out of his mind right now with four homers in two games.

Jose Peraza (2B/SS – CIN)
Peraza turned a nice profit for owners last year who invested hitting for average, stealing bases and providing unexpected mid-teens power. The expectations were that he would hit atop an improved Reds lineup but the Reds have realized that getting on base is more important than speed. I discussed how I believed Peraza’s power was a mirage last season, here. This year, he’s hit one homer and stolen just one base while batting near the bottom of the Reds lineup. What’s really concerning is his plate discipline. He’s offered at pitches outside the zone over 50% of the time and has not drawn a single walk. His in-zone contact is still very good but he’s gotten behind in the count nearly 75% of the time and it’s lead to an uncharacteristic 26.4% strikeout rate. His contact rates are weak and his fly ball rate is 50% which is not ideal for a weak hitting speedster. I’d SELL for 85 cents on the dollar but wouldn’t give him away because I think he bounces back to give 80% of his production from last year.

Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)
Aaron Nola has now given up five earned runs in three straight starts and owns a 7.66 ERA with a 1.66 WHIP. Scanning his metrics, his velocity looks good, pitch mix is fine, BABIP is neutral, so what is it? Well, his first-pitch strike rate is an abysmal 48.3%, down 21% from last year! Yes, 21%! Instead of getting ahead of batters nearly 70% of the time, he’s working from behind far too often which has elevated his walk rate. Combine that with a 60% strand rate and a home run rate three times higher than last year and here we are. Nola’s zone rate is OK, so I’d expect him to improve his F-Strike% and lower those walks. Given the juiced ball and his home park, Nola will likely end up with a HR/9 slightly over 1.0, so if you’re expecting a sub-3.00 ERA, you may be disappointed. I think something closer to 3.40-3.50 is where he ends up with a little over a strikeout per nine innings. I’m holding Nola unless you can’t get close to 100% of his preseason value.

Corey Kluber (SP – CLE)
I could write about a dozen top 20 starters having poor starts to the season but let’s discuss Klubot. His 6.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP are very ugly but his walk rate sits at a career-high 10.8%. He’s never had a walk rate higher than 6.6% in any full season in the Majors. His skills look fine to me but his zone rate is down five percent. The difference between Kluber and Nola is that Kluber is still getting ahead of hitters over 65% of the time. He’s suffering from an inflated BABIP (.390) and a low strand rate (60%). Both metrics will stabilize at some point and Kluber should get back to his low-3s ERA with a great WHIP. I’d probably slot him just ahead of Nola going forward and call him a moderate BUY candidate.

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Photo Credit: John Sleezer

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Starting Pitchers to Stream 4/15-4/21 (Fantasy Baseball)

Last week did not start well but I was salvaged by Trevor Richards and Jeff Samardzija. Here are the results from last week.

Week 2
4/8-4/14 Name IP H ER BB K W QS
2 Jordan Zimmermann 4.33 4 4 2 4 0 0
2 Freddy Peralta 3.33 8 7 1 5 0 0
2 Trevor Richards 6 1 0 5 7 0 1
2 Frankie Montas 6 3 3 1 3 1 1
2 Jeff Samardzija 7 3 0 1 7 1 1
2 Michael Pineda 6 8 3 0 5 1 1
32.66 27 17 10 31 3 4
4.68 ERA 1.13 WHIP

The ERA isn’t good, there’s no way around that but when you consider the league-wide ERA is 4.40, it’s not quite a killer. Besides, the quality start and win totals are solid and the 1.13 WHIP is fantastic. The average WHIP in MLB is currently 1.32, so that’s something! Overall, it was a mixed bag but Freddy Peralta did us in. I’ll try to avoid that blow-up, but that’s part of the game. Here are the streaming options for week 3 4/15-4/21.


Trevor Richards (SP – MIA) – 24% Owned; 4/15 Home vs CHC
Why not role with Richards in a second straight week? Yes, the Cubs are hitting well but Miami is not a great place to hit. Richards really has one great pitch and it’s his changeup. It’s amazing though. Since the start of 2018, the results against the change are .154/.215/.260 with a crazy-low .122 wOBA! It nets a ton of strikeouts and he’s throwing it nearly 40% of the time. Now, his fastball has gained some movement and is getting more swings and misses but he’s also struggling to throw it for strikes, so his walk rate is up. This is a toss-up but I’m leaning in favor of Richards given the fact that he’s pitched better at home in his career. STREAM (but tread lightly)

Jake Odorizzi (SP – MIN) – 12% owned; 4/15 Home vs TOR
The Blue Jays are striking out 28% of the time, good (bad) for second most in the Majors. They are also batting just .202 with a putrid .273 wOBA. There are some rumblings about Vlad Jr, getting the call soon but I think we are still about a week away from that happening. Odorizzi has some serious strikeout upside in this matchup. His walk rate is very high but it’s not an issue with his zone rate and first pitch strike percentage; those are near league-average. Hitters aren’t chasing his pitches outside the zone but they also can’t hit them in the zone either. I’ll risk taking advantage of the Blue Jays aggressiveness and Stream.

Jordan Lyles (SP – PIT), 3% Owned @DET 4/16
The Tigers are ranked 27th in wOBA and currently carry a 27% strikeout rate as a team. You know that when I start with how bad the team is, it means the streamer isn’t very good. Well, obviously, Lyles is just three percent owned! This is a flier. The Pirates starters have been great thus far and Lyles is showing some swing and miss in his game. His overall contact and strikeout rates are both better than league average. There’s regression coming of course, but I like that Lyles has two swings and misses pitches in his curve and changeup. Miggy doesn’t scare me anymore and Niko Goodrum is batting cleanup. Stream

Caleb Smith (SP – MIA) 10% owned Home vs WAS 4/19
Here’s the deal. Caleb Smith might be the best Marlins starting pitcher this year. He utilizes a good slider, a solid changeup and his fastball is more than serviceable. I don’t love this matchup but Smith might be good enough to overcome a deep Nationals lineup at home.  His
swinging strike rate sits at 16.2% which ranks seventh among starters with over 10 innings pitched this season. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto are among the most difficult outs in baseball and Smith is going against Scherzer in this matchup. Let’s put this option under the stream but don’t expect a win or quality start here. I’m expecting 5+IP with a couple of earned runs and a 1.25ish WHIP with 6 strikeouts. If that will help you mid-week, go ahead and stream.

Anibal Sanchez (SP – WAS) 16% owned @MIA 4/19
It has not been a great start to the season for Sanchez but the cutter/changeup combination is back! His pitch mix is nearly identical to last season with nearly 50% CT/CH. He was extremely successful last year and I think he will be a fine backend starter or streamer this year. The Marlins in Miami is a dream matchup. Are they the worst team offensively in the league? No, but they are tied for 26th, so don’t overthink this one. Stream

Derek Holland (SP – SF) 16% Owned @PIT 4/20
Holland had a rough couple of starts but really got on track against the Padres at home this week giving up one ER with nine strikeouts. He relies heavily on his breaking balls to put away hitters via the strikeout. The Pirates have produced just an 86 wRC+ thus far in 2019. I would prefer this game be played in Oracle Park but PNC Park plays well for pitchers. Holland goes up against Chris Archer in this one, so a win may be difficult but I like Holland’s chances to reach a quality start with solid ratios and 5+ strikeouts. Stream.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Source: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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Looking at Sample Sizes for Fantasy Baseball

If you’re on Twitter at all, you’ll notice many people taking their victory laps on players through the first week or two. I’m guilty of it. Just look at my tweets about Ketel Marte or Zach Eflin. I have failed to mention Jackie Bradley Jr. or Travis Shaw, two players I was very high on in the offseason (and still am). The point is, there’s more than 90% of the season left to be played, so we need to take a step back. I’ve included two charts below that summarize sample sizes for hitters and pitchers and the “stabilizing point” for many of the metrics. There’s been a lot of research over the years where relative conclusions have been made and I’m not a statistical expert, so I am taking their word for it.


What the stabilizing point means is that a player is likely to repeat his performance if his skills remain exactly the same. It is not a predictor of future performance. A player who changes his approach or gains/loses skills renders the previous sample size data to be somewhat meaningless. However, baseball players are creatures of habit, so you can at least feel comfortable knowing that unless you hear, read, or see a change, this data can be useful going forward. Let’s dive into hitters metrics.

(Note: BIP=Balls in Play; AB=At-Bats; PA=Plate Appearances; BF=Batters Faced)

Stabilization Rate for Hitters - Sample Sizes

MetricNo. PA, AB, or BIPGames Started to Stabilize
Strikeout rate (K%)60 PA~15 games started
Walk rate (BB%)120 PA~30 games started
XBH rate1610 PA:~402 games started
HR rate (HR%)170 PA:~42 games started or 45 FB hit
Batting Average (AVG)910 AB:~260 games started
On Base Percentage (OBP)460 PA~115 games started
Slugging Percentage (SLG)320 AB~100 games started
Isolated Slugging (ISO)160 AB~50 games started
Groundball Rate (GB%)80 BIP~29 games started
Fly Ball Rate (FB%)80 BIP~29 games started
Line Drive Rate (LD%)600 BIP~218 games started
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)50 FB~61 games started at a 30% FB%
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)50 FB~45 games started at a 40% FB%
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)50 FB~36 games started at a50% FB%
BABIP820 BIP~298 games started
Hard Contact% (Fangraphs)80 BIP~29 games starts
Exit Velocity (Statcast)45 BIP~16 games started
Launch Angle (Statcast)50 BIP~18 games started
Hit Distance (Statcast)60 BIP~22 games started
Swing%50 PA~13 games started
Contact Rate (Contact%)100 PA~25 games started
*Where r^2 is 0.5

What we notice is that batting average, BABIP, extra-base hit rate, and line drive rate won’t stabilize within a single season. We can essentially ignore them for in terms of a sample size to date, except of course realizing a player with a .100 BABIP or a .500 BABIP will normalize. What we do see is that swing rate (swing%) and strikeout rate (K%) stabilize at just 50 and 60 plate appearances respectively. We already have some hitters beyond or approaching these numbers. We can see that players like Jose Peraza, Jonathan Schoop, and Adalberto Mondesi have extremely high swing rates (over 60%) and are likely to remain high to rest of the season unless they change their approach. On the other end of the spectrum Ben Zobrist, Andrew McCutchen, and Mookie Betts have well below-average swing rates. Mookie continues to be a more patient hitter than he was in his early 20s and he’s become a much more complete player. Cutch has always been patient and now that he’s leading off for the Phillies, he’s seeing even more pitches which is great!


Now for strikeout rate. Matt Chapman is striking out just 8.6% of the time compared to 23.7% last year. This is huge. Also interesting to note, Cody Bellinger has only struck out just 11.8% of the time after 23.9% in 2018. We aren’t at the stabilizing point just yet and opposing pitcher quality can play a role, so I’m not going to draw any hard conclusions. Even still, it looks like both Bellinger and Chapman have worked on and improved their plate discipline and contact rates. They could both be in for monster years and maybe even in the discussion for MVP. On the other hand, Ramon Laureano, Willy Adames, and Aaron Judge have elevated strikeout rates early on. We knew they would have elevated K rates and I’m confident Aaron Judge will still succeed despite the swing and miss because he’s done it before. But, Laureano and Adames have me concerned. They don’t have Judge’s elite exit velocities and could be at risk of losing playing time especially with their sub-3.0% walk rates.

A few other metrics to look at soon are the Statcast metrics. Depending on how much contact a player is making, somewhere between 16 and 20 games played those metric stabilize. The aforementioned Bellinger and Christian Yelich both averaging nearly 96 MPH on balls in play. Yoan Moncada is another player who has had a hot start and seems to be putting up elite metrics to back it up. Don’t worry about Ronald Acuna, he’s striking the ball well and things should turn around for him quickly (He smoked a home run last night). I have some concern for Charlie Blackmon, Adam Jones, and Jurickson Profar. They are near the bottom of the list in terms of exit velocity, so keep an eye on them moving forward.

Stabilization Rates for Pitching Metrics - Sample Size

MetricNo. BF, AB, BIPGames Started or IP to Stab
Strikeout Rate (K%)70 BF~17.1 IP
Walk Rate (BB%)170 BF~41.5 IP
Hit By Pitch (HBP%)640 BF~156 IP
XBH Rate1450 BF~353 IP
HR Rate (HR%)1320 BF~322 IP
Batting Average (AVG)630 BF~153.7 IP
On Base Percentage (OBP)540 BF~131.7 IP
Slugging Percentage (SLG)550 AB~134.1 IP
Isolated Slugging (ISO)630 AB~153.7 IP
Groundball Rate (GB%)70 BIP~24.5 IP
Fly Ball Rate (FB%)70 BIP~24.5 IP
Line Drive Rate (LD%)650 BIP~158.5 IP
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)400 FB~484.8 IP at 30% FB Rate
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)400 FB~363.6 IP at 40% FB Rate
HR per FB Rate (HR/FB)400 FB~290.9 IP at 50% FB Rate
Soft Contact% (Fangraphs)325 BIP~118.2 IP
Exit Velocity (Statcast)175 BIP~63.6 IP
Launch Angle (Statcast)45 BIP~16.4 IP
Hit Distance *Statcast)100 BIP~36.4 IP
*Where r^2 is 0.5

Well, it looks like home run rates will not stabilize within a single season.

Let’s look at a couple of pitchers who have thrown enough innings to warrant a “stable” strikeout rate. Of course, Max Scherzer has another great strikeout rate sporting a 35.9% K rate through his first 19 innings. He looks primed to finish inside the top three SPs once again this year. Jose Berrios has a 27.6% strikeout rate through his first three starts after 25.4% K rate last year. It will be interesting to see if he can improve on his strikeout rate for the second straight year. I’m concerned about Miles Mikolas who did not post high strikeout totals last year but his K rate through 16 innings this year is just 11.3%. Keep an eye on him, he may not be shallow mixed league worthy going forward.


Ground ball and fly ball rates also stabilize relatively quickly. Take Justin Verlander, who succeeds by throwing high heat up in the zone. He gives up a lot of weak fly balls and popups with this strategy. So far through his first three starts, his ground ball rate sits at 45.8% after a groundball rate of just 29.1% last year. That’s a stark difference. We are still at least one start away from the stabilizing point but he’s throwing his fastball less often (12% less) and introducing a changeup. Given the pitch mix change, the increased groundball rate is starting to make some sense.

Launch angle is the Statcast metric that stabilizes the quickest. There’s Marco Estrada with a launch angle of an incredible 34.5 degrees! This is what he does as his career LA is 21.6 degrees but he typically induces a ton of popups. Currently, his popup rate is an insane 30%. That won’t last but he might be a decent streamer when he pitches at home in that big ballpark. Scherzer’s launch angle is just 11.3 degrees after 20.3 degrees last year. He’s another pitcher who succeeds similarly to Verlander by throwing high-heat. However, there has not been any changes with his current pitch mix. It’s something to monitor but it could mean fewer home runs. Scherzer has averaged 25.8 home runs per year the last four seasons.


Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Credit: by Steve Slowinski
FanGraphs

Data Sources:

Sources

by Jonah Pemstein
September 19, 2016
Fangraphs
Russell A. Carleton
Baseball Prospectus
by Eric Seidman
May 22, 2009
FanGraphs

Pizza Cutter

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Starting Pitchers to Stream – Week 2 (4/8-4/14): Fantasy Baseball

My apologies for missing last week, things were hectic to start the season! I’m back and I plan on getting a weekly article out either on Saturday or Sunday for starting pitcher streaming options for the following week. I’ll be using the FantasyPros ownership rate that combines Yahoo and ESPN ownership rates. The threshold for a streamer is 25% owned and under. I did this for the first time all of last year and here’s how I did last season. I love looking back and realizing I streamed Matt Boyd a total of seven times! Overall, he performed well for me and now he’s breaking out this year! No streaming Boyd this year as his ownership has jumped to about 40%, which is far too low. Let’s find out who this year’s Matt Boyd is.

I am hoping to pile up more strikeouts and wins without hurting those ratios. Without further ado, here are my week 2 streamers. Here were last season’s streaming results

IP ERA WHIP K W
Season Totals 666.0 3.57 1.15 615 41

Jordan Zimmerman (SP – DET) – 16% Owned; 4/9 Home vs CLE
I know that I said I wanted more strikeouts in the intro and Zim isn’t going to help there. It’s a long season though fellas. Zimmerman has been lucky with a .184 BABIP and an 87.5% strand rate, so those numbers are clearly going to regress. He is throwing his slider and curveball more frequently while deploying his fastball less often. That’s good because his breaking balls perform much better than his terrible fastball. The Indians have produced the league’s second-lowest offensive production with a .221 wOBA and are striking out over 30% of the time. This seems to be a safe six-inning quality start with 4-5 strikeouts. STREAM

Freddy Peralta (SP – MIL – 25% Owned; 4/9 Away vs LAA
Peralta twirled eight shutout innings with an amazing 11 strikeouts against the Reds in Great American Ballpark no less. I told you in the intro I wanted to seek out more strikeouts this season and early in the year is where I can grab them. His velocity is up about 1.5 MPH which is a big deal since his fastball was sub-92 MPH last year. Peralta has some deception in his delivery and the Angels are not familiar with it. The Angels have only managed to hit five home runs to date and will be without Upton and Ohtani. Feel free to use Peralta in the road here and just hope Trout doesn’t make him pay. STREAM

Trevor Richards (SP – MIA) – 22% Owned; 4/10 @ CIN
Here’s another high-risk, high-reward streamer this week. At some point, the Reds are going to heat up, but let’s hope the weather stays cool and Richards stays red-hot. The Reds are rock bottom in the Majors with a .221 wOBA and a 27.2% K rate. That’s almost like an entire team of Chris Davis’. Richards changeup is arguably one of the best in the game and he’s throwing it 36% of the time. How good is his change? Well, it produced swings outside the zone over 50% of the time with a 36% strikeout rate against in 2018. This isn’t a lock but how many streamers have 10 K upside? STREAM

Frankie Montas (SP – OAK) – 7% Owned; 4/10 @BAL
Montas has bumped up his velocity early on this season and has added a splitter. Montas averaged 98.1 MPH on his fastball in his first two starts and the splitter, on average induces the most swings and misses. Montas has some serious strikeout upside against a Baltimore team that loves to swing and miss. I would prefer this game to be in Oakland but beggars can’t be choosers. My only fear is his control which could mess with his ratios. However, I’ll still gladly take Montas and his 7% ownership rate but don’t expect seven innings. STREAM

Jeff Samardzija (SP – SF) – 5% Owned; 4/11 Home vs COL
Shark is back, well kind of. The Rockies are one of the worst teams offensively on the road. In fact, last year, they produced a 79 wRC+ on the road, that’s 21% below league average. They are just as bad to start this year as well. Couple that with the game being at home in Oracle Park and I just don’t see a poor outing from Samardzija. The problem here is, I don’t see much upside in terms of strikeouts. I’d stream him if you are looking for ratios but not much else.

Michael Pineda (SP – MIN) – 17% Owned; 4/12 @DET
Pineda looks good coming off of Tommy John Surgery and this will be his third start of the season. I’d expect something closer 90-95 pitches and hopefully six innings from the big man. Detriot is going to be a target to stream against and my early research looking at HR Park Factors show that Detroit is not a good park for home runs. I’ve even seen Niko Goodrum hit out of the cleanup spot in one game for the Tigers this past week. Let’s hope this start gives Pineda some confidence going forward in his comeback. STREAM

Domingo German (SP – NYY) 19% Owned; 4/13 vs CHW
When I said I wanted strikeout upside, I meant it! German has control issues and is inconsistent, there’s no doubt about that. His strikeout upside is huge, however. Wait, am I backtracking? The White Sox have had a nice start to the season with a better lineup than appears on paper. Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson have been hot recently and the middle of the order looks a little scary with Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez. I fear that lefty power bats, Yonder Alonso, and Daniel Palka could do some damage as well. There’s a ton of strikeout upside here but given his scary walk rates, I’m staying away from German in this one. Yup, I’m backtracking.

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