StrategyJune 26, 2010

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Buy Low, Sell High: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.S. - 3 comments

By André Walker

Now that we’re getting closer to the halfway point of the season, it’s time to do reviews of my previous picks to prove once and for all whether I’m an expert or an overpaid hack. Here’s the numbers from the day the Week 2 article went up to June 26.

Buy Low:
Justin Verlander: 79 IP, 8 W, 3.30 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 72 K
Jon Lester: 82 IP, 9 W, 1.98 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 88 K

Sell High:
Casey McGehee: 224 AB, .241 AVG, 25 R, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB
Michael Bourn: 226 AB, .243, 39 R, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 21 SB

Verlander and especially Lester were hits on the buy low side, and McGehee was a semi-hit on the sell high side. Bourn may be a wash, depending on how your team is built. If you can withstand the low AVG and nonexistent HR/RBI, then it was a miss. For what it’s worth, he’s ranked 220 on Yahoo, which falls into the 18th round.

But enough about the past. Let’s talk about the present, baby!

Buy Low

New York Yankees Curtis Granderson hits a 2-run homer in the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium in New York City on June 19, 2010.    UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Curtis Granderson: Grandy’s struggles against lefties have been well-documented, and that will prevent him from getting reliably close to .300 again. However, his secondary and tertiary stats don’t paint a picture of a .240 hitter, either. In his first 3 1/2 seasons, Granderson’s BABIP was in the upper .320s. In the last 1 1/2 seasons, it’s been about at .275. Now, some of this difference can be explained by Grandy hitting more balls up high and fewer down low, and as we’ve already covered in previous weeks, fly balls have a lower BABIP than grounders do. However, at the same time, he’s increased his LD% by a few ticks, which would partially offset the other changes in his batted ball profile. On top of that, he’s posted the second-highest speed factor of his career (7.7), and plus speed usually produces a plus BABIP. Now, AVG isn’t the only thing I expect him to improve. New Yankee Stadium is a well-documented bandbox, and there’s no reason for Grandy to post a lower HR/FB rate than he has in his career in neutral-ish Comerica Park. He’s also 6 for 6 in SB attempts this year (81% career), so hopefully Girardi will utilize his speed more on the basepaths for the rest of the year. Before the season I had him pegged for about 35 HR and 20 SB, and due to the three weeks he missed to injury, I’m going to have to tweak those numbers. At the end of the year, I’m thinking something like .267 AVG, 25 HR, 17 SB, which is still a very doable .280/33/20 pace over a full season from here on out.

Perceived value: 6th-7th round

James Shields: Allow me to introduce you to James Shields ’07. He’s a 25-year-old rising star with a mediocre fastball, but good secondary stuff and great control to make up for it. He happens to be very dismayed to learn that the 2010 version of himself is fading into the background. Shields is striking batters out at a higher rate than he ever has in his MLB career, which could be tied to the small uptick in his velocity. His fastball is averaging 91.3 compared to 90.3 for his career, and accordingly, his changeup has been more effective as a complement. Unfortunately, hitters have been sitting on his fastball to the tune of 15.6 batting runs against, good (bad?) for worst in the league. However, his changeup has shown significant improvement over ’08 and ’09. What this tells me is that his catchers have been calling a poor game with Shields on the mound, not knowing how to maximize the value of Shields’ below-average fastball. Sure enough, Shields’ ERA with rookie catcher John Jaso is more than twice his ERA with Dioner Navarro. Unfortunately, Navarro was sent to AAA on Thursday, leaving Jaso as Shields’ primary catcher. But as Jaso adjusts to Shields’ pitching style, the results should end up being much, much better than they have been. Their first three games together as battery mates were horrendous (15.2 IP, 30 H, 23 R, 20 ER, 5 BB), but since then they’ve been tolerable together (14 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 3 BB). Overall, Shields’ BABIP is .339 with the league’s second-best defense behind him, which points toward a correction closer to .300. His HR/FB rate is about 3% higher than his career average, so we can expect his career-high 14.5% figure to fall a bit. His 4.15 K/BB rate is 6th in the league. So yeah…buy.

Perceived value: 13th round

Sell High

Stephen Strasburg: Stras has been the undisputed king of baseball since his June 7 debut, and his star has risen in fantasy baseball accordingly. As if you needed to be told this, but this sell high recommendation does not apply to keeper/dynasty leagues. However, for this year, it’s a different story. So far, Strasburg has put up video game numbers…no wait, he turned the game difficulty to Rookie mode and then put up video game numbers. However, the four teams he’s faced have a combined OPS of .708, equivalent to the A’s that rank 24th in the league in the category. Teams will adjust and he will face better competition. Remember what happened to Heyward since his red-hot start? He’s OPSing .507 in June and is getting benched here and there. And even if Strasburg doesn’t go through that adjustment period, we still have his innings limit to contend with. He’s already thrown 80 innings between the majors and the minors, and Riggleman has stated that there will be a strict cap of 160 innings. Even in redrafts, we’ve seen Strasburg traded for Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, and their ilk. Let’s say Strasburg put up a 2.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 110 K in the last 80 innings. Even if he did put up those numbers, he would place somewhere 6th-9th among SP who will have a 40-50 inning advantage on him from here on out. He would be great, but he would still not even approach the value of Lincecum/Halladay/Ubaldo. The time is now to deal Strasburg. Aim high. Accept no substitutes.

Perceived value: 1st-2nd round

Josh Hamilton: There hasn’t been anyone even coming close to how blazing hot Hamilton has been in the last month or so. Eight homers, 22 runs, 27 RBI, and a .495 AVG in the month of June has rocketed him to #1 overall in Yahoo’s rankings. Of course, everyone remembers his monster 2008 season that led him to be a first round pick last year. People also remember his disappointing, injury-plagued 2009, but not as much since he’s been destroying the competition this year. He’s been pretty much injury-free so far in the 2010 regular season, but if you take a look at the handy Baseball Injury Tool, you’ll find out that he’s missed 162 days to injury in his three-year career. Also, his BABIP in June has been an insane .561. No question he’s been on fire, and that BABIP isn’t fully due to luck, but that streak is going to end. When it does, we’ll just have regular old awesome but injury-prone Josh Hamilton. He’s good enough to be worth a first rounder in return, yet he’s too risky to own for his first round potential. Let someone else take the risk.

Perceived value: 1st or early 2nd round

Fowler Watch 2010

Oh boy, Dexter picked a really bad time to get demoted. With Gonzalez, Smith, Hawpe, and Spilborghs all healthy and hitting, there’s no room at the major league level for Dexter unless he wants to convert to middle infield. He’s been mashing at AAA since being sent down; so far he’s put up a .347/.445/.584 slash line in 118 PA. He hit for the cycle and scored five runs last Sunday, following it up with a four-walk performance the next day. What role will he have on the MLB club in 2010? I have no friggin’ clue.

André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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3 Responses to “Buy Low, Sell High: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.S.”

  1. HipHipJorge says:

    I do not think you would get like value for hamilton. I simply cannot buy into Shields. 91 mph pitcher in the AL East. Walks to many. But, if the catchers start calling the right pitches maybe you are right.

    You crushed on Lester. I do not know who would have been dumb enough to sell him. Well done though.

  2. 2 walks per nine innings is “too many”? He’s 13th among active pitchers, and 6th in K/BB ratio. You’re just seeing his WHIP, which is inflated by the BABIP. Also, Hamilton was a first round pick just one year ago, and you may find someone who’s willing to deal a struggling star or even one playing well. And if you don’t end up getting a trade through, Hamilton’s a pretty decent risk to take.

  3. User avatar MashinSpuds says:

    I love the sell high on Strasburg idea. Unless you’re in a keeper league, that’s a great idea for anyone who needs a piece and has a pitching staff that can hold up with his departure.


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