StrategyApril 18, 2010

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Buy Low, Sell High: Fastballs and You - 1 comments

By André Walker

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Charlie Haeger won’t strike out 372 batters this season, or that Prince Fielder won’t be homer-less for long. The process of buying low and selling high isn’t trading Jose Guillen for Mark Teixeira, it’s finding your target and making an offer that would be reasonable from the other manager’s perspective. Because relative values are rarely discussed when people mention players to buy low or sell high, I’ll be adding a Perceived Value rating to each player. This will give a baseline of what kind of players to include in the deal, based on 12-team 5×5 mixed leagues. For example, last week I’d have given Jay Bruce a 12th round Perceived Value, meaning you could reasonably trade a 12th round player for him.

Buy Low

Justin Verlander:. In 2009, Verlander saw his fastball climb from a 93.6 MPH average the previous year to a blistering 95.6 MPH. He’s starting off 2010 even better, with a 96 MPH average through Saturday. Mike Fast’s article at THT documents the relationship between change in fastball velocity and runs allowed; of the 17 other pitchers that gained more than 1.5 MPH on their fastball between seasons, 13 of them gave up fewer runs than the previous year. Seven allowed at least two fewer per nine innings. In short, Verlander’s progress in 2009 was real. Oh, also, remember the beginning to his 2009 season, where he had a 9.00 ERA through four starts and proceeded to mow down opposing hitters the rest of the year? 2010 has a familiar flavor; his career ERA in March/April is 1.49 above his May-October ERA, he has a crazy low 41% strand rate (72% league average), and he has the third unluckiest ERA/xFIP split in the league so far.

Perceived Value: 7th-8th round

Jon Lester: What a strange line for the season. He’s burning worms like never before (3.60 GB/FB rate is almost double his career high), he hasn’t given up a single home run yet, and yet his ERA is a sky-high 7.20. The answer to this lies in his .422 BABIP, and to a lesser extent the 6 batters he’s walked. He’s had two years of sub-3 BB/9 numbers, and there’s little reason to believe he’s going to revert to his wilder 23-year-old self. The BABIP will come down because Beltre’s gilded glove will reverse the horrible fielding the Red Sox got from their third basemen last year (-11.7 UZR, second worst in the league), and also because a .422 BABIP is pants-droppingly insane.

Perceived Value: 7th round

Sell High

Casey McGehee: Other than the pronunciation of his name (I will forever pronounce it Mc-Gey-hee because Bob Brenly told me to), McGehee is giving me some troubles. Read up on my analysis of Garrett Jones in last week’s article, because everything about it pretty much applies to McGehee. His minor league ISO never topped .148, but he’s sitting at .207 in the majors. He hit 54 big flies in 2,577 minor league at-bats (47 AB per HR) and already has 20 in 416 MLB AB for a pace of 21 AB per HR. He’s more than doubled his HR rate from a 6-year sample size, which is pretty much unsustainable. The reason he’s getting so much hype now is because he’s producing from 2B, one of baseball’s thinnest positions for power. He’s looking like Aaron Hill circa 2009, but the real player holding the bat is more like Aaron Hill 2007: solid 15-18 HR power with a pretty good AVG to boot.

Perceived Value: 12th round

Michael Bourn: Yes, I know it seems strange to recommend a sell high on a speedster with 1 SB to his name so far, but you best be selling while 2009 is still in your potential trade partner’s mind. He’s hitting .351 as of Saturday, and is quickly making fantasy owners forget about his .229 AVG in ’08. Yes, he did hit a solid .285 last year, but he needed a .366 BABIP to do it. It’s likely that his BABIP will regress to the .325-.335 range, right with the rest of the speedy, no-power groundball hitters. His average should follow suit down to the .265-.275 range. And despite reaching first base 11 times this year, he’s only attempted one steal. If he drops down to, say, 45 steals, he becomes Willy Taveras 2.0. Unless you’re dependent on him to remain competitive in steals, I’d recommend shopping him around.

Perceived Value: 10th round

Fowler Watch 2010

Rockies manager Jim Tracy surprised me this week, starting Dexter in five of the Rockies’ six games. Unfortunately, Dexter might force Tracy’s hand due to his low AVG (.167 after Saturday’s 0/5 showing). He did make an amazing catch to save Ubaldo Jimenez’ no-hitter, so his defense could end up keeping him in the starting lineup until he starts hitting.

André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well-Below Average Glove.
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One Response to “Buy Low, Sell High: Fastballs and You”

  1. User avatar RPDfire007 says:

    Nice article. Im debating on buying low on Verlander, Lester or Greinke.


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