StrategyApril 25, 2010

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Buy Low, Sell High: Split the Difference - 14 comments

By André Walker

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano reacts after he gave up a two-run scoring hit to New York Mets batter Jose Reyes in New York

Buy Low

David Ortiz:
Alright, I’ll admit it. I was one of those people last April/May screaming that Ortiz was done. Many of us wanted to stick a fork in him, but he parried our relentless stabbing attempts and finished the season fairly strong. He’s been a slow starter over the course of his entire career, and age is giving us all a better excuse to explain his poor performance so far. But take a look at this:

Before May 20th: 14 R, 0 HR, 15 RBI, .203/.317/.293 rates
After May 20th: 63 R, 28 HR, 84 RBI, .250/.337/.517 rates

After turning on the light switch in ‘09, Ortiz mashed at a 40 HR/119 RBI clip. The .250 AVG may be a bit tough to stomach, but the discriminating fantasy owner can taste the succulent upside that Big Papi brings to the table. Don’t expect a steakhouse, but it’s not out of the question to get an IHOP meal for Taco Bell prices.

Perceived value: 19th round

Carlos Zambrano: His Opening Day start has clearly left the mother of all bitter tastes in Sweet Lou Piniella’s mouth. After that nightmare, Big Z has put up two good starts and one not-so-good one. And yet, to much fanfare, he was demoted to the bullpen last week. Guys who notch 26 strikeouts in 19.1 IP with a manageable walk rate don’t normally get torched for a .323 BAA. One can’t help but wonder whether his performance this year (for good or for bad) has to do with his drastically different pitch selection. And if you scroll just a bit down, you’ll see that batters are swinging at more outside pitches and making less contact overall than ever before in his career. So in short, he’s missing more bats but he’s allowing more hits? Zambrano has been the victim of terrible, terrible batted ball luck this year, with a .435 BABIP and a 21.1% HR/FB rate. Once Silva and Gorzelanny show their true colors, Big Z will be back with a vengeance.

Perceived value: 22nd round

BB: April 12th, 2010

Sell High

Adam Wainwright: Probably the best curveball in the game, coming off a Cy Young contending 19-win season, absolutely dealing so far in ’10. However, his .228 BABIP and 3.7% HR/FB tell a slightly different story. His season last year was a little lucky as is (80.4% LOB, 8.3% HR/FB, 3.36 xFIP vs. 2.63 ERA) and his strikeouts have regressed halfway to his pre-’09 rates which weren’t all that impressive. His breaking stuff is and always will be awesome but there’s only so much you can do with an average to below-average fastball. He’s showing less and less confidence in that heater (in his case, is it a cooler?) and I’m afraid that may catch up to him. I’d still consider him among the top of that second tier of pitchers but not in Lince/Halladay/Felix/Greinke territory.

Perceived value: 2nd-3rd round

Max Scherzer: Something’s going on with Mad Max. From a cursory glance, it appears he’s taken a big step forward; his ERA is down to 2.63 and his WHIP has fallen to 1.17, well below the 4.12/1.34 ratios last year. But at the same time, his K’s have dried up and his fastball has lost some zip. His seven-punchout Friday has him pointed in the right direction, but the overall problem remains. Until August of ’09, he was sitting comfortably in the 93.5 to 95 mph range, but then his velocity started tailing off to 91.5-ish mph. That drop has carried over to 2010, and with it he’s losing his intimidating presence on the mound. He’s never been a control pitcher, instead relying on his vicious fastball/slider combo to blow batters away. So goes the heat, so goes my faith in Max Scherzer.

Perceived value: 9th-10th round

Fowler Watch 2010

SB - D Fowler (28, 4th base off U Unknown/J Baker).

Thanks, Yahoo.

André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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14 Responses to “Buy Low, Sell High: Split the Difference”

  1. I went to IHOP this morning and ordered a Colorado Omelet in honor of Dexter Fowler.

    Guys, I think I have a problem.

  2. User avatar j24jags says:

    Very bold. I agree that Scherzer makes a nice sell high and that it’s only a matter of time until some sort of implosion, but I don’t agree on your other three players. I understand that Ortiz showed signs of life last year, but he looks dreadful this year. I know that if he was dropped in one of my leagues (All my leagues are 12+ teams mixed), I would not pick him up off the WW. As for Big Z, sure he MAY bounce back, but I will leave his risk to somebody else. IMO he is not worth the risk, he will be fairly inconsistent all year. Wainwright is tough. I’d say he was probably drafted around the 5th-7th rounds depending on your league, but I think his success is the real deal. Sure, if you can get 2nd round value for him, I’d probably take it, but I doubt most people would be willing to part with their 2nd rounder for him. I’d say his perceived value is closer to the 4th round, in which case he just may warrant being kept for that value. We will see though. Nice write-up.

  3. Ortiz not only “showed signs of life” last year, he practically tore up the league from 5/20 forward. Like I said, a 40 HR/119 RBI pace is nothing to scoff at. No way am I guaranteeing that return, but he’s definitely worth the flyer.

    Big Z is radically changing his pitching strategy and it’s been working pretty well. He’s just been _tremendously_ unlucky; it doesn’t make sense that he’s missing a ton more bats and still being hit hard. In a vacuum and with luck factors removed, this could end up being his best season yet.

    You’re right, 2nd round is probably too high to shoot for Wainwright, but you could easily deal him for most 3rd rounders. People don’t appreciate a good fastball anymore.

  4. HipHipJorge says:

    Have you watched Ortiz play this year? You buying a guy that is goin to the pen?

    However, you are SELLING, one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. This is just plain wow.

  5. Dude, when people say “sell high”, they don’t mean “he sucks and is playing way over his head right now”, it’s simply “he’s playing over his head right now”. That’s the case for Wainwright here. His peripherals imply regression from last year’s 2.63 ERA/206 K performance, since he got lucky with his strand rate and HR/FB and never put up that 8+ K/9 as a starter at any point in his career. That regression will still lead him to be a great pitcher but not a Cy Young contender.

    Also, people said the same stuff about Ortiz in ‘08 and ‘09. I said his perceived value was 19th round, making him the equivalent of a UTIL or CI rotation/backup. Almost no risk, fairly high reward.

    Same for Zambrano, he’s completely reinventing himself as a pitcher so you can’t really put the weight of judgment so heavily on the last few years. So far the results have shown to be positive, and hopefully the terrible luck factors don’t drive him back to his old pitching strategy. Besides, his stay in the bullpen depends on Silva and Gorzelanny being productive starters. In a lot of leagues, impatient owners are dropping Zambrano, and the potential for 3.30/1.30 ratios, solid wins, and an 8+ K/9 once he regains his rotation spot is worth dropping your worst player.

    I knew these choices would be controversial but I was hoping people would at least read the article. :/

  6. User avatar AussieDodger says:


    I’m not selling Scherzer, I think he’s still learning the AL, and so is his rookie catcher Avila.
    Maybe those two things are contributing to a lack of confidence to go all out.

    It would have to be a perfect storm of a deep bench and me paying 3c on the dollar to buy Ortiz.
    I think he’s “this” close to becoming a Giambi-esque NL pinch-hitter.

  7. First I’d like to point out that Lou Piniella made it clear that Zambrano’s move to the bullpen was temporary just because of how poorly they have done thus far. (5.68 ERA, 4.39 xFIP). Lou is looking to trade for a reliever and sent Zambrano to the bullpen to work on his mechanics or what not. It’s only a temporary solution and therefore he will return to his starting spot soon, which augments his “buy low” status. Second point I’d like to make here is that it seems though Ortiz is slumping yes, but people are judging him off the small sample size of the first month of the season. Everybody has a slump, including him, but there is a whole season of baseball and Ortiz is one of those veteran hitters will snap out of it. This makes him a “buy low” candidate as well considering there are going to be people who will panic in leagues and either drop or try to trade ortiz right away as is the case in two of my leagues. As for Wainwright and Scherzer, they may be “sell high” candidates, but that doesn’t mean “they are terrible and ship them right away,” just means that they aren’t going to be the “spectacular specimen” or what have you, that most make a big deal about. They will still will be solid but not as good as they numbers say they are presently. Again sample size strikes again. Don’t believe me, look at Carlos Silva’s numbers. There’s no way that ERA is realistic for the rest of the year and his xFIP will probably go up quite a bit. In conclusion, people need to actually read the article, and not make popularity, subjective influenced decisions based of the sole name of the player itself.

  8. Aussie – if you’re going to attribute Scherzer’s loss in velocity to learning the league, how do you account for the sudden drop in last August?

    Axis – excellent point on the Cubs seeking bullpen help from elsewhere, and the bad luck the Cubs pen has had so far. A 4.39 xFIP isn’t all that good, but they’re squarely average in that category (15th in xFIP, 27th in ERA). For example, Marshall has 14 K and no unintentional walks, but his .430 BABIP has him at a 3.72 ERA.

  9. HipHipJorge says:

    No worries. I read it. I simply do not agree with any of it. Nonetheless, you still do more for this site then I do, so who am I to talk.

  10. User avatar AquaMan2342 says:

    It’s funny….when Arizona traded Scherzer for what looked like not much, everyone in Detroit assumed we totally ripped them off. It’s been my belief that they have/had a hunch on him in some way.

  11. verb1999 says:

    Is the fact that David Ortiz has been benched in 4 of the last 6 games (all vs. lefties) anything to panic about? Would you guys assume this is only temporary, just as his slump is?

  12. User avatar ayebatter says:

    I drafted Ortiz on the heavy (bunch of leagues) in 2009, and he stunk so bad that I dropped him, only to watch him rip it up while playing for the lucky son-of-a-guns that were quicker than I on the wire. So I could see a repeat this year, if ya got room on your bench he could be a good pick up again.

  13. HipHipJorge says:

    Difference this year is we currently have another DH: Mike Lowell. Ortiz will not get the same chance he had last year.

  14. Have to disagree with your Sell High on Wainwright theory. Sorry but 3-4 starts in April is hardly enough data to come to a conclusion that he is showing less confidence in his fastball. Only once this year (against the Mets) did he not have his fastball working for him which regulary hits 91-92mph (i don’t consider that a cooler). Look it’s not unusual for starting pitchers to tinker with pitches and strategies early in the season. If his breaking stuff his working for him he’s going to continue to throw it until teams start to hit it. If you drafted Wainwright in the 5th to 7th round he’s a steal this year easily falls right outside the Top 5 pitchers in the league.


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