StrategyJune 6, 2010

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Buy Low, Sell High: The Brave and the Bold - 4 comments

By André Walker

Buy Low

MLB: APR 26 Diamondbacks at Rockies

Dan Haren: There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Dan Haren second half slump. But I’m going to be brave and bold here to say that you shouldn’t expect it. That’s right. I, André Walker, am predicting no second half slump for Dan Haren. What causes me to go against the seemingly inevitable trend? Well, looking at the splits by month and by the half season, Haren’s K rates, BB rates, GB/FB rates, LD rates, and velocity are all pretty consistent. The main disparities to look at are BABIP and HR/FB, the two most often-cited luck factors. In pretty much every case in history where bad luck wasn’t involved, getting worse in either of these corresponds with a player getting worse in at least one of those other categories. And boy, are those splits bizarre. Haren’s career BABIP is .318 in July, .327 in August, and a ridiculous .343 figure in August. His HR/FB stays in the 10% area from April to July, then in August it rockets to a stratospheric 18.4%. His FIP increases only slightly past the halfway point, and believe it or not, his xFIP is actually lower in the second half! Currently, his 2010 BABIP stands at .342, HR/FB at 17%, and xFIP at 3.22 (sixth best in the league). He takes the mound every five games with the league’s third best defense according to UZR. It may be a bit much to try and reverse five years worth of trends in primary statistics, but if you have any faith in these secondary statistics, just swallow your guts and make the trade. Even the most knowledgeable sabermetrics geeks believe in Haren’s second half slump, so you don’t have to be in a 10-team public league to take advantage.

Perceived value: 8th round

Carlos Quentin: Speaking of inexplicable five-year trends, we find ourselves in yet another year where Quentin has a BABIP well below the usual league norm. His career high in BABIP was in his breakout 2008 campaign (.278), and his career total is .249 in over 1,600 PA. Now, people will instantly point toward his low LD rate (15.8% career), but multiple studies show that the tried-and-horribly-horribly-false method of justifying low BABIPs with low LD rates is pretty much the lamest thing you can do (worse than wearing Crocs but better than being Steve Phillips). Another wrinkle to the statistical story that only serves to confuse me more is that while Quentin has never had a BABIP above .278 in the majors, he never had a mark below .313 in the minors. According to Minor League Splits, he did all that with a batted ball profile almost identical to the one he currently sports. Weird, huh? His BABIP currently sits at .203, which is very, very low no matter which way you slice it.

Perceived value: 11th-12th round

Sell High

Johan Santana: Hey, remember Johan the ace? Yeah, me neither. Wait, you say you do? Way to not play along with the joke, jerk. Anyway, in 2010 he was drafted around the 4/5 turn on average, with many people hoping for him to benefit from the much-ballyhooed Citi Field Effect. Up to this point, he appears to be performing pretty well in the TV stats, with his 2.76 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Vintage Johan, right? Of course not, you’re thinking, he must be in the Sell Highs for a reason. Good guess, faithful readers, because his peripherals all signal a nosedive. His ratios are supported by a .268 BABIP and 5.5% HR/FB. And he better get used to relying on his fielders if he continues to miss fewer bats than he has in his entire career; his 6.55 K/9 is by far the lowest he’s ever put up as a starter. It’s not even just one stat that shows problems, it’s the whole shebang. He’s inducing fewer swinging strikes, higher contact rates, and fewer swings on pitches outside the zone. A byproduct of this is a 2.76 walk rate; still respectable, but that

Arizona Diamondbacks vs St. Louis Cardinals

doesn’t change the fact that it’s the highest walk rate we’ve seen from him since 2002. He’s been consistently losing velocity since 2006 (93.1 mph fastball), and now sits at a lukewarm 89.2 mph. Unless something changes drastically, it won’t be long before Johan the ace is little more than a distant memory.

Perceived value: 4th-5th round

Colby Rasmus: Heading into 2009, Rasmus was listed as the #3 overall prospect by Baseball America. He was advertised as having elite five-tool talent, and performed well at every minor league level. So far this year, he has torn up the league, slamming nine home runs and stealing six bags while hitting a respectable .291. He’s even upped his walk rate to a fantastic 15.0%. He’s even earned starts against lefties recently (Wolf and Narveson on Friday and Saturday). And with that are your selling points (remember, be subtle; you don’t want your potential trade partner to think/know you’re up to something!). Here’s the stuff you don’t advertise: his .394 BABIP and his sky-high 35.2% strikeout rate. The nine other players who have a strikeout rate north of 30% have a combined .240 AVG. Between the majors and minors, his career BABIP is just about .300, so it’s safe to say he won’t sustain anywhere near that .394 number. If you drop the BABIP down to .300 and the HR/FB rate to 12-14%, suddenly Rasmus becomes Drew Stubbs with half the steals. So while he’s still able to maintain the illusion, it’s time to sell, sell, sell. Unless, of course, your league counts Smooth Home Runs (SHR) as a stat category.

Perceived value: 9th round

Fowler Watch 2010

Ladies and gentlemen (ah, who am I kidding, it’s just the ladies who visit this site), it’s finally happened. Fowler has been sent down to AAA. He’s been doing well (.538 OBP with eight hits in 20 AB, including a HR), but there’s no room for him at the major league level at the moment. I’m about a half-em away from organizing a movement to get Hawpe traded. I have not yet decided whether or not it would be an armed rebellion against Dan O’Dowd.

All stats are current either as of Saturday or as of some ungodly early morning hour of Sunday at which no living creature should be awake.

André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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4 Responses to “Buy Low, Sell High: The Brave and the Bold”

  1. User avatar MashinSpuds says:

    Better yet, organize a movement to get Hawpe traded to the Royals. Banish him!

  2. User avatar RenPastana says:

    you’re saying to sell Rasmus based on B.A. only? if you play in a decent league, everyone already knows his .290 BA is unsustainable. And who sells a player based on one category only? Horrible call here since noone in their right mind would draft/trade for Rasmus with hopes of a solid BA! Also, half of the world knows Rohan’s well on his way down in his career and the other half doesn’t care about baseball period but I will take low to mid 3’s ERA with a 1.15 WHIP any day and a K/9 over 6 (not much different from your C.Carpenters at all). I do like the gut call on D. Haren this year though…he’s got something to prove in the second half given his below-avg start

  3. RP, with that gigantic strikeout rate paired with a regression to the .300-.320 BABIP range, Rasmus’ AVG would be like .220-.230. He would have the most home runs in Venableville, I’ll give him that. Still useful for the counting stats, but definitely not 9th round value.

    As for Johan, low to mid 3’s ERA with a 1.15 WHIP isn’t where his peripherals are. Think low 4’s with a 1.25 WHIP. Chris Carpenter? Think Roy Oswalt circa 2009.

  4. Who 1′d my article? JUSTIFY YOURSELF!


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