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Player Breakdown :: Miguel Tejada
by Gil W.
Published: July 16, 2009, 4:41 pm

Miguel Tejada


 The All-Star Break has come and who would have thought that Miguel Tejada would have deserved to be in the All-Star game. The defense isn't exactly there for him, but his bat has woken up this year at 35 years old. Few people expected anything like this out of him, but here we are talking about it. 375 plate appearances into the season and Tejada has been the best hitting shortstop in the NL not named Hanley Ramirez. So what is he doing different this season to be such a productive player? Here are his 2009 stats to date:

2009 Stats
.329 BA
7 Home Runs
49 RBIs
48 Runs
2 SBs

First thing that I notice is that .329 BA. A .300 BA isn't rare for Tejada, but he has usually been just hovering around that mark over a full season rather than hit well over it like he has now. His career high over a season was .330 in 2006. That was the season that Tejada had a BABIP of .349. Similarly in 2009, his BABIP is at .341 which is a good bit above average. How much of that is luck and how much is better contact on the ball? His Line Drive rate is at a solid 19.1%. Good, but not good enough to have a .341 BABIP. He also has had a large number of IFFB, hitting them 15.2% of the time he's making contact with the ball. That's basically a guaranteed out. The bad news: that first half BA is likely going to regress. The good news: his final BA should still easily be over .300 and most likely around the .310-.315 mark.

A pretty noticeable change in the 2009 Tejada is the contact he's making on balls which has resulted in a lot more balls in play. The walks are down, the strikeouts are down, and the home runs are down. Nearly everything Tejada is hitting is being put into play for the defense to try and make an out on. His HR/FB ratio is at a career low of 7.1%, which goes along with his recent trend of losing power as well as getting up there in age. The BB/K ratio is the interesting part. Tejada has never been a walk machine but since coming to the Astros, he's cut his walk rate in half. Last year, that resulted in a miserable .314 OBP. This season though, he's cut down on the strikeouts to a career low 7.4% ratio. This is how he has maintained that high BA this year despite losing power and patience at the plate.

Going even deeper into the contact stats, Tejada this season is swinging at pitches at his usual percentage. There isn't any significant change in his swing% at pitches out of the zone vs. in the strike zone. The big difference has come in his contact on those pitches out of the strike zone. Over the past few years, he has improved at making contact with pitches out of the strike zone, and in 2009 he has been able to make contact with 75.5% of those pitches. For reference, the league average right now is 62.4%. There are a few reasons why this contact rate has improved. Maybe he is just getting really lucky this season. More likely than not though, he has narrowed down the pitches he swings at out of the strike zone to the one's he knows he can hit.

So this doesn't look like the Tejada that most people are used to nor does this look like a Tejada that is near the end of his career. Instead, this Tejada looks like a great contact hitting SS who will be able to hit enough doubles in the middle of the Astros lineup to be a great asset to a fantasy team. While the BA is a bit high, he should still end the season with a career high BA this season. This Tejada's fantasy value is probably the same as Michael Young's in 2006.

Feel free to send any requests for players for me to breakdown to gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com or stop by the forums and post a request.

Compare Tejada to the top drafted 2B here
Compare Tejada to the currently top ranked 2B here


Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Fantasy Playmakers for the stats. All Stats updated through July 15.



Player Breakdown :: Dustin Pedroia
by Gil W.
Published: June 28, 2009, 6:10 pm

Dustin Pedroia


 In his first full year in the league, he won the Rookie of the Year award. In his second full season, he won the Most Valuable Player award. So we're now in his third full season, Hall of Fame induction? Pedroia so far has disappointed a lot this season. A huge part of his value on the field comes from his defense, but last season he showed that he can be a great offensive player too (for a 2B at least). 2009 though is a different story as his numbers are down across the board. Overall, he hasn't been horrible at all, but lets see if we can see why he isn't hitting like he did as an MVP last season, or even as the ROY.

2009 stats
.292 Batting Average
2 Home runs
54 runs
30 RBIs
12 Stolen Bases

The most notable differences in 2009 vs. 2008 as far as fantasy stats are concerned is his lack of home runs as well as a decrease in his RBIs. First, lets look at the RBIs. RBIs are more a result of luck rather than skill and are very dependent on the offense around a player. Right now though, Pedroia has been moved to the lead-off spot for the Red Sox lineup which cuts his number of opportunities to hit with men on base down. Looking at the numbers, the Red Sox offense is on pace to do better than last year's (by runs scored) and Pedroia has an .848 OPS with RISP. It looks like the big difference in his RBI production is simply his HR difference. Last year, Pedoria had 27 RBIs on 17 HRs. This year, he's got 4 RBis on 2 HRs. For a guy hitting at the top of the order, he's clearly going to need to start hitting for some more power to get back to a reasonable amount of RBIs.

So lets take a look at his power this season. His SLG for his career before this season was .459 while he's only at .387 now. Compared to his minor league numbers, Pedroia's power this season is a bit low overall, but the HR numbers were to be expected. Last year's numbers suggest otherwise. Looking at the distance and position of his home runs over his career, something interesting pops out at you. First, he has yet to hit a HR to CF or RF in teh regular season. He has pulled all of his home runs. The other thing that pops out is that he has never cracked the 400 foot mark and most of his home runs are right around the 350 foot mark. This season, he has averaged exactly that between his two home runs which makes his 2.1 HR/FB% very easy to understand. Even last year, he still had a low HR/FB ratio of 7.8%, but due to his 726 PAs, he was able to have a solid total number of home runs.

Another thing to look at for Pedroia this season is his BA. Again, last season he was a .326 hitter and the year before that, he was at .317. The main difference is in his BABIP. While he was at .335 over the past 2 seasons, he's right at .312 this season. That difference has cost him about 20 points in BA. Looking at his batted ball data, there is no significant difference in how he is hitting the ball this year vs. how he has hit the ball in the past to account for that difference in BABIP. The remaining BA difference is just the difference in HR power he has shown this year vs. previous years.

So expect Pedroia to start hitting better from this point forward. He has actually lowered his strikeout rate this season. So since his BABIP should start trending up, he is putting more balls in play this season than in the past which means that BA could finish the season around .310 or higher. The thing Pedroia has shown this year though is that he should never be expected to hit more than 15 home runs in a season. 10 is probably pushing it. With his dead pull approach, he's going to have to get much stronger to be able to consistently hit home runs, especially with the Green Monster in Fenway. The other thing to watch is where Pedroia will hit in the lineup. If Pedroia goes back to the 2 spot, expect his RBI numbers to go back up to a respectable level. Ichiro with less speed is a good comp for what to expect for Pedroia from here on out, especially if OBP is counted in your league instead of BA.

Feel free to send any requests for players for me to breakdown to gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com or stop by the forums and post a request.

Compare Pedroia to the top drafted 2B here .

Compare Pedroia to the currently top ranked 2B here .

Thanks to Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, HitTrackerOnline, and Fantasy Playmakers for the stats. All Stats updated through June 26th.



Player Breakdown : Adam Lind
by Gil W.
Published: June 22, 2009, 9:07 pm

Adam Lind


 The Toronto Blue Jays are scoring 5 runs a game this year (5th best in the AL) as opposed to 4.41 runs a game last year (4th worst in the AL). A big part of that is due to Adam Lind. A lot of young hitters take about 750 plate appearances to make the transition to the Majors and will then being to play at roughly the same level through their prime years. Before this season, Lind had 725 PAs. He is having an amazing season this year and has been one of the better hitters in the AL this season. Here is what he has done for fantasy teams this year:



2009 stats
14 HRs
48 RBIs
43 Runs
.303 BA
1 SB

In less PAs than last year, he's already easily surpassed his previous season highs in HRs and doubles. There is no denying that he's improved a lot this year. A big part of that is due to his increased patience which goes hand in hand with his pitch recognition. Before this season, Lind seemed to have trouble with breaking balls as many young hitters do. The quality of sliders/curveballs in the Majors is much, much better than in the minors. He has continued hitting fastballs and change-ups well this season but has also shown no weakness against breaking pitches where he struggled with in the past. Specifically with sliders where he was worth -1.26 runs per 100 pitches. This season: 1.65 runs above average.

And with better pitch recognition, comes better patience. Not only is his walk rate up, but he is also seeing more pitches per plate appearance. Before this year, he was walking at a 5.1% clip and had a 3.68 K/BB ratio. He was seeing 3.79 pitches per plate appearance. This year, he is walking at a 9.1% clip with a 1.89 K/BB ratio and seeing 4.18 pitches/PA.

Further evidence of his patience can be seen in what pitches he is swinging at. He's cut down on swinging the bat at pitches out of the strike zone while slightly increasing his contact rate on those pitches. Overall, he's swinging at less pitches while maintaining a similar contact rate as usual. This explains the increase in his LD rate (21.8% rate in 2009 vs. 18.7% before this season) as wel as his BABIP this season. While last year's BABIP he posted seemed to be more a result of luck, his .330 BABIP this season seems to be based more on skill than luck.

The improvements Lind has made this year match what one would expect from him based on his minor league numbers. He has shown more patience this year and is entering his expected peak years. That also explains the increased HR/FB ratio this season. Overall, there is little that Lind has done this season to look like he's due for any drop in production. Lind looks like he's finally been able to make the transition to the Majors.


All stats are through June 22, 2008. Stats are courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-reference, and Fantasy Playmakers

Compare Adam Lind to the top drafted OFs of this year

Compare Adam Lind to the current top rated OFs here



Feel free to send any requests for players for me to breakdown to gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com or stop by the forums and post a request.

All stats updated through 5/20/08 and courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and of course Fantasy Playmakers.





Player Breakdown : Matt Cain
by Gil W.
Published: May 31, 2009, 10:20 am

Matt Cain


 Cain has been a wildly successful pitcher over his Major League career spanning over 5 seasons. Before the season, he seemed like a great bet to post a 3.50-3.75 ERA over 200 solid IP. So far, he's been surpassing everyone's preseason expectations of him. So the obvious questions to ask are how has he done this and will he keep it up?

2009 stats
6 Wins
2.31 ERA
46 Strikeouts
1.31 WHIP

On the surface, his stats look pretty great. 6 wins and a 2.31 ERA are great for a pitcher who is nearly through 1/3 of the season. It almost looks too good to be true. As with a lot of things, it is. Here are some peripheral stats of Cain's this season:

6.24 Strikeouts per 9 innings
3.66 Walks per 9 innings
1.70 Strikeout to Walk ratio
.81 Home runs per 9 innings
.89 GB/FB ratio
4.16 FIP

What this shows is that Cain has been not been pitching that well. The strikeouts aren't bad, but significantly down from what he has done in the past and they also aren't good enough to make up for his high walk total. His HRs aren't that bad thanks to a very low HR/FB ratio (7.1%) which has been the story for his entire career. His flyball tendencies though don't help that out. His FIP is at 4.16 which shows that he has been pitching the worst he has as a Major League pitcher, even slightly worse than his brief stint in 2005 (which also saw a flukey high ERA).

So how has he pitched poorly yet has seen an amazingly low ERA on the season? Part of it is that he has had a slightly lower than expected BABIP. Right now, he has a BABIP of .277. Average is usually around .300 and tends to be within 10 points of that. The BABIP isn't the only reason he has a 2.31 ERA on the season. Cain also strands 87.8% of the baserunners he lets on base. That is a ridiculously high number for a stat that is highly dependent on luck. As I wrote in my Greinke article, it is possible to have a higher than average LOB% if you are that good of a pitcher. Cain is obviously not anywhere near the pitcher that Greinke has been this year. He's got a slightly above average WHIP on the season so its pretty much just been luck that he's been able to avoid having hitters group their hits and walks together in the same inning. Don't expect that to last throughout the season.

There are some other interesting tidbits about Cain this season. For one, his fastball velocity is down. He hasn't been able to break that 95 mph mark and has been working under 92 mph. He is usually working around 93 mph and is able to bring some mid-high 90s heat. His slider's also lost significant break this season and has seen terrible results this season. Over the past few years, his slider was an above average pitch for him. Not great, but definitely not a terrible one unlike this year. This season, his slider is worth 4.01 runs below average per 100 pitches. He really isn't working with a breaking pitch that is effective this season which is worrisome for any pitcher. I'm not a fan of young pitchers working with such a large workload like Cain has since he was drafted. It often leads to injuries early in their careers. Signs pointing to an injury like a noticeable decrease in velocity or losing the touch of a breaking ball are something to keep an eye on with Cain. Probably nothing comes out of it this year (if anything ever does), but it might be best to sell high in a keeper league and avoid the potential headaches in the future.

The Bottom Line: I'm just not a fan of Cain right now. He's done great and he could very well continue getting great results for a while longer. Cain is consistently overrated and talked about as a top pitcher in baseball, but he has been far from that despite an attractive ERA. Sell high on him if you can because he won't keep that LOB% anywhere near that high. He's given fantasy teams the best he can, but that is going to come to an end soon.


See how Cain compares to the top drafted SP
:
http://www.fantasyplaymakers.com/baseball_comparisons.php?compare_id=5116

And see how Cain compares to the currently top ranked SP :
http://www.fantasyplaymakers.com/baseball_comparisons.php?compare_id=5117

All stats updated through 5/31/09 and courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and of course Fantasy Playmakers.



Player Breakdown : Russell Branyan
by Gil W.
Published: May 20, 2009, 11:41 pm

Russell Branyan


 Branyan started his pro career as one of the top hitting prospects in the minors. At the age of 22, he put up a 1.110 OPS in AA and looked like he would be one of the game's best power hitters. Over the next decade, he would put up disappointing seasons in the Majors with many different teams. The story was always the same, lots of power, but a lot of strikeouts too. Then last season in Milwaukee, he managed a .925 OPS and posted a strikeout percentage under 30. Seattle picked him up this off-season and he's gotten off to a great start. Lets take a look and see what he's been doing this year.




2009 stats
25 Runs
20 RBIs
.310 BA
10 HRs
1 SB

Branyan has been among the best power hitters in the AL this year. His .635 SLG ranks 6th in the Majors as does his Isolated Power, SLG without the singles. He has hit for more power than notable sluggers like Adam Dunn, Justin Morneau, and Ryan Howard. Power has never been a problem for Branyan though. The question has been his ability to make contact. Here are his 2009 season with his Major League career averages, or as far back as the data goes, in parenthesis:

Strikeout% - 26.1% (33.9%)
BB% - 8.5% (11.9%)
Out of Zone Contact% - 48.9% (35.4%)
In the Zone contact% - 83.2% (70.7%)
Overall Contact% - 72% (62%)

As you can clearly see, he's improved greatly at making contact with the ball. The walks have come down a bit, but that could be a small sample size problem. His walk rate wasn't suffering while with Milwaukee last year. He's shown not only a much improved ability to make contact with strikes, but also when he's swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Since no hitter is perfect at taking a ball, the best you can hope for is to see them making solid contact when they do swing at a ball. None of this means that Branyan is now not going to be among the league leaders in strikeouts. There is a certain level though where a hitter can still be very productive while having a high strikeout rate (see Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, Jack Cust). The problem with the Branyan and strikeouts was when he was striking out once for every 3 plate appearances. He now has it to a much more manageable level.

The next question to ask is what is he doing with this improved contact? Here is the breakdown of how he has hit the ball this season:

Line Drive % - 17.8%
Groundball% - 34.4%
Flyball%  -47.8%
Infield Flyball% - 9.3%
HR/FB ratio  - 23.3 % 0.04654
BABIP  - .367

There is some cause for concern here. A hitter's BABIP isn't completely based on luck, but there is a luck factor involved. What can improve it is improved contact on a ball such as hitting more line drives and less flyballs. Based on how he has hit the ball this season, he should have a BABIP closer to .290. If he did have a BABIP of .290, his BA would go from .310 to about .270. I wouldn't expect his BA to drop that much though as his LD rate is a bit lower than his career average. Branyan should finish the season somewhere in the .280-.290 range. Another thing that stands out is that HR/FB ratio. Before the season, it would have been expected that he would have seen that ratio drop because of Safeco, his new home ballpark. Instead, he's shown much more power at home which includes 5 HRs in 50 ABs there vs. 5 HRs in 76 ABs on the road. All but 2 have gone at least 400 feet.

The bottom line
: Branyan looks like he's finally figured it out late in his career. He's joining guys like Ludwick and Pena who have broken out later in their careers after multiple failed stints in the Majors. The BA will come down, and from this point forward, he will probably hit closer to .260 to bring that BA to something around .280 and of course the Mariners lineup looks bad now and will continue to look bad which hurts his RBI/Run totals. He has some amazing power though and he is especially valuable in leagues that count OBP or Total Bases. This is no longer that huge bust of a prospect Russell Branyan.

See how Branyan compares to the top drafted 1B :
http://www.fantasyplaymakers.com/baseball_comparisons.php?compare_id=4971

And see how Branyan compares to the currently top ranked 1B
:
http://www.fantasyplaymakers.com/baseball_comparisons.php?compare_id=4972

Feel free to send any requests for players for me to breakdown to gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com or stop by the forums and post a request.

All stats updated through 5/20/08 and courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and of course Fantasy Playmakers.



Player Breakdown: Zach Greinke
by Gil W.
Published: May 19, 2009, 7:54 pm

Player Breakdown: Zach Greinke


Zach GreinkeThis is the first of Fantasy Playmaker's new Player Breakdown series. I will be taking a look past the player's main fantasy stats to see what they have really done this season and what they are likely to do from this point forward. Feel free to send in any requests for players for me to breakdown. Shoot me an e-mail at gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com with a subject line of "Player Breakdown" or stop by the forums and post your request. For the first installment, lets take a look at what the most dominant pitcher in baseball has done this season, Mr. Zach Greinke.

2009 stats:
0.60 ERA
0.83 WHIP
65 Strikeouts
7 Wins

Zach Greinke has been nothing short of amazing this season. His lone loss of the season was an 8 inning, 1 ER performance where Angels pitcher Joe Saunders managed a complete game shutout. His other 7 starts gave him well deserved wins. On the season, he has an ERA+ of 766 meaning he has an ERA 766% better than the rest of the league. Unreal. So lets take a look at some of his peripheral stats.

Peripheral Stats
Strikeouts: 65
Walks: 10
HRs: 0

His 6.50 K/BB ratio has been more than 3 times better than the league average ratio. Giving up no home runs in 60 IP helps out too. Greinke has also held opponents to a .191 BA against him. Despite having a poor Royals defense behind him and a good, but not outstanding .277 BABIP, he has still managed to be nearly unhittable this season. This has all helped him strand 90.2% of the runners he has left on base (league average is usually around 70%). A high LOB% is usually a red flag suggesting there is some luck involved in the opposing offense being unable to group hits together. Expect that percentage to go down as the season goes on and his ERA to move up as a result. This doesn't mean that a meltdown is coming though. When a pitcher is this dominant, they just aren't going to give up enough baserunners per inning to significantly hurt their ERA. Johan Santana for example has been able to post a LOB% in the low 80s multiple times and a career average of 77.4%.

Lets take a look now at some of his batted ball statistics to see if there are any red flags here:

Batted Ball Statistics
GB/FB: 1.11
LD%: 20.8
IFFB%: 14.8
HR/FB%: 0

Nothing too concerning here. The LD is higher than you'd like, but Greinke has made sure that it isn't too big of an issue. About 1/3 of all batters who have faced Greinke have been unable to get a batted ball off of him. He keeps the ball on the ground at a good rate which helps out too. What's caused his new found dominance? What is he doing different this year? He's accomplished this great start at least in part thanks to improved movement on his fastball while his slider has moved less making it more subtle. Greinke has gotten hitters to take more strikes looking while also getting them to swing and miss more at his pitches. Meanwhile, they are fouling off fewer strikes and putting less strikes in play. Not a good combination for hitters, but one that is clearly working for Greinke. Batters are also now swinging at his pitches out of the strike zone more while making less contact. Batters are swinging at 28.1% of his pitches out of the zone with a 54.1% contact rate as opposed to a career average of 21.1% with a contact rate of 57.2%.

The bottom line: Greinke is very good. Of course, he's not going to continue the .6 ERA just like Cliff Lee last year wasn't going to continue posting a .67 ERA. He is still making teams look silly and shutting down even the top offenses in the league. There might be a bit of luck involved as his defensive independent pitching stats suggest an ERA in the 1.50 area (yeah, that's terrible...). With the way Greinke is pitching, it looks like he'll end up putting up a season comparable to some of Pedro's, Clemens', and Maddux's top years. For his owners in fantasy leagues, just cross your fingers the Royals
will score at least 2 runs that game and enjoy the ride. For those that don't own him, just cross your fingers you don't have to face his team in a 2 start week.

 

Feel free to send in any requests for players for me to breakdown. Shoot me an e-mail at gdawg@fantasyplaymakers.com with a subject line of "Player Breakdown" or stop by the forums and post your request.

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