Showing posts with label Cliff Lee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cliff Lee. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What You Overlooked About the Texas Rangers

Coming into the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, the Texas Rangers were undersold. They were undersold because of their starting pitching. Their second- and third-best starting pitchers (C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis) are almost as good as the Yankees’ best starting pitcher (C.C. Sabathia), or at least they are in 2010. This should have been obvious to every avid baseball fan, at least, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the Rangers hold a 3-games-to-1 lead as I write this.

Let’s look at some numbers that tell us about underlying performance, shall we.

Here are the 2010 FIP’s (Fielding Independent Pitching on an ERA scale, from for Cliff Lee, Sabathia, Lewis and Wilson:

Lee: 2.58

Sabathia: 3.54

Lewis: 3.55

Wilson: 3.56

Lee’s FIP was the second-best in all of baseball. Clearly he’s the best starting pitcher we’ll see in this series. But it may come as a surprise that Sabathis, Lewis and Wilson were essentially equal at least in terms of FIP.

Here are their 2010 WAR’s (Wins Above Replacement, again from FanGraphs):

Lee: 7

Sabathia: 5.1

Wilson: 4.4

Lewis: 4.4

Sabathia has a bigger edge in WAR than in FIP but it’s still closer than most fans probably realize. The gap between Lee and Sabathia is greater than the gap between Sabathia, Wilson and Lee. Lee let major league pitchers in WAR, Sabathia was 13th and Wilson and Lewis were tied at 18th with Dan Haren. No other Yankees pitcher was in the top 35 while the Rangers had three pitchers in the top 18.

Here are their ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league and parks, this from

Lee: 130

Sabathia: 134

Wilson: 129

Lewis: 116

Things are a little more bunched up here. Sabathia looks better here than he does in the other statistics we’ve looked at, actually out-shining Lee. But this stat is based on ERA, and ERA is influenced by defense and luck. While ERA+ takes into account league and parks, it does not account for defense and luck. So it is not a great measure of the fundamental, underlying performance level of a pitcher; it’s much more results-based than performance-based.

Cliff Lee is obviously head-and-shoulders above any pitcher we’ve seen or will see in the ALCS and quite possibly in the playoffs. But the Rangers have two other starters that are almost as good as any starter their ALCS opponent has or will throw at them. Many probably overrated the bigger names of Sabathia and Pettite and overlooked the 2010 performances of CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis. But name recognition doesn’t always mean more talent, at least not current talent level.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fantasy Spin on the Halladay Trade, Pierre Trade, and Much More!

Photo from fOTOGLIF

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired ace right-hander Roy Halladay (and $6 million) by sending prospects RHP Kyle Drabek, OF Michael Taylor and C Travis d'Arnaud to the Toronto Blue Jays. reported that Halladay will receive $20 million per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The extension also includes a $20 million vesting option for 2014 based on innings pitched, games started or both. The Phillies required an extension with Halladay to make the trade.

Roy Halladay is going to be incredible for the Phillies. He does move to a worse ballpark but he gets a better defense, offense, and league in exchange. He instantly becomes the number one fantasy pitcher in the game in my book. You can't predict wins very easily but I see a ton of them in Halladay's future.

The Blue Jays send freshly acquired prospect Michael Taylor to the Oakland Athletics for top prospect 3B Brett Wallace. Brett Wallace was sent to the Athletics in exchange for Matt Holliday last season. To me this indicates that the A's either saw something in Wallace they did not like or they really like Michael Taylor.

Wallace is ready to make his major league debut. Moving to the Blue Jays should not delay that debut any further. Edwin Encarnacion would have to have a very good spring to look like a better hitter than Wallace and he isn't much better defensively (if at all). Wallace will hit for a high average and solid power.

The Phillies are also sending LHP Cliff Lee (presumably for salary reasons but also to re-stock the farm system after sending some of their best to Toronto) to the Seattle Mariners for group of prospects including RHP Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies and RHP J.C. Ramirez. Lee was apparently determined to reach free agency so he could sign a Sabathia-like contract.

Playing in front of Seattle's defense and in Safeco Field also provides Cliff Lee with a huge statistical boost. If he wasn't already he now looks like a top five pitcher. If the Mariners find a couple of middle of the order hitters to go with their great set-up hitters they should make a very nice run in 2010.

From (Not really fantasy relevant, just something to know)
A group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg has been selected by Rangers owner Tom Hicks to enter into exclusive negotiations to buy the franchise, according to an official announcement made by Hicks Sports Group on Tuesday.

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has committed to being a part of Greenberg's group and would remain in his current position as club president. Greenberg is expected to hold the position of managing general partner.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have sent outfielder Juan Pierre to the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers. Pierre will play left field and hit leadoff according to reports in According to, those two Minor Leaguers are starter John Ely, who won 14 games in 2009 at Double-A Birmingham, and Jon Link, who was once thought of as a potential late-inning reliever. Juan Pierre is one of those players that is a better fantasy player than real player (not that he's useless, just better for fantasy).

I expect Pierre to return to his fairly good average, lots of stolen base ways in 2010. He is not the player he used to be but he should be a quality fantasy player if you can deal with the lack of power.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Trade Advice: Selling High and Going with Your Gut

Here is the content of a recent e-mail I received from a frequent reader:
Hey Jon,

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I drove 16 hours to Chicago to catch the Cubs/Astros 4-gamer. That's not the full truth, though... I also delayed a response due to the shame I felt for going against your advice. I accepted the trade I mentioned in my last email. Don't worry - I paid for it. I was drinking $7 beer at Wrigley when Oswalt was helped off the field in the 2nd inning. It sounds like he's heading for the DL, too... yippee.

OK, so here's a quickie: Who would you rather own, Carlos Pena or Jason Bartlett? I'm pretty torn. Pena's batting average annoys me, but I feel like Bartlett is a good sell-high candidate. It seems inevitable that his power numbers decline... in fact, this seems to have already begun. Bartlett does, though, give you BA, Runs, & SB while providing decent HR & RBI numbers for his position.

Like I said, I'm torn.
The reason I ask is I plan to trade 1 of the 2 for a closer. I've picked up Carlos Guillen to fill the void. This will probably change based on matchup. Well, thanks again for all the advice. Maybe this time I will listen. And, as always, if you're short on time, no worries. I've been keeping afloat for this long... just need to get healthy. Have a good one, Robert

Hey Robert,

No need to feel shame, I'm just offering second opinions here. I say all the time that you sometimes have to follow your gut in fantasy sports. You won't always be right but at least you won't feel the pangs of regret from not doing something that felt right to you.

I wish I could get away for a day to drive to other stadiums. I haven't been on a vacation in a long time, even of the one or two day variety. I'm in Cambridge, Massachusetts so it's Fenway Park or nothing most of the time.

In a vacuum I prefer players that hit for average and steal bases over low-average sluggers. So, I guess that puts me in the Bartlett camp. I actually like both guys to be productive if not stellar players over the balance of the season. Pena swings and misses a lot which leads to a lot of bad streaks where he offers very very little. Bartlett has some on-base skills. He takes a few walks and steals bases even when he isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball.

A lot of owners misunderstand what the idea of selling high is about.. The purpose is to get maximum value for a player that is not likely to repeat his peak performance, which gives your team a steady production at a very high level. This does not necessarily mean that the player will become worthless at some point. Sometimes a good sell-high player is also a pretty good keeper. For example, Cliff Lee in 2008 was performing at a level that no one expected he could continue given his track record and skills. But if you owned Lee for a reasonable price he was worth keeping even if you expected a 20 percent decline.. Sure enough Lee was worth keeping for everyone that owned him in 2009. Though I expect there are more than a few AL-only guys banging their heads against a wall.

Good luck Robert.

Jon Williams
Advanced Fantasy Baseball

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just A Little Trade Advice

The longer articles I promised last week are still in progress (just becoming very very long). I'm diverting my attention from those articles to offer a little advice. I received an e-mail from a reader, call him Jay. He wanted some advice on a trade. His AL-only team had some strength in pitching but definitely has some holes on offense. He was offered the following deal:

Jay Deals: Cliff Lee $3

Jay Receives: Travis Snider $10, Taylor Teagarden $4, and Joel Zumaya $5

Cliff Lee at $3 is a great deal but at his age I think his future is as a competent, slightly above average major league starter and not a perennial Cy Young contender.

Travis Snider gives the Jay the big bat he needs in the outfield. Although Snider is a rookie he has had no problem making adjustments and should be a top 20 American League outfielder in the very near future.

Taylor Teagarden fills the gapping hole Jay has at catcher. Teagarden should also gain at-bats as Jarrod Saltalamacchia makes much slower adjustments to the major leagues. Teagarden has good power and while he won't win any batting titles should hit for a decent average.

Joel Zumaya is a great pitcher when he's healthy which has not been often. I see him assuming the closer role for the Tigers in the second half of the season. Jay, as you may have guessed could also use some help in the saves department.

The players Jay is receiving should all be very keepable in an AL-only league. They also have great value to rebuilding teams (which I don't think Jay should consider just yet) and will either set him up well for the future or become bait for dumping teams. Either way I think this is a great trade for Jay.

In fact I can't see this trade as bad for Jay unless Lee threatens to win another Cy Young (not happening says my pyschic powers).