Baseball’s Power Outage

Over on Sports of Boston I take a look at the decline in offensive production across Major League Baseball and the possible connection to the amphetamine ban.

The decline in offense has been going on for a while, but some hitters just don’t seem to do what they used to and pitchers are surging. Is this the end of “Moneyball” sluggers or a golden age for pitching?

Chris Davis Shelton and the Smoak Monster

In 2008 Chris Davis came up from Triple A  for 317 plate appearance with the Texas Rangers.  In that time he hit .285/.331/.549 with a K:BB of 88:20.  Davis was hitting home runs at an average of once every 18 at bats in the bigs and was positioned for a huge breakout year in 2009.  Baseball Prospectus listed his comparables as Justin Morneau, Lee Stevens, James Loney, and David Ortiz in their 2010 annual publication.  This is not bad company.

But in 2009 and the start of 2010 Davis hasn’t hit at all for the big league team.  A .238/.284/.442 line in 2009 is buoyed by his .308/.338/.496 compilation after the slugger returned from a minor league vacation. Again, a strong finish, yet his 2010 season has been a month of sorrow: .188/.264/.292. And back to the minors he goes.

Justin Smoak meanwhile was mashing Double A to the tune of .328/.449/.481 before cooling down after a Triple A promotion (.244/.363/.360).  Being described as “a switch-hitting version of Justin Morneau with better defense” by Baseball Prospectus’s team of experts means Chris Davis could face a long minor league exile if Smoak adjusts to the big leagues faster than his predecessor.

If he’s available in your fantasy league, grab him now.  If you have Davis already, even better.

Dice-K, Wakefield, Clemens

The Boston Red Sox have the chance to break one of baseball’s long held traditions: the five-man rotation. Headed by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey and backed up by Clay Buchholtz, Tim Wakefield, and when he returns from the disabled list, Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox have possibly the deepest pitching staff in the game. While similar speculation existed last year, that rotation would have counted on rebounds by both John Smoltz and Brad Penny. This year the Sox have three legitimate aces and a young pitcher with a no-hitter on his resume. Those top four guys are almost guaranteed to have good seasons (as far as pitchers can be a guaranteed to do anything).

When the Red Sox entertained signing Roger Clemens in 2007 they looked at offering him a Sunday pitching schedule where Clemens could have the week to work out and prepare for that start each week. If the Red Sox implement a six-man rotation this year I think they would look at a similar strategy with either Daisuke or Wakefield taking the Sunday (or whatever day they choose) start every week and the rest of the rotation working on regular rest around them.

Wakefield’s back would surely benefit from a little bit of extra rest and by starting once a week he would still be on a schedule. Matsuzaka has pitched once a week in Japan and enjoyed success there so he would also be a logical choice for the specialized sixth man.

Fantasy Draft #1

I had my first fantasy baseball draft over the weekend. I tried a new strategy this year and took a few pitchers in the early rounds rather than building a scrapheap rotation and trying to trade for an ace in July. This is a 6×6 league: R,HR,RBI,SB,AVG,OPS | W,K,ERA,WHIP,SV,K:BB. 23 man roster.

C: Brian McCann

1B: Carlos Pena

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Chone Figgins

SS: Stephen Drew

OF: Justin Upton

OF: Julio Bourbon

OF: Ryan Ludwick

Util: Adam Laroche

Util: Nick Swisher

Bench: Kyle Blanks

Bench: Vladimir Guerrero

SP: Dan Haren

SP: Justin Verlander

SP: Ricky Nolasco

RP: Chad Qualls

RP: Leo Nunez

RP: Bobby Jenks

P: Matt Cain

P: Matt Garza

Bench: Erik Bedard

Bench: Ervin Santana

Of course, Santana’s elbow had to act up right after the draft. Bedard won’t be available until May or later, but he’s a good bet to perform well when he’s on the mound. I’m crossing my fingers that Santana is healthy and ready to deliver on another big year, but I’m keeping my eye on a few waiver wire pitchers just in case.

With two more drafts coming up on Sunday, one in the Sports of Boston league, I’ll have more to say. There’s pressure on me to do well in that league, or I’ll have to face those guys as the writer who lost!

2010 Fantasy Baseball Outfielder Rankings

The Sports of Boston team of experts posted their Top 50 outfielders. Here are my picks:

  1. Ryan Braun
  2. Justin Upton
  3. Matt Kemp
  4. Matt Holliday
  5. Grady Sizemore
  6. Jayson Werth
  7. Nick Markakis
  8. Jason Bay
  9. Adam Dunn
  10. Carl Crawford
  11. Jacoby Ellsbury
  12. Ichiro Suzuki
  13. Shin-Soo Choo
  14. Curtis Granderson
  15. Adam Lind
  16. Ben Zobrist
  17. Nelson Cruz
  18. Andre Ethier
  19. Carlos Lee
  20. B.J. Upton
  21. Bobby Abreu
  22. Hunter Pence
  23. Shane Victorino
  24. Josh Hamilton
  25. Adam Jones
  26. Many Ramirez
  27. Carlos Quentin
  28. Andrew McCutchen
  29. Michael Bourn
  30. Johnny Damon
  31. Nate McLouth
  32. Torri Hunter
  33. Carlos Gonzalez
  34. Jay Bruce
  35. Julio Borbon
  36. Brad Hawpe
  37. Alfonso Soriano
  38. Alex Rios
  39. Drew Stubbs
  40. Carlos Beltran
  41. Michael Cuddyer
  42. Denard Span
  43. Jason Kubel
  44. Nolan Reimold
  45. Corey Hart
  46. Nyjer Morgan
  47. Garrett Jones
  48. J.D. Drew
  49. Kyle Blanks
  50. Jason Heyward

What To Do With Jason Varitek

Over at Sports of Boston I took a look at Jason Varitek and the idea put out there by Gary Tuck that Varitek could catch into his 40s. While it would be a great personal achievement for him, it just doesn’t look too likely that a team will be interested in the catcher at this stage of his career. His best days are clearly behind him, but he can still be a useful backup for a team, like the Red Sox this year, with a great primary catcher.

Baseball Prospectus Signing and Discussion

I went to the Boston University Barnes & Noble last week for a book signing and talk with Kevin Goldstein and Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus (Steve Goldman was unable to fly into Boston because of the rain).

It was a lot of fun. Kevin and Marc took questions and talked for just over an hour and hit all the big topics: Adrian Gonzalez (would be even better in Fenway), Jesus Montero (heck of a hitter but a bad body for a catcher), Dayton Moore’s time with the Royals so far (some good small moves, strange big league decisions), and how many 20 year olds will be on the opening day roster for the Mets (probably one depending on how Jose Reyes is doing).

All in all: fantastic book, great website, and having a back-and-forth with those guys made for a fun night. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Now it’s time to get ready for my fantasy drafts and then the real season on April 4th.

Red Sox Bullpen Preview

I took a look at the Red Sox bullpen for the upcoming 2010 season over at Sports of Boston.

With two weeks remaining until the the official start of the season, the Red Sox added old friend Alan Embree, signing the lefty to a minor league deal. While Embree can opt out after April 15th if he has not been added to the major league roster, he may be the new second lefty for Francona.

2010 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Next up on Sports of Boston: shortstops.

  1. Hanley Ramirez
  2. Troy Tulowitzki
  3. Jimmy Rollins
  4. Jose Reyes
  5. Derek Jeter
  6. Asdrubal Cabrera
  7. Alexei Ramirez
  8. Jason Bartlett
  9. Erick Aybar
  10. Everth Cabrera
  11. Steven Drew
  12. Elvis Andrus
  13. Miguel Tejada
  14. Yunel Escobar
  15. Alcides Escobar
  16. Maro Scutaro
  17. J.J. Hardy
  18. Rafael Furcal
  19. Orlando Cabrera
  20. Jhonny Peralta

2010 Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen Rankings

Next up on the docket for the Sports of Boston fantasy baseball was Second Base. A much deeper position than even a few years ago, today’s second basemen have power, speed or both.

  1. Ian Kinsler
  2. Chase Utley
  3. Dustin Pedroia
  4. Aaron Hill
  5. Brian Roberts
  6. Brandon Phillips
  7. Ben Zobrist
  8. Dan Uggla
  9. Rickie Weeks
  10. Robinson Cano
  11. Asdrubal Cabrera
  12. Ian Stewart
  13. Kelly Johnson
  14. Howie Kendrick
  15. Orlando Hudson
  16. Jose Lopez
  17. Luis Castillo
  18. Polacido Polanco
  19. Scott Sizemore
  20. Clint Barmes
  21. Akinori Iwamura
  22. Kazou Matsui
  23. Felipe Lopez
  24. Macier Izturis
  25. Skip Schumaker

A much deeper position than even a few years ago, today’s second basemen have power, speed or both.