Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy Baseball 101’

h2h Corner ~ 2011 head-2-head first base Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

Is there really anything exciting about first base when you’re over the age of 15? By 16, you should have rounded second and also realized that slugging first basemen aren’t exactly Wendy Peffercorn.

Pujols is Pujols, Votto has a few more steals and a better ballpark than Miguel Cabrera. Adrian Gonzalez left Death Valley for Pesky Pole and the Green Monster to partner with the steady and healthy Kevin Youkilis. Mark Teixeira puts up massive numbers even with a flukey bad AVG, Ryan Howard is in decline from great numbers, Adam Dunn takes his homerun hitting talents to a bandbox, Fielder has a bounce back year (when it comes to AVG) and Kendry Morales is healthy.

That is your top 10 first basemen – not too hard a nut, and really you should be happy with any of them.

Of course, once you exit the top 10, there are some questions. One that I’m not capable of answering: is Justin Morneau (#11 first baseman, 39th overall) recovered? It sure seems like he could be. If so, he’d probably leapfrog a few guys, given his consistent track record. Still, his home ballpark really limits his power potential. Nonetheless, if you’re frozen out of the top 10, Morneau is a phenomenal value pick. I have him as the 11th first baseman and still inside the top 40 hitters. One of the top first basemen is likely to fall and you might as well be the guy to catch that player and stock up on other shallower positions earlier in the draft.

Anyone who knows me knows I dislike James Loney as any sort of fantasy option. So how can I have someone like Billy Butler (12, 55) – who has averaged just over 15 HRs for the past three years – as high as I do? Well, he’ll hit above .300 (which Loney wont) and he has a good chance to hit 20+ HRs (Loney has no chance). I’m not sure there is a ton of upside with Butler, but there is very little risk. Clearly, if Butler is your starting first baseman, you loaded up on infielders and outfielders in the earlier rounds, which mitigates the power loss you get with him. What Butler allows you to do is take chances on guys like Mike Stanton who could provide a ton of pop but at a significant batting average cost.

Another surprising no-power first basemen who appears somewhat high in my rankings is Gaby Sanchez (14, 82). Sanchez should easily duplicate last year’s line (.273/.341/.448) with some upside to improve upon it. I see him getting on base more, hitting for more power (say 22-25 HRs) and being a pretty good overall value. He’s another safe grab that allows you to go for upside in other areas.

In reality, though, there isn’t much analysis required for this position. If you’re in a 10-team league, you’ll get a fine first basemen. If you’re in a 12-team league, you’ll also get a fine first basemen. My advice is to know what kind of first basemen you’re getting. If he’s likely to be a batting average drain but provide big power numbers, you should probably avoid the Mike Stantons/Chris B. Youngs of the world. If the opposite, go heavy on those types of players.

Sleeper sofa:

Ike Davis (17, 111): I avoided making a Dwight Eisenhower joke here. I’m sorry. Davis loved his first taste of the majors (.264/.351/.440). I see nowhere to go but up from there. I think his average should improve to something that represents his minor league track record – comfortably in .280s. He should add a few more HRs, possibly getting to 25 and, perhaps improve on his 12% walk rate of last year. In short, I see his average, OBP and SLG% increasing.

Mitch Moreland (25, 234): In just 173 PAs last season, Moreland posted a .255/.364/.469 line with seven HRs. Given his home ballpark and prodigious line-up support, it’s pretty easy to see Moreland pushing 20 HRs and 80 RBIs with a decent average that could approach .280. There is a certain amount of risk with him, given the lack of track record and the presence of Chris Davis, Mike Napoli and (potentially) David Murphy, but, as someone who gets very little attention, he could easily wind-up in the top 15 at the position.

Brandon Allen (26, 240): If he finds playing time, likely in the outfield, the 25 year-old could be an incredibly cheap source of power. While he wont hit for a great average (think .250), he could swing his way to 25+ HRs with a full season of ABs in the desert. Those of you in deep or NL-only leagues should monitor spring training to see if he has a chance of breaking with the MLB club.

Juan Miranda (45, 367): The reason Allen has little chance of being the Diamondbacks 2011 starting first basemen is newly acquired Juan Miranda, who was blocked by Mark Teixeira. If given the at bats, Miranda has the power upside of Allen. All signs point to him getting full time at bats, which make 20 HRs all but a lock. He might hit for a poor average, but his late, 30 HR upside comes with a few downsides.

You can get full first base ranks here.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ 2011 head-to-head Pitcher Rankings

For a downloadable spreadsheet, please visit: awesome-h2h-rankings.comsizzle.

Chicks dig the long ball, and so do I. That’s just one of the many reasons I prefer evaluating hitters to pitchers. From a ranking perspective, hitters are more predictable and stable from year to year. In addition, they tend to be more insulated from the injury bug. Because of this, I value pitchers differently compared to other writers who cover h2h league strategy.

Most notably, I completely disregard wins. Wins are too unpredictable; some of the best fantasy pitchers this year will undoubtedly be guys with low win totals because they play on crummy teams or are flat-out unlucky. Devaluing these guys for such arbitrary reasons is ludicrous. Second, I don’t aim to sweep the pitching categories each week when I create my draft board. During the season, I let my Monday/Tuesday starters do the talking. If they post good ratio performances, I hold my borderline starters back. If they have poor early week outings, I release the hounds and try to win strikeouts and wins. You can manage a pitching staff on the fly: good match-ups will always be out there. That is why you don’t grab pitchers early. Other reasons include: Chris Carpenter, Erik Bedard and Ben McDonald.

So, what do I like in a pitcher? Decent ratios and strikeouts. I love Ks because they are consistent. Even if a heavy strikeout pitcher has a bad outing, he’s still likely to contribute in Ks. When looking at week-to-week fluctuations, certainty – in any category – is incredibly valuable.

In terms of draft strategy, I try to select hitters with my first eight to ten selections at least. Because that takes the Lincecums, Halladays, and Greinkes off the table, I focus instead on identifying the best undervalued pitchers. In year’s past, I have obsessed over the furry Aaron Harang (more on him later), no matter what he looks like. Two years ago, I loved Javier Vazquez in March and was happily rewarded when he paid off nicely throughout the summer. Last season, I was big on Ubaldo Jimenez. Quite simply, you can get pitchers who end up in the top 10 late in your draft; there isn’t the same level of fluctuation with hitters.

Now, let’s talk about closers. People tend to devalue closers in h2h leagues, viewing them as one-category wonders that can’t be trusted to either retain their job or finish games consistently from week to week. While the latter half of that statement might be true, that doesn’t mean closers lack value. Every week you have to maximize your results in the pitching categories. If you lock up saves, all you have to do is win four of the remaining nine categories for a tie or five of nine for a nifty .600 winning percentage. Five/nine is about 55%, whereas six/ten is 60%, so you increase your odds of winning by loading up on closers (roster permitting). This works because most h2h players eschew a bulk closer strategy and usually only have at most three. If you double that amount, you’re in good shape.

It ain’t pretty, but that’s how trophy…let me finish, wives are earned. With closers, it’s important to remember that there is always safety in numbers. However many RP or P spots you have, you should have a closer for each of those spots. So long as you have at least one great closer and several fringe closers, you can pretty much guarantee your team will win at least one category.

I’ve outlined below a few questions about my rankings and included a few sleepers. Feel free to ask me on Twitter about other ranks or post a comment. I will answer every question.

How can you have the reigning NL Cy Young winner at Number 3?

It’s not any fault of Roy Halladay (3). Seriously, the dude is amazing. But so is Tim Lincecum (2) (owner of back-to-back Cy Young awards).

Over the last three years, Lincecum has averaged a 2.83 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 222 IPs, and 252 Ks.

In his first year in the NL, Halladay pitched 205.2 innings, posted a 2.44 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and struck out 219 batters.

Halladay will be 34 this season, Lincecum will be 26 in June. While Halladay outpitched Lincecum last year, I’m looking at Lincecum’s last three seasons as a good indicator of future success. Obviously this is splitting hairs, but if you’re in a dynasty league, I’d be calling Lincecum’s name before Halladay’s.

Mostly, I wrote this section to highlight Lincecum’s awesome year in 2010. Most people seem to think that he greatly disappointed (and perhaps if you picked him in the first round, he did); nevertheless, it was still an amazing top five caliber fantasy year.

Jon Lester? Again?

As many of you remember, I ranked Lester as my fifth pitcher last year. Well, I’m at it again, placing him fourth this season. In his three full seasons, Lester has averaged a 3.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 201 Ks.

He plays in a tough league, division and ballpark, but that’s been the case for the last three years. Quite possibly, Lester could be the new Roy Halladay. For reference’s sake, Halladay averaged a 3.08 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 184 Ks in his last three seasons in the AL.

Smart drafters will forego the Halladays, Lincecums, Lees, etc. and choose Lester to be their ace.

You really believe in Ubaldo Jimenez?

Last year, in my rankings column, I wrote:

“I don’t think that Jimenez is getting the respect he deserves as a legitimate 200-k pitcher with solid ratios and win potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up more valuable than Beckett, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Johnson or Chris Carpenter. If given the chance (and the right spot), I think you should draft Ubaldo with confidence (I ranked him as the 22 best pitcher).”

Does this mean I think Ubaldo (5) will be quite as good as he was last season? Absolutely not – that was a Gibsonian effort, a once-in-a-lifetime rollick through the National League. That said, can Jimenez post a 3.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 200+ Ks? Absolutely. I also think there is upside with those numbers and am, consequently, quite comfortable with him as the fifth pitcher off the board.

A reliever not named Rivera in the top 15?

As noted above, in h2h, I like to focus on locking down saves and Ks in any given week and then letting my pitchers either go after wins or ERA/WHIP.

This makes someone like Carlos Marmol (17) (who can combine 110+ Ks with 30+ saves) an ideal selection. Over the last three years, Marmol has averaged 115 Ks, while posting very nice ratios (2.86 ERA and 1.18 WHIP). If you are worried that his ERA last season (2.55) was fluky, don’t. His FIP was 2.01 owing to a .325 BABip – the highest, by a large margin, that he has posted in his career. I think it’s a safe bet that he has an ERA around 3.00 (with considerable upside) and 35 saves and over 100 Ks. That is more valuable than a lot of starting pitchers.

Can anyone ranked in the roaring 20s finish in the top 10?

Absolutely – it will likely happen – just look at Ubaldo or Jered Weaver last season.

This year I’d pick Max Scherzer (22). In very limited time (just 422 MLB innings), Scherzer has become a strike-out artist (9 Ks per 9 IPs). Over the last two years, he has averaged 179 Ks, a 3.79 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Quite simply, he should be able to reach 200 Ks this season without much of a problem.

If the Tigers cash in on some of the offseason success, Scherzer could also be looking at an uptick in wins – all he really needs is a few more double-Us and a full season (during which he’ll reach 200 Ks) to enter the top ten.

Draft with confidence, my friend.

Same question – this time in the not-so-roaring 30s!

I’ll take Chad Billingsley (34) with this one. In 2008, as a 23-year-old, Billingsley reached that mythical plateau of 200+ Ks in a year. This landed him high in most rankings heading into 2009, during which he would underperform (4.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and just 179 Ks). However, that year wasn’t really all that bad – a few more HRs (his HR/FB rate and HR/9 rates increased) accounted for the drop in ERA.

Those normalized in 2010 and we saw a return to a 3.50ish ERA. While his Ks have declined every year since his 2008 season, I’m looking for Billingsley to take a massive step forward this season. His walks and HRs were down last year and not much stands in the way of him being a very useful pitcher.

If things break right for him, he could easily approach the top 10.

Same question, now the war-torn 40s!

I’ll take Brandon Morrow (47) – someone I simply love and a phenomenal flip sider. While I’m not sure Morrow, given his division, can crack the top ten, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found his way near the top 15 at the end of the year. Sure there are health risks (he battles Type-1 diabetes), but there are seen and unseen risks with every pitcher, so let’s just (for the most part) ignore them.

He basically has one full season of starting over the course of his career. He has started 41 games, pitched 225 innings, and posted a 4.47 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Still, he maintained a 9.9 K/9 rate (not far off the 10.1 rate he posts as a reliever).

His ERA last season (4.49) is a bit scary, but he did have a 3.16 FIP – owing to a .348 BABip. I look for that number to be much closer to .315 in 2011. If he can stay healthy, Morrow should reach 180 Ks without a problem and has upside to strike-out 200.

Who has the best chance of exiting the Cold War ‘50s and moving on up to the 20s?

The eloquently named Jorge de la Rosa (51), that’s who! I loved him last year, yet an injury stopped me from hitting on two Rockies pitchers.

In his last 16 starts of the year (after he got healthy), de la Rosa posted a 4.29 ERA and 87 strike-outs. Over a 162-game season that averages out to 185 Ks.

Like I said last year, his ratios won’t help you much (think 4.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP), but he should approach 190 Ks, which is very rare upside as the 51st pitcher.

Shorties got Low, Low, Low, Low, Low…otherwise known as the No Love Club

Clay Buchholz (37): I see Buchholz going around the likes of Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Dan Haren, Chad Billinglsey and Shaun Marcum and I don’t quite get it.

Ok, sure, he had a 2.33 ERA last year – that is impeccable. But he also had a .265 BABip and 79% strand rate (typically that number rests around 72%). I don’t think the Sox defense is that exceptional, nor do I think their bullpen will continue to be so prolific at stranding runners (though they do have a very good and flexible stable of arms).

In reality, I see Buchholz landing squarely in the mid-3.00s for ERA with an unimpressive K-rate (maybe 7 per nine). You add that up and you have a guy with decent win potential, but an average (for fantasy purposes) ERA and no real upside in Ks. He’s a nice pitcher, but barely a top 40 option in my opinion.

Tim Hudson (80): Aside from his horrid 2006, he hasn’t had an ERA above 3.55 in a full season since 2000. Yet I don’t like him? Why am I hating? Well, his 162-game average K performance is just 152. He struck-out just 139 batters in 228 IPs last year and allowed one less hit per nine than he has for his career. He also posted his worst K:BB rate (1.88) since that abysmal 2006. Lastly, his FIP was 4.09 – i.e., a long way from his 2.83 ERA. Basically he had an awesome strand rate (81.2%) which is something completely out of his control. He also benefited from a ridiculous BABip (.250), which is at least somewhat out of his control. His career BABip is .286. In short, I see Hudson posting an ERA around 3.50 with the same old 130 Ks. There isn’t much special in that whatsoever.

Octavio Dotel (100): I’ve never minded Dotel – as a closer, he’s provided two 20+ save seasons and has struck out over 70 batters the last three years. However, I’m real concerned about his ability to hack it in the American League East. Others (most notably the great Jason Collette) have noticed his splits (righties hit .205/.279/.375 off him while lefties do a bit of damage: .237/.348/.405). With a lot of left-handed mashers in the AL East, there could be a lot of tough outings for him. As a cheap option I like him, but be careful.

Mark Buehrle (153): Like Hudson, people seem to like Buehrle (and have for years) way more than I have. Sure, over the last three years, he has averaged 14 wins, a 3.97 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. However, he only averages about 115 Ks a season (and only Ked 99 in 210 innings last year). In most leagues, there isn’t much use for a guy who will pitch a ton of innings with an ERA around 4.00 who doesn’t help with Ks. Don’t pay for the gold, go for upside with pitchers. There are always Buehrle types on the free agent pile (they are called Chris Narveson).

The Snuggie Super Sleeper Sofa Section:

Anibal Sanchez (ranked 61): Sanchez made 32 starts last year and almost eclipsed 200 IPs. He posted a 3.55 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, while cutting his walks by about 1.5 per nine innings (and thereby increasing his K:BB rate by about .7 pts). That’s a pretty good improvement for someone who will be 27 this season and was a super sleeper just a few years ago. I see Sanchez and Clay Buchholz pitching very similarly this year: 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 175 Ks. Not bad when you’re mining for pitchers outside the top 50.

Edwin Jackson (73): Somewhat surprisingly, Jackson got dominated by NL foes and beat down batters in the AL . He did have 10 more starts (and a truer sample) in the NL and got to face depleted late season line-ups full of September call-ups in the AL . So why do I like him? For starters, he had a 3.86 FIP last year (a 3.20 BABip, with a career .311 line) and just a 69% strand rate. He will be 28 in September and was born in Germany ! I wouldn’t be surprised with an ERA in the 4.25-4.50 range with 170 Ks. Not bad at all!

Brett Cecil (77): Cecil went to a rival high school of mine and is only 24. He got 28 starts last year and did some nice things in tough environments (4.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.17 K:BB rate). He has the ability to improve upon those across the board. While his IPs might be down in the 170 range given his youth and the volatility of the Blue Jays rotation, this just makes him an excellent pick for innings capped leagues. I really see a 4.00-4.10 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 140 Ks (with upside to 170 if he pitches the full season).

Jordan Zimmerman (88): Two years ago, Zimmerman pitched 91.1 innings and threw up a 4.63 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 9.1 K/BB rate. In two AA seasons, Zimmerman has a 3.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 rate. Of course, since that time, his career has been derailed by injuries. Still, he won’t be 25 until May and should be fully recovered. I think you can expect a sub-4.00 ERA about 130 Ks and a WHIP in the 1.20 – 1.35 range. In short, he is Tim Hudson with upside and a much lower draft value.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (90): since going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 2008, Matsuzaka has had a tough road. In the two seasons since he has battled his way to just 37 starts and a 4.99 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Still his 2009 (25 starts) was better and he has flashed the ability to put up huge K numbers (career 8.3 K/9 rate). Given his team, run production should be plenty, so wins might be easy to come by – even if he doesn’t pitch deep into ballgames. But that’s not why I like Dice-K. Quite simply, I see him throwing up an ERA around 4.00, a not so nice 1.35-1.40 WHIP, but a deliciously cheap 160+ Ks. At barely inside the top 100, it’s hard to find that upside.

Aaron Harang (135): There was a time (2005-2007) when Harang was my bread and butter fantasy ace. During that period, he averaged a 3.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 199 Ks. Of course, the three years since then paint a Gil Meche-esque picture of an overworked workhorse (4.71 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and just 126 Ks a year). However, Petco has been known to cure a lot of ills and, luckily for Harang, some of his are curable. During his heyday Harang’s HR rate sat at around 1 HR per 9; over the last three years it has jumped to between 1.29 and 1.71. Clearly leaving Cincinnati ’s bandbox will help. Further, Harang had .317, .339, and .346 BABips over the last three seasons compared to a historical norm of .300 and his career line of .318. The Padres emphasize defense and the supporting cast in San Diego should be an improvement over what Harang had with the Reds. Not that we’re looking at a career renaissance here: some of these diminished numbers result from decline in skill in addition to overwork. Still, Harang only pitched 111 innings last year, so he should be better rested and primed to regain a bit of his glory days. I see him as a low 4.00 – 4.25 ERA candidate with 150 Ks or so.

Derek Holland (136): We have finally gotten to the portion of rankings where I fawn over Holland, a man with just 195.2 MLB innings, a 5.52 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 161 Ks. He also owns a pretty nice 7.4 K/9 rate. I have written about Holland in flattering terms hereherehere, well you get the point. Holland only managed 57.1 IPs in the majors last year, but showed significant promise (8.6 H/9, 8.5 K/9 and a 2.25 K:BB ratio). At some point, a fantasy owner will cash in on his promise. In 2011, Holland can throw up an ERA right around 4.00 and a K/9 rate around 8. If he gets the innings, he could be a sneaky strike-out source.

Brandon McCarthy (188): If you listen to me on the radio (and who hasn’t), you know I’ve been bullish on the Oakland Athletics since last year. I thought that if they could add a few pieces, they could really challenge the Rangers. While most of those pieces needed to be able to drive the ball better than Jack Cust and Rajai Davis, McCarthy represents a nice addition. McCarthy, just 27, has five seasons and 372 innings under his belt. Last year, in 17 starts for the Rangers, he posted a respectable 4.62 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 65 Ks in 97 innings. With a HR/FB rate around 10 for his career and a HR/9 rate around 1.33, the move from Texas to Oakland will be beneficial. He could easily log 150 innings as the fifth starter and post a sub-4.00 ERA. He won’t wow you with the Ks, but this late in the draft, someone who can pick up some wins and not destroy your ratios is mighty nice.

You can get full pitcher ranks here.

If you have ideas for other columns, post your thoughts in the comments. Also, feel free to share your insights below or at my Twitter (@h2h_corner).

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Ray Lankford

lnakbackI came across the 2002 Topps card first and had forgotten that Lankford switched teams late in his career. I remember Lankford as a Cardinal with a ton of promise who never quite reached his true potential. However, after looking at the card and realizing he had the third most HRs in Cardinals history, I wanted to write about how good Lankford was, even though he was perceived as never reaching his true potential.

lankfbTPThen I was home looking through old cards and stumbled upon the Donruss Triple Play card and found out Lankford was the first Cardinal since the great Rogers Hornsby to reach 15 triples. Kind of an odd stat, but still (somewhat) impressive.

Adding the two cards together, I really thought my memory of a lackadaisical Lankford was wrong. Perhaps, I had the next underrated guy on my hands. Umm…no. While Lankford was a useful and good player, he was never really underrated.

In fact, in MLB history, Lankford struck out every 3.71 ABs – the 15th worst rate among players who played 1,000 games or more. Not surprisingly, he struck out 1,550 times in his career – tied for the 27th most with Willie McCovey. Among lefties, Lankford struck out the 6th most times – trailing only Lou Brock, Fred McGriff, Jim Thome, Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson.

Still, even with all that swinging and missing, he finished with a .272/.364/.477 line and a .840 OPS (just behind Cap Anson and ahead of Cliff Floyd on the all time list). It is actually better than hall of famers Eddie Murray, Enos Slaughter, Roberto Clemente, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, etc. Of course his career WAR (38.4) is nowhere near those guys.

lankfront

That said, Lankford did have some amazing years, and a real good stretch from 1995-1998. During that time, he averaged 27 HRs, a .285/.382/.530 slash line and 26/34 SB rate. Not bad at all.

Was he Musial or Hornsby, clearly not. Heck he wasn’t even Ken Boyer (.287/.349/.462 as a third baseman/centerfielder from 1955-1969).

However he was a good Cardinal. According to Wikipedia, Lankford finished his career among the Cardinals Top 10 in home runs (third), stolen bases (fifth), runs scored (eighth), runs batted in (eighth), and bases on balls (fourth).

Oh and he is the only Cardinal to post more than one 20/20 season.

The perception of Lankford reminds me a lot of one of my favorite players, Adam Dunn, in that walks weren’t perceived to have the value they do and strike-outs were supposedly worse than pop outs.

lankfrontTP

Lankford simply played in an era during which strike-outs were viewed as a cardinal sin and preventing outs (i.e., taking a free pass) wasn’t recognized as a very important thing. Odd but true, let’s give Lankford his due.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Arthur Rhodes

rhodesbackrhodesfrontTalk about same ole same ole…

Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA in 2001 (the best mark out of the pen in the AL that season). In 2010, Rhodes posted a 2.53 ERA out of the pen. That’s nine years apart. Oh, and Rhodes career began in 1991 as a starter with the Baltimore orioles (he’d allow 47 hits and 23 walks in just 36 IPs in his initial season).

To date, Rhodes has a career that spans 20 years…but it sure didn’t look like he’d stick around that long. As a kid I sat in the bleachers of Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I hated Arthur Rhodes and Sidney Ponson and Alan Mills (unless he was choking Daryl Strawberry) and Jose Mesa and Armando Benitez (A Buster Olney column!) and Ben McDonald. They all sucked and they were all chokers – I was an unforgiving pre-teen.

Rhodes especially let me down because I had such high hopes for him. In 1992, when he was just 22, Rhodes started 15 games for the Orioles and posted a 3.63 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He also managed to limit his walks (3.6 per nine) and increase his k/9-rate (7.3). In short, to an untrained eye, Rhodes looked like the real deal. What I know now is that Rhodes would never, as a starter, be that frugal with free passes and he’d never be the type to post a 0.6 HR/9 rate – it was simply unsustainable. So, the idea that he was a 2.03 K:BB pitcher was pure poppycock.

Sure enough, over the next two years as a starter, he saw HR/9 rate around 1.5, BB/9 rate around 5.0 and K:BB walk between 1 and 1.5 – not so good. In 1995, Rhodes would start nine games and post a 7.16 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. Toward the end of the year, the Orioles tried him as a reliever. In 10 appearances (hardly much of a sample size), he posted a 4.88 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Not great, but surely better than Rhodes the starter. What’s more interesting is that he allowed a .202/.316/.412 line to opposing hitters.

In 1996, Rhodes would start the last two games of his career and make 26 relief appearances. His era was 4.02 and his WHIP was 1.34 – not shocking, eh? Then, in 1997, he made 53 relief appearances with a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Clearly, the Orioles found what Rhodes was made to do (i.e. become my generation’s Jesse Orosco).

There would be some bumps along the way (1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006), but some brilliance, especially as a LOOGY. For his career he has limited lefty opponents to a .216/.282/.319 line.

But, as the back of the card reflects, there wasn’t much finer than his 2001. In addition to his amazing ERA, Rhodes went 8-0. Only 13 people in the history of the game have gone 8-0 or better in a season. In addition, as of this writing, he is second all-time in holds, with 217.

While the Orioles of the mid-/late-90s never quite got there, their success corresponded with the organization figuring out how best to use some of its assets. Clearly Rhodes was a helpful piece and is someone who continues to build a semi-historic baseball career.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Cal Ripken

Cal Ripken - 1992 frontJust like Willie Mays (greenies), Len Dykstra, and Brady Anderson, I am a cheater. There is nothing all that interesting or bizarre about the back of this card. What I love about it is the front of the card: Cal pictured with Henry Louis Gehrig’s Cooperstown plague.

One of my favorite pictures of myself is from my first visit to the Hall of Fame. It was under remodeling at the time and the plagues were all on dry wall basically in an anteroom. However, there was on HoFer (I can’t remember who) between Frank and Brooks Robinson — my father’s gods. That gave just enough room for me to peak my head in between and be snapped between two of the great Orioles and baseball players of all time. It’s a good shot.

However, at this point I have to come clean (are you listening Palmeiro?). I wanted the Orioles to trade Ripken after his brilliant 1991 campaign. Yes, fresh off a .323/.374/.566 season, I thought they should move him. I was foolish and didn’t understand what was to come. I was thinking about all the losing I had experience in my lifetime and how many players Ripken was worth. I was thinking the Orioles could reverse the Glenn Davis damage.

But I was wrong, in fact, nothing could reverse the damage of trading a player like Ripken in his prime — quite simply few players have been equal to him on a baseball diamond.

People like to lump Cal into the accumulator Hall of Fame class. In my opinion, that’s sort of like distinguishing between the guys who earned their millions or were trust funded them – when you get down to it, what’s the real difference? That said, Cal was not just an accumulator, a guy who stuck around for a long time and eventually put up Ruthian numbers (a little like what Eddie Murray did).

Cal was one of the best players ever. Would I believe this as ardently if he wasn’t the best thing to happen to my baseball world in my lifetime (other than Roger Clemens being tied to Roids)? Probably not, but that’s because I’d be ignorant of Cal’s place in history. I would not have tried to defend him and research his awe-inspiring career benchmarks which outshine even the shiniest of Cooperstown plagues. Walk with me…

Cal Ripken has the 13th most hits in history — 3,184. That is more than George Brett, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, etc.

He has the 32nd most singles (with 2,106) — behind Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Tris Speaker, Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Stan Musial and Boggs.

That leaves a lot of room for extra base hits. In fact, Ripken hit the 13th most doubles (603) — more than Barry Bonds, Boggs, Gwynn, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams.

He also finished with the 17th most extra base hits with 1,078 and the 13th most total bases: 5,168. While Ripken hung around, he wasn’t hitting wimpy singles, but continually mashing his way to top 20 numbers in power categories.

Still, durability does count (ask Dale Murphy), 19 times Cal Ripken had at least 100 hits. That is tied for the seventh most in history. In addition, 15 times Ripken had over 150 hits — that is tied for the 6th most seasons. In 20 consecutive seasons, Ripken had 10+ HRs. Hank Aaron is the only player to have more years in a row – Aaron did it 23 times.

All those hits put him on his way to scoring the 30th most runs in MLB history: 1,647. That is more than Brett, Rogers Hornsby, and Tim Raines.

All that aside, May 28, 1996 must have been a special day. His brother, Billy hit a HR, and Cal added three! It was the second time both he and Billy hit HRs in the same game.

What gives Ripken so much additional value (and we’ll get to WAR) is his glove. He has the seventh most assists by a SS in a career – he had 6,977. That is behind Ozzie Smith, Louis Aparicio, Luke Appling and a few others. With all those assists, he got to a ton of balls, but still managed to post the fifth best fielding percentage by a shortstop in major league history (min. 1,000 games). He also had excellent years. In 1990, he posted the best fielding average ever by a shortstop in a single season: .9956. He also owns the 11th best year. In 1984, Ripken recorded 583 assists — the 6th most ever in a season.

Now for the new-age stuff: Ripken was worth 89.9 wins above a replacement player in his career. According to Baseball Reference, that is the 26th best mark all time — and, depending, on how you look at Alex Rodriguez, puts him tops among shortstops. In 1991, Ripken was worth 11 WAR — tied for the 30th best mark in a season ever.

Yes, Cal Ripken was an accumulator, but his accumulations were great statistics, not just ho-hum years. Four times, Ripken was worth 7.0 WAR or better. From 1983-1991, he was worth less than 6.0 WAR just once. The rest of his career (1992-2001) was not as good (he averaged 2.4 WAR) but that is just 2 less WAR than Derek Jeter has averaged for his career by way of comparison. Quite simply there are very few men who are Cal’s better on the diamond.

Thank god the Orioles didn’t trade him and thank god for 1983, Cal grew to deserve it.

Cal Ripken - 1992 back

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Bob Tewksbury

tewks backtewksfI love the back of this card. It reminds me of Bob Ross immediately. It’s eloquent, succinct and simple: Tewks paints both canvas and the outside corner.

And it’s really true! Tewks has two of the 16 best seasons in terms of walking the fewest batters per 9 innings. In 1992 he posted the 8th best ever (tied with Greg Maddux): 0.77. This effort was behind Cy Young, Christy Mathewson (twice) and Carlos Silva (who had the best at 0.43). Tewks also owns the 16th best season tied with Cy Young at 0.84. When he finished up his career, he had a 1.5 BB/9 rate – that is 22nd all time and slightly better than Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Old Hoss Radbourn (follow his ghost on Twitter!), and Greg Maddux. Amazing.

It’s kind of remarkable that, given his ability to control the zone, Tewks wasn’t a more productive pitcher. He got his first taste of the majors at 25 in 1986. He threw 130.1 innings for the New York Yankees that year and posted a 3.31 ERA and 1.34 WHIP — good enough for 2.2 WAR – not bad.

However he and his promise would be traded the next year in a deal for Steve Trout. The Cubs wouldn’t benefit much from the deal, as Tewks pitched just 21.1 innings for them before becoming a free agent.

The St. Louis Cardinals astutely snapped him up. While he pitched only 30 innings for the Cards his first season (1989), from 1990-1994, he averaged a 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 188 IPs, a 1.1 BB/9 rate and a 3.41 K/BB rate. He was worth 10.6 wins above a replacement player during that time.

His worst year was his walk year for the Cards. It was the beginning of his decline, as Tewks was 34. He pitched poorly for the Rangers and Padres in 1995 and 1996 respectively. He had a minor bounce back from 1997-1998 for the Minnesota Twins, averaging a 4.49 ERA, 158 IPs, a 1.34 WHIP and 1.4 BB/9 rate.

However that would end his career. His last five seasons saw BB/9 rates above 1.2 which made him an ordinary pitcher compared to his back-to-back .8 BB/9 seasons.

Well, he wasn’t exactly ordinary – clearly he was as adroit with the plate as he was with a pallet…I mean his (art)work was featured in Sports Illustrated and you know what they do with paint!

Oh and he was a fielding artist as well – he owns the 21st best fielding percentage by a pitcher (min. 1,500 IPs): .980. He is tied with Tom Glavine and Scott McGregor.

Pretty interesting, if for the Bob Ross links alone.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Brian Wilson

Wilson back

I think we can all agree that being any sort of baseball player would be the coolest thing in the world.

Wilson front To wit: in the off-season, Brian Wilson played soft toss with Barry Zito across a freaking canyon in Hollywood – presumably Alyssa Milano was not watching.


Could you imagine being Wilson’s friends?

Friend: So Brian, what did you do today?

Wilson: Zito and I threw a ball across a canyon for a few hours…

Umm…what?

I’m sorry but that is just entirely badass.

You know what else is badass? Wilson’s K-rate. It was 10.33 last year and 11.24 this year. For the time being, it appears Wilson has settled into being one of the preeminent power relievers in the game. Not bad for a 24th round draft pick from 2003.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.