Greatest Car Ride Part 1

Last weekend, I went home from Bucknell University with Heather for her to meet my family at my sister’s graduation party. We had to get back to Bucknell Sunday night because I had work Monday morning. When the car ride started, I put on the Fantasy Sports SiriusXM radio channel because they talk about all sports and teams and players throughout the entire country, rather than just LeBron and Tim Tebow on ESPN. Also I enjoy playing fantasy sports as a hobby and as a way to put all my sports knowledge to use. The channel mentioned something about different types of fantasy baseball leagues, and Heather asked a question about it so I just went on a stream of conscious lecture of anything that came to my mind.

I started off explaining the different leagues that there are in fantasy baseball. The first big difference is rotisserie and head to head leagues. My personal preference for fantasy baseball leagues are rotisserie leagues that last the whole season.  Head to head leagues have a problem in that they do not really allow for the best team to win because they are on a week by week basis. This is okay for fantasy football because part of fantasy football is picking each specific matchup week to week. Also, football is more of a sprint while baseball is a marathon. With 162 games, you cannot judge a team based on a 7 day segment. If you had Mike Trout all year last year, he carried your team but when the last month of the season rolled around, which is the time when fantasy head to head playoffs would be, he had cooled off and a team with him on it, may not have done well because his stats for that week weren’t great even though his 2012 numbers were historic. That is why my preference is a yearlong rotisserie league. It counts all the stats over the course of the year of each of your starters every day and then ranks you based on these categories. For example, if it’s a ten team league and you are first in home runs, you get 10 points for that category, if you finish second, you get 9 points, and so on.

Leagues can also be considered mixed, AL, or NL leagues. In a mixed league, you can use all the players in the MLB, while AL and NL leagues only allow you to use players from their respective leagues. These are more challenging as you need to know players that may not be consistent starters but may just be platoon players that can help you out because they perform well when they do get the plate appearances. There are also a variety of different categories that can be used in fantasy baseball leagues. The standard hitting categories are batting average, runs, runs batted in, home runs, and stolen bases. The standard pitching categories are wins, strikeouts, earned run average (ERA), walks plus hits over innings pitched (WHIP) and saves. These categories are what most fantasy sites and sports sites base there fantasy rankings on. However, there are a variety of fantasy leagues that use extra stats. The most common statistics that are used as the extra categories for hitters are walks and strikeouts and the categories for pitchers are quality starts and holds. These two categories are not as well known by many sports fans. A quality start is given to pitcher who pitches at least 6 innings and gives up no more than 3 runs. This is valuable stat because it is more indicative of how well a pitcher performs because it does not matter how well his offense performs. Holds are a statistic given to relievers who come into a game with less than a 3 run lead before the 9th inning and do not relinquish that lead before they are taken out of the game. This is a valuable stat in fantasy leagues because it gives value to relievers who do not get save opportunities. These relievers are sometimes actually better than the closers on their teams, specifically Kenley Jansen, Joaquin Benoit, and Ryan Cook among others. Leagues with holds make these players more valuable and much more in demand.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Once I was done explaining just some of the variety in fantasy baseball leagues, I just went into talking about different organizations, how they do business, and how effective they are. The talk about Kenley Jansen got me into the Dodgers and their new big spending ways since the ownership group containing Magic Johnson purchased the team on March 27, 2012 for 2 BILLION dollars… over a billion more than any other purchase of an MLB team. Since this purchase, the Dodgers have not been afraid to spend money. When Kenley Jansen’s heart problem resurfaced prior to the 2013 season, they gave Brandon League a 3 year 27 million dollar contract. Brandon League has a career 3.67 ERA and only had 60 saves prior to 2013. He did not deserve 9 million dollars a year to close, but the Dodgers don’t care with all the money they have in such a large market and a new ownership group creating more interest. They were able to trade good, but not top, prospects for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett because they were willing to pay all the money on their ridiculous contracts. So far this season, it has not worked out for them, but over time if they learn to scout quality players, their money should allow them to field top teams for many years.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha

Kevin Gausman

Kevin Gausman

As I was finishing up my Dodgers talk, the radio mentioned something about Michael Wacha. Wacha is a Cardinals pitcher that was just called up Thursday, May 30th. Of course, everyone on the channel is raving about him and thinks he will be one of the next great starters to come from the Cardinals organization. He definitely is not the most highly touted pitching prospect that has been called up this year, behind Kevin Gausman and Jose Fernandez most notably. However, Wacha has been the most hyped because he is coming from an organization that just pumps out pitching prospects all the time and whenever they are called up, they are ready to pitch in the majors even if they are not highly rated prospects. So far this year, they have called up pitchers like Tyler Lyons and John Gast. Both of these pitchers are not highly touted prospects, but they have been serviceable in the majors and have helped the Cardinals to continue to win even with the plethora of pitching injuries. The Cardinals have also pumped out great pitchers such as Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller, so when a good Cardinals prospect is called up, it is a big deal and almost everyone in the fantasy sports community believes they will be good. In contrast, the Orioles have done plenty to show that they have not been able to develop pitching. They have failed in developing Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Chris Tillman who were all supposed to be top of the line starters. Chris Tillman has been okay this year and Brian Matusz has been good in the bullpen, but nowhere near their projections. So, when Kevin Gausman got called up on May 23rd, there was skepticism because of the previous history regarding Orioles pitchers. Now all of these players who have failed to live up to their hype were drafted by the previous baseball operations regime. Dan Duquette, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, and Buck Showalter, Manager, were the head of the baseball minds that drafted Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Therefore, I have been optimistic about Kevin Gausman and believe he will be at minimum a very serviceable pitcher in the major leagues for years to come. This optimism may also be because of my Orioles fandom. However, I do think that Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will break the trend of failed Orioles pitching prospects and become good to great pitchers in the major leagues.

This conversation about the Orioles led to a conversation about draft picks and trades and how the balance of trades have been changed in recent years and then possible trades at the deadline in 2013 and the rest of the car ride is to be continued.

Greg Danchik

Manny Machado Profile/Projection

G AB R H TB 2B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS WAR
Current 53 232 36 77 120 24 5 29 12 33 5 2 .332 .365 .517 .882 3.3
Prorated 155 678 105 225 351 70 18 85 35 97 15 6

Stats from Baseball Reference for Manny Machado

 

Manny Machado

Manny Machado

Manny Machado is one of the great young stars in Major League Baseball today. Drafted 3rd overall in the 2010 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, only behind Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon. When drafted, people made comparisons to Alex Rodriguez because he is a big shortstop 6’ 2” and is from Miami. Right now, he is constantly compared to the two other young hitting stars in the game today, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Based on his value, current career path, and possible future career path, let’s see how he fits, or will fit, into baseball history.

Machado was drafted for his superb bat and defense at the shortstop position. He played this position for the majority of his minor league career; in fact he only played two games at 3rd base rather than shortstop. He entered the Major Leagues at age 20 last year on August 9th, 2012 (it is considered his age 19 season because he began the year at age 19). He came up and changed the Orioles team, which was slumping at the time. He also did not do it with his bat. His slash line of .262/.294/.445 was good for a rookie 20 year old in the MLB but would not have changed a team offensively. In fact, he changed the team defensively at third base with only 2 games experience in the minor leagues! The Orioles had one of the worst fielding percentages at third base before Machado was called up. And after he was called up, he only made 5 errors with a fielding percentage of .967 and also had one of the great defensive plays of 2012. The Orioles never looked back and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Machado is on a torrid pace in his first full season in the MLB. In his age 20 season, he is on pace to break a record that has been standing for 82 years. Using only 155 games and the average amount of AB’s in his current 53 games to calculate the amount of AB’s he will get this season, his projected amount of doubles is 70. This would break a record of 67 set in 1931 by Earl Webb. The rest of his statistics are good, but not nearly as great. He is projected to have 18 HR’s, 85 RBI’s, 15 SB’s, and a .332 BA.

Projecting Machado is an interesting task. The Alex Rodriguez comparisons are hard to make now that Machado has some significant MLB stats. Alex Rodriguez’s 20 year old season is one of the great seasons in MLB history and is only really comparable to Mike Trout’s 2012. A-Rod had 36 HR’s, 123 RBI’s, 15 SB’s, and a .358 BA. With a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 9.3 in his age 20 season, it is almost entirely unrealistic to think Manny Machado will have a WAR that high. Even though Machado’s already has a 3.3 WAR for this year, it will be hard to reach 9.3 for multiple reasons. The WAR for shortstops is naturally higher because it is a much harder defensive position than third position. The other reason is A-Rod has admitted to using steroids so his statistics may have been helped by performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This makes projecting Manny Machado through A-Rod a tough task because of these factors.

Machado does compare well to a similar big bodied shortstop that happened to play with the Orioles as well, Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken in his first full season (Age 21) in the majors had 28 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, 3 SB’s and a .264 BA. Ripken’s WAR was only at 2.6 for that whole season. Machado has already surpassed that and I believe will continue to get greater as the season goes on. Machado does not appear to have as much homerun power as Ripken at this stage in his career. Machado almost has as many doubles (24) as Ripken (32) had his entire season in just 53 games. Machado has more speed than Ripken but appears to be on a comparable season to Ripken except with less homerun power and more gap to gap power and speed. The greater batting average also bodes well for Machado. If Machado has a career similar to Ripken’s, he will go down as one of the all-time greats in MLB history.

Overall, my opinion from watching him and looking at statistics is that Machado’s future is a bright one. He has a smooth swing from the right side and has projectable power as he continues to grow into is large 6’ 2” frame. His overall value as a player is very dependent on whether or not he goes back to his natural position of shortstop. He would become the man that runs the infield and controls the game the most besides the catcher. I believe he will go back after JJ Hardy’s contract runs out in 2015 or in the summer of 2014. I say the summer of 2014 because if for some reason the Orioles fall out of contention, they could trade JJ Hardy to a contender for some prospects. Then they could move Machado to shortstop then call up 3rd base/infield prospect Johathan Schoop to play third base as he should be ready by that time. If he moves to shortstop, he could turn out to be one of the great offensive shortstops of all-time. I don’t believe he will put up big power numbers like A-Rod or Cal Ripken. I do, however, think he will be an as good or better fielder than those two and have a higher batting average. I think he will probably be a .310 hitter with around 30 homeruns in his prime and good to great defense while playing shortstop and then back to third once he gets older, like Rodriguez and Ripken. This would lead to a great career. I can’t guarantee these numbers but barring injury I believe he will have a great career. For my sake as an Orioles fan, I hope he stay an Oriole through most of his career as well. That will depend on whether they can sign him to a cheap contract through his arbitration years (2016-2019) and possibly through some of the first years of free agency post 2019. It may be hard to keep the whole core that is there now together, but hopefully they can keep Machado around for a long time.

May 30, 2013

Greg Danchik