LINK: Scars of the Game

Screenshot 2015-10-06 10.11.37The New York Times has a surprisingly engaging photo essay about elbows, Tommy John surgery, and the scars that are left behind.

LINK: Too Fast, Too Much, Too Young

An excellent story about youth baseball pitching and the headlong rush toward Tommy John surgery. From Bleacher Report.

Ask Rotoman: Time Wieters for No Man

Dear Rotoman:

I have Matt Wieters on my team.  Do you think I should pick up a catcher to replace him or wait to see if he will eventually get better. Replacement Options would be John Jaso, Kurt Suzuki, AJ Pierzynski, Wellington Castillo, or Russell Martin.

“Caught Looking”

Dear Caught:

Wieters went on the DL on May 11th and is eligible to return on May 26th, but so far his elbow still hurts and he hasn’t been able to throw, so don’t expect him to return when eligible.


Reports are that he’s feeling better, but until he proves himself able to throw at full effort without re-injuring himself it’s hard to say with any certainty when he’s going to get back. Right now he’s no strongman.

The range of possibilities extends from a healthy return in early July as a catcher, to an earlier unhealthy return limited to DH duties sometime in mid June, or season-ending Tommy John surgery, probably after it’s decided that he’s not getting better from rest. The value of the DH stint is reduced because surgery will remain an option, should the Orioles fall out of the race.

Since you asked the question, I’m assuming you play in a league that has no DL or reserve slots. I can understand not having reserve lists, keep those healthy players available to all teams, but I think it’s just cruel to force teams to make decisions like this. The uncertainty punishes teams that suffer more injuries than other teams, and most injuries just aren’t predictable.

So be it. Let’s say Wieters comes back July 1 and is healthy. You’ll get $9 of expected production out of him the rest of the way, in half a season, assuming he performs as expected.

You’ll get a little more than two-thirds of a season from the other guys. Here’s what they cost in the preseason and what they’ve earned so far, as well as an evaluation of their value going forward:

John Jaso: ($8, $4) He is the most like of these guys to have a breakout season, beating expectations by a lot. He’s already ahead. Plus he’s earning his breakout without a ridiculously high batting average. Expect $6 more from him, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he put up $8 more.

Kurt Suzuki: ($2, $5) He’s hitting better than .300, but has always looked like a .240 hitter, now playing in a park notorious for stifling homers. He’s not going to be a $15 hitter this year. Expect perhaps another $3, or less.

AJ Pierzynski: ($12, $3) He’s a little bit behind expectations but has such a long and robust history it’s easy to expect him to catch up. He could earn another $9.

Wellington Castillo: ($9, $3) He’s right on pace to earn to expectations, which is another $6. Why not?

Russell Martin: ($10, $2) He missed time on the DL, which puts him on pace to have earned $4 thus far, and thus $8 more the rest of the way if he stayed on that pace. Expect a little less than that, but it’s in the ballpark.

So, your best bets are Pierzynski and Jaso, with Martin a bit behind. None should be expected to earn more in the next four months than Wieters will if he plays three healthy months. If you were sure Wieters were going to come back, you would hold onto him. Or so the evidence would suggest. But the difference isn’t great, and the odds that Wieters won’t return are more than zero.

How much more? If you think they’re 1 in 5 chance, Wieters rates as $7 the rest of the way. If it’s a 50/50 chance, Wieters becomes a $4 player. The real odds are probably somewhere between those two, but you can’t ignore the possibility that he’ll opt for surgery, making him a $0 player. The only scenario in which Wieters beats Jaso or Pierzynski is if he gets healthy and plays the rest of the season as you hope he would. Those odds favor replacing him.

If it were my choice, I would switch to Jaso as soon as possible, but I wouldn’t blame you at all if you switched to Pierzynski instead. He’s probably the safer choice of the two. Either way, make the move, and remember you can always angle to recapture Wieters via FAAB if he does come back.

That wouldn’t be a bad move at all.


ASK ROTOMAN: Does Sizemore Matter?

Dear Rotoman,

What are your thoughts on Grady Sizemore?

“Thinking Along”

Dear Thinking,

In the Fantasy Baseball Guide 2013 we ran profiles of both Grady and Scott Sizemore. With Grady we noted his three microfracture surgeries, his possible timetable of a midseason return, and said it was best to have no expectations. Scott Sizemore was expected to be healthy after surgery to repair his ACL, which he tore in 2012. $3 I said, for the As third baseman. But Scott Sizemore again tore his ACL in the second game, thus ending his 2013 season. Meanwhile, there was no sign of Grady. Which is why I decided to scratch both of them from the 2014 Guide. Oops.

Now they’re back. Scott Sizemore is competing with the equally back-from-the-dead second baseman Brian Roberts for the Yankees job at second base. And Grady is trying out with the Red Sox, ostensibly to serve as their fourth outfielder.

Here are the knocks on Grady. He hasn’t played a full season since 2008. He was passably productive (.788 OPS) in 503 plate appearances in 2009, and has been ineffectual when not not playing since. That’s a lot of down time. But Grady was a finely conditioned athlete (see illustration), and presumably hasn’t shirked on the upper body while rehabbing his knees.

Screenshot 2014-03-14 09.34.43Still, keeping muscle tone (and this isn’t a recent selfie, this is from 2009) is easier when you’re 31 (turns 32 in August) than it is to keep your bat speed and timing. Especially after years of not facing real pitching. Which isn’t to say he can’t do it.

I was skeptical last year of Victor Martinez coming back effectively after a year off. I could find little evidence of other hitters at his age missing a full year and becoming effective regulars again. Martinez, of course, did just fine. History is a guide, not a destiny.

So, Sizemore has age on his side, but has essentially missed his entire prime to injury. He lands on the post-prime part of his career with a history that offers only caution and hope. It would be nice if he regained some of his career, wouldn’t it?

The nice thing for fantasy players is that he’s a late-round low-cost flyer at this point. Skepticism is damping down his price, while there is a real chance for playing time if Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t grab hold of the starting job or someone gets hurt. That could mean real value if Sizemore can actually play.

The problem, of course, is that he’s a low contact high-walk-and-strikeout type of player, which means in a BA league he’s likely to hurt you in that category. He’s had a little power, and maybe will add to that, as guys often do as they move into their 30s. What made him specially valuable back in his glory days were his legs, but since they’ve been the motor of his downfalling, don’t count on big steals numbers. Still, you have to think that if he’s going to make the team as a backup centerfielder that the legs will be healed.

I haven’t put a projection in the software at this point because really? If you made me I’d say 300 AB, .235 BA, .350 OBP, 10 HR and 5 SB. I’d pay a buck for the chance that works out. I’d use a 23rd round pick in AL only. I wouldn’t assume any mixed league value.

I would also wonder why I thought an obvious bad pun was a good idea for a headline?


Rob Neyer on McGwire

Here’s Rob’s piece.

My opinion about PEDs has changed over the last five years or so. Some of that has been because I learned more about the PEDs, and in large part it is because I saw the way the athletes accused and convicted of PEDs use reacted. Badly, of course. The trials and investigations and testimony all helped show that the players knew where the guilt was, even when naifs like me were defending them.

So, we had our villain. Finally.

Of course, when I put it that way I start to get all wishy washy again. This really isn’t a story of villains and, presumably, heroes, but rather a story of lots of similar but not identical people undergoing pressures that are similar but not identical. Talk about the despicable union protecting the drug takers ignores the many actions over the years by the owners to control the players and limit their compensation. In this context the slow to emerge drug rules reflect ownership’s desire to get an upper hand on the players, and the players (union) protecting their privacy and civil rights.

In any case, I don’t think McGwire is the hard Hall of Fame case. Even with his spectacular power accomplishments, he’s not a clear cut Hall of Famer. Discount him for PED usage and it’s easy to keep him off any HOF list. Bonds and Clemens are the real deal, on the other hand, Hall of Famers before they took the drugs. The big question is whether their induction will open the door to the boderline cases like McGwire.

Jon Williams on Alex Rodriguez

Advanced Fantasy Baseball: Surgery to Cost at Least 10 weeks

I get a feed of fantasy baseball stories, and this is one that just came over. I knew A-Rod was thinking about having surgery tomorrow, but this was the first I’d heard he’d decided to go ahead. It does seem he’s come up with a compromise, which might get him back on the field sooner this year, at the cost of further surgery next winter. All of which, as Jon Williams suggests, you need to know.

But I refer to this story here because Williams calls A-Rod a “renowned wuss” and talks about how he expected him to have a bad year this year because of all the attention focused on him following his PED admissions. Big Jon says, “I was leaning toward predicting a bad season for A-Rod because of the pressure on him to perform under the close eye of the media while enduring the boos of fans. He has responded poorly to this in the past and it will be increased by a factor of at least ten this season.”

Are these two things true?

The only reference I could find to A-Rod being a wuss was a story about how he fainted when his wife gave birth to their first child. This story came up last spring, as the couple hurtled toward divorce. A-Rod missed the birth of the second child, last May, when his plane got in just a little late, so we don’t know if he’s toughened up or not. In any case, I always thought wuss meant you were injury prone and didn’t play with little hurts. Rodriguez played with hip pain last season, apparently, and showed no signs of jaking. He’s had injuries over the years, but hasn’t lingered on the DL that I recall, and doesn’t have a reputation as injury prone. I wouldn’t make any decisions about A-Rod based on him not trying.

As for his clutchness, he really was horrible last year. But clutch performance is always measured through the filter of the small sample. Take a look at his Clutch Stats last year and you see that he was about the same Late and Close, 2 outs with runners in scoring position, and with the game within four runs, with about a .875 OPS. The one exception came Late and Close, where he was a weak .790. The issue here is that he had only 83 PA Late and Close. He also only had 74 PA with a greater than four run lead. In those at bats his OPS was 1.241! What a bum.

But everyone knows that 74 PA or 83 PA doesn’t tell you anything about a player. How has A-Rod performed throughout his career (I’m assuming that you don’t grow less clutch as you get older) in clutch and non clutch situations? His low OPS came in 2 Out with Runner in Scoring Position (.889). His high OPS came in one run games (.981). What I learn from this is that A-Rod is okay in the clutch, that he doesn’t so much fold under pressure as look a little less comfortable facing it, and so his effort looks like much less than his results. Would he have folded this year if he wasn’t hurt? 

I would suggest that A-Rod played under intense pressure last year, after the contract fiasco, the revelations about his private life, the breakup of his marriage, an apparent dalliance with an older woman who was also a celebrity, plus the pain in his hips. He’s never looked clutch, I have to admit, and was particularly unclutch last year, but it’s hard to draw a hard lesson from that experience. I’m happier saying that A-Rod is a great hitter who doesn’t always look like he enjoys being the man. That disconnect, it seems to me, is going to exaggerate his shortcomings. 

Oh, as for this year and next, what’s in store for A-Rod? If the doctors are right he’s going to miss about six weeks of the season to post-surgery rehab, and probably another few weeks to extended spring training getting game ready. A mid-June return seems reasonable, and as Jon Williams correctly says, this isn’t the whole fix, it’s a patch job, so he probably won’t be 100 percent if all goes well.

My advice on these sorts of things is to be conservative, if you’re in a good position, and take a chance if you’re in a weak one. In keeper leagues, it’s easy to figure this out, because you can judge everyone’s keeper lists. If you have a good keeper list you don’t want A-Rod unless his price drops below $20, and even then it might be a mistake. The cost to you if he fails isn’t worth the risk. In the software I’m going to cut his output nearly in half. 

As a startup draft/auction strategy it gets a little tougher. A rule of thumb might be, if you end up with Johan Santana in your mixed league draft, target A-Rod many rounds later. But it doesn’t have to be Santana. He’s just going to be the most expensive of the risky guys and the first one to go. Look for other cheap but big upside players and make a team of them. Emphasis on cheap. 

The flaws in A-Rod’s personality are obvious, and it’s hard not to pay attention to them. But the obvious evidence of his talent and work ethic seems way more important. He’s hurt and we have to deal with it, but we’ll do a better job of that if we don’t overamp A-Rod’s demons. He’s worth the risk for the right teams this year and next.

Texas Rangers Slip n Slide

It was raining like crazy here in New York last night, with massive lightning and thunder. Somehow it took the Mets a couple of hours to call things off, just enough time for some players to come up with a playful idea.

It’s nice to see the Texas Rangers having fun, but when your fantasy team (or if they were your Texas Rangers) you’d have to be a little alarmed to see the fragile Milton Bradley and thus far injury prone Josh Hamilton running in the rain on a slick tarp. No doubt Ian Kinsler owners had similar concerns.

On the other hand, isn’t it great to see the usually dour Bradley having fun?

Hawk attack at Fenway Park

A photo series of the hawk attacking Alexa Rodriguez at Fenway last week. It all seems so much more normal in pictures.

Decoding the Depth Charts: Rangers Closer

There are a number of tenuous bullpen situations this spring, but entering the last two weeks of camp none is more unsettled than the closer order in Texas. For the record, I have CJ Wilson projected for 7 saves, Eddie Guardado with 14, Joaquin Benoit with 10 and Kazuo Fukumori with 3. This is major ass covering that probably makes things seem more clear cut than they are. Let’s see how the other see it. says Wilson, Benoit, Guardado, Fukumori. has Guardado and Wilson as co-closers, backed up by Benoit. Fukumori ranks down their list. has Guardado and Wilson as co-closers, with Benoit and Frank Francisco as setup guys. Fukumori isn’t listed. has them listed Wilson, Fukumori, Benoit, Guardado. has Wilson listed as the closer, and Guardado, Benoit and Fukumori as the setup guys. gives Wilson 70 percent of the saves, Guardado and Benoit 10 percent each and Fukumori five percent. The remaining five percent is out there, waiting. reports that CJ Wilson, who has been hurting this spring, is healthy, while Eddie Guardado’s bum knee didn’t help him make his case to be closer when Wilson was down. Still, they’re listed as co-closers. Benoit is the setup guy, though he’s been hurt this spring, too, with Fukumori behind him. has them listed as Wilson, Benoit, Guardado, and Fukumori.

All of which tells us that Wilson is probably the closer if his arm is okay (he was hurting with biceps tendinitis), and it’s anyone’s guess who will take his place if he can’t go (or if he fails, which I think his walk rate last year suggests could happen).

Guardado’s numbers last year don’t look so hot, but most of the damage came around his DL time. He finished strong and while that earn him a ringing endorsement because of his age and the wear and tear he’s endured, he’s got more potential than you might think. I like Benoit but he’s not going to move ahead of the other two unless they go down. And Fukumori is the wild card. A successful closer in Japan, he’s got the head for the job.

The mistake here wouldn’t be taking any few of these guys, but paying more for them combined than you would for the Texas closer. If it looks like Wilson’s the one he’s likely to go for closer money. Backing him up with the other guys, who will all have value in 4×4 leagues, will probably each cost you a little premium because of the chance that they’ll end up in the closer’s seat. And you’ll end up paying too much for the Texas closer and some setup guys.

But for cheap? Get on ’em all. You just might win the lottery.

Where in the draft do you take Albert Pujols?


BaseballHQ has been running this poll after Ron Shandler wrote last week that you shouldn’t take Pujols at all given the injury risk.

Pujols’ three homers since are a strong argument for his ability to continue to hit despite his elbow problems.

But assuming the Cardinals suck, it makes far more sense for him to bail early this year to save next year than to miss next year to the recovery. Right now I think that makes his price $22, though I couldn’t help myself and voted for taking him No. 7-10 in a mixed league draft.

He’s not sure to fail.