The Week That Was:  Right and Wrong from 2104 and Lessons for 2015

Good calls, a couple of bad calls, lessons to remember in 2015 and the all-Schultz teams highlight the final 2014 Week That Was Baseball.

I highly recommend printing this article or saving it in a file marked “baseball draft prep 2015”.  You will be glad you did.

Alcides Escobar:   In February, we wrote: “Escobar provides us profit potential after a down year.  He will steal at least 20 and likely 30+.  However, the profit lies in the fact that people focus on the .234 average from 2013 but forget he hit .293 in 2012.  When you add in the facts that his BABIP was way below career norms, his line drive percentage stayed strong and his K rate went down, you get a guy who will outperform the “what have you done for me lately” price at which we rostered him.”  What did he do?  Well, as of this writing, he is hitting .283 – and delivered on the batting average bounce predicted.  Oh, and he has already swiped the 30+ bases.  Lesson for 2015:  Watch the advanced metrics to see if they explain a drop from previously attained production as a return to that production will provide tidy profits.   

Wei-Yin Chen: In February, we wrote: “He missed almost half the year last year and still managed 100+ K.  Chen is hardly a star but at $5, I am more than happy to roster a guy in his contract year who has a decent (yet unspectacular) history and will be motivated to stay in the rotation to maximize his return.  I see a guy who will likely give us a 100% percent return on our $5 investment.”  Well, as predicted, Chen came through:  16 wins, 136K, and solid 3.54 ERA/1.23 WHIP.  Lesson for 2015: Look for players with minor injuries whose production is artificially depressed and of course, pay special attention to contract year players who missed time with injury but will be motivated to stay on the field.

Justin Upton:  In February, we wrote: “At $24, he is practically risk free. He has averaged 100 runs, 25 HR and 14 SB over the last three years – all before his age 26 season.  Once again, we rostered a player with high upside yet limited risk.”  As of this writing, Upton is hitting .270 with 29 HR and 102 RBI with 8 SB as gravy.  Did he have a monster year?  No.  Did he come close to his career averages and return more than we paid?  Yes.  Lesson for 2015:  When you invest in young players with established solid baselines and upside, even if that upside does not materialize, you are fine.  Make these kind of low risk investments.

Adrian GonzalezIn February, we wrote: “Adrian Gonzalez $25. . . .  I think we got a steal on AGonz.  How many players in the big leagues are still in their prime, play on a very good team, have knocked in 99 or more runs 7 years in a row AND hit .290 or more 4 years in a row?  There cannot be many.”  What did AGonz do?  He hit 27 HR with 116 RBI with a lower than expected but still decent .276 average.  Lesson for 2015:  see Upton, Justin above but replace “young players” with “players in their prime”. 

Victor MartinezIn February, we wrote: “This is a guy who was one of the hottest hitters in baseball in the second half, posting a .367 AVG and .937 OPS.  Oh, and if you want to talk consistency - VMart hit over .300 with at least 79 RBI in each of the last four years.  I think those numbers will continue and the HR number creep back over 20.  I am happy shopping at the VMart.”  VMART delivered in spades:  .337 batting average, .411 OBP, 32 HR and 103 RBI.  Lesson for 2015:  When a good player misses a year with injury and then lights it up in the second half the following year, that means it took time to readjust and get completely healthy.  It also means big time bargain potential.

Neil Walker:  In February, we wrote: “In the MI spot, I like to get some production but be careful to do no harm.  Walker, in his age 28 season fits the bill.  Will he ever fully live up to the hype?  Probably not.  However, even including his down 2013, his three year averages are:  66R, 14 HR, 68 RBI and a .268 average.  Solid, unspectacular, but most importantly does no harm.  In the end, this is a case of getting small profit if he stays on the same course but with the possibility of bigger profit.  His BABIP was 57 points below his 2012 number and well below his career numbers.  Thus, his batting average should jump back over .270. Add that to the fact that his bb rate went up and K rate went down and there is some solid upside for 2014.”  In 2014, Walker did not disappoint, exceeding his averages by hitting .271 with 23 HR and approximately 75 runs and RBI.   Lesson for 2015:  the combination of a depressed BABIP, reduced K rate and increase walk rate = maturing hitter who had back luck and thus a potential bargain.

Of course, I got some wrong too.  Here are a couple of good illustrations.

John Axford:    In February, we wrote: “John Axford.  We know the results were awful in Milwaukee last year, however, he maintained a 95mph average FB velo for 4 straight years and his worst K rate was 9 per 9.  I buy into the fact that he was tipping his pitches and the Cardinals fixed that.  I can easily see him notching 80K and 30-35 SV (or at least I hope so).”  His K rate stayed solid at 10.37.  The problem is he lost his closer job and got traded thus killing his fantasy value for us and those who drafted him.  Lesson for 2015:  Yes, a lot of what you hear in the spring is noise.  However, when so many people are saying a closer is on a short leash, make sure you get a different one or at least his backup too.

Clay Buchholz:  In February, we wrote: “Ordinarily I do not like to draft injury prone players.  However, here at the end of round 17, I broke that rule.  The downside of course is Clay is always hurt and has not pitched 150 innings of good ball since 2010.  However, the upside is quite high.  Last year, he posted sick numbers during his fleeting healthy period: 1.02 WHIP, 1.74 ERA and close to 8K/9.  Even if his ERA rises to his FIP of 2.93, that is still pretty good at round 17.  Frankly, I would not invest a lot in Clay in an AL-only auction but figure this may be worthwhile in an NFBC-style draft if he pitches 100 similar innings in 2014.”  Well, Clay pitched 163 innings but they were not quality as the 5.40 ERA highlights.  Lesson for 2015:  Injury prone players get hurt and either miss time with injury or worse – underperform (a disaster when it comes to pitching).

And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page.  Schultz says: “With the baseball season coming to a close, there isn’t much use for salient observations and incisive analysis of the past week with an eye towards illuminating the potential of the future one. In times like these, Schultz remembers one maxim of the publishing world that never grows old: people love lists. So, for the first time ever on Fantasy Alarm, The Week That Was reveals the 2014 ALL SCHULTZ TEAMS.

The PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER TEAM. Shy to blossom in the first half of the season, the members of this team rewarded patience and came out of their shell after the All-Star break. (This team comes with the Ubaldo Jimenez warning to not be fooled by any of this in 2015).

C:  Buster Posey (SF) – The former MVP looked out of sorts in the first half but was a key component of the Giants surge to the NL Wild Card game by hitting .353 with 11 HR and 41 RBIs.

1B: Adam LaRoche (WSH) – His 2012 breakout seemed like an anomaly but his 14 homers and 44 second half RBIs (ignore the terrible batting average) were a key to the Nationals distancing themselves from the pack.

2B: Joe Panik (SF) – Did you know that Joe Panik hit .325 in 212 at-bats after the All-Star break? It’s true. Go look it up.

SS: Jose Reyes (TOR) – Sadly, the former roto-stud having a decent half of a season now qualifies as news. After returning from his now-annual injury, Reyes hit a cool .300 while swiping 13 bases, giving some return on his investment.

3B: Martin Prado (AZ/NYY) – Always a streaky hitter, the utility man’s .296 and 8 homers surely assisted roto-owners at a position other than third base. Yet, that’s where he played the lion’s share of his games.

OF: Matt Kemp (LA) – Remember when Matt Kemp was a roto-monster? In case we forgot, he remembered in the second half, hitting .303 with 16 HRs and 51 RBIs. He doesn’t run much anymore but if it keeps him healthy, that’ll be just fine.

OF: Corey Dickerson (COL) – Picking up where Charlie Blackmon dropped off, Dickerson hit .301, swatted 13 homers, drove in 41 runs while scoring 37 himself. If you managed to swap him for Blackmon mid-season, you had a Rocky Mountain Monster on your hands.

OF: Ben Revere (PHI) – While no one was paying attention to the Phillies, Revere put together his customary strong finish to the annual campaign. His .322 and 22 steals were amongst the best in both categories after the All-Star break.

SP: Alex Cobb (TB) – Other than Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber, there was no more dominant (well, effective) starter in the second half. Belied by his 6-2 record, in 13 starts Cobb had a 1.49 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP while striking out 76 and receiving not one iota of attention.

RP: Drew Storen (WSH) – A late entrant into the closer field, Storen replaced Rafael Soriano on the National League’s hottest team and racked up a monumental 10 saves in September.

The TMZ SPORTS TEAM. Like TMZ, this team possessed something extremely significant that was there to be seen but, for some unknown reason, no one chose to look at it.

C:  Devin Mesoraco (CIN) – A holdover from the mid-season All Schultz team, the Reds catcher completed his breakout season with 25 HRs, 78 RBIs and a catcher-approved .276.

1B: Lucas Duda (NYM) – With the exception of their starting pitching, Duda’s 28 HRs and 86 RBIs were the lone bright spot for the 2014 Mets. It may be a safe assumption that the Mets first baseman, regardless of who it is, will flirt with 30 HR, 90 RBIs each year. (e.g. 2012 Ike Davis).

2B: Dee Gordon (LA) – As post-hype as post-hype can get, Gordon made everyone forget years of disappointment by stealing a league-leading 64 bases while scoring 92 runs atop the Dodgers potent lineup.

SS: Danny Santana (MIN) – the undrafted infielder from Puerto Rico made slick fielding, no hitting Pedro Florimon expendable by hitting .321 and adding 7 HRs, 40 RBIs and 19 steals. Roto-eyes may have to return their gaze towards the Twin Cities.

3B: Todd Frazier (CIN) – There is very little that is surprising in the world of third basemen, making Todd Frazier’s 28 home runs a revelatory occurrence.

OF: Josh Harrison (PIT) – Unheralded utility players rarely make a difference in the world of roto (not to be confused with our former home). However, Harrison’s potentially league-leading .318, 13 HRs, 52 RBIs and 17 steals was a tremendous boon for whoever made the gamble.

OF: Melky Cabrera (TOR) – Derisively written off after an extremely subpar return from steroid limbo, the Melk-man (as the Overlord fondly called him as a Yankee) had a resurgence north of the border, hitting .301 with 16 HRs, 73 RBIs and 81 runs before injuries shorted his season.

OF: J.D. Martinez (DET) – Picked off the scrap heap from the Astros, the other Detroit Martinez cruised to a .318, 23 HRs and 76 RBIs and proved that Houston is not the city where prospects go to die.

SP: Jake Arrieta (CHI) – A post-hype disappointment cast off to the lowly (not-for-long) Cubs, Arrieta was one of the more dominant pitchers in the NL. He not only put up a 2.53 ERA, .99 WHIP and struck out 167, he disproved the myth that it was Chicago that was holding back Jeff Samardzija.

RP: Zach Britton (BAL) – Replacing Tommy Hunter as the closer for the AL East winning Orioles (say that out loud, it still sounds weird), Britton’s 36 saves while posting a 1.70 ERA and .90 WHIP solidified a bullpen that had been scarred by the ghosts of Jim Johnson for far too long.

The “MY INDIE BAND SOLD OUT” TEAM. In the early stages of every successful band, there are loyal fans that help build the buzz that gets them widespread attention. Once that occurs, they become embittered as their band is no longer truly theirs. This team is comprised of the indie talent that is about to become roto-mainstream.

C:  Jonathan Lucroy (MIL) – Productive hitting catchers are an extremely rare and valuable roto-asset. Over the last three seasons, Lucroy has emerged as a dependable source of average and power. His 52 doubles this year will translate into more homers in the future.

1B: Anthony Rizzo (CHI) – In the past, the Cubs slugger that made his way around the league as a delectable trading chip has always struggled with consistency. In between power displays, he would forget to make contact for days on end. This year, he paired 31 homers with a .281 average. The leap has been made.

2B: Jose Altuve (HOUS) – The diminutive second baseman surely puts out tiny numbers. After this season’s league leading .342 with 56 steals, no one consider his past success to be a fluke. He may now be the most valuable roto-2B in the game.

SS: Derek Jeter (NYY) – Since no shortstop really made the leap this year, we’ll honor #2’s leap into the Hall of Fame pantheon.

3B: Josh Donaldson (OAK) – In 2013, everyone kept waiting for Donaldson’s numbers to regress, only he refused to placate. A main cog in the As offense, his 28 HRs, 97 RBIs and 91 runs should now be considered the norm.

OF: Michael Brantley (CLE) – If not the AL MVP, Brantley sure was the Tribe’s MVP. His .328, 20 HRs, 97 RBIs, 94 runs and 23 SBs didn’t just make Brantley the coveted 5 stat roto-player, they signified his assent as one of MLB’s top outfielders.

OF: Nelson Cruz (BAL) – Injuries and a steroid suspension cast an ominous shadow over the former Rangers’ slugger. Demonstrating that perhaps chemicals were not a significant part of his game, the potential AL MVP led the Orioles with 40 HRs, 108 RBIs, 86 runs and hit .273. A healthy Cruz is a valuable Cruz.

OF: Carlos Gomez (MIL) – A former top prospect of the Mets, the real CarGo paired 22 HRs with 34 SBs and gave every indication that he’s a 20-20 (if not potentially 30-30) until he thinks he’s Jose Reyes.

DH: Chris Carter (HOUS) – Because his 37 home runs, which felt like they were his only hits, should be memorialized as the start of something big.

SP: Corey Kluber (CLE) – Full of potential, he is now one of baseball’s best. There is no reason to consider his 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 18 wins and 269 strikeouts as anything other than his introduction as one of the best in the game.

RP: Craig Kimbrel (ATL) – Closers catch fire and burn out so quickly that it’s time to acknowledge the Braves closer as the Mariano of the South. There is no more dominant reliever that Kimbrel.

The ROGER GOODELL TEAM. One word: fiasco.

C:  Jason Castro (HOUS) – Last year, there were favorable comparisons to Carlos Santana, the Indians’ catcher. This year the comparisons should be made to Carlos Santana, the guitarist, you’ve got to change your evil ways and hit better than .221.

1B: Chris Davis (BAL) – The Orioles first baseman followed up a Triple Crown contending year by hitting .196. His 26 HRs and 72 RBIs, which were approximately half of last year’s total, meant that you paid twice as much for half the value.

2B: Jason Kipnis (CLE) – The Kipnis should have taken his place as the elite 2B in roto-ball. Instead injuries hampered him and he crawled to a .240 with 6 HRs and 41 RBIs. A failure of a year as many expected him to make the leap this year.

SS: Jean Segura (MIL) – On this team due to the ridiculous expectations that followed his momentous start to the 2013 season. While his 19 steals were disappointing, his .245, 5 HRs and 31 RBIs should eliminate the delusion that he’s the next coming of Troy Tulowitzki.

3B: David Wright (NYM) – Look kids, it’s a falling star.

OF: Bryce Harper (WASH) – Injuries played a factor but the whole Trout/Harper being like Bird/Magic storyline has turned into a Dan and Dave decathlete misfire.

OF: Allen Craig (STL/BOS) – A perennial .300+ hitter now looks exposed with every at-bat. He was able to hide his abysmal .217, 8 HR campaign by finishing it in Boston, where no one was paying much attention.

OF: Carlos Gonzalez (COL)/Wil Myers (TB)/Mark Trumbo (ARZ)/Josh Hamilton (LAA) – Sure injuries played a role. However, none of these outfielders were hitting well when they were healthy, so let’s not be so quick with the excuses.

SP: Justin Verlander (DET) – 4.54 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 159 Ks, 1 scandal involving leaked photos and 1 shoulder scare. A steep fall from grace for the former Cy Young/AL MVP.

RP: Joe Nathan (DET) – His 34 saves belies how dreadful he was this season. It says something about the Tigers bullpen that they couldn’t find someone without a 4.89 ERA and 1.56 WHIP to finish games.

As this is the last baseball column of the year, I want to thank everyone that followed The Week That Was to our new home here at Fantasy Alarm. Most importantly, I want to thank Glenn The Overlord for bringing me along with him instead of trading me to another site as part of a LABR or Tout Wars trade. ”
ResponseIt is I (and the loyal readers) who should be thanking Schultz for providing great entertainment and quality analysis we have come to expect.  Great stuff!  Now on to football!