Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Filling Chase Utley's Shoes

posted by Jon Williams
I received the following e-mail this morning:
5X5 H2H league (OBP instead of Avg). My free agent choices are M.Tejada, Jose Lopez, Beckham, Pennington, Peralta, or S. Rodriguez. Obviously Utley is my MI (behind Kinsler/Rollins).

Whaddya think?
Big Mike
Tough decision. At least you have a mix of possibilities. You have the fading veteran in Tejada. The underachieving veteran in Lopez. The struggling phenom in Beckham. The slap-hitting speedster in Pennington, the disappointing Peralta, and the underutilized youngster in Sean Rodriguez.

Part of the decision has to be based on how your team is doing and what your category needs are.

Miguel Tejada, Baltimore Orioles - Tejada no longer provides much power. He hits for a fairly empty average thanks to being part of the underachieving Orioles lineup. In your league he is nearly worthless with just a .313 OBP.

Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners - Lopez probably has more upside than Tejada at this point but his stats are even worse. He has a slash line of .244/.269/.337 and is showing zero power. Definitely pass.

Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox - Beckham is the most promising of the players on this list. He was expected to be a force in Chicago but has slumped through most of the season. He is swinging at more pitches out of the zone than he did in his rookie season. However, his contact rates are still pretty good and there is definitely a degree of bad luck. Unfortunately he does not walk much. There have been some signs of life this week, he hit his first homer in quite some time and seems to be coming around. If you can afford to embrace some risk this might be a good place to go.

Cliff Pennington, Oakland Athletics - Pennington is a mediocre hitter but he steals bases and walks enough to justify his reputation as a leadoff hitter. He has a slash of .247/.323/.359 and like the others has displayed little power. But mediocre is better than lousy and that makes him a real possibility.

Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians - Peralta showed some promise a few years ago but seemed to lose it when he was moved off shortstop. Perhaps his defensive position is like Sampson's hair. Still, he has more powers than the others have shown (though nothing to go crazy about). He's a possibility if we're desperate for any homeruns we can get.

Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays - Rodriguez hasn't been that great overall but has been hot in June. Hitting .292 with four home runs and three stolen bases as of the 26th. His potential is second only to Beckham on this list. I have a hunch he'd have been better playing everyday than he is sharing a job, but that's just a hunch. He's the hot hand.

So here are your options:

Shoot for the Stars - Gordon Beckham who has shown signs of life lately.

Take the stolen bases and the best OBP you can get - Cliff Pennington, probably the safest bet.

Desperate for Power - Jhonny Peralta, hope he gets back what he lost in the second half.

Play the hot hand - Sean Rodriguez, hope he keeps it up.

I tend to be an embrace risk type of fantasy owner and would grab Beckham. Play it safe types should probably grab Pennington. If you believe whoever you pick up is short term, Rodriguez is probably the one.

Good luck.

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Hot Prospects: Mike Minor and Aroldis Chapman

posted by Jon Williams
NBC Sports is reporting that the Braves are promoting left-hander Mike Minor to Triple-A Gwinnett after dominating Double-A batters with 109 strikeouts in just 87 innings. Minor is a candidate for a second half call-up if the Braves need the arm. However, they could try to restrict his inning count in just his second professional season.

From Jason Grey
"The No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft is a relatively polished four-pitch southpaw (despite his first-inning blowup in the Rising Stars game). He sits at 90-92 mph but showed he could dial it up to 94 when needed. He had good fade on his change, and his curveball was inconsistent but good at times. He needs to improve his fringy slider, but he's another pitcher who could move very quickly but doesn't have a huge ceiling."
They also have a report on Aroldis Chapman's progress in his transition (at least temporarily) into a reliever.
"Excellent," GM Walt Jocketty said when asked how Chapman was doing as a reliever. "His last time out [on Saturday], he pitched one inning and faced two left-handed hitters and struck them out. He got the right-hander out. In that one performance, he was dominating."

Chapman has allowed one run over three innings in two relief appearances with Triple-A Louisville, striking out five and walking one. The Cuban fireballer was scheduled to work two innings behind the rehabbing Edinson Volquez on Tuesday night.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Remember Mark Prior? Don't Call It a Comeback.

posted by Jon Williams
Mark Prior was once the man. He was a stud starter for the Chicago Cubs and helped propel them to one of their best seasons in decades. He was coveted by fantasy owners everywhere. But Dusty Baker was his manager, thus his arm was destined to fall off, and it pretty much did.
From Fox Sports:
Right-handed pitcher Mark Prior, who came out of USC with a hype along the lines of Stephen Strasburg, is still trying to piece his injury-plagued career back together.

Prior, 29, will work out for major league clubs at USC on Wednesday. Prior, who has not pitched in the big leagues since going 1-6 in nine games with the Cubs in 2006, has been working with USC pitching coach Tom House, the former big-league pitching coach who has worked with Prior since his high school days in San Diego.

Most major league teams are expected to have a scout in attendance.
Prior was the second player selected in the 2001 draft, Minnesota opting for high school catcher Joe Mauer, and then Twins general manager Terry Ryan being criticized at the time for passing on a pitcher that many claimed was ready to step directly into a big-league rotation.

Prior did receive a then-record $10.5 million signing bonus, and appeared to validate the Cubs decision in 2003, his first full big-league season, when he was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. Prior, however, developed shoulder problems that required surgery after that season, and has made only 57 big league starts since.

— Tracy Ringolsby
Prior seems a long way from being an effective pitcher for fantasy owners. However, you never know. Stranger things have happened than a former stud pitcher regaining some semblance of effectiveness again. He is worth watching but don't act too rashly.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Can Brennan Boesch Keep Hitting Like Pujols?

posted by Jon Williams
Who the hell is Brennan Boesch? Because of his incredible production the Detroit Tigers and a few fantasy owners have much better lineups. But for most fans he came out of nowhere and analysts have been saying his lucky streak just can't last.



Fantasy owners tend to be a numbers oriented lot. As the art of sabermetrics has become more popular a large segment of this crowd has developed an almost snobbish dismissal of players that do not fit their criteria for players of interest. Brennan 'Hollywood' Boesch was such a player for most of his minor league career. In 2009 he caught the attention of some Tigers fans with a 28-homer season for Double-A Erie. Baseball America rated him as the best power prospect in the EL though they left him off their top-20 prospect list for the circuit; they did rate him Detroit's #25 prospect. The power had been projected but not realized until then. But no one doubts the power potential of the 6'5" slugger...

The name of the game is simple for Boesch, as he is a power hitter through and through. Most scouts tossed around plus-plus or 70 power for Boesch, though one scout felt his power may warrant an 80 grade. Boesch can hit balls out to any part of any park on the planet, and his power is absolutely prodigious to the pull side. He gets the bat to the zone quickly and he rips the barrel through the hitting zone with incredibly muscular upper and lower arms.

For all his power, Boesch has some very significant kryptonite. Most scouts see significant holes in his swing, and a susceptibility to breaking balls in nearly any part of the zone. He lacks the pitch recognition skills to consistently work counts, and he has a below average hit tool as a result. There will always be a lot of swing and miss in his game, and it is a matter of whether his power will be enough to make up for what will likely be a lot of strikeouts and a very low on-base percentage.

Boesch is an average runner. His jumps in the outfield are fringy at best, and most scouts I spoke with see at best, an average defender. He can make most of the plays in right field, and he has an above-average arm with decent carry.

His makeup rates as a positive in his favor, and he does a solid job of keeping his mind focused on the present and not letting poor plays in the field or poor at-bats, impact the task at hand on the field. He is unlikely to be a star, but his power is difficult to ignore, and he will get chances to nail down a corner outfield spot if he continues to blast balls out of the park.
What most analysts did not like about Boesch was his extremely aggressive style that resulted in very few walks and low on-base percentages. A scout explained to Nick Underhill, a writer for TigsTown.com how he felt watching Boesch play during the 2009 season:
“How do I fill this out? Every time I start to fill it out I don’t feel good about it. He hits the ball hard, plays decent defense, but he’s too wild at the plate. Way too wild, this is the hardest report I’ve had to file in a while.”
At the University of California, where Boesch played three seasons, Boesch had these batting lines -- .284/.365/.541 (7BB, 3 HBP) in 74 at-bats, .355/.436/.567 (26BB, 6 HBP) in 217 at-bats, and .313/.372/.505 (20BB, 2HBP) in 214 at-bats. This is shown to demonstrate that hitting for average (with high BABIPs) and showing at least some discipline at the plate is not entirely unprecedented. Boesch was considered a potential first round pick before the 2006 season. He fell because of a swing that some scouts considered stiff and not ideal for play with a wooden bat, and some bad reports on his defense in the outfield. However, it is worth posting his college stats as evidence that hitting for high averages and walking ( a 9.2 percent walk rate at the University of California) is not entirely unprecedented.

According to the few reports to be found, including a report from John Sickels, Boesch's problems in the minors were the result of that same stiff swing. But it is obvious that part of his problem has also been a lack of patience. Curious that he seems to have found his solution by becoming ultra aggressive and swinging at almost every pitch. In an article for FanGraphs.com, Joe Pawlikowski pointed out that as of May 11th, 2010, Boesch was swinging at 66.2 percent [of pitches], more than 20 percentage points above league average. Obviously he was doing good things with a lot of those pitches.

Boesch's swing percentage is down to (a still very high) 58.2 percent. His O-swing percentage (over 50 percent at the time of Joe Pawlikowski's article) is now down to (again, still very high) 42.6 percent. He has also made slightly better than average contact in all those swings. If nothing else, Boesch seems headed in the right direction as he continues to pound the ball as June ends.

Make no mistake, Boesch had a very luck influenced BABIP (over .500 at one point in May) his first month in the major leagues. But in June his walk rate doubled along with his power. Put another way, after just two walks in his first 50 PA, he has 14 in his next 166 PA, while this will not put him in the class of patient sluggers like Jason Giambi or Adam Dunn, it does make his projections for the rest of the season look considerably better. The increase in walks in conjunction with his increased power makes sense. Various reports, easily found on the internet, will demonstrate how an increase in power almost always leads to more walks as pitchers adjust.

Conclusions
As of this writing Brennan Boesch has 198 at-bats and a batting line of .338/.389/.621 with 12 homeruns, 26 runs, 43 RBI, and two stolen bases. He has a BABIP of .374, a .283 ISO, and a .432wOBA. His numbers look a lot like Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. Of batters with at least 190 at-bats he ranks fifth in wOBA just behind Justin Morneau, Miguel Cabrera, Hamilton, and Kevin Youkilis and slightly ahead of Robinson Cano, Paul Konerko and Joey Votto. He's been very good.

Starting with the bad news, it seems obvious that his batting average will creep down. He has numbers that will be very difficult to maintain (seemingly impossible some might say) with his peripherals. Even noting the recent improvements, Boesch still swings at too many pitches, especially outside of the strike zone. Though his aggression is at least somewhat responsible for his success, he must improve his pitch recognition and selection if he hopes to have long term success. He needs to take more walks, hitting for power will get him part of the way. If he learns to lay off most pitches out of the strike zone, he will increase his OBA dramatically.

With his swing nice and loosened, Boesch has become a very good contact hitter and I believe we can call that one of his skills. He has fantastic power that scouts have often rated a 70 on the 20-80 scale and in at least one case he received an 80. He is a hard worker who is constantly working to become a better player. He is extremely confident, bordering on overconfidence, which is an asset as long as he also remains coachable. This is a combination that leads me to believe that Boesch is capable of hitting for good batting averages (.270-plus) with excellent power on a regular basis.

Fantasy owners with Boesch on their rosters should hold on to him. Selling high is not a bad idea, but I believe that he will have continuing value in keeper leagues. Those owners should also prepare for the massive slumps to which hitters this aggressive frequently fall victim. When he does slow down, resist the urge to dump him if he can be placed in reserve. For the balance of the season I would expect the power numbers to continue and for his batting average to continue to gradually decline. He can not be considered the next Pujols at this point, he just doesn't have the skills. However, a solid power hitter with decent (not amazing) batting averages is already a virtual certainty.

For more on Brennan Boesch:

http://www.scoutingbook.com/players/p2699

http://firstinning.com/players/Brennan-Boesch-a/

http://espn.go.com/mlb/players/splits?playerId=29378

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=914&position=OF

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/B/Brennan-Boesch.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/boescbr01.shtml

http://tigers.scout.com/2/958464.html

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=9796

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

5 Slumps that are about to End

posted by Pauly
Also known as the buy-low list, here are five players who are either slumping right now or have been slumping all season, and the reasons why their slumps (hopefully) won't last. Some players are just second-half guys, for whatever reason.

1. Mark Teixeira -- If you have played fantasy baseball at all in the past few years, you know what Teix is capable of doing after the all-star break (which is coming up on July 12). In 2009, he hit .313 after the break and raised both his on-base and slugging percentages significantly. In 2008, the first- and second-half differences were even more dramatic -- he went from batting .271 to .366; slugged nearly 200 points higher (.656 vs. 484) and raised his OBP from .373 to .464. Now is the time to make a play for Teix -- and you are hoping his owner can't take another day of his .230 average so far this season.

2. Derrek Lee -- Lee had an enormous second half last season; and while he is only batting .233 right now (not nearly as good as the .280 first half he posted last season), he posted a .336 average with a .656 slug and .436 OBP after the break in 2009. His current BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) is just .275 -- well below his career mark of .321. So, has Lee just been a bit unlucky this season, or has his career turned the downhill corner? My guess is the former. Buy.

3. Mark Reynolds -- Reynolds has improved in the second half in two of the last three seasons, and his career second-half batting average is 10 points higher than first-half. He is another player whose BABIP this season is way below his career mark (currently he is at .271, and his career number is .333). Give his second-half improvement in past years, I would expect his luck to change.

4. Jorge Cantu -- After a red-hot start to the season, Cantu has been plugging along at a snail's pace in the RBI and batting average department. He is batting .210 in June with just 9 RBIs -- just for comparison's sake, he had a .311 average and 23 RBI in April. And yeah, his slugging has fallen dramatically in that span, from .567 at the end of April to the .432 it stands at today. The good news is that Cantu improved slightly in the second half in 2009, and I think a shake-up a the helm in Florida is going to spur him on for the second half this year. This one is more of a gut-feeling pick than the others that are based more in numbers; however, Cantu's BABIP is 21 points below his career average -- so there's that.

5. Adam Lind -- It is much more difficult to predict players that haven't been around all that long. His career splits indicate that he is a much better second-half player, but most of that was determined by the enormous season he posted last year. So what is Lind, who has a .205 BA, just 9 HR and 34 RBI doing wrong? Well first of all, he just may have been pressing -- really hard -- in the first half, trying to reproduce the magic of last season. Toronto has tried to ease the pressure by moving Lind down in the lineup (this week), and he responded by hitting his first homer since May. Cito Gaston says Lind and fellow struggling teammate Aaron Hill (who was moved to sixth in the order) will stay down there until they get hot. His BABIP is .244 so far as opposed to the .323 he had last season -- there must be some middle ground to be had here. It might be risky, but it is probably a cheap enough chance to take.

Honorable Mention: Matt Wieters -- I can't use the numbers to back me up, since he is only in his second season, but his second half last year was awesome. He is only hitting .203 in June, so his slump is for real -- let's see if his second half last year was too.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bragging Rights Granted...

posted by Jon Williams
I received this e-mail this morning:
10 Team H2H League 25 Mixed


C - Brian McCann
1B - Prince Fielder
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Adrian Beltre
SS - Jimmy Rollins
OF - Matt Holliday/Andre Ethier/Michael Bourn
UTIL - Troy Glaus/Nyjer Morgan
BN - Shane Victorino/Chris Coghlan/Aubrey Huff

SP - Gallarado,Wainwright,Cain
RP - Capps,Feliz,Wagner
P - Latos/Corpas/King Felix
BN - Anibal Sanchez,Ted Lilly,Brett Cecil
DL - Edinson Volquez
He did not ask any questions so I just started evaluating his team. Reproduced below.

Hey Jay,

Well, you didn't actually ask me a question so I'll assume you're just interested in a general impression of your team.

Brian McCann has been okay but hardly the dominating force at catcher we were hoping. He has shown some signs lately and I think he will have a big second half.

Prince Fielder has been shockingly mediocre. He has swung at a few more pitches out of the strikezone than he typically has but I'm not certain this is anything other than bad luck. He also is hitting fewer homers per flyball. I would hang on to him and hope things get back to normal.

Dustin Pedroia
is awesome. If the rest of the team had not started so slowly his numbers would be even better. He's a potential MVP for both your team and the American League.

Adrian Beltre
is having a very good season. His best in a few years. You won't do much better short of the David Wright, Evan Longoria class of player.

Jimmy Rollins has struggled to stay healthy and that is most of the reason for his lack of production but otherwise he's having a great season.

Matt Holliday/Andre Ethier/Michael Bourn - Holliday is heating up as he typically does in the second half. You could ask for more from Andre Ethier but it would be a selfish and ungrateful thing to do because he's having a great season. Bourn is not repeating his 2009 season bt the runs and stolen bases are there and that's why yo draft a player like him. He'd be much better on a real major league team (not the Astros).

Troy Glaus/Nyjer Morgan - Glaus has been one of the most productive first baseman. He has lead the league in RBI. Nyjer Morgan has been disappointing to those expecting a repeat. But he still steals bases and unless someone better becomes available he has a place on your roster.

Shane Victorino/Chris Coghlan/Aubrey Huff
- This is a great bench, it is versatile and productive in several different areas. Victorino hits for power and steals bases, he's like a poor man's Matt Kemp most years, this year he is Matt Kemp. Coghlan started slowly but has come on of late. I think he'll be better next season when he's playing a more natural position. Huff has been underrated all season and worthy of a place on any fantasy team.

Gallarado,Wainwright,Cain
- Three aces on solid teams. Nothing to complain about here.

Capps,Feliz,Wagner - You could complain about Capps a bit for his high ratios but why bother with a team like this? Feliz has been one of the best closers in the AL.

Latos/Corpas/King Felix - Who were you drafting against? You need to be in a tougher league.

Anibal Sanchez,Ted Lilly,Brett Cecil - a nice group of extra arms.

Edinson Volquez - He should be solid next year, I probably wouldn't hold him on most teams but you shouldn't be feeling much pressure.

So, you're winning right? If you aren't, I hate to see what the other guy's team has. Even in a ten team leage you should be doing very well.

Anyone in a deeper league have a dominating roster like this?

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Carlos Zambrano Suspended Indefinitely

posted by Jon Williams
Carlos Zambrano, once the unquestioned ace of the Chicago Cubs has been suspended indefinitely. Zambrano has been suspended largely because he can not stop blaming everyone else for his declining skills. And the Cubs are tired of it.



"It becomes a bit of a tired act," said general manager Jim Hendry to ESPN after the Cubs' 6-0 loss to the White Sox on Friday afternoon.

Apparently Zambrano was angry that Derrek Lee missed Juan Pierre's double hit down the first base line. Just check out the above video to see Zambrano's complete meltdown.

For Fantasy owners this is bad news. I have a feeling we will not see Zambrano pitch again until he joins another team. I think the Cubs will have a difficult time getting anything of value for him but they will also be reluctant to just let him go. If you can stash him I would do so but do not let the thought of Zambrano's triumphant return prevent you from picking a more promising player from your waiver or free agent list.

I wonder if the Cubs will be inspired to put Andrew Cashner to work as a starting pitcher. What do you think?

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Know When to Hold 'Em - To Trade or Not To Trade

posted by Jon Williams
I received an e-mail from a frequent reader this morning. He has been in regular contact of late while he attempts to strengthen his team via trade. The trade he was being offered was a fair one. It was a pretty good outfielder and a pretty good starter for his closer. On the surface this was a good deal for him because dollar for dollar he would win the deal and the names involved probably made it look even better. I advised him to pass on the trade.

There are lots of owners out there obsessed with the idea of winning trades and fair deals. This is not the goal of a good fantasy trade. The object of a trade in fantasy leagues should be to bring yor team closer to winning the championship. In the example above the reader in question had a strong outfield already. He admits that the pretty good outfielder he received would be sitting on his bench. From what I know of his roster he was looking at the starter as a short term fill-in for a couple of better starters presently on the disabled list with short term injuries. For this he was thinking of trading his only true closer.

When making trades owners should hold out for or design trades that will result in a climb up the standings. Worry less about perception and fairness and concentrate on your league standings. I usually make projections of the rest of the season for any players I am thinking of acquiring and calculate how much the trade will help me in the standings.

What is your process when making deals?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

10 Guys Available in 80% (or more) of ESPN Leagues that are Worth a Look

posted by Pauly

1. Ike Davis (20.0 percent owned) – First base is one of the deepest positions in a fantasy lineup this season, which is probably why there are four first basemen on this list. The interesting thing is that 3 of them are rookies. Davis is one of those rookies, and he is batting .286 with 2 HR and 1 SB over the last 15 games. He has David Wright protecting him in the lineup, and as a matter of fact, I watched Wright get intentionally walked to load the bases for Davis twice in the last week. He may strike out too much, but the RBI opportunities will continue to abound for the former Sun Devil. What may be most amazing is that Davis (a lefty) is hitting .328 vs. left-handed pitching this season. Davis is definitely worth a flier in redraft leagues; and he should not be available in keeper leagues.

2. Justin Smoak (19.7) – Our second rookie first baseman has been killing the ball recently. He is third in the AL in RBI with 20 in the month of June, trailing only teammate Josh Hamilton (27 RBI) and Torii Hunter (21). One nice thing about Smoak that sets him apart from most rookies is the fact that he does not strike out much (only 10 K in June). Now that Nelson Cruz has returned from injury, Smoak will have to move down a spot in the order; however, that shouldn’t deter you from nabbing him. Like Davis, Smoak should not be available in any keeper leagues – if he is, stop reading this now and go pick him up.

3. Jeff Keppinger (16.8) – I wanted to include at least one middle infielder on this list, and Keppinger edged out Ian Desmond (another rookie) – mostly because Desmond has fallen into a big slump the last two weeks. He may not wow you with his power numbers, but Keppinger is hitting a steady .280 on the season with a .328 OBP. The biggest plus on Keppinger is his eligibility at 2B, 3B and SS, and he has the potential to contribute to your run totals batting in front of Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee.

4. Gaby Sanchez (11.1) – The Marlins fired their manager, assistant manager and hitting coach on Wednesday; however, this should not negatively impact Sanchez, who has been on fire in June. For the month, the rookie is hitting .356, with a .407 OBP and a .575 SLG. He has 3 HR and 2 SB to go with those gaudy stats. Sanchez is really coming into his own – he has 11 hits in his last 24 ABs – and he has the streaking Chris Coghlan batting in front of him and Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu batting behind him. Expect more of the same in July.

5. AJ Pierzynski (8.9) – Don’t look now, but the joke of a lineup that is the Chicago White Sox is starting to hit. Pierzynski has brought his average up from .219 to .252 in just the last 10 games, and he has 2 HR in that timeframe. After hitting .169 in April and .241 in May, A.J. is hitting .362 in June – and he has gone 3-for-4 in each of the last two games. He’s certainly a better option right now than much more widely owned catchers, such as Ryan Doumit (.162 AVG in his last 15 games) and Rod Barajas (.133 over the last 15).

6. Kris Medlen (8.5) – The first pitcher on the list (there are very few quality starting pitchers at 20-percent owned or less), Medlen nailed down a spot in the Braves’ starting rotation thanks to Jair Jurrjens’ injury, and he will keep it thanks to Kenshin Kawakami’s total ineffectiveness. Since joining the rotation, Medlen has made 7 starts, with 5 of them quality starts. He has three wins and no losses in that timeframe. Impressively, Medlen has posted just 9 walks vs. 29 strikeouts as a starter, and like I said, he will be keeping the job for the foreseeable future. Definitely a great keeper candidate in deep leagues.

7. Evan Meek (8.0) – The 27-year-old right hander has outperformed every pitcher on the Pittsburgh Pirates, including the two guys in front of him on the closing depth chart, Octavio Dotel and Joel Hanrahan (although Hanrahan has been quite solid). Even if Meek never gets another save this season, his numbers as a middle reliever can definitely have a positive impact on your fantasy team. In 40 innings this season, Meek has a miniscule 0.68 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. He may not be Carlos Marmol when it comes to the K, but Meek’s strikeout rate is encouraging (36 Ks in 40 innings – with only 9 walks), his opponent’s batting average of .170 is terrific, and he hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 23 (that’s 12 straight scoreless appearances). If you have a roster spot available, Meek can do wonders for your pitching percentages.

8. Luke Gregerson (5.6) – Gregerson is another middle relief example of a player that can help balance out your pitching percentages. He strikes out more batters than Meek – Gregerson has 43 Ks in 35.2 IP – and oh yeah, he only has THREE walks this season. That’s good for a 0.48 WHIP! If your league counts holds (Gregerson has 17), there is no way he should be available. That said, Luke is definitely another player who helps a whole lot more than he hurts, and if you have roster space available, it’s probably a no-brainer.

9. Hisanori Takahashi (4.6) – The Japanese import has benefitted from a shoulder injury to John Maine, which moved him into the rotation since May 21. Since then, Takahashi has 3 wins with two 6-inning shutouts of the Bronx Bombers (although one was a no-decision). With news that Maine may be shutting it down for good, Takahashi will continue to be the main beneficiary. The only red flag seems to be his dominance over AL teams – 2 of his three wins and 3 of his 4 quality starts came against the AL squads. He is a Met, after all.

10. Russell Branyan (3.1) – Being injured to start the season is a great way to find yourself on this list. Take Russell Branyan – he missed the first 12 games of the year and then struggled through much of May trying to play catch-up. Well, in June Branyan has caught up, batting .279 for the month with 4 HR and an .851 OPS. His resurgence cost the vaunted Matt LaPorta any playing time, and he was subsequently sent to the minors. The fact that Branyan is 3.1-percent owned means he is likely available to you – and while you might not plug him into the lineup tomorrow, he may prove to be a valuable trading chip as the rest of the fantasy world wakes up to what he is doing.

So…have I forgotten someone? Totally disagree? That’s cool...leave a comment!
--Pauly
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New Contributor

posted by Pauly
Hello readers of Advanced Fantasy Baseball!

My name is Pauly, and Jon recently asked me to start contributing to Advanced Fantasy Baseball. After looking over the site, it looks like my posts will be a perfect fit.

Jon found me through my blog, Pauly's Fantasy Hoops and Baseball Corner (I know, not the greatest blog title ever). If you are interested in seeing some of my previous writings, please feel free to check it out (and leave comments). A couple of recent posts you may find interesting are:
The All-Team Killers Infield and Killing us in the Outfield.

I have been playing fantasy baseball for more than 15 years. I am active in two leagues -- one is a 14-team H2H yearly redraft league; and the other is a 13-team roto keeper league. Right now I stand in 6th place in the H2H and second place in the roto keeper.

I also have a sports writing background. Personally, my favorite (and home town) team is the two-time world champion Florida Marlins. I watch just about every Marlins game, but thanks to the MLB.TV package, I am able to scout players on every team, every night (well, most nights anyway).

My first post is coming right up -- I plan to contribute some quick, easy-to-read, yet informative lists dealing with fantasy baseball. I can't wait to read your comments.

--Pauly
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Jarrett Hoffpauir: Toronto's Third Baseman

posted by Jon Williams
UPDATE: The Toronto Blue Jays have designated Edwin Encarnacion for assignment. I'm not certain why this happened after he seemed to take the demotion in the right spirit. This could be something that his agent instigated but that is purely guesswork. I imagine we'll hear more on this in the next few days.

From the Seattle PI:
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - The Toronto Blue Jays have designated third baseman Edwin Encarnacion for assignment. Encarnacion, 27, was batting .200 with nine home runs and 22 RBI in 37 games this season. He was sidelined from April 15 through May 17 because of a sore right shoulder and missed 30 games during that stretch. Toronto acquired Encarnacion from Cincinnati in a four-player deal at the trade deadline last year. He has a career .257 average with 88 home runs and 308 RBI.
The Toronto Blue Jays sent Edwin Encarnacion to the minors on Sunday. After several years in the majors it must be a major blow to his ego. However disappointed Encarnacion may be, this demotion may ultimately be the best thing for him. He is still young and still holds the potential to become an excellent power-hitting third baseman.

To replace Encarnacion on the 25-man roster, the Blue Jays have recalled 27-year old Jarrett Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir grew up in the St. Louis Cardinals' system. He was fairly successful in a short stint with the major league last year. He hit .250/.438/.417 with one homer in 16 plate appearances. His career minor league line is .288/.366/.427 in 2,509 at-bats. Those are not superstar numbers but they show competence with the bat.

Older players like Hoffpauir typically need to hit well immediately to extend their opportunities. In this case it is more likely to be bad defense than a weak bat that keeps Hoffpauir on the bench. However, in AL-only leagues I think Hoffpauir represents a good risk. He should get to play a few games right away. If he can play decent defense, manager Cito Gaston will have no reason to sit him in favor of the slumping Jose Bautista.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Secrets of Sustained Success

posted by Jon Williams
Ron Shandler recently wrote a couple of articles devoted to uncovering the formula for consistent success in Fantasy Baseball. He broke fantasy success down to six variables and polled fans and his fellow experts to weigh the importance of each. I won't reveal all of Ron's conclusions. The articles were part of a free preview (I'm not certain if that is still available or not but here are the links):

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part One

The Formula for Consistent Success - Part Two

I find this to be an interesting topic for discussion. In leagues of relative equals (in baseball knowledge and fantasy tactics) any owner can win in a given season. The true challenge is winning year after year after year. This is about finding the key to that sustained success.

1. Better player projections: I do not believe that the difference between occasional success and consistent success has much, if anything, to do with the difference between most sets of projections. I am certain there are some horrible projections available. However, smart owners are probably choosing from the more established options. If you are using projections from Baseball HQ, RotoWorld, RotoWire, Mastersball, Yahoo, ESPN, The Sporting News, Fantasy Pros 911 or any of a dozen others, you are doing just fine.

The key here is to use a set of projections that you can familiarize yourself with well before your draft or auction. You should have at least a general idea of how the projections were generated. It could be a complex formula that incorporates dozens of performance indicators and multiple computer generated algorithms or it could be as simple as weighted three-year averages. As long as you know and understand the process enough to vary from it when it seems logical.

2. Better grasp of contextual elements that affected players: This is the variable that is most important to me. This is how you manage to draft Carlos Silva, Ben Zobrist, Ryan Ludwick, and so forth from year to year. This is also how you know that the Braves will go with Jason Heyward to start the season and that Mike Stanton will have to wait, regardless of their spring performances. This is how you understand that Brandon Wood will get an extended opportunity and Chris Davis will not.

Owners need to know managers and general managers and their tendencies. Every owner who hopes to have consistent success should understand how each team utilizes players on the major league roster and in the minors. You should know which players are likely to be traded and which are virtually untouchable and why. The best owners instinctively know what teams are planning to do in any given situation based on their history and trends.

3. Better sense of value: It is essential that owners know how much a player is worth in their individual league. But it goes beyond knowing that Albert Pujols is typically worth $45. You need to know the value your league places on him as well. If your league refuses to pay more than $40 for any player being willing to say $41 could be a monstrous advantage to you.

Every league has subtle differences in the players they value. My local leagues, the MPRL (American League Only) and CGRL (National League Only) tend to over value the top prospects and young players. They also pay top dollar for the studs, leaving the boring veterans in the middle as excellent bargains. If this is news to you go back to your leagues draft or auction and examine the record for trends you may be able to exploit next season.

4. Better in-draft strategy and tactics: Owners should go into every draft or auction with a plan. While it is not always a good idea to target certain players, many of the best owners I have known plan to acquire players within small groups of the similarly skilled. They also have back-up plans. They exactly what they will do if plan A is not working out. It may not surprise you that this is the area that Shandler's group of experts collectively assigned the most importance.

This is an area I need to strengthen in my own game. I am good at establishing a plan of action. I always have a well-worked plan. My weakness has always been adjusting when things do not go as planned. When plan-A fails I start to take too many chances. I tend to embrace so much risk that winning becomes almost impossible unless I am incredibly lucky. Fortunately, this doesn't happen to me often but it did happen to me in several drafts this season. Owners should always be prepared when things go awry. It happens to everyone.

5. Better in-season roster management: This encompasses FAAB bidding, trades, pick-ups, use of your reserve roster, activating minor leaguers, and replacing disabled players. If your league allows free pick-ups and the constant churning of your roster - this can become the most crucial element in winning. In contrast, if your league allows very little in the way of roster changes this is almost irrelevant and your draft becomes that much more important.

One of the best ways to keep up with your leagues is to set aside a regular block of time everyday to review your leagues. This can be quite quick if you are doing it everyday. I have the bad habit of skipping the review of teams I am less concerned about (no money involved usually). It typically starts with a time cruch and I put things off and a day becomes a week, becomes a month, and so on. I plan on doing better with this in the future by not being in quite so many leagues.

6. Better luck: Any idiot can get lucky and win a fantasy league. Luck plays a huge part in every league. Most of the time injuries, suspensions, slow starts, and off years are just bad luck. Or you might get lucky by picking up Livan Hernandez to ride his hot streak and finding that it lasts the entire season. but luck is not entirely random, you can create your own good or bad luck.

Drafting Mark Teixeira knowing he starts slow is one thing, drafting him, Grady Sizemore coming off an injury, Milton Bradley, Chris Davis, Brandon Wood and Ken Griffey Jr. onto the same team was just asking for trouble. You can often avoid massive amounts of bad luck by using your head in most cases. Know the injury history of your players and don't place too much risk onto one roster.

Good owners will also give themselves the chance to get lucky. Playing it safe will not usually result in a fantasy championship but it requires a smart balance. If you realized that Chris Davis would get the hook if he started slow, using a reserve pick on Justin Smoak is a great risk.

What do think is most important to consistent success?

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Felix Doubront, the Next Red Sox Ace?

posted by Jon Williams
Felix Doubront has come on strong his last two seasons in the Red Sox organization. Doubront was signed out of Venezuela in 2004. He progressed slowly but steadily through the system putting up mostly good but not great numbers. The last two seasons things have started to click for him and he has emerged as a top prospect.

Doubront is making his major league debut today primarily due to the DL-stints of Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. However, he also deserved the promotion because of his very good numbers at triple-A this season. He has a 2.11 ERA in 12 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season, with 54 strikeouts, 22 walks and no homers allowed in 59 2/3 innings. He gets to face Manny Ramirez in his return to Fenway Park.

From Red Sox Prospects:

Doubront utilizes a 91-94 mph fastball, a very good 79-81 mph changeup with screwball action, and a developing mid-70s curveball. Flawless and fluid downward pitching motion with excellent control. Deceptive delivery, hitters don't pick up the ball until late, causing his fastball to look a little faster. Used to struggle against left-handed batters, but seemed to fix this issue in 2009. He has a reserved and modest demeanor, but is aggressive and poised on the mound. Sometimes has the tendency to leave the ball up in the zone too much, giving up too many home runs. Athletic and agile in the field. Doubront struggled in 2007 due to numerous injuries, including recovery from a hernia operation.
Doubront should be worth an add in AL-only leagues. He isn't likely to be great in mixed leagues just yet. He will probably go back to the minors when Dice-K comes off the disabled list.

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Wrist Injury Downs Tulowitzki

posted by Jon Williams
The Colorado Rockies placed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left wrist. They say Tulo will miss six to eight weeks with the injury. Experienced fantasy owners know that wrist injuries can linger and sap a players power months after they've returned to the playing field. But every player is different and Tulo owners should hope for the best as they prepare for the worst.

The Rockies have replaced Tulowitzki on the active roster with prospect Chris Nelson. Nelson has played well at Colorado Springs batting .311 with five home runs and 20 RBIs but Clint Barmes is expected to get most of the starts at shortstop with Melvin Mora and Jonathan Herrera competing with Nelson for playing time at second base. I suggest picking up Nelson in NL-only leagues. He many not receive many at-bats but he has the highest ceiling of the trio.

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Nailing Down the Arizona Closer Situation

posted by Jon Williams
After waiting entirely too long, Arizona Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided to remove Chad Qualls from the closer role. For the moment we are expected to believe that Aaron Heilman is the new closer. However, the D'Backs have been hesitant to place Heilman in that role. Their reasoning is not clear. Most of the bullpen has struggled and it is possible they find him more valuable in a set-up role.

Hinch added to the confusion Wednesday night by bringing Heilman into the game in the eighth inning when his team trailed 6-4. While it is true that Heilman needed the work, the result of the outing casts doubt on Heilman's hold on the job. He allowed four baserunners and two runs to score in one inning of work.

I believe that Sam Demel will be closing in Arizona in the second half. I was going to write more about Sam Demel. The D'backs just acquired him in the Connor Jackson trade. But Jason Grey has already done the job many times better than I ever could so I'll just link and sample him here.
A third-round pick in the 2007 draft (one pick after the Chicago White Sox drafted current Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher John Ely), Demel both started and closed in college at TCU, but the 6-foot right-hander has been viewed strictly as a reliever in the pros. The A's have drafted a number of hard-throwing relief arms in recent years (Demel, Andrew Bailey, Jeff Gray, Jared Lansford, Andrew Carignan) in the hopes that some of them pick up the necessary secondary pitches and/or command to stick in the majors...

...In terms of his fantasy value, the main thing to talk about with Demel in the short term is opportunity, as the D-backs are looking for someone, anyone, to step up in the later innings. Aaron Heilman is getting a chance to run with the ball for the moment in the ninth, almost by default. But Heilman has had far more success against left-handed hitters this year thanks to his changeup; his ability to get tough righties out in the ninth is still in question. The expectation is that Demel could quickly find his way to some high-pressure situations if he adapts well to the major leagues.
Read the rest of the article for a great write-up of his skills and ability as a pitcher. As Jason points out the key is that Demel has a huge opportunity to work his way into the role quickly. The rest of the Arizona bullpen has been horrible. There is no one (with the exception of Heilman and a possible return to Qualls at some point) in the way of Demel becoming the closer. He should be picked up by any owner in any type of league where saves are at a premium.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln Bolster the Bucs

posted by Jon Williams
Today the Pittsburgh Pirates may be taking a significant step into their future. Outfield prospect Jose Tabata and long-time pitching prospect Brad Lincoln will make their 2010 Major League debuts today against the Washington Nationals. Pirates fans deserve some good news after suffering through the much-hyped decimation of their lineup by Stephen Strasburg during his Major League debut last night.

Jose Tabata became famous as a New York Yankees prospect. It is quite possible that no one would recognize his name without that claim to fame. He was sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for Xavier Nady in 2008. Though he has not developed the power the Yankees expected he has strengthened other areas of his game. In 217 triple-A at-bats Tabata has a line of .323/.384/.442 with three homeruns. Tabata hits the ball on the ground more than 60 percent of his balls in play. That should explain his lack of power numbers. You cannot hit the ball out of the park if it rolls through the infield. He has 25 stolen bases this season and only 6cs so speed has become his game as far as fantasy owners are concerned. He still owns the power potential but it will take some serious re-working of his swing mechanics to bring it out. I expect the Pirates are not very interested in that kind of project. I expect Tabata will soon be owned in most leagues for his stolen base potential.

Brad Lincoln has not been the same pitcher since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2007. However, he has returned as a different but still effective pitcher. He has decent strikeout numbers in the minors (7.17 K9) but is far from elite. He is not a groundball pitcher (42.6 percent) but has done a decent job keeping the ball in the park. Lincoln was once considered a potential ace. He has not regained that sort of projection but it remains a possibility. I would suggest fantasy owners pick him up only if they are desperate for a good starter or have the room to stash him if he struggles.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are getting better by small degrees. They still have a long way to go.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Big Day For Baseball's Future - Strasburg and Stanton Debut

posted by Jon Williams
Today is a big day for baseball. Stephen Strasburg makes his debut with the Washington Nationals against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The game will be shown on the MLB Network tonight and I'm betting every baseball fan in the country will be tuning in. However, there is more making this an exciting day for baseball. Michael Stanton will be making his major league debut with the Florida Marlins. The only fans not watching Strasburg tonight will be Stanton's fantasy owners who are tuning into Stanton's debut against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg has thrown 57.3 innings with a 2.04 FIP in the minors. He is not just a strikeout pitcher. In addition to his 10.20 K9 (combined Double-A and Triple-A) he also owns a 64.9 groundball percentage. He's probably been ready to pitch in the majors for more than a year. But without his stint in the minors his first MLB start would not have nearly the impact on baseball and Washington Nationals that it will tonight. I expect him to pitch well. He won't necessarily be Tim Lincecum right off the bat. He will be facing the very best hitters in the world now. Even the Pirates are better than anything he saw in the minors or in college.

Michael Stanton

In 189 at-bats in Double-A, Stanton has hit .312/.443/.730 with a .328 BABIP. He has nice batted ball splits, more than 50 percent of his batted balls are fly balls. He kills lefties but does not have handedness issues. He has hit much better at home than on the road. This has led some to believe he is the product of a nice home environment but I don't buy that and neither do the Marlins. He could probably do with a little time at triple -A (and hell, he may still get it) but I think he will hit for a decent batting average and tons of power. He is still available in a lot of leagues. You should pick him up right now, you may not have the chance again.

2010 MLB Draft

The draft continues today. You can check it out in progress at MLB.com/live. Yesterday had a few surprises including Bryce Harper being announced as an outfielder rather than a catcher. The Chicago Cubs went their own way by drafting Hayden Simpson. Zigging when they Zag has been the habit of Scouting Director Tim Wilken.
Tim described the kid physically as a cross between Roy Oswalt and Tim Lincecum while acknowledging he has a long way to go to reach that status. Like Lincecum, Simpson said on a conference call tonight that he uses his whole body to pitch, easing stress on the arm.

The 21-year-old Simpson was 13-1 this year with a 1.81 ERA in Division II ball. Simpson said his best pitch is his slider and that he also possesses a four-seam fastball, a circle change and a 12-to-6 curveball.
The New York Yankees stunned many by drafting high school shortstop/RHP Cito Culver with the 32nd pick of the draft. He is an okay prospect. He was just picked about 100 names earlier than anyone expected.
On the mound, he was 90-91, which really isn’t bad for a guy with that kind of frame. What you didn’t see with Culver was a lot of physical projection for height, which would make his future as a right-handed pitcher pretty nominal. On one play, a kid fouled a pitch back behind the screen. Culver came off the mound, full speed, and caught up to his catcher deep in foul territory. It was a throwaway play to some scouts, but it showed me reflexes, his first step and his acceleration. The guy is an athlete.
One of my favorite picks of the draft went to the Atlanta Braves. Scouting Director Tony DeMacio selected Matt Lipka, a high school shortstop from Texas. The Braves project him as their future leadoff hitter.
When DeMacio went to suburban Dallas' McKinney High School last month, he was thoroughly impressed with the cerebral approach taken by an athletic shortstop whose will to win complimented the speed that had made him such a threat as a leadoff hitter and two-time Class 4-A All-State wide receiver in the football hotbed of Texas. Thus when it came time for the Braves to make their first selection, the 35th overall, in this year's First Year Player Draft on Monday night, DeMacio confidently selected Matt Lipka, the 18-year-old shortstop who had developed into one of the two multi-sport superstars that made McKinney High a popular destination this past year for college-football recruiters and baseball scouts. "He's a kid that's going to show up for you every day," DeMacio said. "He's going to make everybody else better around him. He's a winning-type guy. He's just a great, great young man and we're just very pleased to have him."

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Check out Position Reviews at the Football Site

posted by Jon Williams
Over at Advanced Fantasy Football (its still pretty new, so be nice) I have just begun running a series of NFL Position Reviews written by Bob Lung of BigGuyFantasySports.com. Bob uses Quality Game Scores to measure player consistency. If you've ever led your Fantasy Football League in overall points and failed to make the playoffs, you will want to read this. Here's a small sample:

Read the Rest at Advanced Fantasy Football

So, let us start with the first tier of wide receivers ranked by their Quality Game Success Rate.

TIER ONE

Player Name

Total Points

Pts Rank

Total QG

Total GP

QG Success Rate

Larry Fitzgerald

187.20

5

12

16

75%

DeSean Jackson

189.40

4

11

15

73%

Wes Welker

162.40

12

10

14

71%

Miles Austin

197.80

3

11

16

69%

The top tier of consistent wide receivers for 2009 consists of wide receivers that had a 69% - 75 percent QGSR (Quality Game Success Rate). Only four receivers met our criteria during the 2009 season. That may seem like a very small group. However, in 2008 the top tier of wide receivers with a 69 percent or higher QGSR included six players.

Many fantasy players new to Quality Game Scores (i.e., consistency factor) expect the most consistent wide receivers to also lead the position in overall fantasy points. As you can see, they are not. Wes Welker ranked 12th overall, while the other three receivers ranked third, fourth and fifth. The top two overall receivers did not earn a Quality Game Score more than 70 percent of the time. The recent trend of teams spreading the ball around to multiple receivers (an effort to stop teams from double-teaming the studs) appears to be working for the real teams, but not the fantasy teams.

Read the Rest at Advanced Fantasy Football

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Watch the MLB Draft While You Work!

posted by Jon Williams
You can watch all four days of MLB's 2010 Amateur Draft this week. It starts today at Noon (WHOOPS! Day One starts at 7pm but the rest of the week coverage starts at Noon) and will be covered by the MLB Network (just the first round) and online at MLB.com/live (the entire draft). For fantasy owners this may be an opportunity to gain an advantage over your league-mates who do not watch. Some of the names you hear over the next four days will not be heard again for a couple of years. Knowing them ahead of time will allow you to beat the hype.

MLB.com has video and small write-ups on tons of the potential draft picks. I think I'm going to have just as much fun watching the MLB draft as I do watching the NFL Draft. Maybe more, considering how much I love baseball and following prospects.

***

So, the reason I've gone through a slow period is I lost another job. It sapped my motivation just as the season was starting. Thankfully, I seem to be moving past my Blue Period. I have a ton of ideas that with any luck will see the light of day in the next few weeks. As George Constanza might say, "I'm back, Baby!"

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Selig Speaks on Instant Re-Play

posted by Jon Williams
Obviously Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night but he will never get credit for it. The man has shown tremendous class in accepting the outcome without anger or bitterness towards umpire Jim Joyce. Galarraga is a true sportsman.


Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig issued the following statement regarding last night's game in Detroit:
"First, on behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Armando Galarraga on a remarkable pitching performance. All of us who love the game appreciate the historic nature of his effort last night.

"The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization under such circumstances were truly admirable and embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order. Armando and Detroit manager Jim Leyland are to be commended for their handling of a very difficult situation. I also applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly. Jim's candor illustrates why he has earned the respect of on-field personnel throughout his accomplished career in the Major Leagues since 1989.

"As Jim Joyce said in his postgame comments, there is no dispute that last night's game should have ended differently. While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed. Given last night's call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents."

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