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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hippeaux's Mailbag

I finally posted a functional email address earlier this month (sorry about that).  Since then, there has been a trickle of questions, mostly fantasy related.  Here are some answers which I thought might be relevant for others:

"So, Hippeaux, do you still hate the Bradley/Silva trade?" - Eric

I definitely deserve this.  I reemed Jim Hendry for making this deal and ridiculed it again and again over the course of the offseason.  Silva didn't show the slightest sign of weakness until his last start.  He's been among the Cubs best starting pitchers so far (2-0, 2.90 ERA).  Meanwhile, Bradley has continued a descent into irrelevancy by beginning the year with a 684 OPS and then exiling himself from the team to deal with psychological issues.  So, yes, Hendry is probably feeling pretty satisfied with himself right now.  Silva's been a contributer.  Marlon Byrd has been outstanding (956 OPS).  Alfonso Soriano is hotter than he's been since the middle of 2008.  Even the Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen move has worked out pretty well so far (1.80 ERA in four appearances).  If the Cubs make the postseason, even if they stay in the hunt until August, I promise to write Jim Hendry an extended apology.  If they don't, expect more venom.

"I paid thirty-some dollars for Greinke in a mixed 5X5 league.  After a month, he's got zero wins.  Should I try to trade him?  I need pitching.  What can I expect to get?" - Steve

I ranked Zack Greinke outside of my top tier of pitchers this February for two reasons: 1.) It would be almost impossible to duplicate the season he had in 2009, so some regression was inevitable, and 2.) He still plays for the Royals, who still stink, perhaps even more than they did last year.  As a result, I don't own Greinke in any leagues.  That said, I certainly don't think Greinke's '09 was a fluke.  Even if he has several more rough outings than he did last year, he'll easily be a legitimate fantasy Ace.

After six starting in '09, these were Greinke's 5X5 numbers: 6-0, 0.40 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 54 K, 45 IP.
This season, at the same juncture, they look like this: 0-3, 2.27 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 33 K, 40 IP.

His strikeout rate is down a little bit, but mainly, he's just been unlucky.  Only one team, the Red Sox, has gotten to him for more than two earned runs.  Three times he's left the game with a lead and wound up with a no decision.

Sure, it's quite possible that Greinke will suffer a season of disappointments, ala Matt Cain in '07 and '08, but even if that happens, he contributions to your rate stats will make him a worthy #2 starter.  And, if you trade him now, you risk "selling low" and missing out on the stretch where he wins six in a row or eight out of ten.  At this point, I actually covet Greinke a little more than I did in the preseason.  These are the only pitchers who I would trade him for straight-up: Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, C. C. Sabathia, Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, and Jon Lester.

"I know you've seen the PECOTA projections already.  In the ESPN magazine Baseball Think Factory says that the Angels have only a 2.5% chance of winning the AL West.  How can that be?" - Tim

I received this message before the season began, so I'll begin with the response the sent Tim at that time:

"I'm continually surprised by how poorly the 2010 Angels are performing in preseason simulations, which consistently have them finishing behind the Rangers, Mariners, and even the Athletics.  I've said repeatedly that I think the rumors of the Angels demise have been greatly exaggerated.  I don't expect they will win the division by ten games, as they did in '09, but I think they'll be at least an 85 win team and as safe a bet as anybody to win the AL West.  My only explanation for the Angels poor performance in simulations is that they had several players who had career years in '09: Jered Weaver, Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, Juan Rivera, etc.  Even Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu had among their best seasons.  More often than not, regression is to be expected.  I certainly think the younger players are capable of continuing to build on what they did in '09, but it is true that at some point guys like Abreu and Matsui will hit the wall.  Will it be this year?  I don't know."

It's still very early, but the Halos performance so far suggests the boys at Baseball Think Factory and Baseball Prospectus get paid the "big bucks" for a reason.  The Angels are 12-17 and, more significantly, their -43 run differential is better than only Pittsburgh, Houston, and Baltimore (and not by that much).  Still, it's a relatively small sample and they are only three games back, so one good week could be enough to get me right back on the Angels bandwagon.

I've watched Los Angeles quite a bit and I'll admit they've got some serious holes.  The Brandon Wood experiment has been a complete bust and, unless something dramatic happens, I think will be put to rest before the end of May.  Erick Aybar has not adapted to hitting leadoff and the Angels don't have anybody else who appears better suited to that role. 

The starting pitching, which I expected to be the Angels strength, despite the departure of John Lackey, has been the team's most serious issue (5.00 ERA, 12th in A.L.).  The hired guns, Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro, have each shown improvement in recent starts after tough Aprils.  I expect both will be at least serviceable behind the clear Ace, Jered Weaver.  But Joe Saunders has been especially abysmal (1-5, 7.04 ERA).  The Angels top prospect, Trevor Bell, continues to dominate at AAA, so don't be surprised if Saunders loses his spot.

Mike Scioscia has never been afraid of shaking things up.  Don't be surprised if Saunders, Wood, and Brian Fuentes soon find the end of their leashes.  The Angels depth of options, combined with the fact that no team in the AL West appears ready to run away from the rest, are cause for continued optimism.

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